Potty Training Olympics

Yesterday, I spent the day with my youngest grandson who is three, and will be four this fall. He’s in the midst of being potty trained, so I helped the cause along throughout the day.


His mother had figured out what his currency was, and  we capitalized on that. With my own son, his father, I used M&M’s but, alas… this is a different age.

She sent along toys he could earn each time he did the deed in the potty. I was a little sceptical, but as the day progressed it was obvious, this kid loved earning the rewards.


Every ten minutes, after the first success he wanted to go potty. I thought for sure he was going to wither up like a raisin by the end of the day.

I explained that he needed to replace water and food so his body could make more.

“You mean, water is pee?” He asked. Then, of course the following question was, “Well, what is the poo made of?”

He was so excited about his deposits we even had to summon Papa. We also put stickers on the potty lid to further show evidence of his successes!


Kids love stickers and they don’t care how they look when they’re displayed. The art teacher in me wanted to direct each placement, but the grandma said, “This is his thing!”

With all the accolades of an olympian, we clapped, cheered and told him how proud  we were of him. Then with the sweetest expression, he said, Nonna, I’m proud of you too! You did good at the potty like me!”

I couldn’t have asked for a better compliment.

If I’m around, I’ll try not to embarrass him at his wedding! I’ll press these moments to my heart, and take them out when I need a little encouragement.

P.S. I didn’t include the photos of the real thing. Those I sent to his mama!










I’ve not posted for a while. Family illness and life has kept me at bay!

Today, I’m energized to write.  A new chapter in my life is about to happen.

As many of you know, I wrote a book, Corn Rose, https://www.amazon books.com, which is historical fiction, but based on what my mother orally passed down to me over the years. It is a glimpse into her life before Iowa and her marriage to my dad and their lives together during the first tumultuous years in Iowa.

During my childhood I only met my mom’s side of the family, the Cina’s, once. That was when I was two or three. Mom wrote letters to her family, but not being able to see them was hard on her. What I learned of them was through her recollections.

Anyway, over the past couple of years I have been corresponding with a first cousin via Facebook. So, this friday the 23rd, my birthday, we will finally meet! John is my mother’s nephew, and son of my Uncle Joe Cina. I’m very excited to meet him and sit down and exchange family history. Not knowing my maternal side of my heritage has always been a yearning and need for me.

I’m anxious to give him a hug, have him meet my family and exchange lots of stories.

To be continued with photos…soon!



The word, sanctuary conjures up different meanings. It could mean an animal sanctuary, a place of meditation, or what we typically think of… a church sanctuary.

This little country church, pictured below, is the first church I remember attending. Green Mound Church is located in Southeast Iowa, in Henry county. It has stood for generations on this quiet, bucolic landscape where my Dad’s side of the family worshiped, observed baptisms, weddings, funerals, Bible School, and feverish revival meetings!

Green Mound

Green Mound 2

Across the road, sprawls the cemetery for the church. Most of my paternal relatives are buried there, Uncles, Aunts, and Grandparents, and even some dear friends.

I used to walk the isles of grave stones looking for familiar names, but mostly trying to find the oldest stones. Some predate the Civil War. Some carved in ornate relief. Heavenly angels and cherubs, flowers, scrolls and terms of endearment that fill the surfaces of granite. Some are but white, chalky slabs slanting from the earth. Their faces unreadable from the elements and time. Babies and young children occupy many of the plots, their young lives snuffed out by influenza, measles, and other diseases that we give little thought to, now.

It is a peaceful place. An unusual spot to commiserate with my friend, Rita. But, that’s just what we did one summer afternoon. We settled on the lush grass and spoke of our boyfriends and the trials of teenhood! Away from the commotion of our busy, loud families we talked about whatever we wanted.

Green Mound sanctuary

While scrolling through my Facebook last week, I came upon a picture that my childhood friend, Kathy Gerig Wiley, posted. It was of the Green Mound sanctuary. I was awestruck at how familiar it looked after all this time. Like I could step into the picture and start singing, “Amazing Grace.”

The smells of wooden pews, song books, and other aromas came flooding back to memory. The closeness of robust Iowa farmers and their wives added to the soup of smells that hovered over us in the heat of summer. Over-applied toilet water could not mask the lack of deodorant in those days! Cardboard fans adorned with, Solomon’s head of Christ gave little relief to the still, humid air. Fidgeting children drew on the back of church bulletins, and played quietly with books or fell asleep on their Mother’s lap.

Babies cried. Nodding-off husbands were jarred back to consciousness with a poke in the ribs by their wives, and from the pulpit, the word of God came down…delivered through Reverend Hughes. He reminded us of our shortcomings and the damnation that awaited us if we didn’t head the warnings of the Almighty’s word!

An alter-call would conclude each service. For those of you unfamiliar with that tradition, it is an invitation to walk to the front of the sanctuary and confess your sins, and become, “Born Again!”

I always dreaded, alter-call. For one thing, they would play the hymn, “Just AS I Am,” which would tug at anyone’s heart, and if you didn’t come during the first go-round, they would play it again! As a child I would peak to see if anyone went forward. I’d think about all the things I’d done in the past week–lied to my mom, teased my brother, impure thoughts about an eighth-grade boy, and I’d sneaked mom’s Tangee. I’d worn it to school like a dance hall floozy on “Gun Smoke!” You know, the usual adolescent sins!

Bible school was the most fun for me.  The surrounding farm community, and some from near-by towns would attend. Games, Bible lessons, and sack lunches outdoors filled the typical day. At the end, those of us, new born-agains, would be taken to the river and dunked completely under the muddy shallows. Somehow, I didn’t feel, “Whiter than snow!”

My Aunt Geraldine,  Dad’s sister,  played the piano. She was born for the job! Always dressed to the nines, she sparkled and played her way through every service.

My cousins, Lucy and Harold Grant also attended our church. I always looked forward to seeing them. We’d conspire to get together after church, maybe go swimming in town, or just hang out. What a treat…getting to go to the big town of Wayland.  I’d walk the streets with my Cuz, stopping at the grocery or hardware store for candy cigarettes and something to drink. It was a simpler time, no worries…just be back by dark!

It was the time of the “Can-Can” petticoats– layers of Tulle netting sewn together. Sunday was the day to show-off our newest clothes. All the girls tried to have the fullest petticoat. The real test was how high the skirt flipped-up when you sat down! The higher, the better!

It’s good to know that there are some things from my youth that are alive and doing well. These days the congregation is smaller, but the fact that this church still stands is a testament to the steadfast goodness and spirit of a faithful people!

Green Mound will turn 170 years-old this year. What an achievement!

P.S. I’d love to hear from current parishioners as to how things are going.


The New Baby

It’s January 1954, in Iowa. My Dad says, “It’s colder than a well digger’s ass in Montana.” That means it’s really cold! My brother and I have been waiting for our Mom to come home to us. “She went to get a baby!” My Grandma Ross says.

She’s been staying with us for a few days. I don’t know why it takes so darn long to pick out a baby, but I guess when you’re making a big decision like that, you need to take your time.

Grandma won’t say much about where this baby is coming from, or what it is. I guess we’ll find out when dad gets home.

We live on the river bottom. Dad says, ‘cause our house is real close to the river. Sometimes it floods our barnyard and fields. I think its fun when that happens. We wade out in the yard in our bare feet. The cows are up to their bellies in muddy river water. Dad cusses a lot when it floods.

Our house is big and white, and has two stories. Don’t know why they call them stories, but they do. Grownups have funny words for things. Our windows go to the floor so we can see out really good.

Grandma just said she heard a noise. We all go to look out the North window, and dad’s car is pulling up.

Grandma says we have to be quiet, cause we don’t want to scare the new baby. She’s real bossy…grandma. I guess she’s knows a lot about babies cause she had eight kids. Our Dad is the youngest of the bunch! Grandma says, my Mom got the “pick of the litter!” See…there’s a funny word, for a bunch of kids.

Anyway, I watch dad walk around the Buick and open the door for Mom. She’s holding a bundle in her arms. She walkin’ kinda’ slow.

Grandma hurries to the door and in walks my Mom with the new baby. Dad gives me a wink and messes with my brother’s hair. Mom looks tired, but she smiles at me. She sits down and peels away the blanket. I look at her and say, “What’d you pick out?”

“We have a girl!” She answers. “Her name is Eileen.”

We’re all gawin’ at Eileen like she’s somethin’ real special, but I feel a little mad, cause now I’m not the only girl. But, at least it’s not a stinkin’ boy!



So that’s the way it went, sixty-three years ago today!



Happy Birthday, Sis. Love you!



Dividends For Old Age



My Mother used to say, “My children and grandchildren are dividends for old age!”

I always thought that was a silly thing to say, but as I get a little older and wiser I see her point. That’s not to say that if you don’t have children  your lives are void of dividends.  I have friends who don’t have children, by choice or happenstance, and I know they are wonderful aunts and uncles or mentors to children they know.



As I watched my kids, and now my grand kids develop and grow from babies to little people, and now teens, I see the traits that mirror their heritage. I feel blessed and concerned at the same time. I hope their temperament is like their great grandma’s, that they have the creativity that my husband and I possess, the kindness of my mother, the smile of this, or that aunt. I hope they love the land and nature. I want them to respect all who cross their paths, but also astute enough to know the value good judgment.

I remember my experiences raising children–the exhilaration, fatigue, and struggles. I feel for my kids going through all that, now. But, the dividends for me as a parent and grandparent far out way the hills and valley’s that they will encounter.

Children, for the most part, give us a sense of what’s right with the world. You look at a newborn’s soft, unlined face, devoid of life’s impressions and you see the hope for new beginnings.

The genetic pool from which they sprouted hold many talents, personalities and history. I hope they will pick up where we left off, completing the dreams we started.



The possibilities are endless, for a productive life. The choices they make are ultimately theirs, but our influence and legacy will live on.





I Do…I Did…AND…I Will!

Me and Phil Wedding0005IMG_5749

Fifty years, that’s a good stretch of time– half a century!

That is how long I’ve been with this one man, my husband.

It all started on a warm, sultry August afternoon in 1966. We said our, “I do’s” at the First Baptist Church in my home town of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

As young lovers, who had a whirl-wind romance, we were shocked at the similarities in our backgrounds, and oblivious to the differences that would rock our world as time passed.

Early years0001

We were both farm kids. He grew up near Highway 34 in the heartland of Nebraska, and I only a few miles off the same Highway 34 in southeast Iowa.

Our Mother’s first names were the same… Rose Epp and Rose Ross!

It was the “Sixties!” A troubled time for our country, but we didn’t care. All we knew was, we were headed for the adventure of our lives— together. Away from the doldrums of farm life, we were headed to sunny California to fulfill my husband’s service requirement.

We thought we were smarter, hipper, and more socially savvy than our parents!

Me and Phil in trailer

We couldn’t predict what lie ahead from those perfect, dreamy days of, “We’re so in love!  There is absolutely nothing we can’t accomplish!”

Well, as those who also took the fifty year challenge you know, our world was rocked…many times!

We had careers, children, experienced losses, and disappointments in ourselves and each other.

The rose-colored glasses came off.

As Dr. Phil McGraw has often stated, “You get the package home, unwrap it and find, “”This isn’t what I ordered!””

Life with one person is not natural for most species. And Lord knows it’s not an easy road for most. But, you always have this feeling, it will get better. And it usually does.

So, my man and I celebrated this past weekend with friends and family at a beautiful spot in the Flint Hills, the Cottage House B&B in Council Grove, Kansas.


It was a destination getaway that was doable for our family and guests. We enjoyed front porch sittin’ with good food and spirited conversation.

Does this mean we’re in our golden years?

I’m not sure what that really means, but I feel blessed to have reached this stage in my life and value all our experiences.

Phil and I and anarondax chairs

We are not the same couple who took those vows fifty years ago, and I’m glad.

We don’t always make each other happy or finish each other’s sentences, but we know who we are and how we got here.

We still parent, or I guess its grand parenting now.

We argue over silly things, and get excited about the mundane.

The house seems a little too quiet at times, but the solitude is something to be enjoyed, now. We’re not escaping it.

It’s what we’ve accomplished, thus far, that counts.

And, the blessing to come that excite us.




Egg Princess


Egg Princess0001

Long ago, in a far off small town, in Iowa, nine girls competed for the esteemed title of “Egg Princess!”

It was part of the Henry County Fair festivities, in Mt. Pleasant.

Mr. Biggs, the hatchery owner in our town, was the sponsor.

I had never dreamt of doing anything like this. Me…a beauty queen?

I only knew a couple of the contestants. Some of the other girls were daughters of “big farmers,”as we whose, parents owned small farms, called them. My Dad made a living on less than two hundred acres.

When Mr. Biggs approached my mom, she got all excited.  The adventure was on!

We were known to the hatchery in town because we owned a couple hundred laying hens.  Mom would sell eggs privately and commercially. Since she was a stay-at-home mom, it was her income.

It was my job to gather the eggs every evening, wash and crate them before I could start my homework.

Yes, wash them!

They had to be spotless–gleaming white for the buyers. If you’ve never had the pleasure of gathering eggs from cranky hens, you probably think eggs come that way– clean and white.

Well, no.

They don’t!

Some are covered with dried yolk from broken eggs in the nest and some have do-do on them from a lazy hens who decided it was too much work to take a break!



Egg Princess0003

I doubted that any of my fellow queen hopefuls had to do what I did, but that wasn’t taken into consideration in the final selection…”Yes, judge this poor girl has to wash eggs every night without pay, or praise!

We were pampered all morning. Had lunch at the plush Harlan Hotel in downtown Mt. Pleasant. We were interviewed, paraded in front of the grandstand at the fair in the afternoon. It was quite dramatic.

Tripping, was on my mind during the stage parading.

In the end, I didn’t win or place. A little deflating, but then it was an interesting glimpse into the world of pageants. And for a little while, I felt special.

I really didn’t think that being chosen Miss Egg Princess would change my life, or open doors to stardom down the road.

It did make me aware of how important young women, myself included, stressed about body image.

It’s one of those memories that make me smile, and suck in my stomach!