Monthly Archives: March 2019

Pizza, Dancing, and an Old New Car

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The whole state of Nebraska is dealing with the aftermath of the record-breaking floods we’ve had this week. Everywhere we go we’ve seen signs of neighbors helping out, including disaster relief trucks all over the place in Omaha. Every church we know has been collecting supplies to help those affected by the floods, turning every available multi-purpose room into a storehouse of food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. It makes me proud to live in a state where everyone seems to be ready and willing to help complete strangers when something like this happens.

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In the meantime, we had a bunch of birthday events happening over the weekend. First off was on Friday, when Catherine (or Dr. Keefe, as I call her at work), celebrated a birthday with the Omaha Jitterbugs down at the Eagle’s Lodge. Vivian and I had the rare opportunity to attend the dance together, setting up ahead of time and then dancing with a handful of our friends when they arrived. Some kids from Arts in Motion came to demonstrate a handful of dances before the evening got underway, and Catherine brought a batch of cupcakes to share before we had her birthday jam.

It was nice to see the crowd for Jitterbugs Night Out was still as large as ever, and it’s remained very much the same since I first attended around 13 years ago. While many of the same people still attend regularly (looking at you Dan Wondra), there are now so many more “regulars” I’ve never met that I now feel a new generation has taken it over. And that’s OK.

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The next day, it was birthday time at the Simpson House. Little Gabriel turned one year old, while Phil celebrated a birthday of his own several months late. We got to make our own pizzas (or garlic bread) using dough from a gigantic bucket and an assortment of ingredients laid out on the counter. We even got to try tossing the dough in a stereotypical fashion that was more fun to watch than practical. There were plenty of kids on hand as well, providing good company for Hannah and Aaron as we got a little grow-up time (and stuffed our faces).

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Then on Tuesday, I managed to crash a fancy dinner Vivian had planned with her parents when I turned out not to be driving to Lincoln as she expected (to get a car, more on that below). I’m not sure how secret the dinner plans were supposed to be, but they fortunately had enough calamari steak for me to have some, along with some shrimp and tasty cheddar jalapeño bread (which Vivian finally got to make right now that she used non-expired yeast).

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In other news, I’m nearing the end of my pledge to drive our Honda Civic “until the wheels fall off.” It’s had a number of minor issues that culminated a week or two ago when it had an irreparably flat tire combined with a spare I discovered has a leaky valve. I’ve been carpooling with my dad and Uncle Jonny since then as I’m getting ready to take ownership of Uncle Nathan’s Corolla — which has its own unique set of problem but far fewer miles on the odometer.

On Thursday, I went down to Lincoln to officially buy the car from Nathan. Dad came along and the three of us went out to Big Sal’s to celebrate with pizza. Now we’re busy trying to get the car fixed up so it’ll be properly driveable before I actually start driving it. Say a quick prayer as we try to get all that sorted out before saying goodbye to our dearly departed Civic!

Also: happy Spring Equinox.

Fish Fry, Skating, and St. Patrick’s Day

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The Lenten season is upon us again, so that means touring some of Omaha’s famous fish fries, in particular the one at Holy Name. It’s is one of the biggest draws in town, attracting such guests as Congressman Don Bacon, as well as our tiny group. The fish is good, and watching it being battered in a custom-made contraption is a show all in itself.

This particular fish fry is baffling as many in the crowd outside — and packing the halls inside — seem more interested in standing around drinking instead of lining up for fish, making it difficult for the rest of us to know where to go. It’s a fun time once you make your way inside, though (and the smell will linger with us for weeks).

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The next day, I went downtown with Hannah to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It had been delayed a week due to unexpected snow and nasty weather, and it was about half as long as last year as well. We still saw the standard of parade participants, ranging from politicians to Star Wars characters, to Irish dancers, clowns, and even a Family Reunion of sorts. The weather was just about perfect, with temperatures rising to the fifties, so Hannah and I spent a little extra time watching geese fight along the now tree-less Gene Leahy Mall and looking at some of the flooding along the Missouri River. We even took a few minutes for a daddy/daughter date at Chick-Fil-A before heading on home.

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Later that day, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday with my parents and Uncle Nathan. Jonathan wanted to go roller-skating down at Skate City on Fort Crook, so I brought Hannah along and spent some quality time staggering awkwardly around the rink with her for an hour or two. It was legitimately the first time I’d ever gone roller skating, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined (particularly after one guy helped tighten my skates). Hannah, much to my surprise, had a grand time skating around the rink using a kind of walker they had on hand for the little ones.

Then that evening we headed back to my parents’ house for some Marco’s Pizza and pumpkin pie for dessert. We finished off the evening watching some family slides with the folks and then playing some Choose Your Words before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with our traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes and Irish soda bread, though we also had some special green foods for the kids that we hoped would be more palatable.

Then on Monday we headed down to the waterfront a family to get a look at some of the flooding from the Missouri River. The devastating flood has made national news, but we live and work far enough away from the flooded area that we’ve been largely unaffected. It was daunting to see the statues at Lewis and Clark landing drowning once again (as they did in 2011), as well as the entirety of River’s Edge Park completely underwater, making me wonder about the fate of Loessfest this year.

The kids mostly enjoyed the chance to get outside and run around, and we also saw a number Canadian geese migrating overhead, flying in wave after wave heading north in V formation. The effects of the flood were sobering in the meantime, but I couldn’t be prouder of the response of our friends and neighbors, who are stepping up with volunteers and supplies gathered at nearly every church I can name, including the ones we attend on Sunday and Wednesday night. Nebraska Strong, indeed.

Bernie Sanders and a Snow Day

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So Bernie Sanders came to down the other day, in a Presidential Campaign that hardly seemed to take a breath since the last one. Sanders is currently the Democrat front-runner despite not being a member of the party, and that seems to be appealing for the populist crowd he spoke to at the Mid-America Center. The usual campaign characters were there, including PowerLine blogger Dave Begley, Mark McKinnon filming for Showtime, vendors with potty-mouthed merch, and even congressional candidate Kara Eastman, who was on stage with the Bernie backdrop brigade.

There was a bit of music for the crowd as we waited for the show to start, and then two women spoke before introducing Sen. Sanders, who arrived only a few minutes late (a welcome change from the last time he visited, in which I gave up after waiting for two or three hours). Then Sanders gave a stump speech with an ironically religious fervor, the atheist candidate addressing the crowd more than once as “brothers and sisters.” He spoke about ideas no longer radical in the Democrat party: free health care, free college, and a $15 minimum wage, all paid for by the “top 1%” and “corporations” (which the crowd seemed to think paid no taxes at all).

In many ways, he’s very similar to Donald Trump: a populist “upstart” with an anti-establishment appeal at odds with his own party. I don’t think I agreed with hardly anything he said, but I can clearly see why the crowd likes him.

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In other news, we had yet another four or five inches of snow last week that cancelled school and spurred me to take a day off from work to do some shoveling and spend some quality time warm inside with Vivian and the kids.

The weather seems to have warmed up quite a bit since then, so on Saturday we decided to make the most of the snow while it lasted. We had a brief snowball fight with the kids in our front yard, and then we took them down to the Sandy Park to do a bit of sledding. The snow was still several inches deep, which made swinging nearly impossible and walking through the deep snow a bit difficult (especially for wee folks with short legs). We still had a good time, and I’m sure the snow will be gone before we know it (“and good riddance,” says most of Omaha).

Seuss and Spaghetti

Just about everyone around here has had it with the non-stop winter, as we continue to shovel our way out from more and more snow even as we approach the first day of spring. We did get to have a brief window of not-snow for about a week or so, but at this point I’m thinking we’ll still have snow around by May.

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On Saturday, we celebrated Dr. Seuss birthday down at the Bellevue Public Library with the kids. We had some special guests like Mayor Rusty Hike and his wife as well as Officer Doyle from the Bellevue Police Department com to read to the little ones. Vivian and I read a few choice books to the kids as well, though they seemed to have more fun playing with some of the Dr. Seuss toys and finding their corresponding books. A few of Hannah’s little friends stopped by as well, and I stayed long enough to check out a few things before we left.

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Then on Sunday, we broke out our sleeping bags and dropped by First Presbyterian for another movie night with the kids. This time, they showed Lady and the Tramp, and for dinner they had spaghetti, which seemed appropriate. Aaron enjoyed it in a way only a four-year-old could, while mommy and I reenacted an iconic scene from the movie (which was st a bit more difficult with angel hair pasta). Some of the same little friends we bumped into on Saturday were back to watch the movie with us, which was nice.

For Fat Tuesday, Vivian made up a nice, giant pot of jambalaya using her new cast iron Dutch Oven. Then on Thursday we were inundated with even more snow. Winters apparently not done with us yet.

Snow End in Sight

The news of the day is snow, snow, and more snow. We had three legit snow emergencies in a week, the third of which caused a couple hundred miles of I-80 to be shut down as semi trucks and vehicles when sliding around in the worst vehicle pile-ups some state troopers had ever seen.

