Friday, July 31, 2009
At 9:20pm, nearly 9 1/2 hours after our original departure time, United finally took us off the plane for good and canceled our flight.
It sucked, royally. And I used my Blackberry to tweet my growing frustration. I included @UnitedAirlines, the official Twitter ID for United in many of my tweets, and I suspect someone out there was listening, because minutes after my final, frustrated update, I received an email to my personal email address expressing "sincere apologies for the experience you had on Flight 680 on July 29, 2009." Even better, United offered me my choice of make-good gifts. My colleagues, neither of whom made their suffering known to the Twittersphere (is that even a word?), did not receive an email or the promise of a $150 flight credit or 7000 bonus miles.
So there you have it, Twitter-doubters. There's more to micro-blogging than letting people know what you're having for dinner.
7/31/09 @11:02 update: turns out the colleague in First Class, the one who's a super-duper Platinum Double-Plus Rewards Member, also got a credit. A $200 credit. The gal sitting back in Economy with me is furiously penning her letter.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Z has memorized the lyrics to a LOT of ABBA songs in the past week. Her obsession was kicked off by an unfortunate lapse in judgment on my part. I let her and A watch Mamma Mia!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Thursday update: At 9:20pm, United Airlines officially threw in the towel and canceled our 12pm flight. There were no seats on early morning flights to New York, so in addition to losing a day of my life, my business trip is a bust.
So at 7:30, when Ms. Tucker and her photographer arrived, A was in bed and Z was tired but determined to be on TV.
So imagine, if you will, this scene. The window A/C unit has been turned off. Bright lights have been set up. I'm positioned at my dining room table, iBook open. Z's on the floor behind the reporter. Ms. Tucker asks me a tough question. I start to answer, trying to be diplomatic but not wishy-washy. Mid-sentence, Z comes over to ask why the camera's not trained on her.
We try again. And again. Each time I try to deliver one of my talking points, my daughter jumps into the picture with an inane request or turns on a loud toy. Then, frustrated that I keep sending her away and asking her to quiet down, she throws a royal temper tantrum.
I pull off my mic and try to comfort her, but she's had a big, long day that included a day camp trip to the zoo, a visit to the pool and two playdates. It's past her bedtime and she's fried. Finally, with my hair frizzing and my lipstick melting off, I deliver her to Dad.
The interview resumes. Honestly, I don't know how I did. I know the soundbites I'd practiced went out the window. I talked a lot, but I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over again. No, I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity to make money off her blog. Yes, I've done the occasional product review myself. No, I don't accept money for posts or positive product reviews. No, I really haven't made any money at all; that's not why I do this. Yes, I feel transparency is crucial. Yes, I support FTC oversight as it will encourage mom bloggers to disclose.
I also spoke about how, as a marketer, I've encouraged companies to embrace mom bloggers. They are a powerful, influential source of word-of-mouth. What worries me is mom bloggers selling out their blog--their own brand if you will--to the highest bidder. I think they're doing a disservice to their readership and themselves.
When Ms. Tucker asked if I trusted any product review blogs, I responded with shout-outs to ZRecommends and Cool Mom Picks, two review blogs that hold themselves to very high standards. Both sites distinguish editorial from advertising and ZRecommends' "keep no stuff" policy is particularly admirable.
The CBS story is scheduled to run on the 10 o'clock news on August 10th.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
This is what a trip to the Brown Cow looks like with a two year old who insists on having her "own cone" of chocolate ice cream. So I was happy to see Huggies had placed a stack of baby wipe samples at the cash register.
Ah, but look closely. These aren't BABY wipes, they are HUGGIES SUPREME THICK N CLEAN HYPOALLERGENIC wipes. Apparently diaper wipe manufacturers have realized the market for baby wipes isn't going to grow very fast in a land where most moms stop at two children. The key to growing their brand is getting moms of potty-trained kids toting them around. And putting them in an ice cream parlor, where the need to wipe faces and hands is pretty much guaranteed? Freaking genius.
Unfortunately I don't think any stain remover is going to get out the chocolate on A's dress. Ugh.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
I spoke my piece, reassuring the filled-to-capacity room that I had nothing against product reviews (hey, I've done a few) or giveaways, but that I felt that basic integrity demands we disclose if a product has been given to us for free. And if a blogger's been paid to write a post or do a giveaway, it should be treated as an ad. Because that's what it is.
