Disaster Plan

From the outside in, our life has got to seem pretty crazy sometimes.

Maybe most families feel that way, as we all learn together.

But we really do hold out faith that there is purpose and reason behind all this hard work we are trying.

Even moving to Bartlesville had purpose.  We wanted to be closer to Nathan’s parents, and I had work there, and now in hindsight we understand half our children were waiting for us there.  We had to move.  When we were prompted about it, and acted on it, everything happened so quickly!  We closed on our house in Bartlesville in less than a month after finding it.  So insane!

Coming to Tulsa was worth it, we decided, because if nothing else it would mean saving me two hours on the road each day, which I normally wouldn’t mind but that’s the two hours before and after school that’s playtime with the children.  They wouldn’t have seen me at all if we hadn’t have moved here, and moving here meant getting them all into the sign language school and the little ones into the sign language preschool.  That was worth it.

Now it feels just as crazy to be moving, finally, back to where we started, to settle in back home until we know what happens next.  It’s like we were sent on a mission, and now having completed it, are getting released and sent back home.  It will be an adjustment, and hard work, and even life there will be a little different just because life is never the same.  We will miss our friends in Bartlesville, even though we will still see them sometimes, and we will miss our friends and some of the fun things of Tulsa.

But we know our purpose: doing what Heavenly Father asks us, and becoming a family.

This all really hit home this weekend, as I enjoyed my first days off – both Saturday and Sunday, for both hospitals – for the first time since October.  We already had the house cleaned up – intentionally (and finally), so that the weekend could be play and rest and not just more work.  We had such fun today!

Well, in our normal disaster plan kind of way, where everything we plan is a disaster.

Like, the funny idea that since the children have been waking at 6 like clockwork, but for the last six weekends have taken themselves to the bathroom and gone to the playroom, that we could assume we would be able to sleep late, shower, and then greet them all rested and comfy.

You know, because you assume that if you are rested and comfy that you will be nicer or somehow parenting will be easier.

That’s false, by the way.

But it also doesn’t take into the equation that your two year old will be hunting you the way your uncle hunts deer, or that she will be camouflaged behind the shower curtain, so that just as you are ready to start brushing your teeth, she jumps out and shouts, “Here I am!  I got you, Mama!”

Nearly scared me to death, she did.

Or like how you have a great plan of getting everyone cleaned up and showered and dressed for the day, and then working together to make a lovely brunch because you have lunch plans later.

Excepting then you realize you are out of milk, and out of eggs, and out of everything except a tomato and an apple.

So you tell them you didn’t say “brunch”, you said “buffet”.

And everyone gets two kinds of dry cereal, as if it’s a game on purpose, plus bites of apple and a tomato, which you decorate on the cereal into little monster faces with raisins because that somehow excuses everything away.

I would thank Nathan for the run to the grocery store today, excepting that I know he volunteered on purpose to get some peace and quiet!

Or like how you plan on treating the children to a movie at an actual theater, because they have been so good and surprises are always fun and you have free vouchers to use, so what a treat, right?

And a brown-girl movie is still showing, so that’s perfect, right?

Even when everyone is actually in the van on time, and you can be on time somewhere for a change, right?

Excepting then it takes forty-five minutes at the snack station, and so you are late to the movie anyway.

Why forty-five minutes, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

First, because there was a line even before our eight people showed up.

Then, because there are eight of us.

Also, because there were eight of us who had a fake breakfast and so a fake lunch seemed like a good idea, since it was all covered anyway.

And it was a bonus because it was one of those theaters that still has hot dogs, right?

Except they only had three of them.

And they didn’t know how to serve them to us without buns (for Nathan and Alex).

And so they wanted to give everyone else nachos, because they felt bad about being confused.

Which is great, except that it takes a long time to make eight nacho bowl things.

Especially when the children had already turned in their coupons for the kids meal of a drink with popcorn in those little bucket tray things.

If that didn’t all take long enough, then there was the loading up.  By the time it was all sorted out, we pretty much had two meals per person, and all the children had armloads full of coats.

I should have gotten pictures.

So what was there to do, except hang their coats on their heads by the hoods, stick hot dogs in their overall pockets, hand them each a popcorn and drink tray, and hope for the best?

Then there is the whole piece about our children not having television at home, plus all their special needs, plus actually just being normal children as well, and so trying to get us seated with all of us having our hands full, while the children were frozen mid-step staring at the giant screen?  Well, let’s just say it was another piece of the disaster plan.

Nathan led the kids into our aisle, which was halfway down and in front of everyone else because that was the only place there were enough seats together.

None of the children followed him because they were all staring at the screen.

He had Kyrie on his shoulders, and she was shouting “my drink!  my drink!  My drink!” only because she saw a straw, or eight, and assumed all of them were for her.

We had to nudge the children down the aisle, at which point they all remained standing simply because their hands were full, they couldn’t get their coats off their heads to sit down, and all of them are too small to be able to get the cushion seats down and scoot back while holding anything.

That’s when I heard Alex shout, “Hey, Lady!  Can you help me?” and some poor stranger just in front of us, all by herself, held his popcorn and drink and hot dog while he took his coat off his head.

Except then he didn’t know where to put it, and didn’t think to help his nearby siblings, so he still just stood there.

Anber froze halfway into the row, already sucked back into the screen, so there were not enough places for the rest of us to sit, so I was stuck standing in the main aisle and unable to help anyone with my free elbows not holding anything.

Kirk didn’t see Anber stop, and so ran into her, with his popcorn and drink he was carrying with one hand, which sent clear soda over her head and down her shirt, which made her scream and turn and punch him in the stomach.  That knocked him down to the ground, where he was stuck in full blown cerebral palsy cheater position with his legs splayed to one side of him, and his stronger arm on the wrong side to be any help.  “I’m stuck!  I’m stuck!”

Meanwhile, Alex still stood frozen, with his coat hanging off to the side in the air, except that was in front of Barrett’s face so he couldn’t see the screen (all of them still standing in front of the people in the row behind us), so he started to cry.  Trying to get away from Alex and get to me, he started “whining and signing” and asking for help, except when he turned toward me, he ran into Mary, who was still walking into the row but looking at the movie screen.

Barrett walked right into her nachos, spilling her chips all over the floor, and cheese down his hair, face, and overalls.


“YOU MY FOOD SPILLED FLOOR WHAT?!” Mary signed back, her hands flying like puppet shapes in front of the big screen.

While I was crawling on the floor to part the waters-of-cheese enough for Barrett and Mary to get to the seats, Nathan had Kyrie, who was excited about popcorn and a drink, but started hoarding all the food.  She nabbed his hot dog and started on it, and then demanded her own theater seat like the big kids.   Except they didn’t have those plastic booster seats like some places do, so he set her down in the big chair next to him, holding the theater seat down with his knee.

Except that’s when – because all of this was happening at once – that’s when Kirk fell, and so Nathan reached over to help rescue Kirk, which let his knee off Kyrie’s seat cushion just long enough for her to fly backwards in a cloud of popcorn, and slip down the back of the chair to the floor, where she started shouting, “No!  No!  I’m stuck!  I’m stuck!  I’M NOT HIDING HERE!”

That’s the same time Anber decided to just take a flying leap into her chair, except she missed, but only because her coat got caught on the arm rest next to her, which whiplashed Anber sideways, landing her tray of popcorn and the last of the sodas in the purse of the lady sitting behind us.


This is our life.

We did, eventually, get everyone in seats, with some form of something to eat and drink, and coats in a pile in the chair next to me as a safety cushion for Kyrie, who sat on me anyway because no way was she going back in one of those theater seats.

I don’t remember anything about the movie.

It took awhile to clean up after ourselves, and then all the slime off ourselves, once it ended.

The children loved the movie, cleaned up without prompting or complaint, and we headed back out to our family van to drive home.  Nathan said nothing about the disaster, and I said nothing about the disaster.  I had plenty of things to say, plenty of corrections I could make, and plenty of threats I thought about making.

Except the children were just happy.  They had a grand adventure, loved the movie, and loved getting the rare treat of a movie and snacks.  They didn’t remember the pieces of the experience that Nathan and I remembered.

And we were able to let it go, at least in front of them, though I still had to write it here to personally process the horror and hilarity of it all.

We got home, and I still made home made taco shells and tacos for dinner.  We still played legos.  We still played in the backyard.  We still read our books for the day (“Baby Flo” and “Frederick Douglas”).  We still came up with the energy to let Mary make our dessert in her oven she got for Christmas, and we still read scriptures, and still had prayers at bedtime.  We still acted like monkeys as we tucked them in, making monkey sounds and tickling to end our day well.  We still sang primary songs to settle them in, and we still told them we loved them as we turned out the lights and left them to sleep.

The purpose is the plan of happiness, even when it feels like so many moments are disasters.

So maybe the life we have had has been really hard, or super intense, or even crazy, but it has also been intentional.

Maybe it’s all my fault, this mess we are in with these little ones, but I promise it was the right thing for us, even if it might not have been your style or your way or what you would choose.

Elder Oaks said:

It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life…

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall…

Modern revelation shows that our first parents understood the necessity of the Fall. Adam declared, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).

Note the different perspective and the special wisdom of Eve, who focused on the purpose and effect of the great plan of happiness: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw “the great and mighty ones” assembled to meet the Son of God, and among them was “our glorious Mother Eve” (D&C 138:38–39).

I’m not to any kind of “glorious” state yet, and we are pretty much still a mess.

But we are trying, and I think it counts.

Even if we ended up missing most of the movie just trying to help all the children get in their seats and get them the (bits of) snacks that they needed.

So while we may offer our apologies to the people having to sit in the row behind us, we don’t apologize for trying.

Because we made it.  We made it to the movies.  If you ask the children tomorrow, about the movie they saw today, they will tell you all about it and the popcorn they had.

They won’t remember that we landed in our seats like the long lost family of the Three Stooges.

Getting back to Heavenly Father is kind of like that: we’re going to make it.

That’s what the whole plan is about, and why it brings us happiness.

We just might be covered in cheese when we get there.

Posted in Family, Life, Parenting Tagged permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Disaster Plan — 4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sunday Honey | Housewife Class:

  2. I am sitting at my desk at work snorting and laughing.. wow you guys, what a life you live it’s exhilarating and amazing and full of joy. Thank you for sharing it with us!