Character Development Begins in Infancy

We’ve all observed that parent; the one who appears to think their only purpose as a parent is to keep their child alive. This is the same person who thinks their spouse is a great catch because they don’t cheat on them or beat them and that they have a good job because they haven’t committed suicide by 5:00pm on Friday. I want more out of this gig and I want more for my children. I feel like my duty as a parent is to raise my boys into men of integrity, who live as leaders, and strive to be more like God each day. It’s a heavy undertaking to raise people of character in today’s society, but we, as good people, have an obligation to raise more good people. 

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So, how do we do this and when does it start?

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Yup, character development can start as early as infancy…neonates even. 

  1. First, protect your child’s eyes and ears. 

Studies show that infants repeat what they’ve seen and heard in their minds for up to 24 hours. It becomes part of their implicit memory, meaning it’s not a concious understanding; however, it still becomes a part of them. So, you may not think your newborn is paying attention or can understand what’s happening when you’re watching The Walking Dead during that late night feeding, but that violence and terror is getting engrained in their mind. Is there someone in your family that thinks it’s funny to make fun of your new baby’s big ears or crooked grin? This is being repeated in their mind over and over again. Think on that a while.

I do my best to be sure I’m surrounding my babies with positive talk, positive facial expressions, positive touch, and positive movement. Even at 4:30 am when they want to be up for the day, I greet them with a warm smile and tell them they’re loved.

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2. Watch for character traits and comment on them

Your child’s developing their personality more and more each day and their character and self-esteem are also developing at a rapid rate. They’re not just drooling, poooping, sleepy blobs. They’re observant, purposeful humans, seeking interaction and feedback.

When one of my boys wails loudly and it startles the other I notice he brings his hands together and takes deep breaths. I let him know I notice his strong coping skills and patience with others. Sometimes his bottom lip quivers because he feels his brother’s emotion and I comment on his empathy.

When they started rolling over and one day they could do it easily, but the next day they struggled, I acknowledged the effort and the ambition. “Today seems harder than yesterday, but I notice you’re not giving up. You have a goal and you’re working hard to achieve it”.

If we’re at the store and they start fussing in the checkout, I thank them happily for praticing patience with others and being understanding that I have other things to take care of at the moment, but I tell them they’re loved and I’ll hold them when I’m able.

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3. Read to them & discuss the stories

I skipped right over those lame baby books of shapes and colors and went straight to books with story lines. I read these books to my boys and discuss what’s being learned. I talk to them about Harold being a problem solver with his purple crayon, Jack’s disobedience of his mother when he sold the cow for beans, and we discuss Red Riding Hood’s naivety. This isn’t just to develop comprehension skills and vocabulary (which it does), but stories and fables are a great way to develop strong character.

4. Model for them

A wise parent knows that children learn more from what they see others do than what they are told to do so model for them how to behave. I once had a violent student in my kindergarten classroom and I asked the mother about home life so I could get a better understanding of the child’s needs. She said, “He’s never been exposed to any anger or violence at all. Not since his dad left. His dad used to throw tantrums and break everything around him, but that was all before he was two years old”. Too late! The child may have had some hereditary predisposition to violence; however, much of what he was doing could also have been learned behavior in his implicit memory from observing his dad as an infant. It’s important to be aware of how you interact with others in front of your new baby. Think about your mannerisms, your tone of voice…your actions will become their actions sooner or later.

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Babies are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. It used to be believed that infants couldn’t feel pain, but now that seems ludacris, right? Many people mistakenly think that what we say and do around babies, and to babies, doesn’t have an impact on them because they “don’t remember”, but current research says the opposite. They do remember! Everything becomes a part of them. Take advantage of these early years, this crucial period of development, where our children are sponges, and start gearing them towards a positive mindset and raising people of character.

Stay gold, 

Chelsea Vail

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How I’m Surviving the 4month Sleep Regression


If you haven’t heard of the dreaded four month sleep regression, you either don’t have children, have one too young (just you wait), or you birthed a unicorn child that was able to avoid it. I have not been so lucky so as a public service I’ve decided to let you mamas in on how I’m surviving the regression times two. 

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First of all, I’m not.

I tricked you into reading this post by letting you think I’m surviving it, but I’m really not. Each evening at 7pm I shiver in fear wondering what the next 12 hours might have in store for me. And all night long I cry to myself feeling like a failure as a “baby expert” and sleep guru. But, each morning at 4, 5, or 6am depending on when I finally throw in the towel and get up, I stumble into the kitchen where I fill a vat with coffee and chug it like a frat boy the morning after bid day. There’s tip #1 I guess…coffee. Part of my evening routine is to prepare my coffee and set it to go off in the wee morning hours so it’s ready when I am.

Second, go the eff to sleep when they do. 

I’ve embraced an early bedtime since the twins were born and I couldn’t see straight after 7pm. Some nights I try to party like a rock star and stay up until 8:30 or even 9 to spend time with my husband, but the next morning I have visions of stabbing him in his sleep because I’m so tired and this negates the romance (Tosh.O watching party) of the night before. Yes, my marriage is important to me; however, I prefer to meet him for a midday meal after my gallon of coffee and catch up then. We’ve had plenty of conversations about our time together and he realizes this is a short period in our lives where he’s taking third place. He understands the babies need me 100% right now and he’s supportive. Thank the Lord I didn’t marry a selfish man. So, like I said, go to sleep when they do. Most babies have their longest stretch of sleep up front so if I’m able to get down at 7:00pm, I might get to sleep until 10 or even 11. This may be all you get so cherish it!

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Third, throw everything you know out the window.

If I only had one baby I would feed them only every 3-4 hours overnight and if they woke up in between that time I would quietly soothe them back to sleep in hopes of teaching them it’s not time for food yet. With two babies, this is damn near impossible. I sleep while nursing, I let them sleep in bed with me, I hold them while they sleep from time to time. Last night I even let Cash play with one hand while I used the other to hold the effing pacifier in Cannon’s mouth and I attempted to sleep in plank position across he bed with my legs hanging halfway off the mattress.

Let me walk you through it. We go down at 7:00pm as a team.

10:00pm Cash wakes up, but Cannon is still passed out. I decide to feed Cash since it’s been 3 hours.

11:00pm, Cannon wakes up at 11 for food, which disturbs Cash. Cash won’t go back to sleep without being nursed again so I nurse both.

1:00am, Cash wakes up because technically he had his best feed at 10am and his breast wasn’t full for the 11pm feed so he’s hungry again. Feed him.

2:00, Now Cannon wakes up at because he ate at 11pm. Feed Cannon.

3:30 am Cash wakes up just for kicks. Rock, soothe, pat him down. Now it’s 3:30am and I try to go back to sleep.

4:15 am rolls around and Cash can’t figure out how to transition into his new “adult” sleep cycle. Pat, rock, soothe, but he’s so pissed off he won’t go back to sleep and I’m fearful he’ll wake up Cannon. I’m so tired, angry, and frustrated that I pull him next to me and finally decide to let him nurse while I try to sleep without rolling over and suffocating him at 5am.

5:30am, Cannon is up ready to eat again and I have to wake Cash up in order to get into position to feed Cannon, too. Now both boys are too stimulated (and rested) to go back to sleep so we all get up at 6am and start the day.

6:00am, I yell the F word to myself through a loving mother’s smile and stumble to the kitchen for coffee.

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The point is, there are no rules during this fourth month of hell. Bloggers and sleep trainers will advise not to get into bad habits and hell, I’ve given that advice myself, but this was before I experienced it myself times two! I would much rather just get through this time, try to get as much sleep as I can, whether that means nursing on demand or holding them while we sleep, and then break those bad habits later.

As tough as this mini phase is, I love the baby breath and warm lips on my neck in the mddle of the night. I love Cash’s soft chubby hand smacking my face while he fights sleep. When Cannon wails for food, I know he’s screaming for me and knowing I have what he needs to feel safe, calm, and satisfied is a powerful feeling. So, I guess, that’s how I’m surviving the four month sleep regression. I’m trying to focus on the beautiful parts. I’m looking for joy in every challenging moment and it’s not hard to find.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

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Binxy Baby: My Newest Obsession

Anyone who says newborn twins are tough has never dealt with four month old twins. In my opinion, newborn twins are a cakewalk. Six month and up twins are a cakewalk, but this 3-6 month area is funky town! They’re too alert to sleep through car rides and outings anymore, but not quite alert enough to stay chill for an extended period of time. They’re too big to be held or worn simultaneously, but too small to sit up on their own. This makes “quick trips” to the store or shopping damn near impossible. In fact, after one trip to HEB where they both melted down half way through the store I considered sitting in a center aisle and rocking back and forth until someone came to my aid. 

