Let the Race Begin

It’s an exciting time to be a political junkie in Iowa, as another Presidential election is ready to kick off and we’ve got candidates wandering into town every other here down in Council Bluffs. Naturally, that means I’ll be crossing the river every change I get to snap some photos (when I’m not dodging rainstorms and stray turtles while biking the Keystone Trail).

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On Wednesday, Ron DeSantis kicked off his campaign by with his wife Casey on a four-city swing through Iowa, stopping by The Grass Wagon around noon. It all seemed familiar to me, chatting with people while in line outside and seeing the folks selling political buttons and other merchandise as we waited to get inside. Dasha Burns from NBC news was there interviewing guests in line, and I was interviewed by both Channel 3 and the Tokyo Broadcasting System about my thoughts on DeSantis — so you may see me on TV either in Iowa or Japan.

Around 200-300 enthusiastic people in a sweltering hot room there to greet him, including my parents, who I got to introduce to a few of my political friends. I had the unique vantage point of being able to snap photos from the media platform, thanks to my friend Stephen, who got me a press pass. Both Ron and Casey DeSantis stayed a few minutes afterward, meeting and greeting guests and getting selfies. Ron eschewed questions form the press but talked with regular folks about issues such as ballot harvesting.

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Then on Friday, Tim Scott had a town hall event down at Barley’s Bar & Grill. Barley’s is the place lower-tier candidates go when they want to fill out a room more easily. Scott’s enough of a draw, however, that the place was standing room only before the door even opened. I was able to stake out a fairly good spot on a bench where I cold stand up and snap photos of Scott and the packed room when he finally arrived. Congressman Randy Feenstra (who replaced Steve King in 2020) introduced him, and Scott gave a brief stump speech before taking a handful of questions form the crowd. He was asked about Ukraine, illegal immigration, de-funding the FBI, and other topics. He refused a question from a reporter with The Daily Nonpareil, saying “I’ll catch you later.” (He didn’t.)

Scott stayed a few minutes to chat with guests and shake hands afterward, and I got to ask him if he’d heard of Scott Presler and whether he was investing in ballot harvesting. (He has, and he is, he said.) I also managed to bump into Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner and a Fox News contributor. I chatted with him for a few minutes about the crowd and also managed to get a selfie with him before he left. I often forget when Presidential candidates travel to our humble little metro area that the national spotlight follows them.

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The next morning, I went with Hannah down to Bennington for a parade with Don Bacon. Hannah threw out fistfuls of candy as we walked along with his crew along Bennington Avenue and then 156th. Don shook plenty of hands of friendly spectators along the route as Cole Lumsden (of the High School Republicans) led the Bacon Brigade in a set of chants. I trotted along snapping photos along with Skip DeBusk, of course. It was around 82 degrees but the relentless sun made it feel over a hundred by the time we were done. Then Derek gave us a ride back to our starting point in his truck.

While we were in town, we stopped by to see our friends Jenny and Kody to talk about bikes and upcoming events, like her annual Fourth of July party before we headed home.

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Then that evening, we visited the Henry-Doorly Zoo once again for an evening visit courtesy of Autism Action Partnership. We finally got to see the new baby elephant and the baby giraffe, though the kids seemed to enjoy playing on some of the statuary and the fountains a bit more. It was also a decidedly smaller, quieter crowd, which meant we had the aquarium nearly all to ourselves. Aaron seemed to have a completely renewed excitement about seeing the sharks and sting rays swimming overhead, along with all the colorful fish and sea life in the walls around him as we walked through.

Then we got some ice cream from Burger King on the way home before calling it a day.

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Then on Sunday, we kicked off the summer a little more officially by making our first family trip to a splash pad. We got some pizza at Little Caesars for dinner and then drove on up to Looking Glass Park for a couple hours of getting wet (as a storm rolled by but mostly wandered east of us). I got wet with the kids for a bit under the bucket, and Aaron had some fun playing with a few stray squirt guns.

