the smell of my desperation has become a stench


Let’s start this off by reminding everyone that the woman who sold us this house used to let a bobcat sleep in the shed. A bobcat who seemed nice because it purred. She told us this after she had walked us through the house to “explain” a few things. Only, later we found out that all those explanations were lies. So we started to think that maybe it was a mythical bobcat. Which, hey. That’s kind of awesome. We bought a house with its own mythical bobcat. What can your house do?

And then the first few nights we slept here we heard critters in the ceiling above our bedroom. No problem! Call the critter catchers! People so enthusiastic about their jobs that if they don’t come out of a crawl space without a few scratches in the face and a missing earlobe, they consider it a wasted day.

Now, they couldn’t assure us that it wasn’t a possum or raccoon or WHATNOT, but they were pretty certain there were just a whole bunch of birds nesting in the soffit of our roof. Those birds now have homes elsewhere, except… we’re still hearing noises here and there. Nothing like before, but enough that we think maybe the critter catcher wanted to screw with us and left behind a few tenants. And if that were the case, how do you get back at a critter catcher? It’s not like you could break into their house and let loose a bucket of snakes. They’d wake up and be all, CHRISTMAS!

So. Fast forward to Monday, my birthday. Things were normal until Marlo disappeared from sight for less than ten seconds. We didn’t even hear the usual thud, but once she started crying I came to her rescue only to find that she had somehow chipped off half of one of her four teeth. HALF.

Double-you. Tee. Eff.

Billy Bob
That tooth is now so sharp we’re afraid she’s going to slice her lip open. Or, worse, since she’s taken to head-butting her sister when she doesn’t get her way, use that tooth to commit felony homicide.

Please someone assure me that this has happened to their infant and that the solution doesn’t involve the use of a tool you’d buy at a hardware store.

Then my father called and said he wanted to stop by and drop off a birthday present, which is awesome except that he was driving all the way over from his house. His house that is located so far to the west that he has to be careful backing out of his driveway so that the car doesn’t fall off the edge of the earth.

So I took that time to write a little bit of a letter to myself to commemorate my birthday. And about a couple paragraphs in I knew I wanted to include one of my baby pictures in the post. I keep all of my baby pictures in a black scrapbook with acid-free paper (so very Mormon of me, I know!) that I remembered setting aside before the move. But no amount of hunting or turning over boxes could locate it. I hunted through the entire office, off into the basement where all the boxes that haven’t been unpacked are sitting like lonely little prisoners who violated probation by leaving the country and partying in Cannes and… oops. Wrong prisoner.

In the back of my mind I knew my dad was on his way over, so I ran up to the office to see if maybe Jon had shoved some of my stuff into one of the closets up there. Two of the closets are finished and have walls and floors, but the other four open up into the attic crawl space and are filled with air conditioning duct work and insulation. I hadn’t checked any of those closets yet, so I moved some boxes out of the way, flung open the door to the closet at the far south of the house, and standing not a foot away from my face was a very large, very hairy animal with giant shining eyes.

Okay. What would you have done in this situation?


That’s what I thought.

I slammed the door, had a heart attack, died, came back to life, and then ran screaming down two flights of stairs. SC-RAH-HEAMING. It just kept coming out of my mouth involuntarily. I couldn’t stop it: AAAAAHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH!

The whole time thinking OH MY GOD I FOUND THE MYTHICAL BOBCAT.

I ran into the kitchen still screaming AAAAAHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHHH-HHHHHHHH! And Jon is all, dude, are the kids okay? And I was like, THE KIDS? Are you kidding? The mythical bobcat could have jumped out of that closet and clawed my face off! I’m lucky to be alive!

It took several minutes for him to calm me down enough to talk coherently:

What had I seen? I didn’t know, I didn’t get a very good look, but it was really hairy and looked like a cat! A big cat!

Was I sure it was a cat? I DIDN’T KNOW. I wasn’t going to spend the time inspecting the intruder only to have it jump out and tackle me to the ground! YOU GO LOOK.

But, Heather, you know how allergic I am to cats. I can’t go look. YOU DON’T LOVE ME.

At this point I saw Tyrant grab a broom, and I said, please! Please don’t hurt it if you find it! And he said, “Oh, don’t worry. I’m just going to give it a little shove.” And then he walked over to the stove and grabbed the butcher knife.

Jon and Tyrant both started laughing, and I was like SERIOUSLY. THERE IS A FOREIGN ANIMAL IN OUR HOUSE. So Jon straightened up a bit, ran to the basement and grabbed an old dog crate. Then he handed it to Tyrant and bid him good luck.

