the smell of my desperation has become a stench

In celebration of embracing change

This post is brought to you by Target.


Last week I planned a back-to-school party with tons of supplies for the girls, something to show them that I recognize how hard they’ve worked to transition into new grades and classes and routines. I invited Lola and Gigi, the usual cast of girls who are in and out of this house, and Marlo’s new friend Jonah, The Magical Miracle Worker. Jonah’s mother Kelsey gladly accepted the request along with Jonah’s two-year-old little sister, but when I told Marlo that they were coming I had to shove her eyes back into their sockets because they had popped out and rolled onto the floor.


She continued to be a little nervous about it right up until they knocked on the door. She acted shy for all of three seconds and then took him by the hand and announced, “Come with me. I need to show you everything.”

She then proceeded to give him a tour of the house complete with a detailed oral history, and apparently they snuck off and got married while doing so. Phew! That’s a wedding I don’t have to pay for! Sure, they’re young and know nothing whatsoever about balancing a checkbook or how to read words. But those are just minor details.



I’d set out some hors d’oeuvres on a tablecloth with dinner plates from Target for all the guests including our frequent babysitter Kelli: crackers, pretzels and more crackers. What? You make your kids tiny, handmade cheese sandwiches and line stalks of celery with a dip you made from scratch? I admire you and your handiwork. Me? I prefer things that I can pour directly out of a box because laziness.




Marlo demanded to sit next to her husband while everyone dined on snacks, and when she placed the festive cat ears on top of his head he resisted.

He explained, “My doctor said I’m not allowed to wear anything but dog ears. No cat ears.”

That’s quite a medical condition, Jonah. I’d be afraid to google that and see pictures of the side effects. Perhaps photos of children involuntarily mewing? Videos of kids chasing lasers? Children bopping other children on the nose?









After snacks we headed outside for the main event in the front yard that was being set in place by our resident nature enthusiast Dane:




Yes, he’s using very expensive and technical repelling equipment to hang a piñata from a tree. Couldn’t he just tie it with some string to a low-hanging branch? Let’s just say that this is Dane’s interpretation of tiny, handmade cheese sandwiches. I asked him to hang a piñata and HE WAS GOING TO HANG THAT PIÑATA. I suggest that you do not try this at home unless, like him, you are actually getting a Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

It took a bit of wrangling to hang it from the right branch, and Marlo, very eager to take out her attitude on that box, cupped her hands around her mouth and screamed up toward the tree, “Dane! You can do this! I believe in you!”

Well, how sweet was that? And coming from someone who routinely walks into walls, he could certainly trust in her expertise.


She then turned around to everyone and yelled, “I am going to swack that thing so hard!”

“Wait,” said Kelli scratching her head. “Is that a word? Swack? Swack?

“Of course it is,” I blurted. “Swack. It’s when you swing at something really hard.” I actually believed the words coming out of my mouth.

Kelsey let out a little giggle. “I think maybe she’s combining ‘swing’ and ‘whack’ into one word?”

My face flushed immediately. She was right. You guys, how many times have I made the College of Humanities at Brigham Young University so proud? SO MANY TIMES.

Marlo was first in line to have a swack at the piñata, and because I don’t own a bat we had to find another weapon. You’d think that I’d have gone out and bought a bat after Coco interrupted some deranged teen trying to break into my garage. A bat, perhaps a bow and arrow, maybe an uzi. Definitely a tank that I’d park next to the mailbox. But I haven’t procured any of those things, so if I ever see that teen again I will swack him so hard on the wrist with a ruler.


We searched and searched for a large stick when suddenly Tyrant walked out with the long handle that attaches to the pooper scooper. I get the distinct feeling that my Southern heritage and approach to life is slowly rubbing off on him. The next time he throws a party I bet he serves pretzels in a cereal bowl.


Marlo took blind aim at the piñata and swacked it so hard the first time that she broke the pooper scooper handle in half. I am not even kidding:



No big deal, it was still long enough to serve its purpose, and all the kids took turns swacking at it. If I type that word enough times I just know that it will find its way into the dictionary. AND THEN I WILL BE RIGHT.







When it came time for Marlo to have another turn, she gripped that broken pooper scooper handle, perched her body like a professional baseball player and swacked the piñata so hard that she punched a hole in the cardboard. She also swacked it so hard that she broke the pooper scooper handle in half YET AGAIN:


I looked at Kelli who has shared in enduring Marlo’s complaints about everything being so hard, everything like having to walk or having to lift her fork to her mouth, and she looked at me.

“Maybe I should bring this up next time she says her backpack is too heavy,” Kelli said. I told her I’d keep the broken pieces in a box and she could just point at it.


After a few more swacks from the other kids the candy went flying, and everyone scrambled and assembled collections of brightly wrapped sugar.








I let them all indulge in a few pieces of candy, but not too many because the main course was up next. When preparing for this little get together I gave both my kids credit for working so hard on homework and keeping track of lunch boxes and folders and everything that needs a parent’s signature. And by “giving them credit” I mean “I bought them an ice cream cake.”


Once again Marlo’s eyeballs plopped out of her skull.

“IMAGINE NOT HAVING TO EAT DINNER! IMAGINE NOT HAVING TO EAT DINNER!” she squealed. Yep! That’s right. Dessert that does not require eating anything containing nutritional value beforehand. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that when she’s an adult and in charge of her own meals, she will have the opportunity to do this every single day.


The party settled down as everyone had cake and filtered out and around the house to eat candy. Kids talked about school and video games, and the adults exchanged stories about potty training and all the food containing nutritional value that the kids refuse to eat. Oh, and those heavy, awful backpacks that are so hard to carry around. Good thing we have a broken pooper scooper handle to keep that in check.





You’ll never guess what Marlo slept with that night and carried around for two straight days.



This post is brought to you by Target. Get More Cuuuute with Hello Kitty at Target.

  • dc

    2014/10/09 at 8:00 am

    so cool.

  • Kate G

    2014/10/09 at 8:04 am

    Your 5 year old and my 5 year old must never ever meet or they will be running the world by the end of the day. Also, “swack” is totally a word. And I am not from the South.

  • Kristan

    2014/10/09 at 8:10 am

    Oh man, this post (a) is adorable, and (b) brought me waaaay back to the very first birthday party I ever attended with a piñata, and how damned determined each of us was that WE would be the one to crack it open.

  • Beth Rich

    2014/10/09 at 8:16 am

    Of course swack is a word. It’s the opposite (or the synonym) of “smack.”

  • tkayuk

    2014/10/09 at 8:18 am

    Yep, swack is a word. I’m getting a PhD in creative writing and I say so. SO THERE.

  • Alma

    2014/10/09 at 8:46 am

    I really liked reading this, and when I got to the picture of Marlo with the pinata I burst out laughing! Haha, of course!

  • Erin Watwood

    2014/10/09 at 9:36 am

    SWACK! Love this story! Is it strange that 3 month old son has the same pjs as Marlo? I’m obsessed with cat clothes, but there is a shortage of cat shirts/pants for boys! So, I bought him these pjs at Costco and said screw it! 🙂

  • jess crawford!

    2014/10/09 at 10:09 am

    Marlo is rocking that lipstick WAAAY better than I ever have, ever. Can I call her for some pointers??

  • Katybeth

    2014/10/09 at 10:10 am

    SWACK!! I just wanted to type it.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/10/09 at 10:13 am

    Right? I put lipstick on and I feel like a clown. She is obsessed with wearing it now. The dimple helps.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/10/09 at 10:16 am

    We can’t get a cat because I’m super allergic to them, so of course all she wants for Christmas and her birthday is a “baby kitty.” Now I look for cats on things when she needs clothes or folders or supplies. I did once ask her, “You know if we got a cat that my throat would close up and I’d die. Would you rather have a cat or me?” She hesitated a little too long.

  • Michael Mathews

    2014/10/09 at 10:28 am

    Swack is when you hit something and break the stick instead of the thing you are hitting, so of course it is a word.

  • Nancy Fisk

    2014/10/09 at 10:47 am

    In that picture where Marlo is sitting with her friend, she has that whole Lauren Bacall thing going on.

  • LisaM

    2014/10/09 at 10:51 am

    I think the next piñata should come with a swacker!

  • JJ

    2014/10/09 at 11:09 am

    I hate to be the one to point out you had a “pull string” pinata that is super hard to swack open 🙂

    And, of course, I didn’t know those pretty ribbons had a purpose until after a thousand hits with a bat only sent the Pikachu pinata swinging in circles and another adult said “I thought the kids were supposed to pull a ribbon?”

  • Elizabeth

    2014/10/09 at 11:39 am

    Love the lipstick and Marlo’s “hulk smash” skills, but I could not get past Dane hanging a pinata in a tree WITH. NO. SHOES. He must have Hobbit feet, or he’s from our lovely state of Tennessee.

