the smell of my desperation has become a stench

If you ever wondered what it was like to live in Utah

Over the weekend Leta and I worked on the second of several oral presentations that she has to give over the course of the school year. This time she chose to research the early Mormon settlers because her great great great grandfather was among the first to arrive here with Brigham Young. This practically makes her Mormon royalty. Which is interesting because my great great great (forgot how many greats to insert here) uncle is Daniel Boone. This makes her redneck royalty.

Oh the wives and guns and coonskin caps she will inherit.


Which reminds me:

It’s a strange thing to condense all that history into a three to four minute presentation that will make any sense to a class of fourth graders, that will keep them interested and focused on what she’s saying. It’s not like she could hang a disco ball, turn the lights off and start spinning records. Although I’d really like to witness that. Hey DJs. Here’s your challenge: do an entire set with only records from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

We found that the first group to head west from their settlement in Illinois included 73 wagons, 93 horses, 52 mules, 66 oxen and carried enough supplies for 148 people to survive for an entire year. I showed her how to emphasize each statistic, pausing between each one to signify their importance: 73 wagons… 93 horses… 52 mules… Like, they didn’t just climb into an air conditioned minivan and and stop at Wendy’s for a Frosty.

I also showed her how to gesture with her arm when she recited a line from someone in the group who was overcome by the beauty of the valley: “We could not refrain from a shout of joy which escaped our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within our view.” When I asked her to mimic my gesture she continued moving her arm and then ended up twirling in a circle. It was adorable but I told her to tone it down a bit since she wasn’t guest starring on a very special episode of Glee.

The most difficult part, of course, was getting her to memorize the whole thing. And sure, it was ten notecards worth of information. But I had to do the same thing at her age, and what’s that saying… how does it go… THIS ISN’T THIRD GRADE ANYMORE.

When she’s sixteen years old and complaining about having to do her own laundry I’m going to break out that saying and she’s going to be like, mom, that was what? Seven years ago? And then I’ll say, “Oh, would you rather I talk about my butt?”

Yesterday I showed up to her class a few minutes before presentations began, and Leta was the first to go. I sat at the back of the room and beamed as every word on those ten notecards came out of her mouth. She didn’t have to look down to reference them once. When it was over and she asked if there were any questions, hands shot up around the room. This was something else we had prepared for: potential questions from fellow nine-year-olds.

Let me rephrase that: “This was something else we were BRACING for.”

Leta pointed to a girl toward the middle of the room.

“Um… where did you get all this information?” she asked.

Leta teetered on her feet a bit and then answered, “I found it all on the Internet.”

More hands shot up, but that girl was not finished. “On the Internet? Wow. I already knew all of it because I go to church.

OH SNAP. She goes to church. Leta? Leta performs Wiccan rituals in the basement that I’ve modified to include goat blood and the aborted embryos of bald eagles.

She then pointed to a boy at the far left of the room. “Why were there so many mules?” he asked.

Leta lost her concentration for a bit but recovered and gave the answer the teacher had instructed them to give when stumped by a question. “I didn’t research that part,” she answered.

Right then Leta’s best friend Gigi raised her hand, and because she was so overcome with her realization she didn’t wait for permission to speak.

“I know why there were so many rules,” she said. “BECAUSE THEY WERE MORMON!”

I could lie to you and tell you that I didn’t let out a giant snort. But I won’t. You guys. I snorted like a pig. I snorted so loudly that I strained a muscle at the back of my throat.

Other kids started laughing while some were like, “MULES, Gigi. MULES.”

But she continued, “The Mormons have all those rules, you know. They can’t do anything.

You know who doesn’t have all those rules? Wiccans. Wiccans are free.

I texted Gigi’s mom later in the day to thank her for her daughter and the light she brings to our lives. That was the exact response from a fellow nine-year-old that I was hoping for.

  • Allyssa Wheaton-Rodriguez

    2013/11/07 at 10:36 am

    Love this. Adorable.

  • kmpinkel

    2013/11/07 at 10:37 am

    what’s short for a Mormon with rules? A Mule!

  • Danalan

    2013/11/07 at 10:37 am

    52 rules isn’t that many. Are you sure it was only 52?

  • Lindzgrl

    2013/11/07 at 10:41 am

    I’m kind of hating on that self-righteous “I go to church” girl on Leta’s behalf. But also feeling really bad about hating on a nine-year-old.

  • Lisa Bizzle

    2013/11/07 at 10:42 am

    I want to Wiccan ritual it up with you guys next time I’m in Utah.

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2013/11/07 at 10:43 am

    When you’ve got that many rules, you have to shovel a lot of shit.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/11/07 at 10:53 am

    Thankfully the guest bedroom is NOT in the basement. You are welcome any time!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/11/07 at 10:54 am

    According to Wikipedia, only 52.

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/11/07 at 11:00 am

    You win! Everyone else can go home.

  • Deminimis

    2013/11/07 at 11:03 am

    52 mules, one for each week of that year in which they had enough food to support 148 people. Wait! Maybe that’s why they had so many mules… They ate one a week.

  • Anne D.

    2013/11/07 at 11:28 am

    This makes me smile so much. Like this big =)

  • Becky

    2013/11/07 at 11:28 am

    more reliable soure…the “Church” or the internet?
    I’m thinkin’ it’s a toss-up at best 😉

  • Lauren3

    2013/11/07 at 12:01 pm

    Rock on Gigi, you badass.

  • Tish

    2013/11/07 at 12:34 pm

    I needed that laugh/snortle. Wiccans don’t have rules, you are so right! Did she mention my home town of Liberty, Missouri by any chance? I can always tell who’s Mormon based on the lights that go off in peoples’ eyes when I say where I’m from. Such a hoot. The only thing I knew growing up was Mormon’s couldn’t have pop which I thought rocked because I’ve never liked the stuff.

    Random but somewhat relevant side note since you discussed people you’re related to: I’m not related to them, but my great grandmother housed Bonnie and Clyde. Her words, “That Clyde was a good fella, but that Bonnie was a bitch.”

  • Holly Waterfall

    2013/11/07 at 12:36 pm

    Thank you Gigi for bringing me hope in our future generations. Maybe Utah will find a way to turn itself around with more “rule haters” like you

  • Sharon Harville Sullivan

    2013/11/07 at 2:05 pm

    Clearly it was only 52 because the smarty pants who GOES TO CHURCH did not correct Leta.

  • greenplanner

    2013/11/07 at 2:31 pm

    What? Kids today still use index cards? No Prezi or Powerpoint?

  • Liz

    2013/11/07 at 3:37 pm

    Wow, I stumbled on your blog because a friend “liked” it. I am having fun reading your words. I think some where down the line we must be related because Daniel Boone is also my great+++ uncle on my dad’s side. Small world :0} look me up if you ever have a minute and we can see if we are indeed kin folk!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2013/11/07 at 2:45 pm

    There was a keynote presentation on a screen behind her. Old school notecards in her hands just in case she needed them.

  • Torchness

    2013/11/07 at 3:08 pm

    Did I miss it, did you go see Book of Mormon? Just perfection.

  • Katybeth

    2013/11/07 at 3:14 pm

    Congratulations to Leta and her mom for acing the presentation. All those mules to carry boxes of bibles to thwack nonconformist’s I bet.

  • Pixelfish

    2013/11/07 at 3:20 pm

    I was probably That Child in elementary school. Man, I didn’t just have a stick up my ass, I had an entire sequoia.

  • readiness

    2013/11/07 at 3:43 pm

    I nearly snorted my drink out my nose. Well done!

  • MM

    2013/11/07 at 4:43 pm

    OMG ,when I saw that slice of a photo; Leta as a 20 yr old! …. a beautiful young woman … so soon! Of course when I clicked on the post and saw the puppy flannel p.j’s, my view of Leta skewed back to childhood ……thank goodness… but wow…in a flash, time goes by so fast

    Cheers to you and your wonderful little family
    bisous from Montreal

  • rachel

    2013/11/07 at 4:52 pm

    Oh gawd that sooooo takes me back to literally every moment off elementary school and the constant fear that people would find that my family “doesn’t go to church!” (Said in a whisper of horror, of course.) They can all suck it, and being an unapologetic non-church going adult in Utah is the bomb.

  • Meghan Moore

    2013/11/07 at 4:58 pm

    small world. My great grandfather was part of the posse chasing Bonnie and Clyde when they came through Fort Worth, Texas.

  • B

    2013/11/07 at 5:03 pm

    Oh man….this is what makes me sad about some Mormons. Their lack of tact! For instance, the other day a friend of mine was telling me that a new girl at work eyed another coworkers coffee and said “ooh, what is that?” The coworker said “it’s a tall skinny vanilla latte.” Girl says “oh, I don’t drink coffee because i’m MORMON.” Here’s what she should have said…”oh, that sounds good!” or “ooh, i bet that’s warm on a cold day” or maybe just not be so self righteous?? And THIS is coming from a MORMON. 🙂 I am also thankful for Gigi. God bless Leta and her courage. 🙂

  • Danalan

    2013/11/07 at 5:05 pm

    I thought Mormonism had way more Rules. Huh.

  • Tish

    2013/11/07 at 5:12 pm

    LOL Even smaller…I lived in Fort Worth for awhile 🙂

  • Meghan Moore

    2013/11/07 at 5:14 pm

    lol back in the 30’s my great grandfather was considered the Mayor of Handley before it was incorporated into Fort Worth.

  • Amy J.

    2013/11/07 at 6:23 pm

    Heather, this kind of thing…I think they call it passive agressiveness, ahem…is not limited to just Mormons. We do not go to church and both of my girls have been ridiculed (both overtly and subtly) by their fellow students for being “heathens” (my word, not theirs). My pat answer for them to reply with has always been this, “My mother told me that you don’t have to be in a church to believe in God. He created the world as a temple for us.” The. End. ; ) Just wait girl…you think fourth grade girls are assholes. It gets SO much worse by sixth grade (when they are ridiculed by other 11 year olds for not waxing!!!”

  • Lady J

    2013/11/07 at 7:47 pm

    Whoot!..we’re probably related…that being said, my 4th grade would rather write about your butt than any of our relatives.

  • Robyn

    2013/11/08 at 1:18 am

    This was probably one of the funniest posts yet, I SWEAR!!!! I don’t know why, but Gigi cracked me the HELL up!! I needed that snort tonight more than you know!

  • Friv Jogos

    2013/11/08 at 3:01 am

    A good question, and those who are experienced in that you can answer the most straightforward.

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    2013/11/08 at 8:55 am

    This MADE my day! Great post – I’m still snorting 😉

  • talonsage

    2013/11/08 at 1:16 pm

    Eh, I don’t feel that bad. Nine year olds can be real jerks.

  • talonsage

    2013/11/08 at 1:20 pm

    That is AWESOME. And btw Ripley would have totally backed Leta on the research thing AND refuted anything learned in church. Because I’m an educated self-worshiping heathen and my kid has a thing about rudeness when other people are giving presentations. And she enjoys correcting people when they’re clearly wrong AND rude!

    (We’re working on that.)

    Gigi, you are AWESOME!! (not to overuse that word or anything…)

  • Thrift Store Mama

    2013/11/08 at 3:39 pm

    Just moved into a neighborhood in the Denver suburbs that is evidently MORMON MECCA as evidenced by all the Mormons living here. As a progressive and non self righteous but pretty devout Catholic, I’ve been having tons of fun invoking the name of “Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother” whenever they say “Heavenly Father” (but seriously they are the NICEST people and are always willing to stop and chat for a minute or give me an ingredient for a recipe.)

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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