Tea for Two:: Sadie and Mama in Victoria, BC

Well, it’s October 10th, people. And while most of you are out there busting out your rain boots and sipping on some pumpkin spice, I am feeling the blogger guilt of procrastination on epic adventure documenting. To break it down for you, its just another case of first kid, second kid syndrome: while Haden (my first) had his special mom/kid trip blogged within a week of arriving home, of course the second kid gets a bit of the shaft once again- and here we are, 6 weeks after my adventure with my little Sadie lady.

The great news is, the passage of 6 weeks time has yet to diminish most of the precious memories created on our very first mommy/daughter trip to Victoria, BC. I hoard special moments any way I can manage- the typical photos and video clips of course, but also in the way I repeat in my head at night the little moments- the way her nose scrunches up when she giggles or the way she prances- not walks- every place she goes. Needless to say, I am all set still to sum up the adorable mini vaca that was just me and my girl.

We arrived in Port Townsend early, it was a 1:30 ferry which meant we would have to kill a few hours, I mean, what’s a girl to do? Lunch and shop, of course, in case you wondered. We split a fresh pineapple juice and sandwhich at the local café and perused a local bookstore. I love the vast difference in taking my daughter versus my son to a store, in that their interests are so widely different. And having someone point out every unicorn they see with such excitement could make even the saddest person fill with joy (although I was far from the saddest person that day).

We boarded the ferry, off to a whole new country, or, for those of you that might not know…a small 1 hour jaunt across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We’re talking a whole new world, peeps. Or so my girl thinks 🙂

Those first travel days seem to be mostly about the journey, which is, in itself, a somewhat unpredictable experience, as most of you travelers may know. But add a kid and you have a whole new element of uncertainty, hope, but perhaps the best part of it all: experiencing it through them. As we pulled in the harbor, Sadie pranced to the front of the deck and yelled to me “It’s pretty!”

After settling into our adorable Air Bnb Victoria’s inner harbor, we did what any other logical parent and kid team would do on their first day of vacation: we ate ice cream for dinner. Sitting at the table, Sadie was turned away from me. I said “Sadie, don’t you want to look at me while you eat your ice cream?” She said “No mom, I want to look at these beautiful flowers!” I turned to see a line of decadent and elaborate row of hanging flowers. She said “Mom, can we come here every summer?” and since we were only about 1 hour into our Victoria journey, I considered that a good sign.

The next day was filled with all the adventure: hot coco, the butterfly garden, bus rides and pierogi tastings. Sadie noticed and sniffed every flower she could get her little hands on. More ice cream (naturally) and an early bed time in result of pure exploration exhaustion.

The most highly anticipated part of our trip was the last day, our afternoon tea, or, tea party, as Sadie liked to refer to it. We got up and started our beauty routine right away-showers and hair curling, but most importantly lipstick (or “lickstick” as Sadie refers to it). She is no stranger to my make up drawer, so putting on a few layers of bright red lipstick is easier to her than tying her shoes (Ok she doesn’t actually tie her shoes yet).

Once we were decked out like the queen and princess we are, we headed down to the Venus Sophia tea room near our Air Bnb in china town. Sadie spotted a pink umbrella with glittery details and asked for that to be her one special souvenir. I thought it went perfectly with her princess dress and hat, so I happily agreed.

We sat together, drank our tea and ate our treats from tiered china (I wish I knew the proper tea room name!) Sadie tried a bite of all her tasty treats, but was particulary committed to the chocolate strawberries (no surprise there!). Once finished, she pranced in her princess dress with her pink sparkly umbrella through the entire of downtown Victoria and danced like no was watching (trust me, they were! Who wouldnt want to watch that cuteness?). When the border patrol agent told her he didn’t think her mesh umbrella would be to good in the rain, she wrinkled her nose and said “It’s not for the rain!” as if that was the most absurd thing anyone has ever said to her! It’s for pure fashion purposes, obviously, sir!

What a special first “solo” trip this was with my girl. The word ‘precious’ does not even come quite close to what her little heart does for my world, but, I find it almost impossible to describe. She is positivity, compassion, and uninhibited joy. My time with her is better than I can ever put into words.





Why I Let the Kids See Me Cry: Redefining My Definition of Strength

What does it mean to be absolutely and unstintingly vulnerable? Are we born with the desire to be so open or does it grow as time goes on? I ask this because, to be quite frank, I don’t know what it’s like for others. For me, it’s how I’ve always been: to know Nicole is to know all of me, there’s little I don’t leave on the table to know for those that have entered my life.

I’ve always struggled with how open to be  in my writing, as we know the internet can be a beast of its own. And yet, it is at most vulnerable moments that I feel my words express themselves so clearly. There are definitely those who feel uncomfortable with raw and emotional confessions and true vulnerability. Often those people even choose to prey upon someone’s vulnerable thoughts and feelings that are shared and the internet becomes a whole new platform at which those that choose to prey can hide behind. They use others open position to their own advantage, belittling them for their openness or taking advantage of what they’ve shared to benefit themselves somehow.

We take this risk when we choose to be vulnerable. We learn very quickly who is safe to be our authentic selves around (and maybe sometimes it’s takes multiple bouts of mistrust to learn for certain who is safe and who is not) but nevertheless, I choose to continue to express my vulnerability because I know it is my healthiest and most rewarding state of being. I know it not only benefits myself, but those around me who are willing to be self reflective and grow. And so I continue to push forward through the other moments of realization of mistrust and pain of some, because I recognize the blessing of vulnerability from myself and others I have learned to trust.

Vulnerability has often been seen as a sign of weakness, and I’ve always been told to be “strong”- but what does that look like, as a woman, as a mother? Does it mean I shield my children from seeing my raw emotions? Does it mean when I feel the well of sorrow or the agony of turmoil arise, I just hide it behind a smile so they won’t know?

A few weeks ago, I broke down in tears over life “stuff”-the content of which is unimportant, and yet what resulted were simply thoughts about what I was letting my children see in me. My mind raced to the place of the advice I had been given many times before “Be strong. Hold yourself together. Don’t let them see your pain.” But something about that felt so off….It felt wrong to shield them from seeing their mother like that. Of course I didn’t want to worry their little hearts about the stuff of adulthood- but the thought that struck me the most was this: can empathy exist without context? I realized in that moment: of course it can. And my children have taught me that.

“Is your brain telling you you’re sad, mom?”

“It is buddy. It’s feeling sad and overwhelmed. I think I just need to write and think. Maybe have some alone time.”

We had been studying the brain and how it affects our emotions, and Haden was applying what he had learned. We talked about coping mechanisms to when we feel overwhelmed- I had shared with him earlier that day that writing helps me and he said he feels better when he plays with his stuffed animals. Little did I know, I was learning right alongside him.

He ran from the room and brought me back two teddy bears and a note “I love you, mom!”

What will my kids think as they continue to experience those hard feelings themselves-that they are alone or wrong in expressing them? That they must hide them like I thought I should?

How do I deal with my big emotions? What are the tools that I use? What will they see me doing when I experience those feelings? They might see me writing, or taking a hot shower, or cleaning…they might hear me ask to be alone. They might learn and understand what it’s like to comfort someone whose hurting- to lean into the pain instead of fleeing from it. They might grow up not feeling awkward or fearful to see someone cry. They might learn what it is to embrace someone without knowing the right words to say, and that silence can often be exactly what a person needs.

He snuggled up to me later that night and whispered to me, in his raspy 6 year old sleepy voice “Whenever you feel bad, I’m going to come make you feel better. Because you’ve spent all my life helping me and I want to help you too.”

And so, I made a promise to them.

I will be strong for you. But I’ll use my ever evolving definition- strength to me is vulnerability, its honesty, it’s authenticity. It’s choosing empathy and compassion and love. Strength resides where all these things meet, and you will see me striving daily to reside in that place.