Tag Archives: Elmwood Park

Weathering the storm

We’re still dealing with the aftermath of a record-setting windstorm and blackout that occurred in the early morning hours on Saturday. We were without power at our house for most of the day on Saturday, and Vivian’s parents are still without it yet today (and staying with us in the meantime). Fortunately, we’re all just fine, and our houses and trees were relatively unscathed.

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The weather’s been quite lovely, otherwise. On Thursday, I took a nice ride past the Omaha Silos for a few new photos in front of Kent Bellows’ graffiti at the bottom. Then I walked with the kids down to Chick-Fil-A for some ice cream that evening, just to get a few more steps on my FitBit.

The next day, I biked down to Elmwood Park to join Vivian and the kids for lunch, bringing some salads I picked up at Aldi, among other things. We got in a little extra park time now that school’s out for Aaron, much of which I spent pushing the giant disc swing once again.

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Then, just after midnight, a massive windstorm ripped through Omaha, with wind gusts hitting 96 MPH at the airport, the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane. It toppled tree limbs and power lines all over town, leaving a couple hundred thousand people without power. I checked on our parents and then went by Dunkin Donuts in Papillion (which still had power) to get some coffee and donuts for breakfast.

We enjoyed most of the day off the grid, picking up fallen sticks and branches from our yard and having Hannah do her schoolwork by flashlight. (Hannah also used her own headlight to temporarily replace our light switch in the bathroom.) Aaron and I watched round two of the storm pass by in the garage, and then Vivian use up some eggs and bacon before they went bad to make breakfast for dinner on our gas grill.

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That evening, we took the kids down to Halleck Park, where they got to see some more of the damage up close. They spent some time playing on the playground as the sun went down, and then we walked down to Papillion City Park to catch a bit of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, presented by “Stronger Families Church.” Our original plan for the evening including a trip to the SumTur, which was cancelled in the wake of the storm.

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Our power was restored that evening, and we were able to return to some semblance of normalcy on Sunday, which included doing lots of laundry and dishes. The rest of Omaha continued dealing with fallen branches and power outages, with trucks lined up for the tree dump near our house almost non-stop throughout the day. Some neighbor kids had the bright idea to open a lemonade stand right at the end of it.

Vivian’s parents remained without power, so they brought over some thawed food from their freezer and had dinner with us that evening. Then Vivian’s dad, who relies on electricity for his oxygen tank, spent the night in our living room. The next morning, I found the Keystone Trail blocked with giant tree limbs on my bike ride to work commute, so it seems we’ll be dealing with the aftermath of this storm for a while. I’m just grateful we’re all safe and our homes are intact as we’re getting through it.

Lee Greenwood and Memorial Day Weekend

We had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here in Omaha, with perfect weather for food, family, and some patriotic outdoor activities.

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I kicked things off Friday night in downtown Omaha for the Memorial Day parade and concert. I’d never attended as something so fun and festive on such a solemn holiday, but it seemed quite appropriate, with veterans and gold star families taking prominent roles.

There were a few giant balloons of an American flag and a Purple Heart, as well as several trollies and buses full of veterans riding along. There were a handful of politicians, such as Gov. Ricketts and Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry who lead the parade (with a few Grand Marshalls). A few other participants wore historic costumes, and there was a troop of nurses handed out candy. The Budweiser Clydesdales came toward the end of the parade, followed shortly by the Omaha Jitterbugs, who I nearly missed seeing.

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Afterward, in the Durham Museum parking lot, there was a gallery of fallen heroes and also free hot dogs and apple pie served by Hy-Vee. Hal Daub played emcee before the concert, introducing opening act Camille Metoyer Moten and recognizing a few politicians in the audience. Then Lee Greenwood took to the stage, bringing with him a few people to lead the crowd in singing happy birthday to a little boy and his grandmother. Then he sang his signature song, “God Bless the USA,” inviting the crowd to stand and sing the chorus with him, which gave me legitimate goosebumps.

After Greenwood’s performance, we got to hear some more patriotic music from the Omaha Symphony Chorus, who sang the anthems of each branch of the military. The evening concluded with the Grateful Hearts gospel quartet, who sang a medley of patriotic and gospel songs to finish off the night. It was an uplifting event that didn’t seem a bit tainted by political partisanship — something I wished I could see a bit more often these days.

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I had a nice long walk with Hannah bright and early the following morning, going all the way down to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast together. We stopped by the Sandy Park on the way back and then swung by my parents’ house to say hello before returning home. I kept busy the rest of the day cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, and getting some groceries for our Memorial Day Dinner.

Then on Sunday, we got T-shirts at church for their new sermon series, “Not Today, Satan,” (which I wore over my patriotic shirt and tie afterward). I went by my dad’s house to help set up his smoker for our Memorial Day brisket, and the kids came along to climb a few trees and play with some branches. Then we returned home to have fresh-ground burgers for dinner with frozen bananas for dessert.

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On Memorial Day, I took a nice long walk up to Bellevue Boulevard and back, just to burn a few calories in anticipation of a big brisket dinner. Vivian made two delicious kinds of potato salad at home as Hannah celebrated Jane’s birthday and made a doll out of string.

Then at four, I walked over to grandma and grandpa’s house with the kids, where they played with some trains and blocks as grandpa finished up the brisket. Grammy and Pop-Pop came with bakes beans and a patriotic dessert, and Nathan dropped in with a bunch of tomato plants, which he helped plant after dinner. We had a lovely, beautiful evening sitting outside and eating way too much together, and Pop-Pop finally got to use the steps my dad installed back in 2019 for him to use, which was nice to see.

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We had some gorgeous weather on Tuesday, which was Aaron’s last day before heading off to summer school, so Vivian and I took them to Elmwood Park around noon for one last park visit. We had some burgers for lunch and then let the kids swing for a bit. Then we took a nice walk along the trail, finding a fairy house on our way to the grotto, where the spring water was flowing once again. We hiked further into the trees and encountered some painted trees and fallen logs, as well as a bog. We also found the brick remains of an old sewer pipe, which was quite picturesque somehow.

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Then that evening, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Barb came by to visit — the first time we’d seen them since Ben and Carol’s anniversary back in 2014. We had some ice cream and cookies together and caught up with them about family, jobs, and life in general. Then before we left we got a few group photos. Barb took one of my whole family, and I realized afterward it was the first time the whole Johnson clan — grandma, grandpa, uncles, wife, grandkids, and me — had all been photographed together. Ever. That was something.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Lee Greenwood sings, “God Bless the USA”

Banned books, a seminar, and quality park time

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Dr. Seuss’ birthday was last week, so I dropped by the library in Bellevue to pick up a couple of his books on his birthday — namely two of the books on his “banned” list, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” I had put a hold on all six books but was happy to nab just the two, and I read Mulberry Street to the kids that evening.

I also made a special dinner of actual green eggs and ham. The ham itself was its normal color, but the eggs were colored both with food coloring and with spinach in a kind of frittata. I wound up making more than enough eggs, which lasted us for a couple more breakfasts before they were gone.

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It’s been more than a relief to have a break from record cold and snowfall, so on Friday we had an inaugural visit to Stinson Park over the lunch hour. I ordered a small pizza from Godfather’s, which we ate together picnic style at one of the tables before the kids had some fun running around. Hannah made good use of her scooter, which she finally started to ride after we found it back in 2016 (abandoned with a note that said “free”) at this same park a few years ago. Aaron also got some quality time in on the swings before we called it a day.

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Our church also had its first “Wildewood Academy Seminar” on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Vivian and I decided to tag-team so we could both attend, with me staying home with the kids (making spaghetti and meatballs for dinner) and listening in on the live stream as Vivian attended in person, and then vice-versa the following morning.

The guest speaker was Casey Tygrett a “Theologian in Residence” at Parkview Christian Church in Chicago, and he spoke on a Christian’s “identity.” It was an interesting set of lectures but seemed focused quite a bit more on the “self” than on God. Still, I’d heard plenty of messages about the depravity of the human race and this was an interesting twist to say the least.

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On Saturday afternoon, I took a walk in the lovely weather to my parents’ house to look through another one of my dad’s old boxes. This one was filled with old pocket knives and gadgets such as a pocket adding machine, a pocket grooming kit, and an embossing stamp with my dad’s initials. We also found an old button my brother Nathan had made, which said proudly, “I are a Brookwood student.” That brought back some memories.

Nathan eventually joined us as my dad dug through some photos and video he’d taken at age 12 of some model planes that he destroyed in an attempt to recreate World War II battle scenes he’d seen in movies. Nathan dropped by as well and showed off his new Nikon and a gigantic lens he’d bought to take wildlife pictures for a photography class at Southeast Community College he was apparently taking just for fun.

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I made some eggs benedict Sunday morning, which was a delicious way to start the day. Casey Tygrett stayed to preach the Sunday sermon at church, and the kids grabbed some donuts before we headed down to Ralston Park afterward. We got some Burger King for lunch, and then the kids got to run around a bit. The last time I was at this park with Hannah, I’d turned 34 and she wasn’t yet old enough to walk. Now I got to chase her and Aaron around a bit with Aaron as they climbed, jumped, and “fought bad guys” from one end of the park to the other.

And because we still hadn’t had enough, on Tuesday we took the kids down to Elmwood Park for even MORE park time. Aaron and Hannah ran through “levels” on rocks, on nets, and in-between swings, and mommy and I took turns pushing them together on the big swing. The kids had some PB&J for lunch before trying out some exercise equipment, and then we went on a brief walk/scooter ride to the grotto and back. On the way, we found the broken shards of a plate that seemed to be the cathartic result of someone having a literal break-up (with someone named “Braden”).

I think after a long winter spell, we were more than ready for some fun outside. But who knows? We may yet have snow coming yet in April or May. (It’s happened before.)

Turning 39

I turned a year older over the weekend, turning Jack Benny’s Age in the only way I know: with plenty of friends, family, food, and fun.

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My actual Birthday Party happened a few days early on Friday night with a handful of friends at our house. I’d had the weird idea of having a Tomato Party a few weeks earlier — asking guests to bring their favorite tomato-based dishes, mixing up Bloody Mary cocktails, and then watching Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Our friends didn’t disappoint, of course, particularly Phil and Jen, who brought such unique things as sun-dried tomato sushi, tapenade, and eggplant parmesan, among other things. Donna also made the most frightening cake I’d ever seen (it was also made with tomato soup). The movie itself wasn’t even as bad as I’d remembered. It had a cheesy self-awareness that reminded me very much of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker films that would follow in its wake.

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On Saturday, our friends Libby and Ole (finally) tied the knot. The ceremony was held at Calvary Lutheran Church, and we brought Hannah along as Brandon recorded and I snapped pictures. We showered the couple with poppers on their way out of the church, and then we headed down the street to The Fountains West for the reception. In lieu of a wedding cake, the happy couple had cinnamon rolls. The wedding party made their grand entrance before dinner started, and I had a nice, long photo shoot with Hannah outside as everyone got served. It took quite a while, and when it was finally our turn, the catering staff had completely run out of meat (both chicken and roast beef).

After dinner, the buffet was cleared away for the couple to have their first dance along with their dad (and Ole’s sponsor). Then, the single ladies got to line up to catch the bouquet, and the single guys lined up to take swings at a pinata before eventually turning the stick over to Ole to break the thing apart. The floor was opened up for more dancing afterward, with most of our friends getting crazy with a couple dozens others on the narrow strip of dance floor in the middle of the hall. I even got to dance ab it with Hannah and Vivian before we called it a night.

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Then on Sunday night, we decided to drop by Thanksgiving Lutheran Church for their tailgate party outreach event. There was inflatable castle and obstacle course of the kids to play on after we fueled up with some brats and pulled pork sandwiches for dinner. A couple hundred people showed up, including many familiar faces, including my parents’. It was a fun evening, and it made me want to come back and visit the church myself in a week or two on Sunday morning.

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Then on Tuesday came by actual birthday. Vivian made some scones for breakfast, and then brought me a cake she’d made with the kids around lunchtime. She also got some burgers from Five Guys, and we went to Elmwood Park to eat in their pretty little Grotto. The park itself is over a hundred years old, so we had some fun walking around some of the old trails before letting the kids play for a bit on the newer playground area (which included exercise equipment for the grownups).

Then that evening, my parents took us out to Marks, a hip “wine bistro” in Benson that included menu items like a Portobello Sandwich and Tacos with Sambal chili aioli, mango, and feta cheese. We headed down to Ted and Wally’s afterward to get some obligatory free birthday ice cream before calling it a night.

It was a lovely birthday weekend. Now, we have to get back to the crazy-busy month of September, which will include camping over Labor Day and school for both Hannah and Aaron for the first time.