I'd originally coordinated our trip to coincide with my cousin Tara's month-long visit from Switzerland, but a sudden illness kept Tara and her family in Pennsylvania last-minute. We were all super bummed our un-official reunion plans were cancelled (thinking of you Tara and family!), but the kids and I still had a nice time seeing the remainder of my family who resides in Nebraska.
Both Tory and Aden were rockstar travelers the entire trip. I've got a pretty good system down now where we arrive to the Minneapolis airport early, check-in at the curbside skycap so I don't have to solo transport the suitcase/car seats/stroller/kids, breeze through security using the family lane (score!) and ride the tram to the kid's play area in Terminal C. Tory plays with other kid travelers for a bit before we make our way to the airplane. Our return trip from Lincoln was even easier because the airport is so small. Easy peasy.
The kids did well adjusting to irregular sleep schedules and being on the go all week long. I remember what a mess Tory was traveling as an infant. She'd get overly tired and out-of-whack after a few days of commotion. So thankful Aden likes his car seat and will sleep just about anywhere. Everyone commented how much they love Tory's cute little voice and Aden's constant smiles. I feel bad saying it, but random visits home to see everyone are far more enjoyable than official holidays for me. There's more time to relax, converse and spend time together without big expectations.
Our week in Nebraska was a mix of chill-time at my parent's house and fun activities for the kids. One day my sister Ashley and I took our kids to a new popcorn stand that opened recently in the central part of town. My mom and dad have fond memories of buying popcorn here as a special treat when they grew up in the 50's and 60's. The popcorn stand closed 30 years ago, then recently reopened again as part of a town beautification project. Anyway, grabbing popcorn from this cute little stand downtown was neat.
|Neeley, Brooke and Tory munching on popcorn|
|This picture cracks me up ...|
Tory: "How's your popcorn?"
Neeley: "I like it very much, thank you."
One day, Ashley and I met my cousin Jen and her little girls at the Lincoln Children's Zoo. I just love this little zoo in town -- it's very walkable and there's lots of play structures for the kids to run off energy. We treated the kids to a train ride at the end of our visit (Aden's first!). I think Neeley was the most excited -- she squealed with delight the entire ride.
|Brooke holding a butterfly inside the butterfly garden|
L to R: Brooke, Neeley, Tory, Aden, Lauren, Reese
|Brooke and Aden|
She was such a good helper with him all week long.
The following day, my cousin Jen organized a farm tour for our group at Prairieland Dairy and my mom and Aunt Cheri took the day off work to join us. The farm visit was a trip highlight for me -- it was so interesting to see daily operations at the dairy including the cow barns and milking areas. Big props to the farm for their eco-friendly practices and complete transparency in running their business. All the info brought me right back to my days working in environmental sustainability.
|Jen and I posing with our own little babes|
|My milk-hater trying out Prairieland's Strawberry flavor|
|All the cousins!|
L to R: Reese (1), Lauren (3), Aden (7 months), Brooke (7), Finleigh (10 months), Neeley (1) and Tory (2)
|Brooke, Tory and Lauren standing by some VERY tall corn stalks|
|This little guy was born earlier that morning!|
On our last day in town, my sister had to work so Jen and I took six of the kids to the public library. Manuevering the four I was responsible for (Tory and Aden + my sister's Brooke and Neeley) confirmed my fear of having more kids than I have hands. It was a JOB getting all the kids buckled in and out of car seats and keeping watch in the library. Jen and I had a nice time with all the kiddos, though. I think Aden had the most fun playing with the toys at his reach on ground-level. It was definitely a trip to be back in the same library I grew up visiting as a child.
|Neeley and Reese doing a puzzle|
|Lauren and Tory laying in the (now haggard) claw-foot bathtub. I have fond memories curled up with books in this very bathtub when I was a kid. What a trip seeing my little girl lounging in there now.|
|Neeley, Aden and Reese playing toys|
My cousins and I grew up together like sisters and it's awesome to now see our kids growing up together the same way. The kids had so much fun playing together all week in Nebraska. Love all my family so much and I'm thankful for the opportunity for time to go back there and visit. For moments of time, it makes living far away seem not so far after all.
My parents, sister and brother are planning to visit us at the lake cabin over Labor Day weekend so leaving this time wasn't so hard to do. We'll see everyone again soon with many more memories to be made.