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The Odor of Other People's Things


Quill
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I find this so fascinating and I wonder where it comes from. I obtain a lot of things second-hand; always have, as my mother is quite the scavenger of all cast-offs: yarns, paper, material, furniture, clothes, craft supplies, books, etc. Often she gives me boxes or bags of cast-offs she acquired. I would say 95% of the time, goods from a previous owner have a funny odor. When it's clothing (or even yarn), I can launder them and usually they don't smell alien anymore. But if it's crafting papers, books or some other materials, the odor just stays. I begin to reconsider if I want the good at all. I have, for example, a large packet of construction type papers that I could theoretically use for homeschooling and/or co-op classes. But it stinks. When I open the box, out wafts an odor. I can't identify it; it's not a distinct thing such as cigarette smoke or cat urine. It's just a "not my smell" smell.

 

Do you notice this? What is the source of these foreign smells? Presumably, my belongings smell some way too, but the smell is "my" smell so I don't notice it. Do you pass on used goods because they smell alien to you, if they are not washable? Why do I never notice this with, say, library books, or when I'm over someone else's house (usually)? Why is it that, say, renting an apartment, doesn't feel like, "oh, this smells like Other People,"?

 

Final note: I did hear a woman say something like this when she was adopting a child from a different country. She said when she was visit Baby, the baby would smell "funny", but after she spent time with the baby, the baby smelled like "hers." But when she would leave and come back, the baby would smell "funny" again. Interesting!

 

P.S. I am not a person with a keen sense of smell.

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Yes, I can remember the distinct smells of especially older people's homes and all the things in them.  Now my parents' house is starting to have a "smell."

 

I guess we all have a unique combination in our homes of food odors, tobacco products (those who use them), air fresheners, perfumes, soaps, spices, cleaners, pets, flowers / plants, slowly deteriorating paint / wood / etc., old collectibles, ....

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What's interesting to me is how sometimes the different smell doesn't bother me.  I may notice, but I feel anything from neutral to almost comforted by it.  Then sometimes it is very off putting to me.  Like it gives me a headache.  But I also couldn't place what it was that was off putting.  Cigarette smell yes, that's understandable, but it's not always identifiable. 

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Yes, and sometimes it is an unpleasant odor and sometimes its more like a certain perfume or something.

 

It took a couple months for my current home to smell like ours. For a while it had an elderly smell. Which didn't seem to fit at all well because it didn't. Now I'm pretty sure the teen boy/ sweaty man smell has taken over. It's not an improvement but it's ours.

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Yes, I can notice other peoples' smells, more from being in their house than from their stuff.  It does make me wonder sometimes what my house smells like.  

 

I think a lot of it is the type of food they cook.  We had some good friends from India whose house had a distinct "curry smell" about it, whether they were cooking curry when we were there or not.  

 

ETA: I forgot about this:  detergent/fabric softener smell.  I can tell when people use it.  It comes with them into my house too.  My husband sometimes has meetings at someone's house and he has to take allergy meds before he goes.  When he comes home, he showers and I wash his clothes separately.  It's that strong.

 

My sister made me a quit once; it is beautiful and I love it.  We were visiting her when she gave it to  us, and the smell of it made one of my kids feel ill (like allergies) in the car on the way home.  It took me weeks of laundering with various substances like baking soda, vinegar rinses, etc., and hanging out on the line before I could get her smell out of it.  

Edited by marbel
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One way to try to get rid of the smell is to put the items in a container, maybe a box or plastic bin, with some charcoal briquettes. You would need to shield the items somehow so they did not get black on them, but the charcoal should help absorb the odor.

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Yes, and sometimes it is an unpleasant odor and sometimes its more like a certain perfume or something.

 

It took a couple months for my current home to smell like ours. For a while it had an elderly smell. Which didn't seem to fit at all well because it didn't. Now I'm pretty sure the teen boy/ sweaty man smell has taken over. It's not an improvement but it's ours.

This house still smells wrong to me when we return from a trip. Most of our houses come to smell like us (i.e. neutral: I can't shell anything) much more quickly, but I definitely notice odors. Not even bad ones, just the odor of the place.

I'd give a lot to know what our home smells like once it reaches that neutral starts for he, but I'm me, so, apparently, I can't smell my family.

 

As for stuff, Quill, I completely agree with that too.

