the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Keynote speaker, Diego, domestic cat

And so begins another week, one that started as usual: panic, rushing around, trying to find very important things that got lost in the move, and asking Leta over and over again to use her inside voice. Guys, I promised I would never use those words together: inside voice. It’s so patronizing and gross and just screams your parent is a total pussy. Yes, it’s better than telling her to shut up. But there are other more aggressive instructions I prefer: ZIP IT. SHUSH. IMMA LET YOU FINISH.

I’m headed to New York for a couple of days (and then to San Francisco) where every moment of my life has been scheduled out into tiny increments, here, there, back to here, and then back to the airport. One day Jon and I are going to travel to New York for a vacation, a real live vacation where we can linger with friends over lunch and dinner and saunter through museums and wander home drunk while gazing at the skyline above us. And then unzip our pants and pee against the side of dumpster in an dark alley behind a Russian bar.

(just added bullet point to life list)

I thought it was appropriate this morning as we opened the garage and loaded my luggage into the back of the car to hear the evil, menacing screech of the once docile squirrels who live in the forest that is our backyard. It’s a machine gun fire of quacking, a warning that they own this turf. I’m sure some person who specializes in squirrels is out there going, what the hell is this woman talking about? Squirrels don’t behave that way! And I want to say, listen Squirrel Master! Maybe you didn’t read the chapter called “Welcome to the Armstrongs.” It involves pregnant raccoons who live in chimneys, mythical bobcats who sleep in sheds, and squirrels who could wrestle a dog into a headlock. PA-CHOW!

Oh my god. This is now the savage wild animal blog. Have I just created a new niche? I should throw a conference. Invite all the animals we’ve had removed from our houses and let them tell their side of the story. Have you ever met Coco? they’d say. No? Then you don’t know our pain.

I thought we’d left the angry squirrels at the last house, and when I saw a half a dozen of them running around the new back yard without making any noise I thought, CUTE! Maybe we can invite them in an put pink socks on their tails! Set out some almonds and tickle their bellies! Coochie coochie coo!

But then I guess Coco went on one of her barking binges, and one time I saw her out there jumping up on her back two legs trying to propel herself into the tree twelve feet above her head. It was so pathetic that I had to go grab Jon so we could point and laugh at her together.

So I guess the squirrels all got together and have decided to take back the hood. And not only are they constantly screeching, but they’re also regularly attacking my potted tomato plant. My innocent little tomato plant! What did my tomatoes ever do to you?! Because I’ll go out there in the morning to see if maybe, maybe the poor thing has survived another night under my care, and something (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, SQUIRREL) has furiously dug a hole into the soil, spraying a two-foot strip of soil away from the pot onto the grass. As if to say, watch me dig this soil, bitchez.

Mythical bobcat, are you taking note?

  • Daddy Scratches

    2010/08/02 at 12:27 pm

    Your next “Today” show appearance: You come out in one of those beige safari outfits, hat and all, and show off your collection of wild (and domesticated) animals.

    With any luck, one of the squirrels will attach itself to Kathie Lee’s face.

  • Jenni

    2010/08/02 at 1:36 pm

    Perfect post for today. My just-13-days-shy-of-being-3-years-old daughter went outside with her grandma and a Ziploc bag of frozen pecans this morning. Right before she reached the back door she said, “I’m holding the squirrel’s nuts, mom.”

  • Brandy in Canada

    2010/08/02 at 12:30 pm

    Oh I know that machine gun chatter! Have they started throwing stuff at you yet? The squirrels in my hood throw things at me and the dog. Ive been hit in the head by acorns, twigs and a half eaten crab apple.
    On the up side they also plant random tulip bulbs they have stolen from other yards into my garden. Theres nothing like having one single tulip grow in the middle of your yard because some squirrel thought it was the best place to hide it.

  • benoyroma

    2010/08/02 at 12:37 pm

    To keep those squirrels from decapitating flowers and veggies, I used to sprinkle this on the top soil around my garden.

    Espoma Organic Traditions Dried Blood

    It has an odor that keeps them away – used it all the time in Brooklyn and they never touched another flower or tomato.


  • yomisswoodaddy

    2010/08/02 at 12:54 pm

    Those aggressive squirrels can be real bi-atches. I have pecan trees and, apparently, pecans are squirrel crack because the ones who hang in my hood are paranoid, moody, and like to assault others, including shrieking four-year-olds.

    They are also the fattest squirrels I have ever seen, and on many mornings I have sat up like a shot in bed because they have plopped themselves off of a branch and are thudding across my roof to get their next fix.

    My neighbor swears by his pellet gun but I, because I cannot bring myself to assault even moody, aggressive creatures, have not yet found a fix.

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2010/08/02 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve heard sprinkling cayenne pepper around your tomato plants can help keep the squirrels away. And if nothing else, you’re halfway to salsa!

  • bethysmalls

    2010/08/02 at 1:04 pm

    OH! you should check out Mike McGrath(of You Bet Your Garden)’s tips on squirrel defense.

    That guy HATES squirrels. It’s kind of funny to hear him go off on an angry tirade about them. Anyway, he’s got lots of tips!

  • Daffodil Campbell

    2010/08/02 at 1:07 pm

    No need for a conference, you already have a Furries convention going on. (((((shudder)))))

  • TexasKatie

    2010/08/02 at 1:16 pm

    Wow. That post was about as easy to follow as the last one.

    I do love squirrels, though. Squirrels rule.

  • trixasaurus

    2010/08/02 at 1:37 pm

    It’s a shame you don’t have any chickens at the Armstrongs. I think some chickens would really round out your savage wild animal blog. Wink, wink.

  • HalfAss Krissa

    2010/08/02 at 1:38 pm

    Just THINK of the money to be made if you sold tickets to an event hosting… Bob- The Mythical Bobcat verses a hoard of shrieking, chattering squirrels.
    I mean, think about it!

  • HalfAss Krissa

    2010/08/02 at 1:39 pm

    Just THINK of the money to be made if you sold tickets to an event hosting… Bob- The Mythical Bobcat verses a hoard of shrieking, chattering squirrels.
    I mean, think about it!

  • MyKidsMom

    2010/08/02 at 1:47 pm

    Go Mythical Bobcat, go!

    And, my kids get a laugh (but get it) when I push a virtual “mute” button at them, or at least the “volume control”. See if Leta can get into that instead of “inside voice”.

  • jon

    2010/08/02 at 1:49 pm

    Let’s be very clear. Chickens will be target practice for me. PERIOD.


  • LizandBoys

    2010/08/02 at 1:53 pm

    I think the raccoons are talking about your neigborhood here:,17784/

    Squirrels do get a little angry at herding dogs…be ready to dodge some acorns (or tomatoes)when you go out to enjoy your backyard.

  • Brea

    2010/08/02 at 2:09 pm

    I was on a run last week and was excited to see what I thought was a small baby bunny, grazing on grass.

    It quickly turned to disappointment when I realized it was actually a squirrel. Although they possess many of the things that I find cute (furry tail and beckoning paws), they are so nasty that it kills any of the cute.

    Have fun in NY!

  • kristanhoffman

    2010/08/02 at 2:13 pm

    I feel like I’m forgetting a good story about this, so I’ll just ask: Why doesn’t Heather eat eggs?

    Also, I totally believe that Coco turns your squirrels into demons. Growing up, my cat used to hunt down baby birds in their nests, and as a result, she had a perpetual bald spot from the mama birds divebombing her. (Who can blame them, right?) When I told people that’s what the missing fur was from, they were all, NO WAY, birds don’t do that. But they forgot that desperate times call for desperate measures, even when you’re a bird (or a squirrel).

  • 88 Highbury Corner

    2010/08/02 at 2:26 pm

    In Brooklyn we used to call those squirrels crack squirrels and I thought they were unique to the city because they are basically just rats with bushy tails except they jump from trees and squeal a high pitched battle cry which sounds essentially like its dying a violent death. Occasionally they’d attach themselves to the railing of our kitchen window and try to get into the house and no amount of water thrown at them would make them go away, in fact it would make them more determined to come in. I don’t think squirrels are cute. And I’m sorry to hear that this is basically a character trait of the squirrel in general. But if anything can wear them down it sounds like it might be Coco.

  • grad.nauseam

    2010/08/02 at 3:26 pm

    re: your latest bullet point

    Should you make it here on vacation, I’m not sure about their dumpster-pee policy, but the Russian Vodka Room doesn’t seem at all bothered when people pass out on the sidewalk right outside the door. Might be a good place to start. (just steer clear of the horseradish vodka… just saying).

    BTW – Last night my husband suggested that we get chickens. I wish I was kidding.

  • Bryony Boxer

    2010/08/02 at 3:52 pm

    SHUSH. I’ve used that. Not proud of it.

  • addtova

    2010/08/02 at 4:02 pm

    I think I have mentioned it before but I have such a hilarious squirrel story to share! My uncle bought a beautiful house in Sacramento, and found out after moving that a gang of squirrels lived in the roof. He went up on the roof to board up the hole that they used to get in and out, and instead of being afraid of the giant tool wielding human, they attacked. My uncle responded by getting the pepper spray out of my aunts purse and fighting back, and eventually boarding up the hole.

    That year for Christmas my mom sent my uncle a beanie baby squirrel to which she had added GI Joe’s machine guns.

    Good luck- they are vicious!


  • saylormade

    2010/08/02 at 4:27 pm

    Have also heard of using blood meal and cayenne pepper but we’ve used ground black pepper with success. Get a Costco sized container, throw some down on the soil and reapply after it rains or you water. Has also kept neighbourhood cats from leaving poops in my garden.

    LOVE the new masthead! Neener is my nicname. Cute!!

  • Heathers Garden

    2010/08/02 at 7:32 pm

    I stick clear plastic forks in my containers with the tines up to keep the squirrels from digging. It works pretty well and they’re not too unsightly because they’re clear.

  • Rainyday

    2010/08/02 at 8:44 pm

    Ugh, the dreaded ‘inside voice’ refrain. We’ve even started getting the boys to shush when we’re outside. In our backyard. Just cause I’m sure the neighbours reallllllly don’t want to hear E’s bike bell for the 89561242313th time on a holiday Monday morning!!!

    And, oh dear…. my captcha is “about matricide” Niiiiiice. I think my boys are on to me.

  • mommyoffour

    2010/08/02 at 8:59 pm

    Ahhh, the chickens. I think the chickens are the key. Jon, you must surrender.

  • WindyLou

    2010/08/02 at 9:12 pm

    Finally, I can report on my unscientific study of urban squirrels’ feeding habits!

    Heather, if you feed the squirrels they will stay out of your plants. They love pretzels dipped in peanut butter, pringles, funyuns, gingerbread houses decorated with candy (on a related note, the squirrels came to feed from about a 3 block radius as evidenced by the broken bits of candy and gingerbread littering the sidewalks), doughnuts, gnawed corn on the cob. In the winter, they will even eat pizza with such toppings as pepperoni, alfredo and chicken, bacon, sausage and peppers. My control group didn’t care for broccoli or tomatos, but that may be regional.

    (I am not making that up)

  • mbluesky

    2010/08/03 at 12:09 am

    I knew an old Italian gentleman who told the following story. Grandpa Joe said his neighbors fed the squirrels corn. They loved to watch them chase around. But finally, his neighbors complained to him that they just didn’t see the squirrels they used to see in their yard. Grandpa Joe offered to show them the squirrels: they were now all in his freezer. He concluded by proudly sharing that he didn’t have much of a meat bill anymore.

  • Katja

    2010/08/03 at 4:09 am

    thank god you are so hilarious.

  • Gardenfreak89

    2010/08/03 at 5:57 am

    Love the new masthead! What a cute little bugger with the squished up nose… You know about Neener Neener too? I thought that was a Northeastern thing… ha ha … Very cute!

  • ninesandquines

    2010/08/03 at 6:59 am

    heather, have you ever seen a squirrel out after dark? probably not…so i think the animal that is digging in your tomatoes would be a nocturnal one…racoon or a skunk perhaps? just a thought 🙂 and plastic forks in the soil with the tines sticking up is a GREAT idea! and where’s leta been lately? haven’t seen much of her 🙁

  • WebSavyMom

    2010/08/03 at 8:13 am

    I. Hate. Squirrels.
    Also, they hate me and hiss at me too. It’s like They Know.
    The little bastards eat my tulip bulbs, steal the bird seed and tear up the landscaping fabric.

  • doobrah

    2010/08/03 at 8:48 am

    SKREEK-SKREEK-SKREEK! That is squirrel for, “You are a total TEASE.” I read all the way through that squirrel screed and not once did you update us on Diego.

  • Cooky

    2010/08/03 at 8:57 am

    The Armstrong household is such a flurry of activity. I’m sure you wish you could just sit with your feet up and relax for ten minutes.

    Hope your busy travelling schedule goes well. We look forward to hearing more about it.

    I know exactly how you feel about killer squirrels. All I can add to the other comments is — do NOT let those little suckers win the battle or they’ll win the war 🙂

  • Lisa Dickie

    2010/08/03 at 12:14 pm

    Don’t make the same mistake I have combining zip it and shush. Shush it = swearing at your kids.
    I have squirrel issues too. I always thought they were socially accepted rats. When I was in college one got into our living area and I found myself chasing it down the hall with my lacrosse stick in hand yelling, “Shush it!”
    Have a good trip!

  • kellyfaboo

    2010/08/03 at 12:23 pm

    We use to have a squirrel problem. Or more to the point, our Schnauzers and we-do-not-know-but-you’re-cute dog use to have a squirrel problem.

    Squirrels love to find the lowest point they safely can be on a tree or whatever and MOCK my dogs. They deliberately drove them nuts. For laughs. I could tell.

    Then, a hawk moved into the neighborhood.

    We no longer have a squirrel problem.

  • liefie

    2010/08/03 at 5:31 pm

    off topic, but how IS Diego the cat doing?

  • teegeesykes

    2010/08/04 at 7:08 am

    You will LOVE this site:

  • Teisha

    2010/08/04 at 7:32 am

    Your new life list bullet point made me laugh out loud and pee a little. LOVE IT.
    And, I say use your inside voice so much anymore I’m having nightmares about it. Can’t. make. it. stop.

  • sgigs

    2010/08/04 at 9:04 am

    I would so much rather hear about the business ventures you’re on than squirrels. I don’t get it.

  • hotpants4979

    2010/08/04 at 12:30 pm

    This is like Brian Fellows on SNL, but better.

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.

read more