My father finally arrived, and I was a total mess. He and my stepmother sat in the living room while I paced the kitchen and tried to engage in conversation that had nothing to do with wild, fanged animals. Nearly impossible. How was your drive over, dad? Were you chased by any tigers?

A few minutes later Tyrant walked into the living room, broom in one hand, crate in the other.

“Heather,” he said gravely. “It’s a good thing you found this cat when you did. It’s skin and bones. I doubt it would have survived another day.”



Wait a minute, it’s not a mythical bobcat? You mean a poor little cat has been stuck in our attic crawl space? Am I allowed to bawl uncontrollably on my 35th birthday without looking like I’m pining for my youth?

I called animal control immediately hoping they’d arrive before the poor thing collapsed from dehydration, and after they showed up Tyrant told me to spend some time with my father while he walked around the neighborhood to do some investigation. I did everything I could to focus on my father who had travelled light years to wish me a happy birthday, but all I could think was, how long had that cat been in the attic? How did it get in there? How could it have survived without food or water? Why can’t we all just get along and save the world?

I apologized to him for being so preoccupied. And he was like, Heather, do you not remember taking road trips years ago, and if you saw a dead animal by the side of the road everyone had to assure you that it was taking a nap? Because otherwise you’d cry for three days? You just started your thirty-fifth year of life by saving an animal. And it didn’t cost him any money. So, good day all around!

And now I’m going to cry just typing the end of this:

Tyrant got some information from a neighbor who was pretty sure that the cat was the pet of another neighbor. He found that woman’s phone number, called her, and said, I don’t know if you’re missing a cat, but— and she couldn’t talk she was crying so hard. Yes, she was missing a cat. In fact, the cat had been missing for four weeks. She’d gone around the neighborhood before we moved in asking everyone if they had seen him. And after four weeks, she’d given up hope. She was currently in Oregon, but she’d have a friend go and pick him up. His name is Diego.

She had never been on good terms with the previous owner of this house, and she’s certain that Diego was locked in that closet intentionally. I can’t let my mind go there.

If it hadn’t been my birthday, I never would have walked into that closet, never would have found Diego. Yesterday the owner flew in from Oregon to see him and thank us. And I was like, don’t thank me, thank my mom! She went into labor on July 19th, and that’s why I opened that door.

He’s going to be totally okay.

However, I’m still a little jumpy and afraid to open closets.

  • mihow

    2010/07/21 at 12:07 pm

    Thank GOODNESS this has a happy ending! I’m not sure my ass could have handled anything else. I’m so happy he’s OK. Terrible he may have been locked in there on purpose. Oh, the poor baby.

    He probably feasted last night!

    Poor sweet Diego. Ok, apparently I’m far too emotional today.

  • jenspends

    2010/07/21 at 12:08 pm

    My friend’s little girl, about the same age, recently did exactly the same thing! She hit her face on the side of a bathtub 🙁 The dentist said when she is a little older they will apply a bonding to make it look normal, but for now they simply smoothed it a bit and left it as-is.

  • bubbytoots

    2010/07/21 at 12:09 pm

    Wow! What a day! My son chipped his tooth, I have no idea how or when, it isn’t nearly as bad, but the dentist was not concerned. I am sure your dentist can offer something so she won’t hurt herself…. good luck.

    Glad it wasn’t a bobcat in your closet!

  • Norabloom

    2010/07/21 at 12:10 pm

    Holy crap, what an amazing story. I’m so glad it had a happy ending. That poor kitty!

  • Daddy Scratches

    2010/07/21 at 12:10 pm

    I started out feeling traumatized by the whole chipped-tooth thing, and I totally didn’t see the wild-animal-in-the-closet thing coming, so by the time I got to the cat-missing-for-four-weeks-was-reunited-with-its-sobbing-owner part, I was exhausted. I need to go lay down.

    We just bought a house, too. I pray the sellers haven’t trapped any animals in it. (God knows their preferred bathroom-reading material is scary enough.)

  • confusedkaty

    2010/07/21 at 12:12 pm

    YAY! YAY FOR DIEGO! I’m so glad ou and tyrant found him! Happy birthday!

  • JenMarie

    2010/07/21 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you so much. I needed a story with a happy ending today. You’ve made my day 🙂

  • Tricia

    2010/07/21 at 12:16 pm

    I can’t even think about poor Marlo’s snaggle-tooth…

    Do you really think the woman who sold you the house INTENTIONALLY LOCKED A CAT IN A CLOSET? I really hope to God that’s not true. That’s just so evil I can’t understand it. Just… horrible.

    Sorry you had such a scare on your birthday, but so so glad Diego got a new lease on life because of your misplaced photo albums!

  • Heavenisabookstore

    2010/07/21 at 12:17 pm

    That is so freakin sad. What a horrible lady if she did lock that cat in the closet. Poor thing.

  • SandraDee

    2010/07/21 at 12:17 pm

    OMG – I just read this post three times because it was so unbelievable. Glad to read about the happy ending. Good karma to you….and happy birthday.

  • christinenicole1

    2010/07/21 at 12:17 pm

    Ok…so hilarious post, had me laughing so hard! So glad the kitty is saved!!!!!

    BUT….WTF??? What is the life altering decision??? I am still waiting…keep checking your site (i know, i have no life).

  • ERStolpe

    2010/07/21 at 12:17 pm

    You know, I’m liking Tyrant more.
    The picture of the glowing eyes is perfect.
    Poor Diego.
    I would be cautious about anything you haven’t opened yet in and around that house – she sounds like quite a nutter.
    Don’t you love it when your father reminds you that he really loves you, used to put up with your shit, and is willing to put up with it now?

  • dooce

    2010/07/21 at 12:19 pm

    @christinenicole1, this is going to be anti-climatic for you, but I was referring to buying this house. This much more expensive than our last house house.

  • Gypsy

    2010/07/21 at 12:22 pm

    About the tooth: I think the dentist can probably fix er up. I had a friend whose 2 year old knocked her front tooth clean out and you know, had to go toothless for several years before the big tooth came in. Looked awesome in pictures. Straight hillbilly toddler.

    About the cat: I hate it when I cry at my desk. Thanks for that. You have to tell us more about that homeowner. Only you would move into a house that contained this kind of blogging material. Totally jealous of your insano homeowner.

  • Kate Hanke

    2010/07/21 at 8:03 pm

    I teach a 2nd grader whose tooth naturally grew that way (like a spike). I can’t help but stare at it. I don’t believe he’s killed anyone with it (but can’t be sure).

    I haven’t been super lucky with animals, but I haven’t had any surprise me in my house, either. However, I did manage to paralyze a bunny.

    The most scary would be a cat with that tooth. Then you could be certain of injury or death.

  • Squeetthang

    2010/07/21 at 12:24 pm

    AWWW! That made ME tear up a little! I am an avid cat lover and that little one looks like our moo-kitty, Sadie!

    So glad the owner was found, you came back to life and all is well!!!!!!

    Maybe you can get some “allllll-better now” pictures of Diego and post them! 🙂

  • sweet futility

    2010/07/21 at 12:26 pm

    My daughter (now almost 5) chipped her front tooth at age 2 and 1/2 while happily racing up and down the aisles at Home Depot, trying to get away from my husband, who was trying to keep her occupied (while I chose something we needed for our move and renovation) by being the “Daddy Monster.” We had it filed, it was fine, and then a year later the gums got infected and it had to be pulled. The tooth fairy came to our house way early.

    My younger daughter (now almost 2) chipped her front tooth just about a week ago when she stumbled near our play kitchen. Nothing as exciting as a home improvement legend. But there you go. What I mean is, it happens all the time.

  • J. Bo

    2010/07/21 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, my GAHD, the tooth thing was traumatic enough, but then THE CAT?!? Nothing like a dramatic birthday, huh?

  • Penelope

    2010/07/21 at 12:32 pm

    I canNOT believe all this stuff actually happens to you! I’m crying in my office–a combination of “oh no!” for Marlo, hilarity your reaction to the cat, sadness for the cat and feisty anger at the previous owner of that house. Whoa.

    Also, 1,000 points for Tyrant.

  • TigerLily

    2010/07/21 at 12:27 pm

    Jesus, Heather — I too thought there was *more* life altering news coming and it was bugging the shit out of me that you were leaving us hanging. Don’t do that to us!!!

    This post had me laughing my ass off. Something about the word “SC-RAH-HEAMING” does it to me every time. Don’t even get me started on the visual picture of you running like a lunatic down two flights of stairs screaming the entire way. And all because of a domestic housecat. Bwahahahaha!

    So glad you saved Diego’s life.

    I wonder what else that wingnut left for you guys to find. Better keep checking them closets!

  • Alevai

    2010/07/21 at 12:27 pm

    Oh wow Heather, what an awesome story. Diego is so lucky to be saved. Amazing.
    Oh, and happy belated birthday!

  • napangel

    2010/07/21 at 12:29 pm

    Oh, POOR Diego! Thank goodness it was your birthday. (And, thanks. Now I’m crying.)

  • MissCaron

    2010/07/21 at 12:30 pm

    That is both the best and the worst story. What a birthday! It definitely is not a typical birthday and I know that you will remember it forever.

  • Chloe

    2010/07/21 at 12:33 pm

    Laughed until I cried – then cried for that poor kitty. Can you string up the former owner of your new home? What a terrible thing to do to a defenseless animal that belonged to another fellow human being. Why would someone intentionally do that?

  • Gammarific

    2010/07/21 at 12:33 pm

    As awful as the previous owner sounds, my guess is that the cat wandered in as she was moving her stuff out. I don’t like to think someone is capable of doing that on purpose. I could be wrong though.

  • kilowatthour

    2010/07/21 at 12:34 pm

    i fear i’m being obtuse, but… who is susan?

  • Jessica Eiden Smedley

    2010/07/21 at 12:35 pm

    Hooray for happy endings – I was starting to prepare myself for something terrible.

    Many happy returns, Heather.

  • MrsRoo

    2010/07/21 at 12:35 pm

    Oh my God. I almost had a panic attack reading that. I had elevated breathing, Heather, ELEVATED BREATHING. I can’t handle things like that at work.

    Animal stories are rough for me. I refused to read Sounder in 6th grade because I knew the dog was gonna die. I cried so hard and carried on for so long before that assignment, my hard-ass parents actually broke down and wrote the teacher a note. And in my world, that dog doesn’t die at the end.

    Anyway, my point is that I love animals. I think people who do cruel things to animals should be shot immediately. No trial, no lawyers, no jury, just automatic death. I seriously hope that crazy bobcat lady didn’t steal Diego and keep him locked in that closet. Because if she did, she may have to hide from the Internet. It just might be out to get her.

  • jkottke

    2010/07/21 at 12:35 pm

    This is just like that movie, The Hangover. Did this cat belong to Mike Tyson too?

  • ChickWhitt

    2010/07/21 at 12:36 pm

    What kind of horrible bitch would do that to a cat?? If I was that lady, I’d be pressing charges.

    And how in the world was Coco not going completely nuts with a cat in the house??

    Eh, Marlo looked too cute with her perfect teeth anyway. This will keep her head from swelling 🙂

  • fairytate

    2010/07/21 at 12:36 pm

    Wow, talk about a crazy story. So glad you found Diego when you did, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a pretty post!

  • theurbancowgirl

    2010/07/21 at 12:37 pm

    Oh, I’m SO glad this has a happy ending. Oh that poor kitty. I cannot believe that crazy lady would have done that. Oh my goodness. I’m so happy you and Jon bought that house and saved that poor kitty.

  • Bronnibee

    2010/07/21 at 12:38 pm

    Yeah, you should be able to take Marlo to the dentist and they will just file down the sharp edges. I chipped a tooth in elementary school, and that was all they did for me. My dentist even had this little filing tool that was a wheel that he rolled across my teeth, so no horrible loud tools or scary noises or anything.

    So glad that you were able to save the kitty! What a sweet story.

  • Victoria_Girl

    2010/07/21 at 12:39 pm

    What a great birthday story!

    And, you can use Marlo’s tooth as a weapon against further large, hairy invading animals. Just open closets while holding her tooth first!

    Happy Birthday Heather 🙂

  • kellyjcallahan

    2010/07/21 at 12:41 pm

    I am so surprised that the cat story hasn’t made the local network news here in Portland. The story is so much better then the lost dog from Arizona that ended up in Oregon they aired last week.

    Glad that Diego is home and doing well. I thing next on your house agenda… walling in those closets.

  • naysway

    2010/07/21 at 12:40 pm

    So many emotions from this post. I went from horrid shock at Marlo’s tooth because what. thee. hell. Then fall down laughter at your reaction to the mystery animal, then sonuvabitch, I can’t believe that previous owner. Be glad you got the house away from her. She sounds bat-shit crazy.

    Then lastly, and most enjoyed, @jkottke’s response. HAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes tears*

  • angelle321

    2010/07/21 at 12:41 pm

    So nice to hear animal stories that have happy endings. I read too many bad things. Poor Diego! But yay you, Heather! 🙂

  • nakedjen

    2010/07/21 at 12:41 pm

    i absolutely think i need to add Tyrant to my growing list of husbands to whom i’m not actually married. (we’re in utah, this is totally okay and allowed!).

    am so thankful that cat is now home where he belongs. such a confluence of events, beginning with your birth 35 years ago, that resulted in his rescue. amazing how that works!

    also…i had marlos accident with my own teeth. no small animals or children were ever harmed as result. and even in the dark ages of the last century, no implements from hardware stores were needed to make it all better. just so you know.

