Category Archives: Gifford Farm

Halloween Countdown

Halloween’s almost here, and that means we’re close to the time of perpetual darkness — AKA the end of daylight saving time — with winter not far behind. In the meantime, there’s more non-stop autumnal fun to be had, at least until the snow starts falling (which could be this afternoon).

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I had a busy Friday night, starting with a party to kick off Don Bacon’s 2020 re-election campaign. The event was held at the Regency Marriott, and it seems like just yesterday I was in the same ballroom for a victory party back in 2018 (or his previous kickoff party earlier that year). Don arrived moments after I did and spoke a few minutes to members of the media. Local musician Kaylyn Sahs played to music to start things off, followed by the National Anthem. Then Don had a long list of endorsements from Mike Foley, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman, Bob Evnen, Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding from the Omaha City Council, and a few others. Then Don took the stage to give a stump speech touching on taxes, the deficit, abortion, and the current impeachment situation, among other things. His wife Angie and two sons were there as well, as he invited them on stage for a moment before meeting and greeting the couple hundred people in attendance.

In addition to the usual folks, there was a handful of little ones running about, including Phil with his son Gabe, so it really was an event for the whole family. I got to speak to Don for a few minutes about the Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry” being held behind closed doors in the capitol basement. Don said he actually walked in on Matt Gaetz’ attempt to walk in on the proceedings, but he only saw it from the back and had no idea what was going on. He said he’s only been able to get about 25% of the transcripts from the proceedings himself, so his view of what’s going on isn’t much better than anyone else’s.

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I returned home long enough to help tuck the kids into bed and then changed clothes for the Jitterbugs’ Halloween Party. I decided to go as “Pierre Delecto,” AKA Mitt Romney’s Twitter alter ego, which was outed only a few days earlier. Vivian donned a mask and cape and came as Super Mom. There was a fairly good crowd, though I’m no longer a regular at JNO, so I only saw a few familiar faces throughout the night — Eric, Mike and Merinda, Lacey, the Hamiltons, and Takashi (who led us in Thriller, of course), among a few others. We had a costume parade and a contest, and the winners being Napoleon Dynamite, Rey and Kylo Ren, and Star Lord and Gamora (though they were ALL winners in my book).

In addition to all the dancing, Billy managed to score a bunch of leftover food from another party that somehow didn’t need it, so Vivian and I both got some Lindy Fuel that kept us going past midnight, once the dance was done. Special thanks to Donna for letting us stay out that late!

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We started off Saturday with nothing on our agenda, but the weather was too darn nice to stay inside, so we headed off to Gifford Farm to enjoy some fresh air, see some fall colors, explore a few hideouts, and do some trick-or-treating. The staff had stations all around the farm set up for kids to collect candy, play games of ring toss (or ball toss), and many remaining animals to see, from chickens we could pet (or chase), to a horse, a donkey, sheep, pigs, and a bunny. We got a ride around on the hay rack and let the kids zip down the slides inside the straw barn for a little while.

A reporter from KETV stopped by to get some footage of Hannah that may or may not have been in their evening broadcast, which we never saw due to a football game delay. We finished off our visit by decorating some cookies with the River City Confectioners Association, which has always been a tradition, thanks to Vivian’s mom.

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And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a quick lunch at McDonald’s and then went all the way down to Union Orchard to get some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch. Vivian had lamented us not finding any “on the vine” this year or in years’ past, but they fortunately had plenty of pumpkins — large and small, orange, green, and white — all waiting for us to pick. They were quite a deal, too — just $1 each for the big ones, and three for a dollar for the little ones (which Hannah got for her dolls). We also got some acorn and butternut squashes for a dollar each as well as some apple donuts for the ride home.

It was a fun, busy weekend, with more fun this coming week in-between Halloween and potential snow. Hopefully it’ll stay warm enough for the kids to get an obscene amount of candy once again.

Outdoors in Autumn

We had a gorgeous bit of weather over the weekend, with the cool taste of autumn coming in-between some random storms and a few more dog days of summer hanging on. It gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy a few autumnal traditions with the kids once again.

