Monthly Archives: August 2015

They say it’s my birthday


Time has been flying by these days. Can you believe Hannah is already in pre-school? Then over the weekend, I turned 37, and I’m getting so old that I’m starting to lose track of how old I actually am. Of course, I’m not too old to stop by the Eagles’ Lodge for a birthday jam at Jitterbugs Night Out. Vivian and I watched the movie War Room with Vivian on Friday (the latest film from the Kendrick Brothers, who also made Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous) and then spent the evening swing dancing until after eleven. There was a decent-sized crowd at the Eagles’ Lodge, but not as many familiar faces as I’d expected. There were plenty of newcomers to dance with, and they weren’t all just college students who’d wandered in from Creighton University. No, they were fairly experienced, which suggested to me that a new generation of young dancers had moved in while Vivian and I had been away.

I still got in plenty of dancing, thanks partly to a fairly decent playlist. I’m so grateful we’ve moved on from having nothing but Dixieland Tubas and Gypsy Jazz filling every dance slot.


On Saturday — my birthday — my parents took me out to breakfast as Hannah and Aaron played cowboy and cowgirl back at home. Then I went down to the Old Market to browse through the Farmers’ Market and get Hannah a pink kitty balloon, and then we stopped to get me some free birthday ice cream over at Ted & Wally’s.

Jack and Donna dropped by a little later with a massive chocolate mocha layer cake. Hannah helped me blow out the candles, and I got to open a couple presents: a pair of saddlebags for my bike, which would make it easy to bike to work with my breakfast, lunch, and a change of clothes, and a lovely pair of New Balance shoes.


My birthday cake was so ridiculously rich that I almost didn’t have room for dinner at Spin afterward. Our mutual friends Phil and Jen had introduced us to the Neapolitan pizza joint back during Shakespeare on the Green, so I dropped in to try a combination chicken pesto / primavera pizza with Vivian. (I also managed to get 20% off since it was my birthday.) Our friends Phil, Jen, Jon, Jessica, Mark, Libby, and Ole all stopped by to pay their respects (and have pizza).

After dinner, Jon joined Vivian and me down at Stinson Park to spend an evening with Yesterday and Today, a Beatles tribute band. I haven’t actually been a huge fan of the fab four before, but I was aware of their existence and thought it sounded like fun. I think I left with a better appreciation of the band’s full catalog of songs, as they went through everything from the early 60s rock of I Want to Hold Your Hand to the groovy eastern sitar plucking in Norwegian Wood. They even played the “Birthday” song, which I’d never even heard before.

The concert also seemed to attract a giant swarm of bugs, who mostly pestered the band underneath the blazing lights on stage. It was a great birthday nonetheless, and I found myself enjoying the concert all the more thanks to some baby boomers in the audience participating in waving cell phones (and at least one lighter). Our Jitterbug friend Takashi also managed to work his way to the front of the stage to get a good face-full of the concert before the band called it a night.

Weekend with the Kids

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Vivian and I had a relatively quiet weekend with the kids. On Friday night, we took the kids down to the Sumtur for their last free movie of the summer. They were showing Cinderella (the original 1950 film instead of the 2015 live action version), so Hannah naturally had to wear her blue Cinderella dress. They had some crowns for the little ones to wear and decorate, and a girl band played some music that Hannah actually dragged me down to the front row to listen to. She even pulled me up by the hand and said, “Dance!” Who could say no to that?

Lexi dropped by with Sammy dressed in the very same Cinderella dress, which only increased the adorableness exponentially.


I had the kids by myself for the entire day on Saturday, which involved taking them to grandma and grandpa Johnson’s house so I could mow their lawn, and then spending the afternoon at the park. It was a warm, sunny day, with a few thundershowers rolling in at night that brought gorgeous, fall-like weather back to Omaha.

The next day, Vivian and I took the kids downtown to climb a tree or two and say hello to the statue of Chef Boyardee outside Conagra’s headquarters (Hannah called him “the muffin man” and gave him a hug). The water bucket installation was in full spill mode again, so I showed it to the kids and let them dip their feet in the waterfall display a bit. I walked with Hannah on the riverfront, where she got to “play in art” and watch the ducks come swimming by. Of course, we also stopped by the giant slides, which I got to ride down with both kids in tow. I bought a Groupon just so we could eat at Matsu Sushi for dinner, but they were unexpectedly closed, so we settled for Burger King instead.

All in all, a lovely, quiet weekend, topped off with our usual trip to the park on Monday to swing and have free cupcakes for lunch.

Two Parks & Two Candidates


Summer will soon be drawing to a close, and that means it’s time to take in a baseball game while it’s still in season. On “Wiener Wednesday” last week, we took the whole family down to Werner Park to watch the Omaha Stormchasers narrowly defeat the Memphis Redbirds with a home run late in the game. Of course, the game itself took only a passing interest to Hannah, who spent most of her time playing in the Centris playground, going down a slide or two and taking multiple trips on the carousel. Lexi and her kids were coincidentally there for a Royal Rangers event for Jake, so they joined Anne and Brandon as we took a spot on the Berm and had some five-cent hot dogs (and ice cream).

In other news, Aaron turned 14 months and is now walking. Look out, world!

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There were lots of other things happening in the Metro area over the weekend, but I wound up spending Saturday and Sunday cleaning and sealing our deck while we had a brief window of not-raining. On Sunday, the gang at church blessed the college-age kids before going back to school (or Basic Training).

After that, we headed down to Aksarben Village for one more Lindy in the Park. We saw only a few familiar faces and a slew of newcomers there doing Lindy Hop under the pavilion. I coaxed Hannah into a dance or two, but the power of the playground compelled her. Aaron also found himself drawn to the fountains like a siren song.


Then on Tuesday, more Presidential Candidates came through Council Bluffs for campaign stops. First was Rick Perry, who visited Barley’s restaurant and bar for a meet and greet. The crowd was decidedly smaller than the ones for Rubio, Walker, and Carson, but that only gave the former Texas Governor more time for pictures, autographs, and questions from the locals. (Tom Becka was also nowhere in sight, possibly because Chris Baker was on site to introduce Perry.)

I got to meet another Governor that evening — Bobby Jindal, who was doing a town hall via his Super PAC Believe Again. About 100 people showed up to hear him speak, including several younger people (and several others who’d come to see Rick Perry in the morning). Many of Jindal’s talking points were the same as other candidates, but what impressed me was how friendly and talkative he was with everyone who lined up to shake hands with him afterward. He chatted with the guy in front of me about where he was going to school (since he wore a Michigan University sweatshirt), what he majored in, and the sketchbook he carried with caricatures of different presidential candidates. I managed to win a copy of his book as a prize during the emcee’s opening pop quiz, so I naturally got him to autograph it before my obligatory selfie.

So that’s five Republican candidates I’d met so far. Only twelve more to go, right? Maybe I’ll even squeeze in a few democrats before the primary’s over.

Shaking the Gifted Hands


In case you couldn’t tell, it’s summer. The hot, steamy days have been good to our tomato crop, and Hannah got to pick her first vine-ripened tomato from our garden (which we used to make bruschetta). We spent some quality time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house last Saturday as well, giving Vivian some “me” time while sampling some mystery greens, having burgers and watermelon, and playing some video games. Speaking of which, Hannah got to play our Wii for the first time the other day, taking a spin at Mario Kart but mostly just enjoying being the “princess” on the screen. Aaron also got to try pizza for the first time. (News flash: he loved it.)


Then we had a big, fun afternoon on Sunday, all thanks to Dr. Ben Carson. The world-renowned neurosurgeon and current presidential candidate paid a visit to Council Bluffs. My parents came along for the hot, muggy afternoon as the man with “gifted hands” spoke to a crowd of a thousand people or so (which included the usual cast of troublemakers). He spent some time talking with the media afterward as everyone crowded around, and then he spent a good hour shaking hands at the meet-and-greet tent. A live band played some classic rock for the crowd and then Mary Rice Hopkins and Puppets with a Heart (who has a TV show on TBN) put on a puppet show for the kids with her counterpart Darcie Maze. There was also face-painting for the kids and free sweet corn, so Hannah got made-up for the first time and Aaron got to eat his first-ever ear of corn.

Dr. Carson took the stage again for some Q&A before calling it a day. I was amazed at the man’s stamina, as he was in constant motion from three to six o’clock without so much as a bathroom break (that I could tell) in-between. I also give him props for being the only President candidate I’ve seen so far to arrive on time. It was the most fun I’d ever had at a political event before, and I was glad to see another presidential candidate putting himself out there to meet the voters — no ropes necessary to keep anyone away.



Vivian and I just finished up a long, hot, and steamy weekend in Boone, Iowa with Jenny Dougan (née Arnold) and our usual bunch of Happy Campers. It’s been a tradition for Jenny to host a camping trip, and this year she and Kody decided to take us to the Des Moines river for some tubing. It proved to be convenient, since we were closer to people like Kody’s Mom, who brought by an emergency delivery of beer for us.

It was also ridiculously hot and humid all weekend. After setting up our tents, we spent part of our Friday night putting slices of cucumber on our eyes before dinnertime. We also found a flurry of feathery bugs of some kind to bewilder us before we put up the campfire and had s’mores. Phil and Jen came with us this time and arrived late with an amazing pop-up tent that was assembled within seconds.


The next morning, Dan and Katie put together some amazing breakfast burritos for everyone, which we ate while playing a game of Baby Jenga. Around lunchtime, we headed down to the Des Moines river for a few hours of tubing together. It was a different experience from canoeing, since we were able to spend half our time bobbing in and out of the tubes in the river together rather than actually trying to paddle someplace. It had been so hot and muggy all weekend that it was a welcome change just to be cool and wet for a couple hours.

I also managed to literally lose my shirt someplace along the river. It was a frankly gut-wrenching experience, as I’d worn this particular shirt for years through all sorts of memories and was very sorry to let it go. Farewell, beige tee of wonder — may your feathers, stars, and roses find another body to cling to along the river.


Back at the campsite, Vivian snuck away to get a piñata and silly string to help Tamra celebrate her birthday. We had burgers and potatoes and played a few games as the sun went down, including our usual round of Taboo and a progressive story around the campfire.

A lovely storm came roaring by the campsite around three o’clock, and we got to test the camp-worthiness of our little Aldi tent. It held up fairly well, and there’s nothing quite as cozy as staying dry inside a tent as it thunders and pours outside.


I fried up some Spam for breakfast the next morning before breaking down the campsite. Vivian and I took a trip through Boone to get a glimpse of Mamie Eisenhower’s birthplace before moving on to Des Moines. We stopped by the YMCA in Ankeny just to use their hot showers (and barely missing a roaming Chris Christie). Seriously, nothing feels quite as good after a camping trip than an actual hot shower with soap and fresh clothes.

We headed on to Des Moines to gorge on a couple burgers with Phil and Jen before heading on home. Thanks again, Jenny, for putting together another fun camping weekend. Maybe next year we’ll be able to take the kids!