Category Archives: Halloween

Trunks and Treats

Happy Halloween, everybody! We had a great Halloween weekend as we hit peak autumn with leaves changing colors and the weather going from gorgeous to almost freezing day-by-day. I’ve been making the most of my bike rides before winter hits and enjoying the fall colors while the kids geared up for trick-or-treating.

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On Tuesday before Halloween, I had an evening watching RiffTrax with my dad and Richard Burney. We dropped by Culver’s for dinner before the show, per the norm, but the dining area was closed due to lack of staff, so we went to Dickey’s down the street instead. I’d never been there before, but it was quite nice to have ribs and brisket without spending the entire day tending a smoker.

Afterward, we headed back to the Twin Creek Theater to see the Amityville 4, the spooky tale of a haunted lamp, starring Patty Duke. I’ve been able to see every RiffTrax live event thus far, though the number of people we can find to come along has varied over the years. Richard has been a consistent attendee, however, joining us for nearly all of them.

Not sure when the next one will be, but perhaps Hannah may be joining us, if I can introduce her properly to MST3K over Thanksgiving. Until then, we’ll have to “keep circulating the tapes.”

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On Friday, we dropped by Grace Bible Church with the kids for some trunk-or-treating. They had some fun trunks in their parking lot, with themes such as Narnia, a gumball machine, and a wild west shooting gallery (which was so much fun it seriously held up the line). Our kids got candy and plastic teeth, and we bumped into a few friends along the way, such as the Campbells and the Halliburtons.

The church makes its home inside the old Southroads Mall, so we went inside for a few carnival games and some hot dogs for dinner. Then we got to see a puppet show with “Douglas Speaks,” a Fraggle-like puppet with his own YouTube channel who told a very interactive group of kids in attendance about Jesus. He stayed to chat with Lily and Jonah afterward, but many of the kids seemed quite eager to see who was behind the curtain instead.

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Saturday was absolutely gorgeous, with a high of 72 and no wind, so I dragged Vivian and the kids down to Swanson Park down the road to see some of the fall colors. We had a picnic lunch and let the kids play on the playground a bit before going on a bit of a hike through the woods, seeing some fall colors and fallen trees, along with a shelter made from fallen branches. We also saw what seemed to be the remnants of the old Rock Island railroad line that went through this part of town.

Afterward, I took Hannah to my parents’ house to help rake some of their leaves before giving their lawn one last mow. It was the perfect evening for it, and I managed to get over 29,000 steps on my FitBit through the whole day.

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Halloween was about thirty degrees colder, but we still got some quality time outside trick-or-treating. We took the kids by Wildewood first for their trunk-or-treat, seeing cars with themes including bible verses, Jonah, and the Ten Commandments (along with the Wizard of Oz and a Fire Department).

Pastor Ron dressed and Pooh and flew a drone around, much to Aaron’s fascination. Vivian and I wore our Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man costumes and got a photo in front of the 80s-themed car, of course. Our kids came as a Pink Power Ranger and a Red Ninja, and Hannah even dressed her sock money up as an “alien,” with his own little bucket for candy.

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We had some dinner at home before going out for one more round of official trick-or-treating afterward. We hits our neighbor’s house and Betty’s across the street before heading to my parents’ neighborhood. My dad got us a family photo when we dropped by my folks’ house, and then we walked the block until the kids got too cold to continue.

Then we finished off by visiting Grammy and Pop-Pop along with Tom and Toni before calling it a night. We returned home and warmed up watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” together for the first time — a TV special from 1966 that I may have seen once but was too long ago to remember.

Happy Halloween, everybody! On to Thanksgiving.

Halloween 2020

It’s been a fun, long Halloween weekend — a holiday that I think I’m enjoying more and more as an adult than I did even as a child, partly because I get to live through it again vicariously as a dad.

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The fun started Friday night as we somehow made it to two trunk-or-treat events. First was at Lifespring, which was a drive-thru trunk-or-treat. It was very slow-going at first, but soon our kids got various candy and treats handed to them by a variety of costumed characters — including the cast of Wizard of Oz, a cow, Thanos, clowns, pirates, astronauts, campers, a karate guy, a donut baker, and even Aaron’s Kindergarten teacher. There were even some Christmas elves at the end to remind us how badly we want 2020 to be over, along with some Bee Keepers to talk about the “Bee Attitudes.” Everything seemed to be very Covid-friendly and socially distant, but it was still a fun little experience, especially for the kids (who made out like bandits).

