Tag Archives: shopping

Say Yes to the Dress. Maybe.

www.melindawentzel.com

I have not-so-fond memories of my high school prom, most of which stem from having worn a dress that felt as if it were lined with burlap. It was a white, floor-length eyelet gown, cinched unmercifully at the waist, making the thought of dancing almost unbearable. Never mind walking, talking and breathing. However, not going to the dance was out of the question. I went because all my friends would be there. I went because the hype leading up to the event was intoxicating. I went because prom night was a rite of passage—apparently, so was wearing obscenely uncomfortable shoes and stuffing myself in a dress that was two sizes too small.

Cutoffs and Converse sneakers were more my speed. If only I could have convinced the Prom Committee to allow everyone to dress as if they were going to a backyard barbecue, not a stodgy affair where herds of adolescents would spend much of the evening shuffling around in stiff formalwear, feeling both awkward and insecure. Or maybe that was just me.

The only thing less enjoyable than the prom itself was the gown-shopping marathon my mom and I endured beforehand, my angst superseded only by my negativity. I remember thinking I would never find the perfect dress, because it didn’t exist. Designers, it seemed, didn’t have flat-chested prom-goers in mind when they created styles for the masses. Instead, the racks were spilling over with plunging necklines and slinky, strapless numbers I couldn’t wear on a bet—not without hours of alterations and/or divine intervention. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon a gown that would work. Besides, I reasoned, I only had to endure it for a few hours. Then I could ditch it for jeans and a t-shirt—my garb of choice. Not surprisingly, that’s exactly what I did.

So when my youngest daughter announced that she would need a prom dress this year I was speechless, my mind swimming with enough pessimism for six people. But, I reminded myself, she is a different kind of creature—a fun-loving free spirit, one who thrives on adventure and feels comfortable in her own skin, worlds away from me. That much I know.

That said, virtually everything about our shopping excursion was unlike my own of decades ago. For starters, we found heels long before we looked for a gown and she systematically broke them in over a period of weeks. On the day we finally set out to find a dress, my daughter brought the aforementioned shoes along so she could put them on to see how they looked with each gown she tried. Brilliant.

We then proceeded to haul massive amounts of silky, sequined whateverness into the dressing room, banking on the premise that more was better. Itchy tags and tangled hangers be damned. Despite the fact that we both fell in love with the very first gown (in which she looked stunning), she soldiered on—just in case she would discover something even more irresistible. There were black ones and red ones. Dresses without straps. Dresses without backs. Each one distinctively elegant. Each one with its own special charm, making the decision-making process fairly impossible.

After what seemed like forever, we were able to narrow it down to two favorites. And when I say “we” I mean my daughter and myself, an exceedingly helpful sales woman, a handful of patrons who happened to be in the vicinity and hordes of my daughter’s friends who offered instantaneous feedback via social media. Who knew that shopping for a prom dress would necessitate input from one’s Snapchat tribe, which apparently was present in the dressing room? I kid you not.

Needless to say, it’s a different world than it was some 30 odd years ago. Stranger still, we actually had fun searching for the perfect dress—so much fun, that we bought BOTH of her favorites. And because the gods were smiling, they were remarkably affordable, surprisingly comfortable and oh-so-beautiful.

Already it’s looking as if she won’t need decades of prom-related therapy.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, gearing up for Prom Night. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2016 Melinda L. Wentzel 

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Filed under In the Trenches of Parentville

Picture This

Grocery lists aren’t what they used to be. Or perhaps I should say they’re inherently different than they were before the advent of the smart phone. People no longer simply jot down a comprehensive list of the sorts of things they need with regard to food, toiletries and paper goods. Instead they “tell” their phones what they need or type those necessities into the notes app as a reminder—or at least I do. Then I can conveniently add items on the go, not once having to deal with finding a fresh scrap of paper or a pen that actually writes.

Even still, our family uses a notepad that is housed within a tiny cabinet in our kitchen, a place that is practical if nothing else. It goes without saying, however, that half the battle is getting certain inhabitants to REMEMBER to add things to that list. I am no exception as I often forget to jot stuff down when we run out of it. I, of course, convince myself that I’ll easily recall the fact that I’m almost out of dental floss, but somehow it doesn’t wind up on the almighty grocery list, which means I’ll have to forego the joy of removing food particles from my teeth until one of us gets to the blasted store.

I can’t even imagine trying to explain what a struggle this is to my great-grandmother who lived in a very different time and place. She and my great-grandfather owned a grocery store in the early 1900s—a store that stocked hundreds of items that were available for order and delivery. I still have a framed original of the order form, one that has since yellowed but hangs in my kitchen in all its glory.

Yes, Ovaltine made the list of must-haves at Mrs. Ray Rose’s Store back then, as did Wheaties and Vicks VapoRub. Aprons and dresses, too.

Cheetos…not so much.

I guess it comes as no surprise that grocery delivery is still a relatively popular service these days, just not in my house. We prefer to traipse around in a store ourselves, plucking items from the shelves in hopes that we purchase the exact variety of shampoo/conditioner our teens requested. It’s no wonder we screw up from time to time though, as there are roughly 17 adjectives that describe said shampoo/conditioner—all of which must be present on the bottle we end up throwing in the cart. Heaven forbid we bring home the wrong kind. There’s always a fair amount of hell to pay, aside from dealing with a shopping cart with a rogue wheel and a parking lot full of idiots.

One way we’ve found to alleviate such incidents, however, is to turn to our dear cell phones, once again—this time employing the camera function to great benefit. Whenever someone in our family requests a grocery item with RIDICULOUS SPECIFICITY, he or she simply takes a picture of the packaging TO INCLUDE ALL NECESSARY DESCRIPTORS and then texts it to the individual planning to visit the grocery store next, which is usually my husband. For some unknown reason, he seems to draw the short straw when it comes to running errands. In that way (at least in theory), there can be no misinterpretation or confusion about what to buy.

Thus far, this system has served us well, except when it doesn’t. Perhaps more frustrating than having to search the aisles for an elusive product is discovering that its manufacturer recently decided to change the packaging, making the mission to find said product almost impossible. The only way to circumvent choosing the wrong item is to physically bring all interested parties to the store, which is often met with audible groans of disapproval. At least they can then be responsible for picking out the wrong product themselves and refrain from blaming someone else.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably texting my husband in the grocery store—ad nauseam. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. Now available in bookstores: On Motherhood: Fireflies to First Dates: A Collection of Planet Mom Essays.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Normal is Relative, Techno Tripe

A Kinder, Gentler Sort of Holiday Madness

It’s the eleventh day of Christmas and finally it’s safe to venture beyond one’s home out into the Land of Wares. At least it would seem so. The tired, the poor and the frenzied masses have all gone home, lugging obscene quantities of discounted schlock from near and far. No longer are the aisles choked with throngs of ill-tempered people—addled by the irksome constancy of holiday music, less-than-functional shopping carts and the vexing nature of can-I-really-afford-that-which-promises-to-wow-my-child-as-much-or-more-than-a-pony. Furthermore, hideously long lines, impossible-to-find merchandise, and the occasional slug-inspired sales clerks no longer fuel my nightmares. Nor does the siren song of Black Friday, Super Saturday and Mega Monday wail in my ear. Even the highways and byways seem more manageable in the wake of this oh-so-wonderful Yuletide. Parking lots, too.

Quite frankly, I was teetering on the edge of insanity just days before Christmas, my head reeling with sales jingles and an acute awareness of my fiscal limitations. Plus, I was fumbling around with way too many crumpled scraps of paper filled to capacity with wishes that had been hurriedly scrawled, scratched out, and then revised in the margin or penciled in literally atop an existing entry, making the resultant tome very nearly indecipherable. Couple that with the insurmountable task of calculating sale prices, on top of sale prices, less the percentage of savings guaranteed with my shamelessly disordered wad of coupons, as well as remembering a host of preferred shapes, sizes, colors and molecular structures of the aforementioned wish list items and it’s completely reasonable to expect ensuing madness.

God forbid someone’s pajama pants might feature the wrong monkeys (heretofore known as “monkey pants”).

Needless to say, I fell victim to the surge of gotta-have-it-or-I-will-surely-wither-and-die mentality, besieged by the almighty tide of consumerism and swallowed whole by its frenetic and unrelenting pace. Translation: I joined the masses of those who wandered aimlessly in both stores and tangled parking lots, mumbling great strings of incoherence about the state of my cussed list, seized by a quiet panic over frivolities such as Justin Bieber’s hair style (who knew there was more than one?!), the untold variety of Harry Potter whateverness and whether or not Stubby and The Fat One (the bearded dragons my charges so desperately wanted for Christmas) had already been sold to the highest bidder—in which case, I might as well have lit myself on fire to avoid a far more horrible fate.

That said, I’m not especially proud of the fact that I spent a veritable eternity facing a wall of Littlest Pet Shop creatures and a bank of creepy cyber bugs, paralyzed with indecision over toys that would be discarded in roughly 27 seconds. The bendable sock monkeys would rule the day anyway, as would the offensively loud pair of elephant banks, the freakishly large rubber shark, the aforementioned monkey pants and the glut of fuzzy, green socks a certain someone used a total of ten adjectives to effectively describe in her “Dear Santa” letter. Likewise, I am equally ashamed to admit having been so completely obsessed with finding the perfect gift (and fit) for my husband that I tried on an embarrassment of winter coats, and in so doing, became literally entombed within one in a remote corner of a department store that should probably ban me.

I wish I were kidding.

Read: Just after I had finished zipping it past my nose, snapping all the snaps and appraising its exceptional warmth and coziness, the teeth of the external zipper suddenly gave way at its base, causing a small wave of panic to wash over me. All I could readily focus on, as I groped around for the stupid zipper and FLOUNDERED INSIDE SAID TORRID MICROCOSM OF DOOM was the newspaper headline that would surely read: Woman Trapped Inside Giant Parka. Rescued Three Days Later by Kohl’s Employees. Driven Certifiably Insane by Incessant Loop of Holiday Music and Sauna-like Temperatures.

Thankfully, I was spared that particular brand of humiliation and escaped from the jacket in question without incident. The zipper miraculously righted itself, I chose a perfectly wonderful coat from the legions I had sampled and went home a happy woman—almost as happy as I am now that the madness is over and normalcy has returned to the land.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not shopping). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

The Rogue Backpack

It was an interminable shopping excursion—a brutally exhausting back-to-school event that involved far too many fitting rooms with the suggestion of ventilation and, as one might expect, legions upon legions of petulant children, ones who were clearly more interested in setting off a medley of motion detectors and in being swallowed up by great forests of clothing racks than in trying on the armloads of garmentage that spoke to their parents unremittingly. Oddly enough, my dear progeny, a soon-to-be fifth grader completely thrilled with the prospect of buying that-which-is-tight-and-trendy, was uncharacteristically well-mannered throughout the entire ordeal. Go figure.

Naturally, I invited said fact to the forefront of my mind throughout the day so that I might be inspired to forge ahead despite the laborious nature of the task at hand. Translation: I needed something to psyche myself up in order to gather yet another armload of gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-surely-die Hello Kitty apparel, which I would then haul to the dressing room ad nauseam.

But I would do well to remember that there were lots of things that made the experience wholly tolerable—aside from the fact that my child actually wanted to be there. Firstly, my Mom not only orchestrated every minute detail of the aforementioned marathon event (to include clipping coupons, perusing last-minute newspaper advertisements and considering the alignment of the planets so that obscene savings would, indeed, be assured), she also convinced me to take just one daughter at a time—which was a slightly brilliant move. Okay, it was pure genius.

Admittedly, I can’t even take credit for the method employed by my brood to determine who earned the privilege of shopping first. True to form, Thing One and Thing Two settled the matter in a classic rock-paper-scissors fashion, the latter having emerged victorious. I merely served as a witness and as the official hander-outer of the consolation prize—the promise of an equally interminable joyous shopping excursion to the Land of Skinny Jeans and Profoundly Sarcastic T-Shirts, followed shortly thereafter by an epic quest for Converse All-Stars. Pepto Bismol-pink, of course.

The day was memorable if nothing else. Strangely enough, it became even more memorable, punctuated by the discovery of that which rendered me unable to move or speak, except for the tiny gasp that I’m fairly certain I emitted as I stood there, perfectly transfixed by what I saw. Truth be told, my daughter initially made the horrifying discovery and felt compelled to share it with me.

“Mom! Look at THIS!” she shrieked as if a mannequin had been juggling live kittens in the shoe department—which would have been a disturbing yet fascinating sight to behold. “You have to see this! There’s a backpack here for ONE HUNDRED TWENTY BUCKS!” Of course, I made her repeat the aforementioned string of heinousness as if she had uttered an obscenity and I needed to be sure it was, in reality, as impossibly foul as I had understood it to be. And it was.

To be clear, the rogue book bag in question was on sale, but that was beside the point. I couldn’t get past the egregious nature of its original ticketed price. The beauty of shock value had, indeed, been demonstrated as I gawked at the tag in stunned silence. Given to curiosity, I then studied it up close, tugging at its kryptonite-inspired zippers, spinning its endearing little wheels and peering within a multitude of hidden pouches and expandable compartments—frantically searching for that which justified its hideous expense.

Needless to say, I didn’t find it; but I fully expected to unearth a clone of the most remarkable teacher on the planet—one who lived inside that smallish space 24/7, crawling out on command. A pint-sized instructor capable of conveying a deep understanding of the Pythagorean theorem to my dog (never mind less-than-cooperative children). An educator extraordinaire, brimming with enough enthusiasm and patience for six people (and a collapsible Smart Board with tons of pretty markers, too).

Color me delusional, yet again (but not stupid enough to pay $120 for a damn backpack).

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (thoroughly consumed by back-to-school madness). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

The Week before Christmas

An oldie, but a goodie…

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the land

Not a shopper was idle, the stores were all jammed.

The carts were all taken, the traffic—a bear,

We hoped that a parking place still would be there.

The children were whining from dawn until dusk,

“You must spoil us rotten!” they grumbled and fussed.

With MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Saks,

The plastic was certain to work to its max.

When out in the shrubs there arose such a clatter,

I tossed up the bills to see what was the matter.

Away to the bushes I ran like a deer,

“The ladder’s so tipsy; he’s fallen, I fear!”

The cursing and shouting that came from his lips,

Ranked higher than ALL of his Freudian slips.

When, what to my wondering eyes should be found,

But a tangle of lights and my spouse on the ground!

He had twisted and twirled our new lights ‘round his head,

His ankles, an arm—so mad he was red.

More wrath than the Grinch and the Scrooge put together,

He stomped and he thrashed in the cold, snowy weather.

“Now tangles! Now snarls! Be gone in a jiffy!”

“Stop blinking! Stop flashing! Light right now! Look spiffy!”

“To the top of the hedge, to the top of the pine,

Now, light away! Light away! Give us a sign!”

As I helped him untangle himself from the mess,

We spoke of the folks who would soon be our guests.

My brother! His sister! Oh how the list grew!

My parents! His mother! Just WHAT would we do?!

I had not one inkling, how we would endure—

A day so immersed with our kinfolk, for sure.

“There are carrots to peel, and beds to be made!

This floor must be scrubbed! I’m beginning to FADE!”

“The gifts should be wrapped, the tree trimmed just right,

I wonder why I thought my plan was so bright!”

“It’s a bungled up mess!” my husband exclaimed.

“And I know exactly, WHO should be blamed.”

His brow—how it wrinkled! His manner—how wary!

Like the day that America failed to pick Kerry.

The smile he once wore there, oh where did it go?

I searched high and low, there. I just didn’t know.

“So why all the fussing? What IS your big beef?”

“You’d think that Osama was coming! GOOD GRIEF!”

“Your mother—she’ll cook, and my brother—he’ll scrub.”

“When things get too stressful, we’ll all hit the pub.”

“Your sister will wrap all the gifts up with glee!”

“And all will contribute to trimming the tree!”

Then a wink of his eye and something he said,

Soon made me recall, just why we were wed.

“There’s no doubt that our mottled clans have their own quirks.

But stranger than fiction, it actually works.

Like everyone’s crew, we all share some woes.

Each life has some oddness; that’s just how it goes.”

So I hugged him and thanked him for telling me so,

How fitting it was, to be near mistletoe.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2004 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Tree is Nice, Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction