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.

Monday, December 12, 2016

4 Best Books for 4-Year-Old Boys

Photo © Pixabay
I'm basing this highly-scientific blog on books that my four-year-old son loves me to read. He is a typical toddler in that he loves silly books, especially about underwear. If you're still looking for stocking stuffers for Christmas, or need an eighth present to round out Hanukkah gifts, you've come to the right place.

  • Vegetables in Underwear -- My son loves this picture book about the joys of wearing underwear. Clever illustrations make it an easy read for parents also. My favorite character is the broccoli boy who narrates the story. 
  • Yellow Submarine -- The Beatles cult classic is not really a children's movie, although it is animated. The book actually makes a lot more sense than the movie, especially if you're trying to watch it completely sober. 
  • Don't Push the Button -- In an example of reverse psychology at its finest, the picture book instructs the readers to avoid pushing a red button. My son loves pushing the button, of course, and seeing what mayhem ensues to the poor narrator.
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo - A 1968 classic about the value of short names, the book continues to delight my toddler. I think he just likes hearing "Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo!" over and over again.
What are your toddler's favorite books? Do you have any you would recommend?

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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chart: Do I Have to Go to Kid's Birthday Party?

I developed this flowchart after one month and three birthday parties. Now, one of the parties was my firstborn's party, so I was definitely on the hook for that one.

Last year, I scoured the Internet for "Curious George" party paraphanelia, including monkey-themed favors such as bracelets and temporary tattoos. We spent days cleaning our house, and even hired a balloon artist to make balloon animals.

The day before the party, I panicked that the storebought cake wasn't enough to feed the guests and whipped up a batch of homemade cupcakes.

The end result? The children ignored the balloon artist and went outside to play. Half the guests forgot to bring home the meticulously-curated favor bags. We also had enough cupcakes to last a month.

This year, I dialed it down a notch and held the party at a local community center with a pool. We had pizza and another storebought cake. I didn't do favors, and nobody complained. Nobody missed the homemade cupcakes, either!

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, September 7, 2016

My $50 Jar of Homemade Peach Jam

Photo © Nina Snyder
September in Colorado means a fresh harvest of juicy Palisades peaches. This year, I succumbed to the roadside stand selling flats of peaches for $40.

How much is in a flat? I have no idea -- I usually buy my peaches at the grocery store in oh-so-urban plastic bags. But it sure looked like a lot of peaches, at least three dozen to my untrained eye.

As a win-win, the roadside vendor looked happy when I asked for peaches on the ripe side. I assume selling dozens of overripe peaches is tougher than selling the hard-as-rocks variety.

Along with a friend, I set out to channel my inner pioneer woman and distill those delicious peaches into homemade jam. She had mason jars left over for her wedding, so all we needed was the raw materials.

Oh, wait, and various canning implements sold at the grocery store for $10. Now we were set. She found an easy recipe using a crock pot. We peeled and sliced the peaches, added lemon juice, pectin and a lot of sugar.

Eight hours later, the aroma of peaches filled the kitchen. The amber concoction looked darker than I thought it would be, but it tasted heavenly.

My toddler wanted to help with the canning process, which unfortunately meant only one large jar of peach jam survived -- plus some leftovers that we just refrigerated for quick eating.

Despite it all, I think we have a future in canning. I'm sure we could sell our homemade peach jam at farmers markets -- for the completely reasonable price of $50 to cover costs. As long as we market it as artisanal, small-batch jam, I'm sure it will be a hit.

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, July 29, 2016

The 5 Stages of Cleaning Out Your Garage

Photo @ Pixabay
After a hailstorm pockmarked my car, I vowed to clean out our garage so I could actually park in the garage. However, it took me about a month to work up the courage to enter the maze of boxes, discarded furniture and baby clothes. Here are the five stages of cleaning out the garage.

1. Denial - Open the garage door. Look at all the junk in the garage. Sigh loudly. Close the door. "I'll do it it later!"

2. Anger - Who put all this stuff in here? Not me, it must have been my husband. Or maybe my toddler carted all his old toys in there by himself when I wasn't looking.

3. Bargaining - If I sell all the old baby stuff in here, I can buy a double stroller. Hmm. If I take everything to the consignment store and only get $20, then I still come out ahead.

4. Depression - We have too much stuff in the garage. We are a materialistic society which has lost sight of its collective soul. There's no point in going on.

5. Acceptance - I accept that it will take me 20 trips to Goodwill to get rid of all this junk.

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, July 1, 2016

The Problem with Co-Sleeping

Illustration © Pixabay
Co-sleeping sounded like a great idea to me after nursing my son and waking up several times a night. At first, co-sleeping allowed me to get more sleep because I didn't have to get out of bed to nurse.

On some primal level, I also took comfort in the fact that my child was with me all night. If we were still cavemen, I'm sure we would all sleep in the same cave and not put our children in separate little caverns.

However, the problem with co-sleeping is that parents do not get any sleep. After more than three years of co-sleeping, I was simply exhausted and depleted. Sleep deprivation causes a range of side effects, and most parents are all too aware sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

We have since moved our children to their own beds. Hearing my daughter cry for 10 minutes before she falls asleep in her crib is torture in its own way -- but it's a small price to pay for eight hours of sleep.

Of course, this is only my experience. Other parents may love co-sleeping and have only a positive experience.

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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Swimming Back to Myself

Photo © Pixabay
Sometimes, you start writing one thing and it turns into another. I was trying to write a lighthearted blog about motherhood, but then postpartum depression overtook me last month.

Along the way to trying to be the best mother I could be, I lost sight of myself. The ironic part is I've always wanted to be a mother. I yearned for a child while I was in my 30s and single.

When I got married and had a baby at age 38, I felt it literally was a miracle. But somewhere along the way with two children, it became less miraculous and more mundane. Less exhilarating -- and more exhausting.

Last week, I started antidepressants and started swimming again. Swimming by myself for 30 minutes without the kids. Swimming in a basic public pool, a rectangle of blue water surrounded by patchy grass.

What I like about swimming outside is that you can't think about anything else except the sky overhead. For that 30 minutes, I felt strong and capable. I just need to remember that feeling the next time I'm overwhelmed by the constant demands of motherhood.

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, May 18, 2016

Don't Be Afraid to Hire a Babysitter

My best advice for new moms is: Don't be afraid to hire a babysitter! Bunmi Laditan, the author of "Toddlers Are A**holes: It's Not Your Fault," posted the hilarious video above on the difference between hiring a babysitter for a first child versus a third child.

With my first child, I did not hire any babysitters, determined that only family members would look after my precious son. I only worked for two hours in the morning before my husband left for work. My mother-in-law also watched him once a week so I could run errands.

In hindsight, I was an idiot. With my second child, I hired a babysitter after my daughter was five months old. My mother had moved here by that point, but both grandmothers eventually got tired of watching my daughter after I went back to work part time.

I love both my babysitters. The first babysitter moved to Hawaii after three months. I was so depressed I wore the same outfit for three days after she told me she was moving out of state. (By the way, no one noticed I was wearing the same yoga pants and pullover.)

The second babysitter has been with use for three months, and I am crossing my fingers that she will stay. Having someone else to watch my child and do light housework three mornings a week has made me a much happier mom.

My daughter cried at first when I left with the babysitter. Now she happily gurgles and waves goodbye to me. I don't know which is worse, having her cry when I leave or having her not care at all. But I'm happy to get out the door.

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.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Starbucks, I Can't Quit You

Photo courtesy of Starbucks
After my husband pointed out I spent more than $100 at Starbucks last month, I've been trying to change my evil, coffee-loving ways. The debut of the new Starbucks reward system on April 12 also made it easier to see how much money I was spending for a free coffee.

Under the new system, you need to earn 125 stars for a free food or drink item, which is $62.50. Now if someone said "Hey, if you spend more than $60, you get a free coffee!" I would say that's a horrible deal. But when it's cloaked in shiny stars that pop up on my Starbucks app, it awakens some urge buried since kindergarten to get shiny gold stars.

Finance guru Preet Banerjee serves up a good breakdown of the new Starbucks reward system on YouTube for anyone who's as obsessed as I am with Starbucks. Basically, if you spend less than $5, you were better off under the old system, which rewarded patrons with a free item after 12 visits.

So here I am at Panera, sipping herbal tea and trying to get into the writing groove. I switched tables three times to get comfortable. The first one was too close to the soda machine, with its distracting whirs and gurgles. The second one was too close to a large party discussing something boring. The third table lacked an outlet.

Starbucks, I can't quit you... but my budget needs to quit you for a while.

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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Humbled by Motherhood: Breastfeeding the Second Child

 Photo © Pixabay
When I had my second child, I mistakenly thought I knew what I was doing. After all, I had successfully mothered my first-born through his first two years.

Like any odyssey, maternal hubris can only lead to humbling experiences. Finish this sentence: "I'm a good mother because ___________." Whatever you put in that blank will probably not be true for the second child!

"I'm a good mother because I'm good at breastfeeding," was my personal mantra. My son took to breastfeeding right away. I had no problems with milk production. I could have probably fed a small country (Liechtenstein, perhaps?) with the amount of milk I produced.

