On Three

CAN I HAVE GUM?
CAN I HAVE GUM?

My youngest grandchild, Lee, turned three this week. He’s a funny little kid. He keeps his own counsel, although he is always clear about what he wants. This is him three years ago, the youngest of six grandkids and resigned to his fate, as it were…

lee in carseat
ALL THE GUM IS GONE, ISN’T IT?

Nothing has changed much. He’s not overly demanding (for three), but he will not be deterred. At the moment he wants Juicy Fruit gum. That is my sole role and purpose in life, as far as he is concerned: purveyor of Juicy Fruit gum. It doesn’t matter if I say I don’t have any gum, I forgot the gum, sorry. Five minutes later he is back, wanting gum. It isn’t that I don’t want him to have gum, it’s that invariably he does one of two things. The first is to swallow it.

Lee: Grandma, can I have gum?
Me: I just gave you gum. What happened to it? Did you swallow it?
Lee: No.
Me: Where is it?
(He points to his tummy.)
Me: It’s in your tummy?
Lee: Yes.
Me: No, no, you have to spit it out when you’re finished! Just chew it and spit it out. Don’t swallow it, okay?
Lee: Okay.

I give him another stick of gum. He doesn’t swallow it. This is the second thing he does: after two minutes he spits it out. Then he wants more gum. It’s like playing Juicy Fruit Monopoly. Pass Go, Collect Gum. I can only hope that at some point I will be bankrupt.

He is a smart kid, but sometimes he still has trouble telling truth from not-truth…

Gina: Lee, wash your hands for supper.
Lee: Did.
Gina: No, I don’t think so. Go wash your hands for supper.
Lee: Did.
Gina: Lee, if you don’t wash your hands, no pudding cup for dessert.
Lee: Okay. (He leaves for the bathroom.)

This works because her children know Mom means what she says. She doesn’t raise her voice or repeat herself. You simply will not get a pudding cup, no way, no how. This is starkly different from their interactions with me. He doesn’t believe me when I say I have no gum, and there is precedent for that.

Lee: Grandma, do you have gum?
Me: Oh, I forgot to bring gum! I’m so sorry.
Lee: Grandma, can I have gum?
Me: No, no gum right now.
Lee: Can I have gum?
Me: After dinner you can have gum.
Lee: Can I have gum?
Me: Okay.

Sometimes he wants a Tootsie Roll Pop instead of gum. There is no point in describing what that conversation is like. You have already heard the gum story.

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Birthday Season

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Birthday season is upon us. We have birthdays throughout the year, of course, but from May 24 to the end of July, it’s birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday, birthday. The sons-in-law, present and future, must get sick of it. Even I get sick of it. They’re good sports though. They usually show up.

We celebrated daughter Jill’s birthday at my house a week ago Saturday. It rained hard all day, so no sending the grandkids into the backyard and letting them loose on the wildlife. I have a playroom full of toys upstairs. Sometimes they play in there; more often they haul things out and leave them in various inconvenient places around the house. One of their favorite things to do is jump off the bed in the guest room into piles of blankets and pillows. From downstairs you hear thump, crash, scream, thump, laughing, thump, crying. Someone could be killed up there, but we first-floor dwellers like to pretend all is well right up until the time someone has to administer first aid.

Sometimes they call us from the phone in my room. (Jill last week: “Stop calling me. Do you hear me, Grace? Just stop now.”)

You’d think Lee, who turns two in July, would be a little intimidated, but he isn’t. He’s child #3 and no one has told him he’s fragile. Usually he just does whatever his three-year-old brother, Bret Jr., is doing. Bret falls on the floor, Lee falls on the floor. Bret stomps his rain boots, Lee stomps his rain boots. Bret shows off his Batman pajamas, Lee shows off his Superman pajamas. And so it goes. Riding in the car is interesting. He hates stop lights. The car rolls to a stop, and he starts yelling, “Go! Go-o-o-o!” Also, for some reason, he calls me Grandpa. I tell him, “No, Lee, Grandma. Grandma Judy.” I could be talking to the garden gnome.

Bret Jr. assumed the role of event photographer this time around, which is how I end up with pictures like this:

IMG_1860

Cosette piano

Lee away

Maria no

Meanwhile, six-year-old Cosette informed me that by the age of 13, you know everything there is to know. I have no idea what kind of convoluted thinking led to this conclusion. I never argue with her. She’s creative.

