On Being a Hypocrite

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I have been thinking a lot about hypocrisy lately.  Why, you ask? Well, I've been struggling to practice what I preach.

I've been dealing with achilles issues for four months.  I thought that I was doing a good job resting my injuries by mostly sticking with walking and doing a little more strength-training workouts instead of my regular 5-6 mile runs.

But last week, my feet completely broke down, old-lady-hobbling-around style.  Now my achilles are even worse than before, coupled with raging arch issues, intense heel pain, and tendonitis along the outside of one of my ankle bones into my leg.

Every google search basically pinpoints the same cause for each injury: "overuse."


I was so confused.  And mad.  I had only been walking 4 miles a day, 7 days a week.  As fast as I could.  And doing an additional half-hour to hour of strength training.  Only that.

But then I had to really look at what I thought was "resting."  I had to admit to myself that I clearly wasn't resting.  I was still pushing myself physically beyond what I should have, beyond what was in my body's best interest at the time.

And why?

Because I need to be outside in nature?  Because I need the endorphins?  Because I want to be strong and healthy?  Yes, yes of course--to all of those.

But also, because somewhere deep down inside of me, I'm still terrified of getting fat.

Exercise--and a lot of it--is a big stress relief for me, most certainly.  However, in having this forced-evaluation of my exercise habits, I am realizing it is also a way to deal with the anxiety around my body and eating that I am still haunted by almost minute-by-minute.  An anxiety still lingering from the hard-wiring I created through years of being a slave to my body and food obsessions.  A slave to my frenemy, Fear.  (He gets a pronoun.  And he's a "he."  I guess I'm sexist.)

I had to admit something to myself: I am a hypocrite.

Despite all my preaching, Fear is still ruling parts of my life, even ten years into my recovery.  Two small examples:

1) Since it debuted, I have been unable to watch The Biggest Loser.  It has always been an intriguing show for me, especially considering the premise of people doing hard things and improving their lives.   But whenever I sat down and tried to view it, I'd find myself feeling incredibly anxious and I would have to leave the room or change the channel.  It felt that watching those obese people's struggles and humiliations was like seeing one of my worst fears come to life: getting fat.

2) My husband and I went on a date last year where we asked each other "newlywed questions."  One was, "What is your greatest fear?"  And I had to admit to him, that beyond losing a loved one (that is definitely my #1 fear), is the fear of getting fat.


This past week, I had to re-evalute my honest-to-goodness motivation behind my personal health and fitness regimes.  It was pretty alarming for me to recognize that Fear not only remains in my brain's hard wiring, being an annoying back-seat driver to my thoughts and choices; but Fear is still too-often in the driver's seat.

Monica, you know better.  Monica, you've been down this road.  Monica, you are letting Fear win. Again.

And besides that, if I got fat or even gained 10 pounds, what is so wrong with that?  Fat is not inherently evil. My body is still valuable and of unchangeable worth, even if it were heavier.


A part of me doesn't seem so easily convinced, even after all this time trying.   A part of me still believes in Fear.

Sure, I am doing WORLDS better on this front than I was ten years ago.  I am proud of the progress I have made in trying to accept myself and take Fear and his tyrannical power out of my eating and exercise choices.

But I just wanted my little world to know that I am also a hypocrite.  A hypocrite who feels anxious that she can't exercise her calories away.  A hypocrite who still find herself over-analyzing food consumption.  A hypocrite who wants SO badly to diet now because she can't exercise like a maniac.

BUT, I am also a hypocrite who is willing to face Fear head-on and keep fighting him.  A hypocrite who isn't going to look into the latest clean-eating diet or do hours of foot-free exercising daily.  A hypocrite who is still going to do her best to learn her lesson, to listen to her body and actually rest it, the way it really needs her to.

And eventually a hypocrite who is going to start up that running again with the real motivations she wants to be in the driver's seat.  And that driver's name is Monica.

Fear, you can hitch a ride with someone else.

Where I Put ALL THE TOYS, + A Gender-Neutral Shared Kids Room

Monday, August 29, 2016

When we moved from our one-bedroom apartment to our three bedroom house, I was surprised by two things: how much bigger our home felt, and how quickly we were able to fill it up with stuff.  And mostly kid stuff.

We are now two additional kids and almost-four years later, so you can bet even more stuff has been accumulated.  And seeing all. the. things. makes the perfectionist in me really sweaty.  As much as I love seeing my kids play, I hate stepping on or around their things all day.  

The variables are stacked against us though: three kids, two genders, different preferences, shared bedrooms, small house, and a lot of toys, books, and art supplies.  After a lot of trial and error, and as a real-mom-without-a-house-cleaner, I can sum up my tips for toy organization with: 


1) Purge and Organize Often

I would love to be a minimalist toy owner.  But kids gotta play!  Plus, they are toy magnets.  While we do a good job of limiting our own toy purchases, I find it nigh impossible to turn down a free hand-me-down toy from a neighbor and I most definitely enjoy having my kids get a present or a hard-earned prize that makes them so, so happy.   

When we do bring toys into our little home, I try to do my best to only get something that will be well loved by all the kids and for a long time, such as the dollhouse, play kitchen (from ikea), doctor's kit, and trains.  Most of the other toys are great gifts from relatives (like dolls, trucks, and sticker books), or the little toys they somehow collect (prizes, party favors, etc.).  However, that last category of toys are tossed when the kids aren't looking ASAP, if I'm being honest...  

In fact, I gradually purge all the time--by collecting random toys and clothing that need to be donated and putting them in my donation pile, throughout my daily tidying up.  If purging is a regular occurrence, it takes far less time and stress!  I also do a more intense purge every few months.

2) Use Containers

Because we live in a 1,200 foot house, I tend to encourage my kids to play in their room, but they are more than welcome to also play in the front room and the nursery.  So basically, we have toys everywhere. BUT they all have a place where they belong!  That, coupled with intermittent rounds of purging is what has kept our home from looking like a hoarder house.   And whatever survives my wrath needs a place to reside.  Girl, you've got to get yourself some containers, STAT!

The OCD in me realllly comes out while I prepare for my baby's birth, so the whole house has been purged and intensely organized quite a few times.  I feel like we are in a good place--for now--with how our toys are stashed away.  

My older kids' room was where most of my work went during my last round of nesting.  With the baby coming, my girl and boy needed to share a room (most of their toys were already there--just poorly organized). I stuck to mostly gender-neutral colors, but added some fun with their yarn letters and gender-specific quilts my talented mother made, and pillows I made.  
This is where I apologize for the lighting in these photos...  This room is very dark, unfortunately, and near impossible to photograph well.  This was my fourth attempt within the past six months to get good enough photos for the blog.

I also did my darnedest to set their room up in a way that they could easily access AND put their toys away.  I bought this huge shelving unit from Ikea (here's a similar one) and went to town purging and organizing.  Not much has changed the past year, so we're looking pretty good!
Most of those boxes are organized by a general description of the toys inside.  Two boxes aren't divided by anything specifically, except that one is for Bella's special toys (tea set and little plastic dolls) and RG's special toys (tools, dinosaurs, and action figures). Also, there are three small baskets above that have all the little baby toys.
The basket under the dresser holds their shoes.  We also have a large basket by our front door that we keep one pair-per kid so they can quickly get out the door.
A corner spot for purses, backpacks, and the tent.
They have a little desk that is colored on every single day.  My kids love, love art so there is almost always a little project getting worked on there.  Those containers are Perch containers, and we are SO SO glad we bought them.  In the closet, I have more containers for Bella's dolls, their stuffed animals, marble set, and other play items that aren't used often, but we still want to keep (like felt stories). 

Toys aren't limited to the bedroom though!  In the family room's bookshelf, I have a big basket that has trains and wooden blocks, but also some other odds and ends toys. In the two white containers, I keep most our crafting and art supplies.  By the fireplace (which you can see here), we house library books and smaller puzzles.  Speaking of books, we also have a ton in the nursery, which you can see here.  (The nursery photos also show where I keep the dress-up stuff!)

In the kitchen, I've got their play kitchen.  

In the backyard, we have all the neighbors' toys they no longer wanted, ha!!  Including the play set.  Yes, we've got a white trash backyard, but it is well loved by our kids!  There is also a spot for chalk (not pictured, but trust me--it's filthy) and all of RG's trucks so he can play construction all day long.

3) Make your kids clean up

Everything in our house has a "home" where it goes.  For the most part, my kids know where everything's "home" is, so I don't have to be all obsessed about it.  One of the keys to keeping our home manageably-clean is that my kids can play, play, play as long as they do their best to put their stuff away in their proper place before they move on to the next thing.  (This is a work in progress, just in case you thought they got that part down.  They don't!)  And another big key to a clean house is my kids are only allowed to watch their one show of the day if they have had a nap/quiet time AND have cleaned up every single toy in the house.  This usually happens as I'm about to cook dinner.  They are extra motivated to watch Octonauts, so it's a win-win for everyone!

I'm definitely not an organization expert.  Just a real mom who also likes a pretty house, but doesn't want to be a slave to her things (and her kids' toys).  So remember: 1) PURGE and ORGANIZE OFTEN, 2) USE CONTAINERS, and 3) MAKE YOUR KIDS CLEAN UP!

Some other great moms are sharing about their kids' toys, if you'd like to check them out! I'd venture to guess that mine is the most long-winded...  (You can sign up to participate in a similar series at either Madeline or Kiana's blog, while you're at it.)

Kiana at Glitter & Donuts // Madeline at CaseyLand // Jessica at Mason Jars and Lemon Bars // Britt at My Little Sunshine // Juli at Journey of J^3 // Chelsea at Tessa Marie // Sue at Sue's News // Melissa at The Frolics of Mama Llama

Things I Want to Remember, Round 6

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

* The much-awaited, much-dreaded (for me!) day came for Bella to start Kindergarten.  She did so with much excitement!  Her outfits have been laid out carefully each night with exactness and she has been quite anxious about being on time to school.  The first morning, she gave me and Brad lots of hugs, even RG too.  They actually cradled each others' faces while hugging too, and I totally didn't expect that!  She had a huge smile on her face and didn't fret at our departure.  I think her Finding Dory backpack helped her with the transition the most--she LOVES it.
* I know my girl though, and I can pick up on her nerves.  During the short "Kindergarten preview day," I watched her look at the kids around her with wide eyes, but turn to her coloring instead of interacting.  She refused to leave her work for circle time and was very panicked about not being finished. I'm wondering how the teacher is handling Bella's fixture on routines and her attempts to be in constant control of her surroundings.
*According to her, Bella hasn't made any friends yet--but she doesn't seem to be concerned about it at all.  She loves to play on her own, so I know she's OK for the time being. However, we've practiced how to introduce yourself to others, ask their names, and see if they'd like to play.  She hasn't tried it out on anyone yet ("Mama!  It will take a long time to make friends!!!"), but we'll see how her third day goes today!

* I love this picture of RG, even if it's not the best quality.  It's him laughing, laughing, laughing at Bean eating his cake on his first birthday.  It totally captures one-half of his personality: totally fun-loving (and obsessed with his brother).
* The other half of his personality is DETERMINED.  The latest issue is him talking back.  I feel like I have to look at myself though, because his tone of voice is very reflective of how he is often spoken to: sternly.  For a while, that was the only way he would listen (while Bella was more about the positive behavior management).  So Mama is working hard on switching her voice--to say the same thing, but say it in a softer way, and deliver the same consequences.  I see him fighting hard at times to also speak softly to his family, but most of the time, he's a little teenager.  It's a bit frightening.
* Let's get back to the fun-loving side though, shall we?  When Bella went to school, I was shocked at how sad RG was. He started acting like a little baby, using a baby voice and pointing to things, wanting to be cradled, doing lots of screeching instead of asking for things, etc.  At one point, after I pled with him to please speak, he say, "Mama, I don't want Caca (how he pronounces his sisters name) to go to school."  It about broke my heart.  But honestly, it made me feel goooooood too.  Because those two have struggled with each other mightily.  The past month though, it has almost been a miraculous transformation of seeing them playing, playing, playing with much less fighting and much more laughing.  Of course, that happens right before they won't see each other near as much.  But still, it's a much needed win for the Packer household.  And I have to credit RG for that one, because although he is strong-willed, he allows Bella to direct much of the play and he is SO GOOD about make-believe.  He's genuinely fun for kids to be around.
* I'm going to be selfish in posting this picture.  Because Bean is looking right at me in this shot, and shooting me some heart-beams.  That kid really, really knows how to tug at my heart strings.  He is becoming such a fun personality, and is a total flirt.  He is a bit shy, but loves to smile--especially at the ladies.  He is observant and still prefers to be attached to me at all times, but I also find him sneaking away to the kids' room when they're in the backyard and trying to color like he sees them do all day.  It really is adorable, aside from the fact that he's also claiming on their little chairs and trying to sit like them, but that usually entails him falling off.  He looks like I punched him on the cheek from one such fall!
* Bean isn't walking yet, but he is really close.  He's a bit nervous to try, but there is a lot of independent standing, walking alongside things, and a few steps when he doesn't know he is stepping.  His sleep remains on the low end (dropped to one nap at 9 months and wakes up before his siblings in the morning), but I think that's just his natural rhythm.
* He is getting good at pushing away things, people, and food that he doesn't want in his face.  He drops all the food over the side of his high chair that he doesn't want, which is a bit annoying but I can forgive him for anything.  He's even bit RG a few times when the kid wouldn't leave him alone, but I absolutely couldn't blame him for it.  This is the period of time where my baby is half way around, but the other half is growing into an independent toddler with his very own personality.  I'm anticipating some learning curves as each child is different, but I'm trying to also look forward to seeing who this little man in and what he has to say about life.

Do Something: Tomboy to Girly Chic

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Always in a hurry... Can you spot the cookie in this photo?!

Almost three years ago, I cut off my hair.  As in, almost all of it.

I had thought about a cute pixie cut for years and a combination of things (postnatal hair loss, bad home-dye jobs) made me finally pull the trigger.  I have about three photos of that pixie which I think was indicative of how cute I reallllly felt.  It was a very cute cut, but one which I think will suit me best in about another 30 years:) But even if it wasn't my "forever" haircut that I loved to pieces, I was A-OK with it because I hated my hair that much before chopping it off, I had wanted to cross that hairstyle of my bucket list, and I've never been good at doing my hair in the first place.

Plus, short hair reflected the style I usually drift to: masculine.

I like a lot of masculine clothing: flat shoes (including sneakers, oxfords, chacos, and at best, very short wedges--I own maybe 1-2 pairs of heels, that are never worn), blazers, button-up shirts, grandpa-cardigans, muted colors (including lots of navy blue), t-shirts and jeans, minimalist accessories, and, in general, loose over form-fitting.  But I also love beautiful, classic clothing--and earrings!  So if I were to nail it down, my typical style would be called, "Tomboy Chic," as I usually do a lot of masculine with some feminine touches.

That's why this "Do Something" challenge was fun for me, to participate in a fashion series where the goal is "Girly Chic!"  Here is our inspiration photo from Stevie Henderson:

 And here's my interpretation:
Aiming for a more feminine look was a good push for me.  You've seen this skirt before, but I would typically pair it with a loose, deep blue top or a chambray button down.  Inspired by Stevie Henderson's light pink top, I pushed myself to pair the skirt with something pink AND more form fitting. This striped shirt is literally the only one I have with that right color of pink, but I was nervous about the stripes.

Thankfully, last week one of my favorite instagrammers, Cardigan Empire, posted a picture of her wearing the same skirt, but with a blue striped top.  It was SO, so chic!  I wouldn't have thought of it myself, but I loved doing some pattern mixing.

To add a little more Girly to the chic, I wore the chandelier earrings I bought for my sister's wedding that's coming up in just a few weeks.  (I'm so sorry, but because I refuse to buy anything besides clearance, those exact earrings are gone from J. Crew's website...) And those shoes?  My sister convinced me to get them from the Rack a few weeks ago and they are much easier to walk in than they look.  They are just the right amount of outside-my-comfort-zone, I really do love them, and they were $30.

What's your go-to style?  Two other bloggers are posting on the girly-chic look, so follow the links below to check them out!  And if you'd like to participate, please check out our host's sign up link here.

Chelsea from TESSA MARIE // Kiana from Glitter & Donuts

THE BEST SUMMER MEAL (that deserves all caps...)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A week ago, I can honestly say I had one of the best homemade meals of my life.  It was also one of the easiest.

My sister was visiting and I wanted to give her a summer meal send-off before she boarded her flight home that night.  I had recently gone to Costco so most of the meal wad due to that magnificent store, but the corn came from a local corn stand.  And honestly, the "best meal" status was because of the corn.

This isn't a super "recipe" recipe.  But it is one you should absolutely try!  I couldn't get Costco links to each individual dish, but here are some amazon links (keep in mind it's much cheaper at Costco):  rice and sausage.  (Squash too, but I can't remember the brand.)

The hardest part about making dinner for me is how on earth to time alllll the parts so it's ready at the same time.  I'm happy to say that this meal was all ready to eat and it was all warm at the same time. I've listed the order in which I cooked it here for you, if that's helpful:

I started with getting my brown rice in the rice cooker (just water (more than they say on the packaging, though!), a little butter, and salt).  Then I began prepping the corn (see recipe below), and while they soaked I got the squash ready (see this recipe, but I cut it into spears this time instead of round slices, for ease in turning them on the grill).  Then I started grilling.

First, I grilled the squash.  Since I was cooking off probably 7 zucchini and squash all together, I knew I'd need to cook it in two rounds.  After the first round was transferred to a large cookie sheet covered by aluminum foil, and the second round was on the grill, I also put the corn down.  While the corn cooked, the remaining squash got transferred to the cookie sheet and the sausage went on.  (4-6 minutes per side, until the sausage bursts a bit and oozes liquid).  When the sausage finished, the corn was ready to go too!  I transferred the corn to the same big bowl it had soaked in (minus the water) and gave it a few minutes to cool down.  In the mean time, I chopped up the sausage and got my kids' plates ready.  Then I could tear off the corn skins and everyone plated their desired amounts.

Couple this all with a little pool of this BBQ sauce, and you are in heaven. (It's good enough that we also buy it in bulk . . . from Costco!)

That corn was so dang good, it didn't need a bit of butter or salt.  Here's the recipe for that:

Grilled Corn on the Cob
Carefully peel back the leaves to a cob of corn, tear off the silky threads, and then bend back the leaves to cover the corn.  Once you have done this to your desired amount of corn, place them all in a large bowl and cover with water and 1-2 TB of salt, depending on how many pieces of corn you have.  (I did 1 TB for 5 cobs.)  Soak the cobs for at least 15 minutes

When the grill is ready, cook the corn on medium to medium-high heat.  Shake off excess water before place them on the grill, and turn every 5 minutes, cooking for a total of 15-20 minutes.  Remove outer leaves before serving.

How a Never-Nude Goes to the Pool

Monday, August 15, 2016

Do you like that jacket I'm wearing?

It's actually my swimsuit.
I know, hot--right?!

For as long as I can remember, I have very much disliked showing my skin.  It's convenient that my faith dictates modesty, but I am naturally inclined to cover up even on my own terms.  There are people who hate clothes, and who could walk around in their birthday suit all day every day if they didn't get arrested. Undercover nudists, if you will.  And there are those who would shower fully dressed if it meant they still could get clean.  I'm most definitely in the latter category.  A never-nude, if you will.
No need to call the cops!  I have no idea where I get these bruises, but I usually have a few on my legs at all times from running into things.  
I've actually worked a lot on becoming comfortable in my skin and being brave about wearing my swimsuit when my kids and I go to a local beach or my in-laws' pool.  I have come a long way in that department. But my never-nude tendencies have become an advantage where skin cancer is concerned, because I've found a way to wear my suit and still keep covered up in order to prevent getting damaged by the sun: a rash guard! They can be a never-nude's compromise for wearing a suit.  The one I am wearing even zips up so it's easy to put on and take off, especially when you consider how a wet rash guard practically strangles its owner. (And no one is paying me for this, just so you know. Otherwise, I would have exchanged the Costco one-piece I'm wearing under the rash guard for something far cuter and more expensive.)

I've learned as a mom that I love, LOVE rash guards for my kids--or swim shirts as we call them around our home.  My children inherited my red-headed husband's skin.  That means they burn no matter how much sunscreen we put on them.  So, as much coverage as they can get helps me feel better.  We wear swim shirts, hats, AND sunscreen when we go out.  But those swim shirts really lessen the amount of sunscreen I have to apply.  And re-apply.

Did I mention we live in California? My sister pointed out on our most recent visit to Utah, that if you saw my kids out of all the cousins swimming, you wouldn't have guessed they were the ones from California.

I took that as a compliment!

I might be raising nerds, but at least they won't have skin cancer and wrinkles.  And I my fingers are crossed they'll thank me for that at some point.

One can hope.

I'm participating in a Mommy Style Monday series today, so please visit the other beautiful blogs below!  And if you'd like to participate soon, check out Madeline and Kiana's blogs to learn how to sign up.

Kiana at Glitter & Donuts // Madeline at CaseyLand // Erica at Good Job Momma // Bekah at These Are The Days // Jen at Jam Tart Boutique // Beverly at What a Day  // Kristen at Eat Play and Go // Jessica at Mason Jars and Lemon Bars


The Mountains are Calling

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We recently returned from my family's week-long reunion in McCall, Idaho and another week in Utah.  Between a ghost banging a pipe below our bed and kids that didn't sleep well, I don't think I've ever left a vacation more exhausted (hence the severe lack of posting!).  BUT, I'd absolutely do it all over again for views like this:

Oops, how'd that get in here?!

If you're jealous, I'll pull it back a bit.

Every summer, my family gathers in one big house.  There are 18 grandkids, 7 kids, 5 spouses, and my parents.  It's loud, it's crazy, and it's a really good time.  My little family are the only ones outside of the same county in Utah, so I really relish this time for my kids to spend with their extended family.  We go kayaking down rivers, swimming and boating in a lake, hike a ton, and eat so, so much ice cream.  To top it off, there is limited internet connection and I don't wear a lick of make up for seven straight days.  I really don't know how it can get better than that.  So instead of rehash every day, I'll just leave you with some photos of what I'm currently missing, most of which entail us being very dirty and stinky.

Until next year, McCall!
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