Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The incredibly talented Emma :)

When the team at Paper Clouds Apparel saw the Rose created by Emma we just knew we had to show it to the world. Hope you all love it and will enjoy getting to know more about this talented and special young lady.

(The beautiful Rose created by Emma)

 Emma Knudson is a light hearted spirit, always eager to make people smile.  Her playful personality is complimented alongside her caring character for others, be that friends, family or strangers in need.  Her big heart is a joy to be around.  Emma is also very active with a vast degree of interests including; drawing, photography, putting puzzles together, assembling model cars, and skateboarding.  She has been able to take some of these talents and skills to help make them useful accomplishments within her community.  Emma's presence and eye for shared moments gets captured as she chronicles with her camera many events for an Arizona based young adult nonprofit called, AZASSIST, where young adults on the spectrum gather to socialize, while their parents who are present in another room listen to guests speakers.  Those photos are regularly shared on their facebook site.  She has also taken drawing classes at a nearby college, and is currently taking a photo shop class.

(Emma relaxing)

When Emma isn't busy doing all of these talents, she can be found actively participating in the SEEDs For Autism program, where she learns how to take the skills she is learning from SEEDs and makes functional marketable products.  Currently in the SEEDs program she is really enjoying learning welding, woodworking and sewing.  Her skills have been an asset to not just her, but the program itself, as Emma has proven great leadership skills, and works so well alongside her peers, that she occasionally is asked to be a mentor and helps teach.

(The Rose looks great on our canvas bags)

Emma is truly an inspiration and a joy to be around. Show your support and pick up one of her amazing pieces of art :) Thank you and have a great day !

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chris and his amazing Lion :)

This Lion drawing by a young man with autism named Chris is just so awesome. The Lion looks so happy and friendly and you cannot help but smile when you see it. Well done Chris and keep creating these masterpieces :) 

(Our model Joe looking great in the Lion shirt)

Chris is a funny, caring and loving 17 year old young man with an Autism diagnosis.  He lives with his parents, brother, aunt, grandmother and dog. Chris enjoys drawing, reading, watching Disney movies and eating pizza!  He also likes to visit local zoo's, aquariums and  libraries in his free time.
(Chris out in the woods exploring) 
After graduation this year, Chris will return to The Darnell School. At the Darnell School the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) form the foundation of their programs. They draw upon the best practices within education, special education, behavior analysis, positive behavioral supports, vocational preparation, and community inclusion in planning for each student.
(Chris hanging with Scooby Doo)
They are committed to using evidence-based strategies in our instructional and treatment plans. They are equally committed to the belief that every student they serve is valued and should have an opportunity to achieve the goals he/she desires. Chris has learned so much at the Darnell School, and that is why he chose to have any funds raised by the purchase of his art, donated to it.
 (Chris and his good friend Ben)

Chris, you are an amazing young man and so happy you are at a place like The Darnell School where you can really grow. We hope people will purchase some of your Lion products and help raise some funding for this great school. Keep up the great work and winning at the game of life :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The talented William

This painting took my breath away when I first saw it. Then when I learned it was created by a FOUR YEAR OLD, I was blown away even more. You can show William and the Center for Autism and Dyslexia in Findlay, Ohio by purchasing one of our products with Rainbow Sky on them.
 (Our model Gunnar rocking the art)

 William was 4 1/2 years old when he created "Rainbow Sky" with the help of his art therapists at Awakening Minds Art in Findlay, OH. William has been diagnosed with Autism and also has gross motor, fine motor, and speech delays.

 (William with Rainbow Sky)

 William's current interests are painting, ice skating with Gliding Stars, swimming, Angry Birds, and playing with his Legos. It was extremely hard for me to believe that a kid who has had such trouble writing his own name could create something like this. We are so proud of him. The merchandise all looks awesome!!!

 (William with his award)

William, we are all in love with your art and we are honored to have your amazing painting on our products.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Owen the Superstar !

Meet another one of our amazing artists with special needs Owen. Owen created the design we are calling Spud. We all think it is so fun just to look at and use your imagination on. We love it Owen :) 

(Our model Dylan wearing the art Owen created)

Owen is 6 years old and started talking almost a year ago. He LOVES pickles, playing outside (especially on his trampoline where he taught himself to do flips in the beginning of the summer), shopping  and going to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

 (Owen looking cool chillin' in the kiddie pool)

 Another one of Owen's favorite things to do is going to lunch with his Auntie Shanny and his cousin Logan.

 (Owen loves the Packers)

The first time I had contact with Wendy, Owen's mother, she had this to say about him and it completely melted my heart;

 Our son has autism and became verbal about 9 months ago ( he is 6) and we couldn't be more proud of him, he honestly is the most loving, wonderful boy!

 (Owen has a smile that brightens the world)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lindsey is AMAZING :)

I want you all to meet a young lady named Lindsey who is such an inspiration ! I fell in love with her Panda drawing the first time I saw it and was very happy our fans loved it too :) 

 (Leave Me Alone I Am Eating Bamboo)

Lindsey is 26 years old and has a chromosome disorder that caused her to have an intellectual disability and developmental delays. However, she doesn't let that slow her down. She's very outgoing and has a very kind heart. She participates in Special Olympics basketball, volleyball, tennis, horseback riding, bocce and swimming. She's going to College Station this week to compete in the state swimming competition.

(Lindsey with some of her medals)

 Last year, she was in the fastest heats in the 25m freestyle, back and breast stroke, and she got all gold! She also participates in a special art program thru ARC of the Capital Area in Austin. At one of their annual fundraisers, she had one of her paintings chosen to be in the live auction and it sold for $5,000! Lindsey  has chosen The Adventurers Academy of Lifelong Learning as her cause. 

 (Lindsey looking awesome, as always)

Oh....I also forgot to mention that she was just chosen as Central Texas Female Athlete of the Year! This is her with her award.

 (Lindsey with her award)

Here is one of our Paper Clouds Apparel products featuring the amazing art created by Lindsey. Keep dominating life Lindsey :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Meet Oli.

Oli is the designer behind our current hand hearts design. We are pleased to introduce her through a touching blog post written by her mother, Shannon. 

“She looks perfect. Good job Shannon. Let me know if you need anything else.” The doctor who delivered my baby girl smiles at me quickly before washing his hands and leaving the room.

Oliana, Oli, was born on a warm May night in 2007 in lucky Las Vegas, NV. She was born after 35 weeks of a typical pregnancy. She was born after 35 weeks of planning, dreaming, expecting everything that I had expected with my first pregnancy. After 35 weeks of thinking that it was all going to go according to plan like it had with my son.

It didn’t. Not at all.

Once the doctor was gone the nurse placed her on my chest. I really didn’t notice anything unusual about how she looked at first. After about 10 minutes I did think that it was strange that she wouldn’t open her eyes. My son had opened his eyes right away after he was born. Oli seemed to have hers tightly squeezed shut. I quickly ignored the small nagging feeling in my chest. The feeling that had tiptoed into my mind in the last few weeks prior to delivery. All of a sudden, it had returned. Sneaking its way through my heart.

Something is wrong with her.

After about a half an hour the nurse took her back to the nursery to clean her up, give her her vaccines and put medication in her eyes. These are things that the hospital does with all newborns. My husband Seth, went with the nurse to watch over our new daughter. A little while later he came back and told me that she was a little bit cold so they had placed her under a warmer to get her temperature up. Then he said something that made that nagging feeling grow a little bit stronger.

“The nurse couldn’t get her eyes open to put the eye drops in. She said that she is concerned that her eyes may still be fused shut.” He is looking at me with a significant amount of fear in his eyes.

“What? That doesn’t make any sense Seth. Baby’s eyes stop being fused after about 24-25 weeks. She’s 35weeks! No. They’re not fused shut. They’re just swollen. I’m sure they will be fine in the morning.”

“Well, maybe. But the nurse is going to call her pediatrician right away in the morning to come and look at her. I’m sure you’re right. They’re probably just swollen.” He looks slightly more relieved relying on my medical knowledge of newborns. I was a NICU nurse after all.

Deep down I knew that something was not right with her eyes. I knew that she should have opened them or at the very least the nurse should have been able to open them. I had to ignore those feelings though. I had to make myself believe that she was fine. I went to sleep early that morning after the nurses brought Oli back to the room. But before I did I sent a little prayer to heaven. The first of many prayers for my sweet girl that went unanswered.

Please open your eyes baby girl. Please open them and look at me.

Seth left the next afternoon to go pick up my son Kekoa (he was 18 months old) from his Grandma’s house where he had been staying. The pediatrician, who was supposed to come and look at Oli in the morning, still had not shown up. A little while after Seth left, the doctor walked through the door.
“I’m just here to take a look at your baby.”

I sat up in the hospital bed anxiously awaiting his assurance that everything is fine. “Ok. I’m kind of worried about her eyes because she hasn’t opened them yet. I think they’re just swollen, you know because I had been in pre-term labor awhile and I’m sure that stressed her out and probably caused some swelling, but I’m sure she’ll open them soon. Maybe later today or tomorrow. Do you think? I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. They’re just swollen. Right?”

He just looks at me like he’s mildly bored and somewhat irritated because I am rambling at this point. I tend to ramble and talk really fast when I’m nervous.

“Are you going to look at her eyes?” I ask. I am quickly losing patience with his non-committal attitude.

He is looking everywhere else besides her eyes. Her feet, legs, tummy, arms, nose, mouth. Taking his sweet time at it too, I must say. I just wanted to scream at him “TELL ME NOTHING IS WRONG WITH HER EYES YOU BIG JERK!!”

Finally he tries to open her eyes. Oli starts screaming her head off like he is trying to rip her eyelids apart. Which is essentially exactly what he was doing because they were literally fused together. After trying this for a minute he puts the blanket back over her, straightens up, looks at me and says,
“Well, I think she has either really small eyes, or no eyes at all and she will be completely blind. Microphthalmia is what it is called. Do you have any questions?”

My mouth is now gaping open, tears are pooling in my eyes, and I’m looking back at him with a mixture of astonishment and offence. Do I have any questions? Well let me see… I guess I have two. Where did you get your medical license and where do you live so I can come rip your heart out while you are sleeping. Like you just ripped out mine.

Did I have any questions? What a dumb question. Of course I had questions but, at that point I couldn’t even remember my own name let alone think of a way to put together a question out of the millions of thoughts racing through my head.

“I don’t know. Have you ever seen this before?”

“Once. 15 years ago. A little boy that had Fraisers Syndrome. We’ll have to check her kidneys. She might not have any kidneys.” He answers with a blank, emotionless expression.

Again I am staring at him with my mouth open. Did he just say what I think he said? No kidneys? That means death right? I mean, I am a nurse and I’m pretty sure no kidneys means death. Did he just tell me she might die?

“Ok then. I’ll order some tests and we’ll let you know.”

With that he promptly walked out of my hospital room leaving me alone with my new baby that I now thought might die.

After the doctor left my hospital room that day I felt pain like I have never felt pain before. I started questioning things that I have never questioned before and I began to ask the obvious question, “What the hell just happened to me?”

In a mere 10 minutes my entire life had changed.

The worst thing was, I had to be the one to tell my husband. He didn’t even know yet. I had to tell this poor guy, who wanted nothing more than to give his children anything and everything in this life, that there were going to be things he wouldn’t be able to give his daughter. I was going to have to break his heart like it had never been broken before. Darn that doctor for leaving me with this responsibility!!

As it was, though, I couldn’t really think of anyone else who should tell him. I surely didn’t want that doctor to come back in here with his emotionless tone and his slightly bored attitude. I didn’t want that guy telling him that all his wonderful dreams of showing his daughter the beauties of Desert Mountains and Hawaiian sunsets were never going to happen.

I had to be strong for him.

I had to pretend that I knew we were going to get through this. And I was going to have to do it soon because he had just walked through the hospital room door. He walked in holding my beautiful baby boy and an armful of balloons and flowers.

Because…it was Mother’s Day weekend.

It still makes my heart race and my eyes tear up when I remember him looking down at me lying in that bed with our baby girl next to me. I’m sure I looked like a complete mess. I had been crying and panicking. Wondering when I was going to wake up from this nightmare.

He walked over to the bed with a panicked look of his own.

He knew.

He knew something was wrong with our baby. I could see it written all over his face. I was suddenly glad that I looked a wreck. At least the first words out of my mouth didn’t have to be… “Sit down. I have some terrible news about the baby.”

Nope. I just looked at his face and blurted it out. “She’s blind Seth. They say she doesn’t have any eyes. Or if she does have eyes they’re really small and they probably don’t work. She’s blind. Our baby is blind.”

He put Kekoa down on the ground and did what any father would do.

He began to cry.

A lot has changed in the 6 years since Oli was born. We learned that she did have severe bilateral microphthalmia. We learned that she had been born without any eyes. We learned a few years after that, that she was globally developmentally delayed, not able to walk very well, had autism, and suffered from seizures. We learned that she would not speak.

But we learned so much more than that.

We learned that a diagnosis does not have to stop a child from living a normal life. A medical label does not have to keep anyone from achieving their dreams.

We learned that despite her lack of communication and vision we would know our daughter like no one else in the world would be able to know her. We can read every eyebrow raise, every turn of her lips, and every crinkle in a displeased nose scrunch.

I can close my eyes and feel the weight of her arms wrapped around my neck in an expression of love and I never need to hear the words “I love you mommy”.

I know these things without reading the expression in her eyes and I know them without hearing the words spoken from her lips.

I know Oli and I love Oli with a fierceness that I would never be able to describe to you in words. She has changed my life for the better in so many ways that I would need a few chapters instead of one single blog post to describe them.

We now compete in triathlons and 5k’s together. 

Oli will show you, anything is possible.

This is my Oli.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thank you Brooke !

I want to highlight another one of the amazing individuals we chose to give a FREE Paper Clouds Apparel shirt to. I am so happy to have been able to give young Brooke a shirt in reward for her just being an awesome person. Here is what her mom Terry wrote when we were accepting the stories for who deserves a free shirt;

I don't deserve a shirt. But my oldest daughter, Brooke, does. She is 8 yrs old and is the best big sister ever. My youngest daughter Lynlea has Down Syndrome and Brooke has been nothing but a blessing!! She helps out with Lynlea and it has opened her eyes to what disabilities are and how they all differ! When Brooke grows up she wants to work with children with Down Syndrome! Truly blessed! Thanks.

How could we say no to a great little girl like Brooke !!! So we sent her a shirt and here is what her mom emailed us;

Brooke rocking the t-shirt she won!!!! Thanks again! Can't wait till Lynlea can draw some art!!
 (Brooke looking great in her PCA shirt)

Brooke, it is amazing young people like you that are going to change the worlds attitudes towards the way they view and treat those with special needs. You are an inspiration to all and keep on being awesome. We are honored to have you wearing one of our shirts- Robert