Monday, July 14, 2014

DC Book Signing!

Traveling in the states for a month for three reunions, two book signings, a bit of legal history work, and moving out of our storage unit is a bit insane.  Add in a 15 month old, a six month bump, and no consistent child care, and eight cities in 29 days becomes slightly insane. Likely the last time I will do anything like for this for quite some time.

But it has been worth it.  Other than one frantic phone call to Lance wherein I declared I was tired of traveling and was coming home (the day I moved us out of storage unit in DC heat and humidity), and no I wouldn't go to bed because I needed to complain a bit more, I have been so very grateful to have seen so many friends and loved ones across the country.  

One of the biggest highlights (other than one amazing family reunion over July 4th - post coming soon!) was the DC book signing Thursday night at the home of Frances and Michael Seay.  Although a flash flood kept some folks at home, the evening turned out just perfectly.  The Spirit was strong, and I think everybody who attended learned something about giving and receiving (I certainly did - perhaps I can include some of it in another book?) and connected in new and surprising ways.  The beautiful home and the hospitality of Michael and Francis Seay helped to create an atmosphere for an exceptional evening that I will remember with gratitude.

Stay tuned for a report of the next book signing in Provo, UT - 4662 Brookshire Circle (84604 for google mappers) at 7:30 Thursday evening the 17th.  Join me if you are around!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pacing Myself

Can you see G's little feet up on tiptoes to see the geese? After swimming
at Hampstead Heath's Lido, we visited Kentish Town Farm on Saturday as a family.
Thanks to Lance for the great idea!
Older bodies are clumsy at being pregnant.  I'm not saying I'm necessarily old, but at 34, my body has a harder time being pregnant than my sister's or mother's 20-something bodies.
 My unique pregnancy complications this time 'round include pregnant rhinitis, which means my body pretends my face is a scratching post and a little faucet turns on inside my sinuses every day between 1-9 p.m.  The time it starts depends on a multitude of factors, including sugar in-take, nightly sleep, whether I've done too much exercise, and the temporary bane of my existence, whether I have napped (I *hate* napping while the world goes by).

And of course there are no truly effective drugs I can take, so I slowly - or quickly, as the case may be - turn into a sneezing zombie daily.

This, plus the fact that I'm in the red for babysitting costs by a couple of months and thus need to work without childcare (the downside of working for yourself), means I am learning to pace myself. I am trying to get the important and urgent things as well as the important and non-urgent things done, and am consciously trying to slough everything else so that I can actually work and run a household.

It's not easy when so many things are important right now - my testimony, my relationship with my husband, mothering my little boy (and girl!), working, missionary work, and attempting to settle into a new home.

This means that the house is cleaned and the floors disinfected only once a week (last week, only half of the floors), I can't pick the toys up in the nursery each and every sleep cycle, I feed my son store-bought baby food about once a day, mail opening and laundry are done only once a week, I sometimes eat the same thing multiple meals in a row (like the clam chowder I made two days ago), and Gideon has no white socks at the moment.  It also means our home is still bare of furniture - of the big items we need, we have purchased only a bed and our table arrives on Monday - and many little items continue to remain unchecked on my to-do list.  Finally, focusing on the important means that the projects I need to do for Gideon - fixing the wheel on his vintage bus and figuring out how to get crayon and colored pencil off a chalk board (anyone?!) - have remained unchecked as well.  I also don't make treats for the sisters in our congregation I am assigned to visit monthly (aka my visiting teachies), emails can sit in my inbox for more than 24 hours, and my blogs are not as regular as I would like.

These may all seem petty to you.  And they probably are.  But this is the kind of stuff I would like to be on top of.

However, I have committed to myself (and am somewhat succeeding) to the following:

I will study the scriptures every day (even if only for a few minutes).

I will exercise every day (if only for a few minutes).

I will nap every day.

I will do something fun for my son every morning.

I will support my husband and prioritize his needs above my own.

I will write every day.

