Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Omen

Well, Spring has long since sprung and love is officially in the air. I know this to be true because roughly every 43 seconds or so I receive yet another blurb about a love struck fool who just got engaged, who is about to get engaged or who has fallen so madly and deeply in love that he or she can’t see straight—let alone tolerate another minute without driving to Sears to pick out a shiny, new toaster with Mister or Miss Right. There is but one thing left do: To get engaged, of course—to admit that, “I have fallen and I can’t get up, nor can I possibly function another day on this planet without him (or her) by my side. He (or she) completes me.”

Gak. Spare me the syrupy details. It’s nauseating. Like an overdose of Aunt Jemima. Or Hungry Jack. I honestly wish the sappy nitwits in question would just ditch their silly blinders, at least momentarily, so that they might snap out of that besotted delirium to examine the truth. To step back from the drunken whirlwind of passion and crazed adoration to view reality if only for an instant. To wake up and smell the irrationality.

Lord knows I could have benefited from a smattering of logic the first time around—or from a little red flagish thing to alert me of the idiocy looming just around the bend. Unfortunately, however, the voice of reason had been stifled—battered and beaten into submission by some Aphrodite character. Looking back, I now realize my first husband and I were about as compatible as elbows and asphalt. Throw a rickety skateboard into the mix along with a couple of uncompromising personalities struggling to find balance in their lives and that was us. But without question, one of the most wonderful creatures on earth came about as a direct result of our union—my firstborn. No regrets there. I can’t imagine life without her—despite her oh-so-exasperating wild and woolly streak.

But to this day, I still marvel over the fact that I somehow missed an important signal while mired in the depths of that hopelessly smitten state. A big, yellow CAUTION sign planted squarely on the road of life. An omen meant to warn me of impending doom—not to portend everlasting marital bliss.

To make a long, boring story brief and exceedingly exciting, I was on the cusp of womanhood, preparing to make one of life’s most important decisions—to marry or not to marry the aforementioned fellow. His proposal was romantic enough, I suppose. Chilled champagne and a crackling fire were involved as I recall. But for whatever reason, I stalled—hesitating to respond for weeks, I think. This was perhaps omen #1, a subtle yet telling event that, of course, I dismissed. Omen #2, however, was one of those blatant, hit-me-over-the-head-with-a-fucking-shovel dealies that should have caused me to stop dead in my tracks had I had as much sense as a piece of driftwood. Suffice it to say, I didn’t, so I forged ahead with my plan anyway.

Admittedly, it was a magnificently orchestrated plan—and one that would answer his proposal in grand style. No simple, “Yes, I’ll marry you,” utterance would do. Nope. There had to be bells and whistles. Theatrics galore. I would hire a man to pilot a plane over Beaver Stadium during the legendary ’85 Penn State/Nebraska football game, all the while trailing enormous signage for the record crowd below to witness. “YES, I’LL MARRY YOU, JOHN!!” in bright red lettering would wave and flutter across the skies, proclaiming to thousands that I no longer was in doubt over the issue of marriage. The $150.00 it cost me to say so seemed reasonable given the significance of the event. But it was not to be.

By some strange twist of fate, the silly little plane never appeared. Not so much as a hint of its whirling propeller or the drone of its engine emerged from the cottony clouds that day—despite having glued my eyes and ears there for the duration. I later learned that the stupid thing had broken down sometime in the middle of the game and that the pilot was terribly sorry and fully intended to refund my money.

If ever there was a sign—that was surely it. It turns out that true love, in fact, WAS NOT in the air that day. Too bad I missed that memo.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel


Comments Off on The Omen

Filed under Love and Other Drugs, Romance for Dummies

Ten Mom Duties I’d Prefer to Outsource

For the record, this is National Scoop the Poop Week, which, I can only assume, commemorates the thankless post of those who gingerly sift and subsequently remove masses of repulsiveness from rectangular boxes in cellars everywhere. Moreover, I’m guessing the week is also reserved for the purpose of honoring the countless individuals who manage (i.e. harvest or fling) varying amounts and consistencies of dog dung from grassy temptations in parks and neighborhoods near and far. And while such recognition is indeed richly deserved, it makes me slightly resentful as a mom—especially as one who routinely engages in less-than-pleasant tasks without so much as a hint of formal acknowledgment. Hrumph.

Granted, we have Mother’s Day in May, Father’s Day in June and, of course, National Parents’ Day in July; but even considered collectively, they pale in comparison to THE SOLID WEEK OF VALIDATION the pooper scooper people receive. Such a tiny portion of the calendar hardly seems adequate given the myriad of responsibilities that encompass the bailiwick of most parents in this day and age. Nevertheless, I’d likely forego any and all public acknowledgment—including the conferral of a week-long, national holiday in celebration of parental duties—so that I might outsource said horribleness instead. Here is a list of ten I’d farm out immediately or sooner.

1)    Lord of the Loo. I cannot begin to express my displeasure as it relates to the aforementioned role, which includes but is not limited to the act of flushing and plunging toilets as necessary. Quite frankly, I’ve grown increasingly intolerant of my brood’s so-called inability to remember to push a stupid little lever and to refrain from using obscene quantities of toilet paper.

2)    Gatekeeper of Information/Entertainment Sources. Given the prevalence and accessibility of data and entertainment (which ranges from good to completely dreadful both online and off), I am fairly exasperated by the impossible nature of the task at hand. That said, I cannot police every keystroke or channel surfing venture my heathens engage in, nor can I place digital controls on the devices in question because, admittedly, I am a poor tool.

3)    Homework Nazi. Of all the hats I wear as a parent, that of academic taskmaster is my least favorite. Firstly, it gives my children yet another reason to loathe my existence. Secondly, I don’t possess the intellect required to grasp the “new math” and nothing would gladden my heart more than to watch it die a slow, horrible death. Thirdly, I fail to see the rationale behind inundating kids with reports and whatnot that are beyond the scope of their abilities. Translation: I am tired of making them jump through hoops when they ought to be climbing trees.

4)    Bedtime Enforcer. Need I say more?

5)    Explainer of That-Which-Is-Inexplicable. Think: Moammar Gadhafi, Charlie Sheen and pretty much any statement made by Donald Trump.

6)    Thank You Note Tyrant/Cheerleader. Of course, I am indescribably grateful to those who shower my progenies with gifts throughout the year, but I absolutely abhor the commission of motivating them to churn out notes of thanks that are abundantly specific, palpably thoughtful and convincingly genuine. Never mind legible. Clearly, this sort of undertaking lives on the fringe of impossibility, seeking to destroy my dream of mediocrity as a parent.

7)    Zenmaster of Closet Space. Confession: Each and every closet in my home is hideously disordered. And no one, it seems, is particularly interested in reversing the ill effects of our hoarding mentality—except me. To date, our dear closets house an embarrassment of clothing that no longer fits anyone, mismatched flip-flops, irreparably damaged umbrellas, lone mittens, sneakers in various stages of decomposition and hats from the early Paleozoic Era. Oy.

8)    Resident Grossinator. Otherwise known as the CEO of Household Biohazards—to include pinkeye encrustations (joy), toenail clippings (grok!), unflushed whateverness, phlegm (gak!), fecal matter and/or fermented food contained within the hamster cage that no one else will clean and let us not forget vomit—the bodily fluid that once (before children) repulsed us. Now (disturbingly, I might add) we attempt to catch it, so that we might spare our lovely couches and carpets from the horrors of an unmistakable and decidedly permanent odor.

9)    Laundry Lady. It’s not the washing that gets to me, especially. It’s the remembering what gets dried and what must hang-to-dry. And the folding. And the re-folding if the husband happened to have volunteered his services. And the stacking. And the picking up of the stacks that inevitably fall to the floor. And the taking care of the wretched piles I so despise—because it seems everyone else is physically incapable of doing so. Ugh.

