Dad Life

Ring Out the Wedding Bells in Pennsylvania!

On May 20th, a little bit after 2:00 PM, it was announced that a federal Judge handed down a monumental decision!


In a victory for all loving same-sex couples throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, U.S. District Court Judge John Jones III found Pennsylvania’s DOMA law unconstitutional.

This has been an amazing year for marriage victories across the US, but until Pennsylvania joined the wedding registry it was not going to feel real for us.

Now AaronD and I can officially begin our process to become a family. On paper.

I sent him a text: “Will you Marry Me?”

His response “How much money do you have?”

My retort, “You hold the check book, you tell me?”

He said, “Prenuptial agreement to follow.” Funny guy, right?

A few blocks away from where he works there was a crowd already gathering on the steps of City Hall in Center City Philadelphia.  A “Decision Day” rally. Gay couples were able to register immediately!  Some were even able to receive their licenses and got married that same day (no 3-day waiting period)!

When AaronD got home from work we had lots of questions for each other:

Do we go to Philly and apply for a license, or Montgomery County? Do we join the celebration and do it now? Or do we wait and get married on our actual wedding date October 7 to keep our anniversary?

Also for consideration is waiting for the courts to finally decide the fates of our two foster kiddos, so they can be part of our family. On paper.

Needless to say, a HUGE party will eventually be planned. A  joint wedding and adoption celebration. But those plans are on hold for now (especially since we are still paying off the last “commitment ceremony”). But I can admit that our planning hats are in overdrive trying to figure out how to top that celebration…on a budget!

So we didn’t go to the big gay rally yesterday. Instead we stayed home with our little family. AaronD cooked dinner and I helped our foster daughter with her biography project. We had to create a figure of Walt Disney out of a water bottle. This was celebration enough for me.

I explained to the kids what happened yesterday and we played the song “Brand New Day” from THE WIZ and danced around the kitchen. I loved this song before but after yesterday’s decision it has a slightly different meaning to me now!

"Can't YOU Feel A Brand New Day?"

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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 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 of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also 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.

Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

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!

I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

Arejay Encinas and his husband Mauricio Camargo wanted to become foster dads so they could help a child find a loving home. The two live in Tucson, Arizona, and were married February 2015. A little less than two years after their wedding, they received a call about a newborn who needed to be fostered. They said yes immediately. In October 2017, the little boy's adoption was finalized. This is the story of two dads and their moving letters to their son Dylan on the day they became a forever family.

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