Thursday, April 10, 2008

Camp Baby - The Aftermath

I kid! I kid! The only aftermath I've been experiencing is lingering regret that I packed more outfits than I could have ever worn.

From the moment the towncar picked me up in the wee hours, I was excited. I was frantically text messaging with Y and Jenifer as we were all being picked up at the same time (4 am) At the airport, I checked in and turned around and bumped squarely into Jenifer. We cruised through security, and collected first coffee and then fellow Camp Baby attendees as we made our way to the boarding gate.

I hung out with Erika, Glennia, Kari and Jenifer until they called first class passengers to board the plane (first class, baby!) and then made my way to my seat. It was giant and I was feeling very hysterically out of place. They never called my bluff though.

After a long, but smooth flight, we landed at Newark and were greeted by the adorable team from Camp Baby. After grabbing our bags, we were escorted to the fleet of GM vehicles that transported us to the hotel. Oh, that poor, poor young man whose ears were probably stinging from all the salty talk on the way.

The Heldrich was absolutely lovely. I felt like I was besmirching it with my funk, since my arrival 12 hours after leaving my house left me a bit, um, ripe. After checking in, I took a quick shower, freshened my wardrobe choices and headed up to the wine tasting with Ted (OMG It is really him!) Allen.

The appetizer buffet was fantastic, and I started seeing familiar faces everywhere I turned. Liz made me all weepy - we finally got the chance to meet, and although I've known that Carmen has made some amazing physical changes this year, it was so great to be able to see her in person.

After taking countless bad photos (thank you, my dears, for sparing the flickr pool the worst of the double chins and cheeks-eclipsing-eyes shots) and eating a pile of crab cakes (What? They were good! Gotta keep the chins happy...) we made our way into the wine tasting room.

I regret not ambushing Ted Allen for a photograph with me, but I'm okay with it. If I had left the crab cakes for a moment, someone else would have gotten some.

Anyway, the wine tasting was hilarious and fun. The wines provided by Constellation were all lovely, and while my palate didn't always match up with the "right" answer, I still felt like I learned something. And that something is 1) the paper bucket is not supposed to be a hat and 2) wine tasting means sips, not gulps.

After the wine, we adjourned to the hotel bar for a nightcap. I also ate a giant burger, because apparently all the crab cakes were not enough. I could have stayed up chatting all night, but regretfully went to my bed. Five hours later, it was breakfast.

After a quick breakfast, we found our seats in the amphitheater-style meeting room. I can only imagine J&J's bemusement as 56 women snapped open their laptops, and immediately began twittering like crazy. Presentations were captured, and hilarious asides were flying around the room (and out into the internet) like passing notes in class.

As I expected, the presentations were heavy on product mentions, but each presenter allowed questions and took a stab at answering some of the tough questions lobbed at them - some of them more successfully than others. I did feel that some of the content was unnecessarily dumbed down, and some of the graphic slides were unintentionally hilarious.

Between presentations, J&J fed us royally. Every time we emerged from the room, we were greeted by an overflowing parade float full of food. Catherine called it "A Pregnant Woman's Heaven."

The afternoon session were a riot. While I was in the first group that attended the "What's Going On Down There" session, and our group was fairly mature about the whole thing, the later groups strayed into fecal territory, and the twitters from that couple of hours were hysterical.

I showed off my mad braiding skillz to Kristin's vague horror
and was impressed by JenB's shake-down of the stylist "No, show me how to make MY hair get height. And show me how to do a chignon." We took a bunch of photos of the heads. Man, so many nightmare heads.

Finally, in our focus group session, I found the moderator to be aggressive and leading. I hope the J&J folks got what they wanted to get from that - I felt like there were expected responses, and we were being asked questions that would elicit those responses. Maybe it was just me that felt that way.

The Nintendo-sponsored dinner at the kick-ass The Frog and The Peach restaurant in New Brunswick was amazing. The games were fun, the food was beautiful - the takeaways (Hello, Nintendo DS?) were awesome. I WANT Wii Fit SO, SO BAD. Watching Y rock the penguin game, I knew it was for me. I showed my pathetic skills at bowling while holding a glass of wine, and spent more time chatting with JenB, Melissa, Chris, Maryam and Susan.

I really enjoyed chatting with new friends: Stacy DeBroff, witty Amy from and the lovely Jane from PinksandBlues over the meal, and flirting with our flirty flirty waiter. Way to go, Nintendo and J&J! Benign flirty waiters are a good thing.

Never content to let the party end, I enjoyed visiting with many of the folks who put together this event at the campfire. Everyone was candid and charming, and seemed to be genuinely interested in not only making the event a success, but in getting to know us as individuals.

Finally heading up to bed, I opted for a shower and packing before sleep - a decision that was wise for me, as checkout time came early - 7 am. Another ride with our friends from GM to the Johnson and Johnson campus, and we were eating breakfast and wiping sleep from our eyes.

After breakfast, we heard a couple of interesting presentations and provided feedback to J&J. I also visited the bathroom, an experience that left me shaken. The bathroom...beeped. I was unsure if the toilet was going to explode, if my movements were being tracked... I hurried, people. But I washed my hands thoroughly.

After a quick ride back to the hotel, we got to do some product shopping. I took one of everything and put it in a big box to be shipped to my house. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my mega box of neosporin and baby shampoo and listerine and ky jelly and monistat anti-chaffing cream. Dude, it is going to be a regular party over here when the box arrives.

J&J also awarded three trips for two to the Beijing Olympics - a trip that I mercifully didn't win because I'm SO not able to take time off to China this summer. But I'm really happy for the ladies that one, and I'll look forward to reading their trip reports.

Finally, we were provided with lovely sack lunches, hugs and fond farewells and sent on our way. Well, at least, the folks returning to the airport were. Since I was traveling on to Manhattan with a couple of other attendees, we were trying to arrange a ride to NYC when the folks at GM overheard our plight and arranged a ride for us.

Which is how I came to be riding in a sweet Suburban down the New Jersey Turnpike, through the scary tunnel into New York. Wooooo!

I had a marvelous time at Camp Baby, and made some amazing connections with new friends and old. I'm so tired tonight, that I'll add in link love to all the amazing ladies who brought the laughs and shared the experience. Johnson and Johnson - you put on an amazing event, and I'm glad to have been part of it!

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