Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Perfect Present

Christmas is about much more than getting gifts. But I'm not gonna lie: getting gifts is part of what I love about Christmas. Remnants of little-kid excitement still surge through me when I sit in front of the Christmas tree and rip into my presents.

But this year I discovered something that's even more fun than getting a Kohls giftcard and argyle socks. And that's seeing Baby Brown Eyes' reactions to his presents.  

Maybe he was just imitating us, but every present was met with a little squeal of delight, even the clothes we got for him that I know he couldn't care less about. He handed his Cars 2 corvette back to me, insisting that I open it for him. And he snatched his tractor book out of my hands, flipped open the pages, and murmured low "oohs" and "whoas" over every picture.

As we expected, his favorite present was his ride-on truck:

We covered it with a blanket and tried to hide it in the corner to give to him after all his other presents were opened, but he's too smart for us. He darted over to it, pulled off the blanket, opened the door and hopped in. Not a moment's pause to oogle or exclaim over it. He grabbed ahold of that steering wheel like he meant business. And refused to get out to open any of his other presents.

That was just the beginning.

The day after Christmas, he dragged me out of bed before the sun was fully up and led me straight to the living room, where his truck was waiting to be played with. I can't count how many rounds we made through the house, me pushing him and making car sounds while he laughed delightedly. When we left to go over to my parents' house, he reached for his truck and cried.

The next morning: same thing. And when we put Baby's shoes on and told him we were going to the store, he pushed his truck toward the door as if it was coming with us. We had to pry his little fingers from the steering wheel and lug him outside to the car while his cries and screams reverberated over the entire neighborhood.

We found the perfect present for Baby Brown Eyes, all right.

I had no idea he'd love his truck this much.

Next year he's just getting clothes.

I love that boy,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Praying for Patience

Be careful what you pray for.

That's a little lesson I learned one summer morning when I woke up to see that our yard had become a lake lapping against our back door, puddling into the laundry room, and swallowing our front porch. My husband had left the irrigation gates open just a little, just enough, over a few hours' time, to start flooding our house.

Normally, when things like that happen, I get stressed out and grumpy and take it out on Mr. Brown Eyes, making us both stressed out and grumpy. But somehow, that day, I was able to keep my cool. We sucked up water with the shop-vac, set up fans, and set our wet stuff outside in the sun to dry. Then we had a whole lazy Saturday to spend together while the waters receded from our house. What started out as a disaster turned out to be one of the best days Mr. Brown Eyes and I had spent together in a long time.

I liked the feeling of being able to stay calm and patient in the face of trouble, so I prayed that I could be like that more often.

If you have any doubts as to whether or not God answers prayers, let me ease your mind on the subject.

The next thing I knew, our air conditioner went out. In the middle of an Arizona summer. While the part we needed was shipped, the temperature in our house reached ninety-six degrees. We practically lived in the shower, my parents' house, in front of fans, anywhere we could keep the sweat from pouring down our faces.

Not a week later, our washing machine stopped in the middle of a load. I tried everything to get it started again; I cried, cajoled, kicked, offered my firstborn. Nothing. I finally called Mr. Brown Eyes at work and told him the whole tragic story, adding that there was now a puddle underneath the dryer.

"That's impossible," he said. "There's no part of the dryer that would leak water."

"Well, that's what I see," I snapped, then took a deep breath. Patience, Rachel.


Oh, right. I did pray for that, didn't I?

Of course, when I prayed for patience, I was thinking more along the lines of a simple bestowal of the virtue, like being sprinkled with fairy-dust. I forgot that the Lord usually teaches us patience by giving us patience-creating experiences.

The good thing is that He is also there to help us as those experiences develop patience within us. Despite the initial frustration of things breaking down, both the air conditioner and the washer ended up being simple fixes and the Lord blessed Mr. Brown Eyes with the know-how to take care of them. In addition to being just that much more patient with each other, our trust in the Lord was strengthened as well.

So when other things fall apart, we can calmly put our trust in Him.

One night a few weeks later a summer storm unleashed on us. I smiled to myself as rain pelted our windows, lightning flashing and thunder rumbling. Then I heard another sound. A steady drip coming from the dining room. I got out of bed and peered around the doorway. Sure enough, droplets of rain were forming on the ceiling and creating a small puddle on the wood floor. I sighed.

And rued the day I prayed for patience.

Still learning,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

As my Christmas gift to you, I am giving you the recipe for my Mom's amazing Christmas cookies. They are a family tradition. I can't remember a Christmas without them. They are seriously the best Christmas cookies ever.

Not that I'm biased or anything.

Mom's Christmas Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar, vanilla and eggs with an electric mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix well. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about 3/8 inches and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for eight minutes (unless the cookies are cut thinner, then give them less time).

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then frost. We use buttercream frosting, but I've also tried cream cheese frosting and this deliciousness, and both have been wonderful.

Don't forget the sprinkles!


Merry Christmas!
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christ in Christmas

"Although he healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk and the blind to see, there is no miracle comparable to the miracle of Christ himself.

We live in a world of pomp and power...In this kind of world it is not easy to recognize that—

A baby born in a stable of the village of Bethlehem,

A boy reared as a carpenter of Nazareth,

A citizen of a conquered and subdued nation,

A man whose mortal footsteps never went beyond a radius of 240 kilometers, who never received a school degree, who never spoke from a great pulpit, who never owned a home, who traveled on foot and without purse, is actually the Creator of heaven and earth and all that in them are...

[H]e is the author of our salvation and his the only name whereby we must be saved...

[H]is matchless example [became] the greatest power for goodness and peace in all the world...

Jesus Christ is more than the symbol of a celebration. He is the Son of God, the Creator of the earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, the Redeemer of mankind, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace."

--Gordon B. Hinckley
"What Shall I Do Then with Jesus Which is Called Christ?"

Here's to the Reason for Christmas,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Two Days of Sickness

This week I had the wonderful experience of being vomited on for the very first time.

Baby Brown Eyes woke up early, happily jabbering and crawling over our bed. Mr. Brown Eyes and I tried to snatch a few extra minutes of sleep, watching Baby through half-closed eyes. It's always hard to wake up on these dark winter mornings when our bed is so warm. But we were rudely awakened when Baby leaned over me and emptied the contents of his stomach. I've never seen Mr. Brown Eyes jump out of bed so fast.

While I was at work, Mr. Brown Eyes kept me updated on the state of Baby's illness. He even made it into a song, sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas":

Six spots on the rug, five vomits later, four pairs of clothes, three sheets off the bed, two naps later, you have one...haaaappy...kid.

So after two days of washing vomit-scented clothes, shoving a syringe of medicine into Baby's screaming mouth, and watching PBS until my brain felt ready to explode, Baby seems much better. I really can't complain, though, because Mr. Brown Eyes had Baby all to himself through the worst of it, and he handled it like a pro. If it had been me, I don't know how many curdled-milk vomits I could have taken before I vomited, too. Just the smell of it, when I came home, made me cringe.

Mr. Brown Eyes is a paramedic; he's used to that sort of thing.

That's why I married him.

That, and his amazing rear-end.

Hoping I'm not puked on again for a very long time,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Dictionary of Mr. Brown Eyes

First Edition

Absorbant: (adjective) Highly excessive (i.e. exorbitant)

Aloof: (adjective) Hard of hearing
A loof (noun): nerd

Dethaw: To take out of the freezer and allow to defrost

Egregiously: (adjective) Furiously, intensely

Greedful: (adjective) Greedy

Honky: (noun) An Italian dumpling, also known as gnocchi.

Irregardless: (adjective) Without regard (a word one uses when trying to annoy The Brown-Eyed Girl)

Jubilated: (adjective) Happy

Macabre: (adjective) Gloomy, in a bad mood

Trepidaceous: (adjective) Mr. Brown Eyes was trying to use this word to describe me. He wouldn't tell me what it meant. That was probably very wise of him.

His vocabulary. It's one of the many things I love about Mr. Brown Eyes.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Make a Cowboy

During my single college years, I had an ideal. I'm sure everyone does, but mine was very specific: a dark-haired cowboy. And not just any cowboy. Mine had to be a good Mormon cowboy. Which narrowed the field. Considerably. But I was determined that becoming a country wife on some desolate ranch was part of my destiny.

One afternoon at work, I got into a conversation with a wise co-worker about dating and how hard it was to meet anyone. He told me about a girl he really liked who wasn't sure if she wanted to date him because she had always pictured herself with someone more athletic.

I laughed out loud. "That's ridiculous!" Then I caught myself, remembering my cowboy obsession. But I was different, I explained to him. I wanted a cowboy because horses were a big part of my life and I wanted them to always be, not just because I'd always pictured myself with a cowboy.

"Bags," he said, which is what most of my friends called me back then, "don't you think that even if a guy isn't a cowboy, if he loves you, he'll learn about horses and how to ride? As long as he has all the really important qualities you want in a guy, the less-important ones will work themselves out."

As hard as it was for me to admit to myself, it made sense. Perfect sense, actually. I wondered how many great guys I had passed over because they didn't meet my ideal. Taking my friend's advice to heart, I decided to start dating with a more open mind.

Fast-foward two years. I meet Mr. Brown Eyes, who is not dark-haired or a cowboy. But I throw my ideal to the wind because I am so in love with everything about him.

And, wouldn't you know it, things unfolded just the way my co-worker said they would.

Even though he didn't know anything about horses, Mr. Brown Eyes was fully supportive of my desire to buy a house with horse property. Then he spent an entire July afternoon in the thick, blistering summer heat, welding a fence so my horse, Sultan, could come live with us. He shoveled manure, loaded hay, stayed home when the horseshoer came, even listened to Sultan's bowel sounds with a stethoscope on several occasions when Sultan refused to eat.

Nope, he wasn't a cowboy.

