Monthly Archives: May 2010

That’s Corny

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person by how they eat an ear of corn. Who needs fancy-schmancy personality inventories or the opinion of some accredited guru to learn the depth and breadth of someone’s quirkiness? Just watch them eat. The proof’s in the puddin’—or in the corn, so to speak. All sorts of dining-related peculiarities surface once those steamy plates of golden-y yellow are set before a hungry crowd. And I’d daresay the oddities are stunningly similar to the ones exhibited when they’re NOT chowing down on anything—least of all, those sweet and succulent kernels of perfection.

Just for fun, I decided to test my theory by conducting a little research of my own—at the kitchen table, of course, where most of life’s important discoveries are made over Spaghetti-O’s, Kool-Aid and tuna casserole. So is it any wonder that such vital data would be best gathered there? Perhaps the only location or event better suited for said clinical study would be at a backyard barbecue or at a mid-summer’s family reunion; but then again, my clipboard and frenzied note-taking might frighten the subjects and skew the results. At our modest dinner table, the variables were controlled as much as humanly possible and the gathering of information was discreet in order to maintain the integrity of the analysis. Needless to say, names were changed to protect the eccentric.

There was the child with buttery elbows who nibbled and gnawed at the cob, slowly and methodically inspecting each and every row upon completion, ensuring that no kernel was left behind. Pun intended. She would then return, typewriter-style, to the left-hand extreme and repeat. She had a system, sound reasoning and a need for logic and order. Naturally, fastidiousness is nothing new to this particular individual. For a long time she got her jollies by stringing a 30-foot procession of plastic cups and saucers, pots and pans across the floor through the kitchen and into the dining room (arranged first by size, then by color). She did the same with Beanie Babies. And Matchbox cars. And books. And pillows. Finally, with animal crackers. So truthfully, it was no surprise to discover how she might tackle an ear of corn. No doubt, a future candidate for OCD.

My other smallish nibbler employed a completely different strategy for the task at hand. She picked and pecked at those plump little nuggets of corn like some deranged bird, striking randomly and fiercely with every pint-sized bite. No identifiable pattern ever emerged. At least none that I could see—except for the flecks of yellow sprinkled on the floor, perfectly outlining her chair. There appeared to be no method to her madness. No logic to her lunacy. Once again, the personality characteristics in question matched uncannily—she’s a veritable live wire, bouncing from one thing to the next, blessed with the attention span of a gnat. Of course her corn would be consumed with haphazard flair. The typewriter thing just wouldn’t fly. Not for this free spirit.

Captain Quirk (not disappointingly) earned his stripes yet again, proving to me (and soon, to many) that his weirdness is without limit. A nonconformist to the core, the man devours corn-on-the-cob in perhaps the most unorthodox manner in existence. He begins by gnawing kernels from left to right, pausing in the center of the cob only to return to the left end again. He rolls it precisely one-quarter turn and follows with the very same action, over and over until exactly one-half of the ear is consumed. He then does the unthinkable. He sets it down on his plate to eat (Gasp!) something else, returning to it later. A heinous crime in most states, I am certain.

I, personally, don’t surface for air until the job is finished, classic type-writer style. And I’d never dream of touching a hamburger or hotdog in the midst of a session with hot, buttery corn-on-the-cob. It’s absurd even to entertain such foolishness. Pass the potato salad? Make idle chit-chat? Fat chance. I’m in a zone.

Quirky? Nah, just passionate about my corn.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where napkins are entirely optional).

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel



Filed under Captain Quirk, Daily Chaos, Meat & Potatoes, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Cloudy with a Chance of Gnats

Lately I feel as though I’ve been thrust onto the set of a horror film. One in which the entire planet has been overtaken by a massive swarm of gnats—those unspeakably irksome creatures that I despise beyond all comprehension. Everywhere, it seems, the winged beasts are expertly poised to attack, kamikaze style—on packed playgrounds, in busy parking lots, in back yards brimming with picnickers and across vast expanses of athletic fields, lush with slick, green grass. Armies of said clusters-of-doom stand ready (they hover, actually) to unleash their merciless wrath upon the innocent and upon the fools who neglect or refuse to douse themselves with bug spray.

I have to wonder, what exactly is the purpose of the gnat—aside from wreaking havoc upon the civilized world one sufficiently annoyed being at a time? They must lurk near the bottom of the food chain, I’d surmise, serving as sacrificial sustenance for bats or birds or something toad-ish. Gak!

That said, whenever I venture outside it’s as if my head is a giant nucleus besieged by a cloud of deranged, piranha-like, helter-skelter-inspired electrons—ones inclined to gnaw upon my flesh, to become entangled in my hair, to buzz incessantly in my ears, to viciously invade my nasal cavities and to perhaps bore inside my brain where they would then read my thoughts and replace them with the idiotic notions of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

Feels like a horror flick, remember?

Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of inhaling the wretched things, of fishing their sodden carcasses from my eyes and of waving my arms like a madwoman just so I can string two coherent sentences together while conversing with someone in the great outdoors. Someone, ostensibly, flapping like a lunatic as well.

“Just keep talking!” I shout, “Never mind this insanely stupid-looking flurry of clapping and slapping and grabbing fistfuls of what I hope are DEAD BUGS! I’m still listening to you…(insert horrendous hacking noises and the sound of spitting out wads of freshly moistened gnats)…really, I am!”

Viewed from afar, and from the encapsulated havens of cars, those plagued by the loathsome vermin must truly look like a bunch of loons, swinging wildly in the air, lunging erratically to and fro, cursing at the demons thought to exist just inches away. Straightjacket material.

Yep. That’s me. The dolt on the soccer field at dusk. Wishing like crazy that I had worn a hat…so I could whack the bejesus out of them. At least there’s some satisfaction in that. “Squishing gnats—it does a body good.” Mine, that is. Not the gnat’s so much. Indeed, there’s something inherently cathartic about the process of snuffing the life out of a bothersome bug and, of course, my brood gets a huge charge out of the sadistic commentary that generally follows.

“Are you the next of kin, my dears?”  (My heathens nod, eagerly awaiting the punch line)

“Well, in my expert medical opinion, Mr. Gnat had a horrible headache……..right before he became entirely flat. He is dead, I am afraid.”

It’s a completely different matter, however, when something not-so-gnat-ish dies. There are tears, rambling eulogies and makeshift tombstones (etched with names like Pooper, Froggy and Slimy) for beloved souls like tadpoles, frogs and even worms. Cats receive lengthy graveside services as one would expect and pet goldfish, a ceremonial burial at sea with a woeful dirge softly wafting in the background. Taps usually.

Gnats, on the other hand, are the scum of the earth and infinitely expendable, methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (cursing at gnats and whatnot).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Me Myself and I, Rantings & Ravings

Armadillo to Zebra

Listen closely. That’s the sound of someone gasping for breath, suffocating beneath a deluge of fuzz and fluff. A wretched soul inundated with more stuffed animals under one roof than any sane individual could reasonably imagine. A sucker for a sale on all-that-is-warm-and-fuzzy YET PROMISES NEVER TO EAT, POO or SHED. Needless to say, that someone is me.

Eternally, it seems, my brood has been consumed with faux faunae of one kind or another—mesmerized by creatures great and small, enthralled by those deemed weird and wonderful, charmed by the frighteningly fancy and the perfectly plain. That said, wooly beasts from A to Z abound in this household, atop beds and bureaus, spilling from trunks and lurking in corners, stuffed behind couches and propped up in chairs—much to my chagrin.

Translation: I’m tired of cute and cuddly—the stuffed-with-fluff blobs of whateverness that threaten to rule my world. More specifically, I’ve had enough of the dogs that howl at the moon, yap incessantly or fart on command. I’ve tolerated more than my share of earsplitting monkey shrieks, the frenzied slap of hooves on cobblestone and frog-ish croaks that sound more like a chorus of booze-inspired belches than anything. And aside from being fairly adorable and infinitely dear, those fancy-schmancy, computer savvy Whatever-kins have yet to truly wow me. Maybe it’s because I think kids should spend more time climbing trees than climbing levels online.

Yes, I kick my dear children outdoors on a regular basis and ration the time which is spent utterly fixated on the deliciousness of Poptropica and the like. Color me an ogress.

At any rate, the collective toll of all the dot-com nonsense, the pseudo mewing, hissing, chirping, bleating, barking, mooing (and whatever maddening little noises guinea pigs make) that I’ve endured interminably has driven me to seriously consider the notion of gathering the reprehensible bunch together and heaving them into the lawn.

It would be cathartic if nothing else.

But truth be told, I am part of the problem. Whenever I stumble upon something entirely irresistible, something that speaks to me for whatever reason, something my eight-year-old cherubs would deem drool-worthy in every sense of the word, I cave—feeling compelled to buy yet another bit of warmth and fuzziness for my motley crew. Despite knowing there is no room at the inn. Despite acknowledging there is no real need for such an indulgence. Despite understanding full well that I will regret having made said purchase—either immediately, or when my vacuum cleaner chokes on an errantly placed armadillo, on one of Skippyjon Jones’ enormous ears, on Walter’s hapless tail. I will then curse the day it was stitched together and stuffed with love.

I know this much is true. But I cave anyway, adopting yet another fuzzy companion for my charges. One that will be loved without end, humanized beyond all imagining, bent and twisted so as to squeeze into book bags and burrow beneath pillows. One that will be privy to innumerable secrets and included in countless conversations, eager to listen, inclined to agree. One whose care and conditioning will be entrusted to me for hours on end.

“Mom, make sure you feed Frank, and play with him while I’m gone. Remember, I’ll KNOW if you don’t do it and I’ll be really, really mad.” (Waggles finger at me as she boards the school bus and waves goodbye to Frank and me).

Even still, I continue to feed the beast, as it were—adding just one more stuffed animal at a time. One that will sit at the dinner table and oversee baths, help with homework and dangle from monkey bars. One that will be demanded at bedtime and searched for, high and low. One that will journey near and far, be read to, prayed to, listened to and befriended above all else.

Another bit of fuzz and fluff that will be welcomed into this world, unconditionally.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (suffocating beneath a deluge of stuffed animals, every one of which has a name).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Hello, Misery…Your Company is Here

Lately I feel like the overstuffed mitten in that aptly titled children’s classic, The Mitten. My world, quite literally, is falling apart at the seams and I guess I’m whining because it feels good. Little else has proven effective thus far.

Of course, this is nothing new. I’ve always subscribed to the theory: When in doubt, whine it out. There’s just something about going on and on (in horrific detail) about personally troubling issues that contributes to coping—or maybe it’s the truckloads of pity I find especially therapeutic. Either way, I win. Whining also happens to deliver another benefit: It triggers within others an irresistible urge to vent in response (an enormously dysfunctional “pity party” of sorts).

You’re cordially invited.

Naturally, the venting process itself stirs the competitor within and causes a great number of individuals to spit out an I-can-top-that-train-wreck-of-an-experience-in-300-words-or-less! In short, I wind up feeling soooooooooooooooo much better after learning there are throngs of people out there WAY more miserable than I am. Thanks, in advance. I hope you share.

To spell it out… in refrigerator magnets, Seek and Destroy have been afflicted with one blasted illness after the other—FOREVER. Well, since the beginning of time anyway. It started with rotten colds (which each of the germ magnets managed to attract oh-so-handily) and progressed to a nasty ear infection—that positively refuses to go away. Then Seek, of course, felt left out and dreadfully bored with all that sneezing and coughing so she contracted strep throat to keep pace with her sister. Sprinkle an especially vile bout of pink eye into the mix (which they most generously shared with one another and God only knows who else) and that about sums up Sick-O-Central—with one exception: HIVES.

We discovered that Destroy is apparently allergic to just about every drug that contains any of the letters, A through Z. Not really, just the “cillin” family. Joy. And, as expected, we learned this key bit of information not during the week, during office hours or even where we reside. Nope. We became enlightened OVER THE WEEKEND while at a conference, AT NIGHT and roughly FOUR HOURS FROM HOME. Oh, happy day.

“What the hell are those spots?!” I grilled my husband who had spent all afternoon with the girls, swimming in the hotel pool, checking out the cool pond stocked with goldfish, and throwing rocks at the ducks. Yes, the man taught our dear children how to throw rocks at ducks. Modeled the behavior, even. That said, the ducks are okay. Really, they’re perfectly fine. Please don’t write to rail him. That’s my job.

“I don’t know. Looks like a rash,” he stated in a pitiful attempt to sound like a concerned medical professional. Damned quack. Stick to ducks already.

To make a long, boring story short and exciting, within about 38 seconds the hives grew to the size of watermelons and spread pretty much over her entire body—head to toe. For the record, they were red, and raised, and itchy and it was scary as hell for me to watch them multiply like some deranged polka-dotted plague. Thankfully, Benadryl saved the day and we didn’t have to tour Allegheny General Hospital that night, although for a time we seriously entertained the idea. At any rate, we’re home now and still up every night with one or both sicklings for one reason or another—which is painfully reminiscent of the sleep deprivation era we endured forever and a day.

With any luck, the new antibiotic will do the trick—minus the hives. Time will tell.

“Can I take a look at your belly? Yes, I know, I know, I’ve looked at it 427 times today, but I like it. It’s a nice belly and I am especially fond of the ‘innie’ you’re sporting there. No, really—I just need to see your belly. I won’t tickle you. I promise. Just humor me please, Hon.”

Of course, I am now ridiculously suspect of each and every itch, bump or red mark that appears on her skin. I’ve even tiptoed into her room at 3 a.m. with flashlight in hand to examine that belly—yet again. My husband thinks I’ve become obsessed. I simply continue to advise him that he should worry about the poor, defenseless ducks—not my middle-of-the-night traipsings.

Quite frankly, I’m sick to death of administering medicine too. I’ve been driven nearly berserk trying to keep track of who gets what, when—and my kitchen counter is starting to resemble a pharmacy. We’ve got gooey grape stuff, bubblegum-flavored chewables, terrific tasting cherry liquid, a nasal spray and eye drops that promise to end that oh-so-wonderful eyelash super-gluing phenomenon nearly instantaneously. Good thing. I’ve grown to loathe the unsticking process each morning.

Hello, Misery…your company is most definitely here.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (answering the door).

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings, Sick-O Central, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

A Kinder, Gentler Blue Streak

Many moons ago, the editor of one of my on-line parenting communities (i.e. an addictive little pocket of people on the Net who collectively served as my personal sanity cocktail from dawn until dusk) posed an interesting question: What was my favorite curse word substitute? In brief, she wanted to know what sort of word or words I regularly use in place of the filth that I should be ashamed to admit I even know—let alone use on occasion.

Lo and behold, the topic proved highly popular among a gamut of contributors who then generated a strangely magnificent slew of cuss words, clearly and cleverly Mister Rogers-ized for the benefit of all. In fact, it could be reasonably estimated that great masses—herds actually—of moms and dads rushed to submit their entries, wearing their little fingers to the bone in the process, no doubt. Maybe it was cathartic for them. Like confessing to skipping pages in some of those dreadfully boring bedtime favorites or to having served the kidlets a less-than-wholesome snack after school more than once. Egads! Who knows, maybe it just plain felt good to come clean in a public venue—to divulge the truth about our despicable “potty mouths” once and for all. I know I felt better having shared.

As I scanned the ever-growing list of unmentionable verbiage, I was pleasantly surprised to be doused with the warmth of camaraderie that positively flourished among our motley crew. We were kindred spirits after all—parents whose buttons were routinely pushed—driven to let fly horrible (yet somehow remarkable) strings of things we should never say in the presence of our impressionable youth. Cursing that infamous blue streak, as it were (albeit, a kinder gentler blue streak). Of course, I took note of curious terms that apparently flowed like lemonade within other households—especially those nifty little nuggets of speech I had never before envisioned using in place of the real deal. Naturally, they have since been added to my inventory of things-I-can-bellow-with-wild-abandon—even in front of the kids.

Needless to say, I shared my choice phrase with the best of them, eagerly offering up the whys and wherefores of my patented utterance, “Son-of-a-buffalo!” Many agreed it was classic and had stood the test of time. It was also practical, in that it was juuuuust lengthy enough to allow for reprogramming in mid-tirade—that magical window of time during which gears shift in the language factory, the brain catches up with the lips and whatever sinful blurb that was going to be produced gets transformed into something far more G-rated. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as successful with those gloriously liberating mono-syllabic expressions—the ones that resonate with satisfaction and consummate relief. Thankfully, such instances of use are rare and I’ve had enough sense to shove a pillow over my mouth so that at best, that-which-I-shouldn’t-have-said is garbled. My theory: A muffled expletive is better than one that will be articulated perfectly at Show & Tell.

My “Son-of-a-buffalo!” submission was also thought to possess a certain element of fun. Yes, fun. It rolls off the tongue easily and naturally—almost as easily and naturally as its prototype. Almost. It’s fun for the kids, too. And by that I mean those goofy children of mine believe that said snippet is perhaps the most hilarious phrase ever spoken. Bar none. Shortly after it leaves my lips, they pummel me to death with all sorts of unanswerables. Like: “What does a son of a buffalo look like, Mom?” “How old is he?” “What’s his real name?” “Does the mom buffalo have any daughters?” I also get a lot of, “Say it again, Mom! Again! Again! And again! That’s SO completely funny!”

Good grief. Maybe I’d be better off going out with my cronies or my husband (as Crazed Parent) suggested, so that I might get that pent up vat of profanity out of my system periodically. It’s certainly worth a try. Naturally, someone would then order Buffalo wings and we’d have to cackle about the irony in that.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Daily Chaos, Me Myself and I, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction