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!