Tag Archives: family

>We’re going with Hannukmas.

2 Dec

Ah the ‘blended’ family. What does that mean exactly? A blend of what? I guess it can be anything people normally would prefer to keep in a convenient box: race, religion, birth / adoption / step relatives/nationality. (What am I now, Guadamerican?) To me, blood does not a family make. I mean, sure, literally it does, but it’s not the neccessary ingredient for a complete and happy family. The Pirate and Les Monstres had to rework their definition of family when the family changed, and then once again when I came into the picture after The Pirate kidnapped me and forced me to live this difficult life on this beautiful island.

In this family of ours, we aren’t very pious. Neither one of us, me or The Pirate, was very pious coming into this, but we do each have some cultural habits that we enjoy. For me, the Christmas Tree is new, and in fact celebrating Christmas with family at all is new. For The Pirate and Les Monstres, Hanukkah is entirely foreign. And so we arrive at the first year of co-holiday celebration, and we’ve opted to dub it lovingly ‘Hanukmas’. Why not Christmakkah? Well because: The Pirate cares not about the birth of Christ. It holds no significance for him or his family. Therefor, we left that part of the word out. It’s more ‘us’. Plus it involves the word ‘mas’ by accident which means ‘more’ in Spanish, and somehow that’s significant – we’ve both got mas of lots these days: mas holidays, mas kids (for me), and in general mas happiness.

I do have to watch myself carefully since I tend to forget that Les Monstres believe in Pere Noel, or Santa Claus. They’re under eight years old, so it’s par for the course. Growing up in a Jewish home, well, what can I say – I just never thought that guy was real. We just didn’t grow up with the stories in the same way as the Christmas kids. I have pretty clear memories of hearing the other kids at school around Christmas talking about Santa, and thinking I knew something they didn’t know, and wondering when they would figure it out. It’s not meant to be offensive, it’s simply my reality.

I slipped once in front of Les Monstres by saying something like, “Oh yeah, who gave you that Playmobil truck last year, dad or was it grandma?” I was met with an incredulous look from The Pirate followed by a slowly spoken, “You mean Pere Noel, riiiiiiiiggghhhhtttt?” Petit Monstre gazed at my facial expression as it went from ‘what the …?’ to ‘ooooh riiiiiightt’, to ‘crap, sorry dude’. In the words of Homer Simpson, D’oh!!!!!
Oooooops. My bad. It’s difficult to remember something imaginary that you didn’t know before, but I’m working on it.

p.s. I don’t know who that lady is up there in the picture, but it was the best real life sample of Hannukah and Christmas together I could find. Related story and credits here.


>La Belle Mere

5 Oct

>So I’ve been poking around the interweb as I threatened. I am THRILLED to have found some very cool blogs by stepmoms who want that glass of wine at the end of the day (or by lunch) as much as I do!
I could not have possibly said it better than Stepmother’s Milk with this particular post. Which reminds me, why haven’t any of my friends thrown me a belle mere shower?

Here’s the post:

“Unlike the traditional baby shower, where mama-to-be receives gifts for the survival of the blessed babe, the stepmom shower honors the adult woman thrust into a scary and unknown world and like the infant, is similarly naïve and in need of care. We may have more years on the planet, but when it comes to stepmothering, many of us were born yesterday.

It’s time to start a new tradition.

I’ve been to countless baby showers and it seems that parenting inexperience is honored above more impressive qualities like daring or patience (Isn’t she adorable. She doesn’t even know how the Diaper Genie works. Dear, let me help you). If this is true, then who more deserves a kick-ass party with a bounty of presents, expert instruction and hard liquor than the stepmom, who gets no gestation period at all? No preparation. No handbook. If you’re like me, you just woke up one morning with half-grown kids sleeping down the hall.

It’s time to start a new tradition. There’s no reason why stepmoms shouldn’t be entitled to the same elevation and indulgence, if only for a long afternoon.

But, I’m hung up on one thing: the name. “Stepmom Shower” doesn’t sound all that fun. It’s got a dead ring to it, do you agree? Well, I don’t know about you, but if a party isn’t fun, then why did you waste your time cleaning the house and buying expensive cheese? So, I’m proposing a name change. A title that reflects the spirit and sentiment of the celebration.

Introducing, La Belle-Mere Party!

What the hell is that? She had me up until this point, but now she’s throwing around a foreign language. I’m confused.

Is this what you are thinking? Well, let me explain. First, I blame my mother and so should you. She is convinced (and works very hard to sway others) that the French are far more sophisticated and appealing than Americans. I do agree with her that the French have much prettier words, so there’s that.

Second, and more importantly, La Belle-Mere is actually French street slang for stepmother, so I didn’t just make it up to sound fancy. And translated, it means the mother even more, all the more or more than ever.

Now, I’m no language expert, so the following interpretation is my own (I’m sure my college French professor would shake her head “tsk, tsk” and fail me again). But, when I think of myself as a “mother all the more,” I’m struck with a sense of relief and significance. I am not Mom, “the original” and I will never replace her, but instead of imagining myself as the awkward, shadow figure in the background, I’m standing right beside her with my head held high. The mother more than ever.

I think it’s important that we (myself included) start thinking of ourselves as more, not less. We all bring something to the blended family table. We belong. We have a place. It may take me a while (like years) to truly feel this way, but I’m going to keep repeating it under my breath until I do.

With that, a raise my glass to you, my step-ladies! Here’s to your friendship, good humor and grit. Let the 2008 La Belle-Mere Tour begin! Start clearing your calendars for a trip to Austin. Details to follow.”

>Oh, just ignore me. Right, you already did that.

4 Oct

>Yeah, my blog is about the mostly funny side of starting a new life, in a new country, with a new language, and a new family. I also like to talk about food. This morning however I must focus on one particular topic that is ever-present: my new quasi stepmother status.

To be blunt, it’s quite shocking even still to wake up some days and realize that I have responsibilities involving children. Two of them. Under the age of 8. I confess to daydreams of an apartment that had been listed as ‘great for one person or a couple without children’. I confess also to longing for a sofa that is free of cookie crumbs, a toilet seat that is always down when I get to it, and just. plain. silence.

Now, there is no way that I’d rather be anyplace else – in general. But at times, yes, I would like to be teleported away. I’m sure The Pirate feels the same way as he’s got a lot on his plate as well. But, I do protest that he’s had a few years to practice getting used to this. Pas moi. I’ve been feeling …well…it’s hard to say really as I’ve been feeling many things, but mostly frustrated, so I turned to the all knowing interweb to see if I could find anything interesting to read about being a stepmom who hasn’t had any previous experience with children. I did find LOTS of information. There seem to be a few general types of sites offering information about stepmother-hood. I find them to be in one of the following creepy categories:

a. Way too positive and chirpy and hopeful for me to even begin to relate to. I think these people are not really stepmoms, but rather friends of stepmoms giving the kind of advice only non stepmoms can give, ala ‘oooohhhh, it’s not so bad..be happy and set a great example!. Okay lady. Spend an afternoon trying to convince a five year old that you don’t have the snacks he wants in the house – in French – which you don’t speak very well, while he cries on the floor for his mother, and then tell me that again.

b. Just a plain bitch session, and mostly about the mother of the child or children. I just can’t get into that. My stress points are my own and they have nothing to do with the mother of my stepkids. Thankfully the relationship with her is good. I really don’t believe bitching about the mother makes anything easier for anyone, and really believe it’s a harmful thing to do to the children and the ex husband.

The one thing I haven’t found yet – and I’m hopeful – is information about how to deal with the normal stresses of being a new stepmom while you are also learning the kids language. Because for me, it comes down to being ignored and I detest that.

In general, it’s easier for a lot of people to keep limited conversation with me, or to not try to talk with me. I understand this: I can only get so far in conversation in French, and if you can only get so far in English, well, there you have it. Entirely understandable. The same goes for the kids. Pile on top of that the fact that I’m still a relatively new arrival on the scene that is their everyday life, the fact that I’m not their mom, and the fact that they are human and just simply don’t want another adult around who has the authority to tell them what to do, and well….yeah…the amount of ignoring that happens is large. I mean really, they literally just….watch me talk, and then walk away. Or don’t even turn their heads when I speak, or act as if The Pirate is the only one in the room.

It’s easier for them. I get it. But you know what? It really sucks.
What I realized just recently in an ‘aha’ moment that left me pretty bummed for the remainder of the afternoon is this: No matter what I do, no matter how fluent in French I become, no matter how much time, energy, and emotion I put into this situation, I will never reap the benefits of being the person these kids turn to for much of anything except a snack. No. It will always be a parent. I will never be the first person they think of when they panic, I won’t be an automatic consideration for parent teacher day or anything like that. I’ll always be just one step outside.
It’s normal. It’s par for the course. They have parents. I have no desire to replace or better any parent. It’s strictly a matter of realizing, wow, I’m doing all the things parents do, the shopping, the driving to sports, the feeding, the coddling, the book reading, I’ll do it all, because any other way just isn’t natural to me, I’m not going to hold back…but in spite of these clearly parental actions, I’ll always be, as they say in baseball, juuuuuust a bit outside.

I must confess, it’s …well…it’s a bummer. Like I said, it won’t change what I do, but it sure changes how I feel. I have moments of spitefulness: ‘I’m just a babysitter, and for what?’.
So, the question to ask is, what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m enrolling in French school for non French speakers for one thing. Learning on my own simply isn’t cutting it. I look forward to being able to understand more and talk back more, both in good situations and bad. That should help tremendously, but it will take time. I’m going to read more from other stepmoms so I don’t feel so isolated and/or crazy in this situation. I’m going to ask my cousins who have raised amazing boys what I should expect, because I realize that a lot of behavior is simply ‘kids’ and not necessarily ‘step kids’, but how would I know the difference?
Lastly, The Pirate. The coolest guy I know. What to do with him when it comes to all this? To be honest I’m not sure. I think two kids, and having to help me with many things since I’m French deficient, well it’s already a lot. That being said, there may be some things we can go over, things that may need to be adjusted now that he has a slightly different type of family. For me it’s scary ground to walk on. I mean, if I know nothing, who am I to tell him how things should go?

I’m just going to put on some Bob Marley now, ‘Please, don’t you rock ….my boat….” Hahahaa…


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