Monthly Archives: October 2011

Creatures of Habit

I have a favorite pair of sweatpants that I’ve owned since the Precambrian period. They’re a tired shade of gray, with barely a suggestion of the navy lettering that once graced its cottony surface. American Eagle, I think.

Of course, they’re shamefully dilapidated, torn and tattered beyond all repair. My mother-in-law, master seamstress and sock darner extraordinaire, dug deeply into her repertoire of needle-and-thread-ish miracles time and again to patch them up and make them whole—or at least to make them presentable. Sometimes she succeeded. Sometimes not. Mostly she just shook her head; dismayed by my stubbornness—and astonished by my inability to recognize when something had long since passed its prime. Then again, I have trouble in the produce aisle.

I admit; most would be embarrassed to be seen with me, clad in such disgraceful toggery, kneecaps naked to the world. What am I saying? My DOG is embarrassed to be seen with me. But the silly things have charm and character and that beloved quality of familiarity. Slipping into said fleeciness in the middle of January or even during a cool summer’s eve feels cozy and oh-so-comfortable—like the warmth of a lover’s arms, the refuge of a mother’s embrace, the company of an old friend. And on those rare occasions, when I entertain the notion of trading them in for something shiny and new, I feel nothing less than the shame of betrayal. The ignominy of sin.

Simply put, I cannot bear the thought of parting with my cherished garb; although my rational left-brained self knows better. The wretched things need to be ditched. Out with the old. In with the new.

I suppose I’m no better or worse than anyone else who has ever been mired in denial, inextricably attached to all-that-is-worn-and-hackneyed. We all have issues of a similar sort. Some are just more debilitating than others. That being said, my husband refuses to chuck any of his shabby, old t-shirts, which are perhaps some of the most pathetic examples of apparel on the face of the earth (second only to my sweatpants). Indeed, he lovingly deems those prized entities as something far from archaic. “They’re seasoned,” he defends. “Broken-in like a good leather ball glove.” He won’t dispose of his blasted water shoes either, which now sport portholes through which his toes protrude freely. Gak! Oddly enough, the man owns another pair. Brand spanking new ones with nary a defect. He bought them because he knew it was time for a change, only he couldn’t follow through. Apparently, it’s against his religion.

Needless to say, dysfunction doesn’t fall far from our family tree. Eccentricity flourishes under this roof and there is barely a day without someone hoarding something that ought not to. Ratty toothbrushes, Band-Aid boxes (Hello Kitty, of course), rocks of all shapes and sizes, bits and scraps of discarded paper, foolish tripe found on the bus or at school. And the list goes on. But the most bizarre item yet has been a brown paper snack bag for which a certain seven-year-old developed a crippling affinity. The bag itself was quite ordinary with regard to its form and function, however when its tour of duty surpassed the bounds of reasonableness (a month, maybe?), that’s when I hit the “Now this is just about ENOUGH!” button. “I can’t keep patching up these stinking holes with tape! It’s ridiculous! The bag is a train wreck!” (Read: I have taped tape on top of tape, and if I have to tape anymore, I’m going to screeeeeam! This is not a freakingtriage center for paper goods!)

Of course, we have a bazillion perfectly wonderful bags (WITHOUT CAVERNOUS HOLES) that have been at my daughter’s disposal since September. Bags begging to be toted to school…eager to be personalized with her scratches and scribbles…hankering for the opportunity (tedious though it might be) to house the EXACT SAME SNACK each and every day from now till eternity!

“But I like my bag. And my teacher likes my bag. She thinks the doggies I drew on it are pretty. I’m keeping it for-ever and EVER! And the little holes are cool because they let me peek inside to see what I have for my snack.” Are you forgetting, my dear child, that you ask for the SAME thing every day?! Apparently so. That being said, we couldn’t use duct tape for the massive and multiple repairs (tempting though it might have been), because that would negate the whole peeking-at-the-stupid-snack dealie. Arrrrg!

The kid will probably grow up to be a sock darner. It’s also likely I’ll be buried in my sweatpants.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at http://www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Nightmare on Mom Street

Sunday afternoons are my respite in this harried place. The sanity cocktail from which I draw sweet sustenance. That said, I lounge around the house doing as little as humanly possible, embracing my inner sloth. Old movies, blanket forts and naps rule the day. That is not to say that I haven’t, on occasion, become inspired enough to throw something meaty in the crock-pot, to haul my sweeper from the bowels of its dusky lair or to plant my sorry self in the laundry room for a time despite my aversion to the insufferable place. Even on a Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, ambition is nowhere to be found in my house during that glorious wedge of downtime—sandwiched deliciously between the madness that was and the madness sure to come. Last Sunday, however, was decidedly different. Havoc rained down on my world, obliterating my precious corner of calm.

Oddly enough, what led to the aforementioned began weeks ago while traipsing through a store, my cart piled high with a bunch of schlock I didn’t need. At every turn, it seemed, I stumbled into EVEN MORE SCHLOCK and felt compelled to ogle it, to finger its veneer of worthiness and to toy with the notion of adding it to my ever-growing mound of that-which-I-would-one-day-regret-purchasing. And on the days during which I allow the guilt of motherhood to consume me, the mound is markedly higher. Needless to say, it was one of those days.

Indeed, the voices that drive much of my irrational behavior relevant to Thing One and Thing Two were especially persuasive that day, whispering words of admonishment in my ear and regaling in my grand ineptitude as a parent: “You’re a HORRIBLE MOTHER…you don’t SPEND ENOUGH TIME with your children…you MUST ACQUIRE this ten-dollar nugget of wonderfulness which promises to erase weeks of botched parenting.” All the while I considered said nugget of wonderfulness (i.e. a two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House Kit, complete with 47 bats, dozens of little green candies I would later damn to hell, enough gumdrops to coat eleventy-seven teeth and an expander, a defective ghost—or rather, segments of insanely sweet candy, suggestive of something that was once intact and specter-like—and a cauldron full of powdery mixes that were sure to deliver hours of goo-inspired, edible fun and to yield the most perfect hues of orange and purple icing on the planet).

In the end, I was shamed into buying the box of foolishness. Because that’s what moms do. Just like all the other project-y stuff I haul home out of sheer guilt; never mind the games and books and techno-gadgetry thought to engender this or that brand of awe in my children. It’s all about the Is-it-as-remarkable-as-a-pony factor and Will-it-expunge-from-the-record-my-screw-ups-to-date?

So I shoved the stupid thing in our pantry (good intentions and all) and forgot about it till the Halloween craze struck with a vengeance. And since the celebrated costume drama in this household was officially over, a sinful quantity of sugary treats had been stockpiled already and virtually every corner of our home had been festooned with all-that-is-Halloweenish, there was but one thing left to do—build the stupid house. So that’s what we did—the three of us, while Dad cheered exuberantly from the sidelines.

Several hours, two meltdowns (both mine) and a hellacious mess later, we had our two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House. Of course, the orange and purple mixes wound up adorning everything kitchen-ish but the inside of the refrigerator, those reprehensible, little candies rolled near and far much to my chagrin, fistfuls of trimmings were consumed with wild abandon and the icing was less than compliant as I shoveled and smeared gobs of it into pastry bags and then squeezed the reluctant mass onto the house as instructed. Translation: The cussed gloppage in question delighted in its schmutziness and its droopiness, defiantly sliding down walls, windows and slanted rooftops, leaving hideous-looking blobs everywhere. Even the spider webs I made sagged to the point of looking not-so-spider-webby. But because the gods of kitchen fiascos were smiling upon me, my brood took it all in stride, “…the droopiness makes it even SPOOKIER, Mom! You’re so AWESOME!”

Well, it certainly wasn’t as grand as a pony might have been; but the awe factor of this nightmarish project was evident to at least two somebodies on the planet. And perhaps that’s all that matters in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (admiring our droopified Halloween house).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

The Road Less Traveled

www.melindawentzel.comI remember it as if I were standing before it this very moment—the dirt road behind my childhood home that snaked through the mossy woods, carving a narrow, road-not-taken-inspired path along the base of a deep ravine, sheltered from the sun and from civilization it seemed. The place where a large and delicious chunk of my youth was spent surrounded by the pungent aroma of pine mixed with the earthy scent of decaying leaves and the ever-present drone of the creek that flowed nearby.

It was my Secret Garden. My sanctuary of sycamores, silver and red maples. My quiet corner of the world where I could commune with nature and collect my thoughts—one blissfully restorative trek at a time. Of course, I whiled away the hours there, exploring every inch of the road’s gritty surface, the rock-strewn banks of the creek and the heavily wooded hillside that was enshrouded with a verdant canopy of foliage in the thick of summer and dappled with patches of sunlight when the wispy green of spring first emerged. Season after season, I was drawn there, swallowed whole by its quiet grandeur, inextricably immersed in the sweet salvation of solitude and unstructured play. Alone but never quite lonely. The Last Child in the Woods, perhaps.

