Ever After
  • Ariana
  • September3rd

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    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

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    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

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    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.

  • January5th

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    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

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    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.



  • August26th

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    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. 🙁

  • August25th

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    Posted in: Ariana, Bryan, Lori, Tad, Vivi

    Julie B. Beck, former General President of the LDS Relief Society, taught: “Women are like lionesses at the gate of the home.”

    When I first heard this quote, I’ll admit that it felt a bit hyperbolic to me; however, over the past few years, I’ve come to find peace and empowerment in her analogy. When I feel guilty about fiercely guarding my family from the good things that monopolize our time and rob us of the better and best things, I remember her remarks, and I don’t feel quite so bad any more.

    While unfailingly supporting and sustaining the local leaders of our church, this lioness will continue trying to respectfully and appropriately influence a calendar clear of firesides and mandatory meetings scheduled on the eve of a new school year. It’s always a sad thing when BT walks out the door and misses the last few precious hours of summer vacation and pre-school prep with our kids.

    Thankfully, we had enough time this evening for me and the kids to receive special back-to-school priesthood blessings from BT before he had to leave. Sweet Tad beamed as he received the first blessing, and by the time he’d remained reverent for the other three, even his super Spidey Powers couldn’t conquer The Sandman.

    Tad_Fathers Blessing

    After BT left, I painted the girls’ nails, we sipped Vitamix watermelon-lime slushes, and I tackled their traditional first-day-of-school foam roller ‘do’s. Wow! Ariana has a lot of hair!

    First Day Prep

    (Tad’s nap was a short one.)

    A year from now, Tad will be headed to Kindergarten and Ariana to high school. If my tears today are any indication, we’d better add flood insurance to our homeowner’s policy. What’s a lioness to do when her cubs have left the den?

  • August19th

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    Things that make you go, “Hmmm????”

    1. Ariana’s maternal Great-Grandmother, the oldest daughter in her family, was born on 13 October.
    2. Ariana’s maternal Grandmother, the oldest daughter in her family, was born on 13 September.
    3. Ariana’s mother, the oldest daughter in her family, was born on 13 March.
    4. Ariana, the oldest daughter in her family, was born on 13 August . . . at 13:13 in the afternoon!


    With all the lucky 13’s in our lineage, the optimal theme for Ariana’s 13th birthday party was pretty obvious: Triskaidekaphilia! (Love of the number 13).

    At 13:13 on 13 August 2013, a few of Ariana’s close friends gathered to celebrate our beloved Triskaidekarian and some of her favorites:

    *Meatball subs
    *Cooking–toffee apple dip cooking class
    *Fresh-squeezed lemonade
    *Pinterest: cute hair ties craft
    *Harry Potter: bracelets
    *Books: book exchange
    *Friends: each girl wrote things that they liked about each other on a pieces of cardstock. We framed them as a keepsake for each girl.
    *Photography and being silly: photo booth with silly props
    *Ice cream sundaes with 13 favorite toppings

    That night, Ariana selected Buca di Beppo for our family dinner. She loves Italian food!


    Of all the mysterious things about the number 13, the thing that has me the most bewildered is “How did the last 13 years pass so quickly?”


    But, Ariana, even though you may be befuddled about why you aren’t the proud owner of a shiny new cell phone, let there be know doubt in your mind how much we love you. My birthday wish for you is that you defy all the stereotypical teenage behaviors (and my mother’s hope that someday I’d have a teenager just as sassy as I was) and stay your sweet self. You are a kind, smart, even-tempered, polite, articulate, bibliophilic wonder, and I’m proud to be your mother.

  • August11th


    In an effort to be more consistent with recording the happenings of our lives for posterity and for our faraway family, I will try to do a periodic post entitled “Wish You Were Here” (WYWH). Perhaps it will just be a boring brain dump, but I’ve been feeling an urgency to write certain experiences down, so hopefully, at the very least, I can sleep easier knowing that I’m following through on that prompting.

    And so without further ado . . .

    Ariana: Sometimes I worry that Ariana gets lost in the shuffle. Vivi and Tad are younger and seem to demand a lot more parental interaction than Ari. This week, between spending lots of hours planning a birthday party for her; dentist (no cavities), orthodontist (started with rubber bands), and optometrist (got contacts); and school supply shopping, hopefully Ariana will feel way down deep in her gut that she is loved.

    13 Bday Invite_blog

    Vivi: Vivi is blessed with with an obedient spirit. When I proclaim it to be a nap day, she meekly says, “Yes, ma’am.”  Most days, my sweet early-riser 7-year-old needs a nap, and without it, she’s quite unpleasant and doesn’t abide teasing from Tad well at all. Vivi is also very sensitive about us laughing at her. Today as we parked at church, she said, “this is the same sparking pot as last week.” I chuckled and said that I thought we should call “parking spots” “sparking pots” from now on, but she took offense at the rest of us finding humor in her tongue twister.

    Vivi Sweater 2

    Tad: Oh, Tad. He’s a bundle of energy who defies my every request and who can’t keep his hands to himself. He loves to help in the kitchen and be my “tester.” We barely get one meal cleaned up before he is asking for another snack. He also has my acute sense of smell and says the funniest things. Example: Much to the dismay of our kids, we’ve cut back on sweets this past week as we try to detox from our vacation. (The drive back to TX was particularly bad.) BT sneaked some root beer after tucking the girls in but before getting Tad settled in for the night. Here’s the dialogue.

    BT: Night, night buddy. I love you.

    Tad: I love you too, Dad. What’s that breath smell?

    BT: I think it’s toothpaste.

    Tad: Naaah. It smells like root beer to me.


    Tad mall water fountain

    Lori: One highlight of my week was sewing the buttons on a sweater I knit for Vivian. Woo hoo! I finished a project! It is the first sweater I’ve knit since I was in high school. In addition to the fact that the sweater fits her, I’m also particularly proud of the alterations I made to the pattern (with my mom’s help). We figured out how to add a lace section to the bottom of the sweater. I love the wool/silk yarn I used, but the temperatures will have to cool down a bit before Vivi can wear it. I’m going to make her a simple dress to wear it with.

    Vivi Sweater 1


    BT: Maybe BT is as excited about fixing a broken sprinkler yesterday as I am about finishing a sweater, but I honestly can’t say. I love him to death, but he isn’t much of a communicator. I am alarmed that he says he wants to dismantle all of the garden areas in the backyard, and he isn’t composting anymore. For our entire married life, I’ve saved all of the non-meat scraps for his garden . . . until yesterday. He’s just so busy with work and church that he has little time for anything else. It makes me sad, and it makes me feel guilty that I can sneak in a few minutes of my hobbies here and there (mostly as I sit in carpool lanes or doctor’s offices) but he really doesn’t have the time or energy to pursue his. He never complains, though. I also don’t feel super inclined to take on the garden in addition to everything else that falls on my list.

    This week was also a transition week for us. It’s hard being back home when I’ve been at my mom and dad’s house for the last month. I miss being around family in the worst way.

  • August11th

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    Posted in: Ariana, Bryan, Lori, Tad, Vivi

    After our week of adventure at Philmont Scout Camp, we traveled through beauty (Gunnison, CO) and desolation (middle-of-no-where, UT) to reach family in Utah. We had planned to take our time getting there, but Bryan’s Grandma Jones wasn’t doing very well, and he wanted a chance to visit with her before he flew back to TX, so we made the trip in one day. As an added bonus, Bryan’s mom was in town, and Michelle (Bryan’s sister) and her children were able to meet up with us as well.

    Grandma Jones is one of the most pleasant people I’ve ever known, especially considering she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. She always seems to find humor and joy in even the simplest things, and although she probably had no idea who the gaggle of people around her were, she was warm and personable.

    Grandma Jones

    Fam with Gran and Grandma Jones

    Summerhays with Gran and Grandma Jones


    Grandma Grace Jones was particularly tickled when she was reminded that two of her great granddaughters carry her name–Ava Grace and Vivi Grace.

    Sweet Grandma, we all love you and are grateful for the time we were able to spend with you. Thank you for your example of enduring gracefully and faithfully.