Monthly Archives: July 2018

Sushi, a Judge, a Drone, and Splash Canyon


Still fresh from our trip to Kansas City, Vivian and I spent the evening the next day with a bunch of our mutual friends, their kids, and a baby at Aunt Jessica’s apartment. She got sushi for everyone for one “last hurrah” at her apartment before… well, I don’t think anyone’s sure yet. Anyway, it was a chance for us to hang out with our friends again and let our mutual cluster of kiddos play with one another, mostly by taking the balcony hammock for a ride.

Considering I’d been at this apartment less than two years ago for the “housewarming,” it felt strange to be coming full-circle so soon.


A few days later, I attended a reception for L. Steven Grasz hosted by the Federalist Society’s Nebraska Lawyers Chapter. Grasz is a Nebraska native and was recently appointed to the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump. There were a handful of VIPs in the audience, including Lt. Gov. Foley, Hal Daub, Aimee Melton, and plenty of law students and practicing attorneys in the area. The emcee was State Senator Mike Hilgers (whose dad I happen to work for), and he gave a brief introduction to Grasz before he took the stage.

I was fairly impressed with Grasz. He illustrated his judicial philosophy with a passage from Animal Farm, where the pigs famously altered their list of commandments painted on the barn. He seemed to differentiate between being a Constitutionalist, an Originalist, and a Textualist in ways I couldn’t follow, but he clearly laid out his philosophy when asked during the Q&A when popular opinion could override parts of the Constitution. His answer, outside of amending the Constitution, was never.

I think I can see why the ABA declared he was “unqualified.”


In other news, Vivian gave me a drone for our ten-year anniversary. It was an interesting little “Foldable Rocket” with a camera that could broadcast a live feed to my mobile phone as I piloted it around. I took it for a test-fly at the park, but Aaron quickly found another kid’s bike to be far more interesting. The little drone took quite a few crash-landings as I tried to get the hang of flying it, but it proved to be fairly durable, barely getting a scratch as it ran into trees, buildings, and other things (including me).

The battery only gave me about ten minutes of flight time, but that was more than enough time to get some fun pictures and videos from it. Once I get the hang of it, I may try flying it somewhere more interesting than the backyard. I did have some fun showing it to my dad at his house. My kids seemed to have more fun with his new chair, which they could apparently take for a ride up and down.


In the meantime, Hannah and Aaron were also having a week of VBS at First Presbyterian in Bellevue. I didn’t get to see any of this myself, but Hannah and Aaron got to tell me when I got home how they learned about Baby Moses, the healing of Naaman, and other river-themed Bible lessons (which went along with the “Splash Canyon” VBS package the church was using). Then on Sunday we attended church at First Presbyterian, where Hannah and Aaron got to do some of their songs at the front of the church (with the motions, of course). It was very fun to see them doing this with all their friends, and we stayed afterward to have fried chicken for lunch afterward.

We’ve had a lovely cool end to July, just perfect for breaking out the bike for a ride or two to work. We’ll have to squeeze in a few more things before summer’s end — a trip to the lake, the splash pad, and hopefully a bit of painting our house.

The Big Ten

Vivian and I got to enjoy a couple lovely days in Kansas City to celebrate a decade of marriage together! Grammy was kind enough to handle the kids while we were gone, which made this a rare chance for us to get some kid-free time together.

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We headed on down Thursday afternoon, putting some 535 miles of wear-and-tear on a rented Kia, which I’d estimated cost less than the same on our own car.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon at IKEA, having a few of their signature meatballs as a snack before browsing the various home and kitchen items on two floors and finding quite a few things that we actually needed — and all dirt cheap. Vivian was most impressed with the children’s play area, where we play to drop the kids of the next time we visit (so we can have a meatball lunch all by ourselves).


From there, we checked into our hotel and then strolled down to the Power & Light District to have a surf-and-turf dinner at Bristol, commemorating our honeymoon on Bar Harbor ten years ago. I got to give Vivian an aluminum cheese plate and a couple souvenir packs of cards I’d been holding onto for nine and ten years. (There was also my ten-year anniversary comic ready as well, of course.)

