Feature photo credit: BSA photography
The past year and half have been some of the best moments Douglas and I have ever shared together. We have learned so much more about each other than we thought we could after sharing over a decade with each other. We have learned how to calm each other down after a rough night, to laugh at each other when we take things too seriously... but most of all- to love everything each of us brings to this dynamic family unit.
Last October of 2016, Douglas and I started our deep discussions again. We talked about what we have learned so far with fatherhood and how we felt about everything up to that point. Alli Mae has helped us grow smarter, faster and allowed us to easily see what matters most in our lives.
We both know that we are in our mid 30's. I am almost 36 and Douglas will be 38 in September. We have said in the past that we want to raise a multiple child family. In order for this to happen we would really need to make some quick decisions about our future. One huge factor came into play.
Douglas is about to finish his 3rd year of medical school.
In his 4th year, he will have a significant amount of time to help me with Alli Mae and the new baby if we were to match with another birthmother soon. In order for that to happen we would need to start the adoption process as soon as possible because-
what if it took longer to find a baby this time?
After his 4th and final year of medical school he would then be accepted into a residency program into a hospital that he applies to. His schedule would then be dominated by his new job there. He would then be able to help me with any time he would have left over after such a grueling schedule.
So, after having our deep discussion, we decided to jump back on the adoption train again! WOO-WOO!! 🚂🌈👨👨👧👧
In mid October we got our federal and state background checks in order. Then we renewed our home study. Then, we waited.
We waited, and waited and then we waited some more. Then we got a call. It looked like there was a birthmother in Mississippi! Our hearts jumped out of our chest. We quickly typed out a portfolio with pictures talking about our life and sent it over. We were quickly informed that the birthmother had chosen family members to adopt her baby. I have to admit that stung, but we were just happy that the baby would be going to a home that was family and a home that would love and care for her.
About a month later we were told to make a really nice, hard back portfolio album telling about our lives. Like, where we live, about our daughter, our church, our families, etc. We were pretty excited about this. We worked really hard on it and the finished product came out wonderfully! About 2 weeks after that we recieved a call that our portfolio was being shown to a birthmother. We felt really positive about this. From the feedback we were getting it seemed like everything was moving in a positive direction. About 2 weeks went by and we were still feeling good about everything until we got the call. The birthmother actually chose another family. Now, to be perfectly honest, this frightened me. The birthmother declined on us because we already had a daughter. She ended up going with a family that didn't have any children at all. This was alarming for me. This whole time, I thought putting our family on the cover of our portfolio would be a strong visual and would show just how happy we are. I completely understand why the birthmother chose the other family, and this, I suppose is why it scared me. Some birthmothers want their baby's to go to a family that is desperately seeking to find a child. They want to know that their child will not be loved more than a sibling. To us that is impossible and would never happen, but we respect different birthmother's decision processes.
So there we were. I was pitiful. And Douglas again, my coach and rock was able to get me to see the beauty in how the situation unfolded. That family that matched now will have their first child. We read their portfolio and it was so charming and it really made my heart happy to know that they finally would be able to welcome their first baby home.
It was time to get up, and dust our shoulders off and keep marching forward. Each situation seemed to get us more and more in tune with the process. All we knew before with Alli Mae was how she basically fell from Heaven into our lap. Our 3-5 year wait we were told in the beginning turned out to be a 3.5 week wait. We knew going into this again that scenario is VERY uncommon and to not allow our minds and hearts to think it could happen again. We were already 3 months into waiting for our second baby. We knew that our 'Alli Mae situation' would indeed not be playing out like it did before.
Mid January rolled around and there I was. Me, the television and the inauguration of Donald Trump. 😝 Ugh! The morning was already going south. Why am I watching this horse sh*t?
And then the phone rang, so I proudly muted the tv.
This was the call we had been praying for. This was it! I started shaking as I was talking with our agency. She was going over the details and what we would be expecting and if we were interested.
I hung up with her so I could frantically call Douglas at school- and he didn't answer. So, I called his mom. After talking with her, I really felt like I could make the executive decision. YES! We are intersted. We are DEFINITELY interested!
So, on what seemed to be that sour and dreary inauguration Friday of Donald Trump turned into a beautiful day for our family. Out of the blue, like a shooting star in a thunderstorm, we matched with our birthmother.
Time to get moving
After we got confirmation that we were indeed matched, we started our planning process. In a way, we planned like we did when we first found out that we were going to bring home Alli Mae. We read that when you first bring your new baby home, your first born will be jealous and resentful. There were things we could prepare for before we brought the new baby home. The first thing was to move Alli Mae into her new room before the baby comes. In doing this, she will feel like she isn't being "kicked out" of her nursery. There was about 3 or 4 weeks in between that she could get use to her new "toddler" room.
We were eager to transorm our guest room into her new jungle. This room is much bigger than her nursery and it is absolutely perfect for a child her age. We went back to the drawing board to come up with fun themes that would be perfect for her.
The theme that we settled on was a tropical jungle setting filled with palm trees, monkeys, parrots, butterflies and other fun pictures on the walls. I wanted a vibrant color in this room that matched her personality. We picked out a sunset orange color. It is technically called "Tiger Lilly Orange."
After we got her settled into her new room we started preparing for life when the new baby comes.
I have ran a restaurant in the French Quarter for 10 years now. Being the general manager, I really didn't have too much time to be able to spend away from the restaurant. When I was at home, I usually had to do something that pertained to work and I couldn't have my full attention on my family. I knew things would have to change once we brought the new baby home. So, with the help of my dear friend and owner of the restaurant, who happens to also be my daughter's godfather, we came up with an exit strategy. As hard as it was for me to leave this part of my life, it was equally exciting to begin this new book. I would say chapter, but this is a brand new book. I would be able to stay at home while Douglas finishes out his last year in medical school. The feeling of being a stay-at-home papa was so empowering. I knew my children would be perfectly fine and I would not have to have a sitter or daycare.
The plan was to end my time there about 2 weeks before the baby came. When my time came to leave, it was emotional. It almost felt like I was jumping off of a cliff not knowing how deep the water was below me. It was exciting yet absolutely terrifying.
The closer we got to the date, the more anxiously happy we both were. We tried not to tell too many people. I had to tell more people because of me leaving my job, I felt obligated to give an explanation in why. The day we got the sonogram picture of the baby was when it really felt real. To see this tiny treasure inside of a tummy was so surreal.
We were in contact with the birthmother weekly it seemed. We knew that she had an obligation at the end of the month and once that was seen to, she would be ready move into the agency's apartment in New Orleans in preparation for the baby's birth which was absolutely fine with us, it just seemed like that was very close to her delivery date. So, once the end of the month came we axiously awaited the phone call for our birthmother to relocate. One day led to two days, that then led to three days. By the fourth day after her obligatory date, my heart really started pounding.
We called the agency and it was like someone punched me in my stomach ten times. Our birthmother had disappeared.
I didn't know what to do. I was in complete shock. We had invested so much into preparing for this adoption. All the planning with my job, the money we paid up front, and moving our daughter into a new and unfamiliar room just seemed SO unfair. I just felt sick. I am telling you, I was a complete and soggy mess for days. I have 3 huge bags of retired clothes from Alli Mae that I had separated into different sizes in the middle of the floor of the nursery for our new baby girl.
To this day, all the piles of clothes are still in the middle of the floor in their respected sizes. I just can't bring myself to opening that door. Each day that goes by, I get a little stronger. Douglas is my rock and Alli Mae is my angel, my ray of sunshine. She helps pull her papa out of any depression that comes along. Her laughter and curiosity just warms my heart and definitely keeps me busy. Douglas and I are so blessed to have her in our lives and to let sadness and depression overshadow her light would just be wrong. Yes, this hurts. BAD. We knew in the beginning, ANYTHING can happen. I didn't expect it, and that might be where I went wrong. Adoption is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure- but it is absolutely worth it once it is completed.
Now that I can look back on things, there are some red flags that I wish we would have caught. As I said earlier, even though we have Alli Mae, we are still pretty green to this process. The "ins and outs" were not really clear for us. Now that we have officially seen something fall through, especially the way this one did, we now can pick out a few of the warning signs.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to ask the right questions. You may shy away from asking differernt ones because of different circumstances, but at the end of the day, you want to make the best decision you possibly can on the information that you are given.
Make sure you and your spouse write down a list of different personal questions that you feel will better help you understand what is going on.
Adoptions still fail even when the hard questions are asked. People love to hear the beautiful side to adoption. But there are definitely other dark and stormy sides to it as well.
It is a wonderful thing to experience. It is a much different story when your adoption fails and sadness takes the place of joy.
But please, if your adoption does end in a way you wish it hadn't- learn from it.
Walk away a smarter person and apply this to your next experience. Life is about learning and growing and seeing the beauty inside of the darkness.
