A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

“Oh my GOD. What’s that smell?!!”

Driving 12+ hours in a minivan with three kids is never easy, even in the best of conditions.

Now factor in Thanksgiving traffic, heavy winds, rain, bad windshield wipers, and the horrifyingly treacherous mountain freeways of West Virginia? We’re lucky to be alive today.

In driving conditions such as these, it helps to be able to concentrate on the driving.

So imagine my chagrin when I started to hear 4 year old Bucket Head whimpering from the back seat about 5 hours into the trip home yesterday.

"Ewwwww. What's that smell?"

Mind you, the three kids had been exceptionally well behaved thus far on the drive. Thanks to the advice from my Facebook friend, Michele D., we were paying each kid 50 cents for every half hour that passed without any negative incidents such as fighting, whining, not sharing, and any other general unpleasantries. (Michele, it worked like a charm. Thank you!)

My husband was driving, so I turned around in my seat to see what Bucket Head was fussing about.

And that’s when it hit me:

…the stench! 

Like a kick to the face.

“Oh my GOD! What’s that smell?!!!” I choked.

Bucket Head’s whimpering had quickly escalated into full fledged gagging.

Then he started to cry. “I feeuw yike I going to fomit.” [sic]

The stench reached my husband, the driver. He quickly covered his nose. “Oh my GOD. What the hell? Did I run over something?”

My eyes were starting to water. It was as if someone had launched a tear gas grenade into the car.

Suddenly, 12 year old Nature Boy pleaded from the back row “Dad, the windows are locked! Open the windows! OPEN THE WINDOWS!

My 9 year old daughter Mini-Me was the only one not moving or speaking.

She was just sitting there calmly, playing her DSi, completely nonplussed to our panicky gasps for fresh air.

And that’s when I noticed…

she had taken her boots off…

and she wasn’t wearing socks.

If you can imagine the scent emitted from a hot chunk of Camembert being fried into a sandwich between two ripe jock straps on top of a car radiator next to a nursing home dumpster, you are halfway there.

I’m telling you, I have never in all my life smelled something like this, not during childbirth, not at the petting zoo, not even during low tide under the boardwalk with the Golumpki-filled traveling circus carnies.

How in the world does a little girl *this* cute create such a rank odor?

Honest to Pete…whoever coined the phrase “sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what girls are made of,” obviously never met my daughter.

Perhaps a rewrite is in order: “Cute as can be but with stank a-plenty…”

Or “Smart and quite charming, but her foot-odor’s alarming…”


That’s not right. Let’s blame the man-made boots instead.

Too bad, because they are super cute.

We bought them at Tarjay about a month ago. They are absolutely adorable on her and the silver sequins go with everything!


I know.

That’s Pittsburgh, my beloved hometown. Hard to focus on the sparkly boots with a gorgeous backdrop like that, isn’t it? You should see it at night when you emerge from the darkness of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Takes my breath away every time.

I took that picture up on Mount Washington the day after Thanksgiving last week. Look at Bucket Head holding his bird. Literally. We had just bought him a little blue clay bird whistle in town. Two minutes after this picture was taken he dropped it and it shattered into a vajillion little pieces. Good times.

There were two teenaged sisters there with their parents and one of them said to my daughter, “Oh my gosh, I LOVE your boots!” It was really sweet. You should have seen Mini-Me’s face when she was complimented by a teenager!

Sadly, you really can’t judge a boot by its cover, because the synthetic “furry” material of the lining on these puppies is a hot breeding ground for bacteria. And when sweaty foot bacteria get together for potlucks, they bring the funk, yo. 

If I had one of those special infrared cameras the CSI guys use, the boots would look like this:

Sure was a long drive home. We had to keep the windows cracked, in spite of the cold, windy rain. Mini-Me cried that she couldn’t keep the boots on because they were too hot and she wanted to sleep. We tried to wrap the boots in a blanket, but it only muffled the fragrance and gently disbursed it throughout the vehicle like a Hot Fontina Scented Glade Plug-In. (Coming soon to stores near you.)

So now I’m off to Google foot odor solutions. If my life were any more glamorous I’d be scrubbing the seat backs at Zorba’s XXX Movie Theater.

Home, sweet home.


 © Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved. Get your own damn cheese.


  1. Julie

    This post is full of gag.

    But funny gag. Artfully written gag.

