Just Waiting for the Little Bodies

We are ready

There you have it! The dresses and shirt and pants for Easter Sunday for all the Blankman grandkids are all lined up just waiting for their adorable little bodies. The vision and hope is for four girls and one boy all dressed up with somewhere to go–Easter Sunday worship. Last year I shopped for Easter clothes and we got a picture of all of them all lined up on the couch in their matching outfits. I crazy love this picture of them together.

We did it last year

From left to right: Jenna, Laurel, Kasen, and Colette. Worked last year! But we have added one this year. Frances was born in July. I went ahead and shopped for Easter outfits again this year. It remains to be seen whether we can pull this off, or, I should say, pull these on! We’ll see whether or not the line up will be complete with all five of them dressed and lined up.

It requires a miracle

Getting them all here, at Cece and Papa’s house at the same time is one hurdle. Then getting them all dressed in these particular outfits at the same time is a second hurdle. Nappers can throw a wrench in the plans at any time. However, even if they are all awake, the final hurdle is the most challenging. It’s a tantamount to herding cats. Somehow we must get them all in a the same picture perfect space, get them all looking in the right direction, hopefully get them all smiling; well, at least not any of  them crying. All this requires a miracle. But of course, Easter is all about miracles. I am a believer, so I believe we can do it! Although, I think someone might have used Easter baskets as a bribe.

Why is one dress not like the other

If you are a close observer, you noticed one of the dresses in the lead picture is not the same as the other three. Aha! There is a reason for that. A good reason. After I had spent several hours shopping and picking out the new dresses with little matching sweaters, and a nice shirt and pant set for my handsome Kaso, I sent a picture of the clothes to the moms. I did this to let them know that they did not have to shop for Easter clothes if they did not want to. Crazy Cece had taken care of it early. They were all grateful. One glitch, however. One of the little girls already had this dress. Whaaaat?! Yes. This. Very. Same. Dress. Doh!

There was no way that I had time to start shopping all over again. So, using FaceTime now, and with the help of her mommie, we shopped for one new and different dress for little Jenna–the one who already had this dress. I wasn’t taking the chance and getting it wrong twice! Jenna would still get a new dress. But, for picture cuteness perfection, and total Gramasylum craziness she would  have to wear the old  one on Easter! No getting around it. She would get the new little sweater but she would wear the old dress–the one that would match with all the other little girls. That is of course, if we can get them all dressed up and lined up and looking up at the same time!

It’s crazy wonderful

I know. It’s crazy. But by now you know that is exactly where I live and where I want to be. Admit it. Your little loves make you crazy, too. There is no better way to be! Stay tuned for the 2017 Blankman Easter Beautiful Granz Line Up. You will see it. I believe in miracles. It’s crazy wonderful.

Do you have pictures of your granz dressed alike for special occasions? Send them to me at candie@candieblankman.com and I will post them here at Gramasylum!


Frankie’s Favorite Toy

Toys R Hers

Frankie has a million six toys. There are the standard baby toys that have stood the test of time. She has plush little animals, lots of chew rings and shapes, and rattles all over the place. Frankie has a play mat with a veritable zoo hanging overhead. She has one of those push cart thingy majiggys that are  very popular with the littles these days and actually help them learn to walk. Her push cart has enough gadgets to help her learn a full year of developmental tasks for tots. Some of her toys are so sophisticated. They sing, play music, and speak different languages. They are interactive. If she touches or pushes or pulls on some of them they talk to her or sing to her, all the while flashing lights of every hue and color. She has one of those bounce saucers that has so many gadgets she would have to stay in it for two or three years to play with everything that is at her disposal on the 360 degree tray that surrounds her. And, of course, Frankie can bounce her heart out. All the while various and sundry animals dangle around and above her within reach, ready to be pulled and squeezed. These animals also delight and entertain her with sights and sounds. One of the animal sounds is supposed to be an elephant. If you ask me, it sounds more like a Velociraptor. Frankie does a great impression of a Velociraptor.

Her Own Library

She also has more books than most small town libraries.  Books about everything imaginable. Only eight months old and she already loves books. Of course, she loves to eat them more than read them, but if you use a lot of different voices she will listen for a few minutes when she is heading down naptime lane. Her mother says her favorite book is one that Cece and Papa gave her for Christmas this past year. It may be true, or her mother may be working on racking up brownie points with me. No matter. I will take it either way. The boo  is The Pout Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen. You can find it in stores and on Amazon. The story involves several other species of fish that interact with the Pout Pout Fish. It’s one of those happy ending stories.  On the last page of the book Mr. Pout Pout Fish is upside down, and what do you know? He is smiling now! Everyone is happy. Being a relentless optimist and idealist, it is my kind of book for sure. I love happy ending stories. I am so pleased Frankie likes it, too. Every family has their smilers and pouters. Hopefully this book will help put Frankie on the smiley team.

She’s Got the Moves

Though Frankie is not yet walking, or crawling, she can get pretty much wherever she wants to go by spinning and rolling. She is very adept at these moves. She sees what she wants. Her little arms function like a sort of compass orienting her little frame in the direction she wants to roll, and off she goes! Sometimes it requires slight adjustments and partial rolls, but she always ends up where she wants to be with what she wants in her hands. Frankie knows what she wants and knows how to get where she wants to go. She is so good at this maneuvering she could get by without crawling or walking for quite some time!

So What’s Her Favorite

So, with all these colorful and interactively amazing toys filling her space, what is Frankie’s favorite thing to play with? Unless you presently have a small child in your home all the time, I doubt you would ever guess. A drumroll here would be a really nice affect, followed by a “padump bump” after I announce. Frankie’s favorite thing to play with in this veritable Toys-R-Hers house she lives in, is . . . the tags on her play mat! Padump bump! Yes. Those white tags with product information and warnings with text and symbols front and back that are sewn into the edge of every toy you buy are her favorite. The inscription warns you NOT to remove them at the risk of losing everything you value and love. Little did I know that the loss warning included the attention of very small children to everything else in the room!

