Monday, November 17, 2014

I've a reason to believe (we all will be received in Graceland)

For the longest time, she's been telling people that she's five. "How old are you, Gracie?" "Ummmm... I'm... five." Some people laugh, some people knowingly ask if that's how old her brother is, and some people look at her serious face and respond with their own straight-faces. "Oh yeah? Wow, five is big."

For instance, here is a very unconvincing claim that she is five (and if you watch no other videos on this post, please watch this one. I promise it's worth it).

But very recently, in the past few weeks, she has started to own her age, as something distinct from her brother, something to be proud of. "Gracie, how old are you going to be next week?" "Three," she says confidently. And she also consistently agrees that her current age is two.

Many near three year olds show an interest in getting bigger, older. They are down with potty training, and wearing undies... getting rid of the diapers. They welcome the idea of the binkie fairy. Grace expresses her three-ness in unconventional ways. She is cruising along on her own path and instead of telling me she's ready to go on the potty, she informs me when I need to change her diaper. She has Frozen and Minnie undies that she loves... to play catch with. She has no interest in moving onto a big girl bed or ever letting her binkies out of her sight. She is our baby and she owns that too. She embraces that inner baby and gets away with nonsense because, well, come on...

And while she is our little baby who loves to be a baby and be babied by her babying parents, she uses that only as needed. Other times, she is an energetic, but old sweet soul. She also has an uncanny ability to sense even the slightest anxiety and wrap us up in her tiny little arms because, of course, it's her job to take care of us.

Wouldn't the dentist be so much more enjoyable with a bitty little girl running to your side, and hugging your arm, rubbing your hand, as the hook goes scrape, scrape?

And wouldn't the first day of school be a little bit easier if we all had a tiny person sitting right next to us feeling the exact same fears in our churning stomach as we are at that very moment?

I don't cry that much, but just last week I cried a lot for some reason that I'll talk about someday, and while I could tell she was nervous because Mommy was crying, she gave me one of those hugs that will not end until the huggee lets go. She got angry at John a few weeks back because he took away a binkie or told her she couldn't have a cookie or something along those lines... "I don't like you (pause)........ when you do that to me!" She spat out. It seems to me she understands the line between firmly making a point and hurting a person you love.

She is the first to offer you some of her candy or her stickers or her cheese. Three of her biggest loves.
First day of school... before I left

She hates to say goodbye, almost as much as Noah hates to say goodbye. But she tries to hold in her tears and she stands there in her class after I leave, maybe for a minute or so, quietly, seemingly trying to gain her composure. You can almost see her taking a giant breath, a pep talk of "I can do this". She takes her hands to her eyes, rubs the moisture away, and looks up when she's ready. That one minute is usually the most heartbreaking part of my day. When I see her two hours later, the reunion lifts us so much, elation on both ends. I am magnetized to her. I inhale her, as I always do.

She still has just a little hair, but she wants all the perks of having lots of hair. She begged to go to the hairdresser, so about a month ago I took her, along with Noah, who really needed a haircut. His freshly cut hair covered his neck and shirt, the floor at our feet. When Grace climbed into the seat, the hairdresser wet her hair down and looked at me, puzzled. "What did you want me to do again?" I looked. "Oh... yeah... I see what you mean... I guess... jeez... yeah, don't cut anything. Just, you know...pretend"(I mouthed). It turned out to be the best fake haircut a little girl could ever dream of.

She loves bows and sparkles and painted nails and Elsa and other princess things and Minnie Mouse. Her favorite color is purple and her favorite food is chocolate (this she told me just today). She's sort of into dance, but only likes (and participates in) the second position plie and the tutu portion of it so far.

This is a picture of Grace not participating in dance class

And so, yes, she's a girl as girls are often defined. But she's a girl who loves ants like Lenny loved mice. She's a girl who loves spiders and worms and beetles. She sleeps with bunches of plastic bugs in her bed. She finds her way down to the basement when Noah's friends are over and plays what I can only describe as smack ball with the boys and she loves it. She loves Batman and poop jokes and these days she loves any puzzle she can get her hands on.

She wanted to be a princess for Halloween, but she wanted to be the princess Merida from Brave, with the crazy red hair (though she only agreed to wear that for 3 seconds, shown below) and the wild-child reputation and the bow-and-arrow talent and the enduring love for her mother (even though she turned her into a bear).

Have you ever seen two cuter heroes?
Or two scarier ones?

It's true that she's mine and I'm going to be biased, but damn, I also think she's really really funny. 

Some two year old highlights:

John to Grace: "What would you do if a bear ate your book?" (there is context here, but it's beside the point).
Grace: "Yell, scream, cry."

Grace in public, to Daddy, Grandpa, or whoever wants to hold her hand when she doesn't want it: "Don't touch my body."

Grace to John: "Daddy, I farted."
John: "Oh."
Grace: "Like you, Daddy."
John: "And what does that sound like?" 
Grace: "My bum."

Fair enough.

And there's this. This is funny stuff, right? Or am I totally blinded by her? (entirely possible)...

When she tells a joke and you don't laugh, she will command it. "Laugh, Daddy! You laugh now!" (Don't we all feel that way when our jokes aren't appreciated?).

If she says a thing that turns out to be wrong, she covers it up with, "I tricked you!" It's a social coping mechanism that will likely get her through many awkward moments in her life.

One of her favorite phrases is, "Is that a good deal?" As in, "I eat dessert now and not my dinner... that a good deal, Daddy?" The kid never eats her dinner.

Oh, she is my girl. My little dream. She has days when she is so tired that she wildly hurls herself onto me or throws random objects in my direction. Or she'll sit herself down right on her knees in the middle of a walk in silent protest. She'll raid the cabinets, find the popcorn, dump it on the ground, and run away. But it is so damn rare that I ever stop smiling over her.

Happy Birthday, Pizza! How I love you so.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Obsession confession

I had great designs to write about something relevant to most people and, you know, child-related with maybe even a feel-good message at the end. I started it and sort of liked what I was saying, but I couldn't continue; I kept stopping in the middle of writing. And not to check on the kids or, say, answer a text or a call. It's my recent, obsessive research that has been holding me back. Research on a thing that has and will never have (I hope) anything whatsoever to do with me. And yes, it is consuming me. And I want it to consume you too. Sit up, my (tiny group of) readers. Tonight (and it can't be helped), I'm going to focus on murder.

If you've talked to me lately, I might have mentioned this new podcast on NPR... after that you probably just heard blah blah blah blahhh because as soon as I said "podcast," you tuned out entirely while politely nodding your head. You're just not into podcasts. I'm not that into podcasts either... I mostly just listen to This American Life... but then, TAL did this spin-off called Serial about a fifteen year old murder case that the Serial producer is reinvestigating and it is groundbreaking and I can't stop thinking about the case. I'm sort of paralyzed in time. I've lost interest in television. I use words like 'corroborate' and 'circumstantial' in normal conversation, far more often than one has ever needs to use these words. I'm not a lawyer, detective, FBI agent, police lady, investigative journalist (maybe someday?!); I'm really a nothing in all of this. And yet I spend so many perfectly valuable moments poring over the details and the questions and the psychology of it all. But I'm also not alone. This is how people are responding, many of whom are mentally stable people.

I genuinely believe that I am a good-hearted, people-loving person. I hate watching the news and abhor any type of violence. But I'm also the person who, as a 9 year old, couldn't get enough of that creepy show Unsolved Mysteries and on several occasions called in theories to their Tip Line. I studied pictures of Loch Ness up until the day it was revealed to be a hoax. I've gotten recent satisfaction, after 20 some-odd years, about a break in the Amelia Earhart case. I'll always choose a suspense thriller over a comedy, even though I really do love to laugh. Dateline is my bag... real cases, occasionally solved. It's so dark, but I can't get enough of mysteries, usually murder mysteries. It's twisted and I'm not proud and sort of wish I was the person who had to look away every time, because hello, these are people's lives.

Maybe that's where I should start. This Serial thing, it's about a high school girl who was killed 15 years ago and her ex-boyfriend was convicted of the murder. She was a real person and she has a real family and real friends and her real ex-boyfriend is really in prison now, reading through the transcripts of these podcasts after we hear them. And that's the hard part of this, that here is real-life tragedy operating as entertainment. But it's also the most intriguing part, that it's being looked at in real time and we, the listeners, are trying to keep up and maybe get ahead of what we hear. The "characters" surrounding the story... they're 15 years older, but just a facebook search away, in many cases. They're living their lives and by all accounts seem to have moved on... and WHAM. It's back. And it seems to me, unavoidable for them. Of course they're listening.

I spend so much time thinking about what they're thinking... what do they know? What do they remember? Do they play that day over and over in their heads? Do they assess and reassess the days before the murder in their minds? And as this podcast moves along, is somebody going to break and spill it all? Because (and I'm not spoiling anything by saying this), the one thing we do know is that we never got the whole story. And that's what we're all hoping for. And even if Sarah Koenig, the brilliant producer of this show, does not get the story by the end of this season of Serial, to me there is this very real chance that it could still come out by a person who's been following along and just can't handle knowing what he/she knows any longer.

In fact, to feed our desire between weekly episodes, there is this site called Reddit, where people discuss in scrupulous detail everything from the tone of a witness's voice to a specific timeline of events. You know, sort of like we used to do on the Lost message boards... dissect every moment of the show, grab onto new ideas and build on them (tell me you didn't read Lostpedia). But again, this is real. Real people. And, just when you think you are going to lose your mind from reading random theories from other nobodies equally obsessed with the case... a family member of the convicted starts contributing to the conversation, setting the record straight. The best friend, still closely in touch with his imprisoned friend, has opened a subreddit where he will answer questions from the nobodies. A family friend of the convicted claims he would not be surprised if the verdict was correct. He tells us why, while other friends jump to the convicted's defense.

I cannot look away.

This is a new genre of media. It feels interactive, for lack of a better word, and it's dynamic. It's not a novel or a trial we are watching on Court TV. It's just a really smart woman, a journalist, and her small team, trying to figure out who is lying and what they are lying about and what the hell she is missing here. And gosh, she really convinces her loyal and enormous audience that we are all in this thing together. So many of us pride ourselves on our ability to "read" a person. But this podcast leaves us utterly baffled. But not so baffled that we want to give up on it; just the opposite. We have to piece this together. Then we can sleep. We can start exercising again. We can turn the tv back on or read our books or write a sensible blog post or do something, anything productive with our lives. I am being eaten up by this, but I think I love it. I am writing this blog partially to make myself so sick of thinking about it that I let it go until next week's episode. But I know that's not going to work.

I know I am not unique. Maybe I am, but only in that I recognize this as an actual condition I am enduring, the only remedy being the end of the show...  But my husband John is unique. He thinks the podcast is fine. He fell asleep tonight while listening (because I made him listen). John is a good good good good man. I think I'm good, but I know John is good.

Maybe that's what all this is about... why I have this morbidity, why so many of us do. I mean, we're all a little dark (except maybe John) and connected in that way... but how is it some people's darkness sinks so deep that they are able to take somebody's life... and then live with it, never confessing a single thing? Crappy crappy things happen in people's lives that preface the crappy things they end up doing to others. Shame quite distinctly contributes to criminal behavior. I get that. But crappy stuff happens to a lot of us. When and how is it that some people lose their conscience to this degree? Not just doing the thing, but then keeping that thing to themselves, just living with that thing. This is what I cannot understand.

And then there's the John phenomenon, which is possibly the most perplexing question of all of this. I mean, maybe that's where my research efforts should be directed. Are there more Johns out there? Are there others out there who have more interest in reading the comics and watching the Daily Show and going to bed at a reasonable hour? Are you one of those people? Give it a shot, just one episode. And then decide if you're joining the cult or continuing on with your perfectly good life.