It was a whirlwind couple of days in Utah visiting our son at the RTC. He has now been there six months. When I get a little down about not having him at home, I think of all the fun he says he's having and I feel much better. He is a real trooper and has gotten on board with working on "himself" in treatment. Our visits are important because they are another step in his progress towards returning home. Time allows us to repair our relationships, after some difficult years when he admittedly "pushed us away". By the way, those are his words!
Our son was close to getting his Level 2 back, but it did not happen for this visit. Our days were spent together off campus from 9 am-9pm on Saturday and Sunday. We also had a few precious hours on our arrival day, Friday by going to an early Pizza dinner and making a few family phone calls.
Our time together was special. We ate some good food: Texas Roadhouse BBQ, Italian food at Oregano and a huge breakfast at the Black Bear Diner. We saw some good movies: "Ready Player One", "The Greatest Showman" and "A Wrinkle in Time". We talked about the themes in each of them and how the films affected us. Our sixteen year old liked the movie about video games the best ("Ready Player One"), which was not a surprise. I really liked "The Greatest Showman", a musical about PT Barnum that had themes of inclusion and perseverance. My partner liked "A Wrinkle in Time" which made her very emotional after seeing it. "Love" was at the center of that movie. Funny how we project many things going on in our lives onto the movies we watch. There are universal languages in film.
Besides eating and watching movies, we also got a lot of exercise. One of our favorite hang-outs is the Provo Rec Center. We obtained a Day Pass for the three of us which cost a whopping total of $12! We ran together, swam and played pickleball. Our son led us in some weight room activities, too. It was just the perfect day for it, since the rain was pelting outside of the gym. This time we remembered to bring our own towels!
We also took a couple of fun hikes on trails we just happened upon: Box Canyon and some other trails on the way to Sundance. It gave us an opportunity to talk about some of our son's past behaviors and get filled in on missing information from those non-communicative times in our past. We also talked about the future and what we "saw" happening in our lives together. We listened and learned more about each other. One thing that our son shared was how much he really liked going to "Wilderness". He said he liked everything about it!
We enjoyed our time spent together. No, it's not perfect. It still seemed like "pulling teeth" in some of conversations. Yet on the positive side, it was amazing to watch our son actually do homework in the back seat of the car as we drove around the Provo area. We loved looking at the houses in the different neighborhoods. We walked around the campus at BYU (Brigham Young University). We even found Donny Osmond's street! Our son asked, "Who is Donny Osmond?" There is no short answer!
We also added a couple of things to the activity list that were new and unexpected: a visit to the Springville Art Museum was one of them. It was awesome with its many different galleries and exhibits. One that stood out, was the whimsical and socially charged gallery. Our son came alive when he viewed the many cool pieces of art by students and young people who stood up to old beliefs and negative times.
We also enjoyed checking out the Springville Library on the main street nearby. It was rather new, spacious and filled with lots of great seating and reading spaces. The exterior had a cool dome as part of its architecture. We had some fun experiencing new things as a family. As I've always said, "We vacation very well together". A big step in our future will be how we translate that back into an everyday life. We aren't rushing there quite yet. All in due time. One step at a time. One day at a time. One visit at a time.
We had a family meeting at the end of each day. We shared what worked and what didn't. We shared things that we agreed upon and other things we did not. That was huge. I can always tell when we are headed in the right direction, if I just pay attention to how my "insides" feel. It was positive overall. It is slow going, but positive none the less. We are happy to share time together and can't wait until the next visit planned for mid May. One final hug and our son was ready to get back to his life at the Ranch.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your support. I can't wait to share some exciting news in the next blog post. Stay tuned!
My son's "Spring Break" was at the traditional time on the calendar, but the length was a shortened version of the typical mainstream school week long break. At his Residential Treatment Center, they give the boys two days off, plus the weekend. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and left very early Monday morning to catch a flight back to the San Francisco Bay Area in California.
We started his "break" by participating in our weekly therapy session and with something called "Sand Therapy". Who knew it would be so fun? We were lead to one of the main houses, where a group of boys reside, into a back room. We were given the instructions to build a scene in the standing sand box. Along the walls of this room were shelves filled with all sorts of toys figurines and "doll house" types of objects. There were fences and army men, and Smurf and other well known characters, as well as small houses and plenty of animals. We had five minutes to create a scene of what it was like before our son went away to treatment.
