Not bad for a fat girl

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Why I Am Still Up

It’s nearly midnight and I have to be up early for work tomorrow morning. I teach kids, so walking around in a fog isn’t an option for me. I have to be “on” from the moment I walk in the door to the moment the last kid is gone for the day.

By the time I’m done, I’m tired, not to mention the fact that I resist going to bed just on principle, so I regularly stay up well past a reasonable bedtime. I’ve been a night owl for a long time, and the idea of an early-to-bed routine just doesn’t make sense to me. Honestly, though, I should embrace an early bedtime. By the time Friday rolls around I’ve accumulated so much sleep debt from the week that I can barely function.

Tonight I can still function, but I’m tired and ready for bed. Why, then, am I writing instead? Because the boy isn’t here.

Not in the same sense that he hasn’t been here since August. That’s different. He was in the dorm, and I could tell myself he was safe at his home away from home. Tonight is a completely different situation, at least from my point of view. Tonight he’s at a friend’s house and he’s taken my car, at night, for the first time.

Yes, he has his license. Yes, he’s responsible (3.83 GPA folks, woot, woot!). But he’s out. This is new territory. I know, it’s a little silly. By the time I was his age I had been out late in my parents’ car many many times. Not him.

My son has always gone at his own pace, which he rarely alters for anyone. His physical development left us wondering at times during his babyhood. Would he ever learn to crawl, then walk? How about talking? Would he master that? And shouldn’t he have learned how to ride a two-wheeler by age nine? Would he ever get the hang of it? Yes. To all of it.

It’s no wonder that he’s doing different things now than he did in high school. We all go through changes as we grow up and move from one stage of our lives to another. It’s normal. It’s important. And it’s something that I, as his mom, need to stop fighting and learn to live with. As I do, though, I think I’ll stay up for a while, at least this first time.


Why Does the FAFSA Have to Be So Hard?

For the uninitiated, the FAFSA is the financial aid document that is required for colleges and universities in the United States. If you want to be considered for financial aid you have to fill out the FAFSA.not-difficult

The FAFSA is an evil document, approximately 10,472 questions long, and it asks you the most intimate financial details of your life. Not only that, it’s confusing because sometimes the information is about the student and sometimes it’s about the parent(s). Oh goody.

Well, last year I did it. I gathered all the necessary information and sat down with my son and filled that sucker out. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t quick, but we got it done. Between his grades, test scores, and demonstrated financial need (the fancy terms the FAFSA people use for how poor you are), he ended up with a considerable amount of aid, in the way of grants and scholarships. This is the kind of aid you don’t have to pay back, the best kind.

The thing about financial aid, though, is that you have to file a new FAFSA each year. And the thing about THIS year’s FAFSA that makes it different is that the information required is the exact same information as last year, that is to say the information from 2015 tax returns. It used to be that you used the previous year’s returns, but the rules changed and now it’s the information from two years ago.

Should be simple, right? I already did this, and I even printed the whole giant document out after I finished so I have a paper copy. Smart, right?

I shouldn’t even need that, though. I should be able to login, press a few buttons, and my information should magically appear, after all, they already have it. My friend assured me today that it would be a piece of cake. She lied.

My problems:

  1. I forgot the login to the link that takes you to the IRS.
  2. I got the security questions wrong. I mean, I didn’t really, but they thought I did.
  3. I reset the login and password, only to be told that there’s no record of my address on the IRS database from last year.
  4. I begin hand entering data, using my handy printout as my guide, when it tells me that the amount of my income doesn’t match what was previously entered.
  5. I check my 1040, line 37. I check my printout from the last time I did this. It matches. The computer disagrees, but it won’t let me log in to the IRS site to see what they think it should say.
  6. I fear that I’m caught in some type of loop, so I log out and attempt to start over. I can’t. I’m locked out and need to create a new login.
  7. The email linked to the account is my son’s. He is not here. I must text him to send me the reset code so I can continue this exercise in futility.
  8. He sends a code. I enter it. It doesn’t work.
  9. I tell him this and he sends another code that works. WTF? Did he just make the first one up?
  10. Apparently it wasn’t a fluke, I still can’t enter the information. I’m at an impasse, so I decide that the best course of action is a glass of wine and a blog post.

Perhaps I’ll try again tomorrow. I don’t get it, though. Why, oh why does it have to be this complicated?


My Empty Nest

Urban birds nest isolated on white.

I didn’t want to write about it. Writing makes me think, and this is something that is painful to think about. Okay, so maybe that seems melodramatic, but it’s how I feel. The little boy that I raised is no longer a little boy, and he’s no longer here. What’s worse is that little boy will never return. Ouch.

I know he’s a young man now and he’s where he is supposed to be.

I know he has a good head on his shoulders and I trust him to make good decisions, at least most of the time.

I know that this separation is not only normal, but desirable. He’s supposed to move on. I get it. But it still stings.

The other day I was packing my lunch for work and it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall the last time I packed him a lunch. He’s eighteen, a freshman in college, and quite self-sufficient. When did that happen? When was the last time I made him a sandwich, placed it in a ziplock bag in a lunch box, added raisins, carrots, and a granola bar, then a juice box and ice pack to combat the Arizona heat? Did he enjoy those lunches? Did he prefer strawberries or apple slices? Wheat thins or triscuits? Why can’t I remember?

Why can’t I remember the last time I read him a bedtime story or tucked him in? Why can’t I remember the last time I brushed his teeth or gave him a bath? I did all of those things hundreds and hundreds of times, but I don’t know when I stopped doing them. Why didn’t I pay closer attention? Now he’s gone, and it’s never going to be quite the same.

If getting divorced and ending up in a joint custody situation has had any upside, it’s this: at least I know how to survive without him. Those first few years were hell. Every time he was away from home was absolutely heart wrenching to me. When you have children and a marriage ends, joint custody is the norm, unless there’s a problem with one of the parents. In our case I had my son most of the time, but his father saw him weekly and kept him every other weekend. It was important that their relationship remained as intact as possible, given the circumstances.

My head understood this and supported it completely, but my heart was wounded deeply. I felt cheated out of my right to have my child by my side. How could I mother him if he wasn’t there? I hated it, but learned to live with it. That adjustment has been a life saver now.  I learned to trust that he was okay when he was away, and that if he needed me he had the means and opportunity to reach out to me. That hasn’t changed. I’m here if he needs me, but I’m confident that he’s okay.

Still, there are times I want that little kid back. The one I sang to at night, the one who made mini-golf courses in his bedroom and left his socks all over the house. I miss that kid, and I always will, but the young man he’s become is pretty great too, so I choose to focus on the here and now, and look toward the future.