The Benhase Home

A glimpse inside our wonderfully chaotic life

When You Feel Like a Failure

No matter your age, your station, your gender, your economic status, your religion. Sometimes we all feel like failures. 

I am not healthy enough. 

Kind enough. 

Disciplined enough. 

Smart enough. 

Beautiful enough.

Put-together enough. 

Patient enough. 

Strong enough.

Brave enough.

I am a bad parent. 

A bad friend.

A bad partner.

A quitter.

I failed at work.

I failed my relationships. 

I failed at being the person I want to be. 

I hurt the people I love the most. 

These defeating voices are loud. If we let them, they will become all we can hear. They will drown out the good. They will blind us to our successes. They will rob us of joy. 

Fight those voices back, friends. There is grace for our failures. Grace that allows us to recognize our mistakes rather than cover them up. Grace that helps us learn from our mistakes, move on and do better. 

So instead of telling yourself, “I’m not good enough,” instead say, “I am imperfect. I have made mistakes. But I refuse to let those mistakes define me. I refuse to give up. I am stronger than that.” Because you are. I am. 

Life is hard enough without the voices in your own head telling you that you aren’t good enough. So tell them to be quiet. 

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The End of an Era

 Three weeks from tomorrow, Jericho will start kindergarten.

I have been his primary caregiver nearly every day since he was born over five years ago. The days filled with the little things have often dragged by. Sometimes an individual day seemed longer than an entire year felt, looking back. I suppose that’s why everyone says “the days are long but the years are short.” Oh how true that is.

When I was a new mom (and admittedly, sometimes still), I rolled my eyes when people told me that the time would fly by. When they told me to enjoy every moment. “They must not remember what it’s like to function on little to no sleep,” I thought.

I still don’t think it’s possible to enjoy every moment. Time is fleeting, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows. There are some phases that I’m happy are gone. I like uninterrupted sleep, thank you.

Like many moms, though, I find myself wishing I had slowed down more and soaked up the sweet little things about each stage. The cozy snuggles. The way he wrapped his pudgy arms and legs around me when I carried him. The softness of his hair when I would kiss the top of his head. The feeling that sometimes, I was the only person in the entire world he wanted. The one who could feed him and comfort him and rock him off to sleep.

It was never difficult, deciding to quit my job and stay home with him. Honestly it’s what I dreamt of doing from the time I was just a child myself. I do not regret the choice I made. 

But time moves on. Children grow up. People and circumstances and relationships change. Jericho starts school this year. Anna will start preschool next year. School is on my horizon in the near future as well. Life is very different now from what it was when Jericho was born. I am very different. 

I have no desire to go backward. I am not sad that he isn’t a baby anymore. I am proud of who he has become and excited to see who he will grow to be as he journeys through school. This year is the start of a new era. It’s the start of something great.

And with beginnings, of course, inevitably come endings. My heart is so full of gratitude for these last five years. They haven’t been easy. On the contrary, they have been the most difficult five years of my life. But oh, they have been worth it. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. 

So here’s to an ending, a beginning and above all, an amazing young man who brings a smile to my face, renews my sense of wonder and curiosity with the world around me, and makes me want to be a better person simply by calling me “mama.”

I love you, buddy. I am so very glad you’re mine. 

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Choosing Gratitude

In many ways, this summer has been amazing. I have had so much fun with the kids and with friends, and I’m happy to say that I have really been enjoying these last days and weeks before Jericho starts school.

But If I’m being honest, I must say that the past couple weeks have been a little rough. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it feels like I’m drowning. And along the way, I’ve noticed myself getting sucked back into bad habits and negative thinking that I’ve worked really hard to break over the past year or so.

One of the things I’ve found most helpful in breaking these habits is intentionally looking for the good. It’s easy to dwell on what’s wrong. It takes much more effort to focus on what’s right. No, it won’t make the hard things any easier. But it does help to provide a little dose of perspective.

So here, in no particular order, are ten things I’m thankful for right now:

1. Sunshine. The rain has seemed constant lately. Today (and yesterday) the sun is shining. How glorious.

2. The kids have been playing fairly well together lately. They especially love to play “superheroes” and it’s awesome.

3. I get a much-anticipated evening off tomorrow.

4. Card night with family is finally back this weekend after a few month hiatus. Yay for canasta and copious amounts of junk food!

5. We’re going back-to-school shopping today. I always loved this tradition as a kid, and I’m so excited to share it with Jericho now!

6. Scenic overlooks. There’s something so peaceful about looking out over the river. I’ll never tire of it. Eden Park was today’s stop.

7. I’m going camping with a friend next weekend. I haven’t been camping in many years and I can’t wait!

8. Last weekend I found the exact coffee mug at a thrift store that my mom loved and used often when I was a child. The sweetness hasn’t worn off yet. It’s as close as I can get to sharing a cup of coffee with her.

