Santa at The Summit

Santa photos are definitely meant to be treasured. When Evie had her first Santa photo a couple years ago, all I really wanted was for our town to have a “pretty Santa.” I’m not trying to be a snob, I promise. But after wrestling your kid into a fancy outfit and shoes, fixing their hair, and standing in line with them for who-knows-how-long, why settle for a mediocre photo?

Enter: Santa at The Summit.


We were pretty excited to be asked to be part of this launch. I’ve been shopping at The Summit since it opened when I was in the 8th grade, and we all know that their reputation for being Birmingham’s premier shopping center really can’t be touched.

It’s located down near Saks Fifth Avenue, and has its own dedicated store front. Here’s all of the problems the Summit’s North Pole solves:

  1. Waiting in line. You can make a free 15 minute appointment by clicking right here. SCORE.
  2. Having a bored kid. Oh my goodness, there is whole kid-friendly wonderland for keeping them entertained while they’re waiting their turn. Teddy bears, a mini kitchen, and kid-sized tables and chairs abound, all of which can be purchased at Pottery Barn Kids, should your kid latch onto something they suddenly can’t live without 😉
  3. Weary parents. Sur La Table has a fancy Jura espresso machine set up in the middle of the North Pole, so you can re-energize while your kid plays. There is also hot cocoa for the kids!6U1A4575.jpg6U1A4447.jpg
  4. Ugly setting. Maybe it’s because of my career as a prop stylist, but I really value the scene around Santa as much as I value Santa himself. The Summit North Pole is expertly designed in neutral whites and metallics and therefor offers a no-clash-guarentee with your kiddo’s outfit. And yes, a full range of photo packages and photo gifts are available! And all of this gorgeous decor, mamas? West Elm!
  5. Bonus features: one-stop Summit gift card purchases are right there, and the cool people at Swoozie’s donated wrapping paper to offer complimentary gift-wrapping with a suggested donation.

All photos are by the awesome Jennifer Hagler Photography, aren’t they wonderful?  Thank you so much Jennifer!! And thanks also to Jeannie Leighton for making this fun morning happen, you are something else, girl.

Merry Christmas!



I recently took a work-related trip to Nepal. While I was away, my husband wanted to reassure me that he and our daughter were having a great time and doing productive things together. I had no idea he had cooked up this idea in his head…though I’m not totally sure he knew either. Once it got rolling, everyone got such a kick out of their daily adventures. Since they only live on his Facebook page, I wanted to make sure they were corralled together in one place before they got lost in his Timeline.

And don’t worry friends who enjoyed this series, I’m going on a trip with my mom in January, and I’m sure these will resume!


August 31: Evie and I had so much fun playing at the power plant today. She’s such a camera hog. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 1: I took Evie to her first UFC event. She had fun, but was a little bummed she didn’t get to see any good submission holds. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 2: Evie and I tested our sea legs and dove with sharks. I started to get a little sea sick on the way out, but she smacked me on my back and said “Man up pansy.” #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 3: Took Evie to the outdoor range. She no-scoped a bullseye at 100 yards….twice. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 4: Evie and I went skydiving. I told her I would only do it tandem – I was too scared to go solo. She said, “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 5: Evie got some ink yesterday. I asked her to maybe put down the donut and she responded, “Silence. Let Trevor do his work.” #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 6: Evie said she wanted to hang out with her new friends. I’d never met them before, but Victor and Stephen seemed incredibly nice. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 7: Evie asked if we could go bowling. While I was reserving a lane, she b-lined it to the bar. I kept asking when we were actually going to bowl and she just said “I’ll be right there Dad.” I got the feeling she wasn’t being truthful with me, because every time I turned away I heard her snickering with these guys. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway


September 8: Things have really gotten out of hand. We stopped at a convenience store to pick up some snacks. Evie picked up a candy bar and started to walk out. I said, “Aren’t you gonna pay for that?” She responded, “No. But we’re gonna…RUN!!!!!” We might have to lay low for a while. #ThingsToDoWhileMalindasAway

The adventures will resume January 14th, 2016…

Nichols, Party of 4

If you know us, you’ve heard us talk about how much we have loved visiting this country or that country. How we loved the food, the people, the museums, the culture, etc. etc. But there is a country that has been pressed so hard onto our hearts, a country we love so much…and we have never even been there. There is no particular reason why we would be drawn to this country, but sometimes God tells you something so clearly that you know it could only be from Him.

What is it about Ind!a that I couldn’t get out of my head? The bright colors of the Holi Festival? The way it lights up at Diwali? The marigold flower chains? I mean, I’ve pinned the same photo of the Pink Palace in Jaipur on my Ind!a & Nepal Pinterest Board more than once. Wait, why do I even know about Holi, Diwali, marigold flower chains, or the Pink Palace? Why do I have a Pinterest board JUST for Ind!a and Nepal?


Well, God spoke India into our hearts, and this where Nichols #4 will be from. 

Years and years ago, we felt that we were called to international adoption. I actually can pinpoint it, for me at least, specifically to meeting the Hooten family, who had 2 biological sons followed by several adopted children. I just thought it was one of the most beautiful, Godly things I had ever witnessed.

We were married almost 6 years before Evie came into the picture, and had been saying for years that when our biological child turned 1, we would begin the adoption process. Well, God has a way of shooting down your plans in a way only He can. He knows timing better than we do, so we’ve learned to just trust Him and go with it. When Evie turned 1 (March 2014), we were literally in the midst of moving into a new home and of course the financial burden that came with it. We knew it wasn’t the right time, but we had a peace about that. Not to mention, the adoption agency we wanted to go through didn’t have a program for India at that time, so we just waited and prayed for God to make his timing super obvious. (Fun fact: we closed on this home one year ago to this very day! Almost to the minute that I’m typing this even. And Evie turns two this Monday!)

Last fall, I told Zack that I wanted to go to an informational meeting at Lifeline, the agency we knew we wanted for this. We expressed to them our interest in Ind!a, knowing full well that there wasn’t a chance of us being accepted into their non-existent program. But what do you know, there was a program.

It’s what called a pilot program. One family here in Alabama was pursuing their second Indian adoption. The first was with the only other agency in Alabama that does India adoptions, but this second one was through Lifeline. We left the informational meeting that night affirmed more than ever that Lifeline was the agency, excited that India was on their radar. But we also knew it would be a while, because they didn’t even officially have an Indian program. (Like, years.) We even decided try for another biological child sometime in 2015 and then hopefully when s/he was a year or so, India would be open through Lifeline, and what’s more, we’d have a couple years to get some finances in order before jumping in. Heck y’all, we even cashed in our airline miles and booked a vacation. HA! Let’s not talk about that right now, because I gave up stress/worry/anxiety for Lent, and I’m not going to hold to that if I talk about what we have planned for next month.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I got a call from a gal at Lifeline just before Christmas wanting to talk more about our interest in Ind!a. Wait, what? I kind of felt like maybe she just wanted to have a casual convo, so when we had a hard time linking up around the holidays, I didn’t think too much about it.

Last month, the conversations went from informational to hypothetical to realistic. And on January 30, 2014, at 10:13 am, as I was sitting in the car with my mom driving up to the Summit, Meredith, the program director at Lifeline said “our group has been praying, and under my direction, we would like to accept you as the pilot family for Ind!a. We are so excited for you.”

WHAT?! I cried, obvi. Because I wear my heart of my sleeve and I couldn’t help it. We had a full conversation before she even said those words, those words I will NEVER forget…and wasn’t even expecting. My mom heard them too and grabbed my hand and squeezed it, how awesome she was there to hear the news! And I’m not even sure what I said next except for some version of “we’ll be praying about it.”

We had so much to process: we still want another biological child, when is that supposed to happen? How long will this take? How much will this cost? Weren’t we supposed to begin this process a few years from now? Isn’t that what God was saying? What happened to the other family in their pilot program? Is this timing right? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a lot that night. (BTW, I have connected with the first pilot family through the wonders of social media and her blog, and she is amazing. They are now pursuing a waiting child from China, and we are so happy for our new friends!)

Two days later, never so sure of anything in my life, I emailed our social worker with a “YES!” Two days after that we began the application process. And now here we are:

We are the Nichols, and we are actively in the process of pursuing an adoption from Ind!a.

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We’ve been fielding some questions already from people who know, so here is a little FAQ section for you. We LOVE talking about this, because each person who hears our story also hears the story of the orphan crisis in India, a country that has meant so much to us, but now means even more.

Why are you adopting? And why Ind!a?
As Christians, why do we pursue anything of substance? Because God tugs our heart in certain directions and gives each of His children a calling. Quite simply, God has called us to Ind!a. Our entire married lives we have felt called to advocate for the unheard voices of the marginalized and impoverished (and the International Justice Mission is one of our favorite charities for this reason). Every Christian is called to orphan care in some capacity, and we feel this is the capacity to which we have been called.

As far as why India specifically, please feel free to ask us more about this in person!

So what about THIS child? YOUR child?
We don’t know yet, of course, if it will be a boy or girl, what part of India he or she will be from, or anything much more than that. But, we do know that it most likely will be a little girl, as almost 70% of the estimated 25 million orphans in Ind!a are girls.


