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The Pretenders

It’s mid-July and already there is talk of the horrors of middle school. Mind you, neither of my 10-year-old progenies will enter the sixth grade this coming fall, however the inescapable seeds of dread have apparently been sown. Chief among their concerns (aside from being stuffed inside a locker and/or trampled by a herd of eighth graders) is the notion that one’s imagination tragically dies upon leaving elementary school—a date which, incidentally, will occur exactly 325 days from now. Not that anyone’s counting, although I’d be lying if I denied my woeful lament regarding the finite quality of childhood. Indeed, it saddens me greatly to think of the fleeting years during which we embrace the fanciful worlds that children create. Worlds into which I am occasionally welcomed and sometimes thrust—even still. (i.e. “Hello, I’m Mrs. Snobs from London, and I’ll be needing your lipstick and heels straightaway. Is that alright, Mum?”)

That said, the Land of Make Believe is a very real place where kids spend a delicious portion of their lives, both emotionally invested and purposefully engaged in the important business of play. And no matter how many times I see it—a child wholly immersed within the depths of his or her imagination—I am awestruck by its palpable nature and the pure catharsis it engenders. Translation: For whatever reason, it seems that children need to pretend much like they need to breathe. At least mine do. I’ve watched it a thousand times; the here and now melts away, time is suspended indefinitely and the gateway to another dimension yawns invitingly.

That’s how it happens here anyway. Legions of Barbies beckon, some of whom wear sequined gowns or soft, cottony dresses—ones that have been cleverly fashioned with Kleenexes and obscene quantities of Scotch tape. Still others gallivant about the place wearing nothing at all, completely unabashed by their nakedness and entirely unaffected by their tenuously attached heads. Never mind the dolls with mismatched earrings and severed limbs (i.e. let us not forget my charges’ enthrallment with one-legged Ken and Headless Hildegard). Ironically, what seems problematic to me is of little consequence to those thoroughly engrossed within an ever-emerging narrative—one that typically involves hordes of plastic people with perfect teeth and painted-on smiles.

Likewise, throngs of endearing little dogs, miniature ponies and Pokémon collectibles speak to my brood—

as do the massive herds of hideous-looking (and disturbingly pointy) dinosaurs I’ve grown accustomed tofinding with my feet in the dead of night. It’s a small price to pay, though, given that I get to witness all manner of drama unfold before me as I eavesdrop on the disjointed conversations that the aforementioned beasts evidently have. (i.e. “My dear, you’ve already had THREE stegosauruses today, which is entirely shameful. I’m afraid you’ve become a glutton—so there will be NO PIE for you this evening.”) That is, of course, if I remain quiet and still for the duration of said performances—invisible almost—to a select pair of pretenders who are, at times, embarrassed to be pretending.

There are stuffed animals here, too—ones that fairly transcend the bounds of meaning for my children. As one might expect, they’re threadbare from years of love and being dragged, hauled and/or carted virtually everywhere. Of course, they belong to our family now, having adopted a certain humanness that, oddly enough, even my husband and I recognize. Surely it makes sense to buckle them in when we travel, to kiss them good night at bedtime and to include them as we hold hands during grace. They are the very same creatures for whom search and rescue missions are orchestrated and vigils are held when, inevitably, they are lost…the ones that my daughters feel compelled to dress in doll clothes and toddler underwear…the ones with whom secrets are shared and frustrations are voiced…the ones who listen, comfort and understand unconditionally…the ones who may well journey to a faraway place one day—like college or perhaps a first apartment.

…which is okay by me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (hoping that my children’s imagination never truly dies). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, Kid-Speak

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Please believe me, oh great giver-of-gifts, I know you love my children dearly and that you’d do almost anything to make them happy this Christmas. You’re a kind and generous soul. And make no mistake about it; I’ve recognized (with the help of countless reminders) how hard my heathens have tried to be good and grateful and well-mannered these past 351 days. But in the interest of preserving what remains of my sanity, would you please give some consideration to the following bit of information?

1)    For the record, I don’t need any lizards or llamas, bats or birds, real live chicks or even eggs that will hatch. Nor do I have any desire whatsoever for an ant farm and an accompanying anteater (“…in case it breaks open and ants are crawling EVERYWHERE, Mom!”). Furthermore, I have absolutely no use for a potbellied pig or a goat for that matter. Are we perfectly clear on that? NO POTBELLIED PIG. NO GOAT. Period. Also, please ignore all future requests—maddeningly incessant as they might be—for another cat. Seriously. Perish the thought.

2)    Additionally, please take note: it is totally unnecessary to spoil my charges by spending $54 (EACH!) on flimsy pajamas that happen to match those worn by the very dolls they begged for last year. That’s simply ludicrous. Get a grip, Santa. Give Mrs. Claus a new nightie or something instead.

3)    Moreover, bear in mind that I have yet to summon the strength necessary to parent those who thirst for danger. More specifically, those who would willfully and gleefully ride a skateboard, a motorcycle or roller skates down an impossibly sheer slope. Blindfolded. On fire. During an earthquake. I have enough trouble tolerating the wretched scooters they so adore. Perhaps by next year I will have purged from memory my own horrific skateboarding disaster (i.e. the face plant I made one summer afternoon on a gravelly patch of pavement at an inordinately high rate of speed). But who could forget eight stitches? They were purple. And stubbly. And infinitely intriguing to all my friends who wanted to touch the freakish goatee I had seemingly sprouted from my chin. That being said, please refrain from delivering any of the aforementioned instruments of evil.

4)    Bratz, begone! I trust this emphatic petition is self-explanatory, oh Jolly One. Barbies, by contrast, are perfectly acceptable in this household. Besides, I find it largely disturbing that many among our sprawling Barbie community have lost heads and limbs for whatever reason. Intactness would be a welcome change.

5)    Also, if you must darken my door with all-that-makes-noise (I mean music), I beg of you that each sinful device (read: trumpet-kazoo-recorder-drum-keyboard-microphone-guitar-tambourine-maraca-like piece of idiocy) be suitably equipped with soundproofing, some sort of on/off switch or at the very least a volume control thingy. Thank you, in advance.

6)    Also, kindly be advised that my humble abode lacks the space necessary to house the grand and glorious, five-story kitty hotel that my kids have been whining about since the middle of summer. Honestly, it is outlandishly opulent, highly impractical and offensively massive. If you so much as think about bestowing such a monstrosity upon us, I will have no choice but to forego the cookies next year. You can count on broccoli instead, you silly little elfin man.

7)    What’s more, I would be immeasurably displeased to discover a pile of pretend dog poop in anyone’s stocking, never mind those repugnant Walter the Farting Dog creatures. Egads!

8)    Furthermore, Santa, read my lips: NO MORE SILLY@$$ ELECTRONIC GADGETRY. I am appallingly inept when it comes to programming any and all gizmos of a technological nature. I hereby resign from said post effective today.

9)    And for the love of God, NO MORE WATER BALLOONS, GLITTER GLUE OR BATHTUB TOYS. They are the bane of my existence. Enough said.

10) And sweet Jesus, please, please, please don’t bless us with another puppy this Christmas—at least not one that routinely gnaws on furniture, pees indiscriminately, consumes chew toys, destroys leashes (four and counting), eats holes in the carpet, nibbles on Frisbees, plastic Army men and Barbie stilettos, considers deer droppings a delicacy and is entirely bent on causing bodily harm during jaunts in the great outdoors—via our garrote-like tether coupled with a frenzied demeanor and the pirouette dance I have grown to know and loathe. I simply cannot handle another floppy-eared bundle of joy. Not now. Not ever.

11) I would, however, be thrilled to receive an indestructible dog leash dipped in Kevlar, perhaps, and maybe a ridiculously huge cardboard box. Empty, of course. The one you so graciously left for my brood three years ago was far and away the most fabulous item under the tree. It was the gift that kept on giving—till early spring, as I recall.

Sincerely,

Planet Mom

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Cat Chronicles, Doggie Diamonds, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

On the Cusp of Christmas: 12 Days of Lunacy

It has certainly been said that normal is relative. Clichés aside, the only notion of which I am completely certain is that my family is relatively un-normal—especially during the maddening month of December. For whatever reason, being on the cusp of Christmas seems to make those with whom I reside even more deranged than usual. I am no exception.

Once the feathery flakes and the distinctive sound of sleigh bells fill the air (and the bitter cold makes me seriously entertain the notion of spooning the dog), I am smitten with holiday cheer. I make lists. I shop. I hang mistletoe here and a slew of stockings there. I heap great masses of fake pine boughs atop windows and door frames, twisting it unmercifully around banisters and idle children. I devise convoluted and exceedingly impracticable (read: destined-to-fail) plans for that-which-needs-to-be-done-before-Christmas. I begin squirreling away Scotch tape and shameful quantities of wrapping paper that beckon to me from afar. I formulate a cheesy State of the Union/holiday letter in my head, vowing to embellish twice as much as last year. I actually clean—because it is ENTIRELY WRONG to set a crèche full of camels, sheep, the wise guys et al upon a layer of dust so thick it would choke the sweet baby Jesus. Sprinkle me with a wealth of tacky ads aimed at my heart (yet cleverly striking my wallet and guilt-ridden, impulse-buying command center) and I’m well on my way to becoming profoundly immersed in the season of good cheer. Ho ho ho.

Yet it is clear the Yuletide frenzy thing plays no favorites in this household. Indeed, I watched it literally consume a seemingly lucid individual (aka Captain Quirk) as it drove him to hoist his entire body into the far recesses of our attic at an ungodly and completely frigid hour—so that he might haul wreaths, herds of electric deer and plastic whateverness to the lawn. He then hammered a multitude of tent stake thingies into the frozen ground (sans gloves)—so the hoofed creatures would, in theory, refrain from toppling over and making a mockery of his efforts. And let us not forget the colorful language that filled the air that night, the clothes that offered a mere suggestion of warmth and the ferreting-around-in-the-basement for a tangle of extension cords that were decidedly less-than-cooperative—especially when our heathens wove deliriously in and around said lawn luminaries. For a fleeting moment, he foolishly considered stringing lights, too, and hunting for a stupid screw to repair an apparent defect that made our antlered wonder violently jerk its head back and forth.

Thankfully, though, those little thoughts went away.

Of course, the circus-like hauling-of-Christmas-décor could have waited until the wind stopped howling. Or until sunrise. Or mid-damned-day for that matter. Sadly, the man’s thoughts and actions on that particular evening were not related to anything derived by logic. December lunacy had struck with a vengeance.

Later that week, in fact, it led us both to question the notion that we were fairly sensible parents—having succumbed to the irresistible allure of a last minute/late night sale in which we chose to drag our sorry brood through aisle after aisle of wonderfulness kid-tedium on a (gasp!) SCHOOL NIGHT so that we might snatch some good deals on Christmas gifts for friends and family. “Mom, don’t you know we’re THE ONLY KIDS in here?!”

Naturally, my husband and I blame our inexcusably imprudent behavior on the celebrated 12 Days of Lunacy.

Even our charges have been afflicted with this so-called malady, cleverly weaving coveted items into everyday conversations, leaving updated versions of wish lists seemingly everywhere, laying fliers from various toy stores in can’t-miss-it regions of our home and dog-earing favorite pages for our convenience. What’s more, Frick and Frack have been acting peculiar since the first of the month—remembering to flush toilets, to pick up their shoes and to abstain from bludgeoning one another with snow shovels and whatnot. That said, they’ve been minding their p’s and q’s almost to a sickening degree, obsessing over the very uncertain nature of being placed on Santa’s “Nice List” methinks.

A coincidence, no?

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (on the cusp of Christmas). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, Vat of Complete Irreverence, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Assume Nothing When it Comes to Toy Assembly–and on Christmas Eve, Even Less

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a person simply by looking at how they handle three things in life: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas lights. No doubt, “toy assembly” could easily be added to that list. Even more telling—toy assembly WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS on CHRISTMAS EVE. Yep, WAY telling.

Needless to say, my husband and I learned plenty about one another last year on December 24th as we struggled to remain calm despite the plight that befell us. Let’s make that volumes we learned. Hells bells, it was an EDUCATIONAL FEAST.

At precisely 3 p.m. that day we made what could only be described as a horrifying discovery: One of the toys we had purchased—a multi-level, 56-inch, 197-piece Swiss Family Robinson style doll/tree house—had NO instructions. That’s right—NONE. Zip. Zilch. Nada. We know this to be true since we nearly destroyed the box in our frantic search for said directional material, to no avail. And no matter how many times we shoved our heads inside the box, tipped it on end and meticulously examined each little packet that poured out, we were faced with the same grim reality: THEY JUST WEREN’T IN THERE. And no amount of wishing would have made them appear; although at one point I seriously considered phoning the North Pole to make a special request. I may as well have.

Firstly, we tried contacting the store where we bought the blasted thing. No luck. It just so happened to be the last one on the shelf; so we couldn’t drive there to make an exchange, nor could we tear into another box to peek at its instructions. (Hey, we were desperate!) We then called the manufacturer, whose kind, caring and oh-so-compassionate answering machine wished us a politically correct “Happy Holidays!”

“Lovely—just lovely,” we thought. Perhaps it’s best that we didn’t leave a message. It would have been ugly.

We even got online in hopes that those elusive assembly guidelines would be available for downloading. Perish the thought. Too sensible. In lieu of that, we were able to view photos of the wretched thing—FULLY ASSEMBLED, I might add. All 197 pieces. Together. As one. Totally indivisible. Earnestly I studied that picture; somehow it just didn’t seem plausible that it had once been a jumbled mass of wooden thingies. Duct tape and/or Super Glue HAD to have entered the picture at some point. Although I was hoping they wouldn’t be a part of our solution that night. Stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile the clock kept ticking. We were due in church soon and after that we had tentatively planned to WRAP EVERYTHING (Procrastination Central here…)—so using that precious time to assemble what had become a monstrosity of a toy was out of the question. It was now or never. Do or die.

So the two of us (Tweedledee and Tweedledum) pooled our meager resources—common sense, manual dexterity, mechanical ability and patience—and met the challenge head on. After two full hours of heated debate, we emerged from the basement victorious. The “monstrosity” had been assembled—totally without the aid of duct tape, glue or a single marriage counselor. Unquestionably, the picture on the box had saved us. Had it not appeared there in such fine detail, I am certain that we would have been the proud owners of 197 distinct wooden thingies.

I suppose then we could have presented the silly thing (unassembled) as one of those colossal “gift projects.” You know, “the gifts that keep on frustrating….” Granted, it might not have been completed till now, but it would have certainly lived up to its claim: PROVIDES HOURS OF ENTERTAINMENT. Indeed, that would have been highly entertaining; but I wouldn’t know as much about my spouse now, would I?

But then again, I’ve seen him handle tangled Christmas lights.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Chicken Man, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Pottery Barn Lust

Stop it, Pottery Barn. Stop making my kids drool over that which I cannot afford and would never buy anyway. Have you no shame?! My children now hate me. Yes, HATE me—not for demanding that they close your four-color rag at eleven-fricking-fifteen in the evening and get ready for bed already, or for failing to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately as they flip through its pages delirious with wanton desire, but for not dropping everything to order this and that foolish bit of tripe splashed across the landscape of your wondrously opulent magazine. Grok!

Just so you know, I’m on to you. I am. I really am. I’m not even remotely beguiled by your clever little ruse: that of seducing domestically challenged moms everywhere with your pristine layouts, color-coordinated ensembles, outrageously organized living spaces and exquisitely charming patterns that make me weak with desire. Sheez, the uncluttered environment alone makes me shudder with unadulterated pleasure.

