Good Times With the Grandkids
About the Guest
Granny Camp, Granny Camp ... Rah, Rah, Rah! Visiting grandparents doesn’t have to be boring, especially if your grandmother happens to be Anne Dierks. Anne talks about the fun she’s having each summer with her grandchildren.
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
Granny Camp, Granny Camp … Rah, Rah, Rah!
Good Times With the Grandkids
Bob: Let’s say you were going to have all your grandchildren over to the house for oh, a week or so. Would you be thinking, “I wouldn’t know what to do with the kids.” Well, when Ann Dierks has her grandchildren come in for Granny Camp, they have a lot of fun.
Ann: Oh, Family Olympics. We divide the teams up and we just do egg tosses and potato rolls and one-legged races and whatever, and a family event, and just laugh and have fun. Just know that when they come, you are not going to be doing ten other things. This is their time with you, and you’re going to spend that time concentrating on them, giving them the love they need and giving them a value system that you’ve had.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for December 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Ann Dierks has got a lot of fun ideas for how to spend time with your grandchildren, or with your children for that matter. We’re going to hear about them in just a minute.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I can see the twinkle in Paw Paw’s eyes right here.
Dennis: This is Papa.
Bob: Papa. Paw Paw. Whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Dennis: Chuck Swindoll is Paw Paw.
Bob: Is he? You’re Papa.
Dennis: I think.
Bob: This has re-energized --
Dennis: Oh, yeah. It really has. And the reason, Bob, is I think we become grandparents, we become an aunt or an uncle, and honestly we’ve not given it near the amount of thought from a generational standpoint that we should have given it.
Bob: Right. It’s a part-time job; it’s not a full-time job, right?
Dennis: No, and honestly, when we become parents we don’t do a lot of thinking about “How can we help the grandparents do what they’re supposed to do?”
Sometimes it’s real easy, I think, as children when you start having your own to critique your parents and go, “Well, they don’t come see us as often as they ought,” or “They don’t offer to babysit,” or you fill in the blank. As a result, I think you get a generation that kind of gets separated from another and I don’t think that’s what the Bible teaches.
Bob: Well, can I tell you the best Mother’s Day present I ever gave my wife? I gave Mary Ann last Mother’s Day a webcam, and I hooked her up with Skype and the webcam and now our granddaughter points to the computer at her house and says, “Mimi . . .”
Bob: “Mimi” and so there’s regular conversation going on between Mimi and Rosemary.
Dennis: She may think that Mimi is R2D2 or something.
Bob: We’ve wondered what’s going to happen when she sees her in real life.
Dennis: Real life. Oh, that’s Mimi. Great Scott, I thought it was a computer screen. Well, we have with us the Ph.D. of . . .
Bob: Of Granny Camp.
Dennis: Granny Camp.
Bob: You gave her an honorary Ph.D. in grandmothering.
Ann: I am thrilled to death.
Dennis: Yeah, absolutely. Ann Dierks joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Ann, welcome back.
Ann: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: She has written a book as the Camp Director of Granny Camp.
Bob: And I understand that there is at least a possibility that the Ph.D. is under review because of the creek incident. It might have to be revoked because of what happened at the creek.
Ann: Oh, yes. The creek incident. Well, we live in a National Park, and there is a creek that goes through part of the park. When these children were really little, we had taken them there to wade in the water but they had forgotten about it. So about two years ago – and it’s called “The Gorge” because it’s a gorge in the two mountains and it’s deep, but it’s beautiful – and it’s just a running little creek. So we said, “Well, let’s go to the Gorge.” They didn’t know what that was, and we went down there and you kind of step down into it several feet.
Bob: This is you and how many grandchildren?
Ann: This is eleven grandchildren and Granddad and myself.
Ann: Ages ten to six.
Dennis: Do you have life jackets on?
Ann: No, no, no, no.
Dennis: It’s not that kind of creek, huh?
Ann: I gave them a Granny Camp t-shirt every year at the end of camp for the closing ceremonies that we have, and it says, “Granny Camp 2007” or “Granny Camp” whatever. Well, I make them bring all those back so that when we go someplace we all are in the same color and I can find them in a group.
Ann: So they were all in their Granny Camp shirts and their tennis shoes.
Dennis: Got it.
Ann: So they went down to the creek and in a minute one hollers up and said, “Can I take my shoes off?” I said, “No, no, no. It might cut your feet and you all just go down there and walk from rock to rock. Just go down to the creek.”
So they’re down there for – not very long – and one of them hollers up, “Oh-h-h I got my feet wet!” I said, “You know what? It probably wouldn’t hurt to get your feet wet.” “Oh.” Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. They’re all stomping in the water.
Dennis: How many boys out of this group?
Ann: Two boys and nine girls.
Dennis: Bless their hearts.
Ann: I know. They’re the littlest ones.
Dennis: I’d be stomping through the creek, too.
Ann: So they’re stomping through the creek, and oh, my goodness, somebody fell into the water. And oh, they were so afraid to tell us. So they called up, “Grandmother, we fell in the water.” I said, “You know what? Probably wouldn’t hurt to get your clothes wet.”
Down in the water they went in their clothes and their shoes and they absolutely thought they’d died and gone to heaven. It is their most favorite thing. Of course, one daddy said, “Oh! It’s an accident about to happen!” I said, “How many times did you do things like that that were accidents about to happen?”
So we go to the Gorge every year now and we stomp in the water in our clothes and swim in our clothes and they just think . . .
Dennis: It’s a tradition.
Ann: It is a tradition now. It’s wonderful.
Dennis: You have a critter cage, too, that is a part of the tradition?
Ann: Yes, because we lived in town when we started Granny Camp and we got a critter cage. There are critters in every neighborhood, you know, that live out there in the woods or in places around –
Dennis: You’re not talking about neighbors?
Ann: No, I didn’t want any neighbors in the critter cage, although there are some neighbors I’d like to catch.
Bob: But you’re talking about possums and raccoons . . .
Ann: I’m talking about real night-time critters – yeah, yeah.
Ann: So the children – these are the first campers that we had – they wanted to catch a raccoon, so I got the critter cage. I had a friend that had the critter cage and they got it and put it in the backyard with a hot dog in the back of it and set the trap and everything, put it by the window so you can watch it and see it when you first get up. Of course we got up very early to look outside to see what we had caught.
Well, we had caught a possum, and I had never seen a possum up close. I’ve never seen an uglier – I’m sorry, God, but that is an ugly animal. I don’t know why he would create a possum, but he did.
Dennis: Meaner than a junkyard bulldog, too, I’m telling you.
Ann: Oh, and I had to let it loose! Oh, it was terrible. So the next night we tried again for a raccoon. So we put the critter cage out with another hot dog and we caught another possum. Oh! So they made a sign and they put the sign on the side of the cage that said, “Raccoons Only!” It didn’t work because we –
Dennis: “No vacancy” for opossums!
Ann: It didn’t work because we caught an angry cat – somebody’s cat we caught the next night.
Dennis: It wasn’t a happy cat.
Ann: Was not a happy cat. Oh, my gosh!
Dennis: Did you ever get a raccoon?
Ann: No. But we have raccoons that come up on our deck now and they rattle around and the kids get to see them, but we haven’t caught one. But they’re out there.
One of Granddad’s “G’s” that we do is game-hunting, and that’s we go in the car about dusk and we go look for deer, and we go look for big game, and that’s when we see raccoons and squirrels and skunks and deer.
Bob: So Granny Camp goes from splashing around in the Gorge, from the ridiculous to the sublime –
Ann: Oh, yes, which is high tea.
Bob: You have your high tea moments.
Ann: Yes we do. We get out the good dishes and the good glasses and the good silverware. They dress up. You go to big department stores after Christmas in about January or February, and you buy their tacky dresses that nobody else bought for their children, so if your grandchild is a size six, you buy like an eight or a ten and then it’s big. But it’s not a grown-up thing, but it’s a good dress-up thing.
Dennis: Now are you trying to be tacky?
Ann: No, but they are just dress-up kind of things. They are silky and satin and sparkly, and --
Dennis: Flowy –
Ann: Flowy, and if you buy a size ten –
Dennis: Got it.
Ann: --for a six-year-old it’s long, it drags the floor, and I have all kinds of old high heels and I go to garage sales and I buy picture hats, and so we have lots of big floppy picture hats. So we have high tea.
They go down and they pick out their outfits, their purse and their high heels and their outfit and their hat, and they get all dressed up. The counselors do their makeup. Oh, yes, that’s exciting. And then we have glamour shots with them in all these fancy things. And the little boys wear little coats –
Bob: I was going to say, what are the little boys doing?
Ann: They wear just a tie over their t-shirt of whatever and get looking a little bit better.
Bob: They’re ready in about three minutes.
Ann: Yes, but they’re okay. They’re okay. And we sit down at the table and we learn manners, and we learn how to put our napkin in our lap, and where the knife – “left” is four letters, “fork” is four letters, so the fork goes on the left.
“Right” is five letters and the “knife” and the “spoon” is five letters, and it goes on the right. That’s the way you remember.
Ann: Five and four.
Bob: This is –
Dennis: I wish somebody would have helped me with this earlier.
Bob: I’m just glad they’re helping me with it now.
Ann: You know, you learn to bring your food to your mouth and not you to your food, and you have to sit like a lady or a gentleman.
Dennis: So there’s a manners –
Ann: Oh, we have a whole manners class at high tea. Yes, it’s very, very nice.
Ann: And while they’re having high tea, then I read them a lovely story that has a good meaning or something – a little short story out loud while they are sitting being ladies.
Dennis: And then after they have done high tea –
Ann: Uh – huh. They take off their shoes –
Dennis: They’re ready to rumble and so you’ve got Family Olympics.
Ann: No. We do that later, but after high tea they kick off their shoes and we turn on the record player and we do the twist and the limbo and the Y-M-C-A and we dance.
Dennis: You know, we gave you a Ph.D. earlier – I’m going to confer on you the Jane Fonda – you need to do a DVD.
Ann: Jane Fonda?!? Isn’t there somebody better than that that you could equate me to?
Dennis: I’m just remembering an exercise video –
Dennis: -- that Barbara watched for a number of years.
Dennis: And I can see you, Ann,
Ann: Oh yes.
Dennis: -- on a DVD --
Ann: Exercise –
Dennis: -- for grandparents, teaching them all these games.
Bob: Well, you were telling me earlier that at the end of Grandparents Camp what do you do?
Ann: We have a closing ceremony.
Bob: But after the closing ceremony and everybody’s on the road, what do you do?
Ann: I take a very long nap.
Bob: Like one year . . .
Ann: In 2003 when I first had the seven little girls who were seven to four-and-a-half, I called their parents who hadn’t come to pick them up, telling them that the parents that had come to pick them up were on their way home and I walked in, closed the bedroom door, and I slept 17 hours. No lie. I got up, made some crackers, and went back to bed.
Bob: You can imagine. You can imagine being –
Ann: I was exhausted.
Bob: Of course you were.
Ann: But I had so much fun. And I love every minute of it.
Dennis: Okay. What about Family Olympics?
Ann: Oh, Family Olympics. We decided to do that when we were all together and you can have three-year-olds that are in the Olympics. We divide the teams up, can’t be husband and wife on the same team, and divide them all up.
We just do egg tosses and potato rolls and one-legged races and whatever, and then we name our teams, we get a cheer. We do stupid things. We have relay races and a family event and just laugh and have fun.
Dennis: Our kids push beans across a floor. You need to make sure the floor is –
Ann: Sort of clean.
Dennis: Well, that, but also there’s the issue of hardwood versus carpet.
Dennis: Because we did this with our kids and they got carpet burn on their noses from pushing the beans.
Ann: Oh, yes, yes. We’ve done that too. But you have to not have teenage boys that will cheat, because the day that we did the egg toss, you know, and you toss it to your team member back and forth –
Ann: We found out that our teenage boys had put extra eggs in their pockets so that they had a different egg to start with so that they could keep winning. I said, “Oh, now, we don’t cheat at Granny Camp. That’s one thing we don’t do.” I learned that after the fact.
Bob: Your youngest camper right now is eight years old.
Ann: Seven, yes.
Bob: We wouldn’t imagine this would be the case, but it’s at least a possibility that you might have to call an end to Granny Camp –
Ann: One of these days.
Bob: -- before the seven-year-old graduates out of the program.
Ann: Well, it’s possible.
Bob: Have you thought about that?
Ann: I’ve thought about that, and I think that when we have – the last little ones that are there – there’s a ten-year-old girl and then these two eight-year-old little boys—
that we can have just the boys come and build forts in the woods and catch bugs and, you know, catch snakes if they’d rather or whatever they want to do, and just come and play.
That’s okay for your grandchildren to do, but just know that when they come, you’re not going to be doing ten other things. This is their time with you, and you’re going to spend that time concentrating on them, giving them the love they need, passing on your traditions, whatever it is.
I have four that are coming this year that are thirteen that we’re going to sew. I’m going to teach them how to do needlepoint, how to do counted cross stitch, how to bead, how to do things that I know how to do, that their mothers don’t do. We’re going to hem a dress, we’re going to sew on a button, we’re going to do things like that.
It’s just being with them and teaching them things that are helpful to them and giving them a value system that you’ve had.
Bob: Have you stopped to think about your oldest grandchild, an eighteen-year-old, right?
Bob: She’s a young lady.
Ann: Yes, she’s getting ready to go to college.
Bob: How do you think she is different because of her years of coming to Granny Camp? What mark do you think maybe Granny Camp has left on her? Is it just happy memories from her childhood, or do you think it’s more than that?
Ann: Well, I don’t know that I’ve ever asked her the question, “What have you learned from Granny Camp?” but I know that she has a very special relationship with my husband and myself. To me, that is very important.
She is a very God-loving young lady. She’s a good girl. She’s stayed a good girl, and whether we had any impact on that, I don’t know, but I just know that we’re proud that we could be part of her life and that she’s part of ours.
Dennis: We’ve had a lot of fun doing this series of broadcasts with you, Ann. You’ve done a great job doing it. Not everybody who is listening, however, as grandparents or as parents, has a great relationship with their counterpart. In other words, they may not get along with their parents who are the grandparents of their kids. Do you have any advice or counsel?
I’m thinking right now of a couple that I know – they have three or four children, and they’re kind of in a tense situation where in some cases the grandkids are off limits, and it’s kind of hard to do something like this if you don’t feel welcome.
Ann: The parents won’t let the grandparents have any part of the grandchildren’s lives?
Dennis: Yes. That happens.
Ann: The only thing I could say is that you just never stop loving them and letting them know in little ways that you love them. Send them cards, e-mail them, touch their lives somehow. It doesn’t have to be expensive, whatever you do, but try to go through that barrier in a very non-threatening way to the parents, but in a way to let those children know that you love them and that you really want to be with them if that’s at all possible.
You don’t want to drive that wedge any farther, and you certainly don’t want to make the relationship between the parents and the children – you certainly don’t want to damage that in any way. But, that’s a very sad thing, because grandparents have a perspective that they can give to children that is not like any other.
Dennis: Yes. And if we’re talking to somebody here who is in an estranged relationship with their parents or perhaps with their adult children as they are raising their children, our encouragement at this point would be to find a way?
Ann: Find a way and just pray about it, because God can change hearts in a big way.
Dennis: He really can.
Ann: All we have to do is ask.
Dennis: And along that point, just around difficult situations. In all your years of doing this, have you ever done something where you may – we kind of laughed about this a bit earlier, where you were kind of pressing the limits that maybe parents had – did you ever press a limit and go too far and offend one of your adult children?
Ann: Well, I don’t know that I actually offended her, but I know that at the end of camp she came to me and she said, “Would you talk to my daughters” – there were two of them – “Would you talk to my daughters and tell them that now that they’re back with their mother and dad that they have to mind us and can’t have the freedoms that they had at Granny Camp?”
I said, “I’d be glad to do that.”
But I guess, you know, I do – I don’t treat them as adults – but I do give them a little more freedom than they have with their parents, if they mind my rules, which they know at the very beginning. They can recite the rules now, they know them so well. But if they do what they’re told and they really come when they’re called, clean their plate, whatever – if they’ll do those things we get along just famously.
