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Danielle was about to become a teenager so we decided to have a small get-together in her honour. Sebastian baked a strawberry cake with pink frosting since Danielle was such a girly-girl. She could not wait to blow the candles out on her cake that she did it before any of us could join her to sing happy birthday or throw confetti to help her celebrate.

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She grew up to be so stunning that even I didn’t recognise her. I walked passed her and into the kitchen thinking she was one of Danielle’s already grown up friends from school that came to the party not realising she was my own child!

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“Mum! Don’t you recognise me?” She said to me. I turned around and looked at this young woman and I thought to myself that she looked familiar. But once I looked into those green eyes I knew she was my Danielle.

“Danielle! You look so grown up and so gorgeous!” I squealed. I never squeal but I was in shock. She was so beautiful…and thin. I was glad my daughter wouldn’t have to go through the hell I went through when I was her age. She is the perfect mix of Sebastian and me – she inherited his good looks and high metabolism and my high IQ and attitude. I’m so proud of her!

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Everyone was surprised that she aged up before the party was in full swing. Sebastian just got out of the swimming pool and didn’t get the chance to change into proper party clothes when he saw her.

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Christopher couldn’t believe his eyes either. “Aw kid. You’re making your uncle feel really old right now.” He said as he hugged her. “I remember the days when you were so small I was afraid I would break you and now… you’re almost as tall as me!”

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Ethan and Felix had a blast with their cousins. Felix and Phoebe played on the monkey bars outside. Felix always made me so nervous with all of the stunts he would perform on that thing but Sebastian assured me that Felix’s motor skills were above average and that he would be fine.

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Ethan of course was in the dining room with Bentley who was giving him an earful about cleaning up the dishes. Bentley was so organised for a little boy that he reminded me of myself when I was his age. I probably wouldn’t wear a hat like that while out in public though.

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Everyone was having a great time as it was the first time all of us siblings and our kids were under the same roof. It felt so good seeing Adrienne and Christopher again after such a long time and Adrienne being a typical romantic started talking to Danielle about boys.

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“Oh Ade she’s not ready for the talk as yet.” I said.

“Well whenever she’s ready I’ll be happy to do it.” Adrienne said. “Your Mum was very shy as a teen, you know. She was lucky your Dad came along and made all of the moves.”

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I disagreed with that statement. I wasn’t shy, the kids just didn’t like me and I made some moves too. But I did let Sebastian make most of the decisions when it came to the family simply because he was just better than me when it came to dealing with our kids and knowing what they like.

Like when he decided to plan our first family vacation to Granite Falls. Sebastian and I went there for our honeymoon and had such a good time that Sebastian had been dreaming for years to eventually go back there with our family. The only difference was the last time we were there we rented a cabin and this time Sebastian wanted us to camp outdoors! Under a canopy of trees with the stars peeking out was the best way to spend time in the forest was his selling point and the kids bought it.

We left Oasis Springs early in the morning and arrived there shortly before noon. But when we got there we spent so much time setting up camp that it got dark by the time we were ready to kick back and relax.

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He bought a well-stocked cooler and three tents – one for Ethan and Felix to share, one for Danielle and the last one for the both of us. We all gathered around the camp fire roasting marshmallows and trying to keep warm on this exceptionally cold night.

After dinner all the kids went to bed early probably because they were so bored from not having a TV or a computer to use so Sebastian put out the camp fire while I finished up on dinner.

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After I washed up and he packed all of our food securely into the cooler we both relaxed into each other’s arms. “You look even more beautiful against the backdrop of the pine trees.” He purred into my ear.

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It was a compliment you would expect to hear from an outdoor lover like him and it was quite effective too. It was so effective that we headed into our tent right away. The forest was exceptionally quiet at night save for the natural sounds of owls hooting and crickets chirping so we both tried our best to keep our noises at a minimum so we wouldn’t wake the kids up.

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The next morning Sebastian got up early to make us breakfast. He called it egg scramble and he made it with eggs, sausages and onions. Even though it looked sloppy it tasted really good.

“I had trouble falling asleep with all of the animal noises.” She said.

“The crickets and owls kept you up huh?” Sebastian asked.

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“Yeah… and the other animal noises too. Eventually I was able to tune it out and fall asleep.” She said it with a look that made us realise she heard us last night. Sebastian was a little embarrassed but I thought it was a little funny. Usually when it came to talking about woohooing with each other, Sebastian would be confident while I would be slightly embarrassed but it was the reverse when it came to talking to our children about it.

After breakfast we all headed to the washrooms to freshen up before we began our hike to the Granite Falls National Park. Using an outhouse was the worst part of the vacation for me. I hated the flies and the smell…ugh… at least it was better than having to find a private enough place to pee in the bushes.

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Danielle was the first of us to finish freshening up so she decided to work on some schoolwork while she waited for the rest of us. She is so much like me it’s amazing. What kind of teenager brings homework to a family vacation? A teenager that will grow up to be a very successful person, that’s who! She had to write an essay on wild animals for her Biology class and decided to use Sheela, the park ranger, as one of her references by asking her some questions. My daughter is so resourceful and such a genius!

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When we got to the National Park we decided to split up into groups. Sebastian and Felix went to the river and began fishing. The nearby waterfall was exquisite and the water was cool and clear. It was too bad the rangers had strict rules against swimming in the water because I would have been the first one to jump in.

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Danielle, Ethan and I played horseshoes by the nearby setup. I thought it was a cool idea to have games like these for visitors to play. Those of us who didn’t want to fish could only enjoy the scenery and bug collecting for so long before getting bored.

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When we got back to the campground it was dark and the mosquitoes came out in full swing and nearly ate us all alive. I scolded myself for not remembering to buy some mosquito repellent while we were at the National Park.

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Sebastian got the fire started and the heat and light from it kept the mosquitoes at bay. On the day before, we started the camp fire before it got dark hence why we didn’t have a mosquito problem then. Lesson learned – always walk with insect repellent and always start the camp fire before sunset!

As we stood around the camp fire chatting and telling stories, Ethan decided to tell us a scary ghost story a friend of his from school told him. “Once there was an old woman who lived in the forest juuuust like this place.” He began. “She was nice old lady who lived by herself because she was scared of lots of people. One day a group of campers came into the forest for hiking and stuff and they came to the old lady’s house. One of the campers came up with a plan to pull a prank on her for fun so the group of them decided to dress up in bear costumes and show up on the lady’s doorstep. When she opened the door she was so frightened she screamed and screamed…”

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“…until finally she fell down and died.”

“What nonsense…” Danielle said incredulously. “The woman couldn’t tell they were fake bears? Seriously? And she was so frightened that she died? Come on.”

“It’s a true story!” Ethan insisted. “The campers ran away leaving the old lady’s body to rot in her house and that’s how the curse was formed. Any group of campers who come into the forest are haunted by the ghost of the old lady… she scares them to death just the way she died. It’s a true story.”

“Sure it is,” Felix said, rolling his eyes. “And what forest did this happen if it’s a true story?”

Ethan paused and looked at each one of us before simply stating, “This one!”

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“Please…” Danielle said, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure your friend told you that story to frighten you because he knew you were coming here.”

“No it is true.” Ethan said.

“Then why aren’t we scared to death yet?” Felix asked.

“Because we’re good people, that’s why. She only scares those who come to the forest with bad intentions, like the people who pranked her or hunters or people who litter and mess up her precious forest.” Ethan stated confidently and I could tell he really believed in the story of the old woman.

“Well it was a good story son.” Sebastian said. “Very scary the way you told it too.”

“Yes Ethan. It’s a good story but I don’t think there’s any ghost here in this forest.” I said to him but just then a breeze blew and I got a strange chill and not because of the coldness but it felt like something else. I ignored it though as we all got ready for bed. It was probably all in my head anyway.

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We left with the sunrise the next morning as the kids had school that day and we didn’t want them to be late. I had a lot of fun on this family trip and I liked to think it made us become closer as a family. Kudos to Sebastian for coming up with this idea. Sometimes I think he might just be smarter than me.

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