Friday, January 26, 2024

Easy Ways to Make Your Yard Look Amazing

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If your yard is not exactly an inspiring place to spend time, then you need not worry because it is actually really simple to change that, yes, even if you are not particularly green-thumbed. Here’s how:

1. Plant a Wildflower Wonderland

If you want your garden to look amazing, but you aren’t exactly a pro when it comes to growing, then wildflowers are your new best friend. These aren’t your high-maintenance roses or diva-like orchids. Wildflowers are like the free spirits of the plant world – colorful, resilient, and pleasantly low-maintenance. Sow some wildflower seeds in a corner of your yard and watch it transform into a vibrant, butterfly-friendly paradise that you barely need to maintain, in no time at all.

2. Create a Cozy Fire Pit Corner

Imagine a cozy corner with a fire pit where you can roast marshmallows, share stories, or just stare into the flames pondering life’s mysteries. You don’t need an extravagant setup – a simple fire bowl and a few comfy chairs will do the trick. It’s like having a camping experience without the hassle of, well, actual camping.

3. DIY Birdhouses: For the Tweeters

Invite some feathery friends over by setting up birdhouses. You can DIY these with some basic supplies and a bit of elbow grease. It’s like opening a boutique hotel for birds – just be prepared for the chirpy wake-up calls.

4. Lawn Care Services: The Grass Gurus

If you want to keep it looking lush without turning into a full-time grass whisperer, consider hiring a residential lawn care service to take care of your grassy areas. They’re kinda like personal trainers for your lawn, keeping it in tip-top shape while you sit back and enjoy the greenery with your feet up.

5. A Garden Path: Lead the Way

Add a winding path through your yard using stepping stones, gravel, or wood chips. It’s not only practical but also adds a touch of whimsy and mystery. Where does it lead? To a hidden garden? A secret reading nook? Let the path tell a story.

6. Water Features: Bring in the Babble

Nothing says zen like the sound of trickling water. Add a small fountain or a birdbath to bring a calming vibe to your yard. It’s like having a mini-retreat for when life gets too loud.

7. Upcycle with Unique Planters

Get creative with planters. Old boots, wheelbarrows, or even an unused bathtub can be quirky homes for your plants. It’s like a fashion show for your flowers, and the more eccentric, the better.

8. Outdoor Lighting: Set the Mood

Strategically placed outdoor lighting can transform your yard into a magical evening escape. String lights, solar path lights, or even DIY lanterns can create a warm and inviting ambiance. It’s like giving your yard a little twinkle.

9. Herb Garden: Spice It Up

Why not grow something you can actually use? Plant a small herb garden. It’s practical, smells fantastic, and you can brag about your ‘homegrown’ seasoning skills. Plus, you’ll feel like a wizard in the kitchen.

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10. Recycled Art: Junkyard Chic

Add some personality with recycled art. Turn old items into garden sculptures or decorative pieces. That rusty bicycle or broken typewriter can have a second life as a quirky garden feature. It’s eco-friendly and a great conversation starter.

11. A Hammock: Swing into Relaxation

Nothing screams relaxation like a hammock. Find two sturdy trees, or invest in a hammock stand, and voila – you have the perfect spot for naps, reading, or cloud-watching.

12. Vibrant Vegetable Patch

Veggie patches are actually much simpler than they look to plant and maintain and they add some much-needed color to the yard, while also feeding your family, so what’s not to love?

13. Rock Garden: Low Effort, High Impact

If you’re looking for something truly low maintenance, a rock garden is the way to go. It’s like the rugged, minimalist cousin of the traditional flower bed – less watering, less weeding, more zen.

14. Themed Garden Spaces

Create themed spaces in your garden – a Zen corner with a Buddha statue and bamboo, a tropical spot with exotic plants, or even a fairy garden for the kids (or the young at heart), and it will easily add more interest and turn your yard from drab to fab.

15. The Personal Touch: Garden Decorations

Garden gnomes, wind chimes, or a quirky welcome sign can give your yard personality and make it feel more like you in an instant.

16. Vertical Gardening: Up, Up and Away!

Short on space? Think vertical. Use your walls and fences as gardens. Install shelves or hanging planters and fill them with a cascade of greenery and flowers. It’s like creating a living piece of art – plus, it’s a great way to hide that fence that's seen better days.

17. The Secret Nook: A Hideaway Haven

Every yard needs a secret nook. It could be a small bench hidden behind some tall plants, a hammock tucked away in a quiet corner, or a tiny table and chair nestled under a tree. It’s your personal hideaway for those moments when you need to escape – without actually escaping.

18. Repurposed Pallets: Rustic Charm Galore

Wooden pallets can be repurposed into just about anything: garden furniture, plant stands, or even a mini deck. It adds a touch of rustic charm and screams ‘I’m eco-friendly and crafty’ without actually screaming – because that would be weird.

19. The Nighttime Glow: Solar Light Magic

Solar lights are a must for that twilight magic in the yard once the sun sets. Line them along pathways, around your garden beds, or hang them from trees. They charge during the day and light up your garden at night, creating an enchanting nighttime oasis. It’s like having your own little galaxy of stars at ground level.

With these simple ideas, your yard can be so much more than just a patch of grass. So, go on, give these a try, and watch your garden transform into a spectacular outdoor sanctuary. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Keys to Rewarding Our Children

Sometimes we need to implement reward systems to help our children achieve a specific goal or behavior. We need to increase their motivation, and this means developing a reward system that aligns with their needs. While there are many benefits to a reward system, not just getting them to do the things you want them to do, but also increasing their self-esteem, encouraging responsibility, and developing new skills, it's important to understand how to implement an effective reward system. Let's show you some methods.
Involve the Child

Involving the child in choosing the reward is critical because if they have a very specific love or passion, you can use this to your advantage. For example, if they love to watch anime movies online, it helps you set an appropriate goal. However, it's important to be age-appropriate too.
Be Realistic

Realistic expectations are just as important because we may find out soon that we're asking too much of them. Goals always need to be achievable, and while something like tidying their room may seem like a monumental task, we know our children well enough to give them the right types of support to help them do this. For example, when tidying their room, they may not do it to a high standard, but the fact that they have done it is worth rewarding. We should always strive for consistency at the outset, and then we can raise the bar later.
Offer Specific Praise

We should always praise our children for the efforts they've made because this is something that is incredibly hard for them. Going back to the analogy of them tidying their room, if they've done it, we need to praise them for doing this and encourage them to keep doing it often. So, then we continue to offer specific praise on a regular basis that improves their self-esteem.
Be Patient

As children learn new skills, it can be tempting to rush them along, especially if there's a time-specific goal, for example, one week of tidying their room every night. However, if the skills involve learning something new, it can take some time to get used to it, and they may challenge this by saying they're not able to do it or not have the confidence. When we choose a skill for them to do, it always has to be within their abilities, but even if they are learning something new, we should give it time. We have to remember that learning a new habit can take anywhere between 18 and 254 days!
Be Clear in Your Direction and Guidance

The child needs to know exactly what has to be done, whether we are homeschooling our children and are in the process of learning something new, or we just need to get them to tidy their room. We should always provide clarity because mixed messages could result in them getting frustrated, as well as us. Ultimately, to implement a good reward system is about following through on what you promise. If they want something because they did five days of tidying their room, they have achieved this, so, therefore, we have to deliver what we promise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Rylie's Highlights before She turns Eighteen

Our daughter is such a remarkable young woman, she's very mature for her age.  At seventeen, she has accomplished a lot of things.  
Knows How to Read and Write Before Kindergarten

We taught both of our two children  at home during their pre-school years.   Hubby and I agreed that I stayed home and take care of our kids.  It's not  ideal  financially but it's a great decision that hubby and I made.  We knew that our daughter  is one smart cookie even when she was way little.  She just have that  eagerness in learning new things.
She has that patience and focus for learning compared to our happy-go-lucky son lol.  I mean, our son is equally smart as hers but he doesn't have the focus that she has.  She knew how to read and write before she started kindergarten which I am so glad that my husband and I were their first hands-on teachers.  Her friends even joke about her being smart because she was homeschooled during pre-school.

Winner of an International Smile Contest

She was the winner of an international smile contest for the month of October 2009. This contest was sponsored by Division of Pediatric Dentistry, Department of Oral Health Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada.  We were in South Korea when this was held.  

Gifted Program from 2nd Grade to 8th Grade

When she was in second grade, she was tested for the gifted program at school and passed.  It was a great middle school learning experience for her as she got to do extra stuff that she didn't do in the regular classroom.  Below are some of the projects she did.

Doodle for Google State Winner

She's into arts when she was young so her art teacher  (thank you Mrs. Wright!)  recommended her to enter the Doodle for Google contest.  She was the winner for our state, West Virginia.  Some of the representative from Google came to Weirton to celebrate her win and brief her what to do for the national round which was held in California.  She didn't win the national round but it was a great experience for her and for us as well. We got to explore the Google headquarters.

Kinsley S. Ard Memorial Talent Show Winner

First Prize on  the Kinsley S. Ard Memorial Talent Show held at Milton J. Weinberg Theater, on March 28, 2014 against 14 other participants.  She played Hunter on the piano.

Anti Bullying Contest Winner

She won  the anti-bullying contest art contest in 2016.  For her entry, she  combined her passion for arts and baking into  one idea and it turned out well.  

A Time To Heal Racism Art Contest Winner

She was the grand prize winner of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development art contest with the topic I mentioned above.

Healthy Soils Full of Life Art Contest Winner

She won the art contest dubbed as Healthy Soils: Full of Life sponsored by the Northern Panhandle Conservation District on May 5, 2017.  She received a cash award sent as check in the mail.  We were not able to  go to the  awarding ceremony due to schedule conflict with her sports but it was really a good opportunity  where her art talent shined.  

History Bowl Finalist

Her team was the runner up in the History Bowl  in the regional round in Wheeling and was one of the finalists on the championship round in Charleston, WV.

Aquinas Medal Awardee for 2019

She was named and awarded 2019 Aquinas medal Recipient for St Joseph the Worker. We attended the  25th Annual Bishops Dinner for Catholic Schools on Sunday, April 7, in Morgantown, West Virginia where the awarding ceremony was held. This is the highest honor a student can receive from the diocese. The award recognizes students for their outstanding qualities of faithful discipleship, academic excellence, leadership and service to school, parish and community, reflecting the ideals of Catholic education epitomized by St Thomas Aquinas the patron saint of students.

Class President, Freshman to Senior Year

She served as the class president from freshman year till senior year.  (2019-2023).  This is a great leadership experience for her.  We let her lead without us interfering too much, she gets to decide what fundraising they do and we just support her whatever she needs.  I think it is important that class officers make decision and not the parents.  If parents would decide for them then there would be no learning avenue for these kids.  I am glad that our daughter gets to do it with very little influence from us.  I think she did a great job.

National Honor Society Member

She is a member of the National Honor Society.  She excels in academics that's because she put her 100% effort into it.  

National Merit Semifinalist

She was one of the 3 named as National Merit Semifinalist in Northern Panhandle schools.  

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an annual academic competition in which high school students compete for college scholarships and recognition. The program is administered by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), a privately-funded non-profit organization. Winning a National Merit Scholarship is a fairly difficult undertaking.

SAT and ACT Scores

Our daughter doesn't have additional preparation in taking the ACT and SAT, she rely on the information she have learned from school.  Some of the kids in her class has tutors prior for taking these tests so they have advantage.  Our daughter does good though without tutors.  We bought her a couple of books but she doesn't really have time to read them.  We're pleasantly surprise though that her scores are very high.  Below is her ACT the very first time she took it, then the second time she scored 32, then she took the last one last Saturday (Oct. 22).  

Her SAT scored improved as well, I forgot what she got the first time but below was the second time she took it.  She took the last one this month and brought her score up to 1540.

Krivak Tuition Scholarship Winner

She won the Joe Krivak Tuition Scholarship for two years (2021-2022) with $500 prize credited towards her tuition.  Every year, the school encourage students to write an essay to be selected as the scholarship recipient.  Sending  our kids to catholic private school is expensive but it's worth it.  These scholarships helps a little.

First Job as a Fastfood Crew

As soon as she turned 16, she started working at Taco  Bell.  My husband was against the idea of her working but I supported her  decision on working.  I think it is a great avenue for her to deal with people which is a hard thing for her being an introvert.  It also give her the freedom to have her own finances.  She pays for her gas and occasional eating out and she's so happy that she have her own money in the bank.

Rhododendron Girls State

This wasn't one of her fondest experience but I think it pushed her out of her comfort zone for being shy.  Although she said she didn't really enjoy the experience but it's something that she realized that in life, not everything is a bed of roses, that there are  a lot of curbs and bumps along the way.  I still think that Rhododendron Girls State was a good learning experience for her.  She's an introvert so meeting new people and interacting with them can be very uncomfortable at first but I'm glad she went, she gained few friends that she still keep in contact with.
Nomination to the Academies

On October 10th, she received the nomination for both Naval and Air Force Academies from Rep. McKinley.  She interviewed for the Senator Manchin virtually.  She forfeited her interview with  Sen. Capito because it was on the Homecoming Court Day.   This process has been difficult.  We were not sure if she was still interested in going to the naval academy because she didn't put much effort in putting together the stuff that she needs.  We were on a time crunch but eventually sent her applications on time.  We're glad and relieved that she got the nomination.  Got her physical test and medical exams done  and submitted her application.  She attended the Academy Training Day that Sen. Manchin hosted at WVU on August 27th.  Now, the waiting game begins and that's the hard part.

OVAC AllStar Volleyball Player

She was selected to play for the OVAC (Ohio Valley Athletic Conference) All Stars representing her school for volleyball.  She played with different other all-star athletes from other schools in West Virginia at Morristown Ohio.  It was an exciting match and so happy that the mountaineers won.  WV team hasn't won the match for few years so it was so exciting that my daughter was part of the winning team.  The game took place last November 21st of 2022.
She did a really good job representing her team and the school.
US Presidential Scholars Program Candidate for 2023

We received a letter from the United States Department of Education informing us that our daughter is named as a candidate in the 2023 US Presidential Scholars Program.  I think it's a huge honor not only for her but to the school as well.  We have the Madonna faculty and staff to thank for,  for providing quality education to the students.
National Merit Finalist

In September 2022, NMSP (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) selected about 16,000 students.  The school was informed that our daughter advances as a finalist and sent this certificate of merit.
St. Aquinas Medal Awardee

She told us that the Madonna High School principal informed her that she will be this year's St. Aquinas medal awardee.  We still yet to get the confirmation for  it from school so I can't say for sure yet but I will definitely update this when that time comes.  
It's official, she will have the St. Aquinas Medal.  

US Naval Academy Appointment

It is now official that she will be attending the US Naval Academy.  She was sick last week when Senator Manchin's office called to inform her about the appointment.  She didn't get to share the big news with us until this weekend when she was feeling a little better.  She received the certificate of appointment this week and accepted it.
I'd like to thank St. Joseph School and Madonna High School for nurturing and instilling great catholic values in both of our kids.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Learning How To Truly Unwind

It’s really important for your general wellbeing that you know how to properly unwind and relax. The truth, however, is that so many people are not actually aware of what it takes to unwind properly, and if that is something that you are keen to turn around, then you might need to spend a while figuring out how to truly unwind. As it happens, there are a few key ways you can do this. In this post, we are going to take a look at some of the best ways to unwind well, so that you can relax more in your daily life and enjoy its benefits.

Spend Less Time At Work

There are certainly many good reasons to work hard in life, and we are not arguing here that you shouldn’t. But there is definitely a lot to be said for taking care not to spend all your time at work, and if you are keen to try and unwind better then you will definitely want to think about this in particular. You are not going to have a chance to truly relax if you don’t take some time away from work every now and then, so it’s really important that you are doing that as best as you can.

Have Some Me Time

If you don’t generally manage to find much time, this is something that you will want to change if you are keen to unwind and relax a little more. Without enough time, you will struggle to relax properly. So how can you make sure that you are able to get this time for yourself? One way is to schedule it in, which is of course going to be easier to achieve if you are working less and making the time in the first place.

Do What Makes You Happy

Everyone truthfully has their own way to be happy, and we are all keen to do this as much as possible in our lives. So if you are keen to make sure that you are unwinding properly and fully, you should focus on what makes you happy as much as possible. That is the kind of thing that can really make a huge difference to your ability to unwind, whether it’s Delta 9 THC, eating chocolate, writing about things that inspire you or you're passionate about much like this article by Daniel Lerner and David Lerner Associates, or whatever else it might be for you. However you do it, just pursue what you actually really enjoy.

Spend Time In Nature

No matter who you are, you have to agree that one of the best ways to properly and effectively unwind is to spend some time in nature. Even just going for a walk in the woods and the fields once a week can be a real tonic for your mental health, and you will find yourself generally being a lot more relaxed as a result of following this simple rule. Wherever possible, give yourself the chance to spend as much time in nature as you can and you will be glad that you did soon enough.