Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zoe vs. the Porta-Potty

I had thought we were done with all the milestones related to body waste. I'd thrown out the diaper genie. Zoe was potty-trained. And we'd since frequented all the public restrooms within a three-mile radius, from local restaurants to parks to the supermarket---all in varying states of cleanliness.
But apparently there was one final frontier to be reached, explored, and then stricken from the mental record for eternity: using a Porta-potty.

I can count on one hand the times I've used a Porta-potty. Or I could except I've since cut off and burned both my hands. In fact, I'm typing this with a pencil placed between my teeth, tapping the keys one by one. See what I'd do for you?
Which brings us to mommy guilt.
You see, my daughter had spent all of a recent weekend with extended family. I'd missed her and also felt a bit guilty so I left work early to pick her up from day care and took her to the park before dinner.
First, we went home to get her tricycle. Also so she could use the bathroom. Before we left I said, in all caps, "DO YOU NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM BEFORE WE GO?"
No, she said.
I asked again, this time adding italics and bold. When she still said no, off we went.
Naturally, as soon as we arrived at the park five minutes away twenty minutes later (she is somehow even slower on her tricycle), she had to go. And the public bathroom was closed.
On one previous, desperate, occasion last fall I'd had her go outdoors, but on this day it was warm, and so the park was crowded. Plus, two pee-wee baseball leagues were playing in the fields on either side of the building that housed the restrooms in whose jaded shadows she'd once crouched to pee.
So I told her we had to go home.
No, she said.
All caps, italics, AND bold.
But there's nowhere to go, sweetie, I reasoned. The bathroom's closed.
Wails of Extreme Desolation.
To add to her distress (and mine) she also had to poop. Or so she said.
Then we definitely need to go home, I told her.
Realizing she'd miscalculated, she quickly reconsidered and said she didn't have to poop after all. 
It was then I spotted the Porta-potty in one of the adjacent baseball fields.
For their betrayal I would later put out my eyes with the unsharpened pencil I used to type this.
But first I found myself ushering her through the blue door of the portable toilet, a disgusting convenience I swore I'd never take advantage of again now that the days of outdoor concerts were behind me. (Though that's probably not true either, just outdoor concerts of bands I wanted to see.)
Immediately upon entering, the smell----evil rendered airborne---assailed my nostrils. Before I could wipe the seat, Zoe sat. And put her hands down to brace herself.
I cringed, thinking: Would it be irresponsible, as a parent, to let her keep her hands after this?
Before you call CPS, don't worry, I did not actually set her hands on fire. I'm not that crazy.
Okay, now get ready to dial.
"Pee quickly!" I yell-muttered out of the side of my mouth, startling her.
She looked up. It was then I saw she was making an all-too-familiar face.
Turns out---surprise!---she did have to poop after all.
She got down to business as I wondered what the record was for how long a human could hold their breath. She was ruminating herself. Not a euphemism. In fact, each time she paused in her efforts, she asked me questions like, Where was the sink? and, Why was there no flusher? forcing me to open my mouth to respond, as monosyllabically as possible: No pipes. No plumbing. Later. Done? 
At last she hopped off the seat, turned, and peered curiously into the abyss. I don't want to know what stared back.
Then, in lieu of our usual fun game where she strenuously insists that I wipe her, and I insist, just as strenuously, that she's a big girl capable of wiping herself, I quickly bent and did it myself. After making merry with the hand sanitizer, we exited into the fresh air, so she could play for a total of three minutes before we had to walk the twenty minutes home to our apartment which was five minutes away.
And contained a bathroom.

Zoe: 103; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

Ran out of toilet paper? Having a scatological emergency? 
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Not that it would help. But it certainly couldn't hurt.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Zoe vs. That Elite Daily Post

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Mockery is the highest form of love.
Some parents look forward to their child reaching popular milestones such as walking, wiping their own butt, or getting their first tattoo. As for me, I can't wait till Zoe understands sarcasm. 
And can speak it fluently. That's when I'll be ready to pass the torch. And then yoink it out of her reach before she can catch hold. Because I'm all about teaching my daughter how hard it is out there for a gangsta. 
Zoe will absolutely need to get satire, or I may have to disown her, repeatedly, in public, till she finally understands the fine line between malice and love, the home where satire lays its pointy head, on its fluffy bitter pillow.
All this is a roundabout way of introducing my faithful readers (hello, out there; tall folks, please hunch down a bit so the multitudes behind you can see) to a new site for satire called MockMom. It's like The Onion but one that's focused on parenthood, specifically motherhood, though probably also that red-headed stepchild fatherhood. 
MockMom was started by the talented ladies behind Sammiches and Psych Meds and Is It Bedtime Yet? The site's up and running, and here are a few examples of the hilarious posts:
And guess who else has a post there?
Here's where I refer you back to the title of this post.
Remember a week or so ago when the site Elite Daily ran what may be the smuggest post anyone's ever read ever? About how young moms are totally killin' it at motherhood? Well, here's my response up on MockMom:

