Finding the Perfect Child Care Program

When I heard they had a two year wait list and were a “Texas Rising Star” campus, I decided I just had to take a tour and get my boys on that wait list asap! I even took a tour  during nap time because I was so excited to see what they were all about. I was so thrilled to be a part of this campus…

…until I wasn’t!

I pulled up to the school and peered over the busted fence to see several four year old (or maybe even five year olds) playing on the playground, and in the sandbox, in their underwear! No shirts, no shoes, no pants! I felt my body immediately try to reverse and retreat back home, but the Austinite in me decided to be open minded and I decided to proceed with a willingness to find out what this place was all about (and why the students were playing outside in their underwear). This was problem #1.

Problem #2 & #3: We got out of the car and wandered around aimlessly looking for the entrance until a “teacher” dressed in vintage booties, an ironic tee, and daisy dukes led us through the gate. I’m all for showing your personal style as a teacher, but I also believe in professional dress for professional learners.

Problem #4 & #5: We enter the “office” and it reeks of poop. There are a bunch of two year olds using the office restroom with the door open for all to enjoy. And…the office is a DISASTER! Papers were piled high to the sky, file folders were jumbled up behind the desk, there was no where to sit, and supplies were randomly placed anywhere and everywhere.

I. Must. Proceed.

At this point I decided there was no way in hell my boys would ever attend this school, but it was like a train wreck I couldn’t turn away from. I found myself drawn towards the classrooms because I just had to find out what it was that made this place worth a two year wait? Perhaps I was the crazy one? Surely there’s something I just haven’t seen yet, right?

Problem #6-10: The director was a young gay man. This was a non issue to me until I met three more young, gay, male teachers. I’m in no wayhomophobic, nor do I think gay men can’t be day care teachers, but when 5 out of 7 teachers are young gay men, I wonder,”Is this diversity, or have you just replaced one sub-population with another?” I want diversity for my children, not only in sexuality, but in gender, race, culture…

I continued to tour the school although I found it obnoxiously overstimulating, dirty, and cluttered. My mind was racing from one sight to the next. What I fell in love with; however, was it’s ideals. It’s philosophies. It’s approach to learning. The biggest issue to me was the environment, but so much of a child’s learning at this age is environment so I still couldn’t consider this place. No matter what their educational philosophy is, a child just will not thrive in a school of chaos.

So…what should a parent look for when choosing a school, or child care, for their infant or toddler.

  1. An infant/toddler classroom should be tech free and battery free. No ipads, no computers, no smart phones, no tablets, and definitely no TV. This age group not only can become overstimulated, but they learn best from experience, not entertainment.
  2. There should not be discipline, time outs, or any consequences for misbehavior. This age group (baby-12m) does not know how to misbehave. Everything they do is driven from curiosity, lack of ability to communicate, and instinct. They need positive guidance, modeling, and redirection.
  3. Everything should be at the child’s level. Teaching decor, mirrors, sensory items, nap mats, toilets, even toys, should be accessible to the child and hung at the child’s eye level (not the adult’s). This shows the children this place was designed with them in mind and this is a place where they’re superior, not inferior.
  4. A child care center, or school, should not be sterile, but it should be clean. If it smells of lysol or other toxic chemicals, it’s not the place for your child. Ask the director what they use in cleaning and how they disinfect. They should be cleaning regularly, with help from the children, and using nontoxic, VOC free, fragrance free cleaners.
  5. Studies show that an organized room is an organized mind. Children thrive in an organized space! Areas of the classroom should be distinguished and/or framed using rugs, mats, or shelving. Perhaps various colors signal different areas, but it should be visible to adults where each area of the classroom is, and things should be labeled and clutter free. Each child should have a space for their own things as well.
  6. The environment should be calming and the colors should be neutral. Color is powerful for the mind and soul, therefore can be overstimulating to infants. Neutral tones should be used and a soft pallet of color. An infant classroom should also have furnishings made of real world, natural materials such as wood, or metal. This allows the child’s brain to take in new information from the learning activities, without being overstimulated/exhausted from it’s surroundings.
  7. Plenty of natural light and access to the outdoors is crucial.
  8. If the director, or teachers, tell you they have a curriculum for infants, RUN! This age group should not be “taught”, “educated”, or “entertained”. They should be provided an environment for learning to take place through sensing, exploration, and experience.
  9. Do they allow “drop in” care? If so, be prepared for random kids you don’t know to be included in your child’s class from time to time. This will not only disrupt routine and sense of security for your child, but will introduce new personalities, new germs, and new dynamics into the structure of their day. Not healthy.

I liked that this particular school described themselves as “child centered” and explained to me that they have a play based learning program. That’s generally what I want to hear. They also told me they don’t force children to apologize for behaviors because they believe a child will find their own way to communicate when they feel sorry for their actions. I agree with this. Children should not be forced to apologize, be affectionate, or make eye contact. The child’s natural feelings should always be validated and respected. I liked that they seek diversity in student make-up, but I would’ve liked to see diversity in the teaching staff as well. I also like the idea of allowing children to be free and make their own choices as much as possible, but whether or not they wear clothes at school was a bit too far for me.

Good luck…it’s a jungle out there!

Stay gold,

That Girl

 

Fall Portrait Party!

YOU are invited to a portrait party in the heart of the hill country! Ariel Rawlings, elite wedding and family photographer and owner of Evan & Marin Photography, is offering fall portrait mini-sessions for ONE DAY ONLY Oct 8 at Whole Heart headquarters (aka, my home). Picture two acres of Texas hill country with miles and miles of rolling hills behind you. imagine hay bales, quilts, pupkins, apples, wood crates…

cash-and-cannon-foot-bathtub

Ariel is super talented with light! She’s that photographer that reminds us all that it takes more than a fancy camera to be a pro; it takes artistic talent and an eye for detail. I’ll be setting up three pinterest-esque fall portrait backdrops on our property for you to choose from. Or, opt for no backdrop and just get down with nature!

It’s a party so come mingle with other mamas. Those that schedule sessions in the morning can enjoy pumpkin bread from Quacks Bakery (I think there’s crack in it as it’s SO addicting) and fresh coffee or mimosas. Those that schedule the afternoon sessions can enjoy wine from local wineries and a charcuterie board with fresh meats and cheeses.

cannon-crawling-on-quilt

Bring the baby, bring the kids, bring your partner, or bring the whole fam damn! This opportunity is too good to pass up. Ariel is offering her services PLUS three photos at a fraction of her sitting fees. Sign up here for the time slot that works for your family. Should you sign up during the TX/OU game…yes, the game will be on our outdoor TV!

Stay gold, 

That Girl

Austin’s Best for Prenatal Care & Pregnancy

It’s my job as a Baby Planner & Maternity Concierge to know the local pros and services available to expectant moms, so when I found out that I was pregnant, I knew just who to turn to!

IMG_2166

My Ob/Gyn: Dr. Vanessa Yium came recommended to me as “the crunchiest doctor in Austin”, which is exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want someone who’d find out I was having twins and immediately schedule my c-section. No way! Dr. Yium is honoring my plan in its entirety and she’s very welcoming to my having a doula. Im required to get an epidural at 7cm dilated in case babies turn breach and she needs to pull them out feet first (ouch) or, worst case scenario is an emergency c at which  point I’d have the epidural already placed.

Labor Plan: labor at home as long as possible! Once water breaks or contractions are long and strong I’ll go in, but the earlier you go to the hospital, the higher your chances for unnecessary medical interventions and c-section.

Delivery: I’m requesting minimal vaginal exams (decreased infection risk), low dose epidural at the LAST possible point, and I plan to stay mobile until pushing time. I’m hoping to deliver upright using a squat bar; however, sometimes US hospitals have policies that don’t allow this. I’ll have my mother, husband, and doula in the room with me, but I’m refusing students.

