As the holidays were upon me last year, I began perusing the internet for some good edible gift ideas and came across my new favorite YouTube channel, Noreen’s Kitchen! Noreen had me at “hello” when I was able to recreate her fabulous coconut and brownie macaroons and I got rave reviews from my coworkers. Over time, I found out that Noreen also lives in a blended family. She, her husband Rick and her two daughters make it work! I was intrigued by how all members of the family join Noreen in the kitchen, which I also feel is so important in bond building with families. The kitchen being the center of the family, Noreen has it down pat! With that, I had to interview Noreen. TMF Readers, I hope you enjoy my interview with Noreen Lambert as much as I enjoyed chatting with her. Not only do I now have a new cooking mentor, I’ve made a new friend in the process.
Diane: Noreen, let me begin by saying that I am so excited to have this conversation with you. I have been a big fan of your YouTube channel, Noreen’s Kitchen, for some time now and thank you for allowing me the opportunity.
Noreen: Oh thank you Diane, I am extremely flattered that you would have me here.
Diane: Your YouTube channel is a fabulous outlet for women like me who aren’t experts in the kitchen but love to cook. What inspired you to cook for an audience?
Noreen: I don’t have a great answer to that question, except that I wanted to do it. I’ve been into making videos for the past 3 years now but before that I was just a viewer. One night, I thought I would make a dinner. At first, I wasn’t great at editing, I had to learn the learning curve, actually learned an awful lot. I wanted people to come into my kitchen and feel like they are sitting at my kitchen table.
Diane: Growing up in a blended family and having a blended family currently, what is your perception of how a blended family should operate?
Noreen: I think that I have two different ideas. My father died when I was 10. My mom remarried soon thereafter. My stepdad was my father’s very good friend. However, I was daddy’s little girl, so the loss was very devastating for me. I will admit, I was not easy to live with and I probably didn’t really accept him as my stepfather. I didn’t disrespect him but I had a hatred for him until my early 20’s. My family works because it works for us. Everyone is different. When I was growing up we didn’t have “blended family” we were told and were expected to be “just family.”
Diane: What do you think caused you to feel hatred?
Noreen: Because he was replacing my father. We, my brother and I had always known him as “Uncle Paul” and as soon as my mom and Paul came home from their honeymoon, I was told that he was no longer to be called “Uncle Paul,” but either “Paul or Daddy.” A giant paradigm shifted in my life. If I call him Paul, I will upset my mom and if I call him dad, I am being disloyal to my deceased father. That was a lot of pressure. Of course, every family has issues that have to be dealt with in one way or another, but sometimes its easier to brush them under the rug and hide them which only causes more pain. I have a brother 5 years younger and he didn’t know we had a blended family because the “step” part of it was all he knew. I, of course, had a different experience as I knew my father well, I was ten. I was his little girl. My brother had horrible guilt that he never knew our father. As parents we all make mistakes and we can’t fix them but grow through them. I never got permanent closure from losing my dad. We just had to grow thru it.
Diane: How do you think these experiences have affected your parenting?
Noreen: As a mother now, I am painfully honest with my children. When I separated from their father, they were 2 and 4. 18 months later, Rick and I met and we finally married 3 years ago. Rick has a daughter in Vegas and she dislikes me. I know what she is going through as I went through the same situation. She doesn’t accept me in that respect. She is 14. I never would have guessed that my stepdad would be a fabulous dad now but I got really lucky. Every family has their dysfunction. My kids accept Rick as their dad.
Diane: Do you find that your belief system is a lot different than that of your parents when you were being raised in a stepfamily? Is there anything you purposely do different?
Noreen: Very much so. I do a lot of things different from my mom. My mom is very “everything has to be planned.” That doesn’t work for me. Growing up, we had a living room that no one sat in, a dining room that no one ate in. I am totally different. We have to live for today and I want my kids to grab life by the “balls” and that they should try everything and realize that there is nothing in life that they can’t do whether they live in a blended family or not. You have to pick your battles.
Diane: What lessons did you take from your personal childhood experience that you may or may not want to bring into your current experience?
Noreen: We are a team. Our family growing up wasn’t a team. Parents were parents and kids were kids. In my house we play on the same team.
Diane: A lot of times, stepmoms feel the need to overcompensate or to be the “fixer of all things” for their husbands, stepchildren, children, etc. What advice would you give people who are suffering from what I call “super stepmom syndrome?”
Noreen: Its funny you should ask this. I always feel guilty if I don’t make something better. Being a woman in general we feel obligated that we have to make everyone happy all the time. Society in general makes us feel this way. When I am cooking on the videos, I always say “it doesn’t have to be perfect.” I am by far not perfect but I think that the most important advice I can give is to “forgive yourself.” Be easy on yourself. We can only fix what we can fix. I spent a lot of my life worrying about what I couldn’t fix. The sun still comes tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.
Diane: Those statements are extremely powerful and so true. You speak my language Noreen. As a stepmom, what do you think is the most important lesson you have learned through this journey?
Noreen: That you just have to let things be. She doesn’t have to like me. It has to be organic. You cannot put a seed in the ground and do nothing to it and expect it to produce a fruit. You just can’t. You have to let it happen naturally. The bottom line is the seed gives me a guarantee that if I water it and take care of it, it is going to give me something back. But you have to nurture it and feed it and work at it. You don’t just have a relationship; you have to work at it. People automatically think that just because their children, they don’t have to work at it. They are still people. Everyone has to work at relationships. People discount children because they are children. They have feelings.
Diane: You and Rick make a great team on camera as I am sure you do in your married life. What impact has Rick had on your girls?
Noreen: He is very patient and very accepting. Having been in the military for so long he knows how to delegate. He never expected anything from them which goes back to that organic relationship. It has grown from there. Their relationship was never forced, it always happened on the kids terms and they were able to build trust in him. How I was raised is “we are going to be a family whether you like it or not.” That doesn’t work.
Diane: One thing I notice about you and Rick is that he is very involved in helping you with your YouTube channel (i.e., filming, commenting and even cooking from time to time). I think it is wonderful that the two of you exhibit your “love and support” of one another the way you do. You laugh together and you make us laugh. It’s very important in remarriage and in any relationship to nurture it. Do you agree?
Noreen: If I can be humorous,I think the greatest way to learn about how to have a good marriage is to screw one up! My first marriage didn’t break up just because of my husband, we both played a role. Nurturing your marriage is the most important lesson I can give people. The first time around, it was very important for me to be right and for him to be right and now it doesn’t matter who’s right. Your reward for hard work in your marriage is the reward of your good relationship.
Diane: To keep in line with tradition, I ask all of my interviewee’s this question. What do you do for fun?
Noreen: Go to Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Virginia. I also craft. I love crafting. Another past time, is that I love to play on the Wii. I am also a movie and trivia junkie.
Diane: Noreen, it has been a real pleasure interviewing you and thank you for allowing Today’s Modern Family into your world. We are doing our best to serve blended families and we love to acknowledge great, successful blended families when we get the chance! Thank you for stopping by and letting me pick your brain not just on the issue of stepfamilies, but with regard to my favorite pastime – cooking and baking.
Noreen: You’re so very welcome Diane. I very much enjoyed our time together and thank you for having me.
Noreen Lambert is a wife, mom, stepmom and homemaker who loves to cook. You can find Noreen’s channel on YouTube with the tag name of atticus9799 and at www.noreenskitchen.com.