Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bean Weighs In

Bean's reaction to the new puppy*: a story in photographs.

Um, Mom, WTF is this??

 You do realize it has a tiny head, right? Like, 1/5th the size of mine. And you know how dumb I am, divide that dumb by like, SEVEN...EIGHT times.

Oh shit, it's kissing me. TOUCHING MY MOUF. COOTIES.

Perhaps if I close my eyeballs and make a wish, it will not still be here when my eyeballs are back open. 

Christ. Still here, huh? Well, what do you want me to do with it? I could eat it for you. I feel certain I could fit its entire head into my gaping maw with a little gravy. 

 Surely, you realize I still very much have the cute. Also, this thing looks like a rat. It's wearing a cat collar and that's even too big. Ridiculous, yo.

OK. Fine. I just want you to look at its head again and remember the key word: CAPACITY. Don't come looking at me when it starts pooping out undigested plants and half eaten socks. I gave up that shit YEARS ago. 

* O'Malley was adopted last Thursday. We had about a 72 hour break before the new pup arrived. She does indeed have a dimunitive little noggin. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Family Resemblance, Hopper Edition

We established a long time ago that Rowan looks nothing like Sam or me. The person he favors most is my sister, Kate. You can check out this post for evidence. But Hopper is trickier. He doesn't look like me, but he's got my coloring. He sometimes resembles Sam, but I think that's because they are both ridiculous in exactly the same way, so I'm not sure how much of that is psychological on my part.  But when I was going through those bluebonnet photos a couple of weeks ago, it kept occurring to me who Hopper really looks like in this family.

Carol Hovland (Gram)

it's a little uncanny, isn't it? 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

And then there were two...

The puppy went on a sleepover tonight with a potential family. Hopper contested this arrangement.
"I thought O'Malley was OUR dog."
I explained how we were just helping him out til he found his forever family and that letting him go means that we can help even MORE puppies that need us. He thought about this for a second and then said, "ok, but can we get a green one next time?"
Yeah, I'll do my best..
So for me, this is the first time I've only had two dogs at the house since...(mentally calculating) uhhhh, 2003? I know. It's hard to get used to. I keep stepping funny like I'm trying to avoid crushing someone's paw, but there's ROOM TO WALK FREELY. What an odd sensation! I set my work bag down when I walked in the door and 20 minutes later: IT'S STILL THERE. I don't know if I can handle this weirdness, y'all.

Hudson and Bean

Monday, March 31, 2014


In addition to it being Bluebonnets Time, we also have at least two roadside carnivals right down the street from us. These are the kind with the rickety looking ferris wheels and the questionable safety records. You know, the ones where you decide which ride to go on based on whether or not you'll survive the fall.   Anyway, so, we see the carnival a couple of times driving past and Hopper gets SUPER excited because he's just like his dad: he loves death traps that hurtle you through space and make you vomit. He also believes that this is the only place in the world you can buy cotton candy.  Needless to say, he's been bugging me the past couple of days to go to the carnival, so I've been using this as a behavior carrot: "If you're really good and don't kick anyone and listen to your teachers, we'll go to the carnival tonight!"  Except... Every day he ends up kicking someone or otherwise misbehaving and we don't end up going.

Yesterday was a particularly TRYING day for both Hopper and his brother. I mean, from sun-up to sundown the two of them were tag-teaming little balls of destruction and misery. Even so, when we sat down for dinner,  he asked me in a really hopeful voice, "Are we going to go to the carnival today?"  I told him, "Hopper, you guys been so terrible today that the only way you're going to the carnival is if gypsies come by the house, kidnap you and put you to work as a carnie operating the rides." Thank you  1950's for the threat.

This morning, both boys were really chipper and well-rested and we were off to a really good start. Hopper marches right into his room at daycare and says, "Miss Michelle, Guess What?? I'm going to work as a carnie!"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Boys in Blue

it's that time of the year again... the days are longer, bluebonnets exploding everywhere. Time once again to drag my children to the side of the freeway to trample through unmowed clumps of brush that are possibly hiding cactii and newly awakened rattlesnakes so I can cajole them into contorting their precious mugs into something that looks less like a grimace and more like brotherly love...

