Category Archives: Politics

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.

Dipwads, Chili, and a Charcuterie Board

It’s been another busy week at the Johnson House, much of it spent cleaning up and getting ready for our annual Cheese and/or Hors d’oeuvres Party (in-between rounds of playing video games or Mini Monopoly with the kids).

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On Tuesday, I and a bunch of my co-workers from the Institute got to hear from our new attorney general Mike Hilgers at the Business and Professional People for Life luncheon at the German American Society over lunch. He talked about his time in the legislature advancing pro-life legislation and now transitioning to his role in the attorney general’s office. We also got to hear from Marion Minor with the Nebraska Catholic Conference on current pro-life bills before the legislature. My dad was even able to join me at the luncheon as well, which was nice. He’d gotten to meet Mike back at the GOP pancake breakfast back in July. I did a much more detailed write-up of the luncheon on my political blog, if you care to read more.

Then on Wednesday, I met up with Vivian at Whole Foods to do a little shopping for our party on Saturday. Vivian wanted to make a charcuterie board, and that meant finding some interesting olives, cheese, and other things to add to an ensemble of mixed nuts and fruit. I was hungry enough to want to grab lunch while we were there, so we both grabbed a few things from the salad bar and ate together before I headed back to work.


On Thursday, Mayor Jean Stothert came down to the Pizza Ranch to talk to the River CIty Republicans about the State of the City. In her third term, she’d the longest serving Mayor of Omaha, and she managed to pack a fifty minute presentation with facts and figures on everything from the city budget to economic development downtown to public safety and crime and property taxes. She even brought her own personal property tax bill to go through line by line to show how much the city taxes in taxes compared to Omaha Public Schools. It was a very informative talk, which you can read more about on my political blog, as well as watch my live stream of the presentation (if that’s your thing).

I took Friday off so I could help tidy up before our party. Aaron also had the day off, so Vivian and I decided to take him out at IHOP for a special breakfast together. Aaron had been wanting to get French toast at IHOP for a while now, so we decided to take him to have a slice, He also wanted to have pancakes covered with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles, just like he saw on the ad next to us in our booth, so we let him have that as well. Then we had a busy day cleaning together while keeping Aaron distracted making levels on Mega Man Maker.


Then came the big day on Saturday! I decorated our whiteboard specially for the occasion, and Vivian put together her charcuterie board and toasted some pull-apart cheese and garlic bread. I took the kids to Grammy’s house to watch a movie or two and have pizza as our friends started to arrive. This year we had Phil with Grilled Galbi Beef Sticks, Jen with Cheese Bread, Tamra with a pretzel sticks and mustard, Ryan with “Crudités and Dipwads,” Jenny and Kody with Loaded pulled pork cups, Jon Paper with pull-apart cheesy pesto bread, Lisa Barrett with Plum Chutney, Ben Anderson with some cheeses, and Jolene with some Mulberry Jam.

I uncovered some cute cheese wine glass markers and some fancy stir sticks for some freshly-shaken martinis. I also had some entertainment courtesy of my Raspberry Pi, which played a couple “cheesy movies” on our mini-TV (i.e. MST3K) while pumping music some ripped Jazz CDs to my Sonos. We sampled and then voted with Tamra’s pretzel and mustard and Lisa’s chutney tying for first place. We had a run-off vote, in which Lisa won the coveted Pig and a Blanket by one vote. Afterward, we played a round of What’s Yours Like, which inspired some hilarious commentary. Vivian just said, “Don’t!” in response to a knowing look I gave her, which pretty much broke the room.

It was a fun, fun night, and well worth the excuse of doing a little housecleaning in advance to prepare for it.


We had some lovely weather on Sunday with highs around 50, so I thought it’d be a good time to break out Aaron’s remote control car, which he got for his birthday last year. We were able to take it zooming around the driveway a couple times, but when we moved to the park where there would be more room (and less crashing), the battery ran dry. The kids had some fun in the park anyway, and they didn’t even need coats.

Then that evening, we dropped by Wildewood for a Chili Cookoff. Vivian made a pot of chili along with a couple dozen other people, and I sampled about as many as I could up and down the line. There were prized form the car wash up the street for everyone who participated, abd special gift cards for the winners of first, second, and third place. It was nice to have some chili and fellowship, even if the weather wasn’t “chilly,” and of course we also had cinnamon rolls (because this is Nebraska).

Ramen, Racing, and a Walk for Life

We had another fun busy week together as January draws to a close. Hannah received some of her patches with the American Heritage Girls, and Aaron and I started on a Pinewood Derby style car to race with his fellow Royal Rangers. It’s my first time helping him make such a thing, but we had the chance to get a bit creative with it. It was also School Choice Week, which meant hauling my custom yellow shirt out of the closet for a day or two.

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On Thursday, I got dressed up in my Sushi Tie and Socks to celebrate my sixteenth Sushi Anniversary with Vivian, marking the day we “made it official” back in 2007. This year, Vivian was in the mood for Ramen as well, so we managed to get both down at Rizin Japanese Ramen in Rockbrook Village. We got some Shrimp Tempura and Spicy Crab rolls along with fried shrimp and Tako-Yaki “octopus balls,” which were deep fried, doughy, and delicious.

Then we had Ramen — pork tonkatsu for me and some with miso broth for Vivian, both with a hardboiled egg in each of them. It was all quite good and filling, but then after lunch we went around the corner to Great Harvest to sample some bread anyway, taking home loaves of garlic cheddar and asiago basil for later.


On Friday, we had a fun night with the Royal Rangers eating pizza and racing Lego cars. They had a long table of various Lego (and Lego-compatible) pieces for Hannah and Aaron to put together various things on wheels. Then they got to send them down a long steel track with a couple loops along the way, which made some of the more unstable cars explode into a dozen pieces (which seemed to be a big part of the fun).

Somewhere in-between we got to fill up on a couple slices of Marco’s Pizza. The Mills joined us along with a couple other Ranger family, and the kids had a few hours of fun racing and crashing cars together (and some carpet ball).


Then on Saturday, I and a fairly large crowd braved some 20 degree temperatures to attend the Walk for Life at the Nebraska State Capitol. Most of us were bundled up, but one crazy group of guys decided to come shirtless. I got to see several familiar faces, including our new Governor Jim Pillen (and Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly), new Senator Pete Ricketts, new Attorney General Mike Hilgers, new State Auditor Mike Foley, Congressman Mike Flood, Don Bacon, Deb Fischer, and a whole bunch of state senators, all supporting Joni Albrecht’s Heartbeat Bill. The Keynote speaker was Dr. John Bruchalski, a former abortionist turned pro-life activist, who spoke later at the UN-L student union.

They had the traditional balloon launch once the speakers were done. Then the crowd walked a little over half a mile from the capitol steps to the UN-L Campus down 14th Street. I walked along and took photos of some of the walkers along the way. Then I headed back to the capitol for a few more photos before heading home. Along the way, I dropped by Pho Factory to get some pho (with our go-to place was inexplicably closed once again), and I got a huge order for there that Vivian and I were able to make a couple meals out of before the weekend was over.

You can read about the rally in more detail over on my political blog Right Cheer.

The “Snowmageddon” that Wasn’t

Welcome to winter! Our relatively warm spell on Monday ended long enough for a “snowmageddon” that really wasn’t (but closed the schools anyway). Things have been mostly quiet as we tidy up ahead of our annual Cheese and Hors D’oeuvres Party and keep warm in the great indoors (with the help of screens).

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I went to the Men of God dinner on Tuesday, where Dan made some gumbo (and Ron brought chili) for dinner before we talked a bit about marriage in another session of the 33 Series.

On Wednesday, they closed down the schools for a winter storm that came passing through. I made Aaron some Waffle Cars in the morning before he did some tablet school. Hannah also had some homework from her own school that mommy and I helped her with throughout the day. I actually left work early as the snow started coming down, but we only got about an inch or so (which only qualifies as a “dusting,” I think). Vivian made some chili for dinner to keep everyone warm, which we had with cinnamon rolls, of course.

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I’ve tried keeping active despite what little snow we got, taking a couple walks on the freshly plowed Keystone Trail and enjoying the scenery of a few freshly-frosted trees. We spent a good portion of the weekend tidying up and distracting the kids with a few video games in the meantime.

I did pay a visit to my parents’ house to return a book and play some Geo-Guesser with Uncle Jonny. Hannah also talked with Grandma about such things as our old Swedish family bible. Then I took Hannah by Menards and got her a treat down at Chick-Fil-A just because.


Then on Monday, I attended another luncheon with the Pachyderms down at Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine. This time around, they had a panel discussion on “The Future of the Republican Party,” and the guests were Jim Rose of KFAB, Jim Jordan of News Channel Nebraska, and Prof. Randy Atkins from UN-O.

The panelists talked about such things as what would win future elections, and all there panelists seemed confident that Donald Trump would be the nominee in 2024. Strangely enough, I was asked not to live stream the event, but I may have a write-up before too long in my political blog, if you care to check back later.

Having an Epiphany

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Union Station, Apples-to-Apples, and a Chilly Bike Ride

The Christmas season is well underway, with the tree decorated and our Christmas letters ready to mail, and I also broke out our Christmas mugs for my early morning coffee. Harold said goodbye to his mommy after a week or two of running around with her in our living room, and Hannah finally finished her “red book” of reading exercises and celebrated with Vivian by throwing it out the window.


On Saturday, we took our annual trip down to the Durham Museum for Christmas at Union Station. They unfortunately haven’t had a public tree-lighting since 2019, but we still enjoy being able to see the real thing (and get our family photo in front of it). Hannah and Aaron got to see Santa again before running through the train and streetcar downstairs.

Aaron watched some vintage cartoons while Hannah took a look at some of the dresses from Downtown Abbey, which were on display. Then we finished our visit with some phosphates for the kids and a couple egg creams before heading home.

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I took Hannah to church on Sunday and then to her Christmas program rehearsal afterward. I also got a free Big Mac for lunch just for signing up for the app, which was nice. I spent the afternoon getting Vivian a new garage door opener and then installing a new dimmer switch in our living room, since the old one has gone all blinky and weird.

Then we had a family game night and introduced the kids to Apples to Apples, which they were both able to play with us. Hannah wanted to add a few extra players and decided to bring her dolls into the game, which she must have enjoyed because she wanted to play again with me the next morning before school.

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On Monday, Mike Foley came to the pizza ranch to talk about his eight years as Lt. Governor and returning now to his role as State Auditor, which he held prior to being Pete Ricketts running mate. I saw a few familiar faces there, such as my dad’s old NAS friend Dwayne Ball from UN-L, along with John Glen Weaver and State Senator Jim Jensen.

Then on Thursday, I went for my first bike ride in a while, heading up to Trader Joe’s and back. The weather was 34 degrees but sunny, so it was a bit brisk, but not too bad of a ride. It seems difficult to get outside and move around during the winter months, but I try to make an effort when at least the roads aren’t too slippery (as they might be tomorrow).

Election Night & the Morning After

Another Election Day has come and gone, and I’m still busy recovering from it. The Red Wave we’d been hoping for didn’t happen, but pretty much all the candidates I voted for on my own personal ballot did quite well. All politics is local, at least for me this time.


On the day before Election Day, I got to hear from Eric Underwood, the new Executive Director of the NEGOP, down at the Pizza Ranch over lunch. He was elected in the tumultuous convention this summer that ousted the previous Executive Director, Dan Welsch. I got to ask him personally what that was all about, and he talked briefly about the kind of top-down authoritarian nature of the previous NEGOP, which notoriously refused entry to five duly-elected delegates ans even had one of them arrested for “trespassing” when they showed up anyway. He talked at length about building relationships with voters and having the new NEGOP adhere to such things as a written Constitution and Robert’s Rules of Order rather than dictating to the grassroots from the top.

I enjoyed hearing his talk, which you can watch in its entirely on my political blog. Toward the end, he said “most Nebraskans aren’t moderate are just trying to live our life devoid of politics, not be a part of any of this, but there did come a point where we said all right, enough is enough.” That definitely summarizes where I am most of the time.


Then came Election Day! I donned my patriotic tie and walked up the hill (with Hannah) to vote for a handful of candidates and a few resolutions on the docket. I even went so far as to put a sign out for my friend Doug, who was running for the Learning Community.

Then that evening, I went down to the Regency Marriott for Don Bacon’s election night party. I’d been hoping for a “Red Wave” and a short evening for the District 2 Congressman, but it unfortunately didn’t materialize. I still had a good time hanging out with a bunch of my political friends. Some of the candidates I’d gotten to meet personally down at the Garden Café or the Pizza Ranch, such as Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Douglas County Assessor Walt Peffer, gave victory speeches once their races were called. The race between Don Bacon and his opponent was ridiculously close throughout the night, with only 20 votes separating them for about an hour. Toward the end of the evening, Don began pulling away and gave a “thank-you” speech sometime after eleven, even though the race hadn’t been called. I got to shake his hand (and get a selfie, of course) before heading home for the night.

I spent most of the next day recovering, having planned ahead and taken the entire day off. I got a little laundry done and was able to surprise Hannah down at her school when it was time to pick her up. I also leafed through more of Jordan Peterson’s book when I took Aaron to Royal Rangers that evening. Then I turned in early to get about nine hours of sleep before preparing to head back to work on Thursday.

I’m still not sure what to make of the Midterm results, which I’d expected to be a whole lot better for Republicans than they turned out to be. I’ve heard a lot of people online and elsewhere blaming weak candidates, Trump’s involvement, and decidedly left-wing youth voting bloc, but I’m waiting for the dust to settle before thinking much more about the future.

What I am interested in a 2024 election season that will look a bit more like 2016 — with several Republican candidates making the rounds in Iowa doing meet-and-greets, which I enjoyed doing so much six years ago. Even better, this time Hannah (and maybe Aaron) will be old enough to better understand what’s going on they they did back in 2016. We’ll see.

On to 2024!

Air Rifles, Little House, and Jim Pillen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy autumn, everyone!

Steak, Pork Ribs, & Pupcakes

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Branched Oak Lake & Pop-Pop’s Birthday


We’ve kept fairly busy in the days leading up to our annual camping trip. I had a random lunch date with Vivian at Chick-Fil-A and had a lovely lunchtime ride on my bike to Towl Park first the first time in a while. We also celebrated Pop-Pop’s birthday by getting gas for all our cars in a caravan down at Baker’s — saving an actual celebration for the following Sunday as we got busy packing for our camping trip. I wound up shopping at three different stores looking for a new pump for our air mattress, finally nabbing the last one at the Bellevue Walmart.

Then on Friday, we hurriedly packed everything up and headed on our to Branched Oak Lake for a brief camping trip just west for Lincoln. We got there just as the sun was setting and had to make a bit of a mad dash to set up our campsite. Then once we had a place to sleep, we lit up a fire and roasted a few s’mores together while looking at the stars. Jupiter was clearly visible in the Northern sky, and we had some fun identifying visible constellations like the Big Dipper (and the little one).


The next morning, we were greeted by a lovely little rainbow as we lit some coals to fry up some breakfast. Then Vivian and Lexi cooked up spam, ham, and some of the Mills’ own homegrown eggs for us. Nate drove the kids and me down to the Marina to get some fishing rods and check out some of the cute hay bales they’d decorated up there for Halloween. Hannah and Sammy went on a nature walk in the meantime and came back with a few little bouquets for their moms, which was very sweet.

The Mills’ boys did a little fishing in the afternoon, and Lexi spent a little time showing Hannah how to cast a line. It also seemed warm enough to break out the swimwear and go wading in the lake for a little bit. The water proved to be absolutely frigid, but Aaron in particular didn’t seem to mind. We’d seem someone swimming in the icy lake earlier in the morning, but most of us weren’t quite ready to get more than our legs just a little wet.


Later on in the afternoon, Hannah and Sammy took us on a walk through an unmarked trail they’d found earlier, which wound its way through a wooden area behind all the camping areas. We returned to the campsite and then drove down to the playground to let the kids play for a little bit, and then Nate took us back to the Marina to get some ice cream. Then when we returned to the campsite, we got to say hello to a lady and her horse, who came down just to play in the water by our campsite before dinnertime.

That evening, Vivian made up some chili, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese for dinner while Lexi baked some cornbread. I got a few family photos as the sun went down (and a closeup of a passing blue jay), and then we made a few more s’mores around the fire, this time using some chocolate marshmallows (which Donna found at Menards (of all places).


The next morning, I lit the campfire one last time so we could warm a few cinnamon rolls for breakfast (as I make an actual s’more). We got to see a couple flocks of geese as we finished eating and started packing things up.

We gave the kids a little time to play together before packing up our campsite. Aaron, August, and Gabriel had some massive kind of excavation going on, digging a hole in the side of a cliff throughout our trip. Vivian also broke out some sketch pads so the kids to draw together as the grown-ups started taking down tents and packing things up for the trip home. Hannah made herself a camping journal, which she hopes to continue on her next camping trip (next week).


We had an hour or two to recover when we returned home before heading on our again to celebrate Pop-Pop’s birthday. The kids made a few birthday cards for him, and Vivian helped to grill a couple steaks and some burgers for the kids.

We ate together out on the front porch as the sun set, and Hannah and Aaron both got to take turns taking Bella for a walk up and down the sidewalk in front of Grammy’s house. Then we had some decadent chocolate peanut butter cup cake for dessert (along with peanut butter cup ice cream).


It was back to work (and school) the next day on Monday, of course. I did get to have a last bit of fun hanging out at the Pizza Ranch with the River City Republicans for their monthly luncheon. This month, they brought in Rod Edwards, who was Charles W. Herbster’s right-hand man during his campaign for Governor, who was now heading up Herbster’s new Nebraska First PAC. I had wondered what Herbster would be doing with his time and money since losing his bid for governor earlier this year. Among those is pushing for more transparency in the legislature, where leadership votes are held by secret ballot, among other things.

It was a busy little weekend, and fairly late in the year for our annual camping trip with the Mills, but we lucked out in a major way when it came to the weather. It was definitely worth waiting for!

IMG_7551Happy campers!