Category Archives: Zoo

Rare Breeds

We’ve had a few gorgeous days here and there this week, necessitating a trip or two to a park, but mostly it’s been hot and muggy as summer absolutely refuses to make way for fall. Fortunately, our tomatoes have started kicking into high gear, giving us plenty of tasty treats for bruschetta and such.

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On Wednesday, I spent the evening with Tom Becka and Jeff Koterba in Benson, who were helping to raise a few dollars to renovate the Benson Theater. The theater has been vacant for several decades, but there are some very elaborate plans to bring it back to life, and they’re about half a million dollars shy of meeting their goal.

The event was at the “B Side,” which was once the “PS Collective” connected to the Pizza Shoppe where 88 Improv used to perform (and Tom once “performed” for use amusement years ago). The room was now sealed of from the pizza, but there is now a bar where I got a “figure of speech” to sip as Tom and Jeff introduced themselves and dove headlong into a Facebook argument IRL on stage for us. The title of the event was “Rare Breed,” and asked “are cartoonists and commentators going extinct.” I would certainly say “no,” as the Internet has made it easier for anyone to have a platform to spread their views or cartoons with almost no overhead whatsoever, but it did launch into a long-form discussion on such things as “fake news” and red light cameras, among other things. We also got to try drawing our own editorial cartoons from a list of topics, a la the Kaneko event a few years back, so I tried my hand at a caricature of Ben Sasse.

It was a fun evening, primarily because I always prefer arguing “IRL” as opposed to online, where being snippy and sarcastic often gets you likes when thoughtful discussion gets ignored.

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Friday brought along some gorgeous weather, so we took the kids to the park for a lunchtime visit. Then that evening, Vivian and I attended a “Tribute to Patriots” event, where we got to hear from Congressman Devin Nunes of California, emceed by KFAB’s Scott Voorhees. He’s been in the headlines recently for his role in investing Russian collusion, but he had a few other interesting stories about his interactions with President Trump. We saw several familiar faces there, including Don Bacon, Lt. Gov. Foley, and the usual band of GOP volunteers. They had a few awards at the end for the “five that drive,” which included several of them.

It was a lovely evening, though I forgot my memory card, so I couldn’t use my “good camera” to get any pictures. We also had a late dinner, so we wound up crashing at our old Village Inn for chicken pot pie and a french dip sandwich together (and pie, of course) before calling it a night.

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Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for just about everything outside — including a bit more house painting in the morning followed by a picnic lunch at Hickory Hill Park with our friends, the Lenarts. We’d been aiming at having another meetup for a while and managed to land on the perfect day for grilling a few burgers outside while letting the kids play on a new playground together.

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Then that evening, we had another trip to the zoo, courtesy of the Autism Society of Nebraska. We dropped by around six and had a look around the mostly too-dark-to-film “kingdom of the night” beneath the desert dome. We saw an alligator or two in the swamp and some snakes before heading upstairs to the drier part of the dome, where we got a peek at a fox, some mongooses, and some rattlesnakes.

The kids spent plenty of time playing on zoo statuary before we headed to the jungle to hang out for the rest of the evening. The bats were out in full force once again as we looked around upstairs and down, and then we dropped by the Wild Kingdom pavilion to cool off with a dance and a ride in a Humvee before calling it a night.

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

It seems like we’re always busiest when we’re having fun, and even though I’ve been plenty busy at work lately, it doesn’t compare to our non-stop activity all throughout the weekend.

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On Friday morning, Aaron had an end-of-year “spring concert” with his little friends at Spring Lake. They sang a handful of songs for us, complete with the motions (and egg shakers) you’d expect with any children’s song. They also had displays for every class showing some of their activities throughout the year, including visits from Grammy and the raptor handlers from Fontenelle Forest. Mommy, Hannah, and Grammy came along as well, and I came just long enough to snap some pictures before heading back to work.

Then that evening Vivian and I finally watched Avengers: Endgame over a big old bowl of popcorn. We are now spoiler-proof!

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Then on Saturday morning, I took Hannah down to 24th and G to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha. We hadn’t been there for a couple years, and we discovered there are now barricades all along the parade route. The parade itself had the standard Mexicans dancers, costumers, horses, and Hydraulic Bouncing Lowriders. There were also numerous Halloween-themed participants, which was even more bizarre than the guy in a kilt. There were a few politicians as well, and I gave Mayor Stothert props for picking up a stray plastic bag that skittered its way across 24th street. Hannah was able to fill a big with so much candy she had trouble carrying with us back to the car.

