Are you ready for disaster? I thought I was. We live in earthquake country : Southern California. So I do have some first aid on hand, flashlights, batteries and such. But am I ready to survive 12 hours, ready to keep a child — especially one who does not understand what is going on — calm and entertained when there are no lights, TV or anything else to do? I found out rather quickly day before yesterday that I most definitely am not.

We were a part of the massive blackout that affected over 6 million people from Mexico to Arizona to California to New Mexico. It was hot, it was scary and it appeared that it was going to last for days.

I was at home, working when it happened and I thought, oh gosh, it must be an outage due to everyone using their air conditioning. It should end quickly. But I was pretty darn wrong. So I spent the next couple of hours trying to find someone to notify co-workers that I wouldn’t be able to complete what I was doing, figure out what the heck was going on, and most importantly, find my kid, who was with our nanny. Cell service was spotty at best; internet, even through my iPhone was bad. When I finally made the contacts I needed to make, I thought, OK, we will wait it out, it will be OK.

Jakey’s dad, Mark, brought him home and then went to his house to get a few things, including his laptop since mine had already lost all battery power. FAIL #1: Not having a way to charge it when the power is out.

So, the first hour or so wasn’t too bad. We have 2 iPads and they both had battery life – one about 40%, the other about 70%. Phew! Jakey  could play his favorite game, “Bugdom” (no, I get no endorsement compensation but if they’d like to contact me… ;-).) But… he loves watching YouTubes and when he did not understand that there was no internet connection, well, let’s just say he was not a happy camper and I was very glad the iPads both had good iPad covers for protection.

Enter the need for a laptop. Mine of course had long since died. It didn’t help that I had earlier stolen its battery power to keep my iPhone powered (yes, FAIL #2. I don’t even have a charger for my car. Why? Because I work at home and don’t spend a lot of time driving around.). So, my iPhone had pretty much all of its battery  power — and it was now my only line to the outside world and my oldest, adult son. (And adult or not, he is still my little boy.)

Jakey is non-verbal but make no mistake — he made his displeasure well known. He was stomping and growling about. Just then, thank goodness, his father arrived with his fully charged laptop to save the day (well, night). (I don’t remember the last time I was so happy to see him. ;-)  I had a new DVD that I had purchased some time ago as a bribe (er, reward) for an emergency (emergency being defined as a defiant child who refused to get out of the car) so out it came.  He settled on watching the DVD on the laptop — after some protestations over not getting to watch it on TV.

Now, the TV issue did not die. Oh no. A little while later, he kept signing that he wanted to go to his Daddy’s to watch TV and have lights and he didn’t believe us when we told him repeatedly that there was no power at his Daddy’s house, either.

Now — dinner time. I guess he’s entitled to eat, right? I tried to get him excited at the prospect of canned tuna! The mayonnaise was still good for another hour or so (I was nearing 4 hours without power) but tuna was a no go. What did he want? Easy Mac! Yeah. You kinda need a microwave for that. Well, thankfully I have a gas stove, and his dad was able to light it using a lighter instead of the electric ignition which it uses.  So I improvised and made the Easy Mac. Disaster averted! But that was FAIL #3. I should have had snacks and other foods that he likes (not easy) on hand that could have been made or eaten without needing the microwave or oven and I don’t know that I would have figured out how to light the stove without Mark.

The lantern we had did let off a good amount of light but not enough to do some serious reading or puzzle playing (which is Jakey’s favorite activity). So, now we have FAIL #4. I should have had a brighter lantern or flashlight(s) so that we could have tried to enjoy these activities.

By now, with the movie ending, the laptop was dying, the iPads were pretty much dead, the iPhone was long gone and all that was left was flashlights. Jakey wanted to go upstairs to see if his TV would work. Of course telling him it wouldn’t would not be enough. So I went upstairs with him, with flashlights and the only way to distract him was with a game of “flashlights”. Thank goodness he has always enjoyed playing with them! He likes going with us into a dark room while we pretend to be scared and he enjoys making shadow animals a la Oobi but as with all good things, they must come to an end. And this game did, all too quickly.

Thankfully, he fell asleep watching the end of the DVD on the dying laptop and since it appeared the power would not be restored for at least another day (they were wrong and restored it in the middle of the night :-) ), I thought, great. We will be officially out of electronic entertainment. And… out of most food since I will have to throw everything out. And… I have no cash as I rarely do. I always use my debit card. Yeah. Stores can’t use them because of you know, no power! Add this to the list as FAIL #5.

Oh, and should we decide to play another rousing game of flashlights? Yeah, I have no idea how many batteries I actually have left. FAIL #6.

Finally, we wake the next morning to power. But… a boil water alert. OK. Well, it would be easier to buy some water, wouldn’t it? Now — imagine if the power were still out. Mind you, they say it is still “fragile”. How would I have purchased said water without cash?  FAIL #7. And of course, I would need to get in my car to get to the store.  You know, the one in the garage with the electric garage door? Yeah, I should know how to disarm it. I actually think I do but I should practice just in case, don’t you think? FAIL #8. (And let’s face it, I should have water on hand for an emergency in the first place!)

I know there are other fails in there but seriously, this made me stop and realize I am not even close to prepared! A child, especially one with special needs must feel that the adults have everything in control, even in an emergency. Especially in an emergency. Instead, we were rifling around, looking for things, apologizing to him, explaining, sounding, no doubt, nervous. Not good. That is the biggest FAIL. I hope there is no next time, but I vow to be much more prepared if there is!

So have you found yourself in such a position? How have you handled it and how would you handle it the next time?