Thursday, May 26, 2016

Zoe vs. Her Spirit Animal: Cultural Appropriation, Identity Crisis, or Playing Pretend?

My daughter's spirit animal, from what I can gather, is some sort of Terrier mix of indeterminate hair color who goes by many aliases.
This new phase began one night a few weeks ago.
"Call me Pixie," Zoe said.
I stopped dicing onions to look down at her. Was she re-writing Moby Dick? I wondered.
"I'm a dog," she explained. "And my name is Pixie." She was on all fours. 
"What kind of dog are you?"
"Ruff. Ruff." She paused to consider her words then added, "Woof."
I waited.
"That means I'm a blue dog, with white spots."
Later, she was a white dog with blue spots. And her name was Violet. No, Snowflake. Because she's all white. And her name is Icicle.
Zoe barks and pants. She orders me to pet her. She dives face first into her bowl of Cheerios.
On the way home from school, she wants me to pretend to put a leash on her. She also wants to "meet and greet" other dogs. When we get home, she demands I throw balls for her to retrieve and she carries her stuffed animals around in her mouth.
Occasionally she steps out of character to let me in on her secret: She's not really a dog; she's just pretending!


Have you heard the term "spirit animal"? Probably, if you spend any amount of time on social media. And the term is not confined to animals. It's become internet speak for what person, animal, or thing a commenter relates to, whether it's Beyonce, a three-toed sloth, or a ham sandwich. To be honest, it never would have occurred to me this was cultural appropriation if I hadn't also learned that on the Internet, which is famous for being a wellspring of fellowship and sensitivity.
A large slice of humanity has taken a term with spiritual significance to Native American heritage and turned it into a meme. Because that's humanity. We all want to laugh (unthinking though not necessarily thoughtlessly, because we all like to think of ourselves as nice people) for about one second. Then, quickly now, let's get indignant over a friend's political post because in the following second we need our hearts to melt over a photo of unlikely animal best friends.
In any case, at this point the spirit animal jokes have become so ubiquitous they've jumped the shark, with apologies to sharks but not to those louts who claim that sharks are their spirit animals. Excuse me a moment while I disentangle myself from this Mobius strip of humor and commentary on same I'm caught in like a web of dog leashes wrapped around my legs. (Apologies to the legless.)
So, continuing to be part of the problem and not the solution, I took an online quiz (Behold the Internet and its wonders!), and I discovered that my spirit animal is a bear. Odd because I would've said sloth, or maybe cat because eating and then sleeping twenty hours straight is something I deeply identify with. But then I also identify with the aforementioned ham sandwich. Most sandwiches really. Especially if it has cheese. I guess you could say I'm spirit-animal omnivorous.
I'm a cis gender, Irish-Italian, so I suppose I can't truly understand cultural appropriation. But I imagine it's something like when you were in high school and you were correctly smug about being the first to like a band but then the band became too popular, and so you were vexed. Except, y'know, more. See, I get it. Next stop, spokesperson for all disenfranchised groups.
When I finally confronted Zoe about her insensitive posturing, she just licked my face. Some people just don't get it.

You're not fooling anyone, Philip.

Today, Zoe continues to walk her path of canine cultural insensitivity, on all fours, and it seems she's got at least some neighborhood dogs convinced. She approaches them in a state of excitement, and, thinking she wants to play, the dogs get excited too. At which point Zoe drops the act and becomes a little girl again. And one in particular named Zoe, who wants to pet the dog but is afraid and needs to work up to it. But since the dog and its person don't have all night, she's mostly disappointed when they walk away, and she whines, and I honestly can't tell if she's dog whining or just Zoe whining.
What I do know is later that night, when I pick up her stuffed animals to put them back on her bed, they will all have telltale wet spots around their midsections.

Zoe: 137; Universe: 0


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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Zoe vs. McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Mother isn't here today, choosing instead to be published on another site. 
It's called McSweeney's, and she seems to think that's a big deal. I even heard her nattering on about something-something proudest accomplishment.
I was standing right there, folks!
Her piece is titled How to Dress for Your Body's Parasitic Twin. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to click.

I googled Kuato and found this.
Not buying it, folks. This guy and his
baby look fake to me.

Anyway, from what I can tell McSweeney's is a site with lots of big words and really long titles that don't even make sense. I mean, I can do that without even trying. Take that, McSweeney's! And that's why it's still:

Zoe: 136; Universe: 0

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Zoe vs. the Oxford Comma:
A Parody of J.Lo's "Ain't Your Mama"

Like most five-year-old girls, when Zoe tells a story, she never stops to take a breath. Her sentences string together without pause so that the listener is bombarded with "and thens" where a previous statement often has no direct causal relation to what follows:
"And then I shot him with my icy powers and then I ruled the world and then I had a grilled cheese sandwich and juice and a cookie for lunch and watched Bubble Guppies."
Nary an oxford comma in sight.


