Tag Archives: summertime

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

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

Augustember

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year…at once, savoring every drop of freedom now that my children have returned to the Land of Books and Pencils, while lamenting the passage of summer and all the goodness contained therein.

As August wanes and September draws ever near, I can’t help but dwell on the notion of my freedom—and how utterly delicious it will soon be. But by the same token, I am also reminded of how horribly unprepared I am for all that heading back to school entails. My charges are no more equipped for the first day of second grade than I was for the first hour of motherhood. It’s shameful really. To date, I have amassed next to nothing in the realm of kid gear and gotta-have-it-garmentage for that special square on our calendar. The square now gloriously bedecked with stickers and giddified messages like, “The BIG Day!” and “Yea! The first day of SCHOOOOOOL!!”

If I had my druthers, another 30-day chunk of time would be added to the year, smartly sandwiched between the eighth and ninth months. Say, “Augustember,” or “Pause” (which would be more of a directive than anything). We march into spring; why not pause before forging headlong into fall? Such a godsend would give people like me time to breathe, time to warm up to the idea of letting summer go, time to rummage around for the soccer cleats that by now probably don’t fit anyone anyway.

I’ve never been one to embrace change. More often than not (and if all is well), I like things just the way they are—the same. It’s simply too much work to adapt to something slathered with newness. That being said, I abhor drastic transformations. Dead asleep to total wakefulness. The mildness of spring to the oppressiveness of summer. At the lake. In the lake. Not pregnant. Pregnant. I need generous windows of transition for such things. Time to adjust. Time to switch gears. Time to brace myself for the tsunami-sized wave of change sure to thrust me forward—ready or not.

While it’s true we are on the cusp of yet another promising school year with its sharpened pencils, bright yellow buses and characteristic swirl of excitement enveloping virtually everything and everyone in its path, part of my joy is swallowed up because of what and whom I must become as a result. The bedtime enforcer. The tyrant of tuck-ins. It’s a brutal role of parenthood and one I hate with a passion.

I much prefer gathering my wily charges in from the great outdoors long after the brilliant clouds of pink, orange and crimson have faded to plum, gray and eventually an inky blue-black. There is much to relish between dusk and darkness, when the moon hangs clear and bright, begging to be plucked from the sky and the stars greet the earth one by one, gradually painting the heavens with a milky glow.

At once, the night air is filled with a symphony of crickets, peepers and barefoot children whacking at waffle balls, racing and chasing each other through the cool grass, already laden with dew. Shouts of “Marco…Polo! Marco…Polo!” emanate endlessly from the pool next door along with the muffled thwunks of cannonballs, instantly taking me back to my own youth—the one where Frisbees were thrown until no one could see, where nails were hammered in forts till the woods grew thick with darkness and alive with mosquitoes, where Kool-aid flowed freely, the pool beckoned and the rules for tag were rewritten more than once.

And all was well—much like this good night.

Fireflies are everywhere now, hugging the trees and the darkest spots in the lawn, blinking here…and a moment later, there—signaling would-be mates and captivating all who give chase with Hellmann’s jars in hand. Add the crackle of a campfire, the sweet aroma of toasted marshmallows and the thrill of eavesdropping on children in the midst of any number of conversations and I’m perfectly content. It pains me to put an end to their fun. To rain on their parade. To say goodnight to the Big Dipper and to our constant companions—the lightening bugs.

Naturally, my popularity wanes. Sleep, they must.

But in the end, all is forgiven. Tomorrow is a new day. And there will be more Augusts to savor and a lifetime of moments to give pause.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, A Tree is Nice, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool

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

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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

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

Seize the Summer!

It’s summertime. A scrumptious slice of the calendar devoted to kicking back and drinking in all the goodness a slower pace has to offer. A time to reflect upon what has transpired in this harried life since the days of early September. A time to consume shameful quantities of sweet corn, to ogle tan lines and to permanently etch upon our minds the abundance of produce, the warmth of the sun and the sea of green now present at our doorstep. Come January, we’ll doubt it will ever return.

Aah, dear summer—for you I have waited so long. And I shall savor every drop of laid-back-ness you exude. And yet, there is more—your season represents a grand and glorious opportunity for getting things done. Things we wouldn’t normally pencil into a maxed out schedule. Throughout the year we gather and garner a host of hopeful projects, solemnly promising to paint this, sell that, visit here, organize and clean there—banking on the completion of virtually everything we set out to do. In a word, we’ll get it done. This summer.

As a kid, I remember thinking that the delicious months of June, July and August were roughly equivalent to the Paleozoic Era, generously supplying my cronies and me with a wealth of endless days for building forts, orchestrating baseball games and designing rafts for numerous (and sadly, futile) attempts at creek crossings. September seemed so very far away.

Since then, decades have come and gone. I now recognize that summer is, indeed, a finite chunk of time capable of slipping through one’s fingers like grains of sand. Occasions for doing and seeing that which I deem worthy (to include lazy afternoons spent in the sandbox with my kids) are perhaps not quite as plentiful as I once thought. That said, I’ve endeavored to seize what is left of summer by compiling a list of the ordinary and not so ordinary things I’d like to accomplish on or before September 1st.

1)    Finally, FINALLY take my heathens to Knoebels at least once before they head back to school (inspired, of course, by the incessant whining to which I’ve been subjected since the first week of June). “Mom, my ENTIRE CLASS has already been to Knoebels—that’s 22 families, you know!” Note to self: Guilt is an extremely effective motivator.

2)    Learn a new language—more specifically, Pokemon. The driving force behind this particular goal is so that I might communicate with my Pokemon-obsessed children. “Mom, I got Zigzagoon, Pidgeotto, Zubat and Voltorb and all I had to do was trade my Grimer! Isn’t that entirely AWESOME?!!” Sadly, I don’t get it. But I’m hopeful that by September, I will.

3)    Convince my brood that certain things in life are of vital importance (especially as it relates to living with me)—like remembering to flush the toilet, to brush that shock of hair once in a great while and to fight the urge to litter the earth (or my floors and furniture) with wet suits and towels. Ugh.

4)    Actually FINISH something I’ve started—like a book, any number of projects, a purging mission from hell (i.e. an enormously cathartic event in which I chuck various items with wild abandon—most efficiently completed sans children).

5)    Arrive somewhere ON TIME—parties, picnics, assorted camps and swimming lessons, church—you name it. Admittedly, I am severely deficient in the realm of time management. Even my kids know the score. “Daddy always gets us places early, Mom. Why can’t you?”

6)    Train my brood to at least tolerate the ritualistic slathering-of-sunscreen (i.e. to stop hiding behind the couch and screaming, “I HATE sunscreen and I HATE how it tastes! Do you want me to eat it and DIE?!”). Likewise, it would be a welcome change if one or both progenies could perhaps consider said lotions and sprays as something other than pure and unadulterated horribleness in a can.

It’s summertime! Be sure to seize what remains!

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Daily Chaos, Kid-Speak