Category Archives: School Schmool

Augustember

www.melindawentzel.com

Seems like only yesterday… #timeflies

As August wanes and September draws ever near, I can’t help but dwell on the notion of my freedom—and how utterly delicious it will soon be. But by the same token, I am also reminded of how horribly unprepared I am for all that heading back to school entails. My charges are no more equipped for the first day of second grade than I was for the first hour of motherhood. It’s shameful really. To date, I have amassed next to nothing in the realm of kid gear and gotta-have-it-garmentage for that special square on our calendar. The square now gloriously bedecked with stickers and giddified messages like, “The BIG Day!” and “Yea! The first day of SCHOOOOOOL!!”

If I had my druthers, another 30-day chunk of time would be added to the year, smartly sandwiched between the eighth and ninth months. Say, “Augustember,” or “Pause” (which would be more of a directive than anything). We march into spring; why not pause before forging headlong into fall? Such a godsend would give people like me time to breathe, time to warm up to the idea of letting summer go, time to rummage around for the soccer cleats that by now probably don’t fit anyone anyway.

I’ve never been one to embrace change. More often than not (and if all is well), I like things just the way they are—the same. It’s simply too much work to adapt to something slathered with newness. That being said, I abhor drastic transformations. Dead asleep to total wakefulness. The mildness of spring to the oppressiveness of summer. At the lake. In the lake. Not pregnant. Pregnant. I need generous windows of transition for such things. Time to adjust. Time to switch gears. Time to brace myself for the tsunami-sized wave of change sure to thrust me forward—ready or not.

While it’s true we are on the cusp of yet another promising school year with its sharpened pencils, bright yellow buses and characteristic swirl of excitement enveloping virtually everything and everyone in its path, part of my joy is swallowed up because of what and whom I must become as a result. The bedtime enforcer. The tyrant of tuck-ins. It’s a brutal role of parenthood and one I hate with a passion.

I much prefer gathering my wily charges in from the great outdoors long after the brilliant clouds of pink, orange and crimson have faded to plum, gray and eventually an inky blue-black. There is much to relish between dusk and darkness, when the moon hangs clear and bright, begging to be plucked from the sky and the stars greet the earth one by one, gradually painting the heavens with a milky glow.

At once, the night air is filled with a symphony of crickets, peepers and barefoot children whacking at Wiffle balls, racing and chasing each other through the cool grass, already laden with dew. Shouts of “Marco…Polo! Marco…Polo!” emanate endlessly from the pool next door along with the muffled thwunks of cannonballs, instantly taking me back to my own youth—the one where Frisbees were thrown until no one could see, where nails were hammered in forts till the woods grew thick with darkness and alive with mosquitoes, where Kool-aid flowed freely, the pool beckoned and the rules for tag were rewritten more than once.

And all was well—much like this good night.

Fireflies are everywhere now, hugging the trees and the darkest spots in the lawn, blinking here…and a moment later, there—signaling would-be mates and captivating all who give chase with Hellmann’s jars in hand. Add the crackle of a campfire, the sweet aroma of toasted marshmallows and the thrill of eavesdropping on children in the midst of any number of conversations and I’m perfectly content. It pains me to put an end to their fun. To rain on their parade. To say goodnight to the Big Dipper and to our constant companions—the lightening bugs.

Naturally, my popularity wanes. Sleep, they must.

But in the end, all is forgiven. Tomorrow is a new day. And there will be more Augusts to savor and a lifetime of moments to give pause.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Endless Summer, School Schmool

The Swan Song of School

www.melindawentzel.comI have a love-hate relationship with the end of my children’s school year (i.e. that inimitable wedge of time that is at once delicious and detestable—conveniently sandwiched between the intensity of academics and the celebrated death of structure). To most, it would seem like a fairly simple dichotomy: either one richly embraces said collection of days during the frenzied months of April, May and a goodly portion of June or, conversely, harbors maniacal thoughts of lighting that portion of the calendar on fire. But for me, it has always been a more complex matter as I am torn between the two extremes.

