On too many days, Kristi Pauling’s schedule is a blur.
Full-time work at a Charlotte day care center, tending infants and the after-school crowd, consumes her days. In the evenings, the 33-year-old struggles to stay awake while handling a full load of online courses.
That doesn’t leave much time to relax with 13-year-old daughter Alexia and 4-year-old son Jamar.
“As soon as I get home, it’s like bam-bam-bam. Time for them to go to bed,” she said. “It’s hard because I feel like I don’t spend enough time with them during the week. But I have to live, you know?”
Pauling has worked in child care for 13 years but aspires to become a nurse to make things better for her family.
She recently finished nine months of night school in Kaplan College’s medical assistant program in Charlotte. She’s now taking online classes with Stanly Community College, trying to get into the school’s nursing program.
Tuition bills have made it difficult to afford presents this year, so she’s turned to the Salvation Army for help. The organization’s Christmas Bureau aims to help get gifts to 14,000 children in the Charlotte area who might not receive any otherwise.
The Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund supports the program.
Christmas means family time in their University City-area home. Pauling dragged the Christmas tree out in late November, and the family plans to head to Pauling’s mother’s house in Lancaster, S.C., to celebrate Christmas Day.
Alexia loves anything Hello Kitty, jewelry and pop music from the likes of Justin Bieber and One Direction.
Jamar is into Spiderman and bikes, and has been asking a lot about an educational LeapPad tablet.
And they both love to draw, with anything they can find – crayons, colored pencils, markers.
When Jamar was 2, he drew an owl so well it astounded his teacher. Jamar now dreams of one day designing a house for his mother.
Being together for the holidays is what matters the most, Pauling said. But it would be nice to have a little something under the tree.
“Even though my kids may not get as much as I want them to have, they will have something,” she said. “That’s all that matters.”