Ted Cruz Left Texas. My Family Can't—Here's How We're Surviving
"We are making memories and trying to get by without electricity. But it's so hard not knowing when the power will be restored."
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Trigger warning: This story discusses the current winter storm in Texas.
Buzz Lightyear never saw it coming. One day, he's stuck in the mud, waiting for my 3-and-a-half-year-old, Logan, and my 2-year-old, Liam, to go outside and play with him, and the next thing you know it, he's covered in several inches of thick, fluffy snow in our North Dallas neighborhood in Texas.
It's not his fault, though. It almost never snows in Texas—and certainly not as much as these past couple of days. But while action figures can't feel the cold, we, humans, definitely can. And even though it's fun to experience a northern-like winter, it's also stressful to experience knowing that millions of people are without power all over the state.
It began a few days ago on Sunday when we woke up to snow. It was really exciting at first. We dressed up our kids for the cold—but then one kid began crying with wet gloves on and the other with a wet face after a rogue snowball hit him the wrong way. It turns out, cute little mittens designed for toddlers don't exactly protect against snow. Neither does lightweight "water-resistant" hoodies or thin, colorful scarves wrapped around their cold necks and red cheeks (although they do look super trendy).
The thing is my kids don't have any snow-appropriate gear because they've never needed it before. They don't even blink an eye at triple-digit temperatures, but this kind of cold is something entirely different.
By Monday morning, the snow-day magic wore off for me and my husband. We realized the glittering snow and beautiful ice crystals outside were turning into dangerous conditions on the roads and causing our friends' and families' homes to lose power. While Governor Greg Abbott announced the state is deploying maximum resources to local officials to help clear roadways, assist essential workers, and help restore power to the communities, he also reminded Texans to do their part to help by staying off roads, taking steps to conserve energy, and avoiding heating homes.
So for the past two days, we've had most of our lights turned off, almost all appliances and non-necessities unplugged, and the heat set to 65 degrees in our house in an effort to conserve power—while also preparing for our own power to go out at any minute.
We've also been bundling up the kids with extra blankets at night, cooking fast meals on the stove, and filling the tub with water in case it gets turned off. A steady stream of water flows through every faucet in the kitchen and bathrooms to keep our pipes from freezing. But this all-day running water has left us with no hot water, so showering is on an as-needed basis, and we've been using baby wipes to clean up my kids (and us) since they can't take a bath.
My toddlers have been going absolutely stir-crazy being stuck inside, but it's better than potentially getting frostbite. Since many grocery stores are closed and the roads are icy, I've also been trying to ration the milk and foods my kids will eat (read: fruit, applesauce, and cereal, in that order) since it could be days before we can get out.
As a mother, this is challenging for me. I struggle between wanting my kids to enjoy the snow, worrying about their safety, and preparing for the power to go out. This is much more complicated than snow days from my childhood.
But by Wednesday morning, we did lose power. Even though Gov. Abbott announced Tuesday that the state is investigating ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), the agency that manages the state's power flow, part of the problem is due to the fact that Texas has its own grid operator, which is in charge of hundreds of infrastructure owners and not under federal regulation. In this competitive power market, there's no incentive to winterize equipment or invest in backup power—and we can't rely on power from the rest of the country when we have massive outages like this. Basically, it's a system that helps very few people and hurts millions of Texans in an emergency (especially since ERCOT is also planning on raising prices).
For now, though, we are doing our best to stay warm. We are trying to channel a little bit of that famous Texas heat in our homes mostly by dressing in multiple layers, piling on blankets, closing blinds, and stuffing towels under doors we aren't opening to create some insulation. And the good thing is, my kids have also discovered the joys of Candy Land and puzzles—things I used to love as a kid. We are making memories and trying to get by without electricity. But it's so hard not knowing when the power will be restored.
As we sit in the dark, cold, and with no hot water, it's hard to keep my spirits up. I can't answer when my kids ask when they can have chicken nuggets, watch TV, or sleep with their sound machine again. I can't even take them outside to play in the snow very often because it's so hard to warm them up when we get back inside with no heat.
As a mom with anxiety, I struggle with fighting dark thoughts and worst-case scenarios, especially since all the normal self-care things I do for my mental health are almost impossible to do right now (like taking a warm bath, going for outdoor walks, making hot coffee).
Knowing that other states don't have to deal with winter storms this way also makes me furious—Texans deserve better than this.
Although Texans are resilient, and I know that we will make it through this storm, I want our state government to make some changes to prepare better for the future. I want our power systems regulated so we can have federal protection in times of crisis. I want the millions of Texans still without power to not have to suffer because of greed disguised as capitalism. I want my kids to grow up in a place that cares for people more than the bottom line, where they won't have to worry about losing heat for days next time the weather turns icy cold.
Pretty soon, the snow will be a distant memory, and we'll all be complaining about those 100-degree summer days once again—but all I can hope for is that the next time a winter storm blows through, we can simply focus on having fun in the snow.