Category Archives: JNO

Pizza, Dancing, and an Old New Car

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The whole state of Nebraska is dealing with the aftermath of the record-breaking floods we’ve had this week. Everywhere we go we’ve seen signs of neighbors helping out, including disaster relief trucks all over the place in Omaha. Every church we know has been collecting supplies to help those affected by the floods, turning every available multi-purpose room into a storehouse of food, clothing, and cleaning supplies. It makes me proud to live in a state where everyone seems to be ready and willing to help complete strangers when something like this happens.

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In the meantime, we had a bunch of birthday events happening over the weekend. First off was on Friday, when Catherine (or Dr. Keefe, as I call her at work), celebrated a birthday with the Omaha Jitterbugs down at the Eagle’s Lodge. Vivian and I had the rare opportunity to attend the dance together, setting up ahead of time and then dancing with a handful of our friends when they arrived. Some kids from Arts in Motion came to demonstrate a handful of dances before the evening got underway, and Catherine brought a batch of cupcakes to share before we had her birthday jam.

It was nice to see the crowd for Jitterbugs Night Out was still as large as ever, and it’s remained very much the same since I first attended around 13 years ago. While many of the same people still attend regularly (looking at you Dan Wondra), there are now so many more “regulars” I’ve never met that I now feel a new generation has taken it over. And that’s OK.

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The next day, it was birthday time at the Simpson House. Little Gabriel turned one year old, while Phil celebrated a birthday of his own several months late. We got to make our own pizzas (or garlic bread) using dough from a gigantic bucket and an assortment of ingredients laid out on the counter. We even got to try tossing the dough in a stereotypical fashion that was more fun to watch than practical. There were plenty of kids on hand as well, providing good company for Hannah and Aaron as we got a little grow-up time (and stuffed our faces).

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Then on Tuesday, I managed to crash a fancy dinner Vivian had planned with her parents when I turned out not to be driving to Lincoln as she expected (to get a car, more on that below). I’m not sure how secret the dinner plans were supposed to be, but they fortunately had enough calamari steak for me to have some, along with some shrimp and tasty cheddar jalapeño bread (which Vivian finally got to make right now that she used non-expired yeast).

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In other news, I’m nearing the end of my pledge to drive our Honda Civic “until the wheels fall off.” It’s had a number of minor issues that culminated a week or two ago when it had an irreparably flat tire combined with a spare I discovered has a leaky valve. I’ve been carpooling with my dad and Uncle Jonny since then as I’m getting ready to take ownership of Uncle Nathan’s Corolla — which has its own unique set of problem but far fewer miles on the odometer.

On Thursday, I went down to Lincoln to officially buy the car from Nathan. Dad came along and the three of us went out to Big Sal’s to celebrate with pizza. Now we’re busy trying to get the car fixed up so it’ll be properly driveable before I actually start driving it. Say a quick prayer as we try to get all that sorted out before saying goodbye to our dearly departed Civic!

Also: happy Spring Equinox.

My wonderful week off from work

I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation that I spent entirely in the Omaha area, catching up on things around house and spending some quality time with the family. It’s the first time I’ve had a full week off work since our trip to California in 2012, and the first time I can remember with that much free time on my hands. It was lovely.

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On Sunday, we kicked things off doing some costume shopping down at Mangelsen’s, where we tried out various masks and accessories before eventually getting Aaron and Hannah to decide on being Batman and Poppy (from Trolls) respectively for Halloween.

Then that evening, I managed to literally burn through all the wood we’d accumulated from fallen branches over the past year or so in a fire pit. I invited my parents over and we roasted hot dogs over the open flame, which worked out amazingly well. The weather was downright gorgeous most of the week with highs in the 60s or so, which was just about perfect every single day.

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I spent nearly all day cleaning house and doing laundry as Vivian was out doing school stuff with the kids. Then on Tuesday, we had our annual trip to Vala’s. Tuesday was just about the perfect day to go — we got the home school discount, which included free pumpkins and a train ride, and the weather was beautiful all day long. We got Hannah and Aaron measured up before hitting the pig races and getting our family photos taken behind cut-out characters (and on the big chair). Hannah’s favorite attractions were the haunted houses and the pumpkin mine, so we wound up wandering through those multiple times. We grabbed some apple donuts for a snack and spent extra time in the school house pretending to teach the kids. We also spent some extra time at the Pirate Cove dancing to music by the Skeleton Band.

