Whats that smell?

Last Smell and Testament

I encounter lots of smells. All parents do. Tonight was different. Now is the chance to stop and go elsewhere, gross things are ahead.

I have four girls, an irresponsible cat, and a dog in a diaper. Lots of smells. Cat box ammonia is a rough smell. It sucks the air out of a small area above the box. Kids have the normal awfulness of pooping, terrible breath, and sometimes they puke and have a sour potato soupy smell. Dog pee in a diaper has its own signature scent. Maybe the dog needs to hydrate and perhaps eat more fiber?  Some of you probably puffed out your cheeks and gagged a little. Rightfully so.

All of these things are stinky but tonight I found a worse smell.

Smell memory is one of the strongest connected senses in the brain. You can smell warm cookies and instantly be transported to some long forgotten place and time in your childhood. I assume the same is true of bad smells and I experience that from time to time. This recent smell will probably trigger a memory of huddling in a fetal position in the corner.

What was this olfactory demon you ask? I promise to tell but you need to understand the level we are working with here.

I have several haunting memory smells. I can’t eat deer meat because I worked at a processing facility one season and something about the iron-blood smell is burned into my brain. At that same facility I cut into a deer that had an arrow embedded under the skin and had lots of green infection around it. Blah. Just blah. One night our dog got into the kitchen and ate a whole Cornish hen and pooped on EVERYTHING in the house at 3:00am. She pooped the McDonalds arches onto the hallway wall. It looked like someone vandalized my house with a dog poop Super-Soaker. I was awakened by the smell in the house. Two rolls of paper towels, two garbage bags, and a stack of dinner napkins…I smelled dog poop when breathing in for the next two days.

My friend and I went through a workout phase in college and there was an errant protein shake that somehow rolled under a dresser. About a month later we were moving furniture out and disturbed it accidentally. We searched for thirty minutes for the dead animal that had to be rotting in the room. Even this protein cloud doesn’t quite compare.

Today we discovered a sippy cup of milk. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Supermom found an old sippy cup of milk under the piano and set it up on the top while she finished sweeping every other thing we had lost over the last month out into the daylight. Being a helpful husband and dedicated father, I decided to take dishes to the kitchen and put them in the dishwasher. She didn’t tell me that the sippy cup was just excavated from the piano time-capsule.

I was standing over the kitchen sink and turned the top. Hiss. Air escaped like a seal had been broken on a mummy’s tomb. I was moving quickly from muscle memory and even as the first wave hit me I was pouring the cup’s contents into the sink disposal. Oh dear God… What have I done. The room got blurry and I turned on the hot water.

The second wave hit me. The scalding water couldn’t take the chunky cheese milk away fast enough. It was like double-soured milk with rotten eggs. I went down to my elbows and thought of my family’s safety. “Honey…. Ta.. Take the kids and go to the back of the house!”

“What’s wrong?!?”

“GO! Save yourself!”

“I love you! Noooo!”


Third wave. A thin film of putrid covered the stainless steel sink. The smell was lurking in the air. It was somehow light enough to float in the air but thick enough to block my lungs. I reach the disposal switch on the wall and have just enough energy to flick it up to the “On” position. I sprang to life and I slumped backwards to the ground. The Smell. It was like smoke from a house fire gathering at the top of the room and pressing downward. I could hear the milk chunks hitting the sides of the disposal and emulsifying the rotten air.

This can only get worse.

In the distance I hear bedroom doors closing and muffled voices. “Mommy what is that smell? Where is daddy? Is this the end of the world?” Tears streamed down my face but I was too weak to answer. Diapered dog was pacing at the edge of the hallway and living room. Whining because she knew daddy was in trouble but she wasn’t brave enough to face the smell.

The fourth wave. My brain is swimming from the chemical cloud and I am seeing sounds and hearing the number green. Two leprechauns on a rainbow ran across the counter as I turned off the garbage disposal and slung the sippy cup into the trash can and slammed the lid.

I stagger to the back of the house and fall into the bedroom with ragged breath and splotchy skin. Children are huddled in fear.

The vent from the sink empties into the attic space. The return air distributes the fumes into the air conditioning system. A painful lesson we may have learned too late. Even as I type this the light is fading. I’ve wrapped the children in blankets and fired a signal flare out the back window. If I have started the zombie apocalypse then I beg the world to forgive me.

If you ever were my friend do me this one last favor…. Don’t let milk sit in a sippy cup.

You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

Potty World Champion

Potty training is a milestone that gets a lot of emphasis along with A,B,C’s and walking. We have this golden goal as parents to teach our kids precise control of their bodies and minds. Like the other milestones, potty training is one of the things we use as a yardstick for parenting. A reflection of how good we are at our jobs. After going through this process a number of times I have little to no idea on the correct way to go about it.

Jane, our first, was our unicorn. We started noticing dry diapers in the mornings and made the switch when she was almost three. She had two accidents. Back to back. The first morning we tried. After that… Never. Again. She has a flawless record. Needless to say we were pretty high on our abilities. One day potty trained? High Five! World’s Best Parents Ever!

Prima-the-ballerina, child number two, was a different story. She is a different genre. She is shy and didn’t want anyone to know that she had to go, or if she had gone in her diaper, or that she even has any kind of bodily function. Very difficult because if you asked her about having to go before leaving the house she would always answer no. We learned that lesson the hard way. The first day was semi-successful with only one accident. That was one less than her older sister so obviously we were better parents than previously thought. This level of awesome is getting off the scale. Then we went to Lowes to try an out of the house trip.

About halfway down the paint aisle Prima stops and stares at her shoes. Is she intimidated by the vast selection of Valspar color match paints? I couldn’t tell. She stops and stares at things all the time so it didn’t seem all that strange. Then we noticed a six foot diameter puddle spreading and surrounding her feet. Not good. We look in our diaper bag which at this point has everything related to childcare except a towel or extra clothes. I am confused. She made it a whole day. This is supposed to be a done deal.

I take off to the bathroom to look for paper towels. We have a precious few minutes to get this piss out of the floor undetected and act like nothing happened. Zero paper towels. I come out of the bathroom moving swiftly back towards the spill site. An attentive employee recognizes my uncomfortable look and asks if they can be of any assistance. It is a humbling right of passage to ask another grown man to help you clean pee out of the floor. The only time I felt lower was bumming a diaper off of a stranger at a rest stop on the interstate. Okay maybe not the only time but that’s not the point. I tried to explain my needs to the employee.

“We had a little accident and I need some paper towels.”
“That’s no problem people spill things all the time. How many towels do you need?”
“Two or three rolls should do it.”

He paused for his brain to process what product or amount of liquid could require three rolls of towels. I gave him a little more information.

“We have a two year old and she didn’t make it to the bathroom.”
“Oh. Oooooh. Okay.”

He was noticeably less helpful. I saw the judgey-ness and the unspoken question of “why isn’t she in a diaper? You are a terrible father.”

He gave me paper towels and a trash bag and then left. I assume to wash his hands from of the mere thought of soaking up urine. Public urination rarely attracts friends. We cleaned and went home to regroup.

We continued to struggle with training for a while but then right around three years old she decided to be done with diapers and was finished. Her personality stayed true and to this day I am only aware of her going a handful of times. Like Santa, she sneaks around when people are unaware and leaves gifts for others to find. None of them flush. Ever.

So with two children trained and both having different experiences we tried to gauge our approach to number three, Don Threeto. I’m going to refer to her as Don Threeto because she may actually run an organized criminal empire. She is hard headed, calculating, and has no shame. She is cute and loving too but a very strong personality. We presented her with the idea of potty training a little before three years old and she considered the idea for a full three minutes before she pissed her pants on purpose. She is totally honest so when we asked, “What happened?”. She didn’t even look up as she said, “I pee my pants.” She smiled and was proud at her achievement.

We tried everything from chastising her to letting her be uncomfortable for a few minutes in hopes she wouldn’t want bulky diapers or soaked underwear. She absolutely didn’t care. Once she sat on the closed toilet and let it rip right into the floor. Her sister, Prima, came running in to talk with her because girls talk to each other while peeing. Prima slipped on the newly wet floor and hurt her elbow. Now Don Threeto is upset because her sister is crying with a bruised elbow and Prima’s clothes are soaked in someone else’s pee. Where do I start to clean this up? I set them both directly in the tub and ran a bath. The first of many.

I have become tired of all the different ways I have to clean pee. Random napping without pull-ups regularly ruins bed sheets, car seats, and a few times I have been peed on while holding them in public. I watched one child think about going to the bathroom only to decide the TV show was too important and then soaked herself on the spot. I could have pulled the cable out of the wall. There was a stretch of time where they would hide diapers or sheets behind doors in a gross hide-and-seek game. I felt like everything smelled like old maple syrup. We selected things because “they hadn’t been peed on in a while.” Or “Aren’t that bad.” This was a lonely time.

Something that could be relevant – during this time we had a rescued dog who also proved to be a submissive pee-er with abandonment issues. He would chew something important like wedding photos and then slink away when we got home leaving a trail of liquid embarrassment behind him. Maybe there was an ongoing territory dispute between the dog and the children. Whatever the reason, someone had laid claim to the entire house. I would have joined in as the Alpha if it would have helped. We have nice fake hardwood now and our rescue, Chester Sparkles, has a nice outdoors home. It was good timing because our first dog, now ten, has developed incontinence and also wears a diaper.

Chester Sprinkles...

Chester Sprinkles…

Eventually, Don Threeto decides that she is also done with diapers and is finished overnight. Somewhere right around three years old. This triggers a memory of early advice from a good friend, “You can start training at two and by three they will have it or you can start at three and they will be done in a week.” Not a hundred percent but still some pretty good advice.

I now change my dog’s Dora-the-Absorber pull-ups. Another worst feeling in the world – Let the dog outside to pee and forget to remove the Dora diaper = Dog Bath. My fall from manhood to broken parent is complete. I can’t wait until I am elderly and under their care. I may develop dementia but I will remember this time and repay them fully. Once again I am way off track.

The one thing that I did learn for sure is that diapers are easy. So so easy. Don’t let the world lie to you! Stopping every twenty miles on long trips, washing car seat covers, or walking through some public event with a huge wet stain down your side is difficult. Diapers are easy. All kids are different and are ready at different times. Just because they “can” use the potty doesn’t mean they are trained, it could mean that you wash a lot of clothes and that is technically just cloth diapering.

If you have trouble with this milestone this story is for you. I have been through three and have one more to go and I have no idea how to do it correctly. I have been tempted to just leave them in diapers until they start school and let public shame do the work for me. I’ll be on the ballot for Parent of the Year. You’re welcome.

Underdaddy to the rescue.