A glimpse into our family – the good, the bad, and, of course, the funny

Practical advice on managing stress June 30, 2012

While curling into a little ball and sleeping for hours a day could be therapeutic, it’s not necessarily the most practical (or healthy) method of stress management.  Besides, in real life, who has time for all that sleeping?  Part of the reason I’m stressed is I have no time for anything!  So, here’s how a real person – a working mom – handles stress on a daily basis.  Maybe not all of my ideas would be approved by my doctor, but I make it without medication, so that in itself should validate my strategies.  So, here’s the list:

1.  Exercise.  Now before you roll your eyes and quit reading, give me a chance.  There is a specific exercise that I use for stress relief, and it’s a physical and mental release.  This is a strategy I use specifically when my stress is caused by a particular person who may be especially hard to deal with or who just annoys the snot out of me and I can’t shake it off without a little assistance.  This exercise does not take long.  And you need minimal equipment.  I slip on my boxing gloves, blast an angry song, visualize whoever is bothering me, and beat my punching bag with everything in me.  This is extremely effective.

Take that you unreasonable, uncompromising, confrontational dumdum! And that! And that!

2.  Eat a gigantic bowl of ice cream.  Obviously, this one shouldn’t be implemented every time a person experiences stress, but every once in a while, it’s so healthy just to let go of all the rules and restrictions we place on ourselves and enjoy something delicious and sinful.  Relish it.  Lick the bowl when you’re finished.  Lose yourself in that ice cream.  The effects may be short-lived, but those twenty minutes of concentrating on nothing but the pure joy of that creamy frozen goodness may be all you need to refocus and let go of some of the day’s stressors.

Daintily enjoying a small portion of ice cream. Always a lady.

3.  Play.  This is a lot harder than it sounds.  When I get home from a particularly hard day, often the last thing I want to do is ignore the chores that still need to be done or my recliner or the fact that I have no idea what I’m going to prepare for dinner.  I don’t have time to play, and I don’t feel like playing.  But, you know what?  Without fail, if I make myself have fun with my kids, what starts out forced becomes fun in a matter of minutes.  The joy of kids is contagious.  They make me laugh.  When I play with them, I feel like a kid again.  When we’re finished and go inside to figure out what to eat for dinner, I do it with a fresh perspective and attitude.


4.  Create something.  I’m not a great artist, but sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, I pull out all the art supplies and paint something.  And to make this even better, sometimes all of us paint together.  Our little family focuses on a task.  We channel our inner artist.  We don’t worry about the mess.  And it doesn’t have to be painting – it could be anything – baking cookies or building with Legos can give the same feelings.  I think it’s the pouring yourself into something and seeing a tangible result of your efforts at the end is what relieves stress.

Ronnie built our cornhole game then the boys painted one and the girls painted the other. Can you tell which is which?

5.  Good old-fashioned hard work.  The idea here is to do something that will take exertion and absolutely wear you out.  I’ve always thought that God created us with the capability to work – I think it keeps us younger, stronger, and healthier.  Find a project and go at it.  Try to find something that stretches you so that all of your energy is focused on completing the task.  There won’t be room in that head of yours for anything else.  And when you finish, you’ll be too tired to stress about anything.  You’ll sleep well that night.  Hard work is good stuff.

6.  Be silly.  I wrote a post a few weeks ago called Why We Will Always be Okay one evening after Ronnie and I had both had particularly bad days.  Instead of talking through everything that made our days so terrible, we went outside, blasted our favorite song, and caught a jar full of lightning bugs while singing, dancing, laughing, and just letting go.  Silly?  Most adults would think so.  But who cares?  Being silly is a great thing.  Catching fireflies didn’t erase anything bad that happened to us that day, but we finished our day goofing off and letting go so we were able to start the next one refreshed and refocused.  It works.

Do we sometimes play with the kids’ toys when they are in bed? Why, yes. Yes, we do.

7.  Go on an all-expense paid vacation to a tropical paradise for at least ten days.  You know, one of those places where you just lounge in a cabana by a pool and someone massages your feet and brings your food and drinks and your whim.  One of those places where you swim with dolphins, eat dinner at a lone table right on the beach, and snorkel with tropical species of fish I’ve never even heard of…

I’ve never actually gotten to try this particular idea, but I could see where it would be extremely effective.  It is good to get away once in a while, though.

