Author Archives: Swistle

Waiting for Email From a College Student

I’m getting together tonight with some girlfriends. We’re going to drink a lot and get choked up about our kids being in college now. I think it’s going to be just the ticket.

Rob is sending occasional indicators that he is still alive: a short video of a fire drill; an email about a detail of financial aid he needed to take care of. But he is not telling us about his classes or his teachers or his friends, or about what the weekends are like, or about what he’s eating, or about what it’s like to suddenly be sharing a room with a stranger, or if the work is more or less than what he expected, or if he’s homesick or if he feels happy and free or WHAT. I sent him an email with some questions, and he answered to say that he’d answer it later. It’s one of my least-favorite answers to get, in part because experience has taught me that people who answer an email that way generally DON’T follow up with a real answer later.

When I was in college I was allowed to call my parents once a week, on Sundays when the calling rates were lower, and they had to cut me off at an hour; I wrote letters/emails in between calls. I told Paul this and he shook his head pityingly. I asked, did he communicate with HIS parents in college? He thought he might have, a couple of times, but he wasn’t sure. I asked, did they communicate with HIM? He thought they might have, a couple of times, but he wasn’t sure. I shook my head pityingly. We both checked our phones to see if there was anything new from Rob.

I’m not going to nag him about it. This is a busy transition. He is SUPPOSED to be working on breaking free from us now.

It helps that I have the other kids, though right now it’s making me more sensitive about any of them being away. William was at work this weekend and I found it made me fretful: I wanted him to come back home, and was counting the hours. Why would it matter, when he just sits at his computer or does homework at the table when he IS home? It’s like I’ve hit my Maximum Child Absence Limit with Rob gone, and so now everyone else has to be home. (I don’t feel that way about the school day: I still enjoy seeing the backs of them in the morning.)

Books: My Name Is Lucy Barton, and Anything Is Possible

I have just finished the second of two books that have left me feeling mildly dumbstruck because they were so exactly what I like to read: My Name Is Lucy Barton and Anything Is Possible, both by Elizabeth Strout.

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I should not have been surprised, since I felt similarly about one of this author’s earlier books, Olive Kitteridge. (I know it’s been made into a movie. And there is probably no actress I trust more than Frances McDormand. But I haven’t seen it yet. Don’t urge me. Let nature take its own course, one way or the other.) What I remember is finishing Olive Kitteridge and then being very disappointed by Amy and Isabelle, but I don’t remember anything about why. After reading these two books, I think I need to go back and give Amy and Isabelle another chance.

The books are almost like collections of short stories, but completely interwoven, so you learn more about the various characters through their roles in other characters’ stories. Both books are about the same batch of people, so they should be read one right after the other, starting with Lucy Barton.

College Student Care Packages

I would like to collect ideas for care packages for all the college students in our various midsts. I have sent Rob two boxes so far, though I’m counting them as one. The first was when I had to ship him some mail that came for him right after he left, and it needed to get there quickly, so I used a small flat-rate priority box and stuffed the remaining cargo area with granola bars, Belvita Bites, Ritz crackers-and-cheese—basically one of everything we had for school lunches. Later the same day, I sent the second: an 18-pack of microwavable Kraft Macaroni and Cheese:

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I’d had this in mind as something to buy a big box of and then put a couple servings in each care package, so that he doesn’t have to store 18-packs of various foods. But then he sent a photo to a friend of himself searching online for “Kraft Mac no milk or butter” while holding a box of regular Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and I upped the priority. Plus, there was an online coupon. Plus, we have Amazon Prime, so I could ship it to him directly for free. The cup kind might be better and/or more convenient, but would only ship free with $25 worth of stuff, so I’m starting with the packets and we’ll see if those are okay.

Here are some of the other things I have on my Care Package Ideas List (not to send all at once, of course, but just to consider for each box):

his favorite pens
his favorite little pocket notebooks
trail mix
seed bars
granola bars
beef jerky
breakfast-type things
microwaveable food (popcorn, Easy Mac, ravioli cups, instant oatmeal, Ramen, etc.)
Tabasco sauce
Altoid mint tins
gift card to local pizza place
new toothbrush
Dentek flossers
socks and underwear
photos of the cats
letters from the other kids

I would very much like to know what things you like/plan to send to college students, and I also very much want to know what you liked to receive when you were a college student. I liked to receive candy and snacks, and once my mom sent this giant orange tissue-paper flower (flat, so it could hang on a wall) and I hung that on the wall of dorm rooms and apartments until it finally fell apart. My parents also used to send dried fruit, which was nice to have on hand, and at Easter they lined a box with Easter grass and put an Easter basket’s worth of candy in there, and that was one of my favorite care packages ever.

Post-College-Drop-Off Moody; Books

I have some books to mostly-recommend, but I am feeling moody. I went grocery shopping for the first time since bringing Rob to college, and I kept getting little unexpected shocks. The amount of groceries doesn’t change much when going from seven people to six—but there are a few things that only Rob eats, or that he’s the main eater-of. So instead of getting a pack of bologna, I didn’t get a pack of bologna, because he’s the only one who eats it. And instead of getting another giant bottle of Tabasco sauce, I thought probably I could wait on that, because he and Paul are the only ones who use it. And so on throughout the store. Little weird pangs.

And some happy feelings too: “Ooo, Easy Mac! I wonder if he’d like that? He could make it in the dorm microwave!” “And here are some little Chef Boyardee ravioli bowls! I could send him one and he could see if he likes them!” “Breakfast bars are on sale; maybe he’d eat those on days he’s running too late to go to breakfast?” “What a cute little jar of Tabasco; that might be good in a care package!”

I am still waking up in the morning and doing my usual mental inventory, and then arriving with a startled feeling on the news that Rob is not here and is at college far away. He’s been away for a week before; he’s never been gone this long. And now this is “coming home TO VISIT” territory, rather than “coming home” territory. This is still his legal residence, but he doesn’t live here anymore. But I remember so clearly shopping for his crib. There were so many choices! We ended up following the Consumer Reports advice to get a cheap but sturdy crib and then spend the savings on a good crib mattress.

Sending a kid to college is an aging transition for the parent. I’m old enough to have a kid in college = I’m a certain level of old. This morning I noticed a couple of white hairs at the nape of my neck, among the ones that never get long enough to fit in a hairclip. Obviously those white ones must have been there before we took Rob to college. The skin on my underchin and throat is looking increasingly fragile. Two of my former classmates have grandchildren. There’s such a clear contrast to all those kids just launching now, just starting out now, all the big decisions still ahead of them.

I’m trying not to text him or email him too much. His college strongly recommends that during the first few weeks the parents leave it to the students to initiate conversation. But then I got nervous that he’d think we didn’t care about him and weren’t interested in what he was doing, so I emailed him to let him know that the college said that.

A number of years ago, a boy from our town went to college and died soon after in a fraternity hazing incident. I think part of the reason that story lingers, besides the obvious horror and tragedy and STUPID POINTLESSNESS of it, is that, at least for me, my gut instincts are misinforming me on whether or not it is safe for My Baby to be so far away. Just as when he weaned as an infant, just as when I put him on the bus for first grade, my feelings are that this is WRONG and BAD and I need to STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING. I am consciously overriding those feelings, because I know that it is good and right for him to go. But I imagine that other mom thinking, shocked, “I was right. I was right.” And every year there are parents whose worst fears are justified.

That’s too low. That’s too low to be thinking. He’s having a good time, and I will hope that he will not be one of the kids who dies because of alcohol in a funnel or whatever. It’s really very few kids that happens to. I really do mostly feel happy and good about this. The college’s convocation was streamed live, so I got to watch it, and so many of the speakers were talking about how diversity is crucial and good, and science is crucial and good, and how we need to support each other and have each other’s back at times like this, and how we need to work together to make a better future. He is living in a good place. He is doing what he is supposed to do next. If we kept him home with us he could still die.

I am having some regrets about my own college experience. I keep thinking how amazing it is that he’s in the strange stage of life where he is surrounded by ONLY people his age: so much friend potential! so much romance potential! relationships everywhere he looks, in a situation where usual social boundaries are waived because everyone is new and it’s okay to approach and talk to anyone! Not that he will realize that. Not that I realized that, when it was me. I wish I’d talked to a lot more people. I wish I’d made more friends. I wish I’d dated more people.

Hey, how about the books. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything I’ve wanted to tell other people to read, and none of these books are the sort where I’d grab your upper arm too tightly while telling you to read it. But I liked them.

