Grilled Grandma: Nancy

How many children do you have? I have one fabulous stepdaughter. I married her dad 25 years ago when she was 8. We like to say I “married them.”

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? Augie is 3-and-a-half; ViolaMae is 2.

Any great grandchildren? Nope.

What do your grandchildren call you? I’m “Grandma,” and my hubby is “Pa.” My best friend’s son called me Fancy Nancy for a while. so for laughs we sometimes call me Grandma Fancy Nancy.
How often do you get to see your grandchildren? Nearly every day. They come to our house for daycare every weekday during the school year; their parents are both teachers. We live less than two miles from them, so we are also convenient and eager sitters when mommy and daddy need to run an errand. In the summers, we are together at St. Paul Saints baseball games. And Augie sometimes spontaneously asks to play at Pa’s house, or to meet for breakfast at Perkins. We are so lucky that way!  

What is the best thing about being a grandma? The rewards of seeing your love and attention and ideas spark their imaginations, contribute to their character, and foster their confidence…and the fabulous way they love you back. Of course their parents play the primary role, but if you are in their lives regularly—even from a distance—and you really pay attention to them and use your imagination, you can add richness to their lives.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? The first challenge was finding time to participate in daycare. When Augie was born I was working fulltime, and Peter did all the daycare. I started getting up early to play with them, and it became hard to leave for the office so I cut back my work hours—and then further when ViMae came along. I will retire by the end of December, but we’ll have the kids longer hours, and the new challenge (at age 67) is to keep up my stamina. They expect me to dance, play catch, pitch and hit baseballs, chase them around the yard, take them to the park…. I need to exercise more before we start up again in the fall!

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. They both repeat rules back to us at funny times. For example, we sit in the front row at baseball games, and we’ve taught the children that when a batter is in the box, everyone must sit down and stay back from the net to avoid getting hit by a foul ball. So when ViMae picked up a bat while playing yesterday, she told the rest of us, “Sit down, the batter’s in the box.” And when we saw a new kind of duck during a trip to the zoo, Augie spontaneously made up a song, adapting the Rolling Stones’ “Little Red Rooster” to become “Little White Shell Duck.”   

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? If I had to choose just one, it would be taking them to ride the restored antique carousel in St. Paul’s Como Park. My hubby and I saved the carousel from being sold at auction. For more than 20 years, we’ve led the nonprofit organization that bought and restored it, and that now operates it from May through October. It’s been a lot of work, and we used to say we did it for our future grandchildren. Now we have those grandchildren, and they love it. Sometimes I tear up from the sheer joy of it. (You can read about the carousel at

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? We recently had our first “sleep-over” so mommy and daddy could go off and celebrate their fifth anniversary. We all enjoyed it so much that we suggested they go away for two nights next time!

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? It’s not much of an issue, but if they’re traveling they do call once in a while. If we were at a distance, I’d definitely want a computer with a built-in camera so we could talk online.  

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? Their parents already give them tons of love and learning opportunities and positive reinforcement, but we have our own special contributions. We expose them to different kinds of music (blues, classical, opera, rock, Cajun, folk) and to many instruments (we have a piano, drum kit, bongos, violin, xylophone, recorder, bells, etc.) We all play together, and make up songs. Also, Pa and I like to make connections. When we read, we’re always pointing out similarities with another story or something that has happened. Children’s brains are developing all the time, and whenever they make a new connection (“look, this crown looks just like the one in that book”) a new synapse is formed. Forever. We’re thrilled that they share our love of baseball and the carousel, and that they are both confident, curious, upbeat kids. They know they are loved and they know they are capable of just about anything.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? Love. When Augie was 2 he began to sing Old MacDonald….”and on his farm he had a Grandma.” Uh-oh, I thought, what’s that Grandma gonna say? “With an ‘I love you’ here, an ‘I love you there’….” I wrote on Facebook, “My. Life. Is. Complete.”

Be sure to stop by Nancy's place on the web: Blissed-Out Grandma.