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Back To (Home) School – for Special Needs

It’s back to school time!  For many, this means the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the unmistakable scent of Crayola crayons.  I can almost hear the binding crackling on a new composition book being opened for the first time.  The feel of new clothes, new haircuts, new shoes.  Moms and dads jumping for joy, while it being bittersweet that the kids are another year older.  I’m getting ready to send Bubba to third grade – state testing year!  I am in awe of the young man he is becoming, but I’m also ready for Fight Club to adjourn to weekends only.  Littles will be in school for his first time!  Away from mom and growing his independence!  Back to school is full of happy emotions of growth and maturity.

Unless of Course You Must Home School

There is a select group of moms where Back to School isn’t the happy time it is for others.  These moms homeschool, not by choice, but because the school districts fail their special needs children.  These moms send their special needs children to schools where the child has the same teacher in the same classroom, even though they are another year older.  These moms use therapists for education, instead of a teacher.  These moms have lost their children to traumatic and tragic accidents, even if the child is still physically here.  Those types of accidents where it isn’t the same child, you know?  Where life changed in an instant.

I’m one of these moms.  Smash-N-Break should be in kindergarten.  Those words – should be – biting me to my core.  Smash-N-Break will go to ABA therapy three days a week.  He would miss so much school, and our district won’t work with us because he isn’t “autistic enough”*.  We’ve been told he would be a “truancy issue”**.  So, when faced with the decision of getting him therapy or sending him to kindergarten, we chose therapy.  I’ll homeschool the days he is home.  This may be a failure, we will see.  We hope to transition to public school, but will have to wait and see.  I may end up homeschooling if the regular classroom is too much for him at first.  I don’t exactly want to, as I feel school has many benefits.  I may end up with him in a private school.  That makes me worry, too, as all 3 kids in private would be way too much of a financial strain.  And I have it easy!  We have every reason to believe Smash-N-Break will be in public school come first grade.  Many others are faced with this every year.

Smash-N-Break is jealous, so jealous, of Bubba and Littles.  He was supposed to go to school with Bubba.  He finished preschool, which Littles is starting.  He’s in this strange in-between.  And for a kid with ASD, who knows he is different, he just wants to fit.  I’ll hopefully help teach him to embrace the uniqueness.  We’ve had many conversations about it, but that hasn’t curbed his questions.  He wants to do kindergarten like normal.  I


know it would be a failure.  But I can’t explain that to him in a way he will understand or not blame himself.  It isn’t his fault he’s different, any more than it’s mine that he has autism.  (If I tell myself it’s not my fault, maybe one of these days I’ll actually believe it…)

What Will I (& You) Do?

Do I take a “first day of kindergarten” picture?  Is it really kindergarten?  Is this really the right decision?  I’m struggling with all those questions right now.  And there is no right answer.  When the day comes that we do our first homeschooling session, I’ll decide then.  I’ll wipe tears away for different reasons than the cute poems kindergarten teachers hand out.  When faced head-on with the differences our children face to the typical kids, pain comes up.  Grace and forgiveness haven’t happened for myself yet.

So, as you take your pictures of your kids smiling faces as they grow, say a little prayer (if it’s your thing) for those mamas who hold back tears for different reasons.  If you know one of these moms, give her a hug or a text to say hey.  Invite her for coffee, or whatever.  She may say no, but she will know she isn’t forgotten.


*Direct quote from the school district special needs coordinator. Still not sure what this means.  Seems like someone who doesn’t understand special needs though.

**Unless he was to attend school and then do 24 hours of ABA after. I mean who of us doesn’t like to work 65 hours a week every week for months? He doesn’t need time to, oh I don’t know, be a kid. Of course no ABA therapist is even open after 5 so…

Sharknado Party Ideas & Recipes


I love campy SyFy channel movies.  The shark ones are the best.  Well, Lavalantula is a close second.  But Sharknado?  Oh. My.  God.  Seriously.  I look forward to Shark Week, because it’s awesome and fun, but it also means SHARKNADO DAY IS COMING!  And SyFy now does it for a whole WEEK!  Squee!  Trailer Park Shark, Toxic Shark, Sharktopus – all awesome.  I’ve recorded so many of them.

I’ve passed my love of all things Sharknado onto Smash-N-Break.  He is obsessed with sharks and sharknados right now.  Obsessed.  He asks Alexa, my Echo Dot, a bunch of questions about sharks.  Where do they live?  What’s the biggest one?  How do you spell Sharknado?  Can I keep one as a pet?  Where can I see a shark?  So, naturally, he wanted to celebrate Sharknado Day.  Bubba, Smash-N-Break, and Littles pretend to fight Sharknados.  Bubba is Fin, naturally.  They know the song.  They sing the song.  Alexa knows which song it is, too.

How do you celebrate Sharknado Day, you ask?  Well, you watch all FIVE (five – pinch me, I’m dreaming! FIVE movies now!) movies in one day.  You plan a menu around sharks, sharknados, and a weapon of shark destruction.  We will also try to build a shark puzzle.

First, we have Shark Attack punch.  It’s pretty easy to make.  Blue Hawaiian Punch, Sprite, with drops of Grenadine.

Snack wise, we have Sharknado Chips.  Other people call them Bugles.  Boring.  Sharknado Chips is better.

We also made Shark Bait.  Popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, and Vanilla chips.

Chainsaws.  What would a Sharknado party be without a nod to Tara Reid’s chainsaw hand!?  Red, white, and blue Twinkies (blood spatter) with a pretzel rod.

