- In January, we hosted an hors d’eourve party, had some “offal” food with Phil and Jen, said farewell to the Prairie Cats, and laid Vivian’s cockateil Babo to rest.
- In February, we got a heaping helping of overnight snow. Vivian and I had Valentine’s Day at Catfish Lake and with friends at church. I had my first father-daughter dance, and Hannah also went to the circus. Vivian and I also helped Jenny move out of her house and then attended parties at Hugh’s and Dean’s.
- In March, we attended fish fry after fish fry. Jenny had a housewarming, Pastor Mark Ashton went swing dancing, and Vivian and I had our first family picnic. We also surprised our friend Don and attended a murder mystery costume party.
- In April, we had a lemon party to kick off springtime, and then we took Hannah to the park. We celebrated a birthday or two a little Easter in-between, and Vivian and I ate some rocky mountain oysters.
- In May, we had Lindy (and Windy) in the Park, celebrated Mother’s Day, saw Mitt Romney, and had a lakeside work party. We also did some karaoke at the Pizza Shoppe, sweat to the oldies at Jon’s house, and helped move a friend or two.
- In June, I celebrated my first Father’s Day. Hannah saw her first baseball game and her first Shakespeare on the Green. We also went camping and canoeing with some friends on the Niobrara River.
- In July, the family came to visit. We danced in a parade, went to Jazz on the Green, sampled beer at Upstream, and took Hannah swimming for the first time. Vivian and I also had an anniversary day at Fun Plex.
- In August, we took a practice vacation to Kansas City, had some fun outdoors, and witnessed somebody kidnap a few of Eric’s plush friends.
- In September, Vivian and I spent a week in northern California visiting several family members and old friends. Hannah also got to experience the Cowtown corn-eating contest.
- In October, the Johnson Family carved a few pumpkins and dressed up as s’mores for Halloween. We also kicked off autumn with a hayrack ride and a trip to Vala’s.
- In November, we got to “eat mor chikin” at Bellevue’s first Chick-Fil-A. Hannah visited the zoo, celebrated her first birthday, and had some Thanksgiving with us. We also introduced her to Santa at the Durham.
- In December, I made like Clark Griswold and lit up our house for the first time. Hannah experienced snow for the first time, we had some chili, and we celebrated the end of the world. We also celebrated Christmas, of course, with a couple of our friends, and we had a wacky New Year’s party with Pastor Ryan.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Christmas seemed to come awfully quick this year, and Vivian and I found ourselves scrambling to get last-minute stocking stuffers at Nobbies and wrap presents before the big day arrived. Fortunately, all our gifts went out on schedule, even a last-minute Hannah Calendar I made for my folks and forgot to send until the Thursday before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, we stopped by Twin Valley Church for their candlelight Christmas Eve service. I was on hand to do the overhead lyrics, as usual, and I also grabbed my camera to snap several pictures of the kids and adults all participating up at the front of the church. Afterward, we invited Donna’s co-worker Shirley over to our house to have a dinner of hors d’eourves and then open our “stockings” together before bedtime.
Christmas Day brought with it a predictable slew of loot. Vivian got a gravy boat, Jack got some pants, Donna got a trifle bowl, I got a relic of America’s past, and our friend Eric dropped by and made off with some WD-40 (among other things). Hannah got an activity center with enough buttons to keep her occupied for a while, and Vivian also got a decoy present to distract her from the real one hiding around the corner (a Nintendo Wii marked for Hannah).
We finished off the evening with a giant Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for the six of us. Once our family recovers from a series of colds we’ll have to get an early start on our New Year’s Resolution and hit the Y to work off some of the Christmas goodness we’ve been enjoying. And by goodness I mean fudge. Lots of it.
… and we feel fine. Part of the reason for that is we invited a bunch of our mutual friends over to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar and civilization as we know it. We invited everyone to bring along whatever food and drink they’d like to indulge in for their last day on earth, so we had shrimp cocktails with champagne, pigs in blankets, cookies, and everything else you can imagine (including homemade egg nog from Phil and Jen). We played an insanely silly game of “Encore,” which required us to name endless series of songs containing a word chosen from a deck of cards. I think we could have let Jen and Jessica do most of the guessing. My brothers even stopped by to join us, and we had a pre-Christmas gift exchange before calling it a night.
You also might have heard about a line of snowstorms that hit the midwest over the past week — we went from being green and soggy to having a white Christmas after all. That was good news for Hannah, because she got to put on her snow clothes and go outside to experience snow for the first time in her life (and just in time for her 13-month birthday). She seemed to enjoy it, though she discovered quickly that walking in snow wasn’t going to be as easy as toddling around on the driveway. This was also the first time she’s ever walked outside.
On Sunday, Vivian and I celebrated our First Date anniversary, commemorating the night six years ago when I took her out for the first time to the French Cafe (completely by accident — La Casa Pizza was unexpectedly bursting at the seams and didn’t take reservations). We went to see the Hobbit at the Twin Creek theater, which was a very decent film, albeit very long and padded with extra scenes. (Remember the “extended” versions of the Lord of the Rings films? It was like that times two.)
Afterward, we headed up to Benson and had a dinner of tapas at España, making use of an about-to-expire coupon. I had a decent margarita and we both filled up on an assortment of tiny dishes served family-style: fried cheese, blue cheese stuffed mushrooms, Picadillo de Carne, Flamenquines, and seviche. Afterward, per tradition, we made our way down to the Old Market and braved a few blocks of freezing cold to get some egg nog fudge from the Old Market Candy Shop.
Next stop: Christmas!
Christmastime is almost here, and that means gathering with friends for warm, cozy food and fun together. Eric and Ben had their fifth annual Chili Throwdown in the Nothnagel basement, and it seems to have been gathering a serious crowd of contenders over the years, with a vast amount of chili, non-chilis, and desserts to taste-test. The winners this year were Joe Ortiz for his “big sausage,” Sarah Adair for her cheesecake, and then Adri, Julia, and C.J. for their chili (third, second, and first place, respectively). Of course, there was also quite a bit of dancing afterward to burn off some of what we’d all been taste-testing, and Hannah shared her adorableness until bedtime.
On the following Saturday, Jenny and Libby had their annual Christmas party at their apartment. We had hors d’eourves and an unhealthy amount of Christmas goodies together (and salad from Eric. The heck?) After getting all sugared up, we participated in some lively Christmas-themed charades together and a white elephant gift exchange. Hannah was on hand as well, dressed up as a Santa Baby and having way too much fun with a pair of nunchunks.
Christmas is almost here! I hope we’re ready.
Vivian and I have been getting into the Christmas spirit over the past week, mostly in the form of decorating. On Sunday last week, we had a “soup potluck” at church and then spent the afternoon decorating inside. We had the traditional (artificial) poinsettias and Christmas tree, and I got to participate by changing a flat on Vivian’s car, just in time to figure out that we don’t have a jack.
At home, we put up our own artificial Christmas tree (borrowed from Vivian’s mom and dad). We’ve had a real tree for the last couple of years, but we’ve learned that Hannah tends to eat pretty much anything she finds on the floor, so we opted for her not to have a diet of pine needles this season. I also made like Clark Griswold and put up some Christmas lights on the house for the very first time. We don’t have an actual exterior plug on our house, but I found an outlet adapter for a light socket that worked just as well.
One last, exciting bit of news: Hannah has been moving quickly from crawling to toddling, and we captured the moment we’re dubbing as her official first steps. As you can tell, she’s quite capable now not only of walking but of hamming it up for the camera.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! A year ago, the Johnson Family was celebrating the arrival of Hannah and having chicken and stuffing in the Bergan Mercy cafeteria. This time around, we had both a happy Turkey Day and Happy Birthday for Hannah at our home in Bellevue. Jack and Donna dropped by with a smoked turkey and pie, and Uncle Jonathan joined us with a vibrating elephant ball for Hannah. We all had Thanksgiving dinner together, and Hannah got to enjoy some of our turkey and even some tiny pumpkin pies for herself.
On Friday, after a busy day of Not Shopping Anywhere, Vivian and I took Hannah to the Durham Museum for the first time for their tree-lighting festivities. Of course that meant taking her to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus and waiting like Ralphie in a line stretching from one end of Union Station to the other. The River City confectioners had their cookie decorating station as usual, with Jack handling the milk. Michael Walker channeled Sinatra out in the main hall as we waited for the gang to turn on the lights around 6:30. It was a fun time kicking off the Christmas season once again, and we stuck around to make a few attempts at a Family Christmas Picture before heading home.
Christmas, here we come!
Can you believe our little Hannah is almost one year old already? Her official birthday is on Thanksgiving Day this year, so we decided to celebrate a little early with a bunch of our friends and Hannah’s at our house. The theme we picked out was based on the classic children’s book by Eric Carle, The Hungry Caterpillar. Vivian made up a big buffet of food consisting of everything the caterpillar ate in the book, and Donna made a giant caterpillar cake for dessert (which included a tiny one just for Hannah). Frank read through the book to make sure everyone was up to speed before the party began. Hannah got some help from mom opening up her batch of birthday presents, and then she got to have some cake for the very first time (after having some help blowing out her first birthday candle).
It was a great party with many friends, both young and old. Even Uncle Nathan managed to drive up from Lincoln to join us. We showed a video highlight reel downstairs featuring several special moments from Hannah’s first year with us, and then she got to be cute by clapping for everyone before they went home.
