22 December 2016

Christmas Letter

I knew I wasn't going to get around to mailing anything this year, so I thought a brief photo history of our year would have to do.  I thought we would start with family pictures, so you can identify my kids in the latter pictures.  They are growing so quickly that some are unrecognizable otherwise!

Michael is now 14 and growing like a weed.  He is now 6'3" and wears a size 15 shoe!  He loves his animals but most especially the pigs.  He also loves playing sports including soccer, basketball and he may give volleyball a try this year.

Joshua, 13,  is not far behind Michael at 5'11" and is enjoying wearing his dad's hand me down size 13 shoes.  He enjoys soccer but mostly sports are for fun.  He loves doing things with his hands and built his very own computer this year.  He loves to build, create and anything to do with computers.  He has been taking some web design classes and loves them!

Jacob, 10, is a fun mix of big kid and little kid.  He love playing sports with his big brothers (especially soccer), but also loves playing with the little kids.  He and the littles can be found on many kinds of adventures roaming throughout the house.  

Hyrum, 4, is such a little man.  He is my only shy child, so if you don't know him very well, you are not alone.  He loves learning and has been working on learning to read and doing some basic math.  He also loves to color and can be found coloring almost any time of day!

Simon, 2, is everything you would expect from a curly haired red head.  Mischief is his middle name, but he is just too cute to stay  mad at.  He is finally learning to speak, so hopefully we can get him in a big bed and get rid of diapers once and for all!  He loves to help mom and dad with anything and everything they are doing.

Michael has been working on his Eagle Project this year.  He built some great
doll cases for the library.  They turned out great.  He will get his Eagle as soon
as the paperwork goes through!
 Now that you got to know us a little more here are some fun pics from throughout the year!

We get lots of snow and the boys love it!  I think snow time is the
only time I am guaranteed to get the kids outside to play!

Having animals has been an adventure.  The chickens are doing great and the littles love to feed them grass!

Piglets are just the cutest.  This reminds me why people buy baby animals!  
They are not so cute when they get older, but they make great bacon!

I don't usually include myself but this year I got a teacher of the year award
   at APUS where I teach math online.  It was a great honor and a fun trip to DC. 
In addition to animals we had an amazing garden this year.  Can you identify all of those vegetables?  

We enjoyed having an exchange student from Spain for about 6 weeks this summer.
It was a lot of fun and a great experience.  Jon was Michael's age and loved soccer, so he
was a perfect fit!  He even became a pro at collecting eggs!  

They boys had a lot of fun playing soccer together for the Christian school.  My favorite was when Joshua was on defense and Michael was in the goal.  Joshua was a fierce defender heading the ball to help Michael out in the goal!
Michael is also learning to use his height for good as the center on the basketball team.  He hasn't had a lot of experience, but he is learning quickly! 

I can't let them have all the fun, so I ran a 5K with my friend.  We did great!  My body is still trying to settle in after baby 5, but we will get there!  

The boys favorite thing to do with dad is to work in the kitchen!  They love making dinner or baking goodies!  It is fun seeing my littles watch and the bigs learn to make real food!

Simon is just too cute, but living on the farm is a very different life.  They
love going for rides in on the mower and helping with the animals!

Joshua enjoyed ordering all of his parts and building his machine!  It is always fun
to get mail!  

James has also had a great year professionally.  He will be the new Associate Dean in his department next year.  He also received a teaching award for innovation.  We had a great year and were greatly blessed.  We love all of you and hope you had a great year as well.  We loved the challenge to turn our advent calendars into calendars of service.  It has been a great month full of service.  It really made this Christmas season more meaningful to me and I hope it had a great impact on my kids!  Merry Christmas to all!

07 August 2016

Summer Fun

This has been a summer full of adventure and bounteous harvest.

We kicked the boys out of their room to redo their beds.  Simon liked the easy access to them in the morning.  He is very motivational when it comes to getting out of bed in the morning.

We got a dog!  Jet is no small presence in our home, but he fits in nicely.  The littles love him most and fortunately he tolerates them pretty well.
I had a fun trip to graduation for APUS where I received a teacher of the year award.  It was a great trip and honor to be recognized.  (This is the school I teach full time in case you didn't know.)  It is nice to work hard and be recognized for your hard work.

In June we were presented with the opportunity to host an exchange student for the month of July.  We thought it would be fun and there was a great 14 yr old that we thought would get along well with our family and he was ok with living out on a farm for a month.  :) 

He got to experience the family reunion.  It was just one big party after another.  

He ended up collecting eggs almost every day which was fun.  He also learned quite a bit about corn.  That is definitely a unique midwestern experience!

We also thought it would be fun to take him on an adventure, so we loaded up the car and headed to St. Louis.  James stayed home with the littles and the animals.  They were missed, but we all didn't fit in the car.  :( 

Jon had wanted to do some shopping, so we did that while we were in St. Louis since there is no real shopping in Galesburg.  Oh, and Michael looks that way because he upset our bees while mowing and they chased him down.  Fortunately, they gave up once he got to the other side of the house, but not after doing some serious damage.  Medicine is great!  
Then, we went to a cardinals game.  I never really realized that they don't play much baseball in Europe.  It is definitely an American tradition! 

They look very excited.  There is a good chance it was 100 degrees.  Fortunately we were in the shade thanks to some great advice from a friend.  

The new Busch Stadium is beautiful.  I was very impressed.

The next day we headed to the arch.  It was under construction, so it was a mess, but we still made it to the top.  It was great fun and a fabulous view.  It was fun seeing Michael cram into the pod.  That boy is big!   It was a great trip!

Joshua loves building and bought this great bridge set.  He has been building bridges ever since! 
We took the boys to see Finding Dory.  It was great and everyone had a great time!  The littles don't get out much, but they love it when they do.  We also took them to the pool a couple of times.  They love the water, which is saying something because Hyrum was very tentative.  But now they are pros at the splash pool!

No update would be complete without talking about the great harvest of the year.  We have been blessed with what seems to be the perfect gardening conditions.  Our plants are thriving and we are getting tons of fruit and vegetables!

Our friends shared some corn and peaches with us.  This is just the first load.  We were diehards and did a lot of freezing!

We also got a vacuum sealer, so we could fit more in our freezer!

The cherry tomatoes are beautiful and out of control.  We now have over 75 quarts of sauce in the freezer, so we are set.  It is now time to share the harvest with others because we just can't use what we are growing.  It is a great feeling!
Our large tomatoes are beautiful and doing well.  We are canning like crazy people!  It will be a delicious year!  

I just love how pretty they are!

We have also had peaches from friends and from our own garden.  They taste amazing and will be wonderful frozen and canned!

We learned to do something new this year to help us preserve eggplant and zucchini.  We make Ratatouille and then puree it into sauce and freeze it.  It is delicious and I have never seen kids devour vegetables so quickly as when I pour this over sauce.  
We are busy but excited for all of our blessings this year.  The windows of heaven have definitely been opened to us.  We are grateful for our blessings and look forward to the rest of the harvest!  We are onto potatoes this week.  :)

15 June 2016

My Thoughts on Orlando and the World as We Know It

I've been thinking, almost non-stop for four days, about my reaction to the tragic shooting in Orlando. I've been considering the viewpoints, the reactions, my background, and my feelings as they relate to this situation and those like it. I am not a social scientist, a policy writer, a member of the NRA, or a leader in the LGBTQ community. I am not a mental health professional, a member of either major political party, or an avid sport shooter. 

I am a man. I am a husband. I am a father. I have my own strengths and weaknesses, and I have secrets that are private and sincere. I have beliefs and background and education. Every day I work hard at my run of the mill, wonderful, moderately paying job to make sure my kids can eat a good, middle class meal and wear the nicer second hand clothes. In short, I am a person, like all of you, doing my best to ensure that the future is bright, strong, stable, and safe for me and my family.

It is from this common, unextraordinary viewpoint that I write and it is my hope that my run of the mill days nights and hopes and dreams and thoughts may resonate with you. 

What happened in Orlando this weekend was an unforgivable tragedy. Fifty people, yes fifty, lost their precious lives without warning and without the opportunity to send love to those they held so dear. Forty nine of these brothers and sisters of ours identified as LGBTQ and it is clear that they were targeted because of this. They were gunned down by a violent man wielding an assault weapon and their lights were snuffed for now and forever. 

As I've followed the media and social media reaction to this event, it seems that there are three principle reactions: 1. This Muslim man brought terror to our shores as a radical interpreter of ancient scripture. 2. This was an act of hate directed toward an already compromised and historically abused community. 3. We are seeing the return of the weapon of mass destruction and it is small and automatic and either should be or never should be banned, depending on your personal views. The interesting thing is that rarely does an article, post, speech, or tirade address more than one of these items. 

Where I might differ from most is that I think that all three of these must be considered in order to understand, empathize, and take action for the future. In contrast, I also believe that these kinds of problems cannot be solved without addressing all of them in their own sphere. Unfortunately, I do not what the solutions must be. What I do know is that everything we have tried up to this point has failed and that we, as a nation and as a people, are walking the tightrope between liberty and security in an unprecedented and ultimately precarious way. One slip in either direction and we run the risk of losing either or both.

Because of this, we would be wise to view this as a time to wake up, pay attention, and temporarily set aside every single one of our previously held ideas on these subjects so that we can prepare our minds for finding facts and solutions. It is time to arm ourselves with knowledge instead of holding fast to unproven tradition. It is time to open our eyes instead of closing our minds and see what is before us as it really is. It is the moment to go forward in strength and in power to make change where change is needed most and to embrace it without qualification. 

What I offer is not a proscribed plan of action, but merely my thoughts on the principles that can lead us as we feel our way through this maze. With that in mind, here are the principles I desperately hope and pray will become part of your plan of action. I know that I will anxiously work to make them part of mine. 

1. We cannot control others. We cannot control individuals, groups, religions, or ideas and WE SHOULD NOT attempt to do so. Just as we value our ability to choose from day to day, so we must allow others to do the same even if their choices will lead to ill. We should be alert and aware and proactive, but we cannot take control of others; it is impossible. 

2. We must value human life over fear of tyranny. I was raised in a home where the right to bear arms was paramount among all sacred rights granted by our constitution. These many decades later, I still see the wisdom. However, we are now paying for that reason with the blood of our brothers and sisters because of the world in which we live. I cannot ask 16, 23, or 49 people at a time to continue to defend an absurd and archaic point of view with their lives. My rights are not and cannot be more important than their lives. 

3. We must show love to one another. We need to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need comfort and love one another every single day of our lives. We must not allow fear or discomfort or scripture or dogma or creed or tradition to keep us from loving one another. We do not need to agree on anything, and love does not equal endorsement. Love is a special, unique ability to open your kind heart to another and give them a sincere, honest piece of yourself that is free from judgement. Don't judge, just love. We must value each individual life as our own and recognize it as precious and worthy of our time and heart. 

4. Be willing to step forward for the things that are important to you instead of fighting with those who contradict you. Step forward in love, in peace, and with gentleness. Find the work that you can do and do it now. QUIT FIGHTING AND START SERVING. Now. Stop worrying about where people defecate--seriously people, it's poop--and start worrying about whether or not you can make a difference for good in their lives. 

5. YOU CAN DO GREAT THINGS but you can't do them if you're selfish and afraid. Don't be selfish with your time. Don't be afraid of people who are different than you. Don't be selfish with your money. Don't be afraid of losing an argument. Don't be selfish with your talents. Don't be afraid of being uncomfortable sometimes. We don't grow in our comfort and we all need to grow as soon as possible.  

Like I said, I'm just a regular guy, but the world needs to be ready for my children and I will not fail them. Let's not fail them together. Now. 

07 June 2016

A plethora of birthdays!

We have all of our birthdays in the spring (except for Joshua), so we get to enjoy lots of cake and celebrating!

Simon turned 2 and that is always exciting!
He even got a rainbow cake!  
He was a fan of the cake!  
And an even bigger fan of the presents!  We had fun convincing Hyrum that none of these were for him.  Always an adventure!

Eating the cake is always his favorite part!
Jacob turned the big 10.  He is now into double digits!   His cake was the shape of a soccer ball.  Hmmm. . . we are slightly lame.  But it was made of rice crispy treats and that was fun.
We also had a strange allergic reaction go around.  Both Michael and Jacob got it.  Some steroids took care of it but it was rather unpleasant.  But Michael is now 14 and is excited to go to Youth Conference and a High Adventure camp.  The joys of being 14!  
Even daddy got some fun surprises.  He has always wanted a dog and the opportunity and dog seem to be a great fit.  Welcome to the family, Jet!  

The boys got a bedroom makeover, so they got kicked out for a week.  Simon enjoyed the easy access to the boys in the morning. 

Hyrum wanted in on the fun!  
We have had a lot of fun and adventures and are now looking forward to more gardening, camps and the big Hutchings' family reunion!