Monthly Archives: September 2012

Family traditions

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One of the fun, new experiences Vivian and I have had as parents is taking old traditions we’ve shared and experiencing them again as a family with Hannah. One of these has been Lindy in the Park, the last of which was held last Sunday. The weather was sunny and gorgeous somewhere in the 70s, but the concrete dance floor was sadly lacking in participants (though strangely there were two Matt Johnsons available for dancing). Hannah has gotten to meet a couple new Jitterbug friends while coming with us to Stinson Park on Sunday, and it’s always fun to see her interacting with kids her own age. Special thanks go to to Billy for making this event possible again.

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On Saturday, we introduced Hannah to a couple more of our fun traditions, one of which was the Applejack Festival down in Nebraska City. We didn’t visit any orchards for apple-picking, since Hannah wasn’t quite old enough to participate (and handling a stroller on a bouncy hay rack didn’t sound like a lot of fun), but she was able to have pancakes for the first time down at the fire station, courtesy of the Pancake Man. We took a stroll through town and eventually wound up at Arbor Day Farm for some wine-tasting (which Hannah did not participate in). I have to give a friendly shout-out to the good folks there, because after we managed to break a $19 bottle of apple pie brandy while lugging Hannah and her stroller up a set of stairs, they replaced it for free, which was awesome.

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A third and most eventful tradition we introduced Hannah to was the Cowtown Jamborama. Seriously, she earns the Best Baby in the World Award, because after spending a while simply looking adorable for our swing-dancing friends, she went right to sleep just as the dance got started, and she stayed asleep until we were ready to go home. Best baby evar!

Of course, we had a lot of help from several friends/babysitters throughout the night. Vivian even invited her dad to come, who had never actually seen the dance hall where I’d met his daughter some six and a half years ago. Vivian and I danced with each other and with several other friends, old and new, throughout the night courtesy of music from the Shotgun Jazz Band (with lindy hopper extraordinaire Peter Loggins on trombone).

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On Sunday, Hannah got to celebrate her friend Samantha’s first birthday. Samantha was born a few months before Hannah and has been a kind of “sneak preview” of things to come for Vivian and me. We dropped by Nate and Lexi’s house for a lunch of nachos and then got to watch Samantha gorge on her first chocolate cake (getting it all over and looking a bit like Dom Deluise in the process).

That evening, Hannah got to participate in another important moment of family tradition — the Cowtown Corn-Eating Contest. I had the honor of taking first place back in 2007 and then second in 2008 and 2010, and Vivian had been a regular contender for third. Hannah made us proud, of course, though she was no match for three-year olds “Honey” and Mirabel. She still did quite well, as we knew she would after her practice session earlier in the week.

Vivian and I stuck around to watch the grown-ups participate in the corny fun afterward, marking the first time either of us had witnessed the spectacle from the other side of the table. Billy joined his daughter in the winner’s circle, followed by Ben Cass and Andy Meredith for second and third. The most bizarre competitors in the event, however, were the “corn of the dead” girls, who didn’t eat much corn, but did gross everyone out by bleeding on a few ears.

So what’s next on the agenda? Hannah takes a trip to Northern California to meet her great-grandma and other members of her extended family. More on that later.

Matt turns 34


If you didn’t know, I had another birthday this weekend, passing my 34th annual mile-marker, and I loved every minute of it. The official day came on Wednesday, which Vivian and I celebrated with each other for the most part. She dropped by my office at lunchtime with some of my favorite food: onion rings and guacamole bacon cheeseburgers from Louie M’s Burger Lust! We ate at the park and gave Hannah a taste or two of guacamole, which she seemed to like.

Presents were waiting for me at home that evening as Jack and Donna stopped by to care for Hannah as we had a night out. They included a restaurant gift card, a T-shirt from Stella’s, and a bunch of books — enough to keep me reading for a good while. Then Vivian took me out for dinner at the 801 Chophouse, where we had ribeye steaks, lobster mashed potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms with Boursin cheese courtesy of everyone’s favorite swing-dancing chef, Brian.

And speaking of swing-dancing, I dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge on Friday for an obligatory birthday jam and one of Bob’s happy birthday cupcakes. We seem to get out to dance so seldom these days, but we might have to remain away from the dance floor until we either find a regular babysitter or Hannah learns how to Lindy Hop, whichever comes first.


My “official” birthday party came on Saturday, and it started down at Orval Smith Park in Ralston. I “parked” myself at a pavilion for a couple hours and saved it for our friends before they started arriving. We had a fun crowd that was a blend of jitterbug friends, church friends, and other friends all mixed together. Jack and Pastor Drew took turns grilling up burgers and hot dogs for our crew, and Hannah brought another one of her amazing cakes. Hannah got to meet a couple new friends, and Eric brought out a frisbee as the sun went down.


We retreated back to the house after dark and played a couple fun rounds of the New Yorker game. The object was to come up with witty captions to go along with single-panel comics from the New Yorker magazine, a task that proved to be much more hilarious after a drink or two.


Of course, this was also Labor Day weekend, and that meant plenty of our friends were also having parties of their own. On Sunday, we made the two or three block trip south to hang out with some of our friends at Merinda’s house for a “tri-wizard” birthday party. We got to play Cards Against Humanity, which was kind of like a horribly perverted version of Apples of Apples. I also got to hang out in the park next door with a couple of fun kids, test-driving the playground for Hannah once she gets old enough to swing around like a monkey. Hannah had a fun time indoors being adorable for everyone and crawling around after mom.


On Labor Day itself, after cleaning house and pretending to make good use of our time, we dropped by Frank’s house for a campfire party, which was right around the corner from Merinda’s house and just as easy to wander by. Hannah got the chance to be more adorable, and the rest of us got the chance to have black-and-blue burgers and s’mores — at least until it started sprinkling.