I have experienced some of the most challenging moments of my life over the past 6-8 weeks. Caleb’s first few weeks of seventh grade were fantastic, but things went down hill very quickly. His anxiety escalated to the point that he was throwing up and getting head aches every day at school. For three plus weeks he was calling me 3-5 times every day from the school office, usually to tell me how sick he was feeling. His ADHD leaves him feeling totally overwhelmed, disorganized and extremely behind in his classes. He is a mostly obedient kid outside of the home, but with Josh and I he is extremely defiant. It is difficult to get him to comply with homework and simple tasks. I’m not talking about normal teenage sass. I’m talking about serious defiance. He simply refuses to comply no matter what the consequences may be.
A few weeks into the extreme anxiety he decided that he was going to kill himself. For about a month he spoke daily about suicide. There have been a few times that his threats have been accompanied by irrational action. Each time appeared to be in an attempt at manipulation, for example, swinging the door of the car open while driving because I wouldn’t take him out to eat or holding a butcher knife at his heart because Josh was insisting that he go on a scout camp out with him.
Caleb normally takes about 80% of my parenting energy, but over the past few months helping him has consumed much of my life. We have been working with two different therapists, his school counselor, teachers and principal, and any other resource we can find. He is a complicated case with three obvious mental conditions working against each other ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety. Together, with the difficult time of middle school, they are creating a huge mess!
I have done my best in the past to avoid labeling him. I never wanted his teachers to know that he had ADHD and was on medication for it. I wanted to compensate for any of his personal weaknesses by working harder at home so that he could progress as normally as possible without the stigma of labeling by his teachers or peers. My ideal was for him to NEVER use a diagnosis as an excuse but to learn to compensate and thrive. I didn’t want him to be on a 504 or IEP, but at this point we are exploring all possibilities to help him to begin thriving in life again.
I have been an extremely studious parent reading a bookshelf full of parenting books. I studied behavior management in both my under grad and graduate schooling. I dreamed of being an amazing mom! To say that Caleb has rocked my world of everything I ever thought I knew would be the understatement of the century. I will easily admit that I have been extremely humbled by this experience. I am learning so much about giving my burdens to God. I am recognizing in a very real way that so much of life is totally out of my control. It is my job to do what I can and then allow Christ to carry the burden of the rest. It is easy for me to see, even as I experience this trial, the personal growth that I am receiving.
One “benefit” of this difficult time has been my humble heart and my willingness to seek out and follow any prompting giving by the Holy Spirit. For example, I have called people who I haven’t spoken to for years and found they had just the perspective I’ve needed. I’ve made lists of new strategies to try and I am trying to focus on the fundamentals of living and teaching my family the gospel. One impression I had was to take our family on a trip to the Handcart Pioneer Sites when they had a few days off of school for UEA.
We started out our road trip at the Utah Olympic Park ropes course in Park City. We went a few years ago and the kids have been begging to return. Of course we had to pause for a few pictures on the winter Olympic equipment after which we started with the beginner course.
Josh was too big for the beginner course so he really wanted to do the intermediate course. As we watched him the kids decided they wanted to try the intermediate one as well. Caleb, Cara and Andy did it. I was proud of them for overcoming their fear of heights and they were so pleased that they completed such a challenging course. A discussion about our ability to overcome challenges was the perfect kick off to our weekend. Caleb, even more than the others, was extremely proud of his accomplishment.
One of our pit stops along the way to Martins Cove was Fort Bridger. I though it was well worth the time to stop. In fact I could have spent much longer there just enjoying the beauty and imagining the events that took place there. I was impressed with the preservation of the Fort and the history was actually fascinating to me.
It was October 19 when the blizzard hit that left the Martin and Willie Handcart companies stranded and the Sweet Water River frozen solid. We spent the day of October 21 at Martins Cove and luckily the weather was beautiful. We were comfortable in jackets as we did the five-mile round trip walk to the cove. It is incomprehensible to me the suffering that these handcart pioneers experienced with 145 of the 600 loosing their lives from the most unimaginable conditions. I felt frustrated that our children appeared to not really care about learning or feeling the spirit. They were mostly concerned with their own comfort. It was our intention to create an opportunity for personal spiritual experiences. I don’t know if they received that, but it was a nice day. They were present and they participated. I believe that they will at least look back on the experience with fond memories. We had fun pushing, pulling, and even running with the handcart.
The kids seemed to especially enjoy our time at Independence Rock. It may have been because they weren’t being asked to be reverent. If you look closely at this picture, the little specks are the kids running up the 13-story rock.
While they climbed over (multiple times) I took the opportunity to walk the mile around it, mostly by myself. I think it is having quiet moments, no matter the venue that provides opportunities for the spirit to speak. It was surreal for me to see a heard of pronghorn’s and watch a bunny as I was considering the names, dates, and experiences of those who left everything they knew for hope of something better in a new country.
The entire trip I kept thinking to myself that God attended to the people of those handcart companies as they suffered, but why did he allow that severity of suffering to happen? Why didn’t he give them beautiful weather like we had? I’m sure I don’t know the answer, but one possibility is that countless others have found strength to endure and to press forward through difficulty by studying the handcart pioneer stories, especially the stories of those two companies that suffered so much. It sure puts life into perspective!
Our next destination was Rock Creek Hollow where 13 of the Willie Handcart Company were buried following their ascent through Rocky Ridge. They were forced to walk, some of them up to 28 hours, through the blizzard over Rocky Ridge, until they reached Rock Creek Hollow because if they stopped they would freeze to death. One thing that struck me is that they did, they all kept walking until they reached camp. Then, that night, due to exhaustion, starvation and exposure 13 of them died. The amazing thing is that they made it to camp. So much can be learned from their determination.
Unfortunately the historical mining towns of Atlantic City and South Pass were closed for the season. It looks like there are some cool things to see there. We enjoyed a few bonus stops along the way home. One surprise was Fossil Butte National Monument where we saw hundreds of fossils. It was awesome!
We spent our last night in Bear Lake to enjoy a little down time, where we weren't on the go every minute. It is fun to be together in the motor home. Caleb is usually happy (maybe a little too happy) tackling people and making everyone laugh and scream. The kids play games together and we snuggle up and nap on the bed in the back. It is nice to have the flexibility of stopping to sleep “wherever we get.”
Our final stop on the way home was at Tony’s Grove. It was on my list of things to do this summer. Better late than not at all. There was snow, but it wasn’t cold. We even took the walk around the lake. It was so beautiful!!
I am grateful for my pioneer heritage and for the legacy of determination, hard work, perseverance, and most of all testimony that they have left for us. I hope that my children will treasure the memories we have created on this trip and when times get difficult for them they can turn to the things that they learned and felt to strengthen them.