Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Goodbye

Ama, our sweet French Au Pair is leaving us today.  She will be spending two weeks touring America with her friends before heading back to France and back to the University.  Ama was only with us a short time (she was considered a transition Au Pair) but it really has felt like she has been with our family forever.  We love her and will miss her.  We are so proud to have her as part of our family.  We love you Ama.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Is he an artist in the making?

Davey left a couple of crayons on the seat of my car.  It was warm outside.  When we came back to the car, this is what we found?

Modern Art
Is it art?  What do you think?

Be gentle.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Take a moment to watch this trailer.  I have not seen the whole movie yet but WOW, I am impressed by the part I have seen.  True emotions and just plain life that our kids have to deal with.  What do you think?

Be gentle.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hitch hiker

Don't you just love that kids had have such fun in a shopping cart?
Davey catching a ride in the shopping cart
Be gentle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Outstanding employee

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Jose Espinosa

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Jose Espinosa

Age • 35
Home • St. Charles
Occupation • Porter for Club Fitness in St. Charles
What he did • He moved past his Down syndrome and is working a job where he's respected and admired.
How • By believing in himself.
Website • To learn more about Community Living Inc., visit
Jose Espinosa has Down syndrome; few people have expected much from him. But that hasn't mattered, he said, as long as he expects a lot from himself.
Today, he works a job at Club Fitness in St. Charles, where as a porter 12 hours a week, he keeps the place spotless.
"I just worked hard," he said, explaining how he got the permanent job. "I'm proud of myself."
"He's great to have around," said Nick Kotanich, general manager of Club Fitness on Bass Pro Drive in St. Charles. "He's always on time, he speaks to everyone who comes in; he's an inspiration."
And keeping the place clean is vital to fitness clubs, Kotanich said.
"You lose or keep members by the condition of the locker rooms and the (cleanliness) of the machines," he said.
Espinosa said that by believing in himself, others believed in him.
He joined the staff about two years ago, said Jessica Paluch, a social worker with Community Living Inc. The agency works with people living with personal challenges.
Espinosa began as a volunteer at Club Fitness, learning work and interactive skills, Paluch said.
He recalls what he saw as his first challenge. When he first started, he was working around a lot of physically fit people. But he was 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 193 pounds.
"I went from 193 to 135," he said with a contagious trademark smile. "And feel this." He flexed a rock-hard biceps.
One of the trainers adopted him as a personal project and taught him about how to work out on the machines as well as how to eat a healthy diet.
"I used to have pizza and chicken nuggets for breakfast," he said. "But now I have (turkey) sausage links."
While that trainer has left the club, Espinosa still follows her instructions, he said.
His meals also include chicken breasts and catfish. "I love catfish, and lots of fruit, Healthy Choice cheese pizza, and sometimes a snack at night, like grapes.
"Sometimes I treat myself with ice cream," he said, "or a cookie, but just one, not two."
About two months after he started as a volunteer through Community Living, he was hired part time.
"He proves that anything is possible if you put your mind to it," said Kotanich. "He not only cleans the machines, he uses them. He's always polite, he opens the door for people and always has nice things to say to everyone."
"My sister (he has three) said I'm her role model because I can do 10 minutes of wall sets," Espinosa said. That's leaning against a wall in a sitting position.
The money he earns? "Cardinals tickets," he said. He recently got autographs from Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire.
As for where he's going in life, Espinosa said, "My future is here."
Do you know a "How I Did It?"
Send submissions to:
Jackie Hutcherson, STL Health Editor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
900 North Tucker Boulevard
St. Louis, Mo. 63101-1099

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Be gentle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Loves his daddy

I love this photo of my guys.  My guys love bowling.  They would go every day if they could! Makes me smile every time I see it.  Hope you enjoy it too!
Bowling fun

Monday, July 25, 2011

Busting a move!

Davey loves music.  He loves to listen to music and play his guitar.  He loves to sing along to music videos.  His newest love is dancing.  Here he is busting a move before leaving for his last day of extended school year.  Go Dave!

Be gentle.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do you have an artist in your home?

