Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oozing in Gently

"You hear a lot of dialogue on the death of the American family.  Families aren't dying.  They're merging into big conglomerates."
--Erma Bombeck

I think one of the best pieces of advice I received about being a "stepmom" (quote marks 'cuz I ain't one officially) was from my mother--a stepmother herself.  She told me that it was important to sit back & watch & not push myself on Xing Fu's kids.  For me that is extremely difficult--I want the most important people in his life to like me & accept me--so anxiety over that translates into the need for over-interest.  I've fought mightily against that trend & I think I've done pretty well with it, but I remind myself often to sit back & let the situation unfold.  So it was interesting when I came across a section in a book titled The Courage to be a Stepmom by Sue Patton Thoele where she discusses just that.  The book was given to me by a co-worker way back in March or April & has been sitting by my bed gathering dust as I've decided recently that many "stepmothering" books are evil.  More on that in a sec.

What Thoele says is that as a stepmother I should "ooze in gently" like introducing a new cat or kitten into a family. "Lovingly let 'em alone to sniff out the new house."  Stay in the background--be there to provide what is asked for & let them come to you for what they need/want--or set out a food dish & water in the case of a cat...let them set the pace (cats usually do).  Expecting an instant family just won't work--first of all, unlike having your own children, you & your _(fill-in-the-blank)____ have each other's children as "unnatural alliance of your kids & my kids."  Additionally, Thoele says that often these children are beyond the "cuteness" stage & bonding over the long term just hasn't happened.  There's just no shared past history.  In fact, I often feel VERY left out when Xing Fu & his children discuss past events that shaped them as a family--very exclusionary & difficult--yes, we are making new memories now (beach vaycay, e.g.), but those are very few as everything is so new in the grand scheme of lifetime events. All I can do is sit back & allow our connections to unfold.  We are getting there--slowly but surely.  Sometimes it is pretty hard--sometimes I have to grit my teeth, remain calm, & remind myself that I'm the adult.  And sometimes it's pretty wonderful--like when one of the kids mentions that they wished my son were with us at the beach so he could enjoy the big raft at the water park with us.  Actually, I think most of us involved really want this to work--even the kids.

     Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
 Where neither ground is for the feet nor any 
      path to follow?

 --Walt Whitman

Back to the evil book thingy--all of these books except for the one I'm currently writing about just paint the most negative stepmonster pictures for our future as a blended family--I need affirmations, a shoulder to lean on, understanding, answers to why a behavior is know--support.  That's why I've set most of these books aside and was reluctant to open this one.  I'm glad I have cracked the binding open because at least this section of the book has been very affirming. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Longest Shadows

So where did the summer go?  On Friday night we celebrated the end of the Friday Night Racing at EYC.  Otherwise known as Beer Cans.  We took second place in the second series so we did get a "trophy"--etched pint glass--fitting, since it was the beer can series.  Anyway, the awards were distributed during a massive thunderstorm--a bunch of sailors stuck under a party tent in the middle of a torrential downpour--at one point I decided that standing under this questionably stable tent was not something I wanted to do--Xing Fu having already decided that being inside the EYC clubhouse was far favorable to being outside with a bunch of soggy sailors.  I ran out from under the tent & into the club, about 10 yards at best, & I was soaked through.  So much for staying dry....

But really what this post is about is that with the close of the Beer Can series so draws to an end--summer. zoomed, zipped, zapped & is on its way out...the shadows are longer & the days are shorter & no longer does 8:00 PM still mean sitting on the back deck of the clubhouse for dinner watching the sun begin to set in Annapolis.  Which sucks...yeah, we have some big regattas in September, & yes I can sail in the Wednesday Night series on the West River a lot longer than the AYC series, but work starts on Monday & the kids go back to school on the 29th.  Even if my son doesn't officially start until September 7th--those private schools still understand the importance of a long summer...

And so we begin to shed our summer skins....

Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Skin

Squeaking swings and tall grass
The longest shadows ever cast
The water's warm and children swim
And we frolicked about in our summer skin

I don't recall a single care
Just greenery and humid air
Then Labor Day came and went
And we shed what was left of our summer skin

On the night you left, I came over
And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders
Our brand new coats were so flushed and pink
And I knew your heart I couldn't win
Because the season's change was a conduit
And we'd left our love in our summer skin 

--Death Cab For Cutie

Monday, August 15, 2011

Make Me Smile II

Opening with "Make Me Smile"
Last night Xing Fu & I went to see Chicago at Pier 6.  Earlier this year he'd played the song "Make Me Smile" & I'd written that I hoped the band played that song during the concert.

And they did--an auspicious beginning--and they played the song a couple times throughout.  I turned to Xing Fu with a big smile on my face--he had the same & we both knew that even if it seems a little hokey, having that song be the opening one was a big deal for us--a very good big deal.

Not that Chicago is normally the kind of musical fare that I tend to listen to but I need to say that they were certainly part of the background of my childhood--it actually surprised me a bit to realize that I knew far more of their songs than I realized.  

It has been a heavy concert summer yet again.  I asked Xing Fu if his ticket stubs have increased exponentially since he met me--he said no question--we do go to a lot of live music.  This summer we've seen:  The Decemberists, Peter Frampton, Death Cab For Cutie, Chicago, and will be seeing Wilco & Leo Kottke.  I can't remember if we've seen any others but like last summer there have been a lot.  Good--something we can share that we love to do--like that sailing thing...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tacks & Jibes (Thanks BB)

Been practicing for a couple big regattas in September.  Annapolis Race Week, which I did last year & a really biggie: the J/30 North Americans.  This particular regatta is only for J/30s.  From all over the country.  Very cool.  

So last Friday I had a great opportunity to fly the kite without the pole & without the main.  It was an amazing experience, yeah, kinda geeking out on the sailing thing again but I can't even begin to describe how it feels to see that big sail fill & the tug on your arms as you are the one controlling that boat through the water...sailing nirvana.

Last night instead of racing we did a ton of tacks & jibes--over & over--start runs over & over. I was a busy chickie--was a little rusty & also feeling a bit stressed about getting it right & sometimes I screwed up but by the end I think I had the feel back & was executing better--it was cool also because I was the only one trimming spin & handling the guy (ah, the sexual innuendo here...).  It ain't easy to do both but taking care of both really helps get that feel of moving the sail with the wind better--still a steep learning curve & there are some things that I need to work on but it is exciting to get out there & learn so much.  I was telling Xing Fu that this season has really been one of learning--from the J-World class that I took early in the season I have a much better grasp of it all--certainly I'm no expert or even that good, but I now see things that I'd NEVER have known or seen before or even understood--even last year.  And I'm still trying to catch up.  But I am lucky because I am given an amazing opportunity on the boat I sail on--ratcheting up as my skipper likes to say...yeah, baby!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Camp Days

Every year my kid escapes for a month.  With his best friend in the world.  What boy doesn't want that?  He & his "bro" talk about camp all year long--I'm happy that he is able to do it & loves it this much.  I think it is very good for him as an only child too. (Not really--he has a "brother" and a younger "sister")  Boy do I miss him.  I said this about my beach week--I missed him not being part of that--but I digress.  Parenting has changed a lot since I went to camp.  

This post was triggered by an email from my sister--she'd forwarded her daughter's "Weekly Camp Report".  As I'd forwarded my son's.  Yup--when I was in camp there was no such thing as a camp report--my impression was that the less my parents knew about what I doing or how I was doing at camp the better.  Camp was the black hole of parenting back then.  Send the kid down to North Carolina on a plane & wave bye-bye for the summer.  "Parent Party-time!!  WOOHOO!!  No Kids!!"   Well, that's my impression of it.   How times have changed!  Now every week I receive a letter from my kid's camp telling me what he's been up to--he even has to write a section.  I love, Love, LOVE this.  Since my son's letters are sporadic and sketchy at best (good, that means he's having a blast), this serves as a way to really know what's up.   When did camps start this?  Or have they always done it & I'm just being let in on the secret now.  Meh.  Is it a result of the "Helicopter Parent" syndrome?  Does that make me a Helicopter Parent?? ACK!!  I'm developing a complex....

Nah...I'm just interested in my son's life--  :)

Truth be told--I also like having time off being a parent--call it a bit of "Parent Respite Care".  By the time I get kinda used to not having him around, he comes home & I realize how much I'm glad that I'm being a mom again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy Frogs

Cape Henlopen State Park
Yikes!  Where did the time go?  I just spent the last week at the beach with Xing Fu & 2 of his kids.  I'm learning how to be "stepmom"And contrary to what I've been reading & at this point, have stopped reading, things seem to be going quite well. Now don't get me wrong--it's not all flowers & butterflies all the time, & I did have moments of aggravation, but overall our beach week was a success on many levels. It was another test of a sort.  Not necessarily Xing Fu testing me, well maybe just a little,  always a question about how good the fit with his kids.  (Me too with my son--but I've long since decided that was not needed at all.)  But the grrr moments were very few & far in between & I think we all walked away feeling pretty good about the week.  Yay us!  I still think about some of the advice in the Stepmother books, & try to be realistic about it all. And recently I've been reviewing my own stepmothers' performances (my one stepmom is only 9 years older than me...HUGE issue when I was growing up--mega teenage 'tude, ya' know?) ) & my mom's stepmother performance to sorta bounce the way I'm doing the step thing off of theirs.  My mom has told me how impressed she is--great--the true test is how Xing Fu's kids feel & he says that they felt it was a great week so there it is.

Xing Fu wrote me an email this morning telling me that he's a Happy Frog.  One of our sailing friends dubbed him a Happy Frog a few months ago--we now talk about that--I've asked him at different times if he's a "Happy Frog".  At Screwpile, our skipper bought a smiling frog wind whirligig thingy & we tied it to the backstay where it grinned down at us until the first gybe--blew off his whirligig.  Actually, the whole frog was left & he continued grinning at us the rest of the regatta. So I must be the princess who kissed the frog--a reference to kissing a ton of frogs when I was dating--lucky me--it took a while but good karma is good karma.

It's continuing to be a good summer--now to get through the next two weeks until my kiddo comes back from camp--he was definitely missed on our beach trip but there's always next year.