I fail at this every g**damned year.

I'm not really sure why I bother anymore. 

Off to the side is a family laughing at me yelling, "BROTHERLY LOVE, I SAID" as they're trying to put each other in a headlock.

Rowan is very much in his "I'm not your Dancing Monkey" phase and flat out refused to look at me. This was pretty much it for the Rowan. Little turd. 

But I did manage to get some halfway decent photos of Hopper, once I managed to get him to stop giving me this look:

I finally told him if he didn't smile, I was going to make him sit on a cactus. This, for whatever reason, made him laugh.

and he began to oblige. 

but by this point, my camera battery light was flashing because GENIUS THAT I AM, I forgot to put in a fresh one before we left the house. Doy. 

So, I told the boys to head on back up the car and then BAM, they got all cute on me. Some of my favorite pictures ever. 

So, I guess it wasn't a total loss.

Friday, March 21, 2014


This afternoon, I was trying to explain to Hopper and Rowan that Fergus, our dog wasn't going to come home because he died today. So, I told them that Fergus wouldn't be around anymore and went into this whole spiel about how Fergus was playing at The Rainbow Bridge and he was happy because he wasn't blind now and  could run now and chase birds and do whatever his heart desired . All his ailments had gone away,  he wasn't old and arthritic anymore and we'd see him again when the time came... Hopper stopped me mid-poetic outburst and said, "Does that mean Fergus is dead?"
"Yes," I said.
"Did you watch him die?"
He thought about it for a second and then said, "Mama, You're still alive right?"
"Of course I am."
"And I am and Rowan is and Mr. Bean is and Hudson is and Dad is?"
"And Fergus won't fart anymore?"
"Probably not."
"Good, Because they'd probably kick him off that bridge if he did."

Then he hugged me really tight and ran outside.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ghost Town

Note:  This is an essay I wrote 20 years ago for an Expository Writing Class assignment in college. I'm copying it out here because some old friends and I were just talking about memories of our childhood places.  Just a word of explanation though, it was EXPOSITORY writing.. which is English Major speak for VERY WORDY. Also, this story may or may not have actually happened. But the place is real. 

My parents' voices could be heard through the door even though they were trying to keep quiet. My brother and sisters and I were straining to listen in on their conversation through the door. I'm sure they heard us shuffling in our pajamas. It was a tense night at our house and our parents hadn't done anything to explain to us why. They hadn't said much of anything besides "Don't worry" or "Git on to sleep now, it's past your bedtime."  It was impossible to sleep, however, because Charlie was missing.

In our household, dogs (and there were always at least four or five) were relegated to the backyard. Given that we were a hunting family in Arkansas, they were almost exclusively beagles or anything with a good nose for rabbit or squirrel. I grew up around a passel of Beagles so interchangeable, I couldn't tell you all of their names, but Charlie was special. She was the matriarch of our pets and had given birth to most of the other ones. Although her muzzle was getting white, she was still bright eyed and beautiful.  She managed a regular sort of regalness that completely disappeared in a barking frenzy whenever she smelled something wild. Though she had gotten tubby after years of being fed table scraps, she'd take off like a shot, disappearing into the woods, her tail erect, fanning wildly, leaving dogs half her age in her wake.

Mr. P___ our neighbor had called that morning and said that he had heard some wild animals around their house the night before. We lived out in the country, miles past the county line in an isolated neighborhood where possums and raccoons hadn't quite given up their territory. Since we didn't live in the city limits, we didn't have regular garbage pickup, so the local vermin population usually had a field day if we let things go long enough without burning the trash.  Mr. P believed that one of our dogs had "gotten into it" with raccoon the night before. There was lots of growling, he told us, then yelps and whimpering. The next morning, Charlie was missing. She wasn't around the yard like she usually was. She wasn't under the house or off begging for food at one of the neighbors. My mom had enlisted all four of us plus our friends to look for her. We search everywhere and came up empty. That's what my parents were talking about in the next room, what happens next, where to find Charlie. We heard them get up from the table so we scampered back to our rooms, but not before I heard my father say something about "Ghost Town." I didn't sleep for the rest of the night.

