Thursday, April 23, 2015

Zoe vs. Three Disney Princesses

A couple of weeks ago my mother and I went with Zoe to the Three Disney Princesses Show at Madison Square Garden. The three princesses were Snow White, Cinderella, and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
With my degree in Advanced Curmudgeon, I was a little wary, prepared for a nightmare of capade proportions. As I expected, we had to swim through a sea of mini Cinderellas, Snow Whites, and Belles, as well as a few Rapunzels and Sofias the First. (Zoe was dressed as Queen Elsa because she had to be sure she outranked everybody.)

Perpetrators of the Great Tulle Massacre of 2013.

Navigating the crowd of princesses, you had to be careful not to run up against any of the stalls selling light-up toys or princess dolls. If you hit them head-on, you'd surely hemorrhage money and sink your bank account.
I expected Zoe to want Everything, but she fell under the spell of a glittering plastic horse a la Cinderella's carriage, and so sixteen dollars later she was satisfied. 
Next was the concession stand, where the only size popcorn available had the dimensions of a shirt box. Odd because you'd think they'd need the boxes for all the shirts they were taking off parents' backs (drum roll, cymbal crash).
Finally we found our seats, and Zoe played happily with her horse, which she'd christened Star, till the show started.
I have to admit, Disney knows how to put on a show. The costumes were perfect. There was the right level of scares for little kids. And the sound effects were well done.
Zoe had been familiar with the stories of Snow White and Cinderella, but not Beauty and the Beast. So afterwards I had to explain that although Gaston was good looking, it did not mean he was a good guy, even though that had been true regarding the nameless princes from Cinderella and Snow White
So Zoe loved it, and I was glad she'd loved it, but something was bothering me. I had known all the stories, of course, so maybe it was something about their juxtaposition, or the quick progression from one to the other, but overall the show left me in an odd mood.
Like the one that hits me once a month.
You know what I'm talking about? Every month it begins with a vague unease, but it quickly escalates into a high level of annoyance that can only be by assuaged by banging out a Sociology 101 term paper. Right? Glad I'm not alone in this, ladies!

What if I want a bicycle, Gloria Steinem?

It turns out the Disney Three Princesses show provides quite the micro history lesson in feminism. From Snow White in 1937 to Cinderella in 1950 to Beauty and the Beast in 1991, we've come a long way, Bambi.

Snow White
Debuting in 1937, Snow White the movie features the ultimate passive victim. Snow doesn't have much ambition besides waiting for a prince, who may or may not arrive within some ill-defined timeframe. Meanwhile, she lives to scrub floors and whistles a happy tune while doing so.
Career goal: She's already a princess. Other than that her goal is to stay alive and marry a prince. It is assumed he'll be good-looking and virtuous because those two things always go together.

Cinderella
At least, she hates to clean. This makes her "relatable." She can make her own clothes (crafty!). And she has some self-direction. Unfortunately it surfaces only when she asserts her right to attend a party. Girls just want to have fun, y'all. For this fifties gal, marriage is a ticket out of a miserable home life.
Career goal: Princess. Failing that, dressmaker with a sideline in pest control through vocalizing.

Belle
An active participant in her own life and in her fate. Loves to read---mostly romances (don't judge!). Motivated by self-sacrifice and compassion. Unmotivated by a pretty face. Smart and self-actualized, which doesn't mean she can't, on occasion, enjoy a spin around the dance floor with the bad boy who's cleaned up his act. 
Career goal: Librarian, political activist, or investigative reporter.

I'm sure I can change him.
More women should try that.

In the end though, they are all just princesses, not queens, like Elsa. And like Queen Elsa, Zoe rules a kingdom (or thinks she does), has magic powers (or thinks she does), and her emotional outbursts cause untold damage. She is truly the female royal for the new millennium.
Career goal: Evil Mastermind or Savior of the Universe, depending on one's point of view.

Zoe: 89; 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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Friday, April 17, 2015

Zoe vs. Shameless Self-Promotion: The BigGER Book of Parenting Tweets

So Mommy is in a book. It's called The BigGER Book of Parenting Tweets, and it's a collection of tweet jokes, snarky one-liners, and real-life conversations with kids like me. Also, there are drawings. What's a book without drawings, after all? (That wasn't rhetorical. I really don't get it.)

Buy it here.

Anyway Mommy's supposed to be promoting the book, but she's acting as if she's humble and it's difficult for her to toot her own horn (a phrase that has nothing to do with farting, by the way). So she's left it to me.
Because, according to Mommy, I am shameless. Evidence for this is how I like to run around naked shaking my booty. Also, I am fast and the best ever at spinning, jumping, and the general Doing of Things. And I've got super dance moves. Not sure why this should be considered shameless when it's just the truth.
The other reason I'm doing this is to set the record straight. Mommy thinks she's funny but really it's all me. I'm the one she's either directly quoting in her so-called humor or whose wacky antics she's detailing. So I'm the source. 
Mommy may joke about how thankless motherhood is, but we both know who should be thanking who. Let's face it, the woman owes me everything. Every moment with me is a constantly unfolding gift of LOLZ interspersed with tableaus of glistening gauzy-veiled contentment.
I am an angel. Just look at my face when I'm sleeping. (And only then--Editor's note) No, wait, don't do that; that's creepy. 
Anyway back to The BigGER Book of Parenting Tweets. It comes out today and it's filled with tweets from Mommy, along with about 50 other moms and dads who also fancy themselves to be funny. Forgive them their sleep-deprived delusions.
It's the second volume, the first being The Big Book of Parenting Tweets, and was again edited and compiled by three all-star mommies: Kate Hall from Hall of Tweets and Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler from Science of Parenthood. Jessica Ziegler also did the illustrations, including one of me, so she's my favorite. (Holla!)
In case you're living under a rock and you don't know what tweets are, they are bite-size blasts of humor originally appearing on Twitter, whatever that is.

The original Tweeter, relaxing @home.

Here are 7 reasons why you should buy this book if you're a parent, or if you like things that are funny, or if you want to support my candy habit:
1. Tweets are short. Your children are short. You love your children. Presumably. Therefore you will love these tweets.
2. Speaking of short, children have short attention spans. Just like . . . whatever I was talking about.
3. Daddy's patience? Short.
4. Mommies are short-tempered. Especially by bedtime or if they miss a snack.
5. Tweets have a maximum of 140 characters. Your child displays the same number daily.
6. Tweets are good if you're pressed for time, and who isn't these days? Maybe if I don't get a turn on the tricycle right now, Emma, the world will end. (Or yours will, Emma. #NotAThreatAPromise) Maybe, as a parent, you only have a few seconds between answering our demands and whatever it is you do when you're not answering our demands, and you need a humorous jolt to the system, like word-caffeine.
7. Or maybe your short person needs you to sit next to them, quietly, while they're on the bowl, musing over whether their butt is finished or not, and if they really need to wipe, and who should do the aforementioned wiping, and so you need to hide behind some reading material. Or maybe you're on the bowl or pretending to be---I know your tricks---and need to laugh so you don't cry.
Still don't think this book is for you? Should I point to my need for candy again? You don't want to disappoint me. Trust me on this. Better yet, ask Emma.
Zoe: 88; Universe: 0
For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Zoe vs. the Eighties: "Livin' on a Prayer"

I was a child of the eighties. Before we got our Panasonic with the built-in cassette player, my sister and I had to hold a tape recorder up to the radio to record hot hits like "Always Something There to Remind Me" by Naked Eyes and "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John. The first 45 I ever bought (older folks will know what I'm talking about) was "The Warrior" by Scandal. I used to sing it in the shower. Still do. (Bang! Bang!)

A long time ago . . . this device took
sounds from the air. And played them back.

Zoe was born in 2010. So she'll never know the particular pleasure of catching a song you like on the radio just as it starts. Or the suspense as you wait for the DJ to stop talking so you can press record. She'll be able to download her favorite songs for 99 cents.
She's growing up in the age of iTunes and DVRs and everything On Demand. By the time she's a teenager, I imagine, there will be hovercrafts, interactive holograms, and robots that can make your tea just the way you like it.
In such a brave new world, will Zoe ever know what it is to wait for things? Will she know the suffering of always missing the beginning to "Say It Isn't So" by Hall and Oates so you end up with several truncated versions on your mixed tape? Will she know good music?
Like Freddie Mercury said, she wants it all, and she wants it now.
Waiting in general is bad enough, but waiting her turn? Sharing a toy?
Because no matter how much technology has advanced, I suspect that having to share will always be "a thing."

Deploying the Keds-to-crotch maneuver,
Billy recovers his truck.

As I often do when I'm brooding about the future and feeling as if time is just slipping through my hands like something slippery, I turn to Bon Jovi for wisdom. 
Speaking of slippery (segue alert!), Bon Jovi's album Slippery When Wet came out in 1986. And one of its big singles was "Livin' on a Prayer."
So in honor of the eighties and Zoe's aversion to sharing, I've rewritten the lyrics.  And retitled it "I Don't Wanna Share."

A tale of two hairdos.

"I Don't Wanna Share"
(to the tune of "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi)

Tommy's sitting playing with blocks
She knocks them down
Then takes his truck
Says, tough, kid, tough

Sophie rides her trike in Z's way
Z demands a turn
Pushes her off
She shoves, and shoves

Says, I'm gonna hold on to what you've got
Doesn't make a difference if it's yours or not
It's in my hands, you little snot
Hands off, or I'll give you a shot

Whoa, I'll pull your hair
Whoa-oh, I don't wanna share
Take back your toy? I'll break it, I swear 
Whoa-oh, I don't wanna share

Justin's sitting spinning a top
It lights up, she's there
She's grabbing it now
She's rough. So rough. 

Sophie tries to take it away
Zoe cries out her plight
Mommies yell: 
No way! Fair play!

She's gonna hold on to what she's got
It doesn't make a difference if it's hers or not
It's in her hands, along with some snot
Toys: She wants them a lot!

Whoa, no halvsies, I swear
Whoa-oh, I don't wanna share
About taking turns, you know I don't care
Whoa-oh, I don't wanna share

I don't want to share.

She's gonna hold on, her toy or not
She lives for the fight, as if this toy's all she's got.

(Chorus till fade-out)

Zoe: 87; Universe: 0


For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Zoe vs. Zen

Sometimes the readers I imagine I have don't write me to ask: What is Zoe's Buddha nature? Finally, today, I answer the question that no one who actually exists is asking.
So, what is Zoe's Buddha nature?
Answer: It depends. Can screaming be zen? 
For screaming is the main feature of Zoe's playing. There's always the Good Guy and the Bad Guy and, as tends to happen when these two knuckleheads get together, their exchanges get heated.
Not only does Zoe play the parts of the hero and the villain, she also plays myriad victims, performs all the sound effects, and is the narrator/Greek chorus.
Not what I think of as Zen. But then I'm no expert.
My impression of Zen Buddhism can be summed up thusly: chubby guy sitting under a tree, seems happy enough. He meditates, occasionally asks questions (koans), spouts proverbs, has a head that's paradoxically full of enlightenment yet empty of thought. Karma. Dharma. Greg. Something something clapping one hand. Nirvana.

What's the sound of one amputated
hand hovering in midair?

So I knew I'd have to do some research. First thing I learned was the original Buddha is not the fat Buddha, aka the Laughing Buddha, we often picture in the West. That's a common misunderstanding.
But I decided not to worry too much about things like facts since material matters keep you from reaching nirvana. And anyway, all is one, which is an excuse that covers a lot of ground. 
Now as a parent, I'm supposed to be guiding my daughter on her path to wisdom, among other responsibilities, like clothing her, feeding her, and making sure she doesn't get her head stuck in a banister. Occasionally, however, she'll seem wiser than I.
You know how sometimes children say things that blow you away with their profundity, making them sound like pint-size Buddhas, closer to the source of all things? Well, the other day Zoe told me her pain hurt. Deep, right? Of course, right after that she demanded I smell her butt, which might be Zen, by way of the Three Stooges.
In any case, let's examine some Zen proverbs and koans and see how they apply to child-rearing.

You know how when you get a haircut you feel
freer and lighter and use less conditioner and
want to wear orange and bare one shoulder?


Let go or be dragged. ---Zen proverb
Here's one that resonates with the parenting experience of trying to take a toy away from a child. Or my phone, or the iPad, or the washcloth at bath time because she objects to having a clean face. It becomes a tug of war, and if she doesn't let go, she gets dragged. The times I've taught her this lesson should make me an honorary  monk.

A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a first step. ---Zen proverb
What they don't say is that the journey is that long only because a four-year-old chose the route, one that takes you out of your way a million times, so yeah, what should be one or two miles turns into 500 and feels like double that because the kid stops every minute to commune with another rock. If that's meditation, I want no part of it. What if there's a bug under that rock? Or what if what you thought was a rock turns out to be petrified poop?

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. ---Zen proverb
Probably because you're jealous that he has no kids and still mad that he burned you with that last proverb. On further review, I discovered Siddhartha Guatama, aka the original gangsta, actually had kids but that he abandoned them. Nice one, Buddha.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? ---Buddhist koan
Here's where we're supposed to be contemplating silence but I'll need to wait about twenty years for this one to even be possible. In any case, my husband has big hands with long fingers, and he really can clap quite effectively with one hand, so I consider this "settled science."

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. ---Zen proverb
So quit your whining! I intend to broadcast this one on a loop under her bed.

Better to see the face than to hear the name.---Zen proverb
Clearest one yet. With direct applications to my life. If Zoe sees my face right before she does something bad, this will, usually, be enough to stop her. By the time she hears her name, she's already done the bad thing.

What did your face look like before your parents were born? ---Buddhist koan
Your mother!

One too many ice cream koans.

I'll end with a couple of Zoeisms.
On space . . .
(Said while trying to jam her Elsa doll into her pants pocket): "Big things won't fit in my small pocket."
On time . . .
Ever since she turned four she's been saying, "Am I still four years old? Later, I'll be five. . . . Will I be five today?" If there's no such thing as time, then yes.

Zoe: 86; Universe: 0

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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

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