Category Archives: Fourth of July

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 by 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.

Pancakes with Bacon

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It’s been an interested week — divided in the middle with a busy, hot and steamy Fourth of July. We kicked things off on Tuesday night with a long-overdue Fourth of July Party at our friend Jon’s house. Jon grilled up some burgers and brats as we made some big bubbles out on the driveway with the kids.

Then once it was dark enough, we broke out the sparklers and artillery shells and lit up the sky for a couple of hours. It was a steamy, hot evening, and I found myself (and Aaron) retreating inside to air conditioning multiple times throughout the night. Aaron finally crashed on Jon’s armchair around then and we decided to call it a night.

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Of course, I was up bright and early the next morning to go to a Republican breakfast with my dad. We stopped by Ralston on the way I could claim a spot for the parade later that day, and then we headed on down to Elmwood Park to have some pancakes and sausage. Servings things up were Gov. Ricketts, Senator Fischer, Congressman Bacon, and Mayor Stothert, among a handful of other local politicians. Fischer in particular worked the crowd and had a good conversation or two with my dad about Donald Trump.

There were also a few other familiar faces, including Christopher Zhen, who I’d met multiple times in the 2016 campaign election (who now works at the RNC), and my former Congressman Lee Terry, who’s slimmed down and stopped by to pay his old district a visit. Dad and I had our fill of pancakes while talking politics with a few other attendees before heading on out, though we did also swing by the Car Show to see a rusted old Studebaker among the shinier Corvettes.

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At one o’clock that afternoon came the Independence Day Parade in Ralston. Lisa and Marcus (now Father Knecht) and some of his family joined us on our blanket. The nation’s colors and members of the military started off the parade, followed by Shriners with their clowns and clown cars, some bumper cars from Fun Plex, and a motorcycle happily burning rubber for our amusement. There were also members of the Ralston Community Playhouse and troops from Star Wars (as usual). We even got some fun new headgear and flags from a few passing floats.

We also saw several of the same folks I’d met that morning, including Bacon, Stothert, Fishcer, Ricketts, and even Chris. Bacon even had a live pig named Betty in the parade with him. There were left-wing candidates in the parade as well, of course — Kara Eastman and Bob Krist both making an appearance. The parade seemed much shorter than in years’ past, but I was especially glad to be “made in the shade” with the spot I’d staked out in the morning. Hopefully we’ll get it again next year.

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Then that evening, after we’d sufficiently cooled down, we had both sets of grandparents over to set off a few more fireworks in the street with the kids. Hannah and Aaron brought out a few toys to watch, and we used up most of our fountains, snaps, and artillery shells as a storm quickly moved in around ten. The wind kicked up in a major way, and it was bizarre to see its effects on fireworks, making them drift off in odd directions after exploding in the air.

So was all that just one day? Happy Fourth of July, everyone! And keep cool — there’s still a lot more summer left to use up.

Raining on our parade…and concert…and play

We just wrapped up a long, fun, and very busy Independence Day weekend, which featured several outdoor activities that were bombarded with rain at one level or another.

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First came the Bank of the West Celebrates America concert at Memorial Park. Kool & the Gang, who we had seen last year at Loessfest, were the headliners of the evening. We grabbed our spot on the green along with the West Family and around 60,000 other people (and Takashi) as emcee Nikki Boulay kicked off the evening. A line of ominous clouds gathered on the horizon as opening act, the Emmett Bower Band, sang country songs about beer. Then the Confidentials took the stage just as a thundershower broke, quickly drenching everyone on the green for half an hour and driving away a fair chunk of concert goers.

Those of us who weather the storm, however, were treated to a double rainbow at the end, followed by Kool and the Gang. It was the first time I’d seen the same band twice at one of our free outdoor concerts, and it was fun to hear a different mix of the songs than the ones they played last year (though they finished off with Celebration, of course). The kids were more interested in the fireworks and playing with their new bubble gun, but everyone had a good time, despite getting drenched.

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The next day, we returned to Elmwood Park for another night of Shakespeare on the Green, this time featuring the Merry Wives of Windsor. There was a much bigger crowd this week, but I was still lucky enough to snag a spot near the front. Tamra, Lydia, Anne and Brandon joined us on our blanket to share in A lovely spread., and pesto bread before the show. There was also a brief Q&A with a few of the actors, and then Editorial Cartoonist / Swing Band Leader Jeff Koterba took the stage to kick things off.

The play itself was very good, and a little more risqué than I would have expected for a Shakespearean comedy. The forecast called for clear skies for the evening, but halfway through the first act, it started to rain once again. The actor paid no mind, of course, but several members of the audience took off before the rain cleared up around intermission. A few stagehands mopped the stage, and the cast finished off the play without a hitch (that we could tell).

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Then came Independence Day, which fell on a Tuesday, happily interrupting our 40-hour work week. I kicked off the day claiming a spot on the parade route for the Ralston Parade, and then I dropped by the pavilion at Elmwood Park for pancakes with the Douglas County Republican Party. Mayor Jean Stothert, Governor Pete Ricketts, and Congressman Don Bacon were all on hand to meet and greet, take photos, and serve up food. Ian Swanson from AM 1420 was also there rubbing elbows with County Chair Jon Tucker among others, and I even bumped into Bellevue Mayor Rita Sanders, who was out for a bike ride with her husband Mike.

There was also a car show going on in the parking lot, so I walked past a few classic cars, and I also took a minute to check out the grotto, which was created when Elmwood Park was first built, which had a natural spring neatly hidden away from street traffic.

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I headed home to cool off with the kids for a bit before we returned to our spot for the Ralston Parade. Jenny and Kody joined us on our blanket as we got to watch the usual batch of clowns, roller-skaters, Shriners, bands, stormtroopers, and jitterbugs make their way down Main Street. A real-life troll from some left-wing group (who also trolled Sen. Fischer’s town hall) actually followed Don Bacon’s entourage to harass him, but the congressman took it in stride.

Halfway through the parade, it started raining once again. We huddled underneath a tree and stayed relatively dry through most of it, and even though the rest of the parade wound up getting drenched, they kept on marching through it all. We dropped by Dairy Queen afterward for some ice cream (along with the Jitterbugs) before heading back home.

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Then that evening, my parents had us and Vivian’s folks over for some dinner and fireworks. Vivian and I brought along burgers and hot dogs, and Donna brought some lemon lasagna for dessert. We ate outside, which was lovely and cool after the rain on our parade.

Then after dinner, we took to the driveway to set off some fireworks along with the rest of the neighborhood. We had a modest number of fountains, sparklers, and artillery shells in our arsenal, but our fireworks were dwarfed by our neighbors’ who had a whole series that rivaled what we’d seen on Friday night at Memorial Park.

All things considered, it was a super fun weekend. Next year, however, we’ll have to remember to bring our umbrellas, no matter what it says in the forecast.

Paper Lanterns and Kenny Loggins

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Summer is officially here, and we’ve had a long, fun week celebrating Independence Day, among other things. On Wednesday last week, I got to meet Lt. Gov. Mike Foley at a luncheon as he gave a talk about current issues in the courts and the legislature. I’d bumped into him briefly at work and at a fish fry, and I even saw him once when Obama was in town), but I never got to hear him actually speak before, and I was impressed with how thoroughly knowledgeable he was on the issues.

Then that evening, we had dinner with our friends Jenny and Kody and made use of their apartment’s swimming pool. It was Aaron’s first pool experience, and he seemed quite ready to take off on his own. If only we had a pair of water wings handy.

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On Friday, we met up with Lexi and her kids for a little quality time at the All-Play Splash Park. The weather was a fairly cool 72 degrees, and the water was even colder, but that didn’t keep us all from running through the sprinklers like little kids for a couple hours before lunchtime. Our kids had so much fun that they both actually took a long nap in the afternoon.

That evening, we took the whole family down to Memorial Park to see Kenny Loggins cut footloose for around 70,000 people. A couple local bands kicked things off, along with KFAB’s Scott Voorhees, before Kenny Loggins rode into the Danger Zone. There must have been technical issues during the performance, because Loggins continually called to people off stage and had someone change his battery pack in-between songs. He also saved his most popular songs (from the 80s movies he’s best known for) for the very end, playing through Danger Zone and Footloose while Vivian was in the bathroom with Hannah.

Of course, Hannah and Aaron were probably unaware that a concert was even going on as they played happily with their bears, chased bubbles with little Delana, and abused our friend Brandon. There were also fireworks at the end, prompting plenty of “Oohs” and “Aahs” from our kids before calling it a night.

