Digital Mom. Analog Daughter.

This struggling family needs you!

I recently came into contact with a mom who is struggling with both health and financial problems.  She really wants to give her kids a nice Christmas but is unable to do so on her own at this time.  I was quite touched by her story, and impressed by her drive to start her own business and improve her family’s situation.   I’ve decided to sponsor her and her family for the holidays through my business, Technigirl.  I’m collecting donations for this family which will be used to purchase Christmas gifts for them (especially their 3 kids).  They need you!  Please read below for their story.  To donate toward the Christmas gift fund I have set up for them, please go here.

Jill’s Story:

My husband and I have been together for 11 years and we have three beautiful children. Bella is 8, Elaina is 7 (they are 10 1/2 mos apart) and Phoenix is 3.  I had originally worked in the medical/financial field but after our daughter Bella was ill as a baby, my husband and I decided it would be best for me to become a stay-at-home mom.  I eagerly agreed!  Soon afterwards we found out that we had been blessed with a sweet surprise and were expecting our second already!  Bella was 10 1/2 months old when Elaina was born and I had my hands full!  However, I had wanted to go back to school for nursing with a minor in art – with aspirations to become an art therapist one day.  Unfortunately, when the girls were 2 and 3, I became very ill after a bout with pneumonia and realized something was very wrong.  Many tests were performed…but, unfortunately I was not receiving many answers other than I likely had an auto-immune condition where my own immune system was attacking my own body.  I was too ill to attend school and dropped out for two semesters at which time I lost my scholarship.  I was severely ill for approximately a year-and-a-half but did begin to improve drastically.  THEN, we were blessed with another surprise when we found out we were pregnant again.  Although we had not planned on having more children due to my health, I had been determined to get off ALL medication and that included birth control.  Well, miraculously enough, my health improved when I was pregnant…due to the natural effect of pregnancy that reduces our immune response to protect our babies.  I felt like a new woman!  My symptoms were gone, my energy returned, and my life was back to normal!  I even decided to name our son, Phoenix due to the fact that I literally felt as if I’d been born again.  Dramatic, I know…lol…but it was amazing.  Well, after he was born, a lot of my joint pain returned and after receiving a vaccination I became very ill again…at which time they DID confirm that I had auto-immune markers in my bloodwork and that I likely had the early stages of an auto-immune disease.  Due to my symptoms at the time, I was diagnosed with the devastating news that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis (which if you aren’t familiar with it…is a systemic disease that causes your immune system to attack your body and causes severe arthritis and destruction of your joints…and leads to severe pain, joint malformations, and unfortunately cripples many with the disease).  We were crushed.

Then, after months of treatment I was given the odd and unsettling news that the diagnosis was wrong…that I had no permanent joint damage and that they were still unsure how to go about treating me.  A relief that came with a lot of questions.  However, my symptoms then did decrease and by June of 2011 the severe joint pain that I was having and neurological symptoms improved.  I have since been well, and attend regular doctor visits and bloodwork “sessions” to try to determine when I’ll have another flare-up and how to possibly prevent or shorten them.  In Fall of 2011 I had decided to not let my chronic health problems stop me.  I was put in touch with the Disability Department at a local college and changed my major to follow my passions…and I am now a dual major of Graphic Arts and Photography.  Although I loved nursing, I felt with my health concerns, that something that I could possibly do from home when I am ill was a better choice for our family.  I LOVE it!  I excel in my classes and am looking at the possibility of several very good internships at local design firms.

