Tag Archives: little things

Worms Fail Me

www.melindawentzel.comThere is a routine by which my children leave the house each school day. It’s a fairly logical succession of events that usually culminates with a mad dash to the bus stop, backpacks and jackets flapping as they run, their unruly manes trailing behind them. Of all the memories of motherhood I’m sure to harvest, the one that features their early morning race across the lawn, a blur of gangly legs and unbridled enthusiasm, will be a favorite. It’s likely, too, that I’ll remember the many times they paused in the street, still blackened and slick from the unending rains of spring, to rescue untold numbers of earthworms from what would appear to be certain death.

Quickly, yet gingerly, they scoop them up and place them where it is safe, pleased to have made a difference in a small yet meaningful way. And as I witness this determined albeit futile effort to “…rescue them all, Mom,” morning after morning I am moved, inspired almost, to join in their worthy deeds. Of course, it would be cruel to utter the obvious truth: “You can’t possibly save them all.” So instead I bite my tongue and agree that worms, too, have a purpose. “They aerate and enrich the soil, Mom.” Again I am reminded of the exuberance of youth and of the remarkable capacity children have for storing data sure to wow me.

At any rate, it goes without saying that worms lack the ability to communicate their needs and desires—no matter how compelling or dire they might be. Granted, they couldn’t deliver any sort of message that anyone could ever hope to interpret. Crazy as it sounds, there are times that I can relate to such hapless creatures—especially as I struggle to connect with my brood via meaningful discourse. Indeed, sometimes words fail me—when weighty subjects arise, when reflective listening falls flat, when my children’s growing allegiance to privacy rears its ugly head. But I am determined to improve the way in which we connect over the stuff that matters—as well as the stuff that doesn’t particularly.

For starters, I’ve made a solemn pledge to engage my daughters in conversation each day—to stop whatever it is I happen to be doing and tune in to their respective worlds. To find out who has a crush on whom, which item on the lunch menu is to die for these days and just how many Pokémon cards it truly takes to be complete. For my oldest, my curiosities are more akin to: which D.C. restaurant is her new fave, what, exactly, does one do with a graphic design degree anyway and when (oh when!) will the boyfriend be getting a haircut. And although I make light of it here, I understand how important it is to have these conversations. Somehow over the past decade I’ve allowed life’s harried pace to take precedence over bonding in this manner—even over the seemingly insignificant happenings of life, which is precisely what I wish to change.

So aside from vowing to carve out more one-on-one “face time” with my co-ed daughter (who is still away at college), I plan to call more, and text more and I suspect I’ll even utilize Facebook’s messaging system on a more regular basis—a concept I never once imagined myself embracing.

As for my two youngest charges, I’ve taken a big step forward on the path to opening the lines of communication by purchasing each of them Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Mothers by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs (Chronicle Books). So in addition to the aforementioned “face time,” we now have this wonderfully interactive, perfectly confidential, writing prompt-infused means of communicating with one another—a tool that encourages us to “talk” about everything from boys and bands to wishes and worries, all within the confines of a tangible journal that we conveniently pass back and forth. Of course, it doesn’t replace or devalue our customary method of conversing, but instead offers another, perhaps deeper, layer of connecting. A good thing methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Kid-Speak

Nightmare on Mom Street

Sunday afternoons are my respite in this harried place. The sanity cocktail from which I draw sweet sustenance. That said, I lounge around the house doing as little as humanly possible, embracing my inner sloth. Old movies, blanket forts and naps rule the day. That is not to say that I haven’t, on occasion, become inspired enough to throw something meaty in the crock-pot, to haul my sweeper from the bowels of its dusky lair or to plant my sorry self in the laundry room for a time despite my aversion to the insufferable place. Even on a Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, ambition is nowhere to be found in my house during that glorious wedge of downtime—sandwiched deliciously between the madness that was and the madness sure to come. Last Sunday, however, was decidedly different. Havoc rained down on my world, obliterating my precious corner of calm.

Oddly enough, what led to the aforementioned began weeks ago while traipsing through a store, my cart piled high with a bunch of schlock I didn’t need. At every turn, it seemed, I stumbled into EVEN MORE SCHLOCK and felt compelled to ogle it, to finger its veneer of worthiness and to toy with the notion of adding it to my ever-growing mound of that-which-I-would-one-day-regret-purchasing. And on the days during which I allow the guilt of motherhood to consume me, the mound is markedly higher. Needless to say, it was one of those days.

Indeed, the voices that drive much of my irrational behavior relevant to Thing One and Thing Two were especially persuasive that day, whispering words of admonishment in my ear and regaling in my grand ineptitude as a parent: “You’re a HORRIBLE MOTHER…you don’t SPEND ENOUGH TIME with your children…you MUST ACQUIRE this ten-dollar nugget of wonderfulness which promises to erase weeks of botched parenting.” All the while I considered said nugget of wonderfulness (i.e. a two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House Kit, complete with 47 bats, dozens of little green candies I would later damn to hell, enough gumdrops to coat eleventy-seven teeth and an expander, a defective ghost—or rather, segments of insanely sweet candy, suggestive of something that was once intact and specter-like—and a cauldron full of powdery mixes that were sure to deliver hours of goo-inspired, edible fun and to yield the most perfect hues of orange and purple icing on the planet).

In the end, I was shamed into buying the box of foolishness. Because that’s what moms do. Just like all the other project-y stuff I haul home out of sheer guilt; never mind the games and books and techno-gadgetry thought to engender this or that brand of awe in my children. It’s all about the Is-it-as-remarkable-as-a-pony factor and Will-it-expunge-from-the-record-my-screw-ups-to-date?

So I shoved the stupid thing in our pantry (good intentions and all) and forgot about it till the Halloween craze struck with a vengeance. And since the celebrated costume drama in this household was officially over, a sinful quantity of sugary treats had been stockpiled already and virtually every corner of our home had been festooned with all-that-is-Halloweenish, there was but one thing left to do—build the stupid house. So that’s what we did—the three of us, while Dad cheered exuberantly from the sidelines.

Several hours, two meltdowns (both mine) and a hellacious mess later, we had our two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House. Of course, the orange and purple mixes wound up adorning everything kitchen-ish but the inside of the refrigerator, those reprehensible, little candies rolled near and far much to my chagrin, fistfuls of trimmings were consumed with wild abandon and the icing was less than compliant as I shoveled and smeared gobs of it into pastry bags and then squeezed the reluctant mass onto the house as instructed. Translation: The cussed gloppage in question delighted in its schmutziness and its droopiness, defiantly sliding down walls, windows and slanted rooftops, leaving hideous-looking blobs everywhere. Even the spider webs I made sagged to the point of looking not-so-spider-webby. But because the gods of kitchen fiascos were smiling upon me, my brood took it all in stride, “…the droopiness makes it even SPOOKIER, Mom! You’re so AWESOME!”

Well, it certainly wasn’t as grand as a pony might have been; but the awe factor of this nightmarish project was evident to at least two somebodies on the planet. And perhaps that’s all that matters in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (admiring our droopified Halloween house).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Small Potatoes

My husband and I argue over some of the most inane things on the planet—like the cubic circumference of vegetable chunks I add to meatloaf. Like whether or not ketchup ruins said meatloaf. Like whether to twirl or cut (Gasp!) linguini. How to open an envelope. Seriously. To tuck (or not tuck) sheets. How the bills ought to be arranged in one’s wallet. Whether one should carry a wallet at all. How the lawn ought to be mowed. The laundry, folded. The driveway, shoveled. Whether it’s eggshell or ecru. Let or leave.

It’s small potatoes really. All of it. So is the idiocy at the very core of our latest and greatest debate—the matter of dealing with poo. More specifically, dog poo. Round and round we go each day—wrangling over the wisdom of carrying a trusty Ziploc bag, a wad of Kleenexes and a teensy-weensy bottle of Purell on our jaunts with Jack, “just in case” he makes a deposit where he ought not to make a deposit (i.e. in someone’s lawn, driveway or smack in the middle of our heavily-trodden street).

I, for one, think it’s ludicrous to lug said poopie paraphernalia around. It’s entirely unnecessary, completely assumptive and downright spineless to plan for the disaster that may, in fact, never occur. The Boy Scout I married, however, begs to differ. Mister Preparedforanythingandeverything insists that traveling with hand sanitizer and a sandwich baggie (turned inside-out for added convenience) is one of the most sensible and socially responsible things a dog owner can do. So much for living on the edge, throwing caution to the wind and prudence under the bus. And never mind the off chance that Mister Fuzzypants could indeed do his business right where we want him to—making the whole blasted issue a nonissue.

Unlike the man who could likely produce anything in an instant (from biodegradable camouflage toilet paper to a fingernail file), I’d like to think I identify more closely with the rebels of the world—like the cool jocks in tenth grade who never wore coats, brown-bagged it or carried an extra pencil to class. They traveled light to and from their celebrated lockers. So do I—at least when I walk the dang dog. No namby-pamby foolishness encumbers me. Nope. What’s more, I refuse to be hampered by a pooper-scooper device (i.e. a glorified burger flipper in which the “gift” can be both housed and transported efficiently). Besides, I’m resourceful—some would even argue eco-friendly—when it comes to dealing with poo, and I don’t need some fancy-schmancy gizmo to master the mess my dog makes. Not when perfectly good oak and maple leaves are at my disposal.

At least that’s what I used to think—before disaster rained down on me like a scourge during one of those merry excursions around the block late last fall. As luck would have it, Jack felt compelled to unload in someone’s immaculately manicured lawn; and despite my insistence that that was not an especially good idea, the little miscreant did it anyway. I was then faced with a supreme challenge: to somehow scoop it up (with leaves that were nowhere to be found), move it across the street (careful not to drop it or the leash which was tethered to the dog, now wild with delirium over his recent doo-doo success) and fling it deep into the brush—where no one, ostensibly, would trod upon it. It was a tall order, indeed. And although I doubt there was an audience, the scene had to have been indescribably amusing as it unfolded frame by humiliating frame.

Frantically I searched the vicinity for the leaves that were EVERYWHERE just days before, settling for what I could find—some pathetic-looking scraps of leafy matter with which I planned to wrap those nuggets of repulsiveness, still warm and disgustingly steamy. Of course, nothing went smoothly. The foul matter in question refused to cooperate, hideously fusing itself to the grass and failing to remain intact as I gathered and scraped in vain. Naturally, this necessitated that I shuffle across the road not once, but SEVERAL times, hunched over my stench-ridden prize as if it were the last lit candle on earth.

All the while, my silly dog danced and pranced alongside me, hopelessly entwining my legs with the leash, thoroughly convinced that I was playing some sort of twisted version of Keep-Away. Needless to say, pieces of poo kept dropping onto the pavement behind me—a Hansel and Gretel trail of repugnance that mocked my efforts, sorely lacking though they were. I had no choice but to painstakingly pick them up and hurl them into oblivion along with the rest of the gunk—all the while preventing the dog from snatching them out of my hand or chasing them into the brush. Eventually, the deed was done. There was but a tiny reminder of the episode lingering on my fingertips and aside from the humiliation I suffered, I had escaped relatively unscathed.

Indeed, small potatoes.

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

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Doggie Diamonds

Be Mine, You Foolish, Foolish Man

Enough already. Quit it. Stop going overboard on Valentine’s Day, you well-intentioned fool in love. The extravagance is just that—extravagant. We already know you love us dearly, so stop trying to prove it with super-sized mushy cards, chocolate galore and the sweetest-smelling roses that plastic can buy. Well, maybe chocolate isn’t such a bad idea, but the rest of the sentimental journeying you do is just fluff. No offense, Romeo.

My intent here is merely to enlighten (ever so gently), not to patronize those who go to incredible lengths each year to woo the socks off a loved one. Your gallant efforts and unbridled enthusiasm are genuinely appreciated. Trust me. But the time and energy you expend, all in the name of love, might prove more fruitful when coupled with a key bit of information. Consider it a tip, a newsflash or the inside scoop on romance, if you will. Take it for what it’s worth (if you so choose)—and by all means, try not to take it personally.

Basically, in my book there are three essential (and timelessly proven) elements to keeping the love alive in a relationship:

1)     TUNE IN TO YOUR PARTNER. And by this I mean observe, listen and really pay attention to what your partner likes, values, needs and genuinely cares about. If you don’t, you will have missed the proverbial boat. If it’s mawkish poetry, a roomful of rose petals or a rock the size of Gibraltar that will make her heart flutter, by all means—go for it. Just be sure that whatever you choose to charm her with does just that. For instance, I’d be charmed to death if my valentine were to surprise me with a weekend getaway for two so I could enjoy a reprieve from Mom Duty. I’d also be thrilled beyond compare to receive a homemade coupon book for that priceless commodity: “alone time” (redeemable in glorious one-hour increments). Foot massages are nice, too. And gentlemen, please please please refrain from last-minute emergency purchases. We weren’t born yesterday, you know. It really shows when little or no thought has gone into a gift—regardless of the price tag.

2)     WORK TO IMPROVE YOUR LOVE LIFE ALL YEAR LONG, NOT JUST IN MID-FEBRUARY. This is a no-brainer. Well, almost. Certainly we understand how life’s hectic pace can get in the way of remembering to remember each other day in and day out. Believe me; we GET the term “hectic.” Probably coined it. But doesn’t it sort of smack of making-up-for-lost-time when not so much as a “hello kiss” or an “I love you” shows up for months on end, then lo and behold, February arrives with a deluge of sweet-nothings whispered in our ears? Makes me downright suspicious. When it comes to relationships, daily maintenance makes far more sense than having to undergo a major overhaul—same with vehicles (only they’re less complicated).

3)     NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF ROMANCE (OR YOUR ABILITY TO BE ROMANTIC). Come on, Valentino, you know this much is true. It’s the spice of life, the door to the soul and the key to nearly every woman’s heart. And for a lot of women, I’d daresay it has little or nothing to do with sex. It has more to do with how you make us feel about ourselves, as well as how valued and respected we are in your eyes. Yep, it’s THAT simple. Once you get that much figured out, understanding women is really a walk in the park. But it’s a really big park, and you’ll probably have to ask for directions at some point, which not many of you are inclined to do. Hence, the mystification problem.

In a nutshell, romance is a powerful thing, but not necessarily viewed the same by all. Naturally, it’s the romancee who determines how romantic (or not) something or someone is. Not the romancer. So be sure to zero in on what will truly melt your valentine’s heart—not just what you THINK will kindle the flames of love, Mr. Casanova. And finally, never ever underestimate yourself; you might be surprisingly romantic when you put your mind (as well as your heart) to the task.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with Valentino himself).

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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It’s the Little Things That Make Life Sweeter

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I can’t help but be reminded of how sweet life truly is on February 14th as well as every other day on the calendar—with or without the chocolate-covered delectables, mawkish cards and heart shaped hoo-ha. Case in point, my husband used to pack little baggies of food for me each day before he left for work, filling them tenderly with freshly peeled carrots, bunches of grapes or a handful of pretzel bites or cashews. Most days there was a half a turkey-on-rye waiting in the wings for me, too, abundantly dressed with lettuce, tomato and provolone. Its mate could likely be found on the same refrigerator shelf, neatly sliced and ready for instant retrieval.

However, it wasn’t a job for the thin-skinned. There were standards to be met. My slightly specific and less-than-succinct criteria: each conveniently bagged delight had to be flavorful (yet devoid of gassiness), it couldn’t be the least bit drippy or crumbly or, Heaven forbid, unwieldy if food can be described as such. Most importantly, I had to be able to consume it using just one hand—often on the fly or holed up in a chair for God-knows-how-long nursing a grexy baby. Or two.

Needless to say, great care and consideration went into preparing such sustenance for me and I was eternally grateful—both for the man’s diligence and for his abiding tolerance of my changeable mood. After all, it was the finger food that served as my salvation during that interminable stage of parenthood (i.e. the maddening era home-alone-with-newborn-twins, when I would have given almost anything for a hot shower or a real sit-down meal with something as fancy as a fork or idle conversation). But the bundles of nourishment he so thoughtfully provided, though short on style, surely delivered that which I needed most: the feeling of being cared for and remembered each day. It was a little thing that made my life that much sweeter.

I’d daresay the majority of what enriches my world could be categorized by most as something seemingly insignificant or ordinary at best. Something perhaps unremarkable to the masses, but dear to me. Like the little notes and drawings my kids stuff inside my pockets and tape to my computer, knowing that later I’ll stumble upon them and smile. Or that my oldest—beyond all logic and understanding—still confides in me and seeks my counsel. Or at the close of an especially trying day in the trenches of Parentville, when I feel like the most horrible mother on earth because I dumped someone’s special potion down the drain or because I forgot to tell the yard crew not to haul away “…our eagle’s nest, Mom!” or because I screamed at them over nothing or because I failed to listen yet again—I get this amazing and completely undeserved gift in the form of a breathy secret whispered in my ear at bedtime, “Mommy, I wouldn’t trade you foranything. Not even for a worm.”

Stuff like that makes me melt. And I’m that much surer it’s the little things in life that matter most. Like the twitter of songbirds after a long, hard winter. A handwritten letter amidst a sea of emails. A yellow moon on the rise. The brackish breeze, the cries of seagulls and the soothing sound of the ocean after driving forever to get there. The way my kids’ eyelashes curl and the thicket of sun-bleached hairs on the napes of their necks. The way my grandmother traced my ears to coax me to sleep. My grandfather’s firm belief that I was “big enough” to help him feed the cows, steer the tractor and hay the fields. Clunking around a farm in real barn boots. The warm muzzle of a horse. The company of a cat. The affection of a dog. The lullaby of crickets. The tang of autumn. The whisper of pines. The crisp scent of a novel, yet to be consumed. Fresh newsprint. Thistledown. Snowflakes. The smell of rain. Holding hands.

I often stumble upon small wonders, too, in unlikely places—like the special stones on someone’s dresser, harvested from Grandma’s house “…to help me remember her, Mom.” And crumbs in someone’s pocket—the remains of a bit of bread “…I saved for Taylor from my lunch today at school. It got all crumbly when we shared it, Mom.” And heartfelt notes of apology—painstakingly folded and carefully wedged between the pages of a favorite book. “Sorry Sadie. I really love you a lot. You’re the best sister ever!”

Of course, there was the strange but wonderful vine, curiously twisted into the shape of a heart, one of my dandies found while foraging in the garage last week. “Here, Mom; it’s for you.” But it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookie she shared with my husband and me recently—the one she cleverly gnawed upon until it, too, resembled a heart.

Indeed, it’s the little things that make life sweeter on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and continue to devour again and again It’s the Little Things, by Craig Wilson, USA Today columnist and friend).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Mushy Stuff, Romance for Dummies