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Saturday was a relaxing day, as our Lantern Fest got postponed due to a day full of rain. I took the kids to my folks’ house for brunch and watched a truly terrible movie called Roller Gator with both of my brothers. Then that evening, we embarked on a pizza challenge dreamed up by Uncle Jonny — we visited two pizza shops gave them each a $20 bill, and told them both “Surprise me.” I think Marco’s did the best, with a half-and-half combo and a fancy crust, while Domino’s gave us a meat pizza with a somewhat soggy Brooklyn crust. It was a fun (and tasty) contest nonetheless, and both kids got quality time with the grandparents before and afterward.

Later on, we got a bit of a scare as Aaron woke up at eleven gasping for air and starting to turn blue. Vivian took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with croup, coughing up some phlegm, and got some medication that made him crazy hyper for a couple days.

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On Sunday, we took Hannah down to the Raceway of the Midlands for a belated Lantern Fest. I’d bought the tickets well in advance as paper lanterns had been made illegal in Nebraska and I didn’t know if we’d have the chance to experience such a thing again anytime soon. We had a great deal of fun even before it got dark getting some balloons made up (by our friend Jen), having our faces painted, and trying out the fireman’s obstacle course. We shared our fire pit with a new friends and made some s’mores over a few logs as the sun went down.

Local Guitar Guy (who also appeared at Kody’s birthday party) played a few songs as we decorated our lanterns and got them ready set aloft. It was harder than I expected — the dampness made the lanterns hard to ignite, and the occasional breeze made it easy for the lantern to blow around and catch fire before taking off. Vivian and I did get both our lanterns airborne, though, and they joined hundreds of others as they congregated in the sky together. Then we celebrated with a new more fireworks at the end of the night before heading on home.

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On Independence Day, we dropped by Ralston for their annual Fourth of July parade. We nabbed a patch of green on a hill that gave us a front-seat for most of the parade, which was nice since we hadn’t arrived nearly as early as we should have. There were the usual assortment of politicians on hand: Omaha’s Mayor, Nebraska’s Governor, and a very lively band of young folks marching with Don Bacon. There were also clowns, tiny cars, rollergirls, and Star Wars cos-players.

The Omaha Jitterbugs were also there to provide a dance for Vivian near the end of the parade. One of the nice folks next to us bought tiny slingshot monkeys for all the kids on hand, which was nice (and kept Hannah and Aaron occupied all the way back to the car). We also sat next to some other nice folks who I hope find our blog and the picture I took for them.

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That evening, we celebrated the rest of the fourth with family, food, and fireworks at home. Jack and Donna brought ribs and a lovely American Torte, and I made some of my cowboy caviar and potato salad for a patriotic dinner together. Then we had some fun setting off a handful of fireworks from the end of our driveway when it got dark. Vivian had bought the usual array of fountains, artillery shells, and Roman candles particularly playing with sparklers and swords. Aaron seemed more interested in playing with Grammy, but Hannah got a real kick out of the sparklers. Donna and Vivian also got to have a sword fight before we called it a night.

Happy 240th birthday, America!

Celebrating the Rebellion

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Oh my! Another Fourth of July! One nice thing about The Fourth falling on a Saturday is that we get a full three-day weekend to set off explosions before going back to work on Monday. On Friday night, we invited a cluster of our friends over to grill out on the deck, and then we proceeded to the driveway to shoot off some Roman candles, sparklers, a giant flaming sword, and an assortment of other heavy artillery to celebrate America’s birthday. Hannah and Aaron were up to say hello to most of our friends, but they were both asleep by the time the sun went down (and somehow managed to sleep through everything).

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On Saturday, Vivian and I took the kids up to Ralston to sit and watch their Fourth of July parade, an event we’d danced in several years before but now just enjoyed watching. Hannah (and Aaron) were able to get a pony ride in before the parade kicked off. There was the usual assortment of politicians, including a couple vying for Lee Terry’s old seat, frightening clowns, Shriners, and Star Wars cos-players. Hannah and Aaron seemed to enjoy the parade, particularly the candy and popsicles getting handed out to spectators.

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Then that evening, we went to my parents’ house for dinner with then, Vivian’s folks, and Uncle Jonny. My dad smoked some barbecue ribs (which Aaron got to try for the first time), Jonny made some homemade salsa, and Vivian put together a lovely red, white, and blue cheesecake. She was quite proud of how the layers all stayed separated. After the sun went down, we went outside to set off some fireworks, including a neat little bag I got just for Hannah. She seemed to enjoy the snaps, the fountains, and we even had a few minutes of fun with sparklers, at least until one burned a hole in Grandpa’s shirt.

In the end, it was another fairly successful Independence Day. I’m also quite glad the rain held off until Monday, when we got to grab “Shark Week” cupcakes at Jones Bros an have pizza at Godfather’s for lunch in the midst of getting soaked.

Independence Weekend

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Happy birthday, America! Vivian and I kicked off a nice little three-day weekend with a bang on Thusday by inviting a bunch of our friends over to our place to grill some burgers and set off some fireworks in the front yard. It was a last-minute fling, but with a newborn baby in the house, it was much easier to gather together with a bunch of friends at our place than tote our little ones somewhere else after dark. Hannah had fun playing with Dean and Sarah’s little girl, and Phil volunteered to grill up some burgers for us with his special culinary touches (“this and that” was all he’d tell us). Aaron got passed around from person to person to person, and then we kept the neighborhood awake with a series of artillery shells and flaming projectiles that whizzed in random directions, all of which we watched with baited breath from our front steps. It was a fun away to start a long weekend, and fortunately nothing burned donw.

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The next day, the Johnson Family went down to Ralston to check out the Independence Day parade, this time as spectators rather than dancing with our cluster of Jitterbug friends. The weather was just perfect to sit and watch the series of floats some puttering by. There was the standard assortment of clowns, shiners, Star Wars cos-players, unspecified characters, dancers, and tractors rolling along. This also happens to be an election year with a handful of vacant seats, so I snapped pictures of people running for governor, senator, county commissioner, and dog catcher as they wandered by asking for votes. There was even a mobile petting zoo that stopped long enough for us to get a good whiff before the parade wound down.

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That evening, my folks invited us and Vivian’s parents over for a dinner of smoked ribs to celebrate The Fourth together as one big family. (Both grandpas fussed over the meat, of course.) Then we migrated outside on lawn chairs to check out a 360 degree display of fireworks that neighbors in all directions were busy setting off for most of the evening. We had a bunch of our own to set off as well, of course, but nothing at the foot of our driveway was quite as spectacular as the panoramic dipslay of fireworks all along the horizon of my parents’ backyard. Both grandmas took turns with the kids until we were ready to pack it in at the end of the night.

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Saturday was a day of recover filled with errands to Costco and doing laundry at home. Then on Sunday, the whole Johnson Family was in attendance for the first time, including Baby Aaron. Our church family threw us a “diaper potluck” after the service, complete with baby cakes and enough Huggies to last Aaron until Pre-School.

Sunday was also our friend Libby’s birthday, which she chose to celebrate down at the lake in Louisville. It was a sweltering 96 degrees with air thick with humidity, so the relatively cold waters of the lake were more than welcoming. Once Hannah eased her way into the waters, she didn’t want to get out, and the rest of our friends tossed a beach ball and played with a thousand different pool noodles they brought with them. Little Aaron just chilled the whole time, content to sleep and look adorable to everyone passing by. It was a lovely afternoon perfect for any number of photos from the shoreline. I’m only sorry Vivian couldn’t join us this time, but the summer’s still young.

Happy Birthday, ‘Murica!

Independence Weekend

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It’s been a star-spangled week for us here in Omaha. With several days off and beautiful weather, the Johnson family and our band of mutual friends have been living it up and enjoying all the explosion-y goodness that this red, white, and blue city had to offer.

We kicked things off on Wednesday by taking Hannah down to Rivers Edge Park in council Bluffs to check out some fireworks. They had some balloon animals and train ride for the kids along the riverfront, but Hannah seemed mostly interested in playing with sand and running around before our friends arrived. We sat on the same patch of green where we watched the Beach Boys a few weeks earlier, and some time after the sun went down, the sky lit up with fireworks over the new ballpark downtown. It was a nice way to kick off what we be a long, Independence Day weekend, though the jam-packed traffic on the way out took over an hour for us to push our way through. Maybe next time we ought to park down at the casino and just walk.

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Vivian’s folks invited us over for a Fourth of July luncheon of burgers and all-American apple pie. Hannah marked the occasion by playing with a tea set for the first time and eating her very first ice cream cone. We left her with “Mimi and Papa” for the evening as Vivian and I went off to blow some things up with our friends.

Jenny had organized a party at Ben’s house to say both Happy Birthday to her roommate Libby and farewell to Keith, who was moving to Idaho for reasons still unclear to most of us (it has something to do with mountain biking). Jenny brought out a patriotic cake with a musical candle (that would not shut up), and shortly thereafter we broke out the sparkly thing. Everyone had the chance to paint the air with sparklers, fire off Roman candles, and fill the sky with a bunch of artillery shells. Someone even brought “homemade” fireworks that were made essentially of gunpowder in vinyl triangles, creating the perfect opportunity for someone to lose a couple fingers.

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On Friday night, a bunch of our friends returned to Elmwood Park to indulge in another performance of Shakespeare on the Green (because once is never enough). This time around, we saw a musical (and whimsically modern-looking) rendition of Twelfth Night. Since this performance was decidedly more family friendly than the gruesome Titus Andronicus, and this happened to be a holiday weekend, the crowd was decidedly larger than before. I came early enough to get a fairly decent spot in the nearly record-breaking crowd of 4,000+. A bunch of us decided to try on some old-timey clothes at one pavilion and then the girls engaged in a little swordplay with one another. (The girls especially seemed to enjoy this.) A panel of instructors answered Shakespeare-related questions, and a troop of 8-12 year olds from Camp Shakespeare performed a few scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for us as well. The wandering singers and juggler Jek Kelly were also on hand, as usual, and we even learned that everyone’s favorite juggler will be retiring this year. He got a tearful standing ovation in response to that news.

The play itself was delightful, of course, with an enthusiastic cast and plenty of fun, hip songs to go along with the 400 year old comedy. As with Titus, I didn’t bother to read much of the synopsis before watching the show, but I was still able to follow it fairly well. The play ended with the cast dancing into a curtain call, and then our own group decided to have an impromptu dance session right on our blankets as we waited for the rest of the crowd to thin out before heading for home.

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On Saturday morning, we joined our friends Randy and Jolene to celebrate their son Timothy’s third birthday down at Lake Zorinsky. Timothy and Hannah seem to get along quite well despite being about a year and a half apart in age. Randy grilled up burgers and hot dogs for everyone, which we tried to eat while trying to keep everything from blowing away with the gale force wind that ripped through our pavilion. Timothy also opened a bunch of presents, which included some Bible stories from Vivian and me and a Radio Flyer wagon that Randy put together on site so Hannah and Timothy could go for a ride.

Vivian and I wound up resting up for the rest of the weekend. After so many days and nights filled with fun, it actually felt great just to stay in a night or two before starting another busy week. On Monday, I’ll be starting a new job as marketing manager at the Pope Paul VI Institute here in Omaha, which has been described as the Mayo Clinic of reproductive health care. I’ve learned already that they’ve helped several people we know personally to have children when they thought they never would, so it looks like a wonderful, new place to work!

Family and the Fourth

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Vivian and I just got finished a fun, week-long visit with my parents, who came for their summer visit over the Fourth of July week. Our first activity on the agenda (other than eating pizza together and playing with Hannah) was to brave the triple-digit heat and dance in the Ralston Independence Day parade. A dozen or so of the Omaha Jitterbugs were present to Lindy Hop down the hot asphalt along with a nearly endless number of floats. We were almost at the very end of the parade, so it took even longer than usual before our group got moving. Hannah got to participate in the parade mostly by sleeping in the stroller and getting sprayed with water to keep from overheating. As usual, we crashed at Dairy Queen to recover with ice cream, courtesy of Nate Woodhams.

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That evening, Vivian and I lit up some sparklers with the folks and then skipped over to Anne’s to set off some fireworks afterward. We shot off a couple Roman candles, and I had a good time experimenting with the setting on my camera so I could capture the fiery trails created by a sparkler or two. We also set loose one of those lantern things, once Jon Paper figured out that you had to let go of it in order for it to work.

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On Friday, we met up with dad’s associates form the National Association of Scholars for lunch at Malara’s in Omaha. Vivian and Hannah came along for the first time, so everyone could see the newest addition to the Johnson Family. One noteworthy absence was Ed Rauchut of Bellevue University, who sadly passed away earlier this year. We all had a toast in his memory.

