Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Vacation

We decided to go back to Forest Home Family Camp this summer for our vacation, and once again had a fantastic time.  In my opinion, this summer was even better than last just because we "knew the ropes" this time around and planned ahead a little bit better since we knew what to expect.  Our kids had a blast and Eli and Mikayla had quite a bit of freedom to just run around the camp this year and keep track of themselves... which of course they enjoyed!  They made some good friends and spent a lot of time playing "Carpet Ball" in the game room.

For the third year in a row we left for our family vacation on Father's Day... which mean Father's Day has been "the travel day" for three years.  Props to my hubby for being the great dad that he is and just embracing it :)  As you can see our van was packed out (with cargo on top too)... packing for seven people to spend a week at a camp is not an easy task!

This cabin was our home away from home for the week!  Our family was given two joining rooms again (bathroom in the middle), which was great.

Eli is standing between our two doors :)

This sweet girl slept horribly... but she isn't even a great sleeper at home, so I pretty much expected it. Unfortunately, she quickly mastered climbing out of the pack n' play... so we had to go through the routine of returning her to her bed a gazillion times every afternoon for nap and evening for bedtime.  I came home very thankful that she doesn't climb out of her crib and decided she will be sleeping in that crib for as long as possible :)

One of our family's favorite things about Forest Home is the children's programming.  During the morning adult sessions, our kids attended age-based classes where they played, sang songs, and participated in a fun activities.  They even extended the class times this year so that after the sessions, the adults could just have some free time together before picking up the kids.  That was really nice!  In the evenings, childcare assistants (CCA's) take care of the children during the evening sessions... and sometimes they even had special adult dinners.  Yum!  Our family was so fortunate that both of our CCA's from last summer returned again and were able to be assigned to our family for the week! Our kids were very excited to reunite with them, and they were such a blessing to us!  I always tell people that Addy is as much "work" on her own as the other four kids put together... and I think by the end of the week both of our CCA's could vouch for the truth in that!  Ha! :)  

I thought it was fun to compare these two picures... here's 2014:

And this was last summer, 2013:

The Challenge Course area was a fun time for our family this year... Mikayla, Eli, and Mr. A all conquered the high ropes course with mom and dad!  Last year only Mikayla did it, so I was proud of the boys for being BRAVE!  Of course they loved it and had Micah take them back another afternoon to do it again :)  Micah and I even ventured out to the Challenge Course after our evening session late one night for "Night Ziplining!"  We wore glow sticks and sped down the zipline under the stars.  It was fun, and the starts were beautiful!

Here we are hiking out to the Challenge Course... it's a bit of a distance from where the Family Campers are housed.

Micah and Mikayla went up first...

Then came me and the boys!

Mr A. truly surprised me with the courage he showed to go across some of the sections of rope.  This course is much harder the smaller your legs are, and I was convinced he was going to get up there and freeze... I though Eli would too actually!  But Mr. A typically led the way across the ropes and did awesome... of course Eli followed behind not to be outdone by his younger brother ;)  They both had so much fun and I was so proud of them for trying something new!

Lake Day was a highlight again this year.  The kids loved playing in the sand, swimming in the lake, kayaking, water trampoline, and participating in games on the beach.   None of our kids have been brave enough to try the "blob" yet... which is okay with me ;)

Eli, Mr. A., and one of our CCA's took part in a balloon toss game... they didn't win, but Eli did successfully catch a water balloon in that bowl on his head :)

 Eli and Mikayla enjoyed the craft cabin again this year, and since Mr. A doesn't need naps anymore he was able to join us while the younger two napped in the cabin during afternoon freetime.

All of the kids made bug houses at the craft cabin this year, which led to an obsession with watching and collecting bugs anytime they were outside. They all made little "habitats" for the bugs inside the bug houses and captured various insects that were "lucky enough" to get to move in!  We had a rule that the bug houses were required to stay OUTSIDE the cabin...

Addy LOVED climbing on all the rocks at camp...

 Sisters :)

"The Den" (aka the game room) is where our older kids spent a lot of time.  I love this picture of our younger two teaming up for ping pong.... yes, you should be afraid, very afraid.

On the last day the kids performed some of the songs they learned from "Music Mama" during their morning classes each day.

 A special highlight for us this year was living next door to a family we actually met last year, but had never really connected with.  They have two kids (on the right in the pic), and at the time we were at camp they were just about finished with their process to become licensed foster parents!  How cool is that?  So we were able to hang out with them quite a bit and talk about the ups and downs of foster care, as well as just laughing and having fun.  Our kids all had a great time together and pretty much spent every waking moment playing outside and making up games together.  We look forward to keeping in touch with them, and hopefully seeing them back at family camp in future years.

What a great week!  Though the week was tiring, as vacations with kids always are, we came back feeling encouraged and refreshed for church ministry, foster care, and just parenting in general :)  One thing that was meaningful was on the last night all of the adults gathered for campfire and communion at "Victory Circle."  They laid out what they call the "Book of Remembrance" where people can record significant events that happened at camp or things God did in their lives.  They have a collection of these books from over the years that they keep at camp, so if you return later you (or your kids?  or your grandkids?) can look back through the things that were recorded.  It was neat for Micah and I to be able to record that last year we attended this camp with three foster children whose futures were unknown to us.  This year, we went back with those same three children, one of whom is adopted, and the other two are in the process of being adopted.  So cool! :)

Not sure if Forest Home will be our vacation destination every year, but I am pretty sure we will be back again at some point in the not-too-distant future.  We look forward to it for sure!

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