A little late, but worth retelling.
May 14th will always go down as one of the most hysterical days I can remember. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a trip where I laughed quite as much as I did in those 2 days. May 14th happens to be the birthday of one of my dearest friends, Holli Nicholson. And In the summer of 2012, it was the day that 3 adults and 5 little people climbed into a big black Expedition to embark on a camping trip. A birthday trip just for Holli. A camping trip to remember some might say. The boys were thrilled with the prospect of fishing, and the girls just wanted to sleep in a tent.
(Lets all be serious for a minute and admit that a tent may be as close as we ever get to one of those glorious, canopy, princess beds. I’m 23 and I still want one.)
Coffee and cinnamon raisin bagels in hand (both staples in the Nicholson household) we took off for Branson. Armed with a toy a piece and hours of audio books, the kids settled in. Asking over and over that age old question, “are we there yet?”, they received snarky replies from their father and the eye from their mother. We were on an adventure.
We arrived at Table Rock lake to find out that one of our tents was broken. Sadly, two little girls would not receive the pleasure of sleeping in “the girls tent”. And we three adults got to find out what it was like to sleep 8 people in a 3 man tent. And yet, we abandon our challenges for the lake. Zack was utterly determined to catch our dinner, while Holli was banking on the hot dogs we had stashed in the cooler. The kids splashed around and had a fantastic time while Holli and I chased after them with sunscreen, yelling “don’t even think about going any deeper!” to the twinnies. (Anyone with eyes can see that Jaspar and Ella aren’t twins, being that Ella is obviously a different nationality, however, their birthdays are so close together they are almost exactly the same age.) Our sunny jaunt by the lake was ended when a snake was spotted, and Mamma bear swiped the little people off to the campsite to start dinner. Dinner being the highly processed meat that none of us ever ate, but hey, it’s an adventure, right?!
That night, with three adults on a full sized air mattress and 5 children at our feet, we slept not so soundly. May in Missouri tends to be much colder at night than you would think. Not to mention damp and well, a little crowded. Oh, and our trusty air mattress had deflated. First light could not come soon enough as we all scrambled out of the tent eager to get the day moving, but mostly for coffee. Not even bothering with an alternative route of coffee making, we headed straight back into town for the largest cups of coffee any shop had to offer.
We spent the day fishing (without catching anything), swimming, and hiking every trail we could possibly find. at about 11am, we had seen everything that you can see with 5 kids in tow. So Mini golf it was. So, back into town we went. Branson looks like a mock up of Vegas. A very tiny, family friendly Vegas. It is a bit bizarre, and a little confusing. But onward we marched.
After 48 hours in the wilderness, we decided that rather than pack ourselves back into that tiny, tiny tent that we would hype the kids up on s’mores, let them run it off, and let them crash as we packed them back into the truck. The older three took a little more convincing than the twinnies, but after negotiating with their father, they won not only a day off from school and donuts for breakfast, but also the agreement that they could watch any movie of their choice on a weekday (in the Nicholson house TV is reserved for weekends only!). Maycee let me in on a little secret that they planned on watching the absolute longest movie that they could find!
To this day, our Table Rock adventures remain vivid in our memories. It was a trip I’ll never forget. Full of laughter and fantastic discoveries, it was a trip that very clearly defines my relationship with this tiny army. If we survived Table Rock, we can survive anything!
These seven humans are among the nearest and dearest to my heart. They have seen me through more battles and joys than most and together they take up a huge part of my heart. Zack has been a counselor, one who helped me survive grueling months as an intern. Holli is one of my dearest friends, always having a listening ear and a cup of coffee, she has been a pillar when I feel like a crumbling mess. Maycee has been my little inspiration – Still a child in all the right ways, her maturity and spark for life cause me to be a greater example. Mick is a lover, as big and tough as he is, when that boy says “I love you” you feel like your heart just melted down to your toes. His prayers for wisdom and revelation will rock your world. Jake, Jake is a little companion. Introverted and shy, when you need someone to just be in the room, he is. His words are far and few between, but they carry the weight of a tiny heart that understands much more than you would think. Ella is my snuggle-bug. Mostly when she is in tears, but also when you just need a hug, something to hold onto. She is the child I don’t quite have yet. And last but certainly not least, Jaspar, my brave, vibrant Jaspar. He is a light. A bright and shining lamp. His golden curls are merely a hint of what lies inside. They hold my heart. They are my tiny, personal army of lovers, who have carried my heart through the years…