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Big Realization from a Tiny Mouse

I have an irrational fear of mice. It is bad news. My husband has established a preemptive strike in our basement and garage. He engages in an impossible battle to keep our home, which is surrounded by fields, mouse free. He tries to tell me almost everyone has to deal with mice. He says it is part of living where we do. He says mice are a fact of life.

I insist I’m going to move out if I see a mouse in the house.

I scream when I see one.  Or when one is caught in a trap. Or when I think I see one. Or when someone else sees one. In fact I might scream now just because of all the mouse talk.

Hair-raising screams.

Sam thinks it’s funny to reenact. (It’s not funny.)

Earlier this week, at 4:49 am, a mouse scurried across my field of vision while I was sipping my coffee and writing in my journal. I screamed long and hard. I threw coffee at it and bolted up the stairs.

“Get down there,” I said through clenched teeth, slamming the bedroom door.

The lump under the covers didn’t respond.

“ANDY! You have to go downstairs. There was a mouse.”

The lump grunted. Apparently after more than a decade of screaming over mice the urgency wears off.

I shake the lump. He opens his eyes and says, “Good morning.”

“It’s not good. There’s a mouse in the kitchen. Now I can’t make my oatmeal or pack lunches or pour my coffee in my travel mug.”

He winks at me. “I’m sure it’s gone by now.”

“No way am I going back down there.”

He stretches, squeezes the back of my neck, and gets out of bed. He is on mouse patrol (and lunch duty).

I get ready for work, wake up the kids, and am feeling rather brave. We will be mouse-free by tonight because Andy knows it’s either the mouse is gone or I am gone for the night. He promised it would be over by the time I got home because he put out sticky traps in extra places. Down the stairs and into the kitchen, I convince myself I can pour my coffee to take with me. Turning the corner I’m faced with a mouse. Stuck to a trap. Attempting to scurry across the floor.

I scream a hair-raising, wake-the-neighbors, scared-to-death, ear-numbing scream.

The kids come running.

“Is it a mouse?” they ask.

I’m standing mid-stair case. Stephanie says, “I can take care of this.” She leads the way into the kitchen. None of them are scared.

I can take care of it too…if only I had my phone. I convince one of them to hand me my phone. I dial Andy.


I’m hysterical. I ignore his I’m-restraining-my-laughs. “THERE IS A FOUR FOOT MOUSE IN THE KITCHEN! GET HOME!”

There is a pause. I’m sure it wasn’t because he was stifling his laughter. “Let me talk to someone rational,” he says.

I put Stephanie on the phone. She listens intently. “We can do it, Dad!” She is all too joyful for this near-death situation. She hangs up and says to me, “We’re going to remove it.”

I run to another room. She rallies the troops. Sam opens the garage door. Hanna helps with the trap. Together they take care of the six foot mouse.

Hannah pours my coffee into the travel mug because I refuse to go into the kitchen. Sam gathers the lunch boxes from the counter. We make it into the car.

I remain irrational.

I send Andy a text telling him how brave our children were as they engaged in an epic battle with a ten foot mouse.

“Maybe you need to get over it,” he replies.

Maybe he’s right. It would be a good thing to not be hindered by mice. I could overcome my fear, if I wanted.

But I’m not sure it’s worth it. I’m not sure the effort to overcome my fear is really worth the end result. I should be ashamed that my young children were able to engage in mouse removal and I refused to return to the kitchen even after the mouse was gone. I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s irrational. Even though it’s limiting, I can live with it.  I’m not scared of snakes or bats or any other creature. Rarely am I hindered because I avoid mice at all costs.

I was struck by how perhaps it is this same attitude that limits teachers from shifting their instructional practices. Even though their current practices are limiting, they can live with them. It’s not so much that they don’t want to change their practices, but rather they’re not sure it’s worth the effort to change.

I spend a lot of energy considering how to support teachers with this kind of mindset. Until now I really didn’t understand how a person could not want to change. Perhaps I should face my fear of mice so I can figure out how to help teachers shift their instructional practices, even when they’re not sure it’s worth the effort. I think writing about mice could be the first step.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

21 thoughts on “Big Realization from a Tiny Mouse Leave a comment

  1. I liked the story especially the analogy. Very effective. I will have to investigate mint oil. What I used when we had MICE problems was a “Victor Electronic Trap” pricey but very effective.

    Change is not always appealing especially if in your mind it translates as “the flavor of the month.” Will this change actually be beneficial? Will it perform as advertised? Those seem to be the questions many of my co-workers ask. Change is stressful; fear is stressful. Sometimes fear is paralyzing.


  2. Hi Ruth, I too, detest mouse! I did laugh when I read your story, however I would have done exactly the same thing in that situation.I don’t know what it is about those tiny, furry tailed creatures that terifies me so. I had an encounter with one last summer when I was cleaning out my shed at our cottage. I was tossing some things in the trash when I came face to face with one of those furry monsters. Needless to say I ran for my life, recruiting my husband to make sure there were no signs of a mouse before I ventured back in to the shed. I can tell you I am not resistant to changing my teaching practices. But… I can not seem to change my fear of MICE!
    Perhaps a cat would help. We had one for 19 years before she died three years ago. That seemed to keep us mouse free. I loved how your mouse kept keeping larger as you wrote. Peggy


  3. Hold on a minute. Before all you mice-haters get too deep into the killing, investigate mint oil, please. It’s a very good deterrent, and it smells good to boot. My husband mixes up a solution and sprays it around the foundation of the house every couple of months. We still get a mouse in the live trap in the attic every 6-8 months (which he releases in the woods near our house), but there is no killing involved. Let me know if you want more exact details.


  4. Loved this story! Had a giggle with my hubby telling him, “See I’m not the only one that feels like this about mice.” Unfortunately, I’ve past my fear of mice onto my daughter and she is as terrified of mice as I am (she is actually a little worse than I am and if she sees a mouse, she screams to the point of hysterical tears). However, luckily for daughter and I, my son has had to rescue us from a mouse caught in the trap (hubby had gone on a hunting trip leaving daughter and I to defend off those nasty blighters).


  5. Oh, Ruth. You really don’t like mice! I’ve never had to deal with them. I think you’re the one now writing about a mouse–10 footer, too. I love how your kids rescue you. It’s a good sign. I am sure their strength comes from you. If this isn’t enough–a good story with monsters and heroes, teaching comes into play. This could be a best-seller of some kind–bits of nothing or something! Don’t worry about naming yet. Thinking of Neville…………there you go, stirring up my mind again.


  6. Really funny…really suspenseful and what a cool surprise that you connected it to all of our worlds of making the changes because of the freak out factor. XO nanc PS I hate the idea of seeing a mouse in a trap even more than one running around. PSSS I think you need a good mouse fantasy too ! XO


  7. Avoiding change like the mice…love the connection. I love how the size of your mouse changed with the more worked up you became. I have experienced drama about change in a similar way. Please share more on how you process the irrational fear of mice and come to grips with it…:)

    I also noticed that you have rational rescuers(way to go kids!)-these are our go to people. We must seek them out and have them help move us forward in our quest for change…who are your go to teachers?

    PS I am freaked out by mice too, oh, and chipmunks! They are even more freaky to have in the house than mice. Maybe next week’s slice?


  8. But what about the pets, Carol. Aren’t those poison stations harmful to other animals? I don’t know, but I wish People who shall be nameless hadn’t mentioned mice. I’m not exactly scared, but now that I am in a new place, I hope there aren’t mice here because it’s been years since we had a mouse at my other home. And then my husband did take care of it. It’s the sound that gets me. Cannot stand the trap going off! I think sticky traps might be a way to go, but Anita, I also no longer have fireplace tongs! I will definitely need a new plan! Also, Ruth, you wrote so humorously that you almost convinced me that you might change, right then! But also clearly, I can see it isn’t any thing you want to deal with. I come to my connection, the way you made the case for this irrational fear that was the same for some of the teachers. Perhaps they would like to avoid me too? Hm-m! I am trying to figure it out, too. Thanks.


  9. Just went over and read Deb’s piece. OK, so I think you two need to know– the exterminator brings these “bait stations.” They are black. And there is poison in them. And the mouse comes and eats it. And then it goes away and dies. it does not run around your kitchen with things stuck to its feet or butt. No one has to hold a sack or get rid of it. I think you need to check into them.


  10. Soooo funny! Like you I. HATE. THEM. And we don’t have a mouse catcher at our house either! So when K. said he saw a mouse two weeks ago, I had to call Terminix. I am not doing that sticky paper stuff. I love Andy’s comment, “Let me talk to someone rational.” And your kids working together to solve the problem. And then I was totally surprised at your connection to teachers at the end. Love this piece!


  11. I love your use of the present tense in this piece! I think it really adds to the humor.

    I don’t mind mice so much, but I completely lose it when millipedes show up. So creepy! So many legs!


  12. @Christy — Thank you for taking the time to stretch my thinking. I keep wondering about this group of I’m-not-willing-to-change-or-try-any-unconventional-approach to instruction. I want to understand their mindset, but I find it impossible. I found myself glimpsing an understanding through my unwillingness to be rational in the presence of a mouse. Silly, yes, but a glimpse nonetheless.


  13. Thanks for your thoughts and letting me know I’m not alone in this ordeal! I’m also glad to know the connection to teaching works within this post. I was a little nervous that it could be too much of a stretch.

    Also, if you are up for another super-funny mouse story, check out Deb’s link above. I want to learn to write with humor like she does.


  14. I LOVE this story and the ever-growing mouse. I especially love that you are trying to see the teaching moment in your fear-of-mice quirk (although it is really more of a rational fear than a quirk if you ask me–even if it was a cute field mouse with a white-tipped tail).

    To truly understand your connection (your posts always compel me to think, mice are no exception) I am asking myself, “Who does Ruth’s unwillingness to change harm?”

    I suppose one could argue that Andy is harmed by the frantic calls to action it invokes. However, he really seems to be more amused than harmed. I suppose one could argue your children are harmed by your lack of a rational model of what-to-do-when-faced-with-a-mouse. However, they really seemed well-equipped to handle the situation (almost seemed to mature a bit through the experience, it seemed).

    This brings me to analyze the next question, “Who does a teacher’s unwillingness to change harm?”

    Only, the thing is, the answer to this question doesn’t come with a “however.” The answer to this question doesn’t hold any of the playfulness that the first question’s answer held. The answer to this question is: students. And that is just too tough to swallow.

    Good for you for reaching to understand these teachers in hopes of one day figuring out how to nudge them onward. Good for you. Even better for their students!


  15. On the other hand, now that I am done laughing at the mouse story, you are right. I never thought of it that way…that maybe teachers don’t think change is worth the effort. Or maybe, they have an irrational fear of the dirty, squirmy, suddenly appearing, long creepy tale of change…..


  16. Hahaha, this post had me laughing out loud so much that I snorted and got a quizzical look from my husband! I especially loved how the mouse got bigger in each paragraph. While I’m not afraid of mice, I’m terrified of silverfish. Like you with your mice, I wake up my husband to take care of them and refuse to enter the room even when they’re gone. Completely irrational! Your thoughts about teachers who don’t want to change were so interesting. It’s amazing how you always see teaching lessons in everyday life!


  17. When, many years ago, our home filled with black droppings and the scurrying through the walls could no longer be ignored, my husbad dutifully set traps filled with peanut butter and placed them all over the house. The next morning, there were many mice who fell victim to the traps. Somehow, the husband, big brave setter of traps that he is, could not remove the traps and so it was either find “mouse removers” in the phone book or do-it-myself. I found that using the fireplace tongs kept the traps at a “safe-for-me” distance and I have had the less than lovely job ever since. I do, however, have an irrational fear of heights…..and HE does the ladder and high work so I guess it all balances out!


  18. Ruth, like you, I am deathly afraid of mice (and even more so rats). I would take a snake any day. I giggled as the mouse grew with each reference. I loved that you connected it to teachers unwillingness to change. I am okay with change. Sometimes a bit resistant, but when it comes to rodents I will stand my ground.


  19. A very good post. Thanks for this one. We also live surrounded by fields and the occasional mouse slips in. My wife does not quite react like you. Hers is a searing death ray beam of fire from hell type of anger. I think she figures if she directs her power towards the mouse it will implode along with every other mouse in a 10 mile radius.

    I’m a teacher that embraces technology and am happy to learn something new and try to adopt it in my classroom. For example I think I’m the only teacher within a 500km radius that thinks cell phones can not only work in the classroom but we’re actually obligated to figure out how to make them work.

    Keep up the good posts and give your husband and manly punch on the shoulder cause I know what he’s going through. 😛


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