Ever After
  • Musings
  • September3rd

    One of my favorite books, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, contains wisdom that aptly describes the condition of my heart over the past week and a half:

    “The human heart is like india-rubber; a little swells it, but a great deal will not burst it. If little more than nothing will disturb it, little less than all things will suffice to break it. As in the outer members of our frame, there is a vital power inherent in itself that strengthens it against external violence. Every blow that shakes it will serve to harden it against a future stroke; as constant labour thickens the skin of the hand, and strengthens its muscles instead of wasting them away: so that a day of arduous toil, that might excoriate a lady’s palm, would make no sensible impression on that of a hardy ploughman.”

    Yes. I felt like my heart was breaking as my kiddos left for school and I sat here contemplating how I was going to reconstruct a meaningful life from flotsam and jetsam, but this quote buoyed me up as it has on other emotionally stormy occasions, gently reminding me that although I am so very sad, I am also resilient and should search for pieces of hope amidst the wreckage of despair.

    I enjoy the after school hours so much more now than I use to. Previous to this school year, Vivi would walk in the door, and Tad, like a little puppy just wanting to bounce and play, would pester her and cause a ruckus. The hours from 3-5 p.m. that used to be contentious and mostly miserable now actually border on pleasant.

    Tad also use to buck my attempts at infusing structure and implementing routine. Having spent his day at school in a structured setting, he is now much more amenable to following instruction at home and getting his responsibilities done first and playing later. Vivian, unfettered by her overly rambunctious brother, is also able better able to focus on her after-school routine.

    Ariana, who has always been pleasant after school, continues to be so. She started early morning seminary yesterday and, no less miraculous than the parting of the Red Sea, she has gotten up on her own at the first buzz of her alarm and without waking Vivian with whom she shares a room.

    I am still like a little dinghy without a sail, scrubbing grout lines until they sparkle, steam-blasting plumbing fixtures and baseboard crevices, and trying to accomplish all the menial domestic tasks for which I am reluctantly responsible so that my time and attention post school pickup can, instead, be directed to my kids.

    I’ve never, ever been the June Cleaver kind of mom with a flair for making my kids’ childhoods magical. We are operating at a frenzied survival mode pace 99.9% of the time; however, I’ve started a simple tradition of setting out a little snack for my kids right before I leave to pick them up from school. Each day, they eagerly rush into the house to discover what edible surprise awaits them. A glass of chocolate milk and crackers? Veggies and a little hummus? Apple slices and peanut butter sprinkled with a few mini chocolate chips! The simple, premeditated refreshment helps them to know that I’ve been looking forward to and planning for their return. Tad marveled yesterday at my 6-days-straight snack streak, further attesting to previously sporadic, less-than-stellar motherly moments. Vivi said that I was “amazing” when she found out that today’s snack was microwave popcorn. Truth be told, I felt more accomplishment from their snack astonishment than from the spectacularly clean master bathroom that I slaved over for four hours while they were at school. I guess all these years of setting low expectations for my kids is finally paying off!

    Flotsam and jetsam. What shall I make of you today?

  • August25th


    Posted in: Ariana, Lori, Tad, Vivi

    I feel like I’m going to throw up. All my babies went to school today.

    First Day School_blog

    Somehow, the sunlit world is gray
    A small boy went to school today.
    So often in these few years
    Of healing hurts and mending tears
    Of picking playthings off the floor
    Of running often to the door
    To see if he were safe at play,
    The awful fear that he might stray
    On eager, fearless baby feet
    Into the crowded city street.
    One thought has been a placid pool,
    He’ll soon be old enough for school.
    And he was old enough today
    Yet all the sunlit world is gray.

    So soon my rooms grow orderly
    With no small boy to bother me.
    But quiet rooms are lonely things
    When in their walls no small boy sings.
    A quiet yard’s a lonely place
    When it has known a small boy’s face.
    Today he joined the world of men
    He’ll not be wholly mine again
    Today he braved life’s rise and fall–
    Dear Lord, he seems so very small.
    Somehow the sunlit world seems gray
    My baby went to school today.

    –Caroline Walker (Originally appearing in the newspaper shared with me by my dear friend, Myrna Monnier).

    Tad woke up sobbing, commiserating with his momma who had been crying for days (dare I say weeks? months?) about his first day of Kindergarten. He’d perked up by departure time, and BT reports that the drop off was tear-free and full of excitement. (For Tad, not me. I’m a wreck.)

    Tad First Day Kinder_blog

    Vivi was excited to wear her new dress, another Oliver + S creation (Rollerskate Dress), to her first day of THIRD GRADE! I did raw-edge appliqued books on the hem and used selvedges as the book titles on the spines.

    Vivi First Day Third Grade_blog

    Vivi First Day Dress_blogVivi Dress Hem_blog

    Ari, so grown up, was whisked off by her ride before we got to do our full photo session. Oh, how I pray she has a positive experience today, her first day of high school.

    Ari First Day HS_blog

    I knew this day would come. I knew it would be hard. I hoped it wouldn’t be as difficult as I had worked it up to be in my mind. It’s all of that and more.

    The line in the poem that really hits me in the gut and perfectly sums up my sorrow is “He’ll not be wholly mine again.” I know that the school day will fly by and I’ll see my kids again, but as soon as they start kindergarten, it’s the beginning of the end. Until today, Tad was my little buddy. We went everywhere together. We had picnics and played Legos. We fought and we cuddled. But, like his sisters who have gone before him, when he walked out the door today, it was one small step for my sweet child and one giant leap toward a future where I play less and less of a role in his life. Because I love my kids, I am excited for their future and their growth. Because I am selfish and perhaps a wee bit maladjusted, I am devastated to lose them and perplexed about what my future holds.

    Somehow the sunlit world seems gray. My babies went to school today.

  • March20th

    Deja Vu

    Posted in: Ariana, Lori

    “Papa” John Tolbert, Bryan’s sweet grandpa, passed away a little more than a month ago, and one of the quick decisions that had to be made in the hours following his death was who from our family would travel to Georgia to attend the funeral. Ari was out because of a busy, stressful week ahead of her at school, but Vivi and Tad both expressed a desire to go, and we thankfully found cheap tickets on Spirit Airlines so they could accompany BT.

    As much as I dreaded having my kids gone from Tuesday to Sunday, and I was especially anxious about Vivi going, the quiet week with Ariana turned out to be a blessing. Our time together these past few days reminded me of the time, eleven years ago almost to the day, when she and I arrived in Texas.

    Unlike my comfy bed that Ari and I snuggled in this past week as we watched an odd assortment of shows–Downton Abbey, Mall Cop, and the original Sabrina–our first night in Texas was spent on the floor of our new home in sleeping bags borrowed from my brother-in-law’s old mission companion. He, his wife, and their cute family were the closest thing we had to acquaintances in the area. The next morning, the movers arrived with our furniture and other household belongings, and the tremendous ice storm that shut down the Metroplex later that afternoon gave me a couple of days off work to unpack and settle in.

    But things were far from settled. Every day that I had to drop my sweet two-year-old off at the huge, impersonal daycare instead of our wonderful Utah babysitter, I agonized over whether I had done the right thing by moving us here. Those were gut-wrenching times. Somehow, we survived each day and imperceptibly, the unknown eventually became familiar to us. In retrospect, although they were hard times, they are among my most treasured memories. I truly felt the Lord in my life as I leaned on Him as I never had before.

    Likewise, the memories Ari and I made while the rest of the family was in Georgia are priceless, and hopefully it won’t take another out-of-town funeral to usher in some good Mom/Ari bonding.

  • January6th

    All Aboard!

    Posted in: Lori, Tad

    Dear Bryan,

    Please go to the bathroom at work before you come home. Plan on showering at the Frisco Athletic Center in the morning. We no longer have a master bathroom. We have a train station.


    Engineer Lori & Conductor Tad

    p.s. In case you were wondering, my estate sale Lego treasure included 173 pieces of train track and three controllers. Even after making the biggest train layout I could find instructions for online, we still have 1/3 of the track and 2 controllers left. Sweet!

  • January5th

    Atop Tad’s Christmas wish list was an item that made this muggle mother’s heart sink: Invisibility Blanket.

    I can quilt.

    I can sew.

    I can applique, knit, crochet, and even tat.

    But I can’t make an invisibility blanket.

    Or can I???

    As I sat today where I have sat almost every Sunday for the past three years–on the piano bench in Primary–it occurred to me that I, and other Primary pianists like me around the globe, are often shrouded by invisibility blankets. Few people ever give a moment’s thought to the person laboring behind the piano, a smile on her face while sweat drips down her pits, transparent to all except when she makes a mistake.

    Thankfully, I am not in it for the glory, and heaven knows that I don’t deserve nor have I earned any accolades for my bumbling, fumbling, however well-intentioned efforts.  But I know other Primary pianists, or those in other “low-profile” callings, may not be as content with invisibility.

    No. No one will miss me when the new pianist starts next Sunday. Like a good scout on a camping trip, I’ve left no trace that I was ever there. But in many important ways, I’VE been changed by the calling from which I was released this morning.

    I’ve learned . . .

