Thursday, May 14, 2015

Life is Messy and the Puzzle Pieces Don't Fit

E loves puzzles. I love watching her put them together: concentrating and twisting and turning each piece to find a way for them to fit neatly within each other...The pieces are always the right size, right shape. They click. They fit.


Sometimes, I wish life was that way.
But right now, my life puzzle is messy, disorganized, and, quite frankly, my pieces don't fit together. And while I'm making peace with where I am right now, it would be a lie to say this is is easy, or even that I'm enjoying myself.
Because when you're trying to put a puzzle together and your pieces aren't fitting together, things just get complicated and frustrating.

You see, I'm in this weird place of limbo and I'm still figuring out where I fit. So much of who I was early in our marriage was based on my husband's career: that's where we lived, how we met friends, how we found common ground with people. I had a community. I became comfortable in that community.
and then God closed that door.
So now here I am: not a military wife, but also not sure how to fit in or relate to the civilian world. In many ways, I'm in a position of being a single mom, but I'm happily married to a man that is working incredibly hard to support our family. It's almost as though I really don't fit anywhere right now (although that does sound rather dramatic-it's really not). And, if I'm honest, it's been really hard.

(and, let's face it, we need to be honest with each other in this human experience. life isn't always sunshine and roses, but that doesn't mean it's bad)

It's hard because I don't know how to help my two year old when she sits and cries and begs for her daddy when she's sad. Because it breaks my heart every time she asks, "Where daddy?" and answers her own question with "Daddy at work. Far away." It's hard because I'm seeing my two babies growing up and I know how much my husband wishes he could be part of it. It's hard because I have two precious, but busy children who demand so much of me-of which I freely give. It's hard because I'm also (by choice) working, going to school, maintaining our home, and keeping some semblance of order within our lives without my husband being able to be here as a physical presence.
It's hard because I'm lonely.

I'm still finding my niche here. I have friends from before that live here, and I love them dearly, but I haven't found where I fit yet. I know my village is out there, and my heart aches for it.  I remind myself this is a season where I might just be lonely-two kids age two and under makes getting together for quality time hard.
but that doesn't mean I don't miss it.
and I'll bet that most moms of young children often feel similarly.

When life's puzzle pieces just don't fit together well, it's hard. I get tired of explaining over and over again where my husband is because the response is often one of pity (or, "must be good money")
Both are wrong answers.
I don't want pity. I also don't want people talking about our finances. It doesn't matter how much money we're making-money doesn't replace a person's presence.
So if you happen to ask and I share what's going on in our family, here's what your response should be:
"Ok. I'll be praying for you guys."
"Can I give you a hug?"
"Is there anything we can do to help lessen the load for you?" (watch my kids so I can take a nap HA)
"You're doing a great job."
"I'm here for you."

That's it. Don't say you're sorry. God closed the door to our previous assignment for a reason, although I'm still waiting for His purposes to play out in a way I can tangibly understand. But I trust the Lord and his timing and plan, and I'm content in that.
Because I truly believe He's doing BIG things in our family this year.

Don't get me wrong, I have, and will continue to experience every range of emotion possible. I've been angry, sad, excited, hopeful. Even now, 6 months after leaving Texas, I still cry sometimes. The weight still feels overwhelming sometimes.

In the past week, I've really been meditating on the Book and character of Esther in the Bible.  In many ways, I feel like I can relate to her: She was taken from her community and placed somewhere that she didn't likely fit well, she likely experienced loneliness, she didn't want to be there.
and yet, she was reminded, she was there "for such a time as this". God had a purpose in her circumstances. She could have run away from the hard stuff. She could have wallowed in her sadness. But instead, she chose initiative. She chose strength.
and she changed the destiny of a generation and left a legacy that is still honored today.
wow.

I'm learning to embrace my circumstances. I'm leaning on Jesus for strength. I'm honest about my feelings and circumstances.
and I am embracing hope and joy in the middle of chaos.
and accepting grace for the moment.

So even though my puzzle pieces aren't fitting together right now in really any area of my life, I know that there is a marvelous picture that is being painted right now. I can't see the final product yet, but I trust the Artist's hands and vision.
and I find my peace in spite of the missing, misshapen, broken pieces that make up this life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Go, Dog. Go!: A (Budget-Friendly) Second Birthday Party

Miss E turned two last month (hard to believe, I know!). Since she is old enough this year to actually have some little friends to play with, I thought it would be fun to do a friend party this year instead of the adult/family party we did last year.

Seriously, when did she get big?!

I spent some time trying to figure out what type of party to do.  I'm not a huge fan of licensed characters or overdone themes, but I didn't want it to be cheesy.  I also wanted to do something she would recognize and enjoy.

I couldn't do another Frozen anything

Sorry Elsa...

I thought about doing a popcorn theme since she loves popcorn (or "pawcawrn" as she calls it).
but the mess!

I thought about doing a shabby chic, or light pinks and golds, or something girly.
but it just didn't feel right for a "kid" party.

With all of the busy-ness of moving late last year, I also didn't have time on my side as I started to plan out V's party. Then, while reading our bedtime story for the umpteenth time, it hit me:

My daughter's favorite book is Go, Dog. Go!


So, being the overachiever and Type A planner (and overly confident Pinterest pinner) that I am, I started planning a Go, Dog. Go! party.

Pinterest wasn't much help. Apparently, it's not a super common theme.  I'm all for being creative, but goodness gracious, I really had to tap my creativity resources for this project.

I found some really great ideas after searching for Go, Dog. Go! and Dog themed parties.  Taking them from our theme and adapting them to who I knew would be attending got me on a roll and off I went into party creating madness.

I had a friend of mine design our invitations based on some I had seen online.  She did a great job and it turned out adorable!

I wanted to keep things simple, since the average age of party goers was around 2 1/2. We did hot dogs  and lil smokies (big dogs and little dogs, get it?!), fruit, veggies and hummus, and chips. Easy enough! To cut down on mess and clean up, we did a "picnic" in the living room on plastic tablecloths. The kids got a kick out of getting to have a picnic when it was snowing outside.



I made these garlands off of Pinterest (so easy! so cheap!) to decorate and threw some balloons in the mix to spice things up (and what toddler doesn't like balloons?!)



For our activity, we made our own party hats ("Do you like my hat?").


In lieu of a pinata, I found this great idea for a rainbow punch pinata on pinterest.  It was incredibly easy to make and was a huge hit with the kids. Much more age appropriate too than swinging sticks around and potentially causing a visit to the hospital.
That's usually a party damper. Best to be avoided. Blood and birthdays don't mix.





A lot of our time was spent just playing, though. Little ones are very easily entertained and quickly distracted.  Everly had so much fun with her friends, and the party really turned out well.  In all, we had 8 little friends show up, even though more were invited.  A freak snow storm decided to start that day, so due to weather, several friends couldn't make it.


I was so happy with the results of the party.  All in all, we spent under $100 to pull it all off, including decorations and food! I'm loving our current house because of all the entertaining possibilities! I'm looking forward to more parties in the future.


Happy 2nd birthday, E! We love you!


Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Life of Purpose

I wrote this back in October of 2012 when I was pregnant with E and never "published" it. I thought I'd share, as the words still ring true:

One of the first things that people ask when they find out someone is expecting is "was it planned"?  Now, granted, I've been known to ask the same question in the past, but now that I'm on the receiving end, it's definitely taken on a whole new light for me.
I am a very honest person, sometimes to a fault.  When asked if this pregnancy was planned, I've been truthful in saying, no.  We were going to wait at least another year until K was close to finishing his Master's degree and we had moved on to another base.
As a planner, finding out that something was happening against the plan that I had so meticulously scripted over the course of my 23 years was very hard for me.  Unlike many who see that positive sign on a pregnancy test and are ecstatic, my first few minutes after seeing that blue plus sign were spent in disbelief and silence.

Let me make this clear: I have never not wanted my child.  However, I do recall a distinct sense of loss when I found out I was going to be a mommy before I thought I was ready.  I had so much left that I wanted to do before having children.  I still feel like there are areas where I need to mature.  How could I be an adequate mother to my child when, so often, I still feel like a child myself?

From conversations with beloved friends and trusted mentors, these are not "bad" feeling at all.  In fact, I have come to find they are very common--we just don't talk about them.  My first instincts when we discovered that we were pregnant were simply to cry (and take another test, because obviously, I had a broken one).

I remember K asking me why I was crying.  "Why are you crying?  This is a happy thing."
I tried to explain to him that I was happy but that at the same time, I was struggling with an overwhelming fear of my perfectly scripted life taking on a whole new narrative.  I felt so ashamed that, instead of anticipation and excitement, I was feeling overwhelmed and scared.

Of course, within a couple of hours, the reality of what was happening had set in and the emotions that had bombarded me that morning transformed into the excitement that I so often hear others speak of.  Instead of saying that our pregnancy was unplanned, I was able to joyfully say that our pregnancy was a wonderful surprise.

As a planner, one of my greatest struggles with this pregnancy has been "letting go" of control and allowing God to work. 
Throughout this pregnancy, I have sensed a deeper part of my faith that I don't think I ever would have reached without facing a change to my many plans.
I am continually reminded that God's got this.  He has created my body perfectly and uniquely special to carry this precious life.  He has a plan and a purpose for my child.  I don't have to have all of the answers.

Of course, I'd love to say that I was able to reach this peace the same day we had that positive test, but this has been a process.  Even now, there are days where I struggle with trusting God with the unknown.  Life, especially when you don't know exactly where it's headed, can be very scary.
What a peace I have knowing that I've got the creator of the universe on my side!

The more and more I have thought about it, the more and more I'm realizing what a beautiful plan He has for our lives.  My daughter is not unplanned.  God knew about her before she was even conceived!  Jeremiah 1:5 says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you..."  So even though we weren't expecting our daughter quite yet, God knew her and knew exactly when she needed to come to this Earth!
And he's consecrated her for a purpose!
Isn't that incredible?!

My sweet daughter, only about a pound and the size of a squash, has a destiny and a purpose already!  Even now, I can see how He is using her in my life.  He is using her to teach me about His plans and trusting Him.  This makes me so excited because if she can already make such a difference before birth, what kinds of wonderful and incredible things does her life hold?!

Of course, I can't tell you whether she has brown or black hair or if she'll be an athlete.  I can tell you she will be short and that she has my nose.  I can't tell you whether she'll prefer academics or art, but I can tell you she is already incredibly loved.
I can't tell you, then, what the exact purpose for her life is yet.  I have no idea how God is going to use her in this life.  But what I can tell you is that He wouldn't bring her into this world unless there was a reason and divine purpose for it.

I am a firm believer that we need to speak destiny into our children.  There are so many wonderful verses that address purpose and God's plan:

Acts 26:16--
"I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you"

Proverbs 16:9--
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps"

John 15:16--
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide"

We are chosen.  My daughter is chosen.  What a wonderful thing we have in the Lord!

This only further challenges me, then, to raise her knowing that she is a woman of purpose.  God is going to use her.  Why else would He bring her to our arms earlier than we had planned?
There must be a very important reason!

I am 23 weeks pregnant today.  Each day, my love for my daughter deepens.  It's a type of love I've never experienced.
I am blessed to know that this life I carry has a purpose, a destiny, a meaning
and I feel compelled to express that to my daughter, even now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Peace in Surrender: V's Birth Story

I’m only eleven days postpartum and have been aching since day 1 to share the story of V’s birth with you.  Fair warning, this is a story about birth. If that’s not your thing, you may want to skip today’s entry.  This is also long, as it is my attempt to capture everything I can about her birth through the sometimes hazy fog of labor land.

PSA over.

Leading up to her birth, I spent a lot of time processing my previous birth experience and working through my own disappointments.  To be clear, I have no regrets from E’sbirth, but it was still disappointing that I did not have the intervention-free birth that I so desired due to the circumstances.  The more I’ve talked with other women, I have learned that you can experience these opposing emotions (extreme disappointment and sheer joy, for example) simultaneously, and without guilt. Knowing that my desire was for a natural, uninhibited, unmedicated birth, I did everything I could to prepare myself mentally, physically and emotionally for what was to come.

One big change that I made from my previous pregnancy was being selective about with whom I discussed my desires for birth and which stories I chose to listen to about birth.  It was important to me to protect my environment and only hear things that would encourage me. I have been very blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful community of doula friends and other childbirth-friendly peers who raised me up rather than tore me down when I shared what my desires for V’s birth were.  This was huge…and I feel that by protecting myself in this way, I prevented seeds of doubt being planted in my own mind.

Part of why E’s birth was so long and difficult was due to her positioning as she was posterior. I began preparing much sooner to help ensure that my ligaments were allowing V to move into a good position. I avoided sitting back against the couch, I saw my chiropractor faithfully and I started seeing an acupuncturist at 37 weeks. I did exercises from SpinningBabies. And I prayed. A lot.
Might seem silly to think I prayed about a baby’s positioning, but truly, the Lord cares about “silly” things like that which make such a huge difference.  I spoke confidently and claimed a beautiful and healing birth experience.

And I prayed some more.

I talked through my fears and concerns with my midwife team, my doula and my husband, as well as with some trusted friends.  As I approached my pregnancy being term, there remained some fear, but I held to what I had claimed: this birth would be different and I would regain faith in my body.

38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Photo courtesy of Maiden Musgrove Photography.

Part of the complication from E’s pregnancy was my high blood pressure.  What a relief it was when I realized at my 37 week appointment that I was still in the normal range and I walked out of the office NOT on bed rest.  I actually cried as I left that appointment.  To me, it was a sign that reiterated that this pregnancy was different.  I never had a high blood pressure reading this pregnancy. Not.Once. God is so good.

My midwife team does not check for dilation or effacement before labor begins, and I was pleased about that.  I began to experience some pretty intense Braxton hicks late in my pregnancy, which excited me that my body was gearing up for birth.

A day or so past my 39 week mark, I began having false labor symptoms starting around 7pm in the evening.  I kept it to myself, as I didn’t want to excite anyone since, through my doula work, I know labor patterns can come and go.  I also didn’t have the “this is it” feeling.  True to my gut, they went away that next morning right as E woke up.  I was tired, but encouraged that my body was doing something. The next night, the same thing began. Perhaps this was it!

But in similar form to the night before, the contractions never went anywhere beyond 5 minutes apart.  Not painful enough to be true labor, but not painless enough to sleep.

I was exhausted.

Trying not to sound too desperate, I called my acupuncturistt hat morning (I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant).  She had mentioned at our previous treatment that if I ever felt like I needed to kick-start something that wasn’t going anywhere, to call her.  We had our induction protocol (won’t throw you into labor, but encourages your body to start the process soon) scheduled for the following Monday, which was only a few days later.  I asked whether it would be possible for me to come in that day instead of Monday to see if we could make these false labor pains move into something more.  I believe my exact words were something like, “Either make these do something, or make them go away so I can sleep”.

It was actually her day off, but she came in anyway, and at 3pm, I was receiving treatment.  Since her office is housed within the same one as my midwives, after the appointment, she asked whether it would be encouraging to me to know if my body was preparing for labor.  She was aware of some of my fears and concerns, and knew that I still had doubts that my body was capable of laboring without assistance.  After some thought, I agreed to my only cervical check thus far.

My midwife came and checked me after the acupuncture appointment and declared that I was 3cm dilated and 70% effaced already! I was shocked.  Even after 12 hours of labor with E, I hadn’t dilated even a fingertip! I had requested that my membranes not be stripped, and my midwife honored my request.  In fact, she said my cervix was so favorable, that it wasn’t even necessary!

I left the office in high spirits and was given hugs by my midwife and acupuncturist, both of whom said that I would likely be meeting my baby that weekend.

True to my previous few days’ experiences, I began contracting again shortly after dinnertime that evening.  I started having bloody show (aren’t birth terms just delicious?) right before supper, but I doubted anything significant was going to happen yet.  My friend who was going to watch E during the birth even suggested having her sleep over just in case.  I thought about it and decided to wait until I knew whether something was going to happen.  K and I tucked E into bed and I decided around 9 to go lay down myself in anticipation of another long night of uncomfortable contractions and no baby.

I laid down and tried closing my eyes.  It didn’t work, so, instead, I decided to start timing them. They were completely irregular, ranging from 3 to 7 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute long.  Definitely not labor yet.  My contractions prevented me from completely relaxing, so I called my doula to let her know that I was contracting in a way that was timeable, but not actually going anywhere.  I did some exercises (cat/cow; Miles circuit) to encourage V to get into a favorable position and after a little while of that, decided to lay down again.

It was around 10pm at this point, and I felt my eyes drifting between each wave.  I was almost asleep when I felt a gush of fluid.  My eyes flew open. It can’t be!

At this point, my first thought was, “Please not again.” My water broke earlywith E, so early that my body never went into labor on its own.  In that moment of panic, I wrestled with my fear of another birth like the last one.  It took me calming myself with a prayer to compose myself and get up to go to the bathroom to confirm my suspicions. 

True to my instincts, my waters had broken (and oh the mess this time!). I was encouraged to see it was clear, which meant we didn’t need to hurry anywhere and I expected that would be the case since my previous birth was close to 30 hours long.

After padding myself with a towel (and waddling like a penguin, ha!), I went out to the living room to tell K that it was time to take E to the babysitters house.  Just like last time, he looked at me and said, “Are you sure it was your water breaking?”
“Yes, dear, quite sure. E needs to go to the sitters.”

So he loaded up our sweet girl and got her bags while I gave her one last kiss as an only child.  I got choked up as I kissed her and realized how much our lives were going to change in the next day or so.

As he got in the car, I told him to take his time, as we likely had all the time in the world and didn’t need to head to the hospital quite yet.

After he left, I called my midwife to let her know what was going on.  She ran through the list of questions (was your water clear? What time did it break? Are you contracting? Etc) and asked how I was feeling.  I told her I was fine, that I could still talk through contractions but really didn’t want to.  She said I could stay home as long as I needed to, and I told her I expected it would be a while.  Katie (the midwife) laughed and said, “Well, if you start having contractions that you think to yourself wouldn’t be fun to have in the car, start heading in….second time moms tend to go pretty quickly”. 

Knowing that my midwife trusted me to know my body and come in when I felt it was the right time was such an encouragement to me and such a positive way of starting labor. There was no “you will do this” instruction, instead it was, “when you feel…” It was a great reminder that I was capable and able to trust my instincts.



I told her before I got off the phone that I’d call back if nothing happened in 12 hours since my contractions were all over the map as far as consistency and length.  As soon as I hung up the phone, though, they started coming rapid fire. Three to three and a half minutes apart. Forty seconds to over a minute long. Now wait a minute, that’s an active, progressive labor pattern?!

I started gathering our things and bringing our bags to the door. After about 45 minutes, I started checking my clock….where was my husband? These contractions were getting very strong and very close together. While I would love a home birth someday, today was not that day!

"But first, let me take a selfie..." Waiting on K to get back to the house-it was time to go!

He finally pulled in the garage (his GPS had taken him to the wrong address!) at around 11:15pm and got out of the car.  K walked in the house nice and easily, taking his time just like his wife told him to.  Instead, he was greeted by his wife, bags in hand, saying, “We need to go, now!”

Needless to say he hadn’t expected that and he quickly changed his clothes and we loaded up to go.
I could sense at this point that I would need to focus if I was going to achieve my goal of an unmedicated birth.  My sweet husband kept trying to talk to me during the half hour ride to the hospital and I finally just looked at him and said, “Stop talking!” I apologized later for being harsh, but I did not appreciate his attempts at small talk at the time.  I texted my doula, Josie, to let her know she could meet us at the hospital.

I had created several playlists of music to have available for labor depending on what my mood would be.  During the ride to the hospital, I had my instrumental soundtrack playing and I kept thinking to myself how silly I must look trying to crawl out of my seat with each contraction while also mentally conducting the music (the beauty of being a music minor for my undergraduate studies is I over analyze music...proved to be a great distraction for me during the trip).  I breathed, followed the music in my head and held onto the “oh crap” handle of the car door for dear life during that drive (of which, K almost took TWO wrong exits!). Katie was right, I was definitely having contractions that I didn’t want to be having in the car! Even so, I felt so calm and so in control. I loved that I had breaks between each wave where it was as though nothing at all was happening. I was continually amazed at how our bodies are designed to labor-it’s not a constant pain and you do get breaks.

We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the Labor & Delivery floor.  My wonderful midwife had informed the receptionist that we would be coming and that my water was broken.  The receptionist could not have been sweeter and she even filled out my paperwork for me before we even got there so I wouldn’t have to break concentration.  All I had to do was confirm the information was correct and sign my name at the bottom-much easier than trying to fill out paperwork myself!  I so appreciated the entire hospital staff going out of their way to ensure my environment was respected and undisrupted during labor. Since my water was broken and it was apparent I was in labor, I was able to bypass triage and was taken right back to my room.  It was room #1, tucked away on the floor, and I loved how private it felt! Since it was in the middle of the night on a weekend, the floor was relatively slow as there were no inductions or cesareans scheduled.  It was incredibly peaceful.

Photo courtesy of Maiden Musgrove Photography

A nurse passing by took a look at me and said, “You can’t be in labor! You look too calm and too beautiful!” It reminded me of the Ina May quote about “if a woman doesn’t look like a goddess in labor, something is wrong”. It was a great little boost of confidence for me as I entered our labor room.


We got to our room and the receptionist who led us there asked if I wanted to change or stay in my own clothes. Again, I was the one calling the shots! It wasn’t a matter of “change into a gown and your nurse will be in soon”, it was “are you more comfortable staying in your own clothes or would you prefer a gown?”. I was very comfortable in what I was wearing, so I opted to stay in my own clothes. (I had also brought a pretty green PrettyPushers gown to wear, but alas, never did put it on) In between contractions, I was able to get my things situated.  My doula was on her way and the nursing staff was getting prepped.  My nurse walked in and asked me if I had a birth plan. I did and I gave it to her. Knowing that there are often questions that are asked of laboring moms (medical history, etc), I also wrote it all out for her so I wouldn’t have to think too much during each wave. It was very helpful and I’m glad I put that together beforehand! I’m all about easy.

In between contractions, just after we checked into our room. My very last V bump picture.

I walked around our room, iPod in hand, swaying with each wave and reminding myself to breathe with each contraction. Josie arrived shortly after we did, and it was a relief to know she was there.  She knew my fears and hopes for this birth, and I knew she was going to be a great support system for me and my husband.  Knowing she was covering our birth in prayer was such a comfort to me.  Katie came in a few minutes later. I was so happy to see her! She checked me shortly after midnight and I was now 4cm dilated and 90% effaced! Progress! Not wanting to hinder me, she said she would be back to check on me in a bit, but to keep doing what I was doing. I was her only patient that night, and it felt good to know that she was available if I needed her.

While I did my short baseline monitoring (I had intermittent monitoring throughout labor instead of continuous), I got my hep lock placed (instead of an IV) and got my wrist bands pointing out my allergies, stats and ‘fall risk’ status. Staying in bed during the contractions was the hardest part, for sure, as I wanted to be up and moving! After a few minutes of trying to sit back while getting a reading, my body decided, “Screw this” and before I knew what I was even doing, I had gotten onto my hands and knees in the bed.

It’s absolutely amazing when you listen to your body’s cues during labor.  I never had to think about what position to be in, my body just led me there.  Thankfully, I had a birth team who supported the natural process of labor and birth, and they worked with my body and instincts, rather than against them.  My nurse never acted inconvenienced when she had to reposition my monitors because I had moved.  We finally got an acceptable reading and you’d better believe I hopped out of that bed as fast as I could.

I labored and walked around the room, leaning over the bed with some waves, sinking to the floor with others.  Katie came back in to check on me and saw that I was in a very active pattern of progression and suggested getting in the shower.  Knowing how comforting water was in my last birth, I quickly agreed.  Josie and Katie set up the bathroom while K got my music playlists ready.  I wandered my room a bit, slowly making myself walk toward the bathroom where I could hear the sounds of music and running water.  I remember feeling so peaceful and thinking to myself how calm everything felt.  I slowly got undressed while the water warmed.  The lights were low and the only sound was that of music that I chose.  I asked my husband to turn on the “Let’s have this baby-worship” soundtrack and I finally got in the shower.

I remember Katie saying she was going to step out for a little while and would be back soon to check on me.  I can’t tell you exactly how long I was in the shower.  The water felt so good and I stood under the stream for a long while, just allowing the water to cascade over my shoulders and down my back as I continued to sway with the contractions.  The worship music played in the background, and I lost myself in the melodies, singing along when I could, listening in silence at other times.  There was no fear, there was no resistance.  I was trusting my body and surrendering to the process of birth-something I was unable to do with my first birth.

After a bit, I sat down on the chair in the shower, still singing, still swaying, but allowing my body to rest.  I remember the nurse saying it had been a couple hours since we had me on the monitors and that we needed to get a reading.  I asked her whether there was a hand held monitor available and there wasn’t, but she did step out and give me a bit more time in my zone.  I suppose she recognized that I wasn’t in a position to move from my safe and comforting space.  Katie came back in at some point, although being lost in ‘labor land’ I can’t tell you what time it was or how long after the nurse had come in this occurred.  The contractions hurt, but in between them I was able to have conversations and laugh with my doula and midwife.  We talked about the music I had chosen, songs I liked, K and my wedding day, doula life…and I kept saying how strange it was that in between waves I felt perfectly normal and felt no pain.  While I always tell clients that this is how birth generally works when it is allowed to progress in its own time, I had never experienced it for myself.  Truly, it put me in awe of how our bodies have been created. 

Finally, Katie was able to coax me out of the shower for a quick reading on the monitors.  My contractions were fairly close together and my body was shaking from the hormone rush.  Again, my knowledge from working in the birth world was both a blessing and a curse because I looked at Josie and said, “I’m shaking. I can’t possibly be this far along already!” Oh, she was so gentle with me, and so encouraging.  She reassured me that yes, I was progressing beautifully and reminded me to surrender to the process and trust my body to continue to move.  Being out of the shower was hard, and I begged Katie to check me before they hooked me up to the monitors.  Since my waters were broken, she wasn’t keen on it, but I insisted, as I felt like I needed to know if there was progress being made.  Much like the rest of my experience, I was the one calling the shots.  I never had one cervical check that I did not request (my midwife even tried to talk me out of one, but you don’t argue with a woman in labor).  It was my birth, my body, my experience, and I never once felt like that was being taken away from me.

As I was hooked up to the monitors, Katie checked me and I was a good 5cm and a very soft 90% effaced.  Fantastic progress, I thought! Although the contractions were much more difficult to cope with as I laid in the bed waiting to get good reactive strip readings from V.  Katie had me drinking a lot of water. Josie rubbed my back and put counter pressure on my hips and tailbone. My sweet husband held my hand and made sure I had the music playing that had been so comforting to me thus far. In the grand scheme, I was probably only on the monitors for a half hour at most, but it felt like an eternity. The logical side of my brain knew that the first 5-6 centimeters of dilation take the longest, so I knew I was well on my way to meeting V, but the emotional side of me got very overwhelmed at this point and I started to cry quietly. This was the first time I doubted my ability to achieve the birth I so longed for.  My birth team was so reassuring, wiping the tears from my eyes, brushing my hair from my face. Looking back, this emotional release can be vital to the birth process, but in the moment, my mind was overwhelmed and it took me a few minutes to compose myself back to the task at hand.

After what felt like an eternity, I was finally able to go back to my lovely shower.  The moment I felt the water hit my skin, I found my rhythm once more.  Katie did not leave at this point, and I had my whole village there, quietly cheering me on and protecting my laboring space.  Again, we worshiped, I swayed, we talked between contractions at times.  There was so much peace and reverence in that bathroom, I wish I could have captured it so I will always know that feeling.  To work to bring my daughter into this world, singing praise to the Creator who gave her to me, was by far one of the most spiritually deep moments in my life thus far.  Even my midwife and doula would occasionally join me in singing. It was beautiful and it was perfect.

My wonderful husband was faithful to make sure I stayed hydrated.  He was so doting and caring. Even though he was quiet throughout my labor, having him there as my rock, the leader of our home, meant the world to me. I was so thankful that he was able to be there for the birth.

It was around this time that I experienced another remarkable aspect of labor unhindered and unmasked.  I began to experience a feeling in my hips as though they were spreading apart from one another, trying to split themselves.  It was not painful, but it was incredibly intense.  I looked at Josie and exclaimed that my hips were going to break apart and she had me explain what I meant.  Both women looked at me and said, “that’s V dropping into your hips and your body is opening for her”. To experience so vividly how our bodies are able to accommodate and acclimate to birthing our children was a remarkable and unforgettable moment.  I have ‘birthing hips’ because my body knows how to birth, not because they are a certain width of narrow or wide. Incredible.

I was so lost in my world of laboring, that I started talking less, although I kept singing off and on. Josie and Katie (and possibly K, but I can’t be certain) talked quietly and I had to laugh to myself as I caught snippets of their conversation.  I distinctly remember Katie commenting on how fantastic my hair looked, even though I was in labor and I was in the shower. I found it incredibly amusing. I was going back and forth between standing and sitting, and Josie was excellent at reminding me to keep moving and not tensing up. 

It was time for me to get out again, and again, I held to the bars in the bathroom, now fighting waves of nausea and again fighting the logical side of me versus the laboring side of me. I had to remind myself that this was all normal and I had to embrace whatever my body was doing rather than fighting against it.  For the first time, I looked at my birth team and said, “I can’t do this”. As we walked back into the room to get the monitors hooked up, they all responded with “but you are doing it.”
and I was doing it.

While this session of monitoring didn’t take as long as the previous one, I was hitting the point of “I can’t do this. This is too hard.” Now I will say, that in between contractions, I was still just fine. My contractions were just coming very quickly at this point, and while it never felt impossible to get through, it was definitely hard work! Again, I asked Katie to check me. Again, she wasn’t a fan, but agreed since I was asking. 7cm. Josie looked at me and said, “What does 7cm mean?”
“Transition,” I replied.
“And what does transition mean?”, she asked.
“The hardest, but fasted part.”
“Exactly. You’re doing an amazing job. You’re almost done.”

She was able to bridge that gap for me between logic and the emotions of the moment.  My Type A personality needed that reminder of what was actually happening so my emotional side could process what my body was doing. It was exactly what I needed and it was the bolster that got me through.
At this point, I thought I would be loud, as many women tend to be very vocal in labor. I was not, which surprised me. I stayed calm and instead retreated into myself to focus my energy on what was needed in that moment. I felt powerful and vulnerable all at the same time.

I was back in the shower shortly thereafter. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t find a position that was comfortable.  I leaned against the bars in the shower, sat down, squatted, leaned on all fours. Every position I tried was uncomfortable. Each wave was more intense than the last, but, I thought to myself, I was doing this. My body knew what it was doing, and I had to trust the process.  I don’t think I was in the shower very long at this point when my midwife recognized the telltale signs of a woman nearing the end of labor.  Bringing me some warm blankets so I could dry off, she gently suggested we start heading back into the room, as baby would be joining us soon.

Once the shower was turned off and I was back in the actual room, I continued to sway and rock with my contractions.  I leaned against the bed, squatting on the floor and swinging my hips, dancing my baby girl down.  At my request once again, Katie checked me since I was starting to feel a lot of pressure.  9cm and very soft and stretchy.  She said that I would likely push through the last centimeter if I pushed with my contractions gently with how stretchy I was, and she encouraged me to follow whatever my body was telling me to do.

With the next wave, I gave a halfhearted push against it.  It hurt! But at the same time, it felt like I was doing something, as though I was helping my body.  I was still kneeling on the floor next to the bed, and Josie asked whether I’d be more comfortable in the same position in the bed so my knees would have some cushion.  I got into the bed and my team set it up so I could lean against the back of the bed (which had been placed upright) and kneel.  I vaguely recall the nurse and my midwife setting up the delivery table. There was some quiet tapping at the keyboard next to me. A hand gently placing a monitor on my belly to quickly catch a heartbeat so as not to disturb me. Katie’s voice quietly asking if I was comfortable pushing in this position and me nodding without even needing to think about it. I was getting so close, I knew it.  And then, the overwhelming sense of needing to bear down washed over me.

I had experienced this same sensation on a much smaller scale with my first child, and women speak of their bodies completely taking over when it comes time to push, but words cannot convey how much your body takes over.  There had been a quiet stillness only moments before and suddenly, I heard myself saying, “Katie, I’m pushing!”

It felt so good to push. Again, I experienced the incredible sensation of baby and mom working together in birth.  I felt her drop low, felt her rotate inside of me. We were doing this, together.  I heard someone (I think it was the midwife) say, “Oh she’s making great progress!” and then suddenly, “Kim, slow down!”

“I can’t!” I responded. The urge was too overwhelming.
Katie and Josie talked me through short pushing, reminding me to breathe. Reminding me to let my body stretch.

Another big push. And I heard Katie say, “We have a dystocia.”

In this moment, I was thankful for my knowledge of birth. Shoulder dystocias can be a big problem if not resolved quickly.  There are several ways to handle them, and unfortunately, I was already in the position that is frequently used to solve them. Another option was to have me flip on my back and pull my legs way back to open my pelvis as far as possible. I needed no explanation, I just said, “Do you need me on my back?” I truly believe this is part of the reason it was fixed so fast. On my back I went (with V’s head partially out of me! That was a fun maneuver to make), I grabbed my knees and silently said a quick prayer that the Lord would protect my baby girl and then I pushed with everything in me.

I felt the ring of fire that so many talk about, but it wasn’t the painful burning that it’s frequently described as-it was just an intensity. Before I knew it, my little girl’s head was out, followed immediately by those naughty shoulders that could have caused so many problems.  It was 5:20am. V had a double nuchalcord (cord wrapped around the neck twice), which normally wouldn’t be cause for concern, but it part of the reason we suspect that she dropped down at a funny angle, causing the dystocia. V was incredibly stunned upon entering the world, and Katie recognized that she needed a kickstart.  She quickly cut her cord and had her with the nurses.  V’s one minute APGAR score was a 4. Stunned was putting it mildly.  I was able to see her only a few feet from me as they worked on her, tiny oxygen mask pressed to her face, nurses hands rubbing her chest and hands.  In this moment, looking back, I should have felt worry or concern, but I only felt peace. I knew my daughter was going to be okay. Just like my labor, I had no fear, only trust and peace.

Wonderful nurses working to get V back to where she needed to be. What a relief when she finally came around!

After a couple of minutes, my little girl woke up and let out a huge scream. Oh, she was angry! Hearing her cry was a beautiful thing and a reassurance that she was going to be okay.  The nurse asked whether they needed to call the NICU team down, and after assessing her, they determined it wasn’t necessary (her 5 and 10 minute APGARs were both 9s, she recovered beautifully).  As soon as they confirmed she was adapting on her own (and the longest 5-10 minutes of my life), my precious V was placed on my chest. Nothing in this world compares to that hormone rush. That sudden realization that I did, in fact, have the healing, natural birth experience I so needed hit me shortly thereafter and I looked at my birth team and just kept saying, “I did it! I did it!”

Holding V for the first time. This is bliss.

Sharing the moment with daddy-our second princess has arrived!

V latched immediately and we began nursing (which she has yet to stop, this child eats constantly). She was alert, she was able to nurse without issue, she was content in my arms. Josie was on one side of me, my husband on the other.  I looked at them and said, “I did it! My body isn’t broken afterall.”

V latching like an old pro--and her very purple face from coming out so quickly!

You see, for the last two years, I have questioned my body’s ability to give birth without help.  I never dilated on my own with E. I ended up needing an epidural so my body could relax enough to continue dilating on Pitocin (for the record, Pitocin and/or epidurals are not a bad thing! They are fantastic tools that can be very helpful in the right circumstances!).  To fully realize that I was actually able to progress without help and cope without medication was incredibly overwhelming.

Telling Katie, "I did it! I did it!"

The moment was beautiful. My labor had been as close to perfect as I ever could ask for.
I did end up having some pretty severe bleeding about a half hour after delivery. I won’t go into details of that here, but I am incredibly thankful for a fast-acting care team and am also thankful that I did chose to give birth in a hospital for this baby. Quite a bit of intervention was needed to get things under control, but again, even under those circumstances, I was at complete peace. There was never any fear and I trusted my midwife and nurses to take care of me in the best way possible. Thankfully, it was resolved, but I could sense that everyone was very concerned at the time.

My "village" that was so vital in protecting my labor space and helping me have the birth I dreamed of for so long!

So there you have it, the beautiful, peaceful, healing birth of V.  To think that birth can be so calm, to experience that level of peace….it’s indescribable.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to convey exactly what this birth was like for me in a way that others will understand.  I felt protected, respected and nurtured. I was safe. I truly believe that God hand picked each and every person that was at V’s delivery. I can’t imagine a better group of people there. The entire labor was less than 8 hours long compared to my almost 30 hours with my first child. I was only in the hospital for 5 hours and 20 minutes, although I had to go back and confirm, since there’s no true sense of time when you’re in labor.  V was 8 pounds 3 ounces. I had no tearing or complications (other than the bleeding, but I figure that my labor was so straightforward, that my body had to throw some sort of wrench in the party). My recovery has been leaps and bounds easier than my first delivery.  It's been amazing!


I am still in awe of the whole experience. When I say I can’t imagine it any more perfect, I truly mean it. To walk through something that so many fear, or that so many associate with pain or drama, without any fear and with complete peace was such a blessing.  The greatest take aways, other than the obvious, that I have from this experience is the vital importance of feeling safe and respected in birth and the importance of releasing any fear or baggage that might hinder you.  The healing that took place throughout V’s birth was exactly what I needed. To know I can give birth in the way I was created to was something I did for me and for V. I didn’t need accolades, I didn’t need the gold star or a pat on the back, I just needed to do this for us. And it was perfect, it was beautiful, it was surrounded with peace.

and I am forever transformed by the experience.

Both photos courtesy of Maiden Musgrove Photography




Monday, August 11, 2014

My Mommy Body: A Love Letter


As I write this, my laptop is perched on my ever-growing belly.  Swollen with life, moving when the sweet girl inside of it decides to awaken, larger than I can ever recall it being….and as much as I truly believe that pregnancy, birth, motherhood and all of the changes that come with these things are beautiful and remarkable, there is still a small part of me that misses what once was.

On our wedding day, almost four years ago

I was never overly thin, but was certainly always slender.  Like many young women, I struggled with self-acceptance and wished that I could look like a supermodel.  I would point out the flaws that were so obvious to me. I’d dream up ways to try and lose those “last 5 pounds”. And as much as I was okay with my body prior to children, I couldn't embrace it.

When we got pregnant with E, I experienced a lot of frustration with my changing body.  I was sad, not at the impending arrival of our daughter, but at the body I no longer recognized.  I stretched, grew and changed shape. My breasts became heavy. The scale climbed 40 pounds. My face became round. I felt swollen everywhere. And as much as I embraced the changes, I also mourned.  These were not things I had prepared myself to face quite yet. My body was no longer that of a young newlywed, but that of a mother.  When E was born, I struggled to lose the weight, even with breastfeeding and even after the weight was gone, I did not recognize the body in the mirror that stared back at me.

36 weeks pregnant with E

But, as time went on, I began to worry less about the body that was not back to pre-baby size or looks.  Yes, I would have moments where I would mourn what once was like the time my husband took me on a date shortly after our daughter was born and I spent the entire time at the Cheesecake Factory sobbing because I didn’t own one pair of pants with a zipper that fit (he took me shopping after dinner to buy me pants with a zipper), but I would also have moments where I could see glimpses of beauty in my stretched and tired body (nursing boobs, anyone?).

This is what a 4 day postpartum tummy looks like....but even here you can see that the furthest thing from my mind in this moment was the fact that I was still in maternity pants.


I wouldn’t say that I reached a place of full acceptance before we conceived V.  Some days were better than others, but I knew I was living healthy, eating right and taking care of myself, which is something I could be proud of even if the standards of Western society wouldn’t agree that my body was something to wear with confidence.

Now that I am almost 30 weeks into my second pregnancy, I have noticed the same insecurities as before creeping back into my thoughts and perspectives.  Compared to my first pregnancy, I am much bigger (although I have gained significantly less-thank you, chasing a toddler).  My body, already stretched once, is comfortable in this place.  I am seeing the tell-tale lines of stretch marks weaving their way around my hips and belly-a mockery to every lotion and potion I have tried in vain to thwart their plans to decorate me skin.  As much as I tell myself not to worry, knowing that I will lose the weight, the stretch marks will fade, the swelling will disappear….no matter how confident I feel in word, to others or in my thoughts….I am still human and I still struggle with the changes that are taking place.

24 weeks with V (with a gorgeous henna design from a very talented local artist)

However, as I walk through recognizing that I love pregnancy and everything that it brings while still being sad at some of the changes that go along with that, I am also making a conscious choice to love my body as it is.  And so, as part of that decision, I have decided to write my mommy body a love letter.

Dear Body,

You are remarkable.  Science tries to define you, explain you on every level and even with as much as we know, there is so much more we can’t and won’t ever understand.  You have the ability to make me ill, but also have the profound skill of healing yourself.  You function on the big levels and on the small. You are the physical representation of me. And I love you.
You have changed with me.  From the little girl with the skinned knees and the bare feet to the awkward teenager who hasn’t quite grown into herself.  From the young woman with the tiny waist and flawless skin to the heavily pregnant and about to deliver. You have adapted, grown, changed right along with me.

And now, as I see every inch of you in the mirror, I choose to see beauty.  I see white, pink, and red lines where you stretched to hold my daughters.  And just as all scars tell stories, each line speaks to the joy, frustration and sadness that is motherhood. One line for the day I first held my daughter in my arms. Another for the late nights when I would cry with my newborn, exhausted and unsure of how to fix whatever ailed her.  More lines for each time my child would break my mother’s heart.  You are helping me to remember these moments, these stories.  Yes, with time they will fade to white or silver, but just as time will fade intensity of a moment’s emotions, their effects will never truly go away.  Oh stretch marks, you are beautiful. And I chose not to be ashamed of you.

I see your middle, my belly, round with life, stretching to its limit. And it is beautiful.  For the lives I have been fortunate to carry, I am thankful. So many women would desire to see the same, and it breaks my heart that they may never experience it….I am thankful that you are able to conceive, nurture and grow my children within my womb until the time comes when I can hold them with my arms.  I see my heavy chest, beginning to fill again with milk for my coming child, and I am thankful that you have helped me to feed my children and grow them in the way that I had hoped to, in the way nature intended.

Your legs are thick, but strong. Able to run with a toddler but bend gently over her at night and lift her back into her bed. Your arms are soft and cushioned with time and the weight of pregnancy. They make a safe and comfortable place for my daughter to rest.  Your face is rounded, but sparkles with your smile-warm and inviting to all.

You are not flawless.  But I love you. Every inch of you was knit together in the womb of my mother, designed by the Creator Himself. There are no mistakes in your design. 

I accept that you will never again look like the 21 year old me. I embrace that I will never again have the same shape or skin that I did before my children came into this world. And, even so, I am thankful for you.  Because you are beautiful. You are beautiful because you helped me become the woman I am today.  You will continue to change, just as I will. Hairs will grey, skin will wrinkle, muscles will weaken in time….but you will always be beautiful.

Because each line, imperfection or flaw tells a part of a story. My story.

And that story is beautiful.



So, here’s to you moms who are struggling with how your bodies have and are changing. I pray that, just as I am walking this journey of self-acceptance, you can do the same.  Whether you are right where you want to be physically or if you are a long way off, start loving your body now.  It has done so much and it is helping to tell your story.  Care for it, love it, embrace it.

You’re worth loving.

28 weeks pregnant with V and carrying 18 month old E
Photo courtesy of Ashley Rutland Photography


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What you're doing is important

I had a "moment" today.  Fellow moms will be able to relate.  It's one of those moments where you just "get it" all of a sudden.  An epiphany of sorts, I suppose.

It was in the parking lot of our local grocery store.

Throughout my life, I have recognized that the vast majority of my "ah ha" moments actually come in the strangest of places.
I suppose, then, that this one happened right where it was supposed to.

E is very much a toddler now.

See? Not a baby anymore :(


And with her toddler status comes the many joys and frustrations that accompany this stage.  
So, we were in our local HEB parking lot this afternoon, and I was attempting to get her out of her car seat so that we could go get groceries and get our buns home.  Grocery shopping is not one of my favorite things.

E was not happy with me.  She was kicking and screaming and all sorts of discombobulated.  Surprisingly, I had been able to keep my frustrations hidden and was gently talking to her explaining the importance of getting out of our seat so we could get our food.
Then, a little old lady came up to the car next to us.  If you're a mom, you know that inner sigh that happens when you're trying to get your child in or out of the car and the person who had parked next to you shows up and wants to get in your car.  You want to hurry up because you're certain they don't appreciate having to wait for you. If mind reading was possible, you're certain they're silently cursing you out and mumbling to themselves about how inconvenient car seats and frazzled mommies are.

With E still screaming her head off, I quickly turned my head to the woman.  She was likely in her late 70s or early 80s.  White, fluffy hair and round cheeks.  I smiled tiredly and said, "I'm so sorry.  I'll hurry!"

Usually, when I offer the "mom apology", people will wave their hand and say "no problem", but you still get the feeling they're not appreciating the need to wait.  This time was different. This woman didn't say, "No problem."

"Take your time, dear.  What you are doing right now is important."

What you are doing right now is important.
Wow.

She truly meant it based on the tone of her voice, and I shortly thereafter had E out of her seat and we were both on our way.  But that phrase, "What you are doing right now is important" hasn't left my heart or mind all afternoon.

As a mom, especially as one who has the opportunity to stay at home right now, I often find myself rushing through my days, working on my to-do list, constant routine of wiping sticky fingers, rocking to sleep and trying to negotiate with  a toddler.  Not glamorous at all, although I love it.

Before I became a mother, I worked a wonderful full-time career.  I was doing something meaningful and important with my life.  I was a productive member of society.  I got dressed up every day. My hair and make-up were done.  I was using my college degrees and proud of my accomplishments in my young life.

See? I used to clean up really nice!


Then I became a mother.  My skin stretched in ways I didn't know were possible.  My breasts became heavy with the milk that sustained my daughter for so long.  Make-up was replaced by under-eye bags from nights spent rocking a child who couldn't sleep.  My long hair was swept into a ponytail.  Jeans and t-shirts became my new wardrobe staple.
And, still, I was happy.

Over the past year and a half, though, I think I've forgotten the divine significance of my role as a mother.  It is so easy to fall into our daily routines of getting up, eating breakfast, wiping sticky hands, cleaning the kitchen, playing, rocking to sleep, reading stories, singing songs, blowing bubbles, wiping tears, diffusing tantrums....
This is ordinary calling.

What we do as mothers, whether we work outside the home or not, is important.  And I was reminded of that today.

It is important because we are shaping the next generation.  It is important because we are modelling for our children what it means to love others.  We are instilling a desire for learning and fostering the passions we see in them from a young age.  We are developing their spiritual foundations and teaching them about things of eternal value.
What we are doing is important.

Yes, even today in the parking lot of the grocery store, my role as a mother was important as I helped my toddler recognize her emotions. As I helped create predictability and boundaries. As I helped her understand that it's okay to be disappointed that we weren't going to the park.
and I will forever be thankful to the kind old woman who saw the beauty in that moment that so easily could have been lost in the mundane of my day.

Because, as a mom, especially as a mom who is human, who gets tired, who loses her temper, who gets frustrated, who is far from perfect, I needed to be reminded that what I am doing each and every day is important.

Because we won't get these days or moments back.

So, if you're tired today.  If you're at the point of breaking. If you're questioning giving up a career to stay home with your children. If the sight of sticky hand prints or muddy foot prints makes you want to run for the hills, remember this:

What you're doing, right now, is important.

Our society often fails to recognize the value of a mother.
Regardless, it's there.  Look for it in the little moments and in the big moments.  Look for it where you'd least expect it.




Being a mother is more than giving birth and having a child.  It is an honor, a privilege.  We are speaking into the lives of our future world.

And what we are doing is important.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tasting the Rainbow...or not

As you are well aware, I have a toddler who is incredibly busy and likes to destroy things.  She is, after all, your typical toddler.

A little while ago, I posted about some easy sensory activities that we have tried with great success in the past.  Knowing, then, that my little one likes to make messes (and I like to justify my Zulily purchases), I decided to expand our play into something fun, full of learning and that could easily be cleaned up (and/or digested....knowing my daughter).

Browsing on Instagram, I saw a picture that a friend had posted of her daughter playing with colored rice.  BINGO!  I knew what our next activity would be.

I searched the web for various recipes/instructions on how to make "rainbow rice" and more or less, the instructions were all the same.  If you're one to enjoy dying Easter eggs, the concept is pretty much the same.

For the record, my Easter eggs have NEVER looked like this....


Going off of the recipes I found, and tweaking them just a bit to fit our needs (such as using vinegar rather than alcohol to dye them--because I have a toddler....and everything goes into her mouth), here's how to make the colored rice:

Rainbow Rice (AKA: Your kid can totally eat this and you won't have to call poison control rice)

Ingredients

2 cups white rice
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1-2 teaspoons food coloring
drop of peppermint oil

Directions

Measure out the rice into a ziplock bag (make sure it's the large freezer ones so you don't have spillage).  In a small dish, combine the food coloring and the vinegar.  I wanted my colors to be super bright, so I used a good amount of food coloring.  It's not an exact science, so play with it until you're happy with the color.

I added peppermint oil as well to help with the vinegar smell.  This is optional.

Pour the vinegar and food coloring and oil mixture into the ziplock bag and seal it.  Knead to mix well.

Now, if my daughter was older, having her mix it could actually be a fun part of the activity.  Unfortunately, my daughter just likes to destroy things, so this was a mommy project for now.

When the mix is well combined with the rice, lay it flat on a cookie sheet to dry.  I used wax paper underneath to help with any mess.

As you can see, I ran out of cookie sheets. 

Repeat for however many colors you want to have.

I let the rice dry for about 3 hours on our counter.  If you need it faster, you can always put it in the oven for a bit, but I don't trust my non-cooking but using the oven skills, so I let the air handle the hard stuff.  Once it's dry, you can store it in an air tight container (we use a rubbermaid tin).

We mixed ours together right away, but this activity could be a great way to introduce colors to kids.  Talking about texture, color, shading, etc is a really great way to incorporate learning into this kind of playtime activity.  Experiment with letting your children mix the colors, or if they're older, let them do the food coloring part of creating the rice.  Seriously, the possibilities are only limited by patience (and trust me, mine wasn't very long for this one...hence why my daughter was napping during the creation of this activity)


So, what did the toddler think?
Rainbow rice is such a fun activity, because you can make it as messy or as big as you want it to be.  We kept it pretty contained in our mini sensory table since it was raining and we didn't' want to be outside, but you could definitely take this outside for more messy fun!

The rice feels really cool against your skin, and it can be a great thing to talk about with your child as they play. 

We buried things in the rice, and then I asked E to find them.  It's fun for them to dig and find things! If your child is younger and just starting to learn about object permanence, this can also be a great activity to do in a mixing bowl or something similar.
Pouring the rice with measuring cups can also be a fun way to play.

My favorite part about this activity for my daughter was how it helped with her pincer grasp.  She's had a pretty good one, but it's a great way for them to really build some dexterity.

The best part?  If she ate it, there's nothing in the rice that would be concerning to me about her ingesting.  The vinegar still lingered a bit, so the taste wasn't too appetizing for her anyway.

This is an awesome activity for a rainy day (or if you don't have a sandbox)!

My toddler gave it two thumbs and foot up!