How are you building into your grandkids? Anne Direks, a grandmother to 14, shares some of the fondest memories she’s made with her grandchildren as they attended “Granny Camp.”
How are you building into your grandkids? Anne Direks, a grandmother to 14, shares some of the fondest memories she’s made with her grandchildren as they attended “Granny Camp.”
Bob: If your children have had children or if they do someday, then your job is not done. Here’s Ann Dierks.
Ann: Being a part of grandchildren’s lives is another dimension that I didn’t have, and my husband didn’t have, and we just felt that it was so important that our grandchildren knew that older generation. I think that our generation – it’s kind of I guess the last job that God’s given us to do, and so we have to do it well.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, December 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Ann Dierks joins us today with some creative ideas on how grandparents can get engaged and have fun.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Can you wait just a second?
Bob: What are you writing down there?
Dennis: Just a second.
Bob: Well, you keep working on that. I’m online here enrolling for Granny Camp. When I heard about the menu I said, “I want to go.” So I’m enrolled.
Dennis: The menu for Granny Camp?
Bob: Yes. When I heard about that dessert for dinner thing I said, “I’m signing up for that!” So I’m enrolled for a two-week trip.
Dennis: Chocolate ice cream. Cotton candy.
Bob: That’s where I’m headed. What were you writing down?
Dennis: Well, I’m just holding up a little sign that says, “I love all parents.” Because we kind of are running a poll to see what parents think of grandparents breaking a few of the family rules – you know, not all.
Bob: Is it okay . . .
Dennis: We’re not talking about an insurrection, but we are talking about maybe candy
Bob: This is all about sugar. It’s all about sugar.
Dennis: It really is sugar. It really is all about sugar, whether the parents think that’s right. We’re also running the same poll with grandparents. If you are grandparents, there’s a poll for you to go to.
I said earlier Bob that I was going to go this coming weekend to one of our children’s houses and babysit the kids, and I was going to honor their rule of no sugar. To that, Ann Dierks, the author of Granny Camp and Camp Director of Granny Camp said, “No way, Jose.” She said, “Absolutely . . .”
Bob: And she planted a seed of rebellion in your heart at that moment didn’t she?
Dennis: I’ve got a little bit of a drive yet before I arrive at our grandchildren’s house, and I’m going to have to sort through my conscience, Ann. Ann, welcome to the broadcast.
Ann: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Dennis: I’m really glad you’ve written this book Granny Camp, because it’s not all insurrection and rebellion. It’s how to bond with your grandchildren.
Ann: It’s all about love.
Dennis: Before we talk to you, Ann, about that, I just want to turn to our listeners and I want to give them an invitation and a challenge, Bob, to join with us in what has become the largest matching grant we’ve ever offered here in December. It’s stretching us here on FamilyLife Today to find enough donors to make sure we take full advantage of this matching gift.
Bob: Yes, we’ve had some friends of the ministry who have come along and they’ve said, “We want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to support the program, and so we’ll match every donation that you receive during the month of December on a dollar-for-dollar basis.” That matching gift amount is now up in excess of $2 million. So, as you said, Dennis, if we’re going to take full advantage of that matching gift, we need as many of our listeners as possible to be as generous as possible to help support the ministry.
Dennis: So whether you enjoy FamilyLife Today on this radio station or by downloading it on your iphone or your ipad or whatever it may be, I just want to challenge you: would you stand with us right now? I don’t want to leave any of this money unmatched.
If you want to follow how we’re doing, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and take a look at the thermometer. It’s tracking the progress. We’re early in the month, but we need people to step up right now and begin to stand with us and say, “You know what? I want to keep you on the air. I want to keep your voice on this radio station, and I want to keep benefiting from the ministry of FamilyLife Today.”
Bob: And of course on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com you can also make an online donation, or if it’s easier, call 1-800-FLTODAY, that’s 1-800-358-6329, and make a donation over the phone.
You mentioned the iphone. There’s now an iphone app for FamilyLife Today. You can download that for free and pull up FamilyLife Today any time you want. We’re trying to make the program available to you in as many ways as we can and we appreciate your support. We appreciate whatever you can do here to help us with a year-end donation.
Dennis: I want to say thanks to those of you who have already given, and thanks to you who are going to give right now. Now, Ann, you’ve got 14 grandchildren.
