the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A somewhat theatrical start to the next ten months

Despite the fact that both girls are attending the same school this year—TANGENT FORTHCOMING: one drop off? One pickup? Just one? ONE?! What… I mean… like… I just… In the days leading up to the beginning of the school year I daydreamed about what I would do with that extra time. I know it’s not a block of three straight hours, but when the most significant deficit in your day is time, 25-35 minutes is a lot. Do you have any idea what you could do with 25 minutes? You people who do not have kids or dogs, sorry, but your imagination is not nearly as evocative as those of us who do when it comes to this specific question. Put down your handcuffs and stilettos. Because in 25 minutes we could fly to Tahiti, take a detour to the moon, grab a tulip from a field in the Netherlands, and get back home with at least three minutes to spare. It’s a scientific fact.

I thought maybe I’d drop them both off and then use that extra time to park my car, hop out and make snow angels in the grass along the sidewalk. Sure, there’s no snow on the ground now, but shhh! That is just a technicality. It would be symbolic. A return to youth when time was not even a concept except in terms of measuring boredom.

“I have had nothing to do for ten minutes and life is awful.”

For some reason I do not understand why Leta started a week before Marlo did. I’m sure there is a good reason, and even if there isn’t I am in no position to argue with anyone. My kids attend one of he best public schools in the city, and I know enough teachers to understand that there are budgets and meetings and all sorts of things that have to get approval. Entire movies and whole seasons of television shows have been dedicated to dissecting this process in education, and my role in it is to make sure that I’m involved enough in their schoolwork to help them learn and excel as much as they can. And to roll down my window, lean out as far as I can and scream “WHO IS MY SUGAR BOOGER? WHO? WHO?” as my fifth grader walks toward the front door.

It gives her something to think about during those ten minutes when she has nothing to do.

On Leta’s first day of school we had a pretty calm morning because I had done a lot of preparation beforehand. The night before I had packed her lunch and inspected her backpack to make sure that she had all her supplies. I even helped her pick out what she’d wear and how we’d do her hair. I know I’ve said this before, but do you have any idea how much I want to play with her hair? When I was a kid I wanted to grow up and have a daughter specifically so that I could braid her hair and curl it and pin it up in a bun. We’d spend hours playing with curlers and hair dryers. I really didn’t consider any other aspects of parenthood like, you know, strings of sleepless nights and diapers and vomit and, you know, the possibility that my daughter might not want anyone to touch her hair.


Rarely does Leta let me do anything with her hair, so her first day of school was my Christmas. She let me curl it and style those curls with several different products. And then I got to move a few strands here and there, and I know that the word “squee” is one of those words people are so tired of hearing, so tired that they have written missives on the internet chastising anyone who dare type it. Guess what, those people? SQAAAAHHHH-WEEEEEEEE.

My heart squee’ed. It’s just that simple and beautiful and perfect.

Squee squee squee squee squee.



Marlo was very excited for Leta, and as we all climbed into the car together she rattled off everything she could think to say about the playground and her teacher and how beautiful Leta looked. In the middle of her monologue I realized I had left my sunglasses on the countertop in the kitchen and quickly ran inside to retrieve them. As I took a step back into the garage I grabbed the door behind me to shut it not realizing how quickly it was coming at me, and suddenly I lost my eyesight for two seconds. Pain filled my entire body and began to expand like an inflating balloon. I didn’t know what was going on as an ugly, involuntary groan erupted from my face.

The noise I was making was worse than getting trapped in an elevator with a whistler.

I finally located the source of the pain in the middle finger of my left hand. It had gotten caught in between the door and the the doorjamb, and the resulting half-inch gash was spilling blood onto the floor. I almost sliced the top of that finger completely off.

Here’s the thing. Are you ready for the thing? Because this just makes no sense to me. Or at least it didn’t until someone explained it to me. THE THING: I have given birth to an eight-pound baby without drugs. I have run a marathon. I was once forced to listen to modern country music. I have and continue to live in Utah. I KNOW PHYSICAL PAIN.

I have endured some pretty awful, terrible, ongoing trauma. But this? This pain was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was different. It was what I imagine it must feel like to get struck by lightning and live to tell about it. When I was relaying this story to a friend she explained that fingers and toes contain some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body and provide the richest source of tactile feedback. Which is why when you stub your toe you involuntarily break every single one of the Ten Commandments in the two minutes that follow.

Leta hopped out of the car and came over to figure out what was going on. Later she would explain that she thought I was yelling at the dogs to get back in the house which is kind of funny given that whatever noise was shooting out of my mouth had scared both dogs inside. When she asked me what was wrong, the pain muffled my ability to pronounce words. Finger come out and “shfingah” and door came out as “muuuuaaahgggghhhrrrrrrr.”

I knew she wanted to be a little early to school and at that point we were cutting it close, so the part of my brain trained to deal with extreme physical pain kicked in. I pointed toward the car to indicate that she could get back in now, and when I got to the driver’s seat I grabbed a receipt for gas sitting in a cup holder and wrapped it tightly around the wound. A receipt. For gas. For 10 gallons at $3.47/gallon.

Could I have walked inside and grabbed something more helpful, say, a bandaid or even a paper towel. NO. NO I COULD NOT. We would be early, so help me god, and from now until forever I will always press “yes” when asked if I want a receipt after pumping gas. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.

Except now you do.

Watch your fingers and toes, the school year has begun.

  • Yoga Mom

    2014/09/03 at 12:02 pm

    That hurt simply to read. Cheers to another year.

  • SmithShack71

    2014/09/03 at 12:04 pm

    Dammit. We moms have the power to become super human, and it’s usually without even trying. Sorry about the finger. Both your girls are lovely. And the extra 25 minutes means every fucking thing.

  • MT2SLC

    2014/09/03 at 12:07 pm

    I recently produced a spur of the moment Band-Aid for a young stranger. She had to be in the 22-25yrs old range. She was absolutely astounded that I had band-aids IN MY PURSE. I was like, “Girl, when you’re a Mom, you’ll be able to treat wounds, create a spontaneous Halloween costume, and whip up a Thanksgiving feast just from the contents of your purse”. You just wait….

  • Nicole Morgan

    2014/09/03 at 12:08 pm

    Love the outfit … btw, had the pleasure of her company at Family Forward this weekend … she is quite the ham!

  • Amy G

    2014/09/03 at 12:09 pm

    25 whole minutes?!! I’d settle for 15 minutes alone in the bathroom. I’m not joking or being sarcastic in any way when I say that.

  • Vicky

    2014/09/03 at 12:10 pm

    Back in 1992, I fell in the shower and cut my knee wide open (broke the tile in the tub!) on the morning of my first day of college. My husband wanted to rush me to emergency, but I’d been told that they would withdraw me from all of my classes if I missed the first day, so I (scotch) taped some tissues over the wound and went to class. I didn’t know that someone’s eyes could roll so far back in their head until my professor saw the blood spilling through my pants and I explained the situation. She sent me to the school infirmary to get stitched up…but I WASN’T LATE and I DIDN’T miss the first day of classes! I know your pain, Heather, and the need to follow life’s rules regarding timeliness. Hope your finger heals soon.

  • crooked teeth

    2014/09/03 at 12:43 pm

    Last week I stubbed my (sandaled) toe while walking my daughter to her first day of first grade. The skin completely came off, leaving a bloody, raw circle of toe meat. But nothing was going to stop this momma! I know it’s been said before, and it kinda offensive, but if that (or your accident) had happened to my boyfriend, he’d check himself into the ICU.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/03 at 1:07 pm

    Oh my god, that is exactly something I would have done, and had the professor sent me to the infirmary to get stitched up I would have been like YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I have to be here! I WILL WIN THIS.

  • Anamaria

    2014/09/03 at 1:07 pm

    Heather, you don’t know me, but from here behind my computer screen I have read about the parts of your life you’ve shared with us and I’ve rooted for you and cried with you and experienced a whole gamut of emotions I never thought I would feel for a stranger. Today, looking at Leta’s photo I teared up and felt so happy for you and imagined how proud you must be of her.

    Thanks for everything you do. My world is a better place for having you in it.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/03 at 1:11 pm

    I know firsthand that you are not joking or being sarcastic. There are times when I beg for two minutes to pee alone, just two minutes, kid, that’s all I’m asking.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/03 at 1:11 pm

    She had so much fun! And yes, her personality is not one of a wallflower.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/09/03 at 1:17 pm

    When I first started reading this comment I got a little anxious because a lot of people who come here to tell me that they are SO DONE begin with, listen, I have rooted for you and I’ve been reading for a long time. But then when I finished reading it I just started bawling. Proud, yes, I am so proud of her. A little wistful at how fast she is growing. So much emotion is tied up in these milestones.

