With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.
With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.
I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.
Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that’s ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.
We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!
These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially more lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do this for myself too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified that the direction we as Americans are taking and it is setting a precedent on what the future will be like for my family. For example, mass shootings that seem to happen monthly now with the lack of response by Congress to create solutions to them along with the bigotry and racism masked by patriotism that plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.
I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the “correct” time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.
May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!
Alli Mae (2) with her sister, Ella ( 5 months) at Alli Mae’s second birthday party.
Follow our family’s journey!
💪🏼🏳️🌈Coming out was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Being from south Mississippi made it even more difficult.
Years ago, after seeing so many kids take their lives because of bullying & being ridiculed for their differences, I felt like I needed to record what has helped me through the years.
It is my heart put onto index cards and my prayer is that one kid may see it & realize that it REALLY does get better- So much better!
When I recorded this video, I would have never believed I would have a lawful husband with 2 beautiful daughters, living the American dream I dreamt about so many years ago. Your dreams are attainable & each one is waiting for you.
Just don’t give up.
Surround yourself with people that will lift you up & not tear you down. Look for friends that will catch you when you fall, & when people are not there, find your passions that make you smile- find your hobbies that shape you into a better person. We all have them. The trick is tapping into that passion that grows inside of you, that transforms you into that confident and powerful person who is able to dust off his or her shoulders and march on, while becoming who you truly are- Living how you feel on the inside, outside for all to see.
And then, when you have found your place in this crazy world, remember to pay it forward.
One person can change the world...
and it all begins with a smile.
Ella rocking her Halloween costume
I would love for you to follow our family’s journey!
Feature photo credit: www.BSAPhotography.com
It feels like yesterday that my husband and I were concerned about our tiny preemie reaching her milestones. We were thrilled when one success turned into another- and before we knew it, our baby blossomed into a toddler!
Not only was she a toddler- but a picky one at that! I felt I should share a few of our tips with other parents that have yet to get to this wild and crazy time. If you are at this stage or have already been here, then you know exactly what I am talking about!
As much as Alli Mae loved her bottle, and as loud as we heard her scream at first, we started to wean her off the bottle at 11 months. It was pretty tricky to find the right sippy cup she could understand. She seemed to just bite down on the mouth pieces. After exploring different brands and styles of cups, we found the perfect one!
They are found at Wal-Mart and Target and run just about $5 each. They are completely worth every penny. They are super easy to handle and to make them even better- They do not spill!
The Philips/Avent Penguin Sippy Cup
Just as she was getting used to the 'Penguins', it was time to change cups again. Just like a pacifier, if you allow a sippy cup to go on for too long, it is a very tough habit to break.
We used these cups until around 13 months and then started our search for big girl cups. This proved to be even trickier! We scouted around trying to find the right cup until we were told by a friend about this miracle worker- Literally!
This cup is very easy to handle and to understand for a toddler. The mouth piece is the outer edge of the cup. The rubber top allows them to bite down to allow milk or other liquids to pass through. As soon as they stop biting the edge, it stops the flow of liquid. It is super easy to clean and it helps so much with transitioning them from a sippy cup to a big kid cup. Like the 'Penguin cups', they also do not spill when turned upside down. The Miracle 360 cups are also easy to find. All the 'big box' stores like Wal-Mart and Target have them and they also run about 5 bucks a piece.
I am still a bit hesitant to transition into a regular cup because of the mess that follows. So, needless to say, we still drink with these today. 😃
Now, when it comes to eating, every kid is different. You can never really know how well they will transition into regular fruits and veggies from baby food... especially if they are picky.
When it comes to changing it up from baby foods to solids, one of the best things we did was to be adventurous and persistent when it came to the choices we made.
At first, the only veggies we found that she would eat was English peas. And literally- that was it.
So we started making this really yummy meal that she loves. We call them 'Baby Cakes'. They have almost every vegetable under the sun along with a little bit of cheese for calcium. We make a ton and then freeze them for an easy solution when our little one disagrees with our choice for dinner. They look like a pancake but are much more nutritious and power packed with all the goodness from the garden!
