Heater, Mother of Lance

Short stack

One of the most obvious things I inherited from my father, other than the shape and length of my body, my chin, my forehead, my ears, and that highly flammable sense of righteous indignation that usually erupts in the middle of 1) the local news, 2) traffic, and 3) phone calls with customer service personnel who do not speak English, is a love for greasy spoon diners. The dirtier the place the better, maybe because that is somehow proportional to the amount of butter they use in their pancakes. If my father were given the choice between an expensive dinner with the current Republican president or a lunch alone at a truck stop diner that is cooking its hamburgers in a vat of bacon grease collected over the period of fifteen years, he’d say, DO NOT FORCE ME TO MAKE THAT CHOICE, GEORGIE.

Our favorite local greasy spoon is a place called The Blue Plate, and we often go there for brunch on the weekends, mainly because it’s one of the only non-chain sit-down restaurants that has something on the menu that Leta will eat. She always orders the home fries which are basically potatoes cut into squares and then fried. And then she eats half of a bottle of ketchup. Is it the healthiest meal? Of course not, but we’ve run it by her pediatrician who has eight kids, one who was exactly like Leta, and he said, look! She’s getting potassium! And ketchup is sometimes made out of real tomatoes! So stop coming in here with these stupid concerns and call me when she’s managed to lodge a quarter in her nostril.

A couple of weeks ago when we were on our way to brunch Jon quietly talked to me in the front seat about how he wanted to try to get Leta to try pancakes that morning. We both understand how important it is to provide a united front when it comes to disciplining your kids (when spanking, both parents should use the same wooden instrument) or trying to teach them anything, and we’re usually very good about that, except when it comes to her eating habits. Because that is a battle I specifically chose to stop fighting. It was taking years off my life and making me so crazy that getting up from the dinner table and counting to a hundred was not calming me down one bit. In fact, it gave me more time to think about HOW INSANE my child was that she wouldn’t eat a peanut butter sandwich. WITH JELLY. WHICH IS SUGAR. SUGAR ON BREAD. A kid who won’t eat a certain type of sugar. So trying to exert any influence on that was like going, you see that nuclear bomb over there? I think I could defeat it with this here spitball.

But I was in a good mood that morning, had slept in past eight o’clock and that had made my brain a little woozy and disoriented, and I was all what year is it? So I agreed to support him in his attempt. There we were whispering in the front seat of the car about how we were going to convince our daughter to eat a pancake. If that is not the dumbest first world conversation. Other ones we’ve had in the past few weeks:

This iPhone is too heavy.

Someone was using my favorite treadmill this morning, so I was forced to use the stationary bike.

This refrigerator isn’t big enough. Let’s buy another one and put it in the garage.

So we’re sitting there waiting for the server to bring us our food, and when he sets down Jon’s plate Jon immediately mentions that he can’t wait to eat his yummy pancake. I don’t say anything because I want to gauge Leta’s reaction, and it is exactly what I had expected it to be: “Pancakes are yucky!”

Yes, pancakes are yucky, puppies suck, and rainbows are boring. And the old part of me that gave up this battle a few years ago is starting to rumble a bit, and I have to bite my lip. Because I want to stand up and yell IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE ASKING YOU TO SEVER YOUR OWN ARM WITH A BUTTER KNIFE, KID. But I remain calm and say, “Actually, Leta, pancakes are pretty good. They taste like cake.”

And in turn she replies, “But cake is yucky, too!”

Jon and I ignore this obviously misinformed statement and continue to mention the yummy pancake for the next half hour, and occasionally he offers her a bite. She continues to refuse. Want a bite of a yummy pancake? No. How about now? No. Now? No. Mmmmmm, this yummy pancake is really yummy, would you like a bite? No. How about I grab it off the plate and aim it at your head like a frisbee? No. Are you even paying attention to me? No.

