Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I am Autism

Hey friends! It's been a while, so let's jump right in. 

TJ and I had decided that over Christmas break we would tell Caleb about his Autism. We could sense him starting to understand that he was different, and with him growing so quickly (he's going to be NINE), and his peers becoming more mature, we felt like it would be a good tool for him and his development right now. I've always been a huge supporter of kids with disabilities advocating for themselves. I feel like it not only helps other kids be more accepting, but it's a great safety tool as well (God forbid he ever be in a dangerous situation, I'd want him to be able to communicate his autism to first responders).  

We figured Christmas break would be a good time to have the talk; lots of time at home surrounded by love and encouragement. I had a few books on retainer that I knew I wanted to use, but we just began talking about autism in general. We talked about how his brain was created differently, that there are a number of things he excels in and a number of things he struggles with, all due in part to his autism. We talked about his crazy memory; how he can remember exact dates and details that most of us can not. We talked about his musicality, his perfect pitch, and his ability to play anything on the piano after hearing it once. We made mention that he used to recite all the presidents and states from memory.  

We of course talked about when he has a hard time...when a baby cries, when it's loud, when his schedule is different, when we go a different way home, when he has to wear sleeves on his shirt, when mom forgets to get Capri Suns at the store, or when his water bottle leaks, when the car battery dies and we have to get a new one, when the iPad battery dies, etc!  

He seemed to be receptive to all of these things, relating them to other examples. And then we talked about a few friends we have with autism, all on different levels of the spectrum. His first thought was to say "They're really smart! Just like me!"  

We knew it would be something he'd have to mull over and that a bulk of the work would come later on down the road during the tough moments, after the meltdowns, when we would remind him that it wasn't his fault...that the Autism was getting in the way of communication, or his ears are so sensitive because he was made differently. We'd continually to remind him of these things and try our best to praise his sensitive and sweet heart, his loyalty, joy, innocence, and free spiritedness.  

And this week at school he was Camper of the Week. He brought in a poster of pictures from his life, and today he got to bring any picture book to read to the class. I listed a few choices for him, and none of them sparked his interest. Then he specifically asked to bring in Why Is He Doing That?, which is one of the books we used to tell him about autism. It's about a 3rd grader named Gerald who doesn't like loud noise, social interaction, or changes in his schedule (and it's written and illustrated by a local girl from Orange County). I didn't know what to say...I kept asking him if he was really sure he wanted to read that to his class (which is a 3,4,5 class designed to help meet the needs of kids like Caleb) and he insisted. So I gave his teacher a heads-up and sent him on his way (after I reminded him of his awesome-autism traits during the drive to school).  

Well the day isn't half over and I got a beautiful text from his teacher saying she loved the book and that it spurred great discussion and curiosity. Oh to be a fly on the wall! We are forever grateful to our amazing support system, our friends, family, and teachers who help us every day. This is just the beginning of self advocacy for him, and we are so hopeful for him. And as always, we are so thankful to The Lord who created Caleb just the way he is; different not less. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Caleb is 8

Last week Caleb turned EIGHT. 
I can barely handle it. 

He really really really wanted a beach party. I thought I would be super conscientious and not have it in the middle of a work week and make everyone drive down to the beach (hahahahahahaha)...turns out a Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer was probably the worst idea ever. Pretty much every lot, every meter, every street was full. We randomly found a fire pit, everything was taken, and the shore looked like something I'd never seen. SO many people! Beach tents and umbrellas four rows back.

Our friends and family made it and we cooked hot dogs, brats, s'mores, and had a Minecraft cake. 

I'm so thankful for this tribe of mine. For everyone that loves us and loves Caleb. For all the help we receive at a moment's notice, for groceries and diapers, hugs and phone calls, babysits and dates, swimming and chips and iPad and constant fun.

Here are a few pictures..I'm never any good at capturing great moments when I'm also the one "hosting".

Thanks everyone (grammy + grandpa, grandma + coopops, christy + steven, luke + amber, matthew + joshua, chanelle + matt, azariah + oceana + eliana, brent + vanessa, darby + finn), for having fun with us yesterday!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Campo Life 3.0

Hi friends!

Remember that time I used to blog??  Oh that was so cute of me...blogging with two kids. OMG NOW I HAVE THREE KIDS therefore blogging is minimal.

The school year is already winding down (this year went by fast, folks). We recently attended Open House at Bug's school. He's been in an amazing program with the same teacher for the last three years. We've really enjoyed every bit of it, and while I'm nervous to see what third grade will be, I'm exccited that he'll be starting a new program with the big kids.

And how fun is Open House??

We played around in that golden hour light afterwards.

Marina Park in Newport Beach is our new favorite. There's a small bit of waterfront that's from the Balboa Peninsula, nice and calm, and the kids just love it.

Spring portraits came back! Which I never buy. Ever. But look how handsome our Bug is! He's HUGE. Also, how great is this silly cheese face?!

Last night we attended our church's beach baptisms. It was SO much fun. And it happened to be Clementine's first official trip to the beach! All other times she's just been sleeping in the stroller. It was great, SHE IS THE BEST. And our beach tent from my dad was perfect. Oh AND my Ergo...really handy! Next beach purchase...a wagon to carry all of our crap!! And maybe a state parking pass...

Happy Monday, friends!

Let's make it a good one.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

We Are Still an Autism Family

Hi friends. I'm sitting here this morning, on World Autism Awareness Day, thinking about where we've been, where we are, and where we have yet to go on our Autism journey. I wanted to have a beautifully inspiring post prepared in the queue, but the reality is I'm tired {I NOW HAVE THREE KIDS}. This blog has taken a backseat to my life, and that's okay for now. But I still wanted to share with you...

We are still an Autism family. 

When I began blogging about Caleb, in the beginning of his diagnosis, life was rough. It was rough, man. And any special needs parent will tell you - the beginning is hard. Accepting it is hard, behaviors are hard, communication is hard, going out in public is hard, maintaining friendships is hard, figuring it out is hard

And then you see glimpses of improvement. You start therapy, you start school, you read blogs, you research your face off. You keep routines the same so you don't rock the boat, but you try to switch it up because "hey he needs to be able to be flexible one day, right?" But you realize that "one day" might never come, because Autism by nature is inherently driven by routines and schedules and sameness. 

So you keep going. We praise and praise the successes. We post about the amazing strides, the good days, the prep work we did that paid off, communication burst they had...and then we're brought right back down with new behaviors like head banging, arm biting, and toe biting until it bleeds; and then bullying at school.

As much as I post about the blessings, the hard is still there, it always will be. No one wants to hear about the hard, because it makes us uncomfortable. But I feel like it's a disservice to not include it. It lessens the struggle our kids go through, our families go through, our teachers go through. The hard parts are essentially what will bring true awareness and acceptance into this world. 

Autism affects 1 in 45 children. And 1 in 28 boys. 

It's time to figure out what you can do to help. How can you change your frame of mind? How can you talk to your kids about other kids who are different? How can you let your friend know that you love them, they're doing a great job, and that parenting is crazytown as it is, and with Autism in the mix...WOW they're a rockstar. Be intentional, friends.

And to my fellow Autism parents - KEEP ON. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Birth Story: Clementine Caylee

So let's just say this pregnancy was far from easy.  I found a few common themes among third time mothers and the most frequent comments were that third time pregnancies were rough.  Was it my increasing age?  My prior weight I was trying to work off with yoga?  The fact that I had carried two other almost nine-pound-babies before?  All of the above.

My body hurt all the time.  I couldn't bare to sit on the floor, cross my legs, and even rolling to my other side in the middle of the night gave me the worst aches.  And to top it off, at around 30 weeks I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  Awesome!  So now I couldn't eat carbs, I had to check my blood sugar four times a day, and I wrote down every little thing I ate.  I credit my beloved little sister for really giving me all the knowledge I needed {she has type 1} and if I ever texted any of you in my wrath, thank you for listening.

From the start of this pregnancy I felt like I wouldn't last a whole 40 weeks.  Caleb was a week late, Lilly came on her due date, so it only seemed fitting that this one would come early {also my body wasn't having it}.  When I went to my 36 week checkup I was already dilated to 2cms...which means something but also means nothing...you could be at 2 for weeks...who knows.  

After a weekend of waddling around {and playing with my awesome brother, his wife, and my nephew, who were in town from Houston}, I knew I wouldn't be lasting another month.

I spent the first day of September like any other, texting my girl Melanie about my tired body, whining about the two big kids, discussing Etsy shops and blogs, failed Pinterest attempts, and our mutual love of Starbucks.  

My brother had spent the morning at the HB Pier with his crew, so he was on his way over to say "until next time".  But after I helped Lilly out of her afternoon bath, I realized my water was slowly breaking {at 36 weeks, 5 days}.  I told him I'd see him later, have a safe flight...and he showed up barging in, ready to deliver this baby if needed!  Seriously, I had a plan and I didn't want to interrupt his last day in SoCal {and I really like sticking to plans}, but after telling TJ what was going on, he made me let Sean drive me to the hospital.  I couldn't get a hold of Grandma to watch the kids, so I desperately called my friend Jenna to come sit with them until she came..."I'll be there in 8 minutes" she said.  And she was.

My brother is a hilarious ball of energy, so the car ride to Hoag went something like this; "Okay what's the best way to get there? Do I need to go faster? This rental car goes super fast, wanna see? Are you sure you don't want me to drive thru InNOut? You're not going to be able to eat for a while.  I'll deliver this baby on PCH if I have to!"

Fun Fact...I'm wearing my friend Melanie's maternity shirt...she wore it when her water broke with her first.

After checking into labor & delivery, we waited around thirty minutes for TJ to arrive from work, and we said our goodbyes to the Houston Gresches and thanked them for their service.  Seriously, how divine was that timing?!?!

TJ's mom finally relieved Jenna and took over watching the big kids {not to mention cleaned my house from top to bottom}...and I was ready to get baby number three out of my belly!

Our labor and delivery room had a pretty nice view of Newport...thanks Hoag.

After being checked in, hooked up to the Pit, it felt like we had been there forever.  Contractions were only slowly starting, and since I knew I'd be going the epidural route, I wasn't about to be a hero and let them get too crazy, so I asked for it after a nice visit from Christy and rerun of Conan.

4 cms was all I was after the epidural, so my body had a lot of progress to do.

After eleven hours of being in the hospital, my awesome L&D nurse noticed I had another bag of fluid that hadn't quite ruptured, which was probably why I wasn't progressing.  After much poking and prodding, I went from what felt like 4 cms to 8 cms...FAST.  And my epidural was wearing off.  NOT what I signed up for!  I was lying on my side trying to breathe, while having the worst case of heartburn, at 8 cms, just praying the song "Jesus Jesus Precious Jesus" while I waited for the epidural to kick back in.

My nurse basically said if I sat up right then, she'd come flying out, so I did everything to wait for my OB's ETA of 20 minutes...

More pressure than I'd ever felt from either kid was coming and fast.  My OB arrived, I sat up, pushed five times through two contractions, and she was out.  So fast.

Clementine Caylee was born on 9/2 at 4:35am, 6lbs 10oz, 18inches {which I guessed exactly on}.

Her first name means mercy.
Her middle name is a juxtaposition of Caleb + Lilly = Caylee.

She is the sweetest surprise.

I really can't believe how tiny she is.

Because she was ONE DAY shy of being full term, we had to stay in the hospital an extra day.  We weren't going to let the kids come, we thought it'd be too much for them, but I couldn't stand to not see them a whole other day...

It was a good thing we tackled going on elevators last month!!  They sure did love the view of North Orange County.

Caleb was pretty smitten with her.

And I was blown away that Lilly wanted to hold her too.  Way to go, big kids.

We finally busted out of there on the 4th.

And it's been pretty great.

We've been on a dinner rotation from family and friends and our awesome Beachpoint Church.  Can I just say how amazing that is??  I have people knocking on my door who I've never met before, delivering delicious meals!  We are filled to the brim with diapers, wipes, new/old baby gear, and newborn clothes {that none of my 8 pounders could ever wear}.  We are tired and cramped in our too-small-for-us duplex, but we are thrilled with this amazing blessing from The Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Four Months Off

Hello friends.

For no specific reason {other than being exhausted, I suppose} I took a four month break from blogging. We've been going through a crazy season in our lives, and while I wanted to remain transparent on this blog, I also wanted to give ourselves the space needed to work things out. 

At the beginning of the year, TJ was accepted into the police academy. We were so thrilled yet so nervous for this next chapter in our lives. We knew it would take months of sacrifice and hard work for everyone {especially TJ} as he went through one of the nation's toughest academies. 

I cooked his meals and pressed his uniforms while he worked his butt off there and studied all night. It hadn't been maybe a few weeks until we had noticed a difference in the way he was reacting to the stress. To be perfectly honest, the month he was in the academy was tougher than the six months he was away in Afghanistan {compounded by my pregnancy I'm sure}. 

His demeanor and disposition were comparable to when he was deployed; only this time he had to deal with the stress of home life as well, which meant we got to see that stress in ways we hadn't before. It was rough. 

To make a long story short, after an exhausting night, we decided a thirty year commitment to a high stress job wasn't going to work out; and it had also showed us that TJ needed a bit more help than what he was getting as far as his anxiety goes. 

It was an incredibly tough decision to make. We went four months without a paycheck, but it was nothing compared to the support we received from everyone. I don't share all of this with you because I feel you need to know every aspect of our lives {and believe me you don't}, but I share it so you can have a closer look at someone you know who might be struggling. 

We share things on Facebook and Twitter all day. We like inspirational posts and comment on stories of strangers. But when was the last time you openly shared about your own mental health and the steps you took to get on the road to healing? When were you so brave that you shared your need for medication and your success with it? Who was the last veteran you knew who struggled readjusting to civilian life after a long deployment? And finally, when did you call your friend and high-five them for being a champion special needs parent? 

I really couldn't tell you how many people have helped us since last winter. I'm eternally grateful to our family, friends, church, and our gracious Lord. We have so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate with our newest little Campo joining us soon. There are much worse things to suffer through than a season of unemployment {which is over, TJ has a job, praise the Lord} or figuring out your mental health, but I'm so relieved and grateful to be on the other side now.

...aaaaand back to our regularly scheduled blogging. 


Monday, March 16, 2015

FOUR {Lilly 2015}

A month and a half ago, Lilly turned four.  The day before her birthday I had a positive pregnancy test, and it's pretty much taken over my life ever since.  I'm feeling so much better, and I don't want to forget this adventurous stage of Lilly Belle.

She told me she wanted a Peter Pan party with a bounce house, so that's what we went for.  

But first, her actual birthday...

She woke up with the sweetest bedhead and tired face.
We took Caleb to school and headed to Target with gift cards in hand.

Always breaking for Taylor.

And she wanted a store-bought cake...from Albertson's specifically...

And a Sophia balloon.

Daddy came home at lunch time to surprise her with a rose.

She spent some time with her new toys...

And dressed like Peter to pick up Bug...
Grandma came with even more surprises...

And she learned that mixing Play Dough is okay on your birthday...

She kicked me out of her room for play time with daddy...

And we used the same candles from Caleb's 4th birthday.

I got to work on her "costume"...first time sewing a zipper!

We were able to have the party at the school TJ used to work for {sniffle/tear}.  My favorite mamas, kids, and besties were all in attendance.  Lilly requested everyone by name and we had a spread of sandwiches, snacks, and cupcakes.  When it was time for everyone to sing Happy Birthday, she asked that only Caleb sing {my kids have serious sensitivities to loudness}.  Everyone was so sweet.

From my big camera...

My Lillian Spring, 

You are more adventurous than I'd ever imagined.  Your spunk and spice make me want to soak up every little bit of you and save it to sprinkle on your pillow when you're an angsty teenager.  I hope you're always brutally honest with your feelings and you never let anyone stifle them.  May you always care for your brother as you do now; despite his protesting, he loves you very much.  Stay imaginative, creative, and as adventurous as God made you.
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