Trixie Belden: Amateur Detective and Preteen Feminist Role Model


This piece was written for including in the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival, with an emphasis on women in literature.  I immediately thought of my childhood literary heroine, Trixie Belden.  

I was introduced to the world of Trixie Belden when I was eight years old.  My new neighbor and best friend Michelle was a bookworm like me, and she had shelf after shelf of this wonderful series.  She loaned me one book – Trixie Belden and the Black Jacket Mystery, the eighth book in the series.  I was immediately drawn to the title character:  Trixie Belden was a smart, feisty tomboy who always found herself in the midst of adventure.  With the help of her best friend Honey Wheeler, she was not afraid to get right in the middle of whatever problem was afoot.

What a concept:  a female heroine who doesn’t need rescuing.  She’s not the sidekick, she’s not the tagalong, she’s not the girlfriend.    Trixie was a rough and tumble tomboy, not exactly ladylike, but always true to herself.

My best friend and I spent the afternoon in her room reading.  I was hooked.

I brought the book home to my mom, who recognized Trixie immediately.  Unknown to me, the Trixie Belden series was started in the late 1940s, and mom grew up reading Trixie Belden, too.  The following week, she bought me my first two Trixie Belden books.  Over the years we’d go on to amass nearly thirty of the books in the series.  To this day, a number of them still sit on my bookshelves.

These books were completely unlike the other books that shared the preteen section of the bookstore in the 1980s.  Many of my friends were reading the Sweet Valley High books, which were fun reads but the stories focused on boyfriends, on their lives as rich girls, and other things that I just couldn’t relate to.  They read the Babysitters Club, which were fun too, but they also suffered from the same boy-craziness that Sweet Valley did.  Trixie, on the other hand, offered adventure in her own right.  She was intelligent, she was daring, and while she occasionally had a love interest it was never, ever the focal point of any story.  The stories were always about the mystery, and Trixie always led the way in thwarting the typically male, adult “bad guy” of the story.

That’s not to say that the stories weren’t without their faults.  Many of the Trixie Belden books were written at a time when women’s role was in the home, and that is reflected in the division of labor among Trixie and her brothers.  Though incredibly progressive, the books were definitely a product of their era.

Nevertheless, at age 8, Trixie was an incredibly positive role model for me.  Her appeal came not from her clothes, her toys or parents’ wealth.  Her appeal came from her willingness to persevere, to do what most people would tell a fourteen year old girl that she couldn’t do, and her success in doing it all.  If she could do it, why not me?

As the mom of a son, I don’t have to worry about him having positive, fictional male role models to turn to:  books, television, movies, and comics are full of strong, intelligent men.  Even the books aimed at three year olds, at his age group, rarely feature a single, strong female lead.  At best, they show male/female teams, such as the Little Einsteins.  An improvement, but couldn’t we do better?  Shouldn’t he have the experience of an adventure featuring a strong, female lead as well?  When the time comes, I hope that the love of these Trixie Belden books carries on to a third generation, or at least, that he’ll give them a chance someday.




Filed under Homesteading

That post where I get all sappy


Merry Christmas Eve! Or as we call it around here:

Jack’s birthday.

Happy third birthday to my little guy, my “best friend,” my hugger, snuggler, train-loving, Daddy-chasing, hide and go seeking, wild and sweet boy.

We’ll spend Jack’s birthday celebrating a favorite tradition: watching White Christmas together as a family because that is the movie that we were watching when Jack entered the world three years ago. He was born while Bing was singing. What a treasured memory.

I’ve never experience so many smiles, laughs and hugs. Every day is full of something new and beautiful.

I’m so grateful for this wonderful little family of mine.

And, of course, because this post would be incomplete without a few photos, indulge me – won’t you?

Brand new. (And getting all that beautiful hair combed)

On his first birthday

Second birthday (toy-a-palooza!)

And today, we’ll celebrate the big “3.”  Happy birthday, baby boy.

And Merry Christmas, everyone!


The Monkey Butt Family – Jenn, Dan, Jack, six chickens and one parrot

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Natural Parents Network: December 2012 Blog Blitz


When you visit the NPN’s website you will find articles and posts about Activism, Balance, Consistent Care, Ecological Responsibility, Family Safety, Feeding With Love, Gentle Discipline, Healthy Living, Holistic Health, Natural Learning, Nurturing Touch, Parenting Philosophies, Practical Home Help, Preparing for Parenting, Responding With Sensitivity, Safe Sleep, and so much more!

Today I would like to share some bookmark-worthy posts that highlight several wonderful posts from 20 volunteers with the Natural Parents Network. These posts were featured on the personal blogs of the Natural Parents Network volunteers and are some of the best of 2012.

We hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as we enjoyed writing them. We are always looking for new volunteers so please, contact us if you are interested. Just a few hours per month can help other mamas in a huge way!

Jenn from Monkey Butt Junction

Most Viewed Post: Why I want to Homeschool / Why I Don’t Want to Homeschool

Personal Favorite Post: Hello Mornings

Post I Wish More People Saw: Eating Healthy on the Road


Visit Code Name: Mama

Dionna from Code Name: Mama

Most Viewed Post: 32 Natural Remedies for Colds, Congestion, Coughs, and Fevers in Infants (Newborn to 6 Months)
Personal Favorite Post: Crying Does Not Equal Manipulation
Post I Wish More People Saw: Why Nurse A 4 Year Old?


Laura from WaldenMommy:Life Behind the Red Front Door

Most viewed post: Ten Reasons to Revoke my Natural Parent Card
Personal Favorite Post: The AP’d Child Speaks Out
The Post I Wish More People Would Read: Having A Child With Special Needs…



Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama

Most Viewed Post: 333 Uses for Coconut Oil
Personal Favorite Post: You Will Understand When You Are A Mother
Post I Wish More People Saw: Constipation In Children and What You Can Do To Help




Lyndsay from ourfeminist{play}school

Most Viewed Post: Potty Learning the Gentle Way
Personal Favourite Post:Gentle Weaning and Play
Post I Wish More People Saw: Rape and Attachment Parenting




Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter

Most Viewed Post: Maple Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Personal Favorite Post: The Birth Story of David Joseph
Post I Wish More People Saw: A Farm of My Own





Gretchen from That Mama Gretchen

Most Viewed Post: Crockpot Yogurt
Personal Favorite Post: 100 Days Old
Post I Wish More People Saw: A Fresh Perspective | Jemma’s Beautiful Birth

Christine from African Babies Don’t Cry

Most Viewed Post: I Breastfeed My Toddler For The Nutritional Benefits
Personal Favorite Post: From Full-Time Formula To Exclusively Breastfed
Post I Wish More People Saw: How To Minimise The Chance Of A (Genetically Prone) Child Being Diagnosed With ADHD


Charise from I Thought I Knew Mama

Most Viewed Post: My Misdiagnosed Miscarriage Story
Personal Favorite Post: A Poem for My Baby Girl
Post I Wish More People Saw: How Does Attachment Parenting Foster Independence?


Mandy from Living Peacefully with Children

Most Viewed Post: Attachment Parenting: the Renewed Face of Feminism
Personal Favorite Post: Different Rules for Different Families
Post I Wish More People Saw: Introducing: Attachment Parents Get Real!


Amy from Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work

Most Viewed Post: Censored at the Beauty School
Personal Favorite Post: Let Them Have the Last Word: Demonstrating Peace For Children
Post I Wish More People Saw: Talents of the Heart

Angela from Earth Mamas World

Most Viewed Post: The No ‘Poo Method: Homemade Shampoo And Conditioner
Personal Favorite Post: It’s Okay…I Actually Enjoy Spending Time With My Kids!
Post I Wish More People Saw: Gentle Discipline And Our Family


Cynthia from The Hippie Housewife

Most Viewed Post: Winding Down at Bedtime: Three calming games
Personal Favorite Post: While the nights are still precious
Post I Wish More People Saw: Those days don’t define you


 Fine and Fair

Joella from Fine and Fair

Most Viewed Post: Teen Pregnancy: Not Caused by Makeup
Personal Favorite Post: A Letter to my Son: The First of Many
Post I Wish More People Saw: 25 Lessons for my Children





Megan at The Boho Mama

Most Viewed Post: Coconut Oil: Nature’s Baby Magic
Personal Favorite Post: When They’re One
Post I Wish More People Saw: Using Relaxation and Visualization to Support Breast Milk Supply




Julia from A Little Bit of All of It

Most Viewed Post: 10 Things I’d Like New Moms to Know
Personal Favorite Post: My Mother Blessing
Post I Wish More People Saw: Why Should You Wear Your Baby?



Amy from Anktangle

Most Viewed Post: Growing Sprouted Onions
Personal Favorite Post: Dear Daniel, (On Discipline and Love)
Post I Wish More People Saw: Garden (Time Out) Meditation



Lauren from Hobo Mama

Most Viewed Post: Where to find cute maternity clothes
Personal Favorite Post: Getting used to having kids
Post I Wish More People Saw: On having two kids & not playing fair



Isil from Smiling like Sunshine

Most Viewed Post: DIY Alphabet Boxes
Personal Favorite Post: Children’s Books About Breastfeeding
Post I Wish More People Saw: 7 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public


Jorje from Momma Jorje

Most Viewed Post: Family Cloth… Really??
Personal Favorite Post: I did not Birth a Syndrome
Post I Wish More People Saw: “Good Baby”


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Filed under Natural Parenting

Spooky Kids


I may get some flak for the title of this post, but I think that it sums up the topic nicely:  sometimes kids say really spooky, weird things.  It doesn’t mean they are reaching out to the supernatural or having visions or speaking of some other worldly event – at least, probably not.  They just have different observations about the world based on their limited experiences in it.  And sometimes the resulting comments are spooky.

About a year ago, Jack had his first spooky event.  He had crawled onto my lap and looked at my forehead with great concern.  ”Oh, no.  Mommy.  Broken head.”  And then he kissed my forehead.  I’d try to get an explanation as to what was “broken,” but he’d just offer the same commentary.  I checked myself in the mirror – did I have a cut or a bruise? – but saw nothing.  It was weird the first time.  When he did it again and again over a period of weeks, it got spooky.

For the record, my head is not broken.  Not yet.

We recently had another spooky event.  It was about 3:00 a.m., and Jack asked if he could crawl in bed with us.  I said he could, and he crawled in, situated his pillow, and put his arm around my neck because that’s how he gets comfortable.  Then he sat up and looked over my shoulder.

“Who’s that Mommy?  Up there?”

Well, shit.  That’s scary.

I sat up and turned around.  Nobody there.  My husband was sound asleep.

“Do you mean Daddy?”

“No, up there!”  And he points near the ceiling.  ”He’s dancing!”

If I could type out the look on my face, it would be this:  O_0

“Who?  Where?  What are you seeing?”

“Up there.  Who is that dancing?”

I looked again.  Was something casting a strange shadow?  Was a different light in the room reflecting something he didn’t usually see?

There was nothing.  No dancing man, not that I could see, but nothing that would explain his questions.

He soon drifted back to sleep.  Me, on the other hand?  I was wiiiiiide awake after that, wondering about the dancing man.

What spooky/weird things have your children said?  Did you ever figure out an explanation?


Filed under Toddlers are Weird

Wordless Wednesday: School Pictures!


How did it come to this?  How did this, my teeny, tiny little baby -

Turn into a big kid who gets school pictures taken?

And, perhaps more amazingly, what kind of voodoo did they use to get him to look at the camera AND smile?

Not to mention, how did they get him to POSE?  At home, this would have been an hour of “Jack, look here.  Smile.  No, look at the camera.  Over here!  Wait, move your hand.  Okay, keep it there.  Wait, stop.  No.  Okay, now smile!  At the camera, Jack!  Jack, come back here!”  Topped off with a nice glass of wine or two for me.  Child photographers are pretty amazing – it isn’t like Jack was the only 2 year old getting his picture taken that day.  Someone managed to wrangle a whole roomful of these little guys and get them to pose and smile in a way that would make their parents drop $50 on school pictures.

Jack's senior picture, 16 years early

It was worth every penny.


Filed under Wordless Wednesday

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day


I can’t make bread.  I mean, I can make it.  Theoretically what I pop out of the bread machine or the oven is “bread” under a loose definition of the word, but it isn’t something that I’d feed my family regularly.  I love my family, and I’m kind of against torturing them with lousy food.

You may think I’m exaggerating my bread un-talent, but I can swear to you right now that just this morning I gave the chickens the remnants of one of my failed bread attempts as a treat.  Six hours later, the bread still sits, unpecked, untouched.  They’d rather eat bugs and grass in the yard than eat my bread.

Much like my family.

Last week I lamented my lack of bread skills in my post on five things that are easy to make from scratch, and a reader commented that the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day would solve my problems.  That wasn’t the first time I heard that recommendation, but unlike all of the other times I heard it, this time I decided to listen.