Hannah, in the meantime, became the most popular kid on the playground making balloon animals and swords for the kids wandering around, handing them out and collecting a few unsolicited tips for her trouble. That was a particularly fun experience for her.

Bike Rides & Burgers

We kicked off the summer with a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, which we spent riding bikes and grilling burgers, among other things.

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Grammy is planning to head off to California for a month, so she dropped by Saturday morning to give Hannah a haircut, leaving her with an extremely short “pixie” cut to start off the summer. I also brought my basil and Thai basil plants from the office and gave them a new home in our garden, where I’m hoping they’ll soon grow and produce many more tasty leaves for us.

Then that afternoon, Aaron and mommy went to the park to play with his friend Vlad for a few hours. Hannah and I went for a long-awaited bike ride in the meantime, heading back up to the portion of the West Papio trail by Bridlewood Park where she rode her bike for the very first time. We headed south for a bit, stopping by Huntington Park to see some statues and then finding a fan hanging on a tree further south. We took a detour off Pacific Street to cut through the posh Cambridge Oaks neighborhood to get to the Orange Leaf by Village Point to have some frozen yogurt together. Hannah filled a giant bowl and nearly ate it all by herself before we headed back.

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids to see the Super Mario Bros. movie after church. It was the first time all four of us had watched a movie in a theater together, so it was a fun experience. Even Uncle Jonny joined us for the show.

The movie itself was also very enjoyable. It was very thin on plot, but very fun to watch, particularly for all the “Easter Eggs” and Nintendo-specific references I could pick out all throughout the film.

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Then on Memorial Day, I decided to keep up Jenny’s tradition of a bike ride and returned to the West Papio trail. I used some points to get a free breakfast sandwich at McDonald’s before heading off, and then I rode all the way from the trail’s starting point in Millard to its end just north of Bridlewood Park.

I stopped by a few of the same spots Hannah visited on our ride on Saturday, as well as plenty of new spots, such as the Bluestem Prairie Preserve.

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Then that afternoon, I dropped by mom and dad’s house to help with a cookout. My dad bought a bunch of brats and burgers for us, so I helped get the smoker set up for some grilling late in the afternoon. My two brothers came by, as well as Nathan’s friend Cheryl, and we ate together outside in the shade. Then we had some dessert and headed inside to watch a few home movies before calling it a night.

Winding Down

Another school year is winding down and a long summer vacation is looming ahead. That means a few end-of-year events with Vivian and the kids before things come to a close.

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On Friday last week, the Royal Rangers had their Council of Achievements, and Aaron got a certificate for the events he’d completed with his little friends over the past year. Then they had some ice cream before heading outside to run around on the playground once last time before the year ended.

It’s been fun to take him every Wednesday to have quality time with other boys down at Spirit Life, and hopefully we’ll take it up again next year when Aaron is old enough for the next level (called Discovery).

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Vivian and I have been taking advantage of our last week or two without the kids during to day to go out to breakfast and lunch together without needing a sitter. On Wednesday last week, we dropped by the Olive Garden on Dodge to use a long-forgotten gift card. I got some spaghetti and salad with toasted ravioli and Vivian got some soup and lasagna while watching up for a bit before I returned to work.

Then on Wednesday this week, we went down to the Lighthouse Café in Olde Town Bellevue for breakfast. I’d visited once with my dad in 2020 (when it was the “Downtown Coffee Shop“), but they’d changed ownership and remodeled since then. I got some duck eggs and sausage awhile Vivian got a skillet, and we shared a plate of some “heavenly” waffles that taste a it like cake. It’s also a Christian-owned establishment, which you can clearly tell from the coffee mugs we were served while we were there.

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On Wednesday evening, Hannah had her year-end ceremony with the girls from AHG, where they received their badges for the year and got to have some cupcakes and cookies afterward. This was the flip-side of Royal Rangers, where Vivian takes Hannah on Wednesday evenings twice a month. I don’t often get to see everything they do, other than the photos Vivian shares with me, but it was nice to be there with the other dads at the end of the year and take some photos.

