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    Why Forest Home Family Camp is the best vacation ever…

    We went to Forest Home for the first time last summer. We had heard it was fun, but had no idea what to expect. Now we are headed back a year later, and I can honestly say it’s probably the best place to vacation for a family with young children.

    I’m just going to be straight-up in this post…

    The cost of camp starts around $1300 for a family of four in the most basic housing option (two family cabin with shared bathroom space… but there are fancier and more private options at other price points). That might seem steep, but actually it’s quite the opposite.

    If you consider what you receive when you attend Forest Home Family Camp for one week, it’s a screaming deal (this post is my way of shouting about it). There is no way to take a restful, week-long vacation with your whole family for less money.

    At Forest Home, you get:

    • Every meal prepared for you for a week (and it’s really good food)
    • Housing in a cute little cabin for 6-7 days
    • Access to fun activities such as a pool, splash pad, field games, miniature golf, big swing, zip-line, ropes course, hiking, etc.
    • Program activities such as lake day and skit night that will have your whole family laughing
    • A shake shack with delicious desserts and a coffee shop with truly excellent brew (and I’m super picky)
    • Excellent Biblical teaching daily, times of worship, and seminars to help your marriage, parenting, etc.
    • Amazing morning childcare that is a combination between Sunday School, preschool, and the best adventure camp ever
    • And last, but NOT least, a childcare assistant (CCA)… otherwise known as an amazing babysitter who comes to your cabin every night and plays with your kids and puts them to bed while you and your spouse enjoy the nightly worship session and then hang out together kid-free. This is the icing on the family camp cake.

    This is not even an exhaustive list of how good family camp is, but it gives you a general idea. As a parent, I often feel conflicted over how to spend my very limited time and money when it comes to travel. On the one hand, I want to do fun things as a family and bond with my children as they have new experiences. On the other other hand, parenting is exhausting and I want a break from my kids to invest in my marriage and even rest by myself every now and then. When it comes to planning our vacations, it feels like we need to pick one or the other…. leave the kids with grandparents and escape by ourselves or take our kids somewhere awesome but come home feeling depleted.

    When I went to Forest Home last summer, I discovered I didn’t have to be trapped in that travel dichotomy any longer. At camp, I was able to spend tons of time with my kids as they jumped off the diving board and tried the ropes course for the first time. We treated them to milkshakes and taught them how to slip ‘n’ slide. But we also got a break from parenting… Micah and I could play putt putt at 10pm and zipline in the dark, knowing the whole time that our kids were safely sleeping back at the cabin.

    The whole week was the perfect mix of adventure and rest. A blend of family time and date nights. An opportunity  to leave the responsibility of cooking and cleaning behind. A chance to be filled up with truth from God’s Word.

    And here’s the funny thing about family camp. It’s perfect for when your kids are young and childcare is the greatest gift, but as your children get older, they’ll be the ones begging to go back to Forest Home. Most families go the same week each summer, so the kids become friends and run around camp together all week, year after year. The girls come back to serve as CCAs when they become teens, and lifelong campers often become counselors. Sometimes those counselors fall in love and get married. Sometimes they get married AT camp.

    We heard all these stories and more last summer, and we are so excited to go back again, so we can tell our own tales about beautiful Forest Home.

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    The Perfect Weekend

    You know how some weekends just feel perfect? That was this past Veteran’s Day weekend for us. Veteran’s Day on a Friday? Yes, please.

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    We convinced our dearest friends, the Bakers, that we could all squeeze into our tiny beach house for the weekend (they have twin three year-old boys). They took us up on the offer, and came into town on Thursday night. We rearranged rooms and had kids sleeping on the floor and it all worked out perfectly. We spent the whole weekend playing, talking, eating, and laughing. It was like the good ol’ days of hanging out with them in Arizona, but possibly better because we didn’t go home at the end of the night. We just woke up each morning and kept the party going.

    We had literally no agenda for their visit, but we managed to fill the weekend with all sorts of adventure:

    Sidecar Doughnuts… a must-do when we have visitors.

    Beach day (sand castles for the kids, surfing for the guys, hand-dipped corn dogs for lunch).

    Dinner (build your own pizza night) with our former pastor and his family.

    Game night.

    Bike rides.

    Marina Park with the kids.

    Picnic lunch.

    Family pictures on the beach at sunset.

    Pot roast dinner.

    Campfire and s’mores on the beach.

    Another game night.

    Farmer’s Market.

    Brunch at the restaurant around the corner.

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    It was seriously the best. Parenting together, laughing together, talking about everything – the spiritual and the silly. As we slowly build community in Orange County, it was so nice to have a refreshing weekend with close friends – people who know us well and love us deeply. The Bakers vowed to come back before we move away from the beach, and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

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    We’re moving to…

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    A year ago this week, Micah had his final interview for a potential position in  Orange County. It was on a Friday. On Monday, they called and told him he got the job. We packed up our things in a whirlwind and moved to California with an air mattress and some suitcases. A few weeks later, we sold our AZ home and brought the rest of our belongings.

    It’s hard to believe we’ve been in California for almost a year now. Like most memories in adulthood, the year feels like it’s flown by, yet the months unfold in my mind, hazy and distant, as if we’ve actually lived here forever.

    Now we are off on our next adventure (don’t worry, we are saying in California!)…

    We are moving the beach!

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    We are going to live in a furnished vacation rental property that sits directly on the beach for the next nine months. Why? How? To make a long story short, we are ready to buy a home, but we are leery of the extra crazy OC market. We were fine with renting for another year, but rent prices are also outrageous, and we were unfortunately looking for a place in the spring time when inventory was low and everyone was trying to move, which meant a hike in prices whether renting or buying and bidding wars, etc. Not ideal.

    We finally found a house to rent in a neighborhood we love. It was spacious, fairly new, and had a great fenced-in backyard. We walked out of the house, and Micah looked at me and said, “I like it. It’s the best one we’ve seen. But I feel like I could rent a house like that anywhere. In any city. In any state, if we ever move anywhere else. What I can’t do anywhere else is live at the beach.” It was an idea we had talked about before. We know that many of the summer vacation rentals in Newport Beach do long-term leases over the winter months when tourism is slow.

    We decided to pursue it…

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    There were some twists and turns to finding a rental that would work for our family, but I am happy to report that it all worked out.

    We are moving to Newport Beach this weekend and we will live there until June!

    We are just finishing up packing our stuff into storage. I’ve been selling items all summer long, knowing that we only want to store what we really, really want to keep. I mean, if we don’t need it for nine months, do we really need it at all? This adventure is already teaching us so much about living small and simple.

    There will be huge benefits to living by the beach (ocean views, walks down the boardwalk, short commutes to work) and inconveniences as well (no yard, street parking, shared laundry, and sand always trying to creep into our house). I am ready to embrace it all for the next nine months. I am so excited to do my quiet time each morning while looking out the window at God’s roaring, powerful sea. I’m excited for after-dinner walks down the boardwalk and occasionally stopping for a treat at the donut or ice cream shop. I am excited for sunsets. Every night. And we are so excited to host friends and family as often as we can. Our house is small, but it sleeps eight, so consider this the first of many invitations to come visit – for the day, for the night, for the whole weekend. We would love to share a bit of our beach adventure with you.

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