Category Archives: Hannah

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.


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).


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!

A Daddy/Daughter Dance


It’s been another fun, busy weekend for us. Hannah and I kicked it off on Friday night by attending a daddy/daughter dance hosted by Calvary Church and the Sarpy YMCA. They put on a very nice event in the theme of a 50s “sock hop,” with a soda fountain, photo booth, and plenty of dancing to classic oldies music (though they The Temptations’ “My Girl” at least four times for some reason — hit the shuffle button, guys). Hannah didn’t seem quite as keen dancing with me as she did dancing either on her own or with another girl named Alyssa, but that was fine — it still burned off the sugar high she got from the chocolate fondue. Lindsey from the Y even got up to lead everyone in Zumba for a bit, which was still a little too organized for Hannah. We both still had a good time, and we finished the evening with a purple and orange flower on her nose.


On Saturday, the kids spent some quality time with grandma and grandpa having Chinese food for the first time and watching MST3K (Pumaman). Then that evening, Vivian and I went out to Milliard to surprise Dennis for his 40th birthday at Kara’s parents’ house. The event had the theme of a toga party, which meant lots of Greek-style food with the help of Phil and Jen. Kara’s dad also grilled some burgers after Dennis and the family dropped in for their surprise, and Jen also made a massively dense rainbow carrot cheesecake. Hannah played with Dean’s little girl and bopped little Matthew with a few balloons as the rest of us played some Pictionary before calling it a night.


On Sunday, we had a potluck lunch at church and then sent the kids home with Grammy and Pop Pop so we could attend another birthday party for Kody down at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield. Around a dozen of our friends came by to have wine samples and cupcakes as Dan Christian covered some country songs as other people danced. Kody also presented Jenny with a ring, fooling the next table into thinking he’d just proposed. It was unfortunately too gray, cold, and rainy to go outside, which was beautiful, so maybe we’ll come back in the summer when they have a live band (like they did some seven years ago when we were here last for Venche’s birthday party).

Happy birthday, everybody!

Blooming where you’re planted


On Friday night, the Jitterbugs held an anniversary dance in honor of fifteen years of Jitterbugs Night Out, a night that was even made 100% official by the Omaha City Council, thanks to our friend Lisa, who happens to work there. It seems like just yesterday I was awkwardly wandering into the Eagles’ Lodge for the first time. The volunteers went all out with elaborate balloon displays, snacks, and one of my favorite swing bands in the area, the Little Harper Big Band to provide the music. I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of true swing dancing veterans at the dance itself, but there were plenty of cool people to dance with. And despite actually biking to and from work today, I managed to stay on the dance floor during nearly every song.

Then at the end of the night, we brought home a bunch of balloons to surprise Hannah and Aaron when they woke up the next morning.


Saturday was a day of getting things done (mostly lawn-mowing), and then on Sunday we spent a long afternoon down in Avoca at the Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm. Having just been to Vala’s a few days earlier, I couldn’t help but notice the little pumpkin patch had the look and feel of a miniature, scaled down Vala’s. They had a corn bin and a water-pump duck race for the little ones, as well as a few of those head-through-the-hole photo displays. They also had a giant tire swing quite a few farm animals for the kids to check out, including goats, chickens, horses, and cows. There was also a hay rack ride, but it didn’t go to the pumpkin patch, because unfortunately they had absolutely no pumpkin crop this year whatsoever. Yes, they had pumpkins for sale, but they were all brought in (allegedly locally) from other pumpkin patches. We did let the kids get their own little pumpkins (aka decorative gourds), which could have grown on some of the vines down by the horse corral.

In the end, it was a nice little place to take the kids on a Sunday afternoon, and its smaller size made it a much easier trip than Vala’s. Vivian and I were able to sit in the shade and watch Hannah and Aaron run relatively freely without losing track of them, something that’s pretty much impossible to do at that other place.


On Tuesday, Vivian brought the kids down to the park to swing a bit, play in some sprinklers, and enjoy a stroll among the beautiful fall colors along the Keystone Trail.

Then that evening, I got to visit Hannah’s preschool along with a bunch of other guys as part of an open-house just for dads. I got to see some of the activities the kids get to do during the day, such as drawing, making paintings with rolling marbles, and hammering golf tees into foam blocks. Then Hannah’s teacher, Mrs. Sauerdyke, sat us down for “circle time.” This included going over the calendar, the days of the week, and singing a special little song for the dads present, which was very cute.

Afterward, they gave us vouchers for ice cream at Dairy Queen so we could take our little ones down to get inappropriately sugared up right before bed time. It was a sweet little daddy-daughter date, though. I’m always happy to spend time with Hannah before she’s too old to want to be seen in public with me.

Friendship is Magic


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.


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).


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.

Last days of an only child


We have only one week left before we become a family of four, and it seems like time is going by so fast! It’s summer now, and that means the fountains at Stinson Park have been turned on. That made for a fun, wet lunch break (after Hannah got to have her first Whopper) with Hannah and daddy as we went strolling through the spray on Wednesday. Of course, I brought a change of clothes so I wouldn’t go back to the office completely soaked.

Uncle Jonny came down over the weekend to spend some time with us, and on Saturday we had dinner at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house with Uncle Nathan. We got to see the new Baby Robins in the backyard and get some quality family time before calling it a night. Then on Sunday, we got to welcome Pastor Drew and his family back from Uruguay, where they had been visiting for the past month or so. We got to catch up with them during potluck, which included some quince jam and cheese from Uruguay.


Hannah has only a few days left of being an Only Child, so Vivian and I have been spending quality time with her as well. We had a couple more trips with her to the park, and we also went up to Mount Calvary to get some Belly Shots of Vivian before little Wilby Johnson has to come join the outside world. Then on Wednesday, Hannah got to have her first cooking experiencing helping daddy decorate a pizza for dinner. She definitely enjoyed doing that, and the resulting pizza was good, too.

Swine Dining

IMG_0972_2The weather in Nebraska is hardly consistent or predictable, but while parts of the south are struggling to deal with an inch or two of snow, we in Nebraska have been enjoying what little snow we got this season before it vaporizes. On Thursday last week, we finally got Hannah into her snow pants so she could try throwing her first snowball, and we even rolled up a snowman with her to place on the front lawn. We were fresh out of coal and had to make do with some cherry tomatoes and a grape (which Hannah ate). It was good to let her experience some of the joy of snow before spring comes on too quickly.IMG_1028

That evening, Grammy and Papa babysat Hannah as Vivian and I went off to enjoy some Valentine’s Eve together. We dropped by the Claim House in midtown Omaha, where I’d brought a Groupon I had hoped to use for a noontime date with Vivian. Then they stopped serving lunch, so we were left to have a proper date night together. We both ordered the meatloaf, which was what we had for dinner on our first Valentine’s Day seven years earlier. It seemed appropriate.

Afterward, we took a drive up to Ted & Wally’s for ice cream before returning home.


Vivian and I both had some surprised rolled up our sleeves for V-Day 2014. I kicked it off in the morning by whipping up some heart-shaped red velvet pancakes for a Valentine’s breakfast for us. Hannah especially seemed to like them. Then at lunchtime, I drove all the way home so I could drop off some special Valentine gift baskets for my two special ladies. I had also grabbed some lunch for us, but Vivian had actually driven all the way to my office to surprise me there at the exact same time! We eventually met up at my office, where we got to have a nice lunch at my desk as Hannah watched Winnie the Pooh.

That evening, we all went out to Swine Dining in Bellevue, which is an amazing barbecue “joint,” and though not the most romantic place to eat certainly had some delicious smoke ribs (which Hannah seemed to like as well).

Hannah got to romp in the snow a bit more before it all melted away. On Sunday afternoon, I took her down to the park in her snow pants, and she decided splashing in puddles was better than stomping about in the white stuff. We had some more fun on Monday over lunch as we went to Rockbrook Park to take Hannah sledding for the very first time.

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.

Lights and First Steps

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Vivian and I have been getting into the Christmas spirit over the past week, mostly in the form of decorating. On Sunday last week, we had a “soup potluck” at church and then spent the afternoon decorating inside. We had the traditional (artificial) poinsettias and Christmas tree, and I got to participate by changing a flat on Vivian’s car, just in time to figure out that we don’t have a jack.

At home, we put up our own artificial Christmas tree (borrowed from Vivian’s mom and dad). We’ve had a real tree for the last couple of years, but we’ve learned that Hannah tends to eat pretty much anything she finds on the floor, so we opted for her not to have a diet of pine needles this season. I also made like Clark Griswold and put up some Christmas lights on the house for the very first time. We don’t have an actual exterior plug on our house, but I found an outlet adapter for a light socket that worked just as well.

One last, exciting bit of news: Hannah has been moving quickly from crawling to toddling, and we captured the moment we’re dubbing as her official first steps. As you can tell, she’s quite capable now not only of walking but of hamming it up for the camera.

These feet were made for walking!

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


I got to enjoy a three-day weekend over Easter, since I work for a Lutheran-affiliated organization and we have Good Fridays off. It gave me the chance to catch up on all the “nothing” I wanted to do and rub it in the noses of the government employees who like to be all smug every year around President’s Day. (You know who you are.)

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On Thursday, I decided to kick off the weekend by taking Vivian out for a date night! We went to the Zin Room in downtown Omaha to try out some Lori Scott’s basil chicken and bayou shrimp pasta sipping on some sweet white zinfandel. I’d heard good things about he place from a co-worker who highly recommended the wine-and-butter-infused broccoli. Afterward, we dropped by the AMC theater across the scree to watch The Hunger Games. I’d read the book in advance and found the film followed it pretty closely. I wasn’t sure how to react to this, as the story unfolded just as I’d expected and left very few surprises for me. It was still fun to watch, though.

On Friday night, Vivian and I were scheduled to set up at JNO. This was much easier than expected, since someone showed up early and did nearly everything for us, so all we had to do was take people’s money and snap picture of Hannah in her “I love swing dancing” onesie (lovingly crafted by our friend Lisa). We stayed until the shim sham just to prove to all the other parents out there that you don’t have to wall yourself off at home every Friday night watching Netflix just because you have a kid. Hooray for being sociable!

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Hannah’s first Easter was full of food, candy, and awesomeness. She got a couple adorable outfits to wear for her first Easter — a cute blue dress and a peach-colored dress with its own Easter Bonnet. Vivian’s parents dropped by with Easter baskets that they’d hidden around our yard when we weren’t looking. Hannah got her own little Easter basket, and after collecting all the goodies outside we went inside to start devouring candy.

Easter dinner came soon enough, which consisted of glazed ham, beans, green fluff, deviled eggs, and all of our usual Easter foods. I collapsed in a food coma afterward and called my own folks to wish them a happy Easter holiday.