Change is A Comin’!

Change is a comin'
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” ― Heraclitus

Happy New Year! Our Christmas visit was awesome! My son came home and that meant that we stayed home for a whole week! No traveling, just staying put! We had a family Christmas, we played basketball, we went shopping and we saw some old friends! Many of those friends had not seen our son in quite some time. They were happily surprised to see a smiling face of a grown teen when they greeted each other.

“What a change!”, they shared with me.
“Can you believe it? He’s smiling and happy!” I replied.
“Really, he looks great!” they added.

In this case, the change was good. Re-connecting with friends from early childhood was important. They knew each other before the teenage years, when they first started school and when they were just learning how to ride bikes. They had lost their first teeth together, and were once so little and innocent, it was hard to imagine they all had grown up to be the big kids now! Some are driving, some have jobs and some like my son, have learned important lessons about life and friendship by a change of scenery and a path less traveled.

They asked him questions about Wilderness. They asked him questions about sleeping without a tent (my son’s choice by the end of 92 days so he didn’t have to keep setting it up every day!) They asked him what it was like to not have a phone.

“Wow, I couldn’t do that! I probably use my phone too much, I guess!”, one realized.

My son has been without a phone (or computer) for over 500 days. What a difference in his brain! He has less anxiety and less depression. He has less to worry about like keeping Snap Chat strings alive or posting on Instagram or getting a ton of LIKES. It’s a simple life when electronics aren’t taking you over! Oh, did I mention that my son read a book over Christmas vacation? He also had conversations with us. And his distraction level is WAY down! That’s another nice change!

Looking back over 2018 we can certainly say that we are moving in a good direction. Yet, just when one feels settled, change comes along to shake things up a bit! Change is a good thing in this case! And the theme of the unknown keeps coming back again and again!

This coming weekend we are touring a STEP DOWN Boarding School together. It is located in Southern Utah. This new environment will allow my son more independence and a chance to make decisions for himself. The school is Co-Ed and that will be a BIG change from the all boys RTC (residential treatment center) he has been at for the past fifteen months. They have school in the AM, and that will be a change from the afternoon schooling at the Ranch. There will be many new adjustments ahead. We think it could be a good fit for a young man heading toward adulthood and his 18th birthday in July. He has more time to practice what he has learned in the past year and a half, before he comes home for good.

We are excited to see a new part of Utah and discover new places in that beautiful state. We know that change is important for growth. This move will be a different experience, but exciting at the same time. We are looking forward to the new changes that are a comin’ our way!

I am embracing the unknown! Thanks for sharing our journey!


The Support System…A Parent’s Lifeline…While Your Kid is in Treatment

Support System


As parents we are supposed to care for our kids. We are supposed to teach our kids right from wrong. And we are supposed to be good role models for them in life. Even if all those things are true, as parents we still may need to rely on others for support and strength.

Here is a list of some of the ways I have gotten support during the past year, while my son has been in Wilderness Therapy and at his current placement, an RTC (Residential Treatment Center) in Utah. I will add other resourses to this post in the future. I would love to hear from fellow parents! Please chime in below, in the Comment Section ​because it does “take a village”!
What are your lifelines and support systems?

1. Therapist – A parent needs someone to talk to who is unrelated to the day to day drama we face when our kids are struggling. A good therapist is trained to help parents navigate all the ups and downs we feel when we can’t “fix things” for our teenagers and when life’s challenges are too much to bare. Yes, your kid may need help but it starts with you! Find a good therapist.

2. Education Consultant – Here is another major player in the puzzle of helping your struggling teen. Ed Consultants know all the programs that are available out there. They have visited many of them and keep connected with the staff and administrations of Wilderness Programs, Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS), Residential Treatment Centers (RTC), Step Downs and Young Adult (18-26 yrs) Programs. A parent just can not make important decisions without the guidance and expertise of an Ed Consultant. It is important to note that judging a program based on their website alone, is not wise. A talented graphic web designer can make a program’s website look beautiful, but the staff and location is what makes your child’s placement a good fit. The Education Consultant will cost you on the front end of the process, but they are essential at all stages of your journey. A must-have component on your team!

3. Local Meet-Up Parent Support Group – For some folks, this may come in the form of a local Al-Anon group meeting (which I have attended). You can google to see what’s available in your area and find out times and locations for those meetings. For me however, I found that a more specifically directed group for parents of kids in Wilderness, TBS and RTCs was just what I needed. There is a local group in the San Francisco Bay Area is called WILLOWS IN THE WIND. They have an additional new meeting location in Broomfield, CO as well. Willows in the Wind is a 501(c)3 non-profit that supports parents and families who are looking for more information of what’s out there in the way of help or currently have teens and young adults in treatment programs. They have three Bay Area meeting locations: Oakland, Los Altos Hills and San Rafael, CA. Visit their website for more information. It is a safe place with lots of support for parents of troubled teens!

4. Berkeley Parents NetworkBPN is a non-profit online forum for parents who live in the SF Bay Area. Members share advice with other parents about all sorts of topics including parenting, schools, health, career, relationships, travel, and local businesses and services. It has been helpful to me for gathering information and links to other resources, especially when info may be difficult to find. (It is how I found Willows in the Wind!) It is not necessary for you to live in the SF Bay Area to use the website. Many of the posts are older, from the past few years, but it can still be helpful to read those posts on the related topics of Wilderness, Ed Consultants and RTCs for a perspective on how others have handled different problems and their personal situations.

5. W.A.B. Connect Wilderness And Beyond – WAB is an emotional support group with a new website and a weekly parent participation phone call. It began in 2017 by two sets of families who wanted to share their experiences of what therapeutic wilderness was like for them, as well as what follows, with other parents by forming connections. The individual stories may be different but it is very powerful to hear from others going through similar situations, including their wins and set-backs. Weekly call topics and notes as well as a blog are on the website. This awesome group of parents will prove to you that you are NOT alone. It provides a safe place to share, listen and learn from others with adolescents and young adult children at every stage of treatment.

Letter Writing

6. Letter Writing – Every week my son writes us a letter. These letters are part of the therapy assignments in Wilderness and at the RTC. It has become such an important weekly connection for us and we truly look forward to receiving the email version of his handwritten letter at the beginning of the week. We answer him back, usually on Thursdays with a typed letter that we send to his therapist, who prints it out on the other end to give to him. Our son’s letters are not very long and his penmanship is rather sloppy and rushed, but we’ve encouraged him to add more content in the letters to create a back and forth dialog. We put a lot of thought and effort into our replies to his letters. Sometimes we keep it light, but the letters are always encouraging and positive. I have saved a copy of all the letters and plan to put them into a three ring binder to save for posterity. Letter writing has become such a lost art in communication these days. I treasure the chance to re-read each one and actually hold that piece of paper in my hand. Yes, it’s old fashioned but it has a value that can not be underestimated. It becomes something to look forward to, rather than the quick rewards of the instant gratification of texting or phone calls. One could even say it builds character.

7. Blogging – I don’t know what I would have done this past year, if I hadn’t started writing this blog. It has been a highlight of the challenging (yet full of growth) year we’ve had. I feel good after each time I hit “publish”. I’ve learned so much about myself and realize how fortunate I am to have so many family members and friends let me know that they have read what I’ve written. I know some of you have not gone through many of the experiences that my family has, but you continue to show me how much you care and are rooting for us at every turn. I also love receiving comments from all of you after I publish my posts. It is a rather public forum, but I know my sharing has helped others. I have spoken to many of you on the phone. I’ve walked and talked with a few of you. I have had coffee and met some of you in person. I plan to continue to blog because it has become an essential release for my feelings and emotions.

Bonus tip: (For those who are not in the position to blog, keep a journal…same idea, and a bit more private! Get your thoughts out of your head and write them down! Try it, you’ll like it!)

Self Care

8. Self-Care – This is an important one! Exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep will allow you to function at a higher level when stress and worry take over your whole being. It can be a simple walk. I have enjoyed swimming, tennis and pickle ball. Others might prefer yoga and meditation. Whatever you choose, do it regularly and if possible daily! As parents we will not be able to offer anything to our kid’s treatment program if we are unable to get out of bed and are stuck in a frozen state. It might not be easy, but do one thing per day. Put it on the calendar or call a friend and make a firm date to do something you enjoy. It will allow you to come back to the riggers of parenting while your kid is in treatment!

9. Connections – Without connections, a support system can not work. Everyday I meet people who may not know my family’s story and when I have a chance to build a new or stronger connection, I am lifted up by the openness and kindness I receive. I have shared with grocery checkers at my local Safeway. I have shared with other parents and lots of friends who are too shy to ask. I try to be appropriate and not “over share”, but that’s what’s great about having connections first, the realization that everyone’s got something they struggle with. And you don’t know what someone else is going through, if they don’t tell you. So be brave: connect. Then share, then breathe, then let go. Take it slowly. One step at a time. One day at a time. Whatever it is that you are going through, you are not alone. And you can get through it!

10. Books – There are so many good ones. Here’s one that I have read and got a lot out of it and was also recommended by a Mom from Oakland, CA:

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Zen Rocks
Zen Rocks

Time is All Relative

Time is All Relative

We returned from our third Parent Days event with a new understanding about time, yet again. Among the parents whose kids have been at the Ranch from eight to ten months, there was a common frustration. In most cases that struggle revolved around time. Many of our kids, mine included are taking the slow road, stalling along the way during their treatment. This therapy stuff is exhausting and it takes a LONG time. But why?

It’s comfortable to remain the same. It’s uncomfortable to make change. And we are dealing with teen-age boys who look and deal with time differently than we do. The saying “Time is money” is very true for those who are paying a fortune trying to help their kids by sending them to Wilderness, Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers. This cost doesn’t even include the hours of previous therapy with doctors, counselors and psychiatrists back at home.

It was explained to us at Parent Days that change also has very little to do with cause and effect. If the bait is dangled to move to a higher level for more rewards, doesn’t it seem easy to just follow that path and make it happen? Not always. Whether it involves a young brain trying to develop or a kid with ADHD or other social emotional issues, when one is struggling, then some things just take a while. As parents we want to see results, and yet it’s probably not going to speed up just because we’ve put everything in place and paid the money.

Why do I keep coming back to this topic of time and motivation? Can one really motivate someone who isn’t self-motivated? Does external motivation work? Or does it have to be personal and internal? Very good questions, and yet its obvious that being outcome based is not going to make things move any quicker. Being encouraging and understanding doesn’t change the speed of results either, though we think it should. The simple truth is that it is what it is. I will say it again: “It is what it is”.

So once again, after feeling positive about how things are going with my son, I can easily go to a darker place of frustration and maybe even disappointment that it’s taking so long. But change isn’t easy and it won’t happen just because we attach it to a date on the calendar. Time is relative. As we get older, it goes by a lot quicker. For the teens in today’s world, they have their futures ahead of them, but time is such a vague concept to grasp.

So for this blog post, I am going to give myself a reality pep talk. You can listen in if you like: “Okay Warrior Mom, here’s the plan:  Express your frustration! Take it out by hitting a tennis ball over the net! Sing along really loudly to a song on the radio! Watch America Ninja Warrior on TV and think you could have done better than those athletes! And after that, get back to business. Be satisfied that you have done everything in your power already. Be confident that you are doing the right thing. Be open with others about what’s happening. And then be present and accepting. Time is all relative. It is what it is!”

I will stay strong,


Our Spring Break Visit….First Up……Sand Therapy

Sand Therapy


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.

Sand Therapy
Sand Therapy
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!



Motivation, Details and Letting Go!

Motivation, Details and Letting Go!

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!


Parent Days in February

Calf Penning

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,


The Best Snow in the World
The Best Snow in the World
Snow in Utah
Snow in Utah

Level Up, Level Down

Level Up, Level Down

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.


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

Don’t Stop Believin’

Don't Stop Believin'

It is the end of the 31 day Ultimate Blog Challenge and I have enjoyed writing about our story everyday this month. I will continue with the My Warrior Mom Life Blog on a less frequent basis, but probably not every day. For those who have been regulars, thank you so much for joining me on this journey. For those who have stopped by now and then, thank you, too. I hope you will visit again soon!

For the final day of October, better known as Halloween, I want to write about our wonderful visit with our son for Parent Days last week. Each quarter the school has an event where parents come to the campus and engage in workshops and talks with a theme related to helping us with our struggling teenagers. This quarter the topic was “Boundaries”. We listened, shared and practiced. Everything about the three days on campus had meaning and purpose. It was very well organized and obviously was well thought out and executed.

The biggest take-away was that we are NOT alone. There are MANY families in our same boat. There were other parents going through similar situations AND other teens going through rough patches, too. We felt the power in the process and were open to learning what we could in our few days in Utah. We didn’t know what to expect, having only experienced a family therapy retreat at our wilderness program in August. We were sure that it would be beneficial and help re-establish boundaries for our family.

We ate meals together, played games together (including Knock-out on the basketball court) and helped feed our son’s calf early one morning. It was so nice to be a family again. We met other families from all over the US. We learned that many of the boys had also been to a wilderness experience and were now doing well. Our son was doing well. He smiled and talked and played. WOW! What a difference even in the short time at school (about one month’s time). We were very happy. We felt like we were living a miracle, and yet stay so grateful and humble.

Don't Stop Believin'

But as our three days came to an end, we experienced something that really knocked our socks off and brought us to tears. The boys performed in a variety show. Some played music and and sang. Others performed skits from famous musicals or shows they enjoyed like a scene from Monty Python and the dance from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Since our son was a newbie, his participation was limited to the last song they all performed together. They lined up around the stage in white t-shirts, black pants and smiling faces.

Then the music began and it was a well known song that immediately gave me chills and began my flow of tears. The boys started singing the recognizable lyrics made famous by the band Journey in the early 1980’s. When they got to the chorus and sang “Don’t stop believin'” it was clear they were telling us parents to NOT GIVE UP on them. They were working hard to earn our trust, set their lives straight again and head towards a brighter future. But we MUST do it together.

Don't Stop Believin'

Just a small town girl
Livin’ in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere
Just a city boy
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere
A singer in a smokey room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
For a smile they can share the night
It goes on and on, and on, and on[Chorus]Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’
Streetlights, people

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on
Streetlight people

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’
Streetlight people

Strangers waiting
Up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people
Living just to find emotion
Hiding somewhere in the night

Working hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice
Just one more time

Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on


Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’
Streetlights, people

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on
Streetlight people

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’
Streetlight people.

I won’t stop believing! Thanks for reading and for your support!


Our Homework: A Little Light Reading…..

A Little Light Homework and Reading

The process for parents with kids at a wilderness program, therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center is plain and simple. Change is necessary. It isn’t easy but, if the kids must change, so must the parents. It’s called a Parallel Process.

There are dozens of recommended books that are important to read and take to heart. I have listed some of the books that I am currently reading. They can help parents and families see what changes may be necessary to have positive outcomes. This list is just a starting point for self-discovery and breaking old patterns. They are filled with many valuable lessons and practical advice. I will be adding more titles in future blog posts, but for now I suggest this short list of books that I have liked.

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The Parallel Process by Krissy Pozateck, LICSW
​Growing Alongside Your Adolescent or Young Adult Child in Treatment

Not By Chance by Tim R. Thayne, Ph.D.
How Parents Boost Their Teen’s Success In and After Treatment

The Family Crucible by Augustus Y. Napier, Ph.D with Carl Whitaker M.D.
​The Intense Experience of Family Therapy

The Journey of the Heroic Parent by Brad M. Reedy Ph.D.
Your Child’s Struggle & The Road Home

I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary Lundberg and Joy Lundberg
Six Practical Principles that Empower Others to Solve Their Own Problems While Enriching Your Relationships

Are there any books that you recommend to other parents with kids in treatment that you want to share? I am asking for titles of some of your favorites. Please comment below.

Hopefully changing for the better,