Category Archives: In the Trenches of Parentville

DELIVERANCE: A Survival Guide to Parenting Twins is HERE!

Deliverance is a wildly amusing, in-the-trenches sort of guidebook to surviving Hell Week with twins—only Hell Week lasts for an entire year—the point at which most parents of multiples can finally come up for air. In a word, it is a candid and hilarious tale of survival—one that provides both advice and amusement for parents in desperate need of salvation (or sedatives). Quite literally, it is an essential field guide for those managing the madness of caring for two babies at once—a book that can be read in the thick of raising children, with its bite-sized chapters and undeniable readability.


As one mom put it, “Deliverance should be mandatory reading for all prospective parents of multiples.”




As a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Melinda L. Wentzel, aka Planet Mom, is an award winning slice-of-life/humor columnist and author whose primary objective is to keep mothering real on the page while maintaining some semblance of sanity on the home front. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Parent Magazine, the San Diego Family Magazine, the Kansas City Parent Magazine, Twins Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort, the Khaleej Times Weekender, Dubai, UAE and a host of online publications to include Mamapedia, BetterWayMoms, MomStuff, HybridMom, MomBloggersClub and the Huffington Post.


For more than a decade, her newspaper column, Notes from Planet Mom, has appeared in Webb Weekly (Lycoming County, PA), where she offers parents who subsist at various stages of lunacy a sanity cocktail in the form of gloriously irreverent and, at times, surprisingly tender pieces about marriage and life with kids. She and her husband live in north central Pennsylvania with their twin daughters, two pampered dogs and a self-absorbed cat. Follow her on Twitter at, find her on Facebook at or subscribe to future posts via email (located in the sidebar on every page of this website).


Order your copy HERE: and if you think Deliverance truly delivers (laughs and great advice, too), please write a review there and I will be eternally grateful.


Comments Off on DELIVERANCE: A Survival Guide to Parenting Twins is HERE!

Filed under Bookish Stuff, In the Trenches of Parentville, Twins

The Saint

Remembering Helen Godfrey today, a wonderful woman and our children’s school bus driver from the early days of kindergarten through much of middle school… Written in 2006 by Melinda L. Wentzel


Our school bus driver has a secret life—according to our vastly imaginative kindergarteners anyway. Who knew?


“Where’s your regular bus driver,” I probed one afternoon as they clambered down those Godzilla-sized steps—the ones better suited for Gulliver than for my ungainly Lilliputians. (But then again, I load them up like a couple of pack mules every morning and make them wear snappy new sneakers over which they trip roughly 14 times an hour. It’s no wonder they have trouble getting on and off that big, yellow beast of a thing).


As we crossed the road and began hiking through the lawn together, I inquired again, “So where is she? Do you know what happened to her?”


“She likes to go on dates,” Child #1 whispered with a smirk and a sidelong glance at the bus.


“Oh reeeeeeeeally,” I commented, stuffing a sleeve in my mouth so as to stifle the spillage of chortles. “Dates, huh?”


“Yeah, Mommy,” Child #2 added. “She said she had an outbreak.”


“An outbreak?!” I asked completely puzzled now, but more intrigued than ever. “What sort of outbreak did she have?” (I was afraid even to think.)


“Well, maybe it was a breakout, Mommy…yeah, it was a BREAKOUT,” she explained further.


Instantly I envisioned this poor woman revisiting adolescence, giddy and pimply all rolled into one.


“A breakout you say?” I pressed further, going for that staid and genuinely concerned look I’ve been honing ever since they started sharing with me really important stuff—like which six-year-olds they intend to marry and how soon they plan to visit the moon. “Wow, a breakout, huh? Sounds serious.”


“Yep, a breakout…I think…or maybe it was a break. Yeah, she said she needed a BREAK one time when we asked her why she wasn’t our bus driver that day that Bus Driver Bob forgot to stop at our stop and all the kids screamed and screamed until he finally stopped.” (A day which will live in infamy….)


“So your bus driver needed a break?” I offered tentatively.


“Yeah,” they both chimed in. “She gets tired of just sitting and sitting. Sometimes she needs a break so she goes home and does stuff and then Bus Driver Bob brings us home.”


“Well, that explains it,” I agreed, happy to have been enlightened for the 467th time that day. Who wouldn’t need a break from my two magpies now and then? The woman deserves a medal. Or at the very least, to be sainted. In my humble opinion, she possesses more patience than six people ought to. Translation: I could never drive a school bus. Never. She tolerates all sorts of weirdness too—like my propensity to videotape and photograph nearly every Kindergarten Moment involving my children and the silly bus. Climbing on the bus. Off the bus. Walking toward the bus. Away from the bus. And most recently…SLEEPING on the bus. Couldn’t resist that one. Of course, she kindly invited me aboard to preserve the moment for posterity. Or maybe she just wanted me to hurry up and haul my drooling, sweat soaked charges and their 80 pound backpacks away. Far away.


Further, she-who-should-be-sainted also graciously accepts each and every “gift” those gregarious creatures in question bestow upon her—to include rocks, handfuls of gravel, wet leaves, twigs and to date, a plethora of drawings and indecipherable notes. Like I said, the woman’s a saint. She just smiles and quietly tucks them away in a pocket or on the dash. Always grateful. Never rushed. Mindful at all times of their feelings. Forever interested in their beloved offerings—which is more than I can say much of the time. (There are just so many wilted dandelions and speckled leaves I can take in one lifetime).


But not her. Nope. My guess is that she’ll continue to warmly receive each and every useless bit of tripe and ridiculous hootenanny that my cherries hand her till doomsday—thereby brightening their days and making a difference in their world. A world in which many have forgotten how important it is just to “be nice.” How refreshing and comforting it is to know that one such individual is out there day in and day out, delivering that invaluable message to my beloved offerings—and, no doubt, to scores of others’.


Thanks, Helen.


Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at


Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under In the Trenches of Parentville

Apron Strings

www.melindawentzel.comI am a mediocre cook at best, perhaps an unlikely one as well, since I never was much for the kitchen—even as a kid. I have a handful of recipes in my repertoire that I feel comfortable with, most of which have been handed down through family over a number of years. Mastery came only as a result of determined effort and decades of repetition—certainly not from talent or inclination. That said, I almost never stray from the recipe, sticking to the formula that has worked for me time and again. There’s always the chance I’ll burn or undercook something, so I suppose that’s all the adventure I need.

Occasionally, I’ll branch out and try new things that I’ve seen on the Food Network, but only if I can pronounce the ingredients and find them easily in the grocery store. I’m not one to traipse around looking for something completely obscure that Giada went on and on about. That’s just not me. The degree of difficulty matters, too. Chances are if a third grader couldn’t prepare it, blindfolded with a whisk tied behind his or her back, I’m not likely to tackle it anytime soon.

I realize this isn’t the sort of example I ought to be setting for my daughters—always playing it safe, unwilling to step outside my comfort zone in order to reap the benefits that sometimes come with taking risks. As adults I’m hopeful they’ll be more adventuresome than I, delving into cookbooks, experimenting with new recipes they find online, crafting their own from scratch.

I’m sure if I had sons I’d feel the same way.

Nevertheless, I don’t pretend to know what my children will glean from me as it relates to culinary skills. Lord knows I’ve tried to lure them into the kitchen, because, of course, I’d feel like a complete failure if I didn’t at least teach them something. I’ll admit it was easier when they were small. We’d pull the heavy mixing bowls out of the cupboard, shove wooden chairs up against the counter and sort through the drawer for favorite aprons—the ones that practically swallowed them so many years ago, two tiny sets of feet peeking out at the bottom. Together we’d bake cookies, scooping mounds of flour, cracking eggs in a less-than-efficient manner and eating chocolate chips straight from the bag. Not surprisingly, my kids were greatly invested in anything that involved making a terrible mess and/or eating sweet stuff.

Over time, I coaxed them into learning how to make some of their favorite dishes, banking on the idea that they’d be inspired by the outcome. For the most part, this has worked, evidenced by the fact that they feel comfortable enough to make their own dinner once in a while and no one has burned down the house as of yet. No small feat.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether they fall in love with the kitchen and all that it entails. I won’t be disappointed if they fail to fully embrace it, nor will I be displeased if they do. I just want them to continue to enjoy spending time with me there—even if I have to bribe them with Ghirardelli chocolate chips or having free rein to make an enormous mess of my kitchen, something that’s still very popular.

What’s more, years from now I hope I’ll see that I’ve managed to impart at least two things to my daughters, neither of which has anything to do with properly sautéing vegetables or peeling a hard-boiled egg without destroying it. I want them to recognize the importance of making a meal for someone who really needs to feel pampered or just plain loved—to know that comfort food is a godsend when someone is grieving or recovering or stressing about life in general.

I also want them to remember how special it made them feel to have someone bake them a birthday cake, slathered with their favorite icing and/or sprinkles. If they can in turn bake someone happy on their special day, that would indeed make me smile.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel


1 Comment

Filed under Gratitude, Growing Pains, In the Trenches of Parentville, Meat & Potatoes

“M” is for Motherhood

dandelion_canvas_gallery_wrap_canvas-r4f47808710544c519e1462fbeb5dbfdc_z3geq_8byvr_324While it’s true the term “motherhood” is a simple collection of ten letters, specifically arranged for ease of pronunciation, it is suggestive of so much more. In sum, I regard it as a wholly intangible, behemoth-like affair that effectively upended all that I thought I knew about life as a decidedly callow twenty-something. Needless to say, the experience continues to shape and mold me, schooling me day and night in the curious ways and means of children, wowing me with the inherent remarkableness of the aforementioned creatures and rendering me forever changed as an individual. As it should be, I suppose. That said, here’s how I spell motherhood.

M Motherhood is a messy beast-of-a-thing—with its suffocating mass of sippy cups and sidewalk chalk, Legos and lunch boxes, bicycles and Band-Aids. Never mind the ubiquitous nature of stuffed animals and the profusion of refrigerator-worthy masterpieces that inhabit our homes, marking time as our progenies progress along the winding path of childhood. And let us not forget all the lovely shades of gray with which we must contend: the tangled complexities of teens, the relentless questioning of toddlers and the soft underbelly of the headstrong child—the one we try desperately to govern without stifling. Indeed, motherhood is a messy business.

O Motherhood is overwhelming to be sure—a seemingly insufferable, plate’s-too-full collection of moments that, when taken together or viewed within the prism of the unattainable ideal, beat us into submission, the thrum of parental failure ringing in our ears. That said, there’s nothing quite like comparing oneself to the façade of perfection—holding our harried selves up against those who appear to be getting it right, the moms who keep all the plates spinning as if flawless extensions of themselves.

T Motherhood is timeless—an eternal post to which we are assigned, willing or not. From the moment our writhing infants, ruddy-faced and wrinkled, are placed upon our chests, motherhood begins in earnest. And although our parent/child relationships shift and season over time, they remain inextricably woven within the fabric of our lives. Not even death can end the appointed role, as a mother’s counsel is sought long after she has been eulogized.

H Motherhood is a humbling experience. Ask anyone who has ever faced the stinging truth as it relates to intolerance and hypocrisy—delivered by a six-year-old, no less, soundly putting those who ought to know better in their respective places. So often kids eclipse our academic abilities, too, reminding us how important it is to embrace change. Never mind that every fiber of our being screams in protest. Moreover, becoming a parent means a humbling loss of identity to some extent, punctuating the uncertain nature of our so-called significance in certain circles. We are simply So-and-So’s mom now—maker of sandwiches, applier of sunscreen, gracious recipient of dandelions. But somehow the title feels right, as does finding a pretty vase for the

E Motherhood is edifying in that literally every day we learn something new—most of which is harvested from conversations at the dinner table or at bedtime, from diaries that beckon unremittingly or from tiny notes we discover wadded up in someone’s pants pocket. We spend a lot of time watching, too, realizing that our mothers were right all along. Children will, indeed, cut their own hair, shove peas up their noses and breach late night curfews to test both boundaries and our resolve. Arguably, the lessons of motherhood never truly end.

R Motherhood is real. Good, bad or indifferent, it is palpable, inimitable and exceedingly enlivening. It is the stuff from which memories are made and so much purpose is derived.

H Motherhood delivers nothing less than a heady rush—an intoxicating dose of awe wrapped in the sheer rapture of having had a hand in creating life, not to mention having been called upon to shape one or more future citizens of this world. Mothers are, without question, difference-makers.

O Motherhood makes us swell with omnipotence now and again—a grand and glorious surge of I’M THE MOM, THAT’S WHY sort of sway that leaves us feeling all-powerful, if only fleetingly. But nothing makes us puff up more than hearing censure as priceless as, “Dad, did you get Mom’s permission to do that? She’s the Rule Captain, you know.”

O With motherhood comes obsession. And spiraling panic. And unfounded fear. And, of course, debilitating worry over that which will probably never occur anyway. In sum, we fret about bumps and bruises, unexplained rashes and fevers that strike in the dead of night…about report cards and recklessness, friends we cannot hope to choose and fast cars that will whisper to our charges, inevitably luring them within, despite our best efforts to forbid such foolishness.

D Motherhood is delicious—a profoundly gratifying slice of life we would do well to savor. Never mind its patented swirl of disorder and wealth of doubts, fears and impossible demands. Indeed, motherhood threatens to swallow us whole, while at the same time allowing us to drink in its goodness, gulp by gulp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reflecting on the many facets of motherhood). Visit me there at

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


Comments Off on “M” is for Motherhood

Filed under Gratitude, In the Trenches of Parentville, Mushy Stuff

The Cardboard Box: A Primal Refuge

www.melindawentzel.comSome days I just want to crawl inside a cardboard box fort and hide from the rest of the world—like I did when I was nine or ten. Prince and David Bowie are dead. Harper Lee and Alan Rickman, too. Also disturbing, at least on some level: Donald Trump is running for president and McDonald’s chocolate chip frappés are officially extinct. These are desperate times and they call for desperate measures—like curling up in the fetal position within the comfort and safety of a cardboard-walled fortress, effectively separated and insulated from the madness outside that might otherwise devour us. At least that’s what I feel compelled to do when times get tough—revisit the glorious cocoon of my youth.

Back then, the only thing that came close to the impressive nature of a fort crafted from a discarded cardboard box was a fort whose roof was built with an embarrassment of blankets—a sprawling haven that encompassed an entire room, incorporating clothespins, stacks of books, heavy ashtrays and every available piece of furniture that would further the effort—that of making it somehow more expansive, inspired largely by a Manifest Destiny of sorts. But I digress.

I remember the birth of many a cardboard refuge as if it were yesterday. Once in a great while, there would be a sizeable purchase in our household, like a new refrigerator, washer or dryer. Naturally, this produced as a side benefit a most enormous box—a gift from the gods to my brother and me. Somehow said box made its way down the narrow staircase and into the middle of our basement rec room. Like maniacal hunters we circled the beast—scrutinizing every inch of its carcass, celebrating our good fortune and anticipating the ritualistic carving that would soon take place.

This, of course, meant that our mother would allow us to use steak knives to transform the aforementioned box into a masterpiece, making us drunk with joy while effectively violating one of the prime tenets of parenthood—the one involving sharp objects and underdeveloped motor skills. Inherently she understood that using a table knife was decidedly futile, and that scissors were pretty much worthless as a tool for such an undertaking. So we’d hack and saw through the cardboard with glee, inch-by-inch, completely unsupervised—the ever-present element of danger adding exponentially to our collective delight.

Not surprisingly, we were fatigued by the enormity of the task yet thrilled to be making progress toward our shared vision. Never mind that blisters formed on our fingers, cardboard dust particles filled the air and jagged scraps littered the floor. It was a small price to pay in the name of creating something larger than ourselves. There in the musty cellar, whiling away the hours, we carved windows of every shape and size, escape hatches and skylights galore, doors that would actually swing open and shut and at least one rectangular slot for assorted mail and other important deliveries—like Mister Salty pretzel sticks and wads of Monopoly money. Also essential, a pathetic-looking doorbell we sketched with a big, fat Magic Marker.

Adding to the nest-like quality of our creation, we sometimes hauled blankets and pillows inside or fashioned curtains out of dishcloths we swiped from the kitchen. Likewise, a slew of books and LOOK Magazines would find their way to the interior, dropping to the floor one by one, having been shoved through the mail slot in rapid succession.

Indeed, our fort was a beautiful thing and there was as much joy in constructing it as there was in playing with it—especially when pets were coaxed within. Much like the mountain of dirt in our backyard—the one that occupied my brother and me for the better part of our summers, inundated with more plastic Army men and Matchbox cars than we could reliably count—our cardboard box forts were semi-permanent fixtures that would live in our memories forever.

Looking back, I can’t imagine surviving childhood without either.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, tempted to resurrect the cardboard box fort of my youth. Visit me there at

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel


1 Comment

Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, In the Trenches of Parentville

Say Yes to the Dress. Maybe.

www.melindawentzel.comI have not-so-fond memories of my high school prom, most of which stem from having worn a dress that felt as if it were lined with burlap. It was a white, floor-length eyelet gown, cinched unmercifully at the waist, making the thought of dancing almost unbearable. Never mind walking, talking and breathing. However, not going to the dance was out of the question. I went because all my friends would be there. I went because the hype leading up to the event was intoxicating. I went because prom night was a rite of passage—apparently, so was wearing obscenely uncomfortable shoes and stuffing myself in a dress that was two sizes too small.

Cutoffs and Converse sneakers were more my speed. If only I could have convinced the Prom Committee to allow everyone to dress as if they were going to a backyard barbecue, not a stodgy affair where herds of adolescents would spend much of the evening shuffling around in stiff formalwear, feeling both awkward and insecure. Or maybe that was just me.

The only thing less enjoyable than the prom itself was the gown-shopping marathon my mom and I endured beforehand, my angst superseded only by my negativity. I remember thinking I would never find the perfect dress, because it didn’t exist. Designers, it seemed, didn’t have flat-chested prom-goers in mind when they created styles for the masses. Instead, the racks were spilling over with plunging necklines and slinky, strapless numbers I couldn’t wear on a bet—not without hours of alterations and/or divine intervention. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon a gown that would work. Besides, I reasoned, I only had to endure it for a few hours. Then I could ditch it for jeans and a t-shirt—my garb of choice. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what I did.

So when my youngest daughter announced that she would need a prom dress this year I was speechless, my mind swimming with enough pessimism for six people. But, I reminded myself, she is a different kind of creature—a fun-loving free spirit, one who thrives on adventure and feels comfortable in her own skin, worlds away from me. That much I know.

That said, virtually everything about our shopping excursion was unlike my own of decades ago. For starters, we found heels long before we looked for a gown and she systematically broke them in over a period of weeks. On the day we finally set out to find a dress, my daughter brought the aforementioned shoes along so she could put them on to see how they looked with each gown she tried. Brilliant.

We then proceeded to haul massive amounts of silky, sequined whateverness into the dressing room, banking on the premise that more was better. Itchy tags and tangled hangers be damned. Despite the fact that we both fell in love with the very first gown (in which she looked stunning), she soldiered on—just in case she would discover something even more irresistible. There were black ones and red ones. Dresses without straps. Dresses without backs. Each one distinctively elegant. Each one with its own special charm, making the decision-making process fairly impossible.

After what seemed like forever, we were able to narrow it down to two favorites. And when I say “we” I mean my daughter and myself, an exceedingly helpful sales woman, a handful of patrons who happened to be in the vicinity and hordes of my daughter’s friends who offered instantaneous feedback via social media. Who knew that shopping for a prom dress would necessitate input from one’s Snapchat tribe, which apparently was present in the dressing room? I kid you not.

Needless to say, it’s a different world than it was some 30 odd years ago. Stranger still, we actually had fun searching for the perfect dress—so much fun, that we bought BOTH of her favorites. And because the gods were smiling, they were remarkably affordable, surprisingly comfortable and oh-so-beautiful.

Already it’s looking as if she won’t need decades of prom-related therapy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, gearing up for Prom Night. Visit me there at

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel


Comments Off on Say Yes to the Dress. Maybe.

Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, In the Trenches of Parentville, Spring Fling

The Lingo of Parenthood: A Curious Addendum

IMG_0306I’m convinced there aren’t enough terms in the English language to adequately reflect upon my harried life as a parent. More specifically, there ought to be words that, when cobbled together, help us to more effectively define the indefinable and/or express the mélange of exasperation, angst and joy we sometimes feel throughout the course of a typical day. To that end, I’ve developed a handful of new terms to expand upon the current vernacular.

CELL PHONE CIRCUS: The crazed barrage of texting/phoning that takes place in order to arrange for a friend or relative to pick up one’s child/children after school or an activity in the event you can’t possibly do it. Of course, you don’t realize you can’t do it until it’s almost time to pick up the aforementioned waifs, at which point you become panic-stricken, not to mention mortified by your failure to anticipate such a circumstance. Out of sheer desperation, you then phone or text eleventy-seven different people, highlighting your stupidity, spelling out the logistics involved with the proposed pick up and promising a pony to anyone who says “yes.” With any luck, someone will come to your rescue and haul your brood home.

PARKING LOT PURGATORY: The indeterminate wedge of time (i.e. roughly a century) during which parents sit in their cars in the parking lot at school, at the soccer field, etc. in anticipation of the emergence of one’s child at the conclusion of the event in question. Naturally this happens because the scheduled end time isn’t remotely related to the actual end time. Invariably, we are the last to know. To add insult to injury, our kid clearly has a knack for being dead last. Every. Single. Time.

FESTIVAL OF MOODS: The kaleidoscope of emotions our progenies (especially of the teen and tween variety) demonstrate, ranging from the pinnacle of euphoria to beyond the point of surly. Over time, we have come to expect the unexpected, yet we never quite know which disposition will be featured at any given moment—which makes dealing with it even more thrilling (not so much). The only thing we can be sure of is its highly changeable nature. And drama. Lots of drama. Like so many things that fall under the umbrella of parenthood, it goes with the territory.

DREAD-MONGER: A parent who is routinely plagued by an overwhelming sense of irrational fear as it relates to an unfounded belief that something horrible has happened to one’s child. The trigger could be the text you receive informing you that he or she might have incurred a concussion. Of course, your child assures you there is no reason to be alarmed—unless you find certain statements disturbing such as: I’m a little confused and nauseous because a huge shelf fell on my head and “…IT FELT LIKE MY BRAIN BOUNCED.” It could also be the itchy rash that mysteriously shows up three weeks into a course of antibiotics—the rash your child cleverly documents with a series of photographs, texting them to you in succession from school to make you INSANE with worry to brighten your day. Making matters worse, you Google the symptoms and brace for impending doom. It’s what you do.

EMBARRASSMENT BY ASSOCIATION: The act of offending one’s offspring simply by being alive. More specifically, when your kids reach that magical age we all know and love, they become completely mortified by your presence—to include the way you walk, talk and breathe. Heaven help you if you happen to sing in front of their friends, set foot in their classroom or step within 400 yards of their school bus.

NEW AND IMPROVED WALK OF SHAME: The familiar excursion you make from your car to the school office, delivering yet another item your child forgot—something vital to his or her existence. Like so many times before, you hang your head as you place said item on the counter, vowing that it will be the last time you behave like a helicopter parent. Probably.

RANDOM HUG FEST: Spontaneous displays of affection in the form of hugs, given freely by one’s child/children for no apparent reason whatsoever. The impulsivity and genuineness of such an expression of warmth, if nothing else, reminds us that we are loved despite our innumerable flaws. Savor each and every one of them.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Join me there at

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel


Comments Off on The Lingo of Parenthood: A Curious Addendum

Filed under In the Trenches of Parentville, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction