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. 

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 letsgolovely@gmail.com!

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!

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.