    For real though, my nostrils keep snapping shut involuntarily.

    • The Bearded Iris

      You have mad survival skillz. Good for you, girl!

  2. Jessica

    if you have or have access to a deep freezer put the boots in a large ziplock bag or three and freeze them overnight. The cold kills the bacteria. (but seriously don’t forget the bagging!)

    • The Bearded Iris

      …otherwise, I’ll have one stinky freezer, eh?

      GOOD. To. KNOW! Thanks!

      Now let’s see if I can find some big ol’ Ziplocs!

      • Rootietoot

        Throw some baking soda in there too, just shake it down in the boots.

  3. Crystal

    My daughter has the same boots….& the same HORRIBLE odor upon removing said boots. They are so cute, though!

  4. Lara

    omg. i’m so glad you posted this. just today, i’ve held those boots in old navy AND costco and was hemmin’ and hawin’ to get them for my 8yr old. thank you for saving me the $$$ and the odor!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Get them! They are adorable! But a few tips:
      1.) tell her she MUST wear socks with them, preferably moisture wickers,
      2.) get some Odor Eaters (I’m sending the husband to the store right now!)
      3.) invest in some odor absorbing foot powder.

      I’m going to try all three!

  5. Joan

    Too funny.

    Yeah. I’ve passed on some awfully cute Tarjay shoes and boots over the years because of the man-made materials thing. It’s a shame, though, to figure this out AFTER Mini-Me’s had a chance to get thoroughly attached to them.

    • The Bearded Iris

      You get what you pay for, period! She had real Uggs once (a gift from her Grandma), and she wore a hole in the top of them on day two dragging her foot on her scooter. Thought I would kill the child on the spot. So, now, we only buy the the cheapies. I don’t remember her real ones getting this foul. I think the natural sheep’s wool or whatever it is lining the expensive ones is much more breathable and therefore doesn’t get so STANKY! PU! At least I don’t feel so bad throwing them away after she destroys them.

  6. Meili

    “If you can imagine the scent emitted from a hot chunk of Camembert being fried into a sandwich between two ripe jock straps on top of a car radiator next to a nursing home dumpster, you are halfway there.” I cannot, and I do not choose to try, Dear Iris.

    I will say, however, that the three little maniacs who keep popping in here and trying to read over my shoulder are imagining what it would be like to unwrap a pair of those be-yoo-ti-full sparkly boots on Christmas morning. Too bad I’ll have to be the mean momma and break their little hearts. “Socks & underwear for you girlies! No stinky shoes!”

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oooh-wee, you’re mean. Get them the cheapie boots and put odor eaters in their stockings! 🙂

  7. Alex aka Whoa Mumma

    Been there done that. My son’s feet must rot in his shoes because the smell is UNBEARABLE. Even the dog can’t stand to be near his feet once the socks come off.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Aaaaaand? Tell us! Are there any great tips you use to keep his stank at bay? This is a new frontier to me. I need advice! Please help!

  8. Michele

    Throw those nasty hunks in the hazmat waste and get her a new pair – with a natural liner of some kind. I’m sure Tarjayjay is having a sale on them for Black Cyber Week Holiday Bonanza Blow-Out Savings Special with Free Shipping OMG!!!!! (otherwise known as BCWHBBOSSwFSOMG).

  9. Kris the Colts fan

    Stinky feet was not where I saw the story going. I was thinking more along the lines of “oops I crapped my pants”. That might have been more tolerable.

  10. Rootietoot

    My kids, 4 boys, and yes to the foot odor. Uh boy. I do not know that they’ve ever gassed us in the car like that, tho…my sympathies. I kind of got queasy just thinking about it.

  11. Pricilla - Famous SpokesGoat

    Hmmm, I wonder if this would enhance my studmuffin Luke the goat at that “certain time” if you you know what I mean.

    The publicist wonders if newspaper and baking soda would help.

  12. Fiveogrrl

    Maybe she put her left over primanti’s cappacola and cheese with red devil in dem der shoes N’at.

  13. kymberlyfunfit

    Overlooked solution — you have two boys. Put them to use. They lay down some farttastical smells, which overpower the foot fog of death and Voila! You no longer notice a boot problem. A booty one, maybe …..

