Last year, Halloween was easy. We took baby Henry trick-or-treating on our street in upstate New York, and my husband and I ate all the candy! Henry was only one year old, and we gave him a little dark chocolate and he was happy.
Now we’re vegan, and Henry is two. We avoid high fructose corn syrup and prefer all-natural, organic ingredients. How do we navigate the trick-or-treating side of Halloween? We don’t want to suck the fun out of EVERYTHING just because we’re trying to live healthy and cruelty-free.
The Switch Witch is a friendly witch who just LOVES candy. Candy is her favorite. And she loves it so much that she’ll trade you some awesome toys for it! On Halloween night, if you leave a big pile of candy for the Switch Witch, she’ll switch it for a present. Win-win!
(And then you can bring that candy to work and let someone else feel guilty about eating it all!)
I thought this was so clever that I decided to illustrate my own version of the Switch Witch.
I get freaked out about branded products with chemicals and additives. I realize they’re formulated to do a good job, but I saw one too many articles on Facebook about potential carcinogens and rolled up my sleeves to make my own deodorant and toothpaste from baking soda once I was pregnant with Henry. No more pthalates and sodium laureth sulfate for this crunchy mama!
Here’s are my top 5 magic hippie-dippie multi-purpose ingredients, in case you want to follow my stinky lead:
5. Vinegar. I mix with water and wash the floors with it. Just kidding, I don’t wash my floors. But you could. Wash my floors, or yours, that is. Dilute and use on your hair as a detangler instead of conditioner. If you want to smell like potato salad. (Just kidding. The smell goes away when it dries. Mostly.) You can also mix with baking soda and unclog all that vinegary hair out of your drain, just like a science fair volcano.
4. Lavender & Tea Tree Essential Oils. Few drops of lavender in the tub (yours or baby’s) for some relaxing aromatherapy that’s good for the skin and helps with sleep. Both oils are good for eczema and dermatitis, dandruff and are antiseptic, which means you can use it for baby wipes, and for all that cleaning you’re doing. Mix with oil for a bug repellent.
3. Baking Soda. No, really, I did make deodorant. I lazied it up and just mixed with coconut oil, but it does work. You can use it as a scrub for sinks and showers, too — and your teeth, according to the internet, but I’ll tell you from experience that toothpaste is perhaps best left to the brand names.
2. Dr. Bronners Castile Soap. Use as baby shampoo, body wash for both child and mama, facial cleanser, or mix with water (one part soap, four parts water) to use in your foam soap dispenser. We also mix with water and a couple of drops of lavender & tea tree oil to spray on flannel squares and use as washable baby wipes. It’s less gross than it sounds.
1. Coconut Oil. Use as baby lotion, body lotion, face lotion, hand lotion, massage oil, healing ointment, cradle cap treatment, diaper cream and lip balm (not at the same time). Good healthy fats if you want to cook with it, too! The coconut oil is actually ideal for high heat cooking. You can also make vegan chocolate chip cookies with it, which is probably the best hippie-dippie thing I can think of.
I wrote this on September 3 and emailed it to myself. I’m newly vegan, though I have slipped up here and there – I’m trying my best. This piece of writing has been sitting in my inbox for more than a week, just simmering. I guess I’m going to post it here so I can clean out my emails… Not quite sure how I feel about sharing it, but here we go.
We are living in end times, my friends. And we did it to ourselves.
Whether or not you believe in God, you have to admit that it’s a crazy miracle that we’re here at all. That the elements bumped into each other in ways that created planets, and life on this planet, and all the species of plants and animals that live in perfect harmony. And us.
We don’t live in harmony. We destroy, conquer, eliminate. It’s all our fault.
Think about the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. That’s when we decided to take agriculture and farming into our own hands. We were just another animal until the agricultural revolution, when we figured out how to manipulate nature for our own purposes.
But it wasn’t right of us to do so. We live so incredibly comfortably now. Think about when our ancestors had to hunt and gather just to survive. And then think about when everyone gardened and had farm animals just to survive. And then think about now, with your iPhone and microwave.
I like to say that the word God is not a descriptor of some bearded dude in the sky, but a word to describe nature, chance, the universe, the miracle that made us happen, the chaos and perfect math that is responsible for our existence on this planet. It is so improbable that life came to be. So so improbable. And here, in this moment in time, that miraculous crazy ridiculous improbability is true. And we are trashing it.
It’s a beautiful tragedy. It’s the saddest thing ever.
Sadder still is that we don’t even know we are doing it. We aren’t even aware of what we are doing!
We go to our jobs, pay our bills, check our email, drink our cares away. Who wants to hear about this shit? No-one. But we have a feeling underneath, a feeling that things aren’t right.
