Yearly Archives: 2011

So long, 2011!

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It’s been a fabulously eventful 2011! Let’s recap.

2012 proves to be a challenging year, since Vivian and I have been thrust into the role of mom and dad for the first time. We’ll see how it shapes up — bring it on!

A Johnson Family Christmas

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Christmas is a time of traditions, and one tradition for Vivian and me is celebrating the anniversary of our first date. It was five years ago last Thursday that I took her down to the Old Market for dinner at French Café (after La Casa Pizza proved ridiculously over-crowded), so we dropped by again to commemorate the occasion. On the menu were Duck Cassoulet, Bouchée à la Reine, and several other things I can’t pronounce.

After dinner, we upheld another tradition by bumping into Jenny and Friends, who were down at the Con Agra skating rink. We also made our annual trip to the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge and found the Tannenbaum shop open for the first time in our five years of dropping by. We took a brief, freezing trip down to the Gene Leahy Mall for pictures before running back to 13th Street Coffee to warm up before going home.

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On Christmas Eve, Vivian and I attended a candle-light service at Twin Valley Church with her parents (and family friend Shirley). The Rietjens lit the final advent candle, and then Drew read an assortment of scriptures telling the Christmas story while the kids in the church acted out portions while in costume. Yes, it was about half an hour worth of adorbs and kid-friendly silliness in front of everyone (and Sean was somehow rendered speechless).

We returned to our house afterward to find a pile of food and presents on our doorstep. Jack and Donna dropped in with Shirley, and we spent Christmas Eve stuffing ourselves with an assortment of hors d’eourves for dinner before opening our first set of stocking stuffers together. (Hannah meanwhile, just lay around being cute.)

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On Christmas Day, Vivian and I dressed Hannah up in her Christmas outfit and attended church together. Back home, we opened presents with Jack and Donna before having a giant Christmas dinner together afterward (with roast turkey, of course). Jack got a meter of chocolate, Hannah got about a thousand ornaments, and I got plenty of pictures of everybody (OK, just a handful). Uncle Eric dropped by to join in the fun and seemed mildly amused at some of the stocking stuffers we’d saved for him.

The greatest gift this year, though, was being able to celebrate with Hannah Marie for the first time, even though she doesn’t quite know what’s going on yet (outside of eating and pooping). Merry Christmas, everybody!

Christmas Reunions

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On Friday night, Vivian and I headed to Venice Inn to crash the Friendship Program Christmas party. Vivian hadn’t seen many of her co-workers since she left for maternity leave back in November, so every few minutes she was excitedly greeting someone. She also got to have her first official “drink” in about ten months (a chocolatini, of course). We filled up on meatballs, sausage, and toasted ravioli courtesy of Venice Inn in the meantime while Betty passed out seasonal door prizes to 80+ different people. Anthony accepted his ceramic snowman as if it were an Oscar and gave a stirring speech until Betty grabbed the microphone back.

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Friday night also marked our first trip back to Jitterbugs Night Out since the baby came. Friday was the Jitterbugs’ annual Christmas party, so they had the Stan Harper Experience drop by to belt out some swingin’ renditions of Christmas songs, (my favorite of which was that Peanuts’ Christmas piano song). There was a white elephant gift exchange later on, where a dozen or so guests got to receive random gifts ranging from a collection of swing music CDs to a can of Progresso soup. There was also a Jack and Jill competition toward the end of the night, but Vivian and I had worn out our feet by then and were ready to call it a night. I think we must be out of practice. Still, it was great to see several of our old swing dancing friends, and I’m sure we’ll still be coming back.

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On Saturday night, the whole family headed up to northwest Omaha for Jenny’s annual Christmas party. We put together “gingerbread” houses (with graham crackers) once again, and I took a stab at it this time, finding frosting to be a somewhat inadequate adhesive for constructing anything much larger than a graham cracker tent.

