Monthly Archives: March 2014

Happy Birthdays and a Date Day


We had a couple Happy Birthdays to celebrate over the weekend. My co-worker, Dr. Catherine Keefe, celebrated her birthday at Jitterbugs Night Out (where I knew her long before working with her professionally), so Vivian and I dropped in for a night of dancing and birthday cake. A few of my fellow employees from the Institute dropped by as well, and I got to share with them how I met Vivian and eventually proposed to her in this old dance hall a few years ago. We participated in the birthday jam and the shim sham as usual, and Vivian was even lucky enough to win a door prize — two free passes, so you know we’ll have to come back.

The next day, we celebrated Dennis’ son Matthew’s birthday down at their house with a handful of their mutual friends and little ones. Dennis made up a bunch of birthday cupcakes that we ate together to get sugared up. Hannah shared her sugar high with a few other little ones and got to bang on the piano a bit before we called it a night.

IMG_1965On Tuesday, the Institute was closed in honor of the Feast of the Annunciation, a Catholic holiday I was unaware of. That meant I was able to spend time in the morning with Hannah, Vivian, and Grammy at Mudpies. Hannah has been spending many a Tuesday morning at the Fontenelle Forest taking nature walks, exploring the museum, and making crafts with other little ones. It was the first time I’d been able to participate since she started this program a year ago, so it was fun to tag along with my camera.

Also, don’t ask dad to make you broccoli pancakes unless you mean it.

IMG_1983bVivian and I spent the rest of the afternoon having a “date day” together. We started off with lunch at Big Mama’s Kitchen in North Omaha, which we’d heard about even before it had been featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, (or on a Food Network reality show). It’s located in the old cafeteria of the now-closed Nebraska School for the Deaf, which made Vivian and me very confused when we were directed there on Google Maps. The food was fantastic, though, with plenty of soul — I had oven roasted chicken, greens, and sweet potato pudding and even had room for ice cream afterward. Tuesday afternoon made for a fairly quiet lunchtime, and that meant we got to have a quick photo with Big Mama herself before we were done.

After that, I took Vivian to the AMC 17 in Council Bluffs so she could finally see Frozen. We actually had a private screening, as nobody else had bought tickets for the two o’clock matinee.

Fishy Friday and a New House


The Lenten season is upon us again, so that means it’s time for our annual trip to St. John Vianney’s for the first fish fry of the season. A couple of us were able to get there early to get in line (when it only wrapped around the foyer once). There was plenty of random picture-taking and beer flowing up and down the line, and then more than enough carbs and fried fish to go around once we finally sat down. I somehow wound up behind the mike up front when I put in a request for Sweet Caroline, so that meant I led the audience in the “bah bah bah” chorus, which turned out to be the only part of the song I really knew by heart. Mark was lucky enough to walk away with some meat this year, while the rest of us practiced balancing objects on our heads to make sure we hadn’t had too much fun to drive home safely. A bunch of our friends came in late and had to spill over to the next table before we said goodnight.


In other news, my mom and dad have finally found a new place to live here in Nebraska and signed a contract on a new house. It’s actually just a block or two away from our own house, which means Grandma and Grandpa Johnson will be within easy reach. They close at the end of the month, and then they’ll have their very first house guests — my Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol.

In the meantime, Vivian and I are still taking full advantage of our live-in babysitters. On Monday, after having some Irish food at home, we dropped by Mike and Merinda’s house for a little St. Patrick’s Day cheer. Vivian had a ginger beer and we did some Lindy Hop as best as we could to unfamiliar Irish music (since none of us knew how to “jig” properly).

Also, Hannah apparently likes caviar.

Happy nights out

So my folks are still living with us as they hunt for a house in the Omaha area. This is apparently a very popular place to live, as most of the houses they like wind up getting sold before they can even make an offer. As such, we get to have free, live-in babysitters for a couple more weeks, leaving Vivian and me free to go out and have some unprecedented fun with our friends.


On Friday night, we dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for our first trip to Jitterbugs Night Out since last September (for Vivian’s birthday jam). The UNO Big Band was playing once again, and it seemed like the ideal time to stop by and dance to some real swing music (rather than “vintage jazz”). The place was swarming with kids from UNO, many of whom couldn’t dance. As such, we only saw a few familiar faces, one of whom was “Little Debbie,” who had come to visit from Minneapolis and have a birthday jam. It was a fun night back at our usual “haunt,” though, and we even dropped by Alvorado’s in Council Bluffs (now called Juventino’s for who knows what reason) afterward for some bean burritos before calling it a night.


On Saturday night, we dropped by Kaleb’s Place for one of his legendary game nights. I think we surprised a good deal of people by showing up. Having a two-year old means that hanging out and playing Werewolf, Fluxx, and Liar’s Dice until after midnight isn’t something we can do at the drop of a hat. This time, however, Hannah was asleep at home with grandma and grandpa in the next room, meaning we could stay up playing goofy games nearly until the clocks changed. We also got to see Katya’s little baby girl, who got passed around to several other gamers in attendance.


On Sunday, we had a spat of lovely warm weather, so we enjoyed it with a picnic lunch of Burger King at the park with grandma and grandpa. Nebraska weather fluctuates so much that we could have snow one day and balmy, summer-like weather the next, so you can enjoy the great outdoors all winter long if you time it right. Hannah spent an hour or two going down slides and playing in the sandbox with a new friend of two before we called it a day.

The next day was even warmer, so she and mom joined me at the park over the lunch hour to have lunch and play on the playground at Stinson Park. The place was packed with kids and parents enjoying the weather, and an enterprising girl was there making balloon swords for tips for everyone on hand. Throw in a few free cupcakes from Jones Bros. and it was quite a lovely afternoon.

Pink versus blue


It’s been a fun and busy week leading up to our “Gender Reveal Party” on Saturday.

On Friday, I got to spend a bit of family time with Vivian, Hannah, and even Grandma Johnson down at the Shrine Circus. Hannah had gone to the circus just once as a baby, so now she was hold enough to be properly terrified of clowns and such. We also got to enjoy seeing some animals perform, including a cute dog and pony show, Tahar “King of the Alligators” Douis, Anna Louise the dancing elephant, which Hannah discovered was much larger in real life than her board books at home would suggest. My favorite act was Jonathan Rinny, who could balance on a stack of cylinders rolling in all different directions, which was quite a feat.


Then came the main event on Saturday night! We invited a bunch of our family and friends over to play games, have some food, and learn whether our new bundle of joy (due in June) will be a boy or a girl. We divided up into teams of pink and blue to start the night off (with appropriate colored beads). Representing pink were Lisa Barrett, Jack, Tamra, Randy, my mom, Donna, Jen, Jon Paper, Lydia, and Jenny. On the blue team were Lexi, Drew and Teresa, dad, Dennis and Kara, Anne, Libby, Kody, and Jolene. Our series of games included tossing ping pong balls into cups (all at once), answering some Battle of the Sexes trivia, and snapping rubber bands at a line of pop cans. This last one was much more difficult than anybody expected, and the only ones who managed to knock off a few cans were Drew, Jack, Jon Paper, and, surprisingly enough, my mom! Contestants all won “He She” bars along the way.

A little after nine o’clock came the big reveal, as Vivian and I cut into Donna’s beautiful Baby Cake. Donna was the only one in attendance to learn the baby’s gender in advance so she could fill the cake with either pink or blue for the big reveal:

It’s a boy!

That’s right, I’m going to have a son, and the chromosomal balance in the Johnson Household will be brought into balance at last. We stayed up until nearly midnight afterward enjoying cake and a few crazy games of Telestrations. As usual, we had a number of hilarious (and confused) artists in our group.

The next day, after a long night of celebrating, we went back to Twin Valley Church, and my mom and dad were able to come by and have a potluck lunch with all of us. Hannah had some fun getting chased (and kissed) by a couple of the boys, and others of us welcomed little baby Jonah Campbell to our congregation after a few long weeks in the NICU.