Indeed, part of me completely loathes the end-of-school-year insanity—especially the frenetic pace at which we parents must perform. We dutifully ferry our charges hither and yon without complaint, cram our schedules with more events than it is humanly possible to attend and go above and beyond to ensure that the infinitely numbered details of our children’s lives are perfectly coordinated and expertly managed, that is until we are lulled into the lair of summer, when and where we can finally breathe. Then again, let us not forget the onslaught of camp registration deadlines that loom large, making us slightly unnerved over the uncertain nature of our so-called master plan for the coming months.

By the same token, another part of me is entirely enraptured by this particular chapter of parenthood. That said, there is a certain zeal with which my progenies now arise to greet the day on school mornings. And the greatly anticipated demise of the Homework Era alone is enough to make all concerned parties slightly euphoric. What’s more, and against all logic and understanding, the obscene magnitude of activities slated to take place in the closing months—to include field trips and outdoor events, career days and concerts, award ceremonies and parties galore—somehow fill me with glee. Never mind the delirium-infused state my brood enjoys as a result, making it difficult for anyone and everyone in this household to get a good night’s sleep prior to that which is deemed A BIG DAY. Lord knows we’ve experienced many such days (and sleepless nights) since the advent of spring and its characteristic ratcheting of school-sponsored events. Oy.

But the Land of Seventh Grade has been a decidedly good place, and I sometimes lament the fact that Thing One and Thing Two will progress to the shores of eighth grade next fall, ostensibly to bigger and better things. Besides, I’ve grown accustomed to the routine within which my family has functioned since the early days of September. More specifically, everyone beneath this roof knows his or her role and what is expected as it relates to the business of school and learning in general. Next year, I fear, will be different and disturbingly unfamiliar, with a learning curve we have yet to even imagine.

Needless to say, there is great comfort in sameness—a predictable rhythm by which our days have been governed so very well for so very long. Part of me hates to see that disappear. Stranger still, I suspect that the laze and haze of summer will somehow deaden my children’s collective passion for learning, erasing much of the progress we’ve made thus far and undermining the efforts of all who’ve had a hand in cultivating a love of books, an appreciation of music and art as well as a solid sense of self.

And yet, the summer holds a wealth of promise—as it always does. And it will have its own rhythm and perhaps a different brand of enlightenment wrapped with the merest suggestion of routine—one with rounded edges and soft spots to land come July and August. But for now, my thoughts rest on the few days that remain on the school calendar—a swan song of sorts.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (both loving and hating the end of school). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under School Schmool, Spring Fling, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Augustember

www.melindawentzel.comWrote this seemingly yesterday… #timeflies

As August wanes and September draws ever near, I can’t help but dwell on the notion of my freedom—and how utterly delicious it will soon be. But by the same token, I am also reminded of how horribly unprepared I am for all that heading back to school entails. My charges are no more equipped for the first day of second grade than I was for the first hour of motherhood. It’s shameful really. To date, I have amassed next to nothing in the realm of kid gear and gotta-have-it-garmentage for that special square on our calendar. The square now gloriously bedecked with stickers and giddified messages like, “The BIG Day!” and “Yea! The first day of SCHOOOOOOL!!”

If I had my druthers, another 30-day chunk of time would be added to the year, smartly sandwiched between the eighth and ninth months. Say, “Augustember,” or “Pause” (which would be more of a directive than anything). We march into spring; why not pause before forging headlong into fall? Such a godsend would give people like me time to breathe, time to warm up to the idea of letting summer go, time to rummage around for the soccer cleats that by now probably don’t fit anyone anyway.

I’ve never been one to embrace change. More often than not (and if all is well), I like things just the way they are—the same. It’s simply too much work to adapt to something slathered with newness. That being said, I abhor drastic transformations. Dead asleep to total wakefulness. The mildness of spring to the oppressiveness of summer. At the lake. In the lake. Not pregnant. Pregnant. I need generous windows of transition for such things. Time to adjust. Time to switch gears. Time to brace myself for the tsunami-sized wave of change sure to thrust me forward—ready or not.

While it’s true we are on the cusp of yet another promising school year with its sharpened pencils, bright yellow buses and characteristic swirl of excitement enveloping virtually everything and everyone in its path, part of my joy is swallowed up because of what and whom I must become as a result. The bedtime enforcer. The tyrant of tuck-ins. It’s a brutal role of parenthood and one I hate with a passion.

