Monthly Archives: May 2018

Oh what a night

We’ve had over a week of non-stop activities without much of a break in-between. How much fun can we fit into a three-day weekend? Way too much, apparently.

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The kids started their swimming lessons at the Kroc Center on Tuesday, and I managed to squeeze in a repair job on Thursday for our washing machine (which needed a new lid switch). I was rather proud to get it up and running again.

Then on Wednesday night, Hannah and Aaron had a graduation ceremony from Daisies and Rainbows at BCC for MPact, along with all their little friends. Hannah got a special pin, and all the little ones got to recite verses and songs they’d learned through the year — before getting sugared up afterward, of course.

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On Friday night, we took the kids on down to the SumTur Amphieater to see Pixar’s Coco after the sun went down. There was also a festival for Omaha area youth bands going on that provided music before the show. Kate and her girls came along to toss around a football before the show, and Jessica and Jon came along as well. The weather stayed steamy and hot most of the weekend, but we had a lovely sunset before the show started. The movie itself was very sweet and big on the value of family, though I wasn’t sure how to explain the theological implications of Día de Muertos to our kids afterward.

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On Saturday, I got up early to mow the lawn and turn on the sprinklers for the first time this year, which Hannah enjoyed running in to beat the heat. Then that evening we went across the river for Loessfest. It was a balmy 98+ degrees, so we cooled off at the new “spray-ground” at the top of the hill, which had some mist, sprinklers, and a wading pool for everyone to splash in (including daddy).

Meanwhile, the Folkens were managing the shaved ice stands down in the park, so we got some multicolored slush to eat while the sun went down. Then thousands of people gathered on the green with us to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons perform a many of the band’s catalog of hits. Opening for them was the Heather Newman Band, which Lisa described as a “local girl done good.” The concert itself was terrific, and we took turns squeezing our way to the front of the stage to take in the music up close. Our kids, however, seemed to enjoy playing with each other and making a makeshift tent and playing in their wagon.

The only bad part of the night was spending two hours trying to get out of the park. We’d parked nice and close under the overpass, but that put us at the back of the line as thousands of people (along with everyone at Stir Cove for another concert) all had to squeeze out of the one-lane exit before we could. It took us over two hours to finally make it to the Interstate and head home.

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Of course, that didn’t stop me and Hannah from coming right back the next night to hear the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. They played a medley of patriotic tunes with a little Star Wars and Indiana Jones thrown in for no apparent reason. Then local singer Camille Metoyer Moten sang God Bless America before the orchestra finished with Stars and Striped Forever.

After the concert, there was a spectacular fireworks show set to such music as Let it go from Frozen (rather than Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, for whatever reason). We joined Kate and girls on their blanket along with Aunt Jessica, and we also chatted with the Folkens, who were came to enjoy the show this tine rather than serve flavored ice. I parked across the river this time around, which made for a much quicker drive home afterward.

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Then came Memorial Day. I spent some time cleaning up the backyard and getting the kids wet with the sprinkler in the morning, and then Vivian and I prepared some shish kabobs and loaded potato salad to take to my parent’s house for dinner. The kids got more sprinkler time in my parents’ backyard as my dad brought out the smoked brisket he’d cooked up earlier in the day. Uncle Jonny kept the kids occupied as Jack and Donna joined us with some beans and dip, among other things. Then we dished up and ate together on the back patio, which was much cooler than the 95 degree forecast suggested it would be (thanks in part to a passing shower).

Nathan and his new friend Rachel dropped by almost in time for dessert afterward, and we got to have some berry pie along with Vivian’s decadent chocolate cheesecake. Nathan and Rachel also had some gifts for Hannah and Aaron from a recent trip to New York City, which they naturally loved playing with before we called it a night.

It was a long, crazy, busy week for all of us, and we’ll probably need an extra three-day weekend to recover from all the fun (and do laundry with our now-fixed washing machine).

Campfire, birthday reunion, and muddy feet

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Our weather’s been a bit sporadic, going from hot to cold with a few thunderstorms in-between. On Saturday, it was a bit rainy and cool, but still perfectly fine for a mud day at Fontenelle Forest. Vivian and I took the kids for a barefoot stroll through the woods, and then the kids got to play in mud, make some mud paintings, and splash around in a pool of mud to make muddy footprints. It was good clean fun, naturally, and we were able to enjoy it all before the rain started coming down in earnest.

Hannah also got to show Grammy her new robot puppy, which she was able to earn doing her reading lessons this week. I did a bit of yard work, tilling the garden as Vivian introduced the kids to the “helicopters” from our maple tree.

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On Sunday, our old friend Ben had a birthday party at his new house in Bellevue. We joined a bunch of our old friends to have some flame-broiled burgers and brats along with some cake (reminder to everyone — never leave your grill unattended).

Vivian and I had first met these people over a decade ago when we were a rag-tag group of Christian singles. Most of us have gotten married since then and even added a few kids to the mix, who immediately enjoyed getting sugared up and playing with each other. Ben also showed us his new robot lawnmower, which seemed to spend the afternoon criss-crossing the lawn randomly trying to figure out where the grass was.

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Then on Monday, Hannah seemed eager to roast marshmallows on a campfire, making her own mock-campfire out of random items in our living room. I gathered up my collection of fallen branches along with a fresh stack of firewood and lit up our fire pit for a little evening cookout. We invited the Mills, whose four kids played with ours as we made a handful of s’mores together. We were able to burn through nearly all the wood before we called it a night, which was nice since the city won’t take fallen branches anymore in our weekly garbage pickup.

In the meantime, here comes summer. Swim lessons are already underway for the kids at the Kroc Center, and before long we’ll be camping for real again.

Primary Night

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Wednesday was Primary Election Day in Nebraska, so I penciled in a few circles in the morning and then gathered with a crowd full of Republicans that evening to watch the election returns come in. It was officially a victory party for Senator Deb Fischer, who was able to handily re-win her nomination despite a number of contenders vying for her seat. Gov. Pete Ricketts was also there to kick things off, who similarly won his shot at being re-elected governor. The only Republican primary most people were unsure about was the race for State Treasurer, but the election was quickly called for John Murante, who won the nomination over Taylor Royal.

Strangely enough, the race that kept everyone on the edge of their seats was the one between Brad Ashford and Kara Eastman to run against Don Bacon. Ashford was clearly the favorite of the Democrat establishment, but Eastman managed to pull a major upset by pulling ahead by one or two percentage points. Kenny Pancake from the Bacon campaign (it sounds like a joke but it’s not) kept tabs on the results as they came in, and other folks like Ian Swanson from 1420 AM and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley watched on their mobile phones throughout the night. It was a lively night, and I got to shake hands with all the VIPs before heading home. Ricketts in particularly told me the Republicans were in for a serious fight this fall. Hopefully the next election night event in November will be more of a party and less of a wake.

I just hope I get to be there.

Mother’s Day Traditions

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I just got done with a very busy weekend celebrating my three favorite moms in the whole wide world. I took Friday off so we could start the weekend with a new Mother’s Day tradition: touring the Lauritzen Gardens (for free). Grammy came along with us as we let the kids run around looking at the tulips, peonies, and lilac in bloom. We made the usual stops at the waterfall, the Victorian Garden, and the trains, of course. We spent some extra time at children’s area to check out some tee-pees (under construction) and sample some mint. We also walked to Mount Fuji together as a family.

We finished off the visit by looking at some colorful recycled plastic sculpture inside, which seemed to be a theme running throughout the gardens today. There weer also some bees, and Hannah made a bean sprout necklace before we left.

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, of course, so the kids and I woke up mom bright and early with some cups and cards they’d decorated along with some breakfast in bed. We went to church together, and then I spent the afternoon doing a bit of cooking for the big evening meal. I made some crab dip as an appetizer, some chocolate liqueur cake for dessert, and some potato salad to go with the burger and hot dogs Jack was bringing in-between. We had all four grandparents over later in the afternoon, including Uncle Jonny (who’d also watched the kids for us on Saturday so we could tidy up). We opened a few presents in-between hors d’oeuvres and dinner, and then I grilled up our burgers and hot dogs. We were fairly stuffed before it was all done, as usual.

In other news, Hannah lost two teeth in the past few days. Our little girl is growing up too fast.

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There seemed to be no segue between winter and summer here in Nebraska, but we are getting plenty of blossoms, including our lilacs, which seem to have made their week-long appearance in our backyard.

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It’s also campaign season again, and three Republicans are vying for Deb Fischer’s Senate seat in the GOP Primary: Todd Watson, Jack Heidel, and Dennis Macek. I got to hear all three in a debate last Wednesday, and they have a fairly diverse we range of views. Heidel seems to be a moderate who thinks a single-payer “Medicaid for All” is “inevitable.” Macek is a practicing Buddhist who is running primarily to help stop climate change. Watson seems to be a fiscal conservative in step with Todd Massie and Rand Paul, concerned with the debt and upset that Fischer isn’t holding the line on spending.

It was a very small group of spectators who showed up, though I did get a glimpse of Tom Becka before he took off. I have a feeling Fischer’s seat is going to be safe on election day May 15, but I did tell Watson I appreciate him pushing back on such things as the budget deficit. Republicans definitely need that.

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Then came Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, but I wound up mowing my parents’ lawn and playing Nintendo with Hannah instead.

Then afterward we went to Krypton Comics to see Reb Brown for Free Comic Book Day. He was Captain America in the 70s and played roles in a variety of B-movies, but I’ll always remember him as David Ryder, AKA Slab Bulkhead, Fridge Largemeat, Punt Speedchunk, among a couple dozen others in the MST3K riffed 80s film Space Mutiny. Richard came along to get an autograph, and we chatted with Brown about his experience with Space Mutiny. He seemed bewildered about all the nicknames they came up for him, and he commented on the notorious slow go-carts featured in the movie (and the bored face he made riding on them between takes). He also said the movie was filmed in an old asbestos factory, which he only learned about when he saw other crew members wearing face masks.

Among the other guests were members of the 501st Legion outside, and I was able to coax Hannah into a picture with them before he headed off for ice cream afterward. Then we headed home, and I made up some ceviche for dinner as Aaron helped mommy squeeze some limes.

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On Sunday, we headed down to La Vista for the One Sky, One World Kite Festival. It was a beautiful, windy day, and we were able to set our Dollar Tree kite aloft with minimal effort (after figuring where to put the string). Hannah and Aaron took turns holding the spool, and then my parents and Uncle Jonny came by during the candy drop to fly their own rainbow kite. We wanted to get Hannah’s Toy Spike airborne on our little kite, but he was unfortunately too heavy. Mostly, we just watched the kites fly as we hid under umbrellas and repeatedly applied sunscreen to avoid being burned.

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Then on Monday, we celebrated August’s birthday over at Nate and Lexi’s house. Nate grilled some hot dogs for dinner, and then we had some of the Jungle Cake that Donna brought over, which featured frosting representations of multiple animals, including the Mills own cat (who we met afterward). We let the kids bounce off their sugar rush on the trampoline out back before heading home.

Next up: Lauritzen Gardens and Mother’s Day! I just hope we don’t have to turn on the air conditioning yet.

The Finish Line

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We gorgeous weather on Saturday as the briefest spring in history gives way to summer. We spent much of the day up at Arrowhead Lake in Neola, Iowa, where Vivian, Jessica, Kate, and a few others participated in an obstacle course 5K. I brought along Hannah and Aaron, who got to have some quality outdoor time with Kate’s girls throwing rocks into the lake and finding snails and crawfish washed up along the shore. Vivian and the others traversed a hilly trail in the meantime with various obstacles to climb and traverse on their way back to the finish line.

It took everyone about an hour or so to finish, and then we let the kids have some quality swing time afterward before heading down to Chick-Fil-A in Bellevue to finish off the day. Our friend Dennis also turned 42 and had a cookout at his place, so I dropped by just to say Happy Birthday.

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On Sunday, our old friends Ben and Jillian tied the knot with a small ceremony (and a lot of food — all made by Jillian) at Just Dance in downtown Omaha. I tended to the kids in the meantime and took them to Aldi to get ingredients for a Fruit Party (but I did get some of the leftovers). Then that evening, Aunt Jessica had a fire pit at her parents’ house, so we dropped by to make some s’mores together with Kate and her girls as the sun went down.

The next day, Hannah and her little friends at Classical Conversations had their end-of-year ceremony. They sang a few of their memory songs to demonstrate what they’d learned throughout the year, and everyone got a certificate before heading off stage. It marked the end of a adventurous year of homeschooling for Hannah, and we’re counting on next year being even better.