Mice Capades: Part 2

Killer mice

Vicious beasts like this should not be frightening the cat and disrupting our family life. They should be outside fighting bears or something. (Image: USFWS)

As everyone sooner or later learns, the key to removing a mouse from your house is having enough kitchenware on hand. What we needed was a lip-less cookie sheet and a pitcher with a snug lid.

Having assembled the proper tools, it was time for man and wife to argue about how to proceed while children threatened the success of every step with meddling curiosity.

I slid the cover enclosing the mouse onto the cookie sheet. Now the rodent dungeon was mobile. My wife was in favor of just throwing the prisoner outside and being done with it, but I was not taking such chances with a trespasser who already knew his way in. We were going to put some distance between him and us.

Since nobody volunteered to ride in the car with Mad Mouse Beyond Thunderdome on their lap, I had to make the prisoner more secure. I made my wife come outside with me to transact the transfer.

If you and your spouse ever need to partner in moving a mouse from under a dish cover on a cookie sheet into a juice pitcher, be prepared for the ultimate test of your marriage. It should be one of the challenges on The Amazing Race, because it’s that full of drama.

A trapped mouse is a ferocious animal who will use any available part of your body to facilitate his escape, sending you into paroxysms of terror. Should this psychologically scarring event come to pass, it will be your spouse’s fault. This is a given. Your relationship may never be the same.

Mouse Thunderdome

Welcome to Thunderdome: One mouse enters; two humans bicker.*

My wife chose to be the slider, leaving me the catching duties. She was skeptical of the plan from the first, predicting that the mouse would avoid the pitcher as the cover slid clear of the cookie sheet.

“If you do it quickly, he’ll have no place else to go,” I reassured her.

She was not reassured. “He’ll climb around the edge,” she insisted as she began her methodical sliding of the cover.

“Not if you do it quickly,” I repeated, attempting to prod her to swifter movement.

She shot back something about losing track of the mouse if she went too fast.

She was giving him too much time to think. “If you do it quickly!” I demanded.

A spouse who doubts your plan is unlikely to execute it quickly. She continued sliding the cover at her deliberate pace – to better identify the exact moment of failure.

“If you do it quickly!” No doubt, the vein was bulging in my neck. Dangerous animals have that effect upon me.

She gave me the famous “Say that one more time!” look.

The mouse, disoriented by my frantic bellowing, allowed himself to drop into the pitcher. I covered it with a sigh of relief.

My wife was back inside the house, having closed the door on both pests left outside.

I drove the mouse to a spot that looked ripe for colonization and set him free.

Then I went home to tell the cat he could come out of hiding and practice talking nice to my wife.


*My wife insists I mention that these items have been thoroughly cleaned. Just in case you happen to stop by for some rodent-free baked goods.

Mice Capades: Part 1

It’s been a cold winter, followed by a none-too-balmy spring. This has been difficult on the animals with which we share the swamp our town is built upon. It’s not been a good year to be a deer or a skunk. We haven’t seen our favorite ground hog (a.k.a. the little man who lives under the porch) in a while; we suspect he packed up and retired to Palm Beach.

We’ve had chipmunk and squirrel squatters before, but never mice – not until this year. In December, we discovered that someone had been nibbling at the groceries in our pantry. Whoever coined that phrase about not pooping where you eat was not a mouse.

We finally caught the miscreant with a combination of peanut butter and Gold Fish crackers. He and I went for a little ride. But I’m soft, so I let him go in a field where he could freeze to death, starve, found a flourishing rodent colony, or do any of a myriad things that were no longer my business.

I left the trap in the pantry, but didn’t catch anybody else. The signs of nibbling disappeared.

Last week, the boys and I were playing with the new train the big boy had earned for getting to the top of the color ladder at school (Go, big boy, go!), when the little boy became unusually animated. He pointed under the coffee table and let go a stream of baby talk exclamations. He can speak some English in quiet conversation, but not when he is whipped into a frenzy.

MIce? Don't be ridiculous!

“You want me to catch what? Oh, you people crack me up!”

I peered under the table. All I could see were some wooden puzzles and other forgotten toys. Buster was adamant. Getting down on his knees, he pointed under the table, showing his alarmed face before morphing it into his scared face. All the while an unintelligible rant poured from his mouth, like from a taxi driver after a fender bender.

To assuage his misguided alarm, I reached under the table and pulled out a puzzle frame. We all jumped back as a furry lump scurried across the floor and into the entryway. The mouse hid behind one of my shoes. I grabbed the cat out of his nap on the couch and put him down within two feet of the mouse. As determined as Buster had been to find the mouse, the cat was determined to ignore it. I could not get him to turn his head in the right direction. He knew there was a problem that way, but if he didn’t see it, he couldn’t be made responsible for it.

While I went to retrieve a plastic dish cover, the cat tip-toed away to a different floor of the house. I had little faith in my ability to catch the mouse, but maybe this one had the rheumatism, because he was just slow enough for me to corral under the dish cover. This gave us leisure to have a family debate about our next move.

To Be Continued . . .

Protect your parts

We’ve signed our kindergartener up for soccer this spring. It seemed like a good deal until we realized we had to buy him a jersey, a ball, spiked shoes, and shin guards. I don’t know if we were required to get the shoes, but everything came as a package at the sporting goods store. They saw us coming from miles away.

The shin guards were deemed essential. I suppose this is the way of the world, but it struck me as overkill. I played after-school soccer in elementary school, and we never entertained the idea of protecting our shins. Naked shins were part of the competition. If you couldn’t kick the ball, you compensated by nailing another kid in the shin. Likewise, you had to be aware of your surroundings, inasmuch as they contained other kids’ shoes. After limping home a few times, you learned to pay attention to the game.

I don’t think kids have changed. This smells like adults fearing liability. I’m confident my son will learn to hate wearing shin guards after 30 seconds. They will watch his soccer matches from the trunk of the car. He’ll get kicked in the shin, it will hurt, and maybe he’ll learn to move a little quicker when an expensive soccer shoe is sailing toward him. The thing for the courts to know is that his parents were warned to properly equip him.

putting on shin gaurds

This is how we put on our new shin guards.

shin kickin'

And this is why we put them on. Forget soccer, Daddy could use a pair of these for walking around the house.

I played a lot of baseball when I was young. I already had a glove when I started Little League, so the only thing my mother ever had to buy me was a jock strap. I was her fourth son, but the only one she ever had to buy a cup for. I wonder if she realized her good fortune.

For some reason, we didn’t need a cup to play our regular season. Around July, the coaches chose an All Star team from our town to play against neighboring towns. For this we needed to wear cups, because outsiders would certainly be less considerate of our collective loins than friends and neighbors were.

My mom was inexperienced at selecting such equipment. Consequently, she presented me, at age 10, with an adult cup. I didn’t know the difference; all I knew was that it was difficult to walk, let alone run, wearing that monster. This was not the problem it might have been as I was not much of an All Star. There was little call for me to do much running in the dugout. Through the games, I, and my man-sized bulge, kept company at the end of the bench. Thank goodness, I never had to waddle out into the light of day and play ball in that condition.

Paba Bear and Baby Bear

Size matters – when you’ve got to fit that thing in your pants.

By the next season, we figured out our mistake. I got the appropriate equipment and was able to ride the bench in relative comfort. So I guess the second cup was worth the money. I hope we get that much value out of my son’s shin guards.

The stubborn contrarian doesn’t fall far from the tree

We had our spring parent conference with the boy’s kindergarten teacher last week. The good news is that the boy is doing well academically. As I often tell him, he’s too smart for his own good.

On the citizenship front, he’s not quite the hotshot he is academically. He’s getting better at focusing on his work, but he still has too much of his parents in him to be the most conscientious pupil. Like his mom, he’s a social butterfly, getting lost in chit-chat when he should be working quietly. He is too much like his dad when it comes to being a stubborn contrarian who knows it’s enough to be right – they don’t have to know why you’re right.

Even with the burden of his chatty, mulish genetics, the teacher likes having him in her class, so we ended the conference feeling good. But the most enlightening things were yet to come.

Outside the classroom, the kids’ projects were on display. For St. Patrick’s Day, each child had cut out a pot of gold, with coins labeled as things that were more precious than gold to them. As we walked down the line of these, the recurring words were, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and the like. It was sweet to see how the children valued their families. At our boy’s pot of gold, we squinted to make out the names on the coins. Don, Mikce, Leo, R-something – who were these people? They weren’t family members. They weren’t even kids in his class.

The teacher was still with us. Noting our confusion, she explained. “That’s Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

More precious than turtles?

It’s not that Mommy and Daddy aren’t precious; they’re just a little trite for this pot.

The way I’m going to spin this is that the boy doesn’t value cartoon turtles more than his parents; he just didn’t want to do the same thing all the other kids were doing. That’s plausible, isn’t it?

Next, we looked at a book called If I Were President. Each child did a page on which they wrote a phrase to complete the sentence, “If I were President, I would . . .” and drew an accompanying picture.

The book was full of compassion. “Help the world,” was the common theme, with variations toward “Make the whole world safe,” or “Help poor people.” The pictures were of the Earth or of a group of presumably poor people.

On my son’s page were drawn fighter jets and soldiers. It said the following: “If I were President, I would control the Air Force.”

My son (you may call him, Mr. President) is the big, blue guy. He is commanding the troops to put on their saucepans and scramble their brown jets to go save the world.

My son (you may call him Mr. President) is the big, blue guy. He is commanding the troops to put on their saucepans and scramble their brown jets to go save the world.

As I see it, he’s not limited by the naïve idealism of his classmates. If you want to protect the world, you need to formulate a specific plan for doing so, and that plan had better entail adequate air power.

This boy has as much compassion as any five-year-old, but he understands that caring goes a lot farther at Mach 3. I’m sure Don, Leo, and those other guys who are collectively my son’s favorite people would agree with me.