the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Automatic for the people

Last week before heading out to Duchesne I had to reschedule Leta’s usual Thursday evening piano lesson. Her teacher was kind enough to work around our schedule and bumped the lesson up to Monday night, and so after I dropped her off I started heading to Whole Foods with Marlo as is our ritual. Oh, wait. Sorry. Whole FRUITS. Not Whole Foods. Also, those warm things you wear on your hands in cold weather are not called gloves. They’re GLUBS. She’s been alive for four whole years. She knows these things.

Whole Fruits is not far from where I take Leta to her lesson, and to get there I have to drive by Liberty Park, the oldest park in Utah. It’s a huge space with a swimming pool, an aviary, tennis courts, a pond, and tons of open lawn. Marlo hasn’t ever expressed interest in visiting the park, not when Whole Fruits awaits us, but last Monday night she lost her damn mind when she caught a glimpse of one of the playgrounds.

“I WANT TO GO DOWN THAT STHLIDE! THAT STHLIDE!” she yelled from the backseat.

“You don’t want to get some yellow rice from Wole Fru—”

THAT STHLIIIIIDE!” she interrupted.

I wish this kid were more decisive.


I pulled the car into the park and found a parking space a few hundred yards away from the playground. Once I had released her from her car seat she was gone. POOF! Down and around the car door she scrambled and then she took off across the lawn. I barely managed to lock the car and catch up with her before she had ascended the stairs to the top of that towering slide, yet again reinforcing the differences between her and her sister. One day Marlo is going to get arrested for scaling a building in the nude. A building whose award-winning blueprints were drawn by Leta.

After the fourth time she made it to the bottom of the slide she started to do a certain rain dance that every parent recognizes. And I was like CRAP. No pun intended, but I had not one clue where or if there were restrooms nearby. So I picked her up and madly started craning my neck to find a building that resembled one while she vehemently denied over and over again that she did not need to go. GUESS WHAT, FOUR YEAR OLDS: You do not have a poker face when it comes to poop.

Luckily I spotted a brick structure not far from the slide that turned out to be a set of individual stalls. I think the city has recently invested some money into the park because both Marlo and I were delighted to open a stall and and be greeted with cleans floors, adequate lighting, and the scent of cinnamon. Also, there wasn’t a dead body in sight.

“It sthmells like cookiesth!” she squealed. And she was right. BUT NOT FOR LONG!

I was so impressed with the state of this public restroom that I failed to notice that the toilet was one of those god awful automatic ones. UGH. Seriously. I’m all for technological development and modern life and blah blah blah but I really do not need any help flushing a toilet, thank you very much. You can talk to me until you’re blue in the face about how it’s more sanitary UNTIL IT FLUSHES WHILE YOU’RE SITTING THERE AND SUDDENLY YOU ARE COVERED IN YOUR OWN URINE.

Damn straight I had to capitalize all those words.

Marlo was finishing up and to speed things along I moved to grab her a wad of toilet paper. And I guess the sensor no longer detected my body standing there because suddenly my child was sucked into another dimension by the loudest, most obnoxious, most unnecessary automatic flush I have ever witnessed in my life. I lost hearing in both ears, and Marlo is still floating out in some dark fold in the space-time continuum.

Yes, I’m a normally jumpy person. You could stare me in the face, whisper, “Boo,” and I would flinch as if someone has just hit me with a bat. But good lord, that automatic toilet. Marlo jumped off that seat so fast that I almost didn’t have time to grab her before she was out the door with her bare butt hanging out.

“WHAT HAPPENED?!” she screamed.

How do you explain an automatic toilet to a four-year-old?

“Evil, evil people invented a toilet that flushes itself whenever it wants to, Marlo,” is what I came up with.

And then, no lie, in what will surely go down as one of the most heartwarming examples of the relationship between two siblings, she finished wiping, pulled up her pants and said, “I can’t wait to tell Leta that a toilet sthucked my brain out of my butt!”

  • kmpinkel

    2013/10/23 at 3:40 pm

    oh shit! I swear those bastards are trying to get one step ahead of the europeans and combining a toliet and a bidet. They need japanese consultants on those brain sthucking devices.

  • Brookelyn Bridge

    2013/10/23 at 3:44 pm

    I despise automatic toilets. My 4 year old REFUSES to use one. Even when I promise her that I will cover the sensor so it will not flush on her.

  • christine

    2013/10/23 at 3:44 pm

    I still have to hold my hand over the sensor when my eight year goes to the bathroom….I hate those things, too!!! Definitely was not invented by a mother of a young child!

  • Tommy Williams

    2013/10/23 at 3:54 pm

    As a 6’1″ male without children, it had never occurred to me that automatically flushing toilets could be a problem. I have always thought the auto flushing toilets and urinals are fantastic since there seem to be so many people who use public restrooms who are unwilling to flush.

  • Paula

    2013/10/23 at 3:59 pm

    Hahahahahaha!!!!!!!!! <— intentional overuse of exclamation points. Holy God that kid is funny!

  • maria

    2013/10/23 at 4:00 pm

    this is why I love reading your blog! such a great story.

  • Bryna

    2013/10/23 at 4:01 pm

    Post it notes! Really, I keep some in my wallet to cover the sensor until we’re done.

  • Jeannie Ramsey

    2013/10/23 at 4:08 pm

    I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe!

  • Jodie

    2013/10/23 at 4:13 pm

    A very similar story resulted in one liner that will go down in history as a favorite from my daughter. “Those ‘automagic’ toilets scare the hell out of me, Mom!”

  • LizX

    2013/10/23 at 4:13 pm

    What a hideous little beast. That is one jacked up grill.

  • ali

    2013/10/23 at 5:29 pm

    True story: 3yo public pooping at the mall. Me, preparing to wipe 3yo and bent over child in that manner that all parents of potty-trained but short-armed children know.

    Damn auto-toilet flushed in my face….and I felt a splash. Yeah. Still get the dry heaves over that one.

  • dudeington

    2013/10/23 at 5:35 pm

    I live very close to that park and have never used the toilets because I assumed they were gross. Good to know they’re decent if somewhat terrifying.

  • summer

    2013/10/23 at 5:39 pm

    you just changed my life….and my 4 year old’s who is desperately afraid of auto-flush toilets.

  • cattail722

    2013/10/23 at 5:56 pm

    Oh, geez, man that was hilarious! Thanks for making the end of my “work” day! I am in tears over here.

  • Suzanne Winter-Armstrong

    2013/10/23 at 7:14 pm

    O-M-G!!! I laughed ’til I wet my pants! Hilarious!

  • Anu

    2013/10/23 at 7:30 pm

    Holy cow!! I just fell off my chair laughing! She is totally you 🙂

  • Deb

    2013/10/23 at 7:39 pm

    At Disney, they give out “magic stickers” that you put over the sensors to stop the toilets from flushing. I SO wish I’d thought of carrying those around when my little one was scared of the automatic toilets!

  • Amy

    2013/10/23 at 8:19 pm

    You can wet a small wad of toilet paper and place it on the sensor. 🙂

  • Cindy Rollert

    2013/10/23 at 8:25 pm

    omg, she’s amazing. <3 her.

  • Heidi

    2013/10/23 at 9:01 pm

    Tears of laughter. Oh my God.

  • jennifer

    2013/10/23 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t even know where to start on all the pieces of that that made me laugh out loud!

  • Thrift Store Mama

    2013/10/23 at 10:41 pm

    Hate, hate, HATE THOSE STUPID TOILETS ! Always cover sensor with toilet paper.

  • Magatha

    2013/10/23 at 11:52 pm

    “…One day Marlo is going to get arrested for scaling a building in the
    nude. A building whose award-winning blueprints were drawn by Leta….”
    This is, like, perfect.

  • Amy

    2013/10/24 at 12:28 am

    I hadn’t been in years, but I took my kids there a couple weeks ago. (I love the astroturf. I want it for my house.) And the trip to Liberty Park prompted me to order Savannah Smiles on amazon later that night. We had a pizza party. At the end, my daughter shrieked at me for showing her a movie with such a sad ending. Totally didn’t think that one through.

  • Sarah

    2013/10/24 at 1:10 am

    This is an amazing story. Tangent: Does she ever need to go when she gets excited? To this day (I’m bordering on 29), I still get, um, the urge when I walk into bookstores. It’s that knowing stomach ache. The source? All those years my mom abandoned me at the library as a kid, when I became so overwhelmed by ALL THE BOOKS there were to read, that I’d literally get a stomach ache and need to go.

  • allconsuming

    2013/10/24 at 4:44 am

    Auto-flushing toilets? You Americans are

  • Michelle Houck Ross

    2013/10/24 at 6:21 am

    Crying I’m laughing so hard!

  • wifey615

    2013/10/24 at 7:03 am

    OMG, that was hilarious!

  • Celeste

    2013/10/24 at 7:05 am

    OH.MY.GOSH! I was laughing so hard I was (still am) crying!!

  • Marissa

    2013/10/24 at 7:55 am

    My four year old asks everytime we enter a public restroom, “is it automatic flush?” because it is the scariest thing on earth! Even more fun when the two year old wants to touch EVERYTHING in the stall while her sister does her business.

  • Teal

    2013/10/24 at 8:03 am

    I seriously laughed at loud at this post! And “…that a toilet sthucked my brain out of my butt!” has to be one of the greatest things ever written on this blog. Hilarious.

  • MicheleRS

    2013/10/24 at 8:07 am

    OMG, you changed MY life too and my daughter is 8! She HATES those things!

  • Erika

    2013/10/24 at 8:28 am


  • kacy

    2013/10/24 at 9:21 am

    I really need to know what Leta said when she told her that……..and also why does she look so much older in this years school picture?

  • Julie

    2013/10/24 at 9:40 am

    “…a toilet sthucked my brain out of my butt!” Future masthead material, eh?

    Even funnier, I could actually see/hear this conversation in my mind’s eye. Even funnier than THAT, I could totally see this conversation taking place between me and my 8yo son. Except for the being in the same bathroom part, since they don’t allow girls in the boys room.

  • Lauren3

    2013/10/24 at 10:48 am

    OH MY GLORIOUS GOD OF CHEESEBURGERS HER PRESCHOOL PICTURE. That, in combination with this story… I crumble from her loveliness.

  • Katybeth

    2013/10/24 at 11:39 am

    That is very very funny.

  • adriana

    2013/10/24 at 12:11 pm

    if you hadn’t previously mentioned the school pics, i would have assumed she took them after the brains sthucking incident and this was now her permanent expression. very alert!! your kid kills me in such a good way!

  • Junebug67

    2013/10/24 at 12:15 pm

    OMG – I thought I was the only one!

  • Susan

    2013/10/24 at 12:18 pm

    you really should warn people not to have food in there mouth when reading that last part….i nearly choked from laughing so hard…..still have tears in my eyes! too funny!

  • Kana

    2013/10/24 at 1:17 pm

    Errrr… We have them in Europe too!

  • Kana

    2013/10/24 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for the laugh! Nearly crying :’-D

  • Anonymous

    2013/10/24 at 1:31 pm

    Still going into the bathroom stall with your EIGHT year old? WTF?!

  • Rhonda Proctor

    2013/10/24 at 2:11 pm

    OMG I can’t tell you how glad I am that you are documenting Marlo’s childhood. That kid has got to be the funnest kid ever. I’m sitting here by myself, reading this and laughing so hard I’m crying!

  • Dayna

    2013/10/24 at 3:28 pm

    My story went something similar but as I bent down to help my mouth was partially open and…we’ll, I’m sure you can guess the rest.

  • Jared

    2013/10/24 at 3:46 pm

    I remember when Liberty Park was definitely “the wrong side of the tracks.” You went down there only if you were wondering what it was like to be murdered.

  • Katie Rose

    2013/10/24 at 7:02 pm

    This may be my most favorite post of yours ever!!

  • Miriam Bell

    2013/10/25 at 4:21 am

    Yes, my husband is a plumber and he gave me that tip. It’s what he and his crew will do when they have to work on or around them. You can also drape toilet paper over the sensor, if it’s not mounted flush to the wall. My kids call it making the toilet monster go to sleep. Then they get to wake him/her up at the end. 🙂

  • Hannah

    2013/10/25 at 7:44 am

    ME TOO!

  • Beth

    2013/10/25 at 8:52 am

    My best friend’s daughter used to tell me how she hated those “I know when you’re done potties!”

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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