Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easter 2016


It’s Easter Season in Nebraska once again, which means our tulips start poking out of the ground just in time for another blizzard or hard freeze. In any case, we had Palm Sunday at church, and Aaron got to take his first trip around the sanctuary carrying a plastic palm branch with Hannah.

Then that evening we had dinner at our new Pastor’s house (with the “other” Johnson family in our church) to have hot dogs and talk about starting a new Young Families group together. It would certainly be nice to have a bible study with built-in babysitting, and Hannah already seems to be getting along with the new kids at church.


There was actual snow in the forecast for Wednesday, so Vivian and I decided to take the kids for a romp at the park with Lexi and her kids. Park time is always more fun when Hannah has Sammy and Jake to keep her company on the slides and swings, and Aaron and August seemed to have fun running the perimeter of the park, grabbing balls from the big kids and riding a grasshopper together. There was even a leftover pile of leaves from last fall for some jumping in before we headed home.


Vivian and I were actually scheduled to set up at JNO on Good Friday, which was fine by us, as we had a live band playing that night. That means after setting up the front desk and handling the crowd through the opening lesson, the rest of the night is ours to dance. We saw a handful of the Jitterbug regulars and quickly wore out our feet on the dance floor swinging out to the Billy Bacon hand his rockabilly band.


On Saturday, the Easter Egg Hunt we’d planned to attend at the Bellevue Christian Center was cancelled due to rain, but we wound up having an egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house instead. We’d planned on stopping by anyway to celebrate Uncle Jonny’s birthday a week late (with pizza for lunch), but it was especially nice to let our kids run around hunting for plastic eggs before we had lunch together.


Then came Easter Sunday! Vivian got brand-new Easter outfits for both Hannah and Aaron, which meant plenty of family pictures together as we were all dressed up. Grammy and Pop-Pop brought Easter Eggs for the kids to find in our yard before going inside to open their Easter baskets full of candy and toys. I made some waffles for an Easter Lunch together as Aaron went down for a nap, and then we spent some quality time playing a memory card game with Hannah on the coffee table.

My folks and Uncle Jonny came over when dinnertime rolled around. We had the usual mess of deviled eggs for hors d’oeuvres before having our dinner of glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, Watergate salad, and some bizarre Bunny Bread that Donna had made up. I think we all got more than our fill of food, which meant I’d have o work to schedule time to ride my bike to work this week and pedal some of the extra calories off.

Happy Resurrection Day, everybody!

Reunions, Economics, and Easter Eggs


Aaron turned 21 months old this weekend, which meant taking him to a park to see if we could crack a smile for his monthly picture. We didn’t have success, even when using the swing that got such a nice smile from Hannah at that age, but the next morning I made Aaron crack up by abusing some of Hannah’s toys. I love my kids.

Then on Monday, we got to have a bit of a reunion this week when Teresa Rietjens and her kids came to town and met up with a bunch of friends from Twin Valley Church at the local Chick-Fil-A. Hannah got to catch up with Rachel and get some quality playtime in as the rest of us ate chicken sandwiches and talked with Teresa about thier new life in Clear Lake, Iowa. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pop over for a visit sometime this summer.


On Tuesday, I went to see economist Stephen Moore give a presentation on supply-side economics at a forum hosted by Americans for Prosperity. Moore’s a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a contributor on the Fox News Channel, so I suppose my withdrawal from hanging out with politicians every week had started to wear off. He gave a very informative presentation showing correlations between lower taxes and higher revenue, a cornerstone idea of his friend Art Laffer’s career. Moore stuck around for plenty of Q&A with the relatively small crowd, and I enjoyed chatting with some of my political friends before going home to cry about Marco Rubio dropping out of the Presidential race. (Sniff, sniff.)


And in case you haven’t checked the calendar recently, Easter is almost here. It’s an early Easter this year, which means our office wound up having a special egg-decorating day on St. Patrick’s Day. Pam and the events committee had eggs and dye and lots of green goodies upstairs. Our family all dressed in green for the day, and a few of my co-workers’ kids showed up for some of the fun. They made friends quickly with Aaron and Hannah. Hannah especially liked finding eggs hidden throughout the third-floor conference room, and she dyed and painted a handful of eggs herself to take home.

We concluded the day with corned-beef and cabbage, per tradition, with the kids.

Campaign Characters

I’ve probably made people sick with my frequent posts on presidential candidates, but I wanted to get a few last words in before the primaries officially end. It was an oddly special election season for me, not just because I got to meet and greet so many potential Presidents of the United States, but also because of some of the interesting characters I met along the way.

Bobby Jindal and supporter

Gov. Jindal gets to sign a caricature of himself in this guy’s sketchbook.

First, were the political junkies like me, who just wanted to see the next President. One misconception is that people who attend a candidate’s event are essentially endorsing that candidate. On the contrary, I found many attendees to be remarkably bipartisan. The bearded guy who sat with his daughter in the front row to see Hillary Clinton was actually voting for Rand Paul, but he also came to see Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal (asking the latter to sign a caricature he drew of him).

I met another guy who campaigned actively for Carly Fiorina, but he also managed to see every other candidate in the running and even got to attend the debate in Des Moines. We became a strange set of groupies during the primary, and it was the one brief thing that brought us together.

Rick Perry signs autographs

Jean adds an autograph from Gov. Rick Perry to her collection.

Then there were the autograph hounds. One white-haired lady named Jean seemed to pop up at every candidate’s event, including Rick Perry, Rand Paul, and Carly Fiorina, with a stack of things for them to sign. I had the impression she annoyed Sen. Paul in particular as his campaign guy actively stood in her way when she tried to approach. Another guy I met not only got folks like Rick Perry to sign his stuff, but he even got close enough to President Obama to get an autograph or two. I didn’t think much about this until the campaign was over, but autographed memorabilia can go for big money on eBay. The most amusing of these autograph hounds was the Fake Security Guy, a man who would dress in with sunglasses and a fake earpiece (often connected to nothing dangling freely at his side) holding people back before getting one candidate or another to sign his stack of stuff.

Tom Becka & Marco Rubio

KPTM’s Tom Becka interview Sen. Marco Rubio.

Finally, there were the media types. KPTM’s Tom Becka would appear at nearly every event I went to, and I had a running joke where I’d pretend he was stalking me. Our friend Jessica works for KETV and would also cover many of the same stories.

I got to learn personally which candidates would allow local reporters to ask them questions (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz) and which ones wouldn’t (Bill and Hillary Clinton). I even brushed shoulders with the occasional PowerLine blogger.

Mark McKinnon

Mark McKinnon films for his show “The Circus” on Showtime.

Of course, the primaries would also attract plenty of national media. I would regularly bump into reporters from the Washington Post or the New York Times covering the campaigns, as well as photographers such as Jae C. Hong from the Associated Press or Gage Skidmore, who’s made a name for himself taking pictures and putting them out for anyone to use via a Creative Commons License on Flickr. Reporters like NBC’s Chris Jansing would come to interview voters, and I even managed to appear on the Fox News Channel myself multiple times. Mark McKinnon, former political adviser to George W. Bush, also appeared at events of Ted Cruz and Bill Clinton to film a special on Showtime called The Circus. If you watch it, let me know if you see me lurking in the background.

So that’s it for the 2016 primaries. All we have to do is wait until November, or perhaps see if one stray candidate or two show their faces in Nebraska when we finally get our chance to vote. But that still won’t be for two months yet. Isn’t that ridiculous?

Remembering Flapper

August 3, 1991 – March 7, 2016

Where were you in 1991? George Bush Sr. was President of the United States, Mikhail Gorbachev was leader of the Soviet Union, and in August, a little cockatiel named Flapper hatched from an egg. My wife Vivian was in elementary school, and for the next twenty-four and a half years, that little bird would be a part of her family. He stuck with her from elementary school to college, from California to Nebraska, from being part of the Taber family to joining the Johnson family when Vivian and I got married, and he was there when we brought our two kids home from the hospital.

IMG_9189Flapper was Vivian’s baby for over two-thirds of her life, and by marriage, he was my baby, too. I met Flapper (and his roommate Babo) after Vivian and I had our first date. I’ve known him longer than most of the friends I have in Omaha, and even though I haven’t known him as long as Vivian has, he’s been with us longer than any pet I’ve ever had in my life.

He wasn’t just a pet, of course — he’s been a member of our family, and I feel grateful he’s been happy and healthy well into his golden years. I’m also glad that we had a very long chance to say goodbye. He first started showing signs of illness nearly a month ago, and when a cockatiel starts showing signs of illness the end can come quickly — as short as a day, as it was in Babo’s case. We had a couple weeks to keep Flappy warm and happy and get extra time with a family picture or two. Hannah is also old enough now to know Flappy and remember him as her pet for the rest of her life.

Long goodbyes are never easy, but we kept Flapper warm, safe, and comfortable until the very end. On Tuesday evening, he died in Vivian’s hands, sharing his last moments alone being loved by his “mommy,” just as it should be. I know how well he was loved all of his two-dozen years, because the empty cage in the corner now make the house seem so terribly quiet. Our many years of memories, though, and happy ones, and we’ll never forget the fifth member of our little family.

Something fishy


Because once is never enough, on Friday last week we dropped by St. John Vianney a second time for a fish fry with our friends. This time around, we braved the line with Lisa, Jenny, Kody, and Jon, as well as Phil and Jen when they finally arrived a few hours later. A bunch of Vivian’s friends from Friendship Program also came along, including Cliff and Amber and their baby boy. We all had our fill of fried fish and carb-laden sides as Guitar Guy played our standard set of songs. Lisa also happened to win another package of raffle meat, repeating her win from our very first first fry back in 2009 (no meat dress this time around, though). After dinner, we enjoyed playing with some eye-gouging paper airplanes before calling it a night.


Spring definitely seems to have returned to Nebraska, at least for the time being, so on Saturday we took the kids down for some quality time at the Sand Park. Aaron braved the slides like a champ, repeatedly flopping his way down the curvy, bumpy slides without a problem. Hannah also made a friend with a set of construction toys, and even Grandma and Grandpa came by to visit a bit before we went home.

The next day, we had our first grill-out of the year, having burgers out on the patio as a way of kicking winter to the curb, at least for now. (We could still certainly have another blizzard or two before June. You never know.)

Park Time


Nebraska winters tend to be gray and cold with intermittent spurts of unseasonable gorgeousness, so when we aren’t having pizza lunches with the grandparents (which we did last week), Vivian and I like to take the kids outside whenever this happens. We hit a February high in the 70s on Saturday, so we took Hannah and Aaron down to the “Brown Park” (AKA Dream Land Park) by Lake Manawa. We had some burgers for lunch and then Hannah and Aaron got to wear themselves out swinging, sliding and exploring the large wooden outdoor playground.

In other news, our fifth member of the family, Flappy the Cockatiel, seems to be under the weather. This is often a dire situation for a little bird, particularly one who’s nearly twenty-five years old like Flappy. He seems to be hanging in there, however, with lots of cuddling for his mommy and daddy. It did prompt us to get our first “full” family photo with him, however.


On Sunday, Twin Valley Church’s new Pastor gave his first official sermon as pastor at our church after a brief blessing for him and his family by the elders. Then we celebrated his first day downstairs with a potluck. I have to say that I really appreciate Pastor’s Ryan’s hands-on, proactive approach. He pushed for me to upgrade the church website to WordPress, and he was technologically-savvy enough to dive right in and start making edits as soon as I gave him an account.

That evening, our mutual friend Jessica invited us over to her place to play cards as Hannah and Aaron got some quality playtime. Jessica’s roommate brought along her three girls, who kept our kids occupied, as we all played Rummy along with Jon (and Aaron, when he felt like joining in). I have to remind myself how easy it is to get grown-up time when you have other little ones around to keep your own kids occupied.


The nice weather lasted at least one more day, which allowed us to have our first lunchtime visit to Stinson Park for the year. The kids had lunch, and then they both got to make hams of themselves performing on the large stage singing and dancing for the amusement of mom and me.