Guest Post from Bernadette Dalgetty

10 March 2013

Bernadette and her husband, Steve, are fellow alumni from Franciscan. They are super talented photographers, and (most importantly!) are the parents to two of the cutest little girls. I've yet to tire of reading the following account of an extremely unfortunate incident that Bernadette typed about and I have no doubt you'll share my sentiment after you read it too. Cringe, laugh, appreciate your kitchen, and enjoy ....

How (not) to Make Fried Shrimp
-alternate title-
How to get a new kitchen from Travelers
-alternate title-
How to spice up your daughter's baby book

I don't know how many of you reside in the south. Or in the US for that matter. And I don't know if you remember, but this summer was hot. And I don't know if anyone else was pregnant this summer, but I think if you were, you were looking forward to being not pregnant so you would stop shedding liters of sweat and your feet would fit in something other than XL flip-flops. But you know what they say about heat: if you can't take it, get out of the kitchen.

The thing is, after my sweet Ellie was born, I couldn't wait to get back IN the kitchen. I couldn't wait to establish my new "normal" life with 2 kids. But, just like post-partum exercise, you can't rush life like that. Unfortunately, I got cocky. I had brought our great sleeper (4 hour stretches right off the bat, folks. Be jealous.) into our beautiful NEW home, with a relatively tame toddler and I was feeling awesome.

So awesome, in fact, that I had turned down meals from the gracious mom's group at my church, and opted to try a new recipe the first week my husband, Steve, was back at work. One that involved heating oil to fry shrimp. 

Here's a tip: don't leave the lid on oil while it's heating up. Because chances are, when you take that lid off, a really cool science experiment happens: combustion. 

Both of my daughter's were in the kitchen with me when the pan with the oil caught on fire. Their tender ears may have been grazed by a bad word or two. 

Now, what does everyone tell you what to do/what not to do with an oil/grease fire? No water. Cool, check, I was with it enough to remember that (unlike Steve, who, when I called to tell, told me to "get the hose!"). Next step: baking soda, right? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has heard this.) Of course, the baking soda was waaaayyyy back in the pantry and when I chucked some onto the flames they laughed. And by laughed, I mean they got bigger. That was when I called 911. 

I will admit (there is a lot of humility coming in this story, so get ready) that I honestly thought that 911 would simply tell me how to put the fire out. They didn't. They told me to get out of the house. Which I did. Quickly. With my 2 daughters in hand. Did I mention that one was only 2 weeks old?

Luckily, we live like a block from the fire station. So by the time I got out the back porch (attached to our kitchen) and out front to the driveway, the trucks were there. Ellie was sleeping (bless her tiny heart), I was sobbing, and Rosie was excitedly pointing and shouting "Fire Trucks!!!."

Let me paint this picture for you. 

We were the new kids on the block, literally. We had owned this house for about 5 months (owned being relative because we live in the DC metro area and we'll be paying off this house until we get out of purgatory). Our neighbors knew us as the sweet new family with the wife who had just given birth. Now they all could see I couldn't cook, I had a death wish, and how I looked when I ugly-cried. But they were so, so good to us. While I was having visions of my entire new house being destroyed, the firefighters were doing their thing, and Ellie was still sleeping, they were gently ushering me across the street to a neighbors house who housed us for the rest of the evening, fed us, entertained my daughter, and helped me to stop hyperventilating. The fact that we had hit the goldmine when it came to neighborhoods showed in the weeks after the fire when neighbors came to check on us and brought us meals.

Steve was grocery shopping on his way home from work when I called. He could hear the sirens in the background as I sobbed into the phone. Being the awesome husband he is, he was so thankful we were all ok, despite my repeated apologies for burning our new house down. He continued to calm me down as the firefighters explained the damage was actually very minimal, but we couldn't go back into our home for a while. 

Now, can I appeal to you mothers out there? Think back to when you had your newborns. You made a nest, especially when you were nursing. A nest with blankets, pillows, Boppy's, your phone, your iPad, TV remotes, snacks, books, magazines, knitting, get the picture. I was being asked to leave my nest. And that was a little terrifying. I've been brave enough to travel with a baby. But not a 2 week old. The rest of the evening was spent packing essentials to stay with my sister-in-law since a good majority of things needed to be left to be cleaned. Smoke damage is a b****, but more on that later. 

It was around this time that little Ellie realized she had not eaten in a while and awoke from her trauma-ignorant slumber with a vengeance. I began to panic. Why? Because when Rosie, my first daughter, was born, a young, flippant lactation consultant strolled in when I was one day post-partum with my first child and told me my anatomy was not conducive to breastfeeding and therefore I needed to use a nipple shield in order for my baby to latch and nurse properly. (TMI? Sorry. Don't know what I'm talking about? Google it.) Anyway, I had left my shield in the smoke-filled, charred house. And Ellie was getting hangry. So I hastily sent my husband, 2 of my sisters-in-law, my husband's best friend, his wife, and my neighbor to go find it. Nothing like a crowd of people knowing about that part of my life. And now you, dear reader, do too. You're welcome. It gets better.

Well, they couldn't find it, so my sisters-in-law run to Target to buy one. They arrive back, I'm relieved, I situate my self to nurse my newborn aaaaaand, VOILA! The shield was within the confines of my nursing bra the entire time. Awesome. 

For the next few days we camped at my sister-in-law's house. She was so kind to let us stay and interrupt her normal life, to feed us, and to put up with newborn screams late at night that echoed through their house. However she has three children in middle school who were suuuper curious as to what was going on when I put Ellie under the magic blanket that hung around my neck. And I missed my nest. So when Steve called me after a long day of working details out with our insurance agent to tell me it would be even longer until we could move back in, I wept bitterly. 

However, one should be careful what one wishes for, shouldn't she? When the cleaners had finally made our house livable, we moved back in. In hind-sight, the day the fire happened was the easy part. The real hell was what followed. I'll try to just give you the highlights of the next 2 months before we really got our house back:
-I told Steve we essentially moved into our house twice. The cleaners took EVERYTHING or threw out what couldn't be cleaned. Not that I don't appreciate things be purged of a smoke residue and smell but everyone got a little tired of living on 2 outfits after a while and when we finally did get everything back it was daunting. Have you ever had your swim shorts dry-cleaned. I have. Have you ever had to make an inventory of your 2 year old's stuffed animals to make sure they all found their way home safe from the cleaners? I have. The one "moment" I had was when they were unloading some of our clothes from the van. I spied the baptismal gown that I was baptized in, Rosie was baptized in, and we were planning on baptizing Ellie in. I realized in that moment that we could have lost everything. But we didn't. We lost some ugly cabinets and a replaceable oven hood. I had my self a healthy dose of humble pie. 
-We moved to our house from a 2 bedroom apartment. Nothing makes an apartment feel smaller than baby gear. The downstairs of our house is roughly the size of the dining room/kitchen/living room of our old apartment. But that is where I camped out with my 2 daughters during the day while a team of "no Ingles" speaking men painted, renovated and listened to the radio "en Espanol." It was a fun game of "how quick can I cover up" while I was nursing when I would hear footsteps of one of them coming down to tell me they were done for the day or ask what color the wall behind the sink was supposed to be. 
-Renovating your kitchen at any point is awful. Renovating your kitchen when you have 2 small children is even awful-er. Steve and I joked that if it were just us, we would have lived up the fact that the insurance company was covering the cost of meals since we were without means of making ourselves food in our home. We would have eaten out every night. Date night every night! However, once the take-out guy knows your first name and that your 2 year old loves fries, it gets old after a while. 
-One of the "fun" things was the way they sectioned off our kitchen. They put up this plastic sheet with a zipper down the middle so it looked like something straight up out of 'E.T." And because we wanted everyone to experience that in real life and because we had lost our minds, we decided to host a last-minute Labor Day party. Hey, our grill still worked. A ton of people came, probably out of curiosity, and it was a lot of fun.

Overall, it was a...memorable experience. One for the baby book. And we survived. My one neighbor to this day calls me "Fire Lady." I'll pretend it's because of my likeness to Katniss Everdeen. Obviously, the extreme silver lining was the updated kitchen and fresh layers of paint. And who doesn't like dry-cleaned swim shorts? But if you're looking at your kitchen and thinking you could use a change, please put the shrimp down and take the oil off the stove.

(Grace here - is that toddler wearing a cowl?! Jealous on Julia's behalf as well as my own.)


  1. Oh my gosh... You can't make this stuff up! Glad that there was a new kitchen in the deal. Definitely a story to remember! :)

    It's fun to see a couple more fellow alums- I actually remember crossing paths with Scuba a few times.

  2. I've had a similar experience. So grateful for and would highly recommend everyone keep a fire extinguisher in their home. So sorry for the loss/stress of all this though!

  3. I've had a similar experience. So grateful for and would highly recommend everyone keep a fire extinguisher in their home. So sorry for the loss/stress of all this though!

  4. Bernadette!!! So good to find you again and re-adding your blog to my list! So glad you all survived that horrible ordeal!!

  5. So I know this story isn't supposed to be funny, but I appreciate that you wrote it with humor! Made me chuckle!

    Also, totally hope this isn't creepy, but I too live in the DC area and well... if you ever need a babysitter, let me know! I can provide references :)

  6. Oh my goodness...that sounds nightmare-ish! And I thought it was bad when my mom burnt my 1 week old's toe on a hot pan:(

  7. We are moving into a new house soon with our second babe on the way. I will make sure I don't try to fry shrimp.

    And, you're a rock star for not being a complete mess like I would be!

  8. Bernadette and Steve! So glad to run into you in Camp Patton... One of my favorite blogs! Love the way you wrote that story... I also laughed. But only out of love and appreciation for how awesomely you handled it all (Yes, you did handle it awesomely. Trust me.) Sincerely, Mary (Seale) Couch :)

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  11. oh my word. first- i DID laugh at the part where the nipple shield was in her bra. great. humbling again. i can't believe this happened to them! i'm so glad they're ok and that the house is back to "normal". and i want a baby cowl.



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