Vegan Family of the Month: November (click the photo to see the full article)
The first time I met Danielle and her husband Jimmy was at a US Gas station in upstate New Jersey after their car battery had suddenly died. They were headed to Skylands Animal Sanctuary with their three incredible boys, Gus, Asher, and Elliot, to rendezvous with me for a photoshoot for the launch of our Basics Collection. As things usually go, their car battery died just as evening was making its approach. My husband and I jumped in the car, picked up the crew (except Jimmy who unfortunately had to stay to fix their car), and made it back in time for the shoot.
This is one of the things I love about Danielle, she really puts in the effort for the things cares about and shrugs off the challenges. She could have asked to reschedule, after all she and her boys were there completely pro-bono. But instead she rolled with the punches and helped us have an incredible shoot.
For our first Vegan Family of the Month feature, I’m interviewing Danielle and Jimmy on why’s and how’s of raising a vegan family. I’ve been captivated by Danielle’s instagram (@missverse) because of the view she offers into her life as a mother raising three young boys to be ethical vegans.
(Oh and by the way, if you are ever in need of a wedding photographer, check these two out, their so talented, www.younglovemedia.com)
Ok, let's get to the interview!
Q: Why did you decide to go vegan and what was the transition like?
We decided to go vegan after watching the documentary Cowspiracy. We had been interested in being more conscious about what we put in our bodies and what products we consumed for a while so we were in this academic mode of just educating ourselves and exploring what felt right to us. We had no intention of “going vegan” when we started. It happened so fast and so naturally that we didn’t know if we were choosing it or if it was choosing us! Honestly! We were inspired by documentaries like the Netflix series Rotten, and resources by folks like Ellen Fisher and Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (Joyful Vegan).
We pushed farther in after watching What the Health and decided to ease into a more plant based lifestyle. But that didn’t last long. Conspiracy stuck in our conscious like thorn and about a week into it we just ditched animal products all-together and never looked back. The health benefits, the global impact on the climate, water usage, ocean life, world hunger, economy, all of it inspired us endlessly. It’s staggering how many benefits there are and it all played a role in our transition.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of raising a vegan family?
It has greatly increased the scope of our discussions on compassion. Before, we either had to talk about it abstractly, or capitalize on moments of correction where something was done or said unkindly. Now everything around us, especially what we eat, becomes ripe with opportunity to discuss kindness and compassion in action. It takes the pressure off of having to constantly remind my kids to be kind and compassionate because there’s always an opportunity.
Q: What aspects of living a vegan lifestyle present the most challenges day-to-day for your family?
Buying the correct quantity of produce has been a challenge. We don’t want to waste food and when things go bad, it’s heavy on the conscience. Food preparation too. It’s an exciting aspect but sometimes a challenge as well. It’s a whole new culinary world for us so there’s a learning curve that you have to intentionally make something you look forward to and adjust for. Also, in-school activities such as holiday parties or birthday celebrations always, include high sugar, milk or cheese based treats and our kids often feel like the odd man out. Open and unapologetic dialogue with classmates, their parents and staff bring about a surprising level of understanding and even accommodation so don’t be shy or apologetic! People care!
Q: Do you talk to your kids about why they should be vegan, if so what do you usually focus on?
We feel keeping that conversation alive week in and week out give them a sense of groundedness in our family’s decision. It helps them feel connected to what they consume and gives them a sense of belonging. It’s easy to kill the superiority complex when the foundation of those conversations is compassion for one another and compassion for all things. It’s a simple and powerful way to root them in a compassion-centric conscious worldview.
Q: People are often skeptical that a vegan diet offers enough nutrition to thrive (especially for young children). How do you ensure your kids get all the nutritional value they need?
We incorporate dark greens and beans into most meals and make sure they have calcium-rich or calcium-enriched products daily. We also have a great multi-vitamin specifically for vegan kids and a B12 oral spray. But beyond that we just take responsibility away from the products and put in on ourselves to be educated so we don’t feel in the dark.
Q: Do your kids ever struggle with their veganism in social situations? If so,what advice do you give them?
Parties for classmates are a challenge. Because of our kids’ ages we accompany them to their classmates’ birthday parties so it’s pretty easy to just pack a few vegan treats and supplemental food for them. If it’s an in-class thing often times it’s cupcakes or pizza so we just encourage them and make sure they’re fed. Some things there is simply no easy way and we communicate that as well. Not all things in life are easy and that is totally ok!
Q: Do you ever encounter judgement from other parents about your family’s lifestyle? How do you handle it?
To be honest the only parents that speak up are those showing kindness and understanding. Those that disagree often keep to themselves. We have had comments from others trying to demean it as a liberal hippy fad, with the underhanded accusation that we’re mindless and fickle, but you have to just let that stuff roll off. We know EXACTLY why we moved in this direction and it was a byproduct of our desire to live more awake and more conscious each day. As we moved towards consciousness, presence, kindness and compassion in an effort to be people who don’t settle but are always reaching and striving to be the best humans we can be it was just a natural progression, plain and simple. That’s just how it went for us. We know everyone has a different story and they’re all valid. But that’s ours. As we moved in that direction with more resolve, vegan living was a natural byproduct.
Q: What’s your to go to dinner on a stressful day?
In all honesty, pasta! We sauté garlic and oil, sometimes a pasta sauce and kale and sprinkle a little Daiya mozzarella and we’re golden in about 15 minutes. Burrito bowls make an equal appearance on stressful days. Black beans, cilantro, rice, and whatever else you got in the fridge and it’s always a hit and doesn’t take long at all.
Q: How do you respond to people who say that it’s wrong to force a vegan lifestyle on your children?
We don’t. We just say “OK!” When you’re juggling life with 3 kids your capacity to “argue” with people that have no desire to learn from you diminishes significantly. If someone shows respect in their inquiry we will share our hearts till the sun goes down. If someone wants to malign our kids or baselessly accuse us of harming our children: “byeeeee!” LOL!
Q: Do you have any tips for families that are interested in transitioning into a vegan lifestyle?
Yes! It’s not hard. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You will thrive. Knowledge is easy. You can do it! No, but seriously, there are endless resources for you, blogs, podcasts, books, facebook groups, instagram accounts, etc, that you can lean into for inspiration, support, perspective, statistics, the list goes on. There is no wrong way to be vegan. Each step made to live more consciously and to put compassion into action is a good and worthy step. Your contribution will impact the earth and society, your health and happiness, commerce and economy more than you could possibly realize. Just take steps in expanding conscious compassion and your golden.