I have A LOT of little kids in my house and every now and then I wake up to The Mystery Smell. The Mystery Smell is never good. It is never going to make me pause as I move through a room, close my eyes and breathe in deeply, declaring with a smile, “Aahhhh, now that is what I needed to start my day.” Oh, no. The Mystery Smell will wreak havoc with my home and my mind. It is evil and I fear it.
The Mystery Smell has several stages. First is Denial. The Mystery Smell is very tricky and subtle at the beginning. It seems to come from lots of different places and it makes me doubt myself. Face the facts, you have little kids. Bad smells happen every ten seconds. Sometimes they are quick and fleeting and sometimes they linger. I ask myself, “Did I really smell something bad or did the open window just bring in the neighbors overwarm trash smell?” I move on with my day believing that it will clear out. Then, I walk through my dining room/living room/playroom/whatever again and somehow The Mystery Smell has intensified. “No,” I think, “It is clearly in the house and it is all BAD.” My eyes are now watering.
This begins The Search. I must find the source. The Mystery Smell is familiar. In its trickiness it makes me think I know what it is, but I can’t quite place it. I know I’ve met The Mystery Smell before, but where? There are many levels in The Search. First, I check diapers – the obvious start, but never the answer when it comes to The Mystery Smell. I start moving furniture. Did I anger the cat last night? He was looking at me kind of funny when I turned off the lights. No. Nothing. Next, the teenagers. Who’s sweaty shirt is sitting in a corner or behind a door stinking it up like the laundry bin in the Seahawks locker room after the Superbowl? Nope. All the laundry is picked up. Then, halfway into The Search I abandon all reason and just start frantically scrubbing floors in a vain attempt to get rid of The Mystery Smell before someone drops by and thinks I live like that all the time. (This is the sub stage of The Search known as Panic.)
About 30 minutes into my back breaking scrub down suddenly, it hits me. I KNOW The Mystery Smell. This begins the Discovery stage. A cartoon lightbulb literally shows up over my head and I go right to the source. The one spot that every toddler knows. Now, I don’t know where it is in YOUR house, but in my house it is under the cubbies, way in the darkest back corner with the dust bunnies. The Sippy Cup. Not just any sippy cup, but THE Sippy Cup. The one half full of milk. This is the sippy cup that the Hider is “saving” for later. The one he doesn’t want me to know about. I move the toys he’s strategically placed in front as camouflage and there it is. Half full of solid, congealed, smells like the worst combination of poop and BO anyone could ever imagine, milk. I wonder how I ever forget what this is.
Depending on the level of The Mystery Smell I must now make The Decision. Do I open it and try to clean it or take straight to the garbage? The Decision and subsequent Removal, unlike all other stages of The Mystery Smell, take seconds. If I tip The Sippy Cup upside down and nothing moves it goes straight to the garbage.
Finally, relief! After hours of confusion and frantic cleaning, I turn around and smile at the Hider of The Sippy Cup. He is so sweet. He smiles back and of course I instantly forgive him. After all, the house is clean and fresh and the awful smell is gone. He looks up at me with big, bright eyes, stretches his little arms out to me and says, “I poopy.”

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