RIP “Cheese” – Life Lessons

Cheese the Calf

RIP “Cheese”!

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,


Cheese the Calf
Cheese the Calf

Living in Strength Instead of  in Fear

Strength Over Fear

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.

Snowboarding at Sundance

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!


Robert Redford's House in the distance at Sundance

A White Christmas in Utah Full of Firsts!

A White Christmas in Utah

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 wrist 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!

Star Wars Movie on 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!