Healthy Habits


Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 14-08-2012

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Pasta.  Lotsa pasta. The photo above is about as familiar to me as my own hand.  Pasta has been a staple in my life since birth.  In fact, my first food was probably a Parmesan rind.  Well, that mixed with a dab of Brandy on the gums for teething.

I come from an Italian family who used food to celebrate, mourn, welcome, comfort and bond with one another.  We spent more time sitting around the table than anywhere else.  Honestly, I have such warm memories of hours-long meals, where the only thing louder than the conversation was the clinking of our forks on our plates.

So, you can imagine my Noni’s horror the day I held up my bowl and declared, “No pasta, only sauce.” It was blasphemous.  No pasta? No pasta? While she reluctantly respected my request, she spent the rest of the meal eyeing me with suspicion.  This was over 10 years ago – and she spent the following years looking me up and down, always saying “You’re too skinny.”

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for someone to accuse me of being too skinny today!  Alas, I am still trying to shed my baby weight from having Bitzy 5 months ago. I am also struggling to find enough balance in my daily life to schedule in regular exercise.  But, what I have absolutely made time for is eating healthily.

(Once a week, I take a yoga class with both girls. This is not enough, but it’s a start that I feel really good about).

I grew up with a pretty distorted image of myself, and became aware of my food choices pretty early on.  But, like anything, education is a process.  I have refined my diet over the years, and will continue to do so as I learn.  I am now motivated by health, rather than vanity (though I’d be lying if I said my muffin top didn’t bother me! All in time….).  And, I actually really enjoy grocery shopping – another way I get my kids involved in the process of preserving our family’s commitment to health.

My hope and desire is to set a good example of health for my girls.  Several months back, my husband and I realized that we somehow fell into the ugly trap of bribing DJ with treats. “If you get into the car right now, we’ll give you a gummy bear.”  Yikes, I shudder now to think of how much sugar I poured into DJ’s system in the name of cooperation!  One day, I woke up and said “What are we doing?”  We stopped that practice, but definitely do still allow DJ to be a kid.  We do ice cream, candy, cookies, cake, etc – but all within moderation, and not as a reward for good behavior.

I don’t want to be fanatical about it, though.  I don’t want to give the impression that any kind of food is bad.  I just don’t want feelings of good or bad, to be associated with food.  Then you get into all that psyche stuff – and I just don’t wanna go there!  What I do want to do is cook delicious food, while including my girls – teaching them that really yummy stuff does come in green!  (And not that I’m patting myself on the back or anything, but DJ LOVES Swiss chard).

When I was growing up, my favorite seat in the house was on the kitchen counter.  To this day, whenever I go to my dad’s house, I hoist myself up onto the counter while he cooks.  I believe that more than what was served on the table, what sparred my love for cooking was being involved in the process.  It’s such a creative outlet for me, and I am desperate to pass the same impression onto my girls.

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen at my house, experimenting with different recipes and ingredients.  I hope that my example allows my girls to grow up with a healthy attitude toward food.  I pray that my investment in their health and awareness will save them from future body-image issues because they will feel vibrant and healthy.  I’m hopeful that they’ll do better in school, with a greater ability to concentrate and stay engaged.  And yes, I am hopeful that they’ll form more refined taste-buds and instinctively prefer whole foods to non-foods.




Posted by MissyHall | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 24-07-2012

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Can you get “adoption cravings” like you get “pregnancy cravings”? Many years ago, a large slice of chocolate cake passed by me at dessert and it did not look tasty at all.  Yep, I knew it! I was pregnant.  The only thing that sounded good was vegetables (what?!) and loads of bread to keep the pukies back. The next time I was pregnant, same thing: three months of only wanting healthy stuff, followed by 6 months of an appetite as big as the moon.  So, I am once again craving healthy stuff, but this time it has taken some hard work, re-training and major self control. … So far, this ” adoption pregnancy” has been over a year and since I don’t know when baby will come, I figured I can’t go by the old plan of 9 months to put on weight, 9 months to take it off… (which was not so much the reality for me anyhow).

Basically, while we wait, I am going to make some overdue health changes! I have a little more time and I am ready to focus on making some changes.  I have been believing things that just aren’t true.  I need to “weed” out some lies, replace them with truth and be strong enough to make some changes that will benefit both me and my family long term. While we were waiting to watch the new Batman movie (yes, it’s great!) I saw an ad for coke (my favorite!)

“Open Happiness”…well, it’s a lie.  And I’ve believed it for a long time.  I have bought into the do what makes you happy in the moment because parenting is about survival in the first years.  The thing is that my kids are older now, and not having everyday tantrums and there truly is not any “need” for me to dive into the candy jar or cookie dough or super-sized coke to find happiness at the end of a trying day.  Now, it’s just a bad habit.  I have been starting my day with soda (I say because it makes me sweeter, but not really) and, my kids have been noticing. Hmmm.  I think it is time for me to find better ways of coping and new things that make me happy.  So, I’m learning to love (even crave?) some healthier foods.

So, this week I’ve cut all soda!  I have cut out desserts!  And, I’m working towards cutting bread/ white flour out too (Gina, you’ve inspired me :) But, it isn’t easy.  I think that training is never easy.  I think, similarly, parenting is never easy. But, it is a combination of our daily choices that all have consequences, both good and bad.

I want to make choices that will be beneficial and this is a habit that needed to be broken before another child joins us.  I don’t want him/her to think the answer to problems is just to open a bag of cookies.  (Wow, how often does my kid fall down and I literally say, “A lollipop will make it all better.”) I want to display self control in my own life so that when I ask my children to have self control they will have actually seen it modeled.  I want them to know there are more positive ways to deal with stress, because Future Child might have some stuff to deal with.

Note, this is not me preaching at anyone.  I think we (especially women) ought to do a better job first at accepting/ loving ourselves, but also be willing to make some hard changes when necessary.  It is simply my personal journey of whats going on during this ever-growing season of waiting and how we are preparing our home, hearts and minds for whatever lies ahead.

How do you make changes in your life that are necessary? How do you change your cravings?

Botulism Anyone?


Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 28-07-2011

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I am not Amish.  But every once in a while I do enjoy channeling my inner Mennonite and trying something simple, or at the very least, completely back-to-basics and non-technological.

This month’s project was making homemade jam.  We had an overabundance of strawberries from our berry picking outing and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to engage in something hands-on and a bit primitive. What could be more authentic than a ritual like canning the harvest? What could be simpler than three ingredients?  What could be more quaint and old-fashioned?

To begin my journey to a simpler time, I got in my SUV (Hybrid!) and headed to Target.  I needed supplies like jars, lids and rings.  And sugar.  Oh, and a big non-reactive pot to cook my jam. And special jar-grabbing tongs and other things with a registered trademark. And four more pieces of equipment that I didn’t have as suggested by a website on preserving that accepted PayPal.

I hurried home. Among all the various methods by which my parents tried to kill me as a child — no seat belt, defrosting meat on the counter and cheese 70’s variety shows — botulism from my mother’s attempts at home canning was not among them so I figured I could probably handle the safety aspect.  I Googled “strawberry jam” and downloaded a pdf file with explicit instructions.

The first step was to sterilize the jars. This could be done with the special setting on my dishwasher. Next, I was to boil the fruit, sugar and water on the stove and let the recipe work it’s magic. Thinking I was being particularly Amish-y, I decided to double the recipe and feed the whole village with my jelly.

This did not work so well. Instead of a thick, delicious strawberry jam, I seemed to have produced my own suburban wine-label — cheap, sickeningly sweet, slightly fermented fruit with subtle tones of Kool-Aid and the alcohol content of Listerine and vanilla extract. I immediately called my local ATF followed by the 1-800 number on the box of mason jars.

All was not lost, a helpful customer service rep said from her cubicle in a Long Island office park. She explained that all I had to do was add pectin, re-cook and voila!  Old-fashioned strawberry jam would at last be mine.  Another trip to the store more pectin, new lids and rings, additional sugar and when the digital thermometer registered 218.5 degrees, a perfect marmalade would be staring at me!

Lo and behold, it worked and I now am the proud owner of a dozen quilted-glass stamped jelly jars of thick, twice-boiled fruit and sugar that may or may not kill me and my family.

All tallied, I spent $78, 12 kilowatt hours, 7 gallons of gasoline and about a thousand terabytes of bandwidth for my simple homemade jam.

Yep, just like the Amish used to make.

Park Therapy


Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 14-03-2011

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DJ had her 18 month check up last week – and it was awful.  I wish I could say that the shots were the worst part, but they weren’t.  Well, not to me anyway. I am certain that if DJ could talk in sentences, she’d fight that one to the bone!  I do have to say though, that for some reason, this round of vaccinations were traumatic for her.  She cried – wait, she wailed, for what seemed like hours.  She also took full advantage of the situation and is STILL (3 days later) making me kiss her “knee” – the only word she knows for the anatomy of her leg.

So, what could have possibly been worse than the giant needles jammed into her innocent skin?  THOSE DAMN PERCENTILE CHARTS.  Damn those wicked, debilitating, fear-mongering percentile charts.

DJ has always been small.  She was 6 lbs 7 oz when she was born, and while always healthy, has just never grown exponentially.  When I look at her, I see perfection of course – and it’s only when her pediatrician mentions her ranking against “other kids” that I begin to panic.  Can someone tell me who these other kids are?

Leading up to DJ’s appointment, I was feeling incredibly confident.  I had suspected that she had gained weight, and had even been getting taller.  Because I have always been slightly obsessed with her size because she’s always been ranked below the tenth percentile, and because people always comment on how petite she is – there was a lot, in my mind, weighing (no pun intended) on the numbers from this doctor’s visit.  I was telling myself that I would finally put this obsession to rest when the doctor was able to reassure me that DJ’s numbers went up.

“Well, she’s actually lost weight since her last visit 4 weeks ago.”  Wait, what?  I felt my whole body tense up, and I froze.  Well, everything except my mouth froze – and I began rattling off how this couldn’t be, and what did it mean, and how worried this all made me.  DJ’s doctor told me that she wasn’t concerned for a number of reasons – because DJ was going to be petite based on genetics (my husband and I are both shorties!), because developmentally DJ was ahead of the gang, and because she “looked wonderful.”

We left that appointment with another check-up scheduled in 2 LONG months (yes, I will be obsessing over this for the next 2 months…..daily) – and with me on the very edge.  I was so snappy with my poor husband – and later had to apologize, then admit that I was just so, so stressed out.  I had never prepared myself for news other than that DJ was soaring UP the growth charts.

I took DJ to the park when we got home.  I was texting my good friend (and fellow worrier) while I was watching DJ walk up the playground stairs and slide down the big kid slide.  I was desperate to find comfort, encouragement, support – even if just through a simple text.  While my friend was amazing, and said all the right words, I still vomited this story all over the first mom who even looked my way.

“She just had her 18 month check up.  She’s in the first percentile for weight.  I’m devastated.”  This poor mom was probably thinking, “Get a grip, psycho – and stop airing your dirty laundry.”  However, the really amazing thing about her was that she poured out all these candy-coated words of wisdom and assurance, and sprinkled them in with a little humor, “At least she’s not short and obese – that’s a yucky combo.”

My laughter must’ve been the green light for a playground dad to interject.  He told me that two of his three children were always under the tenth percentile for height and weight – and that by the time they both turned 5, they had caught up.  He was so sweet, and helped me reason through some of the inaccuracies associated with a percentile chart.   He even made it a point to comment on how much more advanced DJ was then either of his daughters were at her age – and even compared his 16 month old son with DJ, noting how she seemed leaps and bounds beyond his capabilities.  I was super touched that for a moment, this dad was willing to say that I had the smarter, more agile kid, because he knew how desperately I needed to hear it.

When I got back home, not only was I in a better mood – but, I was ever so slightly less anxious about the appointment.  I also remembered that DJ was in all of her clothes, shoes, and most likely pee-filled diaper at her last appointment.  This was an important detail to me because I remember briefly celebrating her weight last month, only to think “Oh, well, she is wearing a few pounds of clothes.”  So, really, I don’t think DJ lost weight from her last appointment – which was my greatest concern.

I can’t pretend that I haven’t been tossing “failure to thrive” around in my mind every other hour these past few days, but I am feeling more and more confident in DJ’s individuality.  She is never going to be a big person – there are no big people in either my or my husband’s family (by that, I seriously mean no one over 5’7”).  So, really, what do I expect?  If the doctor isn’t worried, why am I?

I will keep buying every toddler recipe book that I see, will keep up the butter-on-everything approach, will keep my cookie cutters readily available to make sandwiches and fruit more attractive, and will continue allowing a scoop of whole milk ice cream here and there in combination with all the rest of the uber-healthy food that I prepare fresh for DJ everyday – oh, and will keep surrendering my fears.  In my gut, I know she’s fine.

My baby girl is perfect – and I am so, so grateful for the strangers in the park a few days ago who were selfless enough to let me have the most perfect kid on the playground that evening.

P.S. I stayed awake until 2:00 this morning making food charts, lists of calorie-rich foods, and even new snack recipes.  Whether or not there’s something to worry about, taking control makes me feel like a better mom.

Bread and Jam


Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 10-02-2011

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I read Bread and Jam for Frances to my kids the other night. It was one of the more significant books of my early childhood. When I was 2 I received a stuffed bear in my Easter basket (yeah, Easter, should have been a bunny, whatever). I named her Frances and she became my most significant toy for the next 10 years. I realize Frances is a badger, not a bear, but don’t get hung up on the details, okay?

With this rereading of it, it dawned on me why I liked the book so much. Once Frances has her epiphany and realizes there is more to eat than bread and jam, Hoban spends a page describing her lunch.

I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup . . . a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And a vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with.

The utterly charming illustration that accompanies this shows Frances at her school desk with her lunch spread out on a doiley and finished off with a tiny vase of violets. How could you not love this? It’s all about the food and the presentation of the food. I was a fledgling foodie then, though I didn’t realize it.  My mother was all about the presentation of food — colorful plates, parsley garnishes and all.  So of course I found this and appealing on many levels. I think it’s the cherries in a basket and the cardboard salt shaker that put me over the edge.

On the way home from school the next day, my daughter started plotting out her dinner–“a grilled cheese sandwich, a side of tomato soup, a little shaker of salt, a few carrots . . .”

The legacy continues.