I think everyone on the Smarty team would agree that the very BEST part of our job is writing this Smarty Mom/Dad post every week. I’ve got a long list of people in my head that I want to highlight because there are just so many amazing parents in our city, and today’s Smarty Mom has been on that list for a looooong time. I am so happy it’s finally her time to shine!
Meet Erin Chalfant. She’s a native Charlottean, a 3rd grade teacher at a CMS school, an incredible mother and wife, and such a genuine friend. We met briefly ALMOST ten years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding (uncanny right? I even checked my facts with our mutual friend – next week is her 10th anny! Happy Anniversary Jenn and Brad! :-)). She and I were both pregnant and ready to pop, and it just so happens Erin and I gave birth on the exact same day to our first sons. We then ended up at the same preschool with boys who became besties during their formative preschool years. LOVE small town Charlotte.
She’s now a part of my book club (aka the Best Book Club in Charlotte!), so I am lucky enough to hang out with her sans kids every single month and for an entire weekend during our annual beach trip. I think anyone who’s involved in a book club knows that you get to know each other really well – and the more I get to know Erin, the more I love her. She’s smart as a whip, SO well spoken, uber creative, kind, funny and witty. The love she has for her children, husband, friends, and family shines through in every move she makes. She’s the real deal, and I am so fortunate to call her my friend!
And, here’s just a little hint for all of you Selwyn Elementary peeps with rising third graders: you better be praying now y’all get Mrs. Chalfant. It’ll be your Best. Year. Ever.
Smarties, meet Erin!
Smarty Mom Erin Chalfant
Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: Bill, my college sweetheart (he will want me to add that he went to NC State and not UNC! ) for 12 years
Children: Paxson (9 years) and Gracie Myers (7 years)
Years in Charlotte: I’m a native Charlottean….so I guess for 39 years (gulp)!
Occupation: Wife, Mother, and a Third Grade Teacher at Selwyn Elementary (CMS)
Alma Mater: UNC-Chapel Hill (undergrad) and Queens University (Graduate School)
‘Hood: Beverly Woods
You are a well-loved third grade teacher – what’s the best part of your job?
I think most teachers would agree that one of the greatest rewards of being a classroom teacher is witnessing students as they have an “A-Ha” moment as they explore something new or master a concept that has been challenging for them. It also totally makes my day when I get hugs or even “thank yous” during the day after I’ve planned a fun activity or hands-on project. One of the biggest compliments a student can give me is to accidentally call me “mom”…. I think this is a sign that we’ve established a great relationship during the year. Another treat is certainly when I receive invitations to high school and college (gulp) graduations from my former students. I’m so happy to know that I played some small role in getting them to where they are today.
In addition to the perks above, the absolute best part of my job is for me to have the opportunity to speak life and encouragement into each one of my students on a daily basis. It is a true joy to be able to encourage a student who might be having a rough day or to give a child a smile and a hug when they need one. I only have these students for 180 days out of their lives, and at some point when they look back on their third grade teacher, while I want them to recall something I’ve taught them academically, I’d much rather them remember me for being a teacher who truly cared about them. From the first day of school, I like to establish a classroom that embodies mutual respect between teacher and student as well as student and student. As a teacher, one of my personal goals is to leave a legacy of love, nurturing, and compassion in the hearts and minds of each child who walks into my classroom. If that goal is met, then I will feel like my time as a classroom teacher has been well spent.
The most challenging?
There has been such a shift in the dynamics of being a classroom teacher specifically in the past few years. One of the buzzwords in education right now is “DATA”, and while collecting data and administering standardized tests can be useful, I think there could be more of a balance in the amount of standardized testing that is taking place in our schools. Many of these required tests causes a lot of unnecessary pressure on students, parents and even teachers. At the early elementary level, the bar for student expectations has been risen to an all-time high. I often hear parents who are completely frazzled because their kindergartener isn’t reading books at a certain level or writing with correct spelling/punctuation. While I firmly believe in setting and maintaining high expectations for student learning, there has got to be some type of better system that also takes into account appropriate stages of child development. I’ll step down from my soapbox now!
