Ever After
  • Ariana
  • August6th

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

    Several months ago when BT told me that he’d signed us up for a week at Philmont Scout Ranch where, with other church leaders this summer, he’d receive training relating to Boy Scouts, Duty to God and other programs aimed at strengthening the young men of the church, I think I muttered a few naughty words under my breath and started to cry. This is my blog and this is America, so I think I’m at liberty to say that I am not a huge supporter of BSA, I am not a camper, and I don’t think that a week-long church meeting is a family vacation.

    With less than a stellar attitude but truly doing my very best to be supportive, we drove the 10+ hours to Cimarron, NM. One of the highlights of the trip to Cimarron was stopping at Clayton State Park and were awed by hundreds of dinosaur tracks.

    blog_Clayton Lake State Park Jun 2013

    BT Vivi Clayton Lake State Park Jun 2013

    BT Tad Clayton Lake State Park Jun 2013

    blog_dino track Clayton Lake State Park Jun 2013

    Philmont trip 2013

    As we rolled into Philmont, so did a huge rain storm. Thankfully, the tents were mostly waterproof because we had rain nearly every day we were there.

    BT enjoyed the training he received, the kids had fun participating in their various activities, and I met some very sweet, nice people . . . and one bear.

    Vivi Tad Sis Wixom Philmont June 2013

    Ari Philmont 2013


    Vivi Philmont 2013


    Tad Philmonth 2013_3

    Philmont Bear

    For the record, I still maintain that Philmont is not a “real” family vacation, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, either. Also, it is my sincere hope that the learnings obtained through such an outlay of time and resources can somehow benefit the young women of the church and not just the young men.

    In case this post leaves you in doubt, just let me say that I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love and sustain our Prophet and those that serve with him. I also hope that my skepticism about scouting and the time, energy and expense involved in the program won’t keep me out of heaven. ūüėČ

  • August28th

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    When I realized a week ago that I only had a few days left with my kids before they headed back to school, I decided to host a “no regrets” week in my honor. I set aside the lengthy to-do list and, instead, the kids and I created a new list of things that we wanted to do during our last week of summer vacation. Although the list was not perfectly executed, we did a pretty dang good job of making the week count.

    On Monday, we went to the Dallas Zoo and enjoyed temperatures in the high 80’s, low 90’s. Ariana invited a friend to help make her trip a bit more enjoyable, and we all had a really good time.

    Tuesday, we went to a cute movie: The Odd Life of Timothy Green. It was a great family-friendly film, and I think we all enjoyed it. Afterwards we had a little Wii Party.

    Wednesday, we stayed close to home and had a Leave it to Beaver marathon. Netflix is our best friend!

    Thursday, at 5:15 we went to Ariana’s school and decorated her locker, although I think it took a little longer than expected, partly having to do with my want need for perfection. ūüôā

    Friday, Ariana dutifully watched the littles while Bryan and I went out for lunch to¬†celebrate¬†our first lunch together. Bryan even got off work early to go to the Frisco Athletic Center with us. We spent the remainder of the day there, came back home, fixed ourselves up again and left, yet again to go to Fisher to meet Vivian’s teacher, while Ariana stayed home and made us salad for dinner. (Tad reminded me that he helped her by tasting the toppings to make sure they were good.) We got home… again and finished up dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed.

    Saturday, we went to the North Texas State Fair in Denton. Despite the heat and lack of proper hydration, we had lots of fun.The kids and Ariana (She frequently reminds me that she is not a kid anymore, but she will always be my baby girl no matter how old she gets) did a tractor pull. Ariana tried and kept going onto the grass, making them have to restart it a couple of times and then stopped short because she thought she was done. Vivian, too, stopped just short of the finish line. Tad was the youngest competitor in the group, and his little legs didn’t even fully reach the pedals. He had the best showing from our family advancing to the semi-finals.

    (Thank you to Ariana for helping to write this post. I started it but then got distracted. She finished it for me.)

