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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last Post

Hi Smarties,

I'm sad to say that today is our official last post in the Triad. We've really enjoyed delivering all the Smarty Scoop for you for two years and appreciate the support each and every one of you has given us every single day! However, due to some recent changes in the direction of our brand and business, we deemed it necessary to discontinue the TSP site for now.

We wish you the best of luck with your journey through this crazy little thing called mommyhood and stay Smarty!

Come visit us in Charlotte any time -!

Jen Plym
Chief Founding Mommy


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two Super Smarty Events This Weekend!

Smarties, we're excited to give you the scoop on two incredible events this weekend!

Fun on the Farm at The Children’s Home
1001 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem
Friday, October 22nd, 6-8p
Grab your blankets & lawn chairs and enjoy an evening filled with hayrides, dinner, live music, smores, silent auction, outdoor activities and much more! All proceeds to benefit the Children's Home of Winston-Salem. Purchase tickets at or at the door!
Cost: $5 children 4-12 (kids under four are free!), $10 for adults. Ticket prices include dinner and all activities. Be there or be square!

Character Breakfast hosted by The Friends of the Ronald McDonald House
Have breakfast with all of your favorite princesses, superheros and storybook characters! Hosted by The Friends of the Ronald McDonald House.
When? Saturday, October 23rd from 8:30a-12:30p
Two Seating Times: 8:30 to 10:00 am & 11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Where? Ronald McDonald House of Winston-Salem
Cost? $25 per person. Children under age one attend free.
Tickets? Please call The Ronald McDonald House at (336)723-0228 for an invitation and location details or visit their site.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reuse or buy new?

By Krista

Got another bun in the oven? Now what? Should you reuse some of your previous products, or scrap it and start over? Why not do both? Baby gear is constantly evolving, changing, AND being recalled. What was the latest and greatest gadget one baby ago could now be completely yanked from shelves. With a little research and proper planning, getting ready for your second, third, or fourth (whew) bundle can be a breeze.

First, get savvy and take inventory. Prepare your “reuse or buy new” list by considering safety, emotion, and usability. Some items may represent an emotional connection. Maybe you have beautiful memories of rocking your first born wrapped in a special blanket and envision passing it on to them to celebrate the birth of their first child? Certainly, these items fall into the emotional category and you will want to put these aside as special treasures. Don’t forget to consider connections your child may have towards a precious item. They, just like you, may have special memories toward a stuffed animal or pillow. The thought of handing these items down to a new baby might cause unnecessary sibling conflict. Involve your children in these decisions prior to bringing home baby and avoid tantrums and strife.

However, car seats, high chairs, cribs, and larger more expensive items are ripe for the reusing! An absolute MUST is a visit to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Research all items you intend to reuse and make sure they haven’t been recalled since your last trip down baby lane. If your item passes muster, complete your own safety check by ensuring all parts are still working properly and not in need of repair.

Finally, don’t discount usability. We have all purchased products that, simply put, we hated. True lemons that drove us mad when we first used them and are sure to aggravate us again. Make life easier and consider replacing these items. A newborn takes enough energy, fighting to collapse a stroller shouldn’t. If cost is a concern, try selling items that didn’t work for you and put your funds towards the purchase of something more user-friendly.

All this being said, getting ready for a new baby is a personal experience. Many moms opt for all new, while others find reusing the comfortable way to go. Recently I’ve spent many blissful hours going through our old baby items and reminiscing. Some items need replacing while others bring joy to my heart knowing they get one more round.

Preparing for a new baby is a blissful experience to be treasured. So, congratulations to all the expectant Smarty moms and enjoy the process regardless of what side of the “buy or reuse” fence you’re on!


Monday, October 18, 2010

School Choice Program

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Jacobs

When it came time to send me off to kindergarten, my parents did not have to think too hard about where I would go to school. In fact, they didn’t have to think at all. Everyone sent their children to the public schools in District 56. I was headed to Gurnee Grade School along with all my friends in the neighborhood. The exceptions were the kids who went to St. Patrick’s, the only parochial school in the area. And since my family was not Catholic, St. Patrick’s was not an option. Case closed.

