When Charlie was just a few months old, he came down with a nasty virus. He was in daycare at the time and our child care center seemed to always be ground zero for the really awful illnesses that my kids caught with such ease. I took time off from work to care for our sweet little Charlie at home and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I knew we had to take him to the emergency room. I had been hanging clean laundry up in my closet and when I finished and reached down to pick Charlie up from the bed, he was stiff. His whole body. He was so little at the time and so new-baby malleable that to pick him up and feel his muscles so rigid was alarming. I knew he was really ill.

Bob and I ended up spending the majority of that afternoon and evening in our local hospital’s ER. Charlie was officially diagnosed with a “virus of unknown origin” meaning, the hospital didn’t know what he had, admitted there was really no good way to figure it out, but acknowledged that it was absolutely making him miserable. It was just something that we had to wait out. They wanted us to remain in the ER so they could hydrate Charlie and monitor him closely for a few hours before discharging him. With a compassionate shrug, the doctors and nurses left us on our own to sit and wait and watch. Our fears placated, Bob and I settled in to spend a few hours staring intently at Charlie.

Now, it should be noted that our local hospital at the time was more urban, less spacious and a bit more bare bones than the hospital we utilize now. The ER in the town closest to where we currently live has private rooms, individual television sets, a staff eager to accommodate and valet parking. The ER we took Charlie to that night had a long wait time, a maxed-out staff, absolutely no snacks, and the only thing separating us from the next patient on a stretcher was a thin curtain and about four feet. I’m certainly not complaining because I didn’t even know ERs came in fancier versions until we moved from the city but still, if we were able to even snag an extra blanket from a nurse that night, it certainly didn’t come all toasty warm from one of those giant blanket ovens our current hospital uses.

Sitting with a sleeping four-month-old and a lack of sufficient snacks left us with nothing to do but eavesdrop on the medical emergencies of those around us. It was fascinating. Directly next to us, on the other side of the curtain, was an intoxicated man who was handcuffed to his gurney and guarded by a sheriff’s deputy. He talked loudly for probably a solid hour about assorted topics before falling asleep and, thus, falling quiet. We heard other random snippets hear and there of bumps and bruises and broken bones but eventually, as evening settled in and the bustling quieted down, both Bob and I started listening intently to a husband and wife that were seeking treatment across the aisle from us.

It turned out, the wife was in the emergency room because she had been experiencing chest pains. It actually seemed quite serious from the tone of the doctor’s voice. The doctor was still unsure of what type of cardiac event she had experienced but he began reviewing with the couple the results of some preliminary testing and explaining to them some additional tests he would like to run before admitting the wife overnight for observation. It was at this point that the couple began to protest. They were concerned about how long all of this was going to take and seemed distressed about the necessity of spending an entire night in the hospital. Bob and I, unabashedly, leaned in for a closer listen.

“You see,” the husband began to explain to the doctor, “we have dinner reservations.”

It was at this point that Bob and I looked at each other with saucer-like eyes and tried not to laugh. Dismissing a possible heart attack in favor of keeping hard-to-get dinner reservations was just the MOST Northern Virginia thing one could do. I mean, I can appreciate a great meal, too, but I wouldn’t risk betting the sommelier knows how to use a defibulator. The ER doctor said about the same.

The conversation quickly escalated between the ER doctor and the husband and wife. Eventually, as the doctor was explaining the “against medical advice” discharge paperwork that would need to be completed before they could leave, the husband looked at the doctor and asked, “So, tell me, what’s worst case scenario here?”

Without missing a beat, the doctor looked at the husband wearily and said, “SIR, your wife could DIE.”

A few minutes later, the husband and his possibly-having-a-heart-attack wife were on their way to dinner to, presumably, eat mussels or foie gras or something like that. Shortly afterwards, Bob and Charlie and I headed home to rest up, recuperate and probably eat some Goldfish crackers.


Ever since that fateful emergency room visit, Bob and I have used the Worst Case Scenario query to address some of our toughest life decisions.

Should we move the entire family to Richmond? What’s the worst case scenario?

Are you up for having a third baby? What’s worst case scenario?

Is it possible to still buy a waterbed? What would be the worst case scenario?

Maybe we should get that odd rash on the middle kid looked at? What’s the worst case scenario?

Does this egg salad smell weird to you? Worst case scenario?

It’s actually a highly effective tool in distilling a problem or issue down to it’s possible outcomes. If the answer is anything other than one of us dying, we typically proceed.

All this to explain that Bob and I are thinking of renovating our kitchen ourselves. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario here?


How to Not Stay Married

Step 1: Have a long and rich history of purchasing unnecessary pieces of furniture and assorted decor for your home.

Step 2: Purchase a salvaged fireplace mantel from an antique store. Make sure you do not consult in any way with your husband prior to purchasing your new antique fireplace mantel.

Pretend not to notice your husband rolling his eyes when you arrive home from shopping and giddily tell him about your new antique fireplace mantel.

Also, make sure that the home that you live in at the time has a perfectly lovely brick fireplace surround that would not even accommodate your new antique fireplace mantel thus ensuring that no one, not even you, can justify the purchase of a new, antique fireplace mantel.

Step 3: Ask your husband to return to the antique store with you the next day to help you haul your new fireplace mantel from the bowels of the warehouse-like building to your minivan.

Ignore the deep sigh that emanates from his general direction.

Step 4: Retrieve new mantel from antique store and attempt to fit it into the back of your minivan. Be unsuccessful at this. Witness your husband’s complete exasperation. Witness your positive attitude making everything worse. Jerry-rig the mantel with improvised ties in such a way that makes it impossible to close the back hatch of the minivan so the entire 30 minute drive home, the BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP of the car’s there-is-a-door-open warning system is blaring.

Assure yourself that the noise is probably why your husband is no longer talking to you.

Step 5: Arrive home with your new antique fireplace mantel and have absolutely no logical place to put it. Ask husband to carry mantel to the third floor storage room while you “figure out a plan.”

Step 6: Devise brilliant plan! Decide to create one of those fake fireplace vignettes in your dining room. Something like this:


Request husband retrieve mantel from third-floor attic so you can get to work!

Step 7: Do not get to work.

Step 8: Look at mantel leaning precariously against dining room wall for several months, hoping it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids. Eventually, put some candles on the top that also lean precariously.

Step 9: Decide to move. When husband asks if the mantel should, logically, be left behind, react with shock and horror at such a suggestion. Explain in earnest that if you’re moving, the mantel’s moving, too.

Place mantel in basement of new home, leaning precariously against a wall. Hope it doesn’t accidentally fall on one of the kids.

Step 10: Wait three years.

Step 11: Clear out the entire contents of your basement in advance of construction work. Carry load after load of items to the garage, both you and your husband working diligently to ignore the antique mantel leaning precariously against the wall until it is the only item that remains.

Wordlessly and while making no eye contact, move the antique mantel to a dark corner of the basement.

Step 12: Bravely suggest to your husband that the super talented contractor working on the basement could maybe, possibly, perhaps also look into replacing your current fireplace mantel with the new antique mantel?

Watch as your husband rolls his eyes while simultaneously sighing deeply and reluctantly agreeing.

Step 13: Wait until your husband has worked an 11 hour day after rising at 4:30 a.m. and THEN ask him to help you bring the mantel up from the corner of the basement so the contractor can take some measurements and provide an estimate.

Ignore your husband when he exclaims, “FINE. BUT IT’S NOT GOING BACK DOWN THERE.” Wave your hands in a sarcastic, dismissive manner when he threatens to chop the antique mantel into many, many pieces and throw it into the fire pit. Do not, under any circumstances, suggest this might be ill-advised since, “it’s probably covered in lead paint anyway.”

Step 14: Get a response from your contractor that indicates the mantel installation is doable but that provides no indication of a work start date.

With great enthusiasm, relay this information to your husband. Watch him have much less enthusiasm.

Step 15: Pretend, along with your husband, that the new antique mantel isn’t currently sitting in the middle of your living room, leaning precariously against a buffet, like a ticking time bomb. Like an elephant in the room that is almost the actual size of a small elephant.


