Category Archives: Holidays

Brisket, Pancakes, and Fireworks

Happy Independence Day! I hope you all had a wonderfully fun and patriotic weekend celebrating America and blowing up a small part of it. We had loads of fun over the weekend with our friends and family, eating, setting off fireworks, and even doing a little more home improvement.

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On Thursday evening, I went by my dad’s house to help prepare a giant piece of brisket for the smoker, which involved cutting off some of the excess fat and then preparing his large smoker with charcoals, hickory wood, and water. We left it smoking overnight, which left it tender and juicy the next morning. I probably could have trimmed off more fat, since it didn’t seem to absorb as much of the hickory flavor as I’d hoped, but it was all still good. We ran over there with the kids on Friday night for a nice Independence Eve dinner to kick off the weekend.

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The next morning, we went on down to Elmwood Park for the annual DCRP pancake breakfast. Congressman Don Bacon and Mayor Jean Stothert served us up some pancakes and sausage, and we got to see a few familiar faces among the crowd before we ate. We walked by the games outside and the car show to take the kids to playground afterward, where we discovered a kind of electronic tennis game that they got to play before we headed on out.

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On our way home, we drove through a kind of “reverse parade” in the Field Club neighborhood, where because of Covid 19 the residents dressed up their homes in various patriotic (and miscellaneous) regalia for people to observe as they drove or walked by. They even had a drill team performing along Walnut Street.

I got out to take some photos, but quickly noticed that the street was lined with tables for Democrat politicians, and as I was wearing a T-shirt for Ben Sasse, it wasn’t long before I was spotted and told to leave. (Hooray for diversity and inclusion.)

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Then that evening, we gathered at our house to have some ice cream and set off an hour or two worth of fireworks in our driveway. We had the usual assortment of parachutes, fountains, sparklers, and flaming dog poop. The most impressive show, however, seemed to come from our own backyard, as our neighbors up the street set off a massive amount of fireworks of their own that lit up the sky. It seems like every year I think about forgoing our own fireworks and just watching the neighbors, but it’s still more fun to watch the kids play with their own.

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It’s also been a weekend full of home improvement projects, believe it or not. Our garbage disposal sprung a massive leak underneath our sink, so we had to get that replaced on Friday. Then we wound the faucet itself had its own leak (which had gone unnoticed), so we replaced the faucet as well on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, Nate and Jake came by to help finish up the lats bit of our siding work, patching up a few feet of wood siding with some new PVC trim before caulking, priming, and then painting the whole side of our house. We’d managed to save a giant five-gallon bucket of paint from the time we first painted the house a decade ago. It took us most of the evening, but we just finished the last of the paint as the sun went down, and it looked great. Thanks, Nate!

Father’s Day

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We had a very nice week running up to Father’s Day this weekend. On Tuesday, I had some breakfast with my folks down at Village Inn to celebrate our massive plumbing project finally wrapping up (with a new working toilet). I was hoping to go to the 11 Worth Cafe instead, but some racial agitators shut it down because they didn’t like the name of a breakfast menu item, which was disappointing to say the least.

The next day, Donna brought over an early birthday present for me — a new, functioning grill for the deck! I was very happy with it, but now I’ll have to make some time to do some grilling while the weather’s nice enough for it (and to buy a grill cover).

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On Saturday, we got a bit of a cold front that pushed temperatures down to the 70s from the 90s, so we decided to enjoy the afternoon down at Memorial Park. We had a McDonald’s picnic for lunch and then walked a bit through the rose garden, which was now in full bloom. The kids skipped down the hill and then found some mulberries on the way back up. Then we finished the afternoon over at the recently-reopened playground, where the kids played for a while before making a project of dumping sand onto the twisty slide for no particular reason.

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Then that evening I joined some of the Young Republicans at the DCRP headquarters to watch Trump’s rally down in Tulsa. Having been on the floor of such an event before, the President seemed very much the reality show entertainer and comedian / plain-talking (and occasionally foul-mouthed) POTUS we’ve come to expect. I personally think Trump’s improvised comedy and self-depreciation are some of his biggest assets, and despite the crowd’s apparent lackluster size (which some are blaming on either Covid 19 or disruptions outside), it was fun to watch.

