mandyholbert

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

Boy Meets Girl October 10, 2012

How did Ronnie and I meet, you ask?  Well, it’s a long story.  Actually, you didn’t ask, and it’s a pretty short story, but I’m going to tell it anyway.

I was employed at a home improvement super store which was not Lowe’s while I was a college student.  Here’s some advice for all you eighteen-year-old girls out there: this is a great job if you don’t mind being propositioned, objectified, hit on, flirted with, asked out, and stared at by customers and employees, most of whom are at least twice your age, on a very regular basis. Anyway, I worked there, and I hated it.  I was offered money to give a father and son who came through my check-out line a private dance.  An employee asked me to stay with him while his wife and kids went out west to visit family.  And those were just the stand-outs.  I was literally asked out so often that I quit even looking at the person I was turning down.  You’d think a woman had never stepped foot in that store before.

So, one day I was working the register in the lumber end of the store.  I didn’t have men on my mind at all, but then a really attractive man came through my line with a cart full of materials to build a privacy fence.  I rang him up slowly and tried to catch his eye the whole time. He wouldn’t look at me.  I checked his finger for a ring.  Nothing.  He was driving me crazy by not looking up.  All those men who asked me out constantly, and the ONE TIME I wanted to be noticed, this guy wouldn’t give me the time of day!  Arg!

Finally, he had to look up as I gave him his total – somewhere around $300.  I smiled as I took his debit card from him, and he smiled back a little.  I was thinking he might actually talk to me, and then the dreaded thing happened – the end of any conversation we may have had – his debit card was declined.

Darn it.  Darn it.  Darn it.

I bashfully told him the news, and he fumbled around with his wallet and mumbled something about a paycheck not going in and running home to get the cash and being right back.  I knew it would be a miracle if Mr. Hottie ever came back.  I just knew he didn’t have the cash at home.  I pulled his cart over to the side, fully expecting to have to return all the lumber to its rightful place before my shift was over.

He came back.

I rang him up again, and we didn’t talk the whole time.  I had given up on even trying to be cute with him.  I gave him his total and he paid with cash.  He thanked me and started rolling that cart right out the door.

I sighed and watched him leave.  He sure was a good-looking one.  Strong.  Polite.  Ooo, and he builds fences, so he’s handy.  And those eyes!  Those big blue eyes…Oh, well.

The automatic doors opened as his cart passed through.  Instead of walking, though, he turned around and blurted out, “Do you want to go out sometime?”

I think it surprised both of us.

He recovered a little and walked back to my register, leaving his purchase in limbo.

“Umm…what’s your name?” I asked.  I couldn’t remember it off the debit card.  After all, it didn’t actually work.

“Ronnie.”

And then, from some deep-rooted, recently burned-by-an-idiot-who-said-he-loved-me place inside me, all these questions came pouring out like the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire:

“Do you smoke?  Do you drink?  Do you party?  Do you go to church?  Do you still have your tonsils?  Do you or have you ever supported Ross Perot?  Coke or Pepsi?  Butter side up or butter side down?  Do you have any children?  Do you enjoy bonsai?  Do you speak Spanish?  Do you wish you spoke Spanish?  Are you divorced?  Do you use drugs?  Are you gay?  Do you have any skeletons in the old proverbial closet?  Do you brush your teeth with hot water?  Do you snore?  Are you a vegetarian?  Do you have a criminal record?”*

Whew!  I took a deep breath.  Ronnie was still alternating between nodding and shaking his head with a very confused look on his face.  When we both recovered, we stood there looking at each other for several moments.

I shrugged.  “Well, I don’t go out with people I don’t know, but here’s my number.”  I handed him a scrap of a yellow sales flyer with my name and number written on it.  He took it and put it in his pocket.  He walked back to his cart and pushed it on out the door.

I never thought he would call me.  Especially after the irrational interrogation I had just subjected him to.

But, he did.

We talked for an hour that first time.  We went out the next night.  And we’ve been together ever since.

Don’t ask me why he would have called me even after I went all crazy-girl on him.  But I’m sure glad he did.  We are perfect for each other.

Maybe he knew that.

