My sweet firstborn. She is brave. She is smart. She is strong. Shiloh has and always will push me and test me and force me to be better. The day she was born and she placed on my chest, she forced my heart open and in an instant, I was hers to sharpen.
As much as I soaked up any advice from other moms, books, or articles… it was in the nitty gritty of the daily diaper changes, the rigors of sleeping and nursing her (sometimes simultaneously), and then seeing her bravely exploring the world around her, it was in those moments that she grew me into a mom. Each new milestone challenged me. Each year, new challenges became milestones.
And now, I sit in my home, watching her during her school time, and I realize she is sharpening me still. Capri and Leilani do also, but not in the same way. There is something uniquely mysterious to parenting Shiloh through each day. As the oldest, I have noticed she is the daughter who leads me down new adventures in parenting. I do not know what to expect. I can not predict based on experience what her next big milestone will be. She is unchartered territory. She holds so many of my firsts, and promises to give me many more firsts in the future.
As I watch her, and reflect on this, I realize how big my heart has grown. My heart is ready to burst open with how much love I have for her this day. I watch her read. I listen to her stumble through big words and giggle when they don’t sound right. We can laugh with each other because we have the same sense of humor. She sharpens me as she works through her math assignments. To witness her struggle and have to persevere through frustration and tears, brings me to new places of dependence on God. I do not have all the answers and I do not have any practice in parenting a six year old. So I find my prayers for her to be filled with utter submission and a cry out for God to guide me and give me wisdom.
But this little lady, my firstborn daughter is a treasure. I am so proud of her, and proud of the little woman she is becoming, the sister she is, and the pure reflection of God’s wonder that she has always been. And today, I am a little bit sharper because of her.
After attending several therapy classes with Leilani and learning all about her sensory needs, it was clear to me that I needed to start collecting objects and toys that would alert or calm her senses. Thus our sensory bin was born. I had an extra plastic bin leftover from when I organized our closet, and it seemed the perfect size for a starting point. I began making, collecting, and discovering toys and other objects to keep in it for Leilani to utilize.
Inside I have:
- 2 homemade sensory bottles
- purple bouncy ball
- red medicine ball
- chewelry, pacifiers, & other chewable toys
- fidget toys
- a bubbler
- interlocking toys
For the sensory bottles, I found the bottles at the store, and made them myself. The rice bottle is a basic I-spy bottle. I used various toys I had taken away from the girls due to them being choking hazards, play money from our school cabinet, alphabet beads, and even paper clips. I put the objects inside and then filled it with rice. The liquid bottle had glitter of all shapes and colors, sequins, plastic beads, and metal beads inside it. I then filled it with water a couple of inches from the top, and then added glycerin the rest of the way. The glycerin makes the liquid thicker and allows the glitter and other sparkly objects to float longer before settling to the bottom. Leilani LOVES them. She is very possessive of them. They provide her with lots of stimulation that actually is very calming for her. She lifts them and carries them around providing her with heavy work. I use them as my go-to car sensory toys. They have been great for our trips to town and for bringing along when we go to other places.
Then I also have the purple “bouncy ball”. Its not really a bouncy ball, in fact I don’t allow Leilani to play with it like that inside. No, its for her to actually sit on and bounce on. Our therapist recommended a small yoga ball, except they don’t really make yoga balls that small that I could find quickly, so I found this exercise “core ball”. Its the perfect size for her to sit on and bounce and trust me, she will bounce around on it long enough for me to take a shower and get ready for the day, so I say that is a WIN.
The little red ball is a weighted exercise ball… actually its a soft medicine ball that I am borrowing from my mother-in-law. Again, its heavy work for her to heave around the house. And its soft so if she drops it, it doesn’t hurt her or the floor.
Then we have lots of chewable toys, ‘chewelry’, and pacifiers available for her to do some ‘mouth work’ as our therapist calls it. She’ll often just meander about the house with one of these in her mouth.
And lastly, some of our family members gave Leilani a whole array of sensory toys for her birthday. So there are several soft fidget toys, a bubbler, and a set of molecule-shaped interlocking building pieces.
Everything fits perfectly inside the bin, and I haven’t figured out the best place in our house for it to stay. Currently I have it in our room and Leilani is learning that its her special little bin. I have several other things that I plan on adding to the bin such as headphones, books, and more weighted items for heavy work. I also have a surgical-type scrub brush that isn’t yet in the bin, because I take it around with me for meltdowns in say, the grocery store. But as those lessen, then the brush will be added to the bin.
The sensory bin is a game changer for us. I am well-stocked in defenses for when we have a bad day. It calms Leilani down and I love a calm Leilani.
Our relationship is difficult. Aren’t they all? She eludes me. Her sisters were simple, easy to know, easy to pour into, easy to love, easy to understand. Leilani however, she is different. From early on, I struggled with her. She isn’t unlovable, but she is harder to figure out how she feels loved. So I have struggled with how to pour into her and to build a strong foundation.
We recently put her into therapy and it has helped her and I more than I could imagine. She has what is called SPD (sensory processing disorder), and learning about it and relating her sensory issues to her behavior has helped me understand her better. It feels like God has given me a key to unlock and decipher the code. Not only have I been able to connect with her in healthier ways, but I have been able to handle her behavior better.
I have been learning how to protect my relationship with her. Being a Mommy is hard and sometimes at the end of a hard day, its difficult to feel satisfied with my relationship with her. She drains me like no one else is able to. She pushes my buttons, and she drives me up the wall sometimes. But I have to fight harder to love her and to protect my love for her. I have to choose to see beyond the dramatic, emotionally frenzied day we had together, and choose to rather see the precious gift she is and the honor it is to be her Mommy. I have to choose to see the joy, not the strife.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8, NIV
She has an unquenchable thirst for my attention, and I have to choose to give her the security that I am here for her and that I am not annoyed by her, but rather delighted in her. Forging relationships can be hard, even between parent and child. And while my love is undeniably deep for her, my actions and my flesh need to overcome the difficulties and the struggle with raising Leilani and handling her SPD.
When Leilani was born, I remember telling her how thankful I was for her. And today I am thankful still for all that I have learned from her. I have had to learn how to see the world around me differently. I have had to learn to pay attention to details, to notice things that I would otherwise not even be privy to. To see how the world around her is connecting to her emotions, her curiosity, and her senses. And for that I am thankful. She is worth protecting. My love for her is worth protecting. Her and I are worth fighting for.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” Galatians 6:9, The Message
A year ago this week, I decided to try this recipe of homemade laundry detergent. I stuck to her exact recommendations… but then decided I needed to add another bar of soap, so I added a grated bar of pink Zote soap. Over the year, I have made 3 batches, so one whole batch lasts our family about 4 months. We do a lot of laundry. Brandon washes his filthy, grease-covered, cow manure caked work clothes every single night. Then on top of that, I probably do about 3 loads of our family’s regular clothes each week, and then one or two household laundry loads each week. That is about a dozen loads of laundry in any given week. Did I mention we do a lot of laundry?
I have decided to share my own recipe based off the original. I have since tweaked it to fit our family’s needs, experimenting with how much of what helps improve our washes, and is more efficient for us.
Here it is…
Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe:
- 1 4lb 1oz box of Borax
- 1 3lb 7oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
- 1 3lb box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
- 2 3lb containers of Oxyclean
- 2 bars of pink Zote soap
- 2 bars of Fels-Naptha soap
- 1 container of scent cystals of your choice & amount (I used Purex Crystals, lavender scented)
- Use a kitchen trash bag (or other large bag/container) to mix together all the powdered ingredients.
- Grate the four bars of soap, and add the shavings to the mixture.
- Mix thoroughly, and put into any container you wish. Mine is the same glass jar used in the original recipe.
- To use, scoop 2tbsp and put in the wash basin before adding your laundry. Wash as usual. Sometimes I’ll add 2 scoops (4tbsp) if my load is particularly dirty.
I have increased the amount of bar soap to help cut the grease better on Brandon’s work clothes, and in turn it seems to help keep the wash basin cleaner from grime leftover after his loads. We can’t have contamination of those filthy work clothes and the women of the house’s clothing.
I also have increased the amount of Oxyclean too. I realized that with the girls clothing, stains such as berries and diaper blowouts, benefit from a little extra Oxyclean, even with pretreating. You’ll notice I put a cheesecloth with rice into the bottom of my jar, which helps absorb moisture and prevent the detergent from clumping and hardening. I also grabbed the extra container of scent crystals… I can’t make up my mind which brand I prefer. So I figured I would use the extra container to add into loads that I want some extra ‘oomph’ of scent.
Overall, I am in love with the recipe. Our clothes are always clean, fresh smelling, bright, and we are saving money also. Who doesn’t want to save money! I spend just under $40.00 to make one batch. Considering I used to spend $40 each month on laundry soap, I am saving well over $300 a year. I am sure another person who doesn’t do a dozen loads of laundry each week, would be able to make one batch last 6 months or longer. Now that is a good price for great detergent!
Our girls have always shared a room… always. For Christmas this past year, we surprised the girls with a new room “makeover”. It was very fun, and practically helped solve some of our room-sharing problems.
When Shiloh was born, she shared a room with us. Then Capri and Shiloh shared a room. But adding a third to the mix was somewhat challenging. Not impossible by any means. And now we have transitioned Leilani out of her crib, and moved the girls into a new sleeping arrangement. All without using a bunk bed! This was the “before”:
After scrapping the bunk bed plans. We decided to keep Leilani in a toddler sized bed, and trundle hers underneath her sisters’ bed. This allowed the big girls to keep their sleeping arrangement the same, and keep Leilani closer to the floor to avoid the inevitable ‘falling out of bed in the middle of the night’ scenario safer.
She has slept successfully on her new trundle bed for almost a month, and I think having her be right next to her sisters makes her feel much more a part of our bedtime routine. She runs to her little bed and urges us to pull it out for her, then crawls right up onto it and puts herself to bed. Its adorable.
My favorite part of the trundled bed, is that in the morning, Shiloh or I push it back underneath, and then the girls have their room back to play, and its saved us a lot of floor space. The trundle itself is very sturdy and the casters we chose to use allow it to be pulled straight out but not be swiveled much. It locks in place since its on a carpeted floor, but if we had hardwood floors in their room, we would have to have installed locking casters or another locking device. So far only Shiloh or us are able to push or pull it.
In our makeover of their room, we wanted to start with a empty canvas so to speak. So we painted the walls a great neutral grey color. Then we removed most of their decor and aimed for a simpler look. I printed out a fun pic I took with my phone back in the fall of the three of them laughing and sitting together. They LOVE having a picture in their room of them altogether. I also printed out a homemade map print for them to have. Shiloh and Capri are obsessed with globes and maps, so I figured it would be a fun addition to their room if they had one that they could read the names of the continents.
Recently I watched an investigative news report about the hidden dangers of corded blinds, and because of what I saw, I decided we would take them down and throw them out. So when we were in their room painting and rehanging curtains, we uninstalled the mini blinds. If we ever decided to instal new blinds, we’ll be choosing a cordless style. It felt good to get rid of that danger and not worry anymore.
Another thing we re-did was give our little play kitchen a facelift. Over the past 3 years, its been played with so much that all the little handles and knobs had been take off or broken. So we decided to reattach them with some permanent lock-tite adhesive, and then why not give it a fresh coat of paint? The girls hadn’t really played with it for a couple of months, but after Christmas morning, they now play with it almost every day.
My favorite part of their room is the new reading teepee. By removing Leilani’s crib, we had a lot more free space, and I have been wanting to put a reading nook for them ever since Shiloh started reading on her own. So the teepee became the perfect, fun solution. It was so easy! Poles, rope, drop cloth, and a few screws and viola! Done. The girls now sit in there daily and read. We even moved the pallet book shelves that Brandon made years back to a lower spot nearby. Now both Capri and Shiloh can reach their books.
Over all, I LOVE LOVE their room now. Its quite the update. Simple, and much better suited for their needs at this point.