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Then on Father’s Day, I woke up to a lovely (and giant) breakfast burrito courtesy of Vivian, which some nice little cards handmade by the Hannah and Aaron (and Elmo/Luke). After our online church service, I headed over to mom and dad’s house, where I had a handful of soon-to-be “collectors items” I’d accumulated over the week, starring Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Cream of Wheat chef. My dad went through a trunk full of old family photos in the basement with us, and then we got some Taco John’s for lunch (namely six pack and a pound times three). We watched some of my dad’s old reel-to-reel films after that and got some milkshakes from Culver’s mid-afternoon before digging into another family photo album from our time in Grand Rapids before heading home.

Then that evening, Vivian had a few more gifts for me at home and a dinner of sushi from the Jade Palace to finish off the day.

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The day after Father’s Day, we took the family down to Jack and Donna’s house to celebrate Father’s Day with Vivian’s dad. Vivian and her mom made up a dinner of steak with scalloped potatoes, vegetables, and their usual hors d’oeuvres. — all of which we ate under their porch in the midst of a brief rain shower.

In the meantime, the kids got the chance to play in Grammy’s yard for the first time this year. They also got to see some of Grammy’s decorative rocks and blooming flowers before we had our dessert together. Jack also got to open a few presents, including some of Vivian’s parmesan chicken wings, before we called it a night.

Memorial Saturday

It feels like the pandemic is winding down in a major way, partly because toilet paper now seems to be plentiful in places like Costco (though yeast is still hard to find). As such, as did a little breaking from quarantine this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day.

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We took the kids off to a good, long romp around Memorial Park once again, which seemed appropriate. There were a few new statues in place at the World War 2 memorial, one of which seemed seemed to be watching Hannah. The kids had the chance to walk (and roll) down the hill while smelling a few of the nearly-blooming flowers on display. The sun was beating down hard enough for us to seek shelter in the shade of a few ancient trees before making our way back to up climb one (and get re-hydrated).

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Then that evening we went and visited my parents for the first time in several months. My dad smoked up some ribs for a Memorial Day dinner (on Saturday), which we ate with my brothers and some potato salad I’d brought (and grilled mushrooms). We didn’t stay long, but the kids did get the chance to play a bit in the yard flinging rockets and swinging a few toy golf clubs before we headed home.

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Memorial Day itself was fairly low-key as everyone expected rain and cancelled such things as our drive-in church service only to have clouds and gray drizzle wander through. Vivian made some banana bread for breakfast, and we had a bit of a scare watching a plume of acrid smoke over our neighbor’s house only to discover it was from a barbecue.

In other news, Harold the Guinea Pig’s mommy is staying with us for a few days while the Mills are at camp. He seemed genuinely happy to see her — chittering excitedly as she nipped angrily at him when we re-introduced the two. Zoey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem sure what to think — another delicious little rodent in the house that she’s not allowed to eat. Sorry, Zoey.

Fireworks and Mother’s Day

It’s been another strangely busy week, mostly preparing for Mother’s Day along with another bike ride to work and making a giant batch of ceviche on the heels of Taco Tuesday.

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We had some lovely weather on Saturday, which I spent mowing the lawn, tilling the garden, and letting the guinea pig roam in the freshly-cut grass.

Then that evening we packed up the kids with a batch of blankets and headed back to Werner Park to see some more fireworks. This show was specifically for the graduating class of 2020, many of whom showed up in their cars decorated for the event, some even wearing caps and gowns. We weren’t allowed to park on the picturesque grass this go-around either, so we crowded onto the west side of the park, which was muddy and apparently under construction. We got McDonald’s for dinner and kept the kids amused with a tablet before the show started. We had some low-hanging clouds and some massive wind, but neither disrupted the show, which lasted about ten minutes. Most of all, it was nice to have something to do as the great pandemic of 2020 starts winding down.

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, so I got Vivian up with the kids for a breakfast of Coconut Toast and coffee (and a tiny pot of roses). We had church again in our living room, and today’s service featured various people thanking their moms in a video that preceded the worship service (ones of me and the kids included of course). Donna came by afterward with some treats for Vivian and a bouquet of flowers from her garden. Then Vivian followed Donna back to her house with some presents of her own. I got my mom a carton of her favorite ice cream, which I left on her doorstep before giving her a Happy Mother’s Day greeting (via Zoom) back at the house.

Vivian had some more presents of her own, which I’d tucked into a canvas bag that I’d let the kids decorate a few days earlier. Then I made up a fancy dinner of ahi tuna steaks, fettuccine alfredo, and roasted Brussels sprouts. I also baked up a chocolate liqueur cake for dessert, which was delicious and way too easy to make (so I’ll have to do it again).

Happy Mother’s Day, all you mothers out there!

V-Day 2020

It’s been another fun and busy couple of weeks, much of which involved romantic activities on and around Valentine’s Day.

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Last Thursday, I took Hannah out for a “Daddy/Daughter Date Night” down at the Chrysalis Event Center at Papillion Landing. It was a cute little occasion for dads and daughters to get dressed up and then have dinner together. There was also some dancing on the little space available on the dance floor, which Hannah seemed to enjoy after getting properly sugared up. A group of little girls even started a conga line during one song, which was adorable, though I couldn’t get Hannah to join in on it. Our friend Dennis was there with his daughter as well, so the two of us tried taking shaky, blurry photos of each other dancing with our little girls before calling it a night.

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A week later, it was Valentine’s Day, so I decided to take the day off for some romantic family fun on a Friday. I got up early enough to make some heart-shaped banana muffins, heart-shaped eggs, and avocado toast for breakfast. I also had a few bags of treats for the kids along with some hand-cartooned Valentine’s Day cards, per tradition. Hannah also had an assortment of cards made by her assortment of “kids.” Vivian had some things for me as well, including brigadeiro chocolates that she made up when I wasn’t looking.

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Then that evening, Vivian and I took a trip down to Raymond for a romantic dinner at James Arthur Vineyard. We’d been there a couple times before on V-Day for dinners and wine-pairings, but this time was a bit different — a got to pick a bottle of wine to eat over dinner that was served via a buffet line. Most of the food had some kind of chocolate theme to it, even the salad and the tacos. I think our favorite was the Triple chocolate beef and bean chili. We washed it all down with a bottle of “3 Legs White,” named after the very affectionate three-legged cat we met in the doorway on our way in (and out).

James Arthur Vineyards’ Valentine’s Day Buffet

  • Spring mix salad with chocolate chunks and strawberries and a chocolate vinaigrette
  • French bread with chocolate butter
  • Chocolate zucchini bread
  • Tortilla chips dipped in chocolate
  • Triple chocolate beef and bean chili
  • Strawberry brie and chocolate grilled crostinis
  • Cider and beer braised pork with chocolate mole and hwite chocolate rice
  • Chocolate chili tacos

Dessert table

  • Chocolate bread pudding
  • Coconut macaroons dipped in white chocolate
  • Chocolate dipped strawberries
  • Oreo truffles
  • Chocolate bacon and potato chip brownies
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We got to have some lovely, spring-like weather after Valentine’s Day, so I took the kids down to the Sandy Park for some quality time running around. Vivian got some chicken Parmesan happening back at the house, which we ate with our friends the Lenarts. Our kids got some quality time playing together and watching The Little Mermaid for the first time, while the grown-ups enjoyed a family tradition of eating too much for no particular reason.

Happy New Decade

Hello, 2020 — a New Year, a New Year, and a new season of writing on the wrong year on everything. Seriously, it’s going to take a while for 2020 to sound more like a real-life year and not a TV show.

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Somehow, we ended the year in the same way we started it — with a visit from Senator and Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren. I’m honestly surprised she’s still in the race, considering the gaffe claiming Native American ancestry. She’s one of the farther-left candidates on the Democratic ticket, which is a shift from her earlier days when she supported such things as school choice. She’s still one of the front-runners, however, so I joined a couple hundred people at Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear her talk about teachers’ unions, climate change, and other Democrat issues. (Strangely enough, she didn’t once mention Donald Trump or the impeachment, which was something of a surprise.)

Her husband Bruce Mann was also in the crowd, which seemed a mix of older folks, families, and young people. Sen. Warren also seemed to make a point of making time for “selfies” after her Q&A session, which at least half the crowd of around 300 stuck around for. It was interesting to see how many people were getting selfies before the event started. Unlike most folks in the crowd, however, I wanted to get a question on video rather than a selfie. Her staff didn’t seem sure hat to make of that (and seemed a bit suspicious of me), and they insisted on holding my phone for me when I got up to meet Sen. Warren. Was going to ask if she’d appear on the show of her former student, Ben Shapiro, but I decided to ask a softball supplied by my daughter Hannah and asked about Warren’s kids instead. You can see a video of that here.

It’s always a bit of a thrill to meet the Presidential candidates I hear about on my daily podcasts, even if I’m not planning on voting for them. In about a month, they’ll all be gone!

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Then on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the only way we know how — with lots and lots of food! We made some homemade corn dogs with a corn dog maker unearthed from our basement, along with some frozen fruit smoothies using a smoothie maker Hannah got for her birthday. My folks (and Uncle Jonny) came by a little later and got to meet Harold the Guinea Pig. They brought along a fondue set and some sirloin steak to cook in boiling canola oil, which was quite tasty. We also sampled some unique cheeses I’d gotten from Aldi, which included an “ash” brie and Borgonzola.

After my folks left, Hannah played Trouble with Mommy and Grammy while waiting for midnight. Jack and Donna joined in and stayed later for a cheese fondue that Vivian cooked up for us. Hannah stayed up late as well, having fun dipping things in the cheese fondue and serving them to us rather than eating them. We had the TV tuned to the ball drop in New York City and then toasted the New Year when they replayed it for the Central Time Zone, ringing in a new year and a new decade.

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We slept in on New Year’s Day and then had a mostly quiet day cleaning up and then playing at the park with the kids. It was warm enough for them to have an hour or two to run around the Sandy Park before Jack and Donna came over to our house for dinner. Jack brought a black-eyed pea soup made with leftover Christmas ham (specifically the bone), which we had with a table full of hors d’oeuvres (hooray for meat roll-ups).

Now that the holidays are officially over, we’re going to have to start taking down our decorations and thinking about all the things we can expect in 2020 — fun and otherwise. Happy New Year, everybody!

Merry Christmas, 2019!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had as wonderful a holiday as we did here. The Christmas season always seems so busy and stressful getting ready for the “big day” that it can be hard sometimes to remember how wonderful the day is once you get there.

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I worked half a day on Christmas Eve and then did some last-minute grocery shopping before hurrying home to start preparing food and things for Christmas Day.

Vivian and I took Hannah and Aaron to the 4:30 Christmas Eve service at Wildewood Christian Church. The place was absolutely packed wall-to-wall with near standing-room-only conditions by the time we arrived and got settled. We had an hour long service of scripture reading and Christmas songs, and then the kids were called up front to wave some special Christmas Light Sabers to celebrate the light coming into the world, per John 1:5.

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After the service, we headed home and had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner of beef and pork with Vivian’s folks. Then our kids got to hang their stockings and open a few special Christmas presents — their new 2019 Christmas Jammies and some new Christmas ornaments, which they immediately hung on the tree (with some help from daddy).

Once the kids were all snug in their beds, the grown-ups got to have some egg nog pie and spend a little opening “stockings” with one another, which included new ninja masks, beef jerky, and a talking boxing Trump pen for daddy. We were just about exhausted at the end of the night, but we spent a few last minutes getting the tree and presents all ready for the kids to discover at two in the morning. I also nabbed a few “beauty shots” of our glowing jewel (and the bunny ears) in the living room as the clock struck midnight.

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Christmas Morning came bright and early as the kids were up right at six,and mom and dad staggered behind to get the coffee going before opening presents. Among the loot were some reams of paper (for drawing), new dragon toys for Aaron, a FlipaZoo for Hannah, a new Chromebox computer for Jack, any number of food items for the grown-ups, and literal crap (i.e. manure) for Donna. Even our new guinea pig (whose name now seems to be “Harold”) got a gift or two on his first Christmas.

I also got some fun electronic gadgets like a wireless keyboard/trackpad for my Raspberry Pi and a WiFi AC outlet, which I’m currently using to annoy the kids by remote controlling our lamp.

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At some point mid-morning, we took a break as I made some quiche, which we ate together for brunch before opening some more presents. Things wound down for a few hours in the afternoon as the kids played with their new toys, and I got play Minecraft with Aaron and set up a new computer we got for Pop-Pop.

Then mid-afternoon, we showed a home video of Vivian’s 1986 Christmas with her family in Petaluma. I played the video on my Raspberry Pi in our living room with Jack’s new monitor, which gave me an excuse to try out my new “remote control” keyboard, which worked like a charm. Mommy had a plate of snacks for us in the meantime followed by some candy cane pie from Village Inn, just to ensure we didn’t go hungry for even one second on the way to Christmas dinner.

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A little after four, I took the kids on a walk-walk to spend the rest of Christmas with my parents a block away, where dad’s lawn flamingos greeted us in all their festivity. It was a lively 56 degrees outside and barely cold enough for a jacket as we strolled on over as the sun went down. Vivian had brought over a ham earlier (i.e. my Christmas Bonus from work) for my folks to warm up in the oven, and I’d made a potato casserole that Vivian finished baking in the oven before joining us. Both Uncles Nathan and Jonny were also there to join in dinner, with Nathan bringing along some vegan penne pasta that wasn’t nearly as bad as he said it was.

