Category Archives: Sumtur

RiffTrax, Water Wheel, and Return to the SumTur

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It’s the start of a new school year, so Vivian and I are crashing back into the routine of getting the kids up, fed, and out the door every morning. Aaron’s going to public school while Hannah’s being homeschooled, which is a boon for her, since she and mommy can drop by Trader Joe’s with me for an educational shopping trip buying cheese and figs just for fun in the middle of the day. Hannah also learned how to make her own macarons.

Then on Tuesday, we had a RiffTrax event for the first time in well over a year. Mark, Richard, and my dad joined me at Culver’s for some pre-movie burgers before we headed over to Twin Creek to see Mike and the “Bots” make fun of Hobgoblins, a favorite from the MST3K days. It was nice to have yet another bit of normalcy back in our lives (Richard and I also got to be twins with our shirts).


Then on Saturday, I had a lovely bike ride to the Walnut Creek Recreation area and back before we took the kids down to Cimarron Woods for a fun, wet morning at Emmett’s birthday party. They have a lovely splash pad (with a giant water wheel) and playground there, so Aaron and Hannah got some quality time running around and getting splashed for a couple hours.

We got to chat with a handful of our grown-up friends while we were there and had a batch of sandwiches and chips for lunch. Afterward, we broke out the cake for a bit of a sugar high before winding down for a bit and getting a family photo with the birthday boy.

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Then that evening, we took the kids back out for a family movie night down at the SumTur. Summer movies there have been an annual staple for us for a couple years, but we hadn’t all four made it down since about 2019. The kids got a little time to run around (and flip chairs) before the movie started (with Looney Tunes short, Duck Amuck as a prelude). They showed Kaya and the Last Dragon, a movie we’d already seen via Disney+, but the kids seemed to enjoy it just as much the second time through.

We’ve got a few days now to catch our breath before we have another crazy, busy weekend celebrating my birthday. That’s something I’ll be looking forward to (so stay tuned).

Backing the Blue

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It’s been another fun, busy week making our way through the dog days of summer. On Tuesday, I rode my bike to work again, and I met up with Mr. Nate at New Golden Mountain to have dim sum in thanks for helping us with our siding project. Then after work, I stopped by the All Play Sprayground, where Vivian brought the kids to cool off at the end of the day before heading home to turn leftover brisket into BBQ sandwiches.

Then on Friday, Aaron had a bit of a cold, so I took Hannah down to the SumTur for a Daddy/Daughter date night. We’ve been going to the SumTur for their outdoor movie nights every year since Hannah was born, and I’m glad it’s one tradition that wasn’t cancelled due to Covid 19. We did have to use red dots on the lawn to keep our distance from other patrons, but the weather was lovely and we even got to share some popcorn and Skittles when the sun went down. The movie of the evening was Toy Story 4, but it was upstaged halfway through by a giant frog that decided to hop in front of us and steal the show.


On Saturday morning, my dad and I went down to Memorial Park for a “Back the Blue” rally, a patriotic counter-protest to the guys who were smashing windows and spraying graffiti downtown a few weeks earlier. Around two thousand people were in attendance (including some elected officials) carrying American flags (of varying stripes) and arriving on motorcycle or even a decorated station wagon. The festivities included speakers from the Omaha Police Department (and former Omaha North principal Gene Haynes) and a few singers, such as the Sarpy Serenders and local musician Steve Spurgeon, who sang in all his star-spangled attire (and guitar).

Former Mayor Hal Daub played emcee, introducing the speakers and musical guests. The event was apolitical, though a few people brought Trump flags and a handful of protestors also made their way through the crowd. There were no ugly confrontations or outbursts, however. I was amused when one protestor tried to get people riled up by screaming, “black lives matter” only to be shouted down with “all lives matter” by the crowd. I also managed to bump into KFAB’s Chris Baker, who was live-streaming the event, which you can watch in its entirety here. I enjoyed hearing from all the speakers, though Sgt. Connor absolutely brought down the house at the very end of the event, giving a passionate, fiery speech (which you can watch here) lambasting the media for its role in making all cops look like villains.

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Things were quiet for the rest of the weekend. On Sunday, we set up a new wading pool on the driveway for the kids to splash in. We were lucky enough to nab one for for $25 at Aldi while they were in stock — similar models were being scalped online for $100. I even joined the kids as they splashed about a bit, finding the ice cold water from our garden hose massively refreshing.

