Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A third sleepover for young friends

Three years ago, we experimented with a sleepover for our friends' three youngest children, while their older siblings were at camp. The idea was to give their parents 24 hours to themselves. Their parents were in fact expecting to collect them soon after breakfast on the following morning, and - at the girls' insistence - they ended up staying until after an early lunch, 27 hours in all, although tempers were getting a little frayed by the end, and Elisabeth, who was only four at the time, was very tired.

Last year we repeated it, with similar results. The girls ended up staying 26 hours and, once again, the last couple of hours were rather fraught.

This year, we weren't sure if it would be able to happen at all. I was hoping to go to the UK for three weeks but dates weren't arranged until very recently. I'm not in fact going until Saturday; moreover, camp is a little earlier than it was in previous years.  More of a problem is the fact that our son Tim's cat Lady Jane has moved here, as he has gone back to the UK, and she's treating what was his bedroom (years ago) as her domain. To have three lively girls sleeping there would have caused her immense stress.

However, Katie - who is 11, and quite outspoken - was sensitive enough to realise that this might be a problem, and said, about a week ago, how she understood that they probably wouldn't be able to have a sleepover this year. So I said that perhaps we could all sleep in our guest flat... and she was so pleased that we made a date for them to sleep over last night.

Since the paper dolls I printed for them last year were so successful, I looked for more a couple of days ago, wondering if I could find some with 18th century ball gowns of the kind that they like to colour. In searching online I discovered this wonderful website with printable paper dolls from many periods in history.  I only intended to print three or four... I ended up with about twenty pages for each of the girls. There are many more for future visits.

Remembering the somewhat stressful ends of the previous two years, I suggested agreeing in advance that this year's sleepover would be 24 hours only. And they arrived yesterday around eleven o'clock in the morning, after seeing their older siblings off to camp on the bus.

They were delighted with the historical paper dolls and started colouring immediately:

However, although Elisabeth is now six, she doesn't concentrate for as long as her siblings, and soon wanted a break. She loves to play games, so we had a few rounds of Ligretto:

Then Helen, who is very good with her hands, decided to continue some knitting she started a couple of months ago. She's becoming quite proficient, and has even managed to figure out how to reverse mistakes and pick up dropped stitches:

Katie, as ever, took some time to read:

Elisabeth asked if I would read to her; the only book I actually read her in the whole 24 hours was 'Dogger' by Shirley Hughes, which is my favourite children's picture book:

Richard was out all morning but came back for lunch. I'd made a new loaf of bread, and some peanut butter, and boiled some eggs, and cut up lots of salad vegetables:

After lunch, Helen and Elisabeth got out 'their' Lego. I've allocated a small crate to each of the three to store their various creations from week to week, so they don't fight over who built what, and this seems to work quite well.

Katie, meanwhile, continued colouring her paper dolls. She kept thanking me and saying how much she liked them.

Alex spent most of the morning curled up on top of the printer...

Elisabeth then asked if we could play 'Misfits', and Helen said she'd join in too. It's a very basic game suitable for children of about three, but they still like it, and are amused by the resultant ridiculous people that get created, different each time:

Afterwards, Elisabeth put them all together 'properly' before putting them all back in the box. Well, she insisted that she put everything away but then Katie found one of the pieces by the bookcase later in the day...

Out came the Lego again:

When they didn't need me, I sat in my beanbag and read, keeping half an ear open to respond to questions. There was a complex war of some kind going on in these two Lego worlds, but it was relatively quiet and civilised:

I haven't been doing much cooking in the past few weeks as it's been so hot, but I knew the girls would want a hot meal, so I turned the air conditioning on in the kitchen late afternoon, and made some pastry. Then I concocted a couple of sausagemeat pies, one with onions and one without, and also a spanopitta as I mostly avoid eating meat.

I made some coleslaw too, and produced some chopped up cucumbers and some cherry tomatoes. All the girls chose sausagemeat pie without onions, and between them ate what was officially supposed to serve 4 people. Richard, meanwhile, ate a quarter of the one with onions, and I ate a third of the spanopitta.

I was surprised when Katie informed Helen that in order to make the sausagemeat pie I must have taken all the skins off lots of 'English sausages' (as ordinary sausages are labelled here) and assured her that I'd done no such thing. I just used some frozen sausagemeat I'd bought before Christmas but hadn't used. She said that her brother Lukas takes the insides out of sausages to make this kind of thing, which seemed like a very complex process to me, and not something I would even think of doing!

I'd bought a melon that morning; it was a bit hard but still quite tasty so we had that afterwards. And then Elisabeth was quite eager to go to bed. I tried to dissuade them as it was only 7.15, and I didn't think they would get to sleep for at least another hour, but they wanted to brush their teeth... and as I hadn't slept well the night before and was very tired myself, I shrugged and agreed, and we went downstairs to the guest flat.

Helen and Elisabeth got ready for bed easily, and Katie, who stays up till 9.00, sat in the living room reading. Of course they didn't get to sleep at once... I ignored quiet talking, but Elisabeth came out about three times to drink water, or to tell me something Helen had done, and Katie went to turn off lights at least twice, and apparently found them jumping on beds. By then I had rather a headache and was feeling shattered so I got rather annoyed...

Richard, meanwhile, fed the cats, changed the litter, put on the dishwasher and locked up the main part of the house. And shortly after Katie went to bed, I did too.

I woke about 5.30am and came upstairs to have a shower, then went back down to read. Helen woke about 6.15 and had a shower in the guest flat, then came to play with one or two of the puzzles we keep downstairs, then the K'nex, which also lives in the guest flat.  I didn't take any more photos... I forgot at first, then thought there had probably been enough.

The girls had breakfast about 8.30; I knew there was some cereal in the guest flat, left behind by other visitors, so I brought it upstairs and they were delighted to find some chocolate granola, which they finished. Some of them had toast, some of them had bananas, some had some other cereal, and they had a few pieces of apple.

After breakfast, Katie coloured more paper dolls and read some more; Helen did more knitting and colouring; three of us played a few rounds of Ligretto; two of them played with Lego.... and at 11.00 their mother arrived to take them home again.

Elisabeth had become a bit bored and whiny a few times, not in a major way but often enough that I realised it was the right decision to stick at 24 hours, at least for this year.

Now they're a little older, I didn't feel nearly as exhausted afterwards as I did in the previous years, but still - being very much an Introvert - quite drained by so much focussed people-time.

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