Saturday, December 17, 2005

Use It Or Lose It, or how Constantine saved the day

Blogging might be the saving grace of faith. If you consider that Constantine's development of the postal system, such as it was in the 4th century AD, was the way churches flourished in a hostile environment.

And so it is today with the internet. It's a good medium for staying in touch, linking us like strings on a Christmas light.

I wonder if persecuted Christians have blogs. Maybe that's just my middle class ignorance thinking that they'd have blogs, but if they did it would be a great way to link up, give them encouragement, let them know that we are praying for them. I should check it out.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The mice are gone, may they rest in peace

This may be the dawning of the Age of Design, move-up buyers are in their seventh house, and urban chic is aligned with sophisticated elegances, but I have an admission to make.

My clean-lined interior had mice. Lots of them.

The first sign was a subliminal blip on the household maintenance radar – half the fringe on my lovely wool Berber seemed to be missing and not in a typical pattern of wear and tear.

Next were the not so subtle pellets, bits of compost appearing mysteriously in odd places, and abstract drawings etched in potatoes like those stamps your kids make in kindergarten, only with tiny sharp teeth.

One night at one o’clock in the morning, when the friend of our son couldn't sleep at the sleep-over, my husband sat and talked him through his anxiety. They were just getting through the bit about how he needed to go home (halfway across the city) because he loved and missed his mom and dad, when the little fellow sat still and stated: “Excuse me Aidan’s dad, but I think I just saw a mouse.” From where they sat, they had a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen.

My husband pretended he didn't hear and continued to praise Sean for coming all this way from home to sleep over and how proud his mom and dad would be. (He left out the part about having to drive an hour each way to return him to his home.)

“But what about that mouse,” Sean persisted.

The next day, after Sean was returned home, we discussed strategy. Getting a cat was ruled out because of allergies, poison because of the kids, and moving would require too much energy, so we opted for mousetraps. Although I was familiar with the mechanics of death having grown up in an old house, we picked humane traps, the kind with spring locks and a trap door.

We started with two, fitted them with cheese and set them. Next morning, the door was down, the cheese was gone, and so was the mouse. This went on for several days. We asked around. Try peanut butter suggested one friend. Try jelly beans, said another. Try the real mousetraps, said a third, making a throat-cutting motion with his right hand.

All we discovered was that our mice liked peanut butter, but not jelly beans. And they know how to spring out of locks and trap doors. On to option three – the Little Nipper, that 1897 invention by British inventor James Henry Atkinson, which has a snapping speed of 38/1000s of a second.

We started with four “little nippers,” set them with cheese, and waited. Nothing. These mice were fast.

We next tried peanut butter, which worked. Occasionally. Sometimes only their paws would be caught. Other times it would be messy. And we were only catching a few at a time. Meanwhile, under the sink, mouse pellets were increasing, paw prints marked the bacon drippings, and rugs continued losing fringes.

We decided to get professional. Called an exterminator by the name of Acme. The name is an effective sales tool, because by the time you're ready to call, you'll take the first thing going. He told me he used poison, nonchalantly chewing gum in my ear. I asked if it was okay around kids or dogs. Course he countered, then asked if we’d used poison already. No, I said. Good, because the mice get immune to it, he claimed. Is it a quick death, I asked. Well, we give enough to kill em, but not so much that they won't eat the stuff.

Next found myself at Canadian Tire trolling the aisles in search of ways and means. Asked one of the myriad 17-year-old girls on hand which extermination method was likely to work, the large bag of rat poison pellets, or a device that transmits high-pitched radio waves. Although I wanted to be humane, the mice had to go, and if the radio waves would send them screaming from the house clutching their ears, so be it.

She told me that the siren “thingys” work, as she too worked on a large piece of bubblegum, so I picked up three sirens and went home. Set them up in the areas of infiltration. They claim to cover up to 500 square feet each, but since radio waves can’t bore holes through walls, you really need one per room, so I bought three more and waited two weeks. Nothing happened, though the dog developed compulsive ear scratching.

The day I took the blender out from under the sink and discovered a mounded little nest of pink insulation, shredded paper, and wool, I returned the devices and bought pesticide. One big box, and several smaller boxes.

With trepidation, I set one under the sink, since I knew what the poison did – burst their little blood vessels, and make them so thirsty they raced outside in search of water.