The kids playing at Myrtle Beach – not quite a tropical paradise, but fun nonetheless.

8.  Blog.  This one can get tricky because blogging can actually be a cause of stress if you allow it.  Make a concerted effort not to focus on your stats or whether you’ll ever be Freshly Pressed.  Blog because you love writing.  Because you love sharing what you write with people who enjoy reading.  And, you know, if blogging isn’t your thing, find another outlet, another hobby that you can do in your leisure time to stop you from dwelling on the daily stresses in life.  Maybe yours is running, reading, crocheting, or Zumba.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It just matters that you enjoy it, that you take time to actually do it, and that you don’t inadvertently allow your hobby to become a source of stress itself.  Keep it light and it will be fulfilling.

Optimizing Stress

Optimizing Stress (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

9.  Give.  Do something for someone else.  No matter how stressed your life may seem to you, there is always someone whose problems are worse.  Think of someone going through a hard time, and do something kind for him or her.  Did your neighbor’s dog just die?  Bake him some cookies.  Is someone going through a hard time?  Write her a handwritten card of encouragement.  Putting yourself aside and focusing on the needs of someone else is almost always an effective method for stress relief.

"The Golden Rule" mosaic

“The Golden Rule” mosaic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

10.  Make a list.  This may sound cheesy, but I guarantee it works.  Make a list of everything that you are thankful for.  If you’re feeling particularly stressed and therefore negative, you may have to start with the fact that you are alive for number one.  You have food to eat may be number two.  But the more you force yourself to list these things, the more your blessings in life will come to mind.  Your list will be long.  In fact, you’ll have to stop this exercise before you run out of things to write about.  This is about changing your mindset.  No matter how bad things may be, we can choose to focus on the positive in life.  It just helps to write it down to put things back in perspective.

Like I said in the beginning, your doctor won’t give this advice, and may not even agree with all of it.  But, stress is a real thing that almost all of us deal with.  In our quest to live a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life, we have to learn to manage this stress that somehow finds a way to infiltrate our lives despite our best efforts to keep it at bay.  These are the things that work for me.

What works for you?


What could possibly go wrong? June 18, 2012

My sister Nickie is leaving for Germany this week to visit Sandy, our aunt who is younger than us – the one we grew up with more like a sister than an aunt.  Nickie is very excited about her trip, but she’s feeling just a little apprehension about her arrival in Germany.

You see, Sandy is a lot of things – hilarious, adventurous, loving, optimistic, intelligent – but she’s also just a tad on the silly side.  Just a tad.  When she lived in the Dominican Republic, Nickie went to visit there as well.  When Nickie arrived, no one was there to greet her at the airport.  Hours passed.  Still no Sandy.  The airport closed.  Still no Sandy.  Nickie sat on a curb outside an airport in the middle of the night waiting on Sandy who forgot to set her alarm to wake her.

Nickie (left) and Sandy in the Dominican.

I guess this is part of why Nickie is a little nervous about her arrival in Germany.  Sandy couldn’t take the day off work to meet Nickie and escort her back to her home, so she sent Nickie the following directions:

when you get to the airport, follow the DB signs (train). some guys on the internet says: “when you come through arrivals at munich airport, you will see an escalator to your right,take that and purchase your tickets at the counter dont waste time trying to figure out the machines”. so, if that’s not right, blame him. either way, DB signs. so, at the ticket window you will be buying a “single bayern”. this allows you to use all the trains in bavaria for a day. it’s 21 euro, but we may be able to re-sell it to someone here and get some of your money back. so, don’t sign it unless they make you. 
now, you will be taking either the S1 or the S8. it doesn’t matter which one. they come every 10 minutes, alternating between the 2 lines. there is only one direction option, i believe it will be displaying ostbahnhof as the destination, but if it doesn’t, no worries. it all leads to the same place. you will be getting off at hauptbahnhof, aka central station. it’s about a 40 minute ride. there should be diagrams of the route, but in case there isn’t, it’s five stops from ostbahnhof.
SO, this is where it does get a little tricky, but i think we’ll be ok. i’m not exactly sure where the S1/8 is going to dump you out, but i’m fairly certain if you just follow the crowd and go up the escalators, you will be in the main area. are you comfortable with that? you can always ask any of the train workers too. anyways, in the main area (upstairs) there are tons of little food stands, a small grocery store, i think i store called “accessorize”. there is also a huge information booth in the middle of it all. above it is the board with all the departures. just stand in line and ask for the next train to garmisch. they will tell you the platform number. from there, it’s easy to find! don’t forget to ask what time it leaves as well. they leave every hour. so, if you have time you should grab either a mozzarella and tomato sandwich or a giant chocolate muffin. mmm….
ok. the train will take about 1.5 hours to get to garmisch. the train stops are really hard to understand. i would set an alarm for an hour and 20 min. (if you have one) and try to sleep. otherwise, you will be worrying about missing the stop the whole time. i will find out the 5 stops previous to garmisch and e-mail those to you. also, if you are still worried about it, just let the ticket guy know that you want to stop in garmisch. if he speaks english, explain to him that you are unfamiliar with the stops, and to please let you know when you are there.
you can let me know if this is not specific enough for you, but the taxis are literally right across the street from the train station. you are going to get off the train, go down steps (or elevator) under the other tracks, and back up to the platform. then you can either walk through the train station or to the left and around. there is a burger king. facing the road with the BK behind you, look slightly to your right and there will be taxis. hop in one of those and tell them to take you to the abrams. should be about 7 or 8 euro. and they all know what the abrams is (our housing complex). the taxi will drop you off at the gate. have your passport out, tell the guards you are on the “access roster” (i will put you on there as a visitor before you come). they will look you up in the system and let you through. go straight, there is an entrance under the clock tower thing. go in on the left. straight down the hallway until it dead ends. there will be vending machines. turn right. through that door (open) and we are about 4 or 5 doors down on the left. room 114. it will be open.

Wow.  A few things really jump out at me in those directions…I don’t think I could do this if I were Nickie.  I wish her luck.

She asked me if I can pick her up from the airport when she gets back from her trip.  Well, I’m not sure if I can get a day off work, so I am giving her the following directions just in case:

When you land in Greenville, follow the crowd off the airplane to the main area in the airport.  I haven’t been in that airport in a few years, but I know there must be a taxi company on the premises.  Find a cab, and tell the driver to take you to downtown Greenville to the Greyhound bus station.  Once at the station, buy a ticket for Hendersonville, NC.  While waiting for your bus (I’m about 50% sure a bus runs that route at least once a day), try to take a nap while sitting against a brick wall.  I don’t think anyone will bother you.  But if they do, I’m sorry about that.  Once your bus comes, enjoy the ride through the mountains.  It will drop you off on Seventh Ave in Hendersonville.  Walk two blocks east to Fifth Ave to the post office.  Check my mail for me.  Walk two blocks east to the library.  Go to the check-out counter and say the word “camel” – the librarian will then know to let you borrow a phone to call me at work (as long as you can accomplish this before 5:00, I will still be there).  Pay my fine for my overdue books.  This will cost you approximately two US dollars.  Wait on a beanbag in the children’s reading room, but don’t fall asleep.  At exactly 5:14, I will drive by the library and slow down enough for you to jump in the rear passenger’s side door.  I will leave it unlocked.  Trust me.  I should mention that there are several delicious eateries in Hendersonville, so if you have time, please feel free to grab yourself some lunch.  Perhaps Thai food?  Oh, and welcome home.

I can’t wait to hear about Nickie’s trip to Germany and about the adventures Nickie and Sandy have as they tour Italy while she’s there.  I’m sure it will go great.  Yep, great.  I can’t imagine anything going wrong with Sandy in charge…


June 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandyholbert @ 2:13 pm

These look so interesting! I have them in the oven right now, and I’m sure if I hadn’t burned the first batch of bacon, the house would smell wonderful right now. I can’t wait to see how they taste. If they are good, I have a bacon-loving relative for whom I will definitely have to bake some! I’m not going to tell the kids there’s bacon in them. We’ll see if they notice…


Farewell, Restaurants. I will miss you. June 16, 2012

We’ve had some unexpected expenses come up lately.  Kendra needed braces at least three years earlier than I anticipated in our long-term budget.  Our air conditioner in our house went kaput and cost about a thousand dollars.  In spite of it all, we’re doing fine, but…

We want to put in a zip line off the tree house, build on to the kids’ bedrooms, finish the bathroom in the garage, put a roof on the tree house, take down some trees, go on vacation, and put in a pool (to name a few things…).

So, Ronnie and I decided to give up something we both love.  Something that keeps me sane after long days at work.  Something relaxing, enjoyable, and easy:  eating out.  We eat out a lot.  It’s so much easier after both of us work long days just to stop and grab something on the way home instead of planning, preparing, and (the worst part) cleaning up meals at home.

But, eating in restaurants is expensive.  And, trust me, we’ve tried to justify our spending in this category for a long time.  We’ve used all the normal excuses – if we drink water it’s not that bad; if we eat on kids’ nights, it’s pretty cheap; when we eat out, we don’t spend money on groceries, etc.  But the fact remains, eating out is throwing money away.  Money that we could use to accomplish the things we want to accomplish and to pay for some of the things we’ve already accomplished and haven’t quite paid for yet (but that’s a whole other post!).

I will now bid farewell to some of our favorite places.

1. To Blue Sky Cafe – You are one of our favorite places to eat as a family, which is why we eat with you every Tuesday night.  Tuesdays just won’t be the same without your eclectic menu and quirky setting.  I especially will miss your Hawaiian wrap with sweet potato fries – oh, and the lemon layer cake – don’t get me started on that!  We know your staff by name, and it’s so nice to be asked if we want “our regular” when we go in.  The occasional “hook-up” is great, too – there’s nothing like being sent fried ravioli compliments of our favorite cook in the kitchen.  Not to mention our favorite waitress in the entire world, one who hugs my children and walks us to our car when we leave, one who sits with us when she’s not busy and always makes us laugh – my beautiful baby sister Vanessa.

2. Papas & Beer – I’ve never really understood your name, but that’s okay.  The thought of missing out on our typical weekend meal of a fajita quesadilla makes me want to cry.  You just don’t understand how much we love sliding into one of your booths after a long, hard day of working outside on whatever project we had going on that day.  And you never judge!  We have eaten chips and bean dip in every state of disarray because we’ve worked too long and didn’t have time to shower and change and still make it in before you close.  Whatever marinade you use for that steak is perfect!  And who would have thought to add zucchini to a quesadilla?  Not me, and you know what?  It’s perfect.

3. Acropolis – You say tomato, I say to-mah-to.  You say Acropo-lis, I say Acropo-lee.  Who cares how we say it?  You’re wonderful.  All of your wait staff know us and put our order in before even asking: a basket of fries, Greek salad, and a large cheese pizza.  The waitresses even give the kids quarters to get prizes from the gumball machines.  Your atmosphere is relaxing, and we love your outdoor eating area in the nice mountain weather.

4. Hot Dog World – You are legendary in Hendersonville, NC.  Ronnie is partial to your foot-longs with mustard, chili, and onions; Kendra loves your tater tots; Max prefers a grilled cheese; but I love your Greek salad with chicken.  Who would have thought a hot dog joint would make one of the best Greek salads I’ve ever had?  It’s absolutely delicious.  And the fact that you are next door to Yogurt World only makes eating with you that much better.

5. Uncle Scott’s Pizza – Uncle Scott, I see you so much, I feel like you are actually my uncle.  Even though you recently added a seating area, what I love to do is call in an order on my way home and swing in and pick it up.  You are the closest eatery to our house, so even if your food weren’t delicious, we’d probably eat it anyway because of convenience.  But it is wonderful!  Our favorite is your meatball sliders – a garlic knot stuffed with a meatball, marinara, and cheese – heavenly!  And thanks again for giving me a second chance after I wrote you that check I had already used at the grocery store.  I’ve started writing VOID on those now after you had to hunt me down at work…

Goodbye to you all!  And to the others we eat at less frequently – Chick-fil-A of Hendersonville, Firehouse Subs, and French Fryz just to name a few, we’ll miss you, too.

Now it’s time for me to focus on creating a meal plan for the week and sticking to it.  I actually love cooking, and I’m pretty good at it, but I’m so used to not doing it that it will take me a while to get back in the groove.

To start the weekend, I think we’ll have a cook-out.  Burgers and all the fixings…

…at my parents’ house.  Thanks Mom and Dad.

Tomorrow, I’ll cook.  Unless someone else wants to invite us over…


My son’s new label. I’m mad.

I’m a little peeved.  I’ve tried to get over it, shake it off, but I can’t.  Not many things bother me this much.  Most of the time when I get mad about something, it’s short-lived.  But I just can’t get this off my mind.  I’m trying hard to keep myself in check – not to overreact – but it’s proving very difficult.

The pediatrician called my son fat.

Well, I guess she didn’t say fat, but in my mind, overweight is the same thing.

here’s the paperwork I have to give to the school to register my son for kindergarten. he’ll start school with a label.

She suggested that I should watch what he eats and make sure he exercises.  Make sure he exercises!!

My son who just beat his older sister in the one-mile mud run,

who’s number one!?

plays outside hours a day,

he spent this day catching frogs

loves camping, swimming, canoeing, climbing, building, running, riding his bicycle, working with his animals, jumping on the trampoline, playing American Ninja Warrior, and going on adventures….

hmm…I just don’t see it…

…is overweight.


I felt like telling the doctor all of this.  I felt like telling her she was wrong!  Max is healthy, strong, athletic, vibrant, and perfect just the way he is.  He eats well.  He exercises more than adequately.  He is active.  He is NOT FAT!!  I felt like arguing with her until she got the point!

But, the numbers don’t leave room for negotiation.  She calculated Max’s BMI, and the answer to the equation equaled fat kid.

he’s been big ever since he was born

I’m mad that I’m even sitting here defending my son against such a ridiculous claim.  This country is filled with obese people, we all know that.  And we all know what they look like.  And we all know what habits and lifestyles lead to it.  My son is not obese, overweight, or fat.

I will not change his diet, try to make him exercise more, or in any other way try to manipulate his weight.  And I’ll never tell him what the doctor said.

don’t mess with a mom about her kid!

Oh, that doctor!  She expected me to be defensive, so talking to her was impossible.  I was speaking perfectly calmly and matter-of-factly, but no matter what I said, she acted like she was talking me down.  It was so frustrating!

Then, to top it off, she said he’s obviously just a big kid.  “After all,” she looked at me and said, “you’re rather big, too.”

Wow, Doc.  Thanks a lot.  That really made things a lot better.  Yep.  Thanks.

here’s a good one of us lounging on the couch watching television while eating a tub of cheese balls. oh, wait. wrong picture. oh yeah, we were exercising in this one. oops.


Happy Father’s Day: Here’s 205 Worms June 11, 2012

Filed under: children,family,gardening,Kendra,Max,parenting — mandyholbert @ 7:16 pm
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My dad was going to buy worms for his tomato planter box.  I told him that was ridiculous – we have all the worms he could ever need.  So, Saturday, Ronnie, Kendra, Max, and I grabbed a bucket and hunted for worms for Grampy.

Ronnie, it turns out, is an expert worm finder.  He showed us where the best spots were to find them.  Kendra and I helped point them out, and Ronnie and Max picked them up and put them in the bucket.  We worked for I would guess at least an hour filling that bucket with squiggly slimy worms.

When we finished, I suggested that we all guess how many we had and then count them to see who was closest.  (I know I’m blessed to have such a patient husband.)  Kendra grabbed a piece of paper to record our guesses.

In case you can’t decipher that, Kendra guessed 205, Amanda (she used “A” for Amanda instead of “M” for Mandy so it wouldn’t be confused with Max) 212, Max guessed 15,023, and Ronnie guessed 189.  Please look closely and note the erasure marks on Kendra’s guess.  Please also note that Max has not started kindergarten yet, so clearly he can not be expected to understand the concept of estimation.  He just knew there were a LOT of worms.

When we got to about 100 worms counted, Kendra slyly erased her guess and changed it to 205.  I’m not really sure what her original guess was…

But there were exactly 205 worms!

What a great Father’s Day present for Grampy!  205 worms!  That ought to do the trick for his tomatoes.

I did also get him a new tool he saw on television and said he wanted, but that’s not nearly as interesting as a bucket full of worms.  Don’t you agree?



How does your garden grow?

Filed under: family,gardening,parenting,photography — mandyholbert @ 6:52 pm
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I haven’t done an update on the garden lately, so here’s a few photos I took today:

a bloom on a strawberry plant

a strawberry

the first cherry tomatoes of the season

the grapes are getting bigger

the blueberries are almost ready!

Darth enjoying some pesky kudzu

the laurels are blooming for the first time in years

day lilies

hydrangea bloom

the chickens are getting much bigger

this is a transplant from my mother-in-law’s yard – not sure what it is, but I love it