The fall colors were glowing everywhere, and I tried multiple times to get a decent autumnal photo of Vivian and the kids, but they were too excited to sit still for long. We got a wagon ride and a ride on the train and stopped to see an animatronic show or two on the way between exhibits. We also paid a visit to Bunnyville and saw Xander the Dragon as the suns tarted going down. Storybook Village had a few new items, such as the Hungry Catterpillor (sic) and a sword-in-a-stone. We ended the day taking Aaron on the big slide (where his reaction was “I’m scared of that … I wanna go again) and then the pie barn for “dinner.” We grabbed a few pumpkins on the way out before heading for home, where we all pretty much crashed afterward.

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Hannah and Aaron got to try out their costumes for the first time at First Presbyterian for some trick-or-treating on Wednesday Night. They got their fill of candy and played a handful of games along with a few of their little friends.

The next day, I went out to lunch with my parents to a place in downtown Papillion called “Brownie’s.” They had $8.99 rib-eyes (thinly cut) and I got to catch up with them a bit without having to wrangle two kids wreaking havoc at the same time, which was nice.

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On Friday night, Vivian and I went to the Omaha Jitterbugs’ Halloween Dance together, the first time we’d been to the Eagle’s Lodge since the last Halloween dance. I went as a Steven Crowder “Change my Mind” meme, complete with mug, which got me into the finalists’ row during the costume contest. Vivian went as a “one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater,” a last minute thing thrown together once she and I realized we had all the components at home.

It felt strange to be back dancing with the Jitterbugs after being away so long, partly because there were so many new people, and also because I’m darn OLD and dancing all night long isn’t as easy as it was a decade ago. We still had a fun time, and we even grabbed some donuts from the Donut Stop, which will be sadly closing its doors forever on Halloween.

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We had a lovely lazy Saturday for most of the day. Then that evening we went to Jenny’s annual birthday/costume/Halloween party up in northwest Omaha at Dean and Sarah’s house. Our kids got to bounce around for a couple hours (in costume) with a handful of our friends’ kids as we had some cake and played a bit with our grown-up friends. Takashi led us all in Thriller, of course, and we also got our group picture before people started to leave.

I came in my second costume of the night, an “NPC,” which has become something of a political meme online. Nobody seemed to get it, which was mostly fine with me. I may reuse the mask to be Michael Myers from “Halloween” instead, which is what most people thought I was anyway.

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It was a great week overall, helped in my doubt by the lovely weather and fall colors we got to enjoy. We took a walk or two around the neighborhood with the kids just to enjoy them (and see the Pumpkin Man).

We also raked a bit of leaves in our yard on Sunday so Hannah and Aaron could play in them (along with Hannah’s family of toys) before it got too cold. Then we watched the sun set on my last day of vacation before Vivian fried up a whiskey-marinated sirloin for dinner, which was quite tasty.

It was a good week, and I may wind up doing something like it again before long, as I have a couple hundred hours of vacation time left to use up (eventually.)

Family night, game night, and Louisville Lake

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On Friday night, the Omaha Jitterbugs had another “family night” before Jitterbugs Night Out. Vivian and I were scheduled to set up anyway, so it only made sense to bring along Hannah and Aaron for another night of itty bitty dance instruction, courtesy of Lindsey and company. Both Hannah and Aaron had fun running around with a handful of other kids, following along with some basic dance steps, and also making good use of a stray cart.

Aaron was even bold enough to step up to the beginning lessons with the grown-ups when it was time for the “real” dance to start, but he also got to help Mommy at the front desk (when Edith Ann couldn’t be there herself).

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On Saturday morning, I broke out some tools and installed an early birthday present for myself: a Rachio Smart WiFi Sprinkler Controller! It seems like it rains every time I schedule our lawn sprinklers to run, so now I have a controller that can access weather reports via wifi and issue a rain delay automatically so this won’t happen again. Smart!

Then that evening, we took the kids down to Kate’s for another Epic Game Night of Awesomeness. Eric brought his smart phone to add goofy features to a few of our faces, and then we had snacks and played a round of Apples to Apples as the kids wreaked havoc in the next room. (I also had some Potato Dreams, which I still can’t quite explain.)

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids down to the Louisville Lake for the afternoon. Yes, summer is quickly switching over to fall, but it was still a toasty 88 degrees or so, and the cold water was more than welcoming. The kids spent some quality time splashing and soaking in the water, as well as burying themselves in the sand and playing with someone else’s sand toys. We topped the day off with some ice cream before heading home.

Next stop: my birthday! (Spoiler alert: I get older and have pizza.)

Aaron turns two!

