Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Phase Four:

We are smack dab in the middle of possibly the craziest season for our family to date.

First of all the Christmas season. So wonderful, yet so busy.

Then life with a three year old and a one year old is just a tad bit overwhelming day to day. So overwhelming at times I find myself frustrated if Doug goes to take a shower because that leaves me alone with the boys for 15 more minutes in a day. And being alone with both the boys is quite a challenge. They are just at the perfect ages of constant noise and needs. But also constant love and joy. These kids I tell you. They ruin (and exhaust) you, in the best way of course.

And to top it all off we are moving! Doug starts a new job the first week of January. So we are currently packing up all of our belongings. [And going back and repacking the boxes that Jack unpacks as he moves around the house.] Throw in some housing drama (where we are now moving all of our belongings into a house we have never seen in person on Saturday). And so many emotions about leaving this place we have called home for the past four years.

And we have a very crazy, hectic, emotional, fragile situation on our hands.

We have seen the Lord's hand in our plans in so many ways this past year. And we really truly do know that it is time to jump out of the comforts of camp life and move our family forward. It does not make it easy. But it is right and good knowing that we are following His leading. We are not doing this alone. And as Doug reminds me often "Nothing of huge significance happens when we are in our comfort zones" (He read that quote somewhere. Not sure who said it first).

So, Doug and I head into our fourth phase of our marriage. In looking back, each phase has been wonderful and hard for different reasons. And through each season we grow in our marriage and grow in knowing each other more. I so look forward to growing deeper in love with Doug through this next transition. I look forward to seeing him thrive in his new job. I look forward to weekends together as a family. And church. And living near Target and being able to buy good coffee at the grocery store.

We are sad to leave our house (that we brought both boys home from the hospital!), our friends and having them as neighbors, the summer staff, the creek and the woods, and watching the sunsets over top pasture. And our doctors in town. The tacos and enchiladas at the Taqueria. The kitchen staff.

But we move on and hold on tight to our relationship and memories of our time at this forever special place. And look forward to a new phase in our little family's life. It is going to be good. I just know it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Jack:

Too much Jack lately?? Perhaps. But he is just such a sweet one.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jack's First Year:

12 Months (ONE!!):

Oh sweet keep us on our toes and make us smile every single day.

- 21.4 pounds. 30.75 inches.
- You are still not walking. You do well with you walker and moving around the furniture but still no solo steps. Your love to climb all over everything. Including into boxes and drawers.
- You scrunch up your nose and make the funniest face. You do this most for your dad.
- You make a sound (something like 'eese') when you are hungry or thirsty. And that is about 95% of the day. You love to eat (anything really) and drink water from your cups. You consistently out-eat at every meal. It is hard to keep up with your appetite.
- You wave to strangers pretty much every time we are out in public. And wave to us when we enter the room.
- Sleep is top priority for you in the evenings. And you scream and let us know when you just want to be in bed already. That is generally around 6:30. You sleep all night and wake up around 7:00.
- You still lay your head on us to show us love and give short, fast cuddles on our shoulders throughout the day.
- You are generally a very happy and easy to entertain baby. (Can I still call you a baby even though you are one now?) You play with toys around the house and generally just like to make a whole of messes everywhere you go.
- You are not a real big fan of sitting on your bottom in the grocery cart or when we tell you not to touch things.
- You are a big fan of fake sneezes and belly kisses.
- You and Henry growl at each other and you think that is pretty funny.
- If we are on the floor you crawl up super fast and flip over onto your back and lay your head on us. Always accompanied by a big smile on your face.
- You say "Da Da" on a daily basis. Especially when Dad walks into the room.
- You generally do well in the car. Not the biggest fan of being strapped in. But once we are going you do pretty well. You also always always always take your socks off the second you are in your seat.
- Your favorite toy at Grandma's house is this little plastic knife. You stick it in your mouth and crawl around the living room. It makes us all laugh.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Birthday Parties!:

We are still pretty new at this whole kids birthday party thing. It is nice that they are so young right now and don't really have super lavish plans or expectations. Something else that is super nice is combined birthday parties! I hope they never mind sharing parties.

We had special family celebrations on each of their actual birthdays. Henry and I went to Walmart and he picked out the cake with the most sprinkles. Not too surprising. He loved it. I tolerated it.

And for Jack I made a Maple Cake. It was really more like a banana bread, but you stack it on top of each other cover in icing and you have a cake!

We had a cinnamon roll party with our friends (because we are 'rolling' into year three and one!). I made cranberry orange rolls and the classic cinnamon. It was a super relaxed morning enjoying time with some of our favorite friends. The Odom's came over from Tulsa and the McKinneys, Justin, Rhett and Abe joined us from here at camp. I love that at this age too we can really just make it a fun get-together for the adults and the kids tag along and have a good time together.

Then this past Sunday we had a fun party in Tulsa with extended family. Cousin Anson has a birthday this week so we combined with him and had a grand ol' time with all the Vogts, Pop Pop and JuJi, Grandma Karen, Cousin Mindy and Seth, and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Johnson. We ate pizza, opened presents, and enjoyed cupcakes.

November was never that special of a month until we had both of our boys born in the same month. Now it will always be one of my very favorite months. It has been so special celebrating our little boys. Such wonderful blessings!

Friday, November 21, 2014


-34 pounds. 40 inches.
- You call our yard our "front back yard" every time.
- You are so aware of feelings. If we gasp, say 'o, no!', or express emotion in any way you always quickly ask..."Why you say, o, no?" You still consistently ask us how we are feeling. And you are just generally very aware of our moods and feelings. Always trying to figure out the situation.
- Bedtime is still slightly a nightmare. You don't stay in your bed and the majority of the nights you end up falling asleep at the end of the hallway. Then you always come into our room around midnight and sleep on the floor next to our bed with your little pillow and quilt that have found a permanent home next to dad's side of the bed. You tell us every night "It hurts my body to sleep".
- Favorite shows/movies: Justin Time, Wild Kratts, and Frozen
- You love all kinds of book but the consistent favorite book over the past few months has been your Disney Storybook. Dad refuses to read the Lilo and Stitch story to you because it is weird. But other than that we have read every single story in there multiple times.
- You eat so well and really don't refuse to eat anything. Daniel Tiger and his little jingle "You gotta try new foods. They might taste good" might be the main contributing factor to this. Your very favorites are the universal kids favorites: mac and cheese, hamburgers with cheese and pickles, chocolate milk and lemonade, any kind of fruit, and 'mazert' (dessert).
- You mimic us all.the.time. At it makes us laugh constantly. Like yesterday we were walking into lunch and Jack was screaming and you looked at him and said "Jackie boy. What is your story?".
- Your singing voice has become so sweet. It is still pretty monotone but it is just the best. You love to sing the Veggie Tales theme song, Jingle Bells, ABC's, and my favorite is this little jingle from your Daniel Tiger goes to bed book.
- Your favorite toys are still diggers and dozers and car and trains. And anything that goes.
- You are a great brother and you continue to call Jack, 'Jackie boy' on a regular basis. You love him, but you also already love to drive him crazy. You do this most easily by putting a blanket on his head and/or shutting the door in his face. Both bring Jack to tears.
- You like things done a certain way and get rather upset if they do not go the way you want it to. Example: you were so frustrated because you really wanted your little figurine to sit in your digger and drive. It could not bend at the knees so it could not sit on the seat and this drove you mad. It was suppose to sit down and it wouldn't. So, we searched and found a little guy that bends at the knees and got it for you for your birthday. It might be your favorite gift this year. All is right in the world of digger driving.
- I would say that you have come out of your shell over the past few months. Several of our friends and family members have made that same comment to me. You are much more outgoing and willing to talk to just about anyone. Especially when encouraged to do so. You like to perform and make people laugh.
-You are also figuring out humor and what is funny. If we are laughing you like to know what is funny and why we are laughing. You also like to do something or say something and watch our reactions to see if we think it is funny.

I could go on and on and on about you. But I will stop with those. Just know that we love you and your mind and your little heart! You bring us so much joy and we count you as one of our greatest blessings. We pray that you grow in grace and truth this year! You are so loved!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Henry's Words:

"Wild Toddler Noises"
Mom: Henry, bring it down a couple notches.
Henry: NACHOS?!? Hahahhaha

H: Are you coming home from work soon?
Doug: Yes, in just a little while.
H: Can we hang out?
Doug: Yes, of course
H: and can Mom go somewhere?

On our way to dinner at a restaurant. From the backseat
H: Don't talk loud. Don't say silly words. Stay calm.
Doug: Are you giving yourself a pep talk?
H: Yes

H: Hey, Erin
Danae: Why did you call me Erin?
H: Because I did.

H: Mom, it is so windy outside.
[huge smile on his face]
I just said Wendy's.

H: Welcome to Johnny Farms. We have 3 roosters. One is named cucumber. One is named tomato. One is named cranberry. One is named pie.

Danae: You need to put this game away first before you get another one out.
H: Okay, Miss. Bossy Pants

H: Mom, can you close the curtains so the thunder can't hear us?

I ran into Wendy's to use the bathroom on a road trip.
H: We can leave mom here. She can make food here.

H: I don't like your hair like that. I like it up. Will you put it up please?
A few minutes pass where I don't put my hair up.
H: Will you please put it up now?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our Week of Meals:

This past week was my favorite week of every year here at camp...our first full week with no meals in the dining hall! Having dinner around our table is one of my very favorite things and this week we ate five dinners in a row in our home.

We ate:
Ginger Lime Stir-Fry - Two past summer staffers joined us for dinner this night. It was a random dinner invitation so we laughed about how all I had to offer them was literally in the one pan in front of them. They obviously did not mind but it did look a little meager to just have one pan of food on the table with no sides.
Maple Mustard Chicken and Rice
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco's - I have made this recipe a million times but this was the first time I made the guacamole. And it was a game changer and now I don't think I will ever be able to make them again without the guacamole. Also, have you all tired the heat and serve tortillas that are in the refrigerator section? They are also a game changer. So much better than the ones on the shelf and so much less work than homemade.
Sloppy Joe's - made on these hamburger buns. Something therapeutic about making homemade bread. It really is not that hard and they really do taste so much better.

We also enjoyed ice-cream nearly every night this week. Oops.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


- We get more glimpses of kid Henry..and teenage Henry. Like this picture shows. I really think I could take a picture like this in several years. Kicked back, watching t.v., eating popcorn. Oh my.

- Cream finds it's way into my coffee most mornings. I drink it black most of the time, but for some reason it just feels right with a splash of cream this time of year.

- And it is also the time of year of reheating a cup of coffee in the afternoon or making tea to help get me through the last few hours before Doug gets home from work.

- I listen to Steffany Gretzinger's album every single day. From start to finish. Sometimes multiple times in one day. Check it out. It is so good for my heart and mind. And since this is a family blog I will also include Doug's current music obsession...Listener. If you like talking in songs more than singing this might be right up your ally. And I recognize the polar opposite musical suggestions. Let's just say our kids will be very well rounded when it comes to music.

- I am slowly (and this will kill several of you) working through Harry Potter book 6. Only about a book and a half left and about a month and a half left of the year. Hopefully I can complete this goal.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Family Nature Walk:

Each season of our family we are learning new things. This season we are learning that if we are all in the house together for too many hours together we will drive each other crazy! Henry and his toddler energy is reaching new levels. The climbing, jumping, yelling, and just overall roudy-ness is reaching new heights. And then there is Jack who is fast and gets into anything and everything he can get his hands on. And when boredom sets in Henry takes it out on Jack by just following him and being a bother. Que..Jack screams because he is literally being held down by Henry's body...All that to say. We have to get out. For everyone's sanity.

So we poured a cup of coffee, grabbed a paper bag for treasures, and headed out on a family nature hike. Nothing profound, or super special. But we were all outside. And generally much happier. We found big and colorful leaves. Watched the sunset in the pasture. Ran to each hay bale. Climbed. Ran some more. And then slowly made our way back home. We stopped and looked at animal tracks and then hit the jack pot and spotted some deer in the field next to us.

We ended the night with left over chili for dinner and then we made a nature mobile out of the leaves and sticks and pine cones we found on our hike. Henry had his first taste of apple cider and decided he did not like it (is he really our kid?!?).

Thankful for the beauty all around and the ability to get outside.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jack Eats Cheerios:

We have a really hard time keeping up with this guy and his appetite. At least he is so cute when he eats. Especially his morning cheerios.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Visit to Grandma Keena:

Last week we took a little trip over to see my Grandma Keena with my Dad. We had not been to Poplar Bluff for several years. She had met Henry was a wee baby but needed to meet the newest Castle baby and see just how much one little baby can change in a very short amount of time.

We had literally the perfect fall weather for the trip. We went to the Mingo Swamp National Park. We had the park to ourselves and enjoyed a mile long board walk through a surprisingly beautiful swamp. Henry kept looking at this map (which he would call his nap) and say "It says we are in the woods. And we might see some animals" then once he looked at it and said "It says we are in North America"...How does he know this stuff??

We had a tour of my dad's childhood. Saw some family graves, the house he came home from the hospital (which for the record did not have an indoor bathroom!!) and ate lunch at the only restaurant in town. We all ordered burgers except Grandma got chicken strips. Hamburgers are a pretty safe bet in places like that. They only took cash or check and still had a very large smoking section and the non-smoking (where we sat) section literally looked like the office/storage area. It honestly felt like we were in a different time. So strange.

We also squeezed in a trip to "Penny's" as my Grandma calls J.C Penny's and had several cups of McDonald's coffee. She is living in a different house than the house she lived in when I was growing up. In fact her old house burned down and so her home and all of her furnishings are new but somehow her house still smells exactly the same as the old house. It might just be the smell of the green Palmolive dish soap and a never empty canister of coffee on the counter. Those staples have not changed.

We watched baseball games in the evenings. Henry played on the old play set in her back yard. Henry helped Grandma make scrambled eggs for breakfast. We were constantly hopping up and down moving glass bowls, vases, and all the other fun things a busy 11 month old baby are automatically drawn to. We had dinner at Ryan's one night and Henry was introduced to the wonder of the dessert bar with soft-serve ice-cream and as many sprinkles as you want.

Dad and I drove the boys home together. We stopped off at Alley Springs to do some exploring. Henry was in awe of the water falls, caves, and again we had just the perfect fall crisp air.

We love our time with Papa and it was extra special this time also getting to see Grandma.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween 2014:

Doug was working Halloween so we skipped out on trick-or-treating but the boys and I did end up eating Cherry Berry together because I figured we should do something special together. Jack loved the strawberries and Henry loved the mini m&m's and the Sponge Bob they had playing.

Thankfully we had a fall festival here at camp on Sunday so we were still able to put our children in adorable costumes. One little gorilla and one little monkey. (p.s. borrowing Halloween costumes is the way to go! I am so thankful for the plethora of children we know in our lives). I sure do love my little primates.

Monday, November 3, 2014

11 Months:

Oh Jack, You are just getting better and better. Here are some fun things about month 11.

- You went from zero to five teeth within days. I kid you not. It was a rough lead up to the five poking through but that is a lot at one time so we are not holding it against you.
- You wave all the time and it is absolutely adorable. You are very social and friendly and often try to dive out of my arms to go say hi to people. Even strangers in gas stations. I think you are going to have to learn social boundaries soon, son.
- Sleep is still a little hit or miss.Cutting teeth really makes things difficult. You generally have pretty good nights. And you are a pro-napper. Generally about an hour in the morning and then a two hour nap in the afternoon.
- You eat and eat and eat. Everything still. And you are still screaming very loudly in between bites. You get really excited any time you see a piece of bread and you love crackers. You sign for "more" but it is just a really maybe you are actually just being extra friendly and telling us hi. But we think you are being a genius and signing.
- You and Henry are developing a pretty fun relationship. This month marks your first full out Henry tackle. You just lunged right on top of him and wrestled him to the ground. You both thought it was pretty fun.
- When we ask you to "do your trick" you put your hand in your mouth and make funny noises. Another funny thing you have been doing lately is laying on the ground on your back and kicking your feet up and down.
- You don't like being strapped down in your car seat, sitting still during diaper changes, or staying put in your high chair and grocery cart. So basically, you are right on course for being a super active baby boy.
- And Dad had you laughing really hard the other day because he was getting you dressed and he kept saying "how can you be wearing a 12 month shirt??" and you thought that was funny.
- If you have something in your mouth or hand you know you are not suppose to have and we see you, you crawl off super fast, laughing. Like you know exactly what you are doing.
- You get your feelings hurt pretty easily. Dad told you not to unplug the lamp in a firm voice and you sobbed. For about 10 minutes. How could he...
- This month also marks the first full melt down when Dad has left for work. He was cuddling you and holding you but had to put you down to leave. You just sobbed and crawled after him. One of those strangely sweet milestones. You really are forming a very sweet relationship with Dad.
- You are an absolute joy! We love love love watching you grow.