Fast, Furious, and Natural Labor: My Birth Story

This post is written in collaboration with The Honest Company. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

At 12:00 A.M. I felt my first contraction. At 4:10 A.M. I was holding my child. I’m a first time mom, and I had a 4 hour natural labor. This is my story.

Let me preface this story by telling you that every labor is hard. Natural, epidural, cesarean section, fast, dreadfully long, hospital, home-birth, water-birth, and everything in between. It’s emotionally taxing, and it tests every physical part of you! Sometimes there is the assumption that fast is synonymous with easy. I can assure you that this is not the case.

So it begins.

Denver and I were expecting to have little Oliver on December 31st, 2016. As the new year came and went, I knew he had to be making his appearance soon. Being 40+ weeks pregnant is incredibly uncomfortable. We were SO beyond ready to meet our little boy and every hour past our due date felt like ages.

In the weeks leading up to his arrival, I had been walking 2 miles a day, climbing a set of 99 steps up and down, and I had been using an outdoor gym. Anything to spur on labor!

natural labor exercise

I used an exercise machine that my husband and I have now deemed “the contraction machine”. Essentially, it spreads your legs apart and you squeeze them together (no weights attached). On New Years day, I did rounds of the above listed exercises. That night came and went and I didn’t feel anything progressing.

Bummed out and getting impatient, I decided that the next night (January 2nd) Denver and I should have a date to distract ourselves and to celebrate our last days as a family of two. We grabbed a coffee and walked around town, went out to eat, and then decided to go to the theater. When Denver and I were at the movies I legitimately felt like I was sitting on Oliver’s head. Little did I know, I was in early labor as I was chowing down on popcorn. Oliver had been low for quite a while, despite not being dilated at all at my previous exam (which is not what you want to hear at 40 weeks).

We had so much fun on the date, and we ended up getting home at about 10:30 P.M. We had decided to watch Vine compilation videos on YouTube because we are still mourning the loss of Vine (R.I.P.), and at this point the night felt like any other. At 11:45 P.M. Oliver was kicking around as per usual, but I had a little bit of back cramping. I had back pain my whole pregnancy, so a little back cramping was pretty normal to me at this point. I grabbed a heating pad and we continued watching videos.

Midnight.

I started to notice that my dull back cramps were coming and going in waves. It hit me. This might be the start of something! I told Denver, “Hey, I might have him in a couple of days!”. I texted a few of my friends to tell them that labor could be starting in the days to come, and upon hearing my symptoms, they all agreed it might be possible!

About 10 minutes later the cramping got worse. I felt like I just needed to live on the toilet. But nothing was coming out. Denver and I had been to a birthing class so I knew that this was a sign of early labor. I informed Denver and he was excited and started to pack up our toiletries into the hospital bag. I told him to calm down and that it could be days before we go into active labor. Then I realized my cramps were coming in stronger waves. I texted my friend Kylie (a nurse and a recent first time mom), and she said, “Time those. They could be contractions.”

I felt excited.

Now, I knew I would have back labor. Every hormonal occurrence I have had leading up to labor has been carried in my back. What I didn’t know is that with back labor, you might not ever feel one single contraction in your stomach. I didn’t feel any tightening, but I started to feel a lot of pain.

While standing in the bathroom with my pants around my ankles, I tried to determine whether I wanted to sit on the toilet or walk around. Denver came in, and asked if I was okay. I said, “I need to braid my bangs back, I think things are happening!”. Denver threw off his house shoes and put his tennis shoes on. I told him to take them off because we wouldn’t even go to the hospital until the next day. He looked at my face and said “Okay, but I still think it’s going to be sooner.” Silly boy. Didn’t he remember our class? Our instructor had said that in many instances, early labor can last hours and hours or even days before it transitions into active labor!

Early labor was likely with my symptoms, and I knew it was time to put our birthing class knowledge into practice. Move, move, and keep moving. I grabbed a microwaveable corn bag so I could start walking around the house. I told Denver to grab the timer and I would tell him when I needed him to time the “contractions” I had felt.

At this point, I had only felt a few waves of pain. We timed my waves of back pain for about 15 minutes. Denver said “Babe, these are 3 minutes apart and lasting close to 1 minute long”. We were confused. In our class we had learned that a good time to go to the hospital was known as 4-1-1.

Contractions 4 minutes apart.

Contractions are lasting around 1 minute long.

You’ve had these consistently for 1 hour.

Well. I had contractions less than 4 minutes apart lasting 1 minute long, but I had only had them for 15 minutes. We were confused. Why did my contractions start out at the point you’re supposed to be heading to the hospital? Don’t you usually get to work up to this point? The pain was getting stronger with each contraction and I was practicing everything I had learned. I was breathing through them, moving around, squatting, leaning over the bed, swaying, and making low noises to push through it. While leaning over the bed, I felt a really horrible wave of back pain. I popped up and told Denver, “I think we need to go to the hospital, how many have I had?” To which Denver replies, “You’ve had 8 contractions”.

That’s when I felt fear.

Only 8 contractions had occurred and I already felt like I had been in a mild car accident. I have a high pain tolerance, so thinking we were probably in the earlier stages of labor was devastating to say the least. “How do people do this for 18+ hours?“, I wondered, not knowing I was already in active labor. I decided to try to labor for at least an hour at home so that it would be consistent with the 4-1-1 instructions. The pain started to get really intense, but I still never felt any tightening in my stomach or abdominal area. I hated this. Why was my labor so strange?

After an hour and a half had passed, I allowed myself to go to the hospital. Then I saw it. The car. How was I going to have a contraction in that thing. I found myself thinking, “Why do we have a Prius? It’s so small.” We got into the car and I felt a contraction coming on as soon as I got in. I pulled back the passenger seat and straightened my body out and took a big breath and groaned it out. Denver drove to the hospital and I had two contractions in the car and one in the hospital parking lot. We only live 7 minutes from the hospital (now so thankful for this), so I knew they were close together.

We walked into the hospital lobby at exactly 1:30 in the morning. The nurses politely asked me how long I had been in labor. When they learned that it had been just over an hour, they looked a little calmer and said we had time to get things together. I was breathing through the contractions but felt like I was going to vomit all over the lobby. I began pacing around and felt incredibly embarrassed knowing it could be a possibility that I came in too early. They wheeled me back to see how dilated I was.

I was terrified. What if I was barely dilated? I couldn’t imagine going back home.

When the first nurse came in to check me, she told me that she didn’t know how dilated I was because she couldn’t reach my cervix. I knew my cervix was far back because my doctor had told me the same thing in prenatal appointments. The nurse brought someone else in to try. I’ll never forget the pain as I looked up at the florescent lights in the little holding room while someone struggled to reach my cervix. This nurse couldn’t reach either. They said that Oliver’s head was in the way of checking.

I was freaked out. I’m a Type A personality! I like to know what’s going on.

The nurses came in and told me that they would check me in 30 minutes, and that I might not be far enough along for them to feel the dilation. I looked at Denver and I felt the panic in my heart. 30 minutes sounded like a lifetime. It felt almost impossible to breathe through the pain at this point. I hadn’t told them how much pain I was in, and I felt really alone. Why was this happening? Why could no one tell me how far along I was in the process? Denver sat there clutching my purse, and he and I exchanged silent glances of frustration.

After about 20 minutes had passed I had started grunting and holding the rail of the tiny bed I was on. When are they coming back? I told Denver someone needed to come in and check me, because I felt like I was going to poop him out! They sent in an entirely different nurse. She was tall, and strong, and she told me she wouldn’t leave until she knew how far along I was. As she was putting on her gloves, I felt a rush of warm fluid all over my legs. It was at this point that I realized my water had broken.

When this nurse checked to see if I was dilated, I screamed. It felt like it would never end. She took her glove off and got the other nurses. They started speedily wheeling me into the hallway and they told me that I was dilated to an 8 and progressing very quickly.

Two thoughts went through my mind almost simultaneously. Relief and fear. Relief that I was justified in my pain, and fear that I wouldn’t be able to get the epidural.

Going into labor, Denver and I had decided that we would listen to my body. I would like to try naturally, but if I felt like it was too much to bare, that I would get the epidural. In our birthing class, someone had asked how far along you have to be to not get the epidural. She told us that it was incredibly rare to be too late for an epidural your first time, and that you can even get it when you’re 10 cm dilated, so not to worry.

As they wheeled me into an actual labor and delivery room, I asked this question: “Am I able to get the epidural?”. They all looked at each other, and one sweet nurse looked at me and said “We’re going to try.” Did you hear that? Try. 

Every ounce of pain that I was feeling was in my back and my rear. It was excruciating.

The nurses quickly hooked me up to an I.V. and told me that they didn’t have time to move me to the nice delivery bed. That’s when I remembered, I wasn’t even admitted to the hospital yet! They started the I.V. drip, and I asked again about the epidural. The nurse looked at me and told me I had to get I.V. fluids for an hour before they could administer it.

An hour.

I looked at the clock and I felt defeated. I was clinging to the fact that it might happen and relief would be right around the corner. At this point I was starting to get light headed and I felt like I could simultaneously vomit and pass out. I wanted to push him out so bad. But all I saw was clip board after clip board of paperwork being handed to me. Signing agreements  in between frequent contractions was not my idea of a serene natural labor experience, but it’s exactly what was happening.

Although I had been breathing through contractions thus far, this is when I started screaming. I never thought I would scream! Why couldn’t I hold it together?

Denver looked at me and mouthed that I was doing well. I couldn’t even think about doing well, nor did I feel like I was doing well. I felt like I was screaming and was embarrassed to be doing so. The nurses told me that I was the only one in the wing and to let out whatever I wanted to. So I did.

I clung to the rail and laid on my side. My arms were shaking. I felt like I was on a ride and no one was letting me off. Denver moved over close to me for support. That’s when a labor and delivery nurse came in. This nurse would be my saving grace. She was confident, to the point, and supportive. She looked at me and told me that I had to breathe. That it wouldn’t get better until I could breathe.

I felt like my back was breaking.  I knew I would need to look into the eyes of the nurses and my husband, because  they were going to help me through this. The delivery nurse told me that it was time to push. I asked her about the epidural. “Can I please get the epidural now?”. She looked at me, and I knew. “Sweetheart”, she said. “You’re not getting the epidural”. I said, “Is there any way?”. That’s when she gave it to me straight. “If you sit up to get the epidural, your body will start pushing. He’s coming”.

I looked at Denver and I said “We got here too late.”

This is when I had to make a decision. I was either going to be strong, or I was going to crumble. As I grabbed my husband’s hand, he nodded at me in support. This made my decision easier. I chose to be strong.

Denver called my mom to tell her that we were close. They rolled my body over to push. I held my legs up to my chest, grabbed the back of my thighs, and listened to everything the nurse told me to do. Through pain and exhaustion, I asked the nurse a very important question. “Is he going to break me in half?” Although my husband and I laugh about this question now, at the time it seemed valid. She grabbed my feet and put them on her arms and assured me that he would not break me in half.

“He has dark hair.”, she said.

I could feel my eyes get big. That one statement made it all so real. I looked at the clock. It was 3:40 in the morning. I couldn’t believe it was all happening so fast. I had to grin and bare it. There was no turning back. I was going to have this baby with no epidural, and I was going to have him soon.

I began to push. It was the best feeling I had ever had. Pressure relief.  I pushed for a while and the nurse was assuring me that I was doing well. I kept asking the nurse how many more pushes she thought I had. She said that if I brought my legs up to my chest more he would come quicker. That’s when I got down to business. I was desperate to meet my son and wanted the agony to be over. I relate this feeling to the likings of pushing a watermelon out of a straw.

At about 4:00 A.M. she said it was time to go get the doctor. The doctor sat down in front of me and I began to push again. That’s when I felt it. I had heard about it.

They call it the ring of fire. That’s exactly what it is.

