UH-OH, that time of year is coming up – when outsiders seek refuge from the cold – usually at our house – the critters affectionately refer to it as ‘you know where those suckers live.’ It’s true. Bruce and I are more tolerant than most when the home invasion begins, but I admit that a few times these houseguests’ cartoonish-cuteness starts to fade. Years ago, we’d find a random black cricket in our basement that strutted by in a top-hat and carried an umbrella…but these days, we dare not go down to the depths of the basement where those humongous, grayish, hideous, prehistoric, dinosaur-like crickets dwell.  Let me say this: they ain’t no Jiminys!

We’ve put up with Rocky, the squirrel on our roof, and Ricky the Raccoon in our garage, but the toughest challenge of them all is always – the MOUSE, and I don’t mean Mighty Mouse…no one ever comes to “save the day.” I’m talking about Mickey, Minnie, and that cute Italian fellow, Pepino.

I cringe at the thought because it can take weeks to get them outside again where they belong. Oh, you must be saying to yourself, that’s not how to handle it…and practically speaking, I can see why. But, the guillotine – no way! Without the heart to end the lives of these small creatures, I continue to stand on stools with a broomstick and shriek.

I had to come up with my own techniques of “mouse removal,” as most methods seem inhumane. I recall one night when our kids were small, my husband was asleep, and me with insomnia, stayed up playing PacMan. (I was a PRO at killing off those little dots.)

Anyway, I heard a noise coming from the kitchen, and I tiptoed in to see two beady eyes staring back at me from under the stovetop burner. I eventually went to bed, but could not sleep…what if? What if I fell asleep with my mouth open, and the mouse happened to be looking for another dark place to hide?

I had no choice, but to get out of bed again and put my Genius plan into action: I filled the sink with water, a couple of feet from the burner, and left a trail of breadcrumbs leading up to it.

I waited in bed, watched the clock…singing in my head Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock—“No No – I had to get these cute images OUT of my head. “ At 3 a.m. I tiptoed back into the kitchen. AH-HA – gotcha! There he was, swimming in circles like a miniature seal. I scooped him up with a plastic container, quickly put a lid on it, and happily set him free outside my front door while humming “Born Free.” I looked up at the beautiful night sky, at large snowflakes, then I looked down again at the wet mouse – who took three steps and froze solid in his tracks.  I cried.

One year, I blew a mouse clear out the French doors at the back of our house with a giant leaf blower…I’m pretty sure he survived, but he must have landed in OZ. That was a very successful mouse rescue and release episode that I am still proud of.  The worst house invasion was a couple of winters ago…he or she must have come through a basement vent and left poopies (not cute) in my oven trays under the gas burners. I was so grossed out that I didn’t want to cook at all (which of course I milked.) Well, one day I had a long talk with the man at the hardware store, who sold me a plastic “non-kill” mouse trap. My husband (NOT handy) and I read the instructions (we usually never read instructions until after we fail) and thought we had it down pat.  The next morning, to our relief, the trap door was closed, but when we picked it up, it felt empty. We opened the trap door and saw the cheese was gone, but NO mouse; he outsmarted us again. This went on for weeks and once in a while I’d see the mouse scurry by as we watched television. “Uhh, Bruce,” I said to my husband. “Looks like the mouse has put on a LOT of weight.”

“Really? Is he still wearing those jazzy Disney red shorts and large yellow shoes?”

“No, he’s totally naked this time, except for his white gloves. But-but he’s a different color now.”

It suddenly dawned on us – it was not the Same mouse; we had more than one. The following day we bought many traps (one of them had to work!); we lined them up in the pantry, where they’ve been stealing food, and waited once again. Finally, SUCCESS…every day we’d catch another mouse…unless, it occurred to me – unlesswhen we released them, they just came right back in the house for their meals.  We then made executive decisions:  each time, we drove the mice a few miles away to a horse farm, and let them go. After weeks of sterilizing our kitchen with Lysol, and no sign of mouse poopies, we were content that Mickey and Minnie and their extended family were finally gone!!!

The bad news, I had to start cooking again. EEEK!