Category Archives: The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Exhaust the Little Moment

IMG_0365Without question, I am the most incompetent individual using Snapchat on the planet today, a Neanderthal when it comes to hi-tech forums for sharing photos and videos via smartphones and the like. I know this to be true because my teenage daughters broke the devastating news to me. Thankfully, I’m not particularly devastated by it—just discouraged, and slightly annoyed by my failure to embrace yet another trend in social media.

According to my brood, it seems that I’ve missed the whole point of said craze. While I’m fixated upon sharing my treasured photographs, clever memes and the occasional video clip with friends and family on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I’m passionate about preserving them as well. Like seashells I’ve culled from the miles of shoreline I’ve trekked, I want to enjoy them later, slowly turning them over in my hands, feeling the grit of sand between my fingers, revisiting the memory that was created in the gathering process.

Such is not the case with Snapchat, however. It’s a transient beast. A keyhole view of life that self-destructs within mere seconds. A way of capturing the gloriousness of an instant (serious or silly as that might be), and then letting it die, just as the ephemeral traces of fireworks fade into the dark of night.

Needless to say, the whole thing seems completely foreign to me and I’m having great difficulty wrapping my mind around the concept, despite the fact that Thing One and Thing Two have spent upwards of FIVE WHOLE MINUTES trying to help me understand. Of course, how could I expect them to invest more time, given the fact that they’re terribly busy Snapchatting with their inner circle of cyber friends? However, I’m part of that inner circle now, so it’s all good.

At any rate, I’m fairly certain that neither of the aforementioned teenagers have read any poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks. But somehow they’ve managed to apply a smattering of her most storied words to their lives.

“Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold it will not come again in this identical disguise.”

Apparently, the beauty of this particular form of media sharing is in its impermanence, forcing would-be recipients to attend to the content of what is sent. Naturally, I can envision a host of opportunities for abuse among teens and tweens in this venue, but at this juncture in time I choose to focus on what is positive about it. Perhaps I can even learn to love that which is decidedly temporary—a lesson that can surely be applied to life itself on a grander scale, much as Brooks opined. Indeed, our hearts are only beating—temporarily, so we may as well make the most of it.

Further, Snapchat has afforded me a tiny glimpse into the colorful teenaged world in which my daughters currently reside, beyond taking note of which books, movies and YouTube tripe happens to intrigue them at the moment. Crazy as it sounds, it gives me the chance to connect a little more, too, engaging on their level, joining in their fun, speaking their language for a time—albeit clumsily. I get to look on as they revel in the art of just being themselves as well, which is a gift in every sense of the word, especially as they begin keeping me at arm’s length more and more with each passing year.

Granted, Snapchat may not be as endearing or prized as hearing firsthand about a certain someone’s latest crush, perceived injustice or small victory, but it’s something, and that something is good.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Snapchatting. Sort of. Visit me there at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, Growing Pains, Techno Tripe, 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

A Sacrilege of Sorts

TheMiraculousJourneyofEdwardTulaneThere are but two kinds of people in this world—those who brazenly read the endings of books before the endings are actually reached and those who would never dream of a crime so heinous. I myself fall with the masses into the latter category, always mindful of the tenets we must uphold: Thou shalt not spoil the endings of good books no matter how dire the circumstance or how great the temptation.

Of course I’ve been so bold as to glance at the last page while contemplating a purchase in the aisle of a bookstore, allowing my eyes to sweep across the fuzziness of passages, to graze but not actually rest on hallowed words, erasing all hope of ever being rewarded for my ability to resist said allure. If nothing else, I can be proud of that.

However it wasn’t until I was deeply immersed in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chapter Seven of this scrumptious read-aloud, more specifically) that I became painfully aware of a terrible truth: my children would (and, in fact, had) flipped ahead 20 chapters in said prized piece of literature, to the very last page (gasp!) “…because I wanted to know what would happen to Edward, Mom. I was worried about him. He lives, you know.”

Of course, I was horrified. And profoundly disappointed. I had higher hopes for my progenies—hopes that they would grow to become upstanding citizens, embodying all-that-is-righteous-and-good. Principled people who knew better than to commit sacrilege. Instead, it appears, my wayward bunch has embraced the dark side of life. Even my oldest daughter has admitted to that which is a sheer disgrace—she reads the very last sentence of every novel—as a rule. Needless to say, such a divulgence rendered me dumbfounded.

“Why?! Why would you do such a thing?!” I had to ask finally, eyes fixed upon the creature I thought I knew.

“I don’t know. To pique my interest I guess.”

To pique your interest?!” I shrieked, shaking my head in disbelief. “Good grief! Where’s the mystery in that?! Where’s the long-awaited pleasure that a grand culmination promises?! The delicious sense of satisfaction derived from having journeyed far and wide across the vast and uncertain terrain of a narrative gem?!” I demanded to know.www.melindawentzel.com

She shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What’s the big deal, Mom? It’s just a book.”

Of course, this was wrong on so many levels that I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around the unspeakable atrociousness of which it reeked. Nor could I forgive the other two ratfinks for having stolen my joy. I wanted to discover for myself Edward Tulane’s fate—to continue devouring the book, page after succulent page, and eventually, to drink in the magnificence of the grand finale that surely awaited me.

But it was not to be. Those unmerciful beasts continued to fill my ears with details of the story, doling out bite sized blurbages just to watch me writhe in pain. “No! NO! Don’t tell me a syllable more!” I pleaded, wondering from whence this penchant had come. I don’t remember anyone bursting at the seams to tell me about Goldilocks or Little Red Riding Hood. Back then it was a non-issue. The end was something that would be revealed in due time upon turning the last page. As it should be.

I’d almost rather my heathens wantonly fling caterpillars across the living room and stuff them inside their backpacks (oh wait, they’ve done that!), saturate thirsty bath rugs at will (done that, too!), or festoon the dog with lipstick “…because we wanted to give him purple-ish lips, Mom!” than to rob themselves of the parting gift of a fine book.

Sadly, this represents yet one more area of life I cannot control. I must come to grips with the fact that my children will choose friends, careers and eventually mates—almost entirely devoid of my (infinitely sagacious) input. And ultimately they will decide whether to continue as card-carrying members of the Flip-Ahead-to-the-Last-Page Club. Oy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (beside myself with indignation). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The article, as it appears here, was previously published by The Khaleej Times, Dubai, UAE.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, In the Trenches of Parentville, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

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

Color Me Enlightened: Ten Things Parenthood Has Taught Me

www.melindawentzel.comI’ve been a parent for some 9,389 days. A stunningly imperfect parent, I hasten to add. During that period of time I learned more about sleep deprivation, sibling rivalry and teen angst than I previously considered humanly possible. However, the past twelve years have proven to be particularly edifying. Indeed, Thing One and Thing Two have provided me with a veritable feast of enlightenment. So, in the spirit of welcoming the new year and the vat of enlightenment sure to come, I thought it might be fitting to recap what the last dozen years have taught me—at least from the perspective of a stunningly imperfect parent.

1)    Beauty is likely in the kitchen. Translation: Most of the masterpieces I’ve collected thus far in my parenting journey are proudly displayed upon my refrigerator, where I suspect they will remain for a very long time to come. That iswww.melindawentzel.com not to say the face of the fridge is the only canvas upon which said prized artwork hangs in all its faded glory. My home is quite literally inundated with the fledgling, Picasso-esque efforts of my brood, serving as a constant reminder of their boundless generosity and artsy flair. As it should be, I suppose.

2)    The word “sleepover” is a misnomer. No one actually sleeps at a sleepover—including the pitiable adults charged with the impossible duty of entertaining the gaggle of impressionable youths in attendance. Furthermore, the later slumber party-goers appear to crash, the earlier they will rise, demanding bacon and eggs. Moreover, it is inevitable that someone’s personal effects (i.e. an unclaimed pair of underpants, a lone sweat sock, an irreplaceable stuffed animal) will be tragically lost—only to show up months later in the oddest of places.

3)    When taken out of context, that-which-parents-say-and-do is often appalling. Case in point: “Stop licking the dog.” “If you’re going to ride your scooter in the house, wear a damn helmet.” “Fight nice.” In a similar vein, I’ve fed my charges dinner and dessert in a bathtub more times than I’d care to admit, I’ve used a shameful quantity of saliva to clean smudges off faces, I’ve suggested a broad range of inappropriate responses to being bullied and I consider the unabashed bribe to be one of my most effective parenting tools.

4)    A captive audience is the very best sort of audience. That said, some of the most enlightening conversations between parent and child occur when the likelihood of escape is at a minimum (i.e. at the dinner table, in a church pew, en route to the umpteenth sporting event/practice session/music lesson, within the confines of the ever-popular ER).

5)    On average, we parents spend an ungodly amount of time reading aloud books that we find unbearably tedious. We say unforgivably vile things about the so-called “new math” and, as a matter of course, we become unhinged by science projects and whatnot—especially those that require mad dashes to the basement and/or the craft store at all hours of the day and night in search of more paint, more modeling clay and perhaps a small team of marriage counselors.

6)    Forget wedding day jitters, the parent/teacher conference is among the most stressful experiences in life—not to be confused with the anxiety-infused telephone call from the school nurse and that interminable lapse of time wedged between not knowing what’s wrong with one’s child and finding out.

7)    Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, the child-with-a-camera is undoubtedly the most fearsome—although the child-with-Facetime-capabilities is equally clever and decidedly terrifying as well. More specifically, the aforementioned entities possess an uncanny knack for digitally preserving our less-than-flattering moments. Joy. What’s more, they have a certain weakness for documenting freakishly large or (gasp!) green-hued poo, which I’m told is bizarrely linked to the consumption of blue Slushies. Color me enlightened, yet again.

8)    Kids are hard-wired to harvest every syllable of that-which-their-parents-shouldn’t-have-said so that they might liberally share those choice phrases in the most humiliating venue and manner imaginable (i.e. during show-and-tell, at Sunday school, in a crowded elevator, while sitting upon Santa’s lap, at the precise moment the guests arrive).

9)    The discovery of a teensy-tiny wad of paper—one that has been painstakingly folded and carefully tucked within a pocket, wedged beneath a pillow or hidden inside dresser drawer—is akin to being granted psychic powers. Everything a www.melindawentzel.comparent needs to know about their child will likely be scrawled upon said scrap of paper.

10)  Unanswerable questions never die—they simply migrate to more fertile regions of our homes where they mutate into hideous manifestations of their original forms, leaving us wringing our hands and damning our inadequate selves.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (getting schooled as we speak). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, In the Trenches of Parentville, The Natives are Decidedly Restless