Monthly Archives: March 2011

King for a Day

Today is National I Am in Control Day which makes me heady with the prospect of wielding an embarrassment of power from sunup to sundown (which, I imagine, is a lot like living in the delusional worlds of people like Charlie Sheen and Moammar Gadhafi). Admittedly, I’ve entertained such foolishness before, allowing the savory notion of a perfect day to wrap me in the cloak of whimsy. However, today, my indulgence is very nearly legitimate. I Googled it, therefore it must be so. I even went so far as to search for an official badge that proclaims I AM IN CONTROL TODAY, so that I might convince those with whom I reside to take heed to humor me so that I might feel a wee bit important.

Badge or no badge, I’m giving myself permission to plunge headlong into the aforementioned fantasy—to embrace the delicious possibility that I could actually manipulate the Universe, causing an abundance of things to go my way for an entire square on the calendar. For starters, I’d insist that the idiocy of daylight-saving time be declared null and void and I’d order everyone in the Northern Hemisphere to go back to rising with the sun instead of dragging themselves out of bed at dark-thirty. Even my dog recognizes the inherent stupidity of such behavior, judging by the bewildered look he wears each morning, right before my husband takes him outside to whiz in the lawn.

Furthermore, I’d wave my magic wand (or my blasted snow shovel) and voilá, blue skies and balmy breezes would prevail for the duration of this marvelous March day. You’re welcome, my dear friends and fellow members of the Winter Has Made Me Entirely Miserable Club. I would then ship Punxsutawney Phil straight to Siberia as punishment for the lies he’s told. Next, I’d likely target the many and varied idiosyncrasies present in my home—more specifically, Thing One’s penchant for imploding whenever I encourage her to try something new. Say, a bologna sandwich or something really exotic, like Spaghetti-O’s. In a word, her proclivity to refuse that-which-is-molecularly-unlike-chicken-nuggets would be rendered nonexistent for one solid day. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Likewise, I’d mumble some sort of gibberish and lo and behold, Thing Two would skip a goodly portion of the morning routine I know and loathe (i.e. that less-than-endearing wedge of time during which the child in question shrieks at anyone and everyone interested in rousting her from her cave-inspired lair in time to catch the school bus). In addition, she’d refrain from having a seizure over whatever the radio happened to be blaring, the apparent lame quality of the clothing I suggest or the intolerable nature of the wrinkles in her socks. Nor would she dream of dawdling over breakfast or eliciting all manner of rage within her sister, despite her uncanny ability to do so simultaneously.

Naturally, I’d demand that the rest of my day be soused in wonderfulness, too—free of worry or interruption, blissfully punctuated with productivity and totally devoid of the discovery of unflushed toilets. Moreover, when my brood would arrive home from school, I’d see to it that things would only improve. Not one complaint over the practicing of instruments would arise, nor would anyone go ballistic if and when someone’s music stand toppled to the floor, spilling folders and sheet music everywhere. Similarly, backpacks would be emptied without objection, homework would be completed with glee and the siren song of the Disney Channel would, incomprehensibly, fail to entrance those in my charge. Oh, and my oldest would actually answer her cell phone in a timely manner and (gasp!) deposit her shoes someplace besides the most heavily traveled paths in my home. I would need only to point to my imaginary badge or use my mind powers to convey such a powerful message.

What’s more, dinner would be an utter delight. No monumental arguments involving mashed potatoes, perceived injustices with regard to allotted computer time or debates over whose scooter was still in the yard would ensue. Dishes would be ferried to the sink without prompting or protest and the phrase, “I’m bored,” would rear its ugly head no more. Even better, at the snap of my fingers, my cherubs would say their goodnights and head upstairs to bed. Stranger still, not once would I feel an overwhelming compulsion to mention that the average shower depletes the earth of roughly 3.5 gallons of water a minute; because, of course, everyone in this household would already know that.

They would also be keenly aware of my fanciful status and (hopefully) eager to humor me this National I Am in Control Day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (profoundly immersed in a delusion of grandeur).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under Rantings & Ravings

Fool That I Am

Remind me to never again hire an incompetent babysitter. Ever. It’s hardly worth the aggravation I suffered as a result of inviting said twit into my home to care for my children. Granted, my husband and I enjoyed an enchanting evening together, which is a rarity in and of itself, and the delightful buzz derived from the three (or was it four?) glasses of something-or-other I quaffed was utterly decadent. However, those savory nuggets of goodness were but a distant memory once we crossed our threshold and laid eyes upon the mother of all messes.

The devastation we witnessed there was unconscionable. Rest assured, our charges were alive and well—and thankfully, hadn’t torched the place or climbed onto the rooftop to pet a squirrel. Just the same, I was baffled as to how our happy home had been transformed from the tolerable state of disarray in which we left it to the state of total annihilation in which we found it—just two hours later. It was inconceivable.

Dora the Explorer underwear, sweat socks and remnants of cheesy pizza littered the coffee table. Discarded clothing and half a roll of Scotch tape hung from the sofa like Spanish moss. Puzzles (Lord knows how many!) had been dumped and abandoned in front of the television set—which was blaring a lovely little blurb about Girls Gone Wild at roughly 120 decibels. A slew of videos and DVDs lay behind the couch like forgotten Frisbees and scads upon scads of marbles (which I failed to remember we even owned) were strewn about the place like chicken feed. I’m still finding the wretched things. Grok!

Needless to say, the floor itself was barely visible. Throw pillows, toys and a bevy of books lay like carnage throughout the house—as did unfettered markers and crayons and those pebble-ish clumps of Pay-Doh I’ve grown to know and loathe. And there were scissors (SHE GAVE THEM SCISSORS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!) along with bazillions of confetti-like bits of paper scattered the world over.

At least I found no one’s ponytail amidst the rubble. There is a god.

Had I been sober, I might have recognized in an instant the telltale signs of ruin. Oddly enough, I do remember noting (yet pooh-poohing) the waist-high piece of string that led from my treadmill, where it had been crudely tethered, through the den, across the kitchen and into the vastness of the living room where presumably, it was tied to yet another stationary object—the babysitter, perhaps (i.e. the shiftless lump on the couch)?

It wasn’t just any old string either. Apparently those wily imps of mine had pilfered every blooming piece of lacing string, craft string and ribbon they could get their mitts on, purposefully knotting them together to form an anaconda-sized tightrope (read: a fiendish device for ensnaring unsuspecting creatures, great and small). They then must have wound the ends around key pieces of furniture in each of the aforementioned rooms, careful to keep it taut and thoroughly entwined every step of the way. It was masterful, I must admit. But WHERE ON EARTH was the babysitter during the eternity that it must have required for a couple of twerps (who can’t even tie their own shoes!) to construct something so profoundly complex and sinfully marvelous!? And why OH WHY hadn’t she put a stop to their foolishness by ordering them to put away the first behemoth-sized batch toys before piling into the NEXT behemoth-sized batch of toys!!? That’s just plain stupid. That’s what it is. Stupid.

So was the string thing.

What if instead they had decided to smear the cat with Vaseline, and then felt the compelling desire to festoon him with the vat of confetti they had created?! What if they had yanked every purple Popsicle out of the freezer and set it on the counter for the purpose of conducting some warped little melting experiment?! What if they had filled the tub with Gatorade or lime-flavored Jell-O?! I shudder to think. The string thing was bizarre enough.

But how could I (BLITHERING IDIOT THAT I AM) stroll past such a monstrosity without shrieking in protest and abject horror (at least within the confines of my own mind), knowing full well that something was terribly, terribly wrong with this picture!? Moms just know. At least they’re supposed to.

Then again, I’m supposed to have a handle on the incompetence thing as it relates to babysitters and whatnot.

So much for that.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (wondering whether I dare to hire another babysitter–ever).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Rodent Rage

I always hear the wild rumpus before I determine its curious source—a raging battle within the confines of a two-story, purplish hamster cage with an electric green spiral slide and a profusion of tunnels that twist and turn at precarious angles. A sudden and intense eruption of sound, to include screeching, scratching and scurrying about, arises from what was once dead silence. As if something in the Land of Peaceful Accord tragically shifts, causing the whiskered beasts in question to become hostile combatants—their tiny voices piercing the still of my home. Lord knows why they engage in such vicious behavior. Never mind why they choose to poo where they dwell or why I ever thought my brood would need five of the stupid things to somehow make their lives complete.

Needless to say, much of our robo hamsters’ day-to-day conduct baffles me and I often struggle to find the mere suggestion of logic and meaning in their actions. Like the manic pace at which they circle the cage, the reckless manner in which they fling themselves (and each other) off their miniature wheels and into oblivion, the obsessive nature of their grooming and gnawing habits, the adorable way they hold behemoth-sized wedges of fruit in their little paws and bring it to their mouths to nibble ever so slightly and, of course, the huddled mass of fur they form while they sleep, commune-style, wedged impossibly inside a plastic hovel or in an obscure corner of the trendy enclosure we felt compelled to purchase—the one that apparently requires a master’s degree to assemble.

Nevertheless, the bursts of aggression perplex me and I watch in amazement as they stand on their haunches and brawl like savages—although it’s slightly comical, given their diminutive stature. Try as I might, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around what drives this asinine show of bravado. There are no potential mates to impress as they’re all females. There is no shortage of food since we lavish them with all their little hearts could desire. Nor is territory an issue in my categorically unprofessional opinion. Perhaps a simple and overwhelming desire for the heady rush of world domination is largely to blame—or at least dominion over a 1,080 cubic inch corner of the rodent world.

That said, I don’t pretend to know what makes hamsters tick and/or hurl their smallish bodies at one another, thrashing about the place on the fringe of complete and utter derangement with every intent to maim those on the receiving end of their wrath. However, I find it fairly disturbing that, of late, the aforementioned hostility smacks of bullying in the truest sense of the word. More specifically, all of the big and burly hamsters join forces to torment the remaining (and pitifully defenseless) creature—chasing it without end, wrestling it into submission and causing it to cower in lieu of feeding or resting comfortably. No wonder it has failed to strengthen and grow on pace with the others. It is the Fregley (of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame) of the hamster world, while the others, collectively, are Scut Farkus (the infinitely repulsive, skank-mouthed beast-of-a-thing that played in A Christmas Story).

Oddly enough, I find myself wanting to intercede beyond the obvious solution of segregating them—to play the role of mediator, to dole out therapeutic blurbages in Hamster-ese and to assign the warring factions exercises to promote cooperation and civility. I feel like demanding there be some sort of formal agreement, too. And in a perfect world, they would each sign something to that effect. A binding contract, suitable for framing, that I could display in full view of their purplish cage—a constant reminder of the joint investment made. Additionally, I feel as if the victim deserves special treatment for combat fatigue, because, clearly, that is what plagues the poor soul now. I’d also like to enroll the belligerent beasts in an anger management program—refusing to buy them any more strawberries or (gasp!) bananas unless and until they willingly participate and fully comply with its tenets.

In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for the segregation strategy, methinks, ever grateful to our kind and generous friends who GAVE us another hamster cage—an interconnected wonder of plastic feeding bubbles and cozy tunnels, gigantic domes and a wheel made for three or more of the smelly rodents we love so dearly.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (dealing with rodent rage).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under The Natives are Decidedly Restless

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?!”


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 (i.e. I’m usually 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).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel



Filed under Smother May I?, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Write from the Heart

There is a special space in my children’s baby books devoted entirely to the development and delivery of a priceless collection of words. A place where parents are encouraged to share how having a baby—this baby, in particular—rocked their proverbial world. A sizeable square into which moms and dads pour a bit of themselves—giving thanks, chronicling ordinary and not-so-ordinary events, articulating hopes and dreams for the future and communicating, above all else, the infinite wonder said child has brought to this place simply by being born. With any luck, most will get a glimpse of it before they become parents themselves.

And it makes perfect sense—this opportunity for crafting a message of boundless love and gratitude—to be presented when parents are fairly awestruck by all that relates to their bundles of neediness. More specifically, before our infants morph into toddlers and tweens, and the urge to snap photographs every hour of every day dwindles to a fleeting desire to fetch the camera when something truly extraordinary happens. Guilty as charged. We all do it, though—we attend less and fall behind more with the passage of time and with each new addition to the family. Not because we become less enamored with our children and feel that documenting every nugget of minutia in their lives is no longer necessary. It’s just that we get caught up in the frenetic, nearly suffocating pace of life.

Well at least I do. And I feel slightly horrible about my failure to record, digitally or otherwise, a goodly portion of my children’s lives. Like the first time Thing One dared to fling her smallish body off a diving board and paddle to safety without a smidgeon of assistance from anyone or anything. Nor did I capture the priceless look on her face shortly thereafter, as she stood on the deck wrapped from head to toe in a beach towel, cheering on the others in her swim class. What’s more, I neglected to take a snapshot of Thing Two while she was missing both of her front teeth. Of course, I took dozens of pictures to preserve that memorable wedge of time for her sister, several of which are prominently displayed on the fridge. Let us just say that I’ve been reminded of said faux pas more than once. I suppose it’s a moot point now, however. The endearing little gaps along her pinkish gums have long since been filled. Indeed, there’s no going back.

Likewise, I failed to listen to the little voice inside my head that insisted I help my oldest move into her college dormitory. “Meet the roommates,” it cooed. “Take a pile of pictures and throw them together in a collage for her birthday,” it smartly suggested. Instead, like a fool, I honored my co-ed’s wishes for independence, allowing her to bridge the gap from home to campus life entirely on her own. In retrospect, the lugging of boxes teeming with all-that-is-vital-to-college-freshmen was a little thing that would have perhaps meant a lot to her—no matter how desperately she wanted to feel grown. No doubt, a do-over in this instance is a virtual impossibility and no one is more keenly aware of that than I. Shame on me.

As delusional as it sounds to suggest that my brood may feel slighted or even devalued as a result of the aforementioned transgressions (never mind those I failed to mention), I still lament owning them. But at least I have their baby books—and the personalized notes I scrawled therein. Better still, I have tomorrow—Absolutely Incredible Kid Day—a chance to formally redeem myself once more.

That said, this Thursday is a date set aside for the purpose of letting the impressionable youth in our charge know how truly remarkable they are. For years Camp Fire USA and Alpha Phi Omega have orchestrated a nationwide letter-writing campaign to do just that. It gives those who play an integral role in the lives of children (parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as adults from all walks of life) a chance to say what they need to say. To put it on paper, as it were—a mere smattering (or a profusion) of words that speak directly to the heart, quietly, yet effectively, conveying the message: “You are special, and valued and loved unconditionally. You add sunshine and meaning and a wealth of good to this world. Ergo, you are an absolutely incredible kid. Please, never forget that.”

Tomorrow, make a pledge to say what you need to say to the children who matter most to you—and be sure to write from the heart.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (crafting three very special letters as we speak).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Mushy Stuff, The Write Stuff