The Mom Dept.

A show about the business of being a professional mom.

“Write what you know.”

Mark Twain

It’s a good policy for writing, and the same goes for shows. We are the most passionate about the things we feel we know best, so it makes perfect sense to me that my return to livestreaming is a show about two aspects to me that I know all too well.

Mom + Professional = #TheMomDept

Screenshot of live broadcast of #TheMomDept on LinkedIn Live

When I’m thinking about doing a new livestream show about real, professional experience as a woman, and then learn I have access to LinkedIn Live, the theme of #TheMomDept was a no-brainer.

I know so many professional women, and a good portion of them are mom-figures in every sense. We navigate the choppy waters of being responsible for multiple aspects of our life, and often of other people’s lives, so there is no end to relevant topics we can explore.

Also, I can’t lie: the draw of making videos on LinkedIn is great, especially as the engagement there is more focused and amplified than on a platform like Facebook. YouTube is great, but right now video on LinkedIn is a small-enough, focused pond where great waves can be made.

What do you want to see?

Upcoming topics for #TheMomDept include:

  • The Whole Image Thing (make-up, fashion, appearance, etc.)
  • Dollars and Sense (budgets at work and budgets at home)
  • Back-to-School Balance…??? (is there such a thing?)

If you have a topic you’d love the show to cover OR if you’re burning to be a guest, email me! You can also InMail me on LinkedIn.

How to Do a Family Podcast with Your Kids (and Why)

Every hour as a parent starts to feel like a stolen moment, doesn’t it? To say “time flies” is a massive understatement as these children who were the size of my forearm are gaining inches in height and miles in maturity (or attempts at it) every single month.

Thus capturing the moments and memories is always getting more urgent. And I have one vital factor working against me: I am not a crafty mom. I don’t regularly schedule family photo sessions. I hardly ever think to use a Shutterfly discount code to order prints or even a photo book of my kids. And saving their school or personal projects? Those tend to pile up into an unwieldy stack of papers until we finally spend a whole day posting them to a memory wall downstairs.

Family photo for DCC
The last time I got a picture of all of us was for Denver ComicCon 2018.

In short, I suck at saving memories. But I’m great at digital communications, and that’s where I struck upon what has worked for my particular situation: a family podcast.

Why a Family Podcast?

This all was inspired by the Avengers movies which have been reigning in our entertainment horizons for the last decade. Our family is fully entrenched in the geekery of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for those who aren’t at our level of nerddom) and, as the kids have grown older and attended movie showings with us, the debates about each movie run fast and furious the moment the end-credits scene closes out and the theater lights go up.

I noticed that each member of our family had no trouble airing our opinions about the super heroes, super villains, plot lines, comedy, and overall appeal of each movie we see together.

I also was getting perpetually harassed by my children – one in particular – about wanting to become a “YouTuber.” Any remotely digitally-savvy parent should be acquainted with the fears of allowing the full force of internet viewers and their anonymous opinions to bowl over their kiddo, and I knew that I wanted to provide a type of training curriculum for my children before the whole “YouTuber” plan would even be considered.

So… we started a podcast. It’s called UnpauseIt. Here’s why it has been a great overall experience for our family.

It teaches production value.

An audio podcast requires that you record moments, and we had to incorporate that mechanism into the normal course of our movie discussions. So I bought us a Blue Yeti microphone, positioned it in the center of our circular dining room table, sat everyone down, and began recording.

Our daughter giving her .02 about a movie.

The entire first season of our podcast (where we reviewed each Avengers movie from Iron Man through Infinity War) was a learning experience in recording. We learned that when we put a blanket on the table and under the microphone, we reduced the amount of ambient noises captured in our recordings. We also learned to never give the kids plastic water bottles for drinking, because a firm grip (and resulting plastic popping noise) clearly carried into the recording.

Dad and son discussing opinions for an early episode.

