Tag Archives: parenting

Kids Otter Know

June 10, 2018 by
Photography by provided

Summer camps with swimming activities will certainly have safety practices in place, but parents should take steps ahead of time to help their children be safer in and around pools and lakes. According to Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, water safety begins before anyone enters the water.

“You don’t even have to be by a body of water; you learn about the dangers and how to be responsible in and around water,” she says. “Water safety should be taught as the child grows like any other safety discussion we have with our children.”

Stratman recommends that families review pool regulations and swimming rules, including such particulars as depth boundaries, the distance between the child and an adult, and which fixtures (i.e., diving boards, slides, fountains) are permitted, along with the appropriate activities for each.

Formal water safety instruction offered by the city and other sources emphasizes rules. Jenny Holweger, YMCA of Greater Omaha’s vice president of program development, says that YMCA water safety and swim lessons have recently been modified, including stronger emphasis on out-of-pool guidelines that also promote safety.

“We’ve decided we should be intentional about teaching things like asking permission from an adult to get into the water and other fundamentals,” she says. “We have been teaching kids to swim for 175 years; it evolves over time. We always concentrated on personal safety and rescue skills, but the water safety skills we have honed in on for participants now are very practical. And they’re things all kids, all adults—everyone—should know.”

Another important concept for parents to practice, and teach, is respect for others in any public swimming facility or beach. That can mean taking turns on slides and diving boards; not shoving, splashing, or dunking other children; and even curbing exuberant shrieking and yelling.

“It’s just being cognizant of those who are around you,” Holweger says. “Just being aware of your surroundings and who else is in that space, and being polite and courteous.”

“Kids are all out for fun,” Stratman says. “But I do think most people use common sense and etiquette, and respect shared facilities and use them properly—just realize there are other people using them as well. You don’t want to impede on anyone’s enjoyment, and you don’t want them impeding on yours. It’s everybody’s space.”

Basic instruction should start when children are introduced to water, Holweger says. The YMCA even offers parent-and-child classes for families with children as young as six months old. These classes emphasize fun and safety. The City of Omaha provides similar classes along with Josh the Otter Water Safety & Awareness program and Float 4 Life training.

Traditional swim lessons are suitable for children over age 3 and focus on more advanced activities like strokes, breathing techniques, and rescue skills.

Even older inexperienced or marginal swimmers can learn survival techniques like “swim-float-swim” or “jump-push-turn-grab,” Holweger says. And non-swimmers can benefit from basic safety instruction, too.“ You do not have to be a water enthusiast.”

Many of the same rules and principles that make public pools more enjoyable also apply to spraygrounds, Stratman says. Adults should insist on respectful behavior like taking turns and forbid roughhousing. And safety is still an issue. “Even though there’s no standing water, there’s still risk.” Running can lead to falls, for instance. On hot summer days, the pavement of parking lots or walking paths leading to spraygrounds can burn bare feet.

Adults can also help protect children in and around water by being safe themselves, Stratman says.

“Adults need to be responsible around the water and be a good role model when it comes to water safety,” she says. “Saying ‘I know how to swim so I don’t need to wear a life jacket when I’m on a boat’ would be like saying, ‘I’m a good driver so I don’t need to wear a seat belt.’ Accidents happen.”

Teaching good safety practices and respect for others “makes being around water fun and enjoyable,” Holweger says. The learning experience can be fun, too, Stratman adds.

“We really encourage parents to be active swimmers with their children,” she says. “A pool or a sprayground is a perfect opportunity for a parent to engage with their child and play with them.”

Out of all the precautions adults—even young adults like camp counselors—can take to keep children safer in and around water, one rises above the rest.

“Adults should know that supervision is the No. 1 thing they can do to protect their kids around the water,” Holweger says.

“You cannot substitute adult supervision,” Stratman says. “[Adults] need to supervise children and watch and be vigilant.”


Visit parks.cityofomaha.org or metroymca.org for more information.

This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Scouts of Honor

March 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lillian Henry heard something scratching on the rolled-down screen of her cabin door at Camp Catron. She cautiously peered out into the pitch black night. 

Screech…screech.

Lilly jumped when she saw glowing eyes. A lot of eyes. Raccoons? But raccoons couldn’t possibly be way up here. Lilly, along with four other Girl Scouts, were packed into a sky cabin. The wooden structure elevated them into the trees well above the ground and out of reach of raccoons.

“We are all going to die,” one girl freaked out, screaming.

Lilly couldn’t blame her. Lilly wanted gum. It always calmed her down. Her sister, Genavieve “Evie,” had what she needed, but she was far away. Outside was whatever had the glowing eyes and was scratching on their door.  Bravery or impulsiveness rushed through the then-12-year-old-girl.

“People don’t make good choices at 3 a.m., even Girl Scouts,” Lilly, now 14, recalls, laughing.

Along with a friend, Lilly walked out in the cool night air. She banged on the door and woke up her sister.

“I was having a scary dream about a bear eating me,” Evie says.

But she didn’t get angry at her sister and laughed it off.  Pawprints on the screens confirmed the girls’ fear in the morning. The sisters believed the raccoons wanted to share in the fun, be honorary members of the squad. This camaraderie and adventure are two of the reasons why the pair have been in Girl Scouts well into their middle and high school years.

Evie, a sophomore at Gretna High School, started as a Daisy Scout, skipped Brownies, and returned as a Senior Scout. She plans to become an Ambassador. Lilly started as a Brownie. The eighth grader at Gretna Middle School is now a Cadette with Troop No. 44640. They are on the fence about camping. It depends on the weather or the mosquitos.

“Mosquitos get you in places you never knew existed,” Evie says.

This doesn’t deter them from zip-lining, tubing, and other outdoor escapades. In fact, the entire Henry family bonds over their love of all things Scouts. Heather is the leader of Evie’s troop, No. 43855. Matt leads his youngest two sons’ Cub Scouts Pack No. 244. Nick, 12, spends his time in Troop No. 282 with the Boys Scouts.

“It’s definitely a shared experience,” Matt says.

The sisters, dressed in their badge-adorned vests, are adamant their Scouts rule. Boy Scouts focus more on camping while the girls’ program offers a diverse mix of fun and education. It doesn’t matter if someone is a girly-girl or a tomboy.

“It [Girl Scouts] balances the love of outdoors and spa parties,” Heather agrees. “Girls just like to have fun.”

Nick, though, enjoys pitching a tent surrounded by the fresh air of the wilderness.

“You hear the crickets. You look up into the night sky and see a ton of stars,” Nick says.

Nick tells stories around a blazing campfire set by his own two hands. Along the way, he is gaining knowledge about being a leader and speaking in front of a group.

Signature programs are offered for boys and girls all the way to senior year and includes such topics as college applications, conferences, or leadership skills. 

Lilly believes the educational opportunities and activities empower women. She made a car out of candy on Engineering Day and learned how to put together a toilet from the only female plumber in Lincoln. Scouting has opened her eyes to a world of possibilities for young women.

Evie loves to help the younger children and meet fellow “sisters.”

“They are full of energy and have these cute ideas. They don’t know the world will fight them every step of the way,” Evie says.

Evie was once that little girl, sitting around the campfire terrified of her first time without her parents. Only 7 or 8, she wanted to go home.

“Why don’t you have some s’mores,” a leader told her. She helped Evie through her fears while they munched on sandwiches of toasted marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. Leaders like these have inspired Evie to become more extroverted.

Wendy Hamilton, a senior development director, met the sisters through the Girl Scout Advisory Group (GSAG) two years ago. The girls connected with Wendy’s gung-ho attitude, determination, and her love of all things pink. 

“Lilly is so positive and represents her age group in a mature way. Nothing scares Lilly, ever,” Hamilton says.

Except maybe raccoons at 3 a.m.

She says Evie is “always supportive of other girls.” Hamilton has seen her become more comfortable with herself. The sisters couldn’t be more different. Evie wants to be an engineer or a dentist. Lilly wants to be an English teacher or writer. The two still fight over things like socks, but the friendship is tight.

Volunteering, including selling those famous cookies, can stack on the hours, but it’s worth it.  The girls earned a trip to Washington D.C. to immerse themselves in history. The family works together to sell Christmas trees or popcorn. It can be chaotic with five children, but it works when the family can unite over shared interests.

Some days are wilder than others, but the Henrys are happy being together.


This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Front row, l-r: Nick, Johnny, and Daniel Henry
Back row, l-r: Heather, Genavieve, and Lillian Henry

Hey Parents-

This sponsored content was printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/fg_flipbook_0318/2

Summer slide may sound like an exciting activity, but in reality it’s no fun. The term refers to the learning loss many children experience over the summer. Research shows that without access to learning activities throughout the summer, kids fall behind academically. For students who are already behind in school, summer learning loss pushes them even farther behind their peers. Repeat this year after year, and major consequences develop, as one in six children who do not read proficiently by third grade fail to graduate high school in time—four times the rate for third graders with proficient skills.

“We want children to have the best summer ever, and of course that means time for play, but it’s also important that children continue to engage and learn,” said Jenny Holweger, Vice President of Program Development at the YMCA of Greater Omaha. “A child’s development is never on vacation, and at YMCA Summer Camps, kids don’t just learn about the world around them; they actively engage in the world around them.”

In Omaha, the YMCA of Greater Omaha helps prevent the summer slide by offering a diverse selection of summer camps that keep kids active while sharpening their minds.

The stress of finding the right summer camp can feel overwhelming, but with the YMCA of Greater Omaha’s easy-to-read Camp Guide (now available online and at all nine YMCA of Greater Omaha locations), shopping for the best summer camp fit is as simple as browsing through a catalog.

With such a variety of camp options, it’s easy to find the perfect camp to keep your child engaged, and learning, while having fun along the way.

YMCA summer camps include: day camp for kindergarten-twelve years, the outdoor-enthusiastic favorite Camp Platte for ages 6-15, half and full day specialty camps that allow for mastery of topics ranging from babysitting to healthy living to Lego building for ages 5-14, STEM camps for kindergarten-fifth grade, preschool camp, and teen leadership camps.

Outside of camp, parents and caregivers can help by keeping their children reading and engaged in learning throughout the summer. Here are a few tips from the Y to help parents get started:

Foster an Early and Ongoing Passion for Books—Read to and with your kids. Start a book series together and read each night as a family. Reading at night keeps the brain buzzing and young minds active!

Visit Your Local Library—Explore new books you and your kids may have missed to keep your mind sharp during the summer. Be sure to check out special programming while you’re there; many libraries offer classes, story time or programs throughout the summer.

Cut Screen Time—With smartphones, tablets, video games, television and movies there are more options than ever for your child to entertain themselves with screens, but children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a screen.

Enroll Your Kids in Camp—Camps like those offered at the Y provide well-rounded programming, make learning fun and provide a social outlet for your children throughout the summer.


Pick up your YMCA camp guide today at all YMCA of Greater Omaha location or online at metroymca.org/camp.

Urgent!

January 28, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It happens. A child who spent the day happily, healthily, playing with his friend wakes up at night with a fever of 102 degrees. When the child and family can’t get in to see the doctor, it is sometimes hard for them to know what to do.

In years past, the answer was the emergency room, a term synonymous with blaring sirens and fatally wounded patients. Today’s families have a number of health care options that serve as an alternative to the traditional emergency room.

Urgent care facilities have become one of the fastest growing areas in health care as the demand for more affordable care outside of regular business hours continues to rise.

“Today’s families are busier than ever and their lives don’t always fit into a doctor’s regular office hours,” says Matthew Gibson, M.D., pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic. “Immediate care clinics have become a more accessible and convenient solution for minor illnesses and injuries without the longer waits and bigger fees you typically have with an emergency room.”

Situations in which people might visit an immediate care clinic include minor illnesses like colds, fevers, flu, rashes, and mild infections. Many urgent and immediate care clinics can also perform X-rays, blood work, pregnancy tests, urinalysis, and strep screens, and apply casts, splints, and stitches.

According to surveys conducted by the Urgent Care Association of America, approximately 90 percent of urgent care visits take 60 minutes or less, while the average wait for an emergency room visit is four hours. The Urgent Care Association also reported in 2014 that nearly half of all visits to urgent care centers result in an average charge of less than $150—compared to the average cost of an emergency room visit, $1,354.

Urgent care clinics are typically open evenings after most doctor’s offices have closed, as well as on weekends and holidays. Unlike emergency rooms, they are not open 24/7. Some are stand-alone clinics, while most in the Omaha area are doctor’s offices during the day and transition to urgent care after hours.

Methodist has five urgent care clinics around town and Nebraska Medicine has four. They both bill visits the same as a regular doctor’s visit. 

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center offers three urgent care sites in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs that specialize in pediatric care, including pediatric sports injuries.

CHI Health operates six urgent care centers in six clinic locations and as well as 10 Quick Care Clinics inside area Hy-Vee stores in Omaha and Council Bluffs. These Quick Care clinics are convenient walk-in clinics that provide care for minor medical problems for patients 18 months or older. The clinics are open evenings and on weekends, with no appointment necessary.

A visit to an emergency room would be warranted for more serious problems such as shortness of breath; chest palpitations; difficulty speaking; sudden dizziness; numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; chest pain; uncontrollable cough; severe abdominal or pelvic pain; fractures with bones showing; loss of consciousness; dehydration; or gunshot wounds.

“If it’s not life-threatening and you’re not sure what to do, call your doctor first,” says Dr. Gibson. “Most pediatric offices have an after-hours nurse line who can help direct you to the right place.”

Patrick Anderl, M.D., family practitioner at Nebraska Medicine, agrees. “I always recommend calling your doctor first since they know you and your history. If you can’t reach your doctor or get in to see him or her in a timely fashion and it’s an acute problem, then you should consider immediate care.”

Another care option offered by Methodist and CHI is telemedicine and virtual care. These services offer care around the clock via phone or video (such as Skype, FaceTime, or video chat). Patients who use virtual care are connected with a licensed health care provider who can help diagnose and make treatment recommendations for a variety of common conditions like colds, sinus symptoms, urinary tract infections, sore throat, pink eye, or a rash. Prescriptions can also be filled, when required.

Methodist offers this service for a flat fee of $39 per visit. CHI Health is offering the service for $10 with a credit card for a limited time.

“This is just another way to give families access to care after the urgent care clinic has closed,” says Gibson. “You may be a mother at home with other children in bed and leaving the house may not be an option. This allows you to talk to a health care provider about your child’s illness instead of having to wait until the next day. It’s all about making care more accessible and convenient.” FamilyGuide

Visit chihealth.com, bestcare.org, childrens-omaha.org, or nebraskamed.com for more information about the services mentioned in this article.

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Bien Fang goes Rock-A-Bye?

September 19, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Rachel Tomlinson Dick’s pregnant belly moves her Fender Jazzmaster guitar sidesaddle. Head-banging, her short brown hair slaps the mom-to-be’s face while fingers fly over guitar strings at an April 28 show. Her co-writing and vocal partner, Katherine Courtney Morrow, jams next to her on a Fender Mustang bass. Morrow sings and sways in jeans, a black T-shirt, and a baseball hat. Nate Luginbill adds his own flair on drums with an understated head nod as his sticks slam along with the beat, not really aware of his surroundings as he tunes into the rhythm.

The trio combines forces in the grungy, stoner-metal band Bien Fang.

“We get all sticky when we talk about our genre,” Luginbill says.

The band came together two years ago when Tomlinson Dick was asked to do a solo Nirvana cover show. She wanted to add in bass and drums, so she asked Luginbill and Morrow to join her. Everything just clicked. 

“It is the smoothest songwriting process,” Luginbill says.

Morrow or Tomlinson Dick will bring in a riff or some lines. The group collaborates and contributes until it works, like putting the finishing pieces of a puzzle together. Tomlinson Dick says it is all about having conversations through music. Their first six-song EP release, Garbage Island, is a mixture of sarcastic vocals, distorted guitars, and heavy drum riffs. Rather than angst-filled lyrics, many of the songs are unusually uplifting. 

Morrow’s songwriting deals with body agency, or being in control of one’s choices, and not letting other people take advantage. “Push” explores the idea that when someone is shoved into the deep end, “I’ll scream like this.” She was once terrified to step on stage and sing, but gained confidence with Bien Fang. Morrow, 29, picked up her first bass just a few short years ago.

“Now I can have a good time,” Morrow says. “I’m happy to do it for others or for myself now.”

Tomlinson Dick, a sexual assault survivor, writes about real traumatic experiences. Leading with a murky guitar and a slower tempo, “Real Bad Man” is all about taking back power and healing with fierce lyrics like, “You can’t wash your hands clean of what they did to me.” She hopes her message will help other young women. Bien Fang has spread the word at such events as Rock Against Rape Culture: A Benefit for Voices of Hope. 

“The element of playing shows is connecting with other people,” Tomlinson Dick believes.

Tomlinson Dick once hustled for other people’s approval, picking up her first guitar when she was a freshman in high school. Now that she is older, her perspective has changed. She has something to say and “whether people like it or not doesn’t matter.” It was difficult at first for a woman in a male-dominated bratty punk world. Tomlinson Dick felt she had to nail each performance for all women. This impractical pressure was short-lived. She realized imperfection is messy and normal.

Luginbill, 27, isn’t intimidated spending time with two strong women and balances it by shredding guitar in his all-male punk band, Bogusman. He started his musical career at 15 years old when he “got in with the wrong crowd.” He traded his two South Park dolls for a Terminator guitar with a built-in amp and two nine-volt batteries. After a little web-searching, he learned Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Drumming came later, after tinkering on his friend’s kit after sets.

Whether it is at the 1867 bar in Lincoln or O’Leaver’s in Omaha, Bien Fang tries to gig at least two times a month. But they have been on pause recently. 

Tomlinson Dick, 30, gave birth on June 11 to a daughter, Tomlinson “Linny” Thunder Darlington. Tomlinson Dick looks every bit the rocker-mom as she cradles her newborn: tattoos (including a skull which covers one entire knee), a nose ring, and old-fashioned cat glasses. 

Will Linny pull a Yoko Ono?

“Stefan didn’t break up the band, so why would a baby be much different?” Luginbill asks.

“Yeah, and Stefan is pretty needy,” Tomlinson Dick agrees.

Stefan, her black cat, glances up from his cardboard box.

Tomlinson Dick feared she would have to give up everything as a mother-to-be. She performed her last show when she was eight months pregnant, and she created a zine, “Moms in Bands,” for the Omaha Zine Fest to encourage herself before the big due date.

“Music brings wonderful people into your life,” Tomlinson Dick adds.

Corin Tucker, a vocalist and guitarist for Sleater-Kinney, relates to the struggle of being a musical mother.

“I don’t think men who are fathers in bands are being asked the responsibility questions about touring with kids—up until recently,” Tucker says (quoted in the zine). 

Tomlinson Dick has a very encouraging partner and bandmates who remind her she can still be a complete person as a mother. The group planned to head back into practice in late summer.

“When you love the music, sweating it out is so worth it,” Tomlinson Dick says.

Visit facebook.com/bienfangband for more information.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

From left: Rachel Tomlinson Dick (with baby Linny), Katherine Courtney Morrow, and Nate Luginbill

Transitorily Yours

June 15, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

As a millennial in the midst of fatherhood, there’s a range of interesting observations and surprising lessons I’ve taken in along the way.

I somehow evaded having a child throughout most of my adult life. As it turns out, I was terrified at the thought of being a progenitor. But now that I’m in the process of fatherhood with my 17-month-old, I’m here to say—it’s not that bad. In fact, the first lesson I learned came when I realized that fathering is actually quite a bit more enjoyable and easygoing than I thought it would be.

The second is that while the breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and full-time co-parenting strategy has observationally been of great benefit to our child, I’m convinced that my baby already came into this world packaged with her sassy wit, charming curiosity, and giggle-box antics. Knowing that makes my job simple: Love her, keep all her limbs intact, and equip her to be the person she’s predestined to be.

Thirdly, it’s pretty f@#%ing weird when a complete stranger tells you they want to eat your child. It happens a lot.

You’re walking through the grocery store, an old lady passes by and starts to geek out on your kid (normal). But then you’ll hear a line like, “She’s so absolutely adorable I could just eat her!”

What?

Truthfully, I’ve had the same thought thousands of times. Every day. I look at my daughter and I get this emotional reaction that I just can’t seem to process, so an urge comes about where I just want to dive into her sweet little rosy cheeks or nuzzle and gobble on the neck rolls. And because we relate to such statements, we just accept them as culturally permissible forms of endearment.

But if you think about it from another angle, it actually sounds like we’re sugar-coating the urge of cannibalism. Like, you really want to tear chunks of a child’s face off with your teeth?

No, of course you don’t. So how did our culture land on this odd expression?

Well it turns out there’s such a thing as “cute aggression.” It comes down to a fundamental biological feature of our humanity: Sometimes our brain can’t seem to process an overabundance of an emotional reaction, and so we balance ourselves out with a negative expression.

Have you ever responded to something insanely cute or arousing with a “grrr” sound? Had the urge to squeeze something? Tears of joy?

That’s all cute aggression. Yale graduates Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon came up with the term via their research. They observed hundreds of people and recorded their emotional responses upon looking at pictures of cute babies. What they found is that while folks would express a desire to care for and protect a child, they’d also mention that they’d like to eat them up as well. The more a person elicited this aforementioned type of aggression, the quicker they were able to come back to a normal state of emotion.

The researchers surmised that from an evolutionary standpoint, our body yearns for emotional homeostasis. If we expend too much energy on emotional highs and lows, it’s taking away from our ability to get other tasks accomplished (like staying alive).

Dyer and Aragon pointed to instances in other cultures of this type of expression, such as with the Phillippines’ Tagalog people, who use the word “gigil” to mean “gritting of teeth and the urge to pinch or squeeze.” Or for folks that use the Farsi language, it’s common to compliment a baby by saying that you want to “eat their liver.”

These are also called “dimorphous expressions,” which occur when two juxtaposed responses come from the same situation. This means that negative emotions also can be met with seemingly opposite reactions, such as laughter. We see this in our culture with nervous laughter, or hysterical laughter that comes with a particularly desperate moment of sadness.

There’s a bunch of research that talks about how our brain’s release of dopamine is cross-wired with our pleasure and aggression centers, but I’ll let you Google search all this if you wanna get in deeper.

The important and odd thing to note is that from how we experience food, sex, and celebratory moments, cute aggression or dimorphous expressions are incredibly revealing of how humans express ourselves in a wide range of circumstances.

With that in mind, when a stranger at the grocery store is having a pleasure/aggression brain meltdown at the sight of your child, just know that it’s not about cannibalism. They’re just working through something so that they can get back to picking out some celery sticks.

This column appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Encounter.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

 

Nettles, and Ivy, and Ticks—Oh My!

April 28, 2017 by

Christine Jacobsen likes to see parents taking their kids outside. “There’s more of a risk to keeping them inside,” she says, citing obesity and other problems. Jacobsen, the education specialist for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District, often heads summer camp programs and outdoor field trips for students. Jacobsen says she took her own children outside frequently “from the get-go.” When her children were infants, her husband and she would take them on hikes in carriers. Her children now appreciate the outdoors. Jacobsen says that the more parents can get their kids outdoors and learning about their natural world, the better.

Many parents fear what dangers may lurk outside. Jacobsen says, “Here in Nebraska, especially in eastern Nebraska, there’s really not a lot to be worried about,” noting that any venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes, are restricted to western Nebraska. However, one should learn to identify and avoid minor perils such as nettles, poison ivy, ticks, and mosquitoes.

Nettles

Jacobsen advises that nettles are a common plant hazard. She describes nettles as a woodland underbrush, about 2-3 feet tall, with green “sawtooth leaves.” She says they are invasive and often establish in disturbed places such as areas that have been mowed or tilled over. “They move in and take over an area,” she says. The bottoms of the leaves contain irritating hairs that cause redness and itching, she says. Jacobsen’s nettles remedy in a pinch: “put mud on it.” She also advises wearing long pants when in the woods.

Poison Ivy

Like nettles, poison ivy irritates the skin. Look for “mitten shaped” “leaves of three,” says Jacobsen. She also says poison ivy is typically seen in the woodlands, where it grows as a short, understory plant and as vines. “It’s the first vine to turn red in the fall,” says Jacobsen.

Reactions to poison ivy can include blisters, inflammation, and swelling. Jacobsen says the oil in the leaves is the cause of these reactions, and that the oil can be transmitted. Jacobsen’s remedy: washing the site to lift the oil. She advises seeking medical advice for severe reactions.

Ticks

Ticks are another nuisance. Jacobsen says that although the incidence of tick-spread lyme disease (typically by deer ticks) is low in Nebraska, hikers should be mindful of ticks. These arachnids are tear-drop shaped and have small heads. Dog ticks are generally larger and light brown with an “hourglass shape” on the back. “Deer ticks,” she says, “are like pepper—they’re tiny.” Use insect spray as a precaution. She acknowledges that many parents don’t want to put DEET on their children, but Jacobsen recommends it, noting that after being outdoors children should take a shower to wash it off and to look for ticks that may have attached.

Mosquitoes

Nobody likes mosquitoes, but they can be avoided. Jacobson advises using DEET to avoid them as well. She says mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn.Mosquito bites can be irritating. “Don’t scratch,” she says, noting that breaking them open can introduce infections. Jacobsen recommends cold packs and calamine lotion for bad bites.

Even with these minor hazards lurking outdoors, it is worthwhile to let children explore nature. They will form happy memories of hiking in the woods, playing in the mud, or catching their first fish, and develop an appreciation for active living.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

10 Cheap Things to do in Omaha This Summer

April 27, 2017 by

This is going to be no ordinary summer in Omaha, and the best part is, you won’t have to budget much to enjoy it with your family. There are inexpensive and free activities throughout the metro, from a pool with a pirate ship to a trail that leads to a waterfall. There are indoor and outdoor film series for families, as well as free festivals. Here are 10 ideas for cheap fun in Omaha.

1. Spraygrounds

For free water fun, head to one of the city parks with a sprayground: Benson Park, Fontenelle Park, Kountze Park, Orchard Park, Seymour Smith Park, Upland, Morton, Westwood Heights, and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza. These spraygrounds are great because they’re also near playgrounds. You can find additional outdoor fountains and spraygrounds that cost no admission to play in at Omaha Children’s Museum, Joslyn Art Museum, Shadow Lake Towne Center, and the First National Bank Tower.

2. Festivals
Free summer festivals in Omaha have kid-friendly aspects to them, while introducing new things to see, hear, and taste. Dance at a music series like Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing and Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. The Omaha Summer Arts Festival has an entire area dedicated to children’s activities.  Shakespeare on the Green has a tent of costumes for children to try on. Taste of Omaha is free, but you’ll want to buy tickets for food and rides.

3. Hikes

For the price of park admission, an adventure awaits on a nearby trail. One kid favorite is an easy trail that leads to a waterfall at Platte River State Park just outside of Omaha. Head to Hummel Park to search for the staircase that always baffles its climbers—no one can settle on how many steps there are. For a gem hidden in the middle of the city, visit Heron Haven Nature Center just northeast of 120th and Maple streets.

4. Unique Pools

Swimming is fun no matter where you go, but some local pools offer some fun extras worth checking out. The popular city pool at Lake Zorinsky has waterslides and a fun splash. Cross over the Missouri River to Council Bluffs to visit the city pool, Pirates Cove Pool, where kids can play around a pirate ship and use two waterslides. Head indoors to the Salvation Army Kroc Center and check out the newly renovated pool and waterslide.

5.   Explore the Old Market

The Old Market has so many things for kids to see, hear, and taste. On Saturday mornings, stroll the bustling farmers market. Visit any day of the week and you’ll likely encounter musicians playing music and charming horse-drawn carriages. Kids love the Old Market Candy Shop and Hollywood Candy. Head to The Passageway for toy store Le Wonderment, and then go on a hunt for the Zodiac Garden hidden behind an art gallery there.

6.  Downtown Fun

There’s more fun just beyond the Old Market. Slide down the big slides at Gene Leahy Mall. At Heartland of America Park, you may catch a gondolier offering inexpensive rides around the lake. Cross the “The Bob” pedestrian bridge to take that iconic picture standing on the state line. The building at the base of the bridge is the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters, which has a visitor’s center with free kid-friendly activities.

7. Bowl or Skate for Free

There are two national programs for children to sign up for that get them free rentals at local venues. Kids Bowl Free allows kids to have two free games each day all summer long. Shoe rental may not be included. Kids Skate Free is a similar program. SkateDaze participates in this program that allows children 12 and younger to skate for free once a day all summer long. The skate rental fee isn’t included.

8. Family Movies Series

Ruth Sokolof Theater at Film Streams has a great series for families, and children’s tickets are only $2.50. They show a mix of classics and first runs. Large chain theaters often have film series during the summer featuring slightly older movies at a discounted price. Check your closest Marcus Theatre and AMC Theatre to see if they’re participating. Check the calendar of events for Midtown Crossing and Sumtur Amphitheater to see when they show free outdoor movies.

9. Fan Fest

Feel like you’re a part of the NCAA Men’s College World Series experience for free at Fan Fest right outside the stadium. You can get into the spirit by playing interactive games, taking a photo with the trophy, meeting players, and soaking up the atmosphere. Fan Fest is open through the run of the series. Go to Open Day Celebration to catch batting practices and autograph sessions, concluding with the opening ceremony and fireworks. That’s all free, too.

10. Fort Atkinson

On the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October, head to Fort Atkinson to see interactive historic recreations depicting life 200 years ago. Children can complete a scavenger hunt, earning a little treat at the General Store for finishing it. Actors shoot off a cannon during the re-enactment, which is cool for some kids and too loud for others. A state park permit is needed to get into the park to see the re-enactments. 

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

 

The Johnsons

Photography by Sarah Lemke

Distant from the city lights and engulfed by nature, one might feel overwhelmed by the unidentified bustle in the bushes, the sticky humidity, and the irritating mosquitoes. For the Johnson family, it means they’re all together, and it’s their home away from home.

Ransom and Julie Johnson have taken countless camping trips with their kids.

The couple upgraded their tent size as they welcomed their children over the years. The Johnson clan—which includes Grace, 9; Ella, 11; Nate, 19; and Merci, 27—camps together several times each summer.

Ransom and Julie agree that the family time spent outdoors together gives their curious children a much-needed chance to disconnect and explore.

“It’s good to see them get out and open up their minds. Instead of saying, ‘Oh entertain me,’ it’s ‘What am I going to find to do?’ And they always find something,” Ransom says.

“They might be knee-deep in mud and their clothes are all wet, but it doesn’t matter,” Julie adds.

The family spent several days last year on a camping trip to Yankton, South Dakota. More often, however, the family spends long summer weekends at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Nebraska. Although it is only a 30-minute drive, the couple says it is the perfect distance from home.

“One thing that always amazes the kids is how much they can see once they get out of the lights of town. How much more brilliant the stars are,” Ransom says.

When everyone feels cooped up in the house, and the kids are bickering with one another, the short escape does a lot of good for their family.

“You get them out to the campsite for two-three days and they don’t have anything to fight about anymore,” Ransom says. “They have to rely on each other. They get along with each other.”

Ransom has been camping for as long as he can remember.

He introduced Julie to the leisure activity when they were dating. While they started out with a two-person tent, they’ve accumulated quite the camping haul.

Over the years, they’ve built up a supply of two 10-person tents, a couple of smaller tents, a canoe, and many pieces of cooking equipment. Their supplies range from coffee pots, to coolers, to Dutch ovens.

Most of the time, their camping meals consist of burgers, sandwiches, or hot dogs. Other times the family eats fruit, or chips and other junk food.

“It kind of just depends on how much planning and preparation is involved,” Julie says. “Sometimes we just grab what’s in the cupboard and go.”

The spontaneity, Julie says, is what makes the trips so memorable.

“The kids can be sitting, reading, and then they see something,” Ransom adds. “And all of the sudden they’re off to investigate whatever leaf blew by, or whatever it may be.”

Much of the children’s love for nature can be attributed to their respective involvement in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

The couple started their son young by not only signing him up for Cub Scouts while he was in the first grade, but serving as the group leaders for a few years. Their son, now 19, participated in Boy Scouts, working his way through the ranks to earn the title of Eagle Scout.

The two younger girls, ages 9 and 11, have been involved with Girl Scouts from a young age. Julie helps out as a co-leader with both troupes.

“It’s important,” Ransom says. “It lets kids explore so many different things … in scouting you can touch on everything from cooking and sewing to rock climbing, robotics, and 50-mile hikes.”

Ransom himself was a Boy Scout. From the parents’ perspective, their kids’ involvement in the programs has been a crucial part of their growing up.

“It teaches them responsibility to the community and to the family,” Ransom says.

The Boy Scouts troop the Johnsons’ son attended camped 11 times per year—sometimes more. Beginning in the fifth grade, they took an annual week-long camping trip to Camp Geiger near St. Joseph, Missouri. There, the boys would stay in tents and earn merit badges.

The Girl Scouts also have the opportunity for an annual overnight wilderness experience where they stay overnight, hike, shoot archery, and take in the nature.

“It’s really about slowing down,” Julie says. “When we’re hustling and we’re talking, we miss seeing the deer or the wild turkey. I try and encourage the girls to just be observers of nature.”

It is plain to see where the love for outdoors stems from in the Johnson family. All the family members appreciate the little moments in the camping, hiking, and memories made on their highly anticipated summer adventures.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of Family Guide.

l-r: Ella, 11, and Grace, 9, spend quality time in their family tent.

The Beckmans

February 2, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sadie Beckman—at 2 years old—likes to pick up pretty rocks and cup them in her tiny hands. Then she clicks them together. These are special rocks that her grandmother, Linda Beckman, brought back from past vacations in Colorado and Washington.

Whether she’s practicing her sensory motor skills by playing with Grandma’s rocks or taking short walks with her grandpa, Dennis Beckman, Sadie’s too little to understand the favor her parents, Jennie and David Beckman, did for her.

By returning back to their hometown of Omaha after stints in Boston and Baltimore, they widened their daughter’s family circle. A supportive circle that cares for her, plays games with her, and feeds her homemade sugar cookies.

Young families are increasingly returning home to Omaha to live closer to grandparents for more quality family bonding. Jennie’s childhood friend Amy Isaacson also recently returned to the Omaha area after working as a researcher at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Isaacson says her family moved due to the rising cost of living in the Silicon Valley area and to reside closer to family. The Isaacsons have a 4-year-old daughter and 9-month-old twin girls.

“This has been absolutely the best decision for so many reasons. We have more space. We have family. People are friendly here. It’s more affordable,” Isaacson says.

Beckman, who graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says they talked about returning to Omaha after they had children. Fortunately, Beckman’s previous job as director of volunteer strategy with the non-profit Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies allowed her to work remotely, so she could take her job with her to Nebraska. She is now the director of community engagement and education for the Jewish Federation of Omaha.

After the birth of Sadie, Jennie realized how important it was to be around her family. “It was really painful to go a whole year with them not seeing her for large slots of time.”

When David’s mom, Linda, heard the news, she says she kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, is this real?”

“Many, many years before, they had wanted to move back,” Linda says. “It all depends on jobs and things. You can’t just decide to move. You have to have an income.”

“It’s fun to watch her,” Linda says of baby Sadie. “When she first walks in the house and she sees you, she just lights up, and it’s like ‘Ahh!’ She just melts your heart.”

The Beckmans also have another granddaughter, Evelyn, who lives in Iowa. “We don’t see her nearly as often, but I’ll send her little packages here and there,” says Linda.

“We just want to be there to be of any assistance that the parents need. My parents were like that. They were always there to pick up the kids after school if I couldn’t do it. They were always there, so it just comes natural,” she says.

The Beckmans take care of Sadie each Tuesday evening. “Dave and Jenny get to have a few minutes by themselves to sort of catch their breath,” Linda says. They get to do things childless people do, like go out to eat without the dining room theatrics or relax on the deck and enjoy each other’s company.”

“I think the biggest thing is just the sense of comfort and security, and feeling like we have backup. And we have backups to our backup,” Jennie says.

Jennie’s support team also includes her own parents, Linda and Harry Gates, and her two brothers.

The Gates watch Sadie each Wednesday evening, and sometimes on the weekends for an hour or so while Jennie runs errands. They like to read books to Sadie or work on puzzles with her. They have tried painting and crafting with Play-Doh—no small feat with a child that age.

Harry also likes to take Sadie on walks. “We go look at the ants, and we go look at the flowers, and we go look at the birds,” he says.

Linda Gates says she really notices how Sadie changes from week to week. “Her vocabulary has just exploded. It seems like it’s all of a sudden, but because we can see her once a week, we really can see that progression. If they were still in Baltimore, we would miss out on all of that,” she says.

Gates, who prefers the name “Gigi” over “Grandmother,” has a penchant for wearing jewelry. “Sadie’s always real fascinated with that. If I have on bracelets and necklaces, I’ll take them off and put them on her, and she puts them back on me. It’s just kind of a nice moment together,” she says.

All the grandparents are happy with the new living arrangements. “It’s great. We’re very grateful and excited that it all worked out for them,” Gates says.

This article was printed in the Winter 2016 edition of Family Guide.