    I can do really, really, really hard things . . . like playing the piano in front people.

    Practice does not always make perfect.

    If I’m ever in a leadership role, I will strive to do my calling and not anyone else’s.

    And perhaps most importantly, I will be more mindful of and demonstratively thankful for the efforts of fellow foot soldiers. Great effort, love and sacrifice is often behind even the quietest, most “invisible” service.

  • January5th

    Even though I know it’s my job to teach and nurture my kids, on most days I feel like I learn more from them than they from me. For example, Tad often reminds me of the power of simple, heartfelt prayer.

    “Dear Heavenly Father, this is Tad. I hope that my Grandpa Tad is feeling better after his fall and that he is eating his oatmeal because I really love him.” When I talked to my dad that morning, he reported that, indeed, he had eaten oatmeal for breakfast and that he has no lasting effects from his fall this past summer.

    On another occasion, Grandpa Tad’s dust collector system wasn’t working. My dad struggled mightily for a few of days to get it up and running but to no avail. I explained the problem to Tad, and he and I knelt as Tad offered a simple little prayer that Grandpa Tad would be able to fix his dust collector system. “Heavenly Father, this is is Tad . . .”

    No more than 10 minutes after Tad finished his prayer, my dad called with happy news: With heaven’s help, he had fixed the problem. A loose wire in the switch that he had previously found but had not hooked back up correctly.  Young Tad’s response to having his prayer answered so quickly and directly: “That was cool and weird.”

    When Tad earnestly prays for Ariana and Vivian in our family prayer as they head off to school, it’s easy for them to forgive his impishness: “Please bless Vivi that she will have someone to play with at recess, and please bless Guppy that the mean girls at school won’t mess with her any more. She is not ugly, she is pretty and nice because that’s what she is.”

    I’m sure that Heavenly Father smiles when Tad wishes Him a good day: “I hope my dad has a good day and that my mom accomplishes everything that she needs to. And I hope You have a good day, too.”

    Encouraged by his faith, I’m trying to adopt Tad’s sweet salutation in my own personal prayers. “Heavenly Father, this is Lori . . .”

    My prayer is that I will find joy in motherhood as I try really hard to teach my kids to have grateful hearts, helpful hands, and quick, creative minds.

  • October8th


    Posted in: Ariana, Lori

    How do you convince your daughter that she is beautiful when the world subliminally suggests that she is not?

    How do you help her realize that, even while swimming smack dab in the pond of ugly duckling years, she is truly already a lovely swan?


    Every time I go pick up Vivian from school, I am reminded of how sub-standard I am. So many cute moms in their designer jeans or spandex, showing off their perfectly toned physique and (surgically altered?) perkiness. How can I help my daughter recognize her beauty if I am similarly plagued?

    It breaks my heart to send a tearful little girl to school, her heart painfully paying the high price of low self-esteem.

    She did at least crack a smile when I told her that we’d look at pictures of me when I was in middle school when she gets home today. I assured her that they would cheer her up.



  • September9th

    As part of a fun online class I took at JessicaSprague.com a few years ago, I designed a subway art poster. The instructor used the various addresses of places she and her husband had lived, and I tried that approach, but BT and I just haven’t moved around much in our lives. It made for a boring poster. But then I remembered a journal, just a little tattered yellow notepad, that I had kept while he and I were dating.

    Dating BT was wonderful and frustrating: Wonderful because BT is the kindest, most patient person I’ve ever met; Frustrating because BT was horribly indecisive (aka the phase in our relationship he termed “the holding pattern”) and, at the time, he lacked critical communication skills necessary for a successful relationship.

    As I re-read our little G-rated fairy tale, I realized that I had captured a lot of our dating milestones–first date, first hug, when we first held hands, etc. Using these tidbits, I reconstructed the sloooowww progression of our relationship for the poster assignment, had it printed at Costco as canvas art, and gave it to BT for our anniversary a couple of years ago. The piece hangs in our bedroom and serves as a reminder of the simple, special moments that led up to our marriage.

    2Subway Art_Final_blog

    We celebrated little Hug Day this weekend by going out for pizza and then to the outlet mall to buy BT some decent workout clothes. We may honor our upcoming Big Hug Day with a trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few yummy snacks that we’ll eat while watching a favorite t.v. show together at home. A year ago, we celebrated Love at First Sight Day by recreating our first date, including wearing the same clothes we wore that day, eating at the same restaurant, ordering the same menu items, and even exchanging nervous little “first date” chit chat. When I instinctively tried to hold BT’s hand during our reenactment, he teased me that we couldn’t do that for another two months (10 October, Hand in Hand Day)!

    One thing I love most about being married to BT is that we find silly, inexpensive ways to help us reconnect when life gets crazy.

  • August29th

    The Finish Line

    Posted in: Bryan, Lori, Tad

    With a nice array of photography equipment and my love of preserving memories, you’d think that our home would be decorated with lots of family pictures. But it’s not. Other than a few 4×6 prints of my kids displayed on the mantle and in my craft room, I have never printed any pictures of our family. Never. Sick and sad.

    With Bryan’s love of family history and my adoration of vintage, you’d think that we would at least have some nostalgic photos of ancestors displayed somewhere in our home. Nope. None of those either.

    I’ve always wanted to do a collage of photos past and present, and I’ve bought (and returned) frames several times. I’ve seen several beautiful collage walls and a lot of mediocre ones; I knew that I lacked the skills and confidence to pull together anything more than mediocre. I also love the “collected” look, and I wanted something that could easily evolve and adapt over time. As such, art ledges seemed to be the perfect answer, and the wall at the bottom of our stairs, the perfect place.

    After seeing some ideas online, BT and I knew what we liked, but we also knew that we’d have to build them ourselves; the commercially available art ledges that caught our eye were not long enough and would have been cost prohibitive even if they were. Excited about the prospect of doing this project together, we purchased mahogany the day before Mother’s Day and completed construction of five, 7-foot long floating shelves a few weeks ago, but they still needed to be finished–stained, distressed, and sealed.

    This week with the girls back in school, I felt compelled to get our project across the finish line, but I was a little hesitant to let Tad help. Yes, I was afraid of what harm he might do to the ledges, but I was more afraid of what harm I might do to him if he flipped stain all over the place, tipped over the paint can, or if the finished project looked like the work of a four-year-old.

    Nonetheless, I recognized that this might be a good opportunity to make memories with my little guy, so I prayed for an extra dose of patience, and then we changed into grubbies and went to work in the hot Texas August sun. We got the shelves stained on Tuesday without mishap, and on Thursday we tackled the task 0f distressing and sealing. Tad was exceptionally good at distressing the shelves, but I cautioned him more than once that he couldn’t just start sanding the finish off of all our furniture.

    Early on Day 1 of our labors as Tad helped me lift one of the shelves, he observed that he was like Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. (Tad is a bit obsessed with Les Mis, and although I have exercised my parental censorship rights and removed a few inappropriate songs from his MP3 player, he has memorized much of the remaining score.)

    Jean Valjean

    From that point on, I affectionately called him “24601” (Jean Valjean’s prisoner number) whenever I needed his assistance. At one point I gave him the option to go back inside to relax, cool off, and watch a movie, but he decided to stick it out and stay with me. It was hard, hot work, and he was a huge help. Only once when the project was finished did I lose my temper. Although I was exceedingly le miserable (HOT, stinky, sweaty, and sore), I wanted to get a picture of us to remember our project by. Repeatedly, I’d set up the camera, activate the timer, run to get in the photo, and then he’d stick out his tongue or make a goofy face. Aagh! It brought out the Javert (merciless antagonist) in me. Sometimes I amaze myself at just how bad a mom I can be. Thankfully, 24601 accepted my apology, and we quickly made peace.

    25601 and mom art ledges 25601 art ledges

    The ledges are hung on the wall, and we’ve started the process of putting photos on them. Although I haven’t arranged the frames or anything, I did want to snap some pictures to document our accomplishment of the week .Tad Art Ledges_blog

    art ledges finished 2 art ledges finished 1

    I hope that the art ledges and photos will serve their intended purpose: to beautify our home and to help our family remember who we are, where we came from, and where we hope to go from here. I also hope that Tad will remember that he can do hard things, that he is a “finisher” in all senses of the word, and that his mother loves him (even though she acts like a beast more often than she should).

  • August26th

    Even without BT’s usual morning help (he made an early morning visit to a friend in the hospital), the girls made it to school for their first day. This was a first for us. I’ve NEVER done the first day drop-off, and I definitely don’t have a reputation for being the most helpful or pleasant parent in the morning. After I fed them a quick breakfast of yogurt/granola and fruit smoothie, I made their lunches (including a quick love note), did their hair, snapped some pictures, and drove my sweet girls to school.

    blog_Ariana First Day School 2013

    blog_Vivian First Day School 2013

    Tad was a mess . . . sour about spilling his smoothie, about not being the center of attention, and about the impending loneliness.

    blog_Tad First Day School 2013

    I love you, my school girls. Hurry home and tell me all about your adventures. In the meantime, Tad and I will try to not miss you too much.

    p.s. Shoot! I just realized that we forgot family prayer. 🙁