Tag Archives: spring

Cloudy with a Chance of Gnats

Lately I feel as though I’ve been thrust onto the set of a horror film. One in which the entire planet has been overtaken by a massive swarm of gnats—those unspeakably irksome creatures that I despise beyond all comprehension. Everywhere, it seems, the winged beasts are expertly poised to attack, kamikaze style—on packed playgrounds, in busy parking lots, in back yards brimming with picnickers and across vast expanses of athletic fields, lush with slick, green grass. Armies of said clusters-of-doom stand ready (they hover, actually) to unleash their merciless wrath upon the innocent and upon the fools who neglect or refuse to douse themselves with bug spray.

I have to wonder, what exactly is the purpose of the gnat—aside from wreaking havoc upon the civilized world one sufficiently annoyed being at a time? They must lurk near the bottom of the food chain, I’d surmise, serving as sacrificial sustenance for bats or birds or something toad-ish. Gak!

That said, whenever I venture outside it’s as if my head is a giant nucleus besieged by a cloud of deranged, piranha-like, helter-skelter-inspired electrons—ones inclined to gnaw upon my flesh, to become entangled in my hair, to buzz incessantly in my ears, to viciously invade my nasal cavities and to perhaps bore inside my brain where they would then read my thoughts and replace them with the idiotic notions of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

Feels like a horror flick, remember?

Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of inhaling the wretched things, of fishing their sodden carcasses from my eyes and of waving my arms like a madwoman just so I can string two coherent sentences together while conversing with someone in the great outdoors. Someone, ostensibly, flapping like a lunatic as well.

“Just keep talking!” I shout, “Never mind this insanely stupid-looking flurry of clapping and slapping and grabbing fistfuls of what I hope are DEAD BUGS! I’m still listening to you…(insert horrendous hacking noises and the sound of spitting out wads of freshly moistened gnats)…really, I am!”

Viewed from afar, and from the encapsulated havens of cars, those plagued by the loathsome vermin must truly look like a bunch of loons, swinging wildly in the air, lunging erratically to and fro, cursing at the demons thought to exist just inches away. Straightjacket material.

Yep. That’s me. The dolt on the soccer field at dusk. Wishing like crazy that I had worn a hat…so I could whack the bejesus out of them. At least there’s some satisfaction in that. “Squishing gnats—it does a body good.” Mine, that is. Not the gnat’s so much. Indeed, there’s something inherently cathartic about the process of snuffing the life out of a bothersome bug and, of course, my brood gets a huge charge out of the sadistic commentary that generally follows.

“Are you the next of kin, my dears?”  (My heathens nod, eagerly awaiting the punch line)

“Well, in my expert medical opinion, Mr. Gnat had a horrible headache……..right before he became entirely flat. He is dead, I am afraid.”

It’s a completely different matter, however, when something not-so-gnat-ish dies. There are tears, rambling eulogies and makeshift tombstones (etched with names like Pooper, Froggy and Slimy) for beloved souls like tadpoles, frogs and even worms. Cats receive lengthy graveside services as one would expect and pet goldfish, a ceremonial burial at sea with a woeful dirge softly wafting in the background. Taps usually.

Gnats, on the other hand, are the scum of the earth and infinitely expendable, methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (cursing at gnats and whatnot).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Me Myself and I, Rantings & Ravings

Spring Training’s Gone to the Dogs

Not so long ago, I attempted (and, for all intents and purposes, failed) to housetrain my dog. That said, it was an exasperating affair that caused me unspeakable grief and torment.

In disbelief I crane my neck to find the source, scanning the skies while the faint yet relentless honking and squawking of Canada geese filters to my ears from high above—a wayward trail of dots scattered across a brilliant blue canvas, inching ever northward as one. Each year the scenario is the same; I am awed by the magnificence of such an event. Inspired by its significance. Reminded, once again, of its meaning—that spring has finally arrived. That long-awaited season of growth and renewal is upon us at last, despite its fits and starts throughout the fickle month of March. It’s the elixir of life—bottled abundantly in the form of sunshine, green leafiness and the incessant twitter of songbirds.

Likewise, the advent of baseball season and its much-heralded prologue, Spring Training, remind me that we are on the cusp of something wonderful. I only wish it were so with respect to the “spring training” of my dog, Jack. That feels more like teetering on the edge of despair—as if I’m doomed to spend the rest of my days trying to get a persnickety pooch to piddle and poo in the right place. Preferably outdoors. Without adopting a colony of ticks and/or fleas in the process. Quite frankly, it’s been a challenge beyond almost any I have ever faced—which baffles me to no end. I potty-trained three kids, after all.

I just don’t get it. The task itself doesn’t look all that difficult. For years I’ve watched people take little jaunts with their dogs and thought, “That’s not so tough—a monkey could probably walk a dog and make him pee. Why don’t I get a dog? Then I’d get more exercise and fresh air and all that good stuff. Yeah, a dog would be nice.”

Little did I know, training said tail-wagger would be an exasperating affair—one that would cause me unspeakable grief and demand that I devour each and every syllable of the assertions I had so erroneously made.

Mostly, I think it’s because the dog in question isn’t particularly interested in seeing that I achieve my objective—getting him to relieve himself in a timely fashion in the appropriate location, with or without treats and an inordinate amount of cajoling. His objective, apparently, carries far more appeal—that which involves stumbling upon and inspecting (but hopefully, not eating) all-that-is-completely-deplorable-and-dreadfully-repulsive on the face of the earth. Stuff like deer droppings, cigarette butts, wads of chewing gum and discarded Band-Aids, snippets of carrion and, of course, dog dung—at all stages of decomposition deserve an untold degree of scrutiny. His fuzzy snout, it seems, is keenly drawn to every speck of foulness that lurks in our path. The ranker the entity, the better—in his beady little eyes.

My function: to plant myself there at the end of the leash like a dutiful dolt until he is completely satisfied with having sniffed-to-death whatever it was that piqued his interest in the first place, feigning both patience and understanding. Further, as his loyal companion I must tolerate his sinfully erratic movements and delusions of grandeur that center around an unwavering belief that he is a draft horse on a mission to haul me into a neighboring county. How an eight-pound ball of fluff can drag me anywhere is beyond me. But he does; and is happy to do so, huffing and puffing, his tongue flapping all the way—to the next bit of repulsiveness, that is. “Who knows,” I reason, “…maybe that will be the ‘bit of repulsiveness’ that makes him deposit his own ‘bit of repulsiveness!’”

So when we do finally decide to venture out into the world at large, I suppose it should be no surprise to me that the muttonhead acts like a deranged squirrel, skittering hither and yon in an absolute panic over the feast for the senses bestowed upon him. It’s the ultimate canine smorgasbord, featuring a whole host of odoriferous items that must be classified somewhere on that hideous Stench Scale. Needless to say, I hold on tight lest he yank my shoulder out of its socket.

As luck would have it, my charges often tag along for the festivities, scouring great patches of earth for evidence of poo. Shouts of, “Fresh poopie alert, Mom! Let Jack smell it quick!” can be heard far and wide.

Like the geese, I suppose it’s yet another harbinger of spring. Then again, I’ve been told I don’t know Jack.

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

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Doggie Diamonds, Rantings & Ravings, Vat of Complete Irreverence

Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Spring

Thus far in the journey (i.e. the unmerciful season of sickness), my brood remains reasonably healthy; but I remember well LAST spring. Ugh.


There’s nothing quite like being plagued unmercifully with an illness while the splendor of spring dances outside, taunting and teasing and souring those who fall victim—a goodly chunk of their joy deemed stolen forever. I expect such pestilence to invade my happy home in the dead of winter, wending its way through my entire brood one-by-one, sparing no one but the damned dog and a couple of self-absorbed cats. I’m prepared for the onslaught of such maladies at that juncture, armed with vaporizers and Vicks, hot water bottles and hurling buckets, multi-symptom this and meltaway that and cases upon cases of that grape-ish, sickly-sweet tonic that promises to tame sniffles, sneezes, coughs, fevers, sore throats and whatever else might ail the masses.

However, I find it especially agonizing (okay, downright brutal) to endure feeling entirely rotten (and caring for those who feel entirely rotten) while on the cusp of something as wonderful as the vernal equinox. In my mind, it smacks of cruel and unusual punishment in a world already riddled with gross injustices—like being saddled with kids who refuse to sleep through the night till they’re in kindergarten, or getting stuck with a wayward grocery cart with at least one defective wheel and a penchant for careening into towers of produce. It’s all so completely unfair.

That said, with virtually every sickness comes the insufferable issue of medicine—more specifically, getting the wily urchins to consume it without calling in the cavalry at 3 am or threatening to make a trip to the ER “…where a mean and horrible troll will make you take it if you don’t take it for Mommy PRECISELY NOW.” Okay. It’s what I want to say upon drizzling 14 bazillion teaspoonfuls of whatevericillin across my countertops and watching gobs of the pasty stuff seep into my carpet as I wait for my less-than-cooperative progenies to slurp it down already. With a gallon of water and a Cheez-It chaser, of course, “…to make the icky-ness go away, Mom.”

What’s more, some of the lovely little medications our dear children are prescribed transform Sweet Suzie into Broomhilda the Beast—a highly disturbed, shriek-happy demon child who (when she snaps) devours Legos by the fistful, pummels hapless siblings at will and spins her head around and around as if possessed—especially when demands are not immediately met. Insane flailing of the arms and stomping of the feet are optional and left to the discretion of the unruly creature in question—all of which we must tolerate with a smile.

Likewise, (and without hesitation) we must happily convert our living rooms into makeshift sickbays, covering our couches with blankets, comfy pillows and beloved stuffed animals, lining our coffee tables with a vast array of whatever-said-sickly-child-might-desire-for-the-interminable-duration—to include a monstrous wad of tissues, soup that will be warmed roughly 300 times and will eventually become fused to the magazine smartly placed beneath it, a freshly sneezed-upon TV remote, a box of soon-to-become-contaminated crackers, a library of books and a new bicycle, puppy or pony for good measure.

Moreover, parents are often faced with the challenge of answering the unanswerable when illnesses strike, testing our resolve nearly every waking moment. “Mom, why do I always have to get so sick every spring? It’s entirely horrible,” Thing One recently lamented after nearly hurling in her bowl of Lucky Charms.

“I don’t know, Hon. Maybe it’s because it’s been really windy lately and the bad germs somehow get whirled and twirled around and then blown back inside where we breathe them.” Or maybe God hates us and we’re simply doomed to misery every year during March and April, said the optimist.

Thing Two of course chimed in with her impossible-to-field question, “Mom, why is it that March has to come in and go out like a lion or a lamb? Why couldn’t it just be a worm and a jaguar? Worms are gentle, you know. And jaguars bite people’s heads off.”

I had nothing for that. So (yet again) I failed to offer an explanation that was even remotely satisfying to her. Oh well. No one on the planet seems to agree on the lion/lamb thing anyway, because of course there are no clear-cut guidelines for determining what defines “coming in (or going out) like a lamb/lion” as it relates to weather. Hence, the barrage of inane questions from curious-minded second graders. Second graders remarkably adept at contracting (and sharing) a whole host of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad maladies.

Woe is me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live with a bunch of sick-os. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, Sick-O Central

Child’s Play

(This post describes an event of 2009, as I fondly recall my children’s spring break/Easter holiday)…

Listen closely. That’s the sound of relief. A shameless sigh. A groan of gratitude. A wanton release of the pent up frustration I’ve felt as a mother ever since Frick and Frack (i.e. my wily second graders) made landfall for what seemed perpetuity. In truth, their recent spring break/Easter holiday lasted a mere seven days, but somehow it was suggestive of so much more.

Nevertheless, I survived and all is well. Routine has returned to this good house. Bedtimes and baths have been reinstated. A modicum of order has been restored. And much of my sanity, reclaimed. But even still, I stumble upon remnants of my children’s ever-widening sphere of influence—remnants for which I have been given specific instructions. “Don’t. Move. Anything. Mom.” The anything, of course, includes Easter baskets and eggs, Legos and Lincoln Logs, dominoes and dinosaurs, puzzles and Polly Pockets, Barbies and board games among other infinitely intrusive playthings that currently festoon my home. “We’re still playing with them.” It would also be inclusive of the masterfully created eggshell-soapsuds-coffee-cocoa-flour-splash-of-vanilla mixture (i.e. “our serious soup”) brewed in the kitchen sink during that infamous respite from the Land of Books and Pencils. Gak.

That said, in an extraordinarily weak moment I entered into an agreement with my daughters some time ago—one engineered specifically for the purpose of addressing the many and varied complaints I’ve voiced that involve their beloved toys and my complete and impassioned hatred of clutter. A binding-ish contract that also loosely defines the term “still” so that an obscene degree of latitude is then granted to the parties affected. More specifically, my charges could be asleep, on the soccer field, in the classroom or outside foraging for worms while technically described as “still playing” with whatever foolish tripe happens to be in the middle of my living room or sloshing around in the sink. So there it remains. Ad nauseam. Arrrrrg.

There is an upside, however. A bright side to my disaster-in-the-making. For seven glorious days and nights I was assigned a role other than Homework Nazi, Nag Queen and Merriment Wrecker—whose collective mission in life is to snuff out goodness and joy at every turn. Instead, I let my soon-to-be third graders lounge in PJ’s by day and linger outside in the dusk, long after the robins had disappeared into the thicket, dark and damp with approaching nightfall. I watched them dig in the dirt, climb trees and chase each other around in the cool grass, swords held high, exultant shouts filling the air. I tossed wiffle ball after wiffle ball until we could no longer track its blurred path and instead listened for the telltale crack of the bat and the familiar whir of the ball, reminding me of the vestiges of summer when we raced around the yard at sundown, deep into September, finally tucking away those precious bits of plastic in a corner of the garage—the place where they would winter seemingly forever.

What’s more, I spent some quality time indoors with my brood, allowing myself to become immersed within their imaginary world for a few delicious moments each day. Just for fun I assisted in the construction of countless works of genius (i.e. log homes with ramshackle roofs and rickety foundations). I learned the ins and outs of kid-logic for games like Guess Who and Concentration. Further, I eavesdropped on utterly priceless conversations featuring Littlest Pet Shop “people,” various stuffed animals and the sprawling harem of Barbies and Bratz dolls who reside here. Of course, this took me back to a time when my oldest made her shampoo bottles “talk” at the edge of the tub till her seemingly endless chatter dwindled, the water lost its warmth and her fingers and toes had grown whitish and wrinkled. Likewise, it made me smile to think the aforementioned dolls held similar discussions roughly 15 years ago, although no one had so much as envisioned those tawdry Bratz doll beasts. Perhaps it’s just as well.

Looking back on the week, I’m not so sure the death of structure was such a bad thing. There is something to be said for a less-than-jammed-to-the-hilt schedule, for a dearth of all-things-schoolish and for play that is free of boundaries and rife with spontaneity. Lounging around in PJ’s all day of course has its merit, too, giving rise to yet another great sigh of relief from this camp.

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

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Mushy Stuff