Then, my husband, who had never missed a day of work in his entire 15 years with the company he worked for (other than for an injury) was laid off due to the economy effecting his employers ability to afford him.  He got out right away and accepted a job at our local airport as a ground-crew mechanic making only $11/hr.  That was an $8 dollar paycut!  He was heartbroken…but took the job even knowing that he would only make $20 more a week than if he were on unemployment.  He received a raise a year later and currently makes $13/hr.  He has been advised that he is looking for a $1 raise by the end of the year.  He doesn’t get paid time off/paid holidays/overtime…or even benefits…and our bills consume most of his income.  We have been on Medicaid assistance (which I can’t afford to be without due to my health) and receive a whopping (I jest) $250/month in food assistance.  I hate it…it’s embarrassing and people make assumptions that those on assistance are either lazy or suffer mental illness.  We are neither and in an effort to hopefully dig ourselves out of this hole that we are in, decided (with a LOT of support of my family and friends, and a very friendly local photographer who believes in my work)…to launch my own photography business and my official launch date is January 1st.  It’s scary, overwhelming, and tedious…but, I’m hoping that it will bring in enough extra income to help support my family. I love photography and I love creating timeless memories that reflect the natural reactions and interactions of children and their families.  I want to specialize in childhood photography…but, I take any work that comes my way at this time.  I’ve shot weddings, babies, a birth, children, families, and even pets…and I’ve loved every minute of working.  It’s a lot of hours of work in prep, business, paperwork, designing a website and blog (which are STILL in process), keeping up with building a fan-base on Facebook, editing, sales…you name it…it adds up (as I’m SURE you are utterly aware).  I will be charging bottom dollar as I’m still building my portfolio…but once my portfolio is complete will start charging appropriately and will hopefully have a lot of success.  I believe what I do is MORE than take photos…I capture emotions and the essence of childhood that passes by all too quickly…I capture moments that a mother can cherish forever – even long after her children are grown.  Once established, I have plans to become more involved in the local community offering photography services to those in need and those suffering from catastrophic illness and end of life situations – again, with a focus on babies and children.  Big plans…but truly from the heart.

I am a crafter-extraordinaire, I love to crochet, draw, photograph, design, and build my own props.  I love my children and my husband with all my heart and believe God has a plan and a purpose in my life and theirs.  I believe we’ve fallen on hard times but through faith and friendship will again find our way. I am a Girl Scout Leader to 15 5-8 year old girls (grades Kindergarten to 2nd) and realize that I probably took on way to much by being so…BUT, have a wonderful co-leader who helps me in every way possible and has become one of my best friends.

I had asked for this gift, not because I am selfish or want MORE presents for my children.  In fact, their lists were short and my middle daughter asked for very little with her list consisting mostly of gifts for others.  I asked for this gift because we just don’t have enough to make Christmas like I used to remember when I was a child.  We don’t own ipods or fancy game systems and we still play some of our old vhs tapes simply because why buy a cd if you have the vhs! lol! I just want our family to be together without my husband having to carry the heavy burden of not paying our bills so that we can afford presents.  My husband doesn’t get a Christmas bonus and I have yet to establish my business…so, I reached out in hopes that I could do SOMETHING to help my family and to make a Christmas that our children will remember.

A little about the kids:

Bella just turned 8 in November.  She is a beautiful, sweet, and VERY shy girl – with a little tomboy in her.  She does very well in school but is sooo shy so only has a few friends and barely speaks a whisper. She started playing basketball this year and LOVES it!  She’s the tallest on the team…and that hints at the fact that she grows out of her clothes VERY quickly.  She LOVES Converse tennis shoes and could certainly use a new pair!  She has ALWAYS loved bugs, science, arts & crafts, music, and the color pink. She’s VERY picky about how her clothes fit, so now she picks out her own clothes when we go shopping.  She recently picked up the love of keeping a journal…and wants an indoor basketball hoop. Cats are her favorite animal.

Elaina just turned 7 in October and she is super sweet and always helpful around the house and at school.  She is above-level in all her studies and helps others with their reading and is popular in her class due to her outgoing personality.  She, too, started playing basketball this year and we’ve found she likes to skip and stare up at the lights when running down the court.  NOT good for the team…but so cute nonetheless!  She LOVES the color blue, wearing dresses, feeling like a princess, makeup, nailpolish, and fairies.  She likes fancy clothes and shoes but doesn’t complain at all when she gets Bella’s hand-me-downs. But, she’s not afraid to get her nails dirty and dig up worms with her brother and sister either. Because she’s always thinking about others…she’s still learning about what she likes.  She says she likes to dream about riding on unicorns over rainbows and she loves to tell her made- up stories.  She pretty much thinks every day is the “best day ever”. Dogs are her favorite animal.

Phoenix just turned 3 in September and he’s such a funny little boy.  He loves his sisters and has a special affinity for his mommy and snuggling.  He stays at home with mom and is eager to learn how to read and write better.  He loves dinosaurs, robots, building things, tools and cars…lots of cars, and dressing up as super-heroes.  He likes making everyone laugh with his ridiculous dancing and REFUSES to use the potty because “it flushes people” – hey, it’s a work in progress! lol!  He likes to make blanket tents and pretend he’s on adventures. He loves space and wants to take me to the moon in his spaceship someday so we can camp out and have a picnic on the moon. He has mentioned he wants a tool bench and tools so he can help Daddy fix stuff.


Bella, age 8


Elaina, Age 7


Phoenix, Age 3



Old Navy Thinks My Daughter Has to be a *Ballerina* Monkey

Like a lot of moms this time of year, I’ve started looking around for potential Halloween costumes for my little girl.  I like to start on the web because it’s easy to see who carries what.  My daughter has a keen interest in sheep and tigers right now, so I was looking for something along that line.  I was pretty excited when I saw that Old navy carries Halloween costumes, and they even have a tiger no less!  My excitement turned to dismay when I saw this:


Um yeah…because basic animal costumes are for boys.  Here is a snapshot of the girls’ collection:


Guess girls have to be *ballerina* monkeys, if they are to be monkeys at all.  Gah!
Just to be clear, I’ve got nothing against girls dressing up as cupcakes or Snow White or even ballerina monkeys.  But I don’t see why girls can’t also dress up as tigers, sharks, or regular monkeys.  Way to keep promoting the stereotypes, Old Navy.  I expected a lot better from you.

I was annoyed enough to actually email their customer service about this.
Me:  I was looking at your Halloween costumes for girls and boys, and I have a real problem with the way they’re segregated.  All of the “boys” costumes are simple animals like a tiger, monkey, etc.  Why can these not also be “girls” costumes?  Why does the “girls” monkey have to be a ballerina version?  And why would you assume that girls want to be cupcakes but not tigers?

I got a reply which was as follows: Please know it is never our intention to upset or frustrate our customers in anyway. We do our best to offer our customers top quality, fashionable merchandise at a fair price, and we regret disappointing you.  Blah blah blah…

I didn’t think it was their intention.  I’m sure this was purely unintentional, but what I’m asking them to do here is think a little bit.  Maybe there could just be a generic “Halloween costume” section for kids?

When I was a kid, I think there was one year when I dressed as a princess for Halloween.  But in other years I went as a tiger, a witch, a gift box (yeah that looked as funny as it sounds), etc.  I don’t know if I’m just old and times have changed or what.  All I know is that my daughter loves tigers and leopards and sheep, so that’s what she’s going to be for Halloween.  Even if that means she gets a costume from the boys’ section.

Ever feel like ripping your hair out while shopping for toddler clothes?

I recently started shopping for my daughter’s fall wardrobe (yep, she wears other brands.  She’d be naked most of the time if she depended on Technigirl for most of her clothing since we make limited quantities!).  Shopping for toddler clothes is soooo frustrating!  A 2T in one brand is often nowhere near a 2T in another brand.  And, even worse, a 2T size of similar items within the same brand can be bizarrely different.  Case in point:  I often buy outerwear at the Gap for my daughter.  Usually, their coats are HUGE.  Last year, I bought her a 12-18M (she hit 12M last November) and it was huge on her when the season started, but fit perfectly by the end of the season.  I figured I would do the same this year and it would work out great.  Yeah, not so much.  I bought her a 2T in this super cute jacket, only to find out that it barely covered her belly, and left no room for sweaters, etc. underneath!  And my daughter is a little on the small side (she’s almost never been above the 25% for weight).  So I bought a 3T for my 21 month old daughter to wear this winter.  Crazy.

The worst offenders are those oh-so-cute and matchy “sets”.  That’s right, I’m talking to you, Carter’s.  It’s such a great idea on the surface – for one reasonable price, you get a cute top with a matching pant or legging.  I don’t know about you, but my toddler is not exactly proportioned like an adult.  She has short-ish legs and a long torso.  Yet many of the pants in these sets seem to be sized as though these kids had Amazonian legs.  So what ends up happening is, I pay good money for the set, but she only gets to wear the top.  The pants stretch 6 inches past her feet and basically just sit unused in her drawer.  By the time they fit, she’s outgrown the top!  Now I mentioned Carter’s because they seem to be one of the worst for this.  I’ve had better luck with certain other brands, particularly the more expensive ones like Tea Collection.  But ya know, I don’t have the money to dress my daughter entirely in Tea Collection, so she gets a mix of stuff from Carter’s, Target, Gap, and a few others, including Technigirl of course!

So I’m boycotting sets.  From here on out, this kid gets separates only!

Classic Lit: For Girls Only?

Today was a typical Saturday for Technifamily.  In the morning, little girl and I busted out the stroller and went for a jog.  She has a lot of fun on these runs, because there’s usually a lot of people outside doing stuff, and there’s often sprinklers going off (she’s obsessed with sprinklers!).  So we did that, then we came home and did some cleaning, goofed off for a while, then naptime for her.  I of course did what I normally do during these weekend naps – worked!  Yep, when you’re a mompreneur with a full-time job on top of that, you’re pretty much always working on something.  I don’t mind it because I like being busy, but once in a while it would be nice to just lay on the couch and just space out.  But I digress.

