Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Tonight my heart is humble and full of gratitude.I want to tell you about our story. The whole thing. I've been waiting until we got to this point to do it.
At the beginning of the year I came up with this crazy idea of adding a service dog to our family to help Daniel deal with life. I didn't know if it could really happen. All the information I was finding was saying that service dogs are $10,000-$40,000. How could we a small family on one income with a child with special needs come up with that kind of money? I found two places that were in the $10,000 range that I was considering. But that's just the dog. That doesn't include the entire family having to fly down to the lower 48 (which in Alaska IS a big deal), for 2 weeks pay for food and lodging while being trained with the dog on how to use it. I was determined to make this work for us but I didn't know quite how.
I asked the Lord, I found 2 places in AK that trained service dogs. One was only PTSD dogs and the other you had to do the training yourself and commit to several nights a week and weekends and 2 years of training. As a busy Mom trailing a child to daily therapies that was just not going to happen. I heard about a service called 411. I believe it's nation wide and you can call it and they can tell you anything you want to know about your community. I called and asked if they knew of any ways to find grants for service dogs in AK. They didn't but they turned me on to Arctic Paws For Service. I called the guy up and asked about their dogs. He said,  "We have one almost ready to go. He just needs to finish his training." Then I asked the dreaded question.... "How much do you charge?" $5000 was the answer. That I knew we could make happen. We made arrangements to meet and they are wonderful people who are just trying to help others at an affordable price. They also had one other requirement. That we fundraise. They felt it was so important for people in the community to have the opportunity to help each other.
So the effort of fundraising began. How do you do it? I'd worked for a non profit before but I stayed far away from that side of the business as I just don't like asking people for money. So I talked to a couple of contacts that I had made Dana Graham- For the Love of Lauren who absolutely is doing great things in her daughter's memory. Her advice- Just tell your story, put it on paper and hand it out and you will be amazed at how people will respond. The other was Mom in Fairbanks who had previously gone through the fundraising process for a dog for her child. She said they went to local businesses and said if you will donate for our dog we will put your businesses logo on our dog's vest and advertise for you. I figured if they could do it in Fairbanks, surely we could in Anchorage.
So I started writing down Daniel's story. That was hard. There was so much to say and how do you fit it all on one piece of paper? How do you tell complete strangers about your son who you love so much but have to admit his weak points and where he needs help. In the middle of doing this I went to a dentist appointment at Aurora Family Dentistry. I thought okay Lord I'm going try Dana's advice out. If a chance comes up in the conversation I will tell him what I'm doing and let you take over from there. It did, he told me to bring a flyer by and he would see what he could do. He was our first donation.
I had the flyers printed up and the kids were with respite care for a few hours and I knew it was time to start passing them out. I was terrified. I went and got lunch and took it to the Temple grounds and ate it. For those of you reading this who aren't Mormon, our temples are sacred places where we go to feel close to God and receive instruction. I prayed that day that as I went that people would be open and receptive. That people would want to help because I knew that it would be difficult for us to do it on our own. I then started driving. I was in a part of town I'm not usually in and went down a street that frankly I had never been down before. I pulled into a strip mall and said another prayer or two, and just started going into businesses and telling them what I was doing and handing out flyers. And that was a miracle day.
One lady gave me her lunch money, another an older Korean lady who owned a deli insisted that her son write me a check once she understood what I was doing. I walked into a local coffee shop called Kaladi Brothers and told them what I was doing, they offered to let me hang up a flyer and I left. What I didn't know was that the young man that I talked to had only moments before been told by one of his patrons that she wanted to bless his life and was going to give him a very large sum of money for a motorcycle that  he had really been wanting. When I left they both looked at each other and knew that that money was meant for Daniel and together they gave it to him. That same coffee shop put up a cup and continued to collect a couple hundred more dollars from it's patrons for Daniel. That was all from one day. One single day with a prayer in my heart for a little boy who needed and deserved it.
I also shared on Facebook what we were doing and our friends and family and former bosses from all over the world literally gave generously. Reagan got to share in the fundraising fun. As we would go in to various businesses and pass out flyers they invariably had jars of candy. It was like trick or treating for her. She couldn't wait to do more.  I only took Daniel with me once and it was a bit of a disaster so I usually went while he was at therapy or with the respite worker. In the first month or two we had raised almost $3000. We did so well and I was counting on grants that we had been told we were pretty much guaranteed we would get we kind of took the summer off. It was such an amazing one. We were told the dog wouldn't be ready until October so we figured we had a little time. Well I have yet to see any grants, so we shared what we were doing with our church and we were given some very generous donations by members.
Then came August. We were about $700 short and I wasn't too worried but knew now was the time to buckle down and finish. There was one very big problem. Daniel had an operation and was in the hospital for a few days. My back had started acting up (I have two herniated disks) right before and I was doing everything I could to keep it under control because I knew I would be staying at the hospital the whole time with him. Everything went well with the surgery and he came home on a Saturday. Tuesday morning found us in the ER as I couldn't walk or crawl without severe pain and couldn't empty my bladder. They took care of me and sent me home and Thursday morning I was in worse shape. A neighbor took me to the hospital and they worked on me all day finally admitting me that night, with the plan to do surgery. It took 6 days before they had an operating room available for me. I lay there in that bed and that $700 was really weighing on my shoulders. I'm about to have back surgery and we are about 1 month away from getting the dog and I can't do a thing about it. So I just said Lord I need you to take care of this for me. I can't worry about it, I have too much on my plate and I need you to do this for me. And very unlike me, I left it there for him to take care of. A couple of checks came in while I was in the hospital. But today I received word that an anonymous donor had donated $1000 in Daniel's name for his dog.
I can not even begin to express the gratitude that I have in my heart for each of you. Whether you were the one who gave me your lunch money or you gave me a thousand dollars, or just said a prayer or passed the information on to friends, you all helped and you all gave me and my family SO much. And most importantly I am grateful for the Lord who saw our family through this and continues to do so.
October 5th, we get to meet our dog. Anyone want to volunteer to be the other adult for the 10 days of training on the days Paul can't get off work? That's my next prayer to the Lord which I know he will provide for.
My thanks to all of you. I don't even know some of you. but you have blessed our lives and I pray that we in turn will be able to bless the lives of others as well.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

And now we return to regularly scheduled programing

First I need to apologize to those who have donated and have been checking to see where we are on our earnings for Daniel's service dog. I have not updated anything in awhile and that's partly due to the amazing summer weather we have been having this summer. (In Alaska it's enjoy every good day because there usually aren't this many of them!) It has been wonderful spending so much time at parks and outside. The other reason for not updating is  that this has been a very difficult summer for all of us. Daniel has experienced significant regression in his behavior to levels never seen before and this has placed a huge stress on all of us. We've had to up his medication that regulates his mood twice and he's back at adult levels. Reagan has also been acting up due to this so I have had my hands very full just trying to not land in the nut house myself.  But the good news is that we have continued to earn and I will try and update the banner in the next couple of days but our current total for the dog is.....
We have also come to a fork in the road for Daniel. He has experienced chronic constipation since he was about 17 months old. We've now tried all the medications that there are out there for it, changed his diet and tried alternative medicines. For one reason or another none of them work. Because of that he is probably going into surgery this week to have a cecostomy tube put in. This is a tube that is the same as a feeding tube that they insert into the stomach but it will instead be inserted into his upper intestine and it will be permanent but can be taken out at at later date. We will flush it out every night in order for him to have a bowel movement. I'm told it takes about 45 mins each night. The surgeon is talking about doing some other things as well. We meet with him in the morning to find out what's going to happen for sure. Daniel will be in the hospital for several days so we are flying my Mom up to spend a week with us to help care for Reagan.

In other news, because this was such a difficult summer we have decided that Daniel will be going to public school this year and I will be homeschooling Reagan to give her some special time with me and give both of us a break. Daniel was able to get into a charter school that I'm hopeful will be the right fit for him.We are hoping that a new ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) will be able to take him next month and that will also be a huge help for us and the school.

I'm really hoping that I will be able to post a few things that we were able to do this summer. Because we did do some fun things and it wasn't all bad.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Daniel's Story

Just a little warning- I'm hijacking our family blog for a little while to do a little fundraising. We decided after quite a lot of research and investigation, that we wanted to get an Autism service dog to help Daniel. I wanted to take a blog post and explain why we want a dog to help Daniel and for those who don't know Daniel or don't read this blog regularly (or at least as regularly as I post), tell his story.

**Note** Due to technical difficulties with Paypal, please click the button that says Just Give on the Arctic Paws website to donate online. Paypal should be back up soon. Thanks!
We have found a fabulous non-profit that trains dogs here in Alaska and their mission is to get dogs to the people who need them for an affordable price. They are asking for only $5,000. All other dogs I have seen are at least $10,000 and some go up to as much as $40,000 and it would still involve a 1-2 week trip out of state for training which in Alaska is a big deal. These are fabulous people who are just trying to help others. If you feel that you could donate any amount we would greatly appreciate your gift. You can donate online at Arctic Paws For Service or mail it to:
Arctic Paws for Service
PO BOX 135
Note on your donation that it is for Daniel Petersen. All donations are tax deductible as it is a 501(c)3 organization. Any businesses that donate $100 or more will have their logo or name embroidered on the service vest of the dog. The larger the donation the larger the logo! Just Email me with the name, or digitized logo.
Daniel's Story 
Sorry, this might be long...
Paul Daniel Petersen was born into the world 2 weeks past his due date. After I was given an epidural his heart rate started dropping and I was taken in for an emergency C-Section. When they got him out he had aspirated (breathed in) mechonium (poop) and his apgar scale ratings were really low (a test they do at birth). I didn't get to hold him and barely caught a glimpse of him until he was 5 hours old. He was doing all right by that time but then we had to teach him how to suck so he could eat as he had 3 different sucking patterns and only one of them was right. That began his journey.

The next 3 years he met most developmental milestones but he didn't finish them. He learned to talk and walk, but you couldn't understand most of his words and he trained himself when going on a walk to fall towards the grass as he frequently fell. He was also sick a lot. He not only got regular colds but contracted Whooping Cough, and RSV 3 times the last of which he spent a week in the hospital for, this led into Asthma. He also developed chronic constipation which he has struggled with since he was 16 months old.

When he was about 2 1/2 the kids and I moved in with my mother in law for 5 months while Paul completed new job training before moving to Alaska. At that time he kind of had an emotional melt down that never really ended. I talked to his pediatrician about it and he said, "You don't want to take him to a Psychiatrist, they'll just medicate him." Yes I didn't want him medicated but I knew this wasn't normal. I asked about Daniel falling down all the time he said, "kids are just clumsy". We also had his speech tested and they said, "He's just on the edge of needing speech therapy." I said I'm his Mom and I can't understand at least 70% of what he says. So we did a little speech therapy and just left everything else and moved to Alaska.

He was about 3 1/2 when he started getting up for the day at between 2 and 4am, no naps, and still falling apart emotionally all the time when I said enough is enough. I went to his new pediatrician and he sent us to a psychiatrist. The first diagnosis was an unspecified mood disorder which they medicated and it did help some. Next came an ADHD diagnosis and more meds. I, on my own had sought out a Play Therapist and had him going to her and that helped too, but I still felt like that wasn't quite everything that we were missing something. She sent Daniel at the age of 5 to a Neuro Psych, and suddenly a lot of things started making sense. She diagnosed Daniel with Autism, co-ordination disorder, speech disorder and a host of other things. It was a hard thing to hear but for me also a relief.

Daniel started in with Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, Speech therapy, eventually ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy, and social skills groups whenever we could. Since then the diagnosis', have grown: low muscle tone, Scoliosis, near sighted... None of the things he has are extreme but just enough to give him problems and make him have to work harder than the rest of us to do normal things. At almost 7 years old he does a lot better and he has made HUGE strides with the therapies we have done.

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what a service dog will do for him and what does a Autism Service dog do? Here's some of the things we are hoping our dog will help him do:
-Give a warning bark when he leaves his room at night, so we can intervene and make sure everyone is safe. Mom can get a good night's sleep and get rid of the dark circles under her eyes. (At least until Reagan becomes a teenager.)
-Reduce anxiety and frustration which would enable us to reduce his medications.
-Provide physical stability and support as he walks as well as safety as the dog will stop before crossing the street enabling us to make sure no cars are coming.
-Give Mom a break! I've always said that if Daniel could he would climb right back in my body and stay. I am his security. We are hoping that some of that can be transferred to the dog and it will free me up to be able to spend more time with Paul and Reagan.
-The dog will track and retrieve Daniel when he runs or wanders away.
- Decrease what is called stimming. The dog will be trained to stand in front of the cupboard doors that Daniel likes to slam over and over again so that he can't do that.
-Give Daniel a chance to make friends. The dog would probably be Daniel's first real friend, and we are told that making friends which is hard for Autistic people to do, becomes much easier as other people are drawn to dogs and they want to know about them.
-Helping to remind Daniel to go to the bathroom. This has been a real issue for us and there are lots of his issues that play into this. Anything that decreases the amount of laundry for me is HUGE!
These are just some of the benefits that we are hoping to achieve. Thanks for taking the time to let me tell you just a little bit about our wonderful pirate and lego loving son!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Must Repent! (and Christmas 2012)

So it's been about 6 moths since I've been on here. Yes, we are alive up here in the wilds of Alaska. It's been a long and a strange winter. It's been warm when it shouldn't be and cold at odd times. Currently it's been below 10 degrees in the mornings and I was just told its going to snow in the morning. Shouldn't be surprised. It is Alaska.
Christmas this year we had the privilege of Grandma Lois joining us. I don't think she will ever come back though as a week after she got home to UT she still couldn't get warm.
We took in a Aces Hockey game with her, which she said was for the rednecks.

 Then later that night we watched Paul play a hockey game until we were all too cold and went home for the night. Most of the pictures were really bad these are the better ones... Next time someone else is in charge of the camera.

 We made Christmas sugar cookies and had the missionaries and friends over for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. One missionary in particular was just a little special to Calleen. Elder Higley is from her parents ward in Missouri and he is the same age as her brother Daniel. So it was special for her to be able to share Christmas Eve with him.

One of the things Calleen got for Christmas was a noodle maker which the kids like to help with. Yummy spaghetti with whole wheat noodles! I've been wanting one for years.