Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Matters of the Heart

One day not long ago I was assigned a task with a difficulty rating of eleventeen and warned not to screw up under any circumstances (death and/or dismemberment excluded). More specifically, a certain resident of this household (who will remain nameless to protect and preserve her privacy) charged me with the responsibility of delivering an extraordinarily important valentine under the veil of complete anonymity—come hell or high water. Needless to say, the pressure to perform was on.

“Now Mom, let’s get this straight. You promise to drive to his house and put this valentine in his mailbox while I’m at school, right?”

“Right. I promise.”

“And no one will see you, right?”

“Nope. No one will see me.”

“And you won’t tell anyone, right?”

“Not a soul. It’s our little secret.”

“Good. Because I don’t want him (i.e. he who will also remain nameless to protect and preserve his privacy) to know that I’m his secret admirer and if I hand it to him at school, he’ll know (Well duh). And if I hand it to his sister, he’ll know. And if I hand it to his teacher, he’ll know. So it has to go in his mailbox. Today. After the mail gets delivered. Okay?”

“Okay. Today. AFTER the mail gets delivered—lest the dear mailman inadvertently stumble upon said nugget of wonderfulness in the great abyss of the mailbox, feast his eyes upon all-that-is-sweet-and-sentimental, ogle its multitude of carefully crafted, penciled-on hearts and feel all warm and fuzzy inside, pondering the delicious possibility of having a secret admirer somewhere in the vicinity. A secret admirer who would, indeed, invest inordinate quantities of time and energy in order to fashion the consummate valentine—one imbued with sweetness and crafted with care.” Not that the mailman in question doesn’t deserve such a valentine or couldn’t actually have a host of secret admirers eager to shower him with sweet-nothings and whatnot. Maybe he does.

At any rate, I completed the aforementioned mission and kept my vow of silence—till now—because, of course, I can’t help but dwell on the notion that some day (no doubt, all too soon) that child of mine will no longer be filled with the innocence and pureness of heart required to orchestrate such a deed. She’ll be far too grown up for such foolishness and it’ll be far too much of a bother to spend so much time painstakingly decorating something for someone who won’t know from whence it came anyway—which saddens me greatly.

“How completely juvenile,” she’ll likely huff at my suggestion of engaging in a little Valentine-ish fun and brightening someone’s day in the process. “That’s baby stuff, Mom. Everyone knows that.” A roll of the eyes and a flip of the hair will no doubt accompany her remarks.

I suppose I can add it to the list of that which no longer thrills my brood (i.e. hugs and kisses in public, lavender-scented lotion after a bath, help with tangles and pronouncing large and unwieldy eighth-graderish words). Soon, I fear, my charges will stop inviting me inside their sprawling blanket forts to read books and to share secrets. Worse yet, they’ll outgrow the desire to build them altogether. And although I can barely tolerate the scourge of disorder said fortresses bring to my home, I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Likewise, I’ll miss being asked to care for a bevy of stuffed animals while a certain couple of somebodies are away at school. And I’ll rue the day that my van Gogh-inspired progenies no longer insist their prized artwork be displayed on our refrigerator-turned-monstrous-collage—an entity so completely blanketed with bits and fragments of our lives, to know my refrigerator is to know my family.

Regrettably, I can accept what the passage of time may bring; but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to let go just yet. Indeed, my youngest charges are decidedly too cumbersome to hold in my lap, yet I still rock them on occasion. I haul them upstairs to bed now and again, and I reach for their tender hands when we go for walks—walks during which they’re too busy catching snowflakes or harvesting stones to notice my hand in theirs, warm and familiar.

I kiss them in the dead of night, too, just because.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (contemplating matters of the heart on Valentine’s Day and every day).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Protocol of Love

No one writes love letters anymore it seems—the carefully folded squares upon which fools in love used to pour their hearts and souls, wooing the socks off each other with amorous prose and flawless penmanship. There was something to be said for the renderings of hearts pierced with arrows, too, and the TOGETHER FOREVER proclamations that were scribbled in the margins, punctuating the sentiment that flowed from their pens. Never mind the curlicues sprinkled like confetti across the pages of so many heartfelt messages. The handwritten letter, it seems, is all but extinct.

