What I learned from 16 strangers

So I have been pondering how to sum up my first “blogger” weekend, where I spent two days with 16 strangers – all women bloggers, most of them moms – in Sacramento. Since I probably couldn’t do it justice in a few sentences, I thought it best to write up a list of the Top 10 Things I Learned at the Blathering:

10. Sacramento actually has a very cool section of town. My past experience with SacTown has been limited to three things: wedding dress shopping, Fairy Tale Town and the Zoo, and the court house. The last one, shall we say, was a tad bit on the scary side, leaving the impression that our fair Capitol City was, umm, rather ghetto. But the local Blathering ladies, like Amy, showed off mid-town, and with its quaint Victorian homes and hip boutiques and trendy restaurants, I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

9. When people see 16 women walking around together, they assume one of two things: it’s either a bachelorette party or a sorority reunion; blogging convention is not the first thing to come to their mind. So it was rather hard to explain to people when they asked us what we were all about. The answer “we met on the Internet” conjured up strange expressions on people’s faces that seemed to say, “Uh-huh, right. Pornography chat room. I’ll just back away slowly now.” Fed up with trying to explain our association, I just took to saying, “We met on Match.com.” That seemed to satisfy people.

8. Attending a blogging meet-up does not necessarily mean you will talk about blogs. I think I discussed blogging for a grand total of about 20 minutes, and only because I brought it up. The most helpful blogging tidbit I learned was about Google Reader. Since that was told to me while imbibing multiple  froofie cocktails and champagne in a can (with a straw, I might add. Kind of like an adult juice box), I apologize that I cannot name the blogger who passed on this wonderful piece of advice.

7. Bloggers are really just the modern version of pen-pals. Many of the Blathering women had been following each other and corresponding for years, through births and separations and all of life’s ups and downs. Even thought some of them had never met, they felt like they knew each other. It reminded me of the scene in “Julie & Julia” when Julia Child meets her pen pal of eight years, Avis DeVoto. The only difference is, back then, they had to use a pen and actually wait weeks to read about their friend. Today, we can just turn the computer on and, in an instant, see what’s new in our blogging buddy’s world.

6. Some women can cook for 16 people. And it’s good. Really good. That would not be me. But Elizabeth can. She made roasted chicken and tabouli and her homegrown heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella were delicious. Oh, and let’s not forget the gorgeous cupcakes that even had frosting hidden inside, as if the layer on top was not enough to send us into a chocolate coma. Some of us (I won’t name names, Emily) were so overcome by the incredible chocolate frosting that they were driven to lick the bowl, even though it resembled poo.

5. Do not, whatever you do, wear a strapless, button-up dress to your husband’s bachelor party at a strip club. Or else a stripper just might want to put a dollar down your dress, and said stripper just might rip your dress apart and spill your breastfeeding boobs out of your bra, and then she just might place her face between your tits and motorboat you, right there in front of your husband and brother and father-n-law. I wouldn’t know, of course. But Whitney would. And she’ll make you laugh your ass off when she tells the story.

4. Get 16 bloggers together at the same table and they will communicate by Twitter. Dont’ worry, we talked too, but the tweeting may have been funnier.

3. Watching gay men line dance is highly entertaining. On Saturday night we went to a gay club called Faces, which has three rooms – a hip-hip room, a country-western room and a pop-music one. I had no idea that gay clubs were such a great place for a group of ladies to go to dance their ass off, since they don’t get accosted by a bunch of cheesy men. (Not that that would be so bad at my age.) The highlight was definitely watching gay men in their tight jeans and cowboy hats and mustaches, along with a sprinkling of lesbians, all doing the Achy Breaky Heart. They all had the biggest smile on their faces.

2. I am clearly not down with the hip-hop scene. I did not know a single song the DJ played. And when I asked him to play the only dance song I could think of – Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” – he said, “Oh, that’s old. Not sure if we have that.” I think what he meant to say was, “Oh, you’re old. The over-35 room is around the corner. They’re playing some Kenny Loggins.”

