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I’m moving!

Want to see my new place? Well, come on over! It’s right here, at The Big Binder. See you there ūüôā

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Sharing Science and Nature With Young Children

¬†Great Start is hosting a really neat program next week you need to know about.¬† As you might already know, Great Start is a local organization that works to promote services to young children in Kent County.¬† It also offers parents a chance to learn about very useful, tangible, ‘take home’ ideas to use with their kids.¬† I’ve learned about physical literacy, effects of media on children, nutrition, the importance of keeping records for school, and a ton more.

It called “Sharing Science and Nature With Young Children“, and will be held March 25 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church/Hill Child Development Center 250 Commerce Ave SW.¬†

Come and see a demonstration of how to help young children learn simple science/nature concepts by blending literature, manipulatives, puppets, art activities and resources from nature. There will also be a time to investigate and participate in a make-and-take activity. 

The meetings are free, and they provide dinner and childcare.¬† Check out the website for more information. You do have to sign up and I’ve talked to lots of folks who are going, so call and get a space quickly.¬† The number to RSVP is 632-1007.¬† See you there!

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Kindergarten Decisions Suck

From the second you find out you are pregnant or going to adopt, you start making decisions. Some you’ll get right, and some you’ll get wrong.¬† Some matter a lot, and some not at all.¬† Unfortunately (for your kids and your guilt-factor) you don’t have any way of knowing ahead of time how much weight any of your decisions have.¬†

The kindergarten Decision is huge.¬† If this is the current ‘season’ of parenting that you are in I completely feel for you.¬† It is an exhausting time. It’s like being in school again yourself except you are doing homework and research and you won’t find out your grade for another 12¬†years.¬†Some of also you have to make the Young Fives/kindergarten decision.¬† Or the homeschooling decision.¬† Or the school of choice decision. Or the “we didnt’ get in where we wanted – what now?” decision.¬†It might very well just¬†be one of those things that in the end, doesn’t really matter.¬† Or it might.¬† That’s the part that sucks.

We wanted¬†a good¬†reason to send our¬†kids to our neighborhood, public school.¬† We talked to¬†parents and teachers in the school district who encouraged us to¬†send¬†our children there.¬† Why? Because “we need parents like you“.¬†

We¬† wanted a good reason to send our¬†kids to the school affiliated with our church.¬† We¬†went to the open houses and met with administrators who encouraged us¬†to send¬†our children there.¬† Why? “Because it’s more convenient.¬† They get their sacraments right during school”.

We¬†wanted a good reason to send¬†our kids to a charter school near¬†our house.¬† We went to the information nights and orientation.¬† They encouraged us¬†to send¬†our children there.¬† Why? “Because we are diverse.”

Well, the fact that a school needs us wasn’t compelling enough.¬† We¬†can volunteer there – but what good will it do my kids? The convenience of receiving sacraments at school weren’t worth the cost –¬†we can drive them to church on Wednesday nights for free.¬† Diversity is good.¬† Of course it is good.¬† But how does that translate into a good education?

The school that ‘hooked’ us¬†was one that talked about character development and was able to demonstrate that they actually walked the walk.¬†¬† It was also the most¬†academically challenging school.¬†¬† It’s not that this was the best school.¬†¬†It was the best school for us. It forced us to choose between service to community, religion,¬†exposure to diversity, and character and academics.¬† As parents we pride ourselves on making all of these things a priority – but when we had to pick between them, it was impossible not to feel¬†a little disappointed in ourselves.¬†¬†At the same time;¬†two years later we both still firmly believe¬†we made the right choice.¬†¬†¬†

I have very little to offer you other than empathy; but I hope you will accept it. 

If you are in the Grand Rapids Public School district and your child will be 5 years old by December 1, you are invited to attend a program called “Kindergarten, Here I Come!” on Tuesday, March 9 from 5:30 – 7:30 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.¬† Representatives from the district’s elementary schools will be there, and admission to the event (and the Museum!) is free.¬† Call Lesley at 819-2111 for more information.

And… good luck.

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September Calendar

Sorry y’all.¬† I have been distracted by daycare and the illness of a close family member.¬†¬† Here are a few events to keep you busy this month – in case you don’t have enough to do!

September 10, 11 and 12 Celebration on the Grand¬†¬† There will be a free live show¬† in Ah-Nab-Awen Park at 3:00.¬† The Great Start Parent Coalition¬†is presenting this concert, which will feature the folks from “Come On Over!”¬† As a way to support them, please bring an unopened package of diapers to donate for the Diaper Drive.¬†There are lots of other events over the course of the weekend¬† – check here for details

September 19 – various events around town to kick off Kent Conservation District’s “Connecting Families with Nature” program.¬†

September 19 East Grand Rapids Library¬†is having a “Create With Clay” art workshop.¬† This sounds like some messy fun!

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Having A Moment

We’re wrapping up summer this week and finalizing our fall plans. For our family, it’s a big shift not only from summer to school, but it’s also the beginning of my work season so we go from lots of time together to lots of time apart. My plans have changed slightly as the nanny situation I wanted wasn’t coming together. I’ve almost been too deep in thought and busy with little pesky ‘get ready for school’ tasks to write a coherent blog post this week but the urge to blog is overtaking me; so here we go.

Last year when I worked, my husband worked an opposite shift so we didn’t have any childcare. This year, he is starting school (and still working full time) and we don’t have that option. We have known The Nanny for quite a while, and she loves our kids. Unfortunately, our schedules don’t work together so I had to come up with Plan B. After a few days of trying to work out The Nanny Situation, I felt like I was doing math, and I am really bad at math. I decided to check out daycare centers.

This was a giant big huge enormous step for me. I am officially a Working Mom (even if it’s not year-round). Someone else is taking care of my kids the majority of the time. I had to swallow hard just to write that last line. They are only in school half days.
My kids seem completely unfazed. A.P. is excited that he gets to ride the bus from school to daycare. Maybelle is excited because they have a lot of books.

I am trying to look at this as a growth experience. As a parent this is just one of many ‘controlled releases’ into the world, until they ultimately become independent. School didn’t bother me though, partly because I’m a very involved parent, and partly because I loved school and believe they will too. I never went to daycare. I never rode the bus. I worry that Maybelle is too young for this and it will change her in a way that isn’t best for her. On top of it, it’s so much change at once – school for them, school for my husband, and me working out of the home and not as able to do for them what I usually can.

I know change isn’t always bad. I am actually pretty good with change myself – it’s when my kids are involved that I get nervous. Am I doing what is best for them? Am I doing my best for them? I have pretty close to 0% guilt as a mom. I am confident in my ability to be a good mom to my kids – it comes more easily than anything ever has and when it’s difficult; the struggles feel ‘real’ as opposed to some situations I encountered in Corporate America. I am 100% vested in the outcome.

I know my kids are resilient and flexible. I also know that this isn’t forever. I am encouraged by their excitement, and look forward to the satisfaction of ‘making it happen’ at work. I am going to have faith that this will work out for everyone.

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I’m Not Worthy

Real Food WednesdaysReally, I’m not.¬† I am trying to be though.¬† This is my first time participating in a blog carnival called “Real Food Wednesday”.¬† It’s a collection of recipes and ideas about how to eat real food.¬†

So… what is real food?

Well, there are two Real Food Wednesday hosts, Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Cheeselave.  This is they say about Real Food:

  • Real food is whole, natural, and nutrient-dense
  • Organic
  • Humanely raised (animals on pasture, not in factories)
  • Grown locally when possible
  • Whole and unrefined (real maple syrup instead of high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Processed as little as possible (raw milk instead of pasteurized and homogenized)
  • Nutrient-dense (enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics)
  • Free of additives and preservatives
  • Free of synthetic and chemical ingredients
  • Not genetically modified
  • Traditionally produced and prepared

In other words, butter or lard instead of shortening or vegetable oil. Real milk from a cow instead of soy milk. Real sprouted flour (ground fresh or purchased) instead of refined white flour. Real, natural sweeteners like honey or unrefined cane sugar (rapadura or sucanat) instead of white sugar.

Shew! Those are some high standards.  Higher than I am currently meeting, to be sure.  I am trying many (but not all) of these things though, little by little.  I think I have a recipe that qualifies, for the most part.  It involves wheat berries.

OK now you’re getting weird.¬† What are wheat berries?

Photo credit:  Eating Well

Photo credit: Eating Well

Big Binder:¬† Wheat berries, I’d like to introduce you to my readers.¬† Readers; wheat berries.

Readers:  Eew.

Wheat berries:  Enchanté!

Big Binder:¬† Settle down,¬†wheat berries.¬† They’ll like you.¬† Eventually.¬†

They are just wheat, in it’s least processed form.¬† It’s the entire kernel, minus the hull.¬† A whole cup is about 300 calories, and has lots of fiber, protien, and iron.¬† They are sort of nutty tasting, and I can see them going in either a sweet or savory direction.

In order to make it appealing to my husband and children, I mixed it with meat, cheese, and sauce.¬† They all absolutely loved this recipe and liked that the wheat berries ‘pop’ and are ‘chewy’.¬† So here it is:

Pepper Casserole with Wheat Berries

1/2 pound ground beef (raised and processed to your liking)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup cooked wheat berries (Very easy to cook Рhere is a recipe.  Make a big batch and freeze them.)

2 tbsp Muir Glen tomato paste (very good stuff as far as tomato paste goes)

1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup Grada Padano or Parmesean cheese, shredded

14 oz (roughly half a jar) pasta sauce.  (I like the Meijer regular/cheap brand Рthe ingredients are:  tomato puree, diced tomatoes in juice, organic sugar, imported olive oil, salt, dehydrated onions, garlic, spices, lemon juice, and parsley)

Brown the ground beef, and set aside.¬† In the same pan you used for the beef, sautee the red peppers until slightly soft.¬† Turn heat down to low.¬† Add beef back to pan, then add wheat berries, tomato paste, and 1/2 cup cheese.¬† Mix together, then add spaghetti sauce.¬† You can either let it simmer on the stove for a while until everything is warmed through, or transfer to a casserole pan and bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 350.¬† If you like it a little ‘saucier’, add more or the¬†spaghetti sauce. Either way, 5 minutes before serving, add the remaining cheese.¬†

I’ve talked long enough. Now head over here¬† or more Real Food Wednesday.

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