Category Archives: Grammy’s Birthday

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).

Biden my time

It’s the dog days of summer, with highs breaking the century mark, right on schedule for our anniversary (which we usually celebrate at a water park). Naturally, we’re finding ways to have fun while keeping cool, like running through the fountains at Stinson Park and installing new light fixtures in the basement.

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Over the weekend, Hannah and Aaron got to participate in the annual River City Confectioners’ Association cake show once again. Hannah made a cute little snowman while Aaron made a shark cake, and they each won a ribbon and a bag of prizes for participating. The cake show was held at the Douglas County fair, which itself was inexplicably held in a series of empty storefronts at Village Pointe Mall. I didn’t see any show animals or rides, but we did stop by an exhibit full of science-related toys and activities. They also got some balloons and paint-work done before we called it a day.

A few days later, my Uncle Andy and Aunt Nancy stopped by for a visit, so we took the kids over to visit with them a bit and play a few rounds of charades with the kids.

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A few days later, former Veep and Democrat front-runner for President “Sleepy” Joe Biden stopped by Council Bluffs for a visit. The button brigade was outside as usual as a couple hundred people showed up to squeeze into the Grass Wagon events center. The crowd included the usual media types along with former Congressman Brad Ashford, local blogger Dave Begley, and the  pair of autograph hounds who followed every candidate back in 2016. Biden was introduced by a local cancer survivor named Connie Gronstal shortly before eleven, and then Biden gave a remarkably short stump speech — just under 19 minutes — focusing on standard Democrat topics like healthcare and free college.

Afterward, Biden stayed for nearly an hour afterward to greet everyone along the rope line and get photos with anyone who wanted one (including me, of course). I’ve never been a fan of Biden, but sticking around to meet and greet that many people when you’re already the party front runner put him up a notch in my book.

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That day also happened to be Grammy’s birthday, so we had her over for dinner and cake that evening. Jack grilled up some “tomahawk” rib-eye steaks, which he carved up for us (letting Aaron take a whole bone to devour). The kids had also decorated a chocolate bundt cake, which we lit with candles and let Grammy blow out afterward. Then Grammy opened a few presents with the kids as the evening wound down afterward.

Birthday Paella and Morning Walks

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We’ve got one day left before Vivian and I celebrate ten years of marriage together! In the meantime, we’ve got another celebration to recognize — Grammy’s birthday. On Tuesday evening, Vivian and Jack made up a giant seafood paella. Grammy got to use our new special “birthday plate,” and the kids got their first taste of several things, including scallops (which Hannah thought at first was a banana).

Hannah drew Grammy a sweet birthday card (on giant paper), and Grammy got to blow out the candles on a giant dark chocolate lava cake that Vivian made. It was made with Ghirardelli brownie mix and Lindor truffles, with enough concentrated cacao to nearly put me in a coma (it was especially good with vanilla ice cream).

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The next morning, it was a lovely 64 degrees outside, so the whole family wound up walking 1.3 miles down the street together for a morning stroll down to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. We picked some wild mulberries along the way, and then I called my folks to come join us before it was time to head off to work.

Next stop: Kansas City to celebrate a decade of married life!

Grammy and a Garage Sale

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It’s been a massively busy week or two for the Johnson household, much of it spent getting ready for and hosting our very first (and probably last) garage sale. We spent several weeks collecting things to sell, pricing them all, and then arranging our makeshift driveway thrift store on a series of borrowed tables in our garage. It’s been a miserably hot July so far, but thankfully there was (almost) no rain during our three-day garage sale. We were able to make a couple hundred dollars parting with a collection of household items, all of which will be going to help fund Hannah’s schooling this year (which will either be at Cornerstone Christian School or homeschooling, depending on what financial aid may or may not come through). Our mutual friend Kate had an assortment of things to sell as well, so she and Vivian tended to the shop on our driveway as Kate’s girls played with Hannah over the course of three days. After the garage sale ended on Saturday, I got some extra steps on my FitBit walking the kids to grandpa’s house to mow his lawn and have some smoked chicken for dinner.

The whole garage sale was an exhausting exercise in decluttering and learning how much old belongings are really worth when you put them on your driveway. We likely won’t be doing this again, however, because we’ve learned since the sale that an Espresso maker that wouldn’t go for $3 on our driveway can somehow get sold for $15 once we put it on the “buy/sell/trade” group on Facebook. Hooray for online capitalism!

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Then came Grammy’s Birthday, which (as always) happened two days before our wedding anniversary. The whole family went out to Golden Corral to get stuffed with shrimp tacos and steak, among other things. Then at home, Grammy opened some of the presents we’d bought her, which included a large plastic car-shaped jar full of individual tubs of gelatin, which I picked up at an Asian food market (along with Dragon Fruit — because you can’t not try something that crazy and colorful). We also had a giant, chocolate birthday cake that Hannah and Aaron helped to decorate, so we all got nice and sugared up before heading off to bed.

Things finally started to wind down mid-week as Vivian and I prepared for our nine-year wedding anniversary together. More on that in the next update.

Celebrating Seventy

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Vivian’s mom turned 70 over the weekend, so naturally we had to pull off a larger-than-usual celebration. Her first big surprise of the weekend came on Friday, when her sister “Uncle” Mary and niece Brenda came to visit from California. Vivian had kept their trip a secret for months and we welcomed them with Digornio’s on the patio.

Then on Saturday, we had a big shin-dig in the basement of Twin Valley Church. Jack and Keith grilled up a bunch of pork, Vivian and I brought in a bunch of sides, and the Omaha cake club brought in a flowery birthday cake (of which Hannah got a giant corner piece). A whole bunch of our mutual family and friends came to celebrate as well, while at the same time a few people from church were outside working on the concrete (we gave them cake, too).

That evening, we took Mary and Brenda down to the pedestrian bridge to walk from Iowa to Nebraska and back. It was a lovely, cool evening (in contrast with next week’s heatwave) to see the sun go down. We stopped by the Old Market for a peek inside the Hollywood Candy shop, and then we returned home with milk shakes and onion rings for dinner afterward.

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On Sunday after church, we all went to see the new Raptor Refuge at the Fontenelle Forest. It’s a fairly elaborate bird sanctuary with a variety of hawks, owls, and other birds of prey in for a variety of maladies, including broken wings. The refuge is built like a series of tree houses interconnected by a set of suspension bridges (which Hannah and Aaron found much more interesting). I even got a staff member to identify the hawk that’s been squatting in our front yard (it’s a Cooper’s Hawk). We stayed a little while to explore the forest and see a few tree houses and xylophones, but it was hot and muggy without even a hint of a breeze, so we headed home to cool off before long.

Then that evening, we took Donna, Mary, Brenda, and Jack out for a delicious sushi binge at Tokyo Sushi. Mary and Brenda especially like sushi, so we all got our fill before walking it off a bit in the old market. Mary and Brenda stopped by Iron Decor & More to get some lawn sculptures, and we took a stroll to the passageway and back before having ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. Donna got a free scoop since it was her birthday, of course.

Mary and Brenda will be with us another day or two and are visiting the Omaha Zoo on Monday. Then they’ll head home just in time for Vivian and me to go off and celebrate eight years of marriage together. More on that in my next update.

Candidates, a Riverboat, and a Wedding

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One of the benefits of living near the Iowa border is being able to cross over every four years to meet a couple of the two dozen people running for President of the United States. This week, I got to shake hands with Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, who dropped by on Saturday and Friday, respectively. I enjoy being able to say I met candidates in person before voting for them. Rubio met with a cluster of supporters at Uncle Buck’s just off the Interstate, suffering from a bit of a cough and malfunctioning mike, but he stayed around afterward to shake hands and meet just about everybody afterward.

