the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Newsletter: Month Fifty and Fifty-one

Dear Leta,

Tomorrow you turn fifty-one months old. If you are reading these in chronological order you will probably notice that the newsletter for month fifty has gone missing. Yeah, about that. Would you believe me if I told you Coco ate it? You’d have to because Coco eats everything. Just this week she ate both the arms and legs off the new Barbie doll that my mother gave you, and when I found her chewing those limbs I secretly hoped you wouldn’t notice. But that’s not what happened at all. You noticed immediately and were so enraged that YOU PULLED YOUR OWN HAIR. After several hours of wailing and head-butting the floor you walked up to me, put the legless and armless nub into my hands and said, “Grandmommy is going to be so mad at that dog.” And you used a tone that suggested it was less of an observation and more of a warning that Coco might want to draw up a will.

But no, Coco did not eat that specific newsletter. What I could do here is come up with some elaborate excuse for why it wasn’t ever written in the first place, but I know you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to hear all that crap. I got busy. Life sort of turned on its head at the beginning of last month and I just didn’t get to it. It was the first time that has ever happened since I first started writing these letters to you at the beginning of 2004, and I apologize. I can’t promise that it won’t ever happen again, but I have a feeling that if you get arrested in high school for spray-painting a giant four-letter word on the wall of the cafeteria it won’t be because month fifty is missing from your newsletters. It will be because your father and I didn’t do a good enough job of teaching you how not to get caught. Take my advice now: blame a cheerleader.

This newsletter is going to be a little different and not just in terms of it having to make up for a lost month. A lot has happened in the last few weeks that I feel I should address publicly, and the majority of it is not amusing. Usually I like to spend these paragraphs regaling you with stories of your hysterical antics so that in the future you can read about what a uniquely challenging and funny kid you were, and maybe one day it will explain why your own child screams so much and how it’s perfectly normal to daydream about dangling that kid over a pool of hungry sharks. 15 years from now you’re going to read this paragraph, here where I tell you that your favorite thing to say is DONKEY BELLIES, and whenever you say knock-knock, and I say who’s there, you scream DONKEY BELLIES, and then you gasp for air as the giggles get lodged in your throat, you’re going to read this and then call me and go THERE’S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT DONKEY BELLIES. And then you’re going to ask me for money.

But I guess there are some people who are very uncomfortable with the fact that I and many other women are writing about our children on our websites. How dare we violate your privacy like this, how dare we endanger you like this, we obviously care more about ad revenue than what this is going to do to your adolescence. And I have been asked countless times if I am at all worried that you will totally resent me for the details I have shared here. Of course you will you resent me. I have no doubt that you will spend years of your life resenting me and being embarrassed that we have the same last name, despite the fact that I have and will spend years of my life writing love letters to you on the Internet. Despite the fact that I have declared to millions of people that you are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to my life.

You will resent me for your curfew and the fact that I will not let you leave the house in that mini-skirt. You will resent me for showing up to your school in my pajama bottoms and for raising my hand in a PTA meeting when I hadn’t brushed my hair. You will text message your friends to tell them that I am the most horrible person on the planet because I’m forcing you to study for your exam in the morning. You are going to think that I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, and you will slam the door in my face.

Will you resent me for this website? Absolutely. And I have spent hours and days and months of my life considering this, weighing your resentment against the good that can come from being open and honest about what it’s like to be your mother, the good for you, the good for me, and the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone. And I have every reason to believe that one day you will look at the thousands of pages I have written about my love for you, the thousands of pages other women have written about their own children, and you’re going to be so proud that we were brave enough to do this. We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we’re not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter.

These are the stories of our lives as women and they often include you, yes. Am I endangering you by posting pictures of you? Many people think so, but then they’d have to admit that when I take you to the grocery store I am exposing your face to hundreds of strangers, people who can see what car we drove up in, the license plate number, and the direction we head home. Maybe we shouldn’t ever leave the house, otherwise? STRANGERS WILL KNOW WHAT WE LOOK LIKE. Worse? They will know I prefer Tampax to the generic brand.

