Name That Putrid Smell

Here’s a Momservations® classic first posted in 2009 as part of a periodic summer series of most popular blog posts (read as I’m gone camping or out of my mind right now).

Momservation: Don’t cry over spilt milk. Unless it is found going rancid under a car seat or congealed in a lost sippy cup found behind the couch.

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Recently my car began to stink. Bad. Something was rotten in Denmark.

At first it was annoying. “Eww. What’s that smell?” But as soon as we got out of the car we forgot about it.

Soon it got overwhelming. “Good Lord! Did something die in this car?” But it seemed we were always in a rush and didn’t have time to do a good search.

Then it got so bad we came armed and ready. “Quick roll down the windows! Here, I brought Daddy’s cologne, make sure you spray the way back too.”

With each offense of our nostrils we’d try to guess what the source of the smell could be.

“It’s damp upholstery from all the wet ski clothes when we went to Tahoe,” guessed Hubby.

“No, it’s food. Look under your seats kids. Do you see any moldy nuggets?” was my guess.

“I think it’s Whitney,” Logan, always the shot taker, teased.

“I think it’s Logan and he pooped his pants,” Whitney fired back.

“Can’t you find time to get this car to the car wash?” Hubby foolishly fired a shot over the bow.   

I instantly volleyed back. “Can’t you find the dirty clothes hamper? That would definitely free up some time.”

Later, after everyone was done throwing each other under the bus, I was dropping the kids off at school when that awful smell became familiar. “It’s spoiled milk!” I yelled to an empty car in my Eureka! moment.

When I got home, I grabbed a trash bag to begin my hard target search. First, I cleared all the junk from the way back. Finding nothing I moved to the second row seats. Random Goldfish, crayons, a stinky sock, but no sour milk. Next, I moved to the middle row and scavenged under the seats. More garbage, toys and (a-ha!) the DVD player remote. I even sniffed the floor mats under Whitney’s seat, since I remembered she had milk with her last in-transit Happy Meal. Finally, I targeted the over-stuffed pockets on the backs of the front seats, elbow deep in garbage, gadgets and gunk.

I have never been so disgusted to find exactly what I was looking for.

The smell hit me a second before my fingers encountered a coagulated, putrid mush of sour milk and possibly Goldfish or Chex Mix. The culprit: a McDonald’s milk jug shoved deep down on its side, a slow leak (over weeks??) mixing with the stray snack foods. And to make it really interesting, it was caked on everything else shoved in the pocket with the only clean-up solution being to reach my hand in there and scrape it out. I did use a Clorox wipe as a shield, but nothing can take away the trauma I suffered.

After that dry heave experience – new rule. To heck with healthy the next time we grab a meal on the go. Sodas all around. The worst it can do is stain my carpets, make everything sticky and contribute to childhood obesity.

That’s still way better than sour milk under my fingernails.


  1. Shell says:

    Oh gross! I definitely would have puked.

    I can’t tell you how many times I threw out sippy cups rather than have to deal with the curdled milk inside.

    And my minivan? Has some sort of permanent funk.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Whenever it rains and the car gets damp inside some sort of rotten chicken smell comes out – it is a mystery and disgusting all rolled in one.

      Ah, the sippy cup years. Those things were like gold with favorite ones, so when the hard target search finally turned up the missing sippy cup you just dealt with the fallout inside. I’m with you though – I should’ve just chucked ’em…

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