Monday, June 23, 2014

The Baby Years: Rocky Mountain High

There goes trouble.

Recently our family watched some old videos of the kids when they were babies. After laughing at how funny the kids reacted to seeing themselves as little ones I then noticed the dazed and confused look I had in those videos.  Questions popped into my head like, "is that ME?" and "why don't I remember that?" "we had three kids in diapers?" Sleep deprivation was my constant companion in those days as with any parents of infants. In our digital age of technology advancements, I'm thankful for the easy accessibility to videoing and snapping pictures to secure lasting memories. For me, this has been crucial because within four years, I got married, had four pregnancies, experienced a career change and moved across state to the beloved Kansas City area. To say I was in a haze those days is an understatement.

By no means do I feel I deserve a medal or award for surviving the baby years of my children's lives. There are many married and  single parents out there without the resources and support they should have and end up doing an incredible job. There are many parents who have lost their little ones to SIDs or other fatal situations. Not to mention those who simply cannot get pregnant and birth their own biological children. I recognize and respect all of these sensitive situations. Bearing children is a supernatural phenomenon.

Which brings me to my confession. I didn't enjoy being pregnant, nor did I enjoy those sleepless nights. Before you stop reading and disregard me as a selfish, ungrateful mom, let me explain.  I love my kids. I have always wanted to be a mother. In fact, I wanted a six pack of them! Growing up as an only child with a mother from a family of  five and a father from a family of six lent itself to endless amounts of crazy times, organized chaos, occasional tears with daily hugs and kisses-all of which I couldn't get enough of.  I lived for family gatherings, our revolving front door with my grandparents, aunts and uncles taking care of me and making everything seem like an adventure .  So you can imagine the discourse I felt when I became pregnant and found it overwhelming. Along with some physical issues due to pregnancy, I struggled with "keep calm and carry on."  Long story short, I'm happy to be past that point and where I am now.

Psalms 121: 1-2 (NIV)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I have realized over the years from conversations with my friends and strangers, self-help articles, and much prayer, that parenting is a different journey for everyone. This is such a sigh of relief for me.  Every time I was pregnant in the grocery store, some sweet little 'ol lady would walk up and say something like, "savor every minute, there is a miracle growing inside of you". Guilt would sink in because I would give her a half heartfelt smirk and go back to counting the days until I delivered. Glad to know there are others out there who also struggle with complete bliss as a 24/7 caregiver. 

A few years ago on the 4th of July In Vail. 
Janie looking for...her stroller, binky, woobie, nap time.

When the three amigos arrived safe and sound over those four years, I was more than thankful.  They each came with their own challenges but also with their own amazing personalities. One of my favorite memories is of our middle child, Molly. She loves suckers. We NEVER would have given our first born a sucker at the age of two. But being that she came 14 months after Tommy, it seemed fitting. I mean it resembles a pacifier, right? Naturally, her first word was not "momma, "dada", "ball" or "doll". It was "suckaaaa (sucker)." She would yell it out with this cute little lisp so proud and always right at me. When we watched her on video the other night saying it, I couldn't help but think that maybe she wasn't talking about a lollipop.

Fast forward to today, we are on kidcation in Vail, Colorado and I'm in heaven. My favorite family, yearly vacation since Tommy was a baby. We've made it across the long stretch of flat highway, through the valleys, around the mountain and are enjoying God's country together. No diaper bags, binkies, bibs, strollers, poop attacks or throw up (hope not), middle of the night feedings or scheduled naptimes (well, maybe for me). I have been looking forward to this day of doing what we want, when we want, as we want. It's here!

Now I just need to get all these pics into a photo book.

Let me end with this, several of my close friends are preggo or have just had their babies and I am ecstatic. Those that know me well, know that I am a "baby bandit". If you have a baby, I will whisk it away faster than you can say  thank you, and I've got that bundle of joy for the rest of the night. Confused? Why would she want to hold babies when it's clear she wasn't in love with the baby years of her own offspring? The only explanation I can give you is this: I loved holding my babies and when others held them as well.  I still love watching their infant videos, reminiscing through old baby photos,  I'll always love the sweet sounds and smells of all babies. But I feel it's unrealistic to love every single moment of parenting. I don't believe it means you are ungrateful, it means you recognize that it's hard! I do know that the years ahead will bring more mountains to climb as a parent, but also more breathtaking memories.  

Those little miracles which grow inside of our bodies should be savored.
 I just think each parent savors them at different times. 
Thank you little 'ol lady from the grocery store.

