A few weekends ago, I FINALLY finished putting away all our Christmas decorations. It was a process I had started on about January 2nd and over Martin Luther King weekend, I finished putting the last of the Christmas boxes away on the shelves. If you are the type of person who can put your Christmas decorations away all in one single day then I am very impressed. For me, I treat the task of putting Christmas decorations away much like I treat putting my laundry away: it takes at least 10-12 business days to complete. The intricate Post-Christmas process that I follow is one I learned from my mom. Here is how it usually goes:
Day 1: Undecorate tree. Unfortunately undecorating the tree took me twice as long this year because I had to sweep up LOTS of extra needles from our Charlie Brown tree. Mike and I were lazy and just went to Menards for our tree since it was closest to our house. They didn’t have much of a selection of real trees and they were all tied up in netting so you couldn’t really see what they looked like. BUT Menards was closest to our house and we were NOT about to make the effort to go anywhere else. So we brought our “6-7 foot” (so they claimed) real tree home in a shopping cart:
Taking ornaments off a tree is an extremely depressing task so after doing so you must treat yourself to a delicious lunch from one of your favorite local fast food establishments. Only fries can cure the “undecorating the tree” depression that sets in. But before you can eat you must collect all the knickknacks and set them on the dining room table so they are all in one spot, shoving aside the normal junk you leave on the dining room table to make room for the Christmas junk. After a long lunch break you bring up the Christmas boxes from the basement and start to put the holiday knickknacks away. BUT (and this is key) you don’t fully finish because you get tired/distracted by doing other things.
Day 2: Finish wrapping and putting knickknacks away in their boxes, making sure all garland and lights are taken down but leave garland/lights in a pile on the living room floor because you don’t have the energy to box those up quite yet. The Knicknack box on the other hand, is filled and lid is closed but that will remain in the living room for a few more days.
Day 3-7: Make some half assed attempts to finish putting everything away, maybe bring some boxes to the basement but do not put them away/on the shelves where they belong. Leave them in an inconvenient spot for everyone else in the household, blocking something all other house members need to access regularly or leave in a main traffic area of the basement. This year I decided to leave a pile of Christmas boxes right at the bottom of our basement stairs, forcing us both to go around the barricade every time we needed to go to a certain part of the basement.
Day 8-9: This is “The Limbo Stage” where you will see decorations you missed in the house when you aren’t even looking for them, just going about your day. Then you’ll say to someone, “Ah! Look at this! A Christmas decoration that escaped us!! It’s a good thing I didn’t put those boxes away yet so I can add this to them!”
Day 10-12: Look at the Christmas boxes and hate yourselves just slightly for being the way that you are, and finally put them away. A process that takes about five minutes but you’ve successfully dragged out over a course of a few days.
As sad and depressing as putting away Christmas decorations are, as I was doing it, I was thinking back to the Christmas prior and I smiled because I felt grateful that this Christmas we did not have the same creature stirring this holiday season that we did the previous. Yes, last Christmas a mouse decided to Air BnB our home during the cold winter months. For a while I was too ashamed and embarrassed to say this publicly but I am tired of that mouse silencing and controlling us. WE DID NOTHING WRONG. We keep a clean house. We store our food properly. We wondered what we did to deserve such a thing. Mice will do that to you. They will make you feel bad about yourselves and keep you living in fear. The mice are gone now but every time Mike and I see a small shadow or something grabs our attention on the floor we jump a little thinking it might be a mouse.
We think the mouse moved in while we were away in Ireland. We arrived home from our trip on December 1st and soon realized we were not alone. We had squatters. It was a Saturday night and we were staying in, I had just made us a delicious meal of chicken nuggets and fries that I had spent A LOT of time taking out of the freezer and we were sitting down to watch “A Christmas Story” with some cocktails when the mouse first showed himself. We both thought we were seeing things when something scurrying across the floor grabbed our attention. Then he ran by again and I’m pretty sure all three of us let out screams.
Right from the start Mike was ready to fight to the death, but I wanted to go about it in a more humane way. I wanted him to maybe trap the mouse and let him go many miles away where he could live happily in a field somewhere? I didn’t want to kill the little guy. I mean, in my experience, mice were always pretty harmless, even cheerful and friendly-You have Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stuart Little, etc. Plus what if it turned out we had one of the Three Blind mice staying with us? How bad would we feel if we killed a BLIND MOUSE?! Just awful.
Well my tune quickly changed when I started to feel personally victimized by the mouse. First, he got into the basket where we store our blankets and my heating pads and ate through all MY microwavable heat wraps. No one messes with things that keep me warm! NO ONE! Since this incident happened while my husband Mike was away on business and I was the woman AND man of the house that week, I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. So being the independent woman that I am, I rolled up my sleeves, texted him a photo of what happened, and left everything until he returned:
Since I am basically Saint Francis of Assisi and love all animals, I let the heat wrap slide with the mouse. BUT THEN, one night, he somehow got into MY backpack that I take to work everyday and ate a packet of oatmeal I was going to have for breakfast that morning! (Quaker Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal in case anyone was wondering). That was the final straw.
It was after these vicious attacks from the mouse that I finally gave the order to “take care of the mouse” in a manner much like Pontius Pilate did to Jesus. “CRUCIFY THAT MOUSE, MIKE! I WANT HIM OUT OF HERE!” I yelled.
From there, Mike turned our house into a war zone against the mouse, setting all different kinds of traps everywhere:
I swear, Mike set up more elaborate traps for this mouse than Macaulay Culkin did trying to catch Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in the movie “Home Alone”. But despite his best efforts, this turned out to be a very smart mouse and somehow kept avoiding all the traps he set in place. The mouse and trying to catch him consumed us both. It was all we could talk about. We hardly talked about our excitement over recycle can pick-up garbage day anymore! (Which only occurs every OTHER week, super confusing). To make matters worse, I was starting to think the mouse was paying my nieces and nephews, who I nanny for everyday, to harass me. Each day during story time they “just so happen” to pick out a mouse-themed book. Coincidence? I think not:
The mouse got more and more comfortable in our home the longer he stayed with us. On Christmas night as we were sitting in our living room, enjoying the Christmas tree and the glow of our fake fire from our broken fireplace, we both heard a noise coming from the kitchen. We paused the movie we were watching to listen again. It sounded like someone taking aluminum foil off something. We both jumped up and ran to the kitchen and quickly flipped on the light just in time to see the mouse eating the Christmas coffee cake that was wrapped up on our counter. I was grossed out but Mike was LIVID that the mouse decided to eat that specific coffee cake, one from the local bakery that he was really looking forward to having for breakfast the next morning. “OUT OF ALL THE LEFTOVERS,” Mike said fuming, “HE WENT FOR THE ONLY ONE I WANTED! He could have gone for the store bought donuts we left wrapped up on the counter but no, he just HAD to go for the good stuff! The Wolf’s Bakery Coffee cake. I am so disappointed!” Mike was angry and upset. Even though I too was not happy with the mouse, feeling the Christmas spirit, I did encourage Mike to think about how the mouse felt. The mouse was probably just as disappointed to not get his Christmas treat. He probably thought we had gone to bed and snuck in for his little midnight snack and we caught him before he could dig into his Christmas feast. It was a real tragedy all around. There were no winners in the coffee cake situation.
One night when out with friends, we finally confided in them about our mouse ordeal, sharing the big shameful secret we had been hiding for a while. We were worried how everyone would reacted (Would they still be friends with us?!) But it turns out EVERYONE’S life had been touched by a mouse in some way, shape or form. Everyone had their own mouse story to share and tips on ways to slaughter the thing. One friend even “had a guy” who could take care of the mouse for us.
After using everyone’s mouse tips and tricks, Mike got the mouse. We thought that was the end of our mouse journey, but no, there were more. I was the one to discover this and so I had to gently tell Mike, who was still celebrating his victory over getting the mouse, that there were others. “Mike,” I said with a sigh, “I think that mouse you killed had offspring, there are more mice in our house.” “Aww no,” He said sadly, “Please don’t say that.” “I know,” I replied, equally as sad, “I don’t like the idea of killing mice children either, I’m sad about it too but I think it has to be done-” Mike quickly cut me off “What? No! I don’t care about killing the mouse’s children!” He said sternly, “I’m just upset there are more mice!” “Oh,” I said with a laugh “I thought you were sad about killing a whole mouse family like I was!” “NO!” He said quickly, “These mice need to go!”
So after that, I don’t know how he did it because I don’t like to ask questions about it, but Mike got all the mice. We are now a mouse free household again. We no longer have to live in fear, but we still have some PTSD from the traumatic ordeal.
Recently, while nannying one day, I was telling my nieces and nephews our mouse story. They wanted to see a photo of the mouse, which I of course didn’t have and I told them that. But they demanded a photo and wouldn’t leave me alone about it until they saw photographic evidence. So, knowing that children are notoriously dumb, I used my quick thinking skills and showed them a stock photo of a mouse that I Googled:
After telling them the story, the kids ask me about the mouse almost every day. I think telling it has helped me heal. I am happy that now, I have all new heat wraps/heating pads and my only roommate now is Mike.