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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Death of a Disco Kitchen, Part 2

The Disco Kitchen is dead and buried. I told the maintenance guy, hands raised in triumphant glee, "We're in the 2000's now! Yee haw!"

The kitchen floor looks great (despite my husband standing in the threshold to the hallway, telling me, "This is a different color than the other stuff," to freak me out). My daughter has already determined that "now my heel shoes will sound even louder!" and now all we need are new countertops, new cupboards, a real back door...wishful thinking.

Somewhere underneath that
beautiful exterior lies the lingering
memory of the Disco Kitchen. 
I am trying to be very appreciative of what I've received, despite being a little jealous: within eye shot of my kitchen window is my husband's boss' house, complete with their new, fully upgraded $60,000 kitchen (paid for out of the company's budget. "No bonuses this year, sorry! We don't have enough money!") When I heard that news, I wanted to choke. "Are you serious?" I asked incredulously. Apparently Mrs. HGTV Kitchen couldn't "cook in there for a family of six." I immediately pictured some of the kitchens in apartments on campus that are no bigger than a nice-sized closet, and the families of four (and soon to be five) cooking out of that, that hasn't seen an upgrade since it was built probably 25 years ago. I also immediately thought back to how, in the late 1980s, our entire house was purchased by my husband's employer for not much more than that. I saw red! I've watched enough home improvement shows to know that that's a lot of upgrade for the money - what'd they do, knock out a wall?! (Never mind, I thought, you don't want to know.)

Quickly evil thoughts of Mrs. HGTV Kitchen were replaced by thoughts of a new problem: a recent infestation of mice. We first noticed it a couple weeks ago, when a strawberry cereal bar had mistakenly been left out overnight. In the morning, some nibbles were missing and it had been moved, but wasn't totally eaten. (Is that a sign they're not as nutritious as I thought?, if even the mice won't eat them.) I sat on the computer one night to hear very loud nibbling coming somewhere from the "Chinese cabinet," as my kids call it. I knew Tater Tot's high chair probably yielded a virtual feast for any rodent who chooses, and I also know that our dear old 100+ year old house was as full of holes as a slice of swiss cheese. The beauty of an old house is coupled with the horrors of all manner of rodents: carpenter bees in the summer, bats in the spring (shudder) and now this. We might as well hang up a welcome sign and pass out engraved invitations!

I reasoned that my house is really no dirtier than it's ever been, and thanks to my neurotic behavior when it comes to vacuuming, I go on regular Crumb Control missions probably twice a day. I figured all those rogue neighborhood cats I used to complain about but strangely no longer see prowling around must be the reason we are experiencing Rodent Heaven at our humble abode. I try to picture Ralph S. Mouse, with a sports car and golf ball for a helmet, but unfortunately only see hanta virus.


I saw this on the stairs the other
day and nearly crapped my pants.
Oh, it's just a plastic triceratops. 
After hearing the suspicious gnawing, I reluctantly emptied out the entire contents of the Chinese cupboard and we moved the whole thing, only to reveal there was a virtual party going on underneath. Someone had found a tasty treat in the form of a couple pieces of old Kix cereal, which accounted for the decibel-level chewing I was hearing: those things must be hard as rocks when they've gone stale. We cleaned everything up and I promptly swooped into action mode, vacuuming like a freak and moving furniture around. I even went upstairs and moved heavy pieces of furniture, sweeping underneath and going nuts. I haven't gotten that much done in months.

My husband had heard them in the false wall behind the bathtub, for which their is a convenient, nasty little crawl space opening into our bedroom closet. I braved it and lifted the door off, flashlight in hand, to reveal something out of Tales from the Crypt: ancient, half-eaten pine cones, large pieces of newspaper from 1976, and a bunch of disturbed insulation. He recently said he heard, from the kitchen, what sounded like me dragging a string of beads across the bathroom floor, so he set out a trap that night, and heard a lot of "activity" (read: something trying desperately to get out or away from the trap, causing a ruckus loud enough for us to hear). He checked it the next day, but the trap was still there - yet the crypt had been visibly disturbed. So we knew something was definitely up. They were getting pissed, no doubt!

Unfortunately since the Disco Kitchen had been uprooted, it meant the workers still had to come back and finish the trim. I mistakenly thought my husband had said he would paint around the removed baseboards first and then they would attach the trim, when really he wanted them to do the trim first. The lightbulb went off in my head as I realized that meant the house was full of even more holes, and I cringed as I went along the baseboards with a flashlight and saw all kinds funky stuff under the cupboards, including what I hope is a big ball of fuzz that only looks like a petrified pile of mouse remains. That is not a skull, that is not a skull, I kept repeating to myself. I spied something that looked like a giant earthworm but I'm hoping was only a long-desiccated noodle from the previous tenant, whom I knew had a problem with ants. (After seeing their cleaning skills, I'm wondering if these aren't just 100th-generation mice who set up camp years ago. Let's not even go there...)

Now on to the basement. My biggest fear is that they will zip their way through my entire stash of fabric, perhaps taking a chunk of my scrapbooking collection with them, making nests out of my prized memories. I know they like to make nests out of piles of messy clothes and other crap lying around, and since I haven't felt like doing much down there in months, the place is probably perfect for their rodent escapades. That's a sign that I must (first wash everything) and get busy on my crafting stuff that I have neglected for too long. Since we have a stone wall foundation in the basement, my husband just this morning reasoned that all the debris and dust we've found all over the perimeter every so often is probably from mouse activity. No, that can't be, I say, in complete denial. Gag. Every time I open a cupboard, I half expect to have one come flying out at me. I look up at some of the open cupboards - you know, the ones the old tenant took the doors off of, for some reason - and wonder, have they been climbing all over my dishes? What about my computer keyboard? Gulp. Just because they don't poop all over everything, doesn't mean they weren't there. I think I just died a little inside.

I've done some research on mouse activity (and thanks to a few FaceBook fans and officially puking at all their horror stories of mice eating each other to get out of the trap and doing all kinds of whacky, carnivorous stuff). They're smart little boogers, and we humans are apparently the dumb ones. Needless to say, the idea of sharing our home with them has made me more than a little paranoid. The other day I went to make tea, and as the kettle heated up, it made a persistent squeaking sound. I cocked my head like an obedient beagle and went in to investigate. Since the spout is just about the right size, I turned the heat off and sloshed the kettle around a little, turning my head in agony as I poured the water out, praying that nothing else came out with it.

Every speck of dirt and piece of sock fuzz looks like mouse poop, and I find myself stalking around the house, plotting my revenge with Chuck Norris-style ideas to get rid of them, most of which involve completely inhumane methods. Okay, you little !@(%^&@s, since you like my oven so much, how about I turn on the timer so it comes on at 2 a.m.?! In my research, I found, among the "unconventional methods," setting bait made of chocolate and plaster of Paris, so they get a nice belly full of hard gypsum. That's even a little too bizarre for me. Besides, I don't want them to die inside my walls and stink up the house.

To prove just how smart they are (and how dumb we must be), my husband pre-baited the trap last night, and was officially freaked out to see that they of course took the peanut butter and cookie bait, as well as the glue trap. "It's missing," he gasped, panic in his voice. "They took the glue trap!" I thought he was going to scream like a girl.

"They might have gotten half stuck in it and taken it with them," I bravely offered, since now I officially know that sometimes they will chew off their own feet in an effort to get away. *shivers* Trying not to picture that, I offer him the following advice: "Move the trap, and pre-bait it again for a couple of days. Then set it." Yeah, me, the expert. "And if you see so and so this morning, ask him if he still has cats. And if we can borrow one of them."

Our next job is to plug up the holes, of which there are many. An old remodeling job in the bathroom (which used to be a tiny bedroom) reveals that some smart guy decided that leaving all the plaster and lathe exposed behind the bathroom sink was a suitable way to leave things, rather than plaster up his work. And under the kitchen sink, where most of them apparently take up residence, there is easy access to pipes, the basement and all kinds of other stuff, leaving them free to roam as they please. From there they undoubtedly make their way to the back porch, where another gaping access hole is, directly through yet another hole in the porch floorboards and out into the free world. (If I over-think this too much, I will die.) I am presently dispatching more maintenance people to fill them all, armed with dozens of cans of spray foam and caulking.

In the meantime, I look out the window towards Mrs. HGTV's house. I silently hope they all come to her kitchen. I know, I think evilly, we'll use those Hav-A-Hart traps and just turn them loose over there. I am evil. I know.

3 comments:

Stephanie said...

I hate to be the barer of bad news But, having lived it a nearly 200 yr old house, I can tell you mice that are big enough to take the trap... aren't mice at all.. they are rats! and no little mouse trap will suffice. for some thing child safe and you can put out everwhere, try the rat sized glue traps ! just lay them out flat anywhaere, there is no blood, you can peel them off the kids and they are nontoxic.

The Deranged Housewife said...

*shudder*

The rodents that we've caught are definitely mice - I don't know about the glue traps, but have heard people say that they can often carry the traps around with them. I don't know ... I so don't want to think about this right now. LOL

eulogos said...

A cat is the answer! And females are better hunters than the males, in my experience. They don't change as much when they are neutered as do the males, who tend to get fat and lazy.

I don't think cats reduce mice & rats to zero, but they keep them in check such that you usually don't see them or see evidence of them. Which is the most I hope for in old houses.

By the way, I cooked for ten on a wood cook stove for a year. I even heated all our water on that stove.
It was a lot of work, but not impossible. And even when I finally had a gas stove it was definitely in a kitchen that was otherwise from no more recently than the 1930's!

Susan Peterson