Monthly Archives: May 2023

Bike Rides & Burgers

We kicked off the summer with a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, which we spent riding bikes and grilling burgers, among other things.

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Grammy is planning to head off to California for a month, so she dropped by Saturday morning to give Hannah a haircut, leaving her with an extremely short “pixie” cut to start off the summer. I also brought my basil and Thai basil plants from the office and gave them a new home in our garden, where I’m hoping they’ll soon grow and produce many more tasty leaves for us.

Then that afternoon, Aaron and mommy went to the park to play with his friend Vlad for a few hours. Hannah and I went for a long-awaited bike ride in the meantime, heading back up to the portion of the West Papio trail by Bridlewood Park where she rode her bike for the very first time. We headed south for a bit, stopping by Huntington Park to see some statues and then finding a fan hanging on a tree further south. We took a detour off Pacific Street to cut through the posh Cambridge Oaks neighborhood to get to the Orange Leaf by Village Point to have some frozen yogurt together. Hannah filled a giant bowl and nearly ate it all by herself before we headed back.

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids to see the Super Mario Bros. movie after church. It was the first time all four of us had watched a movie in a theater together, so it was a fun experience. Even Uncle Jonny joined us for the show.

The movie itself was also very enjoyable. It was very thin on plot, but very fun to watch, particularly for all the “Easter Eggs” and Nintendo-specific references I could pick out all throughout the film.

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Then on Memorial Day, I decided to keep up Jenny’s tradition of a bike ride and returned to the West Papio trail. I used some points to get a free breakfast sandwich at McDonald’s before heading off, and then I rode all the way from the trail’s starting point in Millard to its end just north of Bridlewood Park.

I stopped by a few of the same spots Hannah visited on our ride on Saturday, as well as plenty of new spots, such as the Bluestem Prairie Preserve.

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Then that afternoon, I dropped by mom and dad’s house to help with a cookout. My dad bought a bunch of brats and burgers for us, so I helped get the smoker set up for some grilling late in the afternoon. My two brothers came by, as well as Nathan’s friend Cheryl, and we ate together outside in the shade. Then we had some dessert and headed inside to watch a few home movies before calling it a night.

Winding Down

Another school year is winding down and a long summer vacation is looming ahead. That means a few end-of-year events with Vivian and the kids before things come to a close.


On Friday last week, the Royal Rangers had their Council of Achievements, and Aaron got a certificate for the events he’d completed with his little friends over the past year. Then they had some ice cream before heading outside to run around on the playground once last time before the year ended.

It’s been fun to take him every Wednesday to have quality time with other boys down at Spirit Life, and hopefully we’ll take it up again next year when Aaron is old enough for the next level (called Discovery).

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Vivian and I have been taking advantage of our last week or two without the kids during to day to go out to breakfast and lunch together without needing a sitter. On Wednesday last week, we dropped by the Olive Garden on Dodge to use a long-forgotten gift card. I got some spaghetti and salad with toasted ravioli and Vivian got some soup and lasagna while watching up for a bit before I returned to work.

Then on Wednesday this week, we went down to the Lighthouse Café in Olde Town Bellevue for breakfast. I’d visited once with my dad in 2020 (when it was the “Downtown Coffee Shop“), but they’d changed ownership and remodeled since then. I got some duck eggs and sausage awhile Vivian got a skillet, and we shared a plate of some “heavenly” waffles that taste a it like cake. It’s also a Christian-owned establishment, which you can clearly tell from the coffee mugs we were served while we were there.


On Wednesday evening, Hannah had her year-end ceremony with the girls from AHG, where they received their badges for the year and got to have some cupcakes and cookies afterward. This was the flip-side of Royal Rangers, where Vivian takes Hannah on Wednesday evenings twice a month. I don’t often get to see everything they do, other than the photos Vivian shares with me, but it was nice to be there with the other dads at the end of the year and take some photos.

