Vancouver Recap

It’s been exactly a week since Haden and I arrived home from our little Vancouver excursion, so I am buckling down and forcing myself to write up this post to remember all of the special moments on our trip. 

Maybe it seems silly to consider a trip that really only took us 4 hours away from our hometown a big ordeal, but for me, I loved every second of the experience and idea behind a trip like this for Haden. I could go on and on about why I made “visiting another country” such a big deal to him and to myself, but that’s for another time and another post. Just know, for now, that I considered this our first tiny baby step we took together into exploring what our big world has to offer. 
Haden and I made our way by both ferry, bus, and train to Vancouver from our hometown of Poulsbo. He found out pretty quickly that things sometimes go a little crazy while traveling and not what you expect. Just finding the hotel the evening before (we stayed in Edmonds the night before to catch the train early the next morning) he exclaimed “this is cockadoodle!” when we got lost and took a few wrong turns. Life is often cockadoodle, buddy.

When we said goodbye to his sister, he hid in a corner- he quickly ran out as soon as the door was shut and, with giant allligator tears, said “I miss Sadie, mama!” This I had to laugh a little at- because apparently even though they fight like crazy, they find it odd to function without each other. He reminded me several times on the trip about how much he missed his little sister.

I quickly cheered him up with a game of skip bo, which, he will proudly tell you if you talk to him he won every round we played. 

Though they never fully announced it, I was amused to observe we had crossed the international border into Canada when I read a graffiti of the word “Hoser” on the side of the tunnel. I wish I could also say I saw the word “sorry” just a few feet down but it wasn’t so! 

When we pulled into Vancouver, a little old lady in front of us turned around to tell me thank you for the wonderful story about the mouse. I had been reading”The Tale of Desperuex” to him on and off throughout the ride- a beautiful story about love and mice and bravery- it’s a must read. 

Our first stop on our list of things to do was Science World, and it conveniently was just a block down from the train station so we headed straight there. We were hungry too, but luckily there was a burger joint inside of science world- triple o’s- to which Haden made his first international observation “Mom, the French fries in our world are much littler.” I had to laugh at that one ūüôā 


Science world was fun- Haden definitely enjoyed it (probably his favorite activity on the trip!). Lots of hands on exhibits geared towards kids of all ages. 


We headed out and hit the hay early that night, ready for a full day of adventures the next day. 

On Monday we hopped on the Vancouver Hop On, Hop Off trolley. We didn’t have a set plan for the day, but quickly found ourselves renting some bikes near Stanley park to explore. Haden hasn’t had much experience on a bike, so I wasn’t sure just what to expect, but I was happy to see they had an attachment that he could ride and that would attach to my adult bike. He could even pedal to help me, or just ride along himself. 

Riding that bike along the sea wall at Stanley park was hands down my favorite part of our trip- it was beautiful and fun and the scenery from the park is seriously amazing! I would highly recommend this activity to anyone visiting Vancouver! 

After our ride, we found a nearby Mongolian restaurant for lunch. Here’s a big tip: Green Eggs and Ham was the BEST book to have brought on a trip meant to push my kiddo outside of his own bubble, especially when it came to eating! He hadn’t ever been to a Mongolian place before, but I reminded him to give it a try, just like Green Eggs and Ham- and what do you know, HE LOVED IT! 


Hopping back on to the trolley, we explored a bit more and found ourselves on Granville Island- it was definitely time to find those cupcakes he had been anticipating. Ironically, we passed an ice cream stand first and in a moment of impulse Haden threw out his dreams of Canadian cupcakes and opted for some blue bubble gum ice cream instead. He still tells people this was his highlight of the entire trip, haha


We knew we had to hit up a toy store for little sis, but little did we know that Granville Island has an entire shopping center dedicated to kids! What an instant jackpot we had fallen upon! 


Treasures and souvenirs in hand, back on the trolley we went for some more fun sightseeing. 


Blasted phone dying before I had the oppportunity to document it, but YES, we did have poutine while there. Haden was absolutely against it at first, and, thanks again to Dr. Suess, he tried it and fell in love, cheese curds and all! 

Our last day was a trip to The Vancouver aquarium. Since we were heading out after, we carried our backpacks with us and stored them in the lockers there. I was so proud of my little guy for carrying everything he needed for himself there and back and never once complaining. Also of course a shout out to technology and kindles for providing the exact amount of distraction we needed while waiting for transportation ūüôā

The aquarium was super fun. Our favorite part was definitely the 4d movie theater, where you not only saw and heard the effects of the movie they showed, but felt and smelled parts as well! Such a fun experience. We had such a wonderful time, and Haden got to spend his last few loonies in the gift shop to buy a tiger shark which he promptly named “sharky cheetah” because of course he would. 


I’m so happy we did this little trip. It was amazing to spend one on one time with my little guy. It had me thinking a lot about this stage of life and how thankful I am. I might not be kissing his ouchies, sharing a bicycle made for two, or reading his first chapter book on our next trip together. Holding his hand everywhere we go or listening to his tiny little scratchy voice make euberant amount of sound effects. It was a little adventure that brought us together, and for that, I am so happy. He is one of the coolest kids I know, and I am grateful to have a travel buddy like him. 

Goodbye, Vancouver 

It’s evening time in Vancouver, British Columbia and our train is just pulling out of the station. The orange sunset is illuminating the city skyline and I’m listening to Haden share his Minecraft commentary with a new friend he’s made here on the train. I’m feeling tired, sore, relieved, and so incredibly content. Haden and my first solo adventure was, in the most perfect sense, an incredible success. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous when we left. In fact, the ferry ride to Edmonds actually had me having a straight up panic attack over whether we were fully prepared. I am thankful for Kellen’s presence in my life who, although he doesn’t necessarily share the exact amount of passion for traveling as myself, has time and time again reminded me that life is worth taking reasonable risks. Traveling will never be a compromise in my eyes: the joy it brings to my life is something I just couldn’t live without.

It’s funny though, what you must choose to accept when you seek out adventures as such. You must choose to accept that it almost always comes with challenges. Something inevitably always goes wrong. Much like the rest of your life- challenges force you to make a choice about the attitude you have for those circumstances. An attitude that has the ability to affect the way you view the rest of your day, the rest of your trip, and ultimately the memories associated with it.

Drifting off into darkness as we head south, I have to stop myself from tearing up. I am thankful. Thankful for opportunities like this, for having the chance and the ability to share it with my children, for the beautiful, colorful, and exciting world we have been given. It deserves to be explored, to be experienced in new and exciting ways, to leave you feeling satisfied and joyful and happy from exploring it. To pay that joy forward:to spread kindness, goodness, and love created from that joy.
Good night, world, we kinda love you ‚̧

Arctic Tundra and Canadian Cupcakes 

In the beginning of December I got the idea to let Haden pick a country to study and we would *try* to visit it together. Obviously if he chose Iraq or Nigeria this was going to be a little more complicated, so you can imagine my sigh of relief when he lit up and said with great enthusiasm “Canada!!” -why he conveniently decided on a country that lies within a four hour trek of our hometown, I don’t know, but I ain’t arguin’, ya know?

We eagerly got to work checking out books on the land of the maple leaf and watching youtube videos about tundra buggys and polar bears. I, of course, made him repeat the term “arctic tundra” an excessive amount of times when referring to the landscape of the north, because just try to listen to a 5 year old saying those words and not smile.

Haden’s specific questions regarding the culture of our friendly neighbors the Canadians came to about two things: food and sports. So basically, it confirmed my theory that someone cloned and shrunk my husband (I’ve been suspecting as such the past 5 years).

Once we did a general overview of the the country itself, is was time to focus our studies on the city in which we specifically planned to visit. We busted out the world map and I showed Haden our destination: Vancouver, BC. He said “uh mom….that’s not very far.” Truth, my son. But hey, you picked it….and also, you are 5 and you complain about the 25 minute drive to Costco, so I think this is a good first step.

