An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Little shop of horrors

The last time we took Leta to the dentist she was so not having it that he had to inspect her teeth while standing three feet away. That was a long time ago, and we have not attempted the dentist since then because we are wimps. Also, when presented with the choice between a) spending an afternoon with sharp, lethal objects in my mouth being held by someone other than myself, or 2) sitting pantsless on the couch eating puffy cheetos while watching SpongeBob, let’s just say that when Jon walked in and was all, you do realize you’re half-naked and laughing at an animated sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea? I was all, then you take her to that place and watch what happens when that man in the white coat approaches her with a dental hook. Go ahead, I’ll wait here and keep your seat warm.

Side note: last weekend while we were at the music festival in San Francisco, Jon and I waited for over four hours next to the front row railing next to stage that Radiohead would be playing. Which means we got to see them live from the front row, but we forgot to eat dinner. And that detail is only important because we forgot about our empty stomachs when a few hours after the show someone started buying us drinks at a bar in the Lower Haight. By the tray full. And then all of a sudden I’m lying in bed at the hotel with my pants off watching the Olympics, and I can’t figure out how I got there. So I turn to Jon and go, dude, something weird just happened! I think we were teleported! And he’s all, wait a minute, you don’t remember stopping into that convenience store and picking up the tortilla chips that are in crumbs right now all over your chest? Or how you turned to me and whispered, “SHHHH! CAN I TELL YOU SOMETHING? I CAN’T SEE SO GOOD.” Or the cab ride home where you kept yelling BUMPY! BUMPY! BUMPY! at the driver? I don’t remember any of it, and ask him how my pants ended up splayed across the top of the television like that, had Ed O’Brien been in here earlier? And he explains that the first thing I did when I walked in the door was rip off my pants, toss them behind my back and fall face first on the bed missing the nightstand by inches, which you have to admit, is just as sexy.

About a month ago our dental hygienist called and said, it’s been a while, you do realize that this is a first world country? And that many people here have all their teeth? Would you like to keep yours? So we sucked it up and made an appointment, and since then have tried to prepare Leta for the experience. And by prepare her for it I mean that when she asked if going to the dentist was like going to the hospital I told her no, of course not. It’s much, much worse.

Yesterday I volunteered to go first, and it wasn’t that bad, I only lost a pint of blood, and then when it was Jon’s turn to go I held Leta in my lap so that she could see what they were doing to him. I talked her through the cleaning and the brushing and the flossing, and every three seconds or so she would turn to me and say, “But they’re not going to do that to me, right? RIGHT? SAY, ‘RIGHT.'” I tried to steer her away from this line of thinking by telling her to watch her father, but this only made her bury her head into my chest even further. So I tried Plan B which was: “If you don’t let them clean your teeth they are all going to fall out. And then you won’t be able to talk. And then you’ll die homeless.”

One of the hygienists working a station over from ours yelled out, “OH MY GOD! My mother said the same thing to me! AND IT WORKED!” So you see, there existed a parent out there like me whose child did not end up a serial killer, although that kid now spends her days jabbing hooks and knives into the mouths of very frightened people. I’ll be sure to add more hugging to my approach, then.

When it came time for Leta’s exam I held her in my lap, climbed into the Chair of Doom and stroked her head to calm her down. Jon sat near us and held her hands, but she kept ripping them from his grip and trying to claw her way out of the building. If you can think of a reward, we used it to try and bribe her: more princess toys, a Barbie dream house, a weekend in Cancun with Dora, a chocolate pony that shits M&M’s. But she screamed and cried and wriggled like we were branding her with an iron. She and Coco are a lot more alike than she’d like to admit. I mean, we yank the slightest bit on Coco’s leash to get her to straighten up and stop barking at a trash can, and she yelps and flails as if we have just removed her gall bladder without anesthesia. Neighbors will look at us like, what on earth are you doing to that poor dog? And Jon is all, this is nothing. You should see how she reacts when we force her to play fetch in traffic.

Our hygienist is amazing with kids, thank God, and was able to time it just right so that when Jon slid Leta’s trembling hand away from her own mouth for a half second she was able to touch a single tooth with the rubber toothbrush. And it was as quick as the realization that pancakes were not going to kill her, because Leta immediately relaxed, opened her mouth and let the hygienist clean every single tooth. And while she was in a forgiving mood the dentist ran over, got within inches of her face and was able to stick his fingers in her mouth to inspect her gums and teeth. Just like that it was over, and you would have thought she had just taken her first steps because we could not praise her enough. Tons of hugs and cheers and kisses, and that’s when the hygienist broke out an array of princess toothbrushes, oh you upstaging hygienist! Just go ahead and send her to the Celestial Kingdom and give her her own planet, why don’t you?

