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.


  • notquiteawake

    2008/05/02 at 4:56 pm

    I’m 32 years old and when I was a baby my mother, who is also a great writer, wrote letters to me and saved them in my baby book. I love reading these and I have since I was old enough to understand what they were. I only wish there was more of them. I think that if blogging had been around when my mom had me, she would have done the same as you are doing with Leta. And I would be very proud of her for doing so. Your letters will be around even when you’re not and that’s probably the best gift you can give her.

  • Coley G

    2008/05/02 at 4:57 pm

    Rock on! I think what you are doing is awesome. Hell I’d do it if I could, of course I have no kids or husband yet, but the dogs are funny 🙂 Anyways I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I never once got a “weird” feeling about anything you wrote. Hilariously funny, oh my gosh I can’t believe that happened, or maybe, amazed, but never felt like you were doing anything wrong. And everyone who thinks it is wrong should just stop reading it and come to the realization that they in fact are only writing about you so someone will read their website.

  • Jon Zahlaway

    2008/05/02 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I, for some time, have been struggling with the issues you addressed here (and I, too, came to the same “people in the grocery store see you” epiphany … though I said “Ice-cream shop” when I had that moment of imagining strangers following us home and duck-taping us to the kitchen chairs before absconding with my children).

  • Christian

    2008/05/02 at 4:58 pm

    An awesome letter. Thanks for being here for us, the other mamas who get to smile and laugh in understanding at what you go through – you are right in that it makes us feel not so alone.

  • Kathleen

    2008/05/02 at 5:00 pm

    Been a long time reader and I love your newsletters. Leta is looking so beautiful in these photos. Her eyes are really very expressive. This is the best newsletter so far. I hope she’s so proud of her newsletters when she’s older, its a lovely tribute. Thanks.

  • ohchicken

    2008/05/02 at 5:00 pm


    i salute you, and look forward to joining your ranks in a few weeks…

    and leta? gorgeous little girl. no baby left in there anywhere, is there?

  • HeatherK

    2008/05/02 at 5:00 pm

    She is stunning. For me, I adore these monthly newsletters. With each one, I see more and more how beautiful it is that you love her just as she is and embrace her quirks and funny ways without judgment. We could all do well by your example.

  • Judy Haley

    2008/05/02 at 5:00 pm

    Bless You!

  • Spicy Sister

    2008/05/02 at 5:01 pm

    You are one of my heroes.

    You are the reason I began blogging.

    You are so right on with this post.

    I can’t decide if I want to stand up and cheer at this post or make out with you.

    I’ll cheer.

  • Stellare

    2008/05/02 at 5:01 pm

    Gorgeous love story.

    Don’t even think about listening to the envious critics.

    And I think you and Jon should start thinking about what kind of weapon to use when chasing the young men away from your daughter….they will show up at the house, that is evident. It is only a matter of time!

  • AM

    2008/05/02 at 5:01 pm

    And when she is a teenager, Leta will write embarrassing things about you online, and you will write embarrassing things about her back. And it will all be highly amusing.

    Viva teh internets!

  • Nicole

    2008/05/02 at 5:01 pm

    Fabulous post!

    I worry too. I am cautious to not share enough to identify where we live or when we are traveling or when we plan to leave the house for anything in case someone decides to check my blog at that very minute and know to rob our house while we are at the grocery store.

    The reality, though, is that if it wasn’t for blogging my children wouldn’t have these stories. I have never been a paper and pen kind of girl.

    I wish my mum had blogged. It would be a great document to learn from as I try to navigate motherhood.

  • Heather

    2008/05/02 at 5:02 pm

    I love this letter. I’ve never commented on a blog before and I don’t even have kids. But I love this and I think you’re an awesome mom!

  • Laura

    2008/05/02 at 5:02 pm

    I’m the mom of a slightly OCD, really intense 4-year old boy. Just replace all mention of “disney princess” with “dinosaurs” and “donkey bellies” with “my butt is stinky!” and you have something approaching my world. Your blog reminds me to stop and pay attention to the crazy details of life and mothering

    Personally, you had me at “shit-ass-ho-muthafucka” and I thank you for your blog. It is one of the things in my life that keeps me sane.

    Internet, go out and get yourself a life, and leave this blog be.

  • Stacy

    2008/05/02 at 5:02 pm


    Thank you for saying it so well and saying it often.

    Leta is a lucky, well-loved little girl. But I bet she knows this.

  • Dewi

    2008/05/02 at 5:03 pm

    You rock.
    I did not know what else to say.
    You really do rock, all children should want their mother to be like you.
    Leta is lucky to have you as mother. Your emotional openness will serve the two of you very well when she is an adolescent.

    It would be fun to support your work, and buy a book when you are in NYC.

  • Florencia

    2008/05/02 at 5:05 pm

    I have been feeling so bad about all the mommy-haters out there. I am new to blogging, started back in November, and after finding your website and reading the archives from the beginning, I felt almost scared to post anything at all online because of all the hate mail you get. People are straight up vicious. I simply don’t understand why. Yesterday a co-worker sent me a link to the website that wrote a mock newsletter to Leta and I was horrified! I thought it must be a man to be so misogynistic but the author says she’s a woman. Even worse!

    Your blog led me to Leah Peterson’s blog and to her book, which I devoured like Cookie Monster eats the letter of the day. I am now reading Things I Learned About My Father and it is wonderful.

    I just want to say, after trying to write about my own feelings online and being afraid to do it, I am even more of a fan of your blog, it just isn’t easy to put yourself out there.

    Finally, I’d like to say that Leta looks so beautiful in that last picture, she’s just adorable!

  • Stephanie

    2008/05/02 at 5:06 pm


  • Rebecca

    2008/05/02 at 5:06 pm

    Yes, yes, yes!

    Leta looks like a model in these pictures. Wow.

  • Zenmomma

    2008/05/02 at 5:07 pm

    Beautifully said Heather!

    My kids were MUCH older when I started my blog, but I’ve been writing about them and FOR them for years. I’ve written about struggles and triumphs, good times and bad. They have been semi-public figures within our international unschooling community.

    Guess what all you naysayers?

    They are teens now and they don’t hate me. In fact, they actually LIKE me. We like to be together. Motherhood has been confusing at times, but it is absolutely better when experienced within a community.Oh the stories I could tell! Wait, I already did.

    Rock on!

  • Susan

    2008/05/02 at 5:07 pm

    You ROCK! I love reading these newsletters and it makes me look forward to the time when I become a mom.

  • Jonathon Morgan

    2008/05/02 at 5:08 pm

    I wince every time our dog Yoshi mangles one of Edan’s toys. As soon as it’s discovered, we start the slow process of prepping her for the potential that her toy *might* be chewed, so that by the time Yoshi’s destruction has been revealed, we can avoid The War that will eventually take place between the two of them.

  • Talon

    2008/05/02 at 5:09 pm

    From another mom who blogs about her brat and shares pictures (albit on LJ not on my own personal website with ad revenue…wow…I had no idea ad revenue was a wet dream of mine…go figure…)

    Anyway…I say…FUCK YEAH.

    Because I am eloquent like that.

  • Janet

    2008/05/02 at 5:09 pm

    I do not blog and do not have any children (yet) but absolutely enjoy reading your blog everyday. It’s about connecting to other people and I think whether we share similar situations or not we all long to connect to others in some way. When I have children I will be coming back to reread your posts so that I know I’m not alone.

    Leta is just simply beautiful and will cherish all these heartfelt and honest letters you’ve written over the years. Thank you for including us all on this journey!

  • Shii

    2008/05/02 at 5:10 pm

    Well put! You make us all proud.

  • Sarah

    2008/05/02 at 5:10 pm

    What a beautiful post and what a beautiful little girl. What you are doing is a wonderful, personal thing that we are privileged to read. Please keep it up.

  • The Rule Maker

    2008/05/02 at 5:11 pm

    WOW! This is the first letter I have read that you have written to Leta, as I just started reading your blog about three weeks ago and by the way, it rocks! NOW…I am going to need to go back and read all the letters. Amazing. She is a beautiful child and is so lucky to have such a smart, funny and talented Momma!

    I ordered your book and plan on giving it to my husband as a Father’s Day gift. Can’t wait to read it!

  • amy turn sharp

    2008/05/02 at 5:11 pm

    Vern! (that is a term of endearment I use with women who rock)
    I find it so insane to think that you ever get one terrible email or any one person ever doubts you or yr amazing passions. You swell my heart and ruin my luxury mascara often. (insert air fist pump)

  • Brat

    2008/05/02 at 5:11 pm

    Heather, you rock. You just keep on keeping on, Girl, because if you can do anything that enables you to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom, that’s great.

    One of my favorite quotes EVER is this one:

    If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.
    ~~Jackie Kennedy

    And my only child is now 29 years old and you know what?

    Jackie was right.

    Fuck the world, Dooce. Just do what you do and God love ya.

  • Bruce Castleberry

    2008/05/02 at 5:12 pm

    It’s not just women who read your stuff, Heather. I love what you write; we’re all in this together and we all bear a responsibility for our kids and their futures.

    And there are always assholes who aren’t happy unless they’re trying to drag others down to their level of misery. Screw them.

  • Tess

    2008/05/02 at 5:12 pm

    Dear Leta:

    Your mother totally rocks. When you’re about 22 years old, you’ll sit up and wonder, “When did she get so smart?” I hope my daughters will remember the times I ran through the sprinker with them, stayed up late making last minute cupcakes and cried with them because some dumb kid called them “freckle face”. I didn’t have the good sense to document all this and because your mother did, you should be enormously grateful.


  • Optimist

    2008/05/02 at 5:12 pm

    I love this letter. What a difference it would have make to me for my mom to have written such a thing 43 years ago!!

    Leta’s eyes… Wow.

    I just got your book from Amazon in the mail today. Can’t wait to delve in.


  • Zinzy

    2008/05/02 at 5:13 pm

    Hey Heather,

    What a nice newsletter this month. This time I actually got to wonder what Leta is going to think about this when she’s old enough to read it. And I bet this one will make her cry harder than she did about the Barbie. (By the way, did you know Mattel claims that between february ’04 and ’06 things were over between Barbie and Ken?)

    And, seriously, this is the first newsletter that I notice how much she has grown over the years and how – yes, you may burst out in happy tears – GORGEOUS she is going to be in a few years from now!
    Congratulations (:


    P.S.: What’s wrong with posting pictures of your own child on your website? The people who object to that probably have drug-addicted teenagers lurking all over Xanga with an Emo Blog anyway.

  • Kathy

    2008/05/02 at 5:14 pm

    You rock. Screw those critics. I wish the internet existed when I was growing up…and I wish my mom could have done exactly what you’re doing now. Leta might have a problem with it when she’s a teen…but when she finally reaches adulthood, she’ll cherish it.

    Write on mama…write on.

  • Ana

    2008/05/02 at 5:17 pm


  • BethanyWD

    2008/05/02 at 5:18 pm

    Hell-to-the-yah. The critics and hater just want the world to continue to marginalize what we, as mothers (and fathers, for that matter) do.

  • T

    2008/05/02 at 5:18 pm

    Aw, this makes me want to call my mom! And although you obviously don’t need me to tell you this–ignore the haters. So many people seem to make it their mission in life to find things to complain about.

  • Jill

    2008/05/02 at 5:20 pm

    You know what is interesting, is that I have a friend who writes as a mother of a child with a severe disability, and I believe she is cheered by the community for being brave enough to write about her experiences and allow for a venue for mothers like her. Why not cheer a mom who is reaching out to the majority of mothers in the world who deal with the challenges that come with a typically developing child? Don’t listen to the critics, they’re ignorant. cheers and have a wonderful weekend!

    PS I’m in early childhood ed and I think it would rock to have Leta around 🙂

  • Anonymous

    2008/05/02 at 5:20 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe people are SO opposed to what you do. Aren’t there more controversial causes they could be donating their energy to — like kitty abortions or something of the like?

    What’s wrong with getting paid to do something you love? People are doing it everywhere: acting, singing, writing, taking photographs, teaching, etc. etc.

  • Isabel Kallman

    2008/05/02 at 5:22 pm


  • Sara

    2008/05/02 at 5:22 pm

    I am so proud of you for writing this entry. Take that, haters!

  • Tana

    2008/05/02 at 5:23 pm

    Leta is just a gorgeous girl. She gets prettier every month!

  • Leon

    2008/05/02 at 5:23 pm

    Now I’m not certain, but I’m willing to bet that someone’s inbox was particularly rife with venom and spite this month. Perhaps a good sprinkling of veiled jealousy too? Or was this a reaction to Usher’s condemnation of celebrities “pimping” out pictures to tabloids for huge sums of money?

    Or was it just the heartfelt truth?

    I’m sure it was the later. Don’t let the bastards (or Coco……or the snow) get you down.

    Power to the Blurbodoocery!

  • Liz C

    2008/05/02 at 5:24 pm


    Geez, my Lovely Daughter is right now enjoying her 300th month. (Or is it 301st?) I was going to do annual letters. I think I did one, then promptly lost it. Hey, I was young and Al Gore hadn’t invented the WWW yet.

    I don’t think she reads my blog. Probably a good thing, even though we’re long past the poop stage. 🙂

    New reader — love your stuff!

  • Laura J.

    2008/05/02 at 5:24 pm

    The photos of Leta are just beautiful. I can only think of one other child more beautiful, and she’s mine. 🙂

    Your letters to Leta often bring me to tears (good ones) because the emotion is so deep and very similar to what I have felt for my own daughter. Thank you for sharing this very personal part of your family with the rest of us.

  • DaxiMama

    2008/05/02 at 5:25 pm

    This stupid website keeps making me cry. Dammit, Heather – knock it off.

  • Amber

    2008/05/02 at 5:25 pm

    Thank you for Thank you for this newsletter. I have read your website since 2002 and it has always comforted me to know I am not alone with similar frustrations, depression issues, joys and triumphs. You deserve happiness and you deserve income for this site. You are a fantastic mother to Leta, wife to Jon and friend to so many of us who you don’t even know.

  • Michelle

    2008/05/02 at 5:26 pm

    I had a creative writing professor in college who consistently reminded us to “write what you know”. I don’t understand why you (and other wonderful writers who also happen to me moms and dads) catch so much crap for what you do. You write well and you write about what you know: the love you have for your beautiful daughter and how heart-achingly awesome, sometimes difficult, and frequently hilarious being a mom can be.

    Thank you for doing that. 🙂

  • Newf

    2008/05/02 at 5:26 pm

    I was so happy to see the newsletter today-I had thought that I had missed it last month. I am the mother of a very head strong 6 month old. When I read some of your postings, I feel like someone else might understand how I feel when my child screams for hours. I love your honesty-you are braver than I am. You can tell Leta when she is older that she helped at least 1 mother make it through her baby’s first year. Please keep writing such honest postings! Thank you.

  • kristi

    2008/05/02 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for not being discouraged — it is so very true that it’s the glorification of her childhood and that it helps us moms feel not so not normal. There will always always always be people that try to bring us down NO MATTER WHAT we do. There are also people in this world that want to chop their own limbs off (surely you’ve heard of this!!?), so I think it goes without saying that they are so not wholly representative of the whole — or even the smidgen. Much like your critics.

    Much love to you and yours!

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.

read more