Tag Archives: kids

From There to Here

www.melindawentzel.comSeems like yesterday………..

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.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Love and Other Drugs, 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

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

www.melindawentzel.comI’ve often thought that the art of raising children is a lot like carving a pumpkin. In both instances, I brought home a rotund little bundle of neediness, fumbling and stumbling over myself just to get it out of the car and safely inside. I then set it down, took a step back and stared—marveling at its inherent uniqueness and at its wealth of complexities, most of which I had yet to discover. A “Now what?” comment fell from my lips shortly thereafter as I contemplated my next move. Anxiously I paced the floor, studying this newish thing from every angle imaginable—careful not to overlook so much as a dimple or a distinctive feature upon its ruddy face. I then wrestled endlessly with self-doubt and indecision, fully and completely acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead.

At once, I also considered the endless potential this wonder of wonders possessed, pondering the remarkable role I would undoubtedly play in the days to come. I prayed for insight and wisdom, and for the ability to make its spirit glow and its face shine brighter than bright. I loved and nurtured it unconditionally, shaped and molded it tenderly yet purposefully, pouring forth every single ounce of knowledge, creativity and patience I could muster, in hopes that one day my little pumpkin would stand on my doorstep straight and tall, illuminating my world forevermore. A beacon in the night for all who would pass.

But no one ever told me there would be muck in the middle—a slippery, slimy mass of gloppage with which I have had to contend, time and again, in order to move forward. My hands don’t lie. They’ve been mired deep within this monstrous task for an eternity. And it shows. I am worn and weary, doused with sticky remnants of the chore. There have been a multitude of tricky corners to navigate with precision and grace, and unforeseen lumps and bumps to address along this winding path of growth and development. Countless hours have been spent scooping out and whittling away that which is undesirable and stubbornly rooted—the gunk which would surely detract from inner beauty.

Desperately, I have sought the counsel of others. I’ve searched long and hard for guidance—for some sort of pattern to follow so that I could avoid a minefield of mistakes and make the right impression in the end. Heaven forbid I mismanage so much as a solitary stroke of my efforts.

What I find both completely frustrating and strangely wonderful about the whole process, however, is that despite the planning and the commitment and the intensity with which I have approached it all, the end result is virtually unknown until I lay down my tools, step back from my work and light the flame within. Only then will I learn how well I’ve done my job—when my pumpkinish creation stands before me, glowing on its own amidst a sea of ink. Mere glimpses of what will be are all I have been afforded along the way. But glimpses, nonetheless.

Happy Halloween to all those makers of little jack-o’-lanterns, whose work is truly a labor of love and whose efforts are worthy of high praise—regardless of the outcome.

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

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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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

The Remains of Summer

www.melindawentzel.comA wistful look at the summer of 2011…surmising I’ll revisit those sentiments again very soon…

With a mere whisper of July remaining, I cannot help but flip through the calendar feeling as if I’ve failed spectacularly yet again. Alright, maybe it’s simply a profound measure of disappointment and/or a mild case of mommy angst that I’m feeling and not failure per se. At any rate, there was so much more that I wanted to accomplish in the 47 days since the school year ended. Things that would make the summer exceedingly memorable for my children. Remembrances that would gather in the corners of their minds for decades to come. Happenings that would surely find their way into the mother-of-all writing assignments come September (i.e. the celebrated back-to-school narrative that practically every student has ever faced): My Summer Vacation was Special Because….

Granted, Thing One and Thing Two have had immeasurable fun thus far in the season of suntans and sweet corn, however if I hope to achieve the brand of joy and the volume of memories I had envisioned cultivating before the thrum of crickets finally dies, I’ll need to hasten my step. It’s people like Beth Hendrickson, creator (and curator) of “A Summer Bucket List,” who inspire me to do so. That said, I’ve compiled a fairly impossible (yet impressive) list of that which I hope to do with my family during the fleeting time that remains—thirty-four days and counting.

For starters, we must seize an enormous cardboard box, one that begs to be transformed into a house of sorts—complete with doors, an abundance of windows and skylights, a child-sized escape hatch and a mail slot that promises to give new meaning and purpose to the junk mail I loathe so completely. We should also spend at least one endless afternoon wielding chunks of sidewalk chalk, together giving rise to a bustling city upon our favorite concrete slab—the one that doubles as a canvas every summer. And when the rains threaten to destroy our self-proclaimed masterpiece, we ought to head inside to construct a behemoth-sized blanket fort that will envelop the entire living room for days on end. Just because. And once we’ve burrowed deep within the confines of either the cardboard cottage or the haven of blankets, we should then read books together—beginning, of course, with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

Furthermore, it’s imperative that we invite a forever friend to stay for a delicious wedge of time, rekindling the past and erasing the miles that now separate us. More importantly, we should do something completely outlandish (like pitch an 18×10 ft. tent in the living room) so as to make his stay wholly unforgettable. We should visit the ocean, too, pausing as its waves give chase and our lungs become filled with the unmistakably brackish scent of the sea. We need to bury each other in the sand, as well, and gather shells by the bushel, and build sandcastles of epic proportions, and walk on the beach at dawn—as there is nothing else on earth quite like it. We ought to visit a handful of historic places, too, and wonder aloud how it must have felt to live during such an era. Feeding our intellect and stirring our minds at a museum is a good idea, too—as is catching a drive-in movie on a whim and camping out at Grandma and Grandpa’s in the aforementioned monstrosity of a tent—as promised.

What’s more, painting something together made my summer bucket list, not to mention teaching my brood the fine art of skipping stones, reading (and folding!) an actual map and catching a Frisbee behind one’s back. Oh, and cursive writing, too—a skill that the Department of Education apparently no longer deems worthy of inclusion in its curriculum—a decision that defies all logic and understanding.

And although it’s exceedingly difficult, I will try my level best to unplug from my dear computer for a time. (Apparently, radio makes people happier anyway according to a recent Huffington Post article). Likewise, it is essential that my family spends a goodly portion of the coming weeks devouring fresh garden tomato and cucumber sandwiches. Lots of them. Spontaneous picnics involving said sandwiches are of paramount importance for August, too, as is playing badminton until we can no longer see, except for the intermittent flashes of fireflies as the dark of night slowly swallows the yard, the thickets and trees in the distance and, eventually, what remains of summer.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the finite quality of summer and knowing all too well that we’ll be plunked on the shores of September long before we are ready). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Dear Diary

Four years ago, when my youngest daughters turned seven, I gave them each a diary—a scrumptious chunk of blank space within which they would reveal their innermost hopes, fears and desires—to the world, or to no one. A place where thoughts could be poured onto paper without hesitation or shame. A 234-page sentinel-of-secrets, complete with its own tiny lock and key (a decidedly priceless feature I am told). A canvas upon which Thing One and Thing Two could portray Mommie Dearest in horrific detail.

Of course, I bought said diaries because I so greatly enjoy being maligned because I am perfectly incapable of resisting that which is certain to thrill my brood beyond all imagining. Translation: Anything thought to celebrate the notion of secrecy makes my kids drunk with joy. Further, I was shamed into buying them. That said, the silly things beckoned to me from the shelf where they sat, insisting that I act immediately—lest my dear progenies be robbed of happiness forever.

“Isn’t it about time you encouraged a little self-expression in your children?” whispered a diary infused with a beautiful medley of blue hues (Thing One’s favorite). As I wended my way through the stationary aisle, fumbling with calendars and whatnot, I heard more of the same—only a bit louder this time, seemingly emanating from an adorable little log that boasted a delicious shade of bubblegum-pink (Thing Two’s favorite). “Have you not thought about cultivating more introspection among your impressionable charges?” it probed with an air of haughtiness.

“Have you not felt the need to nurture your kids’ inner-Thoreau?!” both diaries chided in unison.

Slack mouthed and dumbfounded I just stood there, feeling slightly horrible about having deprived my children—staring back at the bookish entities that spoke the undeniable truth.

“Thoreau? Sweet Jesus, who’s Thoreau?” I muttered to myself.

“Put us in the stupid cart, you simpleton,” they ordered. And so I did. The medley of blue and bubblegum-pink. One for each child to voice all-that-is-deliciously-personal. One for each girl to revere more than Hello Kitty herself.

“This is so awesome! I get to keep secret stuff in here that no one else can see—even you, Mom,” I’ve been reminded again and again.

Indeed, everyone needs some sort of venue for chronicling life’s events, for reflecting upon everyday occurrences, for delving deep into the most intimate of affairs—like ensuring there’s a tangible record of current love interests as well as obscenely detailed accounts of classmates’ exceedingly annoying habits involving one’s nose (not that I’ve been privy to such information). It’s also a marvelous place to grouse about perceived injustices, to gather expletives by the bushel and to put into words how completely dreadful it is to be filled with angst. Even for grade schoolers. Perhaps especially for grade schoolers.

But said journal-ific wonders are also capable of capturing the essence of goodness—through sketches and prose filled with happiness, pride and gratitude for all that is right in one’s world. Keepers of diaries would be wise to dog-ear such pages and refer to them often. Even grade schoolers. Perhaps especially grade schoolers.

I, too, worshiped and glorified the notion of privacy, having stuffed a diary beneath my bed as a third grader and beyond. Better still, I had a top-secret clubhouse in the basement, a multitude of forts nestled deep in the woods and a cat with whom I shared classified information on a daily basis. Strange, but true. I hid notes in hollows, carved stuff in trees and scrawled upon rocks—although I’d be hard pressed to say whose initials were paired with mine and which particular grade school tragedy was spelled out in horrific detail on page 73 of my dear diary.

I suppose, it’s neither here nor there at this late date. The essential thing was having some sort of space within which I could voice what mattered to me at the time. As it should be.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (wondering where I hid my damn diary—even still). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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