Merry Christmas, 2019!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had as wonderful a holiday as we did here. The Christmas season always seems so busy and stressful getting ready for the “big day” that it can be sometimes hard to remember how wonderful the day itself truly is once you finally get there.

IMG_6047IMG_6071

I worked half a day on Christmas Eve and then did some last-minute grocery shopping before hurrying home to start preparing food and things for Christmas Day.

Then we took Hannah and Aaron to the 4:30 Christmas Eve service at Wildewood Christian Church. The place was absolutely packed wall-to-wall with near standing-room-only conditions by the time we arrived and got settled. We had an hour long service of scripture reading and Christmas songs, and then the kids were called up front to wave some special Christmas Light Sabers to celebrate the light coming into the world, per John 1:5.

IMG_6116IMG_6159

After the service, we headed home and had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner of beef and pork with Vivian’s folks. Then our kids got to hang their stockings and open a few special Christmas presents — their new 2019 Christmas Jammies and some new Christmas ornaments, which they immediately hung on the tree (with some help from daddy).

Once the kids were all snug in their beds, the grown-ups got to have some egg nog pie and spend a little opening “stockings” with one another, which included new ninja masks, beef jerky, and a talking boxing Trump pen for daddy. We were just about exhausted at the end of the night, but we spent a few last minutes getting the tree and presents all ready for the kids to discover at two in the morning. I also nabbed a few “beauty shots” of our glowing jewel (and the bunny ears) in the living room as the clock struck midnight.

IMG_6175IMG_6188

Christmas Morning came bright and early as the kids were up right at six,and mom and dad staggered behind to get the coffee going before opening presents. Among the loot were some reams of paper (for drawing), new dragon toys for Aaron, a FlipaZoo for Hannah, a new Chromebox computer for Jack, any number of food items for the grown-ups, and literal crap (i.e. manure) for Donna. Even our new guinea pig (whose name now seems to be “Harold”) got a gift or two on his first Christmas.

I also got some fun electronic gadgets like a wireless keyboard/trackpad for my Raspberry Pi and a WiFi AC outlet, which I’m currently using to annoy the kids by remote controlling our lamp.

IMG_6289IMG_6354

At some point mid-morning, we took a break as I made some quiche, which we ate together for brunch before opening some more presents. Things wound down for a few hours in the afternoon as the kids played with their new toys, and I got play Minecraft with Aaron and set up a new computer we got for Pop-Pop.

Then mid-afternoon, we showed a home video of Vivian’s 1986 Christmas with her family in Petaluma. I played the video on my Raspberry Pi in our living room with Jack’s new monitor, which gave me an excuse to try out my new “remote control” keyboard, which worked like a charm. Mommy had a plate of snacks for us in the meantime followed by some candy cane pie from Village Inn, just to ensure we didn’t go hungry for even one second on the way to Christmas dinner.

IMG_6409IMG_6422

A little after four, I took the kids on a walk-walk to spend the rest of Christmas with my parents a block away, where dad’s lawn flamingos greeted us in all their festivity. It was a lively 56 degrees outside and barely cold enough for a jacket as we strolled on over as the sun went down. Vivian had brought over a ham earlier (i.e. my Christmas Bonus from work) for my folks to warm up in the oven, and I’d made a potato casserole that Vivian finished baking in the oven before joining us. Both Uncles Nathan and Jonny were also there to join in dinner, with Nathan bringing along some vegan penne pasta that wasn’t nearly as bad as he said it was.

We ate and then spent some quality time opening even more presents afterward, which included a variety of gifts the kids bought at Dollar Tree for everyone along with more toys and drawing utensils for Hannah and Aaron. The big item of the night was a KitchenAid mixer for Vivian, which I’d managed to keep secret and hidden for the most part at my parents’ house and only brought out once all the other gifts were open.

We finished off our holiday with pie (mincemeat and pumpkin) before heading back home to crash. The kids were remarkably happy and well-behaved all day, which was a joy to see. As for mommy and me, I think I may take an extra day or two off from work next year to clean house and recover from of all of our Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Holiday Lights & 13 First Dates

Christmas is almost here! That means we have only a few days to check a few more traditions off our Christmas list, including sending out a much belated Christmas letter (with a fresh family photo).

IMG_5897IMG_5941

On Saturday night, we decided to take a tour of some of the lovely Christmas lights in our are. We have a very festive house up the street that seems more crowded every year with illuminated Christmas statuary. We also took a trip up the street to Wood River Drive, which was lit once again this year but sadly lacking a candy-cane bearing Santa (who was sick, according to a sign).

The most impressive display we saw by far was Washington Park in Olde Town Bellevue, the majority of which was decked out with multi-color LED displays, all timed with music that was playing throughout the evening. The park even had its own Santa sitting in the pavilion waiting to greet us, though he didn’t stick around long enough for a proper picture. I took plenty of photos of the park, but still images can’t do it justice — you have to visit it yourself to get the full experience (or maybe play my video below).

IMG_6003IMG_6037

Then on Sunday, Vivian and I celebrated our 13th First Date Anniversary a day early so we could in on the last holiday light bus tour of the season. First, we dropped by Hunan Fusion, celebrating our sushi anniversary a month early with some tempura appetizers and sushi for two. We drove down to Oak View Mall and boarded our bus for a two-hour tour of Christmas lights in West Omaha. We drove through Linden Estates, Arbor Oaks, and Champions Run, criss-crossing streets around Dodge and Blondo to see various streets and houses lit up for Christmas.

We passed a few familiar streets we’d seen in years past but got to tour many we haven’t. The most impressive street by far — and the most crowded — was Larimore Ave., which had cars backed up for blocks inching east and west down the street. It was a seizure-inducing party somewhere around 135th street, with houses on both sizes all decked out like the Griswolds. Santa and his elves were even on hand to greet those who abandoned their cars and decided to take the street by foot.

The trip was more fun than I expected, since we had a driver to navigate the streets for us while Vivian and I were both able to sit back and enjoy the lights. I even made notes of the streets we took so we could potentially retrace the route with the kids. We just have to be prepared for the long crawl of Larimore — and get everyone a bathroom break beforehand.

Next stop — CHRISTMAS!


Christmas at Washington Park in Bellevue, Neb.

T’was the Week Before Christmas

Christmas is a week away, and that means we’re counting down all the various annual events and traditions on our way to the Big Day.

IMG_5429IMG_5424

First up for the Institute’s annual Christmas Party, this year held down at Wheatfield’s at One Pacific Place. It’s the one time out of the year Vivian gets to mingle with many of the folks I work with all year ’round. Vivian also got to meet my co-worker’s new baby, who will be hanging out in our workplace for the next year or so. Of course, we also had dinner followed by dessert (but not Grinch Cookies) and some music from the talented Stephen Tefft in-between. Dr. Hilgers said a few words as well and handed out work anniversary plaques, per the norm.

I’m reminded every year how nice it is to work somewhere that not only has these kinds of festive events but also has employees who genuinely seem to enjoy participating in them.

IMG_5516IMG_5555

Then on Sunday, we dropped by the Children’s Museum so the kids could spend a few minutes with Santa, along with Rudolph, an elf and an Ice Queen (definitely Not-Elsa, per Disney’s lawyers). Hannah and Aaron got to see the usual exhibits afterward, such as the balls and the animal slides, but they spent most of their time in a weird hybrid exhibit upstairs that combined dinosaurs and construction equipment. That meant they played inside a prehistoric shark submarine, dug for fossils with bulldozers, and decorated a gingerbread house… because I guess that’s construction related? I’m not even sure. In any case they had fun, and we stayed all the way until closing time.

We’ve had a few hints of a White Christmas so far, but nothing major for snow other than some hazardous, slippery roads. We’ve still got a few more stops before Christmas Day, though, so hang on until then. (And get your shopping done!)

