Monthly Archives: May 2010

A Horse of a Different Color

I have this delicious little fantasy—one in which I get to relive the year 1975, that interminable chunk of time during which everything revolved around the horribleness of wearing braces (or so it seemed). More specifically, I’d like to revisit life as a seventh grader, but as one who is fortunate enough to be fitted with today’s orthodontic wonders (i.e. the multi-colored bits of wonderfulness that kids ACTUALLY ENJOY WEARING—or so I’ve been informed by a certain giddified nine-year-old).

“Mom, my braces are SO COOL! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! They’re PINK and GREEN and ORANGE and BLUE! Like little pieces of candy!”

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a Skittles-inspired smile, a rainbow-esque set of teeth, a made-to-order mouth full of cheer—as opposed to the lifeless hunks of steely gray with which I was damned? How perfectly dull and exceedingly ordinary they were. That said, I am a resentful creature—one who laments having missed out on the joys of modern day orthodonture and who waves the woe-is-me flag now and again just to remind everyone how completely unfair life is.

And let us not forget how decidedly intolerable the wretched things were way back when. That irksome hodgepodge of puny rubber bands that no one on earth should be expected to handle…those hideous-looking metal bands twisted unmercifully around each tiny tooth…and those sharpish wires—the ones that reveled in our misery, poking and jabbing our fleshy cheeks at will, causing undue pain and suffering as we (band geeks and athletes alike) caked on gobs of wax in the name of protecting our dear lips from trumpets and whatnot. Indeed, the braces of yesteryear were instruments of pure evil, likely designed by a sadist with some sort of oral fixation.

But aside from the gamut of physical adversities, I remember well the torrent of humiliation suffered, too. Getting braces in the junior high was a truly mortifying experience. It meant transforming instantaneously into a target for ridicule. “Brace Face!” “Metal Mouth!” “Tinsel Teeth!” and whatever else the non-wearers decided we ought to be called echoed throughout the crowed hallways as we snaked our way from classroom to classroom. It meant shamefully displaying that walnut-sized slab of repulsiveness (read: a pink retainer) on our cafeteria tray each day and living in fear that we might inadvertently dispose of it in the trash. It meant hiding our faces behind notebooks and jamming our heads inside lockers in a perfectly futile attempt to conceal the horrible truth—the wearing of braces. We murmured this and mumbled that, cupping a hand to our mouths almost without thinking. As if shame had become second nature. Heaven forbid we smile.

Nowadays the grand event is cause for celebration. Calendars are marked with sparkly stickers and giant “Hoorays!” in anticipation of the special day. Text messages are sent to one and all upon leaving the orthodontist’s office—
sharing the happy news the very instant those prized specks of joy are cemented to one’s pearly whites. Great masses gather ’round to catch a glimpse and to ooh and aah in amazement, the medley of specific hues that were chosen (after much deliberation) is applauded with great enthusiasm and the wearers of braces are warmly embraced by both populations: the non-wearers as well as the welcoming committee of the Bedazzled Teeth Club.

As it should be.

Ah, to have been festooned with said multi-colored bits of wonderfulness in 1975. I can’t fathom anything more grand or glorious.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (mired in self-pity, imagining the Skittles-inspired smile that might have been).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Mommie Dearest

Always and forever, I am blown away by the seemingly trivial things my kids remember about their lives. The stuff that apparently pools and coagulates in the corners of their minds, having made some sort of lasting impression upon them for whatever reason–good or bad.

“…like the time I was sick and stayed home from school and you hurt your knee chasing Jack (aka: the damn dog) around and around the living room. Remember, Mom!? He had a piece of CAT POOP in his mouth and he wouldn’t let you take it! We laughed and laughed so hard!”

“…like the time I ran really fast down our front hill, tripped over the curb and got pebbles stuck in my hand. They stayed in there for FIVE WHOLE DAYS! Remember, Mom?!” (Read: the time I wanted to hurl because of the sickening thud your body made when it hit the pavement, never mind the torrent of queasiness that washed over me when I realized THOSE WERE ROCKSEMBEDDED IN YOUR FRICKING HAND!)

What’s more, I am completely fogged by the way my charges can recite verbatim the vat of horribleness I’ve delivered on more than one occasion (most of which have involved orange juice spillages, bath tub deluges and missed school buses). More specifically, the shameful string of words that pour unremittingly from my stupid mouth despite KNOWING how infinitely wrong and hurtful they are (i.e. the parenting tirades from hell during which the wheels fly off and Mommie Dearest rears her ugly head).

I’m also floored by my kids’ uncanny ability to remember virtually everything about the legions of stuffed animals they possess. The cushiness of this one, the plumpness of that one. How completely cuddlesome and decidedly irreplaceable the lot of them are (despite any number of deformities that may exist–to include missing eyes, gaping “wounds” and mysterious aromas).

Good God.

Further, they can readily recall specific times and circumstances under which said gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-die items were originally acquired. “Yeah, Mom. I got Mister Big Head Dog at the Dollar Store as a prize when I was seven. Doncha’ remember taking me there and I took like 15 minutes (translation: fucking forever) to decide?”

“And I won this fuzzy-eared rabbit (read: dilapidated piece of schlock) at the Fair one time when I threw some darts at balloons. Except I wasn’t very good at it, so I didn’t pop any. But the nice man (likely, the one sporting a mullet and the suggestion of teeth) gave me a bunny anyway.”

Me: (Fair? What Fair? Did I actually take you someplace where cows and pigs WERE the main attraction?!)

“And how ’bout the time Daddy tried to drown me in the shower at the Adirondacks?” (i.e. a date which will live in infamy during which he slathered said child’s filthy face with soap, mistakenly assuming she’d have enough SENSE to rinse it off, as opposed to inhaling voluminous quantities of water and/or soap suds).

Likewise, I am baffled by the intimacy my brood shares with their beloved rocks–OH, MY HELL, THE ROCKS! The ones that adorn their dressers and windowsills. The ones that spill from my Jeep’s nooks and crannies. The ones now housed in my garage (forever and ever, amen). The ones for which a special affinity has grown to a frightening degree. That said, my heathens know from whence each stone came and, perhaps, more disturbingly, whyeach particular nugget of earthy wonderfulness was harvested and hauled home in the first place, “…because my friend gave it to me and said I should keep it forever,” “…because it spoke to me and I just had to add it to my collection. Each rock is a memory, you know. Why do you always want to take my memories away, Mommy?”

As if that blurbage wasn’t enough to ensure that I will, in fact, die a slow, horrible, guilt-induced death, I recently learned of another cardinal sin for which I will pay dearly.

Child: “I ate a napkin once, Mommy.”

Me: “You ate a what?! A NAPKIN?!”

Child: “Yep. A napkin. I sort of nibbled and nibbled it till it was gone.” (touches fingertips to lips, pretending to gently gnaw imaginary napkin so that I might then know what a “nibble” looks like)

Me: “You ATE AN ENTIRE NAPKIN?! When, where and why on earth would you do such a crazy thing?! People don’t eat napkins (for Crissakes)!” (hands on hips, appalled by the notion)

Child: “Well I did. Back in kindergarten. At snack time. Besides, my friend ate a tag right off her shirt one time ’cause it was bothering her. I saw her do it. People DO eat paper-ish stuff sometimes, Mom.”

Me: DEAD SILENCE coupled with a look that likely suggested I had gone off the deep end (shock does this to people I’m told)


Me: “But WHY?! What possessed you to do such a thing?!” thinking, of course, this HAD to have been the result of some kind of twisted dare that five-year-olds routinely engage in.

Child: “I was hungry,” she said plainly.

Me: “You were hungry?!” (clutches heart, gasps)

Child: “Yep. You didn’t pack enough in my snack and I was still hungry; so I ate my napkin,” she stated simply, as if telling me I had forgotten to fill her squirt gun, so she commissioned some other schmuck to do it.

At this, of course, I cringed–deeply ashamed of the atrocity I had unknowingly committed, wanting ever so desperately to crawl beneath a rock and die.

…a slow, horrible guilt-induced sort of death. One entirely befitting of Mommie Dearest (i.e. she- who-would-deny-her-child-adequate-Goldfishy-sustenance).

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with an abundance of tasty napkins and an unbearable burden of guilt).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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June is Calling

June is calling. I know this much is true. Not because the calendar tells me so or because the sun lingers deliciously at the close of each day, but because I’ve been formally reinstated as the resident Flip-flop Finder (i.e. the fool who routinely scours the earth at dusk, rescuing forsaken footwear from an untimely demise). More specifically, I traipse around in the dark and dewy grass with flashlight-in-hand, grousing about someone’s less than responsible behavior—searching interminably for evidence of my children’s beloved shoe-like entities that in all likelihood will be consumed by the mean and horrible lawn mower should I fail to deliver in a timely manner.

Needless to say, there is a great deal of pressure in this job.

For the record, I have also been restored to my thankless post as Returner-of-Sand-to-the-Sandbox as well as Ball Retriever Extraordinaire, Gatherer of Guns, Steward of Swords, Harvester of Wayward Bicycles, Birdies and Bats, Hula Hoop Picker-Upper, Band-aid Putter-On-er, Sunscreen Slatherer, Ant “Stompler,” Bee Chaser and let us not forget the illustrious One Who Fetches Things (read: the idiot who willingly and expeditiously delivers those gotta-have-it-or-we’ll-surely-die items—like magnifying glasses, dirt digging spoons and Zip-loc baggies teeming with Cheerios). Thankfully however, my services as Squirt Gun Refiller are no longer required as I’ve since been promoted to Bathroom Floor Sopper-Upper.

Indeed, June is calling. The end-of-school-year countdown has officially begun—a reality with which one of my second grade progenies is exceedingly delighted, while her slightly miserable sidekick wallows in grief over the impending death of all-things-schoolish. Woe is me. That said, in the months to come I will assuredly be charged with an impossibly challenging task: making each and every day of the summer vacation abundantly exciting while at the same time painting next fall’s return to academia as something akin to unadulterated bliss. Ugh.

Yea, the sixth month of the year is surely nigh as evidenced by my children’s incessant and oh-so-theatrical pleas for a trip (or ten!) to Knoebels Amusement Park—an attraction I love and loathe with equal intensity. The heat, the din, the swarming masses and schmutzy ice cream! Oy! And yet, there is something curiously alluring about the wretched place. Disturbingly so, methinks.

“I wanna go on the roller coaster and the Flume and the Sklooosh, too, Mom—because the Sklooosh is splashier!” Case in point: My charges have begun to make up words to describe said mecca of amusement—which can’t be a good thing. What’s more, they’ve resorted to employing guilt tactics—which is SOnot nice.

“Yeah, Mom, So-and-So already went to Knoebels! Why can’t we go? It’s almost June, you know—I’m so bored I could just die.”

Without a doubt, I will cave. Soon I’ll be marking our calendar with a scheduled day of bedlam—filling up an entire square (or several) with the word KNOEBELS in big, fat letters and a crude rendering of roller coasters and whatnot. It is almost June after all. Time to drag my sorry self to that celebrated park and feast on fun, adventure and the possibility of heatstroke. Oh well, it beats January—that intolerable collection of 31 days during which I longed for even the suggestion of warmth.

Ah yes, June certainly is whispering in my ear these days, not simply because we’re on the cusp of a new season poised to transition (ready or not) into summer, but because we, personally, are about to embark upon a new chapter in life. My husband will retire come June. After great deliberation, reflecting upon his 35 years in Pennsylvania’s public school system where he served in a variety of capacities from educator to administrator, athletic director to advisor, mentor to coach, he is ready to embrace what the next phase of his career may hold. His biggest lament, however, is leaving behind a community of students who trust, believe and so desperately need the support of a principal they have come to know.

But June is calling. And we must listen.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (looking for flip-flops among other things).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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What Mom Really Wants…

Mother’s Day is coming. One day and counting. I’ve marked the Almighty Calendar that hangs on our fridge with a big, fat sticker, proclaiming to one and all, “This day is IMPORTANT! Don’t you daaaaaare forget it!” And I’m sure no one will. My family loves me dearly and they’ll undoubtedly stumble over one another to shower me with adoration and gifts galore. Gifts to die for—like decadent chocolates, gorgeous, sweet-smelling bouquets of roses or something lily-ish, syrupy cards that remind me just how much I am loved and appreciated. To top it all off, they’ll probably treat me to a scrumptious meal at a fancy-schmancy restaurant—where all five of us will dine together.

Sadly, however, I’m afraid a degree of disappointment lurks just around the bend.

But don’t think for a moment that I would ever condemn my family’s attempts to make me feel extra special on Mother’s Day, because they do—and I do as a result. Each year they wow me in some remarkable way and I am eternally grateful for their well-meaning efforts. However, they often miss the mark when it comes to having a fine-tuned awareness of my innermost desires as a mom. Time and again, my motley crew fails to recognize my signals, let alone interpret them correctly. It’s sort of like watching archaeologists decipher hieroglyphics on a cave wall in order to learn what the skywriter above has written.

So I am left with but few options this Mother’s Day. I could attempt to convey my true wishes through telepathy, employing my standard-issue female mind powers to transmit messages to my brood. I could drop subtle hints by pasting colorful little notes everywhere from the dust-covered television screen to the empty milk jug, still sitting in the fridge. Or perhaps I could present my self-indulgent list of wants and needs here in a public venue, hopeful that it will be well-received and acted upon accordingly.

With any luck, the following suggestions will also be of value to other families who are eager to please Mom this Mother’s Day.

1)      For starters, let Mom take a real live NAP once in a while. Not one of those namby-pamby dozing sessions on the couch that lasts for 15 minutes, rife with interruptions of the non-urgent variety. Set some hard and fast ground rules, too. No one is to disturb Mom unless the sky is falling or someone’s hair is on fire.

2)      Pick up after each other. That’s what Mom does 24/7. Give her a break for Pete’s sake! That means no sneakers, underwear or sweat socks lying around for all to “enjoy,” no barbed toys lying in wait for her on the stairs and no decomposing apple cores on the coffee table or empty Cheetos bags stuffed under the sofa pillows. Muster the strength, somehow, to make it to the hamper, toy box and trash can. She manages to do it, even when she’s dead tired.

3)      Relinquish the remote control for a day. Just one day. Honestly, how tough can it be? Let her choose the programming for once and don’t have a cow if she sticks with one station for more than ten minutes. The world won’t stop revolving if one less viewer tunes in to primetime rubbish geared to teens and young adults. Even Donald Trump doesn’t wield that much power and influence.

4)      Remember to close things: The refrigerator door, the toilet seat and lid, the Wonder bread wrapper, the Jiff jar (‘cause your mom is a choosy mom), your dresser drawers, the back door and your mouth—to curb the spillage of all that less-than-endearing commentary that tends to flow like a river from time to time.

5)      Make a concerted effort to get along with your siblings. Mom is sick and tired of blowing the whistle on all of your shenanigans. Not to mention, her wardrobe has suffered greatly since the addition of referee stripes. At all costs, refrain from causing anyone to bleed—especially on the good carpeting.

When that special day finally arrives, strive to think of Mom above all else—putting her wants and needs above your own. Really tune in to what she holds dear and what would prove to be the most meaningful to her when all is said and done.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Dining with Heathens (Continued)…

(Please recall, if you will, that my motley crew and I happened to be dining in a rather swank establishment, where I was appalled YET AGAIN by the uncouth nature of mealtime discussions). That said, shock value rules…

“Mom, Taylor needs you in the bathroom.”

“Whatdaya mean she needs me?”

“You know, Mom. She neeeeeeeeds you. Plus she said the toilet might overflow.”

Of course my mind played worst case scenario (as it does so capably), racing forward to the hideous spectacle we’d become should such a foul catastrophe actually occur. I pictured the crowd, agape and aghast, their satiny napkins clutched in horror, silverware and China clinking and clanking as patrons pushed and shoved to escape the river of repulsiveness snaking its way across the floor where we dined.

Fortunately, it wasn’t our day to be a spectacle. I mumbled a small prayer of thanks into the folds of my napkin upon my return from the restroom. Yet another crisis averted. But the boorish banter at the dinner table continued.

“Dad, Mom took us to see the coolest thing this morning before we got on the bus! It was a DEAD BIRD! A DEAD BABY BIRD! I wanted to touch it, but she wouldn’t let me so I just poked it with a piece of grass. I even blew it a kiss! I could see its little beak and grayish feathers and everything! It was SO cool! Jack tried to eat it, you know. Mom said he rolled around in it later—which is just plain gross. Why do dogs do that anyway?”

Of course, this handily surpassed another mealtime discussion we had had about dog poo in recent months. “Dad, Jack made a little sculpture with his poop today! I call it the Leaning Tower of Poop! I told my art teacher what he did and she laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe. It was SO funny! Mom should really take you to see it before it tips over. It’s like a real tower you know.”

Prior to that, the worm discourse had comfortably held the top spot. “Dad, I’m saving every little wormy I find outside,” one of my weirdish children announced with pride as she delved into a bowl of spaghetti. (Gag me!)

“They’re part of my special collection,” she added. “Just like my rocks (Lord, how could we forget her dear rocks?!). So I’ve started putting my wormies in a big bucket in the garage. It’s their worm bed, Dad.”

“And guess what,” her partner in weirdness chimed in. “One of those guys pooped in my hand and it was DIARRHEA! Ewwwww!”

Like I said, I’m often appalled by that which is deemed newsworthy at the dinner table. Indeed, shock value rules—now and forever.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Kid-Speak, Meat & Potatoes, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction