Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How to Watch a Children's Movie 100 Times -- Without Losing Your Mind

The first time I saw "Lilo and Stitch," I enjoyed the quirky animated film. The 2002 Disney film follows a headstrong girl, Lilo, as she adopts a mischievous alien, Stitch, from a pet shelter. Lilo's sister appears to be an adult woman with hips, a welcome departure from Disney's waifish princesses. I also got a kick out of the Elvis soundtrack and scenic backdrop of Hawaii.

However, by the 100th time I watched it with my children, I had to develop the following coping strategies to help me from not losing my mind. Netflix has graciously put the original film, as well as three sequels of questionable merit, on their streaming service.

1. Try to guess who's voicing the characters
Lilo's sister is voiced by Tia Carrere, which I already knew. However, the cross-dressing alien sounded vaguely familiar as well. Possibly one of the Canadian comics from "The Kids in the Hall" -- but which one? The curly-haired one or the one who went on to star in "News Radio?" If you really can't tell, listen to the movie with your eyes closed. (Spoiler: The cross-dressing alien is voiced by Kevin McDonald, the curly-haired actor and "The Kids in the Hall" alum.)
2. Look for errors in the sequels
Film geeks have been searching for continuity errors in films for decades, but errors can also be found in animated films. For example, Myrtle, the annoying redhead in Lilo's hula class, does a hula dance promoting her father's souvenir store in the second film. However, by the fourth film, Myrtle's classmates taunt her that she doesn't have a father. No one else would notice this -- except a parent forced to watch the movies over and over again.
3. When all else fails, take a nap
Before I had children, I never had a television in my bedroom. Now my favorite spot to watch TV is in my bedroom, so I can secretly take a nap while they are transfixed for an hour or so by a movie. So I'm not winning any mother-of-the-year awards with this strategy, but I am catching up on some much-needed sleep.

What are your strategies for watching children's movies over and over again? Share in the comments below.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

3 Apps to Help Moms Save Money

Courtesy of GoodRx

I admit it, I'm a suburban mom who clips coupons. I find it soothing to leaf through the Sunday newspaper searching for bargains.

Before I had children, I wouldn't have been caught dead using coupons. I went out to eat at the newest restaurants with impunity, but now I am always on the hunt for a good BOGO offer.

Now that we are in the digital age in 2017, I have turned to these three apps to help save money. I have personally used all of these apps, and I am not receiving reimbursement for recommending them.
  1. GoodRx - GoodRx takes the hassle out of finding prescription prices. I recently had to take Amoxicillin for a root canal -- don't worry, I will spare you the gory details of the procedure. However, GoodRx helped me find the least expensive pharmacy for Amoxicillin, and I picked up the generic prescription at Wal-Mart for $4. I do have dental insurance, but I figured $4 was worth it to avoid the hassle of calling and figuring out if they covered prescriptions.
  2. Ibotta - Ibotta gives you rebates based on products you buy at major grocery stores, as well as a handful of retail stores. Instead of clipping coupons, you scan in product barcodes and upload receipts via your smart phone. Money is transferred to your PayPal or Venmo account once your balance reaches $20, or you can receive gift cards in lieu of cash. My only quibble with Ibotta is that it seems rather difficult to reach customer service.
  3. Mint - Mint is a free budgeting app from Intuit that links to your bank accounts, mortgage and other loans. The app allows you to see where you are spending your money every month, and also allows you to set monthly budgets in different categories. The only caveat is that Mint works better with larger banks. For example, it synced fine with our Wells Fargo mortgage but not once we refinanced with a smaller company.
What apps do you use to save money? Let me know in the comments.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

7 Tips for Authors: How to Ace Your Interview on Local News

Like many authors, I am a classic introvert and would happily avoid all publicity that involved talking to strangers. On the other hand, selling books does require effort -- even putting in some elbow grease in the dreaded form of marketing.

My first (and only) appearance on local news generated equal parts excitement and fear when I got the call from the booking agent. I scoured the internet for tips and asked one friend who had been on the "Dr. Phil" show for expert advice.

  1. Wear solid colors - Leave the patterns at home and wear solid colors that are flattering.
  2. Be aware of your tics - I personally laugh when I get nervous, which is not ideal for television. I didn't manage to completely get rid of this tic, but at least I was aware of it and tried to keep it under control.
  3. Watch the show - I never have time in the mornings to watch morning shows. I'm too busy guzzling coffee and attempting to get my children dressed. However, I did watch clips on the Internet to get a feel for the show.
  4. Go with the flow - All of the clips I happened to watch showed a set where guests sit on stools. I wore slacks in anticipation of the stools, but then it turned out that I was sitting on an armchair in the faux living room corner of the set.
  5. Be aware of the camera's location - I totally forgot about this piece of advice. I'm holding up my book, but you can't see the pages because it's not toward the camera.
  6. Bring a signed copy of the book for the host - My interviewer was a lovely young lady without children, so I have no idea what she did with the book, but it's polite to give a copy.
  7. Do your own hair and makeup - Most local shows do not have the budget for a hair and makeup staff. I don't usually wear make-up, but I slathered on the foundation and broke out the eye makeup. Even men can benefit from foundation under the bright lights.
My one disappointment from the show was that I didn't sell hundreds of copies of my children's book. I also expected the television station to put the clip on their website, but they mailed me a copy of the interview on a DVD instead.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Are You a Frazzled New Mom? Try HALTS

Photo © Pixabay
When I had my first child, I was completely overwhelmed by the constant demands of my bundle of joy. All of a sudden, I had no time to myself and constantly felt like I was coming up short as a mom. When you get that frazzled feeling like nothing is going right, sometimes it's helpful to take a break. New moms should remember to HALTS.

