the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The past that is our ongoing present

This post is sponsored by Target.


Marlo’s birthday is in a little over a month, and I’ve been invited on a trip that will take me out of the country for a week around that time. I’ll be here for her actual birthday, but the preparation for that particular trip is such that my schedule is going to be a little nuts and hosting a proper fifth birthday party is going to take some maneuvering. I’ll plan something, for sure, but she’s been bugging be for an Elsa party ever since my friend Rachel had us over for her Elsa party. I guess you could say that my mom is rubbing off on me a bit because, well, do you need an excuse to throw an Elsa party? I DIDN’T THINK SO.


Okay, I had something of an excuse. It’s the one I’m using if anyone accuses me of being too indulgent of my child: my sister’s three boys just celebrated their birthdays, and what more would 13-year-old twin boys and a 6’3″ tall 16-year-old Hulk want more than an Elsa party?


That 16-year-old is now allowed to date and he can brag that he’s in touch with his sensitive side. Right after he bends a steel bar and bites in in half.


I hadn’t hosted my family in awhile, and so by the time Queen Elsa arrived my living room and kitchen were filled with about 20 members of the Hamilton clan, the girls’ friends Gigi and Lola, their mother Ivy, two large pizzas, a princess cake and accoutrements for a proper princess tea party. Do not ever accuse Utah of not knowing how to throw it down.





I know. You’re thinking, where are the handmade nameplates? Where is the tie-dyed garland strung about the door? Where are the custom goodie bags filled with homemade caramels hand-wrapped in paper that I stamped with tiny crowns? I’ll tell you where that is. That’s at another house where the mother has those skills. Me? I buy the decorations. Someone else (Target) made them and I bought them. It’s that easy. (I also felt a little sorry for all the, ahem, older princesses and tried to include Snow White and Aurora and a few others where I could. They’re aging well, you have to admit. Lighting? Cosmetics? Animators?) The pizza was also made by someone else. And so was the cake. And my children did not know the difference. And I remained sane. And this did not turn into a craft blog.




In fact, one of my children (the one who begged for princess pajamas thinking they were a princess ball gown and convinced me to buy her Cinderella “glass” slippers) thought this was the best two hours of her life. And even though we threw this party not as a prize for hard work or as a celebration of some breakthrough, it was just as meaningful to witness her reaction, to watch childhood play out in front of us, to hold Marlo’s innocence in our hands for a couple of hours and relish in how it made us all feel a little less jaded and preoccupied with useless noise.









You may remember that Elsa, in addition to serenading all of us with a few songs from Frozen, is also a master of face painting. You don’t remember? Let’s refresh your memory:














I tried to convince the boys that they needed butterflies and cats painted across their cheeks and foreheads, but only one boy would agree to participate.



Do you see what a good sport this man is? He even held court over the cake and tea party. And showed up to work the following Monday having not washed it off of his face. He then worked an entire week looking like a tiger. Am I exaggerating? You would never know with him. So I’m not telling.



Also, Chuck:



Even in his own home he is a wanderer. He did find a place underneath Elsa’s legs for awhile to weather the stormy seas of GUESTS! and CHATTER! and SOMEONE IS COUGHING IN THIS ROOM! And much like Snow White, Elsa did not mind. She even had Chuck perch on her pinky finger at one point. I told her to wait until he decided to gift her a fart and then she’d soon double her asking price for families who live with moody old mutts.

Marlo’s exuberance throughout the evening was certainly the highlight of the event, but the, ahem, “crowning” moment of the night came when it was time for Elsa to depart to her castle (a home not far from where my mom lives, SHHH! DON’T TELL MARLO SHE WILL FLIIIIPPPPP).

Both my father and stepfather appeared out of nowhere to grab her bag and stool and other supplies to help her to her car. We hadn’t seen the two of them all night, and then when it was time for her to gather her things they suddenly showed up, started flexing muscles, doing burpees, performing pull-ups on the doorjamb. Both men carried all her things to her car for her, chatting her up, both of them clearing their throats the entire way. When they returned to my living room both my mother and stepmother were standing there, arms crossed, tapping their toes.

OH YES WE DID NOTICE, YOU TWO. Thought you were being sneaky. Didn’t work.

My stepfather cleared his throat but not in the same way. “Her things were really heavy,” he explained.


My father was much less subtle:


In the end? Total success. Memories galore. And that song? Is. Still. Stuck. In. My. Head.




This post is sponsored by Target. More Princesses, More Sparkle: Blur the lines of fantasy and reality with your favorite Disney princesses at Target.

  • The Absent Minded Housewife

    2014/05/13 at 8:02 am

    This is adorable. I have no daughters, and I’ve never seen Frozen, but I’m thinking of having an Elsa party just for me. It’s not even my birthday until November. Your Dad and Stepdad are invited.

  • Calm Mom Bottles

    2014/05/13 at 8:09 am

    According to my four year old son, the entire song consists of the words, “Let it Gooool let it gooooo let it gooooooo”. That’s it. Nothing else. And this was before he even saw the movie. After? Nothing changed.

    Let it gooooo let it gooooo let it goooo let it gooooooooooooooo

  • americanrecluse

    2014/05/13 at 8:28 am

    That last picture is adorable, but Tyrant is still my favorite!

  • jess crawford!

    2014/05/13 at 8:30 am

    That girl playing Elsa has absolutely killed it with the business model.

  • chelsea

    2014/05/13 at 8:45 am

    i’m with @TheAbsentMindedHousewife:disqus-tempted to hold my birthday party in utah solely so this elsa can come to it.

  • Mkates

    2014/05/13 at 8:57 am

    OMG the look on Marlo’s face in the last picture is priceless.

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    2014/05/13 at 9:21 am

    Do you want to build a snowman? 😉
    Priceless pictures, and her face painting skills are insane! Marlo’s face in the last picture perfectly captures 5 years of age. Wonderful job, mama!

  • Keri

    2014/05/13 at 9:24 am

    Heather , this made my day. And yes, maybe the lump in my throat is from my LAST of three daughters turning THIRTEEN yesterday; while the other 2 continue their jobs of 15 and 17 year olds born to this earth to drive me to the brink. I love that i don’t need to tell you to love it all up while you can; because you already are. Thanks for taking us all on the ride! keri

  • Carin Sweerman

    2014/05/13 at 9:30 am

    Very nice! What memories you’ve made for Marlo – very tres cool. Love that Tyrant played along in the fun, too. I’ve had no desire to see Frozen but after your couple posts with this Elsie person, now I do, just to hear the song lol

  • Heidi

    2014/05/13 at 9:53 am

    How fun. Marlo’s glee is apparent and does my heart good. Especially the last photo.

  • Joanna Sequeira

    2014/05/13 at 9:57 am

    I never thought I’d say the words, “I wish I was in Utah.” That Elsa looks amazing.

    And I love that Marlo is wear jammies as her ball gown!

  • Torchness

    2014/05/13 at 10:00 am

    Marlo needs to go to Disneyland, STAT. What a sweet post/party. And is that Elsa not just the poster child for LDS? She’s magnificent, and I bet even her poop smells good.

  • housepea

    2014/05/13 at 10:03 am

    That lady is awesome. I love that you did this. That last picture of Marlo is fantastic. I have this crazy, wide eyed look in pictures sometimes and her look is pretty much exactly the same. Love it. 🙂

  • Heidi

    2014/05/13 at 10:35 am

    Also, the picture of Leta and your mom is about perfection. One the three of you can treasure. Gorgeous.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:36 am

    She’s got three kids, two of them are twins. There is nothing she can’t do.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:36 am

    Isn’t that a great one? I’ve already printed it out and have it next to my computer.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:37 am

    Glad you are joining the ride! Don’t tell me about them growing up, I’m going to stick my fingers in my ears. I won’t be able to handle it. The look on her face in that last photo? I want her like this forever.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:38 am

    I do. I do want to build a snowman. (Thank you!)

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:39 am

    Seriously. Especially in this state where there are more kids than in the entire Eastern Hemisphere.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 10:40 am

    You really should do it. It’s spectacular. And I’ll send the old men your way.

  • Stephanie Brower Czosnek

    2014/05/13 at 12:11 pm

    Tearing up here. Really, you’ve captured everything right here. It’s all about stepping back, finding that moment where you look at your kids and take delight in their delight. Just to be an observer of their world. It’s amazing.

  • KC

    2014/05/13 at 12:33 pm

    I can feel the joy that Marlo is emitting through my computer screen! These pictures made me smile :-).

  • Michelle Holcomb Joiner

    2014/05/13 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you, Heather, for what you do. Like everyone else I get overwhelmed with stress (I have two sons – one is severely autistic) and coming here to read, laugh, cry, learn…well, it helps a lot. It gives me hope that one day things will be okay. Or at least I’ll learn how to be everything I need to be while also being ME. Gross, that rhymed. Ugh. Anyway, I love it here, and thank you, from one Southern girl to another.

  • kmpinkel

    2014/05/13 at 12:50 pm

    How much would it cost to fly her and Tyrant to Michigan for a party? They would make a great team!

  • Nicole B.

    2014/05/13 at 1:26 pm

    I’m just glad you took so many pictures. I can’t figure out if I have a crush on Elsa or am just hardcore lusting over her hair. Is it a wig? Is she single? How many bobby pins? Is she into ladies? Heh heh heh just kidding, kind of.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/13 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. That’s exactly what I try to do here, provide some distraction and at times an outstretched hand. Things will be okay. I believe in that thinking. Much love from this Southerner to you.

  • Michelle Holcomb Joiner

    2014/05/13 at 2:46 pm

    And now I get to geek out over getting a response. Consider my day made. 🙂

  • Mommiebear2

    2014/05/13 at 3:50 pm

    That last picture – Marlo’s face says it all! 🙂

  • Christina

    2014/05/13 at 6:25 pm

    This made me long for the days when my daughter was five…although she’s 23 now and would probably geek out just as hard at this party! Love it so much 🙂

  • Debbie in Memphis

    2014/05/13 at 8:43 pm

    This looks like the best birthday party any 5 year old could wish for. But I have to admit that the thing that really catches my heart is that both your parents and step-parents are able to attend these events. These are the greatest gifts your girls and their cousins could ever hope for!

  • Steena

    2014/05/13 at 9:27 pm

    LOL i’m so glad you mentioned her hair because i stared at my screen for an unnatural amount of time before i got to the comments trying to figure out what the magic up there is. Sadly, i think it’s just an impressive wig.

  • Ana

    2014/05/14 at 8:16 am

    Have you seen the movie Frances Ha? Greta Gerwig’s character reminds me of a grown up Marlo. Dance moves and all.

  • Willow

    2014/05/14 at 10:06 am

    As someone who just got up close and personal with this wonderful Elsa, it’s mostly a hair peice, but her own hair in front that matches it perfectly. Her voice is also immaculate

  • Nicole B.

    2014/05/14 at 10:43 am

    Sadly? Giiiiirl that means you could just plop that thing on top of your head & be ready for the day! That’s even better than taking 20 minutes to try to sculpt a head of frizz into a gorgeous Norwegian hairdo.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/05/14 at 11:56 am

    My mother and father have been very close friends since just days after their divorce. My siblings and I always came first, and I cannot express what a wonderful gift it has been to experience events like this with everyone involved.

  • BCIslandMom

    2014/05/14 at 12:00 pm

    My 13 year old still has that last expression on her face in most photos. Alas, they are posted to her Instagram feed but she continues to live life out loud. ALL DAY, EVERY DAY! it’s a wild ride.

  • amydill

    2014/05/14 at 3:09 pm

    The party looks great. Your kids are just the cutest and your photography is always fantastic. But…what I really need to know is where you got that kitchen table and chairs. Sorry for the off-topic comment; this has become a real problem for me. In the middle of a serious Downton Abbey moment, or some tense situation on Homeland, I’ll be like “Where did they get that rug?!” or “How did a crazy CIA agent find time to hang artwork?” But really, I love them.

  • D J H

    2014/05/14 at 6:03 pm

    That is the most Marlo picture that Marlo has ever been in. I adore it.

  • Beffgus

    2014/05/15 at 7:30 am

    OMG Marlo’s face in that last shot is perfection.

  • Jeanette

    2014/05/15 at 8:20 am

    Gah! Marlo’s face in that last picture…totally worth it all. If only we had as good an Elsa here in Virginia.

  • Andrea

    2014/05/15 at 9:16 am

    I was thinking the same thing how great it is that your parents and step parents can be together!! That’s what counts. How the children and grandchildren come first and sometimes birth parents are better off as friends than couples. What an amazing family you have and I LOVE these photos, so fun. I will not let me daughter see these though!

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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