Here are some apps/programs which help you preserve those memories, before you forget them:
  • Drop it like it's hot! Dropbox: seriously, how many times do I need to mention this app. I LOVE it. backs up all my camera uploads, video, files... asap. I can retrieve them from anywhere. FREE.
  • Laptop Lovers: Laptops are not dead. Don't get bullied into dissing the laptop. If you do like to save pics, videos, etc to your laptop that is completely acceptable. One program I use is MovieMaker (Windows 7). Occasionally I create and produce videos for weddings, funerals, anniversaries, etc. This program is amazing. You can load any photos you want, add  (your own) music from iTunes, time it and upload it to YouTube or burn it to a DVD. (Note: I back up the pics to Dropbox so I don't have to use my hard drive space).
An editing pic from a wedding video I produced in MovieMaker.
It's not hard and actually a lot of fun!
  • Mac the Night (or Day): iMovie via Apple is incredible, but it does take a lot of storage and usage from your iPhone, iPad or Mac laptop.
  • Usual Suspects:  Vimeo, Shutterfly, Animoto, Vine, Snapfish- all Free and I use them all. Animoto (for videos) and Shutterfly (for photo books)  are my fav. They all are apps and web-based. They come with all kinds of help/step by step tutorials.

When it's all said and done, there ain't no mountain high enough to keep me from being there and lovin' on my kids. ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mr.Mom: The 21st Century Pop

I just want you to ask yourself one thing, if you were me, wouldn't you do the same for your children?
Clack Griswold

Dads, they really are a remarkable species. Father's Day reminds us of the many hats they wear and roles they play. When we think about the past we see how society is changing it's view regarding the father figure.

There has been a pretty progressive shift in the dad responsibilities in the recent years.  Aside from bringing home the bacon, they are now going to the grocery store to buy the bacon after they have carpool and catch the next child's extra curricular activity, then find themselves frying it up in a pan.

According to a recent survey, 75% of dads say they are more involved with their kid(s) then their fathers were. Dr. Charles Sophy, a child psychiatrist explains we need to raise the awareness of just how important fathers are in their child's life to lower substance abuses, depression and other health issues. 

Let's take a look at what dads are doing to make a difference in their kid's lives.

  • The Living Years: Dads today are not necessarily looking back, but looking ahead. Many are involved and want to have a positive presence with their children. They read to their kids, bathe them, take them school, help them sort through their problems, sometimes just hug them and don't say anything at all. Dads today don't worry about what their own fathers did or didn't do. They don't dwell on the lack of time maybe their fathers had in their lives. They are creating their own way of parenting and they are doing it right. Dr Valerie King has conducted extensive research on the significant impact fathers have on their child's live and she said it all comes down to: quality. Making the most out of the time they have together is key.

  • My Father's Eyes: Males use seven times more gray matter of their brains than females. What does this color have to do with anything? The gray matter is what creates a "tunnel vision" effect when processing information and becoming deeply involved in a task. Because of this, dads have the ability  focus completely on their child, rather than switching from task to task.

  • Mr. Mom: There are double the amount of dads that stay at home than in the 1970s. Roughly 550,000 fathers across the US are stay home caregivers according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center. They average about 18 hours of house work and 11 hours a week caring for their school aged child(ren), plus the added hours required to complete errands, after school activities when managing the household.

  • Just The Two Of Us: We know that children with involved fathers handle stress better and have higher success in school. This positive influence doesn't stop there: increased verbal skills, intellectual functioning and broader cognitive capacities are all a result of involved fathers. Children with dads who take an interest in their schooling are 43% more likely to earn As and 33% less likely to repeat a grade.

  • No Mom Jeans: The bottom line is, kids tend to think their dads are more fun and cool! The article, "In Praise of the Fun Dad", points out that there are definite differences in parenting styles of moms and dads.  Dads tend to be more playful and are frequently a better predictor in the child's overall happiness. 

Obviously moms are incredibly important, too. But, we need to continue loving on our awesome daddios out there and remind them how much they are needed 
(and not just to bring home the bacon).

It's the Dad's Life!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Are You Faking It? The Importance of Asking Questions

Summer  =  more questions

When are we going _____? What are we doing today? 
What does ________ mean? Where do I find _________? 
Why can't I _____?  How do I ______?
And these may not even cover the questions you need to answer for your career, profession or other areas of your life!

We've all been asked questions we simply do not know the answers to or maybe we do not want to answer. How do you respond? What do you do?

At Rockhurst University, we are encouraged to integrate the Jesuit pedagogy of answering a question with a question and reflecting.  After all, God gave us brains to use and as educators we strive to support others to think for themselves.  "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you," (Matthew 7:7.) We want others to unravel the twisted, tangled information out there as they open the door of opportunities and experiences, then gain the knowledge needed. Too often we seek the answer as a requirement to complete the question. Instead, what about asking more questions and finding what exactly makes those answers true, or maybe untrue? My favorite quote from our Rockhurst University Department of Education Conceptual Framework is, "...learners are not empty vessels to be filled...but makers of meaning." 

One of the biggest challenges when faced with a question (that you don't know the answer to) is looking ignorant. No one wants to appear incompetent. Professionally, I think it's important to simply respond with, "what do you think about that?" or  "perhaps, we need more information regarding that topic, idea, opinion or fact... " or how about "honestly, I do not know the exact answer to that question, but I am happy to help you find the answer and/or give the resources to find what you need."  All too often we are quick to provide an answer or fake an answer to appear like we know what we are talking about. 

We recognize through research and observation that we do not learn, understand, or comprehend by merely listening or being told answers. We grow by finding, explaining and defending our answers. Memorization is not active learning. Bloom's Taxonomy (2001) quickly shows us how important creating and synthesizing are to conceptual understanding. Conceptual understanding was originally rooted in the mathematics education, but has been integrated in all subject areas by effective teachers. It is defined as being able to: provide evidence for what you have learned; to apply the facts and information, to reason in settings with careful application.  I think this is pretty powerful stuff. Why? Because,our society has a problem of just spitting out responses without even knowing what they are really saying.

Where do we find the answers? (Million Dollar Question)
  • Do the Dewey:  Let's start here. When possible have the person asking the question find his or her own answers. You don't have to (and shouldn't) be the know-it-all. Take the pragmatic approach and let others explore and discover the knowledge they seek. John Dewey coined the phrase, "learn by doing." It's as simple as that.  This doesn't mean you can't be a guide and offer help finding resources to get them started, but why are you answering other people's questions instead of asking some yourself? 
  • No Hurry: Que up some Zac Brown Band tunes and slow it down. Learning takes some time. Finding what you are looking for takes some time. We all work and learn at different paces.  Whether it's you or someone else, plan and prepare for time needed to look, read and reflect on what material is being searched and comprehended.
  • Wikipedia Is Not Your Best Friend: In the age of GTS, wikis are the first links that pop up when searching for information. Always reliable? No. Most schools ban the use of wikipedias.  However, on most wiki sites, you will find some links to at the bottom under "References" which actually can lead you to valid primary sources. From there you can search for the real deal, but always follow up on what you are reading and the sources of your information for accuracy. Check out this infographic on how to get more out of Google searching
  • Stop Faking It! One of my treasured book series, related to scientific principles, is Stop Faking It! by Bill Robertson. He finds the humor when explaining everything from inertia to electricity using understandable language in a low stress way.  Find resources that provide the accurate explanations you need. eThemes, is a great internet database. It's basically a one-stop portal which gives you access to thousands of reliable websites. Initially created for educators, it has been a valuable resource for all. More importantly, it is monitored and constantly updated by the University of Missouri-Columbia. Go Tigers!

There will always be questions, we know that. It's what makes life so interesting! Knowing how to answer, when to answer and where to get the answers is something you will need figure out. 

Are you are Jaywalker? Hilarious, but this is what you look like when you fake an answer!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sex or Skills: Should You Hire Me Just Because I Am a Female?

What's the right answer?

Yes,  I believe in equal opportunity.
Yes, I am more than grateful for women's rights.
No, I do not want you to hire me just because I am female in a technology career.

What I want you to do is support initiatives which encourage girls to become interested in technology to increase the female applicant pool out there.

Over the weekend USA Today reported about "Testosterone Valley." In the article, Google came under fire because of the disproportionate demographics of it's employees, reporting 83% male and 17% female. The article explains how women and minorities are at a constant disadvantage due to the lack of computer science access and education. Because of this unsettling reality, one has to ask, " should Google (or any other company) hire employees based on their sex and not entirely their skills?"

Honestly, I feel this an unfair headline. We know that scandal sells, so I see why it was front page news. For the record, Google is one of the first tech companies to even report these numbers, so it's apparent that they want to take measures to make some adjustments. But, all in all, this is old news, women have been behind the game when it comes to careers in technology for some time.  While I believe keeping the awareness alive is important, it's more effective to take positive action and promote change.

Here is what I have experienced in my male dominated career and my commitment to STEM/STEAM programs.

  • Blame game: Bring about change, not blame. No need to blame Google or the whole male population. Blaming schools doesn't necessarily solve the problem, either.  I hear parents say, "I am so disappointed my school doesn't offer (insert whatever program they want)." Well, then take action! It's the 21st century, folks, there are thousands of resources at our fingertips. Find someone who can start an after school club, seek out funding, create a think tank of people who are interested in developing programs for girls to raise awareness and interest in the areas of technology. Start small and grow big.
  • Change is coming: Good news: there are girls out there excited about technology. I think what needs to continually change is offering a wide variety of technology programs for girls. Many schools start with robotics and coding, but for girls who are really 'girly', sometimes that is just not appealing. Having a balance and breaking down stereotypes is key. Making technology programs and clubs diverse enough to the diverse girl population is where it's at! Also having female technology teachers and role models who exert the passion and excitement the digital world can bring, is beyond important. No one wants to listen to a "Charlie Brown" teacher stand up and cover Technology 101, especially not girls.

The technology jobs are there for all. We need to continue moving in the direction of providing opportunities for  girls to see how incredibly interesting our world is through the digital lens.

But, I still don't want you to hire me because I am a female.

I want you to hire me because I am the best person for the job.

If you are a company who really cares about having a gender diverse employee population then back those who are starting and developing programs to encourage our female youth. Open their eyes to see how amazing technology can be now and in their future.

Learning technology should never be this boring!