Category Archives: Family

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?

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.

Bi-Polar Weather

We’re experiencing some bi-polar weather once again, with snow one day and too warm for a jacket the next. It means getting outside can be confusing, particularly when you don’t know how to dress.

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It was warm enough on Saturday last week to bring Harold and his mommy outside to graze for a bit in our yard. Afterward, I took Aaron down to Ralston Park to get in some quality playtime before Sunday, when we had an actual dusting of snow for some reason (leaving us and the guinea pigs inside).

I rode my bike a bit more during the following week, heading up by the Vinton Street silos one day and down to Oak Park in Ralston the next. It was so nice on the latter trip that I was able to take off my jacket. I also rode by Ralston Park again (sans Aaron) and got to get a selfie with a train before heading back to work.


On Friday, I drove down to the Student Center at UN-L in Lincoln to see a comedian named K-Von, who tours college campuses with Turning Point USA. He told a variety of jokes, poking fun at his own Iranian heritage and Covid-19.

About 30 other people showed up as well (and no protestors), and it was nice to get out of Omaha briefly for an evening. I also got to hang out with a few of them afterward chatting about the nonaggression principle and man in the state of nature.

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Then on Saturday, I dropped by the Bellevue Library to get a free pass to the Zoo (with a bunch of other people). Then I spent much of the day at my parents’ house, going through some more old slides of my childhood and then watching home movies while eating food from Taco John’s. We played a ground of “Guesspionage” on the Switch afterward, and I had a round of Boggle with mom and Nathan before heading home.

It was warm enough that evening to bring the guinea pigs out again, and then Hannah and I walked down to Chick-Fil-A for ice cream after dinner, picking up a coconut on the way back (of all things).


On Palm Sunday, we took the kids down to the Gene Leahy Mall for Autism Awareness Day (or something like that) in the afternoon. Mostly, it was a nice excuse to get out and see the remodeled Mall with the kids. They got to go down a couple of the slides, play on a few of the new climbing structures, and roll down one of the turf-covered slopes.

I still don’t think it’s an improvement over what used to be there, but I was glad the kids got to enjoy it. The kids spent a good deal of time playing basketball and shooting a bubble gun, and we also got a few balloons and some lemonade before heading back to the car. I also walked along the small water area with Hannah with the Yellow Head sculpture by Jun Kaneko.

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Then on Tuesday, Vivian and I planned on having lunch at Malara’s, an Italian restaurant we’d been to numerous times before that’s now about to close forever. Naturally, a bunch of other people had the same idea, filling the venue to capacity, and prompting them to lock the front door while I was inside.

It was an hour wait just to get a table, so  Vivian and I decided to run up the street to Louie M’s Burger Lust for lunch instead. Louie M’s has been a favorite of mine since 2001. We both had some Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburgers with Onion Rings and fries for lunch, and later in the day I got to walk off a bit along in the Keystone Trail in the lovely 72 degree weather.

We’ll give Malara’s another try next week — and hopefully get there much earlier.

Zoey, the Zoo, and a New Pair of Shoes

Christmas is over, right? Our tree is finally gone, and Hannah finished the last of our Christmas Tree Ice Cream pops, but it seems we’re still recovering) from all the Yuletide joy . Old man winter has laid off for a bit, making going outside a fairly nice option over the past week or two, though it sounds like we’ll be getting a dump of snow on Wednesday this week.


On Tuesday last week, we celebrated Zoey’s “birthday.” It’s been five years since we adopted this lovable little “fuzz-butt,” so we marked the occasion with a few treats for her. I got some kitty treats and a tuna fish dinner down at Pet Smart. I also got a few catnip toys, which Zoey seemed to love right away. This made for some cute photos of her rolling around with them on the floor.

Zoey has been a wonderful little addition to our lives, and I’ve honestly been surprised at how good of a pet she’s been. She completely eliminated the problem of mice coming into the house in the winter, she’s never had a problem using the litter box, and she’s very playful and likes to snuggle up in the evenings. I hope she stays with us for many more birthdays to come.

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The weather’s warmed up a bit over the past week, so I broke out my bike and got some quality time on the trail again. Unfortunately, the city decided to tear up part of the Keystone Trail, blocking my access to some of my favorite routes. I was able to ride up to Democracy Park, however and play a bit on the playground up there instead.

Then on Wednesday, I used a gift card from my parents to buy a pair of New Balance shoes. My old ones had been thoroughly worn out over the past seven years. I broke the new ones in on a nice walk up and around Aksarben Village that afternoon. I’ve been trying to make it a priority to stay active, particularly during winter months when it’s hard to get outside.

Then that evening, I took Aaron back to Royal Rangers and started on a new book, The American Story by the Barton brothers, which “Commander Jeff” had given me.


On Saturday after breakfast, I dragged our tree all the way to the tree dump up the street — only to learn it was closed for the season. I hauled it on home and then borrowed a few tools from my dad and taking the tree apart instead, saving parts of the trunk for a possible fire pit later this year.

That evening, Hannah and I went by the Lenarts’ house to have dinner. Aaron had been sick, so he stayed home with Vivian. I broke open a bottle of my favorite wine and caught up with our friends for the evening as the kids played hide-and-seek and watched a movie. Then on Sunday morning, we bumped into them again at church when we all went early to get some pancakes and sausage from The Pancake Man for breakfast before the service.

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Then on Monday, we spent a long, exhausting day at the Zoo as a family — taking advantage of a free pass we got at the Bellevue Library. School was closed for MLK Day, and a number of others spent the holiday at the Zoo — including our friends the Lenarts (making this the third day in a row we’d bumped into them). We hit all the indoor exhibits — the desert dome, gorilla valley, and of course the aquarium. The jungle was closed (to repair a broken roof), but we got to watch the monkeys while having a snack at the TreeTops restaurant.

We also ventured out to see the sea lions, who were still swimming their route by the viewing window, just as they were in the summer. We also let the kids have a little playground time at the “Alaskan Adventure,” though the Children’s Adventure Trails was closed for the season. It was cloudy, wet, and cold, but not too bad for mid-January, so I’m glad we made the trip (particularly ahead of whatever snow we’re supposed to get on Wednesday).

Having an Epiphany

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The holidays are officially over now, though I’ve been keeping the yule-tide spirit going at least until Epiphany this season. That means keeping the tree up and the Christmas lights on just a few days into January, as well as helping to finish off the last of the eggnog (and eating the last piece of mincemeat pie). I’ve also been trying to stay active and burning off the holiday calories, but the city isn’t making it easy, as they keep destroying sections of the Keystone Trail that I normally use for bike-riding or jogging.

I made some special things for breakfast as Hannah and Aaron headed back to school this week — some french toast made with eggnog instead of milk one day, and then some of my mom’s coconut toast the next. Hannah’s school started one day before Aaron’s did, so that meant Aaron had a day alone with Vivian, during which time he invented some kind of game building little character with some of his connecting blocks.

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On Thursday, I had a luncheon with Omaha city council member Aimee Melton, who came by to talk about an affordable housing action plan and the streetcar project. I was once again able to live-stream the talk and do a write-up on my political blog. I’ve been doing this regularly as “practice” before potentially covering Presidential candidates who will be coming to visit Iowa soon. (It was also the chance to chat with people about politics over chicken and pizza for a bit.)

On Friday, Vivian and I celebrated Epiphany with a breakfast date down at the Village Inn. I’d gotten a gift card for Christmas and put it to good use rather than letting interest eat away at it for another minute. We both had some ultimate skillet and kid-free conversation before finishing off the week.


That evening, Vivian and I went to a parents’ night event at Hannah’s new school, where she and her classmates put on a presentation for us. They took turns singing various hymns and folk songs that they’ve been learning, as well as showing us video from one of their Friday nature walks. Then afterward, the parents went downstairs to see the students demonstrate various science projects at tables in the basement, including the classic erupting volcano (with Pop Rocks). Hannah also helped put together the snow globe centerpieces for the event, and she treated herself afterward to some Sprite — with a Twizzler as a straw.

We returned home that evening to close out the Christmas season with some extra presents from the kids, courtesy of their Aunt Sandra. Hannah got a necklace, some socks, and a “snow baby” figurine, just like the kind mommy has in our curio cabinet. Aaron got some die-cast metal planes and vehicles, and both kids also got a new bird-feeder, which we’ll have to find a place for somewhere in our yard come spring.


On Saturday, I spent a good portion of the day at my parents’ house, helping to put away (and photograph) my grandma’s Hummel figurines for the season. My dad also presented us with a printed copy of his memoirs, which he’s been working for a couple years now. We had some lunch from Sonic, courtesy of Uncle Jonny. I looked through my dad’s portfolio a bit, which included a photo he’d had published in Time magazine and an original cartoon from the late Wayne Stayskal, who drew it based on an idea my dad gave him (they shared an office building at the time). My mom also showed me the “family tree” that shows how our branch is related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Later on, I invited Hannah to walk from our house to grandma and grandpa’s by herself for the first time. She got to watch some home movies with us and look at some slides with the help of Uncle Nathan’s iPhone (which he screen-cast to the TV) before we headed home.

The next day, I showed Hannah and Aaron a bit of their grandpa’s memoirs before we headed off to church. Then that afternoon, I spent some time taking down our Christmas decorations. The weather was nice enough that I walked all the way to Aldi with Hannah and Aaron (who stopped every few minutes to dance on a manhole cover) and pick up a pizza for dinner, among other things. Then we had a family movie night watching Tron (1982), which the ids enjoyed more than I thought they would.


Then on Monday, I forgot to bring my lunch to work and decided instead to attend the Pachyderm luncheon down at Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine. The guest speaker was State Senator Suzanne Geist, who’s running for Mayor of Lincoln, but she was stuck at the Capitol in a filibuster and had to appear courtesy of Theresa Thibodeau’s cell phone. Geist spoke about her campaign for Mayor of Lincoln as well as some of the legislative issues before the unicameral. You can listen to what she had to say here.

We also had one special guest — now-former Governor Pete Ricketts. He came with his son Roscoe and had a few comments about the Lincoln Mayoral race. I was able to ask him about current divisions in the Republican party, which we’d seen play out in the fight for Speaker in Washington DC and the upset at the NEGOP state convention last summer. You can read more and watch my live-stream video over on my political blog.

Christmas lights, choir, and breakfast dates

Looks like it will be a white Christmas after all, as we’ve had a dusting of snow and temperatures dropping down to single digits and below. We’re keeping warm in the meantime with some chili and cinnamon rolls and hot coffee in my Christmas tumbler. On Wednesday last week, I went out to breakfast with some co-workers and got to ride my bike before the snow came last, and I even went out to go riding again over lunch to grab a free Chick-Fil-A sandwich (thanks to the app).

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On Wednesday evening, the Royal Rangers had an award ceremony where Aaron and his little friends got their patches for the activities they’ve participated in this year. It was a rare occasion for Vivian come to by and see what the boys have been up to the Mills family was also there with their boys while Sammy was with Hannah have a pizza and movie night with the American Heritage Girls.

Then the next morning, I had a breakfast date with Vivian down at IHOP, just as we got our first legit snow of the season. The snow was coming down heavy, but it was nice to sit and have some breakfast together before heading off to work. The snow wasn’t too bad, though, and it didn’t even stop me from a brisk walk up to Aldi and back over the lunch hour.

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On Saturday morning, we took the kids down to the Goldfish Swim School for a free half-hour swimming lesson for the kids. We got it through a promotion deal with a therapy center next door, and it was fun to watch the kids learning some strokes and kicks one-on-one with a pair of instructors.

Then afterward, I took them down the street to Graley’s to have some ice cream for lunch. I also got a tasty ham and cheese hand pie, which we’d wanted to get when we were in downtown Papillion last time for the lighting ceremony. (This time there was no long, long line.)


Then that evening, we took the kids out to see some Christmas lights once the sun went down. We stopped by Washington Park in Olde Town Bellevue to see their synchronized music and light show. We walked through all the displays and let the kids swing for a little bit as well. The temperature was around 23 degrees and dropping, however, so we didn’t stay long.

Then we drove over to Wood River Drive, which was decorated once again for the season. We also got to see Santa, who had been there a few years before handing out candy canes but had been absent since 2019 or so. Hannah remembered him, though, and it was very nice to see him out once again. Then once we’d had our fill of lights, we returned home to watch A Christmas Story with the kids before bed.

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On Sunday, I put on my Santa Shirt and took the kids down to church by myself, since Vivian had gone on ahead to sing with the Christmas choir. It was something she’d done before at Twin Valley Church and seemed very happy to do once again. The kids got some Happy Meals for lunch, which included basic versions of famous board games like Monopoly, which I played with Aaron that afternoon (before going out to get groceries and do some Christmas shopping with Hannah).

Then the next morning I got stuffed again at the Institute’s annual Christmas brunch. It’s the time of year when packing on a few extra pounds seems almost inevitable, but I’m still doing my best to get outside and move around, even when it seems to be snowing every other day.

Ducks, Eggs, and Autumn Spice

We’ve had a lovely start to November, with a brief encounter with a cold front that turned out to be mostly rain and several other lovely, warm days that made for some leafy fun outside.

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On Thursday, I biked on down to Chick-Fil-A to join Vivian and Hannah for some lunch together. It was also the last chance for an “autumn spice” milkshake, which Vivian and i shared in in the most sickeningly-romantic way (of course).

Afterward, I took them across the street to the Asian market, where we shopped for some sushi rice (for Musubi later this week) and got to introduce Hannah to such Asian delicacies as whole roasted ducks hanging around on display. She wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I had an egg taste-test, sampling some of our friend Lexi’s home-grown eggs and comparing them to some store-bought ones. The verdict: not only do the they look different (inside and out), but the yolks are much tastier in the home-grown eggs.

I walked down to my parents’ house later on to help change a few light bulbs in their house and then have some Taco John’s with them for lunch. My brothers also helped them rake some leaves, and I decided to get some raking done back at home. I also made a giant pile for the kids to jump in, which was quite comfortable once I decided to crashed into them myself.

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Then on Sunday, Hannah introduced us to a card game she made up before we headed off to church. Afterward, we got some McDonald’s and spent a little time at Ralston Park. The kids got to run around the playground for a bit, enjoying the fall colors and getting quality time on the swings (and fence). Vivian took Hannah back to church for a weekly rehearsal for the church Christmas program (Hannah hopes to nab a speaking part), and afterward Hannah went clothes shopping with Vivian and Grammy.

I took Aaron home afterward for some quality time together. I also got some end-of-the-year yard work done, specifically bagging up a bunch of leaves and then giving our lawn one last mow — just in time for the sun to set.

We’ve got a midterm election coming up, so my next blog post will likely have some politics in it. Be forewarned, ye who may be triggered!

Trunks & Treats

It’s Halloween time again, which means enjoying plenty of fall food such as acorn squash and Halloween-themed pasta (which I call “Spook-Ghetti“) — along with all the usual Halloween sweets, of course.

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Aaron has a few days off of school (thanks to some parent/teacher conferences), so Vivian took him to BSF on Thursday. Afterward I biked on up to join them for lunch at Chick-Fil-A, something I’d done this a number of times with Vivian and Hannah, but never with Aaron. It was nice to spend a little time with our son having some chicken sandwiches — and an ice cream cone we got for free. He even spent a few minutes in the play area before we went home. Likely, he’ll have outgrown it the next time we come by.

We had some beautiful weather on Saturday for Hannah to sell chocolate bars with the girls from AHG outside Sam’s Club. Then in the afternoon, I dragged the kids to my parents’ house to help rake up some of the leaves that had fallen in their backyard. Naturally, they got to play in them a bit as well, but we wound up bagging five giant bags of leaves before we were done. There are more than enough leaves to have to do this again soon. Hopefully when they all fall down it will still be warm enough to rake them up without jackets.


Then on Sunday, Vivian and I wore orange and black to church for Halloween eve. Then that afternoon, we took the kids out for for a couple Trunk or Treat events. The first was down at Wildewood, where we met up with the Campbells and the Lenarts to get candy from a handful of our friends from church. We saw some creative trunks decorated with themes such as Pac-Man, Monsters Inc., and even Insurance mascots. One had a quiz on the Ten Commandments, which I think had approval from Farmer/Pastor Ron. The kids got to play a few carnival-style games afterward and have some hot dogs and cotton candy before we headed on.

Then on the way home, we stopped by Heritage Hill Church of the Nazarene for their Trunk or Treat event immediately afterward (where we coincidentally bumped into our friend Debby, with Emily in tow). There were some swings and a bounce house for the kids to play in, along with a hayrack ride where they got to “pick” a few pumpkins from the bottom of the hill. Hannah jumped into a haystack, swung around with Aaron, and somehow lost a tooth. We got some chili for dinner before collecting some more candy and chucking a few pumpkins. and then the kids got to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown as the sun went down.


Then at long last came Halloween night! We had some pizza for dinner before Grammy came by with Bella to watch the door at our house, and then we took our kids for a long evening of trick-or-treating. We started off at my parents’ house and then walked their neighborhood as the sun went down. Then we drove up the street to visit a few neighbors by Grammy’s house, specifically Tom and Toni next door. Then we finished off with our own neighborhood, including a handful of nicely decorated houses just down the street.

I probably had more than my fill of candy throughout the (including some the treats left at work), but I hope the nice, long walk did a bit to offset it. Happy Halloween, everybody!

Air Rifles, Little House, and Jim Pillen

It’s been a busy, busy week finishing another Education Program at work and juggling other things with the kids as Halloween starts creeping around the corner.

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Hannah and I got to have some special daddy/daughter time on Saturday morning down at Platte River State Park with her American Heritage Girls’ troop. We started things off with a little target shooting using a few of the air rifles in their shooting gallery. Hannah got to draw her own little target and then try to punch a few holes through it with some tiny metal slugs. It was her first shooting experience and fun for both of us to try to figure out how to get through a cartridge or two without jamming too much.

The AHG leaders lit a campfire in the meantime to make some s’mores as we had some lunch. Then we got to shake up some homemade ice cream in a plastic bag for dessert. After that, we went on an insect scavenger hunt, looking around for a handful of bugs, including a cricket Hannah found on the sidewalk (and then took around to show her friends). We finished our visiting with a brief trip up the observation tower, where I got a beautiful birds’ eye view of the fall colors all around the Platte River before we headed home.

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The next day, we got Hannah’s Halloween costume in the mail. She’s been enjoying watching old episodes of Little House on the Prairie, so this year she decided to be Laura Ingalls for Halloween. Vivian put Hannah’s hair into braids after she tried on the dress, completing the look perfectly.

Then the kids and I walked on down to the Sandy Park together, stopping by my parents’ house to show them her out new outfit along the way. just to have some time outdoors enjoying in the fall colors and the crisp autumn weather. Hannah also got to take her dress for a test run down a hill, just like Melissa Gilbert did in the theme song.

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Then on Tuesday, I got to have a luncheon with gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen down at Gorat’s Steakhouse (where I’d coincidentally first met our current governor eight years earlier). The Business and Professional People for Life had him as their guest speaker, so we got to hear him speak about his campaign and pro-life issues over hamburger steaks, followed by a short Q&A.

Joining the crowd of regulars were my parents, who I got to introduce to Pillen. My dad was a professor at UN-L for a few years “before testing positive for political incorrectness,” so he got to tell his story to Pillen, who is currently on the UN-L board of regents. My dad said that was worth the price of admission. It was a nice way to do democracy — up close and personal, asking questions directly to a candidate for governor. I even got to eat lunch right across from him, which was kind of special in itself. Just three weeks until election day.

Happy autumn, everyone!

Steak, Pork Ribs, & Pupcakes

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I got to have a little quality time with the kids this weekend as Vivian took the weekend off to go to a women’s retreat at church. On Saturday morning, I made some pumpkin muffins for breakfast and we walked on over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a little “trunk time” with my brothers. We looked through some of my dad’s old books, which included an old leather-bound copy of A Christmas Carol and a couple old MAD Magazines (which I showed the kids). He also demonstrated his old stereo and turntable, where we played some vintage music for the kids as we watched a variety of wildlife in the backyard.

After that, dad and I went by Hy-Vee to get some Chinese food for lunch along with some vintage sodas. (Hannah decided that her new favorite drink is Bubble Up.) For dessert, the kids had some the root beer pops they’d put in the freezer the last time they were here. Then we watched a couple old home movies and played a round of “Use Your Words” on the Switch. The kids were even able to join in this time (with some help entering their answers on an iPad and a laptop).


The next day, I took the kids to church, where they had Sunday School together, since they were a bit short-staffed (due to the retreat). Then I dropped Aaron off with Uncle Jonny and took Hannah down to Nebraska City for a steak fry with the Governor. The weather was just perfect, 78 degrees and funny with the trees in autumn colors at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. I got to see a few familiar faces, such as the Horsechief family, Sen. Fischer, Congressman Bacon, and a few others. The Bubble Lady was back, and a country music quartet got to introduce Hannah to such songs as Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue.” (There was also, of course, lots of steak.)

State Senator Julie Slama and Gov. Ricketts played emcee while the guest speakers were South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, and all four of them got to recreate the famous Iwo Jima photo trying to keep an errant flag upright. Tim Scott talked about growing up with a strict mother, giving hum “encouragement” with a switch, and Lindsey Graham essentially endorsed the idea of Pete Ricketts taking Ben Sasse’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate Seat. You can read more about it on my political blog, which includes full audio from both Senators’ speeches.


I got plenty of pictures, but the two Senators didn’t stick around to chit-chat afterward. Ricketts and Graham made a bee-line for the exit, but I was able to stop Sen. Scott long enough for a brief photo with Hannah before he left. Hannah and I stuck around just a bit afterward as I said hello to Adrian Fischer (the one Congressman I had yet to shake hands with) and Rita Sanders. Hannah waited in line for a balloon animal and we both got to pick out a couple pumpkins to take home with us before we left.

Aaron had been having fun with Uncle Jonny and our own wooden train set, and I stuck around to help Grandpa winterize his sprinkler system before taking the kids home.


Then on Tuesday, we had a little birthday party for Bella down at Jack and Donna’s house. Vivian and her dad smoked some ribs for us as the kids got some quality time playing underneath the fall colors. We had dinner out on the front porch as the sun went down, and then we went inside to have some ice cream and “pupcakes,” including a special one Donna made for Bella (with apples and blueberries instead of cake mix). Vivian and the kids also made Bella some special bone-shaped doggie treats, which the kids both gave Bella before we headed home for the night.