Ask Auntie Artichoke

Expert on Parenting and Family Relationships

Ask Auntie Artichoke - Expert on Parenting and Family Relationships

Eight Landscaping Ideas The Whole Family Can Enjoy

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Sprucing up the landscaping of your family home will make your entire property more aesthetically pleasing and welcoming to your guest, but also a great way to spend time with the family and encourage bonding time. Fortunately, there are multiple beautiful and relatively easy things that you can do to dramatically improve the appearance of your lawn while teaching and encouraging your kids to get active. In fact, simply putting a few of these techniques in place can convert an average property into the most beautiful one on the block and something to brag about to your friends about how the whole family was involved.

1. Build a Small Rock Garden

If you have an old flower bed or garden area that you would like to fill with something different, you can build a small rock garden to convert that space into something unusual and visually appealing. As an added bonus, this is one less area on your property that will need to be watered and mowed. This creates a great way to teach your kids about building, but in a simplistic way.

2. Shape Your Hedges

Topiary is a very interesting horticultural practice that can be used to set your yard apart from the rest of the neighborhood. In fact, the amount of choices you have when it comes to shaping your hedges is only limited by your own imagination, and your families. Encourage your children to give their input. Therefore, you can select basic shapes or get a professional to bring something much more complicated to life.

3. Hire Professionals 

Some things are difficult to handle on your own when it comes to pests, or the safety of your children. Pests can cause a lot of damage to your lawn, and many of them also target shrubs and trees. With this in mind, it is a good idea to utilize the services of a lawn care technician to take care of pests and perform a wide variety of other important tasks such as aeration. Seen online at one can view the importance of being sure their license is up-to-date, and that they are properly trained in pest control when handling your landscaping needs.

4. Plant Trees and Shrubs

Having trees and shrubs on your property can give it a more lively appearance, and they can also serve multiple other purposes. For example, you could use a hedge line in place of a fence, and trees offer shade to make it more tolerable to entertain in your yard during the summer. Consider your families opinion when considering where to plant your trees and shrubs.

5. Plant Flowers

There is perhaps nothing more eye-catching than having a carefully selected floral selection planted in key areas throughout your yard. Keep in mind that utilizing a specific color scheme will help create cohesion, and it will also provide your property with a more dynamic appearance. Encourage your kids to help with the digging and take this opportunity to teach them about how to care for such plants.

6. Put Down a New Layer of Mulch

Most homeowners choose mulch that is reddish or brown, and this tends to blend in with the rest of the property. However, if you would rather have the mulch stand out, you can switch to the black option instead. This can provide visual contrast, and it will help make your entire lawn look more exciting. Letting your little ones help spread the mulch out is a great way to spend time together.

7. Mow a Design into Your Lawn

Simply mowing your lawn can give it a healthy appearance, but you can take this one step further by purposefully mowing your grass a specific way in order to create a pattern. There are several different designs that you can choose from, including the patterns that are mowed into professional baseball fields. With the family you can look at designs online, and how it can be mowed to create it.

8. Pay Attention to Your Driveway Entrance

If you have grass on either side of your driveway, you should consider framing this area with brightly colored plants and flowers, and it can also be very aesthetically pleasing to add a driveway gate. Encourage your children to participate it what should be planted.

As you can see, it is not complicated to freshen up the exterior appearance of your home while encouraging family time and teaching your kids the basics about landscaping. The majority of these landscaping ideas can be performed by homeowners and their family, but you can also easily turn to a professional lawn care company if you do not have the proper tools, skills or time to take care of things on your own.

Lisa Coleman is a blogger and homeowner from Atlanta GA whose interests include beautiful landscape and design to enhance a home’s natural beauty. Her interests also include gardening and enjoying the outdoors with her 4 children.

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Thank you for being part of our community of kind, thoughtful people who have respect for all.  Be sure to claim your  free download and find out how to have Judy Helm Wright aka “Auntie Artichoke” speak at your next convention or in-service.  You can contact her at   You will be glad you did.

Why We Get Mad – How Anger Stops Stress

Hello From Beautiful Montana:

“I am furious at you! ” “You make me so mad.” “I am so angry I could scream.”  These are all  angry responses to stress in life.  While it may relieve some of the pressure of the moment, anger takes a price.  It can cost you relationships, employment,respect by others, and love of family.  A major cost is personal for angry people; health related and perhaps even your life. Road rage is an example of allowing the stress and annoyance of being stuck in traffic to escalate into a tragedy.

Benefits of Anger

Stress is a physical experience.  All strong emotions such as anger, fear, excitement trigger powerful hormones which enables a threatened person to run faster, climb higher, shout louder, hit harder and do what must be done in order to survive a perceived attack.   It is anger that is the catalyst of most great organizations that do good in the world.  A mother’s anger that her child has been killed by a drunk driver channels that anger into Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It is the anger against injustice to schooling young girls in third world countries that motivates Greg Mortensen to write  “Three Cups of Tea” and to build schools that will educate them.

Disadvantages of Anger

Angry people are seen as dangerous and others like to steer clear of them.  They are handled like a loaded gun; others are aware that you could go off at any time and they are frightened to be around you. Those whom you need to have a fulfilling life

Anger management can be learned.

Anger management can be learned.

start to avoid you or if they cannot physically leave, tend to guard their words and actions so as not to offend or start a argument.

Not only will angry people find more problems on the job with co-workers and bosses, but will terminated more readily. Those who work with angry individuals tend to avoid situations which may result in an angry outburst and so are reluctant to suggest new ideas or methods of doing procedures, for fear of an emotional outburst.

Physical Changes in Body and Mind

Occasional anger creates no lasting harm to your body and emotions.  However; chronic, sustained and ever present anger keeps the body in a constant state of emergency and relationships in a constant state of fear.  This has an effect on regular body functions such as digestion, high blood pressure, auto-immune diseases, infections,headaches and many more that keep you and those around you from enjoying life to the fullest.

Questions For You

  • What are your triggers to anger?
  • Can you think of other ways to vent your emotions without getting so mad?
  • Are there people in your life that you avoid because they tend to handle stress with anger?
  • Has anger ever motivated you to do good?
  • What do you think is the best reaction when a driver is clearly angry and experiencing road rage?

Thank you so much for being part of this community of kind and thoughtful people who want respect for all.  You will want to claim your free ebook on encouraging words at

Your friend,

Judy Helm Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship author and keynote speaker

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Every Relationship is Different

Hello from beautiful Montana:

This is a time of family togetherness and a lot of different personalities to contend with. If you have been disappointed by strained relationships with members of your family or you anticipate difficult conversations, you may actually create your reality.

Every relationship is different, don’t allow tension or difficulty with one person undermine your intentions.  You have the ability to be a good friend, kind neighbor and loving family member.

Recognize That Your Perceptions Color the Issue

Most relationships come from two different perceptions and basis of knowledge.  We bring into every meeting, not only our current self, but our former experiences and judgments. Each conversation and interaction will be influenced by our behavioral style, self esteem, prejudices, likes, dislikes and information gathered by inference or by talking to others.

Black or White?

As you know, I am a parent educator and a tool I use is a sheet of paper that is black on one side and white on the other.  When I show the black side I ask the audience what color the paper is, they answer loudly “Black.”  Then I turn the paper over and ask what color the paper is and they answer, hesitantly “White.”

It really depends on where you are and what you see when you make a judgement.  The paper is actually both black and white.  It is only a perception and a point of view. If you are looking at one side it is black, the other side is white and can quickly be changed by looking at it from another viewpoint.

Recognize that each relationship is different and that each person is an individual with unique qualities and personality traits.  You don’t have to love or even like someone, but you do need to respect them, if you want to have a working relationship.

In gratitude,

Judy Helm Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship author and keynote speaker

Encourage Without Unrealistic Praise

Everyone likes to be praised, right? Actually,  too much praise can have a boomerang effect if the recipient of the compliment  believes it is untrue or unrealistic. It can also cause distrust or discouragement of other members of the team or family.

While praise may be of value, if the child or employee maintains a low opinion of himself or becomes dependent on the outside world to give him an external reward, he is constantly looking for external approval. Our goal as employers, parents, teachers and coaches is to encourage positive progress without unrealistic praise and assist in building inward confidence.

Recently a grandmother asked me on Facebook how to encourage without giving unrealistic and too much praise.

“Have you suggestions between praise and “too much” praise – i.e. “You really worked hard on that project” vs. “You are WONDERFUL” – which is easy to spout but really pretty meaningless. Today’s young workforce expects to be praised for everything vs. deserved praise or encouragement.”

My answer was:

Hi Jo Ann- You have raised such an important point. “You really worked hard on that project” is encouragement and it is praising the process rather than the task.  It is transferable to other tasks and attempts.  You are saying “Keep going, you are on the right path.”

When kids get praised for every little thing they come to expect it and feel they deserve it.  The world of work is not going to give them constant approval. They are in for a big shock when no one is going to applaud their every effort.  If the child has come to look for praise and external evaluation which must constantly be earned, he may be unsure when he will get it again. This causes some to fail or to sabotage efforts of others on the team in order to receive the coveted “praiseworthy” award.

This next generation of children coming up must be able to trust their own judgment and intuition.  They must be able to follow their own inner compass rather than waiting for outside approval.

Difference Between Praise and Encouragement

Praise is like a reward for something well done, and implies a spirit of competition.  The unspoken message is clear; “winner takes all.”  When members of a workplace, family or class are singled out for unrealistic praise, the others become discouraged and also lose faith with the authority figure.

In contrast, encouragement may be given for any effort or for slight improvement.  Encouragement is not concerned with superior-inferior relationships but focuses on making the child or employee understand they are a valued part of the team.

Self esteem comes from an inward knowing that you are a capable problem solver. The effects of encouragement and cooperation that builds respect for self and others have long range and lasting results.

I encourage you to claim your free ebook at:


Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship author and speaker