Monday, June 7, 2010

DC Metro Moms Brand & Blogger Symposium

There are a lot of really wonderful things about blogging for DC Metro Moms. They give me a voice that reaches a large audience, they provide lots of opportunities with companies and organizations, and they occasionally host a kick-ass party.

The best thing about writing for DC Metro Moms, however, is the chance to be associated with a huge group of amazing women writers who knock my socks off on a regular basis. Many of them have turned into real-life friends who I see, email, or tweet with often. The rest of them I get to see every once in a while at events such as the event I attended yesterday at the Ritz Carlton in Pentegon City.

It was a "Brand & Blogger Symposium," which means that the whole point was to meet some brands, learn about their products, and maybe begin (or continue) a relationship with them. That part was great, and more about that later, but the best part was seeing and talking to these women.

Parentopia Devra and Goon Squad Sarah did most of the work to set up this incredible event, which, unbelievably, started at 11 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. That's like a full day at work, for those of you who are counting. I was prepared to be exhausted at the end of the day, and I was. But I was less frizzled and frazzled than I thought I would be because every time I turned around, there was another writer I was excited to see and talk to.

Our day started at a brunch—at the Ritz, did I mention?—hosted by BitDefender, an antivirus software company that runs the fantastic BitMoms site, of which my good friend Leticia is Chief BitMom. We had a fun time acting as a focus group for them, but I think my favorite part of the brunch was the jar fully of teeny-tiny Tabasco bottles.

And I don't even use Tabasco sauce. But look how cuuuuuute.

I also enjoyed proving to my lovely driver, Thien-Kim, and my co-rider, UrbanMama, that I could, in fact, charm a baby.

Photo shamelessly stolen from @urbanmama's twitter feed.

That is Thien-Kim's baby. About four minutes after getting into her car, I made some sort of objectionable face, causing him to burst into hysterical sobs that continued for twenty or so minutes. I'm good with kids. Needless to say, I felt it important to prove myself by cuddling with that guy, as well as The Fabulous Miss S's gorgeous baby girl and Delora's adorable and tiny baby boy.

When I briefly left the room to use the bathroom during an activity in which we were making collages about what BitDefender means to us, Jenny McCarthy tried to take my seat. Fortunately for her, she had the right thing to say when I came back to find her there.

Hooray for friends like Jessica, who can take the silliest activity and make it even sillier.

From there, we headed upstairs to the room where we had a conversation about bloggers working with brands, but first, everyone introduced themselves. I felt a crazy impulse to clap and hoot for each person because everyone there was incredible, but no one else was doing it, plus I felt like the deafening silence when I introduced myself and no one hooted would have been sad, so I just smiled and nodded like everyone else, while I hooted silently in my head.

Then we started a conversation about working with brands, and in my head I was all, "Live and let live," and "Holy crap, this room is cold!" It's not that I don't have lots of thoughts about bloggers working with brands, but I mostly know what I want, how I feel, and what I think is right—for me. Sure, stuff annoys me, but I'm going to do what I'm going to do, and you're going to do what you're going to do, and the world isn't going to stop turning. In fairness, a lot of folks said some interesting things.

Near the end of the conversation, I actually used a suggestion jokingly tweeted to me by LawyerMama, which was to huddle under the tablecloth for warmth. In fact, the tablecloth was long, and easy to wrap around my legs. Oooh, cuddly.

From there, we moved on to the mini-expo hall, where we mingled and met the brand representatives. My photos from this part of the day are a little iffy because at some point my camera decided to stop focusing. I freaked out and accosted Kimberly, photographer extraordinaire, who determined that, yes, it had stopped focusing. 

I decided to fix it by turning it off and assuming that time and inactivity would fix it. Guess what? It actually did! I tell ya', the ol' head in the sand bit really does work.

Let's see. I should probably mention the sponsors that were there, because they were the people who mde it possible for all of us to get together and hang. BitDefender, of course, was fabulous and really seemed interested in getting to know us. TLC was there to promote its summer shows. One of those shows is Cupcake Dreams, about the sisters behind Georgetown Cupcake. They were there decorating cupcakes for us, including the three adorable ones they made for my children. They couldn't have been cuter—the sisters and the cupcakes.

Obviously, I took this photo after I got home.

Also there was K12, a homeschooling curriculum and online teaching company, who I actually met several months ago and have intended to write about since. There are some really cool people behind that group. If you're a homeschooler, or thinking about homeschooling, check 'em out. They had the best business cards, which included a question on each that we had to answer to get our swag. I was very relived that I knew the answer to my question: Who was our third president? (Thomas Jefferson)

Cinnabon was there with their new cupcake line, as was Lawry's, who showed us their new line of marinades. Stonyfield, the organic yogurt company was also there. The Cultural Care Au Pair people were there and kinda made me wish I had an extra bedroom into which I could stuff a person to take care of my kids. Bosch was showing off their Tassimo coffee, tea, and hot chocolate maker. Yes, please!

Of all of the groups there, if you only check out one, please check out Army of Women. They are a wonderful organization that connects women with breast cancer researchers. It takes just a second to sign up and then you will receive occasional emails asking if you want to participate in studies. None of them have fit me yet, but when one does, you can bet I'll be signing up.

The only company there that I truly hope I never have to use is Lice Happens, who came prepared with their very own stuffed louse that they had on the table, as well as M&M's with lice printed on them. Creepy, but fun. If, God forbid, you should come down with lice, they come to your house and eradicate them.

Here they are surrounding two satisfied customers, Smiling Mama and Urban Mama. (And the louse.)

I'm very excited about the iGo portable phone charging system. I can't wait to try it out! Litl was showing off their new webbook, intended to be used for people who mainly need a computer to access the internet.

Wolf Trap was there and gave each of us passes to take our kids to a Theatre-in-the-Woods performance. I can't wait to take my guys as part of Cultural Week (or some such) during Camp Stimey. I love Wolf Trap, having been there to see Jesus Christ Superstar some years ago. I love the theater and this is a really fun place to see it. My husband bought me tickets to three shows for Christmas. The first one we're going to is CATS. I can't wait! I also love that when I asked them if they had programs for special needs kids they didn't just stare at me blankly. (Not yet, but hopefully within the year. It's already on their radar.)

Companies that weren't there, but who gave us items to go home with were Safety 1st, Eden Fantasys (thank you for the, ahem, item, but I probably won't be blogging about it), Organically Grown (LOVE the tote bag, thank you!), and 23 and Me, from whom I am looking forward to finding out that I am, in fact, extremely white.

I'm also really looking forward to seeing the photos Mary Gardella of Love Life Images took of the event. I can't wait to pore over them to see some of my favorite women, including those not mentioned above, Susan, TeachMama, Wife and Mommy, Nicole (Happy Birthday, by the way!), Mamma Loves, Morninglight Mama (so great to finally meet you!), Elaine (so thrilled to meet you too—I feel like we go way back!), JavaMom, Joanne (who I am perpetually in awe of), Jodi, Jill from Musings from Me, Dumb Mom (who I hate to call "dumb"), Kate from The Big Piece of Cake, Kristen (wish we could have chatted again—I LOVE you!), Mom in a Million, Not Ever Still, the adorable MinkyMoo, Cara Mamma, Justice Fergie, the amazing Sue, Suzie (who didn't have pink hair this time, sadly), Mel from Stirrup Queens (so happy to meet you in person; let's get our munchkins together), Cecily (who did), The Travel Mommy, Scrappin' Michelle (who made us all jealous with her iPad), and Clare Jess of Crunchy Chewy Mama and Vicky of the Mummy Chronicles, who were both adorably pregnant.


Please tell me I didn't forget anyone, although I'm sure I did. I love you all! You inspire me like you wouldn't believe.

Again, thank you to Sarah, Devra, Garza Girl, and Chefdruck for putting on such an amazing event. Thanks to the SV Moms Group also!

Our hostesses

Honesty Clause: Each company mentioned here participated by donating swag and by sponsoring this get together.