Creativity, expressing yourself.  Sharing.  Here is a program that allows special people to share their talents.

Sunday July 24, 2011

Art that speaks


Eight artists show off talents that shout to be seen.
EVERY word is a struggle and his face is twisted with effort. At times, it seems as if the words have to be forced out of Nazmi Kamarulzaman bit by bit.
“This art exhibition… will help create a better awareness… of the talents and potential of people… with learning disabilities.”
Nazmi is a committee member of United Voice (, a society that believes those suffering from Down’s syndrome, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, among other conditions, should speak up – for themselves – about their needs.
Nurulakhmal Abdul Rahman and mother Wairah Marzuki, with some of her vivid paintings of flowers and insects.
He was at the launch of the United Voice art exhibition at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC), Kuala Lumpur, an event that is part of the Tourism Ministry’s 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism Festival (1MCAT).
Eight artists are showing some 80 works and they certainly have amazing talent.
One of them is Clement Ooi, 22. Despite his autism, he is a successful artist in his own right, what with numerous art shows (including two solos) and various awards (including from the Bryan Ayers Memorial Exhibition of North Carolina, the United States). His collectors come from as far afield as Switzerland, Japan and America.
Clement’s paintings of flowers and butterflies are full of radiant colours and bold strokes, in contrast to his reserved personality. So it is his mother, Annie Kam, who speaks of his various achievements while he wanders away from the glare of publicity.
She proudly shows off his other paintings on a small digital camera and talks about her son’s website (
Damien Wong loves bright colours and has worked with different media.
But Kam admits things were much tougher when Clement was younger. “We didn’t understand his condition then. But we noticed that he liked doodling for hours, from the time he was five. Luckily I like art and could guide him.”
In contrast, the parents of Dennis Liew did not quite understand how to guide their son when they saw him doing detailed pictures of buildings when he was a young boy.
“We tried to discourage him from art in those days, but later realised we were wrong,” says mum Patricia Liew, an accountant. “My husband is an engineer. We were not from the creative field and could not quite relate to it.”
Looking at Dennis’ luminously translucent Chinese brush paintings of bougainvilleas, grapes and cockerels, one feels glad that his parents eventually allowed his natural talent to bloom .
“I can paint for up to four hours and not feel tired,” says the 25-year-old artist, who has Asperger Syndrome, a neurobiological disorder. “I just let it flow and feel very inspired and relaxed. I’ve also been reading up on Chinese and Japanese art.”
Dennis has a degree in graphic design from Curtin University, Western Australia, and now does commercial advertisements, brochures and merchandise such as caps and T-shirts. He led guests at the launch through the exhibits using a slideshow, a good example of United Voice’s goal that the differently-abled should be self-advocates for their special talents.
As for Chee Siew Chong, 17, the first time his father Kenny Chee noticed his artistic skill was after a road trip to Singapore.
“When we came home, my son drew all the highway exits we had passed. He was just six then,” Chee recalls.
Siew Chong has a penchant for intricate line drawings of buildings and landscapes and will often just take out his ink pen and sketchbook to doodle when travelling to places of interest. Lately, he has been drawing images from the Internet that catch his fancy. He goes to a special education school in Rawang, Selangor.
Tan Seng Kit with his riotiously colourful work, Birds and Passion.
Damien Wong, born in 1995, is autistic. But such is his natural talent that in 2008, his first painting received the Special Merit Award from the Brian Ayers Memorial exhibition in Boone, North Carolina.
Damien is fond of cheerful, bright colours and has worked with pen and ink, colour pencil, crayon, watercolour and acrylic.
When Tan Seng Kit, 22, wanted to watch the movie Chicken Little, he drew the cartoon character.
“When he was young, he didn’t talk,” explains his mother, Jenny Soh. “So he would draw out everything he wanted, like a fried egg.”
An artist, whom Soh declines to name, noticed her son’s talent. So she started him on art classes eight years ago.
Earlier this year, Seng Kit won third placing at the National Abilympics Art Competition.
Besides painting, he also bowls. He won a silver medal at the Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai, China, in 2007.
“I hope the public can be more aware of the abilities, rather than the disabilities, of these people,” Soh adds.
Nurulakhmal Abdul Rahman, 20, used to observe the graceful movement of insects in parks for hours, and then go home to her drawing block. In 2008, she won the first and third prizes at an art competition organised by Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd. She has produced vivid paintings of flowers and insects for the current show.
Her mother, Wairah Marzuki, formerly director-general of the National Art Gallery, is now an advisor for the United Voice Art Gallery.
Wairah says.
United Voice is on at MaTiC (No. 109, Jalan Ampang, KL) till July 31, after which it will move to the United Voice Art Gallery (No. 603, Jalan 17/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do you know about Rosa's Law?

A journey that began as one Maryland family’s battle for respect and acceptance for their daughter and sister, Rosa, became a significant milestone in the ongoing battle for dignity, inclusion and respect of all people with intellectual disabilities when United States President Barack Obama signed bill S.2781 into federal law on October 5, 2010.

Courtesy Photo. Rosa Marcellino, 9, second from left, is shown with siblings Maddie, 13, Gigi, 11, and Nick, 15, during the Special Olympics state games, held in June. Rosa has Down syndrome and is the inspiration behind “Rosa’s Law” that removes the terms "mentally retarded" and “mental retardation" from federal education, health and labor laws.
Known as “Rosa’s Law,” the law removes the terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" from federal health, education and labor policy and replaces them with people first language “individual with an intellectual disability” and “intellectual disability.”
The bill, championed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), garnered unanimous support in passing both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Rosa’s Law was commemorated in a White House ceremony on October 8 with an 11 member delegation of Special Olympics athletes, leaders and self-advocates present to celebrate the milestone. See the list of delegates
"Respect, value, and dignity – everyone deserves to be treated this way, including people with intellectual disabilities," said Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. "The President’s signature and the unanimous support of both the House and Senate show that our elected officials understand and embrace this ideal. I congratulate Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Enzi for their vision and sensitivity to people with intellectual disabilities everywhere.”
"For far too long we have used hurtful words like 'mental retardation' or 'mentally retarded' in our federal statutes to refer to those living with intellectual disabilities," said Sen. Mikulski. "Rosa's Law will make a greatly-needed change that should have been made well before today — and it will encourage us to treat people the way they would like to be treated."
Special Olympics, as the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect and human dignity for those with intellectual disabilities, has long championed the use of people first language. In 2004, in response to its athletes' call for change, the Special Olympics International Board of Directors adopted a resolution to update the movement's terminology from "mental retardation" to "people with intellectual disabilities." In 2008, Special Olympics launched the website to combat the inappropriate use of the R-word in common usage and helped lead protests against media use of the word in response to the film ‘Tropic Thunder.'  In 2009, the youth-led "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign launched with rallies in K-12 schools and universities around the country, enlisting young people to combat use of the word and collecting more than 100,000 signatures to pledge inclusion and respect towards all people.

In order to learn more about youth experiences with the R-word, the Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Harris Interactive®ii worked together to design an online survey. In this online survey, youth across the U.S. were asked questions about the R-word, including whether they have ever heard the word, and if so, how they reacted to hearing it. Over a thousand youth between the ages of 8 and 18 responded to the online survey. A bulleted summary of some of the results is below, or you can read the full results of the survey.
  • 92% of young Americans (ages 8-18) report having heard the R-word used, while 36% have heard the word used specifically toward someone with an intellectual disability.  
  • Only 50% of those who heard it used to refer to someone with an intellectual disability told the person who used the word that it was wrong to do so.  
  • The study also confirmed that as young people progress from elementary school, to middle school and then on to high school, they are less likely to feel bad or sorry for the person being picked on, and more likely to laugh, do nothing, and/or not care.
Youth leaders like Spread the Word to End the Word campaign co-founders Soeren Palumbo and Tim Shriver have used viraland grassroots methods to garner support amongst their peers and in schools across the United States and around the world. By highlighting the pervasive use of the R-word in mainstream media and reaching out to people like Bill O’Reilly when the R-wordis used on his show, the campaign has begun to have a noticeable impact. FOX adopted the campaign’s ideals when they edited out multiple uses of the R-word in the movie “Miss March” and replaced it with alternatives in the DVD release. The F/X network now includes the R-word as one of three words that are not allowed to be broadcast. MTV has also embraced the campaign by bleeping out the R-word just like any other curse word or slur in shows like “The Real World” and “Teen Mom.”
“Meaningful change is often slow to occur, but we’ve found that once we are able to get our message in front of people, whether they’re a neighbor, a friend, a studio executive, celebrity or politician, they generally get it,” said Palumbo. “It comes down to the human connection we all share. No matter where we come from, what our background is, we are all human, and we all deserve that requisite respect.”
“What people, I hope, are starting to see is that making their pledge to stop using the R-word is just the beginning of a whole new and amazing world that opens up to them,” said Shriver. “Once you open your heart to people with intellectual disabilities you’re going to want to do more and that’s where Special Olympics comes in – it’s the next level of activation. Young people today are desperate to make change, to channel their passions in meaningful ways and whether it’s starting a unified team at your school, or just cheering at a competition, that’s what Special Olympics is offering – a way for young people to make meaningful change in the world.”
Why ‘Mental Retardation’ is OutdatedAlthough originally a clinical term and introduced with good intentions, the term "mental retardation" and its pejorative form, "retard" have been used widely in today's society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. By instead using "intellectual disability" and "an individual with an intellectual disability" in federal laws, the United States sends a strong message that language is important and that no form of the 'R-word' should be used to refer to any of its citizens.
Champions of Rosa’s law made sure that by updating language in federal law that the bill would not expand nor diminish services, rights, responsibilities or educational opportunities duly owed to individuals with intellectual disabilities. It simply makes the federal law language consistent with that used by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the White House through the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The changes will occur during routine revisions to laws and documents over the next several years. Since the alterations will be implemented gradually, the legislation is not expected to incur any cost.
How ‘Rosa’s Law’ BeganA family in Edgewater, Maryland provided the inspiration for the law. Nina Marcellino is the mother of four children, including Rosa, a child with Down syndrome. In 2009, Marcellino learned that Rosa had been labeled retarded at school. Marcellino didn't allow the R-word in her house, and none of her children described their sister that way. Nina teamed up with other parents and her state delegate to introduce a bill to change the terminology in Maryland state law. Before the bill was brought up for consideration in the Maryland General Assembly, they held a hearing on the implications of changing the term.
There were several witnesses at that hearing, but the testimony that had the greatest impact was given by an 11-year-old boy: Rosa's brother, Nick. "What you call people is how you treat them," Nick said. "What you call my sister is how you will treat her. If you believe she's 'retarded,' it invites taunting, stigma. It invites bullying and it also invites the slammed doors of being treated with respect and dignity."
Nick's comments speak to the core values of Special Olympics – respect, dignity, acceptance and inclusion. Special Olympics congratulates and thanks all involved in passing ‘Rosa’s Law.'

 Special Olympics Delegation to White House Commemoration of ‘Rosa’s Law’

Dr. Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman and CEO
Loretta Claiborne, Self-Advocate and Special Olympics International Board Director
Eddie Barbanell, Self-Advocate, Actor and Special Olympics International Board Director
Soeren Palumbo, Co-founder “Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign, Co-founder SO College
Tim Shriver, Co-founder “Spread the Word to End the Word” Campaign, Co-founder SO College
Erica Wheeler, Self-Advocate and Special Olympics Maryland Board Director and Athlete
Danielle Liebl, Self-Advocate and Special Olympics Minnesota Athlete, Youth Activation Committee Member
Roberta Blomster, Self-Advocate and Special Olympics Minnesota Athlete and Global Messenger
Frank Stephens, Self-Advocate and Special Olympics Virginia Athlete
David Egan, Self-Advocate, Special Olympics Virginia Board Director and Athlete
Julie Petty, Self-Advocate from Fayetteville, Arkansas. 
info found on the Special Olympics web site.
Be gentle.