A Day At Disneyland + Our Top 3 Disney Tips

If you have been with me from the beginning, as in nearly seven years go when I started my blog and social media, you know I love Disneyland! I started taking Ryan when he turned a year old (why did I wait a whole year?!) and never stopped since. While Ryan was with me, our Disney trips quickly turned into ‘our thing’. We frequented the park at least once a week and had our route and favorites down pat. Even on his last day here on Earth was spent at the “Happiest Place On Earth”. Disneyland will forever be a place where I feel and remember every ounce of my wild boy.

Now, once Mila was born I was jumping at the chance to visit Disneyland again with a child of mine. We took Mila when she was just two months and it was perfection. We haven’t stopped going since. If you see us on Instagram we head to the Disney parks once (and sometimes more) a week. Over the past year Mila has seriously grown to love the place and she even has a few favorites now. It has been such a joy to watch her grow, laugh and love a place that was close to her big brother and I. I’m proud to say, Disneyland is now a place I go with BOTH my children. Though anything Cars was Ryan’s favorite, Mila is more fond of Minnie Mouse and Small World. I am more partial to Haunted Mansion and Pirates. The three of us enjoy churros, churros and more churros.

This week my family had a fun opportunity to stay at the Disneyland Hotel and play inside Disneyland for two whole days back to back. Which is pretty much my dream! The best was that Dan took a few days off work to join us! It was his first time back at the park since Mila was just a baby! When we arrived at the park on Tuesday I fully cried because it really did feel like the four of us were together roaming around, having fun. I think the best though was watching Dan’s face while he watched Mila and her reactions to everything. I always come home bursting with stories from our Disney adventures, but he got to see her first hand this time around which was really special. We will be heading back again as a family soon, I’ll be sure to share a bit more on my Instagram stories!

Since we do go to Disneyland a lot and typically always share our fun on Instagram and Facebook, I receive a ton of questions. A lot of you ask how we do certain things, what rides are good for little ones like Mila and what foods we like to enjoy. Now, I’m no expert. Though, we do go a ton and I’ve nailed down a few tricks that make our life easier. I will say first that each and every time we go to Disneyland I arrive with zero expectations. The only game plan I have is to have fun. I have found that keeping expectations low at overwhelming places like Disneyland takes the pressure off. What will happen will happen and above all else, you are at Disneyland! Even grabbing a snack and sitting for 30 minutes while your kid gets their wiggles out is more fun than not! Below I’ve shared my top 3 Disney tips for you all, hope they are helpful! If I didn’t answer something you are curious about, just ask and I will either answer you in comments.

How We Survive Line & Parade Wait Times

Mila and I typically head to the park early to avoid long wait times. Hitting Disney early is a must with little ones simply because you can hit a lot of rides without waiting in long lines AND get a ton done before lunch + nap time! Usually Mila and I get the park at open ride her favorites in Fantasyland, hit up New Orleans square for Pirates and Haunted Mansion then take a breather for lunch. If we do find ourselves in a longer wait time I let Mila just hang out for as long as she can. Meaning she just waits alongside with me. I either wear her/hold her or hold her hand. We people watch, talk, sing songs. If she gets antsy I have a small snack on hand. A good rule of thumb for us is, if the line is longer than 30 minutes we don’t ride that ride. Mila can hang for more than 30 minutes with out losing her mind (can you blame her). My advice is find a few things you can bank on keeping your child’s attention with and don’t make them wait longer than what they can handle.

Parades are a beast that has literally taken a year to master. I am not kidding. Snagging a front row spot for a parade is a must in my book, but that means you have to wait a good 1.5 - 2 hours beforehand. I bring a blanket to sit on and plan it around meal times. I pack snacks, bubbles and a few toys that keep Mila happy. Like clockwork about 30 minutes before showtime Mila gets fed up. So at that point I just hold her hand and we walk up and down the parade route near our spot. She watches other kids play and toddles around. When the parade starts I will tell you, I’ve cried at the way my daughter reacts to seeing the magic up close. There are times while waiting when I think “Am I a F-ing nut bag for doing this?” but once that parade beat drops and I see my daughter perk up and start dancing … it makes the waiting worth it.

