Category Archives: Hannah’s Birthday

Marianne & Pete and Hannah turns Eight

Our little girl turned eight over the weekend, so we celebrated for a couple days with friends and family on Friday and Saturday.

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First on Friday, Vivian and I blew up some balloons to greet Hannah when she woke up, per tradition. Then, I made Hannah a special “8” pancake in the morning before she headed off to her home school co-op. Then that evening, we had all four grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to share in some of Hannah’s favorite foods for dinner — shrimp, oranges, strawberries, black olives, and potato chips. She got to open up some presents as well, including some calico critters, a baby doll, a musical puppy, and a “Little Live OMG Pet” from Uncle Jonny.

After blowing out a candle on her cupcake, we headed on our to Skate City afterward for some evening rollerskating with friends (and some hot dogs). Hannah and Mommy strapped on some skates and took a few laps around the rink, and even daddy took a turn rolling around trying desperately not to fall over (Aaron was preoccupied with some classic arcade games). Our friends the Mills came by to skate as well with us, but they unfortunately weren’t able to stay long. Miss Lexi took a tumble and somehow fractured her fibula, which is going to require surgery to fix. Vivian’s already planning a meal train to help her out while she’s recovering from that.

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Then on Saturday, we invited a handful of Hannah’s friends over to celebrate her birthday together. Donna brought a cake modeled after the girls’ equestrian Netflix show “Spirit” with a giant “8” on the top. Hannah got a few new presents from her friends as well as Uncle Nathan, who stopped by just long enough not to have any cake. Hannah’s friends mostly played with one another as the moms talked, and then Hannah and Sammy put together horses out of foam tiles as a craft before calling it a night.

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And because we’re still in a perpetual Presidential campaign season, we had a few more candidates some around. Last Sunday, it was Marianne Williamson, a kind of new-age spiritualist who actually spent three days in the Omaha area making appearances. She visited Unite Omaha on north 90th on Monday night and spoke to a few hundred people in something that felt more like a church service than a campaign rally. There was even a legit choir singing hymns about Ferguson and “hands up don’t shoot.” Marianne gave an hour-long stump speech touching on standard Democrat topics such as climate change, reparations, and the evils of “trickle-down” economics. This was followed by a Q&A with audience members, some of whom seemed even more colorful that the candidate — one being an anti-vaxxer and another being a member of the “UFO community.”

She stayed afterward to meet and greet guests and sign autographs. I got to meet her briefly and commented that a quote she cited that was often attributed to Voltaire (“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize”) actually came from a Neo-Nazi. This upset her enough that she had to run back stage to delete a tweet she shared recently that included the quote. While I wasn’t that impressed by her political idea, I did appreciate her understanding that political animosity is not all coming from one side. One man had asked what he could do to get family member to see Trump “for what he really is.” Marianne responded that his family members feel the same way about Democrats. “We’ve got to stop projecting onto others that their values are inferior,” she said.

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Then one week later, Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana came to town. He’s currently the front-runner and spoke to a gymnasium of around 2,100 people at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. I was a little late to the event (having a toilet emergency at home that needed overseeing), so I didn’t get close enough to ask Mayor Pete to go on the Ben Shapiro program. I did get a nice spot on the balcony to snap pictures of the stage below, which was a good enough spot for a guy from the New York Times to stake out as well.

Mayor Pete seemed to be a very polished, articulate candidate who knew how to work a crowd, but I found a lot of his talk about “uniting” the country to be terribly disingenuous. He went almost immediately from talking about “values that unite us all” to praising abortion and the impeachment proceedings, which brought easy cheers from a left-wing crowd but were unlikely to get the “other half” of the country on board. I also couldn’t help but notice the crowd was almost entirely white. This isn’t something I normally care about, but it highlighted the difficulty Mayor Pete has had connecting to black voters. I guess using stock photos of Kenyans didn’t help bring anyone on board.

Next stop: Thanksgiving, and the kick-off of the Christmas season!

Thanksgiving Birthday and the Longest Christmas Season Begins

It’s been a busy, crazy couple of weeks preparing for both a birthday for Hannah, Thanksgiving with the family, and a handful of celebrations to kick off a long Christmas season.

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The fun started last weekend as Hannah had a kitty cat themed birthday party with a handful of her little friends at our house. Grammy made a Zoey birthday cake, which was both adorable and frightening, particularly when Vivian decapitated it to give Hannah the first piece. Lily (and Jonah), Nicholette, and Sammy came over to share in the cake and make paper cut-out cats with Hannah. Hannah also got a bunch of presents, which included Play-Dough and a sequined toy that was particularly fun for Hannah to “draw” on.

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Thanksgiving the following week landed right on Hannah’s birthday, so we had to juggle both roasting a turkey for our Thanksgiving Dinner and hosting a family birthday party with Hannah. Grammy brought a new, “little Zoey” cake for Hannah, and she got to open some more presents in the morning, which included a Knuffle Bunny and her long-expected “Hannah Doll” (an American Girl actually named Willa).

All four grandparents dropped by, along with both Uncle Jonny and Nathan. Grandma read the kids a story as Jack and Vivian got Thanksgiving Dinner ready. Then around one, we sat down for turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, Taber salad, and also pie for dessert. Hannah also got to eat her cake, of course, blowing out the candles before going “head first” into a new sugar rush.

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That evening, we took the kids downtown to see the Gene Leahy Mall lit up in Christmas splendor for the last time before its multi-year demolition. It had warmed up to a lovely 50 degrees, but there was still enough ice left on the waterfront for some geese to walk on (“Just like Jesus,” said Hannah). We got a glimpse of Christmas Island and saw a man playing Christmas songs on a legit hurdy-gurdy near 12th and Farnam. Aaron (and mommy) tried out the slides before we headed up to 14th Street for the lights to turn on.

Some young kids sang some Christmas songs on a bandstand in front of the library before the emcee from 104.5 rattled off an endless list of sponsors. Then Mayor Jean took the stage to lead the countdown for the mall to light up. It was bittersweet to see the beautiful lights with the kids for the first — and last — time together. We stuck around just long enough to get a photo in front of them before hurrying on home to bed.

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On Black Friday, I had an early-morning breakfast at the 11-Worth Cafe with Uncle Jonny and my folks, starting the day with hash browns and sausage biscuits smothered with sausage gravy (AKA the “General Lee.”) Afterward, Vivian and I did just a bit of Black Friday shopping, specifically enough to confirm everything advertised had been sold out on Thursday.

Around four, we dropped by the Durham Museum to have Christmas at Union Station. The kids got to meet Santa and decorate cookies with Grammy and the River City Confectioners Association. They had some reindeer crafts, but we spent most of our time on a reindeer scavenger hunt downstairs, finding nine cut-out reindeer in order to claim a light-up glow stick upstairs as a prize. There were some toy trains (and a piano) that Aaron enjoyed playing with, and Hannah got to run through the various train exhibits and vintage passenger cars on display. We also saw the model of the 1898 World’s Fair in Omaha, a building of which one other girl said looked like “Donald Trump’s House.”

Later on upstairs, we got front-row seats for the tree-lighting, as the only spot to sit was right in front of the stage. Michael Lyon was back to sing some Christmas songs (after a recent bout with throat cancer of all things) before Mayor Jean and a handful of VIPs took the stage to lead the countdown. I let Hannah handle the video this year as I snapped some photos, and then we managed to join everyone else in the crowd in getting a selfie in front of the tree and playing in the paper snowflakes to kick off the Christmas season.

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We had some lovely weather on Saturday, which I spent putting up our Christmas decorations and taking the kids on one last wagon ride to my parents’ house for a visit. Our neighbor Betty also gave us some kolaches, and Vivian planted our tulip bulbs while we still had one last warm day before winter.

On Sunday, we got a dusting of snow that mostly just left the streets wet and slushy (before they turned to ice). It was fun to hear Aaron exclaim with a gasp, “It’s Christmas!” as he looked out the window. We were still able to go to church and then drop by Sam’s Club afterward for cheese and ice melt (among other things). We spent the rest of the day indoors catching up before our four-day weekend came to a close.

