Yearly Archives: 2013

2013 in review

Happy New Year, everyone! 2013 was an exciting year for the Johnson Family.
Let’s look back at some of the highlights.

So what awaits us in 2014? Well, a new child for one thing, and we can’t wait to see what other surprises the new year has in store for us.

Christmas Brunch


Merry Christmas, everyone! The Johnson Family Christmas of 2013 started off on Christmas Eve with a candlelight service down at Twin Valley Church. We had about an hour’s worth of songs and scripture reading, and Hannah got to dress up and participate along with a bunch of other little children who went up on stage with our portrayal of the holy family. We finished things off by turning down the lights, holding candles and singing Silent Night together. There were several guests who came to join us, including our friend Shirley, Randy and Jolene, as well as Pastor Drew’s folks.

We returned home for the evening to have a few hors d’oeuvres for dinner and exchange a few presents. Hannah got to open a new Elmo from Roxanne, which she took with her as she toddled off to bed. Then we started hauling up a load of presents to place underneath the tree for Hannah to find once she woke up the next morning. It was really the first time we got to “play Santa” in this way, and I think we were quite ready to settle our brains for a long winter’s nap by the time Christmas was ready.


The next day, Vivian’s parents dropped by bright and early see Hannah’s reaction as she woke up to find a pile of presents for her underneath the tree. The haul for her third Christmas included such items as a baby doll high chair and bed, magnetic drawing tablet, and play dough, all of which she seemed to focus on with a single-minded focus that left no room for interest in other presents (for at least half an hour at at time). Donna had brought some delicious quiche for a Christmas Brunch that we ate halfway through openings presents as a break. Hannah was quite happy playing with her new gifts and not quite interested in taking a nap that afternoon as we’d hoped, so I offered to pull on her new Minnie Mouse boots and drop by the park for some swing-time in the above-freezing weather. Dinner that night consisted of DiGiorno’s Pizza, a tradition carried over from my parents who had the brilliant idea of not spending Christmas Day in the kitchen roasting a turkey. We had a few more fun presents to pull out of our stockings after dinner, which included a balancing bird, and a tape measure that became Hannah’s newest Best Toy Ever (as well as some clowning around).

It was a wonderful Christmas to say the least, partly because Hannah was now old enough to enjoy a bit more of it with us.

Roaring fires and seven first dates


T’was the week before Christmas, and the Yule-Tide celebrations continue. We’ve been having annual get-togethers with Jenny and our cluster of mutual friends for a couple years now, and this time around someone had the bright idea of hosting this year’s Christmas party at our house. This worked out great for Vivian and me, because we were able to put Hannah down for bed before anyone arrived and didn’t have to worry about arranging a babysitter before spending a good, long evening with our fun friends.

We had plenty of food and drink on hand for everyone, and we had a White Elephant gift exchange that included such inexplicable gifts as a 1981 dish towel calendar, 90s music CDs, A Christmas Story wristwatch, pregnancy magazines, and a ceramic hippopotamus. We got a lovely fire roaring in the basement downstairs afterward, which made things perfectly cozy for roasting marshmallows and then playing Taboo and a couple hilarious rounds of Telestrations. Vivian won the evening by coming up with a lovely illustration of “Scapula.”


On Sunday, Vivian and our church’s ensemble Christmas Choir got to perform a medley of songs in front of the church during offertory, which was quite lovely.

Then that evening, we celebrated the seven-year anniversary of my asking Vivian out on our first date. Grandma and Grandpa came to babysit Hannah and take her to church to rehearse for the Christmas Eve pageant, and Vivian and I dropped by Caniglia’s Venice Inn for dinner. We’d visited the lovely little Italian steakhouse (winner of Food Wars’ Omaha steak episode) several times in the past via the Friendship Program Christmas Party, which seems to be held there every year. I’m sad to say we didn’t have nearly enough room for the liver pate, toasted ravioli, mostaccioli, potatoes, and rib-eye steaks we ordered, but we ate just enough to have some nice leftovers for Monday’s lunch.

After dinner, we took a trip downtown to get a couple anniversary snapshots on the festively-lit Gene Leahy Mall, and then we dropped by the Old Market Candy Shoppe to pick up a couple pounds of fudge. Our first date had been to the old French Cafe, and immediately afterward we dropped by the little candy store for fudge and have made an annual habit of it ever since.

It’s hard to believe that all took place seven years ago. My, how time flies!

Christmas Countdown


The Christmas season is moving full-steam ahead, with fun, festive events around every corner this time of year. On Friday night, the cute little town of Plattsmouth was having a Christmas on Main Street event, so we made the quick drive down to walk along the beautifully-decorated street to see what was up. They had hot cocoa and cookies on hand, as well as free pony rides for the kids. We also got to see a few Princesses along the way, as well as some Victorian Cosplayers and a steampunk Ghost of Christmas Present. It was a bit nippy out, and I think Hannah preferred seeing the lights of the Gene Leahy Mall from the back of our warm Civic instead, so we didn’t stay long.

Then on Saturday Night, Vivian got to be my date for our first legitimate Christmas Office Party. It was held down at the Doubletree, and she got to meet a bunch of my new co-workers from the Institute as we had roast beef and stuffed chicken together. The Director was also on hand to pass out a few awards to employees for years of service. A few other employees brought their little ones along as well, though Vivian and I were more than happy to hand off Hannah to “Mimi and Papa” for the night.


On Sunday morning, Grammy called to say the Omaha Zoo had free admission today, so after church (which included adorable singing and drumming from some TVC kids), we decided to spend the afternoon visiting the animals. Hannah had visited the Zoo once last year, but now at two years old she has a better appreciation for the animals residing there. We walked through the Jungle first and saw plenty of monkeys (her favorite animal by far). We also bumped into our friends the Mathis family, who joined us on another trip around the Jungle with Hannah leading the way with Timothy by the hand. Since our last visit, the Zoo has placed massive vines here and there, including one with a loop for children to swing in. We stopped by the aquarium next to get a good look at penguins, jellyfish, and other fish behind glass walls and observation bubbles. We made one last stop to Gorilla Valley to see a few of Anne’s old friends before calling it a day. I’ve been to the Zoo about half a dozen times in my life, and I still don’t think I’ve seen it all yet. Maybe next summer we’ll come back and give the Skyfari a try.

Carol of the bells


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Omaha, especially with the lovely snow that paid us a visit over the weekend. On Saturday, Vivian and I finally got around to some serious decorating. I dug the Christmas lights and our snowman out of storage and got them set up outside, and Vivian assembled our tree and got it ready for ornamentation. Hannah got her first experience with Christmas ornaments as well, with an assortment of non-breakable stuff on the lower branches for her to hang. Hannah also got to meet Santasaurus once again, an annually-appearing Christmas creature.

Sundays at church have featured families in our congregation lighting advent candles. Then on Sunday evening, Vivian and I joined a bunch of our mutual friends at Thanksgiving Lutheran Church in Bellevue to watch Anne and her bell choir perform some Christmas songs for everyone. Hannah came along as well and seemed genuinely fascinated with all the music, at least until cookies happened in the room next door. A bunch of us got to take turns ringing bells at the end of the program, which was fun (especially for big ding-a-lings like me).

Wilby Johnson

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to little “Wilby” (will be) Johnson! That’s right, Hannah’s going to be a big sister in mid-June next year, and the Johnson Family will officially have its fourth member. We’ve been hoping and praying for our daughter to have a little brother or sister to torment her throughout the rest of her childhood. More details will be forthcoming, including whether we’ll be getting blue or pink blankets for the crib. Yes, this time we’re going to find out in advance — more on that in a month or two.

Our home for the holidays


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Vivian and I just wrapped up a busy couple of weeks playing host to my parents visiting from North Carolina. During the day, they went with Vivian and Hannah to all their fun, weekly activities, such as attending Mud Pies at the Fontenelle Forest and Storytime with Mrs. B at the Bellevue Public Library. We also spent a couple evenings catching up with them, playing a few games, and going out to Stella’s for some of their classic burgers-on-a-napkin. Vivian and I even got to have a date night eating at the Crystal Jade and watching Catching Fire while Hannah stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Johnson.


I also managed to get some much-needed work on the house done with the help of my dad. Among other things, we got a new flagpole mounted on the front of the house, which had been a gift from my in-laws on my birthday this year. It was a great chance to try out my new drill with some screwdriver bits. Nothing more father-and-sonly than that.

Jonathan came down a little later as we all had a fairly standard Thanksgiving meal together: turkey, stuffing with gravy, poppy-seed biscuits, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, potatoes, pearl onions, Taber salad, sweet pickles, green olives, and grape Martinelli’s. It was the first time I’d had Thanksgiving with my parents since they moved to North Carolina over ten years ago.


The next day, mom and dad left for North Carolina, and Vivian, Jonathan, Hannah, and I enjoyed some fairly quiet Black Friday shopping. One advantage to all the stores moving their sales up to Thursday is that the stores are relatively quiet on Black Friday, with plenty of deals still waiting for us on their respective palettes.

That evening, Vivian and I took Hannah to the Durham Museum once again for the annual Christmas Tree lighting. Grammy and Papa were at their stations once again at the cookie decorating booth, and Vivian and I took turns with Hannah as she went to see Santa and then made a candy cane out of pipe cleaners and beads. “Vintage vocalist” Michael Walker was on-hand again to channel Frank Sinatra in the minutes before the main event, and Omaha’s New Mayor Jean Stothert joined David Mangelsen and a few other keynote speakers on stage to count down the tree-lighting once 6:30 rolled around. People then rushed the stage for some yule-tide photo opportunities before heading home.


Vivian and I spent most of Saturday recovering from our Thanksgiving activities. On Sunday, we had a Soup Potluck at Twin Valley Church, immediately followed by some decorating for Christmas. Vivian and I took turns watching Hannah inside and out while putting up some garland and getting other ornamentation in place with the rest of the church. The day wound down fairly quickly as we continued to dig through all our leftovers from our four or five days of feasting, and we easily managed to pack away enough food for leftovers for the next week (or two).

It’ll be nice not to have to cook for a while!

Hannah’s Second

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It’s official, everyone: Vivian and I are now the parents of a two-year old. Friday was Hannah’s birthday, so we celebrated with a bunch of her little friends at the Sarpy YMCA by turning them all loose in an inflatable bounce-house in the workout room. They got to have free reign for nearly an hour after kicking off their shoes to bounce, climb, and slide all over the place. A few of the kids also discovered the giant yoga balls, which seemed like the perfect toy to roll around (at least until the Y staff told us to stop).

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After the kids had been sufficiently bounced, we rounded them all back into the party room for some pizza and cake (always best to have the bouncing before dinnertime). Donna brought a lovely monkey birthday cake, and then she got to open a bunch of presents from her little friends. I think Hannah’s almost got the hang of opening presents, though she tends to become so fascinated with the first one or two she opens (such as a pair of pretend sippy cups) that she completely forgets that she has several others waiting to be opened. More practice for next year.

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The rest of the family is still hanging out with us for the week leading up to Thanksgiving, of course. Most of our hanging-out tends to revolve around eating out, of course. On Saturday, we headed down to the Haymarket in Lincoln to have lunch with Dwayne Ball and my brother Nathan at Lazlo’s (which used to be called Fireworks and caused no end of confusion for us). Dad was absolutely fascinated with the parking meters out front for some reason and had to take a picture (and of course, I had to take a picture of him taking a picture).

Jonathan came down for a few days of watching Das Boot and playing some Apples to Apples with us, and then Nathan came up to Omaha on Sunday with Fat Pat’s pizza in tow, which was delicious as always. We got to introduce him to the IT Crowd before saying goodnight.

In other news, our friend Phil had a birthday that involved spicy Asian fondue, lots of random friends, and bean sprouts.

Stop! Family time.


Thanksgiving is nearly here, and that means spending time with family. On Saturday night, the Johnson Family had dinner with the Lenart Family up in La Vista. Dennis and Kara’s little ones seemed to enjoy taking over my lap as their own personal play space, which actually managed to make Hannah a s little jealous as the three of them fought for space on my two two knees. It’s always nice to get able to get out of the house as a family and spend time with others, especially others with kids.

My parents are also visiting from North Carolina for the next week or two. Mom and dad rolled into town late Saturday night and got to see their granddaughter for the first time in a year and a half. They’re planning to move back to Nebraska to spend their golden years with family nearby, so they’ll be house-hunting with our former Realtor Shawn Maloy while they’re in  town. We’ve had a good time catching up with them so far. They came with us to church and had lunch with our Twin Valley friends at Taco John’s afterward. Then on Wednesday we took them out to dinner at Gorat’s, making good use of an about-to-expire Living Social coupon, which managed to feed all four of us.

Next stop: somebody’s about to become two years old!

Parking it up

Vivian and I have been able to enjoy a couple lovely, quiet weeks as we kick off November and begin the downward slide into winter temperatures. On Saturday last week, our friend Roxanne was kind enough to volunteer babysitting Hannah so we could have a “day date” downtown. First we went to see Ender’s Game at the Twin Creek cinema. I first read the book back in high school at the insistence of my librarian, which was terrific. (I was an avid reader back then, plowing through a novel or two every week.) Then Vivian and I listened to the audio version of Ender’s Game on our long, 1400-mile anniversary road trip back in 2009. I’d been excited to see the cinematic version of the story for years, and I think it lived up to my (usually high) expectations.

After the movie, we had dinner at the Zin Room and then had some ice cream while enjoying the last few hours of daylight saving time by the river in Bellevue before calling it a night.


We had some more nice weather over this past weekend, so I made sure that Hannah had the chance to “park it up” with me before a cold spell drops on us next week. We went by our friendly neighborhood park for some sliding and some tree-hugging before an afternoon of cleaning house with mom.

On Sunday, the Rietjens family sang in front of the church in a moment of unbearable adorableness. Teresa’s family was visiting from Uruguay, so that was especially special. Hannah got to play on the slides and throw some leaves around with her friends after church. Then Vivian and I took a trip up to Waubonsie State Park in Iowa to walk about, check out the view from the bluffs, and see some of the leaves changing color before the trees get undressed for winter.

Next week’s going to be especially eventful, because my parents are going to be coming up to visit from North Carolina! They haven’t been here to visit (or see their only granddaughter) since the summer of 2012, so we’ll have a lot of catching up to do over the next couple of weeks.