the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Slow and steady

Thursday afternoon when I picked Leta up from school she came running out of the building with a little more lilt than usual. She was bounding, swinging her arms, and her smile rivaled the perfect curve of a circle. She jumped up into my arms without warning almost sending me to the ground, and I suddenly thought, wow. That was a perfect reenactment of a Mormon discovering coffee.

“Mom!” she shouted after we hugged. “I want a turtle!”

“You want a turtle,” I said matter of factly, my brain hanging on the irony that she was showing such enthusiasm for the world’s most boring creature. Is that mean? Did I offend the turtle people? COME ON. There’s that whole story about the turtle “racing” the hare, barely crawling it’s way to the finish line, and every time I hear it I’m like, good god, could someone please give that thing a Red Bull.

I got a little carried away by her enthusiasm, I’ll admit, and I ended up telling her that we could go look at turtles over the weekend. Mind you, I know nothing about them, only that I’ve heard about a species who live on the Galapagos Islands and live to be over a hundred years old. Can you imagine how boring it must be to walk around that slowly for over a hundred years? They probably hang out in bars and wallow in jealousy over their friends who were lucky, the ones who caught a disease and died in their sixties.

I did a tiny bit of research before we set out to the pet store on Saturday, meaning I asked Tyrant if he knew anything about turtles. I could have googled “pet turtle” but, you know, I’m not really into believing everything I read on the Internet these days.

“Oh, yuck,” he said. “Those things start to stink, and they live forever. Way too much work. Let’s just get chickens.”

Right. Because the smell of a chicken coop has been known to make men swoon.

Leta and I drove out to a specialty shop on Saturday afternoon where we could look at lizards and snakes and have some one-on-one cuddle time with actual turtles.

An employee walked us back to a room where we got to observe two small Russian tortoises, and he explained in detail their everyday upkeep. We’d have to feed him fruits and vegetables, frequently change out his water because he’d likely use it as a potty, and then we’d have to pick out his poop from the shavings at the bottom of the glass aquarium. OH! And he’ll probably live to be anywhere from 20-25 years old.

Leta didn’t hear a word of this, she was too transfixed by the mechanical movements of the tortoises as they climbed up and over each other.


I blinked loudly. “20 TO 25 years, Leta. EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 20 TO 25 YEARS. You’ll still be picking up its excrement IN COLLEGE.”

The employee sensed my skepticism and excused himself so that we could discuss this long-term commitment to another creature’s feces by ourselves.


“POOP, LETA. You have to pick up its poop with your hands.”

She frowned. “But I really want a turtle, Mom.”

I suddenly had an idea. “Let’s hold it for a second and see how friendly he is.” As I scooped one out of the wood shavings Leta took a giant step backward. “Here,” I said. “Hold out your hands.”

“No, that’s okay,” she said, her voice shaking.

“Leta, if you’re going to have a tortoise as a pet, you’re going to have to hold him at some point. That’s kind of the thing about pets.”

She stepped forward, closed her eyes as she cupped her hands, and the moment I set the tortoise into her palms she shrieked and dropped it right back in the aquarium. It landed with a thud, but thankfully it got right back up and crawled to a corner. And that was when I started to get attached DAMMIT. My heart belonged to that tortoise. Its itty bitty head. Those tiny arms and legs wiggling around like a baby. That wittle mouth eating the wittle carrots!

“That totally creeped me out, Mom. I don’t want a turtle.”



I could tell she was devastated, so I set my hand on her head and said, “How about we go look at some fish?”

Internet, meet Leta’s new betta fish:

She has to take care of him, but I’ve agreed to help her clean out his bowl the first few times until she gets the hang of it. On the drive home I asked her if she had any names in mind, and she shook her head several times. She was much more worried that I was going to hit a bump in the road and he’d go flying through the car, pop out of the container and suffocate to death. Oh, hello daughter of Heather B. Armstrong! My, don’t you resemble your mother!

Last night she still couldn’t think of a name, so I asked her if I could ask you guys for suggestions. She thought that was a great idea, but she wants everyone to know that she will NOT refer to her fish as Fishy. You know how Marlo refers to all her stuffed animals as Puppy? Yeah, she is SO not a two-year-old, and that is just the dumbest thing ever. The sound of her eye roll made the water in the bowl vibrate.

So, you guys know any good fish names?

  • Tme

    2012/04/30 at 12:45 pm

    He looks like a Larry.

  • barbara

    2012/04/30 at 12:46 pm

    When I was Leta’s age, I had a goldfish named Albert.

  • labbit

    2012/04/30 at 12:46 pm

    Miss Havisham

  • ahensley0024

    2012/04/30 at 12:48 pm

    My niece, who is about the same age as Leta, loves to name her “fur real” pets very girly things like “sparkles” or “pinkie”. Also, just bought a friend’s daughter a beta for her birthday and she named it “blue candle”…strang child!

  • Meg_a_million

    2012/04/30 at 12:51 pm

    Names I have given to fish in my lifetime:

    -Jasmine (during that phase where Aladdin was my favorite movie)
    -Goldy (can you guess what kind of fish?)
    -Flotsam and Jetsam

    I don’t think any of those fit here, though. Maybe Arnie? Edward? Caroline?

    I give up. I’m just as bad at naming pets now that I was back in the day. Congrats on the new fish!

  • Mrs. Williams

    2012/04/30 at 12:51 pm

    I’m fond of calling animals people names, like Prudence or Elizabeth or something equally distinguished. Perhaps even Her Royal Highness Princess Catherine in honor of Will and Kate’s recent anniversary.

    When I was a kid I had two bettas. Their names? Gil (as in gill, har har) and Flipper. Very original.

  • Squeetthang

    2012/04/30 at 12:51 pm

    Walter Bartholomew Fishhatchery, III

  • mrs.mamabird

    2012/04/30 at 12:52 pm

    Look, I can bring out the obscure when it comes to pet names.

    A beta is a second brightest star in the constellation. A betta fish originates from the rice paddies of Thailand. Logically, my head says, “How do you say second in Thai?”

    Well, you would say thi song.

    Which would lead me to naming my fish: Tea Song.

  • sweetney

    2012/04/30 at 12:52 pm

    I vote for “The Dude.”

    Or Omar.

    (Commenter’s gotta have a code.)

  • misssurly

    2012/04/30 at 12:52 pm

    My dream pet name when I was little was “Alawish-is”… pretty sure that’s not how to spell it but anyways – my dad said that was dumb and named my guinea pig Gizmo. Wow, good one dad, real cool.

  • emilyadi

    2012/04/30 at 12:53 pm


  • gcjen

    2012/04/30 at 12:55 pm

    I like Florence.

  • NYCDude

    2012/04/30 at 12:55 pm

    How about gefilte? Or sushi or nemo?

  • brookelusby

    2012/04/30 at 12:56 pm

    Poppy! For sure 🙂

  • pepperflynn

    2012/04/30 at 12:57 pm

    how about Ira? or Morty?

  • famousamy

    2012/04/30 at 12:57 pm

    My first and only fish was Michael Jackson.

    That said, I also like Sizzles as a pet name. (though I can see how for a fish, that might seem seriously wrong). 🙂

  • WindyLou

    2012/04/30 at 12:58 pm

    We once had a fish named girl. Pronounced Gey-earl (like key-earl)

  • TxSuzyQ

    2012/04/30 at 12:59 pm


    Hmmm… Its a beautiful color! If there is such a thing as a beautiful fish, this one is beautiful and deserves a beautiful name. How about:


    or maybe



  • Smokey

    2012/04/30 at 1:00 pm


  • MelissaJ

    2012/04/30 at 1:02 pm

    my first thought was Buster.

    then i decided on Moby.

    no…i vote Buster.

  • Lauren3

    2012/04/30 at 1:03 pm

    Look at him in the second photo. He looks like he don’t give a shit.

    His name is Bruce.

  • literarygirl

    2012/04/30 at 1:03 pm

    You absolutely have to name the fish “Turtle.” 🙂

  • JuliaDil

    2012/04/30 at 1:04 pm

    The thing about bettas is that they LOOK like girls but they’re actually boys. So! I suggest an androgynous name.

    That fish looks like a Soleil to me. So-lay. Sun in french. Or a circus.

    Typically a girls name, but the sun is a boy. So yeah. Soleil is my suggestion. You could even call him sunny.

  • KatieKat484

    2012/04/30 at 1:04 pm

    I had a pet hamster name Veronica. After she ran away, I got fish, and they were all Veronica. I also had a turtle, named Mr. T. I like giving animals fun human names!

  • LabbyLover

    2012/04/30 at 1:04 pm

    Betta Davis

  • imjeffp

    2012/04/30 at 1:05 pm

    Our betta is named Finn. He has a surprising amount of personality, for a fish.

  • spedrson

    2012/04/30 at 1:10 pm

    We’ve had 3 betta fish. The 8 year old boy named them all!
    – Phineas
    – Ferb
    – Bart

    My favorite name was Phineas.

  • elliesmom

    2012/04/30 at 1:11 pm

    If I had a fish, I would call it Spike.

  • ladygray

    2012/04/30 at 1:11 pm

    i VERY much love literarygirls’ suggestion of “Turtle” ’cause… hysterical.

    however Leta might not roll that way with her humor so i’ll suggest:


    we have an octopus here at the Seattle Aquarium and when the employee told me the octopuses name was Penelope I fell head over heels in love with it.

    thus, fishy things are currently Penelope.

  • Kathryn

    2012/04/30 at 1:12 pm

    I was given a Beta fish a few years back by a date in lieu of flowers – I named him Cassius

    though I am leaning towards “Turtle” as suggested by literary girl

  • napangel

    2012/04/30 at 1:12 pm


  • mtevis

    2012/04/30 at 1:16 pm

    Al(pha betta)

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2012/04/30 at 1:16 pm


  • tbean2401

    2012/04/30 at 1:17 pm

    Brucie or Juan

  • RyantheGirl

    2012/04/30 at 1:17 pm

    I would name the fish “Otto” after the fish in this book: That was one I made my parents read me all the time!

    You could also name it:
    -Wanda (A Fish Called “Wanda.” Get it?? No? Only me? Ok…)
    -Santiago (The old man in “The Old Man and the Sea”)

  • aposiopetic

    2012/04/30 at 1:18 pm

    I recommend Alfred, on the strength of being able to introduce him as “Alf, a betta”.

    If Leta is not a fan of eye-rolling puns, though (LIKELY), I suggest Nell Gwyn. Or maybe Abigail Adams. I understand that betta fish are generally male, but c’mon, those are some awesome fish names right there.

  • tantelized

    2012/04/30 at 1:20 pm

    Bartholomew the Betta!

    I’m actually trying to come with names for our new corgi puppy. It’s a little girl and she’s coming home in May =]

    Also it’s great to have you back!

  • Daisee

    2012/04/30 at 1:23 pm

    I was going to say Sushi too, but then I took another look at her and thought Beatrice.

  • sweetpotatopie

    2012/04/30 at 1:25 pm

    Turtle. Duh. For the same reason my daughter’s beta is named Kitty.

  • Rlymoody

    2012/04/30 at 1:26 pm


    Oh Come on…..

  • jayhawksara

    2012/04/30 at 1:26 pm

    My first fish’s name was Speedy. I’m liking Turtle though too!

  • kellyfaboo

    2012/04/30 at 1:26 pm

    Reginald Meriweather III

    You can call him Reggie for short. And good decision on the turtle btw.

  • Funnygirl78

    2012/04/30 at 1:29 pm



  • tariel

    2012/04/30 at 1:29 pm

    Flushy has always been my favorite fishes name…It’s inevitable and honeslty, kids have no idea what it means until they are old enough to wash their sorrows away with a big glass of Tanqueray & Tonic.

  • mmankvitz

    2012/04/30 at 1:30 pm

    When naming his fish, my son chose “Mystery”. When I asked why, he told me in his best “aren’t you a dumb grown up” voice… Duh? Fish can’t talk so he can’t tell me his name, so it’s a Mystery to me. 🙂

  • TuffDadSF

    2012/04/30 at 1:32 pm

    Liza “Fin”nelli? Warren Betta? Alpha Betta? Gilly Anderson?

    We have owned a few Bettas and those were some of the names we used.

  • Gemmyner

    2012/04/30 at 1:35 pm


  • Ruffian

    2012/04/30 at 1:35 pm


  • NDW1982

    2012/04/30 at 1:35 pm

    i second the name Penelope. That fish looks like a Penelope for sure.

  • Cateyez

    2012/04/30 at 1:36 pm

    As someone who has 2 cats named “Chairman Mousey-Tongue” and “The Evil Doctor Meow Meow,” I’d like to think of myself as someone who is very fond of unique pet names.

    Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
    Mr. Grimpwinkle
    Rob Lowe
    Captain Gills

1 2 3 6

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