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Alive at Five

My little Oates Bird,

You’re five years old now and you are so very serious about this new stage in life. Last night you insisted on doing your entire bath by yourself because “that’s what adults do.”

In Encanto this is the day you’d step up to Casita to find out what your gift was. I feel like yours would be brutal honesty. You can’t help yourself. You call things like you see them and when something doesn’t follow the rules you’re not going to sit silently. This is definitely one of those almost Bruno-level gifts, and I really do pray it serves you more as gift than a curse but just remember it is a gift. Even when it doesn’t fee like it.

Everyone was worried when they found out about your upcoming ‘middle child’ status. Myself included. You aren’t really built for the middle. And I’m not really built for being a mom of 3. I think we’re going to do a lot of growing and forgiving together during this season as we welcome a new family member, and I have to say I’m hopeful. I think we’re both about to find out some beautiful new truths about ourselves, and I honestly can’t wait to go on this journey with you.

You are beautiful, smart, creative, hilarious, independent, and brave. We are so very thankful for you and that God made you to be this perfect fit for our family.

Happy birthday, my baby Big girl!


Submitted Christians

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve felt like I didn’t ‘belong’ and that there were certain things and activities that were not meant for me.

I remember being in kindergarten and there was a play kitchen area with dolls. Most of the little girls hung out and played in that area. But something whispered to me that I wasn’t allowed over there. That those things weren’t for me.

Even certain books felt like they weren’t ‘for’ me. And I don’t mean that I didn’t see books that had little mixed girls in them. I just mean that there was a lie being whispered that books, like Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, weren’t for me. That I wasn’t part of The Club so I should just keep walking because we don’t want your kind here.

This thought has followed me my entire life: “You don’t belong here.”

Enter Christianity.

I’ve always been horrible about the belonging side of Christianity. I remember when our family decided to walk up to the altar one Sunday to profess our belief in Christ and I felt so ashamed and bad and scared. I was embarrassed that we were asking to belong to this group and terrified that they might not want us there. I laugh now because nothing gets a group of Baptists excited like AN ENTIRE FAMILY walking down the aisle to say they love Jesus.

But feeling like I fit in has been a forever problem, and like most of our deep issues, we bring them everywhere we go. Our marriages. Our parents. Our church.

I have bopped all over the church map looking for places I might feel like I belong. The church plants. The big church. The mega church. The teeny tiny church. The Black church. The hipster church. The living room church. The time we just met at McDonald’s regularly with some close friends. I’d find people that I belonged to, but rarely did a church feel like a place where I belonged.

I’m getting better about the lie about not belonging. I recognize it for the spiritual attack it has always been. The things that grew out of the seeds it planted: “You’re not lovable” “You’re too weird” “You’re too much” “You aren’t wanted here” “You aren’t needed” These were not fruits of the Spirit. Even though I don’t belong to a church, I most definitely believe that I belong to The church. The body of Christ here on earth. The Church that has been tasked with ushering as much of God’s presence in the middle of a spiritual warzone as possible.

Spending most of my life feeling like I don’t belong and then joining an institution that, on the surface, doesn’t always align with my values means I have spent a lot of time defining what I believe a Submitted Christian is. Full disclosure: my flesh wants to tell you what a Submitted Christian isn’t. I want to tell you we aren’t racist. And we aren’t hateful. And we aren’t judgmental. I want to write an entirely too long defense of why we, actually, can’t be any of those things AND profess to be followers of Christ. But instead of telling you what a Christian isn’t, I thought I’d share what a Submitted Christian is.

What I’m about to describe is not the experience of every church going person. It is not the experience of every person that describes themselves as a Christian. It is not the experience of everyone that thinks being southern equals being Christian.

First, a Submitted Christian has had a very real conversation with Jesus about sin. Specifically, her sin. She has been confronted with the ways her behavior has consistently ‘missed the mark.’ And it isn’t just the confrontation of the ‘big 10’ sins (the lying, the cheating, the fornicating). God has shown her the ‘little’ sins. The gossiping. The jealousy. The hatred. The pride. A Submitted Christian has looked at her very human approach to the world (the looking out for #1, the unforgiveness, the anger, the self righteousness) and been absolutely horrified by her true self. So horrified that she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she needed Someone to save her from herself.

This full awareness of how disgusting she is when left to her own devices brings so much humility. Like, an avalanche of it. My absolute favorite parable, and the one that consistently keeps me in check, is the one about the man that can’t pay his enormous debt. The king forgives him. Joy! Then the man goes out to find the man that owes him. He grabs the man by the throat demanding payment. The king finds out and is furious. How on earth can I, after being forgiven so much, go out to my neighbors and demand payment for their perceived sins?

After spending some time looking down at the assortment of sin, the Submitted Christian slowly looks up. The sky looks bigger. Farther away. Almost dangerous. Then you realize that God is bigger than the sky. The moon. The sun. Anything in this natural world that has ever taken your breath away. God made it. A Submitted Christian realizes instantly how small she is. How insignificant. How absolutely powerless.

There’s something about that smallness. There’s immediate relief. You’re not the center of the universe. You know that your ability and power mean nothing and… it’s… amazing. The freedom that surges through your soul. You can’t screw anything up anymore. It’s all been fixed. It’s all been forgiven.

A Submitted Christian gets to rest.

Rest in His big and powerful hands. The hands that hung the stars and keep the sky in place and tell the ocean to stop. Those hands are holding her . She is safe in a way that transcends this world. This world almost doesn’t feel real anymore. Yes, her natural world may be a disaster. She may be sick. She may be poor. She may be heartbroken. But she is standing on something firm. Something… Someone is carrying her.

Then she realizes she is alive in a new way. A way that she has never experienced before. She has access to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit which provided the power to bring Jesus out of the grave. That power is alive in her now. A very personal and real connection between her and the Source of everything has been made. This power, this electricity is flowing between her and God.

A Submitted Christian has supernatural powers.

These powers have value in a spiritual world, not a material one. A Submitted Christian has a supernatural ability to forgive. The desire to hold on to grudges and offenses begin to lose their hold when her eyes are fixed on The One That Forgives All. Submitted Christians have the supernatural power of gratitude, joy, peace. The ability to be grateful for the big and the small. The joy despite the circumstances. The peace that surpasses all understanding.

A Submitted Christian is in a relationship with God. Sometimes that relationship is close and she feels like she has the Creator of the Universe on the line ready to answer any question or thought she has. Sometimes that relationship is distant. She aches for Him or she’s running away from Him. Either way, things don’t feel right. A Submitted Christian cares about this connection. Craves this connection. Depends on this connection. She does things that keep the relationship alive and electric. She is meeting with God in His word, in prayer & fasting, and in fellowship with other Submitted Christians. She is humbled by the power of being in relationship with the Almighty, not grasping for more power (there isn’t any!) or using it to dominate others (because in God’s kingdom He reigns, not me!). She is joyfully kneeling at His throne.

I don’t fit most places. Trust me, I’ve tried. But the Church, where the Submitted Christians are, is one of the only places I’ve truly belonged. I get these people because I am these people. And I’m totally fine with you believing whatever you’d like about the church, but I just want to make it clear what I mean when I say that these are my people lest anyone try to ever put words in my mouth or beliefs in my heart.

Nashville’s Future Classrooms

Nashville's Future Classrooms

Y’all know that I’m a big fan of alternatives to the traditional classroom, especially for kids that really aren’t made for sitting still or performing developmentally inappropriate tasks or high stakes testing.

I’m also a big fan of women. Like, such a big fan of women. In Nashville’s underground world of alternatives to traditional school women are such bosses. All over town there are women starting small communities of families that aren’t quite convinced that being kindergarten-ready is the most important thing for kids. Women that are pouring themselves into creating and running schools so that there are options, especially for the kids that need options most.

Most people don’t know how many alternative learning options there are out there so I decided to reach out to some of my faves (more are coming, but this gets it started) and learn more about their schools and the needs they fill here in Nashville. Below are interviews I conducted with these schools so that y’all can learn about the many options available to Nashville and surrounding areas:

A New Leaf of Nashville – Elle is the founder of A New Leaf of Nashville. A New Leaf is a pre-school based on the Reggio model. In a culture obsessed with making sure kids are kindergarten ready, there is something really beautiful about what she has grown at A New Leaf.

Acton Academy Nashville – Carrie is the founder of Acton Academy Nashville. So excited about the growth that they are seeing, and think the Acton model is an impressive blend of the entrepreneurial and Montessori spirit.

Simply Sudbury Microschool – This one is mine. I just love the freedom within community that the Sudbury-model provides. In a nutshell, Simply Sudbury prepares kids for adulthood by letting them actually practice adulthood.


Fall at Honeysuckle Hill Farm

Am I the only one that feels like the seasons just kinda sneak up on you? Like, I’m gonna blink and Instagram is gonna be filled with all y’all sharing your latest Valentine’s Day craft?

