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.


More Than Enough


Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 01-05-2012

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Since last week, I’ve started to write this blog 182 times (maybe more). Each time I begin, I’m derailed by the temptation to instead write about tantrums, as they’ve been ruling our life these days. But, the truth is, for my own well being, I cannot give the tantrums any more energy than they already sap me of. As difficult as it may be, I have to alter my parenting perspective. I must think about, and focus on, constructive things – which might in fact, be at the heart of the tantrums anyhow.

Speaking of heart – mine has both expanded, and been torn, since having Z almost 7 weeks ago. DJ has had a harder time adjusting than we expected, but I think that’s more a result of our naivety than a testament to her ability to accept change. As much as we prepared DJ, it’s like labor itself, there’s just no way to predict exactly how it will go. It’s been painful, at times, to see DJ floundering to express her complex and jumbled emotions.

In an attempt to ensure she remains certain of my love for her, I’ve been making a point of carving out time for just she and me.  Whether it’s reading a few books together behind closed doors, digging in the sandbox, snuggling at night before bed, or a special date outside the house – I’m trying to do this a few times a week. It’s good for us both.

Last week, we took the dogs for a walk before dinner while the hubs and Z stayed behind. I had an agenda. I planned to get into DJ’s head by asking her questions about her feelings. I planned to validate her feelings, to load her up with praise, and to tell her how much I love her. I figured we’d come home feeling cleansed, and lighter from having cleared the weight of doubt, jealousy and insecurity.

Unfortunately, my agenda was trumped for random questions about barking dogs, and an impromptu lesson on what “territorial” means. My deep thoughts were interrupted for observations about ants, falling leaves and blooming flowers. We giggled while our dogs’ leashes tangled and tripped us up, and we guessed at what kind of birds made the loud chirping sounds we heard as we strolled along. No matter how many times I tried to push my Cliff Notes onto my little girl, she steered me right back to her 2 1/2 year old world.

DJ lives in the moment, and she desperately wants me to exist in that same space with her.  Don’t all of our children want that from us? Isn’t that all they’re longing for? For us to be present. Totally present.

I fall short of that so often.  And while laundry must get done, and the house has to be vacuumed and dinner has to be made, and Z must be fed – I also must remember to stop, often, and check in with DJ. On her level, about her world. About what’s important and interesting to her at any given moment.

On Sunday, I took her for her first manicure and pedicure – which really just meant she got her nails painted.  I made a really big deal out of how this was a special mommy/daughter date, and then I let her lead, no agenda.  This meant that I bit my tongue as she chose the sparkly purple polish color, and chatted about things like hot chocolate, bubbles and bears. I refrained from overcompensating for my guilt over my split attention since having Z. Rather than bolstering DJ up with fluffy words regarding my love for her, I was just present instead.  It felt really good.  She was beaming, and I was free from the pressure to make an impact of some sort – that part happened organically.

I keep thinking about a song that we sing in church, called “More Than Enough.” While of course it wasn’t written from the perspective of a toddler to her parents, I can’t help but relate the lyrics to my relationship with my daughter.  I can’t help but hear her sweet voice singing these words to me:

“All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough”

In my busiest, most frustrating moments – I’m going to try to remember that for my daughter, I’m more than enough, so I must stop and be there.  Really be there.

Bodies Selling Burgers


Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 08-03-2012

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Have you seen this commercial?

Does it make you as uncomfortable to watch as it makes me?  It makes me feel a little nauseous, angry, disappointed, and even a bit embarrassed.

This is 19 year old Kate Upton, 2012 Sports Illustrated Cover Model.  While 19 is, by all intents and purposes, considered an “adult” in most US states – I still find it hard to believe that someone this young is so well versed in seduction.  I’m 15 years older than this chick, and much to my husband’s dismay, don’t even come close to exuding this much sex appeal. I suppose, however, that there’s a difference between sexy and sex appeal – and for the latter, our society seems to have no boundaries, limits or appropriate standards.

Every so often, I will pass a woman in the bread aisle at Safeway, or catch a glimpse of a woman playing with her child at the park, or see a woman walk into a restaurant, and I think “Wow, she’s a sexy woman.”  When I have this thought, what I am actually noticing is her confidence.  I am noticing her tall posture, her assured gait, the way she makes eye contact with everyone in her path, and the way her smile is authentic and lasting.  Without exception, these sexy women are older – experienced, wiser, with stories to tell of a life well lived.  They define sexiness from a place deep within – a destination that took them a while to navigate toward.  These women are fearless, because they know who they are.

My husband puts me in this category, and I am so thankful to him for that.  With each of my pregnancies, he falls more deeply in awe of my capabilities as a woman.  As I became a wife, and a mother, I became more sure of who I was because the roles that I slipped into were the roles that I was created for.  With my increasing age and life experience came confidence – and that confidence is what my husband now describes as sexy.  He looks beyond the extra weight, the stretch marks, the loose skin on my belly – and he sees a woman who wears her own skin with pride.

How many of us knew who we were at 19 years old?  By the standards that I just described above, we couldn’t possibly have been sexy at that age.  Instead, we had what’s called sex appeal – which is the ability to excite people sexually.  Sure, at 19, while flaunting too much skin – we were exciting boys both younger and older than ourselves.  Boys, and men, who were seeing us as objects – not well seasoned women with those stories to tell of a life well lived.  This is the very thing that disturbs me so much.  Why are we allowing 19 year old girls to climax over eating jalapenos for the arousal of her audience? At the risk of sounding totally brash, I wonder if Kate’s dad is blushing in a corner somewhere while his buddies are trying hard not to drool over their big-screen TV’s?

Now, it’s no secret that I’ve battled plenty of demons when it comes to my own self esteem.  I spent countless years as a pre-teen, teenager and young adult wishing to look like Kate – if even remotely.  I can actually remember thinking “Someday, someone will want me for my body.”  I wanted to have sex appeal.  I aspired to look sickly thin (though, genetically, could never achieve it) and wanted to be noticed for my body – not my brains nor, God forbid, my heart.  I was sick of being the nice girl, the girl who was like every guy’s sister.  Despite the heartburn, had this commercial aired when I was 19, I may very well have eaten a jalapeno burger every darn day in hopes of breaking into a sex-glistening sweat.  I was so impressionable, and I longed to be noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Things are different today.  I’m a mom of a 2 1/2 year old girl.  With another daughter due in less than three weeks.  I wish I could apologize for sounding like a total prude, and for being a little hard on Ms. Upton’s agents (and her own, “adult,” judgement) – but I can’t.  Not when I am trying my hardest to raise strong and confident women in a society that values such objectification of females.  There’s a difference between celebrating both the femininity and strength of women, and exploiting them for their assets.  But, it’s everywhere…images of young girls, staged with sex appeal, selling goods to consumers, is everywhere.  And our responsibility as parents has just been bumped up to Threat Level, Red.

Let me be clear here – I don’t consider myself a feminist in any way.  I’m not burning my bra, marching for women’s rights, or even demanding that I be paid for my job as a stay-at-home mom….where the work is unparalleled and the glass ceiling has no cap.  What I am doing is beginning to fight for my girls’ place in this world – free from the pressures of push-up bras and g-string panties in pre-teen sizes.  This fight started within myself, the day DJ was born.  I had to make a conscious effort to stop putting myself down.  I had to decide, that day, to only speak highly of myself in the company of my daughter.  I had to erase the look of dismay off my face when peering into the mirror.  I had to eliminate the words “fat,” and “diet,” and temper the use of “I wish,” and “if only.”  I had to start believing my husband when he said I was sexy, and I had to abandon the misdirected desire to have sex appeal. I had to commit to being an example of a confident woman in my daughter’s eyes – despite my weight, my height, the texture of my hair, the surface of my skin, the reach of my hips or the outdated clothes in my closet.  Just as I am.  Beautiful.

And then, something started happening.  I started noticing that no matter what messages I was sending my daughter – there was a whole big world out there sending her contrasting ones.  There are scantily clad women selling beer, cars, burritos, soft drinks, shaving cream, and even butter.  Worse yet, there are fragments of these women selling such products.  We see boobs, tummies, legs, butts – and no faces.  My daughter, bless her heart, always says “I can’t see her eyes.”  How poignant.  You’re right, sweet DJ, we can’t see her eyes – nor can anyone else.  And sadly, that’s not what consumers want to see these days.  (I’ve recently come across some videos on You Tube titled “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women.” These videos strive to point out, and confront, the media and advertisers for their portrayal of women in ads.  It’s startling to see the evolution of women’s placement in selling products).

So, how do we fix it?  I have no idea.  All I can do is commit to teaching, and teaching, and teaching my daughters about what is important and valuable in this life.  All I can do is vow to show my daughters the other side of this coin.  That for every “hot” girl selling fast food, there is an Amelia Earhart.  All I can do is teach my daughters about legacy, what will be remembered from their lifetime, and encourage them to leave an impact far greater than earning a few bucks for a burger chain.  Ultimately, they will battle peer pressure, and they will battle with their own identities.  That’s an inevitable rite of passage while growing up.  My hope, however, is that between me and their daddy, we will have built a foundation strong enough to endure such young hardship that their suffering will be minimal, and their rise above such issues will be fast and furious.  And maybe, just maybe, with enough parents daring to talk with their children about inappropriate images and human misrepresentation – we just might make some progress.

I admire people like Cindy Crawford, who has made a name for herself in modeling.  She has a 10 year old daughter, who designers have already begun targeting.  Ms. Crawford has taken a stand and will not allow her daughter to model until she’s 17.  She gives the following explanation, “…I also think when I was modeling, size 6 was a normal size and now it’s like 2 or 0. Being a woman and having a daughter, I don’t want her to feel like in order to be attractive or healthy or thin, that you have to deprive yourself all of the time.”  I guess one could argue that indulging in a jalapeno burger is hardly deprivation – but you get my point.

Anyhow, I have a huge and ongoing fight ahead – as we all do.  Our daughters, and our sons, need to know that there’s more to life than pretty people.  And while we should never undervalue the importance of exercise, the importance of eating healthily, or of taking pride in our appearance (nor should we ever feel the need to apologize for physical features that others might be envious of), we absolutely must detour our children from ever wanting to be recognized for their bodies.  Or, more importantly, thinking that’s the only way they can be recognized.

So Kate, it’s not that I blame you. You’ve been told that your body is hot, and it is.  But, I bet you’re really smart, too.  It’s just that 14 year old boys (and I shudder to think of the actual male audience over 14 years of age who are salivating for Kate’s spicy sesame bun) all over the country are now more interested in your breasts than your thoughts – and that’s because you let the media sell you out.  I want more for my daughters.  So much more.



Posted by liafreitas | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 06-04-2010

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If you ever read the comics in the Sunday paper you will have seen the strip Sally Forth.  Sally has a quirky habit around Easter of eating the ears off of chocolate bunnies, especially those of her daughter. Hilary annually schemes to hide her bunny, but inevitably fails.

I actually don’t read the comics on a regular basis but every Easter I check the newspaper to see the newest installment in the bunny ear saga.  In 2008, Hilary was successfully able to eat the ears off of her chocolate bunny before her mother did. This annual competition has caused Hilary to become Sally’s archnemesis.  I think it is hilarious!

My daughter just turned 5.  She is a drama queen at it’s finest and she kills me daily with her antics.  Easter was no different a day.  Of course, the bunny visited our house and left her copious amounts of candy with a few little gifts.  In the past she could really care less about the candy.  She would eat a few pieces and the rest would be left for her father and I to eat or toss.  I actually buy the candy I like since I know that I will be the one eating it!

Truth be told, I had planned to write about something totally different today but not more than 30 minutes ago my daughter walked up to me with her basket and said, “What the heck happened to my bunny?”  I had no clue what she was talking about since I had yet to dive into the bunny.  Sure enough the bunny ears had been broken while in the box.  The drama that ensued might win my child an Emmy this year.

“I can’t eat that bunny!  We have to get a new one!”

I tried to explain that there would be no other bunny and that the chocolate was still perfectly good.  She didn’t believe me.  So….I ate the ears.  She was beside herself which caused another monumental break down.  I seriously just had cover my face because I was laughing so hard.

Sally Forth ain’t got nothing on me!