Our family has been on a lot of “adventures”. Sometimes the word “adventures” is a euphemism for “potentially disastrous and very difficult times”. My daughter labels some of these times in our lives as a series of unfortunate events. Another friend of mine used to listen to some of my current events and she say, “Oh there you go again! Your family is bonding, bonding, bonding!” I once heard Dr. Gary Smalley say that if you want to have bonding experiences in your family, you need to go camping. Inevitably, things happen. The tent site floods, the tent collapses in the middle of the night, you hear bears outside who are stealing your food, someone falls off a cliff or your car breaks down in the wilderness and you have to figure out how to get home. You have to learn to work together to over come the situation and survive. It may not be funny in the moment and in may be life threatening. Some of these disasters we are seeing essentially are requiring people to go camping for a much longer period of time than they had planned. People are reeling with shock, amazement and grief over their losses. Their trauma is real and I don’t want to give the impression that I am minimizing it at all.
I have said that I am a “Professional Home Schooling Mom”. I am also a trained educator. One thing I learned in college is the value of looking for “teachable moments”. These are moments that can happen because of the interests of children/people you are working with, something that is thrust upon you because of circumstances through no fault of your own. One thing that we “stumbled upon” was Fort Clatsop National Park in Astoria, Oregon. My children have some learning challenges. They learn much better with “hands on” and “interactive” situations.Strabismus, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, Dysgraphia, food allergies and other labels. I don’t like to call them disabilities because I don’t want them to think they can’t do things. In fact, I avoided people who seemed to think it was their job to point out obvious things that were none of their business. My children may not be able to do something the way the rest of the world does but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn and become self supporting adults in their area of gifting.
Our experience with Fort Clatsop provided the “hands on” and “interactive” form of learning opportunities that my children thrived on. It is a re-enactment site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1805. The fort has been built per the specifications of their journals. Throughout the year, staff demonstrate how Lewis and Clark, and their crew, survived the winter and how they had to manage during their travels. During that time period of history, there were no stores to go shopping at for supplies after they left St. Louis on the boat heading north. Everything they took had to be carefully planned and packed. They had to make their own bullets for hunting and self protection, they had to gather food along the way and trade with Native Americans for supplies they couldn’t make. They had to make or find their own food, medicines, music, ink, clothing and shoes out of hides. Once their supplies were gone, they had to adapt and adjust and work together. They had to boil sea water to get salt to cure the elk and salmon they needed to carry with them on their trip back. They each played an important part in encouraging each other and lifting each others spirits up when times were hard. And the times were hard. Sometimes food was scarce and hard to come by. They had to just eat things that they normally would not eat because they had to keep their strength up. They had to work at communicating with other people. At one point, each sentence spoken had to go through five people to get to the leader of each group. Clarity of communication would mean life or death. Each member of their team was essential for their survival just as each member of our family is essential for our survival.
Exposure to Fort Clatsop, reading stories about the pioneers, Native Americans, participating in Royal Ranger campouts, taking my kids through CERT (Citizen Emergency Relief Training), CPR and Lifeguarding classes, created the opportunity for us to practice emergency survival skills when it wasn’t an emergency. It also made the learning experience fun. Anytime we can make something a “game” or a “puzzle to solve” helps calm fears and release anxiety. My children learned how to make things and barter for things they wanted from these camps; how to cook over an open fire; how to build fires safely and how to put them out; how to purify water; how to make their own clothes and repair them; how to preserve and store foods; how to use firearms and knives safely, wisely and well. The goal is to give your children and yourself skills so that when things do happen, everyone knows what to do.
For instance, do you know where your “Ten Essentials” are? Each child and family member, including the dog, needs to have a pack that is their size with their own “ten essentials” in it. The Ten Essentials are: 1) food; 2)water; 3) extra clothes include socks and underwear packed in plastic bags; 4) shelter 5) matches/fire-starter pack in a plastic bag. Matches can be waterproofed by dipping in wax or nail polish. Little ones can help with this preparation process. I think kids need to learn how to manage a fire safely at much earlier ages than people do it now. Even cooking hot dogs gives them confidence for their future. 6) flashlight or glow sticks. 7) whistle for communication purposes as shouting for help takes a lot of energy while a whistle does not. 8) basic first aid supplies. Kids need to know how to clean a wound and put a bandage on it. Cleaning things is the first line of defense for health in any situation so include some hand sanitizer and small bar of soap. 9) Protective gloves and rubber boots sized appropriately can make a huge difference in letting kids help. You can get child size work gloves and boots at the Farmers Co-op. 10) repair kit and simple tools that fit your child’s hands so they can help with mending and restoring broken things. I started my kids learning to sew at age 3 sewing on badges for their AWANA vests. Knowing how to thread a needle and sew up a hole in clothing or a tent can make a lot of difference for someone. I add for children a small pack of colors, a small Bible, a deck of cards, paper, color or activity book, pencils or a pen. If child’s pack has something to drink, eat, and do as well as a jacket, something to do and a special toy, it helps so much to calm them down and help them be helpers in the situation.
I also talk to them about different situations and pretend you are doing them. Just like they do fire drills as school, we need to be practicing at home. We need to be giving kids practice in dealing with hard things. Thinking through who are your contact people in an emergency. Who do you call in another area of the country if phones are over worked here? Who will look after them if you cannot? Do you have a code word so they know someone is supposed to pick them up? How do we manage if the power is out? I think it is a good idea to write in permanent marker on the inside of the pack the child’s name, address, phone numbers and emergency contact people incase they get separated from you. A zip lock bag with a photo copy of ID, an insurance card inside with some cash is also a good idea to add to your child’s ten essentials. Although as I read this, this is more like twelve essentials as you prepare your child for life’s inevitable challenges.
Something else that I have learned is to remind children that it is not their fault that hard things are happening to and around them!
Due to some difficult circumstances our family ended up living in a travel trailer for several years and moving every two weeks. We had had a goal of buying property, building a log home on it, having an organic garden and planned to raise goats and chickens and be self sufficient. Land prices were such that we could either afford the payments on a 2 bedroom 35 foot trailer or a piece of land with nothing on it. The 35 ft trailer was the upgrade from the 16ft trailer which was the upgrade from the “tent in the box” tent trailer that really was a box that folded out with poles and a canvas tent thrown over it, which was the upgrade from the quasi camper/canopy on the back of our pickup truck. Now they call people who live like this “Full Timers” in RV circles. In reality we were just recovering financially from trusting a family member we never should have trusted.
We made friends with RV people even when our “rig” wasn’t as cool as their “rig”. These RV parks are really resorts with heated pools, tennis courts, mini golf and a clubhouse where “all you can eat” pancake could be had for a dollar a piece on the weekends. During the summer, they had craft projects for kids and adults. Our kids became expert swimmers who gave free swimming lessons at the parks. People were predominately friendly and if they didn’t like you, they could just move to another site or we could move.
We often cooked outside just because it gave us more room. We had a Tragar camping ‘gravity fed’ cook stove that had a hot water tank on it. We could bake in it and have hot water on demand when it was running. Our kids learned to help pack and set up even as little people. We all had to work together. We still volunteered at gleaning groups and the Dorcus society because I wanted my children to know how to take care of themselves and give back to the community. We mainly dehydrated foods during these years because there wasn’t room to store canned goods.
We continued to seek out opportunities to learn about how “they” did it. A favorite book series is “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingall’s Wilder. Her family went through some devastating times and yet they and their neighbors worked together while trusting God for the rest. They had to clear and prepare the land to grow, raise and make almost everything they needed so they could trade for what they could not make. Pa sometimes traveled miles by foot to find work so he could make money to send home. They did what needed to be done through floods, prairie fires, locusts, disease and huge disappointments. Neighbors came together to do tasks like building barns or houses, harvesting the crops and butchering the hogs for winter food. They celebrated gains and grieved losses. Sang songs and danced as Pa played his fiddle. Ma Ingall’s would say, “There is no great loss without some small gain.” They thanked God for what they had and were grateful for food to eat even when during the “Long Winter” food was running out and Ma ground wheat in the coffee grinder to make enough bread for them to each have a piece. They gathered together at church and prayed with and for their neighbors. They had to twist hay together to have anything to burn so they had heat in that brutally cold winter. Hardships can bring us closer together if we make the right choices.
Eventually I found the “Little House on the Prairie Cookbook” and used Ma Ingall’s recipe when I finally had goats and had enough milk to make cheese. There are a lot of cooking supplies we have come to take for granted, I think many foods today were made during an era of hardship where a woman had to make due with the supplies she had on hand to feed her family. Sometimes in an emergency, we need to gain skills so that we can do that too.
These are very troubling times we live in. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trials and tribulations come to you. But be of good cheer! For I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. I have found that as I pray, read my Bible, sing and play instruments, while asking God for guidance on what to do, He shows me. When I ask for help, it generally arrives from an unexpected source. He provides and protects in the midst of trouble. We don’t always have what we want but we always have what we need. Psalm 56:3 reminds me I need to make a choice in my circumstances, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Faith is a decision followed up with action to do and say what we can to point people to the only firm foundation in this world. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28; “Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and door shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7; “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33; “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven where neither moths nor thieves can harm it. For where your treasure is, your heart is there also.” Matthew 6:20,21 NIV
God bless your day with peace as you choose to look to Him as the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” Hebrews 12:2-3.”God is my refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear. Though the earth may shake and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
What are you going to do today to help prepare children and yourself to handle what comes your way?