Well, Fall, I see you, and you’re not sneaking up on me this year you Pumpkin Flavored Ninja!

We were invited to Honeysuckle Hill Farm for their opening weekend, and we had a blast.

We’ve been to pumpkin patches in the past, but Honeysuckle Hill really is on another level. The farm is about 40 minutes from us in Antioch, and even with Titans vs Seahawks game traffic it was not a bad drive at all.

This was the Farm’s opening weekend and it was really hot which meant there weren’t tons of people were there which was some version of family fun day heaven. We didn’t have to worry about long lines, losing kids in the crowd, or being embarrassed by the natural meltdowns that may happen for some families.

Again, this place is huge. I seriously cannot imagine it feeling crowded which gets BIG points from this mom to an easily overstimulated kid. They have so much to do for every kid in the family. The zip lines, the bouncy pads, the multiple playgrounds, the sand pits, the petting zoo. And then there are the special things like fireworks and movie nights. There are also tons of places to eat and relax in the shade which is another big plus for this mama.

The Farm was awesome and we had a blast, but the thing that made the biggest impression on Mark and I was how every employee truly seemed eager to serve. Mark even asked if it was possible that they knew I was a blogger because it felt like we were getting special treatment, and I’m very confident that my blogging fame ends with my mom so, no, these people are just well-trained and nice. Mark even left me with two kids made a point to find someone in charge so that he could let them know what a great and attentive staff they had.

In my opinion this is the Disney World of pumpkin patches and I would HIGHLY recommend getting yourself there for a very full and fun fall day!
Find Honeysuckle Hill Farm on Facebook and Instagram.

Also, your kid will look like this before you get back to I-24…


Just an Irritation

“Soooo, my water just broke,” I said to my mom as I packed Otis’s things and shuffled him out the door.

“Your water broke? Marie, call your doctor. Let’s go to the hospital.”

“No, I’m fine. I just need to get home. Otis, get in the car. I will call the midwives when I get home. OTIS GET IN THE CAR!”



“Why don’t you listen to me?”

“It’ll be fine.”

Otis and I got home. Mark got Otis to bed and I called the midwives. I had 24 hours to see if labor would start on its own before I had to head to the hospital. They also wanted me to drop by the midwife office in the morning to make sure it was my water that broke. Since this was starting out very similar to Otis’s labor story I felt strangely calm. One of my biggest anxieties was that Wren’s delivery would be totally different so the similarities gave me some peace and a sense that I knew what to expect.

I ended up awake most of the night because of very light contractions. Nothing to write home about, but when everyone talks about how ‘fast’ the second baby comes I was a little on edge. At my mom’s urging I called the hospital around 7AM to talk to a midwife and see what they thought about the “contractions” I thought I was having. The midwife on duty was… wait for it… Margaret! Margaret said I sounded fine (any woman carrying on a conversation while “in labor” is medically defined as fine), but to trust my gut and come in. She promised that if it didn’t seem like labor had started that she wouldn’t keep me there and she’d still give me the full 24 hours.

We get to the hospital around 8AM, and they get me set up in the triage room and start monitoring the contractions I had been having.

“It looks like contractions haven’t started,” said the sweet nurse.
 no lies lie anchorman liar GIF

Oh. These things that have kept me up all night are not contractions?

“It looks like you’re having some irritations. But labor hasn’t started. I’ll go get the midwife so we can talk about what to do next.”


 done over it finished give up i give up GIF


 harry potter confused shrug dumbledore give up GIF


 fail tired falling r2d2 i give up GIF

Margaret the Midwife came in, and agreed that labor had not started, but we had lots of options so that I could get the birth I wanted in my birth plan.

In my what?

“I read your entire birth plan so if you guys want to head home to see if labor starts naturally I think that would be great. If we try to induce you probably won’t be able to deliver on all fours like you want.”

“Um. I don’t need to labor on all fours…”

Margaret looks at her papers. “Oh! Wrong McKinney! So how do you want to do this? Induce now? Go home? What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that if these are ‘irritations’ I’m screwed. I have energy now, we’re already here, let’s go ahead and get the induction started.”

“Great! And I’m not going to worry about checking how dilated you are especially since you’re water broke. No need to risk infection. We’ll do that once you’re in your room.”

They unhooked me from the monitors and I stood up to walk to our room when all of a sudden I was on my knees in pain.

Superstore ouch superstore labor cheyenne GIF

These irritations were no joke. I walked to my room silently beating myself up for not even being strong enough to handle irritations. By the time I walked in I told the nurse to go ahead and order the epidural. If these were irritations there was no one way in heck I would survive a real contraction.

