Category Archives: Parks

Parks and Politics

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Well, we’re getting a taste of summer in the midst of spring, with temps going from 90 to 55 like they just saw a state trooper. As such, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity when the weather’s gorgeous to take the kids out for quality park time, running up the Keystone Trail, swinging on the playground, and getting a semi-serious family selfie like we’re ready to drop an album.

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Then after park time, I dropped by DJ’s Dugout to hang out with some Young Republicans. I’m a bit too old now to be a YR myself, but I was still invited along to hear a few words from Mayor Jean on the state of the city. A few other local Reps were also on hand, such as Congressman Bacon’s communications chief Kyle, to give a few updates.

Mickey Manley (whose party affiliation I’m unsure of) was also there to encourage the youngster to join his Facebook group called “500 Millennials of Omaha,” which seems to be a lively place on social media to say the least.

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On Saturday, we had a fun outing with the kids to Mahoney State Park, which had free admission for the day. We took an obligatory trip to the top of the (perpetually shaking) observation tower to get a good look at the Platte River together and get a few goofy photos). Then we explored the forest near the river down at ground level afterward (and climbed a tree or two), as well as the lodge. We spent more time down at the newly-refurbished playground, trying out the rope bridge, merry-go-round, racing snail, and family swing.

We drove a few miles north to Ashland and had a quiet lunch at Breadeaux Pizza afterward. We walked up and down Silver Street just long enough to look at some meat before stopping by another playground just until some rain clouds came moving in.

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Then that evening, we watched Aquaman and planted a garden the next day. Then on Monday, I dipped into the political waters again to have dinner with the Governor down at the Garden Cafe. Gave a 40-minute talk to a handful of the River City Republicans to talk about on-going relief efforts from the massive flooding we had back in March, which included rebuilding major roadways and bridges. He also talked about taxes, specifically two bills in the legislature that will likely be raising them if they manage to pass.

There was some brief Q&A afterward, and I got to talk a bit with Ricketts about his recently “kicking over the hornets nest” posting support of pro-life bills in Alabama and Georgia. He’d recently been told by some left-wing groups that they were planning to protest him over it, which didn’t seem to phase him in the slightest.

Free speech and the big thaw

We had hoped to have a chili cook-off with Aunt Jessica on Saturday, but a brief bit of freezing rain seemed to keep a lot of people at home.

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One event that was not cancelled, fortunately, was a Free Speech Forum hosted by Dr. Rick Galusha at Bellevue University. There were a handful of topics for various panels to discuss (“fake news,” immigration, the war on drugs, gerrymandering, and the Convention of the States), followed by a larger panel discussion with local politicians on those issues. I sat in with the Fake News group, have a lively exchange back and forth with Tom Becka and several other people. Former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub joined the panel afterward in the larger group, and I found it kind of refreshing that many people with very different opinions could argue and remain civil in a setting like this.

The freezing rain outside made things a bit slippery on the way home, but my rental Challenger made it a fairly easy trip home, where we stayed inside most of the day (catching up on Mario 3, among other things).

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The weather seemed to turn a corner the following week, warming up enough to warrant our first trip to the park of the year. Mommy brought some lunch, and the kids got some quality time on the swings, slide, and jumping in puddles before heading home.

Pig Pig and the Phantom

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Over the weekend, we had a special guest at the Johnson house — a stuffed toy pig named Pig Pig from Hannah’s preschool. Every student at Hannah’s preschool gets a turn bringing Pig Pig home and then telling the class what Pig Pig got to do. On Thursday, Pig Pig went with Hannah and Aaron to their friend August’s house to celebrate his second birthday party.

Then on Saturday, Pig Pig came with us for an afternoon at Mahoney State Park. We got to visit the top of an observation tower, have a picnic lunch, and then have some quality play-time on the playground, where Hannah rode a merry-go-round for the first time. On Sunday, Pig Pig came with us to church and then got to have dinner with us at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house that evening (in-between thunderstorms). It was a fun weekend, and Hannah even got to share the pictures daddy took with her class when she gave her oral report.

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I spent Monday evening at Bible Study Fellowship at First Covenant Church, where I’ve been studying Revelation every week for the past year. We had a barbecue to celebrate the end of the year, and I even brought my dad along to meet some of my bible study friends.

