Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Mike Huckabee and a Birthday with the folks


Christmas is coming soon, and that includes such things as our first legitimate snowfall and hanging ornaments on the tree.

It also means a few more presidential candidates wandering through Iowa before Christmas. One of these was Mike Huckabee, who dropped by Iowa Western for a chat with Mark Christian of the Global Faith Institute and Scott Voorhees from KFAB. It was a 90-minute chat revolving mostly around terrorism and religious freedom, though there were questions from the audience on a wide variety of topics. The governor left almost immediately when the event concluded, which left only a few seconds for handshakes before the left the stage (meaning no obligatory selfies with schlubs like me).


December is also when my mom and dad have their birthdays (the eighth and tenth, respectively), so we had a joint party at their house on Saturday. My dad made ribs for all of us, and my mom made the cake, which Vivian lit up with candles for both of them to blow out simultaneously (something they’ve never done before, strangely enough). Both my brothers were there for the occasion, and my dad showed us a bunch of old photos of our ancestors going back generations all the way to Sweden in a presentation he’d put together. He also had some “stereo” pictures he’d taken of us three boys as kids, but his viewers didn’t cooperate for very long. Among the presents my parents got were a new Roku we bought for the both of them. Now that they have Internet at the house, I was able to rig up Netflix to stream on their TV for the first time.

We had a potluck luncheon at church on Sunday, and singing from all three West girls, but the kids both unexpectedly sick and had to stay home.

Flower Gardens and Mother’s Day


On Friday, admission to the Lauritzen Gardens was free in honor of National Public Gardens Day, so I took the entire day off so I could have a day enjoying some flora with the family. There were a bunch of peonies and roses already in bloom, as well as plenty of tulips, some fragrant lilacs, and multiple family photo opportunities. We met up with Lexi and her kids in the Children’s Area, where our gaggle of youngsters were able to play on some stumps, taste some mint, climb on a dinosaur, roll a composter, and explore a tiny cabin together. It was the perfect spot for a handful of cute pictures before taking a quick peek at Mount Fuji before heading on.

Back at the entryway, we bumped into the Rietjens and got to check out the koi pond and the giant conservatory before calling it a day. The enormous greenhouse-like structure had been built sometime during the last year, and it was now home to loads of tropical plants that could never survive a Nebraska winter — palm trees, kumquats, pitcher plants, a shrimp plant, any number of palm trees, and even little sprigs that soak moisture out of the insanely hot and humid weather inside this place. We walked all the way through up to the Tiki thing at the top before collapsing and calling it a day.

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On Saturday, we had breakfast at my parents house with our kids and my two brothers. My dad had been wanting to recreate the “eat eggs and watch MST3K” we experienced while in college, but instead of Movie Sign we got to watch Hannah try to play the harmonica. We’d gotten to see Mike and the “Bots” tackle The Room via RiffTrax Live on Wednesday, so we got our fill of riffing already. I did, however, get to roll my Ford Taurus over the 200k mark, which was fantastic. I have some smug family who work for Toyota who said it’d never make it past 100. (By the way, how’s that unintended acceleration working out for you?)

Vivian went off to do girly things at Jenny’s bridal shower, such as pinning the goatee on the Kody. I had a busy afternoon with the kids putting together a nice little set of hand and footprints of our little ones as a Mother’s Day present for Vivian. It was a bit crazy, because I realized only too late that the ink pad was permanent, despite having a kid-friendly name like “Silly Winks.”


Sunday, of course, was Mother’s Day, so I treated Vivian to some breakfast pizza before going to church. Aaron got to learn how to climb stairs in-between being passed around, and Hannah got to have a tea party with Rachel — a quintessential “little girl” moment, if ever there was one.

Both moms (and dads and Uncle Jonny) came to our house afterward for a Mother’s Day lunch of grilled hamburgers. We all juggled a handful of tasks, with the dads managing the grill, Uncle Jonny setting the table, and me figuring out just about everything else before we ate. It was a lovely afternoon, particularly because the severe weather that had been predicted mostly passed us by. I had been anticipating an event like last year, with tornado sirens that sent us and our ice cream cake into the basement for an hour or so.

In other news, Aaron is 11 months old, and as adorable as ever.

Mom & Dad’s 40 years


Forty years ago on Sunday, my mom and dad got married in a little church out in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On Saturday, we decided to take them out to celebrate their forty years together at Big Mama’s Kitchen up in North Omaha. My folks are always fond of unique, local diners and “dives,” so having a little authentic Soul Food somewhere between Lake and Ames seemed like a nice idea. I actually had a Pig Ear sandwich, which Guy Fieri described as “natural bologna.” Big Mama herself actually came to sit down and chat with us for a good twenty minutes or so, telling us how she started the restaurant and got the last laugh on the bankers who thought she couldn’t make it when she sent them a DVD with her restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Back home, the whole family (namely Uncle Jonny, Uncle Nathan, and Aunt Ranae) gathered to watch a PowerPoint presentation my dad had put together showing photos of when he and mom first met as missionaries in Brazil, along with many of their mutual friends we’d met over the years. It was nice to review a bit of family history over key lime cheesecake Vivian had made for the occasion. Happy Anniversary, mom and dad! Here’s to another forty years together and perhaps many, many more.

P.S. In other news, Palm Sunday and a Jalapeño Cream Cheese Sundae with Bacon both happened.

Holy Name and Homemade Pizza


It’s been a busy week here in Omaha, with lots of fun involving food (of course). On Monday last week, with temperatures pushing their way into the 90s, the whole family took a trip down to Lincoln. I had some freelance work to attend to, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun for an afternoon of bouncing around. Hannah had been there when she was just one year old, but now she was old enough to visit more exhibits than just the ball pit, such as the big ceiling-projected video game in the “dark room.”

For dinner, we drove up to Big Sal’s and gave Hannah and Aaron her first taste of mom and dad’s favorite pizza place in Nebraska. Yes, Aaron got to nibble on bits of black olive and pizza crust, and Hannah managed to finish a whole piece by herself.


The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, so we got to imbibe in our annual tradition of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and red potatoes. Every store was selling out of corned beef up until March 17, and then the price plummeted to less than $1/pound, so we picked up some that on sale to have a couple reubens down the road (which were, in fact, invented in Omaha. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

No green beer or Bailey’s, however — I’ve given it all up for lent.


On Friday, we had our second Fish Fry of the year, heading up to Holy Name in north Omaha with a cluster of our fabulous friends. I’d heard about this fish fry from our mutual friend Lisa, primarily being one of the first and biggest fish fries in the area. It was also notorious for having one of the longest lines, which was quite ironic, because when we arrived, there was absolutely no line at all. Seriously, we were able to walk right in, but we stood in the hallway for some time just to get the whole standing-in-line experience. (A crowd outside was hanging around for the same reason, I expect.)

The cafeteria was packed pretty tight, however, steaming hot and filled with the smell of fried fish that stuck to your clothes. The fish itself was hands-down the best I’d had at any fish fry before. We had freshly-battered chunks of pollock that were steaming and delicious the moment they were put on your plate. I washed it down with a can or two of Cheerwine that I smuggled in from outside and a fun night of goofiness fueled by deep-fried goodness.


Then on Saturday, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday down at my parent’s house. Jonathan had been wanting to relive his childhood, so my dad put out the lawn flamingos and spent the afternoon playing Intellivision and eating homemade pizza for dinner (literally the way mom used to make). Vivian also brought along one of her legendary chocolate cheesecakes.

We brought the kids along, too, of course. They got some time being cute with grandma and grandpa, which included learning the joys of chasing a red dot from a laser pointer all over the house.

Saturday Morning and Dr. Seuss


One of the traditions I had back in my college days was getting up on Saturday morning to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 with my dad and having one of his omelets for breakfast. This was back when MST3K was on Comedy Central and we didn’t have to watch it on “circulated” tapes. My dad decided to give it a try again on Saturday, so I brought Hannah over and we all had breakfast with the grandparents (and Uncle Jonny) before watching a bizarre exploitation film by Ed Wood called The Violent Years. Hannah and Grandma got to have quality time together while the rest of us enjoyed the company of Mike and the Bots.

We had a potluck lunch after church on Sunday, which included Johnny Marzetti and lots of happy smiles from my little boy.


On Monday, it was Dr. Seuss’ 111th birthday. That meant the Bellevue Public Library held a “Seuss-a-Thon,” which included cupcakes and a book reading by Bellevue’s Mayor, Rita Sanders. Then on Wednesday, Hannah and Aaron went to the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center for Mudpies. Miss Kate showed everybody and Owl, and Hannah got to spend her morning painting and dressed up inexplicably as a turtle.

These are some of the weekly activities I unfortunately have to miss out on having full-time employment to keep me busy during the week, but this time around Vivian was nice enough to take some pictures. I do occasionally get to join in on some of this weekday when I have a day off here or there, which will happen again soon as Annunciation Day is just a few weeks away.

Walkthroughs and Storybooks


My parents are just about ready to close on their new home here in Bellevue. They had their final walk-through on Saturday, so Vivian and Hannah came along to take a look at it for the very first time. There were a few minor things that needed fixing, but everything looks clear for now. My folks did have some trouble getting the money from their bank to pay for the new house. The bank apparently won’t issue a cashier’s check or a wire transfer unless they show up at a branch in person, which made it necessary for them to make a brief day trip down to Kansas City on Thursday.

To celebrate the end to all the house-hunting madness, and my parents’ 29th anniversary, we took them out to Venice Inn to celebrate. The last of the Caniglia Italian restaurants in Omaha is due to close in a few months, so Vivian and I thought it would be a good idea to take mom and dad out for toasted ravioli, rib-eye and mostaccioli while we still had the chance. The place was insanely busy on Saturday night, as the rest of Omaha apparently had the same idea we did, because the place was packed wall-to-wall with people waiting for tables by seven o’clock (making me glad we got there at five). Jack and Donna also had a couple bags worth of housewarming gifts for mom and dad to welcome them to town, which they opened when we got home, most of which will help them get by untilt he moving van with all their stuff comes down in a week or so.


Sunday was Youth Sunday at church, which meant I got to sit with Vivian and Hannah during the service for the first time in over a year. (Usually, I’m stuck behind a computer screen doing the video.) I didn’t have to show up early for praise team practice either, so we got to have breakfast at Burger King ahead of time instead.

That afternoon, I took Hannah to Storybook Land at the Benson Library. Several storybook characters were there in full-costume for kids to meet, greet, and snap pictures with, including Clifford, Curious George, and one of the Wild Things. We made the rounds and got a free Curious George book for being able to meet every one of the characters on site.

We got a quick nap at home and then went to the Kuemichels’ house for some bible study time. We went through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and had some tacos together afterward. Ben also showed me his workshop/garage, and several of us busted out the family’s assortment of bikes. That meant Hannah got to try riding a tricycle by herself for the first time. The weather was just perfect for being outside, and now that spring is upon us, days like this will come quite a bit more often.

Family Reunion

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It’s summertime once again, and my parents stopped to visit us on their annual road trip across the United States. There are three great things about being a college professor — June, July, and August. It was especially nice to have a house large enough for both my parents and my brother Jonathan, all of whom spent the week with us.

I took Thursday off to spend some time visiting with everyone, and we were treated to lunch at Mahoney State Park with a few of dad’s colleagues with the National Association of Scholars. It’s always fun to hear them discuss what’s happening behind the scenes in academia, particularly my dad’s theory of the coming “academic bubble.”

That evening, we got some burgers, fries, and onion rings from our local landmark burger joint, Stella’s. We got to use our new deck table for the first and enjoyed them outdoors in a relatively mosquito-free environment (that’s in part to our friendly local bats).

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We had the whole family over for dinner on Friday night, which included Nathan and his wife Ranae. To celebrate, my dad had Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa, Alabama overnight some of their famous barbecue ribs that we enjoyed many years ago when we lived down there. The big box of southern goodness came with a loaf of white bread and a couple extra jars of sauce to save for later.

We spent a while catching up with Nathan and Ranae, who my parents hadn’t seen since they were just dating a year ago, and played a couple goofy rounds of Apples to Apples before calling it a night.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I took mom and dad down to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Omaha to browse for some fresh produce to enjoy back at home. We bumped into a street magician who had to “borrow” a $20 bill for a magic trick and had some homemade root beer and other samples before retreating back to the car to escape the blistering July heat. (I tried unsuccessfully to get mom and dad to run inside Ted & Wally’s instead, where they were serving Kahlua-flavored ice cream.)

We also dropped by an antique mall local somewhere in the vicinity of Waterloo. I had been hoping to see a few “antique” toys from my own generation, but they had mostly old kitchen implements, neon Coke signs, and a few hilariously outdated books on the shelves. We returned home to watch a particularly cheesy episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 while Vivian made some homemade ice cream. Vivian’s been on a homemade ice cream kick ever since she found a recipe in the Fontenelle Nature Center’s newsletter, so my parents gave her an ice cream maker as anniversary gift.

P1080336.JPGLunch at Amato's

On Sunday, mom, dad, and Jonathan joined Vivian and me for a church service at Christ Community Church. Afterward, we dropped by Amato’s Cafe for lunch. Dad had seen the small cafe on 60th and Center featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. It’s a quaint little cafe with gigantic ricotta pancakes, and they’d apparently been getting plenty of traffic since being featured on the show. If you decide to drop by, come early — they close at one o’clock (1:30 on weekdays).

P1080369.JPG What a corny couple!

Jonathan headed on home to Wayne a little after lunch on Monday, and then Vivian, mom, dad, and I spent the afternoon visiting the Strategic Air and Space Museum‎ out by Mahoney State Park. We’d driven by the display fighter jet on I-80 for years but had never ventured inside the giant museum / hangar, and it was quite an interesting visit. I actually found a display on Nazi eugenics more interesting than all the aircraft on display (which included a replica of the Pod Racer from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), but we all had a good time for the three or so hours we were there, and we hadn’t even seen everything the place had to offer by the time it closed.

We stopped by a cornfield so dad could take a couple quick, corny photos of Vivian and me before calling it a day. Vivian made up some tasty marinated salmon and sushi for dinner, and we wound down watching The Pajama Game downstairs before bed.

All in all, it was a great (albeit lazy) week with the family, and I’m sure we’ll be doing it all over again next year.

Meet the Parents

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My parents have been on a trip for the last couple of weeks driving across the United States and meeting a lot of friends and family along the way. They spent this week with me and my brother Nathan here in Nebraska. They were able to give Nathan his birthday present. He’s now the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii, a video game system so unique and advanced it can’t be purchased anywhere in corn country. On Wednesday we drove up to Omaha so my parents could meet Vivian for the first time. My dad treated us all to dinner at Fuddrucker’s, a family favorite place since we lived in Alabama, and then we returned to Viv’s to watch some slides of us growing up and then play a round of Balderdash before having some of Viv’s delicious cherry cheesecake. It was a great night, and I learned that my mom and Viv have a lot in common. I suppose I inherited my dad’s good taste in women.