So after little girl woke up from her nap, we all trekked out to the local bookstore, Book People.  Book People is an awesome store, it has a great selection and a lot of really quirky, entertaining gifts.  So there we were in Book People, when I spotted this:

Stories for Girls
(I’m sure you can just hear me sucking my breath in, and imagine the look of dismay on my face as I reached for this).  Classics for girls?  What are those?  Stories of pink unicorns and rainbow puppies?

Oh if only.

I opened the book to the table of contents.  Here it is:

OK so let’s analyze why these stories are “for girls”.

The Railway Children – This is a story about a father who is falsely imprisoned for espionage, and his 3 children who amuse themselves by watching trains and waving to the passengers.  OK, huh?  Prison, espionage…sounds like a veritable boyfest to me.  Except for the fact that the story focuses on the children and family and their relationships.  Because boys don’t care about that stuff, and that makes it OK for girls, I guess.

The Wizard of Oz – we all know the story here.  Can’t say I ever thought of it as a “girls” story, as I have known plenty of boys who love it as well.  Guess because it stars a farm girl and a troupe of witches?  Yep.  Boys hate witches.

The Secret Garden – A story about an ill-tempered young girl who is abandoned, a family that is nearly destroyed, and then regenerated.  Yeah I guess boys wouldn’t care about that family and relationship stuff.  And this one stars a girl as well.

Black Beauty – Autobiography of a horse told by the horse, who experiences both cruelty and kindness in his life.  The horse is even male, and is in no way related to My Little Pony.  I assume that this is for girls because boys can’t be bothered with the life history of an animal.

Little Women – A story about…the lives of a bunch of women.  Wait – does this mean girls shouldn’t be interested in stories about men either?

Heidi – A story about a little girl who is raised by her aunt after her parents die.  I’m assuming that because it’s a book about a little girl, and not a little boy, is why it is a “girls” classic and not a “boys” classic.  What, boys can’t relate to a little girl who has experienced a tragedy?  I guess not, since they’re boys and boys don’t have feelings.  Or something like that.

As someone who hates that there has to be a pink version of everything (there’s even a pink corn popper – oh the humanity!), I was really unpleasantly surprised to find this book of “Classics for Girls”.  These are great stories that can be enjoyed and related to by people of any gender.  If I were a parent of a boy, I would be equally annoyed that whoever put this book together thinks that my son could not understand or relate to these stories.  I would also want my son to see that women can star and be heroines in stories the same as men are.  That does seem to be the common thread in these stories – for the most part they all involve female lead characters (except for the horse – and horses are girls territory, we all know that).  So why not name the book something that reflects that – “Classics Starring Girls (and Horses) Who Kick Ass” or something along that line?

My daughter, who is almost 2, apparently has no clue of what she is “supposed” to like.  This is the book that she made a beeline for:

Of course we bought it for her.  That girl makes me proud.

What It’s Really Like Starting a Small Web Business vs. What People Think It’s Like.

Since I just recently started my business, I’m super busy trying to market it and get it off the ground.  I’ve noticed from talking to friends, family, and acquaintances that many of them seem to think that when you put up a website and try to sell something, people just show up and you know, buy stuff.  After my site had been up for something like a week or two, people were asking me if I was getting a lot of sales.  Um…no.  Not likely after just a couple of weeks in business.  I think that when most people picture small business owners, even new ones, they must picture that we’re doing this:

But let’s face it, those of us who have done it know that it’s more like this at the beginning:


And the majority of our day involves not collecting money, but this:

That, plus a lot of emailing, phone calling, begging while trying to make it look like we’re not begging, etc.  Glamorous, isn’t it?

On top of that I’m raising a 20 month old.

And on top of that, I’ve got a full time job as an engineer.

I’m so busy that half the time I’m forgetting to do things like…pay the electric bill.  Oops.  But you know what?  This business is my dream, and it’s so worth all the extra effort.  I am determined to make it work.  I just don’t want people thinking this is easy money.

Science is…Sparkly? recently featured an article that discussed the European Commission’s recent campaign to get more girls into science.  The main topic was this video, released by the EC:

The article came out strongly against the video and the campaign.  Watching the video, I do think it’s a bit over the top, but is it really that bad to inject a little bit of girliness into STEM?  My personal feeling is that in general, it’s not, and I think it may be necessary to some degree.  I’ll explain more below.

I do find it more than a little annoying that the girls in this video are all wearing super short miniskirts/dresses.  Seeing as how it is aimed at teenage girls, I think they should have chosen outfits that are a little more modest.  But I understand that they were trying to make it “cool”.  I also find the lipstick for the letter “I” irritating – that just wasn’t necessary, EC!

However, let’s face facts: women are different than men.  We like to wear makeup and dresses, even those of us who work in STEM fields.  I’m an electrical engineer, and I like girly stuff like dresses, flower patterns, and highlights.  I wear nice clothes and makeup, and everyone at work always thinks I’m “dressed up” (this is just what I wear all the time, people!  Get over it!).  There is a stereotype of people working in STEM fields – lab coats, no makeup, old men, disheveled hair, etc.  And er…that does fit the description of many folks in these fields, women included, but certainly not all of us.  And back when there were NO women in these fields, certainly that is pretty much all there was – men in lab coats with no makeup, jewelry, or pink to be found (because men don’t wear that stuff, natch).

The article states that:

Yes, do go on about how glamorous and pretty science is, because if chicks can’t equate veterinary virology with dresses and manicures, they’re just not going for it.

The goal that we (the EC, me, the writer, etc) have in common is that we would like to see more women in STEM fields.  So, to join these fields, should women have to give up the trappings of womanhood?  I think not.  I find the above statement extremely confining.  It casts a negative light on women in STEM fields who want to be…well, women.  It’s poking sarcasm at women who don’t want to follow the old, male way of doing things.  If we as women are to be considered truly as equals in these fields, then we should be free to be ourselves – glamor and “pretty” and all.  And I do think that it is necessary to break down those stereotypes if we are to get more women into these careers, because the fact is that many smart young women also enjoy their manicures.

There is true beauty to be found in science and technology, and I think women are especially good at finding it.  One good thing about the video, I thought, is that it does show that same beauty that I see.  Women bring something special to the table, so let’s allow each of us to be ourselves.  If this video makes young women take a second look at STEM careers, then I am more than OK with it.

What do you think?

Lands’ End to Girls: Math is Tough…for you.

Apparently, being smart just isn’t cool for girls.  Last year, we saw Forever 21 briefly sell a t-shirt that may as well have said “I’m stupid” on the front of it (actual message: “Allergic to Algebra”).  Similarly, the year before that JCPenney hawked a shirt that said “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me.”  Message:  Math is hard.  Heck, homework is hard, so why bother to do it at all?

According to the AAUW in their publication “Why So Few”, only 15.1% of women entering college as freshmen intend to major in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but  29.1% of men do.  These fields tend to pay more than traditional “women’s” fields such as teaching and social sciences, so women put themselves at a disadvantage by not considering these fields.

Research shows that mindset matters when it comes to performance in school.  Also from the AAUW’s paper:

“…a “growth mindset” (viewing intelligence as a changeable,
malleable attribute that can be developed through effort) as opposed to a “fixed mindset”
(viewing intelligence as an inborn, uncontrollable trait) is likely to lead to greater persistence
in the face of adversity and ultimately success in any realm (Dweck & Leggett, 1988;
Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck, 2006, 2008).”

And for girls, the mindset often is that math and science are too hard for them.

Now we have Lands’ End perpetuating this ugly myth in their latest back-to-school catalog.  At least in this case, the message is only printed in the advertising copy and not on the actual product, but still.  Why promote this message anywhere?

Their line of backpacks called “FeatherLight”, advertised in the latest catalog, shows some interesting dichotomies between the way the boys’ and girls’ versions are marketed.

For the girls: “Tough as long division”?

Well boys apparently aren’t expected to have problems with long division…what, no “tough as reading and writing” tagline for the boys?  If we’re going to perpetuate stereotypes, let’s at least do it across the board.

Because girls don’t want to be superheroes.  That would be tough…long division tough.

Homework is tough?  Why stop there?  How about “school is tough?”

He’s a boy, and therefore a Neanderthal who will someday drag his woman by her hair to the cave:

At least Lands’ End didn’t print the message right on the product as other companies have done, but still.  I expect more from them, and you should too.


Hi and welcome to my blog!  I’m Melissa, owner of Technigirl, and I’ve started this blog to provide insight into Technigirl, plus all things related to girls and science, math, engineering, and technology.  I hope you enjoy it!