CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT 2020 – JJ and Bandit Fundraiser Opportunity!

23 10 2020

So here’s what happened 🙂

I 3D printed my first ornament of the year.

People liked it. I was encouraged to print more. So I did.

So here’s the deal. If you want one, you can go to the link in the picture by typing it in, clicking on it HERE, or scanning the QR code. That’s JJ’s fundraising page. Make a $10 donation. You’ll have the chance to leave a written message. In that message, please let me know the donation is for the TP ornament, and if you want more than one, please let me know the number you’d like.

Easy peasy lemon squeasy, but feel free to ask questions if you have any.

Thanks for stopping by!


PS Stay tuned – next project, street lamp made from paper. Lamp lights up!

A Better Person – Our Autism Journey

16 10 2020

I’m a better person because of autism; more specifically I’m a better person because of my sons with autism.

I’m more compassionate because of them. More aware of the struggles of the people around me because of them. I’m more understanding of those around me. More willing to acknowledge when people are trying, even if it’s not working.

I’m more caring and less judging.

I’m less worried about what people think and more concerned with how I can help.

I’m more willing to cut my way through the condescending stares of strangers as they judge struggling moms so I can put my arm around this other mom and offer support and help instead of criticism.

I know I am judged. I know I will continue to be. I know that not everyone will understand my life and the challenges we face with autism, and I don’t expect them to.

But if I’m going to be judged no matter what, it will be for doing the right thing. For stepping in and doing the best to love as the Savior did. He walked hard roads alone so that we didn’t have to.

And my autistic sons taught me these things. They’re helping shape me into a person like the ones I admire. Into the person I want to be. Into the person the Lord knew I could become.

Many days with autism can be hard and challenging. But I would not be who I am today without these boys in my life and I’m happy with the woman I’m constantly growing into.

The Call – JJ and Bandit – Service Dog Files

15 10 2020

Super short today guys…but I got a call today.

I answered it, and was told there was a problem with Bandit.

It’s getting time for the dogs in training to rotate foster homes and Bandit won’t be able to


Bandit and JJ matched.

My son now has a service dog. His best friend is staying.

BUT this was ONLY possible because other people have paid it forward. I say that like it’s not a big thing, so let me rephrase it.

My son has a service dog because OTHER PEOPLE were kind enough to PAY FOR IT ahead of time.

I don’t know who all the people were that paid for my son’s dog, but I’m SO grateful to them.

So now we’re switching gears. WE will keep raising money, because WE will be paying it forward to make it possible for someone else to find the same magic we have.

So please, continue to remember JJ and Bandit. They are the faces of the families you may never meet but you could make such a difference for them by continuing to donate through JJ’s fundraising page here.

I’m also open to suggestions for fundraising. I have some ideas, but I need help to make them a reality and make them feasible, so stay tuned for those ❤

Thank you again for being on this journey and for stopping by today.


Bump in the Night – JJ and Bandit Service Dog Files

6 10 2020

One of the jobs an autism service dog can do is help their person sleep.

My son, like many on the spectrum, has trouble sleeping. Specifically, he has trouble calming and regulating enough to be able to fall asleep. There have been some long nights, and even some nights that didn’t end. There were times when our medications were out of whack and sleep NEVER came.

As a reminder, Bandit is leaning to work with children – that’s how we’re helping as we foster. He sees me as the person to follow, because that’s what he’s used to. But he’s tethered to JJ most of the day and he’s starting to get comfortable with me farther away, which is exactly what we want him to do ❤️

We started a nighttime routine that lets JJ fall asleep with Bandit.

That’s what’s happening right now. I’m sitting on the hardwood floor writing this as those two snooze away lol. The goal is for Bandit to stay in JJ’s room with him throughout the night, but we’re not there yet. Bandit still gets up and leaves the room with me when my back decides it can’t sit on the floor any longer. But the ease of the transition is getting faster. Both boys are settling into this routine and I feel like there are only good places to go from here ❤️

Thanks for stopping by


As always, if you’d like to read more about JJ’s story, you can find it here: help JJ. If you’re interested, you can also donate to our fundraising efforts there ❤️

JJ and Bandit Update: The Service Dog Files and Fundraiser Reminders

3 10 2020

JJ and Bandit are doing so great things ❤️

If you’re friends with me on FB, you’ve probably already heard about these things, so I apologize. But for the rest of you, I wanted to share some things 😊

Between ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and Dyslexia, school can be hard. But this is some of what I saw this week, that I haven’t seen before.

In the above picture, JJ was stressing over the work, I could see it. But before I could intervene, he reached out and pet Bandit, which is exactly what Bandit is there for! This was HUGE for JJ. I honestly didn’t know if JJ would respond to a dog in the beginning. But he has been. Then, I wasn’t sure if he’d reach out to Bandit in times of need. We’ve tried a lot of different fidgets and stress reducers to help him be able to calm down when he needed to, but those haven’t been that successful. But guess who’s been reaching out 🙂 And Bandit is there within easy reach.

In the picture below, I caught some good stuff, too.

I don’t think this looks like a kiddo who’s dreading school lol. We also switched online academies and that’s helped with completing school work, but now I’m worried JJ won’t WANT to go back to public school because this is just way too cool for him lol.

When not working, they’ve been able to work on Settle. Many with autism find deep, gentle pressure calming. Because Paws 4 AUTISM uses standard poodles, they weigh enough to provide that kind of pressure. Many times, you can find JJ resting on Bandit, but sometimes, he needs Bandit to rest on him.

Last but not least, LOVE. Bandit is a service dog, so by nature, he provides service. But he’s so much more than that. He’s quickly becoming JJ’s best friend. And as such, JJ works to make sure Bandit has the things he needs, including belly rubs.

JJ’s smile says everything you need to know about how it’s going.

And this is why we’re fundraising. The two fundraisers we have going right now are Ear Savers and Back to School Signs. You can find info about them below. And as always, JJ’s direct fundraising page if you just want to learn more about his story or donate.

Ear Savers to make wearing masks more comfortable.

Back to School Sign to bring a little smile to your face

Help JJ

Thanks for stopping by!



6 09 2020

We’re making these signs as a fundraiser for Paws 4 Autism and JJ.

You can find out more information about them here, E-Learning Signs, including size, shipping, and customization info.

As always, feel free to share, especially if you know someone who could use a little chuckle right now 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Alta and JJ


4 09 2020

Boy howdy it’s been a busy month!

First, don’t forget about our Ear Saver/Mask Holder fundraiser here, for JJ.

A lot has been going on, and some of it I already planned to share. But something cooler happened yesterday and I’m going to share that today, instead.

I’m sure you can guess that a service dog needs to have a good bond with the person who needs them. Bandit is an AMAZING dog and has had some pretty fantastic dog mommies. He hasn’t been around young kids much though. So naturally, he followed me around the first few weeks. Then we went out of town for a few days and he stayed with one of his dog mommies ❤

When we picked him up, he was pretty happy to see us which felt awesome, like we were maybe doing a good job as his foster family 🙂 He continued to follow me around, which wasn’t unexpected.

We’ve been working with JJ the last month on interacting with the dog. Although he pets the other dogs, he hasn’t really PLAYED with them and was unsure how that worked (see previous blogs for those posts) 🙂

Bandit has been odd about his food, too, often refusing to eat if he can’t see me. But this week…HE LET JJ FEED HIM! It was so good for that bond we’re trying to build. Bandit can’t be an autism service dog for me, since that’s not my diagnosis. To really be able to do his job, he HAS to focus on JJ (or Isaac). And this week, we may have turned that corner. He gets excited when he sees JJ. He’s starting to come to him when JJ calls, even if he doesn’t have a treat. He gets anxious when Isaac is upset and tries to get to him to help (remember, Isaac (4) is also autistic).

A few nights ago, I saw JJ and Bandit like this:

Bandit was laying HIS head on JJ instead of the other way around.

Usually, JJ’s laying on Bandit, but not this time. It was such a sweet moment!

Yesterday, after ABA therapy, we had music therapy. Bandit surprised me a little when he sat down by JJ. I was on the other side of him, which is typical, but his focus was totally on JJ.

And today, during ABA, Bandit kept an eye on both boys. Isaac was outside with his therapist and Bandit would trot to the door and watch. Then he’d trot into the living room and check on JJ. He kept making the rounds until Isaac was back in the house.

Here’s the boys during session today 🙂

This just makes my heart so happy.

Thanks for stopping by!

Have a safe holiday weekend ❤️


Alta and JJ

As always, if you’d like to check out Paws 4 Autism, click here: Awesome people

If you’d like to read more about JJ’s story, or make a donation, you can find his page here: Help JJ


11 08 2020

Trying to teach JJ to actually PLAY with the dog is…interesting. Play has always been a struggle for him, which isn’t uncommon with autistic kiddos.

He tried to mimic, but it’s awkward and he doesn’t quite understand the point (which in this case is bonding with the dog). I’m guessing this is the socialization component that a lot of kids on the spectrum are challenged by. I hope that  teaching him to play with the dog might help when playing with other kids. In the end though, we started getting it ❤️

JJ and Bandit Ball

Bandit stopped chasing the ball and decided to lay down in front of JJ to play with the ball. I was sitting across the room and being ignored – which made me very happy 😉

Later that day, Bandit was laying down near where I was. JJ came back, called him AND BANDIT FOLLOWED HIM OUT! This was a great thing. And it happened a second time! This was a really good thing. Bandit is awesome, but used to working with grown ups. They both did great! So, I think we’re on the right track. It will take time, but we’re getting to the point that Bandit is getting more comfortable with him ❤️❤️❤️

But then the best thing happened…

For background: When you first meet JJ, you might not catch on that there’s something different about him. And even when you do, you still might not be able to narrow it down, because he’s got a lot going on (which is why  getting a diagnosis took so long).

But one of the things he struggles with so much is play.

Age appropriate play. Appropriate play. Peer play. Independent play. He struggles so much, that this has been a major cause of problems that lead to him getting in trouble which can kick off major power struggles. And that’s all a big pile of no fun.

He’s so in his world sometimes, he misses things going on around him. Forgets about the things around him – like people and dogs.

I worried about how he would do with a dog. Would he initiate play? Would it be appropriate? Would he remember there was even a dog for him to play with?

And then I walked in to the living room to see full on, no awkwardness, just pure delightful play.

JJ and Bandit Snuggle after play

JJ turns 9 in November and I really think this might be his first actual, non-family friend.

JJ and Bandit Hangin Out

These friends in progress spent the evening relaxing before it was time for JJ to go to bed. And I’ve probably mentioned this before, but this little boy has NEVER taken to a dog like this before, and he’s had dogs in his life for the last 6 years. So this is special.

For many people, these pictures are of an adorable little boy and a cute dog. But as a mom of a child with special needs…these pictures look like hope to me.




Thank you for stopping by. For more information about JJ’s story and the fundraising we’re doing, you can find him here : Help For JJ at the Paws 4 Autism page.


Alta and JJ




Bandit: Service Dog Files

9 08 2020

One of the things Bandit is doing for JJ is giving him “something” to do.

JJ struggles to find appropriate things to do on his own. So WE have to make sure he always has something to do to stop him from getting in to trouble. We worked with his therapy team at the beginning of the year to try and figure out how to “keep him out of trouble,” because keeping him out of trouble is proving WAY easier than actually getting him through the consequences of getting himself in trouble.

It’s helped. A LOT.

And now, among the many things Bandit is learning to do for kids on the spectrum, helping provide something for them to do is one of those things. He holds my son’s attention and that’s not always easy.

Good boy Bandit!

For more information about JJ’s story, or Paws 4 Autism, just follow the links.

Thanks for stopping by!


Bandit: Week 1 – Service Dog Files

8 08 2020

It’s been almost a week since we said good bye to Finlay and Hello to Bandit. Here are some updates, because people are asking for them 😀

It’s kind of in journal form. I’m not sure if I’m going to do weekly, or more frequent recaps, but we’re starting with the weekly this time.

Day 1:

Poor JJ is going through all the names to get to Bandit lol. Grady, Finlay (the other dogs) and Gambit (the gecko) before finally getting to Bandit. And little brother is making himself at home with Bandit 😀

I think his nickname might be Bam Bam. It’s easier for JJ to say. And just like that, Bandit was prancing around outside that night ❤️

Later that night, Little Brother was walking around the house calling out for Finlay. We had to remind him that Fin wasn’t here, but Bandit was. During that time, Bandit and J were playing a game. J called Bandit’s name and Bandit ran to find him. Then J gave him a treat. They kept it up for a hot minute.

Bandit slept in our room, so I could see how he did being in a new place.

Day 2:

Diploma Day for our Senior and Bandit went with us. It was his first time in the Jolly Roger (our big 19.5 foot long van). He did great!

Bandit in the Van

He also did great in the school and helped keep JJ focused and in place by us.

JJ and Bandit for Alta's Graduation

He was spoiled by all the kids today, and Paul. He’s so soaking up all the love right now. Which is great, because tomorrow, we tether him to JJ and they both get to try and figure out how to work with each other. Bandit is great but he’s used to grown ups – they’re the ones that have been training him, and J…It’s hard to say how involved he’ll be.

Also, Bandit BROUGHT a toy to J so they could play! It was awesome!

Little Brother came over to me and said: Finlay’s not here because Bandit’s here. I want to play with Finlay but I can’t. So I’ll play with Bandit.

So sweet. (Little Brother is 4yo and ADORES dogs and is also autistic).

When JJ got up to go potty before bed, Bandit was watching him. THIS is what we need to see from him so we can see if he’s transferring his learning to a little kid 🙂


Day 3:

Today was four hours of ABA therapy at home, voting, and speech therapy. We also tethered the boys in training 🙂 JJ and Bandit playing Yahtzee

JJ and Bandit watching TV 2

This is during therapy. Bandit did a GREAT job laying down by J while he worked with his therapists 🙂 Bandit still wants to follow me and keep an eye on me, but I’m redirecting him to J and letting J do the majority of the treats. I think they’re both starting to figure this out ❤️

I took Bandit to vote with us, because one of my voting age kids often needs wheel chair assistance and I wanted to see how he did next to a wheel chair.

He did awesome 🙂

At speech therapy later, Bandit kept staring out the window of the therapy room trying to find me while J was in with his therapist. So, we need to do a lot of the “Where’s JJ” game to help him focus on JJ. But as my friend at Paws 4 Autism pointed out, it can come in handy if we can’t find JJ. It’s scarily common for kids with autism to “elope,” whether that’s running away, wandering away, or being left behind because they’re not paying attention, these guys are at such a high risk. JJ’s brain doesn’t recognize danger, so having another way to search for him if that happens is an added layer of relief.

When JJ and Bandit came out of the therapy room, I was mauled in the nicest, happiest, most excited way possible by Bandit. I was sitting down which made it much easier lol. But he calmed pretty quickly and laid down when I asked him to. And later, at home, Paul got an exuberant Bandit hug too! He’s a snuggler!

Day 4:

Squee! Bandit and JJ just sat on the floor for a good 20 mins while we had family reading time and Bandit just hung out while JJ pet him 😀

When J got up and went to the bathroom, Bandit ran after him to see where he was going and what he was doing. He checked on him a second time, too ❤️

Day 5:

I’m starting to transition Bandit over to sleeping in JJ’s room. That’s where his dog will sleep and Bandit needs to practice sleeping in a kid’s room. We also need to see if having a dog in there will keep JJ awake or not. I’m not exaggerating when I say a piece of hair can hold my son’s attention enough to keep him awake if he doesn’t want to go to sleep, even with medicines.

The both did a fantastic job!

JJ and Bandit BedtimeJJ and Bandit Bedtime 2

He eventually wanted out, so we let him out, but we’ll still keep trying. I don’t want to create any aversive situations so I’m trying to follow the dog’s lead, too. But so far, he’s not quite diggin’ it, but we’ll keep trying a little at a time.

Day 6:

Bandit AND JJ played an awesome game of, “Where’s JJ?” today. Usually JJ has a hard time recalling Bandit’s name quickly, but not today 😀 J was using the treats but I wasn’t during this game and Bandit definitely preferred JJ lol

Before bed, the boys hung out on the floor watching shark week.

JJ and Bandit watching TV

JJ’s NEVER been this comfortable with a dog before. I’ve been worried about how well he’d do with a dog. Would he interact? Would he be able to do it appropriately? I figured he’d want to, but want doesn’t always translate into being able to. I think tethering them works just as much for JJ as it does for Bandit.

Also tonight, I watched this dog back up to the couch and get on the couch BACK legs first! This is a dog of many talents lol.


We’ve been hanging out. We tried playing a game of ball (where JJ ROLLS the ball) but instead, he got wound up and started throwing the ball and I don’t know if he was even paying attention to Bandit anymore. So we had to stop the game. Unfortunately, when JJ gets wound up so much, it’s VERY hard for him to self regulate and come back down. His brain disengages – the executive functioning shuts down – and there’s no thought to actions. He was so wound up this morning, he doesn’t even remember throwing the ball, but I SAW him, so I know it happened. And it took some time to get his brain and body settled enough that he wasn’t going to get himself into trouble.

But what I learned today, gives me some hope. The pups are taught the command “Settle” and they lay across laps, feet, bodies – whatever’s comfortable for their person, and the deep pressure from the gentle weight helps sooth the person. If we can get this to work for JJ, this could be a game changer for us. Right now, we have to work from the angle of not winding him up, instead of letting him get crazy and then calming him down (since he doesn’t calm easily). But if we have a way to calm him, especially quickly and in the moment, my son has more freedom to do more things that neurotypical kids do. And if that’s the case, then all the work and time, all the late nights and weekends spent working on the fundraising…it makes it worth it.

You guys, a DOG. A dog could allow my son to experience things that most of us take for granted. It can give him more freedom than I hoped for which is why we do the hard things.

Thanks for stopping by!


As always, if you’d like to read more about JJ, feel free to go to his fundraising page to read his story. If you want to make a donation, that would be fantastic. If you want to help us get the word out by helping us share his story, we’re grateful for that, too.

JJ’s Story at Paws 4 Autism