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Memorial Saturday

It feels like the pandemic is winding down in a major way, partly because toilet paper now seems to be plentiful in places like Costco (though yeast is still hard to find). As such, as did a little breaking from quarantine this weekend to celebrate Memorial Day.

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We took the kids off to a good, long romp around Memorial Park once again, which seemed appropriate. There were a few new statues in place at the World War 2 memorial, one of which seemed seemed to be watching Hannah. The kids had the chance to walk (and roll) down the hill while smelling a few of the nearly-blooming flowers on display. The sun was beating down hard enough for us to seek shelter in the shade of a few ancient trees before making our way back to up climb one (and get re-hydrated).

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Then that evening we went and visited my parents for the first time in several months. My dad smoked up some ribs for a Memorial Day dinner (on Saturday), which we ate with my brothers and some potato salad I’d brought (and grilled mushrooms). We didn’t stay long, but the kids did get the chance to play a bit in the yard flinging rockets and swinging a few toy golf clubs before we headed home.

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Memorial Day itself was fairly low-key as everyone expected rain and cancelled such things as our drive-in church service only to have clouds and gray drizzle wander through. Vivian made some banana bread for breakfast, and we had a bit of a scare watching a plume of acrid smoke over our neighbor’s house only to discover it was from a barbecue.

In other news, Harold the Guinea Pig’s mommy is staying with us for a few days while the Mills are at camp. He seemed genuinely happy to see her — chittering excitedly as she nipped angrily at him when we re-introduced the two. Zoey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem sure what to think — another delicious little rodent in the house that she’s not allowed to eat. Sorry, Zoey.

April Snow & Fireworks

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People talk a lot about the weather in Nebraska, often because we have bizarre weeks were it’s winter one day and springtime the next. That’s what happened on Thursday last week, when a blizzard rolled into town and delivered us a winter wonderland over the course of an afternoon. It melted right off the roads but coated everything else with a snowy frosting, much to the bewilderment of the robins and squirrels that had been expecting spring.

Our pair of tulips fortunately made it through the snow, and Vivian took he kids outside to play in the snow and make a snowman and have a snowball fight before the white stuff was almost entirely vaporized by the end of the day.

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The rest of our weekend weather was absolutely gorgeous — 60 degrees and sunny. It was nice enough for a “walk” with the folks from the Autism Society of Nebraska, (who had a “virtual Fun Fest” today in lieu of a real one), and Hannah also got to do some art reproducing one of our tulips.

Then that evening, we headed down to Werner Park for a drive-in fireworks show hosted by the Omaha Storm Chasers. It was a community event that seemed to be held just to lift up some spirits in the midst of a pandemic. It seemed the whole metro area came to join us, lining the streets and parking in empty fields adjacent to the park. We got the perfect view of the show from our spot on the west side. Hannah got an eyeful standing atop our CR-V while Aaron hunkered down in the trunk (with the window open). The show started around 8:45 and lasted all of ten minutes, but there was something magical and fun about seeing fireworks in the open air with thousands of others sitting a top their cars and in the beds of pickup trucks.

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Things stayed fairly low-key on Sunday. We tuned in to Wildewood’s service on Facebook live (a weekly tradition in many pandemic-bound households, I’m guessing) and took Harold the Guinea Pig outside to graze in our front yard for the first time. I spent the afternoon cleaning the garage as Hannah brought out her entire collection of dolls for some fresh air. Vivian made some homemade pizza for dinner that evening, and we tuned in to the Hope Rising benefit concert online, making use of my Raspberry Pi plugged into a Goodwill TV in our living room (which is usually used as a weather/calendar kiosk).

How are you faring during this world-wide lock down? I’m quite grateful we’re able to live more or less normal lives with the kids during all of this, albeit without weekly visits to grandma and grandpa’s house. My hope is that we’re on the down slope now and will soon see this period of time in the rear-view mirror of history. For the moment, though, we’re still enjoying life very much — and grateful all of us are healthy!

Sheltered in place

So, how’s COVID-19 treating you and your family these days? The sheer number of things that have been shut down in a week is just staggering. A week ago, I was taking Hannah to her Wednesday night church group without a second thought. If you read my blog, you can see every entry has some activity where we’re around ten or more people at one event of another.

Now, we can’t go anywhere with ten or more people and every church, restaurant, and public facility is shut down. We’re still making the most of this downtime, but it’s still hard to come to grips with so much of the world being turned upside down.

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We’d planned on going to a St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday, but it was cancelled, so I went out with my folks to breakfast at First Watch instead, hoping to get in one last meal in a sit-down restaurant before everything became take-out only a few days later.

We also got a bit of a freakish, mid-March snow in the meantime, leaving us with a frosted winter wonderland for a day or two. With all group activities cancelled, we’ve been taking the kids on a few extra walks outside just to get some fresh air — one thing that hasn’t been restricted by any guidelines from the CDC.

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St. Patrick’s Day was similarly low-key — we got some corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes for dinner, but shopping has become a bit of a thrill ride. Every other store seems to be completely out of something — not just the famously impossible-to-find toilet paper or hand sanitizer but now pasta, canned tuna, bread and even milk can often be completely cleaned out of one store or another. Hearing rumors about a two-week lock down that included grocery stores (which later turned out to be Fake News) spurred me to fill an extra bucket of emergency food just in case

We’ll soon have to figure out some creative ways to have fun with ten or fewer people at a time, just to avoid cabin fever as we’re busy avoiding the Corona Virus. Fortunately, we got a head start on this schooling-from-home thing long before it became mandatory for everyone.

Zoey, Breakfast, and Snow Daze

We’ve had a fairly quiet start to the New Year so far, mostly staying warm inside and quietly preparing for an Hors D’oeurves Party among other things at the end of the month.

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We celebrated the two-year adoption of our little tuxedo cat, Zoey on January 10. We had a few extra kitty treats in a bowl of premium food for her for dinner, and then we let her get her first whiff of catnip — which immediately made her go a bit crazy rolling around on the floor.

Then the next day we had a men’s breakfast bright and early with the men of Wildewood. We had a few breakfast burritos and listened to Scott talk a bit about his plans for the group this coming year. I got to sit at a table with my dad and talk a bit about evangelism as well, particularly his missionary work in Brazil.

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In other news, we’ve had snow, snow, and more snow. It hasn’t been all that much in accumulation, but we’ve had bitter cold on one end and slush on the other that’s kept schools closed and us stuck inside. It’s been a good time snuggle up on the couch under a blanket and read comic books.

It’s also been a good time for warm, comforting winter foods like beef stew, homemade bread, breakfast corn dogs, and buffalo chicken dip. Hannah and Aaron have also been finding ways to amuse themselves dressing up as video game fighters and sticking poop emojis on the ceiling. Hannah even came out to help me shovel once and spent a little time making a snowman with her doll Suki.

I think we’ve had almost enough of winter this far, but there are still a few more months to go.

Fall colors

The fun fall traditions continued this week, as the trees around us all explode with colors before making way for winter. There was some beautiful weather on Saturday, so Vivian and I took the kids on a walk around the block as a family just to enjoy a few of the fall colors while they were with us.

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Then that evening, we headed up to northwest Omaha for another one of Jenny’s Halloween birthday parties. She decided to have a 90s theme this year, so we had Wayne and Garth in our midst, along with some Pokémon characters, the Y2K bug, as well as Little Caesar and Captain Morgan. I shaved my beard and donned a wig (and jogging suit) to go as President Clinton, while Vivian put on some colorful 90s clothes (and makeup) and went as Kimmy Gibbler. Hannah and Aaron were Ladybug and a Ninja, respectively.

Vivian also brought some lasagna and jack-o-lantern mandarin oranges to go along with the other Halloween foods, which gave us some energy as we danced the night away, doing Thriller, led by Takashi (of course). I also made up a card for the occasion, which I conveniently left at home. We had lots of fun as usual, though, and we only went home once it was apparent the kids had had enough.

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Then on Tuesday, I took the day off so we could spend a long, cool autumn day down at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch as a family. This year, Vivian and I actually worked out an “itinerary” so we could hit as many attractions as possible while not wearing ourselves out walking back and forth across the park, and it seemed to work out well. We got to see the jumping pillows, corn bin, train ride, bunnyville, pig races (with the pig wrangler), Xander the dragon, big chair, haunted house, wagon ride, spider web, obstacle course with net tunnels and a hamster wheel, big slide, storybook village, petting zoo, tricycle track, and pumpkin mine all without wearing ourselves out. There were still many little attractions we stumbled upon, such as rope and pulley games, spinning chairs, and a big apple that we might easily have missed.

The kids both got to fly on the new zip lines for the first time, and we also bumped into some old friends, Jolene with her kids as well as the Papson family. We got some chili cheese fries and succotash to keep us moving throughout the day, and then got some pumpkins for the kids before going home to crash for the night. In all, I took 575 pictures throughout the day, so you know we had a great time! Most of all, it was nice to see so many beautiful fall colors, which will only be with us for a week or two before winter. It was a fun day and part of an annual tradition I hope Hannah and Aaron will remember fondly as they grow up.

Barbecue Ribs

It’s been a quiet week, and it’s starting to feel a little more like fall, which I’m hoping will mean a few barbecues and fire pits before the snow starts coming. Over the weekend, I gave my parents’ lawn a good mow, and my dad gave us a rack of ribs for dinner, which he’d smoked on the patio all Saturday.

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On Sunday, we took the kids to the Fontenelle Forest for dinner with a group called Our Gathering Place, which is “a mobile monthly community dinner for families with special needs” (and specifically autism). It was a fun little event with food for everybody, as well as balloons, painting, and the usual nature-related activities they have downstairs at the nature center. There were even a few prizes to take home afterward, which was very nice. I only wish we’d had time for a nice walk along the Fontenelle boardwalk, but we mostly enjoyed making some connections with other parents inside.

The event was put on by Kinesha Johnson-Roach, the wife of Jarell Roach, who visited Wildewood to do some comedy back in September, so we felt like we were among friends right from the beginning.

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Then on Tuesday I attended another meet-up with my dad and the Men of God at Wildewood. We had another batch of boneless pork ribs and talked a bit about fellowship, particularly the direction the men’s group would be taking in the future. It seems bonding over food is a part of human culture that goes unrecognized, particularly when it involves cooking meat — a tradition that must date back to our ancient caveman ancestors.

Which reminds me, we’ve got to break out the fire pit one more time before winter.

Springtime Fire pit

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On Monday last week, Hannah celebrated her last day with her Classical Conversations classmates for the year. The students and teachers (AKA “tutors”) gave a brief presentation for the grown-ups of the various memory work they’d done that year, and then each the students got a certificate before breaking for refreshments downstairs. I have to admit after two years of homeschooling, I’ve found it has lot more schooling outside of “home” than I expected. Between our two home school groups, Hannah’s been able to enjoy multiple field trips, special guests at her co-op, and extra classes to learn things like sewing outside her standard curriculum. This year, Vivian and I even managed to prepare a real yearbook for all the students (which thankfully we finished in time for them to sign). Aaron still has a few more weeks to go.

Springtime weather seems to be hanging on, despite a cold snap that brought more snow to other parts of the country. As such, I had our first lunchtime rendezvous with Vivian and the kids on Wednesday, taking them to Elmwood Park to play for an hour or two (as Stinson Park is currently being renovated). I got to take a few nice, long lunchtime walks on other days, making my way past some lovely blossoms (and less lovely geese) on the Keystone Trail just to grab some flavored coffee in time for Cinco de Mayo.

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Our own yard had been in bloom as well, with an explosion of tulips we’d planted last October adding to the color of our yard. We also have some lilac ready to bloom in the backyard, which only lasts about a week when we get it (if it blooms at all).

Then on Friday night, we burned off the various branches and sticks that had fallen over the past year in a lovely fire pit. We invited our friends the Mills over to grill hot dogs and roast marshmallows (or vegetables) over the open flame while the kids ran around and played together. Aaron was especially tuckered out, crashing both Friday night and again Saturday afternoon.

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In other news, Hannah and Mommy had a lovely time at the Prims’ Princess party, which happened on Saturday. I’d write more about that if I couldn’t, but it was a girls’ only event. Maybe Mommy will update her blog and tell you more about it.

Big Red

We’re approaching the end of September, but it feels more like summer now than the beginning of fall. That’s all right with me, though, as I hope to have more time to finish some work on the house and go on early morning treasure hunts with Hannah in the yard (and to Costco with Grammy).

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It’s also an election year, so that means meeting and greeting politicians ahead of the mid-terms, of course. On Friday, Senator Deb Fischer paid a visit to the Business and Professional People for Life luncheon down at the Garden Cafe. I got to attend with a number of my colleagues from the Pope Paul VI Institute and even got to share a table with Hal Daub and Mike Foley. There was something uniquely fun hearing Hal talking about free speech issues on UNL’s campus (as he’s a member of the board of regents) and watching the Lt. Gov. pass around photos of his new grand-baby on his cell phone.

Sen. Fischer also took several questions from the group on issues related to Planned Parenthood funding, bipartisanship in the Senate, and theatrics over the Cavanaugh hearings. Fischer said she’s driven 100-150k miles around the state during her term, and I think I believe it considering how often I seem to bump into her just in Omaha (unlike that other Senator we have).