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.

IMG_5167IMG_5196

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.

IMG_20191207_112249879IMG_20191207_155409157

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.

IMG_5297IMG_5307

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.

IMG_5350IMG_20191208_211450731

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.

IMG_20191210_193557613IMG_20191210_195534458

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.

IMG_5382IMG_5394

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!

Thanksgiving, Christmas Kick-Off, and Corn Pops

The Johnson Family got to enjoy a fun four-day weekend here in Omaha doing all our traditional favorite Thanksgiving things — eating too much food with family, seeing Santa at Union Station, and decorating for Christmas. I also got to meet Joe and Jill Biden right before he went viral for nibbling her finger.

IMG_4682IMG_4696

We kicked things off on Turkey Day watching the Macy’s Day parade before breaking out the hors d’oeuvres — and for the first time, Hannah and Aaron were both interested in watching. I also kept the kids distracted by introducing them to Minecraft on my Raspberry Pi. They immediately fell in love getting me to build underground “houses” for both of them with tunnels and paths connecting everything together.

Jack and Donna came over to help get Thanksgiving Dinner ready in the meantime, and my parents and brothers joined us after that to dig in later that afternoon. We had all the traditional foods, from Taber Salad to Pumpkin and Pumpkin Pecan pies for dessert. Other than loads of dishes to do afterward, it was a nice, quiet holiday — something I’m quite thankful for.

IMG_4722IMG_4820

It was cold and rainy on Friday, so we stayed inside drawing and doing laundry for the most part. Then that evening we made our annual pilgrimage to Union Station to see Santa. Grammy and her confectionery crew were decorating cookies again, and Vivian and I got to take the kids on an extensive tour of the trains and activities downstairs. A traveling exhibit had some political memorabilia that include Joy Villa’s famous Trump Dress, and while they kids liked the model trains and old trains and trolleys on display, they gravitated toward a magnet board and set of toy trains for a good portion of our visit.

Then upstairs, the massive crowd pressed in for some caroling with Camille Metoyer Moten following by a tree-lighting with Mayor Stothert. We saw a few other familiar faces during our visit, including the other Johnson Family and the Mathis Family. I’d hoped for another nice Christmas picture with the tree but had to settle of a quick selfie instead as one of our kids was too tired to stay much longer.

IMG_4966IMG_5018

Then on Saturday, Joe Biden came to Council Bluffs to kick off his “No Malarkey” bus tour — getting some viral coverage for a painfully outdated slogan and nibbling his wife’s finger, among other things. It was a remarkably small crowd for a former VP and front-runner, with only around 100 people in attendance (in my vague estimation). A few regulars showed up as well, including Tom Becka, Fake Security Guy, and AP photographer Nati Harnik. After a few words of introduction, Dr. Jill Biden took the stage with her husband Joe to introduce him.

Then Joe stood up to give a very brief, ten-minute stump speech before working the crowd for around half an hour more. As with his last visit, he stayed to meet and greet just about everyone who wanted to say hello. Several people wanted autographs, and I brought along a box of Corn Pops hoping he’d sign it (if you don’t get it, watch this). Unfortunately, his staff took the box away and though he wound up not signing the box, I did get the cereal back.

I didn’t pay much mind to Biden’s speech itself, but I enjoyed seeing him interacting with attendees, even taking a phone call with someone’s grandmother who wasn’t able to attend. I’m not sure why the crowd was so small — folks could have been turned away by the cold and cloudy (and somewhat rainy) weather or busy with Thanksgiving weekend, but the vibe I got was that Joe was past his prime and folks were looking for someone younger and fresher for the nomination this time around — someone who doesn’t use words like “malarkey.”

IMG_5067IMG_5071

I also spent some time putting up our Christmas decorations during the sunnier moments on Saturday. Then on Sunday Vivian and I put together the tree and our house a bit more ready for Christmas. That included setting up the tree and breaking out Santasaurus and a few of his friends. Even Hannah got into the act with her Calico Critters decorating their own house.