The Oxford comma, otherwise known as the serial comma, is used when a sentence lists three or more nouns, verbs, or adjectives in a row. The serial comma's there so the reader won't get confused. And it's only necessary to the proper functioning of civilization, that's all. 
I feel a bit strongly about it.
You've maybe seen the meme: "Let's have a party and invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin." Without the Oxford comma, we are calling Stalin and JFK strippers, thus ruining the reputations of countless strippers, because, let's face it, proper serial-comma using people---heroes, really---would give these two former world leaders money to keep their clothes on.
I feel so strongly about the Oxford comma I wrote a song about it. It's a parody of J.Lo's new song "Ain't Your Mama." Have you heard it yet? It's a stirring tribute to feminism I've re-purposed for a subject I'm even more passionate about than women's rights.
Presenting "Use the Oxford Comma."

Use the Oxford Comma
Those who write the right way, use Oxford comma
Work, study, and at play, use Oxford comma
Use Oxford comma, boy, use Oxford comma
When you gotta string three actions together,
Use Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma, yeah

Sit down, pen in hand (yeah yeah yeah)
Time to make a stand (yeah yeah yeah)
No more ifs, ands, or buts (yeah yeah yeah)
Talking proper usage: Grammar, grammar

I'm sure you'll agree, with items of three,
To express yourself serially
Why would you eschew what's clear as could be?
Cause commas make it clear, commas make it clear
Does this go with that?

Those who write the right way, use Oxford comma
Yesterday, tomorrow, and today, use Oxford comma
Use Oxford comma, girl, use Oxford comma
When you gotta list three things together,
Use Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma, yeah

Nouns, adjectives, and verbs (yeah yeah yeah)
At least three in a row? Don't swerve. (yeah yeah yeah)
No more ifs, ands, or buts (yeah yeah yeah)
Talking proper usage. Grammar, grammar

Sentence with nouns numbering three
Express yourself serially
Insert the right punctuation
Exception ampersand, don't use them with that
Just remember that, hey

Those who write the right way, use Oxford comma
Book report, e-mail, or essay, use Oxford comma
Use Oxford comma, boy, use Oxford comma
When you gotta string three actions together,
Use Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma
Yeah, the Oxford comma, yeah

[End by gathering the neighbors, blocking traffic, and performing a rousing dance sequence.]

Zoe: 135; Universe: 0

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Zoe vs. Take Your Child to (Your Dickensian) Work Day

Treats of the place where Zoe's mother works, and of the circumstances attending Zoe's visit on Take Your Child to Work Day.
Among other skyscrapers in a certain metropolis, one I will refrain from mentioning, there is one particular to these environs which makes frequent appearance on picture postcards, and which many a visitor stands before for portraits due to its remarkable shape, to wit, a triangular office building; and in this office building was, last week, on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, as the exact date can be of no consequence to the reader, the event referenced in this diary entry's title, to wit, again, Take Your Child to Work Day.


For a long time after Zoe's mother signed her daughter up for this event, the wretched woman envisioned sorrow and trouble, and it remained a matter of considerable doubt in this pitiable lady's mind whether the child would or, more likely, would not behave, in which latter case, though the mother would be much beset with tremors and pains about the head, she would yet be furnished material for her blog.
Girl and mother arrived on the date in question in much haste, having met with those various and sundry inconveniences which are particular to the city's public transport system.
The day's programme began with a so-called Welcome Breakfast. Hale and hearty children gathered round a conference table, plying themselves with cakes and sweets, not an Oliver Twist in the bunch. Beside them their guardians, backs permanently bent from their labours, many of their brows furrowed beneath spectacles, imbibed that fortifying beverage so conducive to the average adult's functioning.
Soon after, the workday began, during which these innocents were to be led around the building and pressed into service. What burdens would be placed on these youthful shoulders? What degradations would they be subjected to? As a publishing house, would the proprietary interests undertake to harness this cheap labour and task these small hands to swab ink and clear paper from the winches of some Great Printing Machine that surely belched murky smoke somewhere out of sight, say, in the building's basement?
But this eventuality was avoided, for everything today is accomplished via digital engines and other thingamabobs. So instead the establishment presented the children with colouring books and crayons. The fiends!
For the first session the children were asked a question no Victorian-era foundling had ever been asked. "What would you like to be when you grow up?" Of course, it was little use to ask a poor Victorian child this question as their answer would most likely have been, "You mean if I survive to adulthood?"
In contrast, today's children, exposed to a grueling nine-to-five (by law) workday at a publishing house, were forced to write and illustrate a book about their prospective future vocation.
The child Zoe said, "A veterinarian." When pressed to come up with a title for her book she called it: "Veterinarian. By Zoe."

I added "Zoe is a" which she half-erased. And note
that her dedicating it to "mommy" was under duress
as at first she wanted to dedicate it to herself.

At the next session she was to make a cover for her book. Her mother inwardly grieved, fully expecting that her precious darling would now be exposed to the fumes of industrial strength adhesives but, huzzah!, this process was electronical too, using something called Adobe Creative Suite.
Thinking this a favourable moment the mother returned to her dark hole of a work space (the sun was on the other side of the building), where the window could not open (because there was an AC in it), to do some work.
Alas, as if she truly were a Victorian child without options, Zoe chose the first picture of a cat she saw and slapped it on the cover. This, from a child who never drew a picture of an animal that was not some sort of Frankenstein creation with horns and wings in colors unnatural and locations obscene. Nay, this time, and this time only: Orange cat, please! and done. And so the child was returned to her mother, who in the intervening two minutes had answered exactly one email.

Purrfect!

After lunch, where Zoe went without, by choice, because although hearty fare was provided in abundance she claimed a lack of hunger, probably because of her constant snacking on tiny orange biscuits in the shape of fish, she would take juice, though; however, as I was saying, after lunch the children were called up one by one. Was this to be a public flogging in front of their peers? A humiliating catalog of their weaknesses and faults? It was not. Instead, it was time for the children to promote and market their books, an inordinate number of which featured cats.
Following that they were lined up and brought to a conference room where there was a table covered with coffee filters, various dyes, and pipe cleaners. Surely the materials for the most grueling sort of child labour! But first they were treated to a view from the point of the building, presumably a merciful respite before being forced to toil until dark for a scrap of bread and a moth-eaten blanket.
Then, most happy surprise! The items on the table were the foundational elements for an art and craft. In short: Reader, they made butterflies.
The day's programme ended with a launch party and snacks. Zoe gobbled creme-filled chocolate biscuits, followed by jelly-like candies, then said, "Please, mother, may I have some more?" and her mother said, "Oh, sure, now you're hungry because it's candy and cookies, right?" And yet she capitulated, the burdens and cares of the day having beaten the wretch down.
It was 3 p.m., and the children's day was done. Their guardians still had two hours of work. They guided from the room their children, tiny faces dirty, hair plastered to foreheads due to unsanctioned and unnecessary dancing, hands covered in various dyes and marker residue, evidence of their grueling encounters with Art and Craft.

Not one of these statements is true.

Girl and woman returned to the mother's workhole, where the child commandeered the desk chair, for it had wheels, and swiveled, while the mother was left the hard guest chair, which had no wheels, and did not swivel.
Perhaps the child would like to colour while the mother worked? This being acceptable, the child requested a pink marker. But the mother had none. How about a pencil? She had: blue, green, vermillion, scarlet red, carmine red (a shade unparalleled in this narrator's opinion), lavender, rose, brown, and regular graphite no. 2 pencils. No pink markers.
The child's frown deepened. Her lower lip trembled. How she writhed in agony 'neath the yoke of this limit to her artistic integrity! Now how would she colour in Elsa's face? What child had ever suffered more in fiction or real life?
Would the mother get any work done now? Alas, twas too great an expectation.

Zoe: 134; Universe: 0

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I need a win here, people. 

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Zoe vs. 10 Most Effective Responses to Prevent a Child from Telling You About Their Minecraft Game

Today's post will be brief. Zoe's home on spring break, and so I'm short on time and mental resources. What I do have, by the metric ton, are Minecraft updates. My brain is buckling under unintelligible reports from Zoe of her Minecraft adventures: where she's been, what she's building, how many chickens and horses she has trapped, stacked one on top of the other, in horrendous conditions, because she loves them.
I know other parents have dealt with this, the interminable, Look at this, Mommy, or, Watch me build yet another stone hut, Daddy, these essays on Minecraft play that never end.
Sure, you've tried generic polite responses, but the "That's great, honeys" don't get you out of hearing more than anyone should have to about an underground library filled with rosebushes. (How is it a library if there are no books?)
So no more saying "Wow" or "Whoa" or "What a Time to Be Alive" while hoping that will suffice to make your kid go away. You need to be ready with one of the following responses.
The best ones, delivered in just the right tone, will leave your child with the impression that you're encouraging and interested but are also so strange your child will be more than happy to go back to their game rather than engage a mommy who's "being weird again." Because just as you're over Minecraft, she's over your jokes.
So the next time Junior or Princess starts in on how he or she is building a mansion with a roller coaster running through it, have one of these handy:


10 Most Effective Responses 
to Prevent a Child from Telling You About Their Minecraft Game
1. Wow, honey, that sounds like a job for the super delegates.
2. Interesting. I bet the Illuminati had a hand in that. 
3. Minecraft giveth with one hand but taketh away with the other.
4. Did you know "may you live in interesting times" is a curse?
5. I wonder what Peter, Paul, and Mary would've done if they had a Minecraft hammer. 
6. Shh. Did you hear that? I thought I heard a bell. I'm listening for beer o'clock. 
7. You know how Mommy sometimes says she can't even? This is exactly why. 
8. I used to believe Falco and Taco were the same person but then I found out that was just an urban myth. 
9. There's no "i" in team. But there are four in itinerant irritant. 
10. The Lambada is the forbidden dance. 
Full disclosure: none of these have actually worked for me yet, and I'm writing this hiding in a closet, my body covered in flop sweat, but, hey, maybe they'll work for you. If they do, let me know? I'm starved for adult conversation.

Zoe: 133; Universe: 0

 For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

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