Thursday, December 17, 2015

Zoe vs. 7 Ways Yoda Is Like My 5-Year-Old

A long time ago (1977, to be exact), a little girl's galaxy was irrevocably changed. That was the year Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope came out.
To be fair, since I was only five, I can't claim to have clear memories of the galaxy before that. However, Google confirms that the world was a joyless wasteland till Luke Skywalker and friends showed up.

I'd put him down and make him carry his own book bag,
but I can't deal with the incessant whining.

My sister and I were immediately hooked. Come Christmas, our Dear Santa letters were pleas for as-yet-nonexistent Star Wars toys.
Here's where I feel compelled to slow my walker for a moment in order to explain to any young'uns reading this that these were the days before blockbuster movies and toy merchandising were de rigueur, when Happy Meal toys were just a glint in a scary redheaded clown's eye.
So that Christmas we had to be satisfied with the "promise" of toys. All our parents could buy was this cardboard display with cutouts where you'd eventually be able to anchor your action figures' feet. And goddamn it, it was enough.
Each Christmas and birthday my sister and I received Star Wars toys. When we got the twelve-inch Luke and Leia dolls, for the next year---until we got the twelve-inch Han Solo---we pretended the five-inch Han action figure had been shrunk by Darth Vader. Our Leia doll carried him around piggyback style in her cape.
Those were the days. And we'd be sitting on a cash cow with our Landspeeders and X-wing fighters and berobed Jawas today, that is, if we'd been like those creepy kids who call toys collectibles and vacuum-seal them---the technology for carbonite freezing having been lost to the ages---instead of playing with them with the thoughtless aggression of children till we misplaced Leia's hair donuts and, possibly, Luke's entire head.

Someday. Found at geek

Now my own child is five, and the continuation of the saga comes out tomorrow with Episode VII The Force Awakens.
I hope they mean it this time because Episodes I through III were less than stellar and this is my last chance to revisit those joyful days of carefree childhood.
As long as my actual child doesn't ruin it.
See, I'm wary of showing Zoe the original Star Wars trilogy. Will she like them? When I was a kid I based friendships on whether the person liked Star Wars. If Zoe didn't, would that cause an unbridgeable rift?
I feel like the original movies will be too slow compared to the pace of today's children's entertainment. (I'd be looking at you, SpongeBob, if all your movement and color didn't give me a seizure.) 
In addition, I'm aware my nostalgia blinds me to the movies', well, somewhat hokey dialogue. I know the lines better than I know the Catholic mass, and, in a similar way, the repetition has made the words transcend meaning. Just the other night I handed the Husband the trash saying, Into the garbage chute, flyboy.
Still, I think Zoe may find common ground with Yoda. Short in stature, short in name, but big in effect on the cosmos. It's a start. And in a competition between Zoe and Empire Strikes Back pre-CGI Yoda, I'd give even money Zoe could raise a starship from the Dagobah muck and Force-push it at Yoda's head.
So, to celebrate the Force Awakening, I give you:

7 Ways Yoda Is Like My Five-Year-Old 
1. You cannot judge her by her size. She's stronger than she looks and quite wily. Wise beyond her years and possibly 900-year-old Yoda's.
2. When Luke first meets Yoda on Dagobah, Yoda pretends to be an annoying little creature, tossing Luke's belonging all over the place, taking his food and spitting it out, and getting into a tug of war with R2D2 which eventually ends with hitting R2 with a stick. As for Zoe . . . I've lived this, only she wasn't pretending.
3. Yoda famously said, "Do or do not. There is no try." It's the latter sentence that Zoe exemplifies when we introduce a new food, a new activity, a new show, a new outfit, etc.
4. Her sentences backwards she speaks them.
5. She wants me to carry her around on my back all the time. I get the impression she's training me for something.
6. Yoda closes his eyes, reaches out with his hand, and taps into the Force of the universe to bend it to his will. Zoe sits with her hands out and her eyes closed and expects things to just happen. And they do. Then there's the Jedi mind tricks. "Mommy, you want to get up and get me juice." "You want to give me chocolate for breakfast." "These are not the tongs you were looking for and that I said I hadn't touched and I don't know why they're under my bed---look, are those womp rats?"
7. And finally, when Mommy says no, she looks at Daddy and whispers under her breath, "There is . . . another."

Still have 'em!

Taking off next week for the holiday, so at this holiest of times, I'd like to wish you Happy Holidays and . . .
. . . may the Force be with you.

Zoe: 121; 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 10, 2015

Zoe vs. Never Will I Ever . . . Do the Elf on the Shelf

Exciting news! I'm in a new book that just came out called Never Will I Ever (and Then I Had Kids), edited by Alexa Bigwarfe and Kerry Rivera, the talented ladies behind Lose the Cape.

Thirty-two moms (and one dad) have written humorous and heartfelt essays about all the things we said we'd never do when we had children . . . that is, before reality hit us square in the face, followed by a plate of pasta in which we tried to hide a vegetable, but Dear Heart caught on, because God forbid a carrot enters their digestive tract, and then we had to eat face leftovers along with our words.
So what did you say you'd never ever do? Let your toddler watch TV? No toy guns? No food from a box? No tattoos? (For the record, I'm still not allowing Zoe to get tatted up unless it's the temporary kind or if she joins a motorcycle gang and wants to fit in.) 
Point is, most of us said there were things we'd never do. And even after we know better, that's no guarantee against making new ridiculous vows.
For instance, one of the things I said I wouldn't do was take part in the Elf on the Shelf silliness Christmas tradition. And then Zoe turned a recalcitrant five.
Zoe got an Elf as a gift when she was three, but I never imagined using it. I thought it was obnoxious; I thought it was creepy. Still do. I thought it was basically admitting your kid wouldn't behave without the threat of some inanimate object spying on them and reporting on their behavior. My kid should be able to behave on her own, follow the rules because "Mommy said so."
Hilarious, right?
Zoe is shaping up to be quite the little delinquent. In fact, in the weeks leading up to December 1st, Zoe's behavior was shockingly bad. Her activities included hitting, spitting, refusing to apologize, and then lying about it. I talked to her; Daddy talked to her; we took stuff away.  
Then, on November 30, as I was taking out the Christmas decorations, I came across the Elf. I regarded it. It looked smug. I regarded it some more.
Was I going to be the type of parent to cede authority to, essentially, a decoration with a back story? An imaginary person's underling no less? After a moment's soul-searching, I decided: Absoelfinglutely. Dip my head in the Christmas holy water cause I was ready to accept the Elf Chad Thaddeus Dingleberry the Third as my lord and savior. Because as Frosty the Snowman said, there are no Santa deniers in foxholes.
So that night I put Chad out on a shelf wondering if Zoe would even notice him in the morning.
She did. She knew about the Elf from school and from the animated show about the Elf that had already aired on TV.
At first, she gave Chad the side-eye. And I waited to see what she'd say.
Now, regarding the jolly man in the sleigh---just as I intend for all future discussions of sex, God, and the electoral college---I hope to put her off with vague answers and half truths, like any good parent, and I figured I'd take this same cowardly path with the Elf. And so I was not prepared when she asked me, straight out: Is the Elf real?
Could I lie to her that baldly? I wavered.
Would her belief in the Elf help me keep her in line?
Friends, as Santa is my witness, I told my child, yes, Chad was real; Chad was magic; and Chad was watching.
And then something happened. A look came over her face, kind of like the Grinch's when his heart grows those three sizes, and she said, "I was hoping he would come to our house and move around, and he did!"
Holy freakin' mistletoe, I thought, was I, cynical me, unintentionally giving my child a magical childhood?
Ten days in now and Zoe really likes it. Each morning she has fun finding the Elf and then telling us where he is. I'd like to say she's been behaving better, but it's too soon to tell.
Could it be that the Elf actually worked out? If so, would we have a fun tradition we could enjoy for years?
And years.
And years. . . .
Twenty-four days each year spent moving a creepy, moralizing cloth doll around our small apartment.
Or it may be I'll rue the day, after all. Never say never.

Buy it here. Don't say I never told you.

Zoe: 120; 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 3, 2015

Zoe vs. the Dear Santa Letter

Christmas, the season of joy, of wonder, of small children, their eyes aglow with acquisitive zeal. In the immortal words of Sally Brown: "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share." 
Zoe concurs. With some edits. "All I want is what I have coming to me as well as what everyone else has coming to them. Fair share? Who's that?"

Zoe's only five so I suppose I can't expect her to understand selfless gift-giving and fellowship of man, etc.  Every time we attend a birthday party I have to explain that the gift I'm wrapping is for her friend, not for her. And she counters that a friend wouldn't mind if she opened it and played with it first because we're all supposed to share, aren't we, or was that a lie, Mother?
So not only has she had, cruelly, dangled in front of her the gifts others were getting, poor child, but she's had to suffer through TV commercials parading before her toys she doesn't own . . . yet. How does she bear it?
After months of her begging for "a new show, one I haven't seen before," now Nick Jr. has delivered. I wonder if that's so they can get more little eyes on the toys in their ads? I say to myself with false innocence as I watch Zoe salivate over Barbie and her horse.
Zoe only wants two things: It and all.
Therefore I thought she'd be primed when I said it was time to write Santa a letter (now that she's learning to write in kindergarten) and tell him what she wants for Christmas.
To my surprise, she drew a blank. Well, not literally.
One thing about having a kid, it allows you to set up fun experiments where you tell them to do something without giving any instructions and then sit back and wait for the comic or tragic results.
Turns out Zoe doesn't give an elf about proper formatting. Her letter started out as one giant salutation right in the middle of the page. Then she circled it, a hovering island of greeting and bon homie. After that she was stumped so she drew . . . something. Don't ask me what.
Then she asked me how to spell cat. As I answered, my heart took a nosedive. Ever since our cat Harley died she's been asking when we were getting a new cat, and I keep putting her off, a path I now continued to traverse but with a slight detour I call Blaming the Man in Red.
"Santa can't bring cats because the sleigh doesn't have a litter box," I told her. 
She thought for a bit then asked how to spell toy. I told her, again my heart plummeting at this open-ended request. Could she be more general?
But then she placed "toy" in front of "cat." 
Hmmm. I could work with that.
Then she asked how to spell dog, and wrote "toy" above that.
A theme had emerged.  
Her finishing touch was to write "car" after "cat." I wasn't sure if these were meant to be separate items so I said, "You have lots of cars already . . . or is this a cat who drives a car?"
Her response: "Like the new show."
I had no idea what she was talking about, so later I asked the Husband if he knew. He didn't either. But I was reminded of this old cartoon where a cat drove a car. Did the Husband know what I was talking about?
"Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse?" he suggested.

Cats like convertibles so their capes can catch the breeze.

"Oh, I remember that show, but no. It was a cat who wore a mask and a trench coat."
It's important to note here that it was in our wedding vows that the Husband must figure out what I'm talking about from incomplete, and possibly incorrect, information. It might be strange but it works for us. Well, for me.
Anyway, eventually he figured out I meant Secret Squirrel.
"You thought Secret Squirrel was a cat?" he said.
"I don't know. Maybe that was his secret."

If you ignore the bushy tail, and the protruding tooth, it's a cat.

In any case, the identity of Zoe's car-driving cat is still a mystery, one that Santa will have to unravel when he gets her letter. Even though she didn't sign it, I suspect he'll still know it's hers because . . .
Zoe: 119; 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, November 19, 2015

Zoe vs. Famous Literary First Lines: Quiz & Giveaway

I'm doing my first giveaway today! (Cue the confetti.) If you're like me, you love free things. Also, if you're like me, you love to read. And so my giveaway involves a quiz about books.
I'm going to give you ten famous first lines from literature but rewritten as if viewed through the prism of parenthood. The first to guess the source for all of them will win the prize.

Famous First Lines from Literature (if written by parents, or their children)
1. It was the best of times, and then we decided to have a kid.
2. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see my five-year-old hitting another child.
3. Call me "my feet smell."
4. The five-year-old was spiteful.
5. In my younger and more vulnerable years, my mother gave me some advice that I've been ignoring ever since.
6. As I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams I found my bed transformed into Grand Central Station.
7. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single toddler in possession of a toy must be in want of a toy in another kid's hands.
8. The whining child thinks this is the saddest story I have ever heard. 
9. A screaming comes across the Chuck E. Cheese.
10. For a long time I delayed going to bed early.

Hold up. It says here that if you keep asking they'll eventually give in.

And a bonus one that sums up my life:
11. What made me take this trip into the bedroom?

Be the first to guess all eleven and I will send you one of the books, though you've probably read all of them already, right?
Zoe: 118; 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, November 12, 2015

Zoe vs. Uptown Funk

Lately, I have not been allowed to look at Zoe when she's enjoying herself.
Zoe dancing: "Don't look at me!"
Zoe singing: "No listening!"
Zoe watching Frozen when the stirring emotions of "Let It Go" overtake her, and she looks up to see me watching her: "Can you go away?"
I'm not allowed to take photos or video of her when she's smiling and happy. I have a lot of pictures of her frowning. That's if she even stays still for the picture and doesn't run at me with her hand up, or dart away just as I snap the photo so all I capture is a strand of blond hair at the edge of the frame.
Her embarrassment reached an apex recently. All in regard to the song "Uptown Funk." She loves "Uptown Funk." She sings it to herself, especially at night in the bath. While I lurk outside the bathroom door, because if I go in, I get yelled at, and all joy flees. 
So Zoe may whine and cry and get mad, but I prefer to channel my emotions in a more productive fashion: by writing parodies. Today I give you "Pint-size Punk."

Pint-size Punk

This kid, five-year-old
Like Caillou, can't be told.
This one for them sad mamas
Them mad mamas
Fallin' to pieces
Photo? No go.
Pathetic Facebook timeline
Got socks on with no pants.
From your camera make a beeline.

Don't look! (no ma'am)
Drop your eyes, and that camera, man
Don't look! (no ma'am)
Ain't no fodder for your Instagram
Don't look! (no ma'am)
Turn around, you know how I am
Don't look! (no ma'am)
In the corner see Mommy
Breaking down

Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Saturday night, I won't leave the park
Climbing too high, don't watch
Crazy dangerous, don't watch
Falling down now, don't watch
Ripped my new pants, don't watch
Trying to dance now, don't watch
Enjoying myself, don't watch
Hey, hey, hey oh!

Wait a minute.
Fill my cup, put some juice in it
Take a sip, gobble gummis,
Mommy, pick me up
Playground, restaurant, Grandma's house, do what I want
Leave me alone, drop that phone
Singing with my Frozen microphone

Don't look! (no ma'am)
Drop your eyes, and that camera, man
Don't look! (no ma'am)
Ain't no fodder for your Instagram
Don't look! (no ma'am)
Avert your gaze, you know how I am
Don't look! (no ma'am)
In the corner see Mommy
Breaking down

Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Mom, can you go away now? (Shoo!)
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Cause pint-size punk ain't gon' pose for you
Saturday night, and we in the bath
Splashing around, don't watch
Water all over, don't watch
Sing my song now, don't watch
Slip and fall now, don't watch
I'm Queen Elsa, don't watch
My hands shoot ice, don't watch
Hey, hey, hey oh!

Before I brush my teeth
Lemme tell y'all a lil' something
Put. The. Camera. Down. Put the camera down
Put. The. Camera. Down. Put the camera down
I said, Put the camera down, put the camera down
Put the camera down, put the camera down
I'm gonna dance
Don't film it
If you listenin', don't hear it
If I'm creepin', don't fear it
Don't cry about it, come dress me
On the bed
Jump on it
Uneaten dinner, I want it
Well it's Saturday night and we're not going to bed.

Don't believe me? Just watch.
[Repeat refrain]

Zoe: 117; 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, November 5, 2015

Zoe vs. Throwdown Thursday

Today I'm proud to be the first guest poster on the humor blog The Next Delusion. It's hosted by the captivating Cassandra and mysterious Momus, a lovely pair whose loveliness is only magnified by their willingness to engage in arguments from the mundane to whether or not to give up cable TV.
On Thursday they post their throwdowns, and this Thursday they invited Zoe and I to share one of our arguments. Well, we are often at loggerheads so I thought it'd be easy, but it turns out Zoe and I can't even agree on what to argue about. So I corralled the Husband into arguing with me instead. And since I always get him to do things whether he wants to or not, that's exactly what we argued about: "Whose Idea of Fun." To see our throwdown, click here.
Of course, now Zoe's peeved about being left out. Her feeling is that when any "throwing down" is occurring---real or metaphorical---she should be the one launching the aforementioned items in a downward trajectory.
She'll just have to get over it. Ever since Zoe was born she's been placing herself between The Husband and myself, from our arguing to our making up, from our trying to have a conversation to trying to sleep. And in the end our old argument about who's in charge of weekend leisure is moot, since now that Zoe's on the scene, we do what she wants, and it's anything but leisurely. 
So that's why I'm signing off, as usual:
Zoe: 116; Universe (including other blogs): 0
For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

Don't fight it.
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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Zoe vs. Meme Me

Memes---despite the sort of irritating name and various pronunciations, all of which sound wrong---are my new favorite thing. You've seen them. Often they are well-known photos that people caption differently, like the Ermahgerd girl, or the World's Most Interesting Man, which I used in last week's post. Sometimes they're just funny lines with plain or generic photo backgrounds. As far as Zoe is concerned, it's just a way of saying "me" twice.
Here are 10 recent favorites, two of which are mine (I have that right!). You may have already seen some of them if you follow me on Facebook (subtle hint). But even if you did, I'm sure you'll enjoy them again. They're short and sweet,  just like Zoe. Well, she's short.

From est. 1975:

And finally me again. Happy Halloween!

Zoe: 115; 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, October 22, 2015

Zoe vs. Imaginary Grandpa:
A Spooky Story

Zoe has an imaginary grandpa, and it's creeping me out. Most children who have imaginary friends create someone their own age, a contemporary. Not Zoe. Her buddy is entitled to reduced-fare on public transportation and discounts at the movies.
If he were real.

Zoe's references to "Grampa" started about a year or so ago. Since both of Zoe's real grandfathers died before she was born, it's a little spooky. Here's one of my Facebook posts from January:
Zoe has no living grandfathers, but lately 
she's been talking about her Grampa
I asked her about him and she said: 
"He lives in the country and his name is Never."
The rational part of me realizes it's all a power play. Whenever she feels the need to appeal to an authority, her imaginary grandpa enters the conversation.
"Grampa says I can have candy before dinner."
"That's suspicious," I'll say.
But irrationally . . .
See, at first Grampa may have lived in the country, but lately he's been getting closer.
"My grampa? He lives in the city. He told me insert topic she knows nothing about, like, macrame or Norman Mailer." 
Really, I'll say, macrame?
"Yes, Grampa told me. When I was two."
That's another eerie thing. Most of her "interactions" with Grampa took place when she was two years old.
I'll say, I don't remember that. Or: Where was I when you were with Grampa?
She won't answer, not even when I ask which grandfather: Mommy's Daddy or Daddy's Daddy? Usually, though, it's neither of them.
It was funny at first but recently it's been getting all "the call is coming from inside the house."
Especially as Grampa's moving closer daily.
We were in a cab coming back from a birthday party when she pointed out the window at a house near the park we frequent and said, "Grampa lives there." 
We were walking home from after-school last week and she pointed across the street. "Grampa lives there."
Either Grampa is like the Force, omnipresent, or we've got ourselves a stalker of advanced age.
So now I find myself looking over my shoulder and hurrying down the block past certain houses in case Grampa's peering out with his wise old creepy eyes.
The other night I came home late and could've sworn I heard slipper-shod feet shuffling after me. But when I turned to look, nothing was there but the latent scent of a Werther's Original hard candy.
Meanwhile, more and more, Zoe's using Grampa to suit her nefarious purposes.

The other night she told me: "Grampa said I don't have to take a bath."
"Oh yeah?" I said, "Well, Grampa's not here. . . . Wait. I mean. It doesn't matter what Grandpa says. Mommy's in charge."
"Nice recovery," The Husband said from the kitchen.
Or: "Grampa says I can read four books before bed." (Instead of the usual three.)
"Oh yeah?" I said. "Is he here? Because then he can read them."
Or: "Grampa taught me karate."
"When you were two?" 
"No. . . ."
Her very deliberate pause let me know I'd overstepped.
She continued: "When I was two years old."
Then we nodded at each other and retired to our separate corners, where we both kept hidden stashes of candy we shared only in our imaginations.

This post is dedicated to my dad, who would've been eighty-seven on Sunday. He never got to meet Zoe but would've gotten a kick out of her. Probably right in the shins.

The fam, mid 70s. Not pictured:
 the sun, my mortal enemy.

Zoe: 114; 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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