* This was twelve, almost thirteen, years ago.  I can’t remember exactly what I asked him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this were pretty accurate.

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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.

Underdog!

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?

 

Welcome to your new home, little goats. May 11, 2012

What in the world am I thinking!?  I am NOT an animal person, and I just spent the better part of the morning wrestling with two baby goats that we brought home last night.  Goats are strong, by the way.  And stinky.

Why do I have two goats in a cage?  That’s a good question.  Let me begin by sharing how we acquired our other animals.

The day we got our dog, we were not even considering a puppy.  I took the kids to the pet store just to look at the animals.  Then I saw her.  She was sitting in that pitiful little pen.  Just sitting there looking at me with those big sad eyes.  Begging to be rescued.  Then I noticed the sign on her pen – CLEARANCE.  I knew I had to have her.  So I paid the slashed price and asked the shopkeeper to hold her while I ran to Wal-Mart to buy the things normal people purchase in preparation for a puppy.  And to call my husband to inform him of the new addition to our family.

Who could resist those eyes?

I was guilted into our next pet acquisition.  Kendra really played me on this one.  How could I not buy her the little kitty when her brother had a puppy.  After all, she had always dreamed of having a kitten for her whole entire life.  So, we bought the kitten and then went back to Wal-Mart for kitten stuff.

Sparkles the kitten.

The dog and cat were enough for a long while.  Until one day, the kids really decided they absolutely couldn’t live without pet rabbits.  So, we bought them.  They had to live in a dog kennel in the garage for a few days while Ronnie built them a hutch.  Why?  Because, once again, we were unprepared.

Pleeease, Mom and Dad, pleeeease!?

Well, after that, we tried fish, but that didn’t work so well as you remember if you read my post To Flush or Not to Flush.  Moving on.

Time went on.  We went through several rabbits, and my sister added a dog to the mix, but we pretty much stayed the same for a few months.  Then, my son started really taking interest in frogs.  Since I’ve always been very determined not to pass my irrational fear on to my kids, I helped him build a habitat in the unused fish aquarium, and we put four frogs he captured in it.  I have to concentrate on not letting it bother me that there are frogs in his bedroom.  I don’t go in there much.

Then, Ronnie decided to get chickens.  Fresh eggs, teaching responsibility, all that good stuff.  I went along with it because the baby chicks were so cute.  However, since we were – you guessed it – unprepared! – the chickens lived in a container in my kitchen too long for me to end up liking them.  And, honestly, now that they’re older, they scare me to death.  They’re like frogs with feathers.  And beaks and long claws.  Terrifying.

So, that brings me to the goats.  We knew we were going to buy them, so we bought all the supplies to build a fence for them.  We even started on it.  Good, huh?  Unfortunately, that’s all we did, so when we went to get the goats last night, we brought them home and had nowhere to put them.  Typical of us, really.

I was supposed to put collars on them this morning, and tie them to something so they could be out for the day until we finish the fence tomorrow.  Good plan, huh?  Well, it was a failure.  Goats don’t like collars.  Goats don’t like being led on a leash.  Goats make a lot of racket, poop all the time, and jump around like bucking broncos.  Who knew they’d be kind of like little donkeys?  Not me, that’s for  sure.

So, Max and I managed to get them to the backyard, but the collars I bought were too big, and everything that could go wrong went wrong, and they probably hate me already, and they’re only 106 days old and now they’re probably traumatized, and I’m afraid they’re going to bite me, and the dogs are barking at them like crazy, and the goats are bleeting at the top of their little lungs, and I have goat pee and poop and hair all over me, and I’m not really sure how I feel about goats now.

We’ll build the fence tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’ve heard a rumor that someone we know has a pot-bellied pig they don’t want any more…

 

 

Max’s Grand Entrance – Part 4 May 7, 2012

Filed under: family,Max,parenting — mandyholbert @ 5:20 am
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When I came out of anesthesia, I didn’t know if Max was alive, and I was alone.  I vaguely remember waking up and a nurse coming to talk to me, but I blocked her out.  All I wanted was for Ronnie to come in and tell me what was going on.

They told us they were going to have to send Max to Mission, a larger nearby hospital equipped with a neonatal ICU.  They let me see him before they took him away.

I’ll never forget looking at my baby in the incubator they rolled in to my room.  It was so painful to see such a small baby writhing and contorting, discolored, as he struggled for breath.  It was so unnatural.  And he was hooked up to so many medical contraptions that I didn’t understand.  I couldn’t even touch him.  I looked at him in my post-anesthesia state, and then they rolled him away.  My baby.

They put me on another ambulance so I could recover in the same hospital as Max.

Those were the loneliest moments of my life.  I was in a half-conscious state, physically and emotionally exhausted from the day’s events.  Max was who knew where doing who knew what.  Ronnie was following the ambulance.  And Kendra was with family.  I just wanted the four of us to be together like we were supposed to be.

It turns out, Max had ingested and inhaled meconium during delivery.  It gave him pneumonia and an overall treacherous start to his fragile little life.  He was in the NICU for ten days before we finally got to take our precious baby home.

The important thing is that Max was in every single way a perfectly happy, healthy, strong baby when we finally got to bring him home.  But, it was a long, hard process to adjust to having him home.

I feel bad even admitting this, but at first I was absolutely scared.  I would put him in his bassinet and just stare at him.  I was afraid that somehow I would hurt him or he would stop breathing or I would do something wrong.  It was a gradual process for me to recover from the emotional trauma of his birth, and I think it was complicated by the fact that I couldn’t hold him for the first precious few days of his life.

But we made it!  Max is our little buddy, and I thank God for letting us have him.

See what I mean about him being a lot of trouble from day one? And I absolutely wouldn’t trade him or any of his trouble for anything in this world!

 

 

Our Family Project May 1, 2012

Filed under: family,gardening,parenting,Uncategorized — mandyholbert @ 6:48 pm
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Our project may not be Southern Living or HGTV worthy, but it’s coming along.  Here’s what we started with:

This was the beginning of what we have dubbed our “garden project” which led into the “tree house project” – only to be later combined into one grand plan of making both projects one big entertainment area for our family.  It has taken a lot of hard work, and we’re not finished, but we got so much done over the weekend that I’m just itching to share it.  Here is a look at what we have accomplished so far.

This was the start of the garden – we fenced it in and Ronnie built the planter boxes.  The kids painted the fence (well, they helped me paint it).  Next, we decided to put an arbor over the entrance.  We made the garden rabbit-proof with the wire (which was a terrible, hot, tedious job) and we moved the rabbit house in to house our pet rabbits.

Ronnie built the exact swing set I imagined, and we planted our first vegetables and flowers.

With the garden finished, we started on the tree house.  Since it’s so high off the ground and Max is such a little, adventurous guy, we decided that a ramp would be the safest way to access the tree house.

The tree house was plain old hard work.  Ronnie and I did the whole thing together.  I told him what I wanted, and he not only made it happen, but also taught me how to use all the tools and think like a carpenter.  Here’s what we have right now:

Now we have a garden and tree house.  What we are working on right now is the area surrounding both.  Here’s our progress from the past couple of weekends.  We are tired!

We still have so far to go!  The next step, of course, will be grass everywhere that is currently dirt.  We’ll build a fire pit in right between the garden and tree house.  I have an idea for an outdoor chalkboard for the kids to draw on.  The tree house will have a mail box.  Oh, and the tree house will look like a true house in a tree when it’s finished.  We’ll have strands of lights suspended from the trees.  Oh!  And the obstacle course!  How could I forget?  The kids will have an obstacle course through the woods.  And a zip line coming off the back of the tree house.

We still have so much to do, but look at how far we’ve come!  Nothing makes me happier that walking out to the garden with Ronnie, watching our bunnies hop in and out of their hutch while the kids laugh and swing and run up and down the tree house ramp, and just being a family.  There’s absolutely nothing like sitting back and enjoying the fruits of good, hard, honest labor.

I can’t wait to go back out and work my butt off to finish.  It will most likely take years.  And I’m okay with that.  I have so many ideas, and my husband has the know-how.  And the willingness to teach me.   And the patience to let the kids help.   And the willingness to come home after a long week at work to put in an even harder weekend.  That’s just who we are.  And I couldn’t be happier.

