Tag Archives: winter

A Walk to Remember

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I remember the walk with my mom as if it were yesterday. The towering pines stretched with all their might into the vast expanse of blue above, touching what had to be the floor of heaven itself. The half-foot of snow that had fallen the night before glistened in the afternoon sun and crunched beneath our feet as we wended our way to my brother’s grave.
It was a good day to say “hello” to him, our faces warm and ruddy from the trek, and our spirits buoyed by what was surely a whisper of spring in those boughs of evergreen.
I can still see her merrily trudging along, nearly swallowed by her red, winter coat and hood, a tinier version of the woman I remember as a child since cancer had begun its dreaded course of consumption. Nevertheless, she wore a smile and the most striking hue of lipstick…red, of course, echoing the beauty that emanated from within. The mom I knew and loved was still here, walking and talking with me, soaking up the sun, drinking in the sky, which was impossibly blue, eager to seize the day.
I don’t recall exactly what we talked about on that wintry jaunt, but I remember being genuinely happy and inordinately grateful, thinking, quite simply, “This is one of those moments in life where everything is perfect, despite life’s inherent imperfection and the unbearable nature of loss that no one can escape, because I get to spend this delicious wedge of time with my mom.”
Copyright 2014 Melinda L. Wentzel
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Great Expectations

www.melindawentzel.comIn the dark of predawn I lay in bed, tucked snugly beneath my downy comforter, sleet pinging against the windowpanes in soft yet fitful waves. Against all odds associated with parenthood, no one under the age of eight burst into the room to announce that the sky was falling. Translation: my husband and I had had the presence of mind to skip setting the kids’ alarm the night before, in anticipation of inclement weather almost certain to arrive by daybreak. So for a time, all was silent in this good house—except for the ticking of clocks and the tiny taps at the window.

As the not-so-surprising news of yet another school cancellation reached my ears in the wee hours that day, I was filled impossibly with hope. Hope that I would enjoy a morning devoid of the madness I had known all too well since September. Hope for a day abundant with hot cocoa, kindness and good cheer. Hope that I might finally summon the strength and ambition to take down the blasted Christmas tree. The one that had been standing very nearly straight in my living room for 63 days, mocking me as I addressed my cache of shamefully belated holiday cards.

The tree had to come down. It would come down. It was January 28th for Pete’s sake. Besides, I was tired of its condescending glare, as if it were looking down its boughs at me, judging my every deficiency. Shaming my inadequate core.

Moreover, with my army of helpers that would likely be at my disposal ALL DAY (since no one wanted to frolic in the freezing rain), I banked on being able to pack up and stow away each and every jingle bell, snowman, Santa likeness and string of garland-y foolishness in the entire house. To reclaim my space. At least until Easter.

Needless to say, lots of people here agreed that it was high time. “Mom, you know we’re going to get arrested, don’t you?”

“Arrested? For what?!”

“Because January’s almost over and we don’t even have our Christmas tree down yet! We’ll all be thrown in jail!”

“Whaaaaat?! Who’s going to throw us in jail?”

“The Holiday Police.”

“The Holiday Who?!”

“The Holiday Police. They arrest people who don’t do stuff right—like taking Christmas trees down BEFORE Groundhog Day. Helloooooooooo.”

She had a point.

All I had to do was glance at the calendar and then at the muddled mess surrounding me. Remnants of the holiday season were everywhere. The Christmas lights were completely shrouded with ice and fused impossibly to the trees and shrubs outside. The stockings were still hung—and shockingly, still laden with beloved items that had been tragically forgotten since Santa’s celebrated arrival. Gifts of every size, shape and hideous stage of disarray lay like carnage throughout the house and under the aforementioned evergreen, gloriously bedecked with enough ornament-age for a forest. Legions upon legions of festive-looking dishes, alarmingly bare except for the smarmy trail of cashews and the red and green fleckage of holiday M&Ms, still rested upon my tabletops, whispering without end, “Cleeeean meeeee.” Santa’s cookie plate begged to be returned to the cupboard, the crèche longed to be back in the attic and quite frankly, the mistletoe was tired of hanging around.

What’s more, I noted that the kids had been swiping stuff from the tree for weeks—like the reindeer, now chummy with Barbie’s horses and sharing a corral, and the snowmen, warmly adopted by a family of Lego people. I even discovered a few sparkly ornaments dangling precariously from the rooftops of doll houses. Icicles maybe?

That said, it was way past time to begin the arduous process of un-decorating. Clearly, the snow day that had been bestowed upon us was a window of opportunity and perhaps the spark that would ignite my drive and determination to succeed in spite of myself. At least that was the plan.

