Monday, August 14, 2017

A Marital Recipe for Saying "I'm Sorry" from a 4 Year Old

"Under the law of the Lord, a marriage, like a human life, is a precious, living thing. If our bodies are sick, we seek to heal them. We do not give up. While there is any prospect of life, we seek healing again and again. The same should be true of our marriages, and if we seek Him, the Lord will help us and heal us." Dallin H. Oaks, "Divorce" (Oct 2007).

Today I am extremely grateful to be married to someone who believes and lives this quote.

I learned a means of seeking the Lord and applying this quote in my marriage recently. The other day, I overheard a friend guide her four-year-old through apologizing to my son. It went something like this:

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry for what?"

"I'm sorry for taking your truck."

"And then?"

"Will you forgive me?"

"Yes!" from Gideon.

"What can I do to make it better?"

This question took my son off guard and softened his little heart as he had to think for a minute what would supply adequate restitution.

I instantly loved this little apology recipe, believing it to be perfectly doctrinally accurate, and asked if I could borrow it.  My friend then opened up about how incorporating the above had improved her marriage. I was struck.

Turns out, it is scalable for big boys and girls, too. It is a simple, effective recipe for apologizing in marriage, and can turn a trite phrase into a powerful tool for good.

More, repenting and forgiving in this simple way is a powerful method whereby we invite the Savior into our marriages and allows Him to heal and seal us His - it is His means of life support for any trouble, large or small. I testify that it really is that simple and and that beautiful, and challenge any reading this to try this simple recipe today and see what comes!


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Nursery Reveal: Creating Light out of Darkness

bright color nursery, antique bed, sleigh bed

I have found immense joy in furnishing and decorating our home. I am a super cheapskate, so it presents a wonderful design challenge to create beauty and comfort with minimal funds. 

But creating for me is also a method of self-care. I learned this from an extremely creative aunt who struggled for years with immense challenges and coped in part by digging into her creative side (and digging her soul out).

I've had back-to-back challenges in my life since I was 17, each more difficult than the last and prompting a new area for growth, the present not excepted. 

Perhaps that's why I am a serial entrepreneur. I'm not content professionally unless I am creating-an organization, an event, a community. 

In my personal life, I'm also continually creating. It is my lifeblood and an incredibly important and happy outlet for me. The last two years it has been creating a home here in the woods of New Hampshire. I've almost started from scratch, as we took relatively little furniture with us from London (and got rid of almost everything before hopping the pond in 2009). This has allowed nearly wholesale curation of toys, books, and furniture. 

As of today, I have completed decorating a second room in our home, the nursery/upstairs guest room. Currently Esther sleeps there most nights, but you'll see she has her own room-within-a-room. 

What do you do as creative outlets? Where do you find your peace and joy amidst your troubled waters?

there are five pillow depths here to make this bed a comfortable daybed/couch!

the coffee bean sack pillow-case along the back is mirrored in the trim of the aqua  pillows

cast iron rings and a branch taken from the surrounding woods hold the quilt up (there is another branch and rings along the back - not an easy thing to find a straight, 7' long, 1" diameter branch - if you try to replicate this, get 2" rings!)

I've shown these on the blog before in our London nursery reveal, but I continue to love them - 2 pounds each from a local artist in London. I should have purchased more!!

Failed to post this on my dump finds from two weeks ago!

this train has a story - I saw them one day for $25 total at the Davis flea market down the road (I had seen equivalents for $1,000 along Route 4 in New Hampshire) and didn't have any money on me. I was going to buy them the next time, but it was raining that day and no one was there. I thought it was history, but the man held on to them for months and tracked me down one Sunday because he recognized Gideon's hat, and sold them to me for the same price. I was elated!)

I love this lamp I found at Savers in Manchester! I had to get it rewired and find a shade for it, but thought it worth it!

The vintage trucks come from Grandpa Toler's toy chest) and are my favorite vintage toys in our collection

don't worry, doors stay open while she sleeps!

