the smell of my desperation has become a stench

You’ve reached the Armstrongs

We recently bought a set of new phones because the one we’ve had for three years was dropped so much that it mysteriously developed a personality and would speak to itself in Morse code in the middle of the night. I’ve never had much luck with phones, and the one I owned while living in Los Angeles used to ring once every half hour for no reason other than that it was born that way. The first forty times it happened I picked it up and answered hello only to be greeted by silence, so I learned to ignore it. The first time the phantom ring happened in front of Jon, he acted uncomfortable when I made no move to answer it. “Don’t mind that,” I said. “That just means it’s 10:30.” As soon as the explanation came out of my mouth I realized for the first time, oh my god, I don’t have to live like this. My life had been counted out into 24 fake rings a day for two years, and not once had I thought that the phone was broken. The only way I can explain this is that on my way to becoming valedictorian I never had to take a class on common sense.

When we set up the new phones throughout the house, Leta followed me around watching as I plugged in all the different parts. I turned around frequently to show her each handset and say, “These are Mama’s phones, not Leta’s, okay? Only Mama gets to drop these.” Or throw them at her father.

I managed to hold her off for an entire day until she asked me, “Mama? Can I talk on the phone, please?” Which is a sentence structure we have been working on for over 30 months, and she finally put it all together. Usually the demand looks like this:


A noun used incorrectly as an imperative meaning “give it to me now, lowly servant.”

But this time she used my name, she joined a subject with verb and a prepositional phrase and then spread a layer of chocolate on top by asking nicely. I gladly handed her the new phone to see what words she would weave together in a tapestry of beautiful language.

“Hello,” she said as she brought the handset to her ear and pretended to have a heated conversation. “Uh-huh … yeah.”

“Who are you talking to?” I asked, and she just ignored me and shook her head as if the person on the other end was feeding her lies.

“HEY!” she yelled, and then fixed her eyes in a dead stare on a spot behind me as if that seriousness would translate through her voice. And then in a moment I can see retelling on an episode of “Dateline” when they ask me when I thought it all started to go horribly wrong, she yelled, “I want some money!”

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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