The Rat Who Came to Dinner

newfloor2I promised I’d tell the story of how we got beautiful new flooring in the dining room, and it’s a doozy. I didn’t share it back in July, because I couldn’t find the pictures I’d taken of the aftermath. Now I’ve got them, so it’s time to share about our little visitor last summer! 😉

If you’ve read the posts about my adventures in tiling over laminate, then you know it was a start-and-stop process due to my failure to buy enough mastic and then getting the wrong color grout when I ran out. I ended up having to stop in the middle of the grouting process and come back later to finish. The Saturday I quit, I cleaned up and left everything in readiness for the Wednesday following, which was supposed to be three days before our actual move (I know, I know; insanity runs in my family — as Cary Grant once said in a movie, “It practically gallops!”).

When I walked into the trailer Wednesday afternoon, I crossed the kitchen floor to discover this sight in the living room/dining room area:


Yes, that’s a huge empty area in the carpet with little “pills” of carpet pulled out by their roots lying all around. I gasped in horror, realizing that this was the job of a determined nest-maker–probably a rat. I ran through the other rooms and found little bits of carpet chewed up here and there, but nothing compared to the giant patch of “yuck” in the dining room. And now I must back up and give you a little story of the first visit we had from this little creature.

Back when I laid the sticky-tile in the kitchen, I had taken off all the floor vents so I could tile around the holes neatly and accurately. You may recall that I didn’t finish the tiling job on the first go, saving all the precise cutting for the end. But I left the floor vents off (there goes that insanity again), planning to come in a couple of days later, finish, and screw the vents back down. My husband decided we’d all just come out with our air matresses and a change of clothes and spend the night so we could get a lot more done. By the time we reached the trailer, it was already dark and time to put the children to bed. So I walked in with sheets and blankets while my husband pulled out the port-a-cribs and such from the van. I strolled into the kitchen, sizing up what was left to do on the sticky-tile, and saw the vent covers waiting to be screwed back down. At that moment, I remembered that our landlord had said he’d be replacing the ductwork beneath the house, so sections might be off. My eyes widened as I realized I should have put the vent covers back on, and I mentally congratulated myself that the house was not full of cockroaches. I knelt down, vent cover in hand, ready to screw the first one back in place…just in case any nocturnal visitors should get ideas. That’s when I heard the blood-curdling scream from one of the back bedrooms.

rattyMy heart leapt into my throat, and I looked up to see a black furball hurtling toward me across the living room floor, headed straight for the vent I was bending over. I shrieked  and jumped up, dropping the vent cover with a clatter. Seeing me blocking his exit, the rat screeched to a halt, turned tail and ran into the hall bathroom. My second-born son had by then fled to stand tiptoe on the hearth, so the rest  joined him, looking anxiously toward the hall. I stopped to put the cover back on the vent before hopping up on the hearth. At this point, my husband walked through the front door and burst out laughing. All of us started talking at once and gesticulating toward the bathroom. The girls breathlessly got out, “It’s a rat, Daddy! A rat is in our house! In the bathroom!” So our fearless leader grabbed the broom and headed in to do battle with the intruder. “There’s nothing in here,” he announced, at which point my oldest son said, “It went up the shower curtain, Daddy! I was standing in the bedroom and saw it run up!” So with all of us cowering on the hearth, hubby pushed against the shower curtain with the broom.

Mr. Rat decided his hiding place wasn’t all that great and came streaking out of the bathroom, through my husband’s feet, headed straight to the kitchen again. Finding the vent cover back in place, he veered left and scooted behind the stove. Ugh. By the time my husband made it in there, there was no sign of the rat. He called our landlord, who came over, and they both moved the stove. No rat. That fat creature had squeezed into a half-inch gap behind the cabinets and gone out through a tiny hole around the sink pipes! Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night, wondering if our little visitor might come back in the way he left!

I finished up the kitchen floor the next day and made sure all the vents were securely fastened back down. My husband and our landlord didn’t think the rat would be back, since he knew there were people in the house now, and the hole he’d used to leave was so small it must have been a painful exit. So we locked up and left, and on my subsequent visits to tile and grout, I didn’t encounter Mr. Rat. So we were sure he was gone for good. Until the Carpet Incident of 2008, that is.

As I stood over the messy pile of carpet fibers, I knew the rat had, indeed, come back through his exit and made himself at home once again. I looked around more carefully and noticed that my clean-up rags were all missing, too. I stepped back into the kitchen and glanced at the stove. In the space between the stove and the cabinet was a pile of rags and some scattered carpet fibers. I’d found the nest. I called our landlady, who sent over her oldest son with the shop vac. He very sweetly cleaned up all the rat’s “gifts” while I poked around to make sure our visitor was no longer in residence. When the landlord arrived home that afternoon, he came over to inspect the carpet, fuming over the damage the rat had done. “Oh, well,” he said, “this carpet really needed to be replaced eventually anyway.” I nodded, then reminded him that we planned to move in three days. His eyes popped wide, and I knew there was no way he could replace the damaged flooring in that short window of time. Thankfully, we’d given ourselves an extra week for our move in case of an unexpected emergency. Word to the wise: always plan a cushion around any move or big project! This was a life-saver for all of us.

So this brings us to the main point of this post: how ratty events can bring about unexpected bonuses in life. I would never have asked a rat in to share my home and chew up the carpet, but what was done was done. No use crying about it. We’d just clean up (thoroughly!) and move on. And our wonderful landlord put in beautiful hardwood laminate flooring instead of new carpet! So now we had a dining room with a floor we wouldn’t have to worry about at mealtimes. Talk about a wonderful providence! Here’s the beautiful result:


So, while I certainly won’t be inviting any more rats to dinner (and I’ve plugged their entrances!), I am rather thankful for what resulted from Mr. Rat deciding to pull up the carpet and make himself at home! Just goes to show you that there really can be a silver lining in the blackest (furriest) cloud!


Post Script: Our landlord did leave a cage trap in the kitchen after this episode, and Mr. Rat obligingly stepped into it. He was then sent packing and will not be visiting again. 😉

8 Responses to “The Rat Who Came to Dinner”

  1. 1 MrsSWM January 6, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Well, that sure worked out well! 🙂 I love hardwood floor, and wood laminate comes in a close second 🙂 Carpet in the dining room would be rather nightmarish! It looks lovely and really finishes off the room.
    I very much enjoy your blog and find it most inspiring for ideas for our own -little -house- with -lots- of -little- people:-)

    I’ve a question for you (well, maybe two) How do you organize, and where do you keep your books, school things (assuming you homeschool), toys etc? The Lord has given me many creative ideas for stretching a small space (at times when I was sure I could not make things fit one more little bit) and I’m always looking for new ideas to either use or file away for later 🙂



  2. 2 Heidi @ GGIP January 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    This is a surprisingly positive post! I am happy you found a silver lining to the rat problem!

  3. 3 queenofmytrailer January 8, 2009 at 6:54 am

    Ah, organizing! It’s in my blood. When I was a girl, my favorite stories were ones about girls who came into run down old houses and fixed them up (so, naturally, Snow White cleaning up the dwarves’ mess was right up my alley–LOL!). I’m not a pack rat, so I tend to get rid of stuff, which is a huge help. Of course, even I discovered that I was still a closet pack rat during our move last summer…but I was all too happy to get rid of the stuff that had been lurking in my basement and attic! I have a jelly cupboard in my dining room that holds most of the school books and supplies. Each child has a stack in the cupboard, and then there’s room for pencils, crayons, drawing paper, and a few games (like Ten Days in the USA and Boggle–family favorites!). I also have two sturdy book crates (one of wood, another of metal mesh). These are for current read-alouds (next to the couch) and for larger books that don’t fit into the cabinet (next to the cabinet itself). The children also have bookcases in their rooms. The girls have one filled with their favorite books, and the boys have one positively crammed with theirs. Then we have the big bookcase in the living room and five more bookcases in my husband’s little office nook (for his library). In our bedroom is one more large bookcase with doors on the bottom (that’s where the DVDs and VHS cassettes live). We love having our books close at hand!

    As for toys, I try to keep those under control by rotating them. I have one large plastic storage bin (the kind that takes a lid) for the toddlers, then one half its size that slides under the girls’ bed. The large container stays on a shelf in the girls’ closet, and I swap toys between it and the small container every few months to keep things “fresh.” Every time we have a birthday or Christmas or just a special gift, the children go into their stashes and choose one or two things to take to Goodwill. This way the toy monster stays under control. When there are too many toys out, I actually find my children complain of boredom more often! My girls have a dollhouse that every now and again goes up on the shelf in the closet when it threatens to take over their room (the little pieces and parts never stay in it for long!). Now, when it comes to Legos, I’ll admit those just never seem to stay put. The boys have an old Army footlocker their grandfather gave them, and it’s about half-full of Legos. When the pieces start turning into “salt and pepper” all over the floors, I have the boys go on a Lego expedition and put them all back where they belong. This is one toy that I don’t mind having a lot of, because there’s so much creative potential with Legos. So I’ll put up with them appearing under the coffee table and the dining table and in the sock drawer. 😉 I’m just trying to teach the boys to keep after them so we don’t have “ouch” moments in the night when someone steps on a sharp little Lego square!

    I think the main strategy in our house is just “less is more.” It’s even that way with schoolbooks. We have tons of books, no mistake, but I am not a big workbook fan. The children have books for math and workbooks for handwriting/cursive, but I use only two Phonics books for everyone and one set of spelling workbooks for everyone advanced enough to spell. Other than that, our main sources are hundreds of “real” books to read aloud from (history, biography, science, etc.), lots of writing paper, crayons and pencils. My younger children (even those who cannot read yet) love to do copywork — copying whole pages out of big books just for fun. That helps them practice handwriting and will be a good exercise when they are older and learning to write creatively (Ben Franklin taught himself superior writing skills this way — first copying passages, then turning them into poetry, then turning them back into prose!). So I don’t keep stacks and stacks of workbooks for every “subject” under the sun. The workbooks are for skills that need a lot of practice (math, handwriting, spelling). Once a child has the tools to read, write, and think, he can learn anything he wants to. We’re there to guide the children to good books and not to weigh them down with a dozen or more “school” books. This helps keep the organization easy and the cabinets lean. And it means there’s never a dull moment — even for Mom and Dad! We’re all learning together as we read, discuss, think, and write…on all levels. It’s fun!

  4. 5 marjie January 15, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Glad you got rid of the rat. We have mice this year. First time ever. The cat has caught two the husband one.
    I have yet to see any.
    We put the laminate flooring in all our rooms except the bedrooms. Wish we could do it there. We love it so much.
    I love reading your stories.

  5. 6 MrsSWM January 18, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks for the detailed reply! It’s always helpful to hear how other families do things. It sounds like your homeschooling philosphy is much the same as ours. 🙂

    God bless,

  6. 7 Elizabeth January 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Wow! That is some silver lining. The new floors look amazing! I have the world’s ugliest carpet and I’m wanting floors like your so bad.

  7. 8 Ann February 5, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Thank you for this hilarious post! I loved it, especially after reading all these “let me tell you about my perfect life” blogs. It reminds me of an incident years ago w/ my husband, when we lived in an apartment. It was in the city and there was construction in the neighborhood. Anyway, one day there was a rat in the kitchen and he was so freaked out he just closed the doors and went out, so I had to deal with Mr. Rat.

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About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

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