Monthly Archives: April 2014

Curriculae Random: Plant Identification

DandeplayOne of the most important things that a child can learn is the ability to visually observe and describe objects and situations. This allows them to engage actively in learning and in independent research. The ability to describe an object means that you can discern minor differences between multiple objects that have similar characteristics.

An emerging fern
Enter plant identification. Plants are identified using all of our senses. (Although “taste” is not always a wise sense to use.) They look a certain way, they feel a certain way, they smell a certain way, they taste a certain way, and some of them even create certain types of sounds. Plants can be herbaceous or woody. They may spread by seed, by runners, or by suckers that spring up from damaged roots. They may be “hardy” and able to live under deep snow or they might die off as soon as temperatures drop into a light frost. They may be found growing in certain location or they may be observed in many different environments. They may have three leaves or four leaves. They may be broad-leaf or grass-like. They may be edible or poisonous. They may be a look-alike or often referred to by a local nickname. They may also look drastically different depending on their growing conditions, their cultivar (for cultivated plants), their variety, etc.

One of the things that I learned from my father was how to identify certain plants, specifically berries. I could identify yew berries, huckleberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries as well as many poisonous berries such as pokeberries. Later in life I found the ability to describe things to be tremendously valuable and applicable to many things.

Part of the “Curriculae Random” that I have for my children is plant identification. We learn about this through collecting edible weeds, growing different plants from cuttings, from seed, and using other propagation methods, and by talking about the different plants that we see and find and grow at different times of the year.

Blueberry flowers
Blueberry flowers

This year we are growing a variety of tomatoes. We are growing Burgess  Trip-L Crop tomatoes which have a leaf style referred to as “potato leaf” since the leaves do not look like tomato leaves. These grow very long vines and grow large pink tomatoes. We are growing white cherry tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes, patio cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, chocolate brown cherry tomatoes and “heirloom rainbow” tomatoes which might be green with zebra stripes, brown, pink, or red. We are growing different varieties of broccoli and cabbage and brussel sprouts, and we have started seeds outside in the ground, inside with a grow light and inside in the window. We are growing strawberries, mock strawberries and alpine creeping raspberries. We will be picking blackberries, black raspberries, red raspberries and purple raspberries in our backyard as well as taking a trip to Pennsylvania to pick a berry known as the “wineberry” or “wine raspberry”.

Identifying plants requires counting, comparison of shapes, comparison of colors, observation of the environment, observation over time and across seasons, the ability to notice details that make something different from what you are expecting, and so many other skills.

*Note: Curriculae is not a real word. I chose it intentionally It arises from a misunderstanding of a word. Many of us feel that a “curriculum” has to be something official. Some of life’s best learning opportunities are anything but laid out, and sometimes we follow our curiosity and the opportunities that arise within everyday life.


Born to Nurse T-Shirt Review and Give-Away

** THE GIVE-AWAY IS NOW CLOSED **  The two winners are comments 23 and 34. I will be figuring out who those people are and contacting them shortly. Keenie skipped naptime today. :)

The “Born to Nurse” t-shirt from One Creative Mama has become one of my favorites. At two Keenie is still nursing quite  bit, and I like the reminder when I’m surrounded by talk of weaning and children much younger than her that weaned much sooner.

As you can see in the picture she’s all about the fact that she was born to nurse. Like. Mom? Why aren’t we nursing already? I think I asked a fraction of a millisecond ago just as you were pressing the camera shutter button to get this picture. (Just kidding.She asks nicely now. Most of the time.) I tried to get a better picture of her in this shirt. But being two means that she does two things: Move around, and nurse. (More pictures shall follow.)

The Design
The “Born to Nurse” design is just one of several different designs offered by One Creative Mama. It’s got a retro rock and roll-ish style that is cutely trendy with its classic old-school style record as a replacement for the letter “O”. The words, though, are what is important. “Born to Nurse” is a gentle reminder that yes. My child was born to nurse. This is normal. Nurse on!

The Shirt
It’s a silk-screened cotton shirt with a tagless label. The silk screening is soft and pliant and doesn’t change the texture of the shirt at all. (Great for a child that is finicky about appliques, iron-ons or anything that adds stiff spots to their clothes) It holds up well to washing and drying with my preferred lazypants method of “put it in with everything else and hope for the best” (warm wash, regular dry) and doesn’t shrink, fade, or turn into a stiff board the way some things do when recommended wash settings aren’t carefully followed.

The Giveaway
One Creative Mama is giving away two “Born to Nurse” shirts in winner’s choice of size and color. To enter visit and comment below about which design is your favorite. You can earn extra chances to win by following OneCreativeMama on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter (links below).

Winners will be chosen by random number generator next week on Wednesday May 14 at a randomly chosen time in the afternoon that we in the Nurshable household refer to as “naptime” which comes after lunch-o’clock.

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One Creative Mama:

A Mother’s Boutique:

Action Shots
I wanted to get some cute shots of Keenie in this shirt. When it first arrived she celebrated by being SO excited that she ran face-first into the edge of the table. Nursing saved the day but she still had a bruise. When the bruise went away we tried again and apparently it was “jump on everything” day followed by “You are not moving therefore it is time to nurse” day which involves a lot of comical expressions when the nurse does not immediately happen and must be located where it is hiding inside of my sweatshirt. I will continue trying, but here are some action shots that show that the shirt is awesome for everyday life. And nursing of course.

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Full Disclosure:

I was contacted by One Creative Mama to see if I was interested in doing a review/give-away. My response? Absolutely! I love woman owned businesses and products and enjoy the chance to help them get exposure. I received one free t-shirt so that I could write about it from first-hand experience, and they offered two additional shirts to give away to Nurshable readers. I received no other compensation for the review, and have no prior relationship with the company. I also have no issue with talking about negative aspects of any product purchased or free.


One Day Someone Will Tell You That You’re Ugly

Dear Daughter,

One day someone will tell you that you’re ugly. Very few people get to go through life without hearing this one time or another. Not because they are ugly people, but because the world has a lot of ugliness in it.

Before I had children I was scared of this idea, of the hurt that you would feel. Of what I could possibly say. Of the hurt that I would feel at hearing that someone thought something that I loved was “ugly”.

I’m not scared of it anymore, now that you’re here. Each of you.

I’ll sit down with you. I’ll ask you how you feel about what that person said. Do you think that they really think that you are ugly? Do you think that they were trying to upset you for some reason? What kind of situation must there be for a person to say something that they know will be hurtful?

Maybe they really do think that you’re ugly. Let me tell you a secret. Not everyone likes the color yellow. Not everyone likes the color red. Not everyone likes the color green, or brown, or black, or pink. Some people think those colors are ugly. And some people think that they’re the most beautiful thing. There are many people in the world. Too many to be something perfect, because each person is looking at certain things. Some people will think that you’re ugly. Does that bother you? I am sorry. Many people will think that you are beautiful too. And even if you’re the ugliest creature on the face of the planet with every attribute that this society feels is a negative? Physical beauty isn’t the summary of a person’s existence. If you’re really truly ugly? Embrace it and go chase all the ways of beauty that are open to you. Life is too big for there to be one measure of your value.

Or maybe they want to hurt you for some reason. Have you been mean to them? Do they feel ugly? Has someone told them that they are ugly? Has someone told them that you are beautiful, and when they look at you they see their own faults and everything lovely in you makes them feel sad because no one has told them about the beauty that they have? Maybe blonde hair should be jet black, maybe short legs should be long. Maybe brown eyes should be blue, or short lashes should be long. Maybe they have too much of something and feel that means you have too little. Maybe they are caught up in trying to understand what beauty IS, and they need to find one particular thing. Children can be simple like that. They’ll pick a favorite food, a favorite flower, and anything other than what they favor is ugly until they change their minds and love something completely different. Some grown people are like that, too.

Happy people don’t tend to tell other people that they’re ugly. Sad people do. Or sometimes innocent people that don’t think “ugly” is such a bad thing at all, just a simple fact of opinion.

Whatever it is, that word isn’t the huge stabbing insult that I used to think that it was.

In a long ago distant past I felt that a person telling me I was “ugly” was something sad. It HURT. Today? If someone told me that I was ugly? I’d smile gently. I’d tell them that I’m sorry that they feel that way, but that I am happy with how I look and with who I am. I’d tell them that I think that they are beautiful, and that I love the color of their eyes and the softness of their form. That I like how they move when they walk, and how their eyes crinkle up at the corners when they laugh.

Then I’d go and dig in the garden and get dirt caught under my toenails because the joy of being barefoot in the mud is one of the things that makes me beautiful. Or ugly. It really depends on how you view those things.

I like the opinions closest to me, because those are the ones that I will live with every day.

You will hear a lot about “ugly”. It’s this weird thing that we live with. You’ll hear about “fat” and about “stupid” and about “idiot” and a lot of potty words directed at a lot of different people. Look at the person that is using the words. Are they the best judge of these things? Don’t look where they are pointing. Look back at them. Look at the bad driver that is yelling at people on the road. They’re upset because other drivers that are just as bad as them? Make their faults more obvious. Look at the person that talks about how fat everyone is. Have they been told that they are too thin? That they are fat, so they need to point out the people that are fatter?

The ugly things that people might say about you often say more about them than they do about you.

You are not ugly. You are beautiful. As a child you might feel that my opinion isn’t important because I /have/ to feel that way as your mother. I have to say nice things to you and think nice things about you. I’m one of the people that is closest to you, so what could my opinion matter?

With time you will come to understand that those ARE the opinions that matter. The ones closest to you. Those are the people that you live with, that love you, that understand the complexity of you.

Who cares what a virtual stranger or casual friend might think? Do they know you? Or are they trying to summarize you into the box of a single word?


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Dandelion Bread


Our backyard is full of dandelions and edible violets as well as a ton of other food- both naturally occurring edible weeds and planted garden food. I like it that way.

Today we made dandelion bread. We used a modified version of the recipe found on “Saving 4 Six“. (As well as a few other places in a few very similar but varied forms. Hard to know who to credit. :) )

The recipe we ultimately followed was this:
1 1/4th cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup of dandelion petals (no greens)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
2 cups flour

You can use soy milk or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in another. Add wet to dry and stir thoroughly. Put in a greased bread pan.

Pre-heat oven to 400F

Bake for 20-40 minutes. (Mine took 35 minutes but the recipe said it would take 25 minutes and to start checking after 20 minutes.) Your bread is ready when you stick a straw or toothpick into the bread and it comes out clean.

5 minutes before it was finished baking I brushed the top with melted butter. Just because.

It tastes like a non-gritty cornbread with a nice honey taste to it.

Baking with children is messy. Break up the flowers outside. And make sure that the flowers you use are pesticide free. The best way to do this is to have a dandelion farm in your own yard like we do.


You Have a Right to Your Body, I Have a Resonsibility.

Dear Daughter,

When you and I disagree about things, I try and remember that I do not have a right to your body, you have a right to your body. I have a responsibility. Sometimes my responsibility means that I have to do things that you might not consent to in the moment.

You have the right to the teeth inside your mouth, the hair on your head, the butt inside your diaper. You have a right to the arms and shoulders and legs and hips that  are held in place in your car seat.

I have a responsibility to make sure that your teeth are brushed, that your hair is clean, that the butt inside your diaper is changed and rash-free, and that you are safe inside a moving car.

These are not optional things. They are not always things that you can understand the value of.

I try not to fight you on them, not because I’m afraid of tears or find your tantrums to be threatening, but because I don’t feel that you should have to fight with me in order for me to remember that you own this body of yours.

“I’m sorry, I have to brush your teeth” instead of “I am going to brush your teeth whether you like it or not!”

I am sorry that I sometimes have responsibilities that I can’t make clear enough for you to consent. I try and help you get past your resistance in whatever ways I can, but sometimes I have to go ahead and make sure that you are safe and healthy.

I will never take your rights from you in anger, in mocking, or through a sense of entitlement.

<3 Mama


Because Three. (A Short Skit Copied from a Real Today)

Because Three. (A short skit copied from a real today):

Loki: Mommy! Can you get that piece of my thing?
Me: What thing?
Loki: My thing!
Me: Which thing?
Me: No. I can’t. Because I don’t know which thing.
Loki: Yes you do!
Me: I am sorry, that does not work.
Me: No. Really. It doesn’t.
Loki: Okay, I will get the thing.
Me: Okay.

Today needs more coffee.


Sleeping Tigers, Switched-Off Cliffs and Teaching Toddlers about Every Day Dangers

Once upon a time when humans first roamed the planet.. There were no Dangerous Steep Cliffs that had an off-switch, and sleeping tigers were still very dangerous to poke. Back then parents didn’t have the luxury of teaching children about dangerous things with a “no! no!” and they simply showed their child the fear that the parent had for the dangerous thing, and the child knew not to approach.

Today we interact with our Dangerous things. We ride in the cars that can run us over. We cross those streets. And when our child runs towards those things we…. Do what? We often do the same thing that we do when our child interacts with the Dangerous Things that are turned off.

“No!” we say and run after them, turning it into a marvelous game of chase where the child runs as fast as they can away from the parent. (Usually right into the street.)

I don’t. I stage opportunities for my children to safely approach a danger in its “off” state. And I allow panic into my voice. It’s a dangerous sleeping tiger, not an empty road. It’s a cliff, not a stove that has been turned off. I look ahead, I make sure that the road is clear, and I watch as they approach the street alone. I drift closer and as they approach the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the quiet residential street that we live on, I call out in panic and freeze until they look at me, startled, and begin to toddle towards me in a rush of instinct to climb into my arms. I run over to them, sweep them up against my chest where they can feel the rapid beat of my heart from the adrenaline rush I just pushed myself to have.

“Not alone.” I say. We cross while holding hands, in the stroller, while I carry you. Not alone.

When a toddler hears a parent be afraid they become afraid. This is instinct. It’s a part of them just like reflexes are.

When a toddler with a healthy attachment is scared they run towards the parent even if the parent is right there with the source of danger.

This is how my children learn that they stay on the sidewalk and don’t go near the grassy edge. This is how my children learn that we hold hands and don’t let go when we walk through parking lots. This is how my children learn that they don’t touch the stove, that they don’t reach for things that are above their heads on counter-tops.

And as they get older I teach them what to watch for, and we talk about earning trust as they tell me what it is that they need to be able to see and what they need to be able to do in different situations.

They learn about danger, not as something that I “don’t want them to do”, but as something that I am afraid of. As a sleeping tiger.

The Happy Things Hands Can Do After Hitting

Your hand slaps against my face suddenly. I catch the feelings that balloon inside of me and I breathe them out before they burst.

Time can slow like this.

I turn my face to look at yours, catching your still-raised hand in mine.

“Keenie, ouch. That hurt mama. Ouch! Ouch! Mama’s sad. I’m sad.” I say, and let sadness show on my face. You know “ouch”. You’ve heard it when you fall. You know “sad”, you’ve heard the word when you’re sad about how your brothers have done something that you don’t like.

You giggle and say “funny!”.  My face stays sad. You pull your hand away and try to hit again. I put you down and say “Please don’t hit me. I don’t like that. Ouch!” and you launch yourself at my legs in upset, trying to clamber back up to where you want to be so that you can hit again.

You are not a small sociopath, you are not a bully, you are not mean, and you are not being abusive. You’re exploring. Your learning. You’re developing a model of reference for things. You are learning that the things you feel inside of you are not always the things that match the people around you. You are learning that hitting hurts.

This is what learning looks like. Like repetition, like consistent reactions or like exceptions. You have learned that hands are okay for hitting other hands when high fives are given, you’re learning that hands don’t hit faces, that hands don’t hit when angry, that dogs and cats don’t give or get high fives.

I catch your hands and kiss them. I show you how to tickle, to gently pat, to walk them like a puppet on my shoulder. Look? See? These are the happy things that your hands can do. High fives where hands hit other hands. Clapping where hands hit each other. Gentle things. Patting on a drum. Throwing a ball. Hitting a ball. But not my face. Ouch! Oh Keenie, not my face.

We don’t dwell here long. I’ve caught your hands in mine, I’ve shown you what to do instead, we’ve practiced it and you’ve had your success. Now we move past this place from the point of what you have done right, not from the point of an EXPLOSIVE YELL OF “NO” THAT HURTS YOUR EARS and that just says “don’t do that” without telling you what you can do instead.

You are little and still learning, you are learning self control. You are learning the rules of things.

I am grown, and I know these things. And one of the things that I know is that learning takes time. Your hands are big enough to sting briefly but you are tiny and can cause me no real harm.

Being the Calm of Your Storm (Tantrums)

You shriek in outrage, throw the toy that you are holding and start to wail.

“You’re angry.” I say.

You stay within reach, but do not reach out. You process your feelings. If I reach for you right now you will stomp away from me and scream even louder.

This is your storm. Your thunder. Your feelings in full force. The gale that passes through you.

You OWN these feelings. They are yours. They will not be taken from you before you are done with them. You will not be jollied from this, and attempts at jollying you out of your “mood”?

Oh dear. No. You’ve never been a child to distract. I understand. You are upset, and even the thing that you wanted at the beginning is a distraction from the things that you feel.

You pass through them, unreachable in your explosion. Then, as quickly as it began you shriek an ear-piercing shriek and walk over to me, laying your head against my shoulder.

I am not “ignoring” your tantrum to show you that it doesn’t matter. I am not distracting you from your feelings to try and get you to stop crying.

Your feelings are not mine to fix or to own. They are yours.

In this moment I am there for you, for whatever support you need from me. But this is your journey. Your thunderstorm. Your blizzard. Your tornado and your hurricane. Your feelings to understand, to feel, to explore, to harness, to learn to hold and control.

I am not afraid of them. You are small and can do me no harm.
I am not angry at them. I do not see them as manipulative.

I have empathy, for I have those strong feelings too. I’ve learned to control them now as an adult. How must those things feel to you? To hold such bigness in the smallness of your being?

When you come close again, I can apologize if I have treated you unfairly. I can let you know that I understand what you felt. I can hold you close and let you know that no matter what I am here. I can help you put words to the things that you experienced, and I can help you learn that those big things are not as scary as they feel in the moment.

Part of how I will help you do that is simply by staying as calm as you will eventually learn to be. This, child, is what 34 years of practice looks like. And this is where you will grow to be.