This week’s Smarty Mom is a GOODIE! Meet Nikki Warren – teacher, mom, wife, sister, and friend extraordinaire. I’ve known her for years – we went to the same high school but were a few grades apart. But, (and this is one of the best parts of living in the same city for your entire life) I have just recently gotten to know her better over the last several years as an adult. Don’t you love that? When you are able to form adult friendships with childhood acquaintances that you never imagined you would? That’s what Nikki and I have been able to do.
First our boys became friends, and then she became my son’s third grade teacher (he is SO LUCKY!). Nikki is so clearly a natural-born teacher. I saw it the second I walked into her classroom during Open House Night. She makes learning so fun that I kinda wanted to repeat third grade just to get a chance to be in her class. Her creativity is off the charts – the amount of time and dedication she puts into her job is inspiring – ESPECIALLY when you learn she has three kids who are in the “busy” stage. You know, the stage where you have a zillion games, a million practices, and a thousand homework assignments? Yep, that’s where her family stands right now. And I bet they’d all say they wouldn’t be standing without her.
This year has been an exceptionally tough year for Nikki and her family. Her only brother, Gregg, passed away tragically and suddenly last fall. My heart was completely broken for her entire family. Nikki has shown such strength and grace through the unimaginable, and I thank her for opening up and raising awareness today.
She’s funny, smart, compassionate, witty, and just plain fun to be around – even when she’s teaching multiplication (or so says my son). Smarties, meet Nikki!!
Smarty Mom: Nikki Warren
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Graham, 17 years
Children: Kate 14, Jack 12, Drew 9
Years in Charlotte: 32 years
Occupation: 3rd grade teacher
Alma Mater: Charlotte Catholic High School, Appalachian State University (undergrad) UNCC (graduate school)
Your “baby” brother, Gregg, passed away last year. Tell us about Gregg and the impact his death has had on your family. Gregg was an amazing human being. He was extremely bright and very handsome. Gregg was a gifted athlete, a genuine person and he had the best laugh that came from deep in his belly. He was loved beyond measure and continues to be. Gregg suffered from depression for many years. He tried extremely hard to beat this terrible disease but sadly, on September 17th, 2014, he committed suicide.
I have learned so many things from his struggle with depression and his death. One being, our family will never be the same. There will always be a missing piece. Taking a picture with just my sister feels weird; knowing Gregg will never be in a picture with us again breaks my heart. All of our lives have changed, and we are learning how to live our new normal without Gregg physically being here.
Secondly, I have learned that depression is a disease that should be treated similarly to cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases, but unfortunately it isn’t. There is a stigma to depression and suicide. More attention, education and funding needs to be brought to this debilitating disease. I am astounded by the number of people who suffer from depression or have a family member that committed suicide, and it is all kept a secret. My brother died only 7 months ago, and in the near future I plan on participating in fundraising to help various suicide prevention groups like Mind Matters, The Out of Darkness Walks, and a local support group called H.U.G.S..
One thing many people might not know about your family is that two of your three children and husband are hearing impaired and wear hearing aids. How/when were they diagnosed? My husband was diagnosed when he was 3 years old. At the time of his diagnosis, his parents and doctor felt it was due to a high fever. Graham is adopted and he didn’t have any medical history from his biological parents. So fast forward 25 years and our daughter, Kate, was born and she passes her newborn screening. We felt that she was in the clear of any hearing loss. Well, by the time she was 4 years old, her speech started to get distorted. Long story short, after multiple appointments with the pediatrician, speech and language pathologists and audiologists, Kate was diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss. At that time, Jack was 22 months old and he too was identified as hearing impaired. I was also pregnant with Drew, worried sick that I may have another child who suffers from hearing loss. Drew was born and he CAN hear. At 9 years old, he has not lost any of his hearing. After a lot of genetic testing, we learned that Graham carries a dominant gene for hearing loss and our children had a 50-50 chance of being hearing impaired. So Graham, Kate and Jack all have a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and wear hearing aids in both ears.
What are some resources parents who find out their child is hearing impaired can use? What was most helpful to you when your kids were first diagnosed? North Carolina provides an excellent resource for all parents of hearing impaired children called BEGINNINGS for Parents of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This wonderful resource helps families make informed decisions and empowers them to advocate for their child’s needs. There is also a great support group for parents called HITCH-UP. (Hearing Impaired Toddlers and Children Have Unlimited Potential) This group provided a lot of comfort and education when Kate and Jack were small. I now use all the valuable information these organizations have taught me to advocate for my children.
How are they doing today? Does their hearing impairment affect their daily lives? Kate and Jack are doing beautifully. They excel in sports and school. Their hearing loss does not slow them down nor does the fact that they wear hearing aids. It is just a part of who they are. They do struggle in different settings where the background noise is really loud, like the school cafeteria, crowded restaurants, some sporting events, etc.
You’ve joked before that you’re not big on change since you’re now living in the same neighborhood you grew up in. What is the best part of raising your children in your hometown? Charlotte is a FANTASTIC city and I honestly couldn’t image raising a family anywhere else. I would say the best part is having such strong roots and amazing connections with people from so many different places. At any time of the day, I could run into into someone from grade school, high school, college or even a student I taught years ago. One year, three of the students in my class were children of my classmates from my graduating class at Charlotte Catholic High School. How cool is that ?!?
Have you had any surreal moments watching your kids do something you did at their age in the exact same spot? My daughter played basketball for her middle school and her team played in the Shamrock tournament at Saint Patrick’s. It was pretty surreal to think 29 years ago, I was playing basketball in the same tournament in the same gym! She even plays the same position as me!
Not that I am biased or anything, but you are a phenomenal teacher – my son loves school because of you. What keeps the teaching magic alive for you? Doing what I love day in and day out is a true gift. I always look forward to going to work (I wish it started later, though ;)). I love seeing the light bulb go off in the kids’ eyes when they learn something new. I love seeing their confidence grow when they use their God given talents to the best of their ability. It is so rewarding to know you are making a difference in someone’s life.
Making learning fun is an essential for me. If I didn’t come up with fun and creative activities, not only would the kids be bored, but so would I! There are so many wonderful tools and resources out there for teachers; you just need to take the time to find them!
Have you found any educational apps or websites that are worth sharing? My favorite teacher website is Brain Pop Jr. I love these little 3 minute educational videos to introduce or wrap up a lesson. As for education apps, a few of my favorites are: Pizza 1 (Fractions), Math Regrouping, Math Fact Master and Kid’s Vocabulary.
You’re a crazy busy working mom of three crazy busy kids – what is your secret to keeping it all together (or is there actually a secret?)?
It takes a village! I am blessed that my parents live a half a mile away. My mom has always been “Grandma on Call”. My mom took care of my kids when they were little while I worked and now that my dad has retired he helps as well. They are always willing to take care of a sick kid, drive them to a practice or run them to an appointment. I couldn’t do it all without them! (My husband does a lot, too! ;))
Now for a few fun questions just to get to know you a little better…
Paper or electronic calendar? Paper!!
Starbucks order? Skinny Caramel Latte NO foam
Best place to get a bagel in Charlotte? Poppy’s…their Cinnamon Raisin Walnut cream cheese is amazing!
Family’s favorite dinner? It isn’t low fat…my husband makes his famous “burned butter” noodles, steak and broccoli. It is a hit with the whole family!
Coke or Pepsi? Diet A&W Rootbeer?
Beach or Mountains? Beach
Last book you read (for yourself!)? Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Favorite CSP blog/post? “The middle is exactly where I want to be” by Cheryl Perry. Hands down this is absolutely my favorite and I feel the exact same way!
Fave date night spot? Despite the massive crowd, my husband and I love to sneak in and grab a spot at the bar at Cowfish. We don’t have 2 hours to wait for a table!
Biggest pet peeve? Lack of attention to detail. One way this bugs me is when people who have known you for years or have seen you name in print over and over and still spell it wrong! It is N-I-K-K-I!!! My brother’s name is G-R-E-G-G (2 GG’s!) Or when people call Kate, “Katie”….her name is Kate! 😉
Definition of a perfect day? A perfect “me” day or a perfect “normal” day? A perfect day for me would be Starbucks, a massage and mani/pedi, but when does that ever happen? So a perfect “normal” day would be when we only have one sports practice at night and I could possibly cook dinner and get to bed at a normal time!
Finish this sentence: All I want for Mother’s Day is…for this year and the years to come – for my kids to stay happy and healthy!