Like. Dislike*. Love.

I dislike that I resort to putting my daughter in front of the TV whenever I’m trying to get my son down for a nap.

I dislike being around smokers when I have my kids in tow.

I dislike muddy paw prints in my house.

I dislike that I haven’t been the blogger that I want to be lately.

I like the smell of autumn.

I like the sound of a gentle rain.

I love seeing and hearing my kids laugh hysterically at each other.

I dislike it when I yell at my kids.

I love growing food in my backyard.

I dislike that my backyard doesn’t get enough sun to have a big garden.

I like that my backyard has so much shade I don’t have to worry about my kids getting sunburned.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they discover something for the first time.

I like the feeling of sand between my toes.

I like that now (after more than 11 years) I have a bike to ride again.

I dislike that sometimes marriage seems like so much work.

I dislike not having the answers to all of my questions.

I love living in Colorado.

I love Michigan (my home state), but only in the summer and fall.

I love that my sister and I have such a close relationship.

I dislike that talking to my parents isn’t easy.

I like that my parents and I are slowly but surely working on our relationships.

I like that I know how to make my kids laugh.

I like educating others.

I like writing.

I dislike that I don’t always feel motivated to write.

I dislike blatant consumerism.

I love watching my kids play.

I dislike early mornings.

I love to sleep.

I love that I’ve been able to breastfeed both of my kids.

I dislike ignorance.

I dislike that sometimes I am ignorant.

*I dislike the word hate, which is why I used “dislike” instead of it.

I love that my husband believes in parenting the same way that I do.

I love that my husband is a wonderful father.

I dislike my cluttered house.

I dislike addiction.

I love feeling like I’ve made a difference.

I love that I have a supportive group of friends.

I dislike that there’s so much suffering in the world.

I love that my children willingly eat so many foods that I was never exposed to until I was an adult.

I like that I’m allowing myself to feel for the first time in a while.

I dislike the way that those feelings sometimes make me feel.

I dislike fear.

I love that I’m learning to overcome my fears.

And I love that my kids make everything that seems difficult, or even impossible, worth the effort.

This feels rather meme-like, so I invite you to feel free to do this on your own blog if you feel so inclined. I found it to be a very enlightening, fun, and educational exercise. It’s especially interesting to see how many likes, dislikes and loves you come up with at the end. If you do this on your blog and want to link back to me, I’d appreciate it, but please don’t feel obligated. :)

The event that changed my life forever

Five years ago today my life experienced a dramatic change – for the better. It was five years ago today, with the birth of my daughter Ava, that I became a mother.

It’s amazing to me how something like becoming a mother can be such a profound experience, but I really feel that I wasn’t able to fully discover who I was until that life-changing event. That’s not to say that the moment my daughter was born a lightbulb went off over my head and I knew my purpose in life, but being a mother has caused me to experience life and think about things in ways I don’t think I would have been able to otherwise.

The past five years have been enlightening, maddening, exciting, challenging, amazing, frightening, hilarious, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and joyful – sometimes all at once! Motherhood is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had and I am so thankful I am able to be a part of it.

A couple days ago I was rereading a journal I kept before Ava was conceived. There are only a few entries in it, but this one in particular, from Aug. 31, 2003, stood out. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this on my blog before or not, but Jody and I did not have an easy time conceiving her and actually had to have a little help via the IUI (intrauterine insemination) route. I wrote about my sadness and wanting so badly to be pregnant, to have that experience of being a mother.

“I am so looking forward to nurturing, teaching and sharing our lives and the world with our child(ren). I am looking forward to that first smile, the first laugh, the first step, the first words, hearing “I love you, Mom” and absolutely everything else that goes along with it.

I know I will never take my child for granted.”

Rereading that journal entry was a good reminder for me of how hard we fought to get Ava in our lives in the first place. And even though being a mother can be very challenging at times, it is also so rewarding and something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I feel so fortunate that I have been able to experience all of those “firsts” not once, but twice with both Ava and Julian. Motherhood is an incredible gift and I feel so blessed to get to experience it.

Thank you, Ava, for making me a mom and getting me started on a path of self-discovery I may have missed out on otherwise. I am a better person because of you. I hope your birthday and year are filled with as much magic and wonder as you bring to my life every day. I love you.

Honey, look what I brought home! – Wordless Wednesday

Yes, I know how totally creepy this picture looks (and how weird you must think we are for stuffing our kids in bags – nope, it’s not the first time LOL). Rest assured, no children were harmed in the making of this picture and no, this was not Photoshopped in any way. Ava really was in the bag with just her head sticking out (for about as long as it took me to snap this picture). Then she got out … and Julian got in. ;) The things we do to entertain ourselves around here. :P

To get your own Holy Monkey! shirt (without the stains), click on over to my CafePress store, Cute As A Bug. < /shameless plug >

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Bit by the gardening bug

I’ve been working on honing my gardening skills for the past four years. In 2005, I participated in a couple community garden plots with a group of friends. That’s where Ava and I got our first taste of gardening. We liked it and we wanted more. :)

How’s this for a blast to the past?

In 2006 and 2007, not yet ready to commit to my own garden plot either in a community garden or my own backyard, I did some container gardening on my patio.

By 2008, I could stand it no longer and had to put in a “real” garden, so Jody and I cleared out a patch of grass in the backyard and I got to plant my first real garden on my own. I grew strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and green beans, as well as feverfew, sunflowers and chamomile. I planted everything way too close together because I was working with a very limited amount of space and totally underestimated how big everything would get. Still I got quite a bit of produce and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

This year, once again feeling the next to expand, I was hoping to find another patch of space in my yard that gets a decent amount of sunlight to convert into another garden. (It’s both a blessing and a curse that most of our backyard is shaded by the large trees that grow back there. It’s great because I don’t have to worry about the kids getting sun burned, but it’s a pain because there’s very little space to grow anything that requires sunlight.) After much deliberation (and cursing as we kept running into large tree roots), Jody and I decided on putting in two raised garden beds. Jody built the beds for me using both new and used wood. It would’ve been nice and significantly cheaper to get all used wood, but we didn’t have time to search for it for that long.

As of tonight, I have three little gardens in my yard (woohoo!) – the one that was already in place, and two raised beds, as well as some potted plants. So far I have planted seven varieties of tomatoes and two varieties of eggplant (all started by my friend Julie), basil, strawberries, five raspberry plants (but only 2 are currently growing), as well as cucumbers, yellow crookneck squash and zucchini that I planted from seed. I’m still itching to plant more (like green beans, carrots, greens, and watermelon at the very least), but I’m not sure I’m going to find the space for them this year, though I may be able to figure something out to sneak of few of them in. ;)

Today while Jody and Ava wheeled dirt to fill up the second garden bed, Julian and I collected worms (as I had done with both kids earlier in the week) to add to the dirt. My kids love worms and had no qualms about retrieving them from the compost bin (where hundreds, if not thousands, live).

Digging out worms: Yes, the kids are saying “Ewwww,” but only because I told them to. ;)

And now, for those of you who are curious, here’s a little tour of my garden. :) (FYI – These pics were taken with my iPhone so they aren’t the best quality.)

A view of my first garden (that we made in 2008), as well as the clothes line and compost bin.

Inside the garden this year: strawberries and feverfew (and raspberry plants growing in the pots outside the garden)

Inside the garden this year: more strawberries and cucumbers

The new raised garden bed: tomatoes and basil

The second raised garden bed: eggplant, tomatoes and squash

More pots on the patio with raspberries, volunteer dill and a yellow pear tomato.

I’m quite pleased with all that we’ve managed to get in this year and am thankful to Jody for building my raised beds for me. All of this digging in the dirt has been really good for me. I remember having this feeling last spring/summer too – gardening is very therapeutic. Now that the gardens are in we can again focus on finishing up redoing the backyard – a project we started about a month ago and still have a fair bit of work to do. It will be wonderful when it’s completed and I can sit back and enjoy it, of course while still getting my hands dirty as I dig out weeds.

Gardening is one of those things that seems to be in my blood. My mom always had a garden when I was growing up and I remember helping her pick green beans and eating some of them right off the plant. I hope my kids have fond memories of gardening with me (and playing with worms) someday too and decide that gardening is something they want to pursue and share with their kids as well.

You take the good, you take the bad

Today Jody and I celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. Eight years ago, we said our vows and made promises to each other that have certainly been challenged at times. You know when you say your vows that at some point the honeymoon is going to end and that you will face challenges as a couple, but you never really know when those challenges will arise or how you and your partner will respond when they do.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen more than our fair share of “in sickness” rather than “in health” and, as a result, more “bad times” than “good.” Yet through it all, our love for each other has remained strong. I’m so thankful I have a husband who supports me even when I’m not at my best.

Today we celebrate our love and our commitment to each other and I am thankful for my husband for honoring his commitment to me, even though I don’t always make things easy.

Tomorrow we will face another challenge together as a couple – one no one can really prepare you for and one you hope you don’t ever have to experience. We’re putting the older of our two dogs, Ellie, to sleep tomorrow afternoon. It’s been a tough decision for us, but her health has been failing for a while now and we believe it is for the best. Jody and I are going with her for the process, while the kiddos will be staying at a friend’s house.

I explained to Ava that Ellie is going to the spirit world tomorrow and she asked if she is going to die and I said yes. She said, “we need to give her all of our kindness today.” And I agreed. She pet Ellie and said she will miss her and then went about playing. I think she will be OK. I hope the rest of us can be as accepting.

Please keep us, the kids, Ellie, and our other dog Maggie in your thoughts tomorrow. Thank you.

A naturally beautiful rainbow of colors

For the second year in a row, I made our Easter egg dyes out of foods and spices. This year’s dyes were made from the following ingredients:

Pink – canned beets
Orange – chili powder
Yellow – tumeric
Green – spinach with tumeric and purple cabbage mixed in
Blue – purple cabbage

I have to say I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. :) Yes, it was another year of mommy having more fun dyeing the eggs than the kids. But the kids had a great time finding the eggs (over and over again) in our Easter egg hunt, so it all evened out. ;)

Here’s my best shot for this week – a rainbow of eggs:
2009's batch of naturally-dyed Easter eggs

Want to know how I did it? Check out my tutorial on dyeing Easter eggs naturally.

I’m also fond of this picture, which isn’t my usual style, but I liked the motion blur of the kids off to find more Easter eggs while daddy paused to recall exactly where he hid them all. This so perfectly represents life in our home on most days.

The kids look for more eggs, while daddy ponders where he hid them all.

For more Best Shot Monday pics, visit Mother May I.