Then afterward, Hannah and Aaron played on the playground for a bit before we headed home. I remember getting a few goofy selfies with Aaron when we were at his same facility for the same event two years earlier, so I snapped a couple more in the same spot (with the same pose) before we left.

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On Thursday, I had lunch with the Business and Professional People for Life once again, stuffing myself with meatloaf and potatoes with a handful of my co-workers. We also got a legislative update from Marion Miner as the Unicameral wraps up, and also from Jim and Julie Mainelli on Mater Filius, a sort of halfway house for women with unexpected pregnancies.

I’ve also continued riding my bike nearly every day, enjoying the smell of fresh-cut grass and finding a secret wooded path (and having some free nuggets) along the Keystone Trail on one day, then rolling by the Ralston grain silos, the Hanscom Park lagoon, or even the Greek Islands, right off the Field Club Trail.

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Friday was the last day of school for both Hannah and Aaron. Then that evening, Hannah and her classmates at Abounding Life had a family night for the parents. They had a graduation ceremony for the seniors and some musical performances from all the various age groups. They had themes based on different cultures around the world, and Hannah and her group were dressed in middle eastern garb singing and dancing to Hava Nagila.

We stuck around for some cake afterward (and Vivian’s charcuterie board) and got to take home a few of Hannah’s art projects from this year, including a painted flower pot (which she made for Grammy), a painting, and a picture made of corn. Now with summer looming ahead, we’re faced with a new, daunting task — how do we keep these kids occupied for the next three months?

Mother’s Day & the Zoo

We just finished up a busy Mother’s Day weekend, which meant spending time with both sides of my family with a trip to the Zoo sandwiched in-between.

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On Saturday, my dad and I had some quality time hauling a few things down to the dump for Bellevue’s clean-up day in the morning. Then we met up again around lunchtime for some Mother’s Day celebration with my mom. I brought along a gift bag with some candy and a card for her. Then we took her down to the Greek Islands restaurant down on Center Street for lunch. I learned that my mom not only liked Greek food, but that she also hadn’t had it since before I was born — the last time she’d had it was apparently when she and my dad were still in Brazil.

I had a gyro platter and some Greek salad along with some flamingSaganaki” as an appetizer with my parents and brothers.

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Then right after lunch, I went with Vivian and the kids down to the Zoo for the afternoon. We used a pass that I’d picked up at the Bellevue Public Library back on April 1 (no fooling), and we wound up spending the entire afternoon down at the Children’s Adventure Trails. It was muggy and around 80 degrees, so it felt good to wade through the cold water and take a trip or two underneath the waterfall. Aaron also ran around the rope bridges a bit (along with the little monkeys) and rolled around on a few of the hills. The kids dropped by the petting zoo halfway through our visit and got to see some goats literally butting heads (competing for treats), and they also got to run through the tunnels to see the prairie dogs before getting more time in the water before the end of our visit.

It was nice to get to stay in just one spot during our visit to the Zoo this time around, particularly since we’re normally trudging around for miles trying to see as many animals as possible. The Children’s Adventure Trails are also only open on weekends now, so it was nice to pay them a visit when we normally wouldn’t be able to.

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Then came Mother’s Day. The kids had made some cards for Vivian a week ago when we were off having pho, so they brought them out and we presented them along with a breakfast burrito I’d made for some breakfast in bed.

They also had some nice gift bags at church that morning for all the women in the congregation, with tea and biscotti and other things for Mom.

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Then that evening, Vivian’s dad and I helped put together a Mother’s Day dinner for Vivian and Donna. Jack had some nice surf and turf with porterhouse steaks and shrimp kabobs (actual shrimp on the barbie), while I brought potato salad and a couple pies from Village Inn. The weather went from muggy to cool within a few hours, making for some nice time to lounge around in the yard (after I gave it a mow). And fortunately the rain stayed away so we could eat out on the porch together. The kids got some extra time playing and giving Bella a walk a little later before we headed home.

It was a fun and busy weekend, but it’s time for me to get back for work for a week or two and “recover” before the kids are out of school.

Cake with Vivek & the First Step to Life

A mid-week update! How about that? I’ve had a busy couple of days engaging in some politics and other things, getting ready for a busy, busy Mother’s Day weekend. I thought it might be nice to run by a few things I’ve been up to in the meantime rather than cramming everything together after the weekend.

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On Tuesday evening, I crossed the river to Treynor, Iowa to have “Cake with Vivek,” an event hosted by Free Speech America with presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Around 150 people joined me at the picturesque Palace Events Center in the rolling fields of farmland, including some familiar faces from the Nebraska side such as my blogger friend Dave Begley. The program started with a handful of kids reciting a memorized portion of the Declaration of Independence. Then Vivek took the stage and talked about such things as an “American Identity,” which he likened to a kind of cultural sonar a bat would use to navigate a cave. He also talked about various campaign issues, such as corporate censorship, shutting down the FBI, and term limits for government bureaucrats — as well as his favorite President Thomas Jefferson, the apparent inventor of the swivel-chair.

Martin Cannon with Free Speech America talked briefly about his organization and raising funds for a fireworks show on July 1 before wrapping up. Then Vivek met with guests outside for photos as they signed his tour bus before he left.

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Then on Thursday, I attended the Assure Women’s Center’s “First Step to Life” banquet at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. I’d learned about Assure way back in 2017, when executive director Toni Clarke spoke at a pro-life luncheon. They are a crisis pregnancy center that seems to focus on a non-judgmental and objective presentation of “options” for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, hoping that they would choose adoption or keeping the child rather than abortion. Around 2000 people were packed into the sold-out event for dinner together. Pam Tebow was the emcee of the event, and she spoke briefly about her pro-life experience with her son Tim Tebow. Other speakers included Gov. Jim Pillen and Mayor Jean Stothert. The keynote speaker was Seth Dillon, the CEO of The Babylon Bee, who talked about using humor in what he described as a spiritual warfare in our culture.

Tebow and Dillon both stayed to mingle with guests after the event, so I came by to shake Dillon’s hand and chat a bit about his company getting Elon Musk to buy Twitter last year. I also saw a handful of familiar faces from such recent events as the Elephant Remembers dinner, including Rod Edwards, who I got in a few candid shots before I headed off for the evening.

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In other news, the school year is wrapping up, so Aaron has his last Wednesday night at Royal Rangers with his little friends. It’s been a fun year with him learning bits about the bible while making some new friends. I’ve also enjoyed all the extra reading time I’ve gotten in the church lobby while I’ve been there.

We also managed not to have a week full of rain, as they’d been forecasting, so I got outside for a bike ride nearly every day of the week. That meant trips to Towl Park, to Hanscom Park, and also up to Democracy Park (to play a bit on the playground). They’ve reopened a few of the trails that had been demolished months ago to replace some sewer pipe, and as soon as the kids are done with school, I’ll probably be biking to and from work once again.

Political Drama, Comic Books, & a Pho Crawl

We’ve had a couple of busy days catching up with family and friends and then diving headfirts into some political events happening in the Omaha metro. (It was also Berkshire weekend, and as a shareholder I could have attended had I taken the initiative to figure out how. Maybe next year.)

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On Thursday, I had lunch down at the Pizza Ranch with Don Bacon. Though he’s technically not my Congressman, I always enjoy hearing updates from him on what’s going on in the House, and he talked ab it about the debt ceiling, military spending, foster kids, and the war in Ukraine. He also listed his favorite candidates for 2024, with Tim Scott at the top of the list (and not Donald Trump), followed by Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. He didn’t mention Vivek Ramaswamy, who I’m hoping to see on Tuesday.

Then that evening, my dad and I drove on down to Gretna for a Sarpy County GOP “open house” at the VFW. What we got instead was some kind of contentious meeting, which had started an hour earlier. Nebraska’s Secretary of State Bob Evnen was slated to speak but didn’t get the chance as there was argument over membership among other things. My dad wound up taking an empty seat netx to Evnen in the back, so I introduced the two to each other during the proceedings. It was still interesting nonetheless, and perhaps next time I should consider becoming a “member” (whatever that entails) so I can take part in this hubbub.

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The next day, I rode my bike by Taco Bell for Cinco de Mayo. Then that evening, Vivian and I got to attend the Elephant Remembers dinner once again. We’d gotten a pair of donated tickets from a friend at the Pizza Ranch and got to attend for free, which was nice. Vivian and I got to dress up and run elbows with a handful of elected officials and then have some chicken, potatoes, and zucchini for dinner while hearing from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, among others.

There was a strong undercurrent of drama at the dinner, however. Gov. Jim Pillen talked about “falling and having a hiccup on the vote for 626,” the “heartbeat bill” killed by Merv Riepe during the second cloture vote. Pillen talked about this as Riepe himself sat stone-faced at the dinner, saying “we will get more people in there who are pro-life, and we will have way more than 33 votes.” In other news, Charles Herbster and Julie Slama were also both at the event — the latter having accused the former of sexual assault at a previous Elephant Remembers dinner in 2019 (which Vivian and I also attended). The honoree for the evening was Dan Welch, who had been ousted form his position in the NEGOP the previous summer and joked about his “early retirement.” It was an interesting mix of guests to say the least, and you can read more about it in my political blog.

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Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, so I took the kids to Ground Zero Hobby in Bellevue to get a couple free comic books to take home. I also browsed some of the toys and games and found a D&D starter set that might make a nice birthday present (hopefully Aaron isn’t reading my blog yet).

I then spent the afternoon at my parents’ house with an estate sale agent named Shayne. My parents walked her through a handful of their valuables in the house as they talked a bit about plans eventually to downsize and move into an assisted living facility down the road. Afterward, I had some pizza and wings with my brothers while watching a few more home movies before heading home. Then Vivian made us a belated Cinco de Mayo (or Seis) dinner that evening.

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On Sunday, the kids at Wildewood ran a lemonade stand and bake sale in-between services, selling brownies, cookies, and lemon bars (and lemonade) to help fund an Appalachian missions trip for the youth ministy.

Then that afternoon, Vivian and I spent the day in Lincoln with Phil and Jen and a few of their friends stuffing ourselves with pho. Jen had wanted to go on a “pho crawl” in Lincoln for some time, visiting three of the various Vietnamese restaurants along 27th street through the afternoon and comparing their pho with one another. We started at Pho Ngyuenn, always a favorite of mind, and had some chicken pho and spring rolls. We were also introduced to Vietnamese iced coffee, which was quite strong and made with sweetened condensed milk. We moved along to Pho Factory a block north after that, having some steak and meatball pho with a Vietnamese crepe (bánh xèo), which was kind a salad you roll up and shove into your face. We had a quick break at the Asian grocery store next door to stock up on various sauces and other Asian things not available at Aldi.

Then we finished the crawl at the Vung-Tau Pho Grill for some egg rolls and more beef pho. I decided to finish our crawl by literally crawling out of the restaurant afterward, though I was surpised not to be quite as stuffed as I expected. Either rice noodles and broth isn’t as substative as I thought it would be, or I’m just that much of a glutton (probably the latter).

Parade, Fun Fest, and Moon Pies

We’ve had another week of lovely spring weather, which means lots of time to get outside to a park or two, smell the blooming lilac in our yard, and have a couple more bike rides around town.

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On Sunday last week, August had a birthday party down at Swanson Park. That meant a couple hours of our kids having quality time running around together. The boys spent some time roaming through the woods, where Aaron found an abandoned sled lying in a creek. Hannah and the girls walked through the forest making a video together (which I haven’t seen yet).

In the meantime, Nate grilled some hot dogs, and I brought along our fire pit to make a couple s’mores over the fire later on. Donna also made August a lovely cake with him and his little pets together, all of which we enjoyed eating afterward.

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On Monday, I dropped by the Pachyderm Luncheon again to hear from Rick Holdcroft on current issues before the legislature. My friend Stephen showed off his new mug and I chatted with a few other people about politics for a bit.

The weather was also nice enough for some extra time biking. I went by Towl Park one day, where they a have some lovely flowers blooming. They finally fixed one half of the Center Street bridge, with a new walkway across for me and my bike (this one watthour the hazardous bumps on the other side). I also dropped by Hy-Vee on another day just to pick up a fun dessert for Vivian and the kids — RC Cola and Moon Pies, a combination that’s legendary in the South.

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On Tuesday evening, I helped Hannah get an extra hour of volunteer time cleaning up trash along the street for an award with American Heritage Girls. Then I took the next day off completely so I could get the car an oil change. I got to do some yard work around the house afterward and helped Grammy fix a doorknob in our hall bathroom (which had to be taken apart and treated with WD-40). Then Vivian and I went out to Stella’s just for fun — having some burgers and onion rings there for the first time in nine years or so.

That evening, I took Aaron down to Royal Rangers, where the weather was nice enough for them to have their “flag pledges” outside. Then they made “healthy body bags” before eating some brownie cupcakes. I went biking again the next day and got some RC Cola and Moon Pies to bring home to dessert — a thing neither Vivian nor the kids had ever experienced before.

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Then on Saturday, I had my first professional photo gig down at the Arbor Day parade in Nebraska City. My friend skip had skipped down and hired me to fill in to snap photos of Deb Fischer’s crew walking along Central Avenue during the parade. I saw a few familiar faces, such as state senator Rita Sanders and our junior senator, Pete Ricketts, but no Deb once again. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and I got a bunch of photos along the route before the parade was done. Vivian arrived with the kids to see just the last few moments of it, including Hannah’s friend Justin from her school (and a Cardinal, who gave Aaron a high five).

We hung around for a while afterward, getting some burgers from the Pin High Clubhouse & Grill with the campaign and eating down at Steinhart Park afterward. The kids played on an old merry-go-round and got to see a veterans’ memorial with a giant tank and an anchor. Afterward, we dropped by the Arbor Lodge Mansion for a peek inside before playing a bit more at the Arbor Lodge State Park before getting ready to head home. There were a handful of other things we might have done if we’d had more time, such as visiting the Wildwood Historic Center or the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, but that will have to wait for another visit (Vivian told me to put it on the calendar).

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids down to Werner Park for Fun Fest, an annual event by the Autism Society of Nebraska. The kids got to meet some Star Wars characters who wound up riding a carousel with them. We also saw Spider-Man, Runza Rex, and Miss Nebraska USA as we walked around looking at the exhibits.

The kids got to play with bubbles and throw a few axes in-between grabbling merch from the dozens of vendors inside the big tent. There were some 30 mph winds blasting through nearly the entire time, but we did all right all the way up to the final walk around the park before heading home. Then we had some pizza for dinner and watched the movie Babe before finishing off the weekend.

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The biking weather continued through the next week, so on Monday, I took a trip up to Memorial Park to see a new statue installation. It’s based on the famous photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J day, marking the end of World War 2. It was particularly nice to pedal around a bit as the trees are still in blossom, and I also bumped into my friend Denise and her dog Rocko on my way back down the hill.

Then on Tuesday, I pedaled up the Field Club Trail and dropped in on Gerald Ford’s birthplace via Leavenworth Street. The trees were in blossom there as well, though I also noticed the plaques with names of governors and Presidents hadn’t been updated in over a decade. It was just nice to get out and get some sun while burning about 1500 calories in the middle of a weekday.

Bikes & Blossoms

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Spring has sprung in the past week or two since Easter, with blossoms appearing on trees all over town. We also got to see our tulips and daffodils in our yard again, a colorful display that will last probably a week or two. I’ve been enjoying biking all over down as well, of course, going by Hanscom Park, the Big Papio Trail, the Keystone Trail, and catching a whiff of blossoms every which way. Several woodchucks seem to be out and about along the trails as well (making things interesting as I try to avoid them).

I even got out to go biking with Hannah a bit on Saturday, pedaling on down to the Sandy Park and back, pushing against 25 mph winds along the way.

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In food-related news, I got to have some barbecue with Nate down at Oklahoma Joe’s, and Vivian and I got to have some of Graley’s last hand pies of the season. We also took our kids out to Roma’s for some Italian food on Thursday. We were going to take them to Malara’s, but they decided to shut down forever even earlier than they’d planned, likely because they could barely keep up when Vivian and I dropped by a week earlier. Roma’s had remodeled since I last visited back in 2019 (with my parents), so it was an unexpectedly fancy affair. Hannah was quite delighted at the endless garlic bread we got with our meal, and Aaron’s naturally a big fan of noodles and sauce and parmesan (please).

Then on Saturday, I went to see the Steve Deace movie “Nefarious” with my parents. It was an R-rated “Christian horror” film and very good. It reminded me both of The Screwtape Letters and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter speaking with Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs. It was good enough I may wind up seeing it again. Then Vivian made some split-pea soup, which was perfect for a cold and rainy Saturday.

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We wrapped up our last Men of God dinner of the year with some smoked ribs from Woody on the following Tuesday. We also got to hear from Colt Doherty, who pastors a church in Atlantic, Iowa and talked about his experience getting a wreck while drag-racing and coming to accept Christ afterward.

Aaron’s got a few more weeks with his friends at Royal Rangers before the year. Some of his troop-mates made pizza on Wednesday, and we got to sample some before heading home.

Easter Weekend 2023

We had a wonderful Easter weekend with the family in Omaha and have had a week of the most perfect weather ever to enjoy it. Naturally, that meant multiple Easter Egg Hunts and extra time outside all around.

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On Wednesday, Sam came by to spend some time with Hannah for the evening. She brought along a 1990 board game called Meet Me at the Mall, which Lexi apparently used to play when she was little.

Jake was back from Mexico and brought along a giant sombrero (which Aaron tried on) and a poncho, both of which he wore to Royal Rangers that evening. Aaron, in the meantime, got to make some cardboard “Armor of God” on his little group, dressed up as little soldiers in the Lord’s Army for evening. Yes, sir.

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On Thursday, I dropped by the Pizza Ranch to hear from self-professed “tax geek” Bryan Sloan with the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He talked mostly about taxes, specifically the EPIC tax being proposed and Gov. Pillen’s current tax cut plan before the legislature. I also got to chat with a handful of other people about politics, including current craziness happening in the state legislature.

Then that evening, I made some unleavened bread to celebrate Passover, which we had with a little Kosher wine. Aaron got to try kneading the dough as well, which I found to be quite therapeutic to smash repeatedly on a flour-covered cutting board.

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I took Good Friday off completely, specifically so we could take the kids to Lincoln for a long-overdue trip to Lost in Fun. They hadn’t been there for over two years — and will be aging out of it soon — so we wanted to give them both another chance to bounce on a jumping pillow, jump into the Space Pit, and run around playing with a few of the games and climbing through an obstacle course together for the afternoon.

Afterward, we got some smoothies from Pho Ngyuenn down the street and then explored some of the park and trails over by 22nd and Q. There was a small playground and some stone statuary and furniture for the kids to explore, and Aaron and Hannah walked around the river going through a “level” before we called it a day. Then we got some Chinese food at Egg Roll King before heading home (though I was tempted to explore the “Meat and Beer” across the street, which I presume has plenty of both).

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The came Saturday. We managed to take the kids to two Easter Eggs hunts (out of the dozens and dozens happening in the area). The first was at Christ Cathedral up the street from us, which is where the family who started the Our Gathering Place dinners happens to attend. I got to meet Pastor Kevin Johnson, and the kids got to gather a few egg and get a few prizes from the prize table before having some hot dogs for lunch downstairs. We also got a nice family photo out in the foyer.

