Category Archives: Wildewood

Dandelion Soup and Buttermilk Biscuits

As parts of the country slowly begin to open up again, it feels like this pandemic season is starting to wind down — particularly when I start to see toilet paper and even hand sanitizer on grocery store shelves again. I’ll be happy never hearing the words “social distancing” ever again, but I’m also grateful our family has had a relatively happy, normal time during this time — and good health all around.

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Vivian’s been involved with her BSF Children’s Ministry for the past year, but because of the pandemic, her participation has been via Zoom meetings and pre-recorded videos for the little ones that I’ve helped her put together. It’s very sweet to see the little one and two year olds watching her happily singing and talking about Jesus on their computer screens.

We’ve had the opportunity to try new cuisine during this time, and not just the homemade pizza and mock Chick-Fil-A sandwiches made with red bag chicken. At some point last week, Hannah decided to make me “dandelion soup” with scraps she extracted from our yard (and some kale from the fridge). She even went so far as to write down a pictorial recipe for the dish.

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The city of Omaha opened up its parks again as well, so we spent Friday afternoon enjoying some blossoms and having a picnic (by the Twisty Tree) down at Hanscom Park. Hannah and Aaron always seem to be happier when they have the chance to get outside, and Hannah’s been having fun with her digital camera as well, snapping pictures goofing around with Aaron and also getting some snapshots of the local wildlife.

Hannah’s been busy playing outside in our yard during this time as well, either play-acting various video games with Aaron (and Daddy when he’s home) or building a makeshift treehouse by dragging a wading pool into the branches of our tree in our front yard. I’ve also been getting extra quality time with Aaron playing Kirby’s Return to Dreamland on the Wii in exchange for him completing lessons in Khan Academy. We managed to beat the game all the way through this past weekend — on “extra” mode — which Aaron proudly announced to Uncle Jonny via Zoom.

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Participating in church for the past few months has been limited to bible studies via Zoom and weekly worship service in our living room via Facebook live (streaming on my Raspberry Pi and tiny Goodwill TV). This has meant having church with such treats as homemade buttermilk biscuits with homemade butter and sausage gravy (while the kids watch Super Book and Bibleman in the basement).

We also celebrated Cinco de Mayo (AKA Taco Tuesday) with some burritos for the kids and homemade enchiladas for mom and dad. We’ve been eating fairly well in the midst of this pandemic, which means I’ll have to keep pedaling to work to burn off the extra calories (as long as the weather holds up).

In other news, Aaron lost his first tooth!

Birthdays and Guinea Pigs

It’s been a busy, busy week, with multiple church programs, birthdays for both my parents, a new candidate running for office, and a new family member for the Johnson family.

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On Friday night, I got to attend the campaign kick-off for Robert Anthony, who’s running for the State Board of Education in the Second District. Because Board of Education districts are different from both congressional and school districts (and since it overlaps with other counties), I had to do a bit of research first to make sure I could vote for him. We had some barbecue from Big Bubba’s Que and talked a bit about educational issues before he gave his stump speech. He’s a strong conservative and actually home-schools his own kids, so he’s tuned in to the sorts of needs homeschooling families likes family would have, and that was encouraging. It’s safe to say he has my vote.

Because I wound up being the one guy with a “Real Camera” for the evening, I wound up snapping a few photos of other guests with Robert before calling it a night. The kids were both asleep when I returned home, and Vivian made up some ahi tuna and scallops for dinner before we watched A Christmas Carol.

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On Saturday, we celebrated my dad’s birthday with the gift of “face time” — i.e. going through a trunk of memorabilia in the basement, looking at some groovy old photos in a few photo albums, and watching a couple old home movies. I was surprised to find a few unique treasures among the family photos and college art projects, including an autographed picture of Mr. Rogers, original campaign posters for Barry Goldwater, and some original artwork from Tribune editorial cartoonist Wayne Stayskal. My dad was friends with Staysakal and apparently gave him ideas for multiple cartoons. When this happened, Stayskal would often send my dad the original artwork, which he kept. (The funniest cartoon, of course, came in the form of a homemade birthday card from Nathan, circa 2002.)

I spent nearly the whole day at my folks’ house, taking a brief break for Arby’s at lunchtime and then heading home as the sun went down.

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On Sunday evening, we had a Christmas program at Wildewood Christian Church (titled “A Country Christmas” for some reason). It was very brief, with just 15 minutes of setting up and decorating a tree interspersed with kids singing a few Christmas songs (with obligatory Christian Hand Motions™). All four grandparents were able to come and see the program, and even Aaron was able to sit still for all 15 minutes of it.

