Our crazy house is in full fledge toddler mode. To make it even more hectic, Alli Mae’s little sister is now right on her heels as well. Little Ella is almost a year and a half and Alli Mae will be 3 in November. This is a rambunctious house to say the least. We have recently started the “Potty Chronicles” and that alone is a beast to be reckoned with. Adding to it, the pickiness of what they want to eat to the equation can make anyone go crosseyed.
For this reason alone, I have decided to have a few experiments to find what my oldest will eat in her lunchbox. Since school is back in session, I figured this was the perfect time to have them.
It’s all fun and games until she gets something at lunch or dinner time that she doesn’t like. And it is crazy! Sometimes, she likes something she ate 2 weeks ago, and now she turns her nose up at it. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s annoying. But, I just have keep my wheels turning to try to make it fresh and fun.
To hopefully help, I do have a couple of tips that may make this easier to achieve.
Rotate the selections:
I found that she would get tired of eating the same old food everyday. And who could blame her? I know I would too! My solution was to rotate the items bi-weekly in her lunchbox *usually* keeps her eager to eat the contents.
When I first started out packing the lunches, I found that hotdogs were a winner! So, why change it, right? That is what she had- week in and week out. Then I started reading about how bad hotdogs were. They are freaking gross! So, I wanted to send her to school with a tasty lunch while keeping a clear conscience.
Replicate dishes into a healthier option:
We absolutely love Costco, especially when it comes to buying healthier food. Their personal brand lable ‘Kirkland Signature’ provides exceptional quality ingredients while remaining affordable. Their products make it much easier for me to pack lunches when I have good and healthy options to choose from.
Now... lets get started!
For this experiment you will need:
1 spaghetti squash cut in half and sprinkled with olive oil
1/2 cup of red gravy
1/4 cup of mozzarella
After being scared away from the unhealthiness of some of the things I was packing in her lunchbox, I decided to flip the script! Why don’t I make it healthy? Alli Mae loves spaghetti. So instead of packing Chef Boyardee products, I thought I would recreate it by adding a spin of healthy ingredients to the dish.
So, I came up with “Spaghetti Squared”.
I baked a spaghetti squash inside facing down on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minuets or until soft. I then scooped out the inside. Then, I topped it with a homemade red tomato gravy and sprinkled it with some parmesan cheese. I thought it was really good! I felt like she’d really enjoy this new option. I was so excited to send her to school with it!
I was eagerly anticipating the results when she got home from school. As I peaked inside her lunchbox, I quickly saw the verdict was in...
Dang! She barely even touched it! Ugh. 🤦🏼♂️ Well, Next time, I will forgo the squash and add regular spaghetti noodles. Surely that will do the trick.
Okay, after the first failure, I needed to win her over on the next attempt. She loves pizza. So, why don’t I try to recreate a healthier option. Using the same red tomato gravy I had already made, I was able to use it again for my next experiment.
I toasted the top and bottoms of an English muffin with a small amount of butter. Then, spred a small amount of warm tomato gravy ontop and then sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and broiled it for about a minute and a half- or until the cheese gets bubbly.
For this experiment you will need:
1 English muffin split in half with small amount of butter
1 tablespoon of tomato gravy
2 tablespoons of mozzarella
Originally, when I came up with the idea, it was just 2 small pizzas, but she put the 2 together and made a sandwich. Her eyes brightened up and she got the biggest smile! She loved it!
When preparing them, I have found that the best way to keep the sandwich crispy is by making them the morning of school, then packing them in a plastic container after they’ve cooled. If you have time restraints and are unable to make them the morning of, you can premake them the night before and keep them in the refrigerator. Just have their teacher microwave them until they are warm- they just may not be as crispy.
* I have found that freezing them is NOT a good solution when packing for school. They tend to get soggy when microwaved and are not at all what they tasted like before. However, if the kids are home, you can prepare them in an oven when they’re frozen and the sandwiches are perfect!
For this meal, you will need:
a cup of white long grained rice
Carrots, and English peas
1 can of high quality chicken breast
(preferably Kirkland’s Signature)
Once the rice is made, season with a small amount of butter, salt and pepper. Add carrots, peas and chicken. Stir all ingredients until they are all incorporated well. Let cool.
In a plastic container fill it with 1/3 cup of chicken and rice. There are not many foods both my girls will eat and they absolutely love this!
You can also change it up by using organic Mac and cheese in lieu of rice! They will love it!
