Done...For Now

I've been working on this blog all day.
See that cheap-looking banner up top? Yeah, I made that. All by myself. You Go Girl

It wasn't my first attempt.



It won't be my last. In fact, I believe that this will be the year that I learn to blog - really learn to blog. I'm going to learn all I can about coding. I'm also going to delve a bit deeper into Paint.NET (a free version of Paint Shop Pro).


But for now...this is it.


Until next time...

Updating

I'll be updating and reworking my blog today. Things will be wonky at best. Yes, I realize the blog roll is kaput. It will be back.

Promise!

Happy New Year...

Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009

Tonight, the Turtlehouse is going to par-tay!

You haven't seen me around lately because the whole house (with the exception of Kitty and Phantom, lucky ducks...uh, cats), have been struck down with the flu. At least we think it was the flu.

Baby Gurl had it first. I thought it was a typical cold. But then, one fateful night at Awana, a fever broke out, and it has been downhill ever since. Then The Boy catches it. The Boy is always sick (I think it's because he likes to put things in his mouth - pens, pencils, bolts). I didn't think too much of it. Kids get sick.

Then The Man Beast and I started walking around the house like we'd been run over by a Mack truck. Ever exercise so much that every bone, muscle and cell in your body hurts? Yeah, me neither. But if I had, I imagine that what I was feeling is what it would feel like. Man Beast even commented that his hair hurt.

But the funny thing about all this was aside from the fact that we felt like dog meat, we felt fine. No fever. No runny nose or any other runny things. Fine.

Then the day after Christmas came and life as we knew came to a screeching halt. The Man Beast and I were laid up in bed from Friday to Sunday. Thank goodness we had Christmas left overs that the kids could much on, otherwise, the kids probably would have starved to death. The Man Beast and I certainly didn't have much an appetite.

On Monday, the Man Beast got up to go to work and called me two hours later to come pick him up. He stayed home Monday and vegged on the couch. Luckily, by this time, I was feeling much better.

We're all walking around like zombies. We're feeling 100% better, but when you feel less than 100% perfect, feeling 100% isn't really 100%. But we're better.

And that's why we're going to party like it's 1999...um, 2009?



We are going to watch the remake of Journey to the Center of the Earth with Brendan Fraser. I hope it's a good movie (if you've seen it, don't spoil it!). There is a slight chance that we will all stay up until midnight, ring in the new year and then crash into bed.

Yeah, we're real partiers here in the Turtlehouse.

Happy New Year...

Merry Christmas

The story of Christ never ceases to amaze me- especially as a mother. I mean, just imagine! Wow! Immanuel, in deed.

Mary, Did You Know?

In Christ, delighted,

My Rule of Three

Every Christmas, The Man Beast and I try something different in the way we give the Kiddos gifts. One year, we opted for a No Battery Christmas. My MIL, bless her heart, graciously went along with us, even though she thought we were off our rocker.

This year is the Rule of Three - three presents that is.

The idea isn't our own. I read it on a blog; I just don't remember where. The Rule of Three is simple. Each child gets only three presents for Christmas (plus a stocking).

Three presents?!?! Are you kidding me?

No. Three presents. No less. No more.

Every year, The Man Beast and I have worked to put exuberant amounts of gifts under the tree for the kids (usually anywhere from 10 to 20). Unfortunately, what we were finding is that only two or three gifts were really played with. The rest were just added to a pile in their rooms and soon forgotten.

This was such a waste! Not only were we spending more on wrapping paper and other wrapping supplies, but we were wasting money that could have gone elsewhere - like to a joint gift for the whole family or used to donate gifts to others. This is why the Rule of Three (as I've named it), seems so appropriate.

This year the kids got bikes. The Kiddos have been asking for bikes for onwards of four years now and The Man Beast and I had never gotten them. I don't know if it was laziness on our part or the fact that we never had a place for the kids to ride (probably the latter), but the fact was, we never got them.

