Category Archives: In the Trenches of Parentville

Call Me Crazy: Crazy for my iPhone

www.melindawentzel.comAs love affairs with cell phones go, the one I am about to describe is epic. Not that I’m the only person ever to become enamored with his or her smartphone—because I’m not. Plenty of idiots like me cling to their dear Droids and BlackBerries, inextricably fused to the deliciousness of those handheld wonders and to the epitome of shameless egocentrism. It’s just that I have trouble wrapping my head around the hideous nature of my fixation.

And by hideous, I mean that it is both appalling and unhealthy, never mind indefensible. Indeed, those with whom I reside will readily attest: “Mom, it’s like you have a crush on your phone or something. I seriously think you need an intervention—or possibly a better hobby.”

Case in point: In the dark of predawn, I abandon the warmth of my bed and stumble across the room, drawn to the soft glow of my beloved phone—a moth to flame. As if nothing else mattered, I scan breaking news from a never-ending stream of sources, devour the latest nuggets of idiocy on Twitter, check my email and, of course, peruse the Facebook statuses of 300 of my closest friends. Admittedly, I’ve got a problem.

Oddly enough, just a few short months ago I mocked those who appeared to be tethered to their precious devices—i.e. the people who routinely careen into oak trees and ill-fated produce towers while attempting to walk and text at the same time. The cool and detached who no longer engage in meaningful, face-to-face conversations, preferring instead the wit and wisdom of Siri, who understands them more completely anyway. Dweebs who have the audacity to sit across from one another in a café (or the same cussed living room), maniacally tapping screens and peering into their palms as if they each held a tiny, companionable wizard—which is disturbingly close to reality, now that I think about it.

Ironically, I’ve become one of those people—ever-so-smitten with my iPhone, unable to resist its wily charms and perfectly debilitated by its consuming allure. Never before did I imagine a fascination or dependency so profound. With each passing day, it lures me deeper and deeper into the tangled wood of its enchanted forest. Good thing I’m equipped with a state-of-the-art GPS and a user-friendly navigation app I downloaded for free.

At any rate, I cannot deny my crippling obsession with the aforementioned gadgetry, nor can I refute the fact that I feel naked without it. Especially in the shower. Despite my best efforts to prevent it from seeping into every corner of my life, it has become my muse, my constant companion, the yang to my yin.

My husband, by contrast, tends to regard it as a) a disease, b) the pure embodiment of Lucifer, and c) a tech-inspired monstrosity he would gleefully launch into the stratosphere if he had his druthers.

Clearly, the man doesn’t understand the bond my phone and I share or how said device “completes me” (and my sentences if need be). Nor could he possibly grasp the deep and abiding love I have for iTunes…and iCalendar…and word games, or how patently delirious I was when I first discovered Instagram or that I could look up inane facts involving the lifespan of headless cockroaches WHILE listening to Zeppelin AND using the built-in alarm to remind me to haul my brood to the soccer field. Likewise, he couldn’t begin to recognize the delectable nature of speech bubbles or why I smile each time my kids iMessage me. Moreover, I think FaceTime frightens him.

Indeed, it’s a complicated sort of relationship—one that my dear husband will probably never fully appreciate. He doesn’t care that I spent an inordinate chunk of time learning how to properly waggle my phone, that I googled an embarrassment of app-related tutorials in order to become minimally functional or that I endured countless sessions with my tech-savvy charges who found me “impossible to work with.”

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m still crazy for my iPhone.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, wooed beyond comprehension.

Copyright 2013 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under In the Trenches of Parentville

Drive Thru. No Thanks.

There are great multitudes of things my husband refuses to do based on what I assume are a warped set of principles. To name a few: He won’t put up a Christmas tree on or before Thanksgiving, he won’t arrange the bills in his wallet in any semblance of order and he won’t pull up to a drive-thru window to save himself. I can identify somewhat with the first refusal, since it doesn’t make much sense to celebrate more than one holiday at a time. Although, judging by the profusion of Yuletide merchandise jammed on store shelves shortly after Labor Day, it would seem as though a good portion of society thinks that’s perfectly fine. Not me, however. I just can’t bring myself to haul a wreath or anything Christmas-y out of the attic before I’ve even boxed up the Halloween bats.

As for my husband’s second refusal by contrast, I cannot condone such egregious behavior. Money should be organized according to denomination—and in a perfect world, right side up and all facing the same direction. There are times while we stand together in a checkout line and I roll my eyes as I watch him sift through crumpled wads of cash, dropping some on the floor in the process. Naturally, I have to ask myself who he is and why he acts that way. I can’t even begin to understand what sort of logic goes into decision-making like that. Just knowing that his pockets are filled with completely disordered clumps of money makes my head hurt.

With respect to my husband’s third refusal, I find the man to be a freak of nature—a spectacle that one might be inclined to look upon with both awe and fascination. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a fast food restaurant, convenience store or bank. His reaction is always the same—a flat rejection of my suggestion that he humor me by using the drive-thru window.

“It’s more convenient,” I offer. “You don’t even have to get out of the car. It’s RAINING for God sakes.”

“I’m not going through any gd drive-thru. I haven’t completely lost my mind,” he’s inclined to reply.

I just don’t get it. So after years of witnessing this anomaly, I demanded to know why it happens. It’s not as if he thinks the aforementioned windows are inferior or demonic by any stretch of the imagination. He simply hates the hassle of yelling into a black box that may or may not result in a screw up of the order/transaction and subsequently pulling ahead to pay for said order where there is always the potential for dropping money beneath the car seat or onto the ground before it gets into the right hands. He has a point, I suppose, however I’m inclined to believe none of that will happen.

I honestly don’t know why it bothers him so. It would seem that he could just reach into his pocket and hand the attendant a fistful of bills. Protocol be damned. (See paragraph two related to his monetary habits). Apparently, he prefers to go inside the establishment and engage with people face to face, which isn’t a bad thing per se. I just don’t understand why he is so adamant about it. Nor can I relate to the anxiety he ostensibly feels whenever he must produce the appropriate amount of cash within a short window of time. All of the attendants I’ve ever encountered have been ridiculously patient and eager to help—even if the money in question is embarrassingly disordered.

So imagine my surprise when, in perhaps a weak moment, my husband obliged my hackneyed request to use the drive-thru at Starbucks. Naturally, I was beyond shocked and felt compelled to whip out my iPhone to capture the momentous event on camera.

“Why are you taking a picture?! That’s absurd,” he chided.

“I want to preserve the moment for posterity.”

I’m no dummy. I knew my kids wouldn’t believe me and that I would need proof.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably in the drive-thru lane at Starbucks. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel 

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A Tree is Nice

We have a half-dead tree in our yard. Make that FIVE half-dead trees. A pine, an ash and three fruit-bearing ones, although they haven’t produced much of anything in a very long while. Hence, the time has come to take them down, which by almost anyone’s standards makes perfect sense. It’ll be safer, since the risk of toppling over during a windstorm will be reduced to zero. We’ll also likely get some ample firewood out of the deal and we’ll free up a sizeable portion of the lawn for Frisbee in the process.

Everything about the felling of said trees is good. Except that it isn’t. The sad part of it is that there are memories attached to the trees in question—especially the peach tree, whose blossoms burst forth each spring in a glorious explosion of pink. Likewise, in winter its snow-covered boughs make me want to fetch the camera to freeze the moment in time. I just know I’ll look out my window weeks from now and lament that we ever made the decision to cut it down and dig up its roots, erasing from my mind the notion that it ever existed.

For more than 20 years we’ve been harvesting peaches from that tree. My husband was the designated proper-upper of craggy branches, assigned with the task of placing boards beneath its heavy limbs, laden with bushels of ripened fruit. Together we picked them, sampled them and then hauled bucket after bucket into the garage—a staging area for figuring out what to do with them next. Fruit flies be damned.

I wish I could claim that I baked an impressive number of pies with what we reaped over the years, but that would be a lie. Many of my neighbors, however, probably did, as we were inclined to give away scads of the fuzzy fruit each September, knowing we’d never consume all that we had gathered.

Likewise, I’m sure I’ll recollect a time when I watched my twin toddlers from the very same window, perched upon their dad’s lap as he circled the peach, the apple and the pear tree with the riding lawn mower. Round and round they would go, ducking beneath the limbs, smiling in the sun. One year they even built a teepee of sorts by leaning leafy branches we had trimmed from other trees against it. For days on end that summer, it was the most wonderful fortress in all the land, providing a haven of shade and camouflage for all who were so fortunate to crawl inside.

The aforementioned peach tree was one of their first climbing trees, too, its mossy branches low to the ground, inviting gangly children to develop and hone their scaling skills. I remember hoisting them up, assuring them it was perfectly safe and that it would be worth the effort because of the view it afforded them. After they had mastered the peach tree, it was on to taller and more daring venues, like the maple in the back yard, and the massive oak out front.

It’s possible I’ll miss the dear trees we plan to chop down, as well as any others we might lose in the years to come, because they remind me so much of my childhood—a time during which I practically lived in the woods behind my house, building a plethora of forts and climbing to the tops of trees all summer long, carving my initials there as a way of marking territory and perhaps time. I often wonder if my carvings remain, or even if the trees are still standing straight and tall. Far above the ground, swaying in the breeze was one of my favorite places to be, enveloped by a canopy of verdant leaves, summer after delicious summer. From my lofty perch, time was suspended, after all, and all was right with the world.

I can only hope that my progenies have had enough time in their special trees to make memories that will last.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, lamenting the fact that our peach tree will soon be history.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Apron Strings

I 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 www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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

Great Expectations

In the dark of predawn I lay in bed, tucked snugly beneath my downy comforter, sleet pinging against the windowpanes in soft yet fitful waves. Against all odds associated with parenthood, no one under the age of eight burst into the room to announce that the sky was falling. Translation: my husband and I had had the presence of mind to skip setting the kids’ alarm the night before, in anticipation of inclement weather almost certain to arrive by daybreak. So for a time, all was silent in this good house—except for the ticking of clocks and the tiny taps at the window.

As the not-so-surprising news of yet another school cancellation reached my ears in the wee hours that day, I was filled impossibly with hope. Hope that I would enjoy a morning devoid of the madness I had known all too well since September. Hope for a day abundant with hot cocoa, kindness and good cheer. Hope that I might finally summon the strength and ambition to take down the blasted Christmas tree. The one that has been standing very nearly straight in my living room for the past 63 days, mocking me on Inauguration Day as I addressed my cache of shamefully belated holiday cards.

The tree had to come down. It would come down. It was January 28th for Pete’s sake. Besides, I was tired of its condescending glare, as if it were looking down its boughs at me, judging my every deficiency. Shaming my inadequate core.

Moreover, with my army of helpers that would likely be at my disposal ALL DAY (since no one wanted to frolic in the freezing rain), I banked on being able to pack up and stow away each and every jingle bell, snowman, Santa likeness and string of garland-y foolishness in the entire house. To reclaim my space. At least until Easter.

Needless to say, lots of people here agreed that it was high time. “Mom, you know we’re going to get arrested, don’t you?”

“Arrested? For what?!”

“Because January’s almost over and we don’t even have our Christmas tree down yet! We’ll all be thrown in jail!”

“Whaaaaat?! Who’s going to throw us in jail?”

“The Holiday Police.”

“The Holiday Who?!”

“The Holiday Police. They arrest people who don’t do stuff right—like taking Christmas trees down BEFORE Groundhog Day. Helloooooooooo.”

She had a point.

All I had to do was glance at the calendar and then at the muddled mess surrounding me. Remnants of the holiday season were everywhere. The Christmas lights were (and still are!) completely shrouded with ice and fused impossibly to the trees and shrubs outside. The stockings were still hung—and shockingly, still laden with beloved items that had been tragically forgotten since Santa’s celebrated arrival. Gifts of every size, shape and hideous stage of disarray lay like carnage throughout the house and under the aforementioned evergreen, gloriously bedecked with enough ornament-age for a forest. Legions upon legions of festive-looking dishes, alarmingly bare except for the smarmy trail of cashews and the red and green fleckage of holiday M&Ms, still rested upon my tabletops, whispering without end, “Pleeeease cleeeean meeeee.” Santa’s cookie plate begged to be returned to the cupboard, the crèche longed to be back in the attic and quite frankly, the mistletoe was tired of hanging around.

What’s more, I noted that the kids had been swiping stuff from the tree for weeks—like the reindeer, now chummy with Barbie’s horses and sharing a corral, and the snowmen, warmly adopted by a family of Lego people. I even discovered a few sparkly ornaments dangling precariously from the rooftops of doll houses. Icicles maybe?

That said, it was way past time to begin the arduous process of un-decorating. Clearly, the snow day that had been bestowed upon us was a window of opportunity and perhaps the spark that would ignite my drive and determination to succeed in spite of myself. At least that was the plan.

But it was not to be. My great expectations for the day were shot by 10 am and my hopes for a tidier living room were all but dashed. For all intents and purposes, the thorny pine had become rooted there, a glaring reminder of my ineptitude as a putter-away-of-holiday-hoo-ha. Instead we frittered away the time, putting six puzzles together, littering the house with Barbie dolls and dresses, devouring books, stuffing ourselves with chocolate-chip pancakes and lounging in our pajamas till it was almost evening—at which time I sent my brood outdoors to play in the snow that had FINALLY begun to fall in big, feathery flakes. A consolation prize for my efforts.

Then again, maybe my reward was the delicious chunk of time I spent fishing for puzzle pieces with my kids, eavesdropping on their Barbie powwows, listening to the ice hit the windows—safe and sound in this good house.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and where the Holiday Police are destined to arrive).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Family Affair, In the Trenches of Parentville, Welcome to My Disordered World