Coin-operated car vacuum: A winning machine

This morning I vacuumed out my car for the first time in, well let’s just say, a lonnnng time. My stop at a coin-operated car vacuum turned into more than just another mundane cleaning experience.

Since the last time I have had a clean car, we added a baby to our family, allowed our pug dog on board, and made a major move across a few state lines. Not to mention the several thousand trips to see family before we bridged the distance. Add all that to a million snacks passed back and forth (Mommy, you take this sticky lollypop that I don’t want to eat any more) between two kids, tons of foot traffic in and out of the vehicle in various weather conditions and I truly feel bad for the person who has to empty out the machine after what I sucked up through that long, black hose today.

Originally, I felt the urge to vacuum out the car in the spring, but when I found out we were moving, I thought What’s the point? I’ll do it AFTER the move. Yeah, that makes more sense. And it did, but even after we moved, I had many “What’s the point moments?” due to all that’s involved during and after a move. Must-dos caused me delay, yet an increasing urge to rid myself of the dust I have been riding around with in my car continued to mount.

Last weekend we traveled, and I told myself after that trip I would indeed use precious time during preschool hours to get down and dirty this week. Dirty defined as crumbs, dirt, sand, dog hair, leaves, acorns, sticks, stickers, unidentified objects, unmentionables, and that yogurt covered raison that had melted and unmelted many times by the looks of its concealed state. I accidentally even vacuumed up a nickel in the process, but no, I am not sorry. Someone deserves more pay than the $6 I dropped into the machine.


After almost six months back in Pennsylvania, with a PA driver’s license and PA plates to prove it, this is the story I needed to write today. My writing sabbatical (chuckle) has been nice, but today I felt the urge to push “publish” on my blog again. Just like the urge I have been feeling to vacuum my car and suck up the debris of my former life, I am beginning to feel the urge to gather up the goodness around me as I set forth with new inspiration.

Moments for organized and whimsical writing these days have been few and far in between, yet whimsy in my everyday life is alive and well. Life with my husband and two growing kids is plentiful, and after finally spiffing up the family mobile, I feel ready to blog again as time allows.

So thank you coin-operated car vacuum. Not for giving me a sore knee when I nailed it on the armrest of one of the seats while trying to twist my body into a pretzel to reach the third row (not cool), and not for trying to make amends with me when you allowed me to find my long-lost car phone charger underneath the passenger seat, but for turning on a switch in my writing brain that led me to the keyboard with equal power as your suction that came to life when I dropped my quarters into your slots.


Eyes in the back of my head

About a month ago I started telling Lance about the “eyes in the back of my head” and told him that all moms them. I told him we have them so we always know what our kids are up to, especially when they are misbehaving.

He’s been chewing on this ever since, and has even occasionally referenced them. For example, the other day he got in trouble for pushing Vivian down and asked me if I saw him do it with my real eyes or the ones in the back of my head.

I was beginning to think he bought the idea because he seemed extra careful to adhere to the rules, even when I may have seemed distracted. But today at the park, after requesting I watch him jump off a little step over and over, he ultimately got in trouble for advancing to a walkway far too high to jump from. That is, high enough that I saw enough potential danger should a slip occur.

He listened and came down, but his interest in seeing how high up he could jump from lingered. Boldly, he went back up and yelled, “Hey Mommy! Watch!” As I turned and gave him a stern look, he looked back exasperatedly and said, “No Mommy, not with those eyes. With the ones in the back of your head.”

I daresay he outsmarted me.


Fun fact: Did you know that in addition to having eight legs, spiders have eight eyes? Now that’s a lot of parental supervision!


Motherhood: More than just enough

As soon as we arrived at a newly discovered park yesterday, Lance ran toward a Port A Potty and declared, “I have to empty my pee-pee tank!” Well that’s a new one, I disgustedly thought as I realized I was going to have to finangle him in there to do his business while trying to discourage him from touching anything. I prayed Vivian wouldn’t scream in terror at momentarily being left to watch from the car.

Nothing like some potty talk to keep you reading, ehh?

We’ve been in PA for a little over three weeks now, and the upheaval that comes with change is starting to settle as we become more acquainted with our surroundings. Getting to see family often has been a welcome part of our transition. Jan is working long hours, which means I am working long solo-parenting hours to keep this old house and its small occupants happy, fed, and clean. My cousin put it best one time, “It’s a challenging, beautiful life!”

