Friday, December 20, 2013

The Santa Hat

As I dug through our Christmas boxes a few weeks ago, pulling out decorations and trying to keep all things breakable out of Baby Blue Eyes' grasp, I ran across an old Santa hat with holes cut out of it.

I had to pause.

This hat holds a lot of memories.

The first Christmas I spent with Sultan, I bought him this Santa hat. I cut holes out of it so it would fit over his long horse ears. It was ridiculous and he hated it. I can't count how many times he tossed it off into the dirt.

But I made him wear it every year.

I remember our first Christmas together. It was cold (for Phoenix) and we rode to a nearby Baptist church to take pictures.

That was the beginning of a Christmas tradition.

Humiliating my horse became one of my favorite pasttimes.

I was always sure to give him plenty of Christmas treats--carrots, ginger snaps (his favorite), or a warm bran mash with candy cane pieces.

To make up for the Santa hat.

I think he was grateful.

I will keep the Santa hat with our Christmas things, to help me remember.

Missing him,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Camping Fun

Instead of going on any big vacations this summer, we went camping.
We camped near Kelly Canyon, in the middle of a spacious meadow full of all the dirt Brown-Eyed Boy could dream of.
We camped in Sedona, in the shade of towering red-rock cliffs, watching as a gorgeous thunderstorm rolled in.

We camped at Lynx Lake in Prescott, where my husband got addicted to gold-panning and the boys played from sun-up to sun down.

But my favorite camping trip was the one we took just a couple weeks ago...

in our very own yard.

It was awesome. No packing required. We just slapped the tent in the yard, sat around the firepit eating hot dogs and s'mores, watched a movie, and went to sleep. We didn't even need the air mattress, because our grass is so soft. We got our camping fix in and we barely had to leave the comfort of our home.

It was all Brown-Eyed Boy's idea.  

I love s'mores,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The List

A month or so before Thanksgiving, my Dad challenged me and my siblings to make a list of everything we're thankful for.

He based his request off of this story.

Of course my competitive nature kicked in, and I immediately went to work on my family's list, determined to beat my brothers and sisters.

But then, a couple weeks into the list, something happened.

I started to change.

Instead of grumbling about every little hardship, I became a lot more cheerful. It was hard to be negative when I was constantly focused on my blessings, always on the hunt for another one to add to the list.

When an old blanket shredded in the washing machine and scattered pieces all over the laundry room, I was grateful it wasn't a blanket anyone in my family was attached to.

When my husband and the missionaries ate every last bite of dinner before I got home from work, I was grateful that the soup I had improvised that morning had turned out so good (but I was a little mad that I hadn't gotten to try it).

When my children woke me up before sunrise, I was grateful that I could open my eyes to see their beautiful, smiling faces.

When days I thought I would spend with my husband were spent with him working for hours at his side job, I was grateful that he loves me enough to do everything he can so I can eventually stay home with our kids.

And so the list grew. Even on my worst days, I found so much to be grateful for it overwhelmed me.

Our final count: 1,055 things to be grateful for.

But that's only because Thanksgiving came and I forced myself to stop.

I am trying to keep that spirit of gratitude with me. I am a much happier person when I focus on the good in my life instead of the bad. And there is so much good.

The Lord loves us. If we just open our eyes to see His blessings, we will find them all around.

Grateful for gratitude,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Hope you have a happy and spooky Halloween!
But look out...

Or I'll steal your candy.
Trick or treat,
The Brown-Eyed Girl


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Squash Casserole

I have a weird taste in food. Or so my husband likes to tell me.

It is true that there are several unpopular foods that I find absolutely delicious:

Liver (only from my parents' cows, and only cooked my mom's way)

Brussell Sprouts


Butternut squash

I blame this last one on my childhood and all those seasons when my parents' garden overflowed with squash. My mom would roast it in the oven, and we'd eat it with fresh-baked bread and cheese. The most simple meal in the world. And one of the most delicious.

