Thursday, October 01, 2015


Hopper's antics have been well-documented on this blog. I think his little brother is starting to catch up...

I asked Rowan what was going on in this picture he drew. Can you guess?

"Chicken in a Bar Fight."

And then there is this one from today which is apparently, "Our Dark Lord."

I cannot WAIT for this parent/teacher conference.

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Marine

A little over a year ago, my sister texted me to let me know that her son, my nephew had signed a letter of intent to join the Marines. This was a good three months before the start of his senior year in high school. "Letter of Intent" is probably not the right term because that's what athletes do..I'm sure there's some other term for it that's much more manly and military sounding, but the point is, this 17 year old kid decided that he was going to join what most people consider the toughest branch of the military as soon as he possibly could after graduation.

"That's, umm? Great?"  I remember saying.  Not meaning "that's great" at all. More like, HOLY SHITBALLS ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THE MARINES?? OUR CONNOR??

"I know," she said, "but he's going to legally be an adult. It's not like I can tell him no."

And she was proud of him. Scared shitless, but so proud of him, I know. Everyone was... still is actually because he did it.  He graduated high school in May of this year and not even two weeks later, he was in San Diego for basic training. He graduated today, his 2nd graduation in less than 4 months, though I'm betting this one felt a little more hard won to him.

First, my sister texted me this picture:

Which I am still not able to really look at without tearing up. People commented on it things like "So handsome!" and "He looks like a MAn!"  and while I know those things to be technically true, it's not what I see. I see a little kid running around in his underwear and a batman mask, only this time it looks more like a Marine's uniform.

And then my sister posted a bunch of photos from the Family Day and the graduation and the one that I kept coming back to was this one:

And what I see here is a kid who's seeing his mom for the first time after being away from his family for longer than he's ever been away in his life. I see him trying not to be emotional but it getting the better of him for just a quick second. 

And there are lots more pictures. Of Connor in his green workout clothes running in formation with his battalion, of him standing tall (SO tall in his uniform). All of these pictures point to a kid who is no longer a kid, but who is now a MARINE that everyone sees now as A MAN. And I realize that I'm a little bit not having it yet. 

If that sounds like I'm not being supportive, let me assure you that I am incredibly, incredibly proud of my nephew. He is pure of heart and full of love and life and he saw something that he wanted to be a part of and he joined right in, without hesitation, which is something that some people go their whole lives without having the courage to do. He's 18 years old and he's a Marine and he is strong and brave. 
 But I don't think that joining the military and completing basic training is what makes you a Man. It's what happens next: what he does with his knowledge and his new-found skills and confidence, where he goes from here, the choices he makes, how he conducts himself in the face of things that I will never face. I think it's THOSE things will make the Man. And I, for one, can't wait to see it because I know that he had it in him even without the uniform: that bravery, that courage. That kid in the batman mask had it in him the whole time. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

First Grade 1977

Hopper starts first grade next week. What's kind of weird about it for me is that I remember what MY first day of first grade was like, pretty vividly actually.  I had just turned six and my mom had gotten me this cool sundress/hat/sunglasses combo for my birthday that I insisted on wearing on the first day of school.  Behold..

My I'm So Awesome I'm Wearing Elton John's Vacation Wear bravado wore off about five seconds into the day when I found out that instead of getting Mrs. Williams for my teacher, I had been assigned Mrs. McAllister. Mrs. McAllister was somewhere in the vicinity of 246 years old and she did not like children. Particularly, she wasn't fond my older brother, who she remembered having in her class four years earlier.  Her first words to me were, "I hope you're nothing like that brother of yours or it's going to be a long year, now take off those ridiculous sunglasses."  So welcoming.

Shortly after this exchange, the Screamer arrived. The Screamer was not happy about his mom leaving him in the care of Crones-R-Us and proceeded to blubber endlessly for like thirty straight minutes until Mrs. McAllister made me read him a book about baby chickens to calm him down. Don't ask me how I remember that the book was about baby chickens or that the Screamer's name was Joe Cole, I just  remember that he was crying so hard that when I asked him his name I thought he said "Joe Cool" and I was a big Snoopy fan at the time, so it stuck with me.

I remember lots of names of my first grade classmates. For example, there was a girl named Candida who sat next to me. I thought Candida was a really exotic and beautiful name. I did not know at the time that Candida was named after a something causes fungal disease. I'm pretty sure Candida did not know this either. I often thought of Candida in later years wondering how middle school went for her.

I remember a slightly chubby boy named Chad who told me in the cafeteria line that he was going to marry me and didn't even tattle on me when I punched him in the stomach in response. That Chad, such a gentleman.

I remember such very specific things about First Grade. I remember that I initially had a lot of trouble substituting lower case "d" for lower case "b" and that bitch Mrs. McAllister made me stand in the corner when I couldn't get it right.The injustice!  I remember that the very first book I checked out of the school library on my own was "A Fly Went By" and it took me at least three days to read it. I remember playing Duck Duck Goose in PE. I remember my astonishment and joy when I found out I could refuse to eat the green beans at lunch and no one was going to tell my mom.

I guess my point is, all of these things have stuck with me almost...cough.. forty years, so I know how much of an impression it's all going to have on the Hop.  So, I hope that his first day, he's not the Screamer. I hope his teacher is less than century old and likes kids, just a little bit. And I really hope that when picture day arrives, he can come close to the amount of Derp I had.

First Grade, 1977

I feel fairly sure my boy can handle it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Struggle

Do you have any idea how brutal it is to go from somewhere where the high temperature is 78 degrees to a place like Texas in August?  Yesterday, we had to get out of the pond because the boys got too shivery. Right now, it is 103 in Austin and my eyelids are sweating. 

As per usual, I did not check in as much from the farm as I had planned, and yet, there are 422 photos I'm trying to upload and process and stick cartoony stars over my kids' tushies. I'm always trying to get photos of the boys together where they're both looking a) at the camera and b) Rowan is not screaming. We came VERY CLOSE to achieving this at the farm.

Ok, not that close.

There were moments.

And then you realize that someone has lunch remnants on his face.


you might think that last one or two is cute, but have you gotten to the point when you notice that one of them is pinching his own butt cheeks?   Basically, I've just gotten to where I know that my fantasies of cute smiley photographs of well behaved children just aren't going to happen. At least not of MY children.  it's OK. I'll take substance over style any day.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Farm Blogging, pt 2

Our time at the farm is almost up! It's been sort of speeding by, specifically, when we went to Jiminy Peak and rode the mountain roller coaster, things were speeding by in a corkscrew, nausea-making fashion.. But to back up, we've also gone to "the beach" (at Grafton Lake)

And we've had lots of cousins and family time. The boys always like fresh meat to conquer and somehow talk into chasing them.
But back to the mountain coaster of doom..Rowan is a child who previously would refuse to get on a carousel because they were "too scary." We could not get this kid off the mountain Over and over, we were  having to ride this thing pretty much til Mom had to stop (before I barfed.) 
Not to be outdone, Hopper also enjoyed hurtling his tiny little scrawny body through time and space. 

I only had about 12 heart attacks that day. 

Today we're just relaxing. I can tell I am still on vacation because my last meal consisted of a brownie and a beer. 
I'm going to milk this for yet another day.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Farm Blogging 2015

I'm a little late logging in from the farm, mainly because it is hard to type when I'm in a reclining position, and also, I left my laptop at home. Rest assured we've been busy doing a whole lotta nothing besides tromping through the woods naked (the boys, not me).

We did take a little detour to Saratoga Springs on Tuesday and that was a neat day--we saw some morning workouts at the track
And then we got to spend the day with an old Austin friend of Sam's who took us on a tour. It's such a lovely little town
Even though some of the springs of Saratoga taste a little like fart water
But all in all: lovely day. Right up to the time we got home, went swimming at the pond and Hop got stung by a wasp right on the nose. Good times. He was a little skeptical of my "slap some mud on it " home remedy, but it did work. 
Now he only asks about 40 times every five minutes whether we are SURE wasps die when they lose a stinger and whether or not they're going to remember him and hold a grudge.
Yesterday we spent some time at MassMOCA. Hopper liked it. Rowan kept asking the docents where the "bug tents" were. There was some confusion on that end because we are pretty sure those don't exist.

They have yet to take a bath here at the farm because a) there is no bathtub and b) Rowan refuses to try the shower, but we are making do.
We are also adding soap to the slip and slide because why not. 
There has also been a very large amount of food that I have neglected to photograph because I am too busy shoving it in my mouth. Still more fun to come!

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.