Potty Training AND a Newborn

I knew it was going to be tough to come out to the East Coast and help my daughter with her newborn, especially since she also has a toddler.  I’m not as young as I used to be and it takes a lot out of me to keep up with young-uns.  What I wasn’t anticipating was that I was going to step smack dab into the “potty-training battle.”  Oy!

Apparently most of little Sprout’s classmates have graduated on up to the next preschool class.  He is still in the 2-year-old class along with a bunch of other boys who are also NOT potty-trained.  They are the little delinquents of the school (biters and kickers) and Sprout’s mommy would like to get the Sprout out of that class and back with his little girlfriends, who are NOT biters and kickers.  They are huggers.  I could digress about this being a commentary on society in general but I shall stick to the subject at hand – potty training with a newborn in the house.

It’s stressful.  VERY stressful.  You’ve already got one big stressor with the newborn and when you add a toddler who isn’t particularly interested in potty training, you’ve got over-the-top stress.

Sprout’s mommy and I have been taking a gentler approach to his training, using lots of encouragement and incentives to get him motivated.  Yesterday his daddy decided to take the “manly” approach as in, “You ARE going to the potty and not wearing a diaper all weekend and you WILL be potty trained.”

Did I mention that there were a lot of accidents, a lot of tears (toddler and mommy) and a lot of frustration all around?  Time to go back to Plan A – the gentler approach.

Today, Sprout has used the potty several times and had success.  Then he’s gone through several cycles where he has NOT wanted to use the potty.

Naptime just rolled around and Sprout decided that he wanted to use the potty.  He insisted on crawling up on the big potty and sitting on a little insert.  I helped him out of his diaper and shorts and he got settled.

“Woah, Sprout, let’s move you so you’re sitting facing forward,” I urged.   (He was sitting sideways.)

Things were pointing outside the little shield so I showed him how to point his equipment down into the toilet.

Mommy came into the room and asked him how he was doing.  We all took a look.  It looked like he might be getting close.

“Hey, what is THIS?” Sprout said, pointing to himself.

“That’s your penis,” his mommy told him.  “It’s where your peepee comes out.”

“I’m going to hit it,” he said.

“NOOOOOO!,” we both shouted.

“You might not want to do that, Bud,” I told him.  “That’s going to hurt.”

“I think I might have to go peepee,” he said swinging around to look at us.  Things were pointing straight at us.  I took the high road and slid behind my daughter.  “He’s all yours,” I encouraged her.

“I want to poop,” he decided.

We waited.  Nothing.  Gave him another minute.  Nothing.

I decided to help things along with a made-up song to get him in the mood.  Feel free to sing along to the tune of “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay”.

“Ta-ra-ra poo de-ay.

I’m going to poop today.

I’ll poop right in this pot.

I think I’ll poop a lot.”

“STOP, Nannie.  That doesn’t make me happy,” Sprout insisted, holding up his hand in my direction.

“Well, it makes ME happy,” I said softly.

We played the waiting game a bit longer and then we finally put him in his crib with a diaper on for a nap.

Now I’m sitting here and I can’t get that tune out of my head.

It Was a Meltdown Morning


I woke up early (as in pre-6 a.m.) since I have the “let’s get Sprout ready for school” duty here on weekdays.  Blearily pulling on my clothes, I waited for the first hints of stirring in the room next to me.  Finally, I went in at 6:30 so that I could get him up, dressed, and fed before his daddy would take him to school.

“No, Nannie!  I want my orange dinosaur shirt,” he wailed after I changed him.  Mind you, this was after I pretended to change four of his stuffed animals AND had to lean over and pull him out of the crib because he was pulling his usual “I’m not budging and I’m scooting to the back wall of my crib” trick.

“Your orange shirt is dirty.  How about the dinosaur bones shirt?” I offered.

“NOOOOO!  I want to keep THIS shirt on,” he wailed.  Since this was his pajama shirt, I told him that wasn’t an option.

“OK, why don’t you come over here and pick out a shirt to wear then,” I suggested, opening his dresser drawer.


“Well, then…you can wear the shirt I picked out,” I said.


“Those are your choices, Bud!” I countered.  “Wear the shirt I picked out or pick out one yourself.”


“Looks like it is the shirt I picked out then,” I said and proceeded to put it on his wriggling, protesting body.

Then we had the struggle of trying to get him downstairs.  When he doesn’t want to budge, he just sits down and becomes dead weight.  Did I mention my daughter’s stairs are very steep and long?  I sucked it up and lifted him and struggled downstairs only to be met by my daughter and the baby.

“What is going on?” she asked Sprout.

“WAAAAAAAAAH”  There followed much screaming, kicking, and more screaming as mommy suggested a cup of milk (NOOOOOO!) and a slice of raisin bread (NOOOOOO!).  We both decided to walk into the other room and leave him to his tantrum.

The baby started to wail.  Et tu, Brute?

My daughter passed the baby over to me and I walked around the kitchen with him trying all of my tricks, to no avail.  In the meantime, Big Brother continued to scream, kick, and wail.

Just then, their daddy decided to make his appearance.

I glanced up and said to him, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

And then it was time to send Sprout off to school.  YESSSSSS!

Dinosaur-themed Roadside Park for Children

Dinosaur Land

Dinosaur Land

Do you have children that are crazy for dinosaurs?  We have several grandchildren that can’t get enough of these prehistoric behemoths.  Yesterday, our little Sprout paid a visit to a nearby roadside attraction called Dinosaur Land.  It is located in White Post, Virginia and I’d highly recommend it for your toddlers or children up to probably about age 8.



This is an older park but the fiberglass huge dinosaurs are well-maintained and the park is pleasantly constructed to corral your younger children.


First and foremost, it is shady.  That is important on those hot, summer days when you are looking for a nice, cooler activity to do with your little ones.


There are gravel walk paths interspersed between the grassy areas.  My daughter took the children in a double-stroller and reported back that she had no problems maneuvering the stroller through the park.


The park is fenced.  That is a big plus so that you can let your toddlers out of the stroller to run among the dinosaurs while you keep an eye on them.


The park also wasn’t really crowded at least on the day my family visited.  There were about 7-8 other families there which creates a more relaxing visit.


You can get up close and personal with the dinosaurs, within reason.  Obviously I wouldn’t recommend climbing on the dinosaurs but, with supervision, they can get close to them and feel them to their heart’s content.


Sprout wanted to feel the dino’s teeth but once he got THIS close, he decided that it was a “little scary” and was soon off to explore other dinosaurs.


Admission is currently $6 for adults and $5 for children under 11.  It’s free for children under 2.


Summer hours are 9:30 – 6 p.m. and off-season the hours are 9:30-5:30.  They are closed January and February.  When you finish your visit, there is a big gift shop if you want to have something to bring home as a lasting souvenir.

Our little Sprout was THRILLED with his visit.  He is almost three so there  you have it – one toddler who gives it two thumbs up.  His parents also highly recommend it.  These small roadside attractions are quickly becoming a thing of the past, which is a shame.  Not everything has to be as slick and over-the-top as Disney World to put a big smile on your child’s face and a great memory in their heart.

Breakfast Fog


I got up (early) this morning to help with Sprout since his mommy still can’t lift him out of the crib.  We came downstairs and I went to feed the dogs.  Whoops, the dog food container hadn’t been filled up last night.  Sprout’s daddy had been assigned that job since the big bag of dog food is too heavy for my daughter or me to lift.  Well, necessity is the mother of invention so I looked around and decided to grab one of Sprout’s little sippy cups to scoop out food from the big dog bag into the smaller container.

It worked and soon I had the small dog container filled back up.

“Hmm, I need to be sure to wash that cup,” I thought.

I got the french toast sticks baked per my daughter’s instructions and put some aside for the Sprout.  I grabbed a cup and filled it with milk for the little guy who was clamoring for his morning drink.

We finally sat down for breakfast and the Sprout wanted more milk.


I grabbed his cup and jumped up to refill it and as I did, I looked over at the sink and noticed that the cup I’d used for the dog food wasn’t on the counter.

“Did you put that cup I used to fill the dog food up in the dishwasher?,” I asked my daughter.

“What cup?” she replied.  “I haven’t touched any cup today.  Why?”

“Um, not to worry,” I assured her.  “Your brother once ate a dog biscuit and thought it was a cooky.  A little extra protein isn’t going to hurt Sprout.”


Oh, man, do I ever need some coffee that isn’t cold by the time I get to sipping it AND some extra sleep.

Things That Go Bump in the Night


So there I was, in the middle of the night, stumbling back from a trip down the hall to the bathroom.  I crawled back into bed and was just starting to drift off to sleep when I heard a big truck going past the house.  I know, I know…that’s probably not too unusual in most locations but my daughter lives in a VERY rural area in a small development surrounded by farmland.  There shouldn’t be any trucks coming into their cul-de-sac at 2:52 a.m.

Of course, I HAD to get up and see what the ruckus was.  I peeked out my bedroom window and noticed flashing lights at the end of the cul-de-sac.  I heard beeping.  I thought, “Golly, the neighbors must have a fire or an emergency.”


I kept an eye on things and waited to see what the vehicle was going to do.  It finally backed up and SLOWLY crawled past our house.  I couldn’t quite make out what kind of truck it was but it seemed to be very big and had running lights along the side.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a garbage truck,” I reflected.

Naturally, my mind started to come up with all sorts of scenarios.  I wondered if some thieves had come in the night and cleared out valuables at the house at the end of the street.  I glanced over at the clock and noted the time.

“When the police come to interview potential witnesses, I can tell them exactly what time the robbery occurred,” I thought, all the while wondering why my son-in-law wasn’t pacing in the foyer with a firearm, waiting to protect his family.

I seemed to hear that truck on the other streets and wondered if it was hitting specific targets.  Eventually I fell asleep.

When I told my daughter about it in the morning, she laughed and said, “That was the garbage truck, Mom.”

Garbage truck?  Are you kidding me?  What garbage collectors go around a sleeping neighborhood at 2:53 freakin’ a.m. in the morning?

“We’re used to it by now,” she assured me.  “Don’t even hear it.”

Well, obviously not.  Me?  I’m still shaking my head over that nocturnal trash collection.

Babysitting and Still Standing!

Tues Wrestle5

It’s Wednesday and we are still standing.  Little Sprout is keeping us on our toes but overall, he is a sweet and funny boy to babysit while Mommy and Daddy are in the hospital with his little brother.

Bet you can't catch me, Papa!

Bet you can’t catch me, Papa!

We DID have one minor meltdown this morning.

“NO, I don’t want to wear the dinosaur shirt,” wailed Sprout.

“Then pick one of these three,” I offered.

“I don’t want those.  I want to wear THIS (pointing to his pajamas),” he insisted.

“You either pick one of these shirts or Nannie will pick one for you,” I held firm.  He didn’t and I picked.

“NOOOOOO, I don’t want those socks.  NOOOO, I want a sleeping diaper not the morning diaper.  NOOOO, those socks hurt,” he continued.

We changed the diaper, changed shirts, and I let him pick out a different pair of socks.

“I want MILK!”, he wailed.

“Then let’s go downstairs and get some,” I offered.

“NOOOOOO!”, the weeping and gnashing of teeth continued.

“Then I can’t help you, Bud,” I told him.

Just then, Bailey the cat walked into his room and his face brightened when I suggested we try to beat Bailey downstairs.  Crisis averted and it was all smiles the rest of the morning all the way to school.

Let's arm wrestle, Papa!

Let’s arm wrestle, Papa!

I find it rather funny that he is now insisting that I drive instead of Papa.  I’m not sure why he feels I’m better suited for being behind the wheel unless he equates his mommy’s car with a lady driving it.

Let's Chill, Sprout!

Let’s Chill, Sprout!

We also got to see little Spike while the Sprout was in school.  He is opening his eyes now and generally being a very content baby.

Tues Eyes Open

Snoozing on Daddy's pillow

Snoozing on Daddy’s pillow

Supper went off without a hitch last night and Sprout devoured his corn on the cob and ate not only his roll, but also his Papa’s.  He also took five good bites of the grilled chicken and some of the zucchini before we gave him a little slice of cake.



He was a happy camper and WE were ready for bed.

Grandchild #5 has Arrived!

Spike and his Papa

Spike and his Papa

Our fourth grandson (and fifth grandchild) arrived yesterday morning at 9:55 a.m.  Nana and Papa couldn’t be prouder of little Spike.  Of course, that’s not what his actual name is but since all of our grandkids have “S” nicknames, I decided that Sweet Pea, Spud, Sprout, and Scooter needed a “Spike” to complete the picture.


He’s already nursing well with quite a good appetite.  We’ve also been told that he soothes himself by sucking on his hands.  His daddy took a cute video of the nurses giving him his first checkup and he kept alternating between crying jags (Spike has very healthy lungs) and quick cat naps.


We think he might have lovely reddish hair like his brother, Sprout but we’ll know more as the days go by.

Frosting the Cake

Frosting the Cake

Speaking of Sprout, his daddy’s side of the family arrived the previous night to cook dinner and they let Sprout help frost the cake.  He LOVED that job.  Our son-in-law’s mom made a great shrimp scampi meal which introduced me to something new.  Have you ever heard of zoodles?

