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…


Always There

All of the friends and family had left the hospital room, and it was just me, Mark, and Wren.

My cell phone buzzed. It was Otis and my mom requesting to Facetime with us. We chatted for a little while and hung up.

“Otis looks sad,” I said.

“He does. Do you think I should go home and get him?”

“Yes. Now. Go.”

“Are you sure?”

Yes. I hated the thought of Otis thinking we’d abandoned him for the shiny, new baby. I had done this mom thing before, and there were all kinds of professional people fully prepared to make sure Wren and I survived the first 24 hours. Yes, Otis needed Mark way more than Wren and I did.

Mark left, and within 30 minutes I realized something…

It had been six years since I had done this baby thing. I had no clue what I was doing. Why was she crying? How hard am I supposed to burp her? I have only co-slept with babies, and that’s not legal in the hospital so how the heck am I going to sleep? Just put her down in this bassinet thing and leave her to die let her sleep?

So there I was. Alone in a hospital room with the sweetest, most innocent baby on the planet feeling so sad and scared and all I wanted was-

Knock, knock, knock


After Mark picked up Otis from my mom she knew.

She knew I was going to need her because, well, she’s my mom. She had my dad drive her to Vanderbilt at 10 at night which was a great plan except they had already closed the hospital to visitors and my dad had already driven off by the time she realized this and she didn’t have a cell phone so she was just stranded outside all alone until she saw a new dad trying to sneak in with some fast food so she just kind of followed him around like a puppy until they figured it out and then she busted into my room like the guardian angel she is.

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I don’t think I cried when it happened, but I get weepy every time I think about it. You held Wren so that I could sleep even though neither of us slept because look at her! She’s perfect! You prayed with me. You reminded me to eat and to sleep and to burp the baby. You were my rock that night.

I get weepy because her very first night in this strange, sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly world starts with a testimony to a God that provides when we’re scared and positive we are alone. He sends angels (aka Moms) to comfort and care for us, even if it’s just through the night.

I get weepy because on I was given a real life picture of the kind of mother I always want to be to Otis and Wren. A mother that obeys the nudges of the Lord. A mother who will do scary things to make sure her babies are ok. A mother who will be there, without answers or advice or judgement, just there to sit with you and let you know it’s all going to be ok.

I get weepy because Wren’s entire story, from the very beginning, has pointed me to God and His provision. When my mom knocked on the hospital room door in the middle of the night I imagine I felt the way Abraham did when the ram showed up for sacrifice instead of his son, Isaac. The relief. The joy. The faith.

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A Total Eclipse of My Heart

My Sweetness,

You’re six months old.

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My running joke while pregnant with you was that you were inside making me be the person I wish I could be. I showed up on time. I ate vegetables. I read the Bible every morning.

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Well, your magic hasn’t stopped. I bought your Halloween costume. In August. It’s in my possession. You, Wren, will dress up as a member of the bird family because I can’t let this joke die.


Sidenote: I considered getting you a Dalmatian costume since your brother will probably* be a firefighter, but your dad vetoed that idea because “Wren isn’t a prop.” I guess we know who the real feminist in the family is…

*”Probably” because I still haven’t bought his costume because you two obviously have different mothers.

You continue to dominate in all areas. You sleep beautifully. You do this scrunch nose laugh thing that turns me into a puddle. You’re army crawling with finesse. You get into everything. You chase the cats like a regular Pepe le Pew. In related news, the cats kind of hate you.


You’ve started eating solids. Your Lola is a little terrified of you choking which means she waters the rice cereal down to near breastmilk consistency. Well, Wrenny don’t play that, and you looked at your Lola like…

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She added a bit more powder, and once your order was correct you went to town.


In a nutshell, you’re the very best thing to happen in 2017. I love you more than a total eclipse in the backyard.



Mother of Stuffed Giraffes

Hi Wrenny Girl,
You are 5 months old.


This whole thing is flying by, and it’s making me weepy. Sorry. I swear I will stop crying one day…


You’re rolling over and trying desperately to crawl. You actually get around pretty well despite not having any ‘forward gears,’ as your dad has pointed out. We have got to say that your homeschool grade for Grit is probably going to be an ‘A.’