Ann: I do.
Dennis: You’ve been married almost 50 years.
Ann: That’s right.
Dennis: You’re coming up on your golden anniversary.
Ann: That’s right.
Dennis: And you developed this because your grandchildren ages 8 to18 came to Granny Camp for a number of years until they were about, what, 12,13, something like that.
Ann: Yes, then their interests changed.
Dennis: You’ve put together not all the lessons – but a whole lot of lessons and instruction about this. I have to ask you as we get started: As you look at all the experiences and memories you’ve made as a grandparent, what’s one of your favorite? Because you’ve been doing this how long?
Ann: About 13 years.
Dennis: 13 years. So you’ve had a lot of days. You started out doing this for two weeks. You cut it back to ten days, and then you cut it back to two-and-a-half hours.
No, it’s actually –
Ann: A week. It’s a week.
Dennis: You cut it back to a week.
Ann: It’s a week. We have done just a day when we couldn’t do anything else, but generally it’s a week.
Ann: One of my most memorable moments was like we said earlier; we had nine granddaughters born in five years. When I started having the first of those nine little girls, seven of them came. They were ages seven to four-and-a-half. None of them had ever been to Granny Camp, had no idea what Granny Camp was. They just knew they were going to Grandmother’s and Granddad’s house.
So my daughter, who has twin daughters, turned to one of her twins and said, “What do you want to do at Granny Camp?” Well, they had no idea. I mean, it just wasn’t in their memory bank to know what it was all about.
Ann: She looked at her mother and she said, “I want to make someone that’s sad, happy.” When she called and told me this I wiped the tears from my eyes, I put the phone down and I called – we live in a retirement community where they have a nursing home unit, and it has assisted living, nursing home, Alzheimer’s unit, all of the above – and I called them and I said, “I have these seven little girls who are all extroverts like their grandmother, and I’m sure they would love to come and do a show at your nursing home. Would you like that?”
Dennis: A show.
Ann: A show. So – they didn’t know they were going to do a show. I just decided they were going to do a show.
Dennis: You didn’t even have a show at that point.
Ann: We didn’t have a show, but I said, “Can we come?” and they said, “Yes, we’d love it.” So every year with the very first – after we go over the rules – they sit down after they’ve been there about an hour, we go over the rules so we all know where we’re coming from.
Then I say, “Okay, what new songs, what new poems, and what new dance have you learned this year at school that you’d like to include in the show?” So we create our show within a matter of hours after they get there.
Okay, we’ll begin with singing God Bless America and we’ll sing from Sound of Music “Doe a Deer,” you know, whatever. We have about ten things that we decide to do.
Then, when we come home from the swimming pool one day we practice.
And then we practice one evening, and we have what we call “Red, White and Blue Day” and their mother and daddy send them a red, white and blue outfit. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just a red ribbon in their hair and blue pants, or a white shirt, or whatever. So we dress in our red, white and blue and we go to the nursing home and we do a show in all these places.
The night before they make cookies for the residents. We get to do that for the assisted living people.
Dennis: Great idea.
Ann: It is absolutely wonderful. The patients love these children. One lady that couldn’t come out of her room to come into the general area – the children went into her room and sang to her. They have pets at the nursing home that just come up and land at the children’s feet and just are part of the show. It is just a wonderful thing that we do every year. So it came out of one little four-and-a-half year old, because she wanted to make somebody happy.
Dennis: Amazing. You know, I could see Bob, because Bob is very musically talented – I could see Grandpa Bob’s –
Ann: And see, it doesn’t have to be fancy. I mean, they sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star the first time – you know, all the little songs that kids sing. It doesn’t have to be wonderful. And they got their feet crossed and they’re doing – you know, they stand in a line and do whatever.
Dennis: Yes. I have to ask you a technical question at this point, because you mentioned earlier your grandchildren are in four states. So are ours. Okay? That is always a huge logistical challenge, because none of them live here where we live, and so getting them –
Ann: That’s right. It’s hard.
Dennis: -- to Granny’s Camp or Mimi and Papa’s Cousin Day or whatever it is – Bob’s Musical Talent –
Bob: Emporium. Emporium.
Dennis: We birthed it right here.
Bob: Thank you.
Dennis: How do you get them here?
Ann: Well, there’s a chapter in my book about how to begin, and that is one of the big things that we talk about. You need to get your children started talking about it in about January – to say what their schedules are, if they know their summer schedule, when all families have a week when they’re available, and then they start talking about how they’re going to get them there.
I just made plane reservations for the Tampa group night before last, and they’re going to fly in, and another son in Dallas is going to pick one part of them up on one day, and my daughter’s driving in from Colorado, I mean, it’s a lot of doing – and another one’s flying in from Kansas City, and we’re going to pick them up, and then – I let the children work it out.
Dennis: Do you help with the tickets?
Ann: Yes, I do sometimes.
Dennis: Okay. And if a child isn’t able to come for who knows what reason, as a grandparent you don’t take it personally.
Ann: Oh, no. But I’ve never had one not come.
Bob: There you go.
Ann: Their parents want them to come, and they want to come, so we don’t have a problem not getting them there.
Bob: Let me ask you about that. What are mom and dad doing while the kids are at Grandparents Camp?
Ann: I don’t ask.
They have a honeymoon week and they love it, so I don’t ask what they do.
Bob: You just take over the childcare and let mom and dad do whatever . . .
Ann: They just do whatever they want to do. They just can’t come to camp. I don’t want them. It’s too many bosses.
Dennis: And again, what is the earliest they can come? What age? Three?
Ann: I had them at three. My book says they have to be potty trained, and they definitely need to do that. So it’s an incentive for the parents to get their children potty trained, so they can come to Granny Camp. It’s incentive for the parents, but really four-and-a-half to five is really the ideal age to start having them come for a week. You know, they don’t want to stay away from home when they are really little, not more than a couple of days.
Bob: Some of the older kids have wound up becoming counselors at Granny Camp?
Ann: Yes, and it’s wonderful training, and I think probably they could get credit in their school for community service or whatever they call it, to do that.
Dennis: Oh, I thought you were going to say “minimum wage.”
Ann: Well, they certainly get minimum wage. It is zero.
It is good training that they get.
Bob: What do you have the counselors do?
Ann: Well, they help with everything that grandmother needs done. When I had the three it was okay, but when I invited these seven little girls, I had a boss from where I work who had a fourteen-year-old daughter. I said, “Do you think your daughter would like to come and be a counselor and bring a good friend?” so they had each other. And so they did and it was wonderful.
They watch the children while you’re getting ready for a picnic, or they watch the children while you’re getting ready for dinner, or you know, you need them to help brush their hair in the morning, or help roll up the bedrolls and straighten up the room so you can use the room to dance in, or whatever you have to do.
You just call them when you need them, and then they get to be campers, too. They have fun. They get to go swimming, they get to go to the beach, they get to do crafts. They do all those things, but boy, when you need them you call them and they come.
Ann: And then as those nine little girls grew up, then the two older ones for the last two or maybe three years have been my counselors. They are campers, but when dinner’s coming, “Meredith, Michelle, come here. You need to help me put dinner on.” And they’re just right there to help.
Bob: You mentioned bedrolls and I was wondering, because at one point you had eleven cousins all . . .
Ann: Yes, all at once.
Bob: . . . at the same house. Was this just sleeping bags all over the place?
Ann: Yes. It’s always been just bedrolls. We don’t make beds. We make that really simple – that morning process. When they get up they roll up their bedroll, they put their pajamas in their pillow, and we stack them all in one place out of the way so they’re out of the way for the day, and then we just roll them out at night and put them out. I have a couch that makes into a bed, and I have a trundle bed, or we have blow-up mattresses, and we just line the room . . .
Bob: Did Grandpa ever check into a hotel during Granny Camp?
Ann: No, he really hasn’t. He’s very patient. He’s a quiet, gentle man, and he’s very patient with all of this.
Dennis: He paid for his own flight.
He paid for his own flight. You know, we’ve been talking a lot here about being a grandmother and a grandfather, and I like what you have here. You have a chapter on “What is a Granny?” What is a grandmother?
Just comment on that, because I think we all assume in this culture that everybody understands, but I think because of the disintegration of the family across the country I think there are a lot of families that don’t experience grannies or grandpas much anymore.
Ann: I think our main job is to pass on love from us to the children. I mean, that’s the main thing Granny Camp is about – it’s about love. But it’s also to pass on your traditions that you’ve grown up with that are special to you: your faith, your love of family, your dedication to work, your work ethic, the things that are important to you.
This is a way to do it, especially when you live thousands of miles away from each other. But it’s a time – and you know it’s kind of I guess the last job that God has given us to do, and so we have to do it well.
Being a part of grandchildren’s lives is another dimension that I didn’t have, and my husband didn’t have, and we just felt that it was so important that our grandchildren knew that older generation. I think that our generation has values that are no longer around today. They are in some places, but they are not as prevalent as they were when we grew up.
Dennis: I’ve seen some of those bumper stickers on-- maybe it’s RVs or trailers-- that say, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” On one hand, it’s cute, and on another hand it’s like, “I just wonder if the lives of those people that put a bumper sticker that kind of declares that to the world – if they really are attempting to build into the lives of their grandchildren.”
I really like where you went, where you started: love. The whole concept of a relationship – it’s the great commandment.
Ann: It is.
Dennis: Love God and love others as you love yourself.
Ann: That’s right.
Dennis: I’d add a couple more to your list, which I thought was excellent. I’d say one thing grandparents ought to be doing is passing on the truth from the Bible that is most meaningful to them . . .
Dennis: . . . and just finding creative ways to pass that truth on. Then a second thing I’d say grandparents ought to be involved in – and I’m trying to do this on an increasing basis – and that is, tell the story of what God has done in us, through us, for us. How he’s just blessed us to live in America and have a family like this, and for us to have the freedom that we enjoy – but also his work in us in some of the tough areas of life.
Maybe get real and a little honest with grandchildren as they get a little older, sharing about some of the tough times that Granny and Grandpa have been through, and pass on not just the truth about God, but your experience of God.
Ann: Oh, absolutely. It’s in here – pass on your spiritual values, pray with them, be a good communicator and listen to what they have to say, because these children are in a world of technology. In fact, one of my rules is you don’t bring your DS and you don’t bring your Nintendos and you don’t bring any of those things to Granny Camp.
Dennis: So, no cell phones by grandkids at Granny’s Camp.
Ann: No. No. They did, about two years ago, and they weren’t communicating with each other.
Dennis: No texting.
Ann: No texting. I said, “Put that little machine, whatever it’s called, over there on the table. You can see it, I’m not stealing it. I’m not taking it away. It’s visible, but you are not to touch it. You just leave it there for this week, and we’re going to talk to each other, and we’re going to interact with each other and not with this computer or whatever . . .
Bob: Can they check their Facebook before bed or something? I mean . . .
Ann: No. No.
Bob: They’re cut off from the world?
Ann: Absolutely. But I do say in here that we as grandparents need to understand that technology so that we can talk their language. We need to know what a . . .
Ann: . . . DS is and a MS3 – all those that I don’t have any idea what they are, but we need to at least know and act like we know.
Dennis: I was going to ask you what all those things are.
Ann: I don’t know. I just hear them talk about it.
Bob: I’m thinking that the relative value of giving up your connection to the outside world in exchange for ice cream for dinner. I’m going “That might be worth it. I might go for that.”
Ann: Well, I think that we need to talk to them. I think that we not only need to be good listeners, but we need to talk to them about some of the trends that are out there today, the good ones and the bad ones.
Bob: Yes. You get a chance really to put your fingerprints . . .
Bob: . . . on the hearts of your grandchildren, don’t you?
Ann: Absolutely. Because we are the ones – we have the time. Grandparents have more time than their parents do. I look at my children and how pressured they are with all the things of daily living and getting their children here and there and you know, getting food on the table. We were there. We remember. We didn’t have the time to sit and listen and talk and do, which is terrible, but we didn’t. Life was moving.
But life moves even faster today for our children, so we as grandparents have the time to take and talk to our children, to listen to what their needs are. The choices that they are getting ready to make in their life are so important – who their friends are, where they go, what books they read, what they do – all those things.
We need to let them know that they have to be careful in all those choices. God gave us the right to choose, but we have to choose what’s good and what is right. This is something that grandparents can spend time talking about, whereas parents just have to keep on keeping on.
