There are miscommunications, everyone retreating to their separate outposts with a slammed door between them and the rest of the house, whining and bad behavior (mine, not the 3-year-old's).
Then there are evenings like this: Painting at the easel with Stellina, then making dinner to NPR, open door and windows with fall breeze blowing through, the stepkid showing Stellina -- and allowing her to help him -- make a smoothie, the recipe for which he found online, to accommodate a basket of overripe strawberries that I exhumed from the Crisper drawer (which I think of as the "Rotter"). He's taking Cooking in school and has been quietly applying it at home. I am careful not to react overly enthusiastically, as not to scare him back into his man, jr. cave., yet pointedly admire the results (and the process, his cutting and clean-up skills). I'm making dinner around them, Michael is watering his fig trees and hooking up a CB radio, which he bought for $40 on Amazon with a wedding gift card. He wants it in order to get traffic reports from the truckers. And to say "You got your ears on, Good Buddy?"