Tag Archives: The Mills

Racecars, Swimming, and a Super Bowl

We’ve been keeping awfully in busy in Omaha this week, with barely any time to recover after our party before having a Pinewood Derby race, a birthday party, and a Super Bowl over the weekend, along with numerous other activities during the week. I told Vivian I was looking forward to going back to work on Monday so I could rest up.

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We’ve had some lovely February weather this week, with highs in the fifties that would make for perfect biking weather if the city hadn’t decided to tear up the Keystone Trail in three different places. I’ve been taking some lovely walks during my lunch breaks, but on Wednesday I had a nice bike ride for the first time this year by physically driving my bike to a part of the trail that wasn’t being demolished. It felt good to be out again on the trail once again, and I almost didn’t even need a jacket.

Aaron’s been having fun with his friends at Royal Rangers in the meantime, and he introduced me to a game they play called Gaga Ball on Wednesday, as well as playing a few rounds of Connect Four before his troop met. I also caught up on some reading, going through more of The American Story and hoping to finish it before the year is out.


Hannah’s been keeping busy this week with a number of things as well. On Wednesday, she went to Clarkson Tower at the Nebraska Medical Center with her AHG troop. She got to learn some first aid there, doing pulmonary resuscitation on a dummy and practicing giving abdominal thrusts to some baby dolls.

Then on Friday, she visited Scatter Joy Acres at their new location out in Mead with her classmates from school. Hannah got to see a variety of animals including a donkey, camel, and some horses, working to clean up after them and also painting a few decorative signs.


Aaron and I have been having some quality father/son time putting together his first Pinewood Derby racing car with the Royal Rangers. Aaron did the basic design for the car, opting for a “rocket” design with little “wings” on the side, a tapered nose, and a tail fin. I cut the pieces out and glued them together, and I even recruited my dad to help with the wide axel, which we had to use on the front end. Then I had Aaron pick out the colors and help attach some of the decals as I did the paint job on our little racecar together. Finally, I added some tungsten weights to the back end, putting the weight right up to the limit of 5.5 ounces.

The day oft he big race came on Saturday, which we all attended as a family. We got Aaron’s car weighed in, and I added a bit of extra graphite to the axels to help them spin. The Ranger Kids had their race first, and Aaron’s little car managed to come in first! I was very happy. They had other races for Discovery, Adventure and Expedition, and our friends the Mills had representation in each round, between August, Gabe, and Jake. After that came the “Outlaw” class and Commanders, during which time Aaron played with a few of his friends and got in a couple rounds of “Carpet Ball.” Then came the finals, with each of the winners of the four classes racing together. Aaron managed to take the bronze in the winner’s circle at the very end, which was a very cool moment, considering it was our first-ever time doing a Derby like this together.


We had only a short time to recover afterward before heading right out again for a birthday party. Gabe and Jake were celebrating joint birthdays today down at the Comfort Suites La Vista. Our kids got to make use of the swimming pool (and hot tub) for an hour or two along with a handful of friends, including Lily and Jonah and another boy named Finn.

After that, Nate brought out some pulled pork and taco meat for dinner, which we ate together in the dining area. Donna had made Gabe a Minecraft cake with Minecraft animals on top. It which was very cute, particularly with details such as the cow’s pink cube for an udder. Our gift for Gabe was a painting set, since he apparently is getting into some fine art, and the kids even got paint together for a bit with actual brushes and paints before we called it a night.


Then the next day, we had the whole family over to watch the Super Bowl. I did some tidying up in the afternoon as Vivian made three sets of chicken wings (along with some taquitos). Jack and Donna came by as well, along with my parents and Uncles Nathan Jonathan, bringing along baked brie rolls, shrimp, ham roll-ups, and trays of other things. Even Cheryl sent along some Korean noodles and some strawberry pie for dessert, which was quite nice. We spent a couple hours getting stuffed together while watching a fairly exciting game, with the score tied up toward the end and won with a last-second field goal by the Chiefs. Even my dad said it was the most exciting Super Bowl game he’d ever seen.

