Category Archives: Politics

A Sock Monkey, Scott Presler, and a Steak Fry

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On Wednesday, Hannah and I dropped by the Mills’ house to have some beef lo mein and celebrate Sammy’s 9th birthday. Hannah and Samantha have been little friends since they were babies, so this was an annual reminder of how fast they’re growing up. We also had plans to celebrate Sammy’s birthday on Saturday, but we still got to have some cake with her and give her a few presents on her birthday itself.

After we left, Hannah discovered that she’d left her toy sock monkey behind — a toy she’d had since she was a baby. The next day, Lexi brought the monkey back with a few surprises — including a photo album showing all the fun things the sock monkey got to do during its “sleepover” at Sammy’s house, which included making friendship bracelets with Sammy’s own sock monkey. That was adorable.

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On Friday, things got political for me again (and not just because of the passing of a “notorious” Supreme Court justice). Scott Presler, Trump advocate and Twitter “influencer” came to town (known for his long locks and Tucker Carlson impressions), courtesy of the Republican Liberty Caucus, and we got to have a meet-up and “pep rally” with him at the Lucky Bucket Brewery. We had a handful of local politicians in the crowd, including the La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, legislature candidates Jorge Sotolongo and Rita Sanders, and former State Senator Mike Friend.

Scott himself took the mic before long and gave a brief stump speech on how he came to be a Trump supporters — much of it coming at the top of his lungs. The crowd was very friendly, though I also noticed some on the populist right embrace some of the same “in your face” coarse language that I’ve also seen on the populist left. Scott stuck around for over an hour afterward meeting and greeting guests and getting pictures with just about everyone in attendance (including me, of course). It was the kind of rally I like, where folks can just talk about issues over a beer (or chicken tikka tacos) like normal people.

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On Saturday (after setting up a new mesh WiFi router at home), we celebrated Sammy’s birthday down at Swanson Park around the corner from our house. It was a cute, girly paint party, with an adorable painting cake from Donna to go with it. Each girl got to paint their own pictures on canvas, and some of Sammy’s presents included an art teacher Barbie with a painting easel.

I had been under the impression that Aaron and the boys would need to be distracted during the painting time, so my dad and Uncle Jonny came by to try to fly a kite in the meantime. Aaron had more fun just running around with his friends, however. In any case, the trees surrounding the park proved be a formidable wind-breaker that kept any meaningful gusts from getting our kite aloft, so it’s just as well.

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Then on Sunday, we had a big, fun afternoon down in Nebraska City for Gov. Ricketts’ fourth annual Steak Fry. It was the perfect day for lunch outdoors in the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, and they had a handful of activities for the kids including bubbles and play-doh (which kept them busy as daddy went off to snap some photos). Ricketts’ special guest this year was South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who’s become a bit of a rockstar during Covid, mostly for not locking down her entire state and doing fine anyway (even hosting Sturgis — the biggest festival of its kind in the nation at this point). There were a few familiar faces in the crowd, including Congressman Don Bacon, the Foleys, and the Sanders. There was also one additional speaker — former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, who served between Sessions and Barr (and got “the biggest applause a Hawkeye’s ever gotten” in Nebraska, according to Ricketts).

A live band played some music after the speakers were done, and while Noem took off right away, Ricketts stayed for an hour longer meeting and greeting just about everybody who came by. Our friends the Mills came by to join us for lunch, and our friends the Halliburtons were there as well, nabbing a photo and an autograph from Noem before she left (of course). It was a beautiful afternoon, so we walked down to the playground for a bit to let the kids play, and we foudn an interesting memorial for J. Sterling Morton next door. It had a pair of statues, one of the Greek goddess Daphne and one of Morton himself, along with a “whispering bench,” designed acoustically so a person talking on one end could be heard in the other.

It was a fun, busy weekend, but not we’ve got to gear up for another one — as somebody will be turning one year older soon (along with her dad).

A Birthday, Balloons, and a Pair of Trumps

It’s been another fun and busy week, with some outdoor fun and a taste of cool fall weather — all sandwiched between visits from two members of the Trump family.