  • August27th

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    Posted in: Ariana, Lori, Tad, Vivi

    With a bounce in their hair from our traditional night-before-school-starts-sponge-roller treatment and a bounce in their step, Ari and Vivi headed back to school this morning.

    Vivi is a little nervous about her new teacher whose name I can’t ever seem to remember but thankfully Tad can–Ms. Delashaw. Ari is a little nervous about all of her new teachers (I can’t even attempt to remember all their names) and the THREE pre-ap classes that she’s taking this year. Despite her jitters, I know that Ariana is excited about opening her locker on the first try (thank heaven that the sixth grade learning curve is behind us) and to see the zebra-striped interior that she and I decorated late last week.

    Tad is kind of at a loss because he has no one to fight with, although a pack of Smarties and a bubble gum-flavored Dum Dum later, and he has figured out that it’s easier to sneak into the candy cupboard without his two Other Mothers watching over him. With sugar coursing through his veins, Tad is bouncing off the walls, and he wants to race through the Mommy-Buck-School workbooks in a single morning.

    And speaking of Tad, he just headed downstairs again for another sugar fix, no doubt. Maybe he can find something in the candy cupboard that will help me bounce back from my first-day doldrums.

  • August27th

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    Posted in: Ariana, Vivi

    August 10, 2012–Vivi lost her first tooth . . . twice.

  • August19th

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    Excepting her birth day, I doubt that any of Ari’s birthdays have been as eagerly anticipated as this one.

    In Ariana’s mind, the big One-Two is the portkey to a magical world of new opportunities, and I can’t say that I blame her for her excitement: old enough for¬†cosmetics, Young Women’s, and the potential of paid babysitting jobs without yet being plagued with the side effects of maturity–pimples, hairy armpits, monthly messes. Not a bad gig.

    Ariana felt very loved and lucky as several of her friends wished her a happy day by taking her for ice cream, secretly decorating her room while she was at tennis, and bringing her thoughtful tokens of friendship.

    As a family, we celebrated Ariana with her chosen dinner menu–Thai Coconut Chicken Curry Soup over Jasmine Rice followed by Cookie Dough Ice Cream Pie for dessert.

    A few days later, we hosted a “Late-Over Fit for a Tween” party to culminate Ariana’s birth week. Make-your-own pizza, facials (peel followed by a chocolate masque), flower necklace craft, cupcake decorating, spin-the-nail polish-bottle game, and the movie Ever After kept the girls giggling until the stroke of a midnight.

    I’ll elaborate on the nail polish game because it was especially fun and creative. Buy ten different shades of inexpensive polish (i.e., Ice brand from WalMart). The girls sit around the table with the bottles in the center of the table. One girl starts by selecting a polish, setting it on its side, and spinning it. Whoever it points to gets to paint one fingernail that color and answer a question associated with that color (see below). The girl to her right then chooses the next color and spins it. If the polish points to someone that already has a fingernail painting that color, it passes to the person on her left until it lands on someone who still needs that color. The objective of the game is to be the first person to get all ten nails painted with each of the colors.¬†Ultimately, everyone is a winner and gets to pick a shade of polish to take home, but the first person to complete her nails gets first pick of the polish.

    Here’s the list of nail polish colors and associated questions:

    Orange: Orange stimulates the appetite. What is your favorite food?

    Yellow: Yellow is uplifting, happy, cheerful and fun. What do you like to do for fun?

    Silver: Silver is associated with prestige and wealth. If someone gave you a million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it?

    Turquoise: Turquoise can help us to love ourselves. What is one thing you love about yourself?

    Light Pink: Pink is unconditional love and nurturing. What is one thing you love about the person to your left?

    Neon Pink: Neon pink is playful and happy and fun loving.  What is one thing you love about the person to your right?

    Green: Green is the color of growth. What is one talent or ability you’d like to develop?

    Purple: Purple represents the future, the imagination and dreams. If you could have one wish granted, what would you wish for? You can’t wish for more wishes.

    Red: Red is the color of determination and accomplishment. What are you determined to do within the next year?

    Blue: The color blue reduces stress, creating a sense of calmness and relaxation. What helps you feel calm and relaxed?

    For the flower necklace craft, Ari and I raided our Goodwill donation box and pulled out old t-shirts. I won’t go into details on how to make the flowers because there are a million tutorials on-line, but I will say that my method was with needle and thread and not hot glue.

    I hope that the past week demonstrates how much you are dearly loved, Ariana.

  • August10th


    Downton Abbey is the sole reason why any laundry ever gets folded around here. Because the only time I allow myself the privilege of watching that splendid show is when I’m folding laundry, I think that, subconsciously, I allow loads and loads of clean clothes to accumulate in baskets just so I can stand for hours at a time folding and watching. I suppose that if I lived in that era, I’d be one of the servants (a laundress?), but I like to envision myself as Lady Grantham, wearing beautiful, tasteful gowns and attending to a variety of worthy causes.

    This graceful lifestyle is what I had in mind when the latest beautiful issue of Somerset Life caught my eye at Costco as I headed to the checkout stand. They really know my weakness and they purposely position the magazine rack in the impulse-buy section of the store. I bought the issue because, after all, a $10 magazine at Costco is a like a¬†brass farthing¬†compared to a costly basketful of toilet paper, pork loin and the sample-of-the-day that you don’t really need but that you get suckered into buying anyway. You know what I’m talking about . . . the humus dip that your kids insist they love in the store but turn their noses up as soon as you get the 3-pound-refrigerator-hogging container home. Anyway, I was immediately drawn in by an article about an artist named Heather Sleightholm, aka “Audrey Eclectic.” I fell in love with her work and, while sitting in the food court as Tad scarfed a hot dog, I pulled her information up on-line from my phone because I was so excited that I couldn’t even wait to get home to a real computer.¬† When I discovered that she did affordable commission work, the wheels in my head started spinning. When I showed Bryan her work and he was equally impressed with it, we started the process to get our family portrait done. Goodbye humble laundress, hello Lady Tolbert.

    I am picky. I am opinionated. I am very detail oriented. Heather is PATIENT. Heather is TALENTED. Heather is AMAZING to work with. I really can’t say enough good about that woman. The process of information exchange went FLAWLESSLY, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. Well, actually if Fedex hadn’t beat the packaging to HECK and broken the wood frame that the canvas is stretched to, I would have been a wee bit more pleased, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a competent frame shop (and hopefully paid for by Fedex).

    We all LOVE our large 30 inch x 40 inch painting and I plan on having it hang above our fireplace until the day I die. And then I hope that my kids show a little more decorum than Lady Grantham’s spoiled children and amicably decide some time-share system to rotate the heirloom from home-to-home in a fair manner.

  • June14th


    Musical Chairs

    Posted in: Ariana

    This email that I received today made my heart sing:

    Hi Lori,

    I just had to let you know how much [my husband] and I appreciated Ariana’s act of kindness at activity days yesterday!!

    So when [my daughter] showed up for her 1st activity in the 10-11 yr old group yesterday, there were 4 cushion chairs that the other girls were sitting on. ¬†So [my daughter]¬†sat on a hard one, and of course, felt left out (she didn’t say anything though). ¬†Ariana got up and switched with [my daughter]. ¬†It really meant a lot to [my daughter] as she was beyond nervous to be there in the first place. Thank you thank you!!! ¬†It just brings tears to my eyes.

    Thanks again,
    [A Grateful Mom]

    Ariana, sometimes you wonder aloud why you have to go through tough times. I hope you recognize that these challenges are shaping your character and helping you evolve into a beautiful, empathetic individual who strives to make sure others don’t feel as lonely, left out, and friendless as you do sometimes.

    Good job, my sweet girl.
  • January2nd


    To put it mildly, we are OBSESSED with Chopped, the Food Network show where contestants are given random (and often weird) baskets of ingredients and are expected to create culinary masterpieces in a ridiculously short amount of time. Each round, one contestant gets “chopped,” and in the final dessert round, the two remaining chefs compete head-to-head for a $10k prize.

    A few nights a week, you can find us all huddled around the television watching DVR’ed episodes. We each guess at who will be chopped and who will win. We gag at some of the ingredients–from testicles to brain, rattlesnake to rabbit–that the chefs not only have to cook with but that the judges also have to eat. We laugh at some of the crazy things they come up with. We even occasionally cry with the judges (yes, literally) when a favorite underdog defies all odds and beats his or her cocky counterparts.

    When we’re not watching the show, Vivi and Tad will sometimes play “Chopped” with our fake food assortment. Tad even presented us a crayon-sketched creation of “ganache” yesterday before church, and he often randomly mixes words like “creme fraiche” and “panzanella” into his sentences.

    But the biggest chopped fanatics are Ari and BT. During the Christmas break, they enjoyed staying up late and watching episodes together long after the rest of us had gone to bed. Ari loves the cooking, BT loves the competition and Ari’s companionship. He also loves giving her a mystery basket of ingredients, 20 minutes, and watching her whisk around the kitchen as she crafts her own concoctions.

    Yesterday for a pre-dinner appetizer, she successfully used the new panini press we got from Grandma and Grandpa Hess to create a crostini of toasted garlic bread topped with melted mozzarella cheese, pan roasted fresh tomato, Parmesan cheese and dried basil.

    The rest of us then act as the judges and give feedback. Tad especially got into it. He normally starts his prayer by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father, this is Buck.” Yesterday, he said, “Dear Heavenly Father, this is a judge.” Hilarious!

    As good as the food is, watching BT and Ari bond in this fun exercise of creativity is priceless.

    And just in case one of the execs from Food Network ever happens to read this–if the contestants on the show could just embrace the 3rd commandment–“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” or, more likely, if the producers would at least bleep out this offensive language, the show would be perfect.

  • December26th

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    The weeks leading up to Christmas this year were full of fun visits from grandmas and the usual frenzy of holiday preparations.

    And as routine as some of the activities were, I really can’t remember a more magical holiday; Vivi and Tad are at the PERFECT age for all the wonderment of the season, and Ariana is at the PERFECT age to embrace the true meaning of the traditions.

    Each year during the week leading up to winter break, the kindergarteners at Vivi’s school are immersed in a gingerbread theme. The curriculum unit is made especially fun because the kids receive random, secret visits from a mischievous gingerbread man named “Max.” However, leaving a trail of candy and chos in his wake, Max ultimately runs away on the last day of school before vacation . . . “You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” Vivi was OBSESSED with poor Max. She couldn’t understand why he would run away and not come back, and even after Max left a note at our house assuring Vivi that he was safe and sound at the North Pole and that he would deliver word to Santa that Vivi should definitely be on the “Nice List,” she worried about his well being.

    Christmas Eve, Max accompanied Santa back to our house and continued his impish ways–he hid our Christmas tree and stockings. We awoke on Christmas morning and headed downstairs to open presents. The kids were distraught to discover that everything was missing. But Max left a note on the hearth: “When Santa and I delivered your stockings, Santa let me hide them. Good luck finding them. Ha! Ha! Max”

    Thankfully, we didn’t have any major meltdowns before discovering the tree, stockings and presents up in the playroom. Oh, that crazy Max!

    As a kid, some of my favorite Christmases were the years that we made presents for each other. I’ve always wanted to continue this tradition with my own kids, and this year I actually mustered the umph to do it.

    With my help, Vivi made snap bags for everyone–one for Ariana to keep her glasses in, and matching wallets for Dad and Tad to put their credit cards and other treasures. She sat on my lap and raised and lowered the presser foot, pressed the backstitch button, and helped clip threads. Everything came from the stash, and the boys’ bags were actually made from Ari’s old jeans and BT’s old dress shirts.