I could feel Oliver crowning. I remember in all that pain all I could say was, “Ow”. And that word felt so funny. I let out the tiniest laugh, the word “ow” had never held so much weight before. The doctor looked at me and Denver, and he told us that the baby had come so fast that I wasn’t stretched out enough.

This is where a fast labor has a downfall. I felt so blessed that I wasn’t worrying about him days on end or having contractions for hours and hours with slow progression. What people don’t often think about with this quick of labor is that your body goes from 0-60. The severe pain was coming from my body not having enough time to work up to it. And since every one of my contractions were in my back, my stomach and abs couldn’t help push him along.

The doctor told me that he never does these anymore, but that he suggested I get an episiotomy. I was surprised. Basically they wanted to make a small incision to help things along. He calmly looked at me and told me that I would rip badly, because of how quickly I progressed, but that the decision is totally up to us and to only do what we felt comfortable with. I looked at Denver and we agreed.

Let’s get him out.

I was scared. I didn’t have an epidural and I really didn’t want to get cut. How scary is that! He gave me a topical numbing shot and made the incision without me even noticing. There was too much pressure to feel a cut! He told me to push. I shut my eyes and pushed as hard as I could. I felt the worst burning and pain of my life, and I remember yelling, “I feel him”. That’s when I saw him cross over my knees and onto my chest.

He was here. If this moment doesn’t make you sing “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce, I don’t know what will!

We had done this. Denver stood over us and I felt blessed beyond belief. He had dark hair and I immediately knew that he looked just like my husband. They took him away to wipe him off and Denver went over to give our son a closer look. The doctor stitched me up and then I was handed my son once again. Being able to breast feed him right away was an unforgettable experience, and I couldn’t believe what was happening.

I was expecting to be bawling, and I was expecting my over-emotional husband to be bawling along with me.

What I felt was shock.

I had just been through a blur of the most unbearable physical pain, high adrenaline of my life, and then I had the emotional reality of holding my first child. I looked at Denver and said, “Well, you better text your family and tell them that he’s here.”

It had all happened so quickly and in the middle of the night, so we didn’t even have time to tell people we were at the hospital! We sent out our texts and pictures to family and friends and my mom came back to visit us.

The nurses came in and told me that it was an incredible delivery, and they hadn’t seen a first time mom deliver that quickly before. They also congratulated us because Oliver was the first baby of the new year born in our hospital! It was all so unbelievable.

I started to see light pour through our blinds. As I looked at my son, I said a prayer. A thank you to God for giving him life. A thank you for allowing me to be the vessel. He was my baby. He was my joy. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I felt like I had just won a battle. My heart swelled with the greatest and rarest love I had ever known. I was holding the embodiment of the love between my husband and I.

I was holding family.

Tears are rolling down my face as I write these words in a coffee shop, because I still can’t believe God’s gift to me and Denver. A four hour labor from start to finish was never what I expected. But I love it because it’s our story. Be it genetics, all the working out leading up to it, or by chance, I still don’t know what I can attribute the fast delivery to. But believe me that I will go to the hospital right away with our next!

While Denver and I still can’t believe his epic travels to get here, our journey as a family is just beginning! At three months old, he has the sweetest personality and is a reflection of the love I have for my husband. To keep up with our adventures as a family, you can follow my personal Instagram at BethanyMPoteet and our blog Instagram at OakAndEarth (my co-writers have lovely adventures as well).

Thank you so much for reading my story. We feel so blessed for our healthy little one. Every story is unique and special. The Honest Company is sharing many birth stories to unite us all in this beautiful journey we call motherhood. You can view their video about it here! Go celebrate other moms!

Until next time,

Bethany

Natural Labor

Make Christmas Memorable for Your Family While Keeping it Simple

Merry Christmas season, readers! It’s Tera here on Oak and Earth today. This time of year is by far my favorite, for so many reasons! It is a time for family, a time of giving, a whole season of yummy foods, a time for Christmas lights and hot chocolate, and most of all a time to celebrate and remember the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord and Savior! I have the most special memories of the holidays from my childhood years, and the excitement and fun my family had during the Christmas season has most certainly carried on in me into adulthood!

 I was reflecting recently on Christmas time and my own little family, and I tried to think of ways to make this a memorable time of year for Norah (and us), while keeping our main focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting wrapped up in the common mindset of, “more is more.” I want to instill meaningful and treasured memories into Norah’s core for Christmas time that teach her what principles are important to have and to pass down, and that will tug her heart strings (in a good way) for years to come. Simple moments that create a lifelong impact. So, I have created a list of some simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, give quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. I’m sharing my list below, and I hope you can be inspired for your family by some of these ideas! ‘Tis the season!

1.   Christmas Lights Outing  

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Downtown Siloam Springs, AR

This is an easy way for you and yours to have some fun during the Christmas season! My family would do this every year after our Christmas Eve service, but this is something you could do any time during December! Many of your local neighborhoods will have some fun light displays, or your downtown square (for us NWA folk, the Fayetteville square, for example). Some houses even connect their light displays with one of your local radio stations, and it’s really fun to see the lights flickering to the rhythm of the music! Your kids would love it if you all dressed in your comfy, festive Christmas pj’s, whipped up some hot chocolate, and hopped in your car together for a ride around town to see the pretty lights! It’s a nearly free activity (minus a little gas), and the kids will love starting this tradition with you!

 2.  Trim the Tree as a Family 

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My Christmas mantle in my pretty new house!!

