Life is laundry 

Infinity symbols seem to be all the rage these days, tattoos, jewelry, art. I’m digging the symbol a whole bunch, it’s sweet to see the different meanings of it for various folks, things like unending love, relationships, faith.

I’m gunna be real with y’all for a second here though: the only thing I can really count on some days to be unending is the laundry pile. No joke, since summer has hit that thing has grown like a unnatural phenomenon and is taking up some serious real estate in our downstairs bonus room.
Yesterday I had a kid over who legit asked if there was a couch hiding underneath. I said yes, the couch at some point was functional as a sitting place. That purpose is no more.

But seriously, let’s be real, I’ve decided that giant laundry piles are just signs of having a really epic summer. I mean, come on, who wants to be stuck indoors folding bath towels when there is life to live in the sunshine?

And while we’re on the subject of laundry, I text my cousin the other day to inform her that people who fold their underwear scare me. She said I would always feel safe with her. You underwear folding folks, i try to empathize with others as much as I can and so, I need you to approach me with actual and legit facts about how those precious minutes of folding your underwear are more important than other tasks that you could be using those minutes for, like, for instance, anything else. I just don’t understand your kind but I am willing to hear you out.

I’ve come up with a concept for myself to justify never finishing my laundry pile. Hear me out on this one: Isn’t there, like, some kind of animal or insect that has a purpose or task and then as soon as they finish it they die? I tried googling it and could only find that octopuses die after childbirth. Not totally the direction I’m going here.

Anyway, maybe, just maybe, if I finish the laundry pile my purpose in life will be done and I will just keel over and die. I can’t take that chance, people. And that’s one of those things you just won’t know until you know, and then, well, it’s too late. You’ve gone and died.

So just in the very slight possibility my real purpose in life is to finish the laundry, I’m extending my life at slacking at it. It’s a real genius concept I think. And it makes me feel a heck of a lot better when I see that mountainous pile growing towards the ceiling. Self preservation, baby. ✌🏽

My Breakdancing Mad Scientist

It’s been a few hours so I feel like I’ve had enough time to process the events of this mornings shenanigans. I was getting ready for the day when Haden came upstairs 

“Hey mom, we can’t  eat breakfast at the table. We’ll have to find somewhere else” 
I was instantly concerned- this couldn’t be good. 
“Um why, Haden?” 

“Well, I was doing science. And there was an explosion. And so, it’s everywhere”

I ran down stairs and the smell was the first thing to hit me. I can’t even describe it. I have a very, very strong stomach- I can’t remember the last time I even vomitted and trust me, I’ve cleaned up some gross stuff as a mom. This one tested my stomach in a way I can’t even put to words. Lying on the table was an empty bottle of carpet shampoo, a jar of basalmic vinegar, an empty container of salt, a bottle of vegetable oil, and LOTS and LOTS of spices. The smell! I tried to hold myself together, I just kept saying “oh my gosh” and then this logical part of me which kept reminding me not to squash his little budding scientist spirit. He could tell I was upset (read: on the verge of puking and slightly horrified at the mess). He said “Are you mad, mom?! I’m sorry!” I said “No bud, I love that you are so curious and love science so much! But next time I need you to ask for assistance when you want to do science, ok?” 

Life with Haden never gets old, it is literally new every day. Every day brings a new and exciting project we must DO RIGHT NOW!!! His zealous for life is both overwhelming and rather inspiring. It’s a very confusing feeling as a mom :). I would say, whoever coined the term “spirited” child must have had a lens on the future of my parenthood. He is literally the most determined person I know, all wrapped up in a small little 6 year old body. 

His “calling” changes daily- from YouTube breakdancing star (yes, he specifically asks me to upload his dancing to YouTube “for the world to see”) to mad scientist, from performing in his rock star band on our “stage” (aka back porch), it’s a never ending series of exciting and thrilling stages of excitement around here. I love him and his ability to throw himself into ever part of life that peeks his interest. 

It’s exhausting sometimes, to be completely candid. His ideas are relentless, like, no exaggeration. Even last week he saw a 5 hour energy in wal mart and REALLY thought he needed it. He begged me for a solid 15 minutes until finally giving up on the idea. Ideas aren’t just something to give up, ok mom? I’ve been placed on this earth to remind you of that. (This is what I imagine he’s trying to tell me). 

I did a little post experiment interview with him, if you’d like to hear his personal thoughts:

Also, if you haven’t seen his most recent breakdancing performance, you can see the epic-ness here:

Haden, you inspire me to never give up. You inspire me to keep dreaming. You remind me that life is exciting and thrilling and should never be taken for granted. You are amazing, kid. ❤️

Hiking with Kids:: Fallsview Canyon Trail::Olympic National Forest

Sadie crawled in bed with me early this morning to snuggle. She said “Mom, do I have to school today?” 

“Nope, we’re going for a hike! But please, don’t share that with your brother (he has to go to kindergarten)”

So of course, she blurts it out over the breakfast table. Haden looked at me with the saddest eyes, as if to say “it’s not true, right mom?!?” And I looked back at him with heartache. He pulled the cereal box in front of his face and started to silently sob. 

“Of course you can go with us, buddy! I’ll call the school now to let them know!” His face lit up and he jumped up to pack his bag for the hike ahead. 

Cruising down the highway, we did a U- turn to the ranger station before we entered the National Forest. We picked up the essentials- a map, a safety whistle, and of course, two pair of Smokey the Bear binoculars for the expert wildlife observers. 

The Fallview Canyon Trail is just past the entrance to the National Forest near Quilcene. It used to be an operating campground, but doesn’t appear to have been up and running for a few years now. 

The trail itself is just to the left of the campground. It starts with quite a few switch backs, where I helped the kids in several parts to navigate because of the somewhat slippery gravel. Once you get to the bottom, you have a great view of the river. 

The trail itself follows the river and goes to a 1/2 mile loop near the end. It is a fairly easy route with a small elevation gain (I believe around 475ft). The entire length of the trail is 1.3 miles. 

My kids mostly spent the time collecting the fuzzy ends of ferns, because they decided they were really cool and worth collecting. The other half was mostly arguing about who got to be the leader- such is life with siblings. 

But perhaps my favorite part of being in nature with them is all of the questions! A lot of them I don’t even know myself- like really, is that a banana slug? Why is it called that? Does it really taste like a banana? Why is it harder for girls to pee outside? Why do people glitter (aka litter)? Where do bears sleep? What exactly IS moss?!?

Burning questions, these two come up with! And to think- no service in the mountains to consult with Mr. Google!

Food is key motivation when hiking with kids, so making a goal of getting to a certain point before we ate lunch was key. This lunch was on a log bench overlooking the river. We ate strawberries and cheese and turkey and talked about what decomposing meant. They asked me how many rings I’d have if I was a tree (29, of course!). I made them crowns from ferns while they used their binoculars to spot birds in the trees. 

We really had such a good time on the trail. They still don’t really get why mom makes them walk in the forest to no apparent real destination, but I think the more we do it the more they find enjoyment in it. I’m happy and proud to say I’m cultivating the love of outdoors in them at such an early age. I am so excited for all of our future hiking adventures to come! 

Ode to the Hot Mess Mom

I once dropped a chunk of deli turkey on my newborn babies cheek while eating a sandwich one handed and nursing. I just plucked it right off and ate it, and he kept on sleeping. 
When Haden was 6 weeks old, I did an event with my moms work where I sold some products of which will not be named. Looking back now, I was just desperate to do anything other than caring for a baby for a little while, so I gave the salesperson thing a stint. What I didn’t really remember was how incredibly exhausted I was and how incredibly overwhelming just simply caring for a newborn was. Halfway through the day, I ran to the restroom to change his diaper. When I emerged I saw my mom mingling with some co workers and walked over to chat. My mom stopped me and said “nicole, you have poop all over your arm”- sure enough, I had washed my hands but somehow missed my arm. 

Oh the joy I take in being a hot mess mom. Seriously guys, I used to be embarrassed. I used to live in fear that someone would see the coffee stain on my shirt or scoff at my messy bun. I used to worry that I’d lose friends if they showed up unannounced at my house and they saw the disaster that existed within it. 

But yeah, that got old pretty quickly. 

Now my kids are older. And today Haden, on his way to kindergarten, said to me “mom, what if my friends laugh at my big bag of cereal?” (He had packed himself his own snack- a halfway filled gallon size bag of cheerios). I said “yeah, well, they might. But, you can laugh too. Because, honestly it’s funny. And then you can just accept that it’s gunna get the job done: you likely won’t be hungry after that snack.”

Here’s the deal my hot mess friends: maybe it’s messy, maybe it’s a little amusing, and maybe people laugh. But by golly, we get this mom job done and we do it well. So give yourself some credit! 
So yeah, maybe I can’t drink from a normal coffee mug (please give me a lid and straw) and maybe my car looks like a dumpster, but my kids know that my spontaneity and ability to not really care for things to be perfect, means their mom is likely to not say no to a last minute adventure. They know that I’m not one to turn down an art project even if we forget to do the laundry first. They know that maybe even if my ducks aren’t in a row, were still loving our crazy, messy, beautiful life. 

The truly awesome thing about us hot mess moms, is that when we can embrace ourselves, we can teach our kids to do the same. We can teach them to find those people who love us for exactly who we are. 

Those are the people who value authenticity and honesty. Those are the people worth investing in. 

So here’s to you, my hot mess mom friends. Find what you do well, embrace the heck out of it, and laugh at the rest. Your heart will be happy and so will theirs. 

Camping is hard & why it matters 

It was 6am and I was fast asleep hovering just a few feet off the ground with the bed of our 1990 Coleman camper to support me, just a slab of sturdy plywood and frame and a thin layer of foam that I consider a camping luxury. I fell asleep that night before snuggled up with my 6 year old at my side, anticipating dad at some point to crawl in on my other side, once his fireside game with the other campers was complete. A sweet auntie snuggled my little girl across the way in the other bed, having a sleepover with us since she was back from college for the weekend. 

6:30 began to roll around, and I wake up to a soft voice saying “Mom, a little help please” and turn to see that Haden had actually physically fallen out of the camper. We apparently had forgotten to secure the straps underneath that keep the canvas and bed together, and Haden had rolled over in his sleep and fallen out of the crack. He’s usually quite the dramatic one, so wasn’t quite sure if he was still semi sleeping when he woke me up to ask for help to pull him out of the crack, where just his head was popping through. I sat up immediately and grabbed him up and tucked him under close to me, and his dad and I burst out laughing at the fact that we just almost lost a kid out the side of our camper, but mostly at his calm reaction to it all. 

Why do I love camping with my family so much? I’ve really stopped to consider this lately. Because, to be quite frank with you, camping, especially with children, is a heck of a lot of work. I often spend my days camping doing honestly the exact same things I’m doing at home: waking up, cooking, cleaning up, and then starting that process all over again. Just this past weekend, I spent a solid 45 minutes giving both my children sponge baths because they both had accidents- I strongly suspect it’s because they were too busy playing to stop to use the bathroom. 

I always tuck them into bed at night after a long day of playing at the campground,  covered in dirt, with remnants of sticky marshmallow goo on their fingers. They smell like campfire and mud, and I’m picking leaves and sticks out of their hair. 

It’s work, this camping thing. 

But as I’m rounding in on turning 30 within the year, I’m seeing more and more the exceptional experiences that come from hard work. They are richer and more vibrant. Their roots are deeper. And most of all, the result of hard work is almost always a particular stronger amount of appreciation for the moments that come afterward. 

In short, I’d choose the vibrant experiences and appreciation that derive from hard work any day. 

Because at the end of a long camping weekend, as I’m tossing our stained and dirty clothes into the dryer, unpacking the cooler, and rolling up the sleeping bags, I don’t remember how hard it all was. I remember the way I looked over from the campfire and saw my kids making forts in the dried up riverbed. Or the way Haden’s face lit up when he succeeded in making the perfect roasted marshmallow. Or the warmth of Sadie’s little body as we warmed up by the fire that evening. 

Lots of things in life are hard work. Hard work gives us perspective. And perspective is a beautiful way to appreciate our rich and wonderful life. 

Gloria+Tonya::Mama+Kid Travel Adventures::New York City 

I am so excited to share my first post in my series about Mama+Kid Travel Adventures! If you’d like to read more about the heart behind this project, you can read that here. 

Tonya from Detail Orientated Traveler first wrote to me saying

“When I did these trips with my kiddos, I really wasn’t thinking of it as solo adventure with kids. Just, here’s a trip, let’s go! I think this will be an inspiring piece, can’t wait to see it!” 

I totally love that she said this. I think it’s going to be so fun to recognize and get inspired by these travel stories of moms and kids!

Read on to hear about 11 year old Gloria and her Mama Tonya’s trip to New York:

“My name is Tonya Denmark, and my daughter Gloria is 11 years old. She and I are performers at heart and share a love of the stage. She’s a book nerd and loves to read non-stop, which I love about her. She’s at the perfect age to discuss bigger ideas (but not too big) and still have a need for her mom. We are very close.

Where did you travel and for how long? 

We traveled to Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York City for a little over a week.

What prompted your adventure? 

Gloria had a choir competition in Rhode Island, so we extended our trip on either side with a visit to family in Connecticut and NYC to hit Broadway.

What was your most special memory on your trip?

Wandering through Central Park, with no real plans for the day other than to see as much as week could. Just stopping wherever and taking pictures, getting a bit lost, and enjoying the fall colors. We don’t get to slow down much in our busy lives and this was a nice way to have no plans for the day. As we live in the south, we also don’t get to see leaves change and she enjoyed the difference in climate.

What did you find challenging about traveling with your kid(s)? 

It’s challenging to be the only adult, and the only set of eyes on her and her safety. Especially in a big city where we don’t know the area, it’s not always easy to take a moment to figure things out geographically with eyes on a map/phone and not on the child. 

Why is traveling with kids important to you? 

Showing my children different cultures, different experiences is important. However, spending quality one on one or one on two time is just as important. When we get away from our daily busy lives we get to focus on our child(ren) and what they see, learn and experience.

Do you have any other mama/kid adventures planned? 

My son, age 13, and I are planning a trip to Boston. I also plan to road trip with both my kids next summer.
Thanks so much for sharing Tonya! If you’d like to read more about Tonya’s adventures and some amazing tips on travel, check her blog out at Detail Orientated Traveler! I’d love to have a follow up on your time with your son to Boston, Tonya!

If you are interested in being featured for a solo Mama+Kid adventure you’ve taken, please email me at!

Tuk Tuk’s and Thai Massage 

After a total of 30+ hours of travel and both of us not feeling great on the airplane, we arrived Bangkok early in the morning hours. We noted how the highway looked very similar to the US, peppered with 7-11’s and even a Harry Davidson shop as we drove in. It was 4am in Bangkok, but as we exited the highway our first glimpse of city life was a table full of local men eating street food- despite the early hour. We quickly realized what we had been told about Bangkok was true, it seems to be a busy, noisy city that rarely sleeps. We, however, made it to our hotel room and crashed since we were beyond exhausted from the long trip. 

The next day we grabbed breakfast at the cafe next door to the hotel, it wasn’t too far from our comfort zone- bacon, eggs, and coffee, but nevertheless, delicious. It was also very apparent quickly how kind the Thai people are, lots of smiles all around. 

We booked a river city guide tour with an agent next to the hotel as well, who even followed the tuk tuk we took to the river to make sure he didn’t make any extra “stops” along the way- a common practice for tuk tuk drivers who get a sort of kick back commission for the customers they bring in. 

We boarded a long tail boat and cruised through the canal, an odd mixture of wealthy homes overlooking over the river and shanty shacks peppering it as well. It was an experience, to say the least, and one kellen and I enjoyed fully as we pondered what life living on this canal would be like. 

Next stop was the Grand Palace, which had Disneyland l-like crowds but nevertheless a must do of Bangkok. We both agreed it was a great one time see. Beautiful architecture and peek into the Buddhist culture and religion. 

After that, it was time for our much anticipated phad thai experience, which we were happy to find at a very non de script hole in the wall restaurant with a sliding glass door and air conditioning, which was a relief from the muggy hot weather outside. 

After lunch and a rest at the hotel, I decided to try my first Thai massage experience and boy….was it an experience! The place was lined with actual twin beds to lay on, and my masseuse performed all kinds of techniques that made me laughing hysterically on the inside- including climbing on the actual bed with me, wrapping her legs around mine and moving my body in all sorts of ways I’mnot really sure if it has been moved before! I kept thinking “this can’t be real” as I tried to suppress laughter followed by the feeling of “oh man that feels good.” At one point, I laid on my stomach and I am not kidding, she actually crouched on my legs and walked up my back. It reminded me of my kids attempts at back massage except she actually knew what she was doing, and despite the awkwardness of it all, it really did feel amazing. It was an experience I certainly won’t forget and I went back to the hotel excited to share the humorous experience with kellen. 

Next up was Khao Son road, which we ended up on eventually but the path we took to get there led us to another area lined with a street market and restaurants. Every other booth seemed to be an open air massage parlor, but since I had already had my experience for the day I opted to pass, haha. 

I was amazed at how cool and adorable I found all the clothing ad jewelry- it really was overwhelming how m-“any things I loved. Kellen tested out his haggling skills on a backpack right away and I couldn’t be more proud of him, haggling feels like a bit of a game that you can win by sticking to your original offer. 

We turned down another road and found a magical restaurant/bar serving happy hour. I was basically in heaven with the giant trees, twinkling lights and 100 Baht pinya coladas (that’s about $3 US). Thailand has not disappointed us so far as the bill for all of our food plus two drinks each that day came to $30. We made our way to Khao SAN road, which I can only describe as a busy street market mixed with a bit of the Las Vegas strip, lit signs illuminating above the bustle of the crowds. I was once again fascinated by all of the vendors, slightly disgusted by the fried insects (I could have gone without seeing a fried spider) and mesmerized by the atmosphere of it all. Negotiating a tuk tuk at the end of the street to take us back to the hotel, we felt like we were getting our bearings on this big city. By the end of the day, kellen was researching buying a vacation home here on the internet, purely or of curiosity but really- who knows where this life will lead? In the meantime, its fun to dream, and there’s no one I’d rather experience this all with than him. 

Yo shorty 

Hey hey it’s my birthday! I’m officially the age I will remain forever, since it is a well known fact in our family that all women turn 29 and remain that age for the rest of their lives. Just ask my grandma and she will tell you, she’s been “29 and holding” for my entire 29 years now 😂

I’ve gotta be honest, getting older scares the ish outta me. But then again, there’s perks to it as well. Time is a glorious thing because with it comes experience, opinions, and most of all: the ability and purpose of just freaking loving yourself. For some reason this last one is a toughie but I feel the older I get, the more I can confidently tell myself how cool I am. Gosh darn it, Nicole, YOU ARE COOL! 

In celebration of the big 2-9, I thought I’d reflect on some of my birthday memories thus far. I would like to inform you all that I did call my mom to jog my memory on my childhood birthdays, and her main thoughts came down to that the nurses wanted her to name me Patty (in honor of st Patrick’s day) and also that she remembered being relieved on my 1st birthday that I had survived thus far because she had dropped me pretty hard when I was a baby?!? That explains a few things 😂😂😂

Birthdays of my childhood seem to be a bit of a blur: mostly filled with green, sleepovers, the times my mom bought special lunches for me to take to school (I’m carrying that tradition on with my kids). My 10th Birthday where we stuffed balloons in our shirts to look like boobs and had a dance party in my grandparents basement (we may, or may not have, raided my grandmas makeup cabinet and ruined most of her makeup, but I plead the 5th) my 12th birthday laser tag party, to 14 where my friend who asked me to the 9th grade dance with a build a bear (nailed it, Andy!). Those were some of my favorite birthday memories so far. 

(10th birthday, balloons in shirts, we were so sophisticated)

(12th birthday laser tag party, the second photo depicts the relevance of the Charlie’s Angels reboot at the time, of course) 

And on the reverse side, whatever happens today, don’t worry, I already got my worst birthday out of the way when I turned 16 and failed the drive test because I cut left on a round about. I knew it could only go up from there…
My 21st birthday was naturally celebrated with jagger bombs at the Irish pub in our hometown, followed by what I am told we’re my most rewarding hugs to the people I love ever 😂

Fast forward to my 23rd birthday and I was in labor with my kid. Ok, the labor part kinda sucked- but nothing was better than getting to meet that kid on my birthday 🙂 and my mother never fails to remind me that all throughout the process I never removed my green beer earrings, like the true pseudo-Irish girl I am. 

(A pretty good shot of my awesome earrings) 

Birthdays look a lot different these days, but sharing it with Haden has been some of the very most special memories I could have ever asked for. Experiencing the magic and excitement through his eyes is the best thing I could ever ask for on our special day. 

So cheers, folks, to green beer and lucky clovers and leprechauns and birthday wishes. Maybe if we’re lucky, Haden will finally fly like he’s been wishing for for a few years now 👍🏻😂 

The beginning 

I can still remember the smell of that journal. The one covered in rainbow polka dots and stashed in a memorabilia box in our attic. The one I scribbled my promise to swear off men for at least a year- that was the promise to myself. Men was a questionable term, or relative, I guess you could say. To me, at 29, “boys” would more likely be how I would describe the potential suitors I had sworn off at 15. But, needless to say, I had encountered one too many heart breaks, and I was ready to throw in the metaphorical towel of love or…trying for it at least. 

It always seems to start that way, right? Just when a persons had enough…just when they’ve reached what they believe to be a bottom (but of course with perspective we see it was just a valley)- that’s when in walks the person into their life who is ready to challenge that.

Well, ok, he didn’t walk in. He was there, already. I knew him as the weird kid whose jokes didn’t really make sense. The one who always wore soccer shorts that were just a tad bit too short but he wore them with confidence-i couldn’t blame him for that. 
And so there was me- young, insecure, unwilling to believe that any person of the opposite gender could possibly find me attractive. I sat on that dock out on the lake of the summer camp we both worked at. Minding my own business, when he walks up to me and, as if it should have surprised me with his previously strange behavior, says

“Hey….your sisters hot”
“I…I don’t have a sister?”
“Well….if you did…she’d be hot”

And that was it. I mean….well…what was it really? Since he doesn’t remember those words to this day, all we can assume is that was an attempt at a pick up line that ultimately just confused me. Disbelief that someone would actually hit on me, mixed with just pure confusion, it was strange first romantic encounter, to say the least. 

What began that day as confusing disbelief developed, however, into an innocent and endearing love story between a silly 17 year old boy and a innocent 16 year old girl. She didn’t feel worthy, but somehow, at some point, that boy chose to make it his life mission for her to know that without a single doubt-she absolutely was. 
And so began our love story. To be continued…