Tag Archives: books

Have You Hugged a Book Today?

We have a library in our house, which sounds slightly more impressive than it actually is. The area in question is far from a sprawling expanse littered with overstuffed chairs and an abundance of narrative gems. More correctly, our so-called library occupies a modest corner of our home—a place where a blue-checkered playpen once stood seemingly forever. Nevertheless, it is a space devoted to all-things-bookish. A small yet infinitely important enclave that exists for the sole purpose of fueling my children’s passion for reading. As it should be—during this National Reading Month of March, and always.

Almost a decade has passed since we began gathering a hodgepodge of titles and piling them into some semblance of order there upon the floor of our living room. Tallest to smallest. Favorites within easy reach. A perfect mélange of new and not-so-new tales—thanks to having traversed this parenting path once before.

Naturally, said books would spill out into the room after a certain couple of somebodies (read: Toddler One and Toddler Two) raided the cache, leaving a trail of literary goodness in their collective wake. Never mind that only yesterday pillows and great herds of stuffed animals were dragged there and commissioned for the purpose of building reading “nests” and whatnot. Only recently have we been able to place the prized entities elsewhere (i.e. upon the honey-colored bookshelf that now inhabits the aforementioned corner—the one that boasts a cavernous window through which the morning sun pours almost without fail).

It is perhaps a bit more special given that the shelf itself was one that my husband had designed and built back in 1969. It was the high school shop project that seemed destined never to be finished. Lo and behold, the four-tiered wonder was completed and for some 40 years it lived in his childhood home. That’s where I first ogled its glossy, maple finish—along with a handful of teakwood carvings that sat upon its top shelf. A one-humped camel and an Asian elephant with a missing tusk. Keepsakes that hailed from afar. Treasures with which my children were enamored each and every time we visited Grandma.

I guess I never really thought about the notion of my mother-in-law not being there to witness their growing curiosity. Nor did I entertain the possibility of adopting her wooden bookshelf when she died—complete with the coveted carvings. Of course, they still sit atop the shelf, nodding approval with each book selection my charges make. Grandma would be pleased, I’m sure.

Likewise, I think she’d be pleased to learn of the strides her granddaughters have made since kindergarten, and how their love of books has flourished during that same wedge of time. No longer do they reach for bedtime favorites like Goodnight Moon, the brilliantly penned Where the Wild Things Are, the infinitely tender Guess How Much I Love You and the exceedingly palpable Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. Even Dr. Seuss has fallen out of favor with my brood.

Indeed, the pure and simple joy of picture books has been replaced by the all-consuming nature of chapter books—ones that invite my progenies to dwell for a time, deliciously entangled within the words on a given page. Needless to say, their tastes have grown more sophisticated, as has their command of vocabulary. That said, Thing One is completely smitten with mysteries, all-things-Harry-Potter and that which is disturbingly terrifying while Thing Two is fond of cookbooks and craft books, although she went through an interminable phase during which she would read nothing unless its plot somehow involved a godforsaken dog, a horse blessed with the ability to speak or a wretched hamster. Of course, they both feast voraciously upon the celebrated Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, practically anything ever written by Roald Dahl, Barbara Park or Kate DiCamillo, and sadly, the idiocy that is Captain Underpants.

All things considered, I deem my children’s journey as emerging readers to have been nothing short of remarkable, and I can’t help but feel indebted to those who’ve helped cultivate their enduring love of books—during this National Reading Month of March, and always.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with an abundance of books worthy of hugging…and barely able to breathe ever since a request was made for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Gratitude

A Sacrilege of Sorts



Seems like just yesterday I was reading aloud to my kids…

There 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.

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 content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Bookish Stuff, In the Trenches of Parentville

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: Jennifer Weiner (All Fall Down) and 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 Quindlen, Mitch 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—such as Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson) or Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (David Sedaris). 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 a memoir like Dry (Augusten Burroughs), 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 both books and Halloween candy beckon). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Gratitude, Me Time, motherhood, Unplugged

Hurry Up and Wait

My youngest kids are high school seniors, which, by extension, means that my husband and I have been tasked with the thankless job of hauling them hither and yon over the past two years so that they might ultimately find a college campus that “speaks to them.” Needless to say, we’ve spent countless hours on the road and in hotels as well as scheduling auditions, meeting with various professors and arranging shadowing dates ad infinitum. And let us not forget the days spent crawling over hill and dale, tolerating both the rain and snow of fall/winter and the searing heat of summer, in order to better determine the merit and overall appeal of each campus.

While I recognize the gravity of the decisions that face them, I’m sure I’ve muttered, “For the love of God, pick one already,” more than once in what has seemed like an eternal span of time. When all is said and done, I know they’ll make the right choices, but in the meantime my husband and I are losing our collective minds. I honestly don’t remember agonizing over schools the way they do. Who knows? Maybe things were simpler back then and it came down to whether or not the cafeteria food was decent.

I, for one, thought that was relatively important.

At any rate, aside from coordinating virtually every detail of each visit and tolerating a maze of parking garages in the process, we’ve been saddled with the issue of how to kill time while our progenies attend classes, etc. It’s the infamous hurry-up-and-wait syndrome. So far we’ve traipsed through courtyards peppered with trees, explored enormous and impressive facilities, took pictures of various mascots, used Google Maps to find the nearest Starbucks, made multiple trips to the car because we forgot something of vital importance and talked to umpteen college students and staff members about why they chose XYZ University. And because there is never a dull moment in our lives, one afternoon a fire drill went off at one of the aforementioned universities and another time my husband got stuck in a bathroom stall, where he frantically texted me for help. Eventually he got out on his own, but not before I was able to tweet about it to the amusement of many.

But mostly, the waiting involved hanging out in the libraries of each school. And by hanging out I mean we found a couple of comfy chairs and spent upwards of eight hours playing solitaire on our phones, surfing the Internet, snacking, watching students filter in and out, eavesdropping on their conversations, perusing daily newspapers and, of course, napping indiscriminately. Thank God we were smart enough to bring along a favorite book or two. I devoured several patently hilarious titles by David Sedaris and Jim Gaffigan while my husband read about politics and the Vietnam War. We wanted to at least appear productive and engaged.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how I would have survived even one of the ordeals without something substantial to read. Granted, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are entertaining, but I doubt I could spend hours doing that alone. For me, books made the time pass and allowed me to almost forget that I was stuck in a library surrounded by herds of 18 to 20-somethings. In a very real sense, books preserved what was left of my sanity.

Speaking of books, this Friday, February 8th will be my very first bookiversary (book anniversary)! Please order Deliverance: A Survival Guide to Parenting Twins for just $8.99 on Amazon or pick up a signed copy at Otto Bookstore, the oldest independent bookstore in America. Keep in mind, you don’t need to be a parent of twins to appreciate the hilarity packed within every chapter. I promise. As an added bonus, having Deliverance on hand means you’ll never be without reading material if you happen to find yourself stuck somewhere—waiting.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably holed up in another college library with my husband. But at least we’ll always have great books to read and we’re no longer enduring the misery of FAFSA forms. Visit me there at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2019 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Growing Pains, In the Trenches of Parentville, Leaving the Nest

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: Jennifer Weiner (All Fall Down) and 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 Quindlen, Mitch 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—such as Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson) or Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (David Sedaris). 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 a memoir like Dry (Augusten Burroughs), 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 both books and Halloween candy beckon). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on November’s Sweet Indulgence

Filed under Bookish Stuff, In the Trenches of Parentville, Me Time, motherhood, The Write Stuff, Unplugged