Category Archives: The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Countdown to Christmas

It was painful to stand there and simply watch. To idly witness, that is, a little boy, no more than three, seized by a desperate longing to ride on the horse-drawn wagon that had circled the park more times than we could readily count in the hour or so that we waited. Again and again the team of Belgians passed us in the frigid night, pausing ever so briefly along its winding path to load and unload hoards of people who had come to this festive event—to soak in some Christmas cheer, to perhaps get a glimpse of Santa in his red, velvety suit and to feast their eyes upon the spectacle of lights that blanketed the grounds, casting a warm glow upon the darkness that sought to swallow us whole.

The boy’s frustration was decidedly palpable as he wailed in vain to his mother and to the starry sky above, arching his back and clenching his tiny fists in indignation—hot, angry tears streaming down his baby face. Inconsolable, as it were. Aside from diverting his attention from this sorrowful reality (i.e. that he was NOT sitting in the aforementioned wagon, lulled by the gentle rhythm of the horses’ gait and the muted sound of their hooves as they hit the pavement), there wasn’t much anyone could do to comfort him.

So many times I’ve watched my own children suffer through the misery of waiting for that which promises to remedy all ills, to satisfy all desires and to deliver instantaneous joy. The interminable wait for Space Mountain at Disney World. The intolerable chasm between ordering a Happy Meal and wrapping one’s pudgy fingers around the cheap plastic toy contained within said Happy Meal. The insufferable gulf that exists between falling hard on the gritty sidewalk and being swooped up into a parent’s arms, where soothing assurances await.

And though they’ve grown immeasurably since that time, my children loathe the process of waiting even still—especially during this celebrated month of December, on the veritable cusp of Christmas. Over the years it has become tradition, shortly after Thanksgiving and perhaps before any other bit of holiday décor emerges from the depths of the attic, to haul out the handcrafted, Santa-inspired DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS thingy—the one that is cleverly outfitted with removable wooden blocks upon which numbers have been handily painted. We do this, of course, because we cannot find our Advent Calendar—the endearing square of felt-like fabric filled to capacity with a crop of tiny pockets and tethered to a small, cottony fir tree intended to mark the days until the 25th. Needless to say, I had a deep and abiding love for that calendar, but sadly it disappeared—along with my girlish figure, every intact set of tumblers I once owned and the stain-free carpeting I once enjoyed.

At any rate, Thing One and Thing Two are patently delirious over all that the Yuletide embodies, so thickly immersed are they in the important business of crafting gifts for friends and family, taking part in a good number of caroling excursions through school and church and (much to my dismay) quoting the lyrics of The 12 Pains of Christmas far too often. They’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time composing wish lists that appear to change with the wind, instilling me with a fair amount of panic as we inch ever nearer to Christmas Day. Indeed, the ratcheting effect of the official countdown has begun in earnest. “ELEVEN DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS!” the wooden blocks seem to shout—reminding me of both the joy this season brings and of my glaring ineptitude as it relates to the enormity of the task ahead.

Cleansing breaths and great volumes of prayer are in order at such times, which, with any luck, will serve to ground me and to give me pause—especially during this grand and glorious season of hopeful expectation.

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

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Growing Pains, Holiday Hokum, In the Trenches of Parentville, motherhood, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

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

Valentine’s Day in the Trenches of Parentville

IMG_0350Somewhere in the great continuum of life, my children evolved from toddlers to teens—seemingly overnight. And although I don’t miss the blur of early parenthood, projectile vomiting or the abundance of Legos I trod upon in the dead of night, I do miss delicious experiences like shopping for valentines with my brood.

Stop laughing.

Never mind that it was a painstaking process, watching them pace back and forth in store aisles attempting to choose the ultimate Disney-themed design from the hoards that were available. Even more painstaking was the process of helping them fill out dozens for classmates and beloved teachers, since the children in question had yet to master the art of writing their own names. But that was part of the fun—witnessing their determined efforts and the care with which they tackled the task year after year. In the end, it was always worth it.

So it’s sort of sad that the celebrated valentines-exchange-gig is over for my kids. Sadder still is the fact that mass marketers never seemed to have capitalized on consumers like parents—an enormous segment of the population that could potentially benefit from trading sentiments related to being in the trenches together. Just for fun, I came up with a handful of ludicrous valentines that moms and dads might find fitting for the occasion.

1) You look ravishing, Valentine…especially when you find time to shower and brush your teeth after a harrowing day with the kids.

2) Can’t wait to be alone with you, Babe…right after we read 47 bedtime stories and wipe the pasta off the dining room walls.

3) You had me at “I’ll go to the parent/teacher conference this time. You just make yourself comfy on the couch, have a big glass of wine and read a great book.”

4) There’s nothing that says LOVE like offering to fold our brood’s laundry (the right way) and find all their missing socks.

5) You’re never sexier than when you’re unplugging the kids’ toilet or helping them with their godawful homework.

6) Be mine, Valentine! The kids are at a SLEEPOVER!www.melindawentzel.com

7) I’ll be yours always and forever…if you promise to let me nap on the beach while you keep our youngest from drowning and/or pooping in the sand.

8) You’re my soul mate and I can’t imagine life without you as we tackle sleep deprivation, sibling rivalry and teen angst together.

9) You take my breath away—even when I’m NOT yelling at the kids.

10) I’ll love you till the end of time, Valentine, or until our children stop asking unanswerable questions.

11) Nothing sounds more romantic than you, me and grocery shopping WITHOUT the kids.

12) Dance with me, tiny dancer—even though the floor is littered with Cheerios and naked Barbie dolls.

13) Kiss me, you fool—never mind that our children are conducting a science experiment in the kitchen—possibly with flour, glue and glitter.

14) I’ll love you to the moon and back…if you’ll plan the kids’ birthday parties and the next six vacations.

15) You complete me, my dear, but never more than when you’re taxiing the kids all over the damn place.

16) Oh, how I adore thee, my hero…especially when you traipse around the house in your underwear because I heard a strange noise at 3 a.m.

17) Valentine, you make my heart race, even more than when our children play in traffic or ride scooters through the house.

18) Love means never having to explain why you let the kids eat ice cream for dinner.

19) I’m hopelessly devoted to you—just like I’m devoted to posting stuff on Facebook that may or may not make our teens cringe.

20) My love for you is unconditional, much like my love for the bacon and chicken nuggets my kids discard.

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

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Romance for Dummies, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

All Hallows Eve…The End is Near

DSCN0432I’ve been informed it’s over—my brood’s love affair with trick-or-treating, that is. I knew it would happen eventually. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen now, seemingly minutes before Halloween. It’s possible I’ll need weeks of therapy in order to cope with such tragic news. Please send candy.

I guess I was kidding myself to think my kids’ enthusiasm for harvesting gobs of chocolate and fistfuls of candy corn would last forever. And I probably missed some important signs last October when my progeniesIMG_6676 disguised themselves to the nth degree (one wore a disturbingly realistic horsehead mask while the other donned a ginormous set of bat wings), but then sort of dragged their feet when it came to traipsing all over the neighborhood, treat bags in hand. At the time, I simply pushed it out of my mind. Denial, as it were.

As the stages of grief are classically defined, I suppose I haven’t progressed much since then. I still reject the idea that the fun is over, defending the fact that “…even adults like to dress up in ridiculous outfits and solicit candy. Who wouldn’t?”

Almost immediately, I learned how incredibly stupid that question was. In no uncertain terms, I was enlightened as to how “completely done with that” they were.

“We just want to stay home, answer the door and scare little kids to death.”

Egads. I wasn’t prepared for that sort of response. I guess I just want to hold on to the past, or maybe even live it a little longer if possible. I liked it when my twin daughters were just babies—most of the time anyway. They were pumpkins their first Halloween, kittens their second, and burly lumberjacks their third year I think. I remember dotting their cheeks with dark eyeliner, giving their faces the suggestion of stubble. I also fondly recall piling warm layers of clothing beneath red and black-checkered jackets to complete the look.

For the first several years, my husband and I lugged them around the neighborhood in their red Radio Flyer wagon, using blankets and coats to prop them up and cushion the bumpy ride. Hats and mittens were a must, cleverly incorporated into the ensemble. At each house we visited, friends would crowd around the door to see how adorable our children looked, each year’s costume topping the last.IMG_9862

As they grew older they were able to walk with us, tightly gripping one of our hands while clutching their coveted treat bag with the other. Each year we journeyed further and further away from home, eventually canvassing the entire neighborhood in one night—which was no small feat.

More recently, they’ve met up with their friends on All Hallows Eve, eager to wander the streets of our close-knit community, a smallish herd of mask-toting teens and tweens in the dark of night, some carrying flashlights, some entirely too cool to carry a flashlight, their raucous laughter filling the autumn air. By evening’s end, they would return home, sweaty and utterly spent, usually hauling all or part of their costumes—either because they were too hot or they broke somewhere along the way. Treat bags bursting with candy. Smiles all around.

But this year will be different. No more ambling from house to house. No more bags of loot to dump on the kitchen floor to better sort and ogle. No more little red wagon or mittens. At least my kids have assured me there will still be the wearing of costumes, however. So there’s that. I guess I’ll just have to accept reality and embrace a new and different Halloween tradition—as scary as that might be.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live lamenting the end of All Hallows Eve (sort of). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Neighborhood in Five Easy Steps

www.melindawentzel.comSTEP 1: Adopt a Home Owner’s Association and fill its board primarily with self-important individuals who are more than happy to tell you what’s wrong with your house and the people who live inside it, effectively sucking every ounce of joy from your life. Be sure to choose hardy individuals willing to martyr themselves completely, for they must possess enough stamina to police the neighborhood day and night, clipboards in hand, in search of covenant violations, petty though they might be. Heaven forbid the size, shape or molecular structure of someone’s mailbox is out of compliance with the current standards of excellence or that someone’s garden gnome is two millimeters too tall—never mind that gardens aren’t permitted in the so-called Utopia in question. Nor are tree houses or free-range cats.

STEP 2: Create an atmosphere of mistrust, miscommunication and divisiveness within the populace, pitting neighbor against neighbor all in the name of upholding the precious set of directives originally designed to protect property values and maintain order. It’s more important for people to fear each other and the long arm of the law than to be neighborly.

STEP 3: Rewrite the rules of governance to the benefit of the heavy-handed regime, crushing the souls of the little people in the process, without so much as considering the wishes of those affected by such sweeping changes. Stifle the powerless voice of reason whenever and wherever possible. Democracy be damned.www.melindawentzel.com

STEP 4: Throw common sense out the window and into the front lawn for all to see and ruminate upon (i.e. cite homeowners for painting their front doors, repairing their leaky roofs and ridding their yards of overgrown shrubbery and dead trees, replacing them with perfectly wonderful substitutes). Never under any circumstances trust that proprietors might possess the ability to choose an appropriately hued shutter, let alone an entire roof of shingles. Oh, the horror! Threaten legal action at every turn, even when it’s clear that people are doing all they can to improve and revitalize their properties by adding beautiful decks, patios and pools as well as breathing new life into tired trappings.

STEP 5: Just for fun, and on occasion, send out patronizing letters that fuel collective paranoia, outlining the specifics regarding disciplinary action that will potentially take place in the event of noncompliance, reminding everyone how awful it feels to live under such tyranny. In this way, the Negativity Machine will remain well oiled, ensuring the ruination of a perfectly good neighborhood.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless