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!

May 27, 2013

Summer Reading Programs

Summer reading programs are everywhere these days. It’s awesome, isn’t it? Encourage the behavior by giving awards. Win for everyone.

My kids aren’t old enough for me to start worrying about “summer brain drain” or the “summer slide” (everything is new and shiny to them – they learn every minute they’re awake). But, they are old enough to enjoy books, so we’ll take part in at least one program listed below (for sure the library’s program!). What will your children take part in?

This summer, your nearest library and several retail stores offer reading programs with incentives to get your children to keep reading all summer long.

This summer, your nearest library and several retail stores offer reading programs with incentives to get your children to keep reading all summer long.

Omaha Public Libraries 

There’s a summer reading program for kids, teens and adults. Kids can keep track of books by number or by hour. Prizes for youngsters include a free book and Storm Chasers vouchers. Get all excited about the program with the kick off parties on May 31 and June 1.

Barnes & Noble

It’s pretty easy. Read eight books, fill out the journal, bring it to a Barnes & Noble and pick out a book from their summer reading selection. Done. Check the site out for downloadable activities and teaching tips, too.

Scholastic Summer Challenge

Kids can log their minutes reading on the site and parents can find book lists for specific grade levels and handy apps. Kids can log in daily to be entered in for sweepstakes and some rewards include signed books.

Sylvan Reading Adventure for kids K-8

Kids in grades K-8 can search for books on the site, read them offline, come back to quiz on what they’ve read, and earn prizes for their reading success.The site also has  online tools for parents. Prizes include a Highlights subscription, ebooks and a customizable personal incentive a parent can create.

Chuck E Cheese reading program

Print out this sheet, fill it out and redeem it for 10 tokens. Food purchase is required, and you should probably call ahead to be sure your location is participating.

Pottery Barn Kids Summer Reading Challenge

If your child reads every book on the recommended list, they get a prize. A book from the list will be read at their storytime each week (runs through Aug. 26). Bonus: Attend five story times, and your child gets a prize (ask for the Book Club Passport).

Half-Price Books Feed Your Brain

Download the reading journal and keep track of your child’s reading minutes each day, and when you hit 300 minutes, bring in the completed log and receive Book Bucks. The top reader in each age group each month earns a $20 gift card.

iVillage’s Summer Reading Community Challenge

Sign up and receive daily emails with tips, games and printables, and a chance to enter daily prizes.

Inspiration for this post came from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and My Frugal Adventures.

Want more ideas on raising a reader? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to it.


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!



Some area school districts also open their libraries during the summer (hey, combine a trip to a school library with a trip to the school’s playground!). Check out some links here,

May 14, 2013

Kids and Theater – How to Raise a Theater-Goer

Updated: Sept. 8, 2017

It’s never too early to introduce theater to your kids. Here are some things to consider when you’re ready to bring your bundle of joy – or ball of energy – to the theater:

Age Appropriateness – Or Does it Matter?

If a performance has an age recommendation, note it, but don’t necessarily live by it. You know your kid best. The Rose is great about listing the age range for their shows, and it’s good to know; however, I’ve taken Farley to a few shows that were considered “best” for slightly older kids, and he still got something out of it. When I started taking him to plays and musicals, he was 2. He was a mellow 2-year-old, though, with a good attention span. Good, but typical, so anything longer than an hour was pushing it. He made it to the end of three hours of “Shrek The Musical,” but not without several trips to the lobby and bathroom.

Taking your child to see live theater can be a lot of fun - pick a show everyone will enjoy.

Taking your child to see live theater can be a lot of fun – pick a show everyone will enjoy.

Going against my rule, if something is recommended for teens and older, or there is a parental advisory, you should pause before bringing your preschooler. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying there’s an advisory for a reason.

The Pre-Show Prep

Explain appropriate behavior before you’re even in the theater. Explain when it’s OK to talk or get up, and when we’re expected to clap (after a song, for instance). If a show is designed with kids in mind, talking during the performance is probably fine, and interaction is often encouraged. Let your child know when most people go to the bathroom (naturally, be ready to go during the most exciting part of the show). If you can, get that potty break done before the show starts. Another note, most venues have booster seats. * If you’re a member of The Rose, you can download the “Going to the Rose Guide” for each production and use it to talk to your kids before you go to one of their shows.


You’ll have to buy a ticket for your child, regardless of his or her age. Even if you are planning on having Junior sit on your lap, he needs his own ticket. They probably will make an exception for an infant, but don’t quote me on that.

Snacks and Drinks

Most theaters frown on bringing food and drinks into the theater. The Orpheum Theater and Omaha Community Playhouse are the exceptions – in fact, they sell things for you to take into the theater. The Rose sometimes sells food during intermission, but don’t try to carry it back to your seat. Will you get kicked out for bringing something from home? Probably not. Any outing with a toddler requires emergency items. I know you have to have an arsenal of distractions, and I’m not above filling my purse with animal crackers and a sippy cup if it means there will be no high-pitched outbursts.

Show Length

There are no hard rules on what length is recommended for an age group. Before he had turned 3, I’ve taken Farley to one-hour shows and I’ve taken him to a three-hour Broadway show. Know your kid. I have yet to take Mooch inside a theater. She’s a lot more, how do you say?… spirited. I prefer outdoor venues or loud shows where no one will notice her grunts. She’s also not even 2, so I don’t feel like she’s behind.

I can’t praise The Rose enough for offering a good variety of shows for children. Their season has many one-hour shows that are just bearable for toddlers, and captivating for any kid older than that. They have longer shows, too, that I’d say grade-schoolers will get the most out of. Their end-of-the-season productions are pretty grand and impressive.

Where to Look for Your Kid’s First Show

Omaha Performing Arts has the Family Series with shows that start a little earlier than typical shows (some are even in the afternoon). They also offer a Kids Night On Broadway discount – buy one, get one free – for one performance in the Broadway season each year. It may not be an ideal “first show,” though since I stated before, Broadway shows can be lengthy.

– As you can guess, I’m a fan of The Rose Theater, and you can’t go wrong with the shows this professional theater company puts on for the young ones. They aim for a diverse lineup, so know that if you buy season tickets, some shows are going to appeal more to ‘tweens and teens. They’re still great to bring younger kids to, but they deal with issues that older kids identify with.

– Omaha Community Playhouse’s season usually has a show or two each season that are suitable for kids. OCP has a couple annual shows that are kid-friendly, especially the holiday tradition, “A Christmas Carol.”

Omaha has a booming live theater scene with lots of community theaters. By all means, consider one of their shows for your child’s first show. I just picked three I know and can vouch for. There are also tours that pass through town for one-night-only productions. I can’t vouch for how great they are (I brought two nieces to a musical featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog and it was unbearable; we left at intermission). You’ll see shows sponsored by Disney or Nickelodeon come through the metro, and regardless of the production quality, if your kid is a fan of whatever show is being done “live,” he or she will love it. So take them!

One final note: Don’t underestimate your children. Bring them to shows you want to see, not just shows you think they want to see. A show can be kid-friendly even when doesn’t have “children’s theater” in the show description. So, don’t dumb down your child’s theater experience because you think that’s what he or she will understand best.


When I interviewed The Rose Theater’s artistic director, Matt Gutschick, a couple weeks ago about the 2013-2014 season, I asked him to pick shows in the season he’d recommend as great first-time shows for kids. He picked one for younger children and one for the older set. His picks: The season opener, “Knuffle Bunny,” for the really young; and the second show of the season, “Robin Hood,” for older children. Both are only 60 minutes long.