I much prefer gathering my wily charges in from the great outdoors long after the brilliant clouds of pink, orange and crimson have faded to plum, gray and eventually an inky blue-black. There is much to relish between dusk and darkness, when the moon hangs clear and bright, begging to be plucked from the sky and the stars greet the earth one by one, gradually painting the heavens with a milky glow.

At once, the night air is filled with a symphony of crickets, peepers and barefoot children whacking at waffle balls, racing and chasing each other through the cool grass, already laden with dew. Shouts of “Marco…Polo! Marco…Polo!” emanate endlessly from the pool next door along with the muffled thwunks of cannonballs, instantly taking me back to my own youth—the one where Frisbees were thrown until no one could see, where nails were hammered in forts till the woods grew thick with darkness and alive with mosquitoes, where Kool-aid flowed freely, the pool beckoned and the rules for tag were rewritten more than once.

And all was well—much like this good night.

Fireflies are everywhere now, hugging the trees and the darkest spots in the lawn, blinking here…and a moment later, there—signaling would-be mates and captivating all who give chase with Hellmann’s jars in hand. Add the crackle of a campfire, the sweet aroma of toasted marshmallows and the thrill of eavesdropping on children in the midst of any number of conversations and I’m perfectly content. It pains me to put an end to their fun. To rain on their parade. To say goodnight to the Big Dipper and to our constant companions—the lightening bugs.

Naturally, my popularity wanes. Sleep, they must.

But in the end, all is forgiven. Tomorrow is a new day. And there will be more Augusts to savor and a lifetime of moments to give pause.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Endless Summer, School Schmool

From There to Here

Just a moment ago, my children were kindergarteners—spindly creatures with wee arms, knobby knees and tinny voices. I remember well our maiden voyage to the school’s Open House one afternoon late in August—to the shores of Mrs. Morehart’s classroom, a warm and welcoming place at the end of the hall where my husband and I, like everyone else, crammed our oversized frames into impossibly small chairs eager to consume all that a parent of a kindergartener could possibly need to know about the year ahead. There was talk of cubbies and snow boots, art smocks and mittens. Bus schedules. Lunch lines. Recess and snacks.

Together, with our knees awkwardly pressed to our chests and our irrational fears lurking just beneath the surface, we learned about the magical nature of story time, the Puppet Lady who would come to call, the wealth of educational experiences our children were slated to have and, of course, the vastly important assurance of bathroom proximity. God knows how dearly we valued that. In any event, our concerns were adequately addressed as a collective sigh of relief wafted over the cozy grove of Lilliputian-inspired tables that filled the room and the brightly colored whateverness with which said room was adorned.

Indeed, Mrs. Morehart was a woman with whom we became enamored almost instantly. Her classroom promised to be a venue where impressionable minds would be nourished, creativity and curiosity would be duly celebrated and respect for others, as well as oneself, would be cultivated above all else. What’s more, surnames and bus numbers would be indelibly imprinted upon the forehead of each and every five-year-old and the aforementioned godsend-of-an-educator would refrain from passing judgment on those who were wholly incapable of enforcing bedtimes as well as those who might be inclined to serve dinner in the bathtub on a school night (to, of course, remedy the not-getting-the-kids-to-bed-at-a-reasonable-hour problem).

In truth, no one’s forehead was defiled in the plan to distinguish students or to ensure that the right child got on the right bus at dismissal. In any event, the curators of our precious cargo did, indeed, coordinate the logistics of transportation (and practically every other aspect of child management) seamlessly and with great aplomb. That said, the Land of Kindergarten was a place we parents could feel genuinely good about leaving our charges.

Never mind the wave of apprehension that literally consumed me the following week, when that big, yellow beast-of-a-school-bus groaned to a halt in my street and a certain couple of somebodies were expected to board and then traverse the uncertain path that would come to define their lives as kindergarteners—without me. Needless to say, a great deal of time has passed since then—despite the fact that it feels like mere seconds ago that I sat in one of those tiny plastic chairs, a red one I think, fretting over the exceedingly remote possibility that my children would be trampled by a herd of Converse-wearing, backpack-toting third graders or, tragically, mauled by a rogue pencil sharpener.

Thing One and Thing Two are worldly fifth graders now—not-so-spindly creatures who positively thrive on the thrum of activity present in their school day. No longer are they overwhelmed by long lines in the cafeteria, the deafening roar of eco-friendly electric hand dryers in the restrooms or an oncoming herd of third graders for that matter. They know practically every nook and cranny of their beloved school—where favorite library books can be found, which teachers have a debilitating affinity for chocolate chip cookies and, not surprisingly, how to efficiently navigate to the nurse’s office from virtually anywhere in the building. What’s more, they’ve learned how to deal with unwieldy band instruments, lost book fair money and, occasionally, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

In that respect—yet ever so reluctantly—I acknowledge the vast chasm that exists between then and now, there and here, even though it has felt so completely fleeting.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. 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 "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool

Food for Thought

www.melindawentzel.comI’m pretty sure June Cleaver’s head would explode if she knew of my pitiful and often failed attempts to gather my brood at the dinner table for a real sit-down meal—Leave it to Beaver style. In a word, I am woefully inept when it comes to planning, preparing and placing said meal upon the table in a timely and aesthetically pleasing manner. So much so that my kids have apparently forgotten what it’s like to dine as a family within the confines of this particular circus-inspired, scheduled-to-the-max sort of establishment. Never mind that we did so for much of the summer, sweet corn having been shamelessly utilized as bait. But I digress.

“You want us to sit here? Together? And talk about our day?” my incredulous kids ask, clearly taken aback by the prospect of stopping whatever it is they’re doing to plunk themselves at the kitchen table for twenty to thirty minutes of food and not-so-idle conversation. Of course, my gentle demands are often met with a healthy dose of eye rolling coupled with I-can’t-possibly-set-the-table-if-I’m-tying-my-soccer-cleats-AND-doing-my-homework brand of snarky commentary. Par for the course in the trenches of Parentville, methinks.

Needless to say, the Gods of After School Madness rarely smile upon me and may, in fact, revel in my ineptitude, mocking my efforts to deal with the deluge of mini-crises that routinely befall our happy home at that critical juncture—that impossibly brief and patently crazed window of time wedged between the instant my charges make landfall and the race to the 437th extracurricular event of the week. As a less-than-composed parent, and seemingly without fail, this is the time when the wheels fly off and the bottom falls out.

That said, the phone typically rings just as the pots on the stove begin to boil over and shortly before godknowswho knocks at the door, sending the dog into an apoplectic barking seizure. Moments later, my dear progenies demand that I flit from the stove to hover nearby while they wrestle, by turns, with the concept of divisibility and the large and unwieldy vocabulary words that may or may not appear in a book I, stupidly, suggested. Granted, the experience itself is decidedly intolerable. Furthermore, it’s rumored that I may know next to nothing about math and even less about adverbs. However, the ceaseless petitions for my help continue—in the midst of meal preparation, listening to a certain French horn and clarinet, answering the door and phone, conducting backpack search and rescue missions (for decomposing food!) with disturbing regularity, frantically gathering whatever paraphernalia will be needed for this or that nightly venture and dealing with the occasional cat vomit surprise and/or dog-poo-on-the-bed bit of hideousness. (For the record, I’m not particularly interested in learning how the latter occurred).

At any rate, when and if I finally succeed in shepherding one and all to the celebrated table to feast on what (hopefully) will qualify as a palatable meal, I immediately remember why I went to such lengths at all.  Firstly, there’s compelling data that links sit-down meals with a child’s success, especially with respect to at-risk behaviors—so saith a team of researchers at Columbia University and Dan Harris of ABC News. Secondly, Anderson Cooper of CNN desperately wants “…to bring back the family dinner, one meal at a time” through his Sunday Supper Club and I, most assuredly, don’t want to disappoint him. Thirdly, and perhaps most notably, the discussion that takes place over peas and potatoes (or whatever I managed not to burn beyond recognition) is invaluable. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Often there is talk of “bad actors” on the bus and goose poop on the soccer field, who vomited profusely in the cafeteria and which dweeb dared to drink the “mystery brew” that a host of classmates lovingly prepared. Not to be outdone, my husband brings his own brand of bizarreness to the conversation, opening a tiny window into his day as well. As it should be, I suppose.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (occasionally at the dinner table with my inimitable cast and crew). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Homework Hell, Meat & Potatoes, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless