Thursday, March 9, 2017

Zoe vs. Games to Play in the Car. Or, How to Be DRIVEN to Madness in 20 Questions or Less

Lately, Zoe, the Husband, and I have been spending a lot of time on the road. Unusual for us since we don't own a car. In fact, I've never owned a car.
(Unless you count my dad's 1974 Chevy Nova, which he sold to me for $1 in December 1999, and which didn't make it across the finish line to the new millennium, so let's not.)
We live in the city and take public transportation. Whenever we need a car we rent one, so we've mostly missed out on the perils and pitfalls of driving with children: the sedimentary layer of toys beneath the layer of Cheerios, dropped down or vomited up, and perhaps worse than all that, Kidz Bop.
However, we've had to drive back and forth from Brooklyn to the Bronx for the past several weekends since we're cleaning out my aunts' house, which means Zoe has spent a lot more time in a car than she's used to. Since she's older now, we can't count on her to fall asleep, so we play games.
Ah, nostalgia! Remember the fun you had as a kid playing the Alphabet Game and the License-Plate Game and I Spy with My Little Eye? Zoe does not like these games.
Not that I Spy would work on the BQE. What is there to spy except other cars or trucks and former raccoons flattened on the side of the road?
How to describe the BQE for those who've never been on it . . . The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was probably a model for a highway in Grand Theft Auto. There's a plethora of potholes outpacing the never-ending road work, and the drivers don't signal because it's none of your goddamn business what they're going to do---it's anyone's guess, which appeals to Zoe.
Because she likes guessing games.

20 Questions and other games to play in the car

One of the two car games she likes to play is Twenty Questions. Though she doesn't understand how to play.
Let's say it's my turn and I tell her I'm thinking of a character in one of her TV shows. For those playing at home, I'll whisper the answer:
Kion is Simba's son, and he's on Disney's The Lion Guard, which Zoe watches almost every night.
Zoe: Who is it?
Me: You have to ask me yes or no questions. Like, is it an animal?
Zoe: Is it an animal?
Me: Yes.
Zoe: What kind of animal?
Me: Is that a yes or no question?
Zoe: Aah, that's too hard!
Me (sighing): For instance, is it a lion?
Zoe: Is it a lion?
Me: Yes.
Zoe: Kion? (I nod.) That was too easy.
It's no less absurd when it's her turn.
Zoe: I'm thinking of a person.
Me: Is it someone we know?
Zoe: Yes.
Me: Is it Daddy?
Zoe: Daddy's not a princess.
Daddy (under his breath): Says you.
Me: Ah, so it's a princess. Wait, we don't know any princesses.
Zoe: Yes, we do!
Daddy: Is it a cartoon princess?
Zoe: What do you mean?
Daddy: Cartoon or live actor?
Zoe: She was in a movie.
Me: Have you seen the movie?
Zoe: Yes.
Daddy: Have we seen the movie?
Zoe: I don't know.
Me: A short blonde who's extremely frustrating.
Zoe: We're not playing Jeopardy, Mommy!
Daddy: Does she have long hair?
Zoe: Yes.
Daddy: Rapunzel?
Zoe: Yes, Tangled.
(Note: Both Daddy and Mommy have seen Tangled about a gazillion times, approximately all of those sitting right next to her on our couch.)
The second car game she likes is Wheel of Fortune, where we have to guess what person, place, or phrase she's thinking of without the aid of paper or an opponent who can spell, but with the benefit of being stuck in traffic.
Luckily, even with her woeful ability to spell, cracking her code is fairly easy.
"I'm thinking of a type of dinner," Zoe says. "Three words. First word starts with s, second word starts with a, and third word starts with m."
"How many letters in the first word?" Daddy asks.
"I don't know," says Zoe.
But since she just ate spaghetti and meatballs for dinner I offer that as a guess. And I am correct. Go, Mommy (metaphorically speaking, as traffic has come to a standstill).
Since Mommy got it right, it's time to play something she wants to play, I tell her. It's called the Quiet Game.
Unfortunately it's a game that only ever lasts ten seconds.

Zoe: 158; 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 23, 2017

Zoe vs. the Oscars 2017

The Academy Awards air on Sunday, which means it's time for my fourth annual roundup of all the movies nominated for Best Picture. This year I've actually seen one of the movies. This may be the first year that's happened since Zoe was born! Time to celebrate by summarizing each and relating them to life with Zoe, the lens (get it?! lens!) through which I view everything, even the movies I don't see.

La La Land: The overall theme of this movie, as I understand it, is we are not to become cynical and ought to remain starry-eyed in the face of rejection. I'll try to remember that the next time I suggest Zoe try a new food or put on the pair of adorable boots she received as a gift but won't wear. Regarding the musical aspect, Zoe does sometimes break out into song, only the songs are about farts and diarrhea, i.e., not award material.

Breaking out into a dance never made sense until I had a child . . .
who finally went to sleep.

Moonlight: From the description, this movie has startling similarities to Zoe's life as a black boy raised in Miami by a strung-out mom except not at all like that since she's a little white girl from middle-class Brooklyn. Though her mama does make the occasional inappropriate joke about her need for hard drugs. One thing that I can relate to, though, is the feeling that Zoe is being played by at least three different actors.

Hell or High Water: I'll take, "Phrases used in extremis, for $2,000, Alex."

Fences: I read one description of Viola Davis's role as "a woman enduring a loved one's loud and erratic moods as well as their volatile behavior," and I'm just gonna stop right there.

Manchester by the Sea: I do love Kenneth Lonergan. Casey Affleck plays a janitor. However, I believe that his is a paying position so I probably can't relate.

Hacksaw Ridge: All parents wade unarmed into battle.

Just another dad telling his kid it's time to leave the park.

Hidden Figures: Let's see . . . I never get the credit I deserve. . . . It's a struggle to get to the bathroom sometimes. . . . I'd like to be shot into space. . . .

Lion: Sometimes I'm so tired that I fall asleep on the train and miss my stop, which is just like this story of a five-year-old Indian boy. Can I get Nicole Kidman to adopt me now?

Arrival: This was the one movie I saw, and I have to say, a story about a mother who's trying to communicate with an alien being who has an unusual concept of time really, really resonated with me.

Zoe: 157; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may like my post last year about the 
Oscar- nominated movies.

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 16, 2017

Zoe vs. Celine Dion: Or, Why My Heart's Too Damn Tired to Go On

Thank God Valentine's Day is over, amirite? I hate schmaltz, and Valentine's Day is schmaltzy. You know what else I hate? Schlocky love songs. Especially ones by Celine Dion.
I know, I know, I'm so cranky. But that's because I'm not getting enough sleep.
The past few days, Zoe has come into our bed in the middle of the night, and after that, I can't sleep because of all the room she takes up, not to mention what she mentions about every ten minutes while we're lying there, which is, when are we getting up?
Did I say past few days? I meant since she could walk.
As I may have mentioned once or one hundred times before on this blog, see here, here, and---one of my first posts---here, Zoe's aversion to sleep has caused me no end of angst. I even wrote a sestina about it. She's always fought her bedtime, currently 9 p.m., and she still manages to get up before us. Even earlier on weekends.
You know what I hate more than schmaltzy love songs? If you said, "Getting up before six on a weekend morning," aka when the blessed and virtuous sleep in, then move to the head of the class. And bring Teacher a pillow.
Today's post combines the two things I hate most in the world: getting up early and schlocky love songs.
One of the schlockiest, in my opinion (the one that matters), is  "Because You Loved Me" by Canadian queen of schmaltz Celine Dion. Click on the YouTube link to sing along and try to drown her out with my new, improved version.

Schlocky love songs by Celine Dion should be parodied

Because You Woke Me
For all those times you woke me
For all the sunrises you made me see
For all the toys with flashing lights
For all the sleepless goddamn nights
For every early-morning poo
Why did I have to accompany you?
I'd be forever thankful, baby
If you didn't make me get up
Must I heed your call?
You can reach the iPad, you're getting tall

You wake me up when I want to sleep
You were the voice interrupting my dreams
You poked my eyes till I couldn't see
You took the rest that was for me
You kept me up with constant speech
Mommy wants to get up, that's your firm belief
I'm as tired as I am
Because you woke me

You asked for juice and made me cry
I said go back to bed, you didn't even try
I went to make coffee, you prevented me
You said we had to watch TV
You jumped on me, and I did fall
Injured my body, I hurt it all
I'd be grateful for every minute you'd give me
Five minutes more is not that much
But I know this much is true
I'm not getting any more sleep, all because of you

You wake me up when I want to sleep
You were the voice interrupting my dreams
You poked my eyes till I couldn't see
You took the rest that was for me
Once I'm up, you know I gotta pee
Cause a small bladder's my destiny
I'm as tired as I am
Because you woke me

You were always on top of me
Non-tender elbows prodding me
A light in the dark---is that you shining a flashlight in my eyes?
It's not my imagination
Through closed eyes, I can still see the truth
My world is a sleepless place because of you.

