the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A desperate attempt at domesticity

This year the girls and I joined all 4,800 members of my family for Thanksgiving at my sister’s house where luckily we enjoyed indulgent servings of turkey while avoiding talk of politics and religion, something we hope to replicate when we gather a few more times during the holidays. I contributed a total of ZERO to the meal because I’m not allowed to use an oven without someone standing nearby with a fire extinguisher. Hey, we all have our talents. My sister can whip up a potato casserole in her sleep. Me? I can’t cook, but I can name every contestant who has ever competed in all 19 cycles of “America’s Next Top Model.”

You just wait. When the zombies attack they’ll go after my addled brain last. Think about that the next time you pick up a BOOK. And READ.

(Fun game: when you see someone reading a book in public, walk right up to them and whisper, “Zombie bait.”)

To make up for my lack of contribution I decided that we could host the whole family for a game night with the new WiiU console. It’s an early Christmas gift for the girls (and also their biggest), and it’s something the whole family can enjoy together. In an effort to prove that I am not completely paralyzed in all things domestic, I decided that I’d actually spruce it up a bit. The girls could help me make invitations. I could throw together some easy recipes. There could be a structured yet flexible agenda. We’re not going to have an opening and closing prayer, but LOOK AT ME. I am trying. And I am only panicking a lot.

First goal: invitations. When I mentioned the party to Leta and the idea of designing invitations she asked, “Why don’t you just text everyone?”

Oh, snap. Her generation has everything figured out. Could they please hurry up curing cancer?

You don’t think I already had that thought? You don’t think I wanted to text my mom, mention the party and tell her to tell everyone else? That, Leta, is domestic paralysis. We are here to grow.

So I asked her what she thought they should say.

“How about, ‘Come to our party,'” she said flatly.

“That’s generally how an invitation goes, yes,” I said. “Anything else? Anything creative?”

“This is going to sound weird,” she answered, her voice finally animated. “Can you tell everyone that they aren’t allowed to fart? Whenever your family gets together it’s… it’s… it’s all they do!”

My family is going to be so proud that she noticed.

I whipped up a design in Illustrator with a free vector image I found online, and decided that part of the agenda would be game tickets. We’d split up into teams and whichever team ends up with the most tickets (the most wins) would get a prize. I asked for Leta’s input on a prize and I think she’s headed for my level of domestic paralysis.

“Chocolate,” she answered.

She could have said anything: a house! A car! A Caribbean cruise! George Clooney! But no. Chocolate. The winning team gets chocolate. You SO do not want to be up against a team with more than two menstruating members.

I bought a few supplies so that the girls could help me make the invitations a little more colorful, and what you are about to see is photographic evidence of CRAFTING taking place under my roof. Yes, I crafted. There was crafting. SEE-to the-ARE-to the-AFF-to the-TING. Glitter and glue and construction paper and stickers. However, I was not about to let Marlo see a pair of scissors. Because I value human life.

I’d do the cutting. They’d do the glittering.

I’m sure glitter glue is intuitive to you, but the part of my brain that knows how to get the glue out of the tube is occupied by contestants Elyse, Adrianne, Camille, Shandi, Yoanna, Cassie, Tocara, Eva, Niama, Isis, CariDee, and Bianca.

It became clear very early into the crafting that Marlo wasn’t interested in the invitations whatsoever, so I just handed her a scrap of paper and told her to go to town. And she did, she glued and stickered and glittered every inch of that scrap of paper and was super proud of her work until she held it up to show us and everything fell off of it. That’s when she totally lost it and started throwing glitter tubes and punching the table, and I was like DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER. And that winner’s name? Why I Don’t Craft.

We got in a solid 30 minutes of memories before that meltdown, though. And here’s where I admit that sometimes when I look at social media I feel like my kids are missing out. I see all these photos of kids and their moms doing fun projects together, and I think, what is wrong with me that I don’t like that stuff? I start to feel like I don’t measure up. GUILT GUILT GUILT, a mother’s favorite meal! Scrolling through Instagram, it’s all that she will feel!

So I try to go back to something I learned in therapy last year, and that is to go through the list of the things my kids need the most. Do they know they are loved? Are they comforted when they cry? Are they warm when they sleep? Are their joy and excitement celebrated? Can they willfully scratch their butt in front of you and not feel judged?