(Just kidding. We don’t believe in grades.)

The other day we were driving to Panera, and I heard Otis sing from the backseat, “I got your giraffe, Wrenny! I got your giraffe!”

And then I heard you, Wren Faith of the House of Oates, Mother of Dragons Stuffed Giraffe.


You started crying. It wasn’t the hungry cry. Or the tired cry. It was the “Fool, you best give me back my things before I hit you up side your head” cry.

And I was in the front seat like:


Because seriously, dude. Who steals toys from babies?!?!

Anyways, you’re 5 months old and I’m beyond proud of the baby-sized woman you are.

Love you forever, Little One!

Next time won’t you sing with me…


You are four months old.

You started rolling over on to your belly this month. Most any time you are put down (which isn’t often) you make your way to your belly. And then you cry. Our best guess is that you’re frustrated that you aren’t crawling yet.

I know I’m not supposed to talk about how beautiful you are, but my goodness.

I also don’t want to always talk about your brother, but we’re 4 months into this sibling thing and my mind is blown. See, you love it when your brother talks to you. Like, you straight up squeal with delight when he pays you any attention whatsoever:

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(Sidenote: I love that I gave birth to two squeal-with-delighters. I’m probably going to put it on my resume. If I had a resume.)

And now that you’re interested in him, he’s interested in you. And this is where things get crazy. The other day I asked him to sing you a song and figured I’d get an Otis standard, like a lazy version of The Wheels on the Bus.

But for you? For you he busted out the entire Alphabet Song. Correctly.

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We’ve had this child in our home for 6 years. Two thousand one hundred and ninety days. And he has never, not once, ever sang the entire Alphabet Song correctly. You show up and do what we COULD NEVER DO in, like, 100 days.

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One day you’ll find out I’m prone to exaggeration, especially when I need blog material. But I mean this from the bottom of my mushy heart:

You make us better. Thank you, Wrenny Fire.



Open Letter to That Mom

To that Mom at Lowes…

I see you.

7 months pregnant and wandering the aisles of Lowe’s happily with your little boy. I see that smile on your face. You’re killing this mom thing. Your kid? He’s amazing. Your ability to make him feel safe and loved? No one can compare.

I’ve actually been stalking you all day. This morning at the park? The loving way you figured out how to avert the tantrum over how the cookie crumbled when you opened the package? My goodness, Woman. You amaze us all.

He just noticed the Paw Patrol Night Light display. Your boy sure does love to shop. Add your guilt about being a working mom and it’s the perfect recipe for having a house full of crap, but I digress…

Oh look, he wants a Paw Patrol Night Light. OF COURSE! He’s been amazing, and your face lights up at the chance to give him a little something that he thinks is the coolest thing ever invented only to toss into the abyss known as the toy corner.

Again. I digress.

Wait. What did he just say? Did he just say that he wanted all of them? All of the night lights? You don’t even have that many outlets in your 1,400 sf home…

Hold up. Did I just hear you say “no”? On purpose?

Bravo, young lady. Bra. Vo.

Oh, wait. He’s screaming.

I see the panic on your face.

What’s going on here? Where’s the off switch? Can you just walk away? No, not you. You’re an awesome mother. You’re going to get on eye level and talk to him. Calm him down with the super powers you read about in that gentle parenting article on Facebook.

Did he just tell you to shut up? IN PUBLIC?

Nope, nope, nope/.,,l;

I see you. You want to give in. Make all the noise stop. Maybe he’s right? Maybe you do need a Paw Patrol light in every outlet…but there’s one problem. You looked up and made eye contact with that other mom who was mouth open, staring at your child’s… performance art.

You can’t let him win. Not with an audience.

You walk away. Well, waddle. You’re seven months pregnant after all…

The 5 year old love of your life is chasing you screaming, “WHY ARE YOU LEAVING ME?”

Victim blaming. Ain’t that some $#*+…

You keep walking. He runs faster. Tears streaming down his face. The cries getting less demanding and more pleading. You look like a real douche, Amazing Mom. But you can’t stop. You know what happens if you stop…

You’re about to cross the parking lot. A tantrum parade if there ever was one. You give secret nervous glances behind you to make sure he’s ok because he’s never crossed the street alone when he does it…


Oh, dear God, Woman. How did it get this out of control so fast? You can’t just leave him there! Turn around! Turn around!

I see you go back. Your pregnant self grabs one leg and one arm and DRAGS his butt across the parking lot.

I see you, Pregnant Lady. Dragging your child across a parking lot with every single pair of eyes looking at you eager to get a FB status up about how they’d never let a scene like that play out on their watch while sharing a viral video from that mom that insists parents shouldn’t be friends with their kids.

I see the fear that you can’t do this. That the one you have is more than enough. That you’re not mom enough. Maybe you should just go back to the life you were good at: keeping up with celebrity gossip and french fries.

I see you sit down with a scared, panicking little boy who has no clue why he’s even upset anymore, but he’s determined to feel in control of something, even if it’s you.

I see you. I am you.

No, seriously. It’s me. You’re talking to yourself again. Finish brushing your teeth, and get out the door, Marie. You’re gonna be late for work.

Fire it Up

Dear Wren,
You’re 3 months old today! The weirdest part about that is that it feels like you’ve always been here, always been a part of us.

I tell everyone you are the perfect baby, and that this amazing-ness is sure to be repaid during your teen years…
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But seriously, you are delightful. You wake up smiling every single day. And you’re just so chill. The world will literally be crashing down around us with wailing and gnashing of teeth from one of our  team members #nonames, and you’re just relaxing like the gangster that you are.
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You’ve got some pretty insane neck control, and can hoist that 90th percentile noggin like the pro that you are.

Here’s one thing that I see you doing that I hope you do for the rest of your life. From day one you would nurse and then get off the boob and just start shaking your head like
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I would try to force you back on but you wouldn’t have any of it. I would burp you figuring you were done, and as soon as you burped you’d start crying so I’d put you back on the boob where you’d happily finish your meal.

From day one, sweet girl, you have known what you needed and you haven’t been afraid to demand it. You’re going to get confused and people are going to share their opinions about what you need in your life. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut, Wrenny Fire*. You’ve got this. I promise.

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All the love my heart can hold,

*Your brother has nicknamed you Wrenny Fire, and I kind of love that he already recognizes your fierceness.


Dear Mom,
Wren here. Yeah, with the Big Kahuna you wrote letters to him, but I’m a new baby with different needs and abilities. So this time I am writing to you.

I’m adorable. Like a-close the front door-able. You are clearly made to produce cute human beings so feel free to make more, especially since I have obvious leadership ability and am not cut out for the role of ‘the youngest.’ Or, ‘the middle’ when I think about it. Actually, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to submit my resume for the position of ‘the oldest.’

I’m straightforward. Unlike the Big Kahuna I’m not going to make you guess about what I want. Remember that day you started blowing your tongue at me? LOVED IT! Best joke I’ve heard in ages. And your delivery? Are you related to Lucille Ball because you’re clearly a comedic genius. I want more of that, and I’ll let you know by doing an adorable baby attempt at blowing my tongue back. at. you!

I’m a team player. I know that I’m not the only one with needs in this family, and I can chill while you deal with the Big Kahuna. Speaking of the Big Kahuna, we had a talk. You’re gushing over how he’s been great about my arrival, and I just want you to know that I gave him a little… pep talk while you were in the bathroom. Like Dubya and Cheney, I might be #2, but we all know who the real boss is, um, I mean… Team player. I’m definitely a team player.

My poop doesn’t stink. At least not to you. You keep telling people that it smells ‘sweet.’ FYI, you don’t have to suck up to me, Mom. You’re already my favorite because milk. So you can chill with the, “I love her poop!” Honestly? It’s weird.

Listen, I know I’m the new guy in town, but I really feel like I’ve improved this family considerably (refer to the bullet points in my resume). You guys are clearly happier since my arrival. And I’ve filled this Wren-shaped hole you didn’t know you had. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

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Wren “The Oldest” Oates

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.
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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.”


