There’s a warthog under my shirt

In the summer of 2010, I drove down to my friend Olivia’s house to use one of her pregnancy tests. It was pre-pinterest, but really cool announcements via social media had just started to be a thing, so of course her and I had had lengthy discussions on how and which to deliver the news of either of us being knocked up to our husbands, our families, and most importantly all of our facebook friends.

What transpired over the next 9 months I can only sum up with the words crazy, exhausting insane love. Like really- what is having children except having your heart literally hurt because it loves something so much that never even existed a year ago?!

Haden was born early because of some pregnancy complications (in the world’s eyes) or possibly because he was determined to steal (or share) my birthday (in my eyes). Let’s be honest- I had always loved having my birthday on St. Patrick’s day- it was a small enough holiday that I still got to celebrate it at school with all my friends, but big enough that people always remembered it. I was usually spared from the pinching even if I didn’t wear green, because, come on, who is going to pinch the birthday girl?

In my non-selfish moments, the moments in which I focus on the good side of sharing a birthday with my kid, I am happy for him that he gets to experience all of that as well. And who knows? maybe someday he and I will share a green beer for his 21st (and my 29-and-holding status by then).


There was a moment just after becoming a mother that I knew all things would change. It was Haden’s first poop. I mean seriously- how ECSTATIC were we for that thing? And how incredibly weird is that? We had just created this tiny living, breathing, and POOPING thing. The fact that they were about to allow us to walk out of the hospital and take it home- forever- mind blowing. Absolutely mind blowing.

Motherhood for me was a bit of a rough go at first. I was tired. And if you have spent any real close time with me you’d know- Nicole and sleep are very, very tight companions.

He really did have us fooled though. Pulling stunts just like the sneaky kid he is these days (at 5), he had us convinced that he would be an easy and peaceful little guy in that baby ward. That is, until we brought him home. I am ashamed to admit (and I have a feeling I am not the only one) that I called the nurses desk that night and desperately yelled out “HE WON’T STOP CRYING!!” She assured me that he was ok. That he was, in fact, a baby. And that’s what they tend to do. I vigorously bounced up and down on that yoga ball, tears streaming down my face, and thought to myself: this is my life now. This is it. I will never sleep again.

Luckily, I can look back on that time and laugh now. Yes, Nicole, you will sleep again. Don’t you worry- you will be reunited with your deepest and truest love- a restful 10 uninterrupted hours. It is just around the river bend (and we all start singing here).

And while I’m being honest: I wasn’t stoked on the breastfeeding thing. There, I said. It’s nice to get that off my chest (no pun intended).

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved the idea of bonding/nourishing my baby, but man did that stuff And no one told me how loud they could be! I remember thinking on several occasions that it literally sounds like there is warthog under my shirt, he acted as if this was the first time his body had seen nourishment in his tiny life EVERY single time. I felt awkward in public already, but seeing as there was the sounds of a tiny wild animal happening down there every time I attempted a feeding, it was never really my favorite thing.

Motherhood these days looks a lot different than it did back then, just a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong- it is obvious to me that the mission of children’s young lives is to keep their parents on their toes. Just when you think you have those little buggers figured out WHAM they hit you with a new stage and you’re feeling like you’re back to step one.

But walking through the door this evening, Kellen handed me this drawing Haden drew right before bed. And just like that, my heart is melted and I think- every single moment I’ve spent with you so far has been so, so worth it, birthday buddy.





Wouldn’t it be nice

Our first year of marriage we spent in a 500 square foot apartment over a post office. The halls smelled like cigarettes and the walls were covered in shiny wood veneer paneling. There was a creepy hole in our ceiling above the bed that I taped over with paper because I was convinced there might have been a camera. A little old lady who smiled at us when she passed us in the halls, as if to say “Oh hello, you newlyweds, you have so much life ahead of you!”

We had arrived home at the end of July from our honeymoon in Hawaii, with great thanks to generous family members who had seen to it that we had an excellent first vacation together. We had never lived together before, me, coming from the dorms at my university and Kellen coming from a bachelor pad where he consumed way too much Thai food.



We were excited and nervous to have our first place. We had just spent the last year preparing financially for our wedding, so without any real plan, we arrived home to an empty fridge in an apartment that I hadn’t even checked out before signing the lease. I liked the idea that it was next to the church where we had our reception- because, well, I am a sentimental junkie who thrives off of cheesiness, as I have come to accept.

We had no real plan when we got home. In fact, our fridge was empty and so was our newly adjoined bank account. My mom lived down the road and since we still had a spare key, we snuck over to her place while she was gone and stole a Costco case of top ramen and some microwave popcorn. We didn’t think she’d notice- she did…. (sorry mom!). We got home, threw on “The Office” and went to pop our popcorn….in the microwave that didn’t exist. Just add that to the list, Kellen and Nicole- welcome to adulthood!

I think the thing that makes me laugh the most is when I think about signing up for life insurance. Of course I was doing the responsible thing- I had gotten a full time job and it was time to make sure that we would be covered in case anything happened to either of us. She completed my policy and then asked about renters insurance. “Do you have anything of value that you would like to get covered in case of theft or emergency?” I sat in silence and really thought about it. Finally I said “no, I really don’t think we have anything valuable at all.”

And it was true. They say start with nothing….we certainly did. We had nothing of monetary value and yet we loved that tiny apartment because it was home.

When we first started dating, Kellen made me a mixed CD (because that’s what you do in 2005). I threw it in the CD player and hit play- soon I was rocking out to the Beatle’s “wouldn’t it be nice.” The song ended and the next started….it was the same song. I hit next. Same song. Hit next…again…same song.

“You realize you made me a CD with all of the same songs, right?” I asked him

“Yeah. I just like that song and I knew you did too.”

And it was just another piece of the “I fell in love with you right THERE you big, giant weirdo” puzzle that I was piecing together.

The song was really perfect for us. At 16 and 17, the words “wouldn’t it be nice if we were older, then we wouldn’t have to wait so long….you know it’s going make it that much better, when we can say good night and stay together….”

We walked back down the aisle together after saying our vows to that song. We moved into that tiny apartment with its micro kitchen, the endless amounts of top ramen and “camping” in our living room, a place where we could finally just say good night together. It wasn’t worth anything yet it was worth everything that mattered to us.



When I knew

I leaned against the side of the phone booth and wiped a tear from my eye. He said “I’m staying at your place tonight with your mom- I miss you like crazy- I can’t wait for you to come home.”

It was 2006 and I was freshly 18. Somehow I had convinced my overly cautious mother, an entire schoolboard, and myself that the best decision for my final months of my senior year in high school was to spend it abroad. I  found myself in Schladming, Austria for a two month long program studying the Bible.

When I look back on that journey, I laugh. I had never traveled anywhere alone- the extent of my international travel up until then had consisted of a ferry from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia when I was about 7. So you can imagine….it was uncharted territory, to say the least.

To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I stumbled across the airport, juggling my overly stuffed suitcase and carry on. I looked for the nearest bus and hoped I was making the right choice. Paying the fare and sitting down, I heard the pre-recorded announcement of the next stop. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. I had absolutely no idea what he was saying, let alone did I know how to pronounce the town which I was looking for. I looked around and naively said out loud “does any one speak English?” (don’t worry, I’m cringing with you). An adorably sweet and tiny Austrian woman near me answered “I know a bit.” I asked her to help me find my stop, she smiled and waved and said “Please!” as I got off the bus (Bitte in German means both “please” and “you’re welcome” so I later realized what she had meant).

Nestled among the Austrian Alps, the tiny town of Schladming was literally exactly what you might imagine a picture perfect Austrian town would consist of. I loved it. I loved the landscape, the people, the language. Literally every little difference of life between my home near Seattle and the residents of Schladming brought a new rush of excitement.

To sum it up: I fell in love. I fell in love with the idea that people around the world have different lives than my own. It was vibrant, the very thought of it. It was colorful and exciting and exhilarating anticipation and I was completely and utterly in love with the idea of it all.

I knew what I wanted. I wanted to see it ALL.

So as I sat in that phone booth, halfway across the world, I felt a heaviness on my heart. Just as much as I knew that I wanted to spend my life seeing the world- I even more so knew that I wanted to spend it with him. We were young and in love and just like all those stereotypical high school sweetheart stories, we didn’t think the world could go on without each other.

It was that trip that I finally understood what homesick meant. Every new experience was shadowed with a feeling that I wished he was there experiencing it too.

“I want to marry you, Nicole.”

I wanted that too. “I want to marry you too- but, you have to promise me- we will come back here. We’ll backpack through Europe together. We will explore the world and travel together and see new things.”

He followed through with that promise. We were married just over a year later- and that next summer we found ourselves on a packed London subway, covered in sweat and avoiding knocking over commuters with our giant backpacks…but that…that trip is for another story.


My love for travel grew just like my love for him- I was curious and cautious and then one day I found myself diving head first and I never, ever looked back.