IMG_2162

My Doula: Austin Born has a team of doulas that are all exceptional. My prenatal doula is the owner, Phyllis Brasenell, but I know there’s potential for me to have a different doula the day/night I deliver. I’m trust them all though to provide the emotional and physical support I need to face labor like a boss!

My Chiropractor: Chiropractic care is a smart choice during pregnancy and I’ve been going to the Joint. I love the fact that each adjustment is only $20 and I don’t need an appointment. I can drive-by, walk-in, and back out whenever it’s convenient. Seeing a chiropractor can help keep your spine aligned so you’re working at optimum potential, but also widen the pelvis to reduce chances baby is breech.

My Prenatal Masseuse: I’ve had a prenatal massage 1-2 times a month since my twelfth week of pregnancy with Amy at Hand & Stone Massage at the Galleria. She knows you’re there to relax so she keeps chatter to a minimum, only talking at the beginning to find out what your current needs are. Not only am I relaxed after visiting Amy, but I’ve had virtually no swelling (edema), I have no varicose veins, and my circulation and  muscle tone have stayed healthy.

My Hospital: Seton Main is where my doctor delivers, but I would’ve chosen to deliver here anyway because it’s recognized as one of the safest hospitals in America to deliver! Its centrally located, they have a Level 2 NICU (I hope I never see), great food, excellent staff, and they’re familiar with crunchy mamas like me. Had I had one baby I would choose a birth center, but that’s not an option with two so I’ll have to do my best to advocate for myself and avoid unnecessary medical interventions.

Placenta Encapsulation: Lisa Kestler encapsulates placentas for Whole Heart clients and I’m honored she’s going to be doing mine. Placenta encapsulation helps regulate hormones to decrease post-partum depression, it helps your uterus shrink back to size faster, and helps increase mother’s milk supply. With twins I get double the pills!!

How wonderful to have options! Austin is filled with wonderful service providers who’s goal is to support the expectant FAMILY, not just the mother. I’m fortunate to have created anamazing team of providers and I feel very confident as my delivery is fast approaching.

Wish me luck, 

That Girl

IMG_2481

Why I Do What I Do

People are often curious about why I do “so many things”. They wonder, “What’s the connection?” or “Why do you own a baby biz if you’re a counselor?” and my favorite, “What exactly do you do?”

The truth is, all the roles I fill are related. 

ChelseaB&W

When I was a sophomore in college I remember meeting with my guidance counselor and telling her I wanted to work with kids in the hospital as a counselor, but also take care of babies and maybe own my own center one day where I can support parents. Her response? “Whoa, slow down, you can’t do it all.”

“Ummm….yes I can. My mom said so!”

So, I do it all. When I started as a “counselor in hospitals”, I was actually considered a Child Life Specialist. I provided distraction during medical procedures, medical & trauma play, emotional support, diagnosis education, and developmental support for children in the hospital. I have worked in the ER, PICU, day surgery, and NICU, but spent most of my time on the oncology unit (pediatric cancer). While on this unit I learned alot about the correlation between the products we use at home, the clothing and toys kids use, and the things in our environment with childhood cancer. They’re inextricably linked! In fact, childhood cancer has risen more than 25% in the last decade. What do you think is responsible? Watching those kids suffer made me interested in learning more about environmental toxins, but also I started being more cautious about what I used myself, and what I would allow my children to be exposed to in the future.

012_12

My time working in hospitals include ALOT of time educating and supporting parents, including discipline support. From there I started offering parenting classes and workshops around the city. I noticed many of the families I worked wih were coming to me with children who already had a history of behavioral issues and poor habits and I wanted to help parents avoid these issues by getting to them earlier. In fact, my interest in infant development, postnatal care, and prenatal care grew stronger because I felt if I could help parents develop their skills that early, then perhaps there wouldn’t be as many concerns later on. I wanted parents to learn how to provide the best care for their children from the very, very beginning.

IMG_4412

Then, as parents began asking me for recommendations for products that were healthy for their children (i.e. didn’t have the chemicals that would later lead to nuerological and behavioral issues) I realized I was sending parents to 10-12 different websites for nontoxic, innovative products so I thought, “Why not have all these products in one place?” ShopWholeHeart.com was born!

ShopWholeHeart-products

Even though I was working with expectant moms, newborns, and parents of older children, I couldn’t ignore the fact that there were still children out there whose needs went beyond that of love & logic, setting limits, or positive discipline. There were still children who needed a therapeutic relationship and loving guidance for processing challenging life experiences. That’s why I continue to see clients as a Counselor and Play Therapist.

So, you see? All of my various roles are connected. There actually is a method to my madness!

The Connection:

Healthy prenatal care and support leads to a healthy baby. A loving fourth trimester (0-3m) combined with healthy sleep habits leads to rested, loving, happy, attentive parents. This leads to happy toddlerhoood where limits are set with love as a result of a strong parent-child relationship. This leads to a well adjusted child throughout childhood, which means, less children in need of long-term counseling. Uh oh, am I working myself out of a job? LOL

ThatGirl, ShopWholeHeart

Lullabelay: Belay On, Baby!

WARNING: THIS PRODUCT IS NOT FOR CLOSED MINDED, JUDGEMENTAL, OR SANCTI-MOMMIES. THIS PRODUCT IS INTENDED FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO FIND A BETTER SOLUTION TO COMMON, EVERYDAY STRUGGLES.

I’m proud to introduce you to the most AMAZEBALLS baby product to hit shelves since the sippy cup! Meet the Lullabelay!

lullabelay amazeballs award

Why yes, that is an infant hanging from a shopping cart. This mother said she usually has to wear the baby in a sling/wrap and sit the older sibling in the cart, which makes it difficult for her to shop comfortable because, let’s face it, grocery shopping is tedious enough without a 12lb baby attached to your body. She says she loves wearing her baby, but it makes shopping difficult because she has trouble bending over, reaching up, lifting things, and doing other tasks without worrying about the safety of her baby.

Other issues moms run into? Napping infant! How many times have you loaded a wide awake, playful infant into their carseat only to find them dead to the world once you arrived at the store? Suck! You think to yourself, “There’s no way in hell I’m going to get tis baby into the slin or cart hammock without waking it up and he hasn’t napped this hard in a while”. Enter the Lullabelay!

lullabelay-set

It’s SUPER easy to use and comes with a carrying case for your car, diaper bag, or purse.

Simply unclick the carseat from it’s base and cover it with the mesh canopy provided.

lullabelay canopy

Hold sibling’s hand with one hand, the carseat with the other, and grab a shopping cart.

lullabelay clasps shopping cart

Clasp the silver belays onto the sides of the cart to distribute the weight evenly.

IMG_1554

Clasp the red belay under the canopy or the carseat handle.

IMG_1556

Use the adjusters to lift and tighten the straps so baby rests comfortably at a height you like.

IMG_1548

Go shop!

I hear you saying…

“I’d bump my legs on the carseat the whole time I was shopping!”

Nope, this wasn’t even an issue. Mom shopped at a regular pace and didn’t bump her legs. When you push the cart ahead at half-to-arms length, there’s no way you’d bump your legs!

“The baby is just hanging there?!”

Yes, the baby is hanging there suspended by metal clasps that were originally engineered to suspend hanggliders and mountain climbers from ropes 40 feet in the air; the same clasps that 150lb man relies on when he’s ziplining through the amazon.

“What is the carseat falls or the cart tips?”

You’re right, the thought that the cart might tip never occurred to the safety experts in the big government office, whose sole job is to test products for safety in all possible instances. C’mon, gimme a break! This product was tested and approved! The way it’s designed and the way the weight is evenly distributed on the shopping cart prevents tipping over.

And, keep in mind that the carseat the child is in was designed to protect the baby in the event  of an automobile crash at 75 mph! Even IF the carseat did fall (a mere 3 inches), baby probably wouldn’t even wake up.

IMG_1545

This product is perfect for moms with a baby and a toddler or older child (or several), but it’s also perfect for twin moms! Lay one baby in a cart hammock, or wear one baby, and have the other in the carseat.

This is even great for moms who only have one baby, but want to utilize the entire cart for space OR perhaps they just want some where to set their purse or diaper bag.

I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE!

Get the Lullabelay HERE NOW!

lullabelay shopping cat carseat carrier

The “Green” Baby Shower

I consider my company, Whole Heart, to be a green company. Not only do I only sell nontoxic, organic and/or environmentally friendly products, but my business practices are also green. I don’t have a physical location, I place all of my inventory orders online, I dropship rather than get things shipped to me, then repackaged and shipped to the consumer, and I handle my bills and taxes paperlessly. I’m also always wondering how I can green-ify other areas of my life and help others green-ify their’s.

One of THE least environmentally responsible things we do as consumers is our parties. I LOVE parties, don’t get me wrong, but we could adjust the way things are done in an effort to waste less. Here are some ideas for having a green shower.

1. Create an online registry

Having an online registry prevents you and your guests from driving to 1400 stores to register and purchase gifts. Think about how much time, energy, and gas (fumes) you’ll save if you and your 50+ guests aren’t driving around town searching for the perfect gift. Try babyli.st for an online registry that allows you to add any product from any store straight to your registry. Then, your guests just need the link and they can shop directly from your registry!

2. Have the hostess send an evite to the shower

Yes, invitation in the mail are adorable, but, save the ink, paper, envelopes, and postage by sending one electronically. Plus, most guests don’t hold on to the invitation anyway and this way they can just check their email when they need to be reminded of important details regarding the shower. Bonus: you can add your registry link in a hyperlink!

3. Request your guests bring gifts unwrapped

I cringe watching the wrapping paper, tissue paper, and cards get stuffed into a giant trash bag. Not only is it wasteful, but your guests had to spend an additional $5-10 just wrapping the gift in paper or a bag that’s covered in VOCs and BPAs and now you’re ripping the paper off and throwing it away. Plus, if the gifts are brough unwrapped, you won’t need to spend the shower unopening gifts, which allows more time chatting with your guests! Win, win! Ask the guests to sign their name on the package or write their own name and gift in a guest book with well wishes for the baby(ies).

4. Use pitchers, drink dispensers, and punch bowls rather than having bottled waters, juices, and sodas.

5. Ask guests to carpool

This isn’t always feasible, but I’ve been to plenty of showers where eeryone drove 20-30 minutes (or longer) to get there and about half of them lived in the same neighborhood. Encourage guests to find a central meeting place and ride together. Not only is carpooling a green practice, but it allows guests who may not know each other well to get acquainted.

6. Shop Green Companies

Some of my favorite brands are organic companies that also practice “green” business. I love Stokke, ShopWholeHeart.com, Rhoost, Dolphin Organics, Kate Quinn organics, Apple Park, Sage Creek, NUI organics, The Honest Co. to name a few. I REFUSE to shop at Baby’s R Us, Buy Buy Baby, or other “big man” stores that are not only wasteful, but also sell merchandise that has been proven to be toxic and harmful to mom and baby. Nope, not for me.

WholeHeartLogo(natparenting)

7. Use Leftovers Wisely

Most hostesses will ask guests to take home a tray of veggies, upcakes, or sandwiches that are leftover, but even those don’t get eaten most of the time because who can eat deli sandwiches 4 days in a row for every meal? Find a nearby school, day care, hospital, or shelter, and find out if they accept food donations.

I hope you find these ideas useful and I hope you’ll consider doing your part to make these practices mainstream. We’re on our way to a greener existence, but everyone has to do their part and not be afraid to be a lil unorthodox.