Afterward, we went down to Everett Park for a second Easter Egg hunt with Bellevue Christian Center. Hannah got a bucketful of eggs with candy as Aaron got some time on the swing and had his face painted (and Hannah got a spider on her hand). He and I did a little sword-fighting afterward before heading home.

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Then came Sunday! We got up wit h the kids and let them look for their Easter Baskets to start the morning, which contained candy and a few UV “invisible ink” pens that U showed them how to use. We put on our Sunday Best and got a family photo before heading to church. We got to see several classrooms decorated as various scenes from the Easter story in the bible, including Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Empty Tomb. Someone also left Pastor Ron a giant Marshmallow Peep.

We returned home, where the kids got to have another Easter Egg hunt in our yard. Vivian and I spent a little more time afterward getting Easter Dinner ready and tidying up the house a bit. Vivian made a lovely glazed ham with pistachio fluff and broccoli casserole, and I made some mashed potatoes and deviled eggs. We had the whole family over — Vivian’s parents and mine, Uncle Jonny, Uncle Nathan, and even Cheryl. Donna brought a trio of pies and Uncle Nathan brought some donuts, so we had more food to go around than we knew what to do with.

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Happy Easter!

Bi-Polar Weather

We’re experiencing some bi-polar weather once again, with snow one day and too warm for a jacket the next. It means getting outside can be confusing, particularly when you don’t know how to dress.

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It was warm enough on Saturday last week to bring Harold and his mommy outside to graze for a bit in our yard. Afterward, I took Aaron down to Ralston Park to get in some quality playtime before Sunday, when we had an actual dusting of snow for some reason (leaving us and the guinea pigs inside).

I rode my bike a bit more during the following week, heading up by the Vinton Street silos one day and down to Oak Park in Ralston the next. It was so nice on the latter trip that I was able to take off my jacket. I also rode by Ralston Park again (sans Aaron) and got to get a selfie with a train before heading back to work.

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On Friday, I drove down to the Student Center at UN-L in Lincoln to see a comedian named K-Von, who tours college campuses with Turning Point USA. He told a variety of jokes, poking fun at his own Iranian heritage and Covid-19.

About 30 other people showed up as well (and no protestors), and it was nice to get out of Omaha briefly for an evening. I also got to hang out with a few of them afterward chatting about the nonaggression principle and man in the state of nature.

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Then on Saturday, I dropped by the Bellevue Library to get a free pass to the Zoo (with a bunch of other people). Then I spent much of the day at my parents’ house, going through some more old slides of my childhood and then watching home movies while eating food from Taco John’s. We played a ground of “Guesspionage” on the Switch afterward, and I had a round of Boggle with mom and Nathan before heading home.

It was warm enough that evening to bring the guinea pigs out again, and then Hannah and I walked down to Chick-Fil-A for ice cream after dinner, picking up a coconut on the way back (of all things).

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On Palm Sunday, we took the kids down to the Gene Leahy Mall for Autism Awareness Day (or something like that) in the afternoon. Mostly, it was a nice excuse to get out and see the remodeled Mall with the kids. They got to go down a couple of the slides, play on a few of the new climbing structures, and roll down one of the turf-covered slopes.

I still don’t think it’s an improvement over what used to be there, but I was glad the kids got to enjoy it. The kids spent a good deal of time playing basketball and shooting a bubble gun, and we also got a few balloons and some lemonade before heading back to the car. I also walked along the small water area with Hannah with the Yellow Head sculpture by Jun Kaneko.

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Then on Tuesday, Vivian and I planned on having lunch at Malara’s, an Italian restaurant we’d been to numerous times before that’s now about to close forever. Naturally, a bunch of other people had the same idea, filling the venue to capacity, and prompting them to lock the front door while I was inside.

It was an hour wait just to get a table, so  Vivian and I decided to run up the street to Louie M’s Burger Lust for lunch instead. Louie M’s has been a favorite of mine since 2001. We both had some Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburgers with Onion Rings and fries for lunch, and later in the day I got to walk off a bit along in the Keystone Trail in the lovely 72 degree weather.

We’ll give Malara’s another try next week — and hopefully get there much earlier.