The Stepmom Project: Zoe Hardy!

Hello my friends!  Welcome back to The Stepmom Project!

Last month was the first installment of this series, where I gave some information about MY background and experience with stepmothering, and today is the first from someone else in our stepmom community!

(Would you like to be part of the project, too?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

I'm so excited to have Zoe, from The Glorified Babysitter, here with us today to share her stepmothering story!!  Thanks for your wonderful, candid, awesome responses, Zoe!  I'm so happy to have gotten to know you better this way and I look forward to following more of your story (through stepmothering and otherwise!) in the future!

I can't wait for you all to hear what Zoe has to say.  Here she is!...

-What is your name and general location?
Zoe Hardy
Ontario, Canada!

-How many stepchildren do you have? (And what age and gender, if you’re comfortable sharing) If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
I have a stepdaughter age 11, stepson age 10, daughter age 2 and I’m pregnant with a bubba coming spring 2017!

-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I was 28 when I became a stepparent (almost 5 years ago) and I had never been with someone who had children. I was your stereotypical girl living an independent life with no attachments. To be honest, the closest feeling I had to a “parental” type of affection was the love and devotion I had to my shoes. HA. When I became a stepmom it was a complete whirlwind for me.

Mark and I met through our friends who happened to be a couple. The first time I met him was a brief encounter at our mutual friend’s place. It was a NYE party and he was newly separated and there with his kids. I didn’t think anything of our first meeting other than “wow, he’s a really great dad”

For the next 3 years we would come in and out of each other’s lives. Make small chat or the odd time go out for dinner with our friends. We never had the opportunity to date during that time because he was seeing someone or I was. But there was always something there. There was always this crush, this part of me that knew I would end up with him. The fact that he had kids didn’t deter me at all. I think it just made me realize this is a great man. This is someone I know who is a great father.

Finally, at our mutual friends wedding we had a chance to talk without distractions of people or kids and that was it for me. We went on our first date shortly later and we fell in love.

I think meeting him years before we decided to date helped us. Neither one of us was ready at our first meeting to embrace a relationship but by the time we finally did go on a date we were both happy with our lives and knew what we wanted in a partner. I think that’s why it worked for him and I and the kids. I already knew he had kids and I knew how much of a commitment it would be just to date him. I needed to be happy and fulfilled in my life before I could embrace that type of commitment.

We have the kids on a week on / week off rotation. With transition happening on Sundays at lunch. We have tried other arrangements but this one really seems to work the best for everyone so we’re sticking with it!

-What do your stepchildren call you?  If you also have biological children, how does the role of titles (ie mom and dad) work in your family?
I get called a multitude of names!
Mama Z
Hey you
Then there’s the inferred ones...
Chaos Wrangler...

We did have a situation where my daughter started calling me Zoë when she was learning to talk so we just asked my step kids to refer to me as something else for the time being. Hence all of the names! The consistent one we used was Mama and it worked for us! Sometimes the occasional Zoë slips out of her mouth still but that’s ok. It happens.

-How/When did you first meet your now stepchildren?  Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
Mark and I fell in love on our first date (I know, so stinking cheesy) and about a month after dating he wanted me to meet the kids to see how they and I would gel. We knew it seemed fast to the outside world but we honestly didn’t care. We both fell madly in love with each other.

Mark always called me sunshine so when I first met them they had drawn and coloured all of these photos of suns and rainbows. I literally walked through the door and there was like 50 pictures on the floor waiting for me. It was really cute.

I think it was easier because their Mom had already moved on and they just wanted their Dad to be happy too.

Our problems came later on when we all moved in together and my husband decided to pursue his MBA which left me in charge a lot more. I really struggled with this transition. I was on my own for so long and then boom, there’s not 1 but 3 people all up in my grill and they are literally in everything that I did. With their tiny fingerprints covering walls and windows. I didn’t know how to handle it all and was quickly overwhelmed which lead to conflict and resentment.

One of the best things I ever did was see a therapist. People have such a negative connotation about therapy but when you think about it we go to the dr when we are sick, we see a dentist for our teeth, why wouldn’t we see someone to help with our mental wellbeing?

