The new Junie B

No, we didn’t get a new cat (yet?). I mean this is like the Junie B books.

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This book is hilarious and has us all wondering how the author knows so much about Berkley. From the first page we were like, YES, look, it’s a picture of OUR family!!

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See??

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This little girl likes to talk and ask questions too!

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And she wants to stay in her winter night gown. Berkley LIVES in her fleece footies YEAR ROUND!

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We laughed the whole way through this book and were so excited to see a second one!!

Jan 2016

Boo was totally loving seeing the similarities (Dory likes to pretend to be a dog too…and her family won’t play fetch with her either!) and dressed in her nightgown (inside out of course) and made Dory’s imaginary friend out of paper and also a banana (it’s how she calls Nubbers).

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Anyone with a youngest child that’s weirder than the rest will LOVE this book!

 

 

New York gets it right; shocking, huh!?

Growing up I literally thought calling someone a “Yankee” was a way to insult them. To be fair, my dad was born and raised in New York (he left at 18 and stayed in Texas the rest of his life!) so I was taught that by a Yankee. But any other Texan would agree with him in their assessment of New York/New England: “Why live there when you can live in Texas?”

So you can imagine my hesitation to bake cookies with the title “NEW YORK TIME’S Chocolate Chip Cookies.” But then again, New York Times is legit, and the journalism major in me couldn’t deny that. So I made them. Then I made them again and again. Now I have dough portioned out and frozen in our freezer at all times. Brian and I may bake them after kids go to sleep on special nights.

Let’s be honest: we have it down to a science.

I pull out the dough to a cookie sheet and top them with salt, sounds odd but it’s the best part!

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but not just any salt, it has to be this kind in our house:

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Got this from my brother Scott who didn’t look at the quantity he was purchasing and apparently has salt to last until 2030 now. Also, side story: this salt looks like fancy sugar when is in a cute bowl and put next to the coffee machine at his house. I added big ol’ spoonful of this stuff to my coffee one morning. Who keeps fancy salt by the coffee maker?!?

Then I start the oven. Brian puts the milk in cups (it’s best in stemless wine glasses!) and in the freezer to get extra cold. After they bake exactly 13 minutes they need to sit on the cookie sheet and cool for a few minutes to set. Then we have a “draft.”

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We each get a napkin and one of us goes first and chooses a cookie, then the other one gets to pick one while the first person sweats it out hoping the second person won’t pick their next draft pick. Person one picks again and the person two gets the last one. Do we really care which cookie we get? No. Can you tell a difference when you eat it? No. We are just nerds like that and it’s our favorite part!

Jan 2016

These are best out of the oven, I honestly can’t attest to how they are totally cooled (hence why we keep the dough frozen and ready to bake in small batches) and I use a different recipe for cookies we aren’t eating right away (these or these). But for hot cookies, these can’t be beat!

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Probably the biggest secret to these? Letting the dough sit in the fridge for a few days before cooking. We have baked them the day I made the dough or even the next, and they are good, just not addicting. Three days is the sweet spot.

Here’s the “Yankee” recipe. It’s picky. But so am I, I’m gonna make these calories worth it!

THE NEW YORK TIMES CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

 INGREDIENTS: 

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8½ ounces) cake flour (yes, buy cake flour. You will make these again and use it all up!)
1 & 2/3 cups (8½ ounces) bread flour (this one can be subbed with all-purpose)
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 & 1/3 cups (20 ounces) dark chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content (I prefer closer to 15 oz. And I usually do 10 oz dark and 5 oz semi-sweet)
Sea salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

1. Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

3. Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours. (The longer the better! After 3 days, I scoop them and freeze the dough in balls ready to bake.)

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

4. Scoop dough, roll into a rough ball and place on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 12-13 min. Let sit for a few minutes on the baking sheet to set.

 

Sledding Fun Day!

We were recently trying to explain to the kids how much snow we had seen when we were their ages. None. MAYBE a flurry if you looked closely and quickly. So even sledding is new to both Brian and I.

This year is the golden year: everyone is old enough to sled!!!

Snowie days

The city has made a big sledding hill at one of the parks. There are three different “courses” even: small, medium and super fast!

