Tuesday, December 31, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons - Our 2013 Year in Review

Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Sing about the {glory} of his name!
Tell the world how {glorious} he is.
Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds!"
Psalm 66:1-3

When life gives you lemons you .... make lemonade, right? 2013 has been a lemonade making kinda year for us!

The first half of the year was good! We were able to obtain legal guardianship of our daughter, Eloise, we enjoyed our last few months in Uganda, and we moved back to the States in late May where we were able to see friends and family we hadn't seen in over a year.

Our transition back to the States went so smoothly! We spent our first few weeks in Florida visiting Drew's friends and family and then made the drive up to Michigan to spend some time with my family. The kids adjusted well to life back in America and our plans seemed to be moving right along.

When we returned from Uganda we had plans for Drew to attend grad school at Harvard in Cambridge. He had job interviews lined up, he made a trip to Boston to go to interviews and check things out, we were looking at places to live, and he had already enrolled in classes. We were planning to move to the Boston area in August and things seemed to be going just as we had planned.

In late July life started to throw us some curve balls. We found out that because of the specific degree program that Drew was going into, he would be unable to take out loans for his first year of school. Having spent most of our savings on Eloise's adoption, we knew this meant that our income was going to have to fully cover the {high} cost of living in the Boston area as well as the {high} cost of attending Harvard! No matter which way we tried, we could not make things work out to do this. Finally, in August, just before school was to start, God firmly shut the door on that opportunity in our lives and started leading us in a different direction.

Now we were left wondering what in the world God had for us? Everything we had thought about, dreamt about and were looking forward to had been taken away and we had to find out what our next steps should be. We began to really struggle with believing that God's hand was in this and that it would all work out for His glory.

Drew began to look for temporary work in Michigan while we tried to sort things out. He got a few minimum wage jobs while we continued to pray and see what God wanted for us.

In September, we made the decision to stay in Michigan and Drew began the process of being hired on as a financial advisor with Edward Jones. He had been interested in this position for quite some time but kept putting it off because his desire was to return to school for his masters and this position with Edward Jones was a career position, not something he could do for a few years and then go back to school. However, it was a position he was highly interested in, as he was planning to go back to school for finance and business anyways. After much prayer, we felt like this was the direction God was leading us in.

Drew began completing each step of the Edward Jones hiring process... a lengthy process! In the mean time we lived on his minimum wage jobs and finances became extremely tight.

We struggled with God and wondered why He was bringing us through this. So much disappointment, unmet expectations, and discouraging things happened during this time. All of the plans {we} had for our life came crashing down and we both started to become bitter. We had just come out of an incredible year in Uganda where we both grew closer to each other and to God than we ever had before. We saw Him working in amazing and powerful ways. And now.... it seemed like He had abandoned us. We were walking in darkness and we couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

We began crying out to the Lord and asking Him to give us the faith to keep trusting in Him even when everything seemed to be going wrong. Drew kept advancing in the hiring process with Edward Jones but each step was so detailed and took so much time to complete and we began doubting that it would ever really happen.

In October we came to a breaking point. We were literally living dollar to dollar and one day a check we had written out to someone several months ago was finally cashed and we were left with very little money in our bank account. No cash, no savings, no stocks. We had spent most of our savings on Eloise's adoption, supplementing our support while living in Uganda, and trying to live on the minimum wage job Drew currently had. We felt like we had reached the bottom.

The good thing about being at the bottom is that you have nowhere to go but {up}! God did not abandon us during this time and we had the support of friends and family who wrapped their arms around us and blessed us with their love and support. We began clinging to God's word like never before.