God bless Amazon.  A few clicks later and I had a copy on my Kindle.  I read the salient chapters in no time (it isn’t a dense read by any means) and soon I was mixing up my first batch of dough.

Back to the book, the “five minutes a day” part is only partly accurate.  The premise is that the dough is made in a large batch at the start of the week, and each day you can tear off a hunk, form it, bake it, and have fresh daily bread.  (They don’t count the initial dough creation or the baking time in their “five minutes,” obviously, but that’s fair).  This bread dough is much wetter than any dough I’ve worked with before, and apparently that gives it a longer “shelf life” in the fridge.  However, my skepticism was still flaring – I would think it would take a lot more than just wetter dough to make my monstrosities into a decent bread loaf.

My first batch of dough wasn’t inspiring a lot of confidence either.  While it did something that most of my dough doesn’t manage to do – it rose – it still looked wet and sticky and, frankly, weird.  Trying to form my first loaf didn’t help my fears subside either.  The instructions told me to cut off a grapefruit-sized chunk.  Well, that’s easier said than done when your grapefruit is a sticky, formless mass.  It wasn’t pretty, but I got it onto the pan for baking.

I may have used too much flour.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on.  I preheated the oven, waited the allotted time, and baked the bread.  And then, something happened.

It actually looked pretty good.  For a first try, that is.

That night, dinner was potato soup which of course just begged for a nice, crusty bread.  This recipe fit the bill perfectly.  The crust was a nice and chewy while the inside was soft and light.

And something amazing happened.

My family ate it.  Almost all of it!  We had just two small bits left for a treat for the chickens in the morning.

The book has instructions for all kinds of fancy-sounding breads that I’ve never heard of, all based on the same basic dough recipe.  I made a baguette the following day.  The dough was much more obedient this time, and the bread turned out pretty great.

I can imagine making baguettes in the morning to take to work for lunch.  I can envision having homemade bread to go with dinner without waiting the three hours that my bread machine requires.

This bread school dropout is back on probation.  Thanks to the reader and others who recommended this book!


Filed under Healthy Eating

Finally, the perfect henna for hair!


I have blogged for years about my hair dye allergy.  It is such a silly, superficial thing, but I really feel like I’ve gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to hair:  I have the unfortunate combination of very early graying and an allergy to hair dye that makes any commercial, over-the-counter or even salon dye into a trip to the hospital.  For years, I was left with three options, each of which, frankly, sucked:  I could either 1) Go gray gracefully – ha!  2) Use a temporary hair dye that washes out in just a few shampoos, or 3) Use a smelly, messy, and unpredictable henna dye.

For awhile I thought that henna was the best option, but I never found a henna that really worked for me.  Some, like Light Mountain Naturals, were extremely messy and while the dye looked okay on my normal hair, it wouldn’t touch the grays.  Others, like Surya, looked fine but the color washed out very quickly.  I had one brand that actually turned my hair green.  Another brand made my hair smell like seaweed for weeks after using it, and the henna powder was so grainy that it took three or four very thorough washings to get all of the henna particles out.

For awhile, I just called it quits and got depressed about my ugly hair.

Earlier this year on a total whim I tried Ancient Sunrise henna.  I searched for “henna hair dye” on Google, and their name caught my eye only because I had never heard of them before.  With a healthy dose of skepticism, I bought a box.

Life.  Changing.

Like all henna, there’s a bit of a hassle to it.  You must prepare the henna the night before you intend to use it.  You cannot mix it in a metal bowl.  You have to add an acid like lemon juice it it.  But the results are outstanding.  The color starts out a little bright – and the instructions promise that it will – but after a few days it tones down.  I ended up with a gorgeous deep red color that stays well through many washes.  I have been able to retouch the roots four times with a single package of the coloring.  I couldn’t ask for a better henna experience.  And all that for $17.00, plus shipping.

Ancient Sunrise has not paid for or promoted this post in any way – they don’t even know I’m talking about them.  As someone who has struggled with this hair dye situation for years, I feel very strongly about their product.  This is a great alternative for anyone with a hair dye allergy, anyone who loves the color that henna provides, or anyone who simply wants to avoid the harsh chemicals in hair dye.


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Filed under Green Living

A Foul Green Cloud (Warning: Not for the faint at heart)


I was toying with the idea of adding a segment to the blog called “Funny Shit Friday” because sometimes I have some really funny shit to share, and Friday is a good time for a laugh.  Maybe someday we’ll have a Funny Shit Friday here at MBJ, but for today, I just have a funny story, on a Friday.  And it’s about shit.

Warning:  this is kind of gross.  If you can’t handle poop talk, you don’t want to be here.

I am writing this post on Thursday night, December 6, 2012.  This just happened.  My husband works late on Thursday nights, so Jack and I have the evening to ourselves.  Tonight I asked Jack what he wanted to do, and he suggested a trip to our “special place,” which is our favorite local coffee shop.  He loves their board games, I love their coffee, and we both love their chocolate mint brownies.

“It’s a date!’ I said.

We were having a wonderful time at our special place.  The shop was busy but not too crowded.  Christmas music played on the sound system.  Jack was happily driving little plastic cars around the board for the Game of Life.  I was sipping a cup of Highlander Grog while reading Caveat Emptor on my Kindle.  All was going quite well until I smelled it.  A stink.

That stink.

“Jack,” I whispered.   “Did you poopoo?”

Jack, his ever subtle self, stood up and announced, “No, Mommy.  I did NOT POO POO.  THERE IS NOT POOP IN MY PANTS.”

I’m sure everyone in the greater Waukesha area was grateful for that announcement, because I am certain every last person must have heard it.  After everyone stopped staring at us and my profuse blushing subsided, I asked if I could just check and make sure.  Ah, what a glamorous thing motherhood is, right?  I had Jack stand up and, as casually as possible, I checked down the back of his pants.

All clear.  And he smelled like a freshly bathed boy.  That’s…strange.

The stink still persisted.  I couldn’t shake it.  It permeated my nose, set up camp, and, like an unwelcome in-law, refused to leave.

I tried to ignore it, thinking maybe what I was smelling was the strong aroma of some new coffee brew that my unsophisticated nose couldn’t appreciate.  I tried very, very hard to convince myself that was the case.

Nope.  It’s poop.  For sure.

I asked Jack again, “Jack, do you have to poopoo?  Did you fart?”

(I know, I know…do I not learn?  I braced myself for his reply).


Dear God, please let the earth swallow me up right now.

It didn’t.  My ears burned bright red yet again.  I did another subtle cheek-check of Jack, but he was right.  The stink was not him.

Which could only mean that it was someone else at the coffee shop.  I did a quick visual inspection – were there other children?  A few toddlers, a baby perhaps?

No.  The youngest person in the room was at least 18.

Well, now I had to know.  Who the hell shit themselves in my coffee shop?  I went from being disgusted, to concerned, to being the Sherlock Holmes of the Shit.  Now I needed to know.

I nonchalantly got up from the table and walked over to the board games, pretending to peruse the selections but really scoping out the customers, trying to determine which one was the perpetrator of the p-u.  Not having any luck, I strolled casually to the stack of local indie papers, browsing a few while keeping a keen eye trained on person after person, trying to nail down the most likely suspect.  Again, no dice.  The smell seemed to have faded.

Then I spotted them: two very average looking men, roughly in their fifties or sixties.  Both appeared well-dressed, and utterly, utterly normal.  There’s no way it was them.  Yet, they were the only two in the coffee shop that I was unable to get a good, er, whiff of.

Defeated, I went back to my Kindle.  An exceptionally strong pot of coffee was being brewed, which seemed to deaden the smell anyway.

And then, mere minutes later, it happened: WHAM!  This WALL of ASS STENCH hit me and nearly knocked me off of my chair.   I actually choked a little as I looked up from my book with alarm.  Yes, alarm.  The smell was so strong that I was second-guessing my own bodily functions.

“Excuse me, Miss?  Is your son about three years old?”

It was one of the two very average, very normal gents from across the room, standing at my table.  And he smelled like poo.  Eye-watering, toe-curling, poo.

“Yes.  He’ll be three this month.”  My eyes welled up.  Maybe he thought it was nostalgia.  I knew the real reason.

“I thought so.  I’m seeing my grandson this weekend for the first time, and he’s about three.  I imagine he’s about the size of your boy.”

I nodded and smiled as a tear rolled down my cheek.  The man bid me a good evening, and turned to walk away.  Sadly, the stench stayed behind, ruining my coffee and maybe even my clothes.  I needed a nasal enema, stat.  Is there such thing?  No matter, I’d invent it.

My boy was vindicated.  Jack looked up at me, and I knew we were on the same wavelength then and there.  He went for the final comment, and the win:  ”Mommy!  It wasn’t my poopoo!”


And now, I’m off to shower.  With borax, a little Lysol, and Oxi-clean.


Filed under Lighter Side

The Santa Question


Jack turns three on Christmas Eve this year, and he loves to converse with adults – family, friends and strangers alike.  As Christmas approaches, plenty of well-meaning adults ask him the question:

What is Santa going to bring you for Christmas this year?

And I cringe, because I don’t know how we are addressing The Santa Question yet.

Personally, I like the idea of celebrating Santa.  I like the idea of setting out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies.  Writing letters to Santa.  Rudolph and his friends.  Having visions of sugarplums.  Good, clean fun.

But then, I think about the reality:  am I going to tell my son that Santa comes down our chimney and delivers presents?  Well-meaning or not, that’s a lie, and a pretty uncomfortable one to tell a child who needs to feel secure in his home.  And of course, that means that someday I’ll have to tell him the truth.  Which means that someday he’ll learn that I helped perpetuate an elaborate hoax.  I feel icky about that.  I don’t think I’m going to scar his psyche with it, but it just isn’t something I’m completely comfortable with.  Plus, Santa sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake?  I’m not a fan of that concept either:  Santa as the tattletale, the scorekeeper of the good and the bad.  That’s not one of our family values.

There are plenty of reasons NOT to celebrate the Santa aspects of Christmas.  The most common objection is that the Santa-worship aspect of the holiday has overshadowed the real reason that we celebrate the holiday.  It has turned Christmas from something sacred to something secular.  Which brings me to my next objection:  the commercialism.  We’re trying to instill in our son a sense of the value of a dollar.  Having a birthday on Christmas Eve already means that late December is a time that he’s inundated with a tidal wave of gifts from family and friends.  I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with him believing that some man and his elves are making gifts for him and for millions of other children around the world.  I’d rather he know the truth:  that those toys were bought and paid for by people who worked hard to earn their money, and who chose to spend that money on him because they love him.  Isn’t that important, too?

The problem with avoiding the Santa myth is this:  the man in the red suit is hard to avoid.  He’s on television, in the malls, on decorations all up and down our street.  He stars in storybooks, his face is on stickers and crayons and notepads.  Our son is old enough to start wondering  just who this big bearded dude is.  We’ll have to have a discussion about Santa this year.  The question is: what are we going to say?   If we discuss Santa as a myth, will he grow up feeling like he really missed out on something special in his childhood?  Will he even grasp that concept yet?  I know that some people feel that Santa is the embodiment of Christmas, and that Christmas without Santa is unthinkable.  I disagree with that sentiment.  To me, Christmas is about family, about baking cookies and singing carols, about a big dinner with your loved ones, and decking out the house and a tree.  That is enough to make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.  Santa is an aside to all of that.   He’s not essential to the season.

But on the other hand, if we speak of Santa as though he was real, how will he feel when he realizes that it was all a deception?  We hear horror stories of children who realize at all the wrong moments that mom is really the tooth fairy, or that Uncle Joe is wearing the Santa suit.  I’m not afraid of harming him in any drastic way with the Santa deception, but I am afraid of straining the relationship we have that is built on truth and trust.  The bottom line is that I don’t want to lie to him.  I don’t lie to my husband, I don’t lie to my son.

What’s the right answer here?

Many people turn to their roots, to their upbringing for answers, but my husband and I both had fairly unconventional childhoods when it comes to Santa Claus.  My husband comes from a family where Christmas was never celebrated, and in my own family Santa was presented to me as a myth from the outset, or at least once I realized that Mom and Santa had the same handwriting.  Neither of us feel like we missed out on anything, but maybe we did and we just don’t know it.

Maybe this won’t be the year to address it anyway.   I’m certain my son thinks Mickey Mouse is real,  yet we haven’t told him that Mickey Mouse is real or promoted Mickey Mouse idolization in any way.  Mickey Mouse just is, and what a two-almost-three year old brain conceives of that is really unknown.  Perhaps Santa is going to be like Mickey Mouse this year – he’ll just exist, and we’ll save for another day the conversation about him being the embodiment of the good and giving that’s in this world.

A footnote:  A few days after I drafted this piece, one of my online “mom” groups delved into this same discussion.  Heated arguments ensued.  I had no idea that the Santa question was so divisive – some moms even went so far as to say they felt sorry for the non-Santa celebrating kids.  That comment led me to revisit this piece and see whether my feelings had changed.  Frankly, they haven’t.  We haven’t reached a decision on the Santa question yet, at least, not as of the posting of this piece.  I’d love some more feedback from readers.


photo credit: Puzzler4879 via photopin cc


Filed under Natural Parenting

Five Things You Didn’t Know Were Easy to Make from Scratch


You can buy nearly everything in a bottle or a box or a can at the grocery store.  Convenience is king while our time is at a premium.  But sometimes it pays to turn it back a notch and take things back to where they used to be.  Not convinced?  Let me give you five reasons to try making a few things from scratch:

1.   It is greener.  Convenience often means packaging, and packaging means trash.  Everyone wants to take out less trash, right?

2.  It helps you get to know your food.  When you make it, you know what goes into it.  Quality control begins and ends with you.

3.  It is educational.  I had no idea what mayonnaise was made of until I made it myself.  Eggs?  Seriously?  I had no idea.  I just thought it was some magically tasty goo.

4.  It is good for your soul.  No, really.  The zen monks have the right idea:  do things one at a time, slowly and deliberately.  Making food from scratch gives you the opportunity to slow down and focus on a single task.

5.  When done well, it always tastes better.  Self-satisfaction is the tastiest additive.  When done right, homemade food always, always tastes better.  If you don’t believe me, try the mayo recipe and then go take a look at the jar of Miracle Whip in your fridge.  Good ol’ Miracle Whip is going to be pretty lonely.

And now, five from-scratch things that are beautiful simple.

1.  Pancakes.  I have always, always made pancakes out of the box, and more often than not, I’ve screwed them up by making batter too lumpy or too lumpy.  I rarely managed to find my Goldilocks-perfect middle of the line batter.  And then I made this recipe for whole wheat pancakes.  5 minutes prep time, 5 minutes cook time – that’s nearly as simple as Bisquick.

2.  Mayonnaise.  In my never ending quest to USE ALL THE EGGS, I discovered that, 1) mayonnaise is made from eggs, and 2) you can make it at home.  Homemade mayo is nothing like the store-bought stuff, and I mean that in a very, very good way.  Most recipes seem to be some variation of this theme, and you can even play with the recipe by substituting olive oil for the canola oil.

3.  Pizza.  There are many variations in the homemade pizza continuum.  You can buy a premade crust, a jar of sauce, add some toppings and call this pizza assembling “homemade,” but I’m suggesting that you should go a step beyond that:  try making your own pizza crust AND sauce.  The pizza you produce will be life-changing.  If talk of making pizza dough conjures images of beefy Italian men deftly tossing and spinning the dough above their heads, rest assured, you probably don’t need to do that.  If you have a bread machine, there’s a good chance that it has a dough setting.  In that case, pizza dough is extremely simple.  I use this recipe with great success.  As for the sauce, a jar of tomatoes plus your imagination can go a long way.  I usually puree my canned tomatoes with some fresh basil, garlic, and then whatever Italian-sounding herbs I happen to have in my spice cabinet.  It is seriously that easy.

4.  Scones.  I know, I know, but hear me out:  scones really are a great grab-and-go breakfast food.  And they aren’t boring!  Scones are as versatile as the ingredients you use in them and the topping you put on them.  You can make a big batch early in the week and enjoy them for days.  I use variations of this recipe, and have done all kinds of substitutions (including, in a pinch, using a dash of flavored coffee creamer in place of some of the milk.  That was actually fantastic).   Zesting an orange or a lemon can add great flavor to the scones.  Berries are another option, as is cinnamon or apples.  Making scones from scratch really isn’t much harder than boxed scones and it gives you

5.  Chicken stock.  I love chicken stock.  I use it to make rice delicious, I use it in all kinds of soups.  Until recently, my chicken stock came out of a box.  And then, someone clued me in:  chicken stock is ridiculously easy to make.  And if you make a whole chicken in a crockpot - one of my favorite go-to dinners – there’s no excuse not to make your own stock.  After you’ve picked the meat off of your crockpot chicken, add water, carrots and celery and cook overnight on low.  Strain the “stuff” out, and you have stock, ready to freeze.  Yes, it’s that easy.

Someday I’d like to add bread to this list, but frankly, I haven’t mastered bread yet.  I can make a few passable recipes in the bread machine, but we won’t be replacing our grocery store bread quite yet.

Readers, what do you make from scratch?   

egg photo credit: nickwheeleroz via photopin cc

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