Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gramasylum has its own space now.

Thank you to all of you who have been reading my grandmother stories here. As of last Friday Gramasylum has its own little cyberspace. Gramasylum.com is up and running. This is a dream that has been in the making for about five or six months. I am so excited it has come true. I would have languished a long time in the "trying to get it done" category.  My talented daughter Anne helped me make it happen in one afternoon. All the related posts have been transferred to that site and tonight I posted the first brand new blog to that site. I will blog there at least once a week about the crazy love of a grandmother. I also invite readers to share their grandparent stories and with permission I will post some of those. I hope you become a regular visitor at Gramasylum and, if you  enjoy it, tell your friends and relatives.

Soon, I will resume blogging here about life and ministry. I hope you will continue to come here too, to enjoy what I am learning about making life and ministry a seamless garment. It is not easy. But it is the heart of the life of faith because we are all called to live whatever life we have been given for the sake of others and the sake of Christ's kingdom. Life and ministry really are a seamless garment. I hope you will enjoy both blogs.

Peace and joy to you and yours this blessed Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Four Year Old Asks The Six Million Dollar Question


The latest cause for Gramasylum arrived almost five months ago. Colette Rose, is number four grandchild so I have not had the concentrated time with her that I had with her sister Laurel who was the first Blankman grandchild. The time discrepancy shows. Colette, called Coco so as to keep up  with Lolo, is not as crazy about Cece as Cece is about her.....yet. This one is very partial to her mother and the feeding accoutrements that she alone possesses. I got her to take a bottle once so far. I had her in the front carrier thingy-majingy, and when she was beginning to nod off, I put the bottle in her mouth and she began sucking and actually took most of the bottle. I felt so accomplished! Figured we had made great strides toward mutual admiration.

Then came last weekend. I drove to their house in San Diego to take care of Coco so mom and dad could go to a Christmas production of The Grinch with big sister Laurel. Let's just say we did okay. But there was no taking a bottle this time. And the Cokes, another name for this latest little bundle, is also very particular about how she is to be held and what the person who is holding her is supposed to be doing. Basically, Coco prefers you up and moving...all the time. And even when she falls asleep, she must have some kind of an internal level mechanism. As soon as you try to sit down or lay down, and she is no longer perpendicular to the floor, her eyes pop open and she protests substantially enough to get you up and moving again.

Later in the afternoon the parental returned with Lolo. Coco was very pleased to see her mom and to be reunited with the accoutrements only her mother can provide. Then the parental units left again to go to a party. This time leaving big sister Laurel with Cece, too. Lolo was anxious to play with Cece. It was not to be. Coco was in charge. There are few games that can be played, and no books that can be read while holding, and walking around and bouncing a five month old baby. So, each time Lolo asked if I could play with her, I had to respond that we would have to wait until Coco was asleep. I think Lolo had enough experience with her little sister to know this was not likely going to happen any time soon.

Lo finally spoke her mind.

"Where's Papa," Laurel asked?

"Papa is at home," I responded.

"Why didn't he come to help take care of the baby," Lo inquired further?

"His favorite team has a football game," I explained, "and Papa wanted to watch it."

Laurel now placed her hand on her hip and twisted her mouth in the way one does when one is puzzled or irritated. Then she asked the six million dollar question.

"What's more important? Football or helping to take care of the baby," Laurel asked with serious conviction?

Wow. Not quite four and a half years old and this little woman understands priorities! How was I to answer this serious challenge?

"That's a great question, Lo," I responded. Truth be known, my mouth was a little twisted, too. I had asked Papa the same question.

Then I passed off the responsibility to answer the question to the one who was responsible for the question being asked. "You'll have to ask Papa that," I added.

What's more important? From the mouths of babes. In Papa's defense, when Lo visits he is at her beck and call and is also a pretty crazy grandparent. After she visited the last time he explained that he doesn't always feel like playing what she wants to play. But, he realizes that there will come a day when she will not ask him to play with her anymore. So, he will take advantage of it while she is still asking. Have you ever seen an over sixty man playing Barbies? Trust me. It makes up for several football game absences!

What's more important? Coco finally did go to sleep and hard enough so that I laid her down and she stayed asleep. I then helped Lolo take a bath, and brush her teeth and get jammied up. Lolo and I got to play and read a book before mom and dad returned home. I kissed her goodbye and her daddy brought her outside to wave goodbye to me as I backed out of their driveway to head home.

I had been on duty about nine hours. It was late. I had about an hour drive home. And, I had to preach the next morning! But what is more important? This day called for a crazy grandma. I'm so thankful that I  have the credentials!
 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kiwi Ear Love

Gramasylum has been on the shelf for three weeks. The first week of November I got word my mother was not doing well. We moved her to a new care facility and so I made flight plans to go see her. The day before I was scheduled to leave I got word she was declining pretty fast. I arrived on a Thursday evening. My mother passed away Saturday at 6 p.m. It was fast. I was there holding her hand and stroking her hair as she left this world. All three of my sisters and my brother were there, too. And, she knew we were there. It was a sad, precious, and sacred time. I am so grateful that I was able to be there, that my siblingss were all there together. Believe it or not it set the tone for Thanksgiving coming up the very next week. Gramasylum took to the shelf for these three weeks (almost four) but my own mother's dying actually energized my resolve to be as crazy a grandma as possible. So. Gramasylum is back. With renewed energy!


It started with a simple observation about a t-shirt. Sitting at the counter for Thanksgiving dinner Laurel commented about the dinosaur on Kasen's t-shirt. Laurel, 4, identified it as a T Rex. Kasen, 3, replied, "No, it's a dinosaur." Laurel continued the conversation insisting that it was a T Rex.  Kasen continued to correct her telling her it was a dinosaur. The tone and volume intensified. Laurel tried very patiently to tutor Kasen in the particulars of the varieties of dinosaurs. Kasen was not to be tutored. His resolve matched her patience perfectly. The conversation was going nowhere good.

The adults at the big table were now fully engaged in following the argument ensuing at the counter. And no one was intervening, yet. A sneak peak toward the counter without disrupting the 
going-nowhere conversation revealed the arms of both children were now folded tight and the jaws were set. The volley began.

"You are a pillow with a flower on it," Kasen retorted!

"You are an ear with a kiwi in it," Laurel proclaimed!

“Yeah, well you are a pickle in water,” Kasen volleyed back!

The adults were now laughing so hard turkey and dressing and potatoes were flying everywhere. Where did this pseudo name-calling come from? We could not wait to hear what was next. Then it turned serious.

"Then I am not going to talk to you anymore,” Laurel declared!

"I'm not going to talk to you," Kasen countered!

"Well then, I am not going to be play with you ever, ever again," Laurel replied.

"And I am not going to be your friend," Kasen countered.


