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. 

Rise above

“Rise above, Nicole” my mom always use to say. I feel as if that saying was on repeat in my childhood. I never fully understood it. In church on Sunday we heard “Turn the other cheek”- but…how? And why? It didn’t feel right. In fact, it always felt counterproductive.

They keep warning me it’s coming. They said it will be the hardest thing I’ll face as a parent. I can believe it, because it’s some of the hardest things I’ve faced as an adult.
And I keep thinking…how can I teach them if I haven’t taught myself?

Human condition tells us to react. To fight back. To make the last move. It beckons us to fight the pain we’ve been given with more pain. It whispers lies that tell us if we just create more hurt, it will help heal our own wounds.

In short, human condition is wrong. And not only is it wrong, it is detrimental. Because if we were truly honest with ourselves, healing doesn’t begin while we continue to pursue pain. Wounds don’t close by opening others. Healing begins when we protect those wounds, when we choose to stop the cycle.

It is simple. You have a choice just like most of life comes down to- choices. You can perpetuate a cycle of pain. You can put more hurt out into this world. Or, you can stop it.

This is what I’ll tell them. It won’t make things less painful for them. It won’t make sense in the moment. But it’s my job to help heal their wounds, to hold them through the stinging, to comfort them when their tears fall. And to guide them to be apart of healing a world that is broken.

You were right, mom, and I will tell them too. Rise above, my little ones.

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…

Backpacking Europe: Part One: London 

Kellen and I are about to embark on our second big international vacation together- the last one being backpacking through Europe in 2008. Since then, we’ve done a lot of stuff: bought a house, had a few babies, you know, the usual. But Kellen can tell you quickly how many moments in between these past almost ten years I’ve talked about traveling and adventuring with him again. It might seem silly to write about a trip we took almost ten years ago, but honestly, to me, I want to savor every memory of that trip and writing is the best way I have found to relive those memories. Reliving memories has a profound impact on relationships and I can speak from experience when I say that doing so can creates an even tighter bond for marriages. And so, I write 🙂 

I mentioned a few posts ago about asking Kellen to promise me we would backpack through Europe when he told me he wanted to marry me. Traveling wasn’t ever something I was willing to compromise on, and he knew that: hence the reason we took off just shy of our first anniversary and boarded a plane to London. 
We arrived in London in the late afternoon, just in time to hit rush hour on the subway. We likely stunk of sweat and staleness from the airplane ride, so being packed like sardines standing on the London Underground was a smelly and exhausting way to start our trip.  

2008 was just before the explosion of smart phones, so I had everything written in my notebook, including the directions to the hostel which literally included language on how many steps to walk and what to look for. It was Kellen’s first exposure to the hostel world, and the two hostels I had selected were quite the experience. Our entire trip was planned with the book “Europe on a shoestring” and let me tell you: I took the shoestring budget concept to heart. The first hostel was a room packed with bunk beds and other backpackers, and the second with the same- but the added bonus of our shower being in the corner of the room and puke greeting us in the hallway as we found our room. We quickly decided it might be a while before we might get a shower and we counted our minutes before we got to get the heck out of dodge. 

Despite our questionable sleeping arrangements, we still managed to throughly enjoy our time there. We road a double decker bus, had tea at the Queens tea room, watched the guards at Kensington palace, saw the Queens jewels at the Tower of London and even ate pizza overlooking the city at Parliament Hill. Kellen even spotted some foxes on an early morning run: making for the perfect cherry on top for a stereotypical British adventure. 

(Pictures of pictures, a bit ghetto but the best I can do at the moment 😂)

Stay tuned for our time in France and Belgium, coming to a blog post soon 🌎✈️

White Noise

There is white noise all around us. It is so faint we don’t notice-but if we aren’t careful it can consume us. It is the constant opinion of others, the feelings of insecurity, the feeling of inadequacy. It often begins as a tiny hum and quickly turns into what we accept to be truth. 

It is the constant chattering on social media that makes us feel less, or sad, or hurt, or left out. It’s the desire to want more than what we’ve been given. It’s the feeling that nothing will ever be worse than where we are. When really, if we just stopped and looked around, we’d see clearly that what we’ve been given is more than enough.

I am quieting that white noise. Or at least, I am trying. Trying is the best I can do. 

I am speaking the truth to myself in the moments of margin that the white noise previously filled. I am reminding myself of the beauty that comes from the simplicity of each moment. I am choosing to quiet that white noise before it swallows me again, like it has so many times before. I am remembering that without that noise, I can hear the beauty of the earth, the truths in my heart, and the magic of my soul. In the quiet, I know those things. 

Haden and Mama in Vancouver::Vancouver With Kids

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 😂

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 Pokémon card collection and the Pokémon handbook might not be the smartest choice. He settled on a few random small Pokémon 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?”


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