The Man Beast went Christmas shopping while the kiddos and I were at church. He got Baby Gurl a pink bike with training wheels. You need a helmet to go with the bike, so he got a pink helmet to go with the pink bike. (The beauty of all of this was that we had gone to the store, as a family, and asked the kids what kind of bikes they wanted. I'm convinced that they still don't think they're getting them, so when they finally do get them, it'll be that much more exciting - for The Man Beast and me. Oh yeah, the kids, too).

The Boy got a blue bike - does that sound trite: a blue bike for a boy and pink bike for a gurl? It is. I'm sorry. I know the Man Beast wasn't trying to be sexist. It's the bike manufacturers who are sexist! (When I get my bike, it'll be red. Take that bike makers!). He got a weird green, camo looking helmet. He's gonna love it!

We're all a bunch of amateur photographers in the Turtle household which is why the kids are getting digital cameras. My MIL has made some awesome scrapbooks for the kids and wanted to know if I was going to be able to swing cameras for them. Well, considering that both of the Kiddos take every opportunity they can to steal mine, yes! I will get them cameras.

Man Beast got a fabulous deal on them - under $50! He got the kids each their own color so that they wouldn't get them confused. He got the gurl, um...pink and the boy blue. The camera manufacturers are sexist, too!

I sat the kids down a few days ago to ask them what they wanted for Christmas. They gave me a whole laundry list of things they had seen on TV, things that were over $150 (the boy) and a few things that there is no way in the world are making their way into our house. But there were a few goodies.

Baby Gurl loves Puppy in My Pocket things. Loves them. She's been interested in them for a couple of years now. My gurl doesn't like Barbie. She doesn't like Bratz. She doesn't even like Hannah Montana. She likes Puppy in My Pocket and babies and her toy kitchen (which happens to be Barbie, but MIL got us a great deal on it four years ago...and it's still going strong). Man Beast bought her a Puppy in My Pocket purse - I'm sure she'll love it.

The Boy asked for a Nerf thingy that hooked up to the Nintendo Wii controller. We thought it was $40. We had full intentions of buying it and buying Baby Gurl Mario Kart Wii. (We try hard to spend the same amount of money on both kids as to not show favoritism. I think eventually this is going to be difficult to do as they're probably going to start only asking for a few things and they will be different prices. But for now, this is how we roll).

When The Man Beast got to the store, he found that the Nerf gun-thingy was only $15! So, since the Boy really wanted it, we had to make a few adjustments on Baby Gurl's gift - hence the Puppy in My Pocket.

So, there you have it - the three gifts. Only I'm going to have to break my own rule.

Every year on Christmas Eve, the kids get to open up one gift. Every year, that one gift has been PJs. (The idea behind it is of course is that matching/new PJs make for pretty Christmas morning pictures). So, when I go tonight to get stocking stuffers, I'll have to get PJs.

But that's it. I'm sticking to my own rules.

Most of the time, the Kiddos get gift cards from various family members. In Man Beast's and my perfect world, the Kiddos will collaborate and buy Mario Kart Wii together, since it's a game they have to share anyway.

A parent can dream, right?

Merry Christmas...

You've Come A Long Way, Baby Part III

(To read parts I & II of my story, click here and here)


Okay, by now, you're probably thinking - what were you thinking? Why didn't you get help? Why didn't you ask your family for help?

First, if you've ever received help from the community, know this: getting help around the holidays is really hard. That's why I encourage anyone who gives, to give especially well during the holidays - your efforts will not go unnoticed.

Second, and it's only now that I can vocalize this - I was really messed up as a young adult. I was never one for drugs or heavy alcohol use (alcohol doesn't agree me...and I don't care for it much, either). I wasn't a trouble maker by the regular definition. I just wasn't completely 'there' mentally.

My Little Bro and I were raised by my mother. Like most children who live in single-parent homes, we became very close to our mother. But no matter how close you get to a parent, that one parent cannot possibly take the place of two. So, as a result, I always felt as if there were a father figure missing from my family equation. (Well, of course there was - my mom was a single parent. But I really didn't have ANY positive male role model while growing up).

