Tag Archives: quirks

How to Win Friends and Influence Children

Dale Carnegie might have made his New York Times bestseller even more successful had he known what I now know about motivating others—especially the mulish imps with whom I reside. He could have rocked the world with the groundbreaking information I’ve painstakingly gathered from the field (i.e. the Mommy R & D Laboratory).

The beauty of said discovery is that, in essence, it is ridiculously simple—my kids will do anything for a chicken nugget. Homework standing on their heads. Soccer drills during a monsoon. Strep tests with glee. They’ll even take a bath and clean their room on a Saturday, which elevates the validity of positive reinforcement to an unprecedented level of acceptance. Without question, if a savory nugget is the prize (warmed to perfection or stone cold), I can consider the unpleasant task at hand done. And if the esteemed chunk of meaty goodness came from Tony’s Deli—all the better.

Case in point (as I tucked one of my cherubs into bed recently): “I’m afraid you probably won’t be going to school tomorrow, Hon. Not with that fever.” A pall then fell over her face—as if I had announced the sun didn’t like us anymore, so it would be moving to another galaxy, ending life as we know it.

“But we’re having chicken nuggets for lunch tomorrow, Mom,” a tiny voice whimpered from beneath the covers, the hovel where the smallish being in question shivered and shook thanks to that wretched sister-to-malaria she had undoubtedly contracted.

“Nuggets?” I thought to myself, completely baffled by the inane notion that a piece of poultry could wield such power—enough to inspire a sickish child to drag her sorry self to school. I expected a far different plea; one that perhaps involved the cute boy with the Sponge Bob lunchbox or gym class with those beloved scooterish devices or a library full of “…my favorite horse books!” all of which would have been sacrificed on a day home from school. Not once did I hear, “But Mom, I’d miss my friends and my teacher and the best bus driver in all the world!”

Nope. Chicken nuggets ruled. Go figure.

“And anyway, I’d miss soccer practice, and all that sloshing around in the mud…and my coach…and my team…and I wouldn’t be able to look for worms afterward to add to my collection! It’s not fair, Mom; I have to go to school. I just have to. Besides, it’s the last time the cafeteria ladies will make chicken nuggets for me this month and I’d have to wait until December to have them again!”

Given that this strange child of mine likes a grand total of two meals on the school lunch menu (fish sticks and chicken nuggets, but not chicken tenders or poppers because dear God, they’re INFINITELY DIFFERENT than nuggets!), I understand her dilemma. Completely.

“Okay, you can go to school tomorrow if you don’t wake up feeling absolutely horrible. But just for the record, it’s against my better judgment,” I said grudgingly, having caved yet again. But part of me cheered the news, comforted in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be saddled with a whiny child all day, longing for her precious chicken nuggets, enraged with me for having deprived her of that which she adores. I have enough trouble being labeled Meanest Mom on the Planet.

At that, she breathed a great sigh of relief and snuggled deeper into the sea of blankets. All was right with the world. “Thanks, Mom.”

“So what’s the big deal with chicken nuggets anyway? It seems as if that’s all you ever like to eat.”

She then reminded me of the note she had scrawled some time ago, highlighting for my benefit (as well as for the cafeteria personnel’s future reference) what specific menu items currently meet with her approval. Among a host of other things she considers tasty, the list included chicken nuggets (or more affectionately, cicen nuggets).

I stand corrected.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Meat & Potatoes, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool, Sick-O Central, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

My Dog Ate My Homework and Other Tales of Woe

The afternoon began uneventfully enough. My motley crew leapt from the school bus like every other day and flung their backpacks into a crumpled heap at the curbside—a practice I’ve grown to tolerate over the years since it usually grants me a few delicious moments to myself. Moments during which my sole function on the planet is simply to watch them run circles around each other, screaming like a couple of banshees, weaving in and out of a grove of trees—ones that are routinely summoned to participate in their latest and greatest make-believe pirate or superhero drama. Indeed, it makes perfect sense to encourage said purging of the vat of pent up energy with which they seem to arrive home each day, and to be patient while they soak up every glee-filled ounce of childhood that is humanly possible. But on this particular day, it was all for naught.

Shortly after the beasts within were presumably tamed, the wheels flew off my Parenting Bus. Hubcaps and all. In perfect chorus, there were demands for snacks and demands for my attention, squabbles to settle and hostilities to halt, messes to manage and hurts to heal, slips to sign and studies to support. And all the while I tried to attend meaningfully to a conversation with a certain co-ed who decided to make landfall in this crazy place at this crazy hour—a hurried conversation about borrowing a sleeping bag due to the ridiculous prospect of driving hundreds of miles to a huge city where she’s never driven, to pitch a tent in Godknowswhatforest and CAMP IN THE FREEZING COLD with a bunch of like-minded bohemians she’s never met “…because it will be an adventure, Mom, and besides, I know at least one of them and I guess I’ll get to know the rest.”

Naturally, the toilet paper debate surfaced.

“You’ll need to pack some toilet paper, you know. And wool socks. Do you even have wool socks? How about long underwear? Have you thought about that?”

“No, Mom. I won’t need toilet paper. I have wool socks. And I won’t need long underwear in Virginia.”

“Yes you will.”

“No I won’t.”

And so the drama in our kitchen continued—until she had had enough of my former-resident-of-Virginia motherly advice and I had had enough of trying to deal with multiple crises of epic proportions. In retrospect, the crises themselves probably weren’t all that horrific or exceedingly unmanageable. But clustered together, into a consortium of tiny tragedies, they certainly felt genuinely oppressive—as if my world were collapsing all around me. Then the dog entered the fray (removing all doubt that my world had indeed collapsed), taking a sizeable chunk out of someone’s book—a book that belonged to the school—a book that I would ineptly try to resuscitate with massive quantities of tape and resourcefulness the next day. However, my resourcefulness met its match when I foolishly inquired as to where the rest of the gnawed upon morsels were.

“They’re in his belly, Mom. I was reading to him and then I went away and that’s when Jack decided to taste my book.” I only wish I had been present in school to witness the blow-by-blow explanation she surely offered her teacher, detailing the fate her hapless book had met. Clearly, any sentence that contains both the words dog and homework can’t hope to be well received by any teacher—even if those words happen to be delivered by a second grader with little or no expertise in the realm of conjuring lame excuses.

Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t alone in striving to complete his mission of destruction that afternoon. Apparently, my heathens were also bent on ruinous behavior. Case in point: while hurling their smallish bodies into oblivion (i.e. flinging themselves into an enormous leaf pile in the back yard again and again), not surprisingly, and horrendously, they collided. One cranium and one chin famously intersected in what appeared to be a valiant attempt to occupy the very same bit of earthly airspace. The laws of physics prevailed, however, resulting in equal and opposite reactions, largely manifested by an impressive-looking goose egg and a set of rattled teeth. After being smothered with kisses that were sure to cure all their ills, my sniveling combatants headed straight for the freezer to remedy their stupidity. Ice would be their companion for quite some time.

Even still as evening approached, said idiocy refused to leave our happy home. Our brood had settled nicely into what we assumed would be a civilized game of Jumpin’ Monkeys. But in a fit of rage, Thing One viciously stomped upon Thing Two’s brand spanking new glasses (that were lying on the floor AGAIN!)—twisting them hideously into a mangled mess, necessitating an immediate and gloriously lecture-filled trip to the eye doctor’s (read: our saving grace).

“She smooshed them, Mommy! On purpose! Just because I threw her stupid, stinking monkey!”

And so our tales of woe continued. Thankfully not every day is so abundantly eventful.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

1 Comment

Filed under Bookish Stuff, Daily Chaos, Doggie Diamonds, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, Smother May I?, The Woman-Child, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Is There a Doctor in the House? (Continuation of “Guilty as Sin”)

Doogie Houser, MD would have been proud. From the moment Seek and Destroy laid eyes on their beloved Ken doll, helplessly sprawled out on the living room floor, our resident whiz kids snapped into action—eager to render what assistance they could in the face of such a crippling tragedy. It was a sight to behold and the epitome of teamwork. For what seemed like forever that morning, our prodigious sensations delved into the guts and gore like fearless surgeons of the 4077th M.A.S.H. unit. They were miniature paramedics—a sippy-cup-toting trauma unit with a penchant for Teddy Grahams.

Ken needed a trauma unit. He was Code Blue—thanks to me. Never mind the fact that he was a plastic doll I had inadvertently maimed the night before. It was a life or death situation—sort of. Even the next of kin—the entire Barbie gaggle—had been immediately notified of his condition. This, of course, meant that the weeping and wailing might never end. What a maudlin crew. Bunch of sissies, anyway.

The official report: Ken’s perfectly sculpted (and impeccably tanned) synthetic leg had been completely severed from the hip down. A gaping hole in the pelvis region revealed even more damage—a broken plastic hinge thingy. Translation: Ken’s pelvic thrusting days were probably over. Jogging with Skipper was out of the question, too—unless he had a miracle up his surfer shorts. His prognosis couldn’t have been much worse—unless he had been run over by a freight train full of whining pre-menopausal Barbies. Needless to say, the outlook was grim.

Doctor kits, loaded with all sorts of important-looking (albeit worn and duct-taped) equipment, were hurriedly pried from toy boxes and rushed to the scene. Initial assessments were made, Hippocratic Oaths were uttered and the patient was gingerly transported to a makeshift operating table—an overstuffed footstool. Orders were barked to a team of imaginary nurses and various instruments were splayed out in preparation for the surgery that was sure to run into the night.

In the meantime, I ran for the video camera. To seize the opportunity, of course. I know real drama when I see it. Plus, such a pioneering moment in medical history begged to be recorded for the benefit of all posterity. It was my civic duty to film history in the making.

Truth be told, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to recreate the utter hilarity for anyone once it was over. It was simply too funny for words. I had to film it. So film it I did.

“Nurse, take his blood pressure! (Shoop, shoop, shoop….) Take his temperature! (Shake, shake, shake….) Give him a shot of this stuff! (Pffssssssshhhttt!) DOCTOR, WE NEED SOME GLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE! Something to make his leg STICK BACK ON! Oh. My. Goodness. I left my glue at the other office. What will we do now!?”

“Well Doctor, I think we need to hammer this leg a little.” (Hammer, hammer, hammer…twist, yank, prod, crank, SNAP, CRACKLE, POP!!!) “And we need a cast thingy! Right away!”

All the while, stethoscopes, syringes and imaginary glue guns flew across the OR, passed from hand to hand in a desperate attempt to save poor old Ken’s plastic-coated soul. The tension was unbearable. The wait, nerve-racking. Thankfully in the end, Ken pulled through; but despite their undying efforts, the medical wonders were unable to successfully reattach his leg.

Not to worry. The celebrated masters of make-believe have since made the best of the situation—illustrating for the 327th time this week that even a nonfunctional and seemingly worthless item/toy (and I’d daresay a particularly gruesome one at that) can become purposeful once again—providing countless hours of enjoyment.

Or sheer bliss.

Apparently, the practice of terrorizing one another with said severed limb (which includes tearing through the house at warp speed, screaming like a couple of banshees) is nearly as fun as playing with good ol’ two-legged Kensey-poo and his estrogenized harem. Almost.

It’s macabre, I know. But delightfully so methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Chaos, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Summer’s Educational Feast

A plethora of reputable entities, educational and otherwise, have spent a good chunk of time and money prattling on about the serious nature of academic regression and whatnot, convincing great masses of parents that “the summer slide” does, in fact, exist and should be feared above all else. All seriousness aside, I’m here to proclaim otherwise. There was no slide that I could discern during the glorious months of June, July and August. Moreover, I’d daresay the summer epitomized an educational feast for my brood, as a host of new and exciting information was thrust upon us virtually every minute of every day.

Indeed, we were enlightened thusly:

Matter can, in fact, be destroyed (or at least it can come frighteningly close to doing so) when lawn mower blades make impact with errantly placed Whiffle balls and flip-flops. Physicists should take note of such remarkable findings.

Considering the coefficient of friction and the gravitational pull of the Earth, Crocs are not ideally suited for tree climbing. Likewise, and in the true spirit of experimentation, cell phones can neither swim, nor float.

With respect to Venn diagrams, not all amusement park employees are amused to be there day in and day out, collecting tickets, helping kids climb onto rides and advising patrons to keep their “hands and feet inside at all times!” In fact, most of the joy-bringers we encountered this summer fell squarely into the category of cantankerous—only to be eclipsed by the group of dolts who were disturbingly stoic. Of course, I felt the urge to slap them senseless for failing to at least ACT THE PART of being cheery and pleasant “for the good of the children.” But that would have been redundant.

Concerning the topic of animal behavior, I discovered that cats, dogs and even guinea pigs can be taught to type on a computer. Needless to say, I was duly impressed having witnessed said groundbreaking research conducted in the field.

As far as mathematical correlations go, I learned that the later kids stay up at a sleepover party, the earlier they will rise—demanding pancakes and bacon. What’s more, the average third grader will catapult out of bed ten times faster for an unplanned and unmercifully early visit from a friend who wants to ride bikes than for the regularly scheduled arrival of a school bus.

Regarding the subject of psychology, I was reminded that children can and will defy all logic and understanding. Case in point: when they emphatically reveal that the best part of a fun-filled day at an amusement park (read: a marathon-inspired excursion involving an obscene number of rides and French fries) was purchasing a $3 inflatable elephant named Bob. Similarly, the most memorable thing from attending a week’s worth of basketball camp might just have been “…drinking a whole can of Orange Crush soda so I could burp really LOUD, Mom!”

Furthermore, while field testing a variety of hypotheses recently, I learned that it is possible to become more sodden while riding the Merry Mixer during a torrential downpour than it is to opt for the Sklooosh on a dry day. Additionally, I found that it takes roughly three days for sandals to dry out after said rain. None of this, mind you, is especially troubling to the husband or to the children who insist that we “…just go on more rides!”

Some related summertime observations I made: When playing miniature golf, the probability of visiting an emergency room (and/or the dentist’s office) increases exponentially as the number of eight-year-old participants increases. Further, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to ensure that moon roofs and windows are closed overnight. Rain happens. It’s also prudent to periodically check on youngsters who might do the unthinkable (i.e. blow up ants with a magnifying glass “…because they sizzle in the sun, Mom, and then they POP!” and/or hoist the dog into the top bunk “…so he can SEE stuff up there.”) Stupidity happens. Moreover, it’s wise to inspect the hot tub for curiously abandoned thongs upon returning from vacation. Audaciousness happens.

Some interesting facts I gathered these past few months: Kids are more likely to retain Pokemon-related information than the sight words from kindergarten. Kids could watch a continuous loop of Sponge Bob for an eternity—never once pausing to engage in meaningful conversation with a parent. Kids can get by with one bath a week if they frequent a chlorinated swimming pool. Kids positively DON’T CARE how fricking cold the water from the hose is when it’s connected to a Slip n’ Slide. Kids will eat S’Mores till they EXPLODE. Kids will kiss worms, frogs and taste the dog—just because.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (summing up the summer).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on Summer’s Educational Feast

Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Bad Mood Munchers

Forever, it seems, my children have brought me newly created pieces of wonderment to ogle—eager for both praise and encouragement for their Picasso-esque efforts. I’d like to hope that I’ve always been mindful of their feelings as they bestow upon me their most prized offerings on the planet. It could be a self-portrait destined for the refrigerator, a dachshund or a duck, lovingly wrought from a dollop of Play-Doh, or an

impressive rendering of a dinosaur, hewn from a large and unwieldy sheet of poster board.

Likewise, I’ve been called upon to admire masterpieces that are nothing short of remarkable—like the tiny box turtle one of my progenies recently fashioned from an empty Nerds box, the Rapunzel-inspired 3-D tower (with a working drawbridge!) she made from a mere sheet of paper and a bit of tape and string, or the “songbird” she ingeniously crafted from an acorn and a couple of feathers harvested from the back yard, “…because I wanted a pet bird, Mom, to live in the birdcage Grandma gave us.”

Indeed, these are delicate matters and it is imperative that I handle the psyches of my fledgling artists with the utmost of care and sensitivity. God forbid I fail to ooh

and aah appropriately—providing that much anticipated glowing review of a certain someone’s work, or that I make the colossal error of misidentifying a beloved nugget of whateverness, placed in my hands for immediate appraisal. “It’s a…….malamute with three heads, right?”

Sometimes it’s best to simply shut up and wait for my brood to inadvertently tell me what this or that mystery item is, so that screw ups are minimal. Thankfully, the bulk of what comes home from school (i.e. that which hails from Mrs. Pagano’s exceedingly wonderful art class) is readily identifiable. Good thing.

Thus far in their academic journey Thing One and Thing Two have proffered the most endearing set of polar bears imaginable, some chunky caterpillars that I adore completely, a Canada goose whose precious neck has since been repaired, a robin redbreast that surely summoned the spring, a handsome set of Italian frescos that rendered me utterly speechless and a handful of gloriously ornate vessels for storing jewelry and whatnot—etched abundantly with love.

All I ever managed to churn out as a grade-schooler was a bunch of stupid ashtrays (which, by today’s standards, would be deemed slightly appalling). Oh, and a handful of dreadfully unimaginative pot-like thingies and a deranged-looking papier-mache rabbit for which I am hard pressed—even now—to suggest a legitimate purpose. Further, there was an embarrassment of highly unremarkable, kiln-fired blobs of clay I remember hauling home to join my shrine to bad art. At least my kids’ creations possess irrefutable aesthetic value if not a preponderance of practicality. Plus, I know what the stuff is—with the exception of the Bad Mood Munchers.

That said, I reached into their backpacks not long ago expecting to discover yet another pair of entities to marvel instantaneously. Instead I found two fist-sized, lumps of hardened clay—ones that were slathered profusely with vibrant blotches of color and warped and mangled beyond all recognition—absolutely reveling in the quality of nebulousness. But as I examined each mass a bit more closely, I began to discern a face of sorts—a distorted rage-filled visage with deep-set eyes that seemed to pierce my very soul, a fearsome set of eyebrows that I couldn’t help but trace with my finger and a maw that would forever remain agape, likely for the purpose of swallowing smallish children whole. In a word, it was hideous and begged the question, “What on earth IS it?”

“It’s Angry Man, Mom. My Bad Mood Muncher. Isn’t he AWESOME?! And look, I made him a castle to live in!” Thing Two crowed with delight.

As I stood in stunned silence, her cohort informed me that her infinitely weirdish clay creation had been dubbed Steve, which stumped me perhaps more than anything.

Steve?! Who names a monstrosity like THAT ‘Steve’ for crying out loud?! What’s it for, anyway?” I felt driven to ask.

“It’s for when I get angry, Mom. I’m supposed to find some paper and write down what I’m mad about then twist the paper and try to tear it in half, which uses up A LOT of energy and helps get my anger out. If I’m still angry after I try (and fail) to tear the twisted paper, I have to open it up and calmly shred it into little pieces. Then I put the pieces in his castle thingie and he EATS them. Then my bad mood is GONE! Isn’t that entirely kewl?!”

Well after being enlightened on the subject, I had to admit the idea of defusing anger was slightly brilliant. And as art projects go, it was probably wicked fun besides. That said, I now want a Bad Mood Muncher to call my very own—one that promises to devour all that I find completely irksome on this planet.

Indeed, I’m quite sure I could feed the beast with the best of them.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (fishing bits of paper from Angry Man’s mouth—some of which was twisted unmercifully, meticulously piecing the scraps together and, stupidly, reading the wrath-filled messages contained therein).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

1 Comment

Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Refrigerator Art, School Schmool, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Apples and Peaches and Pears, Oh My!

I don’t get this harvest thing. The picking and plucking, heaving and hauling, sorting and stowing to me seem hardly worth the reward—a bunch of garage-consuming, sickly sweet-smelling produce bent on wearing out its welcome faster than I can swat fruit flies.

Naturally, the overzealous-fruit-grower-guy in my life views the whole process, from buds to bushels, in an entirely different light. Throughout each season, he lovingly ogles his babies—one each of the apple, peach and pear varieties that inhabit our lawn. Countless hours are spent admiring their beauty and resilience, stroking their green leafiness and for all I know, whispering sweet-nothings into their ear-like blossoms which, strangely, seem eager to soak up his praise and words of encouragement. The man talks to trees, for crying out loud! He claims he’s simply “monitoring their growth and development.”

“Okay, Captain Fruitage. Mr. Happy Harvester. If you say so. Just get on with your foolishness and quit trying to save me from a life filled with apathy toward the wonderment of reaping that which we sow—namely, the apples and peaches and pears, oh my! You’re obsessed. Positively obsessed. And you seem to grow even more fanatical with eachpassing year. Ugh.”

When all this harvest schmarvest hoo-ha began eight years ago, I should have recognized the telltale signs of dysfunction right then and there. Painstakingly, this Doctor Dolittle of fruit trees fashioned two-by-fours into props, so that branches heavy with ripening fruit wouldn’t snap. At first glance, this actually makes a lot of sense and even smacks of ethical treatment for trees (Yea!). But when the casual observer notes just HOW OFTEN he checks and rechecks and checks yet again the positioning of said props, he or she might think the behavior a bit odd.

“It’s not as if mischief-minded grasshoppers or crickets are messing with your silly little sticks of wood, you foolish, foolish man. Stop with the paranoia already.”

Over time, this champion of growing and gathering sidled into the role of Extreme Protector, going above and beyond the call of duty. One year he attempted to coat practically every square inch of the trees in question—spritzing and spraying some magical, stench-ridden formula guaranteed to nix bugs, blight and all things fungal. (It doubled as cologne). He also fertilized, pruned and prayed to the hilt. But mostly, he cursed the shameless bears and deer for daring to pilfer his precious fruit. Blasted scavengers.

More recently though, I’ve noted that the fervor with which Captain Fruitage approaches nearly every harvest-related conversation has exceeded the bounds of tolerability. In fact, it has led him (oh so erroneously) to believe that I, too, should possess a deranged level of enthusiasm for said topic. What am I—a squirrel?! I think not.

Granted, I do enjoy a luscious piece of fruit now and then—plucked straight from the tree or vine, its juices still warm from the sun. But why the insistence upon converting me to “his kind”? Maybe he feels that without a fruit fixation, I am somehow incomplete or deprived. Or maybe he just thinks I’m lazy. But I’m not lazy. Really, I’m not. Just disinterested. Period.

Much to my chagrin, however, he recently pried me away from live coverage of the U.S. Open one afternoon (Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!) and half dragged me to a spot in the lawn where I guessed that I was supposed to ooooooh and ahhhhhh or rejoice or something upon seeing the bountiful harvest—hanging there in all its succulent glory. What happened next involved a ladder crushing my foot, branches whacking my face, fruit thumping me about the head and shoulders and great masses of bugs that seemed intent upon flying up my nose and into my eyes. It hardly seemed worth all the grief.

And for my efforts under the trees, I was granted the opportunity to separate the worm-eaten and the non-worm-eaten varieties. Joy. I also got to lug those unwieldy props (grumble grumble) and boxes brimming with fruit all the way to the garage—where hordes of them are still parked.

I just don’t get this harvest thing.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on Apples and Peaches and Pears, Oh My!

Filed under A Tree is Nice, Captain Quirk, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings

Half-baked

I love clams. To the point of being dysfunctional, most might say. Those warm and wonderful little nuggets of fleshy goodness have been the object of my affection for longer than I’d care to admit. But here I am, telling all about my pitiful obsession with little neck clams.

They’re best bathed in butter. Plucked hot and steamy from a monstrous pot on the stove or from a metal garbage can resting atop a wood-fired pit—which is how my friends from Canton cook ‘em. Almost every summer. It’s tradition to gather there amidst family, friends and mosquitoes in their sprawling backyard, whacking at whiffle balls, tossing Frisbees and crowding around that glorious can, the one that also houses corn-on-the-cob, foil-wrapped potatoes and other picnic-ish items that really don’t matter much when clams are part of the meal. In my mind, clams ARE the meal.

The other stuff is just peripheral. A perfunctory afterthought designed to woo non-serious clam eaters there, or to serve as a cover for people like me who plan to gorge exclusively on those brackish bits of joy with wild abandon. I’ve found that it’s surprisingly easy to mask such gluttonous behavior. A carefully placed wedge of watermelon or scoop of potato salad can hide a mountain of clams and a vat of butter. Bouncing around from table to table with a fresh plate throws the casual observer off, too, especially when coupled with idle chitchat. Gluttony becomes all too conspicuous, however, if you wear a path to the same spot to devour those delectable little indulgences, pausing only to breathe and to mop the embarrassment of schmutz from your chin. Apparently, I am not alone in my thinking. Others agree that clams are downright slurpable. Swines—every last one of us.

My friend Pat has admitted to consuming 22 dozen in one sitting and estimates his lifetime consumption of the lovely little gems as “incalculable.”  From other accounts, that may well be a conservative approximation. Some other friends have been known to refrain from eating ALL DAY, right up until the time of the big event, in order to arrive primed for epic feasting of all-things-clamish. Of course, I admire these folks beyond compare and recognize that I simply don’t possess that level of commitment. Not yet anyway. But there’s always hope. And always another clambake to pencil in on the calendar.

My husband said he once saw a guy eat 32 dozen at the Wheel Inn. Throngs of people gathered around to watch as if he were some sort of sideshow freak. It’s no wonder. The man recklessly scooped them out of their shells, dumped them a dozen at a time into a Styrofoam cup brimming with melted butter and chugged ‘em down like raw eggs. I don’t get it. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the romance? It’s too rushed, dispassionate and superficial. Quite frankly, I think it smacks of casual dining. Gasp!

By contrast, I’ve been known to become thoroughly engrossed while eating the silly things, one sensual bite at a time. Admittedly, the world around me melts away and I become completely enraptured by the whole experience—weak with pleasure. So much so that I can block out the maddening blares of my dryer, insisting that I fold the laundry NOW. I can also silence the persistent demands and the relentless bickering of my children, waging war over Mrs. Smith’s fish sticks or over a stupid yellow cup into which I have been instructed to pour milk. What’s more, I’ve nearly perfected the art of appearing interested in discussions that float over the dinner table, nodding my head and contributing appropriately to conversations without ever really being present mentally. Of course, this frees all my senses for more important matters—like savoring my beloved clams.

One time I just stood at the counter, blissfully slurping the freshly steamed batch my husband had so lovingly prepared for me. I never once gave a thought to moving to the table like a civilized individual might be inclined to do. Nor did I share, except maybe one or two. I can’t remember such details. Fifty or sixty clams later I came up for air and slipped back into consciousness. Back into being a mommy and a wife.

Apparently, the appeal of clams is not a new thing. A Cnn.com article I read last week (“Study: Early humans threw clambakes”) certainly adds credence and validation to my obsession. A new archeological find in South Africa (author of the study: Curtis Marean, ASU) revealed evidence suggesting that humans living 164,000 years ago harvested seafood (including clams), cooked them over hot rocks and then perhaps gathered together to eat them. This is in fact about 40,000 years earlier than previously thought. News like this makes my heart glad.

As does learning that we’ll be having clams for dinner. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

Comments Off on Half-baked

Filed under Me Myself and I, Meat & Potatoes, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction