Category Archives: Kites

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

It seems like we’re always busiest when we’re having fun, and even though I’ve been plenty busy at work lately, it doesn’t compare to our non-stop activity all throughout the weekend.

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On Friday morning, Aaron had an end-of-year “spring concert” with his little friends at Spring Lake. They sang a handful of songs for us, complete with the motions (and egg shakers) you’d expect with any children’s song. They also had displays for every class showing some of their activities throughout the year, including visits from Grammy and the raptor handlers from Fontenelle Forest. Mommy, Hannah, and Grammy came along as well, and I came just long enough to snap some pictures before heading back to work.

Then that evening Vivian and I finally watched Avengers: Endgame over a big old bowl of popcorn. We are now spoiler-proof!

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Then on Saturday morning, I took Hannah down to 24th and G to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha. We hadn’t been there for a couple years, and we discovered there are now barricades all along the parade route. The parade itself had the standard Mexicans dancers, costumers, horses, and Hydraulic Bouncing Lowriders. There were also numerous Halloween-themed participants, which was even more bizarre than the guy in a kilt. There were a few politicians as well, and I gave Mayor Stothert props for picking up a stray plastic bag that skittered its way across 24th street. Hannah was able to fill a big with so much candy she had trouble carrying with us back to the car.

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I returned home with enough time to catch my breath before heading right back across the river to see Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A couple hundred people (and some vendors) showed up to Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear him prattle off platitudes like an old-timey preacher, but what impressed me most was his Q&A, where his first question was from a guy wearing a Gadsden Flag as a cape (and a “Make Taxation Theft Again” hat). That took either guts or complete ignorance. He also answered a question in both English and Spanish, reminding me of how I liked Marco Rubio being able to bring a message home to Spanish-speaking Americans.

Beto stuck around for photos with everyone afterward, but I didn’t get the chance to shake his hand or way hello — I had to stay on schedule!

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I returned home for a quick bite to eat and then headed right back out again for a free night at the Zoo! It had been a while since we’d all gone as a family. so it felt good to be back among such familiar sights as the giant globe and gorilla statues. Many of the animals seemed to be sleeping, though the bats in the jungle area were wide awake (and pooping on everyone). The aquarium was still open as well, making for as lovely as walk-through as always. We got to see a handful of monkeys, birds, and otters hanging around, and we also went through the butterfly pavilion before wrapping things up. Hannah finished our visit by chasing a peacock around before we headed on out.

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Then on Sunday, we went back to the La Vista Sports Complex to fly a kite with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jonny after church. This has been a family tradition for a couple years now, and we almost missed it thanks to a line of thunderstorms that were nice enough to pass us by. Dad let me assemble the kite and get it airborne this year. The wind was strong enough to make it fairly easy, and we even got to tie Tinkerbell to the center strut to spend some time in the sky. It was just about as perfect an afternoon as you could ask for, and the kids even got to have ice cream before we headed home (courtesy of Uncle Jonny).

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I got some food from Aldi for Cinco de Mayo and then headed home to give the lawn a quick mow before it started raining (for the entire week). We were lucky to have lovely weather almost all weekend long, giving us a chance to enjoy our briefly-blooming tulips and lilac, even Zoey the Cat got to spend some time outside.

Vivian made up some tacos for the kids, which Aaron helped her to make. Then once the kids were in bed, we had some tasty tilapia ceviche together, devouring two pounds of fish between the two of us while watching the Three Amigos together, a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (and didn’t find as funny as I’d hoped).

It was a busy, busy weekend, but now I have a week back at work to rest up before the next round of fun!

Blast Hardcheese

There seemed to be no segue between winter and summer here in Nebraska, but we are getting plenty of blossoms, including our lilacs, which seem to have made their week-long appearance in our backyard.

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It’s also campaign season again, and three Republicans are vying for Deb Fischer’s Senate seat in the GOP Primary: Todd Watson, Jack Heidel, and Dennis Macek. I got to hear all three in a debate last Wednesday, and they have a fairly diverse we range of views. Heidel seems to be a moderate who thinks a single-payer “Medicaid for All” is “inevitable.” Macek is a practicing Buddhist who is running primarily to help stop climate change. Watson seems to be a fiscal conservative in step with Todd Massie and Rand Paul, concerned with the debt and upset that Fischer isn’t holding the line on spending.

It was a very small group of spectators who showed up, though I did get a glimpse of Tom Becka before he took off. I have a feeling Fischer’s seat is going to be safe on election day May 15, but I did tell Watson I appreciate him pushing back on such things as the budget deficit. Republicans definitely need that.

