Category Archives: Louisville Lake

Labor Day Ribs

We had a lovely Labor Day weekend together, watching temperatures climb to near 100 and then drop to the 50s with a clash of thunder once the weekend was over. We made the most of the time, however, particularly having fun outdoors for one last taste of summer.

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On Friday night, Bellevue Christian Center hosted a movie night. Vivian and Aaron had missed out on our one outing to the SumTur back in July. Hannah and Aaron got some much-needed time running around on the playground before the movie started. We had been told the film would be “Homeward,” which is a knock-off of Pixar’s “Onward” produced by the infamous low-budget film company, The Asylum. Fortunately, it turned out to be “Homeward Bound,” an undoubtedly much better film, albeit one we’d seen a couple times before.

Vivian seemed happy either way to have seen at least one outdoor film this season, particularly with Covid cancelling pretty much everything fun between March and summer.

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On Saturday, we had a big smoke-out/cookout at my parents’ house with a big batch of beef short ribs I’d bought from Just Good Meat. I’d never smoked ribs before, so my walked me through the process as we prepped his smoker, lit the coals, and then seasoned up the meat (with some spice from Volcanic Peppers) for a five-hour smoke job on the patio. I was amazed at how much the ribs shrank, going from square blocks to giant bone-in-meat chunks reminiscent of the Flintstones. We cut them up and served them around six, and I found just one of these meat hunks was enough for a meal it itself (in fact, I sliced some for a barbecue sandwich the next day). I’m just glad everyone was able to have a bite.

We had some fun playing with Uncle Jonny’s Nintendo Switch before we left, specifically letting the kids put together a few levels in Super Mario Maker 2, a game that wound probably keep Aaron occupied for years (if we ever got around to buying a switch). Uncle Jonny was hesitant to let him play, as he predictably wanted to keep playing well after the sun went down (and the next day as well).

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Sunday was predicted to be around 100 degrees, so after church (and a little house cleaning), we decided to take the kids off to a water park. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts of research online, we found every single public pool and water park on this side of the state had been closed, some of them for the whole year. So instead, we went down to Louisville Lake for a second dip in the water instead. There was a predictably giant crowd there already for the Labor Day weekend, but we had a good time getting wet in the cold water and letting the kids have one last float on their floaties before fall.

We also had a bit of a surprise when we went to get ice cream afterward and ran into Vala’s Pig Wrangler. When he isn’t calling hogs at Vala’s, Mark Celesky runs the concession stand at Louisville Lake. We got to tell him we were looking forward to seeing him next month, and he gave our kids a pig nose before we left, which was very nice.

IMG_20200907_174728809Labor Day itself was quiet and lovely, with temperatures dipping down to the 70s. I helped my dad put away his smoker and took a nice walk with the kids to and from his house, and later on I mowed the lawn in the cool and cloudy afternoon and didn’t even break a sweat.

We’ve also been taking care of Harold’s mommy while the Mills have been in South Dakota, so we let her and Harold have a nice graze in the lawn before the cold and rain came upon us for the rest of the week.

I hope you all had a lovely three-day weekend as we unofficially kick off another fun fall season!

Summer Winds Down

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Now that our long, road trip vacation is over, we’ve had about a week to settle down before school starts up again. We took advantage by taking the kids for one last change to run around at Stinson Park with a few random kids (who had fun despite the oppressive heat and humidity). We also discovered our tomatoes were ripened in our backyard garden, so we immediately turned them into bruschetta.

Our friends the Lenarts invited us over their house for dinner in the meantime as well, giving us the chance to vent a bit about the craziness of an upcoming Kindergarten year for Aaron, specifically because much of it will be spent on an iPad. Our other nearby districts are doing at least a few in-person days of education every week, but OPS has decided the best learning environment for a Kindergartner is via Zoom meetings on a tablet.

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Then on Sunday, we took a trip down to Louisville Lake for one more chance to get wet before school starts. It was a lovely day for the whole family swim about and cool down, and I found the entire lake seemed shallower than last year, letting the kids stand up nearly all the way to the buoys flanking the “deep end.”

The kids got to use their floaties again as well, and after swimming, we drove by Louisville for some ice cream at the “Dari Creme.” We ate our cones out on the back patio where Vivian seemed certain there once existed some tables. Then we saw some thunderclouds slowly rolling in before heading for home.

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The day before school started, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy came by to visit. I walked Aaron over to say hello, and Vivian brought Hannah by after an orientation with our home school group. We talked a bit about our roads trip and the upcoming academic year, and Aaron got to practice his hand-holding exercises with Uncle Jonny before we left.

Then Aaron started school on Tuesday, posing for his annual picture before experiencing an entire day on an iPad. I’m having a very hard time imagining anyone expecting a group of Kindergartners to sit for four hours straight using an iPad, but that’s apparently happening. I got to sit in on a bit of Aaron’s class, which consisted mostly of the teacher telling all the kids to sit down and stop playing with things and keeping Aaron from hitting the mute button long enough to say “poopy pants.” I have a feeling homeschooling may be in our son’s future before long.

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And because politics is still a thing (Did you know it’s an election year?), the Trump Victory Office in Omaha had its grand opening. I stopped by along with about a hundred other people to hear from Gov. Ricketts, State Rep. Lou Ann Linehan, and Omaha City Council Member Rich Pahls. We also had two special guests from Women for TrumpPam Bondi and Mercedes Schlapp. They were in town along with Karen Pence doing some event with Don Bacon, but they stopped by long enough to say hello and encourage the crowd to get out and vote.

The Iowa Caucuses seem so long ago that I’d nearly forgotten what a proper rally like this felt like, but it was fun being back in the midst of it all again. I even got to see my old photographer friend Nati Harnik, who was there snapping photos before heading out.


Afternoon at Louisville Lake

11 years

Welcome to Hell’s Front Porch, also known as Nebraska in late July! We just finished up a beautiful weekend that ended with a cold front finally moving in to relieve us from near triple-digit temperatures, but we still found ways to have fun in the heat!

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On Thursday night, we took the kids down to B&B Grill and Arcade for one last evening of hot dogs and games before they closed forever. It’s a unique place where you can get a foot-long with mac & cheese or fried pickles — drawing on the chalkboard tables while you wait. We got our fill of greasy appetizers as well and then played a handful of games, including skee-ball, a racing game, whack-a-frog, and a touch screen ticket swiping game — the last of which earned enough tickets for a few teeny tiny prizes. I also got a commemorative glass before we headed out.

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The next day, Vivian and I spent a hot, steamy afternoon at Fun Plex. They’d put in a few set of “Rockin’ Rapidswater slides that we had yet to try out, which proved to me relatively calm compared to the near abusiveTyphoon Falls” (the left side of which I can never get down without being flipped over completely). We spent a little more time in the wave pool, particularly trying to get an underwater selfie with our new waterproof camera, and we also spent time on a few rides — bumper boats, bumper cars, and go-carts — having fun like kids again.

We spent most of our time in the water, though. Not having the kids meant we could even imbibe in a piña colada at the adults-only bar — which is the only way to spend time outside when it’s nearly 100 degrees

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Once we’d had enough of Fun Plex, we headed on up to Dave & Buster’s for some food and games. We arrived in time for Happy Hour with some drinks and appetizers, and then I got a plate of steak and pasta, which included some lobster sauce — commemorating our honeymoon in Maine once again. After that, we made use of a Living Social deal for unlimited games, getting our fill or racing games and even some old-school Ms. Pac Man (always my favorite) before the evening was done.

Of course, no anniversary would be complete without one of my annual Anniversary Comics, celebrating in ink all the fun we’d had over the past year. I gave this year’s to Vivian once we got home — now we just have to find a place to hang it up.

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It was still steamy and hot on Saturday, so we took the kids down to spend the afternoon at Louisville Lake. The water was mostly lukewarm, but it felt good to cool off and play with some of our water squirters for the afternoon. We even got ice cream sandwiches for a snack halfway through.

It was nice to get some time in at the lake before a line of thunderstorms rolled through, pushing temperatures down to the 70s. We’ll probably make our way back there at least one more time this season — hopefully before the snow starts.

Garden Tomatoes and Louisville Lake

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Vivian’s mom is spending a few weeks in California, so we’ve been keeping tabs on her dad while she’s away — mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and eating all of his ribs out on the back porch on Tuesday (AKA avocado day).

My Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy have also been making their way across the country, stopping by to visit briefly on Wednesday last week. Both Nathan and Jonathan were there to visit as we brought the kids band then attempted to play some Word with Friends.

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The Dog Days of Summer have been relatively cool, making for nice weather to have a Derp Burger with fresh tomatoes picked from our garden (and drink from the garden hose). I’ve also been riding my bike to work fairly regularly, which makes for a nice bit of exercise in the countryside (when it’s not raining).

On Friday night, we made one more stop at the SumTur to watch Early Man with Mark and Jon. It was a fairly cute Nick Park film, and it was nice to get one more outdoor film in before the end of the season. The next day, I saw the new Dinesh D’Souza movie, Death of a Nation, with my folks, and then we went to Arby’s with Jonathan afterward. That latter movie wasn’t nearly as much fun to watch.

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Sunday was nice and warm, so we took the kids down to Louisville Lake for a long-overdue family swim. Hannah and Aaron seemed much more enthusiastic about getting into the water this time around, though more with the pool noodles and not so much our alligator (which was literally deflating). There was also a giant, inflatable obstacle course next door, but it seemed a bit intimidating for the kids (and rather expensive to play on), so Hannah and Aaron got in some quality tree-climbing instead.

Then that evening: bruschetta with tomatoes and basil from our garden and fresh pressed garlic. Oh, boy.

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Then on Monday we took the kids down to B&B Classic Dogs, a hot dog restaurant and arcade that we’d wanted to visit for a while. On this particular day, a handful of the Faith Christian Clowns were on hand to made balloon animals for the kids and do some face-painting (or arm-painting, in Aaron’s case) in-between eating hot dogs and playing ski-ball. It felt quite a bit like a miniature Chuck-E-Cheese and took me back to my childhood for a bit. Of course after having a bacon-wrapped foot-long and some deep-fried appetizers, I’m going to need to ride my bike to work for another week to pay for it.

In other news: Johnny Marzetti with Pop-Pop tonight. Yum.

Camping in Louisville

Labor Day Weekend brought us some reasonably nice weather to finish off the summer, and the Johnson Family got to spend it camping just a few miles down the road in Louisville with our friends, the Mills. We arrived right around sunset (a gorgeous red one, in fact) on Friday night to set up our tent before it got completely dark. The whole campground was booked for the weekend, but our part of the park was still relatively empty. We got to see (and hear) some Spooky Owls after the sun went down, and then Vivian grilled up some burgers and some potato casserole before we started getting set for bed.

(For anyone planning to camp overnight in Louisville, be prepared for an endless series of trains to keep you company with their whistles all…night…long…)

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The next morning, the kids had some fun playing in our tents as Lexi scrambled some eggs for breakfast along with bacon from the Mills’ own pig. I took Hannah and Sammy on a nature walk, observing bugs, spider webs, and floating leaves along the trail, as well as a clearing with fallen logs that Hannah dubbed her “playground.”

In the meantime, Nate took the rest of the kids down to the actual playground in the park for some quality time on the swings and slide. There was a pretty lake there was well, and our kids got to run around a little too close to the shore to observe a stray fishing pole that had been left there. We got to see a bit more wildlife back at the campsite, specifically a furry caterpillar that got to climb on Hannah and Sammy, as well as a cicada that somehow claimed Jake as a friend.

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Before lunchtime, Lexi got a hammock as a birthday present and got to try it out (along with the kids, of course). Then we took a trip down the street to Platte River State Park to climb their lookout tower. It took about five stories and gave us a clear view of the Platte River. We could see several people tubing down the river and riding noisily up both directions on fan boats. Hannah and Sammy were both terrified of the high tower but both bravely made it all the way to the top (as did Aaron).

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It was still a relatively warm day (in the upper 80s), so we headed down to the Lake for a couple hours to cool off in the afternoon. The littler kids spent most of their time playing in the sand along the shoreline, while Jake and Sammy continually tried to drown one another farther out in to the lake. This was also Baby Gabriel’s first time in a lake, so he got to get his feet wet along with his folks. Jake found a sandy toad before we headed back to the campsite, adding to the list of wildlife our kids have been able to touch and hold over the weekend.

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Saturday was Lexi’s birthday, so Vivian brought a chocolate cake for the kids to discreetly decorate (at someone else’s vacant campsite) for their mom before presenting it to her back at the campsite. The Mills put together a dinner of bruschetta chicken, cherry chocolate cobbler, and corn on the cob, and I took the kids on another nature walk, where they found a seemingly endless supply of snails (and mushrooms) to take back to the campsite with them. I’d never seen this many snails in Nebraska before. Maybe next time we can bring some butter and make escargot.
The sun set and then the moon came out among some spooky clouds, so I told the kids a goofy ghost story around the campfire before putting them to bed. Then the grown-ups to to spend a little more time roasting some s’mores around the fire with some giant marshmallows I’d brought along from Aldi.

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The next morning, Vivian made some breakfast casserole and pancakes for everyone (along with some s’mores for the kids) before it was time to start tearing down the campsite. I got all six kids out of the way by taking them on a long, extended walk through the forest for an hour or two (including Gabe). I got a couple cute group pictures of course, and we walked together a mile or two along the trail, getting a good look at the view of the river before heading back to camp.
It was an exhausting trip, and it felt good to return home and have a shower and sleep in our actual beds that evening, but we still had a lot of fun. Donna was also nice enough to come by the house and bring us some KFC for dinner before we got back.

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Of course, there was still Labor Day as well. Wildfires off in Montana turned our sky yellow and smoky for most of the day (with an eerie pink sun peeking its way through). Vivian took Aaron to the store to get him a new backpack for his first day of preschool on Tuesday, but we otherwise spent our entire day relaxing.

Then we dropped by my parents’ house for a Labor Day cookout with all four grandparents. My dad smoked ribs along with some burgers and hot dogs (and one lone chicken breast), and Jack and I brought some beans and potato salad respectively to complete the meal, and Donna brought some banana split cobbler for dessert.

In all, it was a lovely three-day weekend, and a nice way to kick off another busy season of fall fun, which is just now getting started!

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Happy Trails!

Cakes, a lake, and a housewarming

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Hot enough for you? Yes, it’s July in Nebraska, which means steamy summer days and trying to find ways to stay cool other than boarding up inside the house with air conditioning. This is why we have sprinklers in the front yard, which Hannah and Aaron made use of on Thursday.

On Saturday, we took a trip down to Louisville to cool off in the lake. We brought along an inflatable alligator and killer whale for the kids to float around on, and then we stayed just long enough to have some lunch (and a little sunburn) before heading home.

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Then that evening we dropped by Phil and Jen’s new house for a little Housewarming Party. Naturally, they had a bunch of unique food, including some bacon toffee and other things made in their giant, industrial strength stove. They also made some coffee in a strange glass vacuum brewer, which looked like an odd science experiment or drug paraphernalia. The coffee it made was good, though.

The usual batch of our friends were there, and Hannah got to have some quality time going crazy with Kate’s girls before we called it a night.

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Then on Sunday, I took Hannah and Aaron to the River City Confectioners’ Association Annual Sugar Arts and Cake Show. Hannah and Aaron had each made some prize-winning cakes and stuck around to collect their blue ribbons (along with prize lambs and some cookies).

There were several other unique entries, including a Cinderella Cake, a Fast Food cake, a cactus, some literary characters, and a detailed living room set that was made entirely out of sugar (even the glass ship-in-a-bottle). Vivian even made a cake topper, which she brought home on Friday night.

It was back to work after that, which included short-circuiting the Civic. Fortunately, I just needed a new battery and a fuse replaced after that mess.

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.)

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!