In light of Mother’s Day this past Sunday, I am sharing a little poem that I recently came across. You see, it is printed in an antique looking framed-picture of a mother and child that hangs in the front entrance of our temporary house. As an over-worked and unpaid stay-at-home-mom, it should come as no surprise that I was immediately drawn to the poem.


She traveled the journey before you

She has known all the cost of the way,

She paid out the price to its fullness,

That Motherhood only can pay.

She loved when the world was against you

She hoped – when your hope sank and died;

She clung to your hand when the clinging

Left scars in her heart, deep and wide

She labored – and loved – and was happy.

For down deep in her kind heart she knew

Your kindness and love would repay her

For all that she did – just for you.



As woman of this guest house for a few months, I knew that picture and poem hanging next to the front door was no irony. I always look for meaning in the world around me, and that poem is serving as a reminder of the importance of motherhood. As a still fairly new mom, I am learning that more and more. The verses feel like a gentle pat on the back as I tiredly walk in and out of the front door, usually sweating with a baby on my hip or coercing a three-year-old to put on his shoes or calling for Luke the Pugsylvania to come back in the house before he wanders off into unknown territory.

The poem also reminds me that a woman who stays at home with her children should never dumb herself down by saying “Oh, I am just a mom,” when asked what she does for a living like I did one time. Ahem, I don’t think I have to go into detail about the amount of work that goes into diapering, snot, and tears. Some days the identity loss I felt after becoming a mom still nags at me. Mostly because I know I have unrealized career opportunities outside the home. But instead? I self-sacrifice for the betterment of my kids.

Every freaking day.

In the process, and in between the freak-outs, I joyfully get to watch my kids learn and grow.

Some days are just ducky.

Some days are duckier than others.

Just look at those tail feathers!

Just look at those tail feathers!

Lately, I have been feeling the need to take a blogging break and “just be” with the kids for a while. I also need some time to research writing ideas and let others brew until I am ready to release them into the blogosphere (or magazine or journal or newspaper). When I sat down to blog tonight I received a notification from WordPress telling me that I registered my blog three years ago today. Irony? I’m not sure, but today’s post also happens to mark my 199th post on Britta’s Banter. What does this mean? Who knows?! Probably nothing, but I’d say it’s a nice tidy place to take a sabbatical.

Of course, I could just leave it at “blogging break,” but I prefer nerdy academic terms. They make me feel somewhat connected to my former identity, and knowing that exists somewhere underneath all the kid slime is still pretty important to me. While on “rest” I plan to take time to purposefully silence my writing aspirations, no matter how hard, until I am ready for the big-time. I keep believing a professional writing career will happen for me one day, but for now I am a mom and that is more than just enough.

Another old picture in this old house that summons me everyday.

Another old picture in this old house that summons me daily.

I know I’ll post again at some point, so this is not the end. Instead it is a chance for me to take an extended absence from publishing. Who knew one could take a blogging sabbatical?! I don’t know if it is customary, but if not, I am happy to pave the way for others. After all, I kind of do that for my two little ducks every (freaking) day. Let’s just hope that while I am on leave we don’t have to waddle over to another Port A Potty any time soon.

Oops, there I go again with the potty talk. What the duck?

Word to your mother,

The Banter Lady


Wacky list of wackiness

Over the course of the last week we moved. I consider this post a masterful literary mind dump written in the finest prose. Moving really brings that out in a person!

Call it a wacky list of wackiness if you’d like.

Call it a disorganized list of disorganization if you’d like.

Call it a jumbled list of jumbledness if you’d like.

Call it crappy list of crappiness if you’d like.


Here goes.

1. My email inbox is as flooded and cluttered as my mind and I don’t even know where to begin reading and responding and deleting. Waah, I want my clean inbox back!

2. I may not have any friends (yet), but I am in grocery store heaven (though very unlikely I will find Duke’s mayonnaise or pimento cheese).

3. We are temporarily living in a guest house of a B&B, that was built in the late 1800s. It’s like really old.

4. The desk I am working at is over two-hundred years old. I think I’d like to steal it.


5. The decor in this house makes me feel like I have gone back in time. Really far.

6. There is no dishwasher in this house.

7. I think in another week or so I might start dressing Victorian or old-fashioned or something so I blend into the house better.

