the smell of my desperation has become a stench

And you thought mommy blogging was dead

Me: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Marlo: “I want it to snow, but I don’t want the snow to be cold.”

Me: “You do realize that’s not how it—“

Marlo: “If I can’t have that then I want a poop emoji pillow.”


How else am I supposed to start off a post when I haven’t written anything here since July? No other way, THAT’S HOW. The country elected what is essentially the equivalent of an anthropomorphized Dorito who got a raging case of diarrhea while standing in line at Arby’s (“We Have The Meats™”), and I am over here talking about the poop emoji. Have you missed me? Because I’ve missed you. Let the handwringing begin, because there are tangents ahoy.

Let’s start here: although Leta has adjusted to middle school with very few hiccups, the dueling schedules and after-school activities for both girls have sent my life into a tailspin. All three of us hit the ground running in the morning and don’t stop until bedtime when we read the last word of the book with the dragon and the girl and that one page where the color of the sky looks like a forest fire. Is Marlo still reading books with pictures? In second grade? Yep. Sometimes she does. And if that is a cause of concern for you, I have a very itchy index finger that’s ready to poke you in the butt.

Both girls are now taking piano lessons, and dear god. I could easily give up on the whole thing and life would be a shit ton easier. I posted this to twitter a few weeks ago:

There could not be a more accurate representation of what it’s like when Marlo and I sit down to begin practicing each week’s new lesson. She literally bangs her head on the keys of the piano and splays out her arms like a fly that’s been swatted against a wall, a display of frustration so theatrically violent that you’d think I had just asked her to fix mama a hot dog.

She wants to be good at it immediately, without practice. She doesn’t understand that Leta can play the pieces she plays because she’s been practicing piano for over five years. So I sit with her, and I rub the indentations made by C sharp and D sharp out of her forehead, and we get through the four-page lesson. Note by note by note. By note by note. That usually takes about 20 minutes, and that may not seem like a long time to you, but YOU WOULD BE WRONG. I have to remain calm and keep my cool for an excruciatingly eternal 20 minutes as she groans and wails and attempts to break antique ivory piano keys with her face.

Some of you are like, well, why the fuck are you torturing not only her but yourself? YOU HAVE A GOOD POINT.

However. After enduring that 20-minute bloodbath she and I get to take a break wherein she goes off to watch a video about Minecraft and I go sit in my closet and sniff glue. Leta practices for an hour every day in two 30-minute chunks. Her teacher suggested this a couple of years ago, to split up the time into manageable segments because kids are kids and you know what kids are good at? Hating everything about life and blaming you for it. Where was I going with this.

Right. Marlo practices for 30 minutes a day in two 15-minute chunks. Except for that first chunk of the week. That first chunk is never less than 20 minutes because, as it turns out, inflicting brain damage on yourself adds an extra five minutes to any activity.

When Marlo and I return to the piano for the second chunk of the day, she’s perfectly fine and rational and happy and this makes me want to rip my own face off. She’s now familiar with the notes, making less mistakes, and getting the hang of the lesson WHICH IS THE POINT OF PRACTICING I JUST WANT TO POINT OUT so, you know, look at how good she is at this, mom! She loves it. In fact, she wants to play the most complicated song in the lesson one more time because it feels so good to know how to play it. INSERT STRING OF OBSCENITIES HERE.

Of course I want her to feel this way. That’s why I am investing so much time and money into this endeavor.

However. I also feel like I should have the right to inflict some sort of retribution that is equal if not far greater than what she put me through earlier. Like maybe forcing her to listen to 20 straight minutes of someone puking up a bowl of spaghetti that they didn’t chew in the first place. I’d be satisfied with that.

A requirement of working with this particular piano instructor is participation in something called Federation. Twice a year Leta plays in front of judges. In the fall she plays a concerto with her piano teacher, and in spring she plays two solo pieces. It’s hard work. These pieces are never simple or straightforward, especially the concerto. In the three weeks leading up to the performance I walk around the room while she practices to listen and help her work out the parts where she’s having trouble. This consumes anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes of our night. Every night.

Some of your are like, well, is she going to grow up and play piano for a living? Why the hell are you not using that time to relax on the couch with a beer and a giant bowl of Franken Berry? ANOTHER GOOD POINT. Sit down for a second and stop being right, JUDY.

However. Have you heard how this kid can play?

A video posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

Hard work fucking pays off is why I am not sitting on that couch belching out the alphabet after chugging a sixer of Pabst.

Last night she played her piece at the recital her teacher hosts for all the students and families of students in advance of the judging on Saturday, and earlier this week I realized in the middle of my workday that she didn’t have any tights to wear with a dress because we don’t ever do things that require putting on such awful things as dresses and tights and uncomfortable shoes that you can’t wait to take off from the moment you put it all on why yes indeed I did say all of this without taking a breath oh my god. You guys. Wait. The Grinch does not wear pants. I am turning into the Grinch. Please don’t attempt to stop this from happening or deny me this natural metamorphosis.

There was no possible way in the tangle of work and deadlines and homework and after school activities that I’d be able to find a pair of tights for my growing, gangly 12-year-old piano player in time for the recital, so I called my mom and did that which I hate most in life: I asked for help. There’s a whole episode of my podcast dedicated to talking about how much I can’t stand doing this, how the instinct to scream, “Help!” when in a crisis has transformed into, “It’s much more convenient for everyone if I just curl up and die.”

My mother showed up to my house last night not only with a pair of tights for Leta, but also a pair of tights for 20-Minute Bloodbath Head Banger Don. Since Marlo only started piano a couple of months ago, she’s not playing in front of judges. But Leta was getting dressed up, so she wanted to get dressed up and next thing you know we all look like we’re about to attend sacrament meeting on Sunday morning and actively deny the LGBT community their civil rights.

You’ve missed me, haven’t you?

Leta slayed her piece at the recital, blah blah blah, that’s not what this is about. You didn’t come here to read a heartwarming story about what it means to invest in your child’s talent and future and sense of self, no! What you came here for is what happened after the recital as we were clambering inside the house trying to duck out of the first snow storm of the season. Which, you’ll notice, I haven’t complained about yet. And this worries me. Because if I’m trying to turn into the Grinch, I’m doing a shit poor job and what kind of example is that setting for my kids?


Marlo was the first inside the garage door where we all discard our shoes, and when she leaned down to yank hers off she paused, stared for several seconds at a place on her leg and said in a sing-song voice, “I’ve got hair on my tights!”

Leta and I were directly behind her and, as it turns out, we both heard her say something completely different than that. Leta shot me a look and I shot her a look that confirmed, yes, she should ask her sister to repeat herself.

“You’ve got what?” Leta asked her sister.

“I’ve got hair on my tights!” Marlo said once again.

Leta looked at me and I knew that she knew that we had both heard Marlo drop the G and the H from that last word. Twice.

Which is more than once.

Plenty of times, in fact.

I played that mind game I played during Marlo’s birth where I wrinkled up all the pain and agony of a contraction and stuck it into a quadrant of my brain that would enable me to survive the next couple of minutes. Except I was wrinkling up laughter, and turns out laughter isn’t as cooperative as pain! Laughter does not negotiate, accept bribes, or agree to be a contestant on a reality show just to make friends.

In an attempt to find a way outside of my body that laughter found a nostril, and a giant string of snot that must have been hiding inside my sinus cavity waiting for this exact moment suddenly shot out of my head. Must have looked like a caterpillar who was late to get his cocoon set up so he borrowed a friend’s Adderall.

Luckily I could then play off that laughter by the fact that I had just blown my nose without my hands or a receptacle—because you know what? If my aim in life is to live pants-less in a wintery cave by myself? Fuck tissue.

But then Leta leaned over and whispered, “How does she know that word?” And then continued, “And how does she know they could potentially have hair?”

Ha! Hahaha! “They.” Because you’re never really talking about just one.

Anyway, the future is female.

  • Ankita Narayan

    2016/11/17 at 4:35 pm

    Oh, what a treat this has been! I’ve missed you, Heather!

  • Susan

    2016/11/17 at 4:36 pm

    My god I’ve missed you!

  • Victoria Lo

    2016/11/17 at 4:36 pm

    Just as amazing as I remember

  • Kim

    2016/11/17 at 4:43 pm

    Oh how I’ve missed your posts.

  • Stacey Myers

    2016/11/17 at 4:44 pm

    Missed you madly and this was a perfect way for you to check in and say Hi!

  • Desiree Johnson

    2016/11/17 at 4:46 pm

    Oh how I’ve missed your mommy blogging!

  • KathyB

    2016/11/17 at 4:50 pm

    Hi, Heather. Loved the new peek into your lives. Your girls are a trip.

  • Bonnie Bradley

    2016/11/17 at 4:55 pm

    Oh. Oh my god. Oh my god I’VE MISSED YOU!!!!!!!!!

  • Lana @ The Joy Blog

    2016/11/17 at 4:55 pm

    This was great! Your story reminded me of mine.

    My mom was my piano teacher from age 6 to age 12. Every lesson was a fight to the death, and when I practiced, I could never get away with fake practicing because my teacher was always there. I begged and pleaded, as pre-teens are wont to do, to stop taking lessons because I would NEVEREVEREVER want to play the piano again for as long as I lived, and she was wrong about me regretting it.

    My standoff with the piano lasted 3 months. One day while she was out running errands, I grabbed some books and started playing and loved it because it was all me, and no teacher-mom was breathing down my neck about crescendos and timing. As soon as I heard her car pull into the drive, I stopped, put my books away and jumped on the couch like I’d been napping the whole time.

    This game went on for years until I was about 17, and she one day said, “You know, I know your secret.” I acted shocked. She then proceeds to say, “I never play out of those books, and you don’t ALWAYS put them away in your frenzy to hide.” And then we laughed a bunch. A few months later she helped me copy all the sheet music I wanted to take to college with me. She died of cancer two weeks before my 30th birthday two years ago, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget her incredible patience in teaching me one of my favorite talents, and in also dealing with my horrible case of teenage drama queen-ness. I miss playing her piano, and having her hum along in the other room because years ago I told her she needed to stop hovering.

    And there, now you have the story of my life, brought to you by the story of your daughters on the piano. hahaha. <3

  • Renlish

    2016/11/17 at 4:57 pm

    OMG… the giggles. I’m reading this at work cackling away and also wanting to cry because I know my aunt would have LOVED this post (she followed you right from the early Leta years when I pointed out how awesome you were) but she passed away at the end of July this year. Thank you for checking in, thank you for being the same as ever. xox

  • Wendy Richards

    2016/11/17 at 5:23 pm

    So glad to have you back!

  • LisaCrazyAdventuresinParenting

    2016/11/17 at 5:46 pm

    “In an attempt to find a way outside of my body that laughter found a nostril, and a giant string of snot that must have been hiding inside my sinus cavity waiting for this exact moment suddenly shot out of my head. Must have looked like a caterpillar who was late to get his cocoon set up so he borrowed a friend’s Adderall.”

    Holy fuck, I snorted. It wasn’t pretty. You’ve been missed.

  • Nylee

    2016/11/17 at 6:23 pm

    Oh, the emoji poop pillow. My nine year old niece wanted an emoji poop bean bag chair for her birthday. I ordered it, my husband got the wonderful job of picking it up. He actually had to say “I’m here to pick up the emoji poop beanbag chair”, then because they didn’t have a box for it, he got to push it out of the store in his cart in front of everyone. The first words out of his mouth when he got home were “She better like it!” and she did. So did every other kid at the party. I think my sister was a bit miffed because she and her husband bought the kid a bike and it was upstaged by a poop emoji.

  • Maggie Pinque

    2016/11/17 at 7:00 pm

    Oh My. God.
    Welcome back.

  • Patrick Brenzel

    2016/11/17 at 7:34 pm

    you do snot humor equally as well as poop humor. In fact you, my dear, have just earned yourself a Ph.D. in bodily function humor. *wiping tears from eyes* Give this woman tenure already.

  • Kathy

    2016/11/17 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you!!!! I have truly missed your voice. You are exactly what I need to read right now.

  • wombatcentral

    2016/11/17 at 8:43 pm

    My daughter used to become boneless chicken and drape herself across the piano bench when it was time to practice. I get the head banging! Leta plays beautifully. And snot caterpillars are hilarious. 😀

  • Candace

    2016/11/17 at 9:01 pm

    Thank goodness you’re back.

  • Laird Nelson

    2016/11/17 at 9:33 pm

    So very, very happy you’re back. Congratulations to Leta; she sounds terrific.

  • Michael Mathews

    2016/11/17 at 11:09 pm

    I regret that I didn’t keep up with the piano after I left for college. Even if I never got better, it would have been a great way to destress from life.

    Leta is clearly talented.

  • Kaela

    2016/11/18 at 1:37 am

    Hello. I am the desert. This post was a fucking rain storm.


  • Jordan

    2016/11/18 at 1:49 am

    Welcome Back!

  • Bronnie

    2016/11/18 at 3:17 am

    Good god I’ve missed you! Welcome back – brilliant and hilarious first post back 🙂

  • Christie

    2016/11/18 at 6:40 am

    Loved every moment! You are why I began blogging 8 years ago.

  • Keryn Bruister Page

    2016/11/18 at 7:50 am

    Ahhhhh this was perfect!

  • Issa

    2016/11/18 at 9:18 am

    If she figures out how to make snow not cold, she can have all my money. Then she could but her own poop emoji.

  • Melissa

    2016/11/18 at 10:15 am

    OMG, I am truly laughing out loud! I’m so glad to see you back here! Thank you for this. I needed a good laugh right now. The reminder that we are all struggling just to get all the stuff done and that I’m not the only one that hates to ask for help is also a plus.

  • Tina

    2016/11/18 at 3:38 pm

    Cry/Laughing is my favorite emotion. Thanks for this.

  • Megan Powers

    2016/11/19 at 1:31 am

    Oh how I’ve missed you!! I sincerely hope it won’t be 4 months until you write here again! Happiest of holidays to you, Marlo & Leta (and Coco!!!)

  • Jen Moore

    2016/11/19 at 3:54 pm

    YAS QUEEN the future is female…10000 times like

  • antigone78

    2016/11/19 at 7:05 pm

    Fuck lady, I missed your blog posts. Like, a lot. Thanks for the laugh!

    And super congrats to 1) Leta for playing like a DREAM and 2) Marlo for wearing tights (with a g) when she didn’t have to.

  • Miss lee

    2016/11/20 at 10:42 am

    Leta is so good. In the future the girls will never regret piano lessons.

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.

read more