And this is where the teamwork, the united front comes in, because it suddenly occurs to me to tell her that the syrup tastes like candy, and right when I say that Jon nods furiously and suggests that she dip her finger in the syrup and touch that finger to her tongue. The mere mention of candy causes her to sit up straight, and for a second we both get the sense that she is trying to figure out if it’s worth it to give in and let us win, especially if we’re telling the truth. What if it does taste like candy? Wouldn’t it be stupid to sit there with all that candy a few inches away, just to prove a point? And the voice inside my head is going HAND HER THE BUTTER KNIFE AND DEMAND THAT SHE REMOVE HER ARM.

So she gives us both this look, like, you guys are so cute, look how hard you’ve been trying. Just this once I’m going to indulge you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! And I’m waiting for the bleaaaah and yuuuuuccck and moaning and wailing, and I’m holding my breath as she dips her finger in the syrup. And as she brings that finger to her mouth the overwhelming aroma of AWESOMENESS hits her tongue, and without even tasting the syrup she yells, “I LOVE IT.”



Excuse me?


I’ve never seen Jon move so fast, he was out of his chair running to find the server. And in the five minutes it took for him to bring Leta Her Own Pancake we sat there holding our breath, not looking at anything other than the table, afraid that if we moved at all that particles in the atmosphere would shift and she’d change her mind. She’d say something and we’d barely nod or shake our heads. Briefly I looked up and caught Jon’s gaze, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing: that pancake would taste no where near as good as victory.

She ate every bite of that pancake, and she has eaten pancakes every single morning since then. It’s the first thing she asks for in the morning, Her Own Pancake, and I don’t think Jon has ever experienced more joy standing over the stove. Partly because she loves them so much, but mostly because I think he knows that I am now more willing to follow his lead in certain matters when it comes to our very unique daughter. Thank you, Jon, for expanding our daughter’s diet from four to five things.

  • Bertie

    2008/08/12 at 1:42 pm

    For the last 15 years, me and my father go to the hot dog/sausage cart near his work instead of fancy lunches for my birthday lunch. It is the highlight of my day, something we both love and soemthing I will always miss when he’s gone. So glad you can enjoy those moments with Leta.

  • Sarah

    2008/08/12 at 1:45 pm

    This slice of life post is exactly the reason I come to your site. Thank you.

  • Soulmoxie

    2008/08/12 at 1:46 pm

    ahh…the power of the pancake.

  • Jen

    2008/08/12 at 1:46 pm

    Ah the sweet sweet victory of a child trying something new! I must remember the candy bit.

  • Melissa

    2008/08/12 at 1:46 pm

    My nephew will eat anything with Ranch Dressing on it. It’s often referred to as “White Ketchup” in thier house. Maybe you should go for French Toast next!

  • Linda

    2008/08/12 at 1:47 pm

    Nice to know that our daughter is not the only kid in the world who won’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I too am baffled. Also, she won’t eat cookies, the only candy she will eat is Hershey’s plain chocolate bar.

    Our doctor gave us the same advice, but I’m still waiting for it to kick in. She’ll be 10 in Feb.

  • Anonymous

    2008/08/12 at 1:47 pm

    I have a soon to be 13 year old son that has survived on nothing but PB&J and Mac ‘n Cheese. I gave up the fight.

    I make it on whole wheat bread, with organic peanut butter and no sugar added jelly.

    It makes me feel better.

  • esmith

    2008/08/12 at 1:47 pm

    wait ’til she figures out you can put STUFF in those pancakes…like chocolate chips. then it’s gonna be on.

  • Betsy

    2008/08/12 at 1:47 pm

    Mmmmm. Pancakes. Will French toast be next? Or would that cause the world to explode?

  • Sadie

    2008/08/12 at 1:48 pm

    Hey, that’s how it starts…four things become five. And maybe by the time she is fourteen she will even eat something green. Like Skittles. Baby steps.

  • Lola

    2008/08/12 at 1:49 pm

    I could go on and on about how I know *EXACTLY* what you are talking about but I will leave it at that.
    Isn’t it an awesome feeling? I’ve mouthed “Don’t move” to my husband as we sit in shock while my 5 year old daughter tries a new food unexpectedly.
    I would HIGHLY recommend the book “How to get your kid to eat but not too much” by Ellyn Satter. It is a fantastic book recommended by almost every Children’s Hospital out there. Our experience (which actually brought our daughter to being tube fed – that is how little she would eat) improved greatly after we read it and employed its philosophy.

  • Carroll

    2008/08/12 at 1:49 pm

    Sweet success 🙂

    And, on the Furminator picture today…Having gone out and bought one a few weeks ago based solely on your earlier enthusiastic mention, I totally second your ringing endorsement of that product. Costs an arm and a leg, and I about gagged as I signed the receipt, but man, does that thing ever work. I think they *should* pay you (you know your word could sell at least scores, if not hundreds of anything) Maybe since you already own the product, a year’s supply of dog food? Or a trip to the Bahamas??

  • Spatula

    2008/08/12 at 1:50 pm

    Woohoo to the parental victory. Next stop… heroin?

  • Priya

    2008/08/12 at 1:50 pm

    Go JON! he should write a book on “How to get Kids to eat what you want them to eat”

  • Katie

    2008/08/12 at 1:50 pm

    I love the Blue Plate Diner. Have you tried Ruth’s Diner up Emigration Canyon? I think it’s my favorite place in Salt Lake.

    Plus, they have yummy candy syrup and raspberry jam with breakfast. Not to mention their mile-high fluffy biscuit. Although those may be to good to share.

  • Kelly Mae

    2008/08/12 at 1:51 pm

    My twin boys just started kindergarten this week and I found myself struggling to pack a lunch for one of my sons that will only eat the following: french fries (bad, I know), cheese, plain bread, and peanut butter. But God forbid I actually put the peanut butter ON the bread. I resisted my temptation to put a little tupperware full of peanut butter in his lunch.

    Congratulations on the pancake victory!

  • sara

    2008/08/12 at 1:51 pm

    Oh man, between the pancake and getting her to do the gymnastics in a bus thing, Jon’s going to start getting a little cocky about this whole parenting business.

    But at least you’ve been right about everything else. 🙂


  • Amber

    2008/08/12 at 1:52 pm

    There’s this restaurant, if you can call it that, located in the south side of our town. It’s housed in this tiny, one-room schoolhouse type building and it’s called the Dinky Diner.

    My dad and I have gone there since I was 4 or 5. They serve the best coconut cream pie on the planet. I’ve ordered the same thing for almost 20 years and it never tastes bad and the tenderloins are the size of a dinner plate.

    I think it’s great that you got her to eat pancakes. My dad is still trying to get me to eat eggs even though I’m in my 20s.

  • Andrea

    2008/08/12 at 1:52 pm

    Sometimes, Leta and the Armstrongs remind me of Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) and his parents.

    This is one such time.

    Viva pancakes! Viva Leta!!

  • Kelly

    2008/08/12 at 1:53 pm

    The husband and I have had those exact moments. The moments where my head exploded because our oldest wouldn’t try, oh, I don’t know, a different kind of chocolate. Moments where we literally held our breath while he tasted something new.

    Kids are a blast, aren’t they?

  • Katie

    2008/08/12 at 1:53 pm

    I recently tried to give my son waffle sticks with syrup to dip them in. Also on his plate was green beans. He likes green beans. He claims he does not like waffles. He did, however, figure out to dip the green beans in the syrup and lick it off.


  • SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem

    2008/08/12 at 1:53 pm

    So…what you’re saying is Leta is picky? 😉 Yeah, our little guy (nearly two) has quite the limited menu as well and no, he won’t eat a PB&J either. *sigh*

  • Anonymous

    2008/08/12 at 1:54 pm

    the mini pancakes they sell in the frozen section of the supermarket go over well in our household. Our 4 year old typically eats 8, and our 1 year old LOVES the smallness and can put down about 2. Just thought I’d throw that out there, for the mornings Jon isn’t free to make them homemade.

  • jess

    2008/08/12 at 1:54 pm

    I might have to try this whole kid thing… 🙂

  • Erica

    2008/08/12 at 1:55 pm


    And your next post will be a collection of all the comments and e’mails from people telling you not to beat your child with wooden instruments, what are you, you child abusing monster person … right? Because when I read that line my first thought was, “Dang! That’s going to generate some serious e’mail from people who are STILL working on their senses of humor.”

    tee hee!

    I wish Jon continued great success on the food introduction front.

  • SueR

    2008/08/12 at 1:55 pm

    Love the story! I have a niece who insists on being a vegetarian (she’s 16) but since she doesn’t like vegetables, her diet pretty much consists of grilled cheese. And candy.

    Furminator–I have one for the dogs and one for the cats. Does great things on matted cats. I have turned more people on to the furminator than I can count!

  • Rachael

    2008/08/12 at 1:55 pm

    I love reading about Leta’s eating habits; they remind me of my own as a kid as well as a child I have been babysitting since 2003, when she was 4 going on 5. Her diet then consisted of BUTTER. BACON. CHEESE. She even once told me, on one of those lazy dog days of August right before school started, “When I’m at school…I think about bacon.”
    She said this with a sigh, as if she were talking about her dreams and aspirations to become a world dictator.
    As a child I was put off by anything that was made with care and order. I dissected sandwiches, picked at every salad and snubbed almost every piece of meat. I was the kid with the Weirdest. Lunches. Ever.

  • Colleen

    2008/08/12 at 1:56 pm

    My older brother lived on PB&J. Our pediatrician told my mom to go with it – he’d eat when he was hungry.

    He didn’t expand his menu of acceptable foods until he dated a foodie in college.

    Leta’s not doing so bad.

  • Carrie

    2008/08/12 at 1:57 pm

    This kid is a genius. The rest of us are out there telling our kids, “Not so much syrup! Here, you can only have this shotglass full!” And meanwhile Leta is all, I SUPPOSE I could eat a teensy bit more sugar-covered bread.

    And believe me, if my kids ate like Leta, I’m sure I would be proselytizing the candilike nature of syrup too.

    Oh, and I agree with Leta on one thing: Cake IS kind of yucky.

  • minxlj

    2008/08/12 at 1:57 pm

    Pancakes are truly awesome. I need to go and make some NOW

  • She Likes Purple

    2008/08/12 at 1:57 pm

    I was going to say the same thing as someone else, try adding chocolate chips! That’ll be like Christmas! (Or maybe it’s only like Christmas for me.)

  • Rick S.

    2008/08/12 at 1:58 pm

    Laughing so hard! Our 6-yr-old, Declan, still won’t eat anything of substance but cheese pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. You’d think constipation would begin to turn a young mind toward new possibilities, but…

    This story made me want to dash home and find the maple syrup and beg my wife to teach me to make pancakes. I am definitely going to try this tactic the next time we have breakfast out!

  • Carley

    2008/08/12 at 1:58 pm

    Very cute! I’m glad she eats five different things now!

  • Brad

    2008/08/12 at 2:00 pm

    Awwww. Nice work, you two!

    We’ve totally done this too… played the “just one bite, and you’ll fall in love” card, and it does work. Sometimes. And sometimes they are just little devils for sport.

  • Sarie

    2008/08/12 at 2:00 pm

    Today’s was exactly the kind of post that got me reading your site in the first place.

  • dawn

    2008/08/12 at 2:01 pm

    Ah the diet of toddlers and pre-schoolers. I love the whole “syrup tastes like candy thing.” If only my kid liked candy–I know a 2 1/2 year old who doesn’t like candy so much. Fruit snacks–no thank you. Sometimes he will only eat chips for breakfast.

    It certainly makes for easy clean up.

  • kirida

    2008/08/12 at 2:01 pm

    this gives me hope that my kid will eat something more substantial than croutons.

  • Mackenzie

    2008/08/12 at 2:02 pm

    We may be from the same gene pool — I love greasy spoon diners, and indeed, the dirtier the better. If you’re ever out in Virginia I’ve got a couple of fantastic recommendations. And because it’s Virginia smoking is still allowed; there’s something strangely intoxicating about the smell of old grease and stale cigarette smoke.

  • the dalai mama

    2008/08/12 at 2:02 pm

    Hope reigns supreme that my kid will one day eat something other than muffins, cheetos, cheese burgers and apple juice.

    The iPhone is a little heavy and you absoultely must have 2 fridges…doesn’t everyone?

  • Kristine

    2008/08/12 at 2:02 pm

    Ah, the good ol’ power of “well such-and-such tastes just like ___, you’re really missing out”. How I laughed and loved this story with every word! LOVED it! Can’t wait until she’s older (of course 21) and you’re trying to convince her to try bourbon. Ha!

    PS – I have a Powderpuff Chinese Crested who has more hair than a wooly mammouth and sheds like no one’s business and she’s half of Chuck’s size. I bought the LARGE Furminator comb months ago and it’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world. Well, ok my second favorite thing next to bourbon. I can now sit on the sofa in a black dress and not curse myself to hell for having a dog that sheds.

  • Chris

    2008/08/12 at 2:04 pm

    You guys are so cute.

  • Ashlea

    2008/08/12 at 2:05 pm

    Have you heard of this book? “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld? If not you should really check it out, I heard about it from a friend, immediately bought it, and it changed my life. I have a picky eater too (a 4 year old son) and now he is regularly eating cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and squash WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT. Seriously, I now recommend this book to every mom of a picky eater. Here is a link to it on Amazon:

  • Sarah

    2008/08/12 at 2:06 pm

    When I was 2, my mother had to chase me around the kitchen and SIT ON ME to get me to try apple pie. And she makes the best apple pie in the world. From scratch.

  • Red

    2008/08/12 at 2:07 pm

    Oh, I love this post! YAY for the Armstrongs. You and Jon are prefect for each other and perfect for your little Frog. 🙂

  • gingela5

    2008/08/12 at 2:07 pm

    She sounds like me now. Only I actually don’t even like syrup so I guess I’m pickier than a four year old : )

  • csquaredplus3

    2008/08/12 at 2:08 pm

    That was great! I loved the description of not moving while waiting for the pancake. I know that horrible feeling – avoiding an inhale and an exhale, willing everything to be okay.

    Glad Leta’s enjoying pancakes. You and Jon are doing a great job!

    Illustrated perfectly!

  • pac

    2008/08/12 at 2:08 pm

    Oh….my…..God. You mean I’m not the only one suffering with a 7 year old who will only eat about five to seven things, mostly breakfast cereal; well, and pb&j too – sorry? The tears are running down my face (well, it is ragweed season here in the midwest), from pure, unadulterated joy in knowing that I am not the only one suffering in food hell. I keep wondering “how long will this last”? Well, anyone, how long??????????

  • Hannah

    2008/08/12 at 2:08 pm

    My husband does this sort of thing to ME. (I’m 31.) For years, I would blithely state “oh, I won’t eat X”. So he would then sneak X into whatever foods he could to prove me wrong.

    He’s only ever failed with coconut and cilantro.

    As for beating Leta with wooden implements, I agree, you must come to a consenus with Jon on which one to use. Does you no good if you turn up with a chopstick and he’s brandishing a wooden meat tenderizer. You lose the edge.

  • Elizabeth

    2008/08/12 at 2:09 pm

    Um . . . I LOVE IT. And I want my own Dooce! BPFTW!

  • Ashleigh

    2008/08/12 at 2:10 pm

    This is why I come to to your site, day after day. Hysterical, just so much fun to read.

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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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