And while Hallmark does its level best to provide us with a host of perfect wordages for every occasion and our love affair with the instantaneous nature of texting, et al. has blossomed beyond all imagining, somehow these methods of communicating fall short. That said, they lack a certain warmth and palpable quality that only handcrafted ink-on-paper love letters possess.

But it’s unlikely that generations from now any curious-minded descendents of my children will happen upon a bundle of yellowed envelopes in a forgotten corner of anyone’s attic. And even if someone did, said discovery certainly wouldn’t be as remarkable as the cache of a dozen or so letters my husband and I unearthed in recent memory—the ones that were affectionately penned almost seven decades ago by a man deeply in love with his future wife—a man who had joined the Navy and was stationed far from home—a man who would one day become my husband’s father—a man that I, sadly, never knew, but whose letters have helped me bridge the gap.

My mother-in-law, of course, had carefully tucked the aforementioned keepsakes away, and it was some time after her passing that we stumbled upon them in a dresser drawer along with war rations and assorted snapshots from their early life together. Call me crazy, but I can’t imagine anyone digitally preserving treasured emails and text messages for much the same purpose. Alas, the world’s collective mindset has become far too intent upon immediacy and the disposable nature of things for that sort of nonsense.

Indeed, the entire landscape of courtship is a different place these days—no thanks to technology. Evidently it’s no longer in vogue to spend a Sunday afternoon having dinner and getting to know the parents of one’s love interest. The youth of today can’t be bothered with idle chitchat or something as dreadfully dull as sitting around in front of a fireplace, tackling a project together or (gasp!) playing cards at the kitchen table. Never mind taking the time to become familiar with his or her family traditions, cultural background or getting a grip on the dynamics within the family unit itself. Evidently, Facebook is the place where those things are shared nowadays—unless and until messiness ensues (i.e. breakups and whatnot). “What then?!” I ask. Does the proper protocol involve un-friending the would-be significant other/potential mate of one’s child? For all intents and purposes, that seems completely gauche to me. And awkward at best. Needless to say, life’s muck-in-the-middle doesn’t translate especially well via social media. A Facebook fail, as it were.

Furthermore, since the advent of cell phones, parents are virtually removed from the day to day connecting with those who feel compelled to telephone ad nauseam. Personally, I like intercepting those calls for my daughters because it gives me a fleeting chance to become better acquainted with the gentleman caller—whether he happens to fit the profile of an axe murderer, he is the epitome of son-in-law-material, or perhaps the most charming fourth grade boy the world will ever know. That said, I’m in no hurry to add Thing One and Thing Two to our ever-expanding cell phone plan. Our land line is just fine, thank you very much.

Likewise, I will rue the day any daughter of mine announces she’s getting married—unless, of course, the aforementioned epitome of son-in-law-material with whom said daughter would be enamored had had the presence of mind to seek our blessing and approval first. As it should be. However, I fear that sort of creature is a dying breed. Even still, I hope he’ll craft an abundance of handwritten love letters—ones that she will save till the ink fades, but not the memories they make together.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the changing face of love).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Be Mine, You Foolish, Foolish Man

Enough already. Quit it. Stop going overboard on Valentine’s Day, you well-intentioned fool in love. The extravagance is just that—extravagant. We already know you love us dearly, so stop trying to prove it with super-sized mushy cards, chocolate galore and the sweetest-smelling roses that plastic can buy. Well, maybe chocolate isn’t such a bad idea, but the rest of the sentimental journeying you do is just fluff. No offense, Romeo.

My intent here is merely to enlighten (ever so gently), not to patronize those who go to incredible lengths each year to woo the socks off a loved one. Your gallant efforts and unbridled enthusiasm are genuinely appreciated. Trust me. But the time and energy you expend, all in the name of love, might prove more fruitful when coupled with a key bit of information. Consider it a tip, a newsflash or the inside scoop on romance, if you will. Take it for what it’s worth (if you so choose)—and by all means, try not to take it personally.