  • H - Are you hungry? Eat a snack.
  • A - Are you angry? Ask for help.
  • L - Are you lonely? Call a friend.
  • T - Are you tired? Take a nap.
  • S - Have you showered? Wash your hair.
When I was breastfeeding, I was constantly hungry so "H" helped me to remember to have a snack in between nursing. I was often angry at my husband, so "A" helped me calm down and ask him for more help.

The experience of being a stay-at-home mom for the fist time also felt pretty lonely, so "L" helped me remember to call a friend or try to meet another mom for coffee. I was also pretty tired for the fist six months, but "T" helped me to try to sneak in a nap if I could.

Showering with a newborn seems like an impossible task at times, but "S" helped me remember I always felt better if I could manage 10 minutes to wash my hair. Sometimes I would just park my son in his playpen and turn on the water so I couldn't hear him crying.

Full disclosure: I didn't make up the acronym HALT, I just added an "S" for new moms. HALTS won't cover everything, but it certainly takes care of the basics.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Read it Again!

Photo © Pixabay
Sometimes, I get discouraged by the endless stream of rejections from agents and publishers. Why I am trying to write children's picture books again? Not for fame or fortune, certainly.

Trying to get published feels like the worst parts of dating rolled into one. No sparks, just variations of the "It's not you, it's me" standard rejection. Or worse, radio silence after you pour out your heart and soul in a query.

Last week, I remembered the reason that I started writing picture books in the first place: my adorable children. Or to be more precise, my *occasionally* adorable children.

At bedtime, I snuggled with my four-year-old for the evening ritual of the bedtime story. Instead of pulling a book off the shelf, I read him my latest draft, warning him that it didn't have pictures yet.

After I finished, he said the most heart-warming words in the English language to a writer: "Read it again!"

So perhaps an audience of one is all I need.

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The One-Night Stands of Play Dates

Photo © Pixabay
You see her across a crowded room, the mom with windswept hair and cool boots. Her child is adorable and sweet, and more importantly, can put up with your child. You close your eyes for a brief moment and picture years of play dates in perfect harmony.

But alas, it is not meant to be. Here are the three types of play dates which start out full of promise,  but fizzle out in awkward goodbyes and vague promises to get together soon.

1. The mom of twins
She is remarkably unfazed by any child that does not come in double doses. Her house is cleaner than you expected, and she kindly cooks you lunch along with her brood. Your children play together well, and you are excited to meet a kindred spirit in the preschool crowd. However, it is impossible to book a second play date due to the myriad doctor appointments and babysitting challenges that come with twins.

2. The mom in graduate school
She started studying for a second career as soon as her children were ensconced in preschool. She has lived abroad and had all sorts of fascinating adventures that you are happy to hear about. Your children get along swimmingly, and frolic outside in the backyard without bothering you for at least an hour. However, she is busy studying for school, and barely has time to text you back when you try for another play date.

3. The mom with the mansion
Oops, you were not paying attention to what her husband does for a living, but she lives in a huge house with brand-new furniture! Your children play happily, but you are too stressed out wondering if your child is going to break something. This one's on you, you are too embarrassed to have her over to your humble abode.

Now when you run into each other at preschool, it's time for an awkward half-wave and stilted conversation. Do you pretend you're only acquaintances? Do you pretend you've only just met? What would Carol Brady do?

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

I'm Still a Cool Mom. No, Really!

Photo © Pixabay
Before I had children, I promised myself I would be a cool mom:
  •  My husband and I would stay in our 815-square-foot condo in the cool area of town. We wouldn't move out to the suburbs
  • I would still wear stylish clothes, avoiding mom jeans or other pants with elastic waistbands.
  • I would not dress my children in matching outfits for family photos that would embarrass them when they were older.
The first two resolutions crumbled quickly in the wake of  the new reality of parenthood. We moved three months after our son was born. I wore yoga pants for two years, after a surprising amount of baby weight lingered postpartum.

However, I still hadn't bought matching clothes -- but this one recently flew out the window. I broke down and ordered matching pajamas for me and my daughter. Pink pajamas -- with unicorns, no less. These are not cool in any universe, known or otherwise.

Perhaps I can preserve my dignity somewhat by not taking any photos of myself and my daughter in the pajamas. But I'm itching to post a photo on Facebook that will haunt me in any job interview down the road.

Believe me, I wasn't remotely cool in high school or college, but I was determined to be a cool mom. I had a brief window of coolness in my 20s when I splurged on a used Ford Mustang convertible. With the top down and the breeze through my hair, I was the coolest I've ever been.

Nowadays, I take heart from an episode from the cult television show "Freaks and Geeks." Sam, the adorkable younger brother, repeats "I'm cool" to himself to build his confidence after making some questionable fashion choices. I just have to repeat "I'm cool" enough times while wearing pink unicorn pajamas to believe it.

But then again, all moms are cool, if you think about it. After all, we grew a baby human inside us for nine months, and then suffered a fair amount of pain to bring the tiny creature into the world. What's cooler than that?

Nina Snyder is the author of "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book that makes learning the alphabet fun for toddlers. Follow her on Twitter @nsnyder_writer.