Monday, August 30, 2010


i have been thinking for a while about starting an anonymous blog. i really don't have much to hide, as those of you who read this blog already know.

but lately i have been feeling more and more like i can't really be myself. after all, for some reason i chose to put my full name in the blog address and title. so there are times when i find myself holding back.

and recently, i was held accountable for something i said on here that was completely misconstrued. the person didn't bother asking me what i really meant. just assumed. which really stinks, because i am always open to answering questions.

anyway, without trying to let it get to me too much, i started thinking maybe it was the impetus i needed to go ahead and start over someplace else. after all, the first posts i put on here still make me cringe. i won't go back and read them, but they were written out of a very dark place. so it seems fitting that since i've moved on from that person, maybe i should move on to a new spot on the interwebs, too.

i'm going to keep it anonymous so i can write stories that have more detail without incriminating myself (or those around me).

if you want to follow me over there, please send me an email at kristibenn (at) gmail (dot) com and i'll send you the link to the new site.

if you want to keep up with pictures i post of my family, you can friend me on facebook. my user name is kristibenn.

thanks, everyone, for reading.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

potty training blues

me: "so i have a GREAT idea to help you use the potty."

him: "what is it, mommy?"

me: "well, i can give you a sticker every time you go on the potty, and then at the end of EVERY week, we can go to the store and get a new toy!"

(at this point, i'm smiling stupidly from ear to ear, thinking i surely have thought of the irresistible plan.)

him: "well....umm....mommy, i have plenty of toys, so no."

i could just see the wheels turning. he didn't just want to say "no" with no reason. because when that happens he knows that it's straight to the potty.

at this point, i have tried candy, toys, stickers, snacks, tv time while on the potty, praise, aiming at cheerios in the potty (that was today and held his interest only in terms of "oh! they are drowning! we need to rescue them!"), threats to take away his paci (yes, don't judge, if i haven't potty trained, do you really expect me to have conquered the paci?), threats to not let him wear pants at all (and for some reason, which his future wife will be grateful for but which is a thorn in my side right now, he can't stand being naked).

it's exhausting. i do not bat an eyelash when i say that i think potty training is the hardest parenting job there is between the ages of 0 and 8 (because my oldest is 8, and i don't pretend to know how hard it will be when we enter the teen years).

i have brainstormed with other mom friends. mostly they just shake their head in sympathy.

in a few months, i will get through this, but i will not ever look back and say, "oh, that wasn't so bad."

because it totally is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

saying good-bye

she buttoned her long nightdress and ran a brush slowly through her wavy, honey-colored hair. i felt my chest tighten, as it does every time she prepares to leave. there was that lump, the kind you try to swallow, because if you don't get rid of it, then a torrential downpour will quickly follow down your cheeks, the kind you can't stop even if you try. the kind that gives you a headache and makes your skin splotchy.

outside, it didn't feel like it was time. the thermometer on the porch read 85 degrees at 9 pm. it was sweltering. the kind of sticky hot that sits on you, envelops you, makes you feel like you can't breathe.

there is something about having to say good-bye. when she's here, i feel like time slows down, and sometimes not in good ways. she brings with her more discord, more boredom. but mostly she brings wonder and a good kind of lazy. more time for snuggles, family time, exploring, traveling, visiting, loving.

but no matter, it was time. this morning, she walked out that door, bags thrown over her shoulder, without even a glance back. then the bell rang, and she faded away, to return next june, when she would reemerge, popsicle and swimsuit in hand, laughter on her breath.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

what's goin' on

i've been absent here more and more lately. giving myself longer and longer stretches without visiting. without visiting others' blogs (except my few favorites). i am feeling quite angsty lately about the whole e-world.

it could be that i've been burning my candle at both proverbial ends. or, if it's possible for a candle to have 8 ends, like maybe an octagonally shaped one, that would be me. i've been working long, long hours, mothering children home from school for the summer (and not doing a great job at it), trying to make sure my house doesn't become completely disgusting, plus traveling.

oh, the traveling part sounds fun to you? well, in theory it always is. i mean, it's so lovely to go places and see people i haven't seen in years. and they are probably all reading, which makes me feel guilty for making it sound like a chore at all. because in some ways, this summer has been a time of encouragement. i have been able to sit across the table from people and have coffee (or margaritas) and talk face to face with dear friends (and a sister) i haven't seen in a long time.

in other ways, though, the summer is the time when i seem to fall down a black hole. everything is out of whack. my schedule is off. my parenting skills (what few i have) go right out the window. i lose it every turn with my kids. we all have cabin fever. after all, our summer is your winter. in summer here, look in the weekend section, and there is NOTHING to do. i mean, nothing. who would want to, what with the mosquitoes, hurricanes, and flying roaches? summertime is when floridians get that grumpy face that new yorkers have all winter long.

and usually i have a dry spell with work. not this summer, though. so on top of managing my black hole experience, i have been juggling the greatest workload i've had in a very long time. and, as it so often goes, when i'm workingworkingworking, i tell myself, "this is for a new sofa. this is for spending money in boston. (ok, that might have been true!) this is for a new mattress for our bedroom."

but then at the end of the day, i look and say, wow, it didn't really work out that way, did it?

so how can a person be so filled up from people who love her pouring themselves in (thank you, kellie, sunnye, brooke, sara, shannon, jennifer) and simultaneously feel very empty?

i have hesitated coming to this space because frankly i haven't felt like being very vulnerable. and inevitably, when i start to write, this is what comes out. i think it's why when i'm feeling this way i avoid people. which is why this friday i'm throwing a party with a guest list of 100... maybe i can hide in the kitchen. :)

is this what motherhood is like? or just growing older and stagnating, not doing anything about it?

i don't have any real witty or charming way to end this post, so i will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from our visit to boston. i took more pictures when we got back to winston-salem to stay with my sister for the week, but those aren't edited yet. so i promise i'll be back to share those at some point (and maybe even spare you the grumbly attitude).

zakin bridge in boston

shingles of kellie's house :)

in salem, MA

rick looking cute before the arcade fire show in boston

my friend kellie. isn't she gorgeous?

a parking meter in downtown beverly

through the window of the hospital point lighthouse

our scene as we ate lunch in rockport, MA

arcade fire, which put on one of the best shows i've ever been to. i jumped, i screamed, i teared up, i raised my hands. it was more than amazing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


well it looks like there is really going to be a serious delay between posts here during this summer. for some reason i have been bombarded with work, when usually the summer is my slow season. not that i'm complaining. ok, i am, but i'm trying to just focus on the good parts, such as steady paychecks and the tentative plan to buy a new couch with some of the funds that will be flooding in soon.

for those of you not friends with me on FB, i wanted to share some of the photos i took while we were away at flagler beach, FL, last week.

i was very hesitant to go to the "east coast" at all for vacation. in fact, at first i told rick, um, no thanks, i am NOT going where there are waves and the ocean isn't perfectly blue. oh my. how spoiled am i? pretty much. side note: if you haven't visited us, you really need to, because there is so much amazing white sand and blue water here, about 5 miles from our house maybe? maybe 10. anyway, it's very close.

as we approached the condo where we would be relaxing and recovering from reality for the week, we found ourselves on this long, winding road with a canopy of palm trees, sawgrass, and palmettos surrounded by swamp. beautiful swamp. this is the "real" florida, rick's parents like to call it. apparently when they were our age (they are 80 and 86 now) a good deal of florida actually looked like wilderness--untouched by development, overgrown, mosquito-infested (ok, we will just stop before we imagine all the not-so-nice parts).

it really was breathtaking. so some of these pictures are my attempt to sort of recapture what the drive in looked like. but if you have taken any pictures ever in your life you know that when it comes to overwhelming beauty in nature it's pretty impossible to capture the sense you get from standing IN it, in real life. at least for us amateur photographers.

the planes are in a graveyard of sorts on a highway between st. augustine and our condo in flagler beach. we drove by and immediately turned around to go over and take some pictures. when i looked the place up online, it seems to have attracted all sorts of photojournalists, some of whom have sneaked over the fence and taken pictures from inside the aircraft. i would have LOVED to have done that. but i also didn't want to get shot at, and this neighborhood looked like the sort of place where that might be a possibility.

some of the skies in these pictures are untouched. i did nothing to them. just loaded them onto the computer. pretty crazy. i couldn't believe even after looking at them loaded on here just how beautiful they are.

every time i go back and look at them i feel a little joyful, so i hope they brighten your day too.

(if anyone knows what kind of tree this is will you leave a comment?)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

the locust song

i love this time of day. the time when the sky looks as though there might be a storm, but you aren't sure. everything has a sort of pale green hue, or maybe orange, or both.

the sound of locusts fills my ears. i feel instantly relaxed. taken back to my childhood, when we went camping every year on lake greeson. we would sit outside, listening to that song. it's almost deafening.

in this moment of stillness, of quiet, i feel cleansed. the day is coming to a close, which means i can wake up tomorrow and start fresh.

that high hum in my ear washes over me, almost as if i am being reborn along with the creatures who are singing for me. i am the audience. let me be still and listen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

letting go

"here, let me tie that bandana for you."

"here, let me help you make your bed."

"here, let me dig out your toothbrush for you. i think it's at the bottom of your backpack."

i was hovering, and i knew it. but not too much, i thought.

every offer for help so far was being greeted with, "oh, that's OK, mom. i can do it."

really? since when did my 8 year old suddenly not need me anymore? i felt panic creeping up into my chest. i didn't like this feeling.

i really don't get into a lot of the mushy-wushy, lovey-dovey-ness that so many moms i know are so good at. it seems to all come naturally to them. they can sit in a room and talk all day long about how great their kids are, how blessed they are to be mothers. some of them even go so far as to homeschool (gasp!), sew with their kids, do art projects on a regular basis.

i really do fail at so many "motherly" things. i work so much that at a recent mother's day tea in my son's classroom, where he had filled out a "facts about mom" sheet, his response to the question "if your mom could go anywhere it would be_______________" he filled in "off the computer."

both older kids have written entire stories at school, which they have then proudly displayed for all the world to see, about how "mom works on the computer; dad takes us to the library."

it's embarrassing. at least, i feel embarrassed when i see these things.

so maybe i overcompensate sometimes, by being overbearing or overly motherly. or maybe it's not really overcompensating. i just love loving on my kids. i remember my mom and dad visiting after rhys was born, and my mom turned to me and said, "do you realize that some of the things you do for these kids they can really do themselves?"

that was a real eye opener. i hadn't realized how much i liked to "baby" them. it's probably why they still can't tie their shoes on their own (very well) or ride a bike (very well) or why they don't have a long list of chores. i just really do like doing things for them.

but this will become increasingly more difficult as they (rightfully) grow into more and more independent little (and then big) people who want (and need) to learn to do things on their own.

i know in my mind that i should be celebrating this. after all, if they can grow into independent young adults someday then this means they won't be still living with me when they are 30. it means that aedan (who we often jokingly call our "meal ticket") will be able to hold down a steady job and fulfill this prophecy of ours. :)

but all of this "i can do it myself, mom" is incredibly unsettling to me, because i know this means that one day i'll wake up and realize that they won't need me at all.

or maybe they will. they will always need me to love them. and in the end i guess that's what matters most.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

story (ville) to tell

45 minutes before we were scheduled to leave town for seattle, i looked at the pile of clothes on the sofa. they seemed to be mocking me. daring me to (a) pick which things would actually fit in my carry-on bag, and (b) actually cram them into said bag without dissolving into tears on the floor, lest rick get home ready to leave and find me in a mess.

i think mothers have a hard job. ok, that goes without saying. i could fill this page with a list of things that make a mother's job hard, but who wants to do that. not me, that's for sure. just for the sake of this story, though, it is necessary for me to state the obvious: i am SO jealous of rick when it comes to packing for trips. he gets to labor over what he's going to take--"this penguin shirt or THAT penguin shirt? this cardigan or THAT cardigan? how about these awesome, comfy shoes i just scored at the dillard's clearance center that look amazing with ALL my outfits?"

the camera pans to me, sitting in the middle of not one, but FOUR piles of clothes: one for each of the three little beans, and another (much smaller and completely uncoordinated) pile for me. except on my pile, where i'm lacking in clothes at this point, i have made up for in the way of shoes. because that's what i pack first. always. anyone else with me?

so, after spending a few days fretting and sweating and sometimes cursing over what to pack for the kids (including snacks, because that's how i roll--obsessive, compulsive, worrisome me), i finally did get packed about 5 minutes before we headed out the door to the airport.

we were going to seattle, thanks to a very kind coffee company, storyville, that was footing the bill to treat us to this excursion.

we really had no idea what to expect. all we knew is that the company works kind of in a grass-roots way, hosting house concerts with amazing (but usually not very as yet well-known) musicians and serving the BEST coffee i have ever had. (disclaimer: even though the company did pay for us to come to seattle, i have to tell you that truly this is the best coffee bean i've ever smelled or tasted, and i was saying this long before we were invited to join the group in seattle!)

i had never been to seattle, so we spent friday walking around. (side note: remember all those shoes i had out to bring with me? well, i did hands down the WORST job with shoe choices this trip and spent the entire time with a pack of band-aids on each pinky toe because of the fierce blisters i developed. i did wear some new sandals, despite the cold weather, and my feet were so numb from the cold that i really didn't feel the pain from the blisters that much...)

here are some of the things we saw.

friday night, the weekend officially kicked off with a house concert at truly the most amazing house i've ever seen in person (it looked like something out of dwell magazine), where we drank (you guessed it) coffee and listened to the witty, vulnerable, charming, and extremely accomplished guitar player willy porter. (you know someone is a great guitar player when you can't stop staring at their hands while they play and you aren't even a guitar player yourself.)

we mingled, talked, shared stories, all on very little sleep. there was an incredible energy from the beginning. people were gathered from all over the country. the buzz was amazing. (maybe some of that buzz was caffeine related, but still...)

saturday, we rose early for a gourmet breakfast, then listened to the vision of the company. so here's the deal: storyville was created for the sole purpose of donating ALL its profits to international justice mission, an insanely awesome organization that rescues people from slavery and sex trafficking. how great is that? how innovative, how edgy, how crazy?

and they want to donate a BILLION dollars to IJM by the year 2020.

later that day we visited the roastery, where the best beans in the universe are cared for, packaged, and shipped out within (i think) a day of being roasted. the roastery is on bainbridge island, and i had to focus on keeping my jaw shut, because it kept dropping open on its own because of all the beauty.

we heard gary haugen from IJM share the vision of that organization (he was one of the first people on the ground after the rwandan genocide), and we listened to grace pettis (daughter of pierce, if you have heard of him) sing songs way beyond her years.

that night, we went to a beautiful loft apartment--brick walls, awesome lighting, more coffee, and best of all music by jonathan kingham, who did the best 4-minute impromptu rap i've ever heard--he pulled from all sorts of inside jokes that had happened over the past 24 hours. it blew my mind.

as we walked back to the hotel after the concert, i took a few more pictures. i love how things look all lit up at night.

sunday was a blur: saying goodbye to people we had met, saying hello (and then later goodbye) to our dear friends ryan & holly sharp and their precious little ones who drove all the way up from portland to see us for the day.

at the end of the weekend, after all that goodness and fun and inspiration and beauty and art and coffee and wine and yummy food, i have to say that ultimately i was glad to be back home, in my space, with my own little ones.

that's another one of those things i think moms face more than dads do (but it's a bit more stressful than packing for 4): it seems really hard to be away from the little people i care for (and very much about!) without feeling at least a little stressed out. sometimes people tell me that once i leave home, leave town, i'll feel carefree. that never really happens for me. maybe it's just my personality.

i think it's just a little bit codependent....

in the end, though, i could be hung up on less healthy things, right?