10)  Conflict Captain and Finder of Lost Toys. I sometimes think if it weren’t for the time spent mediating disputes and searching the earth for someone’s beloved toy, I wouldn’t know how to quantify my worth as a parent. Obviously, I wear other hats, too (see #s 1-9), but somehow they don’t seem as noteworthy. Not in the eyes of my children, anyway. After peace has been restored to the land and/or someone’s irreplaceable stuffed animal has been found, I am reminded, once again, that my post might not be thankless after all.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (longing to subcontract certain aspects of parenthood).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Men in Tights


Men don’t belong in tights. Nor do they belong in stores that sell tights apparently. At least that’s what my husband thinks—after I sent him on an insufferable mission to obtain a couple pairs for our resident ballerinas/heathens-who-needed-suitable-Easter-attire on short notice. Of course, this ridiculously urgent need arose because I don’t plan particularly well. June Cleaver (as a mother of daughters) would have had a stash of snag-free tights at her fingertips, available in a rainbow of sizes and colors for all of her tight-wearing brood.

I’m no June Cleaver.

Me: “Hon, would you run to the store and pick up some white tights for the girls? They need them for church in a size 4-6. Oh, and they have to have feet. And they have to be stretchier (is that a word?) than the ones I got for Palm Sunday. Remember those wretched things? It was like they were meant for some squatty toddler with beefy thighs—not a gangly first grader. Remember how stinking irate I got when I tried yanking and pulling on them to get them up where they were supposed to be—and they just wouldn’t go? A squirrel could have lived in that crotch gap. Anyway, I threw the hideous things away. Did I mention that the tights have to be white—not off-white or cream, but white white? Otherwise, they won’t match the dresses I bought. Can you handle that, Hon? I knew you could.”

Dutiful Husband: “Alright already. I’ll do it (insert string of indecipherable griping). White tights. Not cream. Size 4-6. With feet. Stretchier than the last ones. Got it. But remember this—you owe me. This is NOT my idea of fun.”

Needless to say, when the man returned it was evident that the assigned task, which had indeed not been the least bit fun, proved to be a supreme challenge. I would owe him for an eternity. Maybe longer.

Me: “Thanks for getting the tights, but where are the feet? I believe I specifically stated that they needed feet. These are ‘capris,’ Hon. They have no feet.”

Dutiful Husband: “Wad-da-ya mean they DON’T HAVE FEET?! Why doesn’t it just SPELL THAT OUT IN ENGLISH on the stupid package for crying out loud?! And what the $#@* does ‘capri’ mean?!”

Me: “It means they have no feet.”

Dutiful Husband: “And a man should know this—why?!” (I assumed—correctly—that this was a rhetorical question).

The love of my life then proceeded to fish out the phone book and dial up another establishment that could potentially save the day. (No sense driving there when the impression of idiocy could be made over the phone just as handily). It saves everyone time and trouble.

Dutiful Husband: “Hello? Yes, I need two pairs of white leotards in size 4-6 WITH FEET. Do you have such an animal? No? Okay, thanks anyway. Bye.”

Me: “Did you just ask someone for leotards? We need tights, Hon, not leotards. White ones. With feet.”

Dutiful Husband: “Who do I look like?! Fricking Baryshnikov?!!! I’m a DAD—not a guy who buys stuff like…like this!” he shrieked, motioning emphatically at the soon-to-be-returned merchandise. “Leotards. Tights. Tights. Leotards. What’s the difference?! I don’t pretend to know the difference! I’m not supposed to—I’m a DAD, remember?!”

At that point I quietly and privately acknowledged how infinitely obtuse I had been to expect the man to deliver under the circumstances. It was an impossible mission and one I probably just should have carried out myself. Then again, I could have wound up with that home for wayward squirrels/embarrassment-of-a-crotch-gap disaster a second time and felt like a fool all over again. Either way, I lost.

Me: “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have ever…”

Dutiful Husband (furiously punching numbers into the phone): “No, no. I’ll do it. I told you I’d do it and I will. Hello? Yes, it’s me again. APPARENTLY I don’t need leotards, I need tights,” he said through clenched teeth. “White ones. Size 4-6. With feet. Do you have ‘em? Good. I’ll be right there. Hold them for me and guard them with your life.”

This time he came back with four pairs of the silly things (just to be on the safe side). Lo and behold…THEY HAD FEET. And the crotch gap was at least tolerable. All things considered, I was comforted in the knowledge that he came through in the end. But I have to agree…men just don’t belong in tights.

Except maybe Baryshnikov. Somehow they suit him.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on Men in Tights

Filed under Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum

Footloose and Fancy-free

Here we are—a mere five weeks into spring—and already it’s time. Time to fire up the grill and dust off the mower. To haul out the picnic table and spruce up the lawn chairs. To fish for golf clubs and ball gloves and those glorious little tubs of sidewalk chalk without which I could not effectively parent. Time to paw through our summertime wardrobe for the Bermudas we pray aren’t too snug and to put away the parka—for good. We’re tired of the wretched thing anyway.

What’s more, it’s finally time to bid farewell to those insufferable snow shovels and subzero temperatures. Time to embrace the sun’s warmth and to feast our eyes upon all-that-is-green-and-growing. We deserve it. Winter’s been long and unforgiving, and the ice it bore assuredly played no favorites.

Indeed, it is time.

Even without the aforementioned harbingers of summer, I know the season of suntans and sweet corn is nigh. My sandals tell me so. They beg to be pulled from the depths of my closet where they’ve gathered dust since late October—a Hippie-ish heap of worn and weathered leather that has been all but forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind. They long to taste sweet freedom, to feel the fresh air upon their hide and to soak up the sun like there’s no tomorrow. I don’t blame them. My toes have pined for much the same since the first snow. And now that the warmth has returned to the Northern Hemisphere, the vast majority of my sensible-and-sissified footwear is in effect history. It’s far too unadventurous for my taste anyway.

My friend, Kathy (a woman after my own heart), is equally smitten with her sandals. Tevas, I think. The ones dipped in kryptonite and steeped in wonderfulness. That said, unless measurable snow has fallen and happens to impede her path, she wears them year round—with woolen socks, of course, for those unbearably chilly mornings come January. For my spunky hairdresser, Deb, it’s the chance to go barefooted she truly relishes—whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Shoes, begone!

My kids, however, have a slightly different view on the subject. My oldest daughter has virtually lived in flip-flops forever, sampling all the lovely hues known to man. In fact, I struggle to recall a time when she didn’t own a pair—or a dozen—or when I didn’t feel compelled to tell her to pick the blasted things up and take care of them already. As for my youngest charges, it is their beloved Crocs that whisper to them unremittingly, demanding to be worn, beckoning from the recesses of our hall closet. Oddly enough, they’re not as impassioned about sandals or bare feet; although the flip-flop obsession has struck from time to time. And the prevailing weather is a non-issue in their imprudent little minds. Instead, the calendar is king.

“It’s spring, Mom! Now I can wear my Crocs!” Needless to say, my heathens have been schlepping around in the silly things ever since the lions of March roared in. Sans socks—gasp! Thus far, however, I have won the battle over wearing them to school. But I’m losing the war, which bears an uncanny resemblance to last spring’s Croc-related debate. Arrrrrg.

“Come on, Mom; it’s really HOT during recess. So-and-so’s mom lets her wear Crocs to school and nothing bad ever happened to her feet,” my charges allege, attempting to shame me into allowing that which will make me crazy with worry for the entire school day. (That, coupled with the completely unfounded fear that they will be trampled to death by a herd of third-graders en route to the cafeteria, many of whom will be sporting Crocs).

Naturally, I fight the urge to employ scare tactics (doused with sarcasm) in response: “Go ahead and wear your stupid Crocs! But if you break your ankles, don’t come running to me!” Instead, I opt for something more like: “So-and-so doesn’t live here, does she?”

“No, but if she did, she wouldn’t like it.”

Enough said. I am the most horrible mother on the face of the earth. One who has the audacity to wear less-than-protective footwear in front of the children simply to torment them.

Eventually, I will cave. The mercury will continue to climb and my argument will fail. They will wear their moronic, slippity-dippity Crocs to school and I will be forced to overcome the apprehension I feel over the fate of their feet. Woe is me.

Thankfully I can slip into my comfy sandals—a happy hypocrite—and forget about the whole ordeal.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (in sandals much of the time).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on Footloose and Fancy-free

Filed under Spring Fling

April Awakening

I’ve always loved the springtime—especially the warm embrace of April. Of all the seasons, I’m inclined to say that it is my favorite—partly because baseball is back and the school year is drawing its last breath, but mostly because it is an era awash with newness. Almost indescribably so. Wisps of green now dot the underbrush, as if God had been handed a paintbrush and was then asked to create something slightly magnificent. Likewise, daffodils and forsythia, bathed in brilliant yellows, have been summoned from the places where shades of gray have lived for far too long. Lilac and cherry blossoms, too, are poised to burst with a profusion of muted hues and the sweet scents of spring. Armies of tulips will soon follow, standing straight and tall in the midday sun. Never mind the rain that must fall.

Indeed, the creatures of this season move me, too. The melodies of more songbirds than I can readily name fill the air along with the serenade of crickets—legions of them, welcoming each night as the woods grow thick with darkness and alive with a symphony of sound. Before long, the yellow-green flashes of fireflies will entrance my children, prompting them to give chase, mayonnaise jars in hand—but not yet. This is springtime and the earth feels soft and yielding beneath my feet, rekindling memories of running barefoot as a child, the cool blades of grass and spongy patches of moss mingling intimately with my toes. The same toes, mind you, that have begged to be reacquainted with the deliciousness of leather sandals since mid-February. The calendar assures me that the time is nigh and that the months ahead are certain to bring both warmth and goodness to the land. Springtime, it seems, is pregnant with possibility, which is yet another reason I love it so.

Or maybe it’s because all three of my children were born in the thick of

April. Aries babies. Tiny souls destined for equal shares of independence and optimism, despite the vast array of frailties that came with being frighteningly preterm. As one might expect, I worried about umbilical cords, fontanels and cries I had yet to decipher. I think it was there in the hospital, amidst the haze of becoming a mother again and again, where I first recognized how unspeakably euphoric this season of new beginnings made me feel. How I could look outside my window at the verdant landscape below, all the splendor of spring unfolding before me, and then marvel, in the very same breath, at the bundles of neediness I had helped create—the ones with fuzzy, sweet-smelling heads and impossibly tiny toes, the babes I would soon rock in the creaky chair that had been my great grandmother’s.

Somehow, seeing the buds and the birds and the medley of green filled me with a tangible sense of hope and enthusiasm for whatever the future might bring. The sleepless nights and

debilitating bouts of self-doubt I would surely encounter seemed almost manageable in the context of Mother Nature’s grand awakening. Deep within, I believed that no matter how ineptly I nursed the smallish beings in question or how spectacularly wrong I swaddled said infants, all would be well. My parenting days, though stunningly imperfect, would fill my cup, bind me inextricably to my brood and leave me wondering how I ever functioned without them. The spring had arrived after all, and the canvas of my world had been painted with broad strokes of vibrant color and punctuated with untold joy.

Of course, it could just be the birthdays we celebrate at this time of year that make the season so special. There are four if you count my husband’s—all within a span of three weeks—and I can’t help but indelibly etch in my mind all the cakes and candles, all the meals at fancy restaurants with friends and family and the countless parties with giddified bunches of little girls crowding around to see what bit of wonderfulness so-and-so happened to have unwrapped. And let us not forget the slumber parties. Lord knows I won’t.

Then again, it might simply be Easter, the mother of grand awakenings, that makes this time so very dear. Egg hunts and wicker baskets. Frilly dresses and shiny shoes. Palm fronds and penitence. Spiritually stirring events that cause me to ponder the true meaning of awakening, rendering me awestruck far beyond the month of April.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (savoring every drop of spring).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on April Awakening

Filed under A Tree is Nice