Monthly Archives: November 2021

Thanksgiving Weekend 2021

We just got done with another lovely Thanksgiving weekend here in Omaha, having all four grandparents, Uncle Jonny, and even Harold’s mommy under one roof once again — something for which to be truly thankful. We’ve also kicked off our Christmas season in style, getting our holiday in gear well before the start of December.

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The fun started Wednesday, as we took the kids down to Elmwood Park before a cold snap on Thanksgiving Day for a romp in the park. We still had a few colorful leaves on the trees to do a nice family photo or two, and the kids got some lunch and had some fun swinging, running around, and getting some exercise in the park.

In other new, Aaron’s had some interest in playing some analog games, so I showed him and Hannah how to play checkers and chess, which provided some fun away from a screen for a change.

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Then on Thanksgiving Day, Vivian and Jack made a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner together as I kept Aaron occupied with a walk down to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They had a few leaves in the backyard that needed raking, so we helped them with that a bit in the nearly freezing (albeit sunny) weather outside. My dad also made some Swedish rosettes, which he shared with us at our house when everyone gathered for Thanksgiving Dinner.

We had the usual assortment of foodTaber salad, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and roast turkey, of course. We all ate together and had pie afterward, and Hannah got to open a few belated birthday presents from my folks somewhere in-between, which included a Baby Yoda from Uncle Jonny (which Hannah inexplicably named “Clap.”) My mom also gave Hannah some nail polish, which she helped Hannah put on before heading home.

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On Friday morning, I went down to the Governor’s Mansion with my friend Phil and his son Gabriel for a little Tailgate Party with Pete Ricketts. They had pulled pork and chicken with pasta salad from Hy-Vee. We even got a couple cans of “Dear Old Nebraska Brew” to wash it all down. It was still a chilly morning, but quite nice under a pavilion outside with the warming lamps. We also got our picture taken with the Governor, of course. His son Roscoe took it for us, who coincidentally took one of me and Vivian in 2015.

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We kicked off the Christmas season that evening with the kids down at Aksarben Village. They lit up the spire at Stinson Park with a cone of lights, and they had hot cocoa for the kids and free carriage rides around the park, which was quite lovely.

We were a bit hungry afterward and stopped by Golden Mountain for a little dim sum, primarily to show Hannah what a “real” dumpling looked like — as opposed to the rubbery toy she got for her birthday.

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Then on Saturday, we had some lovely weather to go up to Santa’s Woods and pick out a Christmas tree for this year. We took a hayrack ride over to the “woods” and said hello to Santa Claus along the way. The kids got a few pictures with him and on a nearby sleigh before we headed through the rows of pine trees to pick out our own. The kids managed to find a seven foot Douglas fir on one end of the lot that seemed to do, so we had it cut down and strapped to our car to take home.

Before we left, we stopped by a few selfie stations for some photos and then went back to get some hot cocoa. We also got the kids a s’more kit to roast some marshmallows over an open fire, which they had going in perpetuity. Twinkle the reindeer was also back again, so we said hello to her. Most memorable for me, however, was dropping inside the barn to see the second floor, where Vivian and I had had a barn dance put on by GAMe back around 14 years ago, which brought back some fond memories. It’s because of that dance at Santa’s Woods that Vivian got introduced to the Omaha Jitterbugs — and me as a result — so it was quite special.

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We got some McDonald’s for dinner and then we hauled in the tree and got it lit. I also finished decorating the house for a few nice nighttime shots once the sun went down. Then we showed the kids the movie Elf for the first time, which they seemed to enjoy. Aaron in particular was laughing nearly non-stop through the whole thing.

Then we continued putting on ornaments the next day, with Christmas music piped into our house via my Sonos speaker. It truly started to feel like Christmas once again.

Birthdays & Braces

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We had a couple birthdays to celebrate over the past week. First off was our little guinea pig Harold, who turned two years old on Tuesday. We celebrated by giving him some colorful carrots for breakfast and then a few treats in the evening, such as a timothy hay lollipop and a blanket with a fleece pocket to snuggle in.

We had another minor celebration as Hannah got her braces off after nearly a year of having to wear them. Vivian and I took her down to Denny’s to celebrate beforehand, and then Grammy brought her some chewy licorice candy as a treat after the came off.

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Next, of course, came Hannah’s birthday! We celebrated with her friends on the Friday before she turned the big one-oh, meeting up with them down at the Kroc Center for some indoor swimming at their water park. The kids got to have some fun swimming about in the lazy river and the “whirlpool,” and both Hannah and Aaron took at least one trip down the big red slide.

Afterward, Hannah opened a few presents in the Kroc Center lobby before we headed back to the house for some cake. Grammy made a chocolate ice cream cake covered with chewy candies that Hannah can now eat with her braces off, which was quite delicious (and fruity).

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On Saturday, after teaching Aaron how to play checkers, I took a trip down to Memorial Park for a rally down on Dodge Street to protest vaccine mandates. Tim Davis of Freedom Rally USA and Allie French of NAGO were there once again with a couple dozen others waving signs. Among them was gubernatorial candidate Theresa Thibodeau, who came by to wave signs with others along the south side of Dodge Street.

It was gorgeous weather for such an event, and I didn’t even need a coat as I walked both sides snapping photos.

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That evening, we dropped by Phil’s house to celebrate his birthday with a bunch of bacon. Vivian made some candied bacon on our grill, and our friends Jenny and Kody made some bacon-wrapped imitation crab sticks. Phil had ingredients for BLTs on the counter, so we all made a couple of those as well as our kids played together (and got read a story by Jen’s dad).

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Hannah’s actual birthday came on Monday. Got up and made some of my mom’s “retreat toast” for breakfast before Hannah opened a few presents and put on her pink Birthday Shirt, which we’d helped her decorate the day before.

Then that evening, Grammy and Pop-Pop came over with Bella and a few more presents. Uncle Nathan also dropped by with a gift of his own, and Vivian and I gave Hannah the plush Cinderace Pokémon, which we knew Hannah wanted but decided to keep hidden until the last moment. I also drew a birthday card for Hannah commemorating her turning ten (with Ten from Number Blocks). Then we baked a few pizzas for dinner, grabbed some popcorn, and watched The Secret of NIMH in the basement together to call it a night.

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In other news, we’ve had a couple lovely days for bike-riding as we head on into Thanksgiving. I rode up to Regency Mall to do some shopping on Tuesday and then across the pedestrian bridge into Iowa on Friday (if you follow me on MeWe, you know why).

We had a record-breaking high in the 60s just ahead of Thanksgiving, and I took a ride up the Field Club trail to snap a before-and-after pair of photos commemorating a great year of bike-riding in 2021. Not sure yet how many more rides I’ll get to enjoy before the snow comes.

Deena’s Surprise Party and a Debate

Vivian took a bit of a road trip down to Wichita and back to attend a friend’s wedding, so I had a day to myself with the kids, doing homeschool stuff with Hannah, grilling some burgers for dinner, and showing Hannah how to do video chat on her phone.

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On Saturday, we drove down to Twin Valley Church (now Sojourn Church) to attend a surprise birthday party for Deena Stubbs. The kids got to play with their friends the Mills as I got to see some old friends from our old church before Deena arrived. Don invited a bunch of her friends and family members (including her old sensei), and then he lit a large group of candles that together nearly set the building on fire. We had some cake and got some photos in the makeshift photo booth Don put together before heading out.

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Then I took a trip down to the Cass County Fairgrounds in Weeping Water to attend a gubernatorial debate with Brett Lindstrom, Theresa Thibodeau, Breland Ridenour, and Michael Connely. Charles Herbster and Jim Pillen couldn’t make it for some reason, but I enjoyed being able to hear from the four candidates on issues such as education (specifically critical race theory), coronavirus overreach, illegal immigration,, broadband infrastructure and China, medical marijuana, voter ID, and the “heartbeat bill.” Thibodeau is a newcomer to the race, having previously been the Lt. Gov. pick for Herbster, but showing up for the debate on fairly short notice showed me she’s serious about running.

State Senator Lindstrom seemed to have the most (or at the most vocal) supporters in the crowd, though Connely and Ridenour also had a few fans, including Allie French from NAGO, who worked the crowd afterward. Pastor Ryan was there as well, and we chatted with Ridenour afterward, as the other candidates seemed to leave fairly quickly to attend a dinner with Joni Ernst up in Omaha. It was mostly nice to be back in the swing of campaign season doing what I like best — being close to the action, wherever it may be.

Bella, Huskers, and a Fire Pit

We’ve had some lovely fall weather over the past few days, allowing us to enjoy the great outdoors a bit before winter comes.

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I was able to nab a free sandwich at Chick-Fil-A on Friday and pedaled it all the way to Memorial Park for a lovely lunch among the rosebushes — which are still in bloom even in November.

In other news, Grammy just adopted a little dog named Bella, who’s a poodle mix and seems very sweet, albeit nervous — especially around men. Hannah and Aaron got acquainted with her for a bit and also took her for a walk or two down Bellevue Boulevard.

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We had perfect weather Saturday for a Husker game down in Lincoln. I won a pair of free tickets at work and got to leave the kids with Grammy for a bit as Vivian and I headed down to watch the game. It seemed to be a good game — even though the Huskers lost, it wasn’t the blowout everyone was expecting. There was one particularly impressive interception in the first quarter that I managed to photograph, and it was particularly fun to watch the game live — especially with the crowd getting riled up after a few bad calls.

We had some Runzas for lunch and were able to spot a few of our friends in the crowd of 84,000+ (though I’m sure there were a few more). At the end of the game, I recorded an impression of Rob Schneider’s character from Waterboy, just to amuse my friend Richard, who uses the clip as a meme.

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Then that evening, we stopped by Grammy and Pop-Pop’s to have a little “porch party,” inaugurating their new front porch. They’d had work done replacing some beams, adding new concrete, and removing a line of massive hedges, so celebrated with burgers, barbecue potato chips, and egg nog — a menu entirely of Aaron’s invention.

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Then on Sunday, I spent some time with Aaron enjoying the autumn leaves at Halleck Park. The leaves are at their peak, so it was nice to get out of the house (where Aaron’s been obsessed with math problems) and walk among the fall colors for a while.

Then back at the house, we brought out the firepit to roast some hot dogs with the kids on the driveway (and even a s’more or two). Daylight saving time ended, so it was dark an hour sooner, so I brought out the laptop so we could watch Beauty and the Beast (the original animated version, of course) by the fire. We even got to roast some marshmallows together before heading back inside.

Trunks and Treats

Happy Halloween, everybody! We had a great Halloween weekend as we hit peak autumn with leaves changing colors and the weather going from gorgeous to almost freezing day-by-day. I’ve been making the most of my bike rides before winter hits and enjoying the fall colors while the kids geared up for trick-or-treating.

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On Tuesday before Halloween, I had an evening watching RiffTrax with my dad and Richard Burney. We dropped by Culver’s for dinner before the show, per the norm, but the dining area was closed due to lack of staff, so we went to Dickey’s down the street instead. I’d never been there before, but it was quite nice to have ribs and brisket without spending the entire day tending a smoker.

Afterward, we headed back to the Twin Creek Theater to see the Amityville 4, the spooky tale of a haunted lamp, starring Patty Duke. I’ve been able to see every RiffTrax live event thus far, though the number of people we can find to come along has varied over the years. Richard has been a consistent attendee, however, joining us for nearly all of them.

Not sure when the next one will be, but perhaps Hannah may be joining us, if I can introduce her properly to MST3K over Thanksgiving. Until then, we’ll have to “keep circulating the tapes.”

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On Friday, we dropped by Grace Bible Church with the kids for some trunk-or-treating. They had some fun trunks in their parking lot, with themes such as Narnia, a gumball machine, and a wild west shooting gallery (which was so much fun it seriously held up the line). Our kids got candy and plastic teeth, and we bumped into a few friends along the way, such as the Campbells and the Halliburtons.

The church makes its home inside the old Southroads Mall, so we went inside for a few carnival games and some hot dogs for dinner. Then we got to see a puppet show with “Douglas Speaks,” a Fraggle-like puppet with his own YouTube channel who told a very interactive group of kids in attendance about Jesus. He stayed to chat with Lily and Jonah afterward, but many of the kids seemed quite eager to see who was behind the curtain instead.

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Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, with a high of 72 and no wind, so I dragged Vivian and the kids down to Swanson Park down the road to see some of the fall colors. We had a picnic lunch and let the kids play on the playground a bit before going on a bit of a hike through the woods, seeing some fall colors and fallen trees, along with a shelter made from fallen branches. We also saw what seemed to be the remnants of the old Rock Island railroad line that went through this part of town.

Afterward, I took Hannah to my parents’ house to help rake some of their leaves before giving their lawn one last mow. It was the perfect evening for it, and I managed to get over 29,000 steps on my FitBit through the whole day.

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Halloween was about thirty degrees colder, but we still got some quality time outside trick-or-treating. We took the kids by Wildewood first for their trunk-or-treat, seeing cars with themes including bible verses, Jonah, and the Ten Commandments (along with the Wizard of Oz and a Fire Department).

Pastor Ron dressed and Pooh and flew a drone around, much to Aaron’s fascination. Vivian and I wore our Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man costumes and got a photo in front of the 80s-themed car, of course. Our kids came as a Pink Power Ranger and a Red Ninja, and Hannah even dressed her sock money up as an “alien,” with his own little bucket for candy.

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We had some dinner at home before going out for one more round of official trick-or-treating afterward. We hits our neighbor’s house and Betty’s across the street before heading to my parents’ neighborhood. My dad got us a family photo when we dropped by my folks’ house, and then we walked the block until the kids got too cold to continue.

Then we finished off by visiting Grammy and Pop-Pop along with Tom and Toni before calling it a night. We returned home and warmed up watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” together for the first time — a TV special from 1966 that I may have seen once but was too long ago to remember.

Happy Halloween, everybody! On to Thanksgiving.