On the way home, we dropped by the Sarpy County Museum, the self-described “best kept secret in Bellevue,” which Vivian and I found recently when taking her car in for a check-up around the corner. They had a wide variety of Nebraska-related memorabilia, including a buffalo head, a scale model of Offut Air Force Base, and a list of nine rules for teachers circa 1872.

That evening, all the grandparents came over for a giant taco dinner at our place. Vivian made some pico de gallo and we sliced up a giant watermelon. Dad got to chat about familiar places in northern California, and Vivian and I made a couple notes of things to visit when we fly up there later in September.

P1130353On Saturday, Vivian and I took the folks down to Joslyn Art Museum, which is conveniently open for free on Saturday mornings. We toured a few of the traveling exhibits, which included a bunch of mid-nineteenth century photographs of the old west courtesy of Union Pacific and our favorite groovy still life of a boob, an orange, and a phone. It was a welcome escape from the oppressive heat and humidity outside (and gave us the chance for some random rule-breaking as well). We dropped by Absolutely Fresh for Calamari Steak to eat on Monday and then dropped by Jacobo’s for some tamales that we served up that evening once Jonathan arrived.

IMG_6909We had church together on Sunday morning, and then once Nathan and Ranae arrived in the afternoon, we spent the rest of the day with the Johnson Family under one roof. We played a couple games, including Telestrations and a makeshift round or two of Family Feud. Vivian served up some barbecue chicken and corn on the cob for dinner and later we had some chocolate cake courtesy of me.

On Monday, we spent the last day with the folks wasting time at an overpriced thrift shop (masquerading as an antique mall), and then had some Five Guys for lunch before dropping by John Galt Boulevard for some random picture-taking. That evening, Vivian cooked up her calamari steaks along with some asparagus and a couple artichokes (courtesy of my dad). We wrapped up our week together playing a couple rounds of Apples to Apples, and Hannah joined in as before.

It was a great, relaxing visit full of loafing, visiting, and eating, and I felt quite lucky to be able to have time off for the whole week for it.

Independence Day 2011

Happy birthday, America! Vivian and I celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence with our friends in the traditional way: music, dancing, and lots of heavy artillery.

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Our three-day weekend started off with a hot night of music down at Memorial Park. Every year, Bank of the West hosts a giant outdoor concert, and Vivian and I weren’t even sure we would be going until the last minute. It was an absolute steam bath outside and the bands were 38 Special and Cheap Trick, neither of which I knew much about. The crowd, however, was decidedly smaller this time around — last year you could only find a spot with a view of the stage if you showed up at five in the morning. There was plenty of open seating down the hill toward the stage, so Vivian and I found a comfortable spot and ate Dippin’ Dots while listening to Gonna Raise Hell and the theme to That 70s Show.

We also stayed for the fireworks and then hitched a ride back to our car on the back of the KMTV Action 3 News van.

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On Saturday night, Jenny hosted a hot, buggy barbecue up in northwest Omaha. Some of us showed our appreciation by drawing a portrait of Jenny on her driveway with smoke bombs (and a pimp fish). We “wrapped” it with a bow and gave it to her as a present. Jon grilled burgers and dogs out back, and I mixed a few piña coladas for anyone who wanted one. Ben, Jon, and Keith made some creative use of paper airplanes by adding explosives to them and seeing what would happen. The result: lots of hilarious burning wreckage (some of which got into the neighbor’s yard). They also created a smoke-bomb Frisbee and set loose a glowing lantern, which drifted West and should be somewhere over Okinawa by now.

Naturally, we set off a bunch of fireworks out back (with plenty of artillery shells), and the girls tried using sparklers to write the words “wow” and “zoo” for Eric’s camera (with limited success). Once the explosives were all spent, we retreated indoors to play a couple rounds of Telestrations. I got the word President, which Keith was able to mangle inexplicably in just one turn, and someone else drew a pair of jellyfish — I mean a chair — which managed to put tears in Jenny’s eyes.

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On Sunday, we got to prove to the world what a cool church Twin Valley is by setting off even more fireworks in their parking lot once the sun went down. Elder Don put the event together and brought a large assortment of bright, shiny explosives for us to detonate. We let the little ones light a bunch of small, sparkling fountains first before shooting off our Black Cats and artillery shells.

The Omaha metro seemed to be a veritable war zone all weekend long, with fireworks in nearly every neighborhood and crackling going every night for weeks in advance, so we certainly got our fill of pyromaniac glee. (Of course, a few members of our group seemed more interested in setting up a Facebook account, but that’s OK — we don’t judge.)

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On Monday the Fourth, Vivian and I joined a bunch of our fellow Jitterbugs to dance in the annual Independence Day Parade up in Ralston. We had a huge turnout for the parade and almost couldn’t find a parking spot as every available lot nearby seemed to be filled to capacity. We danced down main street enduring the heat with bottled water and an assortment of ice cubes pilfered from the cooler on the back of our black Jitterbug Truck. We crashed at the Dairy Queen on 72nd Street (along with the rest of Ralston) where Jitterbug president Nate treated us all to ice cream and lunch before calling it a day.

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We wrapped up our holiday weekend that evening at Fazoli’s with Ben, Jenny, and Tamra, and then Vivian and I went down to the waterfront to see some fireworks. It didn’t seem right to end the weekend without seeing fireworks from the pedestrian bridge, but they’d been moved from Harrah’s Casino to the Horseshoe further island due to the Missouri River flooding. There were plenty of people outside to gawk at the water level, which was drowning the poor statues over on Lewis and Clark landing. We still got a fairly good view of the fireworks from the bridge before heading home and calling it a night.


Video evidence from Jenny’s party

United in Rock

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Happy Independence Day, America! Vivian and I had a great weekend with our friends all over Omaha. We kicked off the weekend with a bang (literally) at Memorial Park, rocking out to the sounds of Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner with over 80,000 of our fellow Omahans. There were people claiming spots before five in the morning for the 6 p.m. concert, but I was able to squeeze in a spot for a couple of us after leaving work early. We had a terrific view of the stage, and I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd to snap a few closer shots of Styx as they performed. Joining us on our blanket were Jenny, Ben, Randy and Jolene. Many other friends of ours also shared spaces at the park, from Becki near the front of the stage, to Hugh and Sarah who managed to squeeze in somewhere behind the port-a-potties.

The concert itself was terrific — the bands all played a selection of their signature songs, and they topped off their performance with a spectacular fireworks show. Naturally, it was a bit of a hassle to squeeze our way through the crowd back to our cars, but we were able to get downtown to JNO to stagger through half an hour of dancing before calling it a night.

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In other news, Vivian’s brother Oliver was in town for the week, so we took him out to eat at El Dorado’s, one of our favorite South Omaha restaurants, and we stuffed ourselves with a platter of surf and turf. On Saturday, at Oliver’s suggestion, I spent some time cleaning our deck with a pressure washer. I had been wanting to clean and seal it since we’d bought the house last winter, and the wood had several years’ worth of dirt and grime covering its surface. The pressure washer blasted it off so cleanly that it was actually fun! Next we’ll just have to wait for it to dry out long enough to stain and seal it. Then it’ll be as good as (nearly) new.

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On Saturday night, Keith and Jenny hosted a beer-tasting up in northwest Omaha. Keith brought a selection of mostly sweet beers, ranging from Leinenkugel’s summer shandy to a syrupy organic strawberry beer. I don’t think we had any consensus on what we liked best, though I had a preference for the Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. Oscar grilled up burgers and brats for the bunch of us, and Eric make some root beer floats. After the sun went down we shot of plenty of fireworks (of course), though half the crowd seemed to enjoy watching the array of explosives our neighbors brought out across the street.

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We had a rainy morning on the Fourth of July, but a bunch of us in the Omaha Jitterbugs still made it down to Ralston to dance in their annual parade. It was actually nice to have a cool sprinkle during our parade than the muggy sauna that we’ve experienced in years past. We crashed at Dairy Queen afterward for burgers, ice cream and quite a few amusing photos with each other before going home to dry off.

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That evening, Vivian and I joined a few random friends to watch the fireworks form the pedestrian bridge downtown. The rivers was flooding some of the banks and providing quite a happy place for mosquitoes to breed and eat us alive. The muggy weather also made things rather interesting for fireworks — the smoke trails tended to hang in the air for minutes on end, and the low-flying clouds made the sky look like the multicolored rumblings of Mordor. We still enjoyed the light show, though, and we rounded off the evening watching Red Skelton DVDs at Lisa’s before calling it a night.