Monthly Archives: September 2022

Burgers, Ice Cream, and Virtual Reality

It’s been a fabulously busy week for the Johnson family, cramming in a birthday for Vivian and a weekend camping trip without so much as a half-day off work, school, or anything else.


I was able to give Grammy’s lawn a quick mow on Monday before heading home to have some tasty (discount) rib-eyes for dinner. Then on Tuesday, I kicked off Vivian’s birthday by making some banana bread muffins for her and the kids for breakfast in the morning. Then that afternoon, I met up with Vivian and her parents for some lunch at Sickies in Bellevue. Vivian and I had only been there once back in January of 2020, and Jack and Donna had never been there at all, so it was nice to introduce them to their menu of sloppy burgers and fried pickles. Vivian and Donna got a Honky Tonk and a Jalapeño Popper Burger, which they split with each other, while I got one with peanut butter and bacon.

Then that evening, Donna came by with a birthday cake and candles for Vivian to blow out and make a wish. We also had birthday cards from me and the kids, along with a handful of presents such as an autumnal sampler of coffees and some bottled Diablo taco sauce from Taco Bell.

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Then I took Vivian out for some fun that evening. Our first stop was at Infinite Loop VR, where we got to try out a few virtual reality video games, such as Elven Assassin and some kind of “Beat Saber” clone together for an hour. It was quite a trip being immersed in a video game like that, particularly when going right back out and driving around in the “real world” immediately afterward.

We headed to downtown Papillion afterward to try out a few “ice cream flights” at Graley’s. Vivian was able to sample tiny scoops of mint, lemon, butter cake, butter brickle, cookies and cream, orange dream, and Butterfinger all together in a single dish (which essentially served as our dinner for the evening). The weather was nice enough for us to take a walk up and down South Washington Street. We stopped by Twisted Vine to have a couple classes of red wine to finish off the night, and then I got a photo of Vivian in front of some street art before calling it a night.

Steak, Skates, and Gifford Farm

It’s been another jam-packed week, with nearly every weeknight filled with one activity or another — mostly fun with friends or our kids.

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On Sunday, we celebrated Cheeseburger Day and had some pink watermelon for dessert at dinner. Then on Monday night, I took the kids to the Mills’ house to have some steak for dinner and mess around with some computer stuff for Nate and his new painting business. The kids in particular had fun playing with one another, and I enjoyed having a giant rib-eye.

On Tuesday, the Men of God group at Wildewood kicked off with some pulled (and smoked) pork for dinner and a new bible study, 33 The Series. I’m not sure how much I’ll get into the study, but it was nice to hang out with a few adults for an evening out.


Wednesday meant another evening with Aaron at Royal Rangers and me catching up with Jordan Peterson. On Thursday, we gave the CR-V an oil change, leaving Vivian with my Corolla for the day and me renting a bike from one of the city’s kiosks for the ride home, which was nice with the weather went from 100 to 55 like it just saw a state trooper. Then evening, we took the kids to Skate City for a family night with Chandler View Elementary. Hannah spent an hour or two on the skating rink while Aaron played some video games with daddy. I particularly enjoyed introducing him to such classics as Pac-Man and Galaga (and winning a few tickets for prizes).

The next day, both kids had the day off school, so we spent our lunch time down at Elmwood Park, swinging and walking through the forest on a lovely, cool and cloudy autumn day.


Then came Saturday, where Vivian spent the morning doing some volunteer gardening with the women’s group at church while I took the kids on a secret shopping trip for birthday presents. (Don’t tell Vivian, though. She doesn’t read this blog, so she won’t find out if I mention it here.)

Then we spent the afternoon visiting Gifford Farm, a place we’d taken the kids frequently when they were little but hadn’t visited since 2019. It was fun to see an owl, some goats, ducks, and other farm animals. We had a few homemade hot dogs from Willie Dogs for lunch and them let the kids play on the slides in the barn and explore the hollow tree. We also went on a hay rack ride as a family and let the kids run around the play area like old times. Hannah even got a pony ride on our way back to the car. Our kids may be outgrowing this little place, but it was fun to go back and soak in all the memories.

Then that evening: Aldi pizza and Back to the Future.

Greetings from Gifford Farm!

Open House, Hunter & Kingdoms of the Night

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Aaron’s elementary school had an open house on Monday night, so Vivian and I stopped by with Hannah to see his classroom again and look at some of Aaron’s artwork. He’d done a fairly accurate rendition of him and his sister along with a garden of flowers all measured with enormous numbers. We we checked out a few other rooms and signed up for a parent/teacher conference (which I think was the whole purpose of the open house) before getting a few snow cones outside before heading home.

Aaron’s also been enjoying going to Royal Rangers on Wednesday nights, doing some creative artwork and learning a bit about the bible with a few of his little friends. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to get away and read for a bit, leafing through my copy of “12 More Rules for Life” once again on the couch in the lobby.

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On Thursday, I had a political night to myself and got to have dinner at Chick-Fil-A leafing through “The American Story” by the Barton Brothers, a book given to me by Commander Jeff at Royal Rangers. (I was also able to cash in a few of my Chick-Fil-A reward points for some free food, which was nice.)

Then I headed north to the Cross Training Center to watch the film My Son Hunter, a kind of political satire about the Biden family directed by Robert Davi. It was a surprisingly well-done film — I’ve seen plenty of ham-fisted political films before, some of which were quiet cringe-worthy and barely watchable. This one was fairly polished and entertaining — not to mention hilarious. Much of the film seems to be done tongue in cheek with biting sarcasm, and lots of real-life quote and gaffes from Sleepy Joe to add to the humor.

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On Friday night, we stopped by the Mills house to say Happy birthday to our friend Sammy. She and Hannah have been little friends since they were born, and they got to spend time today shopping at the mall together like little tweens and having a “Sushi” cake decorated by Donna with some (pretend) sushi and cherry blossoms.

We spent a little time afterward letting the kids have more quality time playing together while Nate took Jake and Lexi down to the airport for a week-long trip to France. Aaron got to run around with Gabriel and August and playing with some of their ducks and chickens wandering around the yard. I also brought Mama Ginny out to graze for a little bit before she started getting pecked at by a duck.


Then on Saturday, we took a family trip to the Zoo courtesy of Autism Action Partnership. This time around, we went by the desert dome to see desert animals such as a kookaburra, some owls, and a variety of reptiles (along with some ducks running loose). We moved along downstairs to the Kingdom of the Night, where we saw bats, turtles, and a swamp full of alligators, among other things.

The sun went down and a storm lingered on the horizon and we stopped by to see some giraffes and elephants upstairs, who seemed to be hidden away indoors as the storm approached. As usual, the kids seemed to enjoy playing on the lion statues and spinning the watery fountain globe most of all. It was particularly interesting to visit the Zoo at night, where the desert dome was lit up in alternating colors for us before we headed home.

Luncheons, Days Off, and an Apple Orchard

I got to enjoy a fairly short work week in-between back-to-back three-day weekends here at home, and I also got to have lunch with some of my favorite people in the middle of the week as well.

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First up came a lovely little lunch with Vivian on Wednesday. Vivian has gearing up for another year of BSF with her lady friends, and she had an hour or so in-between her first meet-up with them an an appointment with an eye doctor, so we decided to drop by Maharaja for some Indian food down by 114th and West Dodge Road. I’d coincidentally first learned of the place from an Indian friend from my own BSF class several years ago, and it was nice to sit down for some authentic Pork Vindaloo and Chicken Tikka Masala together along with some fresh-made naan.

Then on Thursday, I had some lunch with my parents and a couple dozen others down at the Pizza Ranch on 84th Street. The River City Republicans had invited Sgt. Aaron Hanson, candidate for Douglas County Sheriff, to stop by and chat about crime, drugs, and using guns for self defense. My folks also got to chat with Marilyn Asher, who is running for state legislature against Megan Hunt. It was an informative little luncheon, and you can read more about it in detail (as well as watch my live stream) over at my political blog.

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I had taken Friday off since we’d planned to go on a camping trip over the weekend, but those plans fell through (and there was rain in the forecast anyway), so I had a lovely personal day instead. I went to the dentist for a cleaning followed by a tasty Taco Bell breakfast, and then I stopped by the Shadowlake Hy-Vee to say hello to Scott Voorhees, who was doing his show on KFAB from their entryway. I spent the rest of the day tidying up the garage and unearthing some of our camping stuff a few weeks ahead of our trip. I also uncovered some previously lost items that I was happy to find again.

It rained most of Saturday, which was just fine by me as we spent some quality time cleaning house, doing laundry, and emptying out the fridge. Once the rain stopped, I walked with the kids over to my parents’ house, where they spent some time with Uncle Jonny as I rummaged through my dad’s closet, taking a few shirts off his hands such as one stylish T-shirt from Dreamland BBQ, the best barbecue joint in America.


We had some particularly nice weather in Sunday, so after church (and letting Harold run around a bit outside), we took the kids down to Ditmar’s Orchard for some apple picking. They had some fun activities for their “Fields of Flight” weekend, such as some bounce houses, an inflatable ax-throwing station, and a petting zoo with a bunch of goats. Our kids got a little time on the slides and the playground as well, which Hannah commented seemed to have “shrunk” since she’d been there last.

Of course, we also got plenty of time for applepicking, walking up and down a few rows to fill a ten-pound bag. We finished off our visit with a hayrack ride around the grounds and then some dancing atop some tractor tires before heading home. We’d missed out on the hot air balloons that had come by earlier, but it was actually nice to be able to let the kids explore without a massive crowd of people here for a change. Maybe we’ll do the same next year.

IMG_6377Happy fall, y’all!

Finishing up for Fall

It’s Labor Day weekend, and that means the unofficial end of summer and wrapping up a few special things before they end for the season.


On Saturday afternoon, we took the kids down to the Durham Museum for a rare visit outside the Christmas season. They had a dinosaur exhibit that was wrapping up, so we wanted the kids to have the chance to check it out. They got to walk around with dinosaur feet, ride on a glider, and climb on a rock wall in a semi-education maze that had various bits of dinosaur trivia on the panels (as well as some plush triceratops to “ride” on).

Of course, we also had to check out the trains, walking through a few passenger cars and checking out a few new compartments that had previously been shut away, including an overnight car with a sink and some mirrors. Then we headed home for a family movie night watching Trolls 2 over a dinner of Aldi pizza.

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Then on Sunday, after I finishing a bit of a painting project around the house, we took the kids for one last trip to a splash pad as a family before they closed down for the season. We hit the one at Seymour Smith Park, where we’d taken the kids nearly every year since they were little. It was a bit chilly in the mid 80s, but we all got a chance to get wet, getting dunked on by the tripping buckets, walking through the spray with the kids, and taking a few hits from a water cannon or two.

Then we dropped by Chester’s Chicken on the Run (formerly Krispy Krunchy Chicken) at 36th and Chandler for dinner on the way home.


Then on Labor Day, Nathan had us over for a cookout at his new house down in Lincoln. He grilled some burgers out in his backyard, and Cheryl brought some Korean-style sushi, kimchi (which I added to my burger) and some Filipino flan. Hannah had some fun with bubbles, picking a few apples growing in Nathan’s backyard and climbing on one of the trees while Aaron got some quality time with Uncle Jonny, watching a video game over his shoulder. Then we all got a workout playing a dance game on Nathan’s Nintendo Switch before we headed on home.

September is well underway now, which means our slew of fall activities will be right around the corner (including Vivian’s birthday). Stay tuned for all of that coming soon.