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Then came Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, but I wound up mowing my parents’ lawn and playing Nintendo with Hannah instead.

Then afterward we went to Krypton Comics to see Reb Brown for Free Comic Book Day. He was Captain America in the 70s and played roles in a variety of B-movies, but I’ll always remember him as David Ryder, AKA Slab Bulkhead, Fridge Largemeat, Punt Speedchunk, among a couple dozen others in the MST3K riffed 80s film Space Mutiny. Richard came along to get an autograph, and we chatted with Brown about his experience with Space Mutiny. He seemed bewildered about all the nicknames they came up for him, and he commented on the notorious slow go-carts featured in the movie (and the bored face he made riding on them between takes). He also said the movie was filmed in an old asbestos factory, which he only learned about when he saw other crew members wearing face masks.

Among the other guests were members of the 501st Legion outside, and I was able to coax Hannah into a picture with them before he headed off for ice cream afterward. Then we headed home, and I made up some ceviche for dinner as Aaron helped mommy squeeze some limes.

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On Sunday, we headed down to La Vista for the One Sky, One World Kite Festival. It was a beautiful, windy day, and we were able to set our Dollar Tree kite aloft with minimal effort (after figuring where to put the string). Hannah and Aaron took turns holding the spool, and then my parents and Uncle Jonny came by during the candy drop to fly their own rainbow kite. We wanted to get Hannah’s Toy Spike airborne on our little kite, but he was unfortunately too heavy. Mostly, we just watched the kites fly as we hid under umbrellas and repeatedly applied sunscreen to avoid being burned.

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Then on Monday, we celebrated August’s birthday over at Nate and Lexi’s house. Nate grilled some hot dogs for dinner, and then we had some of the Jungle Cake that Donna brought over, which featured frosting representations of multiple animals, including the Mills own cat (who we met afterward). We let the kids bounce off their sugar rush on the trampoline out back before heading home.

Next up: Lauritzen Gardens and Mother’s Day! I just hope we don’t have to turn on the air conditioning yet.

Tulip Time

Hello, Tulip Time! The Johnson Family (and Grammy) hit the road on Friday and traveled to Pella, Iowa to take in some Dutch culture this weekend.

It was the kids’ first major road trip since 2014, so we stopped by Adair to stretch our legs and have lunch at the park halfway through (and see Smiley). We also swung by the Gateway Market (where Vivian and I ate lunch back in 2011 on our anniversary trip) to get some cheese from Petaluma — Mt. Tam and Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery.

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We crashed briefly at the hotel and went on into Pella, where we hiked for a few blocks on their tulip-lined streets to see a Night Parade when the sun went down. We took the kids on a walk through Public Square Park once we’d claimed our spot. We saw several people decked out in full Dutch costume (with wooden shoes of course) carrying water buckets and pushing brooms. A local high school was putting on a show resembling Clue: the Musical at the giant grandstand at the south end of the park, so we watched a few minutes of that before walking up and down Franklin Street to see the windmill and the Klokkenspel.

The night parade started at 8:30 under a waxing moon, starting with the town crier and featuring several lovely floats lit up fort he evening. There were floats for past, present, and future Tulip Queens, a carousel of ladies, a tea party, a riverboat, and lots of windmills, of course. It was a great small-town parade, and it was clear with every float they took a great deal of pride in their work.

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We returned to Pella the next day after facing a gigantic line for the shuttle bus that was so long several people gave up and decided to walk the 1.5 miles into town instead of wait for an hour in the sun (as we did). We walked along the Molengracht Canal and spent some time inside the Historical Village, visiting Wyatt Earp’s house, looking at a water wheel, and watching people make wooden shoes. The Jaarsma Bakery also had a bakery inside the village, where we were able to get our Dutch Letters and Pigs in a Blanket (baked fresh by Connie Jaarsma) without waiting an hour in a line (as people do at their storefront a few blocks away).

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Around three, we got to have our tour of the windmill, which included a floor with a giant model village of Dutch buildings we got to look over before riding up to the very top. The afternoon parade was going on at the moment, so we had a lovely birds-eye view above the town before heading back down to ground level.

The kids got to spend some quality time in the children’s area in a corn bin bounce house, and other activities while I picked up some Pella Baloney from the In’t Veld deli before we started making our way home. We made one last stop in Des Moines and got some Zombie Burger before taking the long trip back home.

I think what impressed me most about our brief visit to Pella was the vast diversity of people from various cultures who came to see this tiny town celebrating unique Dutch culture (this included several people actually from the Netherlands, of course).

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And because our weekend wasn’t busy enough, we decided to take Hannah and Aaron to a Kite Fly at the La Vista Sports Complex with grandma and grandpa after church. The weather was sunny and gorgeous, so we got to take both Zoe the Cat and Cowbaby on a ride into the sky. Hannah and Aaron also got to run around looking at giant kites of cats and fish before grandpa eventually reeled them back in to head home.


Bonus video: Tulip time in Pella

Bonus video: Kite flying with Grandpa

Foosball, dumplings, and kites

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On Friday, we were hoping to take advantage of some lovely springtime weather and have a picnic with our friends, the Mills. Unfortunately, it seemed rain was in our forecast, so we just invited them over to grill out on our deck instead. It seemed to work out fine, as the burgers tasted just as good eaten inside, and we even brought in a fragrant sprig of lilac inside to liven things up a bit. Later on, we took the kids downstairs to play a bit of Foosball — a first-time experience for Hannah — and then we finished the evening up with some tasty watermelon cake.

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On Saturday night, we celebrated our friend Jen’s birthday, and as usual that meant eating massive amounts of food. A handful of us were put to work folding pot-stickers (after Jen showed us how), and we also wrapped up a bit doughy dumplings, all of which were steamed to deliciousness before being eaten. Also available for the eating were some tea eggs, turnip cakes, and a couple pizzas stolen from Fong’s PizzaGeneral Tso Chicken and Crab Rangoon. There was even red bean ice cream that Vivian and I had to share in an adorable way.

An assortment of food-related shows on Netflix played in the background as Jen opened up presents, which included a Firefly-themed version of Clue and a birthday card or two. A few tiny bunnies also made an appearance to cuten things up (though we all know they will eventually be eaten). It was nice to catch up with a handful of our mutual friends, including Jessica, who somehow made it back to Nebraska and even came to church with us the next day.

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We got some extra time with the grandparents on Sunday, as we took Hannah and Aaron out to fly a kite with Grandpa and Grandma Johnson. Hannah had a tiny kite of her own to play with, though it didn’t stay up for very long. Grandpa got his trusty rainbow kite aloft with Cow Baby along for the ride once again. Hannah actually amazed us by remembering putting Cow Baby on a kite whole year ago. (Aaron mostly crawled around looking cute, wearing in his hoodie or his three-piece suit.)

The next day, mommy took the kids to grandma and grandpa’s house to check out a nest of baby robins. Mama Bird is apparently making a nest of the electric box again just like she did a year ago. Spring is definitely here at last.

Kites and Parades

There are so many things I love about springtime, from trees all in blossom to the beautiful weather that comes between the winter frost and the summer furnace. Of course, the weather in Nebraska is anything but predictable, but it’s been just perfect for a week or two and that calls for plenty of fun outdoors (particularly at the park).

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On Saturday morning, Vivian and I went up to South Omaha to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade. This was Hannah’s third time seeing the parade, and this year we decided to check out the view from the south end of the route around 24th and L Street. It was a totally different experience, with people crammed elbow-to-elbow along the city streets, making it a bit difficult for us to find a place to watch. The parking lot of the Subway around the corner turned out to be just fine, however. We got to see the usual cluster of local businesses, politicians, drill teams, horses, and dancers dressed in festive garb. What made watching the parade from the finish line special, however, was that the band and dancers holding up the rear stayed around for some extended music and dancing for anyone who cared to stick around and watch, which was particularly fun.
We made the obligatory run to Jacobo’s afterward for frozen tamales and other south-of-the-border foods for Monday night and then grabbed Alvorado’s on the way home.

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On Sunday, we decided to go and fly a kite down at the La Vista soccer complex with several dozen other avid kite flyers. My dad was an avid kite-flyer a few years ago, but North Carolina is fairly stingy with wind and he hadn’t done any real flying since around 2003. He definitely seemed happy to get our little rainbow kite airborne once again. Hannah also had fun running around in the giant empty green spaces, checking out some giant flying fish and grabbing for candy in a candy drop with a bunch of other kids. We also decided to send her little Cow Baby airborne just for the fun of it. Dad got it all tied up securely, Hannah gave it a kiss for luck before sending it airborne at the end of the day. There’s nothing quite like flying a kite to make an afternoon seem worthwhile (definitely more fun than doing yard work, but don’t tell that to Hannah).