Fun times with grandkids

“How come you don’t have any kids?” the next to youngest granddaughter asked me as she leaned out the window of the family van just before she went home from the family camp-out.
“All my kids have grown up and become adults,” I explained.
Besides, I thought, why should I have kids, when I can have so much more fun being a grandmother to my sons’ children as I have this past month.
Late Saturday afternoon of our family camp-out, the kids kept getting underfoot.
“Hey, kids. Come here. Let’s do a nature scavenger hunt. You go find a rhododendron and moss on a stick. When you find them and show me, I will give you have a treat,” I said and pulled the unopened bag of trail mix out of its hiding place in my car.
Racing to be first, six pairs of little feet (and their grandfather – he had to help them) scrambled away from the campfire where the adults sat.
For the next half hour to 45 minutes, they kept me busy sending them out to find colored leaves, seed pods and ferns. With proof of planthood, they selected their favorite parts of the trail mix. One preferred the nuts, another the banana chips, others the raisins.
As my made-up game wore out, the oldest child wandered off to find more seed pods to add to her collection, the only grandson explored the differences in trees with his grandfather. The similar aged children organized a game.
Only one child remained. “Grandma, tell me to find something else. I don’t care if I get a treat,” she said.
“Okay, how about you gather up some twigs and make a little house right here. You could use ferns for the roof and moss for the floor.” Her face brightened and she began gathering twigs. She built a charming little cabin for the wood elves.
The next day, after a hearty swim in the chilled water, they restlessly converged and swirled around the picnic tables. “Would you like to paint?” I asked grabbing unzipped the bag of water colors and paint brushes and looked around for something to paint – my notebook had already sacrificed most of its extra pages. I saw a stack of 100 cheap, paper plates and began peeling them off.
The paper plates’ crinkle edges flattened under the weight of paint and pressure of little artists’ hands as plates became pizza pies, smiley faces, beautiful flowers, and collages of colors. For the next half hour, they painted plates, leaves, their clothes, the tables and anything else they touched. Quickly an art gallery of painted plates spread out around us – drying in the patches of sunlight in the deep woods. An hour later as we packed up, the children grabbed their plates and gave one, two or three each to their childless aunt and uncle. The rest of the plates went home or disappeared during the camp clean-up.
Back home, the oldest visitor discovered a rather thick book of crafts for children. “I want to do all of these,” she declared. “Can we?”
“Well, maybe we could try to do one or two,” I suggested. The next day the paints came out again. I stuck with the simplicity of explaining potato print cards. My husband picked ferns and leaves and worked at the fine art of leaf prints with the middle child. By bedtime, colorful greeting cards painted or printed with sturdy potatoes or delicate ferns covered the dining room table. Reluctantly, we closed up the paints and arranged the cards on the shelf to dry and finish another day.
The book’s other activities may have to wait for another visit at grandma’s house.