In Grace Land


My granddaughter Grace turned ten last week. I think she’s happy about it. She isn’t one to call attention to herself by jumping up and down screaming, “Double digits! Double digits!” or anything. Actually, it’s hard to believe that Grace is descended from a long line of loud, opinionated women.

She spent the night at my house a few days ago. We were sitting on the sofa, Gracie watching a movie and playing a game on my Kindle while I read a book and felt guilty. Just as I was thinking we should be doing something more stimulating, she said, “This is nice.” Wait, what? Grace is good with this? Yes! Grace is having a good time!

She is still an avid shutterbug. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have on my smartphone of Grace’s eyeballs and the inside of her mouth, to say nothing of the random strangers she shoots out the car window while I’m driving. “Who the hell is this?” I wonder later, scrolling through shots of sweaty runners and dog-walkers and, oh look, here’s another picture of Grace’s feet. While I remain technologically impaired, she manipulates the bells and whistles on my phone with ease. I think this amuses her, although she is too polite to say so.

Gracie has started playing volleyball and softball, which she seems to like and have an aptitude for. Needless to say, she never complains about the officiating. She still likes to paint and draw. Here’s a picture of me bearing an uncanny resemblance to Mrs. Incredible.


In honor of Grace reaching the decade mark, I rummaged through some things I wrote several years ago but never posted. This is from Feb. 10, 2010, when she was four:

“I helped daughter Jill paint her bathroom on Saturday. It’s a small bathroom that should have taken about two hours to paint but ended up taking five, what with the unplanned trips to Home Depot and the three observers aged four, five and nine lined up outside the bathroom door on two kiddy chairs and one overturned bucket (Christian still in his pajamas and Grace in her tutu and flowered coronet), arguing that they were too old enough to paint. Not that they thought their mother would cave, but I might be co-opted to use my influence on their behalf.  I didn’t crack though. I was firm. I told them they could paint when they come to my house. I have a lot of leftover cans of paint in the basement, so I figure I can just let them have at the concrete blocks, and how bad could it be?”

Well, I never did let them loose in the basement. I’m indulgent, but I’m not a fool.

Ah, Gracie Girl. How did you get to be ten so soon? When did you stop wearing tutus and put on a baseball cap? And when another ten years have passed, will you still sit with me on the sofa and say, “This is nice, Grandma”?



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Saturday With Grace


My granddaughter Grace, who just turned seven, came over last Saturday to visit and spend the night. Gracie is sort of quiet and reserved, so it isn’t entirely clear how she ended up in the family. Even when she’s feeling giggly, it’s a subdued kind of giggly. No need to make a spectacle of yourself. There are plenty of others around to do that.

Grace and I did several subdued, tasteful things together. She designed a number of lovely outfits on the computer and printed them out. We played Cootie and she beat me twice, fair and square. She’s a Cootie master. We went out to eat and she found every word in the Wordfind on her placemat. (She’s only going into first grade but already can read words like marshmallow.) We mowed the grass and watered the pots.

I showed Grace my blog and asked her if she would like to write something. She said she would. Here it is.


Oh yes, we also drove to a little nearby lake and walked around, and Grace took lots of pictures, 134 to be exact. Here are some pictures she took of clouds. Because why not.

At the end of the day, Gracie and I blew up the airbed in the living room and watched a movie. And when the movie was over we went to sleep, because we were already in our bed!

Life is hard a fair amount of the time. We get sad and tired and overworked. Sometimes it seems like things will never sort themselves out, and we will never have a happy or restful thought again. Then it is good to have a grandchild like Grace around.

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Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Grace, part 2

March 11, 2009
I babysat for the grandkids on Saturday. As usual, I spent a lot of the time trying to figure out what’s going on in their little minds. Grace is three and can talk perfectly well, but sometimes she won’t. She gets upset and stands there with her chin down and her lip out, mute as a stone. “What’s the matter, Gracie? Tell Grandma, honey. Tell Grandma what’s wrong. What’s wrong, Gracie? Grace…speak!” Hopeless. I have to get Maria to interpret: “She wants applesauce.” Really? How did you know that? And why is it a secret?

