Archives for March 2010

'twas the Week Before Spring Break

We had a field trip at Meijer Gardens today with A.P.’s class to visit with the butterflies. If you don’t already know, I do not like them one bit.  I can only blame the trauma of one too many close calls with the flying beasts for somehow missing the fact that I could take my little group of six year old boys outside to the Children’s Garden.  Six year old boys are yucky, trash-talking, nose-picking, fake-farting animals.  They belong outside.  The Gardens is a big place, but there is only so much you can do with boys and butterflies inside and dealing with them all morning completely wiped me out.

Still, I’m glad we went today.  That place is going to be packed during Spring Break so it’s good to get it out of the way. I rounded up some Spring Break fun for you here, but a few other little things have flown across my radar since then.

First, GR Now and West Michigan Mommy list some Easter Egg hunts.  If your kids are a little older, you can sign them up for a Babysitting Class at the American Red Cross.  It’s about time for them to start earning their keep, don’t you think? Kidding! I just need more good sitters and am hoping to increase the pool. Also, you up-northers (this is anyone north of Fulton, in my book) can bowl for cheap at the Sparta Lanes. $1.00 a game – and that includes shoes! 

We are headed to our last Grand Rapids Griffins game of the season tomorrow and I need to spend some time putting together my notes from this program last night.  It was awesome and I promise you will read all about it.  Enjoy your weekend!


Things I Love Thursday – C25K

Some of you may have seen a new ‘study’ that insists women need to work out an hour a day AND be on a diet in order to avoid weight gain as we get older.  This will almost certainly be followed by a ‘study’ that finds women get really freakin’ depressed when they read studies.  An hour? Every day? Not most days – every day? Forget it. If you’re like me it’s not gonna happen every single day and there is no reason to get stressed out about something that isn’t gonna happen.  Let’s just take the “it’s against my religion/day of rest” angle and all agree disregard that study, ok?

If you want to start exercising, you have to start somewhere of course.  In my most recent exercise efforts, I started running.  Slowly. I know it’s annoying to listen (or read) someone talk about running when you’ve tried it and found that it’s just awful, painful, boring and in general, just something you cannot do. I get that – because that was totally me.  Totally me, that is, until a friend of mine recruited a bunch of very unlikely runners and introduced us to the C25K program from Cool Running.  

C25K stands for “Couch to 5K’.  COUCH.  As in – you don’t currently exercise at all because you are sitting on your couch.  The program is 9 weeks long and if you stick with it I am here to tell you that it works.  Can I get an amen from someone else who has tried it?  There is even a free MP3/iPod download that I confess I only used for about 4 weeks and did my own thing but the first couple of weeks it was crucial.  You run when the guy says run, stop when he says stop, and listen to his weird-ish music for 20 minutes, 3 days a week.

I am still not sure if I can say I love running.  I am getting there, but I do know that I would still be on the Couch (Potato) side of the C25K if it weren’t for the program.  For more Things I Love Thursday (and a giveaway!), head over to the Diaper Diaries.


Menu Plan Monday


Beef Stroganoff from The Cooking Blog


Hamburger Helper Substitute from Kitchen Stewardship


A very easy sounding Chicken Enchilada Casserole, except we’ll grill the chicken first.  If we don’t have a snowstorm.


Great Start!


Fish Tacos from Catholic Cuisine.

Before I can make any of these meals, I need groceries! The cupboards are bare. I am happy to let someone else find the best deals for me; so I go to Sarah’s Deals for Meijer Matchups and Family Fare Finds

For more Menu Plan Monday, go to The Organizing Junkie.


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!


Spring Break 2010

Time to round up the Spring Break happenings and make some plans.  For those of us sticking around town, let’s use this as a little test-run for summer vacation, when the kids are home.  All the time.  Every single day. That is, unless we plan for them to have tons of enriching, educational experiences.  Or get out of our hair a minute.  Either way is fine.  And because those of us not going on vacation are probably not sticking around because we have so much cash we just cannot figure out how to spend it; I’m talkin’ about free or crazy cheap.

  • If you want to jump right into it that weekend; on Saturday, April 3 the Home Depot Kids Workshop project is a butterfly house.  Not a big fan of butterflies and I prefer they live far away from me, but go for it.  From there, cruise over to  Michael’s, where kids can decorate a pail for Easter Egg Hunts. 
  • So we already know about the Grand Rapids Ballet performance.  If not; click on the link to read more.  Performances are all week. This requires tickets; so be sure to get ahold of some if you plan on going.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakuel will be the featured Flick Film Festival during spring break. 12 and below are free and it’s $3.50 for everyone else.
  • The Grand Rapids Public Library will have a “Spring Break With Fun Geodes” program at most of it’s branches; check the website for the time and date nearest you.  I didn’t see any spring break-specific stuff at Kent District Library, but there are the normal storytimes.
  • This doesn’t really fit into my ‘crazy cheap’ guideline; how about just ‘crazy cool’?  The Kent County Humane Society is having a Spring Break Mini-Camp for kids in grade K-5 on April 7-9.  It’s $35 per ‘camper’. 
  • Grand Rapids Tightwad just posted about a “Week of Cheap Fun” and recommended hitting the Grand Rapids Public Museum on Monday.  Admission is free for Grand Rapids residents – and they do check your ID.  They checked mine anyway, but maybe I just look sketchey.  If you choose to check out the Bug exhibit, you’ll pay $3 extra for that.  I took Maybelle last week, and it was cool but not mind blowing.  To me anyway.  Digging for the 7 stages of a grub worm’s life-cycle in a box of oatmeal really rocked her world.
  • On Tuesday, print off one of these activity guides and head over to the GRAM.  It’s cool.  And free for everyone on Tuesday afternoons.  If you went to another city for Spring Break, and you saw a nice museum like the GRAM that was free on Tuesdays, you would totally go and think it was cool.  Maybe get a rental car for the day if you need to feel like you are from out of town. 
  • Mrs. Betty Ford’s birthday will be celebrated at the Ford Museum on Thursday, April 8.  The museum is free and there is “cake for the first 750 visitors”.  I am totally going because I want to see a cake that will feed 750 people.  And be enriched and whatnot.
  • The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum has it’s Thursday Night $1.50 deal but oh my CROWD – I think I will pass on this.  Maybe we’ll go the week before just to get it out of our system.
  • On Saturday SwissLane Farms has a Dairy Discovery Day.  It’s been a long time since we’ve been there and I’m itchin’ to get back!  There is also a Lowes Build and Grow Workshop that day; kids can build a mini-baseball game. 

Seeking cultural enrichment makes me hungry. Fortunately, GRCC’s spring break already happened.  This means we can partake in yummy, inexpensive food from  Art & Bev’s,  or yummy, more expensive (but still an awesome value) from The Heritage, both on the campus of GRCC and are open Tuesday through Friday during lunch hours.  Neither are open during the summer; in fact they both close mid-April so now is the time!



A few blocks from my house, there are big Menards buckets sitting under a tree with tubes coming out of them.  The tubes are about eight inches long and go right up and into the tree.  I was a little confused when I first saw it.  Did this tree have some kind of disease? Is this how trees get intravenous treatments? What does Emerald Ash Borer look like? Is it contagious? Does it hurt the tree? 

I think like this all the time.  I’m not kidding.  It’s torture.

Then I realized nothing was going into the tree, silly, something was coming out.  For as much time as I spend outside, I can’t identify squat so I had to assume it was a maple tree.  These were taps, and pretty fancy ones at that.  The sap just went neatly into the bucket.

There is a very short list of things that make me happier than resourcefulness.  I loved these urban syrup farmers, whoever they were.  I’d tap my own trees if I could figure out which ones had syrup fixin’s in them, and which ones just had, ah, tree blood.  

As soon as AP could walk I started dragging him to Sugarbush at Blandford Nature Center.  It’s a great little celebration of syrup and the colossal big deal it is to get, like, one teaspoon. I make a big deal out if it too, and this week we headed over to the library for a  few syrup-making books like we always do.  The Grand Rapids Public Library also put together a list of books. 

We only ever buy real maple syrup (little fyi – it’s cheapest at Costco, unless it goes on sale at Meijer) , but it’s tradition that we buy a bottle at Blandford and have pancakes for dinner that night.  Sometimes it’s still really snowy, and sometimes it’s muddy but I like that.  There is something about being able to enjoy the harvest of something in weather that vacillates like crazy from year to year that makes for a good, enduring, Michigan kid.

Blandford has changed their website about 18 times since I had kids; here is the current one with a list of events for Sugarbush.  Try and get there for a guided tour; it’s really hands-on and interesting from the actual tree tapping (where they poke it and let the sap drip out) to the boiling and processing where the actual end result is achieved.  It seems like kind of a hassle, it’s muddy and maybe there will be a crowd but really, this is the stuff that makes memories for kids, you know?


Psst – I Know Why You're Tired

OK Mami, let’s talk.  Let’s talk about that run-down feeling we get.  Let’s talk about how discouraging it can be to coordinate school schedules and tap class and soccer and making dinner and emptying the dishwasher and sending that birthday card out and cutting out coupons and taking the stuff on the back porch to Goodwill and cleaning the toilet.  Let’s talk about trying to get the right amount of sleep and exercise and finding the right system to keep everything organized.  It’s hard because it’s impossible – but frustrating because it’s required.

The world is no help.  It’s always telling you about something you should be doing, or becoming more aware of.  In like a lion out like a lamb my butt. March is: Dental Health Month, Parenting Awareness Month, Red Cross Month, Organ Donation Month, National Nutrition Month, and Reading Month.    March 7-13 is National Sleep Awareness Week.  The Fourth Tuesday in March is Diabetes Alert Day.  It’s exhausting.

And well-meaning as your family is, I firmly believe that once in a while you have got to get away from these people.  Girls’ night and going out to coffee are great but not nearly long enough.  I didn’t understand that I could ‘get away’ with going away until I discovered the secret:  come back happy and relaxed.  That part is easy.  It takes about 12 hours for your brain to realize that no one is going to ask you for anything except your dinner order and if you want a pizza with mushrooms and onions go for it because no one is going to make a frownie-face or fling them off with disgust.  Take as much time as you want in the knick-knack store because that kid over there shaking the snow globes is not yours.

I go away for one weekend a year, usually to Traverse City.  I love TC and I think it loves me right back.  It’s the Cherry Capital of the World.  It has a fun downtown.  It’s on the water.  Fashion-wise, I fit in perfectly.  Everyone is wearing some version of the fetching little number called, “Why Bother – It’s Going To Get Mud On It”.  Dogs are everywhere.  I meander, and chat with people who seem interesting, and drink fancy coffee.  I sleep late, and hog the whole bed. I write and think and pray and nap. It’s two straight days of pure lovely.

That’s what I love – getting away. And coming back to the same lists and chores and plans and campaigns – but they look much smaller when I return.  For more Things I Love Thursday, go have a visit with The Diaper Diaries.


Grand Rapids Ballet

Spring Break is coming, which means that spring is coming, which is very good news, no? I think we can all agree on that.  It was so (relatively) warm I decided to take my running show on the road this morning.  It’s waaaay different out there -what with the birds, and the trees. And the curbs, and the hills.  I took my poor cooped up dog, too.  She added nothing to the experience.  Mid way through she decided to stop for a potty break, of course, and I had a little baggie in my sweatshirt, of course.  I tried to tie it to her leash because – gross.  That didn’t work, it just fell off and made a bigger mess.

Meanwhile I wondered what people driving by me in cars thought.  Maybe they thought I was too slow.  Maybe they would shout something mean to me out the window.  But this time, I had a bag with dog poop with Meanie-Meanface’s name on it.   I was almost disappointed when I found a trash can.

Let me get back to where I started.  It’s much more high brow, I promise.  There will be more spring break info coming soon, but I got in contact with the Grand Rapids Ballet earlier this week, and found out that tickets to their special spring break show, Every Princess Ballerina Needs a Superhero Dancer, are flying off the shelves.  Or out of the drawer. Or wherever tickets fly from.

It’s a brand new ballet for children with 30 minute performances through the entire week of April 5-9.  Tickets are $5 per person and include pre-show activities and a take-home goodie bag with an art project and some offerings from local businesses.  Daily performances at 11:30 am, with pre-show activities at 11:00 am. Additional performances Wednesday and Friday at 1:30 pm, with pre-show activities at 1:00 pm. Call the Ballet Box Office at 616.454.4771 x.10. The Peter Martin Wege Theatre is located at 341 Ellsworth SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

Cultural activities are good.  They make up for the times when your kids watch Sponge Bob for three hours while you finish up your book club book, or when they get the crazy idea to throw a bag of dog poo at someone.  Take advantage of this one.  I did :)

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