Category Archives: Blended Family

Blessed in the family department

When Mark and I first got married his sister thought we should consider moving.  That maybe being afraid to leave Nashville was a bad thing. That maybe we should move out of the house my in-laws owned and that we were renting. She even thought we should move near them!

Well, let’s just say thank goodness I only let her give me one piece of crappy advice (she suggested keeping my last name even though I was pretty sure I just wanted to be an Oates with none of this hyphenated crap).

There are so many reasons following her “move away!” advice would have been horrible. First, she quit talking to us probably a year later. Second, she’s kind of a brat. Third, they live in the northwest. What kind of Southerner voluntarily leaves sunshine and sweet tea for dreariness?

A fake one.*

But the biggest mistake would have been raising our family AWAY from family.

See, I love family. I love my family. I love the family that raised me. I love the MANY friends that I consider family (high school friends, certain sorority sisters, Tartar Saucers, church friends).  I love the ones that I only see on Facebook because they live in another country (hi, Philippines!). I love the family that I married into.

Well, most of the family I married into.

If we had moved away from Nashville there are so many beautiful memories I wouldn’t have right now.

I wouldn’t have been able to go to dinner with our family before we checked into the hospital to have Otis. We went with my parents and Mark’s parents to have this beautiful, anticipation-filled dinner before we got to meet our little guy as a family. And even though Otis wouldn’t be making his appearance for another 12 hours, an entire waiting room full of family followed us to check in. It was like an episode of Parenthood. I wouldn’t have had Mark and three beautiful women (my mom, mom-in-love, and grandma) with me as I did this whole labor thing for the first time. We wouldn’t have Friday night dinners with the Oates grandparents, Sunday afternoons with the McKinney ones. We wouldn’t have the new excitement of not just holidays, but holidays WITH A BABY. The very best kind of holiday.

Otis is going to be a better person because he is getting to know his family and build real memories with people that absolutely adore him. And his memories are going to be of experiences he has with these people, not stories that Mark and I tell him.

He’s going to know what it’s like to build a guitar with Poppy. He’s going to remember sitting in the workshop learning and thinking and analyzing like a true Oates man.

He’s going to learn how to paint and sew and do all kinds of crafty things because of his Yada. He’s going to remember doing the dishes with her and frustrating her puppy, Mac.

Otis is going to have a WoW character because of his Grandpa, and he’s going to love spending all day doing quests and killing dragons and doing whatever else gaming nerds do.

He’s going to remember going on dates with his Lola to Target and Camino Real. He’s going to hear about how he was always the perfect medicine for her bad days.

He already misses Aunt Meesa since she left for college, and will look in her room if you bring her up.

And no one in the world is as cool as Uncle Bobby, aka The Swing.

My grandmother moved back to the Philippines in May, but do you know who still remembers the dance she taught him? (Video coming soon)

The older Otis gets the more afraid I am that we’re not going to be enough. That we don’t have enough house. That we don’t have enough money. That we don’t have enough time. That we don’t have enough connections.

But you know what? We are living in abundance when it comes to family and love. To say that my family can and does annoy me would be an understatement. I work with my dad for crying out loud. No offense, Daddy. But there is no way I would ever rob my kid of so much love. And I’m certainly not going to teach him that it’s acceptable to treat family, the people that love you and have your back all the time, like trash.

I’m thankful that I did absolutely nothing with the advice Mark’s sister gave me. I’m thankful that my kid has more family than he knows what to do with sometimes. I’m thankful that I have so many friends that I get to share life with.

I’m thankful for being blessed in so many ways.

* I just need to get this off my chest. My sil thinks she’s Southern. They grew up in California. My in-laws laughed at me when I said “y’all”. Mark, her brother, doesn’t consider himself Southern. I’ve been in the South since I was 5. I am a Phi Mu. I say y’all. I drank sweet tea during my entire pregnancy because it’s crack. And I don’t even consider myself Southern. Posing is ugly and annoys the chiggers out of me (that is not a Southern saying, that is a Marie one). She has been mean about TONS of things, but for whatever reason this little poser quirk of hers gets on my nerves the most. However, when you’ve disowned your entire family I suppose making up a fantasy southern heritage would make sense… Ok. Now I feel better.

1st Annual Petty Awards

Well, we’re about 9 days into mixed species parenthood. I don’t know how I’d say we’re doing, but I will say everyone is still alive. And no one has excreted on anything fabric. So, in my book? We’re doing a damn fine job.

So good of a job, in fact, that I felt an awards ceremony was appropriate… let me invite you to the 1st Annual Petties!

Here are our winners…


Nala Oates wins in the category of Best Pet Ever
Fine. Maybe the judging was a little biased. It is Mark’s first born, what can I say? But truly, he is a pretty awesome pet. He poops in a box, lets me pick him up when I want a hug, and his most annoying quality is meow-ing too early in the morning. Oh, and he has the most pet-able fur ever.

Mac Oates wins in the category Most Likely to Have a Trust Fund
Mac is my chihuahua-in-law and I adore him. He is also the pet that lives in luxury. He has more clothes than I do, has his own bedroom (i.e. a travel cage thing that he sleeps in every night), and toys out the wazoo. He’s basically a baller and probably has better odds of getting an inheritance* than his human siblings. (*Pets can’t actually inherit anything, but they can get Trust Funds, thus the naming of the award. This info provided by Shelly P & Associates.)

Also, Mac’s drawn wearing a tux because a) again, he’s a baller and b) that’s how his mom likes to dress her boys…


Omi Oates wins in the category of Most Likely to Survive Armageddon
Omi is a straight up warrior compared to the other two animals. Nothing scares her and she isn’t interested in friendship or companionship. With the other two pets I’m not sure how long they’d survive if their humans were taken up in The Rapture, but with Omi I’m certain she’d be all “Bring it” to whatever trials and tribulations God wanted to throw her way (sorry for all the Book of Revelations lingo, but my dad is slowly turning into the old dude that only talks about the end times and I guess it’s starting to rub off. Repent!).

So those are the awards! I hope you guys enjoyed the show which was sponsored by the following:
Too much scratch paper
And Sharpie… write out loud!

Cats vs. Dogs

Mark’s parents are coming home which has me all kinds of elated. And tired. Mark has been cleaning so hard that I worked up a sweat. Let’s just say that it was intense around here this weekend.

Not only are Mark’s parents going to be here, but they’re bringing they’re little dog, too. I’m loving this because I love all animals, and can’t wait to hug on Mac the Chihuahua. Mark, however, has some reservations…

Marie:  Hey, Nala, I bet you can’t wait until your new friend Mac the Chihuahua gets here!

Nala:  Meow?

Mark:  They aren’t going to be friends.

Marie: Why wouldn’t they be friends? Nala is friends with everyone. Friendliest darn cat I’ve ever met.

Nala: Meow.

Mark: No. Cats and dogs are natural enemies.

Marie: You do know cartoons aren’t real, don’t you?

Nala: Meow, meow, meow (fyi, that was cat laughter).

Mark: Think about it, have you ever seen cats stick around when a dog barks? They aren’t meant to co-exist.

Marie: Our cats hide when the doorbell rings. It’s called being a scaredy CAT for a reason.

This exact conversation has happened approximately 3 times this weekend. It’s driving me batty. I’m starting to believe Mark and I’m having nightmares of a Jets vs Sharks like showdown happening between Nala & Mac. Not cool.

So I need to know some things:

How do you get cats and dogs to co-exist?
Where did the cats and dogs hate each other MYTH  come from?
Do you think a cat could take a chihuahua, ya know, if it came to it?
What cartoon truth do you wish really was real?

My ovaries are glowing

This is Audrey. She makes my ovaries glow.

She was over at my house last Sunday (a soon to be completely established tradition) and she was helping me in my bedroom. Well, I’m not used to little people being underfoot and I knocked her down. She’s like 2.5 feet tall. It’s not hard to do.

Me: Audrey! I’m so sorry!

Audrey: Oh, that’s ok!

Did you hear that? This sweet precious child who only recently became a chatterbox forgave me of my sin of clumsiness.

I dragged her into the living room where her darling parents were hanging out.

Me: Nate! Jess! Has Audrey ever said “Oh, that’s ok!” before?

Jess: I don’t think so…

Me: Well, she JUST did. It was brilliant! I mean, she said it all cute and like she so knew what it meant! Audrey, say it again. Say, “Oh, that’s ok!”

We’ve all been in this situation. A new parent has a kid who just learned a new “trick” and they can’t wait to show everyone. And the next thing you know you’ve spent a solid 2-hours watching your friend try to coax Little Susie to repeat back the first 5 numbers of Pi. She’s done it a million times, ya know.

So here I was. Wanting desperately for my little toddler friend to say “Oh, that’s ok!” and do you know what she was doing?

Laughing. Straight up GIGGLING into her hands. She knew what was up.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I be all “new parent” and coax it out of her? Should I make an attempt at ventriloquy? Should I knock the little punk down again thus recreating the magic?

After looking deep into her baby eyes I realized that “Oh, that’s ok!”, that was our thing. That was a Marie and Audrey inside joke. Our first of many, I’m sure.

I dropped the subject and we continued our search for kitty-tats.  And in return for keeping our secret, I got the best gift of all time ever. As Audrey and her parents got ready to leave she looked at me, put her tiny toddler hand on her tiny toddler heart and said, “Fwend*?”

And then my ovaries exploded.

*”Friend” for the uninformed.

I’d name her Bess

Get your prospect in the habit of saying yes (Secret #3)

Me: Can I ask you a question?

Mark: Sure.

Me: Can I ask you a question, YES or no? (you have to spell it out for some people)

Mark: Yes.

Time for the Big Ask…

Me: Can I have a greyhound?

Mark: What? Like a dog?

Me: Can I have a greyhound, YES or no?

Mark: No.

strike one

Ask for something big first and follow up with a relatively smaller request which is now more likely to be fulfilled (Reciprocal Concessions)

Me: Do you think we should start trying to have a baby?

Mark: No… did YOU want to start trying?

Me: Can I have a greyhound?

Mark: Oh my gosh. Are you serious?

strike two

Ask for what you want (What I try to teach couples).

Me: I would like a greyhound.

Mark: Yeah, I kinda got the hint. What sparked this great idea?

Me: I saw someone walking one on the way to work.

Mark: Yes, of course… you know that they are really high maintenance, right?

Me: I’m high maintenance!

Mark: They need lots of exercise.

Me: I need lots of exercise!

Mark: You won’t even walk to the mailbox.


Mark: I’m ignoring you.

strike 3

I want one so bad, People. I’ve used all the tricks I know. Any suggestions on how to make this beautiful creature mine?

It would be like owning your own deer/meerkat/cat/dog/bat mixture. And it would be pure awesome.

Nala’s going to Hollywood

Me:  Melissa, check this out…

Melissa:  What?

Me:  When I google “cat superhero”…

Melissa:  Why would you google that?

Me:  Nala is on the THIRD PAGE of an image search! 

Melissa:  You’re messed up.

MeIf you look up “cat superhero” in the dictionary Nala’s picture would be there!

Melissa:  I can’t believe we’re related…

Yes, and not only are you related to me, but you’re also related to A CAT SUPERHERO!  Just try to contain the excitement.

Meowing makes me twitch

Meow.  Meow.  MEOW.  MEE-OOOOWWW.

That is our cat.  Nala.  But when he acts like that he is Mark’s cat, Nala.

Nala and I have had a rocky relationship from the beginning.  The week of Mark and I’s wedding, Mark’s parents were in town and we spent an evening playing dominoes.  Nala spent the evening biting my ankles.  Like FOR REAL biting my ankles.  I did not know cats bit until that night.

Do you know how embarrassing it is to be attacked by your future step-cat in front of your future in-laws? You don’t?  Well, let me tell you it’s mortifying.  I tried to play it off as if that’s just how Nala and I roll, that this whole biting thing was normal for us.  But Mark kept saying stuff like, “What’s wrong with Nala?  What did you do to him?”

Yes, worry about your cat.  Worry about the four legged creature that has no input whatsoever as to how much nookie you get.  Let’s see how that works out for you.

Like I said, Nala and I have never gotten along.

Until one day I had an idea.  What if I give Nala everything he wants?  What if I feed him wet food whenever he wants?  And make sure he always has the cleanest water possible?  And stop everything I am doing to let him play with my foot when he wants?  And never interrupt him when he falls asleep on my lap?

