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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Smarty Mom: Vaishali Shah

By Katie M

One of the greatest things about working on Triad Smarty Pants is meeting all the fantastic Smarty Moms in the Triad. Another great perk is reconnecting with moms we haven't heard from in ages, and Vaishali Shah is one of those. I'm so excited to introduce you to today's Smarty Mom. I originally met Vaishali probably five years ago when our daughters were young toddlers. We were introduced through a playgroup, and as life happens, our lives took different directions. Then, as luck would have it, I received an email in the Triad Smarty Pants email account from Vaishali saying she was no longer receiving our weekly newsletter (that has since been corrected!). And since I've only known one Vaishali, I took a chance and emailed her back asking if she remembered me, and she did. We've since reunited our daughters, who are now kindergartners and go to the same elementary school (which is also a coincidence as we both live across town from where we originally met). It's been such a pleasure getting reaquainted.

Now it's my turn to acquaint you all with Vaishali as well!

Vaishali and her five-year-old daughter, Kirsi, have lived in the Triad since 2001. Before Kirsi was born, Vaishali was married and taught second grade and the "Gifted and Talented" program for three years for the WSFC school system. When Kirsi was born, Vaishali decided to stay home, but then two years later her husband decided to leave their marriage. As Vaishali said, "It was a very difficult time, but I was incredibly blessed to have the love and support of many friends and family. I joined a divorce support group at the United Universalist Fellowship and sought counseling from a therapist that came highly recommended from a friend. But, more than anything, I had the support of countless friends who were willing to do anything to help me."

About two weeks after her husband moved out, Vaishali went back to school to earn a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation. "I took classes on Tuesday evenings and a wonderful sitter who is now a dear friend watched Kirsi. This was the first time Kirsi had been with a sitter on a regular basis, and I feel so fortunate to have found someone who I could trust and who loved her so much." Vaishali planned on becoming a financial planner with an emphasis in education, but as she learned more about financial planning, she realized she would need to launch her own business in order to put this plan in motion. So, she applied - and was accepted to - Wake Forest University's School of Business and was fortunate enough to earn a Dean's Scholarship to cover her academic costs. She is currently earning her MBA specializing in Marketing and Finance, and she graduates in just a few short weeks!

Vaishali will be working as a Financial Planner, helping individuals learn about their money and create plans to meet their financial goals. She plans to deliver her services in more of a “financial coach” model and make financial educational services a central part of the benefit she offers her clients.

Vaishali, I am so proud of you and all that you've accomplished. I'm sure there are other moms reading your profile who have been through - or are going through - a similar experience. What smarty tips do you have for these moms?
Be grateful for the offers of help from friends and family, and accept them. Your loved ones want to help, and it really does “take a village” as they say. Also, be kind to yourself, and don’t expect perfection. One day, my daughter said to me, “I love you because you give me spinach.” It made me realize that those small loving things that you do for your children are the ones that they remember. Lots of small and regular connection moments add up. It has really helped me stay focused on creating those regular connections and not worrying about doing extravagant things like taking trips and having fancy birthday parties.

Also, I have to be extremely organized. I make the most of times when Kirsi is asleep or at school to try to get all of my studying done so that I can spend time with her in the afternoons after school. I also try to stay positive and know that things will always work out no matter what the challenge.

As a single mom, how do you balance your school (and future work life) with your home life?
To balance work and home life, I’ve had to make it a mental priority. When I am at home, I “turn off” my work brain, and focus on being at home. I try to plan fun outings and events and put them on the calendar, so I have already built that time into our week. And, most importantly, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, and not demand the perfection. Sometimes, deciding not to do the dishes and instead having an impromptu “girls’ night” - painting toenails is so meaningful and memorable to Kirsi. I’ve learned to let some things go.

When you're not in school or being a mom, what are your other interests?
I love to dance. I danced for years when I was younger, and I recently started taking ballet at Triple Threat Dance Center. I love it! Also, I love to read and am learning about photography.

I know you are busy, but I also know you like to have fun. So let's move on to some less serious topics!

Favorite place to get a good deal on kids clothes?

I like to shop at the Carolina’s Outlet Mall in Concord, NC. I do my major kids’ clothes shopping there about twice a year. I’ve gotten great deals at Carter’s and Osh Kosh there. Locally, Target and Kohl’s are my favorite places to shop.

Favorite place to splurge on Kirsi's clothes?
Since Kirsi is very particular about her wardrobe, I don’t actually get to splurge on kids’ clothes. We usually shop for her clothes together.

Smartiest way you save money?
I stick to a budget and have a certain amount that I put away every month, before paying for anything else. It makes me feel like I’m living off of less money and so I spend accordingly.