Luckily, I discovered the Binxy Baby! Life is good again!

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The Binxy Baby is a shopping cart hammock that clips onto the shopping cart and allows baby to lay in it peacefully kicking and cooing while you shop. At first I didn’t think I needed this product because my stroller had such a great storage space underneath; however, let me walk you through a trip to the grocery store using a stroller instead of the Binxy Baby.

First, you start with both babies in the stroller happily browsing fruits. Baby A begins to fuss, but no need to fret because you packed your ACK Wrap so you decide to wear Baby A and utilize his seat for more groceries. Problem solved right? Nope. Then Baby B decides to scream. You try a pacifier and every other trick in the book but it doesn’t work. baby B now wants to be held but you can’t hold him because you’re wearing Baby A. So, set Baby A down to grab B? Nope. There’s no where to set A because his seat is filled with food now. Let the rocking back and forth in the center aisle commence.

Another issue with using the stroller is the bending down to place groceries, bending down to put them on the…the…thingamajig I can’t think of the name for because I’m sleep deprived to pay for them, and then where do you put the bags to make it out to your car?

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Now, let’s walk through a trip with the Binxy Babies. Pull up to the store and park next to the doohickie where carts are stored. Grab a cart and snap the Binxy Babies onto the sides. Put Baby A in one and walk around to put Baby B in the other. Into the store you go! Now you’re browsing veggies and Baby A freaks out. Pick him up and soothe him or wear him. Baby B starts to panic. No worries, just set Baby A back in the hammock and grab Baby B. Repeat as necessary until shopping is complete.

I can also attest to the fact that my babies are significantly happier shopping in the Binxy Babies. I think they like being out of the hot carseats, but they also like laying face up at an incline so they can observe things around them. Not to mention they get ogled and flirted with by all the old ladies and passersby.

The hammocks take up the whole top of the cart when you need two, but the fabric is stretchy and allows you to easily drop groceries in between the two and into the cart. The bags can go underneath or hang on the sides, but I always ask for assistance getting out anyway so that I can load the groceries and start the car while the attendant loads groceries in the trunk. Never turn down free help when you’ve got twins right?!

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I will cherish these Binxy Babies and will gladly pass them on to another twin mom when my boys sadly, but surely, outgrow them.

Stay Gold, 

That Girl

How to Raise a Wuss

We’ve all met that kid. You know, the one who’s scared to try anything new, won’t talk to strangers, and punks out from challenges. You may have even dated the guy in college whose bark was way worse than his bite? Now that you’re a parent raising a son, perhaps you’d like to know how you too can raise your own sissy. Well, you’re in luck. As a Parenting Specialist and family counselor I’ve figured out the magic formula for raising a wuss…guaranteed!

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Step 1: Tell him he’s a wuss

This is probably the most common method I’ve seen used. Many parents mistakenly think that by calling their son a wuss, sissy, or pansy that he’ll grow up to be tough, but the opposite is true. By calling your son names like this, his self-esteem will plummet and he will likely grow up to be just those things. Even better? When he cries or “wusses out”, tell him he’s being a “vagina”, too. This way, not only will he grow up weak,  but he’ll also grow up disrespecting women and believing they’re an inferior gender.

Step 2: Show him how strong you are

Don’t allow your child to figure things out on their own, especially if they struggle with it because they’re not developmentally ready to master it yet. Be sure to show them how easy it is for you. They’ll likely start to admire you, think you are a superhero and believe there’s nothing you can’t do. This will foster more feelings of inferiority, create a lack of initiative, and scare them away from taking on things that might be challenging.

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Step 3: Make fun of people together

This one is a surefire way to raise a wuss. Make fun of people for things like their skin color, hair dos, clothing choices, and the way they walk or talk. This will teach your child that other people are probably making fun of them too, which will undoubtedly crush their confidence and cause them to be inhibited in public. Leave no one untouched! The weaker the person being picked on, the better the results for your own child.

Step 4: Never Follow-through

There’s several ways to pull this one off. You could try threatening things like spankings, grounding, or other punishments without ever having intentions of doing them. You could also make empty promises about things you’ll buy them, things you’ll do, or maybe trips you’ll take. This teaches your child that words don’t have meaning. They’ll grow up thinking they can say things they don’t mean, they can be dishonest if it makes things easier, and they may even become that guy at the bar that says “let’s take it outside” when everyone around him knows a fight will never happen. People love that guy, right?

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I have two sons. This has made me very sensitive to societal issues involving men. What defines a real man has gotten blurry and how we raise boys into men is even blurrier. I’ve observed the empty threats from angry parents, which is confusing for children and damages relationships. I’ve overheard, “But, dad, you said…”, too many times, and I’ve witnessed the belittling of the small child who cries because the dad wants to “toughen him up”. It’s heartbreaking because these things don’t create men, they create weinies. We’re raising generations of little boys to become men with no follow through, men whose words have no meaning, men who struggle with their identities, men who confuse masculinity with masoginism, and who make themselves feel superior by preying on the inferior. It’s up to us to make a change. 

Stay gold, 

That Girl

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The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly Might Die: Get Over It

The Old Lady Who Swallows the Fly Might DIE. Get Over It.

I picked up a board book yesterday about the old lady who swallows the fly and began to sing it to my twin boys. I wasn’t paying much attention to the written print at first because I know the song by heart from my own childhood; however, a few pages in I realized that instead of the lyrics “perhaps she’ll die”, I read the words, “we’ll ask her why”. Huh? This is bullshit!

We can’t say the word “die” in a children’s song? If some crazy bitch decides to swallow an entire food chain of animals to chase after the tiny little fly she started with, that’s up to her. She’s the one who overreacted and created a monster problem out of a tiny incident. In fact, now that I think about it, that’s the whole point of the rhyme. She died because she overdramatized. Also, I don’t want to send the message to my kids that this is a chick you want to deal with. If you see an old lady swallowing a farm full of animals you run the other way. You do not walk up and ask her why. And, let’s not forget, she’s fiction! I hope my boys won’t lose sleep over the death of a fictional character in a silly song.

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This got me thinking, when did everything get so weeny-fied? The newest versions of Little Red Riding Hood have her escaping the wolf and being rescued by a hunter, but I remember her getting gobbled up whole because she made the stupid ass move of telling a big bad WOLF exactly where she was going and who she was going to meet. She needed a lesson about stranger danger and being eaten alive might do the trick. What’s next? I guess the third little pig invites the wolf in for a marathon viewing of Fixer Upper? Perhaps they share a bottle of vino and chat about Joanna’s unique ability to mix farmhouse chic with modern elements. I’m banning this crap!

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For my kids, Bambi’s mother got shot by hunters just like daddy leaving her orphaned. The cradle falls out of the tree and the baby plummets to the ground from irresponsible parenting, The old man who played knick knack on the kid’s knee is a probably a pedophile and you should stay far away from him. I’m not going to rewrite nursery rhymes or children’s songs out of fear that my kids can’t handle something dark, or try to protect my children from the realities of the world. We live in a scary place. I’m not doing them any favors by acting like nothing bad ever happens and raising them in a bubble of lemonade and gumdrops.

Sorry, boys, but the old lady who swallowed a fly, a spider, a cat, a dog, a goat, and a cow probably died. Serves her right.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

Letters to my Sons

My whole life I said I wanted to be a mother. I traveled four years of the rockiest fertility road I couldv’e ever imagined and then on my birthday last year I conceived the two most beautiful baby boys in the world. Tomorrow marks my birthday, a day that now holds incredibly different value to me. It’s no longer the day of my birth; it’s the day I was given my sons.

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Dearest Cash,

You are such an old soul. From the moment we met I felt like you knew more about me than I did you. Even while you were in the NICU there was this peace about you like you knew you were safe, loved, and ok. In fact, when I look back on that I remember how stressed I was that I couldn’t be with you but everyone kept telling me, “Cash is ok, he’s happy”. And you were. We all started describing you as “chill”, but it’s more than that. You’re secure and trusting.

I’m falling in love with you more each day. Your bottom lip quivers with empathy when Cannon is upset or has tummy pain. I’ve noticed it quiver during sad songs too; which touches my heart. You feel so deeply and are so sensitive to the world around you. I hope that you use that quality to serve others and always demonstrate compassion and kindness. Each night I pray that when it comes time for you to love that you will be loved back and that the women you love will not break your heart (although I know it will happen a few times). That heart is one with mine now and I want to preserve it.

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You are a mamas boy and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the universe! You love holding onto my hair while you’re nursing. You clasp my fingers when I’m rocking you and you bury into my neck. Sometimes at night I think you’ve woken up just so you can have some alone time with me and when I pull you into bed next to me you snuggle so close that our skin melts together. I look down sometimes to check on you and every now and then you’re not even sleeping; you’re watching me too. Your bright blue eyes stare right back into mine.

I adore your smile! You waited to start smiling a bit longer than your brother and the smiles were reserved for me, dad, and grandma. It made me cherish each one that much more because it felt like each smile you gave me belonged to me and only me. I pray that smile shows people that Jesus lives in your heart and that you’ll always be a leader, never a follower.

The way you kick and march like a little monkey during playtime or bathtime makes my heart explode with laughter. You’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, too. I’ve seen you laugh each time you catch air as you try to jump out of your baby tub. There’s so much energy and life inside you. I hope you’re always adventurous, thrill seeking, and approach challenges with gusto!

Love, Mom

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Dearest Cannon,

You are the epitome of the nickname “Cannonball”! Not only have you taken the shape of a ball with your stout, muscular frame (well, rolls of baby fat now, but I see potential), but you’re also a ball of energy, a ball of laughter, a ball of fun! I try so hard not to interact too much at night because I’d like you to go back to sleep, but even in the dark I can see your mouth opened wide into a big Cannonball smile. I hear you cooing over the white noise machine to get my attention and if I hear a giggle I’m a gonner. I immediately get suckered into kissing your sweet chubby cheeks and nibbling your neck.

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You found your voice early! Since it’s been on it’s never turned off. You have so much to say and so many feelings to express. Anyone and everyone gets to hear what’s on your mind and you are skilled at grabbing, and keeping, people’s attention. My hope for you is that you use your voice to spread the word since the name “Cannon” means “protector of the Word”. Use your voice to stand up for what’s right since your middle name, “Wright”, means “righter of wrongs”. Be the voice for those that don’t have one or are too scared to use it.

I love the way you look at your dad. It’s as if you know that you’re curious spirit will get you into some trouble down the road, but this is the guy that will always have your back (even after busting your backside from time to time). You look at him like he’s your protector, and he is. He and I both will love you no matter what ind of pickle you get yourself into.

When you put your chunky cheek against your shoulder and peer up at me with those baby blues I just know you have the potential to be a heartbreaker, but I hope you’ll always treat women with respect. I hope you’ll be a gentlemen and you’ll use your charm to set an example for other boys around you on how to win a girl’s affection by being chivalrous and trustworthy.

You can be so silly sometimes. I look forward to seeing how far your sense of humor and confidence takes you in this world. I hope you never shy from a challenge and approach each new day with zest and excitement. Always take advantage of opportunities and never back down from something that scares you. I see so much bravery and gumption in you.

Cannon, take life like a bull by the horns and show us what you got!

Love, Mom

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Dear heavenly father, please continue to hold both my boys in your hands as you have and keep them safe from harm. I pray that any hurt they do experience only makes them stronger, kinder, and more brave. I pray that you will live inside their hearts and shine through them. Give me patience as a mother Lord and give me the words and actions I need to raise them to be men of character, men of integrity, and most importantly, men of faith. I pray they will be leaders in school, leaders in church, leaders among their peers, and leaders for each other. Protect the women they will marry, Lord, and ready them to give and receive love from my boys when the time is right. I pray all these things in your son’s name, amen.