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Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory. This is about a family of people who have minor supernatural abilities: one can move a small item, for example, if he practices ahead of time; one can tell if people are lying. For the first large part of the book (a third? half?), I was kind of bored, and/or tense in a bad way (nervous about someone else’s money situation, for example). Then suddenly we switch to the point of view of someone else, and everything changes, and I was all in.


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The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson. Many, many times I was yanked out of the story by noticing the author’s writing. Still, I liked the story and was very interested in it, and I found myself thinking of it a lot, both during and afterward.


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The Secrets of My Life, by Caitlyn Jenner. I am very particular about autobiographies. They have to be the right mix of insider info, snark, name-dropping, self-awareness, humble self-mockery, and confiding chumminess. I like to come away feeling FONDER of the person who wrote it. I expect, and will tolerate, certain levels of narcissism, self-indulgence, and one-sided storytelling, as long as I get the balance in dirt and charm. I wasn’t familiar with Bruce Jenner before the Kardashians, and I was only the baseline level of aware of the Kardashians, but somewhere I saw a review of this book that made me want to read it, so I tried it—and I was glad I did. I liked it. I found it the right level of informative and charming, and I did indeed come away feeling fonder.

What It Was Like To Take a Child to College

Every college has its own drop-off system. But I can tell you how it went when we dropped off Rob at his college.

Beforehand, looking at all the papers, the process seemed overwhelming. Here’s your group! Here’s your check-in time! Don’t forget this! Don’t forget that! Don’t bring this or that! This lot is okay to park in and this one isn’t! Put this sign in your windshield! Label all your things! And you may remember the part where the college told us only a couple of weeks ago that there were assigned check-in times and that it was “CRUCIAL” to follow them—but when I emailed, they said no, those were just suggested times, an answer that suffused me with both intense relief and intense annoyance. Rule-makers, do not TOY WITH your rule-followers.

One way I calmed down was by figuring that it is to the school’s advantage to make things go smoothly, even more than it is to mine; and that the school has way, WAY more experience with this than I do. I printed out the labels and maps, but I trusted to some extent that even if we showed up at the gates without any information at all and without following any of the guidelines for car-marking and luggage-labeling, there would be people there who would guide us through it. This turned out to be 100% correct.

There were signs at the entrance. There were signs at every fork. There were people at every stage to meet us. There were people at every stage to lean down to our car window and make sure we’d been though the necessary previous stage. There were people wearing college t-shirts EVERYWHERE, and they were cheerful about answering anything. I was worried that someone would question us about arriving early and I would have to explain, but no one noticed or cared or viewed any information that would have told them that that was what was happening; it was a complete non-issue.

The whole thing from arrival to departure took about 2.5 hours. A large part of this was waiting in the first line: arriving cars were directed into a series of lines by very! spirited! student helpers, and then the incoming students could get out and walk over to a table where they could pick up their room keys, IDs, student-orientation-group assignment, and goody bag. Rob came back to the car and then we waited for a long time to be included in a batch of cars sent on ahead to the luggage-drop-off part of the process. The spirited helpers came over periodically to chat, tell us their majors, ask if we had questions, apologize for the wait, etc. I’d started leaking tears as soon as I saw the welcoming party, so I was glad Paul took over here, but no one seemed at all surprised to see tears. One student helper said sympathetically to me, “Is this your first college drop-off?,” and all I could do was nod. “Next time you’ll be an expert!,” she said.

When we got to the head of our line, we were sent in a little batch of about four cars to the next stop: it was basically “take a right, and then your next right,” not anything difficult, and there were signs directing us. An adult with a clipboard met us and told us how it was going to go down: we were going to pull into a little cul-de-sac and park; we were going to unload all the stuff onto the sidewalk/grass; and then one of us was to drive the car far, far away to another lot; a shuttle could bring that driver back to us. We parked as directed, and a student helper came over to introduce herself and tell us where/how we could sign out a luggage cart. Other student helpers were going cheerfully from car to car, helping with the unloading and asking where people were from and what they were majoring in.

Paul drove the car away while Rob got a luggage cart and loaded it up. William and I stayed with the rest of the stuff (did I mention William came with us? William came with us) while Rob went off to find the dorm/room; I suggested he ask one of the student helpers but otherwise let him figure it out himself. He came back after awhile with an empty luggage cart, and the rest of the stuff fit on it and Paul wasn’t back yet and wasn’t answering texts, so William and I went with Rob this time.

The hallway was dim and discouraging, and his room was surprisingly small. But I took heart remembering how small my college dorm room looked to me at first, and how quickly I got used to it. And hallways don’t need to be wide or pretty. Paul arrived from the shuttle and met us in the room, after asking for help from a number of friendly student helpers.

Annnnnnd then we hugged Rob goodbye and left. There were “parent orientation” activities that whole day and the next day, but our impression reading over the information was that these were designed to pry parents away from the students. Plus, we needed to get back to the other kids.

We’d discussed this with Rob ahead of time and he knew we were not staying for the parent stuff, but right as we were leaving he got a little anxious, asking if we were sure we were supposed to go yet, and also asking us to double-check to make SURE he got everything out of the car, and asking us to keep our phones handy in case he suddenly thought of something he forgot and needed to contact us. Because we’d checked in early, his dorm floor was virtually empty; this would have been an upside of going at our assigned time. I’ll bet a few hours later there was an RA greeting everyone and lots of noise and kids.

We left him to do his own unpacking. I’d seen stuff about parents wanting to unpack the things, and how kids should be patient if mom wants to make up the bed for the last time, but I didn’t have much of that impulse: it seemed like he should put his own stuff away in his own room. That’s when I feel like I’m taking possession of a new room/apartment/house: when I figure out where to put all my things. Also, he’s been making up his own bed for years. Also, it seemed like a good way for him to kill time before other people arrived.

It did feel distressing to leave him there and walk out of the dorm. That would have been the upside of staying for the parent stuff: it’s a more gradual goodbye. But I was able to talk myself through it, especially with Paul there also talking himself through it. I would have a panicky thought (for example, “What about LUNCH?? We didn’t find the cafeteria with him or go over with him how to use his ID card to get meals!!”), and then both of us would ping-pong assurances back and forth: “He has a map: he can find it,” “Finding this stuff on his own is a GOOD thing,” “He probably still has some car snacks with him,” “He was supposed to check in at lunch time, so there should be an RA around by then, and he’ll help,” “Every single staff member here KNOWS they’re dealing with incoming freshmen who don’t know how to do anything,” “If he misses a single meal he will in no way perish.”

I found it comforting to remember myself being at college those first few days. It was kind of overwhelming and weird, yes, but did I feel as if I were physically and mentally incapable of finding the dining hall? Heck no. Did I feel as if there was no way I could choose my classes, see my advisor, find my way to another building on campus? Bitch please, I was a GROWN WOMAN. Plus, just as the college has a personal interest in making drop-off easier, they have a personal interest in getting the students settled in and feeling comfortable: student orientation is ABOUT getting STUDENTS all ORIENTED so they know where they are and what to do and how to get there.

On the way out I asked if we could stop at the bookstore, because I thought it would make me feel much, much, much better to buy a college coffee mug to drink out of moodily the next day. We’d thought the bookstore might be mobbed, but it was not at all. I got a coffee mug. And a car-window decal. And some pens. Everything was so overpriced, it was silly: four cheapo freebie/handout-quality pens I probably could have taken for free at the Admissions office, $7.98. Coffee mug, $14.98. FREE ADVERTISING FOR THE COLLEGE car sticker: $6.98. WHATEVER. I PAID IT. AND I WAS GLAD.

I continued to feel distressed as we drove away. I kept thinking of anxious things, some of them marginally legit and some more along the lines of “What if we were supposed to stay with him until an RA arrived????” Mostly I was bothered by the mental picture I had of him sitting alone in his room not knowing what to do about lunch. So after about an hour, when William texted Rob, “So how’s college life?,” and Rob texted back, “Pretty good. Having a turkey sandwich at the dining hall,” that took a LOT of weight off my mind: he left his room! he left his dorm! he found the dining hall and figured out how to use it! HE’S HAVING LUNCH!! SOMEONE FED MY BABY!!!

When we got home, we found we could look up the student orientation schedule online and see what he was likely doing each day. Also, there’s a special college Facebook group for parents of students at this college, and they’re being good about posting pictures and videos of orientation activities. (We’re seeing pictures and videos of the “parent orientation,” too, and it looks…dorky. We’re glad we didn’t stay for that.) Paul and I are jumpy about information right now: when the college live-streamed the convocation ceremony, and the camera panned the crowd beforehand, I was about three inches from the screen trying unsuccessfully to find Rob. Paul will cross the house to tell me that according to the schedule Rob is now playing board games with his orientation group.

The whole thing has seemed one part surreal, one part anticlimactic, and one part distressing-at-normal-expected-levels. It’s surreal because it’s Really Actually Happening: this thing I thought about for so long, starting with a weeping fit about it when he was a newborn and I was really tired. Anticlimactic because all that worry, all that stress, all that planning, and then it’s like…”Okay, see ya!” and The Big Emotional Moment is over and life continues; plus, this has been a long road of predictable milestones, so although this is one of the big ones it’s also just the next milestone. Distressing because of course it’s distressing: he’s been living with me since conception and now he lives somewhere else and I only have access to what he chooses to tell me about his life; this is not a small thing or minor transition.

The peak stress for me was the day before we left; once we were on the road I felt better. The second peak of distress was right at leaving time, but then that turned into more of a surreal feeling. The third peak was when I realized we hadn’t figured out his lunch.

I felt better when we got the text from the dining hall; when he emailed the next day and he already had some people to hang out with; and when I had two stiff shots of gin out of my new coffee mug.

Swim Leggings Report

Annoyingly, I often wake up around 4:30, needing to pee. This is somewhat okay on a normal weekday, because I need to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 anyway and it helps me not be so resentful about needing to get out of bed; I can doze a bit until right before the alarm. But on a weekend, I want to get up and go to the bathroom, but then be able to go back to sleep; sometimes this works and sometimes not. This morning, however, there was a spider on the toilet paper roll, and I didn’t see her at first, so I’m up, I’m up.

I finally swim-tested the swim leggings, and they are up there on the list of the best things I have ever owned. I’d worried the high-waisted bikini bottoms I wore under them would make me feel swathed in layers, but they did not: instead I felt snug and comfy and all held together. I didn’t worry about my tankini top rising up and exposing a circle of midsection, because the high-waisted bikini bottom went up to my ribcage (and I am long-torsoed—on a shorter-torsoed person, you might get coverage all the way to the bikini-top region). It was the first time in my post-adolescent life that I have walked in a swimsuit (the walk where you can’t have your towel around you anymore but you’re not in the water yet) without INTERNALLY DYING OF HORRIFIED SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.

Some people asked last time about the length. For scale, I am between 5’8″ and 5’9″ but, as I mentioned, long-torsoed, which is the nice way to say short-legged; and I wear plus sizes. On me, the swim leggings fully covered my knees and went just a little bit below them—basically knee-breech length. I did go back and order the smaller size (my size is right between two sizes, so I ordered the larger ones first because it’s better for morale to try something on and have it too big rather than too small), and they’re exactly right; I’m keeping the larger size because people tend to put on weight with age, so one day I will likely put on the ones that fit now, be dismayed, and be glad to have the larger size all set to go. What I’m wondering now is if I should order MULTIPLE ADDITIONAL PAIRS. What if they don’t sell them anymore after this year? Then I need to buy a lifetime supply NOW.

Sticker Mosaics

I am back from a several-day trip hanging out with extended family in a pretty place, and there are happy things about being back home with all my usual things in all their usual places, but also I am feeling a little wan and sad. I made coffee this morning just for me, without the happy anticipatory feeling that soon other people would be coming into the kitchen stretching and saying “Mmmmm, COFFEE!” and then standing around chatting as we appreciate the view out the window.

Well. I have items to heartily, heartily recommend for mixed-age-group gatherings: STICKER-BY-NUMBER BOOKS. I brought some easier ones (marketed for kids) and some harder ones (marketed for adults), and they all got used. My six-year-old nephew found the easier ones completely doable on his own; my eight-year-old niece did a couple of the easier ones and then wanted to try a harder one; she found it difficult but doable. My sister-in-law and I both worked on difficult ones and found them mesmerizing; we also found it was good mental practice in letting things go when they can’t be perfect. Here are the ones I bought:

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Assorted (easier).


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Zoo Animals (easier).


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Under the Sea (easier).


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Assorted (harder).


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Masterpieces (harder).


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Vintage Travel Posters (harder).


I really do suggest going into it prepared for things not to line up PERFECTLY, or you could slightly lose your mind. But some of us could use that kind of practice, and the pleasing thing is that even when things didn’t line up exactly they still looked really good. My nephew was not bothered by things not lining up, and had many little white lines between stickers, and his finished results still looked great.

Cartilage Piercing: One-Year Update

I realized the other day that it has been more than a year since I got my first cartilage piercing. I put a few updates on that post, but just covering the first few weeks; after that I said nothing until I changed the earring six months ago. So I think it is time for an update.

The update is that I hardly ever have to think of it or do anything about it. I don’t have to treat it with saline spray anymore, though I do still rinse it after I finish washing my hair. It almost never looks puffy or pink in the mornings. I still notice it in the mirror and still like it. It is still a hassle when I get a haircut: I put a bandaid over it to protect it from the stylist’s vigorous brush.

The earring is still tipped, and I still care. The angle of the piercing itself is tipped, so there is nothing I can do except learn not to mind. Actually, what I plan to do is find a completely spherical earring, so that the tippage would be unnoticeable. My current earring is a “gold ball”—but it’s actually a tiny domed cylinder, so if it’s tipped you can tell. In the meantime, I tell myself that NO ONE BUT ME WOULD NOTICE OR CARE, and also that maybe the shape of my ear made tipping unavoidable. I don’t like to think that the piercing guy did it wrong, or that I squashed it to a different angle by sleeping on it.

I haven’t changed the earring since the first time. I change my lower-lobe piercing daily and take that earring out at night, but the upper lobe and cartilage earrings (these for both) I just leave in all the time.

A couple of times, usually after getting too worked up about the tippage, I have thought maybe I’ll just take the earring out and never mind about this cartilage piercing idea. Each time, I’ve thought: I lose nothing by leaving it in awhile longer, so why don’t I just leave it in for now. Each time, I’ve been glad.

College Expenses Spreadsheet

I see I was not sufficiently clear: when I said in my last post that I wanted to know what you thought about what kind of sedation I should use for a tooth extraction, what I MEANT was that I wanted you to all AGREE on ONE answer, to make things easier for ME.

Part of the issue is that none of us know what the actual alternative to the laughing gas is in this situation, and it makes a big difference. On the billing estimate it says “deep sedation / general anesthesia”—but those may be two different things that just happen to be on the same line of billing, and online searching shows me that both terms have varying meanings anyway, depending on which particular medications are used. Another difficulty is that we’re all so different in how much dental anxiety and dental pain we feel, and in the way medications affect us.

Let’s talk about college stuff some more, because that is increasingly on my mind and also because this way I have something to look back on when we are doing this same thing for William in two years.

One of our financial concerns is that we don’t want to end up paying pretty much all of Rob and William’s college expenses and then having nothing left for the three littler ones. (The worst will be poor Henry, who starts college two years after a pair of TWINS.) We want to divide what we can contribute EVENLY and FAIRLY (based on many, many factors, since they won’t all get the same scholarships to colleges that all cost the same amount). But colleges and financial aid care not one whit about fairness: if we have a savings account, they won’t let us divide it by five in anticipation (for all they know, none of the other four WILL go to college). We HAVE to pay out everything we have: they will feel sorry for poor Henry later, but they won’t let us budget for him now. We have an investment account my grandfather set up when Rob was born, to be used toward college; my grandfather put it in Rob’s name, but told me it was to be divided among any children we had. But because it’s in Rob’s name, it all counts as Rob’s for financial aid purposes; we MUST drain that account for Rob and CAN’T save four-fifths of it for the other kids.

We don’t really know how to handle this fairly or how to make it work; we’ll have to figure things out as we go. But what I DO know to do, in complicated situations like this, is keep DETAILED RECORDS: there are a lot of things that can be figured out LATER, as long as we know what we did THEN. So the minute we sent off the deposit to Rob’s chosen college (we’re not going to include application fees in this), I started a spreadsheet. I made it a Google Docs spreadsheet so that I could invite Paul and Rob to view it. It’s tentative because we haven’t had to use it much yet, but here are the column headings so far:

For Whom [this will be unnecessary if we make separate spreadsheets for each kid]
How Much
For What
Notes, if any

So for example, when we paid the deposit with his college decision, I put in the date we paid it, and I put that Paul and I had paid it, and I put that it was for Rob, and I put the dollar amount, and I put that it was for registration; I didn’t have any notes. When we paid for the fall tuition/room/board/fees, I put the date, and then for “Who” I put “Grampa’s investment account,” and then I put how much and that it was for fall tuition/room/board/fees; under “Notes, if any,” I put “this account was intended to be divided evenly among all five children.” I don’t think we’re going to forget, but I want it all down: we basically took money out of the other four children’s savings, and used it to pay for Rob’s college.

