What if it Was Weird?

My friends and family often comment on how I eat, what I wear, and my parenting choices. I hear, “She eats weird stuff” or “She’s weird about organic”, or “You’ll probably do something weird when they’re school aged, huh?”, but I don’t make my decisions about my wellbeing or my children’s wellbeing lightly. I make decisions based on research based practices. I have made the concious decision to be counter-cultural and do what I feel is best for my family, regardless of the norm. But, what if I weren’t the “weird” one? What if we flipped the script?

What if it was weird…

What if it was weird to see a kid with a bag of Cheetoh’s and a juice box? What if we were used to seeing kids drink nothing but water and almond milk and playgrounds were covered with half eaten celery sticks or roasted seaweed crumbs.

What if it was weird to see a kid with an iPad or a toy that lit up and sang songs? What if we heard a toy like this and it startled us because it was so odd? We’d gotten so used to seeing kids climb trees, build forts, or sculpt masterpieces from mud that when we saw a toy we stared at it like some kind of escapee from a world beyond.

What if it was weird to go to someone’s house for a meal and find out they DIDN’T have a garden nearby? “Huh? Where do you get your food? A store? But, how can you trust how it’s grown or where it comes from?” What if grocery stores were weird because we lived in a world filled with community gardens, farmer’s markets and homemade goods?

What if it was weird to see a TV in a home? What if TV was only for the news or public broadcasts so people rarely watched them and instead spent their time with friends and family traveling, cooking, creating, exploring, talking. What if living room furniture was arranged with seats facing inward to inspire conversation and relaxation instead?

What if medicine cabinets were filled with essential oils labeled with the ailments they cured? What if diffusers filled with Tea Tree oil or Thieves oil were in every doctor’s office instead of cans of Lysol and teachers cleaned toys with lemon and vinegar instead of bleach?

What if, just like the circus, zoos and aquariums were things of the past and the only way to see animals was in the wild, in their natural habitat? Instead of paying to see these beautiful creatures in captivity, families volunteered at sanctuaries and rehab facilities or they vacationed to various parts of the world in hopes of spotting them in nature (gasp!).

What if it was weird to see desks in schools? We were used to seeing kids running up and down the hallways for learning materials for a project, or kids crowded around books in the libraries? What if we saw History teachers dressed up like historical figures, science teachers in lab coats, and math teachers sculpting rollercoasters from Kinex as their students calculated velocities. This became so normal that desks made you think they were being punished for severe misbehavior.

What if it was weird to see an adult on a playground? The parents were usually conversing in a nearby coffee shop so seeing an adult follow a child around a playscape meant the child has special needs and needed additional guidance or perhaps the adult is a kidnapper and someone should contact the authorities.

What if it was weird for a school NOT to offer humanities and liberal arts? Maybe we’d get so used to kids being well-read, versed in poetry, fluent in multiple languages, and playing an instrument or two that if a child didn’t have an artistic talent or hobby we thought it strange.

All over the world you’ll find this “weirdness” I speak of. You’ll see prams parked outside of cafes with sleeping babies while their mother’s enjoy coffee together inside. You’ll see responsible, independent children on mass transit going to and from activities with noone concerned about their safety. It’s perfectly normal to see kids getting out of school by one or two o’clock in the afternoon to go home and free play with peers. It’s not uncommon for a child in primary school to be multi-lingual, play a few instruments, write their own music and perhaps paint or sculpt. It’s also common for a school lunch of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and gourmet cheeses to be served family style to a round table where children serve one another and hold intelligent conversations about their interests. So, why do we think these things are weird here in America? Why do we think our way is the only way and, dare I say it, the better way? We hashtag “‘merica” as if we’re the only ones living well or free, when we’re one of hundreds of countries with freedom and we still make poor choices about our wellbeing.

Why is it weird to live naturally and respect the environment? Why is it weird to eat only what our bodies are designed to process and treat diseases with what grows in our world? Why is it weird to see a Homeopath whose science dates back for centuries, instead of pediatricians who’ve memorized formulas for treating symptoms, rather than preventing illness. Why do we consider it weird for someone to not only think outside the box, but to live outside the box? How can we possibly expect our world and our society to improve if we keep doing the same thing over and over again wondering why things aren’t changing for the better? 

Stay gold, be different, 

That Girl

Raising Citizens of the World

It started when my boys were born, wanting something different for them, but this past weekend confirmed my decision. No more. Enough is enough. I’m done. 

I’m raising citizens of the world.

We started our Saturday morning wondering what we could do with two one year olds when our “small town” city of Austin was currently flooded with millions of show goers visiting us for the SXSW music festival. The thought of manuevering our toddlers through crowds, sitting in traffic, and being bombarded with music virtually everywhere (some soulful, but most is just hectic noise from unexperienced hopefuls). We decided to venture an hour away to San Antonio.

After circling the city blocks a few times looking at parking signs ranging $10-30 (to place your car on top of concrete safely), we found a spot. We stood in line with the crowds to pay for our spot, inhaling car fumes, cigarette smoke, other people’s ill chosen parfumes and deodorants and then began our excursion.

First stop- food. Dining out with twin toddlers is more fun when the ambiance is kid friendly so we chose Rainforest Cafe. Now, I’ll preface this post by saying I loved our day! Every moment watching my children’s faces light up with wonder is worth every harsh moment, but…my worldview shifted drastically on this day.

We walked our babies around the restaurant pointing out the rubber, plastic, and mechanical animals. We faked amusement when the lights flickered and the “thunder” roared from the speakers hidden behind the fake leaves surrounding our table. Then we paid $50+ for a meal of fried, over-processed, preservative laden food, leaving our meals half-eaten because American portion control is lacking. We showed our waiter our rewards card for this restaurant chain. This reward program allows us to get more artificial food when we eat enough of it over time at various locations. I was disgusted by this thought. Then we tipped the waiter because, in America, no matter how bad the service, the waitstaff is entitled to getting tipped. Blech!

Nextstop- downtown. Then, we paid $120 for a wristband that allowed us to get into several of the attractions for one “low” price.  Handing over the credit card made me feel so powerfless. They know they’ve got us because we’re there, we’re consumers, we want to be entertained. Sure, take our money and run.

Again, we had a good time, but is this it? We rode on a manufactured safari car wearing plastic 3D glasses and shot lasers at holographic zombies. I’m humiliated as I write this. We stood in line for 40 minutes for a 4D ride; another simulated experience (monkeys ziplining through the jungle). We walked down a red carpet through an old building looking at celebrities and athletes made of wax. Then, we took our children to a playscape IN a mall and watched them play on trees and ponds made of rubber. We paid $1 for them to ride in circles on painted, fiberglass animals.

After weaving through more crowds, stopping at umpteen million restauramts trying to find a place that could provide a table without making us wait close to an hour for service, we settled on another restaurant with overpriced, artificial food, and terrible service.

I drove home feeling disgusted. Disgusted with myself for participating in these shenanigans; for playing a part in this artificial world. I was disgusted for my children that we had simulated artificial adventures for them. I want more. I want something different.

Lucky for me, my husband felt the same way. As we drove home we began discussing. We’ve made the decision, not lightly mind you, to raise citizens of the world. Sure, we’ll shop at malls from time to time, we’ll even take our boys to amusement parks and local attractions occassionally, but our worldview has changed and we’re going to make a change for something better. It may be now, or it may be when the boys are slightly older, but we will not be raising them in a society driven by consumerism, gluttony, greed, technology, and materialism anymore.

We plan on raising them in the natural world, to appreciate relationships, experiences, and love. We want them to learn by doing, not sitting in a classroom or staring at a screen. We want them to love because they’ve felt nothing but love amd aren’t surrounded by morally compromised people we have to shield them from. We want them to be grateful by living simply and plan on simplifying our lives.

Stay tuned, friends. The Vails are making changes!

That Girl

Feed the Brain

Through my experiences as a therapist, a teacher, and a newborn care specialist, I’ve learned that a child’s environment plays a major role in a their brain development and behavior. Parents find themselves in a vicious cycle trying to correct their child’s behavior to no avail and they’re clueless about what’s actually causing the behavioral changes. Proactive parenting is far superior to reactive parenting. 