We each got to work, selecting pieces off the shelves to "tell our own version of the story". Each scene was very different and creative. When we finished, each of us described what our sand scene was all about. We then asked each other questions, which opened up an honest and meaningful discussion about this difficult time in all of our lives.
My son's "creation" was very symbolic and genuine. He chose a Rubik's cube to represent himself. The cube had been turned and pivoted many times, so none of the sides had matching colors, and it was completely mixed up (perfect symbolism of his state of mind and being then). The cube was placed on a mound of sand with plastic horse corral fences positioned around it. Our figurines were sitting way down the path, far away from the Rubik's cube . He used a gentle Smurf character to represent me, while my partner was a giant insect with a small group of Army men in front of her. Appropriate? Perhaps not, but it told our story of chaos and disagreement.
For my scene, I used traditional doll house furniture which represented his bedroom: closed off from the rest of the house. It had his bed and computer it in and he was turned away. I used little people to show that we were all in different rooms, demonstrating a lack of togetherness or communication. The emotions behind my scene represented feelings of loneliness and isolation. Again another powerful exhibit of what our house felt like to me before our son went to treatment.
My partner had another variation of the same theme: displaying a sullen and dysfunctional time for our household. There was a row boat, three wooden barriers and a hippopotami with a computer in the center island also showing a tentacle light creature representing our son. These scenes were an emotional release. It allowed us to talk about our feelings without resentment or blame. The make believe nature of the scenes lightened it up and we enjoyed being creative in our story telling and our follow-up explanations of the symbolism.
The next part of the assignment was to create a NEW scene of how we would all like to see things, when it's time for our son to come home. (We have no idea when this will be). We put back the original pieces and quickly gathered different symbols for our new scenes.
We could see a common thread among them. There was a hope and joy focus on being together in all of our sand scenes. I used three horses next to a tie up post that could tether us jointly, with a cheerleader behind us and lots of new adventures in front of us. My son's scene had three little plastic people figures under a house. We were all facing each other. A Wonderful idea! And outside of the house was a car heading up a road towards a positive future. My partner had a equally powerful scene filled with super heroes and a common goal of sharing. Again we talked and laughed and shared our feelings and thoughts.
Our sand therapy session provided an alternate way of discussion regarding our past differences and a bit of our brighter future. It opened a door to sharing our feelings in a non threatening way. It was creative and fun! We all enjoyed our time playing in the sand! I hope we will have an opportunity to do it again! We all recognized how far we had come. We know there is still much more ahead, but we had a great start to our SPRING BREAK visit. More on our many activities in the next blog post. You won't want to miss it!
We just had our 16 1/2 year old son's six month review with the residential treatment center (RTC) where he has been since the end of September. Overall it was good. Progress is being made, even if it is slow at times. He is making friends and his peers enjoy him and his sense of humor. He is respectful to others and he follows the staff's prompts when given. He might even be described as one of the "chill" kids at the Ranch (I've been told that's good). He is participating in his many assigned therapy sessions: Social Skills, Processing, DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy), Intervention, Drug and Alcohol, Ropes Therapy, Equine Therapy, and Adoption Group. Those meetings take place over the course of four days in his week and the rest of his time is filled with PE, his new Cross Country 5K team practices, daily chores, his latest job as "Chores Assistant Manager", study time, school and meals. Whew! Sounds exhausting, right?
He has shared with us that he has at least one thing per day that he looks forward to. He writes us weekly letters (they are obligatory), writes in a daily journal (also obligatory), does his own laundry, including changing the bed sheets on Saturdays! We have a weekly Skype therapy call with him and his therapist. He has begun to keep a small piece of paper in his pocket with some "TO DO" items that he has written on it. Progress!
He is taking baby steps towards re-establishing his Level 2 by fulfilling requirements of "having meaningful conversations" with staff and getting signatures toward that goal. By taking a look back at the paragraphs above, one might think "I couldn't do that". You might be right! Making changes in ourselves can be uncomfortable. We may move the needle on the ticker only slightly, but it is moving. Most of us would respond in a positive manner to some type of external motivation. My son has always been a challenge in that department.
I remember when he was little, I read that if you offer kids "stickers" for cleaning their room then a parent will see success with that chore. Nope, didn't happen. At a time when money might seem like a motivator, I offered matching funds for whatever he put into his savings account at the bank. Nope, later I discovered that he drained that bank account without my knowledge. We tried good ole fashioned bribery. Nope. If you do this, then that "good thing that you like" will happen. Nope. Nothing we could connect as a "carrot" was enough. It was frustrating and head scratching! I even had years of experience working with kids (granted, they weren't my own!) as a sport coach to draw from. Not much worked.
Well that motivation piece stands out today as one of the continuing goals at the RTC. He knows that when he gets back to Level 2, he will get his permanent retainer back in his mouth-the one with the teeth on it. He will also get to participate in additional Cross Country practices OFF campus. He will get to do what they call "Short Trips" into town to get a burger or ice cream. He will get to go to the Music Room to listen to music or learn to play an instrument , and he will be allowed to have some FREE TIME. He knows all of this, yet he is on his own time clock in getting things done.
So, we tried a different approach this week. We let go. Our weekly letter to him was loosely based on a blog post I read from an awesome website/blog I recommend called: Hands Free Mama by Rachel Stafford. The message was simple. We love you today. We are proud of you and how you are handling your current environment and surroundings. We told him that he shouldn't take our continual encouragements as our disappointment with him, but use them as a reminder of what awesome possibilities he has inside of him! We wrote that we know he will contribute his many gifts to the world!
We will visit him next week for his "two day" Spring Break recess. We have no idea if he will be a Level 1 or 2. We have no idea if we will stay close-by to the Ranch for daily visits (from 9am-9pm) or if we will visit some of the amazing National Parks, like MOAB in Utah. We know for today that we will get another chance to be with him! We will have fun together as a family, sharing time and conversation and delicious meals. We also know that his level advancement will come in due time. His retainer WILL happen. He will DO school, whatever the form of completiton happens to be. It's all good. And at the same time, he IS growing up!
His motivation will most likely be internal. He may focus on details, or he may not. The journey is his. Ours may be parallel, but it is different. We can not become solely outcome based! We need to enjoy the progress we have all experienced and recognize that we have an awesome son! We love him TODAY! He is beginning to believe in himself and that is worth celebrating!
We arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah at 1:15 pm on a cold February day during what has become to be known as "Ski Week". We rolled our carry-on luggage with us to the Hertz member rental car pick-up area and selected one of the last cars available. This is one of the best ways to rent a car! We use our credit card miles and combine that with being a Hertz Gold Member to get a FREE car! The check out line was slower moving than usual because of the many hopeful skiers arriving in Salt Lake City. Utah is known for having "The Greatest Snow on Earth" and a winter storm was on it's way over the next few days!
Our son's school (RTC or residential treatment center) is a bit less than one hour from the SLC Airport, so we had to pick up the pace to get there by the 2:30pm start time for Parent Days. We were very excited to see our 16 1/2 year old! This was one of the longest stretches we experienced without seeing him in person in the last eight months. Sure we had our weekly Skype therapy calls, but it's not the same! He has been gone from home since June 29, 2017. First for Wilderness Therapy in Idaho for 13 weeks, then in Utah at the RTC. We did not see him at all last July. It was especially hard since he celebrated his 16th birthday in the high desert of southern Idaho. We saw each other at the Wilderness program's Family Spark Therapy in mid August. And again, as we picked him up in Idaho at the end of September to take him to the RTC in Utah. We had our first Parent Days in late October. We visited during November for Thanksgiving and in December for Christmas. January had no visit. Finally, we were going to see him again in February. Each visit has been special! Each visit has gotten better.
After driving like Mario Andretti, we arrived a few minutes late, to the Introduction and Welcome Session for the Parents. Right after that we headed to the indoor Horse Arena and saw our son! He gave us warm hugs and seemed excited to see us! My hug for him was a double! The first activity was a riding exercise where a team of three boys had the task of "penning" one or hopefully two calves, that were currently at the back of the arena. Each team was on horseback and came up with their own strategy for getting these calves into the pen. Our son's team was first up. In a matter of 40 seconds, they had one blue colored (spray painted on their backs) calf in the pen. One boy guarded an open area to head the calf into the other direction. The other boy rode behind the calf towards the pen. Our son gave the calf the final push. Their teamwork and communication worked well and they were immediately successful and very happy.
