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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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Zoe vs. Sleeping Beauty
Or, Why We May Have to
Cryonically Preserve Our Cat

Zoe never met either of her grandfathers. Both my father and my husband's father died before she was born. So you'll understand our disquiet when Zoe recently began talking about her "grampa."
"Grampa gave X to me." "My grampa says X." "My grampa's super smart." Sort of sweet but also sort of creepy. 
When I asked her about her "grampa," she told me: "He lives in the country and his name is Never."
Okay, super creepy.
Still, it led me to wonder, what is Zoe's conception of death? You see, our cat is dying, and the husband and I are not sure how to introduce the topic, if at all.
Historically, Zoe hasn't taken consistent notice of Harley. As a baby Zoe tried to eat Harley's food. Then there was the violent petting of the toddler years and subsequent confusion over why Harley was avoiding her. In fact, the first post I ever wrote was Zoe vs. the Cat. (Ah, nostalgia. Ah, the narrow margins and long paragraphs of the newbie blogger.)
But then, when Harley had to stay at the vet's overnight for a test, Zoe started crying and carrying on about when she'd be back. Harley, she said, was her best friend.
So: problem.
A friend suggested that the next time we watched a Disney movie, I should feel Zoe out as to what she thinks happens to a character who dies. Disney movies are chock full of death. And often it's the mother who gets it. But that's a subject for another post.
This past weekend we were watching Sleeping Beauty. Perfect, right? The whole sleeping as death imagery was rife for discussion. Plus, Maleficent dies at the end. The prince stabs her in the heart with his sword, but only after she transforms into a dragon, presumably to make the death more palatable. For human children, not dragon children. Anyway, Maleficent is dead dead, not sleeping dead. It's pretty clear.

Keynote speakers at the Evil Villain Convention
Las Vegas, 2014

That night, during Zoe's bath, I eased into the topic of death.
Me: Did you like Sleeping Beauty?
Zoe: Yes.
Me: What did you like about it?
Zoe: The bad queen.
Me (unsurprised): Why did you like her?
Zoe: Because she's bad.
Me: Really?
Zoe: Yes, she's super bad.
Me (a hint of concern in my voice): What about sleeping beauty? Did you like her?
Zoe: Yes. Because she's pretty.
Me (oh dear): And what about the prince? Did you like him?
Zoe: Yes. Because he's a boy.
Me (scrambling now): And what about Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather?
Zoe: Yes, because they're fairies and can do magic.
Conclusion: Zoe's values are a bit effed up.
To review:
(1) She likes people who are bad.
(2) If you're a girl, you need to be pretty.
(3) If you're a boy, you should just continue in that vein.
(4) If you can do magic, you're aces in her book, no questions asked. 
Then I asked her what she thought happened to Maleficent at the end.
Zoe: She changed into a dragon.
Me: And after that?
Zoe: The prince stabbed her with his sword.
Me: And then?
Zoe: She fell off the cliff.
Me: And then what happened to her?
Zoe: Then she was frozen.
That threw me, ending the evening's Q&A. I hadn't expected that answer though I don't know why not. More than her mother and father, it is Disney that has formed her belief system, and what was the first movie she ever saw? The ubiquitous Frozen.
Before we could even think of addressing the subject of death it was already too late. To Zoe, death is being frozen.
But, if people love you enough, and/or you have enough love in your heart, you can be unfrozen.
I could see this leading to some misunderstandings down the road.
Which is why I'm considering cryonically preserving Harley, our doomed cat. It's super expensive though. And, I think, super illegal. There are alternatives. There's taxidermy, our grandparents' method for pet preservation. But apparently, all the cool kids are now freeze-drying their Chihuahuas and English Mastiffs (buyer beware: price is per pound) through companies like Perpetual Pet.

The cruel twist was Kiki hated that blue bow in life.

No skinning and mounting. How barbaric! Now when Fido slips off his mortal coil, stick him in the freezer and wait for pickup.
And, as opposed to cryonics---where your pet would have to undergo the procedure before technical death (i.e., be Han Solo'ed) and would then be stored off-premises  (i.e., not in your house or Jabba the Hutt's) in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen at a cool -196-degrees Celsius (for a cool 5K)---if you freeze-dry Sir Fluffington, you can wait till he dies then choose any pose (sleeping, resting, reclining) and keep him with you in your home, freaking out family and friends. However, you will not be reunited in the future as you would if you both were cryonically preserved.
Lots to think about.
Soon after our conversation, Zoe was playing with an ice pack, calling it her baby and stuffing it under her shirt.

Guess which one is Zoe's baby. Not so fast.

Very circle of life. In Zoe's view we start off frozen in the womb, thaw out (are born), then eventually freeze again . . . to once again thaw if we're loved.
Or pretty.
Or a boy.
Or can do magic.
It's almost poetic if you think of it that way. At least for me it was. Until Zoe dropped her ice-pack baby on the floor and placed her foot on it in order to slide around the kitchen.
Back to super creepy, the circle of Zoe.

Walt Disney. Years before his cryonic preservation.
(Scuttlebutt* says Grumpy was frozen with him.)

Zoe: 76; Universe: 0
*But Scuttlebutt is well-known to be an untrustworthy dwarf.

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 8, 2015

Zoe vs. How to Open a Present

First, have you been presented with a gift bag? If so, inquire loudly as to the whereabouts of your real present. You need to let the gift giver know that their lack of effort has been noted. Laziness is such an unattractive quality.
If the present is wrapped carefully and elaborately, using thick, quality paper, and festooned with ribbons or bows, rip it apart faster than a piranha on Adderall. Trying too hard is an equally unattractive quality.

Yeah, slapping a bow on it
and doing something weird
with a ribbon will totally hide
the fact you phoned it in.

Open the largest gift first. Rejoice at the sight of a large dinosaur wearing armor, perched atop him a tiny cockpit with an action figure inside. Clearly the fossilized record of the mesozoic era didn't tell the whole story. 
Once this gift is unwrapped, experience dislocation and vertigo. You have a Big Decision to make. Do you play with this present or open the next one? It's a problem. 
While Daddy extracts the past-future dinosaur from its packaging, resign yourself to opening your next largest present. When it's not as good as a future-past dinosaur, push it to the side with your foot. Then check on Daddy's progress with the dinosaur, if necessary spurring him on with encouraging whines when you see him pause to take a sip of coffee. Then turn to the next gift.

Someone get me my armor. I want to eat this guy.

When all your gifts are open, ask, with a vague air of disappointment, is that it? Then demand to play with everything faster than your beleaguered parents can remove all the plastic ties, safety staples, and twisty twine and assemble all the pieces.
When prompted a minimum of three times, thank everyone, perhaps making brief eye contact with grandma, who is, after all, a good sport and your biggest benefactor. If you're feeling generous, shoot her a fleeting smile.
Unpleasant business over, turn back to your spoils. Determine how many toys either light up, make noise, or both.
And there damn well better be batteries included.
Zoe: 75; 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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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Zoe vs. 2015: A Look Ahead

As we close the door on 2014---from which the child locks have now been removed---and we enter a brave new world where little hands insist on using keys that they cannot yet master so that each evening I wonder if I'll ever get inside the apartment to use the bathroom, it's time to look forward to new goals, new experiences.
As I did last year, I'm yielding the floor to Zoe for her to list her New Year's Resolutions. 

Fanny prepares to play
Drink It, Break It, or Hide It.

Zoe's 15 Resolutions for 2015
1. Early in January, let's say, January 2nd, profess boredom, and when Mommy points to all the toys I received for Christmas, affect Big Ennui and patiently explain that I've already played with each toy for approximately four and a half minutes and that I'm "over it."
2. Watch The Lego Movie every day. (I've seen it twenty-fifteen times and I'm not over it yet. It's a mystery.)
3. Turn 5 on my birthday. Receive presents. Hopefully ones that will maintain my interest for more than four and a half minutes.
4. Now that I don't need the stroller anymore and can walk, insist on being carried. Unless Mommy brings the stroller. Then insist on walking.
5. Improve work/life balance.

I can definitely do this.

6. Attend birthday parties and other events. Make sure Mommy knows how much I want whatever toy we give to the birthday kid. Give her 30 days to acquire said toy for me. (I can be reasonable.)
7. Climb the highest mountain. The one at the park that Mommy calls Dirty Hill That We Can Pee Behind When the Bathroom's Closed. (Not sure why she says "we" since I've never seen her drop trou, and she'll insist we have to leave the park so she can pee.) 
8. Help Mommy "go viral" by coughing directly in her face more.
9. Leave pre-K for greener pastures. (And they will most certainly be greener considering the scorched earth I intend to leave behind me.) 
10. Go to kindergarten. Expand fanbase.
11. Decide on a costume for Halloween in July. Talk about it for months. Inform Mommy on the evening of October 30th that I want to go trick-or-treating as something else, like a robot-dinosaur. A pink one.
12. Exploit various grandmas, aunts, and retainers for candy. 
13. Wherever I go, resolve to have a good time, or at least make sure that if I'm not having a good time, no one else is either.

Wyldstyle, now Lucy Smythe-Brickowoski.
20 years after the events recounted in The Lego Movie.

14. Continue to leverage my whining till I get my way. It still works 30 percent of the time. I can deal with that.
And last,
15. Stay totes adorbs. It's my brand.
Zoe: 74; 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, December 18, 2014

Zoe vs. the Recipe Post

(Note: This recipe post is not Zoe related. Unless you see making struffoli as a metaphor. After all, Zoe also took a long time to make and she's often sticky.)

An Italian Christmas Tradition
I believe it was the poet Emily Dickinson who said, “Tradition is the thing with festive wings that beats you about the face unless you pretend to still believe in Santa Claus.”
Or something like that.
Anyway, the holidays are a time when traditions must be observed. Or the baby Jesus will be displeased. Such was the impression I received as a child.
My mother is Italian, and for many Italians, Christmas Eve is the bigger event. Dinner is the Feast with Seven Fishes: lobster, shrimp, mussels, stuffed clams, seafood salad with scungilli and calamari. And finally canned anchovies. For the technical win.
We open presents at midnight, not waiting for Christmas morning, and after that we have dessert, which then sits in our stomachs till after the New Year.
Along with this strict schedule of events, six types of cookies or desserts have to make an appearance after midnight. This means that every year my mother starts baking before Thanksgiving, and then freezes the goodies that won’t stay good.
Chief among desserts, and the one she makes last, is the traditional Italian dessert called struffoli.
You may have heard of it; you’ve probably seen it. These honey balls are often arranged in the form of a Christmas tree or sometimes a wreath. They’re covered in sprinkles and, sometimes, the candied citrus bits we confront with horror in Nonni’s fruitcake.


My mother doesn’t do the candied citrus. She also bakes mostly from memory, from a recipe handed down from one Neopolitan mother to the next.
The first thing I noted when she gave me the recipe was that she spelled it “Struffle.” That didn’t seem right given how we’d always pronounced it, so I asked Google. In return Google inquired: “Do you mean struggle?” This will be important later.
Now, I’m a slave to tradition like anyone else. And knowing my sister, who either orders dinner or eats out seven nights a week, I realized I’d have to be the one to carry on the Christmas cookie/dessert tradition, especially struffoli.
One problem: I didn’t really like struffoli anymore.
The main culprit behind my waning affection is my stomach. I can no longer digest them. 
Struffoli not only takes a long time to make but an even longer time to leave your system. They go in as hard balls and they pretty much come out the same way, only considerably less merry.
Now that I’ve primed the pump, here’s the recipe as supplied by my mother, followed by my commentary.

6 eggs
4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
Olive oil
Jar of honey (size unspecified; “y’know, a jar”)
Non-pareils or sprinkles

1) Mix everything together. Work with hands until smooth.
2) Make long strands with dough. Cut into little marble-sized pieces.
3) Fry in olive oil, in batches. Scoop out when done and place on paper towel. (This is the part that takes forever, and seems longer, as you occasionally get spattered with hot oil.)
4) Heat the honey in a pot. Mix until the struffoli is covered in honey. Add sprinkles and toss.
Yield: Enough for the family as well as the neighbor she exchanges desserts with. (This is optional; you don’t need to give any to my mother’s neighbor.)

Yes, many.
The ingredients seemed sparse, her directions loosey-goosey, and her yield inexact.
This is probably the result of her measuring by eye and filling in the details with her memory. After all, she’s been making this dish every Christmas for more than forty years.

"I felt a funeral in my brain"
was inspired by an unsuccessful
attempt at making struffoli.

When I’d researched the spelling for struffoli, I’d also clicked on a few recipes and noticed that they had a lot more ingredients.
Most notably: sugar. And salt. But also lemon zest. Or orange. Some had vanilla. Some even had grappa.
I questioned my mother about these discrepancies.
She said, "Well, you can do that. If you want." But she likes it plain.
“What do you need all that sugar for? The honey is enough.”
And I was given to understand the grappa idea was just nutso.
So there you have it . . . a Christmas tradition: family, food, and holiday spirit, with my mother’s struffoli as the tie that binds. Literally.

Zoe: 73*; Universe/digestive tract: 0

*Technically, Zoe didn't "win." Except she always wins and wanted that noted. (I don't make the rules.)

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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