A Graduation, Christmas, and a Dog. Warning: This Post Contains Excessive Pictures! =)

Two thousand sixteen ended in a whirlwind and the beginning of 2017 has been just as crazy! Things are finally starting to slow down a bit around here and so I thought I’d update you on what the Hutcheson household has been up to these last few weeks!

Drew graduated from Jacksonville University on December 17 with his MBA! Over 2 years of hard work and perseverance finally paid off and he is DONE!!! Going to grad school with three small children and working full time is not for the faint of heart. It’s been hard but it’s been worth it! We have seen God’s hand of faithfulness to us throughout the journey and it has been an adventurous ride. Not only does Drew now have his Masters but, through a series of events only God could have orchestrated, he’s also already landed his dream job as an Equity Research Associate at Deutsche Bank. God is so good!!!

drewsgrad2
Just in case you were wondering Olive is not a red head. She was a pumpkin for Halloween and we spray painted her hair orange and STILL cannot get it to all come out!!!!! =)
img_1946
So proud of this man and how hard he works!! ❤

 

The surrogacy is going great! On December 19 I had my 30 week doctor’s appointment and Ben and Kristen were able to come down for the ultrasound! Baby Knox is growing away and looking great! I’ll be 34 weeks this week and can’t believe we are getting so close to the finish line! I am so excited for Knox to join the Berry family!!

15626197_10101225368958148_7969540619740023689_o

I did tons of baking over the Christmas break. The messiest baking adventure was when the kids and I made Christmas cookies. The kids had a blast.

But cleaning up was not quite as fun. Whose idea was it anyways that making Christmas cookies should be an annual tradition? Dried frosting, cookie crumbles, and sprinkles everywhere. Whew…. I need a nap just thinking about all the cleanup involved.

A few days before Christmas my parents and two little sisters, Janae and Adelynn, came to spend the Holidays with us! They live in Indiana so we don’t get to see them much and it was a real treat. We LOVED spending time with them and had a blast. We packed a lot into their week and a half here and were so sad to see them go!

img_0828
These kids love their Meema and Papa!

fullsizerender-14

Christmas was great except that Livy got sick on Christmas day and threw up 3 times so that was no fun! But we were still able to have a great day and she was better by the next day, thankfully.

img_0908
I spy a present that we couldn’t wrap…. Yes, the dog is a Christmas present! (More on that below)
img_2028
Each year on Christmas Eve the kids get to open up two presents. One is new Christmas jammies and the other is a new book with their name on it!
img_2056
Our Christmas morning tradition is that, before we open up any presents, we read the Christmas story, light candles and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus! It helps the kids (and us) remember why we are celebrating!

fullsizerender-11

img_2182img_2173img_2130

img_1159
My favorite Christmas gift – a deep freezer!! My husband is an AWESOME gift giver. ❤

img_0920

img_0921
Poor, sick girl couldn’t even make it through opening up all her presents before she needed a nap.

Speaking of presents, the kids got an exciting Christmas present this year. We got our first dog! Meet Cheza! Cheza is a two year old Double Doodle (mix of a Labradoodle and a Goldendoodle). “Cheza” is the Swahili word for “play” and he definitely lives up to his name. He is the perfect addition to our family and fits right in with our crazy kids. He is a very good and obedient dog and plays great with the kids. I have been putting off getting a dog for a long time because of the extra work involved… despite the pleas of my husband and children! But I finally gave in and am so grateful that Cheza is such a great fit for our family.

IMG_2255.JPG

img_1135
Why yes this is Cheza dressed up in some of Drew’s clothes. Sorry, boy, you have joined a crazy family!

Well I think that about sums up our life these past few weeks! We saw the Lord’s hand of faithfulness throughout the ups and downs of 2016 and we look forward to watching Him at work in 2017. To HIM be the glory!!!

Advertisements

Two and Four?! How Can It Be?

We officially have a 2 year old and a 4 year old in our house! A what and a what? It doesn’t seem possible that Eloise and Olive are already that old! How can it be?

Their birthdays are just 12 days apart so this year we had a combined party for them on the weekend right in between their birthdays. We celebrated them individually on their actual birthdays and that’s the day they got their presents from us but we decided to do their party together this year. They didn’t mind and it made it alot easier on everyone. =)

The most favorite gift of all was a family gift that we bought for Eloise because she has been begging us for weeks on end…. We booked a local hotel for the weekend and had a little “staycation”! The kids love staying in hotels and Drew and I decided we could use a break too so we disconnected from reality for a bit and spent the weekend by the pool and in the room watching TV. It was so nice to have no agenda and nothing planned to do. The kids are already asking us when we are going to do it again. It might have to become a regular tradition in our house!

Eloise (4 years old):

Favorite Color: Purple

Favorite Toy: Her new Boov (“Oh”)

Favorite Outfit: Her “I’ve Got Nothing to Wear” shirt and a jean skirt

What She is Best At: Hula Hooping!

Favorite Place to Go: McDonalds and Chuck E Cheese

Olive (2 years old):

Favorite Color: Pink

Favorite Toy: Her baby doll

Favorite Outfit: Her Elsa and Anna shirt with a tutu

What She is Best At: Fully abusing the power she has as the baby of the family to charm her way out of every situation and make everything think she is cute!

Favorite Place to Go: Anywhere….as long as it is with mommy

Happy Birthday Sweet Eloise and Sweet Livy. We LOVE you!!

IMG_5422
Olive’s Birthday!

FullSizeRender (3)
Flowers and a chocolate milkshake caused this girl to pretty much have the best birthday ever!

IMG_5550
The girls’ birthday party. They made out like bandits.
IMG_5558

IMG_5574

IMG_5588

IMG_5594
The girls got matching dresses and new clothes for their baby dolls as gifts. =)

IMG_5733
Eloise’s Birthday! She had ballet that day so she was in her leotard. =)
IMG_5742

FullSizeRender (4)
She wanted “Oh” from the movie “Home”. She has literally taken him everywhere since this day. It’s safe to say she loves him. =)

IMG_5772
Oh my heart. I am so in love with this Super Awesome Birthday Girl! ❤

IMG_5786
We had so much fun at the hotel. It was a little cold but the kids still had a blast swimming in the pool.
IMG_5824

IMG_5813
Love these three so much. ❤

IMG_5805
Superman ice cream!

IMG_5803
Movies in bed!

IMG_5802
Snacks in bed! Breaking all the rules… but who cares? It’s vacation!

IMG_5899
And this, folks, is how a good vacation always ends. With exhausted kids fast asleep, dreaming about the memories we made as a family this weekend. ❤

"If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no"

So I just realized that I didn’t post any blog posts in December. Nadda. Zero. Zilch. Oh well!

3e2cb-151224_182358

December was a great month for us. Just busy! The kids are at such fun ages and it made Christmas such a magical time this year! But since they’re getting older now we’ve also added more activities to our plate during the holiday season. Isaiah had parties at school and a basketball performance at the half time show of a local basketball game. Eloise had her first ballet recital. We saw Santa at several events. We took one last trip to SeaWorld before our season passes expired (WOW!! SeaWorld at Christmas time was AMAZING! Even though we’re not buying season passes again for 2016 we’re still planning to try and make it there at Christmas time again. Truly magical!). We stayed up late looking at Christmas lights in different neighborhoods. We spent one evening at Adventure Landing for WinterFest. We crammed in as many Christmas movies as we could. We moved our Elf on the Shelf (“Elfis”) around the house every night while the kids were asleep and tried to come up with something creative for him to be doing the next day (man that’s stressful!!).

We hung Christmas lights on the outside of our house for the first time ever (and then (after hanging up 5 strands) realized we didn’t’ have enough to go all the way around the house so we tried to buy more… and then found out that they were out of stock at all the stores and were being discontinued (thanks Target!)… so, since we didn’t want to buy 10 completely new sets (because just 5 new ones wouldn’t match the 5 we already had) and since by this time it was just a week before Christmas, we just decided to get back up on the roof and take them all down. And…the story gets better. When we took them down we put them in a garbage bag and set them in the garage (why did we do that?!?)….and then a week later accidentally threw away the garbage bag full of 5 strands of perfectly good icicle lights (bangs head on table). Yea, that was one of our Christmas adventures I’d rather not remember!). We read the Christmas story several times and and sang to lots of Christmas music. Drew and his dad spent Christmas Eve (after our Christmas Eve service) setting up the new trampoline we bought the kids so they would be surprised on Christmas day. We made a gingerbread house, Christmas cookies, crafts, and decorated the house. Not to mention buying all the gifts for friends and family which rests pretty much solely on my shoulders. We had alot of late nights and early mornings. It was a busy month for sure!