Then afterward, Hannah and Aaron played on the playground for a bit before we headed home. I remember getting a few goofy selfies with Aaron when we were at his same facility for the same event two years earlier, so I snapped a couple more in the same spot (with the same pose) before we left.

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On Thursday, I had lunch with the Business and Professional People for Life once again, stuffing myself with meatloaf and potatoes with a handful of my co-workers. We also got a legislative update from Marion Miner as the Unicameral wraps up, and also from Jim and Julie Mainelli on Mater Filius, a sort of halfway house for women with unexpected pregnancies.

I’ve also continued riding my bike nearly every day, enjoying the smell of fresh-cut grass and finding a secret wooded path (and having some free nuggets) along the Keystone Trail on one day, then rolling by the Ralston grain silos, the Hanscom Park lagoon, or even the Greek Islands, right off the Field Club Trail.


Friday was the last day of school for both Hannah and Aaron. Then that evening, Hannah and her classmates at Abounding Life had a family night for the parents. They had a graduation ceremony for the seniors and some musical performances from all the various age groups. They had themes based on different cultures around the world, and Hannah and her group were dressed in middle eastern garb singing and dancing to Hava Nagila.

We stuck around for some cake afterward (and Vivian’s charcuterie board) and got to take home a few of Hannah’s art projects from this year, including a painted flower pot (which she made for Grammy), a painting, and a picture made of corn. Now with summer looming ahead, we’re faced with a new, daunting task — how do we keep these kids occupied for the next three months?

Mother’s Day & the Zoo

We just finished up a busy Mother’s Day weekend, which meant spending time with both sides of my family with a trip to the Zoo sandwiched in-between.


On Saturday, my dad and I had some quality time hauling a few things down to the dump for Bellevue’s clean-up day in the morning. Then we met up again around lunchtime for some Mother’s Day celebration with my mom. I brought along a gift bag with some candy and a card for her. Then we took her down to the Greek Islands restaurant down on Center Street for lunch. I learned that my mom not only liked Greek food, but that she also hadn’t had it since before I was born — the last time she’d had it was apparently when she and my dad were still in Brazil.

I had a gyro platter and some Greek salad along with some flamingSaganaki” as an appetizer with my parents and brothers.


Then right after lunch, I went with Vivian and the kids down to the Zoo for the afternoon. We used a pass that I’d picked up at the Bellevue Public Library back on April 1 (no fooling), and we wound up spending the entire afternoon down at the Children’s Adventure Trails. It was muggy and around 80 degrees, so it felt good to wade through the cold water and take a trip or two underneath the waterfall. Aaron also ran around the rope bridges a bit (along with the little monkeys) and rolled around on a few of the hills. The kids dropped by the petting zoo halfway through our visit and got to see some goats literally butting heads (competing for treats), and they also got to run through the tunnels to see the prairie dogs before getting more time in the water before the end of our visit.

It was nice to get to stay in just one spot during our visit to the Zoo this time around, particularly since we’re normally trudging around for miles trying to see as many animals as possible. The Children’s Adventure Trails are also only open on weekends now, so it was nice to pay them a visit when we normally wouldn’t be able to.

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Then came Mother’s Day. The kids had made some cards for Vivian a week ago when we were off having pho, so they brought them out and we presented them along with a breakfast burrito I’d made for some breakfast in bed.

They also had some nice gift bags at church that morning for all the women in the congregation, with tea and biscotti and other things for Mom.


Then that evening, Vivian’s dad and I helped put together a Mother’s Day dinner for Vivian and Donna. Jack had some nice surf and turf with porterhouse steaks and shrimp kabobs (actual shrimp on the barbie), while I brought potato salad and a couple pies from Village Inn. The weather went from muggy to cool within a few hours, making for some nice time to lounge around in the yard (after I gave it a mow). And fortunately the rain stayed away so we could eat out on the porch together. The kids got some extra time playing and giving Bella a walk a little later before we headed home.

It was a fun and busy weekend, but it’s time for me to get back for work for a week or two and “recover” before the kids are out of school.

Cake with Vivek & the First Step to Life

A mid-week update! How about that? I’ve had a busy couple of days engaging in some politics and other things, getting ready for a busy, busy Mother’s Day weekend. I thought it might be nice to run by a few things I’ve been up to in the meantime rather than cramming everything together after the weekend.


On Tuesday evening, I crossed the river to Treynor, Iowa to have “Cake with Vivek,” an event hosted by Free Speech America with presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Around 150 people joined me at the picturesque Palace Events Center in the rolling fields of farmland, including some familiar faces from the Nebraska side such as my blogger friend Dave Begley. The program started with a handful of kids reciting a memorized portion of the Declaration of Independence. Then Vivek took the stage and talked about such things as an “American Identity,” which he likened to a kind of cultural sonar a bat would use to navigate a cave. He also talked about various campaign issues, such as corporate censorship, shutting down the FBI, and term limits for government bureaucrats — as well as his favorite President Thomas Jefferson, the apparent inventor of the swivel-chair.

Martin Cannon with Free Speech America talked briefly about his organization and raising funds for a fireworks show on July 1 before wrapping up. Then Vivek met with guests outside for photos as they signed his tour bus before he left.


Then on Thursday, I attended the Assure Women’s Center’s “First Step to Life” banquet at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. I’d learned about Assure way back in 2017, when executive director Toni Clarke spoke at a pro-life luncheon. They are a crisis pregnancy center that seems to focus on a non-judgmental and objective presentation of “options” for women facing an unplanned pregnancy, hoping that they would choose adoption or keeping the child rather than abortion. Around 2000 people were packed into the sold-out event for dinner together. Pam Tebow was the emcee of the event, and she spoke briefly about her pro-life experience with her son Tim Tebow. Other speakers included Gov. Jim Pillen and Mayor Jean Stothert. The keynote speaker was Seth Dillon, the CEO of The Babylon Bee, who talked about using humor in what he described as a spiritual warfare in our culture.

Tebow and Dillon both stayed to mingle with guests after the event, so I came by to shake Dillon’s hand and chat a bit about his company getting Elon Musk to buy Twitter last year. I also saw a handful of familiar faces from such recent events as the Elephant Remembers dinner, including Rod Edwards, who I got in a few candid shots before I headed off for the evening.

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In other news, the school year is wrapping up, so Aaron has his last Wednesday night at Royal Rangers with his little friends. It’s been a fun year with him learning bits about the bible while making some new friends. I’ve also enjoyed all the extra reading time I’ve gotten in the church lobby while I’ve been there.

We also managed not to have a week full of rain, as they’d been forecasting, so I got outside for a bike ride nearly every day of the week. That meant trips to Towl Park, to Hanscom Park, and also up to Democracy Park (to play a bit on the playground). They’ve reopened a few of the trails that had been demolished months ago to replace some sewer pipe, and as soon as the kids are done with school, I’ll probably be biking to and from work once again.

Political Drama, Comic Books, & a Pho Crawl

We’ve had a couple of busy days catching up with family and friends and then diving headfirts into some political events happening in the Omaha metro. (It was also Berkshire weekend, and as a shareholder I could have attended had I taken the initiative to figure out how. Maybe next year.)


On Thursday, I had lunch down at the Pizza Ranch with Don Bacon. Though he’s technically not my Congressman, I always enjoy hearing updates from him on what’s going on in the House, and he talked ab it about the debt ceiling, military spending, foster kids, and the war in Ukraine. He also listed his favorite candidates for 2024, with Tim Scott at the top of the list (and not Donald Trump), followed by Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. He didn’t mention Vivek Ramaswamy, who I’m hoping to see on Tuesday.

Then that evening, my dad and I drove on down to Gretna for a Sarpy County GOP “open house” at the VFW. What we got instead was some kind of contentious meeting, which had started an hour earlier. Nebraska’s Secretary of State Bob Evnen was slated to speak but didn’t get the chance as there was argument over membership among other things. My dad wound up taking an empty seat netx to Evnen in the back, so I introduced the two to each other during the proceedings. It was still interesting nonetheless, and perhaps next time I should consider becoming a “member” (whatever that entails) so I can take part in this hubbub.


The next day, I rode my bike by Taco Bell for Cinco de Mayo. Then that evening, Vivian and I got to attend the Elephant Remembers dinner once again. We’d gotten a pair of donated tickets from a friend at the Pizza Ranch and got to attend for free, which was nice. Vivian and I got to dress up and run elbows with a handful of elected officials and then have some chicken, potatoes, and zucchini for dinner while hearing from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, among others.

There was a strong undercurrent of drama at the dinner, however. Gov. Jim Pillen talked about “falling and having a hiccup on the vote for 626,” the “heartbeat bill” killed by Merv Riepe during the second cloture vote. Pillen talked about this as Riepe himself sat stone-faced at the dinner, saying “we will get more people in there who are pro-life, and we will have way more than 33 votes.” In other news, Charles Herbster and Julie Slama were also both at the event — the latter having accused the former of sexual assault at a previous Elephant Remembers dinner in 2019 (which Vivian and I also attended). The honoree for the evening was Dan Welch, who had been ousted form his position in the NEGOP the previous summer and joked about his “early retirement.” It was an interesting mix of guests to say the least, and you can read more about it in my political blog.

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Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, so I took the kids to Ground Zero Hobby in Bellevue to get a couple free comic books to take home. I also browsed some of the toys and games and found a D&D starter set that might make a nice birthday present (hopefully Aaron isn’t reading my blog yet).

I then spent the afternoon at my parents’ house with an estate sale agent named Shayne. My parents walked her through a handful of their valuables in the house as they talked a bit about plans eventually to downsize and move into an assisted living facility down the road. Afterward, I had some pizza and wings with my brothers while watching a few more home movies before heading home. Then Vivian made us a belated Cinco de Mayo (or Seis) dinner that evening.


On Sunday, the kids at Wildewood ran a lemonade stand and bake sale in-between services, selling brownies, cookies, and lemon bars (and lemonade) to help fund an Appalachian missions trip for the youth ministy.

Then that afternoon, Vivian and I spent the day in Lincoln with Phil and Jen and a few of their friends stuffing ourselves with pho. Jen had wanted to go on a “pho crawl” in Lincoln for some time, visiting three of the various Vietnamese restaurants along 27th street through the afternoon and comparing their pho with one another. We started at Pho Ngyuenn, always a favorite of mind, and had some chicken pho and spring rolls. We were also introduced to Vietnamese iced coffee, which was quite strong and made with sweetened condensed milk. We moved along to Pho Factory a block north after that, having some steak and meatball pho with a Vietnamese crepe (bánh xèo), which was kind a salad you roll up and shove into your face. We had a quick break at the Asian grocery store next door to stock up on various sauces and other Asian things not available at Aldi.

Then we finished the crawl at the Vung-Tau Pho Grill for some egg rolls and more beef pho. I decided to finish our crawl by literally crawling out of the restaurant afterward, though I was surpised not to be quite as stuffed as I expected. Either rice noodles and broth isn’t as substative as I thought it would be, or I’m just that much of a glutton (probably the latter).

Parade, Fun Fest, and Moon Pies

We’ve had another week of lovely spring weather, which means lots of time to get outside to a park or two, smell the blooming lilac in our yard, and have a couple more bike rides around town.


On Sunday last week, August had a birthday party down at Swanson Park. That meant a couple hours of our kids having quality time running around together. The boys spent some time roaming through the woods, where Aaron found an abandoned sled lying in a creek. Hannah and the girls walked through the forest making a video together (which I haven’t seen yet).

In the meantime, Nate grilled some hot dogs, and I brought along our fire pit to make a couple s’mores over the fire later on. Donna also made August a lovely cake with him and his little pets together, all of which we enjoyed eating afterward.

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On Monday, I dropped by the Pachyderm Luncheon again to hear from Rick Holdcroft on current issues before the legislature. My friend Stephen showed off his new mug and I chatted with a few other people about politics for a bit.

The weather was also nice enough for some extra time biking. I went by Towl Park one day, where they a have some lovely flowers blooming. They finally fixed one half of the Center Street bridge, with a new walkway across for me and my bike (this one watthour the hazardous bumps on the other side). I also dropped by Hy-Vee on another day just to pick up a fun dessert for Vivian and the kids — RC Cola and Moon Pies, a combination that’s legendary in the South.

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On Tuesday evening, I helped Hannah get an extra hour of volunteer time cleaning up trash along the street for an award with American Heritage Girls. Then I took the next day off completely so I could get the car an oil change. I got to do some yard work around the house afterward and helped Grammy fix a doorknob in our hall bathroom (which had to be taken apart and treated with WD-40). Then Vivian and I went out to Stella’s just for fun — having some burgers and onion rings there for the first time in nine years or so.

That evening, I took Aaron down to Royal Rangers, where the weather was nice enough for them to have their “flag pledges” outside. Then they made “healthy body bags” before eating some brownie cupcakes. I went biking again the next day and got some RC Cola and Moon Pies to bring home to dessert — a thing neither Vivian nor the kids had ever experienced before.

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Then on Saturday, I had my first professional photo gig down at the Arbor Day parade in Nebraska City. My friend skip had skipped down and hired me to fill in to snap photos of Deb Fischer’s crew walking along Central Avenue during the parade. I saw a few familiar faces, such as state senator Rita Sanders and our junior senator, Pete Ricketts, but no Deb once again. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and I got a bunch of photos along the route before the parade was done. Vivian arrived with the kids to see just the last few moments of it, including Hannah’s friend Justin from her school (and a Cardinal, who gave Aaron a high five).

We hung around for a while afterward, getting some burgers from the Pin High Clubhouse & Grill with the campaign and eating down at Steinhart Park afterward. The kids played on an old merry-go-round and got to see a veterans’ memorial with a giant tank and an anchor. Afterward, we dropped by the Arbor Lodge Mansion for a peek inside before playing a bit more at the Arbor Lodge State Park before getting ready to head home. There were a handful of other things we might have done if we’d had more time, such as visiting the Wildwood Historic Center or the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, but that will have to wait for another visit (Vivian told me to put it on the calendar).

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids down to Werner Park for Fun Fest, an annual event by the Autism Society of Nebraska. The kids got to meet some Star Wars characters who wound up riding a carousel with them. We also saw Spider-Man, Runza Rex, and Miss Nebraska USA as we walked around looking at the exhibits.

The kids got to play with bubbles and throw a few axes in-between grabbling merch from the dozens of vendors inside the big tent. There were some 30 mph winds blasting through nearly the entire time, but we did all right all the way up to the final walk around the park before heading home. Then we had some pizza for dinner and watched the movie Babe before finishing off the weekend.

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The biking weather continued through the next week, so on Monday, I took a trip up to Memorial Park to see a new statue installation. It’s based on the famous photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J day, marking the end of World War 2. It was particularly nice to pedal around a bit as the trees are still in blossom, and I also bumped into my friend Denise and her dog Rocko on my way back down the hill.

Then on Tuesday, I pedaled up the Field Club Trail and dropped in on Gerald Ford’s birthplace via Leavenworth Street. The trees were in blossom there as well, though I also noticed the plaques with names of governors and Presidents hadn’t been updated in over a decade. It was just nice to get out and get some sun while burning about 1500 calories in the middle of a weekday.