Monthly Archives: March 2020

Fresh Air and Take-Out Tuesday

Spring is beginning to bud all over town (and in our yard), so over the past week, the Johnson Family has stopped “sheltering in place” long enough to have some fun outside, getting fresh air while waiting out the coronavirus (whether the kids like it or not).

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On Thursday, we had a picnic underneath the stage of Stinson Park and then had a lovely walk up and down the Keystone Trail. We got to see such things as fussy buds on a few trees, a stay birds’ nest, and some “shooting heart” graffiti underneath a bridge.

There are only a few restaurants open in Aksarben Village (and no movie theater) during the coronavirus lockdown, so the most activity I’ve seen are the window washers “flying” outside the Pacific Life building.

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In the meantime, we’ve been trying a few new things at home, such as homemade pizza, pretzels, sauce and salsa from Volcanic Peppers, and some “whipped coffee” that seems to be a craze online.

My parents also celebrated their 45th anniversary, but since we couldn’t join them, I installed Skype on my computer and let the kids say hello virtually. It’s getting a little frustrating not being able to say hello to grandma and grandpa these days, but hopefully this lock down will be over soon.

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On Sunday, we got some more fresh air walking the trails of the Fontenelle Forest. The doors seemed to be open for both members and non-members alike, so we got some exercise with the kids exploring the hilly trails, ponds, and overlooks around the forest, as well as the playground of course. We also got to see a red-headed woodpecker and the Constitution Tree before getting too tuckered out. Then Jack was kind enough to lend us some expiring fuel points to use on the way home, where we filled up at around $1.16/gallon.

When we’re not outside, I’ve been helping with some of our homeschooling as well, teaching Aaron math with Khan Academy, which he played out with chalk on the driveway one day driving home from work.

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We had a particularly special night on Take-Out Tuesday (as designated by our Governor). First, we swung by Dinker’s Bar and Grill to get some of Omaha’s Best Burgers for dinner, which we ate with fries picnic-style at Hanscom Park down the street. I’d visited this 150-year old park once or twice before, but this was the first time with the kids. Hannah was particularly interested in the “twisty tree” that swirled like a soft-serve cone.

Then after dinner, we drove down the street for a drive-by birthday parade for our Jitterbug friend Billy, who was turning forty. Some of our friends wanted to throw him an socially distant parade, so we and several Jitterbug friends lined up in our cars, some decorated appropriately, and drove past his house honking and waving around a 6:45. I think it made his day.

Social Distance

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As the world shuts down to deal with the Corona Virus, I spent Wednesday evening breaking quarantine to wish Uncle Jonny a Happy Birthday. The kids each decorated some birthday cards for him, which included such things as watermelon, corn kernels, Mega Man, and a maze. Vivian and I gave Uncle Jonny a gift card for RiffTrax to tide him over during the quarantine. He’s now working from home, and while everything else seems to be cancelled, they’ll be spending a lot of time indoors.

My mom made brownies for us, but we otherwise kept “socially distant.” I’m not sure when such things as walking with the kids to grandpa’s house will become a regular thing again, but I hope it’s soon.

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Of course, sheltering in place means more time for spring cleaning, so on Saturday I spent some time clearing out our storage area and setting up some shelving I’d bought at Aldi to help get things organized. I also gave our little apple tree a good pruning with the tips I’d learned from my visit to Ditmar’s a few weeks ago, and I even got a stake in the ground to help straighten it up a bit.

Then on Sunday, we had our virtual church service from Wildewood in our living room while eating some bacon and pancakes (and kale for Harold). We’d gotten a bit stir-crazy by lunchtime and decided to get outside a bit, stopping by McDonald’s for a lunch of double Big Macs before going downtown. We had a nice little walk around the Old Market despite the gray and drizzling weather. The kids seemed to enjoy just running around the nearly vacant streets. We did find that Dolci was still open for business, so we all got some Italian ice cream before heading home.

How are you spending the quarantine? Let us know in the comments below.

Sheltered in place

So, how’s COVID-19 treating you and your family these days? The sheer number of things that have been shut down in a week is just staggering. A week ago, I was taking Hannah to her Wednesday night church group without a second thought. If you read my blog, you can see every entry has some activity where we’re around ten or more people at one event of another.

Now, we can’t go anywhere with ten or more people and every church, restaurant, and public facility is shut down. We’re still making the most of this downtime, but it’s still hard to come to grips with so much of the world being turned upside down.

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We’d planned on going to a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, but it was cancelled, so I went out with my folks to breakfast at First Watch instead, hoping to get in one last meal in a sit-down restaurant before everything became take-out only a few days later.

We also got a bit of a freakish, mid-March snow in the meantime, leaving us with a frosted winter wonderland for a day or two. With all group activities cancelled, we’ve been taking the kids on a few extra walks outside just to get some fresh air — one thing that hasn’t been restricted by any guidelines from the CDC.

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St. Patrick’s Day was similarly low-key — we got some corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes for dinner, but shopping has become a bit of a thrill ride. Every other store seems to be completely out of something — not just the famously impossible-to-find toilet paper or hand sanitizer but now pasta, canned tuna, bread and even milk can often be completely cleaned out of one store or another. Hearing rumors about a two-week lock down that included grocery stores (which later turned out to be Fake News) spurred me to fill an extra bucket of emergency food just in case

We’ll soon have to figure out some creative ways to have fun with ten or fewer people at a time, just to avoid cabin fever as we’re busy avoiding the Corona Virus. Fortunately, we got a head start on this schooling-from-home thing long before it became mandatory for everyone.

Pruned

It’s been a remarkably quiet week, with some lovely early spring weather that we’ve been enjoying as we hunker down and try not to get an unexpected case of COVID-19 (which seems to be tiptoeing its way into Nebraska). We were able to give our friends Nate and Lexi a night out for their anniversary by letting their kids play at our house for a couple hours Friday night, which I think was fun for everybody.

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Then on Saturday morning, I headed off to Ditmar’s Orchard with the family to learn how to prune a fruit tree. A guy with the Nebraska Extension office was there to show us the subtle art of clipping off tree branches, specifically picking off the ones that were likely to run against each other or cause potential problems, leaving us with enough “holes” to “throw a farm cat through.” In the meantime, the kids got the play area of Ditmars’ all to themselves for an hour or two before we headed home.

The rest of the weekend’s been fairly uneventful. I was able to clean the garage during the nice weather and then seemed to come down with a cold just as we lost an hour of sleep on Sunday. The kids got an extra hour of daylight, which they spent at the park, in the backyard, and chalking up a maze on our driveway. Good times.

Lent, Thomas More, and Kevin McCarthy

We kicked of Lent last week with a fun and busy cross-section of activities that included politics, a fish fry, and plenty of time outside enjoying some spring-like weather.

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On (Fat) Tuesday night, I got dressed up to attend the Thomas More Society dinner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center, courtesy of the Saint Paul VI Institute, which bought a whole table for me and my co-workers. I knew almost nothing about the Thomas More Society beforehand, and I got hear from founder Tom Brejcha talk about their legal work defending pro-lifers — particularly their right to protest.

The keynote speaker for the evening was David Bereit, founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign. He actually had a surprising connection to the Saint Paul VI Institute — his wife was actually treated for infertility by Dr. Hilgers many years ago and had two grown children now thanks to him. That was certainly surprising news to everyone at our table.

It was a lovely evening, and I even got to take home a tiny Mardis Gras mask for Hannah’s doll in honor of Fat Tuesday.

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Ash Wednesday kicked off that Lenten season, and that means it’s time for fish fries! Our friends the Simpsons invited us along with them to St. Charles Borromeo for their annual fish fry. It was the first time our kids have had the “full line experience,” but they got to run outside a bit and then played a keep-away game with mommy as we shuffled our way through the line waiting to dish up.

The fish itself was probably the best of all the fish fries I’ve attended — fried fresh, crispy and golden — and even Hannah wound up stuffing herself with a filet or two. (Gabriel helped himself to his mom’s mac and cheese.)

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Vivian and I had a night out planned on Saturday, so we made a point of getting the kids outside to enjoy some of the lovely 60-degree weather. We had a picnic lunch in the shelter together and then burned off the PB&J on slides, the teeter-totter, and rolling aimlessly down the hill. Hannah also brought along her doll “Suki” to chase Aaron around the playground in-between rounds of play-fighting.

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Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I dressed up and headed off to the Elephant Remembers dinner downtown. It’s the second time we’d been invited to this annual gala fundraiser, which meant we got to rub elbows with some of the typical Republican friends I bump into at town halls or parades (looking at you, Stephen). Scott Voorhees played emcee, and introduced a chain of speakers, such as Mayor Jean, Mike Foley, Ben Sasse, and Don Bacon. The keynote speaker was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who gave an stump speech about entering politics as a young man and his optimism about Republicans taking back the house in November. McCarthy received a few gifts before he left the stage — a bottle of whiskey from local distiller Soldier Valley, and an plaque naming him Admiral of the Nebraska Navy (an apparently annual joke I have yet to understand).

The honorees of the evening were Lee and Robyn Terry, and there was a nice table of Terry campaign memorabilia set up in the lobby for everyone to see as they came in. Bacon’s wing-man James Wright introduced Lee and Robyn, who both said a few words before being awarded a Nebraska baking pan by DCRP chair Theresa Thibodeau. There was one more award to Young Republican Spencer Head and a few words from Bacon’s second-in-command Kyle Clark to wrap things up. Naturally, plenty of folks stuck around to meet-and-greet a few of the speakers (and get photos), and I got to briefly shake McCarthy’s hand and told him I looked forward to him being the next Speaker. I also wound up taking a group photo of the Terry Team on my way out the door — always happy to lend a hand with my lens whenever possible.

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We had a nice and quiet Sunday, unexpectedly bumping into our friends the Lenarts at church over donuts. Then that evening we took the kids by First Presbyterian to play outside (and let Hannah try out her scooter) in the gorgeous weather before enjoying another one of their movie nights. This time it was 101 Dalmatians, a Disney classic I’d actually never seen, which we watched while eating Hot Dogs, sloppy joes, and Scooby Snacks of all things. They had some fun crafts afterward that included Dalmatian head bands, and Hannah made her own Dalmatian out of Play-Doh before we called it a night.