Because He’s Five, That’s Why


My grandson Bret Jr. turned five yesterday. He marked the occasion by giving himself a Minion haircut (see photo), in preparation for his Minion-themed birthday party. And because, he says, it looks cool. Well, you can see the amazing resemblance…


Come to think of it, my own children were about five when they decided to try their hand at cosmetology, although I don’t recall that they started at the top of their heads, so maybe that’s a boy thing.

He got a fair share of Minion-related birthday presents, of course, and one friend gave him a book on raising chickens, along with a plastic chicken feeder and watering dish. He and his sister are desperate to raise chickens in their backyard. Well, mostly his sister, but he is one of her biggest supporters. You might think they live out on a country road somewhere, but they actually live in a heavily populated suburb of St. Paul. Nevertheless, their father is going to check with the city to see how many chickens they can have, while their mother, who suffers from severe ornithophobia, says she is willing to fry up the eggs. Because that’s how they are. This simply means that I will have to spend a portion of every visit outside looking at the chickens and exclaiming over the chickens and trying to avoid being pecked.

Anyway, Bret. A happy, smart, funny little boy who still assumes his seven-year-old sister knows more than I do about most things but doesn’t follow her around as blindly as he did two or three years ago. He is into action heroes, which is why I’ve had a little 5-inch man lying on the box next to my back door for a couple of months with instructions not to let anyone move him. I don’t.


Yes, birthday season is upon us. I have two more grandkid birthdays coming up in about a week. It wears me out some, but it is seldom boring.


Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Bret Jr., Part 2


Toddler Bret had his second birthday this week. I think I can still call him Toddler Bret since he just entered the Twos, as evidenced by the minor meltdown at his birthday party yesterday. “Just leave him alone and he’ll stop,” his sister said. Which proved to be the case after everyone – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – studiously avoided looking at him and certainly made no attempt to engage him in speech.

What really brought him around was his mother’s suggestion that he open his gifts a little early. It was an amazing turnaround. His favorite present was a little remote-controlled dog from his 93-year-old great-grandma. It didn’t matter how many times the dog walked off the end of the coffee table, he found it hilarious every time.

He liked everything else after that… the Happy Birthday song and the cake and the candles, which he blew out all by himself because he’s a big boy now. Soon he will be a big brother to someone. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, here’s a few thoughts from the last two years.

December 31, 2009
The most exciting news I got over the holidays is that grandchild No. 5 is on the way. Gina and Bret like to surprise me with this kind of thing. When she was pregnant with Cosette, they gave me a bunch of photos to look at, including one of the dog next to a sign that said, “I’m going to be a big sister.” I thought they were getting another dog, which seemed odd, but not for them.

You’d think they’d learn to give it to me straight, but no. This time they gave me a jar of spaghetti sauce for Christmas. I thought maybe it was homemade. It wasn’t. Then I thought, “What a stupid gift.” Finally, someone yelled, “She’s prego!” There are no Hallmark moments in our family.

September 8, 2010
I babysat for Cosette and Baby Bret Sunday night while their parents went to Stillwater for a good night’s rest. It’s hard to make it through the night at their house, mainly because Baby Bret has some baby reflux thing going on, which is seldom bad enough to wake him up but enough so he complains in his sleep.

The complaints are hard to describe, but they’re enough to set off the super-sensitive baby monitor sitting on the nightstand next to your head. As a result, you’re in his room roughly every half-hour, because maybe he really is awake and needs something. You never know and you never will until you get up and check. I sort of gave up on sleeping after a while, which is why I was washing dishes at 3:30 in the morning.

December 30, 2010
I watched Cosette and Baby Bret last night. He’s a pretty easygoing baby, especially if you carry him around without stopping. I guess he’s hungry a lot, because I’ve never known a baby so determined to suck your face. Which is hard to avoid when you are, as I say, carrying him around nonstop. As soon as his little face gets next to yours, he’s sucking your cheek or your chin or your eye socket. It feels weird. It is weird.

Also, he never stops talking. I call it talking because I don’t know what it is. It’s loud and comes from down in his throat somewhere. Along with Cosette’s never-ending dialogue, it’s noisy at their house. I would be very surprised if that changed in the new year.

January 28, 2011
I’m babysitting for six-month-old Baby Bret tonight while the rest of the family goes ice skating. Haven’t seen him for a while, but I imagine he’s as chubby as ever, and since he obviously can’t propel himself anywhere, I’ll have to lug him around. It isn’t going to help my back, which is still achy from last Saturday night when I slept with ten-year-old Maria, who will sleep smack dab in the middle of the mattress and good luck trying to move her.

He’s a cheerful little guy though, Baby Bret that is, as long as you keep him fed. Which I do whether it’s feeding time or not. My job, I believe, is to keep them happy by whatever means necessary and let their parents deal with it later. It is free babysitting after all, by someone who really loves your kid and doesn’t care what time you come home. Not surprisingly, parents find this very appealing. I figure they can deal with a kid who’s a little off his schedule.

Subscribe to this blog under Email Subscription in the right column.

Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Bret Jr., Part 1

All kinds of things change when you’re the fifth grandchild. For one thing, Grandma doesn’t have as many pictures of you to pick from when she needs one. For another, you have to be more assertive than numbers 1 to 4 to get any attention at all. Luckily, this is not a problem for Toddler Bret.

I call him Toddler Bret because he’ll be two in July and I can’t call him Baby Bret anymore. His sister said so. As I believe I mentioned, when his parents chose to make him a Junior, they failed to come up with a nickname, leaving everyone to muck along with two Brets in the family. I’m starting to wonder what Toddler Bret makes of it himself. Conversation at the dinner table, for instance.

“How was your day, Bret?”
“Bret, eat your apples.”
“Would you pass the mashed potatoes, Bret?”
“Bret, do you want more milk?”
“Ursa really needs a bath, Bret.”
“Bret, no feeding Ursa from the table.”

I picture him throwing up his little hands in despair. “What in the name of Fisher-Price does the woman want of me??”

Or maybe not. His days are full. He’s like a little locomotive, legs pumping, running here, running there. He has wants. He has needs. He has a lot to think about: “What’s going on? Wait for me, Cosette! I want to do that. Run, run, run! Where’s Ursa? Get the ball, Ursa! Where’s Mom? It’s time to jump off something! I can dance like the Wiggles. Mom, I need a hug. I want to go outside now. Where’s Cosette? What’s Cosette doing? I can do that!”

And that’s pretty much how it goes, all day long. His sister is commander in chief, i.e., whatever she does, he does. WHATEVER she does. Cosette jumps off the bed, Bret jumps off the bed. Cosette sticks out her tongue, Bret sticks out his tongue. Cosette marches down the driveway carrying a stick, Bret marches down the driveway carrying a stick. Cosette picks a flower and throws it in the bushes, Bret picks a flower and throws it in the bushes. Well, you get the picture.

Cosette likes to call me on the phone and let me know what’s going on at their house. Lately she’s been putting me on the speakerphone, because Toddler Bret has things he wants to say too. Well, yell. “Ball! Dog! Ma! Down!” God knows what he’s saying. It doesn’t matter, he just wants to be acknowledged.

Of course, very soon now he won’t be the youngest grandchild anymore, but number 5 of 6. It’s hard to say how that’s going to go over. As I said, he has wants, he has needs. On the other hand, he could end up commander in chief.

Subscribe to this blog under Email Subscription in the right column.