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

How Crunchy Are You, Mom?

You’ve heard me describe myself as a “faux-hippie”, right? Looking at me, you may not think I’m hippie at all; however, I’m actually pretty crunchy, especially when it comes to babies. I think there are levels to crunchy though, which poses the question,

“How are crunchy are you?”

Hey,-1

crunchy (adj.)- Adjective. Used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental or health reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc. (UrbanDictionary.com)

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you know that I’m a toxin-Nazi and cautious about both my exposure, and the exposure of every baby and small child in the known universe. My store shopwholeheart.com only features organic and/or nontoxic items because I know that baby products are the runner up for the “Most Hazardous Award” next to household cleaners.

I know some people think I’m more of an extremist when it comes to avoiding toxins, but I encourage all moms and dads to choose products carefully and find a level of crunchy that works for you.

Cunchy Level 1:

  • Use disposable diapers, but choose organic, biodegradable options such as Honest Co.
  • Breastfeeds, bottle feeds, or uses formula…whatever works, right?
  • Buys their own baby food, but chooses organic companies
  • Airs out strollers, carseats and carriers to allow off-gassing to occur outside the home
  • Washes all clothing, blankets, and sheets in organic detergent prior to use
  • Buys organic dirty dozen, but otherwise eats and drinks whatever else they want

Crunchy Level 2:

  • Uses cloth diapers and organic wipes (uses a diaper delivery service or machine washes diapers), but uses ‘sposies as night or when traveling
  • Makes their own baby food with whatever is around the house
  • Breastfeeds when possibly, but uses formula on-the-go
  • Buys organic versions or baby gear, strollers, and carriers
  • Buys organic cotton clothing for the first few months and pre-washes things that are non-organic
  • Buys all organic produce, meats, and dairy
  • Uses BPA free bottles like the Mimijumi
  • Follows alternative vaccine schedule with pediatrician
  • Doesn’t use medications unless there’s a fever or diagnosis

Crunchy Level 3:

  • Uses cloth diapers, hand washes or hang dries diapers to save energy
  • Makes their own wipes solution and uses reusable rags/cloths for wipes
  • Only buys organic/nontoxic strollers, carriers, slings, etc.
  • Only buys organic/nontoxic clothing and still prewashes to cleanses products of toxin exposure during shipping
  • Breastfeeds exclusively for the first year
  • Wears a mask while pumping gas (recommended or preggo mamas)
  • Only shops at Trader Joes, Sprouts, or Whole Foods where all food must pass testing regarding toxins, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and mercury
  • Uses household items as toys for baby/toddler
  • Uses glass bottles like 5Phases
  • Wears baby everwhere using a babywearing shirt (Lalabu)
  • Makes their own household cleaners
  • Wears Belly Armor while pregnant and uses a Belly Blanket later
  • Follows alternative vaccine schedule with a naturepath doctor and takes baby regularly to an acupuncturist or chiropractor
  • Treats all ailments with essential oils

There’s no better or worse way to raise a baby, but the more you try to limit your baby’s exposure to toxins during the first few years of life, the better their overall healthy and happiness down the road. They have super-human metabolisms right now and are at a much higher risk when exposed to toxins because they can’t process them the way we can.

What do you do to reduce toxin exposure? How crunchy are you?