You wake me up when I want to sleep
You were the voice interrupting my dreams
You poked my eyes till I couldn't see
You took the rest that was for me
You keep me up with constant speech
Feel like my soul is gonna bleed
I'm as tired as I am
Because you woke me

I'm so extremely tired, I really am
Because you woke me.

Zoe: 156; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one
in which we all began to never sleep again.

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 9, 2017

Zoe vs. Growing Pains, Holes in Pants, and Death

Every few months, Zoe complains that her legs hurt. Usually, it's her left leg below her knee. Sometimes it's her lower right leg. Since I'm a modern, educated mom, my first thought, naturally, was bone cancer.
My second, and more likely, thought was growing pains. My third thought was: "Let's check the Internet just to make sure it's not bone cancer even though I know everything I read will only make me even more certain that it is."

Growing Pains. Not just an '80s TV show

Growing Pains. Not Just an '80s TV Show
Zoe's lower-leg pain most often comes upon her when it's time for bed, so a reasonable person might suppose, considering her long rap sheet of delaying tactics, a sheet so long she could sleep under it if she were so inclined, which she is not, that this was yet another one. After all, she'd been fine a few minutes before she started complaining, when she'd insisted she had to finish her show-slash-interpretive dance as a unicorn called Rainbow Universe Everything Anything. No pain at all while she spun around and dramatically threw herself to the floor, but now that it was time to settle down . . . agony. And I had to rub her legs. No cancer, less truth, I figured.
But then the other night the pain in her legs woke her and she was crying from it, and so I rubbed her legs on the couch as the Husband and I watched The Hunt for Red October on mute, which was okay because we know all the words, and the first time Zoe sees it I'd like it to seem fresh.
Eventually, she fell asleep and the next morning she was fine.

Holes, Holes, and More Holes
Zoe and her growing up are both unstoppable forces. This means she's tough on clothes. It seems like all her pants have a hole in their right knees. The Husband usually dresses her in the morning, and when I pick her up at night and see the hole in her right knee, I experience that creeping shame all moms are familiar with---even in these supposed modern times---that others will judge us. Bad mother!
However, I also know she's running out of outfits she's "willing to wear" that don't have holes in their right knees, and even if they didn't have a hole in the morning, they would by the time I picked her up---she's that good, folks.
But the physical growth pales in comparison to the mental growth with its accompanying uncomfortable questions that I struggle to answer intelligently and honestly.
Why are girls different from boys?
Why do you have to work all the time?
What did that lady mean when she said there's an orange Cheeto in the White House?
One she hasn't asked yet but I know she will soon is: What happens after we die?
The first death in Zoe's life, that she noticed, was our cat Harley's. Zoe was about four and a half, and she didn't understand why we'd never see Harley again. Every few weeks she'd ask again, and I'd go over it again. Harley was not coming back. And no, we couldn't go where she was to visit. We were not Julia Roberts in Flatliners, or, since that movie was before her time, we were not Draco Malfoy's dad in The OA (though I don't think Zoe gets Netflix either).

Chicken Bone or Dog Bone?
Recently, a relative died, and we debated about bringing her to the wake. Was she too young or, being a curious and observant child, would it disturb her more if she wasn't allowed to come and worried over why she was being left out?
In the end, we decided to bring her, and the first question she asked when she saw the body in the casket was: Where's her feet?
Throughout the day her questions evolved. When we were leaving to drive to the church, she wanted to know if my relative was coming with us. And what about after that?
I was waiting for her to ask if we'd see her again because I'd been wondering what I'd tell her. A protective lie? And who would I be protecting exactly? Or just the truth, which was: I don't know. But she didn't ask.
A week later, Zoe and I were walking down the street, her picking up rocks and handing them to me to put in my pocket, and we came across some garbage that must've fallen out of a trashcan. She was reaching to pick something up when I stopped her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It looks like a chicken bone."
"No, I don't think so," she said, peering closer.
"What do you think it is?"
"A dog bone."
"It's too small. It must be a chicken bone."
"But chickens don't play with bones."
Oh, I thought. Epiphany. To Zoe, her association upon seeing a bone was not "animal killed and eaten by people," it was "toy for dog." I'd gotten so used to thinking of her as my little evil mastermind in training that I sometimes forget she's six.
That's when I realized I didn't need to worry so much about how to answer her future questions. By the time she was ready to ask the big questions, she'd be ready for honest answers.
Just let them stay on chicken-bone level for a while longer.
Zoe: 155; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one, 
in which we consider cryogenically freezing our cat.

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 26, 2017

Zoe vs. Zoë: Or, Not a Lot of Umlauts

We begin today's post with a shocking discovery, which we're going to address, then pretend I never made.
What I've always thought was an umlaut is actually a diaeresis.
Take a few deep breaths if you need to.
These two diacritical marks are typographically expressed the same way, that is, two dots over a vowel, but are meant to indicate two different types of pronunciation. The umlaut occurs often in the German language and lets the reader or listener know if, for instance, someone is saying schon (already) or schön (beautiful), two different words. Here's a stereotypical German husband (husbands in Germany are ready to go before their wives, too) telling his wife she's making them late by saying, "Lass uns gehen. Du bist schön, schon!" (Let's go. You're beautiful, already!)
A diaeresis, on the other hand, is meant to show when to pronounce the second vowel when two vowels appear side by size, as in Zoë.

Umlauts and other accent marks

My Zoe's name is not spelled with this accent mark. Which is something you might not know because I don't think I've ever used accent marks in any of my previous posts. Mostly because I assumed I wouldn't be able to do it. That's how I roll---on a wheel of technological knowledge that dates from the invention of said wheel.
I think most accent marks in English words are superfluous. If you don't know how to pronounce naive or cafe without the accents over the "i" and "e," respectively, then I have no pity for you. There, I said it. 
Of course, people often behave in ways that thwart my finer sensibilities, and so it is I've met those who, upon reading Zoe's name, pronounce it: Zō, with a long "o" sound (indicated by the line above the letter called a macron). There's even one person who pronounces her name Zoo.
Even so, I eschew the umlaut.
And, yes, here's where we forget all about "diaeresis" because it sounds like something biological that happens if you have too much or not enough water in your diet, and let's just say umlaut because it's a more pleasing word.
I don't use umlauts or most other accents in my writing, not just because I'm lazy but because, as I've said, I think people should be able to pronounce words from context or just life. However, because I work in publishing, I often must use them, and I admit I delight in knowing all their names.
Shall I list the most common accents? Is that your heart I hear beating wildly in anticipation?
First is the acute accent, which looks like a line over a vowel that starts low and angles up to the right. Here's an example: 
"If a white girl orders a PSL in a Starbucks café, is she a cliché?"
(Yes. Sorry, me. I'm afraid it's true, but don't let it stop you.)
The accent mark that goes the opposite way, i.e., a mark that starts high and angles down to the right is called a grave accent:
"Stepping on a Lego, the mother cried, 'How is it this blessèd child has cursèd my life?'"
(Upside, there are no Legos in the grave---non-accent meaning.)
Then there's everyone's favorite, the party accent of piñatas and jalapeño poppers, the tilde, as in:
"I love piña coladas. However, I'd prefer not to get caught in the rain."
Next up, the circumflex, which looks like a vowel got chilly and decided to wear a little hat .
"Chapeau means hat and yet the similar word château is the one with the circumflex."
(The Husband says he thinks the circumflex also looks like a tiny roof so that's fair.)
Finally, I really like the word cedilla even if I refuse to use one.
"Did that pretentious guy just ask for a soupçon of vichyssoise? His education is a façade."
There are many other accents besides these, but they mostly involve other languages.
Now, for the pièce de résistance, I will share a brief tête-à-tête between me and Z, my raison d'être, my cause célèbre, my bête noire.
The other night, I waited for a break in her long scientific exegesis on whether it's possible to have diarrhea while vomiting, and when she finally paused I said, "Zoe, I have a very important question for you. Do you prefer your name with an umlaut or without?"
"Mommy," she answered slowly, after giving the matter the same amount of thought she gave to her scatological musings, "you can call me anything you want, just don't call me late for pie à la mode."
Touché, Zoe, touché.

Zoe: 154; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one, 
in which Zoe confronts all things phonics.

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

Hasta mañana (but really semana), click here to subscribe.