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
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Zoe vs. the Oscars, 2015

It's Oscar time again, and just like last year I'm pitting Zoe against each of the movies nominated for Best Picture. Who will win? (Spoiler: Zoe) Who will lose? (Another spoiler: Me). Will I be able to watch any of it? (Unlikely.)
The Grand Budapest Hotel. I'm starting with this because it's the only movie I actually saw. Just like Zoe it's got an offbeat sort of charm interspersed with abrupt mood shifts and sudden violence. It features a main character with heart and panache, causing you to overlook their idiosyncrasies.
The Theory of Everything. Zoe may have a brief history, but even Stephen Hawking would be hard-pressed to explain it, let alone come up with any kind of Unified Theory. Zoe subverts the laws of physics. She is the ultimate black hole in which time both speeds up and slows down. She is the cause of most big bangs (at least in our apartment). Just when you think you've got hold of her, she's slipped away, leaving a quantum signature in the form of mucus and the grease from buttered noodles.

Black hole or close-up view of Zoe's soul left eye?

The Imitation Game. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to crack Zoe's code and it's completely thankless as she accuses me of crimes that aren't actually crimes and tries to put me in timeout. 
American Sniper. You'll have to ask Daddy for the total number of "kill shots" to his groin, but I understand she's an excellent markswoman. Though it's disrespectful to actual war veterans, I'm also going to go ahead and claim we have PTSD.
Selma. No matter how long and how far I may walk, Zoe will never concede I have rights.
Whiplash. For drums we have pots and pans and wooden spoons. I thought she'd left this phase behind when she was a baby, but now that she "helps" me cook, Sheila E. has returned. Another parallel---I may work till my hands bleed but I'll never satisfy my little critic: not that outfit, not that dinner, you wiped my butt wrong. When I've displeased her, she's become so enraged at times I could swear she'd throw her booster seat at me if she could only plant her feet properly.

Whiplash was not a
biopic about Snidely.

Birdman. A black comedy, involving superpowers, real or imagined---which covers both myself and Zoe (mine are real). Zoe likes to race around after her bath with her towel around her like a cape. For my part, there's the exhilaration and tension that comes from being the idiot (spelled artiste) who tries to "do it all in one take." Corners are cut. Sometimes, whole lines of dialogue.
Boyhood. Substitute "girl" for "boy." Spare no expense. Take your time. It's a labor of love.
Prediction: Zoe, in a clean sweep, while I am snubbed yet again for Best Director.
Zoe: 80; 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 12, 2015

Zoe vs. the Posh Tots

Most parents agree that by far the biggest change that comes with having kids is the new and various catalogs you receive in the mail.
Birthday and holiday decorations. Party favors. Costumes. Land of Nod, Chasing Fireflies. What happened to the Victoria's Secret catalogs I used to get before I had Zoe? Oh wait, they're still there, buried under those women-of-a-certain-age catalogs I've started getting. Did you know that you can hide a lot of living under a caftan, the sophisticated woman's muumuu?

Work it, Jeanine!

Almost all of these catalogs end up in recycling immediately, except for Pottery Barn Kids, which I just cannot resist. I leaf through it half angrily, half hungrily. Who can afford all these personalized bean bag chairs, monogrammed duvets, nameless hurricane lamps? Wait, is that a sale? Monograms on everything! Whee!
As I was to learn, however, Pottery Barn Kids doesn't even know.
I saw this article the other day from the Wall Street Journal about over-the-top bedrooms and playrooms for children. The focus was on the princess-themed fantasy room.
They may use the word "fantasy" but they mean an actual room existing in space and time and also in someone's house. Not at all like how I fantasize about someday having a home library with a secret entrance.
Anyway, these fantasy rooms are full of lavish furnishings "handcrafted by artisans" and extravagant---though they use the word "whimsical"---decorations that will make your little girl feel like a princess. All for the non-whimsical price of $70,000 plus. Not including a bed that's basically a castle, complete with turrets and a slide. 
One of the sites mentioned that provides this full-throttle whimsy is called PoshTots. Venturing to their site, I clicked on "children's furniture" and found the Woodland Princess Castle Bunk Bed, which combines a bunk bed with a playhouse "to maximize space in your child's room." I'm guessing that for most of their customers having a spacious room is not an issue.
They also sell a bed that looks like Cinderella's coach. You need to "call for pricing" but it starts at $65,000, so you better start skipping your morning Starbucks run.
PoshTots also sells luxury playhouses (villas, chalets, lodges) for the backyard. Which backyard? After all, I have several. Do you mean the one with the topiary shaped like beloved children's book characters? The one with Roman temple folly? Or maybe the one by the stables? These Disney resorts in miniature will run you about $50,000. Can I charge my child rent? 
Alas, it's all moot since I don't have a yard, so let's go back inside to the bedrooms, filled with sweet-dream facilitators (what I assume they call beds) that are bigger than my whole apartment. Not that I'm the demographic. 
In fact, for fun I thought I'd compare Zoe's bedroom.

Abandon all hope yada yada.

From her convertible crib/toddler bed Zoe graduated to a trundle bed, which is useful for a small Brooklyn apartment. When Grandma sleeps over, just pull out the bottom bed and voila.
Then Zoe broke it by jumping on it. No problem. We can still stow the mattress under there and pull it out when needed. Look out for errant nails though! Unless your fantasy is tetanus.
As for decor, I never really got around to it after she was born (or before) so there are no hand-painted murals or toy boxes that double as fainting couches (yes) or swarovski crystal--encrusted letters spelling my little princess's name. That reminds me though. At my baby shower I received a wooden letter Z, about 8 inches tall, solid white. It was apparently craft related in that I could decorate it, somehow, I don't know, I'm no artisan, and then hang it in Z's room. Over four years later that hasn't happened.

Found it!

About a year after Zoe was born we finally got around (my brother-in-law took pity on us) to hanging shelves on which I planned to put books and stuffed animals. I'd show you a picture but a few weeks later Hurricane Irene hit and we had a leak causing the shelves to fall from the wall. We still haven't rehung those shelves, or repainted. That was August 2011. Though I think in 2012 I bought some putty and a trowel thing, then forgot where I put them, but I refuse to buy more since they must be around here somewhere, probably in that bag with the curtains we never put up in the living room.
So, okay, maybe we're just minimalist.
You'd think PoshTots could let me have that, but no.
In the world of PoshTots, Minimalist includes a rocking chair for $1,500. For 200 dollars more the Subtle and Serene room has the Versailles Cream Adult Park Avenue glider. And nothing says subtle like Lucy the life-size stuffed giraffe for $1,000 plus. Completing the look is a hamper ($900). Zoe would have to jump in puddles of champagne and pee pure gold before I'd put her clothes in this hamper.

The infamous wall we still haven't
repainted. Underneath, our glider.
Zoe and I can sit side-by-side on it
since she kicked an arm off.

Now, a quick rundown of the arguments. These fantasy rooms are an obscene waste of money. You're teaching your kid all the wrong values. And: Are you telling me all of this is to feed the child's imagination? (Fainting couch, folks.)
On the opposite side. Why not? You're only a kid once. And think of the people getting paid. Economy and stuff. And people have the right to do what they want with their money, you communist bastard.
And yet . . .
Something something war, famine, pestilence, and widespread human suffering. Something sense of proportion and obscene wealth.
Notwithstanding the over reliance on the Disney fairy-tale images, I'd imagine some of these folks are cultured, or at least want to appear to be. So when they take their kids on the tour of Europe and end up at the Palace of Versailles---inspiration for the glider in their bedroom---as these mini royals marvel at all the tiny chairs will they perhaps detect a whiff of some awkward history?
Or maybe they never travel. I mean, why go anywhere when you have a Disney theme park in your house?

The clock above Zoe's door. The previous tenants left
it behind because it was broken. We left it as artsy
commentary. When you're in Zoe's room, time stops.

Still, here's what I'm wondering. These are little kids, which means they leave destruction in their wake. So you laid down custom carpeting for twenty thou. What's going to happen when the new maid in the left wing sneaks these deprived princesses some cheese curls, and their precious paws get orange powder all over the creamy white glider and pastel carpet?
Because kids break things and make them sticky or they grow tired of toys and play with boxes. Zoe's often happiest with toys from the dollar store that light up and make noise and spin around until she breaks them. And thank god for that---both her affection for cheap toys and then her breaking them because all the lights and sounds and spinning trigger my migraines.
So who needs the fancy stuff, right? Anyway those life-size stuffed animals would scare me in the dark.
I would, however, like to buy the carousel horse. Only I'm not sure if the pole is long enough for my cathedral ceilings.
Zoe: 79; 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 5, 2015

Zoe vs.: General Outrage Report

I'm aware some of my posts have been thinly veiled diatribes against what I myself oppose while using Zoe as a three-foot-tall human shield---cough, Gwyneth Paltrow, cough---but this may be my thinly-est yet.
What follows is my general outrage report.
Those who know me well know that my resting state is low-grade inarticulate aggravation. Sometimes, about once a year (or maybe it's week), I've had my fill of the absurdity of the human race, and when I reach that point, and become aware of my own complicity in the pageant show of horrors, I explode.
Recent "clickbait" was the catalyst. I'm sure you're aware of the phenomenon: Internet headlines that clog your newsfeed (I'm looking at you, Yahoo News) just daring you to click them:
"The Sun Rose. You'll Never Believe What Happened Next"
"This Ancient Aztec Herb Will Help You Lose Weight, Find Love, Get a New Job, Win the Lottery So You Can Quit Your New Job, and Remove Difficult Stains from Your Carpet"
"8 Signs You're Paranoid That Everyone's Talking About You, Pam"
(The last one might only be clickbait for people named Pam.)
Anyway, I resist and resist and then: Click.
I'm usually disappointed.
On occasion I'm outraged, as I knew I would be from the headline, and then I have to  take personal responsibility (yuck) because isn't it true, Me, that part of you, Me, wanted to be outraged?
Yes, it's true.
I love to be outraged. And I can't be the only one.
Some recent examples that got my feminist blood boiling . . .
The first was about a girl who went to a high school dance in a sleeveless dress and was told she needed to put a sweater on to cover up. So basically she was shamed for having shoulders, shoulders that might be too enticing, and it was her responsibility to cover them lest some boy get overexcited. Her ankles were probably exposed too. Hussy.

The other girls knew it was really Madge who
gave away the milk for free.

At least she wasn't wearing yoga pants. I'm not even going to wade into the Veronica-Partridge-Christian-blogger-who-swore-off-yoga-pants-(aka-temptation-knickers) controversy. It touched a nerve with a lot of women. The implication that women yet again need to be responsible for men's thoughts bothers me, but on the other hand, I must admit I don't want to see some of the butts that daily regale me while riding the subway. Lust, revulsion, it's a knife-like pendulum swinging over our heads, edging closer and closer every day.
Too much?
The third was Colleen McCullough's sexist obituary. Famous novelist of The Thorn Birds and, oh yeah, a neuroscientist, but The Australian decided to go another way, practically leading with this gem: "Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth." Enough with the compliments. Sheesh. It's a wonder she could write at all with those chubby, unmanicured (I assume) fingers. And you wouldn't have thought people would like her since she was such an uggo, but wowzers, they did.

The Greater Thornbird.
He knew he wasn't the greatest.

So, the tenuous Zoe connection. Since before she was born, to my shame, I've harbored concerns about Zoe's "prettiness." I don't want her feelings about her looks and/or her looks themselves to be an issue in her life. But how to avoid this in a world that prizes beauty, thigh gap, and pays inordinate attention to what female politicians wear? 
What if Zoe isn't pretty? But, on the other hand, what if she is? And what if her prettiness brings the "wrong kind of attention." The kind of attention yoga pants--donning, sleeveless shirt--wearing, non-neuroscientists are subject to. What pressures might she face then? 
And also: What's the nexus between looks and perceived intelligence? And this one: Can pretty woman be funny? My subconscious chews on these issues. I can hear it pacing back and forth in my mind because it wears corduroys and its thighs rub together.
But then my subconscious had a new target: The Holderness family.
This is the family that does the parody videos about parenting. I'm not going to link to them here because they don't need my help with promotion. Basically they do parodies of rap/hip-hop songs that get the it's-funny-because-I'm-white treatment (which I've been guilty of too; I get it).
First there was "Xmas Jammies." Then their back-to-school sendup "Baby Got Class." And most recently they did a Super Bowl one lamenting how lame they are now and how it's hard to enjoy a Super Bowl party once you have kids. Isn't it though?
Maybe what bugs me about them is that part of me feels parodies are the province of the underdog. And that they're trying to be oh-so-relatable and self-deprecating even though they're very good looking, have lots of money, and are obviously connected (both parents were news anchors and the mom had a small role in Iron Man 3). Doesn't mean they can't have a sense of humor, of course, but I just don't buy it. Nor do I buy the Hidden Ranch dressing they're peddling.
Now watch the ad in the top right corner morph into a Hidden Valley ad. It's all connected! The SheKnows network, which recently partnered with BlogHer (source of those ads) has promoted the last few videos created by the Holdernesses' production company. What if they read my criticism!? (Not that there's much danger of that.) They may take away the 34 cents I've earned, which, granted, isn't enough to even buy off-brand ranch dressing, but let's be real here, Zoe's coin-operated horsey rides don't pay for themselves!

In any case, is my annoyance at this family's singing-and-dancing expression of their first world problems in itself a first world problem?
Maybe, but then the Holderness family's problems are firster world. That's one mobius strip of banality.
All I can be sure of is, if Zoe was in their videos, she would give them all wedgies. Wouldn't that make a pretty picture?
Zoe: 78 (for hypothetical wedgies); 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, January 29, 2015

Zoe vs. the Myers-Briggs Personality Test

If you've ever been to college, or conducted a job search, or browsed the Internet (don't lie; I can hear you breathing on the screen), then you've probably come across the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric questionnaire (so fancy!) that attempts to index personality.
The test was developed from Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung's theories on personality type. Think of it kind of like the sociological, i.e., more sciency, version of the Sorting Hat from Hogwarts, except instead of learning your magic might be wasted in humdrum Hufflepuff house, you learn your life might be wasted generating TPS reports.

Carl Jung
Mr. Personality (Inventory)

The Myers-Briggs has been been criticized in recent years as dressed-up astrology. Also, for being inconsistent; some people have found that their "type" changes when they retake the test, often within weeks. NOT very sciency.
But, I say: Don't ruin my fun! I love this stuff. I recently took one I found through Meredith from The Mom of the Year, and I forced my friends to take it too.
It was striking how spot-on some of the conclusions were, but others only applied to me sometimes.
Which didn't stop me from taking the test as if I were Zoe. . . .
According to the MBTI, 16 personalities are enough to describe the multitudes on the planet. I know. Yet we still can't get along. Look, a handy chart.
For the record I am an INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging). When I took the test as Zoe, her result was one letter different from mine---INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and perceiving). 
Hmmm. Could this be a case of projecting? Wanting my daughter to be like me? Was I a narcissist primed to only see similarities?
However, one word used to describe Zoe's type that was not used to describe mine was "childlike." On the nose!
Oh wait.

Next I googled whether there were any tests specifically for children.
And found the Harkey-Jourgensen temperament sorting test, one that parents can take for their child. So I did. And guess what? Zoe was again an INFP. Of course, she also had the same test taker/interpreter of her behavior. Me! But whatever; it's not like it's science, right? (What's that? Remember, I can hear you.)
In any case, the questions on this test seem a bit problematic. You're supposed to choose, between two extremes, your child's most likely reaction or behavior.
Key words: "most likely." Which was probably clear since I put them in bold. For emphasis.
Anyway, to me, Zoe isn't all that easy to predict. For example, the first question on the test was, Would you be more likely to spend time in the ER with your Loved One getting injuries patched up, or more time coaxing her to try new things?
Well, it all depends on how badly she wants to do the new thing, and/or how much time she has to think about it.
The first time she wanted to slide down the big-kid pole at the park she just ran right up and did it. The next time, she thought about it. So now she's afraid, and she might never do it again without me standing beneath her, ready to take a pink sneaker to the face.

David Lynch is an INFP.
I love him though he baffles me.
Just like  Zoe.

If I really examined the MBTI letters and the dichotomies they measure, there would be no consistency for Zoe.

Introverted (I): Zoe likes to play alone and she's often shy. I recently attended a performance at her day care where Zoe placed herself in the back, at the end of a row, and she mouthed the words to the song they were supposed to sing. When the nightmare was over, she ran to me then promptly hid her face when I praised her "singing."
Extroverted (E): Zoe may play alone, but she keeps up constant chatter. Loud chatter. Recently, she has also started saying, "Hi, I'm Zoe" to strangers and then proceeds to tell them where we are going or that she has to go to the bathroom.

Intuitive (N):  Zoe is sometimes very intuitive. I was feeling down the other day but hadn't thought I was showing it when Zoe came over and started kissing me repeatedly. She said, "Do you know why I'm giving you kisses, Mommy? Because I love you." (By far adorableness is the biggest weapon in her arsenal.)
Sensing (S): On the other hand, sometimes she's very literal. "Boys like boy things and girls like girl things." But why can't girls like boy things? I asked. "Because only boys like boy things." Mommy's so dense.

Feeling (F): People who are strong in this trait make decisions based on a desire for harmony. I've told her I don't want her watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The other morning she told me she watched it with Daddy, but that it was okay because I didn't know. See? Considerate.
Thinking (T): People who stress this trait make decisions based on justice and reason. This side of her usually comes out when another child breaks a rule. Then, no one wants to see justice prevail as much as Zoe. Plus, if that other kid's in timeout, she can play with their toys. After all, they're not using them. Fairsies.

Judging (J): Zoe likes rules and routine, and is often inflexible . . . in regards to how others treat her. Every day she wants to know where she's going, who's taking her to school, who's picking her up, who's putting her to bed. She is quick to correct us when we in any way deviate from a norm. "That's NOT the nighttime toothpaste." "You're using Daddy's towel." "Blue cup, red top! It's always the same. Have you lost your freakin' mind handing me an orange cup?! Orange?! What are you, a cruel unfeeling INTJ, like Voldemort?"

Lord Voldemort, noted INTJ.

Perceiving (P): As for her own behavior . . . lawless. Don't pin her down with rules, man. Go with the flow. Live in the now. There's always more time to not listen to Mommy when she says it's time for bath or bed at night, or time to get ready for school in the morning. Chill out, Mommy. Day care can wait.

Conclusion: Zoe is a SPINFJET. SPIN? . . . F. . . . JET. It could almost be a sentence if you strangle the letters hard enough, as hard as Zoe squeezes my throat to manufacture love. Zoe may be short in stature, but she's not short on personality.
Zoe: 77; 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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