We have found that schedules and routines are awesome. We live by them- and when we don't, we totally regret it. It starts in the morning and goes all the way to bedtime. I know I have always loved structure but when you add a toddler to the mix- it is crucial. Each household has a different schedule and routine, so I won't go thru everything we do specifically because what works for us necessarily won't work for you. I will say that each day is divided into different activities to keep Alli Mae's young mind focused and excited about the next thing on our list.
Just to give you an idea- this is our usual day without specifics:
Playtime, breakfast, then we watch Elmo.
playtime, lunch and then nap time.
*Naps are so important! *
Dinner, bathtime, milk
Teeth brushing, story time
*storytime is also so important!*
I highly recommend this book for storytime!
We really needed to begin teaching gentleness at an early age because of our pet dog, Prince. As our daughter got older, the more aggressive she became with him. He started to get scared just by the sight of her.
We started using baby dolls to show her how to treat others.
By slowly stroking the dolls head while saying "gentle" seemed to help her understand. The longer we continued with this, the more gentle she became.
This all really came in very useful once we brought home our second daughter. By that time, Alli Mae was almost a year and a half and she really understood how to be gentle... for the most part.
5. Social Exposure
As hard as it was for me in the beginning, we really needed Alli Mae exposed to other children while also being away from both myself and Douglas. The more we read, the more we felt that by teaching her how to play well with other children at an early age without daddy or papa there would really strengthen her developmental capabilities. I think it was harder on me than it was for her.
Again, please remember that each child is different.
If your little one cries after about two weeks of going to daycare, then that may not be the avenue to take. We only go about 4 hours each day, twice a week. Once a week is not often enough for a child's mind to remember- and more than two days a week was more than papa could handle. We had to find the middle ground.
Photo credit: www.bsaphotography.com
Having a toddler is the most fun I have ever had in my life.
Each and every day is filled with laughter and excitement-usually.
Always being there to make everything better for her makes my day complete, but each day that passes, she seems to get smarter and more independent- so this 'picky toddler stage'
I cherish- because soon, she will want to do everything herself, and papa will be there eager and ready to jump in whenever she needs me.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey!
As we look back on Gay Pride 2017, let us take notice at just how far we have come in just a matter of a few years. As our LGBTQ family united this past month, we saw an unprecedented amount of support from several multi national corporations taking a stand to help break the stigma of what it means to be gay.
We saw a record amount of gay families attending Pride parades and festivals this year also helping to diminish the polarizing view of what a traditional family looks like.
Back in 2001, in a Pew Research polling station, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% - 35% .
Today, the support for same-sex marriage is at it's all time highest point since Pew Research Center has been polling this topic. In 2017- the majority of 62% of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage while 32% are not.
There is so much to be proud about in our community! Our LGBTQ family is growing by leaps and bounds and it is incredibly important to remain optimistic about our future. It is also so very important to not give the voices on the wrong side of history a reason to spew anymore negativity about who we are. We mustn't fight bigotry with hatred. As hurtful as some of the words we hear are, especially as we hear them more regularly, we must fight their ignorance with compassion and
we must be steadfast in our desire to be accepted together as one nation. After all, this is what makes our country so beautiful. America is the home of so many wonderfully diverse groups of people. That is what makes her uniquely different from all the other countries in the world. It is so important to focus on the positive steps being made and not obsess on the defiance of a small few.
The LGBTQ family is united by our common bond of sexual orientation and identity. The beauty of our community shouldn't be plagued by the misrepresentation of what each of us individually embody- rather, what we all stand for together as a whole. We are the brothers and sisters of the rainbow, united as one group, one family, one race with one common desire. Equality.
Baby Ella's Welcome Party in June
I want to end my piece with a couple of powerful quotes from a true trailblazer. He helped lead the way to our inclusion to this society and we should forever be greatful.
Harvey Milk once said,
It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression."
I will close with this quote from Mr. Milk:
"I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you...And you...And you...Gotta give em hope."
I would love for you to come along on our journey!