Monthly Archives: December 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.