Ever After
  • Tad
  • January15th


    A Playing Mom

    Posted in: Lori, Tad

    I overheard a startling conversation between Tad and Vivi a couple of weeks ago. Tad wanted to join in on an activity that Vivi was doing, but she didn’t really want help from her little brother. Instead, she suggested that he go play with me.

    Tad’s response was both astute and painful: “But Mom’s not a PLAYING mom.”


    Too often I get engrossed in finishing a project or solving a problem, and I pretty much ignore my kids. At times, the endeavors are pressing and worthy of my attention (laundry, fixing malfunction appliances, dealing with water leaks, Christmas preparations), but perhaps even the urgent things could wait for a few hours. Sadly, like a dog with a favorite bone, I sometimes find it hard to set aside my current fixation for even a little while. I’m not sure that it’s a good thing, but my kids don’t seem to mind being entertained by the Wii, PBS kids, or other electronic diversions.  Still, I know that I need to be doing more with them. Each night I pray that I may be granted the chance to try anew to be a better, “playing” mom, but more often than not, I fall flat on my face.

    Nevertheless, I hope that heaven sees a glimmer of hope in me every once in a while.  Take today, for example.

    It snowed a bit during the night. I preferred to stay inside where it was warm and putter away on projects, but instead, Tad and I bundled up and headed out back for a little snowball fight.

    Neither he nor I were bothered too much by having to borrow boots from Vivi and BT.

    We even made a mini snowman. (His hat is half an avocado peel).


    I hope that, by my example, my children learn to focus on a task and work hard. At the same time, I hope they fondly remember days like this when I was, indeed, a “playing” mom.

  • October23rd

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    Posted in: Tad

    Tad loves to tickle my back, but it’s the things that he says in the course of a day that really tickle me. I try to jot them down on sticky notes, but I’m afraid that I’m going to lose the little pieces of paper, so I want to record the witticisms here.

    Family Prayer (10/23/12)
    This morning, BT had to rush out the door with the girls to get them to school. We’ve done so much better in getting them there on time this year, but I think that today might be the day Vivi gets her first tardy. Anyway, as Ari was hustling to the truck, she shouted over her shoulder, “say family prayer for us.” I love that she’s always so good about reminding everyone to pray. At her request, Tad and I stood at the back door, and he said the family prayer. Excited about moving on to the adventures of the day, Tad kept it short. Here are his exact words:

    “Heavenly Father, this is Tad. I bless that we won’t pee in our underwear today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

    He didn’t mean to be funny. He was as sincere as a little four-year-old still striving to master his bladder could be. I was tickled.

    Fruit (8/7/12)
    As the kids and I sat around the table one evening (BT was at church meetings), the topic of conversation somehow turned to Adam and Eve. Tad got excited because he had learned about the famous Biblical couple in Primary. I asked him what he learned from his Primary lesson. His exact words:

    “Don’t eat any fruit off of any tree or we’ll have to move to a different city.”

    Sweet Georgia on His Mind
    This past summer and for the first time in several years, the extended Tolbert family had a reunion. Everyone had a blast, and on the morning that we were heading back home, Tad resolutely announced that he would not be joining us. He was going to stay with Gran (doting board game partner), Poppy John (patient tractor pal), Papa (cuddly lap), Sadie and Sassy (drooling dogs), Gran’s funny-looking guineas, and all the other little critters that he and the other cousins had discovered in the 100-acre wood of Shady Hollow Trail. Who can blame him? While we were there, the well kept running dry, so a dip in the lake counted as a bath, teeth brushing was kept to a minimum, and suddenly Tad was getting praised for NOT flushing the toilet. Thankfully, we finally convinced him to keep our family intact and come back with us.

    Several weeks later, I was sorting through the SD cards from my camera, and I came across pictures from the reunion. The imaged stirred fond remembrance in Tad. His little heart longed for Georgia, a place of adventure and unconditional love. He sighed and quietly said, “I should have stayed there. Right, Mom?”

    (The picture at the top of this post is one I took of Tad sitting on Poppy John’s tractor this summer.)

    Promise? (10/27/12)
    Last week, Tad was watching “Pirates of the Caribbean” with a little friend that I was babysitting for the day. They reached the part of the movie where Captain Jack and Elizabeth Swan are marooned on a deserted island, and the pirate unsuccessfully tries to kiss the leading lady. I overheard Tad explain to his friend that his Dad did not like kissing movies, especially not those where the characters kiss on the lips. Tad then turned to me and said, “Mom, I promise that I will NEVER kiss anyone on the lips.”

    Whew! His teenage years will be easier than I thought.

    Oklahoma! (10/21/12)
    On Sunday as we waited for sacrament meeting to start, Tad leafed through his Book of Mormon. Suddenly, he stopped at a picture of Lehi and his family on their ship headed to the promised land. In the picture, Lehi is holding a ball of curious workmanship. He excitedly exclaimed, “Mom! He’s holding the OKLAHOMA!”

    Ok, so maybe we do need to redouble our efforts at family scripture study.

    (I know that the previous post was all about Tad, but the fact is that he and I spend a lot of time together in the course of a day. As such, I sometimes have more blog-worthy material amassed for him than I do for the others.)

  • October10th

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    Who’s faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall piles of laundry in a single bound?

    Super Tad!

    Tad brings vivacity and volume to our lives. He can’t just walk down stairs. He has to jump down them several at a time. For that matter, he can’t even maintain a walking tempo. His only speeds are fast and faster, and as exhausting as he is, he is an absolute joy to have around.

    His favorite shows are “Greatest American Hero,” “Avengers,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” He and I sometimes sneak over to Chick-fil-a during the day when the girls are at school, grab some lunch and then come back to have a picnic in the playroom while we watch Bill Bixby morph into Lou Ferrigno, so it seemed fitting that his birthday theme this year be super hero-based.

    Tad has never had a birthday party before, so he was super excited for the big day to arrive.

    To introduce the theme, I designed a fun retro-comic book inspired invitation.

    I then got the crazy idea to sew personalized capes and masks for the six invitees. (Plus I did two more mini versions as baby gifts).

    Thankfully, my Super Friends came to the rescue and helped with cupcakes, goodie bags, and crowd control on the day of the party.

    I found it ironic that most of the children didn’t want to have anything to do with the capes and masks . . . until some of the moms put on the outfits.

    We did four games at the party:

    Firewalk: Walking across a 2×4 board that was surrounded by tissue paper “flames.”

    Bean bag Bad Guy Toss: Try to knock over the “bad guys” (empty Crystal Light containers w/ a picture of a cute “bad guy” taped around each) with bean bags. This was the favorite game; Vivi and Tad have spent HOURS playing it over the last few days.

    Diffuse the Grenades: Pop the grenade balloons. To my surprise, a couple of kids FREAKED out when they realized that popping balloons were involved.

    Walking on Air: Stomping on wide strips of bubblewrap that we taped to the ground. Reviews on this activity were mixed–the balloon-phobic children were also scared of this game. Everyone else had a BLAST!

    I also designed little individual photo booth style picture strips to slip into the thank you cards.

    (I’m not sure why the colors went a little funky when I uploaded the file. They match the colors on the invite and printed out fine. Weird.)

    One of my favorite memories of Tad’s 4th birthday will be when he woke up and realized that he was no longer three. Here’s how the conversation went:

    Tad: “So, I’m not three anymore?”

    Mom: “Nope. You’re four.”

    Tad: “So, I’m four years old?”

    Mom: “Yep. You’re four.”

    Tad: “So do I still wear the same clothes?”

    Mom: “Yep. You’re four and you still wear the same clothes.”

    Tad: “But I’m not three anymore?”

    Mom: “No, you’re four.”

    Tad: “But the three-year-old clothes in my drawer. Do I still wear those?”

    Mom: “Yes, Tad. You are really only a day older than yesterday, and so you still fit in your clothes.”

    Tad: “Oh. I’m four and I still wear the clothes in my drawer?”

    I think at this point, I sighed, smiled, and broke out in song: “This is the song that never ends, it just goes on and on my friend . . .”

    Tad joined me and thankfully forgot about his clothes. I think the reason this verbal exchange tickles me so much is that it reminds me of myself . . . always making sure that all the angles and contingencies are covered, even though it drives others around me nutso.

    Tad, my love for you is like our favorite song . . . it just goes on and on my friend . . .

    Please stay my super buddy forever.


  • September21st

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    Posted in: Tad

    I was grateful that my camera was close at hand as Tad immersed himself in his new library books.

  • 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. 🙂

    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.

  • 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.

  • June13th

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    Spy Kids

    Posted in: Lori, Tad, Vivi

    The monarch butterfly’s migration to Mexico.
    The swallow’s journey to Capistrano.
    Lori Tolbert’s trek to the Denton County Appraisal District.

    Some events in life are predictable.

    This year marked my fifth time in the last six years to protest my property taxes. I was really hoping to avoid the process, but when our appraised value jumped $45K in a single year, I knew I was going to have to have a little heart-to-heart with the paper pushers down at DCAD. Even though the female staff appraiser wasn’t as accommodating as the fella I normally work with, I still got her to come down $30k.

    Vivi and Tad have entertained themselves with “spy” games over the last few days as I’ve tried to get everything ready for my hearing, so I turned our trip to Denton into a secret spy mission for them. We woke up extra early so that we could be the first in line . . . because that’s what spies do. And spies have to be extra quiet, observant, and not call attention to themselves. They carried out their mission so successfully that I kind of forgot that they were standing by my side as the staff appraiser and I negotiated back and forth. As a reward, we treated ourselves to a Denton Square (baked) Donut (yum!) and a trip to the Denton Thrift store where they each were given a $2 allowance to buy anything they wanted.

    Vivi remarked that she knew the spy mission was going to be fun but not THAT FUN.

  • January4th

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    a sunBEAM!

    Posted in: Tad

    Sunday was a big day for our little guy–his first day of Sunbeams. His new Primary teacher had stopped by the night before to bring him a cookie, and he couldn’t be more excited to go to church. He awoke early and dressed himself–one button-down collar white shirt, two sweaters, Lego Batman undies, and gym socks. No pants. He had a bit of a stuffy nose so we tried to talk him into staying home with me (I was sick), but he was determined to attend. Thankfully, I was able to coax one sweater off and one pair of pants on before he bounced off to church.

    When Ariana was three, I was a single parent with a new job in a new state. Life was crazy.
    When Vivi was three, Tad was a newborn and Bryan was bishop. Life was crazy.

    Life is still crazy, but in different, more manageable ways. Perhaps that’s why I am enjoying this stage in Tad’s life more than I was able to with my girls??? Or maybe I’ve just grown into this motherhood thing??? Or maybe I should just stop over-analyzing everything and just embrace every moment of this magical stage!

    Thanks for brightening our lives, little Sunbeam.

  • 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.