Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zoe vs. the Judaic Book Fair

That it was a Jewish book fair, held in a synagogue, is probably not relevant in terms of Zoe's antics (even if I've long suspected her of anti-Semitic leanings). However, this was her first book fair in general, and the fact that it was held in a synagogue added another level to bringing Zoe into a social sphere where I don't necessarily know the rules but get the sense she and I are pooping all over them. (One of us literally. No guessing!)
Ready to hit the bars?
Though I grew up in New York City (birthplace of such Jewish notables as George Burns and Woody Allen), as a Catholic I spent most of my youth around other Catholics---going to Church on Sundays, attending Catholic schools from elementary to college, drinking from a chalice filled with shame. However, what with all the suffering, I sometimes felt like an honorary Jew. Plus, my dad was a fan of Borscht Belt humor (Rodney Dangerfield was his favorite), and I went through a Yiddish phase (who hasn't?) when I called anyone who annoyed me a putz. Occasionally a shlemiel.
Still, until I started working, most of my experience of Jewishness was limited to Jewish comedians, bagels, and the Old Testament God. And even then, though I met many non-Catholics, no matter what religion they were raised in most were now non-practicing. 
The point of this whole shpiel is just to say I've never had occasion to enter a synagogue.
I'd passed this particular one many times and never felt much curiosity except for the fact it was in a round building. But last Sunday, a deep freeze combined with a stir-crazy three-year-old made a book fair seem like the answer to my prayers.
When we first arrived Zoe didn't want to go in and I had to wrestle her out of her coat, though she kept her hat on, perhaps out of religious misunderstanding, while a nice man carried her stroller down the stairs because the book fair turned out to be in the basement. 
Though she eventually removed her hat, Zoe remained unhappy until she realized the roundness of the building translated to the stairs, and then she regressed, wanting to go down one set and up the other in a continuous loop like she did when she was two.
The man who'd helped me had made it back to the front door by Zoe's third circuit, and this time she went to the front door saying she wanted to leave. 
The man said, "There was just a little girl here like you saying the same thing." 
I was like, same girl, just without a hat clutched over her head.
Then he said, as if it would entice her: "There's a woman painting faces downstairs."
She pulled harder on the door.
Lest you think me heartless and cruel, I would've put the kibosh on the whole thing except I was waiting for friends who were on their way AND I didn't want the poor man to have to shlep her stroller upstairs two minutes after sitting down again.
Then again maybe I am heartless and cruel as evidenced by my next faux enthusiastic comment to Zoe: "Wow! Would you like to get your face painted, Zoe?!" 
She gave me a look like, Mamaleh, get a grip, you know I don't submit to things I don't understand, and the more "fun" you make it sound, the more I think some schmuck with a stethoscope is about to stick a needle in my tuchus.
After a nosh I coaxed her into the book fair proper. Once inside she proceeded to pick up books that had been carefully displayed on one table, each with a theme, and move them to another. Jewish cookbooks were soon with mysteries and mysteries were soon with nonfiction until it was all fercockt.
There was also a "library" where children could sit on the floor and be read to by a woman who was sitting there waiting. God forbid Zoe would be interested in this, busy as she was with all her rearranging, and she soon removed one of the "library" books and brought it to a "sale" table, and then shuttled one of the on-sale books to the library. I spent my time following her around undoing her "work."

Moshe, Moshe, Moshe! If you want him
to ask you to prom, Miriam, you've got
to lose the glasses already. And
enough with those shapeless frocks!
Luckily the two women who seemed to be running the event admired Zoe's chutzpah. One of them asked if I'd like to sign up for a book mailing. Why not? I went over and wrote Zoe's info down and then read the bookmark the woman gave me detailing the program, how we'd receive one book a month "for Jewish children and their families." Wondering if signing a gentile up for the program had been kosher---Oy vey, the guilt!---I escorted Zoe, the shiksa ganef, to a table where a lady was giving out stickers. These were either snowflakes or Stars of David. I couldn't tell as Zoe tends to stick and re-stick stickers till they rip.
While she was thus occupied destroying stickers (innocently or anti-Semitically depending on what was actually on the stickers), I took a look at the books to see if I could buy her anything. 
Guilt was a major driving force.

