Perhaps you have seen this neologism from my friend Kerry Byrne:

If you have grandchildren, and were lucky enough to have them all together, or even in stages, over the holidays, you know how grandslump feels.

I do.

After the children and grandchildren gather up their luggage and head for the car, and we have stood there blowing kisses on the porch, I come back into the house and start vacuuming. It’s a habit I started twelve years ago when we had our first Christmas in Virginia with baby Owen, his parents, and his Aunt and Uncle. I may have have wanted the vacuum noise for droning company, in case I started crying, after they had all returned to their homes.

This year, as I visit each room with my Dyson wand in hand, I pick up the little reminders of the visit the children have left behind. My favorite ones are their drawings and paintings.

Lydia, age 5, drew herself, her 10-year-old cousin Julia, her 11-year-old cousin Owen and their cats– Shy Kitty and Biscuit.

Julia did a Grand portrait of the three cousins and their grandparents (Stuart on the left and Shirley on the right). Also, cats.


Owen's grandportrait: an unfinished symphony.

Owen’s grandportrait: an unfinished symphony. He had to leave before he could finish it.

If you have read The Mindful Grandparent: The Art of Loving Our Children’s Children, you know that I love children’s art and the confidence children display in their ability to draw when they are young (“Every Child Is an Artist,” Chapter 17).

These portraits tell the story of our family at Christmas 2022. They will be preserved in the three binders I am creating, one for each child. I got the idea to use binders (three at my house and one for each grandchild in their bedrooms) from the binders my mother and I used to preserve our letters when I went off to college. We used the same lined notebook paper for our stationery. When I got a letter from home, I put it in my binder. When I sent a letter home, Mother put it in her binder. After four years, we had four binders each filled to the brim. Those letters are now in the archives of the Mennonite Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University.

The set of binders on the game table, filled with the art from our latest time together.

I have no historical aspirations for these binders, but if the children enjoy seeing them fill up with letters from grandparents on their end, and then check out what I have collected on my end when they visit, they might begin to develop a taste for documentation and the making of artifacts that preserve our relationship, even after we are no longer here and even after they leave childhood behind.

Inside the binder: art with dates, a zippered placket for photos and small precious things, and stories.

The Long Distance Grandparent sends me print outs every month. Here is the Cheat Sheet of information I need to carry on monthly conversations on FaceTime (with Owen and Julia) and in-person conversations with Lydia on our twice-monthly sleepovers.

We had a photo shoot during our precious three days together. My niece Joyous Snyder lined us up in front of the fireplace and said “Do whatever you feel like.” That made us laugh.

All of us together, December 26, 2022. Various kinds of footwear.

The vacuuming is over now. The decorations are gone. Some chocolates remain. We will try to share them and savor no more than one or two a day. They remind me of this quote from the author of Anne of Green Gables:

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

What is the antidote to GrandSlump?

  • Activity like cleaning that can allow contemplation and reflection and prayer.
  • Memories of simple pleasures: the frozen banana/oreo pie, the night we saw White Christmas in the Fulton Opera House, the church service Christmas morning, the Radio Flyer Red Wagon “sleigh” pulled by Rudolf, Dasher, and Dancer; the delight in playing with Legos, face paint, Play-Doh kitchen sets, and reading new books, and the long walk through Lititz with just Owen and Julia on their last morning, ending at Dosie Dough downtown for hot chocolate and bagels.
  • Artifacts, especially art work and photos, that can be preserved. If we are lucky, some day when they are ready for college, we can sit down and look at our memories collected over the years and count our blessings — again.

