Tuesday, 22 April 2014

confessions of a mousekiller

(Because some stories just NEED to be told!) 

(And just in case anyone questions my sanity, I am traumatised by the events described here, but I'm trying to make light of it so the whole thing will just ... go away. Forever, hopefully!)

Years ago, when we first moved into the house we built on the corner of my brother-in-law's farm, the mice moved in too. But we found the gaps they'd crawled into, blocked them up, and haven't seen them since.

But with the arrival of spring sunshine the kids have been flying in and out of the house, dusting off bikes, shovels and sand buckets, leaving the garage door wide open. As the kids went out, the mice came in - I saw the first one face to face last week just as I was heading for bed.

The next day, after getting the traps down from the attic, the girls and I saw another mouse in the playroom. We opened the patio doors and tried to shoo him out but he squidged himself under the adjoining door back into the kitchen. I got the kids to jump up on chairs while I swept mouse turds off the bookshelves.

"Why didn't you kill him, mum?" Amber asked as I muttered to myself, swishing the broom. Which is exactly what hubby said when I messaged him about the mouse in the laundry.

"I'm not fast enough, and besides, I just couldn't do it!" I said. "I've never killed anything!"

"But you've got traps for them, isn't that the same thing?"

Ah. "I guess you're right!" I admitted. That girl can think!

That night as I sat knitting on the sofa, taking in a movie after a hard day of keeping the kids entertained during mid-term break, a mouse wriggled through the leather sofa under my butt. I took that as a personal insult! Wretches! (We haunted the furniture showroom for months waiting for that sofa; and finally bought it only after someone scratched it while moving it, knocking the price down by 50%. Worth the wait!)

So I got up and baited two traps, setting them in the kitchen and playroom, and removed myself to the relative safety of the study and youtube.

The first trap went off just a few minutes later. I went out to check the trap under the kitchen sink but couldn't find it; it seemed the mouse had somehow flipped itself and the trap over a pipe and down behind the cupboard unit. Oh well, deal with it tomorrow I thought.

But when I opened the cupboard the next morning I nearly had a heart attack. The mouse hadn't flipped back at all, but fallen to the lower shelf where it still lay flipping about in smears of blood.

Sick to the stomach, I knew I had to kill it. All I could think of at the time was our meat mallet. A few quick jabs with my eyes averted and the mouse was dead. I flushed him quickly before the kids realised what was going on and cleaned up the cupboard, all the while feeling my stomach churn. Why did this have to happen while hubby was on night shift?

More mice surprised us that day - as bold as brass - and I found stuffing falling out of the leather sofa so I knew we had no choice but to set more traps. Alone again that night, I heard the first trap go off and walked out to find another still-alive mouse.

What to do? I couldn't face the meat mallet again. Heart pounding, I thought of the loo. Reaching forward gingerly, I picked up the trap by its' back end, keeping my hand well away from the wriggling body at the front. Snapped open the trap into the loo and hit flush. Phew!

But lately we've had problems with iron and manganese deposits in our water, radically reducing our water pressure, and the mouse just wouldn't go down. I stared in horror as he paddled frantically. No, no! Could this get any worse?

I grabbed the gallon bucket we use to get milk from the farm, filled it at the laundry tap and threw the water down the loo, eyes closed. Then looked again with huge relief to find the mouse gone.

Texted hubby, looking for sympathy. One down. He was alive - I had to flush him.


Are you serious? I've never killed anything before. I'll need counseling after this!!

Within the next hour or so, three more traps sprang, catching three more mice by the leg.

Texted hubby. Wish you were here.


After four flushes the traps were empty and I couldn't set any more. Horrible useless things. I went to bed with my stomach still lurching.

The next day we bought more traps - great heavy things with springs so tightly wound that they wouldn't trip without savage pressure - I almost split my thumb testing them out.

Hubby's still on night shift - but tonight's his last night for a while. HE can deal with the mice after this. I'm calling it quits!

Sunday, 20 April 2014


Last week my hubby let our 20-month-old walk down to nan's house. Oh dear. Bye-bye buggy! She won't even get into it now, just shakes her blonde curls and shrieks, "noooooo ...!!!"

