the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Bedtime with Marlo

Marlo and I have a strange ritual all instigated by my mother that centers around telling each other how much we love each other as she’s going to bed, and it usually ends up with her winning at “kajillion bajillion quadrillion.” I don’t care that she has no concept of math or that numbers do not convert to love, I just want to indulge my child who has this point been lulled into some horrifying game of numbers that can only end in heartbreak MOM THIS PARAGRAPH IS FOR YOU ALL OF THIS IS YOUR FAULT LEAVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY THAT IS THE ONLY WAY TO REDEEM YOURSELF.

Last night Marlo was in a particularly good mood and started out with, “I love you more than anyone.”

I nodded but pursed my lips. “That’s really sweet of you.” I said, “But I love you more than a hundred million Grandmommies. That much.” Because I take no prisoners. And if The Avon World Sales Leader is going to start this with my kid, I am so going to make it flourish.

“Well, I love you a hundred million eternities,” she shot back.

“Yeah? Well, I love you a trillion eternities,” I answered.

She reached up, grabbed my neck and pressed her left cheek almost painfully into mine. “I love you from here to eternity and then the eternity after that,” she said.

“Even the eternity after that?” I asked. “That’s a long time. I love you a mackadrillion pockanillion. All of that.”

“Mom,” she stated very dryly while pulling her face away from mine to look into my eyes. “That is irresponsible.”

Excuse me? Irresponsible? No, irresponsible is a grandmother teaching her granddaughter that love is a contest.

I let her continue: “That is not a real number, and you can’t say that to me because it has no meaning.”

It has no meaning.

Let’s just say that last night she won with “from here to eternity katrillion” AS IF THAT HAS ANY MEANING WHATSOEVER CAN YOU TELL THAT I AM BITTER.


Every night I read Marlo two to three books before singing songs, but she has recently been wresting those books from my hands and demanding to read them herself. I have been of the mind that it is fine, her imagination can always use the exercise, and I just let her go on with her bad self, encouraging her to come up with her own version of things. She usually gets somewhere near the actual story on the paper but is always missing the mark at about the time the story is hitting the moral:

ACTUAL STORY: “I should be grateful for the privileges that I enjoy.”

MARLO’S VERSION: “That tooth fairy is a horrible person and we should kill it with a shoe.”

ACTUAL STORY: “Certain religious meals have been made more meaningful by the diversity brought to them by close neighbors.”

MARLO’S VERSION: “They didn’t bring their spaghetti to Shabbat so we’re going to go over there and hit them with this loaf of challah.”

Sure, Marlo’s version seems a bit violent. I see that. And I do try to nudge her closer to a more generous form of storytelling. But at the same time, I’m glad she’s at least attempting to enter into the story herself. And that’s even after she’s violently ripped the book jacket from the book yet again. ARRRGHHHHHH. She is exactly like her older sister who thought a book jacket was going to strangle the book to death and then perch its leg on the dead body and smoke a cigarette.


I tweeted this last night as Marlo freed one of her bedtime stories:

I really want to see a comedian who has a kid do a bit about this because it is the same reaction every single time. Maybe this is a phenomenon unique to my kids, but every time Marlo encounters a book jacket she contorts her face to the point that I think it’s going to stay that way forever. Like she has stumbled upon the fresh, mangled carcass of a deer on the side of the road and the smell has singed her nose hairs.

And so she sits there with the heaviness of that death, and then turns the book over and then back over again, inspecting it from every angle like, “How did this even HAPPEN to you, book? You were so innocent. I’m so sorry you have been through this.” As if she loves that book a quadrillion eternities.

But I want to see this comedian do the actual physical part of this, where my kid figures out that the book has been unfairly afflicted with a book jacket and groans as she falls to her knees: THE FUCK YOU DOING WITH THIS THING ON? And then while ripping the jacket off of the book with her teeth you see the light sparkle off of her incisors. Because getting the jacket off of the book is like putting a fire out. It’s THAT imperative. It’s like saving a life. She saved that book. That book was going to die THANK GOD SHE GOT TO IT FIRST.

I used to keep discarded book jackets from Leta’s books in a closet thinking that I’d eventually stick them back on when she was done with them, but then I had a closet filled from floor to ceiling with book jackets and was afraid that she might find them and have a heart attack. The Closet of Death. I’m going to tape all of Marlo’s discarded book jackets to my body on Halloween, and when people tilt their heads and are all what the hell? I’ll say, “I’m the Grim Reaper.”

  • Katie

    2014/10/28 at 9:27 am

    Huh. I really thought my kids were the only ones who did that with book jackets. I too have saved them thinking “someday”, but it’s a pain in my ass. I wish I knew WTF the issue is with the damn things. 🙂

  • Judith

    2014/10/28 at 9:27 am

    No, you’ll be the Grimm Reaper 🙂

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/10/28 at 9:35 am

    Haha! English major humor!

  • Michele

    2014/10/28 at 9:36 am

    My son, who is 15, still removes the dust jacket of every hardcover book I buy him. And, yes, I keep them all.

  • Gerley

    2014/10/28 at 9:38 am

    Grimm Reader

  • Jo D

    2014/10/28 at 9:44 am

    I used to take off the book jackets, but it was because I didn’t want them to get damaged. I kept them in a folder on the book shelf, along with my beanie baby tags and tootsie roll wrappers (pressed flat, of course)

  • Becky

    2014/10/28 at 9:48 am

    Bwahahaha!! Kill the toothfairy with a shoe 😀 <3 You AND your kids rock!

  • Angie Rogers-Howell

    2014/10/28 at 9:55 am

    I’m a grown ass adult and I hate book jackets. They slide all over the place and just get in the way. I always take them off when reading. I’ve contemplated just throwing them away but then I feel bad about all the naked books I’d have 🙂

  • Ali

    2014/10/28 at 9:58 am

    Confession: It is * I * that is the remover of book jackets. I am irritated by their slip, slidery presence interrupting my reading experience.
    I’m not even certain my kids know that books often come with covers.

  • JRSF

    2014/10/28 at 9:58 am

    I just laughed so hard the cat fell off the adjoining chair at “that tooth fairy is a horrible person and we should kill it with a shoe.” What the hell are you leaving under her pillow when she loses a tooth? Also, can you make that Marlo quote the website tag one month?

  • susanfishy

    2014/10/28 at 10:07 am

    People — book jackets are built-in bookmarks! And it’s the “with a shoe” part of the killing of the tooth fairy that makes it awesome. Although if she has teeth on her at the time, it could very well be like stepping on Lego. Keep this in mind.

  • Bexrowl

    2014/10/28 at 10:11 am

    I use book jackets as book marks. They’re handy dandy that way. But my daughter, however, is a leaver of book jackets all over the house. She’s leaves them on until she doesn’t…like her socks.

  • Starla Dear

    2014/10/28 at 10:43 am

    We recycle all our book jackets for children’s books. Believe me, it is very freeing! Oftentimes children’s books don’t “need” the jackets anyway, because the book cover is the same underneath.

  • Me

    2014/10/28 at 11:15 am

    Like Angela below, I am a grown ass adult who hates book jackets. I remove them from my and our 7 yo’s books, and keep them in a box in the closet. My husband thinks I’m nuts-o for not just throwing them away. He doesn’t understand that my mother (who has been a librarian for 40+ years) would KILL me if she knew I even contemplated discarding the beloved and vital book jackets. Who knew fucking book jackets could cause so much discussion and stress? Oh, and I love Marlo! 🙂

  • Jenny

    2014/10/28 at 12:14 pm

    My four year old also takes off all the book jackets. I put them back on after we read, and then he takes them off the next day.

  • talonsage

    2014/10/28 at 12:23 pm

    I had to…ahem…forcibly explain to Chibi that the library books she checked out that had book jackets on them could not be denuded. At all, ever or the library would burn to the ground and we’d be required to dance in the ashes.

    Those were the only book jackets I was ever able to save. She’s 14 and she still will not tolerate book jackets. All books must be naked.

  • Michelle Boehm

    2014/10/28 at 12:47 pm

    I’m on Team Marlo. I’m also a grown-ass adult, and I immediately tear off book jackets and deposit them in the recycling bin. I hate them almost as much as I hate the stickers on fruit.

  • Happy

    2014/10/28 at 1:04 pm

    You can tell which books our little has actually allowed us to read to him by whether or not they have a book jacket. He allows them to stay fully cloaked for a first reading. Some books never get any further. If they are deemed acceptable for a second go, the jacket comes off. I’ve tried to trick him by removing jackets from books I’d like to read again but he somehow senses my wily ways and insists on putting the cover back on. I made some really cool wall art from the jackets of favorites since I can’t seem to bring myself to throw them away but refuse to keep a giant pile in the closet anymore.

  • frogprof

    2014/10/28 at 2:02 pm

    Since I live in an apartment and have no sympathy for my fellow humans [apparently], I take produce stickers and put them on the edges of my pantry shelves. And leave them there so that I get charged for their removal when I depart.

  • Andrea

    2014/10/28 at 2:25 pm

    I agree with your girls. I take book jackets off immediately!

  • Marissa

    2014/10/28 at 2:31 pm

    I take all the book jackets off my 5 yr old and 3 yr old’s books, I’m afraid they’ll rip them! I also have them all piled in closet — why, oh why, am I saving such things!

  • Tiffany

    2014/10/28 at 3:19 pm

    My son (5 years old) ALWAYS takes off book jackets and has for years. He doesn’t just take them off, he takes them off and then THROWS THEM as far away as he can, like they’re zombie arms that are going to crawl back and re-attach themselves. I want to ask him “What’d a book jacket ever do to you, kid?”

  • Michelle Boehm

    2014/10/28 at 5:32 pm

    If I rented an apartment after you and I opened the cabinets, I’d groan and fall to my knees screaming “THE FUCK YOU DOING WITH THESE THINGS ON”??

  • Jenay Hoover

    2014/10/28 at 7:08 pm

    I LOATHE book jackets. I still take them off first thing, whether it be a book I bought or a library book and my husband gets so mad at me when he is scrambling to find them all when its time to return all of the books to the library. I will admit, we have had to pay for a few because of my sickness. Lol!!!

  • marci

    2014/10/28 at 7:53 pm

    Totally spot on regarding a kid’s reaction to a book jacket! My 3yr old son is the EXACT same way. I used to drive myself crazy putting the jackets back on after each time we read a book that had a jacket – only to have it brutally removed each and every time we read it!

  • Suzy Soro

    2014/10/28 at 10:28 pm

    The first thing I do is remove the book jacket because no.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/10/28 at 11:02 pm

    I have to say, I just love it when people pay attention to the specifics of what I write. I laughed so hard at this. Thank you.

  • World Travel Family

    2014/10/28 at 11:09 pm

    “I love you more than chips” is my favourite. But I totally see where you’re coming from with the competition thing.

  • jenive

    2014/10/29 at 7:09 am

    I always win with ‘I loved you first.’ They haven’t yet figured out a response to that. Yet. Maybe save the book jackets and on April 1st, cover all of the books wrong.

  • Missy

    2014/10/29 at 8:50 am

    Same! I take them off while reading, then put them back on before I put them back on the bookshelf when I’m done. Now with the Kindle, it’s not a problem, but I HAVE to have all Stephen King books in hardcover, so I still do it with those.
    I also take them off all my daughter’s books. They are in the closet awaiting…teenager-hood?

  • Liz Perkins

    2014/10/29 at 12:48 pm

    My kids hate book jackets to the point that I just take them off before I even give them to them. I have a shelf of book jackets to be restored when they grow up. What really vexes them is library books from which the book jackets cannot be removed. Oh the howling…..

  • MallyMon

    2014/10/29 at 4:29 pm

    I absolutely adore book jackets (dust covers) and cannot believe I am in a minority. It pains me to know that naked books are being handled in such a cavalier manner. (With sticky fingers!!) I hate it if I ever buy a book and there is no book jacket. What is that all about?! I’m reeling with disbelief over here in the UK . . . .

  • Lindsey Heinemann

    2014/10/29 at 8:40 pm

    My son is the stripper of the books. He doesn’t care what the book is or who it belongs to, it needs to be naked! Right now! If it doesn’t come off fast enough for his liking, he’s even been known to rip them off in pieces. Violently. He has a very strong aversion to book jackets.

  • Breanne

    2014/10/30 at 2:10 pm

    I don’t even know what my favorite part of this post is… that Marlo told you your love was irresponsible and had no meaning because “that is not a real number” or the telling of how she saves the books from suffocating in their jackets. (Seriously though, I’m team Naked Book.)

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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