One interesting thing I learned this week was that when Hannah’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving, what follows is the longest Christmas Season possible on the calendar — 33 full days. I’m glad we were able to start them off right!

Happy birthday, Hannah — and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

Two Birthdays and Johnny Boyd

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We’ve had a fairly busy week getting ready for someone’s six-year birthday party, with Thanksgiving coming not too far behind. That didn’t stop Vivian and me from driving up to the Reverb Lounge in Benson to see one of my favorite swing groups — Johnny Boyd and his band. Indigo Swing was one of the very first swing bands I ever listened to (thanks to Legostar from Comic Genesis), and they’ve even appeared in a couple of my web comics from time to time.

This is the third time I’ve seen them in person (first at Cowtown in 2013 and then at the Reverb a year ago), but it’s still surreal to hear songs I’ve heard for over a decade being sung in person just a few feet away by the man himself (as I’m Lindy Hopping to them). Vivian came along with me and actually got Johnny to play my favorite song by request, How Lucky Can One Guy Be. Jitterbug regulars Dan Wondra, Lisa Barrett, and Sherri Bevins also dropped by, as well as Koterba, who got me to take both as picture of him (and his son) with Johnny and do a quick one-minute interview with him between sets, which you can see on YouTube.

It was a fun, fun night, and it reminded me just how much I love the sound of neo-swing. I bought a CD for Johnny to autograph and have been listening to it in my car during my commute for the last couple days. There’s no antidote to bad traffic like good music!

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On Saturday, we celebrated Hannah’s birthday with a handful of her little friends — Nicholette, Kate’s three girls, and Sammy (along with her brothers, who mostly stayed occupied playing video games downstairs). It was a fairy themed party, so once our guests arrived, they all received their own pairs of wings. They then got to and decorate their own fairy houses with moss, sticks, buttons, and other ornaments. They even got little miniature fairies to live inside the houses.

Donna made an elaborate cake featuring fruit-themed fairies gathered around a cake of our own house outside a giant tree house with Tinkerbell sleeping inside (Zoey the cat also had a cameo). The girls had cake (and played with the fondant fairies) for a bit before Hannah got to open her presents. It was a fun little party, but the clear highlight was the cake, which Hannah played with all week after the party was over.

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Of course, we had another birthday party to attend before the day was over. Our mutual friend Phil was turning 40, so we dropped by his place to stuff ourselves with a variety of pork products and blueberry cupcakes (blue also indicating the gender of Phil’s new baby, as we learned later). I got Phil a pack of seasonal hot sauces from Volcanic Peppers in Bellevue (which Phil was familiar with, of course) along with a card featuring himself as a bottle of “I’ve Had My Phil” hot sauce. Kate brought her girls along to the party, so Hannah got extra playtime with them before we called it a night.

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On Sunday, we brought a shoe box filled with toys and school items for Operation Christmas Child, which Lynne had blessed before the service. After church, we dropped by a new Bánh mì sandwich shop in Bellevue to grab some lunch on the way home.

Then in the afternoon, our kids got to play in leaves for a couple hours in the afternoon. We raked them up first before letting them dive into the leaves and throw them at each other for a while. I got to put up the Christmas lights as well, but Vivian had expressly forbidden me to turn them on until after Thanksgiving.

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Hannah’s actual birthday came on Wednesday, and mommy took her for some quality time at her favorite restaurant play place. That evening, we had a low-key celebration with Grammy and Pop-Pop. We had some lasagna for dinner, and then we had some more birthday cake, which Hannah helped to decorate. Hannah also got to open some more presents, which included some more kitties and a light-up moon for her room.

Next stop: Thanksgiving!

Rapunzel, a Tea Party, and a Christmas Castle Cake

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Winter is nearly here, which means drinking in all the unseasonably warm weather we can before the gray gloom and snow of winter comes bearing down on us. That meant a lunchtime trip or two to the park, where Hannah shared some of the pumpkin bread she made in a tin can at preschool with us. We also dropped by the park by the Keystone Trail where I’d left my car after a tire spontaneously burst in my office, which I wound up having replaced long enough for one or two more rides to the office.

