Category Archives: college

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.

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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.

Barium Swallow Test Results; New Crohn’s Medications; College Rejection Letter; Track

The barium swallow test, referred to here and here, didn’t give a clear reason for the symptoms I’m having, so in a couple of weeks I will be writing a post called What It’s Like to Have an Endoscopy. Edward has had one, and he was unconscious for it and woke up feeling happy; I have hopes for same.

Speaking of Edward, we are indeed changing his Crohn’s medications. His new one has to be given by IV, and it takes several hours each time. This makes me feel leveled-up anxiety about the whole medication, that it is administered like this. It makes me think of cancer treatments. I am trying to focus instead on how this hospital is just LOADED with Pokéstops. When I was waiting for him during his MRI, there were two within reach of the waiting room. I will hope that that is the case for wherever we’ll be sitting during the IV. Also, he is going to LOVE this new treatment: each time, he’ll have to miss a whole day of school and play on a phone for several hours, and we’ll probably end up going out for lunch.

Rob got a rejection letter from one of his top two college choices. He seems to be handling it okay: of his top two, it was definitely second choice. But I worry that this doesn’t bode well for the other top-choice college. For ME, I am not worried: he has acceptances to several other colleges that I think might actually be better choices for him than his top choice. But for HIM, I’m worried he’ll be very disappointed. At his age I hadn’t yet gotten the message about how sometimes things you want don’t work out and that ends up being BETTER in the long run.

Elizabeth is trying to decide whether or not to do track. For many reasons, I would rather she didn’t: it is incredibly time-consuming, not just for her but for me, and involves tons of figuring out how I am going to drive her here or there when I also need to be somewhere else with one of the other kids at the same time—not to mention sitting around at endless track meets. And there are other reasons I hope she DOES do it: my kids never want to do sports, and that sometimes gives me a low, humming anxiety about their normality and/or my parenting. Plus, what if she loves it? It’s so fun when a kid finds something they love. And with track, it could mean a life-long running hobby. But I CANNOT BELIEVE how much time a sport takes up and how much parental involvement is expected. And she can’t even run a mile at this point, while the other kids trying out for track have been doing other sports and can run three miles while still breathing casually through their noses. But she’d shape up quickly with the INCREDIBLY HUGE NUMBER OF PRACTICES. And better to join NOW in 6th grade, when there are probably other kids new to it as well. And if she doesn’t like it, it’s only a few months. Buuuuut…she’s only been to three pre-season practices and is already saying she’s getting pretty tired of them, and that seems like a bad sign.

I don’t know what she should do, and I am trying not to influence her one way or the other because I really don’t KNOW, but I suspect my conflicting preferences for her to both DO it and NOT do it exude from me like a clinging mist, making the decision even harder. At this point I guess I hope she DOES do it, since “wondering if I discouraged her from doing something she wanted to do / should have done” would feel worse than “wondering how we are going to fit this COLOSSAL INCONVENIENCE AND TIME-SUCK into our lives.”

Catching Up

I am so behind on the things I have wanted to write about.

I saw the movie Arrival. If you have not yet seen it, I will say this: I agree with everyone who said not to look into it or read anything about it, just see it cold.

Rob has had another college acceptance, and also a rejection. Maybe I already wrote about this? The rejection was from one of the schools lower on his list, which seems like a very good way to get the first rejection. I can picture THINKING you are prepared for rejection, and then finding upon receipt of actual rejection that you ARE NOT IN FACT PREPARED. We are still waiting to hear from his top two choices, and both of those colleges have low acceptance rates, so this was a good rehearsal. …I feel as if I already wrote all of this. Possibly I did, or perhaps there is a draft somewhere?

Rob has a new job that means he misses dinner five days a week. I am distressed by this. Sometimes I can save him a plate for later, but sometimes we are having something that doesn’t really re-heat, and/or something that gets eaten entirely by others if he is not here to eat his share. Sometimes he makes sandwiches, sometimes he heats something up; and now I have bought some frozen meals, frozen burritos, and cans of hearty soups. I have tried to interest him in learning to make scrambled eggs, fried eggs on toast, tuna-and-Triscuits, egg salad sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other things I consider staples of the Single Dinner, but he doesn’t like the foods that I like. Well. We will figure this out. And in approximately six months, it will not be an issue because he will LIVE AT COLLEGE.

I remember there was something I bought and wanted to recommend. What was it? This is the trouble with waiting. Well, I’ll think of it later.

I continue to be engrossed with political stuff. I decided my first half-hour of Twitter-reading per day had to take place while walking vigorously on the treadmill. This has: (1) decreased my Twitter-reading and (2) increased my treadmill usage and (3) decreased my adrenaline while reading. If you lean liberal and you are panicking, may I recommend skimming this book? It seemed to me to be one of those books where the entire point could have been made in one single article, so most of the book is devoted to giving long, thorough examples to back up the main point and create more pages. As soon as I understood the point and skimmed a couple of examples, I felt I’d extracted the vital essence.

I completely forgot to bring two of the kids to their dentist appointments. The appointments were on the calendar. The dentist office called the day before and reminded me. And then I…didn’t bring them. I realized it about half an hour after the second appointment would have been over. I was completely mortified. This sort of thing makes me feel as if I am losing my mind. The dentist’s office was very cool about it, but I found it very difficult to shake the mortified/horrified mood. Then I accidentally rescheduled one of the appointments for a day when we can’t make it, so I will have to call BACK and reschedule AGAIN.

Edward had his MRI. The worst part was getting him to drink the stuff he has to drink beforehand. This was his third MRI so I’d thought it would be easier to get him to drink it, but this was the hardest time yet. It was bad enough, I’m not even sure it would be possible to do it ever again. Even this time they were very uncertain they’d be able to do it, based on what a small amount of liquid I was able to persuade him to drink over TWO-AND-A-HALF HOURS OF CONSTANT EXHAUSTING EFFORT. And then he threw it up. Upside: two Pokéstops within reach of the waiting room.

I have started taking online French lessons using a program available for free through our library. I feel as if almost ANY language would be more practical than French—but French is the only one that appeals to me. I took two years of it in high school and still like it. But I hate, hate, HATE the part where the program wants me to use the microphone to compare my pronunciation to theirs. Not only is it disheartening, but it’s difficult to use and I can’t figure out how to use the feedback to improve my pronunciation. It is enough to make me want to ditch the whole thing. So I think I will skip that part and pretend I don’t even HAVE a microphone. Who’s going to tell them otherwise? For all they know I DON’T have one!

College Application Frets and Complaints

We went to a financial-aid info meeting at the high school this week. If you have not yet attended a college-planning meeting at a high school, let me assure you of this: there will always, always, ALWAYS be at least one parent who uses the meeting to brag about their child. They’ll raise their hand to ask a question, and somehow the setting-up of this question will require a little humblebrag. And if the leader says, “Has anyone received any MERIT-based aid?,” this parent will pipe up “With every single package!,” as if we might want to take the opportunity for a little smattering of impressed applause.

Anyway. We have only heard back from one of the dozen colleges Rob applied to, so it was a little unsettling to hear so many other parents discussing all the acceptances and scholarships. The speakers told us how lucky we were that this was the first year for the new earlier admissions process. I can’t think about it too much, or I start envisioning a future with two piles of letters: one a pile of acceptances, all from expensive schools, none with any financial aid offers; the other, a pile of rejections. Perhaps a third pile of “Oops, you did something wrong with the application, so you paid the application fees but didn’t actually successfully apply.”

I have a tip, incidentally, if the whole college-planning stage is still ahead: don’t put off the things you will need to spend money on. Replace the windows, paint the house, fix the roof, replace the ancient car that will give out any day now. They don’t expect you to sell your house or car to pay for college, but they do expect you to clear out the savings account—and “But that’s earmarked for braces/windows/garage” butters no toast.

Oh, oh, oh! Another college-application-related thing. So, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this rumor or if it’s even true, but the idea is that acceptances come in a BIG envelope (because they send you a bunch of other materials), and the rejections come in a regular business envelope (because it’s just one sheet of paper). In the last month, we have received TWO big and SEVEN small envelopes from colleges he’s applied to, and NONE of them were acceptances or rejections. They have all been things such as reminders that we can check application status online, reminders about deadlines to apply if we have not already done so, and advertising materials. This seems tone-deaf to the point of cruelty. They MUST KNOW that right now students and their families are opening mailboxes every day with pounding hearts, so WHY OH WHY the terrible fake-outs??

College Applications; Resolutions

Rob’s college applications have all been submitted, and now we wait. He got one acceptance already, to Texas A&M, which was thrilling. I’d hoped it would mean we’d hear back sooner than expected from ALL the colleges, but it looks as if all the others notify more like March or April.

It’s strange to be in the 2017 of “Class of ’17,” after having it sound so far away when we first figured out what year he’d graduate. Now here we are: the year he graduates high school, the year he goes off to college, the year he turns 18 and registers for the draft and to vote. It’s a year of stress and change and lots of exciting stuff. It’s funny to think what an effect the college he chooses could have over the rest of his life: it could be where he meets the person he’s going to marry; it could be where he makes lifelong friends. It could be that he’ll love that area of the country and settle down there. The particular programs and professors could steer him in an unexpected career direction. The people he hangs around with could change his interests and views and the genetic make-up of my grandchildren. It’s heady stuff.

And I’m going to get to put together care packages, which I love to do.

Well. New subject: resolutions. I like to make a few, but not the eat less, exercise more, lose weight kind of resolutions, which discourage me even to THINK about: January is grim enough without adding that kind of thing. The closest I come to that category of resolution is, for example, deciding I don’t eat enough fruits/vegetables and resolving to eat one more fruit or vegetable per day: specific, manageable, achievable, kind of fun, kind of interesting, makes me feel perky rather than grim. Or I can picture resolving to try a new activity, like saying this year I am going to try Zumba, or this year I am going to try that ballet-based exercise class I keep hearing about. This year my resolutions are:

1. Learn one new practical skill. It doesn’t have to be BIG. Paul has been working on this concept for the last few years; I forget what he calls it, but something like adding arrows to his quiver. He’s learned some metalwork and some woodwork and some gardening, and now he’s learning ham radio. I might want to take a nursing assistant course, or maybe re-learn how to can, or maybe learn to crochet, or maybe something else. I could re-take CPR training, or learn how to make a button-hole, or re-learn how to make bread. Ooo, or it might be fun to learn to make flour from grain! I’m unlikely to NEED that skill, but that is not really the point.

2. Figure out where podcasts are found and how to move them onto a device and how to listen to them. I keep hearing about podcasts, but I don’t get how it works. This is acquirable knowledge, and I am going to acquire it.

3. I’m going to send some money to NPR. Rob won an Alexa in a computer contest, and on the advice of my sister-in-law I started asking Alexa to tell me the news each morning while I was making coffee and getting breakfast. She (the Alexa) gives me an NPR news summary, and it is exactly the amount of news I want. I keep forgetting to go online and give NPR some monetary appreciation.