Category Archives: Friends

Political Drama, Comic Books, & a Pho Crawl

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Parade, Fun Fest, and Moon Pies

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A candidate, a fish fry, and a Jesus Revolution

We had another fairly busy week making our way out of winter and toward Lent, kicking things off on Sunday with some Triple Pepperoni Pizza from Casey’s and watching The Indian in the Cupboard.


On Monday, I got a haircut at Donna’s house after work on my way to meet Eric Jon Boerner, a Republican candidate for President, at Barley’s Bar in Council Bluffs. I hadn’t heard of until I learned of this campaign stop. Around 12 other people joined me at a couple tables and chatted with him about alternate energy, immigration, and other issues that seem considerably lukewarm compared to fiery topics being debated in congress and state legislatures, like sex changes for minors and drag queen story hours.

Boerner is a businessman from Washington State, has not held elected office before, and seemed like a moderate trying to find ways to reach out to Gen Z than engaging in “culture war” issues. I got to shake his hands afterward and told him his campaign was a ‘long shot,” but meeting and greeting people in an early primary state is certainly the right way to start a campaign.

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Then on Tuesday, Mama Ginny came to stay with us while the Mills are away and spend some quality time with her son Harold. I dropped by Wildewood for the Men of God dinner to have some shrimp and sausage over noodles while finishing the 33 Series and meet some people from Martinwood Christian Church in Council Bluffs.

Then on Wednesday, Aaron went back to Royal Rangers and got to play outside with his friends for a bit, now that the sun is up past seven o’clock, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. (I spent my time catching up on more reading while sipping an iced coffee.)

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I’ve also been riding my bike, of course, getting our four days during the week over my lunch break. I was able to ride around some of my usual favorite spots, including a trail through Wildewood Park in Ralston. They finally fixed the bridge that led to the 84th Street overpass, where I walked with Vivian the day before I proposed to her (on the very first Sushi Anniversary).

I had Friday off for work, so Vivian and I went by the AMC in Council Bluffs to see Jesus Revolution, a very well-done movie about the “Jesus Freaks” of the late 1960s. Hannah got some quality time with grandma and grandpa in the meantime.


Then that evening, we dropped by Phil and Jen’s house for another fish fry before closing out Lent. We got to hang out with Jenny and Kody and have some fried fish together, along with way too kuch cole slaw and mac and cheese. Josh and Carrie were there again as well, and our kids to play together for a couple of hours, running around with toy swords and battling monsters together for the evening.

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).

Hummels, Oven Mitts, and A Star is Born

We’re busy counting down the days to Christmas, with the kids crossing them off on our whiteboard calendar. Vivian and I also got a batch of our annual Christmas letters out to a handful of close friends and family members. (If you got one, consider yourself special!)

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My parents had their birthdays this week, so my brothers and I had a kind of joint celebration down at my parents’ house. My dad wanted to bring up my grandmother’s antique Hummel nativity set from the basement and assembled for the first time in many years. It came in a bunch of boxes, which unpacked and then set up on a folding table in front of the fireplace. It included a wooden stable along with a green felt tablecloth my grandmother also used with it.

My parents got to open a few presents afterward, and then my brothers and I took them out to lunch down at Luigi’s in Olde Town Bellevue. I got some chicken parmesan with spaghetti along with some calamari rings as an appetizer, which my mom tried for the first time (and didn’t like). It was the first time we’d have a family dinner with just the Johnsons in quite a while, and we all left stuffed.


Then that evening, Vivian and I went to a Christmas party with Jenny and Kody up in Bennington. Uncle Jonny came by to watch the kids, and Vivian and I got to wear a pair of Christmas sweaters we’d been saving for an entire year (with some lines from the movie “Christmas Vacation” on them) along with my Christmas socks. Kody made his stuffed pork loin for dinner along with some venison summer sausage, and I made some roast brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and dried cranberries, which turned out much better than I expected.

We had some candy cake thing for dessert and then played a round of that annual game where we try to unwrap some gifts in a giant ball of plastic wrap with a pair of oven mitts. Vivian and I walked away with some pens and toothpaste, along with some leftover dessert, which I consider a “win.”


Then on Sunday, Wildewood rolled out the red carpet for its annual Christmas program, which Hannah was a part of this year. She was a shepherd, along with a handful of her other classmates, singing in a choir behind the other performers for much of the performance. The title of the play was “A Star is Born,” with a meta theme of a Christmas play-within-a-play as a prima-donna Madonna (the mother of Jesus, not the singer) caused chaos for a director and cast members. It was a very cute little production, especially the Wise Men (fighting over who had the best gift), Tabitha with the giant TV camera, and little ones they had dressed as animals singing “Away in a Manger” at the end.

Grammy came by to watch, as well as Sammy and Lexi, who surprised Hannah by bringing her candy and a bouquet of flowers after the show. Our friends the Lenarts also came, since their son Matthew played Joseph in the production, and our other friends Craig and Debby came to watch as well. We stayed afterward to have some cake, and Hannah got an ornament as thanks for her participation.

If you missed the program, you can watch it here.

Steak, Skates, and Gifford Farm

It’s been another jam-packed week, with nearly every weeknight filled with one activity or another — mostly fun with friends or our kids.

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On Sunday, we celebrated Cheeseburger Day and had some pink watermelon for dessert at dinner. Then on Monday night, I took the kids to the Mills’ house to have some steak for dinner and mess around with some computer stuff for Nate and his new painting business. The kids in particular had fun playing with one another, and I enjoyed having a giant rib-eye.

On Tuesday, the Men of God group at Wildewood kicked off with some pulled (and smoked) pork for dinner and a new bible study, 33 The Series. I’m not sure how much I’ll get into the study, but it was nice to hang out with a few adults for an evening out.


Wednesday meant another evening with Aaron at Royal Rangers and me catching up with Jordan Peterson. On Thursday, we gave the CR-V an oil change, leaving Vivian with my Corolla for the day and me renting a bike from one of the city’s kiosks for the ride home, which was nice with the weather went from 100 to 55 like it just saw a state trooper. Then evening, we took the kids to Skate City for a family night with Chandler View Elementary. Hannah spent an hour or two on the skating rink while Aaron played some video games with daddy. I particularly enjoyed introducing him to such classics as Pac-Man and Galaga (and winning a few tickets for prizes).

The next day, both kids had the day off school, so we spent our lunch time down at Elmwood Park, swinging and walking through the forest on a lovely, cool and cloudy autumn day.


Then came Saturday, where Vivian spent the morning doing some volunteer gardening with the women’s group at church while I took the kids on a secret shopping trip for birthday presents. (Don’t tell Vivian, though. She doesn’t read this blog, so she won’t find out if I mention it here.)

Then we spent the afternoon visiting Gifford Farm, a place we’d taken the kids frequently when they were little but hadn’t visited since 2019. It was fun to see an owl, some goats, ducks, and other farm animals. We had a few homemade hot dogs from Willie Dogs for lunch and them let the kids play on the slides in the barn and explore the hollow tree. We also went on a hay rack ride as a family and let the kids run around the play area like old times. Hannah even got a pony ride on our way back to the car. Our kids may be outgrowing this little place, but it was fun to go back and soak in all the memories.

Then that evening: Aldi pizza and Back to the Future.

Greetings from Gifford Farm!

Bacon, Eggs, and the Start of School

Summer vacation is drawing to a close after passing by in what seemed like a blur. Hannah and Aaron are gearing up to start a new school year, and we did a few things to celebrate.


On Tuesday, I attended a luncheon with the Business and Professional People for Life at the Garden Café, and getting to hear from Don Bacon over lunch. It was the first time the group had met since Roe v. Wade had been overturned, so there was naturally a lot to talk about. I also got to ask him about the FBI raid of Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, to which he responded, “if the FBI does not have 100% solid justification, they’re in trouble.”

You can read about the luncheon on my political blog and even see the live stream of Congressman Bacon’s talk on Rumble.

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On Wednesday, I dropped Aaron by Spirit Life Assemblies of God Church at 48th and Harrison to sign up for a year of Royal Rangers. The Royal Rangers are a group similar to the Boy Scouts that our mutual friends the Mills have been a part of for a number of years, and we thought it might be nice for Aaron to join in with his friends August and Gabe on Wednesday nights. They had some root beer floats and Matchbox car races, but Aaron mostly had fun in the gym with a few of the others boys.

We also bought a dozen eggs from our the Mills while we were there — eggs made by the chickens they have roosting in their yard. It interesting to have a dozen of farm-fresh eggs of many colors rather than the store-bought ones we were used to, and it was particularly interesting seeing the difference inside and out.

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On Saturday, we had a cookout down at Hickory Hill Park with our friends the Lenarts. The weather had cooled off a bit, and it was nice to grill some hamburgers and hot dogs under some thick, shady trees while catching up before the start of a new school year. Our kids had fun playing together on the playground and exploring the creek a bit, traversing a fallen log that had been turned into a bridge.

Then the next day, we took the kids to downtown Papillion to have some ice cream at Graley’s. Then we went to get some pizza up at the Little Caesar’s before heading home to eat and watch The Land Before Time with the kids.

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Monday was the last day before school started (for Hannah at least), so we had one last trip down to Elmwood Park with the kids. Vivian brought some lunch for the kids, and despite the light on-and-off rain, we all had fun being outside together one last time. The kids got some extra time on the swings (once or twice with me and mommy) and playing hide-and-seek with a couple other kids.

Then we finished off our visit by heading back down to Aksarben Village together to have some end-of-summer cupcakes at Jones Bros. I used to take the kids there all the time when they had free cupcakes of the day every week or so, but since then it’s become something more of an annual treat.


That evening, we down to Chandler View Elementary to meet Aaron’s new teacher for his Second Grade year and get a look at his new classroom.

Then the next day, Hannah had her first day at Abiding Life Christian School, an independent little outfit Vivian recently learned about through our homeschool co-op. It’s the first time Hannah’s ever been part of a more “normal” school setting, but she seems to be acclimating to it quickly. She’s made a couple friends and even had a part of putting together her own lunch for the day. We celebrated that evening with some Uncle Jonny Pops before Aaron started his first day of school on Wednesday.

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Welcome Back to School!

Independence Weekend

Happy Fourth of July! It’s been a busy week of patriotic activity for the Johnson Family as the sweltering hot days of mid-summer come bearing down on us. I kicked things on Tuesday by walking up the street to vote for Mike Flood in a special election, making him our Congressman until November, when we have the chance to vote for him again.

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I also rode my bike three times this week (even when it rained on Friday), hoping to save some money on gas and get a little exercise. I stopped by Banner Park for a little quality time on the spray-ground with the kids, where we had a water fight, dumping bottles of water on each other for an hour or so. I also got a photo of the kids next to the neighboring cornfield to see how much the little stalks had sprouted up in less than a month. Afterward, we met up with Jack and Donna at the gas station, where Jack let us get $1 off per gallon as we topped off our tanks. We had to form a queue by one pump, handing it off from one to another as we filled up.

Then on Friday, I got some free breakfast at Chick-Fil-A before biking off to work in the rain. I wore my patriotic tie, as we had a fun little Fourth of July cookout in the parking lot over the noon hour. We had burgers and hot dogs along with a few games and giant bubbles to keep us busy before heading back to work.


Then on Friday evening, we took the kids down to Lake Manawa for some swimming and fireworks. We brought along a few pool noodles for the kids as we all splashed about for a couple of hours together. We also met Joe Shearer, a photographer for The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, who took a photo of Hannah and Aaron than managed to make the front page a few days later.

We had a few snacks after the sun went down and then watched a lovely fireworks show from across the lake, which was particularly beautiful with the reflections in the water. Then we got into our car to squeeze our way out of the parking lot to head home.

