Never Leave Home without Your MiaMily

When I made the decision to move abroad with my twin toddlers, my first thought was, “You’re a dumbass! You can’t take the tots with you on your adventures. You cant hike, bike, or ride an ATV; you have TWO babies. The roads aren’t stroller friendly either. What will you do?” Then, I decided a backpack carrier was the only way to go. Surely I can take the babies on daily adventures with a backpack carrier, right? Well…not all carriers are created equal. 

  • I used wraps and kangaroo shirts when they were babies, but these dudes are pushing 30lbs now.
  • I tried the massive hiking backpack carriers and felt like they were appropriate next time I attempt to climb Everest, but they looked a little silly for a stroll to the farmers market.
  • I tried the ones where you can wear the baby dangling off your front or your back, but I knew that position wasn’t comfortable (or safe) for a baby’s hips.

Enter, the Mia Mily 3D Hipster! Hell to the yeah! This is what I’ve been looking for! I researched it ad nauseum, I read all the mommy blogs on it, read through reviews and so on, but when it arrived it was even cooler than I expected. The designers thought of everything!

Badass Fact #1:

Its designed with a baby seat to support baby’s hips whether they’re facing in, out, or worn front or back, or side.

Badass Fact #2:

I can wear my baby 9 different ways OR I can tandem wear! Yep, I can wear BOTH babies at the same time. #twinning

Badass Fact #3:

It comes with a carrying case, teething pads for the shoulders, and a shade to protect your baby’s face.

Badass Fact #4:

Its adjustable; and I mean adjustable to the fullest extent of the word! I’m 5’6 and small framed and my husband is 6’5 and quite the giant. We can both wear the carriers and adjust the straps at the shoulders, across the chest/back area, or the waist. We can choose hos high or low we wear the baby.

Badass Fact #5:

It’s super lightweight! I tried so many huge, cumbersome, bulky versions of carriers and the MiaMily trumps every one of these on portability. I stopped checking in my trunk to make sure I had my stroller, but instead, I never leave home without tossing the carriers in my front seat or in my grocery cart even. God forbid theres a tantrum in the cart while I’m mid shopping. Now, I just strap on the carrier, throw the fussy one on my back and keep on trucking!

I loved my carriers when I lived in Austin for daily life, but I’m in lust now for the way they assist me with adventure life in Central America. I’ve worn my boys at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, hiking through butterfly gardens, riding ATVs through the jungle, shopping in mountain towns, on the beaches, monkey farms, animal sanctuaries, zoos, climbing down to the Rio Machuega, and even an aerial sky tram in the tropical rainforest 300 ft in the air!

The carriers support babies and toddlers no matter what position is preferred and get them at the right height to enjoy the same viewpoint as the adults they’re with. Whether its 95 degrees and humid in the jungle or 50 degrees in the mountains, the Mia Mily can withstand the journey.

You on live once! Strap that baby to your back and go! #YOLO

Stay Gold, 

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

I Already Miss This

When you’re a mom, everyone tells you to “enjoy every moment” and how “it goes by so fast”. I’ve only ever wanted to be a mom so I have breathed in every moment and treasured each day, but this doesn’t stop time from racing by at warp speed. When I was pregnant I told myself I’d document everything, fill photo books, and date each milestone, but then they arrive and you find yourself spinning in circles trying to catch your breath and suddenly they’re almost through their first year of life and you know there are already things you’ve forgotten they did that were so wonderful and hundreds of moments you already miss. 

I already miss…and never want to forget…

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  • The way Cannon would wake up the entire neighborhood with his pterodactyl sounds after he first found his voice
  • How Cash would hold his eyes open as if falling asleep meant life or death
  • Taking a bath with him because they were tiny enough we all three fit in the tub together
  • Sneaking into bed next to their tiny Snugglenests and smelling their sweet breath, hearing their grunts and groans as they slept
  • I miss the tearless cries and toothless mouths
  • Nursing them in the tub
  • Cash used to get the hiccups ’round the clock & I loved the way he’d cling to me like a baby monkey with each jolt
  • The way they’d grunt like zombies and Cannon would smack his tummy or beat his chest demanding more food
  • The look on Cash’s face when he rolled over for the first time which scared the hell out of him
  • The way bashful Cannon used to put his cheek to his shoulder and look up at strangers as if he knew what a Gerber baby he was
  • Wearing them in my ACK wrap knowing they’d fall asleep in a matter of minutes with their head on my chest

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  • Nursing them and watching them search desperately for each other’s hands and seeing the relief when they found each other
  • Taking hour long naps with one (or sometimes both) snuggled in to my side or asleep on the breast
  • The way Cash would pet my face or stroke my hair as he fought sleep
  • Bundling them up in their Woombie swaddles and seeing them inch towards each other to spoon all night
  • Cannon talking to himself in his carseat mirror like he’d found his best friend
  • Cash kicking his legs wildly in the tub

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  • Their sweet chubby faces peeking out from under their Walrus or Hippo hooded towels
  • The excitement when they heard Rafi’s “Day-O” song the first time
  • Cash’s huge smile and sly giggle when I’m cleaning countertops
  • The way Cannon’s jowls rest on his carseat straps
  • Cash losing his voice from making zombie noises all night
  • The snuggles in the morning…heads on my shoulder
  • Sleeping next to Cannon from 4am-6am and kissing his juicy lips when he wakes up
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  • Cash log rolling from end to end on the bed attempting to dive off before we catch him
  • Wrestling them both after bath wondering when it was they stopped laying there letting me massage them
  • Biting their “biscuits” during diaper changes and hearing them laugh hysterically
  • Chasing them room to room and scaring them so bad they levitate and crack up laughing
  • Cash’s face on the swings

This list will only continue to grow and grow and grow as their personalities develop and as we experience more of this beautiful life together. I could choose to be sad as I think of days gone by, or I could focus on how wonderful it is that there’s even more of this to come. Their hands will not always be so small and chubby, but I’ll always have them to hold. Their feet will one day stomp instead of pitter patter, but the sound of them in my home will always be music to my ears. Their mouths will one day kiss a woman they’ve fallen in love with instead of me, but…their hearts will have always been mine first. Twice blessed, forget the rest.

Stay gold, That Girl

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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!

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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

Lorena Canals Rug: The Machine Washable Wonder

When I first heard about a rug that could be machine wahed at home I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. I thought to myself, “Oh sure, it can go in the machine, but I’ll bet it comes out fluffy, pulled, and faded”. But, then one showed up at my door from Lorena Canals, and I got to try it for myself…game changer!

Soft & safe!

I believe the secret to life with twins is places to set them. You need rockers, bouncers, swings, walkers, chairs, and playpens. Places that you can strap them into or safely lay them to play unattended while you tend to the other or tend to the house. We have blankets and rugs EVERYWHERE! I like being able to get up in the morning, lay the boys on a blanket to roll around and play, and have a few minutes to myself to make breakfast and get my coffee. Before this wonder-rug, I was getting up, strapping them into a swing and laying down blanket after blanket after blanket to provide cushion on the hardwood before unstrapping them and laying them on the floor. The Lorena Canals rug; however, is super soft! It stays in place (no rug mat needed) and it’s fluffy enough for them to roll around on without bonking their heads.

Lorena Canals Dark Grey Ombre

Lorena Canals Dark Grey Ombre

Lightweight!

The twins also LOVE to play in their walkers and scoot around all over the hardwood. The rug is lightweight enough that I can put them in their walkers and one-handed (while holding a 20lb baby boy) fold it up, scoot it out of the way, or even kick it out of the way so they can run around. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but have you ever had a rug that was super heavy you couldn’t move it without a helper, or two? Have you ever had a rug that was so flimsy all your guests tripped over it? Or, what about the rug that needs a rubber mat underneath it to stay in place, which makes it difficult to move? Trust. Having a play area rug that’s easily moved when you have twin babies is a huge deal.

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Not Min-Numbingly Colorful

I gag when I walk into someone’s home and 80% of it looks like a high-end designer showroom, but the other 20% looks like Barney vomited. The mismatched patterns of the children’s toys, the cartoon characters, the cheesy animals, and the primary colors on all the gear…blaech! That’s not for me and it’s not good for babies either. It’s overstimulating, unpredictable, chaotic, and frankly it’s not modern. My home is greys, whites, beige, and classic black and white stripes. Therefore, I opted for an ombre grey rug and it’s beautiful. It takes the place of a coffee table so we don’t have to worry about bumped, scraped heads as much and it’d not distracting from the overall ambiance of my home.

Washes so easily!

We use the rug for storytime, playtime, feeding time, and I even change their diapers on it from time to time. After about a week of being scared I’d ruin it if I washed it I finally decided to bite the bullet and just go for it.

Step 1: Put it in the washer.

Step 2: Put it in the dryer.

Need me to repeat that? It’s that easy. A gentle, cold cycle and a low tumble dry and it was stain free and pull-free! It looks the same, if not better, than it did when we first got it. I will likely be purchasing several more of these rugs…one for every room of the house!

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Get your machine washable Lorena Canals Rug HERE

Stay gold, 

Chelsea Vail

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?

INFANCY

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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