Category Archives: Rector Ranch

Giant Jenga


Vivian and I are still getting used to having a fresh, new baby in our home once again. Aaron has been sleeping very well nearly from the get-go, getting up just once each night nearly from the start. Now with two little ones in our family, it seems more and more of our free time is spent with kid-friendly activities, ranging from regular lunchtime trips to the park (particularly for the fountains), to little princess birthday parties and Vacation Bible School.

That’s how things played out on Friday, anyway. Reina had a party for a bunch of her little friends at church right before they all parted for the final day of VBS. That left Vivian and me with quiet time with Aaron (who thankfully slept) as we ran about getting errands done without a two-year old tagging along.


Saturday night was the highlight of my week, as Tamra had another birthday party on the top of her parents’ place in Fort Calhoun. The weather was just about perfect for being outside, and her folks had plenty of space for Hannah to run around and wear herself out. Aaron even got to be passed around to a few people, leaving Vivian and me relatively free for some grown-up style fun, which included Giant Jenga and (of course) a round or two of Hammerschlagen. Li Ya and the Kam Family brought their little boys along as well, so Hannah (and Jon) had a few little ones to play with.

There was also a campfire, naturally, for us to roast s’mores or some hot dogs on top of some pendulum-style grill. My clothes still smell like campfire even after a run through the wash, but I’m strangely all right with that.

Mandatory Night Out


One thing I happen to love about Groupon is that these little vouchers have an expiration date. That means Vivian and I get an extra financial incentive to make a “date night” happen! We had one of these on Friday, dropping by Jazz downtown to have some Chicken a la Mer and jambalaya. We dined al fresco, since this epic summer of unbelievable coolness just keeps continuing. Then we actually headed on down to the Eagle’s Lodge for a night of swing dancing. Now that Hannah’s too old to just fall asleep in her car seat on command, staying up until 11:30 doing the Lindy Hop is something is a special event. We got to catch up with (and dance with) a few of our old friends, and we also got to meet Dean and Sarah’s new baby girl. There was also a Jack and Jill competition, but we had to run home and relieve someone of her babysitting duties before we could see how that turned out.


The next day, we had a few of Vivian’s old co-workers over to our house to catch up over lunch. A few of them had never met Hannah before, so she got to have a new grandma and grandpa for a few hours.

On Saturday night, the Perseids meteor shower was (allegedly) making its annual appearance over the Rector Ranch, so we headed on back there to spend a few hours with our usual crew of friends around the campfire. Vivian and I decided to take a brief hike off into the picturesque landscape just for the heck of it. Jessica kept Hannah company in the meantime and played some hilarious game that involved smelling flowers (one of which I picked for Hannah on my trip back to the campfire).

Stop! Hammerschlagen.


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.

Cooler weather, outdoor fun

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On Friday night, the Johnson Family dropped by the Sumtur for their last outdoor movie of the season, Puss in Boots. It was a cool 70-something degrees and I would have been just as happy stretched out on a picnic blanket all evening. A could hundred other families joined us sprawled out on the grass as the sun went down.

On Saturday night, Tamra hosted a campfire / obstacle course up at her parents’ place north of Omaha. She put together an obstacle course, which involved walking on planks, riding in wheelbarrows, and falling on the ground after spinning around on baseball bats. Vivian and Rachel didn’t win, but everyone seemed to have a good time, especially me, who took pictures of everything. We had a campfire roaring the entire time we were there, keeping us warm as we dined in sloppy joes and s’mores. (Hannah got to experience two firsts in one night — her first campfire and her first time petting a kitty.) It was sprinkling off and on throughout the evening, so we had to move the food indoors and retreat from our multicolored campfire when the flames proved to be too weak to evaporate every bit of precipitation trickling down on us.

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On Sunday afternoon, we headed down to Platte River State Park for the afternoon. We took Hannah swimming in the pool, which proved to be a little chilly as the sun played peek-a-boo behind the clouds. Our friends all took turns playing with Hannah as Vivian and I endured the sub-80-degree waters (which seemed to be too much for some of our friends to handle). Afterward, we went across the street to tour a small pond on paddle-boats, taking our assortment of DSLR cameras along to snap pictures of everything, of course. For dinner, we drove up to Pudgy’s Pizzeria in Gretna for a couple giant deep dish pizzas served up by Pudgy himself. Onion-Boy, being from Chicago, could vouch for the authenticity of the pies, though Jenny seemed somewhat skeptical of his credibility (not of the food — just in general).

Perseids Party and Women of Faith

After the broiling weather in late July, August has been treated us fairly well here in Omaha. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the weather while it lasted with our friends on couple of occasions.

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Last Saturday, Tamra invited a bunch of us up to her parents’ place near Fort Calhoun for a star-gazing cookout. They on top of a large hill, where we could clearly see the before and after effects of the great Missouri River flooding of 2011.

We grilled hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire and then tried to watch the Perseids when the sun went down. The bright light of a very full moon made this almost impossible, unfortunately, but Mark got to point out a few constellations and planets for us by using Google Sky maps. I got to try a Hemmingway Cocktail courtesy of Mark, which is apparently made with champagne and absinthe. Tamra’s mom capped off the evening by burning a bunch of Christmas light on the open fire. The copper wire burned with an eerie greenish-blue hue that got a few oohs and aahs from those of us not fixated on the sky.

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In other news, Vivian and a bunch of ladies from our church attended the Women of Faith conference at the Qwest Center. The event features noteworthy Christian speakers Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Lisa Whelchel, Sandi Patty, musical guests Mandisa and Amy Grant, drama by Katharine Everett, and token male Andy Andrews. Since men weren’t allowed at the event, you’ll have to rely on Vivian’s account of the event to find out what actually happened (coming soon)*.

*may not be coming soon.