  14. muffintopmommy

    I totally believes you….I went through an unfortunate stage where I refused to wear socks…I had some STANKY ass Tretorns and damn if my fam is not still ragging on my stanky feet 100 years later. I cry real tears you know. Poor little mini me…I feel her pain!!!!!!!!!!!!! (And yours. To some degree). *cough

  15. Allysgrandma

    ROFLOL……you should smell my husband’s feet after taking off his boots and socks after a long day at the car wash….and he doesn’t seem to smell them either. I hate it when he takes off his boots in the dining room on my laminate and you can see his damp stinky footprints across the floor (I hate laminate for this reason…. at least with carpet you cannot see the dampness, dog hair, etc)….

  16. dizzy desi

    I know your pain…Very well! Lil’ Sunshine has the most gawd awful smelling feet of any child on this planet. Refuses, upon threat of death, to wear socks E V E R (even offered to pay). My friend was riding shotgun on the way back from amusement park payday when DJ popped her shoes off to wiggle the sweaties. Immediately, said friend began gagging and choking, wondering what foul beast must have been cooking in the July sun; when I turned my head with dread – to see that, yes, the putrid stank erupted from Jr.’s bare piggies (gggggh). We wrapped her feet in towels and locked the shoes in a sealed bag in the far far back of the chariot to save us all.

    After consulting with the pediatrician, we have agreed upon stick antiperspirant rubbed on the bottom of washed feet each evening, washed or tossed all of her shoes, and insist on socks at any high energy event. You can also spray the shoes with the Arid spray. This regimen has nearly eliminated the dead carcass smell.

  17. Jules

    I hate to tell you this but as the Mother of two girls, 11 & 18 . There are a lot funkier and worse smells to come…Sorry

  18. AnneM

    It is phrases like “Golumpki-filled traveling circus carnies” that just really make my day!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh thank goodness! I hate when phrases like that go unnoticed. 🙂

  19. GD

    I made my husband read this one – he loved it too! As soon as we got in the car to return from Thanksgiving travels, a stench made our stomachs turn. We looked in the backseat to see our sweet 7 year old daughter had kicked off her Tom’s (made of natural materials). My husband took antibacterial Wet-Ones, dumped the fluid from the bottom of the container onto her feet then scrubbed them with wipes. He put the shoes in a plastic bag in the back of the car, but we could still smell them a bit. Yuck! The shoes were frozen before the trip (to kill the stench). When we got home, I washed them with Clorox plus to kill everything then put them in the freezer. They seem fine now, but I bet in one or two wears the bacteria will blossom again. Socks are the answer.

    I always enjoy your blog & even tried out your white trash corn casserole this year. Thanks! 🙂

    • The Bearded Iris

      Crazy! What’s up with the stinky footed little girls? I’m shocked you have the same issue with breathable shoes. Your husband’s antibacterial foot bath idea was brilliant! Wish I had thought of that!

      Glad you liked my classy casserole! Thanks for the great comment!

  20. Gina

    OMG. Same thing happened on the drive from Nags Head back to Avon on the OBX last week. Beautiful little Zoe, my precious 6 year old granddaughter took her shoes off and the putrid smell was everywhere. Her mother had the same problem as a child. The girl could disintegrate leather Keds. NOT KIDDING. We kept her shoes on the porch growing up. And she only ever got 1 pair of leather Keds.

  21. Crista

    My four year old daughter doesn’t let my 11 year old stepdaughter sit on her bed unless The Stinky One has taken a shower and is wearing socks.

    The first time this happened, I secretly did a happy dance because I’d been telling The Stinky One all summer that her feet (OK, all of her) needed more frequent showers than every three days. But the little one’s moratorium worked, and it’s much less smelly. Now I just have to re-explain the magic of personal hygienge their big brother!

  22. lahikmajoe

    ‘If you can imagine the scent emitted from a hot chunk of Camembert being fried into a sandwich between two ripe jock straps on top of a car radiator next to a nursing home dumpster…’

    Certainly couldn’t imagine that before you described it, but now I can’t stop imagining that smell. Thanks for the very vivid detail.

  23. Livin In Duckville

    Congratulations! You’ve been given The Versatile Blogger Award over at Livin’ In Duckville. You can read more about this at http://livininduckville.blogspot.com/2011/11/arise-queen-cometh.html

  24. Marci

    I started following your blog because I thought you were funny – now that I see you are originally from the Burgh, I will follow you with pride!

  25. Vicky

    Oh I feel your pain. My daughter is now 18 and at about 8 years old became the queen of stinky feet. Didn’t matter what shoes she was wearing or if she was wearing socks or not. If she took her shoes off, she was clearing the room. I won’t even tell you about washing her socks in the laundry it was gross.

    Tips for dealing with the foot odor:
    – Sounds silly but good solid (good smelling) deodorant swiped on the feet prior to putting on socks and shoes will cut down on feet sweating and thus greatly reduce smell.
    – It’s crazy, but stick newspapers into her shoes when she takes them off. They absorb the odor and can then be thrown out without having deal with messy powders.

    As she gets older it does get better. My daughter no longer clears a room when she takes her shoes off.

    Good luck

  26. Leighann

    I have smelly feet

    Like you were surprised.

    I have found nothing that worked.
    Except acceptance.
    Acknowledging the odor and living with it.
    And sometimes using it to fight crime.

  27. linda

    I used to travel with a tennis team. Some of the kids had to leave their shoes outside of the hotel rooms because they smelled so bad. Someone gave me this advice (won’t work on already horrible shoes). Buy powdered boric acid in the pharmacy section at your local drug store. Sprinkle it in shoes, empty them before wearing. After wearing, sprinkle again. It works like magic!

  28. Katie

    I just came across your blog today, and I have never commented on a post on any blog ever before, but let me tell you.. This is probably the funniest thing I have ever read. I was dying laughing. My office mate asked me if I was alright since I could hardly breathe; I was that bad.

    This just strikes home to me since I have an older brother who I would carpool with back in high school. After his football practice, he would literally take his socks off and put his rank, nasty feet in front of the air vents to ‘air them out’. Ugh. and oh boy do I know what a “hot chunk of Camembert being fried into a sandwich between two ripe jock straps on top of a car radiator next to a nursing home dumpster” smells like, unfortunately. I will be back to read more of the hilarity!

  29. MeanGirl

    I just found you, so I’m getting caught up. IttyBitty (my last kid, so she’ll always be the baby) had a frightening medical scare which led to her first ever visit to the ER at the tender age of 8. She’s fine now. She was rapidly developing new symptoms, and it was not lost on her father and I that we were moving up the food chain of Doctors. The third Doctor came in after two others had handed IttyBitty off, and instantly recognized her myriad of symtoms, and assured us she would be OK. At one point, I thought she had developed another bizarre symptom, and for the first time I thought she was in serious trouble. The smell was horrifying. I am a VERY new nursing student, so I know just enough to be dangerous. I started imagining my daughter had fallen victim to some vicious new bacteria that was causing her to emit this stench. Dear God, Please let her be OK. IttyBitty had been at school all day, and was wearing fabulous silver sparkly Tom’s shoes. When those babies came off, WHEW!!! My face must have said it all, because the Attending Physician looked at me and said “That’s just stinky feet.”

    • The Bearded Iris

      HOLY CRAP. What was the final diagnosis? Glad to hear she’s okay now. So Tom’s are stinky too? Damn it! My Mini-Me just told me yesterday that she wants a pair. They look so comfy and breathable.

      • MeanGirl

        The Tom’s Death-foot syndrome doesn’t happen to all my kids. My working theory is that the sparkly ones are less breathable.
        How sweet of you to ask about IttyBitty. The original diagnosis was ‘Kawasaki Syndrome.’ (Super scary, heart complications.) The final, and much less scary diagnosis was ‘erythema multiforme’, which literally means ‘red spots of different sizes and shapes.’ (My education is clearly top-notch.) Basically, she had a nasty, but regular old virus, and she was allergic to said virus. The high fever, compounded with the allergic reaction caused her little heart to pump really hard, which led to a harmless and temporary heart murmur.

        • The Bearded Iris

          Oh my GOD – how frightening! I’ve heard of that Kawasaki Syndrome before, but not the other stuff. Thank God you caught it early and that everything is okay, except for the stank feet.

  30. Stacey at RealWorldMom

    Your description of this incident is hysterical! I laughed through most of this excellent post! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  31. Jen

    Your story was hilarious… Did your daughter wear the boots after this, with socks? If so did that stop the smell, or just reduce it? And how is it with other shoes when she is wearing socks? My daughters feet smell sometimes even with socks, esp after school, she is 9. With her it’s usually enough to be just ‘ cute’ rather than ‘deadly’! 😉

© 2021 The Bearded Iris

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