A Creature WAS Stirring

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:

This was the third heat wrap he ate that little fattie. Also side note but since I am such a strong and brave woman though, I did not end up crying.

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:

Who needs presents under the Christmas tree when you could have a dead mouse?

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:

As you can tell, after reading about the mouse, Bridie was Team Kill.

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:

Didn’t even take the time to crop this screen shot I took and yet they were satisfied knowing that this was the exact mouse that was in “Aunt Kath and Uncle Montag’s” House.

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.

Mike & Kath Go International Part 2: The Montag Bears and Too Much Vacation

(A continuation from the riveting “Mike & Kath Go International Part 1: Piggies in Ireland)
After saying goodbye to all our friends at the bar and getting a good night’s rest, (Well, Mike slept well) we packed up our things and began our journey to Galway. On the way, we stopped in the town of Sligo and walked around there for a bit. There was a sign for “Kelly’s Barber Shop” so I made Mike take my picture next to it so I could send it to my family. The Barber Shop owner was looking through the window, wondering what we were doing, and probably about ready to call the police, but it was worth it. I knew my Dad would especially appreciate it as he used to love going to “Tony’s Barber Shop” in our hometown, which was confusingly owned and operated by a guy named Joe. I’m sure my Dad was Joe’s favorite customer as I assume it only took him about 3 seconds to snip the 4 strands of hair left on my Dad’s head, (My Dad blames his baldness on his five kids) then Joe could relax for the rest of the appointment time.

My Dad would always do impressions on how Joe would answer the phone at Tony’s Barber Shop so we all knew he answered with a stern “Tony’s Barber Shop, Joe speaking.”

Later we stopped at at a gas station to fill up the car and also so Mike could make his one billionth bathroom stop on our trip. I say “we” in this but I of course waited in the warm car as I was not about to offer to fill up the gas-I am an independent woman but when it comes to anything car related-filling up the gas, brushing snow off my car, etc my arms seem to suddenly forget how to work. But my mouth works just fine in these situations so I did ask Mike if he would please get me my one billionth water on our trip, and possibly a Propel if he could find one when he went into the gas station. As I sat there I saw a baby in another car and we were staring at each other for a while until we started playing peek-a-book from our respective cars. I’m not sure which one of us was having more fun. I won the game though.

Exhausted from my game of peek-a-boo, and Mike tired from driving, we arrived in Galway very, very HANGRY. We ordered food and a drink at a bar but the food took FOREVER so we became more and more cranky. We sat there in silence, both just focusing on keeping an eye out for our waitress bringing out our chicken tenders. “Happy Thanksgiving.” I finally said to break the silence, as it was Thanksgiving day back in the good Ol’ USA so this was our big Thanksgiving meal. After finally getting our food we walked through Galway and hit up a Christmas Market. Mike bought us some overpriced mulled wine-It was supposed to have “extra alcohol in it” (What a Thanksgiving day treat!) but we both couldn’t taste it so were very suspicious. After walking around a bit more we went back to the hotel to FaceTime with our families to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving because we are both PHENOMENAL children. We decided to head to bed early because we were still so tired from the wedding festivities, long travel day, and game of peek-a-boo.

The next morning Mike had researched a coffee shop in Galway he thought we should check out. Mike doesn’t drink coffee, he drinks tea, but he knew I was going through WITHDRAWAL since we were on about day seven of me not having any Dunkin’ coffee. Every new town in Ireland we’d pass in our travels I’d ask Mike if I could borrow his phone (because of course I didn’t think to get an international data plan for my own phone for this trip, why would I? Thank goodness Mike did) and I would Google “Is there a Dunkin’ in Sligo? Is there a Dunkin’ in Galway?” But no such luck. At one gas station bathroom stop I saw a package of Dunkin brand donuts so I thought we might be getting close but it was a false hope.

