Tuesday, May 28, 2013

mice in glass houses shouldn't...come back

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

Walt Whitman

This weekend, a glorious three day weekend, is usually set aside for putting as much of the garden in as we possibly can.  In past years we have toiled and dug and composted and planted away over Memorial Day weekend.  The farms and garden centers shame us for even considering that we might put things in earlier.  Some years the frost bites and proves that the more knowledgeable are right.

So we wait for Memorial Day and then rush out to the garden like a break in the dam of our need to put things in the ground.

And that was our plan for this year as well.  But, a week of rain and raw temperatures made that seem less than attractive this year.  So instead, we turned our thoughts, for the first two days of three anyway, inside.

Because inside was due for a bit of a major cleaning.  A recent playdate with a friend who has pet allergies resulted in a full on allergy attack.  Oh dear.

The seedlings were now hardening off on the porch, which made it possible to reclaim the dining area from the temporary seedlings tables in front of the window.  Overzealous soil preparations and splashy helpful waterers left a mess when the tables were folded and stowed away.

The vacuum was due for a workout.

And, well, how should I say this...In the kitchen, we were dealing with some, um, noisy silverware drawers.  Each evening around dusk, these silverware drawers were coming to life with scratching, jiggling, and clanging.  Battie was concerned.  And keeping vigil.

And, there was a good deal of debris left behind, letting us know that we had some mice in our midst.

Ew.  Please don't judge me too harshly.  I am as disgusted by this as you are.  Believe me.

Have I mentioned that Elliott is a protector of all things creature-ish?  There is no way that a snap mouse trap was going to be acceptable to him.  One trip to the hardware store later and Elliott and Jonathan returned home with this.  The wording on the box cracks me up.  I mean really, what more could you ask for?  All those things??  And it works??

After the kids went to bed, we fired three of these magic boxes up.  Fifteen minutes later?  Three mice.  We emptied them into the woods and reset them, returned to our movie, and pressed play.  Twenty minutes later?  Three more mice.  This went on and on.  In the end, during the course of our feature length movie, we had resettled 15 mice who had an indoor tendency to the great out of doors.  We are thinking of it as introducing them to the joys of the urban wild.  A fresh air kids experience if you will.

Let's all say it together now.  Fifteen mice?  Ew.

It was pouring rain outside, and after the first three mice were released, the mice we found in the traps looked suspiciously...wet.

See?  Wet.  Get this mouse a slicker.  Because for some reason the crazy humans kept putting him outside and he kept getting wet during his run back inside.

I think we were losing the battle.  With the mice and with our children.

As the water rose in the basement due to all the rain this week, Elliott had become concerned about the mouse population down there and had built this raft.  For a mouse to ride upon, should flooding in the basement become a problem.  I mean really, we would not want to be bad hosts.

As the extent of our rodent situation became clear that evening, we began eliciting advice from family members.  One text message suggested we should spray paint them to see if the same mice were returning.  A kitchen tag and release project.  After all, Elliott is already a bird banding expert.  But clearly the idea of pointing a spray can into the mouse box and pushing down on the button would not have followed the humane dictates of the Mice Cube box, but the suggestion did make us both giggle a bit.

The next iteration of that advice came from my mother who suggested that we slather paint on the bottom of the Mice Cube to discolor their dainty feet...a footprinting system to monitor mouse recidivism.  My mother, the public school teacher, is a genius when it comes to keeping track of delinquents.

We discussed driving the mice somewhere before releasing them, but that was beyond what either of us were willing to do.  So we kept at it.  And eventually just went to bed.

In the morning there were, of course, three mice in the traps again, and Elliott and Julia took them outside and released them.  Julia tried to be brave but in the end shrieked and ran, believing that they had run straight at her.  Elliott, alone now, found a place where he thought they would live a happy life and spread some seeds and possible bedding out for them.  I think they waited until he left and then made a beeline back for the house.

It was still raining and raw outside, so I did what my instincts told me to do.  It was either time for us to move...or to take control of the in-house rodent population.  I went to the closet and took out the chemicals as Julia calls it.  The cleaners that are only used in emergency situations, like particularly scary bathroom cleansings and pet related digestion struggles.  I lugged out my non-earth friendly loot, grabbed a bag of steel wool, and set to work.

I emptied every cabinet and ran the contents through the dishwasher.  I scrubbed the cabinets inside and out.  I wiped down every surface.  I even braved the basement.  And not just the basement, but the really scary room around the corner in the basement, where I am pretty sure the Blair Witch Project was filmed.  Because, of course, that was the room under the kitchen.  So I risked rodents nibbling my fingertips and stuffed every hole I could find with steel wool.

Around lunch time I was in a full sweat.  But I was pretty sure there would be no rodents interrupting our movie that night.

Our spring cleaning frenzy was interrupted by a long-promised trip to the movie theater to see the newly released movie Epic.  We rarely take the kids to the movie theater but the rain and the promises made months ago after seeing a preview for the movie conspired together, and so we were committed.

In Epic there is a struggle in the forest between creatures devoted to life and creatures devoted to creeping rot.  In a healthy forest, these forces are in balance with each other, one depending upon the other.  But when the balance is tipped, the dark forces try to overcome and take control.

There is a scene during which a human (termed stomper in the movie for their large and slower motioned movements) girl becomes a part of the forest world, and becomes small, shrinking to sprite-size.  Thus shrunk, she encounters an eensy teensy adorable little mouse.

Who then turns out to be a terrifying, angry beast.

But in that transformation, something clicked for me.

It is all about perspective, and not our grown up perspective, but that of our children.  If we can protect their child-ness, their ability to move quickly and fluidly between rodent, otherworldly, and human, it seems this awareness is the start of something great.  That they can love their pet for her fear of mice, but forgive her when she goes cat-ish and tries to mouth one.  That they can want a cozy home for their house mouse, but be afraid that it will turn on them and go all mouse-ish despite its adorableness.  This fear/disgust/respect/love.  It is powerful.  And I will continue to guard their time and minds to be allowed to make these connections.  And build rafts in case of floods.

(And I will also continue to guard the silverware drawer with Battie.)

Jonathan and I stomp along behind the kids, following their lead, seeing cute and adorable creatures but also stinky and rather icky pests.  And we learn to accept this dichotomy.  I am not sure what Battie sees, but I am fairly sure she is scared out of her fuzzy bathing suit.

Thanks to the see-through cube, we are getting more of a view of these creatures than we would otherwise.  Mice in glass houses...

This afternoon, I heard some more scratching.

I got up to empty the boxes.  Again.

But I found them a nice spot in the woodpile and said see you soon.

Then I walked back into the house.

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