Monthly Archives: October 2014

Aaron’s Dedication and Pre-Halloween Fun


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.


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.


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.

Another Wedding in Cedar Rapids


Over the weekend, Vivian and I made our way back to Cedar Rapids (with Hannah and Aaron in tow) to attend a wedding for Caleb de Souza and Lacie Thompson. Caleb is my cousin Mary Ellen’s son, and I’ve known him since he was about two or three years old, so being able to see him get married as a grown man was quite an experience (and it reminded me how old I really was). The wedding ceremony was held at the surprisingly picturesque Cedar Rapids Public Library, which had a beautiful view of Greene Square Park from the Whipple Auditorium.

My Uncle Ben was the officiant, of course, and the ceremony had a number of interesting choices in music — including a wedding procession made up entirely of Beatles songs. The father of the bride gave his little girl away, sand was poured, and many tears were shed. Even more amazing was that Hannah and Aaron were perfectly well behaved throughout the entire event (though Aaron had a bottle to keep him occupied). We stuck around to greet several of our family members, many of whom broke away for official wedding pictures. My cousin David was there with his photographer wife Bridget, and she was nice enough to snap a few family pictures for us up on the lovely “green roof.”


We all made our way a few blocks north to the Masonic Temple for the reception, where the real fun started shortly after the bride put on her running shoes. Caleb and company made their way into the grand ballroom to Michael Jackson’s Beat It, they kissed a couple times, and then we all started stuffing our faces at the buffet. Cake also happened, which helped fuel a bit of a sugar high for the grown-ups before the dancing started. Caleb and Lacie are both very gifted singers, so the bride and groom’s first dance featured Lacie singing Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years, and the mother/son dance had Caleb singing Mark Harris’ Find Your Wings, which was just beautiful.

In the meantime, Hannah made a few new best friends on the dance floor, spending a good portion of her sugar high dancing around, playing ring-around-the-rosy, and learning how to make funny faces before inevitably crashing into Uncle Jim’s arms at the end of the night. Vivian and I had to cut and run just as the line dancing got underway, but we both did take a few minutes out for a dollar dance or two. You can’t have a proper wedding without dancing, of course!


The next day, Vivian and I spent the morning roaming the countryside exploring the autumnal fireworks in the trees around Cedar Rapids. Naturally, that took us down to the Amanas, hunting for such legendary things as Iowa’s largest rocking chair. We got in a few quick family photos and stopped by a shop or two for fudge and peach wine. We even got in time for Hannah’s first ride on a porch swing before heading out. The kids both slept all the way to Cedar Rapids, where we had lunch/dinner at the Machine Shed, where I’d taken Vivian back when we were just dating way back in 2007. We filled up on chicken fried steak and got some obligatory photos on the tractor out front before calling it a night.

Congratulations, Caleb and Lacie! I hope you have a wonderful, happy life together. See you at the next reunion, whenever that may be.

This Year at Vala’s

Autumn is usually a busy time for us, with special events happening almost every weekend. The weekdays are filled with activity, too. On Monday, Vivian brought Hannah and Aaron to the park to grab a cupcake and make use of the swings and slides before it gets too cold. Then on Thursday I attended a luncheon and got to meet Pete Ricketts, who’s running for governor. I’d spotted him in a parade or two before, but it’s always nice to be able to shake hands and ask questions to a candidate before you decide to vote for him.


The major event of this week, however, was our annual trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. The trek to Gretna gets a little more cumbersome (and expensive) every year, particularly now that we have two kids to bring along. We actually headed up a little early in the morning (cutting around the traffic jam on 180th via our usual shortcut) just so we could get in some kiddie activities before our “grown-up” friends arrived. Hannah and Aaron both got to spend some quality time in the giant corn bin (before snacking on some a little later), and Hannah got a couple turns on the jumping pillows before the line got too long.


We met up with our cluster of mutual friends around lunchtime as they were busy with the go-carts. We trekked about with them for a while, going back across the railroad tracks to watch the pig races and go down a couple slides together. The corn maze was decidedly smaller this year, as they built some kind of midway of carnival games in a large swath of it (complete with those hammer-swinging, bell-ringing games of strength). We got separated in the storybook village right before getting an obligatory group photo on the giant rocking chair. Everyone knows Vala’s is essentially one large, outdoor photobooth, but we fortunately had a friend or two wandering by who could help take our picture when we needed it.


We didn’t buy any overpriced pumpkins during our visit, but we did get some succotash for dinner and hear some kind of a ghost story by the campfire as the sun went down. We even got Hannah her own pink cowboy hat down at the gift shop. We’ve been getting group pictures wearing hats a number of times already, so I figured it was about time we bought one. Hannah even picked it out herself, and I bet it’ll still fit when we come back again next year.

Rabbits and Hayracks


On Saturday morning, Vivian and I took both of the kids down to the Farmer’s Market, braving a brisk October morning to walk among the vendors looking for “unusual” produce and other unique edibles. I think many of the vendors must have cut and run this late in the season, since most of the items for sale were available at any grocery store (and likely much cheaper). Our favorite vendors such as the bakery and root beer stands were missing, but we did get some coffee from Tap Dancers down at the corner. We eventually nabbed some tiny eggplants, peppers, and some Chinese Spinach, all of which seemed suitable for an ingredient party.

Of course, we also had to stop by the Upstream for lunch so Vivian could get the flight of beers I got for her birthday. It was too cold to eat outside, but that didn’t stop us from recreating a photo of Hannah happily watching the colorful, bubbling samples of beer in front of her. (No tasting, sweetie.)


That evening, Phil and Jen had us over for another Ingredient Party, which included a Mel Brooks movie marathon (History of the World, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles). Hannah got to see some of the fluffy bunnies downstairs that our favorite culinary couple were raising for Hasenpfeffer, and I was just sick enough to get a gruesome “before and after” picture. Phil had invited Vivian’s folks along, and they were actually the ones who brought along rabbit to have fried up for everyone. (It tasted like chicken.) A few other mutual friends were there as well, including Kristen, who got to meet Baby Aaron for the first time, Luke, Cameron and S. Jael, and Tamra, who kept Hannah occupied with the many stuffed toys she brought with her.

The food was all good, of course, though at the end I got to have a taste of masochism by tasting some Seven Pot Pepper spice. It’s not quite unlike setting your tongue on fire, though after ten minutes or so of sheer agony, it went away without so much as a tingle left behind (and took the burn from the jerk chicken with it, strangely enough.)


On Sunday afternoon, we headed down to the Hall’s place along with the rest of Twin Valley Church for a Hayrack Ride and Potluck dinner. After chasing Shawn’s new cat for a few minutes, a quick trip on the swings and a hop on the trampoline, everyone climbed onto the hayracks for a quick trip through in the country. It was a lovely, brisk fall day, with plenty of horses roaming the countryside for us to yell at as we passed. There were a few showers rolling through the area, which made some some gorgeous pictures once the sun started to set. It started to sprinkle just as we returned to the ranch, so we had to grab our chili and duck in and out of the shed as the rain passed.

We had a roaring fire that was useful for roasting both weenies and marshmallows, and then we showed the kids gathered around how to tell a “progressive” story around the campfire. The median age of our group of storytellers was about six, so we naturally got opening lines such as “It was a dark and poopy night.” The younger they are, the easier it is to crack them up. Meanwhile, the grown-ups played a marshmallow-stuffing game of “Chubby Bunny,” which I would have gotten a picture of if I hadn’t been engaged in such riveting storytelling (and snapping pictures of the mortal combat happening on the trampoline) before heading home.

Vivian’s Painting, Dancing, Camping Birthday Weekend


The end of September was a lovely, four-day weekend of Birthday Fun for Vivian and our cluster of mutual friends. The celebration started Thursday night, when Vivian and I paid a visit to Canvas and Cabernet, one of many “drink wine and paint” studios popping up all over town. We both decided to “wing it” by painting wine and cheese together for the express purpose of decorating our kitchen wall. The instructors there were very helpful, and the appetizers kept us satiated until we were done and ready to celebrate with dinner at Vivace afterward.

On Friday night, we dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for an obligatory night of swing dancing. Vivian’s gotten to have a birthday jam for nine years in a row with the Omaha Jitterbugs, and we weren’t about to break the streak just shy of the ten-year mark. It was fun to catch up with a bunch of our old swing-dancing buddies, and we even grabbed some pastries from the Donut Stop on the way home.


On Saturday, after a quick trip to Ted & Wally’s for some birthday ice cream, we headed on up to the Fremont Lakes to spend the night camping out! We brought the kids along, of course, and Hannah got to explore the inside of a tent for the very first time. The weather was fairly warm (in the mid-80s), which seemed ideal for one last swim before Old Man Winter comes to visit.


Back at the campsite, Vivian’s parents joined us along with Phil and Jen, Jenny, Libby, Katie, and Jon Paper for a grilling out. We had plenty of burgers and hot dogs to go around, and there was just enough room for a lovely chunky cake of sorts that Donna had brought (and Hannah had decorated). The sun went down and we lit the campfire for s’mores as Vivian opened presents, one of which happened to be Guitar Hero for the Wii. Yeah, we’re gonna party like it’s 2007!

We had some Spam for breakfast the next morning and spent the rest of Sunday recovering from a night of sleeping on the hard ground.


Of course, Jack’s birthday was just two days later, so after we’d sufficiently recovered, we went off to Outback Steakhouse for a couple rib-eyes and an onion blossom. Donna and I discovered the joys of unlimited shrimp, especially when our wonderful waiter Austin kept them coming and coming (even in a to-go box). And yes, Chocolate Cookie Sundaes most definitely did happen afterward. We opened presents back at our place afterward, which included a grabber for Jack and a personally dictated birthday card from Hannah. (“Happy Birthday to Pop-Pop’s Birthday Happy Day” or something like that.) Other gifts were indescribable in the presence of little ears.

Happy birthday, Vivian! I hope you enjoyed every mosquito bite we earned on our trip.