We ate and then spent some quality time opening even more presents afterward, which included a variety of gifts the kids bought at Dollar Tree for everyone along with more toys and drawing utensils for Hannah and Aaron. The big item of the night was a KitchenAid mixer for Vivian, which I’d managed to keep secret and hidden for the most part at my parents’ house and only brought out once all the other gifts were open.

We finished off our holiday with pie (mincemeat and pumpkin) before heading back home to crash. The kids were remarkably happy and well-behaved all day, which was a joy to see. As for mommy and me, I think I may take an extra day or two off from work next year to clean house and recover from of all of our Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thanksgiving, Christmas Kick-Off, and Corn Pops

The Johnson Family got to enjoy a fun four-day weekend here in Omaha doing all our traditional favorite Thanksgiving things — eating too much food with family, seeing Santa at Union Station, and decorating for Christmas. I also got to meet Joe and Jill Biden right before he went viral for nibbling her finger.

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We kicked things off on Turkey Day watching the Macy’s Day parade before breaking out the hors d’oeuvres — and for the first time, Hannah and Aaron were both interested in watching. I also kept the kids distracted by introducing them to Minecraft on my Raspberry Pi. They immediately fell in love getting me to build underground “houses” for both of them with tunnels and paths connecting everything together.

Jack and Donna came over to help get Thanksgiving Dinner ready in the meantime, and my parents and brothers joined us after that to dig in later that afternoon. We had all the traditional foods, from Taber Salad to Pumpkin and Pumpkin Pecan pies for dessert. Other than loads of dishes to do afterward, it was a nice, quiet holiday — something I’m quite thankful for.

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It was cold and rainy on Friday, so we stayed inside drawing and doing laundry for the most part. Then that evening we made our annual pilgrimage to Union Station to see Santa. Grammy and her confectionery crew were decorating cookies again, and Vivian and I got to take the kids on an extensive tour of the trains and activities downstairs. A traveling exhibit had some political memorabilia that include Joy Villa’s famous Trump Dress, and while they kids liked the model trains and old trains and trolleys on display, they gravitated toward a magnet board and set of toy trains for a good portion of our visit.

Then upstairs, the massive crowd pressed in for some caroling with Camille Metoyer Moten following by a tree-lighting with Mayor Stothert. We saw a few other familiar faces during our visit, including the other Johnson Family and the Mathis Family. I’d hoped for another nice Christmas picture with the tree but had to settle of a quick selfie instead as one of our kids was too tired to stay much longer.

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Then on Saturday, Joe Biden came to Council Bluffs to kick off his “No Malarkey” bus tour — getting some viral coverage for a painfully outdated slogan and nibbling his wife’s finger, among other things. It was a remarkably small crowd for a former VP and front-runner, with only around 100 people in attendance (in my vague estimation). A few regulars showed up as well, including Tom Becka, Fake Security Guy, and AP photographer Nati Harnik. After a few words of introduction, Dr. Jill Biden took the stage with her husband Joe to introduce him.

Then Joe stood up to give a very brief, ten-minute stump speech before working the crowd for around half an hour more. As with his last visit, he stayed to meet and greet just about everyone who wanted to say hello. Several people wanted autographs, and I brought along a box of Corn Pops hoping he’d sign it (if you don’t get it, watch this). Unfortunately, his staff took the box away and though he wound up not signing the box, I did get the cereal back.

I didn’t pay much mind to Biden’s speech itself, but I enjoyed seeing him interacting with attendees, even taking a phone call with someone’s grandmother who wasn’t able to attend. I’m not sure why the crowd was so small — folks could have been turned away by the cold and cloudy (and somewhat rainy) weather or busy with Thanksgiving weekend, but the vibe I got was that Joe was past his prime and folks were looking for someone younger and fresher for the nomination this time around — someone who doesn’t use words like “malarkey.”

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I also spent some time putting up our Christmas decorations during the sunnier moments on Saturday. Then on Sunday Vivian and I put together the tree and our house a bit more ready for Christmas. That included setting up the tree and breaking out Santasaurus and a few of his friends. Even Hannah got into the act with her Calico Critters decorating their own house.

We have a very short season this year, but putting anything up before Thanksgiving still felt wrong, so we had to get the house a bit more festive before the weekend was over.

Let’s get this holiday started!


Christmas at Union Station

Trunks and Treats

We made it to the end of October at last! That means finishing the rest of our garden tomatoes as actual snow starts to fall around the Omaha area for the first time this season (and probably not the last).

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Our Halloween celebrations started on Tuesday as Grammy and Pop-Pop came over. Hannah (fresh from her new hideout) and Aaron helped Grammy decorate the back of her Honda Passport with some pumpkins, spiderwebs, and a few of their toys to create an adorable Halloween display for Wildewood’s Trunk or Treat event.

In the meantime, Vivian and Pop-Pop made some paella for dinner, which we all ate together in celebration after the trunk was ready for treating.

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Then on Wednesday, we braved some chilly weather in the 30s with the kids to have some trunk-or-treating at Wildewood. Hannah and Aaron went as Miraculous’ Ladybug and a Ninja Warrior, respectively. We went inside to have some burgers and chili dogs for dinner along with a couple hundred other folks, including our friends the Lenarts. Then once we had enough warmth in us, we braved back outside to tour the variety of cute and monstrous trunks opened up with candy. I think my favorite trunk (aside from Grammy’s) was the giant purple monster, but the best costume was three ladies who came as cafeteria workers, dishing up candy with ladles, no less. One trunk came with a gas-powered fire for us to warm up by, and the final trunk had an entire obstacle course based around Genesis 1, ending with an apple tree of treats (and rubber snakes). I guess that’s one way to celebrate the Fall.

We warmed up inside a bit more with a few carnival style games, which involved blowing sailboats with straws, tossing footballs (and toilet paper), and bounding some ping pong balls. The kids walked away with giant buckets full of candy, which would be filling up again the n ext day as well.

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All Hallow’s Eve was a bit warmer the next day. Vivian and the kids spent some time decorating pumpkins to leave by our doorstep, along with a couple mounds of pink cobwebs to greet our visitors. Vivian baked a lasagna for dinner, which we ate before getting the kids dressed for some Halloweening in our neighborhood. Aaron switched costumes to be a Ninja Turtle, after finally finding his mask. We walked the block around my parents’ house with Uncle Jonny collecting candy from a handful of neighbors, while Jack and Donna watched our door a block over until we returned. A number of our neighbors had fire pits out to keep warm during the evening, and I’ll have to try hauling ours out one more time before it starts snowing again.

It was a lovely, busy couple of days — now we just have to figure out what to do with all of our extra candy.

The Fourth

I hope you all had a wonderfully explosive Independence Day! I took Friday off, as most people did, for an extended four-day holiday weekend, which turned out to be more low-key than most of our fourths of July in the past.

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We kicked things off Thursday morning with some pancakes in Elmwood Park at the DCRP pancake breakfast. We got to rub elbows with a congressman and a few other familiar faces as we got pancakes and sausage served up by the Mayor, the Governor, and a few other folks running for office.

Our friends the Mills came (as did my dad, briefly) and shared a table with us, and we hung around with them a bit afterward to play in the adjacent playground. Lollipop the Clown was also on hand, making balloon animals for the kids, which we miraculously kept intact before we finally headed on home.

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We had a fairly quiet afternoon before having Jack and Donna and grilling up some burgers for dinner. A little later, my folks came by with Nathan and Jonathan and we set off some fireworks in the street as one big patriotic family. Donna even brought some ice cream for us to enjoy halfway through the evening. We were able to set off nearly every fountain, Roman candle, and artillery shell before our eleven o’clock “curfew” (set by the city), and we were able to whip out a handful of sparklers as well.

Aaron, however, somehow crashed in bed shortly before we started setting things off and couldn’t be roused (either by us or the noise).

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The next day, we marked a milestone for our kids by showing them the Lion King for the first time, which traumatized Hannah halfway through (of course). Then on Saturday, we had a birthday party for our old friend Timothy. The Mathis family has been living abroad in Thailand for a couple years, and we’d last celebrated a birthday with Timothy in 2013. The kids played on a sprinkler mat in the backyard and picked some mulberries together. A little later we had lunch, a cake, and also a piñata for the kids to break apart. A handful of our mutual friends showed up as well, so we got to catch up with them a bit before calling it a day.

We kept things fairly quiet afterward, settling the kids into some summer break activities. We also got Aaron his first legit Big Boy Bed, nabbing both a twin mattress and bed frame with drawers all for the low price of absolutely nothing. Aaron gave it a good test-run with Hannah and seems to approve.

In other news, Burger King has Tacos.