You might think that Shauntel and Delon Tobin of Northwest Omaha live for Tuesday nights. It is the only night of the week that their dance card is not full with their children’s practices or games. But the family actually enjoys the barely-controlled chaos, according to their daughter McKenzie, a fourth grader at Picotte Elementary.
“I don’t like staying at home. I’m just one of those people that likes to go about and travel a lot, “ says the 9-year-old. McKenzie is a dancer. And her talent, and many evenings away at practice, has made her quite the star.
McKenzie and her 10-year-old sister Gabriella’s dance team recently won the Rainbow Dance Competition. Their prize? A once-in-a-lifetime “meet and greet” with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in New York City in July. The sisters attend Next Step Dancing with Maren and practice multiple times a week.
McKenzie, who is nicknamed “Macaroni,” appreciates the support she gets from her parents taking her to lessons. “I feel encouraged when they do that. I’m happy,” she says.
Besides the two sisters, there is also 9-year-old New York Yankee fan Jaiden, who is Gabriella’s fraternal twin. He plays baseball and also loves playing games on his PlayStation. Finally, there’s little 3-year-old Madison, also a dancer and a “Doc McStuffins” fan.
“We are a close-knit family and I love it,” says their mother Shauntel, who works full-time as an insurance representative with Traveler’s Insurance.
Each day begins with Shauntel rising alone in the darkness at 4:30 a.m. so she can take her time getting ready. “I also make sure everybody’s stuff is lined up for the day,” she says.
The organized mom’s preparation involves laying the kids’ clothes out and making sure their backpacks are filled with the proper homework, any papers that need to be signed and their homework folders.
Next, she wakes up husband Delon, who works as a pharmacy technician at Alegent Creighton Lakeside Hospital. After he is ready to go, the couple wakes up all four kids at 6:30 a.m. They shower and get dressed, then head for breakfast. “While I’m cleaning, he’ll be doing breakfast for the kids. They love waffles and pancakes from scratch.”
Then, presto, it’s off they go for their day in their Diamond white Toyota Sienna, the minivan they consider a home-away from home. “We live in our car sometimes. We’re always running here or there,” Shauntel says. Each kid has their own ipad and regularly plays educational games on the popular learning app Agnitus.
After Delon finishes his shift at 3:30 p.m., he picks up the kids from daycare and returns home for snacks and homework time. Then, bing-bang-boom, they are out the door again after Shauntel arrives home from work an hour later.
It is a 20-minute drive from their home in Northwest Omaha to Jaiden’s baseball practice across town at John G. Neihardt Elementary School.
Navigating the busy Omaha streets at rush hour requires patience and often, a deft turn of the radio dial. As a stress-breaker, the family all joins in on a country musical sing-along. “We just let everything go and everybody sings in the car.” The girls love Taylor Swift, while Shauntel prefers Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts.
“Some nights you catch every red light and it’s like ‘ugh.’ Or you get stuck behind an accident. Then you have those nights where the traffic is perfect and you’ve caught almost every green light and you’re there in a little bit,” she says.
On nights that Jaiden has baseball practice, they first drop him off and then drop the girls off at dance. Next, begins a series of ping-pong-ish driving moves for daddy. “Then Delon will leave and go pick up Jaiden and come back and watch the rest of the girls at dance,” Tobin says.
The day finally wraps up around 9 p.m. “There’s just no way we would get it all done if it wasn’t a team effort. So we come together and we pull it off, and it comes off every day,” she says.
The two met while they were employees of the Cracker Barrel in Chicago and were married in 2006. After visiting Shauntel’s family in Omaha, Delon knew he wanted to make Nebraska their home.
“The thing I will remember to this day is the first time at night when I saw all the stars. It was like a crystal, clear night. The air quality to me was superb. I looked at her and I said, ‘we’re going to have to move here.’”
Having lived on the edge of Chicago, an area prevalent with steel mills, the Tobins prefer the cleaner air available to them in Omaha, especially since their children also have asthma. Given the opportunity to transfer with his job, they jumped at the chance.
As a dad, Delon loves being part of his kids’ myriad activities and seeing them progress by overcoming shyness. “To see them come out of their shell and just grow personally, that is amazing,” he says.
They also have a lot of support from Shauntel’s mother, Kim Konig and her husband Jeff, who attend all of Jaiden’s games. “They are very busy with four kids. I don’t know how they do it. It would drive me nuts,” Konig says.
For Shauntel and Delon, all the effort is time well spent. “We just want to make sure the kids have the best possible experience growing up. We don’t force them to do any of their activities. We just take them and support them,” Tobin says.