Monthly Archives: September 2018

The Family Curse

Some families are afflicted with flat feet, male pattern baldness or an inability to dance. Our family curse, apparently, involves getting stuck in public restrooms. It all began when I was three years old, according to a story my mom liked to tell so that I might recall a time in my life when I was very small yet capable of causing a great deal of inconvenience—much to her amusement, at least in this instance.

Evidently I wasn’t fond of visiting the doctor’s office and upon my arrival I let it be known that I didn’t want to be there by promptly locking myself inside a tiny bathroom and refusing to come out. The office was actually an old house, so the bathroom in question had a wooden door with a metal lock that even a three-year-old could easily turn. Looking back, I suppose my situation could have wavered somewhat between being a deliberate act and an unintended circumstance—at once a defiant child and a prisoner of my own making.

At any rate, after a great deal of coaxing and a fair amount of instructing, my mother and the doctor together decided the only viable solution was to remove the door from its hinges. While I have no idea how much of an annoyance this must have been for all parties concerned, I can certainly imagine.

Although I can’t possibly quantify the number of times my twin daughters have been stuck inside a bathroom stall (and happily crawled beneath the door to escape), it’s clear they have continued the tradition of being jinxed. One of the pair, who was quite young at the time, managed to trap herself in yet another public restroom, this time at a hotel swimming pool where the heavy, metal door had become jammed. With all the commotion and noise that emanated from the pool (i.e. dozens of kids screaming and splashing), no one heard her shouting for help or banging on the door in an attempt to get someone’s attention. Eventually, my husband and I noticed a dull thud coming from across the room, one that had become louder and more frantic as time went on. So we got up to investigate and upon discovering that she had been stuck inside for God-knows-how-long, we were ashamed to have been so oblivious. I think she has since forgiven us, but probably still harbors a degree of resentment regarding the bathroom issues that have plagued our family forever.

True to form and later in life, I once again demonstrated my ineptitude as it relates to using public facilities. This time, however, I managed not to imprison myself within the confines of a lavatory stall, but rather I somehow dropped my cell phone in the toilet. Almost immediately I thought of how stupid I had to be in order for my phone to wind up there, immersed in all manner of filth. To make matters worse, I have a tendency to freak out about germs so this particular faux pas was considerably more than I could handle. Of course, I dashed to the sink and doused it with soap and water, hoping against hope that the blasted thing would work again. Amazingly enough, it did.

Public restrooms have apparently been the bane of my husband’s existence as well. Just recently while we were touring a university he called me from the men’s room to inform me that he was stuck inside a stall and needed me to fetch someone from maintenance to get him out. I wish I were kidding.

Not surprisingly, he spent an embarrassment of time jiggling the latch and banging on the door, to no avail. He then shook the entire metal frame that housed the door, but stopped for fear of tearing it off the wall. He also tried muscling the lock itself until it spun freely (never a good sign). Not once did he consider crawling beneath the door. That was out of the question.

As luck would have it, eventually the door simply fell open, mocking his efforts to escape. At least he didn’t suffer the added humiliation of having someone show up with a toolbox to save the day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably rescuing someone from a bathroom stall). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Family Affair, Normal is Relative, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Dear Departed Summer

Seems like only yesterday…

I am a poster child for parenting ineptitude. And at no time does it become more painfully apparent than during the first few weeks of school—when I look back over the vast expanse of summer and realize that I’ve mismanaged a good deal of it. Despite having the best of intentions in mid-June—with a host of events cleverly sandwiched between swim lessons, haircuts and camps galore—by the tail end of July I found myself desperately trying to cram every ounce of family fun and spontaneity into what was left of summer. The fun I promised we’d have before sliding headlong into September.

Inexcusably, it is the epitome of who I am and what I do when it comes down to the wire—when a finite number of squares remain on the calendar during which anything and everything deemed truly memorable and drool-worthy to a nine-year-old can, ostensibly, be orchestrated. In a perfect world, that is. So like a madwoman I schedule sleepovers and movie nights, plan picnics and pencil in parades, visit ball parks and theme parks and stumble over myself to accept gracious invitations to friends’ homes and pools and lakeside cottages oozing with wonderfulness.

Conversely, I’ve tolerated a tent in my back yard for 23 days running—one that promises to leave a hideous, yellow square where a lovely patch of green grass used to grow. A smallish tent in which I spent an interminable night embracing all that roughing it entails, from mosquito bites and cramped quarters to a lumpy earthen mattress and a less-than-endearing quality of dankness I feared would cling to me forevermore. Eau de Musty Tent.

But it was better than disappointing my progenies. And not even related to the insufferable conditions that my husband (aka: Father of the Year) endured while attempting to sleep on an impossibly narrow and horribly unyielding lounge chair parked squarely in front of the zippered door. Sadly, I failed to photograph him in all his glory—mouth agape, flashlight in hand, his body entombed within a sleeping bag, his head, poking out the top, completely enshrouded within a camouflage mask I had never before seen, arms entirely enveloped by a giant mesh sack he apparently dragged from the bowels of the garage in a moment of great inspiration (aka: makeshift mosquito netting).

That said, I think it’s safe to say that as parents we at least showed up for our kids this summer. Some of the time anyway. We took them places and did things together. We tolerated their abiding love of toads, their penchant for trading Pokémon cards and their inexplicable fascination with roadkill. Furthermore, we tried not to trouble our silly heads over the health and well-being of our lawn as well as the health and well-being of those who spent much of August snowboarding down our grassy front terrace. Nor did we dwell on the wanton fearlessness with which they careened hither and yon on their scooters. Barefooted, no less. So we can feel slightly good, I guess—having directly or indirectly contributed to the wellspring of memories gathered over the fleeting, albeit delicious, chunk of summer.

Looking back I now see why it was likely a success—not because of the fancy-schmanciness of this or that celebrated event, but because the extraordinary lives deep within the ordinary. That said, fiery sunsets and Big Dipper sightings are more mesmerizing than a summertime box office smash. A symphony of crickets, the pungent aroma of the earth and the endless chatter of children most memorably fill a tent. A hammock is very nearly medicinal, as is the buttery succulence of sweet corn, the shade of an oak tree and the canopy of fog at sunrise as it hangs in the valley—silent and still.

Dear Departed Summer, it’s likely I’ll miss your fireflies most—and the barefoot children who give chase, drinking in the moment, alive with pleasure, racing across your cool, slick grasses without end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the finite quality of summer and desperately searching for the rewind button). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Tree is Nice, Endless Summer, Gratitude

Fridge Fiasco

We have an old refrigerator in our garage—one that migrated there when we remodeled our kitchen some time ago and it was no longer deemed efficient, never mind fashionable. Granted, it’s an oversized beast whose shelves are a tad unstable and whose exterior was all the rage in 1989, but because the universe sometimes smiles upon us, it’s been humming along just fine, thank you.

Needless to say, it has served us well in its new location, wedged comfortably between the tall, wooden shelves that house a hodgepodge of our must-have tools and garage-y tripe. For the most part, we stock our side-by-side with food that we don’t need immediately and drinks that can’t possibly fit in our new fridge despite the undying efforts of many. The overflow, if you will. What’s more, it’s a great place to store extra loaves of bread, an embarrassment of prepackaged snacks and a ginormous lemon pie from Rosencrans’ Bakery that my husband simply couldn’t resist.

It’s also the perfect place to chill wine and bottled beer. The only problem (that I unfortunately discovered one evening not so long ago) was that I had apparently overloaded the shelves in the door with said wine and beer. Of course, for the past several months everything had been just fine, the Michelob Ultra mingling nicely with the Korbel and Moscato. But on the night in question, things were not so fine. Translation: It was a train wreck.

Eager to retrieve a cookie that was chilled to perfection, I yanked open the door and in so doing, four shelves filled to capacity with the aforementioned beverages crashed to the floor, collapsing in a heap, stacked one on top of the next—a disastrous chain event. And although some time has passed, the sound of breaking glass and the resultant shards that laid everywhere torment me even still. Oddly enough, one of the bottles lost its metal cap but refused to break, instead spraying its contents straight up into the air, making a mockery of my attempt to grasp what had happened. For what seemed like an eternity, I stared at the carnage at the foot of our dear refrigerator, hoping what I had witnessed had only been a dream—something horribly imagined.

As luck would have it, and in accordance with Murphy’s Law, booze had spilled on nearly every shelf and all over the garage floor, slowly seeping beneath the lawnmower as well as the fridge itself. Like a fool, I stood there and watched it creep across the concrete, unable to respond like a rational person might by sopping up the mess with paper towels and throwing them in the trash. Upon further inspection, I learned that liquid had also pooled in the well below the bottom set of drawers, along with fragments of broken glass, too numerous to count. As the stench of beer filled our garage and the clatter of bottles still rang in my ears, all I could focus on was the tragic fact that alcohol had, indeed, been lost—sacrificed to the gods that govern stupidity. Even a soggy Oreo had paid the ultimate price, which is heartbreaking if nothing else.

Eventually I snapped out of my stupor and started cleaning the mess, but not without enlisting the help of my teenagers who were, of course, thrilled to be of assistance. Not so much. Nevertheless, they wore a path to the sink, washing everything I handed them while I dealt with the shattered glass and ever-expanding puddles of beer. Thankfully, the dog didn’t come running to inspect the awfulness that had befallen our happy home.

I’m also grateful that I somehow managed to NOT cut myself, and that a number of bottles had been spared, allowing me to have a cold one after such a fiasco.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably visiting the fridge in my garage and  (hopefully) remembering to open its door more GENTLY. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Ode to Embarrassment, Welcome to My Disordered World