Ever After
  • Musings
  • February21st

    Love = Sacrifice

    Posted in: Lori

    A phone call from my former boss asking if I was ready to come back to work has ignited several days of soul searching. Six-and-a-half years have passed since I traded my career at GE Consumer Finance to be a stay-at-home mom.  Back then, I had just received the highest possible performance rating of  “Top Talent” and was set to receive a sizable raise. I loved what I did, and I was good at it. I don’t say this to boast or brag. I just think it’s important for my children to know these things. I want them to learn that love requires sacrifice.

    Even though Tad gives me his highest possible performance rating of “The Best Mom He’s Ever Had,” most days I feel like I’m failing. Our grout is grungy and you could write the Magna Carte with your finger on the dusty surfaces of our home. Like the 80 yards of slipcover fabric stashed in the corner of my craft room, I do not feel like I am fulfilling the full measure of my creation. I am a mediocre mom and housewife, and I hope it’s not wrong to long for accomplishment, appreciation, and excellence. Nevertheless, earlier today I declined a wonderful job opportunity because, although somewhat flexible, it would require me to be away from home during the after-school hours a few days a week.

    Tonight, I selfishly allow myself to wish for the best of both worlds, shed some tears of self-pity, and feel grateful that someone still thinks me employable. In the morning, I’ll put on a happy face and be genuinely grateful that we are all healthy and that I have the blessing to be home with my kids while they are little.

    Sometimes even the right decision is hard.

  • 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


    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

    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

    I’m taking an awesome online photography class and am excited to learn about natural light techniques.

    Here are a few shots that I took of Vivi on Sunday morning before church. Everyone had a role: Ariana held the reflector and Tad’s job was to make Vivi laugh. Vivi loved being the center of attention, and when the photo shoot was all over, she wanted to know when we could do it again.

    I also learned a new trick for helping to prevent sharp pictures from appearing softer when posting them the web: save files at 72 dpi and at the size you want it to appear (max 590 pixels wide for my blog theme) so the blogging software doesn’t resize them. I also run a subtle “sharpen for web” action that seems to also help.

    Side-lit, no reflector

    Instructor feedback: Light pattern nearly perfect. Just turn her head and shoulders a tiny bit more toward the light source. We’re aiming for a triangle of light on the cheek away from the light.

    Front Lit, No reflector

    Instructor feedback: Crop just a tiny bit closer to the top of her head. Lighting looks good.

    Side-lit, reflector

    Instructor feedback:In side-lit, indirect light settings, reflector should be held parallel to the side of her face away from the light and not under her face causing the light to bounce up on her. The shadows under her eyes, nose and chin are caused by not positioning the reflector properly.

  • September21st


    Posted in: Tad

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

  • September21st

    I Can do it!

    Posted in: Lori

    Coach Dave was one of the most influential people in my life. He taught me how to swim when I was a nine-year-old so afraid of the water that I didn’t even want to put my face in, and he coached me in competitive swimming until my early high school years. Pacing the deck, workout after workout, year after year, he was always there to coach and encourage me. Even though I was not a gifted athlete, he never gave up on me. His mantra for each swimmer was a simple phrase, but to this day, it’s still my motto–“I can do it!”

    Beautiful strokes, no muscles. That was my curse. No matter how hard I worked, how many laps I swam, how many hours I spent in the pool, I could never advance to the highest levels of my sport. I was good but not great, and it drove me crazy. Despite this, the life lessons I learned through Coach Dave Maynard’s swim program have truly shaped who I am.

    Swimming is so ingrained in me that, more than half a lifetime later, I still have dreams about competing. Normally they are bad dreams–I’m wandering the pool deck of a meet without my swim suit, I can’t figure out when my next event is, I can’t remember how to swim. But some dreams are tender reminders of my dear swim coach, and I wake up teary because I miss him.

    Over the last twenty plus years, I’ve dabbled in other forms of exercise, and the only thing I’ve ever been consistent at has been walking on the treadmill, but I’ve gradually realized that walking is not going to pay the dividends that I am looking for. It’s a good form of exercise, but there are so many things that would give me a better pay back for the time and effort I’m investing. Sadly, I’m such a klutz that I can’t even get up the guts to try anything more advanced. I’m definitely not a runner, kick boxer, biker, or spinner. The obvious answer was to get back in the pool and start swimming again, but I knew that it would miserable. I remembered what it felt like to be in top shape. to be able to swim and never get tired. And I knew that getting back to that point would be tough.

    The first few days were TORTURE, and I was sure that I was going to drown, but each day got a little bit easier. I’m just finishing week three of swimming 5-6 days a week, and I am excited by the progress I’m making. The pool is starting to feel like home to me, and I’m up to 2,800 yards per workout. Sadly, the scale hasn’t budged, so that’s ultra frustrating and makes me want to quit. Patience is not one of my virtues. But whenever I feel like quitting, I hear Dave’s voice inside my head, the voice that I’ve heard so many times in my life when things get really tough: “You can do it.”

    Thanks, Dave. For everything.

  • August28th

    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


    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


    Posted in: Ariana, Vivi

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