the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Modern folklore

On Christmas Eve I sat around my kitchen table with Leta and Marlo as the early afternoon light poured in through the wall of floor-to-ceiling south facing windows. I haven’t lived in this house a year yet and am still getting to know its personality in various seasons, a lot of it through these windows. Recently I spent a good half hour trying to recover my eyesight during lunch when I turned to face my salad and the angle of the sun cut my face open. During the summer a thick canopy of trees shaded this part of the house and made certain meals feel like a reenactment of Swiss Family Robinson. Now that those trees have lost all their leaves and the sun sits much lower in the sky, meals here feel much more like Lord of the Flies.

Both girls had their backs facing the windows so as not to endanger their eyesight and were eating frozen burritos. This should answer your question, “Have you encouraged your children to adopt your diet?” If by encouraging them you mean exposing them to the way I eat, then yes. I encourage them at every meal. Is it working? Let’s just say that whenever I get a text from a mom requesting a play date for her child, it always ends with, “You can tell Leta that I have burritos here for her to eat!”

Leta is made up of 60% water, 30% frozen burritos, 7% vital organs, and 3% hair detangler.

We were talking about how weird it was to be having lunch at home ON A TUESDAY, a novelty that only compounded the adrenaline high of the day. How awesome was it that Christmas Eve was in the middle of the week and, right now, normally, she would be in the middle of, like, geography or something! I agreed and told her I was happy to have the time off, too, because normally, like right now, I would be in the middle of, like, scratching my butt or something.

(Gigi, that was for you. [Leta’s friend Gigi reads my website now {could someone please have her mother’s head examined} and she told me over the weekend that her favorite post was the one I wrote about Marlo getting sucked into the automatic toilet. Now I kind of feel a duty to the children.])

Just then Marlo started doing one of the things I hate most in this world. When I tell you what it is you’re sure to list off much more horrible things like famine and war and disease, and I agree that those are horrible things. I hate those things, and I try to give my time and my money to help alleviate those things when and where I can. But there doesn’t really exist a nonprofit for getting rid of children who routinely cross their eyes because they think it’s funny.

Also? Why haven’t we eradicated the world of whistlers?


I just cannot stand it when kids cross their eyes. I’m awful, I know. I should be laughing about it and joining in, but I will not support this repugnant behavior especially when I am trying to make a point and suddenly the child is more focused on the fact they they can now see three of me simultaneously.

Repugnant is a strong word, yes, but the kid usually wants you to join in, and when was the last time you crossed your eyes? It’s kind of like turning around in circles or standing on your head or, you know, hangovers. When you’re young all that shit is easy. When you’re older? It feels like you’re dying. In fact, you’d prefer death.

So there she was crossing her eyes, and I was succeeding at ignoring her until she jumped down from her chair and got very close to my face with her crossed eyes. That’s not much different than crossing my eyes myself and I felt momentarily dizzy. Enough that I said, “You know what? If you cross your eyes and someone comes along and hits you on the back of your head your eyes will stay that way forever.”

Because nightmares aren’t going to create themselves.

She immediately uncrossed them and pulled away to scowl at me.

“Is that true, Mom?!” Leta asked, her hands gripping the table.

I shrugged and said it was just something I had heard happened to a friend of a friend.

“Well, then… I am not ever, ever, ever crossing my eyes again!” This is my older child, the one who could identify every letter of the alphabet when she was 20 months old, the child who was reading books at age four, the one who would rather research the chemical components of sand than actually put her feet in it.

My other child? The one who routinely scavenges the backyard and brings me a dead bird in her mouth? She had returned to her seat. But instead of resuming her lunch she sat there with her eyes crossed while hitting herself on the back of her head.

Obviously, if you don’t have any children you should probably go out and get some.

  • Angela

    2014/01/07 at 9:39 am

    I am utterly devastated that there’s not a video of Marlo trying this. However, the video in my head is still pretty funny.

  • Eva

    2014/01/07 at 9:46 am

    laughed the whole way through this post! The fact that Marlo is testing the theory is just too much!

  • RzDrms

    2014/01/07 at 9:49 am

    Truly, this is one of the top five funniest things I’ve ever read on the interwebz: “But instead of resuming her lunch she sat there with her eyes crossed while hitting herself on the back of her head.”

  • tmb

    2014/01/07 at 10:01 am

    Every post about Marlo I am convinced more and more that her and my son are soul mates. LOL

  • Carmen

    2014/01/07 at 10:22 am

    What a riot! My inner Marlo is alive and well. I still cross my eyes at opportune moments just to see what reactions I can get 🙂

  • maggie wilkin

    2014/01/07 at 10:31 am

    Your girls and mine are very similar. some of my younger daughter’s craziness has rubbed off on the older one, though and helped to relax her a bit, which is wonderful to see. Hopefully, Leta will have similar benefits of having Marlo for a sister.

  • lolquint

    2014/01/07 at 10:44 am

    How many free t shirts do you have from Evol burritos? We have 3, one for each kid. That is a lot of damn burritos…

  • Sue

    2014/01/07 at 11:00 am

    The last line just killed me. Still laughing as I type.

  • Christine

    2014/01/07 at 11:02 am

    I am cracking up sitting at my desk. That is exactly how my youngest (almost 5) is. I cannot stand when my girls cross their eyes either. Sends me into a tailspin.

  • issascrazyworld

    2014/01/07 at 1:05 pm

    Cannot stop laughing.
    I will say, as a person who was born cross eyed, it makes me INSANE when my children do it for kicks. I had surgery as a kid, yet when I’m over tired my eyes still cross, which as an adult is an instant headache.

  • Desiree myob

    2014/01/07 at 1:23 pm

    Best post ever! Literally laughed out loud!! Kids got to love them!

  • MandaJo

    2014/01/07 at 1:33 pm

    I kept waiting to scroll down and see a way-too-close video of one of the girls crossing their eyes. Then I got kind of nauseous and afraid, and my eyes started to feel twitchy. So apparently I also can’t stand kids crossing their eyes, and I thank you for not subjecting me to watching yours do it.

  • Penelope Luedtke

    2014/01/07 at 1:48 pm

    OMG that last paragraph made me choke on my lunch! Go M!

  • Abbey

    2014/01/07 at 2:43 pm

    Ha! That’s my youngest too Heather! I don’t know why I tell him not to do things. When I do, those things become his WILL.

  • Margie Klitch

    2014/01/07 at 2:48 pm

    I had to stop and cross my eyes while reading this, just to make sure I could still do it. :p

  • Kristin Kaminski

    2014/01/07 at 3:31 pm

    People SAY LOL a lot, but really, they don’t mean it. When you actually LAUGH OUT LOUD at a story on the computer it is memorable. I just did that. thanks!

  • Tish from Luv and Kiwi

    2014/01/07 at 5:03 pm

    LOL Oh Marlo…Marlo, Marlo…Marlo

  • Alex

    2014/01/07 at 5:49 pm

    It’s so good that you are writing these little gems down. It would be horrible to forget that priceless day. Even though it is probably an unforgettable one, so glad you aren’t risking it.

  • kmpinkel

    2014/01/07 at 8:57 pm

    Best thing I have read today. Thanks, Marlo. Keep it coming!

  • Julie

    2014/01/08 at 6:59 am

    I absolutely LOVE it when my mom’s words come out of my mouth! “If all of your friends jumped off a cliff would you do it too?” That’s one that I said for the first time to my 10 year old the other day and I almost started laughing as the words were spilling out of my mouth!

    I can also relate to your thoughts on your windows. We moved into our new house in April and we have some seriously tall south facing windows in the living room. During the spring and summer months the sun would hit me directly in the eye if I was sitting on the couch in the afternoon. I’ve noticed now in the winter months that it no longer shines there, but significantly to the right, thus sparing retinal damage. I’m a little concerned about the sunlight fading my new furniture so I’m thinking about getting some of that UV blocker stuff that you can put on windows.

  • Ivy

    2014/01/08 at 10:34 am

    You know full well that Gigi’s mom is a discombobulated, ferocious mess! So what I think you’re going to have to do is take her out on her birthday (which is in soon) fill her full of foofoo martinis and give her a stern, stern talkin’ to! 😉

  • Bonnie B.

    2014/01/08 at 11:20 am

    Okay, you finally did it. You finally made me join the commenting section because I HAD TO tell you how hard I laughed at this. You get the prize for “Children Who Couldn’t Be More Different From Each Other” and your award is in the mail.

  • Stacy

    2014/01/08 at 2:51 pm

    Yes, the freakin’ whistling! Drives me INSANE!

  • Kelly B

    2014/01/08 at 7:06 pm

    Dude she was doing SCIENCE. You had a claim with scant evidence so she was going to try it out repeatedly to see if she could replicate the results. You have two geniuses on your hands!

  • Joe

    2014/01/08 at 7:49 pm

    Ha, ha…that’s awesome! My daughter does that, too…but what is really disconcerting is that she can keep one of her eyes straight ahead and cross the other one. It gives me the shivers every time she does it…which is why she does it! Ugh…creepy!

  • Deirdre

    2014/01/09 at 7:42 am

    I actually stopped reading and crossed my eyes to see if I could see three of everything lol, yeah didnt feel so good HAHAHAHAHA

  • Tammy Clough

    2014/01/09 at 12:42 pm

    The toilet story isn’t just for children! I sent that story to my 80 year old parents who rarely get online and they loved it. They called me (their only way of communicating back) laughing after just reading it.

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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