Thursday, October 23, 2014

Zoe vs. Earth, Wind, and Fire

Not the R&B, funk, disco band---that I remember most from the episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where, following a real-life tragedy at a concert, Venus Flytrap played their 1979 hit "After the Love Has Gone"---but the actual elements. (If anything, I'd say by her reaction when I played "Boogie Wonderland" the other day---"Watch my moves, Mommy," said as she performed some slow-motion break dance on the floor---she's a fan.)

Former name was Earth, Wind & Subtlety
but then they decided that was redunculous.

I'm leaving water out of this discussion of elements since Zoe's enmity toward water has been previously expounded upon. Also because Earth, Wind & Fire left it out, possibly because they thought it would damage their sequins.
I've got two stories, one, the longer one, is about fire. I'll tackle that one first, then earth and wind together, because their power is patient and less visible, respectively. Neither are the attention whore that fire is.

A few weeks ago it was Fire Safety Day at Zoe's daycare. A local fireman came in to give a talk, bringing coloring books and plastic fire hats. He was a hit. When I picked Zoe up at the end of the day, the first thing she said was: "I can't play with matches." (Good, I thought. And also said.) "You can play with them, Mommy." (Um, all right.)
Other things she learned not to touch: candles, lighters, and pots of boiling water. According to Zoe, these were all things only Mommy and Daddy could play with. Perhaps if we were pyromaniacs who didn't mind the occasional second-degree burn.
Zoe was told to "stay low and go," which sounds like advice that might apply to some non-fire situations as well. And that she should tell Mommy and Daddy to (something unintelligible) the beeper.
Eventually I figured out she was referring to our smoke alarm. And that she was supposed to remind Mommy and Daddy to replace the batteries seasonally (and presumably not to wait till it wouldn't stop beeping in the middle of the night).

His kung fu is wronger than your kung fu.

She also said we should have an evacuation plan. I started to reassure her and was about to make some suggestions, but she was way ahead of me. At the first sign of fire, she informed me, we were to leave the apartment. "That's good," I began, but she wasn't done.
"Then we'll go to the cookie fair," she said.
"The cookie fair? I've never heard---"
"And the chocolate fair. And then the chocolate milk fair." She scratched her head, stirring more thoughts. "I like rides. I like to go to the ice cream store. And also the chocolate milk store." 
From her recitation I gathered that she believes fires are a good excuse to party and consume vast quantities of sugar.
However, I'm certainly glad she won't be playing with matches. After all, that's Mommy's job.

Mit science!

Earth and Wind
I'm combining these because of what happened when we went to the park this past weekend. She was playing in the dirt, her medium, picking it up in fistfuls and throwing it in the air. It was a windy day and I warned her that if she kept at it eventually the wind would be against her and she'd get dirt in her face.
She ignored me and soon Mommy's prediction proved all too true. And it proved true right in her eyes.
She stopped, blinking away the grit. I waited for the tears, but they didn't come. I realized this was because she didn't want to let on to me that I'd been right.
After one final furtive wipe at her eyes, she walked toward me and announced, "Let's go, Mommy. The sand is closed."
So the love was gone, but unlike Earth, Wind & Fire, Zoe wasn't going to sing about it.
Zoe: 66 (ish; really more of a draw); Universe: 0

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Zoe vs. the Keurig
(plus an ode)

Coffee, beautiful life-giving coffee. It is my second thought every morning when I wake up, my first being an inarticulate scream.
We have a regular coffeemaker and a Keurig. Two ways to get my fix. One thing standing in my way: a cranky four-year-old who wakes up even worse than I do.

That's the stuff.

I'm not even talking about the out-there OCD rituals and demands that occur with unsettling regularity. Though they are troublesome.
I'm talking about something I did to myself. One early morning, when it was still dark so Zoe insisted on turning on our kitchen light then got upset because it was too bright and would neither stop crying or allow me to turn off the light, out of desperation I latched on to a way to distract her. 
"Zoe, would you like to make my coffee?" Since Zoe, like most small children, likes anything that smacks of adulthood, she immediately perked up. (Coffee references run like a caffeine-withdrawal fever dream through my unconscious.)
I handed her a K-cup then pressed the power button. She eyed me critically for a moment. Then pressed the power button, paused, then pressed it again so she could be the one to turn it on. (What ever had I been thinking?)
As we waited for the water to heat, I sprawled forward over the counter while she stared, saucer-eyed, at the machine, waiting for The Miracle. When the water was ready I showed her how to insert the K-cup, close the lid, then press the middle button, an operation that dragged on and on---she had to keep inserting the K-cup and taking it out, then closing and opening the lid. 
The road led to coffee, but it was a circuitous route, and one we then had to travel every day with all the attendant bumps and detours that you don't seem to encounter until a four-year-old is behind the wheel.

Much here beyond my reach.

The offer once made could not be rescinded so now there's no getting my coffee without her "help." If I try, the sound of the machine gives me away, and though a mug of coffee is produced, it will most certainly be cold by the time I'm done making amends for my crime. By then she can make me a fresh one.
As is my wont, my suffering has inspired me to write bad poetry. This time I was moved to ruin Keats.
Heat that day-old sludge in the microwave and enjoy!

Ode on a Coffee Urn
Thou Keurig sitting on my countertop
Thou delivery system for my hit
What obstacle 'tis this, neath towhead mop
Lying athwart me and having a fit?
   Too early this, the sun is not yet up
   Through fogged mind, I fasten upon a cue
   A way to make my interests her care
   A plan that promises to fill my cup
   With Goddess Java, that heavenly brew.
   Forever will I love and it be fair.* (Also: far.)
Keats died young. Coffee
could've saved him.

Thoughts of French roast are sweet but the real deal
Is better. Therefore coax overwrought child
With K-cup, upon kitchen stool to kneel.
She is now slowness where before was wild.
   Forever thou seemst to dwell, beyond reach
   To a four-year-old's pace I am in thrall
   Oh how I wish that faster she would go,
   But speed is not a thing that one can teach
   Coffee is truth, truth coffee, that is all
   Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Zoe: 65; Universe: 0
* Italics for lines from actual poem. Old English-major habits die hard. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Zoe vs. the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the movie---based on the book by Judith Viorst---is being promoted as a comedy, but to me it sounds like a docudrama. I know all about having a string of bad luck.
A few Saturdays ago I was taking Zoe to a birthday party at a gymnastics center. The party started at three. 
Our day started at 5:45 a.m., when Zoe woke us to ask when we were leaving for the party. Um, in about nine hours. She was to ask at least twenty more times.
Each hour.

Coming soon to Xbox

The party was in the neighborhood, but far enough away that I'd rented a Zipcar. I'd walk to the garage while the Husband stayed with Zoe. The 2-o'clock pickup meant I'd have plenty of time to return, install the child seat, install the child, and head to the party. 
By 1:30, Zoe was bouncing off the walls, and I was starting to worry she'd be too exhausted to bounce at the actual party. So I left a bit early to get the car, limping all the way.
Why the limp? No idea. Either I injured myself or I've been wearing the wrong shoes, or I'm old. In any case, something is wrong with my ankle. It may even be swollen. 
Or I'm getting cankles. It's hard to tell since my glasses fall off when I bend down to look. I know. Don't go falling in love with me.
I come back with the car and go upstairs to get the booster seat.
Which is nowhere to be found.
We conduct a thorough search of the apartment. It's small so this takes about a minute. Since we don't have a car we barely use the booster, and so I'm forced to conclude I left it in a relative's car. Clever Mommy!
I still have time so I call a friend to ask if I can borrow one. I drive over, get the booster, and drive back to get a not only still hyper Zoe but a quickly becoming cranky one too.
I hustle her downstairs, strap her in, then turn the key in the ignition.
Nothing. I try again. Still nothing.
I call Zipcar and work my way through the menu with an increasingly whiny Zoe in back repeating: "Where's the party? I wanna go to the party. Are we still going to the party?" 
I finally get a customer service rep who informs me I have the wrong car. Apparently the parking attendant gave me Tesla* but I was supposed to get a car named Bogdan. (Why the cars are Serbian, I don't know.)

A hapless killing machine, the Toyota Yaris
is known as the Gavrilo Princip of cars.