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I find this so fascinating and I wonder where it comes from. I obtain a lot of things second-hand; always have, as my mother is quite the scavenger of all cast-offs: yarns, paper, material, furniture, clothes, craft supplies, books, etc. Often she gives me boxes or bags of cast-offs she acquired. I would say 95% of the time, goods from a previous owner have a funny odor. When it's clothing (or even yarn), I can launder them and usually they don't smell alien anymore. But if it's crafting papers, books or some other materials, the odor just stays. I begin to reconsider if I want the good at all. I have, for example, a large packet of construction type papers that I could theoretically use for homeschooling and/or co-op classes. But it stinks. When I open the box, out wafts an odor. I can't identify it; it's not a distinct thing such as cigarette smoke or cat urine. It's just a "not my smell" smell.

 

Do you notice this? What is the source of these foreign smells? Presumably, my belongings smell some way too, but the smell is "my" smell so I don't notice it. Do you pass on used goods because they smell alien to you, if they are not washable? Why do I never notice this with, say, library books, or when I'm over someone else's house (usually)? Why is it that, say, renting an apartment, doesn't feel like, "oh, this smells like Other People,"?

 

Final note: I did hear a woman say something like this when she was adopting a child from a different country. She said when she was visit Baby, the baby would smell "funny", but after she spent time with the baby, the baby smelled like "hers." But when she would leave and come back, the baby would smell "funny" again. Interesting!

 

P.S. I am not a person with a keen sense of smell.

 

 

I have always been sensitive to smells.  So yes I often won't keep things if I can't get the smell out. 

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I notice different people's smells on my kids.  I can smell when my mom has been holding one of them or even when the pediatrician has examined them.  The other day Audrey smelled weird, and then I remembered that she had befriended a grandmotherly type at the library and sat in her lap to hear a story.

 

Wendy

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I don't think our last house ever smelled like ours. It always smelled weird when we came home after being out of town. We've been in this house since May, and once in a while the front door smells like someone else's house when I open the storm door to come inside. It's very weird. The whole house was freshly painted and new carpet was put in shortly before we bought it, so that probably helped eliminate any odor that had been here. There used to be a very strong air freshener smell in the vacuum closet under the back stairs, but that's finally gone away. I think the pine smell of the vacuum from cleaning up around the Christmas tree finally overpowered the artificial smell.

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I notice different people's smells on my kids. I can smell when my mom has been holding one of them or even when the pediatrician has examined them. The other day Audrey smelled weird, and then I remembered that she had befriended a grandmotherly type at the library and sat in her lap to hear a story.

 

Wendy

I hate when my babies smell like my FIL's aftershave or my MIL's perfume after they hold them. It's just wrong.

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Quill, you have the best thread titles. I can picture this one as the name of a dark new avant-garde novel...  :D

 

I love using second-hand things, but if I can't clean them somehow, they usually don't come into my house. I worry more about allergens than how they smell. 

 

When I was in my favorite children's resale store the other day, I'm pretty sure I heard two employees talking about a new "scent" they were using in the store. I realized that clothes from the store always smell the same. I had assumed it was because a lot of people use fabric softener...but surely not everyone is using the same product. Maybe they somehow scent the store or spray the clothes to remove the "other people" smell?

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Quill, you have the best thread titles. I can picture this one as the name of a dark new avant-garde novel...  :D

 

I love using second-hand things, but if I can't clean them somehow, they usually don't come into my house. I worry more about allergens than how they smell. 

 

When I was in my favorite children's resale store the other day, I'm pretty sure I heard two employees talking about a new "scent" they were using in the store. I realized that clothes from the store always smell the same. I had assumed it was because a lot of people use fabric softener...but surely not everyone is using the same product. Maybe they somehow scent the store or spray the clothes to remove the "other people" smell?

 

 

Yes they do use something...probably in the steamer I don't know.  But it gags me.  I won't buy anything in a resale store that I can't wash in my washing machine.

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I just bought some new deodorant.  I was walking around the other day and I kept smelling my Grandma's old house.  I couldn't imagine where it was coming from and actually started to wonder if I was having some sort of stroke or something.  Then I realized it was my new deodorant!    It's Chamomile scented.  If you asked me to pin down how my Grandma's house used to smell I couldn't do it for a million dollars.  But just one whiff of my deodorant and I'm having flashbacks to my childhood!

 

My Mom and Dad both have very distinct odors too.  I couldn't tell you what they smelled of, but I could pick their clothes out of a pile if I had to.  I can't smell myself, but I hope it isn't unpleasant to others.

