Category Archives: college

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.

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.]

Rob Puts His Foot Down About College Shopping

Rob has had to gently put his foot down, again, on the topic of college shopping. But first, I want to draw your attention to this great article HKS mentioned in the comments section of the last post: Sending Sons Off to College, and Finding Solace in a Big-Box Store. The little animation is distracting, but I found it worth it. (I held up a hand so I couldn’t see it.)

One reason I mention this is that a lot of you are on the same page as me: adding MORE items to the list, wanting to make the list LONGER and MORE COMPREHENSIVE. Like the mother in the article, we find it soothing: making lists, being prepared, Thinking of Everything. But that is not what Rob wants. When I came home yesterday with more things for his college stash, and one of those things was duct tape, he said, “What is this for?,” and I said, “…I don’t know, I saw it on a list, I’m sure it would be useful for…something; duct tape is always useful for something!,” and he said, not unkindly, “Okay. Yeah. If neither of us can think of anything I need something for, then I’d rather not bring it. If I find out I need it, I’ll buy it there.”

I never used duct tape in college, not once. I don’t know why I bought it for Rob, except that I saw a list online where it was written in all-caps. I used regular scotch tape in college, though, and he uses it regularly, so he will bring a roll. And packing tape, to remake his broken-down packing boxes when he needs them again. And scissors.

He does not want a tool kit. I wanted Paul to make him a small tool kit anyway—until Paul and I realized that neither of us had a tool kit in college. I know I took apart bed frames, and Paul and his roommate built a loft—but neither of us owned tools. Where did we get tools? Neither of us remembers. I think my dorm floor had a communal supply, or maybe the R.A. had some? Paul thinks his dorm’s desk clerk had them and you could check them out like a library book.

Rob is willing to take along all the medicines I think might be necessary, so I included even some he’s never taken in his whole life, because it makes me feel less anxious to think of him texting me with some illness that’s left him bedridden, and me being able to say, “FIND THE X IN YOUR FIRST AID KIT AND TAKE SOME.” It also makes me feel better to know there’s a Student Health Center he can go to for anything a basic first-aid kit isn’t prepared for.

He will take along the bottle of multivitamins, but he will not promise to remember to take them. I asked would he TRY, and he sighed and said yes. I accept that compromise. I will not text him every day to remind him to take one.

He does not want more than one set of sheets, or more than one set of towels. I didn’t have more than one of each, either, when I was in college: on laundry day, I put the sheets and towels in with everything else. He says if he runs into problems with this, he will acquire more sheets and/or towels at that point.

He doesn’t want a mattress pad. I didn’t have one either in college. I’m sure the mattress wasn’t particularly deluxe, but I don’t remember noticing it at all. He says if it gives him trouble, he’ll acquire a mattress pad at that point; he can certainly survive with the provided mattress until he can figure out how to get to a Target, or while waiting two days for Amazon Prime. And his college has banned some types of mattress pads anyway, for flammability reasons.

His dorm is not air-conditioned, so he will take a little fan. He will take the shower caddy he thinks is wrong (BUT IS RIGHT), and he will take the shower shoes everyone agrees he needs. If he noticed the box of condoms I put in with the shampoo and body wash and razors and deodorant, he did not comment or protest.

But he will not bring the hole-punch, even though I saw it on a list. He says he has used a hole-punch approximately twice in his life, and that in a pinch he can borrow one or cut a hole with scissors or poke a hole with a pencil; and if he finds he uses one regularly, he will buy one there. He will not bring a bathrobe: he plans to walk to the showers in his pajamas and get dressed after the shower before going back to his room; if he finds shower protocol makes this an uncomfortable or unworkable plan, he will acquire a bathrobe then. He will bring an umbrella, but not rainboots or a raincoat: “I have never worn either of those things.” (He is wrong—but to be fair, the last time he did so they had little froggies on them.) I didn’t have rainboots or a raincoat in college, either; I had and used an umbrella.

He has agreed that it seems like a good idea to bring a microwave plate and bowl and mug, and I am happy because those are HIGHLY FUN to choose: Target has a ton of by-the-piece options, and I am going to get him to agree to indulge me by considering and discussing each possibility rather than choosing the first acceptable one. So I’m glad he doesn’t know that what we all did in college was swipe some from the dining hall. The dining hall put a big empty bin in each dorm at the end of the year, with a wry note from the kitchen staff asking if on our way out we could please drop off all the dishes for a good cleaning before we re-borrowed them next year.

I’m guessing I can sneak one of those tiny sewing kits into his gear. But he is not bringing a doorstop, even though we’ve seen it on a lot of lists: he says if he wants to prop the door open, he’s pretty sure he can use a textbook or a half-full laundry bag or a pair of shoes or something.

He’s not bringing cleaning supplies, or an iron. I didn’t bring those things, either: in my dorm we had to clean our own bathrooms (in his dorm he does not), but the college had a closet on each floor with bulk custodial cleaning supplies. If he needs something the college doesn’t provide, he can buy it there. But I’m not sure what in his room he’s going to clean: a vacuum system is available to use, and the rest of the room is just cement blocks, some desks, some beds. I can’t picture him putting a careful Windex shine on the windows, or using Lemon Pledge on his desk.

College Drop-Off Plan and the Related Panic

I am not panicking, I am NOT panicking. But. We have four children who are not going to be coming with us to drop Rob off at college and so we kept a close eye on Rob’s college’s freshman move-in date: we had to know as far ahead of time as possible, so that we could figure out where to PUT all those children.

For months the college website still showed the 2016 information. Then, suddenly, in early July it showed the 2017 information! There it was: the move-in date, and the times: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.! We made a plan to drive up the day before, stay overnight at a motel, drop him off fairly early the next morning, and then drive back home that same day. My brother and sister-in-law agreed to take four (FOUR!) extra children for a day and a half (FOUR!). I immediately phoned and booked our motel, figuring that demand might be high for that date. We were ALL SET.

Then, two days ago, an email from the college: it turns out the check-in time frame is DIVIDED INTO ASSIGNED SEGMENTS. This was not mentioned before. I LOOKED CAREFULLY. IT WAS NOT MENTIONED. IT JUST SAID DROP-OFF WAS 9:00 TO 5:00. Our segment is 12:30-2:30. That…does not work. We need to fit in approximately eight-and-a-half hours of driving (distance between us and my brother/sister-in-law’s house + distance from there to Rob’s college) on that same day, either BEFORE or AFTER the drop-off (and if “before,” we need to change our motel reservation). This is why I had it all planned for an EARLY drop-off: so we could fit this whole thing in and get back at a reasonable time, ideally before my brother and sister-in-law were regretting not only this favor but also their own births.

Well. I have emailed the college. Probably one of fifty thousand emails they are going to receive on this topic. My hope is that however strict they act in the presentation of the schedule and how crucial it is that everyone follow it, their response will be, “Sure, no big!” Surely with families traveling from literally all over the world, they will realize an assigned two-hour window won’t work for everyone. Some people will have FLIGHTS booked. Surely just as we REALLY NEED a drop-off time that is either EARLY or LATE, there are OTHER families who REALLY NEED a mid-day drop-off time, and it will all work out. Surely.

And if they WON’T bend, they are making things so unnecessarily stressful for already-stressed parents of freshmen, it’s hard to believe this would be their established plan, and it would considerably affect my feelings about them. But the first-semester payment has already been made, so we have Plan B1 and Plan B2. Plan B1 is Paul’s idea, which is that in situations like this, you just show up at the time that works well for you and you shrug off the disapproval. “Sorry, I didn’t realize we weren’t supposed to be here for four more hours, but we’re here now and we’ve got to get back to our other kids, so…*deposits student and all his stuff on the lawn*.” This is not a plan I feel I can psychologically handle.

I don’t know how Paul and I were both firstborns and yet he lacks the stereotypical firstborn respect for authority and rules. I think the difference is that he was raised as an Indulged Male. Over the years I have thought repeatedly of a story his mother told me, about how she’d tell him to go mow the lawn, and he’d mow for a little while and then she’d find him inside reading a book. And here is the part of the story that makes me feel lightheaded: SO SHE WOULD ROLL HER EYES AND GO FINISH THE LAWN FOR HIM. I will pause to let you really let this sink in.

She told me this story with fond, proud exasperation. Do you know that tone? Like when a parent is pretending to complain, but they’re actually bragging. Anyway. I think of her when I wonder why Paul is the way he is.

Where was I? Oh yes: Plan B2 is my plan. I don’t know why I’m calling it B2 when it should be B1. In fact, it’s B. Paul’s plan is C now. Or D. Let’s just call it Plan P. My plan is we suck it up and do it how the college wants us to: it’ll be one inconvenient day and then it’ll be over. We’ll drop him off right at 12:30 and we’ll leave when that’s done, and we’ll drive late into the night and we’ll pick up the kids very late and we’ll drive the rest of the way very late, and everyone will be tired the next day, and then some of us will take naps and some of us will just be cranky, and then the day after that everything will be normal again except for my lingering simmering resentment.

…Paul and I are evidently thinking about the same thing this morning, because while I’ve been criticizing his upbringing and dissing his mother, he’s been researching a Reddit forum dedicated to questions about this particular college. He just sent me an email with a screenshot of a question about the move-in times, and the answer is that the schedule is really just a suggestion in order to keep everyone from showing up at the same time, and that nobody cares if you come at a different time. Well.

…Oh, and here is a email reply from the college to me, saying the times are flexible and students can check in any time. Well. Well. Good thing I did not panic.

College Student Finances and First-Aid Kits

It’s less than four weeks now until Rob leaves for college. There are two ways I am currently finishing that sentence, and the alternation between the two is fairly rapid:

1. …and he grows up and moves away and remembers only the times we were bad at parenting and only visits his spouse’s family.

2. …and I am pleased to see preparations are getting done one after another despite me feeling as if the number of things to be done was insurmountable.

Our most recent accomplishment was figuring out how he’ll handle money. He needs to have access to his personal savings and also to his college savings, but without getting them mixed up; and there are still many expenses we’ll be paying for; and we would like to put something in place for “emergencies” despite being unable to think of any examples of emergencies we wouldn’t be able to handle over the phone, over the internet, or by driving there.

We were hindered in this decision by being a little behind the times, financially-speaking: I haven’t used a debit card before; I pay bills by writing/mailing physical checks; the only “online baking” I do is transferring money between checking and savings; I don’t do any banking with my phone. Meanwhile, Rob is taking photos of his paychecks with his phone to deposit them, and doesn’t even have a checkbook. So we talked with him about what he thought would work in These Modern Times, and also about what he’d find easiest and most comfortable, and together we came up with this plan:

1. His current bank does not have any branches or ATMs where he’s going. I found out which banks had ATMs on campus, and one of them has branches here in town. He’ll open a student account with that bank and move his money there, closing his old account after that’s all set.

2. He’ll keep his personal money in his checking account, and spend it using his debit card and/or by withdrawing cash from the ATM.

3. He’ll keep his college savings in his savings account, and each semester we’ll discuss how much of it to use to pay tuition.

4. He’ll apply for a credit card with no annual fees and no other costs if it’s paid off in full each month. If he is approved, he will use this credit card for books and other miscellaneous college expenses of the sort that aren’t covered by the tuition bill. And he can use it in situations where he can’t use his debit card but can use a credit card, if those occur. The card will be in his name and will come to our address and we will pay it in full each month; he will reimburse us from his personal account for any non-school expenses he charges (the hope is that that will be rare). Meanwhile, the card will be working to build his credit, and it will be soothing his parents by being available for unknown emergencies. At some point, we will transfer full responsibility for the card over to him.


This took HOURS. If right now you’re thinking anything that starts with “Why don’t you just…?,” I think it’s safe to say that someone thought of it and that someone else had a reason they didn’t like it. “Why doesn’t he just have two accounts?” “Why don’t you just do a joint account?” “Why don’t you just transfer his college savings to your account?” “Why don’t you just use a pre-paid card?” “Why don’t you just use the campus account?” “Why don’t you just keep some money in the bank account for emergencies?” “Why doesn’t he just handle the credit card payments himself?” Forgive me in advance for virtually muzzling you, but you will have to trust me that all three people involved have with great effort come to this decision, and that it would not be helpful to disrupt it. I suppose I can conceive of a situation in which one of you, someone with kids currently or recently in college, might say, “WAIT!!! You need to know something we learned the hard way!!” But otherwise: this is what we’re starting with, and all the parts of the decision are changeable if any parts of it turn out not to work for us.

Also! I have had some fun putting together a little first-aid kit for him. Target had a deal where if you bought three first-aid supplies you got a free cute little kit, bright red with a plus-sign on it! But I correctly guessed that Rob would find that embarrassing. Instead I bought him an oversized pencil box from the school-supply section. Then I bought these things:

1. an assorted-sizes box of Band-aids
2. antibiotic ointment
3. hydrocortisone cream
4. Benadryl tablets
5. ibuprofen tablets
6. cough syrup
7. cough drops
8. Tums
9. there might be something else I’m forgetting

It all fit in the box, after a few Tetris-reminiscent tries.

Peter Cetera II; College Shopping Begins

I would like to continue to push you to listen to the Peter Cetera Pandora station. Look at what it played for me last night while I was making dinner:

1. Arthur’s Theme, by Christopher Cross.

2. She’s Like the Wind, by Patrick Swayze. If you had given me a list of songs and asked me which ones I liked, and She’s Like the Wind was on it, I would have given a little eye-roll laugh and not chosen it. But…that’s a really pretty song! I DO like it! Very much! And I knew more of the words than I would have guessed.

3. All Out of Love, by Air Supply. I listened to so much Air Supply in childhood. And I have been to an Air Supply concert. It was cheesy and fun. Like, they pulled a girl up on stage and sang cheesily to her. They pointed at the audience and winked while singing. So much cheese. I am making fun of them because I am a little embarrassed about how much I like them.

4. Don’t Know Much, by Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt. How many times did I listen to this song in high school? SO MANY TIMES.

5. Will You Still Love Me, by Chicago. I heard the first few seconds and got immediately sentimental. I was singing (and doing inaccurate air drums) when Rob and William came home from work. William said, “Sure sounds like [decade] in here.” He did air brackets.

6. I’ll Be Over You, by Toto.


In short: I think you should like what I like.


In other news, Rob and I have been doing some college shopping. Alchemizing stress into purchasing decisions is exactly how I naturally roll, so it’s nice when that works out in a practical, necessary way. Rob is being…somewhat cooperative, somewhat eye-rolly/it-doesn’t-mattery. I especially wanted the quest for The Right Comforter and Sheets to be a prolonged, multi-store event, perhaps with comparison photos and pro/con lists, but he wanted to go to Target and just pick from whatever they had. So, fine.

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Room Essentials Solid Comforter in Olive.


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Room Essentials Sheets in Cactus.


The drawings on the sheets look black in this photo, but they’re the same green as the comforter. I didn’t notice until we got home that the sheets are microfiber. I don’t know if he will like that or not; I always buy cotton or sometimes cotton-with-some-polyester. By the time he knows if he likes it or not, all the extra-long-twin stuff will be on clearance and I can get him something different. I also bought this mattress protector:

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Some lists recommend some sort of nice pad to make the mattress more comfy, but he wants to try out the mattress first; I can Amazon-Prime him one if he wants it once he gets there.

He and I ran into a conflict about what the college list meant by “shower caddy.” His dorm has big multi-shower bathrooms at the ends of the halls, so I thought shower caddy meant something like this:

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Something you can carry with you to the showers, and then carry back to your room and put down somewhere. ROB wanted this:

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It snaps with difficulty onto the shower-curtain rod, and it doesn’t have a flat bottom so it can’t be put down. It’s not even MEANT for showers, it’s meant for CABINETS. (1) We don’t know what kind of shower curtain rods and shower curtains, if any, are in the bathrooms. (2) He HAS to be able to put it DOWN when it’s in his room. His response: “I’ll lean it against a wall or something.” I was starting to get a little mad. I am ALMOST 100% certain that I am right and he is wrong, but I was not quite certain enough to force him to bend to my will: I have not, after all, seen the actual bathrooms. We “compromised” by me buying this without consulting him:

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It’s collapsible, so it takes up almost no space for packing; and it wasn’t very expensive, so it’s no big deal if Rob is right and I am wrong. He can use it temporarily while he evaluates the actual shower situation, and then he can go out and purchase something different if he wants to. I almost wish I’d let him purchase the wrong thing just so he could think every morning about how right I was, but it was $20 and I’m not spending $20 on something I’m almost 100% certain is wrong.

We also got shower shoes:

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And a new hairbrush, because he’s had his since his middle-school-not-washing-his-hair stage, and it is gross.

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I asked if he needed new socks or underwear and he said “MOM, NO.” So I guess he can buy those for himself or maybe I’ll put some in a care package or in his Christmas stocking.

Teenager Income

I added a new picture of my hair to yesterday’s post. I took out the hair-clip last night and was admiring the streaks, and thought my stylist would not be pleased if she knew the only picture I’d posted of it was the one that made me feel uncertain about them. But I think the new photo is TOO flattering: we have good light in the bathroom. ANYWAY. LIKE THIS MATTERS.

I want to talk about making kids save for college. Rob and William are still working their summer jobs, and it’s going well, and they’ve gotten their first paychecks, and I’m not sure what ruling to hand down from the mountain. We’ve talked with them about college expenses, and what they can expect us to pay and what they can expect to need to cover themselves, and we’ve also talked about other uses for money such as charitable causes, fun stuff, and investments. Right now our kitchen white board is covered with possibilities, and Rob and William are less interested than I am in going over all the not-very-different options again and again.

The system my parents used for me was this: When I was earning small beans (like babysitting irregularly at $2-3/hour), I had to put 10% to charity and 50% to college; 40% was mine to keep. When I was working lots more hours (like a summer job), it was 10% to charity, 70% to college, 20% keep. This sounds a little pitiful, but 20% of a full-time job is a lot of money for a teenager with very few expenses: I remember going up and down store aisles TRYING to find something I wanted to buy. Another detail of this system: I remember asking what would happen to the money if I DIDN’T go to college, and my parents said they would give it back to me for all the new-adult start-up costs such as security deposits and furniture. They would have had me do this system either way; we were just calling it “college savings” because I WAS planning to go to college. I remember that made it feel more like My Money: they were making me save for my own future, they weren’t taking the money away from me.

The system Paul’s parents used for him was this: no system. He kept all the money he earned. And of course he didn’t save any of it for college: I don’t think I would have, either, if I hadn’t been made to. Once he was IN college, he used a lot of his earnings to pay for college, because by then the expenses seemed real to him, but he still ended up with big college loans that were a beast for us to pay off. When we didn’t know how to come up with the money for a new battery for the car, it made me clench my teeth to imagine him as a teenager blowing $200/week.

We are trying to decide what kind of system to use with Rob and William. I’m not doing 10% charity anymore (my parents are Christian, so 10% was a biblical instruction we were following), and it seems like a lot. But we’d like to get them in the habit of giving away some of their money, and I find it fun to talk with kids about what causes they might want to support. So, maybe 5%? If they earn $200/week after taxes, that’s $10/week to charity.

I think 20% is the right amount for them to keep. From a $200/week paycheck, it’s $40/week. It’s kind of high, but on the other hand it’s only for a few months of the year. I remember as a teenager feeling like it was a really nice amount to get to keep, and if it were lower I’m not sure I would have been motivated to work more hours when they were available. Paul suggested letting them keep a flat-rate amount, but I think that would have been the wrong thing for me as a teenager: I liked calculating how much more money I’d get to keep if I worked more hours, and I would have said no to extra shifts if I’d gotten the same amount of money no matter what.

Paul is very keen right now on INVESTING: he recently read a bunch of books that say the best way to retire with millions is to invest even small amounts as early as possible. I’m down with that, but also it seems to me that every dollar the kids invest in their retirement now is a dollar we have to take away from OUR retirement to cover the money they’re not putting toward college, which seems silly; doesn’t it make more sense for us to save for retirement while they save for college? On the other hand, it would be a good habit for them to get into, and by the time they’re out of college we won’t have any say over how they spend their money. If we use our influence while we’ve got it, that might pay off for them in the long run. Let’s say we have them invest 5%: that’s only $100 over the whole summer, but they could see how that amount grows. But it bothers me to see the college percentage going down and down as we keep thinking of more ideas. Paul originally put investment as 15% (the minimum, according to a book he’s reading), and I vetoed that.

Here’s how things are looking on our white board (ignore tacos, meows, songs):

The far left is me showing them how my parents’ system worked out: the percentages, and then how those percentages look when applied to a $200 paycheck. Then we have three more sample possibilities, with the college contribution ranging from 65-75%. I think we’re leaning toward the one on the far right (squeezed in under words that contain “meow”): basically the same system as the one I had to follow, but with the tithe split between charity and investment. But the thought of all the fuss of that makes me lean toward the middle one: 5% charity, 20% keep, 75% college.

If you have kids who are of money-earning age, what are you doing about this? Or what do you have in mind for when they ARE that age? And what was the situation when you were the money-earning teenager?

Sports Night; College Roommate Selection; Cashews

I am re-watching Sports Night, and although I am laughing/crying less this time because I am less pregnant this time, I still say you should watch it if you haven’t, or re-watch it if you have. Same as the first time through, the first episode or two didn’t quite get me hooked (and the laugh track sounds so dated and dumb), but after several episodes I was so into it (and the laugh track disappears). It has a good slow-burn relationship AND a good gratifyingly-quick-ignition relationship. Well, the slow-burn is more of a medium-slow: there isn’t really time for slow when a show only lasts two seasons. There’s also a “they hate each other so of course they end up in bed,” if you’re into that.

I think Paul thinks I have a thing for Josh Charles now, though, because he (Paul) came into the room, looked suspiciously at the screen, and said “Is that the same guy from The Good Wife?” Yes. But that’s not my type: the Josh Charles characters might as well wear “BAD IDEA JEANS” signs around their necks. (I like Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, and Eli Gold on The Good Wife.)

[Edited to add: I just started Season 2 and in the second episode Dan is fan-boying about meeting Hillary Clinton. I just thought you should know, in case this affects you as it affects me.]


Rob is doing the College Roommate Selection process now. His college has a program similar to online dating: it suggests available candidates based on your answers to a series of questions, and he’s emailed three of the candidates. It was kind of adorable seeing him work on his letter, picturing these other 18-year-old boys reading it and thinking it over. GAH. CUTE. I so hope he gets a good roommate, and it seems like such a toss-up no matter how many computer programs are involved.

I can’t believe he’ll be living somewhere else in less than four months. I got somewhat distracted by the stress of the college-application process followed by the waiting-to-hear process followed by the deciding-among-the-acceptances process, and now I have a lot more time to focus on the MY-ACTUAL-BABY-WILL-ACTUALLY-LEAVE process. Some days I feel pretty chill about it: it seems like the natural next step. Some days I feel about the same as I did in the time leading up to his first day of first grade, thinking with increasing panic that THIS CAN’T HAPPEN BECAUSE IT IS NOT NATURAL FOR HIM TO BE AWAY FROM ME FOR SEVEN HOURS A DAY, IS EVERYONE INSANE???

But I grew to look forward to the arrival of the school bus, and I am guessing this too will go well after the initial adjustment. I am already feeling enthusiastic about sending care packages, buying a school coffee mug and/or shot glass, etc.

Oh! Thinking about snacks to put in care packages reminded me I have a snack to recommend: Emerald Salt-and-Pepper Cashews.

(image from

The link goes to a Prime Pantry item, because that’s the only way they’re a reasonable price on Amazon. I get them at Target when they go on sale for $3.00. Salt and pepper seems like a not very interesting flavor, but they’re so yum. I have to put some in a bowl and then get a cat to sit on my lap so I don’t get up and refill the bowl.

What It’s Like Going to a College Info Session and Tour

Rob has CHOSEN HIS COLLEGE. He’ll be going to one that’s about a 7-hour drive away, which is a nice distance: far enough to feel Nice and Far for him, but close enough that if something were to go wrong I wouldn’t have to try to book a flight; close enough that we can drive him with all his stuff, rather than trying to ship it or fit it on an airplane.

Well. That whole college-selection process was an…invigorating time. And now there is a brief lull before we start all the freshman-prep stuff, so this seems like a good chance to talk about what it was like to go on all those college info sessions and tours. Those were on my list of anxieties before starting the college-search process with Rob, so I want to tell you how much easier they are than I’d thought. Here are the notes I have from the last session/tour, which was when I decided to write this post:

• don’t wear loud shoes
• it’s so boring seriously
• shows you how old you are when you look around at other parents
• so many stairs

So basically that sums it up, but I’ll fill in a few sparse places.

To start with, colleges WANT you to do these. I don’t know why I imagined I was somehow inconveniencing them by visiting: they do info sessions and tours ALL THE TIME. Some of the more popular colleges do them again and again all day, every day of the week. Usually they have a schedule posted online; usually you need to register ahead of time with information such as the child’s name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, high school graduation year, areas of interest—things like that. (This will then get you on that college’s mail/email list if you weren’t already.)

Times that are convenient for you to go (Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, spring break, weekends, etc.) will either be unavailable or will fill up early. I was worried that if we went during the summer we would miss getting the Real Feel of the student-occupied campus, but I didn’t see a huge difference except that it was less comfortable weather-wise.

It is common for the students to be accompanied by family members. I felt awkward about this when registering the first time but it’s so totally normal. Many kids had one or two parents AND a sibling or two; Rob was accompanied by one parent plus William (since William is two years behind Rob and could get an early start on his own college search). It would not, however, be a good place to bring MUCH younger children—like, anyone in the run-around-in-the-aisles/cry-interruptively stage of life.

It is a little alarming, by the way, to look around at all the other parents and realize that’s how old you are too. It is especially alarming seeing them/yourself in such sharp contrast to all the young, vigorous students. A person can end up feeling a bit middle-aged and frumpy and done with the meat of life, is what I’m warning you about. I tried with mixed success to turn this into a feeling of solidarity with my peers.

The most common info/tour system we encountered was this: you could sign up for just the info session or just the tour, but usually the info session went right into a tour afterward. So if you see that info sessions are offered at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., and tours are offered at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., you can feel confident that the 9:00 a.m. info session is followed by the 10:00 a.m. tour, and the 1:00 p.m. info session is followed by the 2:00 p.m. tour. (On our first couple of college visits, I was worried that the info session would take, say, 1.5 hours—so then we couldn’t sign up for the 10:00 a.m. tour. But no: the college realizes you will probably want to do both, and they don’t make you hang out for several hours in between.)

Or you might end up doing them separately. For example, some colleges have traveling info sessions: the child’s high school might host one, or in our case we attended one at a local hotel conference room. The school was far enough away that we wouldn’t have visited just on a whim, but after we went to the info session we were interested enough to book a tour and make the drive. We could have re-attended the info session once we were on campus—but since the college had Saturday tours but no Saturday info sessions, and since we were available on a Saturday, it all worked out perfectly.

The info sessions and tours are free. About half the time, they included free coffee and water, maybe some candies or cookies. Sometimes there are optional expenses: for example, a couple of tours ended by saying we were welcome to try a meal in the school cafeteria if we wanted to, but there was a cost for that.

I will say this: I found all info sessions and tours to be IMMENSELY BORING. One was kind of cool because it was at a famous college so I was sitting there thinking “I can’t believe I’m sitting here in this well-known place!” But then the person from admissions came in and started talking, and it was just as boring as everywhere else.

Boring but INFORMATIVE—as long as you realize you are sitting through a sales pitch. The information session tells you what the college thinks are its selling points. You will find out which buzzwords the college wishes to push: unique, cooperative, diverse, opportunity, innovative, excellence, hands-on, interdisciplinary, passion, real-life experience, selective, progressive, driven, research. You can recognize which words the college decided on because they will say them comically often until you are thinking “OKAY WE GET IT YOU WANT US TO KNOW YOU’RE TRYING TO SHAKE THE PRIVILEGED WHITE KID IMAGE” or “YES YES EVERYONE IS A GENIUS AND STUDIES CONSTANTLY, GOT IT.”

The info session usually takes place in a largish room with dozens or hundreds of people (though we went to one that was just five students and their families) and lasts about an hour. They will cover things such as: which majors are most common; what their acceptance rates are; a little about the application process; what they look for in a candidate; the student-teacher ratio; opportunities to study abroad or at other local institutions; a little about how they help graduates find jobs; cost of tuition, room and board, fees. Most will give you written materials as well, with pretty much the same info.

After the info session there is time for people to ask questions. Every single session-leader handled this beautifully so that it didn’t go on and on and on, but there were usually a few parents asking really specific-to-their-own-child questions that were a little tiresome for the rest of us; for example, one mother asked if the session leader could please list all the classes needed for a marketing major. (Beautiful handling by session leader: “Oh, great question! I don’t have that information with me, but if you stop at the Admissions office on your way out we can certainly get that for you!”) One father wanted to tell everyone that he had been quite the soccer star when he attended there, and to ask how had the team been doing since then because his son wanted to play soccer too.

After the Q&A, the group is divided into tour groups, usually of about twenty people in each (or of course fewer if the whole info group was fewer than that). (Usually there was no pee-break between session and tour, so find a bathroom before the info session if you can. You could also sneak out during the last 15 minutes of the session to pee.) One time we got to choose our tour guide: five of them introduced themselves and said their majors, and then we could pick which one to go with; this was nice because we got someone with the same major Rob is considering, so she knew about and emphasized stuff he was interested in. But most of the time we were counted off and then assigned. The tour guide is a current student doing a memorized routine. They walk backward while the group follows them and listens; typically you can ask questions as you go and the tour guide generally made it easy/comfortable to do so.

The tour lasts an hour or so, and typically includes a lot of walking and a lot of stairs; I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing a water bottle. The tour usually includes some academic buildings, a dorm (but only once the inside of a dorm room—sometimes the college offered a separate housing tour), a cafeteria, the library, a social hang-out area, the gym, a big open grassy area, a sculpture, and anything else the college wanted to draw special attention to (a self-sustaining green area, an on-campus museum filled with student art, a fountain donated by someone famous, a concert hall, a 3D-modeling lab where students built a working car, etc.). Note: many campuses have multiple Pokéstops.

After the tour, you are dismissed. The tour guide usually invited anyone with additional questions to stay after and ask them. We almost always had to use that opportunity to ask the tour guide how to get from where we were back to our car. Fortunately the info session usually includes a map, too.

Oh, and I highly recommend bringing a snack: it seemed like we were always starting the process in the late morning and then going through to early afternoon, so afterward we were hot, tired, cranky, hungry, and in a strange city. Having a sneaky granola bar on the tour made things so much more pleasant.

Which reminds me of another issue: parking. This mystified me. The college would have online info about attending tours, and would instruct us to park in Lot A. And then Lot A would have ten parking spaces. And it would be full, because dozens or hundreds of people were attending the session/tour, and there would be no back-up instructions. So! Print out a campus map to bring with you, and investigate alternate visitor lots ahead of time if possible—or just be prepared that you might need to do so on the spot. I liked to allow quite a bit of padding so that we could (1) find parking without me feeling like screaming, and (2) walk from that far-off lot to Admissions, and (3) FIND Admissions, and (4) find a bathroom.


To sum up:

• investigate parking and allow extra time for it
• pee right before the session
• comfy shoes, water bottle, snack
• it’s pretty much always an info session followed by a tour
• take notes and save the paperwork, because they all start to blend together


I have so many things to say, some of them quite dull indeed. But my need to tell others the minutia of my life is HIGH, and Paul’s interest in hearing about it (“And then I found printer paper on this good sale, I think because they’re changing the packaging from 500 sheets to 400 and they want to get rid of the old stuff, AND I had a 20% off coupon!”) is at an understandably lower level, and this is probably why blogs were invented. And since my blog has been in and out of service for about a week (and CONTINUES to have trouble), I have a significant stockpile of minutia built up. Some will have to wait, however, until I’m again able to load photos: I’m getting an error Paul will have to look into while I tell him my great story about the printer paper.

I have a song going through my head and I CANNOT FIND IT, and I have been hoping it will play again on the radio. I wish I could hum you a snippet because I’m SURE some of you would know it. And I have a vague memory of there being apps/programs where you CAN hum a snippet and it will find you the song, but I tried just now to hum it and it was…not very well matched to the original. All I remember is this: the chorus sounds like the guy is singing something like “Do I need YOU? Do I love YOU?”—something along those lines, quite high-pitched and slowish and sad, or maybe just sentimental and croony. I have tried to search with the lyrics, but you can see how those lyrics would be rather common, and also I’m not sure of them: it could be “and” instead of “do,” or maybe he’s singing “And I’m so blue,” or who KNOWS. I heard it while I was cooking dinner and didn’t realize how much I liked it until it was going through my head later. [Update: Rachel KNEW WHAT SONG I WAS TALKING ABOUT. It’s “If I Have To” by Avery Wilson. I cannot believe someone GUESSED IT from my EXTREMELY POOR DESCRIPTION.]

Speaking of songs that go through one’s head. I know we all have our things that we feel physically self-conscious about, and if plumpness is one of yours I suggest Mika’s “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)”:

I was heading into the grocery store yesterday, basically walking like the girls in the video because I had this song in my head. Well, MENTALLY walking like the girls in the video.

I re-watched Crazy, Stupid, Love. I remember watching it before, and I remembered liking it, but I couldn’t remember much else about it. And I just watched La La Land, which features a re-pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, so that put me in the mood for Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was better than I remembered it. Which I shouldn’t say, because I still think it’s best to go into it with lowered expectations. But…I really liked it. Again. Despite being approximately 0% on-board with the concept of soulmates, or with the ultimate destination of those photos.

Our sump pump is acting up. You know how sometimes a toilet will run and run, and then you open the tank and jostle the floating thingie and it stops? That is how our sump pump is behaving, except when I jostle the thingie, it only lasts maybe ten or fifteen minutes until it starts running again. I have emailed my dad but he is in a different time zone so it may be awhile; in the meantime I have put a box of Famous Amos cookies down by the sump, and every time I have to go down there to jostle the thingie I have a cookie. But I am getting low on cookies. Also, I made the brief, screaming acquaintance of a spider of considerable heft and girth that evidently calls our sump pump home, and now I don’t know where he is. [Update: My dad emailed and said this is a sump pump emergency in need of a TODAY appointment. A plumber has come and gone; he is getting us a new sump pump and will be right back to install it. I notice his underwear is a good two inches above his jeans; he is taking NO CHANCES.]

Don’t let me forget that the next time I go down to jostle the sump I need to bring up a cake mix. Two of our cats have birthdays this week, and according to the children it would be unfeeling to combine the celebrations. So I will bake the two layers, frost one for today’s cat birthday party, and put the other layer aside for the Friday party.

We have now heard back from all the colleges Rob applied to. He has about 3-1/2 weeks until we have to send a deposit to one of them. And is he making spreadsheets, reading pamphlets, responding enthusiastically to suggestions that we discuss pros/cons or visit the campuses again? No, he is not. And when I ask him about it he acts as if I am nagging him around the clock. I alternate between getting teary over my first baby leaving us forever, and COUNTING THE MONTHS.

Are you following the livestream of the giraffe in labor? I AM. I am feeling so much empathy for the giraffe. She stands still; she presses her head against the boy giraffe’s neck; her legs tremble and her ears flutter and her tail lashes. It’s been DAYS. The update on Facebook from the zoo claimed that “there is no pain.” Bitch, please. This reminds me of my own pregnancy/childbirth days, when I fervently wished to mind-meld with the obstetrician for just ONE HOUR. See if he wants to shrug off the “normal first-trimester nausea” THEN! See what he wants to call “the discomfort of contractions” THEN!

Paul, with surprising disregard for his own well-being, started a sentence in this conversation with “Well, actually.” “Well, actually,” he said, “animals don’t feel as much pain as humans do during childbirth. It has to do with head size.” Okay, fine, but what I would like to know is how we think we know how much pain animals are feeling. Have we done a mind-meld? No? Then perhaps we should not be deciding whether they do or don’t feel a certain way. Perhaps that giraffe is feeling no pain. Perhaps she is all “La la la, what a pleasant mild sensation, like a fairy tickling my tum!” But I will be very relieved when the baby giraffe is born.