Ok. Time for the adults to get involved. Kiwis and flowers are one thing. Breaking cousin love is entirely another. I approached the counter and did not try to tutor on dinosaurs and T Rexes, but on the importance of staying in relationship. I can imagine them in ten years heading out the door together to walk the beach. And in twelve or thirteen years driving away in a car to go to the mall or a movie or a game with friends. One day they could be a huge support to each other—not just cousins, but friends. I am not sure how much of what I told them they understood. But a few minutes later they were arm in arm running down the hall laughing and being as silly as usual. Such fun. Such a blessing. Only one of the many blessings I am grateful for this Thanksgiving. Kiwi ear, pickle in water, flower on a pillow--I just love these little people and their crazy talk. 

Would love to hear from some of you Gramasylum readers! What crazy things are you doing these days with your granz or are your granz doing with you? Post a comment below. We all need the enouragment to be crazy.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Choosing Crazy Chaos




The pictures say it all. This is what it means to open your heart (and home) to a grandchild.  I have always been a neatnic and like my spaces clean and free of clutter. In fact, I cannot sit down to read or work if the space around me is chaotic. In every house we have lived in my children knew there was designated space for chaos--their bedrooms and a play room, and designated space for peace and tranqulity--all the rest of the house. Not anymore. Chaos rules.

In 2013 we downsized and moved into a 1300 square foot condo (don't weep for us, it has an ocean view and it is only five minutes down the hill to the water). And between July 2011 and July 2015 four little people moved into our lives. The chaos began instantly.

When my children were babies we had a car seat, a stroller called an umbrella stroller because it collapsed to the size of one, and a diaper bag. That was it. Today? Oh my! These children come with a car seat that doubles as a carry and hold seat and has an awning and a expiration date! Which means the manufacturers make a lot of money on these expensive items because they expire! Who knew?! Then there is the  portable collapsable cradling sleeper. It perfectly cradles the newborn and some of them even swing and play songs. I once lost our first child. I made a nice little bed for him on the floor next to our bed when we were visiting relatives in Austin, Texas. When we woke up in the morning he was gone. Nowhere in sight. After a very brief panic and a quick survey of the floor he was found under the bed, safe, cradled tight between the bed and the floor sleeping soundly.

And, have you seen the new jogging strollers? They are ginormous! In size and expense. They have three full size wheels that must be from Michelin, rolling smooth as silk and taking up the full sidewalk. You can buy two seaters which take up the sidewalk and one lane of the adjacent street.


They come with their own awning, too, and a storage compartment big enough to put two more kids in if you needed to. Then there is the backpack. It is filled with all the possible remedies and aids for one of any hundreds of potential circumstances that parents nowadays read about online that a baby could or might encounter... it never ends!

And as these little people get a little older an entire room of toys travel with them wherever they go! My dear LoLo has ONE play set that has ninety-two pieces. Ninety-two! And she has about a dozen of these sets. Oh my! So much for open clear space. Every square inch of our 1300 square feet are filled the evidence of the arrival of these precious little people. What isn't a toy or game, these innovative little people make into a toy or game. Of course, the bed is a trampoline. Some things never change. The kitchen floor is for putting puzzles together. The bathtubs are now canvases with all sorts of water soluable products to go crazy with. Closets are hiding places for little people and for various objects they decide to conceal from Papa and Cece. Blankets and chairs turn into tents that can be a hospital, a zoo, a castle or anything else they want it to be. And, I love it! What has happened to me?

When these little people enter your heart and home everything else takes a back seat. Who needs clutter free space when you have little people filling your house with endless chatter, squeals, and laughter? Who needs a coffee table decor fit for Houzz when you can have the space decked out for hours and hours of make believe play? Who wants compliments on a neatly and beautifully decorated home when you can have countess hugs and kisses from these little people telling you that they love you? There is no other explanation for this turnabout than absolute crazy love--certifiable craziness. It is Gramasylum and I am a proud and grateful permanent resident.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Falling in Love at LegoLand?

I missed the Gramasylum post last Sunday night because I had to do some investigating to get the facts right on this one! It took awhile, but here it is!

It happened right under our noses. We knew it was a special day. Our two oldest grandchildren have birthdays just three days apart. For their birthdays this year, Lolo, four, and Kaso, three, we gave them  a trip to LegoLand. Of course a three and four year old can’t quite comprehend a gift that they cannot open or touch immediately. But we did our best any way. We found pictures of LegoLand and blew them up full page size and put them in a booklet that ended by telling them they were going to LegoLand!

“Hurray! Okay! Let’g go,” Laurel, said.

“Yah,” said Kasen! And they both headed for the door.

“Whoa! Kiddos,” I said. “We are not going today. We will have to plan a time when the two of you can be together again and Papa and Cece can take a day off and then we will go to LegoLand,” I explained, lamely, of course. These cousins live three hours apart and have other smaller siblings. This can seriously complicate such plans but we were all committed to find a way to do it.

It took us two and a half months but we finally pulled it off. On a Thursday afternoon in September Kasen’s mom came from Santa Clarita with Kasen and his little sister. The next morning Papa, Cece, and Kasen drove to San Diego to pick up Laurel. LegoLand is in Carlsbad, California, actually half way between San Clemente and San Diego.  So it still required some logistics but we did it! On Friday, September 25, we made good on our birthday gift and arrived at LegoLand when the park opens at 10 a.m.  It was so much fun to see and hear their excitement. They were holding hands and giggling and Laurel was intermittently wrapping her arms around our legs and saying, “Thank you, Cece. Thank you, Papa.” Kasen in his own expressive way just walked alongside me and said, “I love you Cece.” That’s good for unlimited trips to LegoLand or wherever else the boy wants to go!

Of course the genius marketing folks of these establishments place the “gift store” right at the entrance of the park. And other purchasing opportunities are located throughout the park often at the conclusion of an exhibit or ride where you exit, or at least try to exit through the gift shop. Yah, right! But the main gift shop is the first thing you see when you walk in the main entrance. And, of course, this is the first place a child wants to go who is old enough to know grandmas and grandpas love to buy things for their grandchildren. I did hold my ground and said we might go through there on the way out but that our trip to LegoLand was their gift for the day. Kasen is not yet old enough to initiate the buying ritual. Laurel, on the other hand is already a pro. She had informed me when we picked her up that her mom had said that the trip to Legoland was her gift but maybe, Cece, might buy her one small thing.  I think LoLo might have had this reversed in the telling of it. This is probably what Laurel told her mom! She is one smart little cookie. Remember, this is the little woman who at three told her Cece about self-talk as a means of calming your fears! But on this day, she was incredibly circumspect and self-controlled and we walked right past the gift store and we did not hear another word from her about buying something.

We had a blast! We made Lego cars and Lego boats and raced them. We went on rides and saw exhibits of amazing things made completely from Legos. We cooled off  in one of the water pads in the park. We saw a stage performance of Best Friends Forever. Even in the heat of the day and with no place to sit, Laurel was transfixed. Of course, she knew the name of all four of the girls and every word of every song.  Kasen, on the other hand, watched for about five minutes and then decided to go sit with Papa in the shade. Go figure.

