We took Carson to the Monster Jam pit party just before he turned 3 (Feb 2013).
He had a monster truck theme for his 3rd birthday.
Carson had this Lots and Lots of Monster Trucks dvd that he watched every single day for at least a year. Things happen so gradually sometimes in parenting that there isn’t always a defined moment when things shift, but at some point Camden started watching that very same dvd. He memorized the songs. He’d get out his alphabet puzzles and lay out the same words/phrases/names of monster truck drivers, that was shown on the screen. I posted the following picture on Instagram on February 4, 2016, which was exactly one year from when we took him to Monster Jam.
It was fun to see Camden involved in pretend play with his monster trucks. He’d get out the track that his dad had made for Carson’s 3rd birthday, and he’d reenact what he had seen on the videos.
I enjoy finding things for our family to do together, so I was thrilled at the thought of us going to Monster Jam this year. A little over a year ago, I never would’ve guessed that Camden would be interested in monster trucks, and I certainly didn’t think we’d all be going to Monster Jam. It’s really crowded and extremely loud. We were going for it!
I had picked up free passes for the Pit Party a couple weeks before the event. Unfortunately, I left those same passes at home on the big day. The box office was completely sold out. We had arrived at 2:30, and the actual Monster Jam didn’t start until 7:30. There was a super nice couple behind us in line that gave us two tickets. And then I found a guy that was selling the free tickets for $20 each. We negotiated and headed into the Pit Party.
My plan was to give us some time to see the trucks and drivers up close before it got really crowded, which did not take long. Camden was happy and a good sport, but he started getting a little uneasy/confused asking about the race. At that point, I realized I hadn’t clued him in. In his videos, the trucks are always racing or doing tricks. They aren’t just sitting there doing nothing. If I had a time machine, I would’ve explained it to him better and written him up a schedule. Something like this:
see the trucks and drivers
go back to the van to eat dinner
watch the Monster Jam races
Lesson learned. We talked him through it, and he calmed down. Even as his mama, I can forget the importance of clueing him in to what is going to happen. So we checked out some trucks and drivers and all was well.
This picture with the boys and the driver of Stone Crusher is my favorite! They look like pals…like my boys could be part of the pit crew.
I totally sound like my mother-in-law, but I had no interest in dropping a ridiculous sum of money on sub-par stadium food, so we went back to the van after the Pit Party and while we were waiting for Monster Jam to begin. As we were headed to the van, a couple of monster trucks drove by.
We ate dinner and chilled before heading back into the stadium.
We sat up high, but thankfully had front-row seats to give us a good view and more room. The incessant kicking from behind was unfortunate, but you can’t win ’em all. 🙂
We knew we were taking noise-cancelling headphones for the boys. Brian picked some up for us that day, and I am SO GLAD he did! It would have been uncomfortable without them.
I LOVED watching Camden’s big smiles and excitement!
AT&T Stadium was completely sold out!
Mom and dad have protection. 😉
I have looked at these pictures numerous times, but as I uploaded them onto my desktop, check out what I noticed on the monster truck above Camden’s head on the jumbo screen? Kind of fun. =)
The free-style competition is my favorite. It was awesome! I am old and not a fan of crowds, so we bolted when there were three trucks still left to race. Between the drive home and getting up for church thr next morning, I say it was a good call.
This was a FUN activity for our family to do together. It also reminds me of a very important lesson that I can often forget…just because something is a certain way now, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. A year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that Camden would’ve enjoyed a loud and crowded monster truck show. And I am sure that there are things he will do a year from now that I can’t even imagine today.
Looking forward to my next post when I share our new Autism Awareness designs!! I am CrAzY over the superhero one!! =)
Over the past two years, we’ve refined what we look for in a campground.
Our list of demands preferences for camping:
We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van/truck) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
We want electricity and running water.
We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past-time for our guys.
We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.
After this weekend, three preferences were added:
Hubby needs a good flat space that accommodates our 6-person tent.
Mama likes a water-view.
The kiddos need room to play (and preferably where they can have some independence)…to ride bikes, play soccer, drive the remote-controlled cars, etc.
The week leading up to our camping trip, the forecast for rain was about a 90% chance throughout the weekend. The percentage went down the closer we got. We like the line in Peppa Pig where Daddy Pig says, “If you want it to rain, have a barbecue.” We would say, “If you want it to rain, go camping.” Most of our camping trips have involved some precip, and we don’t fret over it. Certainly one of the perks of staying at a site with a screened shelter.
I dropped the boys off at school Friday morning, and then headed to the campground to get a spot since it’s first come first served. This isn’t totally necessary, but I like to have a plan when possible. The park is a little under an hour from our house. I checked in at the main office to pay and grab a map. Cost for the screened sheltered spots is $30 per night. Entry fee is $5 per person (over 13) per day. Kids under 13 are free.
It was pouring when I arrived, and only two of the screened sheltered spots had been taken. I FaceTimed Brian to get his opinion on my top three choices. If you are a tent camper, there are not many sites in Deer Haven (the area with the screened shelters) that accommodate a large tent. If you like the idea of sleeping in the shelter, and you want to bring cots, you’ll be good to go! Get a park map when you arrive. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the spots:
#30-My favorite spot because of the water view and the seclusion being at the end of the cul-de-sac, BUT there is no place to put a decent-szied tent and it’s quite an uphill hike to the bath house.
#34-A good flat space set back in the trees. You can’t see the lake from this site, but I’d still stay here. Hubby does shower duty when we are camping, and he felt it was too far and too uphill from the bathrooms. (This one was already reserved.)
#35-This one is actually a “cabin” with air conditioning that you can reserve. It’s $55 per night and is good spot.
#24 and #25-Both have good flat spaces, but are a little closer together than I’d prefer. If we were camping with another family and wanted to be close together, this would be a good set-up. Water view.
#1-Good flat space and roomy but no water view.
#14-Good flat space with water view and some grassy area to play.
#8-A fun spot that is somewhat set back. Flat space for tent. Water view. For our family it was too far from the bathrooms and too hilly for the boys to ride bikes.
I decided on campsite #20. There was flat space for the tent. Water view for me. Close to the bathrooms and play area.
Brian and I packed and loaded while the boys were at school. Brian decided we’d pack everything in big plastic tubs to utilize space. We take the boys’ bikes, and since Camden’s adaptive bike takes up some space, Brian attaches the cargo carrier for the bikes and ice chest.
As you can see in the picture below, we were close to the bathrooms. Every single time Brian sets up the tent, Camden sticks close until it’s complete. He likes to help with the hammer.
The boys played with monster trucks while we unpacked and set up.
Brian got our hammock strapped to the trees. Both boys enjoy it, and it’s great sensory input for Camden since he loves to swing so much.
The play area consisted of three swings and a grassy area. Pretty simple.
Here are two panoramic shots of our site to give you an idea of our surroundings:
Saturday morning the boys rode bikes and drove the RC cars while Brian made breakfast. You can get an idea of the incline from some of these shots. Probably not bad for most kids, but for our sweet Camden with gross motor challenges and on his adaptive bike, he wasn’t able to ride independently. One of us needed to be close. Here’s a video of Camden going all kamikaze down the hill on his adaptive bike: https://www.facebook.com/candace.russell/videos/10157567289635571/
Our last camping trip to Lake Bob Sandlin had a very flat circle rode around the area where the boys could ride more independently. See what I mean? Lots more green space for the boys to play and run around.
Breakfast inside our shelter. My water view was just behind Brian and Camden. Always amazes me how everything I eat is so much tastier in nature.
It was hot on Saturday, which would’ve been quite uncomfortable if we were just hanging around our campsite. Our boys love the water, so we were thrilled to have perfect swimming temperature! Eisenhower State Park is on Lake Texoma. After the significant flooding in Texas two summers ago, the park did some maintenance to the sandy beach area. It was an improvement. Beware that the walk down to the water is pretty steep.
Not every campground has the sandy beach feature. We love it because it gives us options of digging and playing in the sand or enjoying the water. It’s a decent area for swimming and hasn’t been too crowded the two times we’ve been. Camden stayed in the water for the entire four hours we were there! He loved when speed boats would come through the vicinity and make waves. We took a camping chairs, a sheet to sit on, a shovel for the boys to dig with, some water toys, floaties, and drinks.
There are some small caves to explore and rocks to climb near the sandy beach. I stayed with Camden while Brian took Carson.
My brother and his family live super close to where we camped so they came up Saturday to swim with us and have dinner. Fun to get to hang with them!
After a long day playing in the water, we were pretty tired. It was a bit warm going to bed. This was our first time bring a fan with us, and it did make a big difference. I had a hard time sleeping. Kind of eerie that there was hardly anyone at the campground. Then we got a POUR DOWN around 3:30AM. Major thunder, lightning and rain. The weather report was calling for showers on and off throughout the day, so Brian made breakfast while I started packing up the tent. After breakfast, we loaded our stuff and headed out. Carson wanted to stop by the marina before we left.
You can rent boats at the Eisenhower Yacht Club, but we did not. Brian wanted to stop for lunch and I wanted to get back for an autism moms’ night out event.
Here’s a bonus tip for autism families. If that’s not you, it may be best to stop reading now. You’ve been warned…
Let’s see…without going into too many details, let me say that it’s important for our kids to be pooping regularly. This is a struggle for many of our children with autism. Some kids don’t like using unfamiliar bathrooms and will hold it. My hubby picked up this outdoor toilet seat from Academy for $5 and set it on top of a Home Depot bucket. Worked like a charm! If you’d like to read about some of our other camping trips, here they are in the order in which we’ve taken them:
We hit the road at 5:30 last Friday morning to head to Austin for Camden’s doctor appointment. The stretch from Dallas to Austin is a lot of stop and go, fast and slow, so leaving at this time was perfect. We stopped in Waco for breakfast and had plenty of time to spare for our 10AM appointment. At the doctor visit: After that, we grabbed lunch and then checked in to our hotel. Camden doesn’t ask for much. He points out hotels around town and remarks, “hotel.” I loved staying at hotels as a kid, and apparently he does too. The boys were thrilled. The hotel had an indoor pool that the guys made good use of. Brian said this swim time was his favorite part of the trip because they had a blast and both of the boys are tall enough now that there is a lot less stress involved for the parents. Camden felt more secure since he was able to touch the bottom. We got cleaned up and headed to In & Out for dinner. Camden was stoked to be sitting close to the train tracks. We’ve been in Austin several times, but this was the first time we took the boys to the Capitol building. We didn’t arrive until after 6PM, but the doors were still open to check out the inside. Saturday morning we took the Austin Steam Train from Cedar Park to Burnet. Here’s the blurb from the website:
This 66 mile round trip excursion journeys through the Texas Hill Country, crossing the wooden trestle bridge over the South San Gabriel River and Short Creek Canyon. During the two hour layover in Burnet you can enjoy lunch on your own, a leisurely stroll around the historic town square and the Wild West Gunfight (weather permitting). Finally, relax and enjoy our historic cars as the train returns to Cedar Park in the afternoon. All cars are pulled by our 1960 Alco diesel locomotive. Parties of two may be seated at shared tables. This ride is 6 hours round trip with a 2 hour layover. SCHEDULE: Departs 10:00 AM, Returns 4:00 PM.
Cost is around $28-40 each. If it’s your birthday month, you get a free ticket so I made use of that! Camden is very interested in trains (Thomas the train, model train layouts, I Love Toy Train dvds, etc). He struggles with gravitational insecurity and doesn’t like the feel of elevators, escalators, planes, etc. I’d heard this train was pretty smooth, so we were hoping it’d go well. He was uncertain when we arrived, and once the train departed it took him about 15 minutes to relax. After that, he was fine. Camden’s iPad is often utilized to help with tough transitions or new and uncertain experiences like this one. I decided it was going to be a no iPad excursion. The ride was 2 hours one-way. He did great! Once we arrived in “beautiful Burnet” it was time for lunch. The locals recommended a certain restaurant, and once we got there I saw that it was buffet. I’m not a fan of most buffets, so I passed. Thirty minutes before departing back to Austin/Cedar Park, there was a short play with an old western back drop. I had forgotten to pack Camden’s noise-cancelling headphones, so when the first gunshot was fired, he was done. I don’t see us doing this train excursion again, but I certainly enjoyed trying something different. After the train ride, we headed to New Braunfels to stay the night with some of our dear friends. Camden and Carson LOVE going to their house. When we were at the hotel, Carson told me, “Mom, I love hotel-ing, but I mostly love staying at Ms. Danielle’s house.” =) They have two teenage boys who are amazing role models for my boys. We were fed, loved on, and encouraged. Our friends headed out for church Sunday morning and we packed up. I peeked in the play room/man cave to see the boys having a jam session. Totally cracked me up!We loaded up our stuff and headed to Morgan’s Wonderland, an all-abilities park in San Antonio. The weather was overcast and pretty pleasant. The park had gotten a Ferris wheel last month and we were excited to try it out! Camden had me in a choke hold the entire time.We logged four hours at the park, and then started the journey back home. It was a short but fun trip!
It’s been a fun February, despite the boys’ disappointment over not having snow.
I shared recently that my uber-talented friend, Emily, took pictures for our newest Autism Awareness tee. You can see more them here.
Thanks to the folks from the nonPareil Institute (who received complimentary tickets from the Texas Legends), we attended our first Legends Basketball game. We SO appreciated the opportunity to give this a try. We didn’t know how Camden would do, but since it didn’t cost us anything, it was certainly worth a shot! We were allowed to bring in snacks for Camden that fit his dietary restrictions. Of course, being a sporting event, it was loud. He did great with his headphones and seemed to enjoy himself. Before the game, this small blimp thing was flying around throwing out coupons. The boys got a kick out of it! Looking at my pics, you probably wouldn’t know that we were at a basketball game unless I told you. You can see where my focus and heart are! =) On the way in, we passed the hockey arena. The boys were super interested, so we’ll have to keep that in mind for another time.
Before the game:
Mesmerized by the blimp thing:
Daddy and Carson and Little Dog:
Carson and I went down to check out the kid area. They had a big blow up slide, climbing wall, baseball toss, and basketball throw. It was crowded and there was lots of cutting and such, which makes me slightly cray cray.
He rocked the baseball throw. The tee-ball coach last year had the boys point to where they intended to throw the ball. Carson does so every single time. =)
We sat near some families whose adult children attend the nonPareil Institute. Autism parents are kind of a fraternity of sorts. We connect almost instantly, and it was good to hear stories from those who are farther down the road than us. Here’s the mission of nonPareil in case you aren’t familiar with the organization: “nonPareil Institute is dedicated to providing technical training, employment and housing to individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. We hope to one day be partially self-sustaining from the products our Crew build and market.”
Camden continues to school himself by using the closed caption feature on his iPad. Here he is learning to spell the names of the characters on Blaze and the Monster Machines.
The little guy has loved Face-Timing with his cousin, Kaila, on Monday evenings! Here he is with helmet-head reading to her. So special! Kaila is so patient. They talk about everything under the sun! And yes, that is a bathroom right next to where we eat. Odd, I know.
Valentine’s was nice. I received a beautiful bouquet of roses from a super special Baba. Brian spoke to my love language of chocolate-covered strawberries…YUM! The boys made Valetine crafts at school that I so LOVE! One of the couples in Carson’s class made them for the craft at the party. I was practically drooling over them. Super cute and something I’d proudly display every year. They had extras and were so kind to let me take four of them for Camden’s class. I think it’s a great craft for all abilities.
Brian picked up the Home Depot workshop Valentine kits for the boys to complete at home. It gets noisy with all the hammering, and since Camden doesn’t need to breathing in all the fertilizer and chemicals, it’s just easier to complete the projects at home.
The Fitness Pal app has been my side-kick this month. Things had gotten pretty out of hand with my health, so the accountability has been helpful.
Since the kids were out of school for Presidents’ Day, we made good use of the nice weather: Top Golf, In & Out Burger, weekly grocery shopping trip, and since I had my groceries on ice in my insulated bags, we were able to stop by a local park to ride bikes. It was pretty busy at the park, and Carson’s chain broke off about half-way around the trail. I was pushing his bike while he was helping Camden up the hills. I’m pushing Carson’s bike and trying to keep up while Camden is heading down a hill kamikaze-style. I raised my voice at Carson that I really needed his help and he wasn’t being very helpful. He was, actually. I was just a grouch. I apologized later for raising my voice and being unkind. Now, when I get remotely ugly, Carson will gently comment, “Mom, remember the hill.” =) Indeed. Here’s a collage of some of the events from the day:
That picture on the top left of Carson walking beside Camden while he rides his bike gets me. Sweetness. Two weeks ago, my Facebook “On This Day” feature brought up these memories:
Those were tough days. Camden was a very fussy little guy. Cried a lot. Slept very little. GI issues. Carson was fussy, clingy, and was showing a lot of red flags for developmental delays. We had therapists in our home for hours each day. My biggest migraine trigger is sleep deprivation, and my oh my how the trigger was pulled. I remember several times when I’d be nursing Carson while I was holding a vomit bucket for myself. I was a hot mess. I tried to treasure the moments, and laugh, and enjoy my boys. I remember holding them a lot and swaying to You’re Gonna Miss This, and willing myself to stop and soak in the here and now. Long hard days. I’m so thankful for pictures that I can look back on now and smile. Brian’s Aunt Lynn shared a thought on my post that has really stuck with me: “It does go by fast. Be grateful for the years when a hug, kiss, or a Band-Aid could make it all better.” Wow! While the baby/toddler days are long and hard, she’s right. A lot of the tears can be dried up by a hug. It won’t always be that way.
That day at the park Carson also conquered something he’s been working on for over a year…the monkey bars. I didn’t get the whole thing on video b/c I didn’t know he was gonna nail it. My favorite part is his excitement at the end. =)
A video posted by Candace (@countingonhope) on Feb 15, 2016 at 2:18pm PST
Thanks to the peeps at Hunter’s Autism Specials, we procured some tickets to Medieval Times for a reasonable price. The show was on a Thursday and didn’t start until 7:30. We are typically winding down at 7:30PM, so I suspected Camden might have some struggles. Most days we sit down for dinner between 5-5:30. Camden isn’t a big fan of car rides. We had some obstacles, but I really thought and hoped that once the show started, it’d all be worth it. We headed out, and he wasn’t thrilled about the hour car ride in traffic. Since he hadn’t been before, I didn’t really know how to prepare him. I just kept telling him that we were looking for the castle and I’d update him on time and distance. We went through the line and were each crowned so that we knew where to sit and which knight to cheer for.
Then they took our picture, which they’d later try to sell to us for $20. We were ushered in to a large, crowded, dark area with the booze and over-priced toys and such. The boys were less than impressed with the evening at this point. Here they are yawning and not thrilled:
Medieval Times hooked us up with preferred seating, so we didn’t wait long. Here’s some of our group before we went in:
And here is what the arena looked like:
A shot of my guys getting ready to cheer on the black and white knight:
Once everyone came into the arena, the noise level was high. We couldn’t really understand what our server was saying and could only hear the person right next to us. Camden wore his headphones the whole time and was fine. I made sure they had gfcf options for Camden before we signed up for the event. I told our server twice about dietary restrictions, so we are hoping that was well received. The non gfcf members of our family ate garlic bread, tomato veggie soup, 1/2 a baked chicken, 1/2 of an herb-roasted baked potato, and a “dragon turd” (chocolate and vanilla swirled treat) for dessert. Camden had the chicken and potato. They don’t offer eating utensils, so we brought our own for Camden. We were allowed to bring in a drink and fruit and such for Camden. Only stinky thing about the dining was the seating. Your seat and your table are far from one another. The seat is low and the table is high. Not the end of the world. Just awkward, uncomfy, and not ideal for kids trying to eat and see the entertainment. This picture gives you a little idea of the seating situation:
The entertainment revolves around these various knights completing various equestrian events and duals to see who is crowned the best. As soon as the first horse came out, Camden rotated between a HUGE grin plastered all over his face to a jaw-dropping wow face.
The entertainment included equestrian relay-type races, falconry (super cool), some skits and story line, sword fighting (which won over my youngest), etc. I had been twice before, but seeing my boys so excited was THE BEST! Here’s Carson all giddy about the fighting:
When they came around at the end to show us our photos, I really liked both of them but just couldn’t justify spending $40 on a high-glass 8X10. On our way out the door, we had a guy snap a family picture for us. Not quite as fancy, but it captures a special memory:
The boys had their 6-month checkup at the dentist this month. Carson loves going. Camden is making strides each time we go.
Carson LOVES going to see Dr. Schaack and his crew! Despite Camden's racing heart and shakiness, he did great!! I so appreciate how McKinney Pediatric Dentistry cares for my boys!
Brian and I were thrilled to end the month with a date night. Our church has a respite ministry for special needs families. They provide free childcare once a month for three hours. We went to a yummy burger joint that has grass-fed beef. It was so good! Then we shopped some sales for clothes for our guys, because we’re romantic like that. 😉
Date night thanks to our church's respite ministry!! ❤️
Counting on Hope began as a way to help with our family’s expenses. My husband and I desire to do all that we can within our means to help our son, Camden, be as healthy as possible. We adore him just as he is, while continually raising the bar to help him be his very best. Especially when the boys were younger, I wore a lot of autism tees. I wasn’t willing to stop getting out and about, and the shirts were an attempt to wave my white flag for understanding when Camden was struggling. Instead of buying other people’s shirts, I decided to put my own together. Up until now, I’ve kept a surplus of inventory. This approach hasn’t really benefited our family in the fund-raising department, which is why I am moving over to a pre-order format (think Sevenly).
We are offering FOUR designs for our Autism Awareness pre-order. And guess what??? They are available all the way from youth small to an adult 3XL!! The deadline to order is 11:59PM on Sunday, March 13. Orders will ship on March 23.
This green V-neck is our newest design. Click here to find it on Etsy. I’ve had lots of requests for a V-neck design, and I finally listened. This tee honors both of my boys. Autism shows a glimpse into Camden, and the green reflects my little guy, Carson, who was born on St. Paddy’s Day. Green is his favorite color. =) This shirt runs true to size. It’s 50% polyester and 50% cotton jersey knit. In this picture, my husband is wearing the large and I am wearing the medium: Here’s my friend, Leslie, in the small:
Leslie is wearing a small.
**While most people find the shirt true to size, it’s important that you check the size chart to see what would be best for you. ADULT SIZE CHART: YOUTH SIZE CHART (The youth shirt is a dark heather grey and is a 50/50 cotton/poly blend):
Here’s our Different Not Less tee. I first heard that phrase from Temple Grandin, and liked it. Click here to see it on Etsy. This shirt runs true to size and is quite forgiving. You’ll want to do your queso eating in this design. It’s 65% polyester and 35% cotton. It’s a soft-style and super comfy. The color is called Heathered navy, but everyone calls it grey. Here are some folks in the Different Not Less tee: **While most people find the shirt true to size, it’s important that you check the size chart to see what would be best for you. ADULT SIZE CHART: YOUTH SIZE CHART:
It’s not really the autism flag, but it should be. It has the traditional colors depicted for autism as well as the puzzle piece. This tee runs true to size and is 90% cotton and 10% polyester. Here I am wearing the medium:
And Brian in the large: **While most people find the fit true to size, please check the sizing chart to be sure. ADULT SIZE CHART: YOUTH SIZE CHART:
This baseball design was the first we released. It’s currently available in the short-sleeve raglan and the short-sleeve 2-button baseball jersey. Click here to find the short-sleeve raglan on Etsyand here for the 2-button jersey. It’s 100% ring-spun cotton. Light-weight shirt with a grey torso and navy sleeves. Please note that this shirt tends to run a size large on women. I am typically a medium, but wear a small in this. Most women find this to be true, but it’s up to you to check the size chart to see what would work for you. ADULT SIZE CHART: YOUTH SIZE CHART: The baseball tee also comes in this 2-button baseball jersey. Click here to find it on Etsy. The 2-button baseball jersey is Heathered-grey. It’s a 50/50 cotton/poly blend. It runs true to size, but please check your measurements in the chart below: ADULT SIZE CHART: YOUTH SIZE CHART:
THANKS A TON for stopping by to see what we have to offer! Hope you find something for yourself, a teacher/therapist, or a loved one!