About a month and a half later, while Gracie waddled around the yard during the last few months before her first birthday, he figured it out. She "lost" countless balls under the deck. I swear it's like a black hole of Gracie happiness, effectively sucking every ball and all her fun right inside.
All that summer, all last summer, and periodically throughout each winter, she'd ask me to get the balls, and I'd tell her to wait until Daddy got home from work and he'd do it. He'd get what he could, but some have stayed in sight but out of reach for years now.
McMister has been working until midnight every night for the past two weeks, but comes home at Gracie's bedtime sometimes to put her down then keep working from home. A few days ago, she started obsessing over the lost balls again, and without thinking, I told her to ask Daddy when he got home. So that night, as he's ascending the stairs 10 minutes before she goes to sleep, he says, "Hey Gracie! Can I read books with you in the book nook tonight?"
And her face goes white. "GO GET THE BALLS UNDER THE DECK!" she says so dramatically you'd think her life depended on it. Or his.
We both laughed and made empty promises about "tomorrow".
Then, over the weekend, she convinced McSister to climb under there and get some of them.
Yesterday, while playing outside, she was happy as a clam with her filthy, ratty old reclaimed treasures.
"Sit down right next to you, Mommy." (You means me.) "It's very comfy."
After about 20 minutes, it started to rain.
"OK, Honey," I said. "It's raining now. It's time to go inside."
And as I mentioned months ago, she had to negotiate.
"Twoooooooooo more minutes!"