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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Smarty Mom: Amy Pagano

By Rachel H

I met this week’s Smarty Mom at a mutual friend’s birthday party a few years ago. We spent most of the party chatting and got to know a lot about each other. Even in the worst of situations, Amy seems to stay optimistic and keep a positive attitude about everything! Amy is tons of fun and I thought she’d make a terrific Smarty Mom.

Amy and her husband, Jamie, have two boys, Johnny (9) and Cosie (7). They have lived in Greensboro for 13 years, after moving from Buffalo, New York. Amy works full-time as a Curriculum Facilitator in the Guilford County School System. She is a Football League Representative and is on several committees such as the School Based Leadership Team, PTA, and other volunteer organizations in the schools.

She is definitely a mom who spends a great deal of time watching her boys play sports, and she loves every minute of it. Most weeks are filled with basketball, baseball, and football practices. Amy is hoping to squeeze in some extra time soon to get her doctorate in Educational Leadership.

I am happy to introduce you to Amy …

A little birdie told me that you are a terrific birthday party planner! What are your best tips for other moms when planning a party?
Well, I think you need to create a list of stations or fun activities you plan to do. Most of the time, depending on the age, the kids just want to play a game together and you can make it up based upon your childhood experiences with things you have around the house such as jump ropes, play dough, and an art/craft. Thematic parties are great, but you end up spending a lot more than you thought you would. The kids don’t care about decorations usually. At least my boys don’t notice those things! Save what you had from last year in a bin and make sure the plates and napkins etc. are generic—maybe the child’s favorite color from the Dollar Tree. We have done birthday parties for 9 years and have invited 100 people on most of those occasions. We go to the park and have all the siblings and parents attend. You will feed everyone and have a nice time with everyone without feeling like you have to limit the invites. Nobody gets their feelings hurt, either. I’m sure everyone has had this happen and it’s not fun! When they get older they don’t want a party—we now give the kids $100 and they spend it how they wish-this is a shopping extravaganza!!

I also heard that you are the best at planning a vacation on a budget. Please share with us some of your strategies for doing this.
Figure out how much you want to spend first and only spend within your budget. Then accumulate air flight points if you can. It usually takes about 2 years. The four of us flew to Seattle for free—visited family and loved the history and scenery. It was the best trip ever. We stayed in a clean hotel—all you need is a pool so that you have another activity for your children during down time. Budget how much you are going spend in food—find a place with a continental breakfast, too. Then you only need to buy for lunch and dinner while you are out sight-seeing and enjoying events.

With a full-time job and all these extra-curricular activities, what is your secret for staying sane?
I don’t stay sane! I’m frazzled at times. It’s a juggling act. My husband and I plan our calendar at the beginning of each month for 15-20 minutes. We go through and decide who can cover days of conflict, who is taking who to practice, where and when our meetings are for our jobs, etc. You have to be flexible. If the date doesn’t work for both of you, then you need to call someone and switch dates or swap kids. The motto in our house is “just do it”. The dates are sketched in stone—we don’t stray from our schedule based on how we feel that day. That would cause some major problems.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love to work with people number one. I also love to help my administrators and fellow teachers excel and find the solutions/answers to their most sought after questions. I enjoy seeing the whole picture that some tend to miss if they are consumed by their own little worlds. I love large projects, not the details. It is gratifying to see it all come together-similar to building a house.

Favorite place to get a good deal on kids clothes?
I suggest getting a bin for each child. Update it when you have some money to spend/when you find a good deal or anytime you are tooling around. Get all your deals on the clearance racks off season at the Gap, Old Navy and/or Kohl’s. Your children will look like a million dollars and you will share with others how much you paid for them, too!

What is your favorite family activity?
Golfing in the summer on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, any sporting event and indoor/outdoor concerts.

Favorite “me-time” activity?
I enjoy being with people. My husband would say that I have a really hard time with this. But, I do enjoy a glass of wine or a beer once in a while as I’m watching a comedy movie or a sitcom. The best medicine in the world is laughter. “If you can laugh with it, you can live with it!” My son, Cosie would say that I am the working bee and that I can’t sit still.

Best book you’ve read recently?
“Living without brakes” by Martin Kutsher Excellent read for a family with an ADHD child.

Best place to eat lunch with the kids?
MOE’s---Our children love hearing, “Welcome to MOE’s!”

Favorite place to eat dinner out with the kids?
Definitely Steak and Shake for the kids-they are as quiet as can be. They eat every bit of food on their plate and love dipping the chicken and skinny fries in the cheese sauce. Our favorite adult restaurant conducive for the kids as well just went out of business. We went there for 10 years…Laddies and Dukes, the sister company to The Chop House. We love good Buffalo chicken wings, and also enjoy any famous Italian restaurant.

Funniest thing your kid(s) has ever said?
Johnny—We were traveling to Boston this summer and were driving around trying to find a friend’s old apartment so that we could text them a picture of the outside. Johnny said he wanted to get out of here and that we’ve been driving forever. Jamie, my husband said, “We are trying to show Frank a picture of his old place.” Johnny said, “Why does it always have to be about Frank?” We laughed hysterically.

Cosie—Yelled across the store when he was 3 years old that the man next to us had no teeth. I was so embarrassed! I wanted to go between the racks of clothes and hide. Kids say the funniest things.

Favorite park in the Triad?
Definitely Triad Park in Colfax

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
The town of Oak Ridge reminds us of the small town that we both grew up in. It is a safe environment and a very nice sense of community.

Best kept secret in the Triad?
Bags by Lindsey Stewart 336-601-1149. These bags no doubt are worth every penny. They are the perfect Christmas gift for $30. They are humongous. You can fit your whole weekend trip in one bag, the entire family’s suits, towels and toys for the pool, or use it as the best diaper bag.

Favorite gadget for around the house?
Our toaster oven-we use it daily. We can reheat leftovers, make the infamous chicken nuggets that most kids love or make my favorite French onion soup with melted mozzarella cheese on it.

I could not live without my...


I wish someone had told me sooner about…
Taking one day at a time!! You don’t really understand a whole lot of these life lessons until you are forced in a situation that doesn’t allow you to have any control. You truly comprehend what survival of the fittest means too. I realized all this at our elementary school this year. We had to evacuate our building because of mold and we are now at 4 different locations. I am juggling each location in my position and it is a challenge. I think being positive no matter what goes a long way—you get to know the individuals that can not handle stress—my motto is to keep smiling—my grandmother use to say “this too shall pass!”

Thanks so much to Rachel for the fabulous opportunity to share with you a little piece of my life and some of my thoughts that are displayed in this article. She has truly developed a fun, interactive, and useful resource for all moms to enjoy. Not to mention how professional and visually appealing the website is! Go Smarty Pants moms!

Amy, you are too sweet! Thanks for all the great stories, advice, and inspiration you have shared with us today. Your answers were so fun to read! If anyone out there has a Smarty Mom or Dad you would like to nominate, email us at


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book reccomendation on an ADHD child. My son was recently diagnosed with ADHD. I need all the help I can get!

Jennifer said...

I have officially decided that we need to go to Moe's. I think someone mentions it every week and we have not gone yet. We have always loved QDOBA and I feel like I am cheating on them!
Great interview today, by the way!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Amy! You deserve it!

Anonymous said...

"Smarty Mom: Amy Pagano" The article was great! Keep up the good work! Enjoy your time with your family.

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