the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Regional differences

Leta is looking for a tiny shoe that belongs to a particular Polly Pockets set we bought her for Easter which, first of all, is already an impossible endeavor. I don’t think the CIA could find that shoe, and I have a hard time understanding why they even create shoes for Polly Pocket figures anyway. Have you ever seen them? Imagine a miniature Barbie. Smaller. Smaller than that. So imagine the feet on that smaller than smaller than a miniature Barbie. Right. Tiny. You can’t even see the feet without a microscope. Now imagine the shoes that fit on those microscopic feet. Keeping track of those shoes is like keeping track of an individual piece of dust. EXCEPT MORE MADDENING.

She keeps asking Jon, “Did you sawl it?”

And he keeps going, “Have I SEEN it?”

Naturally, this has the exact opposite effect that he intends, and she starts screaming bad grammar even more vehemently: “DID YOU SAWL IT?”

“Leta,” he says with a calm, assertive tone that The Dog Whisperer recommends you use with disobedient dogs. Except Jon has never used this tone with Coco and instead prefers the DIE! DIE! DIE! approach to conversation. It involves a lot of tearing at his hair. And using inappropriate words in front of our impressionable four-year-old daughter who just yesterday used SHIT in proper context. I should probably add an OOPS to the end of that revelation, but I’m less embarrassed by her cussing than I am proud that she is figuring out the subtleties of language.

“SAWL is not a word,” he says to her firmly. “It’s SAW. SAWWWWWW.”

She remains unimpressed and, on the verge of emotional collapse, yells, “DID? YOU? SAWLLLLLLLL? IT?” Because she isn’t interested in this little grammar tutorial, DAD, and look! YOUR PROPER USE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE HAS DONE NOTHING TO HELP HER FIND THAT SHOE.

“Jon,” I say trying to step in and ease the tension a little bit. “I’m the English major in this house, and right now I don’t care that she’s saying SAWL. Why do you care so much?”

“Ohhhhhh noooooo, NO YOU DON’T,” he shoots back. “Have you ever listened to the way you pronounce C-R-A-Y-O-N? THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT.”

“What does that have to do with this?”

“It means that if I leave you in charge of teaching her how to speak we’ll have to hire a translator to follow her around so that she can communicate with the world.”

“But if you’re in charge of teaching her how to speak—”








Internet, I love my husband, I adore him even, but he should not be surprised this afternoon to find that all of his underwear has been put in the freezer.

  • Shelene

    2008/06/03 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you so much for the afternoon laugh!!

  • insane mama

    2008/06/03 at 2:40 pm

    I am so glad that I am not the only one that has a tendency to put other peoples underwear in the freezer! Although, I usually put my teenagers underwear in there just to piss her off! Talking of teens… that really needs a translator, I only understand half of what they say.

  • rb

    2008/06/03 at 2:40 pm

    HATE the Polly Pocket shoes. Wait until one of the armholes rips open. That’s fun.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/03 at 2:40 pm

    I have taken to gluing the shoes to Polly’s feet. It’s less effort than searching the couch cushions.

  • Scargosun

    2008/06/03 at 2:40 pm

    I think you should put his C-R-A-Y-O-N-S in there too.

  • Hey You

    2008/06/03 at 2:40 pm

    My mother has a spelling test of mine from the first grade that reads: 1. Sawl 2. Drawl etc. I came home upset that I had done poorly because “Mama, you told me to sound out the words, and *sob* I did, and I still *gasp* got them all wrong!” Did I mention that I grew up in Georgia? Guess not. I grew up in Georgia and think Leta is pronouncing Saw correctly.

  • Jacquie

    2008/06/03 at 2:41 pm

    Polly Pockets are manufactured in Hell. Their only redemption is that most of the pieces are small enough to cruise right through the intestinal tract and out the back door.

    I’ve pretty much given up on trying to teach my kids to speak properly, it’s easier to laugh at with them when they talk funny.

  • Jessica

    2008/06/03 at 2:41 pm

    Did you check between the couch cushions?

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/03 at 2:41 pm

    most hilarious post in a while, dooce

    and imagine, i think polly pockets are actually BIGGER than they first started out. hfs.

    also, my “human test” words are “graphic” and “murderer.”

    you sure it’s just underwear that you’re putting in the freezer?

  • Rebellious Arab Girl

    2008/06/03 at 2:42 pm

    lol .. Leta will grow out of it. She is only 4. Perfect English is not required at her age! 🙂

  • Betsey

    2008/06/03 at 2:43 pm

    Ha! I told my bf I was going to put his underwear in the freezer yesterday after he had his 4 year old spray me with the water hose.

  • andrea

    2008/06/03 at 2:45 pm

    Hilarious! I have a feeling this arguments will become a common thing around this house as soon as we can understand what our kid is actually saying.