 

Gee.  Now I feel like I need to clean my house.  What if my children's childhood memory smell is something nasty like "Boy Bathroom" or "Burnt Grilled Cheese." 

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I know many people who work at our local homeless shelter.  The women and children's building has this huge machine, it looks like an industrial dishwasher.  All of a person's belongings are put into a crate and sent into this machine and it heats it up to a high enough temperature to kill any bed bugs or other parasites so the shelter doesn't get an infestation.  My friends who work there say that room has the most unpleasant stink.  Hundreds of peoples' personal goods, many with hygiene issues, getting cooked on a regular basis.  Just wafting together in one tiny, overheated room.  Blurg.

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I definitely notice it.  I have to wash things that come from my MILs house because it smells so strongly of her fabric softener.  It isn't a bad smell, just very strongly not OUR smell.  I had to change laundry detergent a few months ago from something I've used my kids' entire life.  It was disturbing all of us.  We've finally gotten used to the new smell, but it still catches me off guard occasionally.  

I've had people tell me that our house smells good and homey.  I think it is because we cook so much.  It just smells like comfort food..lol.  We lived in an apartment with Indian neighbors when I was pregnant with the twins.  The entire building smelled like curry.  Some days I thought it was the most wonderful smell in the world.  On days my morning sickness was acting up, I was pretty sure the entire building needed to be torched.  

I can also have some of the strongest flashbacks to childhood with smells.  White Diamonds perfume makes me uncomfortable.  It feels like my mother (who passed away 20 years ago) is standing right beside me when I smell it.  

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Definitely. We buy and receive enough used items that I always notice it.

 

I also notice that the fabric from Joann's and the quilt store also have a certain smell. I rarely detect it on clothes bought from Amazon, but definitely when DD and I shop at the mall.

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For about the first three months after I have had all my children, if I am in a position where I am holding someone else's baby, I have to fight the urge to put them down immediately. They smell WRONG and I don't want to be touching them. It's the weirdest thing. I would always feel so guilty, as these were my sister and best friend's children.

Edited by ksr5377
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For about the first three months after I have had all my children, if I am in a position where I am holding someone else's baby, I have to fight the urge to put them down immediately. They smell WRONG and I don't want to be touching them. It's the weirdest thing. I would always feel so guilty, as these were my sister and best friend's children.

 

I've had that experience, too. The smell of other babies sort of disgusts me when I have my own. But not at any other time! I wonder if it's some instinct keeping us from sharing our mothering energies too broadly when we have our own young? So funny! 

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Hotels! I get used to it there, but when I come home suitcases and clothes all stink like artificial fragrance and mold.

 

There's a librarian at our branch who must live in a really moldy house, because the smell knocks me over every time. Sometimes I catch the odor when she's nowhere to be seen, then I turn around and she's there. I hope it's not harming her health. :(

 

I do have a sensitive nose.

 

Amy

 

 

 

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One way to try to get rid of the smell is to put the items in a container, maybe a box or plastic bin, with some charcoal briquettes. You would need to shield the items somehow so they did not get black on them, but the charcoal should help absorb the odor.

This is a good idea and worth a try.

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I've wondered about this a lot.

 

I have 4 cats and 3 litter boxes.  When I walk in the door to my house, I do NOT smell the cat boxes.  I clean them twice a day and replace all the littler once every 8 or 9 days.  

 

But I wonder....maybe I'm just used to the smell and it's there and I don't know.  And maybe when other people walk in, they're hit with a wall of Cat Smell.  

 

For the past few weeks, I've kicked the idea around of trying to find someone brutally honest who will tell me the truth about my house's smell.  There are some people that no matter how much I stress to them that I want the truth, will always say, "Oh, it's fine!  I don't smell a thing!"  I need someone willing to be "impolite" and tell it to me straight.

 

Quill, I live 6 minutes from where we meet for our Hive Meetups.  Next time we have a meetup, maybe you can come and smell my house for me?  Tell me if it smells like a litter box.   :)

Edited by Garga
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My kids have always smelled things and said, "This came from ______ home. So funny. They were always right.

 

 

There's a friend in my group of friends who uses a specific laundry detergent with a specific fabric softener.  Everyone recognizes the smell of her clothes.  When the kids were little and we were all passing around clothes to each other, everyone knew the smell of Wendy Clothes.  It's actually a really nice smell.  

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Yep.  We collect antiques, and we've had this one scandinavian carved china cabinet for five years.  I've tried everything, but it still reeks of old lady perfume every time I open it.  If it wasn't gorgeous I'd sell it.

