Tag Archives: Milestones

The evolution of a stepmother

Da Man has entered the house.

Da Man, otherwise known as the Adored Stepson, turned 20 yesterday. He’s no longer a teenager. He knows it. And he wants everyone else to know it, too. He probably would like to be referred to as “Da Man” ever after on this blog, but he’s forever the Adored Stepson.

When we celebrated his 13th birthday with a new bike and a spaghetti meal at Bucca di Beppos, he was a foreign creature to me, but a friendly one. I suspected he was on the verge of big changes, and I considered myself fortunate he was a boy instead of a girl (I was a pubescent girl once and I never had the, um, honor of living with my stepdaughter during that transition). In fact, it was a gift to witness Adored Stepson’s evolution from boy to man.

The growth chart inside Stepson's closet marks the obvious. The unlabeled mark on the right? I think that's my height. Stepson aspired to be taller than me until suddenly, he was.

The growth chart inside Stepson’s closet marks the obvious. The unlabeled mark on the right? I think that’s my height. Stepson aspired to be taller than me until suddenly, he was.

We could talk about all the ways he’s changed since that momentous birthday seven years ago — the hair, the girls, the muscles, the sense of self — but that is a story told best by the one who experienced them. How, instead, has the stepmother come of age in the dawn to dusk of a teenager?

My Adored Stepson, he is a unique individual, an unexpected component of the Togetherness I endeavored to achieve with my Beloved. I enjoy Stepson’s sense of humor a lot more than I expected to. I liked teaching him about spelling, history and faith. The season he played Little League baseball was pure joy for me.

And I learned I’m a lot better at talking about sex than my parents were.

When he left us at age 15 to live with his mother, I was devastated. Gobsmacked, as a Brit might say. Unexpected grief washed over me in a way that taught me how special he was (is). I might have thought I was immune from such rejection, but, alas, no. We had bonded.

Fortunately, things get better. This is how teenagers are. They change.

What didn’t change was my desire to have a child of my own. Having a stepchild proved my theory that children require a lot of time, effort and emotional investment. And the responsibility! Uff-da! I am, for example, the sole reason Stepson will never enjoy gazpacho (lesson learned: Never force a 13-year-old to eat cold tomato soup).

Now that he is 20, I look back on his teenage years like a mountain climber: “I did it! I survived!”

But of course, like a biological parent, a stepparent’s job is never really finished. It just evolves.


Check out these cute cupcakes slash cookies

My excuse, if I had been asked, would have been “I’m a writer, not a pastry chef.”

Fortunately, the people with whom I was mingling weren’t actors on a sitcom, so everyone who said anything said nice things.

I made Krissy’s Mini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes in honor of the birthday of our colleague Carolyn, who despite celebrating her birthday today was attending a regular meeting of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Personal Historians (I will mention, by the way, I am honored to have been named the new coordinator for the group — yay, me).

Anyway, Carolyn bothered to come to our meeting despite celebrating this personal milestone, so we recognized her commitment with sweets and by singing “Happy Birthday.”

My version of these cute little treats wasn’t as bad as some “Nailed It!” renditions of popular pins on Pinterest, but let’s just say, I’m not as expert with a piping bag as I am with a pen. Also, Krissy used mini chocolate chips while I limited my “mini” to the size of the cupcakes (perhaps unwise). But buttercream hides a lot of sins, and it’s hard to go wrong with anything with chocolate in the name.

Nailed it!

Nailed it!

In any case, they tasted good (or, at least, that’s what people said). That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Wistful thinking about graduation

In honor of my Adored stepson’s high school graduation ceremony today, I’m sharing this blog post from a year ago. Enjoy.

May 31, 1985

Dear Diary,

Commencement was tonight — I spoke. It was great — and worth it. Mrs. Soroko [a former boyfriend’s mother] and Bernie Nelson [a school counselor] were just two of the people who were full of compliments. Afterwards, I went to a ton of open houses.

I got lots of nice presents. It’s nice to know that so many people care.

I’m glad school is done. I didn’t even cry.

Read more of this post here.

Boy turns 18; baker turns to Betty Crocker

All the world is birthday cake,
so take a piece, but not too much.

~ George Harrison

Guess who’s officially an adult today?

My stepson Caswell turns 18! He’s now entitled to vote, buy cigarettes, register with Selective Service, get a motorcycle license without taking a motorcycle-rider training course,  bear arms (some types anyway), own property, marry without parental consent and serve on a jury.

How better to celebrate this magic milestone than with cake!

I mentioned to my friend Jill that Cas was celebrating his birthday this week. Ever the mother (she has two boys) and consummate baker, she asked, “Are you making a cake?”

Eek. It never dawned on me to make a cake.

I hate cake, for one thing, so it’s not very high on my personal priority list. And I’m camping this week. Have you ever seen an oven in 1983 camper? And even when I have the best equipment, I haven’t had a lot of success with cakey cakes. Cheesecake? I’m good at cheesecake. Cakey cakes? Hardly.

A couple of years ago, I made a cake for my Beloved’s birthday and it was a disaster (read about it here).

“Do you think I should make a cake?” I asked Jill.

“What’s a birthday without cake?” she said like a baker who’s whipped out six dozen cookies for a Boy Scout outing with 8 hours notice. “How about cupcakes? You can borrow a pan from me, and I have a FUN da-Middles mix you can have. It’s like homemade Twinkies.”

So she set me up with a pan, celebration-themed cupcake liners and this foolproof mix. Bonus: The secret filling means no frosting required. The tagline, which is as perfect for this baker’s intentions as it is for this confection invention, is “It’s what’s inside that matters.”

The hardest part of the whole process was lighting the pilot light, it worked so slick! And FUN da-Middles are delicious (if you’re into cakey cakes).

Mm … creamy filling …

I get stepmother points (thanks to Jill and Betty), and Cas gets his cake and can eat it, too! Yay!

Happy birthday, sweet stepson.