Honestly, I thought my feelings were pretty mainstream. Not any more. The women in the room were afraid to post negative reviews. Even posting constructive criticism was avoided. They were terrified of pissing off the PR folks and stopping the flow of goodies. And besides, writing a product review or hosting a giveaway was hard work. They deserved to be compensated for their work on behalf of brands. An interesting argument, but if you're turning yourself into a freelance copywriter, isn't it a little unfair to your readers to post as just another regular, trustworthy mom? I am an advertising copywriter, but I'd never recommend shampoo to a friend without mentioning I work on the account.
Where BlogHer 07 was a kind of geeky gathering of babywearers and girls in horn-rimmed glasses who dreamed of making the jump from blog to book, BlogHer 09 was a chaotic, whorish dance of brands and bloggers. The Expo Hall heaved with activity. Tide brought Tim Gunn. Walmart had Paula Deen. Rick Bayless appeared on behalf of the Pork board. Ronald McDonald, Mr. Potatohead and the Michelin Man posed with women weighed down with bags and bags of swag.
There was the official BlogHer swag bag. Expo Hall swag. Session swag. Party swag. Suite swag. I got a obscene amount of free stuff, and I'm not complaining. I like free stuff. But apparently it brings out the worst in some people. I saw women shove others aside, lunging for more free shit.
And as if the endless free samples, Strawberry Shortcake-sponsored Mommyblogging sessions and Ragu-branded lunch break (I'm sorry, but yuck!) weren't enough, the Blogher09 Twitter stream was just as cluttered with sponsored messages. When a blogger who calls herself Marketing Mommy is fed up, you know it's bad.
Yes, those are D-List Mom Blogger stickers on our table centerpiece
But enough about what I didn't like. Here are my top 9 memories from the past 3 days.
1. Hanging out with fellow D-Lister Sara, who boasted the conference's cutest baby bump.
2. Finally meeting Rookie Mom Whitney in person, after feeling like I've known her since I was pregnant with A. Lunch at Fox & Obel was 100 times more delicious than the Ragu glop I'd eaten the day before.
3. The Community Keynote. If there was ever any doubt that bloggers are writers, this forum should have put that misconception to rest forever.
4. Hanging out with fellow Chicago Moms Blog writers at the SV Moms party on Thursday.
5. Friday night parties with Jeanne. I let her beat me at a racing game at the EA party at the House of Blues, but I beat her at both drinks consumed and number of items dipped into the chocolate fountain at the Mommy Needs a Cocktail party.
6. Introducing Jeanne to Whitney and the other Rookie Mom, Heather, only to find out that she grew up practically next door to Whitney and went to college with Heather. Small world!
7. Meeting another Alma. I'm 33, and this is the first time I've ever talked to someone who shares my first name.
That's me on the left, Alma on the right
8. Sharing my cache of D-List Mom Blogger stickers with the handful of attendees who were there for themselves and weren't tweeting about their Yummie Tummie tank tops and Lord knows what else.
9. Seeing Liz, Kirsten and Magda in person. These bloggers have integrity. Magda (aka Ask Moxie) performs a public service to parents everywhere and Liz and Kristen know how to work with sponsors and do it in a way that doesn't sacrifice their integrity or voice.
10. Going home every night to Oak Park. From a Thursday late night birthday party for my next door neighbor to Saturday's block party (complete with wading pools, tropical cocktails and a live band), it was refreshing to escape for a check of reality. Heather Spohr closed out the Community Keynote by saying her IRL friends and her bloggy friends are one and the same. I'm not quite there yet.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"Mommy, why don't you wear red lipstick, like Hank's mommy?"
"Mommy, when can I wear lipstick?"
Z's been bugging me about my bare lips for long enough. She's only four, but maybe she has a point. So yesterday, while doing prestige store audits (marketing speak for visiting high end beauty outlets), I tried on some red lipstick.
I was too scared to buy it, but my co-workers were so please with the look one of them gave me a sample tube of Bobbi Brown Red. I think I'm a convert. So look for my bright red lips at BlogHer.
OMG, BlogHer! I finally started getting butterflies in my belly around noon.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
2. I hit the Chicago Sidewalk Sale at Daley Plaza during lunch and scored a new dress and a rockin' wide purple belt from Chicago boutique Michelle Tan. I don't have much in the way of designer clothes in my closet, so it was exciting to buy something that doesn't have an Old Navy, H&M or Ann Taylor Loft tag in it. And the best part? Since everything was super marked down, I spent less than $100 total.