I breastfed my son everywhere -- at Starbucks, at the zoo, at the park. He was discreetly covered up with a nursing cover, but I would have let it all hang out if I had more bravery to challenge social norms.

When I had my daughter, breastfeeding was not something I worried about. However, she did not latch on, despite my best efforts. I was poked and prodded by nurses, doctors and lactation consultants at the hospital, and the experts finally concluded her mouth was not large enough yet.

I couldn't believe it, I was the queen of breastfeeding! How was this happening? I have a clear memory of my husband feeding her with a dropper in the hospital because she wouldn't take the bottle at first. I felt devastated watching him perform my cherished job, although grateful at the same time.

For the first month, I had to pump and then give her a bottle, which is exhausting when you're not getting any sleep. Eventually, she figured out how to latch on, but I never forgot the humbling experience.

Perhaps it taught me to not rush to judgment when mothers couldn't breastfeed despite their best efforts, or chose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. As long as your child is getting enough nutrients, through formula or through breast milk, rest assured you are doing your job as a mother!

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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Always Incremental: How Dieting and Writing a Novel Are Alike

Mmm cream puffs... what diet? Photo © Pixabay
My Sunday morning ritual is to go to a Weight Watchers meeting and then write my young adult fantasy novel at a coffee shop. For the first time, it struck me that the process of losing weight and writing are alike. Both are incremental, and no one really notices until you're done.

At my Weight Watchers meeting, a lot of the meeting is pop psychology about how to stay motivated and keep on track. I figure that applies equally well to writing.

For Weight Watchers, I've lost 10 pounds and still have 25 more pounds to go to reach that elusive pre-baby weight.

For my novel, I've written 4,000 words and still have 51,000 more words to go to reach a standard length for the genre.

Starting out on a new diet or a new writing project is always exciting - this time, it's going to be different! I'm always pumped up and full of enthusiasm, but sometimes I get carried away.

I daydream about being a size two, not just a svelte size 10. My debut novel gets turned into the next "Hunger Games" franchise, not just gets published in the first place.

The long slog in the middle is where I usually give up because setbacks happen, and then I end up questioning the wisdom of the whole endeavor, whether it's a diet or a novel.

But this time I'm trying to stick with it, aided by an inspirational quote cribbed from my last Weight Watcher's meeting.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
-- Thomas Edison
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 10, 2016

12 Dancing Princesses Need to Be Grounded

Princess, you're grounded! Photo © Pixabay
I saved some of my favorite books from my childhood for my children, including a collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales. When I reread the "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," I realized it was the first time I had read the tale as a mom.

Reaction as a little girl: "Oooh, sneaking out and dancing all night sounds like fun!"
Reaction as a mom: "Those princesses need to be grounded, STAT!"

If you're not familiar with the fairy tale, a King has 12 beautiful daughters who manage to sneak out and dance all night long in a castle underground. The King offers marriage to any man who can successfully stalk the princesses and figure out what they're up to all night.

Because you know those princesses are not just sneaking out and dancing... you're going to end up with 12 princesses on "16 and Pregnant." I don't care how many shoes they go through, that doesn't prove they're dancing.

And where is their mother, the Queen, in the story? Is she just exhausted from popping out a dozen girls? Is her last name Duggar?

Last, but not least, the youngest princess gets stuck marrying her stalker. This is just a horrible story all around.

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.

Monday, March 7, 2016

#SharetheLoad Encourages Husbands to Share Chores

I just watched this ad after folding two loads of laundry, so it definitely hit a nerve. Ariel India created a television ad that encourages husbands to share the load for household chores, but I think the campaign applies to U.S. households as well.

The problem in my household is that my husband does some fuzzy math and thinks that he is doing half the work. When we were first married without children, he would do his laundry and I would do my laundry. So that was a 50-50 split.

However, now that we have two children, he still does his laundry. But now I do my laundry and the laundry for both children. So he now does 25% of the laundry, and I do 75%. However, he still feels like he is doing his fair share. He's still doing his own laundry, so that's 50%, right?

No,  not with two kids that manage to go through at least two outfits a day. Not to mention the mass of dirty towels that piles up after bath time. Sometimes I look at the huge pile of laundry to fold and feel like the miller's daughter in Rumpelstiltskin, trying in vain to spin straw into gold.

Don't worry, we have fought about this before, so I am not turning to my blog to air our dirty laundry (no pun intended!)

What do you think? Does your husband #sharetheload of laundry and household chores?

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.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Being a Mom is Like Being a Teenager Again

Photo © Pixabay
When I was 16, I couldn't wait to become an adult. I imagined an exciting life of travel and new experiences. For a while, I lived an independent life, which of course involved a lot more responsibility that I pictured as a teenager. After having two children, however, I feel like I have regressed slightly! Here are 5 ways being a  mom is like being a teenager again.

1. I live at the mall
As a teenager, I had large blocks of free time, which I ended up spending at the mall because that was the cool thing to do in the 1990s. As an adult, I would normally avoid the mall, but now I end up going around once a week with my two children. Thanks to snowy days and empty afternoons, the mall is one place I can go and walk around with my kids without getting glares from fellow grown-ups. They even have a playground to keep my toddler entertained!

2. No money
In high school, I worked part-time in a picture framing store and in a grocery store but never had a lot of money. Now I work part-time as a freelance writer, but I still don't make any money after paying for part-time child care. This is not necessarily bad, there are lots of fun things you can do without much money. I scour the newspaper for coupons and frequently attend the dollar movie theater near my house --much like when I was a teenager.

3. Driving around for no reason
I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, where we drove around downtown for fun. Downtown was about three square blocks, but it was an enjoyable ride cruising along in my friend's white Camaro. Yes, that's what people do for fun in small towns! Now I still drive around aimlessly, this time in a sensible sedan, as a last-ditch effort to get my children to take a nap.

 4. Always worrying about being normal
In high school, I was always worried about being normal, or at least appearing normal. Now I worry about my children instead. Is it normal for children to eat so much sugar? To be potty trained or not potty trained by now? To have temper tantrums? I live for the bell curve at the doctor's office. As long as they're 50th percentile, I'm happy. I'm not even shooting for the stars, I'm just aiming for average nowadays!

5. Self-conscious about appearance
As a teenage girl, I was self conscious about acne and braces, not to mention my eyeglasses. Eventually, I found my own style in my 20s and 30s. After children, however, I had to say goodbye to pedicures and salon haircuts and hello to Great Cuts. The extra 20 pounds (or, maybe 25) I accumulated after two pregnancies also makes it harder to feel fashionable.

What do you think? Does being a mom make you feel like a teenager again?

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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Do We Need Different Diapers for Boys and Girls?

Diaper aisle at Target. Photo © Nina Snyder
Sexism is alive and well in the aisles at Target. Although the retailer took steps to remove gender bias for in their toy aisles, Target is hosting a new gender-based marketing.

A colorful display from Huggies promoted "targeted absorbency" for a new diaper product line. The signage touted center protection for girls in a pink package and up front protection for boys in a blue package.

I reached out to Huggies to get the inside scoop -- pardon the pun -- on the diapers. The diaper manufacturer quietly rolled out the Huggies Little Movers Diaper Pants in October 2015. The diapers are exclusively available at Target and Target.​com in sizes three through six.

As the mother of both a boy and a girl, I have to say it never occurred to me that my son and daughter needed gender-specific diapers. However, it is indisputable that boys and girls have different plumbing for private parts. According to Huggies, customers have responded positively to the diapers.

"We've received a lot of positive feedback from customers,​" said Amie Wentz, Huggies Brand Manager. "One recent reviewer said she 'really noticed that the diaper was wetter in the center and her daughter’s skin was dryer than she experienced with other diapers.​'"

However, I feel like this could be a slippery slope for parents.

Do you need different baby wipes for boys and girls? Floral-scented for girls and patchouli-scented for boys? The possibilities are endless. Frozen-branded toilet paper for girls. Minions-branded toilet paper for boys.

I better stop before I give marketing departments more ideas. Marketing departments love differentiation, the concept of convincing customers they need different products based on traits such as gender or age. At least diapers cost the same for both boys and girls!

While I applauded Target's recent removal of gender-based signs for toys, their shelves are still awash in pink and blue boxes because I don't think toy manufacturers got the memo.

Growing up in the free-spirited '70s, I don't remember gender norms as strictly delineated. While I was never athletically skilled enough to be a proper tomboy, I loved climbing trees and digging up worms in the backyard. I also loved Barbie dolls and would sew the dolls clothes by hand.

However, my parents never bought me a chemistry set that I longed for as an eight-year-old. Although to be honest, I'm not sure if that was sexism or because they were worried I would burn down the house.

Now that I'm a mom, I'm careful not to discourage my son when he is interested in his younger sister's toys or vice versa.

Also, on a practical level, I don't want to buy a whole new set of toys for my daughter when she gets older. She can learn to build with primary-color Legos handed down from her brother instead of pink-and-purple Legos.

What do you think? Do we need different diapers for boys and girls?

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.

Note: This blog post originally appeared on Dec.  7, 2015, but I have since switched web-hosting services.