Category Archives: college

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.

To-Do List Progress

I have been TEARING UP my to-do list. “Tearing up,” is that the term I want for getting things done? It sounds more like ripping up the list without doing things. But we say “tearing up the pea patch,” or some of us do, and that has to do with the type of wild burst of activity I am referring to.

Yesterday I took Edward for an orthodontic consultation, and while we were there they said, “Oh, by the way, we notice your daughter is scheduled for a consultation next month, but we had a cancellation for an appointment a half-hour from now—do you want that?” So I signed paperwork to get Edward’s braces started and left him there; I called the school from the orthodontist’s parking lot to say I’d be picking up Elizabeth; I went and picked up a surprised Elizabeth; and I returned with her four minutes before the available appointment. She has a year or so to go, it turns out, but Edward got his braces on right before Halloween, poor chap. Luckily for him, his mother had braces herself and so is very sympathetic about chewy candy deprivation. What I like to do is buy a couple bags of the be-braced child’s favorite candy, and then I trade them for the stuff they can’t have; I try to make sure they end up feeling as if they scored quite a deal.

Then I made Rob sit with me and help choose his senior picture, and got that sized correctly and sent off to the right person at the school.

So that was yesterday. I feel especially good about it because I paid in full for the braces, thus removing that money from our account before finishing up the college financial aid forms.

Today, I called and made six passport-application appointments. Then I filled out six passport applications, and paper-clipped each one to the necessary copies of drivers’ licenses, certified birth certificates, and checks. I still need to take the kids to get their passport photos taken, but then we’re ready to go.

I started to register Rob for his two SAT subject tests, but then remembered we need to decide which admissions officer to believe: the one who said December was fine to take them for the regular-admissions deadline, or the one who said December was too late to take them for that same deadline. If we believe the second admissions officer, we need to absorb a fee and change his November SAT test to two November SAT subject tests instead, and reschedule his SAT for December (since he already took the SAT in the spring and did fine, and this would just be a re-take). So I’m going to wait for Rob to come home, because he will likely have an opinion, and also because in the meantime perhaps one of you will turn out to know something about this.

Then I called the doctor’s office with two complicated prescription requests for Edward. Then I called the doctor’s other office to make an appointment. These seem small, but the phone-call aspect made them feel big.

Then I went to the grocery store, adding a few non-perishables to the cart (instant coffee, giant pepperoni stick, applesauce, peanuts).

Then I stopped at the mechanic’s and dropped off the car. It’s being loud and needs attention, and maybe this will get more money out of our account.

 

If you like, this is a good time to say what you’re getting done today, this week, whatever. It feels kind of good to talk about it, and it can be hard to find an enthusiastic audience for a to-do-list report. Don’t feel as if you too have to be tearing up a pea-patch: we are a crowd that knows what it is like to have a day where “picking that piece of trash up off the floor” is a significant accomplishment.

College Visit Update

The weekend college-visit trip went quite well, considering everything. The best best best thing of all is that when we arrived at our motel, we discovered they had a free shuttle that stopped at the college. This was not only awesome in itself (no city driving! no stressful very-limited-parking navigation at the college!), but also I had looked at a list of motels/hotels that the college website listed as having free shuttles, but all of those were at least twice the price of the motel I chose, and I’d been thinking that was sad but I was not paying hundreds extra for a free shuttle. AND THEN WE DID IN FACT HAVE A FREE SHUTTLE. Massive score.

Plus, the motel was far from downtown AND we didn’t have to drive downtown to get to it: the GPS took us off the highway, through two sketchy-but-empty alley-type roads and one confusing intersection I had to go through and then re-approach from a different direction before I got it right, but then we were THERE. We parked in their parking lot and then didn’t have to move the car until we were headed home.

Also, there was a pizza place a 5-minute walk away. Which also sold cheesecake.

On the day’s drive to this magical place, Rob prepared for his interview. It turned out it was the very first time he had even glanced at the information. And that he was expected to bring to the interview a copy of his transcript, a copy of his SAT scores, and a filled-in printout of their interview form. Listen, I don’t swear often, but things got a bit tense there for a few minutes. Luckily for him, Staples is a chain, and there was one a quarter-mile off the highway, and they could print from a laptop for 12 cents a page. Really, Rob did not deserve to be so lucky, but I am counting it as MY luck rather than his, because the stress of finding out we were spending two full days driving and two nights of expensive moteling for a child who totally blew the interview in a perfectly preventable way would have been years off my will to live.

Anyway we are home now, and back to the stress of the FAFSA/CSS and the Common App and senior pictures and so forth.