But he loved me, and took an interest in what I loved. Which made me so happy, I couldn't believe I had ever thought that marrying a cowboy was so important. I never really imagined that a few years later he would be loping around the pasture on a horse of his own, that we would be riding together into the sunset, that he would be asking for a cowboy hat and boots for Christmas.

Oh, and a holster for his cowboy gun.

That wasn't really part of my vision. But I'll take it.

Turns out setting aside my silly ideal was some of the best advice I've ever taken.

I've got my cowboy,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my blog! It turns a year old today!

To celebrate, and reward all my faithful readers, I would like to do a giveaway.

The first lucky reader to comment on this post will receive this:

Oh, wait, I already ate that.

I mean, the first reader to post a comment will be the lucky recipient of this:

Oh, wait, Mr. Brown Eyes might have a problem with that.

I mean, you'll get this:

Danielle Bright Photography
Ok, some days, after long nights of her jumping onto my face when I'm trying to sleep, I am inclined to give her away. But not today.

All right, I have a dilemma. I want to do a giveaway, but what on earth does someone give away on their blog's first birthday? If you happen to be my sister, I can just make you cookies, but what about my dear readers who don't live in Arizona? Would you mind if your cookies arrived in crumbs? I certainly would. It's hard to sink your teeth into a bunch of crumbs.

So, give me a shout. What would make an awesome giveaway? If I like your suggestion, I just might get it for you. If I don't get any comments, well, then, I'll just celebrate my blog's birthday alone in my kitchen, blowing out the one candle on my cupcake all by myself.

Happy One Year!

Who wants a cat?
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, November 28, 2011

Belated Halloween Pictures

This year we took Baby Brown Eyes trick-or-treating for the very first time. He was the world's cutest dragon with his little wagging tail and fearsome roar.


Everyone loved him. Some people gave him extra candy for being so cute. Others gave him extra for having cool parents who dressed up, too.

I love Halloween. I think as the years pass I will probably enjoy dressing up for it more than my kids. They will probably just look at me and roll their eyes. And ask me to walk ten feet behind them. 

Anyway, Baby Brown Eyes' adorableness got him quite a bit of candy. Way too much for a little eighteen month-old. So I helped him eat it.

It's what mothers do.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

P.S. Doesn't Mr. Brown Eyes look good in his kilt?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Came, I Wrote, I Conquered

Whew! 50,264 words and one complete novel later, I have conquered National Novel Writing Month. Hooray!

It was a frustrating and amazing experience. I'll tell you more about it later.

I've missed you so much, little blog.

I'm glad to be back!

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking a Break

My dear (few but faithful) readers:

Starting tomorrow, I am plunging headfist into National Novel Writing Month, in which I will write 50,000 words (or 100 pages) of novel in thirty days. Alas, this means I will not have any words to spare for my blog during the month of November. Which makes me sad because this month will mark my blog's one-year birthday. I promise we will celebrate in December.

In the meantime, cheer me on! In thirty days I will have a complete first draft of a new novel. And a really big headache.

Oh, and Happy Halloween.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Six Years of Halloween Bliss

I've always loved Halloween. As a little kid, it was probably the pillowcase full of candy that swayed my heart, but as I got older--too old for trick-or-treating, according to some people--I still loved Halloween for the opportunity it gave me to play dress up--another childhood tradition I never grew out of.

Mr. Brown Eyes has been a good sport and always played along:

2007 - Indiana Jones and his heroine. These costumes won us a prize at the Singles Ward Halloween Party.

2008 - Popeye and Olive Oyl
2009 - Woody and Little Bo Peep
Last year, Baby Brown Eyes got to join in on the fun:

2010 - Doctor and Nurse and the Little Monkey Who Fell Off the Bed and Bumped His Head
 Our Annual Halloween Party takes place tomorrow. This is year six. It started off simple enough, me and my sisters making some food, throwing together a few games, and maybe putting up some decorations. But the last few years the party has been held at our house, and my dear husband is a pathological overachiever. His ideas are always amazing and elaborate and take a lot of time to execute. Which wouldn't be so bad. If we started on them months before instead of, say, last week.

This year Mr. Brown Eyes wanted to build a haunted house in our garage. It will be amazing.

If it's done in time.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Still looking forward to the candy,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Haunted House

Today's Prompt (in the spirit of Halloween): Using all the senses--sight, sound, smell, taste, touch--and specific detail--describe a haunted house.
(Reprinted by permission all rights reserved (c) C.M. Mayo "Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"

The house is shrouded by overgrown trees, their branches scraping against the windows and blocking the sunlight. But no birds sing. The decorative windows on the french doors are broken; only jagged fragments, like rows of sharp teeth, remain. Inside, the air is stale and musty, so thick with foul smells it makes you gag. As your eyes adjust to the darkness, you manuever down the front hallway. Spiderwebs cling to your face and arms, making you jump. You reach out to steady yourself against the wall and brush your fingers against something damp and slimy. You recoil in horror and walk faster.

