When I finished up at Click Away (more on that later), Chris and I headed to Great Salt Lake.

The air grew crisp and it was so incredibly quiet. Throughout the course of our trip we commented on the quietness of Salt Lake City in general. It wasn’t until we arrived at the lake that we realized it may not be the city at all that seemed so quiet, but the reality that 5 full of life kids were not with us. Either way, we missed our kids but relished in the calm and tranquil. We walked out in the waters. We felt the sand under our feet. We embraced the quiet and the beauty. I could feel the weight of 5 long, stressful weeks lift. I held my camera in my hands and saw beauty again. I felt alive. Inspired. Refreshed. In awe. Captivated. Time with Chris in the calm waters was a gift I didn’t realize how much I needed. How much I had been aching for it.

I tried a few times to get a picture of us with my timer. I propped my camera on my bag on top of his shoes. I’d set the timer and try to run out in the water to him. In this shot, I was convinced I didn’t get there fast enough and laughed at how we couldn’t get a timer shot. Then I heard the shutter. It is my favorite because it is candid and is so us.9.14gsl-069.14gsl-079.14gsl-089.14gsl-099.14gsl-109.14gsl-119.14gsl-12I’ve never experienced water so calm. Never. It was like glass for as far as my eyes could see…until we stepped in and caused ripples. The serenity stood starkly against the crashing waves of the ocean I’ve played in countless times. The quietness demanded attention in a way different from the thundering of towering waves hitting sandy beaches. It reminded me so much of my life. The calm waters are so far and few between. Life seems to be more marked with waves, whether small or crashing. Not all waves are bad, in fact most waves are glorious and fun. They are just different from calm waters. Experiencing waves of all sorts seems to be necessary for me to truly be able to breathe in the calm waters.  Coming out of a period of treading water and trying to stay above the waves made me stop and rest in a new way in the calm waters. I read this quote by Tyler Knott Gregson and it resonated with me during this season of life marked more by noise and waves than quiet and calm waters.

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.”

I’ve always loved to swim. I’ve always loved the water – calm and the waves.

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  • Jenni - Ahh! You slay me! Every.time!!! Your words speak to my heart and they are always what I need to hear. Those pictures are incredible and that quote is going up somewhere in my house- love it!!

  • Nynke - These pictures are really, really, really breathtaking.
    Thank you for sharing and making me smile (:

  • Micha - Ohhhh beatiful! Thanks for sharing!

  • beth p. - Thank you for a stunning post … words and photos. Tears sprang to my eyes when I read the quote at the end. It hit home.

  • Dee - I’m sorry, but your fluffy family, photos, posts make me feel ill. Seriously, your posts are so written from business perspective, it really stinks in the last 12 months. I wont be coming back, and a shame really as I love looking at your pics but the words….well they stink, and are very try hard

  • Lisa - Ashley, when you read “Dee”‘s comment above, I encourage you to hum Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” to yourself ;) LOVE these pics of you and your husband…isn’t it so fun to be alone to take pics of your man sometimes?? I did this on our 12th anniversary trip to San Fran in May and it’s so nice to point my camera at an adult sometimes. Plus it reminds me how hot he is. :) glad y’all got this chance to have calm waters for a while!

  • Debbie Mayfield - Thank you for sharing your story and your photos. I fell in love with Utah 20 years ago when I was lucky enough to bring a group of sales people there for an offsite meeting. It is truly God’s country. I try to get back as often as I can. I think I left a part of my heart in Park City. Beautiful moments and photos.

  • Maria - How Beautiful! Don’t let the opinion of one individual even impact you at all. I have been following for a long time. I cannot imagine where that person could be coming from. Please know your words, your pictures and your family are inspiring to us ALL! I want to Yell at that one person but I will try not to JUDGE! them. I can only assume that they are jealous of the love that you have in your life. I just don’t know why people cannot adhere to the saying “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Have a wonderful day and thank you for sharing the CALM AND THE WAVES in your life with us all.

  • Sara W - Beautiful photos and thoughts! Thank you for this on a Monday morning.

  • Steph - I have been reading your blog for years and have never commented but after the comment above I wanted to say your pictures and words are always beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. I always look forward to coming here everyday.

  • Cate O'Malley - Beautiful images and beautiful quote. Sometimes we get just what we need when we didn’t know we needed it.

  • Erica - What beautiful shots! Such great memory keepers. I love how creation has a way to restore us. Thank you for sharing!

  • Bonnie - Wow. That second picture of the two of you is amazing. So sweet.

  • AnnMarie - As a denizen of SLC, I’m so glad you enjoyed your time here! Doesn’t Utah have spectacular sunsets and gorgeous light? I’m not a photographer, but it’s one of my favorite things about living here. These pictures are amazing, thank you for sharing! And thank you for sharing your ponderings and thoughts with us, too – I always feel refreshed, uplifted, and reminded to do a little reflection myself because of them.

  • christina larsen - You are right, you can’t ever fully appreciate the calmness of the still water until you have come through the rough and stormy waves. Thanks for sharing. Those are beautiful pics.

  • Martina - Beautiful reflections and photos and quote. I’m putting that on my favorite quote list.

  • CMarie - I read everyday… it’s part of my morning routine. I NEVER comment. But you should know that you are an inspiration and your words and images bring so much joy to others. Thank you Ashley.

  • M - I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and have to thank you for your honesty and openness. What you have shared about your own joys and struggles has helped me to better handle a very difficult year in my own life. Thank you!

  • Erica - Thank you! I needed this today, especially that TKG quote at the end, which I love every single time I read it. Last week was a rough one for me creatively and personally. I feel like I’m making strides, little by little, to get back to where I want to be, and the most important part of that is remembering that I truly do love to swim.

  • Emily - I agree with Lisa – I don’t normally read the comments, but for some reason today I did and DO NOT let what Dee said get to you. The fact that she bothered to post that at all says more about her than you.

    I am so glad you share with us every day. I make a point to check your blog every day even when I only have my phone (and I *hate* reading on my phone) because I am inspired and I find camaraderie in your posts. If feel like, even though we’ve never met in real life, if we found ourselves in the same town and met up for coffee, we would chat like old friends. I wasn’t sad about missing ClickAway until I saw that you were speaking. Is there video somewhere?

    And speaking of inspiration – some friends of mine and I are shooting through People Pictures by Chris Orwig and the section I’m at is on self-portraits. I think I’m going to try and get some of just my husband and I this weekend. And I’m going to embrace the ones that just don’t turn out — because you’re right, sometimes they’re the best.

    I love that quote. It’s exactly what I needed today (or the past several months?) So much treading water and looking for land when really I just need to remember how much I love swimming and floating and diving and playing in the water.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so open with your life and for sharing so much with us.

  • Jenny - These pictures are amazing!!! Love them all! :)

  • Lynn - Ashley, these photographs are absolutely breathtaking…….thank you for sharing!!

  • Holly - Wow, girl! This post spoke to my heart very deeply. Right now we are experience those waves but they sure are fun to swim in. Your photos are unmatched girl. I hope that Click Away was some time to catch your breath and breathe deeply. You inspire me everyday to be a better mom. thanks!

  • Kimberly - Beautiful pictures. Beautiful post. Your words meant so much to me this morning. Thank you.

  • susie - I usually don’t read the comments, but loved these photos and wanted to tell you how much I liked them when I saw Dee’s comment! Don’t let it get to you because it’s not one bit true!!! I have been reading your blog everyday for a long time and love to read it! Looks like a fun time with your hubby- I think we need to plan something- maybe I should tag along with him elk hunting sometime this fall! It’s hard to find a babysitter but nice when we get some time with out a pile of kids.

  • Rikki - Ashley, these are probably my fave pictures of yours ever. So beautiful. And the photo of Chris holding you… so sweet my friend. Glad to hear you got some alone time and had a great trip!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I love those pictures of the two of you! I have a random question for you – you always find the most amazing quotes… would you mind sharing how you come upon those? Thank you!

  • Jenn - so beautiful
    so lovely
    i love your heart and what you wrote.
    that quote

  • Amber - That is a very inspirational quote! And I agree, that candid picture couldn’t have turned out any better!

  • Sarah - Ashley, I’m glad you and Chris had some time to be away together and that it was refreshing. Your post was so beautiful (pictures and words). You are such an encouragement to me and you thank you for sharing your life with us. Your words encourage, inspire, and challenge me.

  • amy jupin - seriously some of THE most beautiful pictures i have seen in a long, long time. and your words? wow. so goreous. they *almost* outdo the photographer. xo.

  • Diana - Amazing. I so appreciate this look you give us into your life. You are inspirational. And I wish I had pictures as beautiful as those of my husband and I!

  • Shelly Cunningham - I came across this quote last week as well. I think it is so beautiful in relation to motherhood. It’s easy to get so overwhelmed that we forget that we chose this! Thank you for sharing, and for the beautiful pictures. The one of you and Chris is so sweet & romantic. You are a beautiful couple.

  • Sherry - With 5 kids at home…I get the beauty of this calm. And the ability to hear my own deep breath. So glad you had a chance to sneak away, this is beautiful.

  • Haley - Beautiful pictures! I also love the quote at the end. This was a perfect post for me to see since I am also in a “season of life marked more by noise and waves than quiet and calm waters”

  • Angela - The candid shot of you guys is amazing. So glad you were able to have that time of quiet together. Isn’t it crazy how we can get so sucked into being “busy” that we forget how much we need that white space. I’ve been saying no a lot this fall and I’ve found more of those quiet times, that I didn’t even realize I so needed. It feels so good to be able to think clearly again, doesn’t it?

  • Jenny B. - This post made me take a nice, big, deep breath. I’ve never been to SLC, but now I kinda want to go. :) We just scheduled a family camping trip for a weekend coming soon, and reading about your camper adventures this summer helped me be willing to go along and not just let my guys go without me.

  • kimberly oyler - this made me cry. as usual. you have a gift, girl. p.s. i have that same shirt from anthro. we can be twins.

  • kimberly oyler - p.s.s. “its not the critic who counts.” ;)

  • Kristin S - So glad you took that time.

    I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hold me like that.

    Beautiful, Ashley.

  • Tiffani - Long time reader. First time commenter. I am from Utah – grew up about 20 miles from this great Salt Lake and have NEVER thought it beautiful…until I saw these photos! It shows me how sometimes we just have to look RIGHT IN FRONT OF US to see the beauty in our lives. I think you’re a rock star.

  • Aurora - So spot on. Too many waves right not to write more, but so spot on!

  • kimber campbell - The picture of you and Chris is my favorite! You guys have an incredible story to tell! I’ve been feeling a bit down and not so creative lately. This made me want to get up and create.. And do the things I love. And also, that shirt ;) High five, Anthro! Is it Lesley’s?! Sharing clothes with sisters is the best. Xoxo!

  • Allison - truly amazing perspective. i love these images and God’s beauty in nature and sunlight and in relationships that you share with all of us.

  • Carla - That shot of you and Chris in the water is incredible. I hope that ends up on a wall somewhere in your beautiful home. I’d love an image like that of me and my beloved :)

  • Sarah - Ashley-

    Beautiful post! I liked the quote so much and wanted to send it to a friend as some much-needed encouragement, but I knew I had to send the whole post, so she could see where it was coming from and how it applied. Her situation is quite different from yours, but the point still hit home! And I was so thankful to have a tidbit of inspiration to send along. I OFTEN think about your post about drinking coffee with two hands, and use that post to remember to simply ‘be’. Thanks for always opening up your life to us and for sharing the things that make you ‘tick’! It is such a joy to know you, even though I don’t really ‘know’ you. What a blessing you are to so many!

  • Kelly J. R. - These photos are breathtaking. I can just feel the peacefulness of the evening.

  • Sarah - Beautiful shots!!! I love following your blog, you inspire me. Thank you!

  • Meg - These photos are breath-taking, literally! I imagine that was an awesome place to see in person, and it sounds like the time there was good for your soul and good for your marriage. Adding SLC to my bucket list :)

  • danielle - These are gorgeous! I love the ones of you both but also the low show I think just him towards the end. THat is great that you got that time together!

  • O'Neill - This is such a lovely post, Ashley. Your pictures are truly gorgeous and I love seeing happily married couples being happy! Thank you for sharing????

  • O'Neill - Sorry for all the question marks at the end of my comment-it was on my phone and supposed to be a smiley face. whoops. And just fyi, your the best Ashley. Don’t let the random negative ever get you down.

  • Soo Lee - Your photography is amazing! These pictures are breathtaking! :)

  • Carrie Rowe - This is so wonderful. I LOVE those pictures of you two and that quote is spectacular. Can’t wait to hear about the conference.

  • Linda - Such a great post and beautiful, beautiful pictures!

  • Serena - these are AMAZING!

  • Lindsay - Hi Ashley! It must be come out of the closet commenters day! I too love to read you blog, but never usually comment. I am a slc native, and can hardly believe my bad luck to have missed meeting you! Darn! I have been touched and inspired by your creativity and open heart so many times,and thank you most graciously for sharing your insights with us all! You rock!! Come back to slc soon:) so glad you found Bruges (killer, right?)

  • Abby - So so so beautiful! I needed to read this tonight. Thank you for always being an inspiration!

  • Maloree - These photos are incredible.

  • Peace, Beauty, Relationships: Teenage reflections on the MidWest Faculty Ministry Conference | Emerging Scholars Blog - […] above the waves made me stop and rest in a new way in the calm waters. – Ashley Campbell, Don’t Forget You Love to Swim (Under the Sycamore, […]

  • Rochelle - What beautiful words and images!

My friend (hey you Shauna Reed) is so good at taking random ‘selfies’ with her kids on a consistent basis just doing their normal stuff. She has inspired me to do the same.  I’ve been snapping shots with my kids – lots of random shots. Most are goofy ones together and ones with me making a silly face while they are bouncing off the walls in the background. Pictures that I hope capture the way they see me and tell my story of motherhood back to them. Nothing fancy. No great lighting. Lots of bad cropping. None of that matters though, that isn’t the point. They are pictures just for us. The kids love looking through them. I think what has surprised me the most is that the kids (even the older boys) really like take pictures WITH me. There is something different that happens in them when I get in the shot too.

Here are a few from my growing  ‘family selfie collection’:


He ‘photo bombed’ us…his sister was not thrilled. Brothers.9.14xshot-059.14xshot-10


Since I am at a photography conference right now, I thought it would be fun to do a post with a perk for you. One perk of teaching photography courses is I get to try out different products to see what I like and what I want to recommend. Recently, I’ve been using an X-Shot extender with my phone. My kids think it is the coolest camera gadget – filling my photo album with more goofiness. It is pretty handy since I can’t hold my arm out far enough to capture me with all my kids! X-Shot is letting me offer you a $5.00 coupon…just use the code SYCAMORE


The girls like to use it with my phone. The boys prefer to use it as a sword that extends…until I see them and I confiscate it back.

UPDATE: I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

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  • Lydia - Curious, how do you snap a picture?

  • Maggie - Is there a link to the product and I’m just missing it? I’d love to check it out!

  • Suzanne - I was wondering the same thing….how do you actually take the pic?

  • danielle - Ha! Of course it is a sword :) Love boys.

  • Lisa B. - When I saw the photo of you with all the kids on Instagram I was impressed with what I figured must be and even longer arm span than mine! I have exceptionally long arms
    (they are the same length as my husbands and he is 7″ taller than me). and I thought, “I don’t think I could have gotten that shot!” Loved finding out the behind the scenes truth! :-)

  • Mandy - Thanks for the coupon! I’m still unsure how you actually snap the picture but I ordered one anyway because it looks so handy! You can’t beat $4.95!

  • Kelsey - Mandy, I think the $4.95 is just for the piece that adapts the extender to fit a phone. The actual extender is around $35. Assuming I read the description correctly!

  • ranee - Yes..I was wondering about a link also. I checked out the x-pro shot extender, but am not sure if I’m looking at the right item. Thanks–looks so handy!

  • Sonja - To take the picture you need an app that has an auto timer like the Camera+ app that she has mentioned several times before.

  • Jenni - I have seen lots of ‘selfie stick’ IG pictures, but yours had me fooled. Good job not getting the stick in the pic;).

  • Emily - Awesome :-) Those are so great! Thanks!

  • Janine - I was wondering how you took such a great selfie! Either you had insanely long arms or are secretly Inspector Gadget. Lol. Then I scrolled down. How you you actually snap the photo with the extender? Timer?

  • LisaAnn - Thanks for the post. I tend to shy away from selfies and this encourages me to snap photos out of my comfort zone. (And I definitely could use a longer arm.)
    I hope you’re enjoying the conference and that you get the chance to enjoy some sightseeing as well. As a local, I’m definitely a SLC fan.

  • Rikki - The fourth photo with you and your youngest girl, seems so pure to me. You look so beautiful and real, I know she will appreciate that someday, as will you. Great project, I look forward to seeing more!

  • Amanda K - I love this! I’ve been trying to get in the picture more too. More selfies and handing the camera off to the kiddos. They are loving it and I’m enjoying having photos of me with my babies, who aren’t really babies anymore. :)

  • Diana - I LOVE this. My son is only 17 months and not quite into the picture taking yet. But someday, hopefully.

  • kimberly oyler - oooohhh i was wondering how you snapped that first pic. i need one of these.

  • AshleyAnn - Lydia – I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

  • AshleyAnn - Maggie – Sorry, I just added specific links!

  • AshleyAnn - Suzanne – I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

  • AshleyAnn - Mandy – I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

  • AshleyAnn - Ranee – Sorry, I just added the links! I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

  • AshleyAnn - Jenni – it took me a few tries to figure out I can adjust the angle of the phone on the extender and keep my arm out of it!

  • AshleyAnn - Janine – I wasn’t very clear on what I use to capture these photos. I use the Pocket XShot Extender and the XShot Mobile Phone Holder. Then I use the app Camera+, which has a timer.

  • AshleyAnn - Kimberly – you do, but that would mean changing your current selfie system :)

  • Amber - Thanks Ashley! I ordered one and the phone holder is free with purchase! I think it will also work well as a camera stabilizer when trying to get a picture of a landscape and I am having a hard time holding the camera still! Lovin’ the goofiness, it’s the best! <3

  • Claudia - we just purchased it and we’re so excited!! the phone holder was free with the purchase of the extender! thank you for the post Ashley, you inspire me, I hope I get to meet you in person some good day :]

  • robin - I love this idea! I just bought the Xshot and the phone holder. Thanks!

  • Rachel - Well I just love this. I am a fan too because I learned long ago that if I am EVER going to have pics of me and the kids, I am going to have to do them myself. I seriously need to get one of those holders though. My arms just aren’t long enough. :)

  • Tracey - I just love your blog. Fills my heart! I bought the xshot and it came with the phone attachment. Not sure if I am doing something wrong but do you find it hard to take a picture head on when have the phone attached? Mine seems to not be able to tilt all the way it needs to. Seems like only will work, as you did, laying down.

  • AshleyAnn - Tracey – it took me a while to figure it out too. You can loosen and tighten it and it will go different directions. It should work straight out too.


I asked her if I could take a few pictures of her signing (sign language). She told me, “No.” and then laid down like this.9.14speech-02Three is a challenging age. At three, kids are developing friendships, learning to play together, learning to express themselves verbally and a whole host of other things. So many of the changes revolve around communication. Being three and unable to communicate all that is in your head…well it is especially challenging.

My daughter consistently surprises me with all she has figured out about the world around her. Yesterday I left the dishwasher door open and walked back in the room to find she had unloaded the bottom half and put everything where it goes. I thought the boys were playing a trick on me at first. She is so observant…always watching and learning. Being born with a cleft lip and palate and not receiving corrective surgeries at an early age has led to a very significant speech delay. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for her to know what she wants to say and yet be unable to communicate it. I imagine she feels trapped in many ways.


Speech therapy is a big part of our lives. It will be for a very long time.

Sign language continues to become a bigger and bigger part of our world.

Three is challenging though. At three she goes to Sunday School with kids her age who are talking back and forth. Playing. Communicating. Telling stories. Kids that don’t always have patience to figure out what she is trying to say. Though most three year olds are content playing with or without words, we are beginning to see parts of a rough road ahead. And it is hard.

It is hard to meet new adults and not want to explain why they can’t understand what she is saying.

It is hard to make sure those she is with always know her key signs.

It is hard to see progress in the midst of the challenge, but progress is being made.  Friends remind me often of how well she is doing and how far she has come regarding speech. It is so good to have others that can hear what I often overlook being in the middle of it. That is parenting…and life in general, I suppose.

The truth is she’s awesome. She’s got more family and friends cheering for her than she’ll know what to do with one day. And despite all the frustration and challenges she deals with – she smiles. Beams actually.

9.14speech-039.14speech-04This girl she’s got a fire in her and a lot to say. And as we work together to get those words out, I’ll be here waiting to hear it all.

I am confident so many of you reading this have dealt with similar speech issues (many of you cleft related), if you have any tips/resources feel free to share!

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  • Amy - She is absolutely beautiful! Followed your story from the beginning and it is an absolute delight to watch her grow, she is incredible! She always reminds me of the Shakespeare quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Keep being fierce little one!

  • Melanie - I began to read your blog around the time that my son was born. He is six years now. When he was 2,5yo we had to learn that he is hearing impaired (since birth) and needed hearing aids. His first 2,5 years were so tough for him as well for us. He didnT speak or react to our words and later he was naturally speech delayed because he couldn’t hear us for such a long time. Now, 3,5 years later everything has changed. He is able to speak with us, to express his thougths and needs and to connect with other children. I’m so grateful.
    When I read your words it’s all coming back to me. The fear for his future, all the helplessness. I’ve experienced it all. But she will speak better and better and with the help (and hard work) of her beautiful family she will overcome this all. So stay strong in moments of doubt and fear and frustration.

    Hugs from Germany.

  • Natalie - I have read for ages and never commented but today I had to say that your post said everything we’ve been dealing with, with our youngest. My little one has a hearing issue caused by untreated glandular fever around 18 months and so she has a significant speech delay – it so hard watching her try to make friends with her own age group and have them reject her because it’s too hard to understand her, it’s not their fault, 3 year olds just want to play and dont have the time to decipher what she may be playing. Adults need explanations too and some days I just want to cry. I don’t want her to struggle, I don’t want her to be frustrated because we don’t understand her sometimes. It breaks our hearts. Speech therapy is helping, and will continue to be our journey too.
    I always say , that if this is all that’s wrong with her, then we are so very blessed.
    Also if you are using any of the speech therapy apps (we use a few in sessions which have been so helpful and we use them at home for continuation) then sign up for “Smart Apps for Kids” – they send alerts of free or reduced apps and I have been able to buy some of her speech and launguage apps at a greatly reduced price.
    All the very best in your journey xx Nat

  • Katrina - She’s beautiful! I’ve so enjoyed watching her grow up – and I’m looking forward to the day that you post a video of her talking & singing with Firecracker. :)

  • Maureen - No tips or resources to pass along, but just commenting to say I “get it”. My Vivian has been home from China for a year. She is almost 4. Her language is very delayed. No CL/CP but she came from a very poor orphanage where she was in her crib 22 hours of the day and came to us, at 3, with only 3 words. We worry when we take her to preschool or swim lessons b/c we know many of the kids/adults won’t understand her. She sometimes has a hard time “getting it there” with other 3 year old kids. But, she is making slow but steady progress and we couldn’t love her more. I love the “blogging world” b/c there is something reassuring about reading that someone else is struggling with something that you are. Thx for sharing.

  • Taylor - She is one tough cookie! I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is for you at times, but you seem to be such a wonderful and kind mother that I bet it makes her feel so dang loved and that makes up for a lot of struggles in this lifetime of ours.


  • Joy - This tugged my heart deeply. I’m on the other spectrum – I’m a Deaf mom. I teach ASL at our local university, have been Deaf since birth so I can totally relate the communication issues. I have two hearing children (ages 7 and 9). They’re learning their way in this world as children of Deaf parents. They’ve been signing since they were babies. My oldest didn’t start talking until she was 3. They are beginning to see how their parents are different from their friends’ parents. When people ask me about “disability” I refer to my Deafness as a “identity” rather than a disability. It has molded who I am today. I don’t want to wake up one day and say, “oh, I can hear now”. That’s not who I am. You are giving her a priceless gift – the ability to communicate through her hands. She will find her sweet spot in this world with your family’s guidance and love. xo

  • Kara K - Such a beautiful girl with such thoughtful eyes.

  • TheDenverPack - All of our kiddos have used sign language for various reasons as toddlers/preschoolers. Some for their primary communication in the face of speech delays; some because they could communicate more easily with signs than words. We made a ring with laminated cards of their important signs, so when they were around someone they may not know, they could look at the cards to help them try to guess what our child was trying to communicate.

    Your youngest has come so far just in the pics you share with us. There’s so much spirit in her eyes.

  • Meg - Our now 4 year old went through a lot of speech therapy and is now doing much better but only those who are around her a lot understand the bulk of what she says. I even have to translate for my husband sometimes. I am fortunate that I get to stay home with our kids so I am her go to when she needs help expressing herself. I think she takes a lot of comfort in that. I think that is something that your little one is very fortunate with. Not only are you home but the rest of your family so everyone is learning along with her. Stay strong!

  • Emily - I don’t have any resources for you, but I wanted to say that as I was reading this I was glad that I’m teaching my (developmentally normal) sons to sign — so not only can they communicate with their aunt, but with any other child who is in the same situation as your youngest daughter. And I keep hearing Rachel Coleman in my head: “speech is a skill, it’s language that’s essential.” Speaking will come in its own time.

    PS – you’re right about her – that smile hides a very mischievous fire inside. ;-)

  • Becky - Praying for her and you right now!

  • Wendy - Man she is a beautiful girl! Prayers for you, your daughter and the rest of your family for the journey you are on. What a blessed little girl to have such tremendous love surrounding her always!

  • erin - She’s such a cutie!!

  • Amy M - She’s got lots of complete strangers cheering for her also, this one included. It’s been nothing short of magical watching her transform on your blog, but sometimes gradual change is harder to see when you’re in the midst of it. Keep on keepin on, girlfriend – you’re gonna be fine. And so is she! :)

  • D'On - She’s so beautiful! What a great blessing you have right there. We just finalized an adoption, through fostering, of a young boy (4) and an almost 2 year old. We’ve had them both for about a year and a half. Our 4 year old had inner ear problems when he was put in to fostering and so sounds were muffled, which caused speech issues. That was when he was around 18 months old. Since that time he has had tubes put in and has had speech therapy. He went from signing a few words to non-stop talking. He still struggles with some speech, but just watching him progress from where he used to be is amazing! He’s come a long way. Time and patience. I agree with one of the other commenters about downloading speech apps. It was recommended to us to use at home as well. I’m sure you do a lot with her already, but it wouldn’t hurt to have extra added help. Loves to you and your family!

  • Michelle Hill - She is most definitely awesome! The Campbell’s are an incredible family and inspire with each and every post and photograph.
    I took American Sign Language in high school and in college. I was quite involved in the deaf community for a while.
    May I suggest finding a play group for children who are deaf or have cochlear implants. They may be able to communicate with her in a way that she can relate to.

  • Lesley - Check out the blog uncommon sense. The mom is Dana and her daughter maya (I think she is 5 or 6) is nonverbal. It’s amazing what tools she uses to help maya communicate.

  • Loan - I cannot express how happy I am that Little One is part of such a wonderful family. I love seeing pictures of her and her siblings. You have such a beautiful family, thank you for sharing them with us.

  • Susan Hill - Her countenance speaks it lound and clear: JOY, Happiness, Peace

  • Renee LaReau - What a sweet face, and that fiery spirit will serve her well! My middle child was in speech therapy for a while — I don’t have any magic tips except to say to just keep counting those baby steps!
    Would you mind telling me where you bought that adorable headband?

  • bethanyb - I grew up with a speech impediment. I’m not sure how I got it I just had it I guess. I can honestly say the therapy did wonders. My parents were not nearly as supportive or understanding as it seems you are. they would correct what I said again and again and make me say things over and over until “I got it right”. NOT the right way to encourage proper speech (as I’m sure you know). Now that I am older I only “mess up” on words if I’m nervous or talking really fast. I can honestly say that instead of mocking or allowing you other children to mock her for saying something wrong (even if just in jest) and just repeating the word properly instead of chastising her “yes that IS a FLOWER” when she says ” fowwer”, can make a wold of difference.

  • Carrie H. - Thanks Ashley for this post. I to struggle with how to explain to adults the many challenges. Often people say don’t worry but it is hard when kids are not patient enough to listen ( I get they are kids)and I see how it makes her feel or when my daughter cries for an hour because she is so frustrated we don’t understand her. Although it is difficult to watch her struggle I am blessed everyday by her beautiful soul. God is with us and he will make a way.

  • SedaSD - I can see it’s a very challenging situation but what I also see from here is a giant family, lots of people to interact with, tons of stimulation. She will be a chatterbox one day and you will try to remember how it was when she didn’t talk. Time..time..

  • Evie - Thanks for sharing your story and insights. With all your stories, I get little glimpses of our future as we will be adopting a little girl with a CLP. Somehow it helps me feel prepared. I know your little one will be triumphant with speech!! She is beautiful in these images!

  • Lisa - Oh, thank you. This encouraged my heart today. We too have so far to go. But first, SO many pounds to put on my son’s tiny frame before we can even begin to think about surgery that will help him make progress! One day at a time.

  • kimberly oyler - 2 of the little boys i am nannying are domestically adopted (at birth) and they both have speech delays. the 4 year old is significantly delayed. we don’t know why they are both so delayed but it is hard to watch them get so frustrated when they can’t communicate or we don’t understand what they are saying. and they don’t sign at all, so its pretty difficult.

  • Megan - Oh, sweet girl! She’s so beautiful, and has such spirit! I’ll pray specifically for her language development in the coming months.

    We just heard from our agency that it’s looking like our referral will most likely be cleft lip/cleft palate. I won’t pretend that the challenges never feel a little overwhelming to me, but I’m so excited to see God’s plan and meet my little one that I know we can work together with out amazing community to do what needs to be done for our daughter.

    Thank you for openly sharing the good things and harder things for those of us who are a few steps behind you. It really means a lot to me that you’re willing to be vulnerable.

  • Kelleyn - Darling photos!

  • adeline - i just keep thinking about how far she’s come with food! she’s amazing. i regularly think of her (and her mama) and feel so inspired, to feel patience and see hope and be joyful all the while!

  • Amy K. - Here on this blog? It is impossible to tell that she has a speech delay! All of your kids are effectively non-verbal as we read and look at their photos. Little One’s spirit shines through all the time!! You are so lucky to have each other!

  • Melinda D. - No advice, per se, but I know where you are coming from. My 12 yo son has autism and has significant speech delays and issues. Its been a struggle, but he has improved slowly, but surely. This past year, he made progress using things like pronouns and substituting a “w” sound for an “r” (as opposed to using nothing at all, so “green” was “geen” for years and now it’s “gween”). Its hard when my son attempts to talk to other kids and they have no idea what he’s saying, especially now that he’s in the pre-teen years. But, I’m so, so, so thankful that he IS verbal and can mostly communicate his needs! So many parents out there are dealing with so much more then I am and I feel blessed that God gave us a VERBAL autistic son as opposed to a non-verbal one :-)

  • michele - Although I have never heard any of your family’s voices, I imagine your house is filled with rich vocabulary, music and laughter. Your youngest is so blessed to live in this enriching environment.
    Also, the effective and early interventions that you are providing your daughter are making progress. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • Sylvie - How darling she looks!!
    Not only does she has to overcome the difficulties coming from her mouth but she also had to learn a brand new language, with brand new sounds. Hard to hear and hard to speak something ao different. Even without the cleft palate.
    The most important is that you still can communicate with her and she with you. The words will come.

  • Melanie - I wrote a comment yesterday.
    Today it came to my mind how very very important our speech therapist was. My son would not be where he is without her. When he got his hearing aids and was able to hear us but he literally refused to use his voice. I tried and tried and tried but he didn’t even repeat on single vowel. Only our speech therapist was able to bring him out of his shell.

    There just are some things that you can’t do alone.
    And I love it when we are having contact with other hearing impaired children / families. He is always excited, too.

    The problem with the kids at sunday school might be that they meet your daughter just one day per week (?). So it’s not possible for them to get used to her way of communicating.
    In my sons kindergarten he is threaded as a normal member of the group. The kids there are used to his problems and if he doesn’t understand they repeat and wait for his answer. It’s no big deal for them. It makes me so proud to watch him there.

  • Isabelle - My son also had a severe speech delay . At the age of 3, he was only saying 5 words. I remember having the same feeling about the future as you have. We did 8 years of intense speech therapy and today, at the age of 16, he speaks perfectly in english and french and has tons of friends! Keep doing what you do and follow your instinct. You know her better than anyone!

  • Laree @ Ever Heard Of Euless - Oh Heavens, she is so flipin cute!

    My daughter had the opposite problem speech wise: she has a severe receptive language delay. So, while her expressive was also super low, she honestly just didn’t understand anything I told her. Which was also hard to figure out sometimes. I’d often tell people that it’s hard to decide which times she just doesn’t get it, and which times she’s just being 3. It’s hard. In fact, it just plain stinks some days when I can’t understand her, and she’s getting more and more frustrated with it all.

    We did a year of therapy in our home, and then she turned 3. Which meant she had to go to a special ed preschool to continue with therapy. Putting your 3 year old on a bus three times a week is really REALLY hard. But she does continue to make progress (just so slow!).

    Our big thing right now is time. She only has this last school year before she’ll be in kindergarten. And she’s made lots of progress, but still. If it’s an unfamiliar question/routine, she needs it explained at least 3 ways before she’ll start to understand. And that just won’t work for a regular classroom. so now we’re working on adding extra therapy on top of the 9 hours of school she goes to every week. ugg!

    It’s not fun – but it’s worth it all.

  • Vicky Kindschi - Hi Ashley. I don’t know if this is something you are interested in or not. But knowing you live in the Tulsa area, have you considered Happy Hands as a preschool for her? They have an excellent program for children with communication disorders. I was one of the original teachers there, many years ago. I met you once at Battle Creek church when they were having their Christmas program. I have also taken your Snapshot online course. My adult daughter has a hearing loss and autism. Sign language helped her as well. A few years ago I started using some communication software to help her communicate. It is called Proloquo2Go and can be used on an iphone or ipad. It has picture representations for words. The child can touch the picture of what she wants to say and it speaks for her. It is also very fun to use and can be personalized with your own photos. Just contact me individually if you want to learn more. Your daughter
    is adorable and with all the support and prayers she receives I know she will do well!!

  • tara pollard pakosta - Not only the cleft challenge, but also being in an orphanage and hearing a totally different language than she now has to learn, I would say she is doing 100% AWESOME!!! she is beyond beautiful, though you already know that!!!

  • Maria - Hi Ashley
    My son had a speech delay when he was very young, and later a diagnosis of expressive language disorder. One of the most useful books that I read when he was little was “It Takes Two to Talk”. I loved how practical it was. It had tons of ideas and the format was very easy and quick to read (perfect for a busy mom).
    All the best!

  • Alena - I’m a long-time reader of your blog and I just love hearing stories of your family! My son was very delayed in speech and my mom came across some DVDs on Amazon called “Baby Babble” and he loved them and they seemed to help. :)

  • Alicia - Ashley! I follow your AMAZING pictures on instagtam. When everyone raved about your blog the other day, I thought maybe I should read it sometime ! Ha! Anyway- I never knew through the pictures she didn’t talk all day! Her energy in pictures looks like she has a THOUSAND things to say— much like my 3 year old boy who talks ALL DAY LONG! Anyway, your words are profound about waiting to hear it all. She’s beautiful. She has a mama who captures her soul beautifully. Your family is so beautiful & I’m thankful that you share your pictures with the world… Now I cannot wait to read all the words you share! You are INSPIRING! Thank you.

  • Jenivere - Hi Ashley. We know about speech delay in our house as well, our youngest was very recently assessed as being on the autism spectrum. Speech therapy has been so helpful. I also wanted to ask if you have looked into any vitamins to help with speech? We’ve had some really good gains after adding just a couple of things, we noticed some added clarity in his consonants after just a few days. I know your beautiful daughter is delayed for very different reasons than my son, but if she was lacking in nutrition for any amount of time in her early years, that could also contribute to the delay. Even if she hasn’t had any history of that, the vitamins could still help boost her muscle and articulation development. Feel free to email me if you’re at all interested in this.I’d be happy to share with you what we use (having tried MANY different things, we’ve found some that are effective, affordable and easy to take-cause they taste good).

    All the best to you and your little one. This journey can be heartbreaking, but the achieved milestones are extra special.??

  • Jenivere - PS ^^^ The question marks aren’t mine!! (The site didn’t like my emoticon I guess.) :)

  • Stoich91 - I have no tips except to say keep up the positivism. There are some parents who have children with large vocabularies who don’t appreciate the beauty and individuality of their child quite as much as you do! :D Thank you for sharing, as always! She is a little peanut and growing up so quickly!

  • ellie - Today I told my 11 year old to STOP TALKING! when I was trying to figure out where we were supposed to go and couldn’t concentrate . . . I didn’t think much about it at the time except for feeling a bit mean . .. but now you have reminded me that at 3 he couldn’t talk. at all. He was adopted at 19 months from Ukraine, has apraxia of speech and had to learn each and every sound and word. lots and lots of speech therapy (and prayer) I’m so thankful to God that now occasionally he talks so much that I have to remind him to be quiet :).

    Your sweet little one is going to AMAZE YOU!! keep up the great work of making sure she knows she is loved!! Have you tried picture charts? just putting photos of what we were doing that day in order with velcro on a ribbon or chart really helped my son to have a visual of our general schedule – for some reason it really helped him not to feel so frustrated.

    praying for your sweet girl!
    xo ellie

  • Wendy - My oldest daughter had a speech delay and began speech therapy when she was two. She said her first word when she was three. I remember she could understand EVERYTHING … but just couldn’t talk. She turns 15 this week and you would never know she had a speech delay. I read the book “Leo the Late Bloomer” over and over again … such a great message. Little One will bloom when she’s ready. It will happen. And her voice will be awesome! xxx

  • Nichole Brookman - Hi Ashley. You will most likely not remember me. I took a Saturday course at your house a few years ago, and then I met you at the place you take your daughter for therapy; the same place I take my son. You talk about your faith often, so I’m guessing you listen to Christian music. Have you heard MercyMe’s new song called “Greater?” It’s a great song, but the story behind it is incredible. When I heard the story on the radio it brought tears to my eyes.


  • AshleyAnn - Nichole – I do remember you :) I was talking to my friend Cindy about speech recently and she suggested I listen to that song and watch the video about the story behind it. So good. Thanks for sharing that here in case others read your comment too!

  • jami - This post touched my heart. My youngest is special needs and is 6. He also is very speech related. I have signed with all 4 of my kids so when my tiungsat little came along and we needed to sign it was a family effort. Sighning Time videos are engaging and teach kids so easily. Your family will ne in my prayers. Someone once told me that no one will every understanding a child like their mother.. heart warming…

  • Alison Kihara - I’m slow to respond but this post has stuck with me and I’ve thought of it often. I can relate to exactly what you are going through. I came across your blog because of your posts about adopting your daughter during the process of adopting our son who also had a cleft lip/palate. I took your snapshot class right as he was having his lip surgery and posted his picture as part of your class. I think we are about 6 months behind you in our journey with Luke. He also uses sign language which seemed amazing and great and now as he heads towards three just isn’t enough. In the last month, Luke is becoming more social and instead of this making my heart sing, it breaks my heart to watch his attempts. He goes up to kids at the playground and signs or gestures in an attempt to play but they don’t understand. Kids his age reject him. Or I am asked “why can’t he talk” or “what’s wrong with his lip”. I have the added benefit or frustration of being a speech-language pathologist myself. I hope that this will pay off eventually as he gets lots of extra practice with mom. Right now, it makes me feel useless as he still has very few intelligible words. I want to protect him but also don’t want to inhibit his instinct to be social. He is an only child (for now we’re about to start our journey to add a brother or sister) and I have a few friends with kids that we get together with but it’s just not enough. He’s also in a birth-to-three class twice a week. But he wants to play with other kids at the playground and park. He’s only recently come to realize that other kids don’t understand his signs and that was heartbreaking to watch him as I told him that they didn’t understand when he talked with his hands. This little boy has been through so much and still has such an uphill battle. Some days, I am more hopeful and see his progress… Today, I am sad for him and his struggles. Thanks for showing me that I’m not really alone in this unique situation!

  • Deborah - Our son, who is now 7, was born with a moderate hearing loss. Speech and hearing services were our world for so many years. Three was his break through year and many of the signs he knew were the first words he spoke. It is amazing to me to look back and see the journey that God took us on. Keep pressing on!

  • Loren - Hi Ashley — I just wanted to say “hang in there.” Our older daughter also had speech therapy and now the one who had the cleft lip and palate has it two times a week. For us — and also what I hear time and time again — suddenly, they started speaking. The fact that her receptive language is so strong and that she understands so much is a great sign. She’ll get there. With both girls we got to the breaking point, thinking this is never going to happen and then suddenly… talking in phrases! Can’t keep em from talking if we try. My older girl’s teachers call her a chatterbox! Just wait….!