We’ve got Valentine’s Day coming up next along with a few more fun activities this week. Mostly, however, I’m looking forward to recovering from all this fun and perhaps getting back into some spring cleaning as we kick off the Lenten season. Hopefully by May we may have enough done to have a long-awaited garage sale.

An Unexpected Guest for Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! We’ve had a fabulously busy week getting ready for the holiday, as well as a dusting of snow that gave everyone the White Christmas (and frigid temperatures) they were hoping for before Santa’s big night.


Things kicked off on Tuesday when Hannah’s school had a Christmas program on its last of classes, which included students singing and playing instruments for the gathering of adults to came down in the middle of the day.

Then that evening, we went caroling with our friends the Mills around their neighborhood. The temperature was around 12 degrees, so we only visited four or five houses, but one of them gave the kids some candy canes for their efforts, which was very sweet (literally). Then we returned to the Mills’ house for the kids to make some graham cracker “gingerbread” houses and warm up a bit with some hot cider and broccoli cheese soup. We also brought along some gifts for the kids, and Aaron got to dress up in some “feather armor” Gabe made for him.

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We got a bit more snow through the week as temperatures dropped well below zero. I spent some time afterward wrapping presents, doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, and shoveling some snow before the holiday weekend. Then on Friday, I helped Donna shovel her driveway a bit before heading to work and got to see my first “sun dog” at Chandler and Fort Crook along the way.

Then that evening, Vivian made up some Nachos Navidad for our last pre-Christmas dinner together — something of a tradition since hearing the catchy jingle from Taco John’s.


Then came Christmas Eve morning! I got up early to snap some photos of our beautiful tree and decorated house before Christmas weekend got underway. Then we got the kids dressed and headed over to my parents’ house for a Christmas Eve Lunch and some presents with them, my brothers, and Sheryl. Our kids got such things as “upside down glasses” and some Beanie Boos, as well as a waffle-iron that makes car-shaped “waffles.” I got my mom a new calendar and Uncle Jonny a lunchbox with some sodas, and my dad got an action figure and a chocolate Santa (which looks like a scene from Holiday Inn).

The biggest surprise came for the kids at the end, though. My brothers went all out and got them an actual Nintendo Switch, with a copy of Minecraft. They also gave us four controllers, so we’ll hopefully all be able to play together on it.


Afterward, we gathered around for some Christmas soup and Asian food for lunch courtesy of my mom and Nathan’s friend Sheryl, respectively. She brought along some chicken dumplings, stir-fry noodles, and some sushi, along with some kind of cashew-covered torte for dessert. Then afterwards, Aaron got to spend some quality time playing his new present while Hannah went old-school and played an old-fashioned game of jacks with grandma and Sheryl before it was time to go.

We went straight from my parents’ house down to Wildewood Christian Church for their four o’clock Christmas service a little later, arriving early enough to find a seat to sit together. They had a very simple hour-long service with some traditional Christmas songs, scripture-reading, and then a lighting of candles as we sang Silent Night together before heading home.


The biggest surprise of the evening came when we returned home that evening — standing in our kitchen when we arrived (making us dinner) was Vivian’s brother Oliver, who we hadn’t seen in over twelve years. He’d apparently showed up at Jack and Donna’s house just as they were dealing with a dead car battery and we busy grilling a pork loin on our grill and turning it into a stir-fry on our stove.

After eating together, I put on a virtual “fire” and we spent a little time opening our “stocking” presents together, including some goofy toys for the kids along with the traditional matching set of jammies, and then we had some pie. Oliver also brought his guitar and played a few chords, and he was also brave enough to let Aaron strum the strings a few times before we put them to bed. Then we spent a little more time hauling in the presents for this year and assembling them under the tree. Vivian and I didn’t get to bed until after midnight, but once everyone else had gone, we wanted to savor that one magic moment as Christmas morning dawns.

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And dawn it did, as the kids were both up and ready to open presents sometime around 5:45 AM the next morning. I kept them at bay watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol and having some car-shaped waffle nuggets for breakfast before Grammy and Pop-Pop arrived. We had a full morning opening presents together, which included some plush dragons for Aaron, a doll for Hannah, and even gifts for Bella (who spent the day with us), Zoey, and Harold.

Around mid-morning, I popped my quiche into the oven for a Christmas brunch together before opening some more presents around noon. Then we gathered for a goofy family Christmas picture, which us wearing our matching Christmas jammies — even Jack and Donna.

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Aaron and Hannah got to play with their Nintendo Switch a little later in the afternoon. We nibbled on some hors d’oeuvres, and I got Harold out for a bit to use his little bed and eat some kale. We got a bit of snow later on, and I helped put some air in Grammy’s tires, and Uncle Oliver kept Aaron distracted with some rough-housing as Vivian made some roast beef and potatoes for our Christmas dinner together.

After dinner, I turned down the lights and put The Snowman (1982) on the little TV for us to watch, which is one of Vivian’s favorite childhood Christmas shows. Then we opened our regular stockings, which had little gifts like a miniature game of “Guess Who,” which I played with Hannah before we called it a night. Then once the kids were in bed, I broke open a bottle of Mulled wine to sip (hot) with Vivian as our Christmas Day came to a close.


We were left in a “holi-daze” most of the next day, spending much of it watching Christmas movies and having some Christmas leftovers together. Then that evening, Vivian and I celebrated our first-date anniversary. We did it after Christmas this time, because the restaurant we wanted to go to — a churrascaria called Texas de Brasil — hadn’t been open for dinner on Friday. I went with a reasonable appetite and left absolutely stuffed after filling on meats and cheeses from the salad bar before having a non-stop sampling of lamb shank, flank steak, bacon-wrapped filets, and the like. Naturally, I asked if they had cafezinho a traditional coffee drink commonly served in Brazil that my parents both specifically asked about before, and they didn’t, so instead we had a couple glasses of guarana (which they had heard of).

I had the urge to walk off our dinner a bit before returning home, so Vivian and I headed down to the Old Market for a bit of a stroll afterward. Naturally, we went by our favorite candy shop to get some fudge, and then we walked up around the block to the Passageway for a few flagrant selfies. Then we made a brief stop by the Gene Leahy Mall to see a few of the lights there before we headed on home, where Grandma had been kind enough to watch the kids for us and was busy reading Hannah a story before bedtime.

Highlights from Christmas

Beanie Boo Birthday


On Friday night, we dropped by St. Paul Lutheran Church in Millard to see a music program put on by MKS Studio, which is run by a few home school moms including our friend Lexi. All four of her kids had parts in the program, with Gabe and August playing some percussion instruments, Jake playing acoustic guitar, and Sammy being a tree in a piece from The Sound of Music.

A number of our other home school friends were also coincidentally involved, including our friend Ben Kuehmichel’s daughter Aleah, Erin’s daughter Emma, and one member of our praise team from Wildewood Church. We brought Hannah and Aaron along as well to show their support for their friends, and the kids all did a great job.


On Saturday, Hannah got to celebrate her birthday a few days early by going skating with a bunch of her friends down at Skate City. Some of the girls she invited were friends we’ve known nearly all their lives, namely Sammy and Lily, but others included a bunch of new friends from Hannah’s new school — Leah, Mercy, and Elora — as well as Annabel from AHG (as well as The Other Hannah™).

The girls got some quality time skating around the rink for a while, at one point holding hands and trying to form a “line” to skate together. They had a few games every half hour, including one with a limbo that Annabel nearly won. We stopped halfway through to have a couple bags of popcorn (which we sang “Happy Birthday” over as if it were a cake) and open some presents. Among them was a giant, plush Pui Pui Molcar from the Mills, which is from a Japanese show we didn’t even know they knew existed.


Then on Hannah’s actual birthday, I made her some coconut toast for breakfast and let her open a couple presents from Aaron, which included a new Beanie Boo for her collection. Then that evening, we had all four grandparents (and Uncle Jonny) over for some pizza for dinner. Donna made an amazing Beanie Boo birthday cake for dessert, which we ate after Hannah blew out the candles.

Afterward, Hannah got to open a few more presents (and a card from me), which included a few more Beanie Boos (of course), a mirror, and a drone. Then we had some root beer floats downstairs and watched the Tom Hanks’ classic movie “Big” (Hannah’s choice) before calling it a day.


Happy birthday, Hannah!

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!

Steak, Skates, and Gifford Farm

It’s been another jam-packed week, with nearly every weeknight filled with one activity or another — mostly fun with friends or our kids.

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On Sunday, we celebrated Cheeseburger Day and had some pink watermelon for dessert at dinner. Then on Monday night, I took the kids to the Mills’ house to have some steak for dinner and mess around with some computer stuff for Nate and his new painting business. The kids in particular had fun playing with one another, and I enjoyed having a giant rib-eye.

On Tuesday, the Men of God group at Wildewood kicked off with some pulled (and smoked) pork for dinner and a new bible study, 33 The Series. I’m not sure how much I’ll get into the study, but it was nice to hang out with a few adults for an evening out.


Wednesday meant another evening with Aaron at Royal Rangers and me catching up with Jordan Peterson. On Thursday, we gave the CR-V an oil change, leaving Vivian with my Corolla for the day and me renting a bike from one of the city’s kiosks for the ride home, which was nice with the weather went from 100 to 55 like it just saw a state trooper. Then evening, we took the kids to Skate City for a family night with Chandler View Elementary. Hannah spent an hour or two on the skating rink while Aaron played some video games with daddy. I particularly enjoyed introducing him to such classics as Pac-Man and Galaga (and winning a few tickets for prizes).

The next day, both kids had the day off school, so we spent our lunch time down at Elmwood Park, swinging and walking through the forest on a lovely, cool and cloudy autumn day.


Then came Saturday, where Vivian spent the morning doing some volunteer gardening with the women’s group at church while I took the kids on a secret shopping trip for birthday presents. (Don’t tell Vivian, though. She doesn’t read this blog, so she won’t find out if I mention it here.)

Then we spent the afternoon visiting Gifford Farm, a place we’d taken the kids frequently when they were little but hadn’t visited since 2019. It was fun to see an owl, some goats, ducks, and other farm animals. We had a few homemade hot dogs from Willie Dogs for lunch and them let the kids play on the slides in the barn and explore the hollow tree. We also went on a hay rack ride as a family and let the kids run around the play area like old times. Hannah even got a pony ride on our way back to the car. Our kids may be outgrowing this little place, but it was fun to go back and soak in all the memories.

Then that evening: Aldi pizza and Back to the Future.

Greetings from Gifford Farm!

Open House, Hunter & Kingdoms of the Night

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Aaron’s elementary school had an open house on Monday night, so Vivian and I stopped by with Hannah to see his classroom again and look at some of Aaron’s artwork. He’d done a fairly accurate rendition of him and his sister along with a garden of flowers all measured with enormous numbers. We we checked out a few other rooms and signed up for a parent/teacher conference (which I think was the whole purpose of the open house) before getting a few snow cones outside before heading home.

Aaron’s also been enjoying going to Royal Rangers on Wednesday nights, doing some creative artwork and learning a bit about the bible with a few of his little friends. I’ve also enjoyed the chance to get away and read for a bit, leafing through my copy of “12 More Rules for Life” once again on the couch in the lobby.

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On Thursday, I had a political night to myself and got to have dinner at Chick-Fil-A leafing through “The American Story” by the Barton Brothers, a book given to me by Commander Jeff at Royal Rangers. (I was also able to cash in a few of my Chick-Fil-A reward points for some free food, which was nice.)

Then I headed north to the Cross Training Center to watch the film My Son Hunter, a kind of political satire about the Biden family directed by Robert Davi. It was a surprisingly well-done film — I’ve seen plenty of ham-fisted political films before, some of which were quiet cringe-worthy and barely watchable. This one was fairly polished and entertaining — not to mention hilarious. Much of the film seems to be done tongue in cheek with biting sarcasm, and lots of real-life quote and gaffes from Sleepy Joe to add to the humor.

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On Friday night, we stopped by the Mills house to say Happy birthday to our friend Sammy. She and Hannah have been little friends since they were born, and they got to spend time today shopping at the mall together like little tweens and having a “Sushi” cake decorated by Donna with some (pretend) sushi and cherry blossoms.

We spent a little time afterward letting the kids have more quality time playing together while Nate took Jake and Lexi down to the airport for a week-long trip to France. Aaron got to run around with Gabriel and August and playing with some of their ducks and chickens wandering around the yard. I also brought Mama Ginny out to graze for a little bit before she started getting pecked at by a duck.


Then on Saturday, we took a family trip to the Zoo courtesy of Autism Action Partnership. This time around, we went by the desert dome to see desert animals such as a kookaburra, some owls, and a variety of reptiles (along with some ducks running loose). We moved along downstairs to the Kingdom of the Night, where we saw bats, turtles, and a swamp full of alligators, among other things.

The sun went down and a storm lingered on the horizon and we stopped by to see some giraffes and elephants upstairs, who seemed to be hidden away indoors as the storm approached. As usual, the kids seemed to enjoy playing on the lion statues and spinning the watery fountain globe most of all. It was particularly interesting to visit the Zoo at night, where the desert dome was lit up in alternating colors for us before we headed home.

Last Splash of Summer

School is about to start again, which means we had to have a little more fun getting wet before summer vacation draws to a close.


I took Wednesday off specifically so we could all head down to Mahoney State Park’s aquatic center for a long, uninterrupted day of fun in the sun starting at noon. Unfortunately, they seemed to be closed until 4 PM, despite what they said on their website, so after a brief trip up and down the observation tower, we headed down the road to Louisville Lake to splash about for a couple hours instead. After that, we grabbed some ice cream cones down at the “Dari Cream” in town before heading back across I-80 to the aquatic center once they opened.

We weren’t the only ones there, of course, and the line to get inside was massive, but we had plenty of time to get wet in the play area, go down the waterslides with the kids, and get violently knocked about in the wave pool before closing time. Hannah in particular seemed eager to go underwater and see how well she could actually “swim” in all that chaos. Then we grabbed some Taco Bell on the way home before collapsing in bed.

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The next day, we had an Open House at Chandler Elementary, where we got to meet Aaron’s new teacher and see his new classroom. We got to see that Aaron’s best friend from “Nico” from Kindergarten will also be in his new First Grade class, which was wonderful. We also got to show Mrs. Smith the workbook Aaron was able to complete over the summer for a special certificate. Then we headed home to have burgers with a few of our garden tomatoes for dinner.

The next day, I went with my parents for a little end-of-year cookout at their church. We had some hot dogs and chatted with them about family and bike-riding, among other things. In the meantime, Vivian took the kids down to BCC for an outdoor movie night (Into the Spiderverse — again), where I joined them after dinner along with Gabriel and August, who came by right before the movie started.

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On Saturday, Aaron had another tee-ball game down at Seymour Smith Park with his little friends. Once it was over, Hannah and I went on a quick bike ride up and down the Keystone Trail before having some ice cream and getting a bit wet in the spray ground before heading home.

Then that evening Vivian had a reunion with her friends from Friendship Program as I took Hannah and Aaron over to the Mills’ house for dinner. Hannah and Sammy got to play dolls while Aaron ran around with Gabe and August, getting wet in the pool and chasing chickens in the backyard. Hannah even got to help clip some of the chickens’ wings while she was there.

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I’ve been keeping busy with other things on my own in the meantime. I got to see Gubernatorial candidate Michael Connely at the Bellevue La Mesa on Monday last week. A couple dozen folks came to have Mexican food and then listen to over two-hours of stories about everything from Japanese hydrogen plants, fixing helicopters, to Romanian eyeteeth.

I’ve also been getting in as much time on my bike as possible, heading by President Ford’s birthplace and stalking some corn down in Papillion on different days. I also managed to get a couple blown tubes, which I hope will be mostly fixed with a new Kevlar tires that I got on Friday.

In the meantime, we’re bracing for another school year, and hoping we can still enjoy a few more moments of summer before the leaves start changing color.

Louisville Lake & Mahoney State Park Aquatic Center

Camping in Memphis

There’s nothing quite like late July in Nebraska, where it’s hot and humid and barely a whisper of wind in the air. That’s when you get to enjoy the great outdoors with just a bit more patience — and some creativity about ways to keep cool.


Hannah and Aaron started things off with a week-long VBS at First Presbyterian in Bellevue. They attended every morning through the week and finished things off on Friday with a water fight outside. I took the day off to start our camping trip, so Vivian and I dropped by to watch them play in a sprinkler and throw wet sponges at one another. They also got some freeze pops and some candy for memorizing a bible verse, which was sweet (literally).

Then, just as we were trying to decide what to do for lunch, we saw the famous “food truck” at the library (a thing I’ve heard about from Vivian for years but never seen with my own eyes), so we stopped and got some chicken sandwiches before heading home.


Then came the camping trip! Wee invited Mama Ginny to keep her son Harold company while we were all away. Then we packed up our things and headed off to Memphis, Nebraska with some burgers and Combos to tide us over. The trip took all of half an hour, and we grabbed a spot with convenient proximity to the lake and the sandy play area with a cabin for the kids (and ground squirrels and geese to keep us company).

We set up camp and got a fire going for s’mores that evening as the Mills family came to join us. It was already sweltering, but little Gabe brought us lemonade on a platter to keep us cool. Hannah also immediately took to the lake, going inside and soaking her little pink dress without a care in the world. Then once the sun went down, we lit a fire and roasted up a batch of s’mores for the evening.


Vivian and Lexi scrambled up some breakfast the next morning as Hannah explored the lake looking for “gooey” frogs. Afterward, I took her with Sammy, Aaron, and August over to the playground with old school metal equipment like a teeter totter, a merry-go-round, and monkey bars, just like the kind their parents grew up with. There was even a tether ball pole Hannah and Sammy were able to bat around. The kids also had some fun climbing a nearby tree — at least until a branch snapped and Hannah came tumbling down. She got the wind knocked out of her and was a little sore but otherwise all right. Hopefully it won’t put her off tree climbing, which has become one of her favorite activities at grandma and grandpa’s house.


We had some lunch and then tried keeping cool that afternoon with a little wading in the lake near the boat dock up the road. The water was relatively cool, albeit with a rocky and muddy bottom. I was able to traverse the lake to the little island, where a crane seemed to have made its home and mulberries were growing wild. The kids wanted to come explore the island, too, so Nate rented a canoe and took them around for a look.


Later that afternoon, I took the kids for a walk (or in Sammy’s case, a bike ride) into town. I snapped a few photos of a few of the old buildings, including the Century-old Iliff Chapel. We also stopped by Don’s Bar and Grill (the only operating business in town) for a few drinks and snacks with the kids before heading back to the campsite.

