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

Slay-t Months Old

Dear Wren Bird,

Eight months.

You got your flu shot this month. You’ve gotten enough shots now that you know what’s coming. We laid you on the table and you looked at us like the evil people we surely are. You were pricked, you cried, and in the mere seconds it took to sit you back up you were silent and staring. You weren’t wasting the time on self pity. You locked eyes with the nurse and the doctor and I knew. I knew you had just mentally put them on your list, Arya Stark style.

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You understand “no.” It started with a defiant “pfft” anytime your Lola told you no. Now you shake your head and smile as you reach for whatever we’ve told you not to touch. I can already see the twinkle in your eye. You’re definitely going to be an ‘ask for forgiveness, not permission’ kind of gal.

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You went Trick or Treating. Like a boss, you had a Halloween wardrobe change.

“Fun” story: On Halloween we attempted to take you and your brother out around the neighborhood, but your brother threw a fit as he does. In the midst of all of Big Brother’s carrying on an old, gay, black man in a long leather coat appeared out of what seemed like no where with treats in hand.

“Here. You need to cut it out,” he said looking directly at Otis as he handed him a Pinterest-esque bag of treats. He handed you your very own bag and said, “And this sister of yours is beautiful.” Before we could ask the Halloween angel neighborhood Super Nanny to raise our children, he disappeared.

Yes. This was the extent of your trick-or-treating. A neighbor coming out to give us candy to stop the yelling.

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You climb up the stairs every chance you get. Standing without assistance is coming sooner rather than later. You look at baby food like I’m trying to feed you dog food. You love California rolls, the cats, and a toy alligator.

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You slay in every possible way. I love you.

Mama Bird

On This Day

Yesterday this picture came up in my FB memories…

Oh, y’all. My little monkey boy!

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I got all weepy because I truly feel like I don’t remember any of this well enough. I don’t remember the giggles well enough. The sweet cheeks well enough (that are totally still around, but aren’t those sweet 18 month old cheeks). The little armed hugs well enough. I feel like I’m waking up from the best dream in the entire world, and I’m desperately sad that I only seem to have a foggy recollection of this time.

And so I’m watching Wren knowing that all of these sweet moments are not going to survive in my brain and I get so weepy WHILE PLAYING WITH HER because I know that one day in the future I will watch a video of her giggling or crawling and I’m going to say something like “I DON’T REMEMBER HER BEING SO LITTLE!”

Mark got one of those virtual reality things the other day for SUPER cheap and it’s insanely cool. While I was exploring snow covered mountains it hit me that our kids will probably have virtual reality videos(?) of their kids. They will probably put on their VR goggles and get to relive their kids learning to crawl or walk or eat rice cereal for the first time. And I’m just like

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But I also know this. When they put their VR goggles on and watch my virtual reality grandbaby crawl around it’s not going to be enough. It still won’t be the same. They’ll be the same level of sad as I am today, and still cry out “I DON’T REMEMBER ANY OF THIS!”

I have mentioned this a billion times, but I read the entire Bible last year, and I think it changed my brain. This is a thought that just seems to sit with me all of the time now: Life is so fragile. It is so fleeting. And the more we try to capture it and panic about missing out the more we actually do miss out.
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Every single day on this beautiful mess of a planet is a gift. This sounds morbid, but lately when I watch my kids sleep I think, “I honestly have absolutely no clue if I’m going to wake up. If y’all are going to wake up. But oh, God, thank You so much for this life, for this home, these babies, this breath…”

So far I’ve woken up. And they’ve woken up. Thank, God.

The truth is I am never going to be satisfied looking back, trying to relive these precious moments. My appetite to feel as loved and needed as I am right now will be insatiable one day when my house is clean and no one is begging to “show you cool*.” Knowing this means I have only one choice: Be here.

Be in the moments because we’re never getting them back again. Sit with the fear and insecurity on the bad days. Celebrate with the laughter and joy on the good days. Take everything very seriously AND not at all seriously. Breathe it all in because all of it, the good, the bad, and the boring, it’s all going to be gone before I know it.

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*”Show you cool” is how Otis introduces something that brings him joy. And the idea that there will be a day when I am not the first person Otis thinks of when he wants to “show you cool” is making me a mess.

Let’s Explore

Dear Wren,

Seven months. Rolling towards the big Uno Yearo.

You’re crawling and pulling yourself up and at this rate you’ll probably win a Nobel Peace Prize before you hit puberty. Even at 7 months old, I would say that you aren’t one for wasting time. You don’t have words, but if you did you wouldn’t mince them. You get straight to the point with your grunts and stares and, well, it’s impressive.

Little Bird, you’re truly Wonder Woman in my book.

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(You also love pigs, hence Miss Piggy)

A while ago there was a viral ‘thing’ about this couple taking pics like this together as they traveled the world:

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That’s how I feel about you. You’re always out in front. Exploring. Looking for the next thing to experience, put in your mouth, learn, squeal over. And I’m standing behind you, watching you take this beautiful mess of a world in.

I want so badly to capture your spirit in a bottle so that I can remind you of your fearlessness, your power, your ability to do hard things (the coordination required for crawling is no small feat, my dear!) when you forget one day in the future. You’re a special little girl, Wren, and I’ve known it since before you were even born.

Love you and thank you so much for taking me on this adventure with you!
Mama Bird