8. Or not.

9. Kids are doing good.

10. Aside from Vivian being attached to my hip at all times.

11. It’s amazing the tasks I’ve been able to complete with a 25 lb. baby on my hip!

12. My hip hurts.

13. The lady (let’s call her Queen) who owns the B&B and our guest house is very nice and super chatty.

14. She has a lovely garden area between the main house and our house where she said Lance could play.

15. She has two bee houses in one part of the garden.

16. I think we’ll avoid the garden.

17. Queen has a cute statue of two children with birds on their heads in her front yard.

18. Said children’s names are Albert and Victoria.

19. They are Lance’s new friends.

20. I knew he would make friends before me.

21. I now refer to Luke the Pug as Luke the Pugsylvanian.

22. Get it?

23. Hardy har har.

24. Queen told me there is a midget who lives next door to us.

25. I haven’t had any midget sightings yet, but I hope we can become friends.

26. Easter weekend was wonderful.

27. I got to spend it with my family.

28. Sitting next to my Grandma at church was my favorite part.

29. I am behind in all of my correspondence with the rest of this world.

30. Oh well, texts, blogs, and Facebook didn’t exist in the Victorian Era.

31. I am happy (go listen to Pharrell Williams).

32. Then have the best day of your life (go listen to American Authors).

33. Lance’s new favorite song is Blowin’ in the Wind (Joan Baez version).

34. This cracks me up!

35. Our movers kicked butt.

36. All of our “stuff” is in temporary storage until July.

37. I don’t miss it.

38. At all.

39. Except the hardware to Vivian’s crib, which is missing.

40. I think the movers might be responsible.

41. Because it just couldn’t be Jan or my fault!!

42. Thank you to the inventors of the pack-n-play.

43. The only other thing I have missed is my hairbrush.

44. I have been using Jan’s comb (which is funny considering he has no hair) for almost a week.

45. But today I bought a new brush.

46. Thank you ConAir.

47. Vivian has room to walk in this house!

48. I have no idea what I am going to do tomorrow.

49. Or the next day.

50. Or the next day.

51. Or the next day.

52. My old schedule gone.

53. Now I get to create a new schedule, which is exciting!

54. Heck I don’t even know what I’ll do in the next hour of the kid’s nap time.

54. I guess I can start by cleaning out my inbox and returning some calls and texts.

55. Or I could go hand wash my dishes and prepare a warm dinner on a platter and greet my husband at the door with an apron and a smile in a lacy hoop skirt.

56. But for now, I’ll settle for a researching local children’s events and perhaps a running group.

57. Clap along, clap along with me because I’m happy.

58. This is gonna be the best day of my life. My li-i-i-i-i-ii-ife…Oo-o-o-o-o-o!

59. The rest of the answers are blown’ in the wind.

Enjoy the adventure of the day,

The Banter Lady

p.s. Miss you Danville friends!!





List of Seven on Sunday 5.0: SKATE

1. Newsworthy –

My friends have been spoiling me lately.

On Wednesday night the girls and I celebrated my birthday at – get this – a skating rink! After almost being born in a skating rink 34 years ago, learning how to skate in tandem with learning how to walk, and spending Friday nights with friends at a skating rink, it was fun to get out there and roll around on four orange wheels again after a 15 year absence.


Rental skates are still as ugly and dirty as ever.

I prayed that my toe stop would work when needed, discovered “How low can you go?” wasn’t low enough to win the limbo, danced while skating without inhibition to Don’t Stop Believing and Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and had many laughs with all the special friends I will soon have to say goodbye to when we move.


On Friday night, the Skate-ettes and husbands threw Jan and I a going away party and spoiled us with mementos to take with us as we skate on out of Danville.

Living in Danville the last five years has been a blessing, and the people who live here have been so good to us. The support through happy and sad moments, the inside jokes that are a result of good friendships, the outings, civic duties, sermons, parties and play dates – I love you all!

2. Personal progress –

I haven’t made any packing progress yet, other than the organizational thoughts in my mind, but it’s at the top of the “shit I need to do before we move” list. By and large, the reason I haven’t done anything about packing yet is because we are actually being packed and moved by Jan’s new employer. The only hiccup is that I have to figure out what we need to take for temporary housing until we can get into the house we bought. Having a one-year-old and three-year-old only slightly complicates those decisions.

So yeah, it’s more than a hiccup, it’s a headache, which I why I have been so productive about the task at hand!

(Others, may call it avoidance.)

3. Writer’s world –

My latest article in Evince is in print as the April issue went on the stands last week. My story is a farewell one of sorts that revolves around family history. You can read it here: April Evince.

4. Photo of the week –


Weekly visits with the Wise Old Owl are something we are going to sorely miss.

Weekly visits with the Wise Old Owl are something we are going to sorely miss.

5. Picture-less moment –

The next two weeks will be emotionally rough for me with lot’s of picture-less moments as we tie up loose ends. Even though we already had a going away party, I left the night easily telling friends, “I’ll still see you again before I move,” but pretty soon I will be saying the for real, for real goodbyes.

All of that on top of more “shit I need to do before me move,” like canceling our utilities/cable/Internet, changing our address, cleaning up our house for the rental agent to walk-through, coordinating efforts with the movers, signing more paperwork for the house, and yes, eventually packing for temporary housing — it’s all about to hit me, and I am trying to brace myself.

Then there’s the “shit I need to do after we move,” like switching banks, applying for Pennsylvania driver’s license and plates, purchasing home owner’s insurance, etc. I know it’ll all get done, and it certainly does not need to get done all at once, but it’s all sort of looming in the air around me. Good thing I have Jan to keep me grounded among all the looming!

Therefore, my preventative melt-down (yes, grown-ups have them, too) mantras are:

- Keep walking along and singing my song (Pete the Cat is wise beyond his appearance).

- There is no sense worrying about challenges and problems that haven’t happened yet. 

- I have strong nerves, I have strong nerves… (repeat over and over).

The last one I got from in-laws. They always write a message in my birthday card in English, and since it is not their first language, the message is not always worded the way a native English speaker would phrase a sentiment. For example, they wished me “strong nerves” during the move.

Strong nerves.

I like it — and a mantra was born!

6. Parenting thought –

When we first found out we were moving, we waited to tell Lance. It was way too early and I wanted to prolong answering 36 thousand questions a day about when we were moving. A few weeks ago, we did tell him and he seems pretty excited about the idea.

He won’t remember life in Danville (sniff, sniff) in the long run, and my goal is to play it completely cool and shield him from some sadness as we depart. Of course, I think it’s important to show your children behind the curtain a little bit, but at his age, all he needs to know is that his Mommy, Papa, sister, and pug dog are with him wherever he goes.

We’re trying to make the move fun for him — reading books about moving, talking about seeing family more, teaching him about a new state, telling him about living in a bigger house, and rallying him around the adventure of all the upcoming changes. I know he’ll be fine, and Vivian will go with the flow, but there will still be some temporary heartache for him. That’s unavoidable, but knowing ahead of time that I’ll need to give him some extra Mama security hugs for the first few weeks, I hope, will make his transition as smooth as possible.

After all, happiness awaits us in Happy Valley!

7. Humor –

As for Vivian, she’s not too concerned about much of anything right now except continually trying to master the walking gig and showing the first signs of fighting back against Lance when he roughly sidelines her out of nowhere from time to time.

Her method of retaliation? She pinches him!

And although I know I will soon need to start reprimanding her, I kind of enjoy watching her stealthy crawl up to him when he is not expecting it and purposefully pinch his ankles and legs.

Go get him, Little Sister. Go get him.

Have great week. Skate on with your bad self.

The Banter Lady

List of Seven on Sunday 4.9: OKAY

1. Newsworthy –

Well it’s not Sunday, which means List of Seven on Sunday is actually List of Seven on Wednesday. Or wait, is it Tuesday? Ahh yes, it is in fact Tuesday.

My days are a little mixed up lately because of all we have going on with regard to our big move to PA next month. But that’s okay… because it’s all good. Or so says Pete the Cat, but I’ll get to that later.

To further add to the mix, this week is spring break for most of the school systems in Danville, which means no preschool. That means it doesn’t feel like a Tuesday because normally my kids should have gone to school this morning, but instead they were here with me. Therefore it’s totally okay that I thought it was Wednesday.

(Is anyone following?)

2. Personal progress –

I ran a 5K on Saturday morning after Lance ran his first Fun Run. It felt good out on the trail with an energized group of people as I ran for a good cause. Doing so also gave me inspiration to keep on running and doing the best I can with the limited time I have lately. I’d like to up my distance a little and run a few more 5K’s in the coming months. It’ll be fun to see what is available when we move. I have good motivation because my brother’s girlfriend and I formed a team and will run a relay of the Potter County God’s Country Marathon the first weekend of June. I am super psyched about this event because it’s a small venue in the county I grew up in, and I have wanted to participate for the last few years, but I was either pregnant or unable to overcome the logistical challenge of such a long trip up. This year it’ll be no problem to get there, and there is no pregnancy involved (whew!).

3. Writer’s world –

Eric Litwin (aka Mr. Eric), who wrote Pete the Cat: I love my white shoes, is one of Lance’s new favorite authors. We’ve read a few Pete the Cat books before, but my friend told me we had to get I love my white shoes.

The moral of the story is, “No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song…

(Turn page)

because it’s all good.”

The story has great illustrations and interactive questions as Pete steps in different things that make his shoes turn colors, but doesn’t get upset. It’s really quite catchy because we’ve applied “He kept walking along and singing his song…” to a lot of toddler mishaps lately. I’ve even adopted it as the stress of moving and buying a new house increases. I didn’t write it, but I’m going to keep walking along and singing my song as we take each day one at a time.

4. Photo of the week –

When Lance was about the age that Vivian is now, he used to “help me unload the dishwasher” as he passed me one clean item at a time. I then put the item away and we repeated the process one spoon, fork, plate, cup, bowl at a time.

I’m having flashbacks now with Vivian…


So many good memories in this house.

5. Picture-less moment –

Lance is really into surprises lately when it comes to his snacks, and he has been requesting “surprise snacks.” I’ve had fun thinking of new ways to surprise him with different foods and presentation of the snack, but after awhile I drew a blank. Then it came to me. Probably not a Pinterest-approved idea, but it’s a huge favorite now — M&M’s out of a shot glass.

Yep, so many good memories in this house…

Just walking along, singing our song.

6. Parenting thought –

When we move next month we’ll live in temporary housing for about two and a half months until we can get into the house we bought in early July. At first I wasn’t thrilled about sending all of our belongings to a temporary storage unit and starting out this new phase of our life totally displaced. But the more I’ve gotten used to the idea, the more on board I am.

We found a guest house that’s part of a Bed and Breakfast in a neighboring community that is fully furnished and has a kitchen filled with all the utensils we will need. As a parent, I realize how much the kids will need me during the move. Therefore, I am kind of excited not to have to face acclimation to a new town and setting up a brand new house on top of helping the kids make the transition as I support Jan in his new career path all at the same time. Not to mention keep my own health and sanity in tact.

With that all in mind, I am kind of looking forward to the simplicity of living under the roof of someone else’s responsibility during the interim. Fittingly, the guest house is named Virginia’s House. I think we’ll fit right in.

7. Humor –

We had friends over for a few hours around lunchtime today, which meant entertainment and I didn’t have to get out of my pajamas, even at noon, because they are they type of friends you don’t have to get out of your pajamas for. The house got destroyed and looked way worse than I looked in my pajamas, which was totally okay because it was 100% worth it to have company on this snowy 25th day of March.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention it’s snowing?

It is, which is quite newsworthy, and something I should have mentioned in number one on the list, but I was really having a hard time figuring out the day and it’s important to know what day it is!

Oh well, everything will be OK!

Which leads me to my final point –

Did you know that Sunday, March 23rd was OK Day, or the 175th anniversary of the invention word Okay (or O.K. or OK or Ok)?

I watched a great story about the word that one professor believes is America’s most successful export on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

Therefore, as I sit here in my pajamas while the kids nap and when I could be getting dressed, I turn to the Greek phrase “ola kala,” which means all good and is one of the theories of OK’s origin.

I think Pete the Cat would agree with the Greeks.

This week I challenge you, no matter what day it is, keep walking along and singing your song!



The Banter Lady

WCA Fun Run

Registered and ready to run.Lance's first fun run.Intently listening to pre-race instructions.On your mark, get set…GO!Distractions along the way were all part of the fun.
Off and running again.Then he found a girlfriend for awhile.Finish line.It's not about the game, it's how you finish.Success!Recovery lollipop.
Family support.The post-race burn-out.

WCA Fun Run, a set on Flickr.

This morning, Lance participated in his first Fun Run that benefited the WCA Class of 2017 and the Leukemia Society.

At first he was eager, then a little unsure, but once the race was underway, he was all smiles.

Before the race, he intently listened to pre-race instructions. He was one of the smallest, yet determined runners. Jan and I had a blast watching him complete the course.

A few distractions along the way, including some orange race cones and a cute little girl, all added to the fun.

In the end, he completed his first Fun Run with gusto. The post-race lollipop and participation ribbon made this event a home run for our little guy.

Way to go, Lance.