Sources for this room were IKEA (bookshelf, organization boxes underneath the bed, most of the bed linen and pillows, crib, multi-colored pillow on the large rocker, and colored frames), Company C (designer rug $200, yellow pillows $30), TJ Max (aqua pillows, $30 and $13), country curtains (pom pom cafe curtains - thank you, Amy at HomeGlowDesign!), the lovely folks at Antique Bed Mattresses (the unseen but oh-so-important custom mattress inside that antique yellow bed!), a host of Etsy shops - House that Lars Built (Color Wreath - well, Brittany gave me this when visiting her in Denmark, and I treasure it!), AdyEscalante (wrought iron rings,  PetejaFiberWorks (the pom pom pillows), AlysVintageAlcove (the antique, handmade double wedding ring quilt), a host of vintage and antique shops/shows - Brimfield (the small chair in the closet, the antique large train, Noah's Ark, abicus), Portobello Road (the wooden diaper box), Davis, NH flea market (train on top of bookshelves), Sage & Twine (birdcage lamp), Horse Stalls at Camden Markets (green crates), Upcycled (red desk), eBay (my antique rocker friends got me for Gideon's baby shower - love!, Gideon's vintage London bus), an antique shop along "Antique Alley" on Route 4 in NH (yellow chippy bed - don't worry - I had it shellacked!, $90!), Grandpa Toler's toy chest (the vintage semi trucks - aren't those sweet?), the dump (the candy machine and the red reading lamp), and a few handmade, homemade items (the bunting, the sheep pillow, the coffee-bean sack pillowcase, the horse on the small rocker and the doll on the large, and the red pillow in Esther's crib).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Simplicity and Magnification

Post-church photo means tired, hungry kids. But we made it on time for the Sacrament!

My life is not simple. I care full-time for three tiny people, pretty much by myself while my husband lives 231 miles away most days. I attempt to work while my children sleep, helping to establish a center for constitutional history at Oxford and creating a foundation for its enfranchisement in France  (though I am suppose to be identifying best practices in constitution-writing, but all in good time). I personally manage a 3.2 acre farmlette lush with poison ivy, grown-over blackberry and blueberry patches, a small herb garden where order reigns, and woods that threaten to swallow us whole daily (didn't really understand logging till I moved here!).  I am almost done curating our 250-year-old house into a home. I hope to do and learn many more things, including reading the great works my practical degrees did not require, learning how to can, dry, and freeze the abundance of food that makes its way into our home, and living again with my husband some day.

Among those things, I hope for peace. The kind that simplicity brings. I'm convinced that simplicity helps us to experience more of the good in life.

Someone in Sunday School today talked about magnifying and simplifying. Magnification in this sense is used to depict enlarging, leaning into, and expanding the voluntary responsibilities we accept in my faith.

It got me thinking - focusing, for instance, on bringing the Spirit into a meeting or lesson is much more important and much simpler than making sure you have the right centerpiece.  It will also likely take less time (if you get in your daily study), but more focused time in studying, pondering, and praying.

Likewise, I've found the last few weeks that simplifying my Sunday morning routine helps my family get to church on time and feel the Spirit more. They and my house don't look as great, but we feel better.

Here are a few more ways I simplify so I have more time for what matters:

* Cut my hair so it's pretty much wash-and-go, and have trained it so I wash it only twice weekly.

* Do laundry once a week unless there is a bathroom incident, and only wash the clothes with stains on them or that smell bad.

* Open mail once a week.

* Try not to leave the house in the afternoon - it's naps, work time, projects/playing outside and dinner.

* Have almost exclusively white towels and sheets - just bleach the lot when it's dirty, and everything is interchangeable.

* Purge weekly - especially toys that seem to accumulate and random papers.

* Serve my kids corn and beans from cans on Sunday for dinner (really).

* Dress Esther and Ingy in dresses almost exclusively. Saves so much time rather than worrying about what matches!

* Pack a lunch and feed my kids out or in the car for lunch. Every day. I can't manage three cleanups in a day!

* Outsource. I might be the full-time mom, but I get help for the things I would normally do during nap time while I work - folding, ironing, and cleaning. I also have to get help outside, as Lance needs time with the family on the weekends rather than managing the farmlette. Some day when my kids can be trusted around the front of the house where cars roll by at 40-50 mph, I'll be able to do the pruning and weeding - I actually love it, but not now...

* Barefoot house. I don't vacuum (the cleaners do once a week).

* Make sure the food is good, but skimp on setting and decorating the table. Perhaps I should do more here, but maybe when I have children who are older and can help?

* Have the same thing for breakfast daily.

Question: What do you do to simplify? I'm always looking for more ways!

Small Wonders:

* Gideon (4)
- In reference to a particular babysitter, "I don't like her so much"
- Dad driving up to New Hampshire for the weekened - "He's a great man!"
- [To me] "Is your milk doing well?"
- "Have you ever put fire in your mouth and said "roar" like a bear? Well, I haven't, too."
- "Raspberries on my pancakes? That's going to be like a feast or a picnic!"
- Excellent at excuses for not doing things.  Recently, its, "But, the Lamanites are coming!"
- When I tell them to move in the direction of the car, Gideon breaks out into Madagascar "Move it move it" singing.

* Esther (2 1/2)
- While changing her poopy undies, a reluctant chang-ee said, "not fair!" When I asked to whom it wasn't fair that she had pooped in her undies when she knew how to use the potty- me, or her, she then said, "I can't help it!"
- While holding her, Esther will say, "I got you!" then start singing, "I've got everything, I've got you!"
- When I ask the kids to backup, Esther will start saying, "beep! beep! beep!" like a utility truck
- Esther will drag on bedtime as long as you will let her. When asking which book she wanted in her crib to read while she settled in, she said, "I want my favorite book. The one that is special to me." After inquiring which that was, she said, with a wry smile knowing there were several and it take me a while to figure out, "it's green..."

* Ingy (seven months)
- Sitting like a champ. She can sit and entertain herself for 15-20 minutes, especially on the sand at the pond
- she's started blowing bubbles and gurgling. Can carry on a conversation for minutes on end.
- can go from sitting to laying down
- wouldn't know from looking at her, but she has an off-the-charts, massive noggin!
- has started to cuddle - on purpose
- wants to be in the middle of her siblings' play, and has started mimicing certain things
- plays peak-a-boo of her own initiative and bounces much of the time because she is so excited about life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dump Queen

Some have the happy appellation of "dancing queen," "prom queen," or "fairy queen." Me, I have been graced with the more humble title of "dump queen."

And I wear it with pride. I *love* our local town dump.  From the empowered, kind, tough, tattoo-ladden, all-women crew, to the requirement of processing your own garbage (and thus being more responsible and aware), I love every bit of it.

What I love the most, however, is the end of the rainbow experience at the dump, where, by the "hopper" where you finally dump your trash after expunging your recyclables, you can paw through other's cast-off items that are worthy of review.  Yes, there is a lot of junk there, but I have found some beauties.  

What truly is someone else's junk has become my treasures. From vintage skis, ice-skates, a full playground in my barn, complete with slides, bikes, a basketball hoop, swings, and a mini roller-coaster, to items around my house and clothes in my closet, I have found treasures at my local dump, and I display them with pride.  Here are just a few items:

These curtains. I washed out the stains and had a friend cut two larger panels down into eight little panels for cafe curtains in our dinning room.  Currently in love.

This brand-new pink lamp shade (found with its wrapping on) is the perfect shape for the lamp I purchased at Brimfield last go-round. A neighbor who knows me well saw it and snatched it.

This antique mirror is the perfect shape for our 18th century (non-square) entry-way.

hand carved wooden candlesticks, anyone?  Found at our dump's swap shop, where others' cast-offs are organized and made available for free.

cast iron pan. Use it daily, often multiple times.

Mail basket.

picnic basket where I hide my boombox and a few CDs.

Vintage tin where I keep batteries.

Vintage hat box.
Add caption

Antique bucket - I have a pair, and use them as trash cans.