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Summer’s here again, as temperature breaks into the upper-nineties and everyone starts looking for ways to beat the heat. For the Johnson Kids, that often means more time running through the fountains of Stinson Park or maybe a Splash Pad. More on that in a second.

My Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy are taking a trip across the United States visiting family, so last week they dropped by to stay with my folks for a few days. They checked out Boys Town, Runza, and even a firing range. Vivian and I brought the kids by after dinner on Wednesday to say hello and then play a couple rounds of Apples to Apples together.

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On Friday night, Vivian and I took the kids to the Eagles’ Lodge for the Omaha Jitterbugs’ “Mom Prom,” a fun event designed for little ones with an interest in dancing. Lindsey picked out a few giant dance cards with basic dance steps printed on them, and by putting four of them randomly down on the floor, she created a fairly simple dance pattern for everyone to follow. The kids were all around Hannah and Aaron’s age, and they followed along as best as you could expect of a handful of four year olds. Once the cake came out, however, all bets were off as the kids began to run about on a sugar high with percussion instruments only adding to the chaos, but both of our kids had a great time.

Oh, did I mention that there was NO ELECTRICITY? Yes, there was apparently some kind of “underground vault fire” west of 24th and Harney Streets that blacked out the whole area for the entire evening. We still had a great event, however. Billy got a battery backup for the speakers so we could have music, the sunlight through the windows was more than enough for us to see, and the building even stayed relatively cool for an hour or two without air conditioning. Good job, guys!

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On Friday, our little boy Aaron turned two years old! I made him waffles for breakfast, and he got to open a few presents at home in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we took him to Morton Park for some quality time in the splash pad. It was pushing 97 degrees outside, so getting cold and wet for most of the afternoon was more than welcome. We invited a handful of Aaron’s little friends along for the day, as well as all four grandparents, of course. After getting soaked on the splash pad for an hour or two, we had some hot dogs together followed by an adorable train cake courtesy of Grammy — complete with fondant renderings of HannahAaron, and the cast of Sesame Street.

it’s hard to believe my little boy is two years old now. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

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On Sunday, I took Hannah to Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house for quality time painting and playing with some of my dad’s old puppets. I also helped Grandpa with a project collecting old family photos and stories and assembling them in a page layout program.

Then that evening, Brazilian missionaries Al and Nadine Pierschbacher came to visit Twin Valley Church. They showed us some slides of their mission work at the New Hope Bible Baptist Church in Fortaleza. Then afterward we had some tasty tri-tip steak for dinner, which I assumed was cooked in the churrasco style. Bom apetite!

Prairie Cats and Kool & The Gang

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Summer’s almost here, so last week when the kids decided to climb into Aaron’s water table to use it as a swimming pool, I broke down and hauled up their pink wading pool for some quality splash time on the deck. With temperatures in the mid-to-upper-80s, even I found myself climbing in with them to get cooled off a bit. The fountains are also on again down at Stinson Park, which naturally makes for a nice way to go down and cool off with the kids during a lunch break at work (between swing times). Just remember to bring a towel!

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On Friday night, Vivian and I had a special evening at Jitterbugs Night Out, which featured the return of the Prairie Cats, who last performed at the Ozone four-and-a-half years ago. The band is apparently back together and will be performing regularly again, which is great new for swing dancers all across the metro area. We had a large number of attendees, including Jessica, who got to have a birthday jam and a tattoo courtesy of Dan Wondra. Lisa was also on hand with her pink cowboy hat, which Jeff Koterba got to wear once again.

The most conspicuous of the guests, however, was KPTM’s Tom Becka, who’s a friend of Jeff and wanted to hear him perform again. It’s the first time I’d bumped into him since the Iowa Primary ended, so I told him I’d try getting him a new Facebook profile picture. (I did get one for myself with both Tom and Big Daddy K.)

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On Saturday, we dropped by Jessica’s parents’ house for a barbecue birthday lunch with her and a bunch of our friends. It was going to be held at Elmwood Park, but it got moved in anticipation of a storm that never materialized. Jessica showed us her parents’ gigantic garden as her dad grilled burgers and hot dogs, and then she even shared with us a bottle of 16-year Aberdour that Mark was nice enough to give her. Jessica’s roommate Kate was celebrating her birthday as well, and a bunch of our mutual children got to have fun playing with one another as the grown-ups snapped goofy selfies of one another.

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On Sunday evening, we took the kids down to Rivers’ Edge Park for the fourth annual opening concert at Loessfest. We got a couple beach balls to keep the kids occupied (replacing the one Hannah lost three years ago) as the brutally hot sun beat down on us, and we also stayed fed and hydrated under an umbrella as the crowd slowly gathered for the show. A few friends of ours joined us on the blanket, and I bumped into a few more around the park. I took Hannah and Aaron up to the bridge before Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh and his special friend kicked things off. This year’s opening act was the Atlanta Rhythm Section, a southern rock band that seemed to be 90% guitar riffs, which didn’t impress me all that much.

The main event was Kool & the Gang, and they managed to put on a remarkable show with their catalog of R&B, soul, funk and disco hits (finished off, of course, with Celebration). Front men Shawn McQuiller and Lavell Evans engaged the crowd from the very beginning, but the whole group had a terrific amount of energy. Dennis Thomas actually did a cartwheel on stage before picking up his trombone. I was surprised that the Bell Brothers stayed toward the back and out of the spotlight until near the end, when Kool himself got to have a guitar solo.

I was particularly impressed with our own kids, however, who stayed for the whole concert playing ball with their new friends even after I asked if they wanted to go home early. It was a great night, and I’m looking forward to doing it again in a month when we see Kenny Loggins at Memorial Park.

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We finished off the fun, busy weekend at my parents’ house on Memorial Day, where I mowed the lawn and then dad grilled up burgers and hot dogs for the family. Both my brothers were in attendance, as were all four grandparents. We all got to eat together and spend some time outside with the kids before a chain of light showers rolled through the metro area.

Then on Tuesday, Aaron got his first haircut, He’s looking more like a little man every day.

Easter 2016

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It’s Easter Season in Nebraska once again, which means our tulips start poking out of the ground just in time for another blizzard or hard freeze. In any case, we had Palm Sunday at church, and Aaron got to take his first trip around the sanctuary carrying a plastic palm branch with Hannah.

Then that evening we had dinner at our new Pastor’s house (with the “other” Johnson family in our church) to have hot dogs and talk about starting a new Young Families group together. It would certainly be nice to have a bible study with built-in babysitting, and Hannah already seems to be getting along with the new kids at church.

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There was actual snow in the forecast for Wednesday, so Vivian and I decided to take the kids for a romp at the park with Lexi and her kids. Park time is always more fun when Hannah has Sammy and Jake to keep her company on the slides and swings, and Aaron and August seemed to have fun running the perimeter of the park, grabbing balls from the big kids and riding a grasshopper together. There was even a leftover pile of leaves from last fall for some jumping in before we headed home.

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Vivian and I were actually scheduled to set up at JNO on Good Friday, which was fine by us, as we had a live band playing that night. That means after setting up the front desk and handling the crowd through the opening lesson, the rest of the night is ours to dance. We saw a handful of the Jitterbug regulars and quickly wore out our feet on the dance floor swinging out to the Billy Bacon hand his rockabilly band.

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On Saturday, the Easter Egg Hunt we’d planned to attend at the Bellevue Christian Center was cancelled due to rain, but we wound up having an egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house instead. We’d planned on stopping by anyway to celebrate Uncle Jonny’s birthday a week late (with pizza for lunch), but it was especially nice to let our kids run around hunting for plastic eggs before we had lunch together.

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Then came Easter Sunday! Vivian got brand-new Easter outfits for both Hannah and Aaron, which meant plenty of family pictures together as we were all dressed up. Grammy and Pop-Pop brought Easter Eggs for the kids to find in our yard before going inside to open their Easter baskets full of candy and toys. I made some waffles for an Easter Lunch together as Aaron went down for a nap, and then we spent some quality time playing a memory card game with Hannah on the coffee table.

My folks and Uncle Jonny came over when dinnertime rolled around. We had the usual mess of deviled eggs for hors d’oeuvres before having our dinner of glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, Watergate salad, and some bizarre Bunny Bread that Donna had made up. I think we all got more than our fill of food, which meant I’d have o work to schedule time to ride my bike to work this week and pedal some of the extra calories off.

Happy Resurrection Day, everybody!

Blooming where you’re planted

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On Friday night, the Jitterbugs held an anniversary dance in honor of fifteen years of Jitterbugs Night Out, a night that was even made 100% official by the Omaha City Council, thanks to our friend Lisa, who happens to work there. It seems like just yesterday I was awkwardly wandering into the Eagles’ Lodge for the first time. The volunteers went all out with elaborate balloon displays, snacks, and one of my favorite swing bands in the area, the Little Harper Big Band to provide the music. I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of true swing dancing veterans at the dance itself, but there were plenty of cool people to dance with. And despite actually biking to and from work today, I managed to stay on the dance floor during nearly every song.

Then at the end of the night, we brought home a bunch of balloons to surprise Hannah and Aaron when they woke up the next morning.

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Saturday was a day of getting things done (mostly lawn-mowing), and then on Sunday we spent a long afternoon down in Avoca at the Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm. Having just been to Vala’s a few days earlier, I couldn’t help but notice the little pumpkin patch had the look and feel of a miniature, scaled down Vala’s. They had a corn bin and a water-pump duck race for the little ones, as well as a few of those head-through-the-hole photo displays. They also had a giant tire swing quite a few farm animals for the kids to check out, including goats, chickens, horses, and cows. There was also a hay rack ride, but it didn’t go to the pumpkin patch, because unfortunately they had absolutely no pumpkin crop this year whatsoever. Yes, they had pumpkins for sale, but they were all brought in (allegedly locally) from other pumpkin patches. We did let the kids get their own little pumpkins (aka decorative gourds), which could have grown on some of the vines down by the horse corral.

In the end, it was a nice little place to take the kids on a Sunday afternoon, and its smaller size made it a much easier trip than Vala’s. Vivian and I were able to sit in the shade and watch Hannah and Aaron run relatively freely without losing track of them, something that’s pretty much impossible to do at that other place.

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On Tuesday, Vivian brought the kids down to the park to swing a bit, play in some sprinklers, and enjoy a stroll among the beautiful fall colors along the Keystone Trail.

Then that evening, I got to visit Hannah’s preschool along with a bunch of other guys as part of an open-house just for dads. I got to see some of the activities the kids get to do during the day, such as drawing, making paintings with rolling marbles, and hammering golf tees into foam blocks. Then Hannah’s teacher, Mrs. Sauerdyke, sat us down for “circle time.” This included going over the calendar, the days of the week, and singing a special little song for the dads present, which was very cute.

Afterward, they gave us vouchers for ice cream at Dairy Queen so we could take our little ones down to get inappropriately sugared up right before bed time. It was a sweet little daddy-daughter date, though. I’m always happy to spend time with Hannah before she’s too old to want to be seen in public with me.

Vivian’s Painting, Dancing, Camping Birthday Weekend

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The end of September was a lovely, four-day weekend of Birthday Fun for Vivian and our cluster of mutual friends. The celebration started Thursday night, when Vivian and I paid a visit to Canvas and Cabernet, one of many “drink wine and paint” studios popping up all over town. We both decided to “wing it” by painting wine and cheese together for the express purpose of decorating our kitchen wall. The instructors there were very helpful, and the appetizers kept us satiated until we were done and ready to celebrate with dinner at Vivace afterward.

On Friday night, we dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for an obligatory night of swing dancing. Vivian’s gotten to have a birthday jam for nine years in a row with the Omaha Jitterbugs, and we weren’t about to break the streak just shy of the ten-year mark. It was fun to catch up with a bunch of our old swing-dancing buddies, and we even grabbed some pastries from the Donut Stop on the way home.

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On Saturday, after a quick trip to Ted & Wally’s for some birthday ice cream, we headed on up to the Fremont Lakes to spend the night camping out! We brought the kids along, of course, and Hannah got to explore the inside of a tent for the very first time. The weather was fairly warm (in the mid-80s), which seemed ideal for one last swim before Old Man Winter comes to visit.

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Back at the campsite, Vivian’s parents joined us along with Phil and Jen, Jenny, Libby, Katie, and Jon Paper for a grilling out. We had plenty of burgers and hot dogs to go around, and there was just enough room for a lovely chunky cake of sorts that Donna had brought (and Hannah had decorated). The sun went down and we lit the campfire for s’mores as Vivian opened presents, one of which happened to be Guitar Hero for the Wii. Yeah, we’re gonna party like it’s 2007!

We had some Spam for breakfast the next morning and spent the rest of Sunday recovering from a night of sleeping on the hard ground.

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Of course, Jack’s birthday was just two days later, so after we’d sufficiently recovered, we went off to Outback Steakhouse for a couple rib-eyes and an onion blossom. Donna and I discovered the joys of unlimited shrimp, especially when our wonderful waiter Austin kept them coming and coming (even in a to-go box). And yes, Chocolate Cookie Sundaes most definitely did happen afterward. We opened presents back at our place afterward, which included a grabber for Jack and a personally dictated birthday card from Hannah. (“Happy Birthday to Pop-Pop’s Birthday Happy Day” or something like that.) Other gifts were indescribable in the presence of little ears.

Happy birthday, Vivian! I hope you enjoyed every mosquito bite we earned on our trip.

Happy Birthdays and a Date Day

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We had a couple Happy Birthdays to celebrate over the weekend. My co-worker, Dr. Catherine Keefe, celebrated her birthday at Jitterbugs Night Out (where I knew her long before working with her professionally), so Vivian and I dropped in for a night of dancing and birthday cake. A few of my fellow employees from the Institute dropped by as well, and I got to share with them how I met Vivian and eventually proposed to her in this old dance hall a few years ago. We participated in the birthday jam and the shim sham as usual, and Vivian was even lucky enough to win a door prize — two free passes, so you know we’ll have to come back.

The next day, we celebrated Dennis’ son Matthew’s birthday down at their house with a handful of their mutual friends and little ones. Dennis made up a bunch of birthday cupcakes that we ate together to get sugared up. Hannah shared her sugar high with a few other little ones and got to bang on the piano a bit before we called it a night.

IMG_1965On Tuesday, the Institute was closed in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation, a Catholic holiday I was unaware of. That meant I was able to spend time in the morning with Hannah, Vivian, and Grammy at Mudpies. Hannah has been spending many a Tuesday morning at the Fontenelle Forest taking nature walks, exploring the museum, and making crafts with other little ones. It was the first time I’d been able to participate since she started this program a year ago, so it was fun to tag along with my camera.

Also, don’t ask dad to make you broccoli pancakes unless you mean it.

IMG_1983bVivian and I spent the rest of the afternoon having a “date day” together. We started off with lunch at Big Mama’s Kitchen in North Omaha, which we’d heard about even before it had been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, (or on a Food Network reality show). It’s located in the old cafeteria of the now-closed Nebraska School for the Deaf, which made Vivian and me very confused when we were directed there on Google Maps. The food was fantastic, though, with plenty of soul — I had oven roasted chicken, greens, and sweet potato pudding and even had room for ice cream afterward. Tuesday afternoon made for a fairly quiet lunchtime, and that meant we got to have a quick photo with Big Mama herself before we were done.

After that, I took Vivian to the AMC 17 in Council Bluffs so she could finally see Frozen. We actually had a private screening, as nobody else had bought tickets for the two o’clock matinee.

Happy nights out

So my folks are still living with us as they hunt for a house in the Omaha area. This is apparently a very popular place to live, as most of the houses they like wind up getting sold before they can even make an offer. As such, we get to have free, live-in babysitters for a couple more weeks, leaving Vivian and me free to go out and have some unprecedented fun with our friends.

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On Friday night, we dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for our first trip to Jitterbugs Night Out since last September (for Vivian’s birthday jam). The UNO Big Band was playing once again, and it seemed like the ideal time to stop by and dance to some real swing music (rather than “vintage jazz”). The place was swarming with kids from UNO, many of whom couldn’t dance. As such, we only saw a few familiar faces, one of whom was “Little Debbie,” who had come to visit from Minneapolis and have a birthday jam. It was a fun night back at our usual “haunt,” though, and we even dropped by Alvorado’s in Council Bluffs (now called Juventino’s for who knows what reason) afterward for some bean burritos before calling it a night.

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On Saturday night, we dropped by Kaleb’s Place for one of his legendary game nights. I think we surprised a good deal of people by showing up. Having a two-year old means that hanging out and playing Werewolf, Fluxx, and Liar’s Dice until after midnight isn’t something we can do at the drop of a hat. This time, however, Hannah was asleep at home with grandma and grandpa in the next room, meaning we could stay up playing goofy games nearly until the clocks changed. We also got to see Katya’s little baby girl, who got passed around to several other gamers in attendance.

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On Sunday, we had a spat of lovely warm weather, so we enjoyed it with a picnic lunch of Burger King at the park with grandma and grandpa. Nebraska weather fluctuates so much that we could have snow one day and balmy, summer-like weather the next, so you can enjoy the great outdoors all winter long if you time it right. Hannah spent an hour or two going down slides and playing in the sandbox with a new friend of two before we called it a day.

The next day was even warmer, so she and mom joined me at the park over the lunch hour to have lunch and play on the playground at Stinson Park. The place was packed with kids and parents enjoying the weather, and an enterprising girl was there making balloon swords for tips for everyone on hand. Throw in a few free cupcakes from Jones Bros. and it was quite a lovely afternoon.