Smarties, we’ve got a treat for you. Just in time for the holiday break, we’re featuring Melissa Baker: mom, wife, art teacher extraordinaire, chocolate lover and all around an amazing woman. Not to mention she knows how to pick ‘em – she’s married to the man behind the scenes of Charlotte Smarty Pants, but you’ll have to read below to learn more.
Let’s get to know Melissa!
Melissa’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Bill Baker
Mom of: Sofia (3) and Jaxon (19 months)
Years in Charlotte: 15
Hails from: Monticello, New York
Occupation: Elementary Art Teacher
Share the difference between pregnancy number one and two.
We did not find out the gender of the baby with either pregnancy, however, based on how I felt I was fairly certain I knew what I was having both times. When I was pregnant with Sofia, I felt pretty good, but I was very hormonal. Each day was like riding an emotional roller coaster that I couldn’t get off of! When I was pregnant with Jaxon, I felt more emotionally balanced but I had “morning sickness” from about 4PM until I went to sleep for the first 20 weeks. I also carried very low with Jaxon. Though each pregnancy had its challenges, overall I enjoyed being pregnant and the excitement of knowing that I would soon meet my precious babies.
How did you prepare for life with more than one child?
Our nursery was gender neutral, so we moved Sofia into her “big girl room” and got her into the routine of sleeping in a “big girl bed”. Quite honestly, I am not sure that I prepared more than that. Having a second child is a real game changer. In the beginning, my challenge was dealing with sleep deprivation while chasing a toddler. Now my challenge is deciding which child to chase when they take off in different directions. Just when you think you have it figured out, it all changes. I guess that is the fun of it all.
Talk about your experience going back to work.
I was very fortunate to have a 10-month maternity leave with Jaxon. When I went back to work, it was really hard for me. I had a difficult time balancing the demands of teaching with my desire to be with my own children. I knew something had to change. At the end of last school year, I found a part-time teaching position. It has made a world of difference for my family (and my sanity). I feel like I have quality time with my family and the opportunity to pursue my passion for teaching art.
As an art teacher, what are some of your favorite projects to do with your kids?
I love painting with my students and with my own children. There is something magical that happens when kids pick up a brush and put color on a piece of paper. I am always in awe of how focused children become when they paint. I love to watch how they fill the paper, and mix colors or not mix them. It is exciting to see their work evolve and change over time. On days when I am not up for a big mess, a box of watercolor paint is a good compromise.
Any pointers on a good New Year’s craft to do with our youngsters?
Here are a few great crafts to do with your kids, young and old!
1. New Year’s Hat’s
Start with a party hat and add glitter glue, sequins and gems!
Older kids can embellish their hats using 3-D paper techniques like fringing paper, accordion folds, and curling strips of paper.
2. Firework Paintings
Squeeze some big drops of glitter glue on to a piece of paper and use a q-tip to drag out lines from the center of the glue. Add sequins for some extra sparkle.
For older children they can create scratch art firework paintings. To make scratch art paper, first color your paper with bright colored crayons pressing down very hard. Next add a drop of dish detergent to some black tempera paint and paint over the crayon. Finally take a toothpick to scratch lines into the black paint to reveal a colorful firework design.
3. New Year’s Secret Message Banner
Using white crayon write each letter/number of the words “Happy New Year 2014” on a separate piece of paper. Have children paint over the letters using watercolor paint to reveal the message. You could have children paint each letter as a countdown to your New Year’s celebration and guess the message as they paint each letter/number. Attach each letter/number to a string or ribbon and hang your New Year’s banner.
Begin by filling an empty water bottle with rice or pasta about half way. Decorate the outside of the bottle with a tissue paper painting. Cut or tear tissue paper into small pieces ad use watered down glue to attach them to the bottle. Overlap tissue paper slightly as you apply each piece. This will create a stained glass effect.
You’re married to a Smarty Dad, how are you going to brag to him that you’re now a featured Smarty Mom?
Great question! Not only is Bill a Smarty Dad, but he’s my in-house IT guy who just helped me recover my answers to this interview. (I guess I shouldn’t brag too much in case I may need his help again). In all seriousness, Bill and I really help keep each other in balance. He is the practical one and I am the dreamer. He keeps me grounded and I encourage him to take risks. He will be sure our children have seen all the Star Wars movies and know how to write code and I am the one who takes them on the tour of Charlotte playgrounds and library story hours. We are lucky to have one another and our children will benefit from well rounded experiences.
What’s your ideal date night?
My ideal date night would be a movie, dinner, dessert. A comedy, Good Food on Montford and the Melting Pot. More often than not, our date nights are at home, catching up on and HBO series (we are really into The Newsroom right now) and eating Ben and Jerry’s (coffee heath bar crunch).
Something most people don’t know about you?
When I was a kid, I had a horse named Garfield.
Minivan or SUV?
We are an SUV family. While I secretly envy my friends who have the spaciousness of a minivan and can walk back and hand their children a snack trap of gold fish, a SUV is just right for us.
Favorite Smarty phone app?
I like Red Stamp. They have adorable cards that you can personalize with your own photos and email, text, or print and mail. They are perfect way to say thank you with a photo of your little ones enjoying their gifts. I also really like Ziplist. It allows you to create multiple checklists, search and save recipes, and automatically add the ingredients from the recipes to your grocery list.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I imagine I will be driving Sofia and Jaxon to activities, and continuing to teach elementary art. By then, I’m sure I’ll be back to work full time to help save up for those college tuitions. Hopefully, by then we’ll manage to get a few more date nights on our calendar.
My New Year’s Resolution…
Sadly, my husband lost one of his closest friends very unexpectedly this year. It was a difficult reminder of how fragile life is. My resolution is going to be to pick up the phone and reconnect with my friends and family who are near and dear to my heart. I still have many friends from where I grew up that I don’t talk to simply because they are far away. Of course I feel like I am in touch through Facebook but that certainly doesn’t replace an actual conversation between two old friends.
I could not live without…
my wonderful family, especially the support of my husband, mom and dad and my girlfriends who are there for me no matter what . . . and chocolate, of course.