Flower boxes from Holland I keep litter and shavings for our bunny - don't mind the surrounds of plastic trucks my son lined up around it!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Five Reasons Why You Should Take the Kids (or the Grandkids) to Brimfield

When I told people I was taking my tiny children with me to Brimfield, the world's largest outdoor antique flea market, most people responded the same way: amazement, consternation, and disbelief--all with a healthy undercurrent of "you're crazy." 

But I tend to take my children to things most others don't. (For instance, I almost took my four-year-old to a political dinner the other night, and didn't only because I was running late.) 

True, it is much more work to take my children to these things rather than getting a babysitter. But I believe it is all worth it. Here are my five top reasons why I think taking children, even those younger than 5, to Brimfield is actually a good idea: 

1) It's educational. Touching, seeing, and learning to respect antiques teaches children to appreciate beauty. 

Because I want my children to learn to love the outdoors, I take them on hikes. It's not always the safest thing to do, and sometimes they can't touch everything or even walk in certain places. But they can touch some things, and they can look and see and touch the beauty of the great outdoors. 

Manmade beauty, especially field upon field of antique booths, has similar qualities. Sometimes you can't touch everything, it can be a little unsafe--to the child and to the item--and you certainly can't walk everywhere.  But you can touch some things, and walk some places. Being there and seeing item after item, and discerning what is appropriate to touch, appropriate for our home, and generally beautiful, is an education for them. One I can't easily replicate with books about furniture and other items. The education of knowing how to respect things is definitely not one I can replicate with books. 

2) Free stuff. Before Saturday, children, especially those outside of strollers, are in low supply, and vendors love them. In the course of one morning, the amount of things given to my children was staggering - a guitar, pink styrofoam clogs, vintage cars, a doll, and my personal favorite, vintage noisemakers (useful for both entertainment and locating straying children). 

3) The bounty. Brimfield is brimming (pun intended) with child and baby items. These don't just include the classic antique rocking horse. Dolls, vintage cars, play items, clothes, shoes, sleds, and goat carts converted into bicycle carts. Because few bring their children or are looking for these items, they are often available at great prices. For instance, I purchased this full vintage suit and winter coat for $25.  

converted goat cart

See the pink clogs? We also got this trike for $30.
Didn't buy this kitchen set because of rust and rot, but that color!

4) No one is a stranger. I had all three children for one morning, none during the afternoon (they were with a sitter at the hotel for naps), and just my baby the second day all day in my 1954 Silvercross pram. The difference in my experience all three mini-trips was startling. Children definitely made the difference in making friends and acquaintances easily.  Everyone, it seemed, wanted to stop and chat, talk to the kids or coo at the baby. Although answering the question of whether there was a real baby in the pram for the 29th time got a tad old, I definitely had more fun that second day or the previous morning with all three than I did on my afternoon trip sans kids. 

5) The surrounding cultural and historical child-friendly experiences. Although I was technically only at Brimfield two full days, I widened the experience and fun for my children by building in an extra day of cultural and historical activities. On my way to Brimfield, I stopped by Old Sturbridge Village for a few hours. I definitely could have spent a full day (or two!), as my four and two-year-old were completely captivated by the village, animals, architecture, and living historians acting out New England rural life in the 1830s. 

We then stayed at the Trainmasters Inn and ate at the associated restaurant, Steaming Tenders, in Palmer, Mass, also within 20 minutes of Brimfield (even with traffic). For a little boy enamored with all things that go, he was in a train-filled heaven to eat and sleep (though it did not disturb us behind the thick historical walls) within the vibrations of passing trains. The Trainmaster's Inn advertises themselves as not child-friendly, but if they will rent out the suite recently occupied by their daughter as they did to us, it is perfect for children, complete with roll-away bed, a full kitchen, and train face cards to boot. Steaming Tenders, built out of a renovated train station, could not have been more accommodating or charming. Free dessert was on the house each night, the restaurant featured a full child's menu, they didn't seem to mind the mess, and the children got to blow their bellows "train whistle," not to mention be thrilled by every passing train.   

