Monthly Archives: June 2016

Taming of the Shrew

Omaha’s buzzing right now with such events as the College World Series and the Olympic Swim Trials, but we were much more interested in one of my favorite traditions over the weekend: Shakespeare on the Green.

IMG_0014 IMG_9980

For 30 years, Nebraska Shakespeare has been performing the works of the bard out at Elmwood Park, and this year their comedy of choice is Taming of the Shrew. As usual, we gathered with a bunch of our friends to have wine and vittles on the green in-between trying on Elizabethan-era clothes for the full Shakespearience. The wandering minstrels were back of course, and a few cast members had some Q&A before the show started. We also discovered a picture I took a few years ago somehow found its way onto one of the official Nebraska Shakespeare banners, making our group more a part of this event than ever.

The crowd was notably smaller than usual, either from competing events or fear of a thunderstorm, which was originally predicted around showtime. It was hot and muggy without even the slightest breeze, but fortunately we didn’t get more rain than just a sprinkle or two.


The play kicked off around seven, introduced briefly by emcee Tom Becka (continuing his reign of terror by stalking me) and a band of minstrels who performed in the audience before moving on stage. The show itself was unique in that all the parts were played by men in true Shakespearean fashion. Seeing both men playing women and men playing men but acting effeminate wearing strangely frilly outfits was strange to say the least, but the performance was good as always, and even easy to follow for those of us in the present century. I was fortunately enough to snag a spot right behind the VIP section earlier in the day, giving me and my friends a front-row seat.

In other news, Hannah gave Aaron some schooling by setting up her own mock preschool when our backs were turned, being as adorable as ever.

Fodder’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful dads out there! I had a lovely Father’s Day weekend with dads from both sides of the family. More on that in a moment.


First, on Wednesday last week, Vivian and I paid a visit to the soon-to-be-closing Bohemian Café. The Omaha landmark in historic Little Bohemia is the latest casualty in our continuing loss of historic Omaha restaurants. It was the first restaurant Vivian visited in Nebraska, and the place I got to bump into Warren Buffett on my 32nd birthday a few years ago, so it had some sentimental value to the both of us. I ordered the roast beef with burgundy gravy, which came with mushrooms on top, and Vivian had the Svickova, Czech-style sauerbraten, which was a buttery kind of sliced pork thing. Both came with liver dumpling soup and dumplings on the side, which are a must if you ever visit the Café before it closes. Just be sure to arrive nice and early. The place had plenty of seating room at four o’clock, but a line nearly out the door an hour later.


On Saturday, we celebrated Father’s Day with my dad in exactly the way he wanted — eating steak and watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. He fired up the grill and cooked a couple of rib-eyes for the lot of us, and afterward watched Revenge of the Creature, which was absolutely horrible. Uncle Nathan came up from Lincoln to join Uncle Jonny, dad and me for the day.

Afterward we returned to my house to give Aaron some belated birthday presents. Uncle Nathan gave him some squirt guns, which he immediately enjoyed using inside the house. Mom and dad also gave him a bubble lawnmower, which Hannah somehow immediately took possession of for the rest of the day.


On Father’s Day, Vivian got me a delicious Abelardo’s breakfast burrito as we both went to church for the morning. Hannah got some play time with Chloe, and then we went home to chill for the rest of the afternoon. By chill, of course, I meant get stuff done. I actually enjoyed taking care of a few things this weekend, including installing a new sprinkler head, mowing our lawn and my parents, and then trimming back some trees on Father’s Day. Jack and Donna came by to play ball with the kids (in the house) while the moms made some tasty Cubano sandwiches and California salads for dinner. We had some presents afterward, which included sodas with disgusting names and a sleeveless black t-shirt, which Hannah confiscated to become a superhero.

Hannah and I got to enjoy my Father’s Day Cinnamon Buns (from church) the next morning for breakfast, and then I saw them again at lunchtime for quality time playing with pom poms at the park. In other news, Aaron got a tricycle. He’s growing up so fast.

It’s also officially summer now, and it’s also hot outside. I have a few words to say about that below.

An important message for the Summer of 2016

Aaron turns two!


Summer’s here again, as temperature breaks into the upper-nineties and everyone starts looking for ways to beat the heat. For the Johnson Kids, that often means more time running through the fountains of Stinson Park or maybe a Splash Pad. More on that in a second.

My Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy are taking a trip across the United States visiting family, so last week they dropped by to stay with my folks for a few days. They checked out Boys Town, Runza, and even a firing range. Vivian and I brought the kids by after dinner on Wednesday to say hello and then play a couple rounds of Apples to Apples together.


On Friday night, Vivian and I took the kids to the Eagles’ Lodge for the Omaha Jitterbugs’ “Mom Prom,” a fun event designed for little ones with an interest in dancing. Lindsey picked out a few giant dance cards with basic dance steps printed on them, and by putting four of them randomly down on the floor, she created a fairly simple dance pattern for everyone to follow. The kids were all around Hannah and Aaron’s age, and they followed along as best as you could expect of a handful of four year olds. Once the cake came out, however, all bets were off as the kids began to run about on a sugar high with percussion instruments only adding to the chaos, but both of our kids had a great time.

Oh, did I mention that there was NO ELECTRICITY? Yes, there was apparently some kind of “underground vault fire” west of 24th and Harney Streets that blacked out the whole area for the entire evening. We still had a great event, however. Billy got a battery backup for the speakers so we could have music, the sunlight through the windows was more than enough for us to see, and the building even stayed relatively cool for an hour or two without air conditioning. Good job, guys!


On Friday, our little boy Aaron turned two years old! I made him waffles for breakfast, and he got to open a few presents at home in the morning. Then in the afternoon, we took him to Morton Park for some quality time in the splash pad. It was pushing 97 degrees outside, so getting cold and wet for most of the afternoon was more than welcome. We invited a handful of Aaron’s little friends along for the day, as well as all four grandparents, of course. After getting soaked on the splash pad for an hour or two, we had some hot dogs together followed by an adorable train cake courtesy of Grammy — complete with fondant renderings of HannahAaron, and the cast of Sesame Street.

It’s hard to believe my little boy is two years old now. They grow up so fast, don’t they?

2016-06-12 15.11.29IMG_9679

On Sunday, I took Hannah to Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house for quality time painting and playing with some of my dad’s old puppets. I also helped Grandpa with a project collecting old family photos and stories and assembling them in a page layout program.

Then that evening, Brazilian missionaries Al and Nadine Pierschbacher came to visit Twin Valley Church. They showed us some slides of their mission work at the New Hope Bible Baptist Church in Fortaleza. Then afterward we had some tasty tri-tip steak for dinner, which I assumed was cooked in the churrasco style. Bom apetite!

A Drive-In and a Wedding

It feels like we’re enjoying the last bit of beautifully cool spring weather before moving into the horrible hot and humid days of summer here in Omaha. That means more running around in the park and the fountains on days so lovely that the Pacific Life people decided to eat outdoors for no particular reason.


Then on Thursday, we went down to the newly-opened Sokol Park for a drive-in movie. The park has allegedly been around since the 1930s but only recently turned into something useful, with drive-in movies planned all throughout the summer, as well as concerts. They still had a fully functional park area that our kids made us of before settling in for the movie. Admission was only $6 for the lot of us, so we had money to spare for the snack bar, which included nachos with pulled pork and Hannah’s first Cheetos Experience.

The movie for the evening was Finding Nemo, which the kids naturally hadn’t seen before. Hannah found the sharks a bit scary, but both kids sat throughout the movie and enjoyed it (Aaron in particular cracked up at Dory’s whale-speak).


Then our friends Tamra and Ryan finally tied the knot that weekend. I was one of two official photographer friends covering the event, so Vivian and I went up to Fort Calhoun for the rehearsal with the family as a thunderstorm passed overhead. Then, we had dinner down at the Giving Lake (where the reception would be held) and received our wedding party gifts — homemade Hammerschlagen kits. (The only thing missing was the stump.)


On Saturday, I got to break in my new Fitbit by staying on meet pretty much the entire day getting pictures and video of the wedding and reception. The ceremony was held at Abiding Faith Baptist Church in Fort Calhoun, and Tamra and Ryan definitely had fun with it — literally dancing down the aisle and then dismissing all the guests with silly string. They also had guests autograph patches of fabric to be made later into a quilt — a very unique touch.


Libby, the other “official” photographer, stuck around for more posed photographs as I went on to the Giving Lake to get snapshots of the guests before dinner was served. It was an equally unique reception, with a money bouquet raffled off in lieu of a dollar dance, a platter of cookies instead of a cake, and a garter toss that involved a potato gun. The weather couldn’t have been more gorgeous, making it perfect for dancing outdoors (to everything from What does the Fox Say to Thriller), walking by the lake, and going joyriding in the 4×4. The venue itself was built with a strange Old West theme by the previous owner, which included a mock prison cell inside, among other things. Guests played Giant Jenga and Hammerschlagen (of course) in the adjacent play area, and everyone made use of Celebrity Faces on Sticks for selfies and other photo ops throughout the evening.

I stayed until it was too dark to take more pictures, well after my Fitbit happily buzzed with my step goal for the day achieved. Congratulations, Tamra and Ryan! I hope you both enjoy the pictures and video just as soon as I get done grinding them out.

Prairie Cats and Kool & The Gang


Summer’s almost here, so last week when the kids decided to climb into Aaron’s water table to use it as a swimming pool, I broke down and hauled up their pink wading pool for some quality splash time on the deck. With temperatures in the mid-to-upper-80s, even I found myself climbing in with them to get cooled off a bit. The fountains are also on again down at Stinson Park, which naturally makes for a nice way to go down and cool off with the kids during a lunch break at work (between swing times). Just remember to bring a towel!


On Friday night, Vivian and I had a special evening at Jitterbugs Night Out, which featured the return of the Prairie Cats, who last performed at the Ozone four-and-a-half years ago. The band is apparently back together and will be performing regularly again, which is great new for swing dancers all across the metro area. We had a large number of attendees, including Jessica, who got to have a birthday jam and a tattoo courtesy of Dan Wondra. Lisa was also on hand with her pink cowboy hat, which Jeff Koterba got to wear once again.

The most conspicuous of the guests, however, was KPTM’s Tom Becka, who’s a friend of Jeff and wanted to hear him perform again. It’s the first time I’d bumped into him since the Iowa Primary ended, so I told him I’d try getting him a new Facebook profile picture. (I did get one for myself with both Tom and Big Daddy K.)


On Saturday, we dropped by Jessica’s parents’ house for a barbecue birthday lunch with her and a bunch of our friends. It was going to be held at Elmwood Park, but it got moved in anticipation of a storm that never materialized. Jessica showed us her parents’ gigantic garden as her dad grilled burgers and hot dogs, and then she even shared with us a bottle of 16-year Aberdour that Mark was nice enough to give her. Jessica’s roommate Kate was celebrating her birthday as well, and a bunch of our mutual children got to have fun playing with one another as the grown-ups snapped goofy selfies of one another.


On Sunday evening, we took the kids down to Rivers’ Edge Park for the fourth annual opening concert at Loessfest. We got a couple beach balls to keep the kids occupied (replacing the one Hannah lost three years ago) as the brutally hot sun beat down on us, and we also stayed fed and hydrated under an umbrella as the crowd slowly gathered for the show. A few friends of ours joined us on the blanket, and I bumped into a few more around the park. I took Hannah and Aaron up to the bridge before Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh and his special friend kicked things off. This year’s opening act was the Atlanta Rhythm Section, a southern rock band that seemed to be 90% guitar riffs, which didn’t impress me all that much.

The main event was Kool & the Gang, and they managed to put on a remarkable show with their catalog of R&B, soul, funk and disco hits (finished off, of course, with Celebration). Front men Shawn McQuiller and Lavell Evans engaged the crowd from the very beginning, but the whole group had a terrific amount of energy. Dennis Thomas actually did a cartwheel on stage before picking up his trombone. I was surprised that the Bell Brothers stayed toward the back and out of the spotlight until near the end, when Kool himself got to have a guitar solo.

I was particularly impressed with our own kids, however, who stayed for the whole concert playing ball with their new friends even after I asked if they wanted to go home early. It was a great night, and I’m looking forward to doing it again in a month when we see Kenny Loggins at Memorial Park.


We finished off the fun, busy weekend at my parents’ house on Memorial Day, where I mowed the lawn and then dad grilled up burgers and hot dogs for the family. Both my brothers were in attendance, as were all four grandparents. We all got to eat together and spend some time outside with the kids before a chain of light showers rolled through the metro area.

Then on Tuesday, Aaron got his first haircut, He’s looking more like a little man every day.