The CSA Experiment

Our First CSA

Our First CSA

In this family, we are good at a lot of things.

Meal planning, grocery shopping, eating healthy, or exercising are not really among them.

Most of my exercise attempts result in disaster or are incomplete, and we pretty much eat whatever we feel like eating.

WHICH IS TERRIBLE!

Besides being neglectful of our health, it’s also very neglectful of our money.

A local coffee shop (walking distance from our house) recently got a makeover and moved into a larger space, and also incorporated a chocolate shop (yum) and a small Farmer’s Market (cool) in it’s space. As we were browsing one day we discovered that we could sign up for a CSA program called Farm to Family and our pick up location would be right there, at that cute little coffee shop right by our house. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and you pay up front and then receive weekly produce from local farmers.

After a lot of discussion and evaluating our bank account, we decided it’s something we would really like to try.

There were different levels of involvement, but we decided that we’d really like to make a change. We signed up for the “complete package” weekly option which includes dairy, meat, produce, and bread. Each week, we will go to our local coffee shop, pick up our goodies, and return home with organic products all grown by local farmers. Though I was initially concerned about the price, once we looked at our bank account to see how much we actually spend on food, we will wind up saving money this way IF we eliminate the grocery store and cut back on going out to eat.

And that is absolutely our plan.

We are eliminating the grocery store from our lives for the duration of our CSA experiment, which will run for 24 weeks (about 6 months).

I can pick up toilet paper, paper towels and coffee at Target. My only other concern was toddler snacks, and though so far our little guy is doing well with strawberries and cheese, I don’t mind supplementing some Goldfish from Target at some point, too.

My husband and I both hope this will make a positive difference in our lives. We will be saving money and making our lives easier by eliminating grocery lists and shopping from our chores. Whatever is available each week at our CSA pick up is what we will have, and though I’m a bit worried about meal planning within those terms, my husband thinks it will be an exciting challenge. We will also be supporting our local farmers and eating food that is more fresh and higher in nutrients than food that has been shipped from far away and shelved at a grocery store. I’m also hoping it will help our eating habits. Having locally grown vegetables for dinner has to be better for you than going through the drive-through or having taco night. Again. And if it helps make that number on the scale go down a bit? That would be a very nice bonus.

We just picked up our first share on Thursday. This week, we got trout, cornish hen, 3 cheeses, yogurt, granola, a loaf of bread, strawberries, apples, spinach, potatoes, carrots, radishes, leeks, tomatoes, mint and mushrooms. I’m impressed with the variety and love the simplicity of going to a place and having your locally grown groceries already packaged and ready to go.

Another great thing about this plan is that we are already committed, for the full 6 months, to this program, so we really will have time to feel out how to adjust to make this work for us.

Have you ever tried a CSA?

 

 

The Preschool Decision

Ever since my son’s preschool conference in January, I have been plagued with making a preschool decision.

 

For some reason, this decision seems monumentally hard.

 

I have finally succeeded in figuring out why…this is the first parenting decision I’ve had to think about.

 

Weird, right? From the time we find out we are pregnant we have to make parenting decisions. Doctors, birth plans, breast or bottle, crib or in your bed, stay at home or work, decisions, decisions, decisions.

 

The thing for me is, I already knew all of that stuff. I knew I wanted a natural birth (which didn’t happen…I wound up with a c-section.) I knew I wanted to breastfeed and have the baby in the bed with me and do baby wearing instead of car seat carrying. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom and I knew with 100 percent certainty that those were the RIGHT decisions FOR US. And they absolutely were.

 

When my son turned two I wanted him to start preschool a couple days a week. We found a preschool we loved and even though I had separation anxiety in the beginning, I knew it was a good choice. My son had an excellent year and I adore his first two teachers so much.

 

Then this year he is having kind of an off year in preschool, which made me wonder if his current preschool is still the right choice. He will also be old enough to start the Virginia Preschool Initiative Program this fall, so I wonder if we should take advantage of that resource. After a speech screening we also discovered that he needs speech for slight articulation issues which we have been paying $55 per half hour for once a week. He is not eligible for free services through the school system because his articulation is not severe enough to affect his development. So then enters a financial issue that we can not afford to continue private speech therapy AND next year’s preschool tuition. I am also the Parent Council Chair at my son’s school this year which has turned out to be a huge job.

 

Enter stressed out indecisive Mommy.

