Thursday, December 22, 2016

When Christmas Would "Never" Come

I remember as a kid curling up by the Christmas tree, gazing at the twinkling lights and daydreaming about what might be inside my presents. It was one of my favorite things to do. In fact, refusing to leave the tree and come eat dinner resulted in my only memory of ever being spanked as a child.
I really loved that Christmas tree.
Back then, it felt like Christmas would never come. A month, two weeks, even a day felt like an eternity to wait. Christmas Day, bursting with excitement and laughter, leaving its trail of torn and wadded-up wrapping paper strewn all over our living room, giddy with the taste of candy and frosted sugar cookies, could never come fast enough.
Now that I am (mostly) an adult, I no longer experience that delicious Christmas anticipation. It comes all too soon. Like one day we're decked out in costumes trick-or-treating, and the next we're tip-toeing past the bedroom doors of our sleeping, sugar-crashed children, hanging up stockings and wrapping last-minute presents.
I still love Christmas. But instead of sitting and dreaming by the Christmas tree, I now express that love by creating magical memories for my children.
The joy of Christmas is doubled when you have children. I try to let them do as much as they want, remembering how much I loved every tradition. They decorate the tree a little lopsided, they dump mountains of sprinkles on the sugar cookies, they haphazardly wrap presents, they move around the figurines in the nativity scene every time my back is turned, and they insist on the same Christmas CD over and over and over.
And I love every second of it.
I love seeing their eyes light up, sharing the hope and joy of our Savior, hearing their laughter and their sweet voices singing "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" with Theodore the Chipmunk.
It. is. amazing.
The other day Brown-Eyed Boy complained that Christmas was never going to come. It made me smile, remembering.
I hope my children have many more years of Christmases that will "never" come.

As for my feelings on Santa Clause, well, that's a post for another day.
Merry Christmas!
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, December 16, 2016

Baby Brown Eyes

Baby Brown Eyes was born shrieking at the top of her lungs.

I think it was an omen of things to come.

My other two children didn't make a peep when they were born. Even Blue Eyed Girl, who was born breech, didn't cry until they gave her a bath. When Brown Eyed Boy was born, we were encouraged to make him cry so he could clear his lungs out.

Like that was going to happen.

But Baby Brown Eyes was not happy about her entrance into the bright, cold world and she wanted everyone to know about it. She screamed and cried until the nurses finally returned her to my arms and she was able to nurse.

Even now, over a year later, she is still a screamer. She screams when her siblings take her toys. She screams when we change her diaper. She screams when we tell her no and sometimes just when we put her down.

She is even known to scream randomly, out of the blue, while sitting quietly in her high chair.

She is having no problems asserting herself as the third child.

Do you remember me posting about how easy having two kids was?

Well having three is not easy.

To be fair, I was warned. People told me how hard things get when the kids outnumber the parents. But man, were they right.

The first year of Baby Brown Eyes' life I was a frazzled mess. Meeting her baby needs (and silencing her screams) was exhausting when coupled with helping Brown Eyed Boy with his copious amounts of kindergarten homework (he has less now that he's in first grade--how does that make sense?), cleaning up Blue Eyed Girls' potty-training mishaps, and doing basic things like making meals. I constantly felt wrapped in guilt for all the times I lost my patience or had to put off play time with the older kids to take care of the baby.

Thank goodness for prayer. And my husband. And countless tender mercies and moments of joy each day that made the hard times bearable.

Things are a little easier now. Although now Brown Eyed Baby steals her siblings toys and runs away from me in public places, so every age brings new challenges.

But when I think about how empty our lives would be without her--and how quiet--I wouldn't have it any other way.

Motherhood is awesome,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Running the Red Light

I am so good at pointing out other people's flaws.

Especially when I'm driving.

Because of course all the other drivers are the ones making the mistakes--cutting me off, driving too slow, taking my turn at the stop sign.

I don't make mistakes driving.

^^I bet Mr. Brown Eyes would get a good laugh out of that.^^

My perspective changes when I'm on the other end of things, when I'm the driver being yelled at instead of the one doing the yelling.

For instance:

There is a traffic light near my parents' house that is right in front of an freeway overpass. Just beyond the overpass is another light. For some reason, when I'm at the front of the line waiting at the red light, I sometimes look at the light beyond the overpass instead of the one right in front of me.

So when that light turns green, I think I am good to go.

Which is exactly what I did the other day. Go. I mean, went. And the cars coming off the freeway honked at me. And I felt stupid. And I had to admit, to my perfect driver self, that even I make mistakes.

Just like everyone else.

Owning that fact makes it easier to be just a little more patient the next time someone cuts me off.

But it's a truth that applies in all facets of life, not just driving. None of us are perfect. So let's be as gentle with other people's flaws as we would like them to be with ours.

I'll go first.

I mean, when the light turns green.

