The midwest, and specifically Omaha, NE are so underrated. Joe is from Omaha and was largely influenced by the outdoors. He spent most of his childhood out in the neighborhood playing games, and in the summers he was at the local swimming pool soaking up plenty of Vitamin D. Omaha has a lot of outdoors to offer, you just have to seek it out a little.
We arrived on Omaha on Saturday afternoon. Of Joe’s four sisters, two live in Omaha, along with his parents, and on this particular occasion all but one sister, and their families were in town to celebrate spring break. Of the 10 total cousins, 8 were there to create the kind of chaos and havoc that only cousins can. It was such a joy to see AJ and MJ in action with their peers. I saw how energetic and fun AJ is and how physical, but slightly cautious of others MJ is (he is definitely in a stranger danger phase).
It was also great to see the wonderful people our nieces and nephews are – polite, caring, funny, creative and kind are just a few adjectives that come to mind.
We did a lot of hanging out in Omaha. There were many trips to Whole Foods. It’s a go to spot for me whenever we are in town. It has the culture of healthy hippie that I just adore. We also made sure to get outside. We flew kites at Memorial Park and hiked at Zorinsky Lake.
Zorinsky Lake is a beautiful outdoor refuge with excellent running, biking and walking trails (most of which is paved). The lake also has a wonderful playgrounds for kids. The tree lined trail gave way to awesome lake views. And can we just take a moment to appreciate the parking…We arrived in the late morning and there was plenty of parking. In CO, parking is impossible after 9:30 AM in many places, so this was just a breath of fresh air.
Prior to setting off on the trail for a hike we found ourselves at the first of two playgrounds. While the younger kids climbed ladders and slid down slides, the older kids (and some adults) threw around a football. Being outside brings out the fun in people! I am a little kid person, so I was with my sons and their younger cousins helping them navigate the play structure while also engaging in their fun imaginary conversations. It was great to see four generations meld together under the same big blue sky.
Our large group soon split up. The quicker hikers pulled away from those of us with little ones. AJ was all over the trail and mostly off the trail. He was picking up sticks and making practical use of them. At one point he carried around a “rake” and was quite literally raking leaves. He also made a hiking pole and a baseball bat. There are many uses for sticks! MJ slept in his carrier. I am pretty sure he had to make up for some lost sleep time as he isn’t the best sleeper when we travel.
I was so impressed by the beauty of Zorinsky Lake. The lake itself was a good size and the surrounding trees brought great beauty to our hike. Some of the trees were small and green as can be. My favorite tree, the pine, was also present. I love how trees look as though they are reaching for the sun, extending toward it for life. Nature provides us with many gentle reminders about how to live. I even found myself mimicking the trees as I reached toward the sky, arms extended as high as I could get them, and with a deep inhale I felt life enter my body and with my exhale I felt humbled to be alive. AJ imitated my gesture with sheer joy and enthusiasm – a good reminder that kids are always watching.
We ended the hike at another playground with soft turf which felt so good on the joints after pounding the pavement. A couple of the older kids rode their bikes back to the cars to retrieve things like water, food, bottles and keys. Somehow, a plan was created and implemented to get our cars from one side of the lake to the other without requiring all of us to walk back to the starting point. At that point it was getting hot and we were all starving. We decided on lunch at the mall where individuals could have their choice of food options. After eating AJ coaxed his grammy into ridding the escalator with him. The endless reserve of energy that two year olds have is amazing!
With food in our bellies and nap time beckoning we headed home to rest up. Later that afternoon we were even energized enough to make the best stir fry I’ve ever had! I wish I took a picture, but I suppose I was too distracted by chopping, chatting and laughing with loved ones. Some of the best moments are captured only in memory.