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

 

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!

cash and cannon, vail twins

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.

chelsea vail with son cash

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

cannon vail, vail twins

Twin Nursery

The French believe in welcoming a newborn to their home by walking through the house and introducing them to each room. They believe that it helps them get better acquainted with their new world, which, in turn, makes for secure, happy babies. Personally I think this is a fabulous custom! I was worried that if my nursery wasn’t ready, and appropriate baby stations organized, that I’d be doing my babies a disservice by bringing them home to chaos, hence creating chaotic babies.

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How their nursery was designed was also of crucial importance, not because I’m spoiled and wanted to be on trend, but because it’s their first room. I wanted it to represent my hopes for them and my vision for their lives. So, I opted for a modern, rustic theme with a hint of glam. We live in Dripping Springs, a small town 20 minutes west of Austin and I want these boys to grow up with a mix of urban and country living. Perhaps they’ll ride 4 wheelers on the ranch all day, but have sushi with me downtown at night. The glam aspects of the nursery represent the charm, sparkle, and charisma that so few boys have today.

I lined the modern cribs parallel to the back wall (Babyletto Scoot 3-in-1) in an effort to save space. The white cribs are trimmed with walnut; a perfect blend of modern and rustic. Between the cribs I placed a side table I found at Target with a geometric cut wooden top and metallic gold base. This is where I’ll place their white noise machine and the essential oil diffuser from Stadler Form that pumps lavendar into the air overnight for healthy sleep. Above the cribs is wall art created by my husband using reclaimed barn wood and galvanized metal letters. The boys have the same intials as their dad, which meant alot to him and is a monogramming dream for me!

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My father always quotes Thomas Jefferson saying, “A room without books is like a body without a soul” and I definitely grew up in a family of readers. I hope to raise these boys to not only be readers, but to live lives seeking adventure! Currently the wood pallet bookshelves (made by my brother-in-law) are filled with board books and sensory books, but will one day soon be filled with books about treasure islands, camping, pirates, mysteries, imagination, cowboys, indians, and knights. I can hardly wait to pull them onto my lap and read stories together.

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I’ll likely read to them in this gorgeous Eddie Bauer chair-and-a-half, but I also purchased this wide, deep seated chair for nursing purposes. I can fit one baby on either side, nurse individually, or nurse together. My twin nursing pillows both fit perfectly in this chair! The “2” pillow from Land of Nod has become one of my favorite accent pieces because I’m overjoyed to be a twin mom and I think it represents a life of doubles! Double the fun, double the fear, double the trouble and double the love.

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With twins, organization is key to survival so I fell in love with the Hemnes dresser from Ikea. I loved the 4 half drawers across the top because they fit my diapers and changing supplies perfectly. If there’s one thing I cant stand, it’s clutter! I didn’t want a dresser covered with rash creams, nail clippers, rags, wipes, etc. like I find in so many homes of new parents. My changing pad on top is a nonslip pad from Restoration Hardware covered with an organic cover by Burt’s Bees. Each drawer houses swaddle blankets, slobber bibs, sleepers, socks, leggings, and onesies organized in drawer dividers also found at Ikea. Beside the dresser I’ve discretely placed my steel trap diaper pail by Ubbi, that’s lined with a cloth diaper liner by Kangacare.

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At 36 weeks pregnant with these two boys I’m beyond ready to meet them. I can hardly wait to introduce them to their room, read them stories there, sing together, and hold them close in the middle of the night.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

I Heart the “Snot Sucker”!

Just like every other mom I know, I cringed the first time I saw the “snot sucker”. But, when you’ve got a new baby that can’t sleep ’cause it can’t breathe, or one that sounds like Master P while he sleeps (preventing you from catching any shut eye), you’re willing to give the snot sucker a second glimpse.

The “snot sucker” , more formally known as the Nose Frida, is THE best suction system on the market for getting pesky boogies and congestion from your new baby’s nose.

No, you can’t suck it’s brains accidentally.

No, you won’t get snot in your mouth (there’s a legit filter).

No, you won’t catch pneumonia or sinus infections from the bambino.

Yes, baby will sleep better!

Yes, baby will breathe better!

Yes, you will sleep better at night knowing your baby is breathing & sleeping!

HollywoodLife.com spotted the chicest moms I know, Victoria Beckham and baby Harper loving the Nose Frida! 

This lil’ baby had a booger so big we had to grab our resident pediatrician and use tweezers to get it out. I sure wished we had the Nose Frida that day!

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You can get the Nose Frida on Amazon, Magic Beans, or by typing WANT in the comments section of this post and it’s yours for only $15 and FREE shipping.