What are your blessings? How do you count them? Do you have your own methods of preservation? Love to hear your stories from the holidays.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Carol on January 6, 2023 at 11:21 am

    I also experience the letdown after my family leaves, Shirley, – even when they leave after a one-day event like Thanksgiving dinner. So much anticipation, so much activity, so much laughter and joy followed by … silence, aloneness, a definite feeling of loss. Action distraction is my solution, as well. I clean the kitchen (it always needs it!), take a walk, breathe. And remember that we had shared another good time together. That we’ll do it again.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 6, 2023 at 11:30 am

      You say it so well in so few words, Carol. Maybe we start cleaning right away because we grew up on farms. 🙂 Action distraction as antidote to GrandSlump. I like it! And thanks for the reminder that there will be new connections to look forward to. We are planning trips to DC with our family that lives close by and a trip to Iceland this summer with our 12-year-old Owen. His coming of age trip with us.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on January 6, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Shirley — I love the idea of three-ring binders for saving artwork. Brilliant!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 6, 2023 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, Laurie. I hope you and Luna can enjoy something similar. Happy New Year!

    • Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 6, 2023 at 6:12 pm

      We have a cottage notebook in which the grandchildren) and whoever else feels like it) create a page for each day we are there. It’s so much fun to look back to previous summers!

      • Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 9:58 am

        What a great idea. Like a guest book with stories and pictures? Brilliant. Especially if you go to the same places every year.

  3. Maren Tirabassi on January 6, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    I get to drip and sniff all over plane seat mates since it’s almost always the reverse—we go 2 tickets rather than 4. But—yes

    • Shirley Showalter on January 6, 2023 at 1:42 pm

      Sniff, sniff. Wouldn’t it be fun to be seatmates some day? We certainly would understand each other on this subject, and many others.

  4. Marlena on January 6, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    Lovely to be reminded that these intimate moments are fairly universal. I strip beds and wash sheets…
    Love the family portrait, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 6, 2023 at 1:45 pm

      Thank you, Marlena. We do a family portrait every year right now. So many changes as the children grown.
      Yes, the sheets come after the vacuuming. I bless their rest in other places as I freshen the guest beds.

  5. Sarah Bulller Fenton on January 6, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    We experience Grandslump when we leave Harrisonburg – usually exhausted and ready to be home, but missing the little ones and their parents by the time we hit the city limits. That’s the way it is for now. The binders are a good idea that I may take up. Can’t fine everything on the refrigerator!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 6, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks, Sarah. I know the feeling, since we sometimes go to them instead of having them come to us.

      The art museum on the fridge will eventually find its way to the binders. I love having art in both places!

  6. Melodie on January 6, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    Oh wow I sure get the grandslump. Our kids came after Christmas, and headed home just before New Years. This time, our middle daughter was heading home to Ohio with a flu bug she got overnight on their last day, and her poor hub had to manage the two boys and the driving. (They all did fine, but her husband then came down with it (of course) on Monday.) And my Stuart came down with it Monday also. So far I’ve escaped.

    But I didn’t escape the sheets, the blankets that needed to be folded, the towels…. I usually hit those first before the vacuum. But I can see how that can sooth the process of saying goodbye. Our youngest has a friend whose husband grew up in New Zealand and she and her husband took their 7 year old to visit NZ for 3 weeks visiting grandparents and other relatives–I can’t imagine living that far from my grandchildren but many many do. I always envied the fact that you all got to do a Nanny shift their first year.

    We’re expecting a new grandchild (don’t know gender yet) in later February. Very excited to go through the process again!!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 10:10 am

      Sickness and travel snarls are the bane of holiday dreams. But once we overcome the obstacles, or even if we don’t, we at least can look for a good story. Our four Tulsans had a near-miss on the whole Christmas reunion. They spent all day in an airport lounge in San Diego before they finally got a flight to Chicago and then to Harrisburg early the next morning. As we came in the back door after church, they came in the front door. We had most of the time together that we had planned on, but some nail biting in between. It’s been interesting to hear stories, in the Long Distance Grandparenting group of people who live thousands of miles apart from their grandchildren. We have 1,000 miles to Tulsa, but we still manage to be together at least two weeks each year. I just had two “monthiversary” phone calls with Owen and Julia since they returned home. That helps too.

      Congratulations as you anticipate another new one in your family. It will seem even more special since, I believe?, it’s been a while. I am aware, when I see babies and toddlers, that I have left that stage behind twice now. Always tugs a little at the heart.

  7. Marian Beaman on January 6, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    You post is dripping with nostalgia for me. I’m sure I nodded my head a time or two as I read. I can also relate to flying into action after an emotionally charged event. Vacuuming is often my safety valve too. Whoo Hoo!

    How fortunate that those grandchildren have a grandmother like you to encourage creativity and then to preserve the results. Owen and Julia and Lydia all have serious art talent. Wow!

    I have so many blessings to count: a gracious God and a loving family. This evening we celebrate (early) Cliff’s 80th birthday. I hope all the grands can make it. More memories to cherish. I don’t take any for granted!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 10:13 am

      Drip, drip. 🙂 Thanks for the compliments to the kids’ art. I find it fascinating to see the differences and similarities as they draw almost the same picture.

      Happy birthday to Cliff! All the way to 80 years and so much love to celebrate. I count your blessings with you!

  8. Marian Beaman on January 7, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    Speaking of artifacts, after I pressed SEND on my first comment, I remembered that I collected photos in albums for each grandchild. When we moved in 2016, I decided each of the four was old enough for me to pass them on individually. (Less to pack, you know!) They were photos, not pieces of artwork.

    However, at Cliff’s (early) party last evening, Crista presented her dad with a framed, pastel drawing of flowers with a vase she remembers in our house.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 8:09 pm

      What a great gift — yours to the grandchildren and your daughter’s to her father. I am sure the meanings will continue to accumulate. Thanks for the postscript. 🙂

  9. Erma Martin Yost on January 7, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    Your grandchildren’s’ art is wonderful. No GrandSlump at our house but friends who came and went similarly leave behind sweet memories of being together. Binders hold so many memories for me too. I have a binder of drawings made by great-nieces and great-nephews who requested doing “crafts” when visiting with Aunt Erma. Photos of former students’ work and copies of digital work after computers were introduced filled more binders and have been some of the hardest items to get rid of while downsizing. Students I’ve kept in contact with have enjoyed receiving their copies now decades later (I have students in their 40’s). I’ve filled binders with photos of objects and heirlooms that I have loved but given away recently. Before and after photos of house renovations fill more binders. These binders are filled with only things I’ve enjoyed and loved which makes for happy reflections and historical records.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 8:14 pm

      I always enjoy your responses to the children’s art, Erma. After many years of being an artist and of teaching art, you have a discerning eye.

      Thanks for the reminder that grandchildren are not the only visitors whose departure leaves behind memories in a similar way. You have always cared for and shared with children, whether as Aunt Erma or Friend Erma. Or Teacher. Yes to keeping the binders or giving them to the people who might care most. They are precious!

  10. Vicky Kirkton on January 7, 2023 at 7:29 pm

    Although our family gathers quite often since we all live in the same county, Christmas is extra special now because the College kids are home and the one grandson that lives further away was able to be here. I think it has been a year since we were all together, so just gathering even for one day is special. We have our Christmas routine of brunch around the ,one table that seats 18 plus. We read the Christmas story before opening gifts. We play lots and lots of games and lots of games. We have a lot of appetizers served late afternoon with old favorites and new ideas. A tradition we have had in the past was everyone staying the night, but that plan was modified this year because of the weather. We have done some extra activities with individual grandkids, like getting carry out and playing games, going to fire and ice in downtown Goshen and then gathering one more time to eat some of their favorite foods grandma makes and of course more games and a movie!

  11. Shirley Showalter on January 7, 2023 at 8:07 pm

    Being your grandchild sounds like so much fun, Vicky. I think I’ll volunteer myself. 🙂 We just had our four-generation Hershey family Christmas. It sounds a little like yours, but we had to reserve the community room at Landis Homes to fit us all in. These times get more precious every year, don’t they? I am curious about your favorite appetizers. And favorite Grandma foods.

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