At first glance the house almost appears to still be inhabited: books lay scattered on the coffee table, some open as if they were still being read; rotted fruit is piled in a basket on the kitchen counter; beds are unmade; laundry is left unfolded. But a thick layer of dust coats the shelves, tables, the old grandfather clock, still slowly ticking. No one living has been here for a very long time.

Everywhere there is that sensation of being watched--as if a pair of eyes lurked behind every sofa, every rail of the banister, every closed door, but a glance reveals nothing. The only sounds are the screeching of the trees against the windows, anxious to get in, the slow tick of the grandfather clock, and the uneasy rattle of your own breath.
Anyone have any real-life haunted house stories to share? Growing up, I was sure my parents' house was haunted, but that's a story for another day.

Happy Halloween!
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Story in Pictures

It's a hot summer day in downtown Phoenix. Not much to do but stand in the shade and read the paper.

And hope that something interesting happens.

That's more like it.

Helloo ladies.

Maybe this hot summer afternoon won't be so boring after all.

They get the girls in the end.

Which was the plan all along.

Pictures courtesy of my creative and talented sister. She's a budding photographer with a fancy camera and an urge to get lots of practice. Which works perfectly with my love of playing dress-up. And that little thing called vanity I've spoken of before.

I'm sure there will be more "story in pictures" posts in the future.

Say cheese,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, October 17, 2011


If you like to write, or have a magnificent idea for a novel brewing in your head, you should participate in this.

I am.

I'm so excited.

Just thought I'd let you know,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Pure Love of Christ

At a recent sold-out Diamondbacks game, I found myself pushing, shouldering, and "excuse-me"-ing my way through a milling concourse of people. I hate crowds anyway, and that day I was particularly perturbed. So perturbed that, as I clutched Baby Brown Eyes to me and squeezed between groups of people who seemed to be purposely blocking my way, I grumbled to myself, "I hate people."

Once I found my seat (and my husband), took a deep breath, and got some Panda Express inside of me, I felt considerably less hostile toward the human race. But as I reflected on the experience, while I was pretty sure I didn't actually hate people, I knew I didn't particularly love them, either.

That realization bothered me. I know, as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I need to love people. The Savior himself tells us, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

But how?

Loving people isn't easy. Especially people you don't know.

When Mr. Brown Eyes and I were first married, he played softball with the stake league. I faithfully attended his games. One night while Mr. Brown Eyes was playing second base, the third baseman threw the ball wide and instead of landing in Mr. Brown Eyes' glove, it smashed into the face of the teenage boy running for second. It was nothing life-threatening, but Mr. Brown Eyes felt responsible so we drove the boy--I'll call him Dustin--to the emergency room.

While we were there, we were privileged to meet Dustin's mother, who greeted Mr. Brown Eyes by saying, "So you're the one who hurt my son."

We were silent for a moment, thinking she was just joking and any second her hard little face would break into a teasing smile. But it didn't, and as Mr. Brown Eyes opened his mouth to defend himself, she started to rant about how she was going to press charges and take us for all we had. The more Dustin and his step-dad tried to calm her down, the more she raged, until finally, though my tongue burned with all the angry things I wanted to say, Mr. Brown Eyes grabbed my hand and we left.

That night, as we were reading our scripures, we came across the words, "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men."

Note how the verse makes no exception for crazy, litigation-hungry mothers. Nope. All men.

I repeat, loving people is not easy. But thankfully, as I've been learning these last few months, the Lord doesn't expect us to just wake up one day and love everyone. As it says in the above scripture, "the Lord make you to increase and abound in love."

The pure love of Christ, or charity, is not something we develop on our own, the culmination of all our acts of kindness. It is something the Lord blesses us with. Moroni, the Book of Mormon prophet, tells us:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ."

In order to be blessed with charity, we have to pray for it. I remember as a young girl begging my parents to buy me a horse. I imagine the zeal and desperation with which I begged is similar to what Moroni means by, "with all the energy of heart." And then, as we pray, we have to move forward, showing the Lord by the way we live our lives that we are sincere in our desire to love, that we are His true followers.

For me, I think it will be a lifelong effort. But as I pray, and as I make little, everyday choices to love--to smile at that stranger, to see my husband's point of view, to really listen to someone--I feel my ability to love expanding.

In the words of President Dieter Uchtdorf, I want love to be my walk and my talk.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Hunger

It's amazing what a year does to a baby.

A year ago, Baby Brown Eyes looked like this:

Now look at him:

I love this age. Baby is so fun and learning new things everyday. He's started imitating us, folding his arms during prayer, following me around with his push-toy while I'm vacuuming, leaning in for a kiss when he sees Mr. Brown Eyes and I locking lips. Every day he makes me laugh and melts my heart.

But I do miss his little baby days, when I could snuggle him close and he didn't squirm away. When he had a toothless smile and impossibly chubby thighs.