We also know that our child will have a special need. The only children available to non-Indian nationals are waiting children, which means that Indian parents or those with Ind!an citizenship get (and this is hard to type) “first pick” of “healthy” babies. What “special needs” means can vary WIDELY…it can be something totally correctable, and you might never even know that at one point in his or her life, s/he was considered “special needs.” Or it is very possible that there will be some extra considerations we’ll have to make for our child during his/her life. We have a lot to pray about for this aspect of our adoption process, and we would covet your prayers too.

We also know that our little one will be, in fact, a little one! From the information our agency has gathered, India prefers for their adoptive families to maintain natural birth order. Evie will be 2 on March 2nd, so we have set “parameters” for birth to 2 years. We would be perfectly ok with a older child, but we feel that we need to “play it safe” and request what Ind!a wants. And we are totally fine with bringing home a tiny, sweet li’l bit!

How long will this process take?
If you know, please tell us! We could get a referral before the year is up, or it could be 4 years from now before we’re home with our newest Nichols. It’s not a secret that I’m not the most patient of people, so we’d love it if you could join us in praying for a quick process. There is even a small chance that s/he is already born, which means that everyday that we spend in-process is another day that our family is missing a member, and another day that s/he has to go without his/her mommy, daddy, and big sister. I can hardly stomach the thought.

Also, there are certain steps that can only move forward when we can pay for it. And that’s a nice segway to…

How much does it cost to adopt from Ind!a?
A pretty penny, folks. Here’s a breakdown:

Application Fee: $250
Agency Fee: $6000
Orphan Care Sustainability Projects: $250
Home Study Fee: $1750
Post-Placement Services: $1950
Post-Adoption Management: $250
Shipping Costs: $360
TOTAL: $10,560 that is due in 4 equal payments of $2640 (not including $250 app fee). As the pilot family, the 4th installment is scholarshipped, bringing our total to $8170

Citizenship and Immigration Services Fees: $890
Immigration Affidavit of Support Review Fee: $88
Ind!a Visas for 2 adults, plus Courier Fee: $350 (only option available is a 10-year visas at $175 each)
Prepare & Enrich Marriage Assessment: $35
Crossings Training: $100
NCFA Parent Training: $195
Birth Certificates & Marriage License (5 copies of each): $107
FedEx Fees (dossier sent to Ind!a): $400
Legalization of Dossier: $600
TOTAL: $2,765

Fingerprinting for 2 adults: $100
Full medical reports for 2 adults: $200
USCIS Update: $500 (This may or may not be ultimately be required of us; we will have to pay it if our immigration expires while we are waiting to travel to Ind!a and then back home. Please pray we do not have to pay this!):
TOTAL: $800

(Based on 10 Days In-Country)
Round-Trip Airfare for 2 Adult: $3500
One-way ticket home for our child: $1500
Translator/Guide Fees ($100/day): $1000
Accommodations in Dehli and RIPA region: $1500
Accommodations for Translator/Guide outside of Dehli: $1500
Transportation within Ind!a: $800
Food (appx. $100/day/person): $1000
TOTAL: $10,800

Child Care Corpus Fee: $5000 (Paid in two installments to the orphanage and covers the care of our child and court costs. This fee may vary from RIPA to RIPA. A RIPA is an Ind!an orphanage.)
Child’s Medical $275
Child’s Visa $325
Bond posted for child $1000
TOTAL: $6600

US Court Adoption: $2000
Citizenship Certificate: $420
Birth Certificate: $20
Court Costs: $80
TOTAL: $2,520


And how are you going to come up with $32K exactly?
This is a scary number. I can’t even tell you how much this makes me want to look at heaven and scream “Are you KIDDING ME God?!” But we know for a fact that God will not let this stand in the way, because our God values all life, and He honors orphan care and adoption. God is the one who told us to do this, and He’s not going to let some dollar amount stand in our way.

Our goal is ambitious: to do this adoption debt-free. In addition to being the most budget-conscious people on the planet for the next while (no offense if we don’t go out to dinner with you, we got a kid to get home), we also plan on doing lots of fundraisers. FUN fundraisers. Funraisers? We don’t want to sit here and ask for hand-outs, but rather we hope to provide ways that benefit both us and you! Birmingham Craft Night will be a big one, my cupcake/cake orders will completely be going to the adoption fund. I also do substitute teaching here in Shelby County, we have a really awesome t-shirt in the works, and we are planning a huge multi-family garage sale with the help of our friends at House Peace. There are some great grants out there, and who knows what else? There was a point in time that M. Night Shyamalan had a grant for US families pursuing Ind!a adoptions, but I don’t think that exists anymore. Too bad, because I’d love to tell our kiddo that a super awesome director helped bring him/her home!

Please stay tuned to this blog and follow us on social media for the ways you can get involved if you want to!

So what can I do?
Pray for us. Love us. Encourage us. There will be times during this process that we will struggle hard. We will have roadblocks that will discourage us and try to break us. There will be times that it will feel like it’s taking so frustratingly long to get our child home, knowing that we are helpless over here in our comfy house will our child rocks herself to sleep in an orphanage an entire world away. After we have our referral (which is when we are matched and see his/her face), it will be months before we meet him/her. I can’t imagine what I would do if someone took Evie away from us for months, and I can’t help but feel that this will give me the same gut-wrenching feeling. This child is no less our son or daughter than Evie after all! After we are all home together, the process of bonding as a family will be tough. Nothing can be done in any point of this process without prayers, love, and encouragement.

And please pray for our child. A LOT. That s/he is being loved, held, fed, taken care of. If s/he hasn’t been born yet, please pray that the birth will be safe. Please pray for the birth parents who will not experience the joy of seeing him/her grow up. Adoption is an amazing way of showing God’s love, but it’s not natural. It’s not how families were meant to be. (That is a whole blog post on its own.)

Also, if you feel like you are led to support us in bringing our child to his/her forever home, there are so many ways. Donating items to our garage sale, buying a fundraising t-shirt from us, ordering some cupcakes from Malinda, babysit Evie while we work through our mountain of paperwork, sponsoring a fundraising event…like, whatever. We’re open to whatever blessings people want to bless us with, and are appreciative and humble beyond words!

What’s next?
Our application is submitted and approved (if you’ve ever adopted before, you know that’s a milestone in its own right), and now we come up with $2640 and start to put our dossier together. A dossier is a huge file of paperwork regarding every detail of our lives: fingerprints, birth certificates, marriage license, result of our home studies, etc., which then ships to Ind!a for translation and approval. There are three agencies in Ind!a who will either approve us or reject us, so please pray with us that not only will this process go quickly, but that it will also just…go. It’s terrifying to think “what if someone over there just stamps a ‘NO!’ across our application?” so please be praying specifically for those people in India who hold the fate of our family in their hands. (Also, this is about the most simplified I can make this. It’s way more complicated than this.)

Also, we’ll be hitting up fundraising pretty hard here pretty soon. But again, we hope this will be a lot of fun, a great way to expand our community, bring awareness to adoption and orphan advocacy, and more. Got a donation to make to our garage sale? Let us know, we’ll come get it from you!

Thank you all for taking the time to read a little more about us and our family…our growing family! And thank you for the love, prayers, and support we already feel around us. We couldn’t have made it through these last 2 years of parenthood without the love our people, and there’s no way we’ll be able to make it through this process without you either.

-Zack, Malinda, and Evie June Nichols

Happy Birthday Evalyn!

On March 2, 2013, we welcomed the most perfect baby girl into the world. On February 27, 2014, we moved into the house of dreams. It was a sad foreclosure we called “the beige box.” A week and a half, little to no sleep, a few gallons of paint, and lots of doses of Aleve later, we celebrated Evalyn’s birthday in our new home.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant and realized my due date would be so close to St. Patrick’s Day, I knew I wanted an Irish theme. When I found out a little girl was on the way, I knew going with a green and pink theme would be perfect. And when we put our house up for sale, I knew our little townhouse wouldn’t hold everyone we wanted to celebrate with us!

Kamin Williams took some beautiful photos of the party, which allowed us to focus on the our daughter and welcoming our family and friends into our home for the first time.

First, a few details:


I set up kids’ table set-up with globes, shamrocks, and each kiddo had their own little milk jugs. The party favors packs for the kids had chocolate gold coins, stickers, tattoos, white chocolate shamrocks and other little prizes. I got almost everything on clearance after St. Patrick’s Day the year before since I knew what the theme for her party would be so far in advance! Thanks to my sister and my mom for coming over and helping me put all of these details together.


The photos clipped to the frame were taken every month in her pink Eames rocker. Each week I took an overhead photo of her in her crib on the same Aiden + Anais sheet, and those photos were strung across the mantle and bookcases. I loved seeing how much she had grown, but it made me a little weepy too! This was the fastest year of my entire life.



Since we had just moved, I was really overwhelmed and I knew we wouldn’t be able to invite every person we wanted to. We just had our immediate families, and a few friends who basically are our family. Each family took home their own “Ireland in a Jar” as our way of thanking them for everything they did for us, and every way they were there for us over the previous year and nine months!

bday4 bday5I found some huge balloons on clearance at JC Penny of all places, they were the perfect backdrop the table. A fresh strawberry cake, mini shepherd’s pies, gold punch (ginger ale and white grape juice), white-chocolate dipped Lucky Charms treats, and a few leftover white chocolate shamrocks for the guests to nosh on.

bday7Jessica Stalnaker of Empress Stationery made the most perfect invitations for us.  I think I almost cried when I first saw the proof, but I know I definitely squealed. Jessica and I worked together in magazine publishing back in the day (“the day” meaning our early 20s as fresh college grads), and I’m so proud of my girl for being one of the most sought-after stationers in the South!

But the cutest part of the whole party…the birthday girl:

bday6 Those cheeks. Have you ever? She is so sweet in her little moccs and pink diaper, and the dress (found on clearance at Old Navy!) is just short enough to show off those sweet chunky legs.


The best birthday accessory by far was the beautiful floral crown that my best pal Tiffany of Studio Flower made for her. Isn’t it great to have such creative friends?! I did the cake for her son’s birthday and swapped her this. It’s been almost 6 months still the party and I still have it sitting on our piano!


bday9For her smash cake, I just took the top tier off of the cake. There was plenty of the bottom tier for everyone to enjoy…and more than enough of the top tier for Evie to enjoy…


She in fact enjoyed it so much that….


…we all got to see it again a few minutes later. My mother-in-law was carrying her into the living room to open gifts, when her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she suddenly just puked everywhere. Every. Where. I can’t describe it. But, what can you do? We thanked everyone for coming out, then rushed her upstairs and plopped her into the bathtub.  I’m so glad Kamin snapped a couple of these photos. It’s an incident we were laughing about just a few minutes after it happened, and a story that will be told over and over again.

We assumed everyone had left, but when we came back downstairs, we were surprised to see everyone still there and were waiting patiently for the birthday girl to open her presents!



Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to celebrate this precious girl’s first birthday, and to everyone who made it possible, too. I can’t even start to tell you how much people from our church family came over the previous week to clean, unpack, organize, paint, build and install bookcases (yeah). My mom and Zack’s mom came over super early that day to help with the last few details and polish up the house a little, and my sister spent over an hour tediously cutting out 53 photos of Evie for the mantle because my nerves just couldn’t handle it!


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I wish I had photos of every person who was there! I’m sorry I don’t, but the sincerest, heart-felt thank you for sharing this occasion with us!

And Happy Birthday to my amazing daughter. I am blessed beyond what I could ever deserve with you. And perfect timing, as I’m typing up these last words, you’re waking up from your nap! That means lunch time, then the pool!!

Thirty-One Gifts. Thirty-One Reasons Why.

If I can get a little sappy here for a second, I just want to say thanks for the slew of friends and family who took the time to attend my thirty-one launch party a couple weeks ago. I was unsure if this was right for me, but I went to bed that night feeling so encouraged, supported and inspired. I’m excited to be part of this huge movement of women who are realizing their goals, and partying along the way is a pretty awesome bonus. I loved baking, mixing cocktails, and crafting favors for everyone who was there, and can’t wait to continue to meet and get to know more amazing women.


thanks for snapping this sweet pic, Courtney! | THE pink box chock full of goodies

One question that Thirty-One asks us to answer, is why? Why are we doing this?

These two are my #31why. I want time to meal plan and grocery shop so we could eat more healthy meals at home instead of picking up a fast food  2 nights (or more…) a week. I want to spend my days helping Evie learning to read and go to the park with her. I just want more time with them, and I wasn’t getting it being in a quite office 40 hours a week and with almost 10 hours a week commuting.


my sweet husband | our perfect daughter who is growing up too fast

I’m also excited about this because it gives me an outlet to be creative and connect with others who share my values and interest. There is no doubt that the products and their endless uses are providing me all kinds of creative inspiration. Now that I’ve quite my full-time job, I was able to finally organize my craft supplies, and for some reason that just makes me feel more creative, you know?

 swizzle sticks I made for my launch party | a little packaging idea to market our $5 key fobs

swizzle sticks I made for the guests at my launch party | a little packaging idea to market our $5 key fobs

I really am just so excited about this new venture in my life. I feel like it is the perfect fit for my skills and what I’m passionate about, provides solutions both financially and organizationally (blog post forthcoming about the new downstairs diaper caddy and how much I love my Hang-Up Home Organizer!), connects me with some pretty awesome people (shout out t0 Amanda, Jennifer, and all of the awesome ladies on my Team Graves Facebook page for the unending ideas and encouragement), and honestly, it’s like, really fun.

It goes without saying, please let me know if you need anything!