Category Archives: Parks

Tidying up, Park Visits, and a new Uniform

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Back on the home front, Vivian’s parents dropped by our house for a little housecleaning on Wednesday. Jack grease up our sliding door and got it rolling again, and Vivian and Donna went through Hannah’s room, making her pick out a number of toys to purge in their effort to see the floor again. By the end of the day, they were able to vacuum and it make it just a bit more livable again, which was lovely.

Afterward, I grilled up some burgers and tots for dinner. Then, Donna gave me a much needed haircut (along with Aaron). It was nice not to have to feel like a hippie before attending a wedding in Cedar Rapids.

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On Thursday, we had a bit more quality time with the kids as Vivian brought them by “Daddy Park” for a quick visit ahead of school starting again. We had some lunch together and let the kids play on the playground and swings a bit, but they sadly seem to be outgrowing the little place and got bored, particularly in the hot sun. Aaron did some play fighting with mommy and me among the flowers and bees, and then we cooled off with some massively expensive drinks and treats down at Jones Bros.

Later that afternoon, we cooled things down a bit down at the All-Play Sprayground. We also picked up Aaron’s tee-ball uniform, which he’ll be using for his first game on Saturday. Then we spent a little time getting nice and wet before heading home.

Next stop: Cedar Rapids and Shannon’s wedding!

A rocket, a riot, peonies, and geese


We had some gorgeous weather over the past week that made for some extra time outside with the kids ahead of the oppressive heat of summer coming right around the corner. On Friday afternoon, we dropped by Memorial Park again in time to see the peonies blooming (as they are at our house). Hannah had her camera out and was snapping just as many pictures as I was as we walked about (and climbed a tree). Then that evening, I stopped by Johnny’s Cafe and picked up a pair of “TV Dinners” they were selling. I’d wanted to to find a way support my favorite Omaha restaurant ever since everything shut down for the pandemic months ago, and a couple meals of chopped steak with mushroom gravy seemed like a nice idea (which we ate while watching Brain Donors).

Then on a lovely, rainy Saturday, we tuned our Raspberry Pi over to the SpaceX shuttle launch, watching the lift off more or less live along with the rest of the world. We brought the kids out to watch along with us in hopes that they would remember the historic moment.


On Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost by attending a drive-in church service at Bellevue Christian Center once again. We were getting a bit tired of having church live-streamed at home every week, and it felt good to get out of the house for an in-person worship service, even if it was in our car. Pastor Andy’s message was focused on some of the civil unrest going on around the country, even here in Omaha, and he brought up Pastor Hooker for a joint prayer for peace at the end.


Afterward, I headed downtown to see some of the aftermath of the rioting that happened on Saturday night. I was somewhat surprised to find downtown was fairly crowded with hundreds of people there to do volunteer clean-up work. There were folks spraying and scrubbing graffiti off buildings and sidewalks, and lots more cleaning up broken glass from broken windows and boarding up windows. One guy by the courthouse was handing out bottles of water to volunteers, and saw men wearing an NRA hat and a BLM T-shirt both helping in the cleanup.

I eventually found myself in the Old Market, where I bumped into Don Bacon and his brigade, who were cleaning up at the corner of the Hollywood Candy shop. Strangely enough, volunteers for Kara Eastman, who’s running against Bacon, showed up to scrub the opposite corner (though Kara herself was nowhere to be found). By some coincidence, our friends the Mills drove by a few minutes later, just looking to help wherever they could. The owner of the Hollywood Candy shop came out with fudge to thank everyone for their help shortly before we were cleared out, as another “protest” was allegedly gearing up. I saw a glimpse of some left-wing nut-jobs raising their fists a few blocks away near the Hive Bar down the street, where the owner apparently shot and killed a protester in self-defense.


On Monday, the playgrounds at Omaha’s city parks were supposed to be open again to the public, so we stopped on by Hanscom Park with the kids for some noontime fun. We’d visited the park twice before during the Pandemic but couldn’t wander far beyond the “twisty tree” to the playground by the lake, where the kids had some fun playing after having some burgers for lunch. We also took a nice walk along the little pond and fountain, getting close to a few geese hanging about. Hannah and Aaron both found goose feathers left behind, and we even kicked off our shoes to dip our feet in the water together. It was a lovely day for a park visit altogether, particularly before the oppressive summer heat starts ramping up.

Bacon, Elmwood, and Cinnamon Rolls


Tuesday was Nebraska’s primary election day, so I got a little taste of “normalcy” by hanging out a bit with the Bacon Brigade down at 120th and L. They were waving some signs to get out the vote for the Congressman (along with Ian Swanson for Sasse), and I naturally wanted to drop by for a few photos as well. Congressman Bacon was wearing his own patriotic mask, but most everyone went mask-free as they waved and called to cars coming from all four directions — many of which responded with happy beeps.

It was the first political event I’d been a part of since the Iowa primaries, so it was nice to feel one thing a bit more “normal” after all these weeks of shutdown. I also told Don I hoped we’d been able to see him in a parade again soon.


We had some lovely weather on Friday, which was enough to justify a long lunchtime trip down to Elmwood Park. We had a nice, long walk along the wooded path and the grotto area, checking out the local wildlife and getting some much-needed fresh air before kicking off the weekend. We got some ice cream sandwiches for the trip home and then had some Italian beef sandwiches for dinner.

Vivian and I were up bright and early the next morning to check out a “smiley face moon,” i.e. an alignment of a waning crescent moon with Jupiter and Saturn to form a “smiley face.” Unfortunately, it turned out to be completely fake news, but that didn’t stop me from snapping a photo anyway just to document getting up at 4:30 am for no reason. We had some more excitement that evening as the tornado sirens went off to alert us of a pending light rain shower. It didn’t interrupt the Johnny Mazetti we had for dinner, and I snapped a photo of the storm that barely penetrated the OmaDome (and a newly blooming iris) for lack of anything better to do.


Then on Sunday, Vivian made up some hot cinnamon rolls, which we ate during our weekly Living Room worship service with Wildewood’s Facebook live-stream. Hopefully, next week we’ll be attending an almost-in-person drive-in service at the church, though we’ll still have to bring along our own communion elements.

Later that afternoon, I introduced Aaron to Tron, a game he immediately picked up on and became surprisingly good at playing. Maybe soon enough we’ll show him the film on Disney+ (or at least the light bike scene).

Parks and Politics


Well, we’re getting a taste of summer in the midst of spring, with temps going from 90 to 55 like they just saw a state trooper. As such, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity when the weather’s gorgeous to take the kids out for quality park time, running up the Keystone Trail, swinging on the playground, and getting a semi-serious family selfie like we’re ready to drop an album.


Then after park time, I dropped by DJ’s Dugout to hang out with some Young Republicans. I’m a bit too old now to be a YR myself, but I was still invited along to hear a few words from Mayor Jean on the state of the city. A few other local Reps were also on hand, such as Congressman Bacon’s communications chief Kyle, to give a few updates.

Mickey Manley (whose party affiliation I’m unsure of) was also there to encourage the youngster to join his Facebook group called “500 Millennials of Omaha,” which seems to be a lively place on social media to say the least.


On Saturday, we had a fun outing with the kids to Mahoney State Park, which had free admission for the day. We took an obligatory trip to the top of the (perpetually shaking) observation tower to get a good look at the Platte River together and get a few goofy photos). Then we explored the forest near the river down at ground level afterward (and climbed a tree or two), as well as the lodge. We spent more time down at the newly-refurbished playground, trying out the rope bridge, merry-go-round, racing snail, and family swing.

We drove a few miles north to Ashland and had a quiet lunch at Breadeaux Pizza afterward. We walked up and down Silver Street just long enough to look at some meat before stopping by another playground just until some rain clouds came moving in.


Then that evening, we watched Aquaman and planted a garden the next day. Then on Monday, I dipped into the political waters again to have dinner with the Governor down at the Garden Cafe. Gave a 40-minute talk to a handful of the River City Republicans to talk about on-going relief efforts from the massive flooding we had back in March, which included rebuilding major roadways and bridges. He also talked about taxes, specifically two bills in the legislature that will likely be raising them if they manage to pass.

There was some brief Q&A afterward, and I got to talk a bit with Ricketts about his recently “kicking over the hornets nest” posting support of pro-life bills in Alabama and Georgia. He’d recently been told by some left-wing groups that they were planning to protest him over it, which didn’t seem to phase him in the slightest.

Free speech and the big thaw

We had hoped to have a chili cook-off with Aunt Jessica on Saturday, but a brief bit of freezing rain seemed to keep a lot of people at home.


One event that was not cancelled, fortunately, was a Free Speech Forum hosted by Dr. Rick Galusha at Bellevue University. There were a handful of topics for various panels to discuss (“fake news,” immigration, the war on drugs, gerrymandering, and the Convention of the States), followed by a larger panel discussion with local politicians on those issues. I sat in with the Fake News group, have a lively exchange back and forth with Tom Becka and several other people. Former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub joined the panel afterward in the larger group, and I found it kind of refreshing that many people with very different opinions could argue and remain civil in a setting like this.

The freezing rain outside made things a bit slippery on the way home, but my rental Challenger made it a fairly easy trip home, where we stayed inside most of the day (catching up on Mario 3, among other things).


The weather seemed to turn a corner the following week, warming up enough to warrant our first trip to the park of the year. Mommy brought some lunch, and the kids got some quality time on the swings, slide, and jumping in puddles before heading home.

Pig Pig and the Phantom


Over the weekend, we had a special guest at the Johnson house — a stuffed toy pig named Pig Pig from Hannah’s preschool. Every student at Hannah’s preschool gets a turn bringing Pig Pig home and then telling the class what Pig Pig got to do. On Thursday, Pig Pig went with Hannah and Aaron to their friend August’s house to celebrate his second birthday party.

Then on Saturday, Pig Pig came with us for an afternoon at Mahoney State Park. We got to visit the top of an observation tower, have a picnic lunch, and then have some quality play-time on the playground, where Hannah rode a merry-go-round for the first time. On Sunday, Pig Pig came with us to church and then got to have dinner with us at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house that evening (in-between thunderstorms). It was a fun weekend, and Hannah even got to share the pictures daddy took with her class when she gave her oral report.

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I spent Monday evening at Bible Study Fellowship at First Covenant Church, where I’ve been studying Revelation every week for the past year. We had a barbecue to celebrate the end of the year, and I even brought my dad along to meet some of my bible study friends.

Then On Tuesday night, Vivian and I had a long-expected date night in downtown Omaha. We had dinner together at the Panda House, and then we walked down to the Orpheum to see the Phantom of the Opera, a show I’d wanted to see for years (which Vivian got to see 20 years ago in Quebec with her high school choir). I’d gotten the tickets way back in December, so we’ve been looking forward to this for a while. The show was terrific, as I’d expected, but next time I’ll try to spring for seats on the main floor — the upper levels of the Orpheum were built back in a time when people must have been much, much shorter.

Park Time


Nebraska winters tend to be gray and cold with intermittent spurts of unseasonable gorgeousness, so when we aren’t having pizza lunches with the grandparents (which we did last week), Vivian and I like to take the kids outside whenever this happens. We hit a February high in the 70s on Saturday, so we took Hannah and Aaron down to the “Brown Park” (AKA Dream Land Park) by Lake Manawa. We had some burgers for lunch and then Hannah and Aaron got to wear themselves out swinging, sliding and exploring the large wooden outdoor playground.

In other news, our fifth member of the family, Flappy the Cockatiel, seems to be under the weather. This is often a dire situation for a little bird, particularly one who’s nearly twenty-five years old like Flappy. He seems to be hanging in there, however, with lots of cuddling for his mommy and daddy. It did prompt us to get our first “full” family photo with him, however.


On Sunday, Twin Valley Church’s new Pastor gave his first official sermon as pastor at our church after a brief blessing for him and his family by the elders. Then we celebrated his first day downstairs with a potluck. I have to say that I really appreciate Pastor’s Ryan’s hands-on, proactive approach. He pushed for me to upgrade the church website to WordPress, and he was technologically-savvy enough to dive right in and start making edits as soon as I gave him an account.

That evening, our mutual friend Jessica invited us over to her place to play cards as Hannah and Aaron got some quality playtime. Jessica’s roommate brought along her three girls, who kept our kids occupied, as we all played Rummy along with Jon (and Aaron, when he felt like joining in). I have to remind myself how easy it is to get grown-up time when you have other little ones around to keep your own kids occupied.


