the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The secret to food blogging

Last Thursday afternoon I got a text from my friend Stacia asking if I could watch her younger son Beck for a few hours that night. She had an emergency, and this was one of those instances when I was so happy that I could serve someone else, and no, I’m not about to go all Mormon on you. Unless you need me to. Do you need a potato casserole? A priesthood blessing? A rousing, operatic rendition of “The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning”?

If you were in primary and didn’t jump out of your seat when you got to the, “We’ll sing and we’ll SHOUT!” part then you need to reexamine your testimony, Terry.

I know, I know. I said SERVE. It has such religious connotations for me, but it’s true what they say. Nothing is better for your well being than getting out of your own shit and helping someone or something else. And in that sense, maybe I was being selfish. I needed to get out of my shit. So when she texted I was like BRING HIM OVER. I don’t get to serve as much as I should, and maybe that’s he part of the puzzle that’s missing from my overall happiness. NOTE: this is not an invitation for you to tell me that it’s Jesus who is missing. Jesus is not missing. In fact, he’s very busy being the lead singer of a moderately successful rock band.

My mother had taken both of my kids on a road trip down south, so it was just me and Beck. Yeah. A boy. A species I know nothing about raising. So when she dropped him off I was like, um, so… video games? Dirt? Sticks? ROCKS. I’ll give him rocks! We can blow shit up! And I will dress him in something blue while we’re doing it.


She shrugged and said anything would do. How easy does SHE have it? If I were to drop Leta off at someone’s house I’d be like, “Well, we brought ten library books. If she finishes them before I return and you have nothing else for her to read you’ll all probably die.”

And then for a good hour he just ran laps outside with the dogs, back inside through the hallway and then again into the backyard. Around and around. Finally he stopped, blinked those unearthly blue eyes and said, “Heather, I’m hungry.”

So, here’s the thing: where I come from, children do not address adults by their first names. Never. It’s an unspoken rule. I am Ms. Armstrong. Stacia is Ms. Sidlow. Jesus is Mr. Christ. And when I first moved here and noticed this happening I got all Southern self righteous about it. Like, how dare that child not understand the life and the years I have lived beyond him? He just called me Heather as if I haven’t graduated college, lost a loved one, plowed those fields, and birthed a child in a pasture by myself with nothing but a bucket of water and a spoon. The nerve.

I bought into the idea that forcing children to address adults as Sir and Ma’am was the primary way to reinforce the idea of respect. And maybe on some level it works. Maybe I should buy into it. But I’ve witnessed so many children here who have not grown up with that cultural construct who are just as respectful and lovely to adults as those who are raised in the South. And they address me as, “Heather.” It’s an aspect of living in Utah that I have come to embrace. That and the abundance of Subarus, people who wear camping sandals when they aren’t camping, family decals on the back windows of cars that consist of over 14 figures, and kids named Bracken.

So I asked him what he’d like to eat while I silently panicked. My kids don’t eat anything, really. So my refrigerator and cupboard are sorely lacking. Would he like some non-flavored air?

He asked if I had any mac and cheese, and oddly there were two boxes of organic mac and cheese at the back of the pantry. I showed it to him and he said, “I’ve never had that kind but I’ll try it.”

Do what?

He’ll try it?

He didn’t flinch, fall to the floor and gag himself into a coma?

Good god, you guys. I want me a boy.


(I know it’s a personality difference, not a gender difference, YOU WHO ARE ITCHY TO SERVE UP A LECTURE.)

AND THEN GET THIS. That kid had four bowls of mac and cheese that I had cooked on the stove. FOUR GODDAMN BOWLS. He’d finish one, dig out every single piece of pasta and then ask, “Heather, can I have another bowl, please?” Can you have another bowl? I think I might have just discovered why you cooking people like to cook. Because at that moment I wanted absolutely nothing other than to search out a recipe for country fried steak, gravy, biscuits and okra. Cook it all up and just stand there and stare at him while he ate it. Take notes on which dish he liked best and then adjust the recipe.

I wanted to send him home forty pounds heavier.

Why yes, Beck. You can have another bowl. And then I’m going to give you a gallon of ice cream as a reward for, one, getting me out of my own shit for a few hours, and two, allowing me to experience the joy of watching a child eat multiple servings of something that I cooked without me having to dangle his favorite Barbie over the toilet.

  • Charmarie

    2013/06/24 at 1:58 pm

    Hence why I absolutely love my son.

  • Andrea

    2013/06/24 at 2:00 pm

    OMGosh!!! Thank you so much for the big big big laugh I just had!!! I have 3 boys and then a girl! So I understand how girls don’t eat but boys eat and boy do boys eat! Well mine anyways! I can’t keep up and the worst is yet to come as they are 10,9,& 7! So the eatin’ hasn’t even begun to begin yet!! Glad you were able to get out of your own shit for awhile and enjoy being with a “boy” they are so different than girls and to be honest they are so so so much busier and I find they are a lot easier than my drama queen just turned 5 but acts like she’s 14!

  • Janna

    2013/06/24 at 2:21 pm

    I need to get out of my own shit too and serve. It’s been very much on my mind lately.

  • Linda

    2013/06/24 at 2:22 pm

    You crack me up. . .

  • misszoot

    2013/06/24 at 2:22 pm

    Bah. I want to borrow him, too. Neither of my wee ones eat anything I cook – and I have both genders. I would love having a child eat the food I cooked. Seriously. If you hear of any of those kids in Alabama, let me know. I’m borrowing them.

    Also – my kids would say Miss Heather – because, unlike children in Utah – they sound like spoiled little shits if you don’t force them to use the Miss and the ma’am. I don’t know what it is but those words help them use a respectful tone, whereas without them it sounds like they’re saying, “Hey, Bitch…” instead of “Hey, Heather.”

    Man. I make my children sound AWESOME. I pray the don’t read this comment EVER.

  • housepea

    2013/06/24 at 2:34 pm

    What a cutie. Love that curly red hair so much.

  • issascrazyworld

    2013/06/24 at 2:34 pm

    Bwahahahahaha. I love this. I have two who eat and one who doesn’t. I understand the love of watching a boy eat though. Mine acts like it’s always the best thing he’s ever had. Well except spaghetti sauce…then I’m “poisoning” him.

  • bambooska

    2013/06/24 at 2:50 pm

    Cuteness overload.

  • Mindy Williams

    2013/06/24 at 3:01 pm

    I’m glad you got out of yourself for a bit.

    Also? I’m thankful I have 2 boys who will eat anything. It makes cooking fun!

  • susanfishy

    2013/06/24 at 3:01 pm

    I have a 16 year old and an almost 14 year old boy. Eating is what they mostly do.

  • Deb

    2013/06/24 at 3:01 pm

    Oh my word – a great and very much needed laugh!! Thanks!

  • specialkrispy

    2013/06/24 at 3:02 pm

    I LOVE this. I have to say though, I have a nearly 3-year-old girl and a 7-month-old boy. Their eating habits are vastly different already. The boy is just like “HUNGRY! FOOD! EAT!” and the girl is all, “what is that? I don’t like that kind. Put chocolate on it. Chicken. Chicken. Cheerios. Cheerios. Ice cream.” I think it could be gender-related somehow.

  • Joanna Sequeira

    2013/06/24 at 3:08 pm

    My son will eat anything… will he like it? No, but the kids got to live. I have a feeling my daughter will be have higher expectations from her mama’s cooking.

  • CheeseburgerinLaradise

    2013/06/24 at 3:17 pm

    So, I may have worn camping sandals while not camping yesterday, all while driving my Subaru.. No stickers yet though! #Wyoming

  • Debra

    2013/06/24 at 3:24 pm

    Absolutely love you Heather.

  • Krysta

    2013/06/24 at 3:27 pm

    I wouldn’t dare call an adult by their first name when I was a kid. Even to this day most of my neighbors (from where I grew up) are still Mr. and Mrs. and I am 30. Maybe it’s just “kids these days”?

  • Dee

    2013/06/24 at 3:30 pm

    Ha! Yes, boys are much easier in SO many ways. You need to adopt a boy, Heather. I did, and he’s the love of my life. 😉

  • Tai

    2013/06/24 at 3:45 pm

    I love this post. And that child is freaking adorable. Now I want some mac’n cheese.

  • Anne

    2013/06/24 at 3:47 pm

    Henceforth, forever and forever, amen and amen.

  • jensolo

    2013/06/24 at 4:27 pm

    I have a girl. She’d eat my one of my shoes if I told her it was food. It’s crazy. You can borrow her if you want – it would be good for our monthly budget if other people bought her food. She’s 3 and she eats more than I do.

  • ErinZ

    2013/06/24 at 4:39 pm

    Holy business, Jesus is HAWT. And by Jesus I mean Chris Robinson. Amen.

  • Melissa

    2013/06/24 at 4:52 pm

    The Barbie thing got me! I have two girls – a good eater and a bad eater. Guess who’s the favorite? They would both call you Miss Heather, but NOT Sister Armstrong. Anyway, I recently read “French Kids Eat Everything,” and it has not reformed my bad eater, but it has helped.

  • Keri

    2013/06/24 at 4:59 pm

    I am also from the south and live in Southern California where tradition is non-existent. My kids have known our friends since they were born, so they copied us and call them by their first names, but I’m not sure how to deal with this for their school friends’ parents. Just follow their lead, I guess?

    Also, I have a boy and a girl and it’s the girl who will eat anything and the boy who is picky. He’s like his dad, my daughter is like me. The boys won’t eat mac and cheese, but the girls will 🙂

  • courtney tomberlin

    2013/06/24 at 5:08 pm

    i have two goat like children residing in ‘bama right this minute… ill be happy to loan them out for dinner time! the 9 month old is particularly awesome to watch eat, while the 3 year old has really cleaned up her act in the past few months!

  • Tiffany

    2013/06/24 at 5:11 pm

    My 3.5 year old boy thinks food is something I force him to do in-between playing and running around. He hates anything that isn’t white and basically tasteless. (Strawberries? Apples? Pizza? NO THANK YOU. Gluten-free crackers? YES PLEASE.) He tried the whip cream on his pancakes at a restaurant this weekend and I nearly wept with joy that he even TRIED it.

  • LizLemon

    2013/06/24 at 5:22 pm

    I just turned 30 and I still have to call a few childhood friend’s parents Mr and Mrs. Anderson, etc. It just feels so weird to use their first names.

  • Britiney Dawson Slaughter

    2013/06/24 at 6:38 pm

    I’d gladly loan you my 3 boys (ages 13, 11 & 8) for as long as you like, but I do want them back, eventually. Also, the flip side of the eating thing is that 2 of them go through 4 gallons of milk in 5 days. I’ll send you a letter from debtor’s prison when they’re all teenagers at the same time. Heaven help us.

  • Virginia

    2013/06/24 at 6:40 pm

    I have three boys. Made me realize what I HAVE rather than what I don’t have. Great post.

  • Davida Brown

    2013/06/24 at 7:20 pm

    Have the kids ask the grownups what they would like to be called. That’s what my parents taught me to do here on the (casual) West Coast.

  • Miriam

    2013/06/24 at 10:26 pm

    may i please borrow Beck too? I need this experience

  • Anathaly

    2013/06/24 at 11:02 pm

    When I was growing up (in Texas) we were taught to say “Ms. ‘First name'” when we spoke to adults. If our parents ever introduced us to other adults and referred to the as Mr. And Mrs. ‘Last Name’ we knew they didn’t like them. It was the adults way of saying to each other “we’re keeping it formal because you and I will NOT be friends!”

  • Samantha Schurter

    2013/06/24 at 11:05 pm

    I had a much-needed laugh over this post. The musical accompaniment added depth and breadth to the experience. Thank you for the laugh.

  • Ffion

    2013/06/25 at 1:33 am

    Oh God, I just discovered your blog yesterday and you crack me up 🙂 Thanks for making me laugh out loud at such beautifully everyday stuff.

  • Sunny South Africa

    2013/06/25 at 2:14 am

    And once again….this is spot on with my daughter! beg, borrow, steal….nothing can get her to eat!! i also stare in wonder, when i see other people’s children eat and eat and eat. i’m sure that we will get there someday. right now. dry pasta, dry bread, dry oats and some yogurt is doing the trick. great post.

  • planomommy

    2013/06/25 at 2:19 am

    Ms Heather just know that my picky eaters would be in more trouble for forgetting to refer to you as Ms Heather than for not eating. Sorry for the ultra conservative southern attitude, but not eating is a lesser sin than that of being rude in speaking to an adult. The comment about the difference between Ms first name and Ms last name representing the parental like or dislike of a person is so spot on however. You forgot the Aunt/uncle first name as a honorific for special non familial relationships. It is a southern thing

  • cherrypie

    2013/06/25 at 3:30 am

    Dude, I used to call my OWN parents by their first names! Yeah… well they were hippies, you know. A few years later I just switched to Mom and Dad without asking permission – such a rebel.

  • Teal

    2013/06/25 at 4:06 am

    A lifelong friend of our family has always called her parents by their first names. Always has.

    What are camping sandals?

    Being a mom of not one, but two picky eaters must be exhausting.

  • Nina

    2013/06/25 at 4:24 am

    Yeah. Boys. They’re the reason God made parents. Why easier.

