the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Warm family memories

Friday afternoon I met my friend Kate for lunch at our favorite local place to talk about roosters and husbands, and no I didn’t mention those two items back to back for any reason, why do you ask? Does your husband get up every morning at 6:30 AM sharp and scream his head off? Is your neighborhood zoned for that kind of behavior? If not you had better do some googling, if you know what I mean.

(“Drop him off in the bad part of town in the middle of the night and don’t look back.”)

(“Swing him around your head with a swift jerk.”)

(“Get a very large knife.”)

Eventually the conversation came around to our kids, and both of us this week reached that point where there is no more patience in the tank. We all have those moments we are not proud of, and if you are sitting there going, huh? What kind of moments are those? Then I happily welcome you to get a dictionary and look up the word DENIAL.

Jon and I had to make the very painful decision earlier this summer to have our roof replaced. The entire thing. That’s a whole post of its own, but I use the word painful because of the cost and the time. They started two weeks ago and they still aren’t finished. Every day for ten hours a day this is what it has sounded like inside our house:

Last Wednesday they had to remove our air conditioning unit because the shelf it was sitting on didn’t meet code. This meant we would be without air conditioning for 24 to 48 hours on the two hottest days of the year. Not a huge deal. There are far worse things in life, right? Like having to fly coach. Or getting a phone call from your maid that she’s going to be late. I hate it when that happens.

We slept in the house Wednesday night, and by the following morning the air conditioning had been off for over 20 hours. There was no air flow. And when we woke up and headed downstairs, Leta scrunched up her face and moaned, “Something isn’t right.” It smelled like someone had died. Someone who hadn’t showered in the twenty years leading up to his death. Someone who ate only sauerkraut and licorice. And wore Crocs.

When we reached the family room we saw a giant puddle of vomit in the middle of our Persian rug, so huge that it was leaking off onto the hardwood floor and creating other puddles. MULTIPLYING DOG VOMIT. That shit is scientific.

Jon quickly opened all the windows while I ran and grabbed a trash bag, two rolls of paper towels, and a gallon of stain and odor remover. And then we just dove in. There was no way around it. We were scooping up dog vomit with our hands and trying not to puke. Enter: our little helper.

One time Jon had to replace the faucet in the kitchen sink and I could not keep Marlo away from his tools. She wanted to get inside that cabinet with him and unscrew that pipe. She wants to help fold clothes. She wants to help sweep the floor. For those of you who have never lived with a two-year-old, they don’t help anything. Give them a broom and you will have to replace broken light fixtures.

Marlo wanted to jump head first into that vomit. “Help you!” she said.

“Marlo!” I screamed. “Back up. BACK UP.”

She just stood there staring blankly at me, and then she inched closer to the vomit.

“MARLO!” Jon yelled. “GO OVER THERE.”

Again, she froze, her hand a few inches from Chuck’s regurgitated dinner. That’s when Jon picked her up and moved her backwards, setting her down with enough oomph to reinforce the severity of multiplying dog vomit.

Had he not done it, I would have. Neither of us had slept, we were both hot, and here we were up to our shins in canine stomach acid.

Except, she didn’t understand. She just wanted to help. And so she collapsed into hysterical tears. And these were not the tears of a toddler who did not get her way. They were tears of a toddler whose feelings had been crushed. Decimated. A mother knows the difference.

I felt as shitty as the mountain of diarrhea we discovered a half hour later in the living room, worse than the other puddle of vomit we found on the carpet in the study.

Chuck saw the vet and is now on antibiotics. He’s fine. I apologized to Marlo and let her use a few paper towels to wipe up the more shallow parts of the mess. Although, sometimes you have to draw a line and that line is “toddler is not allowed anywhere near canine diarrhea.” Except I dug down deep to find the patience to say gently, “Sorry, Marlo. Only mom and dad get to clean up the poop.”

  • Oakgirl

    2011/08/29 at 12:19 pm

    I am so impressed how you manage to get through each day. And don’t feel bad about your patience supply. Happens to the best of us. I’m sorry your perfect dog erupted all over your rug.

  • Greygirl

    2011/08/29 at 12:28 pm

    And the really sad part is this: just when she’s old enough for you to want her to clean it all up, she won’t want to go anywhere near it. And then, really, what’s the point of having kids if they won’t clean up your dog poop?

  • meganithappen

    2011/08/29 at 12:31 pm

    Oh man, that’s the *crap* they were talking about in that whole “for better or for worse” part of the vows. Why don’t they just say “for rainbows or for vomit”?

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/08/29 at 12:34 pm

    And this is one of the top reasons why I refuse to get a dog … let alone MULTIPLE dogs.

    I am willing to clean up my own offspring’s puke and poop. But an animal who sprays those substances about my house? That animal would subsequently find itself on the first train out of Dodge.

    (When I was a military police K-9 handler, I was sure I’d get a dog when the day came that I had my own home. Then I got my own home and realized caring for a police dog in a facility built specifically to house police dogs is a much different proposition than taking one into your own home. Pass.)

  • la_chica

    2011/08/29 at 12:37 pm

    It seems like your dogs puke and defecate in your house pretty often.

  • kristanhoffman

    2011/08/29 at 12:43 pm

    Oh man… I don’t know if I feel worse for Chuck, Marlo, or you guys. Three-way tie? Somehow I don’t think this is a contest anyone wants to win, though.

  • Gemmyner

    2011/08/29 at 1:07 pm

    At least Jon helped. My hubby has a terrible gag reflex and can hardly pick up a solid poop, let alone clean up a liquid version.

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2011/08/29 at 1:10 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I just spent the last half hour beating myself up because I was short-tempered with my four year old earlier (in my defense, a saint would have been short-tempered as well).

    Anyway, Marlo has good instincts, though I fear for how things would have looked with her “help”. Hope Chuck feels better, poor guy. Give him a good pat.

  • jenwilson

    2011/08/29 at 1:16 pm

    I hate those parenting moments. They hurt. My four-year-old wants to “help” all the time as well. SO NOT HELPFUL.

  • alicia6270

    2011/08/29 at 1:47 pm

    Just be happy that what happened to my brother and sister-in-law did not happen to you. They had left the cake from my nephews first birthday on the stove. The dogs found it and ate over half of a Costco cake. Of course that did not sit well with the animals tummies and they threw up cake in the family room. My sister-in-law had no idea (heaven forbid she be allowed a quiet potty break), she walks into the family room see’s the rather massive pile of cake vomit and her darling, precious child eating it (boy’s are so gross). She almost flipped out, scared my nephew half to death though. There was a lot of teeth brushing and such and then came the process of cake removal from the rug (of course they do it on the rug and not 2 feet away on the hard wood floors). Now we disgustingly share this story as a one up for disgusting baby things.

  • tokenblogger

    2011/08/29 at 2:12 pm

    The entire time I was reading this I felt like I read it before, deja vu like. Freaky.

  • Lauren3

    2011/08/29 at 2:19 pm

    H-dawg, that sucks big time. Barf and shit.

    My parents got new carpeting in one of the rooms of their house a few years back. In true Murphy’s Law fashion (and our dog was even named Murphy!), a week after it was installed, the dog diarrhea’d all over that shit. DIA-FREAKIN-RRHEA’D PROFUSELY.

    My mom cried and my dad had to walk around the block six times.

  • VegasNative

    2011/08/29 at 2:59 pm

    I have 2 related stories.

    1) I once babysat a child who barfed all over the living room of his house. I mean everywhere. I ran to get supplies to clean him up, only to hear him laughing. I run in and discover that the family dog has licked the kid clean and has started cleaning up the floor (I let him finish). Dogs are gross.

    2) I once dog-sat for a friend of mine who lived in a house that was 100% tiled, except for the guest room. The guest room was only accessible (haha) to the cat, with something-or-other heavy preventing the door from opening all the way. I came home from work to discover that the dog had forced the door open and had diarrhea all over the carpet, the bedding, and every other scrap of fabric within a 15 foot radius. Dogs. Are. Gross.

  • rtakei

    2011/08/29 at 3:32 pm

    I can always count on you for cheer. You tell it straight and I really enjoy that. I had to send on of our cats toddling off this mortal coil today. All the preparation in the world, and the knowledge of no more suffering, it’s still hard. Then I come home and wearily click on your blog – and am dissolving in laughter. Okay, exhaustion and hysteria may be contributing factors. Thank you, thank you for sharing your life with us. You brighten my day. I’ll go find a quiet corner now and use up a box of kleenex.

  • Brent

    2011/08/29 at 4:19 pm

    Are Chuck and Coco on a special diet? In the almost 9 years I’ve had my Jack Russell, he’s never once sprayed diarrhea everywhere, and has only thrown up once in the house. WHAT ARE YOU FEEDING THESE ANIMALS, WOMAN.

    As a caveat, he did once chase a skunk, got sprayed during the confrontation, and came in and rolled on the guest bed. That mattress was on the curb inside 5 minutes.

  • lisdom

    2011/08/29 at 4:26 pm

    I would just like to say that although I have never especially wanted a dog, your recent posts and tweets have fully convinced me to absolutely never ever ever get a dog. I had no idea that dogs could poop anything but solids, but apparently this is not the case.

    One time my husband got a bloody nose in his sleep and it ruined a pillowcase to my favorite sheet set of which there is no replacement, and instead of feeling bad for him, I was in agony over the sheets. Not my best moment in marriage.

  • TracySW

    2011/08/29 at 4:47 pm

    I dearly love this post. Because I HAVE a 2 1/2 year old. I have a 2 1/2 year old who loves “making dishes” (washing dishes) which ideally is a divine concept, only not in reality.

    I also have 4 other children, who actually drove me to run away from home for a short period of time 2 weeks ago. Granted, my ‘running away’ only lasted as long as it took me to go to the grocery store to get the items for dinner, but you should have SEEN their faces when I got back. THAT is what teenagers do to you.

  • LittleBlueWorld

    2011/08/29 at 4:48 pm

    I guess we know how Chuck feels about the living room…?

    Jon handled that way more gracefully than I would have, in any case. There would have been expletives and screaming involved. And possibly a toddler locked in a closet because OMGDOGPUKEISGROSSDONTYOUDARE.

  • mpt

    2011/08/29 at 5:33 pm

    Just two comments:

    – Thanks for eating at “our favorite local place” – as a big believer in all things Local, awesome!

    – I have a 2 year old, almost identical to Marlo (not in appearce, so much, but in other ways) and we have her in the Montesorri Community School on 17th South. I cannot tell you how fabulous this philosohy is for the strong-willed child. ’nuff said.

  • Janice

    2011/08/29 at 5:47 pm

    Wow! If you both would like to lay on the couch, I will rub your foreheads and say poor, poor bunnies.


  • butidigress

    2011/08/29 at 5:54 pm

    Oh god. That smell. There is nothing in the world like that smell. The last time our dog exploded in the house, I briefly and very seriously considered what would happen if I just left home and never, ever, came back.

  • kegger

    2011/08/29 at 8:54 pm

    You had me at felt as shitty as the mountain of diarrhea you discovered. I haven’t laughed at my computer like that in a long time. Thanks for sharing your hilarious account of a day in the life of parenting. You nailed it.

  • missusclark

    2011/08/29 at 9:23 pm

    Ye gods… I’m not certain how you both handled that without either one of your heads exploding. I’m sure I would have pussed out and had my husband deal with the gawd-awful mess while I “distracted” the helpful toddler. Be assured Marlo won’t need therapy over this. Sometimes you gotta be the rock. But I once yelled at my baby cousin while babysitting and I scared him so badly he burst into hysterical tears. I felt bad about that for a long time. Hell, I still feel bad, and the kid’s in college and a foot taller than me.

    And can I just tell you how glad I am that we don’t have a dog?! Yeeech!!!

  • barbarella

    2011/08/29 at 10:47 pm

    I’m wondering what some of the others are… what do you feed your dogs that causes them to be so vomit-y and diarrhea-y?? In five years, our dog has only thrown up inside once, and it was clear (she’d been eating grass & drinking water), and only had one potty accident inside, and it was solid (we waited too long to let her out). Could Chuck & Coco have an intolerance of some sort? Or do the just get the nervous shits about everyday things?

  • denise karis

    2011/08/30 at 1:22 am

    For those of you who have never lived with a two-year-old, they don’t help anything

    ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT – and it so sad. because their little hearts are in the right place.

  • sarahdoow

    2011/08/30 at 3:26 am

    I was scrolling down the comments and then hit the space bar to jump further down the page. Only nothing moved, but the video started again further up the page. So for a few moments in my head, it was like the Safari elves were bashing and crashing about, trying to make scrolling work for me and just couldn’t.

  • WhatForMomma

    2011/08/30 at 7:34 am

    When I am in the kitchen, my two year old carries her Dora step stool around waiting for me to stop at a counter to wield a sharp, hot or electrical implement so she can step up and have that tool within inches of her head. There has been more than one occasion where I have turned suddenly only to knock the poor child on her ass. There has been more than one occasion that I have yelled, “Bella! No! Hot!” when she settles in next to the stove bearing a pan of bubbling, boiling or frying foods. And there have been many occasions where she has dissolved to the floor in tears because mean mommy broke the poor baby’s heart just with the tone of her voice.

    Then mommy ends up on the floor next to Bella trying to redirect with bribery of various kinds (ahem, candy). Then analytical mommy takes over and tries to explain kitchen safety and Bella gets bored and goes in the family room to play with her babies.

    See? It all works out.

  • Rita Arens

    2011/08/30 at 7:58 am

    We had a complete tear-off of our roof last week. It is crazy-making to have home repair done when you work from home. It does seem cruel to throw in dog intestinal disarray at the same time.

    I ask my daughter every week or so if she remembers screaming “NO MOMMY DON’T LEAVE ME HERE” and throwing her body against the door at daycare when she was Marlo’s age. And she laughs. ‘Cause she doesn’t.

    But you knew that already.

  • Marissa13

    2011/08/30 at 8:13 am

    I’m so with you. I am 38 weeks pregnant and spent Sunday doing everything that *had* to be done just in case baby #3 decided to come a little early. After school supply shopping for the 10 yr old, taking him to a party, 3 loads of laundry and assembling a toddler bed for the 2 year old, I was finally almost finished. All I had to do was make the toddler bed. Have you tried to do this? Those stupid safety rails make it nearly impossible to put a bedspread on the bed. And the bed is about a foot off the floor and my huge pregnant belly kept getting in the way. Then the 2 yr old wanted to “help you, help you Mommy.” After gently telling her a few times “just a minute” “hold this pillow for Mommy” “just a minute;” I lost it and yelled at her to just sit down. I felt, and still feel horrible.

  • ltlepaw

    2011/08/30 at 8:32 am

    My son and Marlo are the same age. The horrible thing about these cries is that you literally see them coming. You see thier poor little hearts break and the slow oncoming of that first wail as it comes out of their mouthes with the falling tears.

    Mine likes to help cook and I have yet to convince him that the stove really is hot…yes I know, I could be a bad mother and just let him touch it, but I’m not sure how child protetive services handles that. So…I’m stuck with breaking his poor little heart about once a week.

    Hope Chuck feels better!

  • maureenp

    2011/08/30 at 8:50 am

    My two-year-old would want to help and be devastated at not being able to in the same way. She even says “help you” when I’m sitting on the toilet. How do I let her down easily about not being able to help with THAT?

  • jon

    2011/08/30 at 9:02 am

    I have theories:

    1) Chuck doesn’t like this house.

    2) Chuck doesn’t like the chaos of the roofers and the noise.

    3) Chuck has always had a sensitive stomach. We may need to change his food. Coco, in four years, has barfed once.

    4) The most likely reason for Chuck’s barf has nothing to do with me anthromorphizing him: We have fruit trees and he regularly eats the pits that the squirrels leave behind. We try to stay on him about this, but he still sneaks them. And we find them, virtually undigested, in his leavings.

  • stephaniestempinski

    2011/08/30 at 9:05 am

    I think we need to give ourselves credit for not picking up toddlers and throwing them into different countries. I think you handled it with as much patience as you could stand at that point in time, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Sometimes telling kids “no” is what they need to hear, even if they don’t want to hear it.

  • sdallas

    2011/08/30 at 9:10 am

    YOU MUST GET A DOG DOOR. Seriously- this thing is a LIFE CHANGER. No excuses- figure out a way to make this happen. Replace the door if the million dog door contraptions out there absolutely won’t work on the current one.
    Once you finally have a dog door, you will be amazed at how you lived without one.

  • writtendad

    2011/08/30 at 11:41 am

    The hard part about these situations, other than the vomit, the diarrhea, the smell, the stains, the heat, and difficulty behind finding a taxidermist for dogs on short notice, is being okay with the other parent’s reaction. For example, it would have really intensified the situation had you said something like “you didn’t have to set her down like that!” to which Jon would respond by saying something like “You would have done the same thing?!”

    Maybe this doesn’t happen between the two of you, but we struggle with this. Not that we don’t trust our one another as parents, but sometimes it looks different to a bystander than it does to the one taking action. Or we’re weird. But I have a feeling we aren’t alone.

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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