Go ahead, shimmy down the stairs

By Mir
May 30, 2014

The first rule of the Internet is: You don’t talk about the Internet.

Wait. That’s something else. Whoops!

No, the first rule of the Internet is: You don’t announce when you’re going out of town, because surely someone in your Facebook feed whom you haven’t seen in person since 1986 or some random blog reader who suspects you have really awesome socks will break into your house while you’re gone, so pretend you’re not traveling. (Socks? That seems improbable. As does some random robbing us, which is sort of the point.)

Anyhoo. In the past I’ve always been sort of vague about trips because I’m paranoid and whatever, but no more! HEY INTERNET, we’re going on a family trip. C’mon over and try to break into our house, if you like. You’ll recognize it because it’s the one with a dozen PROTECTED BY OFFICIAL-SOUNDING ALARM SYSTEM COMPANY signs all over it, now. This is because 1) we recently has the Official-Sounding Alarm System Company spend a fun-filled day here drilling holes into pretty much everything and 2) I’m pretty fond of my socks and don’t want them stolen.

The dogs are at the Puppy Spa (why yes, we did opt for the “daily nature walk” for Licorice—only Licorice, as a “daily nature carry” was not offered for Duncan—and afternoon Frosty Paws treats for both dogs) and a friend has been enlisted to water the vegetables if it doesn’t rain and I am pretty sure that if anyone so much as breathes sideways on the exterior of the house, it will blare sirens and call the police and maybe even spontaneously combust.

You have to understand, I am not a house alarm sort of person. I am scared of many, many (OMG SO MANY) things, but burglary isn’t one of them, I guess. We have locks on the doors. Our house is pretty ordinary, well-lit, and in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a crime issue. It just never really occurred to me that this was something we might want. Alarms are something people install out of FEAR! Or, you know, actual thought. We hadn’t thought about it.

With a preface like that, you may now be confused as to why we installed an alarm. “Why, Mir,” you are possibly thinking right now (if you haven’t wandered off in boredom, that is) “that kind of sounds like you never thought about getting an alarm. Yet… you got an alarm. How much have you been drinking, exactly?”

Yeah, we got an alarm. No, I haven’t been drinking.

Funny story! Except… it’s not a funny story. At all. And I’m going to be vague and annoying, so apologies in advance, but let’s sum it up this way: Once upon a time, not all that long ago, someone I love VERY VERY MUCH got up and slept-walked their way out of our house in the middle of the night. By the time one dog started freaking out and woke up the other dog and the rest of us were awake wondering what the hell had gotten into the dogs, it was like a scene out of some alien abduction movie, because said someone was GONE without clothes or keys or even shoes, it seemed, and all the doors were locked so it was unclear how the exit had even been achieved.

Spoiler: Everyone is fine, but it was an awful, AWFUL hour (that felt like about ten years), and a 911 call, and a very disoriented family member who was discovered walking down a busy street in the wee hours, and did I mention it was awful? Because it was. Awful.

The very next day we purchased several battery-operated motion detectors and placed them around strategically at bedtime. They go BONGBONG! if activated, and while the idea is that they’d easily be activated by a wandering human, it turns out that they are also easily activated by a small dog who slips out a bedroom door during a bathroom run. It took only a couple of incidents of dog-related BONGBONG! for us to decide that perhaps we needed professional help.

And that is how Casa Mir came to be wired and electronically activated to the gills; it’s not so much to keep bad guys out as it is to keep everyone else in. (Try sharing that with the alarm installation folks if you get your own alarm, by the way. We saw a lot of really interesting facial expressions during this process.) And sure, if we’re going to go ahead and get wired, let’s do the whole shebang.

We now have integrated smoke detectors and every door and window in the joint is somehow connected to an enormous box of wires that now lives in the back of our coat closet. We have a panic button and a HELP I’VE FALLEN AND I CAN’T GET UP button and a user manual roughly the same size as the OED. We also have a single motion detector on the ground floor, which was the very last thing set up by the team of nice gentlemen who spent an entire day drilling holes in the house. They started at about 9:00 in the morning and got to this “electronic eye” around 6:30, so it was a pretty long day.

Installer Guy: So you can see this little red light goes on when it sees you, and you’ve got coverage in this whole area, here. See how I’m triggering it?
Me: Oh, cool. Hey, let me see what happens when I come around this corner.
Installer Guy: Triggered it.
Me: Awesome. Lemme try the stairs. Can it see to the stairs?
Installer Guy: Yeah, it should.
Me: I don’t see the light.
Installer Guy: Give it a sec.
Me: I’m down the stairs. I’m in the kitchen. THE LIGHT DIDN’T GO OFF. IT DIDN’T SEE ME.
Installer Guy: Hmmm. That should’ve worked.
Me: Can you adjust the range? Change the angle?
Installer Guy: Sure, give me a second.

This was followed by a delightful hour of him climbing a ladder, taking down the sensor, drilling some new holes, re-mounting the sensor, and us taking turns doing various sorts of interpretive dance in the swath of real estate between the bedrooms and any sort of access to the outdoors. As soon as one of us failed to trigger the sensor at a reasonable movement, back up on the ladder he’d go. At one point—I swear this is true—Installer Guy had gotten so into this entire exercise that he was all “Let me try!” prior to snaking his way down the staircase flat on his back. It was pretty entertaining.

At long last, the sensor was properly mounted and angled on the teensy piece of undrilled wall which was left after 90 minutes of this fun.

Even now, it seems a little bit overkill, to me, but I’ll admit I’ve slept a lot better since the installation. As freak of a thing as it was, The Night Of The Vanishing, I never EVER want to go through that again. And now no one is getting out of the house undetected unless they’re well and truly awake. (We think.)

And! Now we can go away and not have to worry about the house being robbed. I mean, not that I worried about that, before, but I might’ve decided to worry about it, and now I don’t.

This frees me up for other things, like spending the two days before we leave trying to do an entire week’s worth of work every day, strategically using up all of the perishable food in the house, refilling prescriptions and packing pill cases for the entire family, organizing my suitcase and Monkey’s suitcase and haranguing Chickadee to for the love of all that is holy put down your phone and go pack, running to the store for things we forgot two or three times, frantically smashing the ONLINE CHECK IN button our airline’s website at precisely 24 hours prior to departure to try to get a decent boarding position, cleaning, etc. It also leaves me PLENTY of time to feel impotent rage over spending two days running around like a crazy person and then my darling, darling, very cute (it is a good thing he is cute) husband announcing the night before departure, “I think I’ll go pack,” and returning 10 minutes later to say he’s all ready to go.

Our adventure begins very soon, and while we’re away, our socks (and everything else) will be well-protected. You can come over and test the system if you want, though. Just do me a favor and pretend to be sleeping, when you do. That’ll make me feel like it was really the right decision.


  1. Karen

    We have one and I can promise you the #1 rule of having an alarm is that it will ONLY malfunction in the middle of the night, never during daytime hours and never even when you are awake.

    • Heather

      You forgot when you are working in another office that is TWICE as far as your normal one. There was a time where our alarm had gone off so much the police department would call us before they came… =/

  2. Mary Fran

    The first time we had a break-in call was at 6:30am on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the operator told us that EVERY ZONE IS ACTIVATED! I had visions of a whole gang ripping through our house. Turns out that after a power outage, the system freaks out when power is restored. As you can imagine, we get that call a lot. At least now I don’t worry so much when they call…

  3. Sharon

    I have thought about a security system but the issues you’ve mentioned have given me pause. We don’t have anyone sleep walking into the night so we have time to consider our options. Now that the house is secure, enjoy your time away;)

  4. Kim

    Oh, oh, oh, am I the only one who has absolutely no repect for your privacy and wants all the details, dangit?

    Oh. Well, nevermindthen. Very, very glad that everyone is ok. Holy cow, I’m having palpitations just thinking about it. No wonder you need a vacation.

    • Pip

      I want to know the details too, but I’m being polite :-D

      My bet is that it’s either Otto or Chickie or Monkey. See how I narrowed that down?

    • js

      My vote is for Otto, because she’s posted some of the strange conversations they’ve had while he was asleep here before. However, it seems like she would just share that one. So it must be one of the kids, since she protective of their privacy, rightfully so. Of course, I don’t like to pry… Ah, the powers of deductive reasoning at work.

  5. RuthWells

    It’s never boring over there, is it? Have a wonderful trip!

  6. Brigitte

    Ah, makes me remember the time my MIL installed one without telling us. We popped by with our 2-year-old nephew, and things all blared like crazy because we didn’t know the code (luckily, I was able to prevent nephew from a total freak-out). It was rather embarrassing (and noisy) waiting around to explain things to the police and alarm company.

    Just glad you shall not have more unauthorized midnight ramblings!

  7. Nelson's Mama

    We have an alarm system. After my husband set it off the first time I promptly informed him I’d rather be bludgeoned to death rather than be awakened by it – it’s never been armed!

    Have a great trip. :)

  8. TC

    BUT WHERE ARE YOU GOING? Sheesh. You’re not really scared we’ll all come rob your house! You’re scared we’ll come stalk you on vacation, begging for your time and attention and PLEASE BE MY FRAYENNNNNND. (Or is that just me? Why are you looking at me like that?) ;-)

  9. Leanne

    Very happy everyone is safe and sound! Cudos for being vague.

  10. Lucinda

    When we moved to our current house, our kids were 2 and 3 years old. The house was much larger and we were very nervous about not always being able to hear what the kids were doing. My 2 year old was also known to sleep walk, just like his father had as a child. So we installed an alarm system that announces every time an exterior door is opened. About 2 months after moving in, my husband and I heard the front door open while watching tv. We looked at each other and in unison said “Where’s son?” We raced downstairs to find him halfway down the driveway. Ten years later, we have not turned off this feature because we figure in a few years from now, we will want to hear them when they come home. Glad your system is giving you peace of mind and the ability to sleep again.

  11. js

    Great. Now, not only am I worried because I don’t have an alarm system (my husband sleep walks but he usually just cleans…who wants to stop that?!), I’m concerned you really are going to get robbed. Have a safe trip and an even safer return!

  12. Sara

    Ahhh, the joys of a home security system! I just have one warning: Beware of spiders/spider webs.
    After living in this house for a few years, we awakened to the coronary-inducing blare of the alarm in the wee hours for several days in a row, only to discover absolutely nothing had invaded our home. Finally, upon threat of unspeakable acts from his sleep deprived wife, (me) my beloved checked things over and discovered that it was our lack of corner sweeping hygiene that had triggered our alarm. It seems that spiders sometimes find that little spot by the motion sensor rather cozy and like to live there. Also, did you know that those sensors are sensitive enough to be triggered by one dangling strand of a web?

    Guess who is now much better about keeping cobwebs at bay?

    Enjoy your trip!

  13. suburbancorrespondent

    Ha! Larry and I were just discussing installing a motion detector after another scare the other night with our sleepwalking, night-terror-experiencing 9-year-old. Awful. AND my other sleepwalker is spending a week on a sailboat for Boy Scout Camp. Think I can get them to make him sleep with a life vest on?

  14. Marissa

    My oldest sleep walks, he tried to get out the apartment when he was 3. I usually wake up when I hear him moving around or when the his bedroom door opens. But just in case we have an alarm on the back door and a dead bolt that needs a key to open it on both sides. We put one of those hotel door lock things on the front door, way up high, and told him to never touch it so it woudln’t get into his unconscious. Now he’s 13 and can reach it — might be time for a new fix.

    The worst part of sleep walking is the dead eyes, eyes are open but there’s no one there. So creepy.

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