I would have to wait for the IV before I could get the epidural so I breathed and relaxed into each of the irritations. I closed my eyes and made horrible noises and prayed that I wouldn’t die and then cried because irritations were enough to kill me.

True story: The only thing that made the pain go away was bearing down like I was pushing. So I did. But I didn’t tell anyone because I was scared they’d cancel my epidural order, and that was not going to happen.

 tv sad parks and recreation death amy poehler GIF

The epidural dealers came in and I gave a long speech to Mark about how this was the last baby I would ever have. There was no Baby Number 3. I don’t care how much he begged. See, the pain of the irritations had me delusional and thinking that Mark wanted Baby Number 2. Or Baby Number 1. Mark asked if anyone could record this speech. Just in case I changed my mind.

Which I did.

As soon as the most perfect epidural ever was completed, I was like, “I could have a billion babies! Do you want a billion babies, Mark? Please! We need a billion babies.”

Team Coco bernie sanders delusional GIF

Once the epidural was finished Margaret the Midwife came in with her bag of pitocin for inducing purposes.

“Let’s find out how far you are!”

Her eyes got big.

“Forget the pitocin. You’re ready to go. And she has a lot of hair.”

 what wait wut nick kroll kroll show GIF

I was “10 plus 1” or something like that. An internet search says that it meant I was all the way dilated and Wren was making her way down the birth canal which is why Margaret the Midwife could tell me about Wren’s hairstyle.

I started pushing (with the medical team’s consent this time), and 20 minutes later at 11:30AM I was holding little Wren Faith Oates. And I fell madly in love with 8 pounds 14 ounces of pure joy, light, happiness, and faith.

Lots and lots of faith.

And this is just hilarious:

Cheezburger baby babies parenting nokia GIF

Give It Back

Santa is my favorite.I loved Santa as a kid, and I probably love Santa even more now as a parent. The twinkle in Otis’s eyes when we talk about what toys the elves are making or practice what he’ll say when we visit him at the mall is basically my heroin.

That said, I’m also pretty dedicated to the reason why we as the Church celebrate this Season.

I believe God sent His son down in the form of  a little baby to a virgin named Mary and her fiancee, Joseph. And for a long time that’s about all I celebrated. I mean, it’s a pretty amazing miracle. God of the universe steps down from his heavenly throne to take on the form of the weakest human on earth via a woman who hasn’t done it, yet. It’s an awe-inspiring miracle for sure.

But there are so many awe-inspiring miracles in the Bible. There’s seas that part and set slaves free. There are donkeys that talk. There are women who should be in retirement homes giving birth to entire nations. There is walking on water and turning water into wine and making a little boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands (with leftovers!).

Why does this miracle deserve a celebration? Why does this miracle matter so much?

A few months ago I was driving to work thinking about all the blessings in my life, thinking about how God has redeemed so many things. I thought about how I can look at the story of my little family starting with the end of another family. How it’s possible that this beautiful marriage I have is a result of Mark holding up the ashes of his first marriage and begging and believing God could make something good out of it. And He did.

“That’s because Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals,” I heard the Holy Spirit whisper as I praised God for my family.

A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life—life that is full and good. John 10:10

Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals. It has been my prayer in so many areas. Areas that I believed with my entire human heart were dead I started holding up the ashes and begging God to redeem them, begging Him to come back and with His power get back what Satan has stolen.

And it worked. He worked. He is working and rescuing and redeeming and I’m feeling a little like someone standing in front of a parted sea or talking to a donkey or eating the leftovers of a little boy’s lunch.


So this season. God coming to earth in the form of a little baby via a teenager who hasn’t had sex. It’s a miracle, yes. But it’s really THE miracle.

It’s the miracle that starts His final rescue plan. Satan stole us in the Garden. He convinced us that maybe we didn’t need a God that loved us, that we’d be fine on our own. And by doing that Satan stole our identity as children of God. He stole peace and love and generosity and hope. He stole our connection to an all-powerful God that created us in His image, that delights in us.

And that little baby in the manger is THE miracle of God saying, “I want them back.”

Because Satan doesn’t get to keep what he steals.

HAPPY Holidays: Free Christmas Printables:

#TBT That Fight We Had

I’m looking through drafts of blog posts because I’m trying to find a link to an article I read once, and I was sure it would be in here, but it isn’t BUT I did find this gem from way back in the day. I don’t remember this ‘fight,’ but I made myself laugh all over again which is all that matters.

It was one of those days when I had decided that I was done with McDonald’s. Done, I tell you. No more of that filth would be entering the temple I call my body.

By 10pm that same day I was hungry. Hungry for a Big Mac. However, even I have limits no I don’t on what hours I will go out to fill a McD’s craving. I was planning to just sleep through the urge.

Mark: I’m hungry.

Me:  Me too. But I’m not in the mood to get up. We’re starving tonight, buddy.

Mark: Ok.

(a few minutes later)

Mark: I think Kevin went to McDonald’s…

Me: Call him! Call him and tell him to get us food!

In counseling, I like for couples to repeat back what they hear each other say.

Readers, what did you hear me say in that last sentence?

“Call him! Call him and tell him to get US food!”

Thank you.

Mark: Ok. (calls Kevin) Hey, man, are you still at McDonald’s? Great, can you get me a #1?

Me: Yeah, I want a #1, too!

This is where it gets bad.

Mark: (covers the phone) I only have a few dollars-

My eyes got bigger and I gasped. Then his eyes got big and then he gasped.

I was just denied a Big Mac. By my husband. The man who vowed to protect AND FEED ME til death do we part.

The betrayal. The heartache. The tears. THE EMPTY STOMACH.

Me: (chilly silence)

Mark: (to Kevin) Ok, man, I’ll see ya in a little bit. (to me) I’m so sorry! You can have it when he gets here. I just didn’t have enough cash on hand to pay him back… Marie? Please talk to me.

What I said
Me: No, it’s fine. I decided not to eat McDonald’s anymore anyways. This was just God intervening. No, seriously, I’m fine. You can have it.

What I meant
Me: You loser. I can’t believe you chose YOURSELF over your HUNGRY WIFE! How can I ever trust you again? How do I know you’ll make sure that my special sauce intake stays regular, huh? HUH?

Mark: Ok. I really am sorry.

At this point I really was fine. Sure, I was a little hungry and was imagining the smell of warm french fries, but fine nonetheless.

Then the food got there, and a mixture of hunger and anger consumed me once more.

Me: I just… I just… How am I supposed to know that you’re looking out for me? For my well-being?

Mark: Seriously, you can have the hamburger.

Me: No, this isn’t about OMG that Big Mac sure does look tasty a burger. This is a matter of principle. Of knowing that you are going to put me first. That you’re going to take care of me. If I can’t even get first dibs on a burger then how do I know what you’d do if there was just one life jacket on The Titanic?

Mark: We aren’t on the Titanic-


Mark: Oh, I thought that was where you were going…

Me: Just eat your stupid burger.

Tommy John Wants to #SupportYourBalls

When Tommy John asked me to help them and the Testicular Cancer Foundation spread the word about November being Men’s Health Month and that if I share a pair (of round objects) on Instagram I could win a pair (of their kinda expensive underwear thus completing my Christmas shopping for the hubster) I was like, “Sure! Sign me up!”

I don’t know if Tommy John realizes I’m kind of a trailblazer when it comes to being proactive about your man’s ball health. Remember when I made that doctor’s appointment for Mark because his little guys were hurting?

Read about that here.

It’s pretty hilarious.

I’m all about being silly (especially when it comes to…balls), but this really is important. We actually had a little bit of a scare this summer on this very topic, and it sucked. Thankfully testicular cancer is easy to check (once a month, in the shower) and it has a high survival rate when it’s caught early. Also, your man is NOT too young! Most testicular cancer is diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35.

Ladies, he has probably insisted on helping you #SaveTheTatas more than once #ugh #dontmessupmybackrubwiththatmess. Now it’s our turn to remind him to #SupportHisBalls. In the shower. By himself. Because no, I don’t want to see them.


I know all of yall are on Instagram (here I am!) so go play and maybe win a pair of very awesome underwear (Mark is totally jonesing for a pair) so that you can spend more money on yourself this Christmas!

“Share a pair win a pair” Instagram contest. To enter, take a picture of any pair of round objects, and tag them on Instagram #SupportYourBalls, and follow @TommyJohnWear and @TesticularCancerFoundation for a chance to win a pair of Tommy John underwear 

The Butler of the Month

My running joke when people ask how Otis is doing is to say, “He is great! He doesn’t have parents. He has butlers.” Because I kind of do everything for him because that’s how I roll, and Mark just has to deal with it? Yeah…

{Insert lecture about how I’m the reason he’s behind in everything. Yes. I get it. I suck.}

Well, the other day Otis wasn’t feeling too great and he asked Mark for some milk which Mark happily fetched for him.

Otis didn’t like the milk. So he held it up for Mark to take back. He wanted juice instead.

Otis wasn’t feeling great. Mark obliged and brought a cup of juice.

Otis wasn’t happy with the juice and HELD IT OUT AGAIN. Like he had incorrectly taken my joke about butlers seriously.

Seriously, just held the cup up like, “You know what to do.”

Mark was behind Otis like:

And I was obviously like:

Because I was pretty sure my kinda sick son was going to get a smack down.



Instead Mark got another cup of juice and gave it to our master son.

We waited….

It had been accepted!!

Otis was going to drink the juice!

And then I said to my husband, the man that prides himself on never caving to Otis or encouraging the spoiled behavior I’ve been accused of creating:

“Well, if you keep this level of service of up you’re SURE to be Butler of the Month!”

And that is the story of the time my son escaped death, and The Poor Mom got one on the hubs.


Santa Baby

First and foremost, thank you to everyone that donated and shared the link to help my family in the Philippines. I can’t tell you how moved they were to know that people that they have never met cared about them and what they are going through. Seriously, I’m crying. I’m also procrastinating on sending you all your thank you gift, so just know that something is coming soon 🙂 (I just finished Christmas shopping this afternoon…)

Also, another update so that you guys know how your money will be spent. They are going to be obviously rebuilding their homes, but we are very aware that our family is blessed to have a connection to the States. They are able to call my mom and ask for help. Many of their neighbors don’t have this luxury. So, not only is the money going to help rebuild, some of it will go to a widow that lives across the street from my grandmother. She has herself and her children. That’s it. And they lost their entire home. So thank YOU for easing the burdens of a widow on the other side of the world. I know some of you may not consider yourselves Christians, but I’m thankful that you’re being the kind of Christ followers God looks for:

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  James 1:27

Seriously. I can’t stop crying. Thank you.

Ok. On to the funny.

We went to get our picture taken with Santa this afternoon. Yes, we went to Opry Mills on Christmas Eve Eve.

Here’s the kicker. We were at Opryland Hotel a couple of weeks ago just walking around doing our Sunday morning thing. They have a beautiful Santa setup. There was little to no line. I even commented that, “Wow! When you do popular activities early you really beat the crowds! There is barely anyone here. How nice!”

But that would make too much sense wouldn’t it? To go ahead and get a picture done while you are ALREADY THERE WITH NOTHING ELSE TO DO.

But I’m not completely dumb. I did take what I am calling a Periphery Santa Picture. Yes, a picture with Santa from the periphery. Because who seriously wants to sit on a fat old man’s lap?

So I took this picture because I know myself and I know that the likelihood of me getting close to a Santa setup again was, well, not very good.


I am not going to lie to you. Every day this seemed more and more like a decent enough attempt at a Santa picture. I even rehearsed how I would tell Otis’s children, “Here’s your daddy when he saw Santa from about 30 feet away. That’s how we did things back then. #GoodOleDays.”

But Mark was having none of it. Y’all. He looked up where the Santas were. He researched time and prices and ability to take your own cell phone pics. He called Outdoor World to see how long the wait would be on Christmas Eve Eve.

No, seriously. He called them. And they were like, “It’s long. The lines are long. Please don’t come here. We hate you.”

We pack up and head to Outdoor World, and I just have to say they have a pretty impressive operation. The line was super fast. The decor is superb. And there are elves all over the place. WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE.

And Otis? Otis is eating this up.

He’s playing with trains and race car tracks. He’s petting fake reindeer. He is screaming “Hi, SANTA!!!” every single time we catch a peek of him through the evergreen trees.

This. kid. is. ready.

See, here he is in line:

And all of that excitement and cheese and joy? It all looked like this by the time it was our turn:

Pure, undeniable terror.

And that Santa. He was a sweetheart. I was actually going to just keep walking, and he suggested that I hold him so that we at least got a picture. My smile lets you know that I think this is a brilliant idea.

And in case anyone is wondering, if I’ve ever not shown up to an event because Otis was being a leetle clingy THIS is what I’m talking about. Times ten million.

We finish up and Santa hands him a candy cane and this kid calms down immediately.

We move on and do a little decompress interview (most of the interview is a waste, but his face when I ask if Santa was nice kills me).

I mean, that interview is literally 3 minutes after this face:


And that, friends and family, is how we spent Christmas Eve Eve.

Merry Christmas!