Author Archives: Matt J.

About Matt J.

I'm a graphic designer, an off-and-on cartoonist, and an occasional swing dancer living in Omaha with my wife and daughter (and loving very minute of it).

Bikes, horses, and a Haunted Hayrack

We’ve hit Peak Fall and are enjoying some of the best weather of the year, making the most of the Great Outdoors before winter rolls around.

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Last weekend, Jack and Donna’s neighbor Toni invited us over for an outdoor movie night in their yard. We dropped by with the kids to have some chili dogs and potato salad as they played on a few of their swings as a reel of weird, old cartoons played on their makeshift bedsheet-turned-movie-screen. I think the kids had a little more fun making dancing shadows behind the screen rather than anything that happened to be projecting on it.

The next day, we stopped by Ralston Park after church, just because the weather was so absolutely gorgeous. We got some McDonald’s for lunch and then let the kids run around a bit on the playground afterward. Aaron and I both hit the swings for a bit, and then we practice some martial arts together afterward.

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I kept busy the following week with an Education Program at work, which involved me putting together presentations and then doing a group photo hanging from a ladder in a hotel lobby, which was interesting. I still had time to bike down to the local Chick-Fil-A for lunch with Hannah and Vivian after BSF on Thursday. I’d been hoping their play area (which Hannah is still small enough for) would be open, but it wasn’t. We still enjoyed having some chicken together and seeing some of the restaurant’s pumpkin décor.

Then on Friday, we took the kids down to Mangelsen’s to look for some Halloween costumes. Hannah decided to be a Pink Power Ranger, while Aaron wanted to be a Cat Ninja. We couldn’t quite find a suitable cat or ninja, so he decided to be a Skull Ninja instead, which seemed to work just as well.

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On Saturday, Vivian took Aaron clothes shopping while I took Hannah on a lovely bike ride around Walnut Creek Lake. I showed Hannah the “secret” entrance via the tunnel near Santa Fe Circle, which went through a tunnel under Highway 370 and through a bit of woods before coming up to the lake. Hannah and I pedaled around the entire lake together, stopping to get a closer look at the water (and a stray leaf) and stopping at a playground before circling back.

On Sunday, Pastor Ron donned a dreadlock wig to talk about Samson as the kids learned about the Ten Commandments. Then that afternoon, Hannah did a little horseback riding with her friends with American Heritage Girls. She’s been learning about taking care of horses as part of earning a badge with her group (as is Sammy), and she wound up riding for 45 minutes while on horseback for the first time.

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Capping off the weekend was a trip to James Arthur Vineyards for a Haunted Hayrack Ride. It’s an immensely popular event, with tickets typically selling out in less than half an hour once they go on sale. We bumped into our friends Jenny and Kody while we were there (who I hope still read this blog, since I mentioned it!) and had some ribeye steaks and wine together for dinner (with Kira the dog begging for scraps). Owner Jim Ballard told a few “true” ghost stories to the group about such characters as local ghost Charlie Werner (who has a port-style wine named after him). Then local musician Chris Sayre sat down to play music on a saw and tell a few ghost stories, such as the “Legend of Blackbird Hill.”

Of course, there was also a haunted hayrack ride, which mostly involved us puttering around the vineyard in the dark while a lone guy in an orange mask chased after us. It was a beautiful evening with or without the haunting, though, and we were even allowed to take glasses of wine along on the trip, none of which spilled.

Halloween’s just around the corner, and next on my agenda will be scrambling up some costumes for Vivian and me — as well as a family trip to Sioux Falls right before Jenny’s Halloween party. The fun never stops!

Apples & Pumpkins

Fall is well underway, and that means enjoying as much time outdoors as we can before Nebraska turns into an arctic wonderland.

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On Friday last week, Aaron had the day off school, so I rode down to Elmwood Park to spend a lovely lunch break with Vivian and the kids. This park is known for having an assortment of stray toys, and Hannah found a little cart that she and Aaron took turns pushing each other around in. I also gave them a good swing in the saucer for a while, and they finished off with a little exercise in the workout area.

Then on Sunday afternoon, I decided to use up some leftover ground beef by showing the kids how to grill a few hamburgers for lunch, which they cooked and ate with us.

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Sunday was also the last day of Nebraska City’s Applejack Festival, so we decided to drive down to Kimmel Orchard for some apple-picking. We got to see how the kids measured up before letting them take a spin on the playground. Then we took a hay rack down to the orchard, where we filled a couple bags with Winesap, Jonathan, and Braeburn apples, to name a few. We also stumbled upon a nature trail and “Natural Playground” that the kids both liked playing in for a bit — partly because of the shade from the sun blazing down overhead.

We spent a little more time on the playground before heading home around closing time. I stopped by Union Orchard hoping to get an apple pie, but they were closed, so we may have to leave that to Vivian’s devices later on. (No sour grapes.)

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Then on Tuesday, I took the day off so we could spend a day at Vala’s on their Homeschool Day. The kids have been to Vala’s every year of their lives so far, and Hannah said it was her favorite day outside of Christmas and her birthday. We’re old pros at seeing all the attractions and had it down to a science by now — hitting Bunnyville and the Pumpkin Mine first before doing some trikes and then catching a Train Ride while the line was short. We did the jumping pillows after that and checked out the duck races before taking a few spins around the Highway 6 bike track — both on the family cart and individually (even Vivian).

We got some fries for lunch before taking a dip in the corn bin, where I helped Hannah and Aaron get completely buried. We headed back for some Pig Races around one, and Hannah got to be a Pig Leader this time. We got some time on slides and a tractor before going to see Xander the Dragon, and Hannah and Aaron got a few balloon bracelets from an old Jitterbug friend along the way.

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We hit the schoolhouse, the haunted house, and the Big Chair before going down to Prairie Hill Town, where the kids got to run on a hamster wheel (as did I) and run around a bit more. We hit the obstacle course next, took a swing at a “high striker” or two, before taking a few trips down the Big Slide. Then we went through the Corn Maze together as a family for the first time, which was a bit of an adventure, but I had the map on my phone that helped us get through fairly easily (much to Hannah’s irritation).

We got some more of a maze fix in the Pirate Maze for a bit before dropping by the spider web, getting a pretzel, and visiting the Storybook Village. We also took the kids to the petting zoo to feed some goats before having some donuts (which we watched being made that morning) and then picking out a few pumpkins to take home. Aaron picked out a giant 32 pounder, which I had to lug a ways before getting a wheelbarrow to haul it to the car. I’m hoping we can turn our produce this year into something interesting, either a Jack-o-Lantern, some roasted seeds, or anything other than a rotting mess to leave in the garden.

It was a bit exhausting to hit a pair of our favorite fall events within just a few days, but it was worth it. Now we just have to get ready for Halloween — and the chain of Thanksgiving and Christmas events that follow shortly thereafter, of course.

A Boulevard and Jack’s Birthday

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On Wednesday, I took a lovely, long bike ride up to Midtown Crossing and back over lunch, passing through some quaint neighborhoods along Turner Boulevard, including Kathy Bates’ house in About Schmidt.

Then that evening, we all went to Vivian’s parents’ house to celebrate Jack’s 78th birthday. The kids got some quality time with their fairy village as Jack grilled some lobster tail and scallops on the grill. Vivian helped in making some of the sides, such as truffle-dusted baby potatoes and a vegetable medley. Then we all had dinner out on the deck, finishing it off with some chocolate cake and presents for both Vivian and her dad to cap off the evening.

Baseball, bike rides, and a sushiriffic birthday

It’s been another busy week leading up to Vivian’s birthday on Sunday, which meant working in trips for gifts and decorating cards in-between all the other activities we have planned (as well as the usual work-week stuff).

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I’ve been getting as many lunchtime bike rides as I can fit into my schedule, enjoying the fall weather and burning off such things as root beer floats in the break room and chicken fried steak at a pro-life luncheon, where we got to hear from Dr. Ed DeSimone of the Creighton School of Pharmacy. I’ve really enjoyed seeing such things as the odd “volcano” covered wit bricks from the Brandeis estate at Democracy Park, as well as odd sights as a Forrest Gump bench and remnants of historic old train tracks along the Keystone Trail and in south Omaha. I even got to “race” a Union Pacific train on my way back to work.

