An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Play date aftermath

Last Saturday afternoon we invited one of Leta’s best friends over for a play date. She’s the other five-year-old kid in the class who knows how to read fluently, so I like to think that Leta is already cultivating her nerd tendencies, surrounding herself with people who will one day not bat an eyelash when she says, no, I appreciate the invitation, but I cannot spend my Friday night at the movies because that’s when NOVA is airing a special on ancient Maya hieroglyphs. Maybe next time.

Her teacher shakes her head every time I refer to Leta as My Little Nerd, but COME ON. She’s the one who pulled me aside and said, look, I don’t know what else to give her to read, she finished the school’s set of encyclopedias yesterday. And it’s not like I’m going to pull up to the curb at her high school, jump out in my bunny-covered nightgown and start screaming WHERE’S MY LITTLE NERD?! WHERE’S MY LITTLE NERD?! It’s just thrilling to see my own kid excited by the idea of knowledge, and it reminds me of the rush I got as a kid when I figured out how things worked. Although, there have been many times in recent months when I’ll look up and realize that my five-year-old has been sitting in a corner reading books for three hours, and I want to go, sweetie! Put down the literature and come watch TV. Tyra’s on.

It’s been a few months since Leta’s had a play date, and we sort of forgot how that one extra little body can increase the blast radius of destruction by about a thousand percent. Afterwards there were toys sitting in the middle of the room that we forgot we’d ever bought, toys we hadn’t seen in years, and then we spent the next two days trying to figure out where we had stored them in the first place. At one point I was like, wait a minute, how did you guys manage to get this box of games down from the top of your closet, Leta? She didn’t say a word and instead slowly tilted her head to the side while slyly turning up the corners of her mouth. And I knew instantly that I should just carry on with my life without being burdened by the answer to that question. I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.

The following morning I heard an alarm going off at 6 AM, and after a few groggy minutes of pained concentration I realized it was the alarm clock we had put next to Leta’s bed a few weeks ago, the one she’s supposed to look at every morning to see if the first number says 7 and not 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. We grew tired of her nightly 3 AM visits to our room to ask if it’s time to get up yet, so now she’s not supposed to get out of bed until the first number on that clock reads a full on 7, barring crisis or catastrophe of course, and if some emergency takes place while there’s a 5 on that clock, be sure to run toward Dad’s side of the bed. The woman on Mom’s side has a tiny bit of trouble maneuvering her body anywhere these days, and by the time she’s on her feet the house will have burned down or those dudes will have totally stolen the television.

Leta had not ever heard that alarm before, and suddenly there was a blur of tangled hair and gangly arms running madly into our bedroom screaming THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! I hate to admit this, but I could not stop laughing. I don’t know why, maybe because of the many, many mornings ahead of her that will be filled to brimming with THAT NOOOOIIIIISE! The years of her life spent hitting snooze, snooze, snooze, and the ensuing panic when she realizes she’s late for Calculus. Also, it’s obvious that in the commotion of the play date SOMEONE flipped the switch on that clock and turned on the alarm, and here our lives had been reduced to cursing a play date. I mean, seriously. Here a grown man and woman lay in bed on a Sunday morning waving their fists in the air, grousing about preschoolers. DAMN THOSE KIDS AND THEIR NEED TO PLAY! Who do they think they are, being curious about the buttons on that clock? And suddenly we missed those days in LA when all we had to worry about on a Sunday morning was whether or not the drug deal on the roof of our building would go horribly wrong and the police would force an evacuation of the entire neighborhood. SIMPLER TIMES, I tell you.

  • Yeah…if she’s anything like me, hearing that noise any time during the day will actually trigger a slight feeling of nausea one of these days… It’s bad enough having to hear it when you actually have to wake up in the morning, but to hear that noise on tv or in radio commercials any other time just aint right.

  • Do continue to be openly proud of your intelligent daughter. She’ll need it. Trust me! 🙂

  • Michele

    “And I knew instantly that I should just carry on with my life without being burdened by the answer to that question. I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.”

    Yup, that about sums it up.

    Signed, mother of boys

  • Chriss

    I laughed out loud at this for I have many times thought of my alarm clock as a torture device.

    Great now my boss knows I am not working because surely there is nothing to laugh at in Credit and Collections.

  • Anonymous

    “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.”

    Yup. And then it’s replaced with The Vacant Stare during adolescence. When it happens, I assume he’s trying to tell me “I don’t know” through telepathy, in which I think loudly in reply ‘ARE YOU HIGH?’.

    Sigh. Toys. I miss toys. 🙂

  • Kira

    “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys”

    As a mother of 3 boys, I cannot tell you how right you are. I have learned to close my eyes, shake my head, and walk away – lest I find out what they are REALLY up to.

  • Along with taking out unknown/forgotten-about toys, an alarm clock button being switched to “on” and items being taken down from the top of a closet, you can look out for:

    Chips and candy that were supposed to stay in the kitchen, now rubbed into the bedroom carpeting. Nail polish on the carpet. Big towel on the carpet, covering nail polish remover spill. Misplaced tv remotes, clothes left behind from costume dress-up time, YOUR make-up (taken from the don’t-go-in-this-room room) now being misplaced and/or ALSO on the carpet. Slimy cheeto concoctions rubbed on door handles and walls, Barbies with new, SHORTER hairstyles and (my personal favorite) the cute, little Tangerine iMac misplacing it’s Operating System!

    I think children have the ability to stop time. It’s the only way they can do these things undetected.

  • I am laughing b/c I also have my kids trained to go RIGHT when they enter our room at night. That way they end up talking and complaining to dad.

  • As the mother of two boys, I can confirm that yes, I often have to turn away and realize that I don’t want to know the answer to the question. (Interestingly, the question often is how they got the game off the high shelf in the closet. Must be that parents and kids are all fundamentally similar!)

    And I have to laugh at your little “nerd” and her reading habits. I was definitely the little nerd growing up and it took a long time for me to be comfortable with it, but I finally am. My mom, on the other hand, is still scarred. We took a several-week-long trip across the country when I was about 7 years old and I spent the entire trip reading the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. My mom says we had to keep stopping to buy the next one in the series because I was reading them too fast, and she was frustrated because I refused to acknowledge any of the beautiful country we were passing through. Of course, as we learned that fall, my vision was horrendous! I couldn’t see anything more than about 10 feet away, so Mount Rushmore wasn’t that impressive. She’s still embarrassed that she didn’t realize it, but neither did I, so I certainly don’t hold it against her.

    But whether or not it was inspired by my inability to see, I did learn to love books and still do. I’m glad Leta loves them so much too!

  • Ha, I’m pretty impressed with your attention to detail on the precise amount of letters to convey ‘NOOOOIIIIISE’ each time. It seems like maybe NOOOOIIIIISE is a concept you’ve devoted a great amount of thought to. 🙂 Funny, that.

    My mom likes to tell the story about me getting up, getting fully dressed, and toddling downstairs to sit next to my parents on the couch. I was five years old, and gleefully exclaimed, “I didn’t think you guys would be up yet!” to which they replied, “It’s eleven PM. Go back to sleep.”

  • Mother of one 2 1/2 year old demon spawn… and less I know about what he’s really up to, the better. There’s this devilish look he gets on his face where his eyes light up and he grins so huge that you want to cringe at whats about to come… and it usually involves screaming and something about to be broken or seriously damaged.

  • You can probably congratulate yourself, you know they see if you read around your kids (even if it’s trashy magazines) they’re way more apt to read in the future. My dad used to read Louis Lamour books when my siblings and I were little, and by age 5 my brother read an entire set of Popular Mechanics instruction manuals, then took apart our television…oops.

  • Reader kids = Great SAT scores

    Start saving for Harvard!

  • I so distinctly remember being complimented for my reading by the teacher in kindergarten. That moment has stayed with me, as I am sure Leta will remember how she was encouraged to read. Reading was like crack for me (still is). But healthy, knowledge-gaining crack. So not at all like crack.

    Goooo Leta!

  • Yay for early reading! With kids like that, it helps fight boredom, which helps promote sanity… for us.

  • Oh my gosh, I am SO going to try the clock thing with my two little boys. Just when I think (after 3 years) that I have them trained to just sneak in quietly and snuggle up to us for “quiet time” when they wake up at 5:00am, one little boy reaches over and touches the other little boys’ elbow, or one “breathes too loudly”, resulting in a yelling match that goes roughly like: “Shhhhhh, you’re breathing too loudly, you’re going to wake up Mommy and Daddy!” “NO I’M NOT!!!”, “YES, YOU ARE!!!”, and so on and so on….at which point I drag my exhausted body out to the kitchen to start the coffee. May as well…

  • I’m still figuring out how to get the kids to learn to go to Dad’s side when they need something at night. Doesn’t seem to happen. Maybe because he just rolls over. Hmmmm.

  • I love the giggles that bubble forth from every playdate at our house. They are usually bookended by my (ever-louder) reminders that FERRETS ARE NOT TOYS. My daughter’s best neighborhood friends is obsessed with our ferrets. Her favorite thing to do is construct elaborate mousetrap-esque obstacle courses for the weasels and force them through each event like a Romanian gymnastics coach. If I can’t find something in my house after a playdate (mixing bowls, brooms, every single left shoe I own) it’s usually shoved under Lauren’s bed.

    I much prefer playdates at other people’s houses.

  • Tricia (your best friend from Park City)

    LOL– does calling myself that make it true? 🙂

    Love Leta posts– we’re a couple of years behind you in this crazy adventure, and I love the glimpses you offer of what might be in store for us (if we’re lucky).

    Sorry about your toe.

    @10 – Jenny: SUCK IT.

  • Anonymous

    an ad for McDonalds?

  • Ohhh, girl, I’m so with you. Last night I pulled a full-on MOMMY BOYCOTT. We ordered pizza and I let my three-year-old son watch America’s Next Top Model with me. It was awesome.
    “Why is that lady crying, Mommy?”
    “That man’s bowtie is SO SILLY.”
    “Why are they all in bathing suits, Mommy?”
    “Her hair is really really big.”

    He watched the entire thing and then I put him to bed. Dad was kinda proud of him being so into the bathing suits.

    This morning, I heard him wake up and sing in bed. Usually it’s the alphabet song or B-I-N-G-O, but today, I am not shitting you, it was “Naah nah nah nuh nah nah, wanna be on top top top top?”


  • Amy

    Love it, especially the description of Leta’s face when you questioned the logistics of that toy/game’s retrieval. You’re right, I’m sure you don’t want to know. Here’s hoping she teaches the new little one all those fun tricks!

  • Better start saving for harvard. 😛

  • I love that you taught her to wait for the alarm clock to read 7. I just imagine her sitting in there looking at the clock hoping it says 7 soon. Although not when it’s going off like that. haha

  • and then one day you’ll have a teenager and hear that noise go off every nine minutes until you’re forced to go in their room to wake their lazy teenage butt up! Every. Morning. Ugh.

  • My three are all nerdy readers, too! It warms my evil stoney little heart. Except when their teachers send home nasty notwes about paying attention in class instead of reading novels during lecture.

    “I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.” I have 2 boys! My life is filled with “Never mind, I really don’t think I want to know.” My little girl only does it to me ocassionally. The boys do it everyday!

  • Simpler times, simpler times…like before your kid went to school and you didn’t know what the School Council Committee was or even had the thought in your mind to join. Then you get sucked in and before you know it you’re helping in your kids class, doing Pizza and hotdog lunches, Healthy Snack program, math-a-thon and other fundraisers….all while thinking how have I been able to find the time to do all this when I could barely find time to do laundry before….yet I can’t stop because I LOVE that I get the chance to spy on my child at school…er, I mean help out with furthuring his education. Ah yes, simpler times! Guess we’ll all be sleeping on our two week old sheets for yet another night (or maybe it’s three…I’ve lost count).

  • Noelle

    Um yeah. From one tall nerd, to one small one… GO US!!
    I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from a book about MDR-TB (aka multi-drug resistant TB). Yes, really. And sometimes I go reread my anatomy/physiology and exercise physiology textbooks. It’s good to be a nerd. And to borrow from an Oscar-nominated song: It’s Hard Out There For a Nerd.
    Yes, it is, but I turned out okay. And I think you and Jon did too – so maybe Leta has a fightin’ chance.
    Keep on keepin’ on!

  • Lknamaste

    And then you have the 2nd child, let’s say a one year-old now. The three year-old has a playdate and, that night at midnight (because that’s the time for which they are automatically set), the same NOISE suddenly goes off in the ONE YEAR-OLD’s ROOM!!! If you’re lucky, you’ll have a sleeper who actually sleeps through the NOISE. Of course, you still have to get your ass out of bed, tiptoe into the baby’s room and turn the damn thing off! I say ban playdates!

  • Becky

    I don’t usually comment but I had to on this post. First off I love reading your website. It makes me laugh daily and I appreciate it. On that note I too was the child reading fluently before entering kindergarten. I embrace my dork side and love reading but don’t worry I love trashy tv like the best of them. It makes me happy to see that you’re cultivating the love of reading in Leta. It scares me to know that a lot of people I know don’t read and that it seems to be the trend not the exception.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t read through all the comments, but I hope I’m not the only one wondering about your friend’s new baby? Name? Pics? Mother and baby both doing ok? 🙂

  • trippy
  • Too funny!! Tell her teacher to check out my blog for some extra book suggestions for Leta.

  • Julie

    This is my first time posting on here (and my first visit!). I just finished your book “It Sucked……” and loved it. In fact I was laughing out loud at the gym (while reading and running at the same time, so I looked doubly goofy)at your description of “the procedure” 7 months after you had your baby. Anyway, I can identify with your alarm clock method–we did the exact same thing with our older son–NO GETTING OUT OF BED UNTIL THE FIRST NUMBER IS SEVEN!

  • Chrissy

    Oh my gosh … sooo funny. Thanks for sharing. And everything you wrote about playdates is sooo true!

  • Yes, you’re right Jenny. Technology is out to get us and steal the minds of our children.

    On that note, you could always start her on reading blogs.

  • Jennifer

    And having two kinds is like having a permanent play date.

  • Excellent idea Motherhood Uncensored!

  • Anonymous

    Im co-dependent on my alarm. I use it as back up to my dog who wakes me up at 6 am each morning. I hit the snooze bar and the dog gets mad at me. Years ago when I was a senior in college, I nearly failed a final presentation which was held on a Saturday for a class in my major. I thought I set the alarm for 8 AM. It didnt go off. The professor said the doors would be locked at 9AM and you’d fail the class. 8:45 I woke up in a panic realizing the alarm didnt go off. I high tailed it across campus and made it in time. Mind you I looked as if I rolled out of bed (I did) and was not in a suit like I should have been. It was a trade off. The alarm clock will be your friend. Just be careful of alarm clocks at disney world… They are done in the voice of Jiminy Cricket. Highly annoying when you have an early morning flight.

  • “At one point I was like, wait a minute, how did you guys manage to get this box of games down from the top of your closet, Leta? She didn’t say a word and instead slowly tilted her head to the side while slyly turning up the corners of her mouth. And I knew instantly that I should just carry on with my life without being burdened by the answer to that question. I imagine that the exact same exchange happens almost every hour with women who have given birth to boys.”

    Love it! I (like many of your newer readers I’m sure) started visiting your site after your Oprah appearance. I’m expecting my first (a boy…I fully expect to have many exchanges like this) this August.

    Thanks for writing it’s a blast to read!

  • You are so lucky to not have boys. Don’t get me wrong – I’m madly in love with my son and adore him down to his tiny toes – BUT. Has Leta ever washed her face in the toilet? Has Leta ever set EVERY alarm clock in the house to midnight? Has Leta ever stuck a paper clip into an electrical outlet? Yea, I didn’t think so

  • Catherine

    My mum credits Sesame Street with teaching me to read as well… I was reading at three (mum initially thought she had a genius child but eventually realised that I just liked books!!).

  • FreakishlyTallMom

    First, I just want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a “HAPPY I-Finished-Reading_Every-Single-Archived-Entry Day” I found the day Oprah’s special on “The Secret Lives of Moms” aired and I have been hooked since. The only logical thing I could think to do was to go back and read everything on the site so I wouldn’t miss anything! I love that I am not caught up, however, now I won’t have endless hours of reading Dooce to take up my day….I may have to start masturbating during naptime again…darn! Anyway, Heather, I just want to say that Leta is an absolutely amazing child and I congratulate you on the upcoming arrival of Not-Maria!!! I will be a loyal reader of your blog for LIFE!!!

  • A real Nerd reads software books for bedtime reading – like my you nephew. He is a MEGA NERD at 8.

  • Stephanie

    Very funny story! I wish I could remember the first time I had to use an alarm clock…simpler times indeed. Once my niece spent the night with me, and when my alarm clock went off the next morning, she came running in from the next room screaming and crying because she thought it was a tornado siren. We live in Missouri – I am 34 and have never seen a tornado – my niece is 9 and apparently has a much better idea of how terrifying they are…to my knowledge she’s never been in the eye of one either, but she could have fooled me that morning!
    It’s great that Leta is such a reader, I would be psyched too. Nice work! 🙂

  • Robyn

    Totally understand “THAT NOISE”, mine just happens to be the sound of door knobs opening doors….oh no, they’re up!!!!!!

  • There are at least 2 commercials that have the exact alarm noise that my alarm clock makes… and every time it’s on TV my blood pressure goes through the roof. Hopefully THAT NOOOOIIISE won’t haunt Leta forever!

  • RichardK

    Your columns are great. Ignore the idiots who flame you. If you ever stop writing, I’ll go to SLC and kick your bony (cute) ass.

  • My littlest geek is in Jazz Band, so now we have to get up at 5:30 am! Sleep while you can ; )

  • Kate

    Hilarious story! I, too, was a nerdy, bookworm kid. I could read for hours and hours on end. I totally remember that feeling RIGHT before I started to read. I was desperate to read…so desperate that I drove my parents crazy by making them read every road sign on the highway to me in the car. When I started to read, I couldn’t get over the feeling of how cool I thought it was to just be able TO read. Fast-forward 20 years later…now I’m a kick-ass librarian and it’s my job to be nerdy. and I love it. Rock on, nerds.

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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