 

 

ETA:  this house doesn't smell like us either.  On a rainy & hot day sometimes the dog smell overpowers it, but usually it smells off putting to me.  Like old cigarette smoke and mildew that no one else can smell. Despite ripping out carpets, multiple renovations, painting, air fresheners, and lots of new flooring, these new smells just last for a few days before I can smell the old ones again every time I walk in the door.

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This thread title made me smile. When I was a kid, we used to get hand-me-down clothing from three different families. I could tell which family each bag of clothes came from by the smell. I always wonder what "our" smell is. LOL

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I've wondered about this a lot.

 

I have 4 cats and 3 litter boxes. When I walk in the door to my house, I do NOT smell the cat boxes. I clean them twice a day and replace all the littler once every 8 or 9 days.

 

But I wonder....maybe I'm just used to the smell and it's there and I don't know. And maybe when other people walk in, they're hit with a wall of Cat Smell.

 

For the past few weeks, I've kicked the idea around of trying to find someone brutally honest who will tell me the truth about my house's smell. There are some people that no matter how much I stress to them that I want the truth, will always say, "Oh, it's fine! I don't smell a thing!" I need someone willing to be "impolite" and tell it to me straight.

 

Quill, I live 6 minutes from where we meet for our Hive Meetups. Next time we have a meetup, maybe you can come and smell my house for me? Tell me if it smells like a litter box. :)

I would actually be willing to say so.

 

I did have a friend that had two cats and a dog in her small condo and she was always paranoid that her house smelled like animals. But it didn't. I told her again and again, no, her house did not smell like the animals. I even took her couch off her hands when she got a new one, and I would most definitely NOT do that if it smelled like animals.

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I know exactly what you mean. Other people's houses have a distinctive smell. With some friends, I could tell you whose house I was in even if I were blindfolded. My parents' house has a definite smell. When I bring something from their house like clothes or a blanket, it has their smell. Thrift stores all kind of smell the same to me, but it is distinctive, like all the different people smells mix together.

 

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This thread title made me smile. When I was a kid, we used to get hand-me-down clothing from three different families. I could tell which family each bag of clothes came from by the smell. I always wonder what "our" smell is. LOL

If you come home from a vacation or a weekend away, you may be able to smell it. I can.

 

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I have thought about this a lot too. We get a lot of hand-me-down clothes from older nieces and nephews and my kids can tell exactly whose house they've come from without me telling them. (So can I, actually) One wash and they absorb "our smell" that I can't smell apparently. I have assumed that it's a mixture of detergent and household cleaners and body "odors" and whatnot that makes up a distinct house smell for each family.

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I shop a lot at thrift stores and I've noticed that each thrift store has a unique smell to it. Which is weird, because all of the items would have recently come from different homes. I seriously (okay, maybe not seriously) have wondered if when they receive donations they spray everything with their signature scent. How else does everything at Savers smell like Savers? It's bizarre. It's also why anything I buy has to immediately go into the washer when I get home to get that weird smell off. 

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My MIL is my odor meter. I know she'll be honest with me. Also, every time we've put a house on the market I've asked the realtor. Thankfully (so far) I've always gotten "okay" responses!

 

ETA: But of course odor is often in the nose of the smeller. Some things that are offensive to some smell nice to others. So I guess there's no way to be totally sure a house or smells in clothing would never offend anyone.

Edited by Pawz4me
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Dd was talking about this a couple of weeks ago.  I think she had some good articles on the subject of how our odors are genetically determined, and we tend to (somewhat unconsciously) group ourselves by odor.

 

I can't find what she was talking about, but here are a couple of fun articles on the general idea: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/apr/15/science-of-love-robin-dunbar  and from my beloved NPR http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/07/14/331354227/do-we-choose-our-friends-because-they-share-our-genes

 

So perhaps the odors that disturb you are genetically wrong for you.

 

I tend to notice odors more when I have more allergen stress going on.  Like right now with the trees budding I go into the downstairs bathroom and think it smells musty -- dh doesn't notice the smell at all.

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I have almost no sense of smell, but MIL has told the story a few times of DH first being stationed overseas in Desert Storm and she came across a coat of his in the closet and it smelled like him and she broke down crying.  Again, I don't smell things so I am missing out on all of this...the good and the bad of it.  

Edited by Attolia
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I have almost no sense of smell, but MIL has told the story a few times of DH first being stationed overseas in Dessert Storm and she came across a coat of his in the closet and it smelled like him and she broke down crying. Again, I don't smell things so I am missing out on all of this...the good and the bad of it.

A couple years ago DH was gone for 3 months for an army training. A few days before he was to get home I kept getting whiffs of DH around the house. I thought I was losing my mind over the anticipation of having him home.... until I realized my 6 year old had sprayed himself with DH's cologne.

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Oh, good heavens, now I have to worry that my house stinks .😂

And if it does, then your donations smell like that, too. ðŸ˜

 

I remember one year, I bought DS a winter ski coat at Goodwill. That coat had a stronger-than-average Other People odor. I washed the coat several times and could still smell it. It was very annoying. After a time of DS wearing it, it took on his own smell or whatever; I didn't smell it any more. But I do remember thinking that was quite a tenacious stink.

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Oh yes.  I joke that I must be part bloodhound because I am sooo sensitive to smells.  I could probably identify my husband and kids by scent if I was blindfolded :D.  And I definitely notice it in other people's homes or on other people's things.

 

 I'm super picky about laundry soap and dryer sheets.  I am a die-hard Original Scent Tide POWDER fan.  The liquid or pods that claim to be "original scent" smell completely different and I hate them.  A couple of weeks ago, the missionaries from my church (apartment dwellers) came over and did a couple of loads of laundry in my machine and brought their own soap.  I could smell it on the next 2-3 loads of my laundry that I did after them.  

Edited by Forget-me-not
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Ever since dd was young, like about 3 yrs, she has taken dh's worn t-shirts after he took them off and put them in the laundry basket. I used to find one or two in the blankets of her bed or in her floor or she would be carrying one around. It was so annoying, but I never thought to ask her why she did it. I thought it was just some weird toddler/preschooler thing to steal daddy's shirts. I finally asked her one day, and she told me it was because she wanted daddy's smell. I never knew what to think of that. 

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Oh yes. I joke that I must be part bloodhound because I am sooo sensitive to smells. I could probably identify my husband and kids by scent if I was blindfolded

I could for sure, without a doubt.

 

My beloved and kids,that is haha, not yours.

 

My parents, sister, grandmother and some friends for that matter. Not by perfume or whatever but by them, their own smell.

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Dd was talking about this a couple of weeks ago. I think she had some good articles on the subject of how our odors are genetically determined, and we tend to (somewhat unconsciously) group ourselves by odor.

 

I can't find what she was talking about, but here are a couple of fun articles on the general idea: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/apr/15/science-of-love-robin-dunbar and from my beloved NPR http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/07/14/331354227/do-we-choose-our-friends-because-they-share-our-genes

 

So perhaps the odors that disturb you are genetically wrong for you.

 

I tend to notice odors more when I have more allergen stress going on. Like right now with the trees budding I go into the downstairs bathroom and think it smells musty -- dh doesn't notice the smell at all.

That makes a lot of sense to me because one thing I like about my dh is his smell. Not the products he uses (although I like those too) but his own personal scent.

 

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Ever since dd was young, like about 3 yrs, she has taken dh's worn t-shirts after he took them off and put them in the laundry basket. I used to find one or two in the blankets of her bed or in her floor or she would be carrying one around. It was so annoying, but I never thought to ask her why she did it. I thought it was just some weird toddler/preschooler thing to steal daddy's shirts. I finally asked her one day, and she told me it was because she wanted daddy's smell. I never knew what to think of that.

When my niece was really young she had a comfort blanket that she carried around in the house or car. It had gotten thread bare so my sister to her to the store to buy a new one. They looked at several - all turned down by my niece... until my sister realized that she was sitting them. She finally picked one after my sister assured her it would smell right after being washed a couple of times.

 

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A couple years ago DH was gone for 3 months for an army training. A few days before he was to get home I kept getting whiffs of DH around the house. I thought I was losing my mind over the anticipation of having him home.... until I realized my 6 year old had sprayed himself with DH's cologne.

 

 

Oh my gosh, I wrote dessert storm. I was super tired haha.  Wouldn't that be a nice place to be stationed.  Dessert island for a dessert storm  :lol:

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Oh my gosh, I wrote dessert storm. I was super tired haha. Wouldn't that be a nice place to be stationed. Dessert island for a dessert storm :lol:

I was thinking that, but I didn't want to be "that homeschooler" who can't help but point out spelling mistakes. 😇

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