There are so many options you can choose to put in your kid’s lunchbox. Some they will love, and some they will hate- even when you want them to love what you made so badly. And when they spit it out, just dust your shoulders off and come up with a better idea. You got it! And maybe these can help.
If they do, or if they don’t- let me know about it! I would love to hear your feedback.
What do you pack in your kid’s lunches? What are their favorites?
Be on the lookout for the next edition of my
Follow our family’s journey!
I am sure that, at some point, everyone has looked back at their past and wished they could change a few things that they are not proud of. From time to time I feel like that, too. As I have written before, I moved to New Orleans when I was a kid- just out of high school. Owning this newfound life was incredibly liberating, but it did not come without consequences.
I was definitely not popular in my south Mississippi high school. I was in the school choir. And I loved (and I mean LOVED) *NSYNC. I thought it was so cool that one of *NSYNC's members, Lance Bass, was from south Mississippi. We even shared the same last name, as my surname before I married Douglas was Bass. Imagine my jubilation when my father told me that we were related to them! That just fueled my love and admiration for Lance and the music group. This might sound ridiculous, but something clicked and I wanted to be just like them. Around the same time, I fell in love with a show called Real World- New Orleans and with Danny Roberts, one of its stars. Honestly, I have to give Danny Roberts all the credit for helping me find myself and having the courage to become who I wanted to be.
I wanted to leave the small-minded Mississippi town behind and start my own journey to stardom. So, I did what any other closeted, starry eyed boy with big dreams would do--I moved away. Some dreamers move to L.A. and some to New York. I moved to New Orleans. Sure, it’s not really the scene for pop music. HOWEVER, the gay scene is ON POINT. *lip smack*
I remember the anxiety I had walking down Bourbon Street when I first arrived from Mississippi. I also remember how the apprehension melted away as I walked into Oz, New Orleans' premiere gay nightclub, for the first time. This was my opportunity to recreate my own identity! My new self. So when I walked inside Oz, the shy and intimidated Erik faded away, and Maxx was born.
Me & Tommy Elias, Oz's former owner and general manager.
As time went on, my confidence grew. I had never had so many friends! And they were all so interesting! For the first time, I felt popular and accepted for who I truly was. About 6 months after moving to New Orleans, I landed a job at Oz as a daiquiri bartender. I quickly took to one of the club's owners, Tommy Elias. Tommy was also from south Mississippi--just a few minutes from where I was from. He had been in a band for decades and loved to perform. His voice was electric and and his smile lit up the room. I immediately respected him and wanted to learn everything I could about the music business. Over the years, he and I become close friends. I called him my ‘gay dad’ because I didn’t have a relationship with my own dad. A couple of years later, Tommy gave me my own weekly Tuesday night show- a dance and variety show called
"The Maxx Doubt Experiment," my quest to find New Orleans’ best hip-hop dancer. This was my first taste of fame. Well, small town fame, but fame nonetheless.
On Monday nights there was a talent contest called ‘The Gong Show’ hosted by none other than Bianca Del Rio. It was huge! The dance floor was transformed into a sea of candle lit tables complete with linens that were all reserved for the who’s who of gay nightlife.
Bianca and I co-hosting The Ozzie Awards,
an Academy Award Party.
I only did drag a handful of times, but I was lucky enough to have Bianca make me over each time. Unlike her onstage persona, she was so sweet and compassionate offstage. And she ALWAYS had the best advice. I was a kid, facing problems of my own and she always had the right words to say.
“Grin and bear it,” she’d say, “until you can’t.“
She had such a star quality to her back then too. When she walked in the room, everyone knew it. You could tell she was nearby by the scent of Dolce & Gabbana perfume whisking through the air. She had a way of making offensive jokes funny but not hurtful. Well, usually not too hurtful... sometimes tourists would get mouthy and that would just add fuel to her fire. God, it was hilarious. She had nicknames for the regulars that would come to watch her shows... a sweet middle aged lady named "Honey Bee," a pretentious ogre looking man called "Quasimodo," and then there was me, "Maxxi." To this day, some people still call me that. As I look back, I am so thankful that she allowed me to come into her world and get a glimpse of what her life was like. Now she’s a superstar and I am so honored to know her and call her my friend.
Taking a quick selfie recently when I was the general manager of a gay owned and operated restaurant called, Eat New Orleans
She may be hateful on stage, but trust me- she is the sweetest person in the world you’ll ever meet. Love you, Roy!
The longer I submerged myself in the nightly gay scene, the further I distanced myself from my morals. You see, people go to the French Quarter to party and act out. As such, the majority of my social exposure was comprised of people who were actively partying 24/7. As time sped by, alcohol and drugs began to take control of my life, and I slowly turned into a person I did not want to be. I became cocky, entitled, and reckless.
I was due for a fall from grace, and this particular fall would be one of the hardest and most important lessons that I have ever learned. I found out who my true friends were. I also had to learn to be at peace with letting the fake and spiteful ones go. People make mistakes in life, especially when you’re just a ‘punk kid’. Tommy would call me that when I wore my hat backwards.
True friends allow you the leeway to learn and grow without judgement. Fake ones will watch you fall and talk about you as you do. In the end, I became more judicious regarding who I allowed in my inner circle.
So I left Oz and got a new job across the street at another gay club called The Bourbon Pub. I was able to shake a good bit of the social toxicity from my life and gain control of what was important. At the time, I was still brokenhearted from my little brother’s untimely death. It was a rainy day and I felt depressed, alone, and hopeless. I was approached by my friend Aunt Vickie Vines who saw my sadness. "What’s wrong with you Maxxie?” he asked. I told him I was lonely and I didn’t want to be sad anymore. To which he replied, “I can fix that. Just give me some of your hair.” So, he snipped off a lock of my hair, folded it up in a bandanna, and put it into his pocket. Then he said, "In two weeks, you will meet the love of your life. And when you do, you will know it from your head to your feet." But then came a warning, "But you must be a good person and do the right thing or you will be cursed 3x over." I asked what he was doing with my hair. "Just some New Orleans voodoo, baby." He winked and walked away.
It was almost two weeks to the day when I was working my night shift at the Bourbon Pub. I stepped into the back to grab a clip board and that’s when our eyes met. He sat at a desk filling out a new hire work form. It was like time stopped. It was like the beating of the bass from the music on the dance floor silenced, and all I could hear was my own heartbeat. I still remember what the room smelled like, I even remember what we were wearing. I couldn’t look away, as if I was frozen. I knew I was in the very moment I had prayed for. This was him. I knew it, and felt it, from my head to my feet. Aunt Vicky Vines said I would, and indeed I did. My knight had come on the night that I needed him. This was Douglas, my future husband.
One of the first pictures of Douglas and I back in 2006
Douglas and I became inseparable. He had just moved to town from Arizona and was staying at a local hostel. All I could think of was the horror movie ‘Hostel.” He had to get out of there! And that’s exactly what he did (he came to stay with me!). As much as I hate to admit, I began partying just as much if not more than I did when I worked at Oz. The only difference is I had a boyfriend. Spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises. Once the sun came up, we would dart out of the bar and cover ourselves like an Ann Rice character from ‘Interview with the Vampire.' We would run to his old Volvo wagon and quickly drive out of the French Quarter.
He was so spontaneous and I loved that. Some mornings we’d walk to Audubon Park and climb trees. My favorite mornings were spent on the levee of the Mississippi river flying kites. Afterwards, he’d take me down to the railroad tracks by the riverbend and smash coins under the train wheels. After the train would pass he would pull out ‘The Little Prince’, one his personal favorite books. Douglas read, “There may be millions of roses in the world, but your my only one, unique rose.” As he continued, all I could do was melt into the grass. As he looked down reading, I couldn’t help but cry a little. I knew even more in this moment that this was the boy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
I wish it ended there with a happy ending, but we still had some major growing pains to endure. To say that the partying intensified was an understatement. Aunt Vicky told me if I didn’t do the right thing, the spell would curse me 3 times over. As wild as this sounds, she was right. Both of us acted so irresponsibly. I was so careless and it all finally caught up with me. I didn’t drink and drive, but that didn’t excuse the other things I did. As a result, I was arrested 3 times in a 3 week period by getting pulled over. The last arrest was the day before Good Friday and I was in jail for close to 4 nights.
