Nate the Great or a Fight I’m Having with My Husband Through Poetry

My husband, Nate, and I have had a mouse infestation in our house for about 6 months now.  We’ve tried everything: traditional traps, electric traps, poison (don’t do that–seriously, dead mouse stink stays around for at least a month), plug-ins that are supposed to emit a noise that keeps mice away, glue traps (the most successful and the most gory).  Long story short: I want to call professionals, and he insists on doing it himself.

One night after reading Green Eggs and Ham to my children, I went to my office to do some Exponent work and saw a mouse, which meant that I could not work in my office the rest of the night (ask Caroline…I was supposed to edit a piece for her.  Instead, I sent her an email from my phone, “Sorry, I can’t do it tonight.  There’s a mouse in my office, and I’m to scared to get my computer.”).  So, I went to my room and composed this poem instead.

Nate is Great
Great is Nate

That Nate the Great
That Nate the Great
How I love that Nate the Great!
But he does not appreciate
My fear of mice and their mates*

I hate mice as they race
to corrupt, infest my space

Do they live inside the roof?
Yes, and they are not aloof.

Would you like them in your wall?
One died in there—quite the gall!

Crackers cookies, bread gnawed through
No wonder there is so much poo!

Would you like them eating fruit?
(They ate it all; the point is moot.)

Would you like them in the flour?
They chewed the lid with so much power!

In my closet, with such glee
I know they wait to devour me.

Would you like them in your bra?
Find poop there and shout, “Hurrah!”

Do you know they love my feathers?
Strew them with such obvious pleasure?

They live in walls and under chairs.
I swear they are the size of bears.

Nate the Great, dear Nate the Great
Now is the time: EXTERMINATE!
Clorox wipes have been divine
But, using them takes such time.

Think, (as I clean the poop and pee)
The Bubonic Plague came with their fleas.

Let’s kill them when they eat our fruit,
Let’s get rid of all that poop.
Out of flour, feathers, grains
Oh my gosh, they’re SUCH A PAIN!

In my bra, the roof, the wall
The mice believe they’ll conquer all.

But we can win, my dear, you’ll see
No need to feel we’re up a tree.

We’ll call a service that takes care
of this problem that makes friends scared.

They’ll come and plug holes mice have made.
When they do, let’s have a parade!

And others too will shout and cheer,
Perhaps even offer beer!
When you choose to obliterate
All our mice (with their mates).

*and their babies, too, 4-5 litters per year, scurrying around in the walls and attics, each dropping 25,000 dropping in their lifetime, but let’s not go there.

Have you ever had a minor issue with a spouse or loved one that neither of you will compromise on?  And, you fight about it so much that you begin to wonder if it’s actually a fight about a much bigger issue? 

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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39 Responses

  1. Emily U says:

    This is silly, but one minor issue we’ve fought over is that my husband insists on keeping his deodorant in the bedroom on our chest of drawers, so he can use it as he’s getting dressed. I think deodorant belongs in the bathroom. I’ve moved it there many times, which annoys him. We’ve resolved this by me giving up and letting him have it there, although I hate it. But when we have guests I make him put it in the bathroom.

    And yes, it’s about a bigger issue. That issue being we are so tight on space that every little extra piece of clutter matters to me and makes me crazy. But neither of us can do anything about the space issue.

    And I would say your mouse issue is NOT minor! I’ve never had mice in my home but my husband has had them at work and the only thing that worked was to call the pros!

    • Vada says:

      Just a thought for you — could he put it in his underwear drawer? That’s where I keep mine. That way, it’s right there when he gets dressed, but it’s also not creating clutter in your bedroom.

  2. sla421 says:

    I’m so afraid of mice, that I would be living at a friends or in a hotel if our home was like you described above. When I was in high school, I got up one morning, a mouse ran over my foot and I screamed so loudly, my dad thought that there was someone in the house with a gun. I then went into the bathroom and there was a mouse in the bathtub…and finally when I went to put on my shoe, there was one in there..all in the same morning. I can not tell you how happy I was when my parents closed on the house and got us out of that mouse invested rental.