Frankie’s favorite “toy” is those stupid tags! (Sorry, Kaso. I know Cece is not supposed to say “stupid.” But, really?!) All the amazing brain stimulating, educationally designed, artistically created, light and sound gizmos in the room and Frankie heads right for the tags. The pictures in this blog do not lie. I mean look at that relative to Frankie full sized red, yellow, and orange giraffe right within reach! Nope. The tags have it!

The manufacturers must know this. Somewhere in every toy design lab in the world there must be a manual on how to make these tags irresistible. They are made of indestructible, and thank goodness, indigestible plastic. The only way to get rid of them is to cut them off. But no! Don’t do it! Don’t even consider it! You never know what you will lose! And, besides, you will end up with sobbing, forlorn grandbabies. They will turn into Pout Pout Fish no matter how smiley they were before. Poor little Frankie would be rolling from toy to toy, from edge to edge, frantically searching for those tags. I do not remember this strange phenomenon when my kids were little. My memory is less available than it once was, so perhaps these tags were favorites long ago. Whatever the case may be, I clearly saw it this past Friday when I was spending the day with Frankie.

The Craziness Thickens

My entrepreneurial spirit is awakening. I am thinking about manufacturing a baby mat completely covered and bordered with tags of every color, size and shape. Perhaps with some ingenuity and microscopic computer chips (safely embedded and indigestible also, of course) I could design them to talk and sing and make tag sounds. What would those sounds be? I could manufacture tag blankets and mats and pillows and books, and grama clothing, that way the babies would always want to come to grama! Wall to wall carpet. Nothing but tags! The possibilities are endless! Wait. This is crazy! My condition must be worsening. There is no turning back. Gramasylum really is the perfect place for me. Tag that!

What are some of the craziest things to catch your grandchild’s fancy? Share it with us in the comments below.


Always trade-offs in life

In 2012 we downsized and moved from a house and yard with a pool to a condo just steps from the beach. My dream for years (my husband said it was a pipe dream, ha!) had been to live with an ocean view. Now we were going to have it. But, it was a challenging move. There were trade-offs. Much less square footage and no garage or yard meant we had to divest ourselves of all sorts of things.

We had a beautiful back yard. It had it all. In California this is uncommon in our price range. Land is so expensive. So many houses with pools do not have green space. The pool takes up all of that. Our yard had a pool and green space. There was a veranda on the back of the house and two other covered areas to sit and enjoy the pool or the yard. It was full of flowers and trees that made it a garden paradise—you were not staring into the kitchen window of a neighbor. I had planted lilies from Easter every year for ten years and so in the spring there was a bank of beautiful trumpeting white lilies. Sumptuous rose bushes, elegant birds of paradise, exploding ice plants, and lush greens filling the senses in every direction. Birds and critters flew and scurried everywhere. It felt like a piece of heaven on earth.

In 2010 I took up oil painting and had established a little studio in the corner of the garage. This allowed me to paint my heart out any time of the night or day without disturbing anyone else. My vocation is intense, often stressful, and on-call twenty-four-seven.  No day is completely off. In painting I found a refuge where I would lose track of all worries and stressors and time. And, if I was called away for an emergency, I could leave everything as it was. It would wait for me. It would not be in anyone’s way. Space was varied and generous with this home.

Big but. . .

But. And here is a big “but.” It was a lot of work. Remember. In Southern California there is no dormant season. Stuff grows, and grows, and grows, and grows all year round. Sure, I cut back my rose bushes in January and they were dormant…for about two months! Then, bam! Roses everywhere. Weeds everywhere, and continuous work to keep them groomed and unobstructed by weeds. My husband spent most of every Saturday we were home doing yard work. And when we took vacation we  returned and paid dearly. it would take several days of work to get the yard back in shape. And there was the pool. We did not have pool service. We were the pool service. More work.

So when I changed jobs in 2012 we made the decision. We gave up yard, garage, flowers and trees, outside space to lounge and play, and pool to refresh or swim. We moved into a condo with a pool but no garage or yard. But it has an ocean view. And this was not a minimalist ocean view. In Southern California real estate can be listed as “peekaboo ocean view.” This means that from somewhere in the house, and it could be a closet or bathroom, you can see at least a sliver of the ocean peeking through between the two houses across the street. In the walk- through of home buying, it’s a sort of game to figure out where to peak to see the ocean! Ours was a full-on ocean view. From the minute we open our bedroom door the ocean is in view. Down the hall, and from any place in the kitchen or living-dining room area you can see the ocean. And we also have peekaboo views from all three bedrooms! When it comes to affordable ocean view property, we hit the jackpot. And, we are just steps from the beach and pier. We walk the beach every morning without having to get in a car to get there. What we gave up in exercise from yard work we gained in exercise from walking the beach. And we have a pool but someone else services it. Not too shabby!

What does this have to do with Gramasylum

Wait. So what does all this have to do with being a crazy grandmother? A lot! When we moved in 2012 we only had two grandchildren. One was barely a year old and the other only three months old. They were pretty contained and not very mobile. With three married children we were pretty confident more were on the way. In our new condo there would be much less interior space, and our exterior space was not simply out the back patio door. It was two elevators (or eight flights of stairs) and a five minute hike down to the beach. The beach! An ocean beach! Our backyard was now the ocean. And no upkeep for us in that! No lawn to mow, no trees to trim, no flowers to attend to through four seasons. We had moved to a no-maintenance ocean view. It was no longer a dream, let alone a pipe dream.

The adult children all “voted” yes on this move. I think they just might have been thinking about eventual inheritance. For them it would be a vacation getaway, a second home, a beach home! For us, it was our only residence–home. How would this work with grandchildren? By 2015 there were five of them. How would small children do in this small space with no backyard to run and play in. Not having the pool right in our backyard was actually a relief for us. The constant supervision or the cost to enclose would both have been real challenges for us. But would these littles like coming to Papa and Cece’s condo?

