I hope you're having a great ending to 2008. We had a nice, but unusual, Christmas Eve here at the Twenty Four At Heart household. My plans for a Norman Rockwell, perfect, Christmas Eve went awry this year.
I found myself a stressed out mess in the immediate days preceding Christmas. Where's that gift? What's wrapped, and what isn't? What am I cooking and when? I was much more disorganized than I've ever been.
On Christmas Eve Briefcase worked until late afternoon. RC also had to work. I had to go to PT and didn't arrive home until afternoon. Our whole family finally convened at home by late in the day. I immediately went to the kitchen to begin cooking. We have a tradition of having a nice, more formal, dinner on Christmas Eve and then attending a candlelight church service. This year I was planning on making a prime rib dinner. I was stressed. I was late to start cooking, I still had presents to wrap. I was concerned dinner would be too late and we'd miss church.
PR trailed after me, mumbling how hungry he was. He's 13, growing, and always hungry so I didn't pay much attention. A minute later he scared me to death by belting out loudly, "Aaaaaagh!" I jumped a foot, while at the same time asking, "What's wrong?"
"There's a MOUSE in the pantry," he announced horrified.
As most of you know, I live adjacent to a canyon and wilderness area. We get critters. Lots of critters. Outside. I've never had anything come in my house.
"I think you imagined it," I assured PR as I glanced in the pantry and saw nothing but all the usual food stuff.
TR (home from college) was already standing on a chair behind me peering into the pantry also. (Standing on the chair to escape the phantom mouse.)
A minute later she started screaming, "I saw it, I saw it! It just ran back on the shelf!"
Immediately I flashed back to the previous day. I had opened some crackers and one had been half eaten. I had silently sworn at my teen boys for taking a bite of something and leaving it in the package half eaten because they didn't like it. Maybe they hadn't been the ones nibbling?
I moved a few things in the pantry and then I saw this.
I did the reasonable thing and slammed the pantry door shut. (So the mouse would not come attack me.) Logically, of course, I knew the mouse could crawl right under the door, but slamming the door shut made me feel safer. By the way, the mouse was only about one and a half inches long. Tiny.
I tried to start cooking the prime rib, but I kept eyeing the pantry warily. Briefcase had gone out for a run to get some exercise and I didn't have the courage to face the mouse without help.
A minute later PR appeared in our kitchen like this.
He had his air soft gun, his eye-protector mask, and a lighter (??) to fight off the mouse. The only problem being, PR could not hurt a mouse for the life of him. I called for his big brother, RC, to come to my aid. RC meandered in sporting a broom (??) to catch the mouse with.
Briefcase got home from his run and I informed him we had an "emergency" in the kitchen. TR still stood on her chair and refused to come down. Briefcase, RC, and PR took on Project Mouse.
Can I just say that during all this time I was not getting our nice, Christmas Eve dinner cooked? The men in my house started emptying the contents of our pantry all over the kitchen. (I never knew so much fit in there!) My kitchen counters were covered with cans, spice jars, and boxes, as was our kitchen table. There was no room for cooking.
I started filling huge trash bags with everything that wasn't canned, or otherwise protected in a manner that assured no possible invading mouse germs.
The clock was ticking, and my stress level regarding getting everything done was increasing.
I started pouring pomegranate martinis. (Funny how there was just enough counter space to make those!)
Don't most people decide to completely clear out their pantry on Christmas Eve just as they are starting to cook a big meal? My kitchen looked like a bomb had exploded.
The more of my martini I drank, the funnier Project Mouse seemed.
Briefcase walked in with our pool cleaning net. No one wanted to kill the mouse, we just wanted him back in the canyon where he belonged. Briefcase had a plan of catching the mouse with the pool net and then taking it outside. RC began constructing a wall out of canned goods (in the shape of a funnel) on the floor of the pantry to guide the mouse into prime pool net catching territory.
I put the prime rib in the oven. I continued throwing out pantry goods. I did not begin cooking any of the planned side dishes.
And then there was a cry of, "Got him!" The mouse was in the pool net. Briefcase took him outside and released him in the canyon. He returned triumphantly. The boys all strutted around like proud peacocks at their accomplishment. TR descended from her perch on the chair.
I looked around at my kitchen. The pantry stood completely empty. Every square inch of my kitchen was covered with pantry goods which needed to either be thrown away or sorted and reloaded into the pantry. I got busy working, all the while knowing I had just lost over two hours of desperately needed time.
All of a sudden we lost electricity in half of our house. (Which included all our outdoor Christmas lights.) We tried all the normal remedies (circuit breakers, etc.) to no avail. OK then, more time lost … and now I was trying to accomplish everything with only random electricity throughout the house.
A minute later the doorbell rang. Neighbors had stopped by with a bottle of wine as a Christmas gift. Briefcase invited them to come in for a drink. I cringed.
Don't get me wrong. I like these people. I appreciated their gift. The timing, however, was terrible. They walked into the kitchen to get the martini Briefcase had just offered. I saw them look at the mess in shock. I began explaining about the mouse. I think they were horrified by that as well.
I didn't offer them anything to eat. (They probably wouldn't have accepted it anyway!)
I escorted them into our living room (away from the kitchen) and seated them with Briefcase. I apologized and told them I'd "be right back." I ran to the kitchen and frantically started putting together a side dish for dinner. The prime rib would be done in less than an hour. I returned to our unexpected guests, disheveled, but attempting to be polite.
I tried to make idle conversation for fifteen minutes. It quickly became apparent they weren't leaving anytime soon. Again, normally, I wouldn't have minded in the least. I excused myself again and ran to the kitchen. I started throwing together another side dish. By this time I was breaking into a sweat. Run to kitchen, toss in ingredients, run to living room, take deep breath and make polite conversation, run back to kitchen, attempt to cook for five minutes, run back to living room … over and over.
During one of my "making polite conversation" sessions, PR approached me to inform me he couldn't feed our dogs because we were completely out of dog food. I believe it was about 6 p.m. by then. On Christmas Eve. When all the stores were closing and wouldn't be open the next day.
Our two boys are in charge of feeding our dogs. They also know our "rule" that they must inform us with at least a few days notice when they are running low on food so we never completely run out. They have done this without fail for years and years now. This time, this most inconvenient time, is the first time they've let us down.
Our retrievers are on a special diet and their food can only be bought at a pet store, not at the grocery store. Our guest listened to this information and laughed. I excused myself again and went to call the pet store. They would be open for 30 more minutes. My Golden looked at me with his warm, brown eyes.
Dog food became the next "emergency." The mouse was now outside, the unexpected guests drinking, the house electricity sporadic at best, and dinner was only half prepared with no hope of ever coming out the way I had planned.
At some point, everything got done – although, perhaps, not done well. We made it to the pet store with three minutes to spare. The dogs were fed. The neighbors departed (probably shaking their heads at the chaos which is my life), the mouse did not return, and we did indeed eat dinner. It consisted of a well done, overcooked, prime rib. We attended the candlelight church service, and the subject of the sermon, ironically, was "when life doesn't go the way you planned."
I did the remainder of my wrapping in the wee hours of the morning.
Sigh … our Christmas Eve this year did nothing to rival Martha Stewart's.
How did your holiday plans go? Did you have any plans upended?