Monthly Archives: May 2017

Planting Gardens, Shaking Booty

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Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer, when we can break out the swimsuits for our lawn sprinklers and local “spraygrounds.” It’s also the start of Loessfest, one of my two favorite (free) outdoor concerts of the year! This year, we got to walk across the river and see KC and the Sunshine Band, a band I had technically seen (from a distance) a decade ago at my very first Memorial Park concert.

I arrived early enough to nag the perfect spot right behind the VIP fence, and Kate brought her girls to keep our kids company as the blazing sun went down (in our eyes). A few more of our mutual friends showed up as a Jimmy Buffett tribute band (“Bluffett”) took the stage, and then Harry Wayne Casey (“KC”) and his Sunshine Band got us shaking our booties into the night. At 66, KC is still putting on quite a show, dancing up and down the stage (and going through four or five outfits in the process).

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On Saturday, Vivian took Hannah to a Magic Show at the Bellevue Public Library starring Rutiger the Magician. Then on Sunday, I got to do a little more yard work prepping our garden for some new plants. I borrowed a tiller from Dad, which helped tear the dirt up nicely. Then Vivian got some tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and mint to plant on Memorial Day.

Then that evening, my folks had all of us and Vivian’s parents over for chicken and ribs (pulled fresh from the smoker) for dinner. We brought along some potato salad and some fresh-cut flowers from our yard.

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Our official entry into summer continued over the week, as our kids had popsicles while hanging around the park by my workplace. The City of Omaha also turned on the fountains at the local “spraygrounds” around town.

I biked to work a couple times and stopped by one of these with the kids on my ride home to cool off. It was a balmy 78 degrees, but the water was still maddeningly ice cold. That didn’t stop me from getting a face full of it from Hannah and Aaron, though.

Stinko, Rainbows, and 88 Improv

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Aunt Jessica had a last-minute birthday thing on Friday, so I dropped on by with the kids for some “pupcake” and some tacos with a few of our mutual friends. Kate brought a few of her girls, so they got some quality time with Hannah and Aaron as the rest of us played some adult games, namely Qwirkle, Telestrations, and a few others.

I was also able to coax Jessica into playing the piano for us, so she favored us with some Bohemian Rhapsody and the theme of Cheers — both of which we sang along to, of course.

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Then on Saturday, Vivian and I (along with Kate) went to see our favorite comedy troupe, 88 Improv, for the first time in about four years. Tim, Nate, and Sarah took the stage at the Backline Theater and performed a bowl full of scenes suggested from the audience for us for the first act (half of which involved a culvert for some reason). Then for act two, they did a long sketch about Little Red Riding Hood starting fires with her “imaginary” wolf, Mayor Jean putting panda habitats in the median of city streets, and two guys getting all vehicular traffic banned — including fire trucks — to make way for bike lanes.

I first saw these guys about a decade ago before I even started dating Vivian, so I’m very glad they’re still performing after all these years!

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On Sunday, it finally stopped raining long enough for me to take the kids to the park for a picnic and some fresh air.

Then that evening the whole family (plus Grammy and Pop-Pop) went to Bellevue Christian Center for an awards ceremony at Rainbows. Hannah got an Honors Pin for completing all of her lessons for the past two years. It was very cute to see her and her little friends standing together one last time before getting sugared up right before bedtime.

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Vivian and I had some culinary fun later in the week, frying up some of the bologna we’d bought in Pella for Phil and Jen to help us eat. We made some sandwiches with them using toasted pretzel buns I bought at Aldi.

Then on Wednesday, we took the kids (and Grammy) to the Lauritzen Gardens to see Stinko, the corpse flower. The gardens have free admission until the giant flower blooms, (which is hasn’t yet, so it wasn’t even one bit stinky). We took a brief tour through the flora in the greenhouse, and then I took the kids for some exercise on a long walk through the gardens to the rose garden and back before we called it a day. We had nearly the whole gardens to ourselves, which was amazing since the place is usually packed when admission is free (and in the springtime).

We’ve been enjoying some gorgeous weather this past week, and it should hold out long enough to shake our booties at Loessfest on Friday. More on that next time.


Lauritzen Gardens, featuring Stinko

Mother’s Day 2017

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Mother’s Day was this weekend, so the kids and I got to spend some extra time showing the three moms in our lives how much they mean to us (which involved making cards and lots and lots of food, of course).

We first had a bit of fun on Friday as Kate celebrated a three-way birthday with her three girls at the YMCA in Milliard. The kids hot all sugared up and then we spent some quality time in the pool before heading home.

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Then on Sunday, the kids and I got mommy up for a French Toast breakfast that featured flowers, cards that Hannah, Aaron, (and daddy) decorated themselves, and a poster of a flower made of Hannah’s hand-prints, which she made in preschool (and somehow kept a secret).

We headed off to church together, where Vivian and all the moms got some flowers for the day, and then we returned home with Grammy and Pop-Pop, where I made some ceviche for lunch. I’d never before attempted to make this cold, Mexican dish made of raw fish and lime juice, but it’s one of Vivian’s favorites foods, so I thought it was worth a figuring out, and I think it turned out all right. Grammy brought along some Flan for dessert, and then both moms got to open a few baskets of presents together on the couch.

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As soon as I got finished putting away lunch, I turned right around and started on dinner to take to my mom’s house. I assembled a fairly simple chicken alfredo pasta bake (garnished with parsley, per “Tasty’s” specs on their videos). I also put together a pie made with strawberries and rhubarb. It turned out quite a bit more soupy than I’d hoped, but it was my first pie of this magnitude, so it really was a learning experience. We ate together with the kids, and I played some video games with my brothers as the kids burned off some steam outside. My mom also got to open a few presents, which consisted mostly of nuts and candy.

It was a lovely weekend, though I was left kind of exhausted on Monday morning. That didn’t stop me from biking to work, however. The weather has gone from stormy to sweltering to gorgeous within the span of an eye-blink, so that means getting outside whenever it’s possible. Hannah got to enjoy some of that on Tuesday playing in the mud at Mud Pies before her last-ever day of Preschool. She’s growing up so fast!

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Hannah’s Preschool Years: Sept. 1 2015 – May 17, 2017
She’s growing up too fast!

Omaha’s Election Night

On Tuesday night, Jean Stothert — the first woman elected Mayor of Omaha — was re-elected in a decisive victory of her opponent, Heath Mello. The Stothert campaign was kind enough to invite me to their Victory Party, so I had a front-row seat on election night.

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I’ve been to plenty of campaign events for various candidates in the past, but nothing compares to the excitement of an election night party (especially for the winning candidate). I saw plenty of familiar faces, including a congressman, a former Mayor of Omaha, a former Mayoral candidate, a couple of Governors, and a few troublemakers from the news media. Also on hand was “Mason the Button Boy,” who I’d first met collecting a button from Scott Walker at a previous event.

I arrived shortly after the polls closed, and as the results started coming in, it was clear Jean was going to be the winner. As such, the crowd spent most of its time laughing, visiting, and talking selfies before the race was eventually “called” around 10:20. Jean gave a gracious victory speech and spent some time afterward talking with the news media and her various supporters.

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I got to thank Jean personally for inviting me before I left, and she told me that a victory party like this was a lot more fun when you don’t have to deliver a concession speech (which she has had to do before). The most exciting part for me was being able to meet and greet a whole host of elected officials from this district. I wasn’t a campaign contributor or volunteer, and yet I was able to shake hands with the mayor, a congressman, and the governor and tell them what was on my mind. That’s what impressed me about Mayor Jean on the campaign trail — a few weeks ago she held a town hall meeting in North Omaha, a precinct that voted against her in the election, and gave the people there the chance to speak to her.

Democracy is not a spectator sport, and I feel proud to be a part of it. Thanks, Mayor Jean, for the opportunity. I hope you have a great four more years.

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Tulip Time

Hello, Tulip Time! The Johnson Family (and Grammy) hit the road on Friday and traveled to Pella, Iowa to take in some Dutch culture this weekend.

It was the kids’ first major road trip since 2014, so we stopped by Adair to stretch our legs and have lunch at the park halfway through (and see Smiley). We also swung by the Gateway Market (where Vivian and I ate lunch back in 2011 on our anniversary trip) to get some cheese from Petaluma — Mt. Tam and Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery.

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We crashed briefly at the hotel and went on into Pella, where we hiked for a few blocks on their tulip-lined streets to see a Night Parade when the sun went down. We took the kids on a walk through Public Square Park once we’d claimed our spot. We saw several people decked out in full Dutch costume (with wooden shoes of course) carrying water buckets and pushing brooms. A local high school was putting on a show resembling Clue: the Musical at the giant grandstand at the south end of the park, so we watched a few minutes of that before walking up and down Franklin Street to see the windmill and the Klokkenspel.

The night parade started at 8:30 under a waxing moon, starting with the town crier and featuring several lovely floats lit up fort he evening. There were floats for past, present, and future Tulip Queens, a carousel of ladies, a tea party, a riverboat, and lots of windmills, of course. It was a great small-town parade, and it was clear with every float they took a great deal of pride in their work.

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We returned to Pella the next day after facing a gigantic line for the shuttle bus that was so long several people gave up and decided to walk the 1.5 miles into town instead of wait for an hour in the sun (as we did). We walked along the Molengracht Canal and spent some time inside the Historical Village, visiting Wyatt Earp’s house, looking at a water wheel, and watching people make wooden shoes. The Jaarsma Bakery also had a bakery inside the village, where we were able to get our Dutch Letters and Pigs in a Blanket (baked fresh by Connie Jaarsma) without waiting an hour in a line (as people do at their storefront a few blocks away).

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Around three, we got to have our tour of the windmill, which included a floor with a giant model village of Dutch buildings we got to look over before riding up to the very top. The afternoon parade was going on at the moment, so we had a lovely birds-eye view above the town before heading back down to ground level.

The kids got to spend some quality time in the children’s area in a corn bin bounce house, and other activities while I picked up some Pella Baloney from the In’t Veld deli before we started making our way home. We made one last stop in Des Moines and got some Zombie Burger before taking the long trip back home.

I think what impressed me most about our brief visit to Pella was the vast diversity of people from various cultures who came to see this tiny town celebrating unique Dutch culture (this included several people actually from the Netherlands, of course).

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And because our weekend wasn’t busy enough, we decided to take Hannah and Aaron to a Kite Fly at the La Vista Sports Complex with grandma and grandpa after church. The weather was sunny and gorgeous, so we got to take both Zoe the Cat and Cowbaby on a ride into the sky. Hannah and Aaron also got to run around looking at giant kites of cats and fish before grandpa eventually reeled them back in to head home.


Bonus video: Tulip time in Pella

Bonus video: Kite flying with Grandpa

Rain Fest

We’ve had a fairly fun week with the kids, despite the spring weather going from gorgeous to non-stop wind, cold, and rain at a few fairly inconvenient times.

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On Monday, Vivian dropped by a garage sale to pick up a new car for the kids along with a miniature drum set. We dropped by Costco for a shopping trip and lunch with Grammy on Thursday — just one last time before BSF is over. Hannah and Aaron also got to have their first experience with a water bottle vending machine, which they found fascinating.

Then on Friday, Aaron’s friend August turned three, so we dropped by for an extended birthday party with a rowdy crew of little ones that concluded with a picnic on the floor. I also got the boys’ annual picture together, which will make for a fun montage if we keep this up for the next 15 years or so.

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On Saturday, we took the kids to their first Renaissance Festival (apparently unaffiliated with that other one) up near Waterloo with Jenny and Kody. Rain was forecast for the whole weekend, but it stayed away just long enough for us to have about two hours of fun in the wind and cold. The kids got a pony ride, looked at a few of the toy weapons and other things for sale, and then we got to have a few turkey legs. The cast of the “Rain Fest” characters were still in good spirits, including the Fairy Queen who entertained the kids shortly before we called it a day (right after missing a Joust).

We retreated to Village Inn to warm up with hot chocolate and pie, and we grabbed a Chocolate Truffle pie before calling it a day.

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Our church had a Taco Bar on Sunday to help fund Wil Hall’s upcoming trip to Honduras. Our kids got their fill of tacos and nachos, and our friends Phil and Jen even decided to stop by and give us some tips on our upcoming trip to Pella, Iowa. (More on that next update.)

It rained all day Sunday but then became gorgeous for the rest of the week. That naturally meant another trip to the park with Hannah and Aaron, which included a burger picnic, a giant red ball, and discovering the joys of talking into a sewer grate with a new friend. I also rode my bike to work a couple times, which was a sheer joy after being cooped up throughout most of March and April.