Monday, July 2

The One When We Found Him.

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The questions started a little over a year ago.  

One night at dinner, Dane looked across the table & pointed at an empty seat, "Why does no one sit there, Mommy?"  Then, upstairs getting ready for bed - "Why do we have a plain room up here?"  The next day on the way home from school..."Mommy - why does no one sit back here with me?  Why is there an empty seat back here too!?" GULP.

I responded by doing what any normal mom would do - I ran upstairs, slammed the door & cried.  #pitypartyforone

Of course, we didn't share with him that we never meant for there to be an empty seat at our table, we thought we would have multiple car seats in the car - we built our house with hopes that the rooms would quickly be filled.  But, God had other plans.  And, we are at peace with that.  The "standard" way of creating a family never worked for us.  Adoption did.  And, we love it.  But hearing those questions from a little 3-yr old was hard.

And the honest truth was, we knew we would adopt again.  But, the past 3 years had FLOWN by.  One minute Dane was swaddled & fast asleep in his crib, and the next we were signing him up for soccer.  Babies definitely do not keep.  We didn't discuss adoption #2 for awhile after the questions started, but then out of the blue one school night - Devin just said "So, when we ARE going to start again?"  Ummmm, EEK.  I hadn't looked at my adoption binder in years.  I didn't even know where it was.  I could actually sleep again without pacing the house at 3am.  I didn't wonder if a birthmother was going to choose to parent, fall down the stairs, or if she was drinking enough water.  Life was just easy. And oh yeah - we forgot about the $45,000+ that Dane's adoption expenses totaled.  #minordetails

But after Devin said that, I shot up off the couch & it all came back to me.  I grabbed my laptop & started researching.  Even after that first conversation, domestic adoption never really came up again. About 5 years ago when we started Dane's process we really wanted the newborn experience, but we both felt like international adoption was in the plan also.  After meeting with some agencies, we realized it was not possible for a newborn international adoption - so we switched our focus to domestic newborn and almost 9 months from start to finish: our Dane Tyler was born. .  We worked with adoption attorneys (Kirsh & Kirsh) for Dane, but sadly they do not place internationally adopted children.  But - yay!  We LOVED our social worker for our home study process with Dane and I could not wait to call her up & let her know we needed a new home study completed stat!  However, as soon as I said, "international" I could hear a pause on the line.  She did not do international home studies.  Only domestic.  You have got to be kidding, I thought?!  #whydoeseverythinghappentome

So, I went back to work and reached out to a good friend for advice (THANKS, Amy!)  We quickly chose a new home study agency (shout-out to Jennifer Bigelow at St. Elizabeth Coleman ...she is AWESOME, thorough, knowledgeable, & adorable as all get-out!), paid our home study/training fees, completed 12 credit hours of parental training, and chose our international agency who would be placing the child with us.  China automatically was thrown in the mix also.  I don't think we even discussed any other countries.  I don't know why - we were just automatically on the same page.  Kind of like how we are automatically on the same page with our political views.  #not #bipartisan

Fast forward several months & our home study was completed & reviewed, all 3 of us had passed intense medical exams (HIV testing, TB testing, BMI under a certain number, full physicals), FBI fingerprints completed, immigration approval (that took some major government stalking on my end...get it together, Washington), & tax returns from the past 3 years turned over, etc.  Hey - you can physically and emotionally care for a child...but how much did you pay in taxes the last 3 years?! #comeonman

We chose an agency that was located in Seattle as our placing agency.  They would be matching us with a child and handling all of the arrangements with China's government.  It is not necessary to choose a placing agency in your home state, because you primarily communicate through email or phone.  SO...check.  Now, where is our little one?!  Being the control freak calm person I am, I wanted to know who this sweetie was NOW.  We talked so many times about how our next child was probably already alive & sitting half way across the world & it was (& still is) the most bizarre feeling ever.  

China's adoption program works in a way where agencies send you files of children who are eligible for adoption.  You receive files based on parameters that you give them: what age range you would like, gender, any medical special needs you would be willing to consider, etc.  We filled out paperwork when we went through Dane's adoption process - so this was nothing new.  After you receive/review a file, you can choose to either pass on the file, or have it reviewed by medical personnel if possible.  China's program currently involves the adoption of children with some sort of medical special need - this could be something minor like a missing finger, to something more complex like a life-threatening heart condition or Down Syndrome.  

China's program also allows you to look at files of children who are listed with other agencies.  This can be good and bad.  Good - you are able to potentially look at more children that are eligible - and are other people.  We viewed several children's files right after we were approved, only to learn that another family had chosen them.  I became really good at running upstairs, slamming the door, and crying. #pitypartyforone #joinmedevin 

February 11th, 2018.  Our 12th anniversary.

It was around 8:00 pm & were sitting the couch (Devin may or may not have been asleep already) and I got online to check out some cuties.  The most ADORABLE face popped on my screen.  So many of my friends had said, "You will just know" or "The right child will come to you" but I didn't actually believe it until I saw his face.  He was perfect.  I immediately turned the screen & showed Devin.  His response - "WHOA." Yeah, whoa.  This was basically his face.  

But then I looked under the picture & there were already 30+ comments asking for more information and the file on him.  There was no way we were going to be able to view it.  I almost took off for upstairs again.  But, I went ahead and commented.  A few minutes later - an email with a file.  WHAT?!  The advocate for this little boy had attached his file and said I had 24 hours to review it.  Who knew that 12 years after our wedding, I would be breaking out in a cold sweat over a child who was an ocean away.  

We reviewed the 12+ pages of information we were given...information on where this little boy was found, what orphanage he currently was in, where he was development-wise, his medical needs & just general information - sleeping, eating, what he likes to play with, etc.  The file also included numerous pictures (some even when he was a heart!) & a few videos also.  We noticed that he was listed "as being a good sleeper." Dane could currently win an award for being the best sleeper (nothing we did - he was just good) so of course my eyes were drawn to that in his file.  Because this household runs a heck of a lot better when Mama gets her sleep.  #goodnightkids 

After we reviewed it, nothing really jumped out at us to "pass" on.  And he was just so darn precious. I couldn't sleep that night thinking about him in his little orphanage crib.  I wondered if someone had rocked him before he went to sleep, or if someone had sang to him today, smiled at him or kissed his chunky little cheeks.  I wondered how many times his diaper had been changed, or if he had been read a story that day. 

We then decided to have his file medically reviewed.  This little guy has several medical issues that according to his file - were operated on in China.  But most likely, he will need to be seen by specialists after being adopted and will have several additional surgeries after he comes home.  I contacted a local physician to review the file, and waited to hear back.  I also reached out to several specialists in 3 different parts of the country and attached the file through email.  We were preparing for "worst case scenario" here & expected just like the other children we looked at - that maybe his needs were too much to handle for us right now.  Basically I thought there is no way this would work out.  It was too good to be true.  I even asked the first person I spoke to tell me "on a scale of 1-10 how bad it was." 

The reviews came in.  Specialists called me from their CELL PHONES.  Like these doctors are world-renowned and they were calling me to give their opinions on this little boy.  Who wasn't even their patient.  I was shocked.  There are good people out there.  The verdict: Yes, he would need some medical care (most likely life long management) but it was nothing life-threatening.  He could live a happy, healthy life.  

BUT, there was one other major road block.  He was listed with another agency.  Not ours...whom we loved & trusted.  Whom we had already paid several thousand dollars to for the application fee, training fee, and home study review fee.  Money that could not be returned.  So we asked them to transfer the file to our agency.  The answer was a hard no.  Then, we asked this little guy's agency to give us an extension on his "hold" with us.  They weren't happy about doing this either because other families were interested and asking about him, but they decided to give us more time.  I had emailed with some questions about his development that we wanted answered from his orphanage so we sent those out and waited.  Unfortunately during this time it happened to be Chinese New Year.  Basically the biggest holiday in the country.  Everything shuts down.  There are no responses from any government offices.  Perfect timing.  I mean - come on.  I am all about holidays over here.  I put up our Christmas decor in October.  But if someone has an important question for me on Christmas Day - I am still going to answer them.  Take note, China!  

Fast forward a week.  Our time extension was running out & we still hadn't received answers to our questions.  We were getting emails & calls from his agency asking what our decision was & I was ignoring them.  We hadn't even told our current agency that we were contemplating switching.  

One random Wednesday night.  Dane was eating dinner at Devin's parents' house & Devin was at some board meeting/PTO/school sporting event/who knows where/ & I was sitting at home.  I knew time was running out so I did what I normally do to de-stress:  hopped in the car & headed to Sephora.  Because nothing says de-stressing like walking around trying on make-up that you never intend to buy!

Sephora was empty & the sales lady & I were just chatting as I was trying on different lipsticks & foundations.  We had told no one about this situation, so I naturally decided this complete stranger could be the first.  I UNLOADED on this poor woman.  Telling her everything from finding this little boy, to maybe having to switch agencies, losing money, running out of time, etc.  Bless her heart.  She just nodded.  And then she said the most magical words: "Sit down.  I'm doing your make-up for free." 

As she was doing my make-up, my phone started ringing.  It was our agency.  I told them about this situation and let them know that the new agency was unwilling to transfer his file to them.  They said they understood, would miss us if we left (still would lose $$ we paid) but that if we felt he was ours - we should go.  UGH.  They couldn't have been nicer.  Then, the other agency called.  The bargaining started.  I told them how upset we were that they wouldn't transfer his file.  We were still very interested.  I asked if they could waive the application fee since we already had an application on file somewhere else.  I demanded asked if they could waive the home study fee/training fee since we had already completed both.  They weren't happy.  It was getting a tad loud in Sephora (my apologies).  I asked to speak to the China director.  My teacher voice came out in full force.  All while this sweet lady was putting on shimmery eye shadow & lip gloss!  Other customers were coming in the store.  People were watching.  I was getting the "please quiet down & shhhhhh" hand signal.  I just kept talking louder.  Devin would have pretended he never knew me.    

The China director then said: "You have 45 minutes to make a decision.  Or, he's gone."   

I hung up the phone and turned around.  Three people were standing behind me staring.  One lady was crying.  The other just yelled, "GO GET YOUR BABY!" 

I bolted out of there, wearing more make-up than on my wedding day.  On my way out, the sales lady screamed, "HERE - TAKE SOME SAMPLES!" and threw a big bag of make-up at me.  Free make-up fixes everything!

I got home in no time & Devin was in the kitchen.  Dane was playing.  I blurted out the situation on the phone & what happened in Sephora. "What do you want to do?!"  Devin said, "What do you want to do?" I said - "Let's say it on 3. (We're mature like that) "1...2...3..." YES.  YES?!  YES!!  I just stared at him.  I could see a tiny glisten in his eyes (haven't seen that since Dane's birthparents chose us over the phone 4+ years ago).  Then he said, "Abigail - I have wanted to say yes to him since we saw his face." And then he looked at me strangely & said, "Why do you have fake eye-lashes on?!" (Insert laughing emoji) 

And, that was it.  That sweet little boy was ours.  

At this point, we had less than 18 minutes.  I called his agency, let them know & it was done.  Over the next several weeks, we switched agencies, updated documents with our new agency, signed Pre-Approval forms & finished things that needed to be submitted to China.  

What a whirlwind!  But, we are beyond excited to introduce Mr. Grey Dugan Carter to everyone!  "Grey" was a name we have liked forever, it goes with Dane (how cute are Dane & Grey together?!) and being educators - neither of us have had a Grey in school.  Plus - as Devin says - "Pink was already taken." #eyeroll.  "Dugan" was chosen after the Duggan Library where Devin & I met in college almost 18 years ago!  We thought it was fitting since we saw Grey's picture on our anniversary.  

So, what now?!  More waiting.  We are waiting on a few final documents before we receive travel approval- and then the Carters will head to CHINA!  The travel will include about 16 days in China & several different cities - We will get Grey at his orphanage (outside of Beijing), and then travel to another city for passport/visa pick-up, medical testing, etc.  Big Brother Dane will be going with us - as are my Dad & Step-Mom!  I am currently breaking out into hives thinking about packing for 16 days...when I pack a suitcase as big as my car for a simple 1-night stay somewhere.  #jesustakethewheel

But...we can't imagine what it will be like when we finally see our new son.

We would like to thank everyone for their support so far.  We have felt so much love in a world that can be so filled with hatred right now.  If you are the praying type, we would love to ask for your prayers for our little Grey Dugan & the caregivers in his orphanage.  His orphanage houses over 600 children who are also waiting to be adopted.  We are praying that their mamas are coming soon as well.

Grey...your Mommy, Daddy, & big brother can't wait to meet you.  Your room is ready.

And soon that empty seat at our table will finally be filled.

(Grey's First Book of Prayers...courtesy of Aunt Jenna & Uncle Tyler!)

Tuesday, March 6

***March 2018 Adoption Update***

(Read my previous post first if you are new!)

We are officially home study approved!  Just picture me doing "The Carlton."

Since October, all 3 members of the Carter Crew have completed intense medical exams, signed our names hundreds of times, completed 4 home visits, applied for police clearance reports, taken 12 credit hours of adoptive parent/culture training, convinced 3 people to write a reference letter for us, & notarized everything under the sun.  Our home study has been approved & we are now in the process of certifying and authenticating all of our documents.  I don't know what certifying or authenticating even means, but I guess it is via a courier in the Chicago area who has to meet with the Chinese Consulate.  It all sounds very Jason Bourne, right?!  Or Paul Revere?