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First up was Lara Trump, wife of Eric and daughter-in-law of the POTUS. She paid a visit to the Omaha campaign office for the Trump campaign, where about 150 people packed the tiny room off 125th and Center in the Westwood Plaza. She was introduced by former Bellevue mayor and legislature candidate Rita Sanders as well as Gov. Ricketts.

Mask usage was also in full force, with pretty much everyone who wasn’t holding a microphone properly covered with a face-diaper. When Lara arrived, she gave a half-hour stump speech for her father-in-law before getting a group photo with those of us in the room. There wasn’t any meet-and-greet time afterward, but one portly guy in a straw boater seemed to be able to nab a selfie with Mrs. Trump on her way out.

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Vivian was on a women’s retreat most of the weekend, so I got to have some quality daddy time with the kids myself. Our first stop on Saturday was to celebrate our friend Lily’s 10th birthday down in Washington Park in Bellevue. It’s been cold, cloudy, and raining for the past several days, so things were especially lovely on Saturday once the sun came out. Lexi joined us with her kids and they all had fun getting sugared up and running around a while, playing on the playground, see-saw, slide, and the bench swing while the grown-ups chatted (about washing machines and routers, mostly).

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After the party, I headed down to Ditmars Orchard in Iowa for their annual Fields of Flight. It was supposedly a socially-distanced event, though you couldn’t tell by the size (and density) of the crowd. The kids still had a great time, playing with dozens of others on an ever-growing playground area (this year featuring a colorful maze). I pulled them over to the field when I saw the balloons blowing up and starting to fly away so they could get a good look. Then a little later, I got some apple cider donuts to coax them back when it was time for the balloons to return and glow.

Uncle Nathan came by to join us for some of the festivities as the fun went down, and the cover band Clean and Easy played a variety of songs for everyone to dance to. Aaron in particular seems to enjoy live music and took to the grass in front of the stage to show us his moves for a bit before we had one last swing or two and headed home.

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Then on Monday afternoon, Donald Trump Jr. held a rally for his dad across the river in Treynor, Iowa. It was a relatively small venue (particularly with the socially-distanced chairs)  that filled up quickly when I arrived. The room was filled with MAGA faithful both young and old, including Apprentice alumna Tana Goetz and a WW2 veteran who sat (and stood) up front. Local candidates Jon Jacobsen (state legislature) and David Young (House) made a few remarks before the son-of-a-POTUS dropped in around 2:30. Don Jr. gave a lively speech hitting on everything from the Netflix “Cuties” film to Russian collusion to the current civil unrest. “You’ll get into more trouble opening business to feed your family than you will by burning down someone else’s,” he said. He also had several jokes at Biden’s expense, doing a impression of the Democrat candidate at a teleprompter while hitting him on his fairly meager half-century record of public policy. “You can’t campaign on problems if you solve them.”

Don Jr. spent a few minutes after his speech working the rope line, signing autographs, and getting a few photos on his way out the door. Among them was by buddy Mason, whose dad brought previously-taken photos with Don Jr. for him to autograph. Others brought copies of Don Jr’s book, “Triggered” for him to sign, making me wish I’d picked up a copy myself. (I did get a quick fist-bump as he passed by.)


Fields of flight at Ditmars Orchard, 2020

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

Backing the Blue

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It’s been another fun, busy week making our way through the dog days of summer. On Tuesday, I rode my bike to work again, and I met up with Mr. Nate at New Golden Mountain to have dim sum in thanks for helping us with our siding project. Then after work, I stopped by the All Play Sprayground, where Vivian brought the kids to cool off at the end of the day before heading home to turn leftover brisket into BBQ sandwiches.

Then on Friday, Aaron had a bit of a cold, so I took Hannah down to the SumTur for a Daddy/Daughter date night. We’ve been going to the SumTur for their outdoor movie nights every year since Hannah was born, and I’m glad it’s one tradition that wasn’t cancelled due to Covid 19. We did have to use red dots on the lawn to keep our distance from other patrons, but the weather was lovely and we even got to share some popcorn and Skittles when the sun went down. The movie of the evening was Toy Story 4, but it was upstaged halfway through by a giant frog that decided to hop in front of us and steal the show.

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On Saturday morning, my dad and I went down to Memorial Park for a “Back the Blue” rally, a patriotic counter-protest to the guys who were smashing windows and spraying graffiti downtown a few weeks earlier. Around two thousand people were in attendance (including some elected officials) carrying American flags (of varying stripes) and arriving on motorcycle or even a decorated station wagon. The festivities included speakers from the Omaha Police Department (and former Omaha North principal Gene Haynes) and a few singers, such as the Sarpy Serenders and local musician Steve Spurgeon, who sang in all his star-spangled attire (and guitar).

Former Mayor Hal Daub played emcee, introducing the speakers and musical guests. The event was apolitical, though a few people brought Trump flags and a handful of protestors also made their way through the crowd. There were no ugly confrontations or outbursts, however. I was amused when one protestor tried to get people riled up by screaming, “black lives matter” only to be shouted down with “all lives matter” by the crowd. I also managed to bump into KFAB’s Chris Baker, who was live-streaming the event, which you can watch in its entirety here. I enjoyed hearing from all the speakers, though Sgt. Connor absolutely brought down the house at the very end of the event, giving a passionate, fiery speech (which you can watch here) lambasting the media for its role in making all cops look like villains.

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Things were quiet for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday, we set up a new wading pool on the driveway for the kids to splash in. We were lucky enough to nab one for for $25 at Aldi while they were in stock — similar models were being scalped online for $100. I even joined the kids as they splashed about a bit, finding the ice cold water from our garden hose massively refreshing.

Then after dinner, we went down to Dairy Twist to have some ice cream for dessert, taking a short detour on our way home through the St. Columban Mission, where we saw a handful of deer out to graze in their sanctuary.

Father’s Day

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We had a very nice week running up to Father’s Day this weekend. On Tuesday, I had some breakfast with my folks down at Village Inn to celebrate our massive plumbing project finally wrapping up (with a new working toilet). I was hoping to go to the 11 Worth Cafe instead, but some racial agitators shut it down because they didn’t like the name of a breakfast menu item, which was disappointing to say the least.

The next day, Donna brought over an early birthday present for me — a new, functioning grill for the deck! I was very happy with it, but now I’ll have to make some time to do some grilling while the weather’s nice enough for it (and to buy a grill cover).

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On Saturday, we got a bit of a cold front that pushed temperatures down to the 70s from the 90s, so we decided to enjoy the afternoon down at Memorial Park. We had a McDonald’s picnic for lunch and then walked a bit through the rose garden, which was now in full bloom. The kids skipped down the hill and then found some mulberries on the way back up. Then we finished the afternoon over at the recently-reopened playground, where the kids played for a while before making a project of dumping sand onto the twisty slide for no particular reason.

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Then that evening I joined some of the Young Republicans at the DCRP headquarters to watch Trump’s rally down in Tulsa. Having been on the floor of such an event before, the President seemed very much the reality show entertainer and comedian / plain-talking (and occasionally foul-mouthed) POTUS we’ve come to expect. I personally think Trump’s improvised comedy and self-depreciation are some of his biggest assets, and despite the crowd’s apparent lackluster size (which some are blaming on either Covid 19 or disruptions outside), it was fun to watch.

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Then on Father’s Day, I woke up to a lovely (and giant) breakfast burrito courtesy of Vivian, which some nice little cards handmade by the Hannah and Aaron (and Elmo/Luke). After our online church service, I headed over to mom and dad’s house, where I had a handful of soon-to-be “collectors items” I’d accumulated over the week, starring Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and the Cream of Wheat chef. My dad went through a trunk full of old family photos in the basement with us, and then we got some Taco John’s for lunch (namely six pack and a pound times three). We watched some of my dad’s old reel-to-reel films after that and got some milkshakes from Culver’s mid-afternoon before digging into another family photo album from our time in Grand Rapids before heading home.

Then that evening, Vivian had a few more gifts for me at home and a dinner of sushi from the Jade Palace to finish off the day.

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The day after Father’s Day, we took the family down to Jack and Donna’s house to celebrate Father’s Day with Vivian’s dad. Vivian and her mom made up a dinner of steak with scalloped potatoes, vegetables, and their usual hors d’oeuvres. — all of which we ate under their porch in the midst of a brief rain shower.