Then On Tuesday night, Vivian and I had a long-expected date night in downtown Omaha. We had dinner together at the Panda House, and then we walked down to the Orpheum to see the Phantom of the Opera, a show I’d wanted to see for years (which Vivian got to see 20 years ago in Quebec with her high school choir). I’d gotten the tickets way back in December, so we’ve been looking forward to this for a while. The show was terrific, as I’d expected, but next time I’ll try to spring for seats on the main floor — the upper levels of the Orpheum were built back in a time when people must have been much, much shorter.

Park Time

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Nebraska winters tend to be gray and cold with intermittent spurts of unseasonable gorgeousness, so when we aren’t having pizza lunches with the grandparents (which we did last week), Vivian and I like to take the kids outside whenever this happens. We hit a February high in the 70s on Saturday, so we took Hannah and Aaron down to the “Brown Park” (AKA Dream Land Park) by Lake Manawa. We had some burgers for lunch and then Hannah and Aaron got to wear themselves out swinging, sliding and exploring the large wooden outdoor playground.

In other news, our fifth member of the family, Flappy the Cockatiel, seems to be under the weather. This is often a dire situation for a little bird, particularly one who’s nearly twenty-five years old like Flappy. He seems to be hanging in there, however, with lots of cuddling for his mommy and daddy. It did prompt us to get our first “full” family photo with him, however.

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On Sunday, Twin Valley Church’s new Pastor gave his first official sermon as pastor at our church after a brief blessing for him and his family by the elders. Then we celebrated his first day downstairs with a potluck. I have to say that I really appreciate Pastor’s Ryan’s hands-on, proactive approach. He pushed for me to upgrade the church website to WordPress, and he was technologically-savvy enough to dive right in and start making edits as soon as I gave him an account.

That evening, our mutual friend Jessica invited us over to her place to play cards as Hannah and Aaron got some quality playtime. Jessica’s roommate brought along her three girls, who kept our kids occupied, as we all played Rummy along with Jon (and Aaron, when he felt like joining in). I have to remind myself how easy it is to get grown-up time when you have other little ones around to keep your own kids occupied.

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The nice weather lasted at least one more day, which allowed us to have our first lunchtime visit to Stinson Park for the year. The kids had lunch, and then they both got to make hams of themselves performing on the large stage singing and dancing for the amusement of mom and me.

The big yellow one’s the sun

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On Friday night, Vivian and I had an impromptu date night as I snagged tickets to see Brian Regan down at the Holland Center. Vivian’s been a fan of his since before I even knew her, so it was a treat to see him live (and with all-new material, of course). Yes, that blurry photo above is actually Brian Regan taking the stage — I actually chose to snap just one blurry photo with my cell phone and actually enjoy the evening with Vivian rather than worry about documenting it. Imagine that!

Before the show, Grammy and Pop-Pop stopped by to dress Hannah up in color colorful springtime attire. Then they made us all pork chops for dinner, letting Hannah help and learn the magic of shake-and-bake. Then on Saturday, Vivian and I had something of an extended date-day together. The West girls from church were spending the day watching Hannah and Aaron so Vivian and I could clean house and then have lunch at the Pizza Shoppe for something of a late lunch.

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In other news, Aaron turned ten months old last week, which we celebrated with some adorable pictures in front of our tulips out front. Springtime seems to be exploding in every directions, with trees at the park and in our yard in full blossom. Hannah got to play with a pile of fallen blossoms on one of our walk-walks, and on another she got to discover the joy of running through a sprinkler. We’ve also been spending extra quality time at the park, giving the kids swing time and cupcakes whenever they’re available. Such are the joys of the season, at least before the scorching heat and humidity of the summer descend upon us.

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Our friend Mark also turned 107 or something, which gave me a great excuse to join him and Phil and Jen at Pana 88 to have Ramen Noodles (not the Instant Noodles you’re thinking of, but something much more edible). It was the perfect place to laugh it up as a perpetual drizzle made the rest of the world cold and gray outside, a precursor to a dumpling party this weekend.

Spring Breaks

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I think spring is here at last, with the last of the slow melting under highs creeping into the upper 70s. That also means it’s time for our first Lenten Fish Fry of the season. Of course, we had to go to St. John Vianney’s, and this time we took the Mills with us. Lexi had never been to a fish fry before, and Nate hadn’t been to one since his days in Michigan, so we braved the crowds to feast on batter-dipped cod, tomato soup, grilled cheese, french fries, et cetera (as in pancakes). This was also the first time Hannah (and Sammy) had been able to actually participate in the fish-eating feeding frenzy as mom and dad got to “bah bah bah” along to Sweet Caroline courtesy of our favorite Lenten guitarist and his (probably tipsy) backup singers. Good times never seemed so good.

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Of course, family trips to the park are now practically mandatory with short-sleeved weather upon us. We got to drop by our favorite neighborhood park with my folks on Saturday for some quality time pushing the kids on the swings and trying to send Hannah flying off the X-Wave teeter-totter. The weekdays were even nicer, with lunchtime weather nice enough for a brisk walk up the Keystone Trail or even our first family picnic on a blanket at Stinson Park.

We got a brief moment of extra excitement when Vivian was interviewed by WOWT Channel 6 for a story on child safety. They ran the story during the ten o’clock news on Saturday, so check it out if you’d like to see a glimpse of us during our typical romp in the park.

Nifty in the Fifties

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It’s the middle of January, but we’re experiencing some extraordinarily gorgeous weather, with daytime highs hovering around 50 degrees. This meant we got to take Hannah and Aaron to the park for the first time this year, taking full advantage of swings, slides, and even a picnic lunch, with cupcakes courtesy of Jones Bros. There may be plenty of snow and sub-zero temperatures before summertime, so we’ll take days like these while we can get them.

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On Saturday, our “old” friend Hugh crossed the half-century mark and turned 50 years old. We hadn’t visited the Kam family since the 2012 Super Bowl, so a visit was long overdue. The party itself was allegedly a surprise, with Hugh running errands throughout the afternoon and returning to find friends, a cake, and about fifty babies crawling all over the place. Yes, we had our usual gang of friends dropping in for birthday wishes as well, but our offspring seemed to take over, with happy babies laughing at balls, impromptu tower-building, and some certain flirtations on the couch that nearly got out of hand. We also got to see the Kam’s latest addition to the family (with her eyes open for the first time).

In my Nothing Box

Autumn always seems to be jam-packed with fun things happening. From Labor Day to Halloween, we’ve got fall fun happening all over the place, and we’re usually busy every single weekend enjoying some of it.

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Naturally, Cowtown Jamborama, the annual swing dancing convention held by the Omaha Jitterbugs, is a part of our series of Fun Fall Things To Do. This go around, however, we just stopped by for a brief lunchtime jam with the kids. That was fun in itself, as this was Aaron’s first time visiting the Eagle’s Lodge where Vivian and I first met over seven years ago. Vivian and I passed him around to a few of our fellow swing dancers before we hit the floor. We also got some time dancing with the kids. Hannah’s become a very good follow (for a two-year old), and I even got to step around with Aaron on the dance floor just a bit. Hopefully he’ll soon be big enough to lead a few girls on his own.

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On Friday night and Saturday morning, Vivian and I attended the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar down at the Bellevue Christian Center. It’s a series of four stand-up-comedy style presentations hosted by Pastor Mark Gungor, who I was introduced to over a year ago via a YouTube video about, among other things, men enjoying time in their “nothing box.” Other sessions involved a personality test that Vivian and I took afterward and a few portions on using beads to get more time with the “smiley face.” Yeah, I’m not going to elaborate on that, but it was a fun and informative event. They even had childcare for Hannah and Aaron, so we didn’t need to round up my parents a babysitter to do the job for us.

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On Sunday after church, we headed on over to Lake Manawa to spend the afternoon with Venche and a few of our mutual friends celebrating her birthday picnic-style. Aaron got to meet a few more people, and Hannah got all sugared up with cake before having fun running around with her new friend Bella. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun playing with dirt or crawling on the ground can be to a two-year old. Ben also brought his boat and took a bunch of us out on the lake to putter around and do a little tubing toward the end of the afternoon.

That evening, Vivian and I got to have a spur-of-the-moment date night down at the Old Spaghetti Works. My folks watched the kids (and put them to bed) while we had chicken parmesan and went down a couple slides in the Old Market. Gorgeous fall weather has descended upon Omaha again, which can only mean more times walking outside and enjoying it before the snow comes. I think the Farmers’ Market is calling our names.

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.

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).