It was also around the same time our five year old daughter seemed to have an inordinate number of bedtime stories aobut mice – winsome tales of purpose driven mice with personality plus, who either befriended or thwarted their human hosts in sweet and amusing ways. Heck, I even wrote a story myself like that long ago.

In the morning as the coffee went on, my husband and I huddled like some deranged field marshals, checking cupboards, whispering findings. No dead mice in death throes anywhere. But we did find a pack of paper towels with a stash of apple seeds and rodenticide pellets in the bottom. Like nuts being stored for the winter.

Meanwhile, the pellets had increased. Not surprising, considering they were gobbling down the poison. Maybe the exterminator had a point.

So I called him again. “Surrender?” he said in his I-told-you-so voice, before I had a chance to state my name. Yes, I admitted.

I tried everything humanly, and humanely, possible.
This time, he told me all about the diseases that mice carry. He also told me how much they breed, how many they have in a litter, and how many mice were likely populating the interior cavities of my walls.

He also had doubled his price.

a little tip

Here's a tip for the day, seeing as we've got a ton of snow -- and salt -- on the roads and sidewalks. Rather than spend a fortune on expensive sprays for your leather boots, try this: rub salt stains with a cloth dipped in vinegar (so what if you smell like a salad for a few minutes, it really does work). Then polish with shoe cream and buff as usual. Last step is to coat the boots, especially where the sole is attached, with Dubbin. It's a grease that they use in the far north, and it really protects leather.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Narnia - saw the movie, didn't get the t-shirt

After all the media hype about whether the Chronicles of Narnia would be heavily Christian or not, I wasn’t sure what to expect when our family went to see it on December 9.

Though my children loved it, my husband and I weren’t entirely sold.

There are moments of magic such as when Lucy pulls the wardrobe’s white shroud swirling to the ground or when the children back out of the wardrobe through a thicket of fur coats and pine branches and fall into the snow.

And moments of terror: the bombing of London, and the race to an air raid shelter; being chased into the river by the White Witch’s nine snarling wolves.

There’s comic relief – Mister Tumnus furiously stamping his hoofs free of snow on the mat, the bickering banter of Mister and Missus Beaver.

And pathos – when Aslan is mocked, beaten, bound and shorn by the wild crowd around the stone table.

Although these various parts are all good, the whole doesn’t quite hang together.

The movie's story line is thin and lacks complexity, though the book itself was layered so perhaps it was a problem of adaptation. And maybe the message -- if not Christian exactly, then at least moral -- was forced.

A good movie can convey a message but it must be clothed by well-defined characters who do things for clear reasons and who interact appropriately with others.

While individual characterizations are clear, and the children’s family relationship strong, the connection between characters are not. The result is stakes that are not high enough for us to suspend the necessary disbelief of the unfolding plot.

I was left wondering why Pevensie children would engage in Narnia’s battle between good and evil. And without reading into it that Aslan is actually Jesus, then I would have a very hard time believing that this lion would live out the Atonement story.

All that said, the movie is still well worth seeing. My six-year-old daughter loved the lion, because “he’s a good fighter, and he was dead but then came alive, and he can protect children.” My 12-year-old son was moved by the scene at the Stone Table where Aslan is mocked, beaten, then killed by the White Witch. He turned to me and whispered: That’s just like when Jesus died on the Cross, isn’t it Mum?”

So, this may be a case of what C.S. Lewis once wrote to a little boy – that sometimes children see what adults do not.

Holding Mammon at Bay

With a 12 year old and a 6 year old, I would have expected a lot more Christmas angst and whinging about toys than we've had. The only reason I can see for this lack of greed is the fact that we have a) not put up a tree yet b) not put up lights outside yet c) light the advent wreath every week (though Sundays are so busy, we don't usually get to it til Monday nights), and d) we have nativity characters like a trail of happy campers all over the living room mantel.

When it comes to decorating, we try to follow the 12 days of Christmas approach as much as possible, that is, putting the tree up on Christmas Eve or the Sunday before (or like this year probably the Thursday before) and doing the exterior lights the week before, but not lighting them til the night before. (We may not even get to it this year at all seeing as our exterior electrical outlet seems to be on the fritz.)