Bob: If they break Granny’s rules, what happens?
Ann: Time out.
Ann: Or, you know, if you don’t clean your plate, then you sit there until you do. But then I started a new rule two years ago. It was opt out. Oh, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. They could opt out of one thing on their plate, and if it was the green beans, they could opt out of, or if it was the macaroni and cheese, they could opt out on, and it worked. They’d opt out of something they didn’t like and they ate everything else.
Bob: They were happy.
Ann: They were happy.
Dennis: So when you had the dinner that had the chocolate ice cream –
Ann: We didn’t opt out of anything.
Dennis: The chocolate pie.
Bob: Nobody’s opting out of that.
Ann: They didn’t opt. They truly thought they had died and gone to heaven. One of them said, “I’m going to tell my mother about this.” I said, “You’d better not. She might not let you come back.” But she did.
Bob: You know, we have described kind of an ideal grandparent – grandchild relationship.
Ann: It is. It’s wonderful.
Bob: And yet at the same time, as you’ve said, there are situations that are less than ideal. There are parents who wish they could have this kind of relationship with grandma and grandpa, but for one reason or another grandma and grandpa have violated a trust or created an issue. You really have to engage with wisdom and compassion –
Bob: -- and kindness in those situations but you have to be wise, too, don’t you?
Ann: And there are a lot of grandparents that could not handle their grandchildren for a week. I have a lot of friends who just say, “I couldn’t stand my grandchildren for a week.” I say, “Well then, don’t do it. Just do it for a day.”
But just let your grandchildren have your undivided attention for two hours, a day, two days, whatever you can do, but encourage that relationship, because it’s very, very special.
Dennis: If you do find yourself in one of those situations where, again, there are some things that aren’t right, I think your words about praying – that’s the first place to start – and then I think secondly, pursue with love. I Corinthians 13 just talks about the pre-eminence of love, and how love bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, and as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to represent him. And as grandparents – I can just speak from a grandparent’s standpoint – we need to take the high road.
Dennis: We don’t need to become an elderly, gripe-y, complaining, fault-finding grandparent, because you can always find something about the next generation that they’re doing that you don’t like.
Ann: That’s right, but just ignore it. Move on.
Ann: My book is all about love. That’s what it’s for, that’s what it’s to help grandparents do, is to give love. But it’s a how-to book, it’s what they eat, what games they play, what you’re supposed to do as a camp director to help you get through this time with your children; it’s a little manual – a how-to manual – on how to love your grandchildren.
Bob: I just want the dessert dinner how-to. Is that in there so I can --?
Bob: Okay. I just wanted to make sure.
Ann: And there’s a picture.
Dennis: Well, Doctor Granny, I just want to thank you again for being on FamilyLife Today. You’re our first doctorate we’ve conferred here.
Ann: Oh, and I thank you so very much. It’s the first time I’ve had a doctorate, too.
Bob: (Kazoo-like music) I’m doing a little Pomp and Circumstance here.
Ann: (Singing Pomp and Circumstance) Nah, da-da-da nah nah.
Dennis: I think they recognized that.
Dennis: Thanks for being on the broadcast.
Ann: Oh, thank you so very much.
Dennis: Hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime.
Ann: I’ll do it. Thank you for having me.
Bob: And we hope there are going to be a lot of grandparents who organize Granny Camp for this summer. In fact, I was thinking you could kind of send a subtle hint to your mom and dad. Just get them a copy of the book Granny Camp and give it to them for Christmas and say, “You know, we thought you might like this book, and maybe you’d want to have the kids here for a couple of days in the summer,” and just see if they pick up and invite them over.
We’ve got copies of the book, Granny Camp, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center; go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800 FL-TODAY; I-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.” Ask about the book Granny Camp when you get in touch with us and we’ll let you know how you can get it sent out to you.
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and we hope you can join us back on Monday. Gary Thomas is going to be here; we’re going to talk about pleasure, why pleasure is a good gift from God, and how we ought to understand God’s purpose for pleasure and enjoyment in our lives. That’s coming up Monday, and I hope you can be here.
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 next week for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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