On Sunday, we celebrated Phil’s birthday down the street at his and Jen’s house. They bought (and personall slaughtered) a whole lamb to cook up on a makeshift rotating spit in their backyard, and they had a whole bunch of Greek food inside to go along with it. A bunch of our mutual friends came by to join in the food and fun, and at the end of the evening we played “Hedbanz“, a goofy version of 20 questions that involves putting labels on our heads. Good times.
Halloween night was a big night for a few people in Bellevue, and it had nothing to do with dressing up in costumes. November 1 was the grand opening of the Chick-Fil-A down on Cornhusker Drive, and the first 100 people there — who camped out in the parking lot all night — got to have free Chick-Fil-A for a year. That translates into 52 free meal coupons. I wasn’t among them, since I wanted to be around for Hannah’s very first Halloween, but Pastor Drew was. His family stopped by to wish him luck the night before, and then he was first among the throngs to get his free goodies the next morning.
I’ve dropped in at Chick-Fil-A a couple times since for breakfast and dinner, and it’s always been crowded. There are a handful of places that carry a following this devoted — Trader Joe’s and Inn-n-Out Burger being a few noteworthy examples — and this little chicken restaurant is certainly a worthy contender.
On Sunday, Hannah got to take her very first trip to the zoo. The Henry Doorly Zoo had free admission, and since the weather was still reasonably nice (for November), we couldn’t pass up the chance to stop by. Hannah’s still a bit young to appreciate all the animals at the zoo’s many different exhibits, but she really seemed to enjoy the monkeys, a few colorful macaws, and all the sea creatures in the aquarium. Of course, this trip was really more about mom and dad getting snapshots of adorableness with their our little girl, but we’ll definitely be taking her back again and again once she’s older.
The Merry Month of Halloween marches on, and that of course means more costuming with our friends. On Friday night, the s’mores family paid a visit to the Omaha Jitterbugs for a night of swing dancing and a costume contest. We didn’t win, but we did manage to make it into the finals. Adam took first place as Bob Ross (with a Pretty Little Tree). Other noteworthy contenders included Takashi as Michael Jackson (who led us once again in a round of Thriller), Maggie as Captain America and Eric as a Low-Key Loki, and a completely unintentional James Jonah Jameson, the grouchy editor of the Bugle (see Spider-Man). It felt good to be dancing again with our usual round of swing-dancing friends, though it’s kind of hard to Lindy Hop while wearing a giant cardboard graham cracker, so I didn’t keep it on for very long.
On Saturday Night, we went to Ruth’s very extensively decorated house for Merinda’s annual Halloween Bash. Everyone got to dress up again, and this time Hannah got to be an extremely cuddly lion (which I was able to turn into a manticore with the addition of a few horns). Frank Ortiz got to be a disgruntled ladybug, Joe was some kind of Elvis, and Ben Peet got turned into a Rug-Bee (from Griffindor House). It was a fun night that evening included plenty of our usual weirdness and even some dancing in the cleared-off living room, though without Takashi to lead us we couldn’t successfully complete another Thriller dance (but that didn’t keep us from trying).
October’s always been a month jam-packed with events, and one reason for this is the slew of birthdays that all seem to cluster around this time of year. On Friday night, I paid a visit to the Eagle’s Lodge to join in Jenny and Lisa’s birthday jam. On Saturday afternoon. Vivian and I dropped by her old neighbor Toni’s house for a fun outdoor birthday barbecue (bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, anyone?)
That evening, Hannah got to experience dressing up for Jenny’s annual birthday costume party. This was our first chance to dress up as a family, so we decided to come as a s’more. I got to squeeze myself between two large piece of cardboard graham cracker, Vivian wore a Hershey Bar apron, and Hannah got herself stuffed with a couple extra onesies to be our little marshmallow. Our collection of costumes took third prize at the party, coming in second to Paul and Leane as a couple of Spartans and Heather was a shower scrub. We had several other noteworthy costumers in our ranks, including Tamra and Ryan as Aesop’s Tortoise and Hare, Libby as a bamboo-wielding kung-fu person, and Jon Paper and his (malfunctioning) duct-tape pants of the future.
Of course, no autumn would be complete with a hayrack ride, so on Sunday afternoon we took Hannah on her very first. The Halls at Twin Valley Church host an annual potluck dinner at their ranch south of Omaha, so we dropped by with a couple dozen other church members and got toted around a couple square miles of countryside. The weather was darn near perfect for this time of year — around 80 degrees and quite cozy (at least until the clouds and wind started rolling in later in the day). We finished off the day evening with a roaring campfire and s’mores once the sun went down. We also had chili and soup for dinner with such treats as Donna’s miniature Ghost Cookies for dessert.