Further, you’ve seized upon every mom’s woeful lament: Oh how I long for everything to be in its place, which is utterly disgraceful, you despicable opportunists. And I find your agenda (hidden or otherwise) to be rather disturbing—one that smacks of trickery and the dastardly element of mind control. Your abundant use of muted hues, tasteful explosions of color and the artsy flair you brazenly display is likewise, contemptible, luring us deeper and deeper into your lair of deception. Indeed, your deliberate (yet smartly subtle) arrangement of children (i.e. the self-indulgent little twerps you commission to frolic hither and yon, dripping with good cheer, an obscene degree of decorum and perfectly coifed hair) is absolutely sinful. Sinful, I say!

Yea, page after page of gloriously bedecked bedrooms and bathrooms and play rooms, awash with extravagance to die for, makes me ill. Yes, physically ill—because I can’t quell the beast within that shouts, “You’re a horrible mother! If you really loved your kids, you’d buy that monstrosity of a bunk bed with its adorable little study carrel tucked beneath it, and those delicious-looking Adirondack chairs for the lawn and deck! OMG! Don’t deprive your dear children a minute more, you miserly hag! Order this instant, lest the world should stop revolving!”

That said, the ruinous voices inside my head are slowly but surely making me crazy—one insanely heinous syllable at a time. “Where, oh where will the madness end?” I beg of you. “Begone now, exorbitantly priced beach towels, backpacks and bedding! And take your foolish monograms with you! Don’t forget those pricey jungle-inspired, flower-power-ish, skateboard-esque, pretty-in-pink, ocean-and-surfboard-riddled bedroom themes either. I’ve seen enough already! My kids HATE me, remember?! They loathe the Wal-Mart-ish budget to which I am a slave and will soon be talking trash about me to their nose-mining cronies. Oh, the horror!”

“But before you go, dear Pottery Barn folk, please answer me this: what’s with the legions of baskets, buckets and boxes with which you festoon seemingly every page? Do you actually KNOW children who would willingly place their beloved schlock in a receptacle so intended simply because it is labeled as such?! Are you completely delusional—or do you just revel in your ability to make parents feel pitifully inadequate, as if they couldn’t train a dog to bark let alone instruct a child to put something away?!”

“Never mind,” said the pitifully inadequate mother. “I already know.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (amidst an abundance of clutter, chaos and cheapass décor).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Home for Wayward Toys, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

I Am Still Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving Day and while it’s true I burned the pumpkin pie, the dog whizzed on the floor and the kids refused to wear their fancy-schmancy clothes (despite a number of shameless bribes and idle threats), I am still thankful. Never mind that Thing One wouldn’t eat the turkey over which I had slaved for an eternity, or that Thing Two had an epic meltdown over kitty litter (don’t ask), or that our oldest neglected to text after driving TWO STATES AWAY to visit her dear boyfriend.

I am still thankful.

However, the gods of inclement weather made it snow, then sleet, then rain—which, in turn, wreaked havoc with our highways and byways, making it impossible for my parents to join us for the mother of all feasts—the one I volunteered to prepare in spite of my vastly deficient culinary skills. Our gathering would have to wait.

But I am still thankful.

Furthermore, the 16-hour day in question prompted an abundance of bickering matches among our 9-year-old warring factions, left my husband and me desperate for the suggestion of a nap and initiated a marathon clutter fest involving a disturbing array of candy wrappers and headless Barbie dolls. What’s more, our brood made roughly 63 excursions into the great outdoors (i.e. the snow/sleet/rain whateverness) which then inspired the aforementioned waifs to smuggle snowballs into our home as well as festoon the place with massive quantities of sodden clothing. Again. And again. Ugh.

I suppose it’s days like these—the square ones that fail to fit into the round holes of my so-called master plan—that remind me I have far less control over my life than I’d like to think. Of course, this makes me slightly neurotic given my control freak proclivity. But such is life.

And I am still thankful.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still giving thanks).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Me Myself and I, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, The Woman-Child

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

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