Monday, August 31, 2009

A Very Happy Birthday

I sit here, staring at a blank screen, searching for words...words adequate to describe a man who gave me the happiest of childhoods, an unfailing sense of security, unconditional love, a model for loving parenthood, and many of the quirks now so firmly ingrained in my personality.

There are none.

He is simply the best Dad I could ever wish for.

If I had one wish for the perfect Father, I would wish for him.

Exactly as he is.

My Dad is 70 today.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I love you with all of my heart.

And even though we were banned from "any type of birthday celebration"...

oh well.




We had all been in cahoots for quite a while for this.......

We gathered pictures.


We wrote messages.

We emailed friends and family near and far, asking for birthday wishes, stories, and messages for Len Stout.

Our email boxes were flooded for weeks.

We copied and pasted, printed, agonized over fonts, mounted precious words from friends he hasn't seen in 20 years.


We scrapbooked.

The East coast clan snuck over across the Alley and were in town 24 hours without his knowledge. This is HUGE.

We baked a cake.


We booked a non-refundable appointment for him to drive a racecar at speeds of up to 150 mph. (gulp)

this image makes me laugh every....time.....I see it.


We TOTALLY got him. He didn't suspect a thing.

And I haven't seen him smile so much in a long time. :)

And because he has been "King Of The Christmas Morning Scavenger Hunts" for was time for paybacks.





Katie was kind enough to video the entire process on her polka dot phone...

and I confess, I was the only one hesitant on this gift...(is it safe? will he like it? what if he doesn't go for it?)....

I am happy to admit I was 100% wrong...



Memories of a lifetime made...check.









and true to form in most of our family gatherings at the Hutchie household...


Mysteriously turns into THIS:

gee...I wonder who did it. (eye roll)

Then it was time for the best part...the book.

This huge, monstrous book that took on a life of its own as we tried to capture, record and pay homage to the thousands of words written about our Dad during the past 6 weeks...

Dear Dad,

Happy 70th Birthday! Today we celebrate seventy years of a man who has been the rock of our family, loved us through every stage of our lives, given us the foundation for lifetime happiness, and been a huge source of love and support through every peak and valley this life brings.

We listened when you said you didn’t want “some huge celebration”. We have been banned from throwing an extravagant party (even though you deserve hundreds in your honor). So, we will obey. No surprise guests are lurking around the corner, no “this is your life” moments…because we want to honor your wishes, and leave you feeling happy, content, comfy, and loved on your birthday.

However…there are so many hearts of people you have touched in your seventy years, and we just couldn’t bear to leave them out. Important people needed to be heard, and wanted to express what you mean to them. So, sitting around the pool during our girls Hyatt weekend, we devised a plan…send a small email request for thoughts, stories, and birthday wishes for Len Stout. The premise seemed simple enough…that way, Dad would have a small intimate gathering, but we could also include people from near and far. We thought we would receive a handful of goodies, a few stories here and there…and a Happy Birthday wish or two.

The response, Dad…was nothing for which we could have prepared.

Our email boxes were flooded with messages. Not only did they respond in droves, but people took it upon themselves to forward the request, and surprise messages popped up daily. The sheer number of words says it all…just a little over ten thousand words, to be exact…but the meaningful messages behind them all are something to behold. As we read each one, we were overcome with emotion, realizing SO MANY PEOPLE love and care for you. We learned not only have you been a positive force in our family’s life, but also in the lives of dozens and dozens of others as well.

So sit back, Dad…and let these words sink in…because you have spent your life showing others how much you care…and now it’s time for us all to give that love and care back.

You deserve it.

We all love and admire you more than ten thousand words can ever say.

-Your Loving Family








We stayed late into the night, reliving memories, laughing, and just soaking in this family that I love so much.

Katie was enthralled.

I am so thankful for this Dad.

and I am so thankful he is 70...acting like he's 50.


Happy Birthday, my sweet, sweet Dad...


May all your wishes come true.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Being thankful...and consistently feeling that way on a daily challenging.

Sometimes the demands and minutiae of life make the thankful parts cloudy...and the "I-have-to's" and "I-need-to's" and the "crossing-that-off-the-list-of-things-to-do's" garner too much undeserved attention and importance.

They get too much power.

More accurately, I give them too much power.

Blechh. Even worse.

Not today.

One of my favorite one of my favorite one of my favorite artists... goes like this:

"It's not having what you want...
it's wanting what you've got"

-Sheryl Crow
"Soak Up The Sun"

This song is a guaranteed dose of "feel-good-about-everything-in-your-life-and-lighten-up-and-focus-on-only-the-best-things" message. LOVE it. I like to blast it in the car and sing it at the top of my lungs. My kids know all the words...but I want them to know and live the message, a cure for self pity, frustrating growing pains, mean girls, and hurt feelings.

Soak up the sun.

I'm gonna tell everyone to lighten up.

Every time I turn around I'm looking up, you're looking down
Maybe something's wrong with you that makes you act the way you do

I'm gonna soak up the sun.

Soak up the goodness.

Everything else doesn't matter.

What I want....and what I've already's all right in front of me.

(I feel a list coming on...cue drum roll)

Today I feel randomly grateful for...

-a relaxing, refreshing summer

-my hardworking husband

-cinnamon banana waffles

-abundant laughter in our home

-pets we love

-Katie's swimming talents

-inappropriate humor

-random, unexpected hugs from J&K


-a son who still lets me into his teen world

-a fulfilling job I love

-jordan's changing voice

-loyal friendship

-life lessons

-date nights at the gym

-watching Kelly unwrap each layer of parenting like it's a shiny new present

-father & son time on the golf course

-chore lists for everyone


-the chickee


-a really GOOD dog

-katie's organization

-douglas loving kindergarten

-great middle school teachers

-time to run

-the sushi dinner

-raft floating in the pool

-the rhyme game

-a great planner

-watching Jordan become a young man


-Katie's happiness in 5th grade

-iced coffee

-the high road

-a cat who cuddles

-Target end caps

-4:30 power naps


-how absolutely FUN my kids are to be with

-edamame with sea salt

-new comforters

-jordan's school schedule

-GAP clearance

-notes in Kate's lunch

-a teaching partner who "gets me"

-a classroom full of new faces

-planning time

-broiled blackened veggies

-Jonas Brothers memories

-tried and true friends

-thinking I could NOT love my kids any more than I already do...but then I do

-thinking I could NOT be prouder of my kids than I already am...but then I am

-a zoom lens for baseball games and swim meets

-Jamie's cooking

-out-of-the-blue kind words from Kate's teacher

-girl time

-uncontrollable laughter

-quiet time to think

-"Julie and Julia" - awesome movie

-seeing my kids so content

-deciding to make this list...and wanting to write more

-feeling really thankful...and determined to stay that way. :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

4th of August

Yes, I am officially posting this exactly one month late.

July 4th, 2009......posted on August 4th, 2009.

And I didn't realize that until about 35 seconds ago.

Must be "meant to be". :)

This year, Independence Day celebrations lasted two days...on the 3rd, our family joined Jordan's baseball team and their families for a Miracle baseball dogs, friends, beer, popcorn, and baseball...followed by a spectacular fireworks show over right field.

I loved it.







Then the next day...we followed the same family July 4th tradition...fireworks at the Naples Pier. It's always quite the undertaking to get things going...and sometimes, I must admit, I think "hmmmm...maybe it's too much trouble...we could skip it this year, it wouldn't kill us".

But then I look at my teen and pre-teen babies (yes, they will always be my babies, until I take my last breath) and I sadly realize that the clock is ticking on the number of years we have left to make this tradition a reality.

And that reality is enough to get our butts out of the house.

We scramble to fill coolers, locate bug spray, pile beach chairs into the back of the car, grab footballs and frisbees, stuff a charged battery in the camera, load everyone in the car, and head downtown to search for a parking space. We scan front yards and empty lots for a stretch of grass or concrete that will fit our car without getting towed or ticketed. Cell phones ring from family, with up-to-the-minute status reports on who has scored a space, with hopefully more room to spare.

I never think we are all going to find spaces in the same area...but we always do. :)

This year was especially wonderful, as Mom, Bob, and the Taylor family made the trip over to Naples to join us. Yahoo!





Grace loves her Mama...











I loooove how Lily is looking at Katie here...examining her so intently...with her pudgy little fists perched firmly in her lap...priceless!

So nice to have all the families together on one beach...memories made...check.




Jordan was trying desperately to light some fireworks in the wind, to no avail.
Aunt Molly offered to help, and together they made it happen.
Despite the grainy quality, this is one of my favorite shots of the night...


Love these people, and feeling ever-so-grateful to have them in my life...