the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Newsletter: Marlo turns one

Dear Marlo,

Today you turn one year old. In dooce terms, that’s twelve months. Years from now when you and your sister look back on what I’ve written here and you realize that I wrote a lot more about her first year than I did about yours, I kindly ask that you forgive me. It is, after all, completely your fault. You require a lot of time and work, more than I could have planned for, and to make it up to you I promise to buy you an occasional piece of clothing that hasn’t already been worn by your sister. Like, for Christmas.

That’s the thing, though. Leta didn’t have a big sister that first year, and you do. And what an incredible thing she is for you to have. Your father and I are important, yes, but your big sister is everything to you. She is who you want to see first in the morning, and while I am in the other room preparing a bottle I always wait for your squeal when Dad turns on the light in your bedroom and you see Leta in the doorway. You sound exactly like a pig being gutted alive by a flock of mangy vultures. Totally adorable.

You call her GeeGah. Yes, that’s right. You’re already starting to form words. You can say Mama, and Dada, and Coco, and DUCK! for Chuck. You also refer to my niece Mariah as Riah. Your gift for repeating sounds is uncanny, actually, although I still haven’t been able to get you to refer to my assistant as Tyrant. That’s a difficult, one, I know. But we’re working on it. He doesn’t have any kids, doesn’t want any, and he asked me the other day why your hair is so scraggly. Couldn’t we put some gel in it, or something? CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THE NERVE.

I told him right then that his next assignment was to change your poopy diaper. The one that had come out of the sides of your pants and was now dripping on the floor. His response was to faint and hit his head on the wall. Good thing he has insurance!

I’ve written about this before, but we are not used to having such an active child. You are crawling all over the place now. Speeding in and out of rooms, up and over every obstacle in your way. Climbing up onto the couch by yourself. You are a human wrecking ball and hit your head on everything. That’s part of the soundtrack to our lives these days, the thud of your head on the floor or some other hard surface. I’m always quick to run and make sure you’re okay, but your father tells me to chill out, you need to learn the physics of your head. And I’m like, but what if in that process she suffers brain damage? And he’s all, well then we’ll know she’s a slow learner!

Other than some brief, almost unbearably whiny periods when your two bottom teeth were coming in and you were learning how to crawl, you have been pretty much the most delightful baby on the planet. At times, I can hardly stand it because you’re generally just so happy about being alive. And that mood is contagious. I dare anyone to spend an hour around you without walking away singing a show tune and skipping like bow-tied buffoon. Your giant blue eyes, your miles-deep dimples, a smile so vibrant that it swallows all the light in the room. Along with electrical cords, dog toys, rocks, and your favorite, shoes. Yummy, yummy dirt-encrusted, feet-smelly shoes.

“What does she have in her mouth?”

“My shoe.”

“Why are you not stopping her?”


Tell you what, in preschool if some kid drags in a disease on his shoe, you’re going to be the only kid who doesn’t get sick.

It was a year ago that I was walking around all day thinking I had a chronic case of gas when really I was in labor with you. And then finally when I’d had enough I idiotically took that sleeping pill, and BOOM! Less than three hours later you popped out, and everyone in the room gasped at your size. That whole thing was in there?! And then they laid you on my chest and the first thing I remember thinking was, AWESOME! NO MORE PAIN! And then, wait a minute. I don’t have dimples, and neither does Jon! I gave birth to the wrong baby!

Turns out your father’s sisters do, so we decided to keep you.

You were never a crier, didn’t ever shed a single tear until you became mobile. And now, oh my, the tears. The deadly silence before the wailing. Because you hit your head again, or you’re stuck, or we won’t let you chew on the dog’s tail. And boy, do you play it up. Like every incident is the end of the world. And when I pick you up to comfort you, you snuggle in, rest your head on my shoulder and heave a sigh so heavy as if to say, “Guys, I know that what just happened was a tragedy for all of us, but I’ve decided I can move on.”

Marlo, there could not have been a more perfect addition to our family, and with you we are complete. Yes, it was a circus before, but now the music is louder and the tricks are even more death-defying. You are pure joy, a bundle of electrifying awesomeness that just keeps getting better. Like, just last week I discovered that you like bananas, and every morning when I cut one up to put in my cereal, I leave several bites for you. And while I eat my breakfast, I feed you tiny bites of banana, and you smile like a total goofball each time you see a piece coming. Like, I’m a momma monkey feeding her wacky baby monkey. I looked up at Jon while you were humming on a piece and said, “I never knew this, but this right here is everything I wanted in life.”

He rolled his eyes appropriately.

To celebrate your first year your father and I have set up a little slide show of photos set to the song “Elevator Love Letter” by a group called Stars. It has nothing to do with babies or children or even family in general, but it was the song your father and I were listening to on the way to the hospital when I was about to give birth to your sister. For months after she came into our lives and changed it forever I couldn’t listen to this song without crying, because life had become so complicated and confusing. And this song reminded me of what life was like before then. What life was like when I wasn’t a mother.

It’s been six and a half years since then, and now I’ve got two beautiful girls. And instead of feeling confused, I feel at home. So blessed. So complete. So right where I’m supposed to be. This song now reminds me of the journey I took to get here.

Happy birthday, Lil Donette Butternut!


  • LuckyMama

    2010/06/14 at 10:03 am

    Yet again, I think we’re living in parallel universes. My first was so LESS of a handful than my 17 month old son. He’s into EVERYTHING! He ate fish food last week….Tyrant would have asked for workman’s comp after changing those diapers!

    Marlo and Leta are such beautiful girls…you have an incredible family!

  • Schmutzie

    2010/06/14 at 10:04 am

    Happy birthday, Marlo!

  • Mama to Henry

    2010/06/14 at 10:07 am

    Heather, that brought tears to my eyes. My little man, Henry, turns one on Wed. I can’t believe a year has gone by already. As I was stuffing favor bags (yup, favor bags for a one-year old birthday party who has no clue what is going on!) last night, I also got sentimental. Henry also has the deepest dimples. It should be a crime to be that perfect 🙂

  • hockeybrad

    2010/06/14 at 10:08 am

    Oh my. Do you ever wonder how you two made such a beautiful couple of kids? I wonder that about mine. They’re so much better than me! 🙂

    Happy Birthday, Marlo. Eat cake, and be sure to get plenty of icing in your hair.

  • Billygean

    2010/06/14 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for this Dooce. having children is something my boyfriend wants and something I worry about incessantly, for post-natal depression and not bonding type reasons. you make me kind of realise it might all be worth it?

    Also, I know this is very inappropriate but you have such nice straight white teeth!!


  • jalla

    2010/06/14 at 10:11 am

    What a gift to your children these newsletters are!

  • kayakgrrl

    2010/06/14 at 10:11 am

    Yikes. That means my daughter turns one is three weeks. Which is CRAZY talk. (You’ve got a couple of beautiful girls, Heather.)

  • Beth Jarvis

    2010/06/14 at 10:11 am

    Dammit. Now I’m crying.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Beth Jarvis

    2010/06/14 at 10:11 am

    Dammit. Now I’m crying.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • valvalerie

    2010/06/14 at 10:13 am

    That is beautiful. Happy Birthday Marlo and many more.

  • ladygray

    2010/06/14 at 10:14 am

    Happy Birthday, beautiful girl! I remember the day Marlo was born and it seriously feels like freaking yesterday. I was 8.5 months pregnant at the time myself. I can’t believe it has been a year already!

    Congratulations Marlo and family! I hope this first birthday brings you SUN, joyous time with family, and All Things Birthday Cake.


  • kaethend

    2010/06/14 at 10:18 am

    I remember the day you went into labor. I remember watching your entire pregnancy. I wasn’t pregnant then. Not yet. And now, a year later, I’ve got an almost three month old asleep on my chest.

    It has meant the world to me to be able to watch your lives unfold, and the bits you’ve shared have made my life easier, enriched, enlightened.

    Thank you, Armstrongs, for doing this little internt blogging thing.

    Happy Birthday, indeed.

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2010/06/14 at 10:19 am

    Happy 1st Birthday Marlo!

    And congratulations to you, Heather, for being such a wonderful mother and for writing these moments of Marlo’s life so eloquently. Years from now, she will appreciate and savor your memories. (You know, after all those teenage years of angst and resentment;-P )

  • KateH

    2010/06/14 at 10:22 am

    Wow… Congratulations! You all survived a year together. w00t! Here’s hoping for another 80 or so.

  • The Dalai Mama

    2010/06/14 at 10:24 am

    Happy Birthday Marlo. So happy that you are able to see the early months from another state of being.

    Your second child sounds a lot like mine–mine is a cross between pig pen and the tazmanian devil–but so totally cute and awesome.

  • kristanhoffman

    2010/06/14 at 10:27 am

    *wipes away tears*

    Dagnabbit, Heather. How do you make runny poop and whiny screeching sound so damn awesome?

  • Squeetthang

    2010/06/14 at 10:28 am

    I love it so!!! Long time reader here! I have really enjoyed the adventures of the Armstrong family!! XOXO!

  • sarashous

    2010/06/14 at 10:31 am

    Dooce, I am SO happy you have finally found your “place.” Congratulations to you, Jon, Leta, Marlo, Chuck and Coco!

  • A.T.s_mama

    2010/06/14 at 10:33 am

    What a beautiful slideshow!
    Happy birthday to Marlo who has no clue what it all means, and Happy Day-of-Birthing Marlo to you!

    Happy for you all 🙂

  • mariacelina

    2010/06/14 at 10:34 am

    What a wonderful slideshow. Happy first birthday, Marlo!

  • Belly Girl

    2010/06/14 at 10:35 am

    Ridiculously cute.

  • PunkinP

    2010/06/14 at 10:39 am

    My goodness how time flies! It seems like such a short time ago that I was pregnant with my little dude and a nervous wreck and reading your blog was what helped me get through. Marlo is almost exactly one month older than my Philip. To see read about Marlo from the very beginning until now has been a blessing and so much fun for me. Cheers! Happy birthday Princess Butternut!

  • myla

    2010/06/14 at 10:43 am

    What a lovely post — this made my whole day.

    It makes me so happy to read you so happy.

    Those dimples are AMAZING.


  • carlyrae2

    2010/06/14 at 10:43 am

    I don’t have kids, not even sure I want them…but that made me teary. Happy Birthday, Marlo!

  • sarahdoow

    2010/06/14 at 10:43 am

    Seriously, it’s been a year? Well, happy birthday to the Queen of Dimples!

  • Big Gay Sam

    2010/06/14 at 10:44 am

    Feliz Cumpleaños Marlo! 🙂

  • aussome1

    2010/06/14 at 10:45 am

    Happy Birthday to Marlo!!

    Thanks for letting us in and for sharing such wonderful memories of your girls with us!! They are beautiful!! Every time I see a new photo of Marlo I can’t get over how BLUE her eyes are like looking inot two pools of aqua water!!

  • dfunkmcgunk

    2010/06/14 at 10:46 am

    What a beautiful homage to the most beautiful thing in the world – a child. Happy first year of life, Marlo. May each subsequent year be even better than the last.

  • americanmom8

    2010/06/14 at 10:47 am

    How time flies!! I have enjoyed watching Marlo grow up. I want contacts the same color of her eyes. I have blue eyes but NOTHING like hers! John will have to get a shot gun to keep the boys away!!

    By the way… LOVED the picture of Granny Boone. I miss her so much!! (yes, I am family)

  • Lucy_Luck

    2010/06/14 at 10:52 am

    This is so beautiful! It’s amazing to see so much love come from and within a great family.

    Really lovely pictures and great music too! I shall look them up…


  • ss622

    2010/06/14 at 10:59 am

    wow, i cant believe its been a year! shes gorgeous. enjoy her!

  • josephine

    2010/06/14 at 11:01 am

    She’s so beautiful!!! Wonderful letter, Heather. Thank you for allowing us all to watch her grow up.

  • jmerry

    2010/06/14 at 11:06 am

    Marlo, congrats on your first journey around the sun! Happy Birthday!

  • mommyoffour

    2010/06/14 at 11:07 am

    Happy Birthday, Marlo!
    And congrats, Heather, for making it through your first year with two children! Quite a feat! I love your laid-back approach and sense of humour you have with parenthood. Glad to see you’re right where you want to be. Thank you for sharing your world!

  • Jessica Eiden Smedley

    2010/06/14 at 11:08 am

    Just beautiful, Dooce! Congratulations and Happy Birthday to Marlo!

  • Diana

    2010/06/14 at 11:10 am

    Happy Birthday Marlo!

  • The818

    2010/06/14 at 11:13 am

    Happy Birthday Marlo. As a new Mama currently a little lost in the difficult and confusing parts, I’m so happy (/relieved/hopeful/jealous) to hear you’ve found new meaning in that song.

    She’s beautiful.

  • Lysana

    2010/06/14 at 11:14 am

    Beautiful post! 🙂 The slideshow was lovely…Marlo is such a precious little girl!

    I just re-read your “Labor Story Part 1” and wanted to comment on that, but you must have comments disabled on year-old-posts. Not surprising, really.

    But it stunned me. I’m currently pregnant and due in mid-July, and was all up for my third round of “Elective Induction with some Epidural on the side” when I had an epiphany at right about 30 weeks. No joke. Since then, I’ve decided I didn’t want the induction OR the epidural or anything else, thank you very much, and I’ve changed hospitals, and sadly that meant I had to change providers, too (because I love my OB, but the on-call OB delivers, so chances are pretty good that without an induction, she wouldn’t deliver anyway).

    I’ve been feeling a little bit crazy for making such drastic changes at such a late date, but reading your story made me feel a bit better, knowing I’m not the only one. So thanks. 🙂

  • randi33

    2010/06/14 at 11:14 am

    Happy Birthday Marlo! I can’t believe it’s been a year! Here’s to many more!

  • emmafolds

    2010/06/14 at 11:21 am

    Dooce, Marlo is just beautiful. It almost, ALMOST, makes me wish I wanted kids.

  • chickahgogirl

    2010/06/14 at 11:23 am

    Marlo, Happy One Year birthday. You survived one year with this crazy family God picked out for you, knowing you would be the icing on the cupcake for them all. Internet loves you. (that sounds so cold, but we do and we are all sending you electronic kisses XXXXXXXXXXX to be placed on that cute dimple by your moma and dada and Leta on our behalf). Blessings to you………….and stop biting Coco’s tail !!!

  • amandalk

    2010/06/14 at 11:29 am

    Happy Birthday, Marlo!

    I guess this also means it’s the anniversary since I got sucked into the doocery (as I first heard about it from a friend’s congratulatory tweet). Happy anniversary to me?!

  • agirlandaboy

    2010/06/14 at 11:29 am

    Happy Birthday, Marlo! It’s been a pleasure.

  • AshesVonDust

    2010/06/14 at 11:30 am

    No. Surely you’ve made a mistake. She can’t be a year old already, can she?


  • Becky Cochrane

    2010/06/14 at 11:33 am

    Beautiful. Happy birthday, Marlo.

  • TexasKatie

    2010/06/14 at 11:43 am

    Happy Birthday, Mario!

    I mean, Marlo!

  • Vicki in NC

    2010/06/14 at 11:46 am

    This video is going to make me cry, isnt it?

  • Blahggy

    2010/06/14 at 11:54 am

    Being someone who is currently in the confused and overwhelmed stage of having a 12-day old daughter, reading this letter gives some light, makes me excited for the future. Your lines about the song reminding you about life before you were a mother really hit home. It was only 12 days ago, but it seems so far away. Thank you.

  • signot

    2010/06/14 at 11:58 am

    Happy birthday, Marlo!!

  • P

    2010/06/14 at 12:10 pm

    Lovely! Happy 1st Birthday, Marlo. Has anybody ever told you that you have THE most amazing eyes? A few times, huh?

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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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