Rat in the House

“Well, of course there’s a rat in the house.  That’s just great.”  I was speaking to myself, of course.  There wasn’t anyone else around at the moment to fully appreciate the resigned and slightly sarcastic tone in my voice.  There were days I loved being a mother of four.  There were days I was so proud my husband was serving in Afghanistan that I didn’t mind being a single parent for another six months.  This was not one of those days.  This had been the kind of day that ends with me sending the kids to bed early and in tears because I was just too sick of their fighting to bear one more minute.  This had been the kind of day that ends with me sitting on my bed, eyes glazed, can of whatever in my hand, and an open bag of some kind of junk food.  This had been that kind of day.

It had started off badly, when I overslept.  I’d stayed up late, because I had a chance to talk briefly with my husband.  His call had been delayed for some reason, but we did finally talk.  I miss him terribly.  I miss my partner.  After our conversation, I stayed up even later, feeling sorry for us and wishing he could come home and stay home forever.

Oversleeping means that the children are late for school.  When I did wake up, chaos began.  I had to yell at Martin for watching television before school, and make him get himself dressed and ready for first grade.  Andrea pretended like she was still asleep, until I threatened to sing our Good Morning song, and then she was up like a shot and whining and complaining that life was sooooo unfair to her.  Cody and Brady fought each other in their sleep, I think, because they woke up angry at each other and didn’t stop fighting all day long.

I got them all off to school, eventually, although Andrea missed her bus and I had to drive her to junior high.  That meant I was late for work at the recreation center, which meant I missed our morning meeting and had to sit in my boss’ office for ten minutes while she told me how important it was to get to work on time.  My boss is fifteen years younger than I am, and feels she has something to prove.

Work didn’t get any better during the day, but I managed to stick it out and make it home in time for the kids to come home.  Helping them with their homework seemed like a special punishment designed for the worst levels of hell.  By the time everyone had finished homework and eaten dinner, I wanted to kill everyone.

I survived another couple of hours while their fighting, bickering and complaining increased, and finally had enough.  They all went to bed early, and I lay on my bed, too dazed to cry.

That’s when I saw the rat in the house.  It stopped in the middle of my bedroom floor and just looked at me.  “Good timing, stupid,” I thought, “I’m just spoiling for a fight!”

Feral Cats in the Yard

“Feral cats in the yard again,” Sheila muttered to herself again, as she let the dingy curtain drop back into place.  “Why can’t they just let an old woman sleep?  Yes, yes, I need to sleep.”

Sheila groaned as she shuffled back to her bed.  She clung onto the bed covers as her right foot searched for its slipper.  Balancing wasn’t easy these days, and she nearly tipped over.  Soon enough, her big toe nudged the edge of a once-soft slipper, and she managed to scoot it and its mate back out from under the bed.  Spared the trouble of getting down on her knees, she sighed with relief and soon had both slippers on.  Who cared if their lining was filled with holes and no longer warm?  She wasn’t about to go through the trouble of purchasing brand new slippers.  Besides, putting them on was an act of habit, not of comfort.  She hadn’t had full feeling in either foot in years.

Her light and troubled sleep had been interrupted once again by the sound of angry feral cats in the yard.  Fighting, hissing, mewling.  Their nocturnal activities bothered her precious few hours of sleep each night, and she had had enough.

She groped around the night stand for her glass of water, and took a shaky sip.  Her frail body was betraying her spirit.  She felt as if she were still young, still out each night with her friends, drinking and flirting and having a grand time.  So many of those friends were gone, and the few new friends she had made weren’t interested in partying.  Massaging her sore left hand, she admitted to herself that she wasn’t up to it, either.  What time was it?  Ten thirty at night?  Ah, there had been a time when her night had just begun at ten thirty.  Now, it felt like an ungodly late hour.

She heard a particularly loud cat growl just under her window, a long, high-pitched, grating sound.  It was followed by a bump up against that side of the house.  Why on earth did the feral cats insist on fighting in her yard, just under her window?

Her slippers shushed against the floorboards as she made her way into the bathroom.  Sheila didn’t even bother snapping on the light.  She knew where everything was, including the bowl of ice water she had prepared just a few hours before.

Sheila grunted softly as she shuffled slowly back to her open window, desperate to keep all the water in the bowl.  A few sloshes here and there and her slippers were wet.  Well, that was to be expected, she supposed.  Quietly, she balanced the bowl for a moment on the window sill, and then, slowly, tipped it over.  The feral cats in the yard had been too busy with their fighting and posturing that they hadn’t paid attention to the soft noise above them before they were doused with freezing water.  Furious and sputtering, they ran off into the night.

“There has got to be a better way to make a point,” Sheila thought to herself, as she let the bowl drop outside as well.  “Perhaps tomorrow I will call Allstate Animal Control,” she whispered, as she groped her way back to her bed, slipped out of the soggy slippers, and pulled the covers back over her.

Baby Skunks


“I found baby skunks in my backyard last night and they were sooooo stinky!”

“Of course, you did,” I sighed.   I helped Camden’s mother out by taking him with my daughter, Emmy, to preschool three times a week.  Camden’s mother was a sweet woman who was overwhelmed by very active children, including twin toddlers who kept her on her toes every moment of the day or night that they were awake.  It was the least I could do for this friend who helped other people as much as she could, as well as raising her family.

But Camden wasn’t known for telling the truth.  Our short drives to and from preschool were filled with lots and lots of unbelievable stories.  Whenever my daughter or I said anything, Camden had to one-up us.  Emmy would say, “My Daddy has a truck and we get to ride in it this weekend.”  Camden would say, “Well, my Daddy has a helicopter and he’s going to hunt bears this weekend.”  I would say, “Isn’t it fun to read books?”  Camden would say, “We have more books than anyone else on the whole planet!  We have almost ten whole rooms filled with books.”

Momma skunk with her babies
A mother skunk with her babies.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

It’s cute once.  Then, it’s not.

I’m sure it has everything to do with the fact that he’s a middle child.  And, that the youngest two children are twin menaces that demand an incredible amount of his parents’ time.  If it was just telling stories, that’d be understandable.  But, he loves to lie, too.

I got a call from his mother once after he came home and told her I’d locked him in the trunk.  I’m still confused why she would even entertain the veracity of that little story, but whatever.  He told me, in tears, that my daughter cut his hair during preschool class.  I was upset at first, because he was sporting a new bald patch on his head.  Until their teacher assured me he’d done it to himself.

So, you can imagine I had no reason to believe his story when he regaled us with a tale of three baby skunks that he found in his backyard.  He told us they were as tiny as his hand, that they ate his mother’s homemade stew for dinner, that their names were “Stinky,” “Sweaty,” and “Skorp.”  He also told us that their mother skunk attacked the house, sprayed his dog, and tried to take his baby brothers away from him.

I walked him up the stairs to his house, and laughingly told my friend about Camden’s most recent story.

“Actually,” she said, “we did find three baby skunks in the backyard last night.  But, we don’t know where the mother is.  We had to call someone to get rid of the skunks.  The rest of the story?  Well, that’s all Camden.”

Of course it was.

Possum in Closet

opossum remival

I tugged on my rubber snow boots, grumbling, as my husband spoke-whispered something about a possum in the closet.  What on earth?  My husband and I had been married a total of thirty-two hours, and already we were dealing with some middle of the night crisis with a wild animal.  This wasn’t exactly the honeymoon I’d dreamed about since I was a teenager.  Sure, I gave up the idea of lazing around in a bikini on a Caribbean beach, and I had decided it was okay to forego a Mediterranean cruise, or even a railway trip through Europe.  I’d fallen in love with a man who loved nature and being in the mountains, and so I came to terms with a romantic remote mountain cabin as our honeymoon destination.

The cabin belonged to his uncle, and my husband had spent several weeks a year up here.  When we got married, his parents and brothers had chipped in and bought it from his uncle, who had wanted to sell it anyway.  They gave it to us.  For my dear husband, this was the best honeymoon destination ever.  He could share his love of nature with me, and create new memories with his family over the years.

Yesterday, we’d tramped along some of his favorite trails.  The fall air was chilly, but perfect for the gorgeous changing leaves.  We had bundled up together when we got back to the cabin, drinking hot drinks by the fire.  An Italian beach would have been nice, but this was so much better.  It was more intimate, and I loved how much my husband was enjoying sharing this with me.

I felt different when he woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to come quietly to the kitchen, that there was a possum in the closet.  I had never seen one, and really didn’t care to see one right then, especially indoors.  But, I tugged on my boots, gathered a warm blanket around me, and tiptoed as quietly as one can tiptoe in snowboots.  When we got to the kitchen, he quietly opened up the closet door and gently pulled out a mostly empty bag of dog food.  His uncle had always brought his dog up here, and we hadn’t cleared out the closets when we got here.

The bag had been chewed open at one of the bottom corners, so my husband carefully pulled the bag up and into a nearby plastic bin.  He opened up the top of the bag and shone his flashlight in.  I peered inside.

Sure enough, there was a baby possum asleep, or playing dead, inside the bag.  I was fascinated.  I’d never seen anything like that before.  Greyish, white, with a long head and odd ears.  Its eyes shone, and it popped up.  Quickly, my husband put the lid on the bin and took the whole thing outside to let it go.

A few thoughts went through my head then.  I was happy I had a husband who knew how to handle things like a possum in the closet.  I was very tired.  I wondered where on earth the mother possum was hiding.  I really would have been very happy on a Caribbean beach.

Mice in the House

Decorating for the holidays is not one of my favorite things to do, especially when you make the discovery you have mice in the house at the same time.

I wish I was one of those women who look forward to the holidays, who has the house perfectly decorated by the night of Thanksgiving, who constantly boils apple juice and cinnamon sticks and cloves just to make the house smell nice, who passes out all the Christmas goodies to her neighbors by the first weekend of December, and who has all the Christmas gifts purchased and wrapped by the end of October.  I’m just not that kind of woman.

I’m more the type of person who gets annoyed at all the unnecessary parties I have to plan or attend, and at the loss of every single weekend in December.  I have an Oh-Crap moment about the second week of December and pull out the dusty holiday decoration boxes that are completely disorganized after last year’s desperate holiday clean up attempt in the middle of January.  I have a second Oh-Crap moment about the third week of December when I have to finally finish all my holiday shopping, and end up getting gift cards for more than half the people on my list.

So, when I pulled out the box containing the pre-lit Christmas tree, I sighed for about the hundredth time that day.  I would have to rearrange the furniture in the front room so I could somehow fit this tree in there.  I would have to assemble the tree and make sure all the lights still worked.  I’d have to fluff out the branches in a sad attempt to make it look like a real tree, while trying to avoid scratching my arms too badly.  I’d have to sort through my tree decorations, toss the ones that broke during last year’s packing, and make it look festive enough.  I did this so my kids could enjoy Christmas.  I did not personally enjoy it.  So, I did the basic decorating while the kids were at school so they wouldn’t see my “Bah Humbug” attitude.

I reached in the box to pull out the first part of the tree, and gasped when my hand touched something soft that moved.  Then I had one of those delay-screams.  You know, when you scream after you realize what exactly happened, and then you have to wait until you have enough breath to get the scream out.  I’d touched a mouse.  Matter of fact, I’d touched several mice.  There was a nest in my Christmas tree box!

The mice were just as terrified and surprised as I was, because they jumped out of the box and scattered.  I now had mice in my house.  I continued screeching as I ran into the bathroom and locked the door.  Plunging my hand into water as hot as I could stand, I realized my cell phone was in the other room.  I’d have to brave the mice just to call for help.  Hopefully, I could get someone to my house before the kids came home so we could get rid of the mice before they had to know about it.

Merry Christmas.

I’m not decorating next year.