Category Archives: Sumtur

Memorial Day Weekend

We’re having a lovely spring, with baby bunnies running through our yard and the lilac, peonies, and hostas all in bloom. We had a couple thunderstorms as well, one of which blew out the side panels in our deck and knocked a tree down across the street. Fortunately, they haven’t done much worse — or interrupted any of our fun, outdoor activities.

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First up was the first outdoor movie of the year at the SumTur Amphitheater (AKA the “Movie Park”). Some middle-school age kids were giving some kind of performance with the “House of Music” through much of the evening, playing some cover songs as the kids got to run around on the grass for a couple of hours.

Then, (well) after the sun went down, we got to watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, an animated film that featured various incarnations of Marvel’s web-slinger. It was a fairly interesting movie, though it was played several decibels too loud for my liking and was far more violent than I expected from the Dove review I’d checked out.

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I got a good deal of exercise over the weekend cleaning gutters and mowing my parents’ lawn. We also had dinner with our friends the Lenarts on Saturday and spent Sunday afternoon swimming at the Kroc Center to cool off.

Then on Memorial Day, we broke out the American flag and walked the kids to my parents’ house to have beef ribs (and cobbler). Jack and Donna joined us, as did as my two brothers. After we ate, Grandma brought out some old photos to show Hannah her grandpa in his army uniform. We’d told the kids the meaning of Memorial Day, which Hannah managed to illustrate in her sketchbook later on.

We enjoyed the outdoors a bit more in the afternoon, playing some ball with the kids and uncles in the backyard and then playing a few other games indoors before calling it a day.

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In other news, the kids will both be attending all-day summer school through the month of June. This was an elective decision on our part to give them both time for intense socialization in a public school environment without making a full-year commitment. As such, we had one last lunchtime rendezvous at “daddy’s park,” giving the kids the chance to swing and splash about in the recently-activated fountains by the spire. I even brought along a chance of clothes so I could join in with them. We won’t be able to do this again until July or so.

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Then on Thursday night, I dropped by St. Luke’s in South Omaha for a town hall with Congressman Don Bacon. He holds these types of events regularly (unlike his predecessor), so I try to take advantage of the opportunity whenever I can. The room was about half Republican and half Democrat, if my gauge of the applause and boos are correct. Everyone had the chance to submit a question, which were pulled at random from a box. My question was what he though he’d be ale to do with the other party controlling the house. “We need to do better at that … It’s a frustrating thing,” he responded.

There weren’t too many fireworks, but I was surrounded by constituents who were grumbling, sighing, and even yelling out their own opinions out of turn throughout the event, so it was a bit difficult for me to bite my tongue and stay silent. Still, it was a good exercise in self-control, and it felt good to know we live in a country where you’re allowed to yell at your congressman without getting thrown in prison.

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.

Summer Wind-Down

Things have been exciting as we’re gearing up for the big solar eclipse here in Nebraska. Of course, there are a few other fun things happening as summer begins to wind down.

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We’re still enjoying the last bits of summer together, which means taking in one more movie at the SumTur (Finding Dory) and getting quality time at the local splash parks. The Fountains at Stinson Park are finally up and running, so I brought along my swim trunks for a run through them with the kids during one particularly warm lunch break.

We also dropped by Seymour Smith park for an afternoon run through the spray ground there after work. Aaron specifically wanted to see the “blue buckets” again after having seen them in action at his birthday party back in June.

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On the Friday before the Eclipse, I took the day off to go to Lincoln with the kids for some quality time at Lost in Fun. I’d brought Hannah and Aaron there a couple times before when doing freelance work at Land and Sky during the day, and Hannah had been asking to return for over a year. We all got to jump on the bouncing pillows together and climb around in the plush ball pit, and Hannah and Aaron both got a couple hours of slides, carts, and bubbles together. Afterward, we had a late lunch at Big Sal’s pizza before heading home, per the norm.

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That evening, Aunt Jessica invited us to spend some time in her apartment complex’s pool while it was still warm. The kids got to try out some goggles and beat each other with pool noodles for an hour or two as we finished off the day.

Then on Saturday, we went to Papillion for a Nebraska-style family photo shoot just in time to lose Hannah’s favorite toy, Zoe the Cat, making for a frustrating launch into Eclipse Weekend.

It’s a cool, cruel Summer

We’re into the home stretch of summer now, which strange since it feels like it only just got started. That means getting quality time in the red wagon and picnics in the front yard among the daisies while they’re still in bloom.

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On Friday night, we made our first trip to the SumTur this season to see Lego Batman. Kate brought along her girls, who ran up and down the steep hill with our kids and danced in front of the stage, much to the amusement of us and Aunt Jessica (who recorded most of it). Coming to this little outdoor theater has been a tradition since Hannah was born, so I’m glad the weather stayed lovely for our visit.

The next day, I toted Aaron to grandma and grandpa’s house so I could mow their lawn while he played with blocks and got quality play time with grandma. Grandpa grilled up some burgers for lunch, and then I headed back to the house to help Vivian clean the garage during Aaron’s nap-time. We finally got the remnants of our garage sale cleared away so we could put the cars back into the garage, which was a relief.

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On Monday, I got meet Congressman Jeff Fortenberry at a town hall meeting. He’s actually been my congressman for over a decade, (I actually helped print his campaign materials when I worked at a little print shop back in 2004), so it was kind of nice to finally meet the guy.

Attendees to the town hall seemed to be mostly older folks, and they were much better-behaved than the rainbow-haired upstarts who came to yell at Deb Fischer back in mid-June. About half the crowd seemed to be left-wing, everyone remained courteous, which was nice. Jessica Ritchie was there to record the event for KMTV, but I unfortunately couldn’t keep my fat head out of her shots.

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Toward the end of this week, the weather took an unexpected turn for the cool side, so we brought the kids to Stinson Park for a lunchtime play break. They got to have burgers and chicken nuggets, while mommy and I had some dim sum from Golden Mountain across the street. The fountains around the spire were also (finally) turned on for the summer, so the kis wasted no time in getting all wet before realizing 72 degrees and windy made getting soaked a bit more chilly than they were expecting. Fortunately, mommy had spare dry hoodies to keep them warm for some slides and hopscotch before going home.

Then that evening: English Muffin pizzas.

Furries, a Cake Show, and Jimmy B

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We’ve had a couple fun and busy weekends since Vivian and I got back from our little overnight anniversary. Last Sunday, Hannah’s little forest cake won the blue ribbon down at the Douglas County Fair (held inexplicably at Crossroads Mall), so the whole family went with Grammy to pick up her award and her gift bag of prizes. We nearly lost her cake on the way home, but fortunately it stuck to our roof long enough for a passing car to warn us that it was there.

Then on Monday, we had an picnic lunch at the park with the kids and got a little wet playing in the fountains. In the meantime, actual grown-ups wandered around looking for Pokemon, in a case where life imitated art, as shown in my web comic. It’s always good to enjoy being outdoors, though — I did that by biking to and from work every day of the week, a lovely commute through the cornfields.

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On Friday night, we made our first visit to the SumTur to see Zootopia with a handful of our friends. It was a remarkably cool July evening for the kids to run around. I was surprised the crowd wasn’t even larger than it was. Among them were a group of actual, legit furries, who showed up in full fur-suit to delight children and horrify adults.

Then on Saturday night, we had a game night down at Jessica’s friend Kate’s place. Hannah and Aaron got to run around and play with some kids closer to their own age as the grown-ups played a few crazy rounds of Telestrations over tacos. The best thing about mutual sets of kids is that they negate the need for a grown-up to keep them occupied.

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On Sunday, I made a last-minute decision to drop by the Sokol Auditorium to witness the final performance of Jimmy B and his orchestra. I’d heard about Jimmy B for ages (mostly from Dan Wondra), but I never got the chance to see his band in person. The Sokol is a lovely old venue that feels like walking back in time, and this year’s Cowtown Jamborama will be happening there as well. I got in a few dances, but there was a serious lack of Jitterbugs in the (mostly gray-haired) crowd, so I was content with taking a handful of pictures before I headed home.

That evening, Jack and Donna came by for dinner with us before going on a road trip to California. They brought Diggy to live at our house for a bit, and Vivian got to show Donna my anniversary present, which I installed myself the other day. The kids also played a few rounds of the Memory Card game, but they kids seemed to get a bigger kick out of playing with the leftover frames after punching out the cards.

Sadly, we missed seeing their show this year, but we did get to see a few of the jets from our house as Aaron napped.

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One last thing. On Monday, Hillary Clinton came to Omaha, and I decided to take one last stab at giving her a copy of Dr. Hilgers’ book, reliving my glory days from the presidential primary. What happened instead was that I stood outside for a couple hours getting burned to a crisp (and dehydrated) only to be escorted into an “overflow room” to watch the event on a giant TV screen. I was particularly disappointed when I saw pictures of the event online later and saw there was plenty of room left in the gymnasium that somehow went unfilled.

I still had fun chatting with a few friendly democrats in line (and caught a glimpse of Ben Nelson) and witnessing protesters from both the right and the left denouncing Hillary from the sidelines. If I were smart, of course, I would have brought a few cases full of ice water and sold them to the thirsty throngs waiting in line. I could have made a fortune. Maybe in four more years.

Weekend with the Kids

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Vivian and I had a relatively quiet weekend with the kids. On Friday night, we took the kids down to the Sumtur for their last free movie of the summer. They were showing Cinderella (the original 1950 film instead of the 2015 live action version), so Hannah naturally had to wear her blue Cinderella dress. They had some crowns for the little ones to wear and decorate, and a girl band played some music that Hannah actually dragged me down to the front row to listen to. She even pulled me up by the hand and said, “Dance!” Who could say no to that?

Lexi dropped by with Sammy dressed in the very same Cinderella dress, which only increased the adorableness exponentially.

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I had the kids by myself for the entire day on Saturday, which involved taking them to grandma and grandpa Johnson’s house so I could mow their lawn, and then spending the afternoon at the park. It was a warm, sunny day, with a few thundershowers rolling in at night that brought gorgeous, fall-like weather back to Omaha.

The next day, Vivian and I took the kids downtown to climb a tree or two and say hello to the statue of Chef Boyardee outside Conagra’s headquarters (Hannah called him “the muffin man” and gave him a hug). The water bucket installation was in full spill mode again, so I showed it to the kids and let them dip their feet in the waterfall display a bit. I walked with Hannah on the riverfront, where she got to “play in art” and watch the ducks come swimming by. Of course, we also stopped by the giant slides, which I got to ride down with both kids in tow. I bought a Groupon just so we could eat at Matsu Sushi for dinner, but they were unexpectedly closed, so we settled for Burger King instead.

All in all, a lovely, quiet weekend, topped off with our usual trip to the park on Monday to swing and have free cupcakes for lunch.

The Birthday Boy

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On Wednesday, I finally dropped by Spielbound — Omaha’s one-and-only Board Game Cafe — for the first time with a cluster of folks from AIGA. Vivian and I are acquaintances of Kaleb and the gang who dreamed up the place, and we were also one of the many Kickstarter backers who got the place up and running last year, so I thought it was time to stop by and check it out.

It was every bit the Hipster Hangout I had been expecting, with local beer from Brickway and Cherry Mead from Moonstruck on tap, and thousands of games to go around. I’m not really a board game person, since it seems every game shown to me takes about an hour to explain and several more to complete. We did find a copy of Pandemic, which I’d played once with Vort and Michelle in Kansas City years ago. It’s a game where all the players play cooperatively against the game mechanics, so explaining the rules as you play is perfectly fine. I also threw in a copy of Monty Python Fluxx, before calling it a night.

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On Thursday, our little boy Aaron turned one year old! We had a bigger event planned for him on Saturday, but we invited the grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to watch Aaron open a few presents and have some cake and ice cream for the very first time. His big present was a large, plastic water table, which finally gave Aaron a place to splash happily about other than the toilet.

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On Friday night, the Sumtur Amphitheater had its first free Friday night movie of the season — Big Hero Six. None of us has seen the movie before, but Vivian and I were able to enjoy it despite wrangling two kids and enduring a brief, passing shower. A handful of our usual friends came by to watch the movie with us in the drizzle. There was also a Pink Floyd cover band (aptly named Floyd) that got up to play a few songs before the show started.

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Saturday was Aaron’s big day, of course. We nabbed a picnic shelter at Washington Park in Olde Town Bellevue and got a couple barbecues going to celebrate our little boy’s first birthday. Both grandmas and grandpas were there, of course, as well as a cluster of Aaron and Hannah’s little friends, a nice cross-section of people who would otherwise never meet. Aaron had fun with a pinwheel from Lisa as the bigger kids climbed on the swings, slides, and seesaw, easily having fun without the aid of electronic toys. Jack manned the grill, and Donna baked a big, beautiful Winnie the Pooh cake, which Aaron’s enjoyed so much that he wound up literally licking the plate clean afterward.

I still can’t believe it’s been a year since we took our little boy home from the hospital, but it was great to celebrate with so many of our good friends. Happy Birthday, Aaron!

Wine, pizza, and babies

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On Wednesday, we had a baby shower for a trio of new little ones at the Institute, which included Baby Aaron. A bunch of my co-workers got to take turns holding him as we all had cake. Our resident ethicist Sister Renee also got to meet both Hannah and Aaron for the first time ever downstairs. (She had a chewy piece of Werther’s candy for Hannah, which she immediately put to use as a mustache.)

Then on Friday, the Johnson Family headed down to the Sumtur for the final family outdoor movie of the season, The Sound of Music. The presentation came between a couple passing storms, but the rain held off long enough for us to watch (and sing along) without any “raindrops on roses.” The only people who got wet were the Sumtur Staff doing the ALS Ice Bucket Meme challenge down in front of the stage, though Hannah also got a damp arm from a temporary tattoo.

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On Saturday, I got to celebrate my birthday a little early, since I happen to share it with my Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol’s anniversary, and this year they’re celebrating their 50th in Cedar Rapids. Jack and Donna got to take the kids for the evening as Vivian and I drove down to Lincoln to have pizza at my favorite pizza “joint,” Big Sal’s. Phil and Jen and Jon Paper drove down to join us, and after getting our fill of pizza, we drove on up to James Arthur Vineyard for a little wine-tasting. I got a sampling of a red wines ranging from Sweet to a Port, and then we explored the grounds a bit as a live band called Tunafish Jones covered a few classic tunes that the middle-aged crowd could dance stagger around to.

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Sunday was roasty and toasty, so we took Hannah down to the splash park on 72nd and Harrison. Mom and dad got a little wet walking her through the sprinkler and splashing gizmos of the water zone, but she spent just as much time wandering about the “all access” playground area swinging and climbing on overhead bars (with a little help from Daddy, of course).

Then Sunday night, we decided to do a quick photo shoot with both our little ones. Aaron seemed to be in an agreeable mood, while Hannah barely sat still long enough for me to trip the shutter once or twice. It made for some fun, quick snapshots of our little kids, and Aaron even got to receive his first noogie from his big sister (and probably not his last).

Next stop: Cedar Rapids!

Getting out, about, and a little damp

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

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

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

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

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

Frozen, Mud Pies, and Loessfest

We’re entering that fun time of year, when school is out, the weather turns nice, and everybody gets to enjoy a three-day weekend with family and friends.

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The Fontenelle Forest Nature Center concluded their Mud Pies program by letting the little ones make actual mud pies on Wednesday. Hannah got to get her feet muddy in a wading pool and make little Hannah Footprints on the patio. She also got to take a paintbrush to make a mud painting and put together an actual mud pie in a pie pan. She even got to have a “mud” ice cream bar as a snack afterward. Hannah loves playing in the dirt, and mud seems to make it even more fun.

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Then on Friday, the Sumtur Amphitheater kicked off another season of free outdoor movies with Frozen. The lovely weather combined with a film with songs everyone seemed to know by heart (whether they liked it or not) made for a record-breaking crowd of a couple thousand people. A couple youth rock bands had been playing on stage since three, leaving the gates wide open for the entire Omaha metro to claim spots on the great lawn before we happened to arrive. It was no problem, though — we squeezed in with our cluster of friends, and there was room left over for Hannah and the little ones to run around and stretch out on the grass. Princess Elsa was on hand for pictures and scared the wits out of Hannah, who was probably afraid of another freak snow from the Queen of Arendelle.

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We also welcomed Donna back to Omaha after spending a couple weeks in California to handle a series of estate/garage sales to handle the belongings of Nonie after her passing. She had been gone over Mother’s Day, so we had a belated celebration at their house in the afternoon. Vivian and Donna went shopping for tomato plants together and let Hannah pick out a couple flowers of her own to take home and water. We had a lovely little lunch outdoors of when they got back (with Jack manning the grill as usual), and then had some of Vivian’s tasty lemon cheesecake for dessert.

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Sunday evening marked the beginning of Loessfest (pronounced “Luss” fest) at River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs, and that meant a night of free live concerts featuring Loverboy, The Guess Who, and Three Dog Night! There was a fairly decent crowd, and Hannah got to share her adorableness as she danced to all the music from the 70s and 80s throughout the night. We’d seen Loverboy perform at Memorial Park a year ago, and I’d listened to their music for years, but The Guess Who and Three Dog Night were a little before my time (though I did know many of their songs). I was also impressed to see original band members Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, Michael Allsup, and Jimmy Greenspoon still playing together with Three Dog Night after all these years. The show was unfortunately cut short thanks to a thunderstorm that managed to hold off until the end of the night, but we did at least get to hear Shambala before the end.

I also got a slew of pictures, as you can imagine, and I contributed a handful to pages on Wikipedia where they were needed.

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Then on Memorial Day, I hung up our American flag out front and spent the day cleaning house with Vivian in preparation for some bike-riders at the end of the day. Jenny and her crew went riding to Silver City on the Wabash Trail, per tradition, and then crashed at our house for burgers, brats, and shish kabobs. The Kam family also came with their two boys, but Hannah was a bit too clingy to play with them very much. We had a good time catching up with our handful of friends and playing some ladder golf outside before calling it a night — the perfect way to wrap up a long, busy weekend.