It’s not about the amount of space

They. Love. It. They beg their parents to go to Cece’s house. We find ways to make the space big and fun. We make forts with blankets. They have their own little table for eating and playing with play dough or painting or cutting and pasting things. They love to use the binoculars on our little balcony patio to try and see whales or huge ships from Camp Pendleton that are often just off shore doing maneuvers. And, did I tell you about the train? The tracks are just off the shore between us and the beach. We thought the noise would be a nuisance. We got use to the noise. And the grandchildren LOVE the trains. They can hear the ding, ding, ding of the beach crossing bars going down, with red lights flashing and the train whistle a mile away. Wherever they are in the condo they come running for the balcony patio saying, “Train, train, train! Cece, train!” I whisk them up in my arms and we run pell-mell to the patio just in time to see the train speed by. And we stay to watch the crossing bars with the flashing red lights going back up and we mimic the motion and the ‘ding, ding, ding” of the warning bell until the bars are up, the lights have stopped and the dings are done. It is a much-loved routine. Three of the grandchildren have experienced and loved this routine. The fourth and fifth will soon begin. And the older two now watch the trains and figure out where they are going. They now know the southbound trains are headed to Lolo’s house and the northbound are headed to Kaso’s house! At five and a half and four and a half the trains still hold their attention.

They all love the beach. They are not yet old enough to swim or surf or boogey-board. But we build sand castles. We have little shark-headed garbage grabbers to help with beach clean-up. It’s fun and they learn to care for the beautiful world God has given them. We gather bamboo sticks and build imaginary animals. Last time Kasen visited, Papa taught him how to break small rocks against larger rocks to find fossils or agates or other treasures that might be hidden inside. You would have thought Papa took him to Disneyland! And of course, there is always throwing rocks. What kid does not love to throw rocks? And there is no ending in the supply of rocks or of ocean to throw them in.

For now we are confident the trade-offs were worth it. As they grow up, we are pretty confident they will still love to come to our house. They will likely spend less time with us and more with friends on the beach or in the water, but they will come.

The bottom line

The bottom line here in Gramasylum is that it is not about the space as much as it is about the relationships and the investment of time. Do I want to be interrupted in whatever I am doing every time a train goes by? No. But for them, I drop anything to run to the balcony patio to go through the ding ding ding routine. Do I love my small condo strewn from back to front with toys and baby paraphernalia? No. But for them no mess is big enough to not want them around. Do I love schlepping all the beach gear every time we go “outside.” No. But for them I will “shlepp til I drop” in order to be with them and participate in the wonder of discovering all this beach location affords. When it comes to loving grandchildren it is the time not the space that really matters. With a little imagination and a lot of crazy love any space can be fun for kids. It does not require expensive toys or equipment. Sticks and rocks, and blankets and boxes, can provide hours of fun.

We made a challenging decision to downsize. We traded space, a backyard with pool for a view and quick access to the ocean. For now our grandchildren love to come. With a little crazy planning and crazy flexibility we hope they will continue to want to come, not because of the space, but because of the crazy love we have for them. As long as I can breathe and move I will be as crazy as I need to be to have them come. It’s Gramasylum. There is no turning back!

What creative and crazy things have you done to have fun with your grandchildren?

Pure Crazy-Making Sweetness

I wish I could put the sound of her voice in this blog.  I know. If I was tech-savvy enough, I could! I’m not, okay? You’ll have to imagine this tiny little, sweet-as-Godiva-milk-chocolate, sincere-as-you-can-imagine voice saying these things. Let me give you just a sampling of her standard, unsolicited responses to everyday things in life.

“Ohhhhh, sank you soooo much, Cece!”

“Weerwy?”  Said with arms and legs moving rapidly and sheer joy.

“Ohhhhh, I jus wuuuv it!”

“No fank you, Cece.”

“I wuuuv my Cece.” This one, of course, will get her anything she asks for after it.

“Ohhhhh, I so sited [excited]!”

“Axually, ….” followed by some correction to what she just said. She actually usually has something to say well worth listening to, But, just her saying “axually” gets me every time!

You get the flavor. This little two-and-a-half-year-old girl is full of so much enthusiasm and so much sweetness you would think she has been coached. She has not. She has been carefully instructed in manners and politeness, yes. Please and thank you are expected family norms. But the way she says them cannot be coached. It would be impossible to coax it out of any child and sound genuine. It just comes out of her and it flows full and abundantly. It is clearly the result of pure unadulterated (read, “no adult messing with it”) joy and glee at the simplest things in life.

Homemade waffles for breakfast for these littles is a long-standing tradition at Cece’s house. No Eggos for these precious mites. In her short two-and-a-half years of life I have made her waffles at least two dozen times. Yet, this past weekend when I made her waffles, the “Ohhhhh, sank you sooo much Cece” sounded like she just opened a surprise door and got a live pony for her birthday! I am not kidding. She is pure sweetness and enthusiasm. Add to the sweet little lispy voice, the image of her barely thirty-four inch frame running down the hall with her little heels kicking up behind her as she tells you how “sited” she is and this grama goes crazy with love. With this combo you have the makings of a child who could ask for just about anything and get it. At this age and stage, she is not asking for much, but she could! Actually, she does often ask for “pawcone” [popcorn] and a movie in our bedroom. A few pillows stacked on the bed, microwave popcorn, and a bottle of water, and you’d think it was a Disneyland show.  She gets a movie and popcorn just about whenever she asks. Especially when she wants to watch my personal favorite movie, Finding Nemo. Can’t you hear her? “Ohhhhh, I jus wuv Nemo!”  ‘Ohhhhh, sank you fo da pawcone, Cece!”

I can’t help but wonder how long this will last. Her older brother is pretty darn sweet, too. Although, at four-and-a-half he has already learned the art of teasing and twisting his sweetness for maximum effect. His latest? At his house, when his mom went out to push him on the swings he said, “Sorry, mom, but I kinda like Cece better than you.” Sweet for me. Not so sweet for her. But while he was here this weekend when he was sitting in my lap, he reversed it with a mischievous little grin on his face. Traitor! He is sweet and excited about playing all the angles.

I am very proud that my daughter has passed on the manners training she received. I got a little of it back at me this weekend. I called something stupid. Kasen, the four-and-a-half year old, quickly and gently instructed me saying, “We don’t say stupid.” I apologized but also qualified the principle. We do not call people stupid but the TV remote is a perfectly appropriate target for such language.

Back to the sweet little sister. On top of it all she hardly ever stops smiling and the dimple on her left cheek is a mile deep. The combined effect of the cuteness, the sweetness, and the sheer joy for simple life is a slam dunk crazy grama-maker. This is why I created Gramasylum. I live here. I am happy to live here. And, I am getting crazier by the minute. Or, should I say, I am getting crazier by the grandchild.

What are the things that your grandchildren say that make you crazy? Share them below in the comments. Maybe, I’ll write a book. Crazy idea.

Cousin Love

The love that I have for my grandchildren is hard to describe. Any attempt to quantify it falls abysmally short. Those of you who have these little people creating chaos in your life and home and heart, know exactly what I am talking about. And you would think that after a while you would hit max love capacity. You would think that there just could not be any more room to love any more of them. Not the case. Each time another one is born, the love capacity immediately expands–no explodes–to make room for more love to pour out and over and all around your life. Granted, my life has only five of these remarkable little heart-stealing, love-inspiring people. Perhaps when you reach ten or twelve you begin to reach the outer edges of the capacity for love. Settle down, prodigy of mine. I KNOW there are not going to be twelve of them in our family. It’s just a number I pulled out of the air for the sake of this blog, ok? Yet, I have friends who have eight and twelve and fifteen grandchildren and there is no sign of the explosive love fizzling out!

All this love of my grandchildren is grand. Maybe that’s partly why they are called grandchildren! Never thought of that until now! But there is another love generated by these little people that simply sends me over the moon with emotion. Their love for each other causes my heart to feel things I never knew it could feel.

I am so grateful that they live close enough to be able to spend time together. I do not take it for granted. The three older ones, ages 5, 4, and 2 1/2, already openly express their affection for each other.  Whenever we FaceTime with Laurel Ana (Lo Lo) the first thing she usually asks is, “Is Kaso there?” Or if we are talking about being together she asks, “Will Kaso be there?” And it is exactly the same for Kasen (Kaso). When we FaceTime with him, one of the first things he asks is, “Is Lo Lo there?”  Jenna, the one in the middle has now expressed the same affection for her two younger cousins, Colette (CoCo or Cokie) and Frances (Frankie). When she can squeeze into the FaceTime conversation by elbowing her way past her big brother Kasen, and get a word in edgewise, she asks, “Is Cokie there?” and, “Me see Frankie?” These little people genuinely and enthusiastically love each other. I have a lot of people in my life who I love, who do not even know each other, let alone, love each other. What a precious gift and great thrill it is to have these little people who make me crazy with love, love each other, too. I don’t even mind that they completely dis me on FaceTime to ask about their cousins! I love it!

It won’t be long until Cokie and Frankie will join the chorus. Cokie is old enough to get in on some of the love fun, but still younger enough that the older granz usually designate her as the one to be run from or the one to hide from. For now she loves whatever attention she can get. Eventually she will join the lovefest and Frankie will not be far behind. Frankie, just seven months old, already loves to just watch the cousins run around and be crazy with each other. It’s hard to even get eye contact with her when they are in sight. But I get so much joy out of watching Frankie watching them love each other, its okay if they all ignore me. This is Gramasylum taken to the next level of craziness.

Whenever they are together I try to tell them how blessed they are to live close enough to be together often. And, I encourage them to stay friends and continue to love each other as they grow up. One day they will be coming to Grama Cece’s house and they will disappear into the world of preteen goings-on, the park, the beach, the library, the pool, or just in the other room whispering. And eventually they will drive away together (Lord, have mercy!) to do things Grama Cece will never be able to do with them. (And some things they will not want Grama Cece to know they are doing!) These relationships, this cousin love, has the capacity to be a major source of joy, comfort, support, and friendship for years to come.

I know it’s not a guarantee. One family could move away. All three families could move away. (See Grama Cece inconsolable on the floor with wailing and gnashing of teeth!) And, I know they could  grow up in ways that would intentionally or unintentionally cause distance between them. They could choose to grow up in ways that would not allow the love to continue to grow. They could choose not to share life regularly–to be close friends. But a grama can dream, can’t she? And, I can continue to tell them about the amazing possibilities and encourage them to appreciate and love each other every moment they can. The world can be a lonely and cruel place at times. Cousin love just might be one of the things to help them see through those cruel and lonely times!

Did you have a cousin like this when you were growing up? How do you encourage your grandchildren to be friends? Share your memories and experiences in the comments below.

Experience Gifts

I don’t know about other people’s grandchildren’s collection of toys, but all five of ours could open their own Toys R Us! They have toys that have toys. Their toys move, morph, make noises, mimic, and do just about everything you can image. Many are battery operated. Some are wifi enabled! Yikes! This is crazy amazing. But even for Gramasylum, where the grama is crazy, it is a significant challenge to buy gifts for these littles who have almost everything their imaginations can think of! Ta da! Enter “experience gifts.” I don’t know when this term came into vogue. And, actually, I was giving them before I knew there was a term for them. But with the reality of my grandchildren’s playrooms filled with enough toys for a store of their own, experience gifts have become the main way we give.

Two years in a row we have given the two older grandchildren trips to LegoLand for their birthdays. And for two years one family has received a family membership to the LA Zoo. Actually, it’s a Deluxe Membership—Grama Cece is on the family pass, too! I know how to do experience gifts really well.

The latest experience gift effort knocked it out of the park. Using a Groupon coupon, we purchased two discount tickets to Medieval Times in Buena Park. We decided this would be a boys adventure. Papa and Kasen, the guy among the gals in our tribe of five grandkids, were headed for a Medieval adventure. Papa and Kasen had watched a couple of videos on jousting knights and Kasen was quite impressed. So, we decided to let him experience the live re-enactment that Medieval Times provides.

About two weeks before the show, we told Kasen that we had a surprise for him. We told him that he and Papa were going to do something together—just the two of them. He was very excited. Every time we talked, or FaceTimed in those two weeks he asked us what the surprise was. He just wanted a hint! It was hard but we held the line and told him he would have to wait. After all, it was a surprise! Finally, Kasen arrived with his mom and sister a couple of days before the event. That is when we told him about Medieval Times. He was VERY excited. He wanted to bring his own little Amazon Fire to take pictures so he asked his mom to be sure it was fully charged. A rather expensive “toy” itself, mom was not so sure he should take it. Grama Cece found him a little back bag to put it in so he would not set it down and lose it, so his mom let him take it.  But, Kasen was also a little concerned.  Remembering the videos he had watched, Kasen advised Papa that they should not sit in the first row or near where the knights were jousting. He explained to Papa, “If those swords or jousting poles break, they could come flying and hit us!” Kasen did not want to be hit by one of those! Kasen wanted to be sure that he and Papa would sit up higher away from the knights. All of a sudden we wondered if it would be too scary for Kasen. He is all boy and hitting and kicking and smashing everything in sight. But, he is also a sensitive little soul. The tickets were already purchased. Papa made sure they left early enough to get a seat wherever Kasen wanted, but guessed the closer seats would fill  up first anyway.

For three days, every couple of hours before the event Kasen would ask, “Are we leaving pretty soon, Papa?” Finally, the day came and the time to leave came. Kasen could hardly stand still. He was beside himself with excitement. Papa was too. He just doesn’t show it as much! Truth be known, so was I. Secretly, I wanted to go along. But I knew this was a boys outing. I told Papa to be sure and send pictures. But Kasen’s Fire never left his back bag and Papa only got two pictures. Papa took one picture in the gift shop waiting for the show to begin. The entrance goes through the gift shop, of course. Cece had given Kasen five dollars to buy a souvenir. The picture below shows the items that captured Kasen’s heart—a castle, a dragon, and a knife with a snake sheath. Obviously, it was not in his budget! So, after the show, he ended up buying a knights blue flag, the color of the knight he chose to cheer for during the event. The other picture above, simply shows the event in progress. I was a bit miffed there were no other pictures until Papa explained why.

Kasen was so mesmerized by the event he hardly moved. His little neck and head just cleared the table they were seated at and his chin rested on the table through the entire event. He was transfixed with it all. One time, bouncing in his seat, Papa heard Kasen say, under his breath, “I am so excited!”  And only one other time did he take his eyes off the knights and their horses. Without any prompting, he turned to Papa and said, “Thank you, Papa, for bringing me to the castle!” Heart melt. Papa then. Cece when Papa told her.

This is what experience gifts are all about.  They can cost a little more, but they last a lifetime. Toys come and go. Toys break. Toys are reproducible. Experiences are one of a kind. They create memories and build relationships like no toy ever can. Sure, some childhood toys are remembered and even kept and passed on.  I have a few of these well-made toys. Remember Baby Tiny? (See August 28, 2016 blog post.) But they do not create the depth of experience that going together to the LA Zoo does, or to LegoLand, or to Medieval Times. I am crazy about experience gifts. Even when Cece doesn’t get to go, Gramasylum expands with every outing! The crazy love gets deeper and deeper.

Do any of  you other crazy gramas out there have good suggestions for other experience gifts? Comment here and share the wealth!

Just When You Think They Are Asleep

We changed her diaper. We got our jammies on. We watched a movie and had popcorn. We brushed our teeth. We gave goodnight kisses and hugs to brother, grandpa, and mommy. We got our paci (pacifier). We found baby tiny, bear, doggy, and blankie and tucked them all close by in our little sleeping bag bed on the floor. We read a book. We said our prayers. I sang every song I know to sing at bedtime at least two times. We laid together for at least thirty minutes until all the tossing and turning stopped. All the legs and arms swinging and sweeping came to a rest. The outstretched arm with hand touching my neck to make sure I was still there slowly slipped down to the sleeping bag on the floor. Ok.  Until I fell asleep, too. Then, when I woke up because of the pain in my side and neck from laying on the floor next to her, I carefully got up, put my glasses back on, turned the lamp light off, and quietly closed the door as I left the room.

It is such a joy to be with these little ones as they call it a day. The fact that she allows me to do this rather than her mommy is quite an honor! But it is an ordeal. Probably close to an hour from beginning to end. Sometimes I can do two at one time. Not this night. It was just me and Jenna. And, I was ready for a little adult conversation and a glass of wine to finish off the night. Her grandfather, her mom and I were doing just that. Some time passed. It seemed like awhile. But, all of a sudden, from down the hall came a little voice and the jammied little two-year-old Jenna with her hand on her head saying, “I want piggy tails.” All three adults burst out laughing. She was awake at 10 p.m. and she was walking and talking and requesting her hair to be put in pig tails. We could hardly believe it. I had tried to put her hair in piggy tails two days in a row and she would not have it. Now, some how she woke up after only a little while asleep and knew what she wanted. She wanted pig tails. What is a grama to do? There was only one thing to do. Give the girl pig tails!

We walked together to the bathroom. She climbed the little step stool we have for the kids to reach the sink and mirror. I gave her pig tails. She was completely satisfied. No protest to stay up later. No whining when I put her back in her little sleeping bag bed. No fussing and crying about staying up. She had what she wanted. Pig tails. She looked adorable. She IS adorable. But what goes on in the mind of a little two- year-old when they refuse for two days to allow you to put their hair in pig tails and then, suddenly, they awake and decide it is time to have them? I do not know. I do not understand. I just respond with the crazy grama love that comes rushing in every time something like this happens. I wish I had a picture to show you of the striped-pajama, baby tiny hugging two-year-old sweetie, but there was no way to interrupt this Gramasylum moment with a photo shoot! The pictures posted here are from a few days before when she first allowed her mommy to give her pig tails.

I try to say “yes” as often as I can, and say “no” only when it is really necessary. That is the privileged territory of a grandmother. I do whatever she says within reason. Reason flexes a lot in Gramasylum. Like when she wants to have waffles three meals a day. She loves waffles. Is it all that crazy to eat them three times a day? I do sneak in other food groups. A strawberry on her plate. A little peanut butter on a banana. Chocolate milk instead of water. A Dum Dum sucker for dessert. Ok, I know it is not ideal, but in the long run, what harm is there? Waffles have eggs and milk in them and I use olive oil instead of vegetable oil! Downright healthy waffles! Ok. The Dum Dums are dumb. Crazy love calls for crazy meals!

So, piggy tales past bedtime. Waffles three meals a day. A Dum Dum thrown in here and there. It is crazy and I love it! What are you willing to confess you have done in the grip of crazy grama love?!

Blind Bags and a Bowl of Money

When I began planning the day, I had no idea what blind bags were. Boy was I was in for an education from my five-year-old grandaughter.

Her daddy is a teacher and he had an in-service day. But Laurel had the day off. It was a Friday—my regular day off. Perfect! I planned to spend the day with Lo. I went online and looked around for things to do with her in San Diego. We had not been to the New Children’s Museum for a couple of years. It is located downtown San Diego. So I decided we would head to the museum in the morning, and then do  lunch at the Corvette Diner near Old Town just a couple miles from the museum before we headed home. I asked her mom if she had any shopping she needed to do. I was thinking maybe she needed a new backpack, or some school supplies, or maybe an umbrella since it has been raining so much this winter. Her mom just told me she had some money and was eager to spend it.

So the day before I FaceTimed with Laurel and asked her where she wanted to go shopping. Without any hesitation, she said, “Target.” I had an idea this meant she knew exactly what she wanted. She clearly had been “window shopping” before. Now she had the cash! I had no idea how much cash she had, but I would find out.

When I arrived at her house I told her what the plan was for the day. I said we would go to the New Children’s Museum, then to lunch, then we would shop before we headed home. Oh no. Very sweetly, and with eyes on me that could not be denied, she said, “Oh, Cec!” She calls me Cec (pronounced,Sees). Short for Cece (pronounced, SeeSee). It makes me melt. So there is not much she could say after “Oh Cec,” that would not get her whatever she wants! “Oh, Cec, can we go to Target first? Please. Pleeeeeeease?” she begged with enough sweetness to put me way over my recommended daily sugar intake. I explained to her that this would reduce the amount of time we could spend at the museum. She said she was okay with that. So, the agenda was changed. We would go shopping at Target first.

My usual routine when I go to Lo’s for the day, is to text or call my husband to let him know I arrived safely. The grandkids call him Papa. But Lo now endearingly calls him “Pops” for short. It melts him, too. So I called him to tell him I had arrived safely and that Laurel and I were headed out for the day. I told him Lo had revised the schedule and we were headed to Target to shop first. Papa knows I like Target, too. I often go there to purchase one or two needed items. I come home with bags and bags of stuff that I simply could not resist. Stuff that had my name all over it. Just what I needed and in my colors! Target seems to know just what I need and always displays these things on the end caps so that I simply cannot miss them.

So, Papa says to me, “Don’t spend all your money.”

“Ok, Papa, no guarantees, but I will keep your suggestion in mind!” I responded.

After I hung up, it was clear LoLo had been paying close attention to the conversation with Papa.

“Papa has lots of money, Cec,” LoLo informed me.

“Oh, yah?” I responded with a fair amount of curiosity in my voice.

“Yup,” she said, “He has a whole bowl full of money in his bedroom.” She continued to inform me, “It’s as big as a cereal bowl and it is full of money.”

Wait, there’s more.

With great drama she explained, “It’s so full that if he had another one hundred coins they would just fall out because it is so full.”

Wow! Who knew? My husband was holding out on me. He had so much money that he had no room for any more! Such is the perception of a five year old. I decided to go with her perception, rather than my husband’s admonition on this shopping day. I would shop with that bowl full of money in mind.

Given this conversation on the way to Target, I thought perhaps LoLo had a purse full of money and that she would be  spending a lot. As it turned out, she had a much more realistic perception of her own money and was surprisingly and pleasantly frugal about it.  She had ten dollars to spend.  I was especially pleased to learn she also had some other money in a zippered pocket in her purse that was reserved for her to give to her church. This is gratifying evidence of a value passed on. When her daddy was growing up, we taught him to “give some, save some, and spend some.” Clearly, her daddy and mommy were passing on this value. Never once did she open that zipper with her church money to borrow or ask if she could use it, too.

And, clearly she had been window shopping. Laurel knew exactly what she wanted. Little things. She loves little things. Miniatures. And she loves surprises. It just so happens that  children’s programs and movies are creating major product lines specifically targeting this love of little things and surprise things. They are called “blind bags.” And they are hot! These small plastic bags have little characters in them from Frozen, Zootopia, Shopkins, Heroes, Marvel, My Little Pony, Finding Dory and Nemo, and many more. You name it, there are blind bags for children to buy. Of course there are entire collections of each kind, so it keeps the children returning to buy more characters. And, to make purchasing the whole collection an explicit goal, the blind bags have check lists inside so the child can keep track of which characters they have and which ones they still need. What marketing genius! After all, a child could keep spending money and keep getting the same character over and over. It could take a lot of time and a lot of money to get the entire collection. Remember they are “blind bags.” What’s inside is a surprise. But Lo had found a way around this obstacle. Lo discovered a little “window” in the blind bags. If you manipulate them just so, she demonstrated for me, you can see what character is inside! She peaked into the window of several blind bags in order to find a character that she did not already have. I was totally transfixed with this child’s consumer knowledge of such things.

The little blind bags she was looking at ranged in price from $2.49 to $4.99. Each time she examined one she would ask me, “If I get this one Cec, can I still get something else?” As a result, after she chose three of them she still had about a dollar and a half left. Wouldn’t you know, we found a blind bag on clearance for $0.74. This little woman had ten dollars. She found four little things she liked, and when we checked out, after tax, she had $0.08 left!

I was quite impressed. LoLo never once asked for anything else, but she did such a great job of staying in her budget that I was tempted to buy her something to reward her. However, I restrained my Gramasylum impulses as I realized that it was important for her to learn the value of saving and buying and being satisfied. Ok. She did show me one thing that she really liked and said maybe it could be something for her birthday. I told her I would keep it in mind. But today she really was pleased as punch with her little purchases. When she got in the car and opened one of them, in it was the check list. She seemed as excited about the check list as she was the toy. First thing she wanted to do when we got home was find a pen and check off the Shopkins characters she purchased. Ten dollars worth of pure joy.

When her dad came home from work and I was preparing to leave, I realized that I had been so enthralled with Laurel’s focus in her purchases, so intrigued by her teaching me about blind bags, and so proud of her restraint in shopping, that I completely forgot to spend any money myself! I didn’t see or notice anything I needed. Even though Papa has all that money in that bowl, I did not spend a cent. Oh well. There is always next time. This was a crazy wonderful day without buying a thing!

Origami Lesson

What did I expect? On a recent trip to Japan I bought gifts for my granz. I was so excited. I love origami and I knew that both my older granz love to make things. One loves colors and shapes. One loves bugs. I found origami kits for both! I hit the jackpot! It would be a great hands-on, away-from-all-the-tech-toys-and-videos-activity for us to do together. Kaso would love folding the papers into all the different bugs and LoLo would love all the beautiful colors and different shapes. And, on top of it all, the price was reasonable, which I cannot say about all the things I looked at in the shopping mall in Tokyo. I knew origami was a bit tricky, but I thought we would be able to figure this out! Knowing how hard it is for children to wait for something, and knowing that the origami gift would take longer to realize, I also got them each a small toy.

I could hardly wait to give these gifts to the two older granz.  I was so excited! But as we began opening the origami kits I began to realize we might have a problem. What I did not think through or anticipate, though I certainly should have, was that all of the instructions and directions would be in Japanese.  Of course! What did I expect?! Japanese origami kits purchased in Tokyo, Japan, would of course have instructions and directions in Japanese. And there was no English translation. The good news is there were diagrams. Every fold of every shape and bug had diagrams. The bad news is the diagrams were so small and the folding so complicated we only made it through about six of more than twenty folds and we were stumped. Stopped cold in our folding tracks. Try as I might to follow the diagrams with all the little dotted lines for folds and all of the swirling arrows showing what direction to fold, I could not get past the sixth fold with the first bug for Kaso, or the first shape for Lolo! Epic fail in both cases. In the case of Kaso’s bug, there was even one corner of the paper with a white star on it to help keep the paper oriented correctly. Didn’t matter. I could not do it. I was disappointed. The granz were disappointed. We may not get this project done until one of them graduates with an engineering degree from a university! Not only am I certifiably crazy, in this case, certifiably stupid. What language did I expect the instructions to be in? And I knew just enough about origami to know they were pretty complex crafts. I apologized and explained that we would have to go online to see if we could find some instructions in English or one of their parents, smarter than their grandmother, would have to assist with the origami projects. Good thing I brought them each another little gift. I was able to divert them and minimize the disappointment.

Kasen’s toy gift was also a puzzle, but no fancy folding required. It was a Japanese version of Legos and a modest one at that. I thought the “Lego” set could only be made into a dinosaur, which I knew Kaso would love. But upon closer examination we discovered it was about forty pieces that could actually make three different objects—a dinosaur, a robot, and a jet. Of course, the dinosaur was the top choice. Again, the instructions were in Japanese but this time the diagrams were much easier to follow. The epic fail on the origami paper project was a huge motivation for me to go the extra mile on this one.  This time the diagrams were three dimensional drawings. I can do, I thought. Flat paper folding in all sorts of ways and directions, not so much!

However, it was not all clear sailing. There was a slight problem this time was the size of the parts. Smaller than American Legos, they were so small they were hard to hang on to. And, the little nubs, or whatever you call the bumps that fit into the holes, were so small they did not connect very tightly. Let’s just say we put parts of the thing together several times. Just as we would start a new section of the dinosaur, an already put together part would fall apart! Very frustrating. Ok. Kasen was fine. I was frustrated. It took us awhile, but we finally did it! Kasen and I successfully put the parts together into the shape of a dinosaur. And the mouth actually opened and closed. Cute. In celebration of our successfully completed Japanese Lego project, we took a picture. We both gave it our best mean dinosaur face. I think we did pretty well at that, too.

I decided to quit while I was ahead. After all the time and effort it took, and seeing how easily it all could come apart, I wanted to glue the whole thing together. Kasen was not so enthusiastic about the idea. He wanted to build the other two shapes.  I let his mom help him do the next two.  Grateful for this outcome as it demonstrates that though I am crazy, I really am not stupid.

I Should Be In Jail

After a three month hiatus, Gramasylum is back. For all sorts of reasons I will not bore you with, I have been away from the blog. But I have not been away from the crazy life of a grandmother. Hope we can pick up where we left off, crazier than ever, and I hope you will share the blog with some of your crazy grama friends. We crazies need to stick together! We might need each other to post bail!

It is nothing short of a miracle that I am a free person. I should be in jail. I know what you are thinking. What has this crazy grama done now?! It is not my current state of craziness that threatens my freedom. It is my crazy past. Being a grandmother now five times over, I have learned so much. As a result, the evidence has mounted and is over-the-top incriminating related to my past childcare practices. The crazy things I did in the past as a mother in combination with all the things I did not do, by today’s mothering standards, would have landed me in jail. I would be guilty of negligence and the endangerment of multiple children. I would be in jail for life. Those of you who parented through the seventies and eighties and even into the nineties will likely recognize the territory I am about to describe and probably have felt some of the same incriminating guilt I feel. Crazy!

For starters, my children were hydrated with apple juice. Not occasionally, daily. In addition to nursing and whatever formula they were given, apple juice was a staple. I think I diluted it, for economic reasons, not health. It was the go-to beverage. It was fruit juice. And, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” right?! You know the saying. I bought only 100% pure apple juice.  No additives. All three of my babies drank it. My son, who walked by the time he was nine months old, and had several usable teeth by then, walked around the house with the nipple of the bottle of apple juice safely between his teeth so that he could take a swig at will. See this picture with hands-free milk bottle and substitute apple juice bottle from the second picture. You get the idea. I thought of myself as a downright natural mama. Oh no. But I was not totally crazy then, like I am now.



Check out this website for the nutrition of apple juice. It says,

“For every cup of apple juice consumed, nearly 10 different vitamins and minerals will have entered the body. This sweet drink, without any added sugar, provides a moderate amount of carbohydrates, mostly through all natural fructose and glucose; eight ounces equals about 10% of the daily required intake of carbohydrates for a 2000 calorie diet. Apple juice contains minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and magnesium. All0natural apple juice also provides vitamins C and B6.”  www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-nutrition-of-apple-juice.html

This is what I knew back in the olden days. It sounds very good and would seem responsible parenting to give it to your children, no?

However, here is information from a modern website specifically for moms and babies. Which, by the way, we did not have any of when I was raising my kiddos. How did we ever survive without the internet?!

“Your baby does not require any supplemental fluids such as water or juice for quite some time. [Oops.] Once your baby has turned 6-8 months old, with your pediatrician’s consult, you may then begin to offer very small amounts of water. [What?! Permission is needed from the doctor to give them water??!!] If you think your baby is ‘thirsty’ and would like a drink, try water. If you decide to offer fruit juice as a ‘drink’ try waiting until baby is at least 8 months old. [Oops.] **Offering juice as a constipation remedy [I wish I could say this is why I gave it to them. Not.] is acceptable as young as 4 months old with the consult of your pediatrician. [Nope. Didn’t ask.] **Giving your baby water as a first beverage instead of juice will be healthier in the long run. Always dilute any juice that is offered to babies and toddlers. We recommend diluting 75% water to 25% juice. [Hey! I got this one right!] Keep diluting for as long as possible. Juice should never ever be offered in a baby bottle. [Dang! My bad. Again!] Juice in a bottle is a major cause of dental problems. Also, never allow your baby or toddler to drink from a sippy cup of juice throughout the day.” [Are you kidding me? Who had sippy cups in those days?!] http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/juiceforbaby.htm

So apple juice might not be enough to lock me up. But there is more. I was raised loose in the car. There were no seat belts, let alone, safety seats. On family trips, my brother and two sisters and I played in the back of our station wagon. We fought in the back seat, changing seats often, and crawled back and forth between the rows of seats as a game. It was our creative way of avoiding boredom. It was our rendition of the game of tag for the car. I can hear the cell doors closing behind me now if my only one-out-of-six-right ratio of parental actions regarding apple juice had been brought to light all those years ago! But there is more.

By the time I had kids there were seat belts. And infant car seats had entered the world, too. I had one. One. I used the same car seat for all three kids. Our first child was five years old when the third one was born. That one car seat we used for six plus years. It was more like a big bucket that had slots to put the regular car seat belt through. That was it. And, might I say, it was a BEAR to get in and out of the car. I think it was the beginning of my lower back trouble. I digress. Back to my deserved incarceration. Did you know that car seats have expiration dates now? Mine didn’t. If it did, no one sent me a notice. And my children came along rather quickly. There was nineteen months between the first two. Either I was too busy or too exhausted or took a major break in contributing to the population of the United States, as the third one did not come along for three and a half years. At any rate, at no time did it enter my mind that I needed a new car seat. But by that time I think that my two older children were already in little booster seats that strapped into the regular car seat belt. Crazy as I was, I probably put them in these boosters when they could sit up securely by themselves—probably about twelve months. This for sure would put me at risk of arrest by today’s standards. Such a young child not strapped in like an Apollo One space traveler is unthinkable today. So when my grandchildren came along I knew an old infant seat like the one I had would not do. I knew I needed a more modern and more safe infant seat. And, I didn’t save the old one anyway.

When my first grandchild came along, I saw a beautiful car seat at a yard sale. It looked brand new. No visible wear and tear. No food residue. A fraction of the cost of a brand new one, I was so excited to buy it and be ready. So as not to implicate any particular parent in our family, let’s just say that I eventually found out that this car seat, even though not ancient, was unacceptable. Though it looked brand new, it was old. Had I checked the expiration date? What?! Car seats have expiration dates?! Of course! Why did I not know this?! More evidence for my negligence. It was beginning to rack up on me. I might be crazy but I am not stupid. Upon learning about expired car seats and their dangers, and, that I had been placing my beloved grandchildren in one, I went out immediately and bought a new one. Still in the box with expiration date clearly marked on the tag. I am a quick study, and I adore my grandchildren beyond words, and, want to stay out of jail, I really do!

I only have one car seat with an expiration date. When more than one child is in my care, we take unexpired car seats from other vehicles in order to get to and fro safely. This way no one breaks the law or risks being jailed. After acquiring this new and greatly improved car seat, all I could think about was that big bear of a bucket car seat that I used for over six years for three children and those silly little booster seats that followed. Lord have mercy! He was watching over my children when I was ill prepared and ill equipped! Six years and one very expired car seat and I was still wearing street clothes and remained free. God is good!

Apple juice and car seats. They are just the beginning. I do not have time or space (or sufficiently secure self-esteem) to confess all my deficient parenting. Let’s just say the deficiencies include sleeping positions, crib materials and decor, nursing intervals and positions, baby equipment sanitation, and, proper skill in crossing the street. What a miracle that all three of my children survived and that I did not end up behind bars.

I am crazy. No doubt about it. Crazy enough to have had kids. Crazy enough to think that I could successfully raise them. Crazy enough to believe they would grow up to be parents and allow me to take care of their children when they came along. Gramasylum for me began way before I actually had grandchildren. But having them has pushed me farther and farther into the crazy zone. And, there is no turning back!

I am grateful that my children have so much more parenting information available to them. I am thankful that they care deeply about safety and nutrition and the general well-being of my grandchildren. And, I am crazy grateful that, in spite of all my deficiencies and negligent past parenting, they allow me to be with and care for these precious and priceless little lives. I should be in jail. Instead, I am free to love and be loved by five (so far) little people who make me even crazier. Crazier and crazier with love.