In the meantime, the kids got the chance to play in Grammy’s yard for the first time this year. They also got to see some of Grammy’s decorative rocks and blooming flowers before we had our dessert together. Jack also got to open a few presents, including some of Vivian’s parmesan chicken wings, before we called it a night.

A rocket, a riot, peonies, and geese

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We had some gorgeous weather over the past week that made for some extra time outside with the kids ahead of the oppressive heat of summer coming right around the corner. On Friday afternoon, we dropped by Memorial Park again in time to see the peonies blooming (as they are at our house). Hannah had her camera out and was snapping just as many pictures as I was as we walked about (and climbed a tree). Then that evening, I stopped by Johnny’s Cafe and picked up a pair of “TV Dinners” they were selling. I’d wanted to to find a way support my favorite Omaha restaurant ever since everything shut down for the pandemic months ago, and a couple meals of chopped steak with mushroom gravy seemed like a nice idea (which we ate while watching Brain Donors).

Then on a lovely, rainy Saturday, we tuned our Raspberry Pi over to the SpaceX shuttle launch, watching the lift off more or less live along with the rest of the world. We brought the kids out to watch along with us in hopes that they would remember the historic moment.

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On Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost by attending a drive-in church service at Bellevue Christian Center once again. We were getting a bit tired of having church live-streamed at home every week, and it felt good to get out of the house for an in-person worship service, even if it was in our car. Pastor Andy’s message was focused on some of the civil unrest going on around the country, even here in Omaha, and he brought up Pastor Hooker for a joint prayer for peace at the end.

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Afterward, I headed downtown to see some of the aftermath of the rioting that happened on Saturday night. I was somewhat surprised to find downtown was fairly crowded with hundreds of people there to do volunteer clean-up work. There were folks spraying and scrubbing graffiti off buildings and sidewalks, and lots more cleaning up broken glass from broken windows and boarding up windows. One guy by the courthouse was handing out bottles of water to volunteers, and saw men wearing an NRA hat and a BLM T-shirt both helping in the cleanup.

I eventually found myself in the Old Market, where I bumped into Don Bacon and his brigade, who were cleaning up at the corner of the Hollywood Candy shop. Strangely enough, volunteers for Kara Eastman, who’s running against Bacon, showed up to scrub the opposite corner (though Kara herself was nowhere to be found). By some coincidence, our friends the Mills drove by a few minutes later, just looking to help wherever they could. The owner of the Hollywood Candy shop came out with fudge to thank everyone for their help shortly before we were cleared out, as another “protest” was allegedly gearing up. I saw a glimpse of some left-wing nut-jobs raising their fists a few blocks away near the Hive Bar down the street, where the owner apparently shot and killed a protester in self-defense.

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On Monday, the playgrounds at Omaha’s city parks were supposed to be open again to the public, so we stopped on by Hanscom Park with the kids for some noontime fun. We’d visited the park twice before during the Pandemic but couldn’t wander far beyond the “twisty tree” to the playground by the lake, where the kids had some fun playing after having some burgers for lunch. We also took a nice walk along the little pond and fountain, getting close to a few geese hanging about. Hannah and Aaron both found goose feathers left behind, and we even kicked off our shoes to dip our feet in the water together. It was a lovely day for a park visit altogether, particularly before the oppressive summer heat starts ramping up.

Bacon, Elmwood, and Cinnamon Rolls

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Tuesday was Nebraska’s primary election day, so I got a little taste of “normalcy” by hanging out a bit with the Bacon Brigade down at 120th and L. They were waving some signs to get out the vote for the Congressman (along with Ian Swanson for Sasse), and I naturally wanted to drop by for a few photos as well. Congressman Bacon was wearing his own patriotic mask, but most everyone went mask-free as they waved and called to cars coming from all four directions — many of which responded with happy beeps.

It was the first political event I’d been a part of since the Iowa primaries, so it was nice to feel one thing a bit more “normal” after all these weeks of shutdown. I also told Don I hoped we’d been able to see him in a parade again soon.

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We had some lovely weather on Friday, which was enough to justify a long lunchtime trip down to Elmwood Park. We had a nice, long walk along the wooded path and the grotto area, checking out the local wildlife and getting some much-needed fresh air before kicking off the weekend. We got some ice cream sandwiches for the trip home and then had some Italian beef sandwiches for dinner.

Vivian and I were up bright and early the next morning to check out a “smiley face moon,” i.e. an alignment of a waning crescent moon with Jupiter and Saturn to form a “smiley face.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be completely fake news, but that didn’t stop me from snapping a photo anyway just to document getting up at 4:30 am for no reason. We had some more excitement that evening as the tornado sirens went off to alert us of a pending light rain shower. It didn’t interrupt the Johnny Mazetti we had for dinner, and I snapped a photo of the storm that barely penetrated the OmaDome (and a newly blooming iris) for lack of anything better to do.

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Then on Sunday, Vivian made up some hot cinnamon rolls, which we ate during our weekly Living Room worship service with Wildewood’s Facebook live-stream. Hopefully, next week we’ll be attending an almost-in-person drive-in service at the church, though we’ll still have to bring along our own communion elements.

Later that afternoon, I introduced Aaron to Tron, a game he immediately picked up on and became surprisingly good at playing. Maybe soon enough we’ll show him the film on Disney+ (or at least the light bike scene).

Lent, Thomas More, and Kevin McCarthy

We kicked of Lent last week with a fun and busy cross-section of activities that included politics, a fish fry, and plenty of time outside enjoying some spring-like weather.

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On (Fat) Tuesday night, I got dressed up to attend the Thomas More Society dinner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center, courtesy of the Saint Paul VI Institute, which bought a whole table for me and my co-workers. I knew almost nothing about the Thomas More Society beforehand, and I got hear from founder Tom Brejcha talk about their legal work defending pro-lifers — particularly their right to protest.

The keynote speaker for the evening was David Bereit, founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign. He actually had a surprising connection to the Saint Paul VI Institute — his wife was actually treated for infertility by Dr. Hilgers many years ago and had two grown children now thanks to him. That was certainly surprising news to everyone at our table.

It was a lovely evening, and I even got to take home a tiny Mardis Gras mask for Hannah’s doll in honor of Fat Tuesday.

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Ash Wednesday kicked off that Lenten season, and that means it’s time for fish fries! Our friends the Simpsons invited us along with them to St. Charles Borromeo for their annual fish fry. It was the first time our kids have had the “full line experience,” but they got to run outside a bit and then played a keep-away game with mommy as we shuffled our way through the line waiting to dish up.

The fish itself was probably the best of all the fish fries I’ve attended — fried fresh, crispy and golden — and even Hannah wound up stuffing herself with a filet or two. (Gabriel helped himself to his mom’s mac and cheese.)

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Vivian and I had a night out planned on Saturday, so we made a point of getting the kids outside to enjoy some of the lovely 60-degree weather. We had a picnic lunch in the shelter together and then burned off the PB&J on slides, the teeter-totter, and rolling aimlessly down the hill. Hannah also brought along her doll “Suki” to chase Aaron around the playground in-between rounds of play-fighting.

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Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I dressed up and headed off to the Elephant Remembers dinner downtown. It’s the second time we’d been invited to this annual gala fundraiser, which meant we got to rub elbows with some of the typical Republican friends I bump into at town halls or parades (looking at you, Stephen). Scott Voorhees played emcee, and introduced a chain of speakers, such as Mayor Jean, Mike Foley, Ben Sasse, and Don Bacon. The keynote speaker was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who gave an stump speech about entering politics as a young man and his optimism about Republicans taking back the house in November. McCarthy received a few gifts before he left the stage — a bottle of whiskey from local distiller Soldier Valley, and an plaque naming him Admiral of the Nebraska Navy (an apparently annual joke I have yet to understand).

The honorees of the evening were Lee and Robyn Terry, and there was a nice table of Terry campaign memorabilia set up in the lobby for everyone to see as they came in. Bacon’s wing-man James Wright introduced Lee and Robyn, who both said a few words before being awarded a Nebraska baking pan by DCRP chair Theresa Thibodeau. There was one more award to Young Republican Spencer Head and a few words from Bacon’s second-in-command Kyle Clark to wrap things up. Naturally, plenty of folks stuck around to meet-and-greet a few of the speakers (and get photos), and I got to briefly shake McCarthy’s hand and told him I looked forward to him being the next Speaker. I also wound up taking a group photo of the Terry Team on my way out the door — always happy to lend a hand with my lens whenever possible.

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We had a nice and quiet Sunday, unexpectedly bumping into our friends the Lenarts at church over donuts. Then that evening we took the kids by First Presbyterian to play outside (and let Hannah try out her scooter) in the gorgeous weather before enjoying another one of their movie nights. This time it was 101 Dalmatians, a Disney classic I’d actually never seen, which we watched while eating Hot Dogs, sloppy joes, and Scooby Snacks of all things. They had some fun crafts afterward that included Dalmatian head bands, and Hannah made her own Dalmatian out of Play-Doh before we called it a night.

The Week before Caucus Night

The Iowa Caucuses are finally being held today, so it might be worth a quick look back at a busy, busy week in Presidential politics if you happened to be living within a stone’s throw of Council Bluffs, where we had a candidate visiting pretty much every day of the week (some of whom I missed, such as Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday and Joe Biden on Wednesday).

IMG_7164First up was Andrew Yang, who held a rally with around 300 at Abe Lincoln High School on Monday. Our friend Nate had wanted to visit either Yang (or Tulsi — the two sanest Democrats running, IMHO) before the primaries started, so he came along with me to hear what he had to say.Yang was introduced by a few local Democrats and then his wife Evelyn before taking the stage in front of a very friendly crowd, which happened to include Alex Wagner from Showtime’s The Circus. As before, the focus of Yang’s stump speech was on helping workers displaced via AI technology through his “freedom divided,” and I found his keen focus on the economy to be what set him apart from his more socialist-leaning competitors. He took a few questions afterward, including one from a woman whose sister died of an opioid overdose (who Yang also called up front so he could give her a hug). He stuck around afterward for a quick series selfies with everyone who came (including me, of course), and I had the chance to thank him for appearing on the Ben Shapiro show — and that both sides need to listen to one another.

IMG_20200130_143955074Then on Wednesday, the Vice President himself paid Council Bluffs a visit on his way to a rally with President Trump in Des Moines. Nate’s son Jake had expressed interest in meeting President Trump, which I told him was a tall order. A meeting with the Vice President, however, was far more doable. The event was held at the Thunderbowl’s Gathering Room, which was a fairly small venue, so we showed up around two and a half hours early to help ensure we got good seats (in the second row)! The Fox News Channel was among the media there to cover the VP’s visit, along with a handful of local media and even Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who came with the motorcade. There was an opening invocation and a recitation of the pledge of allegiance before Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds took the stage to introduce the Vice President.

IMG_20200130_144052666I’d seen (and shaken the hand of) Mr. Pence three times before, but this was the first time I’d been allowed to bring my good camera with me, so I happily snapped photos as the VP gave a brief stump speech highlighting Veterans’ issues and the economy. The real excitement happened in the moments afterward, of course, when Jake and I were quickly able to make our way to the front to meet the Veep himself. Jake was easily able to get a handshake and a selfie with Pence. I brought along a copy of A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a book written and illustrated and Pence’s daughter and wife, respectively, which Pence seemed very happy to autograph for me when I asked.

Among the familiar faces in the crowd were the Halliburtons — David, Mason (the Button Boy), and Haley — who had met the Veep multiples times before but this time brought previously-snapped photos of themselves for him to autograph. We stayed just long enough to watch the motorcade make its way out of town before heading home.

IMG_7449The last Presidential candidate to visit Council Bluffs before the Caucus was Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who held a rally in Ballroom-B the Mid-America Center. Since I’d gotten to see the first candidate visit more than a year ago, I thought it was nice to be able to see the last one as well.

He gave a stump emphasizing the need to bring Democrats, Republicans, and moderates together while also stumping unapologetically for abortion and criticizing Christians for being too selfish to sign onto his social welfare programs. I only stayed long enough to snap some pictures and rub elbows with a few other familiar faces before watching the 2020 Caucus draw to a close.

IMG_7593Then on Saturday, I was up bright and early to attend a nine o’clock town hall with Don Bacon. He’s held more than a dozen of these since taking office in 2017, and as always it drew people from both sides of the political aisle. The left-leaning members of the audience asked questions about climate change and the impeachment, the latter of which seemed a sore spot as the Senate had just voted to draw their proceedings to a close. The event was moderated by KFAB’s Scott Voorhees, who kept things moving along even as some members wanted to ask more than their share of questions — some of which got heated as one guy spontaneously started screaming out of turn. Even though things got heated, the Congressman stayed cool. When accused of voting to end Obamacare with no replacement, he pointed out that he had, in fact, voted for the AHCA, and when one audience member accused Trump of soliciting a bribe, Bacon pointed out that bribery should have been included in the articles of impeachment in that case — and it wasn’t.

I mostly enjoyed the back-and-forth, and at the end of the event, Congressman Bacon said, “Agree or disagree… we’re all Americans.” I’m glad we live in a country where the folks in power — whether a candidate, a Congressman, or the Vice President — are so easily within reach of a nobody like me living in Nebraska. I just hope the Iowa Democrats didn’t screw up their Caucus so badly this year that they’ll pick another state to go first in 2024.

Happy New Decade

Hello, 2020 — a New Year, a New Year, and a new season of writing on the wrong year on everything. Seriously, it’s going to take a while for 2020 to sound more like a real-life year and not a TV show.

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Somehow, we ended the year in the same way we started it — with a visit from Senator and Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren. I’m honestly surprised she’s still in the race, considering the gaffe claiming Native American ancestry. She’s one of the farther-left candidates on the Democratic ticket, which is a shift from her earlier days when she supported such things as school choice. She’s still one of the front-runners, however, so I joined a couple hundred people at Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear her talk about teachers’ unions, climate change, and other Democrat issues. (Strangely enough, she didn’t once mention Donald Trump or the impeachment, which was something of a surprise.)

Her husband Bruce Mann was also in the crowd, which seemed a mix of older folks, families, and young people. Sen. Warren also seemed to make a point of making time for “selfies” after her Q&A session, which at least half the crowd of around 300 stuck around for. It was interesting to see how many people were getting selfies before the event started. Unlike most folks in the crowd, however, I wanted to get a question on video rather than a selfie. Her staff didn’t seem sure hat to make of that (and seemed a bit suspicious of me), and they insisted on holding my phone for me when I got up to meet Sen. Warren. Was going to ask if she’d appear on the show of her former student, Ben Shapiro, but I decided to ask a softball supplied by my daughter Hannah and asked about Warren’s kids instead. You can see a video of that here.

It’s always a bit of a thrill to meet the Presidential candidates I hear about on my daily podcasts, even if I’m not planning on voting for them. In about a month, they’ll all be gone!

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Then on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the only way we know how — with lots and lots of food! We made some homemade corn dogs with a corn dog maker unearthed from our basement, along with some frozen fruit smoothies using a smoothie maker Hannah got for her birthday. My folks (and Uncle Jonny) came by a little later and got to meet Harold the Guinea Pig. They brought along a fondue set and some sirloin steak to cook in boiling canola oil, which was quite tasty. We also sampled some unique cheeses I’d gotten from Aldi, which included an “ash” brie and Borgonzola.

After my folks left, Hannah played Trouble with Mommy and Grammy while waiting for midnight. Jack and Donna joined in and stayed later for a cheese fondue that Vivian cooked up for us. Hannah stayed up late as well, having fun dipping things in the cheese fondue and serving them to us rather than eating them. We had the TV tuned to the ball drop in New York City and then toasted the New Year when they replayed it for the Central Time Zone, ringing in a new year and a new decade.

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We slept in on New Year’s Day and then had a mostly quiet day cleaning up and then playing at the park with the kids. It was warm enough for them to have an hour or two to run around the Sandy Park before Jack and Donna came over to our house for dinner. Jack brought a black-eyed pea soup made with leftover Christmas ham (specifically the bone), which we had with a table full of hors d’oeuvres (hooray for meat roll-ups).

Now that the holidays are officially over, we’re going to have to start taking down our decorations and thinking about all the things we can expect in 2020 — fun and otherwise. Happy New Year, everybody!