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Afterward, we immediately went down to Grace Bible Church at Southroads Mall, which was having its own trunk-or-treat event. Our kids got some candy from a lumberjack, a gumball machine, a fishing hole, and a shark cage.

Then inside, they had hot dogs and chips along with a bunch of carnival-type games for extra candy. We arrived at the tail-end of the event and didn’t get to stay for long, but the kids definitely enjoyed being able to get out of the car and move around a bit to get candy instead of staying strapped in. We even got a family photo before we headed home.

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We had some gorgeous weather on Saturday, which Vivian and I thought warranted a trip to the park with the kids. We went all the way to Mahoney State Park, making use of our annual pass before the year ends, and giving them some quality time at the Robert H. Storz Family Children’s Recreational Area. The kids got some quality time on slides and swings, and even mommy took a turn on the springy snail with Aaron.

We took a bit of a break back at the house to make some milk jug Jack-o-Lanterns with the kids. Vivian came up with the idea, and it was certainly less messy than carving an actual pumpkin. The four of us took turns making faces with a Sharpie marker, and then we dropped glow sticks inside each of the lanterns to adorn our front porch. I think they turned out very cute!

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On Halloween night, we all headed out to walk our own streets for a bit for some real trick-or-treating. I also got into the fun this year dressing as the late Wilford Brimley to walk along with the kids, and I also made a special Protoman Shield to go with Aaron’s Mega Man outfit. There were noticeably fewer houses participating this year (because of Covid, I’m sure), but the ones that did seemed to go all out. Our neighbors down the street had a giant block party with decorations all over the place, while another house around the corner had spent five weeks filling its yard with haunted memorabilia — and turning its garage into a walk-through haunted house.

Other folks handed out candy per the norm, such as Betty down the street along with my own parents. Others had “help yourself” bowls of candy out on the front steps, which was what we did as we had no one this year to tend to our door while we were gone. We finished the night at Grammy’s house, and she had bacon of all things ready for the kids when they arrived. Despite the pandemic, it was a fun night, and I even got to share a bit of my childhood with the kids by showing them Garfield’s Halloween Adventure when we returned home.


Final thoughts before Election Day

Election Day is almost here, and this will be my last update until then. I’ll have plenty of thoughts once the election is over — though that may not be for a while, depending on what shenanigans go on with absentee ballots. I do have a few final thoughts before the election, though. Despite all the negativity, anger, and actual civil unrest that has gone along with this year, riding the Trump Train has been a thrill. The crowds only seem to get bigger every time President Trump comes to town, and the atmosphere is more like a football or a rock concert than a campaign rally. I got to hang around plenty of Democrats during these past two years as well, and one thing I’ve learned is that the anger each side hast toward the other is based on the misconception that Americans who disagree intend to do each other harm. While there are genuinely bad people out there, just about everyone only want to live their lives in the best way possible, and they vote for whichever side they thing will make that happen.

I’m voting for President Trump, but I pledge that I’ll remain friends with anyone who doesn’t. And even though I’ll be disappointed if Biden wins on Tuesday, I’m still happy I got to meet him twice. Being able to shake the hand of anyone seeking the highest office in the hand is a unique privilege, and I look forward to taking that journey again when the next election season starts (which I believe is going to be on Wednesday).

Trunks and Treats

We made it to the end of October at last! That means finishing the rest of our garden tomatoes as actual snow starts to fall around the Omaha area for the first time this season (and probably not the last).

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Our Halloween celebrations started on Tuesday as Grammy and Pop-Pop came over. Hannah (fresh from her new hideout) and Aaron helped Grammy decorate the back of her Honda Passport with some pumpkins, spiderwebs, and a few of their toys to create an adorable Halloween display for Wildewood’s Trunk or Treat event.

In the meantime, Vivian and Pop-Pop made some paella for dinner, which we all ate together in celebration after the trunk was ready for treating.

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Then on Wednesday, we braved some chilly weather in the 30s with the kids to have some trunk-or-treating at Wildewood. Hannah and Aaron went as Miraculous’ Ladybug and a Ninja Warrior, respectively. We went inside to have some burgers and chili dogs for dinner along with a couple hundred other folks, including our friends the Lenarts. Then once we had enough warmth in us, we braved back outside to tour the variety of cute and monstrous trunks opened up with candy. I think my favorite trunk (aside from Grammy’s) was the giant purple monster, but the best costume was three ladies who came as cafeteria workers, dishing up candy with ladles, no less. One trunk came with a gas-powered fire for us to warm up by, and the final trunk had an entire obstacle course based around Genesis 1, ending with an apple tree of treats (and rubber snakes). I guess that’s one way to celebrate the Fall.

We warmed up inside a bit more with a few carnival style games, which involved blowing sailboats with straws, tossing footballs (and toilet paper), and bounding some ping pong balls. The kids walked away with giant buckets full of candy, which would be filling up again the n ext day as well.

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All Hallow’s Eve was a bit warmer the next day. Vivian and the kids spent some time decorating pumpkins to leave by our doorstep, along with a couple mounds of pink cobwebs to greet our visitors. Vivian baked a lasagna for dinner, which we ate before getting the kids dressed for some Halloweening in our neighborhood. Aaron switched costumes to be a Ninja Turtle, after finally finding his mask. We walked the block around my parents’ house with Uncle Jonny collecting candy from a handful of neighbors, while Jack and Donna watched our door a block over until we returned. A number of our neighbors had fire pits out to keep warm during the evening, and I’ll have to try hauling ours out one more time before it starts snowing again.

It was a lovely, busy couple of days — now we just have to figure out what to do with all of our extra candy.

Halloween and the Home Stretch

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It’s been a busy week back at work, juggling Halloween in-between and trying to enjoy a lovely, sunny week of fall. On Wednesday night we went trick-or-treating with the kids — and Uncle Jonny — in my parents’ neighborhood one street over. Both kids got a fairly good haul of candy, and Aaron’s bag was dragging along the ground as he excitedly went from door to door all the way around the block as the sun went down.

My parents had a busy night as well, with over a hundred trick-or-treaters at their own house (many of whom drove in from other neighborhoods). By comparison, our house only had around twenty for the whole night, which left us with quite the stockpile of candy afterward (and Johnny Marzetti).

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We also have some mid-term elections coming up, which seem to be a bigger deal than usual for some reason. As such, there was a “fly-in” rally featuring Mayor Stothert, Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry, Gov. Ricketts, and our ever-elusive Senator Ben Sasse. We had about a hundred our folks show up for the event (along with a few familiar faces), and all five politicians got to say a few words before breaking for lunch. Sen. Sasse hurried out almost immediately, but I was able to catch him for a moment and learn he was planning to be a guest on the Steven Crowder program in the near future. He’d also been invited to the Ben Shapiro Sunday Special but likely wouldn’t make it soon because of a “rule” that he’d have to fly to L.A. to be filmed on-set for the show.

Election Day is tomorrow, so I’m hoping the political noise will wind down a bit before the 2020 Presidential Campaign starts up, but I have a feeling that won’t be happening. In the meantime. I have an extra hour of morning to enjoy as Daylight Saving Time comes to and end (which I spent down at the Kroc Center).

This is Halloween!

At some point, Halloween became a multi-week holiday season all on its own. I don’t mind of course — it means we get more use out of our costumes, and a whole lot more candy to boot!

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We kicked off the spooky fun last Sunday, when we took Hannah and Aaron for some trick-or-treating at First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue. There were plenty of tables set up with candy for the kids, and there were a handful of carnival-style games in the rec room for Hannah and Aaron to play. There was one “spooky room” with some dangling spiders and ghosts that mostly amused Hannah. Nicholette’s little brother, who could pass for Aaron’s twin under normal circumstances, also came in an identical Green Gecko outfit, which was even more hilarious.

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Then on Friday, Vivian and I dressed up as the Loan Arranger and a 404 Error and took a long-overdue trip to the Eagle’s Lodge — where we hadn’t gone swing dancing together since last Halloween. Nate and Lexi came as well (dressed as old-timey gangsters), and we saw a handful of familiar faces throughout the night. We did a handful of group dances, including the (Monster) Mashed Potato, a shim sham, and Thriller, led by Takashi, of course. There was a costume contest with prized for both most creative and most authentic. The “eclipse” couple were the clear crowd favorite, but my personal favorite was the guy who came as “Billy,” which made some plenty of hilarious pictures once I put the two of them together.

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On Saturday night, Jenny and Kody hosted their annual Costume Party, once again at Dean and Sarah’s (new) house in West Omaha. We whipped up some brooms brought along both our kids for the first time, who had fun running around with Delana and a few of the other little ones who came along. All our usual friends were there, including Phil and Jen, Jon Paper, Aunt Jessica, Anne and Brandon, Heather and Shane, Libby and Ole, the Hoffmans, Tamra and Ryan, Katie and Li Ya and several others. We had several group dances throughout the night, including another round of Thriller led again by Takashi (and this time I got Libby to take some photos). Matthew’s Star Lord mask got some extra use by Jon and me, and I got one big group picture of everyone toward the end of the night before we headed home, exhausted.

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The on Sunday, several businesses in Olde Town Bellevue held their own trick-or-treating event. The weather was an irresistible 60 degrees through most of the afternoon, so we took the kids down to get even more candy from the collection of cute little shops downtown. We saw lots of familiar faces down there, including Rutiger the Magician and Mrs. B from the library. An odd-looking group of Jellyfish also made an appearance walking down Mission Avenue together. The best costume of the night by far, however, was a girl dressed in an Owlette costume, which made for a perfect picture with our Cat Boy and Gecko in the bounce house together!

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By the time Halloween Night finally rolled around, it felt like we’d been trick-or-treating all month! It was also nearly freezing with legit snowflakes coming down, so we spent just a few minutes trick-or-treating around our neighborhood, visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house first, of course.

Then we retreated to the Heritage Ridge assisted living facility on Fort Crook and Hwy. 370 to trick or treat with some of the seniors there, where it was much, much warmer. Grammy and Pop-Pop held down the fort with their assortment of Pumpkin Ghouls to hand out treats and keep an eye out for tricksters, such as the guy who nailed some essay to a cathedral half a century ago.

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Happy Halloween!

Halloween 2016

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It’s Halloween again, a holiday that seems to be as much for grown-ups nowadays as it is for kids. On Friday night, we took Hannah and Aaron down to the Sarpy YMCA for some trunk-or-treating with various little ones, getting bucketfuls of candy from various folks with decorated trunks. Then we let them burn off some of their sugar high inside a bounce house or two in the Y before we headed for home.

Then mommy and daddy had a turn as dress-up as we headed down to the Eagles Lodge for their Halloween Dance as Trump and Hillary (or The Oompa Loompa Billionaire and Crooked Vivian, if you’re easily triggered). Nate and Lexi came along with us as a double date, though we didn’t get much time to dance with one another outside of the lesson.

Vivian and I weren’t the only Trump and Hillary, but we did take second place during the (RIGGED!) costume contest. We decided to “fight” with one another during the parade around the dance floor, which is what Nate told us sold” it to the judges. Other winners were Homer and Marge Simpson and Bob Ross and a Pretty Little Tree. We also had our shim sham and performance of thriller before calling it a night.

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Saturday was delightfully warm for an October day, so Vivian and I took the kids down to the Fontenelle Forest to enjoy being out in nature with so much as a jacket. We walked farther down the trail than we’d never been before, reaching a picturesque little bridge and bond next to the railroad tracks. The kids also had fun along the boardwalk and playing in the tree-house before we headed home.

That evening, we had brats for dinner at my parents house, eating and playing outside until a cold front started moving in. Then we headed back indoors and watched a terribly embarrassing slideshow of me and my brothers growing up. Ah, memories.

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Vivian cooked up a tasty pre-Halloween dinner on Sunday of liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti (pfft pfft pfft pfft). We saved some of the leftovers for Halloween night, when Jack and Donna came to watch our house as we took the kids trick-or-treating. We stayed mostly in my parents’ neighborhood, where we first went to their house and then rounded the block, filling their buckets yet again with cavity-inducing goodness. I’m hoping we got enough mileage out of their little outfits. They certainly were cute!

Hillarump and Pence

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Halloween is upon us once again, and that means dressing up as the scariest pair of characters imaginable for Jenny’s Halloween Bash: our own two Presidential Candidates! That’s what Vivian and I decided to do in an unusually bi-partisan move (with plenty of jokes at the expense of Trump and Hillary). My costume was relatively simple, as it only required a suit and tie (which I already owned) along with a little makeup and a wig. Vivian borrowed my parents’ orange prison jumpsuit, which frankly, honestly, was supposed to look more like an orange pantsuit (seriously). It was a fun evening with our assortment of mutual friends, including Mr. Clean, the Mad Hatter, Lumber Jack, She-Ra, the Musketeer Family, Joy and Anger, Mr. and Mrs. Tron, Peach and Mario, that included the usual bit of dancing (to Thriller in particular) along with birthday cake for Jenny and invincibility cookies for Kody.

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On Wednesday night, Hannah and Aaron got a bit of early Halloween fun at First Presbyterian Church, trick-or-treating among the volunteers for candy and then playing a few games in their multi-purpose room.

Then on Thursday, I got to dive briefly back into the political world when Mike Pence came to Omaha. He gave a speech at Midstates Construction Products, which is a stone’s throw from where I work, so dropping by to check things out was fairly easy. The usual cast of campaign characters were there, including some brief antics from a few left-wingers. Don Bacon and Gov. Pete Ricketts both introduced Pence before the took the stage, and Gov. Pence had plenty of nice things to say about them both. There was actually a brief medical emergency as someone near the front passed out during Ricketts speech, and the Governor stopped the speech and asked the crowd to join him prayer for the man as he was tended to by medical personal, which was touching.

When Pence was finished, he greeted everyone near the front with handshakes, selfies, and autographs before taking off. A woman next to me had brought her three kids, so I helped them get to the front to meet Gov. Pence. I’d been to enough to these events to know how this was done, and it was the first campaign event any of them had attended this year,

It’s honestly hard to believe this election isn’t over yet. Just a few more days.

Tricks, Treats, and Chris Christie

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It’s Halloween Weekend at least, and I decided to kick things off by rubbing elbows with another presidential candidate in Council Bluffs, this time the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. All the usual gang was there, including Tom Becka and that one guy pretending to be Secret Service, (don’t let the earpiece fool you — it’s just for decoration). The event was held at the tiny Glory Days Bar & Grill, likely to make the crowd of 100 or so people seem much larger than if they held it at the mid-america center.

Of course, that also meant the restaurant was at capacity before I even arrived, but those of us milling around outside did get the chance to grab the Governor for a picture or two as he made his way inside. I even managed to squeeze inside for a few pictures in-between reporters after a few of them left during the Q&A. I was honestly impressed with the governor handling tough questions from the crowd on topics such as the Fort Lee lane closure scandal and a lawsuit on EPA emissions. Maybe some of these Iowans should be moderating the debates instead of the clowns from NBC.

I was also hoping to have a pizza lunch with Marco Rubio (along with Vivian and my mom), but the Senator from Florida cancelled the event to actually vote on something in Washington instead. Maybe next time.

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That evening, Vivian and I dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for their annual Halloween dance. We helped with decorations before things got started and then spent the evening dancing with our usual cluster of Lindy Hopping friends. There was live music from a band called Three Day Weekend (mostly too-fast Jazz that left my feet aching), and we got Takashi to lead in another round of Thriller as well, which was terrific.

There was also a Jack and Jill dance competition (which involved holding pumpkins for some reason) as well as the costume contest. Winners included Dan Wondra as Groucho Marx, The Greatest American Hero (who looked a bit like Harpo standing next to Dan), and Lacey as Madame Blueberry.

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And then there was actually Halloween Night. It’s such a neat experience to participate in this event through the eyes of our kids. Hannah painted a pumpkin for our front porch, and then we took her and Aaron out for an evening of taking candy from strangers (and Grandma and Grandpa Johnson. Hannah went as Anna from Frozen, and Aaron toddled along as Pooh, insisting on carrying two buckets with him as they got filled up with fun-size Snickers and Kit Kats. Jack and Donna were nice enough to hold the fort back at our house until our kids were properly exhausted (and down from a sugar high) when we came home.

