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.

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.”

 

 

 

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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A New Girl’s Guide to Shotguns

(First published here)

M. Ashley Evans

Shotguns can be used for a large variety of purposes. They make excellent home defense weapons, are frequently used in police and military applications, and are great for competition and hunting.

Shot Gun Specifics

A shotgun is a lovely tool that can serve its purpose well. It can be used for home defense as well as hunting and competition shooting.  A shotgun fires a type of cartridge called a shell. Inside the shell are projectile(s) (aka shot or a single slug), the wad, and a shot cup that holds the projectile(s) until they reach the end of the barrel. Inside the cartridge is also gunpowder and primer. The primer ignites the gunpowder and the energy expels the pellets from the barrel.

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The energy is divided amongst the individual pellets, which means each pellet is relatively low in energy. This makes it ideal for hunting small game. Also, this makes it great for defense – lower the energy means a wider spread of the pellets. So when an intruder is breaking into your home and is posing a threat against you and your family – the wider area of spread can be very helpful when your adrenaline is high and your hands are shaky.  (But even then – aim small, miss small!)

When the trigger is pulled, the firing pin hits the primer. This causes a very controlled explosion. This explosion ignites the powder inside the shell. The gases released fill up the chamber at thousands of pounds per square inch. This pushes out the shot cup, wad and pellet(s) out the barrel.

Buckshot is a type of shotgun ammunition that even a great many non-hunters have heard of. But let me tell you, it ain’t for everything. There are a wide variety of ammunition calibers and then numerous subcategories. But we will just stick with the basics.

Shotguns ammunition typically comes in a measurement called a gauge. A gauge is the diameter of the bore, or inside of the barrel. The smaller the number – the larger the diameter, which is opposite of pistol ammunition where the larger the caliber the larger the ammunition. A 12 gauge shotgun has a barrel that is 0.727 inches in diameter. If you got lead balls that diameter, it would take 12 of them to equal a pound of led. With a 20 gauge shotgun, 20 led balls that are 0.617 can fit.

Shell length is also a very important number with shotgun ammunition. Not all guns can feed each length. Please make sure you know what ammo your gun is designed for – some guns can HOLD come ammunition but it would be unsafe to attempt to fire it due to the pressure differences within each casing. Common lengths are 2-3/4″, 3″, and 3-1/2″. The longer the shell the more shot pellets it contains.

Ammunition can also vary in Dram Equivalent – which used to be all black powder, but now many companies make ammunition with a smokeless powder. The higher the dram number, the more powder, which means the more energy each shot will have – more energy means more travel distance for the pellets.

Shotgun ammo typically comes in birdshot, buckshot, or slug. There are specialty shots that you can get, but we won’t delve into those. Birdshot has tiny pellets, buckshot has large pellets, and a single projectile is a slug. Buckshot is ideal for self-defense and for deer hunting – two occasions that you want the pellets to penetrate deeply. Slugs look different than an actual bullet, in that they are front heavy.

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Pump action, Semi-auto, and break open are the three basic Action Types. A pump-action requires the hand rest on the slide to be pumped in order to eject a spent shell and this action also chambers a new round. A semi-auto releases the spent casing and reloads the next round simply by firing off the first round – the energy from the fired round does all of that action automatically. A break open does exactly that – it has to open up in a way to which it appears broken and a shell (or two) are inserted.

Shotgun Fit, Mount & Technique

We have all seen the YouTube videos of the poor girl who gets thrown to the ground by the force of shooting a shotgun – it doesn’t take much examination to see that she is not holding her shotgun properly. A proper mount is critical not only for accuracy but for proper dispersion of the felt recoil as well.  Where your gun is placed in relation to your shoulder and dominant eye determines where the projectile goes.

The gun needs to fit properly if you are to lift, aim, then fire it quickly. The best option for ensuring a gun fits is to see a professional, but sometimes that isn’t an option. Because fit is such a detailed endeavor to discuss, we will not go into a lot of details here.

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One quick way to ascertain whether or not the length of pull is too long or too short is to hold the gun by the grip and to bend the elbow. If the butt of the gun doesn’t touch your bicep, it’s a little too short. If you can’t bend your elbow to a 90% angle because the butt of the gun is in the way, then it is too long. The butt of the gun should rest on your bicep. This is just a rough guide but it is a very helpful tool.

It is much easier to mount a gun that is slightly too short than it is to mount a gun that is too long. You should be able to keep your eyes closed and mount the gun then open your eyes and your dominant eye should be squarely looking down the rib (top raised portion traveling the length of the barrel. A raised rib alleviates the heatwaves from distorting the sight picture).

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When you are holding a shotgun correctly, your eye becomes the rear sight. Don’t focus on the front sight. You want to be looking at your target. Keep your eye straight and always on that target. Practice watching your target, finger pointed along your gaze with your arm extended. Move your body, not your eyes. Keeping your sight picture in focus is vital.

Cheek first, then shoulder is the correct method. It sounds a bit backward. If you go to the range you will see many people placing their shotgun to their shoulder first and then bringing their cheek to the stock. This causes you to “chase” your target too much, always a step behind, and you don’t have the control you need. Keep your head straight. If you cock your head over to the side to get your eye into position it will distort your depth perception and sight picture.

You should stand straight and balanced with your weight slightly more on your forward foot. Your front knee slightly bent.  Your feet need to be about six to nine inches apart at least.

So to properly mount a shotgun your standing at the Ready. This means your trigger hand is on the grip, your other hand is on the forearm grip and the stock is in your underarm. Ready to pull it up to your cheek and shoulder. Your feet are in their proper position and you get your target in sight. Lock your eyes on it. As you have your eyes on it push the muzzle forward towards the target. You are moving with the target, keeping your head verticle. Any turning with to follow the target comes from the waist and not your arms.

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While keeping your sight picture, pushing the muzzle towards the target you are also pulling your rear hand forward with the stock. As it comes forward the comb comes up to rest in the dip of the cheekbone. By placing it in exactly the same position it ensures accuracy with every shot. Your shoulder comes forward to meet the gun. Your body and gun move as one unit with the target. You lead the target a bit (this will vary from gun to gun on how much), meaning you are pointed just in front of the target as it is moving. Then you pull the trigger – careful to continue flowing with the target. If you stop abruptly or slow down as you pull the trigger you will miss, this is called follow through.

Practice, practice, practice! And have fun!! All of this will become fluid and can become very natural. Even expert shots will have accuracy issues if they don’t practice for months at a time. A great way to practice when you can’t get to the range is to practice with this indoor technique. First, ensure the gun is unloaded. Then get a flashlight that fits into the barrel and have it turned on. Holding the gun at the ready, keep the flashlight beam aiming at the corner of the ceiling. Practice mounting the gun all the while keeping the flashlight beam aimed at that corner. Once you do this a while, then practice making the beam travel along the line between the ceiling and the wall first one way and then the other. Practice until this all becomes one fluid motion

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A Girl and Her Hawk

By M. Ashley Evans

First published here: https://henoutdoors.com/blog/a-girl-and-her-hawk/

I had the privilege of interviewing Sarah Molnar recently. Sarah is a sweet lady and an enthusiastic hunter. It was such a joy getting to talk to her about falconry! (Falconry: the sport of hunting with falcons or other birds of prey)

Sarah started the conversation by telling me how she got involved in falconry. “I fell in love with falconry several years ago. I have always been a hunter and fisher, but falconry has forever changed my life. My first boyfriend was just starting his journey in falconry, and it became something that we both enjoyed. I got to see him and his friends work with different birds of prey, mainly red-tails, and I fell in love with the sport. It was one of those things that on our off days, we were out hawking. Every chance we got, we were flying his bird, hunting rabbits. It was a completely different way of hunting for me, and to see the bond between the falconer and the bird was simply amazing. I began my own journey a couple years later and found a sponsor to teach me the sport, and ever since, I can’t envision my life without it. I am constantly looking forward to going out hawking and hunting with my bird, and I get sad when the season ends and we have to wait until the next season to hunt. I am always looking for birds of prey, especially red-tails as I drive from one destination to the next.”

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(Sarah’s hawk, Ella)

Sarah shared a picture of her hawk. “I have a juvenile red-tail hawk. She was born this past spring in 2017. As a falconer, we can only trap immature red-tails. Our trapping season here in Michigan starts in September, and this is when the birds have been hunting on their own for awhile, and are proof that they can be good hunting birds. My red-tails name is Ella, and she will be a year old this upcoming spring. She hunted the small game season up until March 31st, and then I began fattening her up for the molt so she can grow out her red feathers. As an immature bird, she has a brown tail, a dark brown belly band on her chest, and light eyes. As she molts into a mature red-tail this summer, she will grow a red-tail, her chest will become whiter, and her eyes will get darker. Once the hunting season starts again in September, I will re-train her some, and we will be hunting again.”

Ella is a beautiful red-tailed hawk with very large feet. Sarah explained that having large feet is a huge plus in the falconry world! Large feet are one of the signs to look for when trapping a new hunting partner. Birds with large feet can hold onto the smaller game well, and often their grasp will kill them instantly. Ella is very even-tempered and doesn’t rely on Sarah as her primary food source.

In falconry, the birds need to be taken out on a hunt about 6 times a week, weather permitting. Windy days and stormy days are generally avoided and area treated as days to recuperate. It’s very important to exercise and train your birds as much as possible. Interestingly, the female birds are larger. Immature birds are called “Passages” and the mature birds called “Haggards” Small game is hunted during the appropriate season, typically beginning in the fall and ending just before spring. Small game hunted includes squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally a pheasant. Other small animals have been harvested by birds of prey including opossums, snakes, and voles.

Sarah continued, “I grew up hunting rabbits and squirrels with my .22, but I have found more joy in hunting these animals with my red-tail. It is a more intimate bond because my bird has gained my trust, and she follows me from tree to tree as I beat brush and try to spook out rabbits or squirrels, and she is able to chase and hopefully connect, giving us a successful hunt. And if Ella doesn’t catch any game, it still is good for her to get out because it allows her to use her muscles, and get exercise as if she were out in the wild. I enjoy seeing my red-tail chase either game because she is a really good hunter. Ella follows me and is right with me if I was to spook something, but a lot of time as I’m walking through the woods, I may spook something way ahead of me that I may not see, but my bird will see it and will chase it. It is important to always make sure you know where your bird is in the woods and whether it’s down on the game or not. While hunting, our birds wear bells and a transmitter. The bells allow us to hear where our birds are, and if they go down on the game, we can hopefully locate the bird on the ground. The bird also wears a transmitter so if she was to fly further away towards an animal she saw in the distance or was to get bumped out by a resident red-tail, we would be able to track her down and locate her.”

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(Ella with a rabbitFalcon and Preybit kill)

Sarah walked me through the process of how to get started. (Although different states and regions will likely vary) “In order to get into falconry, you need to take a test through the Department of Natural Resources in your state. You must pass this test with a score of 80%. The next step is to find a sponsor. A sponsor is a person who has been a falconer for 4 years, and willing to teach you their ways of falconry and is there to answer questions. Once you find a sponsor, then you will build a mew, which is their hawk house. There are certain requirements for a mew such as windows and perches, and once the falconers’ mew is complete, the mew must be inspected by a game warden. Once the game warden passes you, then you are eligible to get your permit to trap. Here in Michigan, we have to pay $100 a year to maintain our license. Once all the big things are taken care of, then you can gather up the gear you need, and be tying nooses and making your trap, as anticipation of trapping begins. As an apprentice falconer, you are allowed to trap an immature red-tail or a kestrel (here in Michigan). Once you become a general, you are able to have different types of birds and more than one at a time. You then become a master falconer after 5 years. A lot of states require apprentices to have at least 12 months of experience (2 seasons) before they become a general. As a falconer, you can keep your bird however long you want. If your bird turns out to be a good hunter their first year, a lot of falconers will keep their bird the next season because the bird will be an even better hunter because it knows what to do. I knew a falconer who kept a bird for 21 seasons before he retired the bird back to the wild.”

Training a wild hawk sounds impressive and difficult. Sarah explained how to do it in a step by step fashion. “Like any other opening day, the start of trapping is a big day for the falconer. We have prepped all summer by locating where the immature red-tails are hanging out. As the big day finally comes, you will find all if not most of the falconers out trying to locate their bird. We create a trap called a BC, which is a style of a throw-able trap that can we throw out the window. It consists of some type of mesh that we can put gerbils or mice in, and then we tie nooses that are created from fishing line, and this traps the bird. A lot of times, the birds will be sitting on telephone poles or trees close to the high way, so this allows us to drive past them, pull our binoculars out, and identify whether an immature or a mature red-tail. Once we identify that it’s an immature bird, we throw out the trap, drive and turn around, and a lot of time once you turn around, the bird will already be on the trap. We wait for the bird to dance a little on the trap, and once it tries to fly away and can’t, that’s when we go in and get the bird off the trap. We inspect it to see if it’s healthy and if it’s a bird that we want to keep.

“Once we determine that it’s a bird we want, we then put equipment on the bird, and sit with it right away so the bird can know that we aren’t here to hurt it. The goal is for the bird to eat from us, and the earlier the better. Once the bird has eaten off the glove, we then continue this for a few days, gaining the birds’ trust. After the bird gets used to feeding off the glove, we then do jump-ups. These consist of jump ups where the bird is lower than the falconer, and the bird has to jump up to its food. A few of these, and then we move to tidbits, which is training with little bits of meat. This allows us to call our birds down to us while hunting and we reward them with tidbits, then we move on to creance training. This is where the bird is tethered to a rope and the bird flies anywhere from 50-100 yards in an instant. The goal here is for the bird to be hungry and to come to the falconer with no hesitation. Some days the bird may be too fat and may not respond to come right away, and this lets the falconer know that the bird needs to lower its weight. The whole objective for falconry is based on weight management. Our goal as Falconer is to find that weight that the bird will respond too. If the bird is too heavy, the bird will not be interested in hunting or flying and will just sit like a bump on a log. Once the bird does well with creance training by flying right to the falconer, we then know it’s time for the birds’ first free flight.” The idea of a chubby hawk made me laugh. I had no idea that a bird could eat enough to make it weigh too much to fly.

Sarah continued to explain the training, “We then train the bird to come to the lure. This is a big piece of meat that is used in an emergency. This consists of a big meal indicating that the bird will come down. Sometimes a resident bird may come into the hunting area and your bird may not like it, or the bird could be aggressive, or something else could go wrong, that the lure is our safety net. The lure is also used if the hunt was unsuccessful and we have to call our bird down after a hunt. We then throw out the lure, and our bird is rewarded for its efforts. Also, a lot of falconers birds catch game after each and every hunt, and then the lure is used for a trade off to get their bird off the kill and onto the lure so the fresh kill can be placed in our vests and stored away for a later time for food. This is when the bird is not connected to the falconer in anyway. The bird is perched and could fly away at any time, but the goal is for the bird to come instantly. This is always a scary time for the falconer because this shows whether our training has paid off or not. Once the bird comes to the falconer, with it being free, we then know we are ready for hunting.

“Training takes between 3-5 weeks, depending on the attitude of the bird. Falconry is based off rewards. Like dogs, the birds come to us because of food. We reward them for their training, their work, their trust. And there are times that we don’t reward them because of bad behavior. Myself, as a falconer, I have a whistle that I blow that indicates that I have tidbits, or that I’m calling my bird to me. I also use a whistle to indicate to my bird that I am calling her to the lure. This is a long blow, and often times the bird sees me get the lure out before I blow, and the bird is already on her way to me. Once the bird lands on the lure, I then go and clip her in and attach her back to her rope. If I wasn’t to attach to her to me, and she was to eat the lure and fly back into a tree, she would be too heavy and wouldn’t come down to me. I would have to wait overnight and try and go back and get her in the morning. Generally, red-tails stay in the same area overnight. She would burn off energy overnight, and would be hungry enough to come down to food in the morning.”

Sarah said that often landowners will ask her to come onto their land and will join in on a hunt, happy to see pest species like rabbit and squirrel numbers toned down. It’s important to hunt from several different areas and to rotate frequently. This helps to ensure that prey numbers are sufficient and that the prey doesn’t get too used to having such a skilled predator right at their doorstep. Frozen food is used also. Hunters will keep frozen food on hand to supplement during the offseason. Also, some hunters will take the kill, give the bird a reward, and save the harvested animal for food during the offseason. This provides essential nutrients that help the bird plump up and molt during the offseason.

Falconry is a beautiful partnership that is beneficial to both sides. As a hunter, you benefit from the experience and the superior hunting skills of your bird. And the bird benefits too because you are helping to train him to be a better hunter. Up to 80% of red-tails don’t make it during their first year in the wild, so keeping a bird for a couple of seasons is an excellent way of helping nurture the population and providing healthy mature birds to repopulate. Some falconers release their bird after each year, some after two, and some keep their birds up to 20 years. “Each bird has their own attitude and will react to things differently, whether towards colors, or other birds. They may pick up on things they don’t like. I have a falconry friend whose bird is extremely picky and wont hunt with men who have beards. The bird seems to fly away when he is near or when he out hunting with them.”

“The bird itself is very intelligent and it shows while out in the field. The bird follows well and stays with me as I’m pushing game, and a lot of time, the bird sees the game before I see it. As falconers, we have a game call that we say when we spook game, “Ho, Ho, Ho”. And the bird responds and moves up if needed, or chases.” Falconers listen for the squeal of the rabbit to know that the bird has managed to make a catch! “Once the bird itself has caught a rabbit or a squirrel, it’s our job as falconers to run and dispatch the game immediately. The squirrel can do damage to the birds’ talons or body so it is important that we kill it fast and humanely.”

A lot is involved in having a hawk as a hunting partner: daily weigh in, almost daily hunting, daily feeding, cleaning the mew, sitting a minimum of an hour each day with the bird to gain trust, etc. Sarah says “It’s a great hobby but it is a big, big responsibility!” It is a little pricey to begin with. Constructing the mew, the fencing for the weather yard, hoods, jesses, anklets, receiver, transmitter, permits, frozen food, etc – but the bond with the bird is priceless and is an investment into conservation and wise wildlife management.

“You do develop a bond with your bird. It is a trust bond. I am out hunting with my bird, and she is free, up in the trees following me as I am the brush beater down below trying to flush out game. She can fly away from me at any given time, but she decides and continues to stay with me because I act as her mate. We are working together. It also is amazing to see a falconer, bird and dog work together. And the sport has allowed me to gain lifelong friends, and share the sport of kings that we all love so much.”

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(Sarah Molnar and her hawk, Ella)

If you would like to follow Sarah and Ella on their hawking journey, check out her Instagram and give her a follow!

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