We are animals. We are animals just like any other animal. Who can really argue with that? We are the smartest animal and we caged up all the other animals so we could torture, kill and eat their dead bodies.
Are we the smartest animal, or are we the animal who’s a big fucking jerk ruining everything?
Think about the world without human beings on it. Everything lives in complete harmony. Sure, animals kill other animals, but not to the point of extinction. Animals kill what they need to survive and that’s all.
The trees and plants make air for the animals to breathe and the animals make carbon dioxide for the trees and plants to breathe. The ocean is self-cleaning. Left alone, nature is perfect. It’s perfect for all involved.
We are fucking it up and we’re going to kill ourselves.
We have fucked up lots of things, causing extinction of many species and cutting down rainforest like crazy. But the worst thing of all is this climate change. It’s going to get us, and I’m willing to bet it will happen within our lifetime.
The momentum is too strong. Just buying recycled toilet paper and driving your Prius to the Farmer’s Market isn’t going to cut it. There are too many people who are living the wrong way. It’s too late.
I’m just glad that I was able to experience love and motherhood before we all shit the bed.
Man, my head is spinning about what to do with food. For six months we’ve had it pretty easy with breastfeeding, and now starting solid foods is boggling my mind. Like an issue of Women’s World where you’re told to eat cranberries for your bladder and eat chocolate for happiness and eat blueberries to live longer and eat flax seed for your brain…
You start off like, oh sure, I could eat more cranberries. I could get them and eat them every day, I guess. I want to be healthy. And then by the end of four pages, you’re just like, wow, I need to eat one of everything in the entire grocery store to be healthy. Which isn’t possible or true, of course.
So yeah, feeding Henry. We have our own dietary choices in place, already.
We are vegetarian and inching more and more toward wanting to stick to a vegan diet.
We’re not always awesome about it, and are far from exclusive on it, but I would like to be as much of a localvore as possible. Given the choice between paying more for something made or grown locally, I’ll usually pick the local thing.
Same goes for organics – not everything we eat is organic or GMO-free, but we lean that way.
I try to buy foods with as few different ingredients and additives as possible, especially random stuff like dyes and corn starch and chemical-sounding names, and definitely steer clear of the obviously awful stuff like high fructose corn syrup (of course there are exceptions, but they’re conscious choices when we do make the exception). I also try to avoid stuff that’s super processed. For example, I’d rather just buy a butternut squash than buy a prepackaged squash soup.
Also, I am bugged by food with lots of packaging.
AND I don’t have a TON of time to make stuff from scratch, so while I will soak dried beans and do other stuff like that, it’s not always super convenient.
So… Basically, we do okay, indulging here and there, of course. We are far from perfect. But when it comes to Henry, we can’t just assume that he’s getting everything he needs. He’s growing, just starting out and his diet is really important. So then in addition to the guidelines we already have in place for ourselves, there are additional parameters.
We like the idea of baby-led weaning. Which is not “weaning” as we know it, but rather the British use of the word, which means adding foods rather than taking milk away. So baby-led eating.
I really think I want to raise Henry as vegan. More and more I’ve been aware of the practices involved with producing dairy and eggs (especially as a dairy-producing creature myself) and I’m really disgusted. While I phase out that stuff from my own diet, I don’t want to be introducing it to him.
For his introductory foods, I want them to be simple, one-ingredient things like a single veggie, etc.
Also needs to be easy to digest, not causing him discomfort with gas (like beans might, for example).
Also needs to be easy to gum since he doesn’t have teeth or know how to chew.
Also can’t be an allergen.
Also needs to be palatable and tasty to him, which right now means sweet-ish because breast milk is sweet.
But not too sweet like fruit because then apparently he won’t like to eat anything but sweets and will be a victim of the horrible childhood obesity epidemic.
Apparently he needs to start getting iron elsewhere, starting now because he’s 6 months old.
And right now he gets enough protein from breast milk, but after he is done nursing (we have time to figure this one out, thank goodness), we need to make sure he’s getting all the amino acids he needs.
And rice cereal has arsenic in it, I guess. Plus is processed.
I want to do the right thing, and my crunchy mama guts say there’s a way to make it all work, but this is a hard puzzle to navigate, with my child’s health at stake in every which way. My eyes are crossing.
I know that nobody’s perfect. My own diet isn’t perfect. I have ideals, but I don’t stick to them ultra-strictly. I’m glad that at least I’m aware when I make a choice that isn’t ideal. But Henry’s a clean slate. We have a chance to do everything right because we haven’t fed him anything but sweet potato (and accidentally salt clay). I know we’re going to screw him up in all kinds of ways through the years, but with the blank canvas ahead of us, I just want to start it off right. It’s so tricky to know what to do.