room to spare

So the girl is moved in. The process was incredibly efficient. This big old university really knows what they are doing! It’s almost as if someone took notes about what works and what doesn’t work, and they planned it out using everything from that first column. The only tears I shed were small ones, and mostly due to how well run the move in process was. (I’m going to email the organizer and let them know what an amazing job they all did.)

You know what makes sending my only girl off to college easier? Texting. I haven’t counted, but I’d say in the past 36 hours since she’s been on her own, we’ve texted over a dozen times. She’s good about responding to my questions (such as “are you eating well?”) as well as sending her own texts with photos of what she’s done to decorate her dorm room. I’m beyond thrilled that she willingly includes me in her excitement. I know for a fact that she texts her friends as often as she breathes (okay, okay… that’s a slight exaggeration). I’m just so happy she includes me in her frequent contact list.

Regarding her tremendous amount of items she packed to bring to college that I was so worried about: Not a problem. Once the bins and things were moved to the car, it became clear quickly that I worried for no reason. We had room to spare. Not much, but enough to make traveling safe and easy. This is to say I could see out all the windows and none of the doors had to be forced shut. And… we didn’t need the car-top carrier!

And then we moved it all into the dorm. Or, I should say, the wonderful volunteers moved it all into her dorm room. I carried nothing other than my purse and her water bottle. It was crazy wonderful! Some of the volunteers actually said, “Is that all?” And the room is so great. Is it perfect? No, it took a while to arrange it in such a way that there was room for all the furniture and still room to open the door and move around. But when I compare her room to her older brother’s dorm rooms, well, my oh my it is spacious and light and modern!

And the closet. Or, I should say, CLOSETS. Two closets! One for each occupant. INSANE! Again, I’m comparing it to my son’s room that was a triple and had a small closet for all three boys to share. That closet could barely hold a dozen hangers. And did I mention: one small closet for 3 boys??????? I still don’t know how the boys did it. But my daughter, she has a floor to ceiling closet space all for herself! They utilized the ceiling height by adding a hard-to-reach-but-I-don’t-care-because-it’s-a-very-useful-space-that-would-have-gone-to-waste-so-I-purchased-a-step-stool-for-her-and-now-she-can-store-lots-of-stuff-there space above the main clothes hanging area.  While I was making her bed, she unloaded the bins of clothes and the suitcase. All those clothes I thought were too many? Well, they fit … with room to spare. So maybe she didn’t bring too many. Or maybe she did bring extra, but it’s hard to tell because the closet is so spacious. Either way, she has room to spare in her closet.

When her roommate and her family arrived about an hour after we did, the dad walked into the room and said something like, “It’s so small” and I laughed and laughed. And then I told him about the super small closet my son had to deal with … in a room smaller than the room we were standing in … which was a triple. Maybe he still felt this room was small, and maybe that had something to do with the fact that his daughter brought SO MUCH STUFF (way more than we brought) that took two cars to deliver to college, but it didn’t matter. Our girls were moved in and they had room for all their stuff, and we then left and they got busy decorating their room and then attending functions for the freshmen class.

And now it has begun. She is a freshman at college. And I am home without my two oldest children. And all is well.

They are off to a great year. My daughter has room in her closet. She has a wonderful space to live in and a university that is excited for her to be there. She will do well.

I now have room to spare in my house as well. Her room is empty of all the things that make it “lived in” and even though it was hard at first to walk in that dark room and see it neat and tidy and empty, I’m okay with it now. She’s where she needs to be. I miss her like crazy, but I’m so happy for her.

laugh with me, won’t you

Everyone, all together now: HA!  HA HA HA HA HA!

Some of you are laughing with me, and I’m sure some are laughing at me. Both are justified reactions to what I’m about to tell you.

Remember back in May when I posted about sending my daughter off to college and how I was going to pack smarter and lighter and all that? Well now it’s time to actually move her to campus and I have realized there are two factors I forgot about when it comes to her packing to move to the dorm.

  1. She’s a girl.
  2. She has my DNA.

Because she’s a girl she is taking many more clothes and tons more shoes than my son took. She likes to have options of what to wear each day, and she likes to dress up, and she likes clothes. I gathered all the items I determined she needed on campus, sticking to my belief that less is more, but slowly the pile grew. It grew and it grew and it grew. One bin for shoes and boots. One for sweaters and tops. A large suitcase for jeans, blouses, scarves, skirts, and dresses. And the bin I had for personal care items, such as tissues, shampoo, toothpaste, and similar items? Well, now we have that bin full, as well as a second bin, and another bag that hopefully will fit into the suitcase, since the bins are full and my car will not fit another one. I have measured the car and the bins and other items, and have determined we may just barely fit everything inside, with just enough room to see out the back window. We may not, and therefore the car-top carrier that I swore was not necessary might be necessary.

And you remember how I wrote about sending my son off three years ago for his first year on campus, and I sent him with everything one might possibly need while living away from home? I gave him extras of every size of battery. He had tools and so many other little things that I thought might come in handy, though many didn’t see the light of day. Well, it turns out that the “better to be safe than sorry” and planning ahead for every scenario packing mentality runs in my daughter’s veins as well. Just when I think we are done packing, she’ll add one more thing. And then another. And then a quick trip to the store for one last item. Why? Because she says she might need it. It might come in handy. You never know.

One thing I do know, no matter how great my plan was to send her with only the necessary items I had determined she needed, she had her own ideas. So much for my packing light theory! Time to consider the car-top carrier and hope she has enough closet space in her dorm room.

Our autism

This post is inspired by the recent post from Four Plus an Angel.

***

youngest

This is our autism.

Waking everyday to an excited eight year old asking me, “Do you remember in the movie when they….?”

Reading the same book for bedtime for days and weeks and – lately – months.

Pretending to be interested in his latest obsession, while silently hoping it doesn’t last four years like the last one.

Taking two hours to calm him down after he was disappointed about something that was scheduled to happen but got cancelled.

Talking to him daily —  for the gazillionth time — about how the world doesn’t know about his schedules and expectations and how he has to expect not everything will work out as he has scheduled them to happen. Knowing this talk is pointless.

Allowing him time to straighten the play money and pieces and cards in the board game every two minutes. Knowing he will follow the board game rules exactly. Or, knowing he will institute new rules that benefit him if the original rules are making him lose, and we all must then follow these new rules that he just made up. Or else.

Taking a week to prepare him for a dentist visit, calling ahead to prep the hygienist (every six months), then preparing myself in case he again grabs the dental tools out of his mouth and screams his high pitched death scream.

Serving him the same three foods over and over and over, and giving up trying to get him to eat anything new.

Bribing him with a game or treat before a haircut. And giving the hair stylist a long list of what not to do (using electric clippers, expecting him to sit still, worrying about the hair being even, offering a lollipop if he’s good — he’s going to get one just for sitting in the chair).

Having his sister talk to him and soothe him while I cut his fingernails and toenails. And promising him I’m really not cutting his fingers or toes off even though he’s crying as though that is exactly what I am doing to him.

Asking his older siblings to be patient with him when he barges into their rooms without knocking, even though I had just told him to knock first, as I do each time he goes up to their rooms.

Putting him to bed at the same time each night because if he goes to bed later than normal he can’t fall asleep when the house is too dark and there are weird noises outside.

Describing fireworks to him as he cuddles with me in his bed with his noise-reducing earmuffs on. And promising him that the neighbors won’t be setting off fireworks every day or too late in the night. Then crossing my fingers that I’m right.

Allowing him to check my weather app only twice a day, instead of every 15 minutes, like he wants to do. Then listening to an hour long weather report which includes the pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature fluctuations, precipitation forecast with probability, the color of the rain expected (on our map red is BAD … pink is WORSE), and his prediction of whether or not a tornado might happen.

Spending time almost every day explaining that we won’t be having a tornado today, and what precautions we have in place in case there is a tornado warning. (He’s only lived through one warning in his life, yet worries about this happening every day since.)

Making sure the “bad weather bag” is always placed near the basement door, and that it has all the necessary items in it: book, stuffed animal, electronic game (fully charged), and noise-reducing earmuffs.

Explaining to his teachers that he must be at the front of the line when they go from one activity to the next, so that he doesn’t wander off like he did twice last year. And, yes, he says he’ll never do it again, but he may, because he has, even after saying he won’t.

Explaining to him the dangers of hiding in a storm drain, after he told me he thought it would be fun to do that.

Not laughing when he describes what people look like. Peach skin. Circle face.

Not crying when he still doesn’t know his classmates’ names, at the end-of-year party.

Taking two weeks to help him get over the sadness of the school year ending, then waiting a month and taking a few weeks to get him prepared for summer to end and to start of the next school year.

Knowing whatever I say will be deemed a rule or law or true, because what you say has meaning and is real and if I say I’ll be there in five minutes I can’t take six or twelve because that is wrong and not what I said.

Understanding that when he hits his fingers this way or that, or taps his elbows in a pattern — right, then left, then right and then left again — it’s not because he’s nervous or worried (though that may be true) but mostly because it calms him down and gives him a sense of peace and control.

Fake smiling without saying anything when friends and family say, “but he doesn’t look like he has autism.”

Cringing when friends and family — and doctors — say, “I’m so sorry” when they are told he has autism.

Thankful he is a most original, thoughtful, kind, funny, inquisitive, wonderful, smart, lucky boy. And knowing I will do everything I can to make sure he is happy and has all he needs to learn and grow, and to be safe.

Loving him and adoring every bit of him each day.

Knowing I wouldn’t change him even if I could.

Isn’t he home?

My mother-in-law and I have always had a rocky relationship. Sometimes those rocks are the size of boulders. Other times they are merely pebbles. Most times just those little annoying “painful to walk on but once you’re off them you’re fine” rough rocks.

She’s not a fan of telephones and still believes rates are cheapest on Sundays. Also, she firmly believes “no news is good news” and doesn’t see the reason for a phone call if you don’t have anything to say. If you can’t answer her favorite question, “What’s new?” with something specific, why bother calling?

Though my husband knows the time of day and actual day of the call do not matter at all in terms of cost, he still only calls his mom on Sunday afternoons, because she believes it matters. We’ve told her it doesn’t. Her other son (the one who supplied her with a cell phone to use for calling her sons) also told her the day and time of her calls do not matter. Her calling plan includes unlimited calls. They’ve also told her the location of the call does not matter. Whether she dials her son who is five miles down the road, or my husband, her other son, who is five hours away, the cost per minute is the same.  Yet she still firmly believes calls to my husband must be on a Sunday, and must not last long, because they are long distance calls.

We’ve given up explaining this all to her. I’ve given up explaining to my husband that he doesn’t have to abide by her “only call on Sunday” philosophy. I have given up encouraging him to pick up the phone on a Thursday night, or Tuesday morning, and call his mother. He doesn’t do this, not because he also believes in the old time calling hours schedule, but because he believes it will upset her, thinking he’s spending too much money just to tell her there is nothing new.

Knowing this calling schedule, I try not to answer the phone on Sundays. It’s not because I don’t want to speak with my mother-in-law, even though that is true — I don’t really want to speak to my MIL — but because of her typical response when I do answer the phone. Allow me to explain.

One evening this week she called. I know … CRAZY! A call not a Sunday! But she was worried about our upcoming visit — weeks from now — and needed to rehash all the travel details that she heard from my husband just a day or two prior. Anyhoo…. Here’s the exact exchange:

Phone: RING!

Me: Hello?

MIL: Isn’t he home from work yet?

 

Sigh. This has been going on for years. Decades even. If I do answer the phone when she calls (because I forget to check caller ID), she never replies with the typical telephone conversation responses. Never. And for some reason she assumes my husband isn’t home if I answer the call.

Being the good wife that I am, and showing respect for my MIL, I never reply to this ridiculous question with anything rude or sarcastic. But oh how I’ve been tempted to. So below are a few examples of what I’d like to say in response to “Isn’t he home?” or “Isn’t he home from work yet?” or “So he’s not there?” or whatever format of the same stupid question she has used in the past.

  • Yes he is, and I’ve been good this week, so he allowed me to answer the phone today!
  • Yes, he’s in the other room, and he instructed me to answer the phone before getting him his slippers and a martini.
  • No, he’s not home, but I took a chance to answer the phone, even though I know it’s wrong of me to do so…. Please don’t tell on me!
  • Yes, he’s home. And he just taught me how to use this funny little buzzing device! Did I do it right?

Please feel free to include your suggestions in the comments section. I’d love to have more ideas bouncing around my head the next time she calls!

ready… set…

Three years ago at this point I was deep into making lists, packing, repacking, planning, purchasing, organizing, and making more lists, all in preparation to send my first born off to college in August. I did my job well. Maybe too well. He had everything he would ever need. Screwdriver? Yup. Flashlight? Of course! Extra batteries? Yes, multiple packages in various sizes, obviously. During that freshman year, when someone on his dorm floor needed anything, my son would be the one they’d go to, knowing somewhere in the boxes under his bed would be the sought out item. I was ridiculously proud of how well prepared he was.

Late the next summer, days before he was to return to the campus for his second year, we were sorting out the boxes that had sat pretty much untouched all summer. To my surprise, he wasn’t interested in bringing back with him most of these essential, necessary, well-thought-out items. Turns out space is at a premium in these dorm rooms, and the flashlight was only used once during the first year. Many of the items were never used at all.  He ended up with lots of extra batteries. And most of the other items that spent weeks on my packing list the year prior were deemed completely unnecessary and useless.

Okay, so maybe this hurt my pride a little bit. Just a tiny bit. But after another year and even less taken back to campus for his third year, I realized I’d need to change how I packed for my daughter, who will be going off to her freshman year this August.

She’ll get a flashlight with fresh batteries, I believe this is important to have, but as for the other items, not nearly as many as my son took with him three years ago.

***

I had lunch with a friend earlier this week, and in preparation for sending off her oldest to college she asked me what I’d suggest packing, so here is the list of what I now declare to be the necessary items to send off with a college freshman:

  • A high quality mattress encasement. The vinyl kind that zippers closed to cover the whole mattress. You really don’t want any part of that possibly well-used mattress exposed near your precious baby’s body. And this mattress protector helps with allergies and dust mites as well. Worth every penny. Put it on in August and don’t touch it until moving out day in May.
  • On top of the protected mattress, we put a foam egg crate mattress topper. There are many kinds to choose from and range in price from $10 to well over $60. I really like the two-inch thick memory foam kind. These are great because the dorm bed is used for more than just sleeping, so it has to be ultra comfy. (Now you stop that thinking right now! I’m talking about eating, socializing, studying, playing guitar, relaxing, and other activities that are not comfortable to do on the uncomfortable standard issue office chair. Some dorm rooms might be big enough to have a small sofa or extra lounge chair, but none of the ones my son stayed in were big enough, so the bed had to do double and triple duty.)
  • A comfy padded mattress cover. It’s a good idea to remove this mattress cover and wash it at least once a semester. I suggest taking it home at Thanksgiving break, winter break, and spring break to wash it at home.
  • Two sets of twin XL sheets. Not the cheapo kind. Those don’t do well with the wear and tear (read: not washed as often as they should be, and when they are washed, it’s either in an over-loaded machine and/or a machine that doesn’t know what a gentle cycle is), and therefore need to be burned discarded and replaced during winter break.
  • One light blanket and/or a comforter.
  • A body pillow or a king size pillow, plus a standard size pillow. Again, think comfort. The dorm walls are most likely cinder block, so leaning up against them to study or chat will be uncomfortable. A couple pillows to prop up against will be very useful. The body pillow can act like a headboard because it’s the same width as a twin mattress.
  • Large plastic containers. Most dorm beds can be raised up, leaving tons of room under the bed. This space under the bed is prime real estate! It’s a great place to keep some large bins that can store the blanket or comforter (they may not want both to start with, but it’s good to have for when the weather gets cooler), extra clothes, tissues, school supplies (paper, pens, highlighters), shoes and boots, etc. And from experience, I can tell you that moving in and moving out will be much easier by using these large bins, rather than lots of smaller boxes and bags. I suggest using at least two of the super large ones, for those big bulky items such as a comforter, boots, winter coat, etc., and then a few of the colorful clear ones for everyday items so that it’s easy to find what the student is looking for without searching each bin. When all the dorm items are stored over the summer (in a basement or closet or corner of the student’s childhood bedroom), these bins will be the perfect place to keep everything until it’s time to go back to campus.
  • The laundry basket can be placed under the raised bed as well, leaving more floor space in the dorm room and space in the closet. When it comes to laundry baskets, a tall sturdy one with comfortable handles is my favorite for the college student to use. Because it’s tall, it doesn’t take up as much floor space. Sturdy is important especially if it’s hanging out under the bed. You don’t want it falling over and the clothes being eaten by dust bunnies. And comfortable handles are a must. Sometimes the laundry facilities are just across the hall. Other times they are in the basement of the next building, accessible only by walking across the courtyard and down two flights of steps. For my son’s first semester he used super cheap mesh laundry baskets which were HORRIBLE because they would fall over if you put dirty jeans in them, and the handles were fine if it was empty, but add a load of clothes and those handles felt like they would cut your fingers off. So a sturdy laundry basket (or baskets … 2 come in very handy if the student doesn’t do laundry the minute the hamper is full, or prefers to separate the darks and lights) are also super helpful during moving in (folded clothes ready to be put into drawers) and moving out day (dirty clothes waiting for the more convenient washing machine at home). Here’s a pic of one of my favorite ones that works so well for my son (the picture is deceiving… it’s much taller than it looks):

 

laundry basket

*Hint (AKA, proof of my OCD tendencies):  I took one of these tall sturdy laundry baskets and put the blanket folded on the bottom, then the washed and folded sheets, then the mattress pad, then the rolled up foam, then the zippered encasement. When we got to the dorm room, I started with this basket and made the bed quickly while my son brought in the next few loads of items. Having everything in order of placement on the bed made it quick and easy, which is key when working in limited space and with so much else to do during moving in day.

Okay, back to the list!

  • Clothing. Obviously, but the key to packing the clothing for a student’s first year at college is not to bring too much. They don’t need everything they own nor everything they’ll wear for the whole year. Just enough for that one season/semester. Oh, and extra underwear, because laundry isn’t always done as often as it is when living at home.
  • (Edited to add this…. Can’t believe I forgot about towels!) I suggest two bath towels and a lot of washcloths. Also two hand towels. The other suggestion regarding towels is to get a color that washes well with the regular clothes. The student is not going to do a separate load of laundry just for towels, so nothing that needs bleach, and not a color that will run and ruin the clothes (no red!). For my oldest, I purchased brown towels. I know, not pretty or anything special, but they could be washed with anything and be fine.
  • If you don’t care about the environment, a decent sized stack of paper plates and bowls (mostly plates). If you do care, two microwave-safe plates and one bowl. My college boy says it doesn’t matter what they look like, they just have to be microwave-safe. I like a large Corelle dish for college dorm rooms, because they are hard to break and not expensive. Plates are obviously great for serving pizza or take-out, microwaved meals, etc. It’s also important to have at least one large bowl (I love Corelle’s 28 ounce soup/cereal bowl), for cereal, ice cream, stew or soup from a can, etc. Also, toss in a few extra forks and spoons that you may have, purchase cheap ones that you wouldn’t mind tossing after a few years, or get these beauties: reusable sporks made out of plastic or titanium!
  • Tissues. It seems like most students get a cold the first month or so into the new school year, especially when living in a dorm with dozens or hundreds of other kids, and with the recirculated air, and all that. When they start sneezing and feel poorly they’ll miss being home and being taken care of, and they really don’t want to have to get on a bus to go to the local store to purchase a box of tissues. Get a 3-pack or more.
  • A small plastic bin (the one that is about the size of a shoe box) filled with the over-the-counter medicines the student uses when they are sick or have allergies or headaches or paper cuts. Again, they won’t want to bother with using public transportation when not feeling well, and when you’re sick, you want to feel better ASAP. I suggest a pain reliever, decongestant, allergy pills, eye drops (if they tend to get allergies), cough drops, and a few bandages. P.S. If they don’t have a convenient place to keep their medical insurance card, this might be a good place to store it.
  • A tall fan. The standing tower kind that has a slim profile. Most dorms have heat and air conditioning (if they have air conditioning) that come on from certain dates until other specified dates, and there is no way to turn it off or change the set temperature. Many times the dorms are stuffy and over-heated.
  • A laptop.

And that’s it. Bedding. Clothing. Eating. Storage. Medicines. Tissues. Fan. Laptop. It may sound like a lot, but it’s not.

As for the big shared stuff, once roommate selections are given out, the two students will then decide who will bring a mini-fridge and maybe if they want a rug (good idea) or other common shared items.

Also, it’s important to know that most colleges have Family Weekend early in the fall. This is the perfect time to deliver more items that the student forgot or found they needed. That weekend is also a great time to take home anything they realized might have been packed in error.

Oh, and one more necessary item: A large box of tissues for the parent’s car ride home.

Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was

Yesterday was the day I set aside to finally clean off my dining room table. For the past month (or more?) it has been a holding station for bills, receipts, and other papers that I haven’t made the time to put away. And it’s been my sewing station. I don’t do a lot of sewing, but lately have been trying to be creative with my machine. I’ve been making little crafty things and playing with the different stitches that my machine can do.  Meals have been in our kitchen, at the kitchen island, and that works fine lately since it has three stools, and we haven’t had all four of us eating at the same time. Due to my husband working late every night, and my daughter working three nights a week (and out doing other things some of the other four nights), it’s mostly been just my youngest and myself, so the kitchen island has been where we eat.

As I said, yesterday was my day to clean off the dining room table. I’d like to get back to having all of us sit and eat at the table at the same time. The first step is having the table available. So I started putting away the papers and the odds and ends that have ended up there, and then packed away the sewing machine and all it’s accessories (scissors, thread, fabrics, ribbons, etc.). But where to put the large bin that holds all these goodies? That’s my big issue. I don’t have much storage in this house, and when I put something down in the basement, not only do I forget about it, but it’s a pain to lug it back up the stairs when I need to use it. Usually the sewing bin lives in the front room (office? play room?) or in a corner of the dining room, but I’m tired of stepping around it and tired of it taking up space where it shouldn’t be.

Yesterday, after putting everything in the bin, and wondering if the basement was truly the best place for it, I remembered my oldest son’s room. The room that has an unused desk. A desk perfect for setting up a sewing machine. A room that hasn’t been used for ten months out of each year … for three years now. He’s been away at college for three years, from August to May of each year, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized his room with the desk would be the perfect place to keep my sewing machine. I wouldn’t even need to put it all away after doing a project. It could stay out — ready for my creative moments — until we expected him home for breaks and holidays.

I’m laughing at myself for taking three years to figure this out!

A good day

Today has been a good day. Not perfect, of course, but many good things have happened. Exciting things. And these good things have completely overshadowed the very few not so good things that seem to always be hanging around.

And there are brownies in the oven.

Yes, a very good day!