We watched many other teams doing the same task, alternating the blue colored calves with the pink and green colored calves. Then each team completed a second round. A score-keeper used a stop watch to count the time it took for each group. This was the first time our son did this exercise and he was pleasantly surprised to come in third place with his team-mates. They earned a special breakfast with the two head honchos of Equine Therapy: Jerry and Lynn. Both of the Equine men are popular figures at the Ranch, so that prize was considered top notch!
Dinner in the Gym was next on the agenda! The outdoor BBQ grill was in full swing to feed all the parents, kids and staff! Chicken and ribs and salads were on the menu, topped off with delicious baked desserts! We ate with another family and shared some of our experiences. Many of the boys headed off to get ready for the evening performance of "Newsies", our son included! This was the most amazing component of positive involvement by our son yet. He NEVER would have joined in a show like this at home. He was a member of chorus in elementary school and for one semester in middle school, but frankly he lip synced and yawned most of the time. He was just biding his time to be able to earn a trip to Disneyland as a reward for participation. He never made it.
This was different! He sang, he did choreography and he took his part in the show, very seriously. According to him, he was in almost every scene, which was true! And he loved it! The cast rehearsed every weekend for five to six weeks or so. The other kids had some fun scenes and many were drama kids for sure. Not so for our son, yet he was part of the experiential learning that comes with doing a show. We smiled and laughed and loved every minute of it! What an evening to behold.
Fast forward to the end of the week when the boys were cleaning the Calf-A (cafeteria) and they all broke out into spontaneous singing. They had such fun with the numbers from "Newsies" and it was contagious. A quick thinking staff member caught it all on video on their phone and it was put into the slide show which ended our Parent Day event. What a kick the boys got out of seeing their fun captured and shared. We were so happy to see our son smile and enjoy his new found camaraderie!
For a full run-down on February Parent Days, click on this link to read the blow by blow.
That evening we took our son to a movie and dinner and returned him at 9pm. He was still at Level One. The next day was the same: pick up and return. This time our hugs were "so-long until next time" type embraces. We will be heading back to see him in the early part of April for a 4 day visit. And we are keeping our fingers crossed that he will earn his Level 2 back in time so we can explore MOAB!
Still feeling positive,
We are excited to be heading to Utah this week for Parent Days. This event is much more than a social visit, since it combines lots of therapy in the form of role playing, team activities with purpose and lots of family time with other families in our same boat. One thing we aren't sure of at this time, however, is whether our son will be able to spend one night with us in the hotel after Parent Days are concluded. It will all depend on his current "Level"!
In December for our Christmas visit, our 16 year old made his "Level 2" just days before we arrived on the 24th, Christmas Eve. That earned him the privilege of staying with us in our hotel, for the whole five days we were there. We had a very short time to rearrange our schedule to our new "upgraded hotel visit trip". To compare, a "Level 1" kid is picked up at 9am and must be returned by 9pm each day. That makes for an exhausting visit, as we discovered during our Thanksgiving visit back in November. With the overnight option, we would be able to check into our hotel and relax for part of the day and include some hot-tub time, as well. We all loved our Level 2 experience in December.
Shortly after our Christmas visit, our teenager level dropped. It is an occurrence that most kids in the program go through at least once. He had been a little sneaky in not following some of the rules regarding letter writing. When rules are broken at the RTC (residential treatment program), there are clear consequences for it. On the flip side, when goals are met for the various level requirements, more privileges are handed out. It is very clear what the expectations are, for either level direction: up or down. I only wish we had been able to enforce our own boundaries/rules with success before sending him to Wilderness Therapy Program and the RTC.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
After learning about his level drop, we were also notified that our son's retainer went missing. Okay, he lost it again. At first is was a mystery to us, since we knew that the retainer had been secured in his mouth at his last orthodontist appointment. Well, he made some poor choices of opening a bottle with his teeth resulting in the retainer loosening. When he ate, he put the retainer in a napkin at lunch one day. After lunch he realized it was missing, so he looked through all the garbage containers in the cafeteria with no luck. This was an opportunity for us to enforce some consequences of our own. We decided not to replace the retainer right away. During our Skype therapy call we came up with a list of things/action he could do to "earn" a new retainer. This one will be his fourth retainer!
Replacing his custom retainer is an expensive event, at $700 a pop. Attached to the retainer are two false teeth, to fill in the spaces created by the orthodontist. The "money doesn't grow on trees" lesson has been a tough one for our son. He knows we care about "all things medical" for him and knows what his overall orthodontia has cost. But he didn't have to pay for it! It was our opportunity to show him that we "meant business" and that he plays a big role in protecting his dental welfare. He needed to earn it this time!
Our new agreement had the following items spelled out: 1) Earn Level 2 back, which requires getting signatures from staff around duties/chores and the like. 2) Complete more school work and make math a priority subject. (He is still making up for his missteps from last year's school failures.) 3) Show us that he can TAKE CARE of his property. He actually mended a torn shirt with a needle and thread as part of this deal. (We are taking a sewing kit with us for more clothing repairs).
All of these lessons are important for a young person. He is making head way. We are too. We know he will make Level 2. It may be in time for Parent Days, or maybe not. Until then, he will be fine. There is strength in the struggle.
Below is an important article written by Cecilia Kang and published last week by The New York Times. It is quite alarming to see what Facebook has up its sleeve for our kids and social media. I hope you join with me in letting Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, know how harmful it could be for the development of our youngest members of society. You can snail mail letters to him at Facebook's headquarters: 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
Full disclosure: I am on Facebook. I am an adult. My brain is already fully developed. I do enjoy sharing comments, links and stories with friends and family. I am aware of the risks of overuse and addiction concerning social media and technology. I know limiting its use can be challenging for me and other grown-ups.
"Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead to Facebook"
The New York Times Technology Section
By CECILIA KANG JAN. 30, 2018
WASHINGTON — At the age of 6, a child is full of imagination and may not distinguish reality from fantasy. She is beginning to read and can’t grasp nuances in written communication. She also doesn’t understand privacy. Citing those reasons and more, dozens of pediatric and mental health experts are calling on Facebook to kill a messaging service the company introduced last month for children as young as 6.
In a letter to the company, they said the service, Messenger Kids, which pushes the company’s user base well below its previous minimum age of 13, preys on a vulnerable group developmentally unprepared to be on the social network.
The letter was organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that has successfully pushed companies to abandon marketing like a Pokemon Go app that sent children to fast food and other stores, and McDonald’s advertising on the envelopes of report cards in Florida.
Facebook’s new app for young children opens greater concerns, the group said. “Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts,” the experts said in the letter. “A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.”
The opposition to Facebook’s app adds to growing societal concerns over digital media and devices. Some big Apple investors called on the company this month to work harder to make the iPhone less addictive, and some former Facebook employees have warned about how effectively the service hooks users.
And academic research, including a study released last week, shows that the rise in smartphone and social media use tracked with greater unhappiness among teenagers. Messenger Kids is a texting-type service that a parent sets up for a child. The parent uses his or her own Facebook account for the child, but the app is otherwise not a part of the main Facebook service. The app doesn’t have News Feed or a “like” button, which some mental health experts have linked to anxiety among teenagers on social media.
But many elements of the social network are there, including emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting.
Facebook says Messenger Kids provides a safer environment for children than many online experiences. The app has no advertising, for example. The company said it had consulted with the National PTA and several academics and families before introducing the app. “Messenger Kids is a messaging app that helps parents and children to chat in a safer way, with parents always in control of their child’s contacts and interactions,” Facebook said in a statement. But many health advocates say the app is still engineered to hook users, and that it is giving Facebook early access to its next generation of users.
“Facebook is making children into a market, and the youngest children will be more likely to get hooked even earlier,” said Michael Brody, a former chairman of the media committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
A version of this article appears in print on January 30, 2018, on Page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead in a Letter to Facebook.
How can the use of this new App not be of concern to parents everywhere? Why do kids need this? We have seen the increase of anxiety in our teens? Do we need to push it down to elementary aged kids, too? Will babies be next? This is insane! Please feel free to comment below. I will be sending a letter to Zuckerberg this coming week. Please join me!
During our weekly therapy Skype call with our son, he told us some sad news. His first adopted calf, "Cheese" died. We were shocked. We knew from the previous week's call that "Cheese" was sick and not wanting to eat, and yet he had been doing a bit better. This news hit us like a ton of bricks.
Cheese was "given" to our son to take care of as part of the experiential learning opportunity called the Calf Rescue Program at Discovery Ranch. It's a wonderful chance for the kids to learn to care for, have empathy for and have big time responsibilities. The boys feed the newborn calves, no matter the weather and the calves depend on the boys for survival. There are so many lessons to learn: empathy, caring, service and thinking about something other than yourself. Many of the boys may have attachment issues as well as others things like: abandonment, loss and grief. This unique program can help with many of those issues, too.
We met "Cheese" at our Parent Days visit, last October, when he was just a week old. My son fed him a bottle three times a day. As "Cheese" grew, he was moved to the junior lot. During this time, our son's "job" at the Ranch was Feeding Manager. He was in charge of filling the bottles with special formula, with the help of the other boys. They also had to make sure the animals had water, hay and clean pens and hutches.
Unfortunately, there were other calves that died recently, too. But life goes on, and our son recently received his second calf. Hopefully this calf will be stronger and more able to survive. Life is full of lessons when you care for living beings. Loss is one of the toughest of all.
We know our son did a good job caring for "Cheese". RIP "Cheese". We will miss you. You felt like part of the family. You even made the back of our Christmas card this year.
With a sad heart,
It has been a little over six months since my son went to a Wilderness Therapy Program and then a Residential Treatment center after that. He celebrated his 16th birthday in the Idaho desert. He has been sober for that whole time and without using any electronic devices, so his brain is getting a chance to not only re-boot, but to thrive. It has been completely worth the enormous expense, financially and emotionally. We are now living in a place of strength instead of fear.
People have called us brave as parents. Some have said they could never do what we did. But, last June were at the end of our ropes and frankly, life wasn't a bowl of cherries during our son's early teenage years. We had no more options. It is tough to be a teen these days. There is so much going on: instant communication and news, pressures about one's future, social anxiety, depression AND digital addiction. We worried about what he was watching, what he was playing (video games), who he was texting, who he was hanging out with......the list goes on.
We tried keeping the "conversation" going. We tried to meet his friends, get to know their parents, provide activities that we could do as a family, eat dinner together. As things went south, we knew things were getting "unsafe" for our son. His local high school wasn't helping matters either. There was an abundance of marijuana and other drugs. My own fear escalated on a daily basis. I sought help to feel better and learn new strategies to cope.
The more I shared about the situation, the more I discovered that I am not alone. I met parents in the same boat, school wise, drug wise, technology wise. The more I opened up, the more others shared their similar stories with me. Wow, there is a BIG club out there! Layer by layer, as we found our way with the help of many professionals, our lives began to lighten up. We sent our son away, which led us to begin the process of amazing self discovery. We can flip this boat around! We can do it. We don't have to be afraid. We will get stronger. And stronger. And stronger.
Yes, there are days that aren't as good, emotionally. But there is strength in numbers. We met some great parents at the Wilderness Retreat. We met some great parents at the RTC (residential treatment center) Parent Days. We have learned that there are phases one goes through in this CLUB. Yes, there is relief initially, then it turns to acceptance and then it turns into strength. We are so much better for having been through all of our challenges. It's called living! We love our son. We miss our son! But we have him back as our son! And he is alive! And he is thriving!
No situation is perfect. We aren't perfect. He isn't perfect. We will make mistakes, he will make mistakes. We can learn from them. We can discuss our feelings and emotions. We will grow! Of course, no one knows what the future will hold for any of us. We take steps forward and a few steps backwards. That's okay. We have a lot of information we didn't before. We are not alone. Our journey continues. One day at a time. One step in front of the other. Breathing! Being grateful for what we've been through.
I am strong! I am no longer afraid.
I am standing tall!
Part of our visit contract was to participate in a "family meeting" every evening. It was a check-in about how things went during the day, what were the concerns, who should get "Props" and any other comments we had for each other. Our sixteen year old ran the meetings. They were informal, yet a powerful acknowledgement of how far we had come as a family and how far my son had come in exactly six months since going off to wilderness.
He was aware of the date of the 28th. He knew that date had significance. We did too. If someone would have told me on the night that the transport men came to get our son back in June, that six months later we would all be skiing at Sundance, I would NOT have believed it.
Sundance, Redford, skiing, Utah, family, chair lifts, snow, hot chocolate, below 30 degrees. None of those words were in my brain the night our son went to wilderness. Yet, here we were, during Christmas time using every single one of those words! How amazingly wonderful!
As a movie buff, Robert Redford has always been one of my favorite actors. The Sting, The Way We Were, Out of Africa, The Natural.......On my bucket list was a visit to his magical part of Utah known as Sundance. Tucked in the beautiful Provo Canyon, a mixture of a light dusting of snow and the jagged mountain peaks were spectacular when we arrived during our visit with our son.