We’d let the kids listen to our podcasts once they were edited and published, and they could hear how they sounded or when they needed to speak clearly or stay on point. Additionally, we as parent-producers could hear when we should have paused for a “wiggle-break;” as the show progressed in episodes, we got better at organizing the flow so the kids could be cut loose during segments they found to be more “for the boring adults.”

It teaches leadership.

We wanted this podcast to fully include all members of the family, regardless of age. So each week, we would rotate in one of us to “drive” that week’s podcast; the driver would be the one to ask questions and decide which person responds with their opinion and in what order. They could choose the sequence of questions, plus they needed to come up with the unit of measure for when we rated each movie.

This didn’t happen without obstacles or hiccups! We’d hit days when the kid driving would start getting tired or disinterested, and we’d have to pause to either have a pep talk or discontinue the recording until we could regroup with more gusto. We parents quickly learned the best times of day to let a kid drive the podcast recording, as well as the value of letting them drive the movies they liked versus the ones they were “meh” about.

It captures memories.

My absolute favorite aspect of this family podcast project is being able to hear my children’s voices at the tap of a screen on my Stitcher podcast player or on our YouTube channel. When the kids were at their grandma’s house for the summer, I’d pull up what I knew to be a favorite movie for one of them and play through their giggles, their attempts to sound like a professional host, their animated discussions, and even their contentiousness with differing opinions.

Podcasting should be fun… right???!!!

I may not be a mom that’s good at framing pictures or building scrapbooks. But I’m a mom that’s good at media production, and being able to include my kids in that skill and use it to build media memories I’ll have forever is everything.

How Do You Do a Family Podcast?

Pick a theme or topic for everyone.

This one was easy for us, and my best advice for you is to take a week where you’re on the lookout for those times when your family is all fully engaged with something at the same time. Your family may have many opportunities to choose from, or you may have less; it’s all going to depend on your dynamic and each person’s interests.

The key is to not force a topic. Case in point: our kids ultimately gained more interest in video games than in movies, so we’re pivoting our podcast to do a season about gaming (which might be something they’re more into than we are, but it’s still a shared interest with all of us).

Get equipped.

You’ll need a few things to create a podcast:

  • A microphone.
  • An audio editing software.
  • A podcast hosting platform.
  • A graphic design tool.

Microphone

Audio quality is a big deal for podcasts, particularly if you have your sights on becoming well-known, popular on iTunes, and even sponsored someday by advertisers because you’re so freaking awesome.

That said, you can get away with the microphone included on your smartphone’s earbuds. It isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than relying on the open-air microphone of your smartphone or laptop.

Our family has used two microphones throughout our podcasting journey (and we’re still refining them):

  • Blue Yeti USB Microphone – I bought this to allow for a variety of recording patterns, but primarily for the omnidirectional recording we used it for at our circular table.
  • Zoom H1n Handy Recorder – This mic has been key to when we want to do mobile recordings. It records to an SD card and lets you have free reign and range of mobility, tethered to nothing, able to walk and talk and thrust your mic into anyone’s face who will give you a word.
  • Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB Microphone – if both of those options are too pricey for you, I swear by this microphone for a great quality sound for a budget-friendly price. It’s USB-connected, but you can also connect it via XLR to a mixer (if you want to mix more than one person into your recording).

Audio Editing Software

Don’t get freaked out by this; thanks to the power of Google and YouTube, anyone can learn to edit audio. Really it’s like editing a sentence in Microsoft Word; if you type a sentence and want to remove a word that you don’t need, you would just use your mouse to highlight the word and hit DELETE.

The same principle applies to audio editing, except you’re working with a waveform and need to use your mouse to highlight the sounds or phrases you don’t need, then hit DELETE.

I monitor the peaks and valleys of our audio as it records (using Adobe Audition).

As far as audio editing software that lets you perform this magical process, you have some good options:

  • Audacity – It’s a free open-source audio editing software you can download off of the internet. I used this for creating some of my past podcasts before remembering that I had the next option already. Audacity is plenty capable for editing and finalizing a podcast audio file.
  • Adobe Audition – This was already a part of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (~$600 for a year, and even less for students), plus it has a podcast template included. As with all things Adobe, I only claim to know about 10-20% of each program because they’re so jampacked with tools and features.

Podcast Hosting

First thing here: do you already have a blog or a website? If so, you may choose to feature your podcast from that website… but that does not mean that each audio file of your podcast should be uploaded to or hosted on your blog or website. That would be like placing the city of New York on a train and expecting it to move at its top speed; it’s not going to happen.

That’s why you need to use a podcast hosting service to upload your podcast audio files to so they can be pulled from there when anyone wants to download your latest episode.

  • Libsyn – I use this service at the recommendation of business podcaster Pat Flynn and I’ve never been sorry for that choice. Their plans start at $5/month, and the price increases based on how many times per month you upload a large audio file (memory capacity) as well as if you want analytics on your podcast downloads.
  • Blubrry – I have never used this service, but I hear a ton about it. Plus it provides the plugin I use on my WordPress-hosted website to add the podcast audio link to the blog post for my podcast episodes.

Graphic Design

Once again, don’t get freaked out. This part is just about giving iTunes or any other podcast listening app a visual for your podcast, and that is something you absolutely must have.

Thankfully, here too you have a range of options ranging from free-ninety-five to, well, more than that.

  • Canva.com – One of the best things to happen to the world, allowing people to create pretty things without needing to know much about graphic design. (Though please don’t get me wrong; you’ll never create something in Canva that’s as good as what a designer can come up with.) In any case, Canva is a free website where you can use their templates or put in the size of what you want to create and use their elements to whip something up.
  • Adobe Photoshop – This is my go-to for creating visuals, though I will also use Illustrator for more complex or nuanced creations. However, if you want the “lite” version of Photoshop, it’s way more affordable and can still support your creation of a podcast thumbnail graphic.
  • PowerPoint – While being the absolute last tool I’d opt to use, PowerPoint can still let you create visuals and save the slide as an image file (JPG or PNG) to get by.

Record your first three episodes

Wait, why three? Can’t you just test things out and record one first?

Sure, except for this relatively recent new term as it relates to consuming entertainment: “binging.” People love to hear or watch one episode and then leap right into the next one if the content is riveting enough.

Since one of your goals in starting a podcast is to gain subscribers – those fans who will check their podcast player for your latest episode on the day they’re supposed to drop – you’ll want to get them hooked right out of the gate. So plan to record at least 2-3 episodes and publish them as your podcast launch. Bing-Bang-Boom.

Listen.

This is going to be the best part of creating a podcast but the one part you constantly forget to do. If you don’t listen to what you’ve published, you will miss the value of what you just created, as well as the lessons you can learn for what you will create in the future.

Enjoy the fruits of your family’s labor. Laugh at the goofs. Brainstorm new ideas. Relish the moments and the memories you just created together which will live on thanks to the magic of media.

Unpause It.

Now that I’ve told you all about the why and how of our family’s podcast, maybe you’ll want to listen to some of our journey. Our podcast is called UnpauseIt, which is what we always call out when we’re ready to start playing the movie or video game we’re currently enjoying once the bathroom or snack breaks are over.

Our labor of love. Lots of labor. More love.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s ours and, because of who’s in it, I love it with all of my heart.

How to Use Facebook’s Messenger Kids

Do you talk to kids? Whether you’re a parent of a kid, or you just know kids in your life and want to stay connected, there’s a relatively new way to use our dear friend technology to chat with them.

Commence with the wringing of parental hands.

Click here to jump down to a resource link for how parents can protect kids online.

Big Bang theory breathing into bag
Being a parent is hard.

A Parental Preamble (or just skip to the how-to part)

As a mom, and especially one who uses technology on an almost minute-by-minute basis for work and play, I want my kids to appreciate its power as well as its pitfalls. My kids don’t have their own smartphones yet, but they do have their own laptops. They have their own email addresses, which I monitor closely. We allow them to watch YouTube videos, but we often will play them during common family times so we can ensure the content isn’t too mature for their increasingly aware minds.

My intent as a parent is to balance my support of the kids’ use of technology with a healthy dose of trembling awe. So it was with no small amount of hesitation that I finally ushered us into the realm of Messenger Kids by Facebook.

This post will be rife with my own tones of paranoia and hesitation, which I intentionally left in. The gravity of handing over a new part of the internet to our kids is not (in my humble yet strong opinion) meant to be taken lightly.

OK, here we go.

Go to Messenger Kids to create the account(s).

Facebook has (maybe too) conveniently put Messenger Kids in the Explore section on the left sidebar. You can also go to the Messenger Kids dashboard to get started: www.facebook.com/messenger_kids/dashboard/.

Once there, you’ll be asked to create an account for a child by entering their first and last name. Facebook, likely realizing this is a big step for parents who rightly realize the power of their data access and reach is causing anxiety, tells you up front that this action will not create a Facebook profile for the child.

Next is a screen which reassures you of the control you, as the account creator*, will have over the child’s contacts and content. It also tells you what information Facebook will store from use of this app.

*Notice I didn’t use the word “parent” here. There is no part along this process where the account creator is asked to verify if they are a parent, caregiver, or guardian of the child being added to Messenger Kids. There is only a message at the bottom of the image provided where Facebook indicates this should be a parent or guardian completing this process.

The final screen is a prompt for you to download the Messenger Kids app onto a mobile device. The kid being added must use Messenger Kids from a mobile device, which includes a Kindle reader.

Since my kids don’t have smartphones yet, the Kindle reader is their sole option to use Messenger Kids.

Your final step is to add approved contacts to your child’s Messenger Kids account. You will be able to add Family Members, Other Kids, Your Friends, and you can also invite others to use Messenger to connect with your kid(s). Once you add a contact, that person will receive a Facebook message that your kid is now available for chat.

Getting the Kids Started

Now that the kid’s account has been set up by a parent or guardian (hopefully), the app must be set up on the child’s device(s).

You can download the Messenger Kids app for iOS (Apple), Android, or Kindle (Amazon).

Once the app is installed on the mobile device or reader, you (the account creator) have one final step: you must authorize the use of the app by logging in using your Facebook username and password. This lets Facebook know the child hasn’t tried to set up an account without your permission.

Now you’re ready to hand the device to your kid! They’ll be prompted to take a photo of themselves for their profile image. (My child opted for one of her stuffed animals, which in light of the concerns I wallow in was just fine with me.)

Their home screen is a dashboard of contact tiles, each showing if the person is online and available for messages or even video chats. There are also prompts along the top for taking a picture or starting a group chat.

How Do You Message Kids Who Are On Messenger Kids?

(This was the part I couldn’t figure out until we got the kids full set up on their devices, so make sure you finish those steps first.)

If you’re an adult who has either created or been added to the child’s Messenger Kids account as an approved contact, you will be able to use standalone Messenger (the app or the web version) or Facebook chat to message the kid. You will only be able to do this if the account creator has added you as an approved contact; you will not be able to search for the child’s account to start messaging them. (Whew.)

Your chat with anyone using Messenger Kids appears alongside all of your other Messenger chats, so the interaction is fairly seamless.

You will not need to download the Messenger Kids app to chat with the child who has been set up on the service. That app is solely for the child to use to chat with their approved contacts on Messenger.

How to Manage Messenger Kids for Your Kids

If you created accounts for your children, you will always be able to go to the Dashboard to manage their contacts or delete their account if necessary.

Additionally, Messenger Kids will alert you via Messenger every time someone sends a message to your child’s account. This works the same as any other Messenger chat where you can manage your notifications. As a parent who sees each email my children receive, I like this level of oversight.

Other Messenger Kids Features

  • GIFs and frames for photos
  • Ability for your child or the account creator to report a chat
  • Ability for your child to block anyone they don’t want to chat with

More about the app, its capabilities, and any data information around it can be found on the Messenger Kids website: https://messengerkids.com


Also check out The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet


Will you set up your child on Messenger Kids… or have you already? Let me know what you think about it!