Because apparently there is no treat quite like a princess toothbrush. She’s had Dora toothbrushes and Elmo toothbrushes and my mother is a horrible monster and bought me this RED? WITH NOTHING ON IT? NOT EVEN THE NAME OF A DENTAL CLINIC? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? toothbrushes, but never has she owned a toothbrush decorated with a Disney Princess. And she cradled that toothbrush for the rest of the afternoon, talked about how brave she had been by going to the hospital and letting those people look inside her mouth, how she would show Her Kids this Most Wonderful Toothbrush In All Of The Toothbrush Kingdom, and then at 5:30 PM she looked up at me and said, “I would like to go to sleep and brush my teeth now.”

I got her to last until 6:30 PM, but then I couldn’t take the pleading anymore, and after we dressed her in her pajamas she stood in that bathroom and brushed her teeth for ten straight minutes. I had to physically remove that toothbrush from her mouth, she did not want to let go, and after stories when I was kissing her goodnight she said, “After I sleep, can I brush my teeth? And then right after I brush my teeth I’ll go to sleep again so that I can wake up and brush my teeth again.” Yes, absolutely you can do that. You’ve totally earned it.

  • I forsee Princess toothbrushes becoming bartering tools in the near future.

    “If you don’t kiss Coco, I’ll throw that toothbrush in the trash!”

  • My niece came home from the dentist… with a princess toothbrush


    Okay, phew. I feel better now that I’ve admitted that – of course, she was not quite so attached to it as Leta and never mentioned it again, thankfully.

    I have small hands, OK? I need a small toothbrush.

  • Or pretty much tools of cruelty and punishment.

    (And that would be foresee, not forsee.)

  • Christie in Chicago

    Oh, the power of a princess toothbrush . . . I now keep a drawer full of extras after a traumatic experience involving big sister’s Cinderella toothbrush, younger brother, and the toilet. Needless to say I will never not keep at least a few princess replacements in reserve.

  • Oh, the power of the Disney Princesses. Bow before it.

    In our house, it’s the Disney Fairies. But same deal.

  • As the Manager of an employee of the two year old set, princess toothbrushes sound like excellent motivational tools! I think I will implement this strategy at my company immediately!

    (Can we please have more Heather drunk stories? Please?)

  • I am bowing my head for a moment in hopes that for Coco’s sake, she never grows opposable thumbs and borrows Leta’s princess toothbrush.

  • I have kind of a pants allergy. They burn my flesh, so as soon as I walk into the house, I rip my pants off and do a touchdown dance.

    (There was the one embarrassing incident where I started my pre-pants rip-off unbuttoning in the hall and a neighbor saw me and gave me a weird look.)

    No one believes me that it’s a real allergy, not even my husband. Seriously. I should be in a medical book.

  • Amanda

    I am laughing out loud right now…
    hilarious and so well written.
    The pantless/drunk bit hand me falling off my chair.

    Heather, you are my hero.


  • I wonder if they give grown-ups Princess Toothbrushes. Because I’m terrified of the dentist. I may have even passed that trait on to my children. But they’re baby teeth. They fall out anyway, right? I mean, isn’t that why God made them that way? So we don’t have to take the little maniacs to the dentist?

  • danielle

    I second Penelope’s request: more drunk Heather stories. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I can relate…

  • DMK

    I had to take my older son to the pediatric dentist because he had to be sedated before he would let a dentist examine him. He’s 19 now and goes away to college and everything. Leta did very well!

  • There were no complaints of how awful-tasting the tooth polish is? Really? or the annoyance of the flossing? That’s really impressive. The hygienist will have to come up with a bigger bribe once Leta discovers that biting dentists’ fingers can lead to bigger rewards.

  • When you find that chocolate pony that shits M&Ms, send him my way, will ya?

  • You got drunk in the Lower Haight? I live in the Lowe Haight! And that’s how I go to bed every single night.

    Well, not really, but every time I get drunk, one of the first questions I ask my boyfriend the next morning is, “How’d my pants get on the ______?” It’s like drunkeness and pantslessness are handled in the same segment of the brain.

  • I’m just realizing it’s been awhile since I’ve been to the dentist and holy crap I so don’t want to end up homeless and unable to talk! But I’m not really into princess toothbrushes… can I instead have whatever you had to drink to put you in your happy place? Because that sounds like more fun than brushing my teeth before bed.

    I’m a lightweight though. I’m guessing one drink would be enough for me to think Michael Phelps is Spongebob.


  • Wow. Same experience. Ours ended with a Lightning McQueen toothbrush, though, and the boy was happy. BEGS to go to the dentist. He lost a tooth recently and another is on it’s way out. “When are we going to the dentist so he can look at the holes in my mouth?” Yes. I’m going to pay the dentist to clean those holes.

  • I have to go to the dentist in a couple of weeks…I hope I get a princess toothbrush. Although I’m sure I won’t deserve one.

  • Anonymous

    Hyperbole, we can all safely conclude, is genetic.

  • I once brushed my teeth for about an hour…but it was in Amsterdam.
    Thanks for the reminder – my kids & I are crazily, practically-illegally overdue for checkups.

  • i can think of a few former girlfriends that i wish took that much time on their dental hygiene.

    but i’m pretty sure it takes more than a princess toothbrush when in your twenties. they were probably just holding out for an orthodontist boyfriend. that’s my theory.

    in other news, i seem to have very similar san fran alcohol experiences. for some reason, booze in sf, just tastes better.

  • kate

    Two Things: 1, My 35-year-old husband has a Hot Wheels electric toothbrush that he adores almost as much as Leta seems to love that Princess one. 2, your pants-off drunken evening had me laughing so, so hard recalling a particularly gruesome evening on a visit to London that involved nudity and falafal from the halal kebab place near our hotel. My husband threatens to release the photos from that incident should I displease him. 🙂

  • I am not a good patient at the dentist. I’m fearful and weepy. I always take a toothbrush and something from the kids’ table, last time I took a pink pencil and it made me feel better. But in retrospect, I guess it’s a $300.00 pencil because it’s the only part of the whole expensive experience that I liked! Good on Leta for being a brave princess.

  • Oh yeah, I was also going to say that that couch that Leta is laying on looks SOOO comfortable. Lucky her and Chuck!

  • Sara

    I have to comment on the picture of Chuck and Leta– I think our pets have an amazing sense of when we need comfort. My cat has the feline version of ADHD. She cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes. But when I don’t feel well, she will literally sit on my body in whatever spot I place her and will not move until I physically pick her up. Pets know.

  • Oh this was so like what I went through with my son. At his first cleaning he was having NONE OF IT, period. Then the dentist told me he needed 4 crowns and 6 fillings because his teeth were decalcifying. Are you kidding me?!?

    So I made an appt with a pediatric dentist and paid an extra $1000 (out of pocket) to have them give my son a squirt of Valium up the nose then put him under general anesthesia. Because if he even saw that dentist chair un-medicated it would be all over. And there was no way he would ever tolerate doing it over multiple visits.

    He got it all done at once and afterwards didn’t even remember how he got his ‘silver teeth’. Since that day he loves the dentist. Must’ve been the Valium.

    That was 4 years ago and my stomach cramps just thinking about it.

    He’s easier to deal with than he was when he was little, but it’s still tough to get him to do anything he doesn’t buy into 100%.

    Good times.

  • I think maybe I need a Disney princess toothbrush.

    Way to go, Leta.

  • OH MY! I have never laughed so hard.
    I think you are the absolute perfect parent and just because of your stories about Leta I cannot wait to be a mommy! 🙂
    I read a lot of your blogs last night, and was looking at those cute dressed that you got her…


  • For us it was Thomas the Tank Engine toothbrushes. Many of them, because they would share…with the dogs, their toy trucks (the ones that had been outside), their friends…

  • cmom

    During the years I was raising my four children, I discovered that if you make a big deal out of it, it will become a big deal. If you don’t, then it won’t. Come on, we have to go to the dentist. Part of life. Over. Deal. Great story.

  • I was never scared of the dentist when I was little, I think because Mr. Rogers told me not to be. As an adult, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Rogers has never had a root canal. Free toothbrushes do help ease the sting a little bit, though. I’m a sucker for swag.

  • I was never scared of the dentist as a kid, nor am I now. I think this is because I never had a bad experience – not one filling in my 24 years.
    And maybe because I have so much anxiety about othe things there’s no room to worry about the dentist!

    But I can see how the dentist is a scary place – so congrats to Leta for being brave. Somehow I don’t think you’ll have a problem taking her back to The Land of Princess Toothbrushes…

    Also – Congrats to you and Jon for 6 years of happy marriage!!!

  • ChloeM

    In the bad old days, the first spouse and I would drink at parties to the point that we didn’t remember which one of us drove home.

    But after we had children, things changed. There was only one occasion when I woke up in the guest room, found the buttons from my shirt ripped off and scattered across the floor (too impatient to unbutton), and found the car with two flat tires in the driveway. This after a party I attended alone.

