#stepmumwins

I’ve done some scary things in my time.  My volunteer work in the Philippines was pretty scary.  Learning to scuba dive (and throw up underwater as a result of the panic attacks it induced) was rather hairy and almost every outing I ever made with my wig, Bradley wasn’t exactly a picnic.  But this step mum thing?  Lordy.

I don’t know if you ever tried to keep something fed, watered, alive, happy and maintain a balance of friendly but not a walkover and provide boundaries but not so many they don’t like you, and be ok about being woken before 6am at the weekend, but for someone who lived alone for over a decade just over a year ago, it’s a bit of a juggling act that has you constantly questioning your sanity.

I mean, parents get a bit of a build up to all this.  Step parents get thrown in with fully formed small people who have their own personalities and views on life and have to play years worth of catch up, like it or not.

The Boys (or ‘Da Boyz’ as Little Pea refers to them) did scare me for a while.  I desperately wanted them to like me.  And eat their vegetables.  And not tell their Mum that I was a horrible person.  But somewhere in the last few weeks it’s got a bit more relaxed and last night I thought we’d probably peaked when:

  1. Bigger Boy awarded me 9.5/10 for dinner (I lost the 0.5 for providing curly pasta, as opposed to the preferred REALLY curly pasta)
  2. Smaller Boy hugged me goodbye, telling me that he’d miss me as he wouldn’t see me until Friday.

I had a lump in my throat and slightly glisten-y eyes, because it doesn’t really get better than that, does it?

Actually, it does.  This morning my phone beeped to signal an entirely unprompted text from Smaller Boy:

Da Boyz (and their grandparents – gulp) will be with us this weekend and Monday, but I wasn’t sure if this weather related news was considered as good, bad, or something I needed to fix.  I plumped for:

Which, thankfully, seems to have been the right answer.

I think, in the way you often hear that ‘only parents will understand’, this is one that maybe only steparents will understand. You will understand how much my tummy is smiling over the last 24 hours.

Norman thinks Smaller Boy is a good one too.  He’s rarely been in Da Boyz room, but today I found him here:

It looks like we’re all starting to get used to this different family set up :o)

(Although it could be a different story after the long weekend!)

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Little Wisp and Auntie Pog day

Saturday was so exciting I practically went pop.

Because, do you remember, almost a year ago, my gorgeous niece was born?  And do you recall she was teeny tiny (I realise that is a slightly stupid thing to say as there aren’t too many baby giants born these days) and a bit poorly and had to have an operation? You might remember, she looked like this:

Well not anymore!  Now Little Wisp looks like this:

Isn’t she beautiful?

And she came to visit with her Mummy and Daddy and we sent them out so we could have a few hours of Little Wisp and Auntie Pog time.

First, we discovered that the one thing better than yogurt or milky bar, or pretty much anything is….  Catnip!  :o)

Have you seen this Auntie Pog? It’s amazing…

…I mean, it makes me feel a bit, um…

…but… oh god. Another one!

Then we went to the playground:

one, two three….weee down the slide!

And we came back and looked at a very brave Norman:

And we were doing so well, but then it was lunch time, and we weren’t doing so well anymore.  Apparently Little Wisp gets hangry and was not impressed she had to wait for her food to cool for so long after I turned it into molten lava.  And we had no highchair and she didn’t like my chair – even padded with cushions.  So I put her on my lap and…she decided to help feed herself with her hands (a tomato-y affair), then reach up to me for a cuddle.  I imagine it will come out of my cream jumper.  One day.

Then it was time for a sleep.  I was looking forward to that.  I thought she would be happy to fall asleep on the bed if I made it dark and stayed with her, with a lullaby playing on my ipad.  I was happy.  She was not.  That’s actually quite a dramatic understatement; I thought she was going to go pop.  Somehow I managed to strap her into her buggy and we went out for a long walk in the rain.

By the time her parents came back she was asleep but a bit blotchy.  I was a bit soggy with a few tomato stains and Norman was ready for a nap:

I loved it.  Thank you, Little Wisp, for being such a happy, giggly little thing (apart from when you were screaming, but I’ll forget that bit soon.  I hope).  It was a fantastic first Little Wisp and Auntie Pog day.  We’ll have to do another one again soon :o)

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The F word

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy here.  I love Beachbumpkinsville, I love my house, I love Himself, but there are a couple of really tricky things I discovered when you move away from a place that’s been home for over a decade – even if it is only 50 miles away.

First, you don’t get to see your family anywhere as much as you used to (and I miss them all, but my tummy hurts from not seeing Little Pea as much as I used to, and is very sad that I may not get the same closeness with Little Wisp…she is just going to have to start full Auntie Pog weekends earlier than Pea did :o) )

And second, the F word:  Friends.  Some from Bumpkinsville I’ve met up with a few times, some I will meet up with and it will be like we saw each other yesterday, some…I don’t know, but honestly? Really, truly honestly, the last year has involved quite a lot of loneliness.  We’ve done the evening classes, I’ve done things on my own, I’ve talked to people randomly when I’ve felt brave, but actually, it’s really hard to make new friends when you are 42, mostly work from home and don’t have children (and are pretty rubbish around new people anyway).

Things are looking up – the people on my diploma seem like a mostly lovely bunch and I practically cried with happiness when one added me as a friend on Facebook.  Sad, aren’t I?  But this post is about a different F scenario…

A few months back I started thinking about a friend I was at uni with.  We’d stayed friends when we both moved to London and every so often we used to meet up and do tourist things, on the basis that when you live in a city, you rarely bother with stuff that can actually be quite cool.  I don’t remember exactly when we lost contact, but we did and that was that.  Then a few weeks back I thought I’d try to track him down, pretty sure that he’d have moved back up north, but that a few emails to find out what he’d done in the last 12 years or so might be rather lovely.

It took around 10 minutes to find him on facebook.  And about 30 seconds to realise that he never used it (12 friends, no photo), but because facebook enables stalking for dummies – no book required – I managed to find his wife and her work email in another 30 seconds.  I gave him a week to respond to my message before agreeing with myself that he wasn’t into social media and decided to email his wife.  It’s not often you start a mail with:

‘I’ve been looking for a friend from my university days who I think is your husband….’

Miraculously, she forwarded my message and he replied – all in less than an hour.  You know what is really weird though?  They live in Beachville, a 10 minute drive from Our Towers.  A few doors up from the pub himself and I frequented quite a bit in the last year.  You couldn’t make this up.

We’ve met up.  He’s not changed – other than a wife and a gorgeous little girl who was the reason I provided story time to a random group of kids in a pub garden last weekend (if only it was that easy to make friends with adults).  We’re going to meet up again.  I have a friend in Beachville.  Finally :o)

I’m not sure what the point of this story is.  It’s not like there is a moral (Stalking is good?  Social media has its benefits?  Don’t lose touch with friends in the first place?).  I guess there is some sort of message though, that things do change, even if sometimes they take F-ing ages :o)

A random one I just had to share, because…why?!

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Birthday boy!

It is Star Wars day today.  It is very nearly the start of a long weekend in the UK.  But FAR more importantly, it is Norman’s birthday.

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday dear Normy,

Happy birthday to you!

 

 

He’s 8.  He doesn’t look it, does he?

Love you, my gorgeous fur ball (And you Charlie at, wherever you ended up).

:o)

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a different view

There is much muchness going on and I’m behind with all the blog based thoughts in my head as well as heaps of other things.  But this morning before work it was cold, but not torrential rain for a change, so I made the most of it.  I ignored the treadmill and went into the big outside to get some perspective by standing on top of the world:

To the right:

To the left (Can you see the sea?):

Ok, not quite the top of the world, but I find my view of things sometimes changes depending on where I stand, literally as well as metaphorically.  And it reminded me to think of recent loveliness rather than current grrrr-ness.  So here we have…

Cuddles with Norman:

My first serious vegetable growing efforts:

Some dancing men of fire:

An amusing (to me, anyway) step mum moment:

‘Pog, why have you put kitchen roll on our heads?’

‘Because you’re eating Mexican.  It’s what all the Mexicans do.’

‘Oh.  Ok.’

:o)

And Himself, dressed as Woody, pictured riding his horse around Our Towers.  He went away on a rugby tour with many other Toy Story characters, but this was before any alcohol was involved…

If there is much muchness going on with you too, try it.  Go to the top of your world, and deeply breathe the muchness out and the smiles back in.  You might find it helps :o)

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turtles and turpins

I have become a little obsessed by our pond.   Back in January when we moved in to Our Towers it looked like this:

(That’s a still from a video I took because the queen of before and after photos forgot to take any garden before-s.  Grrr)

And now it looks like this:

There’s still a few lights attached to wires to remove, but we’ve not worked out if they are live yet and apparently cutting through them – as I did with one or two – is not a particularly sensible way of finding this out.

When we had spring and summer last week I took to sitting on the wall at the end of the day with a cup of tea / glass of wine (dependent on the chaos levels for the day) watching the tadpoles and newts and…  Well, that’s when I saw him.  I called my Dad as he’s the closest person I know to a pond expert to ask:

‘Dad.  I think I just saw a turtle in my pond.  Could I have seen a turtle in my pond?’