I bit my tongue as I removed Marlo from the glitter and the glue and instead of raising my voice I said, “Okay, it looks like we are done decorating the invitations to the party.” She had been kicking and writhing until she heard me say PARTY, and her tears magically crawled back up into her eyes and she screamed, “Party?! Can I come?! CAN I?!”

What did she think we were doing in there? Brining a damn chicken?

Yes, little one. You can come to the party. Let’s celebrate that joy. You can come and so can the other 4,800 members of my family. And when they get here we can have that meltdown together.


My family game night is sponsored by Wii U. How U will play next! Click here for a chance to win a Wii U™ Deluxe Set and $5,000 to take your family on vacation!

  • EvilCleopatra

    2012/11/27 at 11:00 am

    is it strange to think that despite the 8 year old drawing skills, that leta has quite an eye for composition, and has apparently inherited the designer gene?

  • Joanna Sequeira

    2012/11/27 at 11:12 am

    “GUILT GUILT GUILT, a mother’s favorite meal!”- so, so true. I blame Pinterest for most of my guilt. Yesterday my baby walked four steps and I wasn’t there, I was at work, and I was going to be at work past her bedtime- it was guilt and torture all mixed into a big ball of ugly crying.

  • kate

    2012/11/27 at 11:20 am

    I am SO impressed you managed to squeeze 30 minutes out of that! All of my attempts at art projects fail after thirty seconds when the kid hands me the crayon/glitter/glue/whatever and says, “You do it Mama!” The only one that has ever succeeded was the shaving cream and food coloring on a cookie tray. THAT was flipping awesome.

    “GUILT GUILT GUILT, a mother’s favorite meal” needs to be made into a tee-shirt immediately.

  • diane

    2012/11/27 at 11:20 am

    i’m sorry to say that tocara has asked me to tell you that she is unavailable that evening. something about not having enough beano in the world …

  • Katie Lavie

    2012/11/27 at 11:24 am

    This is quite possibly my favorite post ever. You are a delightful person and a wonderful mother. Thanks for the laughs!

  • Elisabeth

    2012/11/27 at 11:52 am

    You are a good mom! As a new mom with depression, it’s usually a good day if the baby hasn’t screamed for too many hours on end and I made dinner. Sometimes a shower happens. Pintrest and Facebook are kicking my butt when it comes to the “Guilt” thing because I see so many cute, clever things that these other moms do! I’m just gonna focus on keeping my daughter, husband, and I alive first, and then if there’s time for cute crafting, we’ll fit it in. After I’ve slept and had a shower, that is. 🙂

  • Kristan

    2012/11/27 at 11:55 am

    Proof that you are a good mother: You designed something simple (on purpose, I’m guessing) and let the girls contribute the “pizzazz.” Whereas I would have been a control freak and either designed exactly what I wanted, no input/assistance from them, and/or I would have flipped a sh*t when they “messed up” my work. 😛

    Seriously though, great post. The farting part was the best, I think, haha.

  • RioLee

    2012/11/27 at 12:08 pm

    I laughed out loud about the tears crawling back up. How do kids just flip that switch? Once I am that far everything is over and everyone is going down with me.

  • lizandrsn

    2012/11/27 at 12:32 pm

    You know those kids-perfectly-crafting moments strewn across the Internet?
    The Internet lies!
    Moments before the flash goes off they were beaten into submission by the overstressed, under appreciated parent who should have been knee-deep with them in the glitter that’s about to be force fed to the family pet.
    Just ask Alexis Stewart (Martha’s ungrateful kid).

  • Cindy

    2012/11/27 at 12:33 pm

    You do NOT start a crafting session with glitter. EVER. Never glitter. Not ever. Nehhhvaaaah.

  • Luann Robinson Hull

    2012/11/27 at 12:52 pm

    This made me laugh! I remember the attempts at domesticity in my home with my two boys!

  • lisajey

    2012/11/27 at 12:54 pm

    hilarious. i am so glad that i am crafty…. but i’ve seen my share of melt downs! enough to scare me away for months at a time! LOL

  • Erin

    2012/11/27 at 1:05 pm

    I just want you to know that I am a mom and I. Hate. Crafting.

  • Heather Pez Kinsman

    2012/11/27 at 2:40 pm

    “So I try to go back to something I learned in therapy last year, and that is to go through the list of the things my kids need the most. Do they know they are loved? Are they comforted when they cry? Are they warm when they sleep? Are their joy and excitement celebrated?”

    You just saved me thousands in therapy. Seriously. I experience this guilt frequently and this is a good reminder.

  • Bibes

    2012/11/27 at 3:42 pm

    You know what they say about glitter, it is the venereal disease of the craft world.

  • SusanInSuburbia

    2012/11/27 at 5:52 pm

    You are the valedictorian of the Exacto. Cause you definitely couldn’t just cut those out with a pair of scissors. How pedestrian 😉

  • Here's To A Boring Year

    2012/11/28 at 6:34 am

    Am I the only mother that feels THE GUILT about whether her baby is warm when they sleep? Because I simply cannot figure out how to dress a child for bed…

  • Margaret Lukes

    2012/11/28 at 10:05 am

    I’m so impressed with the whole endeavor of game night- with invitations, no less! BUT- Do I spy x-acto blade cutting on corian!? Have you no self-healing x-acto cutting mat!? I would send you one as a holiday gift- along with some nice blunt-tipped scissors that Marlo can actually run around the house with, but I know you don’t want to add to your arsenal of crafting supplies. Because you’d need to go buy plastic bins to be used for the sole purpose of housing said crafting supplies. And that would imply that are, in fact, a CRAFTER. *shudder*

  • Margaret Lukes

    2012/11/28 at 10:07 am

    PS- Have you seen the parody book, “The Very Hungry Zombie” ? It’s a good one…

  • Theresa S.

    2012/11/28 at 11:12 am

    *Walks into daughters bedroom and throws unopened packages of glitter that her grandparents just purchased for her away* lol good thing I read this before we got a chance to open that glitter. My day would have ended with glitter stained hand prints on the wall, the carpet, the tables, the bed, and quite possibly my face…

  • LDD

    2012/11/28 at 1:22 pm

    Agree – I’m totally impressed that you all hung in there for 30 minutes of glittering – I love doing crafts, but crafting with kids is a different story! That is some dedicated glittering.

  • Jennifer Margulis

    2012/11/28 at 2:17 pm

    I think your craft came out awesome. The invitations look great. Waaaay better than anything I could do. Plus your photos make every social media maven and craft wizard pee their pants with jealousy. They rock.

  • allconsuming

    2012/11/28 at 3:11 pm

    You know, the 8th is my birthday and this year marks my 40th so any event happening on that day is going to be AWESOME.

  • allconsuming

    2012/11/28 at 3:13 pm

    OH, and also? I have a rule, not a saying, a RULE in this house that “craft is for kindy”. Once you reach such an incomprehensibly inequitable relationship between the amount of time it takes to set up (and more importantly clean up) to the time of the actual activity then engagement has to be seriously questioned. This is also why I don’t cook fresh artichokes. What, at least I’m consistent.

  • Kristi

    2012/11/28 at 3:30 pm

    Just reading this made me feel guilting for not crafting with my kids more! I have Guilt for at least one meal a day. So tasty!

  • Erin Human

    2012/11/28 at 5:05 pm

    I’m so relieved that you experience guilt and feelings of inadequacy when you look at the internets and its picturesque crafting, because MY particular brand of motherhood neurosis involves feeling inadequate next to mothers who don’t craft and don’t give a damn! Why oh why can’t I be brazenly guilt-free like them?

  • Glitterchallenged

    2012/11/29 at 1:38 pm

    I recently purchased and used those gltter sticks for a craft project for my son. I failed to notice the little red stopper at the top of the stick and was squeezing the hell out of the silver stick to get it to work. As you can imagine a huge gob of glittery goo came flying out. My husband, yes husband who can also work a needle and thread(I cannot) came to the rescue after I let loose with the child friendly version of cussing, stupid, fudgecracker glitter stick. He calmly examined and pulled out the red thing to which I asked, “What is that.” “Stopper;” he says with the look that says you are a complete dumbass but I love you anyway.

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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