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?

Home Improvement(s)

We have been in the new house for just shy of three months now. Our modest initial plans for this home centered mostly around a few interior updates. When a couple of those interior jobs turned into more difficult projects than we originally anticipated (looking at you weird beam in our great room), we decided to do a mini-makeover to the exterior while we waited on a handyman to take over inside.

Plus, the warm weather arrived and we began spending so much time outdoors that I could no longer ignore the possibilities – so many possibilities – for a simple, updated, fresh exterior that was more our style. Also, I cannot leave anything alone. Ever.

Here’s what we started with after clearing the porch of what the previous owner left behind:


The front door was in need of a more welcoming paint color. With the tan siding, proposed new black shutters and gray fieldstone-faced front porch, I thought a yellow would be perfect.

Now, in case you’re wondering, Bob and I have a super precise method of picking paint colors that goes something like this: (1.) take three small children to Home Depot on a Saturday precariously close to lunchtime; (2.) look for desired shade amongst thousands of offerings in the paint department by giving your spouse only a vague description of a yellow “that’s, you know, warm;” (3.) ask rowdy, hungry children to settle down; (4.) get huffy with spouse when he picks several colors that aren’t “warm” enough; (5.) threaten misbehaving children with consequences they know you will never follow through on; (6.) find every possible yellow swatch but the one you really want; (7.) realize that one child has pooped in her pants; (8.) grab whatever yellow is in closest proximity, pronounce it perfect and place the order.

Here’s what we ended up with:

IMG_2726I finished putting the first coat of paint on the front door just hours before Bob suffered his stroke. And, during the lengthy hospital stay that followed, I became determined to finish it for his homecoming. It took my mind off circumstances and afforded me an opportunity to be in control of something.

I replaced the kick plate and tried to do the same with the door knocker, which was engraved with the last name of the previous occupants. However, I could absolutely not find a door knocker available with the same center hole dimensions as the one I wanted to replace. Since I wasn’t too excited about drilling another hole in the front door (I have no idea how to even do that), I removed the engraved last name from the existing door knocker with some high-grit sandpaper and roughed up the rest of it in a like manner before covering it all in some red spray paint I had stashed in the basement. It turned out to be a satisfying short-term fix, even if I did feel a little weird about erasing their last name.


The porch is actually a great size and there is a seating area at the bottom of the steps which means we didn’t need a spot for a bench or chairs. So, some potted plants were in order. Everything on the front porch, with the exception of the plants, came from the old house. Bob loathes the hiking sticks in the corner but we use them all the time and they are very handy right there and proper storage and organization is MY thing so, therefore, I win.


Switching out the shutters took a bit more expertise. The previous shutters were a rust color and showing signs of wear. I suppose I could have painted them but that seemed like a lot of work and with the sun hitting this side of the house with intensity, I wasn’t sure if the effort would be worth it. Plus, did I mention they were rust-colored?


Now, they’re black and look super crisp and fresh. The hardest part about replacing the shutters was finding versions that were the exact same dimensions as what was previously there. I wanted this to be a simple swap so keeping the same size made for easy re-hanging (says the person that totally didn’t re-hang them). My dad had the new shutters in place in a matter of hours though so, mission accomplished.


If you saw the rest of the yard, you might cringe so I won’t pan out too far in the photos. We inherited a huge variety of plants in varying degrees of health so next week a crew is coming to remove everything so we can start from scratch. (Too much for Stroke Bob to take on and too much possibility of snake encounters and/or poison ivy for me.) I’m so excited to have a fresh slate with the landscaping though and until that’s all in place, I’ll just have to focus on everything we have managed to accomplish in the past three months. Most notably, the fact that I’ve kept the flowers alive.


Bits and Pieces

I’m a little scattered today so this bit of writing is bound to be as well. I blame the very large stack of back-to-school papers I completed last night. Haven’t we found a better way to do that yet? I feel like if I can turn the air conditioning on in my house from four states away, then surely our paperwork for school can be shifted online.

Speaking of school, second grade is happening around here.


He appeared, fully dressed, at my door at 6:30 a.m. I’m pretty sure this enthusiasm will fade by Friday.

I think my biggest wish for this upcoming year is that Henry will learn to love to read. Reading really finally clicked for him in the middle of the last school year but he still doesn’t see it as an enjoyable way to pass the time. I read for FUN when I was his age so I’m hoping he will soon discover the joy that can be found in books. I could, perhaps, help influence this by curbing the television and Lego-games-on-my-phone time so perhaps that’s what we’ll do around here this year. Care to share any tips on how you control electronic time at your house?

(I’m pretty sure my dad is rolling his eyes right now and bemoaning the fact that we just don’t say, “NO!” when the TV clicks on or the laptop opens but what’s modern-day parenting without some sort of color-coded reward chart with stickers and complicated point values? Right, DAD?)

Work on the laundry room continues.


That bit of yellow next to the baseboard was our first painting attempt. It dried way too bright and then we just never did anything about it. We are horrible at home-owning.

A new washer and dryer, bright new light fixture and clearing out all of the junk that belonged elsewhere anyway has helped tremendously. We still haven’t cracked the can of paint. Painting requires a specific time commitment. It’s not something you can start, pause and come back to, which is how we have to handle any task around here because: kids. Even loading the dishwasher is never guaranteed to be completed in one go. We’ll get there. Even if we have to get up before dawn to thwart them, we’ll get there. And, we can’t just shut the laundry room door and lock them all out because we removed it. To make the room more OPEN. Of course!

In her continued effort to prove she is nothing like the ones that came before her, Millie appears to be a bit of a night owl.


Keeping things fresh by keeping us guessing.

She gets up late in the morning and stays up late at night. I… don’t know if this is okay? She’s not quite two years old (even though she tries desperately to convince us otherwise). So, I can’t imagine that’s normal. She has begun to fight her afternoon nap as well and that will not stand. WILL NOT STAND! For years, the boys have abided by my wish to cease all parenting responsibilities at 8:00 p.m. and are usually sound asleep by 8:30. I can still hear Millie “reading” in her room after 9:00. I guess it’s not a big deal as long as she can keep her act together during the day but listening to her yelling at her dolls is really distracting when mommy’s trying to watch her shows.

Just to put the exclamation point on the world’s most disjointed essay, now I will complain about the weather.

I think I have the opposite of that seasonal affective disorder that makes people all super sad in the winter time. I get super sad when summer won’t end. Specifically, the heat and humidity. The arrival of September is really no different than the arrival of August around here. Sweater weather isn’t a guarantee until November at the earliest. (Does anyone wear sweaters anymore? I feel like fleece has replaced all the sweaters.) I love a more temperate environment and think I could be happy in Vermont or Maine or any of those misty-looking places in the Pacific Northwest.

And, because I have no neat way to wrap this up, where would you live if you could live anywhere?