Sssss is for Snake

The kids and I recently watched a video of a snake eating a chicken. I don’t know why. Stop trying to understand my ways.

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Wren loved it. Whenever she gets my phone she’ll ask for ‘snake’ followed by the most adorable hiss you’ve ever heard. And then she squeals when I react because she is delighted by the ‘fear’ she has created in me. The picture above is one of the best smiles I’ve ever captured, and it’s actually her in the middle of one of her hisses. My sister and cousin have both pointed out that she’s a Slytherin in the making… and that’s a good thing?

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In other hiss related news, my baby boy has learned about the letter S. He is in love with the S sound, and loves pointing out every letter S he can find while we read their* Daniel Tiger book. Which can we talk about how he wants to listen to me read a book? Yes, it’s a pre-k book. Yes, he’s seven. Yes, he’s never been into a book before now. But he is getting excited about this and I’m just like…

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You guys. I cannot love these babies any more than I do. It’s impossible.

For the love of pie

“Pie. Pie! PIE!”

What on earth is the small human chirping about?

“Do you mean rice?”

“Pie.”

“Pie… Small Human, I have no clue what you want. Can you show me?”

The small human grabs my hand and starts walking up the stairs, “Pie. Pie. Pie.”

She stands in front of the freezer.

“Pie.”

I open the freezer and look around… has she ever had a pie? From a freezer? It’s not impossible. I mean, frozen-let-them-thaw pies are the only kind I know how to make…

“Pie!”

“Where?”

She points. The box of popsicles.

Small Human loves her some ‘pie.’ Loooovvvvessss it. She will run in the kitchen chirping (“Pie, pie, pie”) and stand next to the freezer until Mark obeys gets her a popsicle. Once I asked Otis what did Wren love and he quickly answered, “Pie.” And she has taught the whole family the meaning of pie because, as my father-in-law says, “This is Wren’s world and we’re just living in it.”

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The One Where She Potty Trains

I never really wrote about potty training Otis, but just trust me: It was a process.

I had heard, like all moms, that I should wait for the signs. So I’d google The Signs and try to figure out where he was on the Ready-To-Potty Scale.

Hiding to pee or poo? Not really…
Taking off wet diapers? Nope.
Interest in potty behaviors? Not even a little bit.

I thought the internet was lying. Kids don’t really do these things! You have to force them! Convince them! THEY LOVE SITTING IN THEIR OWN CRAP! I mean, who doesn’t, right?!

And then I met 10 month old Wren.

She would ask for diapers to be removed (or remove them herself). In her pretend play with dolls someone is always pooping and sitting on the potty. She carried the toy toilet around from Otis’s fire station for a solid week. Once she insisted on nursing while I was on the potty and when I told her to either nurse while I was on the potty (the disgust on her face at the suggestion made me pee my pants into the toilet) or wait for me to finish she promptly handed me some toilet paper and tried to flush the toilet. She knew how the system worked.

I’ll be honest, early potty training is just as scary, to me, as late potty training.

“Are we sure she is ready?”

“(Remembering potty training Otis) This is going to be a mess. UGH. Diapers are cool, Wren. TRUST ME.”

“Where is my baby?!?! WAH!”

“Are we totally against a third baby? Where are you going?!?”

This past weekend, at 18 months old, Wren pulled on her diaper and said “Poo. Poo.”

I took it off for her and she sat down on her little potty and started ‘trying.’ She then noticed that I had just put the diaper to the side, ready to put it back on her as soon as she ‘tried.’ She got up, picked the diaper off the ground, walked it to the trash can, and came back to the potty and went pee.

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I’m not gonna lie, we still haven’t started officially potty training, but I’m thinking this is gonna be a cake walk.

Colors of the Wind

I’ve started describing myself as a weird Christian. Because if I just say I’m a Christian then you’re going to think I’m like the Christians you hear about on MSNBC or Fox, and I’m not like those.

I can’t express how seriously I take God. I believe the things most Christian professing people believe (He made everything in the universe, there’s a spiritual battle going on, Jesus is God and died on the cross for my sins, the Holy Spirit is real), but then I believe other things.

Like that He speaks to me. Regularly. And my job is to listen. Is it very Pocahontas/Colors of The Wind? Yes. Yes, it is.

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If you follow me on Instagram you may remember when I was doing those Jesus work outs with Megan and Rev Wellness. What’s a Jesus workout? Basically, Megan would have scripture and questions for me to consider and meditate on while also telling me to do 10 squats. These were some of the most intense, life changing workout sessions in my life. One session in particular stuck with me…

I was on my back doing some exercise and the whole session had been about being able to hand everything over to God and trust Him with every dream in me. To love the Giver more than the gift. So I’m on my back doing this exercise and Megan says something about being like Moses and being ok with not seeing the promised land.

