Monthly Archives: October 2018

My wonderful week off from work

I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation that I spent entirely in the Omaha area, catching up on things around house and spending some quality time with the family. It’s the first time I’ve had a full week off work since our trip to California in 2012, and the first time I can remember with that much free time on my hands. It was lovely.


On Sunday, we kicked things off doing some costume shopping down at Mangelsen’s, where we tried out various masks and accessories before eventually getting Aaron and Hannah to decide on being Batman and Poppy (from Trolls) respectively for Halloween.

Then that evening, I managed to literally burn through all the wood we’d accumulated from fallen branches over the past year or so in a fire pit. I invited my parents over and we roasted hot dogs over the open flame, which worked out amazingly well. The weather was downright gorgeous most of the week with highs in the 60s or so, which was just about perfect every single day.


I spent nearly all day cleaning house and doing laundry as Vivian was out doing school stuff with the kids. Then on Tuesday, we had our annual trip to Vala’s. Tuesday was just about the perfect day to go — we got the home school discount, which included free pumpkins and a train ride, and the weather was beautiful all day long. We got Hannah and Aaron measured up before hitting the pig races and getting our family photos taken behind cut-out characters (and on the big chair). Hannah’s favorite attractions were the haunted houses and the pumpkin mine, so we wound up wandering through those multiple times. We grabbed some apple donuts for a snack and spent extra time in the school house pretending to teach the kids. We also spent some extra time at the Pirate Cove dancing to music by the Skeleton Band.

The fall colors were glowing everywhere, and I tried multiple times to get a decent autumnal photo of Vivian and the kids, but they were too excited to sit still for long. We got a wagon ride and a ride on the train and stopped to see an animatronic show or two on the way between exhibits. We also paid a visit to Bunnyville and saw Xander the Dragon as the suns tarted going down. Storybook Village had a few new items, such as the Hungry Catterpillor (sic) and a sword-in-a-stone. We ended the day taking Aaron on the big slide (where his reaction was “I’m scared of that … I wanna go again) and then the pie barn for “dinner.” We grabbed a few pumpkins on the way out before heading for home, where we all pretty much crashed afterward.


Hannah and Aaron got to try out their costumes for the first time at First Presbyterian for some trick-or-treating on Wednesday Night. They got their fill of candy and played a handful of games along with a few of their little friends.

The next day, I went out to lunch with my parents to a place in downtown Papillion called “Brownie’s.” They had $8.99 rib-eyes (thinly cut) and I got to catch up with them a bit without having to wrangle two kids wreaking havoc at the same time, which was nice.


On Friday night, Vivian and I went to the Omaha Jitterbugs’ Halloween Dance together, the first time we’d been to the Eagle’s Lodge since the last Halloween dance. I went as a Steven Crowder “Change my Mind” meme, complete with mug, which got me into the finalists’ row during the costume contest. Vivian went as a “one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater,” a last minute thing thrown together once she and I realized we had all the components at home.

It felt strange to be back dancing with the Jitterbugs after being away so long, partly because there were so many new people, and also because I’m darn OLD and dancing all night long isn’t as easy as it was a decade ago. We still had a fun time, and we even grabbed some donuts from the Donut Stop, which will be sadly closing its doors forever on Halloween.


We had a lovely lazy Saturday for most of the day. Then that evening we went to Jenny’s annual birthday/costume/Halloween party up in northwest Omaha at Dean and Sarah’s house. Our kids got to bounce around for a couple hours (in costume) with a handful of our friends’ kids as we had some cake and played a bit with our grown-up friends. Takashi led us all in Thriller, of course, and we also got our group picture before people started to leave.

I came in my second costume of the night, an “NPC,” which has become something of a political meme online. Nobody seemed to get it, which was mostly fine with me. I may reuse the mask to be Michael Myers from “Halloween” instead, which is what most people thought I was anyway.


It was a great week overall, helped in my doubt by the lovely weather and fall colors we got to enjoy. We took a walk or two around the neighborhood with the kids just to enjoy them (and see the Pumpkin Man).

We also raked a bit of leaves in our yard on Sunday so Hannah and Aaron could play in them (along with Hannah’s family of toys) before it got too cold. Then we watched the sun set on my last day of vacation before Vivian fried up a whiskey-marinated sirloin for dinner, which was quite tasty.

It was a good week, and I may wind up doing something like it again before long, as I have a couple hundred hours of vacation time left to use up (eventually.)

Bubbles, brisket, and a broken collarbone


After nearly a week of non-stop rain, we finally got some gorgeous weather toward the weekend as fall colors started to bloom. Then early on Saturday morning, Vivian decided to go for a Bubble Run with Kate and her girls down at Werner Park. It wasn’t so much a run as a stroll weaving up and down the parking lot, but they had a couple bubble stations that provided some fun suds for the kids to play in afterward. They got to throw soapy clumps at one another like a snowball fight (without the freezing) before we headed home for coffee and oatmeal afterward (and a sunflower).


I had a fairly busy day afterward, dong a bit of touch-up painting on our garage door and mowing two lawns (my parents’ and my in-laws). Then we had a lovely dinner at my parents’ house as we burned a couple bins of wood on a roaring fire pit. My dad had smoked about eight pounds of beef brisket for the occasion, which we ate out on the patio together as the sun slowly went down. Then we broke out the leftover marshmallows form our camping trip and had a couple s’mores on the fire once it got dark. (Uncles Nathan and Jonny were on hand as well, but they spent most of their time playing video games, per the norm.)


Then on Sunday, winter decided to pay us a visit right after church. In a few hours, we had four-and-a-half inches of snow in a freak October blizzard that turned Omaha into a winter wonderland. Most of the trees had barely shed their autumn colors, of course, so we had downed branches and downed power lines all over town. Our power stayed on, fortunately, and Hannah got to play a bit in the snow.

Then that evening, we dropped by First Presbyterian Church to have some hot dogs and watch Paddington 2. Immediately thereafter, Hannah had a mishap piggybacking with a friend and wound up breaking her clavicle. She’ll have to wear a brace for the next 4–6 weeks and forgo any swinging or slides, which will make our annual trip to Vala’s a whole more challenging. (On the upside, however, she won’t need surgery.)


Then on Monday evening I got to rub elbows once again with Don Bacon, Pete Ricketts, and a handful of other GOP candidates meeting and greeting down at the Garden Cafe. I had fried chicken with a few fellow Republicans before listening to candidates give brief stump speeches before the crowd. In addition to Bacon and Ricketts, we also had state senators Robert Hilkemann and Theresa Thibodeau, District 6, Bob Evnen, Pat MacPherson, Tim Schram, and Sheriff Tim Dunning say a few words. I also got to meet New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters, who did an interview with Bacon after a Q&A session (and some selfies) with his constituents.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve been having dinner with my Governor and Congressman more often these days than with my own friends. But as I’ve said repeatedly, one of the best things about living here is how frequently I get to chat with my elected officials. I won’t ever take that for granted.

President Trump visits Council Bluffs

President Trump paid a visit to Council Bluffs on Tuesday this week, and I was able to attend his rally with Vivian for the first time ever. It was quite a memorable experience to say the least.


I’d seen Mr. Trump twice before as a candidate, but as a sitting President he seemed to draw a remarkably larger crowd. People actually camped overnight to be the first in line to see him, and thousands of others waited standing in the rain all day long before the doors opened.

Vivian and I arrived around four and were among the last to get inside — in a line that stretched over a mile. We had a good time chatting with others in line and looking at the vendors selling bootleg Trump merchandise along the sidewalk along the way.


After about two hours shuffling through near-constant rain, we made it to the entrance, where we were wanded by Secret Service and then ushered into the arena. Vivian and I were among the last to get inside, and we were fortunate — at least a thousand people had to watch from outside on a giant screen.

And wow — there’s nothing quite as electrifying as walking into a Trump Rally. Seven thousand people were packed into the room, and Vivian and I were among the last to arrive. The MAGA faithful were holding signs and doing the “wave” as music pounded overhead, and I bumped into multiple VIPs on the way inside — Gov. Ricketts and Congressmen Fortenberry, Bacon, and King.


Then, a little after 6:30, the music died down and the 45th President of the United States stepped into the arena to Lee Greenwood’s Proud to be an American. The crowd was very enthusiastic, particularly those of us from Nebraska, who announced our presence with a cheer so loud that the President had to take a spontaneous poll to see “who the hell I’m talking to.” I guess it was a surprise that so many of us would cross the river into Council Bluffs to see the POTUS. The speech itself was largely standard for a Trump rally — tallying off a number of the administrations’ successes, with a brief highlight on “year-round E15.” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Congressman Running for Iowa’s third district. also got to say a few words, and Trump also pointed out the number of VIPs from Nebraska in the audience.

The event wrapped up fairly quickly afterward, as Vivian and I made our escape and saw only a small handful of protesters (who were kept off of MAC property by police) on the way back to our car. The only downer from the whole evening was losing my blue umbrella. We weren’t allowed to bring umbrellas into the Mid-America Center, so we left ours outside in the hopes of finding them when we left. Vivian found hers, but mine was missing, likely taken by someone else by mistake. Maybe I should have left mine in a tree, as many others did.

Overall, however, it was a great event — particularly because Vivian actually came along with me this time. It was the first time she’d seen Trump or any sitting President, but it was bigger than any political event I’d ever been to before — and that includes when President Obama came to town.

America’s pretty great, isn’t she?

Camping Overnight in October

Well, we managed to get in at least one camping trip this season, taking in a brief, overnight stay up at Fremont Lakes. It was a chilly weekend for the most part, and our stay was interrupted late Sunday morning with some rain, but we still got to enjoy the outdoors together.


We packed up and drove on Saturday morning and pitched our tent at the campsite with Lexi and her kids, and then we got a fire going and brought our tea kettle along to boil some water for hot chocolate. We had a gaggle of geese visiting us throughout our stay, so we got some bread for the kids to toss to them and make friends. Hannah also found a new “playground” with a fallen tree to walk on, and the boys found a picnic table for some dancing.


The sun came out a little late, so we took a brisk walk up the street to the little playground. The kids found a few mountains and rocks to climb on along the way. We were also surrounded by lakes at every turn around the park, which would have made for nice fishing if we’d brought any equipment. They made for some lovely picture later on as the sun went down, of course.


We got the fire going again later as Lexi made some soup and macaroni and cheese for dinner. The kids had some fun dancing to their shadows as the sun set, and then we tried making a batch of actual cookies on the fire with a cast-iron cookie sheet (which became a big, gooey mess). When it got dark, we broke out the skewers to roast jumbo-sized marshmallows on the fire for s’moresNate came by to join us after a while, and then we scooted the kids off to bed before it got too cold.


It was around 40 degrees throughout the night, and I don’t think I got any sleep between the chilly air and the occasion train rolling by. I got up around seven to make coffee, and Vivian made sausage, eggs, and hash browns for on one of her skillets for breakfast burritos for breakast. Lexi read a VeggieTales book to the kids in lieu of an actual church service, and then we started to scramble as the rain rolled in. It started as a sprinkle and then got stronger as we put a canopy over our picnic table and huddled under umbrellas. The fire persisted, however, and Vivian cooked some cinnamon rolls over the open flame as we did our best to stay dry.

The eventually headed on home to dry off and warm up after a chilly camping weekend, but we still had a fun time. It was certainly nice not to have to worry about bugs for a chance. Maybe next time we’ll try it again in the spring.

Four Governors

I just wrapped up a fairly busy week juggling two birthdays and then handling the kids solo over the weekend as Vivian had a weekend retreat with her bible study friends. It rained most of the time, so I stayed indoors as Hannah wrote and illustrated her first storybook by herself (and a little help from Google Docs).


Then I had a fun, busy Sunday meeting Governors from four different states at the Nebraska Steak Fry: Kim Reynolds from Iowa, Eric Holcomb from Indiana, Greg Abbott from Texas and (of course) Nebraska’s own Pete Ricketts. The event was held at Neale Farms in Ft. Calhoun, and it was gray, drizzling, and fairly muddy, but there was still a fairly good turnout (of about 400 people) A band played country music as we mostly kept dry under the tent and under the long awning of the barn as we waited for the festivities to start. The event was a fundraiser for Ricketts’ re-election campaign, but I still got to shake hands with all the VIPs, including the patriarch of the Ricketts family, Joe Ricketts.

We had a brief presentation with the Color Guard before dishing up our steak dinners. John Orr (son of former Gov. Kay Orr) was the emcee and kicked things off before the Governors all got to speak. They all gave fairly standard conservative stump speeches, all with kind words about Gov. Ricketts, but Abbott seemed to hit all the hot buttons. My dad came with me to the event and said he was like “a fiery Southern Baptist Preacher.” I managed to embarrass myself when I bumped into Gov. Holcomb in line for coffee and didn’t even recognize him. I mistook him for local politician Dan Frei and even asked his name when I couldn’t figure out why he looked so familiar. (I figured it out later when Gov. Ricketts introduced everyone).

I didn’t get any photos with the VIPs themselves, but my friend Mason the Button Boy did, getting snapshots with just about everyone and scoring a new challenge coin from Gov. Abbott.


That evening, Vivian got home from her weekend with the WAG girls, and I had just enough time to change clothes and get some dinner for the kids (from Baker’s) before it was time to have a birthday celebration with Jack. We took Vivian’s parents out to Outback and all had steak together with a bloomin’ onion. We returned home afterward and had some tasty Neapolitan torte after Jack opened his presents. One of them was a giant red “No” button something that I’m going to have to put n my Christmas List.