Then after dinner, we went down to Dairy Twist to have some ice cream for dessert, taking a short detour on our way home through the St. Columban Mission, where we saw a handful of deer out to graze in their sanctuary.

Hot in the Pot


We’re enjoying the downward slope of summer and getting a few things done around the house before fall. I’ve been doggedly putting a fresh coat of paint on the house, which would have been hard enough if the paint store could consistently match the paint. Donna also came by and got the kids to help her plant a few new daisies in our yard (transplanted from her own). In addition to this, we’ve had an abundance of visitors — namely bag worms wrapped in leafy cocoons — descending from our maple tree into the yard. I’ve been busy getting rid of the little pests and hoping they haven’t caused any permanent damage.

We had some lovely cool weather on Friday night for our second and final trip to the SumTur this season. The August and Gabriel (and Joe) came along for some quality running-around time with Hannah and Aaron, dancing by the stage and flipping chairs before the sun went down. Then we headed back to our blanket to watch How to Train Your Dragon 3.


On Saturday, we took the kids down to Dream Land Park for the first time since its major remodeling last year. They got an hour or two of swinging on giant saucers and climbing on a rope merry-go-round. There were plenty of other fun places to explore, like a rope bridge, captains helm, bouncy bridge, sticky metal slides, and some replicas of a few historic buildings in Council Bluffs (redone as play areas). I also found a stash of a certain plant that I’d found there last time we visited three years ago. (Apparently nobody’s gotten rid of it yet.)

Afterward, we stopped by Arby’s to have a dinner of sandwiches, fries, and milkshakes with the kids before heading for home,


Then on Sunday, Phil and Jen invited us over for a “hot pot” at their house. I can’t recall having such a thing before, but it apparently involves cooking a variety of raw ingredients in a giant wok — shrimp, beef, chicken, fish balls, fish cakes, boh choy, rice noodles, and any number of things — full of boiling chicken stock. Another family was invited with their kids, so our kids got to play with some new friends for a while before we sat down to eat.

I managed to help myself to multiple tiny bowls along with some Asian “barbecue sauce” (mixed with raw egg and soy sauce). I was also happy that our kids sampled a bit of everything, including the fish balls we’d brought from the Asian market. After we’d had our fill, we got to sample some of Jen’s birthday scotch before she served up some shaved ice with vanilla ice cream, sweet red beans, and frozen fruit for dessert before we called it a night.

Memorial Day Weekend

We’re having a lovely spring, with baby bunnies running through our yard and the lilac, peonies, and hostas all in bloom. We had a couple thunderstorms as well, one of which blew out the side panels in our deck and knocked a tree down across the street. Fortunately, they haven’t done much worse — or interrupted any of our fun, outdoor activities.


First up was the first outdoor movie of the year at the SumTur Amphitheater (AKA the “Movie Park”). Some middle-school age kids were giving some kind of performance with the “House of Music” through much of the evening, playing some cover songs as the kids got to run around on the grass for a couple of hours.

Then, (well) after the sun went down, we got to watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, an animated film that featured various incarnations of Marvel’s web-slinger. It was a fairly interesting movie, though it was played several decibels too loud for my liking and was far more violent than I expected from the Dove review I’d checked out.


I got a good deal of exercise over the weekend cleaning gutters and mowing my parents’ lawn. We also had dinner with our friends the Lenarts on Saturday and spent Sunday afternoon swimming at the Kroc Center to cool off.

Then on Memorial Day, we broke out the American flag and walked the kids to my parents’ house to have beef ribs (and cobbler). Jack and Donna joined us, as did as my two brothers. After we ate, Grandma brought out some old photos to show Hannah her grandpa in his army uniform. We’d told the kids the meaning of Memorial Day, which Hannah managed to illustrate in her sketchbook later on.

We enjoyed the outdoors a bit more in the afternoon, playing some ball with the kids and uncles in the backyard and then playing a few other games indoors before calling it a day.


In other news, the kids will both be attending all-day summer school through the month of June. This was an elective decision on our part to give them both time for intense socialization in a public school environment without making a full-year commitment. As such, we had one last lunchtime rendezvous at “daddy’s park,” giving the kids the chance to swing and splash about in the recently-activated fountains by the spire. I even brought along a chance of clothes so I could join in with them. We won’t be able to do this again until July or so.


Then on Thursday night, I dropped by St. Luke’s in South Omaha for a town hall with Congressman Don Bacon. He holds these types of events regularly (unlike his predecessor), so I try to take advantage of the opportunity whenever I can. The room was about half Republican and half Democrat, if my gauge of the applause and boos are correct. Everyone had the chance to submit a question, which were pulled at random from a box. My question was what he though he’d be ale to do with the other party controlling the house. “We need to do better at that … It’s a frustrating thing,” he responded.

There weren’t too many fireworks, but I was surrounded by constituents who were grumbling, sighing, and even yelling out their own opinions out of turn throughout the event, so it was a bit difficult for me to bite my tongue and stay silent. Still, it was a good exercise in self-control, and it felt good to know we live in a country where you’re allowed to yell at your congressman without getting thrown in prison.

Garden Tomatoes and Louisville Lake


Vivian’s mom is spending a few weeks in California, so we’ve been keeping tabs on her dad while she’s away — mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, and eating all of his ribs out on the back porch on Tuesday (AKA avocado day).

My Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy have also been making their way across the country, stopping by to visit briefly on Wednesday last week. Both Nathan and Jonathan were there to visit as we brought the kids band then attempted to play some Word with Friends.


The Dog Days of Summer have been relatively cool, making for nice weather to have a Derp Burger with fresh tomatoes picked from our garden (and drink from the garden hose). I’ve also been riding my bike to work fairly regularly, which makes for a nice bit of exercise in the countryside (when it’s not raining).

On Friday night, we made one more stop at the SumTur to watch Early Man with Mark and Jon. It was a fairly cute Nick Park film, and it was nice to get one more outdoor film in before the end of the season. The next day, I saw the new Dinesh D’Souza movie, Death of a Nation, with my folks, and then we went to Arby’s with Jonathan afterward. That latter movie wasn’t nearly as much fun to watch.


Sunday was nice and warm, so we took the kids down to Louisville Lake for a long-overdue family swim. Hannah and Aaron seemed much more enthusiastic about getting into the water this time around, though more with the pool noodles and not so much our alligator (which was literally deflating). There was also a giant, inflatable obstacle course next door, but it seemed a bit intimidating for the kids (and rather expensive to play on), so Hannah and Aaron got in some quality tree-climbing instead.

Then that evening: bruschetta with tomatoes and basil from our garden and fresh pressed garlic. Oh, boy.


Then on Monday we took the kids down to B&B Classic Dogs, a hot dog restaurant and arcade that we’d wanted to visit for a while. On this particular day, a handful of the Faith Christian Clowns were on hand to made balloon animals for the kids and do some face-painting (or arm-painting, in Aaron’s case) in-between eating hot dogs and playing ski-ball. It felt quite a bit like a miniature Chuck-E-Cheese and took me back to my childhood for a bit. Of course after having a bacon-wrapped foot-long and some deep-fried appetizers, I’m going to need to ride my bike to work for another week to pay for it.

In other news: Johnny Marzetti with Pop-Pop tonight. Yum.

Summer Wind-Down

Things have been exciting as we’re gearing up for the big solar eclipse here in Nebraska. Of course, there are a few other fun things happening as summer begins to wind down.


We’re still enjoying the last bits of summer together, which means taking in one more movie at the SumTur (Finding Dory) and getting quality time at the local splash parks. The Fountains at Stinson Park are finally up and running, so I brought along my swim trunks for a run through them with the kids during one particularly warm lunch break.

We also dropped by Seymour Smith park for an afternoon run through the spray ground there after work. Aaron specifically wanted to see the “blue buckets” again after having seen them in action at his birthday party back in June.


On the Friday before the Eclipse, I took the day off to go to Lincoln with the kids for some quality time at Lost in Fun. I’d brought Hannah and Aaron there a couple times before when doing freelance work at Land and Sky during the day, and Hannah had been asking to return for over a year. We all got to jump on the bouncing pillows together and climb around in the plush ball pit, and Hannah and Aaron both got a couple hours of slides, carts, and bubbles together. Afterward, we had a late lunch at Big Sal’s pizza before heading home, per the norm.


That evening, Aunt Jessica invited us to spend some time in her apartment complex’s pool while it was still warm. The kids got to try out some goggles and beat each other with pool noodles for an hour or two as we finished off the day.

Then on Saturday, we went to Papillion for a Nebraska-style family photo shoot just in time to lose Hannah’s favorite toy, Zoe the Cat, making for a frustrating launch into Eclipse Weekend.

It’s a cool, cruel Summer

We’re into the home stretch of summer now, which strange since it feels like it only just got started. That means getting quality time in the red wagon and picnics in the front yard among the daisies while they’re still in bloom.


On Friday night, we made our first trip to the SumTur this season to see Lego Batman. Kate brought along her girls, who ran up and down the steep hill with our kids and danced in front of the stage, much to the amusement of us and Aunt Jessica (who recorded most of it). Coming to this little outdoor theater has been a tradition since Hannah was born, so I’m glad the weather stayed lovely for our visit.

The next day, I toted Aaron to grandma and grandpa’s house so I could mow their lawn while he played with blocks and got quality play time with grandma. Grandpa grilled up some burgers for lunch, and then I headed back to the house to help Vivian clean the garage during Aaron’s nap-time. We finally got the remnants of our garage sale cleared away so we could put the cars back into the garage, which was a relief.


On Monday, I got meet Congressman Jeff Fortenberry at a town hall meeting. He’s actually been my congressman for over a decade, (I actually helped print his campaign materials when I worked at a little print shop back in 2004), so it was kind of nice to finally meet the guy.

Attendees to the town hall seemed to be mostly older folks, and they were much better-behaved than the rainbow-haired upstarts who came to yell at Deb Fischer back in mid-June. About half the crowd seemed to be left-wing, everyone remained courteous, which was nice. Jessica Ritchie was there to record the event for KMTV, but I unfortunately couldn’t keep my fat head out of her shots.


Toward the end of this week, the weather took an unexpected turn for the cool side, so we brought the kids to Stinson Park for a lunchtime play break. They got to have burgers and chicken nuggets, while mommy and I had some dim sum from Golden Mountain across the street. The fountains around the spire were also (finally) turned on for the summer, so the kis wasted no time in getting all wet before realizing 72 degrees and windy made getting soaked a bit more chilly than they were expecting. Fortunately, mommy had spare dry hoodies to keep them warm for some slides and hopscotch before going home.

Then that evening: English Muffin pizzas.

Furries, a Cake Show, and Jimmy B

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We’ve had a couple fun and busy weekends since Vivian and I got back from our little overnight anniversary. Last Sunday, Hannah’s little forest cake won the blue ribbon down at the Douglas County Fair (held inexplicably at Crossroads Mall), so the whole family went with Grammy to pick up her award and her gift bag of prizes. We nearly lost her cake on the way home, but fortunately it stuck to our roof long enough for a passing car to warn us that it was there.

Then on Monday, we had an picnic lunch at the park with the kids and got a little wet playing in the fountains. In the meantime, actual grown-ups wandered around looking for Pokemon, in a case where life imitated art, as shown in my web comic. It’s always good to enjoy being outdoors, though — I did that by biking to and from work every day of the week, a lovely commute through the cornfields.


On Friday night, we made our first visit to the SumTur to see Zootopia with a handful of our friends. It was a remarkably cool July evening for the kids to run around. I was surprised the crowd wasn’t even larger than it was. Among them were a group of actual, legit furries, who showed up in full fur-suit to delight children and horrify adults.

Then on Saturday night, we had a game night down at Jessica’s friend Kate’s place. Hannah and Aaron got to run around and play with some kids closer to their own age as the grown-ups played a few crazy rounds of Telestrations over tacos. The best thing about mutual sets of kids is that they negate the need for a grown-up to keep them occupied.


On Sunday, I made a last-minute decision to drop by the Sokol Auditorium to witness the final performance of Jimmy B and his orchestra. I’d heard about Jimmy B for ages (mostly from Dan Wondra), but I never got the chance to see his band in person. The Sokol is a lovely old venue that feels like walking back in time, and this year’s Cowtown Jamborama will be happening there as well. I got in a few dances, but there was a serious lack of Jitterbugs in the (mostly gray-haired) crowd, so I was content with taking a handful of pictures before I headed home.

That evening, Jack and Donna came by for dinner with us before going on a road trip to California. They brought Diggy to live at our house for a bit, and Vivian got to show Donna my anniversary present, which I installed myself the other day. The kids also played a few rounds of the Memory Card game, but they kids seemed to get a bigger kick out of playing with the leftover frames after punching out the cards.

Sadly, we missed seeing their show this year, but we did get to see a few of the jets from our house as Aaron napped.


One last thing. On Monday, Hillary Clinton came to Omaha, and I decided to take one last stab at giving her a copy of Dr. Hilgers’ book, reliving my glory days from the presidential primary. What happened instead was that I stood outside for a couple hours getting burned to a crisp (and dehydrated) only to be escorted into an “overflow room” to watch the event on a giant TV screen. I was particularly disappointed when I saw pictures of the event online later and saw there was plenty of room left in the gymnasium that somehow went unfilled.