If I do all this then surely he will love me, and accept me as his mother.

So I basically started Mission: Wait on Nala, Hand and Paw with hopes that our relationship would be salvaged.  The rule was that whatever he wanted he got.  No questions asked.

Well, this brilliant plan has only done one thing: I have created a monster.  A gray four-legged diva.

We are woken up to meows demanding food.  It’s like he can’t even stand the idea of his food bowl being empty for longer than 30 minutes.  Don’t I know he could die? Of starvation?  What kind of mother am I?

Or been kept up late by meows demanding we let him play with his favorite toy in the whole wide world: a human foot.  I am not real sure who told him he was Nala the Foot Slayer, but I’d like to give that person a great big “Thanks a freakin’ lot”.

Nala thinks he runs this house.  And Mark says it’s my fault!

Mark:  He was not this demanding before we got married…

Marie:  What exactly are you trying to say?

Mark:  I’m just saying he knew who was the boss before…

Marie:  I’m pretty sure you just said that I was the worst cat mother ever and that you don’t want to have kids with me.  How much of that did I get right?

Mark:  I’m saying that you can tell him no sometimes.  We don’t have to respond to every meow…

Marie:  And I’m saying that I CAN’T SAY NO TO PEOPLE WITH PAWS!

I have spoiled our first born rotten, and am officially the worst cat parent in the world.  And people wonder why I’m pretty sure motherhood is NOT for me…

Public Service Announcement

I think more people read my blog when I don’t post.  And by “more people” I mean five.

I need to say this here because I’ve said it everywhere else.  On Sunday I’m going to be leading a workshop.  On how to communicate with your significant other better.  That significant other can be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or very vocal cat.  If there is someone that you either a) don’t feel like you’re talking to enough or b) you’re talking to a lot but in a way that leaves you hoarse from all the shouting then you should think about coming.

It’s going to be fun.  I hated boring classes.  It’s amazing I made it through formal schooling.  It really is a miracle (the real miracle is that I never read any of the books that were assigned… and still kicked the report card’s arse).  Anyways, I like things to be fun.  And interactive.  And for you to leave feeling like you learned a little more about yourself.  You should come.  Really.

Ok.  The ad is over.

Oops.  The part I keep almost forgetting.  The workshop is October 5th at 5:00 at Haywood Hill Baptist Church.

Now it’s over.

Now the funny can begin.

My step-cat, Nala, is getting fat.  Mark and I have been concerned for a few weeks now, wondering if he was just stout or really getting chunky.  We couldn’t tell.  To be honest, the extra weight looks good on him.  He looks stronger.  Like he could be a leading man in a major motion picture.  I’m serious.  I’d watch it.

So he is gaining weight and we’re trying to figure out if it is something we need to remedy.  So we’re all weighing him (“Ok, the scale says X (like hell I’m gonna tell you how much the scale says) pounds when I’m holding him, and Y (seriously, I’m not telling you what the scale said) pounds when I’m not… 5… 7… carry the 4… I think he weighs eleven pounds!”) and looking for indicators of feline obesity.

And we conclude that Nala is fat.  Overweight.  Needs to lose 2 pounds (which is a lot when you stand about a foot off the ground).

I believe that God gave us cats because He trusts us with His creatures.  Something about our character made God say, “Yes, you two, care for Omi and Nala.  Love them.  Make sure they don’t get fat.”

We have failed.  And instead of changing Nala’s diet to a higher protein one.  Or taking Nala for a walk (yes, cats can go on walks).  Or even paying a little more attention to how much he is eating, I’ve decided to opt for humiliation.

“Nala,” I say as I walk past him, “you sure do look chubby today!”

“Hey there, Fat Cat!”

“Nala.  Nala.  Pay attention to me cat.  I want to sing you a song… IIIIII liiiiike big CATS and I cannot lie… ha, ha, hey, where are you going?”

I’ll let you know if he loses any weight on this humiliation diet.  No, not diet.  Lifestyle.  Humiliation lifestyle.  If he does lose weight, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be my next workshop topic.

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Growing family

You guys remember Nala? My step-cat?

He’s been doing lots of funny stuff lately. But I can’t write about it because that funny stuff includes the newest ingredient of McKinney-Oates Cereal. And I can’t introduce the newest member without pictures because that’s just wrong on some level.


Hello, World, my name is Omi.

Omi is my daughter and Mark‘s step-cat (because we split everything… it’s why this works).

There is, however, a problem in the definition of how Nala and Omi are related.

According to genetics? They share the same mother. They are half-siblings.

According to systems theory? They belong to the same subgroup of this blended family, categorically considered ‘offspring’

Nala and Omi watching Grey’s with me.

According to Nala? They are having a torrid love affair. Because the only time he isn’t biting her neck in a display of sexual dominance, he is sleeping out of pure exhaustion from chasing her around all day.

I’m all kinds of disgusted by this and have desperately searched Google for the Meow translation for “Nala, you are a hornball and you are trying to get it on with. your. SISTER! Stop!”

But he doesn’t get it. Apparently, the southern accent makes my Meow hard to understand.

Not to mention Mark is all about encouraging the behavior! Encouraging incest. Despicable.

“Hey, Nala, how is your girlfriend?” he’ll say with this icky tone that makes me feel like I’m in the guy’s locker room and Nala so totally scored last night.

“Um, yeah, that’s his sister, and we took his balls away from him months ago. Quit encouraging him.”

Anyways, other than being treated like a piece of meat since the moment she moved in, I really think Omi loves being part of our family. She is quirky, cuddly on her own terms, and pretty much the silkiest cat ever.

I’ve fallen in all sorts of love.

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Cat Wars

Nearly every weekday morning Mark and I send up small prayers for the day.   We are the farthest things from “prayer warriors”, but we like to bring our daily concerns together to God each morning.

“Lord,” I prayed, “please guide Mark and I as we decide whether or not to get another cat.”

I love Nala, I know I don’t blog like it, but I do.  To be compeltely honest, he likes me, too.  He lets me pet him, and he greets me at the door when I get home.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been fully accepted as a member of his family.

However, he is, and always will be, Mark’s cat. 

Unfortunately, I’m a brat.  And I want my own cat, too.

So I’ve been bugging Mark since the day I moved in about how great it would be to have another cat.  Mark says that he isn’t exactly big on getting another cat, but if I want one he isn’t going to stop me.

Now, I’m a rule-following permission-getter…

“So, you’re cool with me getting a cat?”

“I didn’t say that.  I don’t want a cat.  But if you want one, you can get one.”

“Yeah… yeah, I’m gonna need you to say you’re cool with it.  That you want another cat.”

“I’m not saying it.  I don’t want another cat, but I’m not against getting one if it’s what you want.”

We went back and forth like this for weeks, and he finally caved…

“Get the cat.  I’m cool with it.”

But you know how when you finally get “what you want”, you start reconsidering if you really want it?  So I started to semi-backpedal leading to our prayer for wisdom on bringing another cat into our home.

Now I think this whole time Nala has trusted that Mark would keep his sole feline status safe.  Mark was his brother, partner in crime, wing man, “Big Buddy”, Mark could never actually cave to the desires of the Crazy Lady, right?  Pals before gals, right?

Nala must have overheard our prayer time and realized he was a lone ranger in the fight against Marie’s irrational desire for another cat.  Time to take matters into his own paws…

That afternoon Nala bounded up to me as I walked into the house after a long day at work. 

“Meow!” he said looking at me with those big “Puss ‘n Boots” from Shrek eyes that screamed ‘Pet me… please?’

“Aw, hi, Nala, how are you today?” I asked as I pet him.

“Meow, meow,” he chattered on as he got comfortable in my lap.

Comfortable in my lap.

This cat was schmoozing me!  He was all of a sudden uber friendly, which I loved, but I knew it was a sham.

 “Nala, you’re not fooling anyone.  I know you’re only being nice because you know we’re talking to God about getting another cat.”


“Don’t act all innocent.  I’m going to keep petting you because I love you tremendously, but be prepared.  A new cat will be joining us soon.”

“Meow!” he said angrily as he jumped off of my lap to pout in a corner.

I got off the couch and immediately called my mom letting her know I’d be picking up a kitten this weekend.

That’s right, Nala, I win.  I always win.