Ever After
  • Musings
  • August19th

    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.

  • August10th


    Posted in: Lori, Projects, Vivi

    When Ariana was approaching the age of toothlessness, I made several little tooth fairy pillows that she gave as gifts to special friends. The pillows are quite time-consuming to make, each taking 5-6 hours from start to finish, and I ran out of umph before I got one completed for Ariana. Sadly, so many things in my life seem to be like that. I love doing projects or other acts of service for other people because it makes me feel good and, by and large, people appreciate the help. But I tend to run out of time to do things for my own family, and quite honestly, my family is sometimes much less appreciative of my efforts. But that’s no excuse for neglecting those that I love the most, and I’m really trying to better balance my priorities. And so when Vivi discovered that she was really, really close to losing her first tooth, I seized the opportunity to right past wrongs, and working at a feverish pace, I started making her a tooth fairy pillow. Well, to be completely honest, I first went into a funk for a few weeks because she’s passing into the next stage of life, and I just want her to keep her baby teeth for a few more years, and then I feverishly started in on the pillow.

    I worked on the pillow while the kids and I watched Anna and the King last night, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Vivi wiggling the tooth, so I stitched faster. I finally forbade her from any more wiggling because, if I had come this close, I was NOT going to have another one of my kids lose a tooth and not have their own custom-made tooth fairy pillow to put it in. No mother should have to go through that once, let alone twice. 😉

    It’s tough embroidering the small letters, and I know that I could have done a better job on that part, but I resisted the impulse to tear it all out and start afresh. “Finished is better than perfect. Finished is better than perfect. Finished is better than perfect.” I had to chant this false mantra to myself over and over to cross the finish line, but cross I did, putting the stuffing in and stitching the opening closed this morning. I would have had it done last night, but the computer crashed (unmountable boot drive error, blue screen of death), and I had to turn my attention to that so that I could sleep.


    Aaagh, sweet redemption. I only hope that Ariana can forgive me for not making her a pillow back in the day. I’ll have to figure something out to make amends.

  • 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.
  • June13th

    As she watched a few minutes of the NBA playoffs last night with BT . . .

    Vivi: “Mom, who do you want to win–ketchup or mayonnaise?”

    Funny girl.

    Smart, funny girl.

  • June13th

    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.

  • June10th

    Tad, Vivi and I were in tears.

    Ariana flashed a smile from ear to ear.

    She was off to girls’ camp, and we were already missing her. We were missing her weird stories of last night’s dreams; her breakfast smoothies; competitive games of Words with Friends; overhearing her talking to herself; cheering for our favorite “Next Food Network Star” together.

    I’m embarrassed to even write on the blog any more because it seems that all I ever write about is how sad I am that my kids are growing up too fast and about how much I’m going to miss them when they are gone. But a lot of the time, I find myself drowning in this gut-wrenching feeling of loss. And then I feel guilty because I should be more grateful that my children are healthy, happy and growing up to be good, productive members of society. And I feel guilty for being so selfish.

    My kids are not sad about growing up. They are excited about their future. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine a happy future without a warm, cuddly little body next to me in bed. Or a sticky little hand tickling my back. Or even having to help with blasted Math homework.

    I try to imagine what my life will be like when the nest is empty. Bryan will have his work (he says he can’t imagine retiring) and church assignments. I envy him. (Something else to feel guilty about). And despite the limitless craft projects I have amassed over the years that are just waiting to be finished, I’m afraid that I will be alone and empty.

    But something happened the day that Ariana left for camp that gives me hope. From out of the blue, I got a text that simply said, “Hi there. Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking of you.” I wasn’t even sure who the text was from because the phone number wasn’t in my contact list. I eventually figured out who it was from. It was from Heavenly Father. Yes, He texts. He sent the message via a friend who moved nearly 1,000 miles away and who I hadn’t had any contact from in at least a year . . . who had no way of knowing what I was going through that day . . . who has had a couple of her little birds leave the nest and who I feel truly understands my situation . . . who has an extra sensitivity to the Spirit because she has an extra good heart and is quick to respond to the promptings she receives.

    Thank you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for giving me these children to fill my life and heart; for friends that love me; and for reminding me that you know who I am, you know the things that weigh upon my heart, and that you will be there to somehow help me when the nest is empty.

  • January17th

    Both Bryan and I sense the clock winding down all too quickly on this special time of our lives . . . the chapter when our kids are at home and love doing things with us.

    And so even though there were a million things we should have been doing on Bryan’s RARE day off from work–installing baseboards in our family room, dejunking our garage, washing the windows . . . the list is endless–we, instead, spent a wonderful day with Buck.

    We let Buck choose three things he wanted to do that day. His wishes:

    1. Go to the zoo
    2. Play at the playground
    3. Eat ice cream

    After snapping a silly self-portrait, we headed off for the day’s adventures.

    First stop, the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainsville, TX. It’s a small, inexpensive zoo that Tad (aka “Buck”) was convinced they named after him, so it made it even more exciting for him. Tad loved feeding the giraffe and the goats (he preferred the baby goats to the big, aggressive, billy goat that nibbled fingers). When the goat licked his hand, he giggled and said that the goat put slimy lotion on his hand. We also enjoyed seeing a baby kangaroo in his momma’s pouch, and watching the boy kangaroos wrestle, but Tad’s favorite exhibit was the zebras; he was convinced that they were his “brothers” because he was wearing his zebra hat that day.

    A fabulous playground is situated just outside the gates of the zoo, so we didn’t have to go far to fulfill Buck’s second wish.

    He would have stayed there all day if his tummy hadn’t started to rumble and remind him that mint chocolate chip ice cream was awaiting him at Beth Marie’s in Denton.

    If Bryan and I had three wishes, we might just selfishly wish that Ari, Vivi and Tad would stay little forever; but because we love them too much to do this, we’ll just wish for more days like this when our girls are out of school and can join us, too.

  • January4th

    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.