Trainmaster's Inn

Complete with carriage house and antique carriage.

Steaming Tenders - wish I got more pictures!

Before you take your littles to Brimfield in July or September, be prepared with realistic expectations: I had given myself ample time to shop, knowing that my attention would usually be focused on the children. I wanted them to have a good time, so I had to slow down and allow my son to look for the toys in every single tent or keep walking while my baby was sleeping in the pram. 

It would also be helpful to be prepared, generally, and not just with the usual snacks and diapers. I had planned to have the pram with me both days, as it has a toddler seat.  But it needed repairs the first day (Dave's auto body shop next to Steaming Tenders fixed it for free!), so I arrived at Brimfield without a stroller hoping to rent a wagon, which was readily available. It turned out to be a good strategy, and left more room in the car for booty. I also had my daughter's (antique) potty in the back of the car, and would have been helped had I taken it along. I also went with friends, which proved invaluable in keeping children occupied. Finally, I trained him on how to use them and then tucked a walk talky into my four-year-old's pocket in case he wandered too far.  

Armed with realistic expectations and appropriate preparation, taking children to Brimfield can be a wonderful, educational experience for all involved, and you might just walk away with much more than you bargained - and paid - for.

My other Brimfield Finds:
Antique Swedish Rag Rugs, $40

Cracked Antique Jadette lamp, $15 

Vintage White Bedspread, $20

1860's farmhouse table, $750

Furkin lamp, $23
Things I was tempted to buy:
OK, not really...

1920s step saver

Thai tuk-tuk

Glenwood Range

French shabby-chiced dressing table.

Oldhome 1950s Canoe, $1,500

Small Wonders:

* Gideon (4): 

-"You need to entertain me!"
-"Mom, this is unforgivable"
-[After going to Brimfield] "I'm impressed that you brought all of these new things. Thank you thank you thank you. They are so beautiful."
-[To Esther] "You didn't go to music class because mom was struggling."
-"But will you forgive me?" 
-His Primary teacher moved recently - a very sad moment for all of us. In saying goodbye, Gideon said, "I liked your class. Do you know my dad? His name is Lance Toler." 
-He has learned how to prep asparagus for roasting recently-breaking stems off at the right point, lining them up on a tray. The other morning while prepping them, he said, "There's a lot of asparagus going on"
-He's started writing notes to people who are meaningful to him - he sent an email and spelled out "Hi!" and then "Gideon" with maybe 20 emoticons to his cousin, Truman, and left his daddy a note by copying a magazine article, then writing his name on it. While operating the copier, he said, "I'm mating these."
-Gideon missed us while we were away in NYC for a conference this last weekend. He told his babysitter, "My parents need to come home and love me!"
- About Ingy, with whom he has the sweetest relationship: "She's a gorgeous baby."
- He's started to be particular about what he wears recently. Instead of fighting with him, I'll let him pick.  The other day he brought down 6 different shirts on their hangers and announced he wanted to wear all of them (and was super upset he couldn't do it all at one time.)

Esther (2 1/2):

-She's into jumping recently, to dance, off curbs and down a few stairs if I'm there to catch her. The other day she said,  "I jumped with all my might!"
- "I want popcorn popping on the apricot tree." Someone is paying attention in Nursery. 
- will insist that certain people do certain things for her and is very particular about how things are done and where they are put away. Starting to not like being dirty and needs particular things washed.
- Very goal-oriented, and needs to finish whatever task she's on before moving on to the next. If I can focus this, she's extreme helpful - putting grocery items on the conveyer belt, wiping up Ingy's high chair, setting and clearing the table.

Ingy (5 months):

- a first tooth!
- will call out to me in very distinct ways to get my attention
- knows her name
- when screaming for something, will stop (usually) when I tell her to
- when asked to say "hi," she'll verbalize something very close
- started on real food by clearly letting me know she wanted some during dinner, and hasn't looked back. Another excellent eater: she's done when my arm is tired. Currently likes tomato sauce, avocados, green drink, and food pouches. Not the biggest fan of sweet potatoes.