Dad confirmed that while unlikely, the previous house owner could have ‘rehomed’ an unwanted pet in the pond.  And yes, a turtle did eat tadpoles.

And now I had a big problem as the turtle was small.  Too small to not be a baby.  Which would mean somewhere in the depths of our very deep pond, there were probably two parent turtles.  And they could be huge.  And if a baby turtle could eat tadpoles, giant ones would practically be man eaters (this was my thought process, Dad stopped being part of the conversation around ‘tadpoles’.  Mum just laughed a lot at me.)

That night I actually had a nightmare about the giant killer turtles in the pond.  There was only one thing for it:  I had to catch them.  The next evening after work, armed with a net, a bucket and a glass of wine (it was a Friday and it had been one of those weeks) I stood guard over the pond.

(It’s not a good look, but I wanted to prove I really did).

And you know what?  I caught the bugger!  And…um….it turns out it wasn’t a turtle.  Or a turpin as Himself kept referring to it.  And it was quite a lot smaller than I’d thought:

But you can kind of see why I thought what I thought, can’t you?

I called Dad again:

‘It’s more turpin than turtle’ I informed him before describing what dad told me was a pond beetle.  Ooopsie.  BUT, pond beetles eat tadpoles too, so I couldn’t put him back.  And I couldn’t kill him; it wasn’t his fault he was an evil tadpole munching beast.  Dad advised locating an empty looking pond.

Our next door neighbours have a pond.  And they don’t have tadpoles.  And they are also on holiday.  And my net is really quite long…

I’m not going to admit to anything, but the tadpole munching turpin has a lovely new home.  And our tadpoles are all looking a lot happier :o)

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Cornwall with the new family (not replacing the old family, more of an additional side. These brackets are for the benefit of Sister 2 who thought I might no longer need my blood family. Hopefully this covers it…)

I went to Cornwall over Easter. I didn’t even mention it, did I?  It was my first extended time with the boys of Himself as a step mum (or whatever we call people who aren’t actually step parents but are still expected to play a role in keeping two children in one piece to return to their mummy).  And his parents.  Because we don’t seem to do things by halves…

(Before we get any further I’d just like to thank the people who offered advice last time I mentioned this topic from a Mum’s perspective on being a step Mum.  Just to be clear though, I am very aware the boys have a Mum (she and I talk.  We are both grown ups), I’m not trying to be a Mum and I neither am I trying to make any decisions about any key aspects of their life – other perhaps than making them wash, dress and get off their blimin’ phone / iPad long enough to hold one conversation a day.  I know my place and the contents of this blog are, as always, just about trying to raise a smile or two…  <steps off soapbox> )

So yes, I went to Cornwall with Himself, two smallish boys and two parents.  There were a few moments unlike any holiday I have ever had:

The Smaller Boy really did start asking ‘how long til we get there?’ exactly 7 minutes after we left home.  And continued to ask roughly every 10 minutes for the entire 5.5 hours were were in the car.

This view from the cottage:

Trail running on the coastal path that involved arms for climbing as well as legs for plodding (and stunning views that you had to stop to admire, or risk falling off the cliff).

Running to Lands’ End.  For those not aware as my colleagues in the US weren’t, Lands’ End is a real place.

The discovery that two boys can keep themselves entertained for hours with a spade and some sand:

The bumble bee that I shared a mint imperial with for over an hour:

Having to explain to Smaller Boy what the poster on duck mating season actually meant.  Exactly what it meant.

The joy of watching Smaller Boy learn to tie his shoe laces.  And promptly ‘practice’ at every possible opportunity:

Going on a course – even on holiday:

And learning to make a pane of stained glass (and in the process discovering that it’s entirely possible to poke your tongue out in concentration for a full day):

Watching Bigger Boy climbing a huge rock to do a bit of flossing* at the top:

*Flossing is a dance thing you do with your arms at speed.  Adults should not attempt this as they will just look like a fool through failure / through trying to be cool.  No, I can’t do it.

There were the gale force winds and driving rain you’d expect in Cornwall.  There were also some short burst of blue skies, which we celebrated with a drink (even if at this point I was wearing a thermal vest, three jumpers, a coat, scarf and gloves).

Top tips for other non parents going away with boys:

Never, ever, ever go out with two boy children without a bag of snacks.  They turn into evil monsters without a constant supply of food.

You can take a huge pack of ham with you, as specified by Smaller Boy for ‘all his sandwiches’  Smaller Boy will then announce at the first sandwich interlude that he hates ham now.

You don’t need to replace the ham with nine tins of tuna.  Three would have been enough.

Kids really do drive you to alcohol.  Even if (especially if?!) they are not actually yours.

But actually, I’d do it again.  Maybe.  One day :o)

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