Another fun memory I have from my childhood is helping my mom and siblings decorate our Christmas tree together each year! We would all get a new hallmark ornament every year to add to the collection. My own Christmas tree now is full of all of these ornaments (plus Jeremy’s and now Norah’s). There is something super special about those homemade ornaments and little hallmark collectibles that make a Christmas tree so sentimental and nostalgic! Pick a day where the whole family can be a part of this; and if you want to make a whole afternoon of it, visit a local tree nursery and choose a real tree to take home and decorate! The prices are usually very reasonable and it’s a fun and neat experience for the family. Set your tree up, stick some cookies in the oven, and choose a favorite Christmas movie to watch while you all have fun decorating (our tradition is The Polar Express). Let your little ones have a role in making the tree pretty! You can “touch up” some bare spots after they go to bed and disperse the ornaments that are stringing around the bottom half of your tree up and throughout (they’ll never know the difference), but, in the meantime, let them feel special and like they have an important part of this Christmas tradition! They’ll grow to love it, and their decorating skills should improve over the years ;). For the teeny tots who are still trying to grasp what a Christmas tree is, and from whom you’d like to spare some of your favorite glass ornaments from the game, “throw it on the floor,” try purchasing a mini tree and some plastic ornaments and set it up next to the big tree. We did this for Norah and let her decorate her special tree while we did the big tree and she loved it, (and we purchased her tree for $8)! Until they can better understand the concept of the ornaments and the tree, this is another way to get the littlest tots involved, and they’ll have their own special tree to decorate!

3.  Do an Advent Series Together 

Make some time during the month of December  for everyone to reflect on the ‘reason for the season’ by doing an advent series together. There is nothing more important that you can instill into your children’s hearts (or your own for that matter) than the love of Christ. Make sure in the hustle and bustle that your family stays grounded and that you make some quality time for this! I realize we are already part way through December, but this is something so important that I am adding it anyway to encourage you to do! You can play a little catch up, or just pick up where you are! It will help your whole family remember what matters most during Christmas, and you will instill this most important thing into your kids’ lives–and this is something you can’t put a price tag on! I am linking a great advent series for the whole family to partake in HERE. If you want to save money for budget purposes, there are some great online resources to pull verses and stories from to read each night as a family. Try doing this at a time where everyone is always together, like at the dinner table either before or after a meal (while everyone is still gathered). Making a routine like this is a good way to keep from having to try and squeeze it in at the end of the night while kids are dispersing to bed, or forgetting to do it altogether! After a long day at work or school, this is a great way to end each evening this month and will be so impactive on your kids’ hearts!

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My sweet little family at our church; New Life Church, Fayetteville

Free online resources:

4.  Christmas Cookie Decorating 

You can’t go wrong with a fun day of baking and decorating (and eating)! Tune in on your favorite Christmas pandora station, and you have a festive party right in your own kitchen! Google or Pinterest some easy sugar cookie recipes, pull the sprinkles from your pantry, and check Target’s Christmas aisles for some adorable (and cheap) Christmas cookie cutters! This is something you can do whether you have two or twelve people, and have fun doing it without breaking the bank! Take it to the next level on your baking day by trying a salt dough recipe and making some homemade ornaments that the kids can decorate and hang on the tree! This is a low stress, low cost way to get festive and celebrate the holidays, and will be a fun tradition the whole bunch can look forward to each year.

Fun cookie cutter set HERE ; Delicious sugar cookie recipe found HERE ; adorable and easy salt dough ornament recipe HERE !

5.  Christmas Caroling            

This is an outing to get your extended family and friends involved in! Take a big group around the neighborhood and sing some popular and well-known Christmas songs together! My family has not ever done this, but I think it sounds like a super fun way to spend an afternoon, and would love incorporating this into our yearly festivities! The more the merrier for this activity, so a little planning may be required to get the group together, but it would be well worth the effort, and would create fun memories for the whole family! End the night with some hot chocolate and a nice fire (because you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate)! This is a free way to lift people’s spirits and put a smile on their faces. If you want to go the extra mile this season, look into caroling at your local nursing home and share some love and Christmas cheer with our beloved elders…no one would love and appreciate it more! This is a totally free and fun way to get the whole family involved in some fun times together, and share some great memories!

6.   Gingerbread House Contest

  Nothing like some friendly competition to make for a fun night! You can purchase gingerbread house kits for fairly cheap at the store; why not buy two and make a friendly contest of boys vs. girls and have some fun?! You can have as small or as big of teams as you want, and that makes this activity super universal and accommodating to any family size! Spend the evening dressing your gingerbread houses up, and have some friends be the judge (without them knowing whose is whose). Let the winners choose the next Christmas movie for movie night, or spice it up with a bigger incentive for the winners! This is a tradition that your kids will want to repeat next year, and they’ll cherish their memories!

7.  Downtown Parade (or your town’s Christmas festivities)             

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Aren’t my besties totally adorable holding children?? 😉 We were able to enjoy the downtown parade together this year!

Going to our annual downtown Christmas parade is a tradition my family has held for years. It’s always a fun night of warm bundles, a hot drink in hand, and lots of pretty Christmas floats! Check your calendars for your town’s holiday festivities and make it a family affair! Bundle up, grab some extra blankets and a warm beverage (you know what would be great for this? Hot chocolate), and share some laughs together. If you missed this year’s, make it a goal to try it next year and start a new tradition together!

8.  “Christmas” Game Night

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“Louie” themed socks and hot cocoa are my secret to winning 😉

Here’s another fun idea for the entire family and even some of your friends to join in on! For the last few years, my husband’s side has done a fun game night together for our Christmas tradition, and it has been a huge hit! You can find some Christmas themed minute -to -win it games for your inspiration on Pinterest, or even google, and most of them look super fun! Get the group together, share some yummy snacks (and maybe some hot chocolate), split into teams, and let the laughs begin! What’s nice about these games, is that any supplies you may need can most always be found at the dollar store, so you can stretch your dollar and enjoy lots of games. Make your prizes as big or small as you want, or nix them all together and play just for the fun of it. There will be guaranteed a ton of laughs, and with or without the prizes, everyone will look forward to next year’s annual game night! Here are a few links to some very fun minute to win it ideas you can try:  Here , here , and here !

9.  Christmas Angels

Teach your kids the importance of giving during this holiday season. Magnify this and make it a higher priority than being on the receiving end. If we are honest, most of our kiddos who live in a warm and safe home do not really need much for Christmas! I’m not saying our kids don’t deserve gifts, or that we shouldn’t let them receive any. It’s so fun to watch Norah open her gifts and seeing her face light up! But, the more important thing we can give them is to teach them selfless love and share what we have with those who go without. Go to your nearest Christmas Angel tree and choose a couple angels to give a nice Christmas. Let your kids have a big part in choosing the Angels and the gifts. It’s important to show our kids that there are some big needs in our communities, and that they can have a part in making Christmas special for someone who otherwise wouldn’t have the same experience. Partake as a family in spreading love this season, and make it a tradition to give to others in a very tangible way every Christmas! If you don’t have Christmas Angel trees in your area, research some places that you can donate items and help make Christmas special for someone else!

