Sunday, November 30

one. & the birth story re-posted.

The past 365 days have been nothing but pure joy.  Even looking back to those up-all-night, no sleep-no shower-days...I loved them all.  I had hopes to post so much this year...but #instagramatemyblog.  So yeah.  I couldn't top this post anyway.  I still catch Devin reading it from time to time.  Dane's birthmother emailed me the other day with a "thinking of you" type of email as we were getting closer to the big O-N-E & the most memorable part was "...I will always remember 11/30 as the day this precious boy was brought to this earth to be YOUR SON - not mine."  Wow.  If that doesn't give me chills, nothing will.

I hope if nothing else, Dane's birth story will give people a different perspective on adoption. 

It's definitely changed our lives for the better. 



**re-post**

This might be the hardest thing I have ever had to write.  And the most beautiful.  So much has happened in just a week.  A week ago I wasn't his momma.  I am now.  I have started this post many times, but stopped because I have been afraid I would leave out a detail, a description....anything important to his story.   I want to make sure I do him justice, do her justice.  My only hope is that if he chooses to read this one day, he will know how much he is loved.

So, here it goes.
The story of our sweet Dane's birth.

Friday night Devin & I had gone out to dinner with family and done some last minute Christmas shopping.  I remember it being pretty cold, & we held hands as we went in a few stores.  We purchased our items, grabbed our favorite Starbucks treats & headed home.  We put in our favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone, & laughed the entire time.  We recalled how fun it was to make the trip up to Chicago last year to see the actual house.  All of the scenery in the movie is just how it looks today.  Towards the end of the movie,  Macaulay Culkin is sitting at the dinner table with his microwavable macaroni & cheese and says, "This is It.  Don't get scared now."  We looked at each other & laughed because that has been our motto for the past month.

We knew that we were going to be parents for quite some time now.  Our sweet boy was actually due on December 17th.   We chose to keep our match with his birth parents private because with adoption - you never know what could happen.  So for the past few months, I might have looked calm & collected on the outside....but on the inside I was two steps away from the insane asylum.  I'm talking wide awake at 4am-pacing the house-needing a straight jacket kind of thing.  And Devin, well we all know he is about as calm as they come.  Some nights I wanted to pinch the smile off of his face as he was peacefully dreaming in bed,  Meanwhile, I was flipping through the channels looking for anything to watch that wasn't COPS or I Love Lucy.  I'm so grateful that those worrisome nights are over.

We went to bed Friday night with plans to have a super fun/romantic/one last date night before baby on Saturday night.  I had made reservations at a nice restaurant downtown & I was secretly hoping DC had scheduled a carriage ride or something ultra-cheesy (you got out of that one, didn't you Dev?!)  But, if I have learned anything these past 31 years, it's that you really can't make plans.  This time, I wasn't disappointed that my plans didn't work out.  Oh, I am the farthest from disappointed.

6:34 am.  My phone rings.  I saw that it was Dane's birthfather.  My stomach did a major flip & I could hear Devin waking up next to me.  His words - soft and sad.  "Abs - you better get in the car.  Your baby is going to be born today."  After getting a few details, he said he would update us on any developments and we started the mad dash to get out the door.  We knew a 3 hour drive would soon follow & because we had been asked to be in the delivery room, I wanted to get there as soon as possible.  My things had been packed for months weeks, but Devin - poor Devin.  The man only has 7 pairs of boxers, so he couldn't pack in advance.  So, I rushed around calling our parents and getting things ready for our dog to be picked up while he packed and loaded up the car.  Carseat - check.  Gifts for birthparents - check.  Hospital bags - check.  Handmade favors and toasting champagne glasses - check.  This baby was going to be celebrated and the whole hospital would know it.  Then, we were out the door & on our way.




Judging from my sleepless nights the last month or so, I thought I would be a nervous wreck in the car.  I was surprisingly calm.  I have God to thank for that.  For months, I have done the same thing every day.  Wake up: pray for his birthparents, pray for the baby, pray for us.  Do this all day.  Repeat.  I know that He gave me peace as we were on our way to the hospital.  It was a gorgeous day & I will never forget seeing our house the last time with just the two of us in it.  We laughed and said again, "This is it.  Don't get scared now" and kept saying we couldn't believe that the little car seat in the back would finally be filled soon.

We pulled into the hospital with our arms filled with gas station snacks & fountain drinks, and walked to her room.  In order to protect the privacy of Dane's amazing birthparents, they will be called L & M. It is not the first initial of their names, it is just the first letter I thought of.  L looked so pretty laying in the hospital bed.  She was putting on make-up because she wanted the baby to think she was pretty in pictures that we show him.  Devin & I hugged her & M and just sat and waited for the next few hours.  Now, I know what you are probably thinking: You hung out with them?  You were in the delivery room?  You talked to them?  Yes, yes, and YES.  We formed an amazing bond with L & M through the past few months - one that I hope will continue.  I went to doctor's appointments, and was updated weekly on how L was feeling during the pregnancy.  After all - it was my baby that she was carrying.
I'm so thankful for this bond & I can't wait to tell him one day how his heartbeat sounded on the monitor, and show him the ultrasound pictures I have saved.

While we waited for L's contractions to pick up, I set up the favors and glasses while M put the champagne on ice (actually it was sparkling grape juice, but champagne just sounds better).  Devin brought in things from the car and all four of us just laughed at a Chris Farley movie on tv and waited.







L was feeling great and we were all thinking we had awhile until baby boy's arrival.  Devin & M went out to grab Starbucks and L & I just talked.  This would the first of many conversations over the next few days.  Around 12:00, the nurse came in to check her before going to lunch.  Surprisingly, she was dilated to a 10!  From this point - it was a blur.  A blur of people, medical devices, and emotions.  I could tell she was nervous...not quite ready.  It was all happening so fast.  I had to keep it together for L, so I didn't cry.  I just smiled and squeezed her arm.  Told her she was doing awesome.  Because this had all happened so fast, she asked Devin & M to step to the back of the room while the doctor drew back the curtain, closing us off.  I saw it all.  The pain on her face...both physical and emotional.  I saw his little head come out & the doctor's hands as he gently pulled his body out.  All four of us heard his first cry.  Just a wimper.  It sounds exactly the same today.  I couldn't stop staring.  Suddenly, someone put a pair of scissors in my hand.  I have no idea who.  The doctor lifted up the umbilical cord and I cut it.  It was over.  All of the waiting, praying, worrying, crying, praying some more....finished.

He was here.  Dane Tyler Carter.  5lbs, 11oz.  Dane - the name I had chosen years ago in college, even before I had met Devin (he was easily convinced, though.)  And Tyler, after my brother.  Who has always been my hero.










The next hour was a bit of a blur as well.  I walked over to where Devin & M were and M said to us, "Congratulations, guys."  Cue heart breaking.  The nurses cleaned him, weighed him, and told me he was perfect.  Little, but perfect.  I was so happy.  Devin and I hugged and a few tears came out but I still wanted to remain calm for L & M.  L's plan was to have some time with the baby & M after he was born, which was gladly agreed on.  We left to grab lunch in the cafe & heard the sweet sounds of a lullaby playing in the hospital - meaning a baby had been born.  Our baby.

We came back about an hour later and there he was.  Sleeping in her arms.  "A little earth angel", as my friend Adrienne says.  I love that.  L handed the baby to me.  Everyone was watching.  It was so quiet.  Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry - I kept saying in my head.  And, I didn't.  I was too happy.

 I remember asking her, "How do I look?"  And, she said "Like his Momma."




The rest of the day was spent cuddling sweet little Dane.  L & M held him, we took pictures.  Devin & I held him, they took pictures.  We took pictures together.  We toasted together.  I am so glad to have these memories.  We had asked our family and friends not to come down until the adoption papers were signed.  We knew in our hearts, that she was not going to change her mind...but we didn't want to overwhelm them with visitors.  But Devin?  Well, he never left our boy's side.  He has kept pretty quiet throughout this whole process, which I expected would happen, so I'm not really sure if I will ever know everything he was feeling.  And, that's ok.  But, I do know he was feeling love for his brand new son.  And, everyone knows there is nothing sexier than a grown man & teensy baby.  Whoa.  (Sorry, Dad.)



The night of our son's birth was wonderful.  Telling family & a few close friends, holding our son, saying that we couldn't believe he was finally here.  There was so much love in that hospital, I'm surprised it didn't just raise right off the ground.  Love for each other.  Love for his birthparents.  Love for him.  The nurses were absolutely amazing.  Teaching us to be his parents, getting us our own room, checking on us frequently.  Devin & M ran out again to get Starbucks and L & I talked.  And cried.  And talked & cried.  She told me her hopes & dreams for this little boy, and I promised to fulfill them.  I told her my hopes and dreams for him as well.  I knew she didn't want to place her baby for adoption.  No mother wants to do that.  But, she made the choice for him.  And, that is the most selfless act of love I can think of.  It was a beautiful conversation, but even Devin doesn't know every detail.  A special time from one momma to another.

Sunday morning we wheeled Dane down to L & M's room (and set off every alarm in the #$^% hospital, but that is a story for another time) and let them have some more time with him.  Our adoption attorney, Steve, from Kirsh & Krish walked in around 9:00 with the adoption papers.  We left the baby with them & went out for a little while.  Both of us were calm and not worried about the signing.  I was just worried about L though, I didn't want her to feel any more pain than she already had.  That's the thing about adoption - the guilt factor.  They don't tell you that during the home study process, or the education classes.  You learn about how to raise an adopted child & how to tell them their story; you don't learn that you will feel guilt.  Over taking her baby.  Their baby.  I know what you are thinking, and what people have said, "But, she made that choice."  And, she did. But, it doesn't make the guilt go away.  My college friend, and fellow adoptive mama, Trish said - "I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that my joy is so closely intertwined with her pain in missing him."  It's so true.  They tell me it gets better though.  For now, when I cry about taking her child, Devin just gives me a box of Kleenex and kindly leaves the room...avoiding all eye contact.  It's just best for everyone involved.
Love you, DC.  ;)

Our attorney came back in, congratulated us, and said everything went well.  He was officially our son.  Although, looking back - I think he was always ours.  In the middle of the night when he looks at me while I feed him, or when he stops crying the moment Devin picks him up.  Those moments just prove he was always meant to be ours.

We introduced baby Dane to our parents after that.  The joy in their eyes when they held him will last a lifetime.  I wish I could bottle it up.  Again, I'm surprised the whole hospital just didn't lift off the ground.  He was perfect.  Sleeping so soundly while everyone passed him around.  L had been discharged & she and M wanted to come down and meet the people that would be Dane's grandparents.  Devin & I were sitting on the couch when out of the corner of my eye, I saw them.  Standing just outside the door, peering in.  Tears streaming down their face.  We introduced them to everyone.  Hugs and handshakes.  Thank you's.  More tears.  They told everyone how happy they are that Dane is going to have a wonderful life with us.  I wanted to melt right into those sterile, white walls.

Devin and I walked them out to their car, which seemed like the longest walk of my life.  I held her hand.  She seemed ok.  We laughed about how crazy this has all been, how fast it happened.  We promised to keep him safe.  To love him.  Hugs with no words.  Hugs like I have never felt.
Then, they were gone.

My brother & his adorable fiance came to meet Dane that night.  Seeing him hold his namesake was priceless.  I can't wait for the day that he teaches him to play soccer or play 48 straight hours of Playstation 3.  Wait a minute...

The rest of Sunday night was spent cuddling our boy, ordering take-out Mexican & watching our first Christmas movie as a family of 3.  I came down with a terrible cold, so it was actually nice to lay in a hospital bed & have nurses wait on you & your baby hand & foot.



After a sleepless Sunday night, we were ready to head home.  We had to wait on our attorney to get papers processed through the court system so that we could be officially discharged.  We both showered & put on our blue shirts to head home.  Blue for our baby boy.  The nurses filled our bags to the brim with bottles, wipes, diapers, & anything else we requested.  They said they all wished that more mothers would have made the choice she had.  We were going to be great parents, they just knew it.  Little Dane was dressed in the same outfit that Devin went home in 33 years ago.  Beyond special.  We left our little home for the past two days & walked out with our arms filled with balloons & gifts.  Our hearts were filled with even more love as we heard "Congratulations!" and "He's so cute!"  I still couldn't believe that was my baby they were talking about.

The car ride home was pretty uneventful.  Me in the backseat, Dane so quietly sleeping...Devin at 10 & 2.  White knuckled.  Not that I expected anything less.  We pulled into the drive late & Devin unpacked while I fed Dane.  We were home.

A week has past & we are all doing great.  Sleep deprived, but great.  We have the first-time parent jitters, but do they really ever go away?  It should be more like full-time parent jitters.  Several people have said to us that this is the best time to be parents.  We don't have to worry about him driving away in a car, breaking his leg during a football game, or texting a girl.  All we have to do is enjoy it.  And, we are.

We have so many people to thank.  So many people that have been there for us throughout this entire adoption process.  So, just pretend I'm in a gorgeous sequined Oscar dress...with my hair in an up-do.  I didn't trip walking up to the microphone, and now I start my thank-yous...

Thanks to God, He receives all the glory for this precious gift.

Thank you to our families.  For supporting our decision to adopt from the start.  Thank you for welcoming your new grandson, nephew & cousin into your family.  We love you so much.

Thank you to our friends.  Who sent cards every week through the adoption process (you know who you are), and showed up with gifts, clothing, dinner, wine, Starbucks & pretty much anything else we could imagine when Dane came home.  You are as good as gold.

Thank you to Kirsh and Kirsh who made this adoption effortless on our part.  We are so thankful to have worked with you.

They are playing the Oscar music...wrap it up, wrap it up.

Thank you to our fabulous social worker through Adoptions of Indiana.  We are so thankful to have worked with you, and to call you a friend as well.

And, to Dane's birthparents.  Thank you just sounds silly.  We will spend the rest of our lives thanking you.  Dane has a Mom and Dad raising him here & a Mom & Dad loving him from afar.  And with odds like that, I'de say he is going to go pretty far in life.



Life is hardly how I planned it to be.
It's better.
















Monday, August 18

Monday Meals...Sweet Onion Salsa

Mexican food is like a love language for me.  It's no surprise if we have Mexican 3-4 times a week.  So enjoy my favorite homemade sweet onion salsa - perfect over eggs, chicken, in tacos, fajitas - or just with a spoon.  :)

Sweet Onion Salsa
(adapted from Infarrantly Creative)


Shopping List
* 1 can diced tomatoes or 1.5 cups fresh
* HUGE handful of cilantro (I always end up adding more too!)
* 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
* 1 T apple cider vinegar
* 1 T honey or other sweetener of choice 
* 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 heaping teaspoon cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 jalapeno slice - or more based on taste!

* Measure all ingredients EXCEPT for tomatoes directly in blender.  Blend until chopped.  Next, add tomatoes and pulse a few times.  I like mine chunky, but blend to your liking.  Add more salt, jalapeno, tomatoes, or sweetener to taste!  Put in an airtight container and refrigerate.  
Bets are it will be gone in 2 days flat.  OLE!  






Friday, August 15

Coffee Date Friday



TGIF internet friends!
If we were meeting for coffee today, I would tell you these 5 things.

* One of my summer goals was to read 2 books each month - check!  I almost forgot how much I like to read.  So relaxing.  What new books would you recommend?

* I have been obsessed with watching American Ninja Warrior.  Quite different from The Bachelor, Real Housewives, Teen Mom genre I am used to.  My hands sweat for every competitor though.

*  Dane will be 9 months old at the end of August.  I have started purchasing small things here & there for his first birthday party.  I told Devin to go ahead and throw out the words "low-key, small, or simple."  #sorrynotsorry

*  I joined a Moms Playgroup last month & am having a lot of fun so far!  I am looking forward to apple orchard dates, pumpkin patch trips, & Mom's Night Outs with some new friends!

*  Peapod + Abigail = besties.  I placed my first grocery order today & can't wait for the delivery tomorrow!  What should I do with all of my extra time?  
Oh yeah, American Ninja Warrior.  #kidding #sortof

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, August 11

Monday Meals...Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

Happy Monday!

Need a quick Monday dinner?  Try my Crockpot Buffalo Chicken!  It's simple, fast, & perfect for a busy Monday night.  ENJOY!

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken 

Shopping list:
1 lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/2 packet of Ranch seasoning (or make your own)
2 cans fat-free chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped 
Frank's Hot Sauce (to taste)
pepper to taste 

Combine first 4 ingredients in your crock pot and cook on high for 4 hrs or low for 6-8.  Once chicken is cooked through, take out and shred.  Stir in Frank's & put back in (drain a little liquid if needed).  Serve on whole grain buns, lettuce wraps or on a salad - my fave!  You can also top with Ranch, Bleu Cheese and/or Sharp Cheddar.  I think plain is just as good!


Sunday, June 29

Pure Michigan.

Disclaimer: I know "Pure Michigan" is the most cliche, George Clooney-narrated, overdone title in history.  But, it's true.  Michigan is just that.  Pure.

The hubs & I decided to plan a quick 4-day family getaway this summer.  Disney?  Dane's too young.  Mount Rushmore?  Too far.  Paris?  In your dreams.  Michigan?  That sounded just about right.  My sister & brother-in-law lived in Michigan for several years and told stories of the beautiful beaches, scenery, & quaint towns that made up Michigan's coast.  We traveled to South Haven a few years ago with Devin's family & it was just that.  Quiet, quaint & just pretty.  After a little research and advice from Devin's sister, we found an adorable condo in Holland, Michigan.  Who needs Paris when you have a beach, wooden shoes & cute coffee shops just down the road?  The trip was booked & the packing started.  Anybody with small children can chime in an "Amen" out there.  Packing for even a short family vacation requires more items than the settlers needed for Westward expansion.  I know, didn't think I knew anything about history, right?  Well, it's true.  Just pack everything from the high- chair to baby nail clippers & you're set.  No covered wagon needed.  

The drive wasn't bad, the scenery gorgeous & the next 4 days just plain relaxing.  Just what our little family of 3 needed.  And, Holland?  Well, I would recommend a visit there anytime.  From the adorable shops & restaurants on 8th street, to the biggest farmer's market I have ever seen, to homemade ice cream every night...we saw & did everything.  I kept thinking I would wake up at some point and this all be just a dream - our first family vacation, my 6 month old playing quietly on the floor, Devin & I reading at the pool, taking pictures at the beach.  Just what I imagined.  









Thanks for a great four days, Holland.  We'll be back for sure.  A packed-full covered wagon & all.




Friday, May 30

He has your smile.

This week we have been celebrating my mom's retirement, the end of the school year & the start of summer.  Flowers have been planted, birds are chirping, porches being used again.  Its time to break out the Summer Bucket List.  Always on that list: a drive-in movie, making s'mores, & playing tennis at the park.  I'm looking forward to adding new things to the list as well.

My sweet, sweet baby is 6 months old today.  6 months.  Half a year.  You can find me in the corner crying.  I know every parent says it.  People have told me.  They still tell me...it goes by so fast.  And it does.  The past 6 months have been nothing but pure joy.  It literally feels like yesterday that we were waking up to my phone ringing at 6 am.  Dane's birthmother in labor.  The mad dash to get to the hospital.  I can't even wash the sweats I wore that day.  Immeasurable happiness, yet so much pain wrapped up together in those sweats.  It sounds silly, I know.  I still replay the hospital images in my mind & Devin and I talk about it quite a bit.  Its good to talk about it.

During these past 6 months, I have gotten a lot of comments while out in public.  "Oh how cute!"  "How old is he?"  "What a happy baby!"  And then the ever popular & yet sometimes dreaded - "He looks just like you."  What should I say to this?  He does look like me...the blonde hair does it, I guess.  But he has strikingly blue eyes, that almost can't be described.  Sea foam, mixed with a foggy sky blue.  Actually similar to our daddy's baby blues.  His eyes definitely don't match my dark brown ones, and that's ok.  I get this comment a lot in public.  I have given numerous responses...from the smile & nod, to "well, he was adopted - so...." Which always results in either, 1) a lengthy adoption conversation which could lead to numerous questions or 2) an uncomfortable, awkward response from the person asking.  Which results in more awkwardness and then we just go our separate ways.  Heads down.  Dane still smiling.  He didn't even know what was being asked.  It is tricky to deal with these questions when the baby you adopted does resemble you or your husband.  So I deal with the questions the best that I know how & move on.

But this week's comment was a little different.  A sweet old lady came up to us in the store this week and said softly, "He has your smile."  Hmmmm.  I did the smile & nod, thanked her & we were on our way.  I was telling a friend about this and almost wanting pity for the I-get-these-things all the time, why can't I ever JUST be a mom-type of thing, and she said, "Abigail.  He DOES have your smile.  You smile at him all the time.  He sees your smile and mimics it.  He. has. your. smile.

Pity party cleaned up & put away for another day.

And you know what?  It's true.  He might not have my eyes or my freckles (thank goodness).  He might not have Devin's broad shoulders or dark hair.  He may never share my love for reading (but man  oh man, am I going to try), and he may never inherit Devin's athletic abilities.  But he does have my smile.  And that is undeniable.

And what a smile it is.  




Happy weekend, friends.  Give a compliment to a stranger.  It's fun.  

Monday, May 19

hello, monday.

Hello, Monday.

Hello crib smiles.  The best part of my everyday.



Hello coffee.  And hello a second cup, too.



Hello organized, clean bottles.  A reminder of how wonderful my husband is, and a reminder that a baby still lives here.



Hello Mother's Day gifts.




Hello brother's wedding invitation.  Still proudly displayed on the refrigerator, even though the wedding was over a week ago.



Hello morning top-knots.  Which will be afternoon & evening top-knot as well.


Not pictured: Hello DWTS finale & hello Bachelorette.  I'm more excited about this than I probably should be.

What are you saying hello to today?
 
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