Before I had kids, I did not give much thought to the school choice debate. I knew that my husband and I were not going to raise our kids in a big city, and I assumed that my kids would do as I had done: go to the local public school along with all the other kids in the neighborhood. It turns out that Dan and I settled in a town that is just big enough that school choice is in fact a complicated issue.

I have been thinking about school choice since we moved into our neighborhood four years ago and learned that the kids here attend at least half a dozen different schools. This especially caught Dan off guard. He had visions of our son and daughter tripping off down the road to the local school every day. Not that this could ever happen since getting to the public elementary school requires a ride in a bus or car, but you get the idea. (And another thing, why doesn’t anyone take the bus anymore?) Dan vehemently wants to send our kids to public school. I am not so vehement, but I am in agreement. But it’s not a good sign when the local public elementary school feels compelled to hold intimate coffees and open houses to educate and encourage local parents to send their children to school there. The administrators of Gurnee Grade School certainly never had to make such an effort.

What has changed? Is it because I am now living within a public school district that educates thousands of students versus little District 56 that educated hundreds of students? Is it because it is now thirty years from the time that I was a skipping kindergartener? Tomes could be and are written about the evolution, and perhaps deterioration of the American public school system over the past thirty years. All I know is that I have talked to a lot of other parents and none of us can believe how we are stewing over a question that once upon a time was elementary.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Five Financial Facts Smart Moms Know

By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Madej

Today’s mom is often her family’s CFO so it’s prudent to make smart money moves. Here are five financial facts smart moms know:

1 – Have a trusted board of directors: We mamas can juggle a lot but can’t do it all. Financial solutions are not one size fits all so pull in experts to advise you on areas like taxes, insurance and banking. Rely on their knowledge to maximize your efforts and make wise choices. As an example, I tell my clients their home represents both the asset and liability side of their balance sheet. As a result a mortgage requires proper attention and expertise so that’s exactly what they’ll get from me.

2 – Manage your credit rating: Keeping your credit in good standing is crucial. Credit scores are how lenders determine your debt repayment behavior. Furthermore, utility and insurance companies - even employers - will evaluate your credit history for insight into your financial habits. It’s a smart move to check your credit for errors or derogatory information and resolve any issues as quickly as possible to minimize their impact. You are allowed to have one free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus each year and is the sanctioned site to do so. Another comprehensive resource for credit information can be found at

3 – Have cash reserves: Businesses’ costs sometimes exceed their revenue. Similarly most families don’t budget for a major auto repair or other significant expense but they still occur. CFO moms know the importance of cash reserves for such emergencies. Conventional wisdom is to have three to six months’ of expenses held in a separate savings account. Finding extra money in your budget to fund a ‘rainy day fund’ is easier than you may think and very worthwhile.

4 – Leverage what you already have: Businesses often use tax incentives or equity to their advantage – your family can do the same. Do you or your spouse have a FSA through work? Using it can help you get more bang for your buck on childcare or healthcare expenses. Are you paying mortgage insurance? Call your mortgage company compare your balance to your home’s value. If you have at least 20% equity, you may be able to remove the monthly mortgage insurance to increase your monthly savings.

5 – Finding savings/deals is fun: How do you find extra money for cash reserves? Evaluate your budget: Where do you spend money and where could you save? Don’t want to break out the calculator? Try sites like that automatically review your spending and generate reports to get valuable insight. Become a deal hound: Find discounts on services or entertainment you already use at places like Start playing the coupon game and learn how from domestic goddesses on sites like Finding great deals are fun and small savings add up!

Moms are the center of their family and frequently the family finances. As your family’s CFO, you have all the tools to make savvy money choices so make the most of it!

About Rebecca
No one has to tell Rebecca Madej that in today's hectic world, mothers often act as a family's chief financial officer. She lives it as the mom of two small children, and sees it daily in her successful career as as mortgage lender with Cunningham & Company Mortgage Bankers. "Moms are the center of their family and frequently the family finances," she says. "As your family’s CFO, you have all the tools to make savvy money choices so make the most of it." Follow her on Twitter @rebeccamadej or visit her website:


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Smarty Mom: Shelley Holden

Smarty Mom Quick Facts:
Smarty Mom: Shelley Holden
Mom of: Joanna (4) and Libby (21 months)
Married to: David for 7 years
Years in Triad: Has lived in Winston-Salem for almost 15 years since her freshman year at Wake Forest, finished undergrad and law school.
Occupation: Full-time mommy and does some part-time work as a development consultant (She previously managed the Law Fund for the Law school at Wake Forest before she decided to stay home when her oldest was born).

Shelley Holden is a miracle worker with a personality that shines with faith and love as she prides herself in giving back to her community. She is proudly on the Friends Board for both the Ronald McDonald House and Brenner Children's Hospital, on the Board of the NC Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the Board of the Junior League of Winston-Salem. She is very involved with her church, Centenary United Methodist Church, and her girls' preschool. All of these things are very important to her....she lost her mom to breast cancer in 2005. In addition, one of her girls was very sick when she was born. They are so thankful to have the best pediatricians and Brenner Children's Hospital. Shelley's hobbies include spending time with her girls and husband and friends, cooking, crafting, shopping and volunteering.

I’m so proud to introduce you to Shelley Holden. She is the type of woman who makes a difference in this world through her selfless heart and faithful soul. Let's meet Smarty Shelley!

You are a Smarty Mom with a big heart! Tell us about your volunteer work.
I am a big believer in "to whom much is given, much is expected". I feel like I have been blessed with so much - health, education, etc., so I have a lot I need to give back. Also, my mom and dad have always been very involved in their community and I truly learned to give back from them. They taught me that if you are able to get involved, it is your responsibility to help others and make this world a better place for yourself and those around you. Now with two little girls, that is even more important to me because I want them to learn about helping others and doing what they should and can to make their world better. I also want to do everything I can for them, so that their world can the best for them. My work with Brenner Children's Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House is so important because of my children. Living in Winston-Salem and being 5 minutes away from one of the best Children's Hospitals is such a blessing. I feel like we are so blessed to have this hospital that caters to serving children with doctors who are trained in pediatrics and equipment made for pediatrics. When my youngest was born, we had to go to Brenner a number of times and I was so relieved that she could be seen quickly and by doctors who knew exactly what to do with such a young child. I want to do everything I can to support them and being a part of the Friends board has given me that opportunity through the fundraisers for the hospital and the meetings to learn more about this wonderful facility. The Ronald McDonald House ties in with Brenner because it is a home away from home for families whose children are being treated at Brenner and at Forsyth. These families aren't as fortunate as we are to have a hospital just 5 minutes away and they need somewhere to stay to be close to their child. The RMH gives them this and offers so many wonderful services to these families. The work this house does is wondeful and I, too, love being a part of their Friends board. I have also enjoyed being in the Junior League of Winston-Salem for the past 10 years and it has given a lot of training opportunities and taught me a lot about Winston-Salem and ways to be involved in the community. The Children's Museum of Winston-Salem has been one of the best things the JL has enabled me to work 1st year in the JL was when they decided to build the museum and now I love being able to take my children to play there. I think we are so blessed to have this fun place where our children can learn in this community.

I am also involved with the NC Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and died in 2005. I became involved with this organization in 2003 as a way to honor my mom and fight this disease that eventually took her away from me and my family. I have met so many wonderful people through Komen who are working diligently to end this disease and in the last 25 years, there have been many great improvements but there is still a lot more work to be done. The Race for the Cure is their signature fundraiser and I chaired this event in 2006. It is such an inspiration to see over 10,000 people gather at Salem College each May to fight breast cancer. I continue to stay involved because of my mom and my girls. I pray that they will know a world without breast cancer and that they will never have to battle this disease or lose someone close to them because of it.
My mom was truly the most wonderful person I know and she dedicated her life for 25 years to me. She taught me so much through her cancer fight and her everday life. She was one of the most unselfish people and always was helping or doing something for someone. There is not a day that goes by that I don't miss her and it was really hard for me when I had my own children because I wanted her there to meet them. It makes me sad that my girls won't know her but I keep her alive for them by teaching them many of the things she taught me and also by keeping alive traditions from my childhood. Losing her also taught me that we have to make the most of each day and that is what I want to do with my girls everyday. I hope that I can be half the mom to them that she was to me.

You made a big decision to stay at home when your oldest was born. Was that a difficult choice for you?
Staying at home was a big decision for me when my oldest, Joanna, was born because I loved my job so much. It was such a privilege to work at my alma mater and I loved the many people I met and for some odd reason, I love fundraising! However, I wanted to every spend minute with Joanna that I could and I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. I have missed my job but have not regretted one day of staying at home. Being home with both girls has been a blast and even though so days are tough, I have never regretted it. I have gotten invloved with their preschool and the children's program at my church and I have loved that. I have satisfied my desire to get out some through my volunteer work and still dabble in some contract development work too. I think that one day I will go back, but I know these days with my little ones are flying by too!

What is your favorite thing about being a stay-at-home mom?
Being there for everything with my girls and taking them to do lots of things around town.

What is your favorite piece of baby gear?
The snap'n'go stroller. I would keep it in my car and pop it open and snap the carseat in everywhere I went. It was especially helpful when I have my 2nd child because it much easier than the stroller and I didn't have to take her out of the bucket carseat.

Minivan or SUV?
I love an SUV and all the room, even though I feel like my suburban is bus sometimes. I am still learning to parallel park in it!

How did you make mommy friends?
I have made some of my best mommy friends through children that are the same age as my girls. Some are older than me and some are younger and I love them all. My best advice is to listen to people who have been there before you. They have a lot of good advice because they have worked through potty training a child, getting tubes in their ears, preschool teachers, etc.

Favorite place to buy children's clothes?
Peaches 'n' Cream outlet in Burlington- they have the cutest play clothes for really good prices and it is fun for me because my mom used to take me there as a child and now I get to dress my girls from there. I also love home shows. I am the rep for a line- Castles and Crowns and some of my best friends sell Ragsland, Chez Ami, and Beaux et Belles. They all have cute and different things. McCalls is my favorite store in Winston-Salem. They have some of the most beautiful baby things and great gifts for baby showers and baby gifts.

Favorite place to take your whole family to dinner?
Twin City Diner- great kids and adult menu. Lots of selection.

Favorite Date night spot?
David and I love Mozelles or Milners. We also love Ryan's for special occasions.

Favorite Girls Lunch Spot?
The Carving Board- it is my all-time favorite spot in Winston. They have the best blue cheese chicken salad and spicy noodles!

Favorite Mani/Pedi spot?
Deja Vu- everyone there is so nice!

Favorite park in the Triad?
I love Hathaway and Polo Parks. Polo has great equipment for really little ones like my youngest (21 months).

What is your favorite fall family activity?
Going to the Pumpkin Patch at Maple Springs Methodist Church on Reynolda Road and picking out pumpkins and taking lots of pictures. My girls love all the pumpkins and have the hardest time picking out just one! We also love the Festival on the Quad at Wake Forest University which they have every year in the fall during Homecoming weekend. My girls love seeing the Deacon and the cheerleaders.

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
I love all the small town feel with big city opportunities. I love seeing people I know when I go out, but I love the access to sporting events, art events, museums, parks, etc that my children and my husband and I have living here. I love being with so many other young families too.

Smartiest way you save $? Ordering my groceries online is not only a time saver for me but it saves me $$ because I buy exactly what is on my list and don't get side tracked by things I see etc.

Favorite TSP article so far?
I love all the events that TSP tells me about, but I have to say that my favorite has been about planning a Disney trip. My oldest is obsessed with Disney princesses and we are taking them to Disney in the spring. I learned about Martha Nichols from TSP and called her up and she planned the whole trip for me and made all the reservations for dinners and shows and really helped us save money. It has been so easy and she has given us such great advice. I would not have known where to start if it hasn't been for this article and finding Martha!

Best book you've read lately?
I actually have 2: Lift by Kelly Corrigan- she writes a letter to her girls about everything she wants them to know about her and their life. It is an easy read and such an inspiration. I would tell every parent to read it. My other favorite lately has been: Bringing up Girls by James Dobson. It was a fabulous parenting book!

Favorite Smarty phone app?
facebook! I love keeping up with friends and being able to connect with friends this way....doing on my phone makes it easy when I am waiting for an appt, etc.

I could not live without my... or computer. I love being able to connect with my family and friends and I love finding things on the internet= events, locations, shopping etc.

I wish someone told me sooner about...
...The All A Flutter Butterfly Farm. We went just recently and my girls loved it, but so did I! It was amazing to be able to feed the butterflies and hold them and I couldn't believe how much my oldest and I learned about butterflies. We can't wait to go back when it reopens in the spring.

Best kept secret in the Triad?
The Nutcracker performed every December by The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I lived here for 12 years before I went to see it and now I don't want to miss it. It is such a holiday treat and I took my oldest last year and she loved it. She has already asked if we are going again this year! The students there do a fabulous job in this performance!

Thanks, Shelley, for sharing your story with us!

Do you know a super cool Smarty mom, dad or just someone doing something fantastic in our community? Well we want to know them! We are reaching out to you to “mominate” those who you admire, have a great story, live life to the fullest or have created a Smarty Business. We have been fortunate to share the stories nearly 100 area moms and dads! We have laughed at common stories, been reassured that other families go through the same things that we do, been introduced to new restaurants, shown the way to fantastic bargain shopping, met new moms and gained wisdom from the old pros. Email us your peeps!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Momma's got a brand new bag

By Susan

Pocketbook, purse, diaper bag, suitcase...what's holding your junk? Currently, my junk is riding high in my Nest Diaper Bag.

I have the Mercer model in wine. Now before everyone starts sending me hate mail on how expensive this sucker is, let me talk first. It's listed for $385 (yes, ridiculous) but I found it cheaper online elsewhere for $300 and free shipping and no tax so the Nest Diaper Bag Man (Ken) let me have it for that. Just saying. Not all of the Nest Diaper Bags are quite that expensive.

I heart this bag and it loves me right back. It holds my sippy cups, snacks, dipes, wipes, makeup, hairbrush, Blackberry, bib, placemat, wallet, toys, keys, coupons, church envelopes, mail, checkbook, lunch for work days. Best of all, I carry it to the office!

Favorite Features of My New BFF:
(1) lining that unzips so you can throw in the wash
(2) 6 pockets inside - 2 for sippy cups (for Clay & Ella James), 1 for bottle of water (for moi), 1 for Blackberry, 2 for other stuff
(3) zippered inside pocket for makeup, Advil, gum, work badge
(4) roomy interior
(5) removable stroller strap plus 2 handles (although it might tip the stroller over b/c it's a beast)
(6) outside pocket with magnetic closure for coupons, to do list, etc.
(7) zippered compartment at bottom of bag for dipes, wipes, bib, diaper creme, placemat
(8) stylish details like brass "feet"as well as gorgeous suede and brass trim

I searched high and low for a bag that could work as a double agent (office worthy and high functioning diaper bag) because I'm too dumb to effortlessly switch between diaper bag and purse. After the 95th time I left my wallet or Blackberry or work badge in my diaper bag during the purse switcheroo process, something had to change.

I've gotten so many compliments on this bag - all from work people and non-Mommies who just like how it looks. They are floored when I proudly show them that it's a friggin' diaper bag. I can actually hear my husband rolling his eyes right now as I type. He's informed me that people compliment me on it because they think it's so ugly and obnoxious that they have to say something and they obviously aren't going to tell me they hate it. Whatever.

Now that we've covered the upside, let me cover the small downside - nothing but full disclosure here. I may need a chiropracter soon because this bag has it's own zipcode. It is a bit heavy (but not as heavy as my 25 lb 17 month old son so at least I'm balanced now - toddler on one hip and diaper bag on the other).

When it comes to pocketbooks, I'm firmly rooted in the "once-you-go-big, you-never-go-back" camp. I've finally found my true love! I may be addicted and must admit that I do want another one of these bags to add to the mix but I know that's the crazy talking. So for now, I'll just love the one I'm with!