Where I Been

It occurs to me that I'm only posting on my blog once a month or so, which is probably my subconscious' way of dealing with the fact that I haven't had a period in over a year because some jerk stole my uterus a year and two days ago. He made up for it by leaving a shiny new bionic vagina for me, which really hadn't done me all that much good until the other day when it showed up on Klout

Klout is a completely useless tool that measures your 'social media influence' and gives you a 'Klout score' that you can use to get high-paying jobs in biotechnology or something. And Klout has decided that my vagina is influential with moms. I keep trying to explain to Klout that the only mom I could ever even hope to influence with my vagina is a dad, but they don't care.

I'm also only posting once a month because I've had the summer of travel-hell which should have peaked with China, but actually peaked with Boston because I am a geo-centric asshole who's attention span can't sustain more than 300-400 years of history.

Paul Revere's Final Ride

We went to Boston to go fishing exhibit at a trade show, but had just enough spare time to go scorpion bowling with a friend and have dinner with some others. I didn't get to see one friend from Boston while I was there, but I ended up seeing her a few days later in Denver, for the one reason you never want to catch up with old friends.

My best friend's mother was quite possibly the single best person on earth, and for right now, that's all I have to say about that.

Colorado welcomed me home the best way it knows how, with the Denver Foot. The Denver Foot is the 3" of snow we get every October, but that the national news networks will tell you is O!M!G!12!"! In fairness, it weighs the same as a foot of snow, and probably increases ski tourism considerably, but won't delay your flight out of Denver - no matter how hard you pray for it to.

And now I'm back in Texas, and since my full time client decided my job was so important they needed to hire someone to do it in-house, I'm going to try to blog here a bit more while I look for a new job (maybe in Boston or Denver) (because, damn, I think I need winter) (and chowder) (and huevos rancheros with proper green chili) (and fishing in fall)


I've still got my Babble Voices gig (you can read it here) (or subscribe here) and am inconsistenly consistent on Momversation. Which, if you're into silly little YouTube videos of kids getting the shit scared out of them, you're welcome.

BlogHer Unplugged

I never bring my laptop to BlogHer. I tried it one year and I only time I opened the bag it was in was when I had to do the walk of shame through airport security. Really, there isn't a more humiliating experience than the mad rush to find your bra shoes under the harsh florescent lights of morning TSA checkpoints and get the hell out of there before they drag you back for one more awkward full body scan.

That's part of what I love about going to BlogHer, the fact that I get to totally unplug for a weekend and just listen to all the bloggers I spend the rest of the year reading. The panels are always like a long slam poetry session for me, or a book on tape, or like my daughter must feel every night when I read her Frog and Toad Are Friends. Again. Because there isn't one other damn book in the world to read before bed.

Frog and Toad are quickly becoming not my friend. That's all I'm saying.

However, I am not one to ever easily be satisfied and that explains why I weigh 50 pounds more than I did 4 years ago is why, when my friend Rachel proposed staying in tents instead of New York hotel rooms, roasting hot dogs over a fire instead of bloggers over cocktails, I couldn't resist. Talk about pushing something to it's limits. It was like Fundamentalist BlogHer. I still got a blogger and I still got to learn something, but I got to take my unpluggedness to a whole new level.

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Four days, three nights, two bloggers, two husbands, five children, zero electrical outlets, five flashlights, one lantern and I don't even know how many albinoish-transparenty crabs that only come out once the sun goes down. Which, it turns out, I am not a fan of.

Padre Island By Southern Fairytale

I've never been camping before. My husband has, my sons have, Rachel and her family go all the time, but poor 3of3 and me had honestly not a clue what we were getting into. I was warned on Twitter that camping was evil and the devil and miserable and gross and it turns out, Twitter is a dirty liar. Because I love camping. I am currently trying to find a way to quit my job, home-school my kids and do nothing but camp all the way across North America.

It really wasn't all that much different from BlogHer, to be honest. We had panels, like the very popular "How to Get Day Drunk Like It's Your Birthday" opening keynote.

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We attended the "How to Look Classically Graceful Under Tidal Pressure" break-out session.

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There was the "Teach a Man to Fish" session, which is very useful if he wants to eat fish sticks for the rest of his life.

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Every CampHer attendee received free pedicures and full body sea-salt and sand scrubs, courtesy of the Gulf Of Mexico.

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Our beach front, five-wind-rating-stars accommodations afforded us all the privacy we wanted, to be able to change swimsuits and pretend like no one else on the beach could see us flapping everything our momma gave us out in the wind. Pretend being the operative word in that sentence. Lying to yourself is an important life skill that is best perfected in the wild.

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Rachel and I got up early, before the kids and the crabs and the world and God, to participate in the Photo Stumble-Out-Of-Our-Tents. Which really was my favorite part. Especially when she didn't know I was behind her.

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And just like you'd come to expect from any good blog conference, there was the exclusive, invite-only high class, black tie party. Or, you know, Cheesburgcampher. {Photos stolen with begrudging consent from Southern Fairytale's FlickR}


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We came home with lots of sand swag in shiny pink coochies bags, but we came home with so much more than just sunburn on our shoulders (which doesn't make anyone happy, really), rotting sand-dollars in our purses and sand in our holiest of holies.

What we came home with is the understanding of the importance of really listening. Not just hearing, listening. We hear (or read, whatever) so much every single second of every single day...all of us, kids to grown-ups, and in the constant drone of internet and tv and friend and traffic and office noises we, more often than I think is proper to admit, forget to pick something, anything, to listen to. To feel. To taste. To learn.

But when you have nothing but sunrise and sunset to keep the pace of your days, when forward momentum halts and time becomes nothing more than a construct you can choose to ignore, when you have little but the roar of waves and the flutter of feet across the sand to occupy your thoughts, you are maybe a little better able to listen to what your heart is saying.

And it's probably saying that it's time to glow, or dance, or sit, or peek.

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Or that there is no appliance in this world as beautiful as the one that makes a memory.

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Or that no toy in the world will ever be as fun to play with as your daddy.

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Or that maybe, just maybe, spending a few nights under an unadulterated night sky, suffocating under the weight of the moon and the stars and the galactic dust, and being reminded of exactly how small you really are is the simplest gift you could ever give to yourself.

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I Love Pigs, But I Still Hate Bacon

My four year old is afraid of police. I have no idea how this happened.

Four year olds are supposed to think that everyone in the world is here simply to do their bidding. Firefighters and cops and teachers and rock stars are all here to facilitate heroic rescue wishes and frozen ice cream dreams. Or, if you're me, the Hulk. I was in l-o-v-e with the Hulk. I dreamed every night that he'd come into my room, steal me out my bedroom window, and bounce away with me into the night.

The first sheet music I ever learned to read was that Hulk theme music. I'm still partial to green. And short shorts. These things stay with you throughout your live.

So the fact that my kid is petrified of the police sort of wigs me out.

Every time we pass one on the street she screams, "Cops, momma!" which instantly makes me check my speed and double check that I have a seat beat on and try to remember when the last time I registered my car was because I actually have a good reason to be scared of cops - see: perfect driving record, and I'm keeping it, bitches. But her scream isn't a shiny happy four year old scream; it's a 'there are zombies and here I am with no brain protection' scream.

I try to explain to her that cops are here to protect her, but she always just cries and cries and tells me that cops are going to take her away from her famiwee and wock her in a cage. I try to explain to her that she's thinking about the Dharma Initiative, not the cops, but she won't hear it. Cops = cages = no more push pops. Her mind is made up.

But while we were in Phoenix, I got the whole story out of her. Maybe it was because she's gotten a little bit older and can now verbalize an entire thought process, or maybe because every street in the whole town of Gilbert, AZ was under construction and they have more cops in Gilbert making sure you don't exceed 25 mph on four lane major thoroughfares than they have Seminaries and Mormon temples, which is to say they have a lot. Either way, she explained to me that if you do bad fings, da cops take you away and wock you in cages, and so she doesn't wike cops.

And I said, "Oh, honey, they do that to protect you. They only take away the really bad people, and they do it so that little girls and boys can be safe" and she said, "But momma, sometimes I do wealwee bad fings" and then she burst into tears.

After I accepted my Mother of the Year award, I tried to explain to her that she doesn't do bad things, she does silly thing or makes mistakes, but that she's not bad, but she wasn't hearing it. And so we went on our merry way, dodging cops and missionaries and generally turning ourselves into jerky in the middle of the southwestern America desert until one day, when we had to make a u-turn.

It was one of those intersections where I knew that I could, technically, make a u-turn but it was completely under construction and guarded like Fort Knox and I was driving a loaner car from Chevy and my kid would have had a heart attack and die if I got pulled over, so I rolled down the window and yelled to the motorcycle cop eye-balling me. "Dude, can I make a u-turn here?" "Yup, as long as you do it safely." Because I look like the kind of person who plays chicken with oncoming suburban traffic, that's why.

But then he walked out into the middle of the intersection, halted the oncoming traffic even though I didn't so much as have a turn arrow, let alone the right of way, and waved me through my u-turn. And I turned to my daughter and said, "Did you SEE that? That cop helped us!" and she said, "Whaaa?" and watched him through her window. And then she said, "Oh, momma, dat cop is SO NICE! He wikes us! He's a good helper! I wuv cops, momma."

And I love them, too, but that story is for another day.

To be continued...

I've Still Never Been To Detriot, Though.

Jeremy at Discovering Dads (who was awesome enough to make this banner for his new website just for me)

is asking people to tell the stories of their greatest adventures (and giving away killer prizes. Just saying.)  I have no delusions of winning said contest, but since I have never read One. Single. Harry. Potter. Book. Ever., I thought I'd try my hand at entering.

My gut instinct was to write about my stumbles through parenthood, or my marriage, but then I asked myself, "really, self?  Have you done NOTHING of interest?  Think, dammit, think!"  And so I thought.  And came up with nothing.

I am the most boring human alive.  Really, besides that one border-hop into some very suspect town in Mexico to buy cheap cigarettes and Valium a guitar for my kid, I've never actually left America.  I did move to Canada, however, and our first two months here were actually quite adventurous and exploratory, but in a very family-friendly, corporate-sponsored hotel suite sort of way.  Not a hell of a lot of grit there.

Just as I was ready to drown my sorrows in a glass of White Zinfandel*, I remembered that Hey!  Once I did that thing, and it was totally awesome!  Who knows if it will translate on paper, but for the entire Harry Potter collection, I'll give almost anything a whirl.

Way back in the day, when I drove a fast car that I paid too much money for, and wore a size Barbie, and worked at a gas station because I look hot in polyester brown pants, my best friend from high school and I decided that we could not go one minute more without a cheesesteak.  FROM PHILADELPHIA.  I asked my boss for a week off, and she told me to shove it up my ass, and I returned the sentiment, and off we went.

We had about 30 hours to prepare for our trip, but since we were both suddenly sans employment, that was no problem.  A quick oil change, a rocking mixtape, a trip to the store for Saltines, spray cheese and some of those Arizona teas with Ginseng and honey, and we were set.

Snafu One; I bet you can squeal like a pig:  We hit the road in the early hours of the morning from Denver and made it to Nebraska by that evening.  We crashed at a friend of her family's house, and the next morning made the push from Nebraska to Pennsylvania.  We got stopped at 4:30 in the morning on a pass in Nebraska for going 75 in a 60, just like EVERY OTHER CAR ON THE ROAD THAT DIDN'T HAVE OUT-OF-STATE PLATES, and officer Deliverance who pulled us over, possibly to rape us and hack our city-dwelling asses into tiny little bits in the Nebraskan darkness, asked where exactly we were going so fast.  "My grandfather died last night," Eva squeaked out through the most awesome, Oscar worthy fake tears I've ever seen on a human.  "Grrr" was all Officer Deliverance said.  And then that fucker searched my car.  SEARCHED it.  He found cans in the trunk and said, and I quote, "Ah-ha!  Beer!  I knew it!" to which Eva replied, "Um, dude, apple juice.  I'm Mormon."  To which officer Deliverance said, "Grrr.  Well, if you hit a duur going 75 miles PER hour, it'll go clear thrugh your WUNDSHUD."  To which I replied, "Not too likely on a main street in the middle of morning rushhour, homes."  To which he replied, "Grrr.  Here's your ticket.  GET OUT OF NEBRASKA."

(I hate that asshole aside: That's the one and ONLY ticket I've ever got.  Better not be on my permanent record.)

Snafu Two; We like the cars, the cars that go boom: We did indeed get out of Nebraska, and fast (suck on THAT, bitch) and Megadeth and caffeine kept us hopping until the PA border.  We spent the night on Eva's uncle's ranch, in farm country, and early the next morning we set out for Philly.  At which point, I hear a boom.  We drove a little more and saw some smoke coming from my exhaust.  We drove a little more and heard a grind.  I did what any savvy, totally able to take care of herself in the real world girl would do; I stopped and called my daddy.  His solution?  "Throw a quart of oil in it; you'll be fine."

I threw a quart of oil in it, and then another when we got to the best steak shop in the history of the world, and then another at my friend's house in Delaware, and then another once we hit Maryland, and then another once we passed DC, and then when we got to Eva's still very much so alive Grandfather's house on Cobb Island in Maryland, the little car that could, couldn't.

I somehow managed to get the car back up to DC and into the Mitsubishi dealership, and they gave me an estimate of 2 days to have it checked out.  Funny, I was supposed to head home that night.  OOOPS.  So, there we were, Eva, me, her brother who met us there, and her grandfather, stranded on an island on the Potomac.  Poor.  Abused.  Us.

Turns out, I found a way to get the turbo in my car to explode.  Like, there was almost nothing left of it.  And I had a MONTH left on my warranty.  So, an overnight stay at grandpa's turned into a week long stay, complete with fishing, crabbing, eating fish and crabs, driving around in little golf carts, learning to love cole slaw, sleeping on piers, writing, reading, baking apple pies, and so much laughter, I don't even know how to tell you.

(Tragically karmic Aside: Grandpa died shortly after our visit.  Yes, I totally blame us.  And Officer Deliverance.  Asshole.)

Snafu Three; Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine: We left Cobb Island early in the morning and since two were now three, and we had a really zoomzoom new turbo, we decided to drive straight from the bottom of Maryland to the middle of Colorado, through Tennessee.  Because I-70 is for pussies.  With nothing but spray cheese, saltines and Arizona green tea with Ginseng and honey.  The idea was one drove, 2 slept.  Except, yeah, we had They Might Be Giants and Megedeth.  And were wired like crack whores.  Somewhere in the middle of Memphis, we all had a dehydration and sleep deprived moment of divine illumination.  In other words, we all saw god.  Maybe it was just Elvis, who knows?  Either way, the rest of the trip home is a blur.  I do remember the New Mexico deserty area, where I won't even get into what I thought I saw in the haze.

We made it home, but by the grace of Elvis, and I've never slept quite that soundly in my whole life.  Every muscle hurt, I had no vitamins left in my body, and both my front cars speakers never worked properly again.

But, a few months after that, I met a boy named Josh and had a litter of children with him, and now the most exciting thing I do every day is watch a new episode of Wonder Pets.  The next time I will be childless enough to try something like that, I'll be way to sensible to even think about it.  But once, at least once in my whole life, I did something totally reckless.  Something downright stupid, something that had no point at all, that cost me more money than I had, that was a complete waste of everyone's time.  And it was GLORIOUS.  I wouldn't trade those two weeks for anything in the whole world.

(In retrospect aside: My car insurance was totally lapsed the whole time.  Stop looking at me like that.)

*Kidding.  No matter how suburban sell out I get, I will never drink fake wine.

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses Their Edge

So yeah; gardens, boat, sunshine.  Take two.  (To save your poor browsers, I went with thumbnails for this.  Hover for descriptions, click to enlarge)

Ever drag 3 kids out on an hour long car ride, a two hour boat ride, and then expect them to be even close to interested in walking around some bee-infested garden?  You can guess how well that panned out for the lot of us.  Fortunately, I am a creative woman with a decade of parenting under her belt, and I know a trick or two for getting kids interested in something.

Besides that. Everyone knows that. It worked pretty well for me, too, truth be told.

No, no, I was talking about every kid's kryptonite: The Gift Shop.  PS: Whoever decided to put the gift shop at the entrance of everything, making it the Very First Thing every kid sees?  Can suck it.  Moving on.  I set a challenge for my boys that day; find and photograph ten shockingly, unexpected, secret things of beauty.  No small feat in the Garden of Eden, eh?  Each kid who found 10 got to go to the gift shop.

Of course, when 2of3 started pointing out bamboo fences in Japanese gardens *shock* and flowers growing in flower beds *gasp*, I had to clarify that I meant things that probably shouldn't be where they were, things that made them want to stop breathing for the sheer beauty of them.

Game. On.

2of3 did really well in the end.  My favorite find was the old pulley system for the limestone he found tucked in a corner, and my favorite picture of him, maybe ever, is that one with the blue flower.

1of3 is a little more conservative, and so it took him a LOT longer to get his pictures, but he was truly dazzled by the ones he did. Especially the totem poles and that water fountain, which just weren't there one second, and so totally massively there the next.

(Edit: Linds was kind enough to play editor and remind me that I forget to mention that yes, they all got some piece of crap that probably sitting in a landfill by now at the gift shop, even though no one actually got to 10.  We have the combined attention span of one cheese stick.) I found a few really beautiful things, too. We must have showed 20 kids that spider, which doesn't look in pictures nearly as big as it was.

But all through my day, at the gardens, on the boat, in Victoria, I found that I am surrounded every minute of the day by the most beautiful things I could ever hope to see.

Yes, even my mother in law. God, I'm getting soft in my old age.