Monday, January 31, 2011
I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, but I somehow have a ridiculous number of thoughts on a subject as seemingly mundane as homemade lotion.
Years ago, pre-kids, I went through a period of making my own lotions, astringents, scrubs, etc., mostly from the book Natural Beauty at Home: More Than 250 Easy-to-Use Recipes for Body, Bath, and Hair. I really loved doing it and never meant to stop, but somehow I either became (what I incorrectly thought, pre-kids, was) busy, or got lazy and bought some lotion, or something--I don't know. But somehow I stopped doing it. I've been wanting to start up again, for a whole host of reasons.
To begin with, I've recently developed a minor obsession with decreasing our purchases of consumables. There are budgetary issues for this, obviously, but that's not even the biggest thing driving this for me. I feel like we somehow end up going to the pharmacy or grocery store every other day to pick up something. I don't even know what, but I feel like we spend an inordinate amount of time and money simply purchasing new, consumable, ridiculously packaged, processed stuff. And I don't find this the least bit enjoyable.
So now, each time a "need" presents itself, I'm trying to determine whether it's a need we can meet ourselves without a trip to the store. I knew the lotion issue was going to be coming up soon since our skin is as dry as you can possibly imagine after all these months of being inside with heaters. We'd been using up every last drop of every sample tube of lotion, right down to the last scrapings of the Burt's Bees Baby Lotion that came in the sample pack we were given when Bojey was born. And that last scraping was applied to poor Ninna's cheeks Saturday night, which meant come Sunday, I could put off this project no longer.
As with almost all household tasks, I included the chicks. They really, truly enjoy this sort of thing. Practical work is always a hit with toddlers and preschoolers, and more so, I think, when they see that they are contributing to the needs of their household.
I really love trying to make and do as much as we can ourselves. In my fantasy life I'd be almost entirely self-sufficient, a true homesteader. It's not possible, not now because of the circumstances, and probably not ever because I doubt I could ever be together enough to do it. But I'll settle for doing as much as we can, and for adding little things here and there whenever possible.
It seems to be a standard idea in our culture that we don't have time to make things. I get really excited by people who challenge that notion, both on a smaller and larger level. On the small level--take this lotion-making, for example. Let's say we decided to go to the store and buy some. By the time I got both chicks and myself dressed in gear, walked to the store, stared confusedly at 100 different kinds of lotion, chose one and paid for it, dragged the chicks back home, hung up the winter gear, and opened the lotion...I could have just made it. And I'm certain that I paid much less to make the lotion than I would have paid to buy a similar quality, all-natural lotion in the store, which also means less money-earning time going towards paying for this item.
And there are other undeniable benefits to such a task as well. I know exactly what is in that lotion. I know when it was made and how fresh it is. I can experiment and tweak these things until I find a concoction that we love. I can personalize it--I made mine almond, and the chicks' calendula. And I'm not bringing home new packaging all the time for a tiny little container of lotion. And this goes for the ingredients as well; almost all of the ingredients I used were from huge, bulk-sized containers that I use for all sorts of things and will last for ages, not needing to be replaced every time we run to the store.
I don't know how the chicks will feel about such things when they're older, but I have to believe that some good will come from their learning to do things like make lotion. I think it's not just a matter of increasing their skill set (though there's certainly value in that). I think a whole world of possibility is opened for them when they see that they can make many of the things they need by themselves or with the help of others, and that life is really not about purchasing, but creating. Even if, after growing up and moving on, they never again make lotion, or bake bread, or knit a hat, I hope that their world view includes the idea that the world is a place of unlimited creative possibility. I'm not trying to raise future homesteaders; I'm trying to raise creative, self-sufficient, free-thinkers. I hope I can succeed.
If not, at least they'll have some good stories to tell about how their crazy mother forced them to make their own lotion and then made them walk 10 miles barefoot in the snow ;).