Proper Technique for Shooting Semi-Auto Pistols

There is a Right Way to shoot…

Going to the gun range in the Wildlife Management Area or the local chirt-pit is always an interesting experience. You never know what you’ll see. Sometimes you see Military veterans who are an excellent marksman with their long-distance rifles. Sometimes you see older men teaching their grandchildren with .22’s putting holes in pumpkins. And sometimes you see good ol’ boys having a great time shooting shotgun casings off of the fence post. Everyone I have met there is passionate about gun safety, conservation, proper land management, and our constitutional freedoms.  But something I have learned from watching his vast array of people – proper shooting technique is critical if you want to shoot well.

We have all seen the YouTube videos of people getting knocked down when they shoot a gun. This is all because the shooter didn’t know what they what they were doing. They are using improper shooting technique, so the force of the felt recoil knocks them off balance. This doesn’t have to happen.

I love to watch trick shooting competitions. Gerry Michalek makes it look so easy. Watching the competitions is not only awe-inspiring, but it is highly educational. I can’t do much yet, but I can shoot the Annie Oakley Trick (standing backward, shooting over your shoulder, holding a hand mirror) with a .22 revolver. One day I’ll be able to do more.  Until then, I’ll keep on reading articles about technique, watching the Great Marksmen, and practicing.

Please keep in mind, these recommendations are for target shooting, not necessarily the same tactics used in defensive situations. I can’t recommend enough the value of defensive shooting training. If you carry to protect your loved ones, get the training. It’s an invaluable tool that can keep your loved ones safe when every second counts.

Safety First

Always assume the gun is loaded. Everyone needs to be taught gun safety – even children. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to shoot; make sure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction. Never put your finger on the trigger until your ready to shoot.

Keep your eyes and ears protected. Always.

While practicing the correct grip and stance – its best to go ahead and be standing at the range and facing downrange. Make sure the gun is empty. Remove the magazine – no, it’s not a “clip” –  and pull back the slide a few times to ensure that the chamber is empty. Lock the slide open and reinsert an empty magazine. Release the slide so that it can go forward. Now you’re ready to dry fire!

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Body Position

Breathing is one of the most underutilized aspects of shooting. Learning to breathe slowly, and deep. Timing your breath with your heartbeat and at the stillest moment in your body, pull the trigger. That respiratory pause is a moment when your chest muscles are completely relaxed. Remember, tension anywhere but your wrists and hands will ruin accuracy. Some trainers will tell pistol shooters to inhale as they raise their pistol to the target, hold their breath as they squeeze the trigger, and exhale during the follow through. I’ve tried both, but I prefer shooting during the natural respiratory pause – this method will carry over rifle shooting, shotgun, and archery.

There are three main standing shooting stances, the Isosceles, the Weaver and the Modified Weaver. From what I’ve seen in competition shooting, most of “the Greats” use the Isosceles. You should stand comfortably, your shoulders relaxed. You won’t shoot well being really stiff or tense in your shoulders. Keep your arms fully extended, when possible, but not locked.

Some trainers will tell you to stand a little sideways with one leg way out in front of you – but you will actually hinder yourself if you do this. It limits your range of motion. Stand squarely facing your target. One foot can be slightly in front, but not much. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart. Your knees can bend just a little – don’t let them lock up.
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Your shoulders need to be forward. Its a fairly natural stance. Don’t hunch your shoulders up or duct your head down. Stay relaxed and lean forward slightly. Keep them in front of your hips. Never lean backward. Shooting properly with a pistol requires you to stand slightly leaning forward. Your weight has to have a forward bias in order to counteract the felt recoil. If the felt recoil throws off your balance, lean forward a smidgen more. This allows you to have more control over the gun, to prevent muzzle rise, and to get back on target.

You’ll want to bring the gun up to your dominant eye. Don’t turn your head. This needs to be as natural and automatic of a stance as possible. If you don’t bring the gun up to your dominant eye, you’ll hunch your shoulders or tilt your head – and that’s altogether just too much movement.

A Firm Grip

Proper grip is key to making sure the muzzle stays pointed at the target. The more upwards rise in your muzzle, the more time it takes to get back on target. Also, if your muzzle rises while your bullet is still exiting the barrel, it will throw off your accuracy.

The grip is another one of those areas that a great many shooters will disagree with. Judging from experience as well as from listening to numerous YouTube interviews of competition shooters – some grip techniques are better than others.

Keep both hands on your gun. This will give you tighter groupings as you have more control over the gun. Don’t use your non-dominant hand to brace your wrist, or hold the bottom of your gun grip – that’s called Teacupping and it serves absolutely no purpose at all. Your non-dominant hand serves as a vital stabilizer. If your non-dominant hand is not pretty tired from a long day on the range, you’re not using it enough.

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Make sure the center of the frame of your gun lines up along the center of your arm – along with the Ulna bone. This helps the recoil to be centrally and directly back so that it is more easily managed and you stay on target better.

Your non-dominant hand is to cover as much as the exposed area of the side of the grip as possible. This is very important. Recoil moves along the path of least resistant – so the more control you have over the movement of your gun, the less felt recoil and the more accurate you will shoot. Your non-dominant hand is slightly more forward on the gun than your dominant hand.

Your elbows need to be relaxed, but not floppy. Not locked either. They need to be secure. Hold your pistol with a very firm grip – a little stronger than a good strong handshake. This is not a death grip. There is no need in holding it so tight that your hand shakes. A firm grip reduces the amount of movement your non-trigger fingers will have – which is better for accuracy.

Your wrists need to be locked over center, and you press inward with both hands holding your gun in place. Like Gerry Michalek says, “Don’t noodle” – the front of your gun can’t wobble. You need to be aware of, and in such control of each movement, your gun makes that it is like an extension of your hand. This comes from pressing from your wrists to hold the gun firmly on target. It feels awkward at first – keeping very firmly on center without tensing up in your arms and shoulders.

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You’ll want your thumbs to be on the same side as your non-dominant hand. Your thumbs will point generally towards the target. They don’t really do much, just sit over there out of the way.  Your non-dominant fingers have a bit of wiggle room too. They can be over or under the trigger guard – this preference can vary between the way various pistols fit your hand. Whichever one ensures you have a solid grip, one that allows you to naturally hold the gun on target.  Do keep your thumbs still – if you tend to rotate your thumb as you pull the trigger, it will cause you to miss your target in the direction you rotate your thumb. This grip error is called thumbing.

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Grip your gun so that the webbing between your thumb and trigger finger is as high up on the grip as possible. The lower in your hand the action sits, the more straight back into your arm the felt recoil will travel. This helps to control muzzle travel and reduces the snappiness of felt recoil. This interesting rule of physics is one of the main thoughts behind the design of the pistol called the Rhino. Ugly gun – but great engineering.

Aligning Your Sights

“Aim small, miss small” is the mantra my Grandaddy said when he was teaching me to shoot. Don’t just aim for the large red bulls-eye. Look at the center speck in that bullseye. Aim for that.

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Sight Alignment is dependant upon your firearm being properly sighted in. If you are shooting really tight groupings at the 5- yard line, but then at the 20-yard line they are significantly off center – it may be wise to talk to your local gunsmith.

Just to clarify, sight alignment is simply the relationship between the front and rear sights of the handgun. If the top of your front sight is not perfectly level with the top of your rear sight, then you will be shooting either too high or too low. And if your front sight does not have an equal amount of air-space on either side showing through, then you will be shooting to the left or right of your target.

These two variables lined up correctly creates an accurate Sight Picture. If you are shooting and the target is just littered with holes and you really can’t tell what you’re doing wrong – your probably focusing too much on the target instead of the front sight. When you are focused on the front sight, the rear sight and the target will be slightly blurred. This blurring of the target throws off a lot of new shooters.

Pulling the Trigger

Pulling the trigger is different from mashing or squeezing the trigger. A controlled, deliberate, methodical, straight back pull is what you need to do. If you mash or squeeze, you will move your gun and throw off your sight picture.

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You will need the center part of your index finger to be centrally on the trigger. Not the tip. Not the first knuckle as shown in the photo above. The padding directly under your nail bed is what needs to be centrally on the trigger, which is parallel to the gun’s frame. This portion of your finger is called the Distal Phalanx. If you are off center, your gun will pull to the left or right.

If too much of your finger is on the trigger, it’s called snatching. It will cause you to hit to the side of your target. If you’re right-handed, you will hit to the right of your target. If too little of your finger is on the trigger, it’s called pushing. This will cause you to hit to the other side of your target. Another common issue is heeling. This is when you squeeze the bottom of the grip too hard as you depress the trigger, sending it slightly forward. This will cause you to hit slightly above your target.

Don’t anticipate the recoil. Allow yourself to be surprised by the sound of the gun firing.  If you anticipate the recoil, your front sight will drop as you depress the trigger. Stay focused on your front sight as you depress the trigger.

Follow Through

Follow through is critical. It is what allows the projectile to completely exit the muzzle, and remain faithfully on target. It is allowing the bullet to exit the muzzle – a pause after you pull the trigger. You maintain sight picture during follow through. Any jerking motions can cause the muzzle to shift as the bullet is exiting and throw off your accuracy.

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It is hard to know if you have any subtle movements – so having a friend stand just outside of your arch of peripheral vision and watch you is helpful. If our friend notices that you have to readjust your gun back into position instead of the gun falling into a natural point of aim.

Trigger reset is what happens when after a shot is fired, the slide has slid back, the spent cartridge ejected, the slide comes forward, a new round is chambered and the trigger moves back to the front. On many firearms, the trigger may not have to go all the way forward in order for it to be reset and ready to fire. Some Glocks reset just shy of being all the way forward, you’ll know it when you feel it click.

If you hold your finger just forward of the reset, you’ll have a shorter trigger pull and can fire off the next round much faster – and in competition shooting, timing is crucial.  Dry firing will help you learn where your trigger break is.

Follow through allows you to be ready to accurately fire a follow-up shot. You are already on target and don’t have to waste valuable seconds correcting your sight picture. This is vital to not only competition shooting, but for self-defense purposes. It is impractical to anticipate that ONE single shot will stop whoever is attacking you.  You have to be diligent and prepared – and a big part of that is correct follow through.

Conclusion

When shooting, keep it simple. It all boils down to remain relaxed, have a proper sight picture, pull the trigger, and follow through.

So why not head on over to your local gun range and practice? Practice is the only way to improve! Don’t just shoot to burn through ammo – make a conscious effort to make each motion be deliberate, each shot a learning experience.

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Five Dog Breeds that Rock at Hunting

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Hunters and their dogs have an amazing bond. When in action, they partner together in a smooth and seamless dance. Each one reading the motions of the other to function smoothly.

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Watching a dog perform the work that he was bred specifically to do, a dog who had those dominant traits honed in with precise training – it’s genuinely a beautiful sight. Every fiber of that dogs being is engaged and devoted to not only hunting but ENJOYING it. And ultimately, that’s one of the reasons why we hunt with dogs. They live for it just like we do.

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There is really not much of a way to determine which dog breed is the BEST at hunting – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. There are many breeds that excel at hunting certain game and there are breeds that are good at working in certain environments. It’s best to research the dog best for whatever type of hunting you plan on doing.

Hunting Dog Breeds

English Springer Spaniel

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The English Springer Spaniel is a small compact dog with a beautiful shaggy coat.  They grow to about 20 inches tall and weigh up to 45 pounds.  Springers have a lush, double coat that is white and brown. The field-bred in this breed differs from the show-bred in that the field-bred tends to be slightly smaller and have more white in their coat. The AKC considers them the very same, though the gene pools have been segregated for over years. The field-bred also tends to have a shorter coat, shorter ears, a more pointy nose. While both are great at hunting, the field-bred will out hunt the show-bred.

Spaniels originated in Spain. There are even accounts in Welsh law documents in 300 A.D. where spaniels were mentioned. There is artwork in the 16th-century artwork of hunting scenes with spaniels that closely resembles the English Springer Spaniel. Then, the spaniels were used to flush out the birds from the dense brush so that the hunter’s falcon could catch the prey. It wasn’t until 1903 that the England Kennel Club had a classification for the breed.

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These dogs were bred with the endurance to enjoy long days in the field. English Springer Spaniels are high energy dogs, but they are not typically considered hyperactive.  This means they don’t make very good house dogs, but they do good with children. They need room to run. When in the field they run across it in a zig-zag pattern with a smooth stride.

They received their name from the way they “spring” at game – flushing it out of hiding. That’s where the Springer Spaniel really shines: flushing out birds that prefer dense cover such as pheasants, bob-white quail, ruffed grouse, and woodcock. They can duck hunt, and retrieve open country birds, but the English Springer Spaniel is phenomenal with pheasant hunting.

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Springers are easily trainable and considered people-pleasers. They love company and participating in family activities. Designed to hunt at close range, typically no more than 30 yards, they do need to be trained on a few command words. English Springer Spaniels can be just as stubborn as a Chesapeake but most tend to be very eager to please and happy to be helping. English Springer Spaniels need a gentle hand in training and they have a tendency to sulk. But like many other high bred hunting dogs, they are known to reach a point in their life where they will test you and in such times a more firm response is recommended. Thankfully, this isn’t often a situation you’ll see a repeat of. But just like other spaniels – they bounce out of their bad moods quickly.

English Springer Spaniels are also used frequently as therapy dogs because of their compassionate eyes and disposition to please. They are great therapy dogs especially for the sick and elderly. My grandparents had an English Springer Spaniel named Champ who was extremely intelligent and loved dove hunting. It was always amazing getting to watch him run.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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Chessies are affectionate, sensitive and stubborn. They can get up to 26 inches tall and up to 80 pounds. They are known for their distinctive coat: wavy and oily to the touch. This oil slick helps them to shed water and be able to tolerate cold waters. Their jaws are strong enough to carry heavy game birds and they can be gentle enough to carry an egg. They also have webbed toes. This is an ideal combination for a duck hunters companion. Chessies come in three colors, Brown (of the chocolate variety), Sedge (a reddish brown), and Deadgrass (tan). Their eyes are bright amber.

Chessies are very trainable, but they have a mind of their own so training may take longer with them than with other breeds. They are not overly friendly to strangers and are extremely protective of their owners, which makes them great watchdogs. Chessies are highly intelligent and courageous. Training requires a gentle hand as they surprisingly get their feelings hurt pretty easily.

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Many trainers say that Chessies have to understand why they are doing the task before they will do it – or else their independent streak will take over. The key to training a Chessie is consistency. They are good with children and other animals. Chesapeake Retrievers are determined dogs – they work hard and are quite powerful.

The breed originated in 1807. The story goes that a pair of Newfoundlands were found in an English shipwreck near the Chesapeake Bay. These two dogs bred with other retrievers, English Otterhounds, Irish Setter, etc. After a couple of years, the Chesapeake Retriever was created. in 1878 the breed was recognized by the AKC

Appalachian Coon Hound

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John Byrne of Virginia is the man most responsible for the Appalachian Turkey Dog. Mr. Byrne passed away in 2012. Just over 40 years ago, he bred several great hunting dog breeds and came out with a dog that is considered one of the best dogs for hunting turkey in the world, especially for fall turkey season. The Appalachian Turkey Dog may have feathering on their hindquarters and tail that they inherited from the English Setter. It got its genes for tracking, barking, and chasing from the Plott Hound and has the drive, speed, and stamina from its Pointer ancestors.

Boykin Spaniels and English Setters are often used for hunting turkey, but for many hunters, they can’t hold a candle to an Appalachian Turkey Dog. Though the Appalachian Turkey Dog is not officially recognized by the AKC, it is still worth considering when looking into a hunting dog. The American Wild Turkey Hunting Dog Association does recognize them. Since it isn’t an “official” breed, there are not a lot of stats on the dogs size, but generally they are smaller dogs.

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Turkey Dogs cast ahead, keeping an eye on your position, and find flocks of turkey. When the dog finds the turkey flock, he flushes at them, getting them to scatter. As the dog is getting them to scatter, the hunter sets up where they were gathered. Then the dog comes back and waits patiently while the hunter calls the turkey. Turkeys are social creatures. They want to be in a group and will call one another in an effort to locate each other. The hunter calls and lures the turkey towards the blind so that they can be harvested.

So while the Appalachian Turkey Dog may not be on the AKC registry, if you are an avid turkey hunter, you may do well to consider one of these for your hunting companion.

(Thank you Turkey Trot Acres for the picture of dogs Shot and Kelly!)

Bluetick Coon Hound

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Blueticks are beautiful dogs with a musical baying bark. They are fantastic hunting dogs that do well on nocturnal hunts. They can grow up to 27 inches tall and weigh up to 80 pounds. They got their name from the “ticked” or mottled black and blue coat pattern.

The breed began with General George Washington. He recieved 5 hounds from the Marquis de Lafayette. These dogs were Grand Gascon Saintongeois and Grand Bleu de Gascogne. They bred and then later were mixed with the fast running English Foxhound to create what we know as the Bluetick around 1900. It wasn’t until 1945 that they were recognized as a breed by the AKC.

Blueticks excell at night time hunting with thier sharp eyesight. They can track in bad weather just as good as pleasant weather. They have an unshakable tracking instinct. Though slower than other types of hounds, their determination and instinct to chase stands out. The Bluetick is fantastic at finding game on trails thought to have “gone cold.”

Interstingly Blueticks not only bay when they tree their prey, but they bugle throughout the hunt. Hunters can learn what each of their distinctive calls mean to know how to partner with his hound better when hunting. Blueticks are aboslutely fearless and will even pursue bear.

When training a Blueetick, they are headstrong and a little obstinate like other hounds – so strong consistency is key. They are highly intelligent and are good at figuring things out. All hounds have a bit of a sense of humor – they can be slighly clumsy and always want to know “what’s in it for them” during training. But the Bluetick on average is less clumsy than some other hound breeds. Blueticks are deeply devoted to thier owners and are quite affectionate. They tend to be wary of strangers but do well with children. They tend to not do well with smaller pets. Like all working-dogs, they need to have their energy used or else they find ways of getting into trouble.

German Short-haired Pointer

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German Shorthaired Pointers are often called regal looking. They have friendly dark eyes and their coat can come in Liver, Black, Roan with white. They can grow up to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 70 pounds. They were bred with a great deal of endurance, and speed. They are extremely loyal dogs who develop a deep bond with thier owners.

The breed developed in the 17th century in Germany. They are a cross between German tracking hounds, a Spanish Pointer, and an English Foxhound. They have an extroidinary keen sense of smell. in 1925 Dr. Charles Thornton brought the breed to American and began breeding them.

The German Shorthaired Pointer makes a great family pet. They do well with other pets, children and even do well indoors – as long as they received daily excersize to burn off thier high energy levels. They learn fast and are relatively easy to train. German Shorthaired Pointers have a strong prey drive and retrieve well. They also point beautifully.

An all around versatile hunting dog, one that is said to almost “hunt straight out of the box.” They remain one of the main dog breeds in various hunting contests. It will hunt upland gamburds, waterfowl, and even rabbits and other small game. The German Shorthaired Pointer is quite brave and will track wild boar, fox, and even a wounded deer.

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Homeopathy Remedies for Autistic Meltdowns and Pandas

Homeopathy Remedies

(I am not a Homeopath. I have a Master Herbalist degree and have a great love for homeopathy – one day I would like to take some classes on it!)

I have used various homeopathy remedies to help my daughter when she is having an autism meltdown and to help her combat Pandas flare-ups. Cina worked for a long time as her constitutional remedy, and now she doing much better. Her constitutional remedy is changing from Cina to Pulsatilla. Constitutional remedy means it works well for her entire being, as the description fits her exactly. For acute or occasional issues, we treat with other remedies as they fit.

Here is a list of some very helpful homeopathic remedies. These remedies can be used for a lot more than I have listed – please refer to your Materia Medica for full description.

Chamomilla

Chamomilla is a wonderful remedy that many people know is useful with teething or colicky babies and the pains of childbirth. The Chamomilla temperament is miserable – miserable everywhere they go. So miserable that they can appear angry, sulky, cross, or even in a rage.

Chamomilla children will cry, kick, bite, scream and drive their parents to despair. The stiffen up and will bend backward. Chamomilla children are only quiet when they are being carried – but they don’t want to be touched or spoken to. They cry because they want something and then throw it back, completely unhappy. They are furious that they are hurting and furious at everyone else for not fixing the discomfort.

Chamomilla is overly sensitive to everything. His nerves are completely shot and he lacks patience. Complete intolerance for pain or sensitivity – this person will not bear the pain quietly or calmly.

There may be hot sweat on the head, yellowish green spinach-like diarrhea, toothache or bitter taste in the mouth.

Cina

It is most commonly used for parasitic worms. But it also works wonders for autism meltdowns and pandas.

It is common for the Cina Child to be cross, irritable and to grind his teeth. There is also a varying appetite – sometimes Cina will want to eat a lot and sometimes next to nothing.  Cina wants to be held and rocked all the time. This child is highly sensitive to touch – cannot bear to have hair brushed or to be caressed. He is so sensitive that it feels as if he is bruised or sore. In fact, he is so touchy that he does not want to even be looked at. However, this child may rub, poke, pick his nose or scratch inside his ears. Cina also has an aversion to bright light.

Cina will desire things but will reject everything offered – this child typically doesn’t throw them back like Chamomilla does, just rejects them. He will crave sweets and gets hungry soon after eating a meal. It is a painful hungry feeling, a gnawing sensation. He may have a difficult time in swallowing liquid and choke easily on water or his own spit. He is a very anxious child. Occasionally Cina will have spasmodic twitching of his limbs.

Cina has a pale face with very dark rings around his eyes. The sweat on his head is cold. There is a whiteish blue ring around the mouth.  This child will grit his teeth in his sleep and also during sleep his face and hands will make movements while dreaming.  Cina prefers to sleep on and hands and knees or on his abdomen. Sleep is restless for Cina, he has trouble sleeping and he has night terrors, screams, or talks in his sleep. He often wakes up with a start and feels very frightened.

Upon waking, Cina will have a cough that may end in a spasm. It’s a violent cough that can bring tears to his eyes. There is a gurgling sound or sensation going from stomach to throat after coughing. Cina is highly anxious to speak or move after the coughing fit, out of fear that it would start another one. Belly pain, especially after eating is very common too.

For parents of Cina, it is a little frustrating as they have a hard time with punishments – punishments can cause convulsions, or fits. Cina is so sensitive even to emotional disturbances. The stool of Cina are very notable – it’s often white and profuse. Cina is noted for gastrointestinal distress. Ofen with intense pain – so severe that it can contribute to delays in speech and socialization.

Ignatia Amara

Ignatia is excellent for anxiety – that is situational anxiety. It is useful for the sudden anxiety or panic attacks that seem to come out of nowhere. Ignatia is useful for fearful anxiety and worry.  It is highly useful after trauma or with someone who is is having a difficult time trusting again.

It is also given for shock, bereavement, and disappointment. Ignatia is often completely overcome by heartache and depression. His depression will quickly turn into a form of desolation and devastation. He has a painful yearning for that which was lost.

Ignatia is sensitive, easily hurt, and is subject to massive mood swings. When things go wrong, Ignatia takes it personally. He is usually melancholy and sad – sighs and sobs for no apparent reason. Social settings greatly aggravate the anxiety for Ignatia. And he has repeating and intrusive thoughts. Heightened emotional responses are common as is a defensive attitude.

Anxiety will manifest in Ignatia with twitches, spasms in the throat, cramps etc. Sometimes his cough feels so tight that it will suffocate him. Ignatia has irritable bowel issues that can flare up suddenly. This sudden bowel change is reflected in the sudden change of emotional temperament. Ignatia can be laughing and making jokes and then instantly they will be in tears – almost reflective of a hysteria type shift.

Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla is unstable, emotional and timid. She weeps for nothing and experiences extreme intellectual fatigue.  She is highly anxious and occasionally absent-minded. She will bottle up her emotions when she isn’t weeping. She also holds a grudge for a long time and can feel very depressed, jealous and anxious. She will show a fear of the opposite sex. She rarely feels thirsty and frequently feels aversion to food.

Clingy, sad, needing to be reassured and held are hallmarks of her temperament. She wants to be carried, rocked and loved – while simultaneously fearing suffocation. She is like a flower being tossed around in the wind – lacking the strength to stand upright while the wind blows and being tossed and turned about. She is very needy and is terrified of being abandoned or forsaken. Fears surround her and night terrors are frequent. She craves above all things to feel safe, loved, and content. If she doubts those things – her world shatters. She greatly regresses when under stress and in a warm, stuffy room. Cold, open air makes her feel better – as long as it is a dry cold. She tends to feel worse in the evenings.

Pulsatilla child has a very difficult time sharing toys and crumbles when reprimanded. She is constantly vying for attention by negative means – usually creating a scene or whining irritably. Pulsatilla does not have an angry cry like Chamomilla. Though she wants attention, she lacks the confidence to engage with others – she has no problem playing alone and will contentedly munch on sweets.

Arsenicum Album

The horse typifies Arsenic temperament. Horses constantly move about, are highly nervous – almost restless. He tends to have dry, rough, unhealthy looking skin when he is need of this remedy.

He jerks about as he is falling asleep. Arsenic is highly anxious and desperately angry – almost to the point of being furious. He feels hopeless, full of misery, and suicidal.

Burning pains are a major consideration – no other remedy has burning pains to this degree. However, Arsenic craves hot food and drink. He often licks his lips because they are dry.

He feels rested when sitting but any slight exertion will exhaust him quickly. He has a great fear of being left alone – yet desires to hide. He is indecisive and his humor changes quickly – almost in an angry hasty way. He is terribly upset by small changes in the little details of life. Arsenic is highly compulsive about orderliness.

 

Sulphur

Sulphur is a firey child – a volcano ready to explode suddenly and intensely in response to any frustration. After his anger subsides the molten lava of sullenness and smolders seep out for a long while. Highly intellectual, creative and artistic. He is immensely passionate about every facet in his life.

Sulphur has an adventurous spirit – his entire being engrossed in his investigation of the world around him. He is determined to succeed and has the drive to do so. However, he can also be critical, irritable and intolerant. He believes that every performance he gives is the very best. Sulphur tends to be hypercritical and arrogant. He is impatient, head-strong, and domineering.

Not all volcanos are active – some are dormant. Sulphur can also be extremely lazy and procrastinates. He will have wonderful ideas – but a massive aversion to work of any kind. While Sulphur has a strong ego – it is a fragile one. He easily feels disrespected and humiliated.  This happens anytime his ego is threatened.

Sulphur is used when driving out toxins and counteract the suppression of physical or emotional symptoms.

As a child, Sulphur was a replica of Dennis the Menace. Always into mischief and high spirited. He is constantly getting into trouble and being disobedient. Sulphur tends to hate bathing (unless it’s a cold shower) and doe not mind being dirty. He can not bear to feel too hot, is not a morning person, and just loves junk food. He is determined to get his own way and almost impossible to reason with when he gets worked up.

When a Sulphur child has Pandas, their rage can even include smearing feces on the wall and aggressively attacking others. The screaming tantrums of a Sulphur child are fierce to behold.

Carcinosin

As a child, Carcinosin loves to read and cuddle with pets. In fact, her pets are her best friends. She felt like she was struggling to fly free – rules only made her feel confined. But Carcinosin isn’t a rebel, she is merely passionate.

She is sensitive and very responsible. Almost overly so. She has a high standard and feels highly anxious if her standards are not met. She struggles with feeling like an idiot and of things being out of her control. In fact, she worries so much that she will make herself sick. Fear drives Carcinosin – but it is that fear that drives her. She is determined to cause the change in her life.

When she can’t fix things, she is determined to find someone to take care of things for her.  So much so that she will lose her identity in whoever is taking care of her. This is a key feature – the loss of self as a result from suppressing her will in order to be taken care of. She is cautious, reserved and tends to answer in monosyllables.  After this, she will get resentful. She feels contradictory. At this point, she becomes quarrelsome, discontented, disgusted etc. Eventually, she will come to a point where she needs to break out. She will dance frequently, yearn to travel. She becomes cheerful when there are thunder and lightning. Her excitability keeps increasing – and then she begins getting startled easily, becoming destructive, twitching, not sleeping.

Then the cycle repeats. She goes back into taking care of others, full of a sense of duty, clinging to animals, loving to cuddle, anxious for the well being of others.

She is so determined to endure that she will push herself to the limit. She is very strong and highly intelligent. Carcinosin will have frequent abdominal pain, and bending over helps to make it better. She is prone to schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety. She is fearful of crowds, narrow places, high places, spiders, mice, snakes, and especially fear of failure.

Carcinosin is a perfectionist. Criticism even in the most gentle and mild forms are utterly unbearable for her, she takes it extremely personally. She is highly sensitive to the feelings of others and highly empathetic. Pandas diagnosis is extremely common with Carcinosin.

Can Can Holster Review

As a female, conceal carry can be rather difficult. Women’s clothing fits differently than men’s clothing. It’s generally much more fitted and has thinner material. Dresses and the lack of pockets just add more levels of difficulty. Finding the right holster makes it a lot easier. I have several holsters that I use. I prefer a Kydex IWB for days that I am wearing jeans. And I have a Marilyn Bra Holster for when I wear sundresses.

While it is true that it is important to “dress to carry” sometimes that means getting a bit creative with layers and sizes. Many women resort to only ever carrying in their purse. This is handy, it is not recommended. If an attacker comes up to you and takes your purse – he then will have your weapon. Also, carrying in your purse is most often not as fast to draw from.

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Two holsters that I use frequently are by Can Can Concealment (https://www.cancanconcealment.com/) In this article I’ll be giving my personal review on the Garter and the Hip Hugger holsters.

Can Can Hip Hugger Holster

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The Can Can Hip Hugger was one of my first holsters. I wanted a holster that could be multi-functional. It can be worn with skirts, shorts, jeans, or even tunic tops with leggings. There are three sizes to choose from: micro, classic, or big she-bang. The width size you choose is based on the size of your conceal carry weapon. I initially made the mistake of buying the big she-bang, because I thought that a wider band would be more comfortable. But I noticed that my firearm would slip down too low in it to where it wasn’t a fast draw.

While holsters don’t have to be pretty to function – it is nice having a pretty holster. I went with the red details. They have several colors to choose from. You can choose tan or black for the base and details can be red, hot pink, black, or blue.

One feature that caused me to go with Can Can over some of the competition was the hook and eye closures. I abhor velcro. It is thick, loud, and I can never get it perfectly lined up; so it ends up scratching me or pulling at my clothing. The hook and eye closures, though it takes a couple of more seconds to attach, is a HUGE draw for me.

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There are little soft little tabs on the edges of the pockets. These are to pull the pocket out so you can holster your weapon. That way you are not fumbling for the edge. I like that the edge of the pocket does not line up with the top of the band.

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Wearing the Hip Hugger Holster is very comfortable. I have not had any issues with it riding up from my hip to my waist.  I do have to adjust it slightly when sitting in my car for an extended amount of time – but the same can be said for wearing a cardigan in the car, you don’t want it pulling from sitting on it. It doesn’t add a lot of extra bulges either, which is nice.

When I measured to purchase my Hip Hugger Holster, I measured around my natural waist and then purchased an extender if I wanted to wear it lower on my hips. This way I can wear it high one day and low the next – whichever is most convenient to draw based on the type of clothing I am wearing. A few years ago, Can Can was offering an extender that was also a pouch for your cell phone, I purchased one and LOVE it. I really hope they bring it back (hint-hint Can Can Concealment!)

Can Can Garter Holster

Sometimes, a waistband holster isn’t an option. I like to wear swing dresses – and while a waistband holster MAY work, it isn’t as fast of a draw as I would like. This is where the Garter Holster is an excellent option. I have worn it with and without leggings under it.

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Like the Hip Hugger Holster, the Garter Holster comes in several width sizes based upon the size firearm you will be concealing. The Micro is for pistols under 4.5″ long, the Classic is for firearms that are  4.5-6.5″ long, and the Big She-bang is for pistols over 6.5″ long.

For my Garter Holster, I went with the hot pink (because the red happened to be sold out that day and I needed it for a trip so I couldn’t wait an extra week.)  Garter Holsters also come in the black and blue detailing or with a tan background.

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I highly recommend going ahead and purchasing the Garter Belt. It comes in a pretty lace pattern, either black or tan. While it isn’t absolutely necessary, I like knowing for certain that it won’t be slipping down too far. The only time I had a little bit of slipping is when I was wearing pantyhose. Since then, I have learned to adjust the hook and eye closures depending not upon only how it feels but also if I am wearing anything under it or not.  The Garter Belt stays securely attached to the Garter Holster with hooks.

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Wearing the Garter Holster isn’t quite as comfortable as the Waist Band Holster, and a bit more cumbersome to put on. Especially when rotating it to get it in just the right place for the garter belt to be worn. But once it is on – its great! I have talked to other women who wear it and they don’t find it cumbersome to put on at all, it may just be me. (I have a lot of nerve damage on the leg I prefer to wear it on because I was attacked by a leopard years ago, so I am sure that is clouding my judgment.)

About Can Can Concealment

Can Can Holsters uses compression holsters. The material is thick enough to prevent printing, and still very breathable. The back of the holsters has built-in silicone grips to prevent slipping. They also have their very own (patent pending) reholstering grip tabs with Neodymium rare earth magnets to help with firearm retention.

I really love getting to tell others about this fantastic company. Not only are their products of phenomenal quality, AND made in the USA, but their customer service is top notch. I have had to call them a few times with questions about sizing, and to send back the wrong size that I ordered. Their customer service is so personable and they really go out of their way to help you find just the right holster for your body shape – even if it means doing a custom order. You can tell they truly believe in their product!

I would love to review their Corset Holster but have not purchased one yet.

If you have any suggestions for any holsters that you would like for me to review – send me a message!

Aspergers and Pandas: The First Three Years of Our Holistic Health Journey

Autism Clues

I had everything ready: my detailed birth plan, the Bradley Method book, my calming piano hymns music, Clary Sage and Lavender oils, ice packs, heat rags, birthing ball, honey straws, Vitamin K drops, and a doula who would encapsulate my placenta.  Much to my doctor’s frustration, I was determined to utilize a holistic health approach to giving birth. After a very smooth, natural labor and delivery, the nurse handed me my newborn baby girl.

I had looked forward to that moment of first getting to meet her – cuddling close, looking at her tiny features, counting her little fingers and toes. That moment finally arrived! But Emma would recoil her hands abruptly at the touch of my fingers. Her face would grimace in agitation – almost as if she was in pain –  when anyone touched her, especially her hands and feet. I knew right away that something was amiss. By the end of the day, I had noticed a stork bite on her neck and a sacral dimple – signs to look out for with the MTHFR gene mutation that ran through my family.

Soon, we noticed that she would become inconsolable if more than three separate people held her. Or if a store was too busy, or the tv was too loud. Or if we were gone from home more than a couple of hours. Or when she was placed in the car seat. She was constantly alert and on edge, stiff as a board when held. All of these things I noted and tucked away for further observation and research. When I would bring them up to the pediatrician or in conversation socially, I was told not to worry. She simply was a sensitive baby. Nothing was wrong.

But I knew that she was different in a special way – because I am different too.

Emma didn’t nurse well and refused to take a bottle. It was a rough first few months. Thankfully some Mommy Friends in a private Facebook group told me to look into tongue and lip ties, then told me about their own experiences. Many of whom warned me about how frightfully uneducated so many are in the medical field about the impact ties have on breastfeeding.

She began having meltdowns. It took a while to learn what was a meltdown and what was a temper tantrum – there ARE differences. But occasionally a temper tantrum can go on so long that she works herself into a meltdown. During meltdowns, she would stop making eye contact and it was as if she couldn’t hear or see me. During meltdowns, she could not be pacified. We learned that we had to take her away from the stimulus, preferably to a dark quiet room and just hold her and rock. Emma never would take a paci and she didn’t want toys or a Lovey of any kind.

Sleep Deprivation

After going through four doctors, three lactation consultants, and a local Le Leche League leader (say that three times fast!) – I found a doctor who believed me and told me that my assessment of a Stage 3 lip tie and a posterior tongue tie were correct and were contributing to the difficult nursing experience. A quick lasering of the ties and we were on our way to a more successful and pain-free nursing relationship.

By four months, I knew that she had Aspergers (like I do). Her sensitivity to various stimuli was escalating at a rapid pace. Then, she stopped sleeping. Almost completely. I knew that the Four Month Sleep Regression was supposed to be a hard one – but after a month she wasn’t back to a semblance of a routine at all. Emma was waking up every 15 minutes and not going back to sleep unless she nursed herself to sleep. Once a week she would sleep for 45-60 minutes before waking. My husband and I tried everything. Literally everything. Her pediatrician was baffled but did send us to a specialist for the autism diagnosis. We had an eight-month weight until our first appointment.

The meltdowns increased, her sensitivity increased. I was not able to go to the bathroom or to grab a cup of water without her going into a meltdown because I wasn’t holding her. Emma would panic if she didn’t feel completely safe and secure. It wasn’t her just demanding attention – she would lose the ability function. If anything was different or new – she felt insecure.

Meanwhile, Emma continued to wake up every 15 minutes, just like clockwork. Regardless of what we tried to do – regardless of how consistent we were with habits or what supplements we tried or how her environment was. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture – I legitimately thought I was going to die from sleep deprivation. My husband suggested we try co-sleeping so I at least wouldn’t have to walk to the next room every 15 minutes to nurse.

Alternative Health Care and an Autism Diagnosis

Finally, after seven months of no one sleeping, we went to a friend of mine for help (why we didn’t go earlier I have no idea!) She has a health food store and uses Autosomal Reflexive Testing (which is a variation of Applied Kinesiology – more on this in an upcoming article!) Emma was put on some Homeopathy supplements. She needed Hylands Nerve Tablets, Ignatia Amara, and Ferem Phosphates to eliminate a virus she was battling. I gave her the first dose immediately. She slept the whole thirty-minute drive home – which had never happened before. Emma would scream from the moment she was placed in a car seat to the moment we took her out. After three days she was sleeping for three hours before waking. After a week she was sleeping for five hours before waking and would go right back to sleep.

With the exception of one episode of Strep Throat, Emma was very healthy and didn’t get sick apart from seasonal allergies. Granted, she was quite low on the growth charts – but we were seeing consistent growth. (Little did we know the damage that Strep bacteria did. She was so young we couldn’t see a massive amount of difference before and after the illness in her behavior.)

Being proponents of Self Led Weaning (she weaned at 14 months) and Delaying Solids, it was around 8 months of age when we would allow Emma to taste new foods. But she showed absolutely no interest to anything other than the baby melts. By 10 months she finally wanted to try a food – a lemon of all things. After that, she didn’t want to try any foods at all until she was just shy of a year old. That’s when her Nana convinced her to eat – a Cheese Puff. My heart sank, of course, the first actual food she likes would be something terribly unhealthy…

Emma was considered a Non-Verbal. That is, she spoke 5 words with any consistency. She used Jargon a lot – gibberish sounds in lieu of words. She could say: Mama, Daddy, Biscuit (our cat), Nana (my mom), and No. She could sign for “more” and displayed that she fully understood what we told her. Eventually, in her therapies she was tested – at 24 months she had the cognition of a 4-year-old. Her “output” and her social skills were delayed considerably. She would randomly say words – and say them correctly and display that she understood what they meant and how to use them in context, like the word Octagon. She could point to all the correct shapes, colors, numbers, letters, and over 50 animals. She would make animal noises – and knew appropriate noises for a great many animals.

Finally, her appointment with the child psychologist arrived – and to utter dismay it would be a series of visits over the next few months with various nurses, nurse practitioners and finally a ten minute visit with the actual doctor – and we received her diagnosis of Autism Spectrum, and what would have been called Aspergers (oh the frustrating changes in the DSM IV!) This opened the door to various therapies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and food therapy.

Her meltdowns were intense. They could last HOURS. She would not be able to hear or see us, and she would not feel any pain. We would do everything that we could to keep her from hurting herself or others – and she would try her best to do just that. Emma would bang her head on surfaces, throw herself down – or worse off things. She would scratch her eyes and pull her face – or do the same to others. She would scream and thrash about like a wild animal caught in a cage. It was terrifying to behold – and even more so terrifying to realize that there was nothing that I could do to help her. She was hurting. She was afraid.

Being overstimulated sometimes feels like thousands of fingernails scratching at you – at every fiber of your entire being. All your senses are affected – sound becomes deafening and incomprehendible. Light becomes too bright while simultaneously your vision becomes blurred and tunneled. For a few brief moments its barely tolerable, and then when your body can’t handle any more – your systems crash into a meltdown.

A meltdown would make Emma “teeter-totter” to where it was as if her emotions were fragile and sitting on the edge of a blade. It would take the slightest bump to knock them off in either direction – either for calmness or for another meltdown. A major meltdown could send her nerves into such a state of agitation that she was affected by it for up to five weeks later – the entire five weeks be a series of meltdown chains. During a meltdown recovery period, we could do nothing except sit and rock, or sit and nurse, or sleep.

We wanted to partner up with professionals who viewed Emma the way we did – as a capable, brilliant child who has a great many strengths. We wanted to partner up with people who didn’t view Autism as a disease but as a unique way of processing information. Aspergers does indeed tend to have a great many pitfalls – but a great many blessings too. We just need to help Emma to learn how to navigate her sensory awareness and sensitivity, and how to understand that her emotions and thoughts do not necessarily convey what is true and real – though emotions are a great indicator of the heart.

After researching and trying out various therapies – we found an Occupational Therapist who eschewed ABA therapy (to our relief) and conducted Floor Time Play Therapy. She was such a great fit for our family – and so supportive of our passion for natural health care. She saw Emma as the brilliant child we saw too.

She displayed a large number of autism signs during the first year and a half. She would hand flap, squeeze her hands and shake all over when excited, and didn’t ever play with toys. Emma loved to organize things – she would spend HOURS taking the clothes out of her drawers and arranging them into piles. She loved to draw – but only a single shape – a Circle with a squiggly tail. If she was given grid paper, she would cover each square with this shape. She could sit and draw this shape for hours with fierce attention, the very action consumed her entire being.

Pandas and What We Have Found

Over a series of months, we noticed that there was a correlation between Emma’s very difficult weeks and her bowel. Research led me to be concerned about Pandas, but I had a hard time finding enough information about a child so young to be sure. I knew that we had a leaky gut issue, yeast overgrowth in the gut and that there was such a direct correlation between gut health and Autism.

But with her severe food sensory issues – I had no idea how to overcome her sensory issues. At this point, Emma only ate 12 things: Fruit melts, Goldfish, Club Crackers, Cheese Puffs, Fritos, Grapes, Blueberries, Apples, Banana, Strawberry, Chickfila Chicken Nuggets, and Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets. Regardless of our tactics to introduce healthy foods – even going so far as to refusing the yeast feeding GMO laden processed crackers and only offering healthy versions… but Emma could recognize even a change in Brand name by the taste. And she, unlike most children, will not give in and eat anything when hungry enough. We have tried. Her food therapist even noted that in her entire career she had only seen a COUPLE of other children who had the stubbornness to where they would rather starve themselves than eat something out of their comfort level.

As is typical with Pandas, the bowel will take on a chalky appearance. It becomes watery and very clay like in color. The odor is fouler than any “normal” diaper previously – it smells like a rotting carcass. During this attack, these watery diapers come out in a discharge so profuse and in such large quantity that no diaper is able to contain it all. Cloth or disposable – regardless of the brand. During these bouts, she becomes extremely violent and full of rage over the slightest sensory stimulus.

It was just after one of these episodes that Emma got a rather severe UTI. She refused to drink anything. I used a medicine syringe and would syringe her with water and Gatorade every 10 minutes. My Mom took her through the night and continued. We were trying to keep her from having to go to the hospital. But the next morning her diaper count was still terribly low and she was becoming lethargic. The hospital had to give her a catheter – and a dose of anxiety medicine because the stimulus was causing a massive meltdown. Twice in two months, we had this happen. Once, the hospital messed up and gave her a double dose of anxiety medicine – and had to watch her for a while to make sure she continued to breathe. Each time she was more and more traumatized by the catheter. It was so emotionally damaging that she would have meltdowns if we tried to change her diaper.

We decided the psychologist who had given the diagnosis was not a good fit for our family, so thanks to our wonderful occupational therapist we found a psychological counselor who has a heart for people with autism grow and flourish. He listened to our story and said that he is quite certain Emma had Pandas – especially with the way her violence correlated with the diapers. He was also very knowledgeable about MTHFR gene mutation, Pyroleuria, PTSD, and Porphyria – and other numerous issues that are in our family. What a tremendous relief it was to talk to a medical professional who understood these issues!  We discussed our options, and he was sympathetic to our desire to pursue holistic health care.

It was around this time that I had finished my Master Herbalist degree and was beginning my internship at the health food stores on the weekends with training in Autosomal Reflexive Therapy.

Therapy went well for the most part – food therapy was a bit disappointing, as Emma did not acquire many new foods. She did gain the confidence to try new foods occasionally (though not consistently) and she learned that she likes gummy bears and carrots. Occupational therapy is still going – and she is having a lot of fun playing games where she learns about taking turns, experiencing new textures, change in direction of play etc.  Speech therapy was helpful – having a new friend to interact with and play speech games with, a friend who wasn’t a parent or grandparent also seemed to make the game more appealing. Around the time she graduated, Emma had begun to use around 100 words consistently.

When her little sister, Faith, became big enough to play – this was transformational in Emma’s life. Faith taught Emma how to pretend and play with toys. Now, getting to be the “big sister” and help baby Faith has given her tremendous confidence and has encouraged her to push beyond her previous boundaries.

Over the last few months, I have been testing her consistently and finding out what nutritionally her body is needing. We have had such a remarkable turnaround in a short amount of time! Her vocabulary has blossomed – and so has her sentence structure. While we do still need to be mindful of what can overstimulate – her tolerance level has dramatically increased, as has her bravery in insecure situations.

She also has blossomed in her social skills – now she tries talking with other children, instead of completely oblivious to any game structure or social construct. She happily chatters with adults too and loves to create stories. She still is unsure of how to interact with children her own age, but she loves to watch them and in very confident situations will attempt to join in playing with them.

Unfortunately, the trauma from being catheterized has had lasting effects. She still panics during diaper changes – though considerably calmer than before. If we calmly talk to her about what is happening she handles it much better – but it is still terrifying for her. This has caused her to refuse to attempt any potty training. Which is frustrating – but we are patiently encouraging her growth and confidence. Maybe potty training Faith first will be helpful…

One other area we are still struggling in is in sleeping. She sleeps well – but she still relies on me to go to sleep and to stay in bed. We are in the process of transferring Faith to a big bed – after we get her used to sleeping in her own bed we will then be able to work more on helping Emma to learn. We are hoping that she will want to once she sees that Faith is doing it. And I have to remain in bed with her – if she wakes and can’t find me, she will panic. Panicking can QUICKLY turn into a meltdown.

She has come such a long way! But there is still such a long way to go – we still have to navigate our life based around her sensory needs, be extra cautious about how many activities or outings we do in a day, and with what could potentially trigger a meltdown. Meltdowns no longer affect us for many weeks at a time – now it is just hours at their most severe. We have not had any return of the massive and foul diaper episodes. When I notice her bowl SLIGHTLy become paler, I test her and find she is requiring an increase in dosing. Her behavior may be SLIGHTLY more agitated – but she IS HEALING. We praise God for His blessings in this, and for His provision of nutrients and Homeopathies to help her strengths shine. I am so excited to see how she progresses over the next few months.

I will elaborate on all the herbal supplements, vitamins, and homeopathic remedies I am giving her (in an upcoming article) 

I write this so that if you have a loved one who is on the spectrum or has Pandas to know that you are not alone in your experiences and that there is Hope. God is completely Sovereign over His Creation – even in Autism. There is nothing that happens that is outside the realm of His control, and He will allow only that which is for our sanctification and His Glory. We can rest in that!

 

Lamentations 3: 22-23 “The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

 

 

 

When being a mother isn’t as you imagined it would be

 

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I dreamed that as a mother…

  • I would have children that loved vegetables
  • They would wear adorable vintage clothing that I made by hand
  • I dreamed that I would churn my own butter and cook every meal from scratch
  • I’d keep a spotless house and have a massive garden with some hens
  • I would do elaborate crafts every day with the kids (that would go just as planned) and write my own homeschool curriculum
  • They would go to bed at an early hour and sleep through the night
  • Everyone would be joyful and happy all the time.

So fast forward several years later…

  • I have a brilliant, three-and-a-half-years-old daughter who refuses to touch a vegetable (Aspergers + sensory issues)  and is terrified of the potty. I have a two years old daughter who thinks its ok to try to scale the rock fireplace and is so enthusiastic about life that she tends to make massive amounts of mess with … well… everything she does.
  • Their clothes are well loved and used and are by no means anything that I have made by hand.
  • Food …. well … I do try to make it all from scratch, but frankly most days we grab something quick from the freezer or Taco Bell.
  • My house is barely in the tidy category. Our grass gets in pitiful condition before it ever gets mowed, much less a garden planted or a place for hens created.
  • Crafts are rather infrequent and never go as planned. The girls are just now liking me to read to them so we are not getting very far with homeschooling preschool
  • My husband and I are co-sleeping with the babies in separate beds because its the only thing that works for us at the moment, therefore no one goes to bed at a decent time or sleeps through the night.
  • I am just now coming out of a 3-year Chronic Post Partum Depression battle. So between a wife of a seminary student, a mother, a family member, a church member, a writer, an artist etc – stress is pretty high, so “happy all the time” is rather laughable

But we ARE joyful. We are so immensely grateful and blessed. My little family by no means resemble the Von Trapp family, all smiling, and lined up in a row – but we can say that this is God’s best for us. This is His perfect plan to help us grow in holiness and for His glory.

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I have had the opportunity to discuss this very topic with a group of 650 women. And astonishingly enough, everyone had virtually the same story: motherhood is ridiculously difficult. Nothing prepared me for how physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting it is. The vast majority of the group said that they struggle with feeling like a failure, that they are going through a serious struggle with guilt, and shame.

According to this Gallup Poll,  Stay at Home Moms are slightly more likely than moms employed outside the home to feel negative emotions on a daily basis and to have been diagnosed with clinical depression.

The discussion with the group of women continued on for some time. Everyone was asking “Why? Why is this so common? Why is staying at the home to raise up children for the Lord so closely connected with failure, guilt, and shame? Why is such a noble and honorable calling bringing so many women into clinical depression?”

Shame and Guilt are not from God. They are the result of sin. We first see these emotions in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned, they did not trust God is who He says He is. And in doing so, were filled with shame and guilt and tried to hide from God. Guilt and Shame drive us away from God. It makes us want to hide. When we as believers sin, God loves us enough to discipline us – which makes us feel Convicted. Conviction drives us TOWARDS him in repentance, not away from Him to hide.

Maybe, we get focused on what we think is best, instead of trusting God to give us His best.  We want a life that is easy and comfortable. But God wants us to become more like Christ, which most likely won’t be easy or comfortable – but it will be more beautiful than any scenario we can dream up. All because we will be able to see and reflect the beauty of Christ.

Maybe, we think that we have to do good in order to be loved instead of trusting God and obeying as a response to His love. We can never be good enough. One tiny sin against the All-Holy, Creator of Everything deserves eternity in Hell. We cannot do penance enough to pay for the price of even ONE sin.

Perhaps, we forget that we are not the Holy Spirit. How easy it is to want to bring conviction to our children – instead of trusting God with their souls. How quickly we get angry when they sin. How often do we worry about what they are turning out to be – when in fact, we are not responsible for their choices. We will be held accountable for training them, not for the choices they make.

 

We can trust God with the souls of our children. We do not have to mold our kids into what God wants them to be – He will do that. God knows exactly what He has created these children to be, and what their futures will hold. He knows every hair on their head. He will arrange everything to be exactly like it needs to be for their sanctification too. We don’t have to worry about creating the Fruit of the Spirit in their hearts – that’s the role of the Holy Spirit.

This mindset of having to work-work-work will lead to unbearable guilt and fear. How many times have we as mothers laid awake at night, going over every tiny mistake we made, and being absolutely obsessed over own every failure? Worrying that we are scaring our children for life? How quickly we fail to trust God’s Faithfulness!

Maybe, it’s because we have forgotten the Gospel. I am a wretched sinner, who deserves Hell, but God in His Grace and Mercy paid the penalty for my sins on the cross so that I might repent and believe in Him and be reconciled to Him.

Trusting God quietens our fears and places our focus on Him instead of at our own selves. Trusting God brings peace, joy, and hope. It is only when we trust God that we can do our children any good at all. God is doing more good than I could ever imagine (Eph. 3:20. God has promised to exalt the humble (Jam. 4:10) and to reward our faithfulness (Col. 3:23-24.).

 

God has chosen ME to be the mother of my children. I can trust that He is doing good TO ME, passionately, actively – He wants to sanctify me (Heb. 12:10.) And though I don’t understand it all – I have to trust that I am the best choice for them, and they are the best choice for me.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13”

We are commanded to “Train up our children in the way they should go…” (Prov. 22:6.) Which is living out part of the Great Commission in our very homes. There is not a more significant calling than to pass on the legacy of our faith to the next generation! So even when things are chaotic and not at all the way we imagined it would be – we can cling to joy, and hope, knowing with full assurance of God’s sovereign goodness.

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The Nursery Dilemma

“No, thank you, we would rather not put our kids in the nursery…”

 

It’s a line that my husband and I almost dread having to say when we visit a different church and even occasionally at our own church. It’s usually followed by a well-meaning, but a rather critical question – posed by someone just double checking us, just to make sure.

– Yes, we are sure.

Then comes the real test – the church service. Will our kids behave?! At least somewhat?!

What if my toddler (who happens to have autism) has a massive meltdown because of being over stimulated from the extra long car ride, or the new smells, or sounds?

What if my baby (who is struggling with her molars coming in) just won’t be pacified or distracted?

At every little noise that the children make during the service – my husband and I flinch. The tension from the well-meaning church member is almost palatable. I felt their eyes burning holes in the back of my head. I am glad that we don’t have to visit other churches often.

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This is a very strong personal conviction my husband and I have. After all, we will be held accountable on Judgement Day for what we taught them – and we want to teach them to love Jesus and His Bride. For us, that means keeping them in church with us and not in the nursery or children’s church.

We want our children to be in the entire church service with us. We want them to hear the worship service and the sermon.  Even though they won’t understand all of what is being said. They are taking everything in.

Those little eyes are watching. They are watching us worship. They are watching their church family worship. They are seeing lives changed, their loved ones cry out to God with heavy burdens, the whole church family rejoicing at a sinner repenting. Why would I want to take them away from all of that and stick them in the nursery?

Our babies will see if we are scrolling through Facebook or are really paying attention to the sermon. We want them to see how important church is – how important being with the body of believers is.

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We want them to see that we don’t go to church just because its fun,  or just because we get something out of it – but because we love Jesus and He died for the church, so we want to obey Him by “not forsaking our own assembling together… but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25.)

Keeping babies in the church service is HARD. They wiggle, cry, fidget, try to wander around, get dirty diapers… it is a REALLY hard thing to do. Not to mention the just-before-nap-time-fussiness that tends to occur around 11 am.  I don’t get to hear very much of the sermon at all, I’m too busy wrestling with kids and trying to make sure they don’t find someone’s purse to rummage through. It is so easy to get discouraged, to think that it would be so much simpler if I stayed home or put them in the nursery.

 

A few weeks ago, my toddler mentioned she was scared of the monsters in the shadows (thanks Scooby-Doo.) I told her there were no monsters and not to worry. I had all planned out to remind her about the God is Bigger than the Boogie Man song. She interrupted me to say “Jesus will keep me safe! He loves me!” with that she rolled over and fell right asleep.

Yes, its dreadfully hard – but so worth it.

We are blessed to have friends who truly love our babies and often help with them during the service. I snapped this picture of one of my dearest friends holding my youngest. If you see a family struggling with their babies – instead of insisting that they put the babies in the nursery or children’s service, why not ask to sit with them and love on their babies?

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When I Stopped Writing… Lessons learned in the shadows

I have always dreamed of being a writer.

When I was four, I wrote my first book – complete with construction paper cover and illustrations. I was an avid reader before entering Kindergarten. The more I read, the more I felt compelled to write. I filled journals cover to cover with my thoughts, ramblings, heart-pourings, and poems. By the time I was ten, I wrote a short novel, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish the last chapter (knowing the fate my hero would face was too painful.) And here I am now – 32 years old, and the burning desire to write is stronger than ever.

Several years ago, I stopped writing for a time. Here is why and what I have learned.

Since childhood, writing has been cathartic – even therapeutic.  I use it as a method of putting my thoughts in order. It was a tool to help me learn to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b) by taking inspiration from Davids style of writing.

Many of the Psalms written by David follow a pattern. He uses writing to pour out his heart and find expression of the pain, frustration, fear, and depression he is facing. And then he focuses his thoughts – and pen – towards God: His character and statutes. By doing so, he is able to find solace and emotional healing in resting in God’s Sovereignty.

But even good things can be marred and tainted because of sin… even something as seemingly innocent as writing in a journal. 

During a particularly dark period of my adult life, my writing became increasingly self-focused. I poured my heart out on paper, each line dripping with the intense sorrow that comes from a deep depression. It felt good to empty out the emotional torment. I thought I would burst if I didn’t.  I trusted that feeling and relied on my emotions to determine the truth of my situation, believing the lie my sinful heart spoke.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

In doing so, I allowed my focus to be inward instead of focusing on Christ. It was hard – it is such a discipline to stay focused. Our sin nature constantly is driving us to focus on our self – driving us towards self-idolatry.  Focusing inward made the darkness of depression all the more unbearable. Which turned into a vicious cycle – of needing to write all the more and being driven deeper and deeper inward. I was spiraling out of control.

The Lord placed several things in my life then that drove my writing to a screeching halt. I bucked against it – I was even bitter about it. But various circumstances would arise to keep me from sitting down and writing.

I was so focused on my pain that I couldn’t see God’s mercy in the moment.

God is safe to trust but I didn’t believe it was true for me. So I wallowed in the muck and mire of self-idolatry. The Lord was so merciful and patient with me. I wanted to hold on to my pain and find comfort in the shadows of depression – but God wanted me to find comfort, rest, and solace in Him. He wanted me to understand that the suffering was for my good, my very sanctification, and for His glory.  Even though I don’t always understand why, I can trust Him.

So five years ago I started writing again. Writing is still a balm to my soul. And now I write so that I can help others know Him more – because that is all that matters anyway.

A Guide on Plants Poisonous to the Touch

Plants can ruin your day

Spending time in the woods is a wonderful way to help eliminate stress. There is not hardly anything so peaceful as the cold earth under your feet and the first light of dawn peaking over the ridge and through the trees. One horrible experience for many hunters is to get good and nestled in a hide of undergrowth waiting on a buck to walk by and to leave with only a terribly itchy rash caused by unidentified poisonous plants. This guide is meant to help you prevent that from happening. The old adage of “leaf of three let it be; hairy vine no friend of mine” can be helpful – but if you go solely by that then you’ll be avoiding many safe plants needlessly.

Poison Ivy & Poison Oak

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak are plants that are often confused. They are both a part of the Toxicodendron genus and Anacardiaceae family. Both have three leaf sets that join together at a central reddish point and alternate on either side of the stem. The middle leaf is often slightly longer (this is more noticeable in Poison Ivy) than the two side leaves. Poison Oak is not quite as common as Poison Ivy as it prefers sandy soil. It seems to be most common in the East and Northwest.

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Poison Oak’s leaves can sometimes have rounded lobes – those that look rather similar to an oak leaf. Poison Oak leaves are not always lobed like oak. They can also be rounded, or scalloped, or toothed. Sometimes they are shiny and other times dull.  Sometimes serrated and sometimes not. Poison Oak can grow like a shrub, on stalks close to the ground, or on a vine. It’s not hard to see why this plant is so easily misidentified. These toxic plants will imitate the leaf shapes of the plants around it. If the plant gets full sun, it tends to grow like a shrub. If it is in the shade in the woods it tends to be a vine or on short stalks.

Poison Oak also has hairs on both sides of the leaves, whereas Poison Ivy only has hairs on one side. It can grow six feet tall and can have yellow, white, or green berries. In the fall, the leaves turn bright red and in the winter the leaves fall off. Poison Oak has leaves that are 2-8″ long and  1-5″ wide.

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Poison Oak and Poison Ivy lack thorns – which is a key feature in distinguishing it from wild blackberries (which can have three to five leaves per stem.) The vine can get up to 2″ in diameter and 40 feet long. The vine appears “hairy” from all the tiny roots sprouting from it. They are also often confused with the Box Elder. The Box Elder has leaves that are arranged opposite each other along the stem instead of alternating like on Poison Ivy. Climbing Hydrangea vines are also hairy, but their leaves only have a couple of shallow teeth or are smooth. The Climbing Hydrangea also has leaves positioned opposite on the stem.

Poison Ivy grows in all the US states except Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, and California. It can grow 4′ tall as ground cover on stems or as a hairy vine. Its berries tend to be a greyish white. Poison Ivy can grow in shady areas but tends to prefer more sunlight, so you’ll find it more often on the edges of the woods. The leaves can be 1-4″ long, but in great conditions can double that. Poison Ivy’s leaf shapes are just about as variable as that of Poison Oak.

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Poison Oak and Ivy Plants actually have quite a number of useful purposes. It can survive in fairly toxic soil that can’t sustain a lot of other plant life. This provides habitat and brush in which to hide for small critters and bugs. Over 50 native bird species use Poison Oak and Poison Ivy for shelter, nesting materials or the berries for food. Many insects consume the stalks and leaves. Deer, bear, elk, raccoons, horses, rats and squirrels will eat the leaves.

Many Native Americans utilized Poison Oak and Poison Ivy Plants. The Chumash Indians consumed the leaves, stems, and roots. They were able to do so by building up an immunity. Only 15% of the population is immune to the Urushiol Oil, their T-Lymphocyte cells simply do not recognize Urushiol. I built up an immunity to it over the years too. However, many people are extremely allergic to Urushiol, so I don’t recommend you trying to become immune. Many people report the opposite effect – overexposure causes them to be more sensitive, their T-cells recognize it very quickly and formulate an immune response quickly.

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When the skin comes in contact with Urushiol, it causes a chemical reaction with your skin that can develop into an allergy response. This can be as simple as redness or a patch of tiny, itchy, clear, blisters. For some, this goes away in a couple of days. For others, it can become a problem for weeks. These lesions can pop up within minutes to up to 21 days after initial exposure. Severe reactions include fever and difficulty breathing and occurs in 10-15% of individuals and these reactions require medical treatment usually in the form of steroids.

When you come in contact with Poison Oak or Poison Ivy Plants a great way to prevent an immune response is to remove the Urushiol. Changing your clothes and washing with dish soap (scrubbing for several minutes) and then rinsing with rubbing alcohol removes a great deal of the toxic oil.

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If you start to notice a bit of redness, then you can apply Lavender Essential Oil. Jewelweed (also known as Impatiens or Touch Me Not) is a native plant whose juices neutralize Urushiol. The Homeopathy remedy Rhus Tox in is made from extremely diluted Poison Ivy and can be helpful in alleviating the rash. Also after the rash sets in witch hazel can help in drying up the blisters. Aloe can help heal the damaged skin and apple cider vinegar can help alleviate the itching.

Poison Sumac

Another Toxicodendron is Poison Sumac. It grows like a small shrub or a small tree and branches out at the base. Poison Sumac Plants prefers wetlands and higher pH soil. It has berries that look similar to Poison Ivy’s, that are greyish white. Its leaves and bark are smooth. Poison Sumac has 7-15 leaflets per stem. The leaves are oblong with pointy tips and have red veins. It is a very pretty leaf! Each leaf is 1’4″ long and up to 2″ wide. They are arranged in pairs along the stem.

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Many people confuse Virginia Creeper with young Poison Sumac. While people who tend to be highly sensitive to Toxicodendron may find themselves slightly sensitive to Virginia Creeper, the Virginia Creeper is not generally considered a toxic plant. There are non-toxic varieties of Sumac. These prefer well-drained soil and have red berries in the fall.

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Poison Sumac berries grow in clusters at the base of the stem that hang down like grapes. Staghorn Sumac and Winged Sumac have red berries that grow at the tip of the stip in clusters that point up. Poison Sumac also has smooth and hairless stems whereas the non-toxic varieties tend to be fuzzy.

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Poison Sumac has very high concentrations of Urushiol and many people consider it one of the most toxic plants in America. Its prevention and treatment are the same as with Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. It is not as commonly found as Poison Ivy or Poison Oak because of its preference for wetlands. There are connections between certain food allergies to severe Urushiol allergies. So if you have a bad reaction to pistachios, mangos or cashews, it probably would be best for you to avoid Toxicodendron!

Poisonwood & Manchineel

Is not a tree that is very often encountered by hunters – unless you’re in southern Florida. It is in the family Anacardiaceae, which is the family to which Sumacs and Cashews belong. The Poisonwood Tree is an evergreen flowering tree that produces Urushiol oil like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

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Poisonwood Tree grows to be 25-35 feet tall. The tree has a short trunk with long arching branches.  Its bark can vary in color from a greyish hue to dark reddish-brown, depending on the age of the tree and the habitat. Older trees tend to flake off the bark in patches. Poisonwood Tree bark also looks like it has oily patches, which is actually sap. The leaves are green and very glossy with the underside being duller. Each leaf has a bright yellow central vein. They grow in groups of about 5, but the number can vary a bit. It grows a cluster of yellowish orange fruit that hangs. This fruit is food to a large number of local and migratory birds. The endangered White Crowned Pigeon particularly seemed to be fond of this fruit.

Even the rainwater dripping off the leaves can contain enough Urushiol to cause an allergic contact dermatitis. In fact, only one billionth of a gram of Urushiol is sufficient to cause a reaction in most people. The Urushiol content in the Poisonwood trees leaves, bark and sap are 100 times more potent than other native plants like Poison Ivy and Poison Oak.

Another plant native to Florida is the Manchineel Tree, also known as Beach Apple. It’s also known by the Spanish name manzanilla de la muerte, which translates to “little apple of death”  Ingesting the fruit can be fatal. Every part of the tree is highly poisonous.

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Manchineel is in the family Euphorbia, which makes it related to the Poinsettia. The Poinsettia is toxic to consume, but the Manchineel is toxic even to touch. Many Outdoorsmen have mistakenly walked under this tree and the leaves simply brushing against their face was enough to cause temporary blindness. The milky white sap leaves burns on the skin. Hippomane mancinella, which translates to “little apple that makes horses mad.”

It grows amongst Mangos and its root system helps to stabilize the sand erosion. It can grow up to 49 feet tall. The leaves are about 2-4″ long and are shiny green.  Unfortunate individuals claim that the fruit is very sweet, but soon after swallowing it starts to burn your throat until you feel your throat starting to swell. Interestingly enough, the black-spined iguana is able to consume the fruit where many other birds and animals are not able to. Even more baffling, the iguana is not native whereas the native species are unable to consume its fruit.

Though there are no deaths recorded in modern literature, historically there are numerous accounts of the fatalities from this toxic tree. The Caribs were known to poison the water of their enemies with the leaves from the Manchineel tree. Famous explorer Ponce de Leon supposedly died from an arrow coated in Manchineel sap.

Parsnips & Hogweed

plants

Several plants mentioned in this section closely resemble one another. Wild Parsnip, Queens Anne Lace, Giant Hogweed, Poison Hemlock, Elderberry, and Angelica plants all have wide leaves with a tall stem and a cluster of pale flowers. Most act as biennials – meaning the first summer is spent growing their leaves and the second is for flowering. Several of those plants can be seen here.

Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip, and Hogweed plants are very toxic and very problematic when they come in contact with your skin.  Their sap contains toxins that cause severe burns when exposed to sunlight.  Giant Hogweed has the most severe reaction of the three and can even cause blindness.

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Wild Parsnips are found in most of the United States and are the only one on the list that can have yellow flowers. It is an invasive species. It prefers sunny areas and calcareous soil but is easily adaptable to the environment. The stem is grooved and hollow. Its leaves have saw-tooth edges and resemble celery. Parsnip is a root vegetable closely related to carrots. In fact, Parsnip looks like a pale carrot. It becomes very sweet if left in the ground until after the winter frost.  Parsnip root can be consumed raw or cooked and is very high in minerals particularly potassium. Wild parsnip can have yellow or sometimes white flowers in rosettes. It can grow 2-5 feet tall and has hairless, grooved stems. Great care must be taken in harvesting – proper identification and wearing gloves.

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Cow Parsnip, or Common Hogweed, is endangered in the state of Kentucky and is considered a special concern species in Tennessee. It can grow typically between 4-10 feet tall and has fuzzy, grooved stems. Cow Parsnip has thorns along its stem. Its leaves grow to be typically 1-1.5 feet wide and serrated. The palm-shaped, fuzzy leaves radiate at the end of the stalk in a semi-circle and are divided into three segments. Cow Parsnip blooms in May. It has white lacey flowers that grow in a flat top cluster and can be nearly 1 foot wide. There will be 15-30 rays per cluster of flowers. For most people, just touching the leaves of the Cow Parsnip will not result in any blisters – it takes getting the “juice” of the stems and leaves on your skin.

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Giant Hogweed is an invasive species that is native to Asia. It grows regularly to 6′ tall and can reach up to 18′. The stems are thick, hollow, have ridges and purple spots. Contact with the leaves causes phytophotodermatitis, which means burns and blisters when the area is exposed to sunlight. Its leaves can grow up to five feet in width. The smooth leaves have deeply incised lobes. Giant Hogweed has umbrella-shaped flower clusters that can grow over two feet in width. There can be 50 or more rays per flower cluster.

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The other plants that look very similar need to be mentioned. Angelica is not toxic to touch and is only toxic when consuming extremely high doses of the root or essential oil. Its stems and roots are edible. It actually is very helpful medicinally for menstrual issues as well as digestive and respiratory, but great care needs to be taken in harvesting since it so closely resembles Poison Hemlock. Angelica can grow up to 9 feet tall and has a smooth, waxy, purple stem up to 2.5″ in diameter. The leaves are compound and can be up to 2 feet wide. Angelica has softball sized flower white flower clusters.

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Poison Hemlock is deadly even if only a small amount is ingested. Its toxins can suffocate the victim in as little as 15 minutes. Native American’s once used Hemlock to poison the tips of their arrows. It typically grows between 3-8 feet tall and has a hollow, hairless, waxy stem. The stems have many branches and have ridges and purple spots. Poison Hemlock smells musty, almost like a mouse. Its leaves are bright, shiny and fern-like. Poison Hemlock leaves can be a foot long and 4″ wide. The white flower clusters are loose and lack the purple heart at the center. They are flat topped and are on all branches.

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There are a few varieties of Hemlock. Spotted Water Hemlock grows about the same height and has smooth, hollow stems. It also can have purple spots or stripes. Water Hemlock has toothed, oval leaflets. Its white lacey flowers branch off the main stem.

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Queens Anne Lace is an invasive species. Some people are sensitive and have similar burns and blisters as with the other species mentioned. Queens Anne Lace is very toxic when consumed. It grows up to 4 feet high. Queens Anne Lace has feathery leaves with fine hairs on them. Its stems are branched and hairy. Its dense, white flowers can be 5″ across. What is most helpful is locating the dark “heart” at the center of the flower cluster. This helps to differentiate it from Poison Hemlock.

elderberry

Black Elderberry looks much more like a woody shrub than any of the others. It too has a white cluster of flowers. These flowers can grow up to 8″ across and the shrub can grow up to 8 feet high. The leaves are compound and can have up to eleven elliptical leaflets. Syrup made from the berries is a phenomenal tonic and immune booster. Its leaves are serrated and form on opposite ends of the stem, unlike the alternating leaf pattern of the Water Hemlock.  The berry clusters droop where they connect to their woody stems. This is helpful in differentiating it from the Dwarf Elderberry whose berry clusters stand upright.

Nettles & Stinging Flowers

The Common Nettle (also known as the Stinging Nettle)  and the Wood Nettle are two other native plants to look out for. The leaves and stems are covered in tiny hairs. Many of these hairs are soft and do not sting. But these Nettles also have many hairs whose tip breaks off and acts as a needle injecting multiple chemicals into the skin causing a painful sting. The beautiful green leaves can grow from one to six inches long. They are widely oval with coarsely toothed edges.

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Nettle grows up to 3-4 feet tall in the summer and dies down in the winter. Stinging Nettle tends to be slightly taller than Wood Nettle and is found throughout the US. Its flowers can be yellow, green, white, or purple. Stinging Nettle has leaves that are opposite each other whereas Wood Nettle has leaves that alternate. Wood nettle has flowers on the top of the plant and Stinging Nettle has flowers on the sides of its stems.

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Nettle is a frequently foraged herb. It tastes very similar to spinach and is high in nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, Manganese and can be up to 25% protein. By soaking the leaves in water the stinging chemical are removed. They should not be harvested after the plant starts flowering as it changes chemically and can cause digestive issues. Medicinally, Stinging Nettle has been harvested to treat kidney and cardiovascular issues among other things.

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The False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed VERY closely resemble Stinging and Wood Nettle but lack the stinging hairs. Being able to tell the difference is very important when you are out in the woods.  Their leaves are very similar in shape. Clearweed is more smooth than Wood Nettle, False Nettle, or Stinging Nettle. And Snakeroot is somewhere in the middle as far as roughness.

Pilea pumila, 2015

Later in the year, the stem of Clearweed becomes rather translucent and flexible, which makes it more easy to distinguish it from its counterparts. Snakeroot has flowers at the top and Clearwood and False Nettle have flowers along the sides of the stems. When the Snakeroots flowers are fully opened, they resemble actual flowers much more so than any of these – but before they are fully opened it can be a little hard to tell!

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False Nettle, Snakeroot, and Clearweed lack the stinging hairs and their leaves are paired in opposites along the stem. False Nettles leaves are slightly fuzzy and have a rough appearance. Other plants that rather resemble these are Self Heal, Marsh Hedge Nettle, Horehound, White Deadnettle, and Hemp Nettle.

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Scorpionweed is found primarily in desert regions. It is a beautiful small purple flower. It got its name not because of the sting it leaves, but because the flower is top heavy and curls over much like a scorpion tail. Poodle-dog Bush is found in California. It stinks, but it has really pretty purple flowers on a long stalk. It also has tiny hairs that cause stinging blisters. Stinging Lupine also grows along the coastal region in California. It has tiny purple or dark pink flowers shaped in a whirl and stiff hairs that sting the skin. It will also cause birth defects if eaten by cattle.

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Tread-softly, also known as Finger-rot or bull-nettle, is primarily found in Florida but is all over the Southeast. The beautiful white five-lobed, trumpet-shaped flower sits on stalks covered in large spiky hairs. The seeds come in small spike covered pods that bob-white quail and other songbirds love. Its leaves are lobed and similar to an oak leaf. The roots are edible – but they can be four feet deep underground.  The leaves too when cooked are edible. They are harvested for many uses: insomnia, scorpion stings, brain function, diabetes etc.

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