When coding and kids collide graphic
October 27th, 2017 by Suze

The further I delve into the world of web design and development, the more I realise that coding really has a lot in common with parenting.

Technological tantrums

  • For starters, the tantrum the console throws up if you miss off a semi-colon is tantamount to the four-year-old’s melt-down over the wrong juice in the wrong-coloured cup.

Coding capitals

  • Who would have thought a simple capital letter could throw hours of work into disarray. It is cannily similar to the mess made by the children in their bedroom in the two minutes you have your back to them as you sort the wardrobe.

Order, order

  • And while we are on the subject of tidying and order, the mere-ist hint of code popped in the wrong place renders your project useless. Not unlike the loss of a favourite toy, that was definitely put on the kitchen table and nowhere else, with an added refusal for the day to remain on hold until it is found.

Issued instructions

  • Then there’s the database that refuses to log the data. You have been through that code with a fine-toothed comb. Even your tutor can’t find a error. But it refuses to listen to you and will not do as it is told. Strikingly similar to the small child who refuses to hear, that’s if he listens at all.

Little Mr Matching

  • Meanwhile, trying to choose the correct shade of blue for a header and match it with the right font, for just the right look, is reminiscent of Mini Cooper 2’s inability to leave the house without his hat matching his shoes.

Art is in the detail

I love coding for its detail. I love how powerful a simple line of code can be. But in the same breath the frustration and relentless refreshing gets repetitive and tiresome pretty quickly. I love every bit of every child. I love the way they each see the world in a different way. But in the same thought I could sometimes do with 10 minutes where I am not answering a question, listening to a whiny complaint and, dare I say, a couple of hours uninterrupted sleep.

Learning as you go along

No one said learning would be easy. No one said parenting would be easy. Joining the two together seems like craziness. Welcome to my mad, Mad world.

A photograph of the Cooper family

 

Read my earlier post about learning to code – Studying Javascript: Well, how did I get here?

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Posted in Studying, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Web Design Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Clean Up The F-Word graphic from the Digital Mums campaign
September 29th, 2017 by Suze

Why all this studying? There is a very important reason why and we are hoping it will be the key to changing our lifestyle completely.

Here’s the vision; both me and DH working equally to support our family in jobs where we are still able to be there for the school run and whatever else parenting throws at us.

Some days I think about that statement and I think it is unrealistic. Isn’t that just asking for it all? We don’t live in a culture where work works around life. Instead life must fit around work and work must be done to finance life. It seems an ever-decreasing circle.

Making a change

It’s a year since DH decided he needed a change from Never Ending Work. The relentlessness of working a crazy number of hours, crawling into bed at 2am and living off junk food seemed like a one-way road stretching into the future. And while he was the one travelling to town every day and living on six hours broken sleep, it wasn’t exactly a bed of roses juggling school and nursery runs, dinner, bath and bedtime alone here either.

When it came to fears that DH may fall asleep at the wheel or actually drive himself mad working in an environment that drained him on a daily basis, we knew we needed to make a drastic change. While the salary he was on may have meant he could retire early in 10 years time, it seemed like a hard price to pay. After all, our children are 7, 4 and 8 months old. They want us here now. We aren’t sure they will want us hanging about quite so much when they are 17, 14 and 10.

Learning about yourself

So he handed his notice in and we decided we would both train in web design and see where it took us. It might not take us anywhere. It might lead to things we haven’t yet thought of. What we do know is that this is change. It may not be easy, but it will be different and certainly every stage will present opportunities and experiences we would not otherwise have had.

At the end of my LearnDirect course in web design,  I will start studying with Digital Mums to become a social media manager. I am hoping this will be my key to flexible working. Where my work will fit around our family and not the other way round. This is something Digital Mums is striving to make more commonplace. Flexible working. After all, us mums still have working brains you know!

#CleanUpTheFWord

The Digital Mums campaign around flexible working is making waves. It’s made the national papers and it’s causing a stir on social media. The Clean Up The F-Word campaign hopes to highlight the benefits of flexible working, both for employee and employer, to those that can make a difference; the government. To get a response from the government their petition needs 10,000 signatures. To get a debate in Parliament, it needs 100,000. This is a subject that should be brought to the fore.

Flexible working taboo

“Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, eg having flexible start and finish times, or working from home…. All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.”

(from the Government website www.gov.uk)

We have the right to, but how many of us would? I know I didn’t. There didn’t seem much point as I couldn’t see any way I could return to my job on a flexible basis; as a newsreader, you sorta have to be behind the microphone at the time the news is needed, and I knew that when I started thinking about having a family.

But flexible working shouldn’t be a taboo. As mums returning to work we should not be afraid to put forward a flexible option. So why does it feel like we are asking for something that is wrong, a cop-out, an easy option? It’s not like we want to be paid for doing nothing. Rather that we get paid for being productive during the hours that we able to put in 100%.

A different world

For us Coopers, flexible working will mean we can support our family by working in a way that provides for the Mini Coopers in more than just monetary terms. We can be the ones that see them through the school gates and pick them up at the end of the day, but we’ll also be able to pay for the day trips to London and ice cream in the holidays.

 

Click here to read the Digital Mums blog post about the #CleanUpTheFWord campaign

 

To sign the Digital Mums petition at Change.org and show your support for more flexible working options, click here.

Posted in Digital Mums, Thoughts Tagged with: , , , , ,

Photograph of the three Mini Cooper's feet
September 15th, 2017 by Suze

So the schools are back in full force this week and I am trying to find a little more structure to my studying/parenting day. As I tackle the books once more it strikes me that I may not have been the only person to have thought the following things over the last week.

Here are five things that have run through my mind this week about studying.

1. I love this

I can take on the world. This is amazing. I have successfully made information leap from a database onto a web page. I pressed the buttons and now it works. I can do this. I can do anything. I love learning. Every part of the process is experience, even if it isn’t successful.

2. I hate this

The world hates me. I can’t bear this. Will it ever end. Why won’t my html file talk to my php file and do lovely things on the web page. I have spent hours reading about it. I have made notes on it. I have Googled it. I am highly likely to chuck my laptop at the wall if I render this page and it doesn’t work for the 4 millionth time. Learning is too hard. Why am I doing this? When can I stop?

3. The oven needs cleaning

The garden needs weeding, small pieces of dirt need removing with a cocktail stick and toothbrush from somewhere no-one will ever see. You get the idea. Suddenly anything and everything is way more interesting and important than studying. While usually the thought of cutting all three Mini Cooper’s toenails would be the stuff of nightmares, I suddenly find myself lining them up, giving them the drill and hoping it will take longer than necessary just so that I don’t have to sit back down in front of a list of assignment questions. With blank answers. With word counts. That need diagrams. With writer’s block.

4. He thinks I’m on Facebook again

Or Twitter (@minicoopersmum). When you are studying remotely, the lure of social media is ever present. Particularly now I am blogging too and linking my posts here and there. That said, I do spend a lot of time staring at my screen and actually doing my work (while thinking that DH is thinking that I am just sat there fiddling on Facebook.) I do a lot of projecting. It’s something I am trying to stop. DH is actually incredibly supportive and without him I would probably have already thrown the lap top at the wall.

5. What happens if I get to the end?

After the initial ‘will this ever end’ phase, comes the fears of what happens when it does. Is all of this time, effort and energy worth it? Will I really see the rewards? Are we dreaming too big? After all, this time round I am hoping my studying will lead to something and it has to be something that will pay the bills. While getting the bit of paper (or studying with the OU) was difficult, it was also a pleasure. I chose to study as a hobby. This time around it is about re-training and while I have picked a subject I absolutely love, the what-ifs are ever present.

So there you have it. A journey through the mind of this study addict over the last week, and a glimpse into how I am quite likely to feel in the coming week. I am basically rolling through these thoughts and feelings on a daily basis at the moment. Right, now do I continue with Unit 16 or clean the oven?

 

You Baby Me Mummy

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Posted in Studying, Thoughts Tagged with: , , , ,

Javascript in multi-coloured fridge magnets
September 1st, 2017 by Suze

This week I have learnt the following…

  • – Being 37 feels like being 36, but closer to 40
  • – Being realistic about how long something will take will probably make life less stressful
  • – There is something worse than a baby that wakes every hour and a half… a baby that wakes every hour.

I have also learnt how to enlarge an image when you hover your mouse cursor over it. This is JavaScript and this is what I am studying at the moment.

But how did I get here? Back in November 2016 I was pregnant with Mini Cooper 3 and DH was looking for new opportunities so he could make his escape from Never-Ending Working. He wondered if a coding course would be the right thing for him and suggested I take a look at the website. So I did.