  • KimberlyDi

    2013/06/25 at 6:02 am

    Start checking into something called SPD. Sensory Processing Disorder. I have it. It’s not the end of the world but it seems to become more common. Textures are a big problem with SPD. Textures and bright lights and loud noises.
    Let’s hope he’s just picky!

  • Lynn Bossange

    2013/06/25 at 7:08 am

    I was raised in California, where uber-casual goes, and my mom always enforced the “Mrs. Whateveryourlastnameis” rule. Major guilt trip if we didn’t (and we weren’t even Catholic). I think it’s a part of learning manners, no matter what part of the country you live in.

  • kmpinkel

    2013/06/25 at 7:29 am

    I’ve got 4 kids, 2 boys, 2 girls and they are a mixed bag of donutholes on any given day. Never know what is going to come out or go in their mouths. All organs intact? Check! Breathing? Check! Good to go! In regards to the calling of adults thing, I grew up addressing as Mr/Mrs so and so…I tell my kids to address them as well, although lots of times it comes out “Hey, Nick’s mom?” I personally, let the kiddos know that they can just call me Kimberly, if its alright with mom and dad. It has to be my inability to recognize the fact that to many people I am considered a mature adult. I’ll let them keep on believing. It makes me feel so old to be a Mrs…..

  • Stephanie Reidy

    2013/06/25 at 7:42 am

    Very funny as my two boys (6 and 8) are eating us out of house and home. I’m planning to change their education fund into a feed teenage boys fund. Screw university… they can get scholarships if they want that fancy learning.

    And I totally hear you about the word “service”. I get all itchy when my minister e-mails me a “thank you for your service” note. (I find the readers and help occasionally with Sunday school.) And I’m even part of an affirming congregation (same sex marriage, etc…)in the very liberal United Church of Canada! Just something about that word that gets my anti-organized-religion prickles up!

  • sister

    2013/06/25 at 7:55 am

    My what AWESOME red curls and blue eyes..I would have just had to have stared at him the whole time 🙂

    I was raised in the south and NEVER would have dared let an adults name cross my lips (if I wanted to keep them…the lips that is). As a matter of fact, I still find it difficult to call someone who is obviously several years older than me by their first name even now.

    I’ve taught my kids to refer to adults (even the older teens who help at storytime) as Miss….

    They do however refer to me and their father by our first names here and there. For some reason, we never felt the need to correct them on this. We just let them call us whatever came naturally. They mix and match it now with no obvious pattern when they choose one or the other. ANYWAY…all that to say I haven’t noticed a difference in their respect levels for others.

    I can’t get over how cute that little guy is! 🙂

  • maggie wilkin

    2013/06/25 at 8:02 am

    Love the last line about dangling the Barbie over the toilet!! Hilarious. I have paid my kids, actual $$, to take a bite of something. That is some crazy shit right there, but when you spend time cooking, it would be nice if someone actually tasted it.

  • acm

    2013/06/25 at 8:13 am

    Ours is well-behaved and open to new foods *only* in the homes and environments of others. At home, she is bossy, grumpy, and constantly suspicious of attempted posioning. We take the former as signs of probable long-term victory, and endure the latter…. (sigh)

  • Andrea

    2013/06/25 at 8:57 am

    I hear you on the milk thing! I have 4 children and we go through 10 4 litres of milk a week!

  • Diane Maggipinto

    2013/06/25 at 9:14 am

    i, too, grew up calling my parents’ friends and other adults “mr.” and “mrs.” but never have i been somewhere such as utah where adults are addressed as, for example, “miss diane.” big icks.

    i <3 beck.

  • Jill

    2013/06/25 at 9:14 am

    Heather, this just rocked. Nice post, thank you for making me laugh today…dangling Barbies….snort…!

  • Kristen Cranford

    2013/06/25 at 9:56 am

    There truly is nothing more therapeutic to one’s soul than doing for others. Sounds too simple but it works, thanks for reminding me! I’m going to go do something for someone right now. 🙂 And I have a boy (who is 15 and now asks for additional BOXES of mac and cheese to be prepared for him) and I love him to pieces but I sure love borrowing my niece for a day and being mind-blown at all the nuances and differences.

  • Laura

    2013/06/25 at 11:17 am

    I LOVE THIS! I have two wonderful, beautiful girls who are fun and sweet and drive me emotionally bonkers. And I have a son. Who is sweet and uncomplicated and loving. And often really dirty. I’ll take twelve boys, please.

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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