the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A numbers game

Leta’s favorite bedtime books are not the ones that tell stories, but rather ones that allow her to show off her amazing sense of recall. She loves alphabet books where she has to identify every object on the page — there’s the apple and the airplane and the avocado, except she says the apple, the hairplane, and the cahnnocado. She enjoys pointing to all the animals on their respective pages, tiger on the T page, lion on the L page, mangaroo on page K. Our neighbor was clearing out her children’s toys a few weeks ago and gave Leta a small, plastic Noah’s Ark with a slew of animals. Leta went through and named off every animal, and when she got to the miniature Noah she stopped short and looked at me to give her a clue. Before I could explain who he was she held him up and said, “Monkey!” Ah-Ha! A toy based on the Bible is teaching my daughter about evolution. That, Alanis Morissette, is sweet, sweet irony.

She’s also a huge fan of number books, particularly ones that ask, “How many [object X] do you see?” Last night we were reading one of these books, and she pointed out that there was one bunny, two ducks, and three bears. I told her those were not bears, they were mice made to look much larger than they are in reality. She said blankly, “Bears.” I corrected her again and told her no, those were definitely mice, although I could see how she could think otherwise. She said, “Okay. Bears and mice.” Thank you, international diplomat.

Numbers are now her passion, and she spends most of her day counting everything — the number of shoes in the room, the toes on her feet, the steps leading up to the house. During mealtime she will count the number of items on her plate — four pieces of chicken that she won’t eat, five peanut butter crackers that she will not touch. On the rare occasion that she does complete a meal, we will sprinkle a few M&M’s on her tray, usually four, and ask her to count them. Last night she pointed to each one and counted slowly, “One! … Two! … Three! … Four!” And then she moved her finger back to the first one, closed her eyes and kept going, “Five! … Six! … Seven! … Eight!” She was willing them with the power of her brain to multiply.

One of her favorite games to play now involves counting, and out of nowhere she’ll yell out a number and wait for one of us to yell out the next number in sequence. She would continue doing this for eternity if she could count that high, and also if she didn’t take the numbers so personally. Numbers 1 through 10 are all her own, her good friends, solid numbers she can trust. 11 through 20 make her absolutely giddy and breathless as if they are sharing their Twizzlers with her. But something happened between her and the numbers 21 through 30, something devastating and unforgivable, she doesn’t like to talk about it. 30 through 40 are dead to her, don’t even bring those up. And 40 through 50 are in grave danger, and it is her duty to warn them. The kid won’t ever make it to 100 because the emotional exhaustion will kill her first.

Flash video
Quicktime movie

  • Samantha

    2006/06/30 at 9:33 am

    If only I were that invested in numbers at such a young age, I might not have failed Algebra……twice. You warn the 50’s Leta!

  • Torrie

    2006/06/30 at 9:33 am

    You have finally done it.

    I am dead from the cuteness.

    I must now go read Bucky’s site to search for something disgusting to revive me.

  • Womanwithkids

    2006/06/30 at 9:34 am

    I love that Noah’s Ark taught Leta evolution… That’s perfect!

    And seriously, if she thinks about those M&Ms hard enough, it just may happen.

  • brandy

    2006/06/30 at 9:34 am

    Did you hear that? That was the sound of my biological clocks alarm.

    Time to start teaching her how to add! Then you can send her to the store for a loaf of bread, a stick of butter and a quart of milk.

    Super cute!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Rose

    2006/06/30 at 9:28 am

    Would Leta mind balancing my chequebook for me?
    Adorable video. Thank you for sharing!

  • Sandy

    2006/06/30 at 9:31 am

    She’s the cutest little genius ever!

  • Jeni

    2006/06/30 at 9:32 am

    I fear you have a future OCD child on your hands. The counting…it never stops.

  • Suz

    2006/06/30 at 9:35 am

    I’m sure you wish she got that excited over other things, like eating dinner or using the potty.
    But the counting thing is *way* cute.

  • carrie

    2006/06/30 at 9:37 am

    Ah, Leta, the numbers over 30 are dead to me as well.

    My oldest nephew refused to say the letter “L” when reciting the alphabet at Leta’s age. And he’d get angry if you happened to mention it to him. I’m not sure what went down between him and L but it apparently wasn’t pretty.

  • MsMamma

    2006/06/30 at 9:38 am

    Love it! Snowflake has a thing for thirty, like he’ll have some change and say “I have thirty bucks mama!” or his classic, no matter what the temp is, “It’s thirty degrees!”

  • Daisy

    2006/06/30 at 9:38 am

    Just too cute!!

  • Katie

    2006/06/30 at 9:39 am

    I have to agree that little video makes my biological clock TICK TICK TICK away!! She is the cutest!!!

  • katehopeeden

    2006/06/30 at 9:41 am

    My Trin does that getting lost thing in the teens as well.
    She’s good with eleven and twelve and then it’s “teen” for a good two or three minutes.
    But Leta’s doing great! My kids couldn’t ever count into forty anything before school! Good Job Heather 🙂
    Now, start spanish and french.
    Trin can do up to ten in spanish, french, english and italian 🙂

  • Brooke

    2006/06/30 at 9:42 am

    What is that she’s playing with? It looks like… a thong?!

  • jw

    2006/06/30 at 9:42 am

    She’s so cute!

    Now, if you are taking requests, I think there is NOTHING more darling than a little one saying the word “purple.” Their nose squishes up, their mouths twist around.

    So, if you please, how about a video of Leta saying “purple.” It could end the war, stop famine and disease, and make us all live as brothers and sisters.

    No pressure there!

  • Sophia

    2006/06/30 at 9:44 am

    Adorable! And do I detect a hint of a southern twang in the wee’s one’s voice? 😉

  • Ashley

    2006/06/30 at 9:45 am

    Smart, adorable, and dramatic?

    I am just waiting for her to take over the world.

  • Valerie

    2006/06/30 at 9:49 am

    She’s so adorable. Give me two! No, three! No wait, four!

  • bigmcmommy

    2006/06/30 at 9:49 am

    Just wait until you get to “eleventeen”, that comes right after fourteen.

  • Second Half

    2006/06/30 at 9:50 am

    I just played the video clip and the kids came running. Ella just smiled – as if Leta was her own daughter/baby. Harry said, “She’s a little bit good at that. No…she’a a lot bit good. She can count past TWENTY!!”

    Thought you’d appreciate their approval.

  • katiebarthedoor

    2006/06/30 at 9:51 am

    Just when it seemed she couldn’t get any cuter…

    I loved brandy’s (intentional?) reference to that famous Sesame Street clip, “loaf of bread, container of milk, stick of butter.”

    This site has an awesome list of old Sesame street video clips that were popular in the 70s/80s, with the “loaf of bread” clip listed first:

    Dooce – there are TONS of old counting clips that Leta would love on there.

  • ritsgirl

    2006/06/30 at 9:53 am

    That’s good counting.
    If the 30’s don’t start treating me with a little more respect then they will be dead to me too,Leta.

  • William

    2006/06/30 at 9:53 am

    I got stuck on [object x] I never did well with Algebra.

    Great video.

  • kellyjoco

    2006/06/30 at 9:56 am

    OOooohh I feel terrible I don’t think my soon to be three year old can count to twenty yet! (I know that was not your intention, to make me feel like I should be counting more with my youngest..) However, her favorite color is purple and she says so all day long, “its purple, MY LOVE IT!”

  • Mack'sMom

    2006/06/30 at 10:05 am

    Dear Leta:

    Numbers 30 and above don’t really exsist…once you hit 29 it never goes anywhere. So Mommy and Daddy are both 29! In ten years from now, they will still be 29 and you’ll be 12!

    My daughter counts….1, 2,5!!!!! We can’t go any further because she’s so excited about the number five!

  • MelanieinOrygun

    2006/06/30 at 10:09 am

    YESSS! on the irony. Noah Teaches Evolution: A Learning Toy!
    That fucking rocks.

  • Holly L

    2006/06/30 at 10:09 am

    Holy crap that was cute.

  • timothyjlambert

    2006/06/30 at 10:09 am

    Suddenly I want to hear Leta’s counting with a techno track behind it.

  • lindsayc

    2006/06/30 at 10:10 am

    godness she is a great counter! how did you teach this to her? my son is totally not interested in counting, although he is only 15 months old. did you line thing up or count fingers etc,? just wondering.

  • Jamie

    2006/06/30 at 10:13 am

    I was wondering how I could teach my son about evolution, where can I get my hands on that Noah’s Ark toy?

    Leta is too damn cute! Love the videos!

  • Vicky

    2006/06/30 at 10:15 am

    Oh my God, she said ‘Twenny’ Heather, she said ‘Twenny’! You child is… American. Woah.

  • courtney

    2006/06/30 at 10:27 am

    She’s very smart! So cute.

  • Brian

    2006/06/30 at 10:29 am

    I love that she pronounces a “K” word–kangaroo–with an “M” sound, while reading an alphabet book.

    I’m surprised she didn’t tell you that mangaroo should be on the “M” page.

  • Pioneer Woman

    2006/06/30 at 10:32 am

    Dang. As the mother of four children whom I always believe to be on the genius side of smart, I’m pretty impressed with this. My 3 1/2 year old isn’t past 30, and even that gets mangled quite a bit.

  • Amy D.

    2006/06/30 at 10:35 am

    Fucking-A-Right that is cute! I used to count anything and everything when I was a kid…..back then, everything seemed to add up nicely; it just seemed like everything made proper sense. Sensible OCD. There was nothing I couldn’t understand or figure out. Just keep her away from calculus and large amounts of marijuana. I think that’s where I lost it!

  • CJ

    2006/06/30 at 10:38 am

    That was most excellent.

    One thing I would do with my 2 year old is count fingers when driving (Leta is clearly past that unless I have several additional people for getting up to 40/28). Be sure you also point out zero — like holding up your hand with no fingers out. It’s not *nothing*; it’s zero. Does Leta have the Schoolhouse Rock DVD? My younger asks for ‘hero zero’ and it just warms my heart.

    The back and forth was cute as well. It was like she didn’t want you to get the last number in!

  • phoeber

    2006/06/30 at 10:44 am

    How odd that kids seem to have it in for numbers. Perp won’t say 5. Or five. I have no idea what AMP is saying but I’m willing to guess, based on the above evidence, that it’s something like, “FUCK you, seventeen! You and the horsie you rode in on!”

    Weird little creatures, ain’t they?

  • sasha

    2006/06/30 at 10:45 am

    Bears and mice. Don’t you love how they humor us?

  • RS

    2006/06/30 at 10:49 am

    I like the part towards the end when she’s holding up her arms in the “I won the prize-fight…winner and still ‘champeen'” pose. Excellent!

  • shannon

    2006/06/30 at 10:50 am

    Cute sure, but I think “damn that’s one smart kid” is a little more on target. Wow.

  • jes

    2006/06/30 at 10:51 am

    I was an English major, and as required, hated math.

    Number games. Perhaps this will be stepping stones to actually liking math, and thus getting a degree that will allow her to actually do something useful with her time, unlike me.

  • k

    2006/06/30 at 10:54 am

    Is she doing an Edith Bunker imitation during 1-10?

    Damn that girl is cute.

  • smoness

    2006/06/30 at 10:58 am

    No counting your M&Ms until you finish your cahnnocado! –Very fun and cute!

  • rch7279

    2006/06/30 at 11:04 am

    What is she playing with? It looks like a thong!

    so cute.

  • Daugher In Law

    2006/06/30 at 11:08 am

    I agree with Leta, it seemed age 48 came RIGHT after 39, without any warning whatsoever. How sneaky!

  • JeniG

    2006/06/30 at 11:19 am

    That is just too cute. I love you describing her emotions, 20 – 30 have really done something to her, Heather. You should probably check up on that.

    Also, I thought it was a thong at first too that she is playing with, but at second glance I think it may be Jon’s headlamp, which makes me laugh and think of drunken underpants remodeling.

    I read this too often!

  • Ang

    2006/06/30 at 11:24 am

    Very impressive! : )

  • hessie

    2006/06/30 at 11:27 am

    oh. my. god. my ovaries just wept. so cute.

  • HullCove

    2006/06/30 at 11:28 am

    A budding mathmetician…

  • jenB

    2006/06/30 at 11:29 am

    please send paramedics. i am impaired by the adorableness of that video. can’t. breathe.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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