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On Saturday was the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City. We’ve been able to take our kids down to the Big Apple every year of their lives so far, starting first with the pancake breakfast at the fire station, of course. I caught a couple flapjacks on my own, and then we said hello to a few friends as we ate and then checked out a few fire trucks before we left. We went by the library to let the kids play in their new “under-the-sea” exhibit, playing in a few shells and starfish, playing dress-up, and finding some pirate booty before moving on.

Then we went on up to Kimmel orchard for a little apple-picking. The crowds are usually overwhelming at this place, but we arrived early enough to get in and out without much trouble. We also got to take a hay-rack to the middle of the orchard, where there were still plenty of crisp apples waiting for our kids to pick before heading out.

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I crashed at home with Aaron for the rest of the day while Vivian took Hannah to celebrate her friend Sammy’s fifth birthday at Henry Doorly Zoo. I didn’t get to attend myself, but from the pictures Vivian took, it looks like there was cake, presents, and a ride on a carousel. Of course, the kids probably had the most fun at the new “Alaskan Adventure splash parkrunning around in a spray ground built around seals, polar bears, and other various arctic wildlife.

Maybe someday Vivian will update her blog and tell everyone about these events herself.

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Then on Sunday, we dropped by Gifford Farm for their fall festival. We’ve been a part of their “family” for about as long as I’ve known Vivian, so we bring the kids at least once a year to see the animals and explore the farm with us. This year, they got to ride ponies, see a black chicken, a fluffy duck, and the usual assortment goats, pigs, and other wildlife. They also went on a few slides, decorated a few cookies, rode on the hay-rack, and spent some extra time in the tree house. We actually wound up staying until after they closed before going home to cool off and call it a day.

I still had a busy day ahead of me mowing my parents lawn and watching some MST3K, but I was OK with a little of that to finish off the weekend.

Welcome, Fall!

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Fall is just about the best time of year to be outdoors, and as such it’s also the time of year for some of my favorite outdoor traditions, such as the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City. The Johnson Family had a fairly busy weekend in store, so we didn’t have time to spend all day picking apples as we usually do this time of year. We did stop by for the pancake breakfast at the firehouse, catching our usual batch of flapjacks from the Pancake Man (while getting snapshots of the kids sitting in firetrucks as we waited in line). We stopped by the library afterward to check out their dinosaur exhibit, which included animatronic dinosaurs from the Omaha Children’s Museum and dinosaur crafts upstairs.

There was a massive traffic jam on the way back thanks to an accident at the Kimmel Orchard exit, which put an end to any hopes of picking apples before heading back to Omaha.

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That afternoon, we went to Washington Park in Bellevue to say Happy Birthday to Rachel. The Rietjens clan was there, along with Aunt Jessica and a whole bunch of Rachel’s little friends from church, school, and elsewhere. There were at least there other birthdays going on at the same time in the park, so the place was fairly busy with little ones.

We also got to confirm with Pastor Drew and Teresa that they will be leaving our little Twin Valley Church to move to Clear Lake, Iowa and take over a new ministry there. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, and I’m not sure how we’ll break the news to Hannah that she own’t be able to play with her little friends every week after church anymore. Thank goodness she doesn’t read my blog.

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On Sunday, we spent the afternoon with the kids at Gifford Farm for the fall festival. They got to see some of the animals and rode some ponies. We also hit the hay rack and got our obligatory photos inside and around the hollowed-out tree. Vivian stayed to help Donna with the cookies as Hannah and Aaron rode in a canoe and played with a xylophone. Of course, there was also plenty of sliding into hay, and Aaron made me proud climbing up to slide on his own down the big slide with no prompting whatsoever.

It was a fun, busy weekend, and much better than staying indoors watching some college football team lose again. Happy fall, everybody!

In the Orchard, on the Farm

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Fall is officially here once again, and means running down the list of our annual fall traditions. First up, of course, is the Applejack Festival down in Nebraska City. We got up (relatively) early on Saturday morning to make the pancake breakfast at the firehouse, catching a few flapjacks flung by Jim Kuper the Pancake Man and saying hello to the Lenart Family, who came by for a “fun run” that got rained out. The rain actually came down in torrents to start but gradually cleared up as we finished off a few plates of pancakes and sausage.