 

I think I’m having a hard time separating my frustration with Parent Council duties and my son’s experience at the school. Taking a step back, I realize that I do need to make the separation. I really do not like working with some of the Board members at the school, but if I was just a “regular parent” I would no longer have those responsibilities.
Our first year with his two year old teachers was so amazing, and unfortunately for whatever reason this year  has not felt that way. Part of it is that my guy is more of a “terrible threes than terrible twos” and part of it is that their teaching style seems to be much more supervisory rather than hands on. I also think the class size is too large and other parents have had a difficult time this year too, which is unfortunate. Also each year the tuition rises but unfortunately our budget does not.
BUT, my son still loves his peer group at his current school. He has been with the same kids since he was two years old. Taking a step back, I realize that part of what is making my Parent Council job so difficult is that I’m working so hard because I really do believe in this school and think it’s great. It’s felt right since the first time I toured it and I hate to take him and I away from an environment we’ve both become invested in. I believe his school experience would be teacher and peer dependent no matter what school he went to and know more about the teachers for next year at his current school than I do about ones in a new environment. If he goes back to his current school next year his hours would be Monday-Thursday 9-12, a schedule I feel good about.
The publicly funded (and FREE) Virginia Preschool Initiative program was developed for lower income schools and “at risk” kids, but is still an opportunity for a free preschool program at our local elementary school. The school down the street from us is really working hard to recruit new students and make it a true neighborhood school rather than all of the “privileged families” sending kids to private schools. My concerns are that the school day would be Monday-Friday 8-2 and what he would be exposed to in a lower socio-economic peer group. My son is the youngest in his class, and I worry that a full time schedule like that might be too much for him. Selfishly, I’m not sure I’m ready for him to be gone all day every day. Financially, it’s a great option. Our neighborhood school has this whole parent movement going on right now which is great, but I am nervous about my guy being in the guinea pig class for the new movement of changing the demographics of this school.
I also toured the Preschool Learning center, an entire elementary school devoted to the VPI program. It’s a great concept to have an entire elementary school of 4 and 5 year olds, but I did not feel at home during the tour. I think it was just too big, and it’s hours were Monday-Friday 9-3. With a 15-20 minute drive to get over there, I feel like I would just never get time with my little guy.
I have also looked at other private schools that would be less expensive for us next year, and even one that offers 5 day fours for less than what our current school offers 4 day fours. An extra day for less money sounds great, but I find myself still drawn to our current school because I do believe that in the midst of all of the drama it’s a good school.  And I do wonder about the consequences of changing my son’s  environment for pre-k, then again for Kindergarten, and then again when we most likely will move after my husband completes his residency.
Another factor to consider is our impending move. My husband will complete his residency in the summer of 2014, so we will definitely be in Richmond for one more year. He has applied to a fellowship that would allow us to be here through the summer of 2015, but we do not know if he’s been accepted yet. In Georgia, where we grew up and will most likely be moving back to, the cut off for school is September 1st. In Virginia, the school cut off is September 30th. So here, our son is the very youngest in his class. In Georgia time, he would not be old enough to start pre-K yet, and he will be the very oldest when he does start school there. This is another reason why I’m not sure that going forward with full time school is a good choice at this point.
The other component is speech. After a speech assessment with a private company, they said he needed private speech which we have been doing on Fridays for 30 minutes at $55 per half hour (!) I took him for a screening through the Richmond school system where he could get services for free, but he does not qualify for school services because his articulation issue is not affecting his development, communication, or comprehension. We can definitely not afford the cost of weekly speech and private preschool tuition. I wonder how much he really needs this private speech since the school system doesn’t think it’s a very severe problem.
We are not an older established family like a lot of the families at our current private preschool. We are still at the working our way up point and though tuition increases each year, our budget does not. So between finances, the option for a free state funded pre-k program, and a frustrating year, I’m just not sure what to do.
So that’s where I am now. In between choices and just feeling like this decision is so big because I don’t KNOW the right choice like I did with all of the other parenting decisions.
So many people have talked to me about this from my family to sweet blogging friends on Facebook and Twitter, my friends, and even my son’s sweet first teacher.
My husband is on board with the VPI program because it’s free and he thinks our son might do well with a longer school day and more structure. I genuinely don’t know what would be the best for our son.
I guess I’m writing this post not so much for advice, but for my own processing and to let you all in on the craziness that goes on in my mind.
And now I am going to lay it to rest for a week, because it’s Easter and next week is Spring Break! It couldn’t come at a better time. Happy Easter!

The Day I Saw the President

The sun was just beginning to peek its way through the trees as I bundled up my still sleepy three-year old son. I comforted him with sweet whispers and wrapped in him layers to protect him from the weather that has ever so subtly and recently brought us into fall.

“We are going to see the President!” I whispered in an excited fervor, as I urged him to put on his shoes.

Not understanding the significance or rarity of such an opportunity  my son whined and struggled, longing for a morning of Disney Junior and sleepy cuddles instead.

When we reached the car, I clicked him in his seat and soothed him and made promises of lunch at his favorite restaurant after the rally was over.

We drove the very short 2 mile drive to a neighborhood just little bit closer to the event than ours, and then my son and I began the walk to the event; a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the President speak in our hometown.

If we had been able to walk straight through, the walk would have only been 1.2 miles. Due to the heightened security surrounding this presidential event, our walk from the southside of Richmond to the Carillon park where the even took place was 3 miles long; an unexpected undertaking as I embarked on this trip alone with a toddler and no stroller.

Police officers were on tight patrol and the longer walking route was done to endure that no one could enter the event without first going through security. Our walk through residential streets was splattered with vendors selling Obama paraphernalia and I was reminded once again of how we were in the midst of a historically significant election year.

After an hour and a half of walking and lots of toddler carrying, we finally reached the start of the line. There, hidden beneath the trees of a quiet park in Richmond, VA, stood a line of people, all waiting with excited anticipation to see the President of our country. People had been waiting in line since 4:30 in the morning. My son and I finally arrived at the end at 11:00 AM. Leaves fell and covered the crowd in a colorful fall blanket as we joined a crowd of 15,000 people with hopeful hearts.

The crowd waiting to see Obama in RVA, 10/25/2012

A line of people to see the President hidden beneath the fall trees in a RVA park.

The line moved fairly quickly and my son and I were able to find a seat in the grass of the park by noon.

No food or drink was admitted due to security purposes  and admittedly, after our unexpectedly long walk and no food or drink all day, my son and I were both a bit tired and grumpy.

A tired toddler at the Obama political rally

My son and I sat and rested as we watched people continue to pour into the park. Spirits were high and standing there I knew I was in the midst of a group of people who believed in our President and were excited to hear his message.

Music blared through the loud speakers and my son and I passed the time with dancing and cricket chasing and playing with grass.

My son and I at the Obama rally in RVA

 

The Carillon tower decorated with an American flag served as the backdrop of Obama’s rally in Richmond.

Then it started. The large crowd hushed as we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem under the backdrop of a large flag hanging from the Carillon tower.

 We were led in an opening prayer by a local Richmond pastor. We got to hear speeches by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-3rd, Former Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

And then we got to see President Barack Obama.

My view of the rally, 10/25/2012. I couldn’t see much, but I could hear him and I was inspired by being at such an event.

The crowd’s screams of excitement were so moving and invigorating that they washed all previous complaints of tiredness and hunger away.

Here we were, in a crowd of 15,000 people, standing in a park just a few miles from our house, listening to the President of the United States give a speech. I was humbled by the historic significance such a gathering and the once in a lifetime chance that I was able to be there.

At some point before the president arrived my son fell asleep. I listened to President Obama as I held a sleeping toddler. My back ached with the weight of a 33 pound child resting in my arms, but my spirit was lifted by words of hope. My son woke up before the President gave his closing remarks and even got wrapped up in the crowd’s emotions himself, as he offered a few claps and “yays!”

It was a campaign rally, to be sure. President Obama stressed the importance of voting and outlined his policies and even made a few remarks about his opposing candidate, Romney. But when someone in the crowd began to boo, Obama said, “No, don’t boo, Vote!”

Throughout the day, people made comments about my son being there. I heard it all from, “Wow, you are brave to bring him here!” to “He’s so lucky you brought him.” to “I think you are doing a great thing. It’s so important. ” to a whispered hush of “Why would she bring a kid here?”

Perhaps it was a bit brazen of me to embark on round trip 6 mile walk and 4 mile drive alone with a toddler, no stroller, and no food or drink. There were certainly times in the day when I thought that maybe it was just plain crazy. But I am so very glad that we went.

I know my son did not understand the historical significance of such a moment and political policies and elections are (thankfully) not yet a part of his world.

But they are oh so important.

And so one day, when my son gets older, I will tell him that when he was 3 years old he got to see the President of the United States speak at a park close to our home in Richmond, VA. I will tell him that he got to be a part of history that day and how lucky he was to get to hear a sitting president speak in person.

Regardless of your political opinion, I think there is still a sense of awe in getting to watch the President of our country speak. I felt inspired and honored to get to be part of such an experience. And if the President of the United States ever comes to speak at a park just 5 miles away from your house? I think it is definitely worth going.

 

*Here are links to articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch, detailing the President’s time line of the day and an overview of the event.*

Carillon Hosts Obama 

Obama Rallies 15000 at Carillon in Richmond