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Here is our littlest angel, to give you all the feels!! *sigh*

10.  Wise Men Gifts

One principle we really want to keep incorporated into our Christmas as a family is simplicity. The excessiveness that is so common during this time of year we believe takes away from the specialness and “sacredness” that simplicity holds. Keep your gift giving simple with your kiddos this year by trying the Wise Men Gift method. This is a concept I first heard from Oak and Earth’s Bethany, whose family started doing this several years ago. Whether your budget is $3,000 or $300, this is a concept that you can easily incorporate into your family’s traditions. It’s very simple: each kid (and/or spouse) would receive just three gifts, and their stockings. You can arrange them however you choose; two smaller gifts and one big gift, three small gifts, one “Santa” gift, and two from you–there’s no method to it other than keeping the number simple with 3. We loved the idea and decided to start this tradition with Norah! It’s an awesome way to keep the sweetness of Christmas time by not drowning our kids (and our finances) in “more.” Our little ones will expect only what they are used to when it comes to gifts, so why not start this tradition now and keep your gift giving sweet and simple. 

If you want more ideas for gift giving methods, here are a few others you can try:

  • Do the “4 gifts” (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)
  • For older kids (this is what we do for my husband’s side), draw names and each person gets one person a gift or two.
  • Sock exchange (buy your kids some christmas socks and fill them up with goodies, much like a stocking), or just their stockings!
  • Encourage your kids to read and grow their imaginations by giving books for gifts!
  • If you are opting for “no gifts” this year, try donating to a charity in honor of each of your children. It’s a great way to give back and will be a special way to honor your kids.

I absolutely love getting to start new traditions with Norah, and I’m excited to start with some of these ideas together as a family! Keeping our holidays sweet and simple by focusing more on the memories and fun, and less on the “things” will hopefully create a special place in Norah’s heart for this time of year, much like it did for me! I hope I have given you some ideas that you can start incorporating into your family festivities each year too! No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to do some fun things as a family that will make it memorable for everyone!  If you want some fun and creative date ideas to do with your special someone, make sure to check back in a couple days for Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post coming soon! Also be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth this month, as we have several holiday inspired posts that we can’t wait to show you!! Follow me on Instagram @terapianalto if you don’t already, so you can stay informed on all of our blog happenings, and make sure to hashtag any Oak and Earth experiences you have with #OakandEarthBlog. We love your feedback and would love to know what you would like to see us write about on here! We’ll do our best to try out your ideas! Wishing you the sweetest and merriest Christmas yet!


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Happy Month of December, and Holiday’s best,

Tera (with Jeremy and Norah, and Louie)   -xo

Big Personality, Little Cash: Tips for Dressing the Unique Young Professional Woman

Hello, readers! It’s Bethany here on the blog-o-sphere today. Let’s play a quick game:

True or False?

Life after college is an enigma. True

Being in your mid twenties is tough. True

Landing a decent job is tough. True

Dressing yourself as a young professional WHILE maintaining your personal style once you have said decent job is also tough. True.

True, you say? Well what do ya know, it’s like I forced the answers to lead into my blog post or something. Heh, guilty. Allow me to connect the dots:

As a 20 something individual, I understand stumbling around in the abyss looking for a decent job. Jobs are not easy to find these days. So when you snag a good one,  use your style to celebrate yourself and  your professional achievements! When I first started working a professional job (or big girl job as it is so often referred), I had no clue what to wear. All I knew was this: I couldn’t wear my skinny jeans, vans, or my hats. I have always loved fashion, but I didn’t have much experience in how to create a business casual style that reflected my own personal style. Don’t get me wrong I had a few pieces for college presentations and interviews, but none of my pieces reflected the style I enjoy. Anybody else having flashbacks of over-sized flared black slacks and a plain blouse? There’s nothing wrong with this style; however, this is what I assumed to be my dead end fashion destiny. I wanted the yellow brick road, not the dead end.

A year into my first job I started slowly building a better professional wardrobe. Fast forward to now (two years later) and I have a better understanding of how to balance  professional life and  personal style. Why does this matter? It matters because I don’t want Monday through Friday Bethany to be a completely different person than Weekend Bethany. You feel me?

How do we achieve a balance?

Take the typical business casual rules (give or take a few minor changes depending on the institution):

  • Skirts/dresses must meet the knee
  • No tank tops (some companies may have an allowance for wide straps)
  • No sheer tops without something decent underneath
  • No shorts (some places may allow business knee length shorts)
  • No flip flops (at least everywhere I have worked)
  • Nothing low cut
  • No t-shirts/graphic tees (some places a plain fitted tee is acceptable)
  • No jeans (except for the beloved casual Fridays)

Anybody else feel like this leaves one option?

Those blasted baggy flared slacks and a plain blouse.

FALSE 

This is my perspective on how you take the dress code and blend it with your personal style, all while sticking with a small budget! The key is to get nice neutral basics, and to pair them with your style of clothing! Let’s take a look at the basics, and how to use them in multiple ways.

If you only remember two things about this post, REMEMBER THIS:

  • Get neutral, well fitted, modern, multi functional basic pieces.
  • Having these basic pieces will allow for fun additions. These fun additions should be used to bring your style into the mix.
  1. Black Blouse:

Getting a comfortable black blouse is imperative. I would suggest long sleeved, stream lined, and long enough to tuck in.  Having this classic piece  allows you to pair it with more fun/trendy bottom pieces. This would also pair well with a chunky necklace; however, my necklace collection is minuscule. A girl can imagine right? Below you will also find brands and estimated pricing. Check out how I paired my black blouse for some ideas:

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Black Blouse– Forever21 $12.90

From left to right:

  • Skinny ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00
  • Patterned pants–Forever21 $19.90
  •  Burgundy ankle slacks–JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $4.00…yeah that was some kind of genius Sale I hit. Genius I say.