It turns out, Vancouver is a wonderful city filled with lots of fun things to do for kids his age. We watched a few good YouTube videos that covered all the fun activities, and I’m happy to report that Haden is excited….to eat cupcakes.

Yep, as we head out on our first international adventure together, Haden has taken the 15 second clip about a cupcake shop in Granville Island as his number one goal for our trip. I’m so happy to travel across international borders for something that he can literally have at home. Those better be some pretty good cupcakes ūüėā

This morning I made him pack his own backpack. I told him “we are going to be like turtles, everything we will take will go on our backs.” So he quickly realized his entire Pok√©mon card collection and the Pok√©mon handbook might not be the smartest choice. He settled on a few random small Pok√©mon toys, Green Eggs and Ham, and his Husky (in addition to his clothes).


So, cheers, my friends, to cupcakes and our Canadian neighbors, and international travels with a 5 year old. Vancouver- were coming for ya!

That one time I may have wished Liam Neeson was my dad 

It was nearing the end of my stay in Austria, I was having a total blast pretending to be Maria ala Sound of Music (like for realz people, I can’t tell you how many times I busted out “the hills are alive” while there, I mean, can you blame me?)

I, ¬†however, was eager to get home to my stinkin’ hot boyfriend and an iced Carmel machiatto at my every beck and call. Seattle, I was coming for ya.

I pulled out my itinerary and realized my flight left at a completely ungodly hour of the morning. I contemplated my plan in getting on the train to the airport. I shared with a friend there my early morning dilemma, and she said “oh, you should just stay the night in the airport! I totally did that recently with some friends. It’s perfect because they never close and you can just sleep on a seat or something!”

And so it was settled. I mean, Tom Hanks did it, why couldn’t I? I was to spend my last night in this glorious country snoozing a few hours on an airport bench surrounded by the hustle and bustle of fellow jet setters, and then be peacefully whisked away to my home land. Sounds like a fool proof plan, right? But are they ever?

I arrived at the airport around 8pm that evening. I found the perfect spot to spread out, enough space to lie down and prop my head up with my polka dot covered airplane pillow for a decent nights rest.

Around 10pm, a security guard came up to me and spoke some German-

“sorry I only know English”

He responded “when is your flight?”

“5am”

He looked a bit confused, and then shrugged and walked away. I thought hmm….welll….I guess he is cool with this idea- and went back to reading.

That’s when it happened. The lights in the airport shut off completely. I sat up and looked around. NO ONE WAS THERE. Not a single person. I knew in that moment I had just made a really, really dumb life decision.

Not only was the airport lit only by the dim light of the airline advertisement screens, I also quickly realized that the automatic doors themselves were never actually locked. And just to keep me on my toes- every so often, they would randomly open, no one there- just a random opening and closing as if to remind me to be completely and utterly terrified (in case I had forgotten the predicament I had gotten myself into).

I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard as I did those 4 hours. Around 2am, employees began to show up and passengers began to trickle in and I am pretty sure I threw my hands up in the air and gave a pretty big “Thank ya Lord Almighty.”

My mom thanks me kindly, even to this day, that I didn’t call to tell her where I was that evening. And I thank myself that I didn’t really need a real life Liam Neeson to save my dumba**.

Life lessons: 1 Nicole: 0

 

My potential obituary 

In a rare and unfortunate circumstance sometime before 7am Valentine’s Day morning, Nicole has passed away from what can only be described as “cuddle suffocation.” Ironically on the holiday of love, too much love has gone too far, as her family surrounded and squeezed her her one by one, she was slowly forced deeper into the mattress where she gasped for air but eventually met her demise. Investigators are exploring the possibility that the fact that her husband was wearing socks could have something to do with it. The three perpetrators seem to show no real remorse and are in fact happy to have have smothered by their love, stating “what’s for breakfast?” Instead of a funeral, Nicole has requested a karaoke party and has stated she expects each guest to sing no matter of their vocal ability. Please respect the departed’s wishes. Also, bring queso. Just in case she rises from the dead and wants a snack. These are her pre-suffocation requests. 

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).

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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 hurt.like.hell. 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.

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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.

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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.