Monthly Archives: February 2010

I Do Not Like It, Sam I Am

It has come to my attention that a certain someone (Read: Thing One) is no longer fond of the cheery, little notes I tuck inside her lunch box each day—the ones I had hoped would make her feel special and remembered throughout school. Nor is she particularly thrilled with those I stuff in her snack bag. Hence, the gripes and grumbles and the oh-so-theatrical rolling-of-the-eyes performance to which I have been subjected of late. All of it, seemingly out of the blue. Of course, I find this news completely devastating—because it can only mean one thing: the end of childhood is nigh.

First, it’s “I don’t need you to hold my hand,” then, “I don’t need you to tie my shoes,” and apparently, “I don’t need you to write those silly, little notes anymore, Mom. It’s embarrassing.”

She then delivered the crushing blow, “And so are those bags. I’m the only one in my whole entire class who brings a snack in a STUPID BROWN BAG. Everyone else uses Ziploc baggies. And could you just write my name on it in plain old boring letters? I don’t want fancy bubble letters anymore. Are you trying to make me look like a baby or something?!”

Ouch.

Quite frankly, this unfortunate turn of events blindsided me, taking me entirely by surprise. I had no idea that such a practice was thought to be humiliating—much less, heinous and vindictive in nature. Usually I’m well aware of the instances during which I am heinous and vindictive, and I have a pretty good handle on when I’ve humiliated my brood—hot, angry tears followed by a barrage of foot stomping and sporadic outbursts involving the endearing phrase, “Evil Stepmother!” are fairly reasonable indicators. But this time, not so much.

At any rate, the fancy-schmancy doodles and notes must stop. Unless I can do it in a fashion that Thing One finds fully unobjectionable. “Can I just scribble something on a Post-it Note and hide it under your sandwich…once in a while…maybe on Tuesdays or something?” I posed, clinging desperately to the notion that it might still be okay for me to communicate with my child in this manner—but on her terms.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she conceded, “…but only if you quit using those Cat in the Hat notes. Do you want EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE CAFETERIA to see them?!” she spat as if I had suggested stuffing her underwear in with the Cheerios.

“Oh, no! Not the Cat in the Hat notes!” I wailed. “I love those things!” Indeed, I fondly recall the day I stumbled into what I considered to be the greatest find a parent of a grade-schooler could be blessed with—a collection of ONE HUNDRED Dr. Seuss-isms, smartly bound by Hallmark in a four-color, pocket-sized booklet, designed specifically with harried moms like me in mind (That’s code for: I did a happy dance right there in the middle of the aisle and shouted “Sam I am!” while clutching said nugget of brilliance to my breast). Truly, it was a thing of beauty and utterly brimming with ingenious rhymes like, “The cat is here! The cat came back! He thought you’d like a yummy snack.” And inspiring blurbages like, “Hot fish, cool fish. You fish, RULE fish!”

I thought it was cute. I thought it was clever. I thought it would save me from a slow and horrible death an obscenely tedious task—that of scrawling a bazillion heartfelt (and agonizingly original) notes to my children at an ungodly hour, when my brain barely functions beyond what is necessary for pouring my exhausted self into bed.

But no. The child hath spoken. “No more Dr. Seuss notes, Mom. I’m a THIRD GRADER, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” I bemoaned that irrefutable truth. “At least Thing Two still likes them, though,” I considered. “Didn’t she???” Later, I would quiz the girl—far away from the poisoned influence of her counterpart.

“Yeah, Mom. I still want Dr. Seuss notes in my lunch,” Thing Two cheerily stated. “I like them. And I like the notes you write, too. But I get mad when you use my stuff to do that.”

“Your stuff?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. My multicolored crayon pencils. I wish you wouldn’t use them to write notes to me,” she clarified. “Just use a pencil.”

“Oh,” I acknowledged, “Okay then,” deciding it was a small, albeit bizarre, concession to make. One of many I’ll apparently be making in the days, months and years ahead.

But I do not like it, Sam, I am.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (busy lamenting the finite quality of childhood). Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings, School Schmool

Dances with Carts

Shopping carts are the bane of my existence. It seems I have an uncanny knack for choosing ones that are both polluted with germs (Gak!) and hideously deficient in some unforeseen manner (i.e. equipped with a smarmy, foul-smelling handle or some gunked-up, pathetic semblance of wheels that lurch and rattle and are positively driven to move me in any direction but straight).

For whatever reason, I tend to poo-poo the many and varied imperfections at first, foolishly thinking that I won’t have to tolerate them all that long and they certainly won’t be all that bothersome in the end. Moreover, the truly vexing nature of most of the rogues I choose doesn’t become readily apparent until I’ve already journeyed halfway through the produce aisle, mindlessly fingering the fruit and considering whether we need more carrots or romaine. By then I’m committed to the match made in hell. For better or for worse. Till death do us part. Or at least until I manage to shove the misfit-of-a-cart through the checkout line or muscle it to my car where I can finally ditch it for a better life.

To add insult to injury, I often have to endure such hardships with my heathens in tow—the lovely creatures who yearn to make each and every shopping excursion I embark upon more memorable. And they do. Whining incessantly about this or that item—the one that the mean-and-horrible-troll-lady won’t let them have. Wrestling over the matter of who gets to man the cart first. Wooing me with pleas for sinfully sugary cereals and those sickly sweet gummy snack-a-ma-call-its that ought to be removed from the planet altogether.

Apparently it is not enough to be blessed with a wayward cart.

And once I make that regrettable and irrevocable decision to allow one of my miscreants to navigate the treacherous trail ahead, my fate is sealed. Someone’s ankles will indeed pay the price. Likely, mine. Despite the innumerable lectures I’ve delivered, the live demonstrations I’ve provided and the vat of instructional guidance I’ve offered on the subject, my two dandies, though well-intended, are physically incapable of maneuvering from Point A to Point B without smashing into someone or something. Granted, the aforementioned errant and evil wheel-a-ma-jigs do little to further their cause.

Not surprisingly, at some point during each supermarket tour my patience usually wanes with the pushing-of-the-cart-ludicrousness, climaxing shamefully somewhere between the toothpaste/shampoo aisle and the frozen foods section (i.e. the beast that is mommy rears her ugly head). As I return to the helm, attempting to pilot that which refuses to be piloted, I am met with yet another challenge: that of effectively communicating to my brood the notion of walking single file. My futile commands typically go something like this: “Okay girls, someone is coming toward us now and we need to walk single file.” “Girls?” “Hellooooooo. This stinking aisle isn’t WIDE enough for all three of us AND another cart to pass—is any of that remotely registering with you two?!”

Of course, neither child of mine responds, so engrossed are they with hanging onto the sides of my cart, eyeing the shelves for more of that which is forbidden. I must then stop the cart and clumsily move them—as if they were a couple of giant chess pieces—either in front or in back of me, smiling apologetically to the person now upon us. Again and again I repeat this cart dance—this utter lunacy, aisle after aisle, both stunned and amazed that creatures capable of telling me anything and everything I might want to know about a Euoplocephalus dinosaur cannot grasp the concept of hiking somewhere single file.

And let us not forget the times when one or both “helpers” insist upon riding inside the cart, “…so you can pile all the stuff on top of us, Mom, like we’re inside a little house! That’s so cool!” Naturally, there are people who find this disturbing—especially when they detect a hint of movement somewhere beneath the econo-sized Goldfish and the Lucky Charms.

“Do you know there are children in your cart?” they’ll ask, alarmed by the possibility that I could, in fact, be so clueless as to not notice a couple of stowaways on board.

“Yes. They’re with me, otherwise known as Dances with Carts.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (forever dodging those ankle-biting menaces in the grocery store). Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Eggs, Toast and a Side of Cynicism

For whatever reason, the gods of morning madness have been smiling upon me these past few weeks. And like any good cynic, I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out. With every ounce of my being, I fully expect my petulant children to return, brimming with an abundance of snarky commentary regarding breakfast cereal choices (or the lack thereof), eager to display the alarm clock-inspired rage to which I’ve grown so accustomed and to bring to the fore their lovely penchant for bickering with one another at dark-thirty. Joy. Likewise, I presume the frenzied packing-of-lunches-and-backpacks thing coupled with shrieks involving the very real possibility of missing the bus will resume shortly as well.

If nothing else, it would feel familiar. Quite frankly, I am suspect of the degree of calm that has befallen my home of late. Mornings are no longer intolerably hectic, which I find fairly disturbing since it’s all I’ve known since the days of kindergarten. There are no shouting matches to speak of, no monumental crises related to bedhead or perceived fashion offenses and, incredibly, no one has become enraged over wrinkles in socks or the gunkiness of toothpaste for days on end. Gasp!

It’s all so alarmingly alien—this death of disorder and dissent. So naturally, I greet it with cool skepticism, assuming that a conspirator has somehow snatched my ill-tempered brood and left me with a delightful pair of third graders who get up on time, dress for school without complaint and exhibit an obscene amount of good cheer all morning long. Imposters, I am sure, are among us.

Or perhaps my fortuitous situation has arisen as a direct result of the plan my husband so shrewdly devised and skillfully implemented. Translation: The man is a genius. That said, he pulled our charges aside one day and explained how our shameless bribe new morning routine would work. The seed was planted thusly.

“If you get up and get dressed as soon as your alarm goes off,” he purred with Grinch-like finesse, “and haul your sorry selves to the kitchen by 6:30, I’ll make you WHATEVER HOT BREAKFAST YOUR LITTLE HEARTS DESIRE. And,” he sweetened the pot, “I’ll even let you crack eggs and stir stuff.” To date, the immaculately prepared entrées have included pancakes (with faces!), French toast and waffles (to die for!), eggs (infinitely varied!), bacon (impossibly crisp!) and a vat of drool-worthy, bathed-in-olive-oil fried potatoes I felt compelled to appraise. Again. And again.

In sum, he made a deal with the unwitting pair. A wickedly clever, painfully simple, non-negotiable agreement—one that is likely responsible for the glowing success we’ve experienced thus far on our journey to the Land of Hassle-free School Mornings. Note to self: Cold cereal nourishes the body, but hot cakes (and other breakfasty-type foods with irresistibly enticing aromas) inspire action of the bounding-out-of-bed variety.

But perhaps the motivation runs deeper than that. Part of me suspects that under the surface lies a host of benefits aside from the obvious. Like the delicious sliver of time in which we snuggle together before anyone heads to the kitchen. All four of us, looking as much like sardines as anything, burrow beneath a sea of blankets in our big, oak bed—the place where toes are warmed and whispers are shared in the waning moments of still and darkness.

“Here I am, your little alarm clock,” they each announce as they crawl in with us, a different stuffed animal tucked under their arms each morning. To my utter amazement, both kids have already dressed, fulfilling their end of the bargain. I shake my head in disbelief.

The plan is working.

A few minutes later, they clamber downstairs to the kitchen and confirm with the cook their menu choices for the day. Chairs are then shoved against counters, eggs are cracked and batter is stirred—fulfilling the other end of the bargain.

As the sun crests over the hillside and begins pouring into the house, a steaming, hot breakfast is served—as promised. Syrup and cinnamon, juice and jam look on as chatter fills the room. There is talk of disjointed dreams, of library books and of plans for playing with a favorite friend at the bus stop. Everything that follows is sunny-side up.

Once again, I shake my head in disbelief. The plan is still working—despite my side of cynicism.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (wondering when the novelty will wear off and hoping like crazy that’s never). Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com and at www.zazzle.com/planetmom*, too, where you can buy your very own “Eggs, toast and a side of cynicism” apron. Just click on SNARKY STUFF. It most definitely qualifies as such.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

Also published on BetterWayMoms.com!

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Five Ways to Get What You Really Want for Valentine’s Day

  1. Leave heart-shaped Post-it notes EVERYWHERE (upon which you’ve scrawled shamelessly overt hints regarding what gifts you deem to be perfect in every way). Stuff the little gems in your kids’ lunchboxes, beneath pillows, next to the orange juice and on the steering wheel. Remember, it’s not gauche to do so; indeed, it’s helpful to those who have absolutely no idea how to wow Mom on Valentine’s Day.
  2. Over dinner casually mention to one and all how those “cute little coupon books” the kids gave you for Mother’s Day make you weak with desire—especially when the bearer of said gifts actually makes good on his or her promise to clean the kitchen, fold the laundry or scrub the toilets. Try not to grovel as February 14th approaches.
  3. Bake yourself happy on V-Day. Be sure to employ voluminous quantities of chocolate in the process—to the point of sheer decadence, if you must. And you must.
  4. Turn to two of the most effective motivational devices on the planet: bribery and shame. Or simply order the damn flowers yourself and schedule your well-deserved massage.
  5. Take the bull by the horns and book that romantic getaway to the Caribbean (or wherever). Inform Romeo that you made an executive decision—not unlike the time he insisted his mother “stay another week” in your home.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

(Also published on HybridMom.com!)

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Vat of Complete Irreverence

It’s the Little Things That Make Life Sweeter

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I can’t help but be reminded of how sweet life truly is on February 14th as well as every other day on the calendar—with or without the chocolate-covered delectables, mawkish cards and heart shaped hoo-ha. Case in point, my husband used to pack little baggies of food for me each day before he left for work, filling them tenderly with freshly peeled carrots, bunches of grapes or a handful of pretzel bites or cashews. Most days there was a half a turkey-on-rye waiting in the wings for me, too, abundantly dressed with lettuce, tomato and provolone. Its mate could likely be found on the same refrigerator shelf, neatly sliced and ready for instant retrieval.

However, it wasn’t a job for the thin-skinned. There were standards to be met. My slightly specific and less-than-succinct criteria: each conveniently bagged delight had to be flavorful (yet devoid of gassiness), it couldn’t be the least bit drippy or crumbly or, Heaven forbid, unwieldy if food can be described as such. Most importantly, I had to be able to consume it using just one hand—often on the fly or holed up in a chair for God-knows-how-long nursing a grexy baby. Or two.

Needless to say, great care and consideration went into preparing such sustenance for me and I was eternally grateful—both for the man’s diligence and for his abiding tolerance of my changeable mood. After all, it was the finger food that served as my salvation during that interminable stage of parenthood (i.e. the maddening era home-alone-with-newborn-twins, when I would have given almost anything for a hot shower or a real sit-down meal with something as fancy as a fork or idle conversation). But the bundles of nourishment he so thoughtfully provided, though short on style, surely delivered that which I needed most: the feeling of being cared for and remembered each day. It was a little thing that made my life that much sweeter.

I’d daresay the majority of what enriches my world could be categorized by most as something seemingly insignificant or ordinary at best. Something perhaps unremarkable to the masses, but dear to me. Like the little notes and drawings my kids stuff inside my pockets and tape to my computer, knowing that later I’ll stumble upon them and smile. Or that my oldest—beyond all logic and understanding—still confides in me and seeks my counsel. Or at the close of an especially trying day in the trenches of Parentville, when I feel like the most horrible mother on earth because I dumped someone’s special potion down the drain or because I forgot to tell the yard crew not to haul away “…our eagle’s nest, Mom!” or because I screamed at them over nothing or because I failed to listen yet again—I get this amazing and completely undeserved gift in the form of a breathy secret whispered in my ear at bedtime, “Mommy, I wouldn’t trade you for anything. Not even for a worm.”

Stuff like that makes me melt. And I’m that much surer it’s the little things in life that matter most. Like the twitter of songbirds after a long, hard winter. A handwritten letter amidst a sea of emails. A yellow moon on the rise. The brackish breeze, the cries of seagulls and the soothing sound of the ocean after driving forever to get there. The way my kids’ eyelashes curl and the thicket of sun-bleached hairs on the napes of their necks. The way my grandmother traced my ears to coax me to sleep. My grandfather’s firm belief that I was “big enough” to help him feed the cows, steer the tractor and hay the fields. Clunking around a farm in real barn boots. The warm muzzle of a horse. The company of a cat. The affection of a dog. The lullaby of crickets. The tang of autumn. The whisper of pines. The crisp scent of a novel, yet to be consumed. Fresh newsprint. Thistledown. Snowflakes. The smell of rain. Holding hands.

I often stumble upon small wonders, too, in unlikely places—like the special stones on someone’s dresser, harvested from Grandma’s house “…to help me remember her, Mom.” And crumbs in someone’s pocket—the remains of a bit of bread “…I saved for Taylor from my lunch today at school. It got all crumbly when we shared it, Mom.” And heartfelt notes of apology—painstakingly folded and carefully wedged between the pages of a favorite book. “Sorry Sadie. I really love you a lot. You’re the best sister ever!”

Of course, there was the strange but wonderful vine, curiously twisted into the shape of a heart, one of my dandies found while foraging in the garage last week. “Here, Mom; it’s for you.” But it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookie she shared with my husband and me recently—the one she cleverly gnawed upon until it, too, resembled a heart.

Indeed, it’s the little things that make life sweeter on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and continue to devour again and again It’s the Little Things, by Craig Wilson, USA Today columnist and friend). Visit me at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Twelfth of Never

My refrigerator is the center of my universe, the heart and soul of my very being and without question, the hub of all that defines my world. Not because of the mince pie, Jack cheese and leftover potato salad contained within. But because of the Almighty Calendar that hangs on its shiny surface—eye-level, next to the school lunch menu, surrounded by tiny scraps of paper upon which I scrawled phone numbers I need to know but will never remember. And like a lot of well-worn items in my household, it looks as though it belongs there—wedged comfortably between favorite photos, prized artwork, a colorful array of magnetic letters A to Z and those all-important memos and appointment cards without which I would most certainly shrivel up and die.

Each perfect square on that grand and glorious grid of events represents a chunk of precious time. And it must—I repeat, it MUST—have something scribbled within it. Someone’s birthday. A holiday mealtime. A veterinary appointment. An eye exam. New tires for the car. A vacation destination. A reminder to return the kids’ library books. Something. Anything. Except nothingness—which would imply a sort of nothingness about me, I suppose; or perhaps that downtime actually exists in my harried world. Ha! White spaces on my calendar!? How ridiculous. I should be so lucky.

There are swimming lessons, birthday parties and play rehearsals to attend. Basketball games, hair cuts and doctors’ visits galore. Empty blocks simply do not reflect the reality that is mine. Besides, the voids make me feel guilty—as if I have nothing better to do than sit around and watch bits and pieces of Play-Doh dry and crumble while the kids are at school. Calendars crammed to capacity with details of this or that planned affair give me a real sense of purpose, of direction, of connectedness with the outside world—linking me to all the goings-on I have chosen to include (willingly or not). And they provide a healthy dose of structure and truckloads of predictability, too—both of which are sorely lacking under this loonified circus tent. In sum, calendars bring a smattering of order to my otherwise disordered world. I shudder to think where I’d be without mine—mired in some muddled state till the twelfth of Never, no doubt.

Some days the world simply spins too fast for me (as my friend, Ruth, has so often quipped). Nothing could be closer to the truth. But my oh-so-wonderful, month-at-a-glance, tangible timeline-on-the-fridge helps me hold it all together, to keep everything in its proper perspective and to effectively answer questions like, “What are you doing next Tuesday the 16th?”

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue unless and until I consulted the silly calendar. At least I know my limitations—one of which involves not straying too far from the Master Schedule. Another: Writing small enough so that everything is neatly and completely contained within its designated block—an impossible task to say the least.

But I love calendars, despite my personal limitations in dealing with them. I especially enjoy receiving a crisp, new one for Christmas (a traditional wish list item in this household) and spending a lazy afternoon in January slathering its pristine little blocks with all sorts of important dates and times to remember. Every syllable precisely placed, of course. Even more thrilling: Adorning my organizational wonder with cool reminder stickers that are sometimes included as a bonus. Woo hoo! I’m quite certain that for a day or so following said ritual, I fool a myriad of individuals into believing that I’m impeccably organized. Even I believe it for a time, until that dastardly interloper with whom I reside adds HIS appointments, meetings and countless other chicken scratchings to the revered framework I so meticulously and thoughtfully crafted.

Shortly thereafter, the frenzied pace of the world returns and information starts spilling from those neat and tidy little squares into the narrow margins. Stuff gets scribbled out or transferred to other squares in willy-nilly fashion and big, ugly arrows are drawn across what was once an unsullied masterpiece of time management—which is a lot like life, I suppose.

It is subject to change.

Remarkably, most of us manage to muddle through the madness with a few reroutings and derailments here and there, which builds character, I’m told. Maybe that’s what makes the month-by-month journey worth journeying—even if it’s just to the fridge.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com and check out my 2010 Planet Mom Calendar at Zazzle http://www.zazzle.com/2010_planet_mom_calendar-158332220575048482.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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