Seuss and Spaghetti

Just about everyone around here has had it with the non-stop winter, as we continue to shovel our way out from more and more snow even as we approach the first day of spring. We did get to have a brief window of not-snow for about a week or so, but at this point I’m thinking we’ll still have snow around by May.

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On Saturday, we celebrated Dr. Seuss birthday down at the Bellevue Public Library with the kids. We had some special guests like Mayor Rusty Hike and his wife as well as Officer Doyle from the Bellevue Police Department com to read to the little ones. Vivian and I read a few choice books to the kids as well, though they seemed to have more fun playing with some of the Dr. Seuss toys and finding their corresponding books. A few of Hannah’s little friends stopped by as well, and I stayed long enough to check out a few things before we left.

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Then on Sunday, we broke out our sleeping bags and dropped by First Presbyterian for another movie night with the kids. This time, they showed Lady and the Tramp, and for dinner they had spaghetti, which seemed appropriate. Aaron enjoyed it in a way only a four-year-old could, while mommy and I reenacted an iconic scene from the movie (which was st a bit more difficult with angel hair pasta). Some of the same little friends we bumped into on Saturday were back to watch the movie with us, which was nice.

For Fat Tuesday, Vivian made up a nice, giant pot of jambalaya using her new cast iron Dutch Oven. Then on Thursday we were inundated with even more snow. Winters apparently not done with us yet.

Snow End in Sight

The news of the day is snow, snow, and more snow. We had three legit snow emergencies in a week, the third of which caused a couple hundred miles of I-80 to be shut down as semi trucks and vehicles when sliding around in the worst vehicle pile-ups some state troopers had ever seen.

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Our first snow event came crashing down Saturday night, cancelling the early service at church and even the chili cook-off planned for that evening. We had another downfall a few days later that shut down schools (again) and inspired me to have an impromptu science project with the kids: placing an ice cube tray of juice outside to turn into tiny, fruity, popsiclettes. It wasn’t cold enough to freeze them quite as thoroughly as I’d hoped, but the kids still enjoyed them.

After the second snowfall, I also did a bit of extra shoveling at my in-laws’ house — namely taking a snow rake to the roof and scraping off an extra foot of the white stuff. I’m definitely getting a workout every time I have to shovel this stuff, and it helps when I can’t get to the Kroc Center.

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During a brief window between blizzards, I dropped by Barley’s “back room” in Council Bluffs to meet Democrat Congresswoman (HI-6) and Presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. She’s been tracking near the bottom of the polls I’ve been able to see, but she impressed me as a candidate. She’s a woman from a multicultural and multi-religious household, but she also served in the Iraq War in the National Guard, making her fairly unique as a Democrat candidate. Her brief stump speech seemed to focus on ending “regime change wars” overseas and she also said we were at the greatest risk of nuclear war in the world’s history (which I found a bit questionable).

What impressed me most was her apparent bipartisanship, writing a bill that was co-sponsored by Rand Paul and wanting to support issues regardless of the “R” and “D” after them. This was a refreshing change from other platforms that seem to begin and end with “Orange Man Bad.” I don’t agree with her on many issues, but I did stick around to tell her I appreciated her willingness to reach across the aisle. We need more of that.

(You can watch the event here and maybe get a glimpse of me!) 

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The biggest blizzard came on Saturday night, dumping around nine inches of the white stuff this time. I brought in a giant icicle from our porch, which had been growing hilariously over the past week. We mostly had some quality time indoors and away from the treacherous streets. (The UNO dome wasn’t so lucky, crashing from the wind and snow in the meantime.)

The next day, however, the sun came out and I spent a good while shoveling both our driveway and my in-laws’. I got a bit of help from our neighbor Mike, who was kind enough to walk by with his snowblower and help clear our driveway completely unsolicited. Our kids stayed inside playing “restaurant” together in the meantime. We had actually been planning to have a sushi birthday with the Mills family that afternoon, but three of their kids were sick and they unfortunately had to cancel (which meant sushi for us for lunch).

In lieu of a party, we decided to take the kids down to the Kroc Center for the afternoon, braving some still-slippery streets to have an afternoon in their warm, indoor water park. It was a nice, warm end to a long, and snowy week — though the cold is still persisting even as we head on in to March.

Come on, spring!

Heartcakes, paella, and never-ending snow

Well, we’re in the midst of the longest winter in human history, with enough snow dumping on us every other day to make Narnia look like a beach resort. It hasn’t interrupted too many of our celebrations this past week, however, so we’re taking it in stride.

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On Thursday, I celebrated Valentine’s Day by making Vivian and the kids a breakfast of heart waffles and bacon roses early in the morning. Hannah had some fun dressing the part with hearts on her shirt, jeans, and socks, and both kids colored Valentine’s cards to give to Grammy on their way to BSF.

I secretly stayed home in the meantime, making a red velvet heart cake and preparing a double-layer heart pizza for a Valentine’s dinner. Then I ambushed Vivian when she returned home to take her to lunch down at the special, where we had cheese steak and a pork tenderloin sandwich for our Valentine’s lunch. I had a few gifts for Vivian and the kids afterward, namely cards and their favorite cheeses, and I also had a few gifts for my mom, who watched them while we were away. (Vivian also had a heart-shaped box of truffles for me, which I’ll try not to eat all in one sitting.)

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We had dinner at Dennis and Kara’s house on Saturday night right before a new winter storm rolled by. The plows seemed to take a while to get to our street, but we still made it to church once I was done shoveling the driveway. The chili cook-off they’d scheduled for that evening was inexplicably cancelled, however, so we took the chili Vivian had made to my parents house, where we ate it with them and Uncle Jonny instead (bringing along some post-Valentine’s roses for my mom to adorn the table).

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Then on Monday, we got to celebrated Jack and Donna’s anniversary with some paella together for dinner. I’d grabbed the necessary ingredients the Saturday before, and Vivian cooked it all up for us to eat together. Both Jack and Aaron sat down to play some Super Mario Bros. in the meantime, which was fun to watch them play, and after dinner Vivian and I gave them a card with of my signature cartoons.

We’ve apparently got more snow in store tonight, and by now the days of sun, grass, and leaves seems to be a fading memory. It’s hard to believe soon things will be in bloom again and we’ll be complaining about mosquitoes and triple-digit heat waves once again.

Long walk of winter

We’re still in the midst of a long walk through a winter that’s been taking place since January, with snow after snow after snow that persists in spite of Punxsutawney Phil’s optimistic predictions.

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We still try to get the kids out as much as possible, whether that’s a trip down to the Kroc Center to run around or a long stroll down to the Chick-Fil-A, when temperatures drift back into the fifties momentarily. That’s where we went on Groundhog Day, getting out of the house to move around and then grab some chicken sandwiches at our favorite indoor playground. Vivian stayed home and made soup that evening, which we ate while watching the movie Groundhog Day together. It’s been my favorite film for years, and I seem to enjoy it more with every sitting.

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The next day was Super Bowl Sunday, so we had all four grandparents (and Uncles Nathan and Jonny) over to watch the Big Game with us. We had the usual assortment of Super Bowl food, including jalapeño poppers, buffalo wings, and a variety of chips and dips. Hannah’s team lost for the first time in her life as the Patriots beat the Rams in a game that felt like it would last forever. It was still good to get together to share the same experience with a couple million other people around the world, even if it meant sitting through Maroon 5 with the sound un-muted part of the time.

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The snow continued to come over and over through the following week, but we still found fun things to do indoors. Among them is a group called 1,000,000 Cups, which invites business leaders to talk about their experience and share their thoughts. I got to hear from Scooter’s co-founder Don Eckles, who talked about starting his coffee chain in the mid-90s focusing on a speedy, drive-thru experience. It was enlightening to hear about the brand loyalty of a coffee chain, which only makes sense as people tend to be downright religious about which cup of “joe” gets them going in the morning.

Among my other indoor projects was trying (and failing) to replace a 3-way light switch with a Smart Switch, only to learn through trial and error that every switch in the circuit would have to be replaced, not just one.

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Then on Saturday, our friend Kerri and her son Jonah celebrated their 40th and 5th birthdays, respectively. Our whole family joined them for some pizza, nachos, and cocktail wieners (and cake) as the kids dressed as superheroes and watched (most of) The Incredibles II. The little party was held at the most lavish apartment complex clubhouse I’d ever seen, which had its own legit mini-movie theater in the basement, among other things. Lexi brought Sammy and August along for the party, and we got our obligatory photo of Aaron, August, and Jonah together, as the three are growing up together like little brothers.

Next stop: V-Day!

Embracing Life, Celebrating Sushi

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We’re still adjusting to the return to normalcy in the midst of arctic temperatures as January wraps up. That includes MPact starting again, and our little Prim and Rainbow got to have a brief mid-year show-and-tell with their groups at BCC. Mostly, it meant watching several volunteers struggle to keep a few little ones from wandering off stage and listening to the older ones recite scripture and sing a few songs for the grown-ups in the audience.

We’re still quite proud of our little ones, of course, and very happy they get to spend their Wednesday nights learning about the Bible with so many of their little friends (and the three different pledges of allegiance they apparently have).

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Then on Friday night, I got to attend the 45th Annual Celebration of Life dinner with several of my teammates form the Pope Paul VI Institute. My boss, Dr. Hilgers, was actually being honored in absentia with a lifetime achievement award, which was accepted by his wife Sue. Naturally, I was on-the-job getting pictures and live-streaming some video (thanks to his daughter Dr. Teresa for holding the camera). Several of our elected leaders were also there, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley (who played emcee), the Governor, and a Congressman or two.

I got to learn a bit more about the world of the newly-renamed Nebraska Embracing Life before hearing from the keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen. Gianna was the victim of a chemical abortion forty years ago and supposed to have been aborted, but she miraculously survived and lived to tell us a bit about her life (and be the inspiration for the film October Baby). She has some physical disabilities from the abortion procedure, including cerebral palsy, so she was a bit unsteady standing at the wheeled podium at the front of the room. She actually called on our Governor to literally stand by her side and give her physical support as she gave her talk, which he did like a true gentleman.

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The next day, Vivian and I celebrated our sushi anniversary, marking twelve years since we made things official in 2007. We left the kids with mom and dad and went off to Hunan Fusion in West Omaha, getting our fill of sushi, including Shrimp Tempura rolls, Spicy Crab Rolls, Hawaii Rolls and Black Widow Rolls.

We walked off our lunch afterward and headed down to the Indian grocery store afterward and picked up a few things to make chicken tikka masala later in the week.

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Of course, one sushi date isn’t enough, so a few days later, we swung by the Jade Palace for some drive-thru sushi in an impromptu lunch date. For fast-food sushi, it was surprisingly good (and made to order).

In the meantime, we’re enjoying an arctic snap that brought temperatures below zero (for the high) and enjoyed spending a little more quality time indoors, eating pork chops with Grammy and Pop-Pop and spending 1500 of Vivian’s Wii points before the Wii Store closed forever, letting the kids play such classic games as Mario 64 for the first time. Fortunately, things will warm up by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. This year, Hannah’s picked the Rams to win, so we’ll see if her four-pick winning streak holds up! (Aaron’s picked the Patriots.)

It’s only a cheddar moon

Winter seems to have returned with a vengeance, with multiple snow days that have cancelled school and activities. Fortunately, the Saturday we chose to have our biennial cheese party, it was sunny and dry, so our cheesy plans kicked off without a hitch. I took the kids to Burger King for some running-around time before they had a sleepover with Grammy so Vivian and I could enjoy some adults-only time with our friends.

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This year’s cheese party was different, as we now had a category for cheesy dishes. Our friends brought such treats as Taco Cheese Balls, a Red Velvet Cheese Ball, and a pepperjack hash brown casserole (which won). Vivian made a cheese fondue bake with stacks of Camembert wrapped inside a pizza crust, which was quite tasty.

We had all the regular cheese samples of course, and the night’s winner was a Marco Polo cheese, narrowly beating out a North Sea cheese and a raspberry bella vitano. We had a delicious sampling of everything before telling some cheesy jokes and then passing out the awards. Jenny won for the cheesiest dish, Kody won for cheesiest joke, and Jen won for the best cheese of the night.

The party wound down afterward with a few rounds of Telestrations, which is always good for a laugh, especially with our friends (one of whom surprised us and wound up staying the night).

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Vivian and I got to enjoy a rare kid-free breakfast down at Village Inn before picking up Hannah and Aaron from Grammy (and bringing some pie to say thanks). We had more fresh snow that morning, so we day a quiet day inside afterward, nibbling on cheesy leftovers and letting the kids play with some of our cheesy props. I got to play with my Raspberry Pi a bit more, installing a few fun screensavers that the kids found fascinating.

Then that evening, Vivian baked some leftover bread with Camembert and garlic to make some tasty dinner for us. Then around 9:30, we got to watch a total lunar eclipse outside from our driveway. It was a nippy 12 degrees or so, but I went outside multiple times to get a few good shots, including totality, when the Super Wolf Blood Moon was complete. It was a beautiful sight, once I thought I’d miss when this morning it was snowing and overcast for most of the day.

Snow fun and Zoey’s Birthday

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We had a brief widow of lovely weather before winter returned, so we took the down to Stinson Park for their first lunch time play date since August. Hannah’s doll Suki came along to ride in the swings as daddy took turns pushing (and doing double “underdogs”), and the kids got some exercise dancing together. sliding, and running away from a stray skeleton that was hanging around.

Then on Thursday, we celebrated the one year anniversary of us adopting our little cat Zoey. We gave her a birthday “cake” made of cat food along with some presents, like a new dish and some cat toys.

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On Saturday, winter returned with a couple inches of wet, heavy snow that I spent the day shoveling up (at our house and at Grammy’s). Vivian made some French toast for breakfast, which we ate with the kids, but we mostly stayed indoors letting the snow accumulate and tidying up (though Hannah did get to build a snowman).

Then on Sunday after church, we took the kids sledding up on the hill behind Bellevue East High School. It was a lovely, sunny day for sledding down the steep hill (and making snow angels). Hannah loved speeding down even while sitting on Daddy’s lap, though Aaron had had enough after getting covered in snow and hitting an unexpected ramp on the way down.

After that, we returned home so Hannah could help make a snowman family in our yard while Aaron chased mommy with snowballs and colored in the snow. It was a lovely day for January, but I think the cold settled in by the end of the day, and not just because some of us were eating snow, so we warmed up with hot chocolate and chicken soup to finish off our weekend.

Unseasonable

The year 2019 is well underway, and we’re enjoying some major unseasonably warm weather. Among other unseasonable events, the 2020 Presidential Campaign seems to have kicked off way, way early, bleeding into the mid-terms in what feels like a never-ending political season.

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As such, Elizabeth Warren decided to drop by the Thunderbowl banquet hall in Council Bluffs to start her campaign. The venue held only 150 people and was clearly incapable of hosting the 300+ people who showed up. The Massachusetts Senator certainly had name recognition among the crowd, though most people who dropped by seemed more curious than committed to a candidate. Some left early after seeing that they wouldn’t be able to get inside, while those of us who stayed got a surprise when Warren herself dropped by half an hour early to greet the overflow crowd. She said a few words and then was immediately mobbed by spectators wanting selfies on her way inside (I almost got one myself). She gave a brief stump speech and held a brief Q&A, with questions selected via names from a hat. She then stuck around for more selfies afterward.

It seems like yesterday I was hobnobbing with candidates like this, mingling with the merch vendors hawking buttons and standing in lines of people waiting to see candidates. I enjoyed hearing what Warren had to say, though she’s farther to the left than most any candidate I’ve heard before and stands opposite of me on nearly every issue. It’ll be interesting to see which candidate throws his (or her) hat into the rig next.

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The gorgeous weather continued into Saturday, and to celebrate the twelfth day of Christmas, the city of Omaha set off the fireworks it had intended to set off on New Year’s Eve (but postponed due to high winds). We walked through the Gene Leahy Mall with the kids, which was lovely still with its Christmas lights lit. We met up with Kate and her girls and let the kids play a bit on the slides. Then we took a brief walk on the (still) frozen ice as we waited for the fireworks to start.

The show was supposed to happen at 14th and Farnam, but the fireworks were actually set off from behind the buildings in Heartland of America Park, obscuring our view from the east end of the mall (as if the organizers pulled the world’s biggest “psyche!”) Once the show started, we had to rush with a thousand other people just to see them. Fortunately, we got a fairly good view from tenth street. We let the traffic clear itself out as the kids played together, and then Vivian and I headed home to enjoy some jalapeño poppers (courtesy of Vivian) after putting the kids to bed.

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On Sunday night, we took the kids to play at the playground of First Presbyterian Church in advance of their Family Movie Night. They got a good dose of playing outdoors despite the weather turning a bit more seasonable, but it made our dinner of chili hot dogs even more welcoming once we were done outside. Then Hannah and Aaron got to join several of their little friends on the floor and watch Ferdinand before calling it a night.

Then on Monday, Alabama got to lose spectacularly to Clemson in the college football national championship. I watched the game with my dad and Jonathan, taking advantage of a free trial with Sling to watch on ESPN via my dad’s laptop (connected to the TV via HDMI, which worked great). It’s one of the two football games I usually watch each year, though Hannah doesn’t pick a winner for this one. We’ll see if Alabama and Clemson meet again next year for yet another re-match.

New Year Fondue

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I decided to take off from work the few days between Christmas and New Year’s, which let me recover a bit after Christmas and get some extra time with the kids. We did mundane things like get both of our cars an oil change, and we got the kids some exercise running around at the Kroc Center and at Burger King over lunch. I also got Hannah to decorate a belated Christmas card for Uncle Nathan so I could send him a belated Christmas gift (namely CASH).

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We got some more quality time with family and food on New Year’s Eve. My folks came over with Uncle Jonny to join us for a round of Apples to Apples, and then Jack and Donna stayed with us until midnight having some cheese fondue as the last moments of 2018 faded away. Hannah was bound and determined to stay up until midnight with us, and she spent some time drawing pictures with Grammy. She crashed eventually sometime around eleven, but we roused her before midnight came to the Central Time Zone.

I popped open a bottle of sparkling white as we rang in the New Year together before calling it a night. We spent New Year’s Day recovering from the night before, letting Aaron practice the alphabet on my Raspberry Pi and having some of Jack’s spicy black-eyed peas for dinner.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work (and reality) after a lovely, long Christmas break. Bring it on, 2019!

2018 in review

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As the year draws to a close, let’s look back
at a few (or a bunch) of highlights from 2018!