Monthly Archives: June 2010

Flies Among Us

For me Independence Day has always marked the advent of summer, even though the calendar begs to differ. As a kid I remember thinking that the really good stuff didn’t happen until then. Not until flags were unfurled to line streets and storefronts and to flap and wave unfettered on front porches and stoops. Till parades and patriotism marched down Main Street, with bands and batons galore. Till the towering man on stilts made his way through the crowd along with white-faced clowns toting bouquets of balloons, billowing lazily in the breeze high above their heads. Till the Carnies came to town, towing tired caravans of carnival wares behind them and leaving in their collective wake barren patches of earth in the green fields of Smythe Park. Till the icy chill finally left the depths of our town pool. Till the unrelenting oppressiveness that is July and August settled in for the duration. That’s when summer officially began for me.

I suppose my children would frame the birth of this beloved season similarly, although they’d tack on a few additional milestones: like firefly sightings, serenading crickets and evenings running barefooted through the cool grass. Like sprinklers and sparklers, Frisbees and freedom and, of course drippity ice cream cones under the hot, hot sun. Like sandals and sundresses, campouts and cookouts, bathing suits and bug spray. Or like sitting in front of a box fan for hours—not so much to cool off, but to revel in the rattles and croakiness one could instantly produce by singing into it. “That’s so cool, Mom! Must be summer’s finally here!”

It’s certainly here alright. I know because the doors open and close roughly 600 times a day in this household and the flies are among us. The ones that have made my kitchen table a landing strip, my countertops a veritable garden party and my windows a rumored path to freedom—or perhaps to an untimely death. “Mommy, let me make him all squishy. I can do it. I watched you before.”

Gak! The thought of squishing and squashing and smearing the innards of said vileness all over my perfectly fingerprinted windows and cabinetry makes me ill. Yes ill. Yet allowing the loathsome creatures to willfully buzz everywhere, in that completely frenzied, pinball-like state we all know and love, bumping and banging into every blasted thing in the house and spreading God-knows-what kind of germage far and wide is worse. Far worse. It’s beyond repulsive and fast approaching hurl-worthy from my perspective.

Oddly enough, it’s the buzzing that bothers me most as the winged beasts (i.e. flying Raisinettes) ricochet here and there in a panic, pausing only to rest and to resonate in the presumed safety of corners to the annoyance of all. I especially abhor the characteristic hum of those big, hairy boxcar types—the Airbus of house flies. The sort that spits and sputters like an overburdened engine gasping for life, careening toward the earth at an alarming rate, preparing to crash and burn—or to plaster my windows yet again. But it’s the maddening drone in the air that I dread most.

Apparently, my children do not share my hatred of this summertime pest. In fact, a few years ago they were into naming the silly things. Frank. Fuzzy-head. Buzz. Whatever seemed fitting at the time. They even had the audacity to befriend them and to talk to them on occasion, to coax them into leaving our humble abode—preferably unscathed and well-fed.

Now, however, they find the mangy things to be a great source of amusement. They still name them, although they’re just as likely to kill, maim or imprison them indefinitely as they are to converse with them or to set them free. “Look, Mommy! I whacked Frank right out of the air with the swatter and then pounded him into the carpet (read: beat him into submission) ALL BY MYSELF! Let’s call Daddy at work! Just like I did when I lost my tooth!”

And so we did. I could think of nothing more newsworthy on earth to report—except for maybe the fact that she and her cohort had given some hapless caterpillars and worms a bath earlier in the day.

No doubt about it. Summer’s here!

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

The Truth about Dads

On the outside, dads are like steel. Anodized steel to be exact. But way down, deep inside, they’re all mush. Every last one of them. Show me any cantankerous, tough as nails, testosterone-driven Neanderthal, and I’ll show you his softer side—and we needn’t even be near a Sears Department Store.

For some unknown reason, back when the rules of life were written, people got the harebrained idea that men, and little boys who would eventually grow to become men, weren’t supposed to show any signs of sensitivity. Period. They were expected to go through life as no-nonsense, rough-and-tumble, insensitive, emotionless creatures capable only of fathering children, providing for and protecting their families, fighting wars, shoveling snow and fixing whatever happened to be broken around the house. Most of them could also be counted on for lugging heavy stuff here and there—which isn’t such a bad thing.

Any man worth his salt developed a callous exterior by the time he could vote, which was sure to shield him from whatever touchy-feely stuff life threw his way. This protective shell served not only to keep things from getting in, but also to prevent seepage of emotions to the world outside. Surely the sky would have fallen if anyone had ever discovered that men had feelings. Look out, Chicken Little!

Unfortunately, as I look around even today, a lot of men still play by these silly unwritten rules. They obsess over what others may think of them and worry about appearing weak or unmanly if a mere smidgeon of sensitivity spills out. They refuse to allow themselves to blubber during movies, to whimper at weddings, to sob over sprained ankles or to bawl over breakups. Even crying over spilled milk is deemed unacceptable. Furthermore, should any man under any circumstances ever admit to “needing a good cry,” immediate banishment from the He-man Woman Haters Club would undoubtedly result. I just don’t get it. It must be “a guy thing.” At least women have enough sense to cry it out once in a while—or to gorge on chocolate.

Of course, all the real men (lovers and haters of quiche alike), who have adopted these impossible societal standards as their own, can’t fool me. I know the real score. Those hardened exteriors, seemingly impervious to anything and everything, are capable of melting away, layer by layer.

Watch closely as men become fathers. Their stone-like barriers soften as they

provide comfort and support for their wives during pregnancy and childbirth, as they hold their wriggly newborns, kiss their boo-boos and sweep monsters from beneath their beds. As they teach their children to cross streets, throw a ball and balance a two-wheeler dads often beam with pride. They give so much of themselves as they read to them, listen to them and answer their endless questions. They rarely refuse a requested piggy-back or horsie ride and they know no bounds when it comes to making faces, singing silly songs or holding tea parties with imaginary guests. Eventually, their true colors come out whether or not they want the world to see.

Even as their children progress through adolescence and it seems as though nothing but frustration is felt, hidden deep inside are compassion and sensitivity. Dads, too, instinctively worry—about the driving, about the dating, about the decisions that face their delicate and inexperienced charges. They hope and pray and dream for their children, like any parent should. Graduations, engagements and weddings serve only to peel more buffers away, revealing the tenderness inside. Personally, there is little else I find more appealing in a man.

Happy Father’s Day to all those who understand what it means to be a real man—and a good dad. You know what your youngest child likes for breakfast, that your middle child is afraid of the dark and that your oldest hates to be embarrassed in front of his friends. You realize that parenting calls for teamwork in order to be successful; so you do your part. You’re tuned in. And sensitive. And, like it or not, mushy inside. But it’s okay. Your secret is safe with me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2004 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Holiday Hokum, Mushy Stuff

Afternoon Delight…Not

I now know why I decided not to return to the world of work once my children were old enough to enter kindergarten—and now, the first grade. It’s so that I would be afforded ample resources (read: voluminous amounts of wine) and time (read: the entire school day) to recharge my batteries, drained as a consequence of Mom Duty. Translation: To reclaim (at least in part) my sanity amidst the swirl of chaos and the din of despair that together govern my household from the moment my wily charges step off the school bus until they return to their educational Mecca via the same yellow beast-of-a-thing, sixteen hours and 13 minutes later.

But who’s counting?

Had I chosen to reenter the private sector back at that critical juncture in time, I doubt said recharging would have ever been possible. Not in the space of a typical workday. Not without Club Med. I’d have been suitably compensated for my vast array of skills and services, however; a notion almost completely foreign to me now. What’s more, I’d have been able to wear something besides slacker sweatpants from morning till night, I’d have been appreciated for my efforts (ostensibly anyway) and I’d have been surrounded by individuals who could very likely tie their own shoes and flush a toilet without prompting. Nevertheless, I made what I believed to be an informed decision, hid all my marbles and moved forward into the next phase of motherhood—never once looking back.

And yet sometimes, I do look back. Moreover, I question the wisdom of that decision. Such was the case a few weeks ago when the afternoon from hell unfolded thusly (with items 2-6 occurring simultaneously):

1)    Thing 1 (i.e. inconsolable child) got off the school bus—sporting a monstrous blob of chocolate on her coat (the PASTEL PINK one I had laundered not 24 hours earlier). “Mommy! Mommy! Sadie did it! She squished my Hershey’s Kiss ALL OVER MY GLOVES AND COAT AND DON’T YOU KNOW CHOCOLATE DOESN’T EVER EVER COME OUT?!!” she sobbed into my chest. Thing 2 (i.e. blithesome child) frolicked about the place, seemingly unaffected by the accusations against her. To add to my immeasurable joy, I later learned that her coat was festooned as well with unsightly gobs of chocolate.

2)    Despite having spent the previous hour outside (with every possible opportunity to relieve himself!) the dang dog peed a veritable deluge inside, missed a good portion of his puppy pad and the resulting puddle of whiz-a-ma-call-it proceeded to trickle (okay, flow rapidly) underneath said pad where IT COULD NOT BE ABSORBED. It could only be sopped and smeared and sloshed the world over with great masses of paper towels—which were NOT on sale, mind you.

3)    After consuming an outrageous portion of fresh grass, our gluttonous cat decided it was time to hurl. Profusely. In the middle of the kitchen floor (not to be confused with the neat little pile of dung he left for me in the corner of the living room earlier in the day). Who knows—maybe he was still somewhat annoyed with me for having ignored his incessant pleas for treats.

4)    Thing 2 planted herself at the kitchen table (totally oblivious to the cloud of mayhem that surrounded us) and felt the compelling desire to blow bubbles the size of kumquats in her milk—in abject defiance of my vehement shrieks of protest.

5)    Thing 1 demanded something to eat—immediately, or sooner. So I grabbed a hotdog roll and shoved it in the microwave, mindful not to employ the hand with which I had sopped up dog urine and scrubbed the remnants of cat vomit. Heaven forbid I actually take time to clean my hands. The child would surely starve in the interim.

6)    The telephone rang. On the line was the (supposedly less needy) teenaged daughter, requesting a crucial bit of advice that only a completely composed parent could deliver. I did not qualify for the job. But I was handy.

I later came to my senses and kicked anyone and everyone under the age of seven outside to play. Unfortunately, the drama refused to dissipate and instead, intensified.

Thing 2’s hair apparently got somewhat twisted (translation: became hopelessly entwined) around “…the scary swing, Mommy!” (So named for its whirling properties). Thing 1 reported the catastrophic event, scoring a 10 for theatrical performance and believability—which led to my donning a coat (the red cape was at the cleaner’s) so that I could trek across the lawn to the place where my screaming child stood, imprisoned by a bit of braided rope. “Mommy! Help! The swing’s got me! I’m stuck! I’m really stuuuuuck!” In sum, it was a 15-minute adventure-in-parenting I’d rather not revisit. Ever.

But tomorrow’s a new day. And with any luck, I’ll be ready for whatever delights the afternoon may hold. Or not.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (clutching my last marble).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, Vat of Complete Irreverence, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

A Rose by Any Other Name…

For a long time I’ve subscribed to the theory, “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Nothing fancy or convoluted about that little nugget of wisdom. Nope. I’ve tried (largely in vain) to convince my poor husband of the same—especially as it relates to his muddled and dreadfully misguided view on a certain sensitive domestic issue: the proper function of a sofa.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that he and I have some philosophical differences in this particular department. Okay, major philosophical differences. One of us is clearly wrong, never mind mired in denial. To frame it less delicately, if the man walks and talks like a couch potato, it would logically follow that said man is a couch potato—contrary to his intolerably skewed perception. It’s not rocket science we’re talking about here, people.

In my humble opinion, sofas are intended to be sat upon, lounged upon and even napped upon for a period of time not to exceed the bounds of reason. They also function quite nicely (I’m told) as something purely decorative in nature, fashionably adorned with an array of immaculate-looking throw pillows and perfectly placed cushions—well suited to those perfectly coiffed socialites that ooze sophistication and an I’d-be-appalled-to-find-a-three-day-old-peanutbutter-sandwich-wedged-in-with-the-Legos kind of air. I used to be appalled. And I once owned such a sofa. But it was still marginally functional, I suppose—almost as functional as my kids currently consider their beloved “launch pads” to be.

Not surprisingly, they have spent a goodly chunk of their collective childhood (clad in makeshift superhero capes, barn boots and strange-looking helmets fashioned from Winnie the Pooh and Dora the Explorer underwear) leaping from the backs of those gloriously cushiony surfaces with wild abandon, saving the day roughly 42 times a week. It’s been rumored anyway. More practically perhaps, couches serve as the most ideal cover known to man—a vast and wonderful dumping ground for the mounds and mounds of unsightly rubbish (i.e. kid paraphernalia) we can only dream of trashing one day. Instead, we settle for shoving it underneath and behind the sofa—out of sight, out of mind. A mildly liberating experience, some would say. But liberating nonetheless.

It is also my impassioned belief that couches are not to be confused with beds and they should never ever take the place of anything mattressy—except where the aforementioned naps (and unabashed mid-day romps) are concerned. Nor are they meant to be crashed upon till all hours of the night, perpetuating and exacerbating that horrendous, vegetative-type state I have grown to loathe. The one pictured thusly: a certain someone’s eyelids are slammed shut, his mouth—shamelessly agape and sucking air like nobody’s business and his arm (usually the left one)—suspended in midair by some strange force yet to be determined, sprouting forth from the cushions like a tree branch, aimed directly at the television screen, of course. At the end of that bough-like appendage rests the prized remote control device, firmly cemented in place for all eternity. Heaven forbid that some fool (namely me) would try to pry it away, adjust the volume, change the channel or try and convince Mister Sofa Spud that it makes far more sense to get up and go to bed than to vegetate half the night on the blasted couch. I may as well save my breath. It’s like conversing with a head of cabbage—a mildly intriguing concept in theory, but entirely futile in practice.

“Honey, why don’t you just shut off the T.V. and come to bed already. It’s late. Reeeeeeeally late,” I suggest for the 37th time in as many minutes. “It can’t be all that comfortable there and besides, your snoring is disturbing the neighbors. More importantly, it’s disturbing me.” (Yes, I can hear those irksome rumblings all the way upstairs—plain as anything).

He then mutters something completely unintelligible in response and I have to ask him to repeat it 16 times so I know precisely how to counter his denial of the obvious and his predictably lame attempt to justify why he’s STILL on the stupid sofa at 1:37 in the morning. Ugh.

Like I said—if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with a man who possesses a wealth of couch potato tendencies).

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction


I never completely committed to memory the instructions for making hard-boiled eggs, which doesn’t say much about my prowess in the kitchen—or the lack thereof. Generally speaking, I know what’s involved, but I struggle mightily with the specifics (i.e. how much water is required, whether it should be hot or cold to start and when, exactly, the boiling should cease and the simmering should begin). I’m challenged in the culinary arena to say the very least. (Confession: Some days I need a compass, a map and volumes of inspiration just to find the fricking stove).

Oddly enough, though, I know that on page 267 of my faithful Better Homes & Gardens cookbook those elusive egg-related answers await me. Go figure. I can’t remember a stupid recipe (that’s all of three steps long), but the page number I’ll need to get the job done is etched in my head permanently. It simply defies all logic and understanding—especially given the rarity of my kitchen-related ventures.

Interestingly, two-hundred sixty-seven isn’t my favorite number. Nor do the individual digits hold special meaning for me in any other context. And yet there it is, appearing instantaneously in the clearing of my mind, having made its way through the tangled forest of facts and figures housed there. A prized nugget of information that, intentionally or not, I tucked away at some point in my illustrious hard-boiled egg-making career. A crutch I turn to in times of need.

Likewise, I have difficulty remembering the exact wordage for Confession and Forgiveness, so each Sunday I mumble and stumble my way through the first few lines, hoping like crazy that my brain will eventually kick in and send the correct message to my lips. The Nicene Creed sometimes stumps me, too (hence, the moronic mumbling). But invariably—almost without thinking—I can churn out the page numbers on which each of the desired passages can be found—which is strangely wonderful, I guess. An uncannily remarkable and hugely perplexing talent all rolled into one (like reading upside-down and sideways to kids so they can see the pictures). But it’s not as if I deliberately tried to emblazon those numbers there. I can’t even rattle off my stinking cell number without first tapping my husband (the human Rolodex) or scanning the skies for some sort of cosmic clue. Nor can I readily recall which of my brood is allergic to the cillin family—which, needless to say, helped me capture the World’s Most Pathetic Mommy Award last year.

So what should I make of all this—that I’m lazy, exceedingly dependent or perhaps, just plain stupid? Then again, maybe my adeptness is a sign of brilliance and/or extraordinary resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Who knows?

Regardless of why it happens, the fact remains that it happens. There is absolutely no denying that when all else fails, I rely on my crutches to save the day. I’ve found that people can be crutches, too. I can’t put a price on the deluge of desperate phone calls I made to my mom as I clumsily managed motherhood for the first time—stressing obsessively over every little and not-so-little thing, like a blackened umbilical cord dangling by a sinewy thread.

“What have I done wrong?! Is that SUPPOSED to happen?! And why, oh why, won’t she stop crying…sleep through the night…smile on cue…and somehow TELL ME WHAT SHE WANTS?! And what’s with the mustard-y poops and the geysers of spit up and the white bump-ish things on her nose and the crusty stuff on her head and the tiny red spots she’s peppered with?! (Furthermore…) I can’t figure out the car seat straps…I can’t get rid of the bags under my eyes…my shirt gets soaked whenever she (or any other bundle of neediness) cries…my diaper bag is big and bulky and already I’m sick of hauling it around…I feel fat and frumpy and about as interesting as dirt…I can’t find time for a shower…a sandwich…a decent nap…or even three minutes to flip through a stupid parenting magazine—which, by the way, does nothing more than make me feel like a complete failure—I can’t even RELATE to the perfect little world they live in…oh, and the baby choked on a cracker this morning…fell out of her crib…rolled off the bed…licked the cat’s tail (and so on)…. I’m sure I’ve ruined this child FOR-EVER!!!”

Mom, sage and savior that she is, must have sensed the panic in my voice and so with each little (and not-so-little) catastrophe I presented, she spoke clearly and calmly, guiding me through the storm, filling me with the sense that I could do this and that the world really wasn’t crashing down all around me. “Things will get easier,” she promised, and I would be a good mom—despite myself.

Well, I have yet to see hard evidence supporting the entirety of that statement, but I remain hopeful that some day—with or without crutches—I’ll get there. In the mean time, Mom’s on speed dial.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (STILL doubting my ability to mother).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Me Myself and I, Meat & Potatoes, Mushy Stuff