I took the kids out to the river this afternoon while dad slept between night shifts. Thea wanted to be "down!" like the other two, who had skipped ahead of me through the gate towards the sloping bridge. Thea of course stopped every 5 seconds to ooh and aah at the river, pointing at the rapids, hovering all too close to the electric fence wire just above her head.

As she walked the path for the first time I found myself mentally navigating the hazards ahead of her - parts where the track came right to the edge of the river, sections of mud with stepping stones, steep inclines, loose gravel and stinging nettles.

Some of my friends have hit road hazards just recently. I thought of two in particular as we walked the path today - one who's just said goodbye to a difficult marriage, and another who had a sudden and completely unexpected breakdown last week.

As I witness their struggles I'm seeing all over again that life is a delicate balance. We have so many roles and responsibilities to juggle! I don't know about you but sometimes I feel just one hair's breadth away from dropping all the balls and seeing them shatter into one almighty, seemingly irreparable mess.

I think that's what happened to my neighbor last week. Karen (not her real name) has a 7- and a 4-year old, a 9-month old baby, a terrific husband and a friend who's just stiffed her out of a job she had planned to return to after maternity leave. When she called me in a panic on the last day of school before mid-term break I thought someone had died. Loaded my kids into the car, rushed down, found her sitting sobbing in her driveway. She asked me to mind her kids while she ran up to my house to send an email. Huh? I didn't ask questions, just gave her the keys.

Karen's house is usually spotless. That day I knew she was not okay because there were clothes piled everywhere, plates stacked in the sink, food congealed in pots on the stove, tissues and used nappies on the kitchen counter. Baby J sat strapped in his pushchair, quietly mouthing his fingers. I sent the older kids outside to the swings and sat waiting to see what would happen next.

To make a long story short, Karen's in hospital. And I'm wondering how I missed the signs that she could no longer hold everything together. I think things had been unraveling for a while and her friend's treachery was the last straw.

It's tough to juggle kids, house, job, bills; maintaining, guarding and repairing all the 'stuff' we've gathered; and trying to figure out what happened to our dreams in the process. But if we lose sight of our dreams I think something in our soul dies; we get so busy watching for stones on the path that we forget the thrill and beauty of the river.

As Karen once said to me, "Life is a strange thing. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. There has to be more to it than this!"

Yes, there's more! But often when we've hit a few speed bumps the fight begins to leak out of us, just like the diesel in our car right now (yeah, we need to get that fixed).

As I scooped Thea into my arms to carry her up a hill, I thought about what I've been seeing on the internet lately - people being raw and honest, navigating the road hazards for others who haven't got there yet: "hey, if you're going down this particular road, watch out for X - I hit that and nearly went under. But I pulled through it like this ... "

I have another friend who's watching her daughter battle an eating disorder.  I can tell her, "Yeah, I've been in her shoes. Watch out for this, and this - but don't worry, she'll be okay."

I can't navigate as easily for Karen, although I've had bouts of depression and watched my sister walk through it too. But I can at least be there when she needs me.

When I put Thea down at the top of the hill she cried a sad little "noooooo ...!" and held out her arms. I scooped her up again and she snuggled deep into my shoulder, drawing her legs up in a tight huddle.

Sometimes we need that - someone to scoop us up when our legs get wobbly and we just can't do it anymore.

But it's okay. We'll walk again, when we've had enough time - and support from the people around us - to recover.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

take five

Right now my head is one big jumble of kids, work schedules, laundry, dirty windows, mice in the sofa (um, yes, it's gruesome!), friends in crisis, hopes and dreams, language classes, and some major developments for our family's future - more to come on that later!

I have great ideas for posts while dropping my kids off to school, but by the time I get home they've fizzled and I can't retrieve them.

However, according to a quote I found on the internet today, "It's not about having to say something, but having something to say."

So until something more solid comes together, I think I'll just 'take five'!

My parents sent me to a psychologist when I was around 17 years old. I was so suspicious and defensive at the first session that I don't remember much of it, but I've never forgotten the homework assignment she gave me that day - to go home and make a list of "5 things I'm good at" and "5 things I like about myself."

Back home I sat down with a blank sheet of paper, but couldn't think of a single thing to write on it!

That process helped me realise two things about myself. First, if I had nothing good to say about myself, I needed help - and second, maybe I should accept help from this psychologist after all. Her simple assignment had totally disarmed me!

So just for fun, and as a confidence booster, tonight I'm writing out two revised lists for 2014 and inviting you to do the same. Feel free to post your list in the comments section (anonymously if you prefer!). And maybe ask a friend to write out these lists for you as well - you might be surprised at what they come up with! (I've been surprised and blessed by some unexpected compliments from friends over the past two weeks ... does your soul good!)

5 things I'm good at:
- loving my kids
- listening
- writing (hmm, feels debatable at the moment!)
- photography
- cooking
- surfing the internet (does this count? I guess not. Okay ... knitting then!)

5 things I like about myself:
- compassionate
- non-judgmental
- creative
- intelligent
- wise (people keep telling me I am, but this is also debatable!)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

an honest answer

Okay, so it's been a little quiet on the blog lately. I don't know what possessed me to start a year-long language course and a blog at the same time! We're also battling bugs - just as baby came off her 4th dose of antibiotics this year, I lifted her out of the cot last night and she threw up all over me, the cot and the floor. Here's to summer and warmer weather!!

It's funny how the little things can make you feel like such a failure as a parent.

Last week as I put my 4-year-old Kayla to bed, she snuggled into me and then pointed to the photo canvas on the far wall of her room."Mum, I really miss my puppy!" she said - and then, so typical for our little drama queen, her face crumpled and she sobbed as if heartbroken.

Let me explain. When she was somewhere around 2, I got hooked on a pre-loved toy store in town. I couldn't resist picking up toys that were in near-perfect condition, often for just a euro or two. The puppy was one of them - a gorgeously soft cream puppy with floppy brown ears.

At first sight Kayla clutched him tight and adopted him as her one-and-only sleep toy. But Kayla being Kayla, that didn't last. As she moved to a big bed I'd often find puppy thrown in a corner of her room, abandoned for days if not weeks, and she seldom slept with any toy in the bed.

Around that time I realised that too many nearly-perfect toys were too much of a good thing. So one day while the kids were out with dad I swept through the house, bundled up all the toys they never played with, and handed them back to the charity shop.

The kids barely noticed and we could see the floor - a win-win situation, right?

Um - no.

Fast forward to a few years later when I decided we needed some life on our walls. Under pressure to get a last-minute deal at photobox.com I zipped through our photo files, chose a few of my favorites and ordered some canvases for the girls' rooms.

The one I chose for Kayla was soooo cute - a photo taken at our local airport on the way out to my workmate's wedding in Greece. Kayla stands there forlornly in the queue, surrounded by a forest of legs, holding her beloved puppy by the neck.

 I thought she'd like the photo, but the moment the canvas went up on the wall she burst into floods of tears. "Mum, that's my puppy? Where's my puppy? I lost him and I miss him SO much!"

Well, no you didn't lose him, I thought, but I can't tell you who did! And you really weren't acting like you loved him at all back then! So I said, "I'm so sorry bubs,  I think puppy IS lost and I don't know where he is." And gave her the biggest hug ever.

But she wouldn't be consoled and we've had the same conversation several times since.

I did try taking the canvas down but she seemed happier for me to leave it there.

Then at church a few weeks ago, a friend came up to us waving a handful of paper hearts. "We had these up on the wall for Valentine's day - want one?" she asked my kids.

Each heart had a simple, hand-written quote about love. When we got home, Kayla begged me to read hers and later that day I found it stuck to the wall beside her pillow.

But last week, the heart moved up to the canvas, right beside the beloved puppy.

And folks, I kid you not, this is what the heart says:

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips."

Somehow bedtime isn't so much fun anymore. I'm debating taking down that canvas and replacing it with something else - more recent, more fun, less ... guilt-provoking.

I'll tell her the real truth about the puppy someday, but not now. Maybe when she's a bit older. What would YOU do??

The guilt has a silver lining though. The more I mess up, the more I'm able to forgive my parents' mistakes. And I'm determined, these days, never to buy anything I won't let the kids keep. In fact, never to buy anything unless we really need it. More on that in my next post!