Monday, July 29, 2013

Algernon in Chicago, Part II, aka Algercago

Remember how Algernon and I were in Chicago for the BlogHer conference? I have some important thinks about the conference and the people I met and hung with there and the things I learned and I might be able to manage to blog about it, or I might forget to, but what I do know is that I can show you the Algernon photos I spent the past four days taking.

At some point, in a fit of epiphany, I told a friend of mine that I liked having Algernon because I am able to take photos in the Expo Hall without looking like a total tool. I was under the impression that I just came across as a partial tool. Then I came home and looked at the many, many photos of Algernon that I took in various hilarious tableaux and realized that, in fact, I am a SUPER tool.
In the spirit of my tooldom, I will now share those photos with you.

Our journey started Wednesday. Algernon was pretty excited to fly.

It’s too bad that the plane was entirely full, so he didn’t get his own seat and instead had to be a lap rodent.
You remember that Southwest lost my suitcase, but at least Algernon’s luggage came through.

Or Mir had a tiny suitcase that I literally snatched out of her hands and then spent ten minutes trying to get Algernon to hold it.
I texted this next photo to Alex and he texted back to say, “But you don’t like blueberries.”

And I said, “But Algernon does.”
Also, if Algernon has held something in his filthy little paw, you might not want to put it in your mouth afterward.
Fortunately, I was at a shindig where someone walked by with some sort of blue light sanitizing wand and I immediately handed Algernon to him.

I’m absolutely sure he’s perfectly clean now. Go ahead, lick him; it’s fine now.
There were Cracker Jacks for snacks at Healthminder Day on Thursday and I was completely delighted because I love me some Cracker Jacks. I decided to take some photos of Algernon with the prize.

This one came off as more Carlos Danger-ish than I intended.
As long as Algernon was getting all down with his bad self, I let him cavort in an Expo bed with not one, but two friends.

Then I put the sheep in a dirty pose on the bed, but someone moved them. It is possible that I have too much fun at the Expo.
There was a surprising amount of alcohol being given away at the Expo on Friday. Algernon started drinking early in the day.


One of the exhibitors gave me this flower clip. It looked better on Algernon.

With this look, he could get ALL the sheep.

If you’ve hung out here in Stimeyland before, you know that Algernon enjoys taking photographs with famous people.

Enter Queen Latifah.

Sheryl Sandberg spoke on Saturday morning, and when we arrived at breakfast, there were papers on the tables on which we were supposed to write what we would do if we were not afraid.

Then, when Sheryl Sandberg actually turned out to be extremely inspiring, I felt like an asshole for posting this. I plan on blaming my friend Marty, who is the person who was funny enough to come up with the cat rescue suggestion.

Lady M and my rodent guru friend, Fourth Breakfast, happened to be in a session that Algernon and I were attending. Fourth Breakfast has a bond with Algernon that goes all the way back to last year when she did this very same thing with him. I love both of these women.

I don’t know why *I* look like I’m ready to barf in this photo though.

When you spend every moment looking for interesting places to take photographs of your stuffed mouse, everything is an opportunity.

I’ll be starting a whole new feature called “Where’s Algernon?”
Volume One will be “Where’s Algernon: Outer Space.”

I asked the photographer if I looked weird in the picture and he was noncommittal in his answer.

So, remember a few months ago when all of you wanted me to run a baby gerbil cam? I think I might have found the answer in Dropcam.

Honestly though, I would buy almost anything that advertised by featuring a live kitten cam.
One of my favorite booths was the Snickers booth. See, that’s my favorite candy bar. They were getting word out about their new bite-size Snickers. They had samples. Those samples were DELIGHTFUL.

I actually did eat this after I took it off of Algernon’s paw. He was sanitized after all.

After tiny things, we went straight to ENORMOUS things. I don’t know if you all knew this, but Optimus Prime was at BlogHer. I made an ASS of myself when he showed up. There was a lot of jumping up and down. Algernon, on my finger there, was more stately.

I texted a photo of this to Alex and evidently Sam was all, “Optimus Prime is WAY bigger than that.”
The best part is that some booths had PROPS that were appropriate for Algernon and me.

Algernon looks good with a mustache, yes?
There is an annual fashion show at BlogHer nowadays. Algernon made sure he got a turn on the catwalk.

Work it. Wooooork it.

The conference ended on Saturday, but I stuck around to have brunch with some of my favorite people on Sunday. Before that though, Algernon and I walked around and took some photos.

We don’t understand a lot of the art in the world.

But we’ll still pose with it.
We also know that if there is a fountain, you have to take a photo in front of it.

Say, “Cheeeeese!” (This is funny because mice like cheese.)
Then Algernon threw a coin in the fountain and made a wish that all of our luggage would make it home with us on our airplane.

It worked!
All good things must come to an end though. Algernon and I hopped in a cab to start our journey home, where we plan to sit on the couch and nap for the entire next week. BlogHer is extremely exhausting.

Algernon is often reckless with his seat belt. He finds them uncomfortable.
All in all, the two of us had an eggcellent time in Chicago.

Thank you to Kim, who indulged me in my weird need for a stuffed egg.
We got home right after my kids had gone to bed, so we made sure to wake them up so I could huuuuuuug them and also so I could take a photo of Algernon in his favorite tableau of all.

Don’t think that I left Jack out of this photo. That’s him in the middle, in the red body sock. Do you see why I missed them?

Now Algernon heads off to the bottom of my purse, where he will live until the next time we go somewhere with good photo ops.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

In Case You Were Wondering Where I’ve Been

I’m at BlogHer. (Hi, Melisa. BlogHer. BlogHer. BLOGHER.)
I have had some incredibly soul satisfying laughter with the right people. I have felt inspired to work harder on my writing goals. I have felt off kilter and not able to get in my groove. But there are some people here, and you probably know who you are, who are feeding me exactly what I need.

Everything has been happening on my Facebook page because I’ve had no time to write, so if you haven’t been there, I’ll bring it here for you. Mostly it’s Algernon being an attention hog, but there is also a sad little story about how the airline lost my luggage and then called me in the middle of the night to tell me they were bringing it to me in the morning and then how I French kissed the front desk guy when he wheeled it out to me.


And then we went to Healthminder Day.


And then we admired the decor.


And then we enjoyed the Cracker Jacks that they had for snacks.


And then we went to a lot of sessions and keynotes.


And then we went to Voices of the Year.


And then we drank and laughed and drank and laughed some more and some of us may have shouted some Janis Joplin songs loudly.


And…scene. I wonder what adventures he will have today?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BlogHer13, Here We Come!

We? Who is this “we” you speak of, you ask?

Well, me:

You have NO idea how many selfies I had to take to find one in which I did not look entirely insane. Mayhap, considering the next part of this post, that was a wasted effort.

Joining me this year will be registered* conference attendee and Stimeyland mascot, Algernon:

His conference badge came early.
We look forward to seeing you.

If you are also attending, for the love of God, please let me know. I like friends.

Also, if you are going and you see me there and I look really busy doing something on my phone, please come up and say hi because I promise you in advance that I am just futzing around pretending to be busy. I NEVER do anything important on my phone.

Algernon is kind of an asshole though, so only approach him if he makes eye contact with you first.
I can’t wait to see those of you who are going! Also, Jordan of Wonderwheel fame and I are having brunch on Sunday. Let me know if you want to join us.

Now I’m off to find business cards. I’m certain they’re here somewhere. I just know that Algernon is behind their disappearance somehow. That mouse is always up to no good.

* not really

Monday, July 22, 2013


I like it when people visit DC from out of town and then invite my family to do fun touristy things in DC that we’ve never done. The only bad part is when they ask me questions about the city like I’m supposed to have any idea what that park over there is or what that statue means or why there is a damn replica of the Liberty Bell in front of Union Station.

Fortunately when my friend Tracy and her daughter, Sarah, came to visit, they suggested we go on a Duck Tour of the city and even though *I* didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, the Duck Tour driver DID.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. Waaaay before the Duck Tour, we arrived in DC and met Tracy and Sarah. I think that Tracy and I have known each other for a really, really long time and I like her a lot, but I didn’t even know what she looked like before last Saturday.

Turns out she looks like my friend.
We had originally planned an 11 am Duck Tour, but those were sold out, so we bought tickets for a 12:30 tour and then headed off to buy pretzels for my kids because Tracy and Sarah had been eating them when we arrived and my kids are nothing if not impressionable.

Quinn got a chocolate muffin instead of a pretzel. I have two (2) things to say about this. First, if it is made of chocolate, just be honest and call it a non-frosted cupcake. Second, I don’t know how he did it, but that muffin ended up in Quinn’s hair, all over his face, and on Sam’s shirt. It was kind of impressive.

How, Quinn? Hooooww?
It melted for the rest of the afternoon.

We (and by “we,” I mean “Tracy”) had all kinds of ideas for how to kill an extra hour and a half on a billion-degree day in DC but the only one that was juuuust across the street and therefore palatable to my lazy, lazy (lazy) children was the National Postal Museum.

I know. We know how to live.

The security checkpoint to get into the museum was its own little adventure. The guard let Jack use the metal detecting wand, which was kind of the high point of his life. I think that Tracy had buckets of coins in her pockets or something because it took her a long time to get through security. Team Stimey didn’t care though, because we were busy delighting in the majesty that is the National Postal Museum.

Post office boxes?! Wowsers!
I’m being unkind to the postal museum. In fact, it was pretty fun. There was a semi truck to explore (I think because semi trucks deliver mail?), a model train exhibit (I suppose they also deliver mail?), and a stamp table where visitors could find their favorite stamps (because you put stamps on mail!).

If I could get one of these to go in Jack’s bedroom, he would be the happiest kid in the world.
This kid can dismantle anything in the world. I wanted to take a photo of his reflection in the wheel and he took the opportunity to yank a lug nut off of the hubcap.
Now that I think about it, this museum was practically tailor made for Jack. He chased model trains around the table for a long time.
Meanwhile, Quinn and Sam went searching for stamps that featured cats. Sarah looked for a stamp with a wombat on it. These young folks are not particular at all, are they?
I have to tell you though, regardless of how fun the postal museum was, tragedy almost derailed the whole expedition shortly after we got there when Jack stepped on Sam’s foot, opening a climbing-shoe wound, and BLOOD! BLOOD! OH MY GOD, BLOOD!!!!!
It turns out that the thing that Tracy had in her pockets was preparedness, because, HOORAY! BANDAIDS! BANDAIDS FIX TOES!

Or at least Bandaids fix screaming about toes. Either way, this is a photo of a hero.
All of this before we even boarded our amphibious vehicle.

The Duck Tour itself was really fun. Even crankypants Quinn seemed to have fun, especially when the boat just drove right into the Potomac. And then—THEN!—it drove right under planes landing at the airport. SO fun.

I really enjoyed the fact that Jack insisted on wearing a life vest the whole time we were on the water even though no one else did, nor was it required. (Safety first!) I also enjoyed the fact that no one threw up, even in the choppy waters. (Although Tracy brought barf bags from the plane just in case!)

Jack even drove the boat for a minute. He didn’t want to give up the captain’s seat when the tour boat operator tried to get it back.

I cannot get over his wrinkly nose in this photo. I love it. Tracy took it. My photos are way less awesome.

Somewhat awesomely, everyone on the boat got quacking duck beaks, which made for an endless number of most excellent photo opportunities.
This picture quacks me up.
Quinn did NOT care for the quackers.

I know it looks like he’s smiling, but really this is him mid-grimace, shortly before the yelling and ear-covering started.*
After we parted ways, Tracy and Sarah spent the rest of their day trudging around the National Zoo in the heat. Team Stimey headed home on the Metro.

Pro tip: In case you’ve ever wondered what would happen to you if you ran your hand along a wall in a Metro station: (1) Don’t and (2) THIS:

Quinn did some yelling and grimacing after this happened too.
We had a really fun time with our new friends. I’m so glad that I now have a wonderful face to put with Tracy’s name. It is always a little scary to meet new people. I am so happy that the new people I got to meet this weekend were really wonderful. Thanks for letting us spend the afternoon with you, Tracy and Sarah. It was fantastic to get to hang out.

* When Sam was a baby, we took him to get his photo taken in a Santa hat for our Christmas cards. He didn’t smile once, but we used one photo where his yelling looked like a grin. It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

If You Want My Kids To Buy Into Your Organization, Put Cats In Your Ads

My family and I did so many things this weekend. It was really something. We haven’t been this busy for a long time. I want to tell you about parts of it, but right now my eyes feel kind of scratchy when they’re open and if I close them for too long and then try to open them, they blow up all red and stuff, so I think maybe I should go to bed.

Still, I would like to try to entertain you in some manner or other. Per usual, I will let my children do it for me.

We went to DC this weekend to go on a Duck Tour with my friend Tracy and her daughter who were visiting DC. If all goes as planned, you will hear about that tomorrow. Today, I will tell you about the Metro trip into DC and how an organization called Humane Watch has plastered brightly colored ads featuring funny animals all over the DC-area subway system.

Naturally, my children were delighted and made me take photo after photo of them with the ads—AND the vaguely PG-13 headlines on them.

Frankly, if my kids didn’t already regularly get in trouble at school for saying things like, “I’m pissed,” and “WTF?” I’d probably be annoyed at the ads. Fortunately, my kids have a bad influence in their lives (me) and already know these words so I don’t have to be all irate about the ads. Thank goodness, because righteous indignation is exhausting.

Jack did take to scripting, “WTF? WTF? WTF?” for the duration of our ride on the Metro, which was GREAT.

As it stands, we mostly just laughed uproariously at the ads and I got to explain exactly what “She’s pissed,” means and why it might not be appropriate to say it in front of adults or other impressionable children.

So goes another train ride with Team Stimey.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mixed Heights

You know how you go to a fair or a carnival or whatever and there is a rock climbing wall and an extremely long line and you don’t want to stand in line for 16 hours so you tell your kids, “We’re not going to stand in line for this climbing wall, but there is a climbing gym in town and I promise I will take you there soon, okay?” And, then, for the next two years, they’re all, “When are we going to go rock climbing?” and you finally have to step up and actually take them?

^ That.

I found a local rock climbing gym called Earth Treks and discovered that they had a Friday night climbing class for kids. I was really glad to find this because it meant that I didn’t have to figure out how to help my kids climb myself, because that seemed like a lot of work that, frankly, I wasn’t capable of. Outsourcing the climbing instruction seemed like just the thing.

Our climbing date was this week and we headed out, two-thirds of my climbers excited to be going. It turns out that Quinn was worried about falling, so once I told him he’d be in a harness and totally safe, he felt a little better. Then, when we got to the gym and he saw all the climbing walls, he freaked out and started yelling about wanting to climb the really tall walls.

So then three out of three were excited.

This was shaping up to be a really positive thing. We found the right wall section and met our staffers. Early arriving kids got to traverse around the bottom section of the rock wall and all three of my kids were thrilled.

Witness: An actual smile.
The problem—and you know there was one—is that the class wasn’t all that well organized. This particular class was over its limit also, meaning there were 12 kids, instead of ten. Plus, two out of the three instructors weren’t very organized with their lines, meaning pushy kids were allowed to cut.
This was problematic for Quinn, because even though he is pushy, he has a really hard time standing in line. Several kids had climbed twice by the time Quinn got his first climb. For some kids that might not have been a big deal, but Quinn totally fell apart. Before he even ended up at the front of a line, he was sobbing and whining and saying he didn’t want to climb anymore. For a kid who had been super excited to be there 20 minutes earlier, it was quite a change and it made me really sad for him.
It was also problematic for Sam because he was polite and he got the shaft a couple of times until he finally gave up and didn’t climb any more. More on that later.
Let’s start with the great stuff though. Jack jumped in a line with a great staffer who was paying attention to her line. He climbed a couple times, making it to the top of the wall like a rock star.

He even took the time to learn some of the climbing terms from the placard on the wall. It was ADORBS.

Jack then took the opportunity to explore the climbing equipment and spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it work. His staffer was really cool about letting him figure it all out. She showed him knots and was altogether really cool with him.

The carabiner was his gateway gadget.

I have no idea what this piece of equipment does, but I think that Jack does.
Sam did a great job climbing, but he has a fear of heights. He has actually climbed a wall before and did great, but it was too much for him today. He came down after only going halfway up. He wanted to try again later, but he ended up getting cut in front of and by that time only one staffer was helping kids climb and the others were running a “game,” which really just involved swinging on a rope swing (which, honestly, we could have done pretty much anywhere), so when the kid who cut in front of him took an extremely long time to climb, Sam eventually gave up. It made me incredibly mad and was a big part of my feeling unsatisfied with the whole experience. Sam wanted to climb more, and probably could have done better and maybe conquered a fear, but he didn’t get to, even though that is what we signed up—and paid $29 a kid—for.
He looked awesome when he did climb, though.
Quinn also only made it halfway up on his first climb. He got really scared and kind of froze. I told him that I was really proud of him (because I was—making the kind of effort he did was fantastic) and that he didn’t have to climb anymore. He managed to sort of calm himself down and decided he wanted to try again. Fortunately (?), he’s pushy, so he managed to get another half climb.

This was his first climb. His technique was a little haphazard.

The whole set up was a little weird. The class was 2-1/2 hours, but after an hour and a half, they stopped climbing and started the rope swinging game. By this time, the instructors were also kind of drifting in and out, meaning there were only two instructors the 12 kids for a big chunk of time.
Sam liked swinging on the rope and did it a few times, but Jack and Quinn ended up just lying on the floor.

Something we could do almost anywhere.
Something we could do literally anywhere.
We were supposed to be there until 9, but all three of my kids were bored by 8:30, so we took off. Maybe they did something awesome after we left, but if something manages to bore ALL THREE OF MY CHILDREN at the same time? Well, that is quite a thing.

I guess I’m glad we went because my kiddos got a chance to try climbing and if they want to try it again, we can find another way to do it. I do feel a little bit like if it had been better organized though that they might have had a better chance at liking it.

I think the staffers were competent and kept everyone safe, but I seriously wanted to jump in and line kids up and keep everyone ordered. The addition of the extra kids made the wait lines so much longer as well. I bought our tickets for the class in June to get a night where there was room for all of us. I’m annoyed that it turns out that you can just show up and push your way to the front of the line.

Even though I’m glad I took my kids for the experience, I am really mad that I didn’t step up for my kids enough—especially Sam. I should have been pushy for him. Instead, I let him learn that if you are polite, you get the shaft. I’m also mad that I have to feel that way. The climbing gym should have done a better job with class organization. When we left early, one staffer said, “Oh, are you leaving?” and no one else said anything. I was angry all the way home.

I think my kids had a decent enough time, but I just ended up annoyed. I’m trying really hard to remember that I gave my kids an experience that they wanted and now that they know what it is like, if they express interest in doing it again, we can find a one-on-one way to do it next time.

Although to be honest, I doubt they’ll ask again.

If they never do ask to go climbing again, at least they’ll always have traversing.