Thursday, March 26, 2015

Zoe vs. March Madness

March Madness is here.
No, I'm not talking about the breeding season of the European hare, aka, the March hare, which is what I'm sure you thought when you read the title of this post.

I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear you callin' me "mad."

I'm referring to that other March Madness, that shrinking violet of sporting events, the totally chill, don't-mind-me-over-here NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament known as March Madness. Because it ends in April. I know. Crazy.
If I had to pick which I liked best from among the following three choices: the month of March---y'know, the hanger-on month of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)---basketball, and totally bonkers stark-raving lunacy, I think I'd choose madness.
I dislike March.
March is when you've had enough of winter, and you can almost taste spring, and the cold's almost over. Except not. And add wind.
As for basketball, it's not my favorite sport. To watch or to play. I'm 5'3" and not a Muggsy Bogues 5'3". Someone blows a whistle and yells, "Traveling," and I'm all, Ooh, where are we going? Can I have a whistle?
Plus, I have no aim. And dribbling while also running? Sure, and why don't I chew some gum too, you monster?

Myrna despised the player, cared not a whit for the game.

So March madness drives me mad. Much like Zoe has upon occasion. In fact, I've noticed they share some things in common.
Here are the Sweet Sixteen Elite Eight, screw it, Ten---for the number of rounds,  or brackets, I don't know and don't tell me, I wear my ignorance like a badge---Ways March Madness is like living with a four-year-old:
1. There's a lot of running back and forth and I can't follow what's happening.
2. There are rivalries I don't understand. Giant men wearing blue and white feud with giant men wearing white and blue. Just like Zoe has a million fire trucks and some of them are "bad guys" and some are "good guys." How can anyone possibly tell which is which? Unless you're Zoe. And don't worry, she'll set you straight.
3. Personal, technical, and flagrant fouls occur with shocking frequency. Zoe drops an elbow, and when I call foul she fakes a fall and acts as if I tripped her.
4. My husband must often utilize a zone defense, the zone being his crotch.

Go, white and blue team!

5. She's the ultimate goaltender. Every time I think I've made progress, she's undoing my work. The other night, her goaltending was at its most literal as I brought food to my mouth, aka my basket, and she stuck her head in my face, ending up with hummus in her hair.
6. There are pick and rolls. Only the picks are of the nasal variety, and then she rolls all over the floor, avoiding my attempts to wipe her hands and face with a tissue.
7. If there's a Cinderella team, she wants to be on it. And to be Cinderella.
8. Bedtime find me shooting for an easy layup or, better yet, a slam dunk, but she keeps rebounding.
9. I can't watch my regular TV shows because she interrupts them.
. . . and finally, the way Zoe is most like March Madness . . .
10. There are a lot of upsets no one could have ever predicted.

Zoe: 85; 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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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Zoe vs. the Homeric Epithet

Homeric epithets. Remember them from school? I'm not talking about the epithets we muttered when the bell rang and we were still struggling to stuff everything back in our lockers. I'm talking about the ones in Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey, like "rosy-fingered dawn" and "swift-footed Achilles."
Nowadays, we'd call them cliches, but because the ancient Greeks made a big deal about their oral tradition and their prodigious memories and refused to write anything down since they claimed no one had invented paper and pens yet---the lazy liars---they get to be fancy.

OMG, we get it, Dawn.

So we're getting all highbrow today. Because even though I know you all enjoy hearing about my kid's lowbrow shenanigans and what happened to Boots now that Dora left him behind to hang out with her new friends, sometimes I need to take out my liberal arts education, dust it off, and hold it close, tightening my grip by desperate increments until it's ready to take out a restraining order.
This whole thing was prompted by a stray thought I had the other night while trying to wrangle Zoe into the bathroom for her bath. It was taking her about ten years to get from the living room to the bathroom and I thought: She's just like Odysseus on his journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War.
Yes, just like that.
We begin in medias mess (Latin for my living room; and also English):

Zoe's Odyssey (from living room to bathroom)
Sing to me, O Muse, of a wily, fair-haired preschooler
who needs to take her bath.
So she can then go to sleep.
And Mommy can chill.

She is called Zoe, sacker of living rooms,
and has been awake since rosy-fingered dawn
and in her fancy thinks she can stay up forever,
or till the River Styx runs dry, whichever comes first.
And so she stalls.

As both an emitter and ignorer of loud noises,
resisting the Sirens' call would be a cakewalk for Zoe.


She implies her journey is cursed,
referencing imaginary bruises,
blaming fate, nebulous "bad guys,"
and/or the god Poseidon, who, angered at some 
perceived slight, is preventing her obedience.

White-armed Mommy (I am really pale),
using the aforementioned white arms, tries to grab at Zoe,
eluder of grasps, to haul her butt to be washed.
But, thwarted, her quarry moors beneath the dining room table,
where she retires for many an age,
waxing on about those who've done her wrong,
and throwing others under the chariot.
In mongrel tongue.

Tell the tale, O Muse, of Daddy,
reaching under the table to bring forth feisty four-year-old,
and for this effort receives a sock to the head, 
temporarily blinding him in one eye.

He reels around in a pain like fire while 
Mommy implores her to "say you're sorry,"
but she protests her innocence.
Mommy asks: Who, then, hurt Daddy?
"Nobody," her answer as Daddy blinks, disbelieving, with his one good eye.

At this point she knows she's in trouble
and forgoing all cunning, makes a break for her room
but on either side she is beset by two equally imposing forces:
Mommy is Charybdis, a maelstrom of bath-time inevitability,
and Daddy is Scylla, sprouting five extra heads in his anger. 
In the middle, a small vessel, Zoe, thrashes about, in a whine dark sea.

It's the Stitch-n-Bitch sisterhood I miss the most.

At long last Zoe, breaker of parents, is in the tub.
And Mommy rests for a bit, praying for Penelope's patience.
Because soon enough she'll have to get her out again
before she can find her own home: couch, TV, chocolate.

And so the golden child splashes about, beloved of gods,
while her parents crouch in the shadows, weary and doomed,
like a bunch of suitors wooing the wrong man's wife.

Zoe ("life" in Greek): 84; Kosmos: 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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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Zoe vs. Sun Tzu's The Art of War

When I hear the words "military strategist and tactician," I naturally think of Zoe. But if you add the words "ancient" and "Chinese" I'd probably have to give it to Sun Tzu.
Sun Tzu was a high-ranking general who lived around the fifth century B.C.E., and one day he recorded his thoughts and theories about warfare and these became The Art of War. Somehow, Zoe absorbed these lessons, and she's been an avid disciple of Sun Tzu since she delivered her first head butt to Daddy's groin.
The following are 6 quotes from The Art of War and how I believe Zoe has internalized and expressed them in order to defeat us utterly.

Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then they will be amenable to your will.
From my glasses to Daddy's phone to a hank of my hair, the little warmonger has held these items in her grubby fingers, threatening to drop, bang, yank, or otherwise misuse them unless we give in to her demands, implied or screamed for on a repeating loop (juice, candy, more episodes of Team Umizoomi).

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
I don't think she's gotten the hang of the first part since her plans are pretty transparent, and consistent (see above re juice, etc.), but the thunderbolt part she's mastered.
For example, the other night when I bent down to pick up grains of rice she dropped while eating dinner, she was on me like General Bai Qi was on the Zhao army during the Warring States period from China's history. Trust me, it was bad.

Where's Weili?



Appear where you are not expected.
Mostly the bathroom. Though Sun Tzu lived before the advent of indoor plumbing, Zoe gave this dictum a modern twist.
Often I'm in medias wipe when the door knob turns, and there she is, asking me what I'm doing.
Or: I'm washing my hair, I rinse out the shampoo, open my eyes, and, bam, Zoe's little face is peering around the shower curtain.
Or: It's 3 A.M. and I startle awake sensing a presence at my bedside. My eyes open and, bam, mere millimeters away another pair of eyes in the darkness, above a mouth that whines.

If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate them.
Now it makes sense. It's strategy.

Dammit, gentlemen, she's just one four-year-old girl!


Appear weak when you are strong, strong when you are weak.
Remember in The Wrath of Khan when Captain Kirk and his crew pretended The Enterprise had sustained more damage than it really had in order to lure Khan into a trap? Like that, but with less girdles and more whining.
Whining seems like a weapon of the weak and powerless. But is it? I say to Zoe, I can't understand you when you whine, but she knows that's not true and that I read that I should say that in Parents magazine, whose editors, while well meaning, don't even know when it comes to ancient Chinese warlords.
Zoe intuitively understands when I'm trying to out Sun Tzu her, and since we both know we're both faking it, me my strength, Zoe her weakness, well, we both know who the victor will be.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
I'll sum up Zoe's strategy in four words: Cute for the win.

Zoe: 83; Universe: 0

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

To win the battle as well as the war 
every Thursday, click here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Zoe vs. Social Media

Social media is a lot like a small child: Fun, difficult to master, and a scourge to time management.

Where did my day go?

I went on social media because of Zoe. Before she was born I wasn't even on Facebook. After, it just made sense, since it was the easiest way to share pictures with friends and family who either lived far away or were just as busy with tiny people and so, like us, couldn't meet for drinks anymore.
Then I started a blog.
Cue a dedicated Facebook page for the blog, plus accounts on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.
Recently I realized that each of these platforms remind me of parenting. And, at their extremes, share traits with my four-year-old. Traits that in a regular adult would be a mood disorder, or at least the sign of a vitamin deficiency. . . .

Facebook Megalomania 
Status reports are constant and vainglorious. Everyone look at me! Everyone like me! Kittens!---want one! See what I made, cooked, lifted over my head? My tummy hurts. I'll eat better tomorrow---frowny face emoticon. Someone was mean to me---two frowny face emoticons plus one crying emoji. Puppies!---need one! I'm so tired but I can't sleep. I need a night out away from these people. Look, two animals of different species who shouldn't be best friends but totally are!

Posting about your kids,
before Facebook.

Pinterest Pining (not a typo for "pinning")
I wish I could do that. I wish I had time, talent, energy, a flair for design. But also not really. Pinterest is like the Elysian Fields of myth: An ideal place where all the clothes fit and all the food is good and aesthetically pleasing. Within its colorful blocks of jollity you'll find a lifetime's worth of recipes/crafts/wonders that photograph like delightful fun except my uncoordinated heart knows better. My attempts to re-create these projects would most likely end in tears. Sticky tears. Of glue and shame.

Twitter Jitters
Just like childhood---supposedly---it all goes by too fast. Twitter parties are the extreme. They move faster than a tornado of overstimulated toddlers. Here's a real-time transcript of my thoughts when I do one: It's too much. I can't understand what's happening. I can't keep up. I'll never be able to figure this out. Dear @internet, I'm @overwhelmed. Send help @me. 

Google+ Ennui
Google+ reminds me of Zoe when it's raining and she stares out the window tracing droplets with her index finger. It's all one big sigh. Where is everyone? I hear echoes of laughter but when I turn, no one's there. 

Instagram Insufficiency
Because I'm not on Instagram. Most of the time Zoe hates when I take pictures of her. And I always forget my camera. Or if I do remember it, it's not charged. Are you starting to see why I'm such a natural with social media? @Luddite.

The constant tweeting tuckered her out.

StumbleUpon Vertigo
StumbleUpon is a site celebrating Legos and other small toy parts. Or so I made up in my head. It's also a good description for what happens when I tell Zoe to start getting ready for her bath. The road to the bathroom is lined with toys, and she must stop and greet each one like she's running for mayor of Toy Town, aka our living room.
I'd make Zoe (hahaha) pick up the toys, but first I'd need to take a picture to post in my Facebook feed. Which means, even before first, I need to find the camera. And charge it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I just got a Twitter notification.
Zoe: 82; 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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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Zoe vs. Subway Etiquette

Now that Zoe's getting older, increasingly we've been taking the train instead of the stroller to and from preschool each day. At first I was preoccupied with holding her hand to make sure she stayed far from the edge of the subway platform. And I was also distracted by the charm of her enthusiasm for a mode of transportation I take day after soul-deadening day.

Fact: each day anywhere from 96 to 97% of
subway riders are screaming internally.

Then the novelty wore off. And I noticed something.
Zoe is all the people who annoy me on the subway.

The Sudden Stopper
All that matters to them is that they make it. Onto the train. Off the train. Through the turnstile. To the bottom/top of the stairway. They get where they're going and then immediately come to a complete halt, forcing the person behind them to stop short. (My personal fave is the person who blocks the entrance to the train car.)
Because I'm also responsible for Zoe, and she's still small, I can at least corral her or sort of give her little shoves ("Mommy, stop pushing!"), but it still drives me batty.

The Close Sitter
Personal space is a rare commodity on the subway. There are rules, and not everyone follows them. If there are others seats available, you don't need to sit right next to someone! Seriously, there are not enough exclamation points.
Zoe hasn't gotten the memo.
And, though she's less than 40 pounds and just over 40 inches, she needs three seats. She's like the guy who sits with his legs wide open, clearly overcompensating, or the New York Times reader who must suffer from a rare birth defect rendering them unable to fold paper because that's the only reasonable explanation for why they keep elbowing you.

My comfort zone lies somewhere
beyond the edge of the cone.
Jean-Louis Grall (Creative Commons)

When she's sitting, Zoe's feet are right at her neighbor's shin level, perfectly positioned for kicking.
"Sorry!" I say to the stranger, then, "Keep your feet to yourself, Zoe."
In response, she barks. Which brings us to . . .

The Crazy Person Who Talks to Herself
Random exclamations, singing, growling or hissing, and keeping up a dialogue with someone who isn't there. If she wasn't four, fellow passengers would not be smiling patiently.

The Clueless Clutzes
These are the people who get on the train and then fail to account for the fact that the train will move. As if that's not its purpose. So they stand there, contemplating where to stand or sit, and then when the train moves they lurch wildly, often falling on someone.
Each night I usher Zoe onto the train, so then I'm behind her, in nervous suspense. Sit. Right there. Sit.
She finally moves, just as the train does, and is about to fall, so I reach out and jerk her back by the collar of her coat. "Mommy, you're hurting me!"

The Loud Talker
While I'm trying to cover for Zoe's accusations of abuse, she makes loud proclamations about her day---what hurts, who caused the hurt, who didn't listen, can she have a Tic Tac? why can't she have a Tic Tac?

The People Who Think the Train Is Their Living Room
Not only do they spread out with their body and possessions, they remove articles of clothing, and leave messes behind. Food, spilled drinks, nail clippings.
It's only two stops but Zoe wants to take off her hat, her gloves, her scarf. Maybe her boots if her sock fell into it. I say no but then relent on the gloves because how else can she accept the Tic Tac I didn't say I was giving her.

I thought these were Tic Tacs,
but then I ended up in the Matrix.

Inappropriate Socializer
Public transportation, like church, should be a place of quiet contemplation if not angry silence. It's not a place to make friends. And yet she introduces herself. Or inquires in a stage whisper about the girl sitting directly across from us.
"Where is she going? Why? Where does she live? Can we see?"
Often the girl smiles indulgently. Zoe is cute for a stalker.
But the absolute worst is when Zoe sees another child.
"Let's go talk to that kid," she says as my blood instantly turns to ice.
I don't want to talk to that kid or that kid's parent/guardian. When will Zoe get with the antisocial program her father and I have tried to foster in her? Hopefully someday.
Until then I'll distract her with Tic Tacs.
Zoe: 81; 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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