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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Zoe vs. the Easter Bunny

The Batman and the Joker. Rocky and Apollo Creed. Dora and Swiper. To this list of well-known adversaries, we can now add Zoe and the Easter Bunny.
They met on a grassy field of battle. Strewn with the pastel remnants of plastic eggs.
Only one could triumph. 
If you defined triumph as throwing a fit then getting sleepy. In that case, Zoe triumphed all over the place.

This year's theme was The Hunger Games.

Technically, this was Zoe's first Easter egg hunt. We'd gone the year before, when Zoe was two and a half, but the line was too long and she wasn't having it so we quickly left.
This year, as soon as the words "Hey, Zoe, want to go on an Easter egg hunt?" were out of my mouth I wanted to take them back. Images from last year of hordes of children waiting as a man in a giant bunny suit patrolled the line were emblazoned on my mind.
So why did I say them? Well, I sometimes say the first thing to pop into my head if I need to distract Zoe from some activity that's killing me, and in this case it was Zoe's request to see Elsa singing "Let It Go," on my phone, again, and next to my phone happened to be a flyer advertising the egg hunt.
Afterwards I was able to use the hunt to keep her in line. E.g.: "If you don't stop whining, we're not going on the Easter egg hunt" or "If you don't eat your lunch, you're not going on the Easter egg hunt."
Amidst nearly constant threats we got her dressed, then foolishly let her choose which of the millions of baskets she'd already amassed in her short life she wanted to take with her.

Christ died for all us peeps.
So that we could do silly things with peeps.

I keep reading articles that say giving your toddler a choice in some minor matter is good because it gives them some control, but all it ever does is fill Zoe with road-not-traveled angst. Zoe's emotional seesawing over which basket she should take before deciding on the purple one with the green and pink stripes was hard to witness. And Sophie thought she had a tough choice. 
We arrived at the park just as the first "wave" of egg hunters were released into the playground/battleground. Then we got a load of the line, which snaked around and around this search area. We knew we'd have to keep Zoe occupied if she and we were to survive the wait.
Thinking quickly, the Husband offered to buy her one of those balloons-on-a-stick. Her choice, oddly made without fuss---this is important---was a Superman one, filling the Husband with pride, though she called him Spider-Man, which mitigated it somewhat.
We continued to the end of the line, where Zoe immediately weaponized the balloon. She claimed to be using the stick as a magic wand, but in practice this meant waving it around so that the pointy end was almost hitting people. When I threatened to take it away, for a little while she occupied herself forcing Superman to dance and then dragging him face-down in the dirt, but soon she returned to magic wand/sword mode.
The signs were there. Mothers are ever alert to them. Whiny, unreasonable, frequent eye-rubbing. It was then I spotted the giant bunny. More accurately, and chillingly, a man in a bunny suit. And he was approaching us. 
Ever see Donnie Darko? Remember Frank? The demonic man-sized bunny who appears to Donnie Darko freaking him out by talking about the end of the world?

The only difference is I'll
eat your ears last.

Anyway, that's what I think of when I see men in bunny suits.
As he came closer I fear-hoped Zoe would stab him with her balloon stick wand sword toy but instead she went very still, the kind of still she'd gone just before she'd lost it at Macy's Santaland. Soon the line would bring us within his creepy sphere. Then what would happen?
Well, that crisis had to get in line, because we had to pass the balloon vendor again. And as we did, Zoe noticed he also had Dora balloons on a stick, which apparently she hadn't noticed earlier, or did but now had buyer's remorse and didn't want the Superman-that-she-thought-was-Spider-Man balloon anymore.
"I want Dora!"
No, we said. We'd already bought her a balloon and we weren't buying another one.
Rinse, repeat, then . . .
Meltdown.
Ineffable sadness.
The regret you feel when you eat the whole thing and drink something on a dare combined with hitting "Reply All" too soon. Meryl Streep could've taken lessons on how to cry.

Maybe somehing.

I carried her off into the grass expounding upon that hardest lesson of life: you can't always get what you want. More tears. More "I want Dora!" The Bunny Man was now watching. I looked away, fearing his eerie silent communication.
Meanwhile, the Husband, once again the hero, had exchanged the Superman for a Dora. "Look, Z, Daddy was able to get you Dora."
She stopped crying and ran over to get her Dora balloon from Daddy. Alas, the drama train was unable to come to a complete stop.
She began yawn-crying and insisted I carry her while using her new Dora balloon stick to poke me in the head. 
We were next to the DJ now and he was blasting some familiar song. For the past few years, my radio-listening had been limited to what blared from the open windows of cars as I walked Zoe home from day care. It was one such song, sans Doppler effect. And as I balanced Zoe on my hip, and she laid her soggy snot-ridden tired head on my shoulder, in order to keep her awake, I danced to music I hated.
Self-assessment: My yoga pants were covered in cat hair, the sun was burning the half my chest not covered in toddler, and to keep said toddler awake I was shaking my groove thing to a song by some former Disney star now turned twerk-sation. Was this what had become of me? Where was the girl who used to go to clubs and sway apathetically to The Smiths and The Cure?

Whatevs, Morrissey.

When we finally made it inside the barrier, we had to wake Zoe. She perked up a bit at all the people running around but overall she didn't get it. The Husband again came through, though, collecting her five allotted eggs (five was the limit) and getting us on to the next line where she could choose her prize, an Easter lollipop shaped like either a bunny or an egg.
Either one. 
Her choice.
Inside I screamed.
I need not have feared. I don't know if it was nature or nurture but she looked at the bunny lollipop with revulsion and chose the egg one. I ripped the plastic covering off the lollipop with my teeth and got it in her mouth before anything more could happen. The Bunny Man was loitering by the exit but I hurried past, blocking her view.
See you in my nightmares, freak!
Zoe: 40; Universe: 0
(My 40th post and there are 40 days of Lent. Feel like God's giving me a high-five. It's not like he's busy with anything else.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Zoe vs. The 5 Big Questions

Today we're covering the 5 biggest* philosophical questions the thoughtful human being confronts on their journey through life.
And Zoe's answers. 
(Some are direct, but others I've inferred through observation.)
1. Why are we here? (What shall I do today?) 
We're here to turn the lights on and off.
And then on and off again.
To open and close doors.
Hide.
Receive offerings of juice.
Play.
Stay up late.
Get up early.
Yell when there's no earthly reason to yell and yet when asked a direct question, respond in whispers, in another language, a made-up one.
Inform others of our existential crises by throwing ourselves on the floor and screaming for at least five minutes---preferably in public, during a trip to the supermarket, when Mommy has gotten enough of the items on her list to make aborting the trip painful, but not enough so that she can check out yet. (Note: middle-of-the night tantrums are good too. If Mommy's also in pain she will have empathy. At least, she ought to.)

What was that big bang? Said God
to toddler Jesus from the other room.

2. How shall I live? (Is there a right or wrong way?)
Depends on who's looking and how tired they are.
Moral relativism means that Grandma will let you get away with more because Grandmas have no immunity to a grandchild's cuteness. (Source: science.)
And, hey, how about freedom vs. belonging? The tension between wanting to do things that you can't, i.e., the freedom that comes with putting your own shoes on, and not wanting to do things that you can, i.e., taking your shoes off. (Boring! Mommy can do it.) While watching you in the throes of this debate, Mommy will often get a distant look on her face, as if she's struggling with a similar dilemma, perhaps recalling a decision to sacrifice her own freedom made almost a year before you were born. (You're on the hook for at least fifteen more years, Mom. I can now count higher than that, by the way, and yes, that's a threat.)
3. What does it mean to be present?
Paradox: I love philosophy, but
it gives me the moody blues.
Present? For me? Where?
4. Why is there suffering?
Because you didn't share.
Or listen.
That whole story of Genesis is about God giving humanity a big time-out, and we've been sitting in the corners we were sent to for millennia and we'll continue to sit there until we learn to play well with others.
It doesn't look good, people. If we don't stop whining and hitting and generally acting out, we're never going to get dessert.
And it's the best dessert ever, made of hugs, immortality, and chocolate, the good kind that comes in the gold box.
5. Where does all the poop go?
This may be the most important question for it touches on our mortality as well as the destruction and/or disappearance of that which we create. It's why potty training is so damn hard. A simple press of a lever and this piece of art you used your whole body (let that sink in---your whole body) to produce and it's gone in a swirl of noise and madness. It's just not right. You'd rather keep it, close to your body, where no one will know your secret, unless they have a nose. You've asked Mommy and Daddy this philosophical question but they muttered something about it "rolling downhill."

