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

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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
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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Zoe vs. Apple Picking, Pumpkin Spice Everything, and Nietzsche

The leaves are changing. The days are getting shorter. I can wear clothes that hide my mid-section. It's the perfect time of year for apple picking, corn mazes, and nihilism.
Because if you need more proof God is dead, look no further than your local Shop Rite, where every product has a pumpkin spice version. Nietzsche* was ahead of the curve; he knew God was dead way before pumpkin spice Oreos, Pringles, and tampons appeared on the shelves of his local Lebensmittelgeschäfspeicher.**
Since I'm a sucker for fall, I cannot resist all the pumpkin-flavored things. No matter how disgusting they are, and even when I should know better, I keep coming back for more. Insert segue to Zoe.
That's not an edit I needed to fix. I'm just that lazy and I trust you know where I'm going with this. Besides, my lack of effort fits nicely with today's theme: nihilism.
And what's more nihilistic than a fun fall family outing? Nothing! According to Nietzsche!

Here are some of his most famous quotes, all of them related to the rituals of fall, coincidentally.***

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.
Zoe subscribes to this view. At least whenever I'm trying to show her how to do something. If she's trying to show me how, then her way is clearly the only way.
The guide at the orchard showed us how to pick apples off the trees. We were to twist them gently at the stem then pull up. Zoe's way was different. She pulled and pulled until the apple came off.
It was expected that guests would eat an apple or two for free, but I don't think they expected all the free "sampling" Zoe did before discarding her once-bitten apples on the ground, and when I told her not to leave the apples there, she kicked them down the hill till they disappeared, presumably into an abyss. See? Nihilism. But with apples.

If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss will stare back at you.
Aside from the eventual destination of Zoe's discarded apples, there was the never-ending corn maze, a ground-level abyss. Zoe led us in. When we came out, we were all different people. I'm not going to say anything more.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
Zoe was hungry. We had apples. And gum. She wanted gum. She was instructed to eat an apple first. Somehow she bore it, and when she got close enough to the core, I took pity on her and gave her some Trident.

I'm not upset that you lied to me. I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
The pumpkin patch had a giant velociraptor standing in the middle of it. I told Zoe the raptor was there because it was the advent of the pumpkin that led to the dinosaurs' extinction. She looked at me, recognized my waiting-for-a-laugh face, then went right back to not eating her apple, a look of betrayal on her face.

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.
Zoe's aunt and uncle bought her a motorized car that she can ride around their property. I think her brain exploded in joy when she saw it. I know this because she got upset that we were looking at her and tried to hide. One day, when she's a teenager, and asks why she can never have what she wants, I'm going to bring up this car.
We're calling it her "sweet ride." She can shift gears to drive backward or forward, and it even gets radio stations. She loves it. She rode it around and around until the battery ran out and needed recharging. And that's when she remembered her Nietzsche, specifically, the bit about how to live is to suffer. Not only did she have to wait till it recharged, she now had a creeping fear that would always crouch in the back of her mind whenever she rode it: How much time did she have until the power ran out? When Sweet Ride had recharged, her uncle told her she could ride it again. But she shook her head. She couldn't ride it anymore. If she did, the battery would die. Nothing we said could sway her from this madness. Until she ate some lunch and forgot.

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power not truth.
We also went to the mall, another American tradition observed in fall and at least three other seasons. Zoe needed sneakers. She's as hard on them as a German philosopher critiquing a Hallmark card. The shoe shopping itself was fine; the problem was the other aisles, some of which contained toys. When she saw the toys, she wanted them, and since we'd all been buying her the world that weekend she didn't get why she couldn't have a toy as well. "Do you have money?" we asked her. "No, but you do," she said. Clearly our refusal was an abuse of power. If she had her way, she'd spend her money on Legos and keep her holey sneakers.

In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.
That's cause they're stuck in the corn maze.

I'll leave you with Nietzsche's concept of the Ubërmensch, also known as the Overman, the ultimate personification of will to power. Often equated, falsely, with the DC Comics Superman. So often it's about to happen again.
Here's an exchange I had with Zoe on the way to the mall:
       Zoe: Grandma's stronger than Superman.
       Me: Connecticut Grandma or Queens Grandma?
       Zoe: Other Grandma.
       Me: There is no other Grandma.
       Zoe: Stop ruining my dreams!
Can't wait till she's a teenager.

Zoe: 113; Universe: 0
*Unusual for a humorous mommy blog, this is the second time I've referenced Nietzsche.
**German for grocery store. It just rolls off the tongue.
***By coincidentally I mean not at all.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Zoe vs. Raymond Carver

It's been a while since I brushed off my Liberal Arts degree and wrote a post with literary references. (When I get to ten, I get a free coffee! Only problem is I have to go to a Paris cafe Hemingway frequented to claim it.)
Late-twentieth-century minimalist short story writer Raymond Carver is an appropriate person to face off against Zoe because he's pretty laconic and he does a lot with silences, which is pretty important when dealing with a champion raconteur like Zoe.

Minimalist writer, maximalist drinker.

This is a child who never stops talking.
Her stories are tours de force in repetition and heavyhanded moralizing sprinkled with sparkly bits of illogic. The only time she stops to let you speak is when she asks "Why?" 
Be careful. That's a trap. Because no matter what you answer, she'll keep asking why till you reach a conversational dead end like: Why is it night? or Why isn't Christmas tomorrow?
Maybe you excuse yourself to the bathroom, but that usually ends with an offer to help you wipe while she tells a story about a little girl who lives on the edge of the world, and she likes to dance, but then she falls off, but she doesn't "go," and there's a ball, but it's unclear if this is a dance-type of ball or a bounce one, and in my head, a constant refrain, is the title of the Raymond Carver story "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" 
My only respite from the constant chatter is when she finally goes to sleep at night.
If I were a character from a Carver story, afterward I'd sit at the kitchen table under a bare, low-wattage light bulb as I ate a cold steak I'd fried in a pan hours before and drank cheap gin from a jelly glass. 
But I'm not big on steak, especially plain that way, and gin's okay, but Bombay Sapphire, please. (I'm a minimalist when it comes to juniper.)
I don't smoke either, otherwise I could stand at an unscreened window with my cigarette, placing my ashes in the bottom of a beer can, and when I looked down I'd discover a run in my new stockings---if I wore stockings, which I don't---while the Husband sat at the table behind me, silent, but in a posture that spoke volumes about "our relationship," which we would never discuss. Then we'd take our grim expressions to bed, me setting the alarm in an act of horror-tinged futility because Zoe would surely be waking us up before it had a chance to go off.
That's if I was a character from a Raymond Carver story. Lots of yuks, right?
Carver's minimalist stories mostly feature working class characters inarticulate in the face of their life's circumstances. Zoe is only a minimalist when it comes to broccoli, so if she was a character in a Carver story there'd be some rewriting.
First, the titles.
For instance: "What's in Alaska?" would become "What's in Your Mouth? Seriously, Spit It Out."
"So Much Water So Close to Home" would edit its second half to "...So Close to the Edge of the Tub."
"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" would become "What Zoe Talks About When Zoe Talks About Zoe." Spoiler alert: Zoe.
As for Carver's most famous story, "Cathedral," about a man who's conflicted about entertaining his wife's blind male friend, I'd have to rewrite the whole thing. Instead of "Cathedral" I'd call it "I Can't Even Guess What It Is You Drew. Is It a Viking Funeral?" This story's plot would be about Zoe showing me a picture she drew in art class. I'd guess viking funeral and she'd say, "It's a jack-o-lantern. Are you blind?" And the story would end with a look of inarticulate horror on my face.

"The futility of kindergarten." Artist: Zoe

Then I'd write "Are These Actual Miles (That I'm Walking Through a Street Fair So That She Can Get Her Face Painted)?" This story is about what happened Sunday when I took Zoe to a street fair and she saw kids whose faces were painted and she became fixated on this idea, so we walked and walked and finally I asked one of these kids where he got his face painted, and he directed us six more blocks. So we pressed on, because Zoe still insisted she wanted her face painted. Like a tiger, she said, hooking her fingers in claws. And we arrived six blocks later to find the line was closed. The lady said she'd take us anyway, so we went behind the ropes and waited.
And waited.
And waited.
Then it was Zoe's turn. Except by then she didn't want to do it anymore and refused to sit down. Till I said, Zoe, you are GETTING your face painted.
So she got a butterfly. On her hand. And this butterfly represented inexpressible sadness. No epiphanies were had. Story ends with inarticulate look of horror on her face, my face, and face painter's face.
"What Do You Do in San Francisco Kindergarten?" would end up being about anything except what actually happens in kindergarten. Zoe and I would talk in circles, unaware of the futility of our struggles, doomed to be repeated day in and day out, as I insist she eat something besides pasta with butter for dinner and she says, "I want pasta." The story would end when she, for no apparent reason, turns her cup over, spilling her juice out all over the table, and then, instead of either of us reacting, we'd just sit there, in the gathering gloom, trying not to think of the creeping horror hidden beneath the (now sticky) surface of everyday things. And then maybe we'd watch Jeopardy!, if she let me.

Zoe: 112; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Zoe vs. Flat Martini

I'm over at Martinis and Minivans today with a post about Flat Martini.
Who's Flat Martini? you ask. Remember the Flat Stanley children's books? Flat Stanley roamed the world, having adventures with each of the people he visited. 
Well, this is the same concept, but the adult beverage version. Even if he is laminated. (Don't tell him I said that.) 

by Danielle Herzog, Martinis and Minivans

When Flat Martini visited me, I took him on a tour of the landmark Flatiron Building on 23rd and Broadway in NYC where I work. I was thinking he would have a lot in common with the structure. A fondness for flat. The triangular shape. And while there he uncovered a conspiracy. Go read it; I'll wait.
Are you back? Well, I disavow all knowledge of the Illuminati or the so-called New World Order, and if anything happens to Flat Martini as a result of his speculations, well, that's on him.
Go visit Danielle's site to see posts from other bloggers detailing their own adventures with this delightful, but perhaps too inquisitive, traveling companion.
Finally, even though this post does not involve Zoe, Flat Martini is the first martini I've carried around for a sustained period over the past five years so I'm still going to close with . . . 
Zoe: 111; 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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