Elliott Family

Elliott Family

Monday, December 9, 2013

4 Paws For Ability

I know I haven't written a blog post in a long time.  You see, this strange thing happened this year in that the kids are getting older and more independent, and I am spending more time working (yep, gainful employment) and doing things that I haven't had energy or time for in the past.  This other strange thing happened called nightly homework! :-)

Really, I'm busy.  The thing I miss about blogging is that it was a sort of scrapbook for me.  I like to look back at the old photos and read the stories that go with them.  It's just not as much fun to do the work when I'm exhausted.


We have a little excitement going on in our lives right now, though, so I feel compelled to break the silence and record a bit of it for myself to remember later and for other families to read who are going through the same type of thing.

We are getting a service dog for Aidan.  Why, you might ask?  I'll admit that it's hard to talk about.  I prefer to be a glass-half-full kind of gal, even though I don't always succeed.  I also like to find a solution to a problem I'm having, so at least I can also tell that story.

Recently Aidan has begun to wander away from us (quite quickly I might add!) and it's getting to be a bit stressful.  He's 8-1/2 years old and is doing the same type of independent things you might expect of other kids his age.  He might just wander off to the bathroom when we're out at the park, or head out to the backyard or garage when he wants something at home.  But, there is a difference between him and the average 8-1/2 year old.  He has some major speech difficulties.  So, instead of him telling me where he's going, he just goes (yes, we're working on it).  Also, when we are in large, public, crowded places it is downright frightening!  If someone found him he can say his name, but will that person understand him?  Can he tell them my name?  Or Scotte's?  He certainly can't tell them my cell phone number.  Plus, how do I know the difference between him wandering away with a creepy stranger or him running off to the bathroom?  So, it's been a little disconcerting at times.

We've been exploring the idea of a service dog for over a year now.  First of all, Aidan adores dogs. We want him to have a dog, and we I had been exploring what kind of dog would be best for him.  I started to read about service dogs.  We were rejected by one organization (Aidan is not disabled enough) and others would not train dogs for kids.  Thanks to two good friends of mine I finally stumbled across an amazing organization called 4 Paws For Ability.  The organization has a mission of training service dogs for individuals, children and veterans with disabilities.  I immediately fell in love with this organization!!  Plus, they immediately accepted Aidan as a candidate for service dog placement.  I am thrilled, because having a service dog means we can take the dog where we really need it - into crowded places where my little escape artist can get into trouble.

Next, we began the daunting task of reaching our fundraising goal for the organization.  It costs about $22,000 to raise, train and place a service dog.  4 Paws is a nonprofit and they ask each family to commit to raising $13,000 (just over half of the cost) for the organization.  It seemed impossible to reach and I was sure we would be at it for at least a year.  However, on many levels I found this to be a brilliant strategy.  Many service dog organizations will place service dogs for free, but we were rejected by those.  Also, those organizations have long waitlists and employees who do all the fundraising for them.  At 4 Paws, the families do part of the fundraising, spread the word to hundreds of people who have never heard of them in communities across the country, and they are able to provide dogs faster to families in need.  I find it to be quite logical, and we were actually honored to talk about 4 Paws to other people and raise money for the organization.


So, we began on what seemed like a neverending journey.  I was quite inspired by my friend, Marsha, who was able to raise the money for her son in just two months.  She gave me a ton of ideas and Scotte and I just went with it!

First, I have to say, we have some amazing and generous friends and family members!  You know who you are, and I will be sending you all a personal note.  I can't thank you enough for your support!  I also found some brand new friends during this journey, and met some of the nicest people in the world.  I feel honored to know you!

Next, our amazing, generous, kind, wonderful photographer friend, Kama of Candid Kama Photography, immediately agreed to hold a photography fundraiser day for us and donate HALF the proceeds!!  We hoped that by spreading the word we would bring her some new clients so hopefully she would benefit a little from this arrangement, as well, but clearly we were the ones who came out on the winning end of this deal.  Kama donated over $550 from her photography day, and she spent the day with a terrible cold out in the freezing, snowy weather.  I think I owe Kama a million bucks!!

Thanks to my friend, Marsha, I was inspired to hold a Holiday Open House Fundraiser, and I'm so glad I did.  The generous owner of our dance studio, Footsteps Family Dance Center, readily agreed to let us use one of her studios to hold our fundraiser.  We had vendors from Pampered Chef, AVON, Lia Sophia, Discovery Toys, Origami Owl, Tupperware, and others come in and sell their goods.  They all donated raffle prizes and before the night was over we raised more than $800 for 4 Paws!  We've had some proceeds coming in ever since and that event alone will hit $1000 before it's all said and done.  I'll call that a success!

I had amazing support from the owner of our local PostNet.  He made me a ton of copies for me for free and gave me a poster at cost.  The owner of our local store is just about the nicest man I have ever met.  I will be taking all of my shipping and copying business to his store.  I love him!!

We also held a City BBQ fundraiser day and I am still waiting to hear how that turned out.  Finally, I work with some of the nicest folks I have ever met, and they are holding several fundraisers at work this month to benefit 4 Paws.  They are holding a Holiday Helpers gift wrap day, and they are also donating a percentage of the proceeds from their Holipalooza to 4 Paws.  I'm not sure how I stumbled upon such a great group of work colleagues, but I am humbled by their generosity.

This is a great place for me to give a shout out to all of my supporters, and I have never been more elated in my life than when I got the phone call from the CareSource Foundation letting me know that they were funding Aidan's dog!  I cried for an entire day after finding out!  Can you believe it?  Who does that?  I was sure we had a good year of fundraising ahead of us, and to find out that we were a giant step closer to our dog was a joy and a relief, all at the same time.  I will forevermore be spreading the word about CareSource Foundation!  Thank you, CareSource!!


We have been placed in the March 2015 class.  That is when we will travel to Xenia, Ohio and stay for two weeks of intensive training  with our dog.  They will teach us how to use all of the dogs skills and abilities.  At 4 Paws we will be trained as a team - the adult handler, the child and the dog.

Aidan's dog will be trained to track him if he wanders away from us.  That will be the number one thing for us.  Also, if we are in crowded places we can tether Aidan to the dog.  That sounds worse than it is in reality!  Basically, Aidan will have a special belt that will attach to the dog.  He will also have a leash, and the adult handler will have the control leash.  Aidan will think that he is helping the dog, but in fact, this will keep him from wandering away without us knowing.  As he gets older, I don't want to have to hold tightly to his hand everywhere we go!  Who wants to have a death grip on their strong 12-year-old during every public outing?  I want him to have more independence from me and be able to feel that he is responsible for himself and his dog.

The dog will also be trained to disrupt Aidan's repetitive behaviors.  Trust me, that's another blog post, but I'm also looking forward to this!  The dog will interrupt Aidan with nudges, kisses and snuggles.  The dog will be able to calm meltdowns.  This dog will be a superstar!!

I see Aidan's dog giving him a lot more independence without me having to have a grip on his hand at all times.  We have extra locks on all of our doors, but it's a matter of time until he can unlock them or one of the other kids can.  This dog will give us peace of mind.


Our next step is to make a video of Aidan's life.  They want to see all of the ins and outs.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  This will help them train the dog specifically for Aidan.  As we get closer we will find out our actual travel dates, and when we are within a couple of weeks we will find out who our dog is.  We are very excited, and I have no doubt the time will fly by!

We are also allowed to fundraise for our travel expenses at this time.  We haven't decided what we will do about this yet, but we will be staying in a hotel in Xenia for two weeks.


Here are a couple of things you might want to check out.

4 Paws For Ability Documentary (grab some tissues!)

Aidan's Facebook Page

4 Paws For Ability Website

4 Paws For Mia - in a training class with her dog right now!

Joe's Journey - in a training class with his dog right now!

Thanks again to all of the folks who have supported us.  I hope I can give back to another child the way you have given to us.  Any outstanding donations (such as from our City BBQ Fundraiser) that come in for Aidan will be donated to another local child who is so close to reaching his goal.  Help Carter get there!  Visit his page and give him your support!

An Autism Service Dog For Carter J. Tackitt

So, I will not be back to blogging like I used to, but I will update here periodically again, time permitting.  I'm looking forward to this exciting part of our lives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Memories of a Book Worm

My cousin, Gretchen, has a very amusing blog that I love to read.  She has always been a great story teller, so when she started blogging I looked forward to reading some of the stories I remember her telling when we were kids.  She has a great memory for details; she remembers way more about her childhood than I do!  She recently did a post about some of her favorite books from her childhood.  I imagine that her mom (my Aunt Kim) was similar to my mom.  My mom could NEVER say no to books.  We always got books at the school book fairs; I remember anxiously awaiting every trip to Hills (Remember the old department store?  It was kinda like a Kmart except it was awesome).  My mom bought me a book almost every time we set foot in that store.  Okay, dad, not every time.  I won't give away all of our secrets.  I remember trekking to the library with my brother and sister - and our wagon.  We would fill the wagon until it was overflowing and haul it back home, then spend the day reading.  Wake up the next day - repeat.  I would also spend afternoons rearranging my book collection on my bookshelf.  My sister and I would read the backs of the books and see if the other person could guess the title.  Doesn't sound too hard until you're guessing the title of 1 of a hundred Sweet Valley High books!

I both spent my high school afternoons working at my local library, shelving books and scoping out all the new titles.  I loved being able to get my hands on them first!  I was always excited when something new would come in that I thought my grandmother would love.  It seemed like every time we visited my grandma she was curled up at the end of her couch with a pile of books.

Those were the good old days, but I still find that a trip to the library ALONE is an extra special treat!!  Taking the kids is fun, too, but in a completely different and chaotic kind of way.  Scotte and I often end up at Barnes & Noble for date night.  I don't care if all of this makes me a nerd, because it makes me totally happy.

I have a serious book addiction for my kids now.  When a Scholastic book order comes home in the backpack, I swear I am only going to let the kids pick one book each.  Fifty dollars later.... I'm a sucker.  They know by now that I will deny toys when we are out shopping, so they eventually grab a book and the rest is history.  Plus, if you saw how many books I purchased at our recent school book fair...Oh, well, I can't help myself.  I figure there are worse addictions.

After reading Gretchen's bookworm post, I almost immediately dug my two dusty boxes of books from my childhood out of our grimy basement.  My only regret - I can't really see my boys reading most of these treasures, and I'm sure no one else will appreciate them.  It was so fun to look through those boxes and reminisce, and it wasn't too surprising to realize that I still read the same types of books I did then, for the most part - just the grown-up versions.

Okay, here is my copycat version of Memories of a Book Worm.  These are my books:
Where the Red Fern Grows By Wilson Rawls

This is the first book I can recall that left me crying hysterically in the bathroom.  Until reading this, I had NO IDEA that it was possible to lose it over some words on a page, and to this day, any book that leaves me crying is a winner.  For some reason, animal deaths always have the end result of me with snot running down my face.

I will always remember how the main character, Billy, had so much determination to succeed.  I hope when I share this book with my boys when they are older that  at least one of them will love it as much as I do.  Most of my books might not interest them, but this one is a keeper.

All Nancy Drew Books By Carolyn Keene
It would be wrong for me to put anything on here next other than Nancy Drew.  When I was a kid I read the original 56 books.  Then, they built on the original with paperback books going well into the hundreds.  I found a new one practically every time we went to Hills.  Plus, there were The Nancy Drew Files, and there are well over a hundred of those.  These books were a serious addiction for me, and I was sure I would be just like Nancy Drew when I was eighteen.  Okay, not really.  They still make new Nancy Drew books and I am always tempted to buy them.  I'm sure they have updated some crucial elements.  Nancy probably doesn't receive telegrams anymore, but possibly mysterious text messages. Perhaps she no longer uses terms like "keen" and "foul play."  I'm not sure, but I am tempted to read one just to find out... I still love a good mystery.

Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Twins created by Francine Pascal
I still enjoy the occasional chick lit novel just to lighten things up.  These are akin to watching soap operas - when your brain just doesn't want to think too hard.  I know it all began for me in Sweet Valley.  My sister had every Sweet Valley High book and I had all the Sweet Valley Twins books.  The beauty was that we would swap and read both of them.  I always hated Jessica and wanted to be exactly like Elizabeth.  Who didn't?  Eventually they had Sweet Valley University, and I think I read a couple of them.  Recently they released the adult version - Sweet Valley Confidential.  Of course, I had to read that, too.  And it was horrible.  I am so very tempted to read a few of these again to see if they still have any charm now that I'm an old lady.

I am sure that reading these types of books is also what makes me love reading any books now that are part of a series or have a number of sequels.  I often have great remorse when I finish a book and I have to let characters go.  I often don't feel like it's time for a story to end, and that authors just quit books because they are tired of writing them.  Give me a good series any day and I can read about the same characters for months!  Heaven!

Ghosts Beneath Our Feet By Betty Ren Wright

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
 Even at a young age I was drawn to supernatural tales.  The spookier the better.  I devoured anything by Betty Ren Wright or Mary Downing Hahn.  In my high school years I couldn't stop reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and I still read both of those authors today.  I think this all stems from the fact that people swear we had a ghost in our house when I was a kid.  We lived in an old yellow house and a lot of scary things happened all the time.  If you ask me if I believe in ghosts today, I will probably say "yes" but it's only because I have witnessed it with my own eyes.  I will not go into the stories here for fear that everyone I know will think we are all crazy, but believe me...

These are the first books I read as a kid where I can recall simply not being able to stop reading them.  They were like an obsession!  How could I possibly put down a book with such suspense, when the story was unfolding right before my eyes.  My favorite kind of book!!

Six Months to Live By Lurlene McDaniel
Technically this is my sister's book, but I read most of hers too.  We both went through a phase of reading about teenagers dying from various causes, but mostly cancer.  I think Lurlene McDaniel is like the queen of teenage illness.  This book is a tear-jerker, and I still can't resist a tear-jerker.  As an adult I have moved past teenagers with cancer and now I tend to obsess over books about the Holocaust.  While these may seem different initially, they are really quite similar types of books - people suffering from things out of their control which may ultimately end in death or a life-changing outlook on life.  And they all make me cry.

Encyclopedia Brown By Donald J. Sobol

I always loved these quaint little mysteries.  Unlike Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown wasn't jetting off around the world funded by her lawyer daddy.  He wrapped up small mysteries quickly and in his hometown.  I remember puzzling over one of his cases for days because the ultimate punchline had to do with when people trim their toenails.  He was sure that toenails couldn't be trimmed after a bath because they would be too soft.  I still prefer to trim my toenails after a bath, so I have puzzled over this for two decades in fear that one day I will be put in prison because my alibi will not stand up to scrutiny.  Seriously, that was too much information, but you can see how his little mysteries had "perfect" solutions.

Animal Inn series By Virginia Vail

I LOVED this series as a kid, but I don't think they made very many - like 12 or so, which pales in comparison to my other collections so it left me utterly disappointed.  I read these when I was sure that I would grow up to be a veterinarian.  The books centered on Valerie, the daughter of a vet, and they were all about her helping her dad take care of injured animals.  Luckily I outgrew the desire to be a vet...that definitely wasn't the future for me!

Just Like Jenny By Sandy Asher
I forgot all about this book until I was looking through my book bins.  This is just an example of my weird obsession with books about ballerinas and/or horses.  I'm pretty sure I collected the ballet books while I was taking ballet lessons; I also had an ongoing desire to go to horse camp just like my cousin, Joanna.  I have outgrown reading books on both of these topics. :-)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
This book would still make my list of all-time favorite books.  I think I need to read it again right away.  What is more fun than traveling through time and battling evil?

V.C. Andrews
I have shared some of my earliest self-chosen reading titles, but after those, probably during my early high school years, I had a major love for V.C. Andrews.  So good!

Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
Simultaneously, I was going through my love of anything James Alexander Thom.  I currently do not always love historical fiction, but Follow the River and Panther in the Sky will probably always remain on my list of all-time favorite books.

I like to think that my reading tastes have matured over time, but these were my early influences.  I love each of these books.  I am so fortunate to have a family that has always encouraged reading, and to have had lovely English teachers in high school who introduced me to more "refined" books.  Still, I think what matters most is to read what makes you happy.  Happy reading!!

Monday, December 17, 2012


My sister and I were looking for a way to surprise our parents at Christmas this year.  I think they get harder to buy for every year, and we wanted something a little more meaningful than a gift card.  I am not at all crafty, but I love photos and I love give photos as gifts.  We decided to have portraits taken of all the grand kids by my favorite photographer, Kama.  We are able to be sneaky like that since my sister and I live so close to each other; the hard part was not mentioning it to my mom every time I talked to her on the phone!

The kids did such a great job and we all had such a fantastic morning together.  I love my family!!

I think my parents were surprised, and I just adore all of these photos of our adorable kids together.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Spirit

We've been working hard to get into the Christmas spirit, even if it is 55 and rainy outside.

Last weekend we went to the zoo and took advantage of the warm weather to see the Christmas lights.  They were beautiful, as always, and we had fun walking with friends and enjoying the animals and lights.

photo courtesy of Aidan Elliott, who cut off the top
We have the decorations up in the house and the kids won't let me unplug the tree for even a minute.

This weekend we spent some time making homemade marshmallows (the only thing I changed with the recipe is that I used butter on the pan instead of cooking spray).  Thanks to my friend, Mary Elliott, for the recipe suggestion last year. These were so good and simple to make, and I'm not sure why I have ever purchased them in the store.  The boys helped measure the ingredients, but I did the rest because it involved very hot liquids being placed into a mixer.  The boys could barely stand to wait overnight to eat them.  They licked the bowl very carefully, however.  The best part is that the recipe makes a ton!!  Aidan doesn't even like store-bought marshmallows, but he ate a bowl of these. (pardon the blurry photos from my phone)

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving ~ My Favorite Holiday

I love Thanksgiving, and yes, it's about the pie.  This year my mother made the following pies: 2 pumpkin, 2 apple, 1 pecan, 1 blueberry, 1 raspberry, and 2 cherry.  But, I swear, there are a lot of us.  Okay, not really, because only one of the kids (Brendan) actually eats the pie.
Other than that, I just enjoy relaxing with family.  We went to see Santa at the mall.  I went to see "Lincoln" with my brother - so amazing, by the way!  We took the boys to see "Rise of the Guardians" (another keeper - I recommend).  The boys played chess and pick-up sticks and Star Wars.  Scotte was traveling, but I was lucky to be with my parents and have such a relaxing time.
Always game time

These two cousins - inseparable
Uncle Joey is a rock star
Grammy made it all happen
I hope you all had a thankful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Liam Starts Preschool

I am writing a post simply to commemorate the day by little baby started preschool.  It is a sad milestone for me, because it is the last time one of my boys will start preschool.  It is only for 3 afternoons a week, a few hours at a time, but it seems like a big-boy thing to do.  He loves the school, mainly because his buddy, Andrew goes there.  Those few hours a week allow me to get a ton of things done, and I think it's good for him, too.  We both seem to be winning in this situation.  To many happy school days!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Festivities

We enjoyed many fun events at Halloween this year.  I am so behind on my blog that I will post some photos and skip a lot of the text.

First, we celebrated our annual Dougherty family weekend at Indian Bear Lodge - Halloween style!  I think the kids had more fun here than actually trick-or-treating.  They couldn't wait to get there this year, and they talked about it for weeks before the day finally arrived.  It was rather fun, and I always love the opportunity to hang out with my family.
Dougherty Family

This is my crazy family, and I love them all.

When we got back from Indian Bear Lodge we had a very sick boy who had to get over strep in a few short days to be able to trick-or-treat.  I know the signs, so Aidan was treated right away and Wednesday he was able to join his school friends for their Halloween Party.
Miss Flory ~ 1st Grade
Let me just say - BEST SCHOOL PARTY EVER!!!!  I love the first grade class we have this year.  That party was so calm and wonderful.  How did I get so lucky this year?  My boys have a great teacher and a good group of classmates.  Can you guess who Aidan is sitting next to, so beautifully dressed as Snow White?   That's his dear friend, Tania.

Halloween was a very dreary day around these parts.  The boys only lasted for 30 minutes.  Well, two of them, at least....

Tired Ninja

Liam came home from the school party and fell asleep on the couch.  This is such a rare thing for him to do that I assumed he was getting sick with strep since Aidan just got over it.  We decided to let him have a nap, but he woke up a few hours later bouncing off the walls.  He missed the festivities for nothing!  At least he is too little to remember what he missed.  Plus, he got enough candy at Indian Bear Lodge to last for a year.

The older boys really enjoyed themselves.

Happy Halloween!!