Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sitting and Crawling and Standing - OH MY…

Astral (standing) & Defy (sitting)
32 weeks

30 weeks old

26 weeks old

Carrots & Apple

Asian Sweet Potato
Asian Sweet Potato

Sweet Potatoes



VegFest DC

Astral and Defy are 7 months old (32 weeks tomorrow) now and their warm spirits and vibrant personalities are shining through more than ever. They are immensely bright and are both sitting unassisted and crawling, though Defy still prefers the army crawl as his mode of transportation. They are both already holding on to furniture to brace themselves to standing position. They will stand up holding on to just about ANYTHING including us, baby gates, headboards and each other. These kids are amazing. There have been a lot of falls and bumps with their new mobility, which just comes with the territory. Big brother Astral seems to hit most of the milestones first, with baby brother Defy following right behind…

Defy has 4 adorable bottom teeth , Astral also has 4 adorable bottom teeth and one on top that is coming in. My nipples live in constant fear. I have been bitten numerous times, but I guess after the shock of the first few times my reactions have been a lot calmer. The first time I let out a high pitched scream that definitely startled the little culprit (I can’t remember who did it first). They seem to only bite when they are comfort nursing and falling asleep. It is very important to me that I nurse them (as much as I can produce) until they are at least 1. I pump during the day while at work and mostly nurse in the evenings, but the bond of nursing them is irreplaceable. I guess I’ll probably revisit this when they have both rows of teeth and one isn’t all gum. With the appearance of teeth, they boys now have their first toothbrushes and so far they seem to love having their teeth brushed (without any paste) each morning and evening. They seem to be doing well with teething and haven't taken any drugs.

The boys are eating more foods now. Just like their clothing we are doing all organic foods for the boys. Astral will eat anything, but Defy is still on and off with solids. Defy never turns down his favorite mix of strawberry, avocado and rice cereal, that is our easy go-to if he is in the mood to refuse. Astral eats so much more than Defy that in the past month he has increased the gap between their weights. Of course, all babies are different and accept solids at different times. We refuse to force Defy to eat; he will eat more when he is ready.

They have eaten a variety of home-made yummy organic veggies and some fruits.

Sweet Potatoes

Asian Sweet Potatoes

Acorn Squash

Butternut Squash

Golden Potatoes







Next month we will start introducing greens vegetables, the pediatrician said to wait until 8 months. We have this wonderful baby food gadget that steams and blends the food. It is absolutely wonderful and makes making our own baby food easy and fun. I can make fresh food every night because it is so quick. I often have extra and just freeze it and then thaw it out and reheat it in that same little gadget. We don’t use microwaves so being able to reheat the frozen portion is a great benefit. We will also be introducing pulses (lentils, peas, beans) and sippy cups to the boys this month…EXCITING!

At their 6 month appointment back in September (Unfortunately, I missed blogging the whole month of September) Astral weighed 19 lbs 2 oz and Defy weight 19 lbs .5 oz. So Astral was only an ounce and a half more than Defy. Now only a month later Astral is weighing in at 20 lbs 5 oz and Defy is at 19 lbs 12 oz. So the gap has grown to 9 oz. We chalk it up to Astral being a total greedy little vegan gumdrop! Defy is more of a picky eater like his mommy.

We had our first trip to the doctor’s office where we had to go in through the sick baby entrance instead of the well baby entrance. Defy was feeling warm one night and had a temperature of 100.7, so we took him in. For babies their age it isn’t considered a fever until it is around 102-103, but we took him in anyway. The doctor checked him out and he was fine and she said he was probably just fighting a virus. He had no other symptoms, no runny nose, no sneezing or coughing, though he wanted to be held more than usual instead of being down on the floor roughhousing with his bro. His temperature never rose above the 100.7 from Thursday morning until a Friday night and then he was fine.

That Saturday we noticed a slight rash on his face and then on Sunday we noticed it had spread to his neck, chest and back. We took him back in to the doctor on Monday and she said it was something called Roseola and that he was going to be just fine and no treatment was necessary. She said that it was a virus that manifests as a fever and then a rash. It usually starts as a really high fever and accompanies other symptoms, but for some reason that didn’t happen to our little guy. The rash disappeared in 3 days and Defy is totally back to normal. The doctor said it could take up to a week to go away, but thankfully it didn’t. Though she did say it was slightly contagious and passed through bodily fluid like saliva, Astral didn’t catch it. We were freaking out a little because they share everything, but Astral was spared. I am assuming that Defy picked it up at the park while playing on the swings. You never truly know, but since they don’t go to daycare and aren’t around germy little kids often I figure the park was the place. Who knows, I am just glad that it is over and was only mild.

In September we took the boys to VegFest DC at George Washington University. They were too little to enjoy all the yummy vegan food, but we didn’t hesitate to indulge. We also made our first journey to Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary in Maryland a couple of weeks ago. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for all of us. The stories of all the different animals are heartbreaking to say the least. It was emotional to see all of these beautiful animals living life without the imminent threat of slaughter, etc. Watching the chickens, roosters and turkeys wander freely totally got me choked up. We signed up to sponsor one of their many goats for the year. I think the boys will really love building relationships with all their other animal friends. I am so glad we live fairly close to a place like this, so they can utilize established relationships to increase their understanding of why we don’t exploit other animals…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Having "The Choice"...

Although friends, family, and medical professionals have generally been accepting and supportive of Kenya and I raising Astral and Defy as vegans, there have been some people who subtly (and not so subtly) suggest that we are depriving them of the choice to exploit and kill other animals later in life. These people have posed questions in ways that made it seem as if they were genuinely concerned about Astral and Defy's freedom of choice to exploit and kill whomever they want as if, without doing so, they will live a joyless life of constant deprivation that we have selfishly imposed upon them.
"What if they really want to eat (animal product X) when they are old enough to make the choice? Will you let them?" is a common "concern" that we encounter. Or the question has been framed this way: "But what if they choose to eat at (chain restaurant/fast food establishment X) when they're older? Will you be OK with that?" We spoke with one individual about how Astral and Defy will not be wearing popular name-brand shoes made from the skin of cows, and this individual very politely and curiously asked, "but they'll have the choice to wear leather when they're older, right?" And then there was a heated exchange with another individual about the ethics of veganism. This individual quickly became very hostile, pointed at our boys and exclaimed, "but you're taking away their choice to eat whatever they want!"
So the question posed is: Will Astral and Defy have the choice to not be vegan when they are old enough to make decisions for themselves? Before answering, let's examine the question, shall we?
First of all, those of us who speak of exploiting and killing other animals as merely a personal choice do not seem to understand the ideology of speciesism. It has been forced upon us by our parents or guardians just as it was forced upon them, and it has been, and is being, constantly reinforced by our society and its institutions. This is the reason that many of us believe that humans are not animals, that humans are naturally superior to all other animals, that other animals are “stupid”, that other animals are here for humans to use as we please, that there is no moral problem whatsoever with using and killing other animals, that humans need to consume other animals to survive, etc. These are not beliefs we developed on our own. As young children many of us were fascinated by other animals and naturally had compassion and empathy for them. Some of us considered them to be our equals. As adults, even after a life of reinforced speciesist indoctrination, most of us claim to love and/or respect other animals and do not want to harm them, especially when it is unnecessary to do so. However, most of us choose to actively participate in the exploitation and killing of other animals on a daily basis for completely unnecessary purposes such as eating them, wearing them, or using them for entertainment. Therefore, it seems that choosing to actively participate in the exploitation and killing of other animals is the result of our being thoroughly conditioned to believe that it is a “normal” and morally justifiable thing to do, not because it actually reflects our values or personal ethics.
Furthermore, questions about having a personal choice to exploit and kill other animals are based on the assumption that no one else is affected by that choice. This is incorrect and relies on the belief that other animals do not have minds capable of experiencing the distress, pain, and suffering inherently caused by their exploitation. It is also incorrect because choosing to participate in the exploitation of other animals concurrently results in the exploitation and harm of human beings and the destruction of the planet we all depend on for our survival.
Finally, there is a common misconception that vegans, by opting out of the systematic exploitation of other animals, are somehow depriving themselves of otherwise unattainable enjoyment. But being vegan is not a restrictive way of living at all. For instance, a diet consisting of fruit, vegetables, seeds, beans, grains, nuts, mushrooms, herbs, and spices has proven to be much more varied, satisfying, and healthful than the one I was eating when I was not a vegan. And does anyone reading this essay really need to wear popular name-brand shoes made from cow skins? There are plenty of other materials out there such as hemp, canvas, recycled plastics, recycled rubber, and synthetics. Most importantly, how can we justify the exploitation and killing of other animals merely for the sake of enjoyment?
Now I'd like to return to the question of Astral and Defy having the choice to not be vegans when they are old enough to make their own decisions. Will they have the choice?
The short answer is yes, they will have the choice to not be vegan when they are old enough to decide for themselves. We will certainly not force them to do anything when they can make their own educated choices, but we will in no way facilitate or condone any non-veganism.
Now for the long answer...
My feeling is that all caring and concerned parents or guardians raise their children in a way that is consistent with their own values. Not many parents or guardians would, for instance, admit to teaching their children that it is acceptable to physically violate another human being (and perhaps even the valued domesticated animals in our society, such as dogs and cats) just because it might be enjoyable. Most of us teach our children that this kind of conduct is ruled out from the start no matter what psychological or material gains would be derived from it. However, our children will still technically have the choice to participate in the exploitation and/or killing of another human, or participate in any other activity we parents or guardians find objectionable, when they are old enough to make their own decisions to do so. It is only when we speak of other animals that it becomes an acceptable personal choice to exploit and kill them, and this is a direct result of our speciesist indoctrination.
Veganism, on the other hand, is a challenge to the deeply rooted beliefs that have developed as a result of this indoctrination. Essentially a principle of non exploitation, veganism is philosophically in opposition to the oppressive arrangements humans have long maintained with each other and with other animals. Although Kenya and I have the choice to participate in the exploitation of other animals on a daily basis, we simply try our very best not to because, like humans, other animals are morally significant and have interests in living their lives on their own terms. We owe it to them to be vegan; it is the very least we can do if we take their interests seriously.
People who present us with "the choice" question really do not seem to understand that Astral and Defy will be raised in a way that actively challenges speciesism. They will be raised as vegans and their choices will be guided by vegan principles. This means that, unlike the vast majority of humans on Planet Earth, they will not be taught to see other animals as food, clothing, or any other means to human ends but rather as fellow autonomous sentient beings with intrinsic value.
Given the fascination Astral and Defy already have with other animals, and considering the joy they get from seeing the other animals they've already met, they appear to be well on the vegan path all on their own...