Find the silver linings and go from there. Don't let a failed adoption dictate your future. I know it will not dictate ours. Alli Mae WILL HAVE a little brother or sister. We must take solace in knowing that everything happens for a reason and this adoption was not in our plan. I will hold on tight to those words and know that our plan is being written as we speak, I just don't know how the map will get us there, but I do know where the map will lead. We WILL bring our second child home, and I am looking forward to the day I can announce to the world.
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In the beginning, it was so hard for my husband and I to not get caught up in our new baby's milestones. It was so exciting when she would practically learn something new overnight! It was also a bit stressful to compare her growth with other babies around us. We learned early on that the speed of each child's growth is different. While we would be excited for different friend's babies, we would also look at our own child's growth and sometimes feel disheartened when she would lag behind a bit.
I would always have to justify the differences because our baby was born prematurely at 31 weeks rather than a full term pregnancy. Where some baby's develop regularly and their ehancements and achievements seem to happen faster, with a preemie baby there is an "adjustment " period. With us, we had an adjustment period of 2 months. This means that our baby would usually achieve her milestones about 2 months after a full term baby.
With Alli Mae being born at 31 weeks, we qualified for a program called "Early Steps". This is a WONDERFUL and FREE program (if you qualify) that helped us along the way in caring for our baby and also taught us how to do different activities that would help her along with achieving different milestones.
We first met our coordinator for "Early Steps" and they interviewed us and assesed our situation we had with our daughter and assigned us with a wonderful physical therapist that helped us so much in the beginning and most crucial time for our baby. Ms. Laura showed us different techniques to help Alli Mae's mind, eyes, hands, and tummy time development. She brought over different toys that would stimulate our baby's mind and also would teach us how to use them.
One toy in particular she brought was the jingle ball-
Although this may look like a cat toy, this isn't. It is specifically made to help a baby's grasping capabilities. The little ball inside has a bell that keeps the baby engaged while the outer ball has holes to allow the baby to grasp it with both hands.
This was the first step in teaching our baby to hold a bottle on her own.
Another milestone we had was when she could transfer the ball from one hand to another. That was an exciting day!
An activity mat was another useful item that we got to help during our physical therapy sessions. These pieces connect and were great for the next lesson we were taught.
"Tummy time" is also such an important activity that we had to learn to adjust to. It was very difficult to watch Alli Mae in distress. Although it was only for a minute and a half or 2, it is still difficult to watch. My immediate reaction was to pick her up, but we learned that she was not in pain, or in any harm, she was just uncomfortable. After being on her tummy for so long, she would learn to flip over. For us, this took up to the 2 month adjustment period. It seemed like it took forever to get to that point, but after she learned to flip over, each milestone became faster for her to achieve.
We learned so much from our physical therapist, Ms Laura. It was hard to say goodbye. She became a friend and I truly miss her sessions twice a month.
She helped Douglas and I grow our confidence while assuring us that we were going to be just fine. Although it was scrary for us at that time, she was absolutely right. We were just fine.
The world needs many more people like Ms. Laura.
That is for sure.
Remember that each baby develops at their own pace. Try your best to not gage their progress with other babies. That will just set you up for disappointment. Cherish the moments you have not reached yet. Your baby, although they may have not achieved an upcoming milestone quite yet, I know you are anxious for them to do so... just remember that once they DO reach that particular milestone they will NEVER be able to Not reach it again. Hold on tight to the milestones you have yet to make, because you will never be able to do that again.
Time goes by so fast. Make your milestones last
as long as they can.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram@nolapapa • Like us on Facebook/Nolapapa
A Crepe Masterpiece
For Valentine's day one of my most favorite things to make for my husband's dessert are delicious crepes. With so many different variations of sweet crepe recipes you can never go wrong! You can choose the light and sexy route with strawberries and cream or opt for a more decadent dish with chocolate.
I will go over step by step in how to create a fail proof and delicious strawberries and cream cheese stuffed crepe just in time for Valentine's day!
First things first:
3 medium size bowls
Kitchen Aid mixer or hand mixer
10" non stick pan
Rubber tipped spatula
1 package of strawberries
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 package of Philadelphia cream cheese
1/3 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon of confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (high quality)
1 cup of flour
1 cup of water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
nonstick cooking spray
Now I will complete each component of this dessert in the order each step should be prepared in.
Rinse and cut into small pieces.
Place in a bowl and top with 1 cup of granulated sugar
Stir with wooden spoon and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
The acid from the berries when mixed with sugar creates a syrup that is perfect for this dessert.
Cream cheese Mixture:
In your kitchen aid bowl add your cream cheese, confectioners sugar, sour cream, condensed milk and vanilla extract.
Cream together on medium/high speed until it is a creamy texture with no lumps. This step will take at least 15 minutes. Use your rubber tipped spatula to take any mixture off the sides of the bowl.
*if you leave the cream cheese out of the refrigerator for a while it will be easier and faster to get to a smooth texture.
In a bowl add your flour, salt, milk, eggs and water. Whisk together until your thin batter is nice and smooth. It should be a lot like pancake batter but much more thin and loose. It's almost the consistency of buttermilk or eggnog just a little thinner.
Once your batter is made, allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour for any bubbles to diminish
To make your crepes:
Spray your non stick pan
add 1/3 cup of batter to the pan and swirl around until the mixter fully coats the entire pan
Have your stove on med-high heat.
Once edges of the crepe start to curl upwards, use a non stick spatula to flip the crepe. ( I use my fingertips to grab the edges and flip, but be careful that you do not burn yourself.)
Allow to cook until brown spots start to form on both sides.
*usually your second or third crepe comes out better than the first
Your crepe batter should be enough to yield 6-8 medium crepes
Once your strawberries have developed a syrup and your cream cheese is smooth you are ready to proceed.
With the crepe laying flat on a plate, add a layer of the cream cheese frosting over the right side of the crepe.
Then, add a couple of spoonfuls of strawberries over the
cream cheese frosting.
Afterwards, carefully flip and roll the crepe over until it is layered with frosting and strawberries.
Drizzle with strawberry syrup and top with confectioners sugar
Making crepes are fun and easy! Your crepe batter can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. There are also different ways to
fold your crepe depending on how large the crepe is. For smaller and medium crepes rolling and flipping is the best route I have found. You can also stack, which is yummy too!
For larger crepes you can fold the tradintional triangle method which are what crepes are known for. But however you fold them, they all taste delicious! I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's day with your loved one. And if you're single, that just means you have more delicious crepes for yourself!
I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram@nolapapa
Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook/Nolapapa
Featured Photos Credit: BSAphotography
Photo Credit: BSA photography
Some people in the south usually do not get the gravity of being different unless they are actually different themselves or have been affected directly by someone's difference . Growing up in south Mississippi was really hard for me. People there don't empathize easily. It is a deep rooted and early learned mentality that is taught throughout life. Some children of these households are told that being different is weird, it usually "goes against their religion" and is looked down on.
It really doesn't matter what type of difference really- whether it is skin color, religion or sexual orientation.
Change comes very slowly in the south. For example, Just a couple of weeks ago, in a town an hour away from where I grew up, finally changed their town's holiday back to "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" from "All American's day" due to major backlash this year. It was renamed "All American's Day" in the mid 1980's.
For me, as a teenager, learning that I wasn't like all the other boys was particularly difficult. I was a late bloomer and a pretty small and shy boy. I didn't like sports and I kept to myself mostly. I was often bullied about my differences. There is only so much of that someone can take before they really start to question their purpose in life. I was called "gay" before I even knew what gay meant. Over time, it really hurt me and would often break me down. I'm sure all across this country- not just the south- people are bullied, teased, and hurt because they are "different." It took years to really get over that part of my life. In a way, I was traumatized. My heart breaks when I hear other stories of people being bullied about being different- about being gay. There is something that happens to someone's confidence when they grow up in an environment such as I did. Over time, as I grew up and as I moved away from Mississippi, I was able to put my childhood behind me. I was able to focus on the "here and now" and not dwell in my past. I feel that was the best thing I could have done as I started out in New Orleans on my own. I was able to move on, but I was not able to forget. As much as I wish I could and not be bothered by my past, sometimes it comes bubbleing back up. This really didn't happen until we had our beautiful baby, Alli Mae. She is the absolute light of our lives and I fall more in love with her ever single day.
I don't know what it is like being gay and having a child in New York or California... but in the south, it can be particularly difficult for me because of people's judgement of our lives.
I feel like I probably read in to things too much, or maybe I overthink things too often. It is hard for me to turn a blind eye to glares from onlookers. Just last year, Mississippi passed a freedom of religion law that allows any business to refuse service to customers that goes against their religion. Yes, in 2017, in my home state of Mississippi, my own family can be denied service because we are different from most people.
My little girls parents are gay, and because of that, we can be turned away. It breaks my heart.
Today however, I have to be a strong papa. I cannot let my angel see that I am hurting. The last thing I would EVER want to do is allow her to realize the pain that I am feeling because of the society around us.
Recently, Douglas helped ease my mind. In public, we get looked at, A LOT. It doesn't matter if we are in Olive Garden, or at Home Depot. It actually brings me back to my childhood and really makes me feel self conscious and I didn't like it. I would often feel defensive and self conscious about the glares until Douglas chimed in. "What if the people's glares were actually stares?" He asked.
"This may be the first time straight people have ever seen a gay family. This may be the first time they have ever seen a baby be as happy as ours with 2 dads. This may be the time that we proved to them that gay people can be just as good of parents as traditional ones, he continued. We are even better than some. Everytime we go out, people stare because they may have never seen this before. Rather than being self conscious about it, own it. Let it be a teaching experience for them. Don't read into their stares. Most likely they are staring with curiosity and not judgment" he said adamantly.
I think about those words everytime I am in public now. I never realized that some people down here may have never seen or interacted with a gay family. We are however in the south, and it isn't all that common with gay men. Lesbian families are a bit more prevalent. Living in this small suburb of New Orleans, we may very well be the only gay men family. So now, this actually excites me more now than scares me because I want them to see that we are like any other "traditional family". I just need to remember to stay confident.
One of my most favorite quotes really sums all of this up for me. Hellen Keller once said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
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Photo Credit: BSA Photography
For the first time in my life, I am able to breathe fresh air of change- A fresh breath of hope-A fresh breath of validity. I am able to call my partner my legal husband. I am able to create a family that is right in the eyes of our law- that is just like any other traditional family, simply because we are all Americans. Regardless of what side of the aisle you sit, denying someone else's right to the same privilege that someone else naturally has is unfair and is against the principles that our United States were founded on and that our country is about.
Though President Obama didn't change the law for the LGBTQ community, he is and always will be a trailblazer and ahead of his time when it comes to standing up for what is right.
While for some, including my own extended family are happy about the transition, I ask for discretion, restraint, and tact in this time of adjustment.
It sometimes is hard to say goodbye. Though some may not understand, I just hope they can empathize. We are saying goodbye to an era- to a movement. We are saying goodbye to Obama's revolution.
We must band together as the beautifully diverse country that we are and continue our march towards equality. We must lift up the ones who need a voice, and turn our heads from the ones that misuse it.
We are not saying goodbye to change, to hope, to equality. I refuse to back down now when so much is at stake.
It is, and always will be our ONE nation under God, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.
Thank you President Obama.
❤the Alexander's- New Orleans, La
My absolute favorite time of year for desserts is citrus season- particularly, Meyer lemon season!
I have had Meyer lemon trees for years now. I love to go outside and pluck the juiciest lemons to make a homemade dessert. There is nothing like it! Meyer lemons are a hybrid of lemons and oranges. A tart blend of sweet and sour!
There are so many different delicious desserts I make each winter.
Today, I'm going to share with you my
Meyer lemon meringue pie recipe.
This is a classic southern dessert that is certain to be a show stopper.
It will have your family begging for more.
You absolutely do not need Meyer lemons for this recipe, however I recommend them.
Now- lets begin!
The utinsils you will need are:
•Large mixing bowl
You will need an unsweetend pie shell, store bought is fine
For your pie crust-
put a sheet of parchment paper over your crust and fill your crust with pie weights. I have used uncooked, dry red beans for years now as my pie weights.
•Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes
For your pie filling-
•in a medium sauce pan combine ingredients- *plus a quarter cup of water*
(add egg yolks last- one at a time while stirring)
mix together with rubber spatula.
•on medium heat- melt a quarter cup of butter while stirring.
Once all ingredients are incorporated and you have a smooth mixture,
•put pie crust on cookie sheet- pour mixture into pie crust
•bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes- until the mixute is jiggly and not rippley.
For your meringue-
•in a kitchen aid mixing bowl, add your egg whites and beat on medium high speed, lightly adding sugar and cream of tarter.
•beat until very stiff peaks and irredentist in color
Once pie filling has baked, take out of oven and top with meringue.
•Using your rubber spatula- place spatula onto the meringue and move in an upward motion, making pointed meringue peaks.
•Once pointed peaks are made, place back in oven and bake at 350 degrees until the meringue is lightly browned.
•Let cool and then chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
This is my husbands absolute favorite dessert of all time. He grew up with his grandmother's lemon meringue pie and this brings him back to his childhood. I love to see his reaction when I take one out of the oven.
I surely hope your family enjoys yours as much as my family enjoys mine!
Please post a picture of your pie and #nolapapa
I would love to see your hardwork!
Also, follow my family's journey on
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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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So much information flood your mind when preparing to bring your new baby home. All the books you read, the advice you've been given and all the videos you watch simply cannot touch on everything you must know.
If you've already been thru this, you may agree... but if you are just starting out-
take a deep breath and have the comfort in knowing, we all Learn as We go.
It's hard to wrap my mind around where Douglas and I were mentally at this time last year. We brought Alli Mae home December of 2015 and our lives have been in hyperdrive ever since.
Our minds were bombarded with anxiety about knowing everything we needed before she came home... but as I look back, that is simply and quite humorously impossible.
Douglas is in medical school and he loves to read. We had that avenue covered. There are so many books about the first few months and books about parenting in general. Later on, I will list a couple that I feel really helped us.
If books were not enough, it seems like everybody has something to say about how "their babies were". They list off so many situations that they went thru and what they learned from. Each and every person that opens up to you about their experience are coming from a place of love. They want you to succeed. It may seem like a brain overload right now, but listen to each and every person. They all have an opinion about the way they raised their children. With that said, know that every baby is different. All the information you have been cramming for and all the stories and advice you have been told lead you up to this moment in bringing your baby home. All of the information you have learned in the past few months needs to have a filter.
Use your own personal judgement about when you actually use all of this knowledge.
I personally had a chain of command when it came to our decision making process. I first would talk with Douglas, my husband, and we would usually come up with an answer for our next step. Our pediatrician would be the next person we consulted with. After the doctor then we would talk to our parents. Sometimes the parents would or wouldn't agree with the pediatrician, but at the end of the day you are making the best choice you possibly can for your precious little one.
The books we read and stories we were told about did not touch on what we were about to learn.
Our daughter, Alli Mae was born premature at 30 weeks. She was so delicate and tiny and was born at 3.5 lbs. Although itty bitty, this baby girl could EAT. We quickly found out that we needed to really figure out our food intake schedule. She was on a 2 hour feeding routine.
We started out with the traditional glass bottles. Our formula was Similac NEOSURE for premature babies. We quickly found out that our sweet baby had digestion issues.
It was so hard and sad to see her in pain. It was almost unbearable to know our baby was hurting. We really needed to get to the bottom of what was causing her belly to hurt.
We quickly switched the bottles that we were using as we felt like she was taking in too much air. They were causing a lot of gas. So we chose to switch to Playtex "Vent Aire" bottles.
Tho, she did not have colic, she did have gas and a hard time digesting the high calorie formula that we had to give her. These bottles really helped. The nipples come in, slow, medium and fast flow. You are able to change them out as your baby grows.
We had to keep feeding her the NEOSURE formula because of her prematurity. So, although we had fixed the bottle problem, her tiny tummy was still having a hard time digesting this powerful formula.
A couple of remedies that we found helpful while we were using NEOSURE formula was different gas medicines.
If you just walk down the aisle in your pharmacy you may become overwhelmed at all of the choices.
We wanted something all natural and that really worked.
"Gripe water" really helped most days. It is also pretty cheap.
Gripe Water didn't help all the time, and in those situations we had to use gas drops.
We found that "Pediacare" gas relief drops knocked the pain out most of the time.
We didn't want to use these drops often because they are not all natural.
They are powerful and on days and nights where she was in a lot of pain, and Gripe water didn't help, these drops usually did and were effective almost immediately.
We were able to get a prescription from our pediatrician that was able to help with the rest of our time on this powerful formula. Baby "Zantac" is given twice daily before the bottles. It takes a few days for it to start working but we stayed on this medicine for about 3 months until her belly was strong enough to digest without it.
We found that pouring the medicine into the nipple of a bottle rather than putting the medicine dropper in her mouth served more effective.
Just remember that every baby is different. You will find this out if you have not already. Just know that parents, friends, and neighbors all have stories that they feel may help you. They are all coming from a place of love and want you to be the best parents you can be, and so do I. At the end of the day, use your own judgement that you feel is best for your baby.
As far as books, there really are so many different ones out there to help you learn.
A couple of our favorites are:
The Wonder Weeks
And What to expect in the first year.
I would love to know some of your tips that you used with your baby or maybe still do. Comment below and tell me!
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photo credit: www. BSAphotography.com
and on instagram @ BSAphotography