So, somewhere along the line, I got this strange idea that when I got older, I wanted a guy to take care of me. It probably stemmed from the fact that I saw my mom struggle so much by herself. What I failed to realize however, is that life is a struggle no matter if you're alone or with someone for life. In many ways, life IS struggle.Still, in my 20 yr old mind, I decided that the Man Beast should take care of me and our son; no matter that Man Beast was just a child himself at 18.

Anyway, back to my story.

The Man Beast and I were beat emotionally. We were both physically exhausted and it pretty much goes without saying that our spiritual life was dead. There is nothing more scary than feeling like you're all alone in the world - even if you're surrounded by people.The Man Beast's boss at the Pawn Shop was a pretty good guy. He knew our plight. The Pawn Shop had a regular customer - he was a preacher. Somehow, some way - the week after Christmas, we were out of hotel housing and living in a double wide trailer split in half (I'll give you a second to process that. A double trailer. Split in half. A family living on each side. Small? Yes. But better than a hotel).

I later found out that The Man Beast's boss had giving him a Christmas bonus even though he hadn't worked at the Pawn Shop for very long. The preacher had loaned The Man Beast money. We paid him back with TMB's next paycheck.

I'd like to tell you that at this point in the story, things magically got better and everything turned out happily ever after.

No. But this is where my story, for all intensive purposes end.

And why do I air 'my dirty laundry' as I've heard it referred to on other blogs? Not for you to feel pity for me. Certainly not.

But what I do want you to feel is the knowledge that there are people out there - at this very moment, in your very community - who are struggling like I did with my family nine years ago.

Just because someone is in a homeless shelter does not mean that they are alcoholics, strung out on drugs or 'lazy bums'. Many times, these are people who are just down on their luck. And for someone reason, when it rains, it pours. Many would call this The Rule of Three or Karma, but since I'm a Christian, I don't believe in any of it.

What I do believe is that it's so much easier to kick us when we're down. It's easier to lose hope when we're already down, too. This is why it's so important to reach out to people when they are hopeless and give them hope.

Especially in our trying economic times.

Did you know that homeless shelters are filling up with MIDDLE CLASS; men and women who have college educations, have lost their jobs and are now too qualified to get even the simplest of jobs? It's true.

So during this holiday season, I encourage all of my readers to put money in that red bucket. Do not avert your eyes at the bell ringer, pretend you're digging in your purse for something, or go out another door to avoid them. The Salvation Army's donations go to good use.When you walk by an Angel Tree, pluck an angel off and shop for that child.

I know times are tough. Even little things help. Next time you go to your local Dollar Tree to buy stocking stuffers for your kids, buy an extra toy or two and plop it in the donation box by the door. Literally every little bit helps. Sounds trite, but it's so true.

One last thing - as you gather around your tree, opening gifts or around your dining room table, feasting on your bountiful (or not so bountiful) harvest, take a moment to send out a prayer to all of those who might be going through some things this year. I know two of my readers off hand whose Christmases might not be as merry as years past. But they surrounded by family and friends who love them.

And let's not forget the true meaning of the season. It's not about the gifts or the food. It's not about the cookies or even the decorations. It's about the birth of our Savior. What better way to honor our Savior than to put Him first and act more Christ-like?

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Until next time...

You've Come A Long Way, Baby Part II

(To read Part I of this story, click here)

The second part of my story is a bit hazy. I'll share what I remember. It will be fragmented, to be sure, but there are just some things you just cannot forget no matter how hard you might try.

Do you know what it feels like drive in a car and not have a destination? It's not like joy-riding when you're a teenager and you're cruising, using your freedom and your wheels as a chance to escape school and home. Because you see as a foot lose and fancy free teenager, after you're done joy-riding, you have a home to go home to. When you have no home, you have no real destination and no real place to go home to.

This is how it felt for us after we left Denny's. I had some money (although not a lot) that I had brought down to FL with me. When The Man Beast left a month, previous, I had applied for a job at the local CVS down the street. I worked developing film and although I was a 'single mom', juggling work and a baby, I did enjoy the work. It was a chance to forget it all and just be Iva for a couple of hours a day. A chance to forget that my husband was 12 hours away. A chance to forget that while we lived in the Salvation Army apartments, we were in fact homeless, even though we had a physical address where we could receive mail.

That first night, we stayed in a motel. We got The Boy some diapers and some sandwich fixings (nothing perishable, the hotel didn't have a fridge).

The money didn't last long. One day, we found ourselves driving aimlessly, burning up gas needlessly. With no money for a hotel and no room in the car to sleep, we went to the only place we could think of: a homeless shelter.

The shelter would only take The Boy and myself on one side. The other side was for men. The Man Beast dropped us off at the shelter while he went to look for a job The job at Disney was a bust. The Man Beast was able to get a job at a local pawn shop, but to ensure that we had money nightly, he got a job at Steak n Shake. But more on that later.

The Boy and I only stayed in the homeless shelter one night. But one night was enough. It absolutely killed The Man Beast to know that he couldn't provide for his family and they were stuck in a homeless shelter - hence the two jobs.

The Boy and I got a room to ourselves. There were two sets of bunk beds and a crib. The room was very small. I slept on the bottom bunk and the boy was in the crib. Most of the details are very fuzzy for me. But I do remember that I had a really bad sinus infection. I've never had a sinus infection this bad and of course, I had to wait until it went away on its own because we didn't have insurance or the money to go to the doctor and buy medicine.

I didn't talk to anyone that first night. I remember sitting around the TV, letting The Boy play with some of the other kids and the toys.

The rules were a bit strict. But I suppose they would have to be. I remember getting up in the morning after a very long night. Even though we had a room with a closed door, I had never stayed in a homeless shelter before and I was very scared. (Looking back, I knew I didn't have to be. The people who worked there were nice for the most part. There was one lady who was kind of mean, but again, I think she had to be. The people who were staying there were mostly moms with kids. I people watched and listened to conversations. They seemed to be just like me - just people down on their luck).

The next morning, after changing The Boy, I went out to the cafeteria. What I forgot to bring, however, were all of my belongings. After getting fussed out, returning to the room and getting our things, I went back out to the cafeteria for breakfast. Luckily, it was only the sleeping dorms that were separated. I saw the Man Beast in the cafeteria for breakfast. We had to leave the shelter by 8 o'clock that morning. We were allowed to return, but we'd have to come no earlier than 5 - and there was no guarantee that there would be a bed. They went fast.

We never returned.

I don't remember exactly why but the job at Disney didn't work out. After Disney, he juggled the two jobs. He would go in to work at Steak n Shake for third shift, come back to the hotel to sleep a couple of hours and then go work at the Pawn Shop.

To say that life like this was hard is a huge understatement. I did not work at this time - couldn't afford to - so The Boy and I were stuck in a hotel all day long. When Daddy would come home to sleep, I'd have to keep the Boy quiet - no small feat for an active two year old.

Looking back, I don't see how we did it. We fought a lot. Tensions were high. It was around that time that I started withdrawing from people other than my son and my husband. I would hold on to this hermit-style attitude for many years. Truthfully, it wasn't until I started taking care of bills and grocery shopping (something I had not done during the early years of my marriage) that I started getting a voice.

We lived hand-to-mouth for three weeks down in FL. Most nights, The Man Beast only made enough in tips each night to pay for the hotel (it was around $50 a night - this was Orlando, after all). Whatever extra money we did have went to feed The Boy. Because it was close-by (and gas was an expense that we had to conserve so that The Man Beast could get to work), we went to Wendy's and Burger King. I remember praying that my boy would get full before he finished his dinner so that I could eat. More times than not, I went without. I'm not sure if The Man Beast ate at work (Steak n Shake) or not. I don't think he did because he was usually very hungry.

I remember vividly two very low points during this time (as if begging that your son wouldn't finish his food so that you could weren't enough). Save a Lot was right down the street from the hotel. It was there that I bought the Boy's diapers. I remember one instance paying for a pack of diapers (I don't even remember how much they were) and crying when I got back to the hotel because someone had stolen two diapers out of the pack. Instead of taking the package off the shelves, the wise people at Save a Lot, trying to make a buck no doubt, decided to tape up the diapers and sell them at regular price. Being hungry and sleep deprived, I wasn't paying attention and grabbed the first package of diapers I came to.

I remember going to the store (I think it was Food Lion) and buying diaper inserts (do they still make those?), to make diapers more absorbent. I am absolutely ashamed to say that I would save the wet diapers and reuse them with the new inserts. It wasn't until the second round of pee or a dirty diaper, that I would throw it away. Just seeing it in print like that makes me feel that I have ultimately failed as a mother. What mother does this?!

A desperate one.

My last memory of this time in our lives was on Christmas. The Man Beast didn't work. We went to eat somewhere - I don't remember where. I think it was a hole-in-the wall place. In the lobby was a crane machine. The Man Beast is a pro at the Crane Machine. In the 12 years I've known him, I've never seen him walk up to one and come away empty handed.

This time was no exception. The Man Beast took a quarter out of his pocket and set his sights on a orange dog. He got the orange dog. The Boy loved it.

That year, that Crane Dog was the only gift my boy received for Christmas.

This was probably the lowest I'd ever felt. I was away from family. I was alone in a town where I didn't know anyone. There was no Christmas tree. There was no holiday dinner. There was nothing.

Luckily, most stories have a happy ending, including this one.

to be continued...

Until next time,

How'd You Get Here

It's that time again, friends - How did you get here: Top Search Inquiries for Getting to Horizontal Yo-Yo. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Yo Iva - I have a good friend, Taxi, who lives in NC and calls me Ivuh (you know, because she's cool like that). And I can totally hear her calling me from across the room, "Yo, Ivuh!" like she lives in Brooklyn. Seems to me that the four people who searched though, missed the mark just a bit. Y'all - it's Ivuh, not Iva. Get right right.

Paula Deen Deep Fried Ham - Okay. This is just freaky. Has Paula done a ham? And here I thought we were the first.

Yo Talk - Yo talk. I listen.

Zicam Swab Reviews - I suspect when people see something on TV that sounds too good to be true, they come online (a truly authoritative resource) to get the 411 on a product. I know I do. I just hope that my review was beneficial to those who searched.

Day Late Dollar Short Blog - I think what they were looking for was this, but I'm glad they stopped by, anyway.

School Room Pictures - Still my most popular search. As many of you know, I used to be a homeschooling mama before I put my kids in public school and started to teach. How to set up your school room seems to be one of the questions on other homeschooling moms' minds. If you'd like to see how we set up our classroom, feel free.

Paid Programming Cable Hair - All because I listen to paid programming in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving with Yoyo and - And what?!?!

Coed Shower - Wedding Baby - This sounds a whole lot dirtier than what it was intended. I'm sure.

Dosey Dough - What is dosey dough? Is it an actual yeast dough or is that square dance move?

Whatwould Be With Out a Yoyo - Taking creative liberties here: yes, where would you be without Horizontal Yoyo?

How yo Become Shorter - Why would you want to?

I've Never Had Someone as Good for Me as Yo - Aww, thanks.

Pregnant Woman Horizontal Rest - I know it's been a good seven years since I've been preggers, but I don't remember resting any other way but horizontal. If there is a new fad out there, please let me know - my soon to be sister in law is preggers with my brother's first kid -- if there is something new out there, she should know!

A Little Peace of Heaven Clean - Oh how wonderful that would be.

Band Style Him - Him who?

How Many Times Did the Lightbulb Fail Before Edison Got It Right - Maybe we should ask Mr. Owl.

Horizontal Blog Roll - I've never seen a horizontal blog roll. Have you? Mine is vertical. I like it that way.

Is Believing in God Harmful or Beneficial - The way I see it, not believing is the real issue. Yes, Virginia, there is a God.

Until next time...

Kind of like Build-a-Bear - but for guys



Okay, y'all. I had the chance to review a model car product and of course I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get to write a review (which y'all know I just love giving my opinions...I mean, writing reviews) but it also gave me an opportunity to exploit get The Man Beast and Boy together for a fun father/son activity.

Enter Ridemakerz - like Build-a-Bear - only forAlign Center guys.

Ridemakerz is a custom model car experience. To participate, just go to the website and start building.

Chooze - Chose your body (we got the Dodge Challenger)
Sonicize - You can choose sounds! This is the coolest. We got the rocker-style sound effect (of course)
Motorize - What radio control? You can get it. (We did).
Customize - Wheels. Rims. Decals. You name it - you can get it.
Personalize - You can create a personalized license plate. Pretty sweet, huh?

After you -ize, you place your order (it's a la carte, so you can pick and choose. Take what you want, skip what you don't). About a week later, this is what you get (depending on what you bought):


With the exception of a few pieces, simply snap the stuff together!



I timed us from the time we opened the box and it took us just under an hour to put everything together. Keep in mind that The Boy, The Man Beast and I are not pros. We don't typically put cars together as a hobby, so we were really green.

Still, I think an hour was just enough time to ensure that the project wasn't lame and not so long that it became a chore.

In the end, this was our sweet ride:



Oh, yeah.

I'm sure you're wondering how much all of this costs. As I mentioned before, everything is a la carte, so you control the costs.

The car we chose cost $22. We chose to add the optional rims ($5), the fx ($3), the muscle kit - this was totally Man Beast's idea ($10), decals ($4), the power pack - for the rc ($20 - again, optional), and the radio control chassis - the thing that goes in/under the car - see? total amature, I'm telling you ($25). With shipping, our total came to $77 and some change.

Now, if I were buying this just for myself and not for a review, there were things I probably would not have gotten - like the rc add-on. If I had gone bare bones, I could have easily built a pretty spiffy ride for under $50. Then again, we're not model car junkies. I'm sure if any of you have some in your family, they'd have a blast with all the features. There are literally a million different ways you can customize your ridez. The sky really is a limit.

And check this out - they gave me a promo code to give to you. From now until January 4, 2009, you can save $10 on a $30 purchase. This is a great opportunity to try it out, and see if you like it. At the end of your order, simply enter this code: 93483.

And of course no company would be worth it's weight in, well anything, if it didn't offer a guarantee. Ridemakerz allows you to send it back if you're not completely satisfied - and they even provide a postage paid label, so you don't have to pay for shipping twice! (Your money back guarantee does not include shipping and handling costs unless you're returning your purchase due to Ridemakerz error.) But still, it's pretty sweet, don't you think?

Try it out - and if you do, let me know what you think.

Until next time, y'all...


Another Crew Member Joins the Cast

Meet Jellybean (formerly known as Baby Monster).


He is Monster Mama's (here out known as Tatas...you'll see why) first baby.

Notice the Tatas...well, I guess you can't really see them. But anyone who has delivered remembers the tatas (the very good part of having a baby is having an excellent chest to go with it). Okay, I guess I just took my blog to PG level. Sorry y'all. But I'm all about keeping it real. (Speaking of real, isn't she pretty?)

Uncle Man Beast holds Jellybean for the first time. (You can't tell from the look on his face, but he's lovin' it!)


Uncle Boy - Jellybean makes him a cousin



Aunt Gurl - in 7th Heaven. She was almost excited as Iva to hold Jellybean. Almost.



The proud Aunt...the first baby makes Iva an aunt. Oh happy day!



And the coolness doesn't stop there! Baby Brother (that's Iva's ... well, BABY BROTHER) is having his first boy in May. Check out the cool 3-D! (sorry it's so small...it's what I had to work with)


I love you!



Until next time...


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