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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Colorful Touches for Outdoor Decorating

Hues You Can Use
Paint dining chairs in bright colors and arrange them around a neutral tabletop. Distressed finishes and bold accessories give this open-air dining space even more personality.

Front Door Style
Set a colorful tone to your home with a front door decked in a fresh hue. Choose a color that works with your home's existing exterior palette. Here, a juicy red door pairs with pale seafoam green siding, creating a complementary duo.

Easy Solution
Colorful containers are a simple way to brighten an outdoor space. Choose pots in various colors, sizes, and textures.

Color Upfront
While outdoor living spaces in the backyard are prime for color infusions, don't forget your front stoop or porch. Use colorful pots for plants, or even add a piece of furniture or two.

Jaunty Stripes
Unify furnishings in a spectrum of colors with the accessories you choose. An assortment of furniture pulls together as a seating area when they share stripe pillows. An outdoor rug unifies the arrangement.

Stripes Underfoot
Turn a scrap of vinyl flooring into a colorful rug for an outdoor space. Flip the piece upside down and paint the backside in a colorful pattern that suits your tastes. Be sure to use paint formulated for exterior applications.

Sunny Day Umbrellas
Provide sun protection with style. Upgrade your patio or deck with an umbrella that sports a fun color or pattern.

Gaze Into Color
Bring your outdoor spaces to life with vibrant decorative accessories. Look to garden sculptures, gazing balls, and accent furniture as go-to objects to display.

Outdoor Wall Art
Add color to your outdoor decorating with a fence covered with suspended flowerpots. It's wall art for your outdoor room. Start with nine terra-cotta pots and coat the bases with spray paint. Next, plot the grid arrangement and secure pot hangers to the fence. Finish by suspending pots from hangers and filling each container with brightly colored annuals or herbs.

Pretty Posts
Separate a garden from the rest of the backyard with a colorful fence. The bright green and blue hues pop against the grass and plants. The fence provides a colorful view from any angle.

Party Atmosphere
Metal furniture is generally affordable and it gives a cool color vibe to your garden or patio. A bar cart is always ready for a party, offering up a handy serving surface.

Colorful Starting Point
The home's exterior creates the perfect starting point for this patio's color scheme. Orange accents, such as throw pillows, hanging fabric, and an oversize letter "B," stand out against the green exterior. Wood candle holders and potted plants bring the natural elements of the yard onto the patio. With plenty of seating and multiple tables, this patio is just right for enjoying bright summer days and warm summer nights.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

12 Signs That Your Child is Being Bullied or Is A Bully

As a Jr. High teacher I have to admit unfortunately, that I see bullying almost on a daily basis ~ some bullying behaviors are worse than others BUT it is still BULLYING! I have a strict policy in my classroom which I hope and pray travels throughout the rest of my building and my students lives ~ Treat people the way you want to be treated! It seems so simple but yet adolescence is so hard and often times a child may end up treating people the opposite just to "fit in" or because of peer pressure. I am also a mother of 3 ~ a son in high school, a son in jr. high, and a daughter in elementary school.

As a mom and teacher of a child/student who has been bullied I want to share this post with all those who are struggling with their child in this area too. Is it typical adolescent behavior or a potential bullying problem?

The profile of the adolescent bully is changing from the schoolyard thug who extorts fistfuls of lunch money to a more covert operator who avoids face-to-face confrontations in favor of phones and Facebook.

The harmful results remain the same, however. Targets of bullies can suffer from physical injuries, social exclusion, depression and, in extreme cases, self-harm and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers bullying a form of youth violence and calls “electronic aggression” an emerging public health problem. And no wonder. Adolescence is hard enough, complicated by hormones and a gauntlet of intense transformations. Throw into that the power struggles, relationship roller coasters and intimidation that are the hallmarks of bullying. Parents are left to decipher a difficult riddle: How can I tell if my child is being bullied or is being a bully? And what's just normal adolescent behavior?

1. Complaints about headaches or stomachaches
This is the easiest way for kids to justify not going to school, says Megan O’Laughlin, a licensed independent clinical social worker in Seattle who counsels troubled teens and families. The symptoms could be real (caused by anxiety or injury) or just an excuse to avoid a potential encounter. According to the 2011 Indicators of School Crime and Safety, a joint publication by the U.S. Depts. of Justice and Education, five percent of students ages 12 through 18 reported missing a school activity or staying home because they feared being harmed by another student.
Parents should rule out legitimate medical concerns, especially if the complaints continue or if the child seems to be experiencing real pain. A trip to the doctor, O’Laughlin says, might have an added benefit: Kids who are too embarrassed to talk about bullying with their parents are sometimes willing to talk it out with a doctor.

2. Unexplainable injuries, from others or self
O'Laughlin says kids are “pretty creative” when it comes to inflicting pain, recalling an incident in which a child swung a backpack full of books at another while passing in the hall. She advises parents to look for bruises, cuts or scratches that aren’t consistent with sports or physical activity. The School Crime and Safety report says 28 percent of American adolescents were bullied in 2009. Of those, almost one-tenth said they were pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on.
Parents should also look for signs of self-harm. A 2012 study from King's College in London, published in the British Medical Journal, found that bullied children engaged in more self-destructive behavior than children who were not bullied: cutting arms, pulling out clumps of hair, head-banging walls and attempting suicide. The same study said self-harm was higher among children with complicating factors, such as family history of attempted suicide, mental health issues or physical abuse.

3. Changes in attitude, behavior and achievement at school
Illogical or sudden changes related to school -- such as skipping classes, missing the bus and asking for a ride instead, walking a different route or losing interest in grades -- might be another sign. A 2010 UCLA study that appeared in the Journal of Early Adolescence asked 2,300 middle schoolers if they'd been bullied, using a 4 point scale of increasing intensity. Researchers found that a 1 point increase on that scale could result in a drastic 1.5 point decrease in GPA in one academic subject.
Natalie Stone, a middle school counselor in Moscow, Idaho, also advises parents to see if kids are meeting “typical developmental milestones” at school. For example, she says, “If everyone around them is getting their (driving) learner’s permit and your kid has no interest; if your kid doesn’t want to go to dances; if your kid is backpedaling and it’s out of character, it could be a symptom of bullying.”

4. Lost or damaged property
Lost valuables such as electronics, toys, jewelry, food and money could be associated with bullying, even though the intentional destruction of property, according to the School Crime and Safety report, is actually the least common form of bullying, behind name-calling, spreading rumors, physical harm, threats and exclusion from social activities.
But it still happens. While teens often misplace their things, the telling clue for a parent worried concerned about a potential bullying situation, O'Laughlin says, might be if the child doesn’t not know where it went, or tries to avoid talking about it. On the front lines, though, Stone thinks cases of outright theft and destruction seem to be decreasing. “It’s easier to say, so and so stole my iPhone. It’s a more traceable thing. The police can get involved,” she says. “Stealing is considered wrong. But being mean to someone is not.”

5. Changes with friends and social circles
Watch out if your child suddenly changes social circles, stops being invited to things, or seems withdrawn from friends they used to be close with. Bullying is often about isolating the victim. And some bullies are likely to attack relationships. “There might be a ringleader and certain social activities are being affected,” O’Laughlin says. But it’s tricky to tell, she cautions. Kids can be bullied and still have friends, and many adolescents experiment with new roles and relationships. Stone, the middle school counselor, says parents who suspect something need to “have their antennae up and pay attention to their kid’s mood when they come from a certain kid’s house or a certain activity.”
One other thing parents might look out for is if other adults in the same school, class or program are talking about bullying. It might signal a lack of supervision or a bully who is getting away with something.

6. Changes in sleeping or eating habits
If a kid is seriously being targeted by a bully, their “nervous system is in overdrive,” says O’Laughlin, the social worker. “They’re in the fight-or-flight response mode. They’re in a stressed-out state.” And that could affect basic bodily functions like sleeping and eating.
Children might avoid the lunchroom during the school day, then come home ravenous and binge. That could lead to stomach cramps. Other clues might be evidence of eating disorders or a large amount of short-term weight gain or loss, caused by stress. Anxiety can also keep children up at night or cause bad dreams.

7. Reluctance/avoidance/inability to talk about it
The School Crime and Safety report found that students who were bullied notified an adult of the situation only 36 percent of the time. Perhaps predictably, adults become involved less and less as the child gets older. Girls tend to report bullying more than boys do.
Kids might not want the “tattletale” label or they might fear further backlash from the bully. Maybe the bullying is too humiliating or painful or painful to talk about, such as an embarrassing picture or rumor being sent to classmates’ cellphones. Or it could simply be a matter of the child not understanding that what’s happening is wrong. O’Laughlin works with parents who wonder why their teens can’t just open up and talk about it. “Where some kids are at developmentally, you might have to give them some space to process it,” she says. “They might need some education from the adults around them.”

8. Intense feelings of hopelessness, shame and depression
Teenagers are trying out independence, and might want to handle bullying on their own. “They might feel like they’ve tried everything and nothing’s going to change,” O’Laughlin says. At that point, the more intense, darker feelings make sense, she says, and it’s not out of the question for really destructive behaviors to begin.
“Research strongly supports the view that all forms of bullying and peer victimization are clear risk factors for depression and suicidal thinking,” Richard Lieberman and Katherine Cowan wrote in “Bullying and Youth Suicide,” a 2011 report created in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists. “Certain populations of students are especially vulnerable to developing suicidal ideation and behaviors as a result of bullying: students who are cyberbullied; students with disabilities and mental health problems; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.”

9. Tendency to solve problems with conflict and violence
One of the biggest signs your child might be a bully is an inability to accept responsibility or solve problems effectively. “They might blame others for things that are going on,” O’Laughlin says. “I know from doing counseling with kids like that, general things like playing a card game, kids might have a hard time accepting that they’re not winning.” Bullies can be aggressive (passive-aggressive counts, too), talk trash or try to dominate and control.
Some consider adolescent bullying a “gateway” criminal behavior. According to the National Education Association’s position statement on Bullying and Harassment, “Boys identified as bullies in grades six through nine had one criminal conviction by age 24. Forty percent of those identified had three or more arrests by age 30. Bullies are at even greater risk of suicide than their targets. Bullies often grow up to perpetuate family violence.”

10. Lack of empathy toward students who are bullied
Stone, the middle school counselor, believes rapid advances in technology and social media have hurt some of her students in one very specific way: “When you meet someone face to face, you get a lot of nonverbal feedback right away. You hear their voice, their inflection; you see their body language, and you understand how they’re feeling. But you don’t get that feedback with electronic communication.”
Many bullies, she believes, simply don’t understand how much they’re hurting others. Online, especially, they act recklessly and without remorse because they’re not able to see immediately that their behavior is wrong. They’re missing empathy in their social development.

11. Problems at school: fights, detention, trouble
According to the 2011 National Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 23 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students on a daily or weekly basis. It is by far the biggest school discipline problem in the U.S. today. Many schools now have specific anti-bullying or “safe and civil environment” language as part of their rules of conduct. Administrators, teachers and parents are increasingly on the lookout for warning signs. Perhaps it’s no surprise that bullies get in trouble more.
A 2003 report in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine studied more than 15,000 students grades 6 through10 and found that bullies were more likely to bring weapons to school, get in at least four fights a year, and be injured in a fight -- all behaviors that are sure to lead to the principal’s office.

12. Overly competitive and worried about reputation or popularity
For Stone, the middle school counselor, adolescent interactions sometimes remind her of a “shark pit.” It’s an apropos description for a 2011 study commissioned by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, which found that many students are involved in “social combat” -- “a constant verbal, physical and cyber fight to the top of the school social hierarchy.”
“Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status,” said Robert Faris, a sociologist who partnered with Cooper. He believes that one of the biggest misconceptions about bullying is that bullies and victims are defined roles. Instead, he believes that, in many cases, they can be the same person. He interviewed students who bullied others to gain respect and move up the food chain. But as their status increased, “they tend to have a higher risk of victimization as well as a higher risk of becoming aggressive,” Faris said.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Curb Appeal on a Dime

Whether you are putting your house on the market, just want a change, just bought a house or feel like your current house needs an update, you don't have to spend a fortune adding curb appeal. Save money while you update your home's outdoor appearance by putting your dollars to work on high-impact projects listed below.

Add Container Plants
Turn your home's entry into an inviting focal point by adding few well-chosen and nicely arranged plants on the front porch will create an welcoming effect. Vary the plant and container sizes and arrange them on multiple levels.

Spruce Up the Paint
This might mean simply touching up trouble spots or prepping and repainting the entire house. When repainting, take the opportunity to choose fresh colors and add an accent color to the paint scheme. Paint test patches before committing to a color scheme; some colors look great on a sample card but are too intense on a house.

Get a Healthy Lawn
One of the least-expensive improvements you can make to improve curb appeal requires two simple steps: First, apply a weed-and-feed treatment to ensure the grass has the soil nutrients it needs and doesn't have to compete with weeds. Second, sharpen your lawn mower blade regularly and cut the grass at or near the mower's tallest setting; cutting it too stresses grass.

Prep the Porch
If you're lucky enough to have a sizable front porch, use it to create a simple but inviting outdoor room. Group a comfortable bench and chairs to create a conversation nook. Keep the porch clutter free and open to cozy gatherings.

Renew Existing Planter Beds
Add or replace perennials and sprinkle in flowering annuals to bring a mix of color, texture, form, and scale. Allow adequate space to accommodate the plants as they grow. Add new mulch often to keep the look fresh.

Revive a Lawn with New Sod
If your lawn is too unhealthy or choked with weeds, consider installing new sod. Remove the old lawn, lay new sod, and keep it well-watered for a few weeks.

Update Materials
Cheap-looking materials detract from a yard's appearance. For sloped areas that still need terracing, use cut stone or precast decorative wall blocks for an high-end look.

Plant Trees
Put in small ornamental trees if you're preparing the house for sale soon. If you're staying put, think long-term and try oaks, maples, honey locust, or other large and strong species suitable for your region. Consider fast-growing species or small ornamental trees, such as pagoda dogwood, redbud, flowering pear, river birch, or Japanese maple; these can add dramatic interest without requiring years to get established.

Replace Exterior Hardware
Address numbers, mailboxes, locksets, and porch lights are perfect for upgrades. These elements are small but add a lot of finesse to your look. Keep the finishes consistent so the pieces look like an ensemble of accessories, not a batch of mismatched hardware.

Install a New Storm Door
A lot of homes are fitted with inexpensive aluminum screen doors that hide an attractive entry door. Newer storm-door designs offer larger glass panels, sturdier frames, and more color choices. If you don't have a storm door, paint the entry door with an accent paint color or clear varnish on wood.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DIY ~ Create Your Own Stunning Hanging Baskets

Use these easy plant-by-numbers recipes to put together the most beautiful hanging baskets in your neighborhood.

Create a Contrast
Even though they're old-fashioned, geraniums are still a top pick for hot, sunny spots -- and they mix well with just about everything. (No wonder they're tried-and-true favorites.) This red geranium is dressed up with a flowing skirt of draping ivy and blue lobelia and a top hat of a simple dracaena for a classic look.
A. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Designer Cherry') -- 1
B. Dracaena marginata -- 1
C. Lobelia 'Waterfall Blue' -- 4
D. Ivy (Hedera helix) -- 3

Try Several Shades of One Color
Create drama in your landscape with a container that mixes several shades of your favorite color. Here, hues of pink fill out and trail down the sides of this hanging basket. We love the inclusion of the coleus; its deeply colored foliage adds beautiful depth to the planting. Grow this beautiful basket in a spot with full sun.
A. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Trailing Rose') -- 2
B. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Light Pink' -- 2
C. Verbena 'Wildfire Rose' -- 2

Pick Drought-Resistant Plants
Create a virtually no-care container with succulents. We've found the biggest challenge of growing beautiful hanging baskets is keeping them from drying out. You can make maintenance a breeze with a planting of drought-tolerant hens and chicks, echeveria, sedum, or other succulents. They're an unusual choice, but require next to no watering, even in hot, sunny situations.
A. Hens and chicks

Make a Statement with Bold Colors
It's tough to pick which is brighter -- the hot pink or the bold gold. Either way, they're great colors to catch the eye from a block away. Up close, the mix of bloom sizes creates visual interest on a more subtle level. Tip: If your home is set back on your lot, choose bright colors to create more impact from the street.
A. Geranium (Pelargonium 'Designer Cherry') -- 1
B. Swan river daisy (Brachyscome iberidifolia 'Mini Yellow') -- 1
C. Nirembergia 'Purple Robe' -- 3
D. Marigold (Tagetes 'Lemon Gem') -- 3
E. Petunia 'Supercascade Rose' -- 1

Use Soft Textures
Plants with small foliage and flowers create a fine texture that adds a touch of subtlety to your landscape. We love this simple but effective combination -- it's like a touch of snow in summer. This basket is best in full sun.
A. Swan River daisy (Brachyscome iberidifolia) -- 3
B. Bacopa (Sutera 'Snowstorm') -- 3
C. Asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri) -- 1

Choose a Classic
A lot of the baskets we've shown you rely on a bunch of different plants for creating contrasts in color or texture. But you can create equally good looks without going overboard. If plant choices feel overwhelming, choose a classic such as shade-loving impatiens and fill a hanging basket with their delicate-looking blooms all summer long.
A. Impatiens 'Victorian Lilac' -- 3
B. Impatiens 'Xtreme Pink' -- 3

Select Soft Colors
If bold, traffic-stopping colors aren't for you, put together a basket full of elegance with soft, pastel colors. (Soft shades of pink, lavender, and blue are especially useful for helping hot, exposed spots seem a bit cooler.) Here, trailing plants, such as verbena create a soft, beautiful display perfect for gardens of any style -- from cottage to formal. This basket is best in full sun.
A. Verbena 'Tuscany Lavender Picotee' -- 3
B. Wax begonia (Begonia 'Nightlife Rose') -- 4
C. Browallia speciosa -- 3

Contrast Colors
Create a "wow" moment by using colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Here, for example, rich purple makes a stunning contrast to golden-chartreuse. This basket does best in full sun. By the way: This container looks as good as it smells; heliotrope is one of the most fragrant flowers you can use in hanging baskets.
A. Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight') -- 2
B. Heliotrope (Heliotropium 'Marine') -- 2
C. Torenia 'Summer Wave Blue' -- 2
D. Vinca major 'Wojo's Jem' -- 3
E. Clerodendrum thompsoniae -- 1

Limit Your Plant Choices
Small baskets can create as big an impact as their bigger cousins -- you just need to pick plants carefully. A secret for success is to practice restraint. Instead of trying to pack in a bunch of different colors and shapes, unify your planting with just one plant of a couple of varieties. This is a great way to add color to a shady spot.
A. Vinca 'Variegata' -- 1
B. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens 'Sonic White') -- 1
C. Coleus (Solenostemon 'Trailing Plum') -- 1

Select Super Bloomers
Lights. Camera. Action! Super bloomers like sun-loving verbena and calibrachoa are ready to start putting on a show as soon as you plant them. They're dependable performers and will keep up their starring role in your landscape all summer long.
A. Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Purple' -- 2
B. Snapdragon (Antirrhinum 'Luminaire Yellow') -- 2
C. Verbena 'Aztec Cherry Red' -- 2