the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I’m surprised it took this long

Yesterday morning as I was dropping Marlo off at preschool — what I must look like in that parking lot oh my god. Yes, mid-sentence tangent to say that getting out the door in the morning before school with everything both girls need for the day is like playing Jenga while trying to ride a bronco. I am organized enough that we’re successful every morning, but not enough to avoid looking like I just got sucked into the propellor of an airplane and shot out into a 12-piece bucket of fried chicken.

Lately Marlo wants me to carry her into school, and I should make her walk. I know. She’s perfectly capable of walking. She’s perfectly capable of headstands, cartwheels, and tackling wolves.


But when she jumps out of the car into my arms, she wraps her body around me entirely, her head nestled into my neck. And usually after the chaos of the preceding couple of hours, that moment is too precious to end. So I indulge her and carry her into school while also carrying her backpack and her lunchbox and my keys, and once I reach to take off my sunglasses everything slips out of my hands into a pile on the floor blocking traffic in and out of the building. And because she won’t let go of my neck she’s hanging from me as I attempt and then fail to gather everything. Someone should do a reenactment of this whole scene in an art gallery and title it “Parenthood.” It would be a multi-part series, and the second installation is a disheveled mom shaking her head and repeating, “Are you trying to make me scream?” And each time she emphasizes a different word in the sentence.

(Please leave your ideas for subsequent installations in the comments. Someone needs to make this happen.)

I had to pry her hands from my neck yesterday morning so that I could get everything into her cubby, and that’s when her teacher walked over and said, “Marlo told us a story about a hand yesterday.”


“About that…” I said.

She laughed and then asked if her sister really had seen a hand in the woods. Here I said all these nice things about Tyrant yesterday and now my daughter’s preschool teacher is probably thinking WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS GOING ON OVER THERE?

You want to know what’s going on over here? Oh, you know. Severed hands in the bushes, strange dogs in the back yard. OH! And now we have black widows in the garage. Found three of them on Friday! I’m using exclamation points to channel my energy because otherwise that energy is going to put me in a car and drive me into a tree!

I explained the whole thing, told her that it was a prank, that no one was actually harmed or having nightmares. She nodded and then said, “I didn’t know whether or not to believe the story. I asked her if she was there when it happened, and she said no.”

Marlo told the truth! Marlo told the truth! Maybe I can stop adding money to her juvenile defense attorney fund.

“Yeah,” I confirmed. “It’s hard to know what to believe with—”

“Because she also told me yesterday that she has two brothers at home,” she interrupted.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I just moved all of my savings over to that fund. YES I’M SURE I WANT TO PROCEED WITH THIS TRANSACTION.

I smiled really wide and asked, “Did she also tell you about her granddaughter?”

  • cheekymuffy

    2013/09/25 at 9:37 am

    Duuuuuudddde! You just HAD to post a fucking VIDEO of a black widow? Jesus.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/09/25 at 9:40 am

    Show it to Finn!

  • Jessica

    2013/09/25 at 9:43 am

    Maybe Marlo thinks you gave birth to Tyrant and Dane and they are her brothers.

  • Sarah @DomesticFemme

    2013/09/25 at 9:45 am

    Kill it with FIRE

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2013/09/25 at 9:46 am

    There for a while I was selling latex Halloween props online. My kids told their teachers stories about Fred the Head. Fred is a wide eyed staring gory severed head prop. Fun at parties. Stick him in a plastic bag and put him in your freezer.

  • Lauren3

    2013/09/25 at 9:47 am

    Aw, she thinks of John and Dane as her brothers! IS CUTE, HEATHER.

    Now, I’m FINALLY remembering to say this in the comments, because I bet a lot of people will back me up on this. Will you please, *please* put a “Random” button on the archives page? Because umpteen times during down time at work, while on a study break, etc. I have looked at All The Things on the internet and gotten bored, and I always end up back here at my old faithful to browse your archives, and I wanna mix it up a little. Serve me better, woman!

  • JSF

    2013/09/25 at 9:53 am

    I look the same every morning when I finally get my 3 highly”spirited” children to school with everything they need for the day. “Jenga while riding a bronco…” Yes it is exactly like that!

  • Kristin

    2013/09/25 at 9:57 am

    Can we have an installation where a child dumps a bowl of peaches with all the juice over her own head with a big grin on her face, while the mother sits at the table with her head in her hands weeping?

  • SuperCutePetContest

    2013/09/25 at 9:57 am

    I am SO glad I didn’t accidentally start the video when I saw it on instagram. I think I might have thrown my phone out the window!

  • RzDrms

    2013/09/25 at 9:59 am

    She *does* have two brothers at home: Dane and Tyrant.

    I love Marlo. I bet you hear that a lot.

  • Pam Huff

    2013/09/25 at 10:19 am

    I vote “selfie” installation of pictures we send to you, where we’re all juggling all of the above and you (or Tyrant) gather them and post, a la Postsecret.

  • tmb

    2013/09/25 at 10:21 am

    I found a black widow in my aunt’s garden last week. On a beet. The body was as big as a dime. I threw that beet about 20 yards into the street and screamed. My aunt goes “huh! I’ve lived here for twenty years and never found one in the garden. They usually hide in the wood pile” (where my 4 year old was playing….*faint*

    Oh and my contribution to the art exhibition: I will title it “Couch” and it will be a brand new couch with pen marks, handprints in peanut butter, and an unidentified gelatinous blob. A vacuum cleaner will be posed next to it.

  • Amanda Sam

    2013/09/25 at 10:29 am

    I love your Marlo stories. What a character she is! I have one of those too. He’s exhausting but damn amusing to be around.

    Parethood installment idea: wild-eyed mom diving across the room, hands cupped, to catch her child’s vomit before it hits furniture/rug/carpeting.

    Parenthood: its a glamorous life

  • cheekymuffy

    2013/09/25 at 10:36 am

    Yeah, then he’ll want one!

  • Sarah

    2013/09/25 at 10:43 am

    THIS. THIS is so wonderful. We were all waiting for the other shoe to drop since the Hand incident. Here’s an idea: try to capture all the crazy things she is saying on video, if at all possible. Then compile the video and play it for her when she finds out she’s going to be a mother (for real). And then do a little happy dance for karma.

  • TQOE F1 ♛

    2013/09/25 at 11:17 am

    “Hi, little punk’in-head.” THAT is brilliant. I am going to watch this video about a thousand times just to hear that comment and smile.

  • Ruth Wolinsky

    2013/09/25 at 11:40 am

    I grew up on a farm. You NEVER play in the wood pile. Or the rock pile.

  • MicheleRS

    2013/09/25 at 11:56 am

    Just think, if there were two more people in your house, that’s twice as many hot dog makers!

  • kara_v

    2013/09/25 at 12:01 pm

    When my brother was small, he thought people got younger, not older. He once told my mom “When you get little, you can borrow my bike!” Kids’ minds are very interesting, the way they work. I wish we all could have imaginations like Marlo.

  • caree

    2013/09/25 at 12:26 pm

    Installation idea: the 2-3 people required to change one 26 lb toddler’s diaper. yep, that’s my son.

  • talonsage

    2013/09/25 at 12:29 pm

    I love that kid.

    She makes me want to have more kids. I already have a “Leta” (We call her Ripley, and she’s a few years older than Leta…if you want to know what Leta will be like at 13, let me know. Hint: It ain’t pretty) and since I got stuck raising my middle brother (we call her Ian Jr. Ian’s nickname as a child was “Grandma”) again, and I don’t see what I did to deserve THAT…I’d just LOVE the chance to even things out and raise my YOUNGEST brother again. Because Marlo is my baby brother, 30-odd years ago, RIGHT DOWN TO THE CHIPPED TOOTH.

    I shit you not, Madame. And I shudder to think what may have happened had he had a Tyrant and a Dane in his life.

  • ST

    2013/09/25 at 12:38 pm

    My daughter’s first imaginary friend was Pandora, the girl who let chaos and mayhem enter the world, which explains pretty much everything about my oldest child. So be thankful Marlo only has imaginary brothers.
    For the installation, I propose the image of one child pulling at the hair of another child/about to step on another child, while a mother lunges forward trying to physically separate the two.

  • Terilianne

    2013/09/25 at 12:47 pm

    I solved this problem with a large carabiner
    like these. Everything clips in and out easily and I can carry it with one hand. (My car key gets stuffed into my pocket when I get out of the car and before I open the door for the kid) Pack, tote, lunch box get put together when we get into the car, presto one hand to pull it all out.

  • Terilianne

    2013/09/25 at 12:59 pm

    Tried to post, oh well. Solution to getting all the stuff into school one handed. Large cushioned handled carabiner. They sell them on ebay (i tried linking maybe that is why post disappered?). but as I put backpack, lunchbox, and tote with “outside shoes” together so when kiddo gets out of car and latches on I can pick it up one handed.

  • Jessi

    2013/09/25 at 1:19 pm

    Instillation piece: Mothers saying bizarre things. “Not everyone wants to see your penis.” “why are you naked in Target?!” “Please don’t lick the driveway!”
    all of those phrases have crossed my lips for just ONE of my children and I have 4.
    also, cleaning poop off the wall. It took until #4 for it to happen, but it is indeed a real thing.

  • ɯoɔ˙ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ

    2013/09/25 at 1:56 pm

    Stop talking nice to the black widow. Do not make that spider a pet. Do not make me come back to Utah just to smack you.

  • JenVegas

    2013/09/25 at 2:41 pm

    Oh man, my 2.5 yo son is a total lying liar too! What IS that about? “I got a sticker at school because I was brave, mommy!” No he didn’t, EVERYONE got a sticker that day at school. “Mommy I cried at school at nap time and didn’t sleep.” Lies. He slept for 2 hours that day. “No mommy, no one gave me lunch.” Lying lies! I can only imagine what crazy nonsense he tells them at school about our home!

  • Ithinkitsswell

    2013/09/25 at 2:50 pm

    My daughter (4) has in imaginary sister (Bella) and Grandmother. Her sister has a mom who drives a minivan with a TV and they live in a pink house. My daughter makes all of her holiday gifts and cards for these people.

  • rebecca c

    2013/09/25 at 4:00 pm

    Parenthood installation: toddler seated in grocery cart, older child trying to steer and turn grocery cart, mother reaching for milk/yogurt, cart full of beautiful produce and cereal, cart leaning 45 – 90 degrees starting to tip, mother dropping gallon of organic milk on foot while diving for cart to assure safety of both children, who are in impending danger of being crushed. Took me a long time to go back to the Tr@der Joe’s.

  • Katybeth

    2013/09/25 at 4:26 pm

    She is cute, dresses well, and is articulate, does anything else really matter?

  • hugsNpuppies

    2013/09/25 at 4:32 pm

    I did that yesterday! It was so unreal but there it was, a brown streak right down the wall… yuck!

  • tmb

    2013/09/25 at 4:39 pm

    yeah up here where I live we just don’t have critters like that so it didn’t even cross my mind to warn him.

  • tmb

    2013/09/25 at 4:39 pm

    or poop on the bed, or poop on the floor…..

  • AlwaysHappyKya

    2013/09/25 at 5:36 pm

    Long time reader, first time commenting. Couldn’t stop myself when I saw this video. Marlo could be a Jennifer lawrence ( go straight to 6:50 and you’ll see) 🙂

  • Catherine

    2013/09/25 at 11:27 pm

    She is just too cute.

  • Plato Kasserman

    2013/09/26 at 2:09 am

    Or when they smear butter in their hair for fun.

  • Jess

    2013/09/26 at 6:40 am

    Hahaha. My niece makes stuff up allll the time. She’s 8 now and it’s getting a bit better as she gets older, but you have to take everythiiiiing she says with a grain of salt. Or like, the entire salt shaker.

  • Beth

    2013/09/26 at 7:47 am

    Only a true animal lover would call that spider “Punkin Head.”

  • Nicole

    2013/09/26 at 10:27 am

    My daycare provider was confused the other day when my daughter insisted she had a brother at home. She was referring to our male dog. Is that what she means?

  • Stephanie Reidy

    2013/09/26 at 11:12 am

    My installation piece would be me making dinner in my work clothes, with one son on the floor wrapped around my leg while yelling to the other one to get his soccer gear on, while The Husbands waltzes in the door, asks how my day was and gets pouty because I give him a one word answer “Fine” without a smile and hello…

  • Jojoma

    2013/09/26 at 1:00 pm

    OMG. i am RIGHT there with you. except i am usually yelling at the older one to stop making so much noise.

  • Kate S.

    2013/09/27 at 9:43 am

    So funny.

  • Kate S.

    2013/09/27 at 9:53 am

    I’m really digging the term ‘gelatinous blob’ now.

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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