9. My family has been incredibly supportive and helpful to me lately and I’ve found myself reminded anew how lucky I am to have them.

10. Momsters. Enough said.

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The Little Things

 Obviously I’ve known for quite a long time that Jericho is going to start kindergarten this fall. But today… Today it hit me for the first time that I only have three months left with him at home. Three. Months. 

How is that even possible? Where did the past five years go?

Actually… I know where they went. They went to hours nursing on the couch. To sleepless nights and countless diaper changes. To rocking and holding and bouncing and singing. They went to books read and meals made. To pictures colored and games played. They went to talking and listening and doling out consequences and soothing hurts. They went to enduring temper tantrums and, perhaps, to throwing a few myself. They went to feeling clueless and lost and guilty and more full of joy than words could ever express. To wondering how in the hell I’m going to do this thing called motherhood. 

And somehow, all those small, inconsequential moments, all those little things, add up to become something that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Those little things fill the days, which become the weeks and months and years. Then all of the sudden, you find yourself with an almost-kindergartener. Your helpless, tiny baby becomes this big, independent kid who doesn’t need you for large portions of his day. The sweet newborn who feels to you as though he’s a piece of your own heart existing outside your body…that piece of you grows up. And walks away. 

Yes, I know that the aim of good parenting should be to raise competent, independent adults. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch as your child starts to need you less and less. 

More than anything, I am inexplicably excited for this next phase of Jericho’s life. I am thrilled and humbled to watch him grow and develop and learn. He is an amazing little boy and I cannot wait to see who he becomes over the next thirteen years. 

But first, just give me a few minutes while I sit here and cry into a strong cocktail, lamenting how quickly these five years have gone. How very fleeting life actually is…

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Tick Tock: On Worlds Ending and Choosing Love

One of the most vivid memories I have of the time surrounding my mom’s death is from the night before she passed. We (dad, brother & SIL, Ryan and I) were all gathered around her bed in the ICU with the doctor. He was explaining to her that she was very sick and realistically, wouldn’t have much time left. She couldn’t talk because of the CPAP machine covering her face, so she was using a notebook and pen to communicate with us and the doctor. She wasn’t afraid of where she was going, she wrote. Only afraid of getting there.

I remember staring at those words on the yellow notepad, in her beautiful handwriting that I had always envied. “This can’t be real,” I thought to myself. How could this be happening? My strong, beautiful, confident mother lay there, helpless and so very sick. If there ever was a moment in my life that epitomized the term “surreal,” that was it.

What stands out most in my memory is the sound of the clock. Its infuriating tick tock filled the silent room, a cruel reminder that time marches on. Time waits for no one. Here I was, with my very world crashing down around me. And somehow that clock continued on. How could people carry on with their lives when mine felt as though it was ending? When my mom’s was ending?

I was angry with the doctors who couldn’t save her, angry with God for allowing her to die, angry with her for leaving me. But most of all, I was angry with all the other people who carried on as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had changed. Because everything had changed. Even in that moment, I knew nothing would ever be the same.

I wish I had some positive, upbeat way to conclude this story. But the truth is that I don’t. The truth is that there’s always someone whose world is crashing down around them today, right this very moment. There will always be people whose hearts are breaking. People who will look back on today as the day when everything changed.

So choose kindness. Choose compassion. Choose empathy. Choose love.

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Mother’s Day for the Motherless

Recently this article “A Letter to the Motherless Daughters on Mother’s Day” showed up in my Facebook feed, and I must confess, I couldn’t pass up on the chance to read it. Nor could I make it to the end without those familiar tears burning in my eyes and that painful lump in my throat.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to detest Mother’s Day. Yes, I am a mother. I treasure that role and love my children more fiercely than anything. But the weeks leading up to this holiday only make me even more acutely aware that my own mother is gone (if that’s even possible). That I’ll never see her again. Ads telling us what to buy our moms to make them happy only serve to remind me that no amount of money could give me what I really want: time with her. To hear her voice. To feel her arms around me. To share a cup of coffee.

While the aforementioned letter is poignant and sweet, the pragmatist in me can’t help but feel frustration over its sentiment. I wish I could believe that my mother is watching over me. Or that someday I’ll be reunited with her. But I can’t. I won’t be. She isn’t. She’s just…gone.

There’s nothing anyone could say to alleviate this pain. Words won’t heal these wounds. Neither will time. They’re just apart of me. And if you’ve lost your mother, whether through death or estrangement or simply a painful, broken relationship, they’re apart of you, too. And all I can say is this: you are not alone. You are not alone in your anger or your tears or your heartache.

It’s okay to hate Mother’s Day. It’s okay to escape for the day and ignore all the flowers and brunching and jewelry-giving. It’s okay to cry, to weep over your mother’s grave and wish with everything in you that she was here. It’s okay to be angry that she isn’t with you anymore.

Yes, life moves on. You will once again find joy and beauty in your days. But that doesn’t change the fact that part of you died when she did. You’ll never “get over it,” never be the same. And that’s okay. Remember, “you will feel better than this. Maybe not yet. But you will. You just keep living, until you’re alive again.”

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Encouraging Independence in the Kitchen

I always thought I’d be the type of parent to constantly have a little “helper” at my side in the kitchen, teaching him (or her) the ins and outs of cooking. And truthfully there have been countless times one of my littles has scooted a chair over to the counter to help whip up a batch of muffins or a loaf of bread. But besides that and being required to clear their dishes off the table after meals, there hasn’t been much else in the way of “helping” (and consequently, learning) in the kitchen.

Not long ago, I mentioned a book I recently read, Free-Range Kids, and how it was very inspiring to me. One of the many things I decided after reading this book was that I needed to foster more independence in my children in the kitchen, among other places. While I don’t usually mind fixing them food (doing the dishes is another matter!), I want them to be able to fix themselves a snack or meal, too. I don’t want to end up with an older child who doesn’t know how to scramble an egg, hold a knife properly, peel a carrot or flip pancakes. I also realized that while I usually provide them with healthy foods at mealtimes, I need to equip them to make those healthy choices for themselves. You know, the whole “teach a man to fish” adage.

Here are some of the steps I’ve taken lately toward this end:

Move the kids’ dishes to a spot where they can reach them. Right now this means the bottom shelf of the pantry. I’d like to do some rearranging and perhaps move them to a cabinet, but for now, this is working well. They can grab a cup to get water for themselves or more easily help set the table for dinner or just grab plates at lunch time. Bonus: now there are more dishes they can help unload from the dishwasher and put away!

Move the kids’ snacks and breakfast foods to a spot where they can reach them. This is both to help them be more independent and, ideally, teach them about making healthy choices. We’ll see how that part goes…

Require Jericho to make his own breakfast (and sometimes lunch). Now it isn’t really a struggle to get him to make his own breakfast. He quite enjoys it. Before rearranging everything, he would occasionally make his breakfast for himself but only after I got out all the appropriate items. Now he gets everything out himself, prepares it (he usually eats granola with milk so it’s fairly simple to assemble), and puts everything away with little to no assistance. I’ve also put him in charge of making his and Anna’s lunches a few times and that has gone fairly well, too. He’s mastering the art of making a PB&J!

Say “yes” more often. Admittedly, this is the hardest part for me, yet the most impactful. All the other changes are great, but if I always tell them no when they ask to help? We won’t get very far. Let’s face it: it’s harder to cook with two “helpers.” It’s quicker and easier and much less messy if I just do it myself. But I guess no one ever said teaching the man to fish would be without its frustrations. So I’m trying to say yes when they ask to help. Anna, in particular, has been very eager to help in the kitchen lately. Every time I even look like I’m going to start fixing something, she has a chair pulled up to the counter asking, “Can I help?” And now she knows how to grind pepper, how to grate cheese, how to take a bite out of the butter when mama’s not looking (seriously, that child loves plain butter), and we’re even working on peeling those carrots. Jericho’s egg-cracking skills have greatly improved, he’s a pro at rinsing fruits and veggies in the sink, and he can wield a butter knife with the best of them. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve learned after just a month or so.

I am very pleased with the progress we’ve made, and I hope to keep a good thing going! One thing I would like to start doing is requiring more from them (especially Jericho) in terms of doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I think he’s ready and able to start shouldering more responsibility in this area. Of course, he probably won’t enjoy this aspect as much as making his own breakfast. But…oh well. Life isn’t always fun, is it? Sometimes you gotta stop playing and wash the dishes.

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Indoor Fun on a Snowy Day

News Flash: it snowed! Yes, the roads are a mess. And yes, not being able to get out and about is annoying. But I refuse to complain about the wintry wonderland. We’ve hardly had any snow this winter, a fact I’ve lamented over multiple times. So now it’s here! And I have decided to just enjoy it.

That being said, a mom and two little kids can only be cooped up inside together for so long before everyone starts to get a little stir crazy. And, let’s face it, sick of each other.

In my quest to keep screen time at a minimum, I’ve had to come up with other fun activities to fill the days.

The first day, we went outside and played in the snow. But when the wind chill is below zero, that just isn’t an option, in my mind. Plus bundling toddlers up to go out in the snow is an extreme. Exercise. In. Patience.

The usual suspects are always a good idea: reading books, doing puzzles, playing board games (Sequence Jr is a favorite of ours right now), coloring, painting.

We’ve also brought the snow inside. I filled a Rubbermaid type tote for each of the kids and let them go at it with cups and spoons. There was quite a bit of water on the floor when all was said and done, but it was easy to clean up. The biggest thing was keeping a snowball fight from breaking out!

IMG_6247The other fun thing we did that they absolutely loved was “swimming” in the big tub. The bathtub in our master bath is huge. So the kids and I (yes, I went swimming, too) put our suits on and played in the water. They keep asking me when we can swim again, so I’d say that was a hit! Bonus: we just called it their baths for the day.

And what would a snow day be without a movie, popcorn and hot chocolate? On day four of being stuck at home, I finally broke down and we watched Toy Story 3.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the warmer spring days ahead, but I’m also really glad we got so much snow. It’s beautiful and, like many things that us grownups often see as a nuisance, it inspires such an innocent awe in children that I love. As parents, we often think of ourselves as our children’s teachers (as we should), but we should also recognize our children’s ability to teach us about appreciating the beauty in the world.

 

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Updates from the Benhase Home

IMG_6160Like it has been for most everyone, life has been busy lately. I always think to myself, “after this, things will calm down.” But they never seem to do that. I wonder when I’ll learn?

The holiday season was fun but packed to the gills with family gatherings, fun outings and just lots of preparations to be made. The kids enjoyed Christmas, and I enjoyed seeing them enjoy it. Jericho, especially, was so fun to watch. He’s at that perfect age where the holidays are completely magical. I think it’s true what people say: Christmas is somehow even more wonderful as a parent than it was as a kid.

Then after the Christmas/New Year’s rush, both kids seemed to swap viruses for a couple weeks on end. The motivation I felt at the start of the year was zapped at that point. Caring for sick kids is both physically and mentally draining! Thankfully they are both healthy now.

However, as soon as they were both feeling back to 100%, I started to have issues with my foot. It had never fully healed since the accident, but after a couple especially busy weeks and doing a bit too much, it started to cause me more and more pain. I’m not sure if I re-injured it, or what. But either way, it has been very frustrating to lose some of the mobility I’d regained in the months following the car crash. I have an appointment with a podiatrist in the beginning of March and am hoping that she’ll be able to help my foot get back on the right track to healing. I will be very upset if warm weather starts to return and I’m still stuck inside on the couch with a bum foot!

IMG_6154We’re still plugging along, though, finding ways to get out and about that don’t necessitate too much walking. But I have all sorts of plans percolating for when my foot is stronger, including biweekly hiking days and many more walking adventures around OTR, not to mention the zoo and museum center.

I’ve also been making a more concerted effort to read consistently. I was doing really well for most of last year, but once October hit and all the craziness began (first camping out, then a birthday, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years), reading became less of a priority. But I have been doing much better the past month or two. I’ve finished A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins (entertaining but not one I would highly recommend), Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy (I am working on a review of this one; I absolutely loved it) and am currently reading Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. I’m also in the middle of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. Those should all keep me occupied for quite some time!

I do hope to start posting more regularly here, but realistically, it’s hard to commit to anything. There is an ebb and flow to life that I’m learning to work with instead of against. And part of that requires the ability to let go of the things that are not a priority for a time. Blogging happens to be one of those things.

So until next time…

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Eight Things I Love About My Kids Right Now

It’s easy to write about the trying days. And as hard as this mama gig can be at times, it can also be filled with so much sweetness. Here are eight things I am loving about my kids right now:

1. Anna singing (or rather, attempting to sing) “Let It Go” at the top of her lungs during “nap” time. I’m not a huge Frozen fan. But still. Cutest thing ever.

2. Jericho’s pictures. He is becoming quite the little artist! Even to the point where you can tell what his drawings are before he explains them. As someone with zero artistic ability, I just love this.

3. Their excitement about Christmas. Especially Jericho’s. The look on his face when we went to the Festival of Lights at the zoo was absolutely priceless. Pure joy.

4. All the Christmas cards Jericho makes. They’re always his idea, and he asks me to write the words for him (except the simple ones, which he does himself). He comes up with the funniest things to put in cards. Some of you reading this may be lucky enough to receive one this year ;-)

IMG_59255. Anna’s independent, I-can-do-it-myself attitude. I love how determined and adept at problem-solving she is. Pictured is one of her recent endeavors. She decided she wanted a clementine. So she pulled a chair up to the counter, got one out of the bag, peeled it and proceeded to chow down.

6. The outfits the kids pick out for themselves. They both choose their own clothes most days. The combinations they come up with are amazing. And oh so silly.

7. Anna’s obsession with pigtails. After months and months of trying to get her to keep her hair in a ponytail, she’s finally decided that pigtails are acceptable. And I’m going to milk that one for all it’s worth.

8. The sight of them sleeping. People have said it so many times it’s practically cliche. But it’s so true. The sight of a sleeping child is enough to make up for even the worst of days. It’s probably nature’s way of ensuring that our species survives. I don’t always check on them once they’re asleep (for fear of waking them…) but when I do, it’s oh so sweet.

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