I made cupcakes for the party. Well, I always make cupcakes, because the only kind Christian can eat are dairy-free, so that’s the kind I make. This time, however, I found a mystery bag of Baking Flour in the cupboard with a farmer or a sailor or something on it. I think I’ll use up this flour, I thought. So I did, only to discover too late that it was wheat- and gluten-free. Probably no one will even know the difference, I thought. But they did. I cannot be expected to put on the perfect party for every occasion, now can I.

New rule for next birthday: no using Grandma’s artificial fruit as hand grenades.

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All Together Now…

So, long time no post. I feel guilty. I do. It wouldn’t bother me except that I’m supposed to be chronicling my grandchildren’s formative years. If I don’t do it, who will? Nobody, that’s who.

It’s January, so obviously I didn’t get around to reporting on the annual school Christmas programs in a timely manner. I have five grandkids attending that grade school now. You’d think there’d be a prize or something, but so far zip.

Bret Jr. Is Enthusiastic

BretXmas

Boy Bret performed admirably in the preschool Christmas program. He sang when he was supposed to sing, sat when he was supposed to sit, and when it was time to hold their paper trees and stars aloft and sway to the music, he could have been conducting the William Tell Overture.

Cosette Speaks

CosetteXmas

The elementary school program, meanwhile, put all the classes on stage at the same time. None of that tedious shuffling back and forth we’ve seen in the past. Lined up front and center were the kindergartners, clueless as cattle, a pair of animal ears or horns stuck on each little head. Cosette was a cow. It was a speaking part. Which makes a lot of sense if you know her.

Grace Endures

GraceXmas

The second-grade girls were little angels. No, really. They had wings. At one point between songs, I looked over and saw Grace sitting on the riser, chin in hand, looking about as bored as anyone wearing wings and a tinsel halo can.

Christian Is Good

ChrisXmas

There was less poking, nudging and tittering among the third grade boys than you might expect. Christian isn’t usually what you’d call a model of decorum, but he stood up straight, sang and didn’t cross his eyes once … which is more than I can say for some of his friends.

Oh My Maria

MariaXmas

So there they were, the entire student body (it isn’t a big school) gathered on stage. I expected to be somewhat moved, surrounded as I was by progeny. What caught me off guard was seeing Maria wearing a little black dress and standing with the other seventh grade girls. I remembered her first Christmas program. She had her elf hat on backwards so the bell on top dangled down in her face. I looked over at Cosette standing amid a herd of pint-size sheep and donkeys. And I’ll tell you the truth, I could have wept.

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The Fourth Star on the Left

LEE'S A STAR
LEE’S A STAR

I added a star to the tattoo on my ankle yesterday in honor of my sixth grandchild, Lee, now 9 months old and definitely star-worthy. It was a little hard finding exactly the right position for star #6 and then it ended up slightly bigger than I expected, which is the kind of thing that happens to me, but nevertheless I’ll be taking my six-star ankle to the grave, unless of course a seventh star comes along, but what the heck, let’s just put the whole damn galaxy on grandma’s foot.

Today five-year-old Cosette called several times saying we needed to go to Target right away so she could show me what to buy for her birthday, just around the corner next September. I felt guilty saying no until she said, okay then, she had to call Auntie Jessica, goodbye. Her brother Toddler Bret calls me regularly as well. For some reason he always seems agitated on the phone. He left me a happy birthday message recently that sounded like he was being attacked by pirates.

On Thursday I drove for an hour through snow and sleet to watch Christian’s wrestling match only to find it was cancelled due to the weather. (It’s almost May, for cripe’s sake.) Now eight, he just started wrestling and takes it very seriously. He came out of his first practice and told his mother, “I can’t show you any moves, Mom, because I might hurt you.”

A few Saturdays ago, 12-year-old Maria came over to get help building a model of the Eiffel Tower for a school project. I have never built the Eiffel Tower before, but apparently my expertise in this area is legendary. We made it out of shoeboxes, of which I have an ample supply. Well, not really out of the shoeboxes but from hundreds of little pieces cut out, glued together and sprayed heavily with black paint. I figured the Eiffel Tower was easier to build than some other famous structures I can think of. Her friend Madeleine chose the Colosseum in Rome, which her father helped her build out of a laundry basket and I’ll bet that was no picnic.

Which brings us to seven-year-old Grace. The last time she was at my house, she watched me applying face makeup with endless questions about what different products were designed to do. I explained, for example, that due to some unfortunate over-tweezing in my youth, I have to pretty much draw on eyebrows now, and that should be a lesson to her not to go around mindlessly plucking at things, and anyway her eyebrows are perfect so it shouldn’t even be an issue. Always take advantage of these little moments to teach, that’s what I say.

NEW STAR JUST SOUTH OF BIG TOE
NEW STAR JUST SOUTH OF BIG TOE

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Little Guys

BOYS BEING BOYLIKE
BOYS BEING BOYLIKE

I never had any sons. Never missed it. Had three daughters and was glad of it. Now here I am with these grandsons, and it’s interesting. It isn’t really what I expected at all.

Looking back, I suppose I thought of little boys as just small men. And being just miniature men, I assumed, they must be somewhat oblivious. Unaware. Insensitive. Less drama, you see. This is not the case, I know that now.

For example, when Christian was about five, he got a sliver in his foot at my house and his mother had to use a needle to take it out. Try to take it out, that is, since death by sliver was imminent. It took a long time and everyone involved was an emotional wreck when it was over. And then there was the time Toddler Bret bumped his head at his sister’s birthday party, climbed into an armchair, and refused to budge until a decent level of attention had been payed. So there’s another tragedian in the family.

Baby Lee, on the other hand, looks to be a typically placid male. I babysat over there last weekend, and one of the instructions was: when you take the dog out, be sure to put Lee in his bouncer, because if you leave him on the floor the other kids will roll him. This is the kind of thing up with which he will put. He lies on the living room floor like a rock, people and dogs stepping over him with impunity on their way to somewhere else, and doesn’t flinch.

Of course, boys can be more aggressive than girls. Christian exhibited a fondness for sticks before he could walk. Sticks, stick-like objects, anything really with the appearance of a weapon. And then it seems all males are born with the wrestling gene. Little boys wrestle little boys, big boys wrestle big boys, little boys wrestle big boys, men wrestle little boys, big boys and anyone else willing to roll around on the floor. What is that about? Wrestling makes me nervous.

Finally, it is commonly held that girls are more verbal than boys. Yet it seems to me that every one of my three grandsons started jabbering away as soon as they discovered their vocal chords. Not that you could understand what they were saying, but why would that deter them. Even Baby Lee is turning into a blabber, although I put that down to the influence of a sister who talks from sunrise to sunset and a brother who talks almost as much lest he go unnoticed. It’s noisy at their house, that’s all I’m saying.

So what have we learned? We have learned that boys are different and complex. Toddler Bret is apt to chuck objects across the room (train cars, food) without regard for human welfare. And in the middle of the night he only wants his mother. Christian finds it amusing to throw ear-splitting fake grenades on the floor two feet from his unsuspecting grandmother. And then he tells me he’s sorry he drooled on the pillow in his sleep because it means I have to wash the pillowcase. Baby Lee will play by himself on the floor uncomplaining. And when you pick him up he smiles and smiles, happy to be noticed.

But mostly I have learned this: there is a sweetness in little boys that is so touching you almost can’t bear it. It can put a knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat. It can surely break your heart.

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

NOW I AM BIG.

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.

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Things I’m Thinking

Doctor…No
I’m thinking I won’t have that bunionectomy after all. I discovered that the recovery can be treacherous, prolonged and painful and realized my foot isn’t that bad. I think a combination of various shoe inserts will do the trick, I really do. Also, I wasn’t crazy about the doctor doing the surgery (here are your options, Judy, pick one or don’t, your hoof is just one in the herd). Shoe orthotics, that’s the thing for me.

This is a holiday?
Went to the grocery store yesterday and Target today. Both were packed, it being Super Bowl weekend, which is second only to New Year’s Eve in sales of chicken wings and guacamole dip. I don’t really care about the Super Bowl unless my team is playing. And since the Vikings haven’t been super for some time, the only thing left would be the commercials, and you don’t have to sit through the game to see them anymore. You can watch them online.

I see there’s another talking baby ad. Am I the only person who thinks talking baby ads are creepy? The only thing more disturbing than talking babies are dancing baby ads, which would give real babies nightmares. Leave the babies out of it, that’s what I say.

The wages of love (or that’s what you get)
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the other thing you see in stores now are a lot of sales on K-Y and similar products designed to enhance your special moment. You may notice that directly below these shelves are the ones holding an array of pregnancy tests. If you ask me, there should be a big arrow pointing from one to the other. See? This is what happens. Might as well pick up one of each right now.

Real babies are sort of aimless
Gina and the kids will be back today. They were here yesterday while Man Bret was sanding the kitchen cupboards, a six-Advil job that resumes today. Toddler Bret spent a good part of yesterday trying to climb the stairs. He can’t do it alone, of course. He’d kill himself. And he has no purpose in climbing the stairs anyway. When he gets to the top, he just wants to come down again. This is what he likes because he’s 18 months old and has all the time in the world.

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