I will not feel guilty when I need to work in the nursery or with my son on my lap when he wakes from his afternoon nap - probably the hardest commitment of them all.

In fact, the guilt I feel this time around at the "undones" is my biggest pregnancy complication, even more than the rhinitis.  But then, sacrifices to bring these little ones into the world are all worth it, right? She better be grateful :-)...

More of the fun things I do with G daily - these are fountains at Swiss Cottage rec centre.

One morning G and I treked it up to Highgate Woods, an ancient (pre-1600 wood and hunting ground)
still preserved in its enormity up by where our church meets.  We were in search of--and never found--
the outdoor nursery, Scandinavian style, I'd like to sign him up for in about a year for a couple mornings a week,
but we enjoyed the woods, playground, and meadow enormously.

Monday, June 16, 2014


View of the Madrid Cathedral from the main royal palace.

Five year anniversaries are a little bit of a deal, right?  Especially when they include three trans-Atlantic moves, one degree a piece, one charming baby, and another on the way.

Thanks to some thoughtful planning on Lance's part, we celebrated by heading to Madrid last weekend. 

Lance travels to Madrid quite frequently for work, but has never stayed long enough to enjoy much than the small radius from his hotel room to his office.  I had never been.  So we tacked on a little getaway onto a day of meetings for Lance.  The result was discovering a new city (for me) and actually being able to enjoy a more familiar city for Lance.

I was pleasantly surprised by Madrid - beautiful town much less squeezed than other European cities, wonderful food (and no chain restaurants - not one!), remnants of an Arabic influence, beautiful people, world-class parks, museums, and sights, and lots of sunshine.  I'm convinced Madrid is much  under-rated and rivals even Paris for its beauty and sense of style, certainly exceeding Paris for its friendliness.  Spanish culture is a proud one, but they don't pretend not to know English.

Special thanks to the Colvins for expanding their brood to four for the weekend - looking forward to returning the favor!

Madrid's Cathedral, Spain's largest church

I thought the ceiling the most spectacular part

Palace from the outside - no pics permitted inside.  I saw the palace and cathedral while Lance worked before shopping for
Spanish baby clothes (Romany old-style from Gocco is a new favorite in baby fashion) and doing a bit of work myself.

View of the surrounding Madrid countryside from the palace courtyard.

Saturday morning we took a jaunt in Madrid's equivalent to Central Park.  The church pictured here is quite typical for
Madrid churches - Arabic influences are clear.

Beautifully-manicured pleasure gardens within the bigger garden
And peacocks - maybe a dozen of them! - inside the pleasure garden.  I'm definitely looking pregnant here.  Five and a half months and counting.
We stumbled on a small choir of Mormon missionaries.

Our entire weekend was serenaded by musicians of all types along the way.

Most children are dressed to the nines for every day.

Taking a short break after visiting the Prado. 
Loved seeing Al Greco's library there and that it looks like I have a double chin in this photo!

Every shop in London should have this.  Someone could make a killing!

It was amazing to be there just the two of us, but w missed this little dude.  Here is at church with
Dolly, who is a regular attendee at our congregation.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pink Expectations

White girl's dress, French, circa 1900.  Thanks, Carolann!

Now that my "condition" is mostly obvious (tall people can hide it longer!), and there is a de minimus chance I'll be returning to Libya anytime soon, I decided to make the big announcement to the wider world wide web: we are expecting a baby girl in October.

We couldn't be more thrilled. We had both felt this one was a girl, but then we had felt that way with Gideon, who is definitely not a girl. 

A girl.  So many emotions crowd the scene.  When I found out that Gideon was a boy, my whole mindset had to change, as I expected to have three girls.  As soon as the earth settled, I immediately started to think about the special implications of having a boy--preparing him to get the priesthood, helping him develop a testimony at an early age so he could have the "why" down of avoiding pornography during the tender years when curiosity can so easily give way to addiction, and giving him space to explore and discover in the early active years.

With a girl, now I am back to square one.  What kinds of things does a mother need to do to prepare to have a girl? I've found dress shopping infinitely more fun than baby boy clothes shopping.  But besides stocking up on pink and pinafores, what is it that I need to think about?

I suppose I will want to give her wings to fly.  Of course I will teach her all about homemaking - creating, sewing, cooking, how to get stains out of clothes (which I'm miserable at - mom, can I send her to you?), childcare - but also about using her femininity to make a difference beyond the home, the importance of continual education, and giving her tools to stand on her own spiritually-grounded feet.  But these things aren't terribly unique to girls anymore, as I will teach Gideon most of it, too.

Perhaps the only truly unique thing about girls is preparing them for motherhood.  That I can do.  And about choices in how to mother.  It's something I've spent 20 years thinking about.  Perhaps I have something to share with our little girl.  And maybe a bit to learn about being blissfully happy through all of motherhood's ups and downs.

Would love to know what you think is special about raising girls versus boys.  What is it that I should think about, and maybe start studying?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Moving House

It's a big luxury in London to have your own front door--and mail slot. Dad Toler,
check out that window box!

Yesterday I unpacked the last box from our move from our tree-top flat in Primrose Hill around the corner to a garden flat in Primrose Hill. 

I'm still in a state of shock, as I can't believe our good fortune to be in this flat - it has the largest private garden in Primrose Hill (shared with seven other flats, be we are one of three that has access to it and I believe the only family with children to enjoy it), its own front door, is owner-lived in so has beautiful finishes that are unique to a rental (like a German stove and fridge, dark hard wood floors, beautiful kitchen and bathroom fittings, etc.), and is bright with high ceilings and incredibly spacious--all for a great deal.  I could live in this home forever. 

The "move" isn't quite finished, however, because we have very little furniture.  We moved from a furnished flat to an unfurnished flat twice the size.  We've decided to go slowly and carefully and acquire things that we love rather than do a big IKEA shop and then spend years slowly getting rid of it - better for the environment, right?

Here are a few pics of partially-furnished rooms.  I'll add more as we finish furnishing and decorating different rooms.

For now, I'm feeling very, very lucky.

View out of our bedroom window.

Essentially all the furniture we own went into the nursery.

love having a "changing table" that is safe and doesn't hurt my back!  G loves looking out the window and finally stays relatively still.

Yes, we are using a crate for a table these days.  We left ours at the old flat and know what we want.

Our office through the kitchen "window."  Lance will finally be able to work from home evenings and weekends.  I couldn't be more excited.

view of our garden (and private terrace) from our "reception" or living room - not pictured.

Our garden smells like flowers and is tended by gardeners (included in rent)- how fab is that?
Did I mention we have massive amounts of storage, closets and a dedicated storage room? Rare for London.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Silently Struggling

I have been sharing my Book of Mormon reading notes (most of them) with a dear friend who is reading the book for the first time.  In it, she catches a glimpse of my soul that likely no one else sees right now.  She certainly can tell something of my struggles, if not their shape and size.

While sharing my notes with her chapter by chapter (thanks to the iPad App - marvelous invention that it is), I have also been reading a bit of the criticisms of Mormon mommy blogging versus other mommy bloggers.  Those not of my faith believe they paint an unrealistic picture of motherhood, only sharing the sunny side.

Technically, I fall into the species of a Mormon Mommy Blogger (MMB) (I think?).  And I know I am prey to the criticisms - in talking to a dear friend recently, she said that by my blog posts, you would never know of my struggles. 

Why do I and other MMB feign to share our struggles? Do the answers lie in personality, Mormon culture, or Mormon doctrine?

D) All of the above.  

The cultural side has a doctrinal underpinning - perfection.  We are challenged by the Savior to "Be ye therefore perfect," and we often try to undertake this challenge on our own.  What in other Mormon generations may have produced what I call "Relief Society" voice, or a certain soft, vacuous voice appropriate for small children but leveled at adults with equal impunity, in my generation produces all-sunshine blogs. It's probably pride, pride nurtured by culture, that prevents sharing a less-than-perfect side.  Sometimes called perfectionism. Not necessarily a good thing.

However, the doctrinal reasons may be more flattering.  We believe in a very personal and private relationship with the Savior.  We are taught that our most important doctrines generally are sacred, not secret.  We are also counseled to apply doctrines to our lives in a personal way.  Too, we believe in a personal relationship with both the Savior and the Holy Ghost (and our Heavenly Father, all of whom we believe are separate personages) who teach us in quiet, reflective moments. 

I for one work out my salvation with fear and trembling, usually on my knees or in the quietude I attempt to create during my morning study.  In these quiet spaces, I can find the Lord and am tutored in a more excellent method of suffering.  These experiences are some of my most sacred.  I share them only as prompted. 

Sometimes, it means I share them here.  Hopefully I can strike a balance in following promptings rather than fear in sharing my struggles appropriately.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sleeping amidst the Animals

One of our first views of an English free-range kangaroo at Whipsnade Zoo.
Bedding down within feet of man-eating lions?  Ensuring your "people enclosure" is fully locked so the amara can't get in?  Free-range kangaroos in the English countryside?

Yes - that was our weekend at Whipsnade Zoo.  Thanks to the generosity of Mom and Dad Toler and the help of our beloved Asha, we were able to enjoy a belated Christmas present this weekend, an overnight stay at "lookout lodge" within Whipsnade Zoo 30 miles north of London.

It was an adventure anyway you look at it.  We arrived at the zoo at about 3:00 p.m. and, because it was raining, explored the indoor areas where we met a mini crocodile and this chameleon and the covered area of the new children's zoo.

We then headed cross the zoo's 300 acres to our experience's starting point.  I was startled by a kangaroo hopping across the road.  I promptly informed a uniformed zoo employee that an animal had escaped but was told that no, there are hundreds of free-range wallabies and amaras (not to mention the deer and rabbits) at Whipsnade. Alrighty then.

The official experience began Friday evening at 5:00 p.m., when we were greeted with a hot drink (hot chocolate, thanks) or champagne by our night hosts before settling into our "pod" accommodations, which were surprisingly comfortable.

We then fed the endangered "bongos," were told all about the southern white hippos (which are not white at all - it was a mistranslation, and stuck), and met the Siberian Tigers who have decided don't really like one another.  After a dusk safari wherein we saw many of the zoo's deer herds, we then enjoyed an evening meal at the zoo's restaurant.

Rhinos are poached for their tusks, which are thought by many Asians to have magical powers.  Sad,
as there is no scientific research to back this up. Rhino horns can go for something like $600,000. Crazy.

It was then time for our torch-lit walk (that's a flashlight for the Yanks).  We then saw the boy cheetahs, the lions (SO cool), and the wolves.  The latter put on quite the show for us.  Each stop was accompanied by a talk by our guides.

The evening ended at 10:00 p.m., when we headed back to our pods, now cozily warm, and fell asleep under a pitch-black sky and the sound of the lions roaring a few hundred yards away (a distance which can still be measured in feet, right?).

Breakfast was at 7:30 a.m. sharp.  We then fed the chimps - possibly my favorite animal of the morning - the bears, and the wolverine.  Last we met the South African penguins, who had the best view in town.

The penguin's view.  Whipsnade is absolutely beautiful.

We were pretty tired at this point, but were able to fit in the giraffes, the lemurs, the red pandas, and take the steam train to see the baby elephant and yak before heading back to our London-bound train.

The steam engines, around 100 years old, take three hours to heat up

The little baby is so tiny yet already weighs 16 stones (whatever that is)!

Dad Toler, I thought of you and our yurt when I saw the yaks.

Wonderful, memorable experience.  Thank you, Mom and Dad Toler.  It was a blast!