the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Grandmother and mothers and daughters

My mother was traveling yesterday so I couldn’t get her a proper Mother’s Day gift or send her flowers or stick my wet finger in her ear, so instead I decided to post a photo of her from 1992 to Instagram:


This is the Avon World Sales Leader I will always imagine when I think of my mother, the flames of glorious hair around her head. She was just taking off in her career with Avon at the time. She never set out to further the cause of feminism, but there she was going, damn it all to hell, I will knock down any barrier in my way to do my job and to do it better than anyone ever has. If she wanted a promotion, she got that promotion. She did it again and again. And she influenced me and every woman who knew her. Sorry, mom. I really hope you’re not having a bad day because I’m just about to make it worse: you and Hilary Clinton have at least one thing in common.

My own children are not at an age to buy me an actual gift to commemorate this day, not that I need or want anything, except, you know, A HOT DOG. But they did make me cards at school that I will cherish dearly because they are so hilariously and wonderfully poignant. Let’s start with Leta’s first card:


Three things in particular stand out to me. One: I’m so happy that she gets my jokes, or at least forgives me for constantly joking with her. Often when Marlo goes to bed after a hectic, tantrum-filled night Leta and I will sit on the couch and wind down by laughing and imitating the sound of Marlo’s voice, the shrill way she screams, “LEEEEE-DAAHHHHH!” when she isn’t getting her way. She thinks it’s hilarious how spot on my interpretation is, and this probably offsets all the times I answer her very serious questions with, “My butt.”

Two: she called me crazy. Do I even need to comment on this? I mean, come on. My Granny Hamilton is doing a slow clap for me from beyond the grave.

Three: she notices my red cheeks from working out. I’ve known that she notices the frequency of my workouts, a facet of my lifestyle that I hope influences her to make similar healthy decisions going forward, but here’s literary proof that she’s taking notes. Or maybe she’s embarrassed that I always look like I’ve just finished a workout. She told me last week that one of her friends thinks that I look tired all the time. I said, well damn straight I am! It’s a chronic condition known as Marlo.

Physical activity has only interested Leta in the last few years, and it’s not something that I’ve ever tried to force with her because of her early gross motor delays. But yesterday at the park when she was having trouble showing me a move she learned from a friend on the pull-up bar, I felt like the stereotypical dad you see in car commercials with dreams of teaching his kid how to throw a baseball. Because I physically got to show her how to run up, use her momentum and throw her body backwards in the air, a trick me and my friends always did on the playground at her age.


She was so proud of herself and only a little embarrassed when I asked her to high five me with both hands.

“But people are watching,” she said.

“People just watched you and me run and do a backflip off of that bar. High fiving me is more embarrassing?”

She looked at me like, how is that even a question? This didn’t surprise me, though. Even though she sings along to the music I play in the car on the way to school, she will beg me to turn it down before she opens the door to get out. Because “loud music sounds crazy.” AGAIN WITH THE CRAZY. I’m taking suggestions for the song I play on the last day of school, all the windows down, the sunroof open, the stereo turned as loud as it will go. Perhaps something by Megadeth. Or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

And then there was this wonderful card that she made on the computer, a word association picture:


My thoughts about a few of these:

– Blogger! Haha! Oh my god, that word did not even exist when I was her age, and NOW IT IS MY JOB. When friends of her ask her what her mom does she has to say, “She exploits my childhood for cash.”

– Antiques? The? Wha? Maybe this her kind way of saying, “Bitch is OLD.”

– New York. Last week when we were talking about my upcoming trip she held up her hand and said, “Don’t tell me. You’re going to New York again. I know these things.” You guys, I think I’m going to have her read my palms.

And now for the card Marlo made at school:


Okay, so. Yes. We go to Whole Foods. This is true. It’s a ritual she and I share after we drop Leta off at piano lessons on Thursday nights. We head to Whole Foods to say hello to Dane who is usually working as a cashier, and then we grab some food from their dining area. As we leave she will randomly grab things off of the shelves and then set them elsewhere, so this is my written apology to Dane and his coworkers for finding bars of organic soap stacked on top of the bananas.

The other truths: we cut flowers and read books and go to the store. And I’m assuming she really “stuck the glue to everything paper.”

And then there is the the total nonsense, pathological liar Marlo: we ride horses? We pet rabbits? I don’t think she’s ever even seen a rabbit. Why not stick “we wrote the motherfucking Declaration of Independence” in there?

  • rebecca

    2013/05/13 at 2:46 pm

    ,,,i suppose marlo also created the heavens and earth in 7 days. god love your child. she is a doll and oh so humble,,,

  • Connie Veneracion

    2013/05/13 at 2:53 pm

    When my daughters were Leta’s and Marlo’s age now (mine are already in college), we kept a notebook where we’d write each other notes everyday. And they’s write things like calling me a Superwoman and used superlatives that I wondered where they got those ideas and whether I really deserved the accolades. I loved them all the more for those notes, anyway. They’re not as showy after they got older (though I don’t think they love me less) but I’ll always remember those times. Too short, the period when daughters are that demonstrative with words, but the memories last forever.

  • rosenleaf

    2013/05/13 at 2:54 pm

    My 4-y-o instructed her Montessori teacher (her MONTESSORI TEACHER!) to write that the reason she loves me is because “I take her to the movies and give her lots of candy”, neither of which is remotely true. Did I mention she had her Montessori teacher write that?

  • Breanne

    2013/05/13 at 2:59 pm

    Haha, happy Mother’s Day Heather! You really are epic… even if Marlo is lying about the rabbits.

  • MissCaron

    2013/05/13 at 3:00 pm

    I seriously Laughed Out Loud. You will look back at those cards when you’re 80 and cherish the love of your wonderful daughters. Great job, Heather!

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/05/13 at 3:12 pm

    Even with the wild left-over-from-the-80s hair, your mother was/is a dish.

  • Jodi

    2013/05/13 at 3:18 pm

    So sweet!

    My vote is for a little Rob Zombie on the last day. In a few years, she’ll probably be listening to it anyway!

  • inimitablej

    2013/05/13 at 3:28 pm

    I vote for playing something by Mary Schneider, Australia’s queen of yodeling. Leta, you’re welcome 🙂

  • JRSF

    2013/05/13 at 3:49 pm

    Does that mean the only true thing on Marlo’s card is that you effectively take her to visit Dane? Hilarious. Also, if you DO bring home a rabbit one day for Marlo to pet, you have to promise to film the video of Coco figuring out there is a rabbit in the house. In fact, that’s the only thing I want for Christmas is that video. Also: Is that a Dawahares ensemble in your mother’s WSL photo? All of a sudden I miss the Hickory Ridge Mall in Memphis.

  • Rachel Sea

    2013/05/13 at 3:50 pm

    Have you ever read Pat the Bunny with her? Maybe that’s what she was talking about. Or you know, maybe she’s just 3. They make up all kinds of weird shit.

  • Annie B (Kyoodled)

    2013/05/13 at 3:53 pm

    So apparently I need a new eyeglass prescription, but I thought Marlo’s said you read boobs. I wondered if that was somehow related to reading palms.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/05/13 at 3:54 pm

    DAWAHARES, HOLY SHIT. I haven’t heard that word in years.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/05/13 at 3:56 pm

    We do read boobs. She’s read the whole series, in fact.

  • Sandy

    2013/05/13 at 3:59 pm

    When my son was in third grade, we were invited to his classroom to hear essays the kids had written. Our son was too embarrassed to read his in front of everyone so the teacher read it for him…she said that it was too good not to be read. So she starts reading about the time we took him to the zoo in California. WTF, we have never even been to CA, much less the zoo. So we stood there listening, appearing to be great parents for taking our son on this wonderful adventure. We told the teacher the truth afterward…all the while my son looks as perplexed as we had been. On the way home he wanted to know why we told the teacher we had never been to the California zoo. Well son, because we haven’t! Turns out, he was thinking of the Columbia Zoo…in South Carolina, that we had taken him to. Sometimes it is much easier to not take them anywhere…much less confusion!

  • Mrs. GV

    2013/05/13 at 5:51 pm

    My nephew, who just turned 5, brought his Mother’s Day “questionnaire” home from preschool. The best part? “My mom always ________” which he filled in with “knows when I’m picking my nose.” Priceless!

  • Julie Brown

    2013/05/13 at 8:20 pm

    My coworker got a “Mother’s Report Card” for mother’s day. In it, they were “graded” on beauty, various skill sets, etc. She received all A’s… except for cooking (she doesn’t cook). She got a C in cooking with “Needs improvement” as a comment.

  • Kelly

    2013/05/13 at 8:21 pm

    Songs for the embarrassment of children, I smile just considering it. Truly a noble use for music nerdery and the sort of thing that makes me miss working in record stores.

    For your consideration:

    Jerry Reed- When You’re Hot You’re Hot
    Jeanne C. Riley – Harper Valley P.T.A.
    The Statler Brothers- Do You Remember These?
    Mrs. Miller- Hard Days Night
    Psi- Gundam Style
    Up With People Theme Song- Up With People
    Diamanda Galas- Let My People Go

  • Shannon

    2013/05/13 at 9:30 pm

    I have told my kids since they were old enough to understand that their only job as kids is to be safe, healthy and happy. I actually teared up at reading ”she is my hero and keeps me safe” line from Leta. Good job, Heather. Good good job.

  • Debra

    2013/05/13 at 9:36 pm

    Song. The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia. Now that shits embarrassing. Maybe you should also sing & act it out. Cuz this ‘lil sister don’t miss when she aims a gun.
    Maybe do the whole last week of school!!!!!

  • Debra

    2013/05/13 at 9:39 pm

    Marlo the pathological liar. You might be misinterpreting. She might be just gonna grow up to be the valectorian of blogging. See how her flare for the dramatic could be useful!!!??? Much love……

  • Debra

    2013/05/13 at 9:48 pm

    Marlo could also be relaying dreams. When I was her age I told my dad that I saw mommy kissing his best friend. Before he went completly off his nut he had the wherewithal to interrogate me. He was a cop at the time.
    Dad: when did this happen?
    Me: last night when I was sleeping I saw them. (He &BFF were out on patrol together)
    Dad: where were they?
    Me: they were sitting on top of the refrigerator.

    I’m pretty sure he thought I was a path liar also!

  • Konstanz Ross

    2013/05/13 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for making me laugh tonight!!! It’s a welcome distraction from all the pregnancy crying and puking. Yay being a Mom!!!

  • amy milstein

    2013/05/14 at 1:20 am

    Marlo, I feel you. When I was in 1st Grade I wrote that I spent my summer raising a nest of baby rattlesnakes. 🙂

  • Steffi Wolter

    2013/05/14 at 4:01 am

    Leta’s first card has me in tears. you are her hero. because you keep her safe. what else does a mom want?

  • Jessica Ellerbrock

    2013/05/14 at 6:45 am

    Best song to blast would be Van Halen – Running With the Devil.

  • Allyssa Wheaton-Rodriguez

    2013/05/14 at 7:08 am

    The fill-in-the-blank card my 5 yr old son gave to me had written on it that I’m 48 (I’m 36). My husband had him scratch it out and write the right age before he gave it to me on Sunday, but then he told me. 48?! Seriously?!

  • WebSavvyMom

    2013/05/14 at 7:18 am

    –>Last day of school song could be what I was blaring driving into my parking garage this morning, “Let me clear my throat” by DJ Kool.

  • Nicole B.

    2013/05/14 at 7:26 am

    So so cute & funny. Love this

  • Celia Romaniuk

    2013/05/14 at 7:36 am

    I’m crying with laughter. Thank you, Heather.

  • Necole Kell

    2013/05/14 at 7:47 am

    Homemade gifts are the absolute best.

  • Angela

    2013/05/14 at 8:03 am

    Those Mothersday gifts are precious! In my bedroom are hung two drawings my girls Made in kindergarten, nowadays a week before Mothersday I have to give them money and the exact name of the bathfoam I want …:) by the way may I ask you where Leta found that worlds association print?I want to make one for me all by myselffff…..

  • Amelia E

    2013/05/14 at 8:18 am

    Dear Heather,
    I’m a wee bit concerned about you and the girls. I’m concerned your income may be shrinking and there’s SO much to pay for in this world. College will be coming before you know it,,,,,there’s formal dances and music lessons, and teenage CARS to be purchased!!!
    I’m concerned mostly because this site is sponsored by your butt!
    And your bum is so very TINY!!!!! How much money could that BEEEE?
    That can’t be much income,,,,,,,can it?
    Thanks for your continued blogging. It’s been amazing to watch your life change and develop just like your girls. Your writing of late has seemed to be reminicent of the beginnings of this journey and it leaves me smiling and laughing out loud. You’ve such a talent spinning words into cones of cotton candy deliciousness. I love cotton candy. That’s why if I was sponsored by my butt, I’d have more money than you!
    My bum is so much bigger!
    (you needn’t worry about using too many exclamation points in the future. I believe I’ve just used every last one up in this comment)

  • Kacy Kirby

    2013/05/14 at 8:46 am

    Gold digger is the song you should play on the last day of school!!

  • Jamie McGinnis

    2013/05/14 at 8:49 am

    My younger brother used to ask “do you remember when I used to be a cow?” wha??? That kid must have had some vivid dreams or memory of a past life or something. I wonder if that’s the same with Marlo.

  • Alisha Deck Niehaus

    2013/05/14 at 9:17 am

    My vote is “Panama”-Van Halen for the last day of school. Or you could go with the obvious choice; Alice Cooper’s “School”s Out”.

  • badkittyuno

    2013/05/14 at 10:45 am

    My dad used to tune to a classical station, roll the windows down and pretend to conduct in the carpool lane. I think it was a ploy to make me ask to walk to school. It worked.

  • 50 year old mom

    2013/05/14 at 10:51 am

    Laughed out loud by the end. So reminded me of cards from own children, how much they notice that you don’t realize. My favorite line from poem when my daughter was in middle school, “She thinks Horatio’s a hottie.” This was back when Horatio Hornblower was being shown on Masterpiece Theater. That was her nod to my love of the costume drama.

  • Nicki Chandler

    2013/05/14 at 12:56 pm

    LOVED the Hickory Ridge Mall. Compared to Mall of Memphis, it was like Disneyland! Dawahares….takes me back!

  • Sheri

    2013/05/14 at 2:28 pm

    I pick “I Believe” from the Book of Mormon soundtrack

  • Krista Erickson

    2013/05/14 at 3:57 pm

    song suggestion for last day of school – the ceiling can’t hold us, macklemore and ryan lewis

  • Killian

    2013/05/14 at 7:39 pm

    I love the Mother’s Day cards. Marlo’s creativity and imagination is going to make her teenage years interesting!

    I have to say, though. As amazing a mother as you are, it’s kind of an asshole move to let her just pick up and leave stuff at the store. Other people have to clean up after that, and while you might think it’s “just one little thing”, the more parents who think this is cute, the tougher it is for the people who actually work there. And yeah, I’m well aware that I’ll get lit up for daring to say anything against your parenting, but as the mom of kids who have to do that job? It sucks for them.

  • Stephanie

    2013/05/15 at 8:53 am

    Dog Hairs! I did a prom fashion show there when I was in high school. I wore a skin tight long gold sequined dress. This was in Clarksville, TN.

  • Wende

    2013/05/15 at 9:18 am

    “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper??? I’m still waiting for a card from my 8-year-old. It “wasn’t done” on Mother’s Day.

  • onthegomom

    2013/05/15 at 9:49 am

    Marlo… Oh Marlo. I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. That girl never lets me down. Whooeeee.

  • Lisa Guidarini

    2013/05/15 at 10:36 pm

    Devil Went Down to Georgia. Or Whitney’s I Will Always Love You. Total mortification potential.

  • k-sara-sara

    2013/05/16 at 11:19 am

    The Dawahares in my hometown in, ahem, Kentucky was still in business until about 3 years ago. True story.

  • Stacy Pagano

    2013/05/16 at 11:57 am

    I have a migraine today and nothing has made me feel better, so I decided I needed to go to your site and read some posts. This post made me LOL and for that I’m grateful. You rock Heather! Thanks for sharing yourself and your family with us.

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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