the smell of my desperation has become a stench

This is what I want to read for Book Club

Up until very recently Marlo hasn’t been very interested in books, one of the marked differences between her and her sister. For those of you who’ve been following along since Leta was a baby you might remember that she was interested in books before she could crawl. She’d sit in the middle of the floor surrounded by books and flip through them, marveling at the covers and pages. And then by age four she was reading whole sentences and paragraphs. Now at age nine she is sifting through 300-page tomes and begging to visit new libraries. At age nine Marlo will most likely be begging extended family to sneak her knives in prison.

Sunday afternoon the three of us were lounging in the living room. Leta was curled up in a chair reading a book and I was sitting on the far side of the couch, holding my phone, loath to turn it on. Let me just take this moment and describe to you what it felt like to finally get cell service after eight days, to plug back into technology and this mire of interconnectedness that has become the focus of our lives… it wasn’t a sense of relief. No. It was much more like someone took a spiked baseball cleat, attached it to a bat with the underside facing out, and repeatedly bashed me in the face.

Never have I longed more for the days when someone tried to collect call me and I got to say no. I suddenly longed to have to rewind Purple Rain.

Marlo was rummaging through the bookcase that lines the west wall of the living room, and then she suddenly appeared at my side.

“Mama,” she said handing me a book. “Will you read this to me?”

I looked over and she was holding The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear.


Are you guys familiar with this book? Yeah? No? Well then, here, let me show you page three and four:


Yeah. That shit deserves to be sung. Like, you can’t just READ those pages. It’s not even possible. And maybe because I did sing those pages, maybe because I got mad operatic with the line, “O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,” maybe that’s why when I finished reading it Marlo turned back to THESE SPECIFIC PAGES RIGHT HERE and said, “I like that part. Read that part again.”

She likes that part.

I couldn’t hold back my laughter. It rumbled up from my belly and out my mouth and immediately Leta asked me what was so funny.

“Farts,” I answered. “Farts are funny.”

Because, come on. I am a parent, for crying out loud. I am supposed to be an adult about this. COME ON, HEATHER. Pussy is a legitimate word for a cat. Grow up. Grow the hell up, mommyblogger. But all I could do was look at those lines and think, Edward Lear, you horny toad. YOU grow up, Edward. YOU check yourself, Eddie.

Tell me a good fart joke or a video of someone falling over and I’m still going to laugh at it when I’m 90. I refuse to grow out of farts. Or singing pussy.

  • Ms. Cheevious

    2013/08/14 at 2:57 pm

    now THAT was hilarious. oh to have my boys back home to laugh with… but we have incredible memories and funny fart jokes a-plenty to look back on!

  • Rita Arens

    2013/08/14 at 3:01 pm

    Totally have that book.She IS a lovely pussy.

  • CheeseburgerinLaradise

    2013/08/14 at 3:07 pm

    My first grade teacher gave me that book. Think about it.

  • Deiter Weinerman

    2013/08/14 at 3:09 pm

    I read the two pages of the book and immediately began to laugh. It reminded me of a college band back in Indiana named The Other Half that sang a song called “I Like little Pussy” using the lyrics from the old poem set to what seemed like the music from an old porn movie with a very heavy bass line.

    I love little pussy,
    Her coat is so warm,
    And if I don’t hurt her,
    She’ll do me no harm.
    So I’ll not pull her tail,
    Nor drive her away,
    But pussy and I,
    Very gently will play.

    She shall sit by my side
    And I’ll give her some food;
    And pussy will love me
    Because I am good.
    I’ll pat pretty pussy,
    And then she will purr;
    And thus show her thanks
    For my kindness to her.

    I’ll not pinch her ears,
    Nor tread on her paw,
    Lest I should provoke her
    To use her sharp claw.
    I never will vex her
    Nor make her displeased:
    For pussy don’t like
    To be worried and teased

  • Catherine

    2013/08/14 at 3:17 pm

    I was thinking of using that poem in my wedding ceremony years ago remembering how fond I was of it when I was a kid and that it was a great little love story, but then got to that line and decided no. Not going to have someone talking about pussy in front of great grandparents and the like (though it would have been nice to subject my brother to that reading).

  • Jackie

    2013/08/14 at 3:18 pm

    My daughter Juliana, 4, who shares a birthday with Marlo, just received the same book as a hand me down and loves it. My husband read it first and thought it was hilarious. He has since found a video on YouTube of a man singing it while playing the guitar. The video received a standing ovation in the bath from my daughter.

  • Erin Human

    2013/08/14 at 3:25 pm

    Oh man. Several months ago, my 3 year old son Miles took a liking to this nursery rhyme:

    Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.
    Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there? I frightened a mouse from under her chair.

    Okay, I could handle that. I am mature enough to say pussycat if I say it fast enough. But Miles liked to mix things up by inserting the name of our dog, Russell, into the rhyme. Imagine:

    PussyRussell, PussyRussell, where have you been?….

    Just try to say that four times and not die. It’s impossible.

  • Stephanie Reidy

    2013/08/14 at 4:30 pm

    If you are over 12 and DON’T laugh when you read The Owl and the Pussycat, then you are dead inside.

  • Yvette

    2013/08/14 at 4:37 pm

    Great, now I have to explain to MY four year old what I’m laughing at. Thanks.

  • Jaime

    2013/08/14 at 6:02 pm

    My mother-in-law gave me that book to read to my son. I read it once and couldn’t get through the entire thing without laughing. Luckily he was little and so I didn’t have to explain very well exactly why I was laughing so hard.

    And then I donated it.

  • Sarah

    2013/08/14 at 7:08 pm

    I *really* want to hear Marlo reading this, though

  • Lauren

    2013/08/14 at 7:20 pm

    I’ve actually sung a setting of this piece, and the “lovely Pussy…” section was almost unsingable it was so hilarious.

  • Twm

    2013/08/14 at 7:39 pm

    When I was young and lived in Europe we did a Christmas pagent of this very long poem. I think I can still recite it from memory. No one in America knows this poem and I can’t believe / am so jealous you have a book of it!

  • Helen Olsson

    2013/08/14 at 9:53 pm

    can you guess which line my husband and i laugh at every time in Margaret Wise’s Runaway

    Bunny? “I will become the wind

    and blow you where I want you to go.”

    “If you become the wind and blow me,” said the little bunny,

    “I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze.”

  • Michael Mathews

    2013/08/14 at 11:06 pm

    The Owl and the Pussycat is hysterical.

    To comment on being back in data range: our phones, which have so many wonderful, helpful features can also become a huge burden. I totally get what you are saying. When I am in Canada, I don’t have data service but do have voice service. It’s kind of a relief not getting all those notifications of this person posting that and the other person checking in at such and such business. It’s just so much – it demands that you attend to it often or else it gets almost overwhelming to clear the backlog of information. Our friends and associates have begun to demand nearly instant response to their requests. (“I texted you two hours ago and you haven’t gotten back to me yet!!!!!”)

    I told someone just tonight that while I like working with technology in my job, I also feel like in some way I’m contributing to the destruction of humanity every day.

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  • Michelle Boehm

    2013/08/15 at 7:33 am

    How dare you mock a book that is EDUCATIONALLY SOUND?

  • Marisa

    2013/08/15 at 8:37 am

    My mother-in-law gave my daughter a stuffed cat and said she should name her “Princess Pussy”. I told her we might need to consider something less pornish.

  • tmb

    2013/08/15 at 9:02 am

    My mother bought my 4 year old son the entire collection of Dick and Jane books-bound as one book (to her credit, he is now reading all the way to page 75 independently). But yeah. “Oh Dick. Oh! Oh! Oh! See Jane…..” LMAO

  • tmb

    2013/08/15 at 9:03 am

    pusthy, pusthy

  • tmb

    2013/08/15 at 9:05 am

    when my husband texts from work and I ignore it (for whatever reason) he gets mad. Then I threaten to get rid of the cell phones and get a corded land-line.

  • Junebug67

    2013/08/15 at 10:08 am

    Oh my word, this reminds me of when I was maybe 9 or 10 and I was explaining a game to one of my teenaged counselors at camp. I had found this game in an (obviously old) book of kid’s games in the library and it was called “Poor Pussy”. I couldn’t figure out why the counselors kept laughing at me and I was beyond embarrassed a few years later when realized what I was saying to them!

  • Barbara Stone

    2013/08/15 at 6:00 pm

    I am still weeping from laughter – I DID attend a wedding where this was recited. My arm still has claw marks from my sister grabbing me. Have truly never laughed so hard and silently in my life…

  • Barbara Stone

    2013/08/15 at 6:00 pm

    I am still weeping from laughter – I DID attend a wedding where this was recited. My arm still has claw marks from my sister grabbing me. Have truly never laughed so hard and silently in my life…

  • Candice

    2013/08/16 at 7:13 am

    yeah, like the BONG tree isn’t a hoot too!! (it’s still my favorite kids’ book though!!)

  • Ellen S.

    2013/08/16 at 12:03 pm

    I substitute “Kitty” for pussy. The Owl and the Kittycat reads just the same. But I am waiting for the day my husband reads the book to our 3 year old and she says, “No Daddy, it’s kittycat!…. what’s pussy?” it’s going to be great.

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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