And now I’m just focusing on rest. I usually don’t add too much to my plate but this holiday season I feel like I did. I’m usually good about putting up boundaries. About saying no when I need to. About declining a play date or forgoing an event if it’s just too much. But as 2016 is beginning I want to refocus on this. I want to make sure that I go all in on what GOD is calling me passionately to and weed out everything else that just creates busyness. If it’s not an emphatic YES, then I want to say no. Of course ministry and serving sometimes need to be done whether we feel like it or not and, if God is calling me to it, it needs to go under the emphatic YES category. I’m talking about saying no to things that I add to my plate that are simply things I want to do or even feel compelled to do. I want to say no to those things so that I can have room to say yes to more important things.

Have you ever heard of Jen Hatmaker? Oh my gosh. If you haven’t you totally need to look her up. Here is her blog. She is an amazing woman of God and an amazing speaker. I could really listen to her for hours. She is actually speaking at the IF Gathering (if you haven’t heard of that it’s so awesome too. Click the link!) in February and my mom and I are going to a broadcast of it at her church while we’re in Indiana visiting them later this month. I’m so excited!

Anyways, Jen posted this on her Facebook a few days ago and it exactly put into words what I want my year 2016 to be. I’ll just let you read this and I’ll slip out the door because, really, what more could I say?

 
“As you move into 2016 hoping for a saner schedule that prioritizes your actual life and keeps you focused on the things that matter the most, let me share the decision-making filter my agent Curtis always gives me:
“If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no.”
So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn’t-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes?
NO. Nope.
No thank you. I am unable to commit to that this year. Thank you so much for asking, but any new yes I give right now means a no to my family and sanity. I am so flattered you asked and count on my prayers, but I am at my maximum bandwidth right now. I appreciate your work so much, but I’ve already committed my time and energy this year. I’ve loved being a part of this, but I am no longer able to continue. We are aggressively focused on x, y, and z this year, so as a family we’ve agreed on no new commitments. This is what I can give but won’t be able to do more right now.
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong…the hell yeses? ALL IN, BABY.”

Before and After: The Transformation of our House

On Thanksgiving Day we celebrated one year of owning our home! On November 26th, 2014 (the day before Thanksgiving last year) we signed on the dotted line and received the keys to our very first house!

I’ve been trying to think of a fun post to do to honor our one year anniversary. You have all seen the house tour that I posted here on the blog earlier in the year so I didn’t want to post similar pictures again. Then, the idea hit me!

The previous owners of our house foreclosed on it. An investor bought it, flipped it, and then put it back on the market. When we bought it, it had already been completely remodeled so we never saw the house in the condition it was in before. BUT on the Zillow listing, there were old pictures of the house from when the previous owners tried to sell it. Over a year ago I downloaded and saved those pictures to my computer because the transformation was so shocking to me!

So today I thought it would be fun to post the before and after pictures of our house. Remember, we didn’t do this transformation! We bought the house already completely updated. And thank goodness, because if I would have stepped foot in this house when it looked like the previous pictures I would have taken one peek in the door and said no thank you! I’m amazed that the investor saw the potential in this house and gave it some much needed love and updating. I absolutely love our house and feel so at home here. I’m so grateful it’s ours!

So… here we go! (You can click on the pictures to make them larger)

The outside before:

The outside after:

The living room before:
The living room after:
The kitchen before:
The kitchen after:
The dining room before:
The dining room after:
The master bedroom before:
The master bedroom after:
The master bathroom before:
The Master bathroom after:
Isaiah’s room before:

 Isaiah’s room after:

The fan in Isaiah’s room was the only fixture in the whole house the investor didn’t update! We can’t figure out why. =) But it didn’t matter because we put bunkbeds in his room and replaced the fan with a light anyways. We just thought it was funny!
The girls’ room before:

The girls’ room after:
The guest bathroom before:

The guest bathoom after:

 The playroom before:

The playroom after:
The garage before:
The garage after:

What To Do With Leftover Stuffing (An Easy Recipe You’ll Love)

Thanksgiving is almost here! I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to a wonderful day with family, a day that revolves around tons of food. I love all the Thanksgiving staples – turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, and one of my personal favs: STUFFING!

There always seems to be leftovers, doesn’t there?!? Growing up we used to eat Thanksgiving dinner around 1 or 2 but the family would stick around all day until supper time. That meant that for supper we’d have leftover turkey on bread with butter which was a good way to use up some leftovers. But what to do with all the leftover stuffing? There’s only so many days in a row you can eat it plain…

But never fear! I have a recipe for you. A recipe that can turn your leftover stuffing into a completely new dinner! My family loves this recipe so much that I actually buy stuffing all year long just for the purpose of making this recipe. (BTW it’s like super duper easy too. Just dirties ONE dish!)

Easy Stuffing Chicken Bake

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 40 min
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients
1 pkg Stove Top stuffing (or about 3-4 cups of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing)
1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed cream of chicken OR cream of mushroom soup (I’ve tried both, both are good!)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 bag (16 oz) frozen mixed vegetables thawed and drained

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using stuffing from a box prepare stuffing as directed on the package.
2. Mix chicken, soup, sour cream and vegetables in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with the stuffing.
3. Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

That’s it! Enjoy! =)

The first rule of cooking is always have an adorable helper in the kitchen with you. =) 
All mixed up and ready for the stuffing on top. 
Stuffing is on. Ready for the oven. 
Fresh out of the oven!
Ready for my adorable little helper to gobble down. =)  Yummy!

No Child is an Accident

When we got pregnant with our first child after we’d only been married 5 months, we couldn’t wait to tell the exciting news to everyone! We were so happy!!! But I’ll never forget what someone said when we called to tell them. Some of the first words out of their mouth were, “Was it an ACCIDENT?”

Since then I’ve always had a distaste in my mouth for those words. First of all, I think it’s just a really rude question to ask. It’s none of your business whether someone’s child was planned or unplanned. If someone wants to tell you they will, if not, don’t ask.

Secondly, I don’t believe that there are any accidental children. Accidental parents? Yes. But no accidental children. Many moms and dads become parents unintentionally. They weren’t planning to become parents or to parent another child. It happened by accident. But that child, the child that they “accidentally” created was planned by God long long ago, before the Earth was formed. God does not make children accidentally. He knew the exact moment that child would come into existence – He was not caught off guard by an “accident”!

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

Even if one of my children was not planned, I would not refer to them as an accident. Imagine how a child growing up with this label may feel. Unwanted, an accident? That’s a heavy burden to carry. You could tell your unplanned child, “God planned for you to be alive on this Earth exactly when you arrived. We were surprised but HE wasn’t surprised by you – He put you in our family at exactly the right time. And we are so glad that was his plan!” or something along those lines. Don’t give your child the burden of being “an accident”.

Which leads me to my train of thought today…… Eloise. Today is her Gotcha Day. The day we “got her” from her orphanage. The day we brought her home. The day she ceased to be an orphan and the day she gained a family. Three years ago today we brought her little 6 month old self home and showered her with love and watched her grow and thrive into the spunky 3 1/2 year old she is today.

Eloise’s biological mother got pregnant with her by accident. She became an accidental mother. But Eloise is NOT an accident. God destined her to be alive on this Earth at the very time Drew and Isaiah and Olive and I are…..so that she could be a beautiful part of our family. We cannot imagine life without her. She was not planned by her mother, but she was planned by us. It’s hard to forget all the hoops we had to jump through and the steps we had to complete for her adoption. All the money and the paperwork and the tears and the frustration as we went through the process! All the waiting and the praying and the hoping. It was all for her. We didn’t know it at the time but God had set aside a beautiful daughter for us, planned into existence by HIM.

Sometimes people become accidental parents and chose to end the life of their child and sometimes people become accidental parents and chose to GIVE LIFE to their child whether in their own home or the home of another. We are so so grateful God decided long ago that Eloise’s first mom would accidentally became pregnant with her and would give her life so that we could have a desired, planned for, and wanted daughter.

Happy Gotcha Day, Sweet Eloise. You are not an accident and we are glad you were born.

Six Years as Mrs. Hutcheson

This post is going to be a bit sappy. But, to be fair, I hardly ever post mushy love posts and it’s my anniversary so cut me some slack. =)

Six years ago on August 7, 2009 I made the second best decision of my life – I married Drew (the very best decision of my life being to give it to Christ!). I had no idea how to be a wife, no idea what marriage was really like, no idea how to truly set aside my selfishness for the good of another person. But I jumped into marriage with both feet and faced the steep learning curve. Let me tell you, marriage is not for the faint of heart. Choosing to combine your life with someone for better or for worse is not an easy task considering the sinful state of human nature. But it’s worth the work because marriage can be refining, healing, beautiful, and fun!