Task Progress

I have made some progress on my list of tasks. I got a good start on the FAFSA (college financial aid form), but got stuck on a few things, like not having Rob’s driver’s license number, and not knowing how much money he made in 2015 (some, but not enough to need to pay taxes, so I don’t have a record of it anymore; lesson learned). So I didn’t finish it, but I got a good start on it, and I did the parts involving our finances and taxes and so on. One of the most time-consuming parts was getting my FAFSA ID: something was amiss with my email, so the confirmation number wasn’t coming through. So then I’d ask for it to be re-sent, and in the meantime the original confirmation number would show up, but now the original one wouldn’t work because I’d requested a new one, and the browser logged me out because apparently I’d accidentally opened a duplicate browser window. It was…a little frustrating. But onward through every obstacle, until our harrowing journey is done!

I tried to shop a little for Elizabeth, but if I’m going to pay non-clearance/Goodwill prices I didn’t want to commit to anything without her specific approval, and she was at school. But I was feeling so restless/unsettled about the whole thing and wanted to make SOME progress, especially because I can’t take her shopping until the weekend after this coming one. So instead (“What CAN I do?“/”What would make it better?“) I spent some time going through Elizabeth’s outgrown clothes, getting rid of the stuff that no longer fits, but also finding enough things to tide her over. I took one top I knew was too small for her and put it on her bed for reference, but there were other tops that same size that were several inches longer, or just bigger over all. And I brought out the nice navy pants she has to have for band concerts, which I bought too-big and had her roll up because I was not buying a whole pair of pants for one concert, and that increased by 50% the supply of pants that fit her. And she had some shirts wadded up in the back of her drawer, oversized boy-cut camp/fundraiser/club shirts she doesn’t like but for heaven’s sake she can wear them for a couple of weeks. And the whole project took me from “I don’t know what to do: she has two days’ worth of clothes and I’m leaving for three days” to “She can EASILY SURVIVE the torment of having FEWER CHOICES for a week or two.”

I did some packing for the college-tour trip. I’m quite anxious about it. I am drawing significant courage, however, from a friend of mine and her husband who impulsively drove three hours to pick up one of her college kids, and then drove fourteen hours to surprise her other college kid. I mean, they just put some clothes in some bags and got in the car like it was nothing, and maybe I too can aspire to such heights of chill. We ARE just driving within our own country, in our own familiar car, and there are stores and restaurants all over the place, and I have a GPS. This does not have to be so scary. (BUT WHAT IF WE DIE.)

Tasks

I am having trouble prioritizing tasks this morning. Here are the things I need to work on:

1. Filling out a FAFSA and a CSS. Both of these are forms to apply for financial aid if your child is hoping to be a college student; you don’t always have to do the CSS, but two of the schools Rob is interested in require it. Would anyone like to…say a few words? Reassurance? Warning? I hear the FAFSA is not too terrible, especially now that it can import your tax forms, but the CSS asks for things such as all your unreimbursed medical expenses, so if that’s the sort of thing you don’t normally keep track of you have to go digging through your checkbook and credit card statements and add them all up.

2. Passport applications. Paul’s certified birth certificate copy arrived already even though it warned it could take 6 weeks, so now I need to get a move-on for his and the kids’ passport photos/applications/etc. I’d thought I’d have more weeks of legitimate procrastination.

3. Getting ready for a weekend trip to go visit a college that’s farther away than I’d prefer Rob go, in a city where I’m scared to drive, staying in a cheap motel that doesn’t even have a continental breakfast but costs for two nights the same as what I used to pay for a month in a two-bedroom apartment.

4. Elizabeth did one of those surprising growth spurts, where the clothes that fit last week are impossible this week. And unlike all her other growth spurts, during which I would go into her closet and pull out boxes of clearance/Goodwill clothing in the next size, this time I pulled out…two pairs of pants and two short-sleeved t-shirts. It seemed like a smart idea not to try to buy ahead for the middle school years, but on the other hand this supply is not going to cut it. So far I’ve gone to two places online and have tutted at the prices, but that’s all the progress I’ve made. I think I might have to go to Target and just buy a few things to tide her over until I can gradually increase the supply via sales/clearances. Or maybe I’ll ask Freecycle. I checked Goodwill and they had almost nothing: I think back-to-school shopping cleared them out. I’m hoping soon they’ll have a bunch of stuff as everyone takes out the cool-weather things and finds their kids have outgrown them.

How Did You Choose Your College?

I can’t adequately express how helpful and calming your comments on the financial aid post were. Even just hearing over and over again, “Yes, probably that income cut-off is a firm one, crazy as that sounds” was mind-settling/clarifying, but then there were so many other useful suggestions and comments and anecdotes. Paul is driving me crazy by referring to my information-gathering stage as “panicking,” and wants to ignore the topic altogether, so I am very glad to have other people to discuss it with.

I’ve been noticing that as we try to find a college for Rob, I am intensely interested in stories about how other people found their colleges. It’s like when I was at the end of my first pregnancy, and all I wanted to hear was stories about how people went into labor, how they knew it was Real Labor, and how the birth went. And so I wondered if you would indulge me by telling me such college-search stories. If you went to college, how did you narrow down the VAST number of possibilities? How did you know when you’d found the right one? Was there a CLICK, or was it more like “Yeah, good enough, this’ll do”? Or, if you have kids who have gone off to college, how did you/they find THEIRS? Please do not edit for length: I will read EVERY WORD, leaning closer to the screen and blinking insufficiently often.

Questions and Frettings about College Financial Aid

We have been touring some colleges with Rob; we’ve been bringing William along, which is one of the advantages of being born second to parents who tend to procrastinate about new things.

So far, Paul has done two of the tours and I have done one. So far, Paul is better at this than I am: he doesn’t panic about driving to new places, he doesn’t panic about what the parking situation will be, he doesn’t panic about maybe being late. But I did okay the one time I did it. Oh, what did ROB think? I have no idea. So far Rob has been driving me crazy by being shruggy about everything. One of the most famous colleges of all time and you would be lottery-winner-style lucky to get to go here? It’s okay, he guesses.

I am also thrown by this because in many ways Rob and I have similar temperaments, but on this topic we are OPPOSITES. By 8th grade I had chosen my college. It was a MISTAKE, I now believe, and I wish I hadn’t been under the impression at the time that all secular colleges were roiling pits of drugs and sex and alcohol and partying—but I was INVOLVED and INTERESTED, is I guess what I’m trying to communicate. I did college-search programs. I looked up the results in a book. I compared the merits of one to the merits of another. I made sure each one was the PROTESTANT kind of Christian and not, say, Catholic. …Okay, in retrospect there were some downsides to my searching methods, and perhaps being a little shruggy is not the worst thing someone can do for their educational prospects.

Anyway, I have some financial questions. We toured one college that said that tuition was free if the family made less than $XX,000 per year. Let’s say the family makes about $3,000/year more than that, and it’s because one of the parents recently acquired a part-time job. Should that parent quit her job? Or does the college then say, “Yesssssss, you do make under that amount, but one of you could be working so…”? Or is it like, it’s free if you make less than $XX,000, but it’s not generally a firm cut-off, and making $3,000/year more doesn’t mean they expect you to pay $56,000/year more in tuition, but instead would expect you to pay $3,000/year more in tuition? I know you’re not going to know the specifics of the specific college, especially if I am not telling you the specific college, but this is okay because I’m not actually asking about only this college and am wondering more about IN GENERAL what people have found about college financing situations such as this one.

Secondly, this same college said the free-tuition dealio was for families with “average assets.” This made me start thinking about our assets. I think we have more assets than some people: we are aware we have five children, and so we have been socking away for college. Also, I had a small amount of money of my own, and I invested it in Apple when Apple was $20/share. But…we’d like to divide those assets among the five children, not send the first one to college with almost no loans and have nothing left for the other four. Does a college understand that? Or are my fears correct that they expect you to drain the accounts before they’ll consider anything financial-aid-related? I mean, that would kind of be fair: what if none of our other kids even WENT to college? But it seems like poor planning.

Also, I would like to vent some general crabbiness. We are living in a small house, which we bought taking into account just one income. The kitchen is from 1960, and it wasn’t a good design then either; we have duct-taped some modifications into place, including using an old changing table as a countertop. We don’t have a garage. We have furniture with stuffing coming out of it. We only just replaced the mattresses the two older kids were sleeping on, which were my brother’s when he was a child. Each year we sent our tax refunds off to the mortgage. We don’t go on expensive vacations. We are doing all these things because we want to be better able to afford things like braces and college. I am feeling crabby because although I could be completely wrong about this, it seems to me that if we’d bought more house than we could afford, and had the kitchen remodeled, and added a garage, and bought new furniture every time the old stuff got shabby, and spent our tax refunds on vacations and a hot tub, and went out to dinner every week, we would qualify for a lot more financial aid. I’m feeling as if we’re going to get punished for all these years of me pining for my friends’ houses/kitchens/garages/meals/vacations, while they qualify for all the need-based scholarships.

I don’t see how it can be any other way (do I really want colleges to demand itemized spending records and a household inventory?), and I don’t want to live a way I consider unwise for our circumstances just to get need-based scholarships for the kids, but I am feeling theoretically cranky about the theoretical possibility of it. I guess I like to picture us as the cut-off: that any financial aid we don’t get would go to the people under us, who can’t afford the mortgage on a small house with a shabby kitchen, who have to spend their tax refund on their car insurance and medical expenses, etc. And not to the people I consider above us, with their island vacations and beautiful large houses and dinners out. It feels wrong to even think this way, because in theory I am an “everyone spends their own money in their own way” person—but when I picture the theoretical outcome in this case (someone else gets the vacation, the large house, the dinners out AND the financial aid, while we have none of those things AND no financial aid), I get theoretically upset.