I'm told this happens to the best of Americans.

You pack your kids in the car, secure them in their seats, close the doors, get in, lock up, start the engine and steer carefully around the garden bend.

Somewhere between the mall and your house on the freeway, you begin thinking about your day, what you're going to eat, what you're going to buy, making a mental list of things you did NOT list down on your list, unconsciously humming the tune of 'Three Little Kittens', when suddenly, out of nowhere, pops this question in flashing neon, with sirens going and red flags all over the place:

DID I CLOSE THE GARAGE DOORS?

Happened yesterday. Happened to Lokes on our way to the airport to see his parents off. And not only did he not remember closing the garage doors, he didn't remember locking even the access door between the garage and our house.

Imagine our agony. Stuck in the freeway in coagulated traffic. In the middle of lunch hour. Rushing to the airport. As Lokes sat in front of the wheel, willing the cars to move, we imagined being slowly and leisurely robbed.

Fortunately, my man's a genius. He called the condo management as soon as he remembered he had the number in his mobile, and a lady went over to close the door for us.

Of course, being Malaysian and obsessive about our passports, we were not at peace until we went home and checked ourselves. Which was a little ridiculous. I mean, which American would want to steal a Malaysian passport?

Aaaanyway, we did not want to seem all unfilial and heartless, so we spent another hour in the airport letting the kids and their grandparents say their goodbyes. And then we practically stuffed our kids in the car and sped all the way home. And after the garage door took its sweet time rolling up, we let out a collective sigh of relief (AND other things). Our 63 boxes of sentimental crap were all still there.

But the access door was still open.

Damn it.

As I parked, Lokes lept out and bounded up the stairs. I collected the kids calmly, waiting for the verdict.

Two minutes later, it came, all the way from the third floor.

"ALL CLEAR!"

Just in case, you know, a homeless guy was lurking in one of the closets. Thank my mother-in-law for that paranoid thought.

And then we were truly relieved. There is really nothing like fearing for your possessions. I mean, if this happened back home in Malaysia, we would be picked clean. And by our own neighbours, no less. The difference is just astounding. We were gone for over three hours, and nothing was touched.

Well, almost nothing.

So Lokes went on his merry way to work and I proceeded to 'relieve' myself in the physical sense. With Skyler safely in her play pen and Raeven in front of the telly downstairs, I got ready for some leisurely time in the can to think about my first dinner for the family, when a bloodcurdling scream pierced the air from the living room.

"MOMMY!!!!" It was Raeven.

I froze.

My pee literally went back in, I shit you not, and immediately, I thought.

Someone is in the house.

Lokes did not check properly, and now Lokes is gone, and we're all alone.

With what can only be described as maternal bravado, I yelled back in the loudest, fiercest voice I could muster, to announce my presence in the most malevolent way possible to whoever it was downstairs terrorising my kids, that I was coming and I was going to protect my children, as I tore through the rooms and third floor hallway, all the while still trying to get my jeans off.

I could hear Raeven's screams intensify rapidly, and sounds of her tiny feet thundering through the kitchen and then the child gate being beaten in vain to open.

"MOMMY!!!" her little voice reached new decimals. I yelled back again, my heart racing as I approached the top of the stairs, in nothing but my panties.

"What is it Raeven?!!" My feet frantically skimming the steps and trying not to slip at the same time, seeing her throwing quick and panicked glances towards the living room.

"There's a cat on the cushion!!!" she sobs.

I stopped. Did I hear correctly? A cat? We don't own a cat.

"What?" I asked as nicely as I could after the 10-meter dash.

"THERE'S A CAT ON THE CUSHION!" she wept.

And sure enough, right there sitting pretty on my newly washed suede cushions, was a HUGE black and brown cat. 

Just sitting there, staring at the two crazy screaming women who clearly had never seen cats before.

If what we felt knowing our worthless-in-US passports were safe could be called relief, then I was just ready to cry. With 30lbs of child in my hand, I sat down at the kitchen table and stared at our new feline friend, who simply stared back.

And I just burst out laughing. While Rae sniffed her sorrowful sniffs, I laughed so hard I actually did cry. And then I called my husband, told him what happened, and laughed some more.

And where was Skyler, my one-year old, in all this drama?

Sitting in her yard, playing with her toys, with nary a care in the world.

When I finally did stop laughing, I assured Rae that the cat would not hurt her (it was tagged and all, which meant she/he belonged to someone in the neighbourhood, which meant she should be relatively clean, which meant I won't have to wash those cushion covers AGAIN). And then I picked up Mr Whiskers (when you have toddlers, you'll learn that all animals have to have names, one way or another), and let him out the front door.

But not before I put on some pants. Last thing I needed was my neighbour's cat sniffing at my nether regions.