Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Zoe vs. Thanksgiving

Okay, this is going to be short and sweet. Just like Zoe. Sort of. Anyway, she's short.
First, let's break it down.
Thanks + giving.
Zoe understands "thank you." She has for a while, but whether she says it or not depends on a number of factors: how tired, how hungry, how desperate for juice, etc. And about half the time she whines, whispers, or cries it. So it's a work in progress.
On good days we get please and thank you at once. Of course, if it's vegetables, we get "No, thank you." When it's her ticket out of eating Brussels sprouts, she's suddenly Miss Manners. 
As for "giving," this is a foreign concept. I'm talking about giving for the sake of giving, not handing me a book she wants me to read to her. I think it's because to Zoe giving sounds suspiciously like sharing, and let's just say she's not on board with sharing and leave it at that. 
Now let's put them together. Everybody yell: Happy Thanksgiving! Zoe loves to yell things, whether she understands them or not.
Zoe's first Thanksgiving, she cried. The whole time. To be fair, she was only three months old and I think she was overwhelmed by the people, plus she couldn't eat the food. I can't really fault her. I've attended my share of social gatherings where I didn't know anyone and it was hovering by the cheese platter with exaggerated interest (okay, not that exaggerated) that got me through.
For Zoe's second Thanksgiving, a picture we took says it all. In the photograph one side of her head retains its pigtail; the other side of her head is pure crazy. A bipolar hairdo for a bipolar Thanksgiving.
The following year, when she was two years old, she had other children to play/not share with. She ate mashed potatoes and corn but mostly smashed them into her chair.

Film still from Dora: Detras de la Musica,
where Dora tells all about the real
monkey on her back.
This year is the first she seems more aware of Thanksgiving as a holiday. They've done projects in school, she's taken note of the decorations in our apartment, she's watched the Dora Thanksgiving episode wherein Dora sings a song with the lyrics: "Gracias! Muchas, muchas gracias. Gracias. It's Thanksgiving Day!" (Did you know Dora was American? I didn't. And what state has both a rain forest and bilingual talking monkeys partial to footwear?)

This year I also told her a bit about the meal we would eat and how it's good to be thankful for what we have. After, she ran around in circles for a good ten minutes singing "Thank you, Mommy! Thank you, Mommy!" over and over, one of Zoe's frequent flights of mania where it's hard to distinguish good sign from harbinger of doom.

Craig and Chief Whatmeworry didn't care what anyone said.
They just knew they'd be BFFs forever.

Turkey day is tomorrow so I'll leave you with one prediction I'm pretty sure will come true: I will be thankful when it's over.
Zoe: 23; Universe: 0

Friday, November 22, 2013

Zoe vs. Parades, Festivals, and General Frivolity

Zoe loves to have fun. As long as it's on her terms. When it comes to fun, Zoe determines the when, where, and who. Suggestions are unwelcome and summarily dismissed. Sometimes I feel like she's already that teenager who decides something's not cool if someone else thought it was cool first. All that's missing is an ironic T-shirt.
Today I've grouped Zoe's objections to fun in three categories: 1. parades, 2. festivals and street fairs, and 3. miscellaneous instances of frivolity.
Our neighborhood has a parade every year around Halloween where children dress up, bands play, and there's even a contest for best costume. I didn't bother dressing her up as a baby, though it probably would've been easier, mostly because I didn't see the point; she couldn't walk in a parade because she couldn't walk period. When she was two, her nap time coincided with the parade. However, we did go out after the parade that year, and we saw a lot of other two-year-olds in costume, implying they'd marched in the parade. So this year I was determined.
I bought her Halloween costume early: Cinderella. Figured I'd keep it simple. It was really just a fancy dress, nothing to wear on her head, nothing to hold. I also got shoes which looked like actual glass slippers, my favorite part. I wasn't sure she'd be able to walk in them for long or without falling, but they were so cute I couldn't resist. 
Come the day of the actual parade, Zoe wouldn't put the costume on. Fine. I foresaw that. I'm no fool. But I figured when we got to the staging area and she saw the other kids she might (might!) change her mind. Okay, I take back the part about not being a fool. When we got to the staging area Zoe was still not willing. We did see one other parent who'd had the same idea, and watching as they tried to wrestle their screaming toddler into a Snow White costume dissuaded me from attempting the same.
So we went home, where, you guessed it, as soon as we freed her from the stroller she wanted to put on her "princess dress" and her shoes. She stayed Cinderella the rest of the day, even running and jumping in the glass slippers, and at bedtime we had to fight her to take it off.
There have been other parades. St. Patrick's. Memorial Day. We were unable to stay for long at any. Marching bands from local high schools, old guys in classic cars, local politicians . . . she was unimpressed. From her perch in the stroller she motioned us along. If anyone was going to hold us up, it was going to be Zoe, and it was going to be for something only she wanted to see, like a pile of dirt.
Festivals/Street Fairs
Our neighborhood also has its share of festivals. In Zoe's early years I wheeled her through them and she'd just fall asleep. Golden times. Now she wants out of the stroller so she can run through the crowd, and away from me.

Cappy was shunned by the Looner
community for being too weird.
At one fair this summer Zoe wanted a balloon. She saw other children with them; ipso facto, all balloons belong to Zoe. Maintaining my calm facade while I frantically scanned the booths ahead of us, wondering where these other children had gotten their balloons, I tried to distract her, first with a folksinger, then with a kids' dance troupe. She would not be turned aside. Finally, we came across a man dressed as a clown making balloon animals and other shapes. We stood in line and watched as he twisted balloons into dogs and swords. When we got to the front, the clown gave Zoe a smile and told her he had something special just for her.
He then proceeded to use three balloons---a blue one, a white one, and a pink one---to fashion this complicated heart-within-a-double-circle design. As he worked, Zoe watched him, her expression grave. Sweat poured down the clown's face. When he was done, he handed her the latex creation with a flourish. She regarded it briefly, then turned cold eyes on the clown and spoke five words: "I want a red one." "She means thanks," I said, and hurried away.
As for festival rides Zoe has approach-avoidance issues. She wants to get on them but is afraid, so instead she waits till I'm about to strap her into a mini fire engine or car before freaking out and demanding to go.
It's the same with low-stakes rides. At one street fair she became obsessed with a coin-operated horse ride. I deposited the fifty cents but as soon as the horse started moving she wanted off. Then, from the safety of terra firma, she watched the horse bounce up and down for the rest of the time allotted. Afterwards she kept circling the horse and patting it until another child wanted to get on and then she got upset. It was her psychic hurdle and hers alone! I had to drag her away, hoping she wasn't going to be one of those girls who wanted boys to like her but wouldn't like them back and also didn't want anyone else to have them either. I knew girls like that in high school. They never had exact change.

Innocent children's pastime or equine death machine?

Miscellaneous Frivolity
No dancing.
No singing.
No hugging.
Unless Zoe initiates.
Occasionally The Husband and I turn on iTunes and play the music we used to listen to, pre-Z. Remembering what it was like to be young and unencumbered we sometimes break out dancing or singing. When this occurs, Zoe will look up from whatever she's playing with/destroying and angrily shout: "No dancing!" Or: "No singing!"

Halcyon days. They didn't know
and you couldn't have told them.

Dancing is limited to "Ring Around the Rosy." With Zoe. And we must do it until she tires of it, which has never happened.
Similarly, singing is restricted to Zoe's bedtime, when Daddy MUST sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" (not Mommy!) while Zoe gets on her nighttime diaper, Mommy MUST hum the William Tell Overture while Zoe races against Daddy to get her pajamas on first, and finally, after Zoe is actually in bed and covered with exactly five blankets---in a particular order---that she then discards because she doesn't like blankets, Mommy MUST sing "This Old Man" twice through, counting off the numbers with her fingers. 
Furthermore, there is to be no physical contact between the prisoners Mommy and Daddy. Each may initiate a hug with Zoe but BY NO MEANS are we to hug each other. UNLESS we are making a Zoe sandwich with Zoe filling. Otherwise we are to remain firmly on our sides of the couch watching her play with gentle fondness (describing the manner in which we watch, not the manner in which she plays) while simultaneously preparing to spring into action should she need us to tear the living room apart looking for a toy she refuses to name or describe.

You don't want to know
where this finger's been.

She is very serious about all these rules and when we break them she gets very put out and yells "No!" a finger of warning raised in the air. Sometimes I can't help laughing at how tough she looks, but then I remember what she says when we laugh:
"It's NOT funny!"
Zoe: 22; Universe: 0

Friday, November 15, 2013

Zoe vs. Potty Training, Part the Second

When last we left the epic poem that is Zoe and her bodily functions, events had come to a standstill. To catch you up, as well as to lend the proceedings some class, I'll summarize in iambic pentameter: 
Zoe's potty remains unstained. Alas!  
No pee, does she. And as for poo, no too/two. 
Take that, Shakespeare.
A movement about
a movement.
But I'm keeping the faith. Because there's been a new development. The Husband thinks it's a pronunciation issue but I choose to believe she has potty training on her mind. She calls pre-school "pee-school." And pre-K  "pee-kray." Cute misunderstanding or bowing to the pressure?
Of course, as The Husband points out, she also thinks potty training involves an actual train. And desperate as I am, I asked her if she wanted to ride it: All aboard the potty train! I said, my lame attempt to make relieving herself sound fun. Not yet, she responded. While we wait for that train, we're engaged in the Battle of Little Big Girl.
It began when we replaced the crib with a "Big Girl" bed. A Big Deal was made about Zoe being a Big Girl and Zoe responded well. "Zoe's a Big Girl" became her mantra. The words spilled over into ideas, and soon she insisted on doing more things on her own, like taking her shoes and socks off. This minor progress went to my head and I figured here was my chance to turn the screws with the potty.
She was way ahead of me. Albeit not physically.
On Saturday I carried the potty chair into the living room, where Zoe was busy grinding Play-Doh into the carpet, and subtly inquired, "Is Zoe a Big Girl?" Zoe started to answer, "Yes, Zoe's a B---" but then stopped to give me her full attention, sensing the Weight of Meaning in my tone. Her gazed bored into me, an unholy light shining from her eyes. Then she finished:  "--a Little Girl."
Me: "But remember how you told me the other day you were a Big Girl?"
Zoe: "No." 
Me: "But you sleep in a Big Girl bed, don't you?"
Zoe: "No."
Me (sighing): "Can I get an ETA on when you will be a Big Girl?" 
The subject was non-responsive. And resumed playing/destroying.

The fateful moment when Dr. Frankenstein decided
to dip the Monster's hand in a bowl of warm water,
earning him the nickname Dr. Prankenstein.
Since then whenever I broach the Big Girl topic she says, Not yet. Or, Soon. Three years old and already she knows about ulterior motives. What am I going to do when she's a teenager? My hope is that her obvious intelligence will someday catapult her into some powerful position, like Grand Poobah of Mad Scientists or President of the United States, a position so powerful that her underlings won't have the nerve to say anything when she voids herself, soiling her lab coat or lady power suit beyond recognition. 
Still, a mother can't help but worry. What if the Joint Chiefs call her President Poopy Pants behind her back?
I brought my concerns to the day care staff, and one of them recommended a video called Potty Power. With the one-two punch of catchy tunes and peer pressure, Potty Power promises to teach any recalcitrant toddler how to use the potty.

DJ Lance Rock wearing the hell out of a toilet paper cozy.
The video begins with a series of questions asking the child to identify which activities can be performed by a Big Kid and which by a baby. Insanely catchy ditties ensue, all sung by a fresh-faced gal wearing a style-resistant denim shirt. She is accompanied by an animated roll of toilet paper appropriately named T.P. It would be as surreal as children's programming gets if not for the existence of Yo Gabba Gabba.
The video ends with what I assume is a sendup of the "Princess and the Pea" story, except here it's a homonym of pea. (That would be pee, in case you're struggling.)
Chaos reigns in the castle, for the princess will not use the royal potty (I don't know how the writers resisted referring to it as a porcelain throne) and the king (her father) and the queen (her mother), along with the jester (why?), are attempting to train her. The jester is an irritating man-child mainlining silly. Not only does he wear the foolscap and the motley attire, but he's got disturbing makeup, most notably, a perfect circle of color on each cheek. For some reason the king and queen fail to consider that it's maybe the jester's presence that is causing the little princess to have a shy bladder. Eventually though, as with all fairy tales, we get a happy ending and the little princess succeeds.
As promised, Zoe enjoys this video. She enjoys it so much she stands in front of the TV, rapt, stamping her feet rhythmically to the songs in the puddle of pee that quickly forms beneath her.

It was his unusual rosacea that made Jigsaw such a sourpuss.

Still, it must be having some effect. The other night, Zoe shouted: "No more diapers!"
"Right on!"  I said.
"No more pull ups!" she shouted.
"And no more underwear."
"That's ri---" Um. Hmmm. Does this mean she wants to go commando? A whole new problem may have surfaced.
As for the potty train, we'll have to catch the next one.
Zoe: 21; Universe: 0

Friday, November 8, 2013

Zoe vs. the NYC Marathon

I loves me some marathons. The physical and mental challenge, the human body pushed to the edge of endurance, the runner's high and the sense of achievement.
It's why I enjoy watching them on TV.
What? Oh, you thought I was talking about running in one myself. What a silly blog reader!
She needs a bucket for
more than her list.
I actually used to run track and cross country in school, but I've never run a marathon, and it certainly did not make my bucket list. TV-show-watching marathons are more my style---Dexter, Breaking Bad. But I also like to watch actual marathons. Ironman Triathlons too.
The Husband, a sports fanatic who even wrote a sports blog for a few years (And a Player to Be Named Later) before Zoe broke him, doesn't get it. He finds running itself to be boring and says watching someone else run is akin to watching paint dry.

I participated in an Iron Man Triathlon.
All three movies in a row. Exhausting.
Anyway, this past Sunday was the NYC Marathon. When Zoe was born I had this idea that we'd make going to the marathon a family tradition, and since then I'd been waiting for her to be old enough to enjoy it. We live at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn and as long as we've been here I've gone to watch the race and cheer the runners. It's a very festive atmosphere: There's a band and people from different countries all waving their flags. Plus, some of the runners are in costume.
At Zoe's first marathon she was just a few months old, so it was a bit lost on her. The second time she was still too young, but as I told her on Saturday night, her aunt had participated in that one and we'd brought her to watch though she probably didn't remember. Last year, the marathon was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. So I was pretty excited this year and tried to infect Zoe with my enthusiasm.
I started priming her a few days before. On Sunday morning, I turned on the TV for the start of the race and told her the runners were lining up to go over the bridge, the same bridge she'd pointed at the day before in the park. All those people would be running over it and when they got to the other side, we were going to see them.
She seemed to be catching some of my energy so, feeling hopeful, I strapped her into the stroller and away we went. Meanwhile The Husband stayed behind to watch the pre-pre-pre-game stuff on ESPN, to me, the equivalent of watching another person watch paint dry.
On the way neighbors asked Zoe if she was going to see the marathon and she said, "Yes." As we got closer we could see the runners and hear the band playing and people cheering. I glanced at her face to gauge her response but her expression remained impassive. At the corner, I rolled her right up to the tape separating the spectators from the runners, and before you could say Meb Keflezighi, Zoe said, "I wanna go home."
Me: "I thought you wanted to see the race." 
Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi.
He ran a mile for each letter of his name;
the last 4 he ran for free.
Zoe: "Yes"
Me: "Well, this is the race."
Zoe: "No."
Me : . . .
Zoe: "I want to go to the other race."
Me (reasonable): "There is no other race."
Zoe: "Other race!"
And she pointed back the way we had come.
Okay, I figured it was cold and she hadn't eaten much breakfast, so we'd go get some tea for me and a doughnut for her (and maybe, just maybe, I'd have some of it too), and then we'd walk a bit and circle back to the race as if there were two citywide marathons occurring that day and this was that other one.
At the coffee shop we ran into one of her daycare friends who was with her parents. This little girl was not in a stroller and yet she remained at her parents' sides (!). I'd never seen such a thing.  I have a dim recollection of such behavior being called obedience. Clearly her parents trusted that she would not run out into the street and trip the runners. Astonishing!
Zoe told the girl and her parents that we were going to the other race. The little girl looked at me for confirmation. I signaled desperately with my eyes that she should go along with it.
Then we got my Zoe's doughnut, said goodbye, and headed down the block. I walked for a bit and then turned back toward the race. This time when we rolled up to the tape she didn't make a fuss, probably owing to the glazed doughnut that I had cunningly just presented to her. But also owing to the runner dressed as Elmo, the dog on our left who was jumping up and down, and the two little girls on our right who were stretching out their hands to high-five the runners as they passed.

The idea was that his energy wouldn't drag.
However, a doughnut only lasts so long, especially in Mommy's vicinity. Glazed goodness dispatched, Zoe looked at her sticky hands and then told me she wanted to get out. Because I have yet to learn, I unbuckled her, warning her to stay on this side of the tape, emphasizing on the curb, reminding her that she's not allowed in the street unless she's holding Mommy or Daddy's hand.
The testing began.
First, she fingered the tape. Then she pushed on it, glancing back to see my reaction. I shook my head. But I could see the mad desire growing in her eyes. She stared directly into my soul and inched a toe off the curb. And who knows what mayhem would have ensued for she was suddenly overcome with hiccups, probably due to the gulping down of the doughnut combined with all the air she needed to support her whining. Then she peed herself. After which she turned to me and said two things:
Trent could be such a martyr
sometimes about exercising.
1: "I'm wet."
2: "I want to go to the other race."
Sighing, I led her away, deciding to let Zoe walk her wet butt home.
Did I say walk?
I meant run.
Apparently this was the other race Zoe had been referring to all along, the one where she ran next to Mommy and the stroller, laughter interspersed with hiccups the whole way. 
Guess we'll try again next year, when it will most assuredly be "another race."
Zoe: 20; Universe: 0