Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Omaha? Don't mind if I do.

For my entire childhood, I lived at least a half a country away from my cousins. While I grew up in North Carolina, my three cousins were growing up in Arizona. When they moved to Virginia, we moved to Kansas. Never in the same vicinity  Never anywhere close. We saw each other maybe every couple of years.

We got along great when we saw each other, but it was pretty infrequent. Laura, Jennifer and I wrote letters to each other in the typical 5th grade girl fashion, but without things like computers and Facebook, it made it hard to stay connected.

When Laura moved to Minnesota several years ago, I could hardly believe it. We were going to be so close. Only a couple states away, and only an 8-hour drive! Plus, our girls are so close in age. In fact, the difference in ages between Molly and Penelope and Charlotte is incredibly similar to what it was between me and Laura and Jennifer growing up. It's like the three of us cousins reincarnated.

All this background to say, I'm so excited that my girls get to have a close relationship with Penelope, and I get to see Laura a lot more. We have the annual Easter visits and other visits back and forth. And, for a while now, we've been talking about the idea of meeting somewhere in the middle for a weekend trip. But, nothing really came of it. Until ...

About a month or so ago, I emailed Laura and said, "Are you still interested in doing an Omaha trip? Let's do it in October." And, despite having just returned from a road trip, she agreed.

Omaha is about a 3-hour drive for us and about a 5-hour drive for them. And, Omaha has a great zoo. That was pretty much the extent of our planning. It was a very low-key, fly by the seat of our pants trip. And, in spite of that, we had a fabulous time.

We couldn't leave until Saturday morning because we'd already committed to going on a hay ride on Friday night (blog post on that later, don't you worry!). So, we roused the girls out of bed at oh-dark-30 and hopped on the highway to Omaha. We got there before 9am, so we still had the whole day ahead of us.

We met Laura, Chris and Penny at the hotel and carpooled to the zoo. All the weather forecasts showed rain all day long. We'd been worried about this, so we packed rain coats and rain boots and were assured there was lots of stuff indoors at the zoo. Turns out, all that worry was for nothing. It ended up being a gorgeous day. A little overcast but a perfect fall day for the zoo. I was, in fact, overdressed.

The first thing we did upon arrival at the zoo. Pictures on the lions.

Checking out the orangutans. I could've watched them all day, but the girls  only watched for approximately 30 seconds and were done.

Seriously, how cute is this?

Molly watching the tiger. Geesh, I'm glad there is a giant metal cage between them. 

"Posing" in front of gorilla statues. We'd already had to stop for snacks at this point. I think this was 30 minutes after arriving.

More posing, this time in front of the real gorillas.

With Molly and Penelope as our leaders, how could we possibly get lost?!? I think they've watched one too many Doras because they were absolutely certain they knew what they were looking at on the map.

Riding an elephant.

Had to include this fun one of Charlotte.  She just looks so darn happy.

And, a picture of the "older" cousins. On a turtle. Don't ask me why.

Brushing goats at the petting zoo. You can't feed these goats, so they are so much calmer than other petting zoos. None ate Molly's dress like they do at our local one.

Happily posing next to a non-dress-eating goat.

All aboard the choo choo train!

I swear, Charlotte's trying to give kisses, not choke Penelope.

Look at that bear!

A couple years ago, Cory and I did a zoo run at the KC Zoo. It was called Run for the Polar Bears and our shirts have Polar Bears on them. Charlotte is obsessed with these shirts and always wants us to wear them. Well, when she found out we were going to the zoo, all Charlotte wanted to see was the Polar Bear. It was the last animal of the day, but we finally made it around to the Polar Bear for her. She will tell you this was her favorite thing from the zoo.

After the zoo, we headed back to the hotel, then walked to Old Market for dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Upstream Brewery. Luckily, we were within walking distance because both Chris and Cory enjoyed the taster flights of beer.
Walking to Old Market.
On the way to the restaurant, we came across this giant metal rooster, remiscent of Beyonce, the giant metal chicken from the Bloggess' blog. (If you haven't read this, I highly recommend. It is hilarious.) We had to take a picture. The girls were not amused.

Cory with his flight. Charlotte was photobombing.

Chris and his flight. And, no, Laura didn't actually drink that beer. But, doesn't she look cute holding it? :)

We woke up early the next day. It's awfully convenient that all of our children are early risers. I have friends whose kids don't wake up until 9am. I don't understand this concept. That is not my life. 7am is sleeping in. And, the girls did not sleep in. So, we were down in the hotel pool by 7am on a Sunday. Shockingly, we had the pool all to ourselves.
Chris and Cory get props for getting in with them so early in the morning.

Such cute sleep stealers.
The plan for Sunday was to swim, go to brunch then go to the pumpkin patch. The pumpkin patch would be ideal for adorable pictures of adorable children in adorable fall outfits for our adorable scrapbooks. We ended up eating brunch in a total greasy spoon. The girls liked it, though, because it gave them balloons. In this day and age of helium shortages, balloons are a precious commodity.

Balloons! Yay!
Then, we headed out to the pumpkin patch. Only, apparently everyone and their sister, brother, mother, grandpa, aunt, cousin and creepy uncle were headed that same direction as well. After sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic and making it .2 miles in 15 minutes, we decided to forego the pumpkin patch. I was really bummed about the lack of adorable pictures, but we did smart phone it, and managed to find a really nice park close by.

After crashing a family reunion being held in the visitor's center, we found our way to the trails and stopped to take some pictures. Unfortunately, the girls were having none of it. Charlotte had fallen asleep in the traffic jam, so she woke up grumpy. When I finally got her to agree to take pictures, Penelope started pouting. We did manage to get a good family picture.
This pretty much sums it up. Molly smiling. Penny pouting. Charlotte hiding.

We did get a "prom" picture with Penny and Molly. I just find this hilarious.

We got a good one. Granted, it's only of two of the girls, but still ...

This is me walking Charlotte away to "discuss" why she needed to cooperate with pictures. There may have also been a promise of M&Ms involved.

And, we're back. And, happy.

Family picture!

I just liked this one.


We tried to get one of ALL the girls. This was as good as we could get. 

Awww, see how easy it is to smile, girls. Geesh. 

And, the last great adventure of the weekend. It was super windy, and when I opened to car door to leave, both Molly and Charlotte's balloons went flying out. Luckily, they got caught in trees, so Cory climbed a branch, and Chris jumped up to get it. Heroes, I tell ya. Heroes.

Well, there was our spontaneous meet-in-the-middle weekend in Omaha. We had a truly fabulous time, and even if after we got home, Molly sobbed for 20 minutes about how much she missed Penelope, we are still so happy that we made the effort. Such fun memories for the little cousins as well as the big ones.


  1. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that you guys got to do this!! You got some amazing pictures and made some priceless memories. I so hope and pray that you all get to do something like this many, many more times. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this and share it with all of us!! I love you all VERY much!!!

  2. Love it!! I may do a little link over to your blog :) I love the photo of Charlotte on the elephant!

  3. Looks like a great trip! We love going to Omaha (that's where my friend Kelly lives). Their downtown is a lot of fun, and taking Brandon to the zoo is just as exciting as going with kids, I promise :-)