I’ve been told that I should be a basket-case. If you ask me, from time to time, we are all basket-cases for various reasons. But what people seem to really want to know is how I managed to escape fairly unscarred? Bottom line is I decided that the legacy I had to pass on didn’t have to be the one passed on to me… I could create a deliberate legacy… one of joy, one of laughter and hugs, and one where memories were worth saving.
So, despite what I started out as, what I’ve become is a survivor – of state foster care, of incest and sexual abuse, of a volatile marriage and subsequent divorce, of an exceptionally dysfunctional family, of 6 miscarriages, and of the consequences of my own bad decisions. I am also happily married to my best friend, the mother of THE MOST AMAZING little boy and THE MOST ADORABLE little girl, and I spend a lot of my time caring for our 2 dogs, our 3 cats, and assortment of freshwater and saltwater fish. I enjoy cooking (although I am my own worst critic), crocheting, geocaching, singing, and family games (including DDR with my husband… Mr. River-dance).
My husband and I relocated to the Northwoods of Wisconsin in February 2004 to start a family and because Wisconsin “is a lot like Ireland”… remind me to tell you that story later! We picked Rhinelander completely at random. We started out by visiting various chamber sites for cities located near Madison. Eventually, we came upon the Rhinelander site and the story of The Hodag… a town founded on what turned out to be a practical joke seemed worth a second look… even if it wasn’t anywhere near Madison. We sold our home in California, found a home here online, put in an offer sight unseen, loaded up the moving van and set off for our new life.
In 2013, we moved to Milwaukee because we wanted to be involved in a more diverse area and felt we had something to give back to the communities around us. We purchased an older (115 years old) home and have spent a good portion of the last year rehabilitating it to make room for more kids.
Many of our friends shake their heads and say we are crazy – and maybe they are right – but life’s supposed to be an adventure!
In June of 2005, Marc and I welcomed our son, Elijah Russell, to the world. He was and is truly our little miracle. Life was good before Eli, but we had no idea how amazing it would be once Eli became a part of our lives. Little things that went overlooked before are suddenly seen from an entirely new perspective. We certainly laugh more than we ever did – we are a pretty laughable bunch! Eli has given us a new appreciation for: Thomas the Tank Engine, Power Rangers, Spiderman (and “Lemons”… remind me to tell you about that later also), dinosaurs, dancing, Hot Wheels cars, pirates, Minecraft, dragons … the list goes on and on. He’s smart, quick-witted, and genuinely an amusing little boy (and don’t just take my word for it… I can get you sworn statements if you want…).
After Eli, we waited a few years before trying for a second child. As the months turned into years of trying, we accepted that perhaps another biological child was not in our future. Because I am a product of the foster care system, I have a strong conviction to give back to and improve the system that ultimately saved me, so we began looking into being foster parents. On June 26, 2009, we announced our plans to some close friends and my husband even made the statement that Eli would be our only biological child – something we hadn’t actually said out loud up until then. On June 29, 2009, eager to start my period before a planned camping trip, I took a pregnancy test because it seemed that each month as soon as I took the test, I’d start my period… only this time, the test was positive. Could have knocked me over with a feather! Brenna was born on March 5, 2010, and we look forward to all that is involved with raising a girl (we think… remind me later of this statement when she reaches her teen years).
My life is not problem-free. I cry. I get angry. I argue. I don’t always listen. I sometimes lack discipline. I also laugh a lot. I love a lot. And every now and then, and with a lot of encouragement from my wonderful husband, I think that maybe my life might be an inspiration for others.
If you want to read about the impact that being a foster parent can have on children, read Jessica’s story about the foster parent who had the biggest impact on her. And Jessica was only there for a few days.
Quotes that mean something to me:
The Benzakein Family Motto- Suck it up (Buttercup)! We do what we are supposed to do so we can do what we want to do… in other words, we get the work out of the way so that we can play! Through it all, never forget to live, laugh, and love.
I am only one, but still, I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And, because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do what I can. – Edward Everett Hale
Do all the good that you can, by all the means that you can, in all the ways that you can, in all the places that you can, at all the times that you can, to all the people that you can, as long as you ever can. – John Wesley
The best gift your child can have is the gift of time with you. Reading, singing, playing, dancing, catching fireflies – it’s all good. The rest is gravy.