Am I violating your privacy? If keeping 95 percent of what goes on in your life off limits in terms of what I write on my website, then yes, I am totally invading your privacy. And what about that time I wrote about your poop, aren’t you going to be mortified when your classmates read about that in sixth grade? Leta, I stopped writing about your poop many, many months ago, and chances are that all the kids you’re going to know in sixth grade will have spent the first three years of their lives shitting their pants, too. Oh wait, THAT’S WHAT HUMANS DO. WHO KNEW.

Finally, I’ve seen it suggested in my inbox and by various critics online that what we do on our websites is egotistical and exploitative. Some even refer to it as child abuse. I know I am not alone when I say that when I sit down to update my website I do it to connect with other people, I do it to reflect on the absurdity of everyday life with the hope that the people who read it will find similarities in their own routine. I did not know that wanting to be a part of a community qualified as egotism.

Some of our websites make us money, yes, money that puts food on our table, pays for preschool and helps pay for utilities. Sometimes we even use this money to pay for more unnecessary things like computers or manicures or purple ceramic hippos, and this in particular is something people grab hold of to try and twist what we’re doing into something gross and ugly. And try as they might, I will not be discouraged from continuing to document the beauty of life with my family or supporting them with an income from doing so. Leta, some people will one day try to convince you that what I’ve done here is some sort of sickening betrayal of your childhood, and what those people fail to recognize is that I am doing the exact opposite. This is the glorification of your childhood, and even more than that this is a community of women coming together to make each other feel less alone. You are a part of this movement, you and all of the other kids whose mothers are sitting at home right now writing tirelessly about their experiences as mothers, the love and frustration and madness of it all. And I think one day you will look at all of this and pump your fist in the air.


  • Mary O

    2008/05/02 at 4:27 pm

    I love this. So true!

  • Jill Mormon

    2008/05/02 at 4:28 pm

    God, what a stunningly beautiful child.

  • Aimee

    2008/05/02 at 4:28 pm

    the pictures didn’t show up till I clicked on comments. weird. I can’t believe how grown up Leta looks in these photos! Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were posting an eviction notice on your belly?

  • Al

    2008/05/02 at 4:29 pm


    Thank you.

  • Tuesday

    2008/05/02 at 4:29 pm

    So very true. People, especially other mothers, seem to be just looking for a reason to tear each other down, to judge quickly and without merit.
    Blogging about motehrhood and how tiring and hard it is but equally rewarding, has made me feel like I am not alone, especially when most days that is how I feel.

    Our kids will have lots of reasons to hate us one day, and if blogging is one of them, I will consider them lucky.

  • Kerri

    2008/05/02 at 4:29 pm

    I think some day she will read this, and it will be glaringly obvious how much you truly love her, because it’s obvious to those of us with brains and IQs. And as for child endangerment, well, at least you’re not pushing her to be on some reality show with Danny Bonaduce.

    P.S., the book rocks. I’m already half way through it, and may be passing it on to my husband soon.

  • Casey

    2008/05/02 at 4:30 pm

    *Pumps fist in air!*

  • Jane-Marie

    2008/05/02 at 4:30 pm

    What a wonderful letter and beautiful photos of Leta. Thanks for sharing your lives with us.

  • Civilio

    2008/05/02 at 4:32 pm

    Damn. How is it that you can make me laugh and cry at the same time??
    Well said, and thank you for saying it.

  • Robin G.

    2008/05/02 at 4:33 pm

    Just don’t tell any of her middle school friends about this website, and you should mostly be in the clear, I think. Which is not what she’ll say at the time.

  • Alyson

    2008/05/02 at 4:35 pm

    Delurking to say that Leta is lucky to have you.

    Thank you to you and other blogging parents for holding a public conversation that is helping our society throw off some authoritarian chains and creating community in an increasingly segmented world.

  • Alexa

    2008/05/02 at 4:35 pm

    Wow, you’re my hero. Seriously.

  • tara whitney

    2008/05/02 at 4:36 pm

    you just said everything that has wanted to bubble out of me in a hot sticky rage every time i hear that crap about “mommy bloggers” exploiting their kids.


  • Amber

    2008/05/02 at 4:36 pm

    I think that future generations of people will be more open to things like this. I mean, I wish MY mom had done something like this. Sure, I would have hated it as a teenager, but I hated everything as a teenager! You are doing something truly great, Heather–and for people who are going to be moms sooner or later and don’t know what to expect (like me!) you and other blogging moms have been an invaluable resource.

  • Jill Mormon

    2008/05/02 at 4:36 pm

    OK, the rest of my comment was eaten by the cyberspace boogies, I guess.

    I agree, and wish I were as brave as you. My paranoia forces me to keep myself anonymous and take great pains not to post pictures of my child (or myself, or DH, etc.) on my website. This is very difficult when you know without a doubt you’ve given birth to someone so gorgeous, so amazing, so simply full of life and love and joy… and everyone else has to miss out on that because Momma worries what strangers on the internet will do with those pictures.

    Kudos to you for following your heart and doing what is best for your family.

  • Andrea

    2008/05/02 at 4:37 pm

    Pumping both fists in air after wiping tears. I almost yelled when I saw there were no comments, then I opened them and there were 9, oh well, still pretty damn close to first. You are so veryveryvery right about the subject of this entry. Better than well done, all of it, the words/thoughts and photos of your daughter. Just another reason yours is my favorite blog.

  • Kerry

    2008/05/02 at 4:38 pm

    I have a friend who has a four year old, and she will sometimes give this four year old candy while she’s waiting in line at the grocery store. One time a woman in line behind her said that she was going to ruin her child by giving him candy, and OH MY GOD what a terrible mother she was. My friend responded by saying, “Well, it’s a good thing I’M his mother, then.” I think that’ a great attitude, and I’m glad you share it as well.

  • Meredith M

    2008/05/02 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve been a loyal reader for the last couple of years. I’ve been envious of your ability to express so precisely the exact same (well, close enough anyway) crazy, wonderful, trying, inspiring things I’m experiencing.

    I just wish I had the same love letters written to my girls. I may copy and paste yours and change the names 🙂
    Thank you for being real and honest. Please don’t stop!

  • KellyS

    2008/05/02 at 4:38 pm

    I keep my own (rarely updated) blog a secret from my mom-friends. A couple of them have mentioned blogging, and seem to truly feel that what us moms do on a daily basis is just not interesting or relevant enough that it should take up space on the ‘net, or anywhere in the world, for that matter. That it’s a stupid endeavor, and the time could be better spent elsewhere. (Mopping, perhaps.)

    Thank you for proving them so wrong, all these 51 months later.
    Rock on. (Leta is gorgeous!)

  • Sean

    2008/05/02 at 4:38 pm

    When she’s fifteen she’ll be like every other teenage girl and publicly hate on the parents.

    But when she’s alone, she’ll know very well that she’s the one with the cool parents.

  • MSH

    2008/05/02 at 4:40 pm


    Thank you.

  • plue

    2008/05/02 at 4:40 pm

    My dad always said that there was no point in having children unless you could embarrass them in public. So I guess you could say my childhood was particularly meaningful.

  • Sarah

    2008/05/02 at 4:41 pm

    That brought a tear to my eye.

    My mother is dying, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me to read the letters she wrote me as a child.

    Leta will cherish these words her whole life.

  • Brook

    2008/05/02 at 4:41 pm

    *fist pump in air*

  • Anne

    2008/05/02 at 4:42 pm

    Dear Heather,

    Your love for Leta shines through EVERYTHING you say, and I have just finished reading through your archive and I am so moved and thrilled by your journey. THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing Leta and your life with us. She IS an incredibly beautiful child, with the hugest eyes! Her eyes naturally are as beautiful and dark and large as what makeup TRIES to give grown women, but it’s never as beautiful as that.

    I used to post on, way back when my 20-year-old daughter was a toddler and preschooler, and that was a beautiful community back then — about 1992, 1993, 1994. We even had a photo album for, and was that ever an incredible thing. That community of parents got ME through. It has a lot in common with the parenting blogosphere now. And I’m sure that some of the things I posted about my kid are still around (oddly, a post I made to about DOG BISCUITS, of all things, a recipe to answer someone’s question, that had been in my daily newspaper, is one of the big things that Google knows about me….) but she has never mentioned it. (and she is VERY VERY MUCH online, you better believe, she works for Apple Computer now)….

    Heather, you’re doing a wonderful, beautiful thing. Thank you so much.

  • Karen

    2008/05/02 at 4:42 pm

    I do not have children (I’m not ready yet. My husband is patiently waiting though) and so I do not yet know the craziness, sillyness, joy and heartache that you and other mothers must go through. Reading your site gives me a tiny glimpse of what I will get to experience (when I catch up with my husband that is.)

    I applaud you for being so open and candid and for letting us in to taste a little slice of pie that is your life.

    Thanks. And to those who don’t like it? I’ll pool you with G.W. Bush–“People I’d Like to Kick in the Sac”

  • the mighty jimbo

    2008/05/02 at 4:43 pm

    this makes me wish i had a uterus.

  • Chelsea

    2008/05/02 at 4:44 pm

    A long awaited response to all those nay-sayers. Thanks!

  • Adiel

    2008/05/02 at 4:44 pm

    I loved the “blame a cheerleader” part.

  • Jessica

    2008/05/02 at 4:44 pm

    What a beautiful girls she’s becoming. Growing so fast.

    As for people berating us for *gasp* writing about our children I say forget them. At least we aren’t selling them for crack.

    Plus, I love the sense of not being alone I get from other mommies and that others take it from my blog.

  • Norah

    2008/05/02 at 4:45 pm

    Has it been fifty-one months already? How time flies.

    It’s so good that the haters haven’t dissuaded you. What you’re doing is important. It’s part of a movement that will change the way we raise our kids, and it’s a beautiful thing.

    Thank you.

  • Karen

    2008/05/02 at 4:45 pm

    To prevent confusion…

    I won’t kick Dooce in the sac. Just the people that don’t like her.

  • Katybeth

    2008/05/02 at 4:46 pm

    What a beautiful little girl. She looks young, loved, and understood and now you must go buy her a new Barbie. Rotten little dog! LOL.

  • ~kelly

    2008/05/02 at 4:46 pm

    I appreciate and look forward to your rumblings and rantings.. and for the past month I was going mad thinking, did I miss the monthly newsletter or what…. please don’t make us wait again!~

  • kjc

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    It is unfortunate that jealousy rears its ugly head over such stupid piddly things like mommy-blogging. Because when they try to tear you down, they are wishing they were you.

    Honestly what parent wouldn’t want to be able to stay support themselves and stay at home to be a parent. Isn’t that what the lottery is all about… the dream… of freedom, sleeping in, wearing your pjs to drop the kids off.

    Heather you are truly a wonderous woman. After Leta is done hating you, she will love you and thank you for being you.

  • molly

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    That is a beautiful girl, and she has a beautiful mom. And both may drive each other up the wall at various points in their life, but they will always know at the end of the day that they’re the best thing that could have ever happened to each other.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    I have read this website silently for years. I don’t normally feel compelled to comment because so many other people say it first and say it better. I need to make an exception now to say: good for you, Heather. Kick the stupid people in the teeth!!!

  • bevskid1

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    I am a fan and think of you guys on my travels to SLC for business. Wish I was in town the week that you are autographing the essay collection…oh yeah, get back on topic.

    Your writing does two things for me: first, it helps me truly empathize and understand my friends who are married and/or moms; and second, it gives me hope that while I have no desire to blog, that I will get back to writing since I happily chose to be an English major because of my love for reading.

    It never ceases to amuse and amaze me the volume of hate mail that you get from people who seek you out. Consider me (se)Dooced!

  • Marianna Wilde

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    Heather, I want to hug you and high five you and get drunk with you all at once.

  • Jodie

    2008/05/02 at 4:47 pm

    Dooce, YOU ROCK! This a wonderful statement of the reason you write your blog. I’m not a mother, just a long distance step mom, a cat mom and a dog mom. But I totally connect to you via your website. And I think I would have been less embarassed by my mother writing about me and showing the world than I was by her yelling at me in front of my friends or selling Girl Scout cookies with my baby sister in front of my COLLEGE dorm. Keep on blogging! You’re right, the critics are wrong!

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 4:48 pm


    Also, call me stupid (you won’t be the first, I’m sure), but what exactly do your critics think the difference is between bloggers and other writers who write about their families? Between bloggers and songwriters? Between bloggers and other published photographers whose subjects are their children? In my estimation, the answer is nothing. Leta may likely hold you responsible for all the bad things that ever happen to her, but she can never claim to be unloved or unappreciated. Every child should have such a record of her mother’s love.

    Thank you for sharing that love with us.

  • elisabeth

    2008/05/02 at 4:48 pm

    I applaud you and hope you, Leta and Jon know exactly how many people stand behind you. It’s an amazing thing that thousands of people who don’t even know you in person, genuinely love you. We love you and we love Leta. Keep up the great work and give that beautiful little girl a big hug from all of us.

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 4:51 pm

    I say ‘brava!’ to you and ‘kiss-off’ to those misguided few with the gall to label it child abuse. You are not allowing Leta’s early years to pass you by in a blur of laundry and list-making, but making a conscious and creative effort to record and, as you said, celebrate this time. It’s marvelous. She need never doubt your devotion and love because you must have alot of both to put yourself through the fire for her with every post.

  • Suzanne

    2008/05/02 at 4:51 pm

    Rock on Heather!
    Reading your website makes me realize I CAN survive becoming a mother (due with my first in October)and keep some sense of self and a sense of humor.
    Leta gets more beautiful every month.
    Keep up the good work!!

  • furpants

    2008/05/02 at 4:52 pm

    It never even occurred to me that people would have such mean things to say about your hilarious and lovable family blog. I read your blog all the time and it has made a person you will never know (me) LOVE your adorable Leta! So whatever negative people think or say, there are a thousand times more happy, good people who truly care about your family and the community you have created.

    The way you share your life has helped me. Good for you for standing up for yourself. Those meanies can suck it.

  • Jennie

    2008/05/02 at 4:52 pm

    with happy mommy tears streaming down my face, thank you.

  • Kristan

    2008/05/02 at 4:53 pm

    First and foremost: my god she is getting so beautiful.

    Second and secondmost: I’m not a mother, but I adore the way you’ve captured your life into these fun / inspirational / moving / hilarious stories. I think you are doing people a great service, but I don’t think it’s limited to any particular demographic. Just to people who don’t sip the hatorade.

    So keep on keeping on. (Otherwise I might die from the loss!)

  • Hollie

    2008/05/02 at 4:53 pm

    I think this is my favourite of all your newsletters. You are an amazing person, Heather. Sharing your struggles has made it easier for me to go through my own and ask for help when I need it. I don’t even know you, and I think I love you and your family.

  • danni

    2008/05/02 at 4:55 pm

    Wonderful post Heather. Keep your head up high. Wish you were my mom.

  • anne

    2008/05/02 at 4:55 pm

    Wonderfully written. I wish those critics weren’t such blazing morons. What you do is not only touching hearts of people all around the world, but I would be so honored if my mother kept such a beautiful journal of my own childhood.

    Every time I think Leta could not get any more beautiful, you post photos like these. What a stunning little girl.

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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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