Consider the following…

Toys

The types of toys a child plays with have a major impact on their brain development and behavior. Technology and TV for example entertain the brain, meaning the brain is not having to work. There’s no problem solving, imagination, creativity, or thinking involved with technology or tv. Even “educational games” on an ipad have a negative effect on the brain because they limit possibilities to the software design. The brain; however, is limitless in its possibilities. Use of technology in children has been linked to aggression, sleep deprivation, violence, lack of empathy, detachment, and poor social skills. Ever notice agitation and tantrums more when you take away a tech device from your child? It’s not only because they lost the priviledge, they could be experiencing menal withdrawals.

Opt for open ended toys that inspire creativity, thinking, and imagination. Fat brain toys such as blocks, cars, dolls, play-doh, art supplies, magnetiles, role play items, and sensory play such as sand, water, or beads.

Food

Nutrition plays a major role in your child’s behavior. I always have to bite my tongue around my friends who complain about the terrible twos, having a “threenager,” or the frantic fours when often these are the same friends who fuel their children with sodas, gluten laden goodies, and sugary cereals. Sure, my kids will inevitably act up from time to time and I know I’ll have some disciplinary issues, but these things are far less in frequency as well as intensity when diet is considered. Major culprits to poor behavior include gluten, sugar, caffeine, low water intake, and dyes.

Opt for organic fruits, veggies, dairy, meats to avoid exposure to hormones and pesticides. Try not to allow your child to snack all day, but don’t allow them to go hungry. Schedule three solid meals of high protein, healthy fats, and high nutriton, but allow two smaller meals/snacks in betweek to keep sugar levels regulated. Avoid processed foods with artificial ingredients when you can and just say no to sugar and caffeine at all costs, especially if you’ve noticed a sensitivity.

Sleep

Adults need to take some responsibility for their child’s behavior when sleep deprivation could be the catalyst. If you allowed them to skip their nap, then it’s unfair to them for you to get angry when they throw a tantrum in the middle of Target. Were they up late because you wanted to finish your concersation on the phone before you started bedtime? Then, don’t get mad at them when they wake up cranky and start throwing food or spilling their juice. Children have crazy fast metabolisms, their mind is on constant overload and their body’s are growing rapidly. They need 10-12 hours of sleep a night depending on age and toddlers need naps (or at least downtime) in order to function optimally.

Envornmental Toxins

Numerous studies have shown a correlation between environmenal toxins and behavior. I recently saw that I can be found on google when you search “crunchy mom” or “granola mom” which totally cracks me up, because I’m far from crunchy, but I am green. I do not use toxic cleaners, detergents, soap or perfumes in my home. I refuse to eat nonorganic veggies, dairy, or meats. I wouldn’t accept a million dollars to vaccinate my children and I hold my breath, or sit in the car, when I’m pumping gas. Our environment is filled with carcinogens and neurotoxins that nnegatively affect our behavior. Top culprits include insecticides, pesticides, lead, paints, cleaners, mercury, formaldehyde and aluminum (found in vaccines), BPAs found in plastics, and parabens in lotions and soaps. These have been blamed for “silently eroding intelligence”

“Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” Grandjean and Landrigan write. “The presumption that new chemicals and technologies are safe until proven otherwise is a fundamental problem.” As in their 2006 review, the authors reiterate their concern “that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries.” (LINK HERE)

Organic clothes by Finn & Emma

So, before you even attempt at correcting your child’s behavior, search for the source first! It would be unfair to punish the child for behavior beyond their control when their mind is greatly affected by the environment we’ve created for them.

Good luck and stay gold,

Chelsea Vail

Kangacare Lil Joey’s

A friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago. I’d put both of us in the “green mom” category so when I started thinking what to bring to her when I visited her and sweet Ellory, I thought through what was in my “my boys are too little for” closet. No need to go spend money and waste resources, right? I spotted the bag of Lil Joey cloth diapers by Kangacare and my heart dropped a little bit. The teeny tiny diapers my brand new, sweet smelling babies wore the first few months of life would now only cover a thingh most likely. Sigh!

IMG_3718

If you read my birth story you know I didn’t have much control over what went down the first 11 days of life for my babies. When mom nearly dies on the operating table, the staff doesn’t call her to discuss her stance on cloth versus disposables. I’m aware how silly it makes me sound, but one of the hardest things for me as a new mom was meeting my babies for the first time in the NICU and smelling the powdery chemicals from the disposable diapers they were forced to wear. I could feel the plastic in my hand under their bums and it broke my heart that my precious newborns were sitting in sodium polyacralate, dioxins, propylene, tributyltin…blach! My baby born with a pneumo-thorax (hole in his lung) was being exposed to chemicals that cause respiratory distress?! My sweet twins, born to me after years of battling endometriosis and infertility issues were sitting in the very dioxins my fertility doctor told me were responsible for my struggles?!

My heart sank.

The nurse even gave me a toxic diaper as a koozie for the water she gave me in a BPA laden plastic container

The nurse even gave me a toxic diaper as a koozie for the water she gave me in a BPA laden plastic container

When the boys were released to me I put them in organic diapers right away. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough of the Lil Joeys to cloth them full time. But, when they started getting diaper rash and red, flaky, chapped booties from the ORGANIC disposable diapers, I knew cloth was the only way to go. I started putting coconut oil on the butts to fix the damage and putting them only in cloth and things cleared right up! I’ve never looked back.

Cloth is SO much better for your babies, but way better on your pocket book and mother earth. The Lil Joey’s come in 2pks for less than $30 so a good starter kit of these will run you about $200-300 depending on how often you want to do laundry, but they’ll wear these diapers everyday for about 12 weeks so you’ll save hundreds of dollars in the meantime.

Lil Joeys clyde Whole Heart

I loved the prints the Lil Joeys come in! My favorites were the Clyde and the TokiDoki. I wasn’t sure what TokiDoki even was until I visited the Kangacare booth at the ABC Expo and the moms there were acting like John Lennon had stopped by the booth. They were going nuts over this print! In fact, apparently I’d been living under a rock because these designs were in high demand in diaper bags, shopping cart covers, blankets. Everyone wanted some TokiDoki.

vail twins in toki doki

When friends and fans ask me what I consider a must have after having twins, cloth diapers, especially Lil Joeys, are in my top five! I’m so glad I was able to start cloth diapering them right away and limiting the pollutants entering their sweet new bodies. I am confident my babies are strong and healthy and will continue to be this way as long as I’m able to continue limiting their exposure to environmental toxins.

Stay green, 

That Girl

Finn & Emma: Totally Worth It

I’ve not been shy voicing my opinion on baby clothes (especially baby boy clothes). The dinosaurs, trains, planes, cars, and sports patches? Give me a break! What’s worse is the verbage like, “mommy’s little sailor” or “daddy’s MVP”. Baby clothes do not have to be so cheesy! Well, after 400 failed trips to EVERY single baby clothing store in the mall I finally gave up and decided I will only shop online boutiques and retailers. I was familiar with Finn & Emma from the baby expos I frequent so I reached out to them to see what the fuss was about…

Totally worth it!

As soon as my order came in the mail I could tell a huge difference right away in the quality. There was no funky “new” factory smell, no toxic film-y feeling on the fabric, and they felt sturdy- like they’d actually withstand the multiple machine washes needed when you have littles. Gasp!

IMG_6211

Don’t panic, it’s organic.

I’m all about EVERYthing organic for babies. Yes, even clothing should be organic when possible. Clothing (especially children’s clothing) has been found laden with hormone disrupting pthalates, formaldehyde dyes, and perfluorochemicals linked to tumor growths and reproductive problems. Cotton clothing that’s not organic will still have residues from pesticides and fertilizers used in the growth of cotton. That “new” smell is actually hazardous chemicals you are breathing in and your skin is your largest organ, meaning your baby is absorbing these chemicals and residues into their skin. Always go for hand me downs, wash clothing several times in an organic detergent, or shop organic such as Finn&Emma.

They’re GOTS certified (99% organic), no PVCs, nickle free metals, and use nontoxic inks, dyes, and processing chemicals. Finn&Emma is also a fair trade company (a company with heart!)

Style for Days

Finn&Emma clothing is stylish without being uber trendy. They opt for classic modern designs  with nature inspired prints, bright colors, and chic details. No decals, cartoons, or sports patches will be found on Finn&Emma clothing. They know there’s no need to compromise class when dressing babies and toddlers.

IMG_6216

Quality over Quantity

My sisters both had boys before me and passed on piles of baby boy clothes to me so I have plenty of options; however, I’d much rather dress my boys in a few high quality outfits from Finn&Emma over and over again than hundreds of outfits from those “other stores” that are fading, losing fit, and pulling. I’ve washed my Finn&Emma outfit several times already and it looks brand new every time. The patterns stay sharp, the buttons don’t wear out, and the shape holds. With babies growing out of things so quickly, why not splurge on a few timeless, high quality items they can wear over and over again until they’re outgrown and then pass them on to friends knowing they’ll still be in prime condition?

IMG_6218

I’m totally spoiled now! After viewing the collection on finnandemma.com, I’ve decided my boys are too good for anything else. I’m literally repulsed by the toxic smell of Gymboree and Children’s Place and apalled by the “styles” offered. I’m a modern day mama with classic taste and I refuse to dress my little gentlemen in an ill fitted romper with a choo-choo train on the butt!

Stay classy,

That Girl

Rumparooz Rock My World

If I had a penny for everytime someone smirked, rolled their eyes, or laughed at me followed by, “Yeah, sure, just wait”, when they found out I planned to cloth diaper my twins, I’d be a rich woman. But, six weeks in and I’m convinced it has been my best decision thus far! I use Rumparooz and Lil Joeys by Kangacare and they rock!

IMG_3107

These are not your grandma’s cloth diapers. They’re not the ones your mom wore either. These are legit, modern day, we’ve thought of everything cloth diapers. What sets them apart from other brands is:

  • They fit ALL sizes from 8lbs up to potty training
  • They INCLUDE 2 super soaker liners
  • They have a patented double gusset lining
  • Their prints are super whimsical
  • They can be machine washed and tumble dried
  • The inner lining is major absorbent
  • No diaper rashes!

The OS fits all thing was definitely a winning feature. This meant I just needed to buy one set of diapers and I’d be set for the entire time my boys used them. No running out in the middle of the night, no trying to figure out what size each kid was in every time they grew, no wasted diapers when they no longer fit. About a month in I had a night where the boys peed up their backs all night long (I still don’t know how the hose reaches the back, but that’s a whole other issue) Instead of freaking out and having to go buy new diapers I just sized my diapers up. They covered more space on the back and absorbed the sprays!

My boys were born pretty big for twins (8lbs each), but in preparation for them to be tiny I bought a bunch of LilJoeys, the newborn diapers. They fit NB-12lbs so they’re great to use the first few months. I loved the snap in the middle to keep the diaper off the healing umbilical cord site. In fact, I attribute the health of their belly buttons to keeping them clean and dry in cloth diapers while they healed. The Lil Joeys are also THE best to keep in the diaper bag because they don’t take up much space.

IMG_3638

The Kangacare diapers also have a patented double gusset lining which I think is one of their best features. It traps wetness and poops inside the diaper like a steel door. Just yesterday I went to change Cannon’s diaper and knew it was gonna be a doozy by the look on his face as he filled it up and everything was caught behind the gusset lining! Winning!

My baby, Cash, was in the NICU for a week after birth. They used Pampers on him (blech!) so when we got home he has a horrendous diaper rash. It was bleeding, scabby, etc. Cannon had been in ‘sposies at the hospital too and their little butts were heartbreaking and they got yeast infections along the waist line from diapers. We kept putting coconut oil, vaseline, butt pastes, etc on these areas, but they wren’t healing. I was using disposable diapers for the week I stayed with my mom and finally I gave up and said, “No more creams. We’re going back to cloth diapers only.” Then, BAM! magic healing and no more rashes or yeast since then.

IMG_3580

Washing is super easy too. I have the Kangacare pail liner in my Ubbi Diaper Pail. The liner whisks away wetness and traps odors. I toss all diapers and the liner into the wash on a cold rinse (no detergent). Then, I add detergent and do a hot/cold cycle. Then they tumble dry on a medium setting and they’re good to go. The liners agitate themselves out in the wash. If the boys are napping I may take 5 minutes to stuff the liners in the diapers before I put them up, but usually I just toss everything in to a basket on my changing table and stuff as I’m changing. It takes 2 seconds.

Oh no, one of my babies has to be in another brand…

Oh no, one of my babies has to be in another brand…

I have enough diapers that I only need to do laundry every other day. Sometimes while the laundry is going I have to use a few of the other brands I have on hand. It’s just not the same! If my husband helps with bath time/bedtime and puts another brand of diaper on the boys I secretly take it off and swap for a Rumparooz. In my opinion, there’s nothing as good as these on the market!

Make cloth mainstream!

That Girl