Monday, July 27, 2015

I have 6000 photos of my kids jumping into the Pool

I have on my phone at the moment, about 67 photos of my children jumping into the pool at the YMCA, otherwise known as, how we spent the majority of our Summer Vacation 2015.  I've been meaning to do a photo dump for a while, but summer, weirdly, has gotten away from me. Don't ask me what we did for the entire month of June or July, other than play basketball and go swimming. Oh and take care of a horribly injured puppy foster. That's pretty much it. 

First, the puppy. I got this email at the end of June about this puppy who had come into the shelter in San Antonio pretty much half dead. He was injured, possibly half eaten by some wild animal, left alone and the animal control officer found him "crawling with maggots". I'm not even exaggerating, after I had agreed to get him here, the shelter coordinator contacted me to let me know that I "shouldn't be concerned" if I saw new maggots in the morning after he arrived because they weren't sure they had cleared them all out. Yeah. No. I WAS CONCERNED. I don't "do" maggots. But this tiny little puppy was delivered to my house, stinking of rot and he was just... so precious. And so very weak and sweet. . I spent the night trying to clean him as best as I could without hurting him, and also without gagging because I will be honest: I do not have a strong stomach. I have many photos of these early days because I was half afraid that the monster who "owned" this puppy was going to show up after we got him healthy and well to claim him. But also so that we could document his progress. Rest assured that I am not going to be sharing any of these photos here. I will just share one of my favorites of sweet Paddington, about two weeks in, when he was feeling (and looking) MUCH better.

He was still bald on his back here, but, as I like to say, "MAGGOT FREE!" It's a new bar we've set. You might be feeling bad or even a little punky, but hey, if you don't got maggots, you're ahead of the game.   Paddington was with us for 6 weeks before getting adopted. I think I'm always gonna remember him, not for the smell (although that was pretty awful), but because he reminded me why I do that Rescue thing that I do. It's important.  

Then there's basketball. Oh, basketball. The boys had really expressed an interest in playing basketball and I'm allllllllll about sports that don't involve sitting out in the hot sun, so we signed up for basketball. Please feel free to remind me for the rest of my natural born life that we Hovlands are not so much into team sports. What you see here is the one and only time Hopper was ever in possession of the ball when he successfully dribbled down the court. Immediately after this photo was taken, he stopped at the free throw line, turned around and attempted to make a shot backwards. It went straight into the ref's face. 

And then of course we've been swimming. After 15+ months of swim lessons, I opted to "take a break" for the months of July and August. On his last lesson in June, Hopper opted to actually start swimming. It was a little labored and he was fighting against his body's natural inclination to sink, but it was actual swimming! without any sort of flotation device. So, we've been going swimming a lot to reinforce what they've learned. Half the time, they look like they're drowning, as evidenced by the fact that the lifeguards on duty always sort of reluctantly edge their way off their chairs and hover over them and ask me if I'm sure I'm "watching them." I love when this happens because usually this is when I'm standing in the pool, approximately two feet from my children. (that was sarcasm, related: I might have obnoxiously responded to a 17 year old lifeguard a time or two that "nah, I just thought I'd let them go under and let you handle it.") In short, lifeguards love me. 

And lastly, here's a little summer wine recommendation for you: 

This stuff is awesomely refreshing and summery and Mmmmmm, mmmm! You should pick some up.

Up next, we're leaving for the Farm in a week!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wants vs Needs

I can always tell when someone else has been at my child, trying to teach them life lessons because these "lessons" always come back to haunt me in some form or another, usually having to do with a certain little boy's unwillingness to get out of bed and get ready in the morning.

Take for example, a conversation I had yesterday morning with my son:

Time to get up! (said cheerfully and full of love and sparkle)


Hopper, I'm going to need you to get up now.

No, mom, you WANT me to get up now. That's not the same as needing.

Whatever, kid, get out of bed. (less sparkle)

And then after two, long and torturous minutes of me forcing him to walk into the living room without a blanket over his head.

Hop, I need you to stand up and put your clothes on.

NO, you only WANT me to put my clothes on. 

Hopper, you NEED to get dressed because you can't go to camp without clothes on your body.

My six year old son then launches in to this diatribe about the difference between WANTS and NEEDS and how I am using the terms interchangeably when this is so obviously, terribly incorrect.


O'Rly?  Would you like to go to camp nude, son? because you can do that. I'll just sit and watch.


Seriously, please feel free to get in the car buck naked and we'll go right now. Your penis can sway in the wind. It'll be nice and breezy.


Oh no, it's ok, you're right, you don't really NEED them to survive, maybe just a spritz of some bug spray so you don't get mosquito bites on your butt...


Monday, June 15, 2015

Photo Dump: Arkansas Edition

The boys and I went on a long weekend to Arkansas last weekend. No special reason, just wanted to see everyone. I packed my camera; however, I did not pack any of the 4 SD cards I actually own. Because I am SMRT.  It was just as well because I'm pretty sure it would have ended up in the lake or covered in swirly pop goo.  So, without further ado, here are some slightly smudgy photos from our weekend.

 This is Rowan attempting to blow up a green balloon in the middle of Denny's and failing spectacularly. This was actually fine by me because earlier in the day as I was trying to finish up last minute packing, Rowan kept taking things out like my makeup bag and putting in blown up balloons.  I had to threaten the balloon's life with a safety pin to get him to stop and I still found out later that he unpacked a pair of my shoes and put in a red balloon. The thing you should note here is that we ate at Denny's and didn't die.

Here are Hopper and my best friend's son playing in a sprinkler.
The funniest thing in the world, according to six year old boys, is to pretend that things are coming out of your butt. Apparently.
On Friday we had plans to go to Magic Springs where Hopper was convinced that he was tall enough to ride the Big People Roller Coasters. Alas, he was not. Though, in his defense, I will say that their measuring stick is whack here because I know he is in fact exactly 48 inches because the top of the water in the shallow end of the pool at the Y goes just to the top of his head. Yes, I learned that during swimming lessons.  

This is a swirly pop. I wish I knew exactly what makes swirly pops last for 800 years. They're not food.
Given the lack of roller coasters, Hopper opted for the ropes course at the water park. He, um, struggled a bit, but never once fell in.

This was taken at the end of the day. You can't tell exactly how sunburned I am in this photo, but those godforsaken swirly pops are still going strong something like six hours later.  

We broke Rowan.

But later that night, after a brief coma, he was game to try some alligator. Actually, I just told him it was chicken. This is a kid who think dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets are actually made from dinosaur, so it's not like I'm offending his delicate sensibilities.

The next day, we went to Lake Degray. Hopper wanted to make sure he floated, so he's actually wearing a floatie on top of a life jacket and two seconds later, made me outfit him in water wings. He's not about sinking.

Rowan doubled down as well.

We told them this was "the beach" so my sister brought shells and hid them around for the kids to find. We're liars, but we're fun liars.

Here my dad is showing his underbelly to the sunlight for the first time since the 80's. Hopper (in water wings) is engaging him in a serious conversation, I'm guessing it's something about Darth Maul and probably swirly pops.

I am "sunbathing." 

If you look closely, you can see dark ominous clouds right over my shoulder. Sure enough, about 10 minutes after this photo, it started pouring down rain and thus ended our trip to the lake. This was totally cool with me as I was still about 500 degrees sunburnt from the previous day. 

I probably have more photos, but I'm noticing that my phone case is seriously still covered in swirly pop goo from three days ago. Swirly pops are going to haunt me for the rest of my natural-born life.

Monday, June 01, 2015


When we had a bit of a rough start to the school year, I wasn't super surprised.  I spent the last three years of daycare, just hoping my kid wouldn't do anything too crazy, too knock some other kid's block off for not addressing him in his Robot Name, too jump off the top of the playscape, too...HOPPER to get kicked out. I also spent the last year of daycare watching him mentally twiddle his thumbs. His daycare, while run by nice folks, didn't have the time to deal with a kid who needed extra time. When it came down to a choice between making him sit down and join the group for lessons, risking a full-on wobbler, or letting him do what he wanted, guess which route got chosen more often? I can't tell you how many times I walked into the room to see all the kids sitting at the table doing a craft or a lesson and my kid was sitting over in the corner playing with legos. It was just easier to let him do what he wanted to do than sacrifice the time for the other kids. I get that. But what it meant for MINE was that he never really  got that practice of having to bend to the group. He learned that pitching a big enough fit meant he could do what he wanted, or at the very least, he didn't have to do... DUN DUN DUN Arts & Crafts (eewwww).   And he most certainly didn't learn more than he absolutely had to absorb from afar. He was so ready to move on. I was so ready to move on.

But what would happen when we hit the Big Leagues? Exactly how long would it be before some teacher made him sit in a chair for more than five minutes? How big of a fit was he going to throw?   I had visions of us spending a lot of time in the principal's office. I hoped and prayed he wouldn't get labeled as the Bad Seed.  I  quizzed our pediatrician and did research to see exactly how far his "extended release" medication would "extend" (answer: baaarely to to the end of the school day if you're lucky). I dropped him off and then always made sure my the ringer on my phone was on because I was positive I was going to get a phone call  from the school before the end of the day.  And the first six weeks, that's exactly what happened. Practically every other day there was a phone call:  He was in the principal's office, he was in detention, he was sick (ooooh, he was sick a lot), he somehow disappeared on a trip to the bathroom for forty-five minutes, he refused to come out from under the computer center table, he and some other kid punched each other in the stomach in the cafeteria line. He told the substitute teacher he didn't have to listen to her because she wasn't real.  THERE WERE A LOT OF CALLS, is what I'm saying.

Early on I had made the decision to not to go in on the first day of school with his diagnosis papers screaming ADHD, Don't Touch My Baby! I planned on talking with the appropriate staff at some point during the school year, but I wanted them to get to know him without that label. I wanted to see what they thought about him without theADHD lens that sometimes distorts people's abililty to be openminded.  It's not that people are mean about it but there's just an more of an expectation, I guess, for your kid to be Hypey McSpazzALot and less expectation for him to make the Honor Roll.  The more calls that came in, though,  I thought, "eeesh, I should probably schedule a meeting with somebody." As it turned out, I didn't really have to.

  One morning about two months into the school year, I ran into his teacher and she asked if I had a minute.  My heart sank. I was expecting her to give me a litany of all the bad and annoying things my son had done that week, but she didn't. She told me that he was doing really well, that he liked computer center and always wanted to be the first kid to answer a question during reading. My mouth must have dropped open because she asked, "Does that surprise you?"  To be honest, it did.   And then I told her about his ADHD. She laughed. I think her exact words were, "Yeah, No Kidding."  But then she told me she thought he would do just fine. He had a shaky adjustment period, but he was "getting it."  He wanted to do well. He was SMART.

Here's what did happen:
 He wasn't the worst kid in the class. He wasn't even the most hyper kid in the class. He learned how to read, fast. So fast, in fact that he was at an end-of-the-first-grade level back in January. He learned that substitute teachers are just as "real" as other teachers.  He even voluntarily made some DUN DUN DUN Arts & Crafts (ewwwww). We did have That Meeting, with the counselor, the principal and the teacher, just to make sure he has safeguards in place if things start to go wonky in the future, but thus far, he hasn't needed any. 

He aced kindergarten. He had FUN.  I feel like doing a victory lap and shaking up champagne bottles and high-fiving complete strangers this entire last week of school. 


Saturday, May 09, 2015

For the Dog Moms

As some of you might already know, I'm on the board of a dog rescue here in town. Earlier this week, we were plotting/planning for some Mother's Day posts for those in our group who go above and beyond as Dog Moms. One of our board members, mentioned that she didn't think she really "deserved" to get any recognition on on Mother's Day because she doesn't have any human children and it made me sad. Here's a person who spends a good majority of her time and money and soul caring for the dogs in her life and she doesn't think she's a mom. I call bullshit.

We could get all technical here about what actually makes a mother. What is it exactly? Growing a human? Pushing that human out of your body? Caring for another human that someone else pushed out of their body? If you really want to be stringent about the definition, you could do that, I suppose. But there are plenty of people in this world who do all of those things, yet don't provide love. They don't "MOTHER."

You'll sometimes hear someone who doesn't have human kids say, "My dog's are my children." There are people who get seriously offended by that. Some people feel that by saying that, we're somehow equating your kid with a dog and kids are just more important and your dog is stupid and eats cat shit or tries to lick its own  balls.  It's NOT the same. You're right it's not (though I saw that Instagram you had of your kid shoving mud up his nose and that was...cute). But you know what? No one's love for their dogs in any way diminishes your love for your kids. There's no reason to "rank" anyone's affection in terms of what "really matters". There's just not.  You don't have to equate a dog with a kid if you don't want to, but I think you should recognize a mother's love for what it is.

For many people, myself included and I have human kids, the love and care we give our dogs IS mothering. They're the children we choose (though sometimes, to be fair, they choose us). We have no shared DNA, but the quality, length of their lives are entirely up to us.The dog moms I know monitor their dog's health, they give them comfort and care.  They take them to the vet when they're sick, they stay up all night when their dog trembles through a thunderstorm. They talk to them. They genuinely care about whether or not their dog is happy.  Most of them would forgo their own needs if it came down to spending their money on themselves or buying medicine their dog needed. And the love, oh the love, how do you observe someone's total devotion to caring for another being and somehow sniff and think "eh, that's just not as valid as MY love." Why would you feel the need to do that? Mothering is many things and there's room for all of us.

Before I had human kids, I spent many years as a dog mom fostering over 200 dogs and puppies and my experiences gave me a huge advantage for when it came time for me to take care of tiny humans. Did it teach me everything? No, but I was already familiar with the responsibility that caring for another life entails. Puppy, don't eat that. Dude, play nice.  WHAT IS THAT THING in your ear there, buddy? Just  learning how to deal with another's health issues, feeding them, teaching them to be a social being, what it means to be a successful part of a pack (you have no idea how handy that one was when my oldest got to kindergarten). CARING about their wellbeing... Is it the same as caring for a kid? Nope. But honestly, it wasn't that big of a leap between the two for me.

Those people who don't think your dogs  can be your "kids" will say things like, "Your dog can't talk to you." "I can't crate my kid if he behaves badly." "Is your dog gonna take care of you when you get old?"   Look, we know our dogs aren't going to sit up one day and start carrying on a conversation. We know they're only going to be in our lives for 10-15 years, if we're lucky. We know there's not going to be any reciprocity when it comes time for us to be taken care of.  We love them anyway. And I would argue that loving them without the expectation of anything in return is one of the purest forms of love.

It's what "Mothers" do.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Suckiest Anniversary Ever

Ugh, this is not an anniversary that I really want to mark, or remember. My mom died a year ago today.

 You would think that at some point, saying that or typing that would get easier. I'm still waiting. As you may or may not have surmised, my Listen To Your Mother piece was about what happened after my mom died. When I worried about how I was going to get through the show, a friend of mine suggested that sometimes, just repeating things over and over helps wring the heavy emotion out, so I read and re-read and practiced that damned essay upwards of 500 times just so I wouldn't get choked up and do that thing where my throat closes up, my voice goes sonic and and I do the ugly cry. But no matter how many times I read it out loud, it never once got easier. I didn't, in fact, make it through any of the rehearsals or either of the two shows without crying. (Don't worry, it will be on YouTube and we can all relive the cringe, it's awesome).

I'm actually ok with crying. I'd prefer it happen amongst people who know and love me and preceded by the speedy ingestion of a really nice bottle of pinot noir, but I guess I can't be choosy. And I can't stop the days from going by so that it's longer and longer since I saw her and talked to her. I do this weird, non-helpful thing in my head when a holiday or family event rolls around: I think, a year ago, my mom was here for this.  A year ago, she called me on my birthday. We spent Easter together, a year ago. She sent Hopper a check so he could go buy himself some ice cream...a year ago. And now I can't do that and I don't know why that bothers me so much. It's not like having her gone for a year is any better than having her gone for a year and a day.

I will say that there have been some bright points. I think that my brother and sisters and I are closer than we've ever been. We spend more time together. We check in more often.   Every once in a while, one of us will text the others just to say, "hey, today sucked for me" and we all know exactly what they're feeling. I mean, I got the goddamned Fingerhut catalog in the mail a few months ago and to you, that probably means nothing. But my sisters know why I called them in tears:  I could hardly believe that Fingerhut is still solvent, months after the loss of my mother's support.

I guess the thing is: it's hard getting over thinking  in terms of when my mom was with us for it last because there are so, SO many things happening that she never got to see. Life just keeps boogying on and just this month, there's so many milestones  for us to celebrate. We just have to find a way of keeping her present that isn't all about mourning her absence. I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm getting there.

I sure do miss her though.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yes, but No Vagina

When I was in high school, I had a humor column in our school newspaper called "Outer Leemits." It was obnoxious in that way where teenagers think they are the sharpest, most original, hi-larious people to ever walk the earth and everyone else is just standing behind them hoping not get a muscle strain from rolling their eyes. I only mention "Outer Leemits" here (seriously, I thought that was a funny title, like "limits" but instead LEEmits, like my name.. ha? ha? oh god) I only mention it here because it's the only other time in my life I've ever put my writing out there for anyone outside of my inner circle of maybe two dozen people. (I have one of those tickers on the side of the blog page here that tells me how many followers I have and I think at one point we were at a high of twenty-seven. It was a heady time).

But then earlier this spring, I got a wild hair and sent a submission to Listen To Your Mother.  I was called in for an audition, that I purposefully left out any mention of on here or Facefart or anywhere else. Because is it really failure if no one else knows you failed? Then I made the show. Boom.

After the cast announcement, I did finally post something about it, but to be honest, not a lot of my friends knew exactly what the show is. They'd heard of it, but they weren't exactly sure what all it entails. So, I'm trying to explain this to a friend of mine:

Me: There's a group of writers and we all read our essays talking about different aspects of motherhood.
Friend: like a podcast?
Me: no, like in person
Friend: to each other?
Me: to an audience.....
Me: of people
Me: on a stage
Friend:  So it's like the Vagina Monologues?
Me: YES!  but no Vagina.

Since being cast in the show I've gotten to know some of the other cast members. Everyone's a writer, even if they don't do it for a living.  We're all really different--different ages, different backgrounds, but we're all moms and, listening to each other's stories has had, I think, a similar effect on all of us.  We're all so, SO glad to be a part of this group but simultaneously all feel like maybe we don't deserve it this good.  Because being around this group of women makes you feel like a REAL writer. Like your experience as a mom is something other moms can relate to. Being around them makes me feel like I have thirteen new friends.   While that may not seem like much, I can tell you that those kinds of things can lift you up on a day that you don't feel that great because the stores are inundated with 800 million Mother's Day cards and signs and you're remembering  how you spent last Mother's Day (driving back from your mom's funeral). Those things can wrap your heart in a protective hug of support when you're feeling like shit because you maybe yelled at your son a little too loud when he tried to spray Deep Woods OFF into his brother's mouth (ahem). Plus, with those thirteen people, I feel like hitting 40 followers is almost within reach (it could happen).

And now that I've been to at least two read-throughs with the rest of the cast, I can't say enough great things about the show and I'd love for you see it .  I can tell you that there is a lot of damn good writing, some laughter, a whooooooole lot of tears, some redemption, even some Lil Wayne, but sadly, no Vagina.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hop and Bean, year six

Every Spring I try to get Hopper and his dog Bean to pose together for photos, something we've done since both of them were babies at the same time and regularly swapped spit (immune system, for the win!).  Last year was really the first time I was able to do this without Hopper whining that he really just wanted a cat, ok?  A little gray fluffy one? And in the past few months, this begrudging acceptance that he is never (ever) going to get a cat has transformed into these wild (delusional) plans that he is going to somehow teach Mr. Bean, an animal who regularly tries to eat empty solid tin cans, how to do amazing circus acts so they can go on the road and live a life of adventure.

I've had to gently lower these expectations by explaining the following:

Mr. B cannot learn how to do handstands (because he does not have hands)
He probably won't be figuring out how to ride a bike (something Hop has also not yet mastered)
He doesn't know any knock knock jokes (worth telling)
He cannot cook peanut butter on toast (eats all the peanut butter before the bread is even crispy)
He is too fat to swing on the monkey bars (seriously, so fat)

It should show you how much personal growth there's been to find out that, despite all these Bean Shortcomings, Hopper loves him anyway. Here's to two six year old boys!

previous years:  here,  here also, some here, etc.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

PD April

Well, this is just a photo dump post. I have lots to share, but not a whole lot of time to do it what with all the cleaning puppy pee and swim lessons and family visits.  I'm not complaining (except about the puppy pee), but I feel like I've missed out on telling you a whole bunch. So, I'll try to do that more this week. But in the meantime, I've got 1223 pictures on my phone and they're not going to delete themselves..

This is a photo of longhorns that I took at the Travis County Rodeo and Fair. Yes, I know, that was a month ago, shut up. Look how cool they are.

Yet another photo, in a long, looooonng series of photos where Bean is either very sad, very tired, or silently plotting my death.
This one has her adopt-a-versary this month.  Doesn't stop Sam from asking if we can "trade her in for a real dog" every chance he gets. C'mon, how can you resist this face?
Wildflowers are going CRAZY in Austin this month from our wet winter/spring. Of course, we don't actually have wildflowers in our yard, just a bunch of weeds when I don't mow for two weeks, but look how pretty!
My sisters came into town last weekend, so they got to have Hopper read books to them. This one is called "Animals Should Definitely NOT Wear Clothing" and I've had to hear it approximately 137 times in the last week.
I also took a picture of Kate with her mini-me, i.e. my son. That's ok, her kids look more like me than they do her. Genetics are weird.
I still am playing around with my remote shutter. Honestly, I really don't have an excuse for why I make that face so much. 


I promise at least two more posts this week! Pinky swear!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

First Hints of Blue

Winter was long and hard for us this year. I mean, I had to wear a heavy jacket all the way up til the 2nd week of March and I think that's just asking too much. My coat is not even that cute. Also, there was that one time when the temperature was hovering in the 30's and there was a chance of rain and they cancelled school. It was like in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder where they had to burn twisted hay and eat only potatoes for seven months, except for more like HEB just kept running out of the green salsa I like when people thought we were going to get freezing rain (and never did).

At any rate, the Long Winter is over and the bluebonnets are peaking out. You know what that means:  time to torture the children. Luckily for me, it's way early in the bluebonnet game.  They were just barely popping up this weekend and I don't think they'll be in full bloom for another week or so. Plenty of time for reshoots!