I still had fun chatting with a few friendly democrats in line (and caught a glimpse of Ben Nelson) and witnessing protesters from both the right and the left denouncing Hillary from the sidelines. If I were smart, of course, I would have brought a few cases full of ice water and sold them to the thirsty throngs waiting in line. I could have made a fortune. Maybe in four more years.

Weekend with the Kids

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Vivian and I had a relatively quiet weekend with the kids. On Friday night, we took the kids down to the Sumtur for their last free movie of the summer. They were showing Cinderella (the original 1950 film instead of the 2015 live action version), so Hannah naturally had to wear her blue Cinderella dress. They had some crowns for the little ones to wear and decorate, and a girl band played some music that Hannah actually dragged me down to the front row to listen to. She even pulled me up by the hand and said, “Dance!” Who could say no to that?

Lexi dropped by with Sammy dressed in the very same Cinderella dress, which only increased the adorableness exponentially.


I had the kids by myself for the entire day on Saturday, which involved taking them to grandma and grandpa Johnson’s house so I could mow their lawn, and then spending the afternoon at the park. It was a warm, sunny day, with a few thundershowers rolling in at night that brought gorgeous, fall-like weather back to Omaha.

The next day, Vivian and I took the kids downtown to climb a tree or two and say hello to the statue of Chef Boyardee outside Conagra’s headquarters (Hannah called him “the muffin man” and gave him a hug). The water bucket installation was in full spill mode again, so I showed it to the kids and let them dip their feet in the waterfall display a bit. I walked with Hannah on the riverfront, where she got to “play in art” and watch the ducks come swimming by. Of course, we also stopped by the giant slides, which I got to ride down with both kids in tow. I bought a Groupon just so we could eat at Matsu Sushi for dinner, but they were unexpectedly closed, so we settled for Burger King instead.

All in all, a lovely, quiet weekend, topped off with our usual trip to the park on Monday to swing and have free cupcakes for lunch.

The Birthday Boy


On Wednesday, I finally dropped by Spielbound — Omaha’s one-and-only Board Game Cafe — for the first time with a cluster of folks from AIGA. Vivian and I are acquaintances of Kaleb and the gang who dreamed up the place, and we were also one of the many Kickstarter backers who got the place up and running last year, so I thought it was time to stop by and check it out.

It was every bit the Hipster Hangout I had been expecting, with local beer from Brickway and Cherry Mead from Moonstruck on tap, and thousands of games to go around. I’m not really a board game person, since it seems every game shown to me takes about an hour to explain and several more to complete. We did find a copy of Pandemic, which I’d played once with Vort and Michelle in Kansas City years ago. It’s a game where all the players play cooperatively against the game mechanics, so explaining the rules as you play is perfectly fine. I also threw in a copy of Monty Python Fluxx, before calling it a night.


On Thursday, our little boy Aaron turned one year old! We had a bigger event planned for him on Saturday, but we invited the grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to watch Aaron open a few presents and have some cake and ice cream for the very first time. His big present was a large, plastic water table, which finally gave Aaron a place to splash happily about other than the toilet.


On Friday night, the Sumtur Amphitheater had its first free Friday night movie of the season — Big Hero Six. None of us has seen the movie before, but Vivian and I were able to enjoy it despite wrangling two kids and enduring a brief, passing shower. A handful of our usual friends came by to watch the movie with us in the drizzle. There was also a Pink Floyd cover band (aptly named Floyd) that got up to play a few songs before the show started.


Saturday was Aaron’s big day, of course. We nabbed a picnic shelter at Washington Park in Olde Town Bellevue and got a couple grills fired up to celebrate our little boy’s first birthday. Both grandmas and grandpas were there, of course, as well as a cluster of Aaron and Hannah’s little friends, a nice cross-section of people who would otherwise never meet. Aaron had fun with a pinwheel from Lisa as the bigger kids climbed on the swings, slides, and seesaw, easily having fun without the aid of electronic toys. Jack manned the grill, and Donna baked a big, beautiful Winnie the Pooh cake, which Aaron’s enjoyed so much that he wound up literally licking the plate clean afterward.

I still can’t believe it’s been a year since we took our little boy home from the hospital, but it was great to celebrate with so many of our good friends. Happy Birthday, Aaron!