We have a very short season this year, but putting anything up before Thanksgiving still felt wrong, so we had to get the house a bit more festive before the weekend was over.

Let’s get this holiday started!


Christmas at Union Station

Marianne & Pete and Hannah turns Eight

Our little girl turned eight over the weekend, so we celebrated for a couple days with friends and family on Friday and Saturday.

IMG_4371IMG_4423

First on Friday, Vivian and I blew up some balloons to greet Hannah when she woke up, per tradition. Then, I made Hannah a special “8” pancake in the morning before she headed off to her home school co-op. Then that evening, we had all four grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to share in some of Hannah’s favorite foods for dinner — shrimp, oranges, strawberries, black olives, and potato chips. She got to open up some presents as well, including some calico critters, a baby doll, a musical puppy, and a “Little Live OMG Pet” from Uncle Jonny.

After blowing out a candle on her cupcake, we headed on our to Skate City afterward for some evening rollerskating with friends (and some hot dogs). Hannah and Mommy strapped on some skates and took a few laps around the rink, and even daddy took a turn rolling around trying desperately not to fall over (Aaron was preoccupied with some classic arcade games). Our friends the Mills came by to skate as well with us, but they unfortunately weren’t able to stay long. Miss Lexi took a tumble and somehow fractured her fibula, which is going to require surgery to fix. Vivian’s already planning a meal train to help her out while she’s recovering from that.

IMG_4494IMG_4471

Then on Saturday, we invited a handful of Hannah’s friends over to celebrate her birthday together. Donna brought a cake modeled after the girls’ equestrian Netflix show “Spirit” with a giant “8” on the top. Hannah got a few new presents from her friends as well as Uncle Nathan, who stopped by just long enough not to have any cake. Hannah’s friends mostly played with one another as the moms talked, and then Hannah and Sammy put together horses out of foam tiles as a craft before calling it a night.

IMG_1931IMG_1993

And because we’re still in a perpetual Presidential campaign season, we had a few more candidates some around. Last Sunday, it was Marianne Williamson, a kind of new-age spiritualist who actually spent three days in the Omaha area making appearances. She visited Unite Omaha on north 90th on Monday night and spoke to a few hundred people in something that felt more like a church service than a campaign rally. There was even a legit choir singing hymns about Ferguson and “hands up don’t shoot.” Marianne gave an hour-long stump speech touching on standard Democrat topics such as climate change, reparations, and the evils of “trickle-down” economics. This was followed by a Q&A with audience members, some of whom seemed even more colorful that the candidate — one being an anti-vaxxer and another being a member of the “UFO community.”

She stayed afterward to meet and greet guests and sign autographs. I got to meet her briefly and commented that a quote she cited that was often attributed to Voltaire (“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize”) actually came from a Neo-Nazi. This upset her enough that she had to run back stage to delete a tweet she shared recently that included the quote. While I wasn’t that impressed by her political idea, I did appreciate her understanding that political animosity is not all coming from one side. One man had asked what he could do to get family member to see Trump “for what he really is.” Marianne responded that his family members feel the same way about Democrats. “We’ve got to stop projecting onto others that their values are inferior,” she said.

IMG_4628IMG_4574

Then one week later, Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana came to town. He’s currently the front-runner and spoke to a gymnasium of around 2,100 people at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. I was a little late to the event (having a toilet emergency at home that needed overseeing), so I didn’t get close enough to ask Mayor Pete to go on the Ben Shapiro program. I did get a nice spot on the balcony to snap pictures of the stage below, which was a good enough spot for a guy from the New York Times to stake out as well.

Mayor Pete seemed to be a very polished, articulate candidate who knew how to work a crowd, but I found a lot of his talk about “uniting” the country to be terribly disingenuous. He went almost immediately from talking about “values that unite us all” to praising abortion and the impeachment proceedings, which brought easy cheers from a left-wing crowd but were unlikely to get the “other half” of the country on board. I also couldn’t help but notice the crowd was almost entirely white. This isn’t something I normally care about, but it highlighted the difficulty Mayor Pete has had connecting to black voters. I guess using stock photos of Kenyans didn’t help bring anyone on board.