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Fall also means it’s time for Husker Football, and for the first time in my 23 years of living in Nebraska, I actually got to attend a home game! I won a pair of tickets (generously donated by my boss) at a weekly drawing a work and got to take Vivian to see the Huskers play Troy at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. We arrived just in time to follow a sea of red into the stands as the mascots goofed around before the National Anthem played, and then we baked in the sun for a couple hours as the Huskers lost 24-19. I’d watched plenty of these games on TV, but there’s nothing quite like watching it with the passionate fans in the stands (even when they’re clearly unhappy with the outcome). I even got to bring my DSLR with a telephoto lens to get some closer-up pictures of the action (and the crowd). I even got us a Runza to share for lunch, making for the most Nebraska picture in the world that doesn’t involve corn.

The only downer of our trip was getting a flat tire on the way out of the stadium, which meant spending an hour or two inflating it at a gas station down the street and then getting it patched up. I’ve never been so grateful for Walmart, as they fixed the tire when every other place in Lincoln was either booked solid or closed for the day. We finished off the day with dinner at Pho Nguyenn before a long ride home.

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Fall also means the Fall Festival at Gifford Farm. We hadn’t been there since 2016, so it was good to get back and let the kids slide down into piles of hay once again. We said hello to the horses, chickens, cows, goats, and other animals. Hannah and Aaron also got to decorate cookies, ride a hay rack, and look inside their favorite hollow tree.

The kids played some more in the children’s area (making a “house” out of the various instruments, gourds, and utensils they gathered up), and then we finished our day buying some pumpkins and having some flavored ice before heading home (where we said hello to a woodpecker and bumblebees in our own yard).

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Temperatures stayed in the 90s throughout the week, which made for a steamy experience at meet-and-greet with local candidates hosted by the Sarpy County GOP. My friend Phil came (with an appropriate shirt) to meet folks like Congressman Don Bacon, who suggested throwing me in the pool, which would have been great if someone got it on video. Bob Evnen, Rusty Hike, and a handful of others also showed up, along with Gov. Ricketts. He actually came dressed in a tie and jacket and somehow didn’t even break a sweat until after his stump speech.

There was time afterward for selfies, of course, but no swimming actually took place. Between this event and the one on Thursday, I was repeatedly impressed with how easy it is for someone who’s not even a donor to the Republican party to have access to people running for office. (I don’t mind chatting with Democrats either, of course, but most of those events on my radar come with a price tag, and that’s a hurdle I generally won’t jump.)

Birthday Paella and Morning Walks

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We’ve got one day left before Vivian and I celebrate ten years of marriage together! In the meantime, we’ve got another celebration to recognize — Grammy’s birthday. On Tuesday evening, Vivian and Jack made up a giant seafood paella. Grammy got to use our new special “birthday plate,” and the kids got their first taste of several things, including scallops (which Hannah thought at first was a banana).

Hannah drew Grammy a sweet birthday card (on giant paper), and Grammy got to blow out the candles on a giant dark chocolate lava cake that Vivian made. It was made with Ghirardelli brownie mix and Lindor truffles, with enough concentrated cacao to nearly put me in a coma (it was especially good with vanilla ice cream).

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The next morning, it was a lovely 64 degrees outside, so the whole family wound up walking 1.3 miles down the street together for a morning stroll down to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. We picked some wild mulberries along the way, and then I called my folks to come join us before it was time to head off to work.

Next stop: Kansas City to celebrate a decade of married life!

Color Run and a Cake Show

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The summer fun continues, as orange lilies and hostas bloom in our yards and the kids reenact the Memorial Park concert in our living room. Hannah also lost another tooth, making it increasingly difficult to eat an apple, among other things.

On Saturday, Vivian participated in another 5K, this time the Color Run through downtown Omaha. I dropped by to surprise her with Grammy and the kids over the bridge to Heartland of America Park. There were quite a few painted-up (and tutu-wearing) participants in the parade, but we were eventually able to spot Vivian and Tamra trotting along with the lot of them. I took Hannah and Aaron down to the street level for a few high-fives before they continued on, and Hannah got in some extra puddle-jumping for good measure.

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Then on Sunday, we spent the afternoon at the Douglas County Fair, an event that was inexplicably held at a few empty shops at the Village Point Mall. Our primary reason for going was to see Hannah and Aaron win some awards for the little cakes they make for the River City Confectioner’s Association cake contest. There were quite a few fancy entries once again this year, but Hannah and Aaron still managed to walk away with ribbons. Hannah got both a blue ribbon and a medal for best in show for her House Cake in the Wee Folk category, which was particularly nice.

There were other fun events going on at the “fair,” including a science exhibit with a variety of neat toys, as well as a Bubble Show, where both Aaron and Hannah got to be inside a big bubble for just a moment.

We’re closing in on another milestone this week as Vivian and I celebrate ten years of marriage together. More on that in a bit!