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We wandered down Central Ave. and joined Jenny, Kody, and the extended Arnold Clan at their usual spot down by the Public Restrooms to watch the Applejack Parade. We hadn’t actually gone to watch the parade since 2008, when I think the never-ending chain of Shriners scared us off to other attractions. This time around, however, we had Hannah and a cluster of Jenny’s nieces (and a nephew, I think) all vying to grab candy as it was tossed by various cultural and political emissaries that came marching our way (among the high/middle school marching bands). She also discovered the joy of getting soaked by running through puddles left from the morning rain. That was a lovely parental milestone to enjoy (once she dried out).

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After the parade, we grabbed a couple corn dogs for lunch and then squeezed our way up Arbor and Centennial Ave. with a slog of horrible traffic to make our way to Kimmel Orchard. Hannah got to have her first solo pony ride out back, which seemed to make her very proud of herself. Then we trudged through the orchard for a bit to try filling an $8 half-peck bag with apples. Most of the trees seemed to have shed all their fruit onto the ground, but we were still able to find a good batch of apples to pick before calling it a day.

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On Sunday after church, we took Hannah and Aaron off to Gifford Farm for their Fall Festival. Hannah hadn’t been there since last October, so she got to enjoy a good run around the place — sliding into hay, riding on the hayrack, decorating a cookie, playing some instruments, and even petting a snake. She also got to have her hair dyed pink at the end of the day, which she seemed to think was pretty funny. Aaron had never been to the farm before, but he was too little to do much more than peek over his overalls to see what was going on.

Easter Weekend with the Grandfolks

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We had a lovely little Easter Weekend here in Omaha, now with both sides of the family on hand for the egg hunting and basketing fun. Vivian and I were at JNO to set up on Friday night, then got up (relatively) early on Saturday to take Hannah for her first big Easter Egg Hunt at the Bellevue Christian Center. She and a mob of other kids got to pick a playground lawn clean of plastic eggs, much to the approval of my folks (and the local Easter Bunny). They had games inside afterward, and Hannah got to “think outside the box” by walking around the tape in such games as bean bag toss (nobody said she had to stay behind it). We had some hot dogs for lunch afterward and Vivian said hello to a couple familiar faces before calling it a day.

That evening, an emergency call went out to volunteers at Gifford Farm. A brush fire was raging near the railroad tracks and the animals had to be evacuated. I helped Donna load up a van full of snakes, hedgehogs, lizards, and other critters we’d rather not have running loose and toted them to a shelter across town. Fortunately, the fire department kept the blaze under control, but things were smoky for quite a while.

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On Easter Sunday, we dressed up and went to church to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection properly with the gang from Twin Valley Church (and dedicate Baby Jonah). We returned home afterward for lunch and then took Hannah on an Easter Egg Hunt in our front yard. For the first time in over a decade, my parents were on hand to celebrate Easter, and they got to see Hannah picking up all sorts of plastic eggs around the yard (including plenty of animal-shaped eggs she didn’t want to let go of).

We wet inside afterward to nibble on a few hors d’eourves, and then we got to find some Easter Baskets filled with goodies hidden around the house. We topped off the day, naturally with our traditional un-kosher meal of ham and other things. It was the first time ever that both sets of grandparents got to have Easter Dinner with the Johnson Family, the first of many traditions of togetherness to come, I’m sure.

Do you hear the people sing?

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Vivian and I had a memorable Friday date night last week when we went to see Les Miserables at the Omaha Community Playhouse (using the two tickets I was able to snag for her birthday — front row center!) We stopped by Danny’s at 72nd and Blondo for dinner first, getting in some ribeye/cheese steak goodness before the show. The performance was stellar, as I knew it would be, with vocal talents including Timothy Shew, who has performed Jean Valjean some 1600 times, including on Broadway, and too many others to list in one blog post. They really shone during the thunderous group numbers, particularly One Day More right before intermission. I have to give props to the technical wizards who were able to put a revolving platform in the middle oft he stage, allowing actors to walk in place and have scenery shift around them during scenes (and it operated almost silently despite carrying a barricade full of rebellious schoolboys).

Right before intermission, I got a call from my Uncle Ben, who was concerned about a tornado that hit Wayne, Nebraska this afternoon where my brother lives. I was able to get hold of him between acts to make sure he was all right.

Picture above left by Christian M. Robertson courtesy of the Omaha Community Playhouse Facebook page.

