the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Memorial Day in the middle of winter

We spent the holiday weekend at my mother’s cabin in the high desert, every one of us huddled up in fleece coats and layers of blankets because the average temperature out there was Antarctica degrees. We ventured outside only to feed the penguins.

My mother stopped by our house on Friday and took Marlo out there with her early, and then we headed up after picking up Leta from school. This is crucial to note only because we have never driven anywhere with Marlo in the car for more than thirty minutes. MAYBE THIRTY-FIVE IF WE’VE SMOKED SOME WEED.

She likes going places, but she doesn’t actually like what it requires to get there: patience. After about ten minutes in her car seat she morphs into a flailing, angry drunk who is certain she’s been tricked and you can all go to hell.

So we had the pleasant seven-year-old for the two-hour drive out. Pleasant right up until the DVD ended, and then she turned into every child in every movie that features a road trip:

“This is longest car ride everrrrrrrr.”

We are never going to get there!


“It’s taking so long that we are going to be dead before we get there!”

(Ten minutes pass and we arrive at the cabin)


(Is it bipolar disorder or every seven-year-old who ever lived disorder?)

As we were driving through the town that signals we’re just minutes from our destination, Jon told Leta to look around. Did she see any signs or clues as to where we might be? Like, the high school? The post office? Did she see any words that would indicate just how close we were? Like the giant billboard reading WELCOME TO DUCHESNE.

She saw none of it, and kept yelling, “I see a tree! What does that mean?!”

“Keep looking,” Jon urged from the front seat.

“Um…” she continued. “Oh, there’s a sign. RV Camping?”

Jon shook his head, “No, we’re not going camping, Leta.”

Not sure why, but that hit my funny bone so hard that I randomly shouted, “ARE VEE CAMPING?!” all weekend in a German accent. And Leta thought it was the funniest thing that has ever happened in the world. So she made me tell everyone that whole story over and over again.



Since it was too cold for outside activities that night, we all gathered in the middle of the cabin to tell stories like the one above. My sister’s ten-year-old twin boys had joined us for the trip, so you can probably guess that things devolved pretty quickly into Things of a Grosser Nature. However, it was Leta who couldn’t take it anymore and blurted out, “UUGGHHH! COULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL A BUTT JOKE?”

Seriously. Enough with the jokes about husbands and wives and people walking into bars. What this party needs is butts.

(Quite a proud moment for me as a mother.)

Fast forward to yesterday morning. My mother offered to take Leta home, but since she didn’t have enough room for four kids in her car, we’d have to take the angry drunk. Jon and I braced for the impact.

WE ARE DOING THIS. That’s what we repeated to each other in an effort to convince ourselves that it wouldn’t be the most awful two hours of our lives. It would be four times the maximum amount of time we had ever spent in a car with that kid. Also, it was snowing. Just add in a podcast where two geeks are getting angry at each other about processors AND BEHOLD: MY DEFINITION OF HELL.

Well, I’m here writing this. We survived. And today I’d like to pay tribute to that entire bag of fudge striped cookies: YOU ARE THE TODDLER WHISPERER.

  • ADDGirl

    2011/05/31 at 12:20 pm

    HAHA! When I was little we went camping with my sister who at the time was about 3 or 4. Our orange pop top Volkswagen van kept overheating in the mountains and breaking down, and every time we stopped she would get excited and say “is this camping?” “are we camping now?”. Now I’m imagining it in German accents. Awesome.

  • jon

    2011/05/31 at 12:24 pm

    Also? I did not play any podcasts while Heather was awake. KEEP THE NERD COMING, PODCASTER BROS.

  • KristiBug

    2011/05/31 at 12:37 pm

    NOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo, NOT THE COOKIES!

    Bwahahahahahha! 🙂 I’m very glad you survived!

  • smithie1996

    2011/05/31 at 12:40 pm

    Driving in cars with small children – the most likely place where I will definitely do the things I swore I’d never do when I had kids.

    Candy bar? SURE!
    Punch flavored with toxic dyes that turn your mouth green? SURE!
    Ten hours of movies? SURE!
    Anything you want and more? SURE!

    A moment of silence in the car? Priceless.

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/05/31 at 12:40 pm

    We have been making round-trip drives from Boston to Philly with the kids in tow since they each were infants, so they, fortunately, were conditioned at a young age to withstand long road trips.

    Of course, the fact that we do that ride almost exclusively at night, and the kids spend most of the trip asleep, also helps.

    That and the tequila-spiked juice cups.

    I should stop talking now.

    Sorry you had a cold Memorial Day. That’s just wrong.

  • Anthony from CharismaticKid

    2011/05/31 at 12:43 pm

    I agree! Don’t children change their opinions on something in the course of 10 seconds? I love their thought process sometimes.

  • benderhill

    2011/05/31 at 1:21 pm

    I’m fairly certain that if Marlo ever meets my 15-month old, Charlotte, they would quickly devise a plan to take over the world leaving us, drooling and powerless, in their wake.

    Also, I am totally that parent who whips out and presents to my 4 year old the ipad and/or dvd player the second the bing sounds in the airplane cabin to signal that it’s okay to use personal electronic devices. And he’s allowed to watch whatever he wants and for as long as he wants. I DARE SOMEONE TO JUDGE.

    Finally, my newest travel friend is a giant jar of disposable earplugs from CVS as the above mentioned 15-month old is prone to bouts of high pitched screaming for no reason whatsoever.

    My husband has put a recent ban on air travel with her. I’m hoping we can fly again before she’s 16.

    I am happy you survived.

  • SugarShopSweets

    2011/05/31 at 1:32 pm

    Glad you made it!

    Car rides with small kids…uuugh!
    We recently took our two year old tyrant on a 7 hour trip. Thank God for portable dvd players and Toy Story. She played it over and over and over agin. By the end of the trip my husband and I were playing the parts of the movie. I was Jessie, Rex, Barbie, Woody and he was Buzz, Al, Stinky Pete. After a while of what must have sounded like total lunacy in the car, she started kicking the back of my seat to get us to shut up!

  • ChickWhitt

    2011/05/31 at 1:32 pm

    I bet if she were actually drunk she’d be quite pleasant.

    Sometime you should accidentally fill her sippy cup from the grownup cooler.

  • lafemmeroar

    2011/05/31 at 2:03 pm

    Let me just add that fudge stripe cookies are the SINGLE WOMAN’S WHISPERER as well 🙂

  • Owensmom

    2011/05/31 at 2:24 pm

    What beautiful pictures of your girls!

    We were on the road yesterday with our 16month old and thanks to a crazy police chase, Interstate 81 was closed and backed up for MILES. It took us an extra 4 hours to get home. Needless to say it was an agonizing trip.

    Next time I’ll pack some fudge stripes!

  • Laura Mauk

    2011/05/31 at 2:36 pm

    I bow down. I am home bound until Sabine is three. I have tiny, tiny balls and am terrified of a long car trip or plane ride. She cries in the stroller after twenty minutes for godsakes. I am IMPRESSED.

  • reelmomof4

    2011/05/31 at 2:47 pm

    I did not read the other responses, but I’m just saying that desperate times call for desperate measures. So if it has been said 50 other times, sorry. WE have been known to do the same, but with M&M mini’s… It can get ugly.

  • piperlady

    2011/05/31 at 2:56 pm

    Oh my god, Heather – your Marlo and my 18-month old daughter sound like lost-at-birth nightmare twin toddlers from hell. Imagine driving to St. George with one (or both of them) in the car, WHICH I DID LAST WEEKEND. I had to envision huge bong hits the whole entire trip.
    But the sunshine was worth it.

  • tallnoe

    2011/05/31 at 4:33 pm

    Come on now… where is the picture of Marlo after the fudge cookies?? I mean, it’s gotta be priceless. Kind of like my goddaughter after oreos in the car.

  • Carol Shwanda

    2011/05/31 at 6:02 pm

    I once breastfed my crying one-year old in her car seat for 8 hours on our drive home from Disneyland. It was only way I could keep her from screaming.

  • NicoleC

    2011/05/31 at 8:55 pm

    The best thing about my children being car sick can be summed up in one word….Dramamine. Makes for a quiet ride…but never quiet enough for geeky podcasts.

  • Momofthree

    2011/05/31 at 9:44 pm

    Imagine my surprise when I see the above picture posted on your website. Wow, I thought, that totally looks like my hometown of Duchesne!! No way is Dooce actually staying in Duchesne… OMG she did. The posts you do about growing up in the south could easily be replaced with Duchesne LOL! My parents still live there and we visit often from Salt Lake. The drive is horrid I agree. And just so you know, the liquor store closes early:)

  • Camels and Chocolate

    2011/05/31 at 10:00 pm

    Re: the weather, tell me about it! My husband and I thought mid-May sounded like a great time to break our Salt Lake City seal and visit the lovely Utah capital for the first time. We were met with monsoons and snow, even. Good thing I packed 17 sundresses and no water-resistant apparel!

  • apostate

    2011/05/31 at 11:10 pm

    Whenever our family makes our annual cabin trip to Duchesne, we always make a point to stop at the Dairy Keen in Heber for lunch. I think your kids would like it and it helps to break up the trip.
    I’ve enjoyed the Cami series. Has the BYU gestapo commented on the hemlines? I do hope they don’t try to pull a “Chad Hardy” on her. 😉

  • The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful

    2011/06/01 at 1:20 am

    My children can’t abide my road trip vivacity which is why they spiked my Yoo Hoo with Benzodiazepine on our way to SLC for Spring break. I woke up on the toilet at Fran’s Ranch in Beatty, Nevada with a Star of David branded on my ass.

  • The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful

    2011/06/01 at 1:22 am

    Or was it Angel Moroni’s horn? Hmmm.

  • giantmt

    2011/06/01 at 6:20 am

    I live with my 91 year old Grandmother who has dementia, so she doesn’t have to live in a nursing home. When she saw the picture of Marlo, she said her first clear words in two days: “She’s beautiful!”

    Just thought you’d like to know that a 91year old that thinks she’s watching a parade every day in my bedroom, thinks your daughter is beautiful. 🙂

  • Lucy Grogan

    2011/06/01 at 6:43 am

    Fantastic post! I could just imagine it! The cabin looks beautiful and I totally would have cracked up at that RV Camping thing too.

  • JWysok

    2011/06/01 at 10:12 am

    And according to your masthead, it’s April! 😉

  • srising

    2011/06/01 at 11:35 am

    That’s a beautiful picture of Marlo. 🙂

  • dackerma

    2011/06/01 at 1:32 pm

    thanks for the laugh!

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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