May 02 2014


Our Trick to Potty Training Success

pottychartWe tried all the potty training tricks with Lucas–new Elmo underwear, bribery with candy, reverse psychology, and a potty chart with stickers.

Even tried those little things you put in the toilet water for boys to shoot at when they pee. Supposedly, if it’s more fun, they’ll want to do it. Hmm. No luck.

I thought potty training for Lucas would be easier, especially since he had a big brother to follow. I was wrong.

That’s why  I’m happy to report that he’s been diaper-free for four days, and I think we’ve made it. What was the trick?

Honestly, I think it was just the timing. We had to wait until he was ready and interested. The potty chart, though, seemed to be the most effective of all.

I found this chart online, along with a lot of other colorful, behavioral charts with preschool characters. (The first one featured Clifford the Big Red Dog.) I could usually bribe him with a sticker if he at least tried using the potty. Eventually, he started using it without the stickers. And, today, I think I’ll take it down for good. Also, there’s no more space for stickers, and I don’t want to print another one.

Did you have potty training tricks that worked for your kids? Please share them in the comments below.




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Apr 24 2014


Spring in Southern Maryland

flower-183087_150We’ve all been soaking up the sunshine and enjoying this beautiful spring weather after an extremely long and cold winter here in Southern Maryland and most of the U.S.

Nelson’s mother and brother and family visited with us over Easter, and we all had a good time, despite a stomach virus that we all shared at some point. We went to a Good Friday service at Calvary Gospel and then took the kids to the Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday. And, of course, Easter Service on Sunday. Amma (Nelson’s mom) treated us to dinner at the Golden Corral.

Lucas and I spent this afternoon cleaning up the yard and bagging leaves for recycling. The dandelions are coming up, so I might show him tomorrow how to curl dandelion stems. It’s also time to get out the sandbox and buy new sand. Last year, the sand lasted about a week, but hopefully it will stay in the box longer this year.

Some kid told Jacob at school this week that the meat they serve in the cafeteria isn’t real. Since then, he claims he doesn’t like the food, so I said he could bring his lunch two or three times a week. It’s hard to believe there is only about one month left of school.

I looked into early enrollment for preK for Lucas this fall, and his birthday falls after the deadline. Looks like he’ll have to wait another year, though I know he’d love to go to school and ride the bus like Jacob.

Summer will be here before we know it! We’ll probably visit family in Indiana and Canada, and I hope we can some short trips to surrounding attractions. Living near Washington DC, there’s never a lack of things to see or do (except for that unfortunate time when my sisters visited while the government was shut down). Here’s to warmer weather that makes you want to get out and go!


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Mar 18 2014


Yummy Multigrain Pancakes

pancakesI’ve been trying to cook healthier, with less packaged foods and more whole grains and veggies, so I was happy to find this recipe for multigrain pancakes from an older cookbook.

They’re a hit with the whole family, which is something I can’t say for most of the “healthy” recipes I’ve tried. The cinnamon and brown sugar make them sweet enough that I usually eat them without syrup. Here’s the recipe:

Multigrain Pancakes

2/3 cup white flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 T ground cornmeal
2 T wheat germ
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3 T brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 c lowfat buttermilk (If you don’t have buttermilk, use 1 T lemon juice and add milk up to 1 1/4 cups. Let it stand for 5 minutes before adding to the mix.)
2 egg whites (I just use one whole egg.)
1 T butter
1 t vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients and then add the rest. Mix the batter very lightly, just until the ingredients are combined. Vigorous mixing of batters with whole wheat flour can tend to make pancakes and baked goods tough. Spoon the batter in scant 1/3 cup portions onto the hot griddle to make 12 pancakes.


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Feb 26 2014


Free Online Tool to Track Chores

ID-100145574A friend noticed Jacob’s chore chart hanging on our refrigerator a few months ago and asked about it. I had to sheepishly admit that I was only able to keep up with it for a week.

It was a simple table I had created with five or six jobs listed on the side and the days of the week along the top. I had to print a clean one at the end of the week, and well…it just never happened.

I never really came up with a reward system, either, even though he seemed thrilled by just being able to check them off.

My friend said she used for all four of her children. Since I had trouble keeping track of my one, I thought I’d give it a try. We love it!