So we walked to this coffee shop and upon walking in I think we both knew it was a mistake. I am not a fancy coffee drinker. I like my basic Dunkin hot coffee loaded with some cream and sugar. This place was a far cry from a Dunkin. It was one of those very boujee, hipster, “We are really into coffee” places. Very minimalistic decor, the chairs were those uncomfortable metal ones that are always cold and have no back support. The guy working the counter was wearing a LEATHER APRON. Like is that necessary? I mean maybe he was a blacksmith by trade and just working at the coffee shop on the side but I kind of doubt it. But, I was trying to be adventurous and give the place the benefit of the doubt so I went up to the counter to order. I wanted to pick just one but instead the apron guy went into a long winded spiel about each coffee, describing it in painstaking detail and how it’s brewed and basically each coffee bean’s family tree and lineage. He went on and on and I was not listening at all. Finally I just picked one and I asked him for cream and sugar in it. He then took another 7 hours to “prepare” it. Finally he placed a coffee down on the counter for me and looked down at it, seeming very pleased. But I was looking down at that same coffee and not very pleased because I was seeing that it was straight black and had no cream or sugar in it. So I said, “Thanks, but can I get that cream and sugar please?” He then looked up at me with such disappointment and heartache in his eyes, I will never forget it, and he replies, clearly hurt, “Don’t you want to try it first?” I looked at him and I’m not totally sure but I think I saw a single teardrop fall from his eye. I really did not mean to insult this man so I I fumbled my words and said “Oh right, right!” Our eyes were still locked as I took the cup and brought it to my lips and took a sip of the horrid black coffee. “Mmmmm, Good!” I said. After I took my sip I slowly started to back out of the shop. He smiled and shook his head in triumph and said “Great! Do you still want that cream and sugar?” “Nope! Bye!” I said quickly and I ran out of there to meet Mike, who because the coffee took so long, left the shop and sat outside on a bench to wait for me. I could not stop laughing telling him what happened as we walked down the street and then I tossed the coffee right in the garbage.

Look at those glass beakers. Did I stop in a science lab or a coffee shop? I was confused.

We walked ourselves right into a donut shop and got ourselves some donuts because we are donut fatties. Mike thought it would be fun to eat them on the streets of Galway but he led us to a bench that was basically in a wind tunnel. “Ummmmm, did you not like the table and chairs they had INSIDE the donut shop?” I asked him laughing as we sat there in pretty much the eye of a tornado, eating our donuts, hair flying everywhere, “Yea this was not a good idea.” He said. But no tornado could stop us from finishing our donuts so we sat there until we were done and then went on our way.

We explored an area called Salt Hill and then met some Irish friends of Mike’s for dinner and bar hopping. It was a late night but a very fun one.

The next morning is when things started to take a turn for the worst. Now, I’m not sure if anyone is familiar with the Children’s book series “The Berenstain Bears” but my parents used to read them to me and my four siblings growing up. One was called “The Berenstain and Too Much Vacation.” Cliff notes version of the story is it rained a lot on their vacation, they got grumpy and they were ready to go home. Well on this particular morning on our vacation, I think we had our fill of fun and were just very tired because we woke up and became “The Montag Bears.” We just went on a rant complaining about everything-the cold, the rain, tiny garbage cans in the hotels, ketchup packets, mayo on everything, lack of water, hand dryers instead of paper towels etc. Once we got all our complaints out we got dressed, changed our attitudes and found a DIFFERENT coffee place. I ordered the largest latte they had which turned out to be the size of a flower pot and Mike got a tea and they gave him an entire tea set. He looked like he was going to host a tea party.

Mike enjoying his Tea Party for one.
Wondering what type of flowers I should plant in the coffee cup flower pot.

After I downed my flower pot and Mike was finished with his tea party we drove to Cork. Cork for us in a nutshell: We drank a lot of Irish coffees at the same bar (We started referring to it as “our bar” we went there so much) and ate most of our meals at the hotel restaurant. Every time we tried to eat at an actual restaurant we we were turned away because of COVID capacity restrictions. On our last night in Cork Mike was able to get us dinner reservations at an ACTUAL RESTAURANT!! Which was quite a treat! It was a nice restaurant too but they still had ketchup packets. But the best part about that dinner was as we were getting ready to leave our table and Mike was putting on his coat, he accidentally knocked over one of the restaurant’s Christmas trees putting his arm in his coat sleeve. The tree fell right to the floor and glitter from the tree went EVERYWHERE! People were staring and I could not stop laughing. I thought it was hilarious. In fact, I am laughing writing about it now. We picked up the tree and quickly got out of there after that.

So many Mayo packets. Not enough ketchup.
Just hanging out at the hotel bar because no other bars would let us in due to COVID rescrictions

The next morning we were eating breakfast at the hotel. Mike got up to get more orange juice and he asked if I wanted anything. I asked if he could grab me a banana from the breakfast buffet. He came back with his orange juice and an apple in his hand instead. He went to hand me the apple, saying they didn’t have any bananas. Suddenly I turned into Kathleen “Montag Bear” again. I looked at the apple disgusted, scoffed, and then angrily said to him, “What?!!!! What kind of breakfast buffet doesn’t have bananas! Bananas are like THE POSTER FRUIT of breakfast!! This is ridiculous!!” I scoffed again and shook my head while I made no effort to grab the apple. It was like we were both frozen as Mike stood there at the table with his arm stretched out with the apple, ready for me to take it, and I sat there at the table, continuing to shake my head at the apple in disgust, too upset to take it. Finally after standing there for a while he placed the apple on the table and sat down to drink his orange juice. That’s when I woke up from being Kathleen Montag Bear and realized how dramatic I just was about the banana and starting laughing hysterically. “Ah sorry about that outburst,” I said through my laughter, “I don’t even want a banana that badly I actually like apples better!” We both had a good laugh.

After our banana-less breakfast, we walked to the train station with our suitcases to begin our journey back to Dublin. As we were entering the station I was behind Mike and suddenly let out a gasp and an “Oh no!” Mike quickly turned around, “What’s the matter?” He said sounding terrified. Poor Mike thought I was about to be kidnapped or something. But I awkwardly had to explain my gasp was because I realized I had gotten a mark on my athleisure shoes walking through the streets of Cork and I was very worried they would stain. I had no Tide to-go pen or the stain fighting power of Oxiclean with me so I was worried that dirt stain would set in on my shoes.

I was able to get the stain out of the shoes but they were never the same after that.

After arriving in Dublin we thought our hotel was a quick walk from the station but it turned out to be over a mile which is very hard to do when you have a just under 50lb suitcase. As we were walking one of the wheels came off our suitcase so we just continued to drag it the rest of the half mile to the hotel.

We got to our hotel exhausted, lounged for a while and then made a half-assed attempted to go do things. I wanted to find the hotel pool but after a pathetic search we couldn’t find it. We tried walking around the streets of Dublin but we were so tired we made it about two blocks before we ended up sitting back at the hotel restaurant. I did see, what I thought was some very pretty birds, but it turns out the birds were like the pigeons of Dublin.

The next morning we had to be up very early for our flight home. After a listening to our chatty taxi driver we arrived at our gate and plopped down on the airport chairs. Mike is not much of a morning person so he was struggling HARD. I was fine as I am used to not much sleep due to CLASSIC INSOMNIA. Finally Mike mustered up the energy to get up because he wanted some breakfast. He grabbed himself a muffin and brought me back a vanilla latte (Since there were no Dunkins I had to switch to drinking Lattes). “Thanks for the Latte!” I said I said smiling and chipper. Mike just gave me a nod, not even really looking at me, and still half asleep. But I was about ready to burst because that really wasn’t how I wanted to say “Thank you.” So after after a few more seconds of silence and me smirking to myself I couldn’t hold it in anymore so finally I turned to him, a huge smile on my face still, and said, “What I really wanted to say when you got back was ‘Thanks a Latte… for the Latte’ but I know you’re tired and really wouldn’t appreciate my joke.” “And yet,” Mike, said, still dead inside, “you still managed to say it.” Finally he started laughing. And then we got on our flight (This time I had about 50 water bottles with me) and we made our journey home.

Finished those bad boys before our plane even took off.
I was so happy to see my space heater when we got back.

Not long after we got home from our trip, I was over at my parents’ house and stumbled upon the “Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation” Book. I opened up the first page and who did I discover wrote their name in big letters claiming ownership of the book some 25 years ago? I did. “KATHLEEN” was written proudly above the title. “How fitting,” I thought to myself.

Unfortunately my handwriting has not improved much in the last 25 years. Still reading “First Time Books” too.

Our trip was amazing. We had so many laughs and saw and did so much. But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being home. As was written in the Berenstain Bears Book, our trip to Ireland had way more rain than sun, but it has by far been one of our most fun trips yet.