God says that marriage is GOOD:

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22 

I’m so glad God gave me the good gift of Drew. Is he perfect? Nope. But he’s perfect for me. He is weak where I’m strong and he is strong where I’m weak. He balances me out and helps me think from a different perspective. In marriage it’s easy to get stuck on the little annoying things your spouse does. But a few years into our marriage I realized how silly it was to pick fights over how to squeeze the toothpaste tube (FYI: Drew and I now have our own SEPARATE tubes of toothpaste because we finally decided to just agree to disagree!!! =)). But seriously, I’d rather save up my energy to fight battles that really matter, like conquering sin with each other’s help or fighting through difficult life circumstances together.

We’ve done a lot in our six years of marriage. We’ve lived in two different countries, three states, and six different houses. We’ve had three children, completed an international adoption, and lived in Africa for a year. We have said hurtful things to each other and we have forgiven and been forgiven. We have had a blast together on numerous crazy adventures and we have laughed together till our sides hurt.

Interested in a healthy marriage? Listen to this:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Colossians 3: 12-15

That’s a big pill to swallow!! But the closer to Christ we become the better we are able to love our spouse like this…. and it creates a sweet, sweet marriage.

I must say that my second year of marriage was better than my first, my third year was better than my second, my fourth year was better than my fifth, and my sixth year has been better than them all combined! Our marriage just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter as we continue to learn each other in and out, as we face and overcome trials together, as we walk through valleys and as we rejoice on mountaintops together. There is no one else I would rather live this life with than my very best friend!

Engaged!
Married (we saved our first kiss for our wedding day!)
First Year – Isaiah was born a month and a half after our first anniversary. 
Second year!
Third year! Eloise joined our family!
Fourth year!
Fifth year! Olive joined our family!
And Sixth Year!

I love seeing how our family has grown, our love has strengthened, and our lives have changed in these six short years. And I look forward to the next 6 (and 16 and 60 years, God willing!!).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sometimes I cannot believe that, before the beginning of time, God ordained that I would be the mother of these three sweet babies! The Lord truly has the ability to bless us beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine. Being a mom is the hardest, sweetest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced and I love it more than I ever thought I would! I’m thankful to my wonderful mother who set a great example before me and I hope that I can be the same example to my children.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Christmas 2014

Alright, so here’s some pictures from Christmas 2014. Better late than never, right? We moved into our new house on December 14 and then my parents came a week later to spend the holidays with us so it’s been busy over here! But I’m trying hard to catch up on posts (starting with my Christmas post) and have several more in the works (including a house tour!).

 

Poor Olive…. or is it poor Santa!? =)

We had a great Christmas this year! Simple, but good. We decided to go small on presents. It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking we need to buy so much (especially for our kids). But with the budget stretched especially thin with having just bought and moved into a new house we couldn’t spend alot this year. That’s ok, though, because presents are not the reason we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate because Jesus was born to save us from our sins. We celebrate to spend quality time with friends and family. We celebrate to remember what an awesome gift we’ve been given through Christ!

My three Christmas cuties!
The kids and their cousin, Gavin.
Christmas Eve!
As per Hutcheson tradition, the kids get to open their stockings on Christmas Eve. =)

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve we went to see some amazing lights in a nearby neighborhood with my parents and sisters. It was alot of fun!
Oh my!!! Look at that pout when she wanted to open a gift Christmas morning but it wasn’t her turn yet! Lol!
Ironically the pout disappeared when she opened her present. =)
Isaiah wrapped up a picture of himself as a baby, then gifted it to himself, then opened it up saying, “Oh!!! A picture of me as a baby, how cute mom. Look at me, I was so cute”. We were cracking up!
You can always count on Drew to make an amazing face on Christmas morning. =)
Like I said, we totally went all out this year on presents…. my husband got me cheese popcorn!!!
A gift for Meema.
New gloves for Papa (can you tell he doesn’t live in Florida?)
A gift for Janae!
I think Meema liked her gift! (A bird feeder)
Isaiah wrapped up a gift for Eloise – some of her own old toys. =) And then he opened it for her on Christmas morning. Lol!
One of Isaiah’s favorite gifts – A Nerf Gun from Meema and Papa. Isaiah could not understand how in the world Meema and Papa knew what he wanted most for Christmas! 😉
Adelynn got body spray!

 

 

Pacis and sippie cups for baby Livy!
That little pony tail!! ❤
Olive got her first baby doll!
Another of Isaiah’s favorite gifts!
Opening up gifts at Mimi and Grandpa’s house!

 

It was a wonderful Christmas and we all got more than we needed! We were so blessed to be able to spend lots of time with my parents and little sisters as well as Drew’s family. Thank you, Jesus, for coming as a tiny baby to save us from our sins. We are so unworthy and yet so grateful. Merry (late) Christmas!