Monthly Archives: July 2019

Picture This

Grocery lists aren’t what they used to be. Or perhaps I should say they’re inherently different than they were before the advent of the smart phone. People no longer simply jot down a comprehensive list of the sorts of things they need with regard to food, toiletries and paper goods. Instead they “tell” their phones what they need or type those necessities into the notes app as a reminder—or at least I do. Then I can conveniently add items on the go, not once having to deal with finding a fresh scrap of paper or a pen that actually writes.

Even still, our family uses a notepad that is housed within a tiny cabinet in our kitchen, a place that is practical if nothing else. It goes without saying, however, that half the battle is getting certain inhabitants to REMEMBER to add things to that list. I am no exception as I often forget to jot stuff down when we run out of it. I, of course, convince myself that I’ll easily recall the fact that I’m almost out of dental floss, but somehow it doesn’t wind up on the almighty grocery list, which means I’ll have to forego the joy of removing food particles from my teeth until one of us gets to the blasted store.

I can’t even imagine trying to explain what a struggle this is to my great-grandmother who lived in a very different time and place. She and my great-grandfather owned a grocery store in the early 1900s—a store that stocked hundreds of items that were available for order and delivery. I still have a framed original of the order form, one that has since yellowed but hangs in my kitchen in all its glory.

Yes, Ovaltine made the list of must-haves at Mrs. Ray Rose’s Store back then, as did Wheaties and Vicks VapoRub. Aprons and dresses, too.

Cheetos…not so much.

I guess it comes as no surprise that grocery delivery is still a relatively popular service these days, just not in my house. We prefer to traipse around in a store ourselves, plucking items from the shelves in hopes that we purchase the exact variety of shampoo/conditioner our teens requested. It’s no wonder we screw up from time to time though, as there are roughly 17 adjectives that describe said shampoo/conditioner—all of which must be present on the bottle we end up throwing in the cart. Heaven forbid we bring home the wrong kind. There’s always a fair amount of hell to pay, aside from dealing with a shopping cart with a rogue wheel and a parking lot full of idiots.

One way we’ve found to alleviate such incidents, however, is to turn to our dear cell phones, once again—this time employing the camera function to great benefit. Whenever someone in our family requests a grocery item with RIDICULOUS SPECIFICITY, he or she simply takes a picture of the packaging TO INCLUDE ALL NECESSARY DESCRIPTORS and then texts it to the individual planning to visit the grocery store next, which is usually my husband. For some unknown reason, he seems to draw the short straw when it comes to running errands. In that way (at least in theory), there can be no misinterpretation or confusion about what to buy.

Thus far, this system has served us well, except when it doesn’t. Perhaps more frustrating than having to search the aisles for an elusive product is discovering that its manufacturer recently decided to change the packaging, making the mission to find said product almost impossible. The only way to circumvent choosing the wrong item is to physically bring all interested parties to the store, which is often met with audible groans of disapproval. At least they can then be responsible for picking out the wrong product themselves and refrain from blaming someone else.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably texting my husband in the grocery store—ad nauseam. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. Now available in bookstores: On Motherhood: Fireflies to First Dates: A Collection of Planet Mom Essays.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Normal is Relative, Techno Tripe

Ban on Boredom

Seems like just yesterday that my youngest kids were devouring their eleventh summer…

There is a curious bit of art that sits upon my friend’s kitchen windowsill, poised, I assume, to oversee the rinsing of casserole dishes and the occasional filling of a vase for wildflowers that were simply too beautiful not to be plucked from the earth and brought indoors. The art in question, a tiny square of paper featuring the word BORED rendered variously in ink roughly 197 times, was never intended as such. Instead, it served as a perfectly respectable outlet for my child’s not-so-respectable rage that stemmed from having to endure that which she deemed tiresome if not intolerable.

Naturally, I shared this quietly defiant act with my friend. Because that’s what friends do; they spread the joy that can only be appreciated by those who have worn similar shoes. Confession: On occasion, I am summarily amused when my children wrestle with frustration—like when the lid on the pickle jar won’t budge, the dog refuses to relinquish Barbie doll whateverness from his insatiable maw, the 437th dive into the pool is still a cussed bellyflop. Of course, I know it’s wrong to laugh at the expense of my brood, but I have no shame. The endearing allegiance to the misery of boredom that now rests upon the aforementioned windowsill—a beacon of impassioned self-expression, as it were—is no exception.

What makes the story more compelling, however, is the fact that the child who created said homage to indignation is almost never bored, let alone angry about being bored. Indeed, her wrath was such a rarity, I desperately sought to preserve it—with a perfectly ornate little frame. One for my friend. One for myself. So that I might revisit that anomaly-of-a-moment during which my dear progeny succumbed to the evils of ennui, lashing out at the universe, or at anyone who might be inclined to glance over her shoulder as she stewed in silence, wielding a poison pen. Thankfully, said resentment was short-lived. Soon she was back to her old self again, unearthing fun and fascination at every turn.

Even still, I can appreciate the sentiment shared by so many of our impressionable youth—their collective and decidedly whiny mantra forever emblazoned upon their minds if not upon their lips. However, I identify more closely with what that means for moms and dads in the trenches. “I’m bored” is perhaps one of the most dreaded phrases a parent can encounter in the thick of July, or anytime for that matter, inviting panic into an otherwise delicious wedge of life.

So I suppose I should consider myself fortunate, as my charges rarely utter the phrase. I credit my ability to convince all three daughters, early on, that “bored” was a bad word. In fact, using it in a sentence was expressly forbidden in our household for a very long time. As a result, Thing One and Thing Two are currently devouring their eleventh summer, as if every waking moment was imbued with rainbow sprinkles (with the exception of time spent on their math workbooks—the ones my uber-parent psyche demanded they complete by September).

At any rate, the thrum of midsummer now rings in our ears. Squirt guns and sprinklers. Fireflies and Frisbees. Hammocks and hot dogs.

Boredom-schmoredom.

Never mind the ever-present nature of barefoot children, lemonade and laughter. Treks to Grandma’s house, too—the place where we ditch our electronics and discover the simple joy of checkers, the allure of sundrenched decks and sleepy porches, not to mention the inherent beauty of being still, if only for a time.

That said, a recent trip to our friends’ lake house epitomized July’s ban on boredom. The kids in question had at their disposal a wealth of toys and sailing opportunities, but instead chose to frolic around in the lake, dig in the sand and harvest more freshwater clams than I’ve ever seen, completely absorbed in their own little world, long after darkness fell and the embers of the fire turned to ash.

Much to my delight, boredom never once reared its ugly head.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (devouring every scrumptious bit of July, National Anti-Boredom Month). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Endless Summer, In the Trenches of Parentville, motherhood, The Natives are Decidedly Restless