    They’re a health hazard and apparently a mental hazard for you as well. If Nate the Great doesn’t respect your request for an exterminator knowing how you feel about them, then maybe there is something bigger going on. Six months is long enough!

    You might read him the chapter from the Little Town on the Prairie where the mice naw through Pa’s hair..that might change his mind.

    I hope your rodent free soon…I feel all nervous and twitchy for you.

  3. Corktree says:

    Oh ick. I honestly can’t imagine a worse infestation, though cockroaches are a close second.

    This poem brilliantly communicates both the awfulness of mice and your frustration. Enough is enough! And I do think I know what you’re talking about with larger issues. My husband and I have gone through cycles of things that we argue about, and I’m starting to see a pattern that indicates an underlying issue that is not being resolved. I’m not really sure what to do about it though since we communicate a LOT and eventually come back around to what always feels like a better place after talking through the arguments. But then it always comes back in another form, so I don’t know what else we’re supposed to be doing.

    I know therapists say you should do counseling “check-ups” in a healthy marriage, but that still feels like admitting the problem is too big. Hmm… I guess I’m like Nate in a way: I like to solve problems myself and I resist professional help 😉

  4. Fei says:

    Yikes! Did the poem work?

    Nobody ever fights about minor issues. Disagree, maybe. But fights by nature are always about the major underlying problem: not feeling heard or validated.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Well, it got us talking about it again. I think we get the mice situation under control for a week or two. Then, we see evidence of another one, and it flares and starts all over again.

      You make an excellent point, though, Fei…something bigger going on here.

  5. Stephanie2 says:

    Oh gosh! Mice infestations are worth fighting over. One mouse means it is time to call an exterminator. You are kind – my husband would be receiving divorce papers about now.

    The only thing we fight about is my feminism. It manifests in many ways, but the fight usually boils down to that.

  6. Senile Old Fart says:

    Anyone allergic to cats?

    • EmilyCC says:

      Me, I’m afraid. Terribly, horribly allergic. Though, it’s by far the best solution…I’ve been thinking of seeing if I could handle a stictly outdoor cat, but that feels mean to do to the cat.

      • sla421 says:

        You might check and see if there is a feral cat society like this one http://www.rmaca.org/ in your area. A friend of mine had a gopher problem. She worked with the society to transfer four cats to her neighborhood. There was a process involved, but the cats are in a less crowded neighborhood, fixed and the gopher problem has been contained.

  7. jks says:

    Just wondering why you are waiting for your husband’s “permission” to call the exterminators. It is obvious you don’t agree on how to handle this problem. You have done it his way for a more than reasonable amount of time.
    Is it because it is a “man” realm thing? You feel like he needs to make the final decision?
    Inaction in this case doesn’t mean you aren’t doing it either person’s way. You really are currently doing it his way. Make sure you are ok with that and on board with that. You are better off choosing to do it his way and in essense giving him “permission” to do it his way, rather than continuing to try to convince him to do it your way if you will only do it your way with his “permission.”
    I’m sure I’m reading to much into this, but since women are more likely to be co-dependent and have a controlling spouse it makes me nervous when women hand over “the final say” to their husbands without thinking it through as to what areas they want their husbands to have the final say and what areas they want to have the final say.

    • MB says:

      I don’t think Emily is necessarily waiting for her husband’s permission. I think she’s working for consensus.

      I think we would cry “foul” if Emily had decided that she wanted to tackle a large, challenging project on her own (say, for instance, refinishing their kitchen cabinets) and her husband, who really, really didn’t like the smell of the chemicals necessary for that, unilaterally went out and hired a contractor to simply tear out and replace them with new ones.

      Emily said that this is something her husband wants to do himself. It’s a challenge that he would like to personally tackle. She is respecting his desire to take on that challenge while making her objections and concerns very clear. That is what I think she would hope her husband would do if the tables were turned.

      I don’t see this as “waiting for permission”. I see it as seeking cooperation and honoring mutual communication and each other’s desires while facing a challenging task. When both parties do so, and I suspect Emily’s husband is the kind of person who generally does, it’s worth the work and time to create those things in spite of their conflicting desires for different solutions. In such a situation, there is no need for either party to “have the final say”, though certainly, decisions often take longer. It can be trying to one’s patience but it’s worth the work and delay.

      • EmilyCC says:

        JKS, I think in some marriages your take on this could be accurate, but I don’t think it applies here.

        MB explained it really well, and I should explain that the problem has been resolved now (otherwise, I wouldn’t post the poem 🙂 ).

        I wasn’t waiting for his permission, and I did call an exterminator to do an estimate. Because it cost over $500 to really take care of the problem, Nate and I had a fundamental disagreement we couldn’t get over. He wanted to try to do this himself with the cheaper solution and I wanted to spend the money.

        Just like I’d be super mad if he went and spent $500 that I asked him not to spend, I think it would be disrespectful to do the same to him because truthfully, he was trying. It just wasn’t working.

  8. Rita says:

    Although the professional companies seem costly – they usually have a flat fee – and for that fee will return until the problem is solved. I say do it!

  9. suzann says:

    Emily,

    I once interrupted a High Council meeting because a mouse ran across my kitchen floor. This was long before cell phones, so I had to call the President’s office to get Dean. I thought Dean should immediately come home to rescue me from my perch on the kitchen counter. He was not amused! I kill all bugs with ease, but mice are a
    difficult problem. Just think how fast the mice are multiplying under your roof. Emily, go past go, go past Nate, call the exterminators.

    Suzann

    • EmilyCC says:

      So true, Suzann…something about them being furry and bigger than bugs (and lizards) just terrifies me.

      I once called my father-in-law to do the same for me that you asked Dean. Nate said, “Why didn’t you call me?” I said, “Because your dad wasn’t going to make fun of me about it.”

  10. Caroline says:

    I agree with JKS and Suzanne. It’s time to do it your way now.

    Fabulous poem 🙂 The imagery of mice droppings in your bra is nausea inducing.

    As for recurring… discussions… that my spouse and I have: well, there’s the “You need a different car that’s not a stick and has 4 doors” discussion. The “stop doing yard work and hire a gardener so we can have some family time” discussion (thought that one’s fixed now that we’ve moved to a new house with almost no yard.) I’m sure there are more, but those pop to mind immediately.

  11. Debra says:

    Emily, are you expecting? If so, mice are VERMIN and carry disease! Terrible for expecting moms and their babies! So are extermination chemicals! Call a natural pest control company and get those mice and their disease-carrying remains out of your space! For your health and SAFETY and that of your baby!

  12. MLS says:

    Some really good comments have been left so far and I loved the poem! I just want to chime in because we’ve had a mouse issue in our apartment for months, which is hopefully now resolved. Luckily, my husband and I don’t disagree about it (although he is surprised by how freaked out I am by mice). But of course, we’re in an apartment, so we haven’t had to pay for the extermination.

    I just want to say that while exterminators can be the solution, be careful in selecting them. The ones employed by our building have been less than helpful. They’ve basically gone through, pointed out some cracks–which they’ve just stuffed with steel wool– and then left trap boxes. Honestly, we could have just done that ourselves.

    Anyway, I have gone through all of the same frustrations you have, and have now had to throw away more than enough dead mice. The only thing that finally worked was going through room by room, identifying all the cracks (They can get in through cracks as wide as 1/4 inch) and having the super seal them up with cement. Nothing else has been a permanent fix but that. I hope you figure out a solution soon! Good luck!

  13. kmillecam says:

    I hope this poem and our collective support here helps Nate see the light 🙂 We all know he could do it, but is it worth all this? NO!