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On Saturday, we took Hannah for another swim lesson and then spent a few hours down at Gifford Farm for their fall festival. Hannah got to decorate a cookie or two, and then Grammy and I took her around to look at some animals and explored a hollowed-out tree for a bit. We took Hannah on her first hayrack ride of the season after that and then got a little lunch. Hannah also got to slide down into a pile of hay a couple times before we headed on home, which quickly became her most favorite thing to do ever. Vivian went straight from there to her women’s bible study retreat, so I got some quality time with my girl for the evening (who spent some of it reading to her doll on the couch, a terrible “Daw” worthy moment in parenting).


Hannah spends some time reading to her doll on the couch.

Mother’s Day and Gifford Farm

Is it spring at last now, or is it already summer? It’s hard to believe there was snow on the ground two weeks ago as the temperatures are approaching triple-digits. We do now have plenty of blossoms filling the air with fragrance, including the brief appearance of lilacs in our yard.

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, so that meant spending lots of time with family. At church, the men hosted a Mother’s Day breakfast for everyone in the church basement. Then that afternoon, Vivian and I brought Hannah to grandma and grandpa’s for the rest of the day. Grandma had set up the yard with a small fence and a whole bunch of toys for Hannah to play with and explore. Jack manned the grill, cooking a bunch of burgers and brats for everyone (I brought the potato salad). Both moms then opened their gifts after we had sufficiently stuffed themselves. (Being a helpless romantic and a traditionalist, I gave Vivian some flours.)

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On Saturday, Gifford Farm here in Bellevue held a kind of open house / family fun day for visitors to come and see how they’ve recovered since the flood two years ago. Many of the buildings on the farm were a complete loss, and the animals had been moved to 132nd and Harrison for some time as everything was cleaned up and rebuilt. It was quite the experience for Hannah, who had only seen these farm animals in her books. She seemed quite shocked and terrified once she discovered that those little chickens were about as tall as she was, and a “hose” was the relative size of Godzilla. She did warm up quickly, though, petting a couple of the resident animals who let us get close enough to reach them. Hannah particularly enjoyed playing on a xylophone in an outdoor play area, and we naturally had to get a photo of her crossing Grandma’s Bridge. We wrapped up with a piece of Pig Bread for lunch, which Hannah especially seemed to enjoy, and we even bumped into the elusive Kam family on the way out.

Fun with friends and on the farm

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Vivian and I have had another fun week enjoying the fall weather and spending time with family and friends. On Wednesday, we had a random game night with our Journey Group from CCC. We played some croquet in the courtyard of the Greenfields apartments out in West Omaha, where Nick and Lisa live. We had to fight off some terrible, carnivorous mosquitoes and then scratch and itch or two upstairs while playing a few cutthroat rounds of Apples to Apples.

On Thursday, we continued our September birthday celebrations with Vivian’s parents, carrying on the tradition of eating ribeye and a bloomin’ onion at Outback Steakhouse in celebration of Vivian and Jack’s birthdays (which are two days apart).

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We’ve been having some gorgeous autumn weather this week, so Vivian and I enjoyed the great outdoors on Saturday. We dropped by the Farmer’s Market in downtown Omaha in the morning, buying a peach pie, some swiss mushroom brats, a bottle of homemade root beer, and a few other tasty wares from local vendors (including a yummy peanut butter and banana cupcake).

Afterward, we dropped by Gifford Farm in Bellevue, which was having an open house fundraiser. Vivian’s mom has been working there for sometime, so we dropped by and got to visit some of the animals on the farm, including baby chicks, a ferret, a turtle, a leopard gecko, pigs, chickens, horses, and several other animals. We also got to sit inside a makeshift planetarium and learn about astronomy later in the afternoon. Now I can find the north star if I ever get lost in the woods.

P1000489.JPGThat evening, we finally made it up to Blair again to take part in one of our friend Dennis’ many movie night events. (It seems like our schedules have always collided in the past.) We had some pulled pork and a few glasses of wine before settling in to watch Back to the Future Part 3 and Smokey and the Bandit, both movies I’d seen a while ago but had mostly forgotten about. Vivian had never seen Smokey and the Bandit before, and it was fun to watch the antics of Burt Reynolds and Jackie Gleason in what was essentially was one long car chase. The third installment of Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s adventures in time also turned out to be a little more interesting than I remembered.