Category Archives: Family

Crossing Bridges and Remembering Elephants

Well the flood waters are receding, and despite the promise of more winter coming tomorrow, it feels like spring may be here at least. Now if only, it would stay put.

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On Tuesday last week, we took the kids out to enjoy some of the weather down at the now not-flooded River’s Edge Park. There were still some wet spots, along with plenty of dirt and debris to be found — a piece of which looks like the remnant of some poor person’s home or furniture. Fortunately, it sounds like Loessfest will simply be delayed until Labor Day rather than cancelled, so we’ll get to enjoy one concert sometime this year (no word yet on the one at Memorial Park).

The near sunset we walked across the river with a couple hundred others for Autism Awareness Day. The mayors of Omaha and Council Bluffs met at the halfway point to say a few words, and there were a handful of mascots on hand to meet and greet everyone. People were also dressed in blue for the occasion, though we had to head on home before the bridge was actually lit up in blue for the evening. Hannah and Aaron seemed to have more fun running around in the rock garden below pretending to be chased.

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On Thursday night, Vivian and I attended the Elephant Remembers dinner with the Douglas County Republican Party. It was apparently a sold-out event with the Omaha Hilton filled to capacity with guests. We saw many familiar faces in the crowd, including a handful of friends mingling among the politicians. Scott Voorhees was emcee and featured speakers included Mayor Stothert, Congressman Bacon, Gov. Ricketts, and both Nebraska Senators (Sasse and Fischer).

We ate dinner as the event continued, and Vivian cut up the giant Wheatfield’s cake for our table (not waiting for anyone else to tell us to do so). The Senator Sasse introduced Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina, who was the keynote speaker of the evening. According to Sasse, they almost didn’t make it, as Chuck Schumer had been holding up a nominee in the Senate. This kept Sasse and Scott on the floor until the vote was held, missing their flight and having to charter a plane instead. Sen. Scott then said a few words on his upbringing and religious faith before being awarded the title “Admiral” of “the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska” by Gov. Ricketts.

As usual, it felt good to be able to rub elbows with once again with many of the people I get to vote for. I got to personally thank Sasse for his recent “Born Alive” bill in the Senate, which he lamented 44 senators voted against. I also told Ricketts we were keeping him in our prayers as we’re all still dealing with the disastrous flooding last month. I told him that times like these might pull some people apart, but Nebraskans pull together instead.

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In other news, I got to enjoy eating out a couple times, once at Arby’s with Vivian and Aaron and then against with my dad for breakfast in thanks for his chauffeuring me to work these past few weeks (as I’m waiting on a new car).

Then on Saturday, my dad smoked some ribs and had the whole family over for dinner, including uncles Nathan and Jonny. The weather was nice enough to eat outside in the yard (and climb a tree), and my dad also went through another one of his trunks with us in the basement (so we’d know what all this stuff was should be ever pass on unexpectedly).

We finished off the evening with dessert and charades inside before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, Vivian went to a “sharing day” with the Omaha cake club, learning how to make a mermaid tail (which she brought home).

Then that evening, we took the kids down for an evening at the Children’s Museum. They got to engage in their favorite activities, including cooking pretend food, painting on windows, being on TV, applying make-up, playing with balls, riding dinosaurs, making music, and trying out some sports (among other things). What made tonight different, aside from being free, is that a lot of the usual noisemakers were turned off specifically for autistic kids, who were invited to come. That made for a very slightly less noisy and chaotic visit than usual.

Next stop: fish frying and The Mads (again).

Snow fun and Zoey’s Birthday

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We had a brief widow of lovely weather before winter returned, so we took the down to Stinson Park for their first lunch time play date since August. Hannah’s doll Suki came along to ride in the swings as daddy took turns pushing (and doing double “underdogs”), and the kids got some exercise dancing together. sliding, and running away from a stray skeleton that was hanging around.

Then on Thursday, we celebrated the one year anniversary of us adopting our little cat Zoey. We gave her a birthday “cake” made of cat food along with some presents, like a new dish and some cat toys.

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On Saturday, winter returned with a couple inches of wet, heavy snow that I spent the day shoveling up (at our house and at Grammy’s). Vivian made some French toast for breakfast, which we ate with the kids, but we mostly stayed indoors letting the snow accumulate and tidying up (though Hannah did get to build a snowman).

Then on Sunday after church, we took the kids sledding up on the hill behind Bellevue East High School. It was a lovely, sunny day for sledding down the steep hill (and making snow angels). Hannah loved speeding down even while sitting on Daddy’s lap, though Aaron had had enough after getting covered in snow and hitting an unexpected ramp on the way down.

After that, we returned home so Hannah could help make a snowman family in our yard while Aaron chased mommy with snowballs and colored in the snow. It was a lovely day for January, but I think the cold settled in by the end of the day, and not just because some of us were eating snow, so we warmed up with hot chocolate and chicken soup to finish off our weekend.

Labor Day and the Gooch

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I had a bit more birthday fun in store on Friday last week as we kicked off the Labor Day Weekend. I usually drop by the Eagle’s Lodge for a birthday jam around my birthday, but this Friday the Gooch Big Band was performing down at Rockbrook Village, so I decided to drop by to enjoy some good swing music instead! Some of our regular Jitterbug friends were there, namely Dan, Sara Pirtle, and Connie. We danced in front of the stage as the Gooch lead the band through several of my favorite classic swing tunes, including a few originals. The show only lasted for about an hour, but I danced nearly every song, so it was worth every second.

Then afterward, we dropped by Fazoli’s with Dan to reminisce about old times over plates of spaghetti and lasagna. I always love hearing Dan’s old stories, including the time he scared off Debbie Reynolds by asking her to dance. (Yes, that Debbie Reynolds.)

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We had a lovely, quiet Labor Day Weekend for the most part. Hannah got to attend a fairy birthday party with her old friend Lily down the street. Then when she returned to our house, she decided to make a leafy house for a stray dragonfly we found underneath a tree in our yard.

I got to have a little quality time with Aaron in the meantime, and I wound up making waffles multiple times for the kids using the tiny waffle iron I got for my birthday. I also introduced Hannah to Earthbound Zero, which might wind up helping her with her reading as she navigates the controls.

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Then on Monday, we had a nice relaxing Labor Day. My dad smoked some angus burgers and brats from the Stoysich House of Sausage at his house, and we came over with some cowboy caviar and chips to have for lunch. Jack and Donna also came, as did Uncles Nathan and Jonathan.

After lunch, dad showed a bunch of embarrassing slides from our childhood, and then Uncle Jonny introduced Hannah and Aaron to Photo Dojo, a Gameboy fighting game where they get dropped into the action via the built-in digital camera. Uncle Jonny showed this to Vivian and me back to 2010, but it was even more fun watching our kids get into action so many years later.

Happy Labor Day, everybody. I hope you didn’t work too hard.

Welcome home, Zoey!

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Welcome home, Zoey!

We have a new member of the Johnson Family! Meet Zoey Happy Johnson, a one-year-old short-hair “tuxedo cat,” who we adopted on Wednesday through Petsmart and the Nebraska Humane Society. Hannah had been wanting a “real, live Zoey” for some time now, and after a year or two with a couple plush Zoeys, we finally broke down and got a real one. She’s still very shy and has spent much of the past few days hiding in our basement, but she’s also come upstairs to snuggle with Hannah in her bed during the night, so we believe she’ll be all right.

It’s still winter, of course, but we’ve also been doing other fun things with the kids around town. We’ll have more on that later. In the meantime, say hello to the newest member of our family!

Balloons, Arby’s, and a Firepit

Hello, autumn! Aaron is now in preschool, and Hannah is starting her first year of homeschool Kindergarten. Even so, we still have time for a trip to the park every now and again, and that also means Dim Sum for lunch.

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On Friday night, we headed down to Ditmar’s Orchard for new autumnal tradition — watching balloons at their Fields of Flight event. Hannah and Aaron got to play on the playground for a bit before the handful of balloons inflated and took off. Local band “Clean and Easy” played some songs as the sun went down, and we had some apples, donuts, and cider for dinner as the balloons came back to glow. They opened the barricade and let everyone some and get a close-up look at the balloons as they fired away, which was especially fun. Jon Paper watched with us, as did Aunt Jessica and Kate’s three girls, who kept Hannah and Aaron company.

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Vivian had a retreat with some of her female friends over the weekend, which gave me plenty of quality daddy time with Hannah and Aaron. We spent Saturday Morning crashing at the local Arby’s, which had some kind of grand re-opening where the first 50 customers got free Arby’s for a year. That’s right — 52 meal coupons for everyone who dropped by to get a combo meal, and I was one of them. There were surprisingly few people there to take Arby’s up on the offer when I arrived around 8:30. I called my dad to let him know, and his reaction was, “I don’t know…Arby’s?” Pastor Ryan spread the word and brought a card table to play games with others as we waited for the doors to open. Chloe also tried teaching Hannah to play SkipBo, but she wasn’t that interested. The doors opened before long, and we all got our coupon books along with Roast Beef sandwiches for everybody. Not sure if anyone has survived eating Arby’s for a year. I guess we’re about to find out!

That evening, I went to mow my parents’ lawn, and then dad broke out the fire pit for us to make some s’mores once the sun went down. Uncle Nathan even dropped by to roast some marshmallows with us before we headed home. The next morning, the kids and I attended Thanksgiving Lutheran Church with my parents. This included donuts afterward, which the kids seemed to appreciate. It was also grandparents day, so it felt appropriate to celebrate a bit with Grandma and Grandpa Johnson to finish off the weekend.

Jean, Scott, and Rick

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On Monday, in a dramatic counter-play to the Bernie Sanders / Heath Mello rally on Thursday, Gov. Pete Ricketts brought Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to a rally for Jean Stothert on Monday. It was as different an event as you could imagine. The crowd was noticeably smaller, but the event started on time, the speakers stayed on message, and they had time to meet-and-greet the three VIPs afterward. The crowd seemed remarkably happier than the disgruntled hipsters I’d stood in line with on Thursday (and no buttons with four-letter words were to be seen). There was a large number of (union) protesters lining the street outside, but their signs weren’t nearly as fun as the protesters at the Bernie rally.

I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd, such as PowerLine blogger Dave Begley, State Board of Education member Pat McPherson, and former Mayoral candidate Taylor Royal (who has endorsed Stothert). An eight-year-old boy named Mason came adorned with campaign pins on his blazer, and I got to see Scott Walker personally add his flag pin to the collection. Most noteworthy of all, however, was that Vivian was able to join me at this event. She and I have both been fans of Scott Walker since before 2015, and it gave me a bit of a thrill by proxy for her to meet him for the first time (as I did a year and a half ago).

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In other, non-political news, we had a lovely cookout with my folks on Saturday, and my dad used his new smoker to make some tasty pork ribs for all of us. I also took in a episode of the MST3K reboot on Netflix, which seemed to be a worthy successor to the original.

On Sunday, took the kids to the Sandy Park to get some quality outdoor time. I discovered a baby doll that I’d seen left on the gazebo roof way back in March was still there (and apparently undamaged from two months’ exposure to the elements), so I retrieved it to get some happy care from Hannah later in the afternoon.

Also: tulips, tulips, tulips, and lilac — enjoy them while they last!

Trains, Pets, and College Football

So now it’s January, and feeling a little more like January, so that means spending quality time with the kids indoors until it warms up enough to be called Spring.

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On Saturday morning, I made some Crockpot Breakfast Casserole and took the kids to my parents’ house for breakfast with them and Uncle Jonny. I mostly wanted to give Vivian was quiet time as the kids played with toy trains and read stories with grandma for a couple hours in the morning. We also got to try a vintage soda called Moxie, which contained gentian that gave it a flavor not unlike aromatic bitters.

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Then in the afternoon, we took the kids to the Mid-America Center for a model train show. Aaron in particular loves model trains, and we got to see several of them ranging from tiny, tiny model trains to ones big enough for your backyard. The most fun part of the visit, however, were the little pump-action train carts that Hannah and Aaron got to noisily ride around in a circle. I’m not entirely sure it was all worth the price of admission, but they both seemed to have fun.

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On Sunday night, we took the kids to Movie Night at First Presbyterian Church. We had hot dogs together and then watched The Secret Life of Pets, which was an unexpectedly cute and funny movie. They had a few crafts afterward involving making paper plate characters and Puppy Chow before we packed it in and headed home.

Then no Monday, dad and I had a guys’ night out at Pastor Ryan’s house as we watched the BCS Championship Game. I’m not normally a fan of football, but I’m always up for watching Alabama play in the Championship title game. The game itself was quite a nail biter and exciting to watch even though Alabama lost. It was more dramatic than any football-related activity around here anyway, if you don’t count who Riley is firing before next season.

Game Nights

Whenever life gets hectic and it seems we don’t have one spare moment to catch our breath, I like to remind myself (and Vivian) how nice it is to have friends. I was reminded of that this weekend hanging out with three separate clusters of our own mutual friends.

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On Friday night, Kate and Jessica had another game night, which was always a good idea for us, since Kate’s three girls seems to negate any need for babysitting Hannah and Aaron. Kate had an assortment of food, which included pizza dough, which Vivian made use of. I brought along some pumpkin spice Irish cream and we played a couple rounds of a card game called Baseball, which I nearly figured out how to play before we were done for the night.

Then on Saturday, we went up to Blair to see Tamra and Ryan’s new house for an evening of Tea and Telestrations. There was a campfire and Giant Jenga happening outside, but the carnivorous bugs seemed to be too much for everyone, so we stayed inside playing games upstairs and down. Hannah and Aaron also got to know a certain Siberian Husky up close and personal (and without freaking out).

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On Sunday night, Twin Valley Church had its annual shin-dig at the Hall’s, with a roaring fire for s’mores and food brought by everybody. The kids had some fun swinging, rolling a giant wooden spool around, and checking out the chicken coop before the sun went down. Sadly, there was no hayrack-riding, since there was a conspicuous lack of hay, but we decided by the end of the night to have a bean-bag chair rack ride next year (BYOBBCs).

Then on Monday night, it was Daddy’s Night at Hannah’s Preschool. I’d gone last year with Hannah and got to see some of the same activities they engage in this time around, including the Daddy Song that the class sang for us. Hannah’s friend Sammy was there as well, and they got to spend a little time playing together. It had been raining all day, and when we left there was a giant rainbow to the east that spanned the entire sky — the biggest most of us had seen in our entire lives, I think.

Fall’s kicking into high gear now, and we’ve got plans for some outdoor fun over the next few weeks before Halloween (and winter) start to set in. Hello, autumn!

Kid-Friendly Weekend

It’s been a quiet middle of August so far as the dog says of summer wind down into fall. Our garden has been blooming just enough to give us fresh tomatoes and basil for bruschetta. Grammy and Pop-Pop have been on a road trip to California and back, which means we’ve been bird-sitting Diggy and leaning even more on my own parents than usual for babysitting-related issues (and appreciating them more than ever!)

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On the fifteenth, Mrs. B retired after twenty years with the Bellevue Public Library, so Vivian and I took the kids down to say goodbye. I first discovered Mrs. B’s weekday morning story time way back in 2013, when I brought one-year-old Hannah by during the week for a visit.

I got to spend a little more quality time with the kids down at Stinson Park as Mommy had an appointment at the Institute. Both the kids and daddy got to run through the fountains a bit over the noon hour, which was particularly fun. I’d also been making use of the rain-free weather to ride by bike to work, which worked out nicely as long as the tires don’t go flat (which one did at least once).

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On Saturday the 20th, Vivian went on a camping retreat with her girls from WAG, which gave me a whole weekend alone with the kids. They got to have a little quality time both with daddy and grandma and grandpa Johnson, as I took them to the park to play and then spent the afternoon mowing the lawn and having dinner with the folks. My parents found a surprise squash in their garden, which we had for dinner with penne pasta.

Then on Sunday morning, we all got to go to Chandler Acres Baptist Church with my parents. Our own church no longer has Children’s Church available, so without that or Vivian or her parents to help corral both our kids during the service (which I’m usually handling the video), I chose to find another option for Sunday morning. Chandler Acres had some Sunday School for the kids, and I got to say hello to several of the people my parents meet with every Sunday. We went by Burger King afterward to get some lunch together before heading home. Vivian came home later that afternoon with stories of shooting bows and arrows at Platte River State Park. I suppose if she still updates her blog, we would get to hear more about that (but she won’t, so we won’t).

Celebrating Seventy

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Vivian’s mom turned 70 over the weekend, so naturally we had to pull off a larger-than-usual celebration. Her first big surprise of the weekend came on Friday, when her sister “Uncle” Mary and niece Brenda came to visit from California. Vivian had kept their trip a secret for months and we welcomed them with Digornio’s on the patio.

Then on Saturday, we had a big shin-dig in the basement of Twin Valley Church. Jack and Keith grilled up a bunch of pork, Vivian and I brought in a bunch of sides, and the Omaha cake club brought in a flowery birthday cake (of which Hannah got a giant corner piece). A whole bunch of our mutual family and friends came to celebrate as well, while at the same time a few people from church were outside working on the concrete (we gave them cake, too).

That evening, we took Mary and Brenda down to the pedestrian bridge to walk from Iowa to Nebraska and back. It was a lovely, cool evening (in contrast with next week’s heatwave) to see the sun go down. We stopped by the Old Market for a peek inside the Hollywood Candy shop, and then we returned home with milk shakes and onion rings for dinner afterward.

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On Sunday after church, we all went to see the new Raptor Refuge at the Fontenelle Forest. It’s a fairly elaborate bird sanctuary with a variety of hawks, owls, and other birds of prey in for a variety of maladies, including broken wings. The refuge is built like a series of tree houses interconnected by a set of suspension bridges (which Hannah and Aaron found much more interesting). I even got a staff member to identify the hawk that’s been squatting in our front yard (it’s a Cooper’s Hawk). We stayed a little while to explore the forest and see a few tree houses and xylophones, but it was hot and muggy without even a hint of a breeze, so we headed home to cool off before long.

Then that evening, we took Donna, Mary, Brenda, and Jack out for a delicious sushi binge at Tokyo Sushi. Mary and Brenda especially like sushi, so we all got our fill before walking it off a bit in the old market. Mary and Brenda stopped by Iron Decor & More to get some lawn sculptures, and we took a stroll to the passageway and back before having ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. Donna got a free scoop since it was her birthday, of course.

Mary and Brenda will be with us another day or two and are visiting the Omaha Zoo on Monday. Then they’ll head home just in time for Vivian and me to go off and celebrate eight years of marriage together. More on that in my next update.