Scott Walker had about twice as many people crammed into a steamy meeting room at the HyVee on Broadway, but he somehow seemed quite refreshed and ready to meet people both upstairs and downstairs in the cafeteria afterward, where the spillover crowd had been redirected. I’d been following Walker since his battle with union thugs up in Madison made headlines back in 2010, and his stance on school choice is appealing for me, as I’d like to get Hannah out of the current district we’re stuck in. I still haven’t decided who to vote for — and I have over a dozen candidates to meet before I do. I wouldn’t even write off shaking hands with a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, though I’d probably get roped off if I tried. (I know they’d try to lasso this guy, who keeps showing up at events like these.)

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On Friday evening, Jack treated Donna, Vivian and me to dinner on the River City Star for Donna’s birthday. It was quite steamy and in the 90s all day long, but we still enjoyed dinner together and got some fresh air on the upper deck as we were taken up and down the Missouri River for an hour or two as the sun slowly set. We even had some live music buy a one-man band playing a steel drum and some kind of electric clarinet (I think).

I suggested getting ice cream at Ted & Wally’s afterward, but I could only imagine what the line would look like (and the parking) on a hot Friday night in downtown Omaha, so we settled for lemon cheesecake back at Jack and Donna’s house, courtesy of Vivian.

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On Saturday, we went to Anne and Brandon’s wedding. They had a ceremony at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, which was thankfully brief, as we had two squirmy kids to hold onto as the couple said their vows. Hannah even announced loud enough for the whole room to hear, “I want to get married!” Hannah got a few minutes to rock out in the children’s area before we said goodbye to the happy couple. They came right back for pictures, of course, before we all moved along to the reception up at Christ the King Catholic Church.

We had dinner and cake with our gang of friends, and then we had dancing with live music from a polka band. Brandon turned out to be quite the dancer, doing some kind of routine with his mom to various songs, including music from Super Mario Bros. I’ve never really learned how to polka, but that didn’t stop me from pretending with Hannah and Aaron as we shuffled about in a circle. It was a relatively late night for the kids, as Hannah enjoyed running in circles with the other little ones in attendance, though Aaron crashed all on his own around eight. We eventually headed home about an hour later, ready to turn in early in anticipation of a long, fun-filled anniversary date the next day.

Baseball and sushi

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Vivian and I are busier than ever these days, but since it’s summertime, we still have to indulge in a great American past time — baseball! On Saturday, we dropped by Werner Park with a few thousand other people to watch the Stormchasers pound the Round Rock Express in nine short innings. It was actually Hannah’s second trip to the ballpark, but she didn’t seem quite interested in the game. Instead, there was a whole children’s area put on by Centris with a bounce house, a play area, and a merry-go-round, where she got her very first ride. She also got her first taste of cotton candy, a treat she didn’t seem to know what to do with.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I went by Aksarben Village for another episode of Lindy in the Park. We got to see a few familiar faces for a dance or two, but our visit didn’t last very long. Billy wound up closing the pavilion because another band was starting up just down the street at the park’s amphitheater. That was fine by Hannah, though — she found the five spouting fountains on the south side of the park much more interesting. She got soaked splashing around in them, and dad even got into the action, running through the fountains like a goofball just to make his daughter crack up for the camera.

That evening, we went out to a sushi celebration dinner with our mutual friends Phil and Jen. Hannah got to have her very first taste of sushi in the form of a few avocado rolls, which she seemed to like. She also got to taste squid for the very first time. That’s one thing that make me proud of my little girl — she’s not afraid to try new things, mostly because mom and dad have introduced her to just about every kind of food the doctor allows. Yum!

And speaking of “yum,” on Wednesday we had paella at our house to celebrate Donna’s birthday. And chocolate mocha cheesecake. It was sort of a coffee-themed birthday, from the collection of k-cup beverages we gave to the cartoon I doodled up for Donna’s birthday card.

I have some other news in the works, but it’s big enough to warrant its own entry in my blog. More on that later.