Dennis: Yes. You know, I’ve been thinking about how many years you’ve been after this, and I thought about what it takes, Bob, to get a Ph.D. You have to write a thesis when you get a Ph.D. and that’s what you’ve done here. Thirteen years worth of research . . .
Ann: That’s right.
Bob: Are you conferring on Doctor Ann her degree here?
Ann: I’m ready.
Ann: Thank you.
Dennis: I’m not sure that Dallas Theological Seminary would appreciate me conferring a Doctor of Grandparenting upon her, but we’ll think about that, Bob. Good idea.
Here’s what I want to ask you to do: I want you to give your best piece of advice in a chapter that’s called “Granny’s Helpful Hints.” We just need to do this just real quickly, because there are so many of these areas. What’s your best helpful hint for a Camp Director?
Bob: Let me ask you a couple of questions while you’re thinking about that. First of all, have you ever done this in a time that was not summer?
Ann: No, because they have to be out of school.
Ann: Yes. It’s really better. . .
Bob: You’ve never done spring break or Christmas break?
Ann: We’ve tried, but we can’t get all families that have the same spring break. I mean, if schools would get their act together and all do it at the same time, that would be nice, but they . . .
Bob: They need to call you and schedule spring break.
Ann: That’s right. I tried that even with my own children. They were in kindergarten and junior high and high school – even in the same town they weren’t at the same time.
Bob: So if somebody is listening and thinking “I think we ought to try doing this,” how much lead time . . . It would not be too out of the question to start thinking even a year in advance, would it?
Ann: Oh, no. But we do start in about January, and we’ve set the date. Our Granny Camp will be the 20th of July this year. We’re going to do the 13-year-olds, four of them, by themselves, and then we’re going to do the rest of them, so . . . But the parents have to get to talking together among themselves and pick a time, and I just stay out of that. I just stay out of it.
Dennis: Well, I’m looking at the clock, Bob, and your two questions took . . .
Bob: Did it take all of our time?
Dennis: It did. It evaporated, so what I want us to do – I want to do another broadcast to talk with her about helpful hints in being a Camp Director. . .
Dennis: . . . and about taking photographs and about – well, let’s see, what else is in here? Street signs – I have no idea what that’s about, Costs – What do they do with counselors – you’ve talked a little bit about that – health issues – bug bites – I mean, a lot in here and a lot that grandparents really need to consider. This really is a great resource.
Bob: Well and I think the thing that makes it such a great resource is how practical it is. It just spells out for you things that you can do to engage with your grandchildren and they are easy, and they’re fun, and they don’t require a lot of money or a lot of set-up. They are just memory makers.
You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to see how you can get a copy of Ann’s book, Granny Camp: How to Bond With Your Grandchildren. It’s about 140 pages long, full color on every page, a beautiful book, and you can order it from us here at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and we’ll make arrangements to get a copy sent to you. Again the website: FamilyLifeToday.com or call us toll-free at 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
You know, it’s really kind of hard to imagine that two weeks from Saturday is Christmas and three weeks from Saturday, we’re launching into a brand new year, 2011. It feels like this year has just sped by, and the next three weeks are going to speed by as well. That’s why Dennis at the beginning of today’s program was here to encourage you to consider making a year-end contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife.
We have recently had some friends come along and offer to match every donation that we receive during the month of December on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The matching gift fund has increased to more than $2 million at this point. If we’re going to take full advantage, if we’re going to be able to claim all of those funds, we need to hear from as many listeners as possible. That has to happen before the end of December. So rather than put it off and say, “I ought to do that next week,” or “We’ll do that between Christmas and New Year’s,” if you could do it today go to FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation. We would appreciate it.
We had to make the difficult choice this year to actually discontinue airing FamilyLife Today on some of the stations that were carrying it because, frankly, we just hadn’t heard from a whole lot of people in those communities, and we want to be good stewards of the resources that are entrusted to us. So we made that difficult decision.
As we head into 2011, we want to make sure that FamilyLife Today can continue strong throughout the year. So let us hear from you, and let us know that you’re praying for us, too. We would appreciate that.
Again, you can make a donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com or you can call toll-free 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY” and make a donation over the phone.
And let me encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. As Dennis said, we’re going to talk more about connecting with our grandchildren heart to heart. I hope you can be here for that.
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 time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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