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Chicago, not the band

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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.


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:


 - 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.


- 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


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.


More faux toes here.
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.


Which reminds me.


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.


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.


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.


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

I sang some Tom Jones

On Friday night we went to a little neighborhood bar for some karaoke. I did not karaoke until I married into Chris's family, people who pull a trailer filled with professional karaoke gear across two states for a family reunion and will make you sing regardless whether or not you want to or have the ability. I sing, but mainly in church or after a glass of adult nectar when suddenly, standing up in front of people and a husband who produces music for a living (and is also pitch-perfect) doesn't seem like a complete nightmare.


It was an enjoyable evening despite the bartender not having any pants. And here I thought I'd seen everything. Afterwards we went to play shuffleboard at a different establishment and later saw some dude roughhousing his girlfriend and drama ensued.

I wasn't going to say anything about this until a guy (who sat nearby with friends and surveyed the scene) told us afterwards that hey, we didn't know the circumstances, who knows, maybe the woman did something to provoke the guy, and it was all I could do to stop myself from saying "maybe this is why you are middle aged, still single, and still scoping out chicks in bars. Just sayin." But he apparently took a hit while helping the girl and it was nice that he assisted her, so I can't be too harsh on him.

There is no excuse for a man to EVER physically handle a woman in such a way, unless perhaps when acting in defense of his life or if recreating an epic scene between Ike and Tina from "What's Love Got to Do with It." This whole BS notion that female abuse is no one's business, especially if it happens in public, is the exact reason why for so many years no one helped my mother.

It amuses me that anyone, especially a man, would use the whole "maybe the woman provoked him" line because it presupposes that the man is a giant blockhead who is not yet evolved enough to control his emotions or body. Whereas sexism usually condemns a man, in this case, it's used to exonerate him. Of course, it's sexist against the woman, too, being that it underscores the "nag" stereotype. A universally sexist defense! I feel like I'm one step closer to having seen everything.

So! There was that.

Tomorrow I'll share how Wehrenberg Theaters made my kids cry.
A remark from Liam and Ewan's friend, S, as told to me by his mother:

"When I grow up I'm gonna be a mountain lion and a doctor!"

"That's nice, like a veterinarian?"

"NO! A mountain lion and a doctor!"

"Oh ...? You want to be both?"

"At the SAME TIME! A mountain lion who's a DOCTOR."

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Dana asks: "Thanksgiving Traditions: Yours or Your Mother's?"