    Tad (aka “Buck”) made his sisters some barrettes for their hair–he helped glue the flowers down on the felt backing.

    He also made BT a “Buck Book”–a coupon book of fun things that he promises to do with Dad. It reduced BT to tears because it documented the fun little things that Buck and BT do together at this stage in Tad’s life.

    Ariana went all out for her siblings and helped create fabulous stick horses. Vivi has been asking for one of these ever since she could say her first words, and Buck runs around the house with a shoestring between his legs pretending that he’s riding a horse, so Ari and I figured this would be the perfect gift for them this year. The horses took quite a bit of time, but the outbursts of joy from Vivi and Tad when they saw their gifts made everything worth it.

    Ariana also continued her tradition of documenting the special things she and her dad enjoyed during the year in a sketch book. She started it back in 2006 as a five year old when she celebrated her first Christmas with Bryan as her dad, and it’s priceless to see the drawings from each year.

    I was able to convince BT that the Tolberts needed to join the 21st century and get our first video game system. The Wii has been lots of fun thus far, and BT has even stayed up after the rest of us have gone to bed so that he can bowl, pitch and slam backhands without fear of interruption or¬†embarrassment. I’m surprised that he’d admit it, but he complained of being sore the next morning from all the sports he had played. I guess it is a little more strenuous than the late night family history work he’s accustomed to.

    Tad pronounced that chips were his favorite gift as he pounded down a one-and-a-half-inch stack of Pringles. I was touched that he at least put his can in a larger lid to try and catch the crumbs.

    But he’s also had a ton of fun with the tools that we got him. I’m determined to train that boy to take over all the household fix-it responsibilities so that I can eventually retire from this thankless, frustrating task.

    Vivi gently tends to the needs of her new cats–stuffed “Furreal” cats, but she doesn’t seem to mind that they don’t need a litter box.

    Ari needs to enter an addiction recovery program for a wii obsession, and she also loves her Alton Brown, The Early Years book.

    Despite its challenges, we were truly blessed in 2011, and we look forward to the adventures 2012 will bring.


  • September29th


    We all knew that Ariana’s transition from elementary to middle school would not be easy, but none of us was prepared for the turmoil it has caused in our home.

    Saturday, Ariana spent ELEVEN consecutive hours doing homework and several more hours on Sunday. Every evening is consumed with homework and studying for tests. She goes to school early every morning and stays late most days to attend tutorials or to retake tests.

    Although I am very impressed with Ari’s level of dedication and her patient attitude, my nerves and her confidence are unraveling because her test scores indicate that she’s not mastering the concepts that she is dedicating so much time to.

    And it doesn’t help her confidence when I become a ranting, raging lunatic and berate her for making the same mistake on a math problem for the fourth consecutive time.

    And it doesn’t help her accuracy when, being the dear little miser that she is, she tries to cram complicated facts and figures into a fractional inch of scratch paper.

    And it doesn’t help our mental acuity when neither of us is getting enough sleep at night.

    And it doesn’t help our sanity when my full-on OCD perfectionism (especially when it comes to schoolwork and the quest for a perfect report card) flares in a very big way.¬† I lose my grasp on reality and, like a crazed has-been athlete vicariously reliving the glory days through his child, I forget that I am not the student. It is not MY homework, MY test, MY report card. Those things belong to my very capable daughter who is entitled to feel the pain of procrastination so that she may learn to be prepared and to bask in the euphoria of accomplishment when, through her dedicated efforts, she conquers a challenging concept.

    Heaven HELP us!

    Help me to mirror the love, patience and kindness that she extends to everyone around her.

    Help her mind to absorb what she is studying and process the information so that it makes sense.

    Help her to know that I love her no matter what grade she gets.

    Help me remember to show my love for her no matter what grade she gets.

    Help me to not forget that she is only a child, my child, and that she is doing the best she can.