Just a couple months ago, two friends named Steph (yep, they’re both Stephs) decided to start a blog. Between them, Steph Finucane and Steph Triandiflou of Cary are raising seven kids, and now that they’re all out of diapers, these two moms found they had something to say. A LOT to say, actually, and humor is their favorite form of delivery. This trait they share with famed mom and humorist Erma Bombeck, and thus the blog was christened “The Bombeck Sisters.” On there you’ll find deep (and not-so-deep-but-definitely-funny thoughts, crafty ideas, moments from motherhood and even the occasional “Tea Talk” video, in which wine sometimes subs for the tea. Now let’s meet the Bombeck Sisters (not actually sisters) and have a chat about good neighbors, good friends and good ideas for keeping laughter in your life.
Q: On your "About Us" page it says you met as neighbors. Are you still neighbors?
Steph F: We live about 200 yards away from each other on the same street in Cary. Very lucky. Very convenient.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, and about your families.
Steph T: I was born in North Carolina, which makes me a true Southern girl and a kind of an anomaly in these parts. I’m proud to be from the South and make killer front-porch-iced-tea-with-lemon (my drink of choice) and homemade biscuits and gravy that will make ya cry! I am a lucky momma of 4 really good kids age 13, 8 and 11-year-old twins. Though I am somehow able to embarrass my teens and tweens (I call them “The Enlightened Ones”) by my mere existence, so far, they have been good to me. I still enjoy days where they will reach for my hand to hold in the mall, hug me in front their friends and leave “I love you, mom” notes on my bathroom mirror…love their guts! In my pre-mom life, I graduated from ECU (proud Pirate) in broadcast journalism and worked as a corporate trainer and retail space planner. Post-kids, I run my own marketing business and am a DIYer, part-time artist and now enthusiastic blogger. Other than that, like so many of us girls, I’m just trying to figure it out on day at a time.
Steph F: I’m a proud, offbeat girl from the North in love with North Carolina. Eight years ago, our family came to Cary for Thanksgiving. That weekend, we bought our house. We always say it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We find life simpler and happier here. Our eldest daughter, Haleigh, (14) now attends Panther Creek High School. She’s in the marching band, plays recreational basketball and is now officially taller (much) than her sweet mom. If you find her phone, you’ve found Haleigh. Zoë, age 12, attends Mills Park Middle School. She’s wise and sensitive beyond her years. It’s quite possible she and Dakota Fanning were separated at birth. Zoe keeps us honest and organized. She loves ballet, baking cookies and reading. Our youngest, Hank, 8, is our “drop of golden sun.” He is in third grade at Mills Park Elementary. Hank is the most enthusiastic person I know. Last year, he was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. Some days are more exhausting than others, but we are in awe of Hank and the way he sees things. Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Dan, my husband, is a computer programmer and is Mr. Chill. He’s the quiet, thoughtful one who manages to be calm and collected about anything and everything. And there’s never a dull moment in our home. I lean on naps and my girlfriends and try not to take myself too seriously. Laughter and music are my medicine. Shortly after I moved here, I started my own color consulting business, The Right Hue. My friends encouraged me to give it a shot after I started helping them pick out paint colors. Aside from the Bombeck Sisters, I have a blog I’ve faithfully written for a year. It’s called The Right Hue. It’s more about personal observations than paint colors. I also enjoy reading, watching movies, cooking, gardening and exercising (most of the time). Way back in the dinosaur days, I was a television reporter with some really bad, big hair. Almost forgot the pets! We have two dogs, a guinea pig, rabbit, two parakeets and a lot of fish (some adopted). It all started with the fish. It’s not a quiet home, but it’s a happy one.
Q: Why did you guys decide to start The Bombeck Sisters? What's your goal with it?
Steph T: The Bombeck Sisters started with friendship. Through a shared love of adventure, our quirky humor and an appreciation for one another’s talents, Steph F and I just clicked and became the best of friends. Both in our mid-40s, we raised our babies to a point of (somewhat) self-reliance and found ourselves asking the same questions like: “Who am I now after kids?” “What do I wanna be when I grow up?” “What is going to make me happy and motivated?” “How can I contribute to the world?” The answers to these questions lead us to start The Bombeck Sisters. We have something of value to say and can relate to so many other women out there trying to find answers too. Collaboration and laughter come easy to us, we are lucky and unique in that way. We share relatable and funny stories of family and kids, take local field trips to uncover hidden gems in the community, feature successful (and unsuccessful) DIY projects and we keep it real with our bi-weekly video edition of Tea Talk. Our mission is to bring humor and insight to our readers and help inspire women to brave and follow their dreams. Our goals are two-fold: Steph F expects us to be on The Ellen DeGeneres show and Steph T expects us to have a segment on Good Morning America – we dream big.
Q: Tell us how you came up with the name "The Bombeck Sisters" and what it means to you.
Steph T: Well, honestly, our name was born in the showroom of a thrift store. We had the concept for our blog and had been toying around with names, but nothing would “stick.” So what do two girls do when they’re stuck in a rut? They go thrifting. While perusing the books in the newly opened Thrift’n Gift thrift store in Cary, Steph F. pulled out At Wit’s End by Erma Bombeck. We began talking about how much we love Erma and then, in a simultaneous burst of inspiration, we both blurt out “THE BOMBECK SISTERS!” And it stuck. Erma is our inspiration and resource for “tell it like it is” wisdom. Erma’s prose is funny, relatable and courageous. We talk about her a lot and when we get stuck or second-guess our writing on our blog, we ask, “what would Erma say?” In that way, Erma is our partner, ever present in most everything The Bombeck Sisters do.
Q: It's so evident from the blog and especially in the Tea Talk episodes that you two are great friends. Can we just talk about grownup friends for a minute? How is a friend you make in adulthood different from a friend you've known since childhood? Is one kind better than another?
Steph T: Ya know, I think friends are presented to us at various stages throughout our lives for a reason. I’m a big believer in “there are no accidents.” So I like to think friends, at whatever stage, teach us about ourselves, humanity, life lessons on empathy, trust, acceptance and support. I think the best of friends, if you can find them, are the ones that know your quirks and flaws, warts and whatnots, and still love and accept you anyway. That kind of friend is rare and a true gift, and I am blessed to have that in Steph F.
Steph F: They fill very different, but important roles in our lives. I’m not sure that one is better than the other, but they’re connected. Childhood friendships pave the foundation for grownup friendships. My childhood friends and I still keep in touch (thank you, Facebook). Months or even years can go by, but we pick up where we left off. I’m not exactly the same person I was when I was 12, but I like the comfort of knowing that some friendships go way back and share a history. With all that being said, I really value the friendships I’ve made since getting married and becoming a mother. Those friendships are so important because motherhood alone will turn you upside down and leaving you wondering or second-guessing many decisions. We need friends to remind us we’re not alone in the never-ending job of raising our children. It does take a village. I don’t know how I would have survived during the early years without the wit and wisdom (and wine) from my girlfriends. Now that our children are older, those friendships have grown and changed with time. My real friends are still around. They are a gift. And the older I get, the more I know how to pick them. Steph T. is a gift that keeps on giving. She is there for me. I am there for her. And she’s so stinking funny.
Q: It can be hard for busy moms to make time for friends, right? How do you ladies carve out time for each other, and why is it important to you to do so?
Steph T: Oh man, it really is hard for busy moms to nurture friendships. Let’s face it, we moms trade, share and give our time away to others at the expense of our personal time. I think we have the mindset that taking time out for ourselves is, in some way, taking time away from someone more deserving. No. We need to stop that internal guilt talk. Steph and I have had to change our mindset and that of our family’s. If we don’t place value on our own time, then nobody else will. So, we schedule our time on the calendar and treat it as a necessary priority. We also think this has been a good lesson to for our daughters and sons: the title of wife and mother does not automatically make your time any less valuable.
Q: What's your favorite thing in the Triangle to do with your family?
Steph T: Our family loves to camp at Jordan Lake. It’s not too far away so you don’t have to survive a long car ride. We have fun hanging by the fire, cooking, fishing and playing UNO together. We love it.
Steph F: We love to eat out! Our favorite stomping ground is Pulcinella’s in Durham. Great food and so friendly! We enjoy walking, skipping or riding bikes on the American Tobacco Trail. We love the atmosphere and beauty of Koka Booth Amphitheater, too!
Q: What's your favorite thing around here to do when you get a few hours to yourself?
A: Steph T: Honestly, I enjoy just being home and not having to go anywhere, cart kids to activities, volunteer on a field trip, go to the grocery store. Home and quiet are good companions for me when I have some free time.
Steph F: Exactly what she said. See what I mean?
Q: Where's your favorite place to hang out as friends (when there are no kids along)?
A: Steph T: I think I can speak for both of us on this one…we like just hanging out at each other’s houses talking and laughing. We also love to hit the thrift stores around town.
Q: What's the best parenting trick you've picked up?
Steph T: I think the best thing I can do as a parent for my kids is to listen. Listen without judgment to their stories and frustrations so that maybe they’ll talk some more. Listen for when they are talking too much or not enough. Listen for pauses in conversation that could mean something significant. When kids get a bit older, they don’t “speak” as much, which means I need to listen even harder.
Steph F: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It will take care of itself. And it always does. And Steph is right. Listen more. Talk less.
Q: What's the best advice someone has given you about being a mom?
Steph T: I guess the best advice about being a mom is the advice I wish I had gotten. While pregnant, I heard all the blissful tales of motherhood but what I really needed was the truth, the good and ugly laid out given it to me straight up like a shot of tequila. I call the first year of my life with newborn twins and my two-year-old “The Lost Year.” I have little recollection of events. I was in pure survival mode and kinda felt betrayed by my female counterparts who failed to prepare me for the most difficult job of my life. Mommyhood was hard … hella hard. A test of strength and courage I had never known. Where was all the bliss?
So now, when I see a sleep deprived mommy pushing a stroller walking with a purpose as if marching to war, I make it a point to gently stop her (if I can catch her) and say something like this: ”It gets better, I promise. Being a mom truly is the hardest job. You’re doing great. Some days you’ll like the job and some, you won’t. That’s OK. Though you love your kids, some days you may not like them. That’s OK too. You are courageous and strong and you will make it – you will. Though you may not see the rewards now, they are there, they are great and they are worth the wait. Try to be patient. And one last thought (from Erma Bombeck) that might carry you through sleep deprivation into toddlerhood and beyond, “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.” So, try to laugh a little. Every day.
Steph F: PICK YOUR BATTLES. Think before reacting and don’t assume anything. It has saved me from many, wrong turns. My teenager still likes me so I must be doing something right. Pay attention to them. It goes by faster than you know.
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