I've since discovered other wonderous ways to consume butternut squash. Chopped up and smothered in cheese, pureed into soup, and this scrumptious casserole.

Butternut Squash Casserole

3 lbs butternut squash
3/4 cup milk
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup crushed vanilla wafers (about 15)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and place cut-side down in a large baking dish. Fill the dish with about one inch of water and roast in a 400 degree oven for forty-five minutes to an hour. (You can also cut the squash into cubes and boil it in water until tender, but I hate chopping squash, so I do it my way.)
2. Allow squash to cool, then scoop out flesh into a large bowl. Beat just until smooth, then beat in the milk butter, eggs, and vanilla.
3. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to squash mixture and mix well.
4. Transfer to a greased 2 quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, combine topping ingredients in small bowl until crumbly. Sprinkle over squash and bake, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes longer.

Seriously, this is so delicious. The middle is so creamy and custardy, the topping crunchy and sweet.
I might have eaten it for dessert. Straight out of the pan.
My husband's right. I am weird.
Happy fall,
The Brown-Eyed Girl


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bug in the Bathroom

I woke up this morning to Brown-Eyed Boy telling me there was a bug in my bathroom. A bug that was "this size"--and he spread his arms as wide as they could go.

Armed with a fly swatter, I followed him into the bathroom.

The gigantic bug was no where to be found.

Meaning that it's still somewhere in my house, lurking, and when I least expect it it's going to come crawling out of my sink, or scurry across the floor while I'm taking a pee, and scare the daylights out of me.

Unless my three year-old was exaggerating its enormous proportions, and it's actually an ant.

I can only hope.

On my guard,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pastie Recipe

My favorite thing about visiting my dad's hometown in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?
Places like this:
I don't know the history of the delectable, hand-held meat pastry known as a pastie (pronounced PASS-TEE), other than miners like my grandpa used to take them in their lunches. All I know is my mom got the recipe from my dad's mother, and she's been making them (on special occasions) for my whole life, and the UP is the only place I have ever been where you can find a little pastie shop and sit down and enjoy one without all the work of making them.
It's a glorious thing, and even though I was seven weeks pregnant and nauseous out of my mind last summer when we were there, I stuffed my face with as many pasties as I could get my hands on.
I have to admit, though, they are best homemade, and the work it takes to make them is definitely worth it. So because I love you, I am sharing my mom's (or I guess you could say, my grandma's) pastie recipe with you.

For the crust:
3 c flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c oil
1/2 c water
Mix and set aside until the filling is done.
For the filling:
3/4 lb ground beef (broken up)
3/4 lb ground turkey (broken up)
2 med onions (minced)
3 carrots (grated or chopped small)
5 med potatoes (minced)
1/2 med rutabaga (grated) - you can also use a turnip
1 tsp celery salt
Mix vegetables with 2 tsp salt, a little pepper, celery salt, and meat in a large bowl.
Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Roll to size of medium pie plate on lightly floured board. According to my mom, my grandma was actually able to roll the dough until it was paper thin. I'm not that talented. But you do want it as thin as possible. 
Place 1/6 of filling on 1/2 of pastry. Draw the other half of pastry over filling and crimp or twist edges to seal filling. Prick with fork. Bake in 375-400 degree oven for one hour.
These are delicious smothered with gravy or your choice of condiment. I love them best straight up.
You can get creative and fill these suckers with pretty much whatever floats your boat.
As a side note, the last time I made pasties, I put half all-purpose and half whole-wheat flour in the crust. Very much against tradition. My grandmother was probably rolling in her grave.
But they sure tasted good.
Suddenly very hungry,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One of Those Days

Some days I feel like I will never be a good mother.

I am constantly after Brown-Eyed Boy for being too rough with his sister and my patience, which is short to begin with, swiftly wears down to nothing. I am overly harsh when Brown-Eyed Boy doesn't want to sit on the self-flushing toilet at the store. Family Home Evening turns into little more than a desperate attempt to teach Brown-Eyed Boy something about the gospel in between his demands for a popsicle. Baby Blue Eyes falls off the changing table. She is unhurt, but screaming her head off.

For a moment the three of us sit on Brown-Eyed Boy's bed, crying.

Some days I just don't feel like I can do it. I feel like my children are going to grow up completely messed up, or, at the very least, hating my guts.

Some days I berate myself with the words, "You are a horrible mother."

Being a mother is hard, and Satan works even harder to discourage mothers at every chance he can get.

The reason why hit me one day while Baby Blue Eyes was sleeping in my arms. I realized that Satan will never have this. He will never have a body, or a family, or perfect moments when he looks down into his sleeping daughter's beautiful face and realizes he has everything--everything.

No wonder he is battling so fiercely against the family. He must be really, truly miserable.

But thankfully we have the Lord's help in being mothers, in overcoming Satan's lies, in everything we do.

One difficult afternoon, while the boys were playing outside and the baby was sleeping, I knelt down beside my bed and asked the Lord for help. The only sound was the buzzing of bugs outside. It was so quiet, so still, I could literally feel Heavenly Father bending His ear to listen to me as soon as I said His name.

Isn't it amazing that the God of the whole universe loves us enough to listen to our prayers?

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught:

"[T]he most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.
God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him."
Find the rest of President Uchtdorf's message here.
We matter to Him. He is aware of us, even on those messy, frustrating, off-center days when we feel lousy at everything we do.
Especially on those days.
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Monday started out just like any other day. I was awakened early by a cooing baby, then Brown-Eyed Boy came in asking for chocolate milk. I put Baby Blue Eyes in the stroller and went out to feed the horses.
I knew something was wrong when I heard Sultan whinnying, but he didn't come into his pen to eat. I walked back behind the barn and found him standing there, his right hind leg cocked like he was afraid to stand on it. He ducked his head and shifted his weight forward as if he desperately wanted to come to me, but he wouldn't budge from his spot.
I put his halter on and, with a little encouragement, I got him to move. Hopping on three legs, he followed me into his pen.
I immediately called the vet. Her diagnosis: his leg was broken, just above the hoof.
I knew what was coming after that before she even said anything.
This day was inevitable. Sultan was almost 29 years old. I knew he wouldn't live forever. But somehow I had always pushed that to the back of my mind. I thought that since he was so old, since he had lived a full life, it wouldn't be so hard when I finally had to let go.
No. It was still hard.
I couldn't say goodbye long enough. Memories flooded through my mind, and for a moment I was thirteen years old, back in my moonlit front yard, watching as my dad unloaded my very own horse--my Sultan--from the trailer. For a moment Sultan was young and strong again, that spirited horse who would run away with me and try to buck me off. For a moment we were racing together again through a farmer's field, going so fast the wind sang in our ears. For a moment those long years, which had passed so quickly, had never passed at all. 


When the vet was ready, I kissed Sultan's velvety nose one last time, then slipped away. I wanted my last memories of Sultan to be of him with light still in his eyes. So I went into the house and cried like a baby.
Sultan is in a better place. He is no longer old, no longer suffering. But our pasture sure looks lonely without him. And my heart sure hurts when I step outside and think, for a second, that I hear him whinnying at me.  
Grateful for the sixteen years we had together,
The Brown-Eyed Girl


Monday, August 12, 2013

Mr. Brown Eyes' Birthday

Last month, Mr. Brown Eyes and I celebrated his birthday by going go-kart racing.
These are the electric go-karts that get up to 40 miles per hour. Which didn't sound that fast to me, until I was sitting in the driver's seat with a big ol' helmet on my head, slamming the brakes around those tight curves because I was terrified of spinning out, feeling the rush of wind as every other driver sped past me.
Our first race, I came in dead last.
Mr. Brown Eyes, or Mr. Second Place, gave me some tips to drive a little faster. So during our second race, I picked it up a little.
Still dead last, though.
Mr. First Place said to me, "I dare you to mash down the gas and go as fast as you can."
I took his challenge to heart. Our third and final race, I was determined not to be the loser. I put that pedal to the metal, flew past other drivers, and whipped around those corners like a go-kart racing fool.
And then I crashed into the wall.
It was a plastic wall, more of a divider, actually. But they had to stop the whole race and come pull me out. It was embarrassing. And it made my head hurt.
But when the results were posted, I was second-to-last.
Mr. Brown Eyes was proud.
Afterward, we had dinner at an amazing little place known as a revolving sushi restaurant.
Our first experience at a place like this was in Oregon, when we were dating. It was a magical discovery earlier this year to find that there are some here in Arizona.
You sit down, and endless plates of delicious sushi come marching past you on a little conveyor belt.

You pick what you want and dig in.


The plates are priced according to color. You just stack up what you've used and the waitress adds it up later.

Our stack of plates always gets pretty high. Go figure.
 Happy birthday, Mr. Brown Eyes. Thank you for being born so you could be mine.
The go-kart racing queen,
The Brown-Eyed Girl








Monday, August 5, 2013

Baby Talk

Baby Blue Eyes and her cousin are only five days apart.
When they get together, cooing and gooing, kicking their chubby little legs and waving their chubby little arms, I wonder what they are saying to each other... 

 "Hey cuz, why do you think they're all watching us?"
"I don't know. It's making me uncomfortable."
"Maybe I should fart. That always makes them laugh."

"I rolled over the other day. Got 'em all excited."
"Ah, parents. They're so easily amused."
"I know, right? All I have to do is chew on my toes and my mom tells me how I adorable I am."

"This is the life, you know? When we get older, we'll have to poop on the potty and eat our vegetables."
"Let's stay babies forever."
"Hey--pull my finger."
"Just you wait until I can crawl. Your toys are mine."

I'm sure it's something along those lines,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Royal Babies

Don't get me wrong, I love Kate Middleton.

I've made it very clear that we were best friends in another life.

But I just can't get behind all the hype over her baby. He is a baby. Nothing different about him than all the other billions of babies in the world. I'm sure he eats and poops and sleeps just like every other baby.

Lots of other babies are born every day. And they don't get flashing headlines and magazine spreads. All because he is "third in line." To what?  To an old, outdated title.

Now if all this commotion was over my babies, it would be more understandable.

They are beautiful and amazing and will change the world someday.

They are much more special than some royal baby. Even if no one will ever call them "Your Highness."

Doesn't every mother feel that way?

Congratulations, Kate,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When in Dark Places

My heart goes out to the families of the 19 firefighters lost in the Yarnell Hill fire.

You are in my prayers.

As the wife of a firefighter, tragedies like this hit a little too close to home.

I wonder what I would do if I lost my husband the way so many wives lost husbands last Sunday. How would I go on? Is it even possible to pick oneself back up after such a loss?

It is possible. There is One whose peace "passeth understanding." Jesus Christ is the only source of true peace. I know that if we turn to Him, He can heal our deepest wounds, soothe our most aching sorrow, and fill with light our loneliest darkness.

I have experienced that peace. In my own dark places, my own suffering, I have been lifted by the light of His love.

He is only waiting for us to turn to Him.

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Mother of Two

Having two kids is so much easier than having one.

I know that sounds crazy, but for me, it's so true.

Bringing Brown-Eyed Boy into our lives, going from zero children to one, was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was such an absolute life change that it took me months to wrap my mind around it, to feel like an actual mother instead of the awkward babysitter. I struggled, until Brown-Eyed Boy was about a year old, to let go of my old life and embrace the changes that having a baby brought.

Once I started feeling like a mother, adding Baby Blue Eyes to the mix was just a bump in the road. We quickly remembered what it was like having a newborn in the house, and she slipped easily into our routine and our lives.

Thank goodness I didn't have to go through that hard adjustment all over again.

Not that having two kids is a piece of cake all the time.

I dreaded the day Mr. Brown Eyes went back to work after Baby Blue Eyes was born. But, besides Brown-Eyed Boy throwing fits that I was feeding the baby instead of getting him chocolate milk, it went pretty well. Until bedtime.

Let me explain. Putting Brown-Eyed Boy to bed is a time-consuming process. We say prayers. We read scriptures. We read a book of Brown-Eyed Boy's choosing. Sometimes two or three or more books. We turn the light off. And then either Mr. Brown Eyes or I must lay beside Brown-Eyed Boy until he stops wiggling and giggling and squirming and playing with his toy cars long enough to fall asleep. Sometimes it's a matter of minutes before he's conked out. Other nights it takes hours.
On this my first night having the kids to myself, Baby Blue Eyes was sleeping peacefully while I brushed my little boy's teeth and put on his pajamas. Then she woke up abruptly, wailing. I told Brown-Eyed Boy to lay in bed while I went to get her out of the carseat, intending to read Brown-Eyed Boy's bedtime story and nurse Baby Blues Eyes at the same time. But when I brought the baby in, instead of getting into bed Brown-Eyed Boy threw himself on the floor in a tantrum.

For a moment I sat there, baffled, while they both cried.

Then I smiled.
I had to, or I would have cried, too.

Somehow I resolved the situation and got both of them to sleep without anymore tears. And let me tell you, nothing makes me feel like a more accomplished mother than a quiet house full of the sound of peacefully-sleeping children.

I love my babies,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, June 20, 2013

While I Was Away

Here is some of the fun you missed while I was on maternity leave:

1. Zombie Cake 
My husband made this for my sister's birthday.
It in no way resembles my sister.

2. Water slide

Also for my sister's birthday. A fourteen-foot inflatable water slide. Hours of fun. But I can't seem to find any pictures.

3. Produce Basket

Through some people in their ward, my parents pay fifteen dollars twice a month to get a basket full of fresh, delicious produce. I decided to try it, and I love it. It feels like Christmas twice a month. I never know what kind of produce we're going to get, and it forces me to try new things and eat healthier. We had Swiss chard smoothies the other day.

4. Les Miserables

Bought the movie on a whim. Loved it. It always makes me happy when my husband likes movies I don't expect him to. Like when we were dating and he watched "Phantom of the Opera" with me. He just didn't want his roommates to catch him.

5. Go-kart
Mr. Brown Eyes' Father's Day present. Am I an awesome wife or what?

6. Jogging Stroller
This was my birthday present, and I finally got to use it for a few weeks before the weather got too gosh-darned hot to go running. I love it. The kids love it. One of the best purchases we've ever made.

7. Grape-vine and the grape-vine-eating pony

We thought it would be cool to plant a grape-vine along our fence. We failed to take into consideration our redneck neighbors' inability to keep their pets--i.e. goats, horses, and a pony--inside their yard. Needless to say, the grape-vine isn't doing too well.

That, and we've also forgotten to water it a couple times.

I promise we take much better care of our children than we do our plants.

8. Brown-Eyed Boy turned three

9. Brown-Eyed Boy's haircut


My family didn't even recognize him when they saw him the next day.
I think he looks adorable, but I miss his long hair.
At least I don't have to chase him around the house to comb his hair anymore.

10. Baby Blue Eyes' Blessing

Wearing the beautiful dress my mom made her. Which she pooped in as soon as we got to church.

Baby Blue Eyes, not my mom.

11. Cookies and Cream Culver's Concrete Cake

In celebration of Mother's Day.

I had just decided I was going to give up chocolate to see if it lessened Baby Blue Eyes' fussiness. But Mr. Brown Eyes forgot and bought me the most chocolate-laden cake Culvers had to offer.

I couldn't not eat it.

That would be rude.

So I decided to give up chocolate another day.

Best decision I ever made,
The Brown-Eyed Girl