Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cyprus sleepover....

Last night we had three young visitors to stay.

My friend Sheila's three oldest children are away at the youth group camp in the mountains; so I implemented an idle suggestion I'd made three years ago (and for which Sheila had been counting down the days...) to give her 24 hours with her husband, and no offspring at all.

This was a first for them, at least in the past 17 years, and it was also a first for the three girls, none of whom had previously been to a sleepover without parents. I know them well - our families spend a lot of time together - and the girls were looking forward to this as much as their parents, so we didn't really have any worries about them.

However, it was also a first for me. I'm pretty sure we had the occasional teenage boy staying overnight when our sons were that age; they kept out of the way, mostly. But we've never had younger children staying without their parents. I wasn't entirely sure how well I would survive... I like these three children very much, but they tend to be LOUD and I am quite noise-sensitive.

They are also full of energy, and we don't have any outdoor space; moreover, I don't go out in temperatures over about 30C (maximum) so there was no way I could take them to the park during the day. Essentially we were going to be stuck in my air conditioned study, where I keep Lego left from my sons' childhood and various colouring equipment, but not a lot else. I knew that, if all else failed, they could watch a DVD... but hoped not to be reduced to those straits.

On Tuesday, early, I did some extra shopping at our local fruitaria, ensuring we had plenty of potatoes, carrots, cucumber, bananas, eggs, edam cheese and chicken drumsticks. These children are quite picky eaters so I wanted to ensure there was at least something they would eat. Wednesday morning I cleaned the house first thing, put some bread ingredients in the breadmaker, chicken drumsticks in the slow cooker, yogurt mixture in the yogurt maker, and boiled some eggs... and was ready for the onslaught!

They arrived shortly after 11.00, as agreed. They brought their pillows, some clean clothes for the following day, their toothbrushes and toothpaste, and two 'American dolls' complete with outfits and beds.

They're quite self-motivated children, so when I asked what they would like to do first, Katie (nine) said she would like to do some more work on the story she is writing and saving on my computer. Sophia kept guard:

Helen (nearly six) and Elisabeth (just four) opted to play with Lego. 

Alexander (four-and-a-half months) decided to make the acquaintance of one of the dolls, and sat on her lap for a while:

(I probably didn't mention until now that we have recently adopted two of our friends' kittens.) 

Lego soon became boring, so that was put away and the colouring books came out. Colouring isn't something my sons ever did, but a few years ago these girls started asking for printed pictures to colour, and eventually I bought some inexpensive tear-out colouring books of various types from the UK. These are still popular, slightly to my surprise: 

This lasted until lunch-time, where the fresh bread, boiled eggs, cheese and cut up veggies seemed to go down well. After that they wanted to play some games; I wasn't willing to sit much longer in the over-warm dining room, nor to turn on another a/c, so we brought the games through to the study. All three of the girls like (and are good at) Uno:

We had some discussion about whether or not it was 'mean' to play certain cards; Helen can be quite sensitive, and Katie is very competitive. Elisabeth won in the end and I was blamed since the card I played enabled her to go out. I knew it would, as Katie had seen (and told us) what Elisabeth's one remaining card was. I played what I would have done anyway, and explained that it would have been cheating to avoid playing it, since we weren't supposed to know what it was...

We decided not to play another round. Helen and Elisabeth said they would like to play Misfits instead: 

Katie said it was boring, so lay on Elisabeth's mattress (which they had also brought) and read:

When it was clear that I was likely to win at Misfits (not that I was actually trying to....) the girls decided it was, indeed, boring, and they would rather do some origami - something Helen is really quite skilled at:

Meanwhile, Katie read another book: 

Eventually one of them asked if they could have a 'princess' picture to colour from the computer. Katie, who is quite computer literate, offered to find and print them:

Elisabeth collected the pictures from the printer:

They coloured for a while but started getting a bit hyper and wriggly. They really needed to use up some energy... and inspiration struck. They had previously done some of Leslie Sansone's 'three mile walk' at home with Sheila. I put it on, and they thought this was a great idea:

Helen kept starting and stopping, while Elisabeth kept going. Katie said that she only really liked the second 'mile' so she joined in for a few minutes too:

Here are a few seconds of Elisabeth, small but determined, who took it very seriously and kept going right to the end of the three miles: 

I'm not entirely sure how it's counted as three miles since nobody goes anywhere - other than a few steps forwards and backwards - and Elisabeth's steps aren't very big. But still, quite an achievement for one so young.

After that, I read some books, and prepared the rest of our evening meal while the children ran around the house and played with the kittens. My noise tolerance had about reached its limit... so Richard offered to take them out to a local playground after we'd finished eating to give me half an hour of peace!

In the event, Katie decided to stay here and opted to have a bath instead... and when the two smaller girls got back, they also wanted baths. Katie went to read in Richard's study since mine was turned into the girls' bedroom overnight, and around 8.30 the two younger girls were pretty tired and ready for bed. I read them a couple of books then turned out the light and combed their hair in turns; for some reason this calms them down and helps them to fall asleep. It wasn't instantaneous but shortly after 9pm they were both fast asleep.

Katie finished yet another book and then went to bed around 9.30 without any trouble; I hung around for a while but all was peaceful, so I took a cool shower, checked email and Facebook on my netbook computer and then fell asleep!

I woke about 5.00 with Sophia wanting to be fed... so I got up, fed all the cats, read for a while, and got dressed. It was about 7.00am before any sound came from my study; Katie and Helen emerged as I was juicing some oranges. They said they were hungry and that Elisabeth was still asleep.

So I gave them some (diluted) fresh juice, and yogurt with raw oats and bananas (their request):

After that they had some toast and butter. Katie said she often has four pieces of toast but could only manage one today.

Elisabeth appeared about an hour later, and lay on the floor for a while. I wondered if something had upset her but Helen assured me she is always like this in the morning. So I waited until the grumpiness subsided and she had breakfast, the same as her siblings but without the yogurt or oats.

Then I looked at my study: 

Helen was eager to play with Lego while Elisabeth finished her breakfast, so she helped me put the sofa-bed away and she and Katie played for a while: 

However their game seemed to consist in finding and storing 'jewels' so as to get rich, and the kittens wanted to play: 

So the girls raced around the living room trailing ribbons behind them, a wonderful game for young kittens.

One of the dolls stayed in bed for most of the morning: 

The other one got dressed but then fell in a heap, and was joined by Alexander when he was worn out by all the ribbon-chasing:

She wasn't allowed to rest long, however - Helen wanted to do her hair.  And Katie read another book: 

Elisabeth then said she'd like to do another 'three mile walk' with YouTube, so Katie found it for her on my computer, and the three of them started energetically... but once again the two older girls gave up after about five minutes, while Elisabeth kept going to the end, even though she was clearly very tired by the time it finished. 

After some more colouring, we played a couple of games of 'Probe' (a sort of board game variation on 'hangman') but since Helen and Elisabeth aren't reading much yet, we had to be in 'teams'. Helen and I won the first game although Katie was convinced we would 'never' guess her word: 

We then swopped assistants; this time Katie won, and decided to reveal her word, another one which she said I would never guess. She was correct. It was, she told me, an 'old American' word which she was certain I would not know. All I remember is that it started with J and ended with A. I said I didn't mind at all that she had won, but I didn't feel it was quite fair to use a word that I'd never heard of... 

During the course of the game we'd had a text from Sheila saying that as 24 hours were up, they could come and get the girls. All three said they wanted to stay to lunch (as I had expected them to) and after some negotiation they agreed that their parents could come at 3.00pm to collect them. 

After the game, I suggested they pack their clothes and dolls and also the pictures they wanted to take home. I read a few books to the younger girls but Helen said she was getting hungry. So we decided to have lunch at 12.30. 

After we'd cleared up, I read some more books, then Elisabeth said she wanted to go home. It was only 2.00pm (and the older two said they wanted to stay longer...) but Elisabeth was clearly starting to flag. She's really very young to have been away from her parents for a night. So I texted Sheila and she said she'd come over. 

Elisabeth put her shoes on and picked up her things, ready to go:

- although when her parents arrived she barely greeted them!

The house is peaceful once more, the kittens asleep, my study my own. I enjoyed 27 hours doing the full-time parent thing, but was glad to be able to hand the girls back again. I suppose this shows quite clearly that I'm now at the stage of life where it's perfect to be a grandparent; hands-on 24/7 motherhood was something I thoroughly enjoyed in my late twenties and early thirties, but wouldn't want to repeat twenty years later. Not for more than a day or two at a time, anyway...

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