3. A sushi restaurant opened a block and a half from my house! I met my friend Gloria, whom I've barely seen in the past few months, for a lovely dinner of soup, sashimi and maki at Sushi Sen (on Oak Park Avenue, between Harrison and Jackson). I'm going to do my damnedest to see that this local restaurant stays in business.
A while back Alma encouraged me to sign the kids up for the Whole Foods cookie club, a genius marketing move that rewards badge wearers with a free cookie every time they go to Whole Foods. Way to hook them early, right? Usually no one in the store has any idea what I'm talking about, but eventually we make our way to the keeper of the cookie and grab a house-baked chocolate chip to keep Z happy on the way home (and ruin her appetite).
The other day, however, Alma forwarded an email announcing a cookie club decorating party, and while I had the kids set up watching Singin' in the Rain (a great alternative to the usual Disney crap, by the way), I decided, what the heck, I'll bring both of them to Whole Foods to buy a loaf of bread for dinner, and let them decorate some cookies. A, mind you, had more or less skipped her nap, since she slept on the way to the Kohl Children's Museum that morning, so she was pretty wired. First she wanted to ride in the main part of the cart, then the seat, then back in the cart, then walking (and running) through the store by herself (though never far away). By the time we made it to the decorating station, she was pretty amped.
Except that there was no decorating station, at least not where it was supposed to be. A helpful mom let us know that the cookie lady didn't think anyone would show, so was in back scrambling for supplies. Um, ok. So Z and A take their spots at the table along side two other girls much, much older than them and wait as the cookie lady brings out a bunch of supplies, one plate after another. First, coloring books and stickers. Then sprinkles. Then a big batch of sugar cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies. Then, when people told her they were oatmeal raisin and not chocolate chip, a big pile of chocolate chip cookies, too. And then chocolate chips. And then nasty vegan frosting that looked like Vaseline. And then organic gummy bears. Then sour gummy worms. Then giant marshmallows. Then, when she noticed they were giant, little marshmallows, too. Then two big tubs of vanilla and chocolate butter cream snagged from the bakery.
Z was cool, excited about her task, but A went bonkers. With each plate, her eyes got bigger, and she started more or less taking a nibble from everything, one after the other, with me policing as best I could by moving each plate placed before her across the table before she could go totally crazy. Which of course made her crazier, seeing this stuff tantalizingly out of reach. The whole late set up had taken nearly 25 minutes, too, well past the posted start time, so by the time everything was ready to go she was basically ready to go, too. Or at least I was. I told Z to quickly wrap it up (by then her cookies were teetering piles of colorful candy that dwarfed the cookies below) because her sister's head was about to explode. Z can be unreasonable, but I think she recognized it was better to quit while she was ahead, take her cookies and swag, and hit the road.
Needless to say, Z spent all dinner looking forward to the cookies, while A ... totally forgot they existed. Which left more for Alma and I not to eat, because, well, they were pretty gross.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
In the course of handing off the shoes, Z's friend had an accident. She needed fresh clothes. A t-shirt and undies, at the bare minimum. But apparently a puddle on her floor and the prospect of loaning her clothes unhinged Z completely. Yes, she was tired. Hungry too, although she wouldn't admit it. Whining and foot-dragging wouldn't have surprised me. But a tantrum unlike anything I've seen in about 6 months? That I was not prepared for.
And it was embarrassing. But Z's tantrum didn't stop when our friends left. She screamed and cried and carried on about that damn t-shirt for over an hour. Refusing food. Stomping her feet. Pushing away A, who kept trying to pat her reassuringly. Cursing me with "you're a BAD MOMMY" and other hateful, but completely G-rated slurs.
Finally, my reservoir of patience dried up and I lost it. I yelled--nay, ROARED at her. I snatched her up, carried her into her room, dropped her on her bed and told her to STAY THERE.
My blood was boiling and I lost my shit. There's nothing worse than seeing your kid's eyes change from tired/angry/defiant to scared. And she had ever right to be fearful. I didn't hit her, but if I couldn't stop her ridiculous temper tantrum, I wanted to punish her for putting me through it.
Fortunately, a little separation did us good. I put Z in the bath and put a very tired A to bed. In the time it took to read A one board book and tuck her under her blanket, Z stopped crying. She opened her mouth cooperatively for tooth brushing and flossing and curled up against me as I read her a few bedtime stories.
Either Z realized the error of her ways or she's afraid of unleashing the Mean Mommy, because tonight she was a perfect angel.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
It's a cliche to say that my love for you has grown as you've grown, but it's true. You were a sweet baby, yes, but you're such a fabulous little kid! I love listening to you talk. Your speaking skills have evolved from caveman-speak to full, 90 percent lucid sentences in a matter of a couple of months. You'll be speaking at Toastmasters events in no time.
You love doll babies and doll baby accessories, Little People, other kids and Caillou. What is it with little kids and Caillou? You get excited about trips to the pool, the park and the zoo, shouting "I ready! Let's go now!"
While your enthusiasm for all things continues to skyrocket (bedtime and diaper changes excepted), your palate has diminished. Instead of eagerly wolfing down whatever is put in front of you, you ask for waffles, pizza, meatballs, bananas and applesauce. And snacks. You would happily subsist on a diet of chips, raisins, Trader Joe's fruit bars and cookies. You see food on my plate and demand "I want dat. Own plate!" only to take a closer look at the food and declare, "No, dat's yucky. No want dat."
You're still a good sleeper, going down between 7 and 7:30 and waking up after 6am. You've surprised us with a couple of pee-pees in the potty this week, but you're more interested in stripping down naked than getting potty trained.
Your favorite books change from week to week, but right now you're a huge fan of Caillou books and the new board books Nanny brought: No No Yes Yes and Binky.
We're celebrating the big 0-2 with a low-key party at a local park. At least, that's the idea. I emailed some friends and neighbors and told them to meet us at the playground to play and eat cupcakes. I'm not planning any games or hiring any entertainers. But as the responses came back I realized I'll need 44 cupcakes. Parents and their 2.5 kids, they add up fast.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Went yard saling with the whole family and scored almost-new red Crocs, a vintage Playmobil school set, a windbreaker and a Speedo swimsuit for Z, books for both kids and a never-used snow cone machine. The last item was spotted by Josh, who successfully argued that it was worth more than $5 of enjoyment.
Had the world's best milkshake at Brown Sack. Chocolate-peanut butter, in case you were wondering. And yes, I shared.
Thank G-d for Lactaid pills
Hit Evan's 4th birthday party (see photos below)
Celebrated our 10th anniversary with dinner at Publican. Beer, oysters, mussels, three kinds of pork and a waffle topped with honey butter and figs. It was perfect.
Rearranged Z's room to accommodate the wardrobe our neighbors gave us. Since her room doesn't have a closet this is a major WIN.
Hit the weekly free concert at Scoville Park, where sunshine and mild temps attracted a huge crowd of people we knew from the neighborhood, Z's preschool and Temple.
But still, the CST is a very classy joint. And at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre right now is Disney's Aladdin, a marvelous stage musical that feels much bigger and more spectacular than an 11-person production has any right to.
The show is based on the 1992 animated movie not one of Z's favorite Disney Princess flicks, but one she's seen a couple of times. So she was excited to see it live "with real people." Her friend S, at 5 1/2 a year older than Z, hadn't seen Aladdin before, but she was an experienced theatre-goer.
The show did a good job of keeping the girls entertained and they were able to follow the plot pretty well. Right around the one hour mark S started asking if it was almost over and were there any snacks for sale. Fortunately the show is a only 75 minutes from start to finish--just about as long as two kindergarteners can sit still and stay (mostly) quiet.
I, on the other hand, probably enjoyed the show even more than Z and S. Yes, I loved it. I admit it. It isn't high art, but features a top-notch cast, beautiful sets and costumes and some great (if not-over-the-top) special effects. Hint: magic carpet ride.
I was a little disappointed that the orchestra was hidden away back stage (I thought at first that they were singing along with prerecorded music). But that's pretty much my only gripe. I can't even complain too much about the parking fees because the Chicago Shakespeare Theater offers patrons a 40 percent discount.
We followed the performance up with $5 strawberry sorbet cones and a little people-watching. Z didn't like the chunks of fruit in hers, so I ate it and bought her a $4 jumbo hot dog, which she enjoyed despite the poppy seed bun. You'd never know our economy was in shambles by the crowds at Navy Pier. It was choked with humanity--thousands of people balancing enormous soft drink cups on strollers filled with sleeping, sunburned toddlers, shouldering Build-A-Bear bags, licking ice cream cones, snarfing cheezy popcorn and cursing at the damned parking garage payment machines.
Disney's Aladdin is at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater through August 30, 2009. Tickets are $18 for children 12 and younger and $23 for adults, but you can save $5 on performances through July 31 when you enter the code BLOG at the CST website.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
We sang happy birthday to Evan.
And the cupcakes were passed out. Kids love Jewel cupcakes.
Me, I love it when parties include Jewel cupcakes because they don't tempt me at all.
Nothing quite sets my teeth like the overwhelming sweetness of a frosted Jewel cupcake.
There's always lots of frosting.
Prepared with copious quantities of blue and green food coloring.
Blech. After passing on the cupcakes--all the better to save room for our anniversary dinner at Publican (which was AMAZING)--I hosed off A. And she hosed off her chair. She topped off her chocolate crumb bath with a trip down the inflatable slide and into an overfilled baby pool, where she slipped under the water. Which makes "I go unda-wawa" the phrase of the day; although "happy birthday" is a close second.
7/12/09 update: Food coloring does not appear to be metabolized by the human body. Neon poops. Nuff said.
Friday, July 10, 2009
"How does a baby get inside a mommy's tummy?"
"Um, how do you think, Z?"
"I don't know. TELL ME."
"Well, ah, the Daddy puts a seed in there."
"HOW? Does she swallow it?"
Shit. What's the age-appropriate answer for this one? I really, really don't want to go into the tab A fits into slot B discussion. At least not until I've finished my coffee, checked a few books out of the library, and perhaps waited 2 or 3 more years.
"Well, no. She doesn't exactly swallow the seed. You see, when mommies and daddies love each other very much, they sleep in the same bed. And the daddy gives the mommy the seed in the bed."
"Well, they do a lot of hugging and kissing."
That seemed to satisfy her. For now.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
"No want diaper! Poo-poo's coming," she said, touching herself on the behind.
"Great, how about you sit on the potty," I replied, flipping open the lid to the potty chair and tossing out the toys stowed inside.
"Noooooo!" she shrieked, and booked her naked butt out of the room. She then tried to close me in her bedroom with a "No, Mommy stay in. Poop's coming!" Big, devilish smile.
I cracked open the door and watched her piss on her feet. I picked her up, midstream, and popped her on the potty. Z was so proud of her sister, "Mommy, Daddy! A peed on the floor and in the potty!" I didn't have the heart to tell her maybe one drop made it in.
Potty training. Just one more reason I'm glad we keep microfiber car-washing rags all over the house. Those puppies can suck up a pee-pee puddle in seconds flat.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Click on over to see if you qualify for our underachievers club.
It drizzled as my daughter and I marched with her preschool in the Oak Park 4th of July parade.
A steady rain fell on a neighborhood block party. Swimsuit-clad kids trembled, blue-lipped and goose-fleshed, as they waited in line for their turn down an inflatable water slide. Adults took shelter on front porches, sipping margaritas and shoveling guacamole onto soggy tortilla chips.
By the time we headed--windshield wipers squeaking--to a barbecue at our friends' house, it was pouring. Buckets and buckets of rain. They'd erected tents in their backyard, but for a couple of hours the rain came down so fast and furious only the children ventured outside.
But finally, around 6pm, the rain stopped. We pigged out on ribs smoked all day, hot dogs, coleslaw, potato salad and rhubarb crisp before saying our goodbyes.
After such a long, wet day, I decided that fireworks might best be enjoyed in high definition, from the comfort of our living room. But as the sky darkened, I couldn't resist. I grabbed my 4 year old daughter and a stroller and pushed her the mile and half to our local high school football field. We arrived just minutes before the first blast lit up the now nearly cloudless sky.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I'm no Judy-come-lately to the world of blogging. I've been at this for three years. But like my friend Sara, I haven't done much to grow my blog. I don't network. I don't Digg or kirtsy. I rarely tweet. I'm an f-ing ad creative and my blog doesn't even have a USP.
But BlogHer 2009 and all its attendant anxiety are fast approaching. Should I worry that my blog is largely unchanged since I last went in 2007? That only a handful of bloggers will recognize me? That I still have leftover business cards?
Hell no! I'm embracing my D-list status. I don't get invited on corporate junkets and that's okay. I'm pretty sure my readers would rather hear about my kids than listen to me fawn over a hot dog factory or sing the praises of Jell-O pudding snacks.
Are you a D-lister too? Look for me and Sara at BlogHer this year and we'll get you a button (real and/or virtual). We might even add you to our blogroll at the soon-to-be-launched D-ListBlogger.com.