Apparently they are zucchini noodles made with a tool called a “zoodler.”  We had a good laugh when we were serving the scampi and as we pulled the spaghetti out of the pan, one long greenish strand just kept on coming and coming and coming out of the pot.

“What in the world is that?” I asked.  I’d never seen a spaghetti that long.

“It’s a zoodle,” explained my daughter.  She explained that it helps if you occasionally break them up as you use the zoodler.  If you want to check out the tool that you use, this will take you to one on Amazon.

Today we’re heading off to visit Spike and his parents while the Sprout is in preschool.  So far he has been very good for Papa and me, only occasionally asking for his mommy.  When I explain that Mommy is still in the hospital with Baby Spike but will be home in a few days, he seems ok with that.

At the end of the day, though, when Papa and I are collapsed on the sofa with our feet up, dozing off to the news, I can easily understand why it is a lot easier to be a full-time parent when you’re younger.

Hunting Pennsylvania Barns

Tues Barn9

I love old barns.  Guess it comes from my rural heritage but they just bring me right back to the farm in Minnesota and all of my wonderful childhood memories.  Recently, I have been toying with the idea of using prints of old barns to decorate the walls in our house.  We already have a Western/Rural theme going and I’d love to bring my Midwestern roots into the mix.

Tues Barn8

Well, old Midwestern-style barns are a little scarce in Texas.  However, since I just happen to be spending a few days up in Pennsylvania, I suggested to the Commander that we might want to take a drive around the country roads in the area and see if I could snap some barn shots.

Tues Barn7

Mind you, these pictures were snapped with an iPhone, often on the “fly” from the car window.  Other times, I was able to jump out of the car and take some quick shots.  There are some typical Pennsylvania-style barns in this area of south-central PA but with the rolling hills and busy roads, it is a challenge to get pictures snapped without getting the car rear-ended.

Tues Barn6

Barns around the country were often built in the manner of the barns from the countries that the settlers originated from.  Minnesota barns have a distinct style.  Wisconsin barns are slightly different.

Tues Barn5

Barns found out in Wyoming generally will look quite different from the Minnesota barns of my family heritage.  The German and Swiss settlers in our area of Minnesota all built similar barns.


The Pennsylvania barns often feature stone on the bottom sections of the barn and an overhang.  This is the barn that houses the Northern York Historical Society in Dillsburg, PA.

Tues Barn11

Of course there are the famous barns with hex signs in the PA Dutch area near Lancaster and Bird-in-Hand, PA and that whole general area.

Tues Barn4

But today we only had time to wander around the farmlands near Mechanicsburg and Dillsburg, PA.

Tues Barn3

We even found this old mill that has been converted into a home, it looked like.

Tues Barn2

Even though I didn’t get a lot of shots, the day was beautiful and it was so relaxing to just drive around the countryside.

Tues Barn

I told my brother that his next “assignment” is to drive out in the country in Michigan and snap some pics of barns in his state.  I’m telling you, barns are disappearing so fast in the rural landscape around the country.  We need to preserve them at least through pictures while there are still some standing.

Tues spittlers

After our barn jaunt and a lovely lunch with friends, we capped off the day with a great supper with two dear friends.  They’ve recently adopted two greyhounds.  Aren’t they adorable?


One even modeled his stocking cap.  Hmmm, my creative knitting juices got cranked up when I saw that.  How cute is that?

All in all, it was a wonderful day spent with some of my favorite people in addition to a few of my favorite things….namely barns, dogs, and rural vistas.  Wish I could transport the whole shebang down to our neck of Texas.

Ah, the Joy of Hotels

I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels.  I have NOT stayed in a lot of first-class hotels unless you count the ones for conventions.  Those have been pretty swell.  Most of the time, though, I stay in the regular chains, like Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, and Best Western Hotels.

As an aside, why are they not called motels anymore?  I thought hotels were fancy big behemoths with multiple floors and doormen and were found in the middle of big cities?  The place I’m currently at has four floors and nary a doorman in sight.  I guess the term “motel” is better suited for one-story Mom and Pop places where you pull your car up into a numbered slot in front of the matching numbered door.

Too Low

Anyway, each place I’ve stayed at has had its foibles.  The current room I’m in contains one of the banes of my hotel existence (except for hard-as-concrete beds) and that is a desk with a chair that is too low for it.  I mean, look at this?  My “girls” are right at the level of the desk top.  Now, I have perky girls, not sagging ones and look at that picture!  There is no way that I can rest my forearms comfortably on the desk top to type.  In fact, my fingers are going numb even as I type this blog.

Oh, lest you think I haven’t adjusted the chair, think again.  I complained about it to my hubby and he helpfully came over to see if he could raise it higher.

“I think it’s already as high as it goes,” he said, while fiddling with the lever.

Whoops, he adjusted it lower, by accident and I kid you not.  At its lowest level, I could have typed this blog with my chin.

Way Too Low

“Looks like this is as good as it gets,” he grimaced.

Don’t even get me started on the shower from h_ll or the toilet that blows hot air on your tush.

Grandma’s Lost Dutch Prayer

Grandma Knitting

Mae Van Rossum Graf

I grew up in a home rich with the traditions of our ancestors.  My father’s side was German and my mother’s side were Dutch and Swiss.  Now, through the magic of DNA testing, I’ve discovered that somewhere in my ancestral past, some of the family migrated down from Scandinavia and the Lapland area.  At any rate, I grew up with German and Dutch phrases liberally peppering our conversations.

One of these gems that has stuck with me since I was a kid was the Dutch prayer that we often said at the dinner table to bless our food.  To my ears, it sounded like “Herren say-gun days-zuh spys-uh Amen.”   When Grandma passed away, Mom continued the tradition, reciting the prayer and that’s how I taught it to MY children.  I’ve been saying it around my grandchildren, too, hoping that they will pick it up so that our linguistic traditions will live on.  Yet, ever since I lived in Germany for three years, something about it hasn’t set quite right.

Thanks to the Army, I spent three years in Germany and became fairly proficient in conversational German.  I’d come home and speak German to my grandmother who would understand what I was saying and speak Dutch back to me and I’d get what she was saying.  The two languages are pretty closely related.

That prayer just wasn’t computing, so to speak.  And that is how I found myself this morning, before the alarm sounded, running the words through my mind and trying to figure out what it was actually saying.  I popped out of bed thinking that perhaps what it was saying was something like “heart, soul, mind, strength – Amen” in a pledge of our whole bodies and minds.

I ran to my computer and started doing some research.  Thank goodness for online translation programs.

I tried a few combinations and came up with this in German:

“Here sage dass speisenamen.”  Hmmm, that translates to Here say that food names.

Really?  Was the prayer really someone’s lost instruction to their kids to list the foods they were grateful for?

What about my earlier theory?

“Hart, Ziel, Geest, Lichaam.”  Heart, Soul, Mind Body.  Not even close.

I played around with Dutch and German.  Let’s see, “heren” is “men.”  That sounded like a keeper.

I found “deze”, the Dutch word for this.  It sounds like “day-zuh.”  Yup, getting closer.

I looked up the word for food in Dutch.  It wasn’t close to “spys-uh.”  Wait a minute.  Maybe Grandma wasn’t speaking “high Dutch.”  It was probably a dialect from the area of Holland that her family originally resided in.  I looked for some variants.  Ah-ha!  “Spijs” is a Dutch word for food and it sounds like the English word “spice.”  Gotcha!

What in the world was “say-gun?”  I did some more searching.  Wait a minute!  There is a form of the verb “to say” in Dutch that is “zeggen.”  So, if we were to say “Men say”  it would be “Heren zeggen.”

By jove, I thought I had the first part.  It had to be a kind of request to bless the food.  What was a Dutch word for “bless?”  I did more research.  Ah-hah!  “Loven.”  It means “to bless.”  To a child’s ears, it probably sounded like “ah-men.”

I put it all together and came up with:

Heren zeggen deze spijs loven!   This roughly translates to “Men say this food bless.”  This MUST be the prayer.  At that moment, I could have almost cried.  It was like Grandma and Mom were sitting across the table, laughing and applauding.  I’d found Grandma’s lost Dutch prayer.  Now I could teach it to my grandchildren in the correct way, which they would undoubtedly hear as “Herren say-gun days-zuh spys-uh Amen” but I’d be sure to write it down for them as they got older.

My husband came out to the kitchen to find me still in my pajamas and not at all ready for church.

“You’re running late,” he said.

“I was on a research mission,” I told him.  “You know how I get when I’m hot on the trail of something.  I can’t rest until I figure it out.”

And now we’re off to church where we will enjoy a light breakfast with other parishioners before we head into worship.

Heren zeggen deze spijs loven!


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