 

Max’s Grand Entrance – Part 3 April 30, 2012

Filed under: family,Max,parenting — mandyholbert @ 5:45 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

On May 7, ten days after my due date, we had to report to the hospital at 4 am.  We got up early and snapped a few photos.  It was an exciting morning, especially for me – anyone who has gone past term on a pregnancy can attest that those extra days feel like weeks.

We had full expectations that this delivery would be a repeat of the last one.  Having Kendra was easy, actually an enjoyable experience.  The only difference this time was that we were doing it without medical insurance, but we had already prepaid for everything, so we felt good about that, too.

Contractions on Pitocin are intense.  I went several hours before asking for an epidural.  I can remember the pain being so extreme that I literally fell asleep between contractions, only to be awoken by the next one.  Ronnie sat by my bedside, his expression revealing how much  he wished he could make me stop hurting.

After the better part of the day had passed, I knew very suddenly that something was wrong.  I could feel myself bleeding, which shouldn’t have been possible for me to feel with the epidural.  Ronnie called the doctor and I told her.  She tried to brush off my worries, but checked to humor me.  She went from nonchalant to intense in a matter of seconds.

The next few minutes were a complete blur.

I remember bits and pieces – secure an O.R., an elevator ride, more bleeding, no one talking to me, the confusion on Ronnie’s face, contractions.

In contrast, the first moments in the operating room are vivid in my memory.

They wouldn’t let Ronnie come in while they prepped me for surgery, and I’ve never felt so alone in my life.  I was scared and confused.  I was on a table in the middle of a stark white room with my arms outstretched and strapped down.  It was a bustle of people intent on the task at hand – and none of their jobs was to comfort me or explain anything to me.  I was vulnerable and terrified.  All I could do was repeat over and over and over in a trembling voice “I want my husband, I need my husband, please, my husband.”  I strained to make eye contact with anyone who passed by.  Those were eternal minutes.

When they finally let Ronnie back in to stand by my side, I calmed down.  I told my doctor I could feel my contractions, so I got another epidural while we waited for the head doctor of the practice to come assist in surgery.  They had also paged a pediatrician to be on hand.

The actual Cesarean was fast.  Ronnie maintained eye contact with me through the whole thing.

And then came that magic moment, the moment I had longed to hear since that first doctor had told me I never would – the moment my son cried.  All of the anxiety of the entire pregnancy and the intensity and confusion of the last hour melted away instantaneously when I heard that beautiful cry.  What relief!

And then…nothing.

I watched in terror as my doctor handed my son to the pediatrician.  After that first cry, he abruptly stopped.  He was purple.  I laid on that table and considered the biggest decision of my life – did I want to hold him if he was dead?

I started hyperventilating.  This is where everything becomes a blur again in my mind.  I was heaving.  My doctor was yelling, “I can’t operate – calm her down!!”  Ronnie was trying to calm me.  I was straining to see my son.  Was he alive?  Still hyperventilating.  My doctor ordering someone to calm me down.  I begged not to be knocked out.  “I promise I’ll calm down!  Please don’t knock me out!”

And that’s the last thing I remember because they sedated me.

 

Stranger’s Baby’s Tantrum – the Prequel April 17, 2012

Filed under: family,humor,parenting,Silly Situations,Uncategorized — mandyholbert @ 8:22 pm
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I’ve alluded to the fact that posting that ugly face of myself for everyone to see is a little outside my comfort zone.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m silly – I’m just a little particular about who I normally let see that side of me.  After all, I’m a professional.  I have an image to maintain.

That’s why it took me very many practices to capture just the right expression that I would use to illustrate my post How to Stop a Stranger’s Baby’s Tantrum.  I had to find one that was hideous enough to shock a baby yet somehow not utterly humiliating for people who have never seen that side of me to see.

Yes, it took many attempts.

Little did I know, my husband was secretly filming those attempts.

Thanks, honey.

While I’m at it, I may as well show you the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Charming, I know.

I really don’t know why I’m posting this…

Wow.

I’m really starting to feel a little bad about scaring that baby…