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I returned home with enough time to catch my breath before heading right back across the river to see Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A couple hundred people (and some vendors) showed up to Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear him prattle off platitudes like an old-timey preacher, but what impressed me most was his Q&A, where his first question was from a guy wearing a Gadsden Flag as a cape (and a “Make Taxation Theft Again” hat). That took either guts or complete ignorance. He also answered a question in both English and Spanish, reminding me of how I liked Marco Rubio being able to bring a message home to Spanish-speaking Americans.

Beto stuck around for photos with everyone afterward, but I didn’t get the chance to shake his hand or way hello — I had to stay on schedule!

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I returned home for a quick bite to eat and then headed right back out again for a free night at the Zoo! It had been a while since we’d all gone as a family. so it felt good to be back among such familiar sights as the giant globe and gorilla statues. Many of the animals seemed to be sleeping, though the bats in the jungle area were wide awake (and pooping on everyone). The aquarium was still open as well, making for as lovely as walk-through as always. We got to see a handful of monkeys, birds, and otters hanging around, and we also went through the butterfly pavilion before wrapping things up. Hannah finished our visit by chasing a peacock around before we headed on out.

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Then on Sunday, we went back to the La Vista Sports Complex to fly a kite with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jonny after church. This has been a family tradition for a couple years now, and we almost missed it thanks to a line of thunderstorms that were nice enough to pass us by. Dad let me assemble the kite and get it airborne this year. The wind was strong enough to make it fairly easy, and we even got to tie Tinkerbell to the center strut to spend some time in the sky. It was just about as perfect an afternoon as you could ask for, and the kids even got to have ice cream before we headed home (courtesy of Uncle Jonny).

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I got some food from Aldi for Cinco de Mayo and then headed home to give the lawn a quick mow before it started raining (for the entire week). We were lucky to have lovely weather almost all weekend long, giving us a chance to enjoy our briefly-blooming tulips and lilac, even Zoey the Cat got to spend some time outside.

Vivian made up some tacos for the kids, which Aaron helped her to make. Then once the kids were in bed, we had some tasty tilapia ceviche together, devouring two pounds of fish between the two of us while watching the Three Amigos together, a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (and didn’t find as funny as I’d hoped).

It was a busy, busy weekend, but now I have a week back at work to rest up before the next round of fun!

All Creatures Great and Stuffed

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Having my parents live just down the street instead of on the other side of the country means that we can drop by for a random visit “Just Because,” which is exctly what we did on Saturday night. I offered to make some chicken alfredo for dinner with my folks, and we spent a good couple of hours letting Hannah get some quality time with Grandpa and Grandma Johnson. My dad actually had a giant box of his old toys that he wanted to show her, which included an original plush Smokey the Bear and a working Howdy Doody marionette. He even had a Coon Skin Cap, which Hannah didn’t seem to care much for. Then upstairs he had an assortment of other family treasures, one of which was my grandfather’s old Bulova wristwatch. I was amazed that it still worked, so I’ve been wearing it myself this week as a way to connect to a generation long passed away (and for some retro flair on my wrist).

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As you might have heard, the Polar Vortex has come to visit Middle America once again, but on Sunday it was in the 50s and 60s. The Henry-Doorly Zoo also had free admission for the day, so we took Hannah to spend the afternoon there. This was Hannah’s third trip to the Best Zoo in the World (as ranked by Trip Advisor), and as usual, we could only see a fraction of what the zoo had to offer during our time there.

This time around, we started at the Petting Zoo so Hannah could brush a goat. The Peacocks were out in full feather, so we watched them strutting about as we said hello to a bear or two and also a gaur. We walked through the Gorilla Valley and saw a couple wild cats up above (as well as a free-range photographer). The butterfly pavilion seemed to be one of the more popular exhibits, so we had to drop in to walk through their steamy jungle for a moment. We continued on down to the giraffes and the sensory garden, where Hannah got to spend some quality time with an orangutan. We crossed the river full of koi to see some more monkeys and sea lions. Hannah spent a few minutes on a small playground, and then we saw on cute prairie dogs on our way to the carousel for a quick ride before going home.

In other news, Aaron turned Five Months Old on Tuesday (Veteran’s Day).

Christmas Countdown

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The Christmas season is moving full-steam ahead, with fun, festive events around every corner this time of year. On Friday night, the cute little town of Plattsmouth was having a Christmas on Main Street event, so we made the quick drive down to walk along the beautifully-decorated street to see what was up. They had hot cocoa and cookies on hand, as well as free pony rides for the kids. We also got to see a few Princesses along the way, as well as some Victorian Cosplayers and a steampunk Ghost of Christmas Present. It was a bit nippy out, and I think Hannah preferred seeing the lights of the Gene Leahy Mall from the back of our warm Civic instead, so we didn’t stay long.

Then on Saturday Night, Vivian got to be my date for our first legitimate Christmas Office Party. It was held down at the Doubletree, and she got to meet a bunch of my new co-workers from the Institute as we had roast beef and stuffed chicken together. The Director was also on hand to pass out a few awards to employees for years of service. A few other employees brought their little ones along as well, though Vivian and I were more than happy to hand off Hannah to “Mimi and Papa” for the night.

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On Sunday morning, Grammy called to say the Omaha Zoo had free admission today, so after church (which included adorable singing and drumming from some TVC kids), we decided to spend the afternoon visiting the animals. Hannah had visited the Zoo once last year, but now at two years old she has a better appreciation for the animals residing there. We walked through the Jungle first and saw plenty of monkeys (her favorite animal by far). We also bumped into our friends the Mathis family, who joined us on another trip around the Jungle with Hannah leading the way with Timothy by the hand. Since our last visit, the Zoo has placed massive vines here and there, including one with a loop for children to swing in. We stopped by the aquarium next to get a good look at penguins, jellyfish, and other fish behind glass walls and observation bubbles. We made one last stop to Gorilla Valley to see a few of Anne’s old friends before calling it a day. I’ve been to the Zoo about half a dozen times in my life, and I still don’t think I’ve seen it all yet. Maybe next summer we’ll come back and give the Skyfari a try.

Chicken / Zoo

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Halloween night was a big night for a few people in Bellevue, and it had nothing to do with dressing up in costumes. November 1 was the grand opening of the Chick-Fil-A down on Cornhusker Drive, and the first 100 people there — who camped out in the parking lot all night — got to have free Chick-Fil-A for a year. That translates into 52 free meal coupons. I wasn’t among them, since I wanted to be around for Hannah’s very first Halloween, but Pastor Drew was. His family stopped by to wish him luck the night before, and then he was first among the throngs to get his free goodies the next morning.

I’ve dropped in at Chick-Fil-A a couple times since for breakfast and dinner, and it’s always been crowded. There are a handful of places that carry a following this devoted — Trader Joe’s and Inn-n-Out Burger being a few noteworthy examples — and this little chicken restaurant is certainly a worthy contender.

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On Sunday, Hannah got to take her very first trip to the zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo had free admission, and since the weather was still reasonably nice (for November), we couldn’t pass up the chance to stop by. Hannah’s still a bit young to appreciate all the animals at the zoo’s many different exhibits, but she really seemed to enjoy the monkeys, a few colorful macaws, and all the sea creatures in the aquarium. Of course, this trip was really more about mom and dad getting snapshots of adorableness with their our little girl, but we’ll definitely be taking her back again and again once she’s older.

Wild Animals at the Zoo

We had some gorgeous weather this weekend and it brought out the wild side in a few of the Jitterbugs, specifically Vivian, who was looking more vivacious than ever in a leopard print shirt I picked out for her while shopping last week.

On Saturday, we took advantage of the nice weather and went down to the Henry-Doorly Zoo in Omaha to see some of the animals. We got to walk the full length of the park, from the small animals in the south west corner to the rhinos and elephants up in the north section, and I got loads of pictures all along the way. We even got to see a male peacock running loose and strutting its stuff, trying to impress a female nearby.

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Afterwards, we made some pizza for dinner and then went to see Amazing Grace at the 20 Grand. It was an excellent movie, and I really enjoyed it even though I often get bored with historical dramas.

On Sunday, Viv came down to Lincoln to attend church with me, and then we went to have Popeye’s chicken for lunch up by Branched Oak Lake. I almost cut the day off short because I desperately needed to clean up my apartment and do some laundry, but Viv insisted on staying and helping me clean out the kitchen. She got that place cleaner that it had been in a long, long time. My mom is just going to love her. I wanted to make dinner for Viv before she headed back to Omaha, but she didn’t want me messing up the kitchen again so soon, so I got us a pizza instead. Viv told me very sternly to keep it clean for her so I could cook for her next time she’s by.