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.

  • kat

    2009/10/27 at 3:03 pm

    I so agree with you on the black licorice! My dad loves it but it’s so gross. At least we’ve never had to fight over it! However, weirdly enough, I do like fennel as a vegetable (fennel bulbs) and chomp on it raw like celery. It’s yummy and sweet when it’s and braised or roasted, and fennel seeds go well in sausage. But I hate Sambuca liqueur, fennel/anise-flavoured candies, and all other forms of the stuff.
    Great story 🙂 and Leta is awesome!

  • hsdiva

    2009/10/27 at 3:06 pm

    Black licorice tastes like ass. ‘Nuf said.

  • Becky..Absent Minded Housewife

    2009/10/27 at 3:08 pm

    So, back when Arachnophobia was the awesomenest movie in town (the only movie showing at the theatre in town) and being a Utah County teen and ignorant to where to find any beer, my friends and I took a rubber spider on one of those extension scissor like contraptions to the theater with us.

    We quietly snuck about the seats and placed spidey on folks. I think we made one lady wet her pants. The theater owners wouldn’t let us back in after our third showing.

    Later we developed an interest in sex, and so we went to BYU campus and drew body outlines with Ivory soap all over the sidewalks in an effort to impart some Kama Sutra on the place.

    It’s not vandalism cuz soap washes off.

  • Parsing Nonsense

    2009/10/27 at 3:09 pm

    We put a fake spider in my bosses office (he HATES spiders) but instead of silly retribution we all almost got fired.

    When Rubber Spiders Backfire should be a new TLC show.

  • Lisa Marie

    2009/10/27 at 3:13 pm

    I love that the hobo is female. Downtroddenness is an equal opportunity.

    laughing, yea verily

  • Elda

    2009/10/27 at 3:16 pm

    My dog is named Licorice. Maybe I can take him over, you can lick him in front of Leta and you can show her how absolutely courageous you are by TASTING LICORICE… technically.

  • Melissa N.

    2009/10/27 at 3:19 pm

    God damn it you are funny! Thanks for the giggle today, I needed it.

  • Zoid

    2009/10/27 at 3:25 pm

    Tell Leta that black licorice is actually tarantula legs. That’ll keep her from chewing it for a good, oh, forever. The things my parents told me when I was a kid have stuck with me… I still don’t like to press the eject button in cars (my Mom told me that it ejects the front seats out of the top of the car).

  • Sarah @

    2009/10/27 at 3:35 pm


    One more reason not to let my husband corrupt my child with black licorice.

    Like I needed another reason. Yuck.

  • Tina

    2009/10/27 at 3:40 pm

    Yeah start saving for law school now. HAHAHAHA! Her logic is FLAWLESS. =)

  • bella

    2009/10/27 at 3:41 pm

    I have been reading your blog for a long time, and I have to say that your kids are going to grow up so NORMAL and FUN because you and your husband see life in such a comical and fantastic way. Thank you for sharing it.

    Your pictures are also incredible, and beautiful. Feel free to post this on your hate site, since there are so many stupid people out there with rigid perspectives and absolutely NO sense of humour! 🙂


  • dubiousMa

    2009/10/27 at 3:41 pm

    Why do they still make black licorice?? It’s as bad as black jelly beans. Disgusting.They may as well make army green licorice.

  • Betsy

    2009/10/27 at 3:47 pm

    In regards to eating in the bathtub – that used to be one of my favorite things to do in the tub. Not really any ol’ food but candy or bubble gum. It’s a fun sensation.

    Ok, I’ll leave that at that.

    Also – not a fan of black, but I love red licorice.

    Leta is my favorite character in nutty Dooce world!

  • Scott

    2009/10/27 at 3:49 pm

    I demand video of you eating black licorice!

  • RichardK

    2009/10/27 at 3:51 pm

    You are the best.

    BTW, the pages of hate posts are hysterical. I know it’s easy for me to say when I’m not at the receiving end…but I figured that by now you’ve realized that there’s an infinite supply of imbeciles without lives who make up for this “minor” shortcoming by writing an equally infinite stream of idiocies.

  • Mo

    2009/10/27 at 3:52 pm

    courageous enough to approach the thought of hobo vaginas (and put them in all of our heads)… but still no black licorice…

    You’re like a parfait, Heather…you know, layers.

  • Surge

    2009/10/27 at 3:53 pm

    Number seven, I’m assuming that if you bit into a tarantula you will die.

    I love how somebody said that black licorice tastes like ass. Why did this post conjur up such perverted comments, if nobody else noticed?

    “Kids that keep you on your toes are the kind to keep!”
    And those that don’t?
    I say throw em out.

  • Rachel

    2009/10/27 at 4:00 pm

    HAHAHAHAHA i don’t know where to start. vagina-smelling black licorice, a spider named randall, or your five-year-old using the word courageous. FABULOUS I LOVE IT. still laughing.

  • stella

    2009/10/27 at 4:05 pm

    Okay, I love ya, Heather but I gotta say….black licorice rocks!! Love the Randall stories too. Hilarious.

  • Jennie

    2009/10/27 at 4:07 pm

    Black licorice is totally nasty. Yuck.

    Not to give anyone nightmares about weird toilet sounds, but a couple of weeks ago our toilet made a “weird” noise too. Turned out a sewer rat had made his way up the pipes and popped up in the toilet. Luckily, my niece walked into the bathroom, saw him, and screamed her head off, which sent him back whence he came. But still.

  • Heather

    2009/10/27 at 4:10 pm

    Ahh… so funny! Black death… that was a good one.

  • Tracie Yule

    2009/10/27 at 4:11 pm

    I completely and utterly sate sauerkraut. It smells awful, the texture is awful, it’s just awful. But we have this dumb rule in our house that you have to try everything on your plate before you are allowed to leave the table. Guess who had to eat sauerkraut? Awful.

    My daughter is petrified of worms. When it rains, there are worms all over our driveway. When she sees them she starts hopping around saying “uh, uh, uh” and raising her arms up in the air. It’s really funny and I’m kind of glad when it rains.

  • Alison

    2009/10/27 at 4:12 pm

    And then you said “maybe you could be more courageous and try a peanut butter sandwich” then she looks at you, thinks about this and you say “See?”

  • Christina

    2009/10/27 at 4:29 pm

    Ugh, black licorice is even worse than shredded coconut.

    I ♥ Leta, she’s the best.

  • Jennifer M.

    2009/10/27 at 4:29 pm

    I LOATH black licorice. It’s of the Devil. I know it is.

  • Suze

    2009/10/27 at 4:33 pm

    The kid’s got you dead to rights, Dooce. You’re going to have to man up (‘woman up’?) and show her you’re made of the same stuff SHE is!

  • trish

    2009/10/27 at 4:35 pm

    HAHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah. Why DON’T you be courageous, Heather?

    This post is why I read you. Fanfreakingtastic.

  • Ray

    2009/10/27 at 4:38 pm

    Your daughter is so smart! And speaking of spiders and ghosts: “What is Leta going to be for Halloween?” ^o^

  • olivia

    2009/10/27 at 4:47 pm

    or don’t ever try SWEDISH black licorice. Vile, nasty, lick the bottom of the tube coach floor, rancid grossness, putrid stuff. SALTY black licorice. You just can’t imagine. Especially when you’re expecting a chocolate. Barf.

  • MotherProof

    2009/10/27 at 4:50 pm

    Leta is awesome. Your morning gaffs are awesome. Black licorice is less awesome. In fact, it’s completely lacking in awesome. It’s awesomeless.

  • kara

    2009/10/27 at 4:55 pm

    I am so in love with black licorice that I have fennel flavored toothpaste and I drink Jager on the rocks at bars. But it is very distinct. I could see how people wouldn’t like it. I hate all things bubble gum flavored. EEEEEWWW. It tastes like a unicorn vomited in my mouth.

  • Agi

    2009/10/27 at 4:57 pm

    I suffer from mild arachnophobia. I don’t panic when scout a spider climbing up its web. I simply leave the room. Me, a whole grown up person leaves the whole big room to the teeny tiny spider as I wish to have nothing to do with it.
    When it comes to roaches though I scream my lungs out as I dive after the nasty little sucker with a hammer, a gun and a half-a-ton boulder. It’s an ugly, bloody sight. Ugh!

  • GF

    2009/10/27 at 4:59 pm

    I looooooooooove black licorice. Go Leta!

    Come on, Heather — get COURAGEOUS!!

    FYI — if you eat too much black licorice, it will turn your poop green.

    Don’t ask how I know.

  • Anonymous

    2009/10/27 at 5:03 pm

    all six year olds should go directly to law school.

    also, have you seen this:

  • Martha

    2009/10/27 at 5:07 pm

    First, black licorice is vile. Just nasty beyond belief. Secondly, my daughter pulls the same stuff. My husband and I always tell her that she doesn’t have to eat a new food if she doesn’t want to, but she at least has to lick it, just to take a taste to see if she likes it. This totally backfired on us when she insisted that dear old dad lick the asparagus (he hates asparagus) and she wanted me to lick a black olive (gag). Our kids may end up in law school together.

  • Jane

    2009/10/27 at 5:11 pm

    My husband is afraid of spiders and my daughter and I love them. She has many fake spiders that she hides so he’ll find them, and she has found and brought in live tarantulas on occasion to scare him too. Funny, they don’t stay where you put them. She had a pet orb weaver named Chloe, who lived outside. She’d go catch bugs and toss them into her web. We both cried when she died. Also, all licorice is nasty.

  • Bush Babe (of Granite Glen)

    2009/10/27 at 5:18 pm

    Oh dear lord… I got stuck at the tissue description. Gagging.

    I detest licorice too. But not as much as bananas. And yet I make my STUBBORN daughter banana smoothies EVERY day (because its the only fruit she will allow into her mouth). I touch bananas. And she has started offering me sips of her smoothie.

    So I hear your pain.

    Can we make that two law school places please?


    2009/10/27 at 5:19 pm

    Ah, yes, black licorice…. I remember when my daughter (who has an intense gag reflex) was 3 or 4 and we all went out for a nice Easter lunch. She had her pretty new Easter outfit on and looked just angelic. Well, the restaurant offered all the kiddies these cute little Eastern treat bags and for whatever reason (it had to have been a man’s idea) they contained small pieces of black licorice. I didn’t even know it was there until I looked over and saw my daughter vomiting black YUK all over the table. It was lovely!

  • Danielle

    2009/10/27 at 5:20 pm

    HAHAHA! Love the random comment about a ghost on the toilet. For a long time my son really believed we had farting ghosts in our home.

  • Amy Bjorge

    2009/10/27 at 5:21 pm

    I hate black licorice too. It’s sad that old people like it so much because they never had any good candy when they were growing up. Like the Hershey’s Symphony Bar with toffee chips.
    I dropped an F bomb this morning (in front of my kids) when I opened the garage door and saw the first snow of the season. It always happens before Halloween and yet I am surprised every year.
    Tell Leta not to worry. If 30 years in “Utard” have taught me anything, it’s that it will be “wintering” for the next 6 months- at least until April.
    (My daughter also thought it was fabulous, btw.)

  • kirsten

    2009/10/27 at 5:30 pm

    You all are crazy.

    Black licorice is the best! Glad to know that Leta is growing up with a palate that surpasses the nonsense that says otherwise.

    Spiders, however, freak me the hell out.

    “Phasized succors”
    (my captcha, which just seemed so eloquent)

  • K Lea

    2009/10/27 at 5:36 pm

    Ok, I just thought of something totally sick and twisted that I would do if Leta was mine. Because, I too hate black licorice…

    I think Randall’s legs look a lot like black licorice. I wonder what would happen if someone maybe hinted that black licorice is really spider legs.

    Years and years of therapy.

  • Lisa

    2009/10/27 at 5:41 pm

    I love both licorice (all licorice is black, the red stuff is either cherry or strawberry flavor, not licorice flavor), and horehound. So there! ;o)

    I am not afraid of spiders, but know people who are deathly afraid of them. I was the official spider killer for a woman I worked with who had a phobia. Once I was trying to get one out of a small box on her desk, a hairy wolf spider, when it ran up my arm. She almost had a fit. I brushed it off and stepped on it. Heroine of the day. ;o)

  • Chelsea Robinson

    2009/10/27 at 5:43 pm

    Leta is a bad ass. Ha ha I’m guessing you hate Jagermeister! It is so good. And I had mixed emotions about you comparing black licorice to a hobo’s dirty vagina… I’ll never be able to take a shot without that running through my head or gagging. Thanks, thanks a lot. LOL.

  • Hope

    2009/10/27 at 5:46 pm

    “Ghost” to “toast” – I’m impressed.

  • pinkbrain

    2009/10/27 at 6:03 pm

    @ # 82
    I was breastfeeding when I read your comment (yes this is how I pass the time while feeding baby) and I started laughing so hard that baby popped off and started wailing. Sorry baby!


    Totally worth it.

  • Anonymous

    2009/10/27 at 6:17 pm

    dude, lawyers are black licorice.

  • shelli

    2009/10/27 at 6:22 pm

    black licorice is NASTY. As in NASTY.

    But Leta? SMART kid.

  • Michelle

    2009/10/27 at 6:34 pm

    I just had to saw that the shot of chuck today was fantastic very VOGUE but did you notice his butt isn’t actually touching the ground? Just thought I’d point that out. That Chuck, he’s just too smart to sit on a cold wet ground with a fancy scarf on!

  • Brooke

    2009/10/27 at 6:35 pm

    Haha…I love Leta’s thinking! However, I also HATE black licorice. It’s like the worst attempt at candy ever. It tastes nothing like normal, good candy. Ugh.

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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