Still learning,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Unicorn Hunter

I opened up my e-mail and saw that the publisher I'd submitted my manuscript to six months ago had finally responded.

Heart pounding, I shut my phone off and pushed it away, not in the mood to embrace another rejection. It's ok if I never get published, I told myself and vowed to read the e-mail later when I didn't feel so fragile.

It was only an hour or so later, though, when my curiosity got the better of me. It's ok if I never get published, I reminded myself as I opened up the e-mail. Instinctively, I skipped the first paragraph where they thank you for submitting your manuscript and went straight for the second paragraph, which usually begins with "unfortunately."

The "unfortunately" wasn't there.

Confused, I glanced up at the last sentence of the first paragraph and read the words, "we love it and want to publish it!"

Wait, what?

I didn't leap for joy or suppress squeals of excitement sitting there at my work desk. I honestly thought that someone must be playing a trick on me. I stared at that e-mail, blinking, re-reading, not comprehending how something I had dreamed of for so long could suddenly be happening. There had to be a catch. A twist.

But now, one month, one contract, and 500,000 moments of self-doubt later, I've finally accepted that it's real.

I'm getting published! This cover has MY NAME on it!

In a month or so I will be transitioning over to my new website, Until then, I will continue posting here and on my Facebook author page, Rachel Kirkaldie. Check it out for all the latest details, excerpts, and giveaways.

I am so excited about this newest journey in my writing and everyone is invited to come along with me!

The Brown-Eyed Girl

P.S. I have to give a shout-out to Cedar Fort for wanting to publish my stuff!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Truck

The first adult thing I did after graduating from college (besides getting a job), was buying a car for the first time.

I picked a brand new 2006 Dodge Dakota, mostly because it was small enough for me to be able to park it without losing my mind, but strong enough to pull a horse trailer should I feel inclined to take my horse somewhere (which only happened once).

(I thought I had some pictures of it to share. But apparently I only have pictures of every other car we've owned.)

We haven't driven the truck much recently after upgrading our family car, so we decided to sell it. After sitting on Craigslist for months, suddenly it was gone. Like, one day someone made an offer. And the next they drove it away.

Leaving me awash in sentimentality.

Typically, after nagging my husband for months to get the truck sold, once the moment came I found myself having second thoughts. I mean, every dent, every spot, every scratch on that truck was mine. I had made memories with it for ten years.

Like the time I drove home from church with a stray kitten tucked under the fender.

Or the time I stuffed my very pregnant sister in the backseat for a trip to Taco Time.

Filling the bed full of blankets and pillows for a night at the drive-in.

Sitting for hours on the tailgate talking to (and kissing) the man who is now my husband.

Driving it home on my wedding night, with gummy bears and "Just Married" smeared all over the windows. (It was weeks before I washed it. And when strangers at the park-and-ride congratulated me on getting married, I couldn't figure out how they knew.)

Towing our camper and creeping up the hills to Flagstaff at 30 mph. While little old ladies in horse-drawn carriages flew past us.

Now my truck is gone. But in the end, the truck was just a truck. It's the memories I created with it that matter to me.

And it's the memories I get to keep forever.

Too bad the wad of cash we got for it won't last forever,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, September 23, 2016

Arizona Has Four Seasons

I just have to get this off my chest.

I'm so tired of hearing people say that Arizona (or, more specifically, Phoenix) doesn't have four seasons.

Um, yes, we do.

They are called summer, fall, winter, and spring.

The same seasons the rest of the world has.

Granted, Phoenix will not have any scarlet and gold bursts of fall color. There will be no snow blanketing the ground in the winter. But there are four seasons here. I should know. I've lived here (almost) my whole life.

I can feel the moment summer's blaze mellows into fall, when the sun shifts and no longer burns your face off the minute it crests the horizon. The mornings are cooler, the evenings come sooner and the leaves on our trees turn gold.

Winter here is short, but for several weeks we'll wake up to find intricate patterns of frost on the windows of the cars, the water in the horse's bucket frozen solid. The trees shed their leaves and the days shorten, yellow sunsets melting into crisp blue evenings spent by our fireplace.

I know it's spring when our Mulberry trees sprout tiny green buds and the brown grass comes back to life. The desert trees burst with pink and yellow flowers. Birds build nests on our roof, bees buzz by the windows, and the fragrance of orange blossoms floats on the breeze.

As the days get longer and warmer we know summer's coming. It hits like the blast of heat you feel when you open your oven door. Yet nothing compares to a spectacular summer sunset blazing in brilliant shades of gold, rose, and orange. Or a late-afternoon thunderstorm washing the desert in cold rain and flashes of lightning.

In case you weren't counting, that's four seasons.
So, please, in the future, say you don't want to live in Phoenix because it gets so hot, or because you miss the snow, or because you can't stand the way we drive. Please don't say you have to live somewhere that has four seasons. Because we do.
*Rant over*
I feel a lot better now,
The Brown-Eyed Girl


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Returning to the Ranch

This summer, I finally got to go back to Ensign Ranch. And this time, I took my family with me.

It has been eleven years since I spent a summer at the ranch working as a wrangler. But time seemed to fold in on itself and disappear as we drove up Hundley Road.

It was like I had never left.

Except, you know, for the husband, kids, and baby I was bringing with me.

Working at the ranch was amazing because we basically had our run of the place, exploring every trail and secret meadow.

Visiting was also amazing because my time was all mine and I didn't have to shovel a single scoop of horse poop.

And we got to play on the giant slip and slide!
You know what it's like when your Old Self and your Present Self meet? It can be uncomfortable, even jarring.

Think ten year high school reunion. *Shudder*

Sometimes Old Self isn't ready to accept your Present, and other times Present Self squirms remembering what Old Self was really like.

This was not one of those times.

It was the perfect meeting of Old and Present. I embraced the beauty of the ranch and the memories that flooded me around every corner--even the memories of my mistakes, like the time I let go of Levi's halter while he was getting shod and we had to chase him around the barn--and loved every second of introducing my husband and children to the place I once--and still do--called home.

Because let's face it, every single one of us who ever worked at the ranch still feel as if a part of it belongs to us.

Like the barn where I spent hours saddling horses, shoveling poop, and unsaddling horses. And fitting helmets on people's heads:

The pasture where we fought for our turn to gallop to the gate...

And where we once sprayed all the horses' backs with water and watched them, one by one, buckle down and roll in the dirt:

The creek where we got in water fights on hot days:

The trails I traveled a million times on horseback:

The lake where I canoed for the first time ever:

The tree-lined road that made me want to fall in love:

As much as I loved that summer at the ranch, the two days I spent there with my family were even better. Nothing beats having a hand to hold and children to share your joy with.

The best part was how much the kids loved the ranch. They still tell me how much fun they had there. Which makes my heart swell with pride.

Because, you know, the ranch is mine.

In my dreams,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Friday, August 5, 2016

Keeping it Real

Blue-Eyed Girl wanted a Pinkie Pie cake for her third birthday. I googled images and found the cutest, simplest cakes and thought it would be no problem to make an awesome one for my little girl.

Here is how it turned out:

Of course I felt horrible, like I had ruined Blue-Eyed Girl's birthday and she would never forgive me.

Do you know what she and Brown-Eyed Boy said when they saw the cake?

"That looks delicious!"

No comment about the sagging layers or the frosting's sickening Pepto-Bismol hue. I wanted to snatch them up in bear hugs that very second.  

Why am I so terrified of making mistakes? Why does the thought of sharing my mistakes make me dry-heave?
I know I'm not alone. Most of us share only the sweet, beautiful moments of our lives on social media. I get it. But I'm tired of it. I'm tired of feeling like I have to touch some lofty, unreachable standard of perfection in order to be happy with myself. And when I fail--because, inevitably, I do--I have to keep those failures quietly tucked away lest someone--heaven forbid--discovers that I am less than perfect.
I am the one, by the way, who sets those impossible standards. I am the one who condemns the girl in the mirror for her countless flaws. I know, in my heart, that no one else--even on social media--is judging me as harshly as I judge myself.
So I'm breaking free. I'm going to start these "Keeping it Real" posts not to convince the world that I am less than perfect, but to convince myself that I can make mistakes, share my mistakes, and still be okay.
That I can fall short of that standard and love myself anyway.
Taking a deep breath,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tawnya's Wedding

As I have mentioned in the past, there are eleven kids in my family.

I am number ten.

(Ha, ha, I should make a movie out of my life, with that as the title.)

These days, my brothers and sisters are some of my best friends. But it wasn't always so.

I have this sister who is five years older than me. Which as a kid is like, eons. She would babysit us and always take our baby brother's side when we fought. She bossed us around. She and our older cousin would tell us scary stories and give us nightmares.

I don't even remember talking to her as a kid. I think I just stared at her in awe and terror.

Then, as I got into middle school, things changed. She started driving me places in her shiny new car. She bought me lunch with this amazing thing she had called money. And we started talking. And I stopped being afraid of her. Instead we'd laugh together and make up ridiculous songs to sing while we brushed our teeth. Road trips and late-night alien hunts and Christmas Eve movies became tradition.

Although we'd been sisters our whole lives, we had finally become friends.

Last year, this dear no-longer-frightening sister of mine got married. Due to several different factors, we ended up having the reception at my house.

It was a big, beautiful party.

Although I had very little to do with how gorgeous everything turned out, I wanted to share it all with you here.
(Photography by the amazing Cindy Price)

This is how not scary Tawnya is now:

My kids absolutely adore her.

The end,
The Brown-Eyed Girl