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Porcupine in School

    Teaching math can be exciting, depending on how you approach it with the junior high students and whether you think junior-high sized drama is exciting, but the day we had a porcupine in school was definitely exciting.

The day started out like any other.  I got to school about an hour before class started, to meet with a parent before he had to go to work, and get my multi-media presentation ready for the beginning of the next math unit.  It was a lot to fit into an hour, but I could usually make it work.  I met with the parent in the office, then headed over to my module . . . the trailer in which I taught my classes.  The school was overflowing, and there was no money in the budget for a new school for another six to eight year, if we were lucky, so the school district was forced to expand the school by adding trailers.  It solved the overflow problem, but they were stifling in the warm months and freezing in the winter, and they were stuck out in the back of the school so the students were usually a little late to my class every day.

I was focused on getting my presentation set up that day, hurrying before my first period students straggled into class.  If I had been less busy, or using that time to correct papers, I might have been aware there was a porcupine in class.

Children filed in, and soon I had them settled and I started in on my presentation.  Suddenly, someone screamed, which grabbed the attention of the entire class, and soon there were more children screaming, yelling, whooping and jumping up on desks.  I waded through the sea of pre-pubescent pandemonium to find out what was going on, and was confronted by a terrified porcupine in the classroom.  It was backed up under the built-in shelf, and it was obviously feeling cornered and stressed, because its quills were standing out from its body.

I immediately put on my most take-charge voice and bellowed for silence, backing all the students up to the front of the module, next to the whiteboard, where the math presentation was still projecting.  Calling for silence, I crept back to the porcupine in the classroom, shifted off to my left and sprung the door wide open, hoping the animal would feel less threatened and move out of the module.  Eventually, it made its escape, but now it was out in the field where the Phys Ed class was going to be held the following hour.

I called up to the front office and let them know we had a porcupine in school.  The secretary thought I was playing a joke, but I reassured her it was real.  Unless we got rid of the porcupine from school, the Phys Ed class would have a nasty surprise, just like we had.  So much for my multi-media presentation that day, but at least school wasn’t boring.

Rats in House

 Daddy’s yelling some bad words.  He’s not mad at anyone, he says, he’s just mad at the rats.  You know why?  Because rats have come into the house.  Mommy’s trying to make Daddy feel better, but when she saw the rats in the house this afternoon, she wasn’t talking in such a nice soft way.  She screamed a lot and made us kids get out of the kitchen.  She didn’t know there was also a rat in the living room.  But, I told my baby brother not to tell her about it, because she was already so mad about the rats in the house.  She didn’t need to get even more mad.

Mommy and Daddy have been trying to make the rats in the house go away for a long time now.  We had rats in the garage.  Sometimes they would eat some of the stuff my Dad puts on the grass.  Sometimes they would eat into some of the boxes of Christmas and Easter decorations.  Mommy and Daddy put out rat traps to catch the rats in the garage and they told us again and again that we were not supposed to touch them.  I didn’t want to touch them anyway.  The rat traps make too much noise and are too scary.  Mommy said we caught some rats in the rat traps, but she wouldn’t let me or my brother see.

I’m afraid of the rats in the house.  They are dirty, Mommy says, and they can bite, so I don’t want to go around one.  My baby brother is too little anyway.  Daddy says he wants to put something called rat poison out, but Mommy won’t let them because of me and my brother and our two little doggies.  Daddy said okay.  He doesn’t want us to get hurt either.

But, when Mommy saw rats in the house, even only in the kitchen, Daddy got really mad.  He said, “Enough is enough!”  I don’t know what that means, but I think it means that Daddy wants to hurt the rats, because of the way he yelled it.  Mommy told me about rat poop and made sure to tell me that I’m not supposed to touch it.  I told her that baby brother found some and tried to put it in his mouth, but I stopped him.  Then Mommy picked up baby brother and looked in his mouth, just to be sure he didn’t eat any.  Yucky rats in the house.  They need to be gone.

Daddy got his cell phone out and he’s talking to someone.  He says they will come and get the rats out of the house.  Then, he said we get to go to grandma’s house until the rats are gone.  Hooray!!

Cat Digging Up Moles

I’m always looking for the best gardening tips and helpful hints, but this year, the most invaluable tool I’ve had is my cat digging up moles.


We’ve had several moles making all these dirty hills all over my otherwise gorgeously green lawn. I’ve tried everything I could, short of actually hiring a professional, and I haven’t had any luck getting rid of the moles.  Then, I got my girlfriend a cat and that cat has turned out to be one of the best gardening purchases I’ve ever made.


The little sleek kitty looks innocent enough.  She loves to snuggle up with my girlfriend, who’s named her Shadow, because she’s all black, and the kitty loves when I play with her with a laser light or some other kitten toy.  But, she’s lethal enough when you let her out in the yard, at least if you’re an ugly little creature destroying the garden and the lawn.


We hadn’t had any kind of a mole problem until last year.  Then, we thought we’d gotten rid of the moles, because we didn’t see any other mole damage or find any other mole hills, but just recently their activity has started up again.  I was getting frustrated, until I caught sight of Shadow hovering over one of the mole hills.


As I watched, Shadow sat right in front of the fanned-out mound of dirt, almost nonchalantly batting some of the dirt aside, her tail twitching.  She glanced around, eyes wide, making sure she wasn’t going to have to do battle to gain the right to dig up the mole hill.  She pawed the ground, clearing away a little spot, and then, leaped up and brought her two front paws down hard on the ground.  Maybe her intent was to scare the mole up out of its hole.


Quick as lightning, she shifted gaze and both her paws disappeared under the ground, coming back up with a mole dangling from one claw.  She deliberately dropped it back down and watched as it struggled to get back down its hole.  Diving down once more, she brought it back up to the surface and then watched it attempt to hide under a large dried leaf.  Before too long, she tired of the game and took a great chomp, killing the mole immediately.


My cat digs up moles regularly now, running over to a new mole hill the moment she’s outside and clearing away the dirt until she finds the mole hole.  Sometimes she watches the hole silently until a mole sticks its head out, or she’ll continue to dig in one area until she scares the mole out of another hole and then pounces on the little creature.  Sooner or later, these moles will get the idea that it’s not safe here, that we have a cat that digs up moles, and they’ll either just move somewhere else, or my cat will chew them up.  Either way, they’ll be gone, and that’s just fine with me.


Mouse Under Chair

OMG, you guys, you guys, you guys, I kid you not, a mouse just ran out from under my chair.  My Chair!!  I’ve been sitting here in this comfy recliner thing my Dad just bought, and I dunno, I’ve been chatting with you all this time, I dunno how long that mouse has been there.  It was under my chair.  Do you even understand that?  How long has it been there?!  OMG, you guys, I can’t even stand it!  What if my feet were on the floor??  It would’ve totally run over my bare foot, or like, chewed my toe or something.  What the freak am I going to do?  I didn’t see where it went.  I don’t know if there are more of them, or if it’s going to come back, or what’s going to happen.


Oh, holy hell.  What if there are more of them under my chair right now?  AAAAAAAAAA, I’m dying!  What if there’s, like, a whole mouse nest under my chair?  But, what if I get up and try to go somewhere and another mouse runs out and I step on it?  Or, maybe there’s mouse poop that I can’t see on our brown speckled carpet and I end up stepping on it in my bare feet.


OMG!  What do I do?  What do I do?  I’m the only one home right now, you don’t even understand.  You’ve gotta come over right now, like, Right Now!  I don’t care if the door’s locked, I’m not moving from this chair.  Just, like, bust it down or break a window or something.  Seriously, I’m having a heart attack, I can’t stand it.  I’m not gonna move.  I’m just sitting here, all curled up on this chair, freaking out.  One of you needs to come and rescue me, just find out if there’s more mice under the chair or in the walls or something and get me out of here.


My Dad’s gonna flip out, too.  He’s always telling us not to leave food around the house.  I guess this is why.  I just know my nasty brother’s dropped all kinds of crumbs and food bits all over the floor, and that’s why there’s a mouse under the chair.


You guys, you guys, I just saw it again!  Or maybe it’s not even the same one.  It just ran back across the floor and went under the book shelf.  Maybe it’s, like, a mouse twin or something.  Seriously, this is nasty and I’m freaking out.  What’m I gonna do?  My Dad doesn’t get home for another three hours, and my brother’s on a school trip until Friday, so am I just supposed to sit here hyperventilating until Dad gets home or what?  Someone, please, please, please, come over and get rid of these mice and get me out of here!


Mountain Lion Attacks Maine Coon

Scariest thing to happen to me in a long time was when a mountain lion and her two cubs came right up to the house one day.  I think the mountain lion wanted to attack my Maine Coon.


I was using the front day room as an office that day, since I mostly work from home and the day was beautiful.  My day room is surrounded by windows offering up a gorgeous view of my property overlooking the river that runs down out of the mountain.  It’s my favorite room of the house, of course, but it can get really cold in the winter.  During the summer, however, I’ll move most of my office into that front room, turn on my laptop with my Maine Coon flopped down beside me, and glance up to watch kayakers move down the river, or a herd of deer grazing out front.


With a house like mine, tucked up in the mountains but just fifteen minutes from town, I’m used to seeing a lot of wildlife.  I’ve had everything from possums to rattle snakes, skunks to beaver.  But, mountain lions are rare.  Not that they’re not there.  They’re all around the area.  They just normally don’t come out where people can spot ‘em.  They’ll hide, stalking their prey, leave their markings or droppings sometimes, but generally they leave people alone.  Which is why I was so shocked to see not just one, but three, prowling around my property.


I’d been wondering why my cat was acting oddly all morning.  Usually, she sits stretched out in a bit of sunlight next to me as I work online and make my phone calls.  But, that morning, she would lie down just to get up again and sniff around the room.  I had the wood door open, the glass storm door the only barrier between my Maine Coon and the great outdoors.  With so many other critters out there, I try to keep her inside at all times to protect her, and she’s happy to oblige.  She’s never wanted to run out and roam unless I’m outside with her.  So I thought it was odd to watch her bumping her head against the glass storm door, at high alert.  Then, I saw the mountain lion try to attack my Maine Coon.


She came out of nowhere, the mountain lion attacking my cat with large paws.  The storm door was the only thing that stopped her, and my cat went nuts, flying around the room, hissing at every window and finally hiding underneath the couch.  Shaken, I ran across the room and slammed the front door shut, then looked out in time to see two young mountain lion cubs playing nearby as the mother mountain lion tried to go after my cat.  I had my camera nearby, and got several pictures, but I’m going to think twice before I go outside with my Maine Coon to sit by the river.  I’m going to be on high alert from now on.


Opossum in House

I’m sure I have never screamed as loudly as I did when I discovered an opossum in my house last week.  I am usually a very quiet, reserved, shy woman.  I like to keep my home quiet and clean and a safe place for my daughter who is in kindergarten, and my husband who works hard at his job to provide a very nice home in a very safe neighborhood.  I run a small business out of our home, making and selling little girl accessories like headbands and hair clips.  I didn’t think I could juggle mothering a small child of my own, as well as making my accessory line and selling them at craft fairs and online, but I was fortunate that my daughter has my temperament.  She’s also a very quiet child, who loves to quietly play next to me as I make things or conduct sales calls.


Recently, my business has really grown, and thanks to the fact that my daughter now goes to kindergarten, I have a few hours each day to dedicate to my business, as well as the business of running the family.


I’m not the kind of person who likes to have loud noise going on as I work.  No music, no television.  Just a quiet, silent house.  It’s heavenly.  As I said, I’m a very quiet person.  Usually.  Unless I pad into my spare room to get a few extra materials for a new headband I just designed, and I’m confronted by an opossum in my house.  Then, I am loud.  I am very, very loud.  I discovered I have a scream that could break glass and send dogs in the next county into spasms.


Opossums are vicious looking creatures, especially when it’s an opossum in my house.  I knew in my head it was probably not going to attack me, as long as I stayed away from it and got a professional trapper to come and remove the opossum from my house.  My head understood this.  My heart did not, and it threatened to leap right out of my chest onto the floor.  I don’t know when I finally stopped screaming, but it scared the hell out of that poor opossum.  It let out some kind of foul stench and keeled over, right on top of my pile of favorite fabric that I usually use to make cute flowers that are destined to adorn little girls’ heads.  It was still very much alive, though, that opossum in my home.


I somehow managed to back out of the room and close the door.  I have no idea how the opossum got inside, or why it chose to hang out in that room, of all places.  I was just beyond grateful that my daughter wasn’t home at the time.  Of course, I called my husband and forced him to come home immediately.  Once we got a trapper out to get rid of the opossum from my home, I was finally able to go back to keeping a quiet and very clean house.  I may never feel completely at peace there again, though, until I’m certain we won’t have an opossum in the house ever again.


Feral Cat versus Deer

Sometimes you look out your front window and you’re treated to a real-life nature drama unfolding before you, and today I got to watch a feral cat versus a herd of about five deer.  This one particular day, I looked out and saw a young feral cat, one of the many feral cat litters around here these days, sniffing around and exploring the neighborhood.  It was batting at bushes, sticking its nose up to car bumpers and mailboxes, and watching the many birds up in the trees with a great deal of interest.  It was sweet, but I usually don’t sit down on the window seat and gaze out just to watch young feral cats explore the world around them.  However, I could see what this feral cat could not, and that was a small herd of deer, five of them, coming down the street, and on a collision course with this cat.

My house sits on the junction of a “T” of two streets, and the street leading away from my house goes up to a very wooded section of the neighborhood.  We often see deer around here, but for this feral cat, it was going to be the very first time.  Once the first deer came into sight, reaching the junction of the “T” in front of my house, the feral cat jumped straight up into the air.  It had been sniffing around a bush just next to the corner, and it probably heard something coming down the road, and expected to either hide or attack it.  It certainly wasn’t prepared for an animal as relatively large as a deer, much less four of its friends, to come around the corner and come face to face with it.

The deer, skittish, backed up, too.  They weren’t absolutely certain about this animal, small as it may be.  The drama of the feral cat versus deer began in earnest.

For a few minutes, the deer and feral cat faced each other down.  The deer would back up two steps, the cat would move forward, reach out to sniff the air with its tail twitching constantly, and then the cat would retreat and the deer would move forward a few more steps, constantly aware of the cat’s location at all times.

But, the deer, once they realized the feral cat wasn’t attacking straight away, grew less nervous and more curious.  The feral cat, a little less sure of itself, cautiously approached the first deer, and then skittered underneath a car as soon as the deer lowered its nose to sniff the cat.  This kind of back-and-forth went on for about five more minutes, with the deer reassuring themselves the feral cat was fairly harmless.  And, the cat reassuring itself that these huge creatures weren’t going to trample it to death.

All at once, as if some agreement had been reached between the deer and the feral cat, the cat headed one way down the street and the herd of deer sauntered on down the other way.  Now, I don’t want feral cats in my neighborhood, because they’re killing a lot of the birds and other wildlife, but maybe, just maybe, this herd of deer will patrol the neighborhood and keep the feral cats in line.

Chipmunks in Ceiling

I would very much appreciate assistance with the problem I am experiencing of chipmunks in the ceiling.  I am new to America, having recently moved here from the Philippines.  We do not have problems with chipmunks in the Philippines, so this is all very new to me.  My fiancé tells me he is certain we have chipmunks in the ceiling, and has asked me to take care of the problem.  I think he is hoping I will learn how to conduct better business in English.  I speak English well, but still have problems sometimes.

I met my fiancé while he was working as a teacher of English in my town.  I am also a teacher, helping Japanese people learn English, so we met while I took a class from him.  We had something in common, and spent more and more time together, and then we fell in love.  I took a big leap of faith and moved to Utah where we will be getting married next month.  At first I lived with his mother and father while we prepared for the wedding.  Then when we leased a basement apartment in a small home, I moved there to get it ready for us to live there as a couple.

I was frightened one night when I heard noises above me as I slept.  The owners of the home have recently finished the basement and installed a drop ceiling. I did not know what that was until I heard the noises above me and climbed up there to look around.  I did not see any animals, but I did see animal droppings.  I thought at first we had mice, but when I spoke with my fiancé, he explained to me how he has seen chipmunks running around the small yard in the back of the house.  He talked with the owners of the house, and they admitted how they think they might have a chipmunk problem, but did not know there were chipmunks in the ceiling.  They instructed us to find out how to remove the chipmunks in the ceiling, and pay for it, and they will subtract that amount from off of our lease next month.

I am unfamiliar with how to do this in Utah, but I am determined to learn to take care of problems here.  I was not scared to move away from the Philippines to get married here, and I will not let Utah chipmunks scare me either.

So, I am unafraid of chipmunks in the ceiling as I sleep.  I shall contact a service to remove them and they shall be gone by the time I am married.  They will not impose on my life any further.

Mouse Infestation

          If only my tenants had told me they had a mouse problem right at the very beginning, instead of just letting it go on and on until the house had a full-on mouse infestation.

I was exhausted, having just traveled nearly eighteen hours from London to my home in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Three years ago, I had an opportunity to work in London, and I jumped on it.  How often do you get a chance like that?  I was surprised at how quickly I rented out my nine hundred square foot home on the outskirts of the city, and I packed up a few things, threw everything else into storage, and jumped on a plane to work and live in London for a few years.

I had a fantastic time, too.  I traveled on the weekends, met a lot of wonderful people, and I even lived in a place that had been featured regularly on a BBC murder mystery show.  It was fun to see my flat in the background when I watched the show.

My tenants moved in and didn’t really have a lot of complaints.  To save money, I didn’t bother with a property management company, and I just handled the few complaints my tenants had via emails.  When my time in London was up, I contacted the tenants and they paid the last payment and moved out in time for me to return home.

It had been a very long flight home, with layovers and plane maintenance problems, and I was exhausted from sitting in a cramped seat for so long.  I just smiled when the taxi pulled up in front of my home, and I got my suitcases inside and closed the door.  I’d rented the home fully furnished, so I wouldn’t have to worry about storing furniture, so everything was just as I had left it.  I kicked off my shoes and padded into the kitchen for a glass of water, flipping on lights as I went.

That’s when I saw something really strange.  It looked like someone had spilled pepper all over the kitchen floor and the counters.  I bent closer to get a better look, and scooped it up in my hand, rolling it around.  It wasn’t pepper, it was more like . . . mouse turds!  Gagging, I washed my hands as best I could, then dove for the hand sanitizer inside my carry-on bag.   Cursing the tenants, I ran around the house looking for more signs of a mouse problem.  My Salt Lake City home had a mouse infestation.

If only the tenants had called me when they realized there was one or two mice, but they obviously didn’t care, and the mice just multiplied until the house had a mouse infestation.  No, no, no, no, this was just not something I was going to deal with tonight.  I called another cab, with the intent of sleeping in a hotel until I could get a professional company out here to clear out the mouse infestation and clean up the house.  Oh, and those cursed tenants will definitely not be getting their deposit back!

Animal In Attic

“Eric told me today he thinks they have a poltergeist in their house.”  My wife and I had just put the kids down for bed, for about the twentieth time, and we were finally relaxing in the quiet sanctuary of our bedroom.  She stopped, having just pulled on the t-shirt she usually wears to bed, and stared at me.

“Wait, what?” she said.

“Yeah, Eric.  He just got hired a couple of months ago. We were talking after the meeting today, and he told me he thinks they have a poltergeist.”

“What’s going on?  Why do they think they have a ghost?”

“Well, he says they hear these weird sounds at night coming from the attic.  Like someone’s walking around up there.  And, sometimes, just before sunrise, they wake up because something is scratching the ceiling above their bed.”

My wife tossed her hair back and laughed.  “It’s probably an animal in the attic.”

“That’s what I told him.  But, I don’t think he wants to believe it’s an animal.”

“So, he thinks it’s easier to believe in a ghost than in the possibility an animal is in the attic?”

“Yep, guess so.  I know, it’s funny!”

“Has he gone up into the attic to look for it?”

I laughed, remembering the look on Eric’s face as he told me about what happened in the attic.  “Oh, he sure did.  It’s not a full attic, like you see in big houses or something.  It’s more of a crawl-area filled with insulation.  You know, like at my Mom’s house.  Well, he got out the ladder and went up through the hole in the ceiling, and shone a light all around.  He said the insulation looked like it was a mess, and there was one area that was all disgusting and tamped down and black.”

“Yeah, right, like an animal had crapped in it?”

“He said it was probably a ‘physical manifestation of the evil ghost.’”

“He said what now?”

“You heard me.  That’s how he put it.  Then, he says he saw two eyes, floating in the darkness, staring at him.”

“Yeah, like some kind of animal in the attic was freaked out.  He’s gotta get someone out there to get rid of the animal in his attic, or he’s gonna wind up with an exorcist.”

I love how my wife just gets it.  “He’s trying.”

“He’s trying what?”

“To get an exorcist.”

“You’re kidding me.”  My wife stared at me.  “You’re telling me this guy refuses to even consider there’s an animal in his attic.  Wouldn’t that be less terrifying than a poltergeist?  I mean, you just get a trapper to come out, get rid of the animal out of the attic, clean up the mess, and then it’s over.”  She grinned.

“What?”  I asked.

“I’m just picturing some poor priest armed with a Bible, throwing holy water at some animal in the attic.”

We woke the kids up again by laughing so hard, but it was worth it.