A shmendrick in his youth.

Which is worse: Catholic guilt or Jewish guilt?
Both religions have glamorized it (just kidding!). Catholics have the sacrament of Confession, which we can partake in any day of the year (twice on Sundays---again, I kid) and Jews have Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. But which is preferable? Getting it over with at once? Or having more opportunities to say sorry? Or does that just lead to coming up with more reasons to be sorry?

Jesus H! The Vegas ads were
supposed to spare me this boredom.

And what about the guilt of lapsed Catholics? 
Jews for Jesus?
Can I get another "oy vey"?
Feeling so tired I could plotz, I came upon the Jewish children's books table.
Now, I suppose Zoe has a few religious books at home, that is, if you counted "First Christmas" titles. As for serious Catholic children's books, I'm not sure what else there would be. Naughty Johnny: The Boy Who Made the Baby Jesus Cry? In any case, this table held all these different books for Jewish children. Titles I'd never seen before.
The one I bought for Zoe was based on a well-known Yiddish folk tale called It Could Always Be Worse. This is my new favorite title of all time. After all, it's true. It could always be worse. You could be getting your face painted.

More terrifying than the Old Testament God.
(Coda: Though she refused that day, every day since Zoe has asked to get her face painted.)
Zoe: 29; Universe: bupkis.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Zoe vs. Personal Hygiene

A day spent being Zoe takes its toll. In grime.
By 7 p.m. her face is smudged with all manner of dirt, detritus, food, and mucus. Her hands are sticky. Likewise hair. Especially if it was not a ponytail day.
Did I say "day"? I meant minute. That's about as long as we can sustain a hairstyle before she destroys it. As for brushing her hair, see here.

SWMC, who enjoys smelling crayons, eating
dirt, and long walks on the beach, in search
of like-minded SWFC to live in filth.

Each day ends with a Zoe in dire need of a bath but Zoe, as you might've guessed, would prefer to keep collecting dirt on her person.
There are only two times Zoe is in favor of taking a bath: 1. when she's already in the bathtub and doesn't want to get out, or 2. when we skipped the bath because she insisted on playing through and now that Bedtime and its hours of stillness loom she'll endure any indignity to escape, even if it means becoming less sticky.
But the rest of the time it's an argument or an endless negotiation that breaks out into an argument or a mad, naked (her, not me; I'm always fully dressed in a ball gown, even when undergoing a c-section---abdominal surgery is no excuse to eschew fashion) chase through the apartment to the accompaniment of threats and warnings and bribes and promises just to get her in the tub.
Would you like to sit on the potty first? I may gently inquire. Or I may offer to let her turn the lights in the bathroom on and off five times before she has to get in the bath. Okay, six times.
Then, once she's in the tub, will the water stay in with her or will she commence dumping it on the floor?
Innocent bystander or aquatic instigator?
When she was an infant I had more control. Now I turn on the water; she turns it off. I turn off the water; she turns it on. She splashes like crazy, laughs like a hyena, then refuses to get out.
I often catch her drinking her dirty bathwater. Yet she never drinks the clean water I routinely offer. It seems the salty tang of dirty toddler was what she was after. 
"Are you drinking your dirty bath water?" I ask.
"No, I'm Zoe!" she replies without a trace of guile.
Had she thought I was calling her by her Native-American name? I'd thought that was either Tries Mommy's Patience or Says No a Lot. Or perhaps simply Refuses Peas.
Some nights bath is even more complicated.
When I can no longer pick the large pieces of food residue out of her hair, it's time to actually wash it. Her screams as I pour water over her head can burst the eardrums of grown men and small dogs. What is so awful about getting dirty bathwater in your eyes if you're willing to ingest it?
Ablutions completed, both of us ragged and shell-shocked, there's one final personal hygiene challenge to confront: the brushing of the teeth.
I used to have this little plastic tube I could fit over my thumb to rub her gums when she didn't have teeth. And when she bit me it hurt just as much as when she did get teeth. By that point I wasn't so silly as to get that close, but she's pretty quick and I'm slow. (Ball gown.)
Oh, the humanity!
Since Zoe clearly cannot be trusted with freedom, teeth brushing is done after the bath but while she's still confined in the tub. In some ways this is the hardest part for me to watch because my idea of being naughty is squeezing the toothpaste tube from the top.
So I'll hand her the toothbrush, and then, after closing the cap, I'll give her the toothpaste tube (at her insistence). She'll put the toothbrush in her mouth, give her top teeth the merest of swipes, suck off the rest of the paste, then use the brush to clean the tub before putting it back in her mouth. Cause why not?
End result: she's cleaner on the outside, but God only knows what her insides look like. 
Zoe: 28; Universe: 0

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Zoe vs. Mirror Universe Zoe

Nerd, c'est moi. I grew up during that decade of monstrous hair, i.e., the eighties, in Queens. While other kids were hanging out in schoolyards and learning to flirt aided by Bartles & Jaymes, Saturday evenings at my house meant two things: hamburgers and Star Trek, which was in syndication on WPIX/Channel 11.

Die young and penniless!
Recently, I was reminded of the episode "Mirror, Mirror," which featured an alternate universe that Kirk and company stumble upon after a transporter accident, and the denizens of that universe are their evil twins. We know this intuitively because the Spock of this world sports a goatee. That was my biggest takeaway from the episode, and apparently it's not just me because it's a pop-culture cliche. Everyone knows: evil doppelgangers have facial hair---usually Van Dykes or pencil-thin mustaches. The women's equivalent is wearing too much makeup. 
The reason I was reminded of this episode is because I think Zoe may have an evil doppelganger.
Since she can't grow a mustache I never know which Zoe I'm dealing with. I'd look for a hair-part switch but considering the dandelion puff of knots that encircle her head on good days I'm hard-pressed to find a part at all let alone figure out which side it's on.
So I don't know which Zoe it is till she starts talking. Mirror Universe Zoe speaks in a deeper register, sort of guttural, and she says things I have said in the past, addressing her dolls, things like, "You have to go to bed now" or "Finish your dinner," but it sounds really creepy. (I refuse to believe she's imitating my voice.)
Sometimes she seems to be both regular Zoe and Mirror Universe Zoe at the same time. So maybe it's not alternate realities and I've got the wrong pop-cultural reference, maybe it's more like Fight Club.

You don't have to ask Zoe twice! Or at all!

At the beginning of the movie we learn that Edward Norton's character is suffering from insomnia and it's this disorder that leads to his dissociated identities. Zoe never sleeps so I may be on to something.
I hear her arguing among herselves sometimes. One's dominant, always ordering the other one around. "That's my boat." "No, that's my boat! Get your own boat!"
I have many questions, among them, why does Zoe's Jungian shadow self need a boat?
Then again, sometimes it seems to be more than two people occupying her body. One that I've identified has a higher voice and is perilously silly. She (or he?) makes odd noises and sometimes seems to be speaking another language or speaking in tongues. Then the voice will fall silent momentarily before following up with a shrill scream and a maniacal laugh.
So maybe the right cultural touchstone is Sally Field in Sybil.

You like me's. You really like me's.
(Couldn't be helped, folks.)

In any case I'm just glad she's working her psyche out on her own or with her dolls. Because sometimes she'll look up at me while she's using the low, raspy voice and I honestly don't know who, or what, is looking back at me from the fathomless deep.

Precious Moments or . . .

. . . preciousss moments?

Zoe: 27; Universe: 0

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Zoe vs. the Snow Day

Stroll with me, would you, down memory lane. Remember being a kid and waking up to find it had snowed the night before, then listening to the radio and hearing that your school was closed? Remember how you jumped around in the kind of joy usually only expressed by winners of the Showcase Showdown or death-row inmates getting that call from the governor?

For those who knew Heather, this was a jaded reaction.

Well, a snow day spent indoors with a three-year-old who's testing boundaries is a scosche different. 
So . . . last week the northeast was visited by another storm of the century of the month of the week to kick off the new year. Not that we were snowed under, but it was enough, especially combined with the cold, which the Weather Channel described as 10 degrees but with a "Real Feel" below zero. Since "real" is the prism through which I generally view my days, I had a decision to make. 
Take Zoe to daycare and go to work or stay home, all day, with a three-year-old who is testing boundaries.
I drew up lists for and against.
Work and daycare meant a) a long walk through freezing temperatures, b) a walk I couldn't speed up because of pushing a stroller over mounds of snow. Plus c) even if people had already shoveled their sidewalks, no one ever shoveled the corners, therefore: insurmountable mounds of snow.
Alternatively I could take the umbrella stroller and ride the train two stops to the daycare, but the smaller stroller meant no blanket or wind guard, so that was a no-go.
No matter what, however, I would still have to take the subway at some point, and the ride itself was a deterrent, being pressed against humanity in its plurality of smells and singularity of sullen dispositions. And then I'd have to do it all over again after work, but in the dark and cold-er (Real Feel: death).
The list against staying home consisted of one entry, namely, that I'd be trapped, all day, with a three-year-old, who, I may have mentioned, was testing boundaries. 
So it was a draw.
What decided me in favor of staying home was the fact that Zoe was getting over a cold.
"Getting over a cold" implies a finite process, but as Zoe's colds last all winter, either the same one or different ones in quick succession---think of the flu as Tarzan swinging from vine to vine---she's eternally getting one, has one, or is getting over one from September through April.
"I got snot!" was her constant refrain over the holidays, causing her to pause in the middle of playing and become very still, as if her mucus were acid about to stream down her face and not something she was all too recently fond of eating. 
So I knew what I was in for. Folks, viewed from the other side, the parents' perspective, snow days are just not the same. I'd reached the first word of the phrase older and wiser.

The author in more carefree days, when she
was young, unencumbered, and a completely
different person genetically.

For her part Zoe was thrilled it was a snow day, even though I don't think she can really understand the concept of a "free" day. From an adult standpoint all her days are free. So she doesn't go to school today. That means avoiding such arduous activities as playing, nap time, and singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Talk about dodging a plushy bullet.
As for her commute, it involves reclining in a padded seat, ensconced in a blanket, with a sippy cup of juice or water and a snack cup of Cheerios. The only hardship she faces is having to put her food or beverage down to point in the direction she demands to be taken. I don't know how she stands the stress.
Bot's belly screen hypnotizes young
children into learning math. Fringe
benefit is it helps them quit smoking.
It was a long day. I mean, I know it was. And yet I don't have any distinct memories of it. What I recollect is one long whine, punctuated at times by violent hugs that I was only able to extricate myself from via ample applications of children's programming. We watched so many animated shows, from the math-with-a-side-of-cocaine Team Umizoomi to the triptastic Yo Gabba Gabba to the perennially congested Peppa Pig, that I longed for the simpler days of Tom and Jerry, when cartoons rarely if ever broke the fourth wall. (Dora and Boots peering out from the screen to ask me my favorite part of that day's adventure creeps me out and tempts me to respond with something vulgar---especially because I also feel like she's testing whether or not I was paying attention. I wasn't.)

Muno. Of Gabbaland. (Tell me I'm
not the only one who sees it.)
It's hard to say if I would've expended more mental and physical energy venturing out that day than I did staying in, but I will say one thing positive, because if there's anything Yo Gabba Gabba taught me, besides not biting my friends, it's to fake being happy. All day indoors with a toddler also means those three little words adults everywhere long to hear, second only to swim-up bar:
All-day pajamas.

Zoe: 26; Universe: 0