After spending a lovely Christmas with my parents (with the exception of missing my husband), the boys (minus Blake) and I drove around and looked at Christmas lights for a while before we came home. When we got home, it was probably somewhere between 8:30-9:00pm - time for the boys to be in bed. I got them unloaded and we came in the house.
It hit me immediately. Something was wrong. I was talking on the phone with Chris as we walked in the door from the garage, and he heard me when I gasped "Oh my God! The back door is open. It's open!" It was about 3 or 4 inches agape. I stood there for a moment, then Chris said "Take the boys and get out of the house." So we turned around and went back out. I put them in the van, locked the doors and started back towards the house. Chris and I discussed what I should do next. I asked where the gun was (he has a shot gun for hunting, and I was hoping it was in the garage), and he told me it was in the bedroom closet. Not helpful. I thought about getting the bug spray and something heavy to hit with or maybe a shovel to use as a shield. I ended up going back in with nothing. Chris had me look around, and I went as far in as to turn on the hall light. Then we both got freaked out and decided I should call the police.
I went back outside, and right at that moment the van alarm started blaring. Leave it to 3-year-old boys to mess around with all of the buttons and switches they can get their little hands on when Mommy is not there and they are not buckled in their car seats. I had grabbed the home phone before going back out, and I called 911. They said they would send a police officer right over.
I got back into the van with the boys, and chatted with Chris while we waited for the police. At this point, my thoughts were that there had not been a break-in. From the brief time that I was inside, I noticed that my dog was still alive and that he did not seem to be freaking out at all. I'm thinking if someone had really intended to burgle us, then they would not let a dog stop them. And I really don't know how much of a threat Jaz really is, but he would at least bark his head off at a stranger, especially if Chris and I were not around. I would think an ill-intentioned intruder would put a stop to that. Secondly, the stuff that I would think would be desirable (and easy!) to lift quickly was still in place and intact (TV, laptop, etc.). I thought of the possibility that perhaps someone maybe had intended on breaking in, but only got the door open so far before the barking dog scared him (I'm not trying to be sexist here - it's just easier) off. The last scenario that we entertained was that perhaps the wind blew it open a bit (even though there is a storm door on the outside of it that closes towards the house, AND it wasn't really windy today).
We had concluded that I must have left the door unlocked. I sometimes do this, and Chris has (repeatedly) requested that I lock it EVERY TIME I let the dog back inside, even if we are there. Just to get in the habit, he says. Well, I do try to remember, I honestly do. But my brain is not all that reliable anymore. And it is really frustrating! But I have left it unlocked before when we've gone somewhere, and I've received more than one lecture about not doing that. So I was feeling really guilty about it, and Chris was giving me a quite stern lecture about how this is why he says to lock it every time, yadda yadda yadda.
I saw the patrol car come slowly down our road. I knew it was the police because the lights were almost off, and then they turned them off completely and turned into a drive or something a couple of houses down. Chris informed me that this was standard protocol, and that they would most likely approach our house on foot. I kept talking with him and was looking down the road, and then I turned my head to see a face right outside the van window. Talk about an adrenaline rush - that about scared me half to death. It was the police officer. Whew. I tried to apologize for startling and he put his finger up to his lips for me to be quiet. I was impressed with (and intimidated by) his serious demeanor. He meant business. He was going to serve and protect us, and I was in awe.
The officer had me come with him so he could ask me a few questions. Had I gone in? Were there any dogs in the house? Would the dog try to bite? Was there anyone else in there? Those kinds of things. I asked if I should try to get the dog out of the house, and he said yes. I was still on my cell phone with Chris, and I tried to call the dog out (after he had his initial bark at the officer who was standing between the dog and me). I was asking Chris where a collar or leash was, and I must have been taking too long because the officer then said to me, "Hang up the phone and pick up the dog." Yes sir! I complied immediately, and realized then that my dog is really overweight. I mean, I already knew that, but sheesh he's heavy.
The boys were having a grand old time in the van, and were pleased as punch to see the dog join the party. I watched the officer begin his search, gun outstretched, like they do in the movies. I was relieved, scared, thrilled, and really grateful all at the same time. It gave me a chance to think about how serious police officers train for their jobs, and how hard they work to be prepared for scary situations. And I felt very confident that this officer was good at his job. He made me feel safe and secure from the get-go.
I saw another officer appear from the darkness and enter the house through the garage. And a few minutes after that, another one. There were 3 police officers in my home! Making sure we were going to be safe from harm. And all I could think at that point was - oh man, they are inside my disaster area of a house. The clutter! The mess! Can they even walk around in there? I joked with Chris about this (we needed some levity, OK?), saying "I'm sorry miss, but we could not locate any perpetrators underneath all of the clutter. We're going to have to excavate immediately." He chuckled. Meanwhile the boys were happily eating a snack of pancakes (I had brought some leftovers home from my parents' house), not concerned in the least.
A woman officer showed up outside the van (that made 4! 4 police officers at my house!) and told me that I needed to go inside and inspect the place to see if anything looked amiss. She said she would watch the kids and the dog. They were delighted to talk with her. I went inside, and the first police officer said that there was no sign of forced entry or tampering with anything, but that the door was unlocked. I admitted that it was probably my fault, and he told me how important it is that I always lock the doors when I leave (where have I heard that before?). I was pretty convinced that there had not been an intruder, as I looked over and saw some Christmas cash lying out in plain view that had gone untouched. I inspected the rest of the house, and everything seemed to be completely normal. As I looked inside the nursery, I was SOOO thankful that I didn't have the baby with me (he would have not been patient or happy at all). Once I was finished, the officers gave me the all-clear to get my kids out of the van and go inside. I thanked them and wished them a Merry Christmas.
I still felt uneasy about it all. I am by myself, after all, with two little kids under my care. I let the dog out. He barked (as he usually does - we have cats who sometimes get into our yard), and I wondered - is he barking at a lurking stranger intending to do us harm? I tried to put those thoughts out of my head.
I got the boys to bed and decided to call my parents to let them know what had happened, and to ask for some extra prayers for safety and protection (besides the lecture, Chris made it very clear that he was not comfortable with us living on our own - he's such a great protector!). My dad answered, and I told him of our excitement. He stopped me before I got very far and said, "Um...I think maybe I left the door open." What? Oh yeah. I had totally forgotten that he came to my place today to grab some stuff, and while he was here he let the dog out. Then he must have gotten distracted (he did fix a hinge on the door leading to the garage) and didn't close the door all the way. He apologized profusely for putting us through that, and I was like - are you kidding? I am so thankful it was you and not some intruder! I did have to ask if he remembered whether or not he had to unlock the door when he let the dog out. He said he did remember, and that he did have to unlock it. Which means I did lock it in the first place! Hooray! I did make sure to let Chris know when I called him back.
When I put the boys to bed, I hugged them extra tight. And during prayers, I thanked God for those police officers and our dog. And you know what? I was not even irritated in the least by my dad's blunder. I just kept thinking of how grateful I was (am!) that I had an answer for what had happened. And I was so glad that I called my dad, even though I thought maybe I shouldn't since it was 10:00pm and everything was fine. I am just glad that I can take a sigh of relief and feel safe in my home once more. And besides that, it was kind of an adventure. It was a thrill to see those police officers in action. For my sake. They put their lives in danger and answer the call of duty daily to make this world a better place. And it made me think of the true meaning of Christmas once again. Not such a bad way to end Christmas, after all.