I understand now the feeling a mother gets when she's ready for another baby. My arms ache for it. Memories of those sleepless, emotional, spit-up covered newborn days have dulled to the point that they're now pleasant to recall. Even the thought of labor doesn't seem too terrible. Although, in the agonizing midst of my labor with Baby Brown Eyes, I swore to Mr. Brown Eyes that I would never give birth again.

I was just teasing.

A year and half has passed, and I can't wait to do it all over again.

I think that's all part of Heavenly Father's plan.

The Baby-Hungry Girl

"Time Elasticity"

Today's Prompt: List 10 situations / activities that make time go slow. Then list 10 situations / activities that make time speed up.
(Reprinted by permission all rights reserved (c) C.M. Mayo "Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"

Time slows--
when I have nothing to do at work
when I'm starving two hours before lunchtime
when I'm sitting at a red light and I'm in a hurry
when Mr. Brown Eyes is at work
when I'm waiting to get pregnant again
when I'm running on a treadmill
during an awkward conversation
when I'm waiting for water to boil
when the robots start fighting again in the "Transformers" movies. Yawn.
when Mr. Brown Eyes goes to buy ice cream. And I really want it.

Time flies--
when I'm lying in Mr. Brown Eyes' arms
when I'm reading a really good book
when I'm watching a good movie
on Christmas Day
when I'm in the dentist's office
when Baby Brown Eyes is napping
when I'm on a horse
when we haven't planned our Halloween party yet
when Baby Brown Eyes is making me laugh
when I want it to slow down

It's too bad we can't speed up and slow down time at will. If I could have one wish, that is what it would be.

How is time elastic for you?

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, October 6, 2011

That Far-Off Day

At almost eighteen months, Baby Brown Eyes is still very attached to nursing. For the most part, I'm ok with this. It's when he's up ten times a night to nurse, or clamps down on me while he falls asleep, or decides my nipple is a fun toy that should stretch like a rubber band, that I tell Mr. Brown Eyes, "I am so weaning him."

I never do, though. Maybe because nursing is still a quick, easy way to dry his tears when he's grumpy and get him to sleep when he's tired. Because I know, deep down, that he will wean himself when he's ready. And there's really no reason to rush him into it now.

The other day, I thought that far-off time had finally come. When I came home from work, Baby didn't seem very interested in nursing. I tried to encourage him to because I was very full, but he started fussing. So I gave him a sippy cup of milk. And he toddled happily away.

Shocked, I turned to Mr. Brown Eyes. "I think he's weaning," I said sadly.

Mr. Brown Eyes laughed shortly. "That's what you've been wanting, isn't it?"

It was. But it wasn't at the same time. Even as glorious visions of sleep-filled nights and un-sore nipples flooded my mind, I felt deeply depressed. I realize this was probably mostly hormone-related, but all the same, I was slightly relieved the next day when Baby continued his nursing routine as if nothing had happened.

I always thought the day Baby weaned was so far away, but it could be closer than I think. As could all those other milestones that seem so far-off: speaking in sentences, potty-training, going to school, growing facial hair, driving a car, dating, going on a mission, going to college, getting married...

I think he will be ready to wean before I am.

Nursing another day,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hello Fall

Today's Prompt: What is your favorite season?

My answer to this question varies, depending on the time of year. I'm fickle. I love the bursting green buds of spring, but I also love the chill of winter, drinking hot chocolate in my living room while a fire crackles in the fireplace. And I also love the cool, mellow days of fall. And summer--well, I don't love anything about summer except jumping into the swimming pool and traveling far, far away from the desert.

So today, seeing that it's October, I'm going to have to say that my favorite season is fall, or autumn, as it's often more eloquently called. The blazing summer makes me appreciate fall even more. The temperature dips, the brilliant blue of the sky softens, and I can step outside without feeling like I'm walking into an oven.  I know it's fall when I can turn the AC off and open the windows, when the nearby racetrack roars to life, when the horses start getting shaggy, and crunchy gold leaves--perfect for stomping--start collecting on my back porch.

Fall means wearing boots and sweaters, playing outside, dressing up for Halloween, and pumpkin donuts.

Fall in Phoenix is like taking a big, deep, luxurious breath after holding it in for four months.

Yes, fall is the best time of year.

What's your favorite season?

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, September 30, 2011

What the...

Hello little blog. I've missed you.

This week has been really weird. For the following reasons:

1. For two days I felt like a full-time, working mom. Baby Brown Eyes was asleep when I left for work, and when I got home I had maybe two or three hours with him before it was bedtime. To all you moms out there who work outside the home full-time: you are amazing. I don't know how you do it.

2. I brutally murdered a scorpion in my dishwasher. I finally stopped shivering in repulsion a few hours later. Now I want a new dishwasher.

3. I had two separate meltdowns, during which my emotions, which felt completely out of my control, swung wildly between anger, sadness, and confusion. And I'm not even pregnant.

4. My microwave became possessed.

5. A mosquito bit me on the bridge of my nose. And other unmentionable places.

6. Mr. Brown Eyes has had strep throat. Which means we haven't had a good make-out session for almost a week. Now that is weird. Sigh. And depressing.

7. I didn't blog.

I'm back now. Not sure how long the weirdness will be hanging around.

But I'll keep you updated.

Why my dishwasher?
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Brief Scene

Today's Prompt: Write a brief scene that includes the following: a wilting poinsettia; misgivings; a scruffy dog; a loud bang; the smell of boiled shrimp.
(Reprinted by permission all rights reserved (c) C.M. Mayo "Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"

Rebecca sat erect on the edge of the couch, willing away the wave of nausea that washed over her with the smell of boiled shrimp coming from the kitchen. She wasn't sure if it was her father's cooking or her own misgivings that were making her sick.

She smoothed the folds of her floor-length ball gown. She'd never dressed so extravagantly in all her life. But instead of feeling elated, she felt sinkingly like the wilting poinsettia on the coffee table. What was she thinking? She couldn't go to the party with Darren Bentley. She was sure to make a fool of herself. He was surely regretting his choice this very moment.

No, he was pulling into the driveway, his gleaming Jaguar making her father's Volvo look even shabbier than usual. She saw Darren jump out, dashing in his tailored black tux, heading for the front door. There was a loud bang when he knocked. Somehow she couldn't will her legs to move until her father appeared in the kitchen doorway, wiping his hands on a towel.

"Do you want me to get that, honey?"

"No." She leapt up, kicking aside the scruffy dog that curled up by the front door, and turned the knob.

That was fun,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Letter

Dear Monday:

You tried to sneak up on me. You tried to make me grumpy by ending a perfectly good weekend and shoving me off to work.

But you came in with a beautiful, crisp morning that almost feels like fall. In Phoenix, in September, that's unheard of.

You also brought my husband home, extra loving, full of kisses and snuggles.

You gave me time to play with Baby Brown Eyes before I had to leave for work.

And you gave me a Yoohoo for breakfast.

So you failed, Monday.

Instead of being rotten, you've actually been pretty darn wonderful.

Thank you.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Looking In

Some nights Baby Brown Eyes goes to sleep really easily and sleeps for hours. Other nights, it takes hours to get him to sleep and he wakes up constantly until the wee hours of the morning.

On nights like that, I tend to grumble.

Tired and sore from constant nursing, I silently wish for a toddler that slept on command.

As if such a thing exists.

When I get grumpy about Baby Brown Eyes not sleeping well, I get grumpy about everything. The plant Mr. Brown Eyes got me for Mother's Day that is now brown and dead despite all my best efforts. The spiderwebs strung outside my window that I swear I just swept away yesterday. The bills collecting on the kitchen counter that we have yet to pay. My horse that won't eat. Our car and its dying battery.

Last night was one of those not-so-easy nights.

After getting Baby back to sleep for the second time, and a good deal of grumbling, I spent some time on my knees, praying for strength and patience and an ability to see my blessings.

Then I crawled into bed and pretended, for a moment, that I wasn't me, but a stranger looking in on my life.

I saw Baby peacefully sleeping, his little hands tucked under his head.

I smelled the delicious breeze laden with the scent of rain as it drifted through the open windows, stirring the curtains. I heard the rain steadily pattering, dripping from the eaves of the house and the trees.

I saw a big, warm bed and my husband quietly snoring, arms flung out to the sides, exhausted from a long day of working and playing.

And then I knew, if I were a stranger standing outside in the warm yellow glow of my back porch, looking in through the windows of my rain-dripping house, that I would want to be me.
In answer to my prayer, Heavenly Father opened my eyes to everything I have. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I fell asleep in peace. And didn't mind too much when Baby woke me up again fifteen minutes later.

Gratitude. It's all a matter of perspective.

And don't worry, there aren't any strangers peeking in my windows.

That I know of.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

The Wrong House

Today's Prompt: It was the wrong house. Use this as your opening line and start writing.
(Reprinted by permission all rights reserved (c) C.M. Mayo "Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"

It was the wrong house.

We figured that out as soon as Abbie tripped over something in the grass and a siren blared to life and the outside lights of the house lit up so bright you'd swear it was a military base. We all crouched behind the Lexus in the driveway (a Lexus? Cassie doesn't drive a Lexus. Neither do her parents. That should have been our first clue), covering our ears, trying to stuff the remaining toilet-paper under our shirts.

That's when we heard the front door open. Or we thought we did. It was hard to tell over the siren. So I peered underneath the Lexus and saw the boots--well-worn, snake-skin cowboy boots--approaching down the sidewalk. Abbie wanted to run but the rest of us were frozen in fear. Before the boots found us, I caught the reflection of flashing red and blue lights in the glossy paint of the Lexus. A cop car pulled up at the end of the drive, blocking us in.

We gave ourselves up, emerging one by one from our hiding place, sheepish in our shirts stuffed full of toilet-paper. White ribbons of toilet paper waved from the trees and fluttered on the roof of the house. In a burst of creativity, I'd even wrapped the stone dogs flanking the door so they looked like mummies.