I mean - a Courier??  #theponyexpress

Once our documents have been authenticated they will be sent to China & then we keep waiting!  Basically, if you are wondering how an adoption is like this: HURRY UP & GET THESE THINGS DONE!!  NOW!!!  Wait.  Repeat that a million times.  

We are also waiting on a super important approval notice to come back to us right now.  It is called the I-800a approval...which was sent to the Department of Homeland Security & will allow our family to bring an immigrant into the states.  The Department of Homeland Security must be pretty busy, because I am hearing they are taking their sweeeeeeet time approving immigrants to the states.  If you are the praying type, we would most certainly appreciate your prayers that this approval comes quickly!  Like, I really want it tomorrow.  I don't ask for much.

In January, we launched a t-shirt fundraiser to help raise a portion of the $35,000+ needed to bring a little one home to our family.  We were blown away by everyone who purchased a t-shirt & are extremely humbled.  We hope you wear them proudly!  If you ordered one locally, you should have it by now.  If you are a faraway person, you should receive yours this week! (shout-out to my #teamchina girls who helped sort, package & distribute!)  We only had one minor mistake & Devin never knew about it! #nopapertrails

 Please send me a picture of the t-shirts on if you can!

A few folks have asked if they could still order a shirt.  Unfortunately we are not able to order any more, BUT you may still be in luck!  My friend & next door neighbor owns a precious boutique in town called Laynee's (heeeeeey Jamie B!) & she purchased the crew-neck t-shirts for our fundraiser.  She will be selling them in the boutique!  Head over (address below) & check them out soon!  

Laynee's Boutique
125 North Avon Avenue
Avon, IN 46123

Finally, we thank everyone who has asked how it is going, prayed for us, prayed for our future child, and just said they were thinking of us.  Adoption is NOT for the weak or faint of heart, & we have pretty thick skin because of it...but we know it will all be worth it soon.

Much love,
~ The Carters

Friday, December 1

A is for Adoption #2!

Whew - long time, no blogging!  I have no excuses except something about chasing around a 4 year old all day, teaching part time, keeping up with the marriage/house/cooking/cleaning/laundry/reality tv.

But, I'm back for the time being!  If you are reading this you might already know that the Carter family has just started the process to adopt again!  We couldn't be more thrilled.  For awhile now we have felt it was time to start thinking about growing our family.  Dane is 4 now (wah), would be an excellent Big Brother, and we have plenty of space for a new little one in our home & most importantly our hearts.

We discussed and researched another domestic adoption (check out this post if you have never read Dane's birth story), foster to adopt, and international adoption.  When we started the process 4+ years ago for Dane, we actually had our hearts set on international.  After meeting and interviewing some agencies we realized that we were not going to be able to be placed with a newborn if we chose international.  We really wanted the newborn experience and what an incredible one it was!  Dane was an absolute ANGEL baby.  He just was.  It was nothing we did...he slept well from the day we brought him home, napped well, rarely cried, and was just happy.  And while footed pajamas & that baby smell will always make my heart beat a little faster, we felt like we didn't necassarily need that newborn experience again.  So, here we are - headed towards international adoption again.  #welcomeback

We have chosen our international agency & will be working to bring home a little girl or boy from China!  Why China, you ask?  Well, we just think that is where our next little cutie lives right now!  So, what now?  All the paperwork.  Just imagine what one might need to do to join the FBI - then multiply X 10.  We are gearing up for new sets of fingerprints, more sets of fingerprints, medical checks, background checks, home visits, letters of recommendation, adoptive parent training, probably even having our phones tapped or something.  #wouldntbesurprised

Although there is a lot to do we are just going to work through it as fast as we can.  We know how amazing the end result will be & we can't wait to get there.  We welcome your positive thoughts & prayers for our family & my goal is to keep writing through this process as well!  Thanks for coming along!

~ Devin, Abigail & Dane

Monday, April 11

Water Chestnut Chicken Divan

Hey there, Monday peeps!

Here is an easy recipe (and Carter family favorite) that looks super fancy!  It is healthy & a "one pan dinner" so you really don't need any additional side.  Add it to your menu this week!

