July 2009 Archives

The road taken

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The other day I was on Greta Van Susteren talking about political things. I don't write about those things here because this is my respite from it all, also because people get angry at me for doing so on my own website, which seems weird to me. I don't know how you can truly love a person without loving all parts of them. We're really not that different. 

It's an odd thing to try to reconcile. 

I'm just glad that my boys don't yet know how to Google my name and find the things that are said about me, how people think that their mother needs to keep her mouth shut, have her [backside] kicked, or is a number of pejoratives. I'm glad that they aren't old enough to see some of their mother's friends, happy when their mother pretended that she had no thoughts about politics, change who they are, even though she has never changed who she was or stopped caring about them.

It's not a path you seek out for anything but the deepest, most passionate reasons because any other motive would make the things said about you a lousy trade. It goes with the territory and I am not phased; just learning to keep my eyes open. 

I may not sleep again.  

(P.S. On the show tomorrow I'm talking to Joan Rivers.THE Joan Rivers. !)

Chicago, not the band

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Chicago


Driving to Midway we passed the "Married with Children" fountain and I realized that I didn't get so see nearly as much of the city as I'd wanted. I love Chicago because it is in so many ways similar to St. Louis with its architecture and Midwest aesthetic but it also has a river running through it, a professional basketball team, Navy Pier, a great aquarium, a killer rock'n'roll scene, and it was the setting for my favorite John Hughes movies. I loaded my Pre with Simple Minds.

Love the gold

Saturday night Kelly, one of my two hotel mates, the other being Tracey, hit Niu Japanese Fusion where we had some of the best mojitos and sushi we've ever tasted. I hated mojitos up until that point; I know they were the drink of Hemingway and I quipped that I know why I blew his head off with an elephant gun if he had to drink that crap. Made properly and they're awesome.

BEST MOJITO EVER

After last year's Blogher a lot of women complained about the "mommyblawwwwger" focus. It's too focused on mom bloggers, everyone pays attention to the moms, etc. I'm cynical and figured that some were complaining just to complain. Seriously, BloghHER; a lot of women have children, mothers are the biggest, most attractive marketing niche right now, there are many reasons as to why there would be this slant. I understood it. I got it. But I also get how annoying it can be when you want to take part in things non-mommy-related. I felt it.

A lot has changed this past year. I've been blogging since 2001 - I was blogging about politics for three years before I ever blogged about motherhood - and two years ago returned to political blogging while still maintaing the "mom blog" that got me attention and afforded me many opportunities. The reactions I've received from this has been strange. Politicos whose blogs were created after my now-defunct political blog were all Ugh, a "mommyblogger," here we go. I got emails - something I'm going to go into later because it's not entirely apropos - about it, asking about my "sudden" interest in politics. During the conference, I was asked by a few people why I got so "politicky." Another asked me when I was going to go back to "mom-blogging" because politics is rough, didn't I know?

I know they were motivated to ask because of genuine curiosity, but that doesn't temper the weirdness that I absorbed from the question. I didn't realize that I couldn't write about more than one thing. Women are like any other humans: complex, multi-faceted people with varying interests and varying degrees of passion about those interests. The idea that in order to belong to a group one must strip away all else else arbitrarily deemed non-essential to that group seems regressive.

There were some things I liked and disliked about this year's Blogher:

DISLIKED: 

 - The unprecedented grab for swag. Amy's baby was literally elbowed in the head, ELBOWED IN THE HEAD by a woman who was hell-bent on getting a swag bag Friday night. People would literally knock others and stuff down just to get a free mousepad or coloring book. Whiskey tango foxtrot, indeed.

blogher9

- Some of the marketing angles. I love that companies take women bloggers seriously, but just an FYI, we will still like your product regardless if it comes in pink or with a free tube of chapstick as an enticer.

- The blogger-lobbyists. I was approached by a blogger in the bathroom while washing my hands. Instead of exchanging pleasantries, swapping URLs, or anything else, she thrust a card at me which detailed information about the product she was promoting in exchange for having her hotel and travel expenses sponsored. There. In the bathroom. Right after I washed my hands but before I dried them. It should go without saying that the toilet is a sacred space where we don't want to be confronted by sales pitches - but I feel even more strongly about the blogging community being the same: a respite, a break, a sanctuary. I don't want to be pitched in the crapper just as I don't want to field a pitch by someone whom I thought was here to connect with, not sell, other women like me.

- The entire "Nikon hates babies" mamadrama. Nikon doesn't hate babies any more than you do for refusing to secure adequate childcare in your absence or for the dereliction of duty in failing to talk to the PR rep before the party, weeks in advance when the invites were first sent. No company should take the fall for your poor planning so stop abusing the community to spread ill will based upon a self-inflicted offense.

- That conservative bloggers were shut out and excluded from private lunches and meetings on health care with Valerie Jarrett and senior White House Aides. I don't make big deals out of things which do not merit it and this is the first time I've ever wrote a wrap-up of this kind about Blogher or have gotten political here in quite some time. This dislike actually made me a bit upset because had this gone in reverse, heads would have ROLLED and DRAMAOMGWTF. Apparently, as a woman, my concerns about healthcare legislation don't count unless I lean a particular way, politically. Wasn't the mantra to approach this with a spirit of bipartisanship? Wasn't this weekend about elevating the presence of women on the internet? Do conservative women not count?

- The inconsistent availability of wifi.

- The tacky, douchey shirts about women's boobs and otherwise creating a statement totally ironic to the conference's original purpose. I have no problem with someone else's bad taste so long as it doesn't inflict harm upon me

LIKED:

Jennifer James and Shannon Entin

- My panel on using blogging as a homeschooling tool. I first pitched the idea months ago and submitted a dream team of bloggers I'd like to have on it; two were selected and it was a phenomenal discussion. Women shared their experiences and knowledge; all that was missing was a campfire and s'mores. 

 - The Mamapop party (yours truly). It was so needed and beyond fun to dance and connect with other women at a party not focused on sponsor-appreciation or swag, but on the people who attended. No one showed up because they were baited with the promise of swag; they showed up to have a good time together. The Mamapop overlords (LOVE them) gave each of us writers wonderful thank-you gifts, they fed us food and drinks, and I kid you not it felt like the best summer camp EVER. It's not to say anything bad of sponsors in general because I realize that they are needed and appreciated; but there needs to be a balance. 

- The Method suite. This, this is how it's done and I almost feel dirty for mentioning a company name even though they have no idea I just did so. The home product company had a quiet suite and offered appetizers and drinks to women who came by, as well as simple samples, a few products, and coupons. I did not seek out swag - in fact, the only swag bag I got was the Blogher swag bag. I did make an effort to go to the Method suite, however. When Liam was first diagnosed with severe allergies and asthma and we had to rip out all of our carpeting, change our diets, et al. to keep from going to the ER every month for asthma attacks and to minimize his need to go on oral steroids to help control his airwaves. I also had to limit my use of harsh chemicals and Method was, at the time, the only company with an entire line of products for the home which would be OK for us to use around Liam. (In case you think I'm exaggerating, I couldn't even vacuum in the same room he was in or let him outside for more than 40 minutes at a time as a little kid else trigger an asthma attack.) I wanted to share that with them and I got a coupon for some of their scent-free home products.

- Audio set up. As the wife of a man who makes a living in music and production and is a ridiculously annoying audiophile with All the Speakers, and as someone who works in radio, sound is important. Last year I thought there were issues with not having enough mics, the sound being too low, et al., but the sound and techs were fantastic this year. Each room, provided the speakers positioned the mics the proper distance from their mouths, had great sound and each panel (I didn't get to all of them but the ones I did get to) had more than enough gear to accommodate the speakers and moderators.

- The fantastic organization by Lisa, Elisa, and Jory.

- My roommates. I don't trust many women with the sight that is my Don King fro in the morning and these two are exceptions. Tracey put together all our Mamapop gift bags and tried to be all sneaky-like while we were downstairs sucking down the wifi. I'd not met Kelly until this conference and she is now my photo-bombing partner-in-crime.

Normal faces:

Regular sane people faces

Photo-bomb faces:

Photo bomb faces

- The Cheeseburgherz party (great job, ladies), which I wrote was like the house party you always wanted to have when your parents were gone but were too afraid to pull off, and the wonderful Recovery Breakfast Isabel threw the following morning. I cannot say how much I appreciated how, the morning I packed up, all bleary-eyed and yawny, the breakfast, Starbucks' coffee, and muffins. I was freaking out most of my Sunday worrying about show prep for this week and it was so incredibly awesome to have a place to go to get that important first meal of the day.

- All of the women who remarked to me so what if we don't see eye to eye politically? I danced with women at the Mamapop party who I've gone round and round with in a debate; I hugged and toasted with women who I know disagree with my ideology in part or whole and you know what? It is as I have always said: so long as you can sit back and have a beer together at the end of the day, it's all good. And it was.

Chicago

More faux toes here.

Obligatory pre-Blogher post

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Although you can't tell, I finally got a Mac Friday night, just before taking the boys to see Harry Potter. My Dell laptop, quasi-dependable for the last five years, is on its last leg. It sucked the life out of batteries (I was tethered to the wall with a 7-month-old battery, my second one) and was pushed to the limit of what I needed to do. I really, really use my computers: audio, video, Photoshop, in addition to writing. My computer was old and lacked even the most standard, newer features which would enable me to hook up certain webcams (I had neither a webcam or mic on my laptop which meant that I was always running to Chris's studio to do my Skype interviews for various media outlets). Basically, it was HARSHING MY MELLOW. 

Now I have this shiny, minimalist thing and I adore it. It's made dealing with audio and video so much easier. Also, I think I can now fly, eat beets without barfing, and kill spiders without shrieking my head off. All because of the Mac. 

I've assured my PC friends that this does not mean that just I will not start carrying messenger bags, buy black rimmed glasses, and listen to Coldplay excessively just because I own a Mac. I don't have anything against any of those things, except for Coldplay, because I think they suck. Chris Martin sings like he snagged his groin on my uncle's cattle fence. Oh, and JOE SATRIANI

Off topic!

This week is insane: I hosted for Jamie today as he filled in for Ingraham; I've been doing our VBS in the evenings; tomorrow I'm leaving for Blogher where I'm speaking on and moderating a panel about blogging as a homeschooling tool. Really looking forward to the discussion, as well as meeting some other tech-savvy homeschool mamas. I come back Sunday and immediately jump into guest-hosting for Jamie while he spends time with his son before his son ships out to Iraq.

I already miss my kids. They're with me all the time; I feel off-balance without them. I know that they will be fine with Chris because he is great with them and they'll go see movies and play video games and consume the candy that I've hidden at the top of the pantry behind the trash bags. But still, I miss them and I don't know if it's something hardwired into motherhood or if I'm just neurotic, but I always feel guilty and irresponsible when I leave them to go do anything for myself. I'll get over it only briefly, while I use all my faculties to freak out about the plane because, as you may know, I'm a ridiculous awful pansy when it comes to flying. Last night I made Chris rattle off the safety statistics as I dozed into my pillow.

If you're going to Chicago, please to be saying hello!

Posting here will be sporadic for the rest of the week, but I'll be on Twitter.

Should kids work?

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My latest episode for Momversation focuses on whether or not kids should work for their discretionary funds. CHILD LABOR FTW! I kid. 

I didn't get my first job until I graduated high school and that first job was as a salesgirl in a retail store at the mall. I'm not really a fashionista; I wear black because I have the styling ability of Rainbow Brite, and not in a cute-and-freckles kind of way. I was too buys playing the part of an angst-ridden teen to really do my job well, unless anyone tried to sell more than me, in which case I got really competitive because I took it as a personal offense if anyone sold more than me. Hi, 17, I don't miss you at all. 

My next job was as a waitress at a restaurant in the very same mall. I actually liked that job; I was really good on it and got a perfect rating from the secret shoppers. But OMG: you really don't realize how much you dislike people until you get a job in the service industry. I once had a table of frat boys throw a wadded up napkin to me as they exited upon finishing their meal. They hadn't paid their tab. I ran out to the parking lot after them, at which point they went off on me because HOW DARE I not unwad the dirty napkin to see that they paid the bill and left me a modest whole 8% tip! 

"We're going to want some of that tip back now," said one. 

"Take all of it," I replied, throwing it in their faces and turning to walk back inside.

The church people who came in on Sundays were my favorites. They'd eat their lunch and argue Scripture over coffee and always left me a big tip because they occupied my tables for so long. Jesus saves, Jesus pays. 

Working as a teenager made me realize that the world isn't paved with peppermint and that while jerks are annoying, they provide all the best fodder. If the economy doesn't kill our family business, I'd like for the boys to someday work there if they've earned it. In the meantime, I agree with Giyen in this episode: EVERY KID SHOULD WAIT TABLES.

What do you think? Did you work in school or through the summer? What was the job you hated or loved the most?


End-of-week and weekend

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Gorgeous day in the city, Gus's Pretzels on Twitpic Sunset in the south, taken last night. on Twitpic I'm in a suit! (jacket) #imonaboat on Twitpic
OMGWTH!!!111! INTERNET! LOOKIT!!!! Prayers and animal sacrifi... on Twitpic Me and my legal guru, Eric. on Twitpic

From Twitpic, click to enlarge. 
And yes, that is a new laptop. After five years of dutiful service, two hard drives and three batteries, my Dell is now all but completely fried. 

Tomorrow at 10 a.m.

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... I'll be on "Great Day St. Louis" to talk about taking family road trips of the non-Griswold variety. How do you survive trips down Route 66 with two boys in the backseat?

Nyquil.

I kid.

Oh the stories I could tell about my family road trips. Like the time a bee got into our car and my stepdad almost ran us into a ditch because of All the Screaming and my mom with her big violet 70s sunglasses.

Then there was that time, actually the eleventy-frillionth time, that our car broke down on the side of the highway and some very friendly Bubbas in overalls came to fix it for us or the time(s) I got carsick and threw up in the furry floorboard of the car. Which had no AC. And it was sunny summer. And 95 degrees.

Dana's Essential Short List of Vehicular Road Trip Necessities:
- Dramamine. I cannot travel without it
- CDs. I do a Jack Nicholson from "As Good As It Gets" and burn mixes with songs categorized relative to travel duration
- Maps because you can't get GPS in some spots in the Ozark hills
- A camera
- Barf bag
- Snacks
- TOILET PAPER
- Each kid has an activity bag
- Nintendo DSi. One for each kid. WORTH IT. Cheaper than buying a new car we can't afford with the fancy little television screens that drop down from the ceiling in the back.
- First aid kit. We will promptly run out of band-aids after the first rest stop.
- Blankets

Chris made me stop at flares because he thinks I'm ridiculous but I'm a Scaggs on my maternal side and I do not want to taunt fate because if there's a chance for all h-e-double-hockeysticks to break loose on a roadtrip then all h-e-double-hockeysticks will break loose on our roadtrip.

Anyway, I'll be on at ten o'clock.

Out of curiosity, what can you NOT do without on a roadtrip?  

 
Hydrangeas from my garden

My absolute favorite flower, ever.

Hydrangeas from my garden

I'm pressing Chris to bring me some dry ice because the only way to preserve them really well is to flash-freeze them.

Hydrangeas from my garden

Hydrangeas from my garden

Hydrangeas thrive in really acidic soil; I had no idea of this when I planted them; I just stuck my favorite perennials in the dirt: Crape Myrtle, Rose of Sharon, azalea, hardy southern hibiscus, and lavender. Honeysuckle hangs over the fence and in the early morning and dusky evening the smell outside absolutely intoxicating.

I love how when the hydrangeas bloom the color creeps inward from the outermost edges of the petals: it starts soft and increases in intensity. They really are that pink; aside from sharpening the photo, I didn't saturate the color of the petals or mess with the hue at all. They're so bright they almost look fake.

Thus concludes the Martha Stewart portion of your weekly programming. 

Happy Monday. 

Diamoads are a girl's best friend

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Diamoads are a girl's best friend

Taken somewhere along Interstate 44. I love motel signs. They remind me of the summer I spent with my parents in a cheap motel in Branson where we all crammed into one room under the window AC, the curtains were gold, the beds' headboards were flocked, and the little balcony overlooking the parking lot was barely a foot across and covered in cheap, Easter grass AstroTurf. One of the best summers ever.

 *A great email from Tom:

Dana,

You're younger than me so I don't know if you remember the old Diamonds. It became the Tri County Truckstop. It is at the intersection of 100 West and Rt. 66. It was closed and abandoned about a year ago and sits lonely and quiet now. When I was a kid it and the new Diamonds were special. They meant ROADTRIP. Sitting in the backseat of my grandpa's big old Chrysler just shaking with excitement because we were going fishing at the farm in Stanton. Or going with Mom and Dad to Lake of the Ozarks or Branson. Just being on 66 with the tacky signs and the old beat up businesses with dancing chicken machines and junky toys to look at was as much fun as the place we were heading to. The whining we could do in hopes of somebody buying some piece of crap toy for us that would be broken by the time we got to wherever we were going. No AC in the car meant windows down and the smell of every farm we passed in. Dad sipping on a cold beer (because it wasn't socially irresponsible then, just part of being an American Dad), Mom wearing a scarf, maybe with curlers and my brother and I loving life in the backseat.

I live close to 66 and travel it nearly everyday. It still means freedom and opportunity. It still makes me feel like my America might be out there someplace. Just biding her time.

Tom
Ever feel nervous when your children handle pyro and/or explosives?

"No, kids, these fireworks are for Mr. Loesch and Mr. Dellas."

Yeah, well Team Loesch did that on Shock City's roof on the Fourth of July because it's not Independence Day unless you can toss a bottle rocket from four stories up with friends and your friends' kids.

Swarm2

Which reminds me.

july4th11

When I was a kid I spent the majority of my summers in the Ozarks with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and all their offspring. There where so many of us I honestly have no idea how Grandma kept track; I remember stealing cookies from her cookie jar and running off to hide in the corn when I thought she was occupied and dangit all to Hades if that devil woman didn't find me. I mean that affectionately. I'm sure you can understand the wrath of a ten-year-old whose Grandma just swiped a Keebler elf cookie from her hand moments before she crammed it into her mouth.

Swarm

The great thing about the Fourth of July is that all the adults wanted to drink beer and light fireworks off from my aunt's porch so no one paid all too much mind to what the kids were setting on fire - except my mother, who never let me hold a Roman candle like my cousins did because some lady she worked with had a neighbor who knew someone whose arm was blown off by a Roman candle when it exploded and bits of arm went everywhere. She changed the story up and made it gorier every year; one time it was his arm, another time it was his face and his lips were burnt clean off.

My cousins and I waged legendary bottle rocket fights. I was the meanest of them all mainly because I had to be: everyone took one look at my white fro and their eyes twisted into evil half moons.

When the adults ran out of their share of bottle rockets they dispatched Uncle Surl out to the field to babysit us. Uncle Surl is a cantankerous beer drinker who prefers solitude and great mystery novels to nights out, at least in his old age. His idea of a cruise is to pay for a bunk on a merchant ship and sail around the Pacific going to ports "they don't take the stupid tourists to." He became legend when, while boarding in Alaska, he slipped and fell all the way down the gangplank. Instead of fighting it, he thought "Eff it. I'll roll" and broke his leg. He also once stole the family town's city sign and planted it up at the North Pole.

Uncle Surl would trudge out to the field near the railroad tracks where we were all battling, the porch a glimmer in the distance.

"Here!" he'd bark, and produce a batch of pilfered bottlerockets from the porch. We were estatic as our supplies were dwindling. We prepared to light them off in our hands when Uncle Surl would holler "NO, no, you blockheads, you'll blow your da*mn hands off and then your mothers will nag me to death. Here." He downed the open bottle of beer in his right hand, finished off the one in his left, and plunked them down on a railroad tie.

"Stick 'em in this and then light 'em."

He'd watch for a few minutes, the resulting explosions reflecting off his thick glasses, before trudging across the field, back to our aunt's house.

Sparklerz


There's something about the Fourth of July that brings me back to the Ozarks, even mentally, and even if I'm standing on the roof in the middle of the city with fireworks exploding all around me. The kids clamored around Chris as he lit bottle rockets in his hand, anxious to see if he'd blow his arm off. The sky was red and hazy from all the smoke.

fourth

Maybe it's because I'm older, but the night seemed to last longer when I was younger.

I've had the T.V. off all day

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Oh yes, it is the topic du jour at Momversation land.


Dad's home

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daddyshome1

As soon as they hear the key turn the lock

daddyshome2

The frenzy begins

daddyshome3

Twelve hours of day condensed into a five minute story

daddyshome4

Chaotic but lovely.

The opposite of sun worship

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When I first saw how bad the boys' sunburns were upon returning from their grandparents' I was shocked; when I saw that Ewan had developed blisters the size of quarters on his upper arms I almost cried and would have were not two boys depending on me to hold my stuff together. Chris and I washed their arms with vinegar and coated them with aloe. Ewan screamed and cried in pain. I had to hold him while Chris doctored his arms. He screamed "why is this happening to me?" and other things which caused Chris and I to give each other sorrowful looks.

In an effort to distract Ewan I thought of the silliest, most ridiculous thing to say, something which borrowed from the bathroom humor he finds so unbelievably hysterical.

"You know what I'm gonna do?" I asked him in a low voice.

"What?" he sobbed.

"I'm gonna go outside, find the sun, and kick the sun in the wiener for burning you."

 He burst into uncontrollable laughter.

"MOM." Liam slid into the doorway aided by his socks. "Suns don't have ..."

"BE QUIET."

"They're balls of gas ..."

"STOP IT AND GET YOUR PAJAMAS ON."

"Hahaha! MOM. Did you hear me?? I said 'balls!'"

Life with boys. 

Yesterday the boys got new sketching pads and Ewan sat in the kitchen, coloring furiously. When he was finished, he walked over to me and presented me with this:

Me kicking the sun in the wiener and the sun pooing, as drawn by Ewan.

OH YES. It IS what you think it is. It's me kicking the sun in the wiener, but kicking it so hard that the sun crapped itself. I cannot emphasize how much I adore the look on the sun's face.

"That's YOU, Mama!" Ewan said, enthusiastically pointing to the little person doing the kicking.

It's now hanging on the fridge, right next to his painting of "Hell But Not the Bad Word the Place."

The takeaway: be careful what you say to your kids. They may draw a visual representation of it.
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Dana asks: "Thanksgiving Traditions: Yours or Your Mother's?"