Then there are the little unsolved, probably unsolvable, mysteries that come up after they’ve gone. Why are the paints in the refrigerator? Where is the lint brush? Why would one of you want the lint brush? Did you suddenly become tidy? And so it goes. You can ponder till you’re blue, it won’t make any difference. One day the lint brush will turn up, and that will be that.

Sept. 1, 2010
So I babysat last Friday night and ended up nonplussed yet again. I was having a conversation with five-year-old Grace for about ten minutes, at the end of which she spit out a penny, just as if she always keeps one tucked under her tongue for emergencies, a last-minute gumball purchase or something. It shook me a little, as she seemed to be talking okay before that. I thought it must be an act of whimsy, but when I mentioned it to her mother, Jill said, “I told her not to do that. Grace! Don’t put pennies in your mouth. You’re going to choke.” What are they thinking? That’s all I want to know. What the heck are they thinking?

Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Grace, part 1


Went to hear my five-year-old granddaughter Grace sing last Sunday afternoon. She takes lessons at a small music school in St. Paul that’s funded in part by the state. You aren’t likely to find a future Isaac Perlman or Beverly Sills there (although you never know), just a lot of earnest-looking kids who want to sing or play the piano or tenor sax or trumpet or clarinet or violin or acoustic guitar. They don’t have a big auditorium and don’t need one. The recital was in a large room with the stage one step up. There was a program but they didn’t seem to follow it very closely; I think if the kid looked ready, they just sent him up.

Gracie has a soft little voice but sings rather loud, and when she looks into the future, I’m pretty sure she sees a star. She had to introduce herself and say the name of her song, “Lullaby of Broadway,” which she sang with hand motions and great composure, until about the last minute. Then she wasn’t smiling anymore, and you could see the tears sliding down her cheeks, although her voice only wavered a little bit. She finished the song and jumped into the arms of her mother (who by that time had stood up from her chair in the first row), and buried her face in mom’s neck.

And because Grace is the youngest student in the school, and because she was adorable in her hot pink leggings and hot pink shoes, and most of all because she was brave, of course the audience erupted when she finished. At which point the emcee had to stop and get me a tissue, and then offer a tissue to anyone else who might need one (no one did), before moving on to a boy tackling Handel’s “Sarabande” on the piano (or maybe it was the clarinet, I sort of lost focus).

I guess you’d say it was one of those moments. Never in my life will I get out of my head the image of Gracie’s face, singing away with a tear about to drop off her chin.

For the Love of Grace

Went to the annual Trinity Baptist Preschool Christmas Program yesterday, always a treat. Grace, who jumped up to the Frog class this year, was of course up to the task. Gracie likes people, she likes preschool, the world is good and singing is her thing. In fact, all the Frogs (ages 4-5) did pretty well, or at least tried, unlike some malcontents in the Teddy Bear class (ages 3-4) who flat-out refused.

The Teddy Bears were up first, probably because it’s hard to keep them focused for more than five minutes. Two of the boys wouldn’t sing at all this year. The one in the front row was obviously ticked off from start to finish. The one in back stood silent for the first half of the program, then decided to sit down on the step, and finally just laid face-down and covered his head with his arms.

The Frogs, having attained a certain level of maturity, did better. All of them kind of moved their mouths and some did the motions. The one touch-and-go moment was during “The Five Days of Christmas,” when they took turns going up in groups to hang their ornaments on a little tree. The maneuvering involved in going up and down the steps, getting one’s ornament to stay on the tree, then meeting another group going the other way, was almost too suspenseful to watch. Still they all made it back to their assigned places. Sort of.

Turns out the boy who laid down on the step has a crush on Grace. I found this out from her father, who found out from Mrs. Wilson, the Frog class teacher, that the boy either kissed Grace or tried to (that part is a little vague), which is the kind of thing teachers have to report to parents nowadays. My son-in-law, Lynn, wasn’t too happy about it either. He told Gracie, “Next time you just tell him to shake your hand.” Seriously.

Anyway, it was another thoroughly enjoyable Christmas program. And everyone did really well at eating cookies, drinking juice and running around the gym afterward. No dropouts there.