Basically, in my book there are three essential (and timelessly proven) elements to keeping the love alive in a relationship:

1)     TUNE IN TO YOUR PARTNER. And by this I mean observe, listen and really pay attention to what your partner likes, values, needs and genuinely cares about. If you don’t, you will have missed the proverbial boat. If it’s mawkish poetry, a roomful of rose petals or a rock the size of Gibraltar that will make her heart flutter, by all means—go for it. Just be sure that whatever you choose to charm her with does just that. For instance, I’d be charmed to death if my valentine were to surprise me with a weekend getaway for two so I could enjoy a reprieve from Mom Duty. I’d also be thrilled beyond compare to receive a homemade coupon book for that priceless commodity: “alone time” (redeemable in glorious one-hour increments). Foot massages are nice, too. And gentlemen, please please please refrain from last-minute emergency purchases. We weren’t born yesterday, you know. It really shows when little or no thought has gone into a gift—regardless of the price tag.

2)     WORK TO IMPROVE YOUR LOVE LIFE ALL YEAR LONG, NOT JUST IN MID-FEBRUARY. This is a no-brainer. Well, almost. Certainly we understand how life’s hectic pace can get in the way of remembering to remember each other day in and day out. Believe me; we GET the term “hectic.” Probably coined it. But doesn’t it sort of smack of making-up-for-lost-time when not so much as a “hello kiss” or an “I love you” shows up for months on end, then lo and behold, February arrives with a deluge of sweet-nothings whispered in our ears? Makes me downright suspicious. When it comes to relationships, daily maintenance makes far more sense than having to undergo a major overhaul—same with vehicles (only they’re less complicated).

3)     NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF ROMANCE (OR YOUR ABILITY TO BE ROMANTIC). Come on, Valentino, you know this much is true. It’s the spice of life, the door to the soul and the key to nearly every woman’s heart. And for a lot of women, I’d daresay it has little or nothing to do with sex. It has more to do with how you make us feel about ourselves, as well as how valued and respected we are in your eyes. Yep, it’s THAT simple. Once you get that much figured out, understanding women is really a walk in the park. But it’s a really big park, and you’ll probably have to ask for directions at some point, which not many of you are inclined to do. Hence, the mystification problem.

In a nutshell, romance is a powerful thing, but not necessarily viewed the same by all. Naturally, it’s the romancee who determines how romantic (or not) something or someone is. Not the romancer. So be sure to zero in on what will truly melt your valentine’s heart—not just what you THINK will kindle the flames of love, Mr. Casanova. And finally, never ever underestimate yourself; you might be surprisingly romantic when you put your mind (as well as your heart) to the task.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with Valentino himself).

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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It’s the Little Things That Make Life Sweeter

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I can’t help but be reminded of how sweet life truly is on February 14th as well as every other day on the calendar—with or without the chocolate-covered delectables, mawkish cards and heart shaped hoo-ha. Case in point, my husband used to pack little baggies of food for me each day before he left for work, filling them tenderly with freshly peeled carrots, bunches of grapes or a handful of pretzel bites or cashews. Most days there was a half a turkey-on-rye waiting in the wings for me, too, abundantly dressed with lettuce, tomato and provolone. Its mate could likely be found on the same refrigerator shelf, neatly sliced and ready for instant retrieval.

However, it wasn’t a job for the thin-skinned. There were standards to be met. My slightly specific and less-than-succinct criteria: each conveniently bagged delight had to be flavorful (yet devoid of gassiness), it couldn’t be the least bit drippy or crumbly or, Heaven forbid, unwieldy if food can be described as such. Most importantly, I had to be able to consume it using just one hand—often on the fly or holed up in a chair for God-knows-how-long nursing a grexy baby. Or two.

Needless to say, great care and consideration went into preparing such sustenance for me and I was eternally grateful—both for the man’s diligence and for his abiding tolerance of my changeable mood. After all, it was the finger food that served as my salvation during that interminable stage of parenthood (i.e. the maddening era home-alone-with-newborn-twins, when I would have given almost anything for a hot shower or a real sit-down meal with something as fancy as a fork or idle conversation). But the bundles of nourishment he so thoughtfully provided, though short on style, surely delivered that which I needed most: the feeling of being cared for and remembered each day. It was a little thing that made my life that much sweeter.

I’d daresay the majority of what enriches my world could be categorized by most as something seemingly insignificant or ordinary at best. Something perhaps unremarkable to the masses, but dear to me. Like the little notes and drawings my kids stuff inside my pockets and tape to my computer, knowing that later I’ll stumble upon them and smile. Or that my oldest—beyond all logic and understanding—still confides in me and seeks my counsel. Or at the close of an especially trying day in the trenches of Parentville, when I feel like the most horrible mother on earth because I dumped someone’s special potion down the drain or because I forgot to tell the yard crew not to haul away “…our eagle’s nest, Mom!” or because I screamed at them over nothing or because I failed to listen yet again—I get this amazing and completely undeserved gift in the form of a breathy secret whispered in my ear at bedtime, “Mommy, I wouldn’t trade you foranything. Not even for a worm.”

Stuff like that makes me melt. And I’m that much surer it’s the little things in life that matter most. Like the twitter of songbirds after a long, hard winter. A handwritten letter amidst a sea of emails. A yellow moon on the rise. The brackish breeze, the cries of seagulls and the soothing sound of the ocean after driving forever to get there. The way my kids’ eyelashes curl and the thicket of sun-bleached hairs on the napes of their necks. The way my grandmother traced my ears to coax me to sleep. My grandfather’s firm belief that I was “big enough” to help him feed the cows, steer the tractor and hay the fields. Clunking around a farm in real barn boots. The warm muzzle of a horse. The company of a cat. The affection of a dog. The lullaby of crickets. The tang of autumn. The whisper of pines. The crisp scent of a novel, yet to be consumed. Fresh newsprint. Thistledown. Snowflakes. The smell of rain. Holding hands.

I often stumble upon small wonders, too, in unlikely places—like the special stones on someone’s dresser, harvested from Grandma’s house “…to help me remember her, Mom.” And crumbs in someone’s pocket—the remains of a bit of bread “…I saved for Taylor from my lunch today at school. It got all crumbly when we shared it, Mom.” And heartfelt notes of apology—painstakingly folded and carefully wedged between the pages of a favorite book. “Sorry Sadie. I really love you a lot. You’re the best sister ever!”

Of course, there was the strange but wonderful vine, curiously twisted into the shape of a heart, one of my dandies found while foraging in the garage last week. “Here, Mom; it’s for you.” But it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookie she shared with my husband and me recently—the one she cleverly gnawed upon until it, too, resembled a heart.

Indeed, it’s the little things that make life sweeter on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and continue to devour again and again It’s the Little Things, by Craig Wilson, USA Today columnist and friend).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Mushy Stuff, Romance for Dummies

Five Ways to Get What You Really Want for Valentine’s Day

  1. Leave heart-shaped Post-it notes EVERYWHERE (upon which you’ve scrawled shamelessly overt hints regarding what gifts you deem to be perfect in every way). Stuff the little gems in your kids’ lunchboxes, beneath pillows, next to the orange juice and on the steering wheel. Remember, it’s not gauche to do so; indeed, it’s helpful to those who have absolutely no idea how to wow Mom on Valentine’s Day.
  2. Over dinner casually mention to one and all how those “cute little coupon books” the kids gave you for Mother’s Day make you weak with desire—especially when the bearer of said gifts actually makes good on his or her promise to clean the kitchen, fold the laundry or scrub the toilets. Try not to grovel as February 14th approaches.
  3. Bake yourself happy on V-Day. Be sure to employ voluminous quantities of chocolate in the process—to the point of sheer decadence, if you must. And you must.
  4. Turn to two of the most effective motivational devices on the planet: bribery and shame. Or simply order the damn flowers yourself and schedule your well-deserved massage.
  5. Take the bull by the horns and book that romantic getaway to the Caribbean (or wherever). Inform Romeo that you made an executive decision—not unlike the time he insisted his mother “stay another week” in your home.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

(Also published on HybridMom.com!)

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Vat of Complete Irreverence

It’s the Little Things That Make Life Sweeter

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and I can’t help but be reminded of how sweet life truly is on February 14th as well as every other day on the calendar—with or without the chocolate-covered delectables, mawkish cards and heart shaped hoo-ha. Case in point, my husband used to pack little baggies of food for me each day before he left for work, filling them tenderly with freshly peeled carrots, bunches of grapes or a handful of pretzel bites or cashews. Most days there was a half a turkey-on-rye waiting in the wings for me, too, abundantly dressed with lettuce, tomato and provolone. Its mate could likely be found on the same refrigerator shelf, neatly sliced and ready for instant retrieval.

However, it wasn’t a job for the thin-skinned. There were standards to be met. My slightly specific and less-than-succinct criteria: each conveniently bagged delight had to be flavorful (yet devoid of gassiness), it couldn’t be the least bit drippy or crumbly or, Heaven forbid, unwieldy if food can be described as such. Most importantly, I had to be able to consume it using just one hand—often on the fly or holed up in a chair for God-knows-how-long nursing a grexy baby. Or two.

Needless to say, great care and consideration went into preparing such sustenance for me and I was eternally grateful—both for the man’s diligence and for his abiding tolerance of my changeable mood. After all, it was the finger food that served as my salvation during that interminable stage of parenthood (i.e. the maddening era home-alone-with-newborn-twins, when I would have given almost anything for a hot shower or a real sit-down meal with something as fancy as a fork or idle conversation). But the bundles of nourishment he so thoughtfully provided, though short on style, surely delivered that which I needed most: the feeling of being cared for and remembered each day. It was a little thing that made my life that much sweeter.

I’d daresay the majority of what enriches my world could be categorized by most as something seemingly insignificant or ordinary at best. Something perhaps unremarkable to the masses, but dear to me. Like the little notes and drawings my kids stuff inside my pockets and tape to my computer, knowing that later I’ll stumble upon them and smile. Or that my oldest—beyond all logic and understanding—still confides in me and seeks my counsel. Or at the close of an especially trying day in the trenches of Parentville, when I feel like the most horrible mother on earth because I dumped someone’s special potion down the drain or because I forgot to tell the yard crew not to haul away “…our eagle’s nest, Mom!” or because I screamed at them over nothing or because I failed to listen yet again—I get this amazing and completely undeserved gift in the form of a breathy secret whispered in my ear at bedtime, “Mommy, I wouldn’t trade you for anything. Not even for a worm.”

Stuff like that makes me melt. And I’m that much surer it’s the little things in life that matter most. Like the twitter of songbirds after a long, hard winter. A handwritten letter amidst a sea of emails. A yellow moon on the rise. The brackish breeze, the cries of seagulls and the soothing sound of the ocean after driving forever to get there. The way my kids’ eyelashes curl and the thicket of sun-bleached hairs on the napes of their necks. The way my grandmother traced my ears to coax me to sleep. My grandfather’s firm belief that I was “big enough” to help him feed the cows, steer the tractor and hay the fields. Clunking around a farm in real barn boots. The warm muzzle of a horse. The company of a cat. The affection of a dog. The lullaby of crickets. The tang of autumn. The whisper of pines. The crisp scent of a novel, yet to be consumed. Fresh newsprint. Thistledown. Snowflakes. The smell of rain. Holding hands.

I often stumble upon small wonders, too, in unlikely places—like the special stones on someone’s dresser, harvested from Grandma’s house “…to help me remember her, Mom.” And crumbs in someone’s pocket—the remains of a bit of bread “…I saved for Taylor from my lunch today at school. It got all crumbly when we shared it, Mom.” And heartfelt notes of apology—painstakingly folded and carefully wedged between the pages of a favorite book. “Sorry Sadie. I really love you a lot. You’re the best sister ever!”

Of course, there was the strange but wonderful vine, curiously twisted into the shape of a heart, one of my dandies found while foraging in the garage last week. “Here, Mom; it’s for you.” But it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookie she shared with my husband and me recently—the one she cleverly gnawed upon until it, too, resembled a heart.

Indeed, it’s the little things that make life sweeter on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and continue to devour again and again It’s the Little Things, by Craig Wilson, USA Today columnist and friend). Visit me at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Mushy Stuff

The Twelfth of Never

My refrigerator is the center of my universe, the heart and soul of my very being and without question, the hub of all that defines my world. Not because of the mince pie, Jack cheese and leftover potato salad contained within. But because of the Almighty Calendar that hangs on its shiny surface—eye-level, next to the school lunch menu, surrounded by tiny scraps of paper upon which I scrawled phone numbers I need to know but will never remember. And like a lot of well-worn items in my household, it looks as though it belongs there—wedged comfortably between favorite photos, prized artwork, a colorful array of magnetic letters A to Z and those all-important memos and appointment cards without which I would most certainly shrivel up and die.

Each perfect square on that grand and glorious grid of events represents a chunk of precious time. And it must—I repeat, it MUST—have something scribbled within it. Someone’s birthday. A holiday mealtime. A veterinary appointment. An eye exam. New tires for the car. A vacation destination. A reminder to return the kids’ library books. Something. Anything. Except nothingness—which would imply a sort of nothingness about me, I suppose; or perhaps that downtime actually exists in my harried world. Ha! White spaces on my calendar!? How ridiculous. I should be so lucky.

There are swimming lessons, birthday parties and play rehearsals to attend. Basketball games, hair cuts and doctors’ visits galore. Empty blocks simply do not reflect the reality that is mine. Besides, the voids make me feel guilty—as if I have nothing better to do than sit around and watch bits and pieces of Play-Doh dry and crumble while the kids are at school. Calendars crammed to capacity with details of this or that planned affair give me a real sense of purpose, of direction, of connectedness with the outside world—linking me to all the goings-on I have chosen to include (willingly or not). And they provide a healthy dose of structure and truckloads of predictability, too—both of which are sorely lacking under this loonified circus tent. In sum, calendars bring a smattering of order to my otherwise disordered world. I shudder to think where I’d be without mine—mired in some muddled state till the twelfth of Never, no doubt.

Some days the world simply spins too fast for me (as my friend, Ruth, has so often quipped). Nothing could be closer to the truth. But my oh-so-wonderful, month-at-a-glance, tangible timeline-on-the-fridge helps me hold it all together, to keep everything in its proper perspective and to effectively answer questions like, “What are you doing next Tuesday the 16th?”

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue unless and until I consulted the silly calendar. At least I know my limitations—one of which involves not straying too far from the Master Schedule. Another: Writing small enough so that everything is neatly and completely contained within its designated block—an impossible task to say the least.

But I love calendars, despite my personal limitations in dealing with them. I especially enjoy receiving a crisp, new one for Christmas (a traditional wish list item in this household) and spending a lazy afternoon in January slathering its pristine little blocks with all sorts of important dates and times to remember. Every syllable precisely placed, of course. Even more thrilling: Adorning my organizational wonder with cool reminder stickers that are sometimes included as a bonus. Woo hoo! I’m quite certain that for a day or so following said ritual, I fool a myriad of individuals into believing that I’m impeccably organized. Even I believe it for a time, until that dastardly interloper with whom I reside adds HIS appointments, meetings and countless other chicken scratchings to the revered framework I so meticulously and thoughtfully crafted.

Shortly thereafter, the frenzied pace of the world returns and information starts spilling from those neat and tidy little squares into the narrow margins. Stuff gets scribbled out or transferred to other squares in willy-nilly fashion and big, ugly arrows are drawn across what was once an unsullied masterpiece of time management—which is a lot like life, I suppose.

It is subject to change.

Remarkably, most of us manage to muddle through the madness with a few reroutings and derailments here and there, which builds character, I’m told. Maybe that’s what makes the month-by-month journey worth journeying—even if it’s just to the fridge.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com and check out my 2010 Planet Mom Calendar at Zazzle http://www.zazzle.com/2010_planet_mom_calendar-158332220575048482.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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