No words were needed. We were guilty as charged.

PS, this is purely fictional,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, September 9, 2011

Finding Peace

September 11, 2001. I remember exactly where I was and what I felt when I first heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. I imagine everyone who was alive that day remembers. It was one of those days that becomes seared into your memory, never to be forgotten.

The morning was still dark as I drove to Seminary with my little brother. I heard them say something on the radio about a plane crash in New York and that it possibly crashed into the World Trade Center, but at that point the news was so fresh nobody knew the tragic details. I went to Seminary, thinking little more of it. It was only after Seminary, as I drove with my friends to our high school next door, that I learned what really happened.

The radio station then played "God Bless the USA." Never had that song struck my soul the way it did that day. And it never has since. Fierce love and devotion for my country surged within me. I was proud to be an American.

Most of my classes that day were spent staring at a TV screen as images flashed across that would be forever burned in my mind. People, blackened by soot, running through the streets. An airplane, flying far too low. Engulfing flames and smoke. Then a tower, crashing to the ground amid a blinding fog of dust and rubble.

Between classes I would walk outside and look up at a calm, blue summer sky, finding it hard to believe that such tragedy and destruction existed beyond the horizon, when in my world it was just another day.

I was an invincible seventeen years-old on September 11, 2001. I had little experience with death or heartbreak. That day, my world was shaken. The future, always so secure, was suddenly uncertain and filled with fear, eggshell-fragile. Was the world ending? Would life as I knew it soon cease to exist? Would the terrorists win?

Thankfully, I was not left alone in my fear. In the days and months following September 11th, I had opportunities to listen to the words of the Lord's prophet on the earth at that time, Gordon B. Hinckley.

I remember distinctly when he said these words, "Now, I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us."

Right at that moment, my heart was filled with indescribable peace. As a prophet of God, I knew Gordon B. Hinckley spoke for the Lord Himself. And I was no longer afraid.

President Hinckley went on to say, "Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us."

Ten years later, with a family of my own and a husband who works as a first responder, I think I understand the tragedy of September 11th even more deeply. And the world certainly isn't any more secure and certain than it was on the dark day. But I still know where to turn for peace, and the Lord continues to speak to us through his prophet, Thomas S. Monson.

In a dark and terrifying world, Jesus Christ has promised us "peace which passeth understanding."

I can testify that that peace is real.

To read more of President Hinckley's talk, go here.

We will never forget,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Losing the Moustache

Mr. Brown Eyes shaved his moustache off yesterday.

After all the weeks it took to grow it, it was gone in three swipes of the razor.

I thought he might be kind of sad. That he might feel a bit like Samson with a haircut--drained of power. The moustache was kind of a big deal.

You see, Mr. Brown Eyes does not share my Italian heritage, which heritage means even my knuckles have hair on them and I have to shave my legs twice a day if I want them to stay smooth. It takes quite a bit of time--and patience--for Mr. Brown Eyes to grow facial hair. Which I don't mind. I've never been one to get giddy over facial hair. Especially moustaches.

But Mr. Brown Eyes was determined to prove to himself that he could grow a moustache. This began in earnest a few months ago, when he purchased a fake moustache from a quarter machine and proudly sported it all day at work. He sent me a picture and I laughed. I didn't expect him to come home the next morning still wearing it. But he did. And he asked me to kiss him.

I touched the furry mass on his top lip and refused.

"Kiss me!" he urged.

I laughed and shook my head. "It's just too...furry."

He then pinned me down and tried seductive tactics. I submitted to a little peck of a kiss, but the moustache tickled so much I just started laughing. "Kiss me passionately!" he insisted, but all I could do was giggle as he nuzzled my neck, telling me he was my Mexican lover. You try passionately kissing a man who looks like he's wearing a caterpillar on his upper lip. It's just not possible. Amusing, but impossible.

I remember thinking after that how glad I was that Mr. Brown Eyes couldn't grow a moustache.

The next thing I knew he was sprouting little blonde hairs above his lips.

The thrill of the fake moustache was too great to resist, I guess.

Unlike his first moustache attempt when we were newlyweds, this one grew in pretty thick and didn't look terrible. Well, according to Mr. Brown Eyes' sister it did, but I found myself feeling partial toward it and learning how to kiss Mr. Brown Eyes without it tickling too much. I liked hearing his stories of how "the moustache" gave him superhuman powers. Not that I wanted him to keep it forever. But every time he asked me if I wanted him to shave it off, I would tell him to just keep it a little longer. Even when we were getting haircuts at his sister's salon in Oregon, and she practically had the razor poised on his lip, I told him not to shave it off yet.

I guess I just thought he was more attached to the moustache than he was, and I didn't want to tell him to shave it off if he didn't want to. And all the while he kept asking me if I wanted him to shave it off, whether or not he wanted to. Both of us trying to think of the other person, not realizing the other person really didn't care either way.

