We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming... {FPA}

I woke up twice in the last week to tornado sirens. That's just the number of times I was awakened by them--there were several others as well, to the point that I looked at Curt and said, "I'm going to start taking a drink every time we hear one. I mean, lets make this interesting!"

Amidst all of the crazy weather, sirens and warnings in the last seven days, we have been incredibly fortunate. We are safe along with all of those we know who were in the path of storms far worse than ours. And even though I joke about the frequency in which we heard those bone chilling tones broadcast throughout our neighborhood, I am so grateful they are there.

Last night I looked out our windows to the east and saw this:

Then I held my breath as I looked out to the west and saw this:

We watched and listened for the sirens as the clouds moved overhead.

They never came and all we got was a few showers and rumbles of thunder. Relief. I think we all feel shaken up a bit after the images and testimonies that have come from Alabama. I know I had a knot in my stomach and choked back tears as I heard this incredible story yesterday.

Something that amazes me, however, is that for as many photographs I have seen of terrifying skies and funnel clouds, I have seen just as many pictures of the most beautiful rainbows once they have passed. It should seem trite but somehow to me, in the wake of all that has happened, it isn't.

Now I know the science behind why we see rainbows: the sun's rays shining onto tiny droplets of water in the atmosphere, etc, etc... But there's something so intense about the comfort rainbows provide after a storm passes. Even as adults, we pause to wonder at their beauty. That's no scientific coincidence.

I know that we are all praying for those who have been impacted by the storms this week. For those who have lost their homes, their earthly treasures and most of all their loved ones. I am also praying a simple prayer of thanks for rainbows; for the knowledge within them that God doesn't want these tragedies to happen, but even as they do, He is there. He is there to give comfort and hope to those filled with sorrow. May those in the wake of loss feel His presence in their hearts and look to Him in the days ahead. Amen.

What prayers on your heart can I hold along with you?

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

{I'll be back with the final installment of our Easter chronicles over the weekend. See you soon!}

Every morning is Easter morning...

Part 4: the hunt

When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time on big gift days waiting. We were never allowed to see what Santa brought until the adults were awake with coffee in one hand and a camera in the other, in prime photo op position to capture our surprised faces. I don't know what would have happened if we broke protocol to sneak in and check out the loot before we woke the 'rents. Likely our gifts would have vaporized immediately at our blatant rule-breaking or something equally as horrifying. {Shudder}
To my knowledge, none of us ever took such a risk to find out.

Same thing on Easter morning--get up, wake parents, sit in hallway and wait for them to be ready. It was irritating and exhilarating all at the same time. What better way to build up the anticipation than ten minutes or so of jittery booty scoots in the most boring spot of the house, chatting with sisters about what could possibly be waiting for us around the corner?

I was always jealous of the kids who got to raid their stash within seconds of waking, Christmas Story style, with parents groggily moping down the stairs to the sounds of paper tearing and children shrieking with joy. However, now that I am in the driver's seat (or more appropriately, co-driver), I can totally appreciate why my dear old mom and dad kept such a tight leash on us.

With all the work and planning that goes into each special day, the biggest pay-off, worth more than any sum of gifts combined, is the reaction of discovery. As I already mentioned, my kids have to ease into their reactions a bit for now. Once they are a little older and the adrenaline of memory kicks in, I'm sure a more immediate result will likely ensue.

An example of why this system works is the happenings of our egg hunt. In the Ouellette house, if we saw a bright plastic egg out of the corner of our eyes, we snapped our heads back in place (maybe with a little elbow poke and swift nod to a sister in that general direction) and made a mental note of where to find that egg when the time came. We did not just grab any old egg we found whenever we found it. No, sir. Again, cameras needed to be in hand. The grown ups needed to be ready.

Now that I'm a Clayton, I'm a little slower on the uptake. While I sat on the couch in a zombie-like fashion, Addie began picking up eggs all over the place. The impromptu hunt was on and by the time I snapped to it and realized what she was doing, I only got a few shots of the excitement. They are still pretty cute, but the Ouellette inside of me is thinking, Just imagine all the images I could have taken had I been prepared!!!

Somewhere down the line and somewhere in the middle I shall find my grove, I'm sure. Part of me really wants to preserve that part of my childhood and pass it onto my girls so they too can know the elated torture of patience on such a glorious day. Another part of me says aw the heck with it, just let 'em go. Either way the days, the events, the moments fill us with memories that build a legacy. It's called tradition. And I'm such a sucker for it.

Every morning is Easter morning...

Part 3: the baskets

I am about to make a huge confession/disclaimer... We only gave Addie one gift on her birthday. It was the big one--the easel, but after her party and the overwhelming generosity of all our friends, we decided to save the rest of her loot for Easter instead. I think it was a good decision. However, this meant that her Easter morning was a little bigger than usual, and a little more princess themed than I would normally desire. I'm sure there's some way we could swing that to make it appropriate for the day--Risen Jesus is our King so that makes Addie a princess? I may have to work on that one for a while.

The fact that Christmas and Easter have the biggest reveal moments first thing in the morning perplexes me. Maybe there are kids out there who hop to it right out of bed. Mine might eventually, but for now they do not. Even with a pile of gifts waiting for them, they are groggy eyed with fantastic bed hair, desperately trying to soak it in and figure out what in the heck is going on.

Even though their initial reaction left something to be desired, after a few minutes of coming to and realizing that these presents were for them, excitement ensued and all was well.

Every morning is Easter morning...

Part 2: the dying of the eggs

(also known as: the activity that almost wasn't)

I hate doing things last minute. If you fail to plan you should plan to fail. I have heard that saying many times and I love it so much I should stencil it on my walls. This Easter, however, last minute was the name of our game. Even though I was so into Lent this year, I seemed to lose the forest for the trees, if you know what I'm saying. I was too busy lamenting on the sacrifice of Our Lord, I forgot about the joy waiting just around the corner.

Enter four days before Easter and me wandering around Target at 10:30 PM. Easter baskets? What??? If I hadn't trudged down the aisle with the already picked through egg dying kits, this little post would never have existed. Oh yeah, that's what you're supposed to do with your kids the day before Easter, or if you're really good, on Palm Sunday.

So I bought the kit. Then Papaw called me from the grocery store on Friday morning to ask if we needed anything. I told him, "Nope, I think we're good." Uh, HELLO!!! We get there late Friday evening and it finally occurred to me that we need some eggs for this task. Good grief.

Saturday evening, right around dinner time, Addie and I traipsed down the street to the grocery store to pick up some eggs. While she took a bath I boiled them, then stuck them in the freezer to cool off. After Lena was in bed, we just barely made it. Phew!

I could try and be cool and say that I planned it that way the entire time. Who knows--perhaps it will end up as our Easter tradition. Maybe Addie will remember dying eggs the night before Easter and she'll love how connected it all was. A last minute Mama can only hope.

Every morning is Easter morning...

Somewhere in the Ouellette family home video archives lies a clip of me and my sisters rocking out a choral performance of "Every Morning is Easter Morning". Did you ever sing that one growing up? We still laugh about it for many reasons, but mainly because it ends with a fade out that is pretty classic. Even this morning, Em greeted me on Skype with those words and it warmed my heart and gave me a giggle.

So, in the spirit of our favorite Easter tune, I'll spread out the report of our weekend festivities to make that good feeling of Easter morning last a little while longer.

Part 1: Tea time at Papaw's

Last weekend marked the first Easter we spent with Curt's dad since Addie was born, and our first trip to Owensboro this year (yikes--had it really been that long?!?).  We brought along a tea set just in case and given the crazy weather we endured, it proved to be the highlighted toy of the journey. Within minutes of arriving Mommy busted out the goods and as the storms brewed outside, an impromptu party developed.

This was the first time Addie really got into the whole tea party pretend play scenario. As in, "Would you like some tea? I pour it for you." We tell her the tea is fabulous and she replies, "Oh, thank you! Would you like some more?" (although she sounds like she's a New Englander and it comes out more like "moah").

So sweet and innocent--the manifestation of all the dreams a Mommy has when rubbing a swollen belly, filled with a tiny girl... or two.

Good Friday

This week was filled with fevers, rashes, cries, snuggles, and lots and lots of quiet rocks in the night. How appropriate that our Holy Week was spent in an almost constant state of rest and healing. Of course, that tends to leave me restless, itching to get out of the house to go and do. Instead, it was meant that I just be.

It seems this is the lesson my Lord has been trying to teach me as of late. Just be. Listen. Why is it that I hear Him best when I sit still in the quiet and the dark, with a weary heart open to His comfort and His voice? Sometimes I can be a bit stubborn and that is what it takes. My prayer is that this holy day may open my eyes and soul a little bit more to hear and notice God on a deeper level every day--to appreciate and understand more fully the sacrifice He made on this day so long ago, even for me and for you right here in this moment.

May we all find some time this evening to pause, be still, remember and listen...

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

The party post

If you haven't already read the post about how I totally goofed (that's SO not the word I would actually use) and forgot to document my child's third birthday party, you can catch up on that HERE. If you know, then you know. Instead of apologizing again and again, I will simply try and make amends through the use of responsible people around me. Thank you to all who held a camera in their hands and used it, posted pictures on facebook, sent them through email and even through snail mail. I am so very grateful.

And now, the story of the day my girl turned three...

Addie's birthday banner, made by myself, my mom and my sisters. Such time, love and effort went into this--it will hang above the mantle on her day every year for the rest of her life.

The entire week prior to Addie's birthday all meteorology people were predicting temperatures in the 40's with the potential for rain. Not exactly desirable weather conditions for any outside activity. I already planned to have crafts for the kids, but since outdoor play didn't look like any sort of possibility, I felt a lot of pressure to create fun projects.

Through research online we decided to do three things (listed in the order of difficulty): a color table with printed images of Oso characters and crayons, a party hat craft (Oso helped to make one on a certain birthday episode), and making Oso watches out of the center of a paper towel roll along with other fun stuffs.

A close-up of the watch table, complete with tempra painted bands, foam sheets to cut out circles for the faces, craft glue and puffy paint to draw on the watch faces.

We had one table set up for each craft with the idea that when it was time for cake we would clean off the activities so there would be plenty of space for the kids to sit and eat.

Addie making her mama super happy that she sat down to make an Oso watch at her party.

I am still learning to be thankful that we ended up with pretty decent weather that day: sunny and 50's, although it was also quite windy. No matter--I discovered that kids don't care about wind. They only care about running around, chasing after each other, kicking balls, climbing on stuff... the usual. We also have a groundhog that lives in the field behind our house and has a hole opening in the empty lot next door. He emerged at the start of the event (much to his chagrin) so all the kids were mesmerized by that hole, waiting for him to reappear for the rest of the afternoon.

Since there was much to do in the backyard, not many of our guests attempted to make any of the crafts we prepared for (I will refrain from sobbing). My mom reassured me that had the weather actually been miserable, those projects would have been our saving grace. Oh how I am clinging to that!

Some of the first kiddo's to arrive made watches. I love how they turned out!

A party princess crown or two was created as well.

And here's the hat Addie made earlier in the week, just to be sure the project was appropriate and interesting enough. She loved decorating it and wore it several times leading up to the day to remind us all whose birthday was on Saturday.

The most important thing was that everyone had a good time, especially the birthday girl. She loved, LOVED her cake and still talks about it. Seeing as she breaks out into the Happy Birthday song at random times on any given day, she was elated to have everyone sing it to her. She says "all my friends" came to her party (we  really do have the best). Everything and everyone came together to make it Oso special for her. Most definitely a success!

Best picture of the cake I could find. Thank you, Papaw!!!

The table was fully fitted with plush Oso holding matching balloons, along with a display of paw pilot cupcakes. Addie found it all to be quite fantastic.

Addie eating cake with her Memere.

My babe was so pooped after everything, she ended the party by retreating to Mommy & Daddy's room, perched on our bed with some chex mix and Sleeping Beauty videos on the iPhone.

Prior to poop-out-time, Addie had to try out some of her gifts. She was a fairy princess special agent birthday girl for a moment there. I'd say that's just about right. (Notice the Oso digi-medal around her neck. Each kid got one to wear throughout the party and take home...

...along with a goody bag filled with snacks and a matching balloon.)

And sweet Lena, she did what any little sister would do--totally disengage from it all. Yes, she slept through most of the event. I am so over my sister turning three. Wake me when something interesting happens. Really she seemed to love having everyone here, as the mood of the day was one filled with joy. Still, it's rather funny that she found a way to sleep through 30+ people trapsing through our smallish home, yet when noone is here and it's totally quiet, sleep is not a priority. Love that girl.

I saved the piece de resistance for last--a video my mom took of Addie, just before things got started, giving a short tour of the cake table and coloring station. It ends with Daddy trying to get the bubble machine to work. So happy to have this little snippet showing her sweet face and hearing her voice all aglow with excitement for her birthday.

Addie, my dear sweet three-year-old. You make every day a party!!! I love you whole world.

Hullable discovery

One of the best things about having a three-year-old is hearing how she utilizes her rapidly expanding vocabulary. It seems every day, Addie remembers a new word and tries to use it in conversation. I've been hearing a lot of awesome, actually and my absolute favorite--horrible, or as she says it, "hullable".

The thing that cracks me up about how she says it, is that she uses it when she thinks something is good. She'll say, "Have you seen Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs? That movie is my favorite. It's SO hullable." Or the other day when she said, "Mommy, that shirt is hullable." I replied with a pout, "Oh, you don't like it?" to which she said quite matter-of-factly, "No, I like it." As though I was crazy for thinking that hullable meant anything but super fantastic.

This brings me to the most hullable discovery I have made in recent years. And yes, that is a double meaning. Recently while visiting my parents, my dad brought this home from their local Kroger:

Now I like ice cream just as much as the next girl, but I've never particularly found a store bought brand or flavor that left me in such a state of shock, bliss or borderline obsession as this. Caramel... sea salt... truffle... Oh yeah, baby.

I mean, it's gotten to the point where if I had two things to take to a desert island: one being my family and the other being a Kindle, iPod, sun screen or this ice cream, I would choose the ice cream.

Those little bits of chocolate in there aren't just chocolate, you see. They are tiny blocks of sea salted caramel wrapped in chocolate. And the ice cream itself is so smooth... It's heaven. Even my husband, who is not much of a sweet eater or ice cream lover, will find me huddled up eating a **large** bowl of this stuff and RUN over to me saying, "Hey! What do you have there? I want some!"

Seriously--find a Kroger near you and walk your booty (must walk to burn the endless calories of eating an entire carton) over there to get some. It is likely the most hullable thing you will ever put in your mouth.

Calling all car guys

On April 1st, the almost unthinkable happened--my dad started a blog. No, it wasn't an April Fool's joke, and really it shouldn't have come as a surprise. After all, my dad writes for a living--he's a pastor! One of his main tasks is to craft, ponder, pray over and develop a sermon at least once a week (or like now, during Lent, it's more like twice or more).

What does he write about? I'm so glad you asked! For as long as I can remember, my dad has had a rather small list of passions in his life: his faith, his family, flying, and his cars. That's about it. It may seem like that's not a very long list but I will tell you, when this man commits, look out because he is all in--like reckless abandon, ante up and push all your chips to the center of the table kind of IN.

This blog I assume will be no different. He will take this forum of restoring his 1968 Mustang and kick it into high gear; in a way he already has. Even though car talk isn't really my cup o' tea (metaphorically speaking because boy do I heart Click & Clack), I have been pleasantly surprised at how interesting it is to read about all he has done and continues to do on his car(s).

Perhaps it's because in this type of media I can take my time to absorb what he's talking about. Sadly, in a phone conversation, when I get an update on garage time, I'm often just nodding and trying so hard to understand what in the world my dear ol' dad is talking about! This way I can not only google phrases like "rear splash apron" and "front cross member" (who thinks of these dirty sounding names?!), but I also have photographs to help me along my way.

It also doesn't hurt that what my dad does for a living has also translated well into his Internet space--he's a really good writer. So if you or a man in your life is turned on by this:

Go HERE and read up on a 1968 Mustang Resurrection. It's definitely an education.

Way to put yourself and your passions out there, Dad! Love you!!!

Coupon clipping

A few months ago, when I was having a lot of trouble with anxiety, one of my biggest sources of stress was meal time, namely preparing for dinner. For some reason, that time of day has always been a difficult one for me and the girls. It's almost time for Daddy to come home, we've been with each other all day, we're getting hungry; things just start to break down a bit... or a lot.

I started meal planning pretty seriously in the fall to feel like I have more control over the situation, but I really honed into it just after the holidays. Every week I plan out our menu, especially for dinner. Addie picks a meal, Curt picks one and I do the rest, based on the coupons I have, our own stock in the pantry & freezer and the sales in the grocery store that week.

The thing that takes the most time is going through all the clippings and ads to plan something that everyone will eat and is also relatively quick to prepare. I have become a total "mom" in that I walk through the grocery with my coupons in hand, checking them as I go to make sure I get the right combination of things to receive the proper deal.

Addie likes to follow behind me and build up her scissor skills, cutting out things she thinks look yummy.

I used to keep all of those coupons in a standard white envelope, even when said envelope was literally falling apart (like we don't have 100 of them sitting on a shelf). Thankfully Addie is still too young to be embarassed by me, but even I was starting to feel sheepish about my method. So, I did the only thing left to be done and that was buy an organizer.

This fantastic one from Hobby Lobby houses a little note pad to store my lists (or serve as a scribble page for littles when the shopping trip gets boring) and accordean pockets to keep my coupons in the proper section. Each part of the store has its own little file and I can flip my way through as I make my way through the maze.

I'm not as hard core as a lot of women I know who are able to get groceries for something like 1/3 of what one would normally pay. Maybe someday I'll get there. For now, I'm just happy that I have found a system that works so we can have mostly home cooked meals while saving a little money in the process. My cute little coupon organizer is just icing on the cake.

Friday Pray Along

Today my prayer is short, but heartfelt. I need to ask that God may feed the desire in my heart to do all things in each day to His glory. I ask to be reminded that with every tear I wipe from the face of my babes, in every load of laundry, in each trying moment and with every mess I clean, I am doing it all to fulfill His purpose in my life and in those I serve around me and not just for a worldly good. Amen.

Here's how it works: Leave a prayer request in the comments on Friday's posts. It can be anything--something you are thankful for, a friend you are worried about, a desire from your heart... Anything. By leaving a comment you are also committing to pray for others who comment as well. We'll start fresh each week. That's it. You can even be anonymous if you wish.

I shake my head at me

There are blogs you go to when you want to see details and photographs of a perfect party, to get ideas, to get inspired... And then there's this blog. This is where you go to know that you are not alone in your mommy (or daddy) flub-ups.  This is where you can hopefully say "Oh my gosh, I've totally done that!" make a small grimace, mutter "Bless her heart," and then we can all laugh about it. Although, to be honest I'm not quite ready to laugh yet. Maybe we should first have a cocktail, then laugh. Yes, that's it.

So here's a quick recap of the last week:

Friday: Ran around like chicken with head cut off, finishing all that was not done earlier in the week due to onset of cold.

Saturday: Ran around like aforementioned chicken until 3 PM, taking short but meaningful breaks to soak in my brand new three-year old; let everything go that wasn't done once guests arrived and party began; enjoyed our friends, family and mostly my girl as she opened presents, ate cake and loved her day; nearly passed out as I realized once cake was cut and served that I had not taken a single picture of or at the party. Aye, there's the rub. Am officially the worst blogger ever.

Sunday: Recovered. Cleaned. Took care of sweet baby who was so thoughtful to wait until after her big sister's party was over to come down with fever/cold, which for our little Pukey Pukerton means... well... I suppose the nickname says it all.

Monday - now: Played with cool new toys, continued caring for sick babe (enter mounds of ick laundry, several sleepless nights and many tears cried by all), sucked it up during a lull of the sickness to pack everyone up and go on a fun outing to our local children's museum, collapsed at the end of each day too tired to move.

Every time I sat down this week to lay my fingers on these keys, I heard a cough that turned into more or looked down to discover that my after-party-deep-cleaning couldn't wait a moment longer as ants were making their way in for an early Spring snack.

Today it's Thursday and I'm still feeling exhausted, still doing laundry (I tell you, that Lena's gag reflex is EPIC--go away, mucus!!!), still sulking over my lack of attachment to my camera.  I very much desired to write a fantastic post about my Adrienne Ann's first three years: how they have flown by, how she continues to be the most incredible girl I have ever known, how she entered this world and enriched me beyond measure by making me a mommy, how I love her more than I could ever hope to convey with words... I want to say all that stuff, litter the post with an anthology of pictures and end it with gorgeous stills from the party I worked so hard on.

Though I haven't yet found a pocket of time this week big enough to fill with my heart, swollen in love for our Addie, in a way my tribute already exists right here in this space. Because for the last 2 1/2 years I have shared her story and experience as I know it, along with my journey as her mother. Where photos are lacking there are words. As much as I can, I chronicle it here for all to see: parts I'm proud of and the mistakes that make me want to slap myself on the forehead and shout, IDIOT!    

Deep down I know that at the end of the day, when the last kiss of the evening has been given, the final tickle has been handed out, the last book has been read and my babes are (sort of) asleep, how many pictures I took to document it all doesn't really matter. It's how we remember feeling on those special days and telling the stories surrounding them that make up a life shared together.

At least that's what I'm telling myself until the disc with my mom's pictures and videos arrives in the mail.