Next stop: Thanksgiving, and the kick-off of the Christmas season!

Tale of two Senators

We’ve been taking advantage of some lovely fall weather over the past week or two, taking in as much autumn fun as we can before winter hits. I also got to hang out with Bernie Sanders on Friday and then Ben Sasse on Saturday, so I guess that makes me bipartisan.

DSCN9915IMG_20191103_151016037

We had a quiet weekend last week, taking the kids for a long walk through Fontenelle Forest to get some fresh air and take in as some of the remaining fall colors before all the leaves were gone. The relatively bare trees gave us a nice view of the river in some spots and even a glimpse of downtown Omaha. The kids got to play on the playground for a bit as well before we were done.

Then on Sunday, we went to my parents’ house to let the kids watch the Wizard of Oz for the very first time. I’d seen the classic MGM film multiple times growing up, but seeing it through the eyes of my kids for the first time was a fun experience for everybody. (And having subtitles let me understand some of the lyrics and dialog for the first time as well.)

IMG_4052IMG_4000

On Friday, Bernie Sanders paid another visit to Council Bluffs for a rally, bringing with him fellow socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). The crowd of young, white, and rainbow-haired leftists seemed to be more eager to see her than the man running for President. Three musical acts preceded the politics — a lady playing a ukulele (while singing about “my body my choice”),  “Democratic Socialist Songsmith” Neal Francis and his funky band from Chicago (who were surprisingly good), and an eccentric banjo player named Adrian.

A few local politicians spoke before bringing out AOC, who seemed to be able to work the crowd up to a frenzy as she alternated between sitting and walking about the stage to introduce Sen. Sanders. The two politicians are half a century apart in age, but that gave them an interesting chemistry as they took turns exulting the values of socialism to a very friendly crowd. There were apparently over 2,000 people in attendance, but I managed to get a spot at the front to shake hands with both Bernie and AOC when they wrapped up and walked the rope line. I even asked them both if they would appear on the Ben Shapiro program. (Neither of them responded with much enthusiasm.)

IMG_20191109_094203383IMG_4209

The next morning, Hannah and I both got to walk in a Veterans’ Day Parade with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Vivian and Aaron were at a friend’s birthday party at the time, but Grammy was able to give us a ride to Olde Town Bellevue so we would meet up with the rest of the Sasse team. Don Bacon’s crew was also on hand (sans Bacon), and we walked between them and (Democrat) Carol Blood along Mission Avenue. Hannah got to ride in our little wagon and toss candy to some of the kids lining the streets.

The whole route was only around one kilometer in length, so it was over fairly quickly. Sasse stuck around for just long enough for a photo or two before vanishing like a ninja. Then Hannah and I walked on back along the route back to where Grammy was stationed outside the Dairy Queen, watching the rest of the parade pass by along the way. Once it was over, we got some ice cream together before heading home.

IMG_4247IMG_4310

The weather was lovely for the rest of the day, so we got the kids outdoors for some fun diving into a pile of leaves. Hannah also decided to build a makeshift shelter in the backyard where she could hang out with our neighbor friends on the other side of the fence. (And went it got too cold to be outside, she made a hammock in our basement.)

Then that evening, we brought some hot dogs over to my parents’ house and cooked them over their fire pit as the sun went down. My dad and I brought along enough makeshift firewood from fallen tree branches and debris to keep the fire going for an hour or two after the sun went down. There’s nothing quite like a fire to bring people together.


My brief encounter with Bernie & AOC

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).

IMG_20191029_172127185IMG_20191029_180718712

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.

IMG_3749IMG_3735

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.

IMG_3807IMG_3777

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.

Halloween Countdown

Halloween’s almost here, and that means we’re close to the time of perpetual darkness — AKA the end of daylight saving time — with winter not far behind. In the meantime, there’s more non-stop autumnal fun to be had, at least until the snow starts falling (which could be this afternoon).

IMG_3183IMG_3228

I had a busy Friday night, starting with a party to kick off Don Bacon’s 2020 re-election campaign. The event was held at the Regency Marriott, and it seems like just yesterday I was in the same ballroom for a victory party back in 2018 (or his previous kickoff party earlier that year). Don arrived moments after I did and spoke a few minutes to members of the media. Local musician Kaylyn Sahs played to music to start things off, followed by the National Anthem. Then Don had a long list of endorsements from Mike Foley, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman, Bob Evnen, Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding from the Omaha City Council, and a few others. Then Don took the stage to give a stump speech touching on taxes, the deficit, abortion, and the current impeachment situation, among other things. His wife Angie and two sons were there as well, as he invited them on stage for a moment before meeting and greeting the couple hundred people in attendance.

In addition to the usual folks, there was a handful of little ones running about, including Phil with his son Gabe, so it really was an event for the whole family. I got to speak to Don for a few minutes about the Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry” being held behind closed doors in the capitol basement. Don said he actually walked in on Matt Gaetz’ attempt to walk in on the proceedings, but he only saw it from the back and had no idea what was going on. He said he’s only been able to get about 25% of the transcripts from the proceedings himself, so his view of what’s going on isn’t much better than anyone else’s.

IMG_3297IMG_3335

I returned home long enough to help tuck the kids into bed and then changed clothes for the Jitterbugs’ Halloween Party. I decided to go as “Pierre Delecto,” AKA Mitt Romney’s Twitter alter ego, which was outed only a few days earlier. Vivian donned a mask and cape and came as Super Mom. There was a fairly good crowd, though I’m no longer a regular at JNO, so I only saw a few familiar faces throughout the night — Eric, Mike and Merinda, Lacey, the Hamiltons, and Takashi (who led us in Thriller, of course), among a few others. We had a costume parade and a contest, and the winners being Napoleon Dynamite, Rey and Kylo Ren, and Star Lord and Gamora (though they were ALL winners in my book).

In addition to all the dancing, Billy managed to score a bunch of leftover food from another party that somehow didn’t need it, so Vivian and I both got some Lindy Fuel that kept us going past midnight, once the dance was done. Special thanks to Donna for letting us stay out that late!

IMG_3428IMG_3447

We started off Saturday with nothing on our agenda, but the weather was too darn nice to stay inside, so we headed off to Gifford Farm to enjoy some fresh air, see some fall colors, explore a few hideouts, and do some trick-or-treating. The staff had stations all around the farm set up for kids to collect candy, play games of ring toss (or ball toss), and many remaining animals to see, from chickens we could pet (or chase), to a horse, a donkey, sheep, pigs, and a bunny. We got a ride around on the hay rack and let the kids zip down the slides inside the straw barn for a little while.

A reporter from KETV stopped by to get some footage of Hannah that may or may not have been in their evening broadcast, which we never saw due to a football game delay. We finished off our visit by decorating some cookies with the River City Confectioners Association, which has always been a tradition, thanks to Vivian’s mom.

IMG_3584IMG_3591

And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a quick lunch at McDonald’s and then went all the way down to Union Orchard to get some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch. Vivian had lamented us not finding any “on the vine” this year or in years’ past, but they fortunately had plenty of pumpkins — large and small, orange, green, and white — all waiting for us to pick. They were quite a deal, too — just $1 each for the big ones, and three for a dollar for the little ones (which Hannah got for her dolls). We also got some acorn and butternut squashes for a dollar each as well as some apple donuts for the ride home.

It was a fun, busy weekend, with more fun this coming week in-between Halloween and potential snow. Hopefully it’ll stay warm enough for the kids to get an obscene amount of candy once again.

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.

IMG_2278IMG_2294

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.

IMG_2667IMG_2715

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.