Ever After
  • Musings
  • December26th

    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.


  • November11th


    Posted in: Lori

    Last December, we found ourselves with a bit of extra money in the flexible spending account. Not wanting it to disappear at the stroke of midnight on December 31st like Cinderella’s princess garb, I opted to get braces. Again. I had them twice as a youth but my wisdom teeth weren’t removed in a timely manner and my teeth became crooked again by the time I was in college.

    (We would have put it toward orthodontics for Ariana, but her teeth weren’t ready for braces yet.)

    After consulting with several orthodontists in the area, I selected Dr. Maria Castano-Rendon to be my orthodontist. I was impressed with her practical approach to treatment, with her genuinely kind and helpful staff, and with the glowing reviews  from a trusted friend who had taken all her kids there. Many of the other offices I visited were too much Frisco glitz and glamour for my liking. Cappuccino bars? Walls of flat screen televisions? Crazy. I loved the down-to-earth feeling of Rendon Orthodontics.

    On December 16, 2010, I walked into Dr. Maria Castano-Rendon’s office to get my braces on. The morning had not gone as planned–I had just come from the vet where I had to put my sweet little Marina kitty to sleep. Having to part with my best friend of seventeen years was the most gut wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do–and I’ve had guts wrenched several times in my life. I only mention these details because Dr. Rendon and her staff were so kind and sweet to me on this tough day.

    The beauty of my orthodontic treatment this time around was that the braces were going on the BACK of my teeth. Because I only had minor “crowding,” I qualified for lingual braces (a 6-8 month limited treatment) that would address “minor tooth movement.” This treatment wouldn’t address all of my orthodontic problems, but I’d end up with straight teeth, and that was good enough for me. It took some getting use to, but after a while, I didn’t mind having braces because no one else could tell that I had braces.

    Sadly,  part way through my treatment, I started to develop an open bite which, in my opinion, is more unattractive than the minor crowding I started with. An “open bite” is typically caused by someone with a tongue thrust problem. I’ve never had this problem, but we speculate that I had unknowingly developed a bad habit of unconsciously pushing my tongue against the back of my teeth because the braces were inside my mouth. Regardless, to correct the open bite and finish the alignment process, the braces had to come off the back of my teeth, and I had to start traditional treatment. If I had known that I’d once again have to relive this chapter from my pre-pubescent days, I’d have tried a little harder to find a more creative way to salvage our flexible spending funds. It didn’t help that, in addition to the braces, I seemed to always have a pimple or two to complete the whole adolescent look.

    But on a positive note, Dr. Castano-Rendon was amazing to work with. She could have charged me for full treatment (quite a bit more than lingual braces), but she didn’t. She and her wonderful staff could have been irritated when I had to bring my kids with me to appointments, but everyone was incredibly kind and accommodating. She could have become frustrated with all my questions and perfectionism, but she didn’t. She did everything she possibly could to minimize the amount of time I had to wear the blasted braces, and on October 5th, less than ten months after getting them on, the braces came OFF, revealing a beautiful new smile.

    Yes, the process was more complicated and lengthy than I had anticipated, but I am so happy with the results.

    And to further underscore how wonderful Rendon Orthodontics is, I have a couple of teeth (one upper and one lower) that just insist on trying to go back to where they had been for the prior 20+ years. I was pretty distraught by the relapse, but Dr. Castano-Rendon had a new retainer created for my uppers, and she expertly tweaked my bottom retainer to immediately correct both problems.

    All whining aside, I know that I am blessed to have been able to go through this process. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to SMILE and not feel one bit self-conscious about it.


  • November10th

    I started cleaning at sun up yesterday morning, and it was well after sunset when I wearily vacuumed my bedroom while the other members of the family were glued to the t.v.

    I’m not trying to suggest that they had done nothing else that evening except watch t.v.

    No, they had also eaten a bowl of warm, homemade chicken tortilla soup and had randomly deposited their clutter at three different entry points downstairs.

    After a while, BT could sense that I was not particularly happy, so he bravely came in to ask what was wrong.

    “I feel like the Little Red Hen!”

    His response, though not meant to be funny, has brought a smile to my face all day: “The sky is falling???”

    Wrong bird.

  • October7th

    You make my heart sing!

    Hopefully the fluffy mane on the groovy new zebra hat I crocheted for Tad’s birthday is the only mohawk he’ll ever sport.

    He and I looked through countless patterns on Etsy, and I tried to convince him that he wanted me to make him an owl or puppy cap, but when he saw the zebra creation, he could not be dissuaded. With lots of zebra patterns to choose from, I settled on this one because it uses a method of stacking stitches of different heights to create more realistic, undulating stripes.  The hat was a breeze; the ears were painful because the instructions were horribly vague. I love to support Etsy designers and often find patterns that are not available anywhere else, but it’s rare that I find a one that is error-free. And although some people really go out of their way to give very clear instructions and lots of pictures to illustrate every step of the way, others, like the author of the zebra hat pattern, don’t quite have a knack for dumbing things down to my level.

    As I type, Tad is so taken with the pictures from his photo shoot and with his wild hat that he is scratching my back and hugging (choking?) me as he repeats his (and my) favorite phrase of endearment: “You’re the best mom I’ve ever had in the whole wide world.”

    With that kind of treatment, I’d crochet the little guy a hundred zebra hats. (And hopefully slip in an Owl and Puppy one when he’s not looking. I think that he’s going to look really cute in those, too.)


  • 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.

  • September29th

    I’m not sure if children are allowed to wear hats to school, but there was no way anyone could talk Vivi out of wearing her new hat this morning. She left the house with a big smile on her face and an admonition from her mother that she needs to take it off during the Pledge of Allegiance and that it needs to go in her backpack if her teacher asks her to remove it. I’m also crossing my fingers that she doesn’t lose the hat at school; it takes me umpteen hours more than it should to actually finish crochet projects. I’m far too methodical about the whole process and haven’t yet perfected my color changes and joins.

    The pattern called for one row of single crochet around the bottom edge, but it didn’t look quite right. When I proposed the option of a more frilly finish to Vivi, she became giddy.  Sadly, I’m not sure that I like it, so when Vivi’s not looking, I think that I’m going to rip out the last row and do some extra rows of single crochet instead. I also add an extra layer to the flower to make it BIGGER, and I do like that modification.


  • September21st

    I love that Little Miss Vivi is all ruffles and frills, but I don’t love the frenzy we feel when Vivi can’t find her favorite lipgloss or sunglasses.

    Problem solved. (Hopefully).

    While BT and I have been watching past seasons of our current favorite show, Flashpoint, I crocheted this cute little purse.  Sized at only 6 inches by 6 inches, it’s the perfect place for her to safely stash her girly treasures.

    Inspired by the fun, vibrant colors (and because I have a lot of yarn left), I just bought another pattern from Etsy to make her a matching hat. I also need to get busy knitting the Harry Potter-inspired scarf for Ariana.

    Stuff like this brightens my day.

  • September6th

    Sunday evening as BT and I were brainstorming ideas on how to spend Labor Day as a family, he suggested the Fort Worth Zoo.


    We’d never been before, and the weather was FINALLY supposed to be cooler–perfect zoo weather.

    We debated about telling the kids Sunday night or teasing them with a few extraneous details but saving the big reveal for the next day. I voted for the element of surprise, but then BT suddenly waxed Plato-like:

    “The benefit of the surprise is often outweighed by the anticipation of something exciting.”

    Seriously, I married a genius. This is something that you’d read in Barlett’s Familiar Quotations, but he assured me that it was original to him.  (And then, two seconds later , he fashioned some hideous sentence using the word “ustacould.” Something like “I ustacould touch my toes . . . “)

    Anyway, still impressed by the logic and sheer sophistication of his wisdom, we decided to tell the kids about the zoo and let them simmer with excitement all night. And they did, especially Tad and Vivi.

    Monday morning came, and I convinced BT to wear his official Dallas Safari Club shirt that we scored for $3 at our favorite thrift store.

    When then picked up Ari’s good friend to help make the day even more enjoyable for our pre-teen and were on our way.

    After a brief stop at the entry gate restroom where I had to throw up because of my migraine medicine (and a bout of car sickness), I felt restored and ready to tackle the day.

    As anticipated, the weather was perfect, and we all had a grand time.

    Favorite Memories:

    Tad–the gorilla that was eating a snack and that kept looking at him

    Vivi–the pink flamingos and the mommy and daddy birds that were kissing

    Ari–feeding the birds

    BT–having a day off from his labors

    LT–when Tad saw two hog-like animals in the corner of their exhibit with their heads down and he kept asking if they were praying.

    All the long hours that my kids and husband are away from me each week make me even more grateful for days like this.

  • September4th

    Old piano

    Ancient pump organ

    Fully functioning treadmill

    Antique movie projector

    Box of Nerf guns, a remote controlled helicopter, and an empty cigarette carton

    Paper shredder, large scratched white board, printers that don’t work

    Random pieces of old mismatched office furniture

    He travels the back roads of Texas looking for rusty gold. What most people see as junk, I see as junk, but Bryan sees as glittering Obtanium.

    His heart quickens when something of interest is posted to the FREE section of Craigslist, and he crosses his fingers that by responding within the first 30 seconds of the post appearing, he’ll be Chosen. He routinely takes “shortcuts” through alleyways of fancy communities hoping to convert one man’s trash to his treasure. We need a cautionary bumper sticker on his truck .

    Into the back of his vehicle, he’ll load anything FREE that he thinks he can cram into our shop or garage. . . and that I won’t totally freak out about.

    He wishes he could make a living off of freecycling and dumpster diving . . . one dusty, dirty, decrepit piece at a time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for repurposing and breathing new life into something that would otherwise languish in a landfill, but where does innocent picking end and obsessive hording begin?

    Please, no more, BT. At least not until you do something with your current trove of treasures.

    P.S. But I am excited to see the desk that you make from the organ.

  • August23rd


    Posted in: Vivi

    Vivi is our animal lover, and ever since our beloved cat, Marina, had to be put to sleep last December, Vivi has wanted another pet.

    In Utah, she spent her days in Heidi’s front yard playing with “Toby,” the neighbor’s cat. From the moment Vivi’s eyelids flapped open at dawn until the evening mosquitoes chased her inside at dusk, Vivi was either playing with Toby or asking the nearest grown up to help her locate Toby. I’m quite certain that Toby needs kitty prozac now without his sweet Miss Vivi to keep him company; his owners are in Hong Kong until next year, and with a bad rap as the neighborhood bully, Toby is completely friendless. Heidi was hoping that we’d smuggle the cat home in our carry-on luggage.

    I tried to convince BT that it would be an OUTDOOR cat; unconvinced, he warned that if we got a cat, he’d become an OUTDOOR husband.

    But when we returned from our month-long vacation, BT seemed to have softened a bit. He told Vivi that he had found her a pet.

    A pet lizard.

    Sight unseen, Vivi declared that her pet lizard would be named “Elizabeth.” Perfect.

    The scorching, unceasing summer heat has caused all sorts of pests to seek shelter and water. A family of geckos has taken up residence in our home, and Vivi couldn’t be happier. Friday night, she got to hold her new “pet” for the first time when BT found one in the kitchen while cleaning up from family movie night.

    It was love at first sight. She gently stroked Elizabeth’s back, but thankfully BT cautioned her when she wanted to give the critter a kiss. Tad was also excited to hold Elizabeth, but he must have been a bit rough–the tip of her tail fell off.  Gross.

    When I warned that if we harbored lizards INDOORS, I’d become an OUTDOOR wife, BT helped Vivi and Tad release Elizabeth to the wild.

    We seem to find a gecko each day in our house; Vivi is convinced that her prayers have been answered and that her dear Elizabeth has returned to her.

    I wish that I could convince BT that an outdoor cat would be a more suitable pet.