Your kids also attend the school where you teach. Why is this the best thing ever?
Yes, it is truly a gift to teach in my children’s school. Although early mornings can be hectic, I love being able to make the short drive into school together. We get a chance to talk about our days and even say a quick prayer with each other in the car ride before we get to school. This helps to set the tone for the day. I also love that I can walk by either child’s classroom and watch them as they are learning and interacting with their teachers and friends. It’s a huge perk to be able to pop into the cafeteria to see them during lunch or to even get a hug and kiss in the hallways if we happen to see each other. Thankfully I work in a very supportive school environment alongside of amazing teammates. Those of us who have children in the school try to help one another out to make sure we are able to be present if there is a special event in one of our kiddo’s classrooms. This year, my son was a third grade student, so I was able to teach several of his friends who he has known since preschool and kindergarten.
This past school year I had the unique experience of having my classroom in between both of my children’s classrooms. My kids called it a “mama sandwich” since I spent the school year in between their classes. It was an experience that will likely never happen again, so it was bittersweet for this school year to end.
Has it ever been the worse thing ever? 😉
Having two kids, there were two “worst things ever”. When Bill and I walked both Paxson and Gracie Myers into their kindergarten classes on their first days of school. I was completely unprepared for how emotional it would be with each kid, and I had an “ugly cry”. Bill got teary-eyed too and we were both embarrassed messes! The worst part for me was that instead of getting to walk out into the parking lot to gain my composure, I had to go into my own classroom red-eyed and sniffly and had to start the day with my own 24 students who probably thought their teacher was a nutcase! I still get a big lump in my throat when I leave Paxson and Gracie Myers in their classrooms on the first day of school. I think it’s partly because each year that passes is a reminder of how quickly they are growing-up and how independent they are becoming.
Have you found any great educational apps or resources that other Smarties with elementary school kids should know about?
I am a huge fan of technology, and I feel that classrooms and student learning can truly benefit from all sorts of technology and relevant educational apps. However, my advice to any parent would be to surround your children with all sorts of literature, or in teacher talk “create a print-rich environment”…books, books on CD’s,magazines, and even books and/or audiobooks on their devices. These are great for both emerging and reluctant readers. It is never to early to instill a love of reading in your child. Even toddlers can interact with books simply by learning how to hold a book while turning pages. As your child learns to read they may “read” the story just by looking at the details in the illustrations. In addition to books, elementary-aged children can benefit from reading comic strips, recipes, and age appropriate magazines. I know it can sometimes be a struggle to identify a genre, series or type of book your child will enjoy. In this case, librarians at a public library and employees at local bookstores can be valuable resources. Books on tape/cd can allow your child to listen to a book that may be above his (or her) current reading level, but by listening to it, your child will increase his vocabulary and will be able to make connections to what he is listening to. Tumblebooks is an online service that offer narrated picture books and chapter books.
If you are unsure of the reading level of a book your child wants to read independently, one helpful site for locating a book level is: www.scholastic.com/bookwizard/
You’re known for your uncanny ability to sniff out a deal. What are some of your favorite resources for finding the best deals in town (besides our very own Smarty Steals of course!)?
Yes, I love a good deal! I become genuinely excited when I find a great deal, and in my excitement, I often tell my friends and family members about it, too.
Most of my friends are not coupon clippers, and truthfully I’ve kind of fallen off of that bandwagon some, so I count on ways to learn about “deals” in more of a 21st century way. Some of these ways include the following:
– “Like” the FB pages for Southern Savers or Hip2Save. The women who operate these sites do an amazing amount of legwork in identifying sales from grocery store and pharmacy chains to online retailers. I visit these pages often to learn about great deals.
– One of the easiest ways to hear about any local deals is to “like” the vendor’s FB page, visit their webpage or to sign-up for text messages from some of your favorite stores. Some of my favorite text alerts come from local restaurants, local entertainment, even Earth Fare, Target, and CVS.
– There are other easy ways to save too. I am a huge fan of CVS and their big red coupon center. Each time you shop, stop by the coupon center, scan your CVS card and lots of coupons are printed off immediately. If you are a coupon clipper CVS, will allow you to use both a manufactures coupon in addition to the in-store coupons you print out….Double the savings! Many times one of the coupons will be a free item that can purchased that day. A friend of mine caught me in the parking lot of CVS after I scored a free package of toilet paper just by using the coupon from the coupon center. She took my picture and sent it to some of our other friends who think I’m a bit crazy about my thrifty ways! CVS also offers “Extra Care Bucks” which is basically free money after a purchase to spend towards your next store visit. That’s a totally different conversation for another day!
– Another favorite way to save money is by enrolling in a “frequent buyer” club or by using a frequent shopper card. I actually carry a separate wallet in my purse that houses my frequent shopper cards, and I try to remember to use them each time I shop or spend money at a specific location. I’ve scored free movie tickets, free food and beverages, gift cards towards salon visits (the Aveda Pure Privilege Program) and percentages off a purchase just by showing my loyal shopping card. If you are a teacher or student, many retailers offer additional discounts when you show your teacher id (JCrew, Health/Fitness Studios, Michaels…) You can also save a percentage at some stores or earn money towards future purchases when using a store specific DEBIT card (Target and Nordstrom).
– Don’t be afraid to politely ask if the store you are shopping in price matches. Now I don’t mean ask about every single item you are purchasing, but if there is a specific item you are buying, it never hurts to ask. My son earns money each week from a little job he started last summer in our neighborhood. Recently we were at Target and he wanted to use some of his earnings to buy his bazillionth lego kit. I want him to be a “well-informed savvy” shopper, so I asked him to ask the cashier if they price match other stores. He was thrilled when they honored a competitors price that we found online while waiting in the check-out line which resulted in him saving a few extra dollars.
Tell us the very best deal you’ve EVER gotten and how you got it.
I’ve scored lots of amazing deals, but the one that sticks out the most was one from this past weekend. So Bill and I had Tizzerts cake our wedding cake, and it was delicious. At the last minute on the evening of our 12th anniversary, I thought I’d surprise Bill by going to the HT at Morrocroft to buy a small Tizzerts cake (they sell them there). While looking for a cake, the baker pointed me in the direction of a freezer. There was one vanilla cake left, but the icing rosettes were all smeared. This is when my “thrifty ways” kicked in. I explained to the baker that I would like to purchase the cake, but was wondering if they could take a few bucks off because of the smeared icing. She took the lid off of the cake and she said, ‘Oh, actually this cake is cracked and they may give you a discount at customer service.” I walked the cake up to CS and the employee was willing to only charge me half-price for the cake, although she seemed disappointed that I was going to surprise my husband with a cracked-up smeared-up cake. I told her it was ok, and that I’d be happy to pay half-price. She then called the store manager over, and she explained that whole anniversary cake story to the manager. That’s when the store manager said, “I can actually do better than half-price….Happy Anniversary from Harris Teeter, the cake is on us!”. It was such a kind gesture on behalf of HT! I’m not sure if Bill was more excited about me remembering a Tizzerts cake or that the cake itself was free!
You’re also a big fan of Moms in Charge on Facebook. What’s the best deal you’ve scored there?
I love Moms in Charge, and I am consistently amazed by the beautiful treasures we women are offering to one another. This venue of B/S/T (buy, sell, trade) has such a great-natured community feel that has connected many women to the items that they are looking for.
There are so many awesome deals out there, but my favorite one might be when I scored the retired and highly-sought after American Girl Doll Kanani complete in her “meet” outfit and another outfit or two. I think I paid $40 or so for her! Somehow my daughter learned about this doll (probably from some random American Girl Doll YouTube video) and told me that she wanted her. I’ve actually managed to hide the doll and am planning to surprise her with it on her birthday in August!
Any tips for MIC newbies?
– If you see an item that you are interested in, go ahead and type “Interested” or “Next”. This is true even if there are other MIC members who have already replied showing interest in the item. It is amazing the number of times that I might be pretty far down the line for a product when for whatever reason I end-up getting the opportunity to purchase it. Maybe the MICer’s ahead of me had a change of heart or they found the item elsewhere…I’m not sure. I was once 3rd or 4th in line for a bike for my daughter. I never imagined that it would make down the line to me. A couple of weeks after showing my initial interest in the bike, I received a message that it was my turn to purchase the bike. I was so excited!
– Don’t get so caught-up in the excitement of finding a great deal that you end up overlooking a flaw on that awesome piece or the amazing piece of furniture you just bid “next” on may not even be the correct measurements for your space. Each time you plan to meet-up to look at the item, just remember to look over each piece and make sure it’s really what you are looking for before committing to it.
– As a seller, a tip I’d recommend would be to represent the condition of the the item you are selling accurately. If it is in “ECU” (excellent used condition) then list it as such, but sometimes our items are more along the lines of “VGUC” (very good used condition) or just plain ol’ “GUC” (good used condition). Buyers appreciate knowing the condition of an item before they make arrangements to purchase it.
– Go ahead and buy a box of envelopes, grab a sharpie and stick these supplies into your car. This way, if you’re picking an item up, you can seal the money in an envelope instead of sticking a wad of $1.00 bills under a doormat!
Now for some fun questions…
Last book read and did you love it or loathe it? I’m almost finished reading Fall of Giants written by Ken Follett for the book club that I’m a part of. I loathe that this book has over 900 pages that require my attention. However, I love it because one of my favorite genres is historical fiction, and the setting of this book is during WWI, which is a war that I am not as familiar with. This book has brought to light such horrific struggles that men, women and families faced during this brutal war. It makes me question my own human strength and resilience because many of the people of this time had such perseverance and resourcefulness that I really admire.
Best kid birthday party you’ve ever hosted? I am one of four children and growing up my parents always went above and beyond on our birthdays. As a mom, I’ve wanted to create these same memories for our children. Even though both of our children have August birthdays and it is as hot as blazes, I enjoy hosting the birthday parties at home…if at all possible.
This is a toss-up…. I had to ask Bill to help me answer this one. Our children have birthdays two days apart, so there were several years we hosted joint birthdays. One of our favorites was a “Pirate and Mermaid” party complete with a scavenger hunt and a plank to walk down. When Paxson turned 3, we had a “Construction Site” party which was great fun until we cranked-up the Bobcat and scared most of the kids to death! Gracie Myers was infatuated with weddings a couple of years ago, so for her 6th Birthday she had a “Bridal Birthday” party. We set-up a tent in our front yard and hosted a small wedding reception for the little girls who also came dressed a brides!
Family’s favorite homecooked meal? Bill likes my Chicken and Rice soup, Paxson votes for my “Chicken on a Bone”….which is just a rotisserie chicken. During the school year, I am a huge fan of my crock-pot for soups and chicken dishes.
Favorite memory of your childhood in Charlotte? Too many to list! I’ll use my love of the Christmas season to narrow this one down. I loved going to see Santa Claus (Roy Tittle) at the Woolworths at Park Road shopping center. My parents have pictures of my three brothers and me on his lap even into our early adult years! I grew-up in the Madison Park area on a street with many families that became more like extended family members to me. We actually nicknamed this group of families “The Village” because we typically traveled in herds. In the late 1970’s all of our families began a Christmas tradition of having an ornament exchange followed by Christmas caroling to the other neighbors on our street who were mostly elderly folks who put up with our shenanigans the other 364 days a year! Each year, the 17 of us children would exchange names and would give an ornament to another neighbor kid. Although each family has moved away from the street we grew-up on we still make it a priority to get together each year before Christmas for our annual Village Christmas Party. Now our children (the third generation with 34 children) exchange ornaments with each other and the adults swap “family” ornaments. Each year as I decorate our own Christmas tree, it is like a walk down memory lane as I hang the ornaments from my “village neighbors” that represent different hobbies, activities and sports I participated in as a child.
Best part of raising your children in your hometown? I am so thankful to be able to live in Charlotte, it is such a beautiful city, and it’s been thrilling to see the changes that have taken place in my lifetime. It’s fun to show both my husband and my kids some of my former schools and favorite hangouts as a child.
My most favorite part of being in Charlotte is that most of my extended family still live in the area. Both of my parents were raised in Charlotte, and they met as high school sweethearts at South Mecklenburg High School. I grew-up two doors down from my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandmother’s house is exactly one mile from the home we live in now, my parents are only about 20 minutes away and my in-laws are in Concord, NC. Being this close to extended family is a gift that I am happy to share with our children. It is pretty common for us to have 3 or even 4 generations of family together on a weekly basis. There have been times when I’ll run into a cousin at the grocery store, a great aunt or uncle at South Park Mall, one of my siblings at a local restaurant, or even a great uncle who goes out on “walks” in his scooter near our swim club! My children are so blessed to have faithful grandparents (Shout out to Meme, Pops, Bop and Pop Pop) who attend as many of their extra-curricular events as possible and this is something I hope Paxson and Gracie Myers both realize is a gift. I never want my children to take having this amount of extended family so close to home for granted, and my hope is that they will have many cherished memories of each of their relatives.
Favorite store? Anthropologie, Nordstrom and I am a huge fan of Matilda Jane Clothing!
Store you wouldn’t be caught dead in? I usually will go shopping anywhere, but you probably wouldn’t find me in one of those racy lingerie stores!
Mountains or beach? Hands down the beach! My pipedream is to one day have some sort of place to call my own on the NC coast.
Starbucks order? I’m actually more of a half-sweet/half-unsweet tea from McAlister’s Deli kind of girl. My husband and kids think it is funny that the employees at McAlister’s know me by name and start making my tea before I even order it….I might have a slight problem.
Thing you’re most looking forward to this fall? Cooler weather….this summer has been brutally hot!
Something you’d love to learn more about? I love to take pictures, but I really don’t know my way around my camera. I’d like to learn how to use the settings on my camera instead of just keeping the camera set to “auto”.
One thing you’d like to be better at? Decluttering and becoming more organized. I have a hard time letting go of my children’s artwork and school projects…it drives my husband crazy! I have over 13,500 emails in my inbox…many random I’m sure. I guess I don’t like to get rid of anything – even my Inbox is a hot mess. Maybe I’m too attached to memories. I try, I really do, but at the end of the day, I am crying “mercy”….I am losing this battle!
Three things you can’t live without (besides the obvi family and friends :-))?
1. My camera….I am always taking pictures, drives everyone crazy, but my plan is to one day sit on the deck outside at my place at the beach surrounded by the memories of life from the photos I have snapped over the years….even if they are all taken with the automatic setting!
2. My iPhone….does anyone really know anyone else’s telephone number anymore? I’m in trouble if I ever lose my phone!
3. My faith in God…I probably should have listed this above my camera and my iPhone! I am still a member as what we call in the South our “home church”, or the church I grew-up in . I look forward to each weekly worship service and the opportunities that my church provides throughout the week. My church has such a community type of atmosphere, and I have deep, meaningful connections with other church members. Although I have plenty of room for growth, I’d like to think that my faith in God influences the way we raise our children, determines the way I treat and speak to others, and inspires me towards serving others more.
I’m laughing because Bill said I should have included “can’t live without my iron” in my Top 3 because I iron clothes every single day. That might not make me a smarty mom, but a sucka mom! 🙂
Finish this sentence: When I think back to Summer 2015, I hope I remember…. Lots of laughter, lots of time logged at the pool, lots of playdates, fun adventures with friends and family, lots of lazy days and lots of iced-tea!