Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dear Diary

Two years ago, when my youngest daughters turned seven, I gave them each a diary—a scrumptious chunk of blank space within which they would reveal their innermost hopes, fears and desires—to the world, or to no one. A place where thoughts could be poured onto paper without hesitation or shame. A 234-page sentinel-of-secrets, complete with its own tiny lock and key (a decidedly priceless feature I am told). A canvas upon which Thing One and Thing Two could portray Mommie Dearest in horrific detail.

Of course, I bought said diaries because I so greatly enjoy being maligned because I am perfectly incapable of resisting that which is certain to thrill my brood beyond all imagining. Translation: Anything thought to celebrate the notion of secrecy makes my kids drunk with joy. Further, I was shamed into buying them. That said, the silly things beckoned to me from the shelf where they sat, insisting that I act immediately—lest my dear progenies be robbed of happiness forever.

“Isn’t it about time you encouraged a little self-expression in your children?” whispered a diary infused with a beautiful medley of blue hues (Thing One’s favorite). As I wended my way through the stationary aisle, fumbling with calendars and whatnot, I heard more of the same—only a bit louder this time, seemingly emanating from an adorable little log that boasted a delicious shade of bubblegum-pink (Thing Two’s favorite). “Have you not thought about cultivating more introspection among your impressionable charges?” it probed with an air of haughtiness.

“Have you not felt the need to nurture your kids’ inner-Thoreau?!” both diaries chided in unison.

Slack mouthed and dumbfounded I just stood there, feeling slightly horrible about having deprived my children—staring back at the bookish entities that spoke the undeniable truth.

“Thoreau? Sweet Jesus, who’s Thoreau?” I muttered to myself.

“Put us in the stupid cart, you simpleton,” they ordered. And so I did. The medley of blue and bubblegum-pink. One for each child to voice all-that-is-deliciously-personal. One for each girl to revere more than Hello Kitty herself.

“This is so awesome! I get to keep secret stuff in here that no one else can see—even you, Mom,” I’ve been reminded again and again.

Indeed, everyone needs some sort of venue for chronicling life’s events, for reflecting upon everyday occurrences, for delving deep into the most intimate of affairs—like ensuring there’s a tangible record of current love interests as well as obscenely detailed accounts of classmates’ exceedingly annoying habits involving one’s nose (not that I’ve been privy to such information). It’s also a marvelous place to grouse about perceived injustices, to gather expletives by the bushel and to put into words how completely dreadful it is to be filled with angst. Even for third graders. Perhaps especially for third graders.

But said journal-ific wonders are also capable of capturing the essence of goodness—through sketches and prose filled with happiness, pride and gratitude for all that is right in one’s world. Keepers of diaries would be wise to dog-ear such pages and refer to them often. Even third graders. Perhaps especially third graders.

I, too, worshiped and glorified the notion of privacy, having stuffed a diary beneath my bed as a third grader and beyond. Better still, I had a top-secret clubhouse in the basement, a multitude of forts nestled deep in the woods and a cat with whom I shared classified information on a daily basis. Strange, but true. I hid notes in hollows, carved stuff in trees and scrawled upon rocks—although I’d be hard pressed to say whose initials were paired with mine and which particular grade school tragedy was spelled out in horrific detail on page 73 of my dear diary.

I suppose, it’s neither here nor there at this late date. The essential thing was having some sort of space within which I could voice what mattered to me at the time. As it should be.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (wondering where I hid my damn diary—even still).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under The Write Stuff

In Praise of the Dog Biscuit

Today is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, which, of course, fills me with the desire to engage in some sort of celebratory dance in the pet food aisle of my local supermarket. There’s nothing quite like making a spectacle of oneself in the name of paying homage to a worthy cause like that. At the very least, I ought to purchase something special for my dog today—something that promises to thrill his carnivorous little soul, rendering him delirious with joy in anticipation of receiving said nugget of wonderfulness. Lord knows he needs SOMETHING that effectively motivates him to whiz in the lawn in lieu of the living room.

However, the vast array of choices these days literally makes my head spin. Quite frankly, I hesitate to select a canister of that which boasts a smooth, succulent flavor while an economy-sized bag of smoky, bacon-flavored whateverness lurks nearby. And let us not forget the strips of leathery goodness and the bone-like bits of deliciousness that claim to erase unsightly tartar buildup while taming the beast that is dog breath. Never mind the bite-sized wonders that defy the laws of attrition—failing to crumble into irksome flecks that live within our pockets forevermore. In a word, the possibilities are endless and I am left with difficult decisions to make there in the Land of Canine Cuisine.

So like a fool, I pull said packages off the shelves and smell them—which is completely moronic given that a dog’s sense of smell is roughly a million times more efficient than a human’s. (I Googled it, therefore it must be so). Indeed, aside from tearing open the boxes and actually sampling the morsels within, I don’t have much to go on with regard to choosing what would wow Mister Fuzzypants.

Then again, I suppose I could turn to David Muriello (The Real Deal on Dogs) who conducted perhaps one of the most bizarre taste tests on the planet. In the name of science, the man willingly and publicly appraised an assortment of dog treats, providing an impressively detailed analysis of brand name products via an 11-minute video clip sure to entertain and inform. I urge anyone in desperate need of a laugh to view it. Like me, he apparently harbors a fair amount of curiosity about the subject of dogs and their beloved treats; although I can’t imagine voluntarily subjecting myself to such culinary unpleasantness—unless, of course, some of the stuff was actually palatable.

Personally, I’m not sure that dogs even give a hoot about flavor. To me they qualify as indiscriminate eaters, cruising through the smorgasbord of life devouring pretty much anything and everything they encounter—to include Barbie doll paraphernalia, unsuspecting furniture legs, and ever-so-conspicuous chunks of carpet. Granted, not all dogs possess a penchant for consuming that which is largely inedible. But mine does. Furthermore, I’d daresay the aforementioned muttonhead is incapable of discerning a dollop of peanut butter from the remains of a freshly decapitated bird (or from a hideously decomposed bird for that matter). Indeed, he categorizes both as wholly irresistible; trusting his nose more than anything, methinks.

In light of this, perhaps the ultimate marketing strategy would be to focus on the smells that drive dogs to distraction, and to develop treats based on information gathered from the field. My dog, for one, would certainly volunteer his services in the name of giving rise to an even better dog biscuit—a smellier, more alluring sort of indulgence. That said, the pungent aroma of carnage, old shoes, musty dishcloths and fresh vomit would top his list of favorites. He’d also be impossibly drawn to the bouquet of dung—especially that of cats, rabbits and deer. Needless to say, if it were possible to capture the aforementioned scents and infuse them within bite-sized morsels for dogs, the world would be a different place—one in which an entire week might be devoted to the appreciation of dog biscuits.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (stocking up on tasty treats as we speak).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Doggie Diamonds, Holiday Hokum

And the Snow Gods Laughed…

Enough already with the snow days. I’ve certainly had my fill of time home with the heathens—especially since the inclement weather, of late, has been anything but conducive to building snowmen and frolicking about in the great outdoors. Ice, somehow, just doesn’t carry the same appeal as the white, fluffy stuff. Neither does freezing rain. Nor bone-chilling temperatures.

That being said, I think school cancellations fall under the Law of Diminishing Returns—the more I experience, the less enamored with them I become. Further, they embody the spirit of my slightly twisted adage, “Too much of a good thing (like parent-child togetherness) can be horrible when it involves entertainment-starved youth and a dearth of all-things-entertaining.” Indeed, it’s likely I need a refresher course on keeping boredom at bay for the six-and-under set. (Note to self: Read 1,001 Things You and Your Kids Can Create with Pipe Cleaners and Modeling Clay! And after that, peruse the finer points of Embrace Cabin Fever, or Die!).

In all honesty, the first few days off from school with my children were wonderful—a welcome reprieve from our harried morning schedule. There were little or no discussions surrounding the topic of dawdling. No ogre-ish threats were made involving the consequences of missing the bus. No battles over the wearing of undershirts took center stage “…because I hate undershirts, Mom!” No one even checked to see if teeth or hair had been brushed, or that pajamas had been removed and subsequently replaced with suitable attire. Nor did anyone care. School was closed for the day and the gift of time—a sacred offering from the snow gods—had been bestowed upon us all. Liberated for one calendar day. I guess it’s much like I felt as a youngster—free to squeeze as much goodness out of a 24-hour period as was humanly possible.

Back then the joy didn’t wait for the official announcement to be made. Indeed, it arrived in earnest the night before a possible school cancellation. Like scores of goofy kids, my brother and I planted ourselves at a windowsill, anxiously scanned the starry skies for the suggestion of a snow flurry and clung to the hope that we would, in fact, receive the monstrosity of precipitation that had been forecast—as if we could will it to happen.

More recently, however, I’ve become obsessed with the Weather Channel and with local news stations that promise up-to-the-minute reports of closings. At an ungodly hour I stumble out of bed and glue my sorry face to the television screen, bathed in the blue-white glow that fills the entire bedroom. I do this because I lack both the initiative and the wisdom to fetch my glasses first. I then inch my snoot from left to right and back again, eye-to-eye with that stupid scroll thingy at the bottom of the screen—living in fear that I’ll somehow miss the L’s entirely. Translation: If that were to happen, I’d spend literally MINUTES in pure agony, oblivious as to whether or not I could skip the dreaded rousing-of-the-bleary-eyed-beasts-out-of-bed routine. A chore I loathe to the pithy core of my being.

But enough is enough. My charges have missed far too many days of school during this pitiful portrayal of winter. Besides, I think my kids would rather be there than home with me anyway. Perhaps it’s because I’m a pathetic parent and find it a supreme challenge to keep them content and actively engaged for any length of time (i.e. not at each other’s throats or leaping with glee upon my last nerve). Maybe it’s simply because they’re too young to fully appreciate the grand and glorious wonderment that a snow day possesses. They’re still completely smitten with the world of academia and, in fact, mourn the days when they cannot be with their teachers and friends, for whom they hold more adoration than for the sun and moon put together.

They’d never dream of actually wishing for a snow day. Ah, but that time will soon come and I’ll find them perched at a windowsill anxiously awaiting that which the weatherman hath promised.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

A Sacrilege of Sorts

There are but two kinds of people in this world—those who brazenly read the endings of books before the endings are actually reached and those who would never dream of a crime so heinous. I myself fall with the masses into the latter category, always mindful of the tenets we must uphold: Thou shalt not spoil the endings of good books no matter how dire the circumstance or how great the temptation.

Of course I’ve been so bold as to glance at the last page while contemplating a purchase in the aisle of a bookstore, allowing my eyes to sweep across the fuzziness of passages, to graze but not actually rest on hallowed words, erasing all hope of ever being rewarded for my ability to resist that which is sinfully alluring. If nothing else, I can be proud of that.

However it wasn’t until I was deeply immersed in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chapter Seven of this scrumptious read-aloud, more specifically) that I became painfully aware of a terrible truth: my children would (and, in fact, had) flipped ahead 20 chapters in said prized piece of literature, to the very last page (gasp!) “…because I wanted to know what would happen to Edward, Mom. I was worried about him. He lives, you know.”

Of course, I was horrified. And profoundly disappointed. I had higher hopes for my progenies—hopes that they would grow to become upstanding citizens, embodying all-that-is-righteous-and-good. Principled people who knew better than to commit sacrilege. Instead, it appears, my wayward bunch has embraced the dark side of life. Even my oldest daughter has admitted to that which is a sheer disgrace—she reads the very last sentence of every novel—as a rule. Needless to say, such a divulgence rendered me speechless and unable to move from the spot where I stood, slack mouthed and struck with horror.

“Why?! Why would you do such a thing?!” I had to ask finally, eyes fixed upon the creature I thought I knew.

“I don’t know. To pique my interest I guess.”

To pique your interest?!” I shrieked, shaking my head in disbelief. “Good grief! Where’s the mystery in that?! Where’s the long-awaited pleasure that a grand culmination promises?! The delicious sense of satisfaction derived from having journeyed far and wide across the vast and uncertain terrain of a narrative gem?!” I demanded to know.

She shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What’s the big deal, Mom? It’s just a book.”

Of course, this was wrong on so many levels that I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around the unspeakable horribleness of which it reeked. Nor could I forgive the other two rat finks for having stolen my joy. I wanted to discover for myself Edward Tulane’s fate—to continue devouring the book, page after succulent page, and eventually, to drink in the magnificence of the grand finale that surely awaited me.

But it was not to be. Those devilish creatures continued to fill my ears unmercifully with details of the story, doling out bite sized blurbages just to watch me writhe in pain. “No! NO! Don’t tell me a syllable more!” I pleaded, wondering from whence this penchant had come. I don’t remember anyone bursting at the seams to tell me all about Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood, Chicken Little or even the Poky Little Puppy. Back then, apparently, it was a non-issue. The end was something that would be revealed in due time upon turning the last page. As it should be.

I’d almost rather my heathens wantonly fling caterpillars across the living room and stuff them inside their backpacks (oh wait, they’ve done that!), saturate thirsty bath rugs at will (done that, too!), fill countless drawers with water enough to make hair brushes and blow dryers float (and that!), or plaster the dog with lipstick “…’cause we wanted to give him purple-ish lips, Mom!” than to rob themselves of the parting gift of a fine book.

Sadly, this represents yet one more area of life I cannot control. I must come to grips with the fact that my children will choose friends, careers and eventually mates—almost entirely devoid of my (infinitely sagacious) input. And ultimately they will decide whether to continue as card-carrying members of the Flip-Ahead-to-the-Last-Page Club. Ugh.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Bookish Stuff, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Chicken Soup: It Does a Body Good

There’s nothing quite like an interminable week spent with my brood to remind me why I don’t homeschool. Sprinkle the aforementioned with an unmerciful bout of the flu and I’m that much surer I made the right decision.

Indeed, last week was ugly. For all intents and purposes, it qualified as one of those unspeakably unpleasant parenting events I hope never to revisit. That said, there were fevers and sore throats, dizzy spells and delirium, stabbing pains from head to toe and waves of uncontrollable shivers that seized their smallish bodies seemingly without end. There were moments, too, during which the afflicted pair demanded proof that they would, in fact, survive the dreadful ordeal. And because misery loves company, a profusion of sneezes, debilitating headaches and seal-inspired coughs joined the medley of horribleness that befell my unfortunate bunch.

Despite their woeful situation, they somehow summoned the strength to grouse with one another, which, of course, multiplied the joy felt by all. Not. For the record, I witnessed some of the most absurd bickering matches heretofore known to man—ones over who had spiked the highest temperature, who could more skillfully imitate a basset hound on command and who could heap the foulest mound of Kleenexes upon the floor following a sustained fit of sneezing.

The jury is still out on that one.

Considerable time was spent holed up on the couch-turned-sickbay, too, buried beneath mountains of blankets, clad in sweats, socks, Sponge Bob whateverness, a fishing hat for one and, at one point, mittens for the other. Not surprisingly, a certain sock monkey, a basketball and an armadillo named Frank were also requested—and dutifully fetched, I might add. The suggestion of naps, fitful at best, took place there in the thick of their tormented state.

Thankfully, there were times when the gods of bodily ailments smiled upon my progenies (i.e. the brief yet delicious slivers of time during which they didn’t feel as if they’d been hit by a bus that happened to be transporting a small herd of elephants). That, of course, is when they became hopelessly immersed in the ridiculousness that is YouTube (read: Harry Potter’s Puppet Pals). Naturally, an embarrassment of time was also invested while Googling the bejesus out of weird animal sounds—in the name of comparing and contrasting said sounds with their incessant barking. Like a fool, I offered my two cents—suggesting that their hideous coughs most closely resembled a cross between a depressed sea lion and the aforementioned basset hound.

Mostly, though, my function was to make voluminous quantities of chicken soup—soup that promised to tame the ills that besieged my crew. Just as it is every other time someone in this household begins to sniffle and sneeze, hack or hurl. Aside from constructing cozy nests upon the sofa, feeling foreheads and fetching whateverness day and night, I suppose the soup gig is my so-called bailiwick—not to be confused with my calling as the celebrated shoe-picker-upper, toilet-flusher and Homework Nazi.

Unlike so many of my pedestrian functions as a parent and caregiver, this one is far from thankless. Over the years, I’ve been showered with high praise and a wealth of validation for my efforts in the kitchen like: “Mom, your soup is so…SLURPABLE! You’re awesome! Can I have some more?!” Even the child who isn’t particularly fond of soup will humor me sample some when she’s reached rock bottom with a cold or the flu. Furthermore, my oldest has gone so far as to shame me into making her a batch to remedy all her ills, leaving a sad little trail of posts on my Facebook wall. I should be flattered, I suppose.

But perhaps the strangest bit of critical acclaim I’ve received to date for my soup was a request for the slurpable stuff from one of the above mentioned weirdish children.

“I’d like some for breakfast, Mom. Cold. With a straw, please.” A request that was (and continues to be) duly granted.

Once again, I think I ought to be flattered.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel



Filed under Sick-O Central