We had our own white elephant gift exchange, which enabled Vivian to trade in a star-shaped candle holder for a half-full bottle of washer fluid. I lucked out by swapping a kitschy “Have a Dickens of a Christmas” diorama for a set of “hobo tools” (consisting of a Swiss-army style fork and spoon), narrowly escaping the clutches of a stainless steel necklace holder in the process. Other noteworthy “prizes” included a copy of The Day I Shot Cupid by Jennifer Love Hewitt, a book Jon seemed to enjoy leafing through quite a bit.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I took our turn lighting the advent candles before the church (the theme for this one was “peace”). It also gave us the chance to introduce Hannah formally to the rest of the congregation, though almost everyone has had the chance to see her being adorable for just about anybody willing to hold her so far. That afternoon, Grammy and Grampy dropped by for a photo shoot with Hannah, and later on we took her on her very first walk around the neighborhood. She seemed quite fascinated with being outside for a change and looked up at the sky (or what she could make of it) with amazement.

That evening, a large group of us went by Hillcrest Home down on Harlan to sing Christmas carols to the residents there. Jessica Ritchie accompanied us on piano when we found one available, and we decked the halls together for a good hour making sure everyone possible got a bit of Christmas cheer. Afterward, we retreated back to Twin Valley Church to have some spicy venison chili courtesy of Jeff before heading home.

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Monday evening a big night for reunions for both Vivian and me. I took a trip down to Lincoln to catch up a bunch of my fellow Land and Sky “alumni” over dinner and drinks at Granite City. Joining us were (from left to right) Dan, Jeanie, Vanchessa, Julie, Paul, and Mark. It’s been a good three years or so since I’ve seen anybody from the old “gang,” and it brought back a lot of memories — most of which I probably shouldn’t repeat here. Thanks, Julie for getting us all together once again!

As for Vivian, Gail — her old best friend from high school and “Babo’s” previous owner — dropped by with her husband and little girl to pay us a Christmas visit. Vivian had been communicating with her online via Facebook for as long as I’ve known her, I think, so it was nice to finally meet up. They spent the day touring the Children’s Museum downtown, where Hannah got to “ride” on a slide and wiggle around in the “wiggle room.” We’ll have to take her back there older when she’d big enough to stand inside of a six-foot bubble. We had dinner that evening together at Carlos O’Kelly’s and then I took everyone downtown for some ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. The place still seemed to be packed in spite of the fact that it’s December, but we managed to beat the rush and have a scoop of egg nog, maple walnut, and “halva nice day” ice cream before calling it a night.

Christmas, here we come!

Duck butt jammies

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Our venture into parenthood had been going fairly well so far, and we’ve been able to make the rounds and share Hannah’s adorableness with several of our friends so far. On Friday night, Sarah Adair had an Ugly Christmas Sweater party over at her apartment in Papillion. Hannah was more or less comatose the entire evening in her duck-butt jammies, but we did get to pass her around a bit and had a quick OMG I’m hungry feed me moment. Mostly, we sipped wine and played a couple loud rounds of The Last Word and Wits and Wagers, with Eric playing referee at times.

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On Saturday night, we had something of a “coming out” party for Hannah, which was essentially her last little baby shower. Donna baked a giant baby bassinet cake, and several of her friends and co-workers dropped by — Keith and Shelley, Shirley and Roxanne, Sarah Busch, and even Uncle Nathan. We stuffed ourselves with meatballs and salad for dinner, and Vivian opened a bunch of presents before we moved on to dessert.

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On Sunday, Vivian brought Hannah by Twin Valley Church for her first time in church. Naturally everyone stopped by to coo and look at the new little bundle we’d brought. Hannah was fairly well behaved, and we were even able to drop by Taco Bell with a bunch of the gang without much trouble.

Back to normal

Well, Vivian and I are parents now, and we’re slowly adjusting as life gets back to “normal,” whatever that is now. Hannah seems to be a pretty good sleeper, able to zonk out for a couple hours when we drop into a chili party. We’ve both gotten pretty good at changing diapers, making bottles, and figuring whether our baby wants food, changing, or cuddles. It’s been a joy, but now that Vivian’s recovering, we’re slowly returning to the real world outside our home in Bellevue.

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On Friday night, I took a much-needed trip up to JNO for some swing dancing. (Vivian was still not up for it, but hopefully will be in a couple weeks, just in time for the Christmas party.) We have live music courtesy of The UNO Big Band, and I had the chance to play with my new camera some more and capture several snapshots that I never could with my smaller point-and-shoot.

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On Sunday night, we brought Hannah out for her first public appearance at Eric and Ben’s annual Chili Throwdown event. Vivian and I have attended this culinary competition for the past three years now, so we knew we couldn’t miss it. She slept like a pro throughout the entire event, but it was fun to introduce her to everyone who happened to stop by her little car seat/carrier

I created my own last-minute entry — a concoction I dubbed “bacon cheeseburger” chili. Naturally, it contained everything a good cheeseburger would have — cheese, ground beef, onion, mustard, relish, tomatoes, and one special ingredient for one special person: KETCHUP! I tailored this chili for the “most unique” category, which I’m sure it could have won if it hadn’t been eliminated. Eric said it sparked a lot of “discussion as to whether it was actually chili or not. I mean it contained all the usual ingredients, save for one: chili powder. It didn’t win any awards either way, but it was fun to make (and eat).

This year’s winners were Bri for best non-chili entry (potato soup), Adri for third place, Julia for second, and C.J. for both spiciest chili and first place. Congrats, guys!

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Oh, did anybody notice that it’s December already? That means Vivian and I had to run out and grab a Christmas tree. We’re in the process of decorating now. We also had to get our Christmas letters taken care of, and that meant getting a new family picture with Hannah! Tamra was kind enough to take some picture of us when she was over for a baby-holding session on Sunday.

Special delivery: continued

Vivian and I have had our little baby girl Hannah home for a couple days now, and we’re quickly becoming adjusted to the mind-boggling idea that we’re now parents. Here’s how it all came down last week.

Ultrasound showing the baby is "breech" Our last meal before the baby

Vivian had been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and put on bed rest the week before our baby came. She went in for a check-up the following Monday, which included an ultrasound that revealed our baby to be in the “breech” position. Vivian’s doctor decided to perform a c-section the next morning at Bergan Mercy hospital rather than risk Vivian going into labor with a baby facing the wrong way.

It was an amazing bit of news to digest, and I have no idea how I got any sleep the night before (Vivian actually got no sleep whatsoever). We celebrated the news of our forthcoming little one with a “last meal” as a childless couple at Ruby Tuesday around the corner.

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The next morning, Vivian and I showed up at the hospital at 6:30 for a couple hours of paperwork and preparations before the big moment came. I got all scrubbed up and ready with my fully-charged camera to capture every moment in the operating room.

Vivian went in for surgery at 8:30, and by 9:07, our little daughter Hannah Marie emerged from her womb covered in blood and vernix, making her a “cheesy” baby. (Is anybody surprised?) The nurse cleaned her up and then we settled into the recover room for a few hours as I busily told everyone I could the happy news via cell phone.

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The long recovery came after the baby was delivered on Tuesday. I got to dive headfirst into fatherhood changing my own baby’s diaper and giving her a sponge bath when needed. We had a steady parade of visitors dropping by over the course of our hospital stay, namely Dennis and Kara, Randy and Jolene, Eric, Venche, Lexi, Pastor Drew, and a few others. There’s nothing like a baby to draw in a crowd, and we had plenty of picture of our little bundle of joy flying around social media with every visit.

Vivian’s stay extended through Thanksgiving, so we had a makeshift Thanksgiving Dinner with her folks in the hospital’s dining hall. They had all the typical Thanksgiving foods for us, and it was a nice reprieve from our little room in post-partum.

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Vivian and the baby were released from the hospital on Friday, and I got to figure out how to use a car seat in our effort to get little Hannah home safely during her very first car ride. Since then, we’ve been learning her schedule for feeding and sleeping, which seems to be a bout of “cluster feeding” during the day followed by long period of near comatose sleeping during the night. Lucky us.

My brother Jonathan dropped by over the weekend to see his new niece (as did Maggie and Eric) and he stuck around Sunday night for our “real” Thanksgiving dinner with Grammy and Grampy Taber. Naturally, there was plenty of baby-holding and baby-feeding in the midst of stuffing ourselves with another enormous Thanksgiving meal (which included perennial favorites like green bean casserole, Taber salad, that green fluffy stuff, and poppy seed rolls to go along with the turkey and stuffing).

It’s been quite an adventure becoming parents so far, but we’re getting quickly settled into home life once again. Of course, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors coming by to see our new little girl. I have a feeling we’re going to see the most-photographed generations in history, if our friends below are any indication.

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Welcome home, Hannah Marie!

Special Delivery

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Hannah Marie Johnson

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Hannah Marie Johnson, born 11-22-11 at 9:07 a.m. weighing 5 lbs. 9 oz. and measuring 19 inches long. On Monday, Vivian got a checkup with an ultrasound that showed little Hannah was “breech,” so our doctor scheduled a C-section the next morning. They didn’t want Vivian to go into labor and risk delivering our little girl feet-first into the world.

The baby is doing just fine, and mom is sore but recovering quickly. If you’d like to see more pictures of our special delivery, you can view them on our Flickr account.

Final showers, a hobo party, and a new camera

Vivian and I are going to be childless for only a few more weeks as the baby countdown is well underway. Vivian’s had a number of showers up to this point, one most recently at our church at Twin Valley. It’s all very overwhelming, since we both have such generous friends. We have enough diapers and baby wipes to last us well into our child’s teenage years.

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We’ve still managed to have some fall fun with our friends as well. Our friend Tamra threw an impromptu “hobo party,” which involved eating chili out of tin cans and trying to figure out how to have a fire inside a large boat shed while the wind was howling outside (too much to keep a fire going). Joining Second-Hand Matt and Sassy Pants Vivian were Grubby Heather, Goofy Jenny, Wild eyed Lou, Two-Tooth Tamra, Cardboard Mark, Jon, Heather Amanda and a couple others whose hobo names I can’t remember. Mark broke out the guitar at some point to strum through some sheet music from the 70s and we spent a couple hours of hammerschlagen before retreating inside to watch MST3K (the Deadly Bees).

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You might notice the pictures above are a slightly slightly different dimension than my other photos on this post. That’s because Vivian and I finally broke down and bought our dream camera — Canon Rebel T2i DLSR. Our excuse was to be able to take some beautiful baby pictures once our bundle of joy arrives, but it also works beautifully taking snapshots at Jitterbugs Night Out or just eating pizza with the Stubbs for Deena’s birthday. The nice, big lens makes it easy to get sharp photos of action on the dance floor with those horrible dust globes swarming around.

This new camera actually brings back memories of using my dad’s old Nikon film camera for my photography class. It was always so much easier to get beautiful pictures using a “real” lens and film that I could with a tiny point-and-shoot camera. Vivian and I broke in the camera over the weekend traveling around Omaha and taking a few nice, high-quality pictures of landmarks that had entries on Wikipedia and no decent pictures to go with them (such as the Sokol Auditorium, the Bohemian Cafe, the Saddle Creek overpass, and the Joel N. Cornish House in the old gold coast district). It’s already proven be useful getting pictures of our pastor’s family (for a Christmas photo) and some last-minute baby belly pictures with Vivian before our inevitable due date.

The next entry you read here will likely be about our new bundle of joy, so stay tuned. Our original ETA is November 30, but just about anything could happen between now and then.

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Halloween 2011

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Vivian and I had another fun-filled Halloween weekend together. We kicked things off with a Halloween dance at the Eagle’s Lodge with our Jitterbug friends — Eric, Frank, and the Nothnagels came as Angry Birds, Maggie and Lee came as Batgirl and Robin, and Frank and Julia were Buzz Lightyear and Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl from Toy Story. We had a costume contest and a jack & jill contest, but everyone who came by were winners in spirit — especially those who stuck around for after-midnight breakfast at Village Inn at stupid o’clock.

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On Saturday night, Jenny and Tamra hosted a pumpkin-carving party up in northwest Omaha. Vivian and I bought a couple of discount pumpkins the other day that we hacked together with a bunch of our friends — Keith, Jon, Amanda, Anne, and Venche. There were plenty of treats to go around, of course, including a bunch of caramel apples. We also scooped out the seeds, which Vivian washed and roasted with some cinnamon and sugar afterward.

We wound the party down later on by watching John Carpenter’s original Halloween film. It was the movie that introduced Jaimie Lee Curtis to the world, along with the concept of the modern “slasher” film that became quite popular throughout the 1980s. This film seemed quite tame by comparison, with most of us yelling at Jaimie to go stick a knife in Michael Myers’ heart (rather than simply assume poking him with a sewing needle effectively killed him for the rest of the film).

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Of course, no Halloween weekend would be complete without a party in the Nothnagel’s basement. The party fell on a Sunday night this year, which meant Vivian and I had to deal with picking up donation bread from Panera and getting up early for work the next morning. We still managed to squeeze in a good deal of dancing with our colorful assortment of friends once the party got started. Ruth showed up wearing a hilarious “shark eating somebody” costume, so I naturally put Mack the Knife into the evening’s playlist (no word yet on whether the party “jumped the shark” at any point). Eric and the Angry Birds made another appearance, as did an assortment of gangsters, superheroes, and a super villain (kudos to Bruce, aka Red Skull, for being the only person at the party who knew who I was dressed up as).

I swear Halloween is now more popular with adults now than with children — more of the “grown-ups” I know play dress up nowadays than actual children who come to our door begging for candy. But at least nobody TP’ed our house. This year.

Costume Party and a Hayrack Ride

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The fall fun continues for Vivian and me. Last Saturday we partook in another autumnal tradition — Jenny’s birthday costume party, which we’ve attended for the last four years in a row. This year I came as Number Two from the 1960s TV series The Prisoner. Pretty much nobody in our group knew who I was supposed to be, but that didn’t matter. I loved the show, and I needed to buy a gray turtleneck anyway. Vivian came as a cat-who-swallowed-an-entire fishbowl, making use of her eight-month-old pregnant tummy. We had several other hilarious costumers in our ranks this year — the Straussers as the Super Family, Heather as a Major Award, Jon Paper as a headless person, Keith as… Captain Keith, the Kams as a pumpkin patch, and Jenny as Lady Gaga (singing Bad Romance via karaoke just as we walked in the door). Dean West was our host this evening dressed as Bamm-Bamm, and his parents just happened to show up to join us.

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We drifted between karaoke and pumpkin-style food upstairs and a dance floor downstairs. Jenny got to have another birthday jam (after getting one at JNO on Friday). Vivian and Venche served up pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie (respectively) to contribute to our sugar rush throughout the evening. We continued on with the Hokey Pokey for some reason and wound down the evening setting up a Christmas tree with random objects gathered from Dean’s basement (which included boots, a beachball, and Scotch tape among other things).

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On Sunday, Vivian and I partook in another fall tradition — going on a hayrack ride. This year, we went with several of our fellow members at Twin Valley Church to the Hall’s ranch down near rural Plattsmouth. We loaded up in two hayracks and got toted about for a couple miles, enjoying the gorgeous weather and countryside along the bumpy country roads.

Everyone brought plenty of food to stuff ourselves with afterward, and we had a roaring firepit going as well, which was just perfect for toasting s’mores with some of the ginormous marshmallows Jeff West was able to smuggle in. The weather was absolutely gorgeous the whole time we were there — warm enough for a T-shirt — but as the sun fell we were reminded that it is, in fact, October now, so the fire was a welcome addition to the evening. (Little Rachel just stared in awe as if she’d never seen an open fire before.)