Sammy brought a couple American Heritage Girls for her and Hannah to play with while August and Aaron played some Uno. For dinner, Vivian and Lexi grilled some brats followed by some Dutch oven brownies and a cheese dip. The kids explored the lake a bit more and discovered the waterproof nature of lily pads near the shoreline. Then we finished off the evening with some s’mores and a raging battle in the dark over a set of colored glow sticks before bedtime.


The next morning was strangely cool with a thick, eerie mist hanging over the lake and everything around it. We got the kids up for a breakfast that included roasted marshmallows and donuts warmed over the fire. Then the kids had one last romp in the sandbox and the grown-ups packed up the tents and all our things before getting set to head home.

Of course, I had to get a big group photo before we headed off. We’ve been camping with the Mills family for a couple years now, and I don’t think we’d ever gotten a joint family photo together before. It was long overdue.


Then that afternoon, because my weekend hadn’t been busy enough, I dropped by the Cross Training Center for some “grassroots training” with Scott Presler and around 60 other patriots. I’d met Scott before at a “pep rally” during the 2020 election, and it was interesting to see him back in a more educational role — giving a 90-minute presentation on voter registration, running for office, and get-out-the-vote efforts, among other things. He also spent most of the presentation off the stage and walking the room, and this even included some audience participation, roleplaying getting a stranger registered to vote.

It was an event held jointly by the Nebraska Freedom Coalition, Freedom Rally USA, and Nebraska Against Government Overreach, a trifecta of what I call the “populist upstarts” on the right, focused more intently on public demonstrations and online activism than “establishment” conservatives. Of course, there was also time to get selfies with Scott afterward, and I’d worn my new Jordan Peterson shirt just for the occasion. I also got to meet the “Beard Vet,” who seemed to have a followingall his own among the crowd, and his own line of coffee.

In all, it was a great weekend, and not even as hot as they’d predicted it would be. I’m always glad to have the chance to enjoy the great outdoors with our family and friends — even when it’s just down the road.

Happy campers!

Camping in Louisville

Labor Day Weekend brought us some reasonably nice weather to finish off the summer, and the Johnson Family got to spend it camping just a few miles down the road in Louisville with our friends, the Mills. We arrived right around sunset (a gorgeous red one, in fact) on Friday night to set up our tent before it got completely dark. The whole campground was booked for the weekend, but our part of the park was still relatively empty. We got to see (and hear) some Spooky Owls after the sun went down, and then Vivian grilled up some burgers and some potato casserole before we started getting set for bed.

(For anyone planning to camp overnight in Louisville, be prepared for an endless series of trains to keep you company with their whistles all…night…long…)


The next morning, the kids had some fun playing in our tents as Lexi scrambled some eggs for breakfast along with bacon from the Mills’ own pig. I took Hannah and Sammy on a nature walk, observing bugs, spider webs, and floating leaves along the trail, as well as a clearing with fallen logs that Hannah dubbed her “playground.”

In the meantime, Nate took the rest of the kids down to the actual playground in the park for some quality time on the swings and slide. There was a pretty lake there was well, and our kids got to run around a little too close to the shore to observe a stray fishing pole that had been left there. We got to see a bit more wildlife back at the campsite, specifically a furry caterpillar that got to climb on Hannah and Sammy, as well as a cicada that somehow claimed Jake as a friend.


Before lunchtime, Lexi got a hammock as a birthday present and got to try it out (along with the kids, of course). Then we took a trip down the street to Platte River State Park to climb their lookout tower. It took about five stories and gave us a clear view of the Platte River. We could see several people tubing down the river and riding noisily up both directions on fan boats. Hannah and Sammy were both terrified of the high tower but both bravely made it all the way to the top (as did Aaron).


It was still a relatively warm day (in the upper 80s), so we headed down to the Lake for a couple hours to cool off in the afternoon. The littler kids spent most of their time playing in the sand along the shoreline, while Jake and Sammy continually tried to drown one another farther out in to the lake. This was also Baby Gabriel’s first time in a lake, so he got to get his feet wet along with his folks. Jake found a sandy toad before we headed back to the campsite, adding to the list of wildlife our kids have been able to touch and hold over the weekend.


Saturday was Lexi’s birthday, so Vivian brought a chocolate cake for the kids to discreetly decorate (at someone else’s vacant campsite) for their mom before presenting it to her back at the campsite. The Mills put together a dinner of bruschetta chicken, cherry chocolate cobbler, and corn on the cob, and I took the kids on another nature walk, where they found a seemingly endless supply of snails (and mushrooms) to take back to the campsite with them. I’d never seen this many snails in Nebraska before. Maybe next time we can bring some butter and make escargot.
The sun set and then the moon came out among some spooky clouds, so I told the kids a goofy ghost story around the campfire before putting them to bed. Then the grown-ups to to spend a little more time roasting some s’mores around the fire with some giant marshmallows I’d brought along from Aldi.


The next morning, Vivian made some breakfast casserole and pancakes for everyone (along with some s’mores for the kids) before it was time to start tearing down the campsite. I got all six kids out of the way by taking them on a long, extended walk through the forest for an hour or two (including Gabe). I got a couple cute group pictures of course, and we walked together a mile or two along the trail, getting a good look at the view of the river before heading back to camp.
It was an exhausting trip, and it felt good to return home and have a shower and sleep in our actual beds that evening, but we still had a lot of fun. Donna was also nice enough to come by the house and bring us some KFC for dinner before we got back.


Of course, there was still Labor Day as well. Wildfires off in Montana turned our sky yellow and smoky for most of the day (with an eerie pink sun peeking its way through). Vivian took Aaron to the store to get him a new backpack for his first day of preschool on Tuesday, but we otherwise spent our entire day relaxing.

Then we dropped by my parents’ house for a Labor Day cookout with all four grandparents. My dad smoked ribs along with some burgers and hot dogs (and one lone chicken breast), and Jack and I brought some beans and potato salad respectively to complete the meal, and Donna brought some banana split cobbler for dessert.

In all, it was a lovely three-day weekend, and a nice way to kick off another busy season of fall fun, which is just now getting started!

Happy Trails!

Yaron Brook and the Season of New Life


It’s been a fairly busy week for Vivian and me here in Omaha. Along with a flurry of meetings and projects at work, we both got to eat out at the soon-to-be-closed Venice Inn twice during the week — first on Tuesday with her parents (who had never eaten there before) and then again on Thursday for a pro-life luncheon. Our speaker was Carol Szczepaniak, whose son Joe was part of the chain that got me connected to the exciting job I have today. Then on Thursday, I got to attend a meet-and-greet at the Fox and Hound with Yaron Brook, the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He was passing through Nebraska and made time to chat with a cluster of my Objectivist friends about the virtues of selfishness, among other things.


Spring is, of course, the season of new life, and in the case of the Mills is means a new baby boy named August. I dropped by the hospital to get their first family photo with their new arrival on Friday, which was a delight. Their son is going to be about the same as ours, and with Sam and Hannah nearly the same age as well, we’ve got some inevitable play-dates in our future, I expect.

At home, Vivian and I have been busy transforming my office into a new baby bedroom for our little boy. That meant hauling down bookshelves, filing cabinets, and entire desk, and my old desktop computer to the “dance floor” of our basement. It was a fairly exhausting task, but we got a little help from Hannah to finish the job on Saturday as we put the crib together. We went out for barbecue ribs at Swine Dining with Donna and my parents to celebrate its (near) completion on Saturday. Then I got to spend the afternoon doing yard work, assembling a fertilizer spreader that I bought with my dad and putting down some weed and feed before some thunderstorms rolled by overnight. Things have been growing in our yard again, particularly the cluster of pretty tulips underneath our maple tree in the front yard. Hannah dropped by to let her Baby Cow sniff each of them while going on a walk with Grammy as Vivian and I worked on the house.