Yearly Archives: 2014

2014 Wrap-Up

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That does it for 2014! It was quite a year to say the least.
Here are some pictures of the things that happened!

Christmas with Four Grandparents

Christmas has come and gone once again, and even though our season has been as busy and packed as ever this year. Vivian and I celebrated our eighth first date anniversary down at J’s on Jackson in the old market, enjoying the Seafood Pappardelle Pasta and Beef Tip Au Poivre and then sampling some of the drinks at the Brickway brewery across the street. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it down to the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge before they closed at nine, so I had to make my way back there again the next day.

It feels like the Holiday Spirit left a little too quickly. Still, this was a very special Christmas, because it was our first with both our children (and Aaron’s first-ever), and also our first with all four grandparents present and accounted for!

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We decided this year to have “Christmas Dinner” on Christmas Eve. That meant bringing the grandparents over a little early to prepare the roast beef, potatoes, stuffing, Taber Salad, and all the trimmings for us to enjoy by five o’clock. The office went dark and quiet around one o’clock, so I took off early to grab some groceries before we got the Christmas feasting underway, and we kicked off the evening with a toast with Martinelli’s in Red Solo Cup Goblets.

Shortly thereafter, we went to Twin Valley Church for their candlelight Christmas Eve service. There were, unfortunately, no adorable kids up front in nativity costumes as there had been in several Christmases past. Still, I was able to help put together a humble presentation of scripture, songs, and YouTube video. Of course, there was also the obligatory singing of Silent Night with candles lit on all sides. Our old friend Aunt Jessica was also back from North Carolina for the holidays, so I got a few quick photos of her with her extended family.

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Christmas morning was as fun as ever, with Hannah up at the crack of 6:30 to see what Santa brought her. We had a dollhouse and any number of My Little Ponies and plush toys lurking about underneath the tree. I made up some horribly sweet Belgian Waffles for a Christmas breakfast, which we ate with strawberries before opening the Grown-Up presents. I got a few ornaments, socks, and some cotton shorts. Vivian also surprised my stockings off with a SmartThings Hub and light switch, enabling me to do such awesome things as dim the Dining Room chandelier from my phone. I’ve been itching to do some home automation with the power of WiFi, so naturally Donna told Vivian, “You’ve created a monster!”

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On Christmas Evening, the weather (45 degrees and sunny) was nice enough to warrant a walk for me and Hannah over to my parents’ house a block over. Then we got to spend the evening with all four grandparents and even Uncle Jonny. We spent a little while opening up our stockings and pulling out any number of “stuffers,” one of which included a toaster oven for Vivian. Then we had our “traditional” dinner of frozen pizza with mom and dad before breaking out the coffee and pie and having a rousing game of Balderdash to finish off Christmas.

Now we’ve gone back to plain old gray-and-dreary winter so quickly that I wish we could let the holiday linger just a bit longer, even if it means hearing Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time once more. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Christmas Baby Party

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It’s the week before Christmas once again, and that means having one big festive Christmas Party at our house with Jenny and a jolly cluster of our mutual friends! A few of us had a couple babies in tow, of course. We put Hannah to bed early, but Aaron got to stay up late and flirt with little Lauren a bit before going down for a sugar-plum dream or two. Per tradition, we had a White Elephant gift exchange organized by Jenny. I got a child-sized life jacket, of all things, which may come in useful a few years from now when Hannah’s old enough to go canoeing. Other noteworthy items were an Irish pillow, a furry lamp of sorts, an old comic book of mine, and a Nerf Crossbow — yes, a freaking crossbow!

Once the gifts were all opened and we were plenty sugared up from Christmas Cookies, we headed downstairs to take Vivian’s copy of Just Dance 4 for a whirl. We had enough Wii Remotes to go around and look thoroughly ridiculous as we danced about to different songs. Some of the moves were questionable, and the ceiling fan got knocked a couple times, but it was all fun (and good exercise, I think). We finished off the night with a little Apples to Apples, which gave us the chance to use the card-table side of our convertible Foosball Coffee Table for the first time ever.

In other news, Hannah and Aaron are busy being adorable. Aaron also decided that he doesn’t like chicken, but we’ve been able to disguise it well enough with applesauce to avoid further tears.

Next stop: Christmas!

Light Shows and Grandparents’ Birthdays

IMG_2512Another busy Christmas season is underway! Last weekend, we decided to get into the spirit by taking Hannah and Aaron out to look at Christmas lights. One of the best locations in Omaha is the posh Linden Estates neighborhood near 144th and Blondo. Hannah got into the spirit yelling “Wow!” at almost every display, and it was even warm enough to get out for a closer look at some of the glowing trees down on Nicholas St. At least three tour buses passed us along the way, as well as a few other cars and even a couple limos, all gawking at the illuminated festivity around us.

IMG_2567The middle of the week, we also celebrated my parents’ birthdays (December 8th and 10th) together for the first time in twelve years. Vivian made a delicious cherry cordial cheesecake that we ate shortly after opening presents. My folks had put up a bunch of the Christmas decorations I’d grown up with, including our Hummel nativity set and the artificial Christmas tree my dad had bought just after getting thoroughly frustrated with the real one he’d bought for my first Christmas. It’s amazing how ting that tree looks after all these years (and how big the incandescent bulbs are compared to today’s tiny LEDs). I’m reminded again and again how nice it is to have the folks so close to home.

Vivian and I got to enjoy another Christmas party with the office on Saturday, and now we’re busy cleaning up for a party of our own next week. In addition, we’re shopping for presents and just got done putting together our Christmas letter, complete with a fresh Christmas photo taken on Sunday. Aaron got to wear his cute little blue suit, which we’re hoping still fits him on Christmas Eve!

The Big, Long Table

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We’ve just had another lovely, long Thanksgiving weekend and officially kicked off the Christmas season. On Turkey Day, we got to break in our new dining room table, an early Christmas gift from Grammy and Pop-Pop (we even had to add a couple extra leaves). All four grandparents were back again to join us along with Uncle Jonny, and we got to have the classic Thanksgiving Dinner together with all the usual ingredients — turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pearl onions, and of course Taber Salad. Vivian kicked off the morning watching the Macy’s Day Parade with Hannah before buttering up the turkey with Jack, and there was an MST3K marathon happening online that I got to stream through my cell phone. Hannah also got to set the table for the very first time — a milestone I hope we can follow up with such things as doing the dishes and picking up all her toys.

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On Friday, after enjoying some quality time outside raking leaves, Vivian and I dropped by Union Station for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Hannah and Aaron both got to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, and we got more than a couple pictures of all of them in their new Christmas outfits. When we weren’t busy having our pictures taken, we were helping Donna and the River City Confectioners Association decorate cookies with the little ones in the east ballroom. Jack got to sit at the milk table again, and Hannah sat by his side when she wasn’t making a paper Christmas Ornament.

Back in the main hall, local Jazz singer Camille Metoyer Moten got to sing a some Christmas songs for the slowly squeezing-together crowd. Around 6:30, we had a few brief words from Mayor Jean Stothert and Dave Mangelsen (from the hobby store of the same name) before lighting up the tree. Vivian and Hannah were close enough to the stage to say hello to the Mayor as the confetti started to fall, and then the crowd stormed the stage for their own Christmas pictures as Hannah suddenly became photogenic right before we got ready to head home.

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On Saturday, we got to enjoy some lovely temperatures in the 70s, and that meant taking Hannah and Aaron out to the park (in short-sleeves, no less) for some outdoor time before things became frigid again.

I also took advantage by hanging up our Christmas lights, and then we visited Trees, Shrubs & More to pick out our Christmas tree. We hauled it back home on top of the Civic and got it unwrapped and watered by nightfall.

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The next day, the temperature dropped below 20 again, so we got to enjoy some warmer activities in the Great Indoors. At church, we had a soup potluck downstairs, and then we broke out the Christmas decorations to put up back upstairs. I mostly took photos as Hannah caused brief rounds of mayhem with Rachel. Back home, we brought up more of our own Christmas decorations from downstairs, which included Santasaurus, who’s been in storage since last January. I’m not sure if Hannah remembers him at all, but she greeted him the same way she did last year — by making him “talk” by moving his jaw on her own.

Let the Christmas Season begin!

Friendship is Magic

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It’s hard to believe, but my little girl turned three years old on Saturday — she’s growing up so fast! We celebrated with a My Little Pony themed party down at Twin Valley Church and invited all of Hannah’s little friends (no “bronies” allowed). Donna made a lovely Applejack cake, which Hannah has been talking about all week, along with some pony cookies to get everyone all sugared up. There was plenty of horse play for kids of all ages, and then Vivian had a “color your own pony” craft for all the little ones to do. Hannah also got a bunch of presents — toys from Sophia the First, Doc McStuffins, and other shows she watches. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for a Gummi Bear or two for Christmas.