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Some of our neighbors moved a while ago, and they were throwing out this sled! I honestly thought it would make nothing more than a fun photo prop, I’d never seen a read wood and metal sled! The kids wanted to bring it when we went and holy cow were we glad! That thing is so fast AND you can steer it with your feet!!

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The thing with sledding is that you can get some serious speed…this apparently didn’t worry Berkley like it did me! 
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Where’s the escalator in this place??
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Berkley was fearless!

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After she had gone once with both of us she wanted to go alone on the big hill even!

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Becks was a rock star sledder
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Even when he had to dodge snow balls as he’s heading down the hill!

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Once everyone had been down once they were all brave enough to go alone, but that meant Brian and I needed to convince them to let us go down with them now!! Here was Becks being nice to me! :) 
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That snow ball she’s holding is in a Ziploc in our freezer. I’m not sure why. 
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The girls paired themselves up!
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Even the wipes outs were fun!Jan 2016

The boys saw some college girls taking a selfie video on the way down and stole the idea!
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This boy is growing tooooooo fast!! Jan 2016
I have no idea what’s going on here. Sometimes I just don’t ask. (I just take the picture…) 
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We call them The Littlests. Watch out for them. They can be trouble, but they will make you laugh while they do it!

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No one complained at all about climbing back up the hill every time, but after a while, they did slow down some! 
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Self Diagnosis: Structural Resistance & Advanced Consequence Denial

My name is Brian. I am 37 years old and suffer from Structural Resistance & Advanced Consequence Denial. Which of course is an imaginary diagnosis. The first phrase helps explain that I believe structure is important to life and yet I do not often live with structure. The second is a very common malady which explains I have the intellectual capacity to understand the basic idea of cause and effect or as we know it: “practicing wise decisions typically results in positive consequences.” As well “unwise decisions typically result in negative consequences.”

Let me give an example. I’m 37 years old and I’m still learning their are positive results from going to bed at a time we in our culture call “early,” but 100 years ago would have just been called “bed time.” I starting tracking my sleep in the fall using a Fitbit device. I found the time I actually went to sleep varied greatly, from 9pm to 1am depending on the day. My total hours of sleep ranged from 4 to 10 hours. As the calendar turned to 2016 I started to really turn off the TV or iPad at 9pm so that reading was the only option. (Somedays I still made an exception and I would feel the results of that decision for at least two days: poor sleep, sleeping in, waking up feeling behind already, less energy, generally feeling less joy.)

I developed a great habit that mirrored Laura who goes to bed at basically 9pm every night no matter what. I’d be up before 6, meeting with God in his Word and prayer. My mind was sharp and my days productive.

But as often happens I recently made a decision in the moment, a decision which was easy to convince myself was a fine decision, despite it going against the well thought out plan, which was get to bed at 9 something, read until you fall asleep.

What I did was hang out with students after RUF, I had a great time laughing and hearing stories. But it was midnight before I headed home and now it’s two days later and I still feel the results of getting off of a set sleep pattern. I’m tired, my mind is foggy, I didn’t get up and read Scripture or pray, I have stuff to do and I don’t want to do it.

It’s like this: people tell me a consistent early bed time is good for me. Science supports this, limited experience supports this and yet in practice I act as though I’m the exception. Yes, I agree that’s good for people, but really I’m a night person. Really? What does that even mean? I’ve said that phrase so many times speaking of myself and really what I mean is I don’t have enough self-control to go to bed when I could be hanging out with people or watching TV or surfing the endless internet. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t recall people telling me they are up late being productive (unless it’s a result of backing themselves into a corner on a project that is due the next day). I just can’t remember anyone telling me they love to sit and read scripture at midnight and then sleep in the next day.

Obviously there are exceptions to this, but go with me here, as my life is not one of the exceptions.

I know from experience my late night engagements are vegging on tv, or reading news or Facebook. It’s never anything in the category of productive. So here is the deal. I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a morning person and a night person so much as a person with self-control and a person who lacks self-control. I’m only ok saying this and not feeling self-righteous because I clearly belong to the category of person who lacks self-control.

Today I’d like to begin to change my category. I’d like to learn to develop this fruit of the Sprit that God has given to us as we are his children. So knowing there will be failures I am making a new effort to go to bed no latter than 10pm, preferably 9pm. Going to bed means in bed, reading something of substance, a novel or Christian book, but not a blog or Facebook. So if you see me laughing on your couch at 10pm send me home and I’ll thank you in the morning…or at least by afternoon when you finally wake up :-)

Gusty Gusters

Berkley is the most extroverted of all of us. She just doesn’t run out of juice. Ever.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Brian had Berkley at Becks’ baseball game this summer and he started texting me Berkley’s dialogue. You can’t make this stuff up…

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I can’t leave them anywhere…

I took Beckham and Berkley to haircuts, that meant we left Sadie Piper and Brian home alone one afternoon. This didn’t seem like the best idea, they egg each other on. Here’s what we came home to, the two of them on the roof…in one sweatshirt (SP apparently swore she didn’t need one when Brian told her to get one, and then changed her mind!)!

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Here’s the other havoc they wrecked
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Brian found this background and even left the ball there to complete the panic in me

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There was also some furniture rearranging

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December 2015 Pics

While we were gone they also got on the neighbor’s roof!

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SP and I were up before the sun the next day so we let her sleep on it that night! 
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Then Brian put me out of my misery and put it all back to normal!

Berkley’s crafts

For Berkley’s 6th birthday she got a lot of great stuff. But if you ask her what she got, she will tell you “a tape dispenser!!” This girl goes through tape and paper like Brian goes though tortilla chips. We had to get her tape in bulk to keep up

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Here’s a recent use of tape and paper, her “castle”:

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Not surprisingly her favorite subject is art. She LOVES art class days! This week she made a wallet:
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This is her driver’s license (Kansas!)

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That’s her Target card on the left. And pictures of her kids. Jan 2016

More kids and a Dillons card!Jan 2016

And some money! Jan 2016

She gets suuuuper detailed on her stuff. Pictures didn’t do this MarioKart track justice, so here she is explaining it:

She’s also made “stuffed animals”

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She stuffed it with the scraps, pretty good thinking!

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And we also always have an art wall that the girls put up. It changes every so often, so I never know what they will put up there!

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Raking leaves with Boo

Ask our old neighbors the Youngs, they will attest to the fact that we hate raking leaves. It wasn’t something we grew up doing (one because there are no seasons in Houston, and two because the only trees we have in north Houston were evergreen pine trees anyways), so it’s taken us a while to figure this out!

The wind at our house whipped around and piled them for us this year! Woohoo!

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Then Berkley of all people said we really need to rake them! I was so shocked she wanted to help…until I realized all she really just wanted to do was jump in them.

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But at least I had company while I raked! IMG_4549

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How can one girl be so weird…

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…and so pretty at the same time?!

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Then she does stuff like this too, so it was worth all the extra work!

Peace is beautiful and ugly

Peace with God
Laura and I were watching a television show called Madam Secretary. It is about a fictional Secretary of State played by Tea Leoni. In a recent episode she’s been working on a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine (which is not so fictional). Many lives are lost in the process. American, Russians and Ukrainian. The whole process is a very difficult and messy effort. At the end of the episode someone reflects on how great it is that the peace agreement was finally reached and she responded, “Peace is a beautiful thing, making peace is not.”
That statement resonated with me as I thought about the Gospel, about the peace we have with God through Jesus.
Having peace with God is a beautiful thing, the making of that peace with God was not.
The death of Jesus was a very violent, ugly event. It doesn’t take much to imagine the pain, the blood, the exhaustion and that doesn’t even begin to explain the pain we can’t see with our eyes. The anguish as the wrath of God is poured out on Jesus.
So Jesus went through that ugly event in history to be the sacrifice, for the payment of our debt we owe because of our sin. So Jesus died on a cross because that’s how he could make peace with God for His people. A horrendous event, a beautiful result. Praise be to God.

Dancing and jumping (and jumping and jumping)

This started when they asked me to watch the dance show (we also have a lot of dance shows around here) IMG_4589

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And then she just jumps!! 
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I’m so shocked at how she looks in the picture, I show them.
Which started an evening of jumping for pictures!IMG_4595Here’s a pretty typical progression from “normal to Berkley”

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I mean the face, really?!
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These two are our weirdest:

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IMG_4622And then the jump! 
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They were cracking me up! They would jump, then come look at the picture, discuss how they will adjust and jump again!
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But Berkley’s jumping face can’t be beat!IMG_4627
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SP’s face!

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And no bones were broken! It was a good day!