Connecting With Your Grandkids
About the Guest
Want to bond with your grandkids? Grandmother Anne Dierks knew she wanted to build an inheritance of memories with her grandkids, so she invented Granny Camp.
Anne DierksAnne Dierks is the mother of four children and the grandmother of fourteen grandchildren--four boys and ten girls. After hosting her own grandchildren for a week each summer for over a decade, she has become an expert as the "Camp Director" in a unique experience she calls "Granny Camp." She has had no formal training as a teacher, nurse, art instructor, song director, coach, or cook. What she does have is a heart's desire to find a way to know her grandchildren through good clean fun and...more
Want to bond with your grandkids?
Connecting With Your Grandkids
Bob: Ann Dierks is a serious grandmother. She has fourteen grandchildren, four boys and ten girls, and each year she invites them to come to her house for Granny Camp.
Ann: You don’t have to take them to Six Flags and you don’t have to take them to all the fancy places and spend a lot of money. That’s not what Granny Camp’s about. It’s not about spending money on your grandchildren. Granny Camp is an organized time where you are focused on just your grandchildren.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. You may not be ready for a whole granny camp of you own but you can do a granny day. We’ve got some great ideas for how to engage with your grandchildren on today’s program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
I can always tell when I just need to get up, leave, get out of here.
Dennis: No longer, Bob. No longer.
Bob: What do you mean, “no longer?”
Dennis: Well, you’re a grandparent now.
Bob: I’m a grandparent but I’ve got you and a feisty granny in the studio…
Dennis: With fourteen of them…
Bob: And I’m just saying, “I’m done, it’s all yours! See you later!”
Dennis: This broadcast is for grandparents, obviously, but it’s also for all the parents who are listening who have moms and dads, their moms and dads, who maybe just don’t know how to engage the grandchildren.
Bob: So what you’re saying is you can inspire your mom and dad to get on board with this?
Dennis: Well, you know, quite honestly, if you think about the concept of becoming a grandparent, when your children have their children, there are no instruction manuals that are passed out to grandparents when that happens.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: So I’m just recommending that now, in birthing rooms all around the nation, this book, called Granny Camp, be passed out so that the parents can pass it on to the grandmothers and grandfathers of their grandchildren.
Bob: You want to explain Granny Camp for our listeners?
Dennis: I do and I’m going to introduce the camp director of Granny Camp who also wrote the book by the same title. She is the proud grandmother of fourteen and she’s been married to her husband for almost fifty years. They have four children, all of whom are married.
Ann Dierks joins us on FamilyLife Today. Ann, welcome to the broadcast.
Ann: Thank you for having me. It’s going to be fun.
Dennis: This is kind of fun and you don’t know this. But I’m about to get in a car in a couple of hours and I’m heading out to go have some time with my grandchildren.
Ann: I approve!
Bob: Just a few of the sixteen grandchildren. Only three.
Ann: Only three? It doesn’t make any difference how many. As long as you’re with them and you give them all that love. That’s what’s special.
Dennis: Tell us where you got the idea for Granny Camp.
Ann: My grandchildren all lived in different places. They live in four different states. I wanted them to know me, to know my husband, for us to know them, and for them to know their cousins. It was a way to do it. Bring them together.
No parents! Parents are not allowed at Granny Camp! So we get that special one on one time with them to pass on our family traditions, the things that we want them to know about us.
Bob: Now when you first started this, how many grandchildren did you have and what ages where they?
Ann: We had three grandchildren. T hey were a year apart and they were five, four, and three years old.
Bob: So basically you were saying “bring the kids, we’ll watch them for a while.” Or did you have this outlined? “We’re going to do this on this day and this on this day?” Did you have it all planned out or was it just kind of made up as you went along.
Ann: Well, I had it sort of planned out. I just had a piece of paper in my kitchen and I wrote down what we might have for lunch and breakfast and let’s go to the pool today and let’s do that kind of thing. It wasn’t quite as organized as it has gotten to be.
When I invited the beginning of the nine girls and there were seven of them and they were aged seven to four and a half, that was 2003, I thought “You know, I really need to get organized!” You can’t have seven little children standing by your side saying “What are we having for lunch?” and you saying “let’s see. I’ll look in my refrigerator and see what we might have.”
No, you need to know that today we’re having peanut butter and jelly and tomorrow we’re having grilled cheese. And at ten o’clock we’re going to the beach and at nine o’clock we’re doing crafts and at three o’clock we’re going to do Christian videos. So I had a schedule. I abide by it to this day. I fill it out before they get there.
Now you have to be flexible! The days you’re going to the beach or the swimming pool it rains so you’ve got to figure out something else to do. But pretty much you follow that so that you don’t’ have to stand there and wait. And they don’t have to wait. They don’t want to wait! “What are we doing next, Grandmother?” You just need to know.
Dennis: Now I want you to know, Ann, listening to your schedule, Barbara and I understand that! We have a cousins’ camp. It wasn’t nearly as ambitious as you had.
Bob: It was just a day, wasn’t it?
Dennis: It was a day.
Ann: It’s okay, you can do that!
Dennis: Can you believe…
Bob: I’m just calling it like I see it. You’re a sissy! You can only take a day!
Ann: No he’s not. At least he did it. Some grandparents don’t do it at all!
Dennis: Thank you, Ann. Thank you. A little respect there from the guest! But not from the co-host!
Oh, what a guy! But anyway, Barbara and I laid out the schedule. And I’m going to tell you something. If you don’t know where you’re going, all the children will take you there!
Ann: That’s right! It could be what you call chaos.
Dennis: It is chaos, even with a schedule, okay?
Ann: That’s right!
Dennis: But it was a lot of fun. We had, what do you call it? Tempura paint. We had a concrete floor in a garage and tables all set up with each child having their own big piece of paper. They could just glum their hands into that thing. And you know what? Their parents weren’t anywhere around.
Ann: No, you don’t want the parents.
Dennis: It didn’t matter. It was the coolest thing. It was always what I wanted to do with my kids but because they were mine, we could never let them do that, you know?
Ann: We do finger painting only we paint each other when it’s all over and then we hose each other off! We do it in our bathing suits!
Dennis: I’m adding that to our repertoire…
Ann: Whooo! It’s fun!
Dennis: … next time we do it!
Bob: I just want to know. What is the difference between Granny Camp and just going and spending a couple of weeks at granny’s house?
Ann: Oh, it’s not the same. Granny Camp is an organized time that you are focused on just your grandchildren. No parents are involved and you do some special things. Now my Granny Camp is basically things that we do that are free.
It’s time to be together. That’s the whole point of it. It’s family. It’s grandparents. It’s cousins. You don’t have to take them to Six Flags and you don’t have to take them to all the fancy places and spend a lot for money on them.
Bob: You told me that you did this once. You did take the kids to the amusement park and it was an okay day.
Ann: Oh yes, they had a grand time but I spent a lot of money and that’s not what Granny Camp’s about. It’s not about spending money on your grandchildren.
Dennis: Now I want to say a word about that. When we did our cousins camp we had the coloring books, we had the books that we were reading, we had balloons, we had the finger paints…
Ann: And that costs money.
Dennis: It does so you have to make a little investment. But compared to Disneyworld or Sea World or the big amusement parks we’re just talking about a small amount of money by comparison.
Ann: That’s right. We catch bugs. We play games and we watch videos sometimes when it’s hot. In the middle of the afternoons is the only time I let them turn on the television. That’s not what it’s about either. But it does cost.
We do a lot of crafts. You mentioned your garage. I set up a huge table in the garage with glitter and paint and glue and beads. You name it. Paint brushes and all that stuff. And they love to create. And so you buy kits of things that they can do, birdhouses and frames and bracelets they can make. So you do have some expense. But it’s not like going to preplanned places and spending a lot of money.
Ann: It’s spending time with each other.
Dennis: And you have to be ready for the mess they that will create. It wasn’t a problem for us. We just sold the house after cousins’ camp.
Ann: That’s right!
Bob: What’s the most you’ve had a Granny Camp at any one time.
Ann: Eleven, for a week.
Bob: And where did the eleven…
Dennis: Hold it. How many employees do you have?
Ann: Only Granddad!
And for the first ten years I did Granny Camp. Granddad was working and he wasn’t there. It was just Grandmother.
Bob: I was going to ask you, because I hadn’t heard a word about Granddad in this deal!
Ann: Oh, now Granddad is an integral part of camp because he does Granddad’s G’s.
Dennis: I can’t believe that he didn’t…
Bob: Wait. Granddad’s G’s?
Ann: Well Granddad is a geologist by degree and he’s a genealogist by choice. And so we started with the geology because we live out in the woods and he went out…. It’s not rocks, they’re minerals, you know, they really are minerals. So he went out and explained those things to them.
His family was in the lumber business for many years and so he goes into the woods and he explains about trees. He has little trees and bigger trees and then he cuts a slice of a huge tree and he shows them the rings and all about that.
So Granddad’s G’s was teaching about geology and genealogy and then it grew into God and gospel and government and good virtues. And it’s all the g’s. And he gathers them around at his feet and he gets out his white board if he has to draw a picture and he gets out his globe with the genealogy. And he says “well, our ancestors came from Germany. Where is Germany? Someone show me Germany on the map.” He’s the teaching tool. So Granddad is very much a part of camp.
Bob: You get a little break these days that you didn’t have.
Ann: He does that while I’m fixing dinner or getting ready for a picnic or doing something. I say “Go do a “g”” and so he just picks a “g” and does it.
Dennis: And for your Granny Camp you’ve undoubtedly kind of perfected. What is the length of time that you should host Granny Camp.
Ann: Yes, that’s right.
Dennis: And that is?
Ann: It can be a day. It can be two days. You can have a day of Granny Camp and do character day. If you have all boys do Batman and Robin. Or if you have all girls do Cinderella Day. Or you can do one day. I had had major surgery and couldn’t do Granny Camp. We went to Florida, rented a condo, and I said “can I have your children for a day?” I said “we’re going to have mini Granny Camp.” They came to my condo. They all loved purple. I’m not a purple fan but they love purple. So we had “Purple Day.”
Well, what is Purple Day? Like I say, I wish I’d been a kindergarten teacher. But we colored with purple crayons, we played with purple play dough, we had purple grapes and purple jelly on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We sang “One Eyed, One- Horned Flying Purple People Eater” and we just did purple things all day long! So it was Purple Day. It’s doesn’t have to be fancy.
Bob: So it can be a day but how long can it go before you say alright, this has got to stop.
Ann: A day!
Bob: I mean, you’ve gone two weeks with Granny Camp? Right?
Ann: Oh, it’s only a week now. In the beginning, when the first three came, I did it for two weeks and then the next year I did it ten days and then I thought a week is enough.
Bob: That’s what I was looking for!
Ann: The more you have. They can only stand each other for so long. And they’re nice for about a week to each other. They really all get along.
Dennis: They really are nice for a week, though?
Ann: Well, let me tell you…
Dennis: Is that a guarantee?
Ann: Because Grandmother has rules and the rules are in the book, the Granny Camp book. I have the rules.
Dennis: Let’s talk about those because I was not prepared for the new role I would have with my grandchildren and one of the areas is around rules. Talk to me about rules for a moment.
Ann: Well there are some wonderful rules, some very specific rules. I mean, there’s general rules like we don’t run in the house and we don’t jump on the beds and we don’t jump on each other. We don’t wear high heels--we do a lot of dress up for the little girls--we don’t wear high heels on the stairs. You know, things like that.
The Golden Rule is the main rule that we abide by at camp. So I lay out all those. We have the toilet paper rule. Can I talk about that?
Dennis: Oh sure.
Ann: We had to take, the first year that we had the seven little girls, the second day that we were there, we had to take the whole toilet off of its base, off of the floor, because it got stopped up with toilet paper. I mean it’s little girls. What do you do? So we instigated the four square rule. It’s just four squares.
Ann: Rationing, yes! Grandmother does rationing. And then there’s telephone rule.
Ann: Parents can’t call their grandchildren at Granny Camp especially when they are little. We had an incident that first year with a five year old. Her mother called about two nights before camp was over and said “I’ve just got to talk with her” and I said “well, alright, I don’t want you to, but alright.” So I let her talk to her daughter. I put all seven in the shower and I let them scrub each other’s backs. They’re seven to four years old and they all get in this big glass shower and they scrub the walls…
Dennis: I get the picture!
Ann: I got one out and I said “come here, come here.” So I told her who it was and go off and talk to her. She talked to her mother and I said “now don’t tell any of the other children that you’ve talked to your mother.”
Ann: Alright. So we got ready for bed, we said our prayers, and about thirty minutes later, here she comes. Sobbing. I said “what is the matter?” “I want to go home and see my mother.” Well, in about ten more minutes all seven of them were crying and all of them were ready to go home. I said, “See, that’s why we don’t talk to parents.”
Once they talk to their parents they want to go home. Prior to that, they hadn’t even thought of their parents. It wasn’t an issue. So no telephone calls.
Bob: Now you said “tucked into bed.”
Dennis: No wait. Before you move off of rules, I want to talk about the rules for one more second. We’re about to go and babysit some of our grandchildren. I’m going to keep the number anonymous so the FBI can’t figure out who it is.
Bob: But fewer than ten, right?
Dennis: Fewer than ten. One of the rules we had foisted upon us was no sugar. No sugar.
Ann: Oh dear.
Dennis: And he said “Poppa—that’s my name—Poppa, you cannot bring sugar as treats for the kids.”
Bob: One of them had a bunch of cavities, right?
Dennis: Well, they said that they’d been to the dentist and it was really, really bad news and that I couldn’t have my gummy bear invasion. There’s always a gummy bear invasion with any of my grandkids, anytime. It’s just astounding how it happens. I don’t understand it really.
Ann: I know. I understand.
Dennis: …But they’re all over the yard. Kids go pick them up and they get sick on them for days. It’s fun!
Ann: It’s wonderful!
Dennis: It really is a blast. So I wrote my son back. Uh oh. I’ve let out that amount of information. I wrote my son back and I said “Oh, this is totally unfair. I cannot believe you’re asking me to come over there for this three day babysitting adventure, which is now going to be turned into a mini non-sissy cousins’ camp. I am going to host this baby, alright?”
Anyway, so he says “no sugar.” So I say, “Son. This is all about tradition. What am I going to do? Have them run out in the yard and look for broccoli and brussel sprouts?”
Ann: And be excited about it?
Dennis: Asparagus? I mean, sure, the kids are really going to get into that. So we’re in a little bit of arm wrestling. But seriously…
Bob: So are you going to take sugar?
Dennis: No. No, I’m going to honor the request. Isn’t that the right thing to do?
Ann: I really have to question that.
Dennis: You’re really throwing gasoline on a fire, right here. You just had a punch of parents roll their eyes and say, ”This is the kind of grandmother…”
Ann: But that’s what it is. It’s a grandmother and grandmother gets to do whatever grandmother wants to do.
Dennis: You’re just pouring gasoline on a fire. We’re going to get phone calls, not only from my children, but from listeners all over the country saying “Can you believe Ann Dierk’s Granny Camp? “
Ann: Do you know what I did on top of that?
Dennis: I’m afraid to ask.
Ann: No, after this little story, I’ll tell you what I did about two years ago. I gave them their dinner. Usually I serve up their plates. We have children’s food. I send them a list before they come to camp. Tell me what you like for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, things that your mother won’t let you have but your grandmother will let you have. I get a list…
Dennis: You actually bait them!
Ann: Yes, I get all that back so that I have a list of all those things. So we eat children food. We eat macaroni and cheese and, you know, all those things that children like.
Dennis: Nutritious. Very nutritious.
Ann: I told them it’s not nutrition camp. Don’t’ plan on it. It’s not.
Dennis: Major food groups. Chocolates. Ice Cream. Cotton candy…
Ann: Wait a minute. Now let me finish my story. So then I usually serve up their plates. This night I didn’t. I just gave them a bowl of fruit and put them out on the deck and said “Eat your fruit and dinner’s coming.”
Dennis: On the deck.
Ann: Yes, we have a deck on the back of our house.
Dennis: Sure. You can hose it down. I understand.
Ann: Oh, it’s wonderful. Absolutely! I eat out there as often as we can. So I give them their fruit, they eat all their fruit and they’re sitting there, just waiting. I said “Okay kids, we’re having dessert for dinner!” And all we had was ice cream and cake and sprinkles and things to put on the ice cream and that’s all we had for dinner.
Ann: It’s okay!
Dennis: This broadcast will not be aired before this weekend.
Ann: It’s just what grandmothers and granddads get to do. Special things.
Dennis: You know what we’re going to do . I believe you’ve raised an issue here. What we’re going to do…
Ann: I’ve ruined America’s teeth!
Dennis: We’re going to have a straw poll. One of our famous Bob straw polls. He bought like how many dozen, gross of straws?
Bob: It was, I think, a thousand. No, it was five thousand…
Dennis: And he got them for one-tenth of a cent apiece. It was like…
Bob: It was five thousand straws…
Dennis: So we had a straw poll one time to find out how many people agreed with Bob who saved some cash…
Bob: Bargain hunter…
Dennis: And still has them and will and is going to pass them on to his kids when he dies, or MaryAnn who wanted to buy the expensive fifty-pack of straws for a dollar. Fifty straws for a dollar!
Dennis: Two cents apiece!
Bob: For a dollar! I got five thousand straws for ten bucks!
Dennis: I forget. How did the poll come out?
Bob: I forget. It was like fifty/fifty.
Dennis: Okay, so here is going to be the poll. We’re going to give people a highly sophisticated poll. If you’re a parent, you check one box and that takes you to a poll that has yes or no, Granny or Grandpa can set their own rules and can even break a few rules…
Bob: So you want parents to vote whether grandparents should have that freedom…
Bob: …and we want grandparents to vote whether they should have that freedom.
Dennis: I think so.
Ann: I think that’s okay.
Dennis: Well, here’s the thing…
Ann: I think you’ll find out that we win.
Dennis: We have the final vote, right?
Ann: Especially if the grandchildren get to vote.
Dennis: Should we have the kids vote too?
Ann: Oh, I think we should open it to the children.
Dennis: A third category?
Ann: Of course.
Dennis: Well, if we have the capacity on our website we’ll have a third category for the kids to vote. Should Granny and Gramps be able to…
Bob: Set the rules…
Dennis: That’s right. To completely overturn them.
Bob: All I know is that I’m ready for ice cream, cake, and cookies so let’s wrap this thing up.
Dennis: Here’s really the challenge. You know, we’ve laughed and had a good time today. Being a grandparent is really an assignment from God.
Dennis: It is a privilege. It is really a high and holy privilege and the question is, as a grandparent, what are you doing to impact your legacy? How are you going to shape
their conscience, their souls, their personalities, their ability to relate to people, their breadth of knowledge? What do you have that you would like to pass on?
Maybe it’s about trees and rocks, like Ann’s husband is doing. Maybe it’s a Bible verse. But the point is, begin to connect relationally with your grandchildren and tread carefully on these rules that Ann told you to break!
Because I’m not sure the parents are going to appreciate her stance on this topic.
Bob: And you may think “I’m just not wired the way Ann is wired. I’m not a kindergarten teacher wanna-be.” That’s what the book is for.
Ann: That’s right. That’s what the book is about.
Bob: The book really gives a grandmother and a grandfather, or parents for that matter... I’m just sitting here thinking this is great for grandparents to do and they’ve got the time and the effort and the energy. But a mom or a dad could engineer a one day camp with their own kids.
This is 140 pages of great ideas on how to make memories, suggestions, tips, creative stuff. The book is called Granny Camp, How to Bond with Your Grandchildren. You can go to our website, FamilyLIfeToday.com, to order a copy of Ann’s book.
In fact, I’m thinking this would be to give to your mom or dad as a Christmas gift and say, “Look this over.” You don’t have to do a full weeklong camp, but you could do a day or two. We’d bring the grandkids over and have a blast with them.”
Again, go to FamiyLifeToday.com and get a copy of Ann’s brook, Granny Camp, How to Bond with Your Grandchildren. The website again, FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call us toll free 1-800-FLTODAY and we can make arrangements to get a copy of Ann’s book off to you.
Now let me say a quick word of thanks to those listeners who have already gotten in touch with us. We’ve heard from a lot of our listeners over the last week since we first started talking about the matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us in December.
More than $2 million has been set aside as a matching gift. These funds come from some donors who have gotten together and said “We want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to help support the ministry and we’ll do that by matching every donation they make during the month of December on a dollar for dollar basis.” And we’re up to more than $2 million now in that matching gift amount.
So we’re coming to listeners and saying “Will you help us before the end of the year?” Would you get to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make an on-line donation or make a donation over the phone? When you do, that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar and you’ll really be helping us move into 2011 in a good place. We’ve had a challenging year this year.
In fact, we had to discontinue airing FamilyLife Today on a number of radio stations around the country because we just weren’t hearing from folks in those areas and we want to be good stewards of the funds that we’ve received.
So if you can help with the donation, we’d love to hear from you. If, for whatever reason, you can’t make a donation here at year end, pray for us. That’s another great way to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and we appreciate your prayers and we’re grateful that you listen.
Again, you can make a donation on-line at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call
I-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.” I want to say thanks in advance for whatever you’re able to do to help in supporting the ministry.
I want to encourage you to be here tomorrow. Ann Dierks is going to be here again with lots more fun, creative ways you can engage with your grandparents and build a relationship with them.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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