We were not sure how to count scholarship funds. For now we put it in as Rob paying it, but we noted that it was scholarship funds, and which organizations gave him the scholarships.

[Edited to add: A lot of people are mentioning dividing my grandpa’s money into five 529 accounts, which is a great idea—but it isn’t enough money for that: we’ll use it up completely in Rob’s first year. Also, the financial aid eligibility forms take into account all money (including 529s) owned by all children in the family. This seems ridiculous to me: what business is it of THEIRS what Rob’s younger brother earned this summer?? But apparently it’s to prevent the exact clever idea some of you are having or are on the verge of having, which is that we could hide the family savings in an account in Henry’s name or whatever. Colleges are hip to that game.]

Tooth Extraction and Implant: Nitrous Oxide vs. General Anesthesia

There will be more on this later YOU CAN JUST BET ON IT, but for now I will just say that I am finally having a top front tooth pulled and an implant put in, and I am conceptually horrified by this whole thing, and soon I will need to choose between having laughing gas during the procedure or being knocked out (I’m saying “knocked out” because I’m not sure what it actually is: on the estimate it says “deep sedation / general anesthesia”). Either way, it all takes place right in the oral surgeon’s chair (no hospital or anything). Either way, the procedure takes about the same amount of time. Here are the considerations, for me:

1. Anxiety. I’m not worried I’ll freak out to a can’t-do-the-procedure extent, at all. But the concepts involved are, as I said before, conceptually horrifying: it’s a front tooth, and it will presumably be removed from my mouth using some degree of force, and then a METAL THING will be SCREWED INTO THE UNDERLYING BONE, but maybe first they will need to DRILL OUT SOME BONE or else ADD SOME BONE. There would be some comfort in thinking I can just check out of the whole thing. See you when it’s over, let me know how it went.

2. After-effects/recovery. When I am put under, I usually have trouble afterward with nausea/barfing. I hate that. (And when I had my wisdom teeth removed, I threw up blood. BLOOD. Without knowing ahead of time that that would happen. It was a memorable experience.) I know there are pills/medicines for that, but still. There’s a waking-up time that I hate, and the whole thing is much more complicated. With laughing gas, they just turn it off and I’d be back to normal in a few minutes.

3. Risk. Going completely out is more dangerous.

4. Expense. Going completely out is much more expensive. This is my least concern—except I think that afterwards, when it’s all over, I might feel differently. Also, it feels babyish to pay so much more for such a relatively minor procedure: I’m not having a LIMB amputated. In earlier times, people used to just drink a pint of whiskey, maybe swab a little more of it on the gums! (The oral surgeon says that is no longer one of the options.)


I was basically set on the knockout until my friend Jillian heard the story and said that she personally would go with the laughing gas. “I LOVE that stuff,” she said. She says you can still feel things and hear things, and you’re basically aware of what’s going on, but you do not care one single bit. Everything is just PEACHY. Like, “Oh! I think there is some pain happening over there! Neat!” She says it takes away allllll the anxiety and stress, and that it’s a good thing it’s not available on the open market or she’d be on it constantly. Well. That sounds like what I might need.

But then I think of how nice it would be to just skip this, mentally. There are so few unpleasant experiences that include the “Wake up when it’s all over” option; perhaps I should go ahead and take this one. But then maybe I’m just postponing the unpleasantness to AFTER the procedure.

Or perhaps I should do the laughing gas to get a better story out of the whole thing, and because Jillian’s review really did make it sound pretty fun. I could do some added incentive thing, like, “If I save $X by going with laughing gas, I can spend $X on _______.”

Plus, I had two permanent teeth pulled when I was about 10 years old, to make room for the rest of my teeth. I didn’t have laughing gas OR get knocked out for that, and I don’t remember it being a huge deal. (To be fair to my current quaking self, back then I was at an age when having gaps in my mouth was familiar, and also looked normal to other people.)

I am leaning toward the laughing gas. I would like to know what you think, especially if you’ve had experience with this.