Monthly Archives: November 2020

The Season Starts

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! We’ve had a lovely — and busy — Thanksgiving weekend celebrating the holiday with family and then getting our tree and decoration up to kick off the Christmas season.

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We spent Thursday morning watching the Macy’s Day parade while having some quiche for breakfast before starting to get our food together for Thanksgiving dinner. Hannah and Aaron spent their time decorating the bunch of balloons we blew up for her birthday and turning them into a bizarre cast of characters to play with.

The weather was nice enough for a walk to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, during which time Hannah found a spare tire she decided to claim for herself. My dad carved the turkey while my mom made Waldorf salad (along with olives, pickles and cranberry sauce served in antique cut glass). Vivian and I brought the stuffing, potatoes, and green bean casserole. Uncle Jonny joined the lot of us as we stuffed ourselves and had pie before sitting around watching a “virtual” (i.e. prerecorded video) of the tree-lighting at Union Station. Nothing can compare to the real thing, of course, but it was better than having it cancelled completely.

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Then on Friday we wasted no time getting ready for the Christmas season and headed off to Santa’s Woods to pick out a Christmas tree. It was lovely weather for a stroll through the tree farm to find the perfect fir for our living room. We wound up picking a 6½ foot tree that Hannah and Aaron seemed to like best. They were amused at some of other trees being spray-painted various colors, we but kept ours all natural.

We stuck around a little while afterward to have some hot cocoa, let the kids roam around a bit, and say hello to the reindeer (Twinkle and Mr. Noodle). Then we got the tree tied to the roof of our CR-V and drove it on back to Bellevue, where I carried it inside and we spent the evening cutting it loose and stringing some lights. Aaron in particular seemed to enjoy putting the glowing strands on carefully before we had some pizza for dinner and called it a night.

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The Christmas decorating continued the next day, as the whole family set about putting ornaments on the tree. I played Christmas music all the while via our Sonos as the tree slowly got dressed, and then I went outside to put up the lights on the house as well as our snowman.

The kids and I spent the afternoon at my parents’ house watching Alabama completely roll over Auburn during the Iron Bowl. Hannah and Aaron came along to play a bit in the backyard, rolling the tire Hannah found and spying on the neighbors. I brought some chips and salsa while my dad made some chicken wings. I don’t watch my football myself, but it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

We returned home to see our house lit up in all its festive glory, and I was quite happy to see everything seemed to work after the sun went down. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving (and lots of leftovers)!

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Let the Christmas Season begin!

Harold and Hannah have a birthday

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We had a couple of birthdays in the Johnson household this week. First up was our guinea pig Harold, who surprised our friends the Mills by popping out of his mommy’s tummy one year ago Monday. Hannah made him a plate of his favorite foods arranged in a smiley face for breakfast that morning, and then that evening I had some cilantro and baby cucumbers for him to much inside of a new, snuggly guinea pig bed I picked up from PetCo. I’ve had four guinea pigs growing up, but I never actually knew any of their actual birthdays, so this was a special day!

In the meantime, Aaron got to bake some cookies he prepared at church during Sunday School. Hopefully the ones he’s saving for Uncle Jonny and August make their way over before they go stale.

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On Tuesday, I joined the Men of God group at Wildewood for a barbecue dinner — the first time I’d attended since before the pandemic. Our guest for the evening was Charles Wilson from the Omaha Street School, and he shared his story growing up and getting into trouble in college before coming to Omaha to attend Grace University.

We also enjoyed some lovely weather later in the week and decided to take the kids down to Stinson Park. Even though we’d visited several other parks throughout the year, we hadn’t been to “Daddy Park” since way back in March, so it felt good to be back. The kids got to have some quality time running around and playing on the swings. Temperatures were around 70, so we didn’t even need coats. It felt good to get outside for some fresh air, and Aaron even lay down to watch some of the airplanes leave trails in the sky overhead.

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Then over the weekend came Hannah’s birthday (shortly after a few birthdays for her dolls). We had a little party for her and a few of her little friends at our house on Saturday. Sammy and “Other” Hannah came over and made a variety of crafts on our dining room table in the afternoon. Donna brought over a Camping Cake featuring the four of us together (and me taking photos of the food), filled with lemon, strawberry, and chocolate cakes.

Hannah opened a few presents from her friends in the living room afterward before blowing out her candles (on a makeshift “nine“), and everybody had fun eating the little miniature fondant sculptures on Grammy’s cake, which included a butterfly, a bunny, a squirrel, a picnic table, hot dogs and hamburgers, and all of us, of course.

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Hannah actual birthday happened on Sunday, so we got up early for a breakfast of bacon and donuts together before opening some presents. Grammy got Hannah a “bed tent,” which I immediately helped set up for her and Aaron to play in. She got a handful of other presents from mommy and me, including potato chips and Hatchimals. Aaron also had some gifts he picked out, along with a birthday card decorated with the Pokémon Cinderace, which is apparently the final form of Hannah’s favorite Pokémon Scorbunny.

We dropped by Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the afternoon so Hannah could opened a few more presents, including a giant 24-piece set of “Twosie” characters, as well as a plush Scorbunny from Uncle Jonny, which immediately became Hannah’s favorite gift. We went by Dairy Twist for some ice cream afterward, and then settled the kids down watching Finding Nemo while eating (ironically enough) shrimp for dinner to finish off the day.

I think Hannah had a very happy birthday, but we barely had time to catch our breath, as Thanksgiving is right around the corner. (And that meant rushing to buy a turkey in time to thaw!)


Highlights from Hannah’s birthday

Election Day and Autumn Fun

Well, election day turned out to be more like an election week — with margins far narrower than any poll predicted and results much different on election night than they appeared days later. It wasn’t nearly as much fun as it was four years ago, but I’m still glad most of the people I voted for — particularly Congressman Fortenberry and Senator Sasse — will be returning to Congress.

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Last week, Vivian and I participated in the democratic process and cast some ballots down at Calvary Christian Church. I expected long lines and crowd, so my parents were kind enough to watch Hannah and Aaron while Vivian and I did our civic duty. There were a couple dozen people in line when we finally got inside to vote, and not much more had arrived by the time we were done. In the meantime, Hannah and Aaron build a few things with blocks and Lincoln Logs before we returned took them home.

Then that evening, Don Bacon and his crew were doing some last-minute sign-waving down at the corner of 72nd and Dodge. Because I work not far from there, I drove down to say hello and grab a few pictures. Among the sign-wavers was Senator Ben Sasse, who must have felt pretty confident about his chances to spend the waning moments of the campaign giving Congressman Bacon a hand. (I even mentioned this on my Twitter account.)

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We had some delightfully warm weather over the weekend, so we spent as much of it as we could outdoors. On Saturday, I raked up some leaves so the kids could have some quality time jumping into them. Hannah also brought a few of her stuffed animals — reconfigured into Pokémon, since she and Aaron are currently enjoying that show — into the pile with them.

On Sunday, Hannah and Aaron made an herb garden and some no-bake cookies in Sunday school, respectively. Then we spent the afternoon down at Dreamland Park across the river. The place was very busy with people enjoying some nice weather before wet and cold hit us this week. They got some more time on swings and a merry-go-round or two before we headed on home.


Thoughts on the election

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this election, which still feels up in the air despite everyone knowing what the outcome will be. I’m not, however, going to join with many of my friends in saying the election was stolen. I don’t think it was. The margins were ridiculously close, particularly considering what the polls were saying. There may have been some shenanigans that need to be looked into, but I highly doubt there was enough ballot-stuffing going on to flip the margin of victory, small as it was.

This was an election where the Democrats were supposed to make major gains, and at the moment, it looks like the GOP will keep the Senate and gain at least seven seats in the House. Even if Trump had won, he would have had his hands tied with a divided Congress. Now, the Republicans look poised to take Congress back in 2022 and perhaps the White House in 2024.

So now, I’m focused now on the future, and the potential of meeting and greeting a whole new slate of candidates in a few years. And for now, the goal I had several years ago of getting a selfie with a POTUS was finally realized — just not in the way I expected. How do you like that, you dog-faced pony soldiers?

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See you in “four more years,” Joe.

