Better Than Gold

I had barely dragged my carry-on luggage up my deck stairs, thumping it behind me as I walked, and opened the front door when I was swarmed by eager teens.

"How was it? Did you have fun? Did you see your friends?"

"How was your panel? Did you kill it?"

"What did you bring back for us?"

"Ya Mom, what kind of swag did you bring us?" 

It took 12 hours, two planes and one mysterious Aussie band but I was finally home from spending five days in Chicago. I was exhausted and emotionally spent and in the five days I was gone from my home I had appeared to lose any ability I previously had to walk into my house and step into a parenting role before setting down my luggage. 

I stood there, exhausted, and just blinked at the rapid-fire questions being shot in my direction. As grateful as I was to be home I suddenly missed the silence the roar of an airplane affords one. 

My husband, bless his cotton socks, was sympathetic. "You guys, give your Mom some space and let her take her shoes off before harassing her."

My dog, bless his over-sized paws, was not as sympathetic. He eyed me warily; like I was a mirage his mind was tricking him into seeing and just waited. I sat down as the kids hovered around me and Abbott walked over to sniff me. With a great huffing sigh, he shook his body and then crawled onto my lap, staking ownership of me once more.

I'm pretty sure if he could have crawled into my womb, he'd be there right now.

He has not forgiven me for my absence and so I've a 180-pound hairy goiter attached to my arse. God bless the Mastiffs of the world.

"So Mom, what did you do while you were in Chicago?" my daughter asked as I was trying to move Abbott's pointy elbow from out of my bladder. 

"Well, I married you off to the conference co-founder's son in exchange for a goat." 

"You did that last year. I thought by now I'd be worth at least a few chickens as well."

"I settled for a lamb chop." Proof that I've mastered the art of haggling. (And that I was hungry at the time.)

My son, bored by my daughter's impending arranged marriage, asked, "Besides selling your offspring for livestock, what else did you do?" Little does he know I need the goat for his sister so that I can buy him a wife. It's all about planning for the future.

And so, at midnight, with a giant dog snoring on my lap, I regaled my teens with stories of what it is like to attend a giant blogging conference in a far away land.

"Well, I moderated and spoke on a panel with some fabulous women about the power of story telling."

Their eyes glazed over.

"No, it was really interesting. We talked about the importance of voice and connective tissue and there was a lot of talk about stew and how everyone needs a gay person."

They just blinked.

"Just trust me. It was awesome." It really was.

No really. It was.

"What else did you do Mom?"

Hmm. "Well, I ate bad food with my friends at what was possibly the worst Chinese restaurant in all of Chicago and corrupted the mind of a twelve year old in the back of a cab. That was fun."

*Picture snaked from Anissa Mayhew's instagram feed.*

"You eat bad Chinese here and are constantly corrupting the minds of young people all the time. Look at our team mates," Ken pointed out.

Good point.

"I chased some nuns all over a park, trying to get a photo of them. That was something I don't get to do often."

"Did you meet Queen Latifah?" My daughter asked, uninterested with my habit chasing. 

"Of course! Well, okay, no. But! I was on stage at the same time with her and at one point I was close enough to inappropriately sniff her hair."

Neither of my kids were impressed with my celebrity sniffing so I continued on, flicking through my camera roll on the iPhone.

"I played tourist and explored the city and took some really awesome photos of downtown Chicago."

Ya. TOTALLY AWESOME PHOTOS. I have dozens of these epic beauties. My eye is unparalleled. Good thing I went to all those photography sessions to learn how to be a better photographer. 

"Oh! And women kept coming up to me to ask if they could take pictures of my shoes because for once, I had cute kicks. At a women's blogging conference, this is important."

These are not those kicks. But this is yet another awesome photo I took, showcasing my epic photography skills. 

"That's it?" my son asked, while stifling a yawn? "Bad photos, lousy Chinese food and hair sniffing a celebrity? That's what you do when you go away?"

"Well when you put it like that, Nash, sure. But it's more than that. It's about the connections I make with people. Meeting new faces, celebrating old friendships, making new ones. Learning and relating and having new experiences. That's what makes these trips so wonderful. Well that, and I won't lie, Queen Latifah's hair is worth sniffing."

"You forgot the most important part Mom!" my daughter added.

"I did?"

"The SWAG. Everyone knows the swag is the best part of conferences," she explained, talking slowly as though I was stupid.

Right. The SWAG.

"How could I forget?! The SWAG! I brought back the best swag. In fact, this swag was so good I didn't bring anything back but this. Everything else paled in comparison," I proudly stated.

Ken and Nash looked at me, excitedly, their eyes lit from greedy excitement.

"What is it?" they asked simultaneously.

"It's in my suitcase. Right on the top. Go ahead. You can look." No sooner did I have the words out of my mouth were they scrambling to rip open my carry-on bag.

"This is it? The only stuff you brought back?" Disbelief and disappointment rolled off them.

I don't know why they were so disappointed. This stuff is better than gold when you have a 9 year old kid in medical diapers.

Everyone should have an unlimited supply of butt paste. 

*A big thanks to everyone who said hello to me while in Chicago. Thanks for making this trip so wonderful. 

*An even bigger thanks to the staff of BlogHer for putting on such a fabulous event. 

*The biggest thanks to the city of Chicago and all its residents for being damn awesome. Until we meet again.