Psalm 66 became one of our favorite chapters and these verses are seared in our hearts:

You have tested us, O God;
You have purified us like silver.
You captured us in your net
And laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
Then you put a leader over us.
{We went through fire and flood,
But you brought us to a place of great abundance.}
Psalm 66: 10-12

We knew that, just like the Israelites in Egypt, this was a time of great testing that God was bringing us through. We wanted to come out on the other side having grown stronger because of it. We began trying to focus on our blessings. We have a wonderful house to live in that is spacious and has cheap rent, we have a sweet new baby on the way, we were able to finalize Eloise's adoption in October and she legally became our daughter, we have wonderful friends and family, and we have a great marriage that can weather any storm! We began to see how God was using these trials in our life to make us into better people and we refocused our attitudes. We also began to look forward to the "place of great abundance" God would bring us to, whether that be financially, physically, or spiritually. We began learning to trust Him with whatever would come our way.

On December 26th, Drew completed the final step in the hiring process with Edward Jones. After that was over, we breathed a sigh of relief that he had finished all of the steps and ..... we waited to hear if he would get hired on.

Five days (felt like five years!) later we heard back. Drew had passed! Just today, after three months in the hiring process, we learned that Drew is finally being hired on as a financial advisor with Edward Jones! We are so excited about where this will take our family and we look forward to seeing what God does in and through us as we serve Him with this next step in our lives.

Over these next few months, as Drew takes several exams, attends several training seminars, and begins building a client base, we will find out where this new job will move our family. Most likely we'll still be in the West Michigan area but we're not exactly sure where his office will be. We look forward to finding out and getting settled so that we can begin putting down roots. We are looking forward to having the income necessary to support our family and to bless others on top of that just as we have been blessed!

I started this blog a few months ago mainly for myself. I want to remember all that we have gone through and all that we will go through. I want to be able to look back and see how my kids have grown and remember the fun family memories we have made together. But most of all I want to be able to look back and see how God used {every} situation in our lives to work together for good to bring HIM {glory}! And while it's mainly just for me, I hope that I can in some way encourage you as well.

So here's to 2014! It may be another lemonade making kind of year, but that's ok, because we're making the best lemonade we can for God's GLORY!

But God did listen!
He paid attention to my prayer.
Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
Or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
Psalm 66: 19-20

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

CHRISTmas 2013!


(Or, as Isaiah says ... Merry Christmas Tree!)

From the Hutchesons!

We hope that this Christmas has been a wonderful one for you as we celebrate JESUS and his birth as a humble infant, born to {save} the world!

Here's a little glimpse into our lives the past couple of weeks as we have celebrated this holiday season:

We made gingerbread houses!
Aunt Joy and Frannie came to visit!
The kids got cute new winter hats.
Isaiah got new Cars jammies and a hat.
Eloise got a princess baby doll.
We made Christmas cookies! Isaiah was an excellent decorator and really got into it this year. Eloise was just interested in eating the cookies. =)
Isaiah and Eloise got new Christmas jammies!
Christmas Eve.
Daddy read the Christmas story (and we watched Elf). =)
And made funny faces...
The kids opened their stockings.
Zai and Elle loved on each other. <3
Love these two cuties!

Christmas morning

Last present of the morning. The present is clearly bigger than she is!
A laptop for Eloise!
A new purse for mommy!
A mug for daddy!
A basketball hoop for Isaiah!
And our very best present of all, Baby Hutcheson #3. 26 weeks!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Santa: Friend or Foe?

It's December, the weather is frigid (in Michigan!), the snow is falling, Christmas music is playing, the stores are decorated, people are bustling here and there, and houses are filled with Christmas spirit. With less than one week to Christmas, it's the most wonderful time of the year!

This time of year brings about so much festivity and celebration, magical moments, and times with loves ones. This time of year also brings with it a certain plump, white bearded guy who causes a lot of controversy in Christian circles: Santa Claus.

This is Isaiah's 4th Christmas, but for the past 3 he has been a little too young to understand or have much exposure to Santa other than last Christmas when he was just two years old and was able to point out Santa and recogonize who he was. But last Christmas we were in Uganda and we didn't see Santa too much there... although we did run into him at the mall one time! Santa's a little darker and a little skinner in Uganda! =)

Now that the kids are older and we're back in the States, we've had to decide what exactly we want to teach our children regarding Santa Claus.

As of now, this is what we're planning to teach our children about Santa:

1. Santa is a "real" part of Christmas even though he is a "pretend" guy

Did you know that St. Nicolas was a {real} guy? The records of his existence are sparse, but from what we can piece together St. Nicolas was a Christian man of wealth and privilege born in the third century. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents. Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra. The anniversary of his death, December 6, 343, became the St. Nicolas Holiday, where gifts were given in his honor. Since this holiday was so close to Christmas, the two eventually merged together as one.

Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Christ. But the Santa we celebrate today, although derived from St. Nick, has been distorted and embellished. As they get older, we want to explain to our children who St. Nicolas was and how we get from him the Santa that is now around today. We want to explain to them that some parts of Santa Claus are real (he really was a guy who was very generous and gave out presents) but that a lot has been added to the story of Santa to make it a fun Christmas tradition that is not real (Santa does not really deliver presents to every boy and girl around the world in one night, reindeer do not really fly, etc).

We're not going to try to deny that Santa exists. In the U.S. he's everywhere at Christmas time! Santa is at the mall, on your wrapping paper, on the radio, on your Christmas PJ's, on TV, etc. It would be hard to keep our children from seeing him! Is he a "real" guy? No. But he is a "real" part of Christmas! And we want our kids to have fun enjoying the "pretend" things about Santa during the Christmas season.

2. Santa is not a "bad" guy

We believe that you can make Santa a {fun} part of Christmas while still teaching your children who Santa really is. This year Isaiah and Eloise sat on Santa's lap and Isaiah was so excited to ask him for a "big monsta truck" for Christmas. But he also knows that Santa doesn't really bring him presents and that his asking is just for fun.

We want our kids to have fun with Santa during the Christmas season while still knowing that all that's said about Santa is not true. He's not a bad guy who needs to be avoided during the Christmas season. But he's also not real and doesn't do all the things some kids think he does. We want to help our kids discover that middle ground, where they can enjoy Santa while still knowing that he's just a fun, make believe part of Christmas.

Have your kids seen the movie Cars or Cinderella? Those characters do not really exist nor is it possible for the things in those movies to happen in real life. Yet we let our children watch those movies and develop their imaginations while explaining to them that cars cannot really talk nor are there fairy godmothers with the power to transform pumpkins into chariots!

We believe that, just like other "make believe" kids characters, Santa Claus can be kept as a part of Christmas and enjoyed by our children while still allowing them to know that he's not a "real" guy and doesn't really do all that people claim he does.

3. Santa does NOT bring our kids their presents

Are you kidding me? All the thought, time, energy, and money that goes into buying and wrapping presents and you think I'm going to give Santa credit for it?? =)

We will tell our children that their presents come from mommy and daddy, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. People they know and love have worked hard all year long to buy them presents and we want them to be appreciative. If they want to ask Santa for something while sitting on his lap that's fine but we will explain to them that it's fun to ask Santa for presents but it's really mommy and daddy (and others) who supply them under the tree Christmas morning.

4. Our kids are to be "good" because their parents tell them to be, not so that Santa will bring them presents.

There is no "naughty" or "nice" list in our house. Our children will get presents even if they have been little terrors that year. We do not give to our children because of their behavior and we certainly won't scare them that if they are not obedient we will not give them any presents.

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas started with St. Nicolas giving gifts to children but, as Christians, we carry on the tradition because we have been given the greatest gift of all, {JESUS}! God gave us the gift of Jesus when we were undeserving. We were on the "naughty" list. I'm so thankful that God didn't give us coal instead of his Son!

We give as an extension of the gift that we have been given through Christ Jesus. Thus, we will give to our children each year no matter what. And we will not bribe our children into obeying by threatening to give them less or worse gifts. We will not tell them to be good because their "Elf on the Shelf" is watching or because Santa will give them coal if they are bad. We aim to teach our children to obey because it pleases God and their parents, whom God has put in charge of them.

Elf on the Shelf- a new family tradition we started this year!

5. Jesus is the {real} reason we celebrate Christmas 

Santa can be a fun part of Christmas but he is NOT the reason we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is Jesus' birthday and on that day we celebrate the most wonderful gift of all that God our Father gave us! We want to teach our children that lots of fun Christmas traditions come out around Christmas time ( Elf on the Shelf, Santa, cutting down our Christmas tree, presents, etc.) and those things are fun to enjoy but the {REAL} reason we celebrate is because of a {REAL} guy named Jesus born in a stable so many years ago.

This year we are going to start the tradition of making a birthday cake and singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas. We will read the Christmas story on Christmas day and as our children get older we will incorporate other things that help us make Christmas a celebration of Jesus' birth.

All year long, we teach our children about the Lord, His faithfulness, His "realness", His love, His laws.... And we continue through the Christmas season as we teach them about His birth. With all that we pour into them about the truth of Jesus over the year we're not worried about Santa coming in and overshadowing their belief in God during the Christmas season.

So, why not just allow your children to think that Santa is real and really does all that's said of him?

We don't want to lie to our children. If Isaiah is playing a game on my phone and I tell him that I need it to send a quick text message and then I will give it back, then I will use it to send a quick text message and then give it back! I won't tell him a lie to get him to hand over the phone so that I can keep it for good. If we tell Eloise not to touch the stove because it is hot, then it is hot. We will not tell her that the Christmas tree or the computer is hot so she doesn't touch it.

My point is... We want to teach our children that they can trust us because we will always tell them the truth. We don't want to deceive them about who Santa really is and have them find out several years down the road that we didn't tell them the truth. Why would we lie to them about Santa and expect them to believe us about Jesus?

The way we've decided to go about handling Santa with our children is a personal decision that we've made as a couple and we feel it's the right thing for our family. {But} we understand that there are many families out there who go about Santa in a different way! And I'd love to hear from you how you go about handling Santa in your family!

 SO how about you? What do you teach your kids about Santa Claus? I would love to hear!

And...these pictures don't have Santa in them but I still had to share them. Isaiah and Eloise in their matching Christmas jammies!! =)

I love how they love each other. Isaiah is such a sweet big brother with her!

P.S. If you're interested in reading the opinions of some others out there, here are some links to follow:






Tuesday, December 10, 2013

24 Weeks and Still on Zofran: Tips for Dealing With Morning Sickness

24 Weeks!
Ok, so who in the world came up with the term "morning sickness"? It certainly could not have been a pregnant woman. It must have been a man! =) I think a more accurate term would be "all day and all night long sickness". Anybody feeling me? How wonderful it would be if "morning sickness" was only actually in the morning!!

My "morning sickness" this time around has been a lot worse than it was with Isaiah. But I know there are women who experience it much worse than me... not being able to keep anything at all down, being sick all 9 months, hospitalization. IV's, bed-rest, etc. There are also women who sail through pregnancy without a hint of nausea (lucky!). This time around I've been somewhere in the middle. I'm thankful it's not as bad as some but it's still bad enough that I've sought out anything I can to help me feel better!

My morning sickness started around 6 weeks with a vengeance! At 24 weeks I am just now starting to feel back to normal and can even go a day with taking a Zofran {amazing!}! I still feel sick most days but I can tell that little by little it is finally going away.

Here are the things that I've found have helped me feel better in the midst of "all day and all night long barfing my brains out sickness":

I was so thankful my doctor put me on this when I was just 7 weeks along. I was never sick enough with Isaiah to need anything so I wasn't even aware that there was something I could take to help me feel better during this pregnancy. Thankfully my doctor prescribed Zofran right away this time and it made a difference. At first she had me on 4 mg a day but that just wasn't cutting it so we upped it to 8mg and that seemed to be enough. From 6-20 weeks, when my morning sickness was at it's worst, the Zofran would keep me from throwing up but wouldn't do much to help my nausea. It was enough for me, though, to just have something that would help me keep my food down! Now the Zofran keeps me from throwing up and takes away all my nausea. I'm still on 8mg a day but can now skip a day here or there and feel ok and am hoping I can wean off of it in the next few weeks.

2. Crackers Before You Even Get Out of Bed
Nausea has this amazing ability to make itself known even before you open your eyes in the morning! Not so much now, but earlier on, I would wake up in the morning and feel the morning sickness before I even rolled over and got out of bed. I found that keeping some crackers on my nightstand and snacking on a few before I even got out of bed really helped to settle my stomach and set a good precedent for a day with less nausea!

3. Unisom and B6
My doctor also recommended to me that I take a Unisom sleep tablet each night before bed and 50-100mg of vitamin B6 during the day. I really do think that this has helped. I still take a Unisom and B6 every night before bed and usually have a much "sicker" morning the next day if I forget to. I take the generic version of Unisom from Costco and it works just fine. Just make sure that whether you take the Unisom brand or the generic version, you are taking the kind with the active ingredient "doxylamine succinate" in 25mg tablets. Other forms contain "diphenhydramine HCl" and are not as safe.  I am hoping to wean off the Unisom by the time I reach the 3rd trimester as there's conflicting views on how safe it is during the last three months of pregnancy.

4. Get Enough Sleep
I have found that I tend to feel a lot worse during the day if I haven't gotten enough sleep at night. A good night's sleep can make a big difference so do all you can to make sure you get at least 8 hours! Naps can help too! I've taken more naps this pregnancy than I have in the last 25 years combined! (Maybe not, but it feels like it!).

5. Drink Lots of Water
I know, I know. It's hard to drink enough when you are scared to swallow anything for fear of how it may come back up minutes later! I cannot tell you how many times I have woken up this pregnancy and drank a big glass of water only to vomit it up within a half hour. It's not {fun}. But drinking enough fluids is so important! The more dehydrated you are, the more nauseated you will feel. Thankfully, I've always been a "heavy (water) drinker" so I've been able to keep up with getting plenty to drink. It really does help!

6. Change the Timing of Your Vitamins
I take my prenatal vitamins at night and always with food. I find that if I take them in the morning they cause me to feel much sicker throughout the day but at night they don't bother me. Could just be coincidence for me but I do anything I can that seems like it's helping. =)

7. Eat Small, Bland Snacks Throughout the Day
Life gets busy as a mom of two and sometimes I don't get to eat right when I need to/want to. Sound familiar? Keeping your belly full can help ward off the nausea by stabilizing your blood sugar. But I've found that if I let myself get too hungry I get to a point of nausea that there's no turning back from even after my food has digested. It's better to not let yourself get too hungry. Try to make sure that you're always semi filled up with small, healthy, protein packed meals that are not too spicy, fatty, etc.

Hope some of these tips can help another mama out! I'm just thankful that I'm on the horizon of feeling better and can't wait for the day I wake up and realize I feel completely "morning sickness" free again! =)

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Earlier this week we started a new family tradition: cutting down our own Christmas tree! For all of our past Christmases together as a family we've had fake trees, but this year we decided to make it a fun family outing and cut down our own. It was so much fun and the kids had a {blast}!

The kids' 2013 ornaments - Turbo for Isaiah...

And Doc McStuffins for Eloise!

Ready to hunt down the perfect Christmas tree!

My little cutie!

My other two cuties!

We found it! The perfect tree!! Or is it a little too small?

"How about this one, Dad? It's big!" - Isaiah

Finally, we found the right one. =)

Love this girl.

Victory! My two guys prevailed in cutting down our very first Christmas tree!

Time to get this baby home.

Setting it up!

Cutting the rope!

Adding the final ornaments.

Eloise put some on too.

It's done! Our first real Christmas tree as a family!

And now on to another tradition we are starting this year: Elf on the Shelf!!

The kids love waking up each day to see what mischief "Elfis" has gotten into the night before!

And finally... here's a picture of the outside of our house all decorated! Haha, just kidding. This is the house from one of our favorite Christmas films, Christmas Vacation. =)

All in all, it was a great day! The experience of finding and cutting down the perfect tree, bringing it home, and having hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music while we decorated it was a blast! It's so fun to experience Christmas through the eyes of my children and I love watching them take in and enjoy this wonderful time of year!
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