The nice weather lasted at least one more day, which allowed us to have our first lunchtime visit to Stinson Park for the year. The kids had lunch, and then they both got to make hams of themselves performing on the large stage singing and dancing for the amusement of mom and me.

The big yellow one’s the sun

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On Friday night, Vivian and I had an impromptu date night as I snagged tickets to see Brian Regan down at the Holland Center. Vivian’s been a fan of his since before I even knew her, so it was a treat to see him live (and with all-new material, of course). Yes, that blurry photo above is actually Brian Regan taking the stage — I actually chose to snap just one blurry photo with my cell phone and actually enjoy the evening with Vivian rather than worry about documenting it. Imagine that!

Before the show, Grammy and Pop-Pop stopped by to dress Hannah up in color colorful springtime attire. Then they made us all pork chops for dinner, letting Hannah help and learn the magic of shake-and-bake. Then on Saturday, Vivian and I had something of an extended date-day together. The West girls from church were spending the day watching Hannah and Aaron so Vivian and I could clean house and then have lunch at the Pizza Shoppe for something of a late lunch.

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In other news, Aaron turned ten months old last week, which we celebrated with some adorable pictures in front of our tulips out front. Springtime seems to be exploding in every directions, with trees at the park and in our yard in full blossom. Hannah got to play with a pile of fallen blossoms on one of our walk-walks, and on another she got to discover the joy of running through a sprinkler. We’ve also been spending extra quality time at the park, giving the kids swing time and cupcakes whenever they’re available. Such are the joys of the season, at least before the scorching heat and humidity of the summer descend upon us.


Our friend Mark also turned 107 or something, which gave me a great excuse to join him and Phil and Jen at Pana 88 to have Ramen Noodles (not the Instant Noodles you’re thinking of, but something much more edible). It was the perfect place to laugh it up as a perpetual drizzle made the rest of the world cold and gray outside, a precursor to a dumpling party this weekend.

Spring Breaks


I think spring is here at last, with the last of the slow melting under highs creeping into the upper 70s. That also means it’s time for our first Lenten Fish Fry of the season. Of course, we had to go to St. John Vianney’s, and this time we took the Mills with us. Lexi had never been to a fish fry before, and Nate hadn’t been to one since his days in Michigan, so we braved the crowds to feast on batter-dipped cod, tomato soup, grilled cheese, french fries, et cetera (as in pancakes). This was also the first time Hannah (and Sammy) had been able to actually participate in the fish-eating feeding frenzy as mom and dad got to “bah bah bah” along to Sweet Caroline courtesy of our favorite Lenten guitarist and his (probably tipsy) backup singers. Good times never seemed so good.


Of course, family trips to the park are now practically mandatory with short-sleeved weather upon us. We got to drop by our favorite neighborhood park with my folks on Saturday for some quality time pushing the kids on the swings and trying to send Hannah flying off the X-Wave teeter-totter. The weekdays were even nicer, with lunchtime weather nice enough for a brisk walk up the Keystone Trail or even our first family picnic on a blanket at Stinson Park.

We got a brief moment of extra excitement when Vivian was interviewed by WOWT Channel 6 for a story on child safety. They ran the story during the ten o’clock news on Saturday, so check it out if you’d like to see a glimpse of us during our typical romp in the park.

Nifty in the Fifties


It’s the middle of January, but we’re experiencing some extraordinarily gorgeous weather, with daytime highs hovering around 50 degrees. This meant we got to take Hannah and Aaron to the park for the first time this year, taking full advantage of swings, slides, and even a picnic lunch, with cupcakes courtesy of Jones Bros. There may be plenty of snow and sub-zero temperatures before summertime, so we’ll take days like these while we can get them.


On Saturday, our “old” friend Hugh crossed the half-century mark and turned 50 years old. We hadn’t visited the Kam family since the 2012 Super Bowl, so a visit was long overdue. The party itself was allegedly a surprise, with Hugh running errands throughout the afternoon and returning to find friends, a cake, and about fifty babies crawling all over the place. Yes, we had our usual gang of friends dropping in for birthday wishes as well, but our offspring seemed to take over, with happy babies laughing at balls, impromptu tower-building, and some certain flirtations on the couch that nearly got out of hand. We also got to see the Kam’s latest addition to the family (with her eyes open for the first time).