Must Do Rides For Mila (Baby +Toddler)

This is an easy question! Any ride with out a height requirement is a must do! Both my children loved all the rides. Get the park early and hit Fantasyland before it gets busy, those line queues can get a little hairy with little ones. Do the classics like; Small World, Pirates and Haunted Mansion. Over at Disney California we always ride Littler Mermaid, Monsters Inc. and watch the World Of Color show. You’ll find that your little one can go on just about anything, except the roller coasters and any ride with the word ‘mountain’ in it. Once your child hits 42 inches though they can literally go on anything. There are a few rides that call for 32 inches which Mila just hit! So now we can ride Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Cars Land which I’m pretty excited about. I'd also say any parade is worth the wait so check parade times as soon as you enter the park and work your day around those!

Favorite Foods Within The Park & What We Bring From Home

If you know me, you know I love sweets. At Disneyland I always get a churro. Sometimes (like this week) I go a bit overboard and indulge in a caramel apple or beignets, which are fried donuts covered in powdered sugar. Guys come on! So good! But in real life, for as much as we go to Disney we can’t eat like that every time. I always pack a tiny lunch box with food for Mila and a few snacks for me like string cheese, protein bars etc. Disneyland is pretty accommodating and even has a microwave in their baby center, so you can pretty much bring anything from home! I say, bring a ton of snacks and packed lunches from home, but indulge in a few treats from the park too!

Photos by Morgan Pansing

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Family Time At The Flower Fields

This past weekend was spent with family amongst the friendliest flowers. How dreamy! My dad lives in San Diego and we drove to spend some quality time with him, my step mom and my little sister. It is always nice to have family weekends because of the fun and laughs we have. But also because Dan and I get a break! Upon arrival, the grandparents rush past the parents and scoop up the grandkids. Right?! Which is fine by me, this weekend was just as much fun as it was relaxing.

Fun Fact! I grew up in Carlsbad, CA and every time I go back I find myself within a thick nostalgic cloud. It is a yummy feeling being back and seeing what still stands and what is new. We took a day to traipse around Carlsbad Village Drive and the beach. We woke up early and waited the worthwhile wait for a seat at Beach Break Cafe. Which by the way, has the best coffee cake in the world! I remember when my siblings and I were younger, begging my mom to take us there. Sometimes we’d just order a few pieces of coffee cake to share. The whole time we were there I kept reminiscing to Dan and I’m sure he was {insert the rolling eyes emoji}. We’ve been back to Carlsbad a few times since being together, so I’ve told him the same stories a 100 times I'm sure. There is just something so beautiful about re-told memories. I feel so thankful for them. Almost as if I know there will come a time when these memories will feel a thousands years away, nearly too far to re-tell anymore. I want to re-live memories for as long as I can recount them!

You know me, always finding ways to make memories, re-live memories. Living in the now is mandatory, though its when you take the time to look through your past is when the magic of life ignites. At least for me, I feel more alive when I recount the ways it took to get me to the place I am right at this moment.

While down in San Diego I knew I wanted to take Mila to the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. During the Spring they are in full bloom and you can walk within them. The day we went really couldn’t have been better. It was warm sunny with a swish of light wind. The flowers honestly were just brilliant. I’ve seen them a bunch of times, but it is a sight that takes your breath away every time. Especially with Mila in tow, things just seems to take on a more vibrant tone. Watching her take in all the beauty was awesome! Of course, trying to keep her from picking the flowers was a feat. Similar to that of keeping her from eating sand at the beach.

We took so many photos, most of them look similar. Just endless flower blooms. One photo though, I took on my iPhone on a whim as my dad was tossing Mila up in the air. Her laugh was hearty and infectious, I quickly snapped and it wasn’t until later that evening at dinner I really took a look. Shortly after my son Ryan passed away, my dad got a portrait of Ryan tattooed on his arm. In the photo I took you can so clearly see his tattoo, Mila and my dad locked eyes smiling and a bright sunny sky. A little “Hi guys, I’m here!” message from Ryan.

You can’t leave the Flower Fields with out strawberry shortcake or a fresh strawberry shake. We opted for the strawberry shake and it was too good. They basically take vanilla soft serve, a pint of fresh strawberries and blend it up. Topped with whipped cream, we walked out of there with such full hearts and bellies! After the Flower Fields we made the trek to Ocean Beach for hamburgers at Hodad’s. If you haven’t been, go! It is an experience and honestly the onion rings are worth it. Yes, we basically ate the entire weekend and it was pretty great!

In short, if you are local visit the Flower Fields and the aforementioned food establishments. If you are not local, visit family at an equally enchanting and delicious location. And always make memories, re-live memories and just live friends! Sending you all my love this week and always!

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A Lazy + Reminiscent Weekend

There is something quite delicious about a weekend away with old friends. The stories and fun memories re-told are pure nostalgia. Plus, with the added bonus of our children toddling around things seemed to be a bit surreal. Like, wait. It feels like we just graduated college. We are still kids and now we have kids?! I'm such a fan of looking back at life. I tend to over think things of course. Though, going through my past gives me the emotional jollies. If I look deep enough, I can see God's plan hard at work. His directions and paths I set out on have taken me to where I am today. All the bad, tragic and downright greatness swirled together to make up my life thus far. I'm breathlessly grateful.

This past weekend we met up with college friends to

A. meet their new baby.

B. to traipse around our college campus.

We've actually been planning this trip for a few months now and though it seems we frequent Northern California often ... visiting where we went to college hasn't happened ever! This was our first time back since graduation! Our first time back since I snagged a kiss from Dan before snagging my diploma. I love that memory. While waiting to head out for the ceremony most of us were loud and obnoxious. Hanging with friends and cheering each other on. I found Dan and gave him a quick kiss before jumping in line with the other students graduating with my major.

We walked in and out of our old lecture halls. Jealously crept in when we walked into the new student union. So many memories flooded my brain, a few tears fell. I'd love to experience that time of my life again. Working at the Copy Corner, showing up late to class and concerned only about sorority happenings. It was a pretty stressful time with trying to graduate in four years, plus trying to figure out who you were and what you wanted to with your life. (Nothing followed the plan I made, except of course Dan ;) Though stressful, I only really remember the laughs and abundance of fun! Walking around the campus we kept saying things like "Remember when ..." or "This is where we ..." I think if Mila knew how to roll her eyes she would have.

The rest of the weekend was spent hiking up near the Golden Gate Bridge. Which is actually one of my favorite things to do. We also found this seriously yummy restaurant in Mill Valley called Playa. If you love tacos go there immediately. We lounged around in the sunshine and watched the Oscar mix up finale! Haha!

Below are a few photos from our remarkably lazy, yet heavily reminiscent weekend!

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Happy Campers, A Video

I love taking videos on my phone of everything we do and sometimes I get inspired to put them together into a little video. I am actually terrible at making these little videos, but I love them! I've watched this video from our recent camping trip a few times. We had such a great time and Mila was a camp baby rock star. I still can't believe she turned seven months while we were up there! Here are a few peeks at our time up in Humboldt County while camping in the redwoods ...


Happy Campers

Last week we took a long drive up to Humboldt County for a fun camping vacation. When Ryan was about Mila's age we took him beach camping near Malibu and it was honestly one of my favorite family adventures. Both Dan and I have been camping since we were our children's age. Camping is just one of those things that brings on a thousand incredible memories for us. I knew for Mila's first Summer we had to make a memorable camping voyage and we really hit this one out of the park! We packed all the essentials, warm clothes, s'mores ingredients and enough diapers to get through a week. I actually received a lot of questions on how we managed camping with a little one. Honestly, it was pretty simple. I'll put together a little must have list that helped me and post it soon. I definitely recommend camping though starting at Mila's age and on!

We spent our days hiking within redwood tree groves and having picnic lunches with the best Mother Earth scenery. The beautiful trees almost made up for when Mila kicked my salami sandwich into the dirt while sitting on my lap ;) I had never been up to see the redwood trees and they are truly beautiful. So big, when you take a look up it takes your breath away. This world is a pretty amazing one. We ended up using a lot of Ryan's belongings and on the first day I had a minor panic attack about using it all. I felt for a quick moment guilty and didn't want him to be looking down on us thinking we are moving on with out him. I have these thoughts from time to time. We were using Ryan's hiking backpack and Mila wore his blue jacket ... I guess I just came to the thought that Ryan was clearly with us in some way. Some how. If Ryan were physically here with us Mila would still be using his things, because that is typically want second siblings do right?

You know how I usually do things, I do everything with Ryan on my mind. So seeing his belongings in action once again was hard at first. Though the pain wore off and it felt really great to see us being us again. With Ryan present in his own vibrant way. I made sure our son was all over place and we even spelled his name out with these smooth beach pebbles. I also felt so inclined to give Mila her first taste of Nutella which I am sure her big brother approved of. Oh and she had her first roasted marshmallow too!

My favorite day of camping was when we took a long drive up to Samoa Island to eat at the Samoa Cookhouse. We ate so much and the whole family was with us. We explored all around that day and ended up at an old train station with refurbished trains from 1916, a beautiful beach lined with huge sandy dunes and the cutest town filled with weird knick knacks. Of course, it was the day we didn't bring the camera along. But we will be back, because there is a tiny bakery that apparently sells the best cinnamon rolls. We didn't have any cash on us to get one ... next time!

I was smart enough to bring along our Gathre mats which were such lifesaver! I laid them out on the ground and put toys on them for Mila to play with while we made breakfast or just hanging out at the camp site. Those mats come in handy and I love taking them with us everywhere. Now that Mila is so close to crawling, her curiosity gets the best of her sometimes. She played with her toys for a few moments, then wanted to take a taste of nature. She escaped the mats to eat a leaf or two ...

The four of us truly had the best time and are already planning another camping trip for the fall. Below are a few of my favorite photos from our time spent within the redwoods. Thanks for coming along with us on our journey!

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Little Swimmer & Life Latley

As April is coming to a close, I sit here in awe of how incredibly quick it blew by. At the start of the month I felt optimistic, on top of all the things that had to be done, all the things that we had planned. I love that powerful feeling that washes over you when you have a handle on life and its surroundings for once. I wish I had a handle on it all for longer periods of time. The times I feel OK and productive are fleeting lately. Does anyone else feel like that?

We had two family weddings this month, both in Arizona back to back. Plus a laundry list of work to do for Baby Boy Bakery Shop and a few other partnerships. April was proving to be a busy few weeks. In the middle of it all Mila and I came down with the flu which we are still trying to ward off. It all happens like that though. When you have plans and just the slightest thing derails it, then somehow things are snowballing out of control. I recently was on a panel and a woman asked me, "Out of children, husband, family, work and fun which do you let go of the most?" I immediately said work. I am not sure if that is a great quality, but I tend to let any sort of work go when things get a little overwhelming for me. I turn into homebody who just wants to spend with my family. I ignore emails, text messages, all of it. I tune it all out and try to focus on my children and husband to help bring me back to life. Those two wedding weekends were good for my soul. I was able to relax both weekends in Arizona and really hone in on what I love most. Of course now I am in drowning with all the catching up I have to do. I guess the moral of this rant is...I am not exactly sure. I am working on not shutting down when things get overwhelming. I am open to any tips you may have. Question: Out of children, husband, family, work and fun - Which do you let go of the most?

The upside though was spending quality time with family. Re-connecting with family we haven't seen for months! The best part? Was taking Mila down to the hotel pool for her first "swim". These firsts are so exciting and emotional. It seems that with each day she grows up ten times more than she is supposed to! I can't believe this little sweetheart will be four months soon. We took Mila to the pool first to just put her feet in, but I mean she seemed like she loved it. Haha! So I ran upstairs to get her swim suit. Her tiny swim suit that I bought for ONE DOLLAR!! Of course we forgot swim diapers though...

I loved her little face as she warmed up within the water. She was definitely unsure at first. But afterwards she told me she was ready for swim lessons ;)

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She Is Beautiful 5K

A few years ago when Baby Boy Bakery was in its infant stages, I decided it would be a great idea to make 1000 cupcakes and serve them to 800 women after a 5k race. I volunteered myself as a ‘She Is Beautiful’ race sponsor to help get my name out there. It ended up turning into a family event. I hustled 1000 cupcakes, ran the 5k and passed out cupcakes to all the women who raced . . . all with Ryan in tow. He was just 13 months at the time. He wasn’t walking just yet and while I passed out cupcakes he crawled all over the beach with my husband and his cousins. My step dad built my booth and cupcake display. My grandpa helped me at my cupcake booth, passing out cupcakes and making friends with all the people. My mom and sister in law ran the race with me. My entire family was there cheering on Baby Boy Bakery. It was the first time I felt like my family understood my blog and why I had one. To share my story, my baking and to meet new friends.

I’ll be forever grateful for that day.

The ‘She Is Beautiful’ race has since morphed into this epic event that takes place in Santa Cruz (in other locations as well I believe). This race is for women, which I adore. There is something quite breathtaking when surrounded by strong women. I feel at home. Within my tribe. The ‘She Is Beautiful’ race combines women from all walks of life and places us all on the same track. We are faced with the fact that we are not alone, which is comforting. We are shown that we are more sisters than strangers.

This year I jumped back on the 'She Is Beautiful' bandwagon and decided to run the 5K with both my children this time. Standing at the start line I truly felt both my children with me. Through out the entire race Ryan was warm on my back. I felt and saw so much of him as I ran. Mila wore her big brother's blue jacket and slept soundly the whole time cuddle inside the stroller. The day of the race was a bit emotional, but by the end I was flying so high I felt I could run another 3 miles. I just kept repeating "Wow! That was so awesome! That was so much fun!" . I am now planning on running in the next 'She Is Beautiful' race next year...If you are interested, I will see you at the start line!

Mila and I were lucky enough to partner with a stroller company called Bumbleride right before the 5K. We got to test out Bumbleride's new stroller - Speed. I absolutely fell in love with it and will post more about that on Friday!

A few photos from my race below...

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A Big Huge Thank You

Friends! It has been two weeks since I've had my surgery and I can't believe the amount of messages, emails and kind words that I had waiting for me. I want to Thank You all so much! My surgery went well and I can finally walk with minimal pain. Hernia surgeries are no joke . . . even more so while pregnant. Especially when your doctor has you do the surgery awake while only using a local anesthetic to keep the baby as safe as possible. I'm so thankful it is all over and my muscles are all fixed and in place again. As everything heals I can go for short walks and that is pretty much it.

My doctor did clear me for a little 'baby moon' to Hawaii, so long as I promised to relax. Baby and I have been eating our weight in Hawaiian Shave Ice and watching Dan snorkel and swim from the shoreline. However, lounging by the beach is definitely better than lounging on my couch.

We just arrived and below are a just a few photos. I can't thank you enough for all your sweet words.

Thank You for taking part in my journey, your love means the world.

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With & With Out Ryan. Seattle.

Recently, my husband Dan and I ventured to Seattle for a weekend getaway. We were lucky enough to plan it alongside Dan's 30th birthday and it turned out to be a lovely celebration in the Pacific Northwest. What a beautiful place! My love birds on Instagram detailed thousands (literally thousands) of fun, exciting and delicious places to must-see. We could have built a two week itinerary with the recommendations! On the plane ride up we stuffed all the recommendations into two and half solid days . . . which left us with full bellies, full hearts and sleepless. Literally, we slept so little. Up early, falling asleep late. Sleepless in Seattle. ;)

Aside from our own plans, the lovely souls living in Seattle had a few surprises for us. I've never traveled to a place where the locals treated me with such love and generosity. What an incredible place it was.

Below are photos from our trip. Our favorite places, Seattle's surprises and the smiles that came easy while we traveled with Ryan shining above us . . .

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Since first learning about Seattle when I was little I've always wanted to see three things. Albeit they are the three most classic Seattle spots, there is something really special about seeing popular landmarks that you've only read about or seen in movies. Whats better is getting to experience them with someone special. One of my most favorite things ever was experiencing holidays and fun places with Ryan. The face of your excited happy child never gets old.

The Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the gum wall in Post Alley was first on my hand written list. All three exceeded my thoughts. I cried when I saw the Space Needle, I kept grabbing Dan's arm saying "Look! I can't believe it! Can you see it?!" It was awesome. I took Dramamine before riding to the top, because I get motion sickness and the elevator is FAST! Ryan would have loved the elevator ride. I imagined him asking a million questions and then running around like crazy round and round the top. There was also a cafe at the top and I'm sure he would have asked for a hot chocolate. Once at the top we saw everything and the best sight for me was the house boat from Sleepless In Seattle. Once I spotted it I had a huge yearn for my mom. We have watched that movie thousands of times and I know she would have shrieked in excitement with me as we.

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We ate our way through Pike Place Market and although I hate the smell of fish I didn't mind it here. It was all part of the experience. The best places to eat for us were; Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their "World Famous" mac & cheese, Rachel's Ginger Beer, Biscuit Bitch and this place that had the largest cookies but I can't remember the name. This marketplace is jam packed with tiny places to eat which I'm sure are all amazing. We walked through each day and found something new each time.

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The gum wall was seriously disgusting and incredible all at once. I don't remember how I learned of it, but once I had I'd been dying to see it in person and add my chewed art. The colors were so bright and some people even left their mark by stretching out the gum to create letters. Ryan would have loved this as all to much. He'd first want to touch it and I'd probably spend my efforts on keeping him from getting to close. Then we would have stayed in that alley for far to long as he chewed gum piece after gum piece to place on the wall. "Just one more mom, pwese!" I had mentioned to Dan in a whisper "Ryan would have loved this..." Dan agreed and as we started to walk away we spotted his name . . .

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Each day I played a wicked game. How many cups of coffee can Jacqui drink in 24 hours? I maxed out at 6 the first day and the next just settled on having 4. But Seattle is like the coffee capitol and there is a cute cafe on each corner! The coffee was gooood. My favorites were; Uptown Espresso, Oddfellows, Pegasus ... all of them are honestly delicious.

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We walked through the Olympic Sculpture Park one morning. It was beautiful. The park is right on the water and it feels so cool to walk in between giant art installations. Thank you to the sweet stranger who recommended this place to us!

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Just look at this guys smile! It looks so easy and relaxed. Dan is at his best when traveling.

Just look at this guys smile! It looks so easy and relaxed. Dan is at his best when traveling.

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I don't know where these white feathers came from, but they were everywhere and seemed to fall from the sky. Maybe there was a pillow factory somewhere I had no idea about. But I sure did love finding them everywhere we went. Maybe I look to far into things for signs from my little man, it makes me feel comfort though. I love having an open heart and really searching. I have to believe Ry is working hard up there to send me little love notes, he knows I can see them.

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One night a sweet stranger left red balloons tied outside our hotel. I ugly cried in gratitude. We left them blowing through the night. On our last morning, while waiting for our cab back to the airport Dan went and un-tied the red strings to keep.

Jacqui & Ryan

Jacqui & Ryan

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The Fremont Troll was weirdly cool and another spot I had seen in a movie. The day we went to see the Troll it was congested with tons of kids so we didn't get any good photos. Though Dan and I stood there for a long while. Both quiet. I think we were both thinking of Ryan playing in the mix with the rest. He would have been the loudest. He would have been partial to play with the girls. He would have seen the others climb and jump off the trolls arm ... then find my eyes as to ask "Is this Ok mom? Can I do that?" I'd walk closer and try to take photos of him.

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We traveled on a ferry to Bainbridge Island which was fun and somewhat relaxing. It was windy out on the deck and I fell asleep on the ferry twice. Bainbridge was beautiful and we ate our way through that little island too.

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We plan trips that we would have with Ryan. Family trips that get us out of our reality and into a world were we feel Ryan shine warm on our faces. We feel Ryan always, but when we travel we see him in different places. We dream of his physical body with us and his soft hand in ours. For whatever reason, smiles come with ease when we travel. Tears flow too, but we lean on one another and promise each other that we'll be alright. Ryan was showing us himself in everything while we walked through Seattle . . .

Thank you Seattle for having us and showing us three a magical time.

Together

"It's easier to be brave when your not alone." - Amy Poehler

For me I can only be brave when I am surrounded by incredible people who love life and cherish all that it brings. This is not to say I'm never alone or if I'm alone I am crying hot mess ... But to really do good and get through the grit I must be with people who support it all. Plus, it is much more fun when you aren't alone. It is easier to laugh, it is easier to take on the things that scare you, it is easier to learn more about yourself and how your insides work.

This past week I attended Alt Summit with zero intentions. In the back of my mind I had hope to learn more about blogging ... though that notion was broad and it scared me so I pushed it away. The other scary thing was the fact that I was about to toss my fragile self into a pot of talented strong women. I was about to test myself and how I'd hold up in this hot soup of brilliant bloggers, photographers, mothers and business owners. Would I wilt away and become tasteless or melt right in and prove flavorful?

I arrived clutching my best friend Alissa Circle's arm and made her promise to not let go. I've been to blogging conferences before, but this time I was different. This time I was attending with most everyone knowing every detail of my life and the tragedy I now walked with. It's one thing to be on the Internet talking and letting it all hang out ... It's different talking in person and letting them see it all out. Alissa let go, but only because she knew I could handle it. Though she never ventured far. We were in this together.

As I met amazing women and sat through knowledgeable keynote speakers I learned a whole lot. However, one major theme stood out day in and day out. There is one thing that all this Alt Summit magic has been built upon. Togetherness. We are all great and incredible because we are all doing it together. We are buying from each other, contributing for each other, listening together and laughing together. This community it is special because we are together.

For me it isn’t about networking so much as its about making friends. I found myself with business cards only to exchange phone numbers instead. It was a truly beautiful experience to meet the people who have been supporting, praying and keeping Ryan on their hearts. I had heart to hearts with strangers and cried with a few who just wanted a hug. I realized this hot soup was indeed flavorful with me in it. This hot soup was damn good with everyone in it.

What I learned at Alt Summit was pretty simple. In order to do good and get through the hard stuff … You have to surround yourself with amazing people. I learned that spending time knee deep in a conversation about how twisted life is and how we are coping is worth everything. I learned that laughing that real deep laugh about something silly is worth everything. Crying because you finally met the person who drew a beautiful sketch of your son holding a red balloon is worth everything.

It was overwhelming and by the last day I ditched the last keynote speaker and went back to my room to order a hamburger via room service. I realized I felt whole for a split second. As if all these new friends of mine were stuffed in my wound to stop the bleeding. For a fleeting moment my heart wasn’t broken anymore.

The thought is simple. Together. We can do it together. We are doing it together. Thank you to all of those who let me hug you. Thank you to my roommates for making me laugh and letting me be myself. Thank you to all my new friends … I look forward to the good we will do together.

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