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In the meantime, Aaron had his last baseball game at All-Play, giving high fives to the team members rounding first base and having a picnic lunch with us afterward. Uncle Jonny came by to watch him play one last time as well, and I think Aaron was very happy he came by.

In the meantime, Hannah had another camping trip with her little friends from American Heritage Girls. She camped out overnight in 40 degree weather, which made it hard to sleep but still warm about to spend the night playing with “Pop-Its” in the tent with Sammy — something she drew a picture of afterward to commemorate.

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Then on Monday, we celebrated Vivian’s birthday, which required several days in advance of preparation. Grammy helped Aaron bake an decorate a cake on two separate days, letting him do everything from crack the eggs to mixing the batter to slathering on the frosting afterward. I trimmed Grammy’s hedges in the meantime, but also facilitated some trips to buy gifts with the kids and scheduling time to stealthily decorate some homemade birthday cards.

Then on Vivian’s big day, I took her down to Osaka in La Vista for a dinner of sushi, sashimi, and fish salad together as the kids had Happy meals with my folks. We returned afterward to have some of the cake Aaron made before returning to home to open a few presents, which included a Pop-It for Mommy, an avocado keychain, and a T-shirt from the Chosen, among other things.

Happy birthday, Vivian! I’m so happy to be able to grow old with you.

Freedom Weekend in Nebraska

It’s been another busy weekend for me as summer makes way for fall, with plenty of politics involved while still making time for the kids.

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On Monday, there was an open house at Chandler Elementary, so we got to chat with Aaron’s first grade teacher and learn how his first few weeks back at public school have been going. We also got to see his locker, his cubby, and some of the things he’s been working on. We also dropped by the art room, the library, and the gym before playing a bit on the playground before heading home.

Then on Wednesday, I took a lovely bike ride in the cooler weather, stopping my Memorial Park to see their “Tribute of Flags” honoring victims of 9/11 on the south lawn. Afterward, I rode up Happy Hollow to visit a few houses featured in movies I’d seen, including Jack Nicholson’s house in About Schmidt and Martin Landau’s house in Lovely Still. I even dropped by Warren Buffett’s house on the way back to work (it was essentially right on the way).

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On Friday night, I drove up to Ashland to attend Freedom Fest, a combination of “Woodstock and CPAC” according to organizers. I had a hot dog and some barbecue from a few of the food trucks while chatting with a few attendees in the garden area of the Round the Bend ballroom, where it was held. Kids got to play in a bounce house as grown-ups flung axes while waiting for the program to begin. Chris Baker played emcee, and keynote speakers included school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, Ben Tapper, and New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith, who made headlines keeping his doors open during Covid lockdowns. Smith encouraged attendees to get involved at the local level rather than waiting for “some guy at the top to solve all our problems.”

The evening ended with a performance by Bryson Gray, a conservative rapper in a floppy MAGA hat and denim and rapping about vaccines and Trump. He seemed to be the favorite of the young folks in the audience. A pastor from South Dakota brought his girls all the way down to see him, and they stood in the front singing right along, clearly familiar with his work. It was a fun night with even more attendees than organizer Tim Davis expected, which was a nice surprise considering Eventbrite cancelled all ticket sales a week earlier.

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On Saturday, we got up early to take Aaron in his Mega Man outfit for another baseball game, this time with a Halloween theme. He got to throw and bat and high-five the other team members before walking his bucket around to get some candy.

Then that afternoon, I went down to Lincoln for a large Freedom Rally on the capitol steps, featuring several people speaking out against government mask and vaccine mandates and calling for a special session to put a stop to them. There was a fairly good crowd, between 500-1000 people over the two hours I was there, and cars passing by honked and waved. I even managed to find my twin in red, white, and blue as I made my way through the patriotic crowd.

(And of course, no trip to Lincoln would be complete without pho from Pho Nguyenn.)

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Sunday was a relatively quiet day as I took Hannah to church but Vivian and Aaron stayed home sick. Then that afternoon I dropped by Central Park, where Wildewood was having a “block party” for the neighborhood. Hannah got some time in a bounce house and got her face painted. I had a burger and chatted with Pastor Ron, who just returned from Florida, and a DJ played music as we played some nine-square and cornhole before heading home.

Then that evening, we sat the kids down to watch Star Wars — the original from 1977, unspecialized. It was fun to show them the film for the first time, though I’m not sure how interested they were in seeing it. I was just happy to share another bit of childhood with them (and not in a silly way where Greedo shoots first).

A Memorial and a Steak Fry

We’ve been busy weekend here in Omaha having some fun with friends and a few politicians, along with a few rather somber moments over the 9/11 weekend.

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I wound up taking Friday off so Vivian could take Aaron to a doctor’s appointment. After helping Hannah with some of her homeschool work, we drove up to Milliard to help pay tribute to a fallen Marine. If you’ve been following the news, Cpl. Daegan Page was one of thirteen Americans killed in the chaotic aftermath of America’s hasty and sudden retreat in Afghanistan. The news hit home to a lot of people here in the metro area. A few people online organized an event to welcome the fallen Marine home, with thousands of people lining the streets along the route of the funeral procession.

I was able to spot people gathering on the overpasses along I-80 on the way west to Millard. There must have been a couple thousand people just lining Millard Avenue from 132nd to 144th, which was where Hannah and I found ourselves. We came early enough to claim a spot underneath a shady tree, but when the procession finally arrived around 2:30 PM, nearly everyone crossed over to stand along the median as it came by. All you could see from one end of town to the other was a sea of American flags as the motorcycle-led procession came by. A woman next to me burst into sobbing as they drove past. I’m not sure how much of an impact the whole experience had on Hannah, but she held her flag along with everyone else as they came by. It was a rare, unifying moment, and seemed quite appropriate to come before September 11.

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That evening, our whole family drove down to Stonecroft Park to celebrate Sammy and Lily’s birthdays. There was a new “all-access” playground installation Vivian had wanted to see for a while, so the kids had a couple hours to enjoy playing on that. We had Little Caesars for dinner and some cupcakes and the girls got to open a handful of presents before we called it a night.

Then after the kids were in bed, I drove up to the Starlight Chateau for a little swing dancing with few old Jitterbug friends. Jordan was putting on his speakeasy swing dance again, though only a few people showed up to dance. I think we all wore Sara out dancing throughout the night, and Dan got to play from a playlist of goofy novelty songs, including jingles for Coca-Cola, of all things. Mostly, it was nice just to get out and dance once again — something I’ve missed even before Covid came along and ended much of it.

Saturday was a bit of a break as Aaron played baseball, daddy grilled burgers, and we didn’t do much else.

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Then came Sunday, which was a long, busy day as we headed down to Nebraska City for a Steak Fry. It was Gov. Ricketts‘ fourth such event, this time with an all-star line-up of speakers: Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former VP Mike Pence. The event was nominally to celebrate agriculture, but it was very much a political rally, with each candidate (and Ricketts himself) rumored to have Presidential aspirations.

We also got to see many other familiar faces while we were there, including Lt. Gov. Foley, former Gov. Kay Orr, Sen. Deb Fischer, and Congressman Don Bacon. What really made this event unique, however, was that the VIP speakers were quite accessible to the crowd at large, both before and after their stump speeches. Desantis and Pence literally walked up and started greeting those of us in line for food, making for plenty of selfies and photos all around. Each of them lingered afterward as well, making it fairly easy to simply walk up with either Hannah or Aaron (or Lexi) to say hello. It’s quite a thrill to introduce your kids to a former Veep — or perhaps the next President.

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Of course, we also had some fun that had nothing whatsoever to do with politics. A few ladies brought an accoutrement of bubble-making wands, which the kids had fun with for a while before and after the speeches. We stayed afterward to let the kids play on the playground for a while as everyone filed out, and we got to play on the Whispering Bench by J. Morton Sterling’s statue once again (as we did last year). Then we swung by Dairy Queen on the south side of town to get some ice cream cones for the ride home.

It was a long, busy weekend, with fun and excitement and a few somber moments. Mostly, I’m hoping that I’m making some memories with the kids that they’ll have at least until the next election.

Baseball, Splash Pads, and Labor Day Weekend

We got to have some culinary fun in the week following my birthday, with some VooDoo tacos with alligator meat, jalapeño poppers, shrimp tacos, and some rambutans all making their way into the menu — and most (hopefully) burned off on the bike trails.

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Then we had a fun little Labor Day weekend. We started on Saturday with another baseball game with Aaron. He got to hit a few balls and high-five a couple team members once again, and he even got to hold the flag during the National Anthem, which was very special! Then afterward, we had one last splash in the spray ground before it gets shut off for the season. Aaron managed to pull me into the spray as well, jeans and all, for a good soaking.

That evening, Vivian went to her annual WAG retreat with her female friends, and I decided to walk the kids down to McDonald’s for a couple Happy Meals for dinner (and ice cream from Subway for dessert). It was a lovely day for a three mile walk, round trip, and bets of all, I didn’t have to cook.

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On Sunday, we took both the kids down to Werner Park to watch the Stormchasers narrowly lose to the Toledo Mud Hens. It was the first time we’d had both kids to Werner Park to see a baseball game (and not just fireworks), and the first time Hannah had been there since 2015. We had seats in the fourth row by third base, but it was so hot and sunny that we soon retreated to the shade of the Centris kids’ pavilion. I think Hannah and Aaron had a little more fun in the bounce house, on the carousel, on the slide, and climbing in the play area than actually watching the game. We did eventually take them down to watch a few more innings with some ice cream to keep cool (and some cotton candy).

Toward the end of the game, we took a walk down to the berm and a line where kids could run the bases once the game was over. We let Hannah and Aaron head down to the field to make their way around the diamond as I snapped photos from the bleachers, and they each got some coupons for free chicken tenders from Hardees for making the trip. That naturally meant grabbing dinner there, since it was just down the street, and I got to have a Frisco burger for first time in ages.

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On Labor Day, I kicked things off with a long ride up to Schwer Park and back. Then at lunchtime, I went with my folks to a 9/11 Memorial Luncheon down at the Garden Cafe. We got to hear from a handful of speakers over hamburger steak and mashed potatoes, including former Gov. Dave Heineman, Don Bacon, Aaron Hansen from the Omaha PD, Omaha firefighter Michael Davenport, and Mike Conolly, a retired NYC firefighter who was there on 9/11. They all had stories to tell, mostly about where they where on that day twenty years ago and some thoughts on the situation in Afghanistan now, particularly from Congressman Bacon.

My folks got to chat with a few of the speakers afterward, which is always my favorite part of events like these, particularly when it seems like both a pandemic and partisan politics has divided us more than ever.

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Labor Day marked the last day of the season for spray-grounds and splash pads to be open, so we decided to spend our last few moments of summer getting wet down at Looking Glass park with the kids. We got some Little Caesars for dinner, which was conveniently along the way down. Then the kids had a few hours to run around in the spray getting wet, stomping and playing with a few squirt gadgets and towering sprinklers on site. Mommy and I even got into the spray for a little bit before the sun went down and we headed on home.

It was a great three-day weekend with the family, though part of me can’t quite accept yet that summer’s supposed to be over. Maybe once the leaves start changing color, I’ll change my mind. (And please, no Halloween crap yet — that’s just obscene.)

Wyclef Jean, Elvis Costello, and Turning 43

So, I turned 43 the other day, celebrating my passage into another year with dinner and dancing with friends, a return of the Memorial Park Concert, and some quality time with the family.

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We kicked things off on Friday with a trip out to Rockbrook for some outdoor music courtesy of the Steve Raybine Band. There was a passing thunderstorm that got things nice and wet to start off, and it left me worried about the prospects of dancing outdoors, but it cleared up in time for me and a handful of my friends to hit the floor once the band started up. They played jazz instead of the swing music I was used to, but the beat was in eight-count and I was able to keep time with Vivian and a few other follows for a dance or two.

Afterward, we headed down the street to Village Inn at 108th and L — a tradition from my old days of jitterbugging when the dance would run until midnight and Village Inn was the only place open. This one closed at ten, but that was more than enough time for us to have some pancakes and pie together with some goofy conversion to cap off the evening (and a card from Dan).

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Aaron had an early baseball game the next morning at 9:30 AM, so we headed down there to watch him play for a bit (as well as pet a baby bulldog, which happened to be for sale). The Pancake Man was there as well, tossing pancakes for folks to catch, so I nabbed a couple and we had a nice little breakfast together.

It was still hot and muggy outside, so the kids spent some time cooling off in the spray-ground, which will likely be turned off in the next week or so as summer officially comes to an end.

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On Saturday night, Vivian and I headed down to Memorial Park for the return of their annual free concert in Omaha, which I’d been looking forward to for months. I’d been a fan since 2010, when Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner all played the same night — and I got a T-shirt to mark the occasion. This year, they had local band The Firm kicking things off, followed by Wyclef Jean and then Elvis Costello to headline. I wasn’t familiar with any of the music, but I was quite happy to nab a spot on the green and enjoy it with Vivian as the sun went down. I was expecting it to be hot and sweltering again, but we found a spot in the shade, and a steady breeze made things just perfect.

Vivian and I both enjoyed Wyclef the best, who had the audience waving their arms, dancing, and spinning things in the air as he played guitar with his mouth and actually climbed up the steel supports on the stage just for kicks. He played a variety of music and did some freestyling in Spanish and French. I enjoyed Elvis Costello as well (who glowed red and green) during the show, though the only song they played that I was familiar with was Pump it Up, which came at the end. The night was capped off with a fireworks show, and we just happened to plant our chairs within a few feet of where they were going off, so we got a monumental eyeful as every corner of the sky was ignited with rockets’ red glare.

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Sunday was my actual birthday, and I spent most of it with the family. Vivian made me a tasty breakfast burrito to start things off, and later on I got a few cards from Hannah and Aaron, along with some presents — a new set of saddlebags for my bike from Vivian and a game and other fun things from the kids. I also went by Walmart to get a new, goofy T-shirt to wear for the day.

At dinner time, the kids and I walked down to my parents’ house for dinner. Vivian and her folks joined my brothers and my parents as we had some hamburgers that my dad smoked for us. We ate outside and then had some cake, which Hannah happened to make (and bake) all by herself. She even decorated it with a drawing of our family riding bikes together, which was very sweet.

After dinner, I opened a few more gifts inside, which included a cordless drill from my folks and some snacks from Nathan and my in-laws. Then we watched some photos Nathan took from a recent trip to Michigan, where he happened to drop by our neighborhood in Kentwood. I popped open a bottle or two of Cheerwine and we finished off the evening playing some goofy games on Uncle Jonny’s Switch before calling it a night.

I was very happy to be able to grow older once again with our family all around! I hope to do this all over again next year and for many more years to come.

RiffTrax, Water Wheel, and Return to the SumTur

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It’s the start of a new school year, so Vivian and I are crashing back into the routine of getting the kids up, fed, and out the door every morning. Aaron’s going to public school while Hannah’s being homeschooled, which is a boon for her, since she and mommy can drop by Trader Joe’s with me for an educational shopping trip buying cheese and figs just for fun in the middle of the day. Hannah also learned how to make her own macarons.

Then on Tuesday, we had a RiffTrax event for the first time in well over a year. Mark, Richard, and my dad joined me at Culver’s for some pre-movie burgers before we headed over to Twin Creek to see Mike and the “Bots” make fun of Hobgoblins, a favorite from the MST3K days. It was nice to have yet another bit of normalcy back in our lives (Richard and I also got to be twins with our shirts).

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Then on Saturday, I had a lovely bike ride to the Walnut Creek Recreation area and back before we took the kids down to Cimarron Woods for a fun, wet morning at Emmett’s birthday party. They have a lovely splash pad (with a giant water wheel) and playground there, so Aaron and Hannah got some quality time running around and getting splashed for a couple hours.

We got to chat with a handful of our grown-up friends while we were there and had a batch of sandwiches and chips for lunch. Afterward, we broke out the cake for a bit of a sugar high before winding down for a bit and getting a family photo with the birthday boy.

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Then that evening, we took the kids back out for a family movie night down at the SumTur. Summer movies there have been an annual staple for us for a couple years, but we hadn’t all four made it down since about 2019. The kids got a little time to run around (and flip chairs) before the movie started (with Looney Tunes short, Duck Amuck as a prelude). They showed Kaya and the Last Dragon, a movie we’d already seen via Disney+, but the kids seemed to enjoy it just as much the second time through.

We’ve got a few days now to catch our breath before we have another crazy, busy weekend celebrating my birthday. That’s something I’ll be looking forward to (so stay tuned).

Last Splash of Summer

School is about to start again, which means we had to have a little more fun getting wet before summer vacation draws to a close.

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I took Wednesday off specifically so we could all head down to Mahoney State Park’s aquatic center for a long, uninterrupted day of fun in the sun starting at noon. Unfortunately, they seemed to be closed until 4 PM, despite what they said on their website, so after a brief trip up and down the observation tower, we headed down the road to Louisville Lake to splash about for a couple hours instead. After that, we grabbed some ice cream cones down at the “Dari Cream” in town before heading back across I-80 to the aquatic center once they opened.

We weren’t the only ones there, of course, and the line to get inside was massive, but we had plenty of time to get wet in the play area, go down the waterslides with the kids, and get violently knocked about in the wave pool before closing time. Hannah in particular seemed eager to go underwater and see how well she could actually “swim” in all that chaos. Then we grabbed some Taco Bell on the way home before collapsing in bed.

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The next day, we had an Open House at Chandler Elementary, where we got to meet Aaron’s new teacher and see his new classroom. We got to see that Aaron’s best friend from “Nico” from Kindergarten will also be in his new First Grade class, which was wonderful. We also got to show Mrs. Smith the workbook Aaron was able to complete over the summer for a special certificate. Then we headed home to have burgers with a few of our garden tomatoes for dinner.

The next day, I went with my parents for a little end-of-year cookout at their church. We had some hot dogs and chatted with them about family and bike-riding, among other things. In the meantime, Vivian took the kids down to BCC for an outdoor movie night (Into the Spiderverse — again), where I joined them after dinner along with Gabriel and August, who came by right before the movie started.

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On Saturday, Aaron had another tee-ball game down at Seymour Smith Park with his little friends. Once it was over, Hannah and I went on a quick bike ride up and down the Keystone Trail before having some ice cream and getting a bit wet in the spray ground before heading home.

Then that evening Vivian had a reunion with her friends from Friendship Program as I took Hannah and Aaron over to the Mills’ house for dinner. Hannah and Sammy got to play dolls while Aaron ran around with Gabe and August, getting wet in the pool and chasing chickens in the backyard. Hannah even got to help clip some of the chickens’ wings while she was there.

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I’ve been keeping busy with other things on my own in the meantime. I got to see Gubernatorial candidate Michael Connely at the Bellevue La Mesa on Monday last week. A couple dozen folks came to have Mexican food and then listen to over two-hours of stories about everything from Japanese hydrogen plants, fixing helicopters, to Romanian eyeteeth.

I’ve also been getting in as much time on my bike as possible, heading by President Ford’s birthplace and stalking some corn down in Papillion on different days. I also managed to get a couple blown tubes, which I hope will be mostly fixed with a new Kevlar tires that I got on Friday.

In the meantime, we’re bracing for another school year, and hoping we can still enjoy a few more moments of summer before the leaves start changing color.


Louisville Lake & Mahoney State Park Aquatic Center