Immediately I knew what the promised land was. Nashville Sudbury School. If you aren’t following me on Facebook then quick recap: me and 7 other families started a school so that kids could practice self-directed education in a democratically run community. Our first meeting was in the fall of 2015. We’ve been at it for a minute.

Getting this school up and running was my everything from March 2017 to June 2018. MY EVERYTHING. I spent lunch breaks running all around Nashville touring any place that might be even a little appropriate for a school.  I USED A PHONE AND TALKED TO STRANGERS in order to find out what paperwork needed to be turned in and when to start a private school in Tennessee. The other day I got a catalog of courses a fire protection professional could take to stay up to date on fire codes in my mailbox because that’s how often I was googling the codes manual for educational institutions. I CALLED AN IRS AGENT.

And I was doing all of this for my kids. My little boy isn’t designed for school. And my little girl might burn it down (fire codes be damned!). All of this work was because I wanted to give my kids a place to be free.

My stomach tightened at the idea of handing over NSS. I couldn’t possibly do all of this just to not be a part of it on the other side…could I? Would God seriously ask that? My brain really couldn’t imagine it. Honestly, it reminded me of when I broke up with my high school/college boyfriend, walking away from something you had worked really hard to build for no real reason?

The minute the lease was signed I knew something changed for me on a deep, cellular, spiritual level. This school needed to be built, but it wasn’t where we needed to be any longer. I heard God whispering that it wasn’t what was planned for us, but I fought the whispers back because what about my sweet boy? Where else could he go, I argued…

Two weeks later I met up with a friend I had made during the Sudbury stuff, Catherine. She went to Christ Lutheran, one of the churches we considered renting from, and was a passionate supporter of  self-directed education. We really only knew each other a little bit. She came to tour a space with us and came to a founders’ meeting. I liked her and felt a kindred spirit with her because the Venn diagram of Christians + Sudbury is pretty small, but that was pretty much it.

When we got together I immediately start blabbing about NSS updates because I assumed that was why she wanted to get together, to talk Sudbury. So we did that for a minute and then she was like, “I asked you to meet because I think you might be a weird Christian, too. And I wanted a friend to talk with about God stuff…”

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We spent the rest of our time sharing how seriously we take God, His word, His salvation (big and small), and His unending ability to meet us wherever we are. This is semi-unrelated, but this summer was also the exodus of some of my fiercest prayer friends so the birth of this friendship was giving me all the “God takes care of all your needs” feels.

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I even asked if I could take a snapshot of where God suggested me as an answer to her Psalm 145:11 prayers.

“Can I take a pic of your journal?” I am so weird.

Fast forward to June. God quits whispering. He starts using His inside voice. We pray. A lot. Because this isn’t about starting a school for me. This has always been about my kids. And walking away from this wasn’t God asking me to walk away from something I could put on my resume (“Marie Starter of Schools!”). He was asking me to walk away from something I have a lot of faith and hope in to help my babies, specifically my little guy. To say this was gut wrenching doesn’t begin to cover it.

But here’s my clue to knowing a decision has God’s hand on it: Peace. My spirit is settled even if none of it ‘makes sense’ on paper. The minute my spirit settles and rests in the confidence of my Father in heaven, I usually don’t think twice. I start moving towards His leading.

So we did. We walked away. We went on vacation. We caught our breath just long enough to hear God invite us to something new with my weird friend Catherine and Christ Lutheran, Simply Sudbury.

Last week, NSS passed their fire marshal inspection. And I wasn’t there for it. I didn’t get the “Congratulations! We did it!” email because, well, I am not part of the we any longer. The reality of not being in the Promised Land despite having witnessed all of the burning bushes and Red Sea partings gave me some feels, but it didn’t put even a tiny dent in my peace or even my joy. As I watched Instastories of their fire marshal inspection I cried real tears of joy on my side of the Jordan River*. Because He’s good. So very, very good.

Do I think God is in this? Yes. It has all the Color of the Wind vibes for me.

Does that mean I have any idea how the rest of this will turn out? Nope. Not a damn clue.

*Is it the Jordan they crossed? I am totally relying on a Ginny Owens lyric so that could not be Biblically correct so…

Brush it Off

If my friends ever got together and were like, “Marie! Let’s write a book about parenting together!”

First, I’d be like…

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But then I’d get over my DEEP insecurities about parenting and rush to claim the chapter on what to do if your baby falls down because this? This I’ve got.

If your baby falls down and isn’t injured in any real way you ignore that mofo.

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You ignore that baby hard. You do not yelp. You do not ask if baby is ok. You do not even make eye contact.

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Because if that baby smells even a little bit of pity, even the tiniest bit of concerned mother energy going their way they are going into full blown soccer player dramatics.

