the smell of my desperation has become a stench

On overcoming phobias

A couple of weeks ago when I was cleaning out my closet I found the black rubber tarantula that I bought several years ago in an attempt to scare Jon. He’s been featured here many times (here, here, and most prominently here), so I think at this point he deserves a name. Everyone, meet Randall:


I just thought of something somewhat related, so bear with me for a second: we’re all lying there in bed this morning, and just as I sleepily reach over to turn on the light, the toilet in the bathroom directly next to our bedroom makes some weird noises. Leta starts to freak out, is all WHAT IS GOING ON IN THERE, and just as Jon tries to explain the basics of how water can sometimes seep through the mechanism and whatnot, I go, “There’s a ghost on the toilet!”

Do not ask me why I would say something so obviously incendiary, so EFFING DUMB, because I guess I was half-awake, half-asleep, and I thought it would be funny? Ha ha! A GHOST! ON THE TOILET! And Jon is groaning while Leta goes, “A WHAT? A WHAAAAT?

So I snap awake, and because I am so quick on my feet, so very good at yanking my foot out of my mouth because of my years and years of experience, I go, “TOAST! There’s some toast! On the toilet!”

Leta wrinkled her nose, tilted her head much like Coco does when you make the slightest noise, and says, “Mom, you are so weird.”

I will take weird over nightmares about ghosts on toilets ANY DAY.

Anyway, I tried once again to scare Jon with Randall by putting it underneath his pillow, and of course it didn’t work. The dude just doesn’t scare easily, and I will forgive him for this boring trait because I promised to love him until I die. He has plenty of other lovely characteristics that make up for this flaw. Give me a second and I’ll think of some.

Maybe a couple of seconds.

So I’m climbing into bed three days later and I see that he’s placed Randall right underneath my nightstand. Surprisingly, I don’t jump three feet into the air or DIE, and the next morning when all four of us are lying there trying to wake up I lose my mind again, reach over and grab the tarantula, and toss it at Jon’s head. Why? Why do I do these things? Someone needs to hold an intervention! Heather! Stop giving your five-year-old reasons to wake up screaming!

So Leta FAH-REAKS OUT. She is screaming and panicking and clutching to my arm as firmly as if I have her dangling over a pool of sharks. Jon commences groaning, and then we both start rattling off reasons as to why she should not be scared. It’s a fake spider, Leta. It’s rubber. It’s not real. It has no feelings. You cannot make it sad. And then I shove the whole thing into my mouth which turns out to be the absolute WORST idea ever because then it’s OH MY GOD YOU’VE GOT A SPIDER IN YOUR MOUTH!

And now that I’ve had a couple seconds to think about it, Jon is really patient. There. There it is. That’s his lovely characteristic. Singular.

Because the following morning he spent well over an hour convincing Leta to touch the fake tarantula. It took that long, and he never raised his voice or got agitated, not once, and suddenly Leta walks into the living room HOLDING RANDALL IN HER HANDS. And I’m all LETA! And she goes MOM! LOOK! I AM COURAGEOUS!

That’s the word she used. Courageous. Leta, I forgive you for all those years we had to take you to physical therapy only to find out that the diagnosis was STUBBORN.

So a few days go by, and I’m preparing Leta for a bath when Jon hands her a few pieces of black licorice. Like, why did he choose that time? Right then as she’s about to take a bath? MINUS TEN POINTS FOR ABSENTMINDEDNESS, JON.

And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this enough here, but I hate black licorice. LOATHE IT. It is The Worst Tasting Taste in all of Tasteland. It’s like, we’re headed for a bath and he picks up a ratty tissue that a hobo has used to wipe her vagina, hands it to Leta, and says ENJOY!


The smell of it almost knocks me over, and I’m trying not to gag as I pour shampoo onto her hair, and she’s just chomping away on all that awfulness. Suddenly she stops mid-chew, looks up at me with half-digested black death wedged between her teeth and says, “If I’m courageous enough to touch the spider, why can’t you be courageous enough to try black licorice?”


So I called Jon into the bathroom to demonstrate his lovely characteristic and patiently explain to her the VERY OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the difference, only to say that we’re now setting aside money for law school.

  • Kimball

    2009/10/27 at 1:22 pm

    I love Chuck and Coco and Leta and Marlo 🙂
    What a nice little Armstrong family.

  • The Prima Momma

    2009/10/27 at 1:22 pm

    But will Leta eat black licorice in the shape of a spider? Hmmm.