  • georgiagirl

    2010/07/21 at 12:53 pm

    ACK! I just fell out of my chair laughing. Which would be okay if I weren’t at work! Everyone is looking at me like i’m crazy and i’m all “what? don’t blame me, blame Heather B. Armstrong!” Heather, you are just too much sometimes. LOVE IT!
    Pretty sure the dentist can just file Marlo’s tooth down. Poor baby.

    btw, so glad the kitty is okay.

  • kacyd

    2010/07/21 at 12:42 pm

    Happy Birthday late, I’m glad the cat is ok, but what are you going to do about Marlo’s tooth??

  • JasmineStar

    2010/07/21 at 12:42 pm

    I laughed while reading this post. Audibly. And really, really hard. Thanks to your mom…and Diego…for this great post!

  • Johannie

    2010/07/21 at 12:43 pm

    I’m sure Marlo will be fine! I think that the dentist could definatley file it a bit to smooth out the sharp bits. I would look for a special pediatric dentist though – they are magical if you find the right one!
    As for the kitty, wow! Poor thing! thank goodness you found it when you did. Also how awesome that Tyrant was able to capture it. Hope that you don’t hear critters in there anymore!
    Excellent story, I read it outlout to my daughter while she was eating her lunch… she loved it too!

    Have a great year being 35!

  • Missybeme

    2010/07/21 at 12:44 pm

    OK. First off, the former owner was obviously just a wee bit off her rocker. Ok, so she was Psycho. Hopefully Diego was what you heard in the attic and there’s nothing else up there!

    Second, my nephew was about the same age, a little older when he tried to be super jumpy boy and “fly” from one bed to another. He didn’t make it. His face was a bloody mess and his tooth was almost ripped out of his mouth. They had to pull it. No big deal, it’s just a baby tooth. Since he’s got an identical twin brother, it helps others keep them apart! Fear not…happens to lots of kids, I’m sure a pediatric dentist could make a suggestion and/or help file down the tooth. Though, for a kid that age…ya might have to knock her out!

  • PunkinP

    2010/07/21 at 12:45 pm

    Happy, happy, joy, joy! That was a nail-biter. I had to force myself not to scroll down to the bottom. But I had a great laugh when I saw the photos of the itty-bitty-kitty. Oh my God, that was funny!

  • Her Bad Mother

    2010/07/21 at 12:45 pm

    Not too long ago, I opened someone’s cube freezer and found a dead wolf staring back. Which, you know, is disconcerting. The opportunity for Twilight jokes, however, was awesome.

  • mamashell

    2010/07/21 at 12:46 pm

    My daughter Lylah is just a few months older than Marlo and a couple months ago she chipped one of her front teeth and we have NO idea how. It is also sharp and she has busted open her lip from it. Yet a dentist will not see her till shes 2!

    Oh and congrats on saving the cat!

  • hanniy

    2010/07/21 at 12:47 pm

    Oh, wow….AWESOME post!

    A few years ago, my 12 year old stepson and I were driving home at about 12:30am from a Harry Potter book opening. While driving up a huge hill in the middle of nowhere (about five minutes from our house, out further in nowhere land), I swore that I saw an animal in the middle of the other lane. So I stopped, backed up, and sure enough – we saw a very dark kitten run into the woods.

    After pulling over and looking around for a flashlight, which we couldn’t find, we started searching the woods. We could hear the kitten scurry away when we came close, so I started making very motherly sounding “mewing” noises…and he held still enough for us to find him! He was incredibly scrawny and totally black except for a little white spot on his chest. Another day or two and he wouldn’t have made it.

    My stepson’s mother is a cat lover, so we brought the cat to her – we had five dogs at the time who wouldn’t have found much humor in having a cat around. She decided that she’d keep him for a bit, get him healthy and try to find him a home.

    She never did find him another home because she decided to keep him. He turned out to be a sweet, loving cat who is appropriately named “Gryffin”. Every time I see him, I think of driving on that lonely road late at night and am thankful that we weren’t coming from the other direction!

  • napangel

    2010/07/21 at 12:47 pm

    Wait. Who is Susan?

  • grad.nauseam

    2010/07/21 at 12:50 pm

    What a fantastic happy ending for Diego! I wonder if he had previously been dining on your “critters” and only tried to make his escape once they were all removed?

    BTW – I’m pretty sure one of the Brangelina kids is currently missing a front tooth because it was accidentally knocked out. It’s all the rage with the hip toddlers.

  • susanruffin

    2010/07/21 at 12:50 pm

    I always worried with a scare like that I would scream like you did and nothing would come out. Good vocals. Great post.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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