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November also seems to be a popular month for birthdays. Our friend Deena celebrated down at Romeo’s for some reason, so we dropped by with the kids for a few sanchos together.

Our friend Phil also celebrated his birthday down at his house in Papillion, so we joined him and our cluster of mutual friends to celebrate with pork loin spiced up with some of his homemade ghost pepper sauce. Jen’s parents were also there to be loved and abused by the many youngsters running around. Phil was smoking half a hog’s head on his back porch, but we only stayed long enough for cake and never quite got to see what he wound up doing with it.

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The biggest birthday of all, of course, was for Hannah on Tuesday when she turned five years old. I took the day off and spent the morning distracting the kids with grandma as Vivian prepared our house for a cute little tea party. A handful of Hannah’s little friends came over to have cookies and (apple cider) “tea” in the afternoon. Then they got a special surprise visit from Rapunzel, courtesy of Real Omaha Princesses. She had a song, a story, and a game for the kids to play in-between a handful of photos, of course.

Hannah got to open presents after Rapunzel’s visit, and then she got to blow out candles on her Christmas Castle Cake. Yes, Grammy asked Hannah exactly what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, and her request was about as a five-year-old could get. The resulting cake was amazing inside and out, but it was especially weird to see Hannah and Aaron eat fondant effigies of themselves.

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The next day, Vivian took the kids down to the Children’s Museum to burn off an extended sugar high, and I joined them during an extended lunch break. We call this place the “indoor park,” as our trips to the “outdoor” park will now be sporadic until around springtime.

Next stop: Thanksgiving, and the start of the Christmas season!


Highlights from Hannah’s fifth birthday

Hannah’s Fourth

It was a birthday-ful weekend for the Johnson Family as we get geared up for Thanksgiving and t he Christmas season by first spending a few days opening presents with friends.

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We spent Saturday evening at Phil and Jen’s house with 30 or so of our mutual friends celebrating Phil’s birthday. “Bar food” was on the menu, which involved a deep frier that left my clothes smelling like delicious grease the morning after. Chips and dips, egg rolls filled with smoked pork and potatoes, as well as chicken wings were all on the menu. I was a bit anxious how Hannah and Aaron would deal with the crowd of people in a living space clearly designed to hold less than half of them, but they did fine. Other kiddos were also on hand to be cute and eat with the rest of us, but it was still a bit of a madhouse. We did wish Phil a happy birthday before we left. I’m not sure if he heard us.

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By contrast, we celebrated Hannah’s birthday the day after and just invited her best friend Sammy over to celebrate. Of course, that meant Miss Lexi and August came as well, but that was all good because it gave grown-ups time to catch up and little Aaron someone to toddle around with all afternoon. Grammy brought over a pair of Dora and Doc McStuffins cakes while Pop-Pop introduced Aaron to static electricity. My mom and dad came over a little later as well, along with Uncle Jonny, an we got to have cake and watch Hannah open presents together. We had a couple pizzas from Papa Murphy’s for dinner before calling it a night.

It was very low-key, but Hannah seemed to have a tremendously fun birthday. She actually got up at five to discover her room filled with pink balloons and was jumping all morning at church telling everyone, “I’m four! I’m four!”

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Then on Monday, we had another visit with Marco Rubio in Council Bluffs. I met him briefly back in July when he visited, and this time around I brought my mom and Vivian to hear him speak. There was some Q&A after his talk, and the Senator from Florida hung around to meet and greet just about everyone in attendance. The usual characters were on hand for interviews afterward, and I was impressed with Rubio’s accessibility. The questions weren’t screened, and pretty much anyone was able to approach him afterward. (And somehow I wound up on Fox News again as a result.)

Then on Tuesday, we brought the kids down to the park for lunch before the inevitable cold and snow comes this Thanksgiving to bring a brief end to our park time.

Friendship is Magic

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It’s hard to believe, but my little girl turned three years old on Saturday — she’s growing up so fast! We celebrated with a My Little Pony themed party down at Twin Valley Church and invited all of Hannah’s little friends (no “bronies” allowed). Donna made a lovely Applejack cake, which Hannah has been talking about all week, along with some pony cookies to get everyone all sugared up. There was plenty of horse play for kids of all ages, and then Vivian had a “color your own pony” craft for all the little ones to do. Hannah also got a bunch of presents — toys from Sophia the First, Doc McStuffins, and other shows she watches. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for a Gummi Bear or two for Christmas.