  • Zannah

    2009/10/27 at 1:22 pm

    I’m with you on the licorice-hate. Ugh. And the big spiders – I was shuddering through the whole post. While laughing. Weird combination of feelings.

    Candy @ 11: How horrible! And hilarious! I can’t decide.

  • Aljolynn

    2009/10/27 at 1:23 pm

    That Leta is an evil genius!

    So how was the licorice? ;o)

  • Brat

    2009/10/27 at 1:23 pm

    RANDALL? I love it! LOL! [This coming from a woman who named her lava lamp ‘Trevor’.]

    It was great to reread those posts, btw, so thanks!

    [And did anyone ELSE get ‘Massachusetts’ as a word? Sheesh!]

  • Candice

    2009/10/27 at 1:24 pm

    Your kid said that? I think she should start taking her LSATs.

  • Franca Bollo

    2009/10/27 at 1:24 pm

    In defense of black licorice … loooooooove it. Especially the Dutch brands which are usually salty and hard. Mmmm … I may have to hop on down to the candy shop and buy me a bag.

    Love Leta all the more for this very important revelation.

  • Stephanie

    2009/10/27 at 1:25 pm

    My husband would leave me for black licorice.


    2009/10/27 at 1:25 pm

    –>Can you toss Randall over the shower door/curtain on Jon to scare him?

  • CraezieLady

    2009/10/27 at 1:26 pm

    That’s awesomely hilarious! Black licorice IS the most vile, evil food product in the history of mankind! Great post, Heather – thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Claudia

    2009/10/27 at 1:34 pm

    I can’t WAIT until Leta is a teenager and driving and dating and all that good stuff and starts using her smarts to argue her point of view with you then!

    With his patience, maybe it would be better to put Jon in charge while the kiddos are between the ages of 13 and 20…

    Tell Chuck the scarf is very stylish.

  • The Prima Momma

    2009/10/27 at 1:35 pm

    Heather, I think the trick to scaring Jon with a spider is to buy one a little smaller. He’s used to the size and look of dear Randall – if he happens upon an unfamiliar spider he might just fall for it.

  • SAHM: Surviving Assorted Home Mayhem

    2009/10/27 at 1:36 pm

    Smart kid, that Leta! I think my comback would have been: “Look, I was courageous enough to GIVE BIRTH TO YOU” and leave it that.

  • Anonymous

    2009/10/27 at 1:36 pm

    I love black licorice, and am convinced it’s a recessive trait.

  • Heather

    2009/10/27 at 1:38 pm

    Bleh. I literally shuddered off my chair with the “vagina” line. OMG.

    That’s what you were going for…right?

  • kcbelles

    2009/10/27 at 1:39 pm

    Too funny! Love Leta’s reasoning that if she could touch the spider, you could try licorice.

    Never realized there were so many licorice haters! I love licorice! Black, red; don’t matter, but my preference is black. My family is dutch and we always had licorice in the house while I was growing up – my absolute favorite is the double-salt. Big treat nowadays when I can get to the Dutch Store and buy some for myself (my partner won’t touch it). And those little tins with the Anise Pastilles someone mentioned above? Got one in my purse, always.

    Now look what you’ve done – I’ve got to go get myself some double-salt now…

  • Kwil

    2009/10/27 at 1:49 pm

    Randall kind of looks like black licorice.

  • Maya

    2009/10/27 at 1:50 pm

    1) When I saw the legs on that spider, before I could tell it was just a rubber one, I shuddered and almost didn’t read the post. That’s how arachnaphobic I am. Pathetic, I know.

    2) Leta is so smart! Her comparing spiders to licorice just cracked me up.

  • Penelope

    2009/10/27 at 1:52 pm

    Children are brilliant. And throwing everything we teach them in our faces. I taught my son that yellow lights mean slow down and oh my do I get read the RIOT ACT every time I run one.

    Thanks for the laugh 🙂

  • Bella-Sweet

    2009/10/27 at 1:52 pm

    I think I’d put a real spider in my mouth before I’d even touch a piece of black licorice to my tongue.

  • K Lea

    2009/10/27 at 1:52 pm

    I once told my sister, who is seven years younger than I, that there was a monster that lived in the drain of the bathtub. He would come out only when you let the water out and he would eat you!

    This, I lovingly told her, so she would hurry up and get out of the bathtub. It seemed like a good idea at the time. What I ended up with was a sister who refused to take a bath for months after the “incident” and parents who were really pissed at me.

    Ah, the joy of being an older sibling!

  • Jillian

    2009/10/27 at 1:56 pm

    Ugh! I hate black licorice. But what’s even worse(Yes. Heather there IS worse.) is black jelly beans that TASTE like black licorice. There is NOTHING more vile! And of course as a child I had quite a fondness for normal jelly beans and my evil older brother would convince me to do things for him and in return get yummy jelly beans. Which was great, except for that one time he told me to run downstairs naked and go scare Mom, and when I did, triumphantly holding my hand out he gave me a handful of ALL BLACK JELLY BEANS…..

    I’m still very bitter about that one and that was a good twenty years ago. I don’t even think he got in trouble for that.

  • Hope

    2009/10/27 at 1:59 pm

    A coupla things –

    First, the photo of Chuck is great. My favorite part? His ass is NOT touching the frozen ground. Awesome, mine would also not get close to it. (My ass, not my dog’s ass)

    Secondly, I know you have problems getting Leta to eat foods, her picky (STUBBORN) nature and all. Can’t you just go all psychology on her, and ask HER to be courageous about eating?? Of course, that may involve you eating some black licorice. Nevermind…

  • Angie

    2009/10/27 at 2:00 pm

    Why is Leta eating in the bath tub?

  • MyHormonesMadeMeDoIt

    2009/10/27 at 2:03 pm

    I adore Leta! And seriouly #74, is that really an issue?

  • ProudMary

    2009/10/27 at 2:03 pm

    great post.

  • Jill

    2009/10/27 at 2:06 pm

    Loved this.

    But ONLY commenting to remark on the leading Google Ad for this post, and wondering if I am the only person it cracked up completely:

    Child Anxiety Research


    Child anxiety research… ROFLMAO…oh dear… *wiping tears*… that kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

  • Nik

    2009/10/27 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Heather. Once again you have painted a very vivid picture that made me LAUGH OUT LOUD at work! I’ve got to get me a fake tarantula to similarly torture my 3- & 7-yr-olds. And a fake snake for my husband, who DOES scare easily by snakes.

    My security words – facetted Marie!

  • finger thumb

    2009/10/27 at 2:10 pm

    bahaha! Black licorice, that’s what spiders taste like, Heather. Gosh that kid is smart, law school is a good plan. Laughed out loud at this. Plus also, I love black licorice, (in fact, I like SALTED black Licorice, which is a Dutch candy called droopjes, and would make you hurl, I’m sure) but I can see how that would be gross to smell.

  • Trish

    2009/10/27 at 2:12 pm

    Black licorice is from hell. So are spiders.

    Leta is all kinds of awesomeness, though.

  • lori

    2009/10/27 at 2:13 pm

    I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found your blog! I just laughed out loud reading the part about the hobo . LOLLLLLLLL

  • JessiCat

    2009/10/27 at 2:14 pm

    I LOVE THIS POST. All caps love! 🙂 My favorite part was the hobo vagina. You reek of awesomeness. I agree on the black licorice. I also agree on the comment above that says stoners would totally have a field day dissecting that word. I think I will try it tonight. The funniest “scare the husband” moment I ever had was when my husband (now he is an ex-husband….maybe because I’m a teensy bit…evil?!?) was asleep in our bed, i was about 7 months pregnant. He fell asleep holding a glass of milk. Our ceiling fan was on, because you know….I was ALWAYS HOT when pregnant….ugh. Yay Georgia heat! I digress… The fan was on, my hair stirred around a little bit and tickled his nose. I shit you not…HE SHOT UP OUT OF THE BED, THREW MILK ALL OVER HIMSELF (and me…and the cat) and SCREAMED “FUCKING SQUIRREL!!!”. I have never laughed so hard in my life. I think I peed. PRICELESS. Every time I see a FUCKING SQUIRREL I call him and laugh at him.

  • Kristen from MA

    2009/10/27 at 2:14 pm

    Black Death = the best description of black licorice I’ve ever read. That stuff is nasty.

  • jenG

    2009/10/27 at 2:15 pm


    Here comes Randall, he’s … a berzerker.

    /singing random Clerks jingle

  • sarah

    2009/10/27 at 2:20 pm

    Red licorice is also gross. But, points to Leta for giving you the business.

    And. Chuck’s high degree of coolness is apparent even in photographs. Other animals look cute, fuzzy, angry, etc. Chuck = cool.

  • Dani

    2009/10/27 at 2:21 pm

    I just got some misserable news. Thanks for making me laugh.

  • eejm

    2009/10/27 at 2:21 pm

    Black licorice is something you either adore or passionately hate – there is no in-between. Same with coconut. Like #64, I’m convinced that loving black licorice (and coconut) is genetic and recessive. I adore it, as do my mom and son.

    Eggs cooked in any fashion are the most vile, disgusting, putrid-smelling and tasting substance on the planet.

  • Sonya

    2009/10/27 at 2:22 pm

    That is awesome!

    I agree, black licorice is beyond gross.

  • Jackie

    2009/10/27 at 2:23 pm

    How funny! I just love it when our kids come back at us with our own reasonings. Little brats!

  • Annie

    2009/10/27 at 2:24 pm

    Okay, I am in love with Leta! She cracks me up! I hope someday I have a daughter that has even half the personality of Leta!

  • everybodylovesbaby

    2009/10/27 at 2:32 pm

    my husband’s afraid of belly buttons and our kid has an umbilical hernia

  • Lauren

    2009/10/27 at 2:32 pm

    This line:

    It’s like, we’re headed for a bath and he picks up a ratty tissue that a hobo has used to wipe her vagina, hands it to Leta, and says ENJOY!

    made my good day even better. Thank you for your creative description genius. Leta is brilliant.

  • Tammy at The Butterfly Mind

    2009/10/27 at 2:32 pm

    I hate black licorice,too!

    Butterfly was mystery shopping at the local hospital, AGAIN. Sigh.

  • lizandboys

    2009/10/27 at 2:44 pm

    Take some fishing line/clear string and tie it to Randall. Attach him to the inside of a cabinet (one that Leta won’t be opening) – when Jon opens the cabinet it’ll fall out, dangling on the string – gets ME to scream and flail everytime – maybe it’ll work for you 🙂

  • Kelley

    2009/10/27 at 2:48 pm

    Ewww black licorice. Why was that even invented and sold as a candy? It’s absolutely disgusting and makes you look like you have rotten teeth. Maybe that’s why kids like it?

  • Kato

    2009/10/27 at 2:51 pm

    Haha!! I love it!!

    You are lucky to have her. Kids that keep you on your toes are the kind to keep!

  • uthostage

    2009/10/27 at 2:51 pm

    I was rolling from the moment I read “ghost on the toilet”! Cuz that would totally be something I would do to my daughter. And not when I’m half asleep. Maybe preferably when she’s half asleep, though. Cuz then I might be able to actually catch her off guard. I’ve been blessed with a tomboy who is fascinated with things like watching a praying mantis devour another bug. I gotta take every advantage I can get.

  • Leslie

    2009/10/27 at 2:56 pm

    Funniest post in a while. Well, since a week or so ago. You are priceless and smart! The haters are going to pay for Leta’s entire law school education with comments on this post alone! Well Done.

  • Josey

    2009/10/27 at 2:57 pm

    It’s funny to me that black licorice is one of those absolutely POLARIZING foods – I mean, does anyone really think “it’s okay”??? I HATE HATE HATE it… and everyone I know wants to vomit from the smell of it or be left on a deserted island with it.

    I commend Leta for her way to break it down into simple terms. Still, I wouldn’t have tried it. 🙂

  • Jen

    2009/10/27 at 2:59 pm

    Oh, lord, please don’t take this as something negative, because I swear it’s not (even though starting out with those words probably sounds really dubious). You’re a treat to read. It’s great when you post something for your readers to enjoy. I even like reading the long captions you write for all your photos (and the photos are great on their own, too). I think you’re generous and creative and funny. But–and, again, I am now frightened to even write this–that Monetizing the Hate page is just adding gasoline to a raging fire. Those people are just so mean, and now that they know you’ll post their rude comments on M the H, they have taken to creating all new websites dedicated to being even more rude. It’s all so brutal. One of the most recent additions to M the H was by a woman who mentioned that her husband was in the Marines. That comment did not seem at all hateful or rude, just observational and terse (and probably driven by the emotion of being a single parent while her husband is at war). But if the woman who wrote that sees that you posted her comment on M the H, she is just going to feel absolutely shit on and she will take her indignation to one of those I-hate-Dooce sites and write post after post about how awful you are.

    You’re so not an awful person, Heather. You have very right to be angry, furious, and disgusted. It is just so bizarre to see this situation turning into a surreal internet war of women.

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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