I poop, therefore I am.

Asking Mommy or Daddy any questions, big or small, you find to be all but useless. You're not sure if they're keeping secrets, think you can't understand, or don't actually know themselves. No worries. You'll break them eventually by asking the same question over and over and not letting them sleep. Like the Viet Cong.
Who's in charge? Mommy can answer that one definitively: Zoe.
Zoe: 39; Universe: 0
*Biggest as determined by a scientific poll based on what came to my mind first.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Zoe vs. Karl Lagerfeld

The power of Karl compels you!
Considering that he dresses like a super villain, Zoe should have much to emulate in Karl Lagerfeld. At the least they should enjoy an uneasy detente similar to what General Zod and Lex Luthor shared in Superman II. But dressing like an exorcist is not Zoe's style. And from what I've heard about Karl, he would not approve of Zoe's fashion choices. As the head designer for Chanel and Fendi as well as his own line, there seems to be a lot of black, and white, and also black-and-white.
Zoe likes COLOR. She also likes to mix patterns. The other day it was pink polka-dot pants with a zebra print skirt over it and a striped top. Another day it was a rainbow of horizontal stripes over a muted rainbow of wider stripes. The overall effect can cause seizures if you look directly at her. It's best to just take parts of her in at once. Whatever you do, don't look on a full stomach. The finishing touch is usually an accent like a prominent food stain.
Zoe's signature style is Silly Socks, aka unmatching pairs---her favorite mix is an orange stripe and a light blue one. Also Silly Shoes, like one black sneaker and one purple one that lights up (seizure alert number two!).
When she's wearing Silly Shoes I always make a note of it when dropping her off at daycare. I don't want them to think I'm that far gone. I am, of course, but they don't need to know that. 

. .  . while Lex, like Zoe, prefers
 colors and bold patterns.
Zod, like Karl, prefers black leather . . .

Overall, Zoe dresses like an evil clown.
Which brings us back to good old Karl. However, as we can see, Zoe's fun-loving, devil-may-care, vertigo-inducing style is miles and miles from Lagerfeld's look, which can best be described as Nosferatu chic.

I'm gonna shake my little tush on the catwalk.

I suspect Karl Lagerfeld's distaste for Zoe would extend past her style. He's been quoted as saying that when he was a child he didn't play with other children and that he hated them. He also apparently asked for a valet for his fourth birthday. (Zoe will be four in August. If she knows what a valet is, I'd be very surprised. If she asks, I'll point her to Daddy.)
Karl's said some other hilariously objectionable things* over the years. There's even a Tumblr dedicated to some of them. I'll list a few of these incredible nuggets here.
First, I have to say I don't mind his comments as much as I mind other celebrities, like, say, I don't know, Gwyneth Paltrow. I guess because he's not pretending to be anything he's not, or maybe it's that he's not pretending not to be pretending. 
Here's his take on money:
"If you throw money out the window, throw it out with joy. Don't say 'one shouldn't do that'---that is bourgeois."
I suppose just by breeding and writing a blog about my child I've already punched my bourgeois card several times.
"No one wants to see curvy women. You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying thin models are ugly."
Get out of my living room, Karl! Is that monocle-looking thing around your neck a palantir?

The one pecan danish ring, and that fat mommy is eating it!

Sidebar. Why is it called a catwalk anyway? My own cat is too fat for the runway and doesn't "walk" as much as waddle. And yet if there's anyone who can match Karl attitude for attitude it's Harley. Or his own cat, Choupette, who he's referred to as a kept woman. By the by, she also has a Twitter account.
Karl's been criticized for his stance on fur. It's hard to get a read on Harley on this issue. She gives the impression of being above ethics.

I'd eat Kitty Lagerfeld for breakfast
and then eat breakfast.

"I'm very impeccable and clean before I go to bed. It's just like right before I'm going out. ... I think everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door."
First, I don't think he "goes to bed" as much as "goes to coffin." Second, in my experience sleep wreaks havoc with one's coiffure. Going dormant clearly does not.
"Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants."
This is one where I agree, as I wipe pecan danish ring crumbs off my sweatpants, I mean, yoga pants---world of difference.

Cast photo from the ill-fated Neutral Zone Story,
a musical mash-up of West Side Story and Star Trek.