    I’m not bragging – I’m amazed to be alive – older, wiser, and sober. In fact, I’m the designated driver for any and all occasions and loving the control.

  • J.

    I had MUCH dental trauma when I was young, and all of the Disney Princess’ couldn’t make up for it. However, I also had great negative examples of what happens to your mouth without regular dental exams, so while I find the dentist unpleasant, I find I like having my teeth so much more.

  • Susan

    I NEED the name of Leta’s dentist!! The last time I went to the dentist, found out I needed a tooth pulled. NOW. Had to wait for the antibx since I’ve had a total hip replacement (for my 40th bday).

    I will get another hip replacement before I go through that tooth pulling procedure again — and that was with good drugs (mask and IV). Spit out bone for days.

    If only I’d been using a princess toothbrush all those years. Now I’m taking very, very good care of my teeth. Good for Leta!

  • Barb

    I love reading your blog (I know, you hear that all the time!) and I love the tale of Leta at the dentist (and all the other stories of Leta and well, everything else).

    But. . . today’s Daily Chuck photo is so special. It just may be my all-time favorite (and there are sooooo many). He is definitely amazing!

    Thanks for sharing your crazy life with us.

  • Elena

    Oh my god – Radiohead! In the FRONT ROW. How did your head not explode??

    I saw them here in Seattle (granted, from a couple hundred thousand feet away) and it was so amazing. That’s great to hear you’re a Radiohead fan!

  • the upstaging hygenist? send her to the celestial kingdom and give her own planet? for days that will cause me to break out into obnoxious laughter. thanks.

  • You know, in a few years, Leta will have a Disney Princess toothbrush and it will have a fight with her Hannah Montana toothbrush, or her Suri Cruise toothbrush (what? you thought that your daughter would have only one toothbrush at a time? Why would you deprive her like that, why?)

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I thought I’d warn you.

    Or maybe dentures are a solution.

  • Alison

    “Just go ahead and send her to the Celestial Kingdom and give her her own planet, why don’t you?”

    LOL! Love Mormon humor… =)

  • Great blog entry, as usual. Guess we’re lucky we never had any dentist issues with our kiddos.

    COme on over and join the Wiener World CAMPAGIN ACROSS AMERICA!!


  • When I go to the dentist next week I am hoping for shots of vodka as my reward. Hopefully I will wake up in my bed after being teleported home, preferably with my pants on though – cause, you know…dentists…

  • dragonhart

    My friend, the dentist (I know, right, and yet, she is still my friend!) gave my 3 year old son a toothbrush that plays Queen’s “We are the Champions”…..don’t be jealous….

    The best part is how LOUD it is inside your mouth, and how my son is sooooooooo impressed that I know the words and sing along as he brushes away!

    We will, we will rock you!

  • Bobbie

    Having only seen your blog a few days ago, I’ve now become somewhat addicted to it, which is why I’m sat here reading/ commenting on it in my sleep deprived state when I should be tucked under my duvet snoring my head off.

    Way to go to your dentist for thinking on his feet and being swifter than a swift thing!

  • What the freaking heck!! I AM IN LOVE WITH Dooce.

  • I’m not usually afraid of the dentist, but when I got my teeth cleaned yesterday there was a new hygienist. She told me if I didn’t hold the sucker thing right, I was gonna get it and there was no one there to hear me scream. Yikes.

  • Chris

    I must admit a tear came to my eye out from the joy I felt for Leta! I have been there with my daughter too. So exciting! Congrats!

  • Sara


    You know, now that Leta is older and is able to communicate so well her fears and refusals, she reminds me so much of myself at that age. Okay, still. To this day. Feel sorry for my husband. Anyway, it makes me smile (and feel yours and Jon’s pain). Everything has to be her idea, when she’s damn good and ready, and don’t you dare think about making it otherwise. Because it just won’t happen. And ohhh do I ever get the fear of doctors and dentists. My father is a doctor, and every time I would visit him at the hospital as a little girl, I would hear the screams of children getting stitches. I’ve been rather stand-offish with docs ever since. Back to my point…I am here to tell you that the “it has to be Leta’s idea and Leta’s idea only” might not ever go away, but damn if doesn’t make life interesting.
    Just think of it as honing your parenting and negotiating skills. The battles you win will be that much more rewarding. And when she has children of her own, you can sit back and laugh when they are just as stubborn as she is.

    The Chuck of the day…oy…you must’ve spent the rest of the day just watching that, right? How sweet can he get?!

  • I just want to get you drunk.

  • J. Bo

    For me, to this day, the dentist’s office is all about “Highlights” magazine.

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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