It is small enough to not feel overwhelmed! As we rode up the chairlift with a local, she told us that she worked at the ski resort years ago as a teenager. I asked if Redford was still in the picture. She said, "Yes!" and had us turn around to the hill behind us to see a clearing, and a house behind it. That was Redford's house! She told us that she still see's him skiing at the resort, though he looks much older, not to mention he is much shorter in person than you would guess.
Our day at Sundance was just perfect. Our son was on a snowboard and we were back on skis after a few years of not skiing at all. Our goal was to NOT get hurt. We didn't, but our son jammed his wrist on a fall down the slope. He kept at his new found activity, saying how much FUN he was having! Wow, we sure didn't expect those words to come out of his mouth! We ordered lunch at the Taco Truck and ate inside the Rehearsal Hall. We sat for a few minutes by the outside BBQ pit to get warm. The sun was out. It was perfect.
During our meeting that evening, we reflected on our successes during the day. We wouldn't have changed anything. We hope to visit Sundance in the future and capture our family spirit there once again as well. What a nice day it had been. The next day was a recovery day. Our son held his sore wrist as sort of a badge of honor, we felt some sniffles coming on, but all of us rallied and went to the movies, one of our favorite family activities. We laughed out loud at Jumanji with Duane "The Rock" Johnson and Jack Black. It was very clever and we were all engaged. (Family review: Two thumbs up!)
We grabbed a bite to eat and then hit the road back to the Ranch. Our trip had been a delight! We talked about our next visit to come in about seven weeks time. We will miss each other, but have letters and our weekly Skype therapy call to look forward to. What progress we have made! What will the next six months hold for us? It's hard to say. For now, we have the memory of a wonderful visit to Sundance and a beautiful Christmas in Utah, that we will treasure forever.
Keeping the Faith!
We had a REALLY FUN visit this past week with our son in Utah! The weather made it special by snowing on Christmas Eve, which turned the holiday into our first "White Christmas" ever! It was also the first time we celebrated anywhere but our home in Northern California. We found a very cute "blow-up" Christmas tree on eBay and had it ready to go when our 16 year old awoke in the hotel room! Santa didn't need a chimney, just to be redirected to Salt Lake City with our modest gifts. I think we've started a new tradition for our family!
The Swiss made watch we gave him was a BIG hit. We didn't know that our son could actually "tell time" the old fashioned way and for the next five days together, he repeatedly announced what time it was! He really liked it. Sometimes going "old school" can be fun when electronics are not allowed. Plus the watch's hands glowed in the dark and there was a sweep second hand on it as well.
It was also the very first time he gave us each a Christmas present. No kidding, I can't remember ever receiving anything from him. He hand painted two very cute little horse ornaments, complete with yarn for the mane! You can imagine our joy when we opened the box! He was so proud of his work. They are pictured below. Aren't they cute?
We had a delicious dinner experience on Christmas Eve at Benihana's Japanese Restaurant. Finding a dining spot was a challenge, since Utah basically shuts down, but it was an entertaining meal filled with delicious shrimp, chicken, veggies and steak. We walked out into the light falling snow with very full stomachs! We also had a chance to see the spectacular lights at Temple Square. There were lots of visitors enjoying all the buildings and trees in full twinkling color!
The most anticipated event of our Christmas Day was seeing the new Star Wars movie. Our son is huge fan and it's been two years since Episode 7. We had purchased tickets in advance with reserved seats, so our movie going experience was relaxed and enjoyable. Our family review gives "The Last Jedi", two thumbs up! We spent most of the rest of the day talking about Star Wars theory and lore as we headed to dinner at one of the few restaurants open on Christmas Day in Provo. We had another grand feast which included six courses. The pumpkin soup was the best we've ever tasted. It put a cap on a wonderful Christmas Day!
The rest of the trip went very well. Stay tuned for Warrior Mom's next post to find out what else we did!
Happy New Year!
I am Warrior Mom. I am a self proclaimed Techy and I'm NOW calling a halt to the excess use of it! Let's put some balance back into our lives, especially our teens!
Modern Map Art takes your favorite cities, mountains, and places and turns them into beautiful works of art. Our maps are a great way to display that nostalgia in your home. They make great gifts, too!