Once I got out, I made sure to clean up my act. I knew that Aunt Vicky Vines meant business, so my turnaround was pretty easy. I was okay, and now it was Douglas' turn. With a newly cleared head, I was able to see the danger he was in. Ultimately, Douglas got clean, too. And not only did he get clean, but he also decided that he wanted to pursue a career that would allow him to help people who have a history of substance abuse. He went to college and also started a fundraiser to bring scientific instruments to local classrooms across New Orleans by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. At first, all of the local universities rejected his application. The community college accepted him, but pressured him to enroll in an air-conditioner repair program, saying that medical school was too loft of a goal for someone like him. He pushed forward anyway, and ended up getting a full scholarship to Loyola University, afterwhich he graduated from LSU New Orleans School of Medicine. He asked me to marry him and on August 1st we will celebrate our 12th year together and our 3rd wedding anniversary. We now have two beautiful girls that own our hearts. He is now a doctor and is starting a 4 year residency program in psychiatry which will allow him to practice a mind-and-body approach to substance abuse.
I write all of this to say that--in spite of your past--if you dream it, you can be it. Your past does not dictate your future. If there is something you want in life, go for it! If you are anything like me and have the desire and ambition to become a father, you can. And you can do this no matter what people say, no matter if you aren’t completely proud of your past, no matter what your sexual orientation.
Just always remember to be a good person, to be honest, and to do the right thing. If you do these things, you will undoubtedly see wonderful opportunities coming your way. And just remember what an old friend used to tell me... “Just grin and bear it...“
This piece is dedicated to my ‘gay-dad’,
You were a light of hope to so many people.
You are and always will be an inspiration to me.
I love you, and you’ll be forever in my dreams.
Rest in Peace
I would love for you to follow our journey!
Since Father’s Day is right around the corner and Pride month has just officially kicked off, I thought it would be appropriate to write about how my personal pride evolved since I became a father.
I came out soon after graduating from high school. I would frequently travel back and forth between my home in Mississippi and New Orleans, allowing myself to finally experience what it was like to be able to be my true self. At the same time, I was horrified at the possibility of someone from my hometown seeing me partying in the gay clubs on Bourbon Street. After being submerged in religion and scrambling to keep up appearances my whole life, I feared that I would be alienated by my friends and cut off from my family if they found out. I saw that New Orleans had a gay pride parade but I made sure to stay so far away from it. In a way, I had no pride at all at that point in my life. I knew the life that I wanted to live, but I also knew the life that I had always lived and how it was in jeopardy of being taken away from me.
How could I be proud of that?
I have to admit, I built up resentment to the celebration of gay pride. I grew angry at the people taking part in the festivities. Looking back on my feelings today, I wasn’t angry at the people in general, I was angry in the way I saw a lot of them acting.
I saw straight families with children, grandparents, and people that had never even seen anything that had to do with gay culture and all of a sudden they were thrusted into being a spectator at a gay pride parade witnessing men dressed only in leather chaps riding down the street acting anything but respectful. Sure, glitter, boas and drag describe a lot of our community, but I felt conflicted because I had difficulty relating to it myself. I always felt like I existed in the interdimensional space between gay culture and mainstream society. And even the parts that I did want to take part in I would usually avoid because I was afraid someone from back home would see me and my cover would be blown. And indeed, it was. Someone saw me and word spread quickly. Being outed against one's will can be a painful experience. My relationship with my family became severely strained. I lost several friends, and many of the ones who stuck by me seemed to treat me differently.
One of our first pictures together back in 2006
Over the years, I did become stronger. I developed a mentality that if a person didn't accept me for who I was, then they weren't a true friend. Living in New Orleans helped my thinking evolve. I no longer had to dwell on the judgmental views of my hometown. I needed to live for today and make it everything that I wanted.
After living in New Orleans for about 5 years, I met the love of my life. This August, Douglas and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. The details in between then and now will be a whole new upcoming blog piece for our anniversary, so I won’t get into specifics. I will say, we have grown so much in 12 years. I know I have become the person I have always wanted to be, and I know that it absolutely would not have happened without meeting Douglas.
With the exception of being Douglas’ husband, being a dad completes my life. The pure overload of joy that my girls give me on a daily basis fills my heart with love, patience and PRIDE. Today, I have an overwhelming desire to climb the gayest mountain I can find and scream as loud as I possibly can at the top of my lungs that “ I AM A GAY DAD! WE ARE GAY PARENTS! AND OUR KIDS LOVE US!” In fact, I have so much pride that we have decided to march in this year’s NOLA Gay Pride Parade! Now, I can do what I wanted to do 20 years ago. I can march with my husband and two daughters and show everyone watching that we are just like them, except we are two dads. Two husbands. Two best friends that love each other unconditionally especially our children.
Today I understand that Gay Pride means something different to everyone. That's one of the things that makes gay culture so interesting and exciting. We are such an enormously diverse, creative, and determined subset of society. I may not be wearing drag or glitter to Pride this year, but I'll definitely have two things in common with all the other participants: pride in who I am, and a desire to be loved and accepted for who I am.
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
My mom with both of our daughters
Ya know, as life marches forward and the older I get, the more I understand and appreciate the dedication and resilience of my own mother. As long as I can remember, Mother’s Day has been special in our home. The unwavering commitment and tireless devotion that lady has shown for her family is selfless and humbling. The hardships she has seen in her life have helped shape her character and transform her into an even more compassionate and benevolent person.
It's a given that each Mother’s Day warrants that sweet card or special dinner to show how much we are thankful for her. However, my appreciation for her was made even more evident after our children were born. This magnified the diligence and perseverance of my mother, as well as other traits that it takes to be a good and loving parent. My gratitude grows and my admiration swells with each passing day. My mother was the glue that kept our family together. I have learned so much from her, and I apply this knowledge in my everyday life. It is difficult to articulate all of my feelings.
Mama, just know that I love you more every single day.
My husband (left), my mom & me at Jazz Fest
On such a day as Mother’s Day, it’s not just my mom that I am grateful for. My appreciation and respect goes out to ALL of the mothers. The BIRTHmothers, the SURROGATE mothers, the FOSTER mothers, the STEP-mothers, the EXPECTANT mothers, the HOPEFUL mothers, the SINGLE mothers, and the MARRIED mothers. You all are the dream makers and hope givers. The life changers and the tribe builders. You are the selfless heroines that bring the sparkle of new life to families everywhere. You are the beacons of hope that illuminates the darkness with light shining brighter than a million candles. On a more personal note, as a gay father I am able to have my family because of you. Our two beautiful and energetic girls have brought new life and happiness into our hearts, home and lives.
Ella and papa
To the birthmothers of our daughters as well as all birthmothers, we can only begin to imagine the difficult thought process behind making that incredibly hard decision. Adoption is the most altruistic and selfless choice any woman could make. We are grateful to you every day of our lives, and although you do not see them often please know, we see your faces as we look into our daughters eyes. And as they get older, we can see it even more in their smiles. The independent and strong willed nature of both our girls is an undeniable attribute that was obviously passed down from you.
We want you to know that we strive to be better daddies every single day. We love these girls more with every minute that passes. We are eternally grateful to you for the rest of our lives. Thank you for choosing us. And thank you for allowing us to be the fathers we have always prayed to be.
With all our love on this Mothers Day,
Erik & Douglas Alexander
Douglas, Erik, Alli Mae & Ella on a family boat trip
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
It’s hard to believe that we are already embarking on the appropriate time to have the “talks” with our oldest child, Alli Mae. It seems like yesterday that I was writing about our tiny little preemie. That itty bitty, 3.5 lb baby has quickly blossomed into a beautiful little girl. I am sure every household has a different opinion of when the “talks” should happen. In a heterosexual home, the “talk” usually means the birds and the bees, and takes place much later in life. However, for homosexual parents there are multiple talks. Sure, the birds and the bees are one of them and quite frankly probably the easiest of them all to have. The “talks” I am referring to are about adoption and having two dads.
It’s not like I have been dreading these conversations, it’s more like... finding the right words to have these conversations. I want to be able to answer her questions. I want her to be able to understand, but most importantly, I want her to be happy to feel secure in our love for her. I want her to be proud of her home and of her daddies.
I am a fear based person. I always have been. The glass is half empty and I am always braced for the worst. And, if by chance I am wrong and the glass turns out to be half full, then that makes my day! Douglas, however, just glides along gently like a balloon on a string. He lets things just roll off his shoulders like a bead of water on a windshield. It’s not that he is fearless, he's just not concentrating on it. And when things do happen, he hits it head on and then turns the corner. Me? I face it head on, and the face it for the next 2 miles because that’s all I can think about.
I am always the one to overthink things. I replay events in my head that haven’t even happened yet and a lot of times, I freak my own self out! What if she resents us? What if she wants a mommy? It’s almost humorous how deeply I go into things until my husband snaps me out of it. I know we are great parents! I know that we are resilient and we can navigate through anything that comes our way. In a lot of ways Douglas helps me become a better person. Sometimes he doesn’t even know it. I watch him, and try to apply his confidence into my own life.
The “talk” conversation came about last week when Alli Mae was talking about a mommy at school. Douglas asked her if she had a mommy. She smiled and laughed and said, "No daddy. I have a daddy and a papa." Can I just say how adorable that is?!? She is 2! Actually, she’s 2 and a half. We figured if she can say that, then maybe it is time to break the ice and talk to her about how all families are different. Some families have a mommy and a daddy. Some families have 2 mommies and others have 2 daddies. Some families just have one mommy or one daddy. Our family has one daddy and one papa. There may be lots of different kinds of families but they still love their babies all the same.
We feel like the ‘talks’ should happen multiple times as she grows rather than just one time. We want her to feel natural about it and understand as she gradually gets older instead of her turning 6 and dropping a huge bombshell of information on her. Also, 'talks' don't have to be formal sit-downs where we make a big deal about it, rather, they can be as simple as reading a bedtime story. In fact, the books we read to her really help to open the door to these deep discussions. We were given the book And Tango Makes Three by some dear friends that also happen to be a gay family.
We have found that this book is unique because it really helps to initiate the conversation of having same sex parents while also tackling the subject of adoption as experienced by a penguin family. We literally cried the first time we read this book. It is also a true story!
A few more books that we have found to be helpful in triggering conversations about adoption are:
This book is nice because rather than using actual families as examples, this story uses flowers and seeds to convey a beautiful message. This book is the most abstract out of the ones we have.
Written by Jamie Lee Curtis, this book is very cute, however it is geared around a mom and a dad adopting a baby. Some same sex parents may feel uneasy reading this because of the family being about a mother and father. With that said, we feel like in our home that censoring this would be doing an injustice to the growth of our children. Sure, at first it seems a bit awkward as we read stories about the traditional mom and dad, but over time, it helps create dialogue and introduce opportunities to have deep conversations with our little ones that may help them understand a little more about the differences that make each and every family. As its title implies, this book directly addresses the concept of adoption.
Alli Mae with daddy and papa
Even though the number of ‘talks’ we will have with our children might be more than some, the love we have for each other and all the support we have from our incredible families will enlighten our children and help them to become more accepting and well rounded adults. Instead of being fearful of these conversations, I am actually excited to have them now because I know that we have the compassion, patience, and love to help them understand that no matter what kind of family we have- they are loved with our whole hearts.
I would love for you to follow our family’s journey!
Everyone has their own story. Every single sentence of each and every paragraph creates our life chapters that collectively make us who we are. All the good, the bad, and the ugly events in our lives shape our character and mold us into who we are. As we learn from our mistakes and grow into our ever-evolving true selves, each story from our life sits there on the edge of our mind reminding us of how we got here.
The earliest memories I have are pivotal moments that pushed me into a certain trajectory. Most of these early childhood experiences involved my father. As much as I wished to forget him, sometimes random memories float up like air bubbles in a soda can and sit there in my head just waiting to be revisited.
Distinctive sounds and noises can trigger memories and quickly warp me back in time. For example, when I hear the sound of a vintage telephone fall to the ground I'm suddenly a 3 year old boy holding a wooden pirate sword in my living room watching my mom and dad argue in the hall. The fighting escalates and things get violent. It quickly turns into more than an argument when he grabs her by her neck and slams her head into the wall. On that wall hung a vintage telephone. Ill never, EVER forget the sound the telephone made when my moms head slammed beside it. The years of physical abuse toward my mom lasted another 4 years until thier divorce, but the psychological damages will last us a lifetime.
Coming from a tiny country town in south Mississippi, one quickly sees that some things don’t usually change. Progressive movements in our country’s society don’t really adapt in tiny southern towns. When they finally seem like they have, it has taken decades and it’s doesn’t completely change. There are a couple of stigmata that have not seemed to disappear will and hopefully one day evolve. One of them being homophobia. Many families disown their children because of their extreme views, and it breaks my heart.
I had always heard about my father’s older brother, Thomas, but unfortunately I don’t remember him. Today, I look up to him for multiple reasons. The way he could just leave this small minded town behind and become who he truly was will always be inspirational to me. My mom told me that she took me to visit him a few times before he moved to Los Angeles. All I remember is my dad calling him a "faggot" and a "queer." He refused to let my uncle Thomas see me. When I was 8, my father said he needed to go see his brother in California because he's dying of "cancer." In fact, my uncle was dying of AIDS-related complications during the pandemic in 1989. My father was always so hateful to him throughout his life, but he was there when my uncle Thomas took his last breath. Sadly, his purpose for being there wasn’t because of his death. It was because he didn’t want my uncle’s lover to have any of his belongings. After he died, my father loaded up Uncle Thomas’ life and stole it away from his lover.
Even though my precious uncle left this life like he did, I hope and pray that he looks down on me and knows how much I love him. I hope he sees my happiness and the family I have been able to create. I wish with all of my heart he was here to play with my little girls. He is, and always will be, my role model.
My Uncle Thomas back in 1986.
The other stigma that still plagues small rural communities is racism. It exists in large urban areas too, of course, but I was raised in the country so that's all I can speak on. In fact, Biloxi, MS, officially recognized Martin Luther King Day for the first time this year. I left rural Mississippi many years ago, and I pray that strides have been made to improve race relations there. That being said, I will never be able to forget the words my father told me and my brother when we were 8 and 3 years old. It was a hot summer day and we were about to go swimming in a creek when we drove up to a small house at the end of the dirt road. The little house was owned by a very sweet African American family that were supposedly friends of his. Before my father got out of the truck, he talked about what good people they were. He then went on to explain that they were good because they shared our last name. “We owned them during the slave times," he said. "Whenever you meet a black man with the same last name as you, always remember, we owned them.“ He was so matter of fact about it. Words like that never leave you.
As we grew older my father and I became more distant. My brother on the other hand admired him and wanted to be just like him. It got to the point where I didn’t want to visit him anymore. My father would call me "sissy" and "mama’s boy" for not coming, and I have to admit- it hurt. A lot. I may have been a “mama’s boy” but I remember thinking,”I'm not a sissy.”
My brother, however, kept going. I believe that my father’s influence messed up my brother. Shane would lash out, get into trouble, and be disrespectful towards family. When my mom would discipline him, Shane would just go to my father to get what he wanted. It got to the point that all the work my mom was doing raising him was getting undone by my father on the weekends. As Shane got into his teenage years he began drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot. At 15, he started getting into trouble with the police. At 16 he started taking pills. I have a vivid memory of driving down the road with him in my backseat. I was looking at him in the rearview mirror and talking to him about his alcohol and drug use. He was a small kid, 95 lbs soaking wet. I told him to leave the pills alone because he was too small to handle them, especially when he drank.
He told me he would, and we left it at that.
Shane died of an overdose of liquid methadone on July 29, 2004. He was 17 years old. The story I was told by my father's family and the police was that Shane had found my father's "medicine" in the back of my father's truck and stole it. The last memory I have of my father is of him in a psychiatric hospital a couple of days after my brother passed. I could see him through the window as I walked down the hallway to visit him. He was crying and his hands were covering his face. He was wearing a white jumpsuit and sitting in a chair quickly rocking back and forth. I had never seen him like that. I sat down in a chair beside him but he barely seemed to notice me.. He kept rocking back and forth and repeatedly saying, “I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands. I put it in his hands.” I didn’t know what to say or do. I was frozen in shock. How could he have given his own teenage son a lethal dose of narcotics? My heart was beating out of my chest as I silently got up and left. That was the last time I ever saw my father.
My little brother, Shane and I back in 1987
I know this piece has been heavy. My hope for anyone reading this is to have faith in what tomorrow may bring. Take any hardships you may have been dealt and learn from them, as difficult as they may be. Remember them. And apply them. Let them motivate you to grow, both mentally and spiritually. It may be too hard to do today, and it may still be tomorrow, but when enough time has passed, hold your head up and dust yourself off. Rise up and become the person you were meant to be. You are worth it. And when you find that you are okay again, pay it forward.
Many things happen throughout one’s life that changes their whole course. My father would be the first person to say that gays shouldn’t be able to raise kids. The same man that said and did the most unspeakable things can so easily condemn and ridicule my way of life. It is so important for me to be able to look beyond that. Watching and listening to my father’s ignorance and anger helped me learn about so many aspects of life. I learned how to appreciate and respect different races and ethnicities. It helped me accept and even realize my own homosexuality. To this day, each and every HIV+ person I meet reminds me of my uncle Thomas and his own fight. My love flows from him and pours onto anyone I meet that has to fight that battle.
I can’t think of a positive thing my father did for me except blindly grow me into the man I am today. My collective experiences with my father have made me a smarter, more compassionate and empathetic person. Unbeknownst to him, my father helped create the opposite of who he is: the loving husband and grateful father I am today.
This piece is dedicated to my little brother, Shane who’s 32nd birthday will be on April 2nd.
Shane and I back in the mid 80’s
I would love for you to follow my family’s journey!
Photo credit: www.bsaphotography.com
If I could offer any advice for someone expecting to bring home their new baby it would be: appriciate the circadian sacrifices. Your whole life is about to get turned upside down and everything you are about to experience will be foreign territory. The comfort zones you have come to rely on will often be out of reach, and you’ll have to find new and creative ways to navigate your new life. This entry is dedicated to anyone who is at any point on the pathway to parenthood. I know you are probably wrecked with emotions about all things new baby, but do make sure to appreciate this time with your precious leisure activities. I am sure your anxiety is running high and the last thing on your mind right now is leisure activities. However, in hindsight of our journey I wish I had known just how fast several of my favorite pastimes would become a thing of the past.
Douglas and I have been together for almost 12 years now. We work well together and most of the time we can finish each other’s sentences. We make a great team and I appreciate everything he does.
•Before babies, I worked as the general manager of a restaurant in the French Quarter for 10 years. Most of my time was spent operating that restaurant and, in a way, it and all the employees there were like my babies. I devoted a decade to learning how that industry works. It allowed me to fall in love with most aspects of that profession.
•After babies (and after deep discussions with Douglas), we felt it would be better for me to leave the restaurant and dedicate all of my time to the children because he is in medical school and a lot of his time is spent at the hospital. We strongly felt that having one of us here all of the time would be much better for them rather than finding a full-time daycare or nanny. I do miss my previous life in the restaurant but nothing compares to being at home with my babies all day. On the upside, my hospitality career isn't over... it's just on hold, as I plan to open my own restaurant one day when our kids are older. As for now, their growth, development, and well-being comes first. My occupational sacrifice was just the beginning of this new life.
When I was younger, I remember being dumbfounded by guys I graduated with that would just “let themselves go” after they had kids. “Why would they do that!?” I would often ask myself. “I’ll NEVER let that happen to me!” Never say never! I have come to realize that it isn’t like those guys wanted the coveted “dad-bod,” rather, it just happens because their is not enough time in a day.
•Before babies, the peaceful bike ride to the gym through the live oak trees in uptown New Orleans was my favorite part of the day. Listening to my favorite music while riding through the beautiful campus of Tulane University was sublime. I was able to spend a couple of hours there each weekday and afterwards I felt re-energized and confident about my appearance.
•After babies, there was just no way I would be able to leave the house on a bike much less work out at a gym. Instead, I needed to find peace in knowing that my time spent keeping my girls happy and healthy was much more important than my peaceful bike rides. The compromise? Being able to run on my treadmill a couple of times each week. But I know that with patience I will be able to return to the gym once the girls are school age.
Let's talk a little more about leaving the house. The small things like going to the mall or the grocery store used to be fast, simple tasks that only took a small portion of the day.
•Before babies, I use to just run to the store for a quick thing or two without thinking much about it. Time for an oil change? No problem! I could complete these errands quickly and with minimal effort.
•After babies, it takes 15 minutes just to find her other shoe (it's probably at the bottom of the ball pit). Then 10 minutes more to change the other’s clothes because they barfed on their cute outfit you were so excited to show to the world. Then add 10 more minutes just to herd them together and load them into the car. Once you back out of the driveway and start your little adventure you realize you forgot the damn stroller. Or worse the baby’s binky (fyi that's a big deal and totally worth turning the car around for). So tack another 15 minutes onto the clock. Leaving the house probably takes longer than the whole trip itself did before babies. But don’t get me wrong! Once you head out to your destination with all the proper necessities and everyone is collected and ON FLEEK... that feeling beats everything else. That feeling of accomplishment is what it’s all about friends. Oh and yes of course, the happiness and well-being of the kids of course. But it’s also that feeling that you can conquer the world.
Even if it’s just a simple trip to Walmart.
So, as hard is it may be mentally preparing to bring home your little nugget, think about and appreciate your “before baby” category and know that the search for that elusive binky, and hours of inconsolable crying and sleepless nights are just around the river bend.
I would love for you to follow our family’s journey!
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!