In Nebraska for the Holidays

What is it about statues and my kids where I just can’t stop forcing them to pose for pictures?  My kids are never happy about it either.  In this picture we are at Midway airport in Chicago.  There is one child missing.  My 16 year old who refuses to pose anymore.

This was the first leg of our journey back to Nebraska.   I convinced the two younger ones to practice some Christmas songs together on their instruments so they could play in front of a live audience at the airport.  (Again, the 16 year old wouldn’t be caught dead doing this.)

They’ve seen musicians play in the subways of New York City and know that you can make a little money doing this.  (My daughter’s secret wish is to make money playing her violin in the subways.)

I did recognize a tune or two myself, toddlers  joined in with dancing, and an elderly couple walked over and dropped two dollars into the violin case.  Their first paid gig!  Who says it has to be big money?

The evening we arrived, my parents had a big delicious family Christmas dinner at their house.  Then we opened presents!  We are at the stage in life where there are second marriages and blended families but on this night it wasn’t filled to capacity; only a crowd of 15 immediate family members.  Here’s a look at a few of them.

This is Chris.  He’s laying on the couch.  He’s the second youngest out of the five of us siblings.  He is the most “down-home” and casual of the bunch.  Notice his relaxed look with the bonus belly bulge.  His daughter Sarah.

Sarah has grown accustomed to her dad and his care free ways.  Her parents are divorced.  One year her dad, my brother, drove up for a visit.  He knows that most folks from the East coast think of Nebraska as some distant backwater land where you run from tornadoes and Indians.

Seizing upon this stereotype he bought plastic hill billy teeth.  The combination of large broken teeth and the fact that Chris’s license plates blared NEBRASKA on them made for interesting interactions.  He took every chance he could to stop and ask for directions  in New York City.  This is what my middle aged brother Chris does for fun.

Sarah eventually grabbed the teeth and threw them out the car window.

However, Chris has been deployed to war three times.  He fought for his country and put his life on the line all in the name of freedom.  He would give you the shirt off his back and is happy with a comfortable couch and a cold beer.  Cheers to you Chris.

The youngest of us is my brother John.  Here he is with his new wife Keri.  They were married in Utah last year and had an amazing wedding.   Keri is just a few weeks pregnant in this picture, even though we didn’t know it at the time.  Congratulations  brotha!

This is my brother Timmy, the middle-aged middle child with his new wife Brenda.  They were married  in 2010 also and are the equivalent of the Brady Bunch.  Altogether, 3 boys and 3 girls with the oldest girl Brittinie in the Airforce  in Germany.  More on him and his awesome basement digs later.

My nieces Sarah and Ashley.  I bought them hats on Canal Street.

This is my big bro Stanley.  He is a Catholic priest and a Benedictine Monk.  People who know him before 2003 know him as Fr. Stan.  People who know him after 2003 know him as Fr. Paul.  This is because he joined a Monastic order and when you do this they change your name.   He comes to help me out with my 3 kids all the time.

If I can make any relevant comparison, he is  my Theo and I am Van Gogh!

However, as the free spirited artist of the family, I’m not going to shoot myself or do anything more crazy than fly off to Europe and join a gypsy caravan when I become an empty nester.  Maybe my mom will join me.

Here’s my mom and me.  (Just ignore John in the background. )

My dad, on the end of the couch, anxiously waits his turn to open his presents.  He always says,”I don’t want anything so don’t buy anything!”  But I always get something and this year I bought him an LED light up snowman he can plug into his computer.

If anyone ever wondered where in the world did Chris, or any of us get our sense of humor, well, maybe this picture reveals a little of it’s source.

And of course, my kids.  You never have to twist their arms to open presents.

The girl on the left is Keri’s niece.  She has a big crush on Edward.  Aww…puppy love.

Christmas eve was spent at John and Keri’s house in Elkhorn.  Another night of free food!

I can always count on Edward to show great enthusiasm!

John built this house a few years ago and is in the process of selling it and moving to Utah.

Elkhorn, Nebraska.

St. Patricks Church in Elkhorn, on Christmas day.

Life size statues of the Nativity!  I couldn’t resist!  My first thoughts were, “You’d never be able to walk up to these and touch them in New York!  They’d be behind a big fence.”  I joined in on this one.  Is there irony here as we stand among statues of Wise Men?

After Christmas my son Aidan kept pestering me stop in a store so he could buy a Frisbee.  You’d be surprised how stores like Wal-mart and Target do not carry Frisbees at this time of the year.  We happened upon a super-sized sporting goods store on Dodge street and guess what we came upon before we entered the store?

Statues!  Life size ones of past Presidents.

Aidan was quite happy to pose.  It meant that he could finally enter the store and get his Frisbee.

My parents live in the country and rent out their land to local farmers.  This year the crop was field corn.  The farmer alternates between corn and soy beans.

My kids were thrilled when Grandma handed them matches and lighters and sent them outside to burn stuff!

Even their dog Angel joins in.  She loves chasing the ashes when they fly out.

Other things that we do on the trip are visiting friends and family while we are in town.  We went to the monastery where my brother is a monk in Schulyer, Nebraska.

They also have a retreat center with over 200 rooms.  My kids know the best hiding places for hide and seek.

There was a guest Seminarian from Africa.  His name is Romaine and he had never heard of or played Frisbee before.  So my kids taught him on this cold sunny day.

When they built this facility in the late 90’s they hired local artisans.  This is a local sculptor’s interpretation of the Madonna.

Even Father Paul has to pose in front of bronze statues.

This is my all time favorite Holy Water Font.

Here are a few pictures of what you would see on a typical drive through a rural part of Nebraska.

Some of these roads are part of the Oregon trail, thus the ox and wagon imagery on some of the road signs.

There are lots of small towns as you drive through rural Nebraska.  One of them is North Bend.  It is rumored that a gangsta from NYC, who was put in the witness protection program, was relocated to this small rural town.  A few years after his arrival he was mysteriously hit by a train.

Instead of large car dealerships there are large tractor dealerships.

And the commercials on TV advertise crop fertilizers.

Sometimes you can sit for over 20 minutes waiting for trains to pass so you can cross over the tracks.  We counted over 400 box cars with this train.

These are the irrigation systems you find throughout rural Nebraska.  Underground are huge water aquifers.

Historical markers are located along the highways.  This one is just outside of North Bend.  It is the Millar-Sloss Historical Marker; the grave site of Ann Young.  The first of the white settlers to give birth to a son she named Seth.  She died less than a month after giving birth but Seth made sure the burial ground was cared for until his death in 1952.

For more historical details I have a close up of the marker below.

We came upon an open field of large round bails of hay.  Of course I stopped  so my kids could climb them.

Did you ever hear the saying, “Til the cows come home?”

We rode John’s 4-wheeler through the fields.  It’s fun for the kids because they don’t have drivers licenses but you can get away with it on private property.

Everyone loves my parents dog Angel.

The last night in town was New Year’s Eve at Timmy’s house.  He has these awesome basement digs he built himself.  This is the bar.  There is a movie theater on one side and a game room on the other.  Those hoodlums lined up are various children claimed by family members on good days.

Here is the king of this castle.  He wishes he was as smart and tall as me!  lol! I think his specialty for the night was a 7 shot margarita.

Sometimes the wanna-be king pretends to give advice….

This is the best place in the world to play rock band!

All good things must come to an end; and so did our trip.  We flew out on New Year’s Day back to the East coast.  Nebraska and Iowa are separated by the mighty Missouri River.

Wind Mill farms in Iowa.

That was a look through Husker territory!  Thanks for taking the trip with me.

Peace to those coming and Blessings to those going!

One response to “In Nebraska for the Holidays

  1. wow what an awesome trip seen through your cameras eye and your vivid words. thanks so much for sharing. you and the family are the bestest!!!! Love you GF xoxo

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