Ah, love.

So yesterday the moustache came off in three quick seconds. And I was surprised at Mr. Brown Eyes' lack of remorse.

I guess once you grow a moustache for the first time, doing it again is no big deal. Now he could grow a beard if he wanted to.

But I sure hope he doesn't.

My Mexican lover
Kissing my husband without being tickled,
The Brown-Eyed Girl


Today's Prompt: Writing for one minute under each category, make a list of noises that remind you of:
(1) summer
(2) being in church
Also make a list of:
(3) beautiful noises
(4) kitchen noises
(5) shopping mall noises
(Reprinted by permission all rights reserved (c) C.M. Mayo "Giant Golden Buddha and 364 More 5 Minute Writing Exercises"

1. Remind me of summer:
cicadas buzzing; peacocks squawking; sizzle of the BBQ; splashing pool water; rumble of Mr. Brown Eyes' boat; hum of the air conditioner
2. Remind me of being in church:
babies crying; organ pipes; quiet; whispers; tinkle of plastic cups in Sacrament tray; patter of Cheerios being dropped on the floor; Baby Brown Eyes beating on the metal chairs
3. beautiful noises:
horse hooves on the road outside my house; tinkle of wind chimes; baby laughter; pitter-patter of rain; thunder crackling; Mr. Brown Eyes' voice; violin music; warble of a talented soprano; the soft slap of Baby's bare feet against the tile as he runs around the house
4. Kitchen noises:
microwave humming; clink of glasses or spoon against bowl; crinkle of cellophane; beater whirring; beeping oven or microwave; running water
5. Shopping mall noises:
ringing cellphones; chatter; music--soothing classical or the latest band; babies crying

When you write it enough times, "noise" is a funny-looking word, isn't it?

What do you hear?
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Crabby Tale

Today I would like to share an adventure with you.

Something new and fun that I had never done before.

Something called crabbing. 

It starts like this.

First, you drive to a cute, scenic little town nestled against a fishy-smelling bay. You acquire the proper permits and purchase some bait. You steal a bite of your husband's Snickers bar. Then you put your boat on the water and venture into the bay.

Then you search for the perfect spot to catch crab. I'm not really sure how a spot is determined perfect, other than trying a bunch of spots out and seeing if you catch crab or not. Which is done as follows:

Take your crab ring and bait it. We used dead fish and (dead, obviously) chicken. The smellier the better, as my brother-in-law says. I know, we're actually interested in eating something that's attracted to things like this. Gross. Yet so delicious. 

Next, you lower your ring (which is now a basket) into the water. If it helps to make a fierce, manly face while you do this, then, by all means, go for it.

Once you've lowered the ring all the way, the little buoy attached to the rope will remind you where it is. Go about your business for fifteen minutes or so. We had five other rings to drop elsewhere. But if you don't have anything else to do, be creative. Play charades. Buy auto insurance. Take a million pictures of nothing (like yours truly).

When the fifteen minutes or so are over, go ahead and yank that sucker back up to the surface. You can go slowly pulling the rope up, but once it gets heavy and the basket is close, go faster so the basket doesn't tip and dump the crabs out.

If you were successful, your basket will be full of creepy, long-legged little aliens scuttling about trying to pinch your face off.

Crab! Ahoy!

Sorry, just wanted to use that word.

Next, you must sort the crabs. Gloves are recommended. You're not allowed to keep females, so they must be thrown back. How do you tell the difference, you ask? Well, female crabs tend toward wearing bows and high heels, whereas the male crabs will more likely have little bowler hats on their heads.

If that doesn't help, look underneath. The female's abdomen, designed to hold her eggs for several months, is wider and squishier than the male's.

You must also sort the crabs by size. If the crab is too small, it gets thrown back to sea.

Goodbye little crab! Live like there's no tomorrow! Remember, it's not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away!


By the way, don't feel bad if you don't look as stylish as I do during your crabbing adventure. I don't hold other people to my standards of excellence.

Once you've procured a substantial load of unhappy male crabs, you're ready to pack up and head home.

And then the fun begins.

Boil the crabs until they turn red and look like this:

Look at the steam coming off those suckers.

I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law added some other stuff to the boiling water to season the meat. I just don't remember what.

Next, you clean the crabs and remove the meat from the shells. I didn't clean any because, well, it looked unpleasant. And I had to get Baby Brown Eyes to bed. I half-hoped when I rejoined the group that all the work would be done and a platter of delicious crab dishes would be set out on the table for me.

No such luck. 

Turns out removing the meat from those spindly little crab legs takes an awful long time. Especially when you catch twenty-five of them. We were cutting and cracking and pulling out meat for what seemed like hours.

At least we had fun doing it.

Finally it was time to eat.

This crab sautee is the only dish I managed to get a picture of. Hey, we were hungry. But we also made crab cakes and decadent crab macaroni and cheese.

It was an adventure that left me with a very full belly.

The best kind.

Happy Crabbing,
The Brown-Eyed Girl