Convince yourself that the old newspaper and small kindling your husband is gathering is for an entirely unrelated project.

Made for the Country

St. Patrick’s Day is not just another useless holiday upon which I refuse to wear green or decorate my house. It’s an anniversary for our family. Yesterday marked two years since we left Richmond and moved to the country.

Now, someone will probably read this at some point that actually lives in the country and they’re going to roll their eyes and say, “Lady, I’m 70 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart so you don’t even know country.” And, to that, I would say, “Fair point.” Our rural side of this county isn’t really, truly country. But, we are surrounded by farms. Sure, they exist mostly to provide our nearest organic grocer with local artisanal herbed goat cheese that costs $25 a pound but, they’re still farms. And, sure, sometimes the horses that abound seem rather decorative. I mean, they’re not for herding cattle or anything. But, still, you can’t have horses in the city. So, I think this means we’re in the country. Also, and this is an important point, we have snakes. And, I think an abundance of snakes is the one requirement for country life, right? Yes, I think that’s correct.

Charlie believes whole-heartedly that he lives in the country. A couple of weeks ago, I was waiting in the car for one of the kids. (Or, maybe it was Bob. I’m not sure. I’m always in the car waiting on someone. Always.) Anyway, I was in the car in the driveway and Charlie walked up to my open window and I leaned out and he asked on tiptoes, “Mom, do you think I was made for the country?” I instantly smiled and replied, “Yes, Charlie, you were made for the country.”

Could he *be* wearing any more camouflage?

Said in my best Chandler Bing voice, “Could he *be* wearing any more camouflage?”

Charlie loves this house and this location and this country more than any of the rest of us combined. When school was called off for the primary elections a couple of weeks back, Henry, Millie and I took it as an opportunity to stay in our pajamas, watching our favorite shows or lazily building Lego or coloring at the dining room table. Basically, all indoor cat activities. When I called Charlie for second breakfast and he didn’t respond, I peered out the kitchen window, assuming he must have gone outside. Sure enough, there he was, out front, patching up a portion of our gravel driveway that had turned to mud in the rainy weather. He had dressed himself, put his John Deere work gloves on, popped open the garage door, gathered his tools in his Gator and headed out to get to rearranging that gravel.


Charlie is simply his best self when he is outside. And, I am so delighted that we can give that to him; a great life out of doors. Now that the weather has warmed, each afternoon, he arrives home from school and, most times, his backpack doesn’t even make it in the front door. It gets deposited somewhere in the garage as he pulls out his bike or his little motorcycle, grabs his helmet and off he goes, making endless loops around our neighborhood square or hitting the trails that run behind the house and around the ponds. I am so grateful for this space for him, for this backdrop to his childhood.


Bob and I feel blessed every day, too, to have found this house. And, after two years, we are ready to embark on some bigger changes to our home. We’ve done lots of cosmetic things over the past year or two like paint and fixtures and lighting but we both feel it’s time to tackle the basement. We are sitting on a tremendous amount of unfinished square footage down there and capturing that space would make our compact home feel twice as big, quite literally since we live on a single story.

Finishing the basement really benefits everyone. The kids have been arguing more and more, as kids at these ages are wont to do. Having a big rec room on an entire other well-insulated floor of the house would give Bob and I the option of just shoving our children down there and closing the door instead of rationally settling their disputes like responsible parents. The plush carpet we’re going to line the space with will give them a soft place to land. So, we’re all pretty much on board with this plan.

Now, we just have to actually make the remodel happen, which, just thinking about the process makes me twitchy. The contractors, the budget monitoring, dealing with all of the crap that currently resides in the basement, the terrifying noise of a still-running air compressor going off in the middle of the night, the dust. THE DUST.

Simply writing about it all is making me feel panicky so let’s look at one more cute picture of Charlie instead.


I was helping Charlie brush his teeth yesterday morning before school and he leaned over, gave me a huge hug and said, “Did you know? Every time I hug you? I’m charging you with love.” You know, like an iPad or something.

Good gravy. This kid. My absolute favorite country boy.