But the real show stopper of the day we found out about a week later. Who knew a three year old could fall in love at LegoLand without grandpa and grandma knowing anything about it? Yes, Laurel informed her mother and father that Kasen had fallen in love at LegoLand. But wait, it gets even more dramatic. She further informed them that Kasen was going to marry this little girl. What?! When did that happen? Neither Papa or I saw or heard anything. These kids were never out of our sight or beyond hearing range. How could this happen right under our noses and us not know anything about it?!


So just this past weekend, Laurel was coming to stay with us. I decided I would wait for the right time and then strike up a conversation with her about exactly what happened at LegoLand. I knew that if I was too pushy or brought it up at the wrong time I would likely get nowhere. I had to practice my own self-control and be circumspect. The first night she stayed over I was laying with her in her bed reading a book, when she asked me to tell her a story. She likes me to tell real stories about her daddy and his sisters when they were little and the silly things they did. I might embellish them a little, but the basic plot is legit. Anyway, this was my opportunity.

I said, “Hey, Lo, why don’t you tell me the story about Kasen falling in love at LegoLand?”

Laurel responded, “I don’t want to. Ask Kaso to tell you.”

What?  This four year old sprite was not going to get off that easy! “Come on, Lo. I heard you told your mommy and daddy, so you can tell Cece,” I said as connivingly as I  could.

“Okay,” she said, sort of begrudgingly, “ Kasen fell in love at Legoland.”

“Wait,” I objected, “there’s more than that. You told your mommy he was going to marry the girl.”

“Yah,” she offered still a bit reluctant, “I asked him if he was going to marry her, and he said, yes.”

Okay, so at least he did not initiate the proposal. Laurel asked him. Trying not to push too hard, I inquired, “Where did this happen, LoLo?”

“At lunch,” she said without any hesitation, “when we were playing in that little play house, he fell in love with the little girl that was in there.”

Oh, my goodness! Right under our noses indeed! Sure enough. Where we ate lunch there was a little play house about twenty feet away where we could see them playing. But out of sight because we never saw the other little girl that was in the little house.  We saw LoLo and Kasen  running in and out of the house but I do not remember ever seeing another child! Holy cow! What kind of delinquent, incompetent grandma am I?! Crazy enough to have my grandson fall in love and propose right under my nose without  me ever even seeing the girl! And my four year old granddaughter saw it, heard it, and was telling the story. The next time Kasen comes, I will cross examine him…I mean, I will see what his explanation is. Laurel did not know her name. If Kasen knows her name or has her cell phone number, that little girl is getting a phone call from one very crazy grandma. A three year old falling in love and proposing right under my nose.

And, oh, by the way, they both picked out one little thing at the gift shop on the way out of the park. Gramasylum rules!

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's About the Space




In 2014, 18 billion dollars was spent in the United States on traditional toys. These include everything from action figures to dolls to building sets. At 3.6 billion outdoor toys and sports toys were the largest portion of the 18 billion. I must confess I try hard not to. I say I am not going to. But doggone it! When those granz look up at  you with those eyes and smother you with hugs and kisses and are just flat out adorable beyond description all my best laid plans crumble and I buy them toys. I try to stay on the side of educational or imaginative and creative, but let’s get real. Sometimes I just buy whatever they want because I can! This is Gramasylum after all where it’s pretty clear where much more powerful factors are in play than simply what is rational or cheap.

I am proud to say that I put away and stored, much to my husband’s chagrin, a few…okay a lot… of select toys from when my own children were little. We packed and moved them repeated times for 30 years before our first grandchild showed up. I saved some money that way, right? And I am even more pleased to say, and have pointed out to my husband often, that these are now some of the our grandchildren's favorites. A Fisher-Price doctor set is in the top five along with two Polly Pocket sets, Legos, and a canister with different shaped holes in the top and different colored shapes that fit into those holes. Bam! Some toys are classic. I even have a Mr. Potato Head from 35 years ago. I keep this toy in my office and it rocks all the kids who come in with their parents. It allows us to have somewhat meaningful adult conversation while the kiddos pull him apart and put him back together in strange and wonderful ways.

But anyone who has been a child and remembers or anyone who has had children or grandchildren know that the real child mesmerizer is not a particular toy but space. Yes. Space. Every child from the beginning of time until now loves having a special place to play. I don’t remember my mom or dad doing it for me but I know I did it for our three kids and now I do it for our granz. We take blankets and miscellaneous furniture and we drape it all to create a play space. Kids go nuts. “CeCe, Cece! Make me a tent!” The tent becomes a house, a hospital (where we use the 35 year old Fisher Price doctor set to play doctor), a school room. Whatever it becomes it occupies their imaginations for longer than any toy. Though it certainly does a number on general use of that particular space for the duration of the play it is otherwise free except for time and effort. No toy industry ringing up profits in this! But I have even more proof that space wins over toys. I have photographic proof! Every toy box I have ever used has itself become play space. The first toy box I used for my grandchildren was the bright blue elephant you see in this blog. Laurel was not even two when she started pulling all the toys out of the toy “box” and crawled in it to play. Who needs toys? You just need a fun space! Then just recently I got a new toy box. Not as fancy as the elephant but still a great fun space to play. (The blue elephant had become damaged from all the crawling in and out of it and duct tape could not longer hold it together so it had to be retired.) Kasen is three but the last time he visited he emptied the new toy box and crawled in as you can see in the other picture in this blog. The look on his face says it all. Who needs toys when you can have a fun little space just to be.


Special spaces are so easy and so much fun! Of course the challenge for Grama Cece in the tent version is getting in and out and up and down out of these spaces. The heart is willing. The body oh so resistant! It’s why I prefer the actual toy boxes for their play space. These spaces are so small even my little grandchildren know I cannot get into it with them! They are satisfied to have me just pretend with them while they are in these spaces. I pretend I can’t find them. I pretend they are a toy. I pretend I am going to cover them with toys. It’s about the space. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Feeling Like Mrs. America


 
It was a great day for playing at the beach. We set up and then headed down near the water to dig and make castles and a lake. We like to make our own little lake to splash in. Our lake was so cool it attracted other kids. One little boy’s name was Liam. Liam was older but he played with us for quite awhile. Then he asked, “What’s his phone number?”  I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly, but he repeated it, and sure enough, he was asking for my grandson’s phone number. I resisted. What was he? Some kind of a toddler stalker?!  Instead, I introduced him to my grandson, Kasen. But he persisted. He  wanted his phone number, and now, sounding a bit irritated, asked if I knew his phone number. Then he explained that he was from Riverside and wanted it so the next time he came to the beach he could call him to play. Ah! Finally it made some sense but still weirded me out a bit. I did not give in.  I told him Kasen did not live nearby and that he would have to call me if he wanted to play because I was the one who lived close by. He didn’t want my phone number.

Kasen wanted to go and play in the water so we left Liam and our little lake and went to play in the waves. Kasen started out pretty timid but gradually he gained courage and we went farther and farther out to encounter bigger and bigger waves. Trust me. I had a firm grip on both of his arms but we ventured out far enough for him to get wet up to his neck. His fear diminished and his delight increased proportionately. If not for my 60-year-old back we could have played in the waves for hours. But what the heart wants the back can rarely support. We headed back to the beach and our little lake.

