Monthly Archives: September 2014

In the Orchard, on the Farm


Fall is officially here once again, and means running down the list of our annual fall traditions. It also means lovely weather for a picnic, so on Friday I went down to Mandan Park in Bellevue to meet up with Vivian and the kids for some family time. We had lunch together, and Hannah got some time with mom and dad playing at the park for a bit.

We also got a special visit from Grandpa. My dad has been working for Google driving a Street View car around parts of Nebraska and Iowa. He gave me a heads-up that he’d be doing parts of Bellevue today, so he managed to come by just as we were at the park together for an impromptu family photo, which you can view on Google Maps.


The next day was one of our favorite fall traditions — going to the Applejack Festival down in Nebraska City. We got up (relatively) early on Saturday morning to make the pancake breakfast at the firehouse, catching a few flapjacks flung by Jim Kuper the Pancake Man and saying hello to the Lenart Family, who came by for a “fun run” that got rained out. The rain actually came down in torrents to start but gradually cleared up as we finished off a few plates of pancakes and sausage.


We wandered down Central Ave. and joined Jenny, Kody, and the extended Arnold Clan at their usual spot down by the Public Restrooms to watch the Applejack Parade. We hadn’t actually gone to watch the parade since 2008, when I think the never-ending chain of Shriners scared us off to other attractions. This time around, however, we had Hannah and a cluster of Jenny’s nieces (and a nephew, I think) all vying to grab candy as it was tossed by various cultural and political emissaries that came marching our way (among the high/middle school marching bands). She also discovered the joy of getting soaked by running through puddles left from the morning rain. That was a lovely parental milestone to enjoy (once she dried out).


After the parade, we grabbed a couple corn dogs for lunch and then squeezed our way up Arbor and Centennial Ave. with a slog of horrible traffic to make our way to Kimmel Orchard. Hannah got to have her first solo pony ride out back, which seemed to make her very proud of herself. Then we trudged through the orchard for a bit to try filling an $8 half-peck bag with apples. Most of the trees seemed to have shed all their fruit onto the ground, but we were still able to find a good batch of apples to pick before calling it a day.


On Sunday after church, we took Hannah and Aaron off to Gifford Farm for their Fall Festival. Hannah hadn’t been there since last October, so she got to enjoy a good run around the place — sliding into hay, riding on the hayrack, decorating a cookie, playing some instruments, and even petting a snake. She also got to have her hair dyed pink at the end of the day, which she seemed to think was pretty funny. Aaron had never been to the farm before, but he was too little to do much more than peek over his overalls to see what was going on.

In my Nothing Box

Autumn always seems to be jam-packed with fun things happening. From Labor Day to Halloween, we’ve got fall fun happening all over the place, and we’re usually busy every single weekend enjoying some of it.


Naturally, Cowtown Jamborama, the annual swing dancing convention held by the Omaha Jitterbugs, is a part of our series of Fun Fall Things To Do. This go around, however, we just stopped by for a brief lunchtime jam with the kids. That was fun in itself, as this was Aaron’s first time visiting the Eagle’s Lodge where Vivian and I first met over seven years ago. Vivian and I passed him around to a few of our fellow swing dancers before we hit the floor. We also got some time dancing with the kids. Hannah’s become a very good follow (for a two-year old), and I even got to step around with Aaron on the dance floor just a bit. Hopefully he’ll soon be big enough to lead a few girls on his own.


On Friday night and Saturday morning, Vivian and I attended the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar down at the Bellevue Christian Center. It’s a series of four stand-up-comedy style presentations hosted by Pastor Mark Gungor, who I was introduced to over a year ago via a YouTube video about, among other things, men enjoying time in their “nothing box.” Other sessions involved a personality test that Vivian and I took afterward and a few portions on using beads to get more time with the “smiley face.” Yeah, I’m not going to elaborate on that, but it was a fun and informative event. They even had childcare for Hannah and Aaron, so we didn’t need to round up my parents a babysitter to do the job for us.


