Category Archives: Uncle Jonny

Holey Cow

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Our Spring Break continued with some lovely weather last week, which warranted a least one more trip to the Park. We had some Burger King for lunch before walking the kids up and down the Keystone Trail. They got to see a bridge with several padlocks clinging to the chain link walls, symbolizing bonds of love in a unique counterpoint to the broken plate we saw on Tuesday.

Then that evening, Hannah and Aaron took it upon themselves to clean out our garage and extract our little red wagon for a walk up the street. It won’t be long before we’ll be using again for a concert in the park (I hope).

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Then we had a fish fry feast with Phil and Jen on Friday (say that three times fast). We brought along things to make grilled cheese as our friends Jenny and Kody brought Banana Bread and some Mac and Cheese, respectively. Phil and Kody battered up and fried several filets of fish, along with some french fries and tater tots. We grown-ups also got to sample such unique things as peanut butter beer and some of Phil and Jen’s stash of hot sauce. We also got to try various treats from Taiwan, including “horse beans” and a soft drink made from white asparagus.

Our kids ate and had some fun playing with our mutual group of kids for a couple hours. It was also Gabriel’s birthday, so he got a dinosaur racetrack to play with before we had some blueberry cupcakes for dessert.

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We had a mostly quiet weekend and celebrated “Pi Day” with some actual chicken pot pie, courtesy of Vivian. Then on Monday, Hannah and her homeschool group got to see a “holey cow” provided by Nathan from the University of Nebraska and 4H. They got to learn about the insides of a cow, partly by literally putting their hands inside of it. This cow had a surgical hole in its side, which meant you could reach inside and even pick up the grass it had already eaten. I’m still reeling a bit from the idea, but it was hopefully educational.

In other news, it was also St. Patrick’s Day this week. That meant we learned a bit about St. Patrick at our monthly men’s dinner (which featured chicken from Pizza Ranch). We also had to have our usual Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage, along with some Irish soda bread Vivian was kind enough to bake to go along with our Irish butter. I even got some Lucky Charms for a “full Irish breakfast” in the morning.

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Thursday was Uncle Jonny’s birthday, and it was just sunny enough for an evening walk down to grandma and grandpa’s house to celebrate. Hannah and Aaron each decorated some cards for him, and I brought along a “Koffee” mug as a gift. If you’re familiar with the Pokémon TV show, you know exactly how to say that word.

In other news, Hannah likes puzzles, Aaron lost another tooth, and I used a giant batch of leftover mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes.

Social Distance

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As the world shuts down to deal with the Corona Virus, I spent Wednesday evening breaking quarantine to wish Uncle Jonny a Happy Birthday. The kids each decorated some birthday cards for him, which included such things as watermelon, corn kernels, Mega Man, and a maze. Vivian and I gave Uncle Jonny a gift card for RiffTrax to tide him over during the quarantine. He’s now working from home, and while everything else seems to be cancelled, they’ll be spending a lot of time indoors.

My mom made brownies for us, but we otherwise kept “socially distant.” I’m not sure when such things as walking with the kids to grandpa’s house will become a regular thing again, but I hope it’s soon.

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Of course, sheltering in place means more time for spring cleaning, so on Saturday I spent some time clearing out our storage area and setting up some shelving I’d bought at Aldi to help get things organized. I also gave our little apple tree a good pruning with the tips I’d learned from my visit to Ditmar’s a few weeks ago, and I even got a stake in the ground to help straighten it up a bit.

Then on Sunday, we had our virtual church service from Wildewood in our living room while eating some bacon and pancakes (and kale for Harold). We’d gotten a bit stir-crazy by lunchtime and decided to get outside a bit, stopping by McDonald’s for a lunch of double Big Macs before going downtown. We had a nice little walk around the Old Market despite the gray and drizzling weather. The kids seemed to enjoy just running around the nearly vacant streets. We did find that Dolci was still open for business, so we all got some Italian ice cream before heading home.

How are you spending the quarantine? Let us know in the comments below.

Fish Fry, Skating, and St. Patrick’s Day

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The Lenten season is upon us again, so that means touring some of Omaha’s famous fish fries, in particular the one at Holy Name. It’s is one of the biggest draws in town, attracting such guests as Congressman Don Bacon, as well as our tiny group. The fish is good, and watching it being battered in a custom-made contraption is a show all in itself.

This particular fish fry is baffling as many in the crowd outside — and packing the halls inside — seem more interested in standing around drinking instead of lining up for fish, making it difficult for the rest of us to know where to go. It’s a fun time once you make your way inside, though (and the smell will linger with us for weeks).

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The next day, I went downtown with Hannah to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It had been delayed a week due to unexpected snow and nasty weather, and it was about half as long as last year as well. We still saw the standard of parade participants, ranging from politicians to Star Wars characters, to Irish dancers, clowns, and even a Family Reunion of sorts. The weather was just about perfect, with temperatures rising to the fifties, so Hannah and I spent a little extra time watching geese fight along the now tree-less Gene Leahy Mall and looking at some of the flooding along the Missouri River. We even took a few minutes for a daddy/daughter date at Chick-Fil-A before heading on home.

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Later that day, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday with my parents and Uncle Nathan. Jonathan wanted to go roller-skating down at Skate City on Fort Crook, so I brought Hannah along and spent some quality time staggering awkwardly around the rink with her for an hour or two. It was legitimately the first time I’d ever gone roller skating, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined (particularly after one guy helped tighten my skates). Hannah, much to my surprise, had a grand time skating around the rink using a kind of walker they had on hand for the little ones.

Then that evening we headed back to my parents’ house for some Marco’s Pizza and pumpkin pie for dessert. We finished off the evening watching some family slides with the folks and then playing some Choose Your Words before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with our traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes and Irish soda bread, though we also had some special green foods for the kids that we hoped would be more palatable.

Then on Monday we headed down to the waterfront a family to get a look at some of the flooding from the Missouri River. The devastating flood has made national news, but we live and work far enough away from the flooded area that we’ve been largely unaffected. It was daunting to see the statues at Lewis and Clark landing drowning once again (as they did in 2011), as well as the entirety of River’s Edge Park completely underwater, making me wonder about the fate of Loessfest this year.

The kids mostly enjoyed the chance to get outside and run around, and we also saw a number Canadian geese migrating overhead, flying in wave after wave heading north in V formation. The effects of the flood were sobering in the meantime, but I couldn’t be prouder of the response of our friends and neighbors, who are stepping up with volunteers and supplies gathered at nearly every church I can name, including the ones we attend on Sunday and Wednesday night. Nebraska Strong, indeed.

Rock’em Sock’em Birthdays

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Winter has been having fits and starts, but it looks like we’re on our way to spring. Last Wednesday, Vivian brought the kids to the park along with some cupcakes to share (in lieu of paying $4 each at Jones Bros). After some brief time on the swings (with Raffie), we ran up and down a few hills to burn off the sugar rush before calling it a day.

Then on Friday, we paid a brief visit to Phil and Jen and their new baby Gabriel. This was a long-anticipated miracle for the two of them, and I was quite happy to take a few new family pictures of the happy parents.

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On Saturday, we joined my parents and two brothers to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday at the local Pizza Ranch. Hannah and Aaron each made a birthday card for Uncle Jonny (featuring Mega Man characters), and then we binged on pizza and fried chicken as the kids played horsey around the party room.

Back home we had some “impossible pie” cake and got to play a bit with a prize Jonathan brought home — a classic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game. We also looked at some old family slides and played a couple rounds of Use Your Worlds together, but Hannah was more interested in watching her shadow jump in front of the screen.

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That evening, we gave the kids some green foods for St. Patrick’s Day, and then Vivian made a feast with corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and Irish soda bread. We also had some Irish cheese, which we ate while watching the classic Disney film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, which is about as Irish as movie as you could find.

The next day, I got some one-on-one time with Hannah and decided to make some mint chocolate brownies with green icing just for fun. There’s never a bad time for sugar around our house!

Fairies and Fish Fries

We’re still having bouts of bi-polar weather, with 70-degree temperatures one day and freezing the next. The weather service predicted up to six inches of snow on the weekend, and we got exactly got ZERO. The only thing I can accurately predict is that we’ll have fun no matter what’s going on outside.

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Since it’s Lenten Season, however, that means we’re having fun inside standing in line, drinking beer, and eating fish with our friends. First stop on our Fishy Friday tour was St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, located out of Omaha’s Exurban wasteland, Gretna (with miles of cookie-cutter neighborhoods in every direction but not even one grocery store). The fish was top-notch, though I did find the lack of guitar player and meat wheel a tad disappointing. We still had plenty of fishy fun with our friends up to (and past) closing time.

The next day, Hannah made gingerbread cookies with daddy. She did nearly everything herself, aside from picking the ingredients and putting everything in the oven. Nothing beats baking cookies for quality time with the kids, other than perhaps reading a good book.

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St. Patrick’s Day wandered by and punched us in the face on Friday. We gave the kids some Lucky Charms for breakfast and got them dressed up in green for the day. Then that evening, we had our traditional Irish American dinner together — corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and soda bread, all washed down with a bit of Irish Stout and Mint Irish Cream.

Then on Saturday, we dropped by the Fontenelle Forest for their Fairy Faire. Hannah and Aaron both put on their wings, hear a fairy story, and play with some bubbles. Even daddy got in on the fun. They also got tokens to spend on a snack and some woodland components to assemble a fairy house at various points in the forest.

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We also had a few birthdays over the weekend. After the Fairy Faire on Saturday, we took the kids to the Y for Little Matthew Lenart’s birthday party. The kids got sugared up with a Batman Cookie Cake, and then we swam it off in the pool together for a bit.

Then on Sunday, I took the kids via wagon to my my parents’ house to celebrate Uncle Jonny’s birthday. Hannah made him a birthday card, and Nathan and I (somewhat jointly) gave him the giant hardcover book, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library — a book created via Kickstarter that reviews pretty much every NES game ever made. The weather was delightfully warm, so the kids got some quality time outdoors playing with balloons (some filled with water) while grandpa brought some Chinese food and pizza home for dinner.

Easter 2016

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It’s Easter Season in Nebraska once again, which means our tulips start poking out of the ground just in time for another blizzard or hard freeze. In any case, we had Palm Sunday at church, and Aaron got to take his first trip around the sanctuary carrying a plastic palm branch with Hannah.

Then that evening we had dinner at our new Pastor’s house (with the “other” Johnson family in our church) to have hot dogs and talk about starting a new Young Families group together. It would certainly be nice to have a bible study with built-in babysitting, and Hannah already seems to be getting along with the new kids at church.

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There was actual snow in the forecast for Wednesday, so Vivian and I decided to take the kids for a romp at the park with Lexi and her kids. Park time is always more fun when Hannah has Sammy and Jake to keep her company on the slides and swings, and Aaron and August seemed to have fun running the perimeter of the park, grabbing balls from the big kids and riding a grasshopper together. There was even a leftover pile of leaves from last fall for some jumping in before we headed home.

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Vivian and I were actually scheduled to set up at JNO on Good Friday, which was fine by us, as we had a live band playing that night. That means after setting up the front desk and handling the crowd through the opening lesson, the rest of the night is ours to dance. We saw a handful of the Jitterbug regulars and quickly wore out our feet on the dance floor swinging out to the Billy Bacon hand his rockabilly band.

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On Saturday, the Easter Egg Hunt we’d planned to attend at the Bellevue Christian Center was cancelled due to rain, but we wound up having an egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa Johnson’s house instead. We’d planned on stopping by anyway to celebrate Uncle Jonny’s birthday a week late (with pizza for lunch), but it was especially nice to let our kids run around hunting for plastic eggs before we had lunch together.

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Then came Easter Sunday! Vivian got brand-new Easter outfits for both Hannah and Aaron, which meant plenty of family pictures together as we were all dressed up. Grammy and Pop-Pop brought Easter Eggs for the kids to find in our yard before going inside to open their Easter baskets full of candy and toys. I made some waffles for an Easter Lunch together as Aaron went down for a nap, and then we spent some quality time playing a memory card game with Hannah on the coffee table.

My folks and Uncle Jonny came over when dinnertime rolled around. We had the usual mess of deviled eggs for hors d’oeuvres before having our dinner of glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, Watergate salad, and some bizarre Bunny Bread that Donna had made up. I think we all got more than our fill of food, which meant I’d have o work to schedule time to ride my bike to work this week and pedal some of the extra calories off.

Happy Resurrection Day, everybody!

Holy Name and Homemade Pizza

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It’s been a busy week here in Omaha, with lots of fun involving food (of course). On Monday last week, with temperatures pushing their way into the 90s, the whole family took a trip down to Lincoln. I had some freelance work to attend to, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun for an afternoon of bouncing around. Hannah had been there when she was just one year old, but now she was old enough to visit more exhibits than just the ball pit, such as the big ceiling-projected video game in the “dark room.”

For dinner, we drove up to Big Sal’s and gave Hannah and Aaron her first taste of mom and dad’s favorite pizza place in Nebraska. Yes, Aaron got to nibble on bits of black olive and pizza crust, and Hannah managed to finish a whole piece by herself.

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The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, so we got to imbibe in our annual tradition of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and red potatoes. Every store was selling out of corned beef up until March 17, and then the price plummeted to less than $1/pound, so we picked up some that on sale to have a couple reubens down the road (which were, in fact, invented in Omaha. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

No green beer or Bailey’s, however — I’ve given it all up for lent.

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On Friday, we had our second Fish Fry of the year, heading up to Holy Name in north Omaha with a cluster of our fabulous friends. I’d heard about this fish fry from our mutual friend Lisa, primarily being one of the first and biggest fish fries in the area. It was also notorious for having one of the longest lines, which was quite ironic, because when we arrived, there was absolutely no line at all. Seriously, we were able to walk right in, but we stood in the hallway for some time just to get the whole standing-in-line experience. (A crowd outside was hanging around for the same reason, I expect.)

The cafeteria was packed pretty tight, however, steaming hot and filled with the smell of fried fish that stuck to your clothes. The fish itself was hands-down the best I’d had at any fish fry before. We had freshly-battered chunks of pollock that were steaming and delicious the moment they were put on your plate. I washed it down with a can or two of Cheerwine that I smuggled in from outside and a fun night of goofiness fueled by deep-fried goodness.

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Then on Saturday, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday down at my parent’s house. Jonathan had been wanting to relive his childhood, so my dad put out the lawn flamingos and spent the afternoon playing Intellivision and eating homemade pizza for dinner (literally the way mom used to make). Vivian also brought along one of her legendary chocolate cheesecakes.

We brought the kids along, too, of course. They got some time being cute with grandma and grandpa, which included learning the joys of chasing a red dot from a laser pointer all over the house.

St. Patrick and Harold Lloyd

Aside from a freak blizzard last week, spring seems to be pushing its way into Nebraska bit by bit. We had over a foot of snow come out of nowhere, but by Friday it was in the 60s and getting vaporized. As such, I took Hannah out to the park to play on some swings and be generally cute with Mommy one she got off work.

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Our old friends Tim and Robin returned to Bellevue after a brief stint in Oregon and elsewhere, so they stopped by with Danny to say hello and meet Hannah for the first time on Saturday morning. I’d bumped into them back in 2007 when Danny was just a baby.

Monday was my brother Jonathan’s birthday, so he dropped by over the weekend, and we went on a spontaneous road trip together to Burchard, the hometown of silent film legend Harold Lloyd. It’s a tiny town near Nebraska’s southern border and doesn’t feature much other than an old bank and a sign or two advertising Harold Lloyd’s birthplace down on 2nd street. After a few obligatory pictures, we wiggled our way home past random sights in Pawnee City and Auburn. That evening, Jonathan made up some lasagna for dinner and we had some cake made by Donna. Oh, and presents, of course.

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Sunday was St. Patrick’s day, so Vivian and I spent much of it at Phil and Jen’s house having an ingredient party with an assortment of mutual friends. We’d attended two or these so far, and our favorite culinary duo always manages to turn random things into something delicious. This time around, Vivian and I brought eggplant and beef to add to cabbage, canned squid, pineapple, and any number of other things, which became some kind of mousaka, bubble and squeak and I’m not quite sure what else (but it was good). Hannah played with Dennis’ little girl Emily and was generally cute in her little Shamrock dress, and the rest of us watched Airplane in the background. For dessert, we had some kind of frozen dish infused with caramel Irish cream, which one person described as “better than sex.” Ahem.

Uncle Jonny’s Birthday and Bi-Polar Weather

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My brother Jonathan paid us a visit over the weekend to celebrate his birthday here in Omaha, and Nathan drove up from Lincoln to join in the fun. We celebrated in the traditional sense, with pizza, burgers, and a couple bad MST3k movies (that were actually quite hilarious) — Daddy-o and Girls Town, starring Paul Anka and Mel Tormé of all people.

We also spent a great deal of time playing with Photo Dojo, a downloadable game for the Nintendo DS. It takes advantage of the DS’s built-in cameras and lets you snap photos of your friends to create a Mortal Kombat style characters that can fight each other. We wrapped up the visit playing a round of DAK together at the kitchen. We didn’t even make it through one round, as Nathan and Jonathan both spent most of the time picking out cards they thought they’d thrown out.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and took a twenty-mile bike ride up and down the Bellevue Loop Trail. I had been hoping to make it all the way up to Haworth Park (and then ride into Old Towne for ice cream), but the gale-force wind had the uncanny ability to blow in the opposite direction toward the end of our ride. We got to see some neat scenery along the way, including old railroad mile markers, long-abandoned telephone wires, and old farm equipment being devoured by weeds. We finished off our trip with Culver’s ice cream to replenish whatever calories we’d managed to burn off.

A few days later, the calendar decided to roll back to winter for some reason, and we got dumped with a few inches of snow out of nowhere. It felt crazy for this to happen in late March, but the roads stayed clean and the trees got a nice coating of wintry frosting.

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We have one other bit of exciting news — Vivian and I are going to be parents! Yes, Vivian took “the test,” and it came up positive! That means by the end of November, we’ll have a bouncing baby boy or girl on our hands. We’re still a bit overwhelmed with the news, and we went out to That’s Amore in Olde Towne Bellevue to celebrate together.

We’ll be keeping this all a secret for the time being, however, so be sure not to tell anybody until our “big reveal” party in May, which we’ll host under the guise of choosing a new color for our house.