We played there for quite awhile longer. No sign of Liam. And when I began to feel the effect of the sun on my back and arms we packed up to head home. Kasen did not want to quit but after a lengthy reassurance that we would come again next time he visited we headed home.

On our way down the beach trail we passed a young man standing at one of those work-out stations. He was not working out at the moment. But he was pretty ripped. Kasen saw him and stopped and said, “Hi.”  The young man smiled, but did not respond. When I caught up I smiled and said hello, but I still did not hear him respond. I pointed to Kasen and said, “Mr. Congeniality.” The young man just kept smiling. Kasen took my hand and looked right at the man and said, “This is my Cece.”  We started walking again, and as we left the young man still smiling and saying nothing, Kasen repeated, with more inflexion this time, “ This is MY Cece, my Grandma Cece.”Then he added, “I love you, Cece.”  I don’t care how ripped or young that guy was. At that moment my weak and aching back was greatly strengthened.  I felt like Mrs. America and the coolest person on the beach and crazy with love for this little guy who declares to young men on the beach that I am HIS Cece and that he loves me.   

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Three-Year-Old Therapist


It was just after the first of the year. I was taking care of Laurel for the day, or so I thought. After shopping, lunch, and swimming and reading books we settled in to watch a movie--a children's movie. She picked "Tangled," the latest Disney version of Rapunzel. She told me that if I was going to be afraid she would hold my hand. How sweet! I thought this a rather strange reversal of roles, but I went along with it to encourage her sense of care for others. I am a pretty light weight when it comes to movies, but I knew I could handle a Disney movie.  But for Lolo's sake, when Rapunzel was threatened by her wicked imposter mother, I pretended to be afraid. Ok. I might have tensed up some. Ok. I might have been a little afraid. Anyway, Lo noticed and took my hand. Then she began a conversation that I still have trouble wrapping my mind around. My three and a half year-old granddaughter said to her fully mature grandmother,

"Cece. Don't be afraid. Self-talk."

I replied, "What?"

Laurel said, "When you are afraid, talk to yourself. Tell yourself not to be afraid."

So, I complied with my three and a half year-old therapist, and began to say, "It's going to be okay, Cece. Don't be. . ."

Laurel interrupted me. "No, Cece," she coached. "In your head. Talk to yourself in your head," she said while pointing to  her head  with a face every bit as serious as any counselor or therapist face I have ever seen.

I was speechless. Not because I was following her instructions to only talk in my head. I had quit being afraid or pretending to be afraid of what was going to happen to Rapunzel. Now I was speechless because I was just astounded.

"Where did you learn about self talk, Lolo," I asked her?

"At school," she answered without any sense that this was not normal run-of-the-mill preschool curriculum.

"Wow," I said, "How does self-talk work, Lolo?"

Laurel commenced to explain it to me. Of course. She said that whenever she is afraid or feeling sad, she talks to herself, in her head, and says things that make her not afraid or sad. In way more vocabulary than any three and a half year-old should be able to use I  was being coached on how to handle my emotions. She was counseling me. I was the patient and she was the therapist. Just one more piece of evidence of my certifiable residency in Gramasylum.

We finished watching the movie. Though there were other tense moments, Rapunzel was rescued from her evil captor and I made it through  with Lolo holding my hand and with intermittent self-talk. This little girl that has me crazy with love knows I am crazy and is willing to teach me how not to be quite so crazy. I can hardly wait to see what I learn from her when she starts kindergarten.

When did one of your grandchildren surprise you with an understanding of something you would never have suspected they knew anything about? Share your story by commenting below.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Gramasylum and a Funeral



I was honored that a reading club group at church chose to read my book and invited me to be their guest for their monthly discussion. The same day I ended up caring for my granddaughter so I arranged for her to be in the nursery at church while I met with the book club. As I carried her to the room she touched the necklace hanging around my neck and said, "Cece, will you tell me about this?" "This" was my cross necklace. What could I say?! What an amazing opportunity. My four year old granddaughter was asking me to tell her about the Good News of the gospel! I responded, "Lo, I would love to tell you about what this cross means!" But I was pretty close to being late for my morning book club invitation so I dropped her off at the nursery and told her that I would tell her when I got back.

I do not think LoLo knows that I am a pastor or what a pastor does. And she did not know that just a few weeks ago I had introduced  a sermon about the Good News using pictures of crosses--Madonna with a big cross necklace, a convicted murderer in prison tattooed with and wearing a cross, an arch entrance made up of hundreds of wooden crosses, and my own picture wearing this same cross she was now asking about. What was the meaning of all these cross displays? Who knows?! But now my wearing a cross provided me the opportunity to tell LoLo the story of Jesus' amazing love for her. I could hardly wait.

When I picked her up at the nursery she had not forgotten and was all ears. As best I could, in four year old vocabulary (hers, by the way, is pretty incredible!) I explained to her that Jesus came to the world to tell us how much he loved us. I told her that Jesus told everyone and especially people that no one else loved. It was very hard for me to tell her that religious people (like me!) did not like it that Jesus was loving these kind of people and that they disagreed with what he told people about God. Jesus was telling people that God had sent him and that if they believed in him they would never die and that even if they did die, they would live again.  It was really hard for me to tell her that religious people actually punished Jesus like a criminal. Criminals were hung on crosses to die. They hung Jesus on a cross to die. And he did. But he did not stay dead. He came alive again! And then he continued to love people and tell them that because he had died and lived again, the same would happen to them if they trusted him and believed him. I told her that I wear a cross to remind me of how much Jesus loves us. It all sounds a little crazy when you really think about it.

I told LoLo that this meant that some day she would get to meet my father, her great grandfather, the person I wrote the book about. I told her that even if Cece (that's what she calls me) dies  that she will get to see me again because I believe and trust Jesus. I told her that death is hard and makes us very sad, but that Jesus said not to be afraid, because he will take care of us when we die and one day we will all be together again. LoLo said, "I trust and believe Jesus." I said, " I hope you do, Lo. And I hope you will learn more about Jesus and how to trust him as you get older."

Wow! What a holy, crazy sacred, moment. A student of Christianity for decades and an ordained pastor for twenty years  and I was challenged by this request. I had read lots of books about Jesus to LoLo before. I have sung "Jesus Love Me" to her hundreds of times. But now she was asking. She was initiating the conversation. She was wanting to understand what the cross means.