What is your favorite family activity?
Kirsi and I like to put on our ballet shoes, turn on classical music at home, and dance. It’s so fun to see the new moves she’s learned at dance class, and her “choreography” skills.

Favorite “mommy-time” activity?
Ballet! And after graduation, I plan to add photography to the “Mommy-time” list. I’m really excited about learning how to us all the different features of the camera.

Best place to eat lunch and/or dinner with Kirsi?
Kirsi and I go to Applebee’s because it has become a tradition for us. She loved horses when she was younger, and Applebee’s had two carousel horses at the time. She fell in love with them, and that’s been our special place ever since. With my grown-up friends, I choose other restaurants.

Funniest thing Kirsi has ever said?
“Mommy, will you hold my breath for me?”

Favorite park in the Triad?
Tanglewood, definitely…you can feed the horses, the ducks, and geese, and it has two playgrounds.

Mini-van or SUV?
A mini-mini-van (Honda Fit)

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
Definitely the people. We have met so many warm, friendly, kind-hearted people. It’s the friendships that keep us here and happy. And, the many parks and great weather help, too.

Best kept secret in the Triad?
The discount on the pass to Tanglewood. Normally, it costs $2/visit to go to Tanglewood, and you can buy an annual pass for $25. But, every year, in January, this pass is $20 for Forsyth County residents, which includes anyone in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, not just those who live in Clemmons.

Best smarty advice for staying organized?
The 15-minute cleanup. I set my timer for 15 minutes, and run around the house putting things away and de-cluttering. It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes if you are focused!

Best mom-gadget you have around the house?
The screwdriver…for the many “accidentally” locked doors.

Best birthday party you have attended?
A couple of friends of mine worked together to host a joint birthday party at the YMCA a few years ago. They rented a room and sectioned it with different princess-themed crafts and activities. I think the birthday girls were turning three. The kids had so much to do, there was plenty of space for active play and quiet play, and it was a lot of fun!

What’s your favorite blog on Triad Smarty Pants?
Claire’s Courage. I can’t imagine having to live the experience of not knowing what is effecting your child’s health and having such a life-changing diagnosis be made in such a short time. I hope there is a cure soon. This story touched me because Kirsi has severe food allergies, and I know what it’s like to have the immediacy of the consequences of something going wrong related to food.

I also love the list of summer camps. It’s so convenient to have that resource in one place with all the costs, contact information, dates, and descriptions. That has made my life so much easier!!

I could not live without my...Wii. I love it. I use it to do yoga, to play video games, and it’s a great way for Kirsi and me to get some energy out on a rainy day.

Vaishali, thanks for a great interview today! Congrats on your pending graduation from MBA school, and we wish you the best of luck in your new career!


Vanessa said...

Enjoyed reading this today. The "I love you because you give me spinach quote" was adorable! That will stick with me all day!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations Vaishali. It seemed like only yesterday that you were starting grad school and now you're graduating. You've done an amazing job of taking care of Kirsi and yourself. Your friend, LaTonya

Rachel H said...

Vaishali, you seem like an INCREDIBLE person and extraordinary mom. I loved reading all of your answers and learned so many fun things about you. I hope to meet you in person one day!

Angela Watt said...

Vaishali! It was so great to see the picture of you and your beautiful little girl. I used to work with you at Cash Elementary when you were pregnant with Kirsi, and I was pregnant with my first child at the same time. Hard to believe they are five years old now! Glad to read that you are doing well and still in the area.

Anonymous said...

This was great! I really enjoyed reading this! You are such an amazing person!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of your sweet messages! What I've learned is that it's amazing what we moms can do when we support and help each other. We're pretty unbeatable! And, I've really enjoyed reading about all the Smarty Moms on this site. So many inspirational stories!

Angela--It is so great to hear from you! I hope that you and your family are well, also!


Anonymous said...

15 minute cleanup!! Why didn't I think of that! I love it!!

The Scotts said...

Vaishali, I'm not sure if you remember speaking with me, but I recently met you at a Wake Forest MBA dinner at Noma for admitted students and their partners. My husband Mike Scott graduated in 2008 so we attended the dinner as alumni and spouse. I was the only one there who was 8 months pregnant, so if you remember that, you may remember me! :) I just wanted to say how PROUD I am to read your story and to see how much you have accomplished. You are an amazing person and I can tell that you are an amazing mommy as well! I wish you the best of luck in the future! I hope our paths cross again very soon! :)

Anonymous said...

To "The Scotts" Thank you so much for your message. It was so great to meet you at the dinner at Noma, and I hope that you are feeling well. We will definitely see each other again soon! Congratulations again to you! :)

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