the smell of my desperation has become a stench

And the scores are in

Yesterday as Leta sat down at the piano to practice (there is no rest for the weary!) she turned to me and asked if I had heard from her teacher about the scores from Federation. I then remembered her teacher saying that they would be out by Wednesday afternoon, and yeah. As if playing in front of three judges and two strange families isn’t nerve-racking enough, kids have to wait five days to find out what those judges thought. When Leta expressed that this wasn’t fair I said that this kind of torture was to prepare children for the future when they are all captured by terrorists.

Whenever Leta finishes one of these events I don’t like to talk about scores and have been very vigilant about letting her know that whatever the judges think doesn’t mean nearly as much as what she thinks of her own performance. Yes, what they think means something since we’re going through the trouble of paying for lessons, driving to and from those lessons, and practicing hundreds of hours a year. But ultimately, what they have to say is a piece of paper. It’s motivation, yes, but a piece of paper. What she knows about her performance is so much bigger. It is now a part of her soul.

And her butt.

I told her to start practicing her scale while I texted her teacher and asked if scores were in. As vigilant as I am about deemphasizing the importance of what the judges think, my gut immediately did four backflips. My palms got sweaty. There I was, an awkward and gangly fifth grader sitting with forty other fifth graders waiting to hear who would take home first place in the West Tennessee 4-H Speech Contest, my heart beating so loud that the rhythm of it in my ears was drowning out all other sound. So I ended the text with the “nervous” emoji face.

Hi, Leta’s teacher! I’m 38 years old and use emojis. My most recently used ones? Hands clapping, a snowflake, and 19 instances of the smiling poop.

Leta had moved on to what is called Dozen a Day, a series of books with short warm-up exercises, when her teacher texted back. Leta heard the text message on my phone and stopped cold. I looked down to see her teacher’s name on my phone and took a deep breath.

It said:

“Superior! From all three judges!”

I read it to myself first and then called Leta over to where I was sitting.

“JUST READ IT TO ME!” she screamed.

“No, I want you to read it yourself,” I said. She hopped next to me, grabbed my phone and read it silently, her mouth moving to every word.


“I’m pretty sure she’s serious. Your teacher is not the type of person who would regularly go onto a family website and make frequent jokes about her butt.”

“CAN WE CALL GRANDMOMMY?!” My ear drums wish I was exaggerating the all caps. I told her to go grab the land line (what? I live in a cellular black hole where phone calls routinely drop and if the President ever wants to call and chat about the new Arcade Fire Album I AM TAKING NO CHANCES).

I dialed my mother’s number, and when she picked up I let out a theatrical sigh. “Hey,” I said as forlornly as I could.

“You don’t sound good,” she said.

“I’m not. I’ve got some bad news.”

“Why? What happened?” She was struck with concern.

I handed Leta the phone. She put her hand over the receiver and mouthed to me BUT IT’S NOT BAD NEWS, MOM. I mouthed back DUH.


“Leta? What’s wrong?!”


That noise you heard yesterday afternoon was my mother screaming. That in turn made Leta start screaming and the only reason my hearing is intact is because my mother quickly stopped to tell Leta to call me a turd.






Is it nice that she scored so well? Of course it is. It’s fabulous. I am so proud as is she. It reinforces and validates what she already knew. Reminds me of what it felt like to win that speech contest.

  • chelsea

    2014/02/27 at 3:06 pm

    love this! well done leta-what a baller. i wish i could play the piano like a badass, perhaps one day. i also love that the scoring was ‘superior!’ we should all start incorporating that into our language more often.

  • SmithShack71

    2014/02/27 at 3:08 pm

    Well, I’m sitting here just grinning like an idiot.
    Well done, Leta!

  • fourandsixteen

    2014/02/27 at 3:09 pm

    My biggest takeaway from this is that her first thought was to call her grandmother. I love that. What a huge blessing to have family close by and to be so involved! And, of course, huge congrats to Leta!

  • Guest

    2014/02/27 at 3:09 pm

    Woot Leta!

  • Michellers

    2014/02/27 at 3:09 pm

    Woot, Leta!

  • jess crawford!

    2014/02/27 at 3:09 pm

    I am a total stranger (though not a stranger to the blog) but I am SO PROUD of her!!

    Also, I want you to know that as far as I can recall, the Dozen A Day cover hasn’t changed in … let’s see … 25 years. Except I think mine was green. (OMG.)

  • tmb

    2014/02/27 at 3:10 pm

    *applause* well done!

  • Anu

    2014/02/27 at 3:19 pm

    Yaaay!! Congratulations Leta!!! So happy for you guys 🙂

  • Marie

    2014/02/27 at 3:30 pm

    Congratulations to Leta! Well earned, well deserved. She looks like a rock star in that photo with Marlo and the photo on the steps. Seriously.

  • Marie

    2014/02/27 at 3:31 pm

    Oh, also? Heather – the black and white photo of the two of you in the car….beautiful. I think that may be the only photo I have seen with you smiling and showing your teeth. Good to know you have some! You are beautiful! Smile big more often!

  • Carla

    2014/02/27 at 3:40 pm

    But what the heck is Federation and why is it capitalized? What does this mean? Who are the judges? Does she get an award? Is she now allowed to play PG-rated music?

    And can she sing? Because I think you may have yourself a Tori Amos in the works.

  • Heidi

    2014/02/27 at 3:41 pm

    So happy for Leta! But the best part of the post? That photo in the car – the one with your beautiful, genuine smile. Wins all around!

  • Karla Jackson

    2014/02/27 at 3:44 pm

    Yay, Leta!

  • Marley Jakel Morgan Croy

    2014/02/27 at 3:51 pm

    Congratulations on being recognized for your perseverance and practice. Great job!

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    2014/02/27 at 3:55 pm

    So wonderful for Leta!

  • Angela

    2014/02/27 at 3:58 pm

    I want to insert a hands clapping emoji but no such luck. Way to go, Leta!!!! I adore the pics and especially the one with Marlo on Leta’s lap. They are beautiful!

  • Nicole

    2014/02/27 at 3:58 pm

    Leta has the most beautiful eyes.

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2014/02/27 at 4:10 pm

    Did this make me cry? No, of course not.

    Except yes it did.

  • Nancy B.

    2014/02/27 at 4:13 pm

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing this great news. Way to go, Leta!

  • Jeanie

    2014/02/27 at 4:40 pm

    That is awesome! Congratulations, Leta!!

  • kaptaink

    2014/02/27 at 4:46 pm

    You are smiling in that photo!!!!! For me, that pretty much trumped all the other good news in this post. Nice to see you smile.

  • JudithNYC

    2014/02/27 at 5:12 pm

    OMG, woman I don’t think I had ever seen your teeth!

  • Esther

    2014/02/27 at 5:46 pm

    I love that your mother tells your daughter to call you a turd. 🙂 Congrats, Leta!

  • KathyB

    2014/02/27 at 6:50 pm

    Congratulations to Leta! Well done. And it is in her genes to compete at a high level. Much easier on the psyche to love to win than hate to lose 🙂 Pictures are great. The girls are getting those mile long legs. Envious, truly envious.

  • Alexsulliv

    2014/02/27 at 7:14 pm

    Love the judges, your hair, the black and white photo and you keeping on her to continue to practice! Congrats Leta! Well deserved!

  • Frando Cartinus

    2014/02/27 at 8:50 pm

    hy kim why you cry..?
    i’m here for you.. don’t be sad again oke

  • Teal

    2014/02/27 at 9:23 pm

    Is it weird that I want Leta’s green dress, and Marlo’s heart sweatshirt in my adult size? No? Good. Congrats, Leta! You’re growing up so fast!

  • Heather

    2014/02/28 at 4:21 am

    Gorgeous! All of you! Well done, Leta!

  • Lara

    2014/02/28 at 9:07 am

    Oh, I remember Dozen A Day so well! As someone who was forced to practice piano by her own mother for 45 minutes a day for eight years (in high school I turned my focus to flute and tenor sax in marching, concert and jazz band and it was decided I would stop lessons), I say: keep encouraging (forcing) her! Although I don’t play much any more, I am so thankful for the gift of musical knowledge. I entertained my college dorm-mates with renditions of “November Rain” on the lobby piano, and my first piano has moved with me three times.

  • shanparker

    2014/02/28 at 11:13 am

    Congrats Leta!!

  • Breanne

    2014/02/28 at 12:13 pm

    Congratulations Leta!

  • jenstamper

    2014/02/28 at 12:17 pm

    Congratulations to Leta!!

  • Katybeth

    2014/03/01 at 11:46 am

    Wonderful that Leta knew that she nailed it the judges had their heads in the right place and not up….never mind, Congratulation Dooce family!

  • Jeanne

    2014/03/02 at 11:15 am

    Practice pays off…..fantastic job Leta!! Keep up the good work. I took lessons for two years and can’t play…boohoo. I LOVE listening to the piano and only wish I had your gift. Enjoy it!! xo

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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