The Skunking


It all started early one Friday morning (as it typically does). My husband (Eric) was leaving for his week away at work. My children and I were just rallying for the day.  We were all a little rough and ragged, having just gotten through a pretty dramatic bout of stomach upset that started last week at the park and involved a porta’ potty that would never be the same again. (GAG!)  Regardless, we were trying to be chipper – it was Friday after all!

Eric headed out to pack the car and upon opening the front door discovered that our crooked little cat Hiway had been forgotten outside and arrived home SKUNKED. Eric had to be out and gone by 7:30am so there was no discussion, no question of who would be dealing with this.  I groaned, I cursed, we locked poor Hiway in the basement to be dealt with later and we got on with the morning.

Since Trystan was on his way back to school and we were a little nervous about his belly on the bus  I was driving him. Of course we were running late and things were hectic.  By the time I had Trystan to school and Loukah at daycare I had completely forgotten about the little bundle of nasty awaiting me at home.  Walking through the door was like walking through the perfume department in the devil’s department store.  An mystic creature of stink hit my face, then wrapped its tentacles around my throat and crawled up my nose.  “Oh God…the SKuuuunking!!”  I turned on my heel and headed back out.  I hustled to the nearest pet store looking for something to save us all.  To my great delight there was a big bottle marked in bold letters on the first shelf. “SKUNK OFF”.  A clear statement, such confidence.  There was no doubt in my mind with a name like that it HAD to work!  I chatted cheerfully with the lady at the cash thinking I had just solved my dilemma and would soon be on to other more important tasks , like a bubble bath and a cup of coffee!

Once home it took about 20 minutes to capture, and another 20 to thoroughly soak my miserable, squirmy, uncooperative patient.  I don’t know who was more upset about the process but when it ended neither Hiway or I were feeling very snugly. She looked like a drowned rat and smelled indescribably horrible.  I smelled pretty much the same.  It was a confusing sensory experience. A mix of wet cat, skunk and that perfume they sell for preteens.  That kind of chemically floral head-achy stuff!?  Ya’ you know it. It’s generally sold in brightly coloured boxes and features images of teen heartthrobs. I think it’s called – SHOOT ME NOW!

Let me say this.  It’s not because of my experience that this product is automatically junk. Maybe Hiway encountered a particularly repugnant skunk.  Maybe her skunk had been eating cabbage.   I don’t know.  All I know is that for me, SKUNK OFF did not live up to its label. In my experience it basically just redefined my understanding of the word ‘malodorous’.   One could argue it was meant to mask the skunk smell with a more pleasant deodorant type of scent.  Even at that I would have to say EPIC FAIL. Disappointment, sadness, frustration, nausea.  I was feeling it all.

I gave myself a reprieve.  Ever the optimist I decided to give the product some time to “set”.  I felt perhaps it needed time to permeate. I was not a skunking expert after all , they were.  Maybe there was a chemical process that needed to take place!?  Maybe the smell would sort of just dissipate as the product dried!??  Yes, I decided.  YES, I would believe that.  Off I went with hope in my heart and a belief that MAGIC would happen while I got a wash and soak in the tub.

Two shaved legs and only one plucked eyebrow later the phone rang.  Trystan was sick again and needed to be picked up at school. I hopped in the car (looking half surprised) and headed off to gather my wee man who had become quite fevered and was having a lot of throat pain.   Four hours later we emerged from the ER just in time to pick Loukah up and return home.  Knowing I still had a stink giant to slay, and wanting to squeeze a little something good into Friday for the boys, I grabbed the need antibiotics (strep throat), bought some popsicles and promised them both a snuggle and a movie.


We arrived home to find the entire house now smelling of skunk and perfume. I had never realized that a smell could hit you with such force!  It was like a solid mass!  Like, someone was experimenting with chemical weapons in my HOUSE!!  The cat was miserable.  She was skulking around like she was trying to get away from herself. She held her body low to the ground and scuffled the way cats do when you drop a towel over them and they want it off.  Poor pathetic, putrid little beast.  I set the kids up with a show and hit good ole GOOGLE to research skunk solutions.

After carefully considering and sifting through the world of lay and lame internet advice I had decided against anything to do with tomato juice.  I selected the SPCA as a credible source. They said to use vinegar, baking soda and a little dish soap. This made perfect sense to me!  It sounded quite similar to something I had used not long ago to clean the grout between the bathroom tiles and that worked great. I set myself up in the bathroom then brought Hiway in and locked the door.   By this time the kids show had finished and they had taken an interest in the de-skunking process.  They arranged themselves on the bathroom counter as if it was stadium seating. Little did any of us realise the REAL show was just about to begin.

Side note: I should mention that my children had recently entered a phase of brotherhood in which they could fight about ANYTHING, and it came on fast.  Without exaggeration I can tell you, they would be getting ready for bed and start fist fighting over who would kiss the other goodnight first! UGLY.  Tiny demons!

The following is a true account of events as they happened:

In case you’ve never done it, vinegar and baking soda create some pretty impressive fizz when mixed together. It makes a pretty good sound too.  Much like a cat hissing actually. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Hiway thought she was hearing as I mixed the formula and began trying to spread it over her. She was frantic! She surely believed she was being overtaken by an angry,invisible adversary!

I embarked on trying to pin my wet, writhing, terrified cat with one hand and with the other hand slather her with hissing vinegar solution.  At first the boys were calling out suggestions and cheering for Mommy as if they were my trainers and this was a paid sports event! Suddenly their attention became focused on the items on the bathroom counter.  They hooked onto the toothbrushes and  got into a debate over who was better at brushing their teeth.  Soon they were pushing and shoving each other.  Hurling the cruel-est of their childhood slurs like “poopy head!” and “butt face!”.  I was trying to get them to stop for fear one would push the other off the counter and get hurt.  It was, of course futile.  They had entered their own world of childhood conflict.  That world nearly impenetrable to mothers voice.  I pulled them down off the counter to mitigate the risk while they solved their dispute “the old fashion way”, and turned my attention back to Hiway, who by now was trying to make her escape through the tiny crack under the bathroom door.  As IF this was my life!?

As I was trying to restrain the cat and act as referee to the poopy head brothers I was mildly aware that the entire scene had taken on the look and feel of a low budget wrestling match. There was yelling, screaming, scratching, and clawing. Vinegar and baking soda froth was being shaken in all directions. It flew in clumps, as if from the mouths of rabid beasts!  The tiles had become wet and we were all sort of sloshing around the room. The cat was not just panting. She was making noises I had never heard before.  I was making the exact SAME sounds!  By the time I was supposed to “rinse” there was nothing left to do but admit defeat. HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO RINSE A CAT!!!??? Madness.  

I opened the door and freed the beasts (all three of them).  Surrender.

I woke up the next morning to discover a trail of stinky white fluff balls littering the hallway. HiWay’s’ fur was now falling out in clumps. I felt sorry for her, and quite honestly for myself, but there was nothing to do.  She was in hiding and I had two little hooligans to wrangle.  It took a week for her fur to stop falling out.  The entire week she kept bringing me “gifts” as if trying to apologise for her stench. Or maybe they were sacrifices.  Pleas for mercy.  Offered with a hope to stave off any further intervention.  She brought me mouse intestines mostly,  some kidneys I think.  Once a head.  Every day, every time she went out.  Sometimes two in a day! I couldn’t understand how these various prey animals were getting caught!  Couldn’t they smell her coming!?  I was disgusted, but sympathetic.  I couldn’t imagine walking around smelling like that for a week.  Poor little cat.

Thankfully Hiway has never been skunked again since that event.  I must say I have NO idea how I would handle it better or differently.  I DO know that my first experience left me with NO useful insight.  Only EXTREMELY white grout between my bathroom tiles, and a good story.



The Steam Room


A little “sparkle” illustration from the one and only TJ. XOXO

Let me set the scene:

My husband Eric works away a lot.  He began working week long 24 hour shifts when Trystan was 7 months old and was still in that routine when Loukah came along.  For the first 6 years of parenting life we had very few dates and I had even fewer moments alone.  I was sleep deprived and desperate for a little R&R. ( I suspect most readers can relate.) AND with that image in mind, I give you  – THE STEAM ROOM

We were in a really nice hotel in Quebec for a celebration with Erics work. We were excited about this event for many reasons. Not the least of which being our dear friends who were going to watch the boys for us – and the really cool pool/spa in the hotel.

We arrived Saturday evening and decided to go down with the boys for a swim before getting ready for our night out. On the way through the change room I spotted a steam room.  Though I’m not much for hot tubs and the like I was quite drawn to the steam and made it my mission to get at least 5 minutes to myself in there. After about a half hour in the pool I told Eric I’d like to head back to the room to get dressed. He agreed to stay with the boys a little longer. This was my opportunity! I was so excited. The place was empty.  I had it all to myself. I set the timer for 5 minutes and found myself a seat at the top of the warm bleachers inside. Ahhhhh….a little pampering after a long hard couple of weeks – BLISS.

I closed my eyes and rested my head back against the wall. I knew from my experiences with hot yoga that I needed a little chance to get used to the hot air. I was enjoying the heat, and the feel of the steam pooling in around me. But as the air became thicker and hotter I started to get a little uncomfortable. “Breathe” I told myself  “Relax, this is supposed to be a treat!” 

I have, over the years comes to realise that claustrophobia is a bit of an issue for me.  Sadly I had not considered that factor as I planned this little escapade.  As I continued coaching myself to stay calm I could not help but notice that the air had become significantly hotter.  I put my hand over my mouth trying to somehow filter it – still thinking if I could just adjust and stay put I would be good.  Then I felt drips of hot water falling from the ceiling.  I became convinced that the temperature of this chamber must be set too high and I was about to be cooked like a cheap chicken breast at a fast food restaurant! Somewhere deep inside I knew I was being irrational.  I tried in vain to convince myself into staying longer – “breathe”! I took a deep open mouth breath and felt like I was sucking on the spout of a tea kettle!  The air was so thick I was sure you could chew it (if only it weren’t made of hells fury itself!) Now I was certain I would choke on the scalding air! That’s when I opened my eyes…..

If you’ve never been in a steam room let me try to paint the picture for you.  Ah…never mind…there is no picture, there’s only steam!  Even with my eyes open my nightmare would not end!!

There was a thick cloud of steam,  so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face! It created the appearance of a solid mass and at the moment I opened my eyes it might well have been the inside of a coffin. I was buried alive in steam – Panick!!  I blindly flailed my arms to find the wall and then felt my way along looking for the door handle my imagination had me in a choke hold. I was convinced that I would walk through one of the steam jets and be instantly vaporised. I decided I must have made a fatal mistake. You must be expected to fill the room first then enter when the jets are off. I was beyond certain that this room was unfit for human occupation! Why wasn’t there a sign? An instruction manual?? I suddenly remembered that as I entered the chamber there had been a red chord labelled “URGENCE”. Why oh why didn’t I pay more attention to that warning!!? Where was the damn door? When would this ordeal come to and end? The HORROR! Just as I was about to scream for mercy and rescue I found the door handle. Woosh! At long last I was free.  I emerged from my foggy death trap in a puff of smoke.  I was gulping cool air like a fish in the bottom of a boat. I collapsed into a heap and pressed my forehead against the cool wall, thankful to be alone and alive!  As I looked up I noticed the timer….2 minutes.

Embarrassed by my own irrational thinking AND determine to enjoy this damned steam room I decided to re-enter. To mitigate the perceived risk I stood just inside the door with my hand on handle. Deep breath – puff of smoke – in I went! “Stay clam” I told myself “Be rational” ….but how can a woman stay rational when she is being steamed like a giant broccoli? I lasted mere seconds. With a woosh and a poof I made my escape.

I didn’t get my 5 minutes of steam room bliss – but I had a little entertainment, and a good laugh at my own expense. Equally good for the soul.