  14. MB says:

    Things that are most often at the root of conflict over small things in our marriage:
    a feeling that the other doubts our competency
    a feeling that our concerns are not being taken seriously
    a feeling that we are being talked at and not given enough time to respond
    a sense of being overwhelmed by fear or responsibilities/expectations
    a failure to make enough time to calmly articulate and listen to each other’s concerns

    Resolving that last one helps to resolve the first four.

  15. EmilyCC says:

    Loving everyone’s comments!

    So you know the end of the story, we compromised: laid traps ourselves (Nate always cleans them out) and when we’ve been mouse free for 14 days, we’ll call in the contractor I hired to seal up the house to try and get this problem solved for good.

    Oh, and during our most recent fight about this, we realized that after two major life changes (new baby and the death of his dad), it is certainly time to go into marriage counseling for another tune-up. 🙂

  16. Jessawhy says:

    Emily,
    Loved this post! (Although I hate the mice too)

    It still kills me that when we had a pet mouse that was injured, my husband took it to the vet in the middle of the night and spent $100 getting it an IV so it would recover fully only to find out it was pregnant and gave birth to 9 baby mice 3 weeks later. Their gestation period is so short! (Oh, and then I left the stinky mouse cage in the sun and fried all the poor mice. That was a disaster.)

    Why didn’t you share Nate’s response poem? So clever of you guys to fight through poetry on your blog.

    Very creative fighting. We could learn a lesson or two from you.

  17. Nate (the not so great) says:

    Alas, complain and whine is all I hear while the mice continue to instill their fear;

    You read the books, blogs, and sites, you know now that in this plight,

    there is nothing more that can be done, until the mice have had their fun.

    I do catch them one, two, three. I do smash them with no glee.

    But for all your feminist pomp, you won’t man-up and give those mice a stomp.

    So please kill them, in my lieu, with a trap, or poison, or a hammer will do.

    I still snare more, four, five, six, soon there will be no mice to scare.

    When that day comes, patch holes I will, attics, vents, it will be a thrill

    But until then, please give it a rest, I am doing all anyone can to rid your life of these pests.

  18. Nate (the not so great) says:

    Emily did have an exterminator come out and give a free evaluation. That exterminator made a few corrections to how we laid traps, and told us where to put the rest of the traps. The exterminator gave us a list of things to do that he said he would do for us (for $700) We have now done most of those things and the problem has gotten much better but its not completely gone. We have to wait until there are no new signs of mice for two weeks before we seal up the house. As one poster noted, sealing the house is the only real solution, but our 60 year-old cinderblock ranch may not seal so well.

    In Arizona, for some reason, we have super mice and rats. No company will give a money-back guarantee for a mouse free home except Orkin, and frankly I would rather deal with mice than have our kids exposed to the chemicals Orkin uses.

    Getting rid of these things is long process that takes time and often feels like we are not making progress, but we are getting there. My major complaint is that I don’t want to hire someone until I have done all I can to take care of the problem myself.

    Emily can call the exterminator whenever she wants (she graciously left out the fact that I bought a third vehicle before hiring an exterminator). However, I would like to work on taking care of this ourselves since the exterminator won’t guarantee that we will be mouse free for our $700.

    Before we reached that compromise this was a bad fight. We were sitting there yelling at each other and we just stopped and said, “This isn’t us. What are we doing?”

    Stress has a nasty way of infecting a relationship without anyone realizing it until the damage has been done. I was fighting for an ultimately untenable position (we do have a serious mouse problem) and Emily was so distraught that she could hardly communicate with me about the problem. Very nasty situation.

    We both suspect that the problem lies elsewhere. As Emily pointed out, we are coming off one of the more difficult years of our marriage, and life has been going so fast that we have a hard time getting together to process the events. Some counseling will do us good.

    And now for a little appropriately innappropriate joke:

    HER DIARY:
    Tonight, I thought my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. I was shopping with my friends all day long, so I thought he was upset at the fact that I was a bit late, but he made no comment on it. Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn’t say much. I asked him what was wrong; He said, ‘Nothing.’ I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly, and kept driving.

    I can’t explain his behaviour I don’t know why he didn’t say, ‘I love you, too.’ When we got home, I felt as if I had lost him completely, as if he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. He just sat there quietly, and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed.

    About 15 minutes later, he came to bed. To my surprise, he responded to my caress, and we made love. But I still felt that he was distracted, and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep – I cried. I don’t know what to do. I’m almost sure that his thoughts are with someone else. My life is a disaster.

    HIS DIARY:
    Boat wouldn’t start, can’t figure it out, at least I got laid.

    • Caroline says:

      Nate, great poem! And thanks for your explanation. I can now see better where you are coming from.

      As for the need for periodic marital tuneups, studies show that the year you have your first baby is often the year that people are least happy in their marriages. I imagine the same might go with subsequent babies as well. The lack of sleep and constant work that newborns demand put tons of stress on parents. Good for you two for being willing to go talk to a counselor about things. I’ve been trying to get my husband to go to a counselor with me for years…

  19. jks says:

    You two sound like a wonderful couple so I think it is great that you are working on your marriage and not letting the mice win!!
    I just want to say that I’ve been married 19 years and I am happier than ever. I remember one particular year as being the worst year of our marriage. Year #8 after baby #2 was born.
    It is worth it to work on it. Keep your perspective and realize that every issue that comes up you need to think about what is best short term but also long term then you end up building something better.
    Good luck with the mice. I had no idea it could be such a challenge.

  20. Stephanie2 says:

    I love Nate’s contributions to the thread!

  21. EmilyCC says:

    Oh my goodness! Nate read The Exponent blog…warms my heart 🙂

  22. Jessawhy says:

    Um, ahem, it’s possible that I may have mentioned this post to him while he and Mark were playing the Little Wolfman Game (aka Darkfall) on Thursday night.

    Still, it’s always nice to see the dialog between both partners on the thread.
    And, it’s nice that another couple gets to air their issues on the Exponent instead of just me and Mark 😉

    • EmilyCC says:

      Oh good! Honestly, last week was so crazy that I just kept forgetting to mention the post to him.

      Ah, Nate, Mark, and their Little Wolfman game 🙂

  23. Ziff says:

    Awesome, Emily and Nate! I love that you all can hash this out through poetry in blog-land. My wife and I have had similar disagreements. Not similar in that we write such fun poems back and forth. Nor in that they dealt with mice. But similar in that she tends to lean more toward hiring people to solve things and I tend to be tighter with money and want to see if we can do them ourselves. Over time, she’s persuaded me generally more to her way of thinking more than I’ve persuaded her. But even I can admit that that’s probably a good thing. There are lots of things we’re very bad at, and it’s worth it to just hire someone who knows what they’re doing (although I agree with Nate that $700 with no guarantee of any kind sounds a bit bizarre!) Plus now that I am finally done with school, we’re not quite as strapped for money as we were, so her approach has worked pretty well.

  24. nat kelly says:

    I’m way way late to the conversation, but I have to jump in and second the cats recommendation.

    I am allergic as well, but we heard that if you get a cat as a kitty, and it grows up with you, your body develops some resistance to its dander. Also, bathing it every couple of weeks helps, along with constant vacuuming and dusting.

    It’s a chore, but it’s not nearly as bad as mice poop in your bra. Plus, you get a sweet little pet out of it.

    We saw a mouse twice in our apartment before getting cats, and since we’ve had them, we’ve never had a single peep of any type of rodent. Apparently just the smell of cats is enough to keep them away.

    Cat’s fleas, on the other hand – have yet to find a good solution for that…… And an outdoor cat is going to have a bigger problem with it than our indoor kitties.

  1. January 9, 2012

    […] TopHat, on a therapist’s recommendation to have marital “check ups” with your spouse, commenting on EmilyCC’s post “Nate the Great or a Fight I’m Having with My Husband Through Poetry” at the Exponent: The “check ups” remind me of companionship inventories. Don’t forget to use the phrase “less effective!” […]

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