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Hannah went to a friend’s birthday party on Saturday, and I took Aaron by my parents’ house to visit and learn about some family history. He’d asked about his Great-Great-Grandmother Augusta Johnson and whether she were alive during the Civil War, so we showed him a while spreadsheet and family tree my dad had put together displaying a handful of his ancestors, when they were brown, and when they moved from Sweden to the United States in the last century or two.

Then that evening, we had some Wagyu burgers for dinner (50% off at Aldi) before heading down to the SumTur Amphitheater (AKA the “movie park”). We accidentally arrived an hour early and spent some time exploring another part of the grounds, which appears to be getting prepared to be a veterans’ memorial at some point in the future. Then we got some popcorn when the sun went down and watched Disney’s Encanto together — learning at long last why they “don’t talk about Bruno.”


On Sunday, we visited First Presbyterian in Bellevue to see the kids sing a few of the songs they learned at VBS (which they’d been singing non-stop over the past week). Then that evening, we went up to Bennington for another “Third of July” party with Jenny and Kody and a bunch of our mutual friends. Vivian brought an American Flag Bean Dip, Frank brought a bucket of guacamole, and Kody made brat-burgers and smoked pork for dinner. I got a group photo of the kids together on the back lawn before the sun went down, getting a few shots of everyone holding (relatively) still for a few seconds in hopes they’ll enjoy looking back on it years down the road.

Then came a few hours of fireworks out front. Jon Paper and the kids got to set off a series of fountains, ground-flowers, Roman candles, a sparkling sword, and farting chicken balloons on the street. We also had plenty of artillery shells later to light up the sky. Hannah somehow decided her favorite were the “poops” that unwind like a snake on the ground, particularly using the soot to give herself a charcoal facial.


Then came the actual Fourth of July, a long, fun, and incredibly exhausting day. It started with the DCRP Pancake Breakfast down at Elmwood Park. I went with my both dad and Hannah to have some pancakes and sausage serviced up by Don Bacon and Bob Evnen, among many others. Deb Fischer was also there working the crowd, and she had a long chat with my dad about current events before I introduced her to my daughter. We also saw Mike Hilgers (our next Attorney General) and got to ask about a potential “special session” that may or may not be happening in the Legislature. There were many other VIPs on hand, including the Governor (and a former candidate) we said hello to while we were there.

There was also a car show going on in the parking lot out front, so I took Hannah by, where we got to see a few of the fancy cars on display. A few of the owners invited her to get a picture on the hood of an old Imperial and a patriotically-decked out Corvette. It was very sweet to see Hannah so enamored with classic cars, just like her mom. We also went on a brief, muddy walk past the Grotto, and Hannah had some fun handing our “lucky pennies” to a handful of people before we left.


We had a few hours to recover before heading back up to Ralston for a parade. We saw the usual parade crew of politicians, clowns, a priestly friend, and Shriners making they way down Main Street, and there was plenty of candy to go around for the kids as well. I brought water to keep us hydrated and we got some ice cream to cool off afterward before heading home.

I’d saved a spot under a shady tree on my way to Elmwood Park, since the forecast called for a high around 100 degrees. It was hot enough activate a few ambulances to make their way through the parade on actual calls to tend to people with heat stroke.


I grilled up some brats and baked beans for dinner that evening. Then we finished off the day with more fireworks at our house that evening. We set off a bunch of fountains, artillery shells, and other things to light up the sky on the street in front of our house. I broke out a few Bomb Pops to keep us cool, and our neighbors across the street had a show all their own with some “fire wheels” and grand finale toward ten o’clock. We also had a handful of sparklers to wave about together as I awkwardly tried snapping a couple photos (while holding one).

All four grandparents came by to watch on our driveway, along with Uncle Nathan, to watch the Rockets’ Red Glare as we brought a long, fun weekend to a close.

A rally in two parts

I got to have a massively fun three-day weekend packed with activities with family, friends, and some political candidates. I took a whole day off on Friday just to make room for it all, but even still things seemed to spill over into Thursday and Monday nonetheless.

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I kicked things off on Thursday by riding my bike down to Chick-Fil-A (during a brief non-raining moment) to have lunch with Vivian and Hannah after BSF. We’d been planning an outing to “eat more chicken” and wanted to do it before BSF ended for the year. I also wanted to give Hannah the chance to use the little playground area one last time before she had completely outgrown it (as she’s a fraction of an inch away). I even had enough points in my Chick-Fil-A app to get us all ice cream cones for dessert, so it was just about perfect.

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I took Friday off and got to have some more quality time with Hannah by taking a bike ride around the lake at Walnut Creek. It had been gray and raining earlier, but it was dry and sunny enough for a lovely little ride. We got to see some of the tulips in bloom and explore the park a little bit in-between rounds of pedaling around the bike path. The best thing about visiting the park on a Friday is how quiet the whole place is, with only a handful of pedestrians sharing the trail with us.

Then at lunchtime, I took my dad down to the Treragon Golf Course’s clubhouse to meet Brett Lindstrom, the guy I’m hoping will be our next governor. Around four other constituents showed up, along with a writer for the New Yorker named Peter Slevin. It made for a very small gathering, and a great opportunity to ask direct questions on issues like critical race theory, an endorsement from the NSEA, and abortion — with time for detailed answers afterward (and a photo with the candidate, of course).


The real reason I took Friday off, however, was to drop by a rally with Donald Trump that evening at the I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. Trump was scheduled to hold the outdoor event with Charles Herbster, but some bad weather had been predicted for days, and at the last moment it was postponed until Sunday.

The event itself was still fun, and I got to hang out with some of the VIPs, including Matt Schlapp of CPAC and David Bossie from Citizens United (who was there to promote a new film). There were a few other familiar faces in the crowd, including Allie French from Nebraskans Against Government Overreach, legislature candidate Julie Fredrickson, and Beard Vet, who had his own tailgate party with burgers and coffee. I also got to meet Steve Rhodes, a young Trump cosplayer, who led the crowd in chants of USA before the event and then stopped to get a photo with Herbster afterward.


The line of storms that cancelled Friday’s Trump Rally spawned tornadoes and hail in the Midwest, so postponing until Sunday was the right call. We mostly got wind and rain in Omaha, some of which blew open the window in Aaron’s room and made some a bit of a wet walk with him the next day.

Then that evening, we celebrated our friend Kody’s birthday. He smoked a variety of meats for dinner, which we ate with a handful of friends. We had about three pairs of kids among us, so I got a kiddo group picture to mark the occasion of our little ones growing up together. Then we finished off the evening with some lemon meringue pie and tres leches cake for dessert, along with the obligatory blowing-out of candles.


Sunday was May Day, so Donna dropped by with some flowers for us and a few treats for the kids, which was a nice little surprise. The kids also got to give Bella a couple walks up and down the hill.

Afterward, we headed downtown to the Holland Center for “a Sensory-Friendly Omaha Symphony Concert,” sponsored by the Autism Action Partnership as a part of the Common Senses Festival. Aaron got to have an up-close look at a cello prior to the show, and then the orchestra played a medley of songs from composers like Aaron Copland, who I was happy to tell Aaron he shared a name with.

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Then came the Trump Rally. The weather was just about perfect (especially compared to Friday), with temperatures in the 70s and clear, blue skies. I wound up arriving very late around 3:30, right in-between speakers David Bossie and NFL star Jack Brewer. I squeezed through the crowd, getting close enough for a few snapshots of Brewer praying over Charles Herbster before Herbster gave a brief stump speech. The crowd was smaller than other Trump rallies I’d attended, around 2000-3000 or so, but it was just as energetic, with people dancing to a familiar playlist of songs. I also saw many familiar faces, including Ian Swanson from KFAB at the media deck, where RSBN was interviewing Mike Lindell. Other VIPs in the crowd included Lt. Gov. Foley and Matt Innis up at the front.

Around 5:15, Donald Trump took the stage to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and talked for nearly two hours (which you can watch here in its entirety). Much of his speech was about the 2020 election and his poll numbers looking at 2024 (complete with slides). He pointed out a few of his special guests in the front, including Jack Brewer and Mike Lindell, and he let Herbster take the mike for a minute or two halfway through. I was quite happy to get close enough for some terrific shots up close, including a few of a friend or two in the stands behind Trump. The event wrapped with YMCA by the Village People as Trump danced his way off stage, and then I hurried back to the car to rush home and share some of my 600+ pictures.


As if that weren’t enough politics for one week, the next day I had a luncheon with the River City Republicans with four guest speakers — gubernatorial candidate Theresa Thibodeau, her running mate (and talk radio host) Trent Loos, Secretary of State Bob Evnen, and State Treasurer John Murante.

Thibodeau and Loos gave brief stump speeches and has some Q&A with the audience (which included Thibodeau’s dad and sister). Evnen talked about election security and John Murante spoke about the Biden administration pressuring states to enact his “build back better” agenda and spy on citizens’ bank accounts. It was a nice, informative meetup, and I got to have a little extra time chatting with some of the same folks who had been to the Trump rally the previous day.

The state primary is next Tuesday, so I expect things may calm just a bit before we head into November — and then the race for 2024 will kick off.

Musical, Museum, Fish Fry & Parade

It seems this last week has been jam-packed, with activities every night and a few during the day. I’ve also given up coffee for Lent and have been running on Postum the past few days, which I had to special order online, as they don’t tend to sell that sort of thing in local stores.


On Wednesday afternoon, Aaron’s class had a music performance for us, where he and his little classmates sang a few songs from Seussical the Musical and Disney’s Coco. Vivian and I stood up in the crowd and Aaron’s face broke into the biggest smile when he saw us. We also liked being able to see Aaron and all his little classmates, some of whom we only get to hear about on occasion.


Then on Thursday evening, Aaron’s first grade class got to spend the evening at the Children’s Museum. It gave Aaron the chance to interact with his friend Nico as he colored spaceships and cars to add into a virtual world on a projector’s screen. The kids also got to see the traveling exhibit upstairs about wood, which included a tiny house they could help “build,” along with model trees and a tree house.

The most adventurous moment of the evening came, however, when someone pulled the fire alarm. We got to stand outside in the damp cold for 10-15 minutes as the kids played on the playground while the fire department rolled up to inspect and clear the building. It was the first time Hannah had actually experienced anything like a fire drill at home, making me think we ought to practice this sort of thing more often.


On Friday, we went over to Phil and Jen’s house for our a family fish fry. We were joined by a few friends, including Jenny and Kody, who had a cluster of kids among them who kept ours busy running around the house for a few hours. Phil and Kody breaded and fried fish (as well as cheese and some shrimp), which we ate throughout the night with such things as macaroni and cheese and some funky Taiwanese fish snacks. while having some hilarious grown-up banter as the kids kept themselves busy.

There was also some birthday cake for Gabriel (and a few presents). I was mostly just happy to see our mutual kids getting along so well, running in circles around the house as the grown-ups made hilarious banter with one another at the big table.


The next day, Hannah and I braved 12-degree temperatures and went to downtown Omaha to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade with my friend Brett Lindstrom. He’s running for governor along with a few other people (like Jim Pillen and Theresa Thibodeau), but I’ve finally decided to put my support behind him this season. There were many other politicians in the parade, including Mayor Jean Stothert, and I saw a bunch of familiar faces with Don Bacon’s crew, though the congressman himself was still in Washington DC.

The parade went from 16th and Harney down to the Old Market and back along Howard Street. Hannah emptied multiple buckets of candy handing them out to kids along the route, and I got a nice little workout walking along, taking photos, and jogging to the pickup truck and back to refill Hannah’s bucket. The cold wasn’t even that noticeable once we started moving, and it felt good to be back in the swing of parade season once again.

We had a family movie night that evening watching The Love Bug (1968) with the kids over pizza. Then we spent Sunday covering as we turned the clocks forward and lost an hour of sleep for no good reason.