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Our first snow event came crashing down Saturday night, cancelling the early service at church and even the chili cook-off planned for that evening. We had another downfall a few days later that shut down schools (again) and inspired me to have an impromptu science project with the kids: placing an ice cube tray of juice outside to turn into tiny, fruity, popsiclettes. It wasn’t cold enough to freeze them quite as thoroughly as I’d hoped, but the kids still enjoyed them.

After the second snowfall, I also did a bit of extra shoveling at my in-laws’ house — namely taking a snow rake to the roof and scraping off an extra foot of the white stuff. I’m definitely getting a workout every time I have to shovel this stuff, and it helps when I can’t get to the Kroc Center.

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During a brief window between blizzards, I dropped by Barley’s “back room” in Council Bluffs to meet Democrat Congresswoman (HI-6) and Presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. She’s been tracking near the bottom of the polls I’ve been able to see, but she impressed me as a candidate. She’s a woman from a multicultural and multi-religious household, but she also served in the Iraq War in the National Guard, making her fairly unique as a Democrat candidate. Her brief stump speech seemed to focus on ending “regime change wars” overseas and she also said we were at the greatest risk of nuclear war in the world’s history (which I found a bit questionable).

What impressed me most was her apparent bipartisanship, writing a bill that was co-sponsored by Rand Paul and wanting to support issues regardless of the “R” and “D” after them. This was a refreshing change from other platforms that seem to begin and end with “Orange Man Bad.” I don’t agree with her on many issues, but I did stick around to tell her I appreciated her willingness to reach across the aisle. We need more of that.

(You can watch the event here and maybe get a glimpse of me!) 

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The biggest blizzard came on Saturday night, dumping around nine inches of the white stuff this time. I brought in a giant icicle from our porch, which had been growing hilariously over the past week. We mostly had some quality time indoors and away from the treacherous streets. (The UNO dome wasn’t so lucky, crashing from the wind and snow in the meantime.)

The next day, however, the sun came out and I spent a good while shoveling both our driveway and my in-laws’. I got a bit of help from our neighbor Mike, who was kind enough to walk by with his snowblower and help clear our driveway completely unsolicited. Our kids stayed inside playing “restaurant” together in the meantime. We had actually been planning to have a sushi birthday with the Mills family that afternoon, but three of their kids were sick and they unfortunately had to cancel (which meant sushi for us for lunch).

In lieu of a party, we decided to take the kids down to the Kroc Center for the afternoon, braving some still-slippery streets to have an afternoon in their warm, indoor water park. It was a nice, warm end to a long, and snowy week — though the cold is still persisting even as we head on in to March.

Come on, spring!

Heartcakes, paella, and never-ending snow

Well, we’re in the midst of the longest winter in human history, with enough snow dumping on us every other day to make Narnia look like a beach resort. It hasn’t interrupted too many of our celebrations this past week, however, so we’re taking it in stride.

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On Thursday, I celebrated Valentine’s Day by making Vivian and the kids a breakfast of heart waffles and bacon roses early in the morning. Hannah had some fun dressing the part with hearts on her shirt, jeans, and socks, and both kids colored Valentine’s cards to give to Grammy on their way to BSF.

I secretly stayed home in the meantime, making a red velvet heart cake and preparing a double-layer heart pizza for a Valentine’s dinner. Then I ambushed Vivian when she returned home to take her to lunch down at the special, where we had cheese steak and a pork tenderloin sandwich for our Valentine’s lunch. I had a few gifts for Vivian and the kids afterward, namely cards and their favorite cheeses, and I also had a few gifts for my mom, who watched them while we were away. (Vivian also had a heart-shaped box of truffles for me, which I’ll try not to eat all in one sitting.)

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We had dinner at Dennis and Kara’s house on Saturday night right before a new winter storm rolled by. The plows seemed to take a while to get to our street, but we still made it to church once I was done shoveling the driveway. The chili cook-off they’d scheduled for that evening was inexplicably cancelled, however, so we took the chili Vivian had made to my parents house, where we ate it with them and Uncle Jonny instead (bringing along some post-Valentine’s roses for my mom to adorn the table).

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Then on Monday, we got to celebrated Jack and Donna’s anniversary with some paella together for dinner. I’d grabbed the necessary ingredients the Saturday before, and Vivian cooked it all up for us to eat together. Both Jack and Aaron sat down to play some Super Mario Bros. in the meantime, which was fun to watch them play, and after dinner Vivian and I gave them a card with of my signature cartoons.

We’ve apparently got more snow in store tonight, and by now the days of sun, grass, and leaves seems to be a fading memory. It’s hard to believe soon things will be in bloom again and we’ll be complaining about mosquitoes and triple-digit heat waves once again.