Thursday, June 30, 2016

Zoe vs. A Blogaversary with the Piano Man

I've been writing this blog for three years this week (parade, please), and in honor of my blogaversary, I'm going to do a parody of another "list" song like I did last year with REM's It's the End of the World As I Know It (And I Feel Fine).
This way I get to (made-up word alert!) hyperlight---that is, highlight mixed with hyperlink---my posts from the previous year and present them within a well-known song. I'm not actually going to do Billy Joel's "Piano Man," since that's not what I mean by a "list" song, but another Billy Joel song, "We Didn't Start the Fire." 
The other reason I'm not doing "Piano Man" is I loathe that song. Apologies to the Billy Joel fans, but it's just one of those songs they always play in bars at the end of the night, and it goes on forever and drunk people seem to feel it necessary to sing along. Call me a snob, call me a jerkface poopypants, and that's fine, because as long as you're calling me names you won't be singing "Piano Man."
By the way, it is my firm belief everyone should get three song that, if they had the power, should be stricken from existence. Frikkin' "Piano Man" is one of mine. My other two are also songs drunk people sing in bars at the ends of boozy nights and they also go on forever.*

Parody of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire."

Now, without further ado, here, for my third blogaversary, is my takeoff on "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel, but for moms like me who haven't slept in years:

I'll Never Not Be Tired
1980's video games, all excuses are the same
Target toy aisle, go away, look out next year's PTA
Minecraft, Urban Wasteland, at the park she plays with sand
Harper's Index, Book Blurb, Oscars, she's on my last nerve 
Kobayashi Maru, go back to your bedroom
Spirit animal or playing pretend? What will we do this weekend?

I'll never not be tired
For my bed, I'm yearning
As the hours keep turning
I'll never not be tired
Bedtime, she fights it
My wish goes unrequited

Here's 9 words she can't pronounce, she won't give in to me an ounce
Knock, knock, who's there? I pulled down your underwear.
Oxford comma parody, Daddy's gonna marry me
Toys away! No more play! What else do I have to say?!

I'll never not be tired
For my bed, I'm yearning
As the hours keep turning
I'll never not be tired
Bedtime, she fights it
My wish goes unrequited

(Repeat refrain until you bring down the house and you're utterly exhausted, but is your child still up? Yes, yes she is.)

*Care to guess the other two boozy bar songs I'd like to have obliterated from time and memory? Let me know in the comments. Also, tell me three songs you'd like utterly destroyed so it's as if they never existed. I'm willing to bet I'll agree.


Zoe: 141: Universe: 0

If you liked this year's blogaversary post, you might like last year's.


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

For the next 141 posts, click here to subscribe.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Zoe vs. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Remember Robert Fulghum? Maybe not his name but you remember his poem-cum-poster-cum-book-cum-musical-cum-blockbuster-CGI-animated-movie-trilogy.
It's basically the Golden Rule, but more so. All we really need to know, he said, we learned in kindergarten. 
Sure, it's true that we could all do with the occasional nap, and who would say no to milk and cookies? Besides the lactose intolerant. Or, wait, are there peanuts in those cookies? Or were they packaged in a factory that ever held the word "peanut" suspended in its recirculated air? Then keep them to yourself, you bastard!
But I'm losing the thread here. See, Zoe graduated from kindergarten this week. And that's why I was reminded of Fulghum's words and wondered if they were still relevant to today's kindergartener. Say, one evil genius in training like Zoe.
So let's see how Fulghum's wisdom nuggets stack up against what Zoe's learned this past year.

One Kindergarten's wisdom

A word of caution: Zoe thinks the Golden Rule is for chumps. Keeping that in mind, here's what his list says, with Zoe's responses.

All Zoe Really Needs to Know She Learned in Kindergarten Sort Of

1. "Share everything." Define "everything."
2. "Play fair."  You mean when an adult is watching?
3. "Don't hit people." See #2.
4. "Put things back where you found them." Someone else's backpack, lunchbox, or hand.
5. "Don't take things that aren't yours." Oops.
6. "Say sorry when you hurt someone." Again, see #2.

"Gitt 'er" or even goiter would be better than glitter.

7. "Wash your hands before you eat." I eat with my right hand so that's the one I wash. 
8. "Flush." Solids. Pee's okay, especially if you don't even wipe.
9. "Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you." This is a trick, right?
10. "Live a balanced life. Learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work some." Some what?

This one speaks for itself regarding the development of her artistic sensibility, but I'm
also wondering why "favourite" gets the British spelling here when it didn't above.

11. "Take a nap every afternoon." Pass. 
12. "When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together." Mommy said to keep my hands to myself. She doesn't like when I'm sticky either.
13. "Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why." Photosynthesis.
14. "Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the styrofoam cup, they all die. So do we." You're harshing my buzz, Bob.
15. "Remember Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned. It was the most important word of all: 'Look.'" Don't tell me, because I know what's coming next. "But don't touch." Right?

"Make planets"?! Better than "Destroy," I guess.

The truth is Zoe learned a lot this past year or, as she has it, "lrned." Reading and writing. Addition and subtraction. Drawing. Comparing size and shape. Minions.
Most of all, Minions. 
Yes, because along with her ABCs she picked up some other bits of knowledge. It was her first year at the big school, with older kids, and so she also learned some things I would rather she not have learned.
Like what zombies are, for instance. 
Clown by Seurat by Zoe. Nightmares solely by Zoe.
"Zombies eat brains," she told me early in her second semester. How did you hear about zombies? I asked her. Her shrug implied "around." So here's another list.

All the Stuff Zoe Didn't Need to Know That She Learned in Kindergarten
1. How to "whip" as well as how to "nae nae." 
3. Did I mention Minions? She also learned the Minion language, Minionese. (She refuses to say banana with the accents on the correct syllables.)
4. How to manipulate other children into "sharing" their snacks. 
5. How to kill zombies. ("You have to hit them in their heads.")
6. How to use and abuse glitter. And glue. And markers.
7. Lots of cute songs she's apparently learned but that she won't sing for me preferring to make up her own songs like "I like to kill the things I love." (I'm not making this up.)
8. How to have fun and be the best Zoe she can be.
Watch out, first grade!

Photosynthesis, playa!

Zoe: 140: Universe: 0

If you're like Zoe and like "Uptown Funk," you might also like my parody of it 


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

There's always more to learn, click here to subscribe.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Zoe vs. FOMO

I made a terrifying discovery about Zoe the other day. To be honest, my fear had been building for a while. Zoe always wants to go to school events. She's constantly asking if she can do a sleepover. And the other day at the park she jumped on a boulder and started dancing, gathering a crowd of children around her. It was then I realized she may be---gasp!---an extrovert.
What's an introvert mother to do?!
It's my responsibility to set up playdates for my social butterfly, but the idea of approaching another parent and setting one up gives me butterflies in my stomach. What if I have nothing to talk about with this child's parents? What if they don't like me? What if I can't stand their kid?!
I remind myself: This is about Zoe, not you, but the nausea remains.
If I take her to a movie night at school, I sweat until the lights to go down, obviating the need for conversation. Two months before, when we went to her school's trivia night, it took all my inner resources to go up on stage with her so she could participate in the game, although she didn't do anything besides stand there.
Which raises the question: Does she really want to do all the things for themselves or does she just not want to be the only one not doing them? Could she already be experiencing FOMO?

Introvert Mom with Extrovert Kid

FOMO, if you don't know, means Fear of Missing Out. Even though we didn't have the acronym when I was young, "fear of missing out" still existed. I remember in grade school not being invited to a party and hearing all the details Monday morning at school. It must be worse today when kids can see pictures and video from the party they haven't been invited to in real time on Facebook or Snapchat.
I wonder who's affected more by FOMO, introverts or extroverts? If you like being around people, maybe it's harder to miss a party, while an introvert appreciates and needs alone time.
Or maybe it's the opposite. Maybe the introvert wants to be social but anxiety makes them an introvert by default.
Of course, we're all made up of a constellation of qualities, and it's hard to find a pure extrovert or introvert. I'm strongly introverted myself, which is why when I know I have to be social, I need a lot of mental preparation, which usually takes the form of anticipating my next dessert.
I went to BlogU, a writing conference, this weekend and besides the informative sessions (and cupcake and cookie breaks!), there was a lot of socializing and making connections. I'm socially anxious, an expert at self-monitoring, and reserve a lot of my scintillating conversation for my head. That's what's known as a negative at parties. Because of this I might be different from the introvert who's less conflicted about needing alone time.
Now let's talk about how social media magnifies reality. It's a rare person who's immune to the effects. Especially if you're feeling lonely, or unsatisfied with your place in life, whether in the life journey sense or in that literal moment, when you may be surrounded by people who make you feel like a stranger to yourself.
So you go on Facebook, and maybe you feel worse due to the comparison game. Everyone's presenting their best sides. They're in great relationships and having so much fun. Why can't that be you?
But let's remember reality vs. illusion. It's not that these happy photos are lies. I'm saying that even a relatively grounded person can look at an undiluted string of joy and feel like maybe they're not that happy after all.
While I was at the conference, a friend of mine who hadn't been able to go expressed his disappointment at himself on Facebook. I think all the pictures were making him feel left out. What was funny to me was I was there and wasn't immune to the feeling! At one point, I saw a video of everyone dancing and thought, wow, these people are really having fun. I wish I was there. And then I caught a glimpse of myself. I was in the video! Then I had to laugh at myself. I mean, I'm looking at a video of people dancing and feeling FOMO-ish when I was one of the people dancing!
Oh the humanity! That's all I have to say to that.
Even we nose-in-book loner types, we are part of the human species, and we are a social species. For good and ill. Yes, we are also competitive, and so yes, we often fall into the comparison trap.
But there are some good reasons. How would you grow as a person if you're always comfortable and content? The seeds of greatness often begin in self-doubt and at least a measure of dissatisfaction. Would you change either your world or the world at large if you were completely happy with it?
So I decided I was glad Zoe was in touch with this human energy, and further, that she's not afraid to dance, no matter who's watching. 
The next day I brought my little extrovert to the park and another girl started following her around, clearly wanting to play. But Zoe ignored her and then suddenly took off running. The little girl turned to me and asked, Why doesn't she want to play with me? I said, I'm sorry. I guess she wants to play by herself. Which obviously meant it was time for me to fret about Zoe being an introvert.

Zoe: 139; Universe: 0

For more on my particular brand of awkward, see my essay on Middle School Awkward, last year's theme at BlogU.

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

No mo' FOMO, click here to subscribe.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Zoe vs. My Quest for Perfection. AND I'M IN A NEW BOOK! I JUST WANT TO BE PERFECT

I just want to be perfect. Is that too much to ask? Considering I've been asking that question forty-plus years, you'd think I'd have my answer by now. Especially since this blog is a catalog of one humbling experience after another.
Thing is, if I did somehow become perfect, I'd have little to talk about! And who likes perfect anyway? The ability to laugh at oneself is one of the qualities I look for in friends. Furthermore, I enjoy telling stories where I'm the butt of the joke. In the mood for some schadenfreude? Well, I'm the schadenfreudiest.
Before having Zoe, I thought any child of mine would think I was perfect, at least for a few years. But it seems my daughter was born with an innate awareness of Mommy's imperfections, often feeling the best time to point them out is as I reach for a can of artichokes on the top shelf at the supermarket. "Mommy, you're short. And your shirt's moving up. . . . You've got a big tummy."
Getting called out in the local Foodtown for being a fatty was part of the reason I decided I needed to get in shape, and naturally, as a mom in her forties, I chose MMA. Because it's not too late to be a superhero.
I wrote about it in my essay "White Mamba," which is included in I Just Want to Be Perfect, fourth in the New York Times bestselling series that began with I Just Want to Pee Alone. Here's a snippet:















Put together by blogger, humorist, and editrix extraordinaire Jen Mann from People I Want to Punch in the ThroatI Just Want to Be Perfect brings together 37 hilarious women writers, all sharing their personal stories of striving and coming short to hilarious and heartwarming effect. Here they are:

Jen Mann - People I Want to Punch in the Throat / I Just Want to Pee Alone

Bethany Kriger Thies - Bad Parenting Moments

Deva Nicole Dalporto - MyLifeSuckers

Julianna Wesby Miner - Rants From Mommyland

LOLA LOLITA - SammichesPsychMeds / MockMom

Kim Bongiorno - Let Me Start By Saying

Alyson Herzig - The Shitastrophy

Kathryn Leehane - Foxy Wine Pocket

Harmony Hobbs - Modern Mommy Madness

Erin Dwyer Dymowski - Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms

Tara Wood - Love Morning Wood

Kelcey Kintner - The Mama Bird Diaries

Lisa René LeClair - Sassypiehole

Joelle Wisler - Joelle Wisler, Writer

Christine McDevitt Burke - Keeper of The Fruit Loops

Meredith Spidel - The Mom of the Year

Meredith Gordon - Bad Sandy

Nicole Leigh Shaw - NicoleLeighShaw.com

Allison Hart - Motherhood, WTF?

Jennifer Lizza - Outsmarted Mommy

Suzanne Fleet - Toulouse and Tonic

AK Turner - Vagabonding with Kids

Robyn Welling - Hollow Tree Ventures

Ashley Fuchs - The Malleable Mom

Kim Forde - The Fordeville Diaries

E.R. Catalano - Zoe vs. the Universe

Chrissy Woj - Quirky Chrissy

Stacey Gill - One Funny Motha

Wendi Aarons - wendiaarons.com

Jen Simon – jensimonwriter.com

Janel Mills - 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance Of.

Jessica Azar - Herd Management

Susanne Kerns -The Dusty Parachute

Audrey Hayworth - Sass Mouth

Hedia Anvar - Gunmetal Geisha

Christine Organ - christineorgan.com

Shya Gibbons - ShyaGibbons

Buy it here, read it everywhere, and then feel free to join the fun. Share your own epic fails on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #IJWTBP and/or on the I Just Want to Pee Alone Facebook page.
Though I imagine I'll always be a perfectionist when it comes to some areas of my life, for the most part I enjoy celebrating the imperfections. Because it's part of what makes us human. Nothing brings us together like sharing our struggles and vulnerabilities and nothing makes success sweeter than those times we fly too close to the sun, hopefully slathered in a sunscreen with a high SPF. Because as we plummet to our deaths, at least the witnesses will say, "She was an idiot, but she took care of her skin."

Zoe: 138; 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, 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


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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