Monday, July 25, 2011

You dirty rat!

Our house is home to one teenager, two parents, a toddler, a baby, four cats and a small neurotic dog.  Try as we may to keep a tidy home, you may visit our house from time to time to find dust bunnies in the corners or mail piled up on the front table, it just never works out that the entire house is clean at the same time!  OK fine, my Pottery-Barn-catalogue-dream-house is actually a kid and pet playhouse with two harried parents in the center.  Time to give up the fantasy of the perfect home and admit;  there are always toys on the floor, a counter that needs to be wiped for the 3rd time that day, little hand prints on the windows, books pulled off shelves and a floor that never looks quite clean.  I tell myself that it is just messy TODAY and is not normally like this –  its just that I am busy right now, or the weather is just too nice to clean, or a nap sounds just too good - but who am I kidding?  There are some things that I have been able to stay neurotic about, but unless you know where to look, you would believe me to be the slacker that I am becoming.  Anyway, I am adopting an unapologetic attitude about the whole thing and trying to relax.  If you come to visit me, then deal with it or pitch in!
With all of that said, I don’t live in squalor, dust bunnies are not the bubonic plague, toys strewn about do not amount to filth and I don’t have rats running about in the house – well I usually don’t have them running about.  My aversion to rodents and creepy crawling things of all kinds is renowned – especially with my son, Taylor.  Many years ago, I was unloading the dishwasher in the kitchen when an extraordinarily large, crazed water bug lunged at me, sending me screaming and jumping up onto the counter.  My four year old son calmly grabbed a shoe and killed the intruder, thus securing his position in the family as bug killer/mom saver.  He was quite proud of himself and I was happy to have such an ardent defender. 

The aforementioned cats – two of them to be exact, Luke and Victor – bring small furry visitors through the pet door and into our house on a semi-regular basis.  So I have become accustomed to waking up in the middle of the night to nocturnal sounds of one kind or another and have become quite adept at determining if they are from the residents of our house or the noises of unwelcomed visitors.  I have even been able to aid Archie in the corralling and capture of a number of the furry interlopers, as we endeavor to return them to the outdoors unharmed – depending on how rough Luke and Victor have “played” with them. 
Saturday morning I awoke to a huge thud, thud-thud-thud, thud!  I immediately knew something was wrong and I knew ‘that something’ was not small!  Deciding to let Archie sleep, I investigated alone.  After some bleary-eyed peeks around corners and stumbling about a bit, I snapped to full alertness – having come face to snout with a rodent perched upon our pedestal tub.  OK FINE, on top of clothes and towels draped over the pedestal tub.  Again, my picture of the perfect home - towels nicely hung on hooks, clothes put away or in the hamper, but never overflowing – dashed.  The hooks that these towels should be on are vacant and in the closet – nice idea for de-cluttering but not as practical as hanging them over the tub next to the shower.  The clothes on the tub are in that limbo-land.  Not clean because they have been warn, but no visible stains or offending smells – so what is one to do with such articles other than hang them on a tub or drape them over a chair?  This is a question for which I have never, even in my more OCD days, been able to find a good solution.
The animal was dark with beady eyes and a long snout, but small – only about 4 inches long, mouse right?  Rat or mouse, I don’t know.  But the animal had a knowing look about her.  She seemed to know that I was no threat; the real threat was thumping around under the tub – thud, thud-thud-thud.  So she jumped down and scurried under the vanity. 
My attention turned to the thumping.  Without even seeing the troublemaker, I knew at once it was Victor.  Only Victor brings his prey in alive and unharmed and only Victor gets himself into positions that require professional help.  Looking at the back of the tub and spotting the small opening through which three pipes emerged, I knew a plumber was in our future.  I watched as Victor tried twice to poke his huge noggin between the pipes to escape.  Realizing I was over my head and feeling the anxiety build – here I had two animals that needed to be somewhere other than where they were – I woke up Archie.
Now there are many great reasons to have a husband, and seeing Archie sprawled out on the bathroom floor, wedged between the wall and the bathtub, one arm over the tub and one through the small hole in the back, all I could think of was – thank God he knows how to use tools.  After unsuccessfully trying to coax Victor into a position where Archie was going to “pull” him out by the head, Victor refused to come anywhere near Archie’s hand – sometimes that cat has the good sense that his owners lack, as I feel certain he would have suffered a spinal injury had Archie been able to pull him out by the head.  Archie got out the wrench, turned off the water, took one of the pipes out and waited for the recalcitrant Victor to emerge. 
With the pipe now in the clothes hanger of a tub – we will get a plumber to put it all back together at some point, but really, what’s the rush – with the cat out from under the tub, our darling Bella finally woke up.  Time – 6am.  I start the day with Bella as Archie tries to find the visitor – he still has not seen the mouse and is not sure I know what I am talking about.  He gives up.  We go about our day with the thought in the backs of our minds; there is a mouse in our house.
The day is uneventful and I try and tell myself that the mouse has most likely found her way out of the house.  Night falls.  Bella sleeps soundly all night with only one, strange and brief scream of terror which a pacifier rectifies.  Bella’s nanny arrives, the painter arrives, and Archie and I head off to work. 
Since this story has not ended I am sure you have gathered that the furry visitor had not yet left the house.  In fact, a frantic call from the nanny confirms what you - the reader - already suspect; the rat has made a bed in Bella’s crib.  At this point you might flash back to the strange and brief scream of terror from Bella that night and the two sleepy parents who only gave her a pacifier and hushed her back to sleep.  Yes, the nanny found the rat, nestled in the bed as she attempted to put Bella down for a nap.  Ok, sure the nanny gets a good night sleep, yes she was aided by the fact that she has sunlight and we were in darkness – but I ask you – what kind of parents hush their child back to sleep in a bed with a rat?  Not the perfect Pottery Barn parents I envisioned us to be when we first found out we were expecting way back before any small children were in the house.  You have seen the pictures, you know of what I speak – clean pressed children, laughing, coloring (in the lines) on a beautiful white table and chairs on a beautiful rug and surrounded by fabulous wall hangings and cubbies full of interesting but tidy toys - only $3700 for the complete room and a down payment on the dream. 
A quick – and rather speedy – drive home from work finds Bella free of any bites or signs of trauma, a rather shaken nanny and a rat free house – yes the mouse is now a rat because it got into bed with my precious Bella.  Whew!  The painter had already caught the rat and returned it to the wild from whence it came.  Thank you God!  Now all that was left to do was ignore the nagging feeling that I had failed as a mother, strip Bella’s bed clothes and put them in the wash with all the clothes that were hung over the side of the tub.

Bella now sleeps with a defender, Leia