Monthly Archives: July 2021

Camping in Memphis

There’s nothing quite like late July in Nebraska, where it’s hot and humid and barely a whisper of wind in the air. That’s when you get to enjoy the great outdoors with just a bit more patience — and some creativity about ways to keep cool.

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Hannah and Aaron started things off with a week-long VBS at First Presbyterian in Bellevue. They attended every morning through the week and finished things off on Friday with a water fight outside. I took the day off to start our camping trip, so Vivian and I dropped by to watch them play in a sprinkler and throw wet sponges at one another. They also got some freeze pops and some candy for memorizing a bible verse, which was sweet (literally).

Then, just as we were trying to decide what to do for lunch, we saw the famous “food truck” at the library (a thing I’ve heard about from Vivian for years but never seen with my own eyes), so we stopped and got some chicken sandwiches before heading home.

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Then came the camping trip! Wee invited Mama Ginny to keep her son Harold company while we were all away. Then we packed up our things and headed off to Memphis, Nebraska with some burgers and Combos to tide us over. The trip took all of half an hour, and we grabbed a spot with convenient proximity to the lake and the sandy play area with a cabin for the kids (and ground squirrels and geese to keep us company).

We set up camp and got a fire going for s’mores that evening as the Mills family came to join us. It was already sweltering, but little Gabe brought us lemonade on a platter to keep us cool. Hannah also immediately took to the lake, going inside and soaking her little pink dress without a care in the world. Then once the sun went down, we lit a fire and roasted up a batch of s’mores for the evening.

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Vivian and Lexi scrambled up some breakfast the next morning as Hannah explored the lake looking for “gooey” frogs. Afterward, I took her with Sammy, Aaron, and August over to the playground with old school metal equipment like a teeter totter, a merry-go-round, and monkey bars, just like the kind their parents grew up with. There was even a tether ball pole Hannah and Sammy were able to bat around. The kids also had some fun climbing a nearby tree — at least until a branch snapped and Hannah came tumbling down. She got the wind knocked out of her and was a little sore but otherwise all right. Hopefully it won’t put her off tree climbing, which has become one of her favorite activities at grandma and grandpa’s house.

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We had some lunch and then tried keeping cool that afternoon with a little wading in the lake near the boat dock up the road. The water was relatively cool, albeit with a rocky and muddy bottom. I was able to traverse the lake to the little island, where a crane seemed to have made its home and mulberries were growing wild. The kids wanted to come explore the island, too, so Nate rented a canoe and took them around for a look.

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Later that afternoon, I took the kids for a walk (or in Sammy’s case, a bike ride) into town. I snapped a few photos of a few of the old buildings, including the Century-old Iliff Chapel. We also stopped by Don’s Bar and Grill (the only operating business in town) for a few drinks and snacks with the kids before heading back to the campsite.

Sammy brought a couple American Heritage Girls for her and Hannah to play with while August and Aaron played some Uno. For dinner, Vivian and Lexi grilled some brats followed by some Dutch oven brownies and a cheese dip. The kids explored the lake a bit more and discovered the waterproof nature of lily pads near the shoreline. Then we finished off the evening with some s’mores and a raging battle in the dark over a set of colored glow sticks before bedtime.

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The next morning was strangely cool with a thick, eerie mist hanging over the lake and everything around it. We got the kids up for a breakfast that included roasted marshmallows and donuts warmed over the fire. Then the kids had one last romp in the sandbox and the grown-ups packed up the tents and all our things before getting set to head home.

Of course, I had to get a big group photo before we headed off. We’ve been camping with the Mills family for a couple years now, and I don’t think we’d ever gotten a joint family photo together before. It was long overdue.

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Then that afternoon, because my weekend hadn’t been busy enough, I dropped by the Cross Training Center for some “grassroots training” with Scott Presler and around 60 other patriots. I’d met Scott before at a “pep rally” during the 2020 election, and it was interesting to see him back in a more educational role — giving a 90-minute presentation on voter registration, running for office, and get-out-the-vote efforts, among other things. He also spent most of the presentation off the stage and walking the room, and this even included some audience participation, roleplaying getting a stranger registered to vote.

It was an event held jointly by the Nebraska Freedom Coalition, Freedom Rally USA, and Nebraska Against Government Overreach, a trifecta of what I call the “populist upstarts” on the right, focused more intently on public demonstrations and online activism than “establishment” conservatives. Of course, there was also time to get selfies with Scott afterward, and I’d worn my new Jordan Peterson shirt just for the occasion. I also got to meet the “Beard Vet,” who seemed to have a followingall his own among the crowd, and his own line of coffee.

In all, it was a great weekend, and not even as hot as they’d predicted it would be. I’m always glad to have the chance to enjoy the great outdoors with our family and friends — even when it’s just down the road.


Happy campers!

Lucky Year 13

Vivian and celebrated 13 years of marriage on Monday with an anniversary not quite as elaborate as ones in years past, but certain just as memorable. It was actually the first legit date we’d had since our “first date anniversary” back in December.

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I decided to grab a few new clothes over my lunch break before our fancy date night together. Then we spent the evening down at Charlie’s on the Lake (a restaurant we’d been to in 2009, 2010, and 2013) putting some of that weight right back on. We both had ribeye, and I added a lobster tail to commemorate our honeymoon in Bar Harbor. We got clam chowder as well, of course, along with a tasty gorgonzola shrimp appetizer. Neither of us were able to finish it all, and we even got a free raspberry cheesecake for our anniversary, which is sitting in the fridge now waiting for dessert tonight.

We exchanged a few presents as well. I presented Vivian with my annual Anniversary Comic, which details events throughout the last year, including events as recent as the windstorm a week ago. Vivian gave me some tasty treats as well — Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, whiskey cornichons, and sriracha almonds — along with some new swim trunks and shorts (as the ones I have now are starting to fall off).

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We finished off our evening with a lovely walk around the lake, watching some adorable ducklings with their mommy and hopefully walking off some of our massive dinner together. We would have gone for ice cream or even a shopping spree at Trader Joe’s, but everything in town seemed to close at nine, so we called it an early night.

We had one last little adventure on the way home. A mom and her daughter got their Kia stuck on the Chandler offramp with one tire half-submerged in a foot-deep puddle of water on the shoulder. They couldn’t get it to back out and had called a tow-truck, but I had the bright idea of straightening the wheel and trying to push it out instead with the help of another guy who stopped. That worked almost too well, as the car sped back onto the onramp, and I went falling into the puddle myself, soaking my left leg from the knee down. It still felt good to have been able to perform a good deed for the day.

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Happy Anniversary, sweetie!
Here’s to 13 years, and many, many more!

Splashing, Bouncing, and Grammy’s Birthday

It’s been a busy week post-blackout having some summer fun with the kids and spending extra time with both sets of grandparents.

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On Tuesday, I pedaled down to Seymour Smith Park to have lunch with Vivian and the kids and get a little wet at the splash pad. We like to visit this little splash pad at least once every summer, and its proximity to the Keystone Trail means it’s just a quick bike ride from my office down to the park. It was a particularly refreshing way for me to spend a lunch break (though it hasn’t helped my farmer’s tan at all).

In the meantime, Jack and Donna remained without power nearly all week, which meant Jack’s been spending the night with us to plug in his oxygen. We also got to help use up some of the thawed food from their freezer. That involves Jack and Vivian frying up tilapia, scallops, shrimp for us to eat. It’s a sacrifice, but I’ll do my part.

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Then on Thursday, with the last election season barely over, we kicked off a new one as State Senator Brett Lindstrom officially announced his bid for governor. I’d bumped into him numerous times recently as the Walk for Life and the Ralston Parade, and several of my mutual Republican friends have already hopped aboard his campaign.

I was able to bring along our friends the Folkens to say hello and ask a few questions of the candidate after his stump speech, and I spent much of the evening snapping photos and rubbing elbows with several members of the Lindstrom family (and the fake news media). One of the nicest things about Nebraska is how easy it is to get close to the folks running for office like this — something I try not to take for granted.

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In other news, I’ve been riding my bike every chance I get, going to and from work and getting  to see mist over the prairie grass as the sun rises.

I also got some extra exercise at lunch on Friday when Vivian took the kids to Altitude for some quality time bouncing around together. We even got in a game of dodgeball, which was immensely fun for me, as it was the only sport I like playing back in elementary school and I hadn’t had the chance to play in over a decade.

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On Saturday, I got to spend a little quality time with my folks in my morning. First, we headed down to McDonald’s for breakfast with a couple of their fellow “seasoned citizens” — a group that’s been meeting for breakfast on Saturdays just as a way of getting out and socializing for a couple decades now.

Then after breakfast, my dad needed an extra pair of hands to help mend a fence, which had come apart in the recent wind storm. It wasn’t broken too badly, but we had to put a few deck screws through a few new boards to attach the fence back to the supporting post. Then I stuck around long enough to help my dad uninstall some Adobe malware on his laptop, AKA Creative Cloud.

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Saturday was also Grammy’s birthday, so much of the day was spent celebrating and keeping our kids occupied (with a board game they created) while Vivian and Jack fried up some calamari steaks for dinner. The kids also made Grammy some handmade cardsas did I, of course — and then we gave Grammy a handful of presents, which included a new ice chest, some habanero-blueberry jelly, and a grown-up coloring book.

Vivian made some Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert, which Hannah and Aaron decorated with a few “worms,” AKA Twizzlers before we blew the candles out. It was a pie with enough sugar to make Hannah go a bit crazy, so I took her for a quick bike ride to my parents’ house and back to work it off before going to bed.

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Then on Sunday, I got up early enough for a nice long ride along the full length of the West Papio Trail, all the way from Culver’s in Bellevue to Downtown Milliard. It was a lovely little ride that went past some hidden street art and a large tortoise crawling along. In Millard, I saw the Dairy Queen that was briefly featured in the movie About Schmidt on my way to Millard Avenue and back. I also passed a quaint little bike shop that might be worth visiting should I ever make it back.

Back home, we went to the late service at Wildewood so we could attend their summer social at noon immediately afterward (making time for Hannah to ride her bike and Aaron to have a shadow-fight with me). We had a nice time having “walking tacos” and some ice cream and chatting with a few other parents as our kids bounced around in the bounce house for a bit (and got a family photo).

Weathering the storm

We’re still dealing with the aftermath of a record-setting windstorm and blackout that occurred in the early morning hours on Saturday. We were without power at our house for most of the day on Saturday, and Vivian’s parents are still without it yet today (and staying with us in the meantime). Fortunately, we’re all just fine, and our houses and trees were relatively unscathed.

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The weather’s been quite lovely, otherwise. On Thursday, I took a nice ride past the Omaha Silos for a few new photos in front of Kent Bellows’ graffiti at the bottom. Then I walked with the kids down to Chick-Fil-A for some ice cream that evening, just to get a few more steps on my FitBit.

The next day, I biked down to Elmwood Park to join Vivian and the kids for lunch, bringing some salads I picked up at Aldi, among other things. We got in a little extra park time now that school’s out for Aaron, much of which I spent pushing the giant disc swing once again.

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Then, just after midnight, a massive windstorm ripped through Omaha, with wind gusts hitting 96 MPH at the airport, the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane. It toppled tree limbs and power lines all over town, leaving a couple hundred thousand people without power. I checked on our parents and then went by Dunkin Donuts in Papillion (which still had power) to get some coffee and donuts for breakfast.

We enjoyed most of the day off the grid, picking up fallen sticks and branches from our yard and having Hannah do her schoolwork by flashlight. (Hannah also used her own headlight to temporarily replace our light switch in the bathroom.) Aaron and I watched round two of the storm pass by in the garage, and then Vivian use up some eggs and bacon before they went bad to make breakfast for dinner on our gas grill.

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That evening, we took the kids down to Halleck Park, where they got to see some more of the damage up close. They spent some time playing on the playground as the sun went down, and then we walked down to Papillion City Park to catch a bit of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, presented by “Stronger Families Church.” Our original plan for the evening including a trip to the SumTur, which was cancelled in the wake of the storm.

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Our power was restored that evening, and we were able to return to some semblance of normalcy on Sunday, which included doing lots of laundry and dishes. The rest of Omaha continued dealing with fallen branches and power outages, with trucks lined up for the tree dump near our house almost non-stop throughout the day. Some neighbor kids had the bright idea to open a lemonade stand right at the end of it.

Vivian’s parents remained without power, so they brought over some thawed food from their freezer and had dinner with us that evening. Then Vivian’s dad, who relies on electricity for his oxygen tank, spent the night in our living room. The next morning, I found the Keystone Trail blocked with giant tree limbs on my bike ride to work commute, so it seems we’ll be dealing with the aftermath of this storm for a while. I’m just grateful we’re all safe and our homes are intact as we’re getting through it.

Fourth of July 2021

Happy Independence Day, everybody! We had a long weekend packed with events to help celebrate America’s birthday. which meant food, fireworks, and fun with friends and family all weekend long.

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We kicked things off on Friday night by taking the kids down to Lake Manawa for a couple hours of swimming. The kids brought along a couple pool noodles and had some fun getting wet and splashing mommy and me as the sun slowly went down. We brought along a few snacks, including some cape gooseberries I got from Trader Joe’s, and I even grabbed a bunch of funnel cake fries from the concession stand, where our friend Jolene was working (and selling her mulberry jam).

They lit some tiki torches once it got dark, and then at ten o’clock they lit up the sky with a twenty minute firework show for us. It was doubly impressive with the reflection from the lake, of course, and there were so many fireworks set off independently that it was hard to tell when the show actually started (though the coordinated music on 101.9 The Keg helped).

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The next morning, I got up early for a run and then went to have a pancake breakfast with my folks down at Converge Church.

Then that evening, we gathered with a bunch of our old friends at Jenny and Kody’s house. We hadn’t seen some of these folks in years, and half of them seemed to have kids growing up right before our eyes. We got our fill of party food for the evening, including an American Flag veggie tray made by Vivian, and once the sun went down, we set off a bunch of fireworks in the streets with the kids.

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The next morning, I dropped by the Ralston Parade Route to set down a blanket before we got dressed in our best reds, whites, and blues to go to church on the Fourth of July. Grammy dropped by our house with some star-spangled cupcakes afterward, and I dropped by Walmart with Hannah to get some ice cream treats for tonight.

Then Hannah and I went down to Ralston to see the Independence Day Parade for the first time in a couple years. We got to see the usual batch of politicians — Don Bacon, Pete Ricketts, and Jean Stothert all showing up, as well as gubernatorial candidates Herbster, Pillen, and Lindstrom. Hannah got her fill of candy from passersby, including the parish of our friend Father Marcus. There were also Shriners, clowns, and a few American cosplayers in the crowd, but not as many float as one might expect.

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Then that evening, we were just wondering what to do for dinner when Grammy called and said her neighbor Toni needed help eating a bunch of Fourth of July food she and her husband Tom had made for guests who somehow didn’t show up. We were more than happy to oblige, showing up with the kids to have some smoked brats, ribs, and pulled pork hot off the smoker in their shady front yard. The kids particularly like the rope swing and the play structure (AKA “tree house,” sans tree), while I enjoyed being made in the shade in a reclining lawn chair.

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Then once it started getting dark, we returned to our house to set off some fireworks in our driveway — and apparently the entire neighborhood. I served up ice cream bars and sorbet to all four of our grandparents (and Uncle Jonny), and we all watched as Vivian lit some fountains, sparklers, and artillery shells in the street.

Our neighbors also ignored their own fair share of explosives, including a couple dozen artillery shells all at once as their “grand finale.” It was an explosive end to a weekend that felt very much like a war zone, but a heck of a lot more fun.

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We spent most of Monday recovering of all the fun we had. Hannah and I went on a lovely bike ride through a shady trail in Ralston, going past the old United Seeds grain bin, and then we went on got root beer floats at Dairy Queen. Afterward, we spent some extra quality time with Harold’s mommy Ginny before she had to go home with the Mills.

We had some more fun on Tuesday when I met up with Vivian and the kids at Banner Park after work. We got a little wet together in the spray round, which was lovely after a hot bike ride, and then we had some pizza before trying out a set of Stomp Rockets Vivian got a year or two ago. Then I biked with Hannah on back to my car at Culver’s with Hannah and got her a sundae before returning home.

Happy birthday, America!

Shakespeare — by any greens necessary

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When Shakespeare on the Green was cancelled for a second year in a row, I thought for sure we wouldn’t be able to enjoy a live performance of the Bard’s this year. Wrong! I stumbled upon the Flatwater Shakespeare Company in Lincoln, who were performing Twelfth Night at James Arthur Vineyard of all place — in a setting very much like the one we were used to in Elmwood Park. Joining us were Phil and Jen, Randy and Jolene (and their kids), Jon Paper, and Lisa Barrett. The play was performed “in the round” in the picnic area of JAV, and we were even able to claim a table for our guests and vittles (including homemade hummus and jam).

The show itself was quite good — played “straight” unlike the modern, musical version we saw together some eight years earlier. They didn’t have the same budget for sets and sound equipment as Nebraska Shakespeare, but we were all able to enjoy the play from every angle together. Maybe we’ll do it again next year!

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On Monday evening, I decided to go on a biking adventure with Hannah. We started at Culver’s and rode about a mile up the Keystone Trail to Banner Park and back — enjoying cornfields and 72° weather for an hour or two. Then we had ice cream sundaes at the end to celebrate our trip.

Then on Wednesday, Hannah and I took a much longer ride together — starting at the same spot but going nine miles west to Papillion and back on the West Papio trail. We went all the way through downtown, going under Washington Street (and by a small waterfall) and then over it via the pedestrian bridge. Hannah showed me some milkweed along the way, which she learned from her American Heritage Girls’ group has a milky substance on the inside (hence its name). We also passed through the Papillion Farmer’s Market, where we got some nice animal balloons from one of the vendors as she was closing up shop for the day! We managed to carry them all the way home as the sun set behind us, though we had to take a quick trip past Halleck Park to see the fountains before we headed home.

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Then on Thursday, we had our “Shakespeare on the Other Green” down at Memorial Park — which was really more of a picnic — in recognition of the evening Shakespeare on the Green should have had its opening night. The Mathis family joined us on our blanket out on the giant west lawn, and we had some wine and cheese together, along with some mulberry jam brought by Jolene.

I read a few pieces of Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream before letting the kids run around and play on the playground for a bit. It was a beautiful evening for a picnic, with or without Shakespeare, and Memorial Park was certainly a nice place for the kids to run and explore, at least before we come back with a crowd to see Elvis Costello and Wyclef Jean, who will perform here in August. (Stay tuned for that later.)