"The only love that I really believe in is that of a mother for her children."
Aw, the old weird softie. I wonder if he said that pre- or post-Choupette. Either way, nice finish.
Zoe: 38; Universe/Fashion Police: 0
*There are different versions of these quotes online. I used the ones that provided maximum hilarity.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Zoe vs. The Truth

Are all toddlers lying liars who lie? I'm wondering. And hoping.
Lies, damned lies, and Pinocchio.
Hoping that it's just a stage she'll grow out of. Because I don't know how to relate to this. I am painfully honest at times. Honest about things people might rather I lie about. 
Just ask a co-worker of mine who I had take a photograph of me when I was four months pregnant holding a giant container of Metamucil. Did he need or want to know about the intestinal struggles of pregnancy? I'm going to go with "need." I was suffering. People needed to know. Plus if I was away from my desk for a while and anyone asked where I'd gone, my co-worker could roll his eyes and point to the bathroom.
Zoe's grandmother is even more painfully honest, which must be where I get it from. 
Quick story: Atlantic City, early '80s. My nuclear family goes to one of those Dinner and a Show Tune Revues. They start singing "Hello, Dolly!" and before you can say "long-running Broadway musical" it becomes a full-audience participation number. The singers head out among the tables, working the two-drink minimum crowd into a show-tune frenzy, and then one of the singers kneels down by my mother, hands her the mic, and says: "What's your favorite song?" Without batting an eye she answers, "Right now it's 'Memory' from Cats."

Hello, Dolly: 7/5/96
Good-bye, Dolly: 2/14/03

Returning now to poop. Because that's the main thing Zoe lies about. Potty training is still a pipe dream, if pipes do in fact dream of poop.
Here's the nightly scenario: Six o'clock, time to poop. Aware of her schedule I prompt Zoe. "Do you have to go to the bathroom, my precious angel?"
"No."
Cut to one second later when she's retreated to the other side of the dining room table (but still in view of the TV). Her face has gone red, and she's emitting grunts.
"Zoe, dearest one, are you, perchance, pooping?"
"Grrrr. NO!"
When I eventually approach to change her, I'm met with cries of "Not done yet!" (But I thought you weren't pooping, I want to say.)
Or sometimes she just puts out her hand, turns her head away, and shouts: "Nothing!" 
"Nothing!" is the one-size-fits-all scream she uses for other situations, like bedtime, bath time, mealtime, getting dressed/undressed. Basically it means she's extremely busy and cannot be interrupted. Gotta respect the evil geniuses; they have a process and I'm pretty sure it's not "nothing."
I suppose I should be thankful that Zoe's lies right now are so transparent. One day she'll be a teenager and I will be even less of a match for her. In the meantime her lies are kind of funny in their obviousness.
My favorite mealtime lie is for when she clearly doesn't want to eat her vegetables and so she claims they're "too hot," no matter that she hasn't tried it, or that it's been sitting there for several minutes, or that it's a salad.
Zoe's bedtime lies would take a book and have been well-covered previously in this blog.
Recently, Zoe has been exploring Munchausen syndrome. Not the one "by proxy." It's all her. And it's all drama.
Remember Zoe's three-year doctor checkup, where she would not submit to being weighed, measured, examined, or generally checked up on? Well, since then she's apparently been turning the visit over in her mind and has come to realize the benefits of being or at least appearing sick, and not just because of the direct correlation between the degree of sick and the amount of attention received but in the quality of that attention as well.
When children are sick, she noticed, mommies give them stuff. Or let them get away with stuff. Being sick means more juice (all mommies fear dehydration). More TV. More of Mommy saying, how do you feel and delivering sympathy pats.
So the last time Zoe was sick and I brought her to the doctor, she was ready to perform.

The tragic case of Hieronymous Carl
Friedrich Baron von Munchausen, never
to have his towels monogrammed because
they assumed he was exaggerating.

First, two young student doctors came in and asked her how she was.
Zoe hung her head sadly, the physical embodiment of a sigh.
They asked if her throat hurt. She nodded sadly.
They asked if her head hurt. She nodded even more sadly.
A headache was a new symptom to her mother, who was bringing her in for possible pink eye and a longstanding cold. And who'd just been waiting over an hour in the waiting room with a child who was not acting sick but was instead running back and forth from the "sick" to the "well" side of the waiting room no matter what punishments I threatened her with.
On to her game, I told them to ask her about her foot.
"Zoe, does your foot hurt?" one of the doctors asked.
Zoe nodded. Very Very Sadly.
They looked at me. I looked at them. They looked back at Zoe.

A caption would be egregious.

"Zoe, does your knee hurt?" the other doctor asked.
Zoe nodded Very Very Very Sadly.
When the doctor came in and she repeated her performance, claiming to suffer from all manner of afflictions, I fake-sneezed "Munchausen."
The doctor may have just handed me the tissue box but I think Zoe got my point. 
Zoe: 37; Universe: 0

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Zoe vs. the Monster and the Ghost (and to a Lesser Extent, the Dragon and the Dinosaur)

In general, I see Zoe as a fearless creature. Countless times I've caught her climbing on structures that could not support her weight. I've watched her running while looking back over her shoulder (instead of in the direction she was running). And I've seen her put all manner of things in her mouth, trying to eat them, unless they were actually food. So I was surprised when one night she told me she could not retire to her room because "the Monster and the Ghost" were in there.

Spring Break, Daytona Beach, 1987.
Before it all went to hell.

A lengthy exorcism had to be performed before she could go to bed that night.
The next day it was the same. And the next. 
Before we knew it, it was "a thing." And what this thing was was a crutch, an excuse not to do something we wanted her to do. 
Sometimes it was also a game. One that she played with Daddy, because he is a better sport than Mommy. Daddy can be counted on to Perform. To get into it and yell, "Go away, Monster and Ghost! You can't be in Zoe's room [or the bathroom at bath time, or our bedroom whenever] anymore!"

The thought of seeing this movie
again scares me.

It would take numerous attempts to dislodge the Monster and the Ghost. They would not move until they damn well felt like it. According to Zoe. The only person who could actually see them.
Clearly, Zoe was working out some fears via those old standbys, the Monster and the Ghost, right? 
Then she upped the ante. 
One day, Zoe said she couldn't go into her room at bedtime because the Monster and the Ghost AND the Dragon and the Dinosaur were in there. What a crowd! No wonder there was no room for Zoe to go to sleep. I imagine it was quite noisy as well. 
So before bed, Daddy now needed to clear Zoe's room of all four interlopers. There were the usual animated exhortations mixed with the occasional gentle request when the Monster and the Ghost and the Dragon and the Dinosaur seemed the most receptive to reason (again, we took our cues from Zoe).

Tiamat, the Swiss army knife of dragons.

Digression here. I did some research about common childhood fears and learned that for small children, the fear of monsters is often about their fear of their own anger. Thus, the "monster" is an externalization of their aggression. 
Which led me to wonder: Just how much aggression did Zoe have that she needed to externalize four separate creatures?

Make up your mind, lady, am I a
monster or a dinosaur? 

Interestingly---or I imagine it was interesting if you didn't have to live with her---at some point---and I don't know exactly when it happened---the pretense was subtly dropped. Zoe was no longer afraid of the Monster and the Ghost, or the Dragon and the Dinosaur, and it seemed, in fact, she never had been. 
No, suddenly the Monster and the Ghost and the Dragon and the Dinosaur were Zoe's allies. 
Allies against who? 
Why, who else? Her parents. 
So all along her notifications had actually been warnings
She made this shift with such innocent flair that looking back we couldn't prove she'd ever actually presented them as creatures she feared. All she'd ever done was say they were there, never that she was afraid of them. We'd just assumed.
Viewed that way we saw now how her statement, "The Monster and the Ghost are gonna come and eat you," was a specific threat aimed at us, not an expression of a fear Zoe had.
The blinders were off. It was all a power trip. The enemy of our "enemy" was her friend! 
Now we were afraid. Not of Zoe's creations. Of Zoe herself.
Because our Little Angel had the intelligence to realize that other people fear monsters, ghosts, dragons, and dinosaurs, and therefore, if she conjured them up, even invisibly, she could maybe get them (us) to do her will. 
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 equals parental pride and 10 equals the awe and amazement you feel when your offspring surpasses you, Zoe had reached 11, i.e., "engenders feelings of existential terror." 
I have seen the Monster and the Ghost, and the Dragon and the Dinosaur. And they are a three-and-a-half-year-old girl.
Zoe: 36; Universe: 0