Good Things Giveaway

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A long while ago, someone told me about a new term, “Generation X,” and asked what I thought of it.

“It’ll never stick,” was my reply. “Too generic.”

Later, someone told me about a new television show, where people were stranded on a tropical island and forced to survive by slowly voting each other off.

“Too complicated,” was my first thought.

And more recently, I learned of a new type of shoe called Crocs.

Of them, I thought, “Who’s gonna wear plastic shoes?”

So when I say that I don’t like something, or don’t “get” a new idea or product, maybe that’s the best sign of a sure-thing.

Which brings me to Scott Seegert’s book, It’s a Guy Thing, which the good people at Three Rivers Press kindly shared with me. It’s a Guy Thing is a collection of “Awesome Real Innovations from the Underdeveloped Male Mind.” It includes things like Albert’s Helmet-Mounted Pistol and Bill’s Inflatable Floating Furniture and John’s Head-Butt Game.

I’ll say it right here: I don’t get this book.

It could be that what I’ve read about mommy-bloggers is true; that I’m only interested in the minutiae of my own daily life and the lives of other mothers. The books I typically read are nonfiction accounts of mothering and motherhood; or books about writing; or books about Down syndrome: which makes me guilty-as-charged, I suppose.

It could be that I’m the only female in a male-dominated household; I get my fill of Guy Things each and every day, and while most of the time I love dog-piles and fake farts and the burp alphabet, when I have a free moment, I tend to reach for the books that are just for me.

Or, it could be this: I’m terrible at predicting the next-big-thing, and maybe this is it.

If you’re interested in drawing your own conclusions about It’s a Guy Thing, leave your name in the comments and I’ll choose a winner.

UPDATE: Jen, the book is yours (or maybe, your husband’s?) Send me a snail-mail address at jennifer (at) jennifergrafgroneberg (dot) com. Congrats!

Good Things Giveaway

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Yesterday Carter told me he felt sick, which could be any number of things: the smoke from the forest fires, missing Daddy, maybe a real cold.

A while back, for ParentDish, I wrote about how Carter loves computers. The deal is, when he’s sick, no computers. Instead, he can do quiet things, like reading, or sleeping, or watching videos while lying on the couch eating saltines and sipping watered-down ginger ale.

So yesterday afternoon, after a morning of books and checkers and naps, it seemed like a good time to break out the Jurassic Park Explorer DVD Game. The folks at Brighter Minds Media sent it to me, after making a connection through Dawn’s Get Them Blogging! (I think she’s still signing up new bloggers, if you are interested go here.)

Where to begin? Maybe with me when I was Carter’s age, sitting in front of a console television. My game of choice, when I was sick, was Asteroids. A black screen (space), an orange triangle (my spaceship), white dots (stars) and occassionally, a circular-ish blob (other spaceships, maybe planets, it’s unclear). That was MY computer game.

The times, my how they’ve changed!

Movie-quality graphics. Life-like animation. Music. The DVD can be played in coordination with a board game, or you can play it on its own (if you were in a car, say, or if you had two 4-year-olds who kept rearranging the playing pieces.)

And the very best thing about it: it was inspiring. All the kids were learning. Bennett went to the shelf and took out a book about dinosaurs and slept with it at bedtime. Avery found his stuffed Stegosaurus and took that to bed. And Carter made up his own game, in which the cards you win while playing the DVD version have a great, epic battle, herbivores v. carnivores, that involves much roaring and screeching.

I have a love/hate relationship with Carter’s computer. I love that he loves it, but I worry about this new technology, which wasn’t part of my growing-up years. The Jurassic Park Explorer DVD Game is like an answer to a little prayer: it’s interesting to him. It’s educational and creative, so I feel good about spending our time on it. And it’s something we all can do, together.

There’s one more thing. At the end of the game, there are three pages of credits. All those names, all those people. People who might have loved computers as a child; men and women who turned this love into their life’s work–building educational, computer-animated games for children. Maybe someday, Carter will be one of them. I can’t wait to see what he’ll create.

Because I love this game, I want to keep it. But I want to share it with you, too! So I’m offering a $25 Gift Certificate to Amazon.com, which I hope you’ll use toward its purchase. If you’re interested, put your name in the comments and I’ll do a drawing at the end of the week.

Nice matters

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Melody from Slurping Life gave me this award. It’s especially meaningful to me because she’s one of the nicest bloggers around.

I think “nice” gets a bad rap. Nice means sincere, and thoughtful, and considerate. Nice is genuine, and honest, and helpful. Nice is the opposite of cynicism and snark: nice is nice!

My mother taught me about nice, in all the usual ways–say please, say thank you. Say you’re sorry when you make a mistake, remember to thank the people who’ve helped you.

So with this, I say thank you to you, all of you who’ve shared parts of your lives with me, brought me new ideas and perspectives, and made it so much fun to check my “in-box” every morning these past 10 months.

And as part of the award, I now nomintate 7 others: Niksmom of Maternal Instincts, Kristen of From Here to There and Back, Christina of Kwisteena’s Kwaziness, Christina of Prince Vince Meets the World, Dori of The ups & downs of our life, Tara Marie of Emma Sage and Tricia of Unringing the Bell.

This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award.

Death of a Salesman v. The Good Earth

The September 2007 Vanity Fair features an article by Suzanna Andrews about playwrite Arthur Miller and his son Daniel, who was born with Down syndrome. Shortly after birth, Miller placed Daniel in an institution, and never made contact again. The article suggests several reasons for Miller’s actions, including the fear that raising Daniel would distract him from his work.

Amy from Life According to Emma and Joe posted about this story, as did Barbara Curtis at Mommy Life.

As a counterpoint, I offer Pearl S. Buck: Pulitzer Prize for the novel (1932), Nobel Prize for Literature (1938), author of more than 70 published works, and mother to six children including Carol, a multiply-disabled daughter with the then-undiagnosed condition PKU.

And a quote from Pearl S. Buck, here:

In a mood of faith and hope my work goes on. A ream of fresh paper lies on my desk waiting for the next book. I am a writer and I take up my pen to write.

MotherTalk: Getting Unstuck

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When I learned that Susan O’Doherty’s book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: A Woman’s Guide to Unblocking Creativity (Seal, 2007) was going to be part of a MotherTalk blog book tour, I knew I wanted to join the discussion. For a long while now, I’ve been curious about how we get stuck, and unstuck; how we come unglued, and how we put ourselves back together again.

I’ll admit it here: I haven’t been stuck, yet. I also have never had chicken pox, and the two seem similar to me, in that when I was a child, my mother would send me off to play with kids who had chicken pox, so I could get it out of the way. And as a beginning writer, I used to hang out with stuck writers, thinking that maybe, like chicken pox, I could catch it and get it over with, too.

I spent time with writers who lost their focus in the middle of revisions; or had inspiration vanish; or ones who struggled to simply make a start. Ones for whom self-doubt became paralyzing; others who reacted to success with dizzying acts of self-sabotage.

From these writers, I learned three things: there are many ways of being stuck; it’s not contagious; and most often, my best efforts at being helpful fail, because what works for me (creating time and space for writing in my life, protecting it, being gentle with myself on the days when the words are slow to come, and if all else fails, baking spinach-pesto lasagna) might be the very thing that sends another person into Stucks-ville. Everyone has their own creative process–what matters is that yours works for you.

Which brings me to O’Doherty’s book. If you feel stalled in your process, Getting Unstuck is like having a personal coach for your writing life, one you can turn to any time, night or day; one you can visit wearing heels or pajamas; hair washed, or with blue Play-Doh in it. And it’s a lot more fun than chicken pox.

Also, what O’Doherty says about the creative process is important for any artist to consider, stuck or unstuck. I’d like to give this book to every writer I know, but I only have one copy to share. If you want it, leave your name in the comments and I’ll pick a winner at random, in a drawing at the end of the week.

(And an interesting side note: O’Doherty wrote her master’s thesis on the development of creativity in children with Down syndrome…I want to read THAT, too!!!)

More evidence of why we need a secret handshake, or something…

Yesterday, we went shopping at Costco. The two little boys were in the cart and Carter was pushing it around a bit too fast, steering eratically. As I was trying to prevent mishap, I looked up and realized we’d narrowly avoided bumping into a teenaged boy with Down syndrome.

Oh, how I wanted to hug that boy! And then say something totally inappropriate, like, “This is my son AVERY! He has DOWN SYNDROME, TOO!”

I can tell it’s going to be hard on my kids to have me for a mother.

To my credit, I resisted. I merely smiled at the boy, and apologized for our crazy cart-driving. But I saw him later, with a woman I assumed was his mother. Again, I wanted to say something. And again, I was at a loss for words.

There are days when I don’t mind talking about Down syndrome; days when I can’t get enough of “who’s your doctor” and “what therapies are you doing” and “are you going to the Buddy Walk?” Then there are other days, when I just want to be seen as a family, a mother and her sons trying to get their warehouse-store shopping done. I can’t always tell what kind of day it’s going to be, myself; how can I guess what kind of day any other mother is having?

Which is why I wish we had a secret handshake. Just a little, quiet way of recognizing each other, and offering support.