The 12-week immersive course looked amazing and it started me thinking. Why hadn’t I ever considered learning about web design? I have always had a knack for technological problems (thanks to my dad who was a lover of all things gadget and a computer wizard). Growing up in our house was a constant stream of new technology. It was also a constant stream of swear words in frustration at the new technology which invariably wouldn’t do as it was told. My dad was passionate about his tech!

Being 8 months pregnant with our third child I realised that popping into London every day for 12 weeks was not going to be on my to-do list anytime soon. But my learning flame had been ignited and I needed to know more. So I did what any self-respecting wannabe web designer would do and Googled it. Within minutes I was signed up to Code Academy and learning about HTML and CSS and I loved it.

Thinking Beyond The Babies

Zoom forward a few months and Mini Cooper 3 was six weeks old. I vividly remember saying to DH “this is the first time I have had a newborn and not been studying for something – how liberating”. Two weeks after saying that I had signed up to the Level 3 Web Design and Development (RQF) course with Learn Direct. It took weeks of online searching, and soul searching, to decide on the right course and ensure I was in the right place to get back to learning. This time I would be learning  with purpose. I would be re-training. I would start to peek at that unknown land Beyond The Babies. But the mum guilt set in almost immediately. I had a newborn. What was I doing?

Well, actually I was stopping myself falling foul of the FaceBook black hole. Don’t get me wrong I can FaceBook as well as the rest of you. It is a daily, hourly obsession to check up and see what my sister had for dinner but when you are breastfeeding your baby 12 times a day around the clock, the draw of FaceBook wears a little thin.

If I was going to be stuck to the sofa with my phone in my hand, I may as well be reading something that added to my life.

I may as well be studying.

Having signed up and logged in I was faced with 22 unit headings containing several sections, each with an assignment to complete. The timetable suggested spending a month on each unit with a view to completing the course in two years. By now future plans in the Cooper house were taking shape and DH was on the brink of leaving Never-Ending Working behind. I needed to get this done within two years. In fact I needed it done in one year.

So I set to work. The units are broken down into sections; each one focussing on one topic at a time. This makes it relatively easy to dip in and out of. So far I have covered internet security, databases, web development and testing along with some HTML and CSS. While studying around the children adds an extra challenge, the way this course is laid out helps in many ways and generally I follow this loose plan…

  • – Read a few sections at a time (usually while feeding Mini Cooper 3)
  • – Before I have read too much – go back and make notes of the main points (this requires both hands but can be done while over-seeing Lego building).
  • – Go into the assignment to complete just one question. This may mean research outside the text as well as referring to my notes. (This requires both hands and my brain and is often done in those precious moments when all three are in bed)

Because I am working around the children I don’t really ever have time to do all of these things in one sitting. To be honest I don’t think my brain works that way, and for me breaking it down like this makes it easier to cope with. While I have already advocated The Use of the Odd 15 Minutes, I am by no means saying it can all be done just by doing 15 minutes each day. I try to find pockets of time when the children are at school or off doing something.

JavaScript

I began the course in March. It is now September and I am working on Unit 14. Some units have taken me longer than others. In some cases I have managed a unit per week. But what happens when a mum of three collides with JavaScript and the summer holidays? Four weeks to complete a unit is what happens! However, I can not complain too much. I am currently 249 days ahead of my next deadline.

It’s a good feeling for someone who often struggled to get her homework in on time while at school.

But I will admit I have hit a wall. This unit is hard. It is a practical unit, full of coding. There’s no hiding from it. It either works or it doesn’t. I can get it to work but it takes time and I am impatient (wonder where I get that from?). Meanwhile, school trousers need taking up. Washing Mountain needs folding and putting away. These are the last days before Mini Cooper 2 starts school and I haven’t got my head round that yet. I am starting to think my plan of putting 24 months of study into 12 is actually not realistic. I may have to Change The Plan.

So I return to my JavaScript. I am now creating custom JavaScript objects as well as methods and functions to manipulate them (what?!) All between trips to granny’s, opticians appointments, nappy changes and cups of tea (thank you DH).

Now if only I could code a teething baby to sleep for longer than an hour…

 

* What exactly is a Level 3? I didn’t know either. It appears a Level 3 is somewhere between an A-Level and a degree. It is entirely vocational and Learn Direct encourage you to take their employability course alongside your learning.

 

 

 


 

Posted in Learn Direct, Studying, Web Design Tagged with: , , , , ,