But it was not to be. My great expectations for the day were shot by 10 am and my hopes for a tidier living room were all but dashed. For all intents and purposes, the thorny pine had become rooted there, a glaring reminder of my ineptitude as a putter-away-of-holiday-wares. Instead we frittered away the time, putting six puzzles together, littering the house with Barbie dolls and dresses, devouring books, stuffing ourselves with chocolate-chip pancakes and lounging in our pajamas till it was almost evening—at which time I sent my brood outdoors to play in the snow that had FINALLY begun to fall in big, feathery flakes. A consolation prize for my efforts.

Then again, maybe my reward was the delicious chunk of time I spent fishing for puzzle pieces with my kids, eavesdropping on their Barbie powwows, listening to the ice hit the windows—safe and sound in this good house.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (and where the Holiday Police routinely arrive each year).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Other Drugs, Ode to Embarrassment, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

And the Snow Gods Laughed…

Enough already with the snow days. I’ve certainly had my fill of time home with the heathens—especially since the inclement weather, of late, has been anything but conducive to building snowmen and frolicking about in the great outdoors. Ice, somehow, just doesn’t carry the same appeal as the white, fluffy stuff. Neither does freezing rain. Nor bone-chilling temperatures.

That being said, I think school cancellations fall under the Law of Diminishing Returns—the more I experience, the less enamored with them I become. Further, they embody the spirit of my slightly twisted adage, “Too much of a good thing (like parent-child togetherness) can be horrible when it involves entertainment-starved youth and a dearth of all-things-entertaining.” Indeed, it’s likely I need a refresher course on keeping boredom at bay for the six-and-under set. (Note to self: Read 1,001 Things You and Your Kids Can Create with Pipe Cleaners and Modeling Clay! And after that, peruse the finer points of Embrace Cabin Fever, or Die!).

In all honesty, the first few days off from school with my children were wonderful—a welcome reprieve from our harried morning schedule. There were little or no discussions surrounding the topic of dawdling. No ogre-ish threats were made involving the consequences of missing the bus. No battles over the wearing of undershirts took center stage “…because I hate undershirts, Mom!” No one even checked to see if teeth or hair had been brushed, or that pajamas had been removed and subsequently replaced with suitable attire. Nor did anyone care. School was closed for the day and the gift of time—a sacred offering from the snow gods—had been bestowed upon us all. Liberated for one calendar day. I guess it’s much like I felt as a youngster—free to squeeze as much goodness out of a 24-hour period as was humanly possible.

Back then the joy didn’t wait for the official announcement to be made. Indeed, it arrived in earnest the night before a possible school cancellation. Like scores of goofy kids, my brother and I planted ourselves at a windowsill, anxiously scanned the starry skies for the suggestion of a snow flurry and clung to the hope that we would, in fact, receive the monstrosity of precipitation that had been forecast—as if we could will it to happen.

More recently, however, I’ve become obsessed with the Weather Channel and with local news stations that promise up-to-the-minute reports of closings. At an ungodly hour I stumble out of bed and glue my sorry face to the television screen, bathed in the blue-white glow that fills the entire bedroom. I do this because I lack both the initiative and the wisdom to fetch my glasses first. I then inch my snoot from left to right and back again, eye-to-eye with that stupid scroll thingy at the bottom of the screen—living in fear that I’ll somehow miss the L’s entirely. Translation: If that were to happen, I’d spend literally MINUTES in pure agony, oblivious as to whether or not I could skip the dreaded rousing-of-the-bleary-eyed-beasts-out-of-bed routine. A chore I loathe to the pithy core of my being.

But enough is enough. My charges have missed far too many days of school during this pitiful portrayal of winter. Besides, I think my kids would rather be there than home with me anyway. Perhaps it’s because I’m a pathetic parent and find it a supreme challenge to keep them content and actively engaged for any length of time (i.e. not at each other’s throats or leaping with glee upon my last nerve). Maybe it’s simply because they’re too young to fully appreciate the grand and glorious wonderment that a snow day possesses. They’re still completely smitten with the world of academia and, in fact, mourn the days when they cannot be with their teachers and friends, for whom they hold more adoration than for the sun and moon put together.

They’d never dream of actually wishing for a snow day. Ah, but that time will soon come and I’ll find them perched at a windowsill anxiously awaiting that which the weatherman hath promised.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Chicken Soup: It Does a Body Good

There’s nothing quite like an interminable week spent with my brood to remind me why I don’t homeschool. Sprinkle the aforementioned with an unmerciful bout of the flu and I’m that much surer I made the right decision.

