December 15, 2008


Posted in life at 7:49 pm by Michael

Friday night was classic Seattle in the winter. It was rainy, the wind was blowing, and it’s dark by about 4:15pm. On the weekends that we have the big kids, Anh goes over to Sammamish to pick them up from school when they get out at about 3:30pm. We usually just meet at home (she gets home w/the kids well before me), even though she drives right past Microsoft on her way. I’m usually still working.

Last Friday though, my meetings were over at 4, so I checked traffic (isn’t the Internet wonderful?), and it was *horrible*. Like a two hour plus commute home horrible. I called Anh just after 4pm to see if she wanted to stop at Microsoft and pick me up and we’d carpool home. No such luck, she had just passed the exit, and blammo, had hit traffic. The problem with SR 520 (one of the main roads from Redmond to Seattle) is that once you past the last Microsoft exit, the next opportunity to get off is well into the traffic zone, so you are generally stuck. Anh was stuck.

Our first plan was for her to still try to turn around and come back to get me. An hour later, and a mile further, this was clearly a bad plan. New plan – meet in Bellevue – get dinner – wait out the traffic – then go home.

We ended up converging on the Bellevue Square Mall at about 530pm, and found a place to eat. (Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse – they are nice, accommodated the three kids very nicely, and even created a “kids cup” for Samwich out of a disposable paper soup cup with lid, with a hole punched in the top for a straw. Very inventive. One of the ways we now distract Samwich during dinner (he’s 21 months old today!) is with a Zune (The 30GB version ). I’ve loaded a bunch of movies for him on there (Cars, Bug’s Life, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo, etc) – and even though he doesn’t want to wear headphones/earbuds, and it just watching it w/o sound, he’s more than content. It makes dinner out bearable. Maybe we are bad parents, but, it works, and it keeps us and our fellow diners sane. Said Zune is also very useful on airplanes. I’m sure iPods are great too. I work at Microsoft. 🙂 )

Anyway, we had dinner, did a little Christmas shopping, and ventured home at about 8pm.  John was with me, Peri and Samwich with Anh. Traffic had abated.

We got home at about 830pm, I parked in the driveway, Anh on the street (one car in the driveway at a time – and Anh prefers the street as the driveway is steep and narrow). I got some stuff out of the back of my car, John started up the stairs with a load of stuff, and I went over to get some more stuff out of Anh’s car. Peri and Anh started up, with Anh carrying Samwich.

As I got to the base of the stairs, I heard Anh yell,

“Megan, we’ve been robbed.”

“Huh?”, I yelled?

“We’ve been robbed.”

“Call 911, don’t touch anything.”

I could hear Anh calling…..

I went upstairs, and went through the front door. In our TV room, the TV was disconnected, lying on the couch. The Xbox and two old (and broken) laptops were in Anh’s backpack (which was upstairs in her closet). In the family room, underneath the TV, there was a pillowcase from upstairs that had been filled with presents under the Christmas tree.

Upstairs, both of our nightstand drawers were on the bed, their contents emptied. The master bathroom drawers had been opened (Looking for drugs? If they wanted some estrogen, they were in LUCK!)

Our master closet had been tossed as well.

In the upstairs den, there were wrapped presents that had been half opened, looking for valuable stuff. (If they were into Cars like Samwich, they were IN LUCK!)

As we looked around, it looked like lots of stuff had been taken apart, but there wasn’t a lot missing.

John said that went he went up the stairs that the front door was open.

There were no other doors/windows that were obviously forced or broken.

Dammit. We have an alarm – a good one – monitored, redundant. We hadn’t turned it on. We had become complacent. Because we had not had any past problems, we assumed it was safe. Classic error – assuming that what happened in the past would continue to be the future.

As we did more investigation, looking for what was missing, it was clear that the answer was “Not Much”. In fact, the only things that we found were missing were our small Zune (8gb), and about $5 worth of Chinese Yuan that were in my nightstand drawer.

Robber #1 (unaware of the exchange rate): “Dude, I scored a big forty of Yu-annnnn.”
Robber #2 (more wordly): “Yo, that’s like, $5 at this exchange rate.”

About 20 minutes later, the police showed up. The patrol officer was super nice. He looked for prints, and found none. At one point he commented how he was surprised that he didn’t find prints given how clean that the stuff was. Clearly, our visitors wore gloves.

He got our info, gave us a report number, and he was off.

Our house was still a mess.

It was almost 10pm

While the officer was there, we put Samwich to bed – at least he was unaware of what was going on.

Peri and John were a little more upset. They felt violated, and so did we.

I started thinking about what could have scared them off. There were delivery boxes in the front. Was it that? Did UPS save us? That didn’t make sense. The boxes were still outside, but the front door was open. Why would that scare them?

Finally, it occurred to me.

We scared them off. From our living room, you have a clear view of the street and driveway. There were clearly at least two of them. When we arrived, someone was in the living room, and someone else was either upstairs, or taking apart the TV for removal.

They saw us, and they clearly left in a hurry – they didn’t even bother to take the backpacks that they had packed.

They saw me pull into the driveway, and were off– probably out the front door, and then jumped over a rail, and out the back through some bushes.

As I was cleaning up, it was gnawing at me. How did this happen? How do I stop it? How do I protect my family?

About an hour later, Peri and John were tired, and they went to bed, with a little more reassuring than usual.

Anh and I were up for a while more – straightening, cleaning, making right.

People were in my house.


They went through my stuff.

They stole from us. They were going to steal more.

What would have happened if they hadn’t got out in time – what would have happened if John and Peri met them at the door?

Anh was tired at about 1230 and went to bed. I stayed up for a little longer, then went to bed, but I didn’t sleep. I think I got probably an hour’s sleep that whole night.

The next morning we all got up (well, Samwich got up, and we all followed).

After breakfast, I went to Home Depot to get all manner of door reinforcing devices.

I spent all day installing the new devices.

Hammering, chiseling, drilling, screwing, cathartic.

At one point John said:

“A house should be your castle, but not your fortress.”

How does he come up with this stuff?

Hammering, chiseling, drilling, screwing, hmmm…..

That night, it started to snow. It started to really feel like Christmas.

Snowy Seattle

Snowy Seattle


Snowy Tree

Snowy Tree

Snow relaxes me.

However, I didn’t sleep much better Saturday night. Turns out that we had forgotten our security code for the security system. After about an hour earlier in the day of going through all of the combinations that we normally use, we had determined that we had totally forgotten.

The only way to reset a master code is to totally reset/hard boot the security panel. There was no way to do that w/o having a tech come out, and that was days, not hours away.

More than anything I wanted the reassurance of the alarm – not for our stuff, but for my family. I would do anything for them.

I had decided that the quickest way to fix the panel was to “brute force” the code. That means sequentially going through each and every code (in order), till the right code was found.

I spent a couple more hours Saturday night doing the brute force method.

Four numbers in the code….

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Anh said, “Megan, it’s no use. Come to bed.”

I tried for a while more.

I climbed into bed weary from the day, but unable to sleep.

I think I got about four hours of sleep that night.

The next morning we woke up to a snowy and impassible Sunday morning. I know it sounds lame, and it hurts my New England genes when I say it, but when we get an inch or two of snow, the hills (like our road) are just impassible.

I made the kids chocolate chip pancakes (specialty of the house), and they were quickly devoured. Samwich was especially happy, and ended up mooching more off of his sister’s plate.

After breakfast, I started in surreptitiously trying to brute force the code again.

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“Beep beep beep! Invalid Code”

Number, number, number, number

“System Active”


I tried again.

Number, number, number, number

“System Active”


“Anh, I got it!, I got it!”

“No WAY!”


I tried to activate, deactivate the system, and it worked!

Wow, isn’t technology great?

With a newfound sense of relief and renewal, we all got ready to go for a walk to go play in the snow.

The kids got bundled up, ready for the snow and the cold. They all went outside, and I was the last one out.

Security – Alarm – Away – Activate.

“Beep Beep Beep. System Armed.”

That was the first time that we were all out of the house since Friday night.

As I walked down the stairs I felt better but worse. I’d now done all I could do to protect my house, my family.

It felt like cold medicine though – treating the symptom but not the cause.

It was all I could do.



  1. mikewalzman said,

    hey, I didn’t read your whole post, I’m very impatient forgive me : ) But i just wanted to comment on the pic of the snowy tree, its AMAZING! I wish you well

  2. Eddie said,

    Hi Megan,
    I’m very saddened to read this post. I hope you, Anh and the kids are feeling better now. I’m glad you got the security system working for your house, and it should help to prevent this from happening again. You have done a lot to protect your family!

    I hope you guys can put this incident behind and have a great holiday season!

  3. paul said,

    Hi Megan,

    What happened to you, happened to us a bit over a year ago. It definitely sucks. The scary thing for us was that my wife and youngest daughter must also have surprised the burglars because they heard a door downstairs slam when they were trying to make sense of the upstairs.

    We lost about $10k worth of stuff – a lot of it my camera equipment. Definitely a pain to replace, but fortunately everything we lost *could* be replaced.

    Interestingly, the person most freaked by the whole thing was me, not the kids.

    Hope you all stay safe.

  4. KarynM said,

    Hey Megan,

    Just saw this post tonight. We’ve had no power since Wed night! (Gotta love New England)

    Anyway I know it stinks you were violated like that, I know how that feels. The thing that really matters most is that your family and you are ok. Having someone break into your home and steal from you certainly changes you and makes you a lot more aware of things. The only thing that is important is that which cannot be replaced and thankfully, they are safe …


  5. Kris from AR said,

    Oh my gosh, Megan! I am so sorry to hear this news. I know that any time I leave our house here in Arkansas, I freak out every time. It got to a boiling point when one of the girls I work with who lived just down the road from me was robbed while she and her fiance were out. Before leaving for Thanksgiving and leaving my house 4 hours away from me, I had my roommate’s boyfriend come out every day to check the house. I was much relieved.

    I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts, Megan!

  6. THomas Johnson said,

    It is so easy to be complacent with an alarm system. I swear by mine (middle of the district of Columbia)….and it is not so much while I am away and more for while I am sleeping. Just make it a habit and you will be fine! Happy Holidays!

  7. OMG, Megan, I gasped out loud when I read this! I had no idea this had happened. The thing is, I was just talking to my family about how we had become complacent and how with the economy so bad right now crime rates are going up.

    I’m SO GLAD no one was hurt. On a lesser scale I’m glad they didn’t get away with much. But, man, what a scary thing to have happen.

    HUGS to all of you,


  8. M.A. said,

    Oh, dammit! I had no idea this had happened to you guys — I still recall how awful it felt when my parents’ house was burgled when I was a teen, and I’m sorry you and the kids have gone through it. VERY glad you’re all safe, of course! Love, M.A.

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