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We finished off the weekend with a relatively quiet Sunday afternoon. Our friends the Rietjens have just one or two more weeks left in Nebraska, so we went to the Burger King on Cornhusker Road with them for a kind of Last Luncheon together. The kids got some quality time running through the Hamster Tubes in the play area as well as we ate burgers and fries. We’re definitely going to miss this whole family once they go.

Village Pointe and Pastor Drew

Halloween is nearly here again, and with dropping temperatures and shorter days, you can feel autumn will be moving fast into winter too long. That means taking advantage of the odd warm day at the park to run around in the fountains making footprints is more important than ever.

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I mentioned in a few previous updates, Pastor Drew Rietjens and his family will soon be leaving Twin Valley Church to move on to Clear Lake, Iowa. To thank them for all their years with us, Vivian and I invited them over to our house for an evening of tacos of playing Wii Mario Kart downstairs. I always love having other kids over to the house, since Hannah and Aaron both seem to love playing with other kids (which gives us grown-ups time to chit-chat, of course). We also had a couple family portraits to give to the Rietjens as a going-away present, but we naturally forgot to give those to them until Sunday.

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On Saturday, we took Hannah and Aaron down to Village Pointe to go trick-or-treating at the mall in their little costumes. We actually put Hannah into her pumpkin outfit for her annual Pumpkin Outfit picture, but she somehow didn’t want to take it off, so we let her wear it all afternoon. She seemed initially reluctant to take candy from strangers at the mall, oddly enough, and she enjoyed seeing all the other kids dressed up as goofy characters even more than free candy. I also helped a bunch of guys move a giant pumpkin or two up onto a big pumpkin display. They’d had some kind of pumpkin-carving event earlier in the day, but I didn’t stay around long enough to watch them light them al in the evening.

Next stop: Halloween!

All Hallows’ Eve

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It’s All Hallows’ Eve once again, which means taking little ones around the neighborhood for a giant sugar binge right before bedtime. (Whose idea was this?!) Hannah started the evening off by painting the pumpkin she picked out herself at Union Orchard and placing it out on the front stoop for all her fellow Halloweeners to see. Then she put on her Cinderella gown one more time so mom and dad could take her on a chilly evening walk to get candy from the neighbors. While we were out, a team of horses from Barebacks & Bells came riding up the street, with young ladies trick-or-treating on horseback. Welcome to Nebraska, everybody.

This was little Aaron’s first Halloween, but he’s too little for trick-or-treating or candy. We did, however, stop by my parents’ house so he and his sister could say hello in costume. (Aaron’s a giraffe, this year, Vivian says. A giraffe!)

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After the kids were tucked in bed, Vivian and I got to have some Halloweening of our own down at the Eagles’ Lodge dressed as Professor Wagstaff and a Crime Scene (with Grammy and Pop-Pop watching the house). We don’t go out dancing nearly as often as we used to, so it felt good to be back in the “swing” of things once again. We had a few special visitors in attendance as well — Jessica Ritchie dropped in from North Carolina, Keith was also back from his sabbatical in Utah, and Sarah Epperly Hood came by after many, many years of hiatus.

The usual gang of Lindy Hopping ghouls were there as well, and we had a costume contest halfway through the evening where everyone could show off their duds to Beauty and the Beast on stage. We had a sham-sham as usual, and a round of Thriller shortly thereafter led by the ever-enthusiastic Takashi. He also had his moment in the spotlight doing some karaoke to Mack the Knife. That made our evening quite complete.

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Halloween didn’t end with the end of October, however. On Saturday night, Merinda threw her annual Halloween Party at her place in mid-town, so Vivian and I donned our costumes again and headed up for another round of dressing up and dancing with our cluster of mutual friends. We took a couple swings at a skull-shaped pinata and opened up the dance floor for Lindy Hopping to songs such as The Monster Mash and Ghostbusters. One of my Groucho eyebrows came off, but I immediately found a use for it as way to complete Ben Peet’s Charlie Chaplin costume. We also played a little bowler frisbee before Eric started stripping. At that point, we decided to call it a night.

Happy Halloween, everybody! Next stop — Thanksgiving.