Friday, December 22, 2006

Whereupon I Express Affection for a Feline

It was long regarded in my household as a cold fact of nature that cats are evil. Witches' familiars, persnickety, untrustworthy even. Rather, we subscribed entirely to puppy love. Loyalty, love, protection, helpfulness -- a dog, even a dumb one, is rather like living with a Boy Scout.

My distaste for cats was the result of a lifetime of disappointing encounters, most particularly with my grandmother's huge calico, who seemed to go from contented purrer to vicious scratcher without so much as a tail twitch of warning. Dogs, on the other hand, I could read intuitively. Knew when to stay away, when to pet, when to play with them. If you misread one, it gave you a snap or a growl and then would usually just walk away. Ah, the beauty of canine communication.
Despite my lack of interest in them as pets, I always held the hunting abilities of cats in high esteem. Our local feral colony kept the rodent population low, or did so until our goody two-shoes neighbors started to trap and neuter them. Between their much reduced numbers and some mild winters, the rodent population began to soar about a year ago. We suffered as a result.

In August of 2005 I saw a mouse run across the kitchen floor. Not unusual, as we do live near the woods and typically in the early fall would catch a few and then be troubled no more. Not this time. We caught one, but then I saw another, during dinner, propping his front legs over the frying pan on the stove and looking up at me with a truly cute, mousey face as if to say "don't dime me out!" My elderly mother immediately suggested turning the gas up under him, but we demurred both because the critter was so adorable and because of the smell. I came to rue not listening to her. A few weeks later I got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and found two mice cavorting near the stove top. The next day (after cleaning up the turds) we set out two guillotine traps, one on either side of the stove, using bacon, a favorite mouse treat, as bait. The next morning the bacon was gone, the traps unsprung, and mouse turds on the counter.

Matters progressed from bad to worse. We tried peanut butter bait, with the same result (bait gone, trap unsprung). We tried glue traps next to the spring traps and tied down the bacon. We found they had moved the glue traps out of the way, chewed through the string, stole the bacon and then crapped on the burners. This was getting serious. We tried poison, which they seemed to eat for a while, but mouse sign did not abate. When I found a mouse in the parakeet cage (much to the distress of the birds) at 3:00 AM, and watched my husband run around in his boxers with a hammer trying to kill the mouse, I decided professional intervention was necessary.

The exterminators came, plugged some holes, set out covered bait boxes and left more spring traps. From these guys I learned that one female mouse can have 35 babies in one year. With moveable skull plates and not much of a skeletal structure, they can squeeze through spaces .25 inches wide. In other words, an established colony can have hundreds of participants and they can get everywhere. The exterminators came once every two weeks to harvest corpses. They got 9 or 10 the first time, and less on subsequent visits. The pantry was still infested, and I watched a mouse literally run around the baseboards in order to avoid the 3 traps planted there. After a few months of dwindling returns, we gave up on the exterminators and went back to our own poison and trapping methods, hopeful that the colony had largely been defeated and only clean-up was necessary. Still, the turds appeared on the granite and furry visitors would show up in the kitchen, on the stovetop.

I explained to my husband that it was time for God's exterminator. He suggested a rat terrier. As we have an elderly Samoyed with serious arthritis, I refused, thinking it would be much harder on her. He wanted to see if a parrot loose in the house would do it. I refuse to have as a pet anything that lives 30 years. He suggested a black snake, a descented skunk, anything but a cat. After I investigated all other options and/or outright refused them, he at last agreed we could get a kitten.

Eventually, I found a suitable one at our vet's, which often nurses rescued feral kittens. A young male, your basic orange tabby, whoe settled immediately into my arms and my daughter's without so much as a blink. He came home with us and was introduced to the dog whom he appeared to love instantly. Our Sammy, for her part, was thrilled to have a little friend. She licked him from top to bottom his first day out of the carrier and promptly stuck her nose up his butt. He didn't seem to mind. By day 3, he was drinking from her water dish. By day 5, she'd let him have a snack out of her bowl, as long as it wasn't her food.

He proved to be unusually human-friendly too. Open with everyone, curling up in laps and around ankles, purring away. Play scratching and biting only, he suffers being held for long period of time, will gladly sit for having his nails cut, eats anything and was already litter-trained.

Most importantly: mouse sign diminished within 36 hours of his arrival. It disappeared after a few more days. We have an occassional sign, but we have, for the first time made some serious inroads, and he's only five months old. He stalks the stove regularly and undoubtedly has or will catch the stragglers.

As a result of all this, I now understand the whole Egyptian cat-worship thing. A real rodent infestation is as disgusting a thing as you can imagine, and to have an organic solution that is actually a credit to the household is simply marvelous. Today I took him to "Dr. Mouse" for neutering. I hope he doesn't view us too harshly as a result. But if he does, I'll give him a little extra mouse-stalking time. My husband, who so opposed a cat, frequently can be seen sneaking him a little milk, or holding him like a baby. We love our killer.

Merry Christmas, Copper, you are a fabulous gift.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Whereupon I Express Love

My daughter is 10. I don't know quite how it happened. Sure, I'm aware of the usual processes (time + food + rest + medical care = larger child). Still how such a simplistic formula can yield a story-writing, independent and sometimes hormonal being from a tiny little wriggling thing remains a glorious mystery to me.

She's always been beautiful. Now every parent says this, and every parent is right, no matter that the child has a unibrow, heinous teeth or a stupid expression. They are each a miracle of eyes and soft skin and animation. But since she's been a baby, my daughter has literally stopped traffic. Sales clerks crossed the floor at Bloomingdales to look at her. Sweet elderly women stopped and asked to hold her on the street. When I brought her to work on school holidays, secretaries would line up to take care of her. I didn't pimp her as a model, despite the encouragement of my mother, both because my mother is insane and because, like me, my daughter doesn't photograph all that well. There's something so charismatic about her in person, a quality that utterly disappears in pictures.

The reason I wax rhapsodic is that today was the "Holiday Concert" -- the last such concert she will participate in at the Lower School Division of her school. Like so many other parents we traipsed dutifully year after year to watch her with dozens of other little velvet-clad girls make their way through songs, percussion instruments and dances. And for the most part, it's excruciating. Saved by a ridiculous cute factor, the concerts are mind-numbing politically correct affairs, with Japanese New Year songs, Kwanzaa call and response songs, made up pop Hanukah tunes and the odd Christmas carol all tossed in. Until the 3rd grade, all the girls have the same music teacher: a sweet, slightly befuddled woman with a face like 3 week old vanilla pudding who's a devotee of Carl Orff. Which means she believes in encouraging the musician in every child (good) but also that low standards help them think they are achieving music (bad). My husband usually leans in towards me during these concerts and stage whispers: "There's some derogatory Yiddish word for this woman. I just don't know what it is."

In 4th grade, however, the girls get a real music teacher -- a woman with an advanced degree from Peabody who composes serious music and has been teaching her charges about jazz. I knew I loved her in October, when I caught my daughter singing "How High The Moon" and then talking with her friends about Cannonball Adderly.

So I looked forward, for a change, to today's concert. My heart stopped for a second, because I saw my daughter in a dress with her hair pulled back and silver snowflakes dangling from her ears, and in that moment I saw what she was going to look like at her prom 8 years from now. It took me aback as I began to think about how I need to teach her about condoms, birth control, date rape, responsibility for her own conduct right now before she goes off looking like that. In the next moment, I forgot, as she and her classmates launched into Still, Still, Still. Three-part harmonies. Followed by another 3-part round, with voice and recorder. She was so open, and sweet, and full of love for her school her voice and her friends at that moment. It was one of those parental epiphanies, where you see the past and the future and realize that enjoying today is every bit as important. I 'll teach her, for sure, what she needs to know. But maybe I won't start tonight.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Good night sweet friends.

I'm off to Cape Cod and Maatha's Vinyaaard for a week. Some time with the family should be wonderful. I will check in from time to time, but if Archduke Ferdinand is assassinated (which seems increasingly likely) I'll check in. Smooches to all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Where is the Oopsnosity?

Oopsnosity is what makes the world go round. Jesus had it, as did Mohammed and most hedge fund managers. In short, oopsnosity is the unifying principle.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play


"Look at me, look at me! I'm blogging, mom I'm blogging!!!"

Mom: "What's blogging dear?"

Me: "It's another way to waste time I don't have. Isn't it great!"