Category Archives: Me Myself and I

I Am Still Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving Day and while it’s true I burned the pumpkin pie, the dog whizzed on the floor and the kids refused to wear their fancy-schmancy clothes (despite a number of shameless bribes and idle threats), I am still thankful. Never mind that Thing One wouldn’t eat the turkey over which I had slaved for an eternity, or that Thing Two had an epic meltdown over kitty litter (don’t ask), or that our oldest neglected to text after driving TWO STATES AWAY to visit her dear boyfriend.

I am still thankful.

However, the gods of inclement weather made it snow, then sleet, then rain—which, in turn, wreaked havoc with our highways and byways, making it impossible for my parents to join us for the mother of all feasts—the one I volunteered to prepare in spite of my vastly deficient culinary skills. Our gathering would have to wait.

But I am still thankful.

Furthermore, the 16-hour day in question prompted an abundance of bickering matches among our 9-year-old warring factions, left my husband and me desperate for the suggestion of a nap and initiated a marathon clutter fest involving a disturbing array of candy wrappers and headless Barbie dolls. What’s more, our brood made roughly 63 excursions into the great outdoors (i.e. the snow/sleet/rain whateverness) which then inspired the aforementioned waifs to smuggle snowballs into our home as well as festoon the place with massive quantities of sodden clothing. Again. And again. Ugh.

I suppose it’s days like these—the square ones that fail to fit into the round holes of my so-called master plan—that remind me I have far less control over my life than I’d like to think. Of course, this makes me slightly neurotic given my control freak proclivity. But such is life.

And I am still thankful.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still giving thanks).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Me Myself and I, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, The Woman-Child

Juggling Act

I’m not especially sure that I was meant for mothering—with all its rigors and responsibilities, and those insufferable shades of gray. Simply put, I’m just not wired for it. I much preferred being able to place chunks of my life into neat little boxes, where I could tend to them separately and manage my world at will. Becoming a mother changed all that. I learned that children don’t do the tidy little square thing. In fact, they don’t do the tidy little anything, nor are they built for confinement of any sort. I also learned that there is no logical formula in existence for raising teenagers. I only knew that I’d need to tie on my sneakers.

And as I look around at other women who were thrust into the role for one reason or another, I think, “Wow. They’ve really got it all together—ferrying their kids here and there without missing a beat, sprinkling their beloved charges with balanced meals and an abundance of feel-good blurbages, oozing patience and composure at every juncture in life, no matter how harried the schedule or demanding the pace.” Nothing, it seems, rattles them—even when they discover one of many cruel truths of parenthood: that they don’t get to choose their children’s friends. That realization, in particular, threw me into a tizzy—a control freak’s living nightmare.

They stay on top of things, too, these supermoms; like homework and school functions, birthday parties and soccer leagues—and of course, all the really important stuff like remembering ballet slippers, shin guards and library books for the right child on the right day of the week. They also recognize the importance of filling minds with wonder and lunchboxes with love. My paltry lunch pail offerings (i.e. “I love you” notes scrawled on scraps of paper and tossed in with the Cheerios and Cheez-Its) are at best hastily prepared, pitifully cliché and often faded and crumpled from recycling. “Have a great day, Hon!” is pretty much all my frazzled brain is capable of churning out on the fringes of my day. The lunches themselves are dreadfully dull, too, which is perhaps a sad reminder of how horribly inadequate I sometimes feel as a mom—notes or no notes.

Occasionally I fail to summon the humor and flexibility needed to approach such an impossible task, as well as the wisdom to accept that some battles as a parent just aren’t worth fighting—especially those that involve six-year-olds and mashed potatoes or teenagers and five-year plans. “Let it go,” I need to remind myself again and again. Certainly, there are more important issues with which to concern myself—like the beefy toad I found on the coffee table recently, warts and all. And the mouse tail stew that had apparently been concocted in the garage-turned-laboratory and subsequently smuggled into the kitchen. God only knows how long it had been brewing there and what other bits of foulness had been added to the stagnant pool of repulsiveness. Color me oblivious, yet again.

Kidding aside, I’d like to know how other moms do it. How do they keep all the balls in the air? All those plates spinning—as if flawless extensions of themselves? Maybe it has something to do with my multitasking skills—or lack thereof. Simply put, I stink in that realm—which contributes greatly, I think, to the whole woefully-inept-mommy thing. Over the years, I’ve been forced to develop just enough juggling proficiency to get by—enough to get me through a day’s worth of kid-related chaos to include the morning frenzy to catch the bus and the after-school circus, when backpacks are emptied, bellies are filled and the air is inundated with multiple conversations, all of which I am expected to attend to meaningfully. The homework gig is yet another monstrous challenge for my sorry set of skills, mostly because I try to do everything SIMULTANEOUSLY. Because that’s what moms do best—at least the good ones, equipped with that oh-so-dear multitasking gene.

I’m sure much of the ugliness would go away if I were capable of turning off or at least filtering the noise in my head so that I could focus on each task individually—instead of trying to absorb and act upon every silly thing that floats across my radar screen. I’m doing one thing perhaps—like driving the kids to ballet, but I’m thinking about the last 6 things I’ve done (critiquing myself to death in the process) while catapulting forward to the next 17 things I will do before bed, all the while fielding inane questions like “How can people buy invisible dog fences if nobody can see them, Mommy?”

It’s no wonder that I sometimes wind up at the soccer field curious as to why my kids are wearing tutus and not cleats.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Daily Chaos, I blog therefore I am, Me Myself and I, Rantings & Ravings, School Schmool

Church Mice. Not So Much.

I am a bad egg. My sorry soul is supposed to be parked in a pew currently, helping my dear husband manage our unruly brood during the Sunday service. So, of course, I am consumed with guilt. Not really, but I threw that in…on the off chance that I might be absolved of my sins.

That said, I am fairly certain that Thing One and Thing Two will be far more intrigued with the prospect of quietly tormenting each other (i.e. holding disturbingly intense stare offs and using those cussed little wooden pencils readily available to each and every parishioner as cattle prods or something equally heinous) than with attending to anything remotely related to the sermon. I’ve seen their act before.

And if, instead, they should refrain from pedestrian antics like stepping on one another’s fancy church shoes and colliding, ever-so-slightly, as they fall in line for communion, they’ll likely engage in behavior equally mortifying to a parent. This parent, anyway.

More specifically, their inordinately resourceful father will hand them each a 3-by-5 index card and an ink pen for doodling and whatnot, which, on the surface, seems perfectly wonderful to one and all. However, those clever wisps of mine routinely choose a less-than-virtuous topic about which to write (say…the fact that they are dreadfully un-enthused with the notion of attending church at all) and run with it.

Case in point: I glanced over at Thing One not long ago, to bask in what I had hoped would be parental glory, only to discover that she had literally FILLED every nook and cranny of white space on the card with the word B-O-R-E-D. Some words were decidedly plain, while others, indescribably ornate. Some had been artistically shaded and sketched, some were imbued with beloved fonts and a select few even contained (you guessed it) bubble letters. As one might expect, a couple of B-O-R-E-Ds were comparatively massive, while most were shockingly small.

Needless to say, the child’s efforts were indeed impressive and I had to quietly marvel at the diligence and determination required for such an undertaking.

That is not to say the act went unnoticed. Curious onlookers stole looks and raised eyebrows at the smallish being in question, hunched over her work, rebellion oozing from her pores. Naturally we passed the Masterpiece of Shame on to our friends sitting nearby, who had great difficulty containing their amusement. Translation: THE FRICKING PEW SHOOK. They would later ask for a copy of said opus to remember the occasion by and we, of course, would deliver.

Framed, no less.

Appallingly, and perhaps STUPIDLY, we also shared the specimen with none other than the man who delivered the sermon that day. Our pastor. Thankfully he found the kernel of humor in the whole ordeal…and within our flaws. Parental and otherwise.

That said, I ought to be grateful that my heathens aren’t among those routinely plugged into Game Boy and dropping Bakugan whateverness on the floor. There is a God.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where the natives are often restless and the 3-by-5 cards are never in short supply).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Me Myself and I, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Lipstick on a Pig

Today is Election Day and I am reminded, yet again, of the political poop that surrounds us. That said, it seems like only yesterday that the idiocy I am about to describe occurred.

Once again, the silly season is upon us and much of the voting public is consumed with all-that-is-political—namely, the dirt. As predicted, the media has succeeded in joining the fracas, muddying the waters by capitalizing on our inability to filter out the noise and by feeding our insatiable desire for entertainment. In sum, those self-serving spin-factories have made something of nothing yet again (i.e. an offhanded comment about slathering some swine with lipstick mushroomed into a circus-like event last week, causing an uproar which served to detract from the vat of filth that would ordinarily command our collective attention).

Naturally, the nothing (which is now officially something) was plastered everywhere imaginable—on the Internet, on my television screen, in my newspaper, in my car…across my kitchen table (Gasp!). Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

Most of my displeasure centered around the thoughtless nature (read: evil-spirited glee) with which newscasters delivered the juicy sound bites day and night—fueling the fire that would surely lead to mayhem in homes everywhere. Homes in which impressionable youths reside—the ones who would willingly (and oh-so-joyfully) embrace the notion of putting lipstick on a pig—or anything else, for that matter. As if my kids needed that gem of a seed planted firmly in their twisted little minds! “A PIG! What a marvelous creature to festoon with lipstick!” they likely pondered upon hearing it—scheming and dreaming of how such a clever ploy might be acted upon.

Good grief. Those tactless twits may as well have suggested flushing a bar of soap down the toilet (like my brother did!), putting rocks in the dryer or hiding a gallon of milk in the bowels of a closet—all completely absurd (yet infinitely viable) possibilities that exist among the gamut of that-which-is-downright-naughty.

That being said, my heathens have painted nearly every surface imaginable with (among other things) lipstick. Pink and purplish hues, more specifically, harvested from a make-up kit that I (in a moment of great weakness) purchased for them. Thus far, hapless targets have included the dog, our cats, their dolls, bears and Beanie Babies “…to make them more beautiful, Mommy, so they can get married.” Of course, I resisted the urge to inform, “A dab of lipstick does not a beautiful bride make,” tabling it for a later discussion. No doubt, at some point I’ll also be charged with explaining the infamous hockey-mom/pit bull commentary to my daughters as well as demystifying terms like glass ceilings and penis envy.

Joy.

As an added bonus (thank you very little), all this newsy-schmoozy foolishness regarding lipstick and whatnot has unearthed a bit of ugliness for which I am truly ashamed. Said mommy meltdown (which occurred several years ago and involved mass quantities of lip gloss, rouge and enraged shrieking) easily qualified as one of those utterly hideous events I’d prefer to put behind me. Forever.

Needless to say, it was not my finest hour when I happened upon my wily charges merrily decorating furniture, stuffed animals, mirrors and their entire bodies with the aforementioned sinful materials. I later learned that there was a method to their madness: the lions needed to wed (see paragraph five), certain penguins needed pink underpants, a select group of dinosaurs needed purple slippers, and because they had barricaded themselves in their bedroom and their hands were too slippery to turn the doorknob, they wiped all the glimmery, glammory gunk on their dressers and smeared it deep into the carpet fibers, careful to try and match the colors of the gunk with the colors of the rug. “How brilliant!” I should have recognized—only I didn’t view it as such then.

Up until that point in my parenting career, I didn’t know one could injure one’s throat by screaming. Nor did I expect the solid walnut slab of wood I slugged in my fit of rage to be more solid than the knuckles of my right hand.

However, I didn’t need X-rays to prove my idiocy. That was painfully clear. Even still, I am reminded of it each time I glance at my mismatched hands, one being a tad lumpier in the knuckle department than the other—now and forever. To add insult to injury, however, I had to hear, “Yep, it’s probably broken—but it’s too late to do anything,” from my friend, Drew, who also happens to be a doctor. “Ice should help,” he advised.

Perhaps you can put ice on an idiot. But it’s still an idiot.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Me Myself and I, Political Poop, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

November’s Sweet Indulgence

I’m not particularly fond of November—that dreary block of time wedged between the fullness of fall and the magic of winter. As calendars go, it is the Dead Zone for me. Except for evergreens, the landscape will soon grow barren and its naked forests and fields will be nearly devoid of life. The arrival of spring seems all but impossible in the doom and gloom of November.

Not surprisingly, as the skies gray, the chill of winter looms large and wayward leaves of oak and maple gather en masse outside my doorstep, I find myself drawn to the warmth of a good book. Simply put, if it’s a solidly written work of nonfiction and a topic worthy of my time, I’m smitten from word one till the bitter end. Think: USA Today’s columnist, Craig Wilson (It’s the Little Things) and Betsy Lerner (The Forest for the Trees). A novel, however—especially one that is palpable, plausible and profoundly irresistible—is a different animal altogether, tending to woo me for a host of reasons. Think: Katherine Center (The Bright Side of Disaster).

Maybe I’m charmed to death by a particular narrative’s cast of characters, intrigued by its wealth of unpredictability or awed by the author’s sheer brilliance as it relates to the telling of tales. Perhaps the language itself sings to me or more often than not, its message hits me squarely where I live.

Or maybe, just maybe, my passion for all-things-bookish stems plainly from this: for a few delicious and utterly decadent moments, solitude is mine. The harried pace and unrelenting hustle and bustle of my child-filled world fades to black as I sink deeper and deeper into the pages of a literary gem. There, in the glorious window of stillness just before the house begins to stir, and in the quiet of night when day is done, I refuel and recondition, sipping the honeyed words of giants like Anna QuindlenMitch Albom and Anne Lamott. Indulgence like that is sinfully satisfying—yet in a good-for-me sort of way. After devouring as little as a passage or a page (never mind something as grand as an entire chapter) I often feel a tinge of guilt—as if I’ve stolen a nap or a head-clearing walk amidst the falling leaves and crisp air, thick with the scent of autumn—a walk completely devoid of meandering tricycles, tangled dog leashes and less-than-attentive-to-traffic children.

Better still, books transport me beyond the realm of bickering matches and breakfast cereal dishes. Upon my return I’m refreshed, restored and genuinely grateful for having been granted a slice of time to collect my thoughts, to reflect on someone else’s or to simply dissolve into the woodwork of life. I’d like to think I emerge as a better parent, or at least as one who is less likely to go ballistic upon discovering yet another unflushed toilet or yogurt surprise.

Admittedly, I savor the chunks of time spent in lounges and waiting rooms, even those littered with chintzy toys, wailing children and a hodgepodge of germ-ridden magazines. But only if I’ve remembered my own scrumptious reading material. Likewise, I’m happy to be huddled (half frozen) on a playground bench or stuffed behind my steering wheel at a soggy soccer field if armed with one of many delectable titles I have yet to complete (twenty-three and counting). Confession: I fantasize about being holed up in a forgotten corner of a bookstore, swallowed by a cozy chair and forced to read 200 pages of literary goodness in one sitting. Not surprisingly, I’ve lingered more than once in the aforementioned venues, yielding to the power of a page-turner. That being said, the notion of consuming something Wally Lamb-ish, curled up like a cat on my couch is unthinkable. Okay, intoxicating.

In sum, books are my refuge from the torrents of parenthood, an intimate retreat from my inundated-with-Legos sort of existence and a source of pure salvation not unlike becoming one with my iPod, bathing in the sweet silence of prayer and journeying to the far shores of slumber—where the din cannot follow, the day’s tensions are erased and the unruly beasts within are stilled…during my less-than-favorite month of November, or anytime.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where books beckon unremittingly).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Me Myself and I, Me Time, The Write Stuff