photo credit: BSAphotography
Our open adoption was one of the most serious and heavy discussions Douglas and I had in our whole adoption process. There are so many different feelings and opinions out there about open adoptions. We needed to come to an agreement about where we both actually stood on this.
For us, this was already an unfamiliar situation and adding this element to it made us feel even more vulnerable. We were dealing with a very young couple that seemed very sweet and genuine but I was still left with a deep fear that maybe the birthmother would change her mind after the adoption had finalized.
That scenario ran thru my mind so many times. With the help of our attorney and social worker they were able to put that fear at ease for me. In our state of Louisiana, there are laws in place for this very situation. When I was able to release that fear, I was then able to focus on the future.
To me, an open adoption would allow us to remain truthful and candid about the origins of where our child came from. We would be able to give Alli Mae the opportunity to meet her birthparents once she became old enough and if she desired to.
Another great point in an open adoption is that this seems to be the direction that American adoptions are heading today. We found that there seemed to be more birthparents wanting open adoptions than closed. We knew that we would hopefully match faster with a birthmother if we were willing to be flexible and allow this process be open rather than closed.
I so vividly remember the evening of our very first meeting when we sat down with the birthparents and our attorney.
We had a list of very important questions we needed to ask them. A couple of them were:
How do you both feel about an open adoption?
We wanted to make sure that all of us were on the same page with this. You cannot make an open adoption work if some of the party involved doesn't want it.
It pleased us to hear them say that they desperately wanted it.
For our birthmother, she was also adopted. She was from Guatemala and she has no idea where her birth family is or how to even find them. This remained a very emotional topic for her and it was something she did not want this baby to go through later in life when she got older.
This definitely answered our first question. It was a genuine and emotional plea to give Alli Mae the opportunity to find them if and when she wanted to.
Our other question was:
What are the terms you request in having an open adoption?
We knew that we wanted a few visits in the first year for them to see the baby's growth in person. Thru that first year we would also send updates thru text messages.
After the first year the personal visits would end. Douglas and I both felt like after Alli Mae was one year old she would be able to start recognizing faces and we didn't want to add confusion as she got older. We both would send updates every so often- 2 or 3 times a year. Summer vacation, birthdays and Christmas are 3 important yearly events that we could use to update with milestones and pictures.
Douglas and I both knew that this process was especially hard for the birthmother. Her situation was particularly difficult and I knew that this would hopefully ease her pain thru all of this.
When I asked them this question it brought tears to their eyes, which then brought tears to our eyes. It was a very tender moment for all of us and their desperation to have some sort of placement in the baby's life seemed to be visible now.
During Alli Mae's first year all of our conditions were met. There were a few more personal visits than we had discussed, but to be honest with you, it was completely fine with us.
We had different visits with the birthmother and her family. Time would pass and then we would have visits with the birthfather and his family. It was sometimes emotional for me to think about.
Our first visit with the birthmother was especially emotional for me. She was obviously sad and upset when she handed me a letter for Alli Mae to read one day as she was leaving.
I could not imagine the pain in saying goodbye. All I could do was hug her as tight as I could and kiss her cheek letting her know how grateful we were.
Both families brought Alli Mae gifts at different points through the first year. Some gifts were cute clothes, jewelry and some were stuffed animals. At first it was hard for me to look at the stuffed animals after they left because it was so sad for me to think about. I needed to allow myself to see the beauty in this rather than the pain. Each stuffed animal Alli Mae received was a symbol of their love that would always be with her, just as Douglas and my love will.
Instead of feeling insecure about the toys, I needed to embrace them. This is all coming from places of adoration and the need to know that they will not be forgotten.
Our last meeting was the hardest for me.
It is even hard as I write this blog.
We all developed a friendship through this. As we were sitting on our living room floor, the birthmother handed us a beautifully decorated photo album that was so thoughtfully crafted by her. Every page had pictures of both of the birthparents and their families with all of their likes and interests, hobbies, where they like to travel and details about their lives.
And then, on the last page there was a beautiful picture of Douglas and I.
The happiest picture of the day that we brought our beautiful baby girl home.
It meant so much to me that she included us in this book.
It made me cry then just as Im crying now.
The unlikely friendships that were made through this process and the love and appreciation we have for everyone involved is a beautiful feeling.
I could not imagine our adoption any other way. I think about them often and I wish all of them happiness and light every day of their lives.
Our family would not be where we are today if it wasn't for each of them and our choice to have an open adoption.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram @nolapapa
As Im inching closer and closer to 40 now, It's so easy for me to get distracted from my personal health. Since we had Alli Mae, it seems as my own work out schedule falls by the waste side, and-rightfully so. Especially in the early months after we brought her home, there was definitely no time to work out for papa. I tried really hard to sneak in a cardio session here and there between nap times... but those were few and far between.
As the early months progressed, and she became a little bit older I was able to get back on the saddle- somewhat.
Our baby is like any other precious little one when it comes to attention. I was use to working out at the gym for at least 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. That was dramatically cut in half- if not more. I also wasn't able to go to the gym anymore either. About 8 months before we brought her home I invested in a treadmill. Thank goodness I did! I think it is worth it's wait in gold. Sure, some people buy them and they magically turn into a new closet to hang button down shirts and khaki pants on. However, for me, I have always loved to run. So, purchasing this beauty was a godsend! It also wasn't a necessity for me to go to the gym anymore.
As she got older, she allowed me to get a smaller work out in but it definitely could not be two hours. I have now created a home work out routine for myself that fits to our schedules.
My work out routine is great for me because I know what is good for my body. It is important that if you are reading this and you want to start your own work out routine, remember- my routine was created for me, and what works for me - may not work very well for you -So you would want to consult a professional trainer or physician. Your body will thank you for it!
In the gym I had everything I could possibly want to work out with. Now that I work out at home it's significantly different, however it is a bit more convenient.
The "power tower"
15 pound "free weights"
My mornings for years and years now, usually begin with "The Price is Right" and my latte, with now recently adding Alli Mae to my lap. The first half of the show I watch while I drink my coffee, and the other half I watch as I start my pre work out.
I tell you this not because I'm a qwerky Price is Right nut, but because I have found, for me at least- that having my attention to something in the background, like a TV show, helps me remain focused on what I am doing while keeping it fun for me.
My pre work out consists of:
•100 reps of free weights
After the prework out, I then go upstairs to my equiptment and begin my work out.
I have this awesome bounce swing that Alli Mae sits in and plays behind me while I do the rest.
I start out by stretching. Stretching is such a vital part of my workout and when I don't stretch- my body definitely lets me know.
•25 pull ups on the "power tower"
and then I start my cardio.
Running for me is almost spiritual. I am able to put my music on, with my certain playlists- depending on what time of year it is. I think changing up your playlists seasonaly helps to take away the monotony of working out so often. I either put on my headphones or turn on the sterio and then just run. I run as long as I possbily can.
I am able to think about the past, present and usually the future. I find myself getting lost in my thoughts and before I know it, 3 miles have passed and I am sweaty mess.
It also helps when I am having a bad or stressful day. I start out with a mind cluttered with aggression, and by the end of my run, it is like all of the stress has been written out onto paper and thrown into a waste basket.
I love running almost as much as I love cooking.
After my run of what is usually about 3 miles, I walk another mile to "cool down".
After the treadmill,
•25 more pull-ups.
Finally, Finish the work with a
•new round of stretching.
My workout is only half the battle of staying healthy.
My eating habits are usually the other half. This is pretty hard for me because I love to eat what I want. I love carbs and sweets! I try to have them in moderation, that way I can still enjoy what I love, but it won't throw my whole workout out of line.
Seeing results, for me- is what really keeps me motivated to keep going. Cardio definitely gets me to where I want to be. Even after a few "cheat weeks," the high endurance of the treadmil helps me lose rapidly what I gained.
I have to remember to be diligent and consistent when it comes to working out. The more often I do it, the more healthy I feel and look. Working out also helps my mental health, as well as my emotional health.
It would be so easy for me to get wrapped up in my everyday life and family and forget about keeping my body healthy. I have to have the willpower to keep moving forward. I can stop for a minute, but afterwards... march on and continue to the goal of being as healthy as I possibly can be, especially now that I have a precious gift that depends on me for everything.
Alli Mae watching me work out from the power tower-
I Would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram @nolapapa
This This southern boy loves Christmas. I love everything about it! This time of year for me is special because- I know I've said this before but, I love traditions. If someone asked me on the street, what my favorite thing about the holidays were, I'd easily respond with- "Traditions."
The food, the lights, the decorations, the joy and laughter... okay, okay... maybe all of that is my favorite things about Christmas.
This year is extra special because our daughter is now old enough to enjoy this time with us. Last year she was a just a month old, so Douglas and I were up to our noses in a completely new way of life. However this year we are able to decorate, cook, and watch the holiday specials with Alli Mae. Seeing her light up when she saw Frosty or Rudolph for the first time made my heart sing and it is something I will remember forever.
When it comes to decorating, I'm able to dedicate 4 solid days of organized phases.
Phase 1: Garlands and lights
Phase 2: Centerpieces and Nicknacks
Phase 3: the Christmas tree
Phase 4: Outside decorations
Things were a bit different this year because of a 13 month old baby running around. I would have to decorate during nap time and after she had gone to bed. I was still able to stay on schedule with a few tweaks here and there and help from Douglas, my husband.
I have been decorating with the same decorations for years now. I am able to organize each item into different labeled storage bins so I can quickly assemble each step.
When you have kids this is a must, so you are able to quickly find what you need and assemble each task and move on to the next.
I have it down to an easy and fast process that is fun but requires Christmas music.
I thought in the spirit of Christmas, I would share some fun DIY projects helping to enhance your Garlands and Centerpieces.
If you have kids, a fun project is collecting centerpiece materials! In the south we have giant Pine trees that produce huge pinecones that are absolutely perfect for centerpieces and lasts for years!
Give your kids a paper bag and have them collect around 25-30 pinecones.
While they are gathering them, set up your glitter station with glue, paint brushes and either silver or gold glitter along with a drop cloth to collect any mess that may fall.
Paint on your glue to the prettiest and largest pinecones and sprinkle glitter all around them.
Once all the pinecones are glittered, set outside to dry.
The remaining items you will need are all found at Michaels.com
I go there for all of my craft needs. They are also pretty cheap.
With all this said, let's get started!
We will start with green garland-
I found that instead of just the bare green garland, you can really make your decorations stand out if you layer them. After you have your garlands in place, then string your white lights through it. The more lights you use, the prettier the finished product will look.
After you string your lights, the next steps move pretty quick.
Next, you will need your foliage glittered
garland and your faux cranberry garland.
After you have everything,
layer the glitter garland over the
green garland as seen in "step 2"
Then take your cranberries and layer them over the glittered garland as seen in "step 3"
Now that the garlands are completed, we can move on to the different center pieces.
Dining tables and mantles are perfect for these!
You will need your:
Find a red or white table runner that runs the length of your dining table. On top of the runner place your glittered garland. Then, place your pinecones down the middle of your table. I use around 12 or 13 on my display. After the pinecones look naturally placed embellish the final look with your cranberry garland.
2 large white candles really polish the look.
I also have a plastic gold bowl to hold a few cranberries. This helps make all the placements seem more full.
These are my favorite. They are really fast to assemble and are beautiful once completed. I use apothecary jars filled with candy to really embellish my final look.
It brings me back to my childhood every time I see my candy jars in these displays!
Lay your green garland on the top of your mantle. String in your white lights and lay your glittered garland and cranberries on top. Use the same 3 step process as before.
Place your apothecary jars in the middle and just like that, your centerpiece is complete!
Our home doesn't have a fireplace, so unfortunately we do not have a mantle.
In lieu of a mantle we use the top of our entertainment center.
I have my nutcrackers to help fill the space because the area is so long, but you really do not need them for a mantle.
These decorations are great because they last for so many years. White lights are usually the only thing I have to buy every year.
The first year I started these particular decorations took the most time. But, every year after... I replicated the previous year.
Being organized helps the process move quickly and seamlessly. Each year, you learn a little more to help you in the following years.
Instagram is a great place to get inspired by different people's ideas. I have a few that Inspire me daily!
Check them out and I'm sure you will be as inspired as I am every single day!
With everything that has happened this year with our country,
this Christmas season it is especially important to be compassionate and tolerant, even in the face of cruelty and ignorance.
The holidays are the perfect time to teach our children to be empathetic and learn how to help the less fortunate.
As we teach them to love and be kind to others, they are then helping to pave a brighter future for all of us.
From Our home to yours, we truly hope that each of you have a wonderful Holiday and a safe and Happy New Year!
Merry Christmas from the Alexanders!
❤️🎄❤️ Erik, Douglas and Alli Mae
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