Category Archives: Family

One Was Fun, Let’s Do Two

Miss Wren,
This year with you has been so much fun. We have watched you become a little girl filled with personality and charm. There was a sense during your first year on earth that you were going to be our serious kid. Hard to make laugh. Giving the world a knowing side eye.

But this year you’ve shown us your silliness. You are quick to giggle and dance and be a ham. There’s a wisdom here that I pray you carry with you the rest of your life. You don’t owe anyone your silliness. Give anyone and everyone that knowing side eye until you feel comfortable, until you know they deserve what you want to share. These are called boundaries and they are good, my sweet girl.

This is the year you learned the phrase, “Follow me.” I smile when you tell anyone to follow you because the confidence that comes with your directive is palpable. You know what you’re doing and where you’re going, and you’re confident that you can lead others there, too. You were born with a confidence and steadiness that people read books, go to conferences, and pay lots of money for. I’m excited to see you’re leading us.

There’s also a fearlessness in you that terrifies me. My “favorite” memory of this year is when the Big Kahuna was having a bit of a meltdown and was gearing up to try and hit anything close by. Out of the corner of my eye I see you and your tiny 1 year old body step to your 7 year old (much bigger) brother.

fight come GIF

You saw someone that needed to be put in their place and you were ready to fight the good fight. I held you back, and I guess I’m just amazed that I had to do that. Hold a 1 year old back from fighting a 7 year old…

is this real life david after dentist GIF

You sing so many songs, love your puddles, and take wonderful care of your baby dolls. You cuddle with your dad every night to watch babies on YouTube. You whisper “Bubba is sad” every time he is upset and sent to his room. You demand our cats play along with your Doc McStuffins dreams. And you nursh. A lot.

I love you so much, Sweet Girl. I pray and know that God will use the confidence and fearlessness He gave you to bring light into this world.

Mama Bird

I learned it watching you


The minute I heard about unschooling it made sense. Learn what you want, when you want, and how you want. The first time I heard about it was in this Nashville mommy blogger’s post where she bashes the idea. I read that post and it all clicked. All of my future children would be unschooled. Case closed. I never read or thought another thing about it.

Today I know a lot of families that allow their children to practice self-directed education (aka unschooling). And I have yet to meet someone that became a believer quite as quickly as I did (my Simply Sudbury friend, Catherine, excluded). Most of my friends found it to be a journey. The ideas made sense in some ways, but many wanted more research or literature. How do unschooled kids end up? Do they get jobs? Do they survive in the ‘real world’?

I’ve been marinating on this. Why, God, did it click so quickly and easily for me? Especially when you consider I was freaking amazing at school. If anyone was going to think school is awesome, shouldn’t it be me?

Then I read this blog post, Ours First, from ASDE by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor Henderson.

Marginalized groups have been learning the world for a long time, and without school. Before and throughout this colonialist era, it is the way we learned to manage our food systems and organize communities. It is the way we learned to predict weather and navigate seas. It is the way we learned transportation routes and our stories. It is the way we learned ourselves and others. It is the way we learned who the oppressors really were, despite what they told us about themselves in their schools.

It is the way we learned to survive under Western colonialism and imperialism. And it is the way we will thrive beyond it.


Your people have been doing this – existing and resisting, learning the world and their freedom – for years and years. They’ve been doing it for themselves and with each other, and without school as we know it. Despite how the narrative is compiled around you, then, and despite whoever tries to sell you whatever is already inside of you, remember:

Ours. First.

Self-directed education, the idea that you can trust that you’ll learn what you need, when you need, and how you need, made immediate sense to me because it’s what I grew up seeing.

My mom and grandmother are two of the smartest, most capable women I know. I look back at my childhood and I knew that my mom didn’t have an education in the formal sense, but she is smart. Yes, she has her ditzy moments, but even that I saw as a sign of her emotional intelligence and playing to the reality that acting like you’re dumb can buy you social goodwill. I think about how she got on a plane in her early 20s and moved to another country to marry a man she knew, but not really. I think back to my childhood and how she always made the world feel safe for us, how it always felt like she knew what she was doing. And she did this without google, yall! She figured stuff out because that’s what you do.