Halloween 2020

It’s been a fun, long Halloween weekend — a holiday that I think I’m enjoying more and more as an adult than I did even as a child, partly because I get to live through it again vicariously as a dad.

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The fun started Friday night as we somehow made it to two trunk-or-treat events. First was at Lifespring, which was a drive-thru trunk-or-treat. It was very slow-going at first, but soon our kids got various candy and treats handed to them by a variety of costumed characters — including the cast of Wizard of Oz, a cow, Thanos, clowns, pirates, astronauts, campers, a karate guy, a donut baker, and even Aaron’s Kindergarten teacher. There were even some Christmas elves at the end to remind us how badly we want 2020 to be over, along with some Bee Keepers to talk about the “Bee Attitudes.” Everything seemed to be very Covid-friendly and socially distant, but it was still a fun little experience, especially for the kids (who made out like bandits).

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Afterward, we immediately went down to Grace Bible Church at Southroads Mall, which was having its own trunk-or-treat event. Our kids got some candy from a lumberjack, a gumball machine, a fishing hole, and a shark cage.

Then inside, they had hot dogs and chips along with a bunch of carnival-type games for extra candy. We arrived at the tail-end of the event and didn’t get to stay for long, but the kids definitely enjoyed being able to get out of the car and move around a bit to get candy instead of staying strapped in. We even got a family photo before we headed home.

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We had some gorgeous weather on Saturday, which Vivian and I thought warranted a trip to the park with the kids. We went all the way to Mahoney State Park, making use of our annual pass before the year ends, and giving them some quality time at the Robert H. Storz Family Children’s Recreational Area. The kids got some quality time on slides and swings, and even mommy took a turn on the springy snail with Aaron.

We took a bit of a break back at the house to make some milk jug Jack-o-Lanterns with the kids. Vivian came up with the idea, and it was certainly less messy than carving an actual pumpkin. The four of us took turns making faces with a Sharpie marker, and then we dropped glow sticks inside each of the lanterns to adorn our front porch. I think they turned out very cute!

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On Halloween night, we all headed out to walk our own streets for a bit for some real trick-or-treating. I also got into the fun this year dressing as the late Wilford Brimley to walk along with the kids, and I also made a special Protoman Shield to go with Aaron’s Mega Man outfit. There were noticeably fewer houses participating this year (because of Covid, I’m sure), but the ones that did seemed to go all out. Our neighbors down the street had a giant block party with decorations all over the place, while another house around the corner had spent five weeks filling its yard with haunted memorabilia — and turning its garage into a walk-through haunted house.

Other folks handed out candy per the norm, such as Betty down the street along with my own parents. Others had “help yourself” bowls of candy out on the front steps, which was what we did as we had no one this year to tend to our door while we were gone. We finished the night at Grammy’s house, and she had bacon of all things ready for the kids when they arrived. Despite the pandemic, it was a fun night, and I even got to share a bit of my childhood with the kids by showing them Garfield’s Halloween Adventure when we returned home.


Final thoughts before Election Day

Election Day is almost here now, and this will be by last update until then. I’ll have plenty of thoughts once the election is over — though that may not be for a while, depending on what shenanigans go on with absentee ballots. I do have a few final thoughts before the election, though. Despite all the negativity, anger, and actual civil unrest that has gone along with this year, riding the Trump Train has been a thrill. The crowds only seem to get bigger every time President Trump comes to town, and the atmosphere is more like a football or a rock concert than a campaign rally. I got to hang around plenty of Democrats during these past two years as well, and one thing I’ve learned is that the anger each side hast toward the other is based on the misconception that Americans who disagree intend to do each other harm. While there are genuinely bad people out there, just about everyone only want to live their lives in the best way possible, and they vote for whichever side they thing will make that happen.

I’m voting for President Trump, but I pledge that I’ll remain friends with anyone who doesn’t. And even though I’ll be disappointed if Biden wins on Tuesday, I’m still happy I got to meet him twice. Being able to shake the hand of anyone seeking the highest office in the hand is a unique privilege, and I look forward to taking that journey again when the next election season starts (which I believe is going to be on Wednesday).