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Life Lessons from my Daughter: Cheese Balls and Scorpions

cheese ballAfter turning 13, my daughter asked if she could go on a one-on-one camping trip with her mother or me. Quincy loves the outdoors, and camping is one of her favorite things. Her plan was to do more of a survival-type of trip where she would build her own shelter, fish and gather edible plants, and build a fire without the modern luxuries of matches or a lighter. I thought the camping trip was an excellent idea, but promptly told her that if I went with her, I would be sleeping in the tent while she enjoyed nature (mosquitoes, ants, rain, raccoons and whatever else the thin layer of a nylon tent would otherwise protect us from).

For several months, we talked about our trip, finally deciding on Osage Hills State Park near Bartlesville. The pictures on the website were very enticing. Fall arrived, providing perfect camping weather. The kids were out of school on a Friday, offering the opportunity for us to sneak away early. We packed the gear and headed north.

I was pleased that Quincy decided that sleeping in the tent with me would be roughing it enough, especially after seeing three very large tarantulas around the park and multiple scorpions in the bathrooms. We did forage for food – at Aldi in Bartlesville. I highly recommend their cheese balls and generic Mountain Dew. Good for dinner or breakfast.

Our first night there was only one other camper, a retired banker who had driven from California to visit family in Pawhuska. He invited us to share his fire and we accepted. We enjoyed hearing his story before retiring to our campsite for the night. Quincy and I “roughed it” more by watching a comedian on my phone as we lay on our air mattress in the tent. We fell asleep to the serenade of a thousand frogs and awoke the next morning to the call of countless birds in the treetops greeting the rising sun.

We didn’t catch any fish on the lake but the $10 to rent a row boat made the lack of fish much more enjoyable. We rescued a raccoon from the dumpster, made up games, and enjoyed each other’s company.

As we went to bed our second night, we knew rain was forecast for Saturday morning. We planned to get up early and pack the tent before it hit. Around 4 am, five hours ahead of schedule, the patter of rain on nylon woke me. I chose not to stress about the inadequacy of the weatherman, and instead relax to the sound of gentle showers in the warmth of my sleeping bag. The enjoyment factor began to diminish as the hours passed, the rain intensified, and my bladder demanded attention. I also discovered that Coleman tents are good at withstanding heavy dew, but not so good at keeping out four hours of rain. Pools of water had formed in the tent, forcing us to implement damage control. Fortunately, Quincy’s idea of survival camping included beach towels, which made great dams for the streams of water now flowing through the porous nylon wall.

We moved on the Plan B and found a covered shelter to spend the morning. We played Boggle, Frisbee, and made breakfast on our propane stove. By lunchtime, it was pretty clear that the rain had no plans of letting up. We were out of cheese balls and down to the last can of Aldi soda. We opted to pack our gear and head home. In less than four minutes, we had our gear and wet tent thrown in the trunk and were headed home.

In so many ways, the camping trip was not at all what we had planned or hoped it would be. I had enjoyed my one-on-one time with my daughter but was disappointed that we weren’t able to do much of what we had discussed for weeks leading up to the trip. The following weekend we visited friends that we hadn’t seen in months. As we were talking over dinner, Quincy and I shared our camping adventure. Quincy was asked where her favorite place to camp was. She quickly responded with Osage Hills. Despite the tarantulas, scorpions, monsoon, and lack of fish. Or maybe because of those things.

My kids continue to teach me lessons. Things rarely go as planned. Even more seldom do things turn out perfect. What a gift it is to be able to take whatever life throws at us and find the beauty, excitement, and joy in that moment. After all, life is unpredictable. The only thing we truly have control over is how we will react to circumstances. Quincy chose to have fun and embrace the moment. I hope I can remember that lesson.

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