Charlotte Smarty Pants

Charlotte Smarty Pants – Daily Scoop for Savvy Charlotte Moms

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February 27, 2017

I officially have a kindergartener!

I recognize this feeling. It’s a pit in my stomach, my throat tightens up and my eyes well up with tears. I first had this feeling about halfway through my first maternity leave. It’s that moment when you realize the clock is ticking until you return to work and your little one is in the care someone else other than you. It was rough and tough, but I eased my way back into it and rocked it (if I do say so myself). My daughter thrived at daycare and I got back into the swing at work.

My second maternity leave went smoother. I still shed tears going back to work and leaving my sweet baby boy, but I knew better what to expect this time. starstudent

But now it’s back. The clock is ticking again as I realized that enrollment is open for CMS. My first baby, my sweet girl is in her last year of preschool and she will be heading off to kindergarten this fall. I am proud of her – she’s more than ready. Me on the other hand…am not.

As I completed the enrollment forms, I can barely see through the tears in my eyes. As she talks with excitement about having her own desk, I smile and nod while I secretly feel a sinking in my belly. Read More →

January 30, 2017

Smarty Review of CleanKidz

We’ve all been there. “Mom, I don’t feel good…” and then it happens, they get sick…in the car seat. I don’t know about you, but each and every time my kids have gotten sick, it’s been in the car seat. The one place that has the most nooks and crannies to hold the beloved lunch from an hour before. I despise car seats when it comes to uninstalling, disassembling, cleaning, reassembling, reinstalling. It is the worst.

Recently, I learned about CleanKidz. A local company that cleans car seats, along with other kids’ gear like strollers, pack-n-plays, high chairs, etc. I recently used them to clean an infant carrier and base and the results were amazing. My infant carrier was in the attic for more than one year. It was covered in dust and even had a mold spot. I thought about gifting it to a friend and asked if they would be able to give it the deep cleaning needed to revive it. Deep cleaning is an understatement. The carrier came back as good as new! Additionally, the staff notified me of a recall on the carrier and informed me about the expiration date (yes, car seats have expiration dates!) I was amazed with not only the final product, but the extra information and service that came with my appointment.

I had the opportunity to meet Lee Phillips, owner of CleanKidz, to get a behind-the-scenes tour of their facility and learn more about what they have to offer. Read More →

January 7, 2017

Smarty Mom: Vivian Mize

I’m excited to introduce Smarty Mom Vivian Mize. I am fortunate to work with this creative-minded mama every day. Not only does she have an amazing creative vision for marketing communications, she is a stellar mom. She is one of the most candid, funny and thoughtful people I know. Let’s get to know Vivian!


Smarty Mom: Vivian Mize

Name: Vivian Mize
Married to: William Mize
Kids: Whitson (Whit) 16, Josephine (Josie) 14, Harley 4 (a.k.a. little ball of energy)
Years in Charlotte: 1+
Originally from: moved here from Atlanta
Occupation: Creative marketing/design

You are one of those working mamas that always seems to have it together. What’s your secret?

Planning, organization, multi-tasking and – most importantly – ability to not stress.

What advice do you have for a soon-to-be-mom or new mom about returning back to work?

Don’t sweat it. You will be sad, very sad, but your baby will be okay and so will you. I have always known that I was not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom (it would drive me crazy and I love my job) so I came to peace with it rather quickly knowing that I was doing the best I could for my family. I knew my child was cared for properly because I planned it well in advance. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Being a parent is NOT about being a slave to your children; you need to take care of yourself just as much as your kids so if that means going back to work because you love what you do or because it keeps you sane, then great. Read More →

December 21, 2016

Mixed traditions

We are a mixed family. My husband both come from Indiana, both from Ball State (go Cards!); however, we both had different traditions growing up. My family celebrated Chanukah and my husband’s family celebrated Christmas. When we got married, we agreed to celebrate Christmas but I still like to infuse some of the traditions that I grew up with.

We are one of “those” families that puts away the Halloween décor on November 1 and out comes the holiday décor! The kids always help deck our halls, hang our stockings and hang the ornaments on the tree. My two-year-old son really likes to help Daddy with the exterior illumination (nod to Clark Griswold).

While the boys are outside, my four-year-old daughter and I will start baking up a storm. A couple of years ago I shared how we make marshmallow dreidels. It’s a great way to get my little one involved and contributing to the festivities! Beyond making our delish dreidels, we always make chocolate chip meringue cookies. These light and fluffy clouds are delectable and always a hit in the cookie exchange!

As we enjoy watching all the classic holiday movies, we like to also play dreidel. Start each person with the same number of tokens, coins, pieces of candy, etc. Each player gets to spin the dreidel and based on the Hebrew letter that is showing, they either win or lose pieces.

Shin: Player adds a piece to the pot in the middle!
Hey: The player gets half the pot!
Gimel: The player gets everything in the pot!
Nun: Nothing happens – you don’t win any pieces…but you don’t lose any either! Read More →

October 22, 2016

Smarty Mom: Kennedy Vaughan

I’m excited to introduce this week’s Smarty mom-to-be! I have the privilege of working with Kennedy in our wild, wild world of advertising and it’s been fun to watch as she grows her family.

Smarty Mom: Kennedy Vaughan

Married to: Dan Vaughan
Due date: November 1, 2016
Years in Charlotte: 31, minus 4 years of college in Raleigh, the 2 years I spent living in New York and 2 years I spent in Chapel Hill, NC
Originally from: Charlotte
Occupation: Project Manager

Tell us how your pregnancy has been?

I honestly can say it has not been too bad. I had the typical nauseas feeling for about 3 months but once that subsided, I felt like a normal person again. As I am getting closer to my due date the discomfort has set in, but that is to be expected as you carry around a small bowling ball all day, every day. I have been able to work out throughout my pregnancy, still attending my powerful flow yoga classes on a regular basis. I am hopeful this will help aid in my labor process making it easier (one can hope, right!?).

What has been the biggest surprise during your pregnancy?

How quickly your body and mind knows you are pregnant. Intuition woke me up early one Saturday morning and told me to take a test. Low and behold, it was positive and the rest is history.

Tell us about your gender reveal.

I never wanted to do a gender reveal because I thought they were kind of cheesy (no offense to anyone else who does them). But there is a certain kind of cake a local baker makes that has ombre layers with salted vanilla frosting that is any pregnant girls dream. I agreed to let my mom host a gender reveal party if this cake was a part of it. We invited our closest friends and family and cut into the beautiful cake to reveal all shades of pink. I am glad I ended up doing a reveal because it turned out to be a really special moment for me and my family. Read More →

September 20, 2016

Advertising to kids

I work in the wild, wild world in advertising and I love it. I get to work with great brands that allow me to help develop creative campaigns that are seen on HGTV and in magazines around the world. I have to pinch myself almost daily that I get to do this for a living. I find it really interesting how brands develop their look, everything from the colors in their logo to the fonts chosen for a tagline.

It’s coming to light now that my kids are picking up on it in their everyday worlds. Here are a few examples of ways marketing and advertising have caught my kids’ attention.

– I can only imagine what the marketing executive at Target thinks when my 4-year-old says, let’s go to the “red store”. She knows Target by the logo, which is evident when she sees the Sunday ads (yes, I still get those) and whenever we pass a Target store, whether it be our normal one or one in another state.

– McDonalds, or as my kids call it, “Old McDonalds”. My kids love those golden arches and know how to order their own kids meals.

– Wendy’s, or as my kids call it, “the girl restaurant”. This one is funny as my daughter asks me about “the girl’s daddy” – who ironically was the face of the brand for years.

– My son knows a pizza delivery car from a mile away. He sees the lighted sign atop a car and yells, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!”

– If I go to a grocery store that’s not the “green grocery store” (Publix) my kids’ world is turned upside down.

– It’s interesting when watching commercials on Sprout with the kids, the one that catches their attention isn’t the toy commercial but rather the Pampers commercial with a woman singing about hugs and moms snuggling their babies, called “Power of Hugs”. Stops them in their tracks every time.

As you can see in some of the examples of how my kids reference stores by the colors, a brand’s selection of colors is important and often relates to an emotion they are trying to convey. Here is a great image found from The Logo Company that explains the emotions that colors communicate.
5-17-emotion Read More →

September 10, 2016

Keep swimming momentum heading into the fall

As the long, hot days of summer come to an end, this not only signals the end of late nights and family outings, but it means that our pools are all being drained and our swim suits are hung up to dry until next May. Now is a perfect time to get signed up for swim lessons.

My daughter (4-year-old) and son (2-year-old) have been going to the Little Otter Swim School for more than a year. The weekly swim lessons helped boost their confidence heading into this summer and gave them the necessary training needed to head to the public pool down the street. It put them more at ease, and put my husband and I more at ease, too.

We want to make sure as the outside pools close that we stay consistent with our swim lessons. I want to build off the momentum they’ve earned and keep the motions of swimming top of mind. The last thing I want to happen is to keep them out of the pool until next May. I worry that they will regress and have to relearn fundamentals and regain their confidence at the pool.

My daughter just “graduated” from the Starfish class. This class, for 3 to 5-year-olds, helped her ace swimming underwater between two distances, pushing off the side of the pool to help her go further and nailed her back float. Her teacher was great at keeping her lessons fun through a series of challenges, games, themes and songs.
Addie_LittleOtter_8-30-16 Read More →

August 20, 2016

Smarty Mom: Marie Cain

Marie Cain 1

I am excited to introduce Smarty Mom Marie Cain. We met in the infant room at our kids’ daycare. Our first kids are just months apart and our second kids are only a year apart. It’s been nice to see Marie day in and day out at daycare and get to know her as the amazing working mama she is! This is one fun and dedicated Smarty Mom. She always keeps her cool – even after dropping off baby number two for the first time. Today she gives us a little insider info for any other working moms that are getting ready to head back into the workforce. Let’s get to know Marie!

Smarty Mom: Marie Cain

Married to: Patrick
Children: Evan (4 years) and Maxwell (9 months)
‪‪Years in Charlotte: It’s hard for me to believe but it will be 10 years this fall!
Originally from: Buffalo, NY
‪‪Occupation: Environmental Heal Plans Examiner – I review proposed plans of restaurants before they are constructed to ensure that they will be built to comply with NC food code regulations.

Tell us a little about your family.

My husband Patrick and I will be celebrating our 6 year anniversary this September. We originally met our freshman year of college in Erie, PA but didn’t actually start dating until 7 years after that. We got married in Buffalo in 2010 and Evan was born less than 2 years later. Now we have added Max to our family and life is crazy busy between the boys and work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. IMG_4098

‪‪What was it like going back to work after each baby?

Bittersweet for sure. It was hard to leave them both but at the same time it was exciting to get back out into the world and continue working.

What was the biggest challenge in going back to work?

When I went back to work after both of my kids, I was in a different position where I worked out in the field versus being in an office setting. Every day I was in different restaurants in a different part of town. Finding the time and a place to pump several times a day was a huge challenge. Read More →

April 25, 2016

Balance is Bullsh!t

Here are some facts about me:

I’m a wife. I’m a mommy to two. I work full time in a demanding industry. I’m up at 4am every day and usually go down around 10pm. In the hours between, it’s packed with daycare prep, breakfast prep, internal meetings, creative briefs, client meetings, communications planning, work fires, grocery shopping over lunch, setting doctor appointments, paying bills, fighting Charlotte traffic, towing kids to swim lessons, prepping dinner, doing baths, fighting kids’ bedtimes and working on meeting prep a little more. Go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. balance

It’s crazy. Most days the adrenaline carries me through.
Often I’m asked: How do you keep it all together?
The real answer is I don’t!

Lately, I’ve been reading about other parents that are confessing how difficult it is to keep it together. (Insert huge sigh of relief here). These parents include a Charlotte dad that is also an entrepreneur and a Charlotte mom documenting her struggle working after having her first baby. I also recently attended a webinar by Mom Complex (a business dedicated to working moms) and it started with “Balance is Bullsh!t”. What an empowering statement. Just hearing another working mom say those words aloud halted me in my frantic rush and allowed me to feel good about what I do every day.

As mothers, we all need to give each other a break. Smile more, sympathize more, share your victories and your struggles more. The biggest takeaway for me in this process is that I’m not doing it alone. I have a huge support system (thanks hubby, family and friends!) and there are millions of others in this world going through it, too.

A few tips that have also gotten me through include the following:
– Take time for me. I like to take what I call “Jen days”. These are days that I take off work, drop the kids off and usually go back home and cross things off my to-do list. It’s not glamorous by any means, but boy does it feel good!

– Put time on your calendar for your personal needs. When I was pumping at work, I would block off three thirty-minute windows on my work schedule so nobody could book meetings during that time. It was also a helpful reminder to keep pumping!

– Put the phone down. This is one I often struggle with still. My goal is to put my phone down when I walk in the door so I can focus on my family, not the obnoxious red numeric alert over my email icon on my phone (I’m one of those people that has to have it cleared)!

– Sneak in errands when you can. I try to grocery shop over lunch or run other errands so that I can enjoy my time at home with my family doing FUN stuff.

– Don’t do it all. I quickly realized I need to say NO and that it’s ok to do that. I don’t need to be on every committee or spearhead every activity. There are plenty of other talented people that can take those reigns.

Those are just a few things I do. Smarties, how do you respond to “How do you do it all?” and what are some of your tips to staying sane?

April 2, 2016

Smarty Mom: Sue Udelson

Sue Udelson
{photo credit: Annette Goodman Photography}

I’m very excited to feature Sue Udelson this week. She came as a recommendation from a friend and as I got to learn more about her, I am amazed at what she has accomplished and excited to share her story with you all. We hope to see you at this year’s Sarcoma Stomp on April 30th!

Susan’s Smarty Mom Stats:

Married to: Steve Udelson (27 years)
Mom of: Dana (age 23), Rachel (age 19)
Years in Charlotte: 18 years of bliss!
Originally from: North Brunswick, New Jersey
Occupation: Executive Director, The Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research

Tell us about your story. What made you want to get involved with the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research?

After spending 10 years in securities brokerage and regulation, where I fed the number-crunching and ever-inquisitive side of my brain, I completely immersed myself in the privilege and wonderment of raising two incredible daughters. Towards the end of that blissful chapter, my life would forever change with a phone call from my brother Alan, telling me that he had a very rare and aggressive cancer called sarcoma. I spent a majority of the next 13 months as a caretaker and advocate for him, learning volumes about strength, perseverance, love, and perspective. At the end, I found that losing my sibling to a disease that had caused him much suffering was beyond earth-shattering, and it resonated loudly and painfully with our entire family.

Only months after Alan’s passing, I saw a yard sign advertising the Sarcoma Stomp 5K. I couldn’t believe there was a fundraiser for this rare disease in our community and I eagerly signed up. I walked with family and friends at that 2011 event to remember Alan. It was there that I met Paula Takacs, Paula Takacs Foundation Founder, who literally changed my life’s course. Read More →

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