Local girls’ school inspires next generation of female tech leaders (sponsored)

“An understanding of computer science is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. Our national competitiveness depends upon our ability to educate our children – and that includes our girls – in this critical field.” Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook

The number of computer science jobs created every day far exceeds the number of students preparing for careers in this field. With technology being a critical driver of growth, it’s imperative that our future leaders understand technology and know how to harness its power.

If only 13% of girls graduate with computer science degrees today, what does this tell us about the leaders of tomorrow? Even though computer science remains a primarily male-dominated field, one local girls’ school is working hard to change that.


Since the 1990’s, Louise S. McGehee School has been at the forefront of integrating technology into its academic curriculum and educating the next generation of female tech leaders. Its commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) will elevate to a new level when McGehee girls Grades 2-8 participate in the first ever Hour of Code during this year’s Computer Science Education Week, December 9 -15.

Hour of Code is a national effort to introduce students to computer programming concepts, demystify “code” and get them excited about a world of career opportunities across the tech industry, many of which offer some of the most exciting, high-paying and flexible jobs out there.


Hour of Code is sponsored by code.org, a non-profit foundation dedicated to growing computer programming education, Microsoft, Apple, Google, The National Center for Women & Information Technology, and many more. As of this email, over 2 million students in over 151 countries will participate.

Whether you’re a school, a camp, a teacher, an employer, a student, or parent, you can be part of the Hour of Code. Learn how.

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer… because it teaches you how to think. Computer science is a liberal art. ” Steve Jobs, The Lost Interview

Kindergarten Readiness Forum

The Kindergarten Readiness Forum is designed to demystify the kindergarten enrollment process and reduce stress for families going through the application process. A panel of experienced local professionals will discuss the best ways to prepare oneself and one’s child for a successful transition into kindergarten. Topics include:

  • social adjustment to a new school and classmates;
  • what a child is expected to know when entering kindergarten;
  • how to ensure one’s child receives all the services he or she needs; and
  • the testing and acceptance process.

Panelists will be available to answer questions after the program.


Alisa D. Dupre’ – Audubon Charter School, Admission Director/Operations Manager

Deb Marsh – Community Day School, Director of Admissions

Steve Salvo – Director of Admission and Marketing, Trinity Episcopal School

Chris Gogreve – Jewish Community Center Nursery School, Pre K teacher

Janine Murry – Lusher Charter School, Kindergarten teacher

Stacey Gengel, Ph.D – Psychologist


Sharon Pollin, MS, Ed.D. candidate – Community Day School, Head of School

The program is free of charge and open to the public. The Kindergarten Readiness Forum is hosted by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and the Community Day School and will be held at the JCC’s Uptown campus, located at 5342 St. Charles Avenue.

For more information, contact Adrienne Shulman at 5048970143 or adrienne@nojcc.org.

A booger is not a vegetable.

Our family is struggling with food. One of our daughters is addicted to sugar. We do not really have a lot of sugar-like things in our home, so as parents this is a bit confusing for us. It has gotten to the point that she won’t eat anything but will pine all day long for her “fix.”

As someone who has seen first hand the effects of addiction, this behavior is really unsettling to me. I worry about body issues, eating disorders, warped relationships with food, nutrition, control and power. I worry that this is a foreshadowing of future behavior… future addictions.

She’s three, by the way. So yes, maybe these are my issues. Maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I read too much. Maybe I overanalyze. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen my kid consume anything green besides her boogers in a very long time.


My husband and I decided we needed help understanding our daughter’s obsession with sugar and figure out ways to change this behavior, so we scheduled an appointment with one of the parent educators at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. Turns out we are the ones who need to change our behavior. Shocker.

Here are a few eye-opening things we learned in our session:

Instead of this:

We have always used dessert to bribe our kids into eating their dinner/vegetables, which sends the message that dessert is better than broccoli. In order to get the good stuff, you have to eat the bad stuff.

Do this:

Let them decide when to eat dessert by including dessert in the dinner offering. Should they choose to eat their dessert first, that’s fine. Make a comment: “Oh! I see you chose to eat your dessert first! Was it yummy?” The longing for the “fix” is satiated. If they’re still hungry, they can eat the other food in front of them. If all they eat is dessert, then all they eat is dessert. It has no power.

Instead of this:

I prepare each child’s meal using those handy divided dishes. I control what goes on the plate, which sets the stage for a power struggle before dinner even begins.

Do this:

Eat family-style. It’s messier and a lot less organized, but they get to control what they put on their plates and how much. As long as all the choices are acceptable to you, and there is at least one thing on the table (besides the dessert) you know they’ll eat, let them be in control.

Last night, we ate family-style and I placed dessert on the table along with the rest of the meal. Everyone made her own plate. Two of the kids decided to eat dessert first. It was a non-issue. After she slowly, deliberately and joyfully savored her dessert, our little sugar-addict fixed herself a plate and nonchalantly ate her dinner.

Bonus: Because dinner was served family-style, the girls had to ask each other to please pass the chicken/tortillas/cheese/lettuce. They had fun passing each other things. It was messy but it was worth it.

Has food become a power-struggle in your home? How do you handle it?


How we say things, matters.

When I was a little girl, if something needed to get done, I did it. Usually this centered around changes to my room. I liked taking ownership of my room and my parents didn’t seem to mind. Although, I’m not sure how they could have been so busy that they didn’t notice their little girl walking upstairs with a hose so she could siphon the water from her water bed and out the bathroom window, but whatever.

Disclaimer: waterbeds were very popular in the 80s.

I’ve noticed that my daughter, Anson (6), is starting to really enjoy her room–she has a new desk for homework, a secret cubby to keep important things safe from her sisters, she appreciates the utility of having a door so she can communicate important information to family members, and she has artwork and pictures hanging on her wall.


The other day she decided that some of the wall art in our hallway would be better suited hanging on her wall. Unbeknownst to me, she made the switch. I was proud. I told her that I really liked what she did with the pictures. She seemed a little surprised (maybe she thought she’d be in trouble?), but then gave me an eager smile.


Before bed that night, she looked at me and said:

Mommy, I really like it when you compliment me when I change my room around.

This was an ah-ha moment for me. I realized that how I say things matters. Now, instead of always telling her “awesome!” or “that’s so great!” or “good job!” I say things like:

I notice that you’ve been putting your dishes in the dishwasher lately. Thank you. It really is such a great help.

Hey, thanks for always putting your shoes by the door.

You’ve been getting yourself dressed in the morning. What a great new habit! It makes your mornings easier, doesn’t it?

I can tell you’ve been working hard to keep track of your things. Well done.

Anson seems more confident in her movements around the house, and by being specific about the things I notice her doing (and want her to keep doing), she’s starting to figure out what our family expectations of her are and how life inside these walls is supposed to work.

Actually, I think we’re all starting to figure things out a little more. 

How do you encourage the positive behaviors you see in your kids?

Miley Cyrus puts the “girl box” center stage

When someone showed me the Miley Cyrus “We Can’t Stop” YouTube video at a dinner party a few weeks ago, I had no idea it would eventually dominate every media outlet. Even CNN.com featured her raunchy VMA performance the following day on its homepage.

Because we all have our priorities straight. Syria-sly.

When I viewed this precious time capsule of modern culture for the first time, I was mesmerized. My mouth was frozen open and I probably swallowed a fly. My friend insisted that the video was “brilliant” and that the song was great. I tried to view the video from his point of view. The song was certainly catchy.

What made me “twerk” was watching a young woman awkwardly express herself in ways her body isn’t quite ready. From a woman’s point of view, I thought her performance was amateur at best.

But there is always someone willing to make a buck off of a young girl’s evolution into womanhood. And there are plenty of girls out there who think, in their naturally narcissistic, child-like way, what’s the big deal?

Parents beware.

Miley Cyrus is in the Girl Box–a place where a once happy, confident, self-assured young girl goes because the world tells her that she should be something else (sexy), look like someone else (naked) and behave in ways contrary to who she instinctively knows she really is (absurd, promiscuous, indulgent, reckless).


We can’t expect more from a 20 year old. Miley may be a willing participant, but she’s a kid whose brain has yet to catch up with her body.

We can, however, expect more from the adults who manage her. The producer of this video is an opportunist and takes advantage of a vulnerable young women in the midst of an identity crisis. I hope for the sake of her health that she will eventually grow weary of the lifestyle she promotes: promiscuous sex, cavalier drug use and excessive drinking. 

Of course, there’s no one to stop her because she’s, like, famous. And it’s her party and she can do what she wants, it’s her house and she can love who she wants, it’s her song and she can sing if she wants to, and it’s her mouth and she can say what she wants to… and she just can’t stop.

Oh, Miley… famous for all the wrong reasons. God how I felt so inspired by your “mountain” song and was so happy for you when you were asked to be a mentor to those American Idol kids. It’s heartbreaking to see you and your handlers squander your talent and the institutional musical knowledge you’ve acquired over the years. If only you would redirect the foam finger you’re shoving in your crotch and waving in our faces to those who actually deserve it.

Your audience didn’t make you twerk. Someone decided to make a twerk out of you.

I predict that 2013 is going to be that stupid tattoo that Miley got but will never truly be able to get rid of. Also, I will never look at a foam finger in the same way again.

Update: Miley Cyrus cut from Vogue cover by editor Anna Wintour due to controversial performance

2 great book recommendations for the modern dad

When I wrote the post Motherhood: job or relationship, I had actually intended it to be a post about the father-child relationship. Although we’re three kids and six and a half years in, as parents, my husband and I play very different rolls and have had very different experiences.


When my first daughter was born, I decided to put my career on hold so that I could stay home. I knew my limitations. As a result of being home with my children, I developed an intimate understanding of their daily rhythms and routines–how their days and nights flow, when they’re at their best, when they are most vulnerable, when they fight, when they flight, etc.

Because of this, I have learned to choose my battles. I am willing to tread lightly at times so to not awaken the beast and I do not feel that doing so is an act of defeat. I am generally comfortable allowing my kids to act their ages because I’ve learned to detach from certain behaviors (temper tantrums, outbursts, fighting, temporary personality disorders). In other words, I don’t have to suffer just because they’re suffering but I am here to diffuse, guide, coach, encourage, referee, console, hold, kiss, love, offer logic and rational, direct and redirect. And I’m happy to help. They’re little people with developing minds and bodies trying to navigate a big, confusing world.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t have the luxury to easily detach because he isn’t privy to the giggling, good manners or sibling love fests that occur throughout the day that make it easy to forgive and forget the visits to crazy town. After a long day at the office, all he wants to do is come home to his three little girls who worship and adore him. What he gets is something very different. The witching hour can be so ugly in our house that sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t have more “client meetings” after work. I can only imagine how frustrating and disappointing this might be for him.

Barbara Leblanc, Director of The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, made some great book recommendations for the modern father trying to balance work and home life, understand his role as parent and establish healthy and fruitful parent-child relationships.

measureThe Measure of a Man by Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D. explores the profound effect a man’s relationship with his own father has on his parenting style. The chapter Barbara specifically pointed out as rather poignant: Why Can’t a Father be More Like a Mother. This book also reveals how mothers can sometime interfere, or hinder, a father’s relationship with his children. Men and women are different, so naturally we will parent differently. And that’s okay.


Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family by James Levine, Ed.D., Director of the Fatherhood Project and Todd Pittinsky, reveals how closely interconnected a father’s work and home life actually is and how both play important rolls in the health of family relationships and work productivity.

My husband was very grateful for these book recommendations.

4 Ways to Improve Your Parent-Child Relationship

As the door slams in your face after another argument, you may be wondering what prompted you to have kids in the first place. The love, pride and joy your children provide seems miles away during seasons of conflict, but all is not lost. No healthy parent-child relationship is without conflict. A few intentional strategies can pump some love back into your relationship.

Type it Out

Communication is a powerful tool, especially when you want to build a solid and strong relationship. Even if your child is still very young, you can communicate and get ideas across that improve your ability to provide a safe and understanding home environment.

According to Dr. Jeremy Jewell, an instructor at Southern Illinois University, you need to keep lines of communication open as an important part of correcting your children when they have mistakes or forget commitments. When your children are young, tell them that they are loved and cuddle with them as often as you can.

As your children get older, it might be easier to communicate by sending an email or text message. It is hard for teenagers or children who are getting close to their teen years to talk about their problems directly, but an email might allow your children to open up about any worries, concerns or curiosities they are developing.

Be a Friend

Set aside time to spend with your children. GlobeNewsWire.com suggests you show an interest in your children’s activities, ideas and statements. Encourage your children to tell you what they want to do and get involved directly by planning family activities that are centered around your children’s interests.

Take time to go to local events, live plays or even watch your child’s favorite TV show together. You can always check out what’s happening in your local newspaper or find TV listings and local event calendars online to see what fun activities are available to enjoy with your kids.

Spend at least one day together as a family or set aside an hour every day to talk, enjoy activities together or simply watch a movie on TV. That exposure to fun as a family can go a long way to making your child feel safe and accepted.

Eat as a Family

Eating dinner together as a family is an excellent time to talk about your day, ask your children about their upcoming events in school or simply enjoy company as a family. During this time, focus on positive thoughts, expressions and ideas, even if you are currently upset with a behavior your child or children have engaged in.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System suggests that constant control and correction can ruin a relationship. Set aside meal times as a neutral period where your children can feel safe that they will not face disappointed expressions, continued lectures or other negative situations.

Provide Positive Feedback

Although it is important to correct your children, you do not want to develop a relationship that is built on power and control. Instead, focus on your child’s accomplishments and improvements. Positive feedback teaches your child good behavior and will reduce the number of misbehaviors. Save correction for situations that are dangerous for your child or broken household rules.

Develop a great relationship with your children by taking a little extra time. By focusing on positives and spending time together, your children will know that they are loved and safe from an early age.

Written by Danielle Hernandez: Originally from Seattle, Danielle moved to Phoenix for love. She enjoys writing about a variety of women’s topics.

Motherhood: job or relationship?

A few months ago I read Free But Not Cheap by fellow mommy blogger, Ask Moxie. In the article, she poses the question: Do you view motherhood as a job or as a relationship?

After reading the post, I had a powerful AH-HA moment. I realized that I had been going through the motions of motherhood as if it were a laborious, menial, underpaid, under appreciated, endless, exhausting J-O-B. 


And when you have a crappy job, you don’t rise and shine or charge through the day with inspiration and gusto. You just go through the motions and beat yourself up on the inside for not being who you know you can be, doing what you know you can do or having everything you think you need.

The difference, though, between a crappy job and motherhood is that there are little people involved–little human beings who have only been on the planet for a short amount of time, are completely dependent upon you for their survival, and despite how you feel about your “JOB,” are still your biggest fans.

In an instant, I quit my laborious, menial, underpaid, under appreciated, endless, exhausting J-O-B and began to shift my focus on the relationships that needed tending and mending. The “job stuff” became less urgent, less crippling and the relationships became more joyous and fulfilling.

Viewing motherhood as a relationship has changed how I parent. I find myself coaching more and disciplining less. I can’t expect little people who have only been walking the earth for 2, 3 or 6 years to know and remember everything they need to know and remember. Every challenge is an opportunity to teach and learn. I also want my daughters to look back on their childhood and remember the relationship they had with their mother: teacher, coach, nurse, therapist, supporter, biggest fan, greatest champion. That’s the real J-O-B.


Do you view motherhood as a job or as a relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

3 cool mom books I’m reading this summer

Here are three books that I’m looking forward to reading this summer: Instant Mom for a good, hearty, pee-in-your-pants kinda laugh about last-minute motherhood, Minimalist Parenting for practical strategies on how to lead a simpler, fuller family life, and The Honest Life for how to live naturally and raise a healthy family.

This summer I want to laugh, focus on and enjoy the important things in life and feel good doing it. And, you?


Instant Mom is a memoir written by Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), about her struggle to get pregnant and her ultimate decision to adopt a three year old little girl with only 14 hours notice. Instant Mom reminds us that motherhood, despite how you get there, is hard but worth it. The book appendix offers information on how to adopt all over the world and proceeds from book sales go to charity. Instant success!



Less is more according to Christine Koh of Boston Mamas and Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks who teamed up to write Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More by Doing Less. In a culture where parents are bombarded with more advice, more gear, more worries, more safety concerns, more products, more services, more education and more activities, Minimalis Parenting helps us come up with a plan to lead simpler, fuller lives by offering “practical strategies for managing time, decluttering the home space, simplifying mealtimes, streamlining recreation, and prioritizing self-care.” Yes, please.



Is there ANYTHING this woman can’t do? Jessica Alba, founder of the Honest Company, shares her personal journey of healthy living in her first book The Honest Life. Through a candid look at her daily home life, Jessica shares strategies for maintaining a healthy diet, a daily eco beauty routine, budget friendly eco decor tips, and fun, hands-on activities with kids. Readers will love her down-to-earth, honest approach to a life-changing, natural lifestyle.

What books do you have on your nightstand or in your queue this summer?



My child doesn’t qualify for special education services. Now what?

Having a struggling student is probably one of the hardest challenges a parent faces. I can remember asking myself two questions: “Why?” and “What next?”

After my husband and I had our daughter evaluated and learned she had dyslexia, I asked the “Why?” We learned that dyslexia was hereditary. In looking back at my family tree, I could see the thread.

Now we were challenged with the “What next?” question. We had our child in a school that she loved. We didn’t know whether to leave her in her current placement or move her. We knew the school would not provide intervention because she did not meet eligibility criteria for services. Here is information that helped us with our decision.

An evaluation isolates a student’s learning needs and determines the responsibility of an educational system to those needs. Each state has established criteria for a variety of exceptionalities, but not all students meet the state criteria and consequently are not eligible for specific intervention services according to state guidelines.

This doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t have a problem. It means that the state is not responsible for paying for those services.

Students who do not meet eligibility criteria for a particular exceptionality are entitled to accommodations within their classrooms to support their learning needs. These accommodations are guaranteed under Section 504 of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The purpose of accommodations are to “level the playing field” for struggling students. They are tools, procedures, or methods that provide equal access to instruction and assessment. Accommodations do not change, lower or reduce learning expectations.

There are four different types of accommodations:

  1. Presentation Accommodations allow students to access information in ways that do not require them to visually read the standard print. Students who have difficulty or the inability to visually read standard print because of physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities will benefit from these accommodations.

  2. Response Accommodations allow students to complete activities in different ways or to solve or organize problems using assistive technologies or organizers. Students with physical, sensory or learning disabilities such as memory deficits, deficits in sequencing, difficulty with directionality, alignment issues, and organizational issues will benefit from response accommodations.
  3. Timing and Scheduling Accommodations change the condition or location of an assignment or assessment. Students who need extended time to complete assignments and assessments and students who cannot concentrate for an extended period of time are often afforded timing and scheduling accommodations. Additionally, students with health related issues, students who tire easily, and students with special dietary and/or medication needs are often granted similar accommodations.
  4. Setting Accommodations increase the allowable time to complete assignments or assessments, or change the way the time is organized. Students who are easily distracted in an educational environment, who benefit from the use of a scribe, reader, or assistive technology or students with physical disabilities who might need a more accessible location will benefit from appropriate setting accommodations.

Accommodations were the answer to our prayers. Knowing that we were responsible for our daughter’s intervention, we put that in place immediately and met with her school about accommodations. She was given extended time for tests and reading assignments. There was no penalty for spelling errors in her writing, she was given class notes as she got older and she was never called on to read in class unless she volunteered.  Her teachers were great about reading words on tests that she was unfamiliar with, and if she performed poorly on a test, they often did an oral check to determine whether her reading interfered with her ability to pass the test. Having a laptop in high school diminished the effects of her writing issues, as she used speech-to-text software and notes and assignments were always available from both her friends and faculty.

Hurray for accommodations! They enabled us to keep our daughter in an environment that fulfilled her. They can be significant to learning outcomes.




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