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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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:

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Wren the Dream Bird

Dear Not-Margaret,

Almost a year ago your dad and I had this text conversation:


You are my dream baby. Literally AND figuratively.

I have not written to you the way I wrote to your brother because, well, you’re the second child. I think this is just how it goes.

But I think you’ll be making your appearance sooner rather than later. So I wanted to let you know a couple of things.

This pregnancy has been pure bliss (from Week 14 on)
The first trimester was hell. It was like having an on-again, off-again stomach virus. I hated it. But one day I prayed about what to eat and I heard God tell me to eat a salad which is NOT the first thing I think ever, but it’s especially not what I think when I’m pretty sure the meal will be coming back up (I can’t imagine anything worse than throwing up lettuce). But I started eating salads and I have felt amazing ever since. You have been a dream of a tenant. Thank you.

You move a lot
We were done with Otis’s ultrasound in, like, 15 minutes. He stayed still nearly the entire time. Your ultrasound? Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha. We were there for nearly an hour with the tech trying to get all of your measurements. She tried to get a ‘decent’ pic of you, but you just never stopped and she had a full day of appointments and she was like, “Y’all gotta go. This kid won’t stop moving. This is the best I can do.” At my last appointment with the midwives they got me on the fetal heart monitor thing because your heart rate was a little high. The midwife observed you for 20 minutes before shrugging her shoulders and saying, “I think she’s just a little on the wild side.”


You not being still:


You love scripture and prayer
I was in love with worship when I was pregnant with Otis. I was a hand raising, crying fool nearly every Sunday. Today your brother sings along during worship EVEN WHEN IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A CHOIR MEMBER’S SOLO.

My entire pregnancy with you I have been a praying fiend. Everything gets taken to God in prayer. And I’m on like Day 160 of the Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year plan. I wake up excited to read the Bible. I don’t recognize myself, but my guess is it’s because this is the you part rubbing off on me. (And don’t think I can’t feel you shaking your head and telling me that this theory is in no way biblically sound. I’m your mom. Shut up.)

I had lots of weird dreams
I won’t go into detail, but I have felt like a prophet for the last 8 months. There have been a number of dreams during this pregnancy, mine and friends of mine, that have spooked me a little. And when your dad suggested we name you Wren which the Druids consider a bird of prophecy? Done and done.

Also, the grandmother that basically raised your Pa was named Birdie. Like, that was on her birth certificate. Birdie.


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If your dad wasn’t going to let me name you Bernadette then I guess this will do…

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I have been terrified of you
I have been terrified to fall in love with you almost this entire pregnancy. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s been a dream, and I’m terrified to wake up and find out you aren’t real.

I am terrified to be a mom to a girl. It might not make sense, but raising a woman feels like such a huge responsibility. I already believe you, like most of the women in my life, are a force. I love it and I can’t wait to cheer you on as you learn what you’re going to do with all of this power, but again… terrified.

Also? I am terrified that you won’t like me. Boys love their moms. Forever. They’re like little koala bears. But I already know you’re probably the most amazing female I know. I already know you are the ultimate cool girl in my universe. I know because I watch other moms of girls look at their daughters in awe. I know because of how your Lola talks about me, as if I could do or be anything I want to be. And it’s a leetle intimidating to know you’re about to hang out with the coolest girl in school for the rest of your life, and that her respect won’t be given it will be earned. I’m praying I’m up to the challenge of being the mom I know you deserve.

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But I’m also so in love
I can’t wait to see how much my heart grows. How much your dad’s heart grows. How much your brother’s heart grows. You are landing into a family filled with so much love and excitement about you, it’s a little nutty. While I don’t know how you’ll fit into our family, I have no doubt that you will. You were made for us, and we were made for you, and oh my goodness isn’t life beautiful?

(Yes, I anticipate having the same reaction to you as Kristen Bell had to meeting a sloth.)

I cannot wait to meet you, Baby Bird!

Mama Bird