2. Knee lenth black dress:

I would have preferred this dress just a few inches longer, but I believe over time it shrank in the wash (whoopsie). **Helpful tip: Wash on cold, tumble dry. I love spicing this one up with colored tights in the fall/winter. Here I have paired it with a few blazers, but it can also stand alone! This length of dress or skirt pairs best with a very small heel. On the right I paired it with a modest nude wedge. It is rare to spot me in a heel, but this is just my personal style. What can I say, flats win over everything else! I’m a touch biased.  Always say yes to a little (or in this case knee length) black dress. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Black dress–Old Navy $29.00

From left to right:

  • Cropped striped blazer– Forever21 garage sale (original price unknown)
  • Light beige blazer– Forever21 $32.00

3. Plain Button Down

I chose to show my light blue button down, although there are many neutral colors you can choose from! For example,  I have white, light blue, jean, and white with black polka dots. I can use this piece in countless ways. This is one piece you will want to make sure is tailored to your body. An ill fitting button down can cause problems. I would love to invest in a little bit better one, but this shows you an idea.  One shirt, so many options. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Blue button down– JCPenny’s $14.00

From left to right:

  • Black ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00
  • Blue patterned sweater–Forever21 Garage sale swag (original price unknown)
  • Black pencil skirt: JCPenny’s $20.00

4. Neutral Season Blazer (Modern fit)

This is my most recent (and favorite) basic piece. A neutral blazer can be worn with almost anything. This modern design would make it easy for me to transition my business outfits to a night out with my friends, simply by switching the slacks for a dark wash skinny jean. I chose this color specifically because it can be used across all the seasons. This light beige looks great with black and burgandy–making it a great addition for fall and winter. You can also pair it with light pieces to flow with spring and summer. Below you will find brands and estimated pricing:

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Neutral blazer (modern fit)–Forever21 $32.00

From left to right:

  • Black knee length dress–Old Navy $29.00
  • White dress– Charlotte Russe $29.00
  • Black ankle slacks– JCPenny’s (Worthington Brand) $24.00

5. Basics allow for FUN details:

You have seen me pair the above basics in many different ways. While these are great basics, I would also suggest these basics:

Additional Basics:

  • Modern black ankle slacks
  • White blouse
  • Pencil skirt
  • Black blazer
  • White button down
  • Black flats
  • Cream/neutral flats

Now that you understand how to pair your basics with modern style, let’s learn how to spice them up a little! I suggest these basic pieces so that your FUN pieces aren’t too overwhelming in the work place.  I suggest the following to light up your basics:

Fun Additions:

  • Colored slacks (seen above paired with black blouse)
  • Watch that matches your personality (seen below)
  • Trendy high-waisted slacks (seen below)
  • Fun hair (seen below)
  • Fun patterns (seen below)
  • Vintage pieces (seen below)
  • Colored/metallic shoes
  • Bold necklace
  • Fun belt
  • Colored tights in fall
  • Colored/patterned scarf in fall
  • Bold hand bag/briefcase
  • Fun nail polish

Let’s check it out for a few fun additions ranging from jewel details to high-waisted slacks to vintage pieces:

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While I don’t have all the answers or a heaping pile of money to spend on clothes, I do have this: A better understanding of my own style, and how to incorporate it into the workplace. I would love for you to try the same! Get your modern basic pieces, then find fun ways to incorporate your style! This allows you to have more confidence in yourself while you’re working! Always keep your company’s dress code in mind, and have fun with what you can wear.

Keep in touch with me on Instagram at Bethno13. While you’re there, check out a really easy way to keep up with our recent blog posts: #OakAndEarthBlog. We would love to hear from you. I also want to give my husband Denver a shout out for taking these pictures of me while I posed awkwardly next to our garage while the Landlord mowed our lawn. Instead of ending on awkwardness, I’ll close with this lovely quote:

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”- Coco Chanel

Unitl next time,

-Bethany <3

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5 Reasons Why Pixie Hair is the Best (a lifestyle update)

Hey, reader! It’s me, Tera. This week I want to share a little lifestyle change I’ve made to my daily beauty routine and look. So, as many of you already know, I recently took the plunge (for the second time ever) and decided to chop several inches of my locks off for a style we know as “the pixie.” Whether this seems like a super dramatic change, or just merely a new “do,” I am here to tell you that over the course of about three weeks with my pixie hair, I have had a small revelation, and it is that they are the best. I’ll show you some up-close photos of my hair real quick before I proceed.

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Adorbs. There are a few reasons why I claim this style to be (literally) the best, and I feel like it’s my duty to tell you why you are missing out if you don’t have a pixie. So, without further ado, here is why I fell in love with my pixie!

  1. No Muss, No Fuss

This reason is simple and sweet. Pixies are virtually weatherproof. You know what I mean, ladies. No wasted time styling your hair only to walk outside to the humidity taking over (I call this the static ball affect). No more gimpy carni rides that leave your hair beyond repair at the county fair (this literally happened). With my new hair, I can put on my lipgloss and step outside on the windiest day, and not a single strand of hair slings and sticks back onto my lips–this is a pet peeve of mine! Second consecutive year to attend the county fair, first year to leave with minimal- to -no -damage repairs needed on my hair. You just can’t have a bad hair day with this style…you just have another “pixie” day. Pixies are indestructible..I’ve yet to disprove this fact.

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2. Easy as Pie

These next two reasons of mine are somewhat redundant, but I’m listing them separately because one is specifically kid-related. This reason is all in the title: EASY. I would always have a hard time with my hair. I guess it is just not my forte when it comes to beauty routine. Don’t get me wrong; I love hair, but it’s a lot of work to get it to look like the style in my head that I am trying to portray. Pixies are simple. There are no decisions to be made when deciding on how to wear it (ie. up, down, curly, straight, beachy waves, amazing princess braids, braids that turn into a bow, etc…you get it). You just wear it the “pixie” way, and it’s adorable. You can still play with it and change it up, but for the most part, it’s one style and it takes minimal product to get it that way. (By the way, if you are needing a good reference for pixie products, this is what I use that works great). Having short hair, probably 20-30 minutes of my day (let’s be honest, when and only when I plan to leave the house and need to be presentable) is spared from the torments of thin, frizzy, “bad” hair days and failed attempts at “curling it” with my curling wand. My pixie is easy as pie.

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See? So much extra time on my hands.

3. Kid Friendly

I’ll transition into my next reason for loving my pixie. This one is for my fellow mama friends out there, because this is essential for what our lives center around! This hairstyle is baby proof (99.9% of the time). No more boogers, spit up, or sopping wet hair slapping you in the face, and no more hair tug of war!

If you fix your pixie hair in the morning, you have that 99.9% chance that you can do a quick glance in the mirror and head to lunch with that friend, or head to your afternoon of errand running. Pixie cuts are so amazing and forgiving for our crazy “mom-life, on the go life!” I’m not just talking to stay at home moms here. Working moms are so busy and on the go just as much, and this hair is for you, too! Talk about a time saver when you are getting yourself, and kiddos ready to be out the door by 7:30!! I am a big advocate for things that are kid-friendly, and easy. Sign me up! Well…I’ve already jumped on the bandwagon. But I’m here to tell you fellow moms, the water’s fine!

Didn’t get a chance to wash your 2 day old hair because of the long list of stuff to do, and those ever sweet, ever needy kiddos? The Pixie hears you, and pixie accepts.The beauty with this hairstyle is that you can stick some pomade in it, “mess it up,” and it camouflages that dirty hair and gives you some grace so you can get through another long, busy day. Pixie says, “it can wait until tonight.”

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4. Stylin’, Profilin’

I’ll openly admit that I am not the most fashionable human being, and like I said earlier, hair has never been my thing. I’ve loved having a haircut that’s been so stylish, and it just doesn’t take too much skill and effort. I literally woke up like this.

hatpic j/k.

Really though, pixies are edgy haircuts that give you automatic style points on your daily routine. It’s a natural accessory that people love. But, my hair also doesn’t take away from my face, so I can focus on beautifying where I have more fun. One of these days, I’m going to nail that blasted cat eye. When hair is not your strong suit, pixie is here to basically fix itself so you can spend your primping time doing whatever is fun for you!

Pixie cuts are stylish, they’re feminine, they’re fresh, and they’re super adorbs. (Reason 4, check).

5. FUN

My last reason for falling in love with my pixie, is because it has been super fun! I feel like when people think of “pixie hair,” a lot of times, it comes across much more mundane than what it is. Pixies are FUN, and there are so many ways to wear one!Long pixies, short pixies, sleek pixies, punky pixies, etcetera (you get the picture). There are lots of ways to play with your pixie cut and make it unique to your style and taste!

I’m convinced that pixie cuts make you more fun. That might be a stretch (it’s definitely not), but nevertheless, it’s a style you can have fun with. You can throw on a cute hat for a fun day date around the town, or wear it a little sleeker for a fancy dinner. You can still be fun and creative with your pixie, despite the lack of several extra inches of locks.

SO, there it is! I realize that pixie hair is not for everyone, just like the pretty mermaid hair is not for me. But for anyone who’s contemplated this look, I wanted to be of some encouragement to you! There is much to love about a cute pixie cut. I feel feminine, I feel pretty, my man thinks it’s HAWT, and I feel stylish! Your hair can be a fun accessory without the major hair probs and maintenance, and that is why I’ve loved it!

What is something about your style that YOU love?! We love your feedback, and we love sharing life with you! Hashtag your experiences you’d like to share with us #OakandEarthBlog and #OakandEarth, and keep up with our blog and updates on my instagram handle @terapianalto.

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Much Love,

Tera

D.I.Y. Fourth of July Top

Hello again readers! It’s Bethany here, and I am bringing you a fun D.I.Y. project just before Independence Day! I have done quite a few D.I.Y. tank tops in the past, so I thought it would fun to try a different one for this special holiday. I am really happy with how it turned out!

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What I like about this dip dye project is that you can make personal choices along the way. This can be done on a tank, t-shirt, or a do it  yourself crop. I chose a t-shirt turned crop top! Let’s get started!

Materials:

  • White t-shirt or tank (make sure to check out my helpful hints for the best fabrics to dye)
  • Latex or cleaning gloves
  • Scissors
  • Rubber band
  • Tulip Powder Fabric Dye [Red]
  • Tulip Powder Fabric Dye [Royal Blue]
  • Salt
  • Access to stainless steel double sink OR two cleaning buckets (make sure the sink is stainless steel, otherwise you have the possibility of staining your sink).

INSTRUCTIONS:

Step 1) Pick a top

You will need to determine what kind of top you would like to dye. This year I wanted to do a modest t-shirt crop top with high wasted jean shorts. If you have a white shirt on hand you can use that, just be sure to check out my list of best dye-able materials below. I chose to buy a new white shirt so that I could form it to my liking. I bought a white cotton scoop neck t-shirt from Wal-Mart for $3.88.

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Choosing Fabrics:

  • 100% cotton, linen, silk, wool, ramie
  • Synthetics such as rayon and nylon
  •  Fiber blends with at least 60% cotton or other dye-able fiber (blends will tint evenly but will not achieve full color)
  • DO NOT use pure polyester, acrylic, nylon, or fabric with special finishes

Step 2) Cropping

Making a crop top from a t-shirt is very simple. To get the desired length,  I always put the shirt on and fold or measure it to where I feel most comfortable cropping it. Eye balling it on the floor or just hanging in front of you is not always the best idea, because it often comes out too short or not cropped enough. Once you have your desired length, cut along that line. On this top I decided to also cut the collar a bit wider.

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3) Prepare to dye! *draws sword*

For this step, you will need to decide where you want your stripes:

  • Vertical stripes: With options of red on left or red on right
  • Horizontal Stripes: With options of red on top or red on bottom

I chose to do vertical stripes with red on the left and blue on the right. Deciding where you want your color will determine how you role your shirt to dye it. If you want vertical stripes like I had, then you want to role your shirt starting with the collar and role down to the bottom of the shirt. If you want horizontal stripes, you will want to roll it from the right sleeve to left sleeve. Once you have rolled it like the picture on the left, go ahead and grab your rubber band. Gather it in the middle and rubber band it. This will leave you a white space in the center of your shirt.

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4) Dye

For this particular shirt, I used Tulip Fabric Dye (powder) of Royal Blue and Red. I found these in the craft section at my local Wal-Mart. These dye packets come with step by step instructions on the back, and I did not deviate at all. These are the steps on the back of the package:

  1. Fill bucket/stainless steel sink with one gallon of STEAMING HOT water.
  2. Stir in 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) salt
  3. Pour in dye packet and stir until dissolved.
  4. Submerge fabric in dye mixture
  5. Stir continually for 15 minutes, and then occasionally for 45 minutes.

Submerge each side in the sink or shallow bucket for almost an hour. Remember to make sure each side is dipped into the color you want for that part of the shirt.

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5) Rinse, Wash, and Dry

Rinse fabric in cold water. The instructions on the dye package say to machine wash warm; dry per laundry instructions. So that any excess dye wouldn’t stain any surrounding clothes in the wash, I decided to hand wash mine in the bath tub with detergent. This was quick and effective. I then put it in the dryer with other clothes I had going.

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7) Work it! 

At this point, my shirt had turned out just as I had wanted it to! I love simple Fourth of July tops, and I am so excited to celebrate in my own style!

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Now go out and make your own! This process was really simple and fun. Please do not hesitate to ask questions and comment! Feel free to keep up with me on Instagram at Bethno13. We hashtag all our posts with #OakAndEarthBlog and our travel adventures with #OakAndEarthRoutes. This is an easy way to keep up with our posts, and as always we love talking to you all! Happy Independence Day!

Peace, love, and Rocketships.

-Bethany

Local Flavor: Oak and Earth Does the Dogwood Festival

It’s Bethany comin’ at ya for this post!

Funnel cake, hot pavement, trees blooming, music, and a bunch of people you vaguely know but don’t want to talk to. Must be a small town festival! Holy festivals, Batman! I’ve experienced all kinds of festivals and fairs in my lifetime. My favorite is still claimed by none other than the Dogwood Festival. I feel like every town has an annual festival that they are super proud of, and this is ours. In this post you’ll find a video of me chatting it up with festival goers, you will discover OakandEarth’s Dogwood Festival musts, and share in Dogwood experiences that were new to me this year!

I felt compelled to write about the festival because this festival celebrates OakAndEarth’s common roots! Our tagline for our blog is Common Roots, Different Routes. Our common roots are planted in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Siloam Springs is a charming town of about 15,000 people. We have beautiful parks, a downtown with coffee shops and antiques, and dogwood trees (ahhh, now you’re getting it, right?). At a typical Dogwood Festival there are a ton of booths with handmade goodies, fair food, live bluegrass music, and an awesome kid section that I find myself mindlessly wandering into each year. (I wonder what this says about me).

When I wandered into the kid section this year, I found a ton of happy families. I’m throwing it back to the early 1990’s for a second. After my family’s first trip to the festival, my older brother left in tears. Sugary treats, warm weather, music, why was he crying?? Simply put, he thought the Dogwood Festival would have dogs. “There weren’t any dogs!!!”. A clear rookie mistake that could happen to anyone. Names are not always as literal as we wish them to be.

Denver and I spent Saturday being slightly creepy, and asking random festival goers what they enjoy the most. Let’s take a look at the festival this weekend and what people think about it!

OakandEarth Dogwood Favorites:

–CHRISTIANA–

We caught up with Christiana at the festival, and she said her festival musts are the Kettle Corn and the book sale at the local library! She also bought some honey and a few other treats that she will discuss next week!
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–BETHANY–

My favorite treat will forever and always be the Tigers Blood snow cone. I get one every year, and this year was no exception! Tigers Blood is a mixture of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut. Good for a hot day, and also good if you desire an obnoxiously red mouth.

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Something I had never noticed at the fair before was a food truck that sold roasted corn on the cob! Okay, readers. If you’re going to learn anything about me, it is that I have 3 loves (listed in no particular order)– stew, corn on the cob, and Denver (my husband). At the festival, I got two of those fixes! The third will be relieved in few hours when I make homemade stew. But I digress. This corn on the cob is one food item that could make me shout a curse word to the high heavens. Thankfully I have some restraint (in public). For now, just enjoy pictures of me in what can only be referred to as  corn heaven.

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 –TERA–

Tera was in Colorado this year! But she was with us in Dogwood spirit! She said her favorite part of the Dogwood is the atmosphere, and the Funnel Cake. Since she could not partake, Denver  stepped in a did the difficult task of consuming a funnel cake for her! Poor, Denver. *sarcasm*

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 –SHELBY–

I met up with Shelby and her boyfriend Jeff in the later part of the day. Shelby is fun to go with, because she hops along to each booth with great intention. She snagged some honey, beautiful succulents, and some food! Her favorite treats are the Kettle Corn and Lemonade! How southern are we?

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New to me!

While these are our  festival musts, I saw a few surprises this year! One being the corn booth (have I talked about corn enough?), another being a neat home made guitar booth! We also walked right up to a kids’ martial arts show in the midst of them breaking boards (see video for that goodness). As many years as I have gone, it’s neat to experience new booths.

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Although the Dogwood may be a stereotypical small town festival, I like to think that it’s special in it’s own right. And I will keep going as long as it comes around. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a small part of our Common Roots as we bring in the spring season! I have some great ideas for my next post, and I look forward to connecting with you all again. As always if you have any suggestions or questions for us, please feel free! Christiana has a pretty neat spring themed blog coming at you next week, so be sure to look for it!

Peace, love, and Rocketships,

Bethany