    Thank you so much for sharing that with me. That really made my day.

  • Anamaria

    2014/09/03 at 1:23 pm

    So many times you’ve made me cry…I’m happy to return the favor 😉

  • Nicole S.

    2014/09/03 at 1:28 pm

    My girls started fifth grade and kindergarten this year. Dropping them both off and picking them up in the same place has been amazing, so I know exactly how you are feeling….minus that whole finger thing. It’s the little things that makes us mothers happy.

  • mjbutah

    2014/09/03 at 2:29 pm

    I told my kids on a daily basis “See this door? This bathroom door? When this is closed, I can not hear you. I can not see you, or help you with anything. Don’t even bother unless you are on fire trying to contact me through this door.”
    It worked better in my head than it did in practice but at least they hesitated.

  • Kim's Kitchen Sink

    2014/09/03 at 2:44 pm

    And now your comment has made me cry. Because yes, samesies.

  • twohotpotatoes

    2014/09/03 at 3:22 pm

    5th grade fashionista! Love that dress. I adhere to a “mostly stripes” wardrobe, and I find fellow “stripe lovers” to be good people. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty solid indicator.

  • Diana

    2014/09/03 at 3:32 pm

    In high school I put my arm through a window — we really needn’t discuss the hows and whys, I just did. I taped a folded up paper towel over it and went to school, upon arriving my boyfriend saw the blood that had soaked through to my sweater sleeve, insisted on looking at the wound and then promptly forced me into his car, drove me to my mother at work, went inside and brought my mother out to me (because I refused to participate in any of this nonsense) at which time they both took me to the hospital and regaled the hilarious (to them) story of how I thought I could just go to school all day while the doctor stitched it up. I still have a two-inch scar. I totally get this.

  • SnapHappyGirl

    2014/09/03 at 3:33 pm

    Oh I feel your pain…similar situation with finally sending my last child off to school-ALL DAY no less. I thought that finally I could do what I have always wanted to do when I sent that last child off to school- lay in my pool, on a raft and do NOTHING…as I lowered myself on to my glorious raft on that beautiful warm SoCal day, little did I know that a flipping wasp was going to ruin the hell out of that moment. Arm down and BAM- the little wasp stung me. I have severe reactions to those types of insects and here I was all by myself with no one to SAVE me! HA- I ran around my house wildly yelling to NOBODY- “Help I just got stung by a wasp!” I had to call 911 for help. I spent that lovely first day freaking out that I was going to die and no one would find me until they got home and it would ruin my kids first day of school.
    BTW: Leta looked amazing on her first day…she is growing into a lovely young lady. Good job Mom!

  • RzDrms

    2014/09/03 at 3:58 pm

    While wearing what is now probably called a hooker skirt and my black nylons, I once ironically got the heel of one of my pointy black pumps stuck in the “no-slip” grooves hurrying down some stairs in college while rushing to give an Extremely Important Presentation. I fell *forward* and gashed my knee down onto a lower stair, causing a walk-of-shame type of tear in the ‘hose and a ton of blood. I randomly had a new pack of nude pantyhose in my car (?!), so I put those on for my presentation, still shaking and with a bloodied, smoooshed-down kneecap. Classssssy.

    I’ve read some funny stuff on your website – like when Marlo far-reeeeked out at the autoflush toilet – but I really giggled out loud at the “For 10 gallons at $3.47/gallon” sentence. 🙂

  • Keri

    2014/09/03 at 4:21 pm

    My kids are in school together finally (preschool and first grade), so I know how you feel. Congrats! When my son was an infant I sliced my scalp open on the glass door of the medicine cabinet. I had to get a newsletter out that morning, so I went in to the office with bloody hair. It was my first few weeks back after maternity leave, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. My boss (a mom herself) took one look at me and sent me home. A few staples and an afternoon at home, and I was okay again. Hope your finger is feeling better 🙂

  • foundmercy

    2014/09/03 at 4:38 pm

    Hahaha, mothers! WE SHALL NOT BE LATE, Amen.

  • lizcrewzn

    2014/09/03 at 5:52 pm

    This is amazing. The whole thing. When I dropped my 3.5 year old and 11 month old off at preschool this morning (only 3.5 hours for the older and a HALF DAY for the younger), it was all I could do to keep myself from throwing up both my arms in victory as I bolted out of that school. In the one hour and 38 minutes I had when I wasn’t driving to and from pick-up I cleaned my kitchen, put away 300 toys and books, went to the dry cleaners, made a return at Lowe’s and took laundry to be cleaned (yeah I did). Alone time is a miracle.

  • lizcrewzn

    2014/09/03 at 5:58 pm

    Also…your Grade K post… she’s the most precious thing and I LOVE your “who’s on your team?” line. I’m stealing that one. Thank you! 🙂

  • joanlvh

    2014/09/03 at 6:27 pm

    I have had the same injury, finger between door and jam, Ouch and double ouch, thought I would faint and I have never fainted!! I did not know I had survived a pain worse than childbirth without
    medication, I think I am kind of pround of myself now!!

  • Cassie Sue

    2014/09/03 at 6:35 pm

    My son just did the same thing to his finger, AND fractured the tip of it. So we spent 5 hours in the emergency room on Father’s Day. SO. MUCH. FUN. NOT!!

  • Heather Wilson

    2014/09/03 at 6:47 pm

    Leta’s hair looked beautiful! So sorry to hear about your finger. Enjoy the extra time in the morning on all the other days of the school year!

  • Teal

    2014/09/03 at 7:30 pm

    I know I shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s pain, but “shfingah”cracked me up! Did you have to get stitches?

  • Tracie

    2014/09/04 at 5:50 am

    Feel bad for laughing. Your poor fingey.

  • Tiffany Palella Cronin

    2014/09/04 at 8:32 am

    I have enjoyed watching Leta since she was a baby and have followed you since before then. I can not believe how grown up she looks. I felt tears sting my eyes when I saw this picture of her, she’s growing up and coming into her own. As much as she may not like you touching her hair, I’m sure the extra attention on that morning made her feel special and loved. Before long, she’ll be asking you to curl her hair for parties and special occasions and I hope you remember the joy you felt at this moment rather than thinking, “ugh, again.” I’m 35 and I still ask my mom to do my makeup for special occasions and she says nothing makes her happier. I cannot wait to share that with my own daughter (who also doesn’t let me touch her hair, put cute bows in, or even brush it).
    As for your finger, you did what only another mother could possiblly understand. Mother of the year award to you!!

  • Noelle Swafford Buttry

    2014/09/04 at 10:44 am

    I was sure you were going to pass out. I would have.

  • Anna

    2014/09/04 at 11:00 am

    I have slammed my finger in a door twice. Both times, I literally fainted from the pain. I could not imagine driving so soon afterwards – that’s commitment 🙂

  • Meg

    2014/09/04 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve suffered from horrible migraines and debilitating cramps for years (decades) but NOTHING compares to the pain of breaking my toe. (The trauma from the break caused arthritis in that joint, so, you know, eternal pain in one digit because WHY.) It really is astounding how fingers and toes result in excruciating pain when they are such small portions of the body.

  • emma

    2014/09/04 at 11:09 pm

    aw, dude. on Mother’s Day I dropped my daughter’s full water bottle on my middle toe and like you said, natural childbirth/big baby/not generally a wuss. but uh oh that shit was legit. I kept moaning “why does it feel like it’s still happening?! why?!!!!”. I took some Tylenol or something and then some more and after an hour of writhing in pain (while my family ate Mother’s Day brunch) I finally took my husbands suggestion and had a shot of whiskey. at like 9:30 in the morning. it totally worked. but damn, I’d still call that the most painful thing I’ve ever endured.

    p.s. I accidentally dropped another full bottle of something or other on my dog’s foot recently and the look she have me combined

  • emma

    2014/09/04 at 11:10 pm

    with the immediate full body quiver sent me into a guilt filled flashback.

  • twocharacters

    2014/09/05 at 9:22 am

    I’m pretty sure she looks more stylish than I’ve ever looked.

  • Bdub

    2014/09/05 at 1:31 pm

    My son is 10, plays the piano, and seems to have a similar personality to Leta. It makes me so happy to read about her accomplishments and about her making friends. My son still struggles socially to connect with other kids because he would rather be reading a book! Leta gives me hope that one day he will come out of his shell also. You are doing a fabulous job!!

  • Beth

    2014/09/05 at 3:09 pm

    First: Your daughter is a knockout. What a sweetie pie!
    Second: I’m pretty sure we need to see a picture of your finger. 😉

  • Angela

    2014/09/05 at 3:59 pm

    I am still laughing at toe meat.

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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