Then there is my grandma. She came to live with us when I was in 2nd grade. She worked all over Nashville, and would get all over town on the city bus. This alone makes me open my mouth in awe because public transportation can confuse the best of us. And even though she also doesn’t have a formal education, she’s so smart. She knows how to cure things, how to farm, how to engineer. I remember being in labor with Otis, hooked up to all kinds of machines monitoring this and that, and my grandmother squinting and looking at my fingernails to see how my blood pressure was doing. This world was never scary to her because she is a fearless problem solver.

So I guess these women, and really all of the amazing Filipinas I am blessed to know and love, were always a testimony to me. I watched them build entire, productive, full, blessed lives without ever getting a stamp-of-approval from a school. I watched them trust their instincts, abilities, and eventually God to navigate this world.

I ‘got’ unschooling so quickly because I already knew that unschoolers turned out just fine because, in a lot of ways, unschoolers raised me.

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

It is that time of year again…


I just have to say that all those pics make me a little bit weepy.

Like, this is my life in Thanksgiving pictures, and it just makes me misty because, wow. Goodness do I hate to be cliche or cheesy (as evidenced by the cat in the Mayflower), but I am so #blessed.

That said, this holiday season feels different. I have always been adamant about Thanksgiving getting its time in the sun. No Christmas decorations or music until you’ve had your last bite of Thanksgiving turkey.

But this year I live with a three year old that loves Christmas. We watch Santa videos on YouTube regularly. We have a plastic Santa next to our door that Otis acknowledges every time he runs by (“Hi, Santa!”). We go to Lowe’s on Sunday mornings because they have the best Christmas decor.

And he gets his love for Christmas honestly. Mark loves Christmas. LOVES IT. He loves the music. He loves Opryland Hotel’s displays and could spend all day hanging out. He already has our Netflix queued up for a Christmas movie extravaganza. The entire month of December we watch every Christmas movie (I’m looking at you, ABC Family) on the planet.

Basically, I live with Buddy the Elf Elves.

And here I am. All by myself with my turkey.


But it’s all good because until Otis can outrun me this Thanksgiving goodness will continue to exist:

*I made the turkey hat!
** Fool, of course I didn’t make that hat. That would be a Yadah/MIL creation. #awesome


Holiday Recap

Thanksgiving 2013
Otis fell in love with his nth cousins, Jayden & Delaynee. I don’t know what “level” cousins they are (second? third?), but after this kiss I’m thinking that we’ll keep Tennessee’s cousin marrying laws a secret from him for a while.


The Oates Thanksgiving felt small compared to last year’s (both of my MIL’s sisters AND their families made it down for a surprise visit last year), but we still crowded up the kitchen with some fudge taste testing. These ladies are lovely AND laughed at all my white people jokes, so they are pretty awesome in my book.


After the Oates it was off to the McKinney’s Thanksgiving which actually looked more like Christmas because my mom just can’t contain her love of Jesus and Christmas decorations.

My favorite picture from the night was this one because it just says so much. First, that my siblings are some of my favorite people. Second, I’m always the third wheel. Third, my brother would have made an amazing sorority girl.


Christmas 2013
This has probably been the best Christmas ever, the year that I got the Barbie dream house included.

We watched Christmas movies every night, and decorated promptly after finishing up Thanksgiving leftovers.


Otis is in love with Santa. In. Love. And I’ve never been big on drugs, but if they sold the feeling of seeing your kid light up at the personification of Christmas magic I would be the biggest addict ever.

He got the antlers (below) from Santa, and basically acted like he’d been crowned the King of England and wouldn’t take them off. Give me another hit. Or drag. Or snort. Or whatever drug verb is appropriate.

photo (1)

At the Filipino Christmas Eve party, my mom was holding the newest addition to the family, Nolan. This baby is another form of crack. He is so peaceful and chill. Obviously, my mom is giving me a subtle hint that she could totally handle another one. Me too, Mom. Me too.


Speaking of Filipino Christmas Eve, Dirty Santa is no joke with these people. Ok, it is kind of a joke. Everyone brings stuff for the kitchen (crock pots, tupperware, blankets) so men have slowly stopped participating for anything other than being their wife’s second chance to get what she wants.

We got a tupperware set that I stole from my mom. It was a cold move, but it had to be done. Our tupperware was junk.

Christmas morning was a let down. Otis was pretty overwhelmed by Santa gifts which led to a meltdown. Then I took a pregnancy test because I’d felt funny all week, and maybe? But mostly maybe not. Surprisingly, it was Mark that was sad, and I was relieved. But still, how perfect would it have been to let all the grandparents know on Christmas morning about their 9-months late gift?

I even had the perfect Facebook announcement:
My New Year’s Resolution is to gain 50 pounds and lose 8 in August (or whatever month the not real baby would have been born).

So I was a tiny bit disappointed, but mostly relieved because I had just settled in my mind that a 4 year gap would be nice between Otis and a sibling, and this would be a just a tad ahead of schedule. And getting there anywhere early just wouldn’t be my style, would it?

The grandparents hit it out of the park with presents, though. My parents made sure he owned every John Deere toy in Middle Tennessee and Mark’s made Otis the mayor of his own little city.


I’m kinda sad that the Christmas season is over, but mostly inspired to make next Christmas even better. If that’s even possible.

A Proud Tradition

When I was in 7th grade my mom graduated from Nashville’s adult high school. It was the first graduation ceremony I’d ever been to. As my mom walked across the stage to get her diploma I remember my dad clapping and wiping away tears and whispering to me, “No one will ever make me as proud as your mom has tonight.”

When my mom was barely a teenager she stopped going to school to become a maid. Then she met my dad, moved to the States, got married, and started having beautiful mixed babies. Heh. Once we settled down in Tennessee my mom started working various jobs. Usually in the food industry. My dad jokes that at times her pay checks mostly paid for our stint in daycare, but my mom insisted on working. It was just her nature.

But she wanted something more. She wanted to work in an office. To get where she wanted to go she knew she’d need an education so she enrolled in high school, and spent the next four years working very hard to make her dream a reality. The best part? She got pregnant and had my sister during her senior year. Nothing was going to stop her.

For whatever reason my dad’s words stuck with me. I could graduate Harvard with a doctorate in Awesome and there is no way that it would beat what my mom had accomplished. Every time I’ve walked across a stage to get a diploma since then (high school, college, and graduate school), I remember that moment and know that, “Nope, she still wins.”

And this year another McKinney graduate joins her ranks, in my mind.

A few years ago my brother called me. I was back in Nashville living with my parents, and he was still in Cookeville finishing up his undergrad.

“I need you to come to Cookeville.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Just come to Cookeville.”


My mom, understandably, started freaking out.

“What is going on? Is he ok? Why won’t he tell us what’s wrong?”

It’s a 1.5 hour drive, and we all came up with theories about Bobby’s mystery crisis. My mom’s theories were the best: He either had AIDS (I’m really not sure, either) or he’d killed someone and needed help.

Our favorite theory was that he’d knocked a girl up, and we were going to have a baby!

None of theories proved true. Bobby had failed out of school, and would have to take a year off. We were shocked, and disappointed that there weren’t any bundles of joy in our near future. Bobby came back to Nashville for what was possibly the hardest time of his life. McKinney Kids don’t fail, and McKinney Kids don’t stray from the beaten path.

He eventually went back to school, finished his degree in accounting, and got a job with the State. Life was back on track for the McKinney Kid.

But something just wasn’t right. And Bobby knew it. The next thing we knew, he had quit his job and enrolled in graduate school to become a teacher.

He probably doesn’t know it, but I have so much admiration for him for that move. For respecting his DNA and walking away from the comfort of a 9-5 job with a pension because it was soul sucking. For believing that everything would work itself out. For jumping and trusting that the net would appear.

The net did appear, and today Bobby has a masters in teaching and is the newest English teacher at the local middle school. And if he did walk across the stage (he won’t), I’d clap and wipe away tears and whisper to Otis, “No one will ever make me as proud as your uncle has today.”

It’s a proud tradition, indeed.

Beach Hair Don’t Care

Otis went to the beach for the first time a few weeks ago. Unless you’re Pro Life. Then he’s actually been to the beach twice. On opposite coasts. Once in Savannah, GA and once to La Push Beach of Twilight fame.

But this was his first time to touch sand (hated it).

sandy otis

And go “swimming” (loved it). Well, loved it when daddy held him. When mommy held him in the crashing waves of the Gulf of Mexico (I think that’s the body of water that touches Panama City Beach…) he rightly knew to fear for his life. And cry for daddy.


Every morning he did Baby Yoga on the beach. Such a diva. And also the reason for the sandy hair above.

baby yoga

And other than when he wanted to swim, it was All Mom, All the Time on the Otis radio station.

otis and mommy

On our first day there we saw some 12 year old girls taking “jumping pictures” on the beach. They looked like idiots. And we made fun of them.

Two days later this happened:

mom melissa and me

And then this:

jumping filipinas

We’re starting a band. The Filipina Jumping Beans.

And I’m sure you already noticed that we also took part in the White Shirt and Jeans on the Beach photoshoot ala every white family since 2003.

Except Mark and I are rebels. Pink shorts? Green shirt and khakis? Conformity can’t hold us down. Also, we forgot about the dress code when we packed.

group on beach

Most importantly, the first day my hair met the salty ocean air it was amazing. Perfectly formed curls starting at the roots with limited frizz. It was glorious. I wanted to Instagram it and hashtag it #beachhairdontcare, and be all humble braggy to my straight haired friends. But I was lazy.

And God punished me for my procrastination because the rest of the weekend my hair looked like this:

image_1 image_3

Frizz much? Oh well.

All in all we had a fabulous time that I know isn’t all that fun for you to read, but I’m quickly learning that this blog is my only chance at a scrap book. So we’ll all just have to deal.

Thanksgiving 2012 is a success


You guys.

Best Thanksgiving Day ever.

My mother-in-love’s sisters and their families came to visit us in Nashville. Half of the visitors were a surprise AND WE PULLED IT OFF. Awesomesauce.

Also, my MIL and the rest of the fam read yesterday’s post. Today after the prayer she stopped everyone from getting food to do some “special acknowledgements”. I totally didn’t get it. We all said thanks to Aunt Jannett and Uncle Rick for the turkey. Tracy for green bean casserole and Trista for sweet potato casserole. It didn’t take long for me to realize what was going on, and then my MIL says, “And the most important acknowledgement of all… THE COKE GIRL” and all the ladies (myself included) died laughing. Best part? I didn’t bring any drinks! They went shopping the night before and I saw tons of canned cokes so I figured they didn’t need anymore. I died.

And at my parents’ house we played internet trivia games. Because we are nerds. And we don’t have a tv. We also stink at state capitals. Ok, fine. I stink at state capitals.

I hope everyone made beautiful memories today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Christmas can now commence.

I only run when something is chasing me

There’s a funny e-card that I see on Facebook a lot. It’s the one that says something like, “If I’m running it’s because something is chasing me”. That is me. I don’t run.

(Ha, I found it!)

But I’m thinking that I might run this one time. And not because it will help me get away from something scary. No, it’s because I want to help other women and their children get away from something scary… their abusive homes.

My friend and fellow blogger Sarah works for the YWCA and they have a program called Re-New. Re-New makes old things new again (like Pinterest!) and furnishes transitional housing for women who are deciding to get out of  abusive homes. The idea is to put women in safe and clean homes filled with toiletries, food in the pantry, and decor that takes it from feeling like just a place to sleep to a place where a family can heal.

These families need to know that there is a community behind them that cares. If you live in Middle Tennessee then we are their community. If you are like me and have the blessing of going to a home that is safe and peaceful, I think it would be beautiful for us to give from our bounty to those that are in need of that peace right now.

Families are running for Re-New on October 6th. Let’s join them.

And if you have any kind of network online (a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog) a wonderful way for you to help these families, the YWCA, and Re-New is to spread the word about the Run. Tell all of your friends. It matters.

Need help sharing the news? Just copy and paste this as your status (you’re welcome :p):

I believe in fresh starts and stroller runs. Run for Re-New

run for renew

Sometimes I draw out FB statuses…

Sometimes you people make FB statuses that leave me giggling for weeks after I read them. You people make my day.

Some of those FB statuses are just so hilarious in my world that I draw them out. Yes. I draw out other people’s Facebook statuses. I guess I was inspired by that one guy who draws out missed connections just a little too much…

Anyways, here’s one I drew out a few weeks ago…

That was my friend Jeff’s Facebook status. He is married to my best friend Michelle and this bit of conversation happened while they waited for their little nugget of joy to arrive.

In true cable guy fashion Baby Z-A (totally aware that Michelle and Jeff aren’t hyphenators, but I refuse to leave out family Z) showed up almost 2 weeks after her due date.

And she’s perfect. The spitting image of happiness and joy and love all wrapped up in one bundle of little girl goodness.

Even better? She spent her first week outsmarting every doctor at the hospital. And even a couple of docs in D.C.!

She’s already making her mama very proud.

Congrats to Jeff and Michelle!

Daddy’s Day

I thought about writing about my dad for Father’s Day since I wrote about my mom on Mother’s Day. I have a thing about being fair and equal and just. Call me the Supreme Court, I suppose.

But I couldn’t find words that fit. He’s my daddy. And I love him. And when I see how he looks at my son my heart melts because I know he used to look at me the same way.

Who am I kidding? He still looks at me that way.

Anyways, one of my favorite posts that I’ve ever written is about my dad. So I’m just going to copy and paste it here. That’s right, I am copying and pasting a daddy day post the day after daddy’s day. My gift giving skillz are on point.


I think the hardest part about growing up for me was losing the belief that my daddy was not superman.

I was the poster child for daddy’s girls.  He was the funniest man I had ever known, and I always wondered why he wasn’t a stand up comic.  He was brilliant and knew everything, or atleast something about everything.  He was kind and comforting, and there was nothing better than ending nearly everyday for 8 years curled up  in his lap.

My daddy was my everything.

And then I found out he was human.  It was honestly more painful than finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real (btw, this particular bit of information left me sobbing, it was like my grandfather died!).

My dad wasn’t funnier than George Carlin, and lots of that knowledge was more opinion (you mean, it isn’t a fact that Democrats are in responsible for all the world’s problems? Blasphemy!).

Despite finding out he is (gasp) human, my daddy taught me so much…

    1. Things are never as important as people
      My dad was in the Navy, and for the first 5 years of my life we were stationed in Hawaii and Japan.  Because of this my mom was able to take frequent trips to Korea where she would buy all things oriental for bargain basement prices.  For a long time our home looked like a Chinese restaurant where the ‘4 Season’ Japanese woman paintings and beautiful vases cluttered every nook and cranny.

I often looked at those pieces and would wonder, “What would happen if I broke one of these vases or figurines?”  It troubled me to think that these objects could possibly be more precious than I was, but I wouldn’t argue, after all I was free, and they must have spent hundreds of dollars on these knick knacks.I finally gathered the courage to ask, and my dad told me that there would never be an object that I could break that would make him love me less.  People were always more important than things.  Remember that.I have remembered, and it isn’t just about not breaking gaudy vases.  For me, it’s about not letting the desire for things ever become more important than the desire for relationships.   The joy of having things will never replace the joy of being around loving, caring people.  Treasure your people.

  • Jim Henson loved puppets.  Do what you love.
    We didn’t go to church until I was a senior in high school, so I like to call this the Parable of Jim Henson.


I have always struggled with the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  A doctor or lawyer for the money?  Or maybe a children’s book illustrator because of my love of doodling? My dad would ask me to consider Jim Henson.

It’s very unlikely anyone would ever say, “I want to be a guy who makes puppets”.  It seems childish, and who would pay you to make puppets, anyways?  And most people probably wouldn’tget paid to make puppets.

Jim Henson seemed to make it happen.  How?

My dad would point out that Jim Henson loved creating the puppets and the characters.  That’s what made him great, he was passionate and loved his job.  Never underestimate the power of actually loving what you do.

My dad would always insist that we follow our hearts, and not the promise of a paycheck.  When you love something you’ll do it well, and somehow you’ll get taken care of.  No worries.


  • You decide.
    This is my favorite lesson.


I was agonizing over what college to go to by the time I was in 9th grade.  I wanted the prestige.  I wanted people to know that I was smart and had done well on the standardized tests that determined my value as a person.  I wanted to know that I was given the best education possible.

That was where my dad stopped me.

No matter what classroom I was in, I was the only one in control of the education I received.  No one was going to give me anything.  My decision of what kind of student I would be was more important than my decision of what school to go to.

This mindset honestly changed my life.  Deciding to be a learner was more valuable than deciding where to learn.  Deciding to be productive and enthusiastic was more critical to my job satisfaction than where I worked or who I worked for.  Deciding to be loving, kind and compassionate would be more important to my marriage than even deciding who I was going to marry. My experience of life was a decision, it was never something that would simply “happen” to me.

I will probably never consider my dad superman again.  I can easily point out everything that is “wrong” with him.  However, the more I think about what he has given me, and the kind of man he is, I can’t help but admire him.