Here’s how it works. You set up a simple username and password for you and your children. There is a list of suggested chores that you can assign (daily, weekly, or whenever), and you can also make up your own. Each job has an assigned number of points, but you can adjust them if you want. When your child finishes his/her chores, he can log in with his own password and click off the ones completed.

Points are earned for each job, and the points have a monetary value. Your child can choose to Save, Spend, or Share his points/money. The website is in partnership with, and you can select prizes from their site. That’s what we did, and Jacob can see how many more points he needs before he can buy a certain item. He also has the option of setting the money aside in a savings account or sharing it (sending to an organization online or for church).

I like the program because Jacob can log in every day and record his jobs by himself, and I just get an email notification. It gives him a reward to work toward, too, without a lot of work on my part, making us all happy!


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Feb 12 2014


First Grade Science Project


First grade science projectJacob wanted to be in his school’s science fair this year, so my husband came up with the idea of testing cup colors and how well they keep your water hot. He helped him do the experiment, and I helped with the poster and wrote out the words so Jacob could painstakingly type the titles and text.

For the experiment, Jacob took five styrofoam cups and colored four of them with permanent markers. Nelson poured boiling water in each one, and they measured the temperature after 13 minutes. The original plan was 15 minutes, but Jacob tipped over the first cup after 13, and they didn’t want to do it over again.

There was almost two degrees’ difference between the temperature of the water in the red and black cups. Red was the coolest, and black was the hottest. For the sake of the project, they said there was a difference, although technically, I doubt it matters.

My Personal Conclusion
First grade is a little too young to do a science fair project. The experiment and poster making were not without stress, especially with keeping his 3-year-old brother out of the mix, but he enjoyed being able to participate. And, he likes doing science experiments. He’s already talking about what he’ll do next year.

And, what did I learn from the experience? According to at least three fifth-grade posters, if you put Mentos in soda, it will cause some sort of explosion. Maybe we can try that sometime.

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Jan 21 2014


Raggedy Ann Comes Home

Raggedy AnnMy Raggedy Ann doll sat on a rocking chair in my old bedroom at Mom and Dad’s house in Indiana for about 20 years. A family friend made her 30 years ago and gave her to me after I’d been in the hospital. Actually, I think it was one for my two sisters and me to “share”, but after the years have passed, everyone knows she’s technically mine.

I thought, someday, I would hand her down to my daughter, but then I had two sons who aren’t interested in dolls. After my niece was born, I thought I might pass Raggedy Ann on to her, but I didn’t really want to part with her. And, her mother (my youngest sister) drew yellow glasses with a marker on her own Raggedy Ann doll. I didn’t want mine to come to the same fate. And, girls aren’t interested in Raggedy Ann dolls anymore.

So, there she stayed, collecting dust along with the Little House on the Prairie books and a few other things that never made the post-college move.

I felt kind of sorry for Raggedy Ann, sitting upstairs by herself for years. The elastic in her bloomers had lost its elasticity, so while we were in Indiana this Christmas, my mom took a few inches out of the waist with her sewing machine.

Raggedy Ann rode home with us to Southern Maryland and now sits on top of my quilt rack. Lucas likes to pull her down occasionally and drag her around the floor, but she spends most of her time perched there.

Maybe I’ll have a daughter-in-law or granddaughter one day who wants to take her home. Until then, she’ll stay here.

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Dec 31 2013


Christmas in Indiana


Christmas wreathWe’re back from spending the week of Christmas in Indiana with my family. The boys had a fun time playing with their cousins, and I enjoyed catching up with family and friends who I miss dearly.

Last year, it snowed, and we went sledding in Mom and Dad’s woods. It also snowed the night we were supposed to leave, and Dad had to plow the driveway before we could leave. This year, it rained on the trip there (nonstop through Ohio and Indiana) but was dry and cold the rest of the week.

On Christmas Eve, Mom and Aunt Sarah took the grandkids to see Frozen, and Nelson and I went with my sister, Melissa, and family to the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute. CANDLES was founded in 1995 by Eva Mozes Kor who, as a twin, survived the genetic experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Her husband, Mickey,  is also a Holocaust survivor, and we heard him speak. It wasn’t exactly an uplifting thing to do on Christmas Eve, but being a twin myself and having read a lot about the Holocaust,  I wanted to visit the museum. I’m glad we did.

Mom and I played a couple flute/piano arrangements for the Christmas Eve service at Union Chapel. Lucas fell asleep about five minutes into the service, so he missed it. Jacob loves anything to do with fire, so his favorite part was the candle lighting at the end.

Christmas Day was at Mom and Dad’s, with my sisters Sarah and Melissa and family. Mom and Dad went overboard on the gifts, as usual, and we were all blessed. And stuffed.

Now we’re back in Maryland, and it’s New Year’s Eve. What to do? We’ll probably go to our church’s New Year’s Eve service at 8:30 and then come home. I don’t know if we’ll make it until midnight, but I have my doubts. Life with small children does that to you, I guess.

Well, here’s wishing you a Happy New Year! See you again in 2014.


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Dec 09 2013


Peanut Butter and Jelly Waffles

Peanut Butter and Jelly WafflesThe schools had a two-hour delay this morning because of ice, so I had time to make these peanut butter and jelly waffles for the boys. They both liked them, so I might try them again.

The recipe is from Taste of Home’s Kid-approved Cookbook. I bought it at one of Jacob’s school book fairs last year and haven’t found a bad recipe yet.

Here it is:


1 1/4 cups flour
3 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 T butter, melted
Jelly of your choice


Combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, peanut butter, and butter. Stir mixture into dry ingredients until just moistened.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Bake in a preheated waffle iron and serve with jelly.

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Dec 06 2013


Thanksgiving in Canada

Thanksgiving turkeyWe spent the week of Thanksgiving this year visiting Nelson’s family in Canada and had a nice time. We hadn’t made it there this summer, and Jacob had three days off of school, so we decided to travel that week.

Thanksgiving in Canada is held every year on the second Monday of October (our Columbus Day), and they had already celebrated Thanksgiving.  So, we didn’t do anything special.

I always enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving and pausing to thank God for all He’s given us before going into the Christmas rush. So, hopefully we can go to Canada in the summer next year. It’s always a lot colder up north, so that’s a great incentive to visit during warmer months.

Now that we’re back, I’ve got to schedule a babysitter for Lucas and go Christmas shopping while Jacob is at school. I haven’t bought anything yet. Not a single thing, though the ideas are all in my head.

We’re hoping to visit my family in Indiana for Christmas. They’re getting a lot of snow today, but I hope it’s clear in a few weeks. The 13-hr drive is always exhausting, but Christmas is always more special when it’s shared with family.

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Nov 21 2013


Making a Train Cake and a Search for Ding Dongs


DSC03759Our youngest, Lucas, turned three this week, and my Mom helped me put together this cake using the recipe in my blog post, The Birthday Cake: A Few Years in Review.

I think it turned out pretty well, considering I have little cake-decorating experience or ability.

For the train, we bought a pound cake and cut the pieces according to the diagram.

We hosted our Bible study group that evening, which usually includes about 30 people, so we put the train cake on top of a 9×13 cake. We were going to make a track out of Kit Kats, but there was no space. (The caboose is about to fall off the edge.)

Our search for Ding Dongs
We went to Target the day before the party to get candy for decorating the cake. The recipe also called for Ring Dings, which are apparently the same as Hostess’s Ding Dongs, but a different brand. You line three of them up on their sides for the front of the engine.

Well, I remembered looking for Ding Dongs a few years ago when I wanted to make a Lego cake for Jacob, and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I thought they just didn’t make them anymore. We ended up buying some cupcake-like things, and Mom cut them down to size, making them work.

So, what happened to Ding Dongs?
Knowing my readers would want to know if Ding Dongs still exist, I googled the subject. You probably remember the big deal with Twinkies becoming extinct about a year ago.

Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and other baked treats, filed bankruptcy in November 2012. Everyone thought that was the end of the Twinkie, but they were bought out and are now operating again under the name, Hostess Brands, LCC.

According to this ABC News article, Hostess products are now only sold through grocery and convenience stores. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t find them at Target? Safeway had Twinkies, but no Ding Dongs. They’re supposed to be on the shelves by now.

Anyway, since the cake is done, do I really care? No. I don’t normally buy that stuff. I did, however, spot some Zebra cakes–the ones that are white with brown stripes. Probably haven’t had one of those since I was a kid. Yummy, but oh so bad for you. And, we have plenty of Oreos left from making the train wheels. I just had a couple for breakfast.

What was your favorite processed, preservative-laden, highly caloric treat when you were a kid? I’d love to hear it in the comments! I’ll start.


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