Later that day I officiated at a memorial service. I had prepared a brief message based on I Thessalonians 4 where Paul explains that Christians do not grieve as others do without hope. He says that because Jesus died and rose again, we have hope and are supposed to encourage each other with this Good News. I knew I had a very mixed audience at this service and did not know many of them at all. All of a sudden I  realized that LoLo's question and the answer I gave her was exactly what Paul was teaching in this passage. My four year old granddaughter became a fresh example of the message I wanted to give this family and these friends of this man who suffered and died way too soon. The meaning of the cross is the only sure and hopeful word for people facing death and loss. And explaining this to even a four year old, maybe especially to a four year old, can bring great clarity to the truth. I told those gathered for the memorial that surely my granddaughter did not fully understand the things I told her, but then, neither do any of us! But there are all sorts of things (like electricity) that I use and live by and depend on that I do not understand fully or at all. It does not make them false, or any less dependable. Such is the meaning of the cross. Crazy!

I wear my cross necklace often. I will wear it with more sense of purpose from now on. Being a grandmother and being a pastor are not all that different at the core. Being crazy in love with my grandchildren reminds me a lot of just how crazy God's love is for us. Gramasylum is a great place for a pastor to live.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Gramasylum Dividends Take Two

I tried to write and post this blog when I was on vacation last week using my IPhone and skethcy internet connections. I could not get the pictures to load properly. So I am reposting this blog with the pictures that helped to inspire it.


I love it when my grandchildren are excited to see me. I love it when they ask me when I am coming to get them or when they are coming to my house. I love it when they do not want to leave my house and fuss when I am leaving their houses. I love that they like being with me. But there is another relationship that for some reason resonates even more deeply for me. It is their relationship with each other. Gramasylum is not all about me.

Laurel (LoLo) is four and Kasen (Kaso) is three. They do not live in the same community. Laurel lives an hour south of us. Kasen lives about two hours north of us. But we work hard to be together and they see each other at least once a month and usually for two or three days at a time. They know each other well. Whenever I talk to Kasen on FaceTime, first thing he always asks, "Is LoLo there?" And when I talk to LoLo on FaceTime it is the same. She always asks, "Is Kaso there?" They love being together. Oh sure, they fuss and fight over toys sometimes. And, they can be jealous when I give my attention to the other on occasion.  But the great majority of the time they are running and playing and laughing and making a full scale mess of our condo. And I love it. I love that they love each other. Kasen is a little more expressive of his feelings and so often initiates the love fest. Unsolicited and unencouraged by adults Kasen will just say, "I love you LoLo." And usually, not always, Laurel will reciprocate and say, "I love you Kaso." Even if her lips don't say it her tight hugs do.

Witnessing this cousin love stirs something deep inside my heart. Perhaps it is knowing that this relationship will likely long outlast their relationship with me. They will be together long after I am gone. I hope and pray they stay friends, playing and laughing together, fighting, yes, but also loving each other. I hope and pray that through the awkward preteen years, the challenging and oh so character shaping teen years, and whatever young adulthood brings their way, they will continue to ask, "Is LoLo there?" and "Is Kaso there?" I hope they will be friends and that they will always love each other. In this way my crazy love for them will live on way beyond my lifetime. My time as a resident of Gramasylum is an investment that will reap dividends for years, perhaps generations, to come.



 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Power of the Jenna Jab


She had her first birthday this past week. She  is less than two feet tall and weighs less than twenty-five pounds. Her vocabulary is limited to three or four words amongst many undecipherable sounds. However, this little stick of dynamite gets almost anything she wants and is able to get almost anywhere she wants to go with one repeated syllable accompanied by a pointing finger and an arm bent and straightened repeatedly. This gesture combined with, “Eh, eh, eh” will get the job done. I call it the Jenna Jab.

Did I mention there are adorable dimples in both cheeks, though one very much more prominent than the other, and a smile that could melt what’s left of the polar ice caps? Yes, the combination of these things mean that Jenna rules the world she inhabits. If you are one fortunate enough to have this little person waddle toward you with both arms stretched straight up in the air making the “eh, eh, eh” sound--which means she wants you, yes, you, to pick her up, and you do—from there on you are a slave. Wherever the Jenna jab points you will go and whatever the jab points to you will give her, as long as it is safe, of course. Trust me. These are the laws of nature in Gramasylum. As gravity insists “what goes up, must come down,” in Gramasylum “what and where Jenna jabs, Jenna gets and goes!” It’s life on this side of certifiable grama craziness.

There is only one obstacle currently in the way of her absolute rule—her three-year-old brother Kasen. He is not taken with the Jenna Jab. He regularly and consistently ignores it.  And, he goes further. He quickly interprets what it is she wants and is big enough and quick enough to get it before she can and keep whatever it is out of her grasp. Until a smitten parent or grandparent attends.  It would appear that the Creator,  either to test parental negotiation skills, or to ensure regular interaction, created a sort of sibling relational loop.  Younger siblings idolize their older siblings and want whatever they have,  while at the same time older siblings desire to teach younger siblings that might makes right and that size matters.   Jenna could jab her arm off and Kasen’s desire to teach would not be diminished. Unless, of course some parental negotiator is watching, which is almost all the time, and then it takes a little longer, but the Jenna Jab eventually triumphs. After all, she is little and does not understand (yah, right!) and he is the big boy who will teach her how to share by sharing. Wait. Doesn’t that mean Jenna always gets what she wants? Is that sharing? So the obstacle to her absolute rule, her brother, is also subject to the Jenna Jab, even if delayed and involuntarily.

Now, this might sound like Gramasylum allows partiality. The short view would seem so. The longer view reveals otherwise. So just in case, Kasen finds this blog in the future when he is reading about his crazy grama Cece, I want him to know he once had the place of rule and reign that Jenna now holds. Of course, we did not call it the Jenna Jab.  And, as I recall Kasen’s control of the world extended into days with more vocabulary.  He too used his arm. But it was a steady and firm directional gesture accompanied by the word “hefway.”  Kasen would point in a certain direction and say, “Hefway,” and off we would go. I took him wherever “hefway” was.  Gramasylum evolves and changes, and they may take turns, but the little people always rule. It’s crazy, and I  love it!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Outer Reaches of Gramasylum


 
So when do you say, “No,” to grandchildren? For those in Gramasylum,  very seldom. I was tempted on this occasion.
Papa and I were at Laurel’s house to take care of her while her new little sister arrived.  In the morning we headed out for a bagel, one of LoLo’s favorites for breakfast. Papa got his usual—jalapena cheese. Laurel and I got our favorite—cinnamon crunch.  This one was different. It was big and long! Holy cow! So Lo and I shared one. We were half way into the bagel when Lo took some of the cream cheese on her finger and started wiping it on my arm.

When I asked her what she was doing she answered quickly and confidently, “I’m putting sunscreen on  you.”
“What,” I asked incredulous?

“I don’t want you to get sunburned, so I am putting sunscreen on your arms,” she insisted.
So what did I do? My reflex response was to say, “Don’t do that!”

But my heart overruled. I let her put cream cheese on my arm and spread it around. I played along with her pretending the cream cheese was sunscreen. Fortunately she was satisfied with administering it on only part of the arm and did not go for my face or legs. Not sure I am crazy enough to have allowed that. The whole time she applied the “sunscreen” she had that adorable little grin on her face. The one that reveals she knew just how crazy it was that she was doing this and even crazier that I was letting her. But the delight on her face was worth all the sticky icky mess. After all, what harm can a little cream cheese do, right?
Why do I let her do these things? It is Gramasylum where decorum and dignity are offset by love and child-like fun. I had put sunscreen on her many times. Now it was her turn. At this age the playing along with her imagination is usually not convenient but it is almost always harmless. And, it is always lots of fun.  I mean what can a little cream cheese do to your arm? And playing along with her crazy imagination communicates that I love her—that I will do almost anything for her. Entering her childlike imaginative world let’s her know that she matters to me and that I care enough about her to give up decorum and dignity. Even though she does not know those words, she knows what they are. Believe me! That is what the adorable little grin is all about. She knows no adult in their right mind would allow a child to put cream cheese on their arm. But she knows by now that her Grama Cece is not in her right mind. She is crazy with oozing love for this little woman. This episode explored the outer reaches of Gramasylum, but it is likely the depths of craziness has not yet been plumbed.

What is the craziest thing you ever allowed one of your grandchildren to do to you? Share it in a comment below. Come on! Share the  craziness!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Indoor Playland and Ice Cream Craziness


Great anticipation grew as I planned a day with my Santa Clarita grandchildren, Kasen, 4, and Jenna who will be one in less than two weeks. Gramasylum was in full bloom as I intentionally drove after work  in rush hour traffic to get there.  It took me three hours to travel the 100 miles. Proving my youthfulness as I  approach a monumental birthday, I listened to a webinar to pass the time. Yes. I, Grama Cece, listen to, and on occasion watch webinars for my own professional development. I try not to watch them when I am driving. The challenge for me is remembering how to download them on my IPhone.

When I arrived in Santa Clarita the kiddos were in the front yard waiting excitedly for me.  I quickly forgot the three hour drive. Kasen started jumping up and down and came frightening close to the curb as I parked the car. Mom was close by monitoring so all was well. Jenna was grinning ear to ear and doing her characteristic point and jab when she wants something  or she wants to go somewhere. I call it the "Jenna Jab" and she gets pretty much whatever she wants this way. After hugs and smooches all around we settled in to the visit. Kasen immediately began planning the next day.
His excitement was displayed in his rapid fire interrogation.
“Where are we going to go, Cece?  What are we going to do? Can we go to a playground, Cece? Can we get ice cream?” Kasen asked.

“Of course! We can do it all,” I respond like any crazy Grama would.
“We will find an indoor playground if it is too hot (which is all the time in Santa Clarita between May and September) and we will find some ice cream,” I said with equal enthusiasm.

The first inkling that I had gone deep into Gramasylum and wondered “what was I thinking” came at the indoor playground.  Such venues being totally new to me this crazy and enthusiastic Grama was totally unprepared. Everybody who uses the playground needs socks. We were all sockless. But of course, they sell socks! How much? Who cares! This is Gramasylum and we were not turning back! They charge for babies over nine months? The Jenna Jab is already underway. How much? Who cares! We were all going in!
The indoor playground had four distinct play areas with lots of kids running back and forth like they had all just been taken off  sugar IV’s. Slides, and crawl tubes, an enclosed kitchen and even a small enclosed trampoline created a playing frenzy of kids. A wide range of ages and sizes comingled. The larger sized ones made the trampoline situation a bit concerning to me.  And the speed and frequency of passing children kept me vigilant in watching Jenna who though a great jabber is new enough to walking to be vulnerable to surrounding motion. The strong breeze of a passing larger child can knock her down. It was while I was watching the traffic in order to keep Jenna safe that I realized I had totally lost track of Kasen! And, a quick scan of the place did not produce a sighting. Sheesh! We’d been in the matrix less than ten minutes and I had already lost one child. I grabbed Jenna in spite of her jabbing to go in another direction and frantically searched every nook and cranny until I finally found Kasen in the corner of the kitchen. But still, there was a moment when I returned to the “what was I thinking” part of my brain. Two small children, indoors, and I can’t keep track of them for ten minutes? How did I do this with three of my own in the outdoors?!  God must have been watching over us on a fairly regular basis.

Several head to head encounters in the trampoline area, two or three near misses with fly by children, and multiple toy grabbing incidents needing intensive parental negotiations using language that I hardly recognized let alone understood well enough to participate, I decided it was time for ice cream.  The promise of ice cream lessened the trauma of leaving such a fun filled place. I think.
We found the perfect place for ice cream. Real ice cream and real inexpensive. Rite Aid. They scooped us up. A way too large cone for Kasen and a small cup for Jenna. I knew I would get the leftovers. $3.58. What a deal after the indoor playground that required a pint of blood from your wallet when you go unprepared. It was after we were all scooped up that I realized there was no place to sit indoors. This was not a restaurant or ice cream parlor. It was a drug store. And it was now 100 degrees outside. Gramasylum strikes again. What was I thinking? Cheap ice cream is no bargain with no place to sit and two children, three and not quite one, with melting ice cream and 100 degrees farenheit.  Before we left the store the cone was already dripping down the sides and the ice cream ready to fall off to the floor. I begged the clerk for another cup to put the cone in to avert the disaster. Then we headed outside.  

Fortunately we had a double stroller and I negotiated both kiddos sitting in it to eat their ice cream. I scanned the area for someplace to sit. Nothing. We walked around the corner and a pet store with a large bird swinging in the window looked like it might work. There were carpeted kitty towers of all shapes and sizes standing outside along the window wall. I found a kitty tower about the right height with a platform about the right size of my backside. I pulled the double stroller over into the shade and sat on the kitty tower. Kasen wanted his ice cream cone. Of course. So I used the little plastic spoon, almost breaking under the pressure, to cut off more than half the ice cream now tipped upside down in a cup in order  to make his cone a manageable size. I had to use my fingers, too. It was then that I realized I forgot to get napkins when we bought the ice cream. Diaper bag in the car, I had nothing. Oh yes. A little sippy cup of water is better than nothing. I opened it and poured some on my sticky hands and dried them in the wind. Finally, we were able to relax a little and enjoy the ice cream. 

This is Gramasylum at its very best. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I did not spend any time wondering if I could navigate the indoor playground. I did remember or imagine what a challenge it is to do ice cream in hot weather with small children outdoors. I just love these kiddos and if Kasen says,
“Can we get ice cream?”

The answer when you are in Gramasylum is, “Of course!”
And wherever and whatever Jenna  jabs, Cece will find a way to go and to do. This is Gramasylum. Thinking is way down the list when crazy love takes over. And gratefully, God is always watching over us.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Gramasylum's Darker Side

Ok. Gramasylum isn’t  always oozing with giddy joy. There are times when you seriously wonder, “What was I thinking?!” This was one of those times.

Laurel Ana, LoLo, had stayed overnight with us on several occasions before. She loved coming to CeCe’s house and usually did not want to leave. But now she was showing signs of attachment and separation anxiety of late so I knew it might not be the same. She wanted to come this time, but she wanted her mommie or daddy to come with her. Wasn’t gonna happen.  Mommie was away on business and daddy had school. So LoLo was going to spend Sunday and Monday night with Cece. 

The complicating factor was that LoLo had also recently acquired a new skill. Mommie and daddy don’t know where she learned it, but it went like this. She would purse her lips, cross her arms tight, say, “I want _____”  (fill in the blank), then raise one leg bent at the knee, stomp it down hard, and just as the shoe hit the floor she would say, “Now!” The timing was impeccable. The message was quite clear. Whatever she wanted she was NOT waiting for.  Where she learned it I do not know either. Let’s just say though that it looked like she had practiced a lot.

On this particular occasion the new skill showed up in the middle of the night. Oh, she was priming for it earlier. She expressed the very normal desire to have her mommie before she went to bed, but it was a more gentle demand with just a slight whimper. Then at 1 a.m. she woke up crying. The crying turned to screaming—the kind of screaming that sounds like a child is being tortured and someone should call the police. I was afraid my neighbors might! No matter what I tried to do to console and comfort her it only escalated. So there we were in the middle of the hall and it began. She pursed her lips and crossed her arms. She screamed, “I want my mommie.” Then the dramatic pause, the leg lifted bent at the knee and the foot came down with impeccable timing just as she finished her demand, “Now!” This was repeated several times. I tried to explain to her all the reasons she could not have her mommie now. This all interspersed with the police-summoning type screams. I was beside myself.  This is when I began to wonder. “What was I thinking?” Crazy oozing love, insane devotion, barrels and barrels of fun with Cece normally, but at 1 a.m.  it did not make any difference.

I had observed her parents helping her calm down on several occasions before. So I tried that.

“LoLo,” I said calmly, “would you like me to help you calm down?”

She replied with her arms crossed, “ I want my Mommie to help me calm down.”

And you know how the drill goes. She raised her leg with knee bent and brought it down as hard as she could and said, “Now!”

I realized at this point I had entered a darker corner of Gramasylum. No amount of reasoning, no amount of love, no amount of fun and games was going to deter this little woman from what she wanted. I knew that only two things would bring an end to this real life nightmare. I could get in the car and drive an hour to take her to daddy or I could let her scream and stamp herself to sleep. The signs of fatigue were beginning to show up. I did not want to be stubborn just to win a power struggle but my grama gut said that she could not keep this up much longer and that we were going to get through this alive. Exhausted, and I might have to explain the screams to a police person if they showed up at our door, but I made the decision to put my bet on her falling asleep before I would be in jail. We would make it. And deep in my heart I knew the oozing love, insane devotion, barrels of fun Gramasylum would return. This little dark corner was not going to take over my Gramasylum haven.

I told her she could call her mommie and daddy in the morning. Of course, she wanted to call them, “Now!” In faithful Gramasylum love tons I explained that that was not going to happen in the middle of the night. But I assured her that as soon as we slept a bit and woke up, we would call mommie and daddy.

She did eventually fall asleep. Sitting up on the love seat. Whimpering, “mommie, now” with her little leg  twitching in memory of the foot stamping routine of the night. Once the whimpering and the twitching ended, I gently laid her down on the love seat and went and collapsed on the other couch where I could keep an eye on her and be sure to be ready to make that phone call as soon as she woke up. It was about 2:30 a.m. The entire incident lasted just an hour and a half. I can’t remember if I slept after that. I just remember wondering, “what was I thinking?!” Gramasylum residency is better at feeling than thinking. So much love and affection for this child resides in me that I will try just about anything. Once.

She woke up in the morning. No screaming. No foot stomping. No demand for anything now. We called mommy and daddy. She was going to be all right. But even Gramasylum has its limits. I told her father that he needed to come and get her. I did not want to put her through another night like the last one and I didn’t think I would be very reliable if I went another night with little sleep and a lot of twitching. I said I would be glad to come to their house and take care of her the next day but I did not want to risk another night like this one we had just (barely) survived.


That was over a year ago. Since then, LoLo has stayed at our house overnight again. It took awhile for me to regain my Gramasylum confidence for overnighters! Eventually she stayed for a whole weekend. No pursing of lips, stamping of foot, or demands for anything “now.” I guess that was a phase. And this time when daddy returned to get her, she did not want to go home! Gramasylum returned full speed ahead.

I am sure there will be other times when I find myself doing something with my grandchildren, barely surviving, and wondering , “What was I thinking?!”  I think I will just purse my lips, cross my arms, and say, “I want Gramasylum,” and will raise my bended knee and stamp  my foot hard and say, “now!”
 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Signs of Residency in Gramasyulm


It actually takes two signs simultaneously. When a son-in-law looks at you and just shakes his head and at the same time a grandchild is laughing and squealing with glee, you probably have entered Gramasylum. Of course, in my case my residency is confirmed by the fact that my son-in-law usually says something like, “I am afraid he (my grandson) does not have a chance. He will turn out to be crazy like you.”  His fear does have some legitimacy. My daughter, the child's mother, shows some evidence of the genetic marker. My son-in-law is doubly concerned.

So what are some of the signs? Here are just some of the more obvious ones.

1.       After working and primping your whole life to be gorgeous you begin making hideous faces and dressing in strange costumes or allowing them to "decorate you" in order to see their smiles and hear their giggles. Beauty and dignity have nothing on pleasing these kids.
 

2.       When you have spent half of your life parenting--getting up regularly and often at night to take care of children when they are young and then getting up regularly and often at night wondering where your children are when they are older—when you can finally sleep, you begin getting up very early in the morning in order to let your now grown children that kept you up half your life, sleep. This is certifiably crazy!
 

3.       When you work hard six days a week and have only one day off and you take that one day and get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to drive two hours to take care of a small child for nine hours only to  get back in the car and drive two hours (maybe three in bad traffic) back home. This is the definition of insanity.

4.       And finally, the dead ringer—when they have been at your house for a day or two or three and your house looks like a hurricane went through, you have been up and down off the floor so much and carried and swung and frolicked so far that every muscle in your body is aching, you are close to falling asleep walking toward the bedroom, and yet, you are on the verge of tears because they are gone.

If you have ever done or experienced even one of these crazy things, you are cordially invited to celebrate with me as a honorable member of Gramasylum. Crazy gramas unite!

What have you done that is a sign of your residency in Gramasylum. Share below with pictures!

Monday, July 13, 2015

When They Call Your Name


I can still remember the day. I recorded it in the journal I kept for her first two years of life. She called my name. Cece. It is not possible to describe the feelings of that moment. All the months of playing with her. All the times I cared for her. All the diapers changed, all the songs sung, the books read, and the stories told, the tears wiped away, the crying soothed, the boo boos kissed, and the tantrums mercifully waited out. Hearing her say my name made it all a drop in the bucket. She knew my name and she called me! 

I chose the name because it is easy to say. I thought she might learn it more quickly and might even say it accidently! But when she called my name for the first time it was no accident. "Sheshe," she said. That's how she pronounced it at first. And there was no mistaking it was for me. She came running down the hall and passed several other significant adults on the way. She was looking for me!

Of course "mama" came first. And "dada" followed closely after that. But I do believe it is on record that Cece came next. Ok. I worked on it a little bit. Ok. I worked on it a lot. I spent a great deal  of time with her in her first two years of life and am grateful that her parents allowed it, even encouraged it. As crazy as I am they facilitated this most amazing relationship of their firstborn with her crazy grama. I said my name to her as often as I could. And family members conspired with me. They called me Cece too when she was around. When she called "Sheshe" anything that followed it came into being.

"Sheshe, up." And up she would go.

"Sheshe, come!" And I would go anywhere she wanted.

Later, now with more sophisticated language, it is more complex.

"Cece, can I have a waffle?" asks Lolo.

“Of course you can have a waffle,” I reply. It's 8 p.m. but who said waffles are only for breakfast? And we’re talking homemade waffles, not Eggos!

"Cece, can we go swimming?" Lolo begs.

“Yes, let’s go!” I respond. Long past my prime in swimwear, do I care? Not warm enough to need to cool off, does it matter? She calls my name and I don a grandma-ish suit and off we go to the pool.

"Cece, will you carry me?" she asks reaching for me.

Even when there are other adults, younger, more capable, less wracked with pain, I reply, “Of course I will carry you, Lolo!”

And when she disqualified others the requests are especially delicious.

Her mommie says, "Lolo, do you want me to carry you?"

She replies, "No, I want Cece to carry me." Bam!

“Lolo, do you want me to read you a book before bedtime or do you want Cece to read you a book?” her mommie asks.

Lolo declares, “I want Cece to read me a book.” Oh yeah!

No amount of pain or fatigue is going to stop a love-crazy grama from stepping up and doing the job! Or, in this case, laying down on the floor and likely needing help to get up in order to do the job!

This is Gramasylum. It is certifiable craziness because no one in their right mind (and decrepit body) would do these things if it were not for absolutly crazy love. And the craziness only intensifies when you have two of these little people calling your name to do things not thought possible at your age and stage of life. Crazy as I am, I anxiously await grandchild number three calling my name. Jenna is only 10 months and just started saying mama and dada. But I am quite confident that Cece, Sheshe, or some other version of it is not far behind. And when she calls my name, I will be ready. Waffle? Swim? Carry? All three? I will carry her to the pool eating a waffle at midnight if she calls my name. It's Gramasylum and I love living here!

What is your grama name? And what is your best memory of a grandchild calling your name? Leave your story below.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Crazy Oozing Love


A crazy grama should have known better. I thought there was no way that I could loved another child as much as LoLo. There was just no way. Wherever we were, no matter how many people were around we were connected. We had a thing for each other. And she was the one I had waited for nine years, after all. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, my heart was beyond description fond! And it wasn’t just me. My daughter wondered too. She was afraid that no future child of hers could find space in my Lo Lo crazy heart.

And then came Kasen. Three days short of one year after Laurel Ana, LoLo, was born I was laying on the hospital floor waiting for Kasen. Yes. I was literally lying on the tile floor in the waiting room at the hospital. I had been there all night. I should have known crazy love would kick in. What fifty- something respectable woman would lay on the floor using her purse as a pillow--full of very hard objects, I might add--all night. People kept saying, “Go home. Get some sleep.” My mind sort of understood the suggestion but there was no way my crazy heart was going anywhere.

Finally realizing I was going nowhere, a very kind nursing assistant who apparently had a meter on his belt that detected craziness, came into the waiting room and gave me a blanket for the floor and a blanket to roll up for a pillow. It was about 4:30 a.m. 

Kyle, Kasen’s daddy kept coming into the room to report progress, but it would be two and a half more hours before Kyle came in the waiting room with the words my crazy heart was waiting for.  He’s here! Kasen Elijah Absten had arrived! Though my hips were screaming  profanities and my  aged muscles had atrophied about midnight, I was up off that floor in a nanosecond.  Kyle must have seen the crazed look in my eye and tried to calm me down. It would be awhile before I could see him, he said. Right. A crazy woman on the floor all night waiting and he was suggesting she would have to wait awhile longer? Who was crazy now?!

Fast forward. I should have known better. Crazy as I am I should have figured love would come crazy wide and crazy deep. I am as crazy wildly gah-gah over Kasen  as I was and am for Lo Lo. Crazy, I know. But Kasen and I have a thing for each other. When all three of us are together it gets really crazy sharing a crazy Grama, but we are figuring it out. Because the best part of being so crazy is that Lo and Kaso (we call him Kaso Grande) love my craziness. What others (their parents and my husband) move away from they beg for!

And last August a third one showed up. This time I had no doubts. More about Jenna later. Crazy as I am I knew crazy love would go wider and deeper. After waiting nine years I guess the craziness was festering inside. Now it oozes everywhere. Good thing. As I sit here reflecting on my crazy love for these three grandchildren, another one is knocking at my daughter-in-law’s birthing door. Yup. LoLo has a sister arriving any day. Colette—CoCo is about to enter Gramasylum. The craziness gets better and better!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Crazy Grama Love

My dad loved babies. I inherited his genes. I have always loved babies. I had three of my own. They are all grown now and all are married. I watched other friends line their couches with grandchildren. Each year their Christmas pictures would have a new little person propped up by another child and a pillow or two. Our Christmas letters had grown ups and landscapes. 

I waited nine years for our first grandchild. Laurel Ana Blankman  (Lo Lo) was born on this very day four years ago. She was worth waiting for. I wrote her a little book. You can do that now with online publishers like Shutterfly. The book title was I Waited For You So Long. I even illustrated it with pictures of me waiting.
I am crazy about this little person. I would often take my day off  (Fridays) and go to her house very early in the morning and take care of her all day. And her parents are very good at sharing. They visit us a lot. I do lots of crazy things for her. I get up very early and let her mom and dad sleep. I lay on the floor reading books and telling stories until I need help getting up. I send her pictures of myself making faces and singing songs, neither of which are flattering. Today on her birthday I sent her a video of me singing Happy Birthday to her in Spanish! My singing is bad and my Spanish is worse! And now with the internet who knows where this might show up?!  I fill my house with stuff for her that totally destroys any semblance of order or decor. 

In short, I am crazy. Insane. Certifiable 5150. In days gone by I would be a clear candidate for an insane asylum. 

I prefer to think of it as a place for love crazy gramas. Gramas who are full of crazy love for their grand babies. Let's call it Gramasylum. I want to create such a place for others like me.

I now have three grandchildren and am waiting for a call any moment that the fourth is on the way. My couch runneth over! My Christmas letters have been saved from landscape emptiness! I am crazier than ever! There are lots of you out there. I know. And we need to band together so that others cannot make us shrink back one iota from our craziness. Join me!
Lo Lo has inherited a bit of the craziness, too.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done for one of your grandchildren? Leave a snapshop of your craziness in a comment for the rest of us crazies to enjoy!