Water Chestnut Chicken Divan
(serves 4-6)

1 lb chicken, cooked & shredded
2 bags frozen broccoli, cooked (or 3 heads of fresh broccoli, steamed)
1 large can water chestnuts, drained
1 T butter
2 t olive oil
2 t minced garlic
chopped onion - I just throw in a little, and I don't measure it
1/4 cup flour
1 cup fat free chicken broth
1 cup skim milk
2 oz dry white cooking wine
6 oz swiss cheese, divided
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9X13 pan & set aside.  Cook chicken & broccoli and set aside (sometimes I grab a rotisserie chicken from the store if I am in a bind!).  In a large skillet, heat your butter, olive oil, garlic and chopped onion.  Stir well until butter is melted.  Sprinkle in your flour and mix quickly.  Add in broth, milk, and cooking wine.  Bring to a boil...stirring constantly.  (Basically you are making your own cream of chicken sauce - minus the processed junk in the can and yucky sound it makes when you dump it out - eek!)  Remove from heat and stir in half of your swiss cheese.  Stir well and the sauce will start to thicken a bit.

Line your pan with all of the broccoli.  Top with water chestnuts.  We LOVE water chestnuts and sometimes I will add more than one can.  Just make sure to drain first.  If you don't like water chestnuts, feel free to omit.  Next, top with half of sauce mixture.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper.  Top with chicken.  Cover with remaining sauce and remaining half of swiss cheese.  Sprinkle bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top.  Finally, I take a little cooking spray and spray the whole top - this sets the dish!

Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown.  Serve hot with french bread.  Your family will love it and your Monday meal is taken care of!  :)

Tuesday, March 15

Taco Tuesday...skinny Mexican casserole

Here is a yummy casserole that is easy to throw together for your Taco Tuesday.  Enjoy!

Skinny Mexican Casserole 
(serves 4-6)

1 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey), cooked & drained
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 can Grands biscuits (8 count), cut into small pieces
taco seasoning - to taste 
1 cup shredded cheese (I used reduced fat)
Garnish: sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, etc 

Preheat oven to 350.  Brown your ground beef and chopped onion, drain if needed.  Stir in your taco seasoning (I don't use very much).  Spray a 9X13 pan and set aside.  Chop 4 biscuits into small pieces and sprinkle along the bottom of your pan.  They won't cover the whole pan but that is fine.  Spoon on half of your meat.  Top with half of your veggies (red/green pepper, tomato), then cheese.  Repeat: remaining biscuit pieces, meat, veggies, cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until biscuits are brown.  Top with garnish of choice!  This doesn't really require any sides, but you could do corn, black beans, or a simple salad!  Enjoy!  

Friday, March 4

Friday Favorites has been so long since I blogged.  I barely could recall my password to get in.  Then I remembered it is the same password that I use for everything, so crisis averted.  #notmyaddress #ormybirthday #butclose

Linking up today with Andrea for Friday Favorites!  Here is what I have been loving this week!

I am pretty sure everyone in America could put one of these shows on their Friday Favorites today.  I mean - they couldn't be more different, but when you have an obsessive personality these shows have to be at the top of your list.  Fuller House.  Ahhhh, you are like a favorite fuzzy blanket that I found in the back of my closet.  And, John Stamos - you have stood the test of time. #havemercy  Sure - I love the first series much better, but I enjoy some mindless television every once in awhile!  I do hope they decide to go for another season!

And, O.J...I bet you are loving all this new found stardom from your jail cell.  I was obsessed with the trial back in 1994 & I am re-obsessed with this series now.  I just had to google the crime scene photos, stalk Mark Fuhrman on Facebook & and/or put a hold on every OJ book our library carries.  It is fascinating!  It is also fascinating that he wasn't found guilty!

Speaking of fascinating - this book.  I am usually a Nicholas Sparks/Chick Lit type of gal, but this caught my eye after we recently watched the author speak to Diane Sawyer.  The author is the mother of one of the shooters at Columbine.  The book is a page turner.  Just not at night.  It makes me scared.  The statistics and data given in this book are downright overwhelming.  The FBI profiler on the case goes on to explain that there is no formula when it comes to most school shootings....except for one thing: they tend to be young, white males.  Gulp.  I am raising a young, white male.  This mother wrote it from a very humble perspective, and seems very truthful in things that she missed and what she would have done differently while raising her teenage son.  Both shooters came from a "normal" 2-parent family.  They weren't "trouble-makers" necessarily and participated in school activities, held jobs, had friends, etc.  But there were some major red flags & she does address them.  I can't get a certain part out of my mind.  She simply says that "Loving your child is not enough."  She loved her son dearly and look what happened.  I think we, as parents, need to be more invested in our children's mental health, just as we are invested in their physical health.

I was a double major in college (education and sociology) and sometimes I wish I would have used my sociology major for something.  Maybe I will someday.  Things like this just make me want to study people all day.  Columbine was a very memorable tragedy growing up.  Who doesn't remember the images: students running out with their hands over the head, the boy falling out of the window, all with the pretty Colorado landscape in the background.  The cousin of my boyfriend at the time was actually one of the students shot, but thankfully she survived.  So that definitely hit home as all of this was blasted on national television.  Her name was Casey & I remember asking him years later how she was doing.  He said she still couldn't sleep at night.  I can't imagine.  Even though this was a very heavy topic, it still made the list this week.  I also love that the author is donating 100% of the proceeds to teen mental health/suicide prevention organizations.

Whew - now a lighter Friday Favorites...this hair product!  Fellow bird's nest heads unite!  I randomly saw this in the grocery the other day & thought I would give it a whirl.  It is supposed to cut your drying time down and it really works for me!  Now I am not near as sweaty or annoyed after drying my hair!  #thickhairprobs

A new recent favorite for me - tea!  I got a sweet Valentine gift from someone this year that was an adorable mug with various Tazo teas inside.  Now, I have a never-ending love for coffee #americanoforever, but have always loved tea as well.  Ever since I received that gift I find myself making more of it!  What are your favorite teas?

This punkin'.  Always on the Friday Favorites list.  I put this on Instagram saying that even though we share no DNA, sometimes I forget.  Actually I forget a lot.  This child was so chosen by God to be our son, it is not even funny.  I really can't imagine loving another human being more.  #adoptionrules

And, there you have it!  Happy Friday, party people!  Add some tea to your weekend.  

Tuesday, December 8

Christmas at The Carters...part 2

Hey there!  I am linking up with a fun blogger, Andrea, & sharing my Christmas decorations!  I love looking at other house decor - and ESPECIALLY during Christmas!  Enjoy!

I used to love anything and everything Christmas - and my house was a modge podge of Christmas decor.  Over the years I *think* I have toned it down a little (although the hubs would say 3 Christmas trees is not toning it down - ha!)  We have a huge tree in our front room that is my "Mommy tree" now.  All red, white & silver ornaments.  With corresponding wrapped presents. #recoveringperfectionist  It makes me happy.

Through the hallway is where I put our Christmas cards.  I hot glue ribbon to the top of the door (don't be afraid to hot glue stuff to walls or peels right off!) & then I glue on the cards when we get them.  I love having them all displayed where we can see them versus in a basket or bin like I used to do.  By the end of the month I usually fill up two doors worth & it makes me happy seeing all of the smiling friends & family in our lives.

(from a few years ago)
Dane's playroom tree was sort of a new addition this year.  I had it in our sunroom & it was another girly tree - pink and silver with a tiara on top - ha!  But we put colored lights on it this year, and covered it with sentimental ornaments from when Devin & I were kids + some fun ones we have collected since we have been married.  I have a few new ones that Dane and I have made together and I think this tree will soon be a quick favorite!

my little "Danedeer" ;)

Our living room tree is brown and gold to match our decor & is a real one!  We have gone to a tree farm the last few years to pick it out, and that was always a fun tradition that Devin & I both did with our families growing up.  And that fresh balsam smell?  Oh my.  Forget the Yankee candles this year & just get a real Christmas tree!

Our nativity scenes are fun to put up every year and we now have four!  We have a nice Willow Tree set (off limits to toddler hands), a magnetic one for the fridge, the Little People set that Dane LOVES & this set from when I was a little girl.  The pieces are "stuffed-animal like" and I remember playing with it every Christmas.  We were never allowed to put baby Jesus out until Christmas morning either - His birthday, of course!  Dane loves playing with this one too, so I have it set up in his playroom.  He seems to catch on to things so quickly and loves pointing out the different people.  The funniest thing happened last week when he pointed to a picture of my baby nephew and shouted"Jesus!"  Precious.

I have a few things in the kitchen that I like to put out every year.  I know a lot of people like to put Santa pictures up for Christmas, and I want to continue doing that also!  I have Dane's last two years on the big guy's lap and am looking forward to getting his picture taken this year!  I also put out a Devin/Abigail fave...when we went ice skating at Rockefeller in NYC!  It was snowing and SO pretty and just a fun picture to display for the holidays.

And that is just about it for Carter Christmas decor.  What are your favorite Christmas decorations?  Please share!

Merry, Merry.