Therapy was a safe place for me to vent frustrations, ugly cry and learn how to handle it all. I still go about 1-2 times a year to ground myself. I find that being a stepparent you have to constantly evolve your role. Some days you’re needed more than others and sometimes you’re not needed or wanted at all. It’s a hard line to walk on and your husband doesn’t get it. Therapy for me was how I learned to conquer the resentment and be proactive instead of reactive with situations in our family. It was a total game changer for me which in the end helped our family.

-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?)  How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the children?
I really struggled with this. Actually I still struggle with this. Particularly because as kids grow they change. Each age is met with different challenges and different ways they act out.

When my husband is home he handles most of the discipline but at the same time, I do it too. I mean, if you’re being a d*ckhead you’re going to get called out on it. That’s our philosophy in house, own your sh*t. Not just the kids but the adults too.

In regards to just situations with me, I find that now that I am a Mum as well I really push how we need to be respectful to everyone in the house. We talk about how they wouldn't like it if someone was disrespectful to their mom, so why is it ok to be like that to me in front of their little sister.

-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchildren’s other biological parent? (Not your partner)  If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
Sometimes, but my husband mostly deals with the communication. There’s no issue, it’s just how it works for us. But we’ll chat at school and things. Or I’ll send photos of the kids. But really it’s my husband who communicates the most. That works for us.

-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the stepchildren (when the children are with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the children with you?
We plan family events around the schedules. For example, this year we’re moving Christmas because they are at their mom’s house. So instead of them having to rush here at some point on Christmas day we’re doing Christmas Eve the 23rd and Christmas the 24th. For us, it’s not about the day, it’s about family. We generally do this for all holidays and birthdays.

That said, there are times we simply can’t make it work like when our extended family has an event. We always do our best to accommodate and Mark and the kids’ mom are usually flexible if things need changing. But sometimes you have a better chance at herding cats than making every single extended family event.

-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
When my Mum died. My compass was gone. Life without her sucks and I struggled to be a good parent and stepparent while honouring my grief.

-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
There’s SO many!!!

…Last night when they were reading a story with their little sister and hearing the joy coming out of the room every time Janice said a word correctly. It was pure awesomeness.

…When my stepson was 6 and told me to come into his private room and take off my outside clothes. He was referring to his bedroom and my coat. But it’s still SO funny.

There are so many wonderful parts. It’s all about celebrating the little victories for us and honouring the great moments.

-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
What I wrote before about therapy. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is.

Instagram has been pretty good. I’m not on facebook so finding a supportive community on instagram is great. That said, there is still a lot of inauthentic people on there so you need to weed that out!

-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time?  Please write a short version of that letter here.

Just kidding.

It will be sh*tty. You will question everything about yourself and your life. But it is literally the most wonderful journey and you will become a better person - despite any heartache.

And always, always, always remember, celebrate the little victories - they are SO worth it.

-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
Yes! It’s a natural emotion to feel. It’s what you do with that jealousy, that’s the question. Laughing it off is the best way for me.

-What do you say when people ask if you have kids?
Before my daughter was born I would say “yes. I have two stepkids. they rule”
Now it’s, “yes. I have two stepkids and a daughter!”

-What do you say when a stranger (waitress or something like that) refers to you and your spouse as mom and dad? (ie “Ask your mom and dad”)
"Oh thanks. I’m not their mom. I’m their stepmom!"
It really depends on the situation. I often check in with the kids after and ask if I handled it ok. I don’t ever want them to feel weird or like I’m taking their mom’s place.

-How are you preparing for when the children might someday say “you aren’t my real parent” or if others say that to you?
This already happened! We laugh about it now. At the time I think my response was clearly reactive and I said, “Then go back to your real mom’s house” Not the best way to handle the situation but we learned and laugh about it now. People make mistakes, they say silly things and you just have to show that you can be a bigger person, apologize or forgive and move on.

-Was your now partner having children a pro or a con when deciding whether to date and ultimately marry them?
I think it was a pro for me. Watching him be such an amazing dad was something that I had never seen (apart from my own dad) and that for me was wonderful.  

-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
YES! Of course. Mark is my soulmate. The good, bad and the ugly times have all lead me to where I am today. In a beautiful home surrounded by a beautiful family. I have an amazing life - there have been tough challenges but I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without them. And for that, I am truly blessed.

-Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.  Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.
  1. Love Actually is my favourite movie of all time.
  2. I have a habit of randomly breaking out into dance. Doesn’t matter where we are.
  3. If I were a superhero I would solve child hunger

Instagram: @theglorifiedbabysitter

Twitter: @theglorifiedBS

Website: (launching soon!)

Contributor to mother lucker:

Thank you SO much for your incredible insights, Zoe! I personally loved hearing your story and I know your experience and advice will be very helpful to others out there! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! <3

Taking Stock: November

Some of the below links are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through them, I will earn a small commission. This does not affect the pricing of any items for you at all.  Please know that I will only ever recommend an item on my site that I truly believe to be useful or awesome!

November was an absolutely wild month for us - both personally and in a more broad sense.

The US election happened, in case you hadn't heard (sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm for days) and I have so many thoughts, but I have really struggled to synthesize them, so this post from earlier in the month will have to work for now.

Besides that major elephant in the room, we had a TON of stuff go on this month - good and bad! - so pardon me if this update is a bit longer than usual...

First and foremost, Christopher's brother Andrew got married to his wonderful now wife Christine!  And, of course, we were all happy to be there to celebrate!  We're so stoked to have another Savage in our crew :) 

These kiddos all re-wore their outfits from Chris & my wedding! <3 Miles and miles of heart eyes!

The Bride and Groom! ...And me :-P 

Immediately after the wedding (no, literally right after. Like, hours later) I had the honor of co-hosting an epic dino-themed birthday party for my BFF Michela!!!  We had a blast playing games and wearing super sweet temporary tattoos and just generally having the best time. I'm so happy so many people were able to come and celebrate Michela!! <3

I'm pretty sure she liked our birthday present... ;)
Jealous? Don't I know it.

After that awesome stuff, we had a bit of a more complicated time for our family - Miss Jessica got her braces, which is ultimately a good thing but DANG BRACES ARE NO JOKE on your wallet, AND for awhile it's been hard for her to eat, so that's just tough!

In addition to that, mid-month the boiler in our apartment had to be compeltely replaced, which meant that we spent four or five days living with my parents a town over from us. It was lovely to be able to spend so much time with my parents, so that bit was pretty nice, but the situation was a logistical nightmare with rehearsals and school and work and trying to coordinate everything, so we were very happy when we were able to move back in!

Back to some AWESOME stuff, though?  The production Christopher was in and I Assistant Stage Managed - Ye Merry Gentlemen - went up this month and it went really well!

The lightboard and monitor over the Ye Merry Gentlemen set!

Another majorly wonderful thing I was able to do this month was attend my lovely childhood friend Lindsay's baby shower!  We have literally known each other since we were babies and I am beyond happy for her and her boyfriend Cody!  Your little lady is mighty lucky to have the two of you for parents, Linds! <3 

And last but not least?  Thanksgiving!  We had a wonderful day filled with food, fun, and most importantly, family!  We went to Christopher's family's house for the feast and then headed to my parent's house for dessert!  Perfect :)  Lots of chatting, laughing, and Pictionary!  I also made this cute collage of our Thanksgiving photos (it's a bit of a tradition for us to take one every year) from 2013-2016!  Look at how much Jess has grown - it's wild! <3

And now, here's what I'm...

Making: up my face tonight for our dress rehearsal!
Cooking: absolutely nothing, but I'm in rehearsal so I can't be faulted for it...this time :-P 
Drinking: I'll give you three guesses... Yup!  An iced coffee the size of my head!
Reading: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry.  I've only just started it, but I'm really digging it already!
Wanting: to take a nap when I get home, but instead I have a workout to do. Whoops!
Looking: forward to A Christmas Carol opening this week!
Playing: the "Accoustic Pop for Work" playlist on Amazon Prime Music!  It's kind of perfect, honestly.
Wasting: too much time using Stories on Instagram.  I was SUPER skeptical at first but now I kinda dig it.
Sewing: ................................ still nothing.

Wishing: there were more hours in a day.  Or even just ONE more??? Come on!
Enjoying: seeing everyone's Christmas decorations all over my social media. We haven't really started decorating yet but I love seeing what other people have done!
Waiting: for opening!  So so soon!
Liking: these dividers!  They go perfectly with the binder I talked about last month, and I'm a total organizational nerd so I especially like how practical AND cute they are!
Wondering: how our family photos are going to go this weekend!  Eek!
Loving: the holiday spirit that's already starting to fill the air!  I'm a total sucker for all of it! <3 
Hoping: the weather holds out for Saturday since our photos are going to be outside!
Marveling: at the fact that I ate a salad with spinach for lunch today. SPINACH?!  Who am I?!
Needing: at least six naps. <-- Yup, still true.
Smelling: the new Mrs. Meyer's Orange Clove Scented hand soap. It's seasonal and it's awesome!
Wearing: a comfy flannel and my tried-and-true black leggings. #techweekattire
Following: through with my goals, even when it's hard!
Noticing: how fast babies grow, how fun it is to smile with a kiddo, and how the little moments end up being the big moments.
Knowing: that our show is going to be AWESOME when we open on Friday!
Thinking: of how comfy my bed is going to be when I get home and can crash tonight :) 

Bookmarking: ALL OF THE THINGS. (Although I think that's always! haha!)
Opening: the package from my friend April and her baby Marvel yesterday was SO FUN. She made me an adorable ornament, you guys!!!
Feeling: Excited. Determined. Cheerful. <3 

What about you? How did your November go?  
Are you taking stock of your life this month, too?  Feel free to share your URL below!

And please don't forget to check back here tomorrow for the next installment of The Stepmom Project!!!

Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

Preteen Gift Guide!

As we prepare for the upcoming holidays, Christopher and I are now in a position where we have a PRETEEN to get presents for!

Here we are, on the cusp of a new holiday season and with a child who has much different hopes for the holidays than she used to have. Well, she's always wanted some form of technology (which she rarely gets because we are #meanparents) but otherwise her preferences are pretty different nowadays than they were even a year ago.

So I thought I'd put together this list of some potential gift ideas that we have either already gotten Jess recently and were a big hit, or that we plan on getting her this upcoming Christmas!  ...Fingers crossed that she doesn't read this. Jess, if you're reading this right now you need to sign off or you're grounded!

Okay. Good.  Now that that's settled ;) ...

Before we begin I just want to disclose that some of the below links are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase through them, I will earn a commission. This does not affect the pricing of any items for you at all.  Please know that I will only ever recommend an item on my site that I truly believe to be useful or awesome, and in this case, preteen-approved! :)

ALRIGHT, now on to the list!

Galaxy Backpack - I bought this for Jess at the start of the school year and she loves it!  It's a regular sized school backpack which has done a great job holding up so far (and we're admittedly not the most gentle with our bags and whatnot in this house) with an awesome galaxy pattern all over it.  She has a similar patterned sweatshirt (which I talked about here) that she loves, so the two of them together is just hard-core galaxy awesomeness.  I'm very happy to have found a backpack that is practical but that she also really loves. I would highly recommend this if you're looking for a new bag for your middle schooler!

Art Supplies - I'm sorry in advance if this sounds super cheesy, but I'm totally in the camp that all children are artists.  Now, all children may not end up being particularly proficient in visual art, like Jessica is, but all kids are artists and it's awesome to encourage them to continue to produce art as they get older and things like drawing and coloring stop being as "cool" in some social circles.  Jess is a KILLER artist (she's been better at drawing than me since I first met her when she was seven. Honest to goodness.) so we always end up getting her some kind of art supply as part of her Christmas presents every year.  It's something we love to encourage in her and I never intend to stop.  We're specifically looking at this art set right now, although I'm still fishing around amazon to make sure it's the best choice!

Board Games - We are totally a board game household, so this is another no brainer for us.  We are LOVING Sorry right now, which we don't own but do play when we go over to GK & Yeti (my parent's grandparent names) house. Our home alternative is Trouble, which is also fun but is a little bit of a younger-focused alternative than Sorry is.  We also really love Clue, if you're looking for time-tested board game options.  As far as options I'm looking into for Jess this year, I've been thinking about this game because it looks hilarious (and it has an adult expansion pack which just seems extra hysterical if that works for the adults in your family), but I've never actually played it myself!  Anyone out there have any info or thoughts?  Yes? No? Maybe?

Books - Every year we do the classic "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" option for presents for Jess, so books are ALWAYS on the present list.  Obviously you know your child(ren) better than I do, so you'll know their reading taste, but I do have to warn you to not knock it 'til you try it.  When I first saw that there were books about Shakespeare that were put into texting form for preteens, I threw up in my mouth a little. (What can I say? I love Shakespeare!  I'm a purist!)  But then Jess happened to borrow one from a friend at school and loved it!  Now we've gotten her several of them and it's been an awesome resource, especially when we've been able to take her to the plays that the books are based on!  Love it!  (For the record, they're called OMG Shakespeare and they also have OMG Classics with some Jane Austen and Charles Dickens options, which is probably what we'll go for this time for Jessica.  Like I said, don't knock it 'til you try it!)

This photo has nothing to do with presents, but who doesn't like a knight-in-shining-armor selfie? AHAHA

Practical stuff - Okay, so this one is admittedly less exciting than the other categories, but Christmas is a perfect time to get your preteen some of the practical stuff - shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.etc.  It's partially a perfect time because it's convenient but it's also great because it gives you a reason to give them new versions of things that you may already want to get them started on - separate shampoo and conditioner rather than the two-in-one stuff, or brand-new deodorant to encourage use of that now that puberty is here, or a nice new hairbrush that'll comb through tangles super easily.... You get the picture!  It's practical and it's also a great, non-embarrassing way to introduce some new stuff to your kiddo.

Alright!  I hope this list was helpful and lead you to some links for items that are totally Jess-approved!  As you can probably see, we don't have a crazy Christmas in our house.  We'll get Jess a few more items than these (probably some new clothes suited to her taste and an item or two from her list, which we don't have yet) but we just don't go wild at Christmas.  For us, it's about spending time together with our family and really enjoying the season and everything it stands for.

I hope it ends up being exactly what you want it to be this year, too! :)

Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

The Stepmom Letters: Thankful

Hey Jess,

As we get into the week leading up to Thanksgiving, it's natural, I think, for the subject of thankfulness to be on my mind.

This season has been a full one for us for sure, with lots of ups and downs - starting a new school year, the boiler breaking down in our apartment, your brand new braces (!) - it's safe to say that we've had a bit of a wild ride this autumn.

But, you know what?  I'm thankful to be a part of it with you.  I'm thankful to have you in my life.

I think when things are hard it's easy to get bogged down by the frustrations in a family, especially a stepfamily, and forget the wonderful things.  I think it's easy to get used to each other and used to the rhythms of life and forget how freaking awesome it is to have a team of people by your side.

I'm really grateful to be on your team, Jessica.

It's been hard not seeing as much of you this season (I've made better decisions than to do two rehearsal-heavy shows right in a row, that's for sure) but I'm so grateful for the moments we do get. These past few weeks have involved a lot of savoring those five minutes before bed or ten minutes in the morning on weekdays until we can actually grab some quality time together over the weekends.

You're making me rethink my time and my priorities, that's for sure.  You're making me spend an awful lot of time thinking about gratitude.  Thinking about my legacy.

Because do you know what my favorite part of the day is right now?  Seeing your goofy smile and messy hair first thing in the morning.  It's shouting "grab your soups!" (our hilarious personal joke, of course) from the other room while you eat your cereal and we both get ready for the day ahead.

As we move into the new year - yes, I know it's still November but my mind is VERY ready for 2016 to be over and for 2017 to begin - I'm going to really seriously figure out how to spend as much time as possible with you.

Being a stepmom can be stupidly difficult, but I don't want that to stop me from remembering to be thankful for you.

I don't want to take you for granted.

You're growing up ridiculously fast and I don't want to miss it.

Thank you for being one of the reasons I'm so thankful this Thursday.

Love you forever.

Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

Shouting Love

The post I had set to go out today just didn't feel right, given the current circumstances.  I know there are plenty of people who are in the "let's just move on from all this politics stuff" camp, but I am not one of them.  When my friends and fellow citizens are as scared as they are, I cannot be one of them.

It's not helpful to start fights about politics online, here or otherwise, so I'm not going to go there, but I think it's very important that I make something 100% clear:

I am here on earth to be a light.
To be a positive force.
To be a safe space and a listening ear and open arms.
And I fully intend to do that.
I will stand in solidarity with friends and strangers of all races, religions, orientations, and genders.
I will not stand for hatred or violence or unkindness.

My friend Blair had some wonderful, important words on this matter in her recent instagram post, especially in regards to Christians and what we must do in all situations, especially this one...

"Christians, we have to be better at this. Jesus made it plain and clear: love God, love people. If we're shouting anything louder than love, we're doing it wrong. There aren't footnotes or parenthetical exceptions here--if we're shouting anything louder than love, we're doing it wrong."

For now, I'll leave it at that.  I'm here, my friends, and I'm shouting love as loud as I can.