Last week Lydia stayed at our house while her parents took a week away to celebrate their anniversaries disrupted by Covid (#ten and #eleven) as well as the one coming up in May (#12).

Kate and Nik, celebrating.

Kate and Nik, celebrating.

This was the first long sleepover for Lydia at our house. A few years ago, we did Grandparent Camp with Owen and Julia, and Lydia always wants to do things her older cousins have done.

Our first day was full of excitement on all sides. We picked up Lydia from Chesterbrook Academy 

The first place she wanted to go was the Treehouse Playground, a fabulous attraction less than a mile from here. She was happy all evening. We played three games of Go Fish. Then it was time to brush teeth and read books in bed. Lydia said she missed her mommie, but she was not distressed. She made a book to take to Miss Josephine, her teacher, the next day.

On Tuesday we went to Wegman’s after school and ate in their restaurant. We played more Go Fish. Lydia got to watch PBS Kids. She was homesick for her parents at night.

Wednesday we went to feed the ducks in the Lititz Springs Park, but Lydia had to go to the bathroom, so we left in a hurry. We had dinner at The Owl’s Nest on the campus of our retirement community. Lydia enjoyed the grilled cheese and french fries, as usual, and she was sometimes able to participate in the adult conversation with some of her favorite people, Jeanette and Herman.

I had a brilliant idea that turned out not to be so brilliant. “Do you want to do FaceTime with Mommy and Daddy?” Instead of the sweet reminder of her most important connections, the call made it all too clear that they weren’t really in the room with her. There were tears. The calendar with its Xs for each day already gone was only a small consolation.

Wednesday, however, was a true “hump” day. After she woke up on Thursday, Lydia popped out of bed, cheery as always, and she never looked back. Thursday was dance class day. I went to get her from school earlier than usual and helped her change into her tutu. Then I had to find the studio in a maze of other buildings. Lydia helped. I loved watching the fifteen little girls parade into class and strap on tap shoes and then trade them for ballet slippers midway into the 45 minutes. When we got home, Lydia demonstrated her favorite dance to Granddad.

Friday was another fun day, the last school day. Granddad picked Lydia up and took her back to her favorite playground, the treehouse. Lydia played hide-and-seek with a crowd of older kids and jumped onto the zip line with ease. After dinner, we broke out a new game, No Stress Chess. (I added this game to our collection after Laurie Buchanan said her granddaughter loved it.) Lydia moved her pawn in front of my king and waited for a card to tell her she could move the pawn again. She did, and she captured my king!

Lydia captures my king

Lydia captures my king

Saturday dawned sunny and windy. It was the final day of Lydia’s stay. Time to go to Target and give her a chance to choose a gift. She had filled in all the stars of her chore chart and was eager to enjoy the fruit of her labors. She admired some large, expensive, items that we had to explain were not in our budget. She was delighted that she got a free Easter bunny stuffy when we bought three greeting cards. Since the stuffy was free, it was a bonus gift.

The item Lydia chose was a toy waffle maker. 

We spent the rest of the morning making “waffles” and decorating them with the sprinkles and “whipped cream.” Then we drew welcome pictures on the sidewalk with brand new chalk.

Soon it was time for lunch and time for Mommy and Daddy to come home. When they appeared, Lydia danced from one end of the room to the other and jumped into their arms. After lunch, all three members of the reunited family went out to the field close to us and flew a lovely kite we borrowed from our neighbors Carol and Bernie. Lydia got to fly it herself! Just like the song says,

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

Our sleepover week was pronounced a big success by all. The tears in the middle just made the hugs at the end that much tighter.

[The links in this post will take you to places you can buy items easily. I am not compensated for placing them here. I share in case you get inspired to give a treat to some child you love.]

While we were having so much fun together, we adults were very aware that children, parents, and grandparents in Ukraine are experiencing terrible losses and trauma. We didn’t talk with Lydia about this tragedy, but we will follow the lead of her parents in choosing what to share at a later time, probably to give her the chance she so ardently seeks, to be a helper.

Let’s create some collective wisdom here. What have been your greatest hits when doing sleepovers with grandchildren? Did you have any brilliant ideas, like my FaceTime idea, that went awry? How do you think small children should be told about tragic events happening in the world?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on March 9, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Shirley, I had a bit of nostalgia reading this post, as our grandchildren are now all in their teens and one in his twenties and the activities are different now. Today Hardy and oldest grandson Ben went out to A&W for burgers, something the two of them have done since Ben was in his teens. His sister Kathryn (16) and her mom are coming for supper tonight as Ben and dad have another commitment. Kathryn has had many overnights with us since her Kindergarten days.
    I think children should be told when they ask questions. They hear things and are more aware than we often realize. If you are afraid to talk about something, they won’t ask, but if they sense you are open to anything they will

    • Shirley Showalter on March 9, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      I am sensing the fleeting moments even as we play with little Lydia. Her cousins are already pre-teens. I can text with the oldest one now. So quickly flees the time! Sounds like you have managed some great traditions into the teen years. Congratulations, Elfrieda.

      Your guidance on when and how to talk with small children is so wise. Isn’t it amazing how quickly even small children can sense openness and fear?

  2. Carolyn Yoder on March 9, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    What a beautiful week, Shirley! What precious memories you made. I love the video of the ballet dance. Is Lydia thrilled to wear a tutu? I remember Kate and Jessica love of getting dressed in the tights, slippers, tutu, and special pink ballet sweater. They loved that more than the actual class!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 9, 2022 at 8:36 pm

      Lydia does love the tutu, and the tights, and shoes. I think her mother likes them as much as she does. The class is just too cute for words. The adults have to take turns standing beside the window looking in. Thanks for sharing your memory of two little girls I can well imagine.

  3. Lilith Rogers on March 9, 2022 at 7:18 pm

    Awww, Lucky little gal and lucky Gramps!!! I loved this story, thanks..felt like I was there with you…….bet she’ll be happy to come back again!!

    Love, Lilith

    • Shirley Showalter on March 9, 2022 at 8:39 pm

      Lilith, lovely to see you here again. I do think Lydia will love to come again. She has lots of favorite places to explore and activities that are unique to this place. She wants it all –comfort and familiarity and newness and adventure. Don’t we all?

  4. Maren C. Tirabassi on March 9, 2022 at 7:23 pm

    What a wonderful week. Leo and Casey 6 and 4 have parents who are not ready for a sleepover but we are storing all your suggestions!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 9, 2022 at 8:48 pm

      Maren, you know this stage of life very well. I am sure that you have very creative times with your two grandchildren, no matter how long or at what hours. I can only imagine the poetry of your play.

  5. Marian Beaman on March 9, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    What a joyful post!

    You are right. Childhood passes in a snap. In no time flat, Soon Lydia will be able to read this and thank her Grandma for capturing these fleeting moments. You mention that she selected a toy waffle maker as her prize. Maybe you can have baking fun with her in your kitchen as an ardent little helper. All four of my grandchildren enjoy baking and some of these events I blogged about,. Here is one which describes a few glitches:

    Over the years, we’ve gone on mystery trips, walked a corn maze, and visited the children’s museum many times. Lydia’s holding the chess piece reminds me of the one time I played chess with Curtis, who was so bored with my slow moves he simultaneously played checkers with the girl at the table close by..

    One thing you may want to add to your repertoire: Compiling a list of witty or unusual things your grandchildren say (or text). Over time, I created “Interesting sayings” for each grandchild. For example: Listening to the pastor’s children’s sermon on the loaves and fishes, Curtis piped up, “Was it garlic bread?” And from Jenna: “I don’t want to get a belly ring when I’m older. I don’t want a rusty belly button.”

    Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what you do–either in FaceTime or otherwise. It’s the time you share they will remember.
    And a gold star for you, Grandma Shirley! 😀

    • Shirley Showalter on March 9, 2022 at 9:09 pm

      Thanks, Nana Marian. Your blog is such a treasure chest of creative ideas and good stories. I loved going back to the rainbow cake story and hope other readers find it also. Lydia and I have made Grandma Herr’s Sugar Cakes together. That was fun for both of us, and we shared the cookies with Great Grandma. Of course, great grandma’s grandma is Lydia’s great great great grandma!

      I recorded the cute sayings of my children. You remind me that I need to do something similar with this new crew. 🙂

  6. Laurie Gray on March 9, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    I loved reading about your week with Lydia. I am curious about the regret you’ve expressed about the FaceTime. I am sure that the tears were hard on you and her parents, but sadness and missing them are strong feelings that she was feeling before the FaceTime and that she was able to express and hopefully process through the FaceTime and tears. It doesn’t sound like she was inconsolable. Might it have been something like a pre-school level catharsis that led to a good night’s sleep and wonderful rest of the stay? I am sure she felt safe with you and loved by you and her parents through every moment and every tear. Might it also have been a moment of growth for Lydia?

    • Shirley Showalter on March 10, 2022 at 9:53 am

      Thank you, Laurie, for offering these thoughts about the FaceTime breakdown. You might be right about the catharsis. Certainly, it cleared some deep feelings that were both understandable and acceptable. It’s hard to know what might have happened had I not suggested FaceTime. She relaxed after she saw that the time was getting shorter. If she had wanted to do FT, I would not have felt as bad about the tears. Since it was my idea, I felt as though I had made everyone sadder than necessary. However, I like your interpretation of catharsis. I am quite confident that she will be asking to do a sleepover at Grandparent House quite soon again. And next time, we have the moment of growth to build on. Lovely narrative.

  7. Melodie M Davis on March 9, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    What a week! I can imagine that a child by herself with grandparents would get a mite more homesick than with siblings. Maybe? You all will treasure the time I’m sure, and it will be interesting what she remembers. Probably the FaceTime homesickness will be forgotten.

    I now regret that we didn’t have many overnights at all with my mother’s mother. I was always kind of scared/nervous there, afraid of doing something she wouldn’t like (she was a widow from age 50.) The cousins who lived closer spent nights there much more frequently (they could walk to Grandma’s). On the other side of the family, my father’s parents lived in the doughty house/apartment attached to our home, so we had that advantage. But good memories all around.

    We are hoping to do another Cousin Camp this summer so I may flip back to this post for ideas–the treehouse park sounds really cool.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 10, 2022 at 9:57 am

      Thanks, Melodie. Our neighbors next door did a sleepover with two granddaughters recently and we were able to observe how the two of them make a family-within-a-family that still feels intact when the parents are gone for a while.

      One subject I find infinitely fascinating is how we grandparent based on how we feel about the type of grandparenting we experienced ourselves as children.

      Have a great time planning Cousin Camp. I know your little ones will be excited to see you and each other. The great thing about ideas in that case is that we can always contribute to the funfilled memories, but they would make them without any additional planning. That’s the nature of love and childhood.

  8. Melodie on March 10, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    Your last point here is a good one–just observing the children on TV in Ukraine etc in their dire state, and playing ….

    • Shirley Showalter on March 10, 2022 at 8:37 pm

      Heartbreaking. Did you see the video of the girl in the shelter singing “Let it Go” from Frozen? Made me cry.

  9. Rachel Nafziger Hartzler on March 12, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Hi, Shirley! I have had lots of sleep overs with grandchildren over the years. (My oldest grandchild is about to graduate from college.) I have lots of stories, but the one I will mention here has to do with FaceTime. I had almost-four-year-old Catherine and her ten-year-old brother Harold when their parents went to Colombia for a week last autumn. Staying with me overnight was not new, but a week was a long time for Catherine. Bedtimes were the most difficult, and her parents FaceTiming made it worse. She was nearly inconsolable after talking with them, sometimes crying herself to sleep. After a few days of that, I requested no more bedtime FaceTime. We did some daytime FaceTime, but at bedtime, we communicated via text. I let Catherine use my phone to send cute emojis.

    The other issue you raise is of great interest to me and one I have been thinking about a lot: How to talk to children about war. I have a few ideas, and I have been looking for articles and other resources, but I would love to have an ongoing conversation about this. It’s not a new question of course, I have a few vivid memories of my anxieties from talk of Sputnik when I was young. I remember challenging conversations about the apocalypse Morning After films when my sons were young, and the Hunger Games when my older grandchildren were young. And now we have a war that seems so close. One resource I have used repeatedly is the children’s book “Henry’s Red Sea” by Barbara Smucker, first published in 1955. And there are others, as well as guidelines to talking to children about war. I am interested in pooling ideas and resources. (I am Nana or Nana Rachel)

    • Shirley Showalter on March 13, 2022 at 2:11 pm

      Rachel, thanks for this meaty comment. First, I can’t believe you have a grandchild about to graduate from college! But you just accentuate the truth of the small window of time age 0-18 years is. And grandparents, even more than parents, feel this short time. For us, time itself is more precious.

      The FaceTime story mirrors what happened to us. Fortunately, Lydia was able to pull herself together after going through about a dozen tissues. And then, like Laurie said above, the breakdown was cathartic. Like all challenges, this one will strengthen both Lydia and Catherine.

      Thanks for saying you want to talk about children and war. I am on vacation with Owen and Julia, and they are old enough to talk about the war. I will probably post something on this subject again. And maybe we can get a conversation going. Laurie Gray, above, already sent me a good article.

      • Rachel Nafziger Hartzler on March 13, 2022 at 5:53 pm

        Thanks, Shirley. Could you share a link to the article that Laurie sent you (the one about talking with children about war)?

  10. Laurie Buchanan on March 16, 2022 at 11:32 am

    Shirley — This post was wonderful and informative (great ideas of things to do with grandchildren) and confirmed that Luna (who will be four in October) is NOT ready for that long of a sleepover. No way. No how. And neither are Nana and Papa.

    I loved watching Lydia’s ballet performance. And I’m so glad you got NO STRESS CHESS. Woohoo!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 16, 2022 at 1:37 pm

      I was hoping you would see thaepicture of Lydia with the king, Laurie. Thanks again for that good idea. There are lots of ways grandparents can learn from each other and from our collective grandchildren. So much has changed since we were grandchildren. The amount of change between three and four years was amazing, and now Lydia is almost five. She is expecting magical things to happen when she turns five. And I’m pretty sure they will. 🙂

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