We got some Crème brûlée for dessert and then took a quick walk around the District, checking out a free concert with the Casey Donahew band just around the corner. I’m not a country music fan, but it was fun to see such a packed house enjoying the free music. After that, we dropped by Union Station long enough to poke around a few of their exhibits and see the colored fountains across the street before heading back to the hotel.


The next day, after a greasy breakfast at Waffle House, we spent a couple hours getting wet at Schlitterbahn. A number of our friends had raved about this particular water park for years, so we’d had it on our short list of places to visit in Kansas City (even after that particularly gruesome incident in 2016).

We had a good time going down a few slides on tubes and riding through the rapids and waves on the multiple rivers around the park, but the place seemed to be a bit of a disappointment. About half of the rides were closed for various reasons — some having failed inspections and others being “short-staffed.” I doubt we’ll be going back anytime soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it closed before then. I also discovered my dad’s waterproof camera wasn’t quite as waterproof as advertised, which was another massive disappointment, but we still enjoyed ourselves (and got tickets at a discount from Groupon).


We spent that evening at the Country Club Plaza, having dinner at our favorite KC restaurant, Jack Stack. I got my usual platter of meats (beef ribs, beef brisket, and burnt ends) with a cheesy potato bake, and we shared an obligatory piece of their insanely good carrot cake for dessert.

The weather was an insanely gorgeous 70-80 degrees during our stay, making for a much more pleasant walk through the Plaza than in previous years (when it was around 100). We walked down to the Better Cheddar to splurge on some fun cheeses from their collection, as well as a bottle of balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. Phil Rosenthal had raved about it on his Netflix show, Somebody Feed Phil, and while it tasted similar was “regular” balsamic vinegar, we found it to be far smoother and a bit sweeter, much like a fine wine.

We finished off the evening watching The Incredibles II at the Cinemark before having a romantic walk along the riverfront before calling it a night.


We headed home the next day, but not before a quick trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I can’t recommend this place enough, as they have a lovely collection of work from all different eras. Vivian and I especially like the Impressionists, and I love the broad, vivid brushstrokes of Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. I also admired a pair of paintings by Rococo artist Gaspare Traversi, each of which featured one person eerily breaking the fourth wall (and staring into your soul).

The weather was still lovely outside, which made for a nice stroll through the Museums beautiful (shady) grounds to and from our car (parked a few blocks away). Then we got some lunch (and tacos) at Jack in the Box before heading home — a place Vivian had grown up with and one you can’t find in Nebraska.

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We made a brief detour through Nebraska City to pick up some apple wine and an apple pie on our way back home. Hannah and Aaron had been surprisingly good while staying with Grammy for the past couple of days, and Hannah’s room had somehow become magically clean while we were away. I’d gotten them each a mouse from IKEA as a surprise when we returned home (which Hannah named “Lisa” and “Dockendock”.)

Happy ten years, Vivian! I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store.

Birthday Paella and Morning Walks


We’ve got one day left before Vivian and I celebrate ten years of marriage together! In the meantime, we’ve got another celebration to recognize — Grammy’s birthday. On Tuesday evening, Vivian and Jack made up a giant seafood paella. Grammy got to use our new special “birthday plate,” and the kids got their first taste of several things, including scallops (which Hannah thought at first was a banana).

Hannah drew Grammy a sweet birthday card (on giant paper), and Grammy got to blow out the candles on a giant dark chocolate lava cake that Vivian made. It was made with Ghirardelli brownie mix and Lindor truffles, with enough concentrated cacao to nearly put me in a coma (it was especially good with vanilla ice cream).


The next morning, it was a lovely 64 degrees outside, so the whole family wound up walking 1.3 miles down the street together for a morning stroll down to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. We picked some wild mulberries along the way, and then I called my folks to come join us before it was time to head off to work.

Next stop: Kansas City to celebrate a decade of married life!

Color Run and a Cake Show


The summer fun continues, as orange lilies and hostas bloom in our yards and the kids reenact the Memorial Park concert in our living room. Hannah also lost another tooth, making it increasingly difficult to eat an apple, among other things.

On Saturday, Vivian participated in another 5K, this time the Color Run through downtown Omaha. I dropped by to surprise her with Grammy and the kids over the bridge to Heartland of America Park. There were quite a few painted-up (and tutu-wearing) participants in the parade, but we were eventually able to spot Vivian and Tamra trotting along with the lot of them. I took Hannah and Aaron down to the street level for a few high-fives before they continued on, and Hannah got in some extra puddle-jumping for good measure.


Then on Sunday, we spent the afternoon at the Douglas County Fair, an event that was inexplicably held at a few empty shops at the Village Point Mall. Our primary reason for going was to see Hannah and Aaron win some awards for the little cakes they make for the River City Confectioner’s Association cake contest. There were quite a few fancy entries once again this year, but Hannah and Aaron still managed to walk away with ribbons. Hannah got both a blue ribbon and a medal for best in show for her House Cake in the Wee Folk category, which was particularly nice.

There were other fun events going on at the “fair,” including a science exhibit with a variety of neat toys, as well as a Bubble Show, where both Aaron and Hannah got to be inside a big bubble for just a moment.

We’re closing in on another milestone this week as Vivian and I celebrate ten years of marriage together. More on that in a bit!

Much ado about summer


If you hadn’t noticed, it’s summer, and among other things, that means it’s stinking hot every single day. Last Friday, we dropped by Orange Leaf to give the kids their first taste of frozen yogurt (with an assortment of sugary toppings) to cool off before taking them to the nice and shady Elmwood Park to play at lunchtime.

Elmwood Park is over 100 years old, and even though it’s been updated with new playground equipment, you can tell how old the park is from the giant trees lining the walkways. The play area was also littered with sandbox toys that Hannah and Aaron made use of, which were apparently put there by the park specifically for kids to play with


Then on Saturday, because once is never enough, we returned to Shakespeare on the Green to see their final performance of Much Ado About Nothing. It was a beautifully cool evening, so there was naturally a record crowd there to see the show with us. Fortunately, I was up bright and early to claim a spot right up front. Our usual assortment of friends dropped by to share the blanket with us, and they also brought their usual assortment of tasty, pre-show foods — including pupusas from El Chalateco and pesto bread from Lydia (which Vivian was happy to see).

The wandering minstrels came by to sing by our blanket for the show started around eight. The play was done straight, though the actors had Navy uniforms and costumes reminiscent of a 1950s beach party, which gave the production a bit of a retro-modern feel. They also had beach balls that they batted into the crowd at the end of the show. I had the opportunity to thank a few of the actors for their performances before we left — getting to see them playing various parts year after year makes it feel like we’re a part of their family.

Pancakes with Bacon


It’s been an interested week — divided in the middle with a busy, hot and steamy Fourth of July. We kicked things off on Tuesday night with a long-overdue Fourth of July Party at our friend Jon’s house. Jon grilled up some burgers and brats as we made some big bubbles out on the driveway with the kids.

Then once it was dark enough, we broke out the sparklers and artillery shells and lit up the sky for a couple of hours. It was a steamy, hot evening, and I found myself (and Aaron) retreating inside to air conditioning multiple times throughout the night. Aaron finally crashed on Jon’s armchair around then and we decided to call it a night.


Of course, I was up bright and early the next morning to go to a Republican breakfast with my dad. We stopped by Ralston on the way I could claim a spot for the parade later that day, and then we headed on down to Elmwood Park to have some pancakes and sausage. Servings things up were Gov. Ricketts, Senator Fischer, Congressman Bacon, and Mayor Stothert, among a handful of other local politicians. Fischer in particular worked the crowd and had a good conversation or two with my dad about Donald Trump.

There were also a few other familiar faces, including Christopher Zhen, who I’d met multiple times in the 2016 campaign election (who now works at the RNC), and my former Congressman Lee Terry, who’s slimmed down and stopped by to pay his old district a visit. Dad and I had our fill of pancakes while talking politics with a few other attendees before heading on out, though we did also swing by the Car Show to see a rusted old Studebaker among the shinier Corvettes.


At one o’clock that afternoon came the Independence Day Parade in Ralston. Lisa and Marcus (now Father Knecht) and some of his family joined us on our blanket. The nation’s colors and members of the military started off the parade, followed by Shriners with their clowns and clown cars, some bumper cars from Fun Plex, and a motorcycle happily burning rubber for our amusement. There were also members of the Ralston Community Playhouse and troops from Star Wars (as usual). We even got some fun new headgear and flags from a few passing floats.

We also saw several of the same folks I’d met that morning, including Bacon, Stothert, Fishcer, Ricketts, and even Chris. Bacon even had a live pig named Betty in the parade with him. There were left-wing candidates in the parade as well, of course — Kara Eastman and Bob Krist both making an appearance. The parade seemed much shorter than in years’ past, but I was especially glad to be “made in the shade” with the spot I’d staked out in the morning. Hopefully we’ll get it again next year.


Then that evening, after we’d sufficiently cooled down, we had both sets of grandparents over to set off a few more fireworks in the street with the kids. Hannah and Aaron brought out a few toys to watch, and we used up most of our fountains, snaps, and artillery shells as a storm quickly moved in around ten. The wind kicked up in a major way, and it was bizarre to see its effects on fireworks, making them drift off in odd directions after exploding in the air.

So was all that just one day? Happy Fourth of July, everyone! And keep cool — there’s still a lot more summer left to use up.

Knee-deep in the hoopla

The Fourth of July is almost here! Yes, in the dead-heat of summer, we’ve got lots of fun things happening in Omaha to keep us busy, especially when we’re outside in the steaming hot weather (rather than inside playing with our electronic toys).


First up is one of my favorite events of the year, the free concert at Memorial Park! This year it was a muggy 95 degrees in Omaha, but that didn’t stop us from trekking to our usual spot on the hill to enjoy some great music. Local favorite The Confidentials opened up the event as concert-goers found their seats and played catch out on the green. Dean and Sarah joined us on our blanket as the sun set, but most of our usual friends sat the concert out because of the heat. Our kids seemed unphased by the heat and enjoyed running around playing with a football and a bubble gun, which was fine by us.


Survivor — who was supposed to open for the headliner at this year’s concert — bowed out at the last minute for unknown reasons. Fortunately, David Victor and his band “Bostyx” stepped in to play a variety of cover songs from both Boston and Styx. They proved to be a tremendous crowd-pleaser, and many concert-goers thought they were the highlight of the evening.

Of course, the highlight for me was Starship — a band I’d listened to growing up in the 80s and for many years since. Mickey Thomas was the only member still with the band since it had “Jefferson” in its name, but the songs were still just as good as I remembered. This year was particularly special, because I not only got to see the event from the VIP pen for the first time, but I even got to go backstage to meet-and-greet the band! (It definitely pays to have connections with Metro Credit Union, who are the new sponsors of this annual event.)

The concert concluded with a lovely fireworks show, which we got to watch with the kids before making our way back to the car. It was a long, fun night, but it was quite nice to get back home to enjoy air conditioning once it was done.


Of course, we got right back up the next day to take Aaron for his last tee-ball practice at Baldwin Field. He’s gotten much better at hitting the ball, and just being able to participate in a team and take direction from a coach has been a good, growing-up experience for our four-year-old.

Afterward, we dropped by grandma and grandpa’s house to let the kids play as I did some laundry. Apparently our washer’s broken again, but I’m hoping a new lid switch will get it working again. In the meantime, Uncle Jonny introduced Hannah to Super Mario World and a British comedian named Peter Serafinowicz.


We had planned for an evening with Shakespeare on the Green Saturday night, but it was pretty clear that thunderstorms were in the forecast, so we bailed on the event long before it was officially cancelled. I was up bright and early the next day to claim our favorite spot for Sunday night’s show. We dropped by Thanksgiving Lutheran for their Sunday Service and got to see highlights from Hannah’s week at their VBS program.

Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I joined our mutual friends Phil and Jen, Lisa, Jessica, Jenny and Kody on our blanket to see King John. Phil and Jen brought some Papa Reno goodness with them, and Vivian had her usual assortment of cheese and salami. We saw some kids from Camp Shakespeare perform an abbreviated version of The Tempest before the show got underway. This year, King John was dine with a bit of a “punk” theme in the music and some of the costumes, but it was mostly played straight with only a little deviation from the script before the end of the show.

ostly, however, we enjoyed a rain-free performance with temperatures in the 70s. Now THAT was worth a standing ovation. Next stop: Independence Day!

Starship featuring Mickey Thomas… and me!Knee-deep in the hoopa!