We got to have a little more family fun last week in Omaha. On Thursday, Vivian had the girls from her bible study over for the evening, so I took Hannah down to the local Chick-Fil-A for some story time with April Dodson. She’s an author from Colorado Springs who wrote a book called Tally the Turtle, so for whatever reason she decided to drop by Chick-Fil-A with a few books to read to any of the kids who showed up. The center of the restaurant was rearranged into a cozy story nook, but Hannah seemed a little more interested in getting a turtle-shaped balloon made by the Balloon Man around the corner.
On Friday, Vivian took her mom out for Canvas and Cabernet at Aksarben Village as something of a belated birthday present. We’d stumbled upon the place one hot Sunday afternoon after Lindy in the Park, and it sounded like fun. They had a basic landscape everyone followed along and painted with a preset palette of colors, all while sipping a couple glasses of wine. The budding artist in me might be tempted to try such a thing down the road, mostly because I won’t have to worry about cleaning and storing a bunch of brushes like I did in my art school days.
On Saturday night, we headed up to the Rector Ranch for a joint birthday / retirement party for Tamra and her dad, Royce, respectively. Tamra was turning the big three-oh, and naturally had to celebrate with our mutual group of friends with volleyball, Telestrations and Hammerschlagen (apparently mandatory at the Rector Ranch). Vivian and I took turns juggling Hannah, who seemed quite enamored with the countryside and open spaces, very eager to play with our friends and steal the volleyball in-between sets.
Royce had invited a bunch of his mutual friends and co-workers as well. It seemed daunting to think about working at once company for longer than I’ve been alive, particularly in today’s corporate culture where employees are treated more or less as a disposable resource, and anyone from a senior vice-president to an executive assistant can be shown the door at a moment’s notice.
Halloween night was a big night for a few people in Bellevue, and it had nothing to do with dressing up in costumes. November 1 was the grand opening of the Chick-Fil-A down on Cornhusker Drive, and the first 100 people there — who camped out in the parking lot all night — got to have free Chick-Fil-A for a year. That translates into 52 free meal coupons. I wasn’t among them, since I wanted to be around for Hannah’s very first Halloween, but Pastor Drew was. His family stopped by to wish him luck the night before, and then he was first among the throngs to get his free goodies the next morning.
I’ve dropped in at Chick-Fil-A a couple times since for breakfast and dinner, and it’s always been crowded. There are a handful of places that carry a following this devoted — Trader Joe’s and Inn-n-Out Burger being a few noteworthy examples — and this little chicken restaurant is certainly a worthy contender.
On Sunday, Hannah got to take her very first trip to the zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo had free admission, and since the weather was still reasonably nice (for November), we couldn’t pass up the chance to stop by. Hannah’s still a bit young to appreciate all the animals at the zoo’s many different exhibits, but she really seemed to enjoy the monkeys, a few colorful macaws, and all the sea creatures in the aquarium. Of course, this trip was really more about mom and dad getting snapshots of adorableness with their our little girl, but we’ll definitely be taking her back again and again once she’s older.
For the last couple of weeks, Nebraska’s been in the midst of a severe drought and triple-digit temperatures, so the Johnson Family has been enjoying the great indoors a little more than usual. Last week, we dropped by Sakura Bana last week to celebrate Tamra’s birthday, and we also dropped by Chick-Fil-A for the first time to have some chicken sandwiches before the rush on Wednesday (when they were actually completely sold out of food).
Last weekend, we took a “practice” vacation to Kansas City, seeing what it would be like to hit the road with Hannah before our big trip to northern California at the end of September. We visited the plaza as usual, grabbing lunch at Jack Stack’s, where Hannah got to chew on a baby back rib or two. We also dropped by a toy store to play with some puppets before making our traditional visit to the Better Cheddar. We check into the hotel next, where Hannah seemed to enjoy playing with the curtains and looking generally adorable. We stayed at the Q Hotel across the street from the World Market, so we naturally had to walk across the street to stock up on curry sauce and avocado oil. By some fantastic coincidence, we bumped into Drew and Alisa, my old bible study leaders from Lincoln, who I hadn’t seen since our wedding four years ago. It’s definitely a small world.
When the sun went down, we packed into the car and went to the Boulevard Drive-In to see Ice Age 4 and Batman Rises. I’d never been to a drive-in before, and it was a fun throw-back to an era that ended long before I was born.
The next day, we had breakfast at the hotel and spent a good portion of the afternoon at the Union Station Museum touring Science City. They had some fun optical illusions, floating balls, and a set of gears that kept Hannah fascinated. She also got the chance to meet a couple of new animal friends.
We had a late lunch down at Arthur Bryant’s and then dropped by a mysterious part of town around 21st and Vine Street. When Vivian and I traveled over a bridge on the Paseo Boulevard, we couldn’t help but notice a giant limestone castle peeking out from amidst the urban blight (known as the Vine Street Workhouse). There was actually a whole street of public works buildings down there that had been built over 100 years ago and reflected a time when this part of Kansas City was a ritzier neighborhood with buildings that reflected the wealth of residents who were no longer around. It made for an interesting diversion before heading on home.