Monthly Archives: September 2015

Birthday Extra


Vivian got a few extra days of birthday fun last week even after the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse left us for another couple of decades. Jack’s birthday is two days after hers, so we celebrated it per tradition at Outback Steakhouse in Bellevue. This time, however, we invited my folks to come along as well, making it the first time we had all four grandparents sharing Bloomin’ Onions together over rib-eye steaks. (The kids got to spent the evening at the Mills wreaking havoc with Jake, Sammy, and August.)

Then on Friday night, we returned to the Eagles’ Lodge for an evening of dancing with our mutual, swing-dancing friends. They had a good turnout that included folks like the Wests, who have kids like us and can’t always drop them off with a babysitter until midnight.

And in other news, Hannah got her first Big Girl Bed at last.

The best is ready to begin

IMG_5619We had another busy weekend here in Omaha, much of which involved celebrating Vivian’s birthday.

We kicked things off on Saturday by visiting the Centurylink Center to see some livestock and some cakes. The Aksarben Livestock Show was happening on the main level, and we took a good look at the animals being cleaned, dried, and brushed for competition. It was so strange to see cattle all puffed up and cuddly preparing to be judge. Hannah and Aaron also got to see some cows up close and personal for the very first time. One cowhand even let Aaron pet one and showed how its udder worked. Hannah was quite amazed to see where milk actually comes from.

IMG_5634On the second floor, the Omaha Sugar Arts Competition was underway. Vivian’s mom entered an amazing hanging chandelier cake, which took first place in the People’s Choice Award. She also got a blue ribbon for a painting made with fondant and cocoa powder.

The real treat for us, however, was our own Hannah, who took home First Prize in the “wee ones” division for her autumn-colored cake. She did all the work in making it herself, including cutting out the maple leaf and sticking it on top. Mom and I couldn’t have been prouder!


On Saturday Night, Vivian and I attended a marriage seminar at Bellevue Christian Center titled Love Worth Fighting For. It featured Kirk Cameron, best known for his role as Mike Seaver on the sitcom Growing Pains, which he poked fun of right off the bat during his opening talk once the seminar got underway. The event was a kind of birthday gift for Vivian, and I even splurged on the “VIP” treatment, which meant we got to attend a Q&A and autograph session with Kirk before the show. Vivian asked if there were any plans for a Growing Pains sequel series on Netflix (a la Fuller House).

The seminar also featured the musical talents of Warren Barfield, who played a song or two, talked a bit, and plugged his children’s missionary work toward the end of session two. Much of Kirk’s talk revolved around 1 Peter 3:7 and a five-point sermon he’d borrowed from another preacher. In the end, I felt like I got more out of the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar a year ago, but this was still an enjoyable event. (Particularly going to Village Inn with our friends the Mills afterward — without any kids.)


Vivian’s birthday itself proved to be a fairly busy day, between church in the morning and a birthday party packed with princesses in the afternoon. I made her a heart-shaped pancake sandwich for breakfast and got some sushi from Baker’s for lunch (along with a smiley face birthday cake from Donna).

Then for dinner, we met around 16 or 17 of our mutual friends for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Vivian got some kind of shrimp gumbo and a giant piece of raspberry lemon cheesecake, which was presented to her with a loud, embarrassing rendition of “Happy Birthday” from all her guests and the waitstaff. (And thanks to a recent court ruling, it was actually Happy Birthday rather than some knock-off not being held hostage via Copyright.)

We went outside to enjoy an hour or two of watching the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, enjoying clear skies and perfect weather for such a viewing. It was something of a nice little celestial birthday present to cap off the weekend.

Happy birthday, Vivian, and show me that smile again. The best is ready to begin!

Welcome, Fall!


Fall is just about the best time of year to be outdoors, and as such it’s also the time of year for some of my favorite outdoor traditions, such as the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City. The Johnson Family had a fairly busy weekend in store, so we didn’t have time to spend all day picking apples as we usually do this time of year. We did stop by for the pancake breakfast at the firehouse, catching our usual batch of flapjacks from the Pancake Man (while getting snapshots of the kids sitting in firetrucks as we waited in line). We stopped by the library afterward to check out their dinosaur exhibit, which included animatronic dinosaurs from the Omaha Children’s Museum and dinosaur crafts upstairs.

There was a massive traffic jam on the way back thanks to an accident at the Kimmel Orchard exit, which put an end to any hopes of picking apples before heading back to Omaha.


That afternoon, we went to Washington Park in Bellevue to say Happy Birthday to Rachel. The Rietjens clan was there, along with Aunt Jessica and a whole bunch of Rachel’s little friends from church, school, and elsewhere. There were at least there other birthdays going on at the same time in the park, so the place was fairly busy with little ones.

We also got to confirm with Pastor Drew and Teresa that they will be leaving our little Twin Valley Church to move to Clear Lake, Iowa and take over a new ministry there. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, and I’m not sure how we’ll break the news to Hannah that she own’t be able to play with her little friends every week after church anymore. Thank goodness she doesn’t read my blog.


On Sunday, we spent the afternoon with the kids at Gifford Farm for the fall festival. They got to see some of the animals and rode some ponies. We also hit the hay rack and got our obligatory photos inside and around the hollowed-out tree. Vivian stayed to help Donna with the cookies as Hannah and Aaron rode in a canoe and played with a xylophone. Of course, there was also plenty of sliding into hay, and Aaron made me proud climbing up to slide on his own down the big slide with no prompting whatsoever.

It was a fun, busy weekend, and much better than staying indoors watching some college football team lose again. Happy fall, everybody!

Camping with the kids


Fall is always a fun, busy time of year, with activities nearly every weekend that keep us busy. Things kicked off on Labor Day, as my dad invited us and Vivian’s folks over to their house for a lunch of smoked ribs. My dad actually got three different kinds of pork ribs to sample. Both Aaron and Hannah seemed to enjoy them, and then spent the afternoon rocking out with the rest of us grown-ups.


On Friday, Aaron turned 15 months old, so we took a couple cute, patriotic pictures of him out on our front porch. Shortly after that, we drove on up to Lake Manawa to take our kids on their first, legit camping trip. We set up a tent that Hannah and Aaron seemed to love playing inside (even before we broke out the sleeping bags). Then Nate and Lexi joined us to grill some burgers as the sun went down. The temperature dropped fairly quickly, so after a few rounds of ladder golf, we snuggled up next to the fire and let Hannah have her very first s’more with us.

It eventually got down to 45 degrees or so, but the kids seemed to sleep remarkably well outside in a tent for the first time. Aaron kept rolling around and throwing his blanket off, however, so I had to keep wrapping him back up throughout the night.

IMG_4980 IMG_5088

The next morning, Nate and Lexi made us breakfast as a cold mist hung over the lake. the kids enjoyed running around the campsite for a bit, and then Nate took Jake off to a soccer game. I broke down the campsite as Vivian and Lexi took Hannah and Aaron over to a play area that Hannah dubbed “The Brown Park.” (This was to distinguish it from “The Yellow Park,” where we get our cupcakes every other Monday.) There were tires and swings to keep the kids occupied before we took them back to the campsite to tear down our tent before going home. It was a particularly exhausting trip and left Vivian and me too tired even to go to the Balloon Glow at Ditmar’s Orchard (let alone that Cowtown Jamborama thing going on). There’s just too much stuff to do everything in one weekend!

On Monday, we went back to our routine of cupcakes and playing in the park — at least until next weekend.