Category Archives: Lindy in the Park

Crab Rangoon and Water Balloons

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Summer is marching on, as Hannah attends VBS and both kids are doing weekly swimming lessons. We even squeezed in a trip to the park for the kids to swing and smell the day-lilies in bloom.

Aaron’s also doing weekly tee-ball, and this time around grandma and grandpa stopped by to watch (until we were rained out). Hannah colored some Mega Man characters before going to a friend’s house on Saturday, and then I made some crab rangoon for dinner just for the heck of it.

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On Sunday, we stopped by Aksarben Village to catch the tail-end of the Farmer’s Market and get some balloons for the kids before Lindy in the Park. It wasn’t too ridiculous hot, so we enjoyed some dancing with the kids and our cluster of Jitterbug friends. We also celebrated the birthday of Edith Ann (“Honey”), which included some facepainting for the kids and a massive water-balloon fight afterward. The kids also got to take a whack at a piñata before we called it a day and headed home (with ice cream).

Up next, we’ve got the Memorial Park Concert and some Shakespeare on the Green happening right before the Fourth of July. We’ve definitely hit Peak Summer!

King Lear, Food Trucks, and Prager University

We just got finished with a massively fun (and full) weekend, fueled partly by some gorgeous 70-degree weather that made outdoor activities all the more enjoyable.

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On Thursday morning, I got up bright and early to see radio talk show host and namesake of “Prager University” Dennis Prager at the Hotel RL (right around the corner from where I work). The guys at AM 1420 The Answer were hosting him for his 100 Days of Trump speaking tour, so I and a handful of conservative friends got to have breakfast with hosts Chip Maxwell, Ian Swanson, and Clint Bellows before Prager took the stage.

Prager gave a brief talk touching on the political climate, his rationale for supporting Donald Trump, and also a bit of religion and ethics. Then he took some questions from the audience. I asked for his take on the situation at Evergreen College (where a mob of students held the president hostage and demanded all white faculty leave campus), particularly in light of his upcoming movie with Adam Carolla, “No Safe Spaces.” His take was that college presidents were as much (if not more) to blame for the situation than the students — and that it would end “in a nanosecond” is the students were expelled rather than coddled.

It was a fun event, and I got to see a few familiar faces in the crowd, including “Mason the button boy,” was apparently already well-known to the team at AM 1420.

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Then on Friday, I nabbed a front-row seat to see King Lear with a bunch of our friends at Shakespeare on the Green. I grabbed an iced coffee from my friend Maxine, and then Frank gave Vivian a ride down to our spot once she arrived. Then we broke out our cheese, salmon, and other vittles as the crowd started to gather. Joining us on our blanket were Phil and Jen, Jon, Lisa, Tamra, and Nate and Lexi. Director Vincent Carlson-Brown had a Q&A with some of the crew, so I asked questions about dealing with changing outdoor light during a show and switching sets between a comedy and tragedy.

The wandering minstrels (a few of whom were dressed as Disney princesses for some reason) wandered through the crowd as usual. Then the evening’s emcee, Douglas Vincent Wesselmann (aka Otis Twelve) from KVNO, spoke a few words before the show started. It was an absolutely gorgeous night, particularly for June, and so cool in fact that we needed to put on blankets and hoodies by the second act. The show was terrific, of course, and even though I hadn’t read up at all on King Lear before the show started, I was able to follow the plot reasonably well all the way to the end.

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After a late night in Elmwood Park, I got a few hours of sleep before dragging myself out of bed for an early-morning Senate campaign kick-off with Deb Fischer. There were only a handful of people at Eppley Airfield for the event at seven o’clock, but there were more than a dozen Republican VIPs on hand to endorse Sen. Fischer’s re-election campaign, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Governors Kay Orr and Dave Heineman, Mayors Jean Stothert and Rita Sanders (and Hal Daub), Congressmen Don Bacon and Adrian Smith, and several others whose names I couldn’t recall (but should have).

Our friend Jessica Ritchie was there to record the event for KETV, but there were only a handful of “regular” citizens in attendance (and no protesters). I was able to shake hands and chat with just about everybody. Many of the VIPs had to leave for other events (including Fischer, who had a state-wide tour the same day), but I spent a few minutes chatting with Major Stothert about our current political climate (see “Phil Montag” for more information).

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The weather continued to be gorgeous throughout the day, so toward evening, I decided to take the kids and Grammy down to Plattsmouth for a “Food Truck War.” A couple thousand people seemed to have the same idea (including our old friend Luke), so all of main street was clogged with people standing in line for food from a dozen food trucks that could barely keep up with the demand. I’d hoped to get a lobster roll from one truck that ran out just as we got our chance to order, so I got a couple tacos for us instead (as the kids nibbled some donut holes of some kind).

There were plenty of other trucks we could have sampled from, but nearly every one had lined 40-people deep, and there was only so much standing in line any of us could manage. Hannah and Aaron did great, however, and had loads of fun just running around before we called it a night.

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The beautiful weather continued on through Sunday, so Vivian and I took the kids down to Stinson Park for some farmers’ market fun and some Lindy in the Park. We got a couple breakfast egg rolls for lunch (and balloons for the kids), and then got some quality time dancing with our Jitterbug friends once Billy and Lindsey came by with their kids. Edith Ann (AKA “Honey”) was celebrating a birthday today as well, which included a a birthday jam and a water balloon fight afterward (which Eric seemed to enjoy more than anyone). We danced a little with our kids, but they seemed to enjoy playing with Vivian and some bubbles afterward the most. We wore ourselves out over a couple hours before heading home and getting some ice cream along the way.

Summer is good so far. Next stop: Memorial Park and the Fourth of July!

Two Parks & Two Candidates

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Summer will soon be drawing to a close, and that means it’s time to take in a baseball game while it’s still in season. On “Wiener Wednesday” last week, we took the whole family down to Werner Park to watch the Omaha Stormchasers narrowly defeat the Memphis Redbirds with a home run late in the game. Of course, the game itself took only a passing interest to Hannah, who spent most of her time playing in the Centris playground, going down a slide or two and taking multiple trips on the carousel. Lexi and her kids were coincidentally there for a Royal Rangers event for Jake, so they joined Anne and Brandon as we took a spot on the Berm and had some five-cent hot dogs (and ice cream).

In other news, Aaron turned 14 months and is now walking. Look out, world!

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There were lots of other things happening in the Metro area over the weekend, but I wound up spending Saturday and Sunday cleaning and sealing our deck while we had a brief window of not-raining. On Sunday, the gang at church blessed the college-age kids before going back to school (or Basic Training).

After that, we headed down to Aksarben Village for one more Lindy in the Park. We saw only a few familiar faces and a slew of newcomers there doing Lindy Hop under the pavilion. I coaxed Hannah into a dance or two, but the power of the playground compelled her. Aaron also found himself drawn to the fountains like a siren song.

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Then on Tuesday, more Presidential Candidates came through Council Bluffs for campaign stops. First was Rick Perry, who visited Barley’s restaurant and bar for a meet and greet. The crowd was decidedly smaller than the ones for Rubio, Walker, and Carson, but that only gave the former Texas Governor more time for pictures, autographs, and questions from the locals. (Tom Becka was also nowhere in sight, possibly because Chris Baker was on site to introduce Perry.)

I got to meet another Governor that evening — Bobby Jindal, who was doing a town hall via his Super PAC Believe Again. About 100 people showed up to hear him speak, including several younger people (and several others who’d come to see Rick Perry in the morning). Many of Jindal’s talking points were the same as other candidates, but what impressed me was how friendly and talkative he was with everyone who lined up to shake hands with him afterward. He chatted with the guy in front of me about where he was going to school (since he wore a Michigan University sweatshirt), what he majored in, and the sketchbook he carried with caricatures of different presidential candidates. I managed to win a copy of his book as a prize during the emcee’s opening pop quiz, so I naturally got him to autograph it before my obligatory selfie.

So that’s five Republican candidates I’d met so far. Only twelve more to go, right? Maybe I’ll even squeeze in a few democrats before the primary’s over.

Cinco de Mayo and Lindy in the Park

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Hello, May! It’s nice to see you again. On Saturday morning, we went down to 24th and L Streets to check out the Cinco de Mayo parade, an annual tradition Hannah’s been able to enjoy every year of her life (so far). There was a threat of rain, but it mostly passed by and we barely got a sprinkle. The parade itself was the usual ensemble of politicians from both parties, people dressed in festive costumes (both classy and frightening), native dancers, random businesses promoting themselves, drill teams, and the dancing horses bringing up the rear. This was Aaron’s first Cinco de Mayo, but he seemed mostly content to play with his maraca. We were at the tail end of the parade, which meant Hannah got showered with candy paraders were trying to get rid of as the wrapped up.

The crowd around our end seemed to get larger as larger as paraders came to join the lively throng after finishing their trip down 24th Street. We also saw a familiar face or two in the crowd, and we probably got some pictures of ourselves somewhere on social media with all the cameras pointed this way and that during the parade. We got Hannah a Dora balloon and grabbed a couple burritos from Abelardo’s for lunch before going home.

(We saved some room on Cinco de Mayo itself for some massive nacho fries.)

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That evening, Dennis had a birthday party, so we dropped by to let Hannah and Aaron run amuck with his kids for a few hours as we had burgers and hot dogs with the grown-ups. Brandy was bouncing around as usual, but Hannah wasn’t nearly as terrified as the first time she pounced on her.
We grabbed some food at Fareway on the way home so we would have something to bring to the potluck church the next day, a potluck made a bit more special as Aunt Jessica made her return to Nebraska a bit more permanent by joining us for lunch.

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After church, we had Lindy in the Park up at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village. The Sobczyk family was back again, with their kids looking as cute as ever. Hannah seemed more interested in chalk than dancing, but I get her up on the floor to hop around a couple times. Aaron’s still too little to Lindy Hop, but he didn’t enjoy crawling about and riding on daddy’s shoulders. Mostly, it was nice to hang around with our usual cluster of Jitterbug friends (and my doppelganger), albeit for a few minutes.

Conspicuously absent was Dan Wondra. I’d been wanting to see if we could borrow him and his boom box for a Lindy Bomb down at the Gene Leahy Mall, which has recently been put back together after for lengthy deconstruction, and was always a better place to dance, IMHO.

In other news, we took Hannah to swim at the Y, and Sherry and Rob stopped by to see our adorable kids (and to meet our son for the first time). Our kids also got some screen time.

Getting out, about, and a little damp

Having two little ones in the house has certainly been keeping Vivian and me busy these past two months (mostly Vivian, being the stay-at-home mom). We’ve learned to trade-off on certain duties, allowing each of us to get some time outside of the house, and we have some wonderful babysitters right around the corner as well, of course.

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On Wednesday last week, I hung out with a cluster of other graphic designers at Krug Park in the ultra-hip Benson district. I’ve been dropping by gatherings like these sporadically for many years now, ever since they were called Third Thursdays and hosted by the AIGA. I met the very impressive Donovan Beery back then and his chain of creative cohorts via AIGA, the Be A Design Group blog, and now his 36 Point podcast (events like these are usually dubbed “36 Pints”). It was a much-needed chance to hang out with other designers in the area, something that comes in handy when I’m the lone “go-to” guy for all things designy at the office.
(Photo on left by Ben Lueders of Fruitful Design.)

Thursday, we had “movie sign” at the Twin Creek Theater, which is MST3K short-hand for RiffTrax live. I’ve attended every one of these since they riffed Plan 9 from Outer Space back in 2009, and this year they’ve been doing Kickstarter Campaigns to riff big-budget movies like Godzilla and Anaconda. A bunch of us formed a peanut gallery in the back row (including my dad), and Vivian and I shared a pizza with the last of the coupons we grabbed at the Ralston Independence Day Parade.

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As for the kids, Aaron’s been growing up fast, turning two months old and looking remarkably like Winston Churchill. He also slept through the night for the first time, which called for a French Toast breakfast to celebrate. Then on Friday, we braved the drizzle to watch The Lego Movie at the Soggy Sumtur Amphi(bious)theater. The crowd was notably smaller than usual, but unfortunately not small enough for me to win a year’s membership at Sam’s Club for a #sumturselfie. Lexi and her kids joined us on the blanket, though, as well a few other friends of hers, so Everything is Awesome™.

On Saturday, Vivian had a day to herself and her WAG friends at Platte River State Park. Apparently, they made T-shirts, but for more details, Vivian will have to tell it all in her own blog (which has been collecting dust for a couple years). Hannah got some quality time with Grandma and Grandpa Johnson in the meantime as I mowed the lawn. Then on Sunday, we dropped by Lindy in the Park after church to do a little bit of dancing outdoors (thank you Billy and Lindsey). We also let Hannah run through the fountains a couple times, since the weather was feeling like August once again, and getting a faceful of water was more than appropriate.

Fun at Stinson Park

IMG_0640Lately, it seems like Stinson Park has become the hangout of choice for our family, our circles of friends, and the Omaha community as a whole. It’s just a short walk from where I work, so whenever the weather’s turned nice, I enjoy a stroll down to have lunch with Vivian and Hannah over the noon hour. (Jones Bros. also tends to have free cupcakes on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 pm, which makes it all the more enticing to drop by.) Vivian’s dad Jack dropped by with Hannah last Wednesday after Vivian’s ultrasound and gave our girl some time to enjoy the playground on a gorgeous spring day. The Wohlner’s across the street is closing, unfortunately, but since everything is being sold at a discount (25% and then 35%), it made perfect sense to drop by to pick up some lunch while we were there.

IMG_3365On Saturday evening, we dropped by the park to enjoy some outdoor music provided by Sinners & Saints as part of the park’s concert series. Jenny and her boyfriend Kody, who just recently got engaged, invited us along with a cluster of our friends to enjoy the outdoor music. I grabbed some discounted cheese from Wohlner’s for a snack, and Hannah got to play on the playground at night for a chance, in-between dancing to a set of cover songs from the band.

IMG_3518The next day, we came back to the park yet again for Lindy in the Park. Billy and his family were all decked out in stripes for the afternoon, and Vivian and I got to dance with the handful of other swing dancers who showed up. I also danced a bit with Hannah, but she seemed a bit more interested in running back and forth to the playground than trying to figure out what weird steps daddy seemed to be doing.

Hopefully, the lovely cool weather will last a bit longer as we head into June, since we have more plans to enjoy the great outdoors over the next week or two to come.

Jam sessions

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Well, summer is finally here, though after the last few months of unseasonable coolness, I won’t complain over a few days in August in the 90s. It certainly won’t keep us from having fun outdoors, such as having a family picnic for Hannah’s 21-month birthday! My two ladies stopped by Stinson Park, and we had some sandwiches before letting Hannah run through the fountains by Center street. Hannah also found some kid’s discarded toy car and decided to claim it as her own in-between shooting down the slides. It marked the first of many, many lunchtime visits to the lovely little playground next to where I work.

On Saturday, we had another rendezvous with Dennis and his clan in Papillion. He had an “end of summer” party, even though it feels like it just got started. We had burgers and dogs with some of our mutual friends as the kids terrorized one another in the other room.

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On Sunday, we had one last, hot Lindy in the Park for the 2013 season. It almost didn’t happen, since Billy wasn’t around to set up this time, but Dan Wondra stepped in with his Tailgater, and I’m awfully glad he did. Despite the heat, we got a handful of friends out to dance underneath the pavilion, but the real fun started when a few stray musicians wandered our way. You may have pianos around Omaha, including one in Stinson Park, bearing the words, “Play Me, I’m Yours, which part of a larger street art project. After an hour of dancing to stock swing tunes, local musician Gene Klosner dropped by to improvise some blues and boogie woogie for us on the fly, which was fantastic. About an hour later, a man named Jim Snyder came by to bang out some amazing rockabilly and bluegrass for us for at least an hour after we were going to call it a day. It was the first Lindy in the Park ever with live music, and you couldn’t possibly have planned it. We had a handful of other jitterbugs join in the fun, and at least as many other pedestrians walking by filming the spectacle. I’m so glad we were able to have one last (hot) dance outdoors for the season! Special thanks to Dan Wondra, Jim Snyder, and Gene Klosner for making it so memorable.

Baseball and sushi

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Vivian and I are busier than ever these days, but since it’s summertime, we still have to indulge in a great American past time — baseball! On Saturday, we dropped by Werner Park with a few thousand other people to watch the Stormchasers pound the Round Rock Express in nine short innings. It was actually Hannah’s second trip to the ballpark, but she didn’t seem quite interested in the game. Instead, there was a whole children’s area put on by Centris with a bounce house, a play area, and a merry-go-round, where she got her very first ride. She also got her first taste of cotton candy, a treat she didn’t seem to know what to do with.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I went by Aksarben Village for another episode of Lindy in the Park. We got to see a few familiar faces for a dance or two, but our visit didn’t last very long. Billy wound up closing the pavilion because another band was starting up just down the street at the park’s amphitheater. That was fine by Hannah, though — she found the five spouting fountains on the south side of the park much more interesting. She got soaked splashing around in them, and dad even got into the action, running through the fountains like a goofball just to make his daughter crack up for the camera.

That evening, we went out to a sushi celebration dinner with our mutual friends Phil and Jen. Hannah got to have her very first taste of sushi in the form of a few avocado rolls, which she seemed to like. She also got to taste squid for the very first time. That’s one thing that make me proud of my little girl — she’s not afraid to try new things, mostly because mom and dad have introduced her to just about every kind of food the doctor allows. Yum!

And speaking of “yum,” on Wednesday we had paella at our house to celebrate Donna’s birthday. And chocolate mocha cheesecake. It was sort of a coffee-themed birthday, from the collection of k-cup beverages we gave to the cartoon I doodled up for Donna’s birthday card.

I have some other news in the works, but it’s big enough to warrant its own entry in my blog. More on that later.

Family traditions

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One of the fun, new experiences Vivian and I have had as parents is taking old traditions we’ve shared and experiencing them again as a family with Hannah. One of these has been Lindy in the Park, the last of which was held last Sunday. The weather was sunny and gorgeous somewhere in the 70s, but the concrete dance floor was sadly lacking in participants (though strangely there were two Matt Johnsons available for dancing). Hannah has gotten to meet a couple new Jitterbug friends while coming with us to Stinson Park on Sunday, and it’s always fun to see her interacting with kids her own age. Special thanks go to to Billy for making this event possible again.

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On Saturday, we introduced Hannah to a couple more of our fun traditions, one of which was the Applejack Festival down in Nebraska City. We didn’t visit any orchards for apple-picking, since Hannah wasn’t quite old enough to participate (and handling a stroller on a bouncy hay rack didn’t sound like a lot of fun), but she was able to have pancakes for the first time down at the fire station, courtesy of the Pancake Man. We took a stroll through town and eventually wound up at Arbor Day Farm for some wine-tasting (which Hannah did not participate in). I have to give a friendly shout-out to the good folks there, because after we managed to break a $19 bottle of apple pie brandy while lugging Hannah and her stroller up a set of stairs, they replaced it for free, which was awesome.

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A third and most eventful tradition we introduced Hannah to was the Cowtown Jamborama. Seriously, she earns the Best Baby in the World Award, because after spending a while simply looking adorable for our swing-dancing friends, she went right to sleep just as the dance got started, and she stayed asleep until we were ready to go home. Best baby evar!

Of course, we had a lot of help from several friends/babysitters throughout the night. Vivian even invited her dad to come, who had never actually seen the dance hall where I’d met his daughter some six and a half years ago. Vivian and I danced with each other and with several other friends, old and new, throughout the night courtesy of music from the Shotgun Jazz Band (with lindy hopper extraordinaire Peter Loggins on trombone).

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On Sunday, Hannah got to celebrate her friend Samantha’s first birthday. Samantha was born a few months before Hannah and has been a kind of “sneak preview” of things to come for Vivian and me. We dropped by Nate and Lexi’s house for a lunch of nachos and then got to watch Samantha gorge on her first chocolate cake (getting it all over and looking a bit like Dom Deluise in the process).

That evening, Hannah got to participate in another important moment of family tradition — the Cowtown Corn-Eating Contest. I had the honor of taking first place back in 2007 and then second in 2008 and 2010, and Vivian had been a regular contender for third. Hannah made us proud, of course, though she was no match for three-year olds “Honey” and Mirabel. She still did quite well, as we knew she would after her practice session earlier in the week.

Vivian and I stuck around to watch the grown-ups participate in the corny fun afterward, marking the first time either of us had witnessed the spectacle from the other side of the table. Billy joined his daughter in the winner’s circle, followed by Ben Cass and Andy Meredith for second and third. The most bizarre competitors in the event, however, were the “corn of the dead” girls, who didn’t eat much corn, but did gross everyone out by bleeding on a few ears.

So what’s next on the agenda? Hannah takes a trip to Northern California to meet her great-grandma and other members of her extended family. More on that later.

The monkey and the bear

Vivian and I have been witnesses to quite an adventure this week.

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It all started on Saturday, when we dropped by our mutual friend Kaleb’s house for a game night / birthday party. Kaleb was recently featured in the Omaha World Herald (and by connection, Saturday Night Live) for having close to two-thousand board games crammed into spare rooms in his house. Viv and I enjoy games as much as anybody, but we’ve never dropped by for a night-long game of Werewolf, which apparently happened later. We stayed only long enough for some Catchphrase and round-the-world ping pong before it was Hannah’s bedtime.

The next day we dropped by Lindy in the Park and enjoyed a couple hours of good dancing with some of our fellow Jitterbugs. That’s when we heard the news from Sarah: Eric’s Gearshift Monkey and Omaha Royals Beanie Baby had been kidnapped!

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We couldn’t believe it! Who could have done such a thing? Speculation on Facebook was running rampant, but nobody had seen who had broken into Eric’s car. Eric is known to have left his car doors unlocked in the past, but it’s quite possible someone had gotten inside by prying open the sunroof.

The kidnapper had also left a horrifying ransom note demanding cupcakes by one o’clock on Sunday, a deadline that Eric apparently slept through since he didn’t bother to look at the back of the photo. Fortunately, the kidnappers did not make good on their threat to harm Eric’s plush friends, but they did send another threatening photograph:

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It was a dastardly deed only a Snidely Whiplash could come up with! Eric was cleverly able to deduce that the culprit was somewhere in Bellevue, as the photograph clearly showed Bear and Monkey on the railroad tracks near Gilmore Ave. The back of the photo also revealed that it had been printed at the Walgreens over on Galvin Road.

Eric boldly stated on Facebook that he would not negotiate with the kidnappers, but one final photograph finally broke him:

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Eric gave in and agreed to pay a ransom of homemade walnut and somethingberry ice cream, and the exchange went down Thursday night at 9 pm. Vivian and I dropped by that night to share our condolences with our friend for his harrowing ordeal, but I took it upon myself to find the culprit. After some thorough research and careful deduction, I can now state that we finally know who the kidnapper truly was:

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It was Steve the Drive-Thru Guy at the Galvin Taco Bell! Yes, it was Steve who broke into Eric’s car and stole the plush toys on Saturday night shortly before starting his shift. He also stole the camera out of my car like a ninja and used it to take pictures of Eric’s plush friends as he put them in compromising situations all over Bellevue. Oh, Steve, you evil person! When will you ever learn? Fortunately, I was able to strong-arm the camera back from Steve so I could put all these pictures online for you all to enjoy.

In other news, Hannah turned nine months old and learned how to escape from her crib. She’s literally growing up fast, going from the 10th to 90th percentile in height for her age in just a few months (so says our pediatrician).