When my son Tyler was a wee lad, we instituted a fun ritual that continues today. Periodically we have a movie festival. We would watch a bunch of movies that we both really wanted to see. We would usually head to the library and check out the maximum number allowed ( 6, I believe) and add that to our stash of Netflix movies (2). I made sure we had enough snacks and we were all set. As time progressed, we continued our tradition but it has evolved. One day Tyler suggested that we only watch bad movies. At first I didn't want to waste my time but I decided what the hell. And you know what? It was actually a lot of fun. When you're a single parent and all of your relatives live in other states, you have to find ways to amuse your child when you spend so much time together.
Fast forward to the rise of streaming movies. Now that we have more options, our movie marathons have become more frequent and a lot more fun. And since Tyler is old enough to stay up later, we have had several all night events. We have watched bad Christmas movies, entire seasons of television shows and have alternated between one movie that I like and one that he likes.
If you're looking for a fun way to connect with your kids, a family movie festival is an idea worth considering. Here are some tips to get you started.
Choose a theme: You can select movies from one genre, movies starring your favorite actor or actress, movies with low ratings, etc. It's okay to mix it up. If you decide you're going to watch movies by one actor, for instance, watch the movies in order from earlier to latest. If you select musicals, watch both old classics and new musicals. And trust me, you need to have a Christmas movie festival. Again, mix it up with old classics and some of the newer movies.
Make a schedule: To keep the festival moving smoothly, make sure you plan the order of the movies you are going to watch. If you are binge watching a television series, the schedule is already set. The same holds true if you are watching movies in order, Star Wars for example. Otherwise, you will have to decide the order you want to watch the movies.
Have enough snacks on hand: You also want to do a little planning in this area. You don't want to get hungry in the middle of your marathon, only to realize that your cupboard is as bare as Old Mother Hubbard's. If we're pulling an all- nighter, we usually have an intermission around 1 or 2 am for me to make some breakfast food. We normally have either pizza, sandwiches or hot dogs at the beginning of the festival. There's usually chips, popcorn, candy, cookies and or other snacks, also.
Finally, if you're planning to stay up all night, now when to say when. Sometimes we don't make it and that's okay. If we feel like we're getting sleepy, we call it a night (or technically a day). If we haven't watched all of the movies we planned to watch, we save them for another day.
Now I'm off to plan our Christmas movie festival.
Last week was one of those weeks where life dumped a big old bucket of lemons on my head. Nothing major, just the kind of setbacks that spoil an otherwise well-laid plan. I won't bore you with all of the details. I can tell you that my computer crashed (this on the heels of the Google Drive outage) and I overslept on Monday because Tyler was home from school. This put me behind in a writing project with a fast approaching deadline.
Wednesday was PSAT day and also early dismissal. So once again I was faced with not having a full day of alone time to work. Then Friday my phone stopped making and receiving calls and text messages. After spending two hours chatting online with customer service, I was told I needed a new SIM card. After driving miles out of my way to get the card on Saturday, the phone still didn't work. But wait, that's because the card was not activated (although I asked twice if it was). On Sunday, I had to drive miles out of my again to get another SIM card and to make sure the card was indeed activated. After leaving the store with a functioning phone, not more than 30 minutes later, not only was the phone not working, but the fool had deleted my voice mail service! And oh yeah, I probably need a new phone after all.
So, here I am at the beginning of another week, one that hope goes better than the previous one. My phone is still not working. I expect the new one to arrive later this week
I remember it like it was yesterday.
"If we don't take that baby right now, one of three things will happen. Either you're going to die, the baby's going to die, or both of you are going to die."
That was nearly fifteen years ago when I received this bleak diagnosis. Stinging tears flowed down my face as I stared at the concerned but nonetheless stranger. I was scared and I wanted my own doctor. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving 2000. I had been in the hospital since Friday.
My first pregnancy had been fairly uneventful for a woman of "advanced maternal age", a term for women who give birth after the age of 35. I had turned 36 in April. My blood pressure was high, but was being controlled with medication. I had minimal morning sickness. I suffered from fatigue, collapsing on the sofa each day after work. I had a voracious appetite. I fainted twice but that was heat-related. Trust me, you don't want to be pregnant in New Orleans in the summer!
Because of my age and blood pressure, my doctor sent me to a clinic for high risk pregnancies for a "Level 3 Ultrasound". Wow, Level 3. Sounds scary right? Basically, it could determine if my baby was at risk for birth defects earlier than a regular ultrasound. I also found out I was having a boy.
"You see that thing right here? That's a penis," the doctor told me. I think I scared the poor resident accompanying her (it was her first day) when I started crying because I wanted a girl.
A few days later, my doctor recommended an amniocentesis based on one of the test results. My "numbers" predicted the baby might have Down's Syndrome but I could also have a miscarriage from the procedure. I was 36 and this was maybe my last chance to have a baby. So I declined.
The next few months flew by as I planned for Tyler's arrival. Yes, I named him as soon as I found out I was having a boy. He barely moved during the day, but yikes he was extremely active at 3 a.m. !
In October I started feeling extremely fatigued, hot and thirsty as a traveler lost in the Sahara Desert. I had trouble breathing. My lab work during my doctor visits was always favorable. My doctor assured me as soon as the baby dropped , I would breath easier. So I waddled on.
The week before Thanksgiving there was a bug going around in my office. When I became ill, I figured I had gotten bitten too. By Friday I was seriously feeling "off". I made it to work but immediately had to leave.
I spent the next seven days in bed. I couldn't eat or sleep. I felt like I was on fire. I already had an appointment at the hospital the day after Thanksgiving so I figured I would get help then. The plan going forward was to see my doctor one day each week for a routine check-up and the following day I would go to the hospital for a few hours for additional monitoring. This would continue until I went in labor because of my "at-risk" pregnancy status.
November 24, 2000 was a cold, wet day. I arrived at the hospital still feeling sick. Imagine my surprise when the nurse told me I was in labor! I wasn't due for another six weeks. I was having contractions but didn't feel them. My blood pressure was extremely high. When I had a contraction, Tyler's heart rate dropped.
My doctor was out of town until Monday, so the plan was to see if they could halt the contractions. The rest of Friday and Saturday was a blur of activity. I was poked prodded and monitored. They brought in a heart specialist because of concerns I might have a stroke or heart attack. They wanted to give me medication to help Tyler's lungs but couldn't because of my pressure. After estimating Tyler probably would weigh around 6 pounds, they felt he had a better chance if they took him so they could get me stabilized.
Which brings me back to November 26. After crying for a few minutes, I told the doctor I would have the emergency C-section. That was at 8 a.m. At 1:36 p.m. I gave birth to a healthy 7 pound, 2 ounce baby. The doctor predicted Tyler could have weighed 9 pounds or more full term!
Tyler was born physically healthy and mentally strong. In a few months, my blood pressure stabilized. My blood sugar levels, which shot up due to a case of undiagnosed gestational diabetes, returned to normal.
Today Tyler is your typical, teen who spends too much time texting, won't pick up his dirty clothes off the floor and generally drives me nuts. But I'm grateful we both survived.
Even as I write this, I realize my uncommon phobia is probably one of the weirder ones you'll ever read about. You see my phobia is blue pens. Yes, blue pens. Please don't giggle. This is probably even more astounding since I write for a living. You would think I welcomed all color of rainbow, when it came to writing instrument. No so.
I can't exactly pinpoint exactly when it all started. At one time, I had, let's call it an unnatural affinity, for pens in general. I would buy dozens and dozens of pens weekly. If you wanted to buy me a gift for my birthday or Christmas, you couldn't go wrong with a few packs of pens. I would carry at least fifty pens with me on any given day. If someone needed to borrow one, my purse would cough one out but I made sure they returned it afterwards.
Eventually, I sort of grew out of my obsession, although some remnants remain to this day. Specifically, I like certain types of pens, which changes as I discover new ones or revisit old friends. Currently I'm in love with the Pentel R.S.V.P. pens. Also another quirk I have is when editing a writing project, I can't function unless I have my "special" pen.
Over the years, however, I developed an aversion to blue pens. I had always preferred black or red pens but if a blue pen was handy, I wouldn't shirk away from it. But now I'm at the point where I can't write with a blue pen. I can barely look at one without shivering. I know it's irrational even comical at times, but , as they say, "It is what it is."
My son thinks it's hysterical. He will sometimes sprinkle blue pen in my path just to see if I will freak out (yes, I always do!). It was especially comical when he chased me around Walmart with a blue pin coaxing me to "just look at it!", while I screamed "get it away from me!" Several onlookers gawked but no one intervened. He will also "accidentally" leave a blue pens on my desk, around the house or in my car. Don't worry, he removes them when I freak out.
Thankfully my phobia is more comical than crippling and has not caused me too much anxiety. I always take my own pens with me when I leave home, especially if I think or know for certain that I have to sign a document. I have gotten some weird looks from people who have tried to pass me a blue pen but overall, I can usually eliminate the potential threat (and weird stares) by whipping out my pen in advance. For example, if I'm at, say a PTA meeting, and a sign-in sheet is being passed around, I'm always happy when they send just the sheet and not an accompanying pen. This way I don't get anxious that the pen might be blue. Conversely, if the sign- in sheet is on a table , again, I will whip my pen out in advance and if the pen is blue, I gingerly thwack it off the sheet like it's a bug, using my own pen. At no time will my skin actually come in contact with said blue pen.
I wish I knew the source of my anxiety. Others who suffer from phobias can trace their fears to a specific event. For example, I had a co-worker once who hadn't drove a car in over twenty years because of an accident she had when she first learned to drive. Although no one was hurt, she was deathly afraid to drive afterwards. I've also heard of people being afraid of dogs because of a bite or attack they suffered previously. But a blue pen?
As far as I can tell there's no official name for someone with an irrational fear of blue pens (trust me, I've checked). The closest I've found is "Cyanophobia" which is the fear of the color blue. But that's not my issue. I otherwise like blue (my car is even blue). "Dimnaliphobia" is the fear of pens. No, that doesn't work either. Perhaps I can coin a new word, maybe smosh the two phobias together to create, I don't know, "CyanoDimnaliphobia" ?
I suppose most people would argue that it's not that serious of a phobia and I could probably try something like aversion therapy to get over it. I suppose if I absolutely , positively had to use a blue pen, if my life depended on it, I could. Until that time comes, I'll just keep on making sure I'm always well-stocked with black pens.
Having a teen-aged son one would think I was hip to the all the slang the young folk utter these days. But I admit I'm not always down with the latest jargon. And apparently there are times when I think I know what a word or phrase means...until Tyler corrects me and tells me (with a satisfied smirk, I might add), "That's not what that means. Uhhhhhh, old people!". So I decided to peep the situation (do people still say peep?) and educate myself on some of the popular slang I've heard lately but didn't know what the heck it meant. Here's what I discovered.
Bae : apparently means "before anyone else". So basically a lazy way of saying baby.
Basic : refers to a person or thing that's boring or typical.
Hangry : okay this one is cray cray (see what I did there?) , it means you're so hungry that you are getting angry.
Swag money : means you're "living large" , as we used to say back in the day. Basically, it means you have a lot of money.
Merked : could mean any number of things including getting drunk, high, having a good time, etc.
Derb : is your run of the mill dumbass.
Scrilla: is money (who knew...not I)
Real talk : telling the truth
Each generation creates their own slang and parents are usually in the dark about what the heck they are saying. Like generations before me, I guess it's best to just roll with it and not get too caught up in all the particulars. After all, by the time I get caught up on the lingo, they probably will have changed it to means something totally different.
When I have a bit of downtime, I enjoy looking for weird stories online. Believe me, it's not terribly hard to find hundreds of stories that will have you scratching your head and wondering "What the crazy fuck?" Here's a few of the weirder stories I ran across recently.
Lexus has a unveiled a car made from cardboard (and yes, you can drive it)
Man disguised as door knocker scares the bejezzus our of salemen
Man allegedly fired for farting too much at work
Burger King's black Whoppers are causing people to have green poop
Man calls police to complain that he's too high
I was one of those kids who hated coloring. I could never stay inside the lines and my coloring wasn't as smooth and flawless as the other kids. When I became a mother, I decided to give coloring one more chance. I found out that if I took my time, I could actually produce a reasonably attractive work of art.
Then Tyler got older and no longer wanted to color. By then I had discovered that coloring was quite therapeutic
and calming. I even had my own box of 64-count Crayola crayon. So although he stopped coloring, preferring to move on to watercolor and paint (messy!) and then to sketching, I have stuck with simple crayon and a good coloring book or coloring sheet.
It wasn't until recently that I discovered that adult coloring is apparently pretty popular. Not that I felt ashamed by my interest, but I had never told another sole that I enjoyed coloring. But now that adult coloring has gone mainstream, I guess it's okay to admit that, I too, love coloring!
Coloring is a great stress reliever and a way to showcase your artistic side. You can buy coloring books aimed specifically at the adult market or you can do what I do and simply buy a kids coloring book that catches my eye. So if you're looking for something fun, relaxing and creative to do, give adult coloring a try.
I'm one of those people who jumped on the YouTube train late. When I first heard about it, frankly, I thought it was lame. A bunch of people uploading videos of cats and kids doing the darndest things. Okay, there are still some people on YouTube doing some crazy shit that I don't understand, but it's also a place I frequent for many reasons. First, I can find full albums from some of my favorite artists. I can learn how to do virtually anything. And yes, I even go there for a few good laughs.
Below are three of my favorite YouTube videos (I watched them over and over and over again). Enjoy!
Myra Faye Turner, Writer