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There was also another birthday in the neighborhood. Phil was turning older up the street, so we drove on my to get free food wish him a happy birthday. We got to let Aaron flirt a bit with Cameron’s little girl. Phil and Jen stayed busy cooking, as usual, as Mystery Science Theater 3000 played in the background, which I expect to repeat at our own house on Turkey Day (if YouTube lets me stream via our Roku).

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On Sunday, we spent the afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house so they could get a Christmas picture with their grandkids. We had tacos for lunch, and dad showed us some of his old toys, such as a giant “portable” radio that uses “A” style batteries and vacuum tubes, and a collection of Presidential figurines. I had some fun playing with those and having Hoover and Harding do battle with Roosevelt and Wilson while Hannah had Mamie Eisenhower hopping along with Ike. Good times.

The cold never bothered me anyway

Vivian and I have been busy doing something every weekend for the past month or two, so this weekend was relatively quiet by comparison.

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On Saturday, we had our first legitimate snowfall of the season, so Tamra came over to help celebrate by playing with Hannah in the inch of powder out on our front lawn. The even made an itty bitty snowman with what little of the white stuff they could muster up. I made some potato soup for dinner, and the girls baked and decorated some sugar cookies (with Hannah getting her hands all purple in the process). Then we lit a roaring fire in the fireplace and watched Frozen together before calling it a night. (I was wallowing in Schadenfreude following Nebraska’s meltdown in Wisconsin.)

All Creatures Great and Stuffed

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Having my parents live just down the street instead of on the other side of the country means that we can drop by for a random visit “Just Because,” which is exctly what we did on Saturday night. I offered to make some chicken alfredo for dinner with my folks, and we spent a good couple of hours letting Hannah get some quality time with Grandpa and Grandma Johnson. My dad actually had a giant box of his old toys that he wanted to show her, which included an original plush Smokey the Bear and a working Howdy Doody marionette. He even had a Coon Skin Cap, which Hannah didn’t seem to care much for. Then upstairs he had an assortment of other family treasures, one of which was my grandfather’s old Bulova wristwatch. I was amazed that it still worked, so I’ve been wearing it myself this week as a way to connect to a generation long passed away (and for some retro flair on my wrist).

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As you might have heard, the Polar Vortex has come to visit Middle America once again, but on Sunday it was in the 50s and 60s. The Henry-Doorly Zoo also had free admission for the day, so we took Hannah to spend the afternoon there. This was Hannah’s third trip to the Best Zoo in the World (as ranked by Trip Advisor), and as usual, we could only see a fraction of what the zoo had to offer during our time there.

This time around, we started at the Petting Zoo so Hannah could brush a goat. The Peacocks were out in full feather, so we watched them strutting about as we said hello to a bear or two and also a gaur. We walked through the Gorilla Valley and saw a couple wild cats up above (as well as a free-range photographer). The butterfly pavilion seemed to be one of the more popular exhibits, so we had to drop in to walk through their steamy jungle for a moment. We continued on down to the giraffes and the sensory garden, where Hannah got to spend some quality time with an orangutan. We crossed the river full of koi to see some more monkeys and sea lions. Hannah spent a few minutes on a small playground, and then we saw on cute prairie dogs on our way to the carousel for a quick ride before going home.

In other news, Aaron turned Five Months Old on Tuesday (Veteran’s Day).

All Hallows’ Eve

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It’s All Hallows’ Eve once again, which means taking little ones around the neighborhood for a giant sugar binge right before bedtime. (Whose idea was this?!) Hannah started the evening off by painting the pumpkin she picked out herself at Union Orchard and placing it out on the front stoop for all her fellow Halloweeners to see. Then she put on her Cinderella gown one more time so mom and dad could take her on a chilly evening walk to get candy from the neighbors. While we were out, a team of horses from Barebacks & Bells came riding up the street, with young ladies trick-or-treating on horseback. Welcome to Nebraska, everybody.

This was little Aaron’s first Halloween, but he’s too little for trick-or-treating or candy. We did, however, stop by my parents’ house so he and his sister could say hello in costume. (Aaron’s a giraffe, this year, Vivian says. A giraffe!)

