November 3, 2014

The Preemie And The Rockette

My day job allows for some pretty interesting stories. One of the more interesting ones happened this fall with a Rockette.

Two Rockettes were in town to help promote the Omaha debut of  “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes” (opening Nov. 13!). Part of my job was to accompany the ladies to a few promotional events.

One evening, Rachel and Karilyn were to read stories at the Momaha story time at the Bellevue Public Library. I planned on bringing my two kids because, come on, it’s story time with the Rockettes. How cool is that?

Karilyn reads to children during a Momaha story time in September.

Karilyn reads to children during a Momaha story time in September.

I invited my sister who lived nearby. I knew she’d bring my infant niece, Sophie, whom my kids adore (“Soapie!”).

OK, to set the scene. It’s a PJ story time, Rachel and Karilyn have read some entertaining stories, led the kids in some ridiculously cute dance moves and now they’re signing autographs.

They’re genuinely interested in talking with each kid who bravely comes forward, taking pictures, and signing pictures.

It’s a long wait, but I finally get my daughter to go up there (Farley wasn’t having any picture taking that night, but he did get an autograph).

Mooch was all about the Rockette pose with her hand on the hip.

Mooch was all about the Rockette pose with her hand on the hip.


I motioned my sister to come forward. She brings little Sophie with her. Rachel – who happens to be from Norfolk – asks how old Sophie is. My sister proudly says she’s 6 months old, but to explain why she’s so tiny, she adds Sophie was born 3 months premature.

And that’s when Rachel tells my sister she was born 3 months premature.

Rachel chats with my sister and little Sophie about her road from preemie to Rockette.

Rachel chats with my sister and little Sophie about her road from preemie to Rockette.


And the kicker (pun intended?): Rachel was born in Norfolk weighing only 1 lb 10 oz – she was then lifeflighted to University of Nebraska Medical Center … the same hospital as Sophie’s.

Rachel half-talks to Sophie, explaining that she had gotten into dance because her doctor told Rachel’s mom that it’d help her stretch everything and build up strength.

At this point, everyone within listening distance is in tears.

Because, look at this stunning, glamorous, athlete in the most well-known dance troupe in the world, the Rockettes. The Rockette that was a preemie.

Just imagine what Sophie will be someday, you’re thinking, right?

Anyway. It was a neat moment for my sis and I.

My sister will attend opening night with me. I’ll be working before I can settle back into my seat. I’ll probably go again with my kids and Mr. Wonderful.

How about you and your family?

Omaha Performing Arts presents “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” Nov. 13 and through Nov. 30 at the Orpheum Theater.

I don’t want to give away too many details about what’s planned for opening night, but if you’re in the area or you have tickets to the show, get there at about 6:30 p.m. for a memorable arrival.


If you go

“Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes”

When: Nov. 13-30

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.



Disclosure: I am an employee of Omaha Performing Arts. This blog is a personal project and not connected to the nonprofit organization. All thoughts are my own. 


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December 9, 2013

Start A Tradition: 12 Days Of Christmas

A friend back in college, Ann, used to get 12 Days of Christmas gifts from her dad. Some days, it’d be something small like a few of her favorite candy, other days would be a sweatshirt or money. That tradition has stuck in my mind, even more than a decade later.

I liked the idea of a thoughtful surprise – daily.

When I began dating Mr. Wonderful, I did 12 Days of Christmas for him – some gifts were silly, like a book of bad album covers; others were a little more thoughtful, like his favorite treats snuck into his lunch bag to surprise him, or a love letter.

On the sixth day of Christmas last year, Mr. Wonderful got a six-pack of reinbeer.

On the sixth day of Christmas last year, Mr. Wonderful got a six-pack of reinbeer.

I did a spin off of the 12 Days with my kids last year, only some “gifts” were outings instead of physical presents. For one, we drove around to look at Christmas lights while the kids got special treats in the car (or slept in their carseat…I’m looking at you, Mooch). One gift was a Christmas book each. Another gift was an activity – building a gingerbread house, sledding, that sort of thing.

I didn't want to get the kids 12 gifts, so some days of the 12 Days of Christmas were activities, like building a gingerbread house.

I didn’t want to get the kids 12 gifts, so some days of the 12 Days of Christmas were activities, like building a gingerbread house.

It takes some planning, which is hard with so much going on. In the Pinterest age, 12 Days of Christmas has expanded to a month’s worth. It’s a little overwhelming.

25 Days of Christmas courtesty of All Things Simple blog. Overacheiver (but a good source for inspiration).

25 Days of Christmas courtesty of All Things Simple blog.

A bucket full of joy. I believe there are 25 days in there. Found this on workmanfamily blog.


These people are overachievers (but good sources for ideas if you decide to do 12 Days of Christmas).

But 12, 12 is manageable.

I have yet to decide if I’ll do it this year for the kids. Better decide soon, huh?

How about you, do you like the idea of 12 Days of Christmas?

December 3, 2013

Beginners Guide To Wells Fargo Family Festival

I’m a big fan of the Wells Fargo Family Festival. It’s the one time of year you can go to several Omaha institutions for FREE and enjoy kid-friendly entertainment. This year, the festival falls on Sunday, Dec. 8. holiday lights logoWe’ve gone a few times now, and I feel I’ve learned a few things about getting the most out of this FREE event.

Make a Game Plan

See what’s going on at each of the venues here. Then decide what’s a priority.

Do you want to go somewhere that usually has an admission but is free during the festival? Check out The Durham Museum or Omaha Children’s Museum.

Want to go somewhere that isn’t often open to the public? Check out the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn.

Want to see Santa? Get in line at Omaha Children’s Museum or The Durham Museum.

Head to the W. Dale Library to decorate - and eat - sugar cookies.

Head to the W. Dale Library to decorate – and eat – sugar cookies.

Wants FREE snacks or hot cocoa? Head to Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn, Wells Fargo Bank or W. Dale Clark Library. Side note: The hot cocoa at the horse barn is freaking hot.

Want to listen to live music? Omaha musicians will perform at The Durham Museum, W. Dale Clark Public Library, the Wells Fargo Bank and Joslyn Art Museum.

Decorating cowboy hats at the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn in 2012. Farley is in a serious discussion with his aunt regarding the artistic direction of his hat.

Decorating cowboy hats at the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn in 2012. Farley is in a serious discussion with his aunt regarding the artistic direction of his hat.

Your kids like making things? Head to the Creative Arts Area at Omaha Children’s Museum, decorate cowboy hats at the Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn or check out Joslyn to make winter-themed works of art using alphabet stencils, sponges, oil pastels and tempera paint.

Don’t Try To Do It All

There are six venues hosting activities and if you try to go to all of them, you’ll wear yourself down. I’ve tried it, and I don’t recommend it. You’ll feel rushed and everyone will be exhausted. Calculate the time needed to get to each place plus parking; or, if you’re taking the free trolley, calculate the wait.

I recommend two to three stops. When Farley was younger and it was just us and him, one stop was enough.

Plan a Quiet Stop

It’s a good idea to stop somewhere to take a breather, either somewhere not a part of the Family Festival, or one of the quieter stops. I’ve found W. Dale Clark Library to be a little less hectic than the other places. The cookie decorating area is always packed, but last year, we enjoyed a little bit of calm during storytime in the kids area.

Getting From One Place To The Next

Ride the trolley with some of my nieces during our first ever Family Fest (in 2007).

Ride the trolley with some of my nieces during our first ever Family Fest (in 2007).

There is a free trolley that takes people to each stop. It’s fun, everyone sings Christmas carols. The kids love it. It is, however, quite popular, so you’ll likely be waiting in line to get on one – in line, outside. If you haven’t checked, it’s pretty cold in Omaha this time of year. That wait, with antsy kids…it is not fun.

Still, it’s probably better than driving yourself to each venue. You won’t get to park too close to the venue, so the time you spend walking from your car to the entrance is probably close to the time you’ll spend waiting for a trolley.

Dress warmly

Which brings me to my next recommendation: Bundle up. Good golly, it is cold out there. The Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn is not a warm place to be, so if that’s on your list to visit, definitely dress accordingly.

If you go:

Wells Fargo Family Fest

When: Dec. 8, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Bank, 20th and Douglas streets; Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.; Omaha Police Mounted Patrol Barn, 615 Leavenworth St.; The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.; W. Dale Clark Library, 215 S. 15th St.; Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.

Cost: FREE

Tip: Ollie the Trolley will provide free trolley rides between locations. Have fun participating in holiday sing-alongs during your travels!

Your turn: Where do you plan on going during the Wells Fargo Family Festival?

November 29, 2013

Where To Buy Handmade Gifts In Omaha

It’s hard not to get all caught up in the Black Friday hysteria. The deals! Insanity!

Having worked retail during the holiday season for a few years, I’ve come to have a love/hate relationship with shopping this time of year. I truly love a good bargain, but wow, people. Wow. Shoppers can be ugly and mean. During my first Christmas at the Barnes & Noble music department, I watched a customer chuck a DVD at a co-worker because it she couldn’t find it in any other store but she didn’t want to pay full price. So she threw it at him.

I try to get most of my Christmas shopping done early or done online. If I’m looking for unique gifts, though, I’ve found a few local options where I’ve yet to see an adult throw a tantrum. Two that I’ve liked going to in the past are the Hot Shops Open House and the Holiday Market (now at Aksarben Village, but I first checked it out when it was in the Old Market). The neat thing about those two (and most of the others on the list below) is that you can talk with the person who created the gift you’re about to buy. They painted it, or knitted it, or sculpted it. You might find an interesting story to go with the beautiful gift, making it all the more personalized and thoughtful. Go you!

Here’s where to go to buy handmade gifts from artwork to jewelry to crafty stuff:

Modern Makers Holiday Craft Bazaar

When: Nov. 30 through Dec. 1, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. .

Where: Boiler Room Studios, 4383 Nicholas St.

Details: Features a variety of handpicked modern artists ranging from jewelry, ceramics, skincare, home goods and stationary

Cost: FREE

Dundee Gallery Annual Holiday Show

When: Dec. 1-31, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, noon, to 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day.

Where: Dundee Gallery, 4916 Underwood Ave.

Details: Dundee Gallery is home to a collection of fine art, sculpture, pottery, glass, ceramics and jewelry from more than 50 local and regional artists.

Cost: FREE

6×6 Holiday All-Members Show

When: Dec. 3-29, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. Opening reception is Dec. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St.

Details: The only theme for this show is the dimension of the work, 6”x6”x6″, which offers affordable gift-giving sizes for holiday shopping.

Cost: FREE

Happy Holidays Craft and Gift Show

When: Dec. 7, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Westside Community Conference Center, 3534 S. 108th St.

Details: Handmade items as well as jewelry, scarves, hats, candles, purses and totes, fresh baked holiday goodies.

Cost: A non-perishable item or $1 for the food bank.

Indian Market Holiday Bazaar

When: Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: University of Nebraska Omaha – Sapp Fieldhouse, 6001 Dodge St.

Details: Find Native American art, jewelry, baked goods, home decor and other gifts.

Cost: FREE

Physicians Mutual and WOWT Holiday Market

When: Dec. 7 and 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Aksarben Village, 67th and Center streets

Details: Under two heated tents, you’ll find more than 40 local vendors selling items from handmade crafts and décor to specialty food and drinks. See Santa on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Cost: FREE

Hot Shops Holiday Open House

When: Dec. 7 and 9, Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Details: The event features art demonstrations and live music, with residents of the Hot Shops opening their studios to the public. The artwork created at the Art Center ranges from drawings, paintings, prints, photography and digital imagery to sculptures, installations, pottery, glass art, weaving, custom furniture, and clay, iron, brass,and aluminum cast architectural pieces.

Cost: FREE

Holiday Spot Craft Show

When: Dec. 8, 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: Smiling Turtle Art Spot, 2340 S. 156th Circle

Details: Features guests artists and vendors as well as a mini-massage from a licensed massage therapist. Free cookies and cider, too.

Cost: FREE

Holiday Pop Up Shop

When: Dec. 15, 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: Smiling Turtle Art Spot, 2340 S. 156th Circle

Details: Features guests artists, including members of the Omaha Craft Mafia and Blacksmith Shop Omaha. Free cookies and cider, too.

Cost: FREE

November 26, 2013

Holiday Fun Runs

Photo courtesy RVWithTito

Photo courtesy RVWithTito

I’m one of those crazy people who occasionally run on Thanksgiving. It’s not an annual thing, but every once in a while, a few family members of mine get the idea that we ought to trudge out to some park in the freezing cold on Thanksgiving morning and run with a bunch of other crazies. I run, reflect on what I’m thankful for and admire the beauty that is Nebraska in the dead of winter.

Just kidding. Nebraska’s not pretty in the winter.

I just want to eat without guilt.

So, this Thursday morning, I’ll be out at Zorinsky Lake to take part in the FREE Thanksgiving Fun Run hosted by the Omaha Running Club. It starts at 9 a.m. near the boat ramp (take that 156th Street south entrance). It’s pretty casual, so don’t expect timing chips or anything. It’s a fun run, so tuck away your insecurities about races and enjoy the fresh (and maybe bitterly cold) air. I may bring one of my kids along in the jogging stroller under a hefty layer of blankets and cold weather gear.

This time of year, you can find all sorts of themed holiday runs, most of them are just fun and not at all meant to competitive.

Third Annual Joslyn Castle Turkey Trot (5K run/walk)

Date: Thursday, 9 a.m.

Starts at: Turner Park at Midtown Crossing

For a cause? Yes, it benefits Joslyn Castle

Dress up? Just bundle up

Details: Cost is $30 today, and it goes up to $35 after 6 p.m. Click here to register.

Turkey Trot (5K-ish)

Date: Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

Starts at: Memorial Park, by the monument

For a cause? Yes, it benefits the Food Bank for the Heartland

Dress up? No, just bundle up

Details: Registration is five cans of food or a monetary donation at the start. More details here.

Rock, Gobble & Roll 5K

Date: Saturday, 8 a.m.

Starts at: Wabash Trace Trail trailhead in Council Bluffs

For a cause? Nope, just for fun

Dress up? No, just bundle up

Details: Cost is $20, or $25 on Saturday. The Tiny Turkey’s 100-Yard Dash is free for kids 12 and younger. Get race details here.

The Jingle Bell Run/Walk (10K or 5K)

Date: Dec. 7, 9:30 a.m.

Starts at: River’s Edge Park on the Council Bluffs side of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

For a cause? Yes, the race is sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation.

Dress up? Themed holiday costumes are suggested

Details: $30 for 13 and older through Dec. 4, then it’s $35; for the children’s run walk 5K, it’s $20 through Dec. 4, then it’s $25 (if they want their race timed, they need to register specifically for the Jingle Bell Run/Walk 5K option). There is a 200-yard Reindeer Dash for kids 10 and younger for $10, or FREE if they do not want a T-shirt. Race info here.

Omaha Running Club’s Holiday Lights Fun Run (4 miles)

Date: Dec. 8, 6 p.m.

Starts at: 10th and Harney streets

For a cause? Nope, just for fun

Dress up? Dress festive, like jingle bell festive.

Details: This is FREE, thanks to Omaha Running Club. Hot cocoa and cookies served after. Details.

The Ugly Sweater Run (5K)

Date: Dec. 15, 11 a.m.

Starts at: CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St.

For a cause? Yes, it benefits Toys for Tots.

Dress up? Ugly sweater is a must.

Details: Cost is $39 and you should bring a new toy to donate to Toys for Tots. Kids 8 and younger can race for FREE. Race info here.

Holiday Hustle 5K

Date: Dec. 22, 4 p.m.

Starts at: Lucky Bucket Brewery

For a cause? No, just a good time

Dress up? Yes, there will be a costume contest (and the first 500 people registered will get a Santa hat or elf ears.)

Details: $30 through Dec. 8, then it goes up to $35 until Dec. 20, then it’s $40 on race day. There is also a team option. Register here.

Jingle Bell Run/Walk

Date: Dec. 24, noon

Starts at: Zorinsky Lake boat ramp

For a cause? Yes, it’s a fundraiser for the Open Door Mission.

Dress up? Not unless you want to, just bundle up.

Details: Entry fee is $5 and a new or gently used clothing/blanket/gloves/hat donation. Go as you please, varying distances and paces.

* * * * *

Your turn: Are you going to do any fun runs this winter?

November 25, 2013

Holiday Meals in Omaha


I don’t know about your kid, but if a costume character walks by my kids at a restaurant, they are going to do a spit-take. I’ve seen nieces lose their marbles temporarily.

Just picture your child’s reaction to Santa walking into the room. Or an exquisitely dressed ballerina. Or a penguin.

The stuff of memories.

Here are some holiday meals around town with special visitors (lucky for you, Santa likes to eat a lot):

List updated Dec. 13

Nutcracker Holiday Tea Party

Where: Joslyn Castle, 3902 Davenport St.

When: Dec. 1 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Details: This enchanting event is presented by the Ballet Nebraska Guild and features costumed characters from The Nutcracker. Cost is $35 for adults and $25 for children. For reservations, click here.

Milk & Cookies With Santa

MilkandCookieswithSantaWhere: Omaha Children’s Museum

When: Dec. 5, 12 and 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Details: The night includes decorating cookies, crafts and playtime at the museum. Tickets are $20 per child (admits two adults for free; additional adult tickets are $5), children 24 months and younger admitted free. Register here.

Mockingbird Cupcakes and Santa

Where: Mockingbird Cupcakes, 17306 Lakeside Hills Plaza, Suite 200B

When: Dec. 7, 14 and 21, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Details: Free hot cocoa and homemade sugar cookies, plus Polaroid pictures with Santa for $5.

Breakfast with Santa

Where: Wheatfields at One Pacific Place

When: Dec. 14, 9 a.m. to noon

Details: Price is $9 for adults and $5 for children – menu includes their famous gingerbread waffles and maple butter. Bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to the Salvation Army Toys for Tots.

Breakfast with Santa

Where: The Rose, 2001 Farnam St.

When: Dec. 14. 9 a.m. to noon

Details: Enjoy breakfast by The Pancake Man, hear stories by Mrs. Claus, make crafts and get your face painted. Oh, and you’ll get to talk with Santa on the Main Stage! Cost is $10 for Rose Theater members, FREE for children 2 and younger. RSVP at

BRAVO! Cucina Italian Breakfast with Santa

Where: BRAVO! Cucina, Village Pointe

When: Dec. 14, 9 a.m.

Details: Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the restaurant for a hot breakfast and cupcake decorating. Call 402.289.5500 for reservations.

Breakfast & Pictures with Santa

Where: Dave & Busters, 2502 S. 133rd Plaza

When: Dec. 14, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Details: All guests will receive a take home keepsake picture, cookies decorated by you, unlimited video game play, breakfast and a gift from Santa! For tickets, contact Jordan_ Marti, 402-778-3921. Space is limited. RSVP by Dec. 11. Cost is $25.99.

Santa on the Runway

Where: Market Basket in Countryside Village

When: Dec. 14, noon

Details: There will be a fashion show and a visit by the big man himself. Cost is $15 and includes lunch, the fashion show and pictures with Santa. Event benefits Loveland and Sunset Hills Schools. For reservations, call 402-397-1100.

Lunch With Santa

Where: Old Chicago, Shadow Lake Towne Center

When: Dec. 16 at 11 a.m.

Details: Make a reservation for this lunch by calling (402) 537-0046. Details here.

Dinner With Santa

Where: Quaker Steak & Lube, 3320 Mid America Drive by the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa

When: Dec. 16, 5 to 8 p.m.

Details: Kids eat FREE with an adult entrée and there will be FREE pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Also a giveaway for Razor Scooters.

Supper With Santa

Where: Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

When: Dec. 19-22 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Details: Supper includes crafts and pictures with Santa. Cost is $15 per person for members, $20 for non-members and children 2 and younger are free. Pre-registration is required; call (402) 738-2092. More event information here.

Papillion Recreation Department’s Breakfast With Santa

Where: Eagle Hills Golf Clubhouse, 501 Eagle Hills Drive, Papillion, Nebraska

When: Dec. 20, 9 to 11 a.m.

Details: Cost is $7 per person for pancakes, games and activities. Tickets must be purchased by Dec. 11, so call (402) 597-2041.

Pancakes with Penguins

Where: Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

When: Dec. 27-29 from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Details: Breakfast includes crafts, a plush penguin and visits from the African penguins. Cost is $12 for members and $15 for non-members, children 2 and younger are free. Must pre-register. UPDATED: Sold out!