Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm a Smarty Mom!

The Triad is just full of great moms, isn't it? Well, thanks to TSP, I am thrilled to introduce to you yet another one: R... L... R..., otherwise known (to all you loyal readers) as "RLR." Before I "officially" met RL, we seemed to cross paths several times. Not just through her contributions to TSP, but also when a potential advertiser once told me she learned about TSP because of Ryan Leigh. So, when I finally met RLR at my son's preschool registration, I couldn't help but give her a hug like an ol' friend!

RL and her husband, J, have two adorable children: J (6 ½) and M (almost 4). They have lived in the Triad a little over six years after moving from {another state}, when J was three months old. As a result of the move, RL was "unexpectedly blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom." In addition to being a mom, RL also spends countless hours volunteering and managing a mommy blog (which we all know can be like a job in itself).

RL gave us a great interview today, and I'm excited for you all to get to know this smarty a little more.

Volunteering is something {she} loves to do, and something she discovered when she was part of a volunteer organization as an undergraduate. After completing her Master's, she worked with student volunteers until she moved to the Triad.

Today, {she} is in her third-year of a three-year term on the Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church Preschool board where she's served as treasurer, vice-chair, and now chair of this group. She also volunteers with Charity Chicks, is on the Mt. Tabor UMC Preschool Clothing Exchange Committee, and spends at least two hours a week volunteering at her children's schools. On top of all this, {she} also keeps a blog Mom's Magic , which is "a little bit baby book, a little bit lessons learned, and a whole lot of funny stories about my kids," her site says.

When we first chatted about your "Smarty Mom" profile, you were on a business trip. Tell us more about that - what was that for?
I work part-time for CIVSA, the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association. I was a member of this professional organization when I worked full-time, and for the past five years I have worked as the Association Manager. It’s a great fit for my life as a mom and also allows me to stay in touch with my former colleagues. I attend a meeting with the CIVSA Board once a year – I just returned from the CIVSA conference in Lexington, Kentucky.

How do you balance your busy schedule with your busy home life?
I try to set aside the same block of time each day for work, though I’m fortunate that my schedule is very forgiving when things change. I also use my BlackBerry to answer emails when I have small blocks of time (waiting at after-school pick-up, in between appointments, etc.). This allows me to focus on homework, dinner, and family in the evenings. If I still have work to do, I wrap things up after the kids are in bed.

What advice do you offer other busy moms?Finding a system that works for you and sticking with it! For me, a set weekly routine and a pencil-and-paper calendar are the keys to making things run smoothly. It’s easier for me to include special events or work around my husband’s call schedule if each week generally looks the same for our family.

Tell us more about your blog and how you got started.I started my blog at the suggestion of a good friend, and the goal was just to share news and write about the funny stuff that happens with my kids. You know, just the normal stuff of being a mom. My audience was mainly family and friends at that time. I have gained a few more readers over the years, which is fun, and I’ve also started writing about a broader range of topics. I have one sponsor that has provided giveaways and another for whom I’m an advertiser of sorts (because I’m nuts about their product!), but I don’t have a real income from blogging.

What are your favorite blogs/web sites for moms?I confess – in the title of my blogroll – that I read too many blogs. Some of my favorites are:

Before the Morning – Patrice Willams’ recently renamed blog
Gravity of Motion – written by another PA (peanut allergy) mom and one of my first ‘bloggy’ friends
The Pioneer Woman – because, oh my goodness, the food!
Life in Forsyth – the writing, the humor, the news, the “And I mean EXACT…” contests…

And of course, Triad Smarty Pants!

Really, though, if it is funny, well-written, local-ish (by that I mean, “written by someone in {our state}”), or I can relate to it in some way, it’s probably in my reader. Several of my friends also blog, so they are in my reader, too – though I don’t put all of them in my blogroll for their privacy.

You mention above being a PA (peanut allergy) mom. Who has a peanut allergy in your family, and how do you manage that challenge?We discovered our daughter’s food allergies (peanuts and eggs) when she was 15 months old. In making the required dietary changes, I discovered that many of the convenient snacks, sweets, and boxed mixes we regularly used were not ‘safe’ foods anymore. At that time, I began making a lot more of things from scratch. I’d made baby food before, but I was never as intentional about what my husband and I were eating. Once I started reading labels more carefully for peanut, tree nut, and egg ingredients, I also noticed the unhealthy ingredients and decided I would work to do better for our whole family. Through this, I have discovered that I enjoy being in the kitchen – especially baking. That doesn’t mean you won’t find chips or cookies in my pantry, but you’ll definitely see less that you would have a few years ago.

M will go through allergy testing again next week. Hopefully, we’ll get good news, and she will have outgrown her egg allergy. If so, we can revive our Saturday morning tradition of scrambled eggs for breakfast. If not, well, life goes on! For our family, all of the food allergy precautions are normal to us now. M is also quickly becoming her own advocate and asking if foods are safe before she eats them. What seemed insurmountable in the beginning has become part of our lifestyle, and that’s the most important thing I share with anyone who is learning to live with food allergies.

Speaking of food, I know you are a big fan of Dream Dinners. Tell us why - and how often - you use this convenient service.
We use Dream Dinners about once a month – and have been for a few years now. As much as I love to cook and bake, the time and money savings with Dream Dinners makes it a great option for our family. We are also MUCH more willing to try new foods – I don’t have to hunt down a recipe or figure out side dishes, we just select the 3-serving size, take advantage of the side dish suggestions, and give it a whirl. That’s how I found out that I like salmon! When we use one of our meals, dinner is usually on the table in about 30 minutes. That leaves a lot more of the evening for me to spend with my husband and kids before they go to bed. Also, if my schedule gets really tight and I can’t fit in a Dream Dinners session, I use the “Made for Me” option and the folks at Dream Dinners will assemble our meals according to our dietary needs and tastes. It’s really a great fit for us since we enjoy a lot of variety and want to encourage the same thing in our children.

Ok, let's move on to some "lighter" topics...
Favorite place to get a good deal on kids clothes?Mt Tabor UMC Clothing Exchange, Old Navy

Favorite place to splurge on kids clothes?We don’t really splurge on the kids clothes, but will put a fair amount of money into shoes –we are a New Balance family (hooray for the TSP discount card!), I usually purchase KEENs online, and dress shoes often come from Stride Rite Outlet.

What is your favorite family activity?It’s hard to choose one answer because it changes with the seasons. Also, as the kids get older, we are able to try many more things together. Right now we are trying our hands at square-foot gardening for the second summer, and we’ve added more square footage this year. The kids really enjoy watching the fruits and vegetables grow, especially when anything’s ready to pick!

Favorite “mommy-time” activity?I enjoy meeting a friend for coffee/lunch/dinner. I try to schedule it just like I would any other appointment to be sure that I make it a priority.

Best place to eat lunch and/or dinner with the kids?Our kids love Beef ‘O’ Brady’s! You can find us there for lunch most Sundays.

Favorite date place?Christopher’s or Firebirds, but most often a redbox movie after the kids are in bed.

Funniest thing your kid(s) has ever said?There really are too many! In fact, I have an “Overheard” label on my blog for this kind of thing, and I should probably use it more often. Recently, though…. “Cats need a lot of room for their babies to hatch.”

Favorite park in the Triad?I would like to explore more of them, but if I had to pick one, I think I’d say Miller Park. The playground, the trails, and the trees (shade!) make it a great place for playing, exploring, and relaxing.

Mini-van or SUV?Honda Odyssey! But I have a confession: I ask for an Accord when my van is in the shop for those “big” services that take half of the day. The change is fun, but in the end, I still love my minivan more.

Best thing about raising a family in the Triad?
There are plenty of things to do here, but so many other opportunities within a day’s drive. Now that our kids are a bit older, I’m looking forward to trying more of the day trip options I’ve read about on TSP!

Best kept secret in the Triad?
I find something new all the time! My favorite finds are locally-owned businesses – you can’t beat the service and value, especially when you establish relationships as a repeat customer.

Best mom secret YOUR mom has shared with you?Probably the most fun thing I have learned from my mom is to let a sick child drink chicken noodle soup through a straw. I know this because I got to do it when I was a kid. The noodles come right up through the straw – guaranteed to make a sick kid laugh! And I have never really liked the bits of chicken, anyway.

Best birthday party you have attended?A ballerina-themed party held at the home of one of my daughter’s classmates.

Best book you’ve ever read?
Pass – it’s too hard to pick!

What’s your favorite thing about Triad Smarty Pants?
Smarty Finds and Smarty Day Trips.

I could not live without my...Husband! He’s supportive of the roles I juggle, has a great sense of humor, and works hard so I can be a mostly-stay-at-home mom. He was working at his computer while I worked on these answers, giving his “smarty-pants” answers to the questions while I typed mine – we were laughing and having a great time. Tomorrow is our anniversary!

I wish someone had told me sooner about...Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

RL has also guest blogged for TSP on Geocaching as a Day Trip idea, and momAgenda as a Smarty Find, and on food allergies. Be sure to check out these blogs.

Thanks for these fabulous answers, RLR, and congrats to you and Joe on your wedding anniversary!! I'm so glad I finally met you, and we appreciate all the support you give TSP! You truly are one smarty mom!

No comments: