Not every day is cancer.

Not every day is cancer.

Some days, I play with the kids in the back yard, imagining pirates on the horizon, or dinosaurs in the forest, leading them on merry adventures that end with us collapsing together in fits of giggles.

Some days, we go to the playground with the climbing trees, climbing higher and higher until we almost touch the sky.  We hear the sirens our voices make as we Whee-oh, Whee-oh around the playground, mommy falling back as new kids fall in, best friends for the moment, running faster and faster, until the school buses pass and it’s time to go pick up older siblings and begin the dinner/bath/bed routine.

Some days, I write the book, weaving quotes into stories and hiding lessons learned in adventures, writing the stories of the men and women who build spacecraft to journey to other planets.

Some days, I do laundry. Mountains of it, as the other days are full of adventures and dreams and asking and answering and wondering questions now that my little one is full of the most wonderful words in the world to my ears: “Why, Mommy?”

Yesterday, Tuesday, I woke up (after the news about radiation and fourteen hours of sleep) determined to live an ordinary day and checked the calendar.  Not such an ordinary day after all — I was going to a press event that  MomCentral had invited me to eons ago and I accepted in a fit of optimism.  It was a challenge to get out of bed and pretend that it was just another ordinary day, metroing downtown like I did once-upon-a-time, entering the National Press Club with the businesswomen, musing how once I was like them, in silk suits and heels, but now my hands felt empty without little hands beside them.  I smiled as I stepped off the elevator, remembering that I would pick them up at 12, and, doing my own sort of balance, I walked to the Zinger room.

Are you a mommyblogger?  They asked as I walked in, and yes, I said, wondering if that meant I sat in the back, but the welcomers were welcoming, and the Pearson Foundation had set up a lovely event.  Laden with swag (information and a t-shirt), I took a winding path between Amy Tan and Ridley Pearson, just to come face to face with the muffins and Dave Barry.  No kidding.  Dave Freakin’ Barry.  So we talked, there in front of the muffins, and I told him about the power of mommyblogging, and he told me about his latest books, saying, “I’m a writer too,” which made me giggle, because I’ve been reading his work since I learned to read, essentially, at the breakfast table with my father every morning, as my mother got us ready for middle school, and his work is probably the reason that even today I have a love affair with newspapers, and my fingers are smudged with newsprint when I drop the children off at school.  I was trying not to be all fangirl when I met him, so I didn’t gush, but that line, “I’m a writer too,” threw me off and we talked about his new work, a series of prequels about Peter Pan that he’s written with Ridley Pearson, and I was appropriately gushy.

The room was filled with not press, but mommybloggers.  I was delighted to see my good friend and colleague Sue from Laundry for Six; MomzShare MasterMamma Lara from Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom;  MomzShare HipMamma Jennifer from Hip as I Wanna Be; mom of teens Musings from Me; longtime read Lolli/1 Mom of 5; new friend SafireCat who writes Living in Maryland and gave me tons of tips about the revising process; Stephanie/MinkyMoo, who I just met but adore; and Dumb Mom, who I really wish I could call by her real name.

We were there for an event about the launch of the amazing new site We Give Books, a philanthropical effort by the Pearson Foundation and Penguin Books that not only gives books to children in need across the world, with partners such as World Vision, Books Across America, and the Chicago Public Schools, but also helps children and teens develop the habit of giving.

Here’s how it works.  You and your child (ages 1-10) go online to We Give Books.  You select a partner charity, like Books Across America, or World Vision, which sends books to new learning spaces in areas devastated by January’s earthquake in Haiti, and then you hand the laptop to your child and let him choose what to do next (I told my child that this was a site for kids, and that only kids were allowed to navigate the site, to build his independence and empower him to do this on his own, and to feel the power of giving afterwards).  There are so many childhood favorites there online, and your child can read any of them for free.  All he has to do is select the book and then highlight the right hand side of the page (Suggestion for WGB: add a bolder button that little ones can find more easily), and click the mouse to turn the page. It turns, just like a book.  Once your child is done reading the book, the next screen shows that a book has been donated to the partner charity (Suggestion for WGB: make this notice bolder and brightly colored, with simple words that a toddler can read and take pride in).  Voila.  The child reads, the child gives.  Together, you can read and view videos of the impact that books make in places like Mongolia, Haiti, and poorer school systems worldwide, where children don’t have many books at home.

This is also a wonderful jumping-off point for discussing need, sharing, and helping your child come up with other ways to share their things (outgrown toys, perhaps? playroom clutter?) with people in their own community.  There’s some really good research, led by Dr. Marvin Berkowitz, translated into tips on how to raise a giving child, that the Pearson Foundation distributed.  When I find where it is online, I’ll post a link and some thoughts.  I’m really intrigued by this campaign.

You won’t find many endorsements or reviews on this site.  I’m not changing that.  But this is important.  This is about literacy, access to books, new ideas (like the ability to do things like baby book club, where everyone can read the same book online and then discuss at playgroup!), philanthropy, and teaching our children to enjoy reading and enjoy giving.

I’m all on board.  Widget and I set up an account yesterday at We Give Books, and, when I explained that it was a way for kids to give other kids books, he smiled.  He proudly selected The Little Engine That Could, we read it together online, and he “gave” a kid in Haiti a book.  Smiling, he slipped off my lap, and we turned off the computers.

But tomorrow, I’m setting his laptop (the one I used in 2000, creaking along on its last legs) here next to mine, and we’ll read and write on the computer together.  While we give books.

OH!  And look who Sue and I raced to take a picture with after the press conference?

Sue, Dave Barry, and Susan

Not every day is about cancer, you know.  Some days are about books, good friends, and meeting childhood heroes.

Disclosure: The Penguin Group and The Pearson Foundation announced We Give Books at a fun press event with muffins, t-shirts, concert tickets, and a gift certificate. I haven’t yet seen the gift certificate or concert tickets, and I don’t care.  I support literacy and philanthropy and am excited about this new venture.

19 Responses to Not every day is cancer.

  1. Wasn’t it a great event? I love telling people about it. Makes me feel all cool and special.😉

  2. Susan K says:

    No WAYYY Dave Barry?!?! How cool.

    We will be reading books online. Thanks for the tip. Getting children used to the idea of giving is great. We had our children sit with us when we donated on line to Earthquake relief. This is even better.

    We saw an ad on TV the other day – don’t remember what it was for, might have been an Earth Day thing. But it talked about people around the world who don’t have clean water, or who have to walk miles every day to fetch water. My 9 year old looked at me and said, “I want to fix that”. (actually, she wrote it down, because her mouth was full at the time of corn that she was trying very hard not to swallow!). So now we are talking about a summer lemonade stand and other ways to raise some funds for an organization that will dig wells. I was so proud.

  3. Niksmom says:

    Ok, I’m a dork. This post? made me teary as much as any of your cancer posts. But in a really, really good way. Sounds like you had a fabulous day! And you look wonderful in the photo with Dave Barry (who, sorry, really needs a good haircut)!🙂

  4. planetnomad says:

    DAVE BARRY?!??!?!?!! That is sooo freakin’ cool! Lucky! :)I’m a huge fan, and can actually recite large portions of his old columns from reading them too often. Off to check out that site…

  5. Robin Hurwitz says:

    You’ve totally turned on the librarian in me! I’m going to share this info with the kids at school (K-8) as well as the other librarians I know across the country. THANK YOU!

  6. D'Lyn says:

    My Abbie would be SO jealous!!! She read every one of the Peter and the Starcatchers books last year — as fast as she could get her hands on them. When your 2nd grader is reading books That Big, it’s pretty cool!

  7. Florinda says:

    Some days you get to meet a few Rock Bottom Remainders! I’ve seen Dave Barry, Amy Tan, and Ridley Pearson perform with their literary rock band, but it sounds like you had a very nice conversation with Mr. Dave Barry. Color me envious🙂.

    This sounds like an excellent initiative – I’ll definitely check out the site!

  8. beautiful quote: “entering the National Press Club with the businesswomen, musing how once I was like them, in silk suits and heels, but now my hands felt empty without little hands beside them”

  9. Margaret says:

    Those Peter Pan books by Barry and Pearson are absolutely wonderful read-aloud stories. Maybe too scary yet for your little ones, but so clever and funny.

    So glad you got to have a day away from cancer!

  10. upsidebackwards says:

    Well, get that Dave Barry rubbing shoulders with famous writers like you! This sounds like a seriously awesome event, and a seriously awesome scheme. I’ll have to check it out – I wonder whether we can access it from here? Your passion is so infectious…

  11. My boys and I went to the We Give Books site last night and read at least 10 of them! It is such a great site for kids. Thanks to you, Jen, and Lara for sharing!

    P.S. LOVE the picture!

  12. Heather says:

    Can I admit I giggled while reading this post. What an awesome event and way for them to get their message out. LOVE that photo of you w/ that writer guy. 😉

  13. magpie says:

    that sounds really cool. thanks.

  14. spacemom says:

    Dave Barry is my hero!
    THat is SO COOL! I really want to read the Peter Pan series. I’ve heard it’s really good, but right now, my kids are into Avatar: the last airbender, Diary of a whimpy kid and Harry Potter.

  15. NoR says:

    Glad you had such a wonderful time!

  16. Natalie says:

    Thanks for telling the rest of us about We Give Books. What an awesome way to give books to others, and they have great titles too. We already signed up, and I am going to find time for my daughter to read the book and give a book.

  17. jodifur says:

    I’m really bummed, b/c I really wanted to go to that. And as always, I would have loved to see you!

  18. Mike H. says:

    Soooooo Jealous

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