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After the kids were tucked in bed, Vivian and I got to have some Halloweening of our own down at the Eagles’ Lodge dressed as Professor Wagstaff and a Crime Scene (with Grammy and Pop-Pop watching the house). We don’t go out dancing nearly as often as we used to, so it felt good to be back in the “swing” of things once again. We had a few special visitors in attendance as well — Jessica Ritchie dropped in from North Carolina, Keith was also back from his sabbatical in Utah, and Sarah Epperly Hood came by after many, many years of hiatus.

The usual gang of Lindy Hopping ghouls were there as well, and we had a costume contest halfway through the evening where everyone could show off their duds to Beauty and the Beast on stage. We had a sham-sham as usual, and a round of Thriller shortly thereafter led by the ever-enthusiastic Takashi. He also had his moment in the spotlight doing some karaoke to Mack the Knife. That made our evening quite complete.

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Halloween didn’t end with the end of October, however. On Saturday night, Merinda threw her annual Halloween Party at her place in mid-town, so Vivian and I donned our costumes again and headed up for another round of dressing up and dancing with our cluster of mutual friends. We took a couple swings at a skull-shaped pinata and opened up the dance floor for Lindy Hopping to songs such as The Monster Mash and Ghostbusters. One of my Groucho eyebrows came off, but I immediately found a use for it as way to complete Ben Peet’s Charlie Chaplin costume. We also played a little bowler frisbee before Eric started stripping. At that point, we decided to call it a night.

Happy Halloween, everybody! Next stop — Thanksgiving.

Aaron’s Dedication and Pre-Halloween Fun

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Halloween is coming soon, and that means breaking out the old Pumpkin Costume for Hannah to try on and see how much she’s grown in the past year. We’ve been able to snap a photo of her in her costume every Halloween of her life so far, and I expect it’s a tradition that will hold up just as long as the costume does.

On Friday night, the Sarpy YMCA had their annual Trunk or Treat event, so we took Hannah and Aaron down to get a bit of a sugar fix for the evening. This year, Hannah’s going as Cinderella (and not Elsa, as every other little girl in the country seems to be dressed as). We bumped into a few friends as we made our way among all the open trunks of candy. Hannah got to have some fun in the bounce houses inside afterward, jumping around as much as she could in her floor-length nylon ballroom gown. Aaron’s just recently discovered his toes and will likely be playing with them rather than doing any serious trick-or-treating this year.

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On Saturday, we drove down to Union Orchard to ride on a wagon, pick out a pumpkin and have a couple Apple Slushies and Donuts, and then Hannah broke in a few of the kiddie rides before we left. We drove back up to Bellevue to have an afternoon at Toni’s house celebrating her birthday with a few of her family and friends (and jalapeño poppers). Hannah had fun running around with a few of the kiddos present, discovering the shows of swinging in a hammock and showering other people with leaves. Aaron got to have a few cute moments and was quite happy just being passed around from person to person.

We had a bit of excitement around 3:45 as a motorcyclist was speeding down the boulevard and ran head-on into a nearby Jeep. The street was narrow with cars parked along the north side, and the bulky Jeep didn’t have any room to maneuver out of the way before the motorcycle came along. I got to see most of the accident out of the corner of my eye and take a couple pictures for the cops who showed up. The motorcyclist tried to make a break for it once people started talking about calling 911. We suspect he may have been enjoying a few adult beverages before his joyride.

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On Sunday, we had Aaron dedicated before the congregation of Twin Valley Baptist church, saying our vows to raise him in a Godly, Christian home with the help of family and friends present. He wore my grandfather’s 116-year-old baptismal gown, as Hannah did, while we were up at the front with Pastor Drew. After the service, we and our gaggle of friends and family went down to the Village Inn on Fort Crook for a giant family luncheon of pancakes and broccoli. Hannah’s friend Sam came along, and she got to practice a few more of the frog faces she learned while at Lacie and Caleb’s wedding last week. She’s getting frighteningly good at making them.

In other news, with the weather being perpetually gorgeous this fall, I decided to try biking to work a couple times with my dad’s bike. The Keystone Trail runs fairly close to our house and my workplace, so it made for a perfect route to ride some five miles each way. That is except for the giant chunk that the city of Omaha decided to demolish between Grover and Center, diverting traffic from the lovely level trail to the crazy ups and downs of 72nd Street. Seriously, UNO, did you really need four months to create a pedestrian bridge for a parking lot for your new hockey arena? Tell people to park in Bellevue and just ride their bikes on up. It’s better than sitting in bleachers watching the guys on skates get exercise.