Zoe: 102; 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, July 16, 2015

Zoe vs. the Parallel Universe

You may have noticed I have another page on this blog---I know! Two years doing this and I have two pages! Anyway, it lists other places on the Interwebs and beyond where my writing appears.
Because Zoe is firmly in charge of this universe, I've titled this page "In a Parallel Universe." 
Shhh! Don't tell her about it or her sticky little hands will get fingerprints all over that universe too.
Today I'm appearing on Scary Mommy with a humorous essay called "The Magic of Childhood in 10 Acts." Go on over and check it out, wouldja?
She's right behind me, isn't she? . . . 
Save yourselves!

Zoe: 101; Universes (parallel and original flavor): 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

To get weekly deliveries of funny from Zoe's universe to your universe (which is also Zoe's universe), click here to subscribe. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Zoe vs. the 100th Post

This is my 100th post. Can you see it through the storm of confetti?
It was also my 2nd blogiversary two weeks ago. When I started this blog at the end of June in 2013, I committed myself to posting once a week. So if you do the math, I should've been at 106 posts by  now. I'm counting on you not to do the counting as my blogiversary gift. Aw, thanks.
Something fun for today. I'm going to do a retrospective of my posts by inserting them randomly in R.E.M.'s pop hit of randomosity from 1987 "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." As a "stream of consciousness rant with diverse references" (thanks, Wikipedia!), it seems appropriate. Retitled, naturally.

She's in Charge of My World and She Knows It (And I Feel Tired)
This blog, it started with my first post
About my cat, who liked to claim that she was not afraid.

Gwyneth Paltrow, exercise, Zoe likes her casual lies.
Child with so many needs. My commands she never heeds.
Beat me up. King of Pain? No. Queen. Refrain.
Dine out, fret, no etiquette. Zen, Homeric epithet.
Ruin Goodnight Moon. Dr. Seuss. Those seven dwarves
Watching Frozen. "Get me juice!" She can't Let. It. Go.
Left her, didn't come back in a hurry. Hello, fury. Snot runs. Down. My. Neck.

Hear running water, bath tub.
Uh-oh, overflow. Potty train, parts 1 through 3.
Will she go? Save yourself, please send help.
What about my own needs? Listen till my ears bleed.
Choose to treat with laughter, fears and tears provoke my fight, flight.
High diastolic, chocaholic, pants tight, can't write.
Feeling not so psyched.

She's in charge of my world and she knows it.
She's in charge of my world and she knows it.
She's in charge of my world and she knows it, and I feel tired.

Six o'clock, witching hour, don't get caught in closet, cower.
Stomach churns, heartburn, somehow it's always her "turn."
Candy Land. No more playing! She ignores the words I'm saying.
Nancy Drew and Meryl Streep. Family bed, we get no sleep.
Like Thomas she's so locomotive. Get down! Calm down!
Feel my heel crush, crush, LEGO. Get no
sleep here. Not for years. Mommy, Daddy, shed a tear.
A tug of war, a tug of war, a tug of war of cries.
Offer her solutions, offer her alternatives, she just whines.

She's in charge of my world and she knows it (I need some time alone)
She's in charge of my world and she knows it (I really need some time alone)
She's in charge of my world and she knows it, and I feel tired. (It's time she goes to bed alone)
I feel tired (I feel so tired)

Every night we watch TV, DVR is not for me
All filled up with kid's programs. SpongeBob SquarePants!
Bubble Guppies, Dora, Boots, and D.J. Lance.
Birthday candy, cupcake, ice cream. Doom.
She's catatonic, it's ironic. New food. Have bite? Fight.

She's in charge of my world and she knows it (I truly need some time alone)
She's in charge of my world and she knows it (It's time I got some time alone)
She's in charge of my world and she knows it, and I feel fine.

[Repeat. Forever.]

Zoe: 100; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 
To find out if I have another 100 posts in me, click here to subscribe. 
It's free and you'll make those kittens happy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Zoe vs. "Mommy Juice"

Remember the song “99 Bottles of Beer"? Sing it with me:

99 bottles of beer on the wall
99 bottles of beer
Take one down, pass it around,
98 bottles of beer on the wall.

A song about counting down . . . to a drinking problem, apparently.
As a kid I sang this song during long bus rides on class field trips. Maybe you did too. Strange, right?
Now that I'm a mom I see that there are a lot of things from my childhood that shout cognitive dissonance. Grimms' fairy tales, even Disneyfied, are filled with violence, dead parents, and children shoved in ovens. Daily life includes safety precautions that were unheard of when I was young. Helmets. Car seats. I didn't even wear a seat belt when I was a kid. In fact, I'd sit leaning forward, resting my chin on the front-seat back between my parents.
Is it that we know better now or is it that we know too much?

Today marks my 99th post on this blog. And today I’m going to talk about an organization called, whose mission is to educate parents and children about drinking by talking early. At the conference I went to, there was a representative from this organization who delivered a speech about the #TalkEarly campaign---as the attendees were imbibing, an irony not lost on anyone.

The question raised was: Do we, the (mostly) mommy bloggers in attendance (spill your beer you’d hit ten of us) joke overmuch about drinking on social media?

You know the memes. You’ve seen them. Perhaps liked and shared them. So would we still do so if we knew for a fact our kids would see it?

Dramatic pause.

And, further, would we consider refraining from making or sharing such jokes for a month?

We also saw this video, which made its point over a soundtrack of sensitive but jaunty music, after which we were invited to #RefreshYourFunny, i.e., write about the topic for possible prize money, even if we thought the whole thing was bullshit.

Okay, they asked for it. Prize money is nice but I’m not sure my particular truth is what they’re looking for.

You see, I had a visceral reaction to both the video and the call to action. It assaulted me on two fronts, much like the Southern Comfort--Bailey's combo I drank at my senior prom.

I was tempted to write up my response immediately but decided I should sit on it for a while. When you roll your eyes that far back in your head, there's a chance you'll glimpse the deeper issues in your subconscious.

So I waited. Almost a month, in fact. Thirty days, the amount of time we were being called on to refrain from making "mommy juice" jokes. Also the amount of time many recovering addicts spend in rehab.

Of course, I have no problem with the intent behind's mission. Someday Zoe will be a teenager, and being female she will need to be especially cognizant of the dangers that accompany underage drinking. And, undoubtedly, there are mothers out there for whom drinking is a very serious problem.

So whence my discomfort? Why do I intuitively reject the 30-day challenge?

Hurdle number one for me is that I'm wary of earnestness. Personal experience tells me it's often followed by finger-wagging and hand-wringing, and I don't find either of these activities useful.

After that it took time for me to attempt to separate the two strands of my resistance, only to find in the end they are probably inseparable.

First, as a humor writer, I believe that, aside from humor that stems from malice (racist or homophobic jokes, for example) nothing is off-limits. Nothing is sacred. Almost anything you can think of can be made fun of, whether your approach is gentle teasing or scathing satire.

And that's not because I'm someone who believes casual words don't matter. I love words. I believe in their power, or I wouldn't write. But political correctness and self-censoring bother me. The boundaries between simple tact and lying, free speech and things better left unsaid must be constantly negotiated. Strand number one.

The other strand, one I don't often talk about, is that humor is the main way I've coped with my up close and personal experience with an alcoholic. Until recovery, I thought life as I knew it was over. In fact, one of the reasons I started blogging was for sanity. Humor was my outlet. Including jokes about drinking.

If you’ve ever attended a 12-step meeting, you know the slogans, just as you know how they share the stage with gallows humor. It's the latter that called to me most. And if you've been in the rooms, as they say, you've witnessed the special tension of the jaded attempting to submit to mantras. The mental contortions are a very human mix of funny and heartbreaking.

Easy Does It. One Day at a Time. Live and Let Live. Good Orderly Direction. (Aka, God, if you're an atheist.)

All undoubtedly true and yearning to be helpful. But that doesn’t mean they're not also bullshit. And Zoe will have a bullshit detector on overdrive if that’s as heritable as the gene that says she can’t drink.

So maybe that's why's challenge to refresh is not for me. If good intentions cured alcoholism maybe I'd be more inclined, but refusing to engage in light humor is just as pointless a response as searching for bottles and dumping them out.

Further, responsibility is a loaded word when you're talking about addiction. From the responsibility of enablers to the responsibility the alcoholic has for their drinking when they have a mental and physical disease.

The PSA says, Please drink responsibly. And it's as thoughtless as the "have a nice day" grunted by the teenager handing you your groceries, and perhaps as effective.

I know that by growing up in the disease my child may have already absorbed lessons she wasn't ready for. Someday, yes, we will need to talk about it. When she's ready and if she wants, maybe I'll even take her to a meeting.

In the meantime when people make jokes about being drunk or being an alcoholic in a light way and when I know they don’t mean any harm I don’t take offense. I assume everyone’s doing their best to be reasonably sensitive to others' situations until proven otherwise.

Some jokes go down easy, some go down hard. Painfully funny is still funny. Just deeper and about staying sane.

Zoe: 99; Universe: 0

This piece is being submitted to a writing contest sponsored by All opinions are my own. I've received no compensation. Story of my life.