Both Tesla and Bogdan were Kia Fortes and since there was no name tag on my car and it couldn't talk like Kitt, the parking attendant made an understandable mistake. I have no idea why I was able to start it the first two times but I didn't have time to learn what was likely unlearnable. 
Upshot: Zipcar switches the reservation and then Zoe, Tesla, and I are off. I check my watch. Five after three, officially late.
At the first red light I turn to check on an eerily quiet Zoe and, as I feared, she's asleep. I turn off the A/C and open the windows trying to revive her. She snores. I sweat.
Five minutes later I drive past our destination. Two minutes later I realize I passed it and circle back to look for parking.
I find a spot, turn off the car, look down, and notice a hole in my shorts, at the inner thigh. Nice. I am apparently Hulking out, but less from anger and more from cake. These are my favorite shorts too because they go past the knee. Since becoming a mommy, the days of shorts above the knee are gone because that's where I keep my spider veins. And though my shorts aren't that short it still would've been nice if I'd shaved my legs. Which I haven't. 
To recap: limp, holey pants, unshaven. Harried because of the car mix-up and the booster seat drama. Now let's add more sweating as I maneuver a sleepy cranky four-year-old out of a borrowed booster seat in a rented car so she can go to a party. 
I carry her down the block---her weight emphasizing my limp so I'm a ringer for Quasimodo---enter the party, and spend a good twenty minutes trying to persuade a cranky child to have fun. Eventually she gets her mojo back and is soon muscling other children out of her way. 
After the activity portion, there's pizza and cake and juice and the utter mayhem of twenty or so children. Throw in a conch shell and we'd have had another Lord of the Flies on our hands.

Tesla was the first scientist to harness the raw
power generated at a children's birthday party.

Soon the party's winding down but Zoe isn't. And she wants to take out and play with everything in her goody bag.
I bribe her, saying she can take out one item as we walk to the car. She hands me a mini bottle of bubbles to open. The plastic stretching across the top is not kidding around. Eventually I use my teeth. Once it's open I find it's just as difficult to get the little wand out since you can fit only one finger inside the bottle. So I have to tip it, causing some of the soapy water to spill.
Zoe gets upset. But after blowing a few bubbles her bonhomie is restored.
Then she drops the wand back in the bottle and can't get it out.
Zoe gets terribly upset. I have to spill more liquid to get it out. I hand everything back but now the soap's gotten too low for the wand to reach.
Zoe gets terribly and horribly upset. The bubbles having betrayed her in every conceivable way, she doesn't want them anymore. At the car, I take the bubbles from her, place the open bottle on the dashboard, and strap Zoe in. Then I get in, cross my fingers, and start the car. Go, Tesla! As I pull out, the forgotten bubbles fall off the dashboard. Slippery soapy bubbles all over.

Let's review: the gait of Quasimodo, the legs of Sasquatch, weight-related hole in pants, incipient cankling, copious sweating, sticky. 
At the next red light I decide to let the Husband know we're on the way home so I pull out my phone. Dead, naturally.
I glance in the rearview mirror to check on Zoe and spot a pimple on my chin. For the last time: Stop undressing this blog with your eyes.
Zoe: 64; Universe/Mommy: 0
* Names changed to protect the innocent. Actual names may or may not have been Serbian.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Z.O.E. vs. D.I.Y.

The other day I read something that shook me to my core, challenging everything I'd believed since the time I was a fetus. I was reading an article when I came across the phrase "DIY and crafting." Not "DIY or crafting," as in the words are interchangeable, but "and" as in they are two separate and discrete activities.
Deep down I suppose I always knew they were separate things. I seem to recall hearing that some people make their own deodorant, for instance. I suppose that would not be considered a craft in the same way that gluing dry elbow macaroni to corrugated cardboard to form something you tell others is a boat but really looks nothing like one is. But then people get up to all kinds of stuff in the name of fun, or personal health or political protest. I have no patience for any of those things, fun most of all.
Full disclosure: pipe cleaners hold a certain allure for me. In art class, as a child, while my peers were busy bending pipe cleaners into halos for their papier-mache angels (Catholic school), I balanced them between my nose and my upper lip to create multi-hued mustaches.
What does all this have to do with Zoe? you ask. Well, as far as I can tell, Zoe does not object to crafting as a way of life, but there have been certain creations that have revealed a heart of darkness at their center.

Decoupage of the damned

On weekends, I sometimes give her Play-doh or construction paper and crayons, but never glue or glitter or, heaven forfend, scissors. So for the most part, her crafting is confined to day care, meaning other people, thankfully, are responsible for doing this stuff with her. 
Early on, when I knew there was little chance Zoe had contributed to the creation of these abominations artistic endeavors, except maybe via a slash of crayon or a sample of dried snot, I was tempted to hand the items back to her obviously hardworking, craft-loving teacher and say, "Maybe this is something to put on your mommy's refrigerator."
Each day Zoe would come home with cutouts of numbers or letters sloppily colored in. "Art" ranging from endless sheets of paper covered in mad scribblings to advanced holiday-themed projects like a deformed turkey for Thanksgiving (Zoe's hand print with Popsicle sticks glued to it). 
One recent project required her classmates to decorate paper plates to look like their faces, using googly eyes, crayons, and paper cutouts. I walked in the room that day to confront sixteen paper-plate faces looking at me, like self-portraits of the mentally deranged. When I spotted Zoe's I was overcome with nausea and had to look away. Had my eyes deceived me? Had she used yellow Post-its for hair? The horror . . . The Horror.

The horror . . . of scrapbooking

I have an unhealthy relationship with Post-its. They are for lists, not art. Though the list itself may be art. Or it would also be acceptable to list art supplies. But the idea that they'd been used---wasted!---for such a disposable project made my heart stop. After steeling myself I drew closer and saw the "hair" was yellow construction paper. The pain in my chest eased and I could breathe again.
Another project in particular that I recall, if only because I did not immediately throw it away, was the Angel Box. The Angel Box is a box shaped like a treasure chest that Zoe painted yellow. It has her picture taped to the top of it. In the picture she has a serene expression on her face, one a perfectly lovely and innocent child might have, one I've never actually seen on her face when her eyes were open.
The Angel Box, the teacher told me when I picked Zoe up from school, was filled with slips of paper (not Post-its, because they are sticky, and also, I assume, because using them would be morally reprehensible) listing her good deeds, like cleaning up after herself or saying "please" and "thank you" without being prompted.
You don't have to be clairvoyant to see where this is going.
We get home and I open the box to find this:

Wherefore all the good deeds at?

Zoe looks at me with her customary feigned-innocence expression as if to say, it was full but I guess you lost all the slips of paper on the way home.
It's clear she's at least one kind of crafty.
Zoe: 63; Universe: 0

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Zoe vs. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep is regarded as the world's greatest living actress. I believe that was true.
. . . Until four years ago, when Zoe arrived on the scene.

The second-best actress in the
world (as of August 2010)

Zoe was born dramatic. Though I suppose all births are dramatic. As renowned baby expert Dr. Benjamin Spock said, "Childbirth is the most unnatural natural thing ever, except maybe for Carrot Top."*
Still, the style in which Zoe arrived---a little resistant at first (induction at 41 weeks), then a lot resistant (plenty of Pitocin to no purpose), then causing a bit of a panic (um, where's that heartbeat?), ending in blood and screaming as if she was the one being cut open (semi-emergency c-section)---set the tone for what was to follow.
Even today, most of her emotional outbursts follow that same pattern: sluggish resistance, followed by irrational fear, then the blood and the screaming and the calls for drugs.
From what I've seen in the past four years, I think it's reasonable to conclude that in a diva-on-diva throwdown my daughter would out-act Meryl Streep. As evidence I present the following selections from Ms. Streep's impressive filmography and examine them against the theatrics of my pint-sized thespian.

A Cry in the Dark
Meryl made this movie in 1988. I was in high school at the time and probably preferred murderous dingos to children. (Now, it's a close call.)
I've never met a dingo, and I've never been to Australia, but the title resonates with me because it sums up that first sleepless year with infant Zoe. 
Early on, her crying was for serious, but by the time she turned two she was able to cue it up anytime for effect. She buries her face in her hands as she cries then peeks between her fingers to make sure she still has an audience. If I've left the room, she stops crying (Cut!), comes to find me, then commences crying again (Action!).

A dingo ate my hairdresser.

This movie also reminds me of Zoe because in it Meryl plays a mother accused of a crime she didn't commit. This gels with Zoe's prosecutorial style, aka how she wakes up: Why's my blue sippy cup with the red top lying unwashed in the sink? You should've washed it by now. I have a witness who places you in the kitchen at 7:55 P.M. last night washing your coffee mug, so clearly you had opportunity. Did you just not care? You are guilty of being a terrible mother. (Bangs gavel.)

Sophie's Choice
You'd think I was asking her to choose who should live and who should die the way Zoe reacts when I ask her which of two shirts she wants to wear. Every choice is pregnant with future bitter regret. If she chooses the pink toothbrush rather than the blue toothbrush, what are the ramifications? What untold suffering that cannot be foreseen?
On the way home, should she sit in the stroller or should she walk? Wracked with indecision she jumps on and off, forcing Mommy to stop and start. That's not frustrating for Mommy. And who has time to think about her anyway? Getting home only means facing another weighty decision of what cartoon to watch.

The Devil Wears Prada
Just do what I say!

The Iron Lady
Just do what I say with a British accent! 
Regarding Meryl and her accents. Zoe is a master at this as well. Though I don't recognize what country of origin Zoe's accents are supposed to represent. They seem to be wholly her own.

What can't Meryl Streep do! Here she is as a building.
She trained for the role by spending a summer
as a newspaper kiosk.

Zoe likes to shout orders in strange, made-up voices, or yell things that sound like orders but are just extreme imitations of me or her teachers. She's been doing this since she was around two and "imitated" me changing her diaper.
Knowing how she exaggerates my treatment of her for dramatic effect, I kind of assume her teachers are not constantly screaming at her and that a particular little boy is not hurting her as much as she claims. At bath time, she works out her stress in little vignettes, randomly letting loose with: "I'm NOT telling you again" or "If you don't stop talking, you go straight to the office. Ha!" or "Stop talking or I won't read the story. Ha!"
I don't know what the "Ha!" thing is about but she tacks it to the end of every sentence when she's in acting mode.
Naturally I'm her favorite to imitate. Picking her up from day care once I must've rushed her to get home saying I had a lot to do because almost every night now she launches out of the stroller, plants herself at the top step of a stranger's house, turns and shouts: "I've got tooooooo much stuff to do! Ha!" Then she crosses her arms and levels a disarmingly shrewd stare at me.
I am tempted to point out that her behavior and stance are the exact opposite of how a person with toooooo much stuff to do would behave but that would only raise the curtain on the next act.

Mamma Mia!
People didn't know Meryl could sing, but she can. Zoe knows she can sing. Because who's gonna tell her she can't? You can't develop that kind of confidence. You either have it or you don't.

So many parallels:
Zoe acts like she's being psychologically tortured but I think it's really me.
I try to point out blatant safety violations, but she refuses to heed my warnings. However, if I bump into her accidentally, she claims grave injury and that she is bleeding (she is not bleeding) and demands a Band-Aid.
Because I once gave her a Tic-Tac to settle her stomach on a long car trip she now believes it's medicine, and so when she sees Tic-Tacs suddenly her stomach hurts. She cries when I don't believe her.
Two nights ago she showed me a paper cut. Although she called it a book cut. I said, Yes, books have paper so that's why it's called a paper cut. It's a book cut, she said. I sighed.
"It's bleeding," she continued. (It had been.) "A lot." (Barely.) "The biggest." (Biggest what? Whiner or liar?) I got her a Band-Aid.
Another thing Silkwood-esque: Zoe refuses to wash her hands after using the potty unless it's bedtime. Then she wants to wash as if she's been contaminated by plutonium.

After seeing what she did to the potty,
I welcome death. (Source:

And finally. . .

The Hours
Sometimes, with Zoe, what "the seconds" feel like.
Zoe: 62; Universe: 0
*I may be making this up. There's nothing natural about Carrot Top.