1. And the number one thing I learned at the Blathering is: there are a lot of cool blogger ladies out there, but when it comes right down to it, we are all just wives and mothers and girlfriends and women trying to make sense out of life and find a little writing therapy and other people like ourselves to say, “You are not alone. That’s happened to me too. And here’s how I got through it.”

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13 things you should know about me

This weekend I am doing something new – I am spending a weekend with 16 women I’ve never met before. No, it’s not rehab or a yoga retreat. It’s a blogging get-together in Sacramento called the Blathering. How could I pass it up when it’s only 2 hours away? Plus there’s going to be wine tasting and pedicures. And no children. Did I mention no children? And wine? And people rubbing my feet? Sold.

Here’s 13 things you should know about me ahead of time:

1. Wine makes my nose run. And get stuffed up. So if you see me sniffling while drinking, it’s not because the vino is making me all sappy. Apparently, the tannins or sulfur can do this to you when you age. So all you spring chickens still in your 20s, now you can see what’s in your future. And it ain’t pretty.

2. I have no problem whatsoever leaving my children for 2 days, especially since they will be with their dad. What scares me, however, is my husband (who is challenged in the housekeeping department) and what kind of shape my house will be in when I get back. If you see me descend into a panic, it’s not because I miss my little ones; it’s because I’m thinking of the time he let them empty the entire contents of the pantry into the living room and left it like that for me to come home to.

3. I am petrified of the vegetable aisle at the grocery store. It overwhelms me. This is partly due to the fact that I just started cooking last year. I know, late bloomer. But I’m trying. I don’t love it yet, but at least I now have a few recipes up my sleeve. Any EASY recipe advice is appreciated. By easy I mean minimal chopping and dicing, with as few ingredients as possible. If it comes with a professional chef, all the better.

4. I had a VBAC at home with my second child and am very passionate about homebirth but would never shove it down anyone’s throat. If you want to talk more about it, I’d be happy to share.

5. I am not a very good sleeper and have a tendency to wake up at 2 am and be up for two hours. I am hoping the wine, or Ambien, will help that. Or maybe a combination of the two.

6. I am finding it incredibly difficult to come up with 13 things about myself. What kind of a blogger am I?

7. I am a true journalist at heart and love getting to know people and learning about your background and asking lots of questions. Sometimes I can tread a little too deep and put my foot in my mouth, so if I do, just tell me to back off gently. Or distract me by bringing out dessert.

8. I love my children and I love doing things with them, but I am not a Mommy’s mommy. Mother’s clubs freak me out, same with the PTO. And the first time I took my son to a Mommy & Me class, I had an identity crisis.

9. Am I at #13 yet?

10. I have to pee like every half hour. And I’m not even pregnant. It could be because I drink a ton of water. Or I have a small bladder. Or two pregnancies have messed up all my lady parts. And if you see me stand still and squeeze my legs together when I sneeze, that’s my way of preventing an embarrassing situation from occurring.

11. Watching my 3-year old daughter in her ballet class has been one of the highlights of motherhood so far. For those of you with a girl, please enroll her in ballet when she is old enough. It’s ADORABLE. For those of you who only have boys, sorry. Soccer just isn’t the same.

12. I love jewelery. And not the expensive kind. Turquoise and silver and beads and all that. My husband is thankful every day that I am not a diamond girl.

13. Ahhh, I made it to the end! I am secretly freaking out that I am going to be one of the oldest women at the Blathering, as in 40 is just around the corner for me, whereas most of you seem to be starring at 30. But I still get carded once in a while, so I got that going for me.

14. I know, I know. I was complaining that I couldn’t think of enough things to write and now I have more than 13. This was added later because my husband would tell me I did a terrible disservice to you all if I forgot to mention this one small point – I have hiccups. Not regular hiccups. One really loud, surprise hiccup that occurs at random times. My sister shares this with me, so I am guessing it’s genetic.  So don’t be surprised if you hear a very loud sound coming from me at some point during the weekend that sounds like a hiccup on steroids. It even scares me sometimes.

My cat is better than your dog

dog strollerHaving just returned from the Art Bark Animal Art & Wine Festival at Squaw Valley, which benefits our local humane society and Squaw Valley Rescue Dogs, I feel inclined to report a few disturbing trends I witnessed among dog lovers. I feel I have every right to comment on these since I own a cat, and am thus a snob by association:

1. It is wrong, WRONG, WRONG to carry animals around in baby gear!!! I saw one woman who was pushing an empty dog stroller while carrying her chihuahua in a doggie sling. I had to fight the urge to grab her and shake her by the shoulders and yell, “Snap out of it, woman! It’s a DOG, for christ’s sake, not a BABY! Dogs CAN WALK! ” I saw so many damn doggie strollers at the event that I am starting to think I might be the only one who thinks this way. Call me crazy, but I thought dogs loved to run and walk. What’s next – doggie bicycle trailers? Wait, I’ve seen those.

2. Dressing up little dogs like children gives me the creeps. I saw one small bull dog wearing a pink sundress and matching hat, while her brother was wearing a t-shirt that said “I still live with my parents.” OK,  I get the joke. I also get that you are sick in the head and have not recovered from your doll and Barbie fetish when you were a kid. If the dog knew what it was wearing, it would kill you and then run away to find another owner that wouldn’t humiliate it like that.

3. This is a first – I saw a woman walking an alpaca on a leash. You know, basically a llama but smaller and cuter. Yeah, weird. But it gets even better. While we were petting her (and I know it was a girl because it had a ribbon stuck to its head), she started to make a weird sound, kind of like a whimper. I thought we were freaking it out, but when I asked the owner she just said that meant it had to go to the bathroom. Apparently, the alpaca is potty trained and has its own porta-potty. I swear to God, I am not making this up. But here’s what topped the whole experience: the owner says to the alpaca, “Is this the first time you’ve seen children in a cage?” A cage??? Excuse me, this here is a stroller – for kids. Have you never seen one before? Or you just confused because everyone else here is pushing DOGGIE STROLLERS???

4. OK, so this last one I didn’t witness but it’s about animals and just happened yesterday so I feel like I can take poetic license and include it. Plus this is my blog so there really aren’t any rules. Kaiden came home from school on Friday and told me someone had brought a bunch of animals to school for the students to look at. There was a porcupine and a snake and a parrot – in a diaper. Why was it in a diaper? I asked.  His answer: “Mom, it wasn’t a regular diaper. It was a parrot diaper.” Oh, as if that explained why a bird was wearing Huggies. But then I realized there could be other logical explanations, like maybe it was a really old bird so it was sporting Depends, or it was a female parrot wearing a MaxiPad. What I don’t understand is if you can train an alpaca to use its own porta-potty, why then not a parrot? The parrot could even ask to go to the bathroom, right? “Polly gotta potty. Polly gotta potty.”

Siig and I used to have two wonderful dogs and have often contemplated getting another, but after this weekend I think I will stick to my one remaining cat, even if yesterday she did puke up a big hairball on the carpet that Kaya then stepped in in her barefeet. And she only has like one tooth and wouldn’t kill a spider if her life depended on it.  At least I don’t have to worry about buying a Kitty Bjorn – yet.

Lessons from a Road Trip

chimpWhat I learned on our camping/road trip last weekend:

1. If you find skid marks on your child’s underwear – her spare pair – just pull her panties back up and pretend like you didn’t see a thing. And do whatever you can to erase the image from your mind.

2. If you neglect to change Kaiden’s socks all weekend, you shall suffer the consequences – feet that smell like a cross between old cheese and rotten eggs. Whatever you do, don’t let him know how bad his feet smell or you will find them shoved in your face with him shouting “Smell my feet! Smell my feet!” while you try not to puke.

3. The perfect answer to the age-old question of “Are we there yet?,” especially when asked 20 minutes into a 5-hour road-trip, is: “No, and if you ask me that one more time, we won’t be there for 100 hours. And aliens will beam us up to their spaceship and do strange experiments on us.”

4. Walking into a giant Oak tree in the dark feels a lot like running into a brick wall. Optimistic discovery: a bottle of ice-cold St. Pauli’s will take the swelling down on your head almost as fast as ice, especially if consumed soon after.

5. It’s a guarantee that your children will wake up earlier than normal when camping. Lie to them and tell them the moon is super bright and it’s still night time and they need to go back to sleep. Or bears will eat them for dinner. And then the aliens will get them.

6. A pit-stop at the zoo on the way home is a great way to break up the drive, but best to avoid the chimpanzees as they will give your children ideas about picking their butts and then putting their fingers in their mouth.

7. Coming home when football is on TV means that I am unpacking the car by myself, thus giving me yet one more reason to hate football season.

8. If you make a stop for one child to go to the bathroom, the other will say she doesn’t have to go, but as soon as you are back in the car she will have to pee and you will have to pull over at yet another gas station, where she will take a half hour to squeeze a little poo out while you sit anxiously awaiting among boxes of Gatorades and Cokes, wondering if your husband thinks you have fallen in the toilet or been kidnapped.

A letter to a little person

asparagusTo the little person we saw at the store yesterday, thank you.

Thank you for helping me to get my son to eat something besides pizza and PB&J sandwiches.

Before I proceed any further and get accused of being insensitive, let me make one thing clear: this post is in no way meant to offend the vertically-challenged. I swear.

With that out of the way, I will proceed. We were in the grocery store when a little person walked by. This being the first time Kaiden had seen an adult of that size, he pointed at her and asked, “Mom, isn’t she a grown up? Why is she so small?”

I said: “Kaiden, you don’t point at people who are different than you. That makes them feel uncomfortable. People come in all shapes and sizes and that just makes them different, not weird. Next time, instead of pointing, ask me.”

There, I thought, I had seized the moment to teach my son one of his first lesson’s about respecting people who are different. What a good mother I am.

But wait.  This moment presented another opportunity. It was slightly deceitful, but if telling little lies isn’t part of parenting, than I don’t know what is.

I couldn’t resist. “You know, sometimes adults are small because they didn’t eat good as a child so they didn’t grow.”

That got Kaiden’s attention.

“Really, mom????”

“Yes, really. So you need to try more things, OK?”

It must have worked, because that night at dinner, after consuming his usual meal of pizza and fruit, Kaiden announced that he wanted to try foods that were green. Just green. Why that color I have no idea,  I was just glad he didn’t say black. I about shit in my pants when he actually took a bite of asparagus, followed by cucumber, then a tomato (it was yellow, but he agreed to make an exception). Avocados, however, were a no-go.

So, bite by bite, Kaiden expanded his diet by a few foods. I don’t think he is all of a sudden going to start asking for an asparagus pizza or cucumber sandwich, but at least he tried. That’s half the battle, right?

So, to the wonderful but small woman who walked by our cart at the store on Wednesday, you may be only 4 feet tall, but to me, you are an angel.

Dear Tourist: Please read so I don’t have to shoot you

touristI know everyone’s a tourist at one point or another, but when you live in a tourist town, they start to drive you crazy after a while. There’s a reason we call visitors to Tahoe “gapers:” they drive like 80-year old blind grandmas out for a Sunday cruise, slam their brakes on every time they see a leaf fall, and clog up the lines at the grocery store. MY grocery store.

But, alas, we need tourists; our economy depends on them. (Dam it. I guess that means I can’t use them for target practice.) So, as the tourist season draws to a close, I have a few words of advice to visitors that will help them blend in and keep locals from strangling them with their bare hands:

1. Figure out where you are going BEFORE you get in the car. Mapquest it, Google it, ask a friend, I don’t care, just do what you have to do to NOT drive 25 miles per hour on a 45-mph road. And for god’s sake, lay off the brakes!

2. Don’t go where every other tourist and their mother is going. Try something new. There is a popular trail called 5 Lakes located across the street from my house, and by this afternoon I counted 50 cars parked outside. Does that sounds like fun to you – hiking with 100 other people??? No, I didn’t think so. Kind of contradicts the point of being outside in nature. Might as well bring your TV along.

3. Ladies – in the winter, please, PLEASE, don’t wear those boots with the spiky heals. Those don’t count as snow boots. And you will slip and fall on the ice and break your neck. I guarantee it. Wearing high-healed boots during a snow storm is a dead give-away that you are not from around here. You might look sexy to that guy up for the weekend, but to us locals, you look plain stupid.

4. When running into the grocery store after a day on the river or lake, please wear a cover up. I don’t need to see you walking around in your bikini while I’m shopping for pull-ups and pizza and trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to make for dinner. I get it – you’re skinny. Now put on a shirt. You’ll be fat one day after popping out a couple kids.

5. Another tip for winter – just because there’s a half inch of snow on the ground does not mean the world is coming to an end. You can still drive the speed limit. Conversely, a two-wheel Chrysler with regular tires is about as useful in a snow storm as a used diaper when your child has a bad case of diarrhea. Word to the wise – chains are your friend.

Class is now dismissed.

Hope this satisfied my homework assignment given by Kat at Mama’s Losin’ It. Do I get an A?

And the Award Goes to: Me

I would like to take a moment to send a shout out to Kelly over at Something Funny Happened Today for having the good sense to recognize the sheer brilliance and comedy of my blog and present me with my 100th first ever Blog Award. I am now the proud recipient of this beautiful button: award

I didn’t have time to prepare an acceptance speech, but in honor of my award I will be throwing a lavish party with an open bar and a red carpet in Los Angeles. However, since I just realized that I have absolutely NO weekends available for the next year – I am totally booked with kids birthday parties, house cleaning and children shuttling premieres, galas and celebrity parties – I have decided instead to honor the rules of my new, shiny award and list five obsessions. So hold onto your hats, I am about to completely bore WOW you:

1. Chocolate. Dark chocolate. With almonds. Although I recently discovered Endangered Species’ dark chocolate with mint, which is giving plain dark chocolate with almonds a run for its money. So good you might never need to have sex again.

2. My Chaco sandals. I don’t know what took me so long to embrace them, but I wish I had bought a pair years ago. My hippie sister turned me onto them this summer and they have changed my life. Good-bye, uncomfortable, back-ache inducing flip-flops. Hello, cushy, supportive Chacos. They might not be the most fashion forward-looking sandals in the world, but they have made my life all the better.

3. The chariot. It’s an all in one stroller, jogger, bike trailer and cross-country ski trailer, but I call it, simply, “Freedom.” It enabled me to get out and do what I love outside all while being with my kids. I wrote an article about the chariot once and called it a “threat to babysitters everywhere.” My kids are starting to outgrow it, and it’s a little worse for wear, but it’s like a member of our family or a loyal pet.

4. I am now going to break the pattern of only listing obsessions that start with “ch” (I think chess and checkers would make my list of bottom 100 obsessions, but I could easily go with cheese), and say yoga. Yes, I know it’s cliche and trendy and all that, but I absolutely love it. I used to be a runner and was constantly in pain until I discovered yoga. Now I actually feel good after exercising. Plus my husband likes when I wear those tight yoga pants. Bonus.

5. Here is where I totally cheese out and say something embarrassing like –  reality TV. Yes, I admit, I don’t watch that much TV but when I do, it’s gotta be “America’s Next Top Model” or “America’s Got Talent” or “So You Think You Can Dance.” I get completely transfixed and can barely wait a week for the next episode to find out what happened. Siig and Kaiden usually dominate the TV in our house, but when one of those shows are on, the family knows it’s mommy’s turn and the dishes are not going to get done. Hand over the clicker, kids, and no one gets hurt.

So to fulfill my award’s rules, I am supposed to tag five other people who are then supposed to list their five obsessions and tag five more people, or else somewhere a small child will die. Here goes:

1. Annieology, my first blogger friend. We were neck in neck for 20th place in the SocialLuxe Lounge Award for funniest blog, until she kicked my ass. I felt the wind in my face as she sailed past me in votes. But she has like 10 kids who all voted for her so it doesn’t really count.

2. Brittany of Barefoot Foodie. She absolutely cracks me up every time I read her blog. I have to wear a pad so I don’t wet my pants.

3. Brilliant Sulk. Funny. Plus she reads my blog on occasion. That will always get you major points.

4. And other new blogging acquaintances: The Accidental Mommy and, 5. MomZombie.