  • Marie McDowell

    2014/10/09 at 11:41 am

    When I saw the photo on Facebook, that linked to the story, I thought it was a light saber. I thought oh so cool, Heather has a light saber! But lo and behold, a pooper scooper!

  • RzDrms

    2014/10/09 at 12:34 pm

    Tell Jonah not to worry: those aren’t “cat ears.” Those are “cartoon character/little girl/friend ears.”

    (I’m still not over the fact that Hello Kitty is decidedly NOT a cat.)

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/10/09 at 1:19 pm

    Getting him to wear shoes IN THE SNOW is almost impossible. He’d live in the wild if he weren’t actively getting a degree.

  • JodiG

    2014/10/09 at 1:32 pm

    Adorables all around!!!! I have decided after numerous pinatas that the blindfold is cruel

  • Me

    2014/10/09 at 3:22 pm

    Ah, Heather, this is one my favorite posts to date. I seriously have tears of joy streaming down my face (and quite possibly, PMS). We are huge fans of SWACKing piñatas, too, at our parties. I love Marlo’s expressions, and I love Leta’s little smirk while wearing “kitty” ears. Too cute!

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    2014/10/09 at 3:30 pm

    The line about her routinely walking into walls made me burst out laughing in my office. I’m certain my co-workers are questioning my productivity today. 😉 Glad the kids got a nice treat – looks like fun!

  • e2wcoastmom

    2014/10/09 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you, TARGET, for making that post happen. I haven’t laughed that loud in a while (and I sure needed it).

  • RzDrms

    2014/10/09 at 6:03 pm

    Also, did Tyrant intentionally coordinate his clothes to match the rope and piñata?!

  • Meg

    2014/10/09 at 8:00 pm

    I see Cami in that last picture of Marlo.

    One of the “Around the Web” ads displaying directly above this text box is “18 Worst Dogs For Households With Children.” First off, the actual page has 20, not 18, breeds. Second, the main argument for the majority of the listed breeds is “this is a big breed and they can injure a toddler without meaning to do so.” Third, they included Chihuahuas and toy Spaniels (yes, both bad) but left off Miniature Pinschers. Also? ALL dogs get destructive when ignored. Bigger dogs simply can do more damage in a finite period of time than can small dogs.
    (Yes, they listed Australian Shepherds but not miniature ones.)

  • cgray13

    2014/10/09 at 9:55 pm

    I love your blog! It is so fun to see your fun ideas! it is something i will definately look at when i am a mom.

  • Ked

    2014/10/09 at 10:49 pm

    My friends and I can’t be the only people who use swack as a conflation of ‘sweaty’ and ‘crack’, right? In our vernacular, you can blend ‘sw’ onto the front of any body part, and you are now expressing the sweaty state of said part. Other examples: Sweavage, swits, swoobs, sweck, swow, and the ever charming duo of swagina and swesticles. Depending on context, swack can also refer to a sweaty back or sack, in addition to crack. Maybe it’s an AZ thing – we live next to the sun so we’re perpetually sweaty.

  • Cassandra Marie

    2014/10/09 at 11:14 pm

    It’s 1:13 am and I took my Ambien. Now all I want to do is eat that cake up there.

  • Stephaany Yocich

    2014/10/10 at 4:02 am

    Great story, but the talk between parents can be useful most of the times. That’s how I found out about “concisework potty training” and the cheapest strollers in the world. And nice idea for pinata too, gonna use it this week when my kid turns three.

  • Jenay Hoover

    2014/10/10 at 6:52 am

    At least you know Jonah and Marlo’s children will have beautiful blue eyes ha ha! But after reading about her breaking the handle TWICE, I am so scared of this child getting her drivers license.

  • Melle Sands-Snyder

    2014/10/10 at 11:43 am

    Is it bad of me to “hear” her voice , still with a cute lisp?

  • kittymoney

    2014/10/10 at 1:08 pm

    That is the best thing ever. Except I don’t sweat.

  • kittymoney

    2014/10/10 at 1:11 pm

    Let’s get you a sphinx cat. They are only like $1200. I think they are hypoallergenic.

  • Angela

    2014/10/10 at 3:42 pm

    We use “swass” quite often. You know, sweaty ass. It happens in OK, too.

  • MallyMon

    2014/10/10 at 5:28 pm

    Love it! Thank you. 🙂 I want to have a party now

  • Hoàng Huy

    2014/10/11 at 3:41 am

    pretty girl, i like it.
    a delightful decoration
    The Children feel so happy to receive unexpected

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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