    Oh, and Polly Pockets are one reason I am so happy to have birthed a boy.

  • nawny

    2008/06/03 at 2:45 pm

    I’m with you — the purpose of language is communication.

    It’s also worth noting that language evolves…

    Instead of assuming that Leta will need a translator, Jon should consider the possibility that in the not too distant future “sawl” might replace “seen.” It’s possible.

    (And Leta needs the Disney princess polly pocket sized dolls. Really. Teeny tiny glass slippers and such.)

  • Liz

    2008/06/03 at 2:46 pm

    Fabulous story Dooce. Love Leta. Not so much Jon in this case. Thanks for the hilarity and find that shoe!!

  • Katybeth

    2008/06/03 at 2:46 pm

    I almost never feel a husbands pain (feels really disloyal) but I married a Chi-cagoian and now my twelve year old says Snnnack in a nasal sort of Midwest tone and this is an affront to my southern ears!

    It MATTERS and is even worth cold undies but if you are looking for another point maker– I once sew the flap shut on all my husband’s boxers and briefs-well actually I had the cleaners do it (one day cleaners) because I don’t sew.

  • Megan

    2008/06/03 at 2:46 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with the underwear freezing. And possibly unplugging the microwave so that ‘Oops, I don’t know why it’s not working. Too bad you can’t thaw out your pants until you get some water hot enough to work through all that ice… Sweetie.’

  • Court

    2008/06/03 at 2:47 pm

    Well, does she “wash” her clothes or “worsh” her clothes? You just let Jon know that it can always get worse.

  • KMac

    2008/06/03 at 2:47 pm

    I totally say Crown…DUH. That should be your next masthead!

  • Tara

    2008/06/03 at 2:48 pm


    I had a friend from Long Island that would say “draw” for drawer (DRAW-ER). I wanted to punch her in the face.

  • Grape Did It

    2008/06/03 at 2:48 pm

    Or the conversations at our house when my husband replaces the word No, with Nary. I cannot get it across to him that they ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE. Plus, it sounds like he’s trying to quote a bad version of Shakespeare.

  • katie

    2008/06/03 at 2:50 pm

    unfortunately that tact wouldn’t work so well on my husband. i have to bargain with him NOT to put his underwear in the freezer when it’s this hot out. he’s convinced sticking clothes in the freezer for 20 minutes before putting them on = his very own personal air conditioning.

  • Bibi

    2008/06/03 at 2:50 pm

    In our home, walking into one of my children’s rooms is like walking across hot coals.

    I consider mispronunciations to be part of the charm of growing up. I still favor saying the W in the word SWORD, even if it’s wrong. It makes me sound special.

  • Cecilia

    2008/06/03 at 2:50 pm

    Geeeeeeeeeezzze. Sounds like SOMEBODY forgot to take his Prozac today! ;->

  • Shamelessly Sassy

    2008/06/03 at 2:51 pm

    I am pretty sure I will meet my demise searching for Polly Pockets super tiny shit. or stepping on it. If I get one more miniature piece of furniture jammed under my foot, I’ll probably stroke out.

  • Stacy

    2008/06/03 at 2:51 pm

    Oh my! I laughed so hard that I started crying. I’m going to hear “AWWW. AWWW. AWWW.” in my head for the rest of the day.

  • jennie

    2008/06/03 at 2:51 pm

    I keep finding one of those tiny shoes under the table and always think it’s a bug or maybe some lunch that escaped the table. It’s disturbing, every single time, to realize it’s a tiny shoe.

    I’m always tempted just to throw it away, but then I’m certain we’d have the SAWL discussion at our house.

  • Lola

    2008/06/03 at 2:52 pm

    The DNA Smackdown of focus and determination. Shoes-0; Sawl-1

  • Rebecca

    2008/06/03 at 2:54 pm

    haha your husband seems harder to communicate with than your daughter!

  • Annie

    2008/06/03 at 2:55 pm

    You think Polly Pockets are small now, you should have seen them back when I was a kid.

    God that makes me feel old..

  • Cheryl

    2008/06/03 at 2:55 pm

    hilarious. thanks so much for the mid-day pick me up. the people in my office now think I am insane because of all the laughing.

  • Audubon Ron

    2008/06/03 at 2:55 pm

    Underwear in the freezer. Well, all righty then.

  • New England Single Mom

    2008/06/03 at 2:57 pm

    I have totally taken up residence in 3 year old meltdown land. I completely understand the absolutely adorable, completely spontaneous, teeth-crunching cuteness of the 3 year old’s attempt to communicate.

    This wasn’t a screaming command, but it was cute enough to pass along. Yesterday, responding to the steam on the bathroom mirror, my 3 year old asked, “Why the mirror not peeking my face, mama?” 🙂 I think I’ll keep him!

  • Becky

    2008/06/03 at 2:57 pm

    As long as she understands that y’all NEVER means only one person, it’s all good.

  • Andria and Co.

    2008/06/03 at 2:57 pm

    Hilarious! I saw the “crown/crayon” video- that was frickin hilarious.

  • Eva

    2008/06/03 at 2:59 pm

    If you can get to it before she eats it, I might check Coco’s poop for the shoes.

  • Allison

    2008/06/03 at 2:59 pm

    Polly Pockets have shoes? When I played with them they were slightly bigger than a thumbnail and just had one joint at the waist. They had clothes (and shoes) painted on them and came in little carrying cases that were entire worlds. They must be a lot bigger nowadays!

    And does Jon realize that what she really should be saying is “have you SEEN”, so arguing that the word “sawl” should be “saw” won’t really help her anyway! Good luck with that!

  • Lisa

    2008/06/03 at 2:59 pm

    Can I just say that I love your newsletters to Leta? I think they’re beautiful and inspiring. They’re hilarious and she will love them more than words can say when she’s ohhhhhh 20?

    I love your reference in the last one to kids sunbathing in Alaska. Wish that were true. We had snow as long as you did up here in the great northern frozen wasteland. So, I totally, TOTALLY feel yours (and Leta’s) pain. My mood has changed too….for the better.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/03 at 3:00 pm

    oh yeah (9th commenter)? my human test words are “CAUTION”, and “AND”!

  • Kellyr2

    2008/06/03 at 3:00 pm

    Well, we’re in totally different regions, but my kids stick L’s at the ends of words where they don’t belong as well. Saw is one of them.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/03 at 3:04 pm

    Wait. Oh horse taters. I ‘been thinkin’ it
    was “sawl” for nearly 44 years, and now
    Jon is tellin’ me it’s not “sawl”?!?

    And I have another question. Does her
    “sawl” rhyme with “owl” or no? This
    gets so gawdawfully complicated!!!

    Then again, I’m from Kentucky, the
    “education state”. *smirk*

  • jailbird

    2008/06/03 at 3:04 pm

    Passive agressive retaliation is so fun! Loved your last post about Leta –

  • jennk

    2008/06/03 at 3:04 pm

    to Rebellious Arab Girl:

    My sister never grew out of it. She’s 35 and still says “Brookland” (instead of Brooklyn) and “woln’t” (instead of won’t). All the correcting in the world didn’t do anything–I’m pretty sure she does it just to spite her proud northern family.

  • Kelli

    2008/06/03 at 3:05 pm

    If there’s one thing I love (and I’ve raised 4 boys) is “kid speak”. I get the biggest kick out of how they interpret words and am always saddened a bit when they finally learn the correct way to say it. One of our favorites for years was “hampakes” for pancakes. Jon should just enjoy it!

    Now, if Leta’s an adult and says “I seen it” then I have problems. Nothing like an adult using improper terms to grate my nerves.

  • Kim

    2008/06/03 at 3:05 pm

    I have to say that I completely side with Jon on this one! Being an English major does not make you a better pronouncer or enunciator, grammarian or copy editor, or even orator or writer … it merely means that you *ostensibly* know how to read and analyze a work of literature. And I say that as a fellow English major, and wife of someone with differing regional pronunciations 🙂

  • Eric

    2008/06/03 at 3:08 pm

    Forget the freezer, “I SAWL Jon’s crocs in the trash!”

  • Heather's Garden

    2008/06/03 at 3:09 pm

    I’m sorry, Heather, but I’m with Jon on this one. Unless Leta’s going to be living in the south, she’ll probably do much better in this country speaking without your–shall we say creative?–versions of words. Like how all people with a proper English accent (not Cockney) automatically sound smarter no matter how idiotic what they’re saying may actually be.

  • Crystal D

    2008/06/03 at 3:09 pm

    My 5 year old corrected my pronunciation of CRAYON yesterday. I just may market my own brand of Crowns, and they will be prettier than stupid ol” CRAYONS. So there.

  • Kirk

    2008/06/03 at 3:09 pm

    Jon..keep the dream alive. Were it not for us grumpy fathers the world would most certainly end.

  • Kim

    2008/06/03 at 3:10 pm

    I’m not commenter #44, I’m another Kim, but I’m with Jon on the hair tearing and the hatred of bad pronunciation. Nip it in the bud now before it becomes a habit!!

  • Debbie in Memphis

    2008/06/03 at 3:11 pm

    All those tiny doll pieces should just be painted on the dolls. It would make Mommy and Daddy’s job so much easier…I’m tired of digging those out of the vacuum cleaner cup. I love the underwear in the freezer thing…now I know how to get my hubby’s attention 😉 My human test words…debentures and of

1 2 3 7

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