Between travel escapades part 1 and 2 lived the peanut butter and jelly part of the trip. The good stuff between the bookends. The seeing of people we love. The visiting. The time spent with family. The memories made. The laughter. The exploring of new places.
Because of the mess on the flight out, we lost a half day of time that I had planned to spend with family that Saturday. My aunt had made a special dinner, which she put away for another day when we let her know we wouldn’t be there. Normally early to bed, early to rise, I was grateful that my aunt & uncle were still up (watching football) when we finally did get there at 11:30 PM. I was also grateful that we miraculously did manage to get a decent night’s sleep. Side note about sleep and traveling with William: I’ve learned that it’s better for everyone if I just sleep in the same bed as William when we’re traveling, especially for that first night, I just go to bed when I put him to bed. If I don’t, then he wakes up repeatedly crying (different house, different bed, it makes sense) and then I spend far too much time calming him down and getting him back to sleep, only to have it repeat again in an hour. If I go to bed with him, he’ll wake up, but will reach out a hand, find me and go right back to sleep on his own with no problems.
Sunday my aunt had her family over, so William got to play with my cousin’s grandchildren, and I got to visit with the grown-ups, people that I always enjoy spending time with when we visit there. I especially enjoy the quiet moments of conversation that I have with my aunt, and it always seems like they’re too few and too short, because those conversations always seem to happen late at night when we both need to be asleep. Those late night conversations are also the reason I like to stay in her home, instead of a hotel. For some reason, one loses those vulnerable visits with family if you’re staying in a hotel. Thankfully, my aunt loves me enough to put us up.
My aunt also passed on some family heirlooms — a child’s rocking chair made by William’s g-g-g-grandfather in 1868, and a handmade quilt that we believe to have been made by William’s g-g-grandma. Getting those items home were a bit of a feat, a worthy feat, to be sure. We bought a sturdy box and bubble wrapped it, but the measurements were too big for “free” check in with Southwest. We priced out other options and ultimately decided to customize the box so it fit within Southwest’s dimensions… and, we are so very grateful that despite all the things Southwest screwed up, they did get those two items home for us without damaging them.
On Monday, we went to the Omaha Zoo, which is rated to be in the top 10 zoos of the United States. After having visited it, I can see why. While large, it is really well laid out, so a lot of ground can be covered in a minimum of time. We visited the big cats first, then meandered over and took the tram and the skyride. After which we went to the playground, where William played with the peacocks. Then we went through the gorilla exhibit, their desert dome and their aquarium. It was definitely a full day and we really enjoyed ourselves. Upon leaving, William informed me that, “I’m going to cry about leaving the zoo.” So, I guess it’s safe to say he had a great time. The Omaha Zoo offered half price tickets to us as a reciprocal program to members of the Santa Ana Zoo. So glad I read about that on the zoo’s website!
On Tuesday, we went to the Lauritzen Gardens. I love botanical gardens (remember my visit to the botanical gardens in Oklahoma City in 2004 or the ones in Hawaii?) and these were just stunning. Upon arrival, we took the tram tour, and then went and had lunch at the cafe (which closed at 2pm). The food at the cafe was amazing! After lunch, we walked back to see their miniature model train garden, which was actually one of the primary reasons for visiting there. The structural elements of the tracks are handmade, even the bridges, from twigs and branches, etc. There are six trains that run, three above and three below, as well as a cable car that goes back and forth. Sadly, it started POURING rain about 20 minutes after we started to look at it. They shut the trains down when it rains to preserve them, so we left. If I had known that it was going to rain and that we would be leaving so quickly, given that’s what we were there for, I would have made that garden our priority and gone there first.
That evening, we had dinner in Old Town Omaha at a place called Spaghetti works with my uncle Paul, his wife and their daughter. Their son wasn’t able to make it, sadly. I haven’t seen those two cousins since they were small, maybe about William’s age. It was kind of neat to see her all grown up and to see my uncle play with my son’s Hot Wheels with him across the dinner table. It was a good evening.
On Wednesday, we went to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, and then visited the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. It was an interesting walk-through and able to get through it within an hour or so. That evening we went back to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to let William run some steam off, and also to replicate a picture we took when he was 11 months old.
Tony came down with a cold on Tuesday, so he was feeling under the weather. We delayed our departure to my uncle’s farm on Thursday, allowing Tony a little more time to rest. I had hoped to be out there by lunch time, and felt badly that we weren’t given that she had prepared lunch for us. Instead we made it there in time for dinner, which was all homegrown — steak fillets from a steer they grew, tomatoes, potatoes and ears of corn from their garden. It was kind of startling to realize, that with a little effort and land, a family actually can be self sufficient in this day and age.
Friday, we spent visiting and playing outside. William played on their swing/slide combo in their yard, played with the litter of kittens who were exploring their home in the woodpile. He also “helped” carve some pumpkins with my cousin’s 2 girls. We went to my cousin’s house after dinner to check out her goats, calf, bunnies, dogs, cats, hens, and a pony.
Our day ended too quickly, despite extending it the best we could with a late bedtime. We were up early Saturday morning to make the drive back into Omaha to presumably catch our flight home. All the stress involved with loading the car and sadness of saying goodbyes.
Pictures can be found here: LINK