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.