Thursday, November 10, 2016

Zoe vs. the Children's Book I'll Never Write

Last night Zoe wanted me to tell her a story before bed.
Though I call myself a writer, at the same time I don't think I'm good at making up stories---not off the cuff, not without working them out on paper first, and certainly not children's stories.
But then I remembered Zoe's two favorite subjects: herself and anything disgusting, and I had the ingredients of a bedtime story perfect for Zoe.

Children's Books, Bedtime Story

This story will never be a children's book. It's like if a gross-out comedy met On the Night You Were Born. You see, I told Zoe about herself as a baby, specifically, how disgusting she was, as disgusting as only an adorable creature without control of her bodily functions can be.
I called it: You Were So Disgusting Then (and You're Still Kind of Disgusting Now).
When you were a newborn, I began, you had chubby little thighs. Everyone said they were so cute. And they were. Except I knew all that cute baby fat had a dark side. Or a dark inside.
I told her how when I gave her a bath each evening, I'd have to make sure to spread apart the fat of her thighs so I could clean within the folds---sweat and dirt got trapped in there during the day and by nighttime it was gross and yucky. And it smelled bad too. Here I made a face for emphasis.
"More," Zoe said, laughing.
Well, if she thought the dirt inside her rolls of thigh fat was disgusting, it was nothing compared to what greeted me when I pried open her tiny fists. The sweaty dirt that had gathered in the creases of her hands put her thigh rolls to shame. It was SO disgusting. And sometimes, as a bonus, when I prized her fingers apart, I discovered the gummy, almost unrecognizable, remains of a cheerio transformed into brownish-gray sludge. Yuck!
"More, more!" Zoe urged.
"Shall I tell you about all the spit-up?" I asked her.
She nodded.
"Well," I told her, "because your digestive system wasn't fully formed, you had a hard time keeping down all the milk you drank. You'd be sucking on a bottle when suddenly: back up it came."
"And the spit-up was nothing to when you actually vomited. Milk, some of it curdled from your stomach acid, would just come right up.
"Once, it happened while I was carrying you. I thought you were asleep when suddenly vomit shot out like a geyser directly into my face---straight shot---and I almost dropped you. But most of the time it just sort of flowed out of your mouth, in lazy spurts, to drip down your chin. Out of your nose too. And the smell! It was just ghastly. But do you know the most horrifying thing of all? You'll never guess."
"What?" She leaned off the edge of the bed.
"Your expression never changed. You weren't just disgusting, you were creepy. "
"More disgusting!" she yelled.
"Shall we discuss your snot?"
"Sometimes you'd sneeze and the snot would hang down your face and dangle in a long gooey rope in front of your mouth so that on the next breath you'd suck it right in. As you got older this got better, but also worse. You might wipe it away from your mouth, but in doing so you'd swipe the mucus all the way up either cheek to your eyes, resulting in this sticky viscous mask. And pink eye."
"And it's not so long ago---in fact, I believe it was just the other day---I saw you pick your nose and when I yelled, 'Don't wipe that on the couch!' you ate it instead. Remember how you did that, cutie?"
"I'm disgusting!" she thrilled.
"Indeed, you were, and still are, very very disgusting."
Finally, exhausted from laughing, she drifted off to sleep.
I'd save the one about The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Diaper Genie for the following night.

Zoe: 151; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one
in which Zoe confronts a Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Zoe vs. WikiLeaks: Six-Year-Old's E-mails Hacked!

Dear Mommy,
To be honest, when I first heard the term WikiLeaks, I thought they were talking about some Maori kid who peed his pants. But when my people brought me up to speed, I decided I better write something to set the record straight.

WikiLeaks satire
Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

First of all, some of these alleged e-mails have been doctored. I never said, "Mommy is a poopy butt," or if I said it, I didn't mean it, and if I did mean it, it was taken out of context.
There are a lot of contexts where someone can be a poopy butt and it can be a good thing. I can't think of any, but I have a lot on my mind just now, what with my school's candy sale and trying to figure out how I can make money selling chocolate to myself. I can't be expected to remember everything. Besides, I think this whole e-mail hack thing is just a distraction from the important issues, like how many chocolate bars you can buy from me for me, or how much later I can go to bed. 
In the leaked documents, there's also the implication I'm for unfair trade. I think it's very fair when I get more than other people. It's more fair to me. I like chocolate (see previous statements) and, also, to win games. And for you to not say you let me win. That ruins it.
(But let me win.)
Another thing is that, sometimes, as a person living with a lot of stress, I need to vent to close personal associates. Like in my e-mail addressed to the cat that you're upset about---with the expectation of privacy, by the way---where I said Mommy is unfair and never lets me do anything and doesn't want me to be happy or she'd let me play all night and never sleep after eating all the chocolate. I think you need to grow up mentally as much as I do physically. I mean, did you really need to read that to know what I was thinking?
The cat agrees with me.
You may also have heard about the e-mail I sent to everyone in your contacts where I gave them all your passwords. First of all, "1234password" is ridiculous. Make your passwords harder, a higher number at least, like ten thousand one hundred fifty thousand. No one could guess that. It's not my fault if you do these things to yourself.
My public persona and my private persona both question your judgment and also wonder why the cat doesn't wear pants. He's naked and you don't see a problem. But God forbid I pee with the door open. Double standard.
Okay, I guess I did admit in one of those e-mails that sometimes I know when I'm being bad but do it anyway and play dumb because I know, as the Mommy, you have to forgive me. Some call that taking advantage, but I just think that's smart.
I think it's time to move past this and forge a new relationship based on mutual respect and a constant supply of chocolate. To my mouth.
Because you know what they say: kid pro quo. You scratch my back and I let you rub my back till I fall asleep.

Zoe: 150; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one 
in which Zoe confronts Donald Trump.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Zoe vs. Boredom: In Which a Child's Ennui Becomes Tedious

"Zoe, time to get dressed."
"Brush your teeth."
"So boring."
"And get your backpack."
*Falls on floor, apparently overcome by tedious commands.

A Child's Boredom
Lately everything is boring, according to Zoe. Breathing in and out to her is dull and unimaginative in its repetitiveness. And it doesn't seem to matter how busy we are; she'll always find the boring.
One recent weekend, we had soccer on Saturday morning, a late night out at a dinner dance, and then on Sunday we took her to a Renaissance Faire. When we got home she played a few games on the iPad, watched one show on TV, and then, when we said her screen time was over and it was time for Mommy and Daddy to watch the news, she said, "But that's so boring." And, cherry on top, she then said: "I never get to do anything!" 
"Are you out of your mind?" I said, hoping I could interest her in reality.
Then I had to be very boring and list for her all she'd done that weekend, because apparently remembering the previous twenty-four hours is boring, as is appreciating one's old and silly parents. She is six and a study in ennui. 
But is she really bored or is her vocabulary just limited? Or maybe she's a pioneer and is just expanding the definition. Let's review some meanings of boredom. Excited yet?
Boredom meaning #1: A state of disinterest in one's surroundings in which there is nothing one wants to interact with. 
Our apartment is littered with toys that are apparently so boring and played out she will not let me throw any of them away. (Meta-boring!)
Boredom meaning #2: General restlessness, especially that which can overcome the privileged. 
See again all those toys she can't be bothered with. Maybe she has too many things. (Blasphemy!) Maybe she needs occasional dalliances with deprivation or, at least, a mental challenge. I suggested reading or doing math. 
"Ugh! Boring!" 
Little do you know the boredom ahead of you, I told her. 
Then I introduced her to the phrase "PowerPoint presentation." I mentioned speeches at professional conferences, waiting in line at the post office, and (with particular emphasis) having to watch a small child struggle to put on pajamas that are inside out. 
Throughout her lassitude remained intact.
Boredom meaning #3: Slightly irritating, adorably inept, or just plain silly, i.e., providing little or no challenge. 
Yesterday evening Zoe was playing a game on the Nick Jr. website which featured the dogs of Paw Patrol in a soccer match against Mayor Humdinger's villainous cats, aka the Catastrophe Crew. As Marshall the fire dog scored against the kitten who was the goalie, Zoe turned to me and said, "That cat couldn't stop the ball. So boring!" 
Indeed. And just moments later it was time for her tiresome mother to serve her a boring dinner featuring wearisome broccoli, after which she'd have to suffer through the boredom of bath time and the dreariness of being tucked into bed, where she'd fall asleep after much boring resistance and have monotonous dreams she'd be too apathetic to relate the next day.
Boredom meaning #4: Things one's mother makes one do.

Zoe: 149; Universe: 0

If you enjoyed this post, you may like this one 
in which Zoe confronts the meaning of life.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Zoe vs. the Renaissance Faire: An Elizabethan Tale of Wonder, Revelry, and No Small Amount of Suffering

Good morrow! Gather round, ye knights and knaves, ye bawdy wenches and virtuous wives, and hear tell of Zoe and her visit to the faire of Elizabethan times, where sweet maidens fair and queens and kings---as well as pirates and the occasional elf---came together in the woods to frolic and carouse and play dress up for adults, the last an excuse to don outfits most inappropriate almost anywhere else on God's green earth.

Renaissance Faire
Twas a long journey we undertook on Sunday morning to get to the faire, and those traveling in our conveyance were both short in stature and patience.
When we arrived thither, we immediately went in search of physical relief, which we discovered in the area overseen by Sir Porta John, a provident gentleman indeed. That bodily need met, complaints were uttered regarding the procurement of victuals. 
We located the food court, though it was like no court presided over by any sovereign I know, being awash in crude picnic tables unfit for nobles such as I decided I would've been had I lived back then.
There we acquired the small pieces of breaded chicken so popular with today's (and mayhap yesterday's) child but that, alas, Zoe now perversely forswore. Verily, she protested in such strong terms, only deigning to eat a handful of the thin fried potatoes, that her mother ended in eating the chicken herself---though she honestly could've given it a pass---because the price had been dear, and, besides, she eschewed waste.
Anon, the child let up a hue and cry, and we made haste again to the land of Sir Porta John, the poor child claiming debilitating cramps in her gut. This was followed by a refusal to walk, and so the father didst carry her.
Twas it the plague? Nay, to hear her keening it was worse.
Presently the woeful child lay upon a bench and, with most piteous whining, requested that her mother rub her back.
Zoe revived by and by, a happenstance queerly coincident with her friends acquiring swords. Of a sudden the color came back to her visage, and she petitioned her parents to purchase her a weapon. In a trice, she was outfitted with a sword whose color was pink but also black and white. 
For shield she had a choice amongst different fearsome beasts emblazoned on their fronts. Would she choose a dragon or a gryphon? A lion, perhaps?
Forsooth, Zoe chose a most terrifying unicorn, of a purple hue. But, by my troth, this mythical creature sparkled in a way that said it could be quite dangerous if provoked.

Don't let the purple unicorn and pink sword fool you; Zoe's a killer.

Following the joust, during which the father again carried the moaning creature, the mother prevailed upon the child to pose for a likeness. It took many, many tries, after which the much-beleaguered woman went in search of an alehouse.
Alas, the only drink to be found was the watered-down swill called Coors Lite, and so the mother repaired to the coffee shoppe. Thither, having spent all her ready money at the armorer's, she purchased a venti iced chai with her Visa.
To those who would point out the anachronisms, I offer this update of an Elizabethan curse:
"May thy iPhone battery be cursed with a short life and thy posts on the book of face go unremarked upon."
Thence we began our journey home, stopping once at a King of Burgers, for Zoe was finally hungry.
To paraphrase the bard, all's well that ends pretty okay.

Zoe: 148; Universe: 0

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Zoe vs. Hershey Park (Or, The Time I Was an Un-Jolly Rancher)

The last week of August, with camp in the rearview mirror but with the first day of school still down the road a-ways, we took Zoe to Hershey Park. Though she'd been to her share of carnivals and smaller parks, this was her first BIG amusement park.
I'd been to Hershey, and countless other amusement parks, as a kid and I loved roller coasters, so I was looking forward to introducing Zoe to some real rides, at least the ones she'd be tall enough to ride. 
And willing to go on.
I knew the latter would depend on her mood. Funhouse mirrors could learn something from Zoe about distorted realities.
Strap yourself in and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle, folks, because unexpected turns are ahead.

Hershey Amusement Park

We were traveling with friends who have two kids---one older than Zoe at 8, one younger at 5---so when we arrived at Hershey Park we checked in at the measuring station to find out each child's candy (i.e., height) designation. Zoe and her five-year-old friend were both "Reese's" (aka my favorite candy, and if I'd met a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that was more than 40 inches tall, well, I wouldn't be here talking to you now because I'd be a) still eating or b) hospitalized).
They weren't measuring adults, but I'm pretty short, so I checked out of curiosity, and I reached the highest, "Jolly Rancher" height. However, while we were there, we never went on any ride that required a minimum height of "Twizzler," the measurement below Jolly Rancher, since the kids weren't tall enough yet. (The eight-year-old was "Hershey's" height.)
One of the first things I learned at Hershey was that Zoe's OCD was of a different flavor from mine. Every ride she went on, she had to be in the "1st" car, bumblebee, anthropomorphized jet plane or what have you, even if the ride went around in a circle. I have no idea why, but she did it every ride. When some other kid beat her to a "1" vehicle which happened to be a firetruck, I watched her regretfully belt herself into the purple muscle car next in line, marked with a "2."
Another thing I learned was Zoe perversely wanted to go on rides she wasn't allowed to go on but refused to go on so-called moderate thrill rides that allowed Reese's, as long as they were accompanied by an adult. For instance, the log flume. One of the tamest rides in existence. It had one dip. She did go on once but then adamantly refused the next time.
Soon we realized there was a "drama" competition going on between her and her five-year-old friend over who was more scared. They'd get off a ride and one would say, "That was the scariest ride ever." Then the other would say, "I screamed the whole ride." Next: "I'm never going on that again!" Or: "I almost throwed up all over the place." And then, after one ride, her friend said, "I almost had a heart attack." This gave Zoe pause, and she nodded once, soberly. She did not try to one-up her friend after that. Out of respect.
But the biggest thing I learned was something awful about myself. I learned I may be too old for rides.
It had been years since I'd been to a real amusement park and ridden a real roller coaster. I'd forgotten how rides felt, the stomach-dropping plunges, the spinning, the sudden swerving. Also: heights.

Are you "high" enough?

Zoe wanted to go on the Flying Phoenix. Each "car" on this ride was a two-seater flimsy plane thing, open to the air in a way that suggested death and lawsuits. We got on and it went up. And then spun. Really fast. Sure, there was a seat bar, but I think it was the centripetal force that was really keeping us in the vehicle.
Zoe didn't mind how high we were. We could see the whole park. Over and over. At high velocity. Did I mention a lot of the vehicle was open?
I told Zoe she could close her eyes if she was scared. She said, "I'm not going to close my eyes, silly." Meanwhile Silly was sitting behind her, eyes shut tight, clutching the metal bar like it was the last Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the world.
When we finally got out of that death trap I was a decidedly Un-Jolly Rancher.
Somehow I thought I'd still be able to handle a roller coaster. They'd been my favorite as a teenager. So when the chance came to take my friends' "Hershey's" size son on the Wild Cat, I went.
Now, apparently, your ears change as you get older. The vestibular system of your inner ear becomes less efficient, which means you're less able to deal with abrupt changes in head position and you're more susceptible to motion sickness. Combined with that, there are the aches and pains that become familiar as you reach your forties, when it becomes common to wrench your back sneezing or sustain a neck injury due to sleep.
When I got off the Wild Cat, I felt dizzy. I felt ill. My neck was sore from being jarred so violently, and . . . was that my tendonitis flaring up from how I'd held my shoulders when I was checking to make sure my glasses wouldn't fall off during one of those hard turns? Remember when you were a teenager and you could see? 
But I had a rep to protect, plus I didn't want Zoe to be afraid. So when following that everyone wanted to go on the Pirate ride, I went with her, and even though we had to sit in the middle, special seating for Reese's, where it was less thrilling, I told her I didn't mind at all. And would she mind if I closed my eyes?

Zoe: 147; Universe: 0

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy this.

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I need a win here, people. 

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