Saturday, June 5, 2010

Landscaping on a budget

I will preface this with saying I am by far NO expert here.  Yes, I've worked in a florist shop and learned quite a few things but again, not an expert by any means.  However, I LOVE flowers.  Except roses.  You try working in a florist shop during Mother's Day and Valentine's Day and see if you don't ever want to see another rose again.  LOL.  Anyhow, I have a passion for flowers, love trying new varieties and have to do it all on a very, very tight budget.  For that reason, I try to select perennials.  We've been asked quite often how do we afford to do different things w/ so many kids.  Though I don't think we have that many kids, I know everyone's money is very tight nowadays so thought I'd share what I do so that maybe others will have blooms all over their yard as well.  I just think flowers make folks smile and stop and admire the beauty of nature.  I mean, who could not love to stare at this:

This is one of our gardenias.  We have two large gardenia shrubs.  The previous owners planted them too close to the house.  There was no way I would ever throw out shrubs.  I have replanted many flowers and shrubs in this yard.  Doesn't hurt them if you do it right away and do it right.  Always use good dirt for sure.  I tried to cheap out on dirt in the early days and learned that is not the part you chep out on.  So, always re-use plants when you can.  Never throw them out.  BTW, I think gardenias have the most wonderful smell.  And they look pretty too.  They are supposed to be in full sun from what I hear.  We have ours in partial sun and they do just fine.  

This is an area we also took away from when we moved in.  It was covered in monkey grass.  Well, not really monkey grass.  I have to think of the name of it but it is on the tip of my tongue.  Anyhow, we moved it to another area of the yard so the hostas could be the "star" so to speak.  They are around 4 feet across.  Come back every single year.  I do nothing at all to them.  Ntohing.  Love it.  Easy maintenance for sure.  You may notice solar lights on the walk.  yardsales.  $3 for an entire box.  However, my kids ruined those w/ too many soccer balls.  So, I replaced them w/ these.  $3 a piece instead.  URGHH.  We found a wonderful metal plant holder that you drill into a deck for $2 at a yardsale.  Yardsales are the why to find containers, unique lawn ornaments, birdbaths, hammocks, etc.  Anything really.  Or end of season clearance racks at mass retailers.  

Many folks think you can't get plants on sale if they are in season.  Not true.  Lowes always has a 50% to 75% off rack in the back of the garden center.  We always look there first.  See, staff doesn't have the time to dead head or makes sure every palnt is tended to. So, if they get the least bit dead looking, they discount them.  This huge pink geranium is actually 3 separate little ones.  We got them for $2 a piece I think b/c they looked a little dead. Knew they weren't b/c there was new growth on them.  So, picked them up, dead headed them and planted them.  Now look.  You can't even see the planter.  A huge box of a planter which I got at a yardsale for $1.  I spray painted it and well, here you go.  The rocks in our yard were free.  Craigslist is always looking for folks to haul off stuff for free.  Geraniums do very well in heat and the south is always hot in summer.  

Okay, sometimes you just need a little tacky to make things work.  LOL.  I just got this not too long ago at Sam's Club.  We go to Sam's to get the bulk of our groceries.  Well, they too have a discount aisle.  I always look.  This was a watering can.  I think it makes a better planter.  Plus, it'sheavy.  I put petunias in there(on discount of course..dead looking).  These are trailing petunias so these will be all over the place in a few weeks.  Sometimes, think of other uses for things.  

Birdbath...Sam's as well b/c it was the display model.  Now, there is a large hosta in the back that was also a transplant from the front walkway.  I now have a hosta garden w/ a variety of varigated and plain hostas.  Again, easy maintenance plants.  We have azaleas here.  Find something that does well in your climate and stick to it.  These azaleas died off at one point a few years ago due to a horrible drought and water restrictions imposed.  Yet, we let them there, gave them some fertilizer that winter and they're doing fine now and starting to grow again.  The pink hydrangeas are in the front.  These were planted this year.  I have transplanted and cut off hydrangeas for replant.  These are not that example however.  These blooms were finally starting to die off.  I have never cut my hydrangeas the first year.  I always wait.  Don't know why but it seems to work. 

Alright, I'm not happy w/ thow this turned out.  I asked Max & Warren while at the store to pick up trailing petunias.  They did but got the candy stripe variety which does not make as much of an impact as what it could.  I did purple and pink last year.  See:

I always like a dramatic mailbox b/c it is usually the first thing people see when pulling up to your home.  I think the plain, dark petunias make a better appearance.  These are not that expensive.  And though they're annuals, they last all spring and summer.  Very worth it.  In the fall, I plant four mums here.  It's all about vibrant colors.  I love colors that pop.  

You all know those very, very dirt cheap catelogs you get about buy one get 2 or three free?  They send you what looks like a dead stick.  Seriously, my kids make fun of them when they arrive.  These shrubs were those "sticks" just about 2 to 3 years ago.  They are tree rose of sharon.  Beautiful pink blooms covering these in about a week to 2 weeks from now.  I'll be sure to take pictures.  BTW, we've resurrected our Fugi camera.  I swear I'm going to write those people.  That is by far the best camera for durability.  More on that later.  These shrubs are beautiful goign down the driveway.  But, you have to have patience.  For a couple dollars, you can have gogreous trees and shrubs.  So, buy one, get one for a penny.

These are those same shrubs planted at the same time on the other side.  Notice a difference?  Well, when things planted at the same time are not grwoing basically the same, you try to figure out why.  For us, the ground was startign to erode away on this side.  So, we built it up w/ free mulch.  BTW, you can all get FREE mulch.  Just contact the tree cutting people.  They love finding a place to dump it.  We filled it in, staked them, fertilizd them and watered them.  They are thriving again and really growing.  Should be caught up to the other side by next year.  Patience is the key to gardening and thinking through what may be the problem.  

Never turn down something free.  our neighbor gave us 2 grapevines.  This is one of them.  We planted them a few feet apart and are going to build a trellis.  The yard floods badly but it won't affect these.  Or, it hasn't so far anyway.  It never hurts to try free so go for it.  We haven't done grapes but hey, worth a shot.  

I have more pictures of the .20 trees I got this year.  They were literally sticks.  Now, they are about 2 feet tall and w/ plenty of leaves.  Take a chance.  Find new varieties and then stick w/ what works for your yard.  Vibrant flowers hide lots of flaws w/ houses.  Our window boxes hide our window rot for now.  Flowers just make people feel good.  I'll have to show you the backyard plantings one day.  It does not have to cost a whole lot to make a huge impact on your yard.  I know this is all stuff you all know.  But, never hurts to hear it again.  Now, think I can convince my kids to go to the Botanical Gardens in D.C.?  Hope you enjoyed the non-expert tutorial.  LOL.  I love to bring dead flowers back to life.  I hate to waste anything b/c I know in my heart it can be beautiful w/ some TLC.  

It was a big day today and I have lots and lots to share.  Right now, too tired.  Going to bed.  Will get back to everyone who has inquired about the deaf children tomorrow.  I wrote some back today.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Just wanted to say thanks.  Thanks to everyone for donating to the $10K in 20 days campaign.  It spoke volumes to many hearts.  A little over $8600 was raised.  But more was raised in spirit and awareness I feel.  The woman who started this is just simply amazing.  I know I've said that before but she has given so much to so many just out of her heart.  Such a self-less act takes mounds of courage.  I admire that more than you can imagine.  I hope one day to be able to do the same for others.  She has touched so many lives.  More than just the 26 families she's helped or even the countless orphans that will come home b/c of that help.  It is so much bigger than that.  I do wish there was something we could do for Courtney.  For now, all I can say is thanks even though I know she deserves so much more than that.  Our family received $147 as did 24 other families.  One family received $5000 from a random drawing.  That family is even closer now to bringing their baby home from Ethiopia.  What a journey!  Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.  I will try to do a few updates if this computer holds up.  We have 17 wonderful kiddos to find homes for.  Deaf/ HOH kids.  More on that tomorrow.  More later on many things.  Great things happening.  We have some awesome friends is all I can say. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Okay, you all have heard about the $10K in 20days, right?  If not, please please don't delay & check it out today NOW!!!  Let me explain a little more.  A most gracious mom is on a mission to raise $10K in 20 days to help 26 families rescue orphans from around the world.  We have been selected as one of those families.  I am beyond honored.  What will happen is 25 families will recieve a donation of $200 a piece.  Then, a name will be drawn and that one family will receive a donation of $5000.  It is just an awesome, awesome endeavour without a doubt.  The heart that went into this is simply amazing.  Right now, they are $1860 short of their goal.  Do help spread the word however you can.  I"ve been facebooking quite a bit on this the past week.  And, on here.   Trying to get folks to just donate the price of 2 loaves of bread if nothing else.  Or, maybe you'd like to save quite a few lives this month & forego that outing out to McDonalds.  Just a one time donation is able to change several lives forever!  That astounds me.  I know for a fact, 3 lives will be changed for sure.  Mroe than you can imagine and though I can't write much right now, I will in the future.  I do hope you will join me in donating tonight to help them reach their goal. This is not for us.  This is for the children.  Not just ours to be, but many, many others.  Some of the 26 families are adopting one child, some two  and some 3 or more.  That is a lot of children saved from institutions.  That is priceless.  Go to this site and see more:

I'm confident w/ your help and spreading the word we can reach that goal.  Maybe we could surpass that goal.  Waht do you say??  Spread the word whever you can.  We have only till midnight tonight.  Thanks so much.

Trip to the farm

Over Memorial Day Weekend, we went to a friend's farm in Wake Forest.  We met her when we were hosting Yana, Alex & Zhenya.  (as you probably gathered, we did not end up adopting Zhenya but did the other two).  Anyhow, she also went from hosting to adopting 2 children as well.  Over all these years we've kept in touch.  She does not live all that far from us so it is really nice to visit & meet new people as well.
is the website of the farm.  It is a great place to visit and do hope the locals pay it a visit.  They do pony parties, dog boarding, field trips, etc.  And, for those adopted, admission is FREE!!!  Go to the site for details.  She never asked me to do a "plug" for her but I feel it is such a great place to visit, it is definitely worth a shout out.  Now, for pictures as I'm sure that is what you are waiting for.  Too many shots and animals to list that I don't know where to start first.

Beautiful peacocks.  I never could get a shot w/ the wings spread out.  But, very gorgeous colors.  They do make a lot of noise though.  

This is Irina and Alyona petting the goats.  Which child do you think was more daring?  You'd be surprised.  They both were.  Yes, even chicken little was holding all kinds of animals.

If you have children w/ mental/ behavioral issues, when you say something, you absolutely MUST follow through no matter where you go.  Even when visiting the farm.  Alyona was told she must finish eating.  We all know her eating issues.  (I refuse to do the G-tube thing...last resort).  Anyhow, she was to finish it or she had to sit down until she was done.  Surprising how quickly she CAN eat when something fun is waiting.  Got to love it.

Bojan is holding baby rabbits just a couple of days old.  Very cooperative rabbits.  All the kids got to hold baby rabbits and baby ducklings.  What a great opportunity!  

Max w/ the daddy rabbit.  A big angora rabbit.  

Yana is petting an Emu.  You should see how big these things are when they stand up.  Animals bring out a real calming sense in our kids.  Thank goodness.  All my kids are very big on the outdoors.  Keeping FAS children physically active outdoors is vital I think to their well-being.  Rainy days drive us nuts here.  Animals also seem to help out.

This is our watermelon break.  Nothing like a juicey watermelon while at the farm.  The animals even eat the rinds so nothing goes to waste here.

Alex was tired.  Remember, we had a very big weekend.  It is really hard for FAS kids to regulate going to too many places. Hence, why we didn't go to the zoo on Monday.  Would have thrown them all over the edge.  I could already see the signs.  Alex is just relaxing here under some trees.  Would love to know what he's thinking.  We also had forgotten his bandana.  You'll start seeing more of that in pictures during the summer.  It's a way to cool him off.  He overheats easily.  mostly due to the one kidney deal I'm sure.  Anyhow, we soak a bandana and tie it around his neck.  Seems to do the trick.  He was starting to get hot here & was also trying to cool himself off.

This is Yana and Irina w/ baby chickens.  I never knew there were so many varieties of chickens.  Farmer Mary explained to the kids(& us!) the different kinds of chickens there.  She had a java which is becoming extinct.  Never knew that some breeds of chickens are becoming extinct.  She also had a frizzle variety where the feathers grow backwards(I think).  Maybe my kids paid better attention.  LOL. 

This is an emu.  Aren't they big?  Farmer Mary explains a little about each animal.  Great place for the kids to learn.  We learn something new every single time.  We saw ponies, goats, chickens, peacocks, emus, dogs, ducklings, rabbits, donkeys, and more.  Learned so, so much.  Even learned why donkeys have a cross on their back.  This donkey on the farm participated in the nativity play back at Christmas.  We do enjoy going to the farm very much.  Now, do you know what this saint of a woman has offered us?!  A weekend A-L-O-N-E!!!  Yep, an entire weekend kid-free.  Something we haven't had in years.  She offered to take all 7 on the farm for a whole weekend.  I'm still in shock.  We're going to pick a weekend this summer.  Very excited and trying to think of things we can do sans kids.  LOL.  A quiet dinner, a movie, a walk at the park, miniature golf?  Who knows what we'll do but it really will be very nice to spend time alone with Warren and not have to worry about what the kids are doing. They are in safe hands at this farm.  And, I'm sure she'll be more than happy to put them to work.  So, that was our trip tothe farm.  I think it wore the kids out....

Why in summer my kid is wearing a winter jacket, I'll never understand.  We had a wonderful time at the farm.  I highly recommend you locals check it out.  Worth the tour and the kids have a blast.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures.  Much going on at Chaos Manor so need to get going.  Will fill everyone in a bit later.  Please, please remember to do the $10K in 20days campaign.  Only takes a moment and just the price of 2 loaves of bread.  I'll have more on that later as well.  For now, homemade meatballs are cooking so need to finish up. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quick update

Well, a few quickie updates.  Friday, we went to a neighbor's house for a cookout.  It was delicious!  We never make spare ribs at our house so having them somewhere else was a huge treat for our kids.  And trust me, they had their share.  We even got to take leftovers home and my kids finished off the rest of the spare ribs, corn on the cob & baked beans for lunch the next day.  I think they liked it.  We visited there for quite awhile and Irina and Yana had friends over for a spend the night.  Saturday, we stayed home and cleaned up a bit.  Also did some monthly shopping.  Nothing exciting.  Though the kids were thrilled w/ some items we brought home.  We went to TJ Maxx and found some books for all the kids for .30, .70 and $1.00 price range.  I also found a nice journal for Alyona.  She wants to be like her big sisters.  Figured this might help.  Shoot, may even help w/ writing.  Guess what?!  She has been writing in it ever since & even took it to school to show her teacher.  I was rather impressed.  She's getting there for sure.  Lots of yard work of course. 

Sunday, we went to our friend's farm in Wake Forest.  Will have a totally different post on that visit & farm pictures.  Kids were exhausted.  See:

Nik is about ready to get out of this carseat.  Boy, has he gotten so big.  They were so incredibly tired that that night, all had decided they wanted to wait to go to the zoo instead of go on Monday.  That was fine w/ us.  Really, it kind of came as a relief.  So, instead, they played w/ friends & we did a couple of errands.  And of course, played w/ the slip & slide some.

I think Nik is having a bit of fun, don't you?  And, here is Alyona:

Ahh, another brave one.  This is actually a very short slip & slide.  But, they enjoy it nonetheless.  All are really wanting the pool to be ready.  It basically is.  Need to vaccuum it out.  Max, Bojan and Alyona climbed in this weekend to scrub the sidewalls.  I have no idea who let Alyona b/c she wasn't doing a dog gone thing.  URGHH.  So, made her get out.  Other boys were working though.  So, they should all be able to swim by this weekend.  Yeah.

Irina is cleaning out a birdhouse we have.  Alyona is playing w/ one of the items she found in the bird's nest...a snake skin.  And where on earth do you think that snakeskin came from?

Why I'm sure from this big black snake!  What Memorial Day would be complete w/ out some critter visiting?  I think this is actually just the first snake we killed this season.  We killed one back in September I believe.  I am w/ Indiana Jones on this creature.  I am NOT a fan.  Didn't stop the kids from wanting to touch it though.  This was not a poisonous one.  I thought we killed a copperhead back in the fall but I could be totally wrong.  Who knows.  They all need to go.  LOve the woods but sometimes the creatures are a bit much.  LOL.  

Adoption front news.  Homestudy is pretty much done.  She is waiting on ONE thing...our dates of our previous homestudies.  I can give approximate dates, but they need the dates.  Umm, okay.  Remember, we've been doing this for over 10 years now.  Irina & Max's was back Jan. of 1999 some time.  When exactly?  no unearthly idea.  None at all.  We lost all on our computer awhile back.  So, no checking there.  I think I have Irina & Max's in our old dossier.  However, I know I don't have Yana & Alex's.  So, I have to hunt down dates of old homestudies.  Don't have them.  Don't know when I can get them so pulling my hair out right now.  Called our old agency but since it was awhile back..umm, yeh, 10 years ago, they don't think they have any of the files from that long ago.  Is the adoption journey ever w/out "hiccups?"  NO is the answer to that question.  All you newbies...NO is the answer to that question.  And this is just a very small hiccup but causing a delay nonetheless.  Calling the agency tomorrow morning again.  Hey, if anyone knows how long I-800A approvals are taking for NC,please, please let me know.  That will allow me to guage when exactly to start the big dossier.  Since we've done this so many times before, it does not take long to put together as we already have our people lined up.  Since our doc has done an adoption before AND does humanitarian aid work every year for India, she knows the deal.  So, she understands those crazy medical requests we'll have.  We all had our physicals in Dec./Jan. time frame so everyone in the family is current.  Anyhow, we feel we're getting closer w/ every piece of paper.  I can not wait to send off that I-800A.  I remember years ago sending off Irina & Max's I-600A.  My, how times have changed.  Warren sent me an email that I wrote to him years ago when we were in process of getting Yana & Alex(kid #'s 3 & 4).  I was telling him about a lady w/ 8 kids & I thought that was just crazy.  Umm, better watch my words.  Now, someone out there is calling me crazy w/ getting our 10.  Got to love it.  What goes around, comes around.  LOL.  No more calling anyone crazy.  

So, not much else happening.  I'll do the farm post, finish an adoption anniversary post up, and then we need to all get hopping on the fundraising posts.  $10K in 20 days is still up nad running.  Please, please go check it out.  I'm sure everyone spent at least $5, $10 on hotdogs his past weekend.  Please consider spending that on saving quite a few kids' lives.  Seriously.  You can touch so many lives just by a small donation.  That is simply amazing.  We need to get our donation in and I know I've been slow.  Hunting down paper not just for this but for IRina.  Long story once again for anothehr day.  the blog address is: .  We have just 3 days to raise $4,000 more.  I know you all can do this w/ me.  Share on your blogs, Facebook, twitter, anything.  Tell anyone you meet.  Every little bit helps.  Most will not think twice about $5 or $10.  If you can give mroe, that is greatly appreciated as well.  Thanks so much for helping to spread the word.  More on this campaign tomorrow.  So much to catch up on.  

Hope you have a great rest of the week. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

More drawings

Thought before I do some Memorial Day posts that I'd share some drawings around here.  And, some miscellaneous stuff of course.  I'll start off with Max.  As you all know, Max is our resident artist.  The other day he was tired of us complaining how Nik and Alex never want to wake up in the morning.  Sooo, this is what he came up with:

You'll have to click on it to make it bigger.  It is an "auto-wake."  The steam blows the pinwheel thing that makes the bed then shake up and down to wake up the boys.  I thought it was quite clever.

Yes, Nik has struck again.  It says alligators are big.  So, that is an alligator coming out of an egg.  He is eating someone who is apparently screaming for help.  Now, look at the top of the egg.  There is someone standing on top there shooting a gun.  So, when do we start therapy for this kid??  LOL

This is another Nik drawing.  This is  a life size self-portrait.  Kid has glasses on and such.  Hey, he drew himself w/ underwear on, I was more than thrilled.  Now, do a close up on the shirt and this is what you'll get:

Yep.  Sin.  Should I be worried??  Now, to hang up a big drawing of my son w/ sin written across his shirt.  Keep in mind, when Nik doesn't know how to spell something, he uses a combination of the letters 's', 'n', & 'i'.  You can see that on the alligator picture as well.  Just so happens that he spelled out sin on his t-shirt drawing.  Lovely.  I may need therapy after this kid leaves kindergarten.  He cracks me up though w/ these drawings.  

Not a drawing but definitely worth posting.  Yana never even told me she was getting this award.  I found it.   Modest.  She received this for integrity for the entire school year this year.  I was shocked.  Remember, she is one of ours w/ RAD who has trouble w/ some moral issues and deciding what is right and wrong.  So, to receive this has really demonstrated just how far she has come over the years.  To those whose kids have recently been dx'd w/ RAD, FAS/FAE/ PTSD/ ODD/ etc.(all of which she has), I want you all to know there is great hope for these children.  Just takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  

Our first pickings from our garden plants this year.  Some mini yellow tomatoes that we put on our salads this weekend.  We really do wish we had some more garden room but are definitely utilizing what we have.  We're growing some easy stuff this year.  Tomatoes(lots & lots of them), green peppers, red peppers, oregano, basil, chives, zucchini, peas, beans, and trying onions for the first time this year.  

My kids absolutely love watermelon and devour a whole one by themselves.  Obviously, we had to have watermelon over Memorial Day weekend.  This was one of the ones we got.  One seedless and one w/ seeds.  Delicious!  More to come tomorrow on what we did over the weekend and also about one of our adoption gotcha days.  For now, have a good evening and hope your holiday was as nice as ours was.