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There was also another birthday in the neighborhood. Phil was turning older up the street, so we drove on my to get free food wish him a happy birthday. We got to let Aaron flirt a bit with Cameron’s little girl. Phil and Jen stayed busy cooking, as usual, as Mystery Science Theater 3000 played in the background, which I expect to repeat at our own house on Turkey Day (if YouTube lets me stream via our Roku).

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On Sunday, we spent the afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house so they could get a Christmas picture with their grandkids. We had tacos for lunch, and dad showed us some of his old toys, such as a giant “portable” radio that uses “A” style batteries and vacuum tubes, and a collection of Presidential figurines. I had some fun playing with those and having Hoover and Harding do battle with Roosevelt and Wilson while Hannah had Mamie Eisenhower hopping along with Ike. Good times.

Hannah’s Second

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It’s official, everyone: Vivian and I are now the parents of a two-year old. Friday was Hannah’s birthday, so we celebrated with a bunch of her little friends at the Sarpy YMCA by turning them all loose in an inflatable bounce-house in the workout room. They got to have free reign for nearly an hour after kicking off their shoes to bounce, climb, and slide all over the place. A few of the kids also discovered the giant yoga balls, which seemed like the perfect toy to roll around (at least until the Y staff told us to stop).

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After the kids had been sufficiently bounced, we rounded them all back into the party room for some pizza and cake (always best to have the bouncing before dinnertime). Donna brought a lovely monkey birthday cake, and then she got to open a bunch of presents from her little friends. I think Hannah’s almost got the hang of opening presents, though she tends to become so fascinated with the first one or two she opens (such as a pair of pretend sippy cups) that she completely forgets that she has several others waiting to be opened. More practice for next year.

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The rest of the family is still hanging out with us for the week leading up to Thanksgiving, of course. Most of our hanging-out tends to revolve around eating out, of course. On Saturday, we headed down to the Haymarket in Lincoln to have lunch with Dwayne Ball and my brother Nathan at Lazlo’s (which used to be called Fireworks and caused no end of confusion for us). Dad was absolutely fascinated with the parking meters out front for some reason and had to take a picture (and of course, I had to take a picture of him taking a picture).

Jonathan came down for a few days of watching Das Boot and playing some Apples to Apples with us, and then Nathan came up to Omaha on Sunday with Fat Pat’s pizza in tow, which was delicious as always. We got to introduce him to the IT Crowd before saying goodnight.

In other news, our friend Phil had a birthday that involved spicy Asian fondue, lots of random friends, and bean sprouts.

Happy birthday, Hannah!

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Can you believe our little Hannah is almost one year old already? Her official birthday is on Thanksgiving Day this year, so we decided to celebrate a little early with a bunch of our friends and Hannah’s at our house. The theme we picked out was based on the classic children’s book by Eric Carle, The Hungry Caterpillar. Vivian made up a big buffet of food consisting of everything the caterpillar ate in the book, and Donna made a giant caterpillar cake for dessert (which included a tiny one just for Hannah). Frank read through the book to make sure everyone was up to speed before the party began. Hannah got some help from mom opening up her batch of birthday presents, and then she got to have some cake for the very first time (after having some help blowing out her first birthday candle).

It was a great party with many friends, both young and old. Even Uncle Nathan managed to drive up from Lincoln to join us. We showed a video highlight reel downstairs featuring several special moments from Hannah’s first year with us, and then she got to be cute by clapping for everyone before they went home.

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On Sunday, we celebrated Phil’s birthday down the street at his and Jen’s house. They bought (and personall slaughtered) a whole lamb to cook up on a makeshift rotating spit in their backyard, and they had a whole bunch of Greek food inside to go along with it. A bunch of our mutual friends came by to join in the food and fun, and at the end of the evening we played “Hedbanz“, a goofy version of 20 questions that involves putting labels on our heads. Good times.


Hannah’s first birthday