Eventually, though, my brother tagged along, curious to discover what was so special about this half-mile stretch of road and haven of towering trees that lapped at its fringes. He, too, became enthralled with all that it had to offer—untold numbers of fossils to inspect and collect, intriguing salamanders and caterpillars at every turn, ideally secluded spots for building clubhouses and spying on the occasional passerby, and perhaps most notably, an unforgiving and impossibly narrow footpath perched high atop a ridge where the region’s entirety could be viewed with ease. Naturally, there was an abundance of tree hollows, too, perfectly suited for stowing the trappings of childhood (i.e. spare jackknives, cap guns and spears we had fashioned from fallen branches).

On the cusp of spring, when the sun had finally begun to thaw the road and its deep, frozen furrows of mud, we’d barrel down the gully—half running, half sliding through the slushy snow that stubbornly clung to the ground and to the craggy tree trunks—eager to return to our long and winding road of dirt and stone. The summers we spent there—foraging through the woods, hiding out in our ramshackle forts and letting our dog run free—were ravenously consumed, chapters of our lives that I won’t soon forget. Never mind that my brother is no longer here to share such memories.

But if I could somehow turn back the time almost six years—the ones that have felt like six minutes—I’d remind him of a day in late autumn, when he couldn’t have been more than nine. It was an afternoon much like those we’ve experienced of late—a sun-drenched, breezy, balmy Indian summer gift—only the leaves back then had long since burst with color, painting the blue skies with fiery shades of orange and red. Not surprisingly, we were on the dirt road together. Back and forth we raced and chased along our favorite stretch, the tall trees roaring and swaying in the wind, tousling our hair and casting great swirls of leaves into the air for what seemed an eternity. Leaves we desperately tried to catch before they hit the ground. Because, of course, that was the whole point.

Of all the memories I’ve harvested involving my brother and our beloved dirt road, it is among my most cherished.

So as I witness my own children this autumn, completely engrossed in the rapture of chasing, leaping and wildly grabbing fistfuls of sky in an attempt to cleanly snatch the leaves before they fall to the street, drunk with joy and seizing the moment, instantly I return to the place I loved as a child and to the delicious day I spent with my brother.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering well the road less traveled, and recognizing that it has made all the difference). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, A Tree is Nice

Food for Thought

www.melindawentzel.comI’m pretty sure June Cleaver’s head would explode if she knew of my pitiful and often failed attempts to gather my brood at the dinner table for a real sit-down meal—Leave it to Beaver style. In a word, I am woefully inept when it comes to planning, preparing and placing said meal upon the table in a timely and aesthetically pleasing manner. So much so that my kids have apparently forgotten what it’s like to dine as a family within the confines of this particular circus-inspired, scheduled-to-the-max sort of establishment. Never mind that we did so for much of the summer, sweet corn having been shamelessly utilized as bait. But I digress.

“You want us to sit here? Together? And talk about our day?” my incredulous kids ask, clearly taken aback by the prospect of stopping whatever it is they’re doing to plunk themselves at the kitchen table for twenty to thirty minutes of food and not-so-idle conversation. Of course, my gentle demands are often met with a healthy dose of eye rolling coupled with I-can’t-possibly-set-the-table-if-I’m-tying-my-soccer-cleats-AND-doing-my-homework brand of snarky commentary. Par for the course in the trenches of Parentville, methinks.

Needless to say, the Gods of After School Madness rarely smile upon me and may, in fact, revel in my ineptitude, mocking my efforts to deal with the deluge of mini-crises that routinely befall our happy home at that critical juncture—that impossibly brief and patently crazed window of time wedged between the instant my charges make landfall and the race to the 437th extracurricular event of the week. As a less-than-composed parent, and seemingly without fail, this is the time when the wheels fly off and the bottom falls out.

That said, the phone typically rings just as the pots on the stove begin to boil over and shortly before godknowswho knocks at the door, sending the dog into an apoplectic barking seizure. Moments later, my dear progenies demand that I flit from the stove to hover nearby while they wrestle, by turns, with the concept of divisibility and the large and unwieldy vocabulary words that may or may not appear in a book I, stupidly, suggested. Granted, the experience itself is decidedly intolerable. Furthermore, it’s rumored that I may know next to nothing about math and even less about adverbs. However, the ceaseless petitions for my help continue—in the midst of meal preparation, listening to a certain French horn and clarinet, answering the door and phone, conducting backpack search and rescue missions for decomposing food with disturbing regularity, frantically gathering whatever paraphernalia will be needed for this or that nightly venture and dealing with the occasional cat vomit surprise and/or dog-poo-on-the-bed bit of hideousness. (For the record, I’m not particularly interested in learning how the latter occurred).

At any rate, when and if I finally succeed in shepherding one and all to the celebrated table to feast on what (hopefully) will qualify as a palatable meal, I immediately remember why I went to such lengths at all.  Firstly, there’s compelling data that links sit-down meals with a child’s success, especially with respect to at-risk behaviors—so saith a team of researchers at Columbia University and Dan Harris of ABC News. Secondly, Anderson Cooper of CNN desperately wants “…to bring back the family dinner, one meal at a time” through his Sunday Supper Club and I, most assuredly, don’t want to disappoint him. Thirdly, and perhaps most notably, the discussion that takes place over peas and potatoes (or whatever I managed not to burn beyond recognition) is invaluable. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Often there is talk of “bad actors” on the school bus and goose poop on the soccer field, who vomited profusely in the cafeteria and which dweeb dared to drink the “mystery brew” that a host of classmates lovingly prepared. Not to be outdone, my husband brings his own brand of bizarreness to the conversation, opening a tiny window into his day as well. As it should be, I suppose.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (occasionally at the dinner table with my inimitable cast and crew). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom to share your in-the-trenches parenting moments.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

On a side note, I was completely thrilled to learn that I had been selected to receive the highly coveted Versatile Blogger Award last week! And in acceptance of said award, I’d like to personally thank the woman responsible for nominating me, Lisa Tognola of Main Street Musings. Please do take a moment out of your harried day to visit her site. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

And in the spirit of celebrating some of the most versatile bloggers on the planet I know (and in passing along the award to each of them in turn), I’d like to invite you to visit their sites as well. Whether their voices have been irreverent and snarky, thought-provoking and informative or palpable and heart-rending, they’ve spoken to me in a manner that’s been most memorable. Here’s hoping they’ll speak to you, too.

http://julia.typepad.com/

http://anymommyoutthere.com/

http://stoopmama.com/

http://www.wendiaarons.com/

http://sarahandthegoonsquad.com/

http://annalefler.com/2011/08/frankenwhat/

http://thebloggess.com/

http://www.whiskeyinmysippycup.com/

http://www.goodybastos.blogspot.com/

http://mommasaid.net/

http://www.andrea-stanley.com/

http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/

http://www.alittlepregnant.com/

http://neanderdad.com/

http://www.finslippy.com/blog/

Welcome to My World…

In keeping with the Versatile Blogger Award tradition, here are seven random facts about me that hopefully won’t result in damnation, divorce or an inordinate degree of shame.

1)  I am not EVEN REMOTELY RELATED to a morning person. Make a note.

2)  Laundry is the bane of my existence. I’m fairly certain that’s where they’ll find me when I buy the farm, surrounded by behemoth-sized heaps of fetid-smelling clothes and mumbling something about “…a cruel, cruel world,” wishing I had simply been “…run over by a fucking truck.”

3)  My husband and I once stayed in a Honeymoon Suite (for a much-needed respite from parenthood—and for the sole purpose of drinking to excess and engaging in wanton sex in a hot tub) only to fall dead asleep for 12 straight hours instead. Oy.

4)  It’s rumored that my lips have touched a 2-quart plastic milk bottle on more than one occasion.

5)  I only pretend to understand Pokémon whateverness, and on a related note, I only pretend to understand my dog, in all his neurotic glory.

6)  I was once sneezed upon by a reindeer in North Pole, New York (aka Santa’s Workshop). It was ugly and I don’t want to talk about it.

7)  I once broke my hand in a less-than-composed parenting moment (read: a fit of rage involving glitter glue, lip gloss and my children’s bedroom carpeting). I once broke a toe in the shower. Don’t ask.

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Filed under Homework Hell, Meat & Potatoes, The Natives are Decidedly Restless