Ghost Town was situated in the corner of the woods that were back behind our house. The woods didn't have a name like "McKay's Woods" or "The Brown Wood," they were simply "the woods. Everyone assumed the woods didn't belong to anyone. All the kids in our neighborhood played there. When I was seven, the woods were exotic enough for us to pretend we were in the African jungle, but they were also close enough to the house that I could hear my mother calling us for dinner.  There weren't any "No Trespassing" signs anywhere along the whole mile or two that the woods stretched across the edge of the neighborhood, but there were places in the woods where none of us went alone. In particular, no one went to Ghost Town by themselves.

Several years before, no one quite knew when, there had been a big storm during tornado season that had knocked down a swath of trees in the woods. In the northwester corner, along the edge of the woods, one big oak tree had broken off about halfway up its trunk. The tree was still alive when it broke off, so the middle part of the trunk simply bent over, still connected to the bottom stump instead of making a complete break. The top part of the tree now hung at an angle from the stump to the ground like an upside down "V." Over time, the trunk had been overgrown with cudzu and honeysuckle until the fallen part of the tree and its stump had been covered with a blanket of leaves and vines that grew full and green in the summertime like a circus tent covered in wilderness. Underneath the canopy there was an open space big enough for a grown person to stand and walk around. The tree was so covered with plants, even in the wintertime, that if you walked under it, the vines almost completely blocked out the sun. Consequently, no grass grew there. There was just dark, moist dirt, the kind that dried out and faded in the regular light, but there in the covered shade of the tree, the dirt stayed cool and almost pitch black.  Embedded in the ground were some leftover branches from when the tree had been whole. They crackled underfoot like the snapping of small bones. The woods were always noisy with the sounds of birds and shouts of kids, but Ghost Town always seemed quiet and unmoving. You could have heard the wind blow, if it blew there. I never knew the wind to disturb the peace of Ghost Town except for the storm that created it.

For as long as I could remember, kids told other kids the truth about Ghost Town:  it was where animals went to die. They said that when the cats got so old they couldn't chase any mice, they went to Ghost Town. When dogs got too aged to hunt or couldn't find their appetites to eat anymore, they crept to Ghost Town, dug their own graves and laid down to die there. There was something about the moist, soft dirt, people said, that made it easy for the old arthritic pets, to spend the last of their energy to dig a small hole and settle their bodies into it like a final bed. When it came time, the animals would find their way to the fallen tree. There was some sort of homing instinct that drew them there. It was what the animals wanted, everyone said, to have a final home there under the tree. No one wanted to interfere with that kind of magic, so we left the place alone. Eventually, the place came to be known as Ghost Town because we all believed it was haunted with the spirits of all our old pets.

The only ones who ventured near Ghost Town were the older boys, probably showing off. We all knew where it was because it was right next to a giant daffodil patch we raided in the springtime. During March and April, that corner of the woods became completely carpeted with flowers. It was all but impossible step anywhere without crushing a blossom. My brother helpfully pointed out to me once that the reason all those flowers grew there was because the ground was fertilized by all those dead dogs and cats decomposing in Ghost Town. "I bet if Mom grew her garden here, she would have tomatoes THIS BIG" he said, holding both his arms out to show me. I believed him completely as I filled my bucket with daffodils over and over without hardly even creating a bald patch in the sea of flowers around me. But I knew Mom would never venture to plant her garden here, no matter how dark and moist the soil was. Ghost Town was a sacred place. It looked, even, like a natural shrine. Untouchable and inappropriate for such ordinary things as growing tomatoes.

The next morning my father took off early, but we were already up. He headed towards the northwestern corner of the woods and we all knew where he was going. Wordlessly, we looked at one another, waited til he was far enough ahead and then followed. It wasn't a long walk, so it wasn't long until we caught up to him. My Dad was looking around the fallen tree under the surrounding bushes. He looked up at the broken trunk and studied the canopy. It was green and thick and speckled with honeysuckle blossoms. In the morning light, it looked more beautiful than scary. He lifted some vines, then hesitated. He looked at us and then walked inside. After a second, my father burst through the wall of cudzu. He took off running towards the direction of the house, leaving us all behind. We froze. My brother walked towards the tree. He peered through the hole my dad had broken through the vines. I started to walk forward too.

"Stay there!" he said. And then as he looked again, he turned back and whispered, " It's Charlie."

My dad was coming back then with a blanket and a brown bottle of peroxide. He went back under the canopy and after a few minutes emerged holding Charlie in his arms.  She was bleeding and limp. The raccoon, it seems, had won.  We took her to the vet and he kept her overnight. She had lost a lot of blood and needed stitches but she was going to live.

I didn't go back to that part of the woods again that summer. By the time spring rolled around again the next year, we had all but forgotten what had happened. Several years later, when Charlie was much older, she went missing for a couple of days. I was tempted, then, to go back and look for her under the canopy. But this time we let her make her bed there and settle in for her sleep.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Hopper Augustus is five years old today, but don't tell him. He's under the impression that his birthday was three days ago and trust me, the last thing you want to do is get into an argument with this kid. You will not win, you will simply wear down after the 287th round.  Things that I have lost arguments with him about in the last couple of weeks include his assertions that:

Firetrucks are faster than rocketships.

Saturday lasts 4 days.

Texas is not a state.

If he eats too much food, he'll shrink.

O'Malley (our foster puppy with testicles) is a girl.

And the list goes on. If there's one thing you should know about Hopper is that he never, EVER takes anyone's word for it. It does not matter if you are an adult, a teacher or even a world reknowned subject matter expert. He knows what he knows and you, sir, do not.  Occasionally, you might be able to convince him of a thing or two, but usually only if there's indisputable physical evidence ("look Honey, the puppy has testicles, THAT MEANS HE'S A BOY"), or more commonly, you just end up telling him that if he doesn't stop arguing, he's not going to get any ice cream. We tend to stock a lot of Ben & Jerry's for this very purpose.

If you ask him, he'll tell you that his best friend is his brother Rowan. Though that doesn't stop him from beaning Rowan in the head at least ten times a day.  He loves dressing up in costumes, though he generally puts them into three categories (Lions, Power Rangers or Robots, no matter what the actual costume is).

He can't resist walking straight through puddles or jumping off of anything taller than six inches off the ground. In short, he's the  Hopperist Hopper I know.  Which is to say: pretty damn awesome.

Happy 5th Birthday, Kid. We have so many more adventures to come.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I have not been so hot at updating. This I know. I've been busy, you've been busy. Twelve days go by and no one even notices. Here are few things I have been spending my time on other than regaling you with stories of how much Rowan hates pants.

This little turdlet is O'Malley, our newest foster pup. He was initially billed to us as a "cocker/golden mix" pup who was suffering from extreme malnutrition and sarcoptic mange. After two weeks, it's become apparent that a) this dog has zero spaniel in him at all (a fact I find kinda charming) and b) his idea of catching up on nutrition is to eat toes.  He is giving you several innocent looks here. Do not be deceived.

For the record, I believe he may be either a Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix. Or Yard Bat.
I've also been losing sleep on account of having to catch up on six weeks of True Detective.  I am not a particular fan of either McConaghey or Harrelson and yet, love the show. I will dump it promptly when Game of Thrones starts, but for now, it's the only thing I've been watching in my approximate 23 available minutes of TV time a day. I think the Yellow King is Marty, for what it's worth.
Oh, and I've discovered digital loans from the Austin Public Library. In the past two weeks, I've read  Horns by Joe Hill (excellent)
Driven to Distraction (yet another book on ADHD I've ironically found difficult to focus on)
and I'm in the middle of VB6 by Mark Bittman and Vampire Academy (don't judge me, Chuckles).
We've also had family in town since the beginning of February so, you see, I've not just been ignoring you.
Ok. I've been ignoring you a little.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You're dino-mite

I want you to know that I recognize that I have issues with store-bought Valentines. As in, I don't like them. I don't get mad when I get one. I don't look down on anyone who buys them for their kids. My kids think they're great, they love getting them.  I just...don't like them. I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am pretty much alone in this and that, quite possibly, I need to get out of the house more. Anyway, so these are Rowan's valentines this year.

Yeah. About that happy hour?