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After the Christmas program, we dropped by the Mills house to meet the newest member of our family — a new baby guinea pig! The Mills had adopted their own guinea pig (named “Ginny”), who unbeknownst to them was already pregnant! She popped out a little baby boy who’s now been weaned and ready for a new home. I’d gotten a cage with bedding and food recently and we were able to set it all up and take our new little pup home that evening. We’re still settling on a name, but Hannah is leaning toward “Scratcher” at the moment.

In the meantime, our poor cat Zoey doesn’t know what to make of this strange creature, who could just as easily be food as a friend.

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And because one birthday visit wasn’t enough, we dropped by my folks’ house again on Tuesday. I made my dad some barley bread, which he’d said a while ago he wanted to try. His father (my grandfather) had mentioned having to eat it during World War I because of food rationing and never liking the taste. Since barley bread is hard to come by, my dad had wanted to try it, so I managed to find some barley flour at Natural Grocers and made him a loaf. It was all right, similar to brown bread or corn bread but much more crumbly (with no gluten holding it together).

We stayed long enough my my folks to open some presents and had a hand-drawn birthday card from Hannah before calling it a night.

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Then on Wednesday night, Hannah and the rest of her friends from MPact had a mid-year awards ceremony in the basement chapel. It was a shorter ceremony than in years past, as the groups didn’t all perform skits or sing songs to show what they’ve been learning so far this year. Everyone on stage got a certificate, and then we stayed just long enough for some punch an cookies before heading home.

Hannah’s been a part of this group since she was a Rainbow, and it’s so nice to see her growing up with all her little friends together!

Trunks and Treats

We made it to the end of October at last! That means finishing the rest of our garden tomatoes as actual snow starts to fall around the Omaha area for the first time this season (and probably not the last).

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Our Halloween celebrations started on Tuesday as Grammy and Pop-Pop came over. Hannah (fresh from her new hideout) and Aaron helped Grammy decorate the back of her Honda Passport with some pumpkins, spiderwebs, and a few of their toys to create an adorable Halloween display for Wildewood’s Trunk or Treat event.

In the meantime, Vivian and Pop-Pop made some paella for dinner, which we all ate together in celebration after the trunk was ready for treating.

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Then on Wednesday, we braved some chilly weather in the 30s with the kids to have some trunk-or-treating at Wildewood. Hannah and Aaron went as Miraculous’ Ladybug and a Ninja Warrior, respectively. We went inside to have some burgers and chili dogs for dinner along with a couple hundred other folks, including our friends the Lenarts. Then once we had enough warmth in us, we braved back outside to tour the variety of cute and monstrous trunks opened up with candy. I think my favorite trunk (aside from Grammy’s) was the giant purple monster, but the best costume was three ladies who came as cafeteria workers, dishing up candy with ladles, no less. One trunk came with a gas-powered fire for us to warm up by, and the final trunk had an entire obstacle course based around Genesis 1, ending with an apple tree of treats (and rubber snakes). I guess that’s one way to celebrate the Fall.

We warmed up inside a bit more with a few carnival style games, which involved blowing sailboats with straws, tossing footballs (and toilet paper), and bounding some ping pong balls. The kids walked away with giant buckets full of candy, which would be filling up again the n ext day as well.

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All Hallow’s Eve was a bit warmer the next day. Vivian and the kids spent some time decorating pumpkins to leave by our doorstep, along with a couple mounds of pink cobwebs to greet our visitors. Vivian baked a lasagna for dinner, which we ate before getting the kids dressed for some Halloweening in our neighborhood. Aaron switched costumes to be a Ninja Turtle, after finally finding his mask. We walked the block around my parents’ house with Uncle Jonny collecting candy from a handful of neighbors, while Jack and Donna watched our door a block over until we returned. A number of our neighbors had fire pits out to keep warm during the evening, and I’ll have to try hauling ours out one more time before it starts snowing again.

It was a lovely, busy couple of days — now we just have to figure out what to do with all of our extra candy.

Holy Smokes & Applejack

Fall has finally rolled around again, though it might not feel like it yet, which means harvesting plenty of tomatoes for bruschetta and autumnal flavored coffees at Aldi.

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Men of God at Wildewood got together last week for the first time since last spring. On this week’s agenda was learning the manly art of barbecue, with Zach (and Fred) from Holy Smokes up in Sioux Falls. Zach is a hooligan-turned-pastor who has both a church and a barbecue business, so he gave us the run-down of different types of barbecue, methods for cutting a pork butt for smoking, and all the tips and tricks of slow-cooking meat on a variety of smokers to get that sweet coat of “bark” that everyone loves.

We had some barbecue pulled pork sandwiches for together before Zach’s barbecue run-down, and we each got a package of rub to take home with us. I’d never given much thought to smoking meat before, it sounds like it would be perfectly fine to do it with our humble propane grill on the deck, so maybe soon I’ll go give it a try.

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Fall also means that it’s time for the Applejack festival in Nebraska City. The weather looked foreboding, so we brought an umbrella just in case, but despite the dark cloud looming overheard we didn’t have a drop of rain until we left.

We started the day with a pancake breakfast down at the firehouse, catching a flew flapjacks and letting the kids climb on a firetruck or two. We stopped by the book sale at the library to grab a few new books for the kids and samples some honey from the Calvary Church pavilion up the street, stopping to admire some old brick-wall advertisements and smell the roses along the way.

We spent most of our time down at Kimmel Orchard, riding the hay rack down to the rows of Jonathan, Honeycrisp, and Gala trees so Hannah and Aaron could pick a couple pecks of apples to take home with us. Hannah and Aaron got some quality time on their relatively new playground and even got some ice cream afterward. They had a bunch of educational booths inside from the UNL extension office, many of which having to do with bees and pollination (and making masks). There was a sampling of a dozen kinds of honey, which we got to try out. Then on the way home, we swung by Union Orchard for a couple apple donuts on the way home.

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In other news, Aaron has been learning to play the viola through String Sprouts, a program from the Omaha Conservatory of Music. He’s only just begun, but he seems to know how to hold his viola and bow like a champ so far.

Vivian had a baby shower on Sunday, so I took the kids to mom and dad’s house for a while in the afternoon, primarily to try out the “Let’s Go Code” game Uncle Jonny gave Aaron for his birthday. Our biggest challenge was keeping the kids following the rules, but it was fun just to get them to try it out.

Then we had some delicious ribeye steaks for dinner.

Balloons, bounce-houses, and talking trash

We had a delightfully short week, thanks to Labor Day, and now we’re speeding headlong into a busy fall season and another school year.

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On Wednesday, I attended a luncheon with Mayor Jean Stothert and the Business and Professional People for Life at the Garden Cafe. I’d attended this lunch many, many times before, but this was the first time I’d brought my dad along, who seemed to get a kick out of talking theology with the Catholics at our table.

Strangely enough, Mayor Stothert kept very much to a budgetary stump speech, talking mostly about the new trash contract with the city and other fiscal issues. She didn’t talk about pro-life issues until one person specifically asked her to during the Q&A, during which she briefly mentioned she’d been pro-life since her days as a nurse and it was one reason she didn’t attend the “Women’s March” that happened a few years ago.

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Then on Friday, we took the kids out to Ditmar’s Orchard for a lovely evening of balloon watching and quality outdoor time in the country. There were a few new additions to the playground, including a rolling slide made of PVC pipe and a teeter-totter airplane (in addition to the swings and monkey bars). There were a few other photo-worthy attractions, such as a set of stocks that we made use of, and a “Dr. Oxygen” was on hand to make bubbles for the kids to fight over trying to pop on our way back to our seats.

The balloons started sailing in around 7:30, sailing over the hills to the west before getting carted back to the orchard to re-inflate and glow for everyone. Our friend Lisa sat and had some snacks with us, such as some apple cider donuts I grabbed in advance. Then the balloons took turns glowing in sequence before the guests were allowed to come up close and take a look at them. This all seemed fairly routine for Hannah, who mostly wanted to get back to the playground, so we let her and Aaron have some more fun after dark as the band Clean and Easy played songs for us until around 9:30 or so.

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Hannah and mommy went to a birthday party for her friend Lily on Saturday as I stayed home with Aaron and set up my new Raspberry Pi to play BurgerTime for his amusement. Then around dinnertime we went down to Wildewood Christian Church for their Saturday Spectacular. This consisted of BBQ sandwiches and hot dogs for dinner, along with a few indoor games, and an inflatable bounce-house and obstacle course outside, which kept the kids busy most of the evening.

Then around seven, local comedian Jarrell Roach came to do a stand-up set, much of which included audience participation. He had us doing rock, paper, scissors and singing the ABCs, and he somehow made it funny. He also brought up one “lucky” audience member to demonstrate the difference between men and women toward the end of the show. It was the first time Hannah or Aaron had seen a stand-up comic, and they surprisingly seemed to enjoy every bit of it.

We’ve got more activities in store this week, much of which will be political. In the meantime, we’ll be busy recovering and hopefully be ready for more fun soon.


Fields of Flight 2019