The one where I baked a cake

I really don’t like cooking – I’m not very good at it and I don’t have the patience or passion to get better via practice. But I decided to bake a vegan chocolate cake for Megan’s birthday. Wyatt, Megan and Antony are dairy-free, and I can’t eat anything fun, so I thought it would be good to bake something we could all eat.

It turned out pretty well too! I think maybe the cake tin was too deep and small, because it took an hour and a half to cook all the way through – instead of the recommended 45 minutes. I think I’ll need to buy a different tin and give it another try.

Anyway, here’s the recipe – super simple!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
2 cups cold water
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla essence

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for 45min or until the cake springs back and a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for about 10 min after it is taken out of the oven and then turn out on a wire rack.
Ice when cool.

18. A photograph of myself

So many to choose from…

This one is of my favourite people in the world – no special occasion, just hanging out eating dinner.

Every Friday afternoon, I pick Wyatt and Arlia up from their Mum and we hang out together and then find somewhere to have dinner. Sometimes it works out that everyone can come, and this was one of those times. This was at Nandos.

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Nick and Rach get hitched

Back in the day when Twitter was new and Facebook barely existed, people would tell me that my internet friends were not real. If I hadn’t met them in person, then how could we be proper friends? I have friends from all over the world, some of whom I’ve met and some I probably never will.

But that’s not the main point of this blog. What I wanted to say is that two of my very dearest Twitter friends got married on the weekend – to each other. A bunch of us met on Twitter after the earthquakes, and what started out as chatting on the internet quickly turned into meet-ups in ‘real’ life with an awesome bunch of weird and wonderful people. These are people that I would probably not encounter in my everyday life, so I thank Twitter for the opportunity to get to know them. And last Saturday, we got together to celebrate Rachel and Nick’s nuptials. It was a fab day.

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The Wellington Trip Rules

Stephen found these yesterday. They are the rules that were carefully crafted by me, him, Miss B and Meagle over the course of our trip to Armageddon in Wellington last April (read about Armageddon-it).
All road trips have their special memories, and this is the artifact of ours. Enjoy our randomness.

Rules for the Wellington Trip

  1. Megan may not eat Doritos before 7:30am.
  2. Bronwen can only be annoying between 10-10:15pm daily.
  3. Stephen can only play Bejewelled Blitz for 5 hours per day.
  4. Bebe must eat every two hours.
  5. Bebe is not allowed to say stupid shit….. Oh wait… SHE CAN’T HELP IT!!!!!
  6. Nos mo king.
  7. The first rule of the Wellington Trip is DON’T MENTION THE WELLINGTON TRIP.
  8. Megan is aloud to coulor in Bronwen’s coulering book  bitween 7.30 to 8.00am.
  9. What happens on the trip stays on Facebook.
  10. No hanky panky at any time on the train, ferry, at the hotel and on the plane.
  11. Bronwen must buy Megan, Stephen and Bebe breakfast and lunch.
  12. Rule 11 is not hapning and is not a rule.
  13. No crying what so ever, if this occurs the person crying must go on the viewing platform until further notice.
  14. It is not ‘four house’, it is ‘four houses’ or ‘the fourth house’. This rule applies to the other houses too.
  15. Complainers get sent to the naughty corner.
  16. The naughty corner is defined by those not sitting in the naughty corner. It is an area designated by said non-naughties.
  17. Puking must be contained within sickbags. No throwing up in Bronwen’s handbag.
  18. Having a tantrum and crying will not get you what you want, therefore you must remain calm if you feel sick or if you don’t get your way.
  19. If someone has been jinxed, then calling them Bebe to unjinx is PERFECTLY FINE because it is a name even if it’s not the one on the birth certificate.
  20. Rule 19 is invalid as from now. Brigid can only be un-jinxed by someone who says her full name (the name on her birth certificate) ‘Brigid Susan Thompson’.
  21. There shalt be no frivolous rules.
  22. People who make rules that invalidate other rules will get a spanking and sent to bed with no dinner. The exceptions to this rule are rule 12 and rule 20 which were passed before rule 22 came into effect and therefore pre-date it.
  23. The person that gives the spanking is evil and will receive one back.
  24. The three Frompson girls are allowed to look and wink at cute boys, even if they have a boyfriend. However, the Frompson male is not allowed to look at other girls as that would just be wrong.
  25. Bronwen will NOT move around heaps when she is in bed as Megan gets annoyed.
  26. Bronwen is alould 2 go on bb and daddys bed bitween 9.2.6.
  27. No stating the obvious, NO MATTER WHAT!

How to…

…be a stepmother. I’ve been giving this a bit of thought lately, since this will be one of my new titles when we get married in March. Really, I’ve been stepmothering Miss B for a while now. It’s happened so slowly that I’ve hardly noticed it. We’ve been living together for 18 months, which is probably a long time in the life of a 10-year-old, I’m thinking.

What makes a good stepmother? I had a stepmother when I was B’s age, and I can’t say it was a positive experience. So what I can learn from that?

Well, firstly that I’m not B’s mother. She already has one that she is very fond of. Making sure I stay out of the way of their relationship is really important. I see my job as supporting Stephen in his role as B’s father. When he needs help, I do what I can, otherwise I should butt out. Of course having already had a (very similar) 10-year-old girl myself, I do have a perspective to offer and I’m not backward about coming forward with it. But I do often stop and think, “it’s not my business”.

Secondly, I’m active in her life. I’m one more person that can add something to her life – take her places and give her experiences she might not get from anywhere else. We walk, bike, run, play tennis together. I take an interest in the things she’s doing and her worries and concerns. But it’s important not to be too ‘in her face’ with my involvement. Again, I have to leave space for her parents to do their parenting.

Third, I try and stay out of areas of discipline and punishment. It’s not much of a challenge since B is so far a pretty well-behaved kid. Stephen and I will talk about any issues that arise, but he is always the one to talk to her if there is a problem. That is his role.

Fourth, I am encouraging and supportive of B’s relationship with her mother, and her grandmother who is also very important to her. Mummy and Grandma are part of our lives when B is with us. We ask after them, include them in conversations about what she’s been doing, and her plans when she goes back to them. I want her to have as smooth a transition from home to home as possible.

And finally, as cheesy as it might sound, I try and pause at times and think, “what am I doing to help give B a good experience of this day?”. Because I’m not her parent, I am released from dealing with some of the mundane details of her life. I can focus on having a good time. In this way, step-parenting is a bit like grand-parenting.

And in fact, looking over the list, my approach to step-parenting is very much how I want to grand-parent. For me, it’s about knowing my role and my place and not overstepping the boundary into parenting. I’ll always be walking this line, but for me the most important thing is that we (me, Stephen, B, Megan, Antony, Grace, Wyatt and Arlia) take care of each other. Because, regardless of step-whatevers, this is what makes us a family.

Mother May I?

Stephen and I recently went to Auckland to visit with my brother. Usually, I love going to Auckland – I really enjoy seeing my little nieces and hanging out with my big bro (see Birthdays and Such for more on this).

So this time, as well is the usual crowd, we were visiting with my mother, who was over from Australia to visit with my brother and meet her granddaughters for the first time. Spending time with my mother is something that requires mental and emotional preparation for me. My mother and I have a difficult history. Let me recount some of it (without airing too much laundry). Remember, family-members-reading-this, it’s just my point of view. Feel free to offer your own POV below.

Bebe, Albie, Gerard, Esther

I am the second youngest of my mother’s seven children (my younger brother has a different dad). My mother tells me that she had post-natal depression with each of her children that got progressively worse with each arrival, so I imagine it had reached a fever pitch by the time she got to me. From all accounts, neither of my parents were that excited about my appearance. My parents separated when I was a baby and I lived with my mother until we moved away from Christchurch to Auckland when I was about five. Life was fairly busy between ages 5-10. We moved around a lot, various people came and went, including the rest of my siblings. Honestly, I don’t remember much of it.

The next bit I remember very well. Not long after my 10th birthday,  my mother told me that I was being sent back to Christchurch to live with my father and stepmother – people I really only had a passing acquaintance with as far as I was concerned. I was devastated by this. For a lot of years after, everything in my life was measured by before and after this time. It changed everything I knew about myself (and I was only just starting to figure that out at age 10). I felt unloved and unlovable, rejected. By my mother, but also by my father and stepmother who didn’t seem especially interested in me.

After I left Auckland, I had limited contact with my mother. I recall her coming to visit with me in Christchurch before she left for Australia, and then a couple of phone calls after that. I guess I was confused and angry, I didn’t want to talk to her. The next time I saw my mother was in 1993 when she came to visit from Australia. I was 20, it had been 10 years. I struggled not to be angry. I had tried to put those 10-year-old feelings behind me in the subsequent years.

Seeing my mother and having those feelings bubble up all over again gave me the impetus I needed to deal with them. It took me a few years more, but eventually I made peace with how and why she left. I understood that actually, it wasn’t such a bad deal. She did what she had to, to survive. And she left me with family. And there were some nice people in amongst that lot.

So if we move forward a few years, my mother has popped in and out of my life irregularly since then. I like that I see her, but I don’t really have a mother-daughter relationship with her. I call her Albie, not mum. She likes to give me advice about how to run my life, how to be, how to conduct my relationships, raise my kids. This I don’t like. She has no right. I know I’m not alone in this – she bosses everyone around. She is very opinionated. I do my best to ignore it. But it grates.

I think my tolerance for my mother is a couple of days every couple of years. After that, I remember why I don’t like to spend time with her and need to get away again. It’s sad really. I would have liked to have a mother, I’d like my kids to have a grandmother, my grandkids to have a great-granny. But at least I have resolved in my head and my heart not to hanker after something that will never be.

So when I say I am looking forward to getting married and becoming a Frayle, this might help explain it. It feels like moving on.

Comings and goings

My Meagle moved out a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a long time coming. When we moved into our place last June, we did so with the assumption that Ms Meagle would be moving out sometime during the next year. Even though it was expected and right, it was still a teensy bit sad to say goodbye to my youngest child.

Luckily I didn’t have to dwell on my empty nest for long. Over dinner that night Stephen and I discussed what we would do with our new spare room. A chillout room perhaps? A reading room? A computer room? Most likely a sport equipment room. We finished dinner (at Tulsi) and on our way to dancing I called Antony to check in with how he was doing. Five minutes later our spare room had become Antony and Grace’s new bedroom.

They were in the process of finding a new place – bigger and nicer for when the new baby comes. They had given notice at their current place but had not found anywhere to move to. So that weekend, three days after my baby moved out, my boy, his girl and their baby moved in. It was an easy transition for Wyatt to make – he has his own room at our place (and his own Nana-Poppa-Wyatt routines which somewhat surprise his parents).

It’s lovely having them there. It’s nice to come home to a full and bustling house. It’s cosy. I love spending more time with my son, getting to know Grace better, and having time with my favourite bubba. And it’s great for Bronwen to get to know her new big brother and sister-in-law better. It’s funny, Bronwen and Wyatt are more like sister and brother than auntie and nephew. They already spend quite a lot of time together – Wyatt follows Bronwen around like a puppy, he just adores her.

And now they have found a lovely new home and will move out in a couple of weeks. Empty nest syndrome is sneaking up behind me again. I’m just lucky that I have Ms Bronwen to keep it at bay for a wee while longer.

Birthdays and such

Stephen, Bronwen and I went to Auckland over Queen’s birthday weekend to help my niece Esther celebrate her first birthday. Esther and her older sister Iris (who is just about to turn 3) are lovely girls and I am really enjoying watching them grow up, albeit mostly from a distance.

Iris is a feisty wee thing and likes to try her parents’ patience. Favourite activities include squealing at the top of her lungs, fully undressing as often as possible, stealing food (poor Bronwen coped this one) and the odd bit of biting. But beyond the less desirable personality characteristics, Iris is a charming and engaging little girl. She talks heaps and knows a lot about the world around her. She is confident and cheerful and happy to go with the flow. Esther is very different from Iris. She is a very placid kid. While we were there, she seemed content to putter around the house behind the Iris-Bronwen-Tornado, happily playing. She’s very cute and cuddly – I was reminded how nice it is to have a small child crawl into your lap, and hold on for a snuggle.

The Frompson-Thompsons: Fleur, Esther, Gerard, Iris, Bella the Dalmatian, Bebe, Bronwen, Stephen

The other fun and interesting aspect of this visit is that I was able to meet up with my sister Gillian, whom I have not seen since my own children were babies. Gillian has been in Japan for most of the 15-odd years since I last saw her. That, plus the fact that she’s always been a bit reclusive and not well-inclined towards me has meant that even when we have been in the same city and country, we haven’t caught up. It was nice to chat. Gillian and Iris have a special bond that only they understand (my sister never expressed any interest in children in any way). It is very endearing.

I find that the older I get, the more I appreciate that my family is an important part of my life. When I left home at the tender age of 16, babe under my arm, I decided that I would make a family of my own – I felt disillusioned by my family of origin. I stayed that way all through my twenties and thirties. And now, almost in my forties, I am gaining a new appreciation of that strange assorted bunch of people I call my kin. I might even call it fondness, but let’s not go crazy.

Esther and Bebe and Gillian

I’ve been thinking

Well I’m back, blogosphere! I took a couple of weeks off blogging after the 30-day challenge. This was partly because I needed to wait until I had something to say, and partly because I’ve been so damn busy. What have I been up to, I hear you ask.

My weeks are full: Mondays is my ice hockey game, Tuesday is ballroom dancing class, Wednesday is futsal, Thursday is my regular meeting, Friday is a rest day (wahoo!), Saturday is skate school, and Sunday is ice hockey practice.

Phew, I’m exhausted just looking at the list. Add to this work, running, gym, spending time with Stephen, Bronwen, Wyatt, Megan, trying to catch up with other family and friends, running a household and you can see that I have a very full life! Sometimes I just can’t do all these things and have to have a day off here and there, but in general I love my life. I love the busy-ness of it all.

On another note, my father’s wife Lorraine died on Thursday night. She had a massive heart attack and dropped dead on the bathroom floor. My father found her two hours later, and spent half an hour doing CPR waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It breaks my heart to think of how he must have felt in that 30 minutes.

My father and I are not super close, but I feel so sad for him. They were together for 10 years, and in that time he has been the happiest I’ve ever seen him. In their mid-60s, they had both just started winding down their working lives, and had big plans for traveling around in a van my father had fitted out for this purpose. I worry what will happen next.

This is going to sounds hugely cliched, but it reminds me once again to live life to the full. I don’t ever want to put my dreams on hold, thinking I have plenty of time.

That thing you’ve been thinking about getting on to that thing that will make you feel good, or make someone else smile, go and do it now!