Friday, October 30, 2009

Random little things

I can't seem to focus on one thing long enough to stick to one topic today, so here are some random things that have made me smile this week:

~ My dog racing and diving in the two feet of snow yesterday.

~ My hot chocolate "date" with my 8-year-old stepson yesterday after we played in the snow for an hour. We went to a restaurant, just the two of us, and split a cookie and drank cocoa. Snow day!

~ Two feet of snow before Halloween! Seriously.

~ Waking up next to the love of my life, C., every day.

~ Warm, fresh-baked cookies on my lunch break downtown today. Three for $1 on the honor system. Best business ever.

~ A belated wedding gift of three bottles of wine, a box of chocolates and a cookbook from my coworkers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What if we get bored?

As a new stepmom, I am entering more fully the world of children's activities, cartoons, books and games. Up until now, I have watched from the sidelines as my sisters and friends chauffered their children to various activities, events and appointments -- all set to a soundtrack of Bob the Builder and Disney theme songs.

Sometimes, though, parents need activities that are just for them -- with no trace of princesses (don't even get me started), Spiderman or talking vegetables.

Friday night, my parents invited my sisters and me to a free Dixieland jazz show with the Queen City Jazz Band. When we were growing up, my folks took us to see this band at a variety of free concerts in the park, so there was some nostalgia attached to the event. I also have a personal love of all things jazz in nearly all its iterations.

I told C. I planned to go, and he and the kids were welcome to come, if they'd like. They did join us -- as did three out of four of my nephews.

On the drive down to the concert, Annie* (my stepdaughter) asked, "What if me and brother get bored?"

Hmm, what if the kids did get bored? Just what tragedy would ensue? Boredom -- is it the horror of all horrors to be avoided at any cost by parents everywhere?

The truth is, "boredom" allows a person's mind a free moment for creativity. I remember creating elaborate stories for myself as a child during many "boring" car trips (we didn't have car DVDs back then!), "boring" classical concerts and "boring" dinners at real restaurants (no ball pits, clown characters or free toys in the Merry Meal) with my parents.

Children do not need to be catered to and entertained every second of the day. Sadly, many parents give in (or give up?) and set up the portable DVD player during breakfast out at a cafe (what happened to food being the "event"?), or pop in a video game in the car on long road trips (doesn't anyone play the alphabet game anymore, or - gasp - look at the view?).

Parents have a bigger job than serving as personal social and event organizers for their children. They must help children learn about the world, learn how to think critically for themselves, discover how to create their own stories and grow into adults who enjoy life and all that it has to offer.

Life is about more than plugging in a machine for ready-made entertainment. Sometimes, a child is better served with little more than a pen and paper -- and a bored moment.

Friday night, my parents, sisters, C., five children and I lined up in two rows to listen to some good live music. Those five children listened, watched, pretended to drum along and practiced "conducting" the band. They also took advantage of boredom to doodle and write, and show their parents the results of their creativity.

They did beautifully. They had FUN (my 9-year-old nephew reported that the evening was "awesome!"). Their brains absorbed a little healthy music (which studies have shown aids brain development).

Oh, and their parents (and stepparents, in my case) were able to enjoy a little grown-up time. The singer had us all on our feet by the end, belting out "When the Saints Go Marching In." (Which elicited a few eye rolls from the younger set at how embarrassing their parents were acting - ha! I, for one, am not the least bit worried about being embarrassing.)

As I have said before, music feeds my soul. I needed that night out, and I am happy I was able to share it with my husband and stepkids.

Spongebob, Speed Racer, Cinderella and Dora - step aside. Tonight, we prefer to be "bored."

*Names changed

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My pup

As I alluded to in my last post, it has been an incredibly difficult week for us. I think I focus on "the little things" even more during hard times -- when the big things become overwhelming, the little things can save me.

This week, my adorable mixed breed dog (she's half Welsh Corgi, but dad was a stranger in the night) has been that little thing. I'll call her Missy*.

She came to me by way of the local shelter and a doggie foster mom when she was an 8-week-old ball of fluff. I had just bought my townhome and I wasn't 100 percent ready for a dog yet, but she was ready for me. My parents' friends' neighbor was the foster mom, and it was a lucky coincidence that my wanting a Corgi came up in conversation.

Her mom had been dropped off at the shelter pregnant. She gave birth to four sweet puppies while in foster care, and all five of them -- mom and pups -- were adopted into loving homes.

She came to me during a particularly lonely time in my life and she did wonders for my mood and outlook. It helped so much to have someone else to care for and consider -- it wasn't just me anymore.

Now, she is three years old and all grown up. Now, I have a husband and two stepkids to care for and consider, in addition to Missy and me. In many ways, she helped prepare my heart for that.

This week, she is also the one I can pull onto my lap when I need comfort. I can just hold her, cuddle with her and pet her (which, of course, she loves). She doesn't ask what's wrong, and she may or may not know that something is "up" in our house, but she offers that consolation anyway.

She is also my willing companion on the long walks I take to clear my head.

I had a terrible dream last night that she was hurt, and I think that is what prompted me to write this post. She is so special to me and I never want to see her hurt.

Thanks, Missy, for what you add to my life (as well as C. and the kids). You are an important and honored member of our family.

*Names changed

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It has been a really difficult couple of days (I don't really feel like talking about it here right now, but it relates to being a stepmom).

On days like these, I am reminded of what amazing women I have in my life. Today, I was able to call and talk to one of my best friends, as well as my sister. They are both strong, smart women and they are both moms. Their sympathetic ears and wisdom were exactly what I needed today.

So, I wanted to pause and say "thank you" to them and to all women who are good friends to each other. Female friendships are definitely unique and one of the greatest gifts in my life.