Indeed, last week was ugly. For all intents and purposes, it qualified as one of those unspeakably unpleasant parenting events I hope never to revisit. That said, there were fevers and sore throats, dizzy spells and delirium, stabbing pains from head to toe and waves of uncontrollable shivers that seized their smallish bodies seemingly without end. There were moments, too, during which the afflicted pair demanded proof that they would, in fact, survive the dreadful ordeal. And because misery loves company, a profusion of sneezes, debilitating headaches and seal-inspired coughs joined the medley of horribleness that befell my unfortunate bunch.

Despite their woeful situation, they somehow summoned the strength to grouse with one another, which, of course, multiplied the joy felt by all. Not. For the record, I witnessed some of the most absurd bickering matches heretofore known to man—ones over who had spiked the highest temperature, who could more skillfully imitate a basset hound on command and who could heap the foulest mound of Kleenexes upon the floor following a sustained fit of sneezing.

The jury is still out on that one.

Considerable time was spent holed up on the couch-turned-sickbay, too, buried beneath mountains of blankets, clad in sweats, socks, Sponge Bob whateverness, a fishing hat for one and, at one point, mittens for the other. Not surprisingly, a certain sock monkey, a basketball and an armadillo named Frank were also requested—and dutifully fetched, I might add. The suggestion of naps, fitful at best, took place there in the thick of their tormented state.

Thankfully, there were times when the gods of bodily ailments smiled upon my progenies (i.e. the brief yet delicious slivers of time during which they didn’t feel as if they’d been hit by a bus that happened to be transporting a small herd of elephants). That, of course, is when they became hopelessly immersed in the ridiculousness that is YouTube (read: Harry Potter’s Puppet Pals). Naturally, an embarrassment of time was also invested while Googling the bejesus out of weird animal sounds—in the name of comparing and contrasting said sounds with their incessant barking. Like a fool, I offered my two cents—suggesting that their hideous coughs most closely resembled a cross between a depressed sea lion and the aforementioned basset hound.

Mostly, though, my function was to make voluminous quantities of chicken soup—soup that promised to tame the ills that besieged my crew. Just as it is every other time someone in this household begins to sniffle and sneeze, hack or hurl. Aside from constructing cozy nests upon the sofa, feeling foreheads and fetching whateverness day and night, I suppose the soup gig is my so-called bailiwick—not to be confused with my calling as the celebrated shoe-picker-upper, toilet-flusher and Homework Nazi.

Unlike so many of my pedestrian functions as a parent and caregiver, this one is far from thankless. Over the years, I’ve been showered with high praise and a wealth of validation for my efforts in the kitchen like: “Mom, your soup is so…SLURPABLE! You’re awesome! Can I have some more?!” Even the child who isn’t particularly fond of soup will humor me sample some when she’s reached rock bottom with a cold or the flu. Furthermore, my oldest has gone so far as to shame me into making her a batch to remedy all her ills, leaving a sad little trail of posts on my Facebook wall. I should be flattered, I suppose.

But perhaps the strangest bit of critical acclaim I’ve received to date for my soup was a request for the slurpable stuff from one of the above mentioned weirdish children.

“I’d like some for breakfast, Mom. Cold. With a straw, please.” A request that was (and continues to be) duly granted.

Once again, I think I ought to be flattered.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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It Was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

My mother warned me there’d be days like this—days during which I’d rather swallow a cheese grater than raise children. Times when I’d seriously toy with the notion of running away from it all, forsaking those who depend on me to scrub grass stains, to scribble sappy little lunchbox notes and to be the voice of reason for my woman-child/co-ed. There would be an abundance of woeful moments, too (she assured me), when I’d bury my miserable self in the deepest, darkest recesses of a closet in hopes that no one, least of all my needy charges, would ever find me in such a sorry state—desperately clinging to my last marble.

Those unbearable chunks of ugliness, Mom promised, would be sandwiched in-between chapters of sheer joy and passages of tolerable madness—but they’d be there just the same. Shame on me for not believing her.

I had to actually visit the horribleness (as well as the pleasure) myself in order to be convinced of its existence. Like so many things in life, the highs and lows of parenthood cannot be experienced vicariously. They must be lived—for better or for worse. Tuesday, the 26th qualified as “for worse” for me. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day—in a hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. I have no doubt that Judith Viorst, of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame, would be proud of me for painting the picture so vividly. 

That being said, every joint, muscle and square inch of skin ached with unprecedented intensity. Every solitary strand of hair pulsated with pain and my head felt as though it would explode (which might have been an improvement in retrospect). Even my teeth hurt. For what seemed an eternity, tsunami-sized waves of nausea crashed over me unrelentingly. At one point, I distinctly recall wanting to be put out of my misery. Like a horse with a bad leg. “Just shoot me already!” I groused to no one. Because, of course, no one else was lying on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m. in a pool of self-pity gazing at the underbelly of the loo and wondering when the urge to retch would strike again. If nothing else, having such a vantage point reminded me that my bathroom needed cleaning. Desperately.

Not surprisingly, such a ludicrous thought made me chortle—despite having reached the absolute depths of despair. There I was, seized unspeakably with an ailment that can only be characterized as evil and nestled in what I believed to be abject squalor. But like a fool, I was SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING THE POSSIBILITY OF CLEANING MY BATHROOM. How absurd is that?! I rarely allow such frivolities to enter my mind on a good day, let alone one in which I’d been hit by a bus.

What made matters worse (and what could be more vile than bowing to the porcelain god—again and again and again?!) was that one of my brood was stricken a mere ten hours later—in the very same hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. Blarrrrg!

As a parent, I felt dreadfully inept—dragging my sickly body to and fro in an effort to aid this smallish child of mine. My paltry offerings were limited to reassuring her that EVENTUALLY this horrid malady would go away and find someone else to torment. I then bestowed upon her a pail and advised her never to let it leave her side—even as she slept (i.e. tossed and turned and groaned and moaned roughly 637 times) in my bed. (Indeed, I had found a surefire way to add drama and excitement to the bedroom…will she, or won’t she hit the bucket/make it to the bathroom in time?)

And to illustrate, once again, that bizarreness knows no bounds, the event itself became a twisted sort of competition—between and among those who spewed forth with wild abandon. “Mom, I beat you! I threw up 22 times and you only did it 5 times!”

Yes, we counted.

What’s more, the wretched affair had become a bit of a spectacle to the non-vomiting child in the household. “Let me see! Let me see! Oh, that’s really GROSS!” Clearly, the circus had come to town—complete with freakish sideshows and crowd-pleasing performances. Had I possessed an ounce of strength, I could have choked a certain member of the peanut gallery—or at the very least, I could have planted the seed in her mind that she, too, would soon be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in a hurling-profusely-into-big-buckets sort of way. Needless to say, I wanted nothing more at that moment than to desert my post. Indefinitely.

Mom was right. There would be days like this.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Ice is Simply Not Nice

I abhor ice—underfoot, that is. It is a loathsome beast that feeds upon my vulnerabilities, senses my unsuspecting nature and seizes each and every opportunity to torture me. Often publicly. Until recently, I suppose I had forgotten just how greatly I detest the frozen miserableness that currently defines my world (i.e. the massive and merciless patches of tundra-gone-wild, slickening my driveway, my sidewalks, my lawn, my EVERYTHING). Then again, cracking one’s head upon the pavement (thanks to yet another cussed ice event coupled with an overly exuberant dog) tends to refresh one’s memory. No doubt, seeing stars served to further enhance my recollection of the hatred I feel toward this abominable aspect of winter.

Needless to say, I felt humiliated, too, wallowing there like a child in a pool of self-pity. Victimized. Insulted. Defeated. Lord knows the god of ice and snow came and conquered that day; mocking my misfortune, applauding my hurt, exacerbating my agony, cackling uproariously—indeed, thoroughly amused by my frantic and futile attempts to flap and flail myself back to the Land of Upright. To the place where my dignity was defended, my equilibrium restored and my composure, conserved. Where surefootedness was a given and where the coefficient of friction was friend, not foe.

That being said, the ruthless monster of which I speak plays no favorites. No one enjoys immunity. Anyone and anything that answers to gravity is capable of suffering the wrath of a frictionless environment—anywhere, anytime under the appropriate climatic conditions. In windswept parking lots. At bus stops and mailboxes galore. In lawns, sinfully glaciated and hopelessly impassable. And in sun-starved alleys, wrinkled and rutted with an impenetrable glaze of solid ice. Grok!

And let us not forget the drudgery, tedium and exhausting nature of ridding our worlds of said vileness. As I type this, every molecule of my entire being now throbs with pain as a result of hacking and hammering and chipping away at that which can only be described as a brutal and unforgiving entity—never mind, one that is seemingly devoid of any meaningful function. I mean really, what purpose does the aforementioned serve? I can think of none.

Quite frankly, my view hasn’t changed on the topic much since the fifth grade. Hated it then. Hate it now. Mostly, this stance stems from having been imprisoned by it one blustery day when asked to take out the trash. The traumatic experience unfolded thusly: The can itself (an incinerator, actually) was poised at the precipice of a rather steep, luge-like gradient behind our house. Naturally, every stinking speck of earth surrounding said incinerator was coated in a thick, glacier-like sheet of ice. Fool that I was, I failed to heed the warning signs that any half-brained nitwit would readily note. Like, “Geez, this looks pretty slippery—and there’s a FREAKING CLIFF on the other side of this Slope from Hell. Maybe I should take the stinking trash back inside and hoard it till March.”

But no. Common sense had evaded me yet again and my can-do attitude catapulted me far beyond the realm of stupidity. As I skidded down the hill at warp speed I had to have been thinking how dumb this had all been—and how entirely preventable. Needless to say, it was a long time before I came to rest and was able to assess the damages. And there were plenty. But the biggest problem I faced was not being able to climb back up the silly hill—which was getting slicker and slicker as the sun started to set. I recall pawing and clawing at the ice and searching around for sturdy sticks I could jam into its glassy surface in order to inch my way to the top. Of course, no one knew I had fallen. And cell phones were decades away.

In all honesty, I don’t remember exactly what eventually led to my successful assent that day (ideally positioned saplings, maybe?), but it certainly was a life lesson. Simply put, I learned that ice is not nice—which would have been a useful bit of information to have prior to the onset of my dimwittedness.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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And the Snow Gods Laughed

Enough already with the snow days. I’ve certainly had my fill of time home with the heathens. That being said, I think school cancellations fall under the Law of Diminishing Returns—the more I experience, the less enamored with them I become.

Further, they embody the spirit of my slightly twisted adage, “Too much of a good thing (like parent-child togetherness) can be horrible when it involves entertainment-starved youth and a dearth of all-things-entertaining.” Okay, so maybe I need a refresher course on keeping boredom at bay for the eight-and-under set. (Note to self: Read 1,001 Things You and Your Kids Can Create with Pipe Cleaners and Modeling Clay! And after that, peruse the finer points of Embrace Cabin Fever, or Die!).

In all honesty, the first few days off from school with my children were wonderful—a welcome reprieve from our harried morning schedule. There were little or no discussions surrounding the topic of dawdling. No ogre-ish threats were made involving the consequences of missing the bus. No battles over the wearing of hats took center stage “…because I hate hats, Mom!” No one even checked to see if teeth or hair had been brushed, or that pajamas had been removed and subsequently replaced with suitable attire. Nor did anyone care. School was closed for the day and the gift of time—a sacred offering from the snow gods—had been bestowed upon us all. Liberated for one calendar day. I guess it’s much like I felt as a youngster—free to squeeze as much goodness out of a 24-hour period as was humanly possible.

Back then the joy didn’t wait for the official announcement to be made. Indeed, it arrived in earnest the night before a possible school cancellation. Like scores of goofy kids, my brother and I planted ourselves at a windowsill, anxiously scanned the starry skies for the suggestion of a snow flurry and clung to the hope that we would, in fact, receive the monstrosity of precipitation that had been forecast—as if we could will it to happen.

More recently, however, I’ve become obsessed with the Weather Channel and with local news stations that promise up-to-the-minute reports of closings. At an ungodly hour I stumble out of bed and glue my sorry face to the television screen, bathed in the blue-white glow that fills the entire bedroom. I do this because I lack both the initiative and the wisdom to fetch my glasses first. I then inch my snoot from left to right and back again, eye-to-eye with that stupid scroll thingy at the bottom of the screen—living in fear that I’ll somehow miss the L’s entirely. Translation: If that were to happen, I’d spend literally MINUTES in pure agony, oblivious as to whether or not I could skip the dreaded rousing-of-the-bleary-eyed-beasts-out-of-bed routine. A chore I loathe to the pithy core of my being.

But enough is enough. My charges have missed far too many days of school during this pitiful portrayal of winter. Besides, I think my kids would rather be there than home with me anyway. Perhaps it’s because I’m a pathetic parent and find it a supreme challenge to keep them content and actively engaged for any length of time (i.e. not at each other’s throats or leaping with glee upon my last nerve). Maybe it’s simply because they’re too young to fully appreciate the grand and glorious wonderment that a snow day possesses. They’re still completely smitten with the world of academia and, in fact, mourn the days when they cannot be with their teachers and friends, for whom they hold more adoration than for the sun and moon put together.

They’d never dream of actually wishing for a snow day. Ah, but that time will soon come and I’ll find them perched at a windowsill anxiously awaiting that which the weatherman hath promised.

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 Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings, Uncategorized