On Sunday after church, we headed on over to Lake Manawa to spend the afternoon with Venche and a few of our mutual friends celebrating her birthday picnic-style. Aaron got to meet a few more people, and Hannah got all sugared up with cake before having fun running around with her new friend Bella. It never ceases to amaze me how much fun playing with dirt or crawling on the ground can be to a two-year old. Ben also brought his boat and took a bunch of us out on the lake to putter around and do a little tubing toward the end of the afternoon.

That evening, Vivian and I got to have a spur-of-the-moment date night down at the Old Spaghetti Works. My folks watched the kids (and put them to bed) while we had chicken parmesan and went down a couple slides in the Old Market. Gorgeous fall weather has descended upon Omaha again, which can only mean more times walking outside and enjoying it before the snow comes. I think the Farmers’ Market is calling our names.

Summer’s Last Hurrah

Is September here already? The summer is winding down fast, but that means plenty of cool fall days ahead, with each weekend jam-packed with autumnal fun for the family.


On Labor Day, we took the kids over to Vivian’s parents’ house for a lovely dinner out on the patio. It was the first time Aaron has come along to one of our porch-side dinners over there, so he got to chill as Jack grilled flatiron steaks and potatoes for us and Hannah got reacquainted with her chalkboard.

Then on Wednesday, I got to celebrate one last bit of my birthday with my folks at — Johnny’s Cafe. For the past decade, they’ve had to celebrate my birthday remotely from North Carolina, so it was wonderful to be able to actually have dinner with them at my favorite restaurant in Omaha (with rib-eye steaks, of course).


On Saturday, Vivian and I had a kind of mid-birthday fling at Fun Plex in Omaha. They had a two-for-one Groupon to mark the end of the season, and since Vivian hadn’t had the chance to go swimming since having Aaron back in June, we figured it was as good an excuse as any to go get wet for an afternoon. We spent time in the wave pool, the lazy river, bumper boats, and of course the water slides, which were much more violent than I remember. Jack and Donna were nice enough to watch the kids for us, but I immediately regretted not bringing Hannah, who’s old enough now the enjoy the half of the park designated for the little ones. Maybe next year.


That evening, to say thanks to watching Hannah during the afternoon, we took Donna out to a Balloon Glow at Ditmars Orchard. It was a much more popular event than I expected, with multiple fields full of cars and the lawn crammed with people (and their cameras) checking out the lineup of fully-inflated hot air balloons parks and firing off for our amusement. We rode a hayrack over from the parking lot field and were fortunate enough to find a spot at a picnic table (since we’d forgotten to bring our lawn chairs). Hannah stared in awe at the balloons, and Vivian got us some apple cider donuts as the sun went down. There was live music from the Travelin Light band, and I got to dance a bit with both Vivian and Hannah on the grass. Our little girl was a very good follow (for a two-year old).


On Sunday, Hannah got to spend the afternoon at the Kuehmichel house celebrating Ellie’s third birthday. She had fun running around with all the other little girls (and a few boys), particularly seeing how many of them could fit on a rocker sitting in the yard.

Then on Monday, Mom and Hannah came back to the park for a lunchtime with daddy (which of course included cupcakes). Hannah got to take a shot at the Big Girl Swing and then got a quick run through the fountains. The weather’s turned decided not-too-hot-or-cold, which means getting a little wet outside is still a possibility.

In other news, Aaron loves his ExerSaucer.

Ben & Carol’s 50th Anniversary

Vivian and I enjoyed a wonderful (and long) Labor Day weekend in Cedar Rapids surrounded by my extended family celebrating my Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol’s 50th wedding anniversary. It’s been several years since I’ve seen most of the people, and it was great to spend time with them again and introduce them to our little ones.


We started the weekend off with a little birthday celebration at the Flying Wienie, since my birthday happens to fall on my Aunt and Uncle’s anniversary. We’ve passed by this little place every time we went to Valley View for church on Sundays in Cedar Rapids, but it took us years to finally visit when they were open. I got a Chicago-style hot dog and some homemade fries, and Vivian even brought some little birthday cupcakes that she dressed up with candles for me to blow out. It was a nice little way to start the weekend, and I even got to show Hannah an upright video arcade game for the very first time.


That evening, we gathered at Edgewood Baptist Family Fellowship Church to see Ben and Carol renew their vows, the same church they were married in 50 years ago. Caleb and his fiancee Lacie sang for them, and then Ben and Carol said their vows and exchanged rings (again). A whole cluster of family members from the Geho clan and my mom’s side of the family were on hand. A bunch of them had grown up quite a bit during the past six years, and several others now had kids of their own. Hannah seemed right at home running around in the midst of all of them, and we had more than a handful of people willing to hold Aaron for us throughout the night.


The party moved along downstairs, where Arlan introduced Ben and Carol along with all their kids before the food was served. The Geho girls and their gaggle of kids sang a few songs in honor of the happy couple, and of course there was also the Cutting of the Cake™ and a few toasts to top off the evening. Mostly, it was fun catching up with all our family members after so many years apart. Caleb and Lacie handed out wedding invitations in person to save postage, and he wished my brothers had come along so they could play “DAK” one more time before tying the knot.


The next day (after a brief workout at the hotel) we went down to Ellis Park for a long picnic lunch with the family. Arlan and a bunch of the Uncles gathered around the grill, and Hannah got to play with a few of her cousins over on the playground. It was so nice to let her run loose for a few hours with so many family members available to keep track of her, and Aaron got passed along from one family member to the next throughout the afternoon. I couldn’t let the opportunity for a giant group picture to pass us by, either, so everyone gathered on the steps in front of my makeshift tripod, and I was able to snap the whole group in a photo worthy of framing (despite one person’s determination to hide his head the entire time).


That evening, we drove down to Arlan and Barb’s place to have some apple crisp and watch a couple home movies I’d burned to DVD as a gift for Ben and Carol. My dad and I have been recording family get-togethers like this for as long as I can remember, so I gathered as many clips as I could that featured Ben and Carol and put them all into a half hour compilation. That meant everyone had to cram together in the basement, making for more fun group photos. Hannah also got to spend more time getting thrown around by her cousins as Vivian and I got to have an extended conversation with Abby and Shannon about the differences between our generations. (“Roseanne Barr? Is that like a bar with drinks?”)


We weren’t quite done with our family by the next day, either. We got up and had a long breakfast with Ben and the Lockridges at the hotel, checking out photos from the wedding fifty years ago over biscuits and gravy. Then Vivian and I took off to visit the Amana Colonies on the way home, and we managed to bump into the Gibbs. They had come to visit with my mom’s next-door neighbor Pam for lunch (and more gratuitous pictures, of course). Then we bumped into Vivian’s former co-worker Cynthia, proving again what a small world this is. When we weren’t running into old friends and family members, Vivian and I walked around the lovely old streets of Amana buying some wine, cheese, and sausage, and we let Hannah run a bit wild in the candy store picking out something sweet while Aaron got a bottle.


The fun trip wasn’t over then, either. On the way home, we dropped in at Fong’s Pizza in Des Moines, which was highly recommended to us by the culinarily-savvy Phil and Jen. They had pizzas done in the style of classic Chinese dishes — Kung Pao Chicken, Happy Family, and even Crab Rangoon. It required an open mind, since none of them has tomato sauce (or tasted all that much like pizza), but they were all very good. A heavy thunderstorm started rolling in on the way back to Omaha, which gave us a nice light-show and some rain, but fortunately not much else. We did have time to stop by Adair to see everyone’s favorite smiley face water tower and get some quality play time in the park before calling it a night. It was a fun, long trip, and I really didn’t want it to end so quickly. Fortunately, it looks like we’ll be heading back again in October for a wedding, so we’ll probably be seeing a bunch of our friends and family again a bit sooner than six years from now.

Introducing the children, grandchildren, and great-grand children of Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol