Sunday, September 23, 2007

Note To Self

Never go into the showers at the gym right after the Aerobics III class gets out. As it turns out, only the very young and childless bother with Aerobics III. And even if you've just spent an hour on the treadmill running 10 kilometers and you're all Eye of the Tiger psyched on yourself, the sight of all those lean flanked, firm breasted torsos can be extremely dispiriting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

B-L-O-O-D-Yyyyy M-O-U-S-Eeeee

We’ve always lived with mice.

Mister tells me that they get into the house through small gaps where the cement foundation meets the wooden frame, and sorry toots, but there’s really not that much we can do about it.

That’s fine. In the past, I haven’t really bothered all that much with them. Ours have always been a decent breed of mice—quiet, retiring, willing to keep to the walls. They really haven’t been a big problem in the house itself. That is to say, the part where we live.

And, that is to say, up till now.

Round about this time every year—as the nights grow colder—we hear them crawling around in the ceiling, especially in the downstairs bathroom. It must be their primary point of entry, probably at the vent where the fan is. To be honest, my attitude towards them has mostly been one of benevolent indulgence. I mean, they’re so cute. And it is awfully cold out. Of course they need a nice warm place to sleep at night, and, you know, birth their 4 billion babies. Besides, it’s not like they’re causing anyone any real harm.

Well (chuckles quietly under her breath) there was that one time they chewed the wires to the bathroom lights and shorted out the electricity. But that was a one-off deal that happened five years ago. Right?

And yes, yes, yes. I did have to change the place where we store the bread because we kept cutting into a fresh loaf of a Saturday morning only to find a large hole in the middle where some industrious little critter had spent the night burrowing.

I should have known it would eventually get out of hand. They long ago grew bored with their warm sanctuary above the bathroom, and began venturing to parts northward. They followed the water lines up into the bowels of my kitchen--through the hole where the pipe feeds water to the ice maker in the refrigerator, then around the corner to the sink, under which, the garbage lies. Basically, anywhere a hole has been cut into the cabinetry to accommodate water pipes; our mice have felt at liberty to roam.

We’ve set traps. We’ve killed dozens. But, of course, where there are dozens, there’s sure to be scores. And I’ve gotta say folks, they’re really starting to piss me off.

A couple of weeks ago we noticed signs—puzzling clues, tantalizing riddles—that seemed to suggest that the electric shock they received when they chewed through the wiring in the bathroom sparked a sort of rapid evolution into an uber-class of super devious, thrill-seeking rodent. First they figured out how to remove the bait from the traps without springing them. Then, as if that somehow weren’t challenging enough, they sported with springing the trap AND getting away with the bait in one clean action. Finally, they grew tired of dicking around with the traps at all, and started simply skirting them altogether. Opting instead to make a beeline for their holiest of holies—the garbage bin.

The picky little bastards aren’t content with just any garbage either. Oh no. Apparently they’ve all seen Ratatouille, and they’ve made a collective decision to take their cuisine to the next level. They leave the discarded bits, the stuff that doesn’t meet with their delicate palettes, in a neat pile next to the dishwasher detergent.

My loathing of them has taken on near Bill Murray/Caddyshack proportions.

With Mister being away in Brazil all week, I’m in dire need of a bit of intellectual diversion. So, I decided to fuck with them a little bit. Simply removing the garbage can from the cupboard every night seemed too easy. Instead, I started emptying the garbage right before going to bed, and leaving them with an empty bin. HA! Take that! You mangy, beady-eyed, little varmints!

They, in turn, have seen my call, and raised me.

They don’t come into the cabinet under the sink anymore, but they have ramped up the noise quite a bit. We can hear them, EM and me, in the wall between the kitchen and her room scratch scratch scratching away endlessly into the wee hours of the morning.

Scratch. Scratch. Scratchscratchscratch. Scratch. Scratch. Rustle. Rustle. Scratch. Scratch. And so on, and so forth. All.Night.Long.

Touché scabby varmints. Well played.

The mind boggles at what they might be up to. Some sort of Trojan horse type of deal lashed together with cobwebs and dusty insulation? An elaborate, Rube Goldberg inspired maze that they will use to test and challenge their young before sending them on a mission to find new sources of food and water? Or perhaps their only aim is to avenge the souls of their slain brethren by driving me mad ala The Tell-Tale Heart?

EM can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because EM can’t sleep. Mission very nearly accomplished.

It's almost a shame to have to crush such an advanced civilization. But, I assure you, humanity will prevail. I’m dialing the exterminators as we speak.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

In Which Elder Miss Makes Me Proud

Yesterday EM and I went shopping at our local little mercantile. I had a hearty, nutritious meal of frozen pizza and popcorn planned, and I needed, well, everything for it. So off we went.

Afterwards, back in the car as we were strapping on our seatbelts to go, EM pointed out the window and asked, “Why is that teenager smoking?” I looked in the direction of her accusing finger, and there indeed, huddled in the corner, attempting to gain some shelter from the cold, autumn rain under the store's scant eaves was a lank blond puffing away like she was all that and a bag of chips.

“Uff, hard to say EM. I um. I really don’t know.”

“But cigarettes are bad for you, right?”

“Yes. Bad, bad. Very bad.” Ever the smooth-tongued weaver of words, I.

“Then why do some people smoke?”

Knowing that ‘because it’s not healthy’ is one of the few explanations EM will accept without further debate, I said, “I guess some people just don’t care enough about their bodies to stay away from such unhealthy things.”

“Mmm,” she murmured thoughtfully, “But how old do I have to be to smoke?”

“I sincerely hope you never will smoke, EM.”

“Oh I won’t. I’ll never smoke. I never will. But why do some kids think it’s good to smoke?”

So we talked a bit about peer pressure. About how some kids think it’s cool to smoke, and how kids want to be like their friends so they smoke just because they want to fit in. Then she asked didn’t they know smoking is bad for them, and why didn’t they just stop if everyone knows it’s bad? So we talked about addiction. I explained that there’s something in the cigarettes that makes your body want more and more, and it’s very hard to teach your body not to want them anymore after it’s hooked on them, so it’s best never to start smoking in the first place.

After absorbing all this, EM, ever the problem solver said, “Well, I think they should just stop making cigarettes if they’re so bad for everyone.”

Ah, yes. Excellent point darling, however…..

So then we talked a bit about evil corporate greed, and the lying liars who peddle their tainted goods to weak-willed consumers the world over. I think it’s safe to say she absorbed significantly less of this part of our discussion, but in the end we both agreed that lobbyists and special interest groups were a bad thing and immediate steps should be taken to limit their power and influence at the federal level.

We had long since pulled out of the parking lot, and were well on our way to the daycare to pick up Boy and Little Miss. After several minutes of silence, I figured we had put the matter to rest, and my thoughts drifted to dinner and whether or not I could sneak some peppers or tomatoes or anything even remotely crisp and fresh onto the menu.

“What if one of my friends smokes?”

“Well, it’s very likely that as you get older some of your friends will start to make some bad choices like that. I hope you’re smart enough to stay away from it.”


“I know. I know. I’m just saying….”

Now, because I’m such a good mother and all, and because I wisely recognized this as one of those seminal moments during which I’m supposed to take the time to drill further instruction into her, I decided to push the matter a bit further.

“What do you think you might say if one of your friends offered you a cigarette?”

“Mah-ommmmm! I SAID! I NEVER WILL!”

“I’m just asking. It’s good to be prepared, you see. To practice what you might say in these situations. So what would you say if someone offered you a cigarette?”

“Ummmm…….I just don’t know.”

“Well, it’s probably best to keep it simple. Just say something like ‘NO THANK YOU!’ and walk away.”

After a thoughtful moment, EM asked, “Why do I have to say thank you?”

Yeah, she's got it. I think she's going to be just fine.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sou-pah-pah, Trou-pah-pah

EM came home from school yesterday in a state of electrified excitement. Not only had her class spent the ENTIRE! DAY! at the the AQUARIUM! where she saw a clutch of brand spanking new BABY! SNAKES! But her teachers, in their infinite wisdom, had hatched among them a new policy regarding the lunch hour, which they announced just before school let out.

Presumably, one of them has recently read somewhere that music aids digestion, or tames the wild beast, or....something. It's the only reason I can think to explain why they've suddenly invited each of the children to bring in one of his or her favorite CD's which they'll take turns listening to while the class eats lunch. (Short explanatory note here: school cafeterias don't exist in Norway as they do in the States, or indeed, everywhere else in the civilized world. Kids eat their lunch in their classroom, at their desks, with their teachers. Lucky teachers, eh?)

I invite you to take a little trip back in time with me, if you will. You're 7 years old, and you don't know a blesséd thing about music. You like to sing and dance though. You've watched your mom cut loose and shake her groove thing during a handful of her more 'unguarded' moments. You like that mom. She's fun. You want to practice looking just as dumb as she does for when you grow up, and sing and dance in front of your kids. But she won't let you anywhere near the stereo. And she snaps irritably "no I really don't want to listen to that GOD! DAMN! Hooked On Classics again, thank you very much!" everytime you ask. That's okay. You'd really rather practice in the privacy of your own room anyway. So your mind turns to that bitchin' little cassette recorder you got for your birthday, and the shoebox full of old tapes behind the loud speakers that Mom doesn't care about anymore. You go digging through that in search of a suitable beat.

Now, be honest, what did you come up with? For you older kids on the reading list, the details will vary slightly on account of you all being 7 years old during the Middle Ages. But the idea is the same. You borrowed your early musical taste from the crap your parents left behind. So what, other than Gregorian chants, are some of the first songs you remember jamming to?

For me it was Abba's Super Trouper and (oh gawd) Air Supply. But mostly Abba. I listened to that Abba tape over and over and over and over again. I thought On and On and On was the coolest song evah! I knew all the words, but would have been hard pressed to tell you what it was about. Er, still would be, I guess. Whatever. Not the point. Focus.

We're here to talk about what EM found at the bottom of my pile of rejected crap, and how mortified I was this morning when she left with it proudly tucked under her arm in a cracked jewel case.

The Judds, people! The Judds' Greatest Hits. Volume 2, if you must know.

What can I say? I went through a phase in my early 20's where I had this thing for tight country harmonies. I'll also admit to owning greatest hits collections of Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, and The Bellamy Brothers. Judge me if you must, but I bet at least one of you fools out there has a copy of New Kids on the Block under a bed somewhere!

I haven't listened to any of this music for years, not since long before the kids were born. I don't know how or why EM came upon this ancient relic of my misspent youth. But she did. And she loves it. Listens to it every single day, as loud as the cheapass disc player in her room will play it. Loves.It. And did I tell you? She got to SHARE IT WITH EVERYONE IN HER CLASS TODAY!

I can just picture her teacher taking the disc from EM's happy hands, "Mmmmm, The Judd's. No. Never heard of them. Something new from those talented folks at Disney no doubt." Then innocently pushing play, and hearing that first tortured twang--"Had a dr-eeeeem about ya' ba-beeeee. Had a dr-eeeeeeem 'bout me and you-oooo...." Frantically looking at her watch, she quickly calculates how much of this dreadful (albeit perfectly harmonized) screeching she has to listen to before she can turn it off without seeming unfair.

"Right," she says between clinched teeth, as she hands it, daintily pinched between thumb and forefinger like a rotten lettuce leaf, back to EM. "That was, quaint little piece of Americana, EM. Thank you for sharing. I suppose we have your mother to thank for this, do we?"

Ah well. Could have been worse. Could have been The Bellamy Brothers. Now, they really were crap!