When planning a place for our family vacation (with my family), we wanted a lake where we could go boating, but within driving distance. We happened to end up in Branson, Missouri. We heard great things about the lake and my mom was able to get a wonderful timeshare house with a fun pool. We kept laughing about it because we think of Branson as some old folks getaway. We actually spent hardly any time at all in the actual town and had no interest in the shows or anything. But I must say it was one of our favorite family vacations. I have never been to a more fun lake and the weather was absolutely perfect. I was gearing myself up for humidity so bad I couldn't go outside and killer mosquitos, but it actually was perfect.

We spent almost every waking minute at the fun pool when we weren't at the lake or watching movies and being lazy.

One of the days was a little rainy in the morning, so we went on the Scenic Train which left out of Branson. My mom took my grandparents on it when they visited Branson years ago. It was beautiful and really fun. But the kids got a little antsy towards the end. It was definitely scenic with lots of trees and the kids got bored of the same thing after a while. But a fun experience.

The boating days were the highlight of the trip. We rented it for two full days which meant we could take it in and out as often as we wanted during that time. We spent ALL day the first day, went home for a quick rest and dinner. Then took it back out for a sunset cruise. It was amazing. The water is so warm, even as the sun is going down. We would drive for a bit (the boat went so fast!), stop and jump in and swim for a bit. We also rented a few water toys the next day which had us laughing so hard. All the kids (except the babies) even got on the tube.

And the best part of vacations with family: napping in grandma's bed, watching tv together and snuggling up with cousins. I love my family! I hope these kids have wonderful memories to look back on as they grow up.

This trip brings on many emotions besides that it was the most fun we have ever had as a family. I look back on this trip as one where God was showing me that he watches out for me. I had been feeling a little spiritually detached and I sure felt His hand this week. It was a wake-up call that I as an individual matter to Him.

First thing that happened was on the first day that we got to Branson. I am writing this a year later and I still feel sick to my stomach and can't hardly think about it. I have moments of panic and anxiety overtake me still. But I know I want to have this story written to share with my kids so they know that miracles happen. My family wasn't there yet and we planned to meet up with two of Jared's friends from high school and their families at the little beach by the lake. Cole cannot swim, but he is VERY careful. He is terrified of water and swimming (which is why he doesn't swim yet) and barely wades into the water. So I don't put water wings on him or anything. Looking back--dumb choice. I had gotten everyone all sunscreened up and everyone was swimming and playing. I was on a blanket up the shore feeding some snacks to Vanessa. All the adults were catching up, laughing and talking. I had a thought enter my mind with urgency to immediately look around and count heads. I immediately saw Cole's hat floating on the surface. I jumped and ran with only the power and speed that comes from a mother seeing her child in danger. Looking back, I literally flew and know I was carried. I think I only took two steps to actually get to the water and I wasn't that close. I got to his hat and luckily his little body underneath and pulled him up. The water was extremely cloudy and I couldn't see him even when he was right in front of me. If it weren't for his hat, I would not have found him. He had hardly been under and was able to hold his breath. He told me he had been trying to swim up and just couldn't get there. The water was unusually high that season and there was a deep ledge a few feet into the water where it went from about 6 inches to about 5-6 feet deep. Since we had just arrived, no one knew that yet. I keep thinking of the "what-if's." What if he didn't wear that hat? What if I didn't heed that warning? What if he floated away from his hat? I would have lost my sweet boy. I had an acquaintance lose her boy the same age as Cole in a drowning incident not long before this incident. And I start wondering, why her son? Why not Cole? Why did I have the heavenly miracle and not the other mothers? I just have to come back over and over that Heavenly Father needs and wants Cole here with us. And that it is HIS plan. Such a hard lesson to learn. One that I may never understand in this life. This was such a difficult experience yet one so full of miracles.

The second incident came on the way back to the house after boating, we were going to stop and pick up some food. I was driving (in only my swimsuit) down a very large, fast, downhill, curvy road. We passed a small black car sitting at the top of the hill on the side of the road. I thought that was a strange place to stop then thought nothing of it. Until I heard a revving engine coming up on me... I glanced in my rearview mirror to see this car coming straight up on me from behind at 100+ mph. I watched it go out of control fish-tailing and almost clip the back of our car before he steered it off the edge of the road. We all watched as he slammed into a gigantic tree taking it down in a giant plume of smoke. It was so forested and such a deep ravine, that we couldn't see anything except smoke. I called 911 and Jared climbed down to check things out. I had bottled water and some blankets in the car so I threw it down to him. He was able to get the fire out with the blanket. There was a cop car headed the other direction, so I was flagging him down in my swimsuit in the middle of the road. Jared was down there forever and other people came up to help along with fire trucks and police officers. It was so steep that they had to build a pulley system to actually bring him up. Jared was able to talk to him--somehow he was alert--and keep him alert although he said he couldn't see him because the car was so mangled. Later we found out that the cop I had flagged down was going to find him because he was suicidal. He had been calling his girlfriend with threats and unfortunately he acted on it. I still think about him and wonder what happened to him. That was such an awful thing to witness. I feel like we were protected in that he didn't hit us and our car was safe. I am also grateful the kids didn't have to see his mangled body. The officers actually told us we should leave before they got him up because he was in such bad shape.  Here is the helicopter coming in. They had shut down the entire road for about a mile because of it.

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