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