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This is a parenting rule that has transcended cultures and generations since Adam and Eve. We may not agree about when to start solids or how long a time out should be, but we ALL agree that you do not baby a baby that has fallen down.

Well, Wrenegade fell down yesterday. And I followed my advice. And then this girl? THIS GIRL.

She falls down and my mom and I both catch ourselves before we attend to her. We are veterans at this. She is fine!

Wren stands back up and starts brushing the spot where a boo boo may or may not be. She brushes, she pats, she doesn’t cry. I won’t swear to it, but it makes the story better so I’m going with it She makes eye contact with my mom and I.

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Looks back at her “boo boo” and then this girl? This girl KISSES HER OWN BOO BOO. And goes on her way.

Wrenegade don’t care.

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Wrenegade doesn’t need nobody.

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Wrenegade is the boss, and we better not forget it.

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And given that I am raising this queen maybe I should write that parenting book…

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Eureka!

Otis has always had this thing where he wants everything out of the box and on a plate or in a jar or in a bowl. I imagine he’s the kind of person that grows up to do crap like this:

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Well, he decided he wanted some Little Debbie cupcakes and he wanted all of them on a plate which, fine, whatever. I don’t care because it isn’t hurting anyone so sure. So we sit and unpackage all of the cupcakes, place them neatly on a plate, and go about our day at Lola’s.

During this time my mom and I have a conversation about all of the stuff I’ve left at her house that I need to take home because her kitchen is not my second kitchen so GET YOUR CRAP OUT OF HERE, MARIE.

Fine, Mom. Chill.

One of those things is a cupcake baker thingamajig. You know what I’m talking about. The thing you put the cupcakes in when you bake them. Yes. That thing. I need to take it home so my mom puts it next to the diaper bag so that I can forget it again be sure to take it home and get it out of her house.

Fast forward a couple of hours. It’s time to go home. The cupcakes have been untouched, the cupcake baker thingamajig has been mostly forgotten.

Otis: I need to take my cupcakes home.
Pa: Ok, well, let’s put them back in this box so that they don’t fall on the floor.
Otis: No! I have a great idea.

Otis is notorious for saying he has a great idea. Most of the time those ideas are pretty decent because they include things like “Let’s get ice cream!” or “Mommy, please don’t go to work today!” I have no clue what his great idea is, but I roll my eyes because I’m sure it’s going to make my life harder and/or it’s a delay tactic so that we stay at Lola and Pa’s house longer.

Me: Otis, we don’t have time for your great idea. Put the cupcakes in the box like Pa said.
Otis: (walks past me with a cupcake in each hand) Nope. I. have. a. great. idea.

I watch him walk confidently towards the cupcake baker thingamajig and plop his cupcakes inside the little holder thingadoos.

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Yall. It was like the most legitimate great idea I had ever seen with my own two eyes!

Me: Otis! That really IS a great idea! How did you do that? You are a genius! YOU JUST PASSED HOMESCHOOL!

I know it’s a small thing, but it really felt huge to me, and kept a smile on my face for a couple of days. To see him see a problem, not have a meltdown, and then see an elegant solution was just, well, beautiful.

My baby boy is making mama proud!

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Birds Singing in the Sycamore Trees…

Miss Wren,

It’s been a year since we laid eyes on you. You are a dream come true. Which I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the dream.

Months before you were conceived I had a dream that I was holding a baby. I was holding my baby. A little girl. And someone asked, “When was she born?” And I didn’t know. I felt so bad that I didn’t know my baby’s birthday. It was a sticky dream so when I woke up it felt like there was this residue on my brain. Some dreams are sticky, like they’re half real and half dream. When I woke up I immediately thought, “March 7th. That baby was born on March 7th.”

Your dad and I didn’t think we’d have another kid so I wasn’t sure how you’d be born on March 7th. Would we decide to adopt that day? Would this baby be born on March 7th and we’d adopt that baby? Would I get pregnant on March 7th? I didn’t know what March 7th meant, but I knew it was special.

A few months later I found out I was pregnant and that you were due on March 1st. That was close enough to a prophecy to me! Your brother came earlier than his due date which meant that I would likely have you early too so I pushed it out of my mind that you’d actually be born on March 7th. The closer we got to the due date the more I rested in the fact that wow. God told me about you before we even knew you’d exist.

Here’s a little funny thing. I was thinking about what to title this blog post. Your name is Wren (duh) and I just start humming “birds singing all around you, whispering I love you.” That’s a good title, but what song is it from? I start googling the lyrics I can think of and this is the song:

Dream a Little Dream of Me

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You are a dream, little one. You have a sweet and determined spirit. You started as a dream, and I have no doubt that God will continue to help you achieve dreams He puts in your heart. You are a delightful little person and you do not know how incredibly honored I am to be your mom.

Dream big, Little Bird.
Love,
Mama Bird

Running and Dancing

20180119_210517.jpgWren,
We are four terribly short weeks away from your first birthday. We went all the way around the sun, Sweet Girl!

Our favorite thing is watching you steal from your brother. You steal his phone, his drinks, his fire stick. You are like a raccoon. You get your little paws on it and then you take off as fast your little legs will go to find a place to hide your treasures. Even your brother thinks it’s hilarious which is impressive considering he’s the one getting robbed.

Your giggles are gold. Rare and precious and bring so much joy to the world. You play hide and seek like a pro. You regularly climb on to the Big Kahuna’s fire station and dance. The dancing, my Sweet Girl! Oh I love it so much. Your doctor asked if you were dancing at your 9 month appointment and I realized that no, you hadn’t danced yet. A few weeks later you were bopping to most any beat you heard. It was like you took it as a challenge. The seriousness on your face while you baby twerk is just too much for me. Gah. I love you.

It snowed this month. You loved it and being outside in general. The ladies at church say that when Wren cries just take her outside and she’s fine. Your curiosity and fearlessness has been a joy to watch.

Your Lola and I were talking about you already being one and how you’re not really a baby anymore, and then we both paused. Did you ever feel like a baby? Even on the first night in the hospital when Lola saved us me there was this strength about you, almost like you liked having people around but you didn’t need people around. There is just nothing helpless about you.

While I’m pretty sure you came into this world ready to dominate I hope you know that you can always rest in my love and (much more significant) God’s love.

Love,
Mama Bird

And Both the Hands Go Up

Dear Miss Wren,
You are 10 months old. Two hands, Little Lady. TWO WHOLE HANDS!

You play with my ears now when you nurse. I guess loving eye contact is for the weak.

You met Santa. You had no time for that.

You and the cat! I cannot with how much you love Nala, and only Nala. Sorry, Omi.

You started walking a couple of days after Christmas. We kind of freaked out. It’s only a couple of weeks later and you’re a pretty solid walker. I have never been so convinced that so much about us is just how we’re wired, and you, my darling, are wired for greatness. And not just because you’re walking ‘early,’ but because I can just sense that you take this world so seriously. And you take your role in it so seriously. Thank you for being you.

I watch you with the Big Kahuna. You love him. He can bring out a joy that none of us can. But you don’t let him cross any lines, and you don’t mess around when it comes to getting what you want. If he is being too rough you yell and look directly at me with eyes that say, ‘You better get this situation under control!’ If he has something you want you have no qualms with taking it. And I just have to say that every time you steal something and hustle off as fast those legs can go I cannot stop smiling.

I watch you with him and I wonder if it isn’t some God ordained training ground. It’s like watching David walk up to Goliath. I marvel at your, well, your balls. They’re huge. I wonder if all of this isn’t preparing you to be ready to fight giants in the future. I’m crying thinking about it because I don’t want you to ever go up against a giant, but I also want to know that you’ve been ready since day one if you do have to.

I am not as a great a writer as I used to be. I don’t have time to let the thoughts and feelings tumble around until they form the words that match. You guys keep me too busy for all of that navel gazing. And as this year with you gets closer and closer I’m terrified that you aren’t going to know how deeply loved you are. How much you inspire me to be a better mom, wife, human. How that guarded smirk of yours gives me so much joy. How you are your father in so many ways and I’m falling more in love with him because of you.

Love you with everything,
Marie

Nine In, Nine Out

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Dear Miss Wren,
You’re 9 months and one week because your mom got busy old.

One morning you woke up and started nursing, as you do, and you unlatched and just started looking at the milk-producing boob. Then you started flicking me. There was this curiosity in your eyes, like, “How does this thing work?”

And that’s* how I know your dad is Mark Christopher of the House of Oates. I like the House of Last Name joke a leetle too much.

*There’s also the whole monogamous relationship thing, but you get my point. You’re a lot like your dad.

You also started doing this thing where you’d unlatch and almost pounce back onto the boob. Like you were a little kitten playing with a dead mouse.

It’s adorable.

You have no problem letting the world know what’s up, especially when you’re mad. You can’t stomp your feet (yet), but you do this thing that’s totally in the spirit of stomping your feet. You put your head down and slam both hands down on an imaginary table like some kind of Jersey princess.

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This is also adorable. Notsomuch in 2 years, but I don’t really care right now.

I am obsessed with your furrowed brow game. You give absolutely no fudgsicles…

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And you are still absolutely smitten by the Big Kahuna.

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Me, you, and O-man are the 3 Musketeers.  My heart is so full when we’re all together. You hate getting left behind, and you will straight up giggle when we are laughing just to join the party.

Thank you so much for bringing your ferocious-yet-subtle spirit into this crazy world called the Oates Family House of Oates.

Love,
Mama