Shark Tooth Pizza.  You cut pepperoni into triangles and make a pizza.  I may also make this into nachos.  That’s a flour tortilla cut into a triangle, baked in the oven to make it crispy.  Then, top it off with sauce, cheese, and triangle pepperonis.  I haven’t decided yet.

The piece-de-resistance is Blood in the Water Sharknado cupcakes.  You have to find blue velvet cake mix, or make your own cake and dye it blue.  Then, squirt something red into the cupcake after it’s baked.  I just used frosting.  Frost it like normal.  Take a sugar cone, cover it in royal icing.  Squish it into the cupcake.  Fill the cone with frosting, and add gummy sharks.  Sharknado cupcakes!

So, now, go out and enjoy the awesomeness that is Sharknado.  And eat junk food, too!

Happy Sharknado Day!!!!

I Don’t Fit

No, this isn’t about fitness or how I fit my (large) butt in an amusement park ride.  That would be a short post.  I’m fat.  I like food.  I still fit.  The kids didn’t fly out of any ride at Six Flags over Texas.  The end.  This is about how I fit in to the mom groups.  The bottom line is, I don’t.  Do any of us?

So, you would think I fit in.  Hey, you’re a stay-at-home mom!  Oh, but I do taxes on the side.  And I just got a new part-time job.  So, no, the “real” stay-at-home moms don’t want me.  The work outside the house moms don’t want me because it’s part time.  The part-time moms don’t want me because it’s working at home.  The working at home moms don’t want me because it isn’t data entry, selling things to my friends, not full time, whatever.  Plus, pierced and tattooed in a small, southern town.  I’m strangely okay with that.  If all you see is holes and ink, and think less of me/more of yourself, go away.  Over there is the direction in which I wish for you to go.  So, I don’t fit.


But, you have special needs kids!  Those groups are very welcoming!  Well, yes, if you’re autistic “enough” in my area.  (Seriously, Snobby Lake Town – I’m looking at you, you judgmental snobs.  Not all of them, obviously.  Just the ones I’ve seemed to run into.)  The welcoming ones?  Yeah, an hour away.  I do fit in with those, but between special needs and an hour drive, I can’t get to many things.  I fit in well with the ADHD groups, as long as I only discuss Bubba.  If I move to Smash-N-Break, he’s “ too complex”.  So, I don’t fit.


Well, preschool and school.  Nope.  We live too far.  I need preschool, but don’t need it like a “real” working mom.  We don’t live IN Snobby Lake Town.  We don’t go to church.  Well, yeah.  When your ASD kid thrives on stability and regularity, and the nursery school workers ask you to be there in class with him to help with just him, it becomes another chore.  My faith shouldn’t be a chore.  I get it, I do.  But, it isn’t filling my spirit.  My spirit is being ignored.  I can read sermons at home and discuss it with the family comfortably, without worrying if Smash-N-Break is going to use the “f word”, bite or hit someone, have a meltdown, or anything else that can and does occur.  He uses the f-word appropriately.  I’m strangely okay with that, given his speech delays.  Shut up.  I’m not a good mom.  I’m an okay mom.  I’d get a participation award.  My kids are happy, so shut your pie-hole.

Add to it the amount of negative things I’ve had hurled my way about my kids while out in public.  No, they aren’t perfect little angels.  They are 110% BOY.  One has ADHD.  One has ASD and ADHD.  One’s 3.  (That age should come with a wine-of-the-day club.  It can be a small bottle.  Just sign parents up in the hospital.  Maybe I should start a company.)  I’m trying my best.  I have days I fail, but guess what?  I get back up and try again the next day.  I’m human!  I seriously dread going out in public.  Especially on the days that are Smash-N-Break’s “bad days”.  Going to a birthday party of an ASD little girl was a breath of fresh air.  I knew all the parents would get it, no judgment and no comments.  He could be himself, and if that was ignoring everyone around him, so be it.

But, Bubba is in Scouts!  Yes and no.  He is, but we still don’t fit.  Football.  We live far again.  Cliques are a real thing.  We’re new, and everyone else started as Tigers.  They’re now Bears.

Football!  Football is like religion in Texas.  Surely you fit there!  Not yet.  Not a coach.  Not from the area.  We stick out.

Couples/families.  You can meet couples and families.  Yes, we can.  Yes, we have.  We even have a roughly once-a-month group where we get our geek on and play Tiny Dungeon (think DnD for beginners) or Magic the Gathering.  And those people are awesome!  I love that group.  But, past that, it’s been hard.  Plus One’s ASD is real, and it’s very people-y out there.  I’m okay with that.  He’s comfortable and happy, I’m happy.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’ve made friends and met lovely people.  It’s just….not the same as feeling like we belong, you know?  This isn’t just a Texas thing, either.  We had it in Colorado, too.  We were too conservative there.  I’m a tad too liberal with my looks here.  Oh well.  I think I’m cute.

When did we stop giving grace and replace it with judgment?  When did we stop offering a smile, a hug, a helping hand?  When did “what does your husband do for a living?” replace “tell me about yourself?”  And WHY did we embrace this change!?  Is ANYONE happier this way?  Other than therapists.  I mean, I think we are buying our psychologist a new car with how often she sees all of us.  Therapists are making bank in this area of life.  Maybe I should consider a career change….

So, today, I’ve decided not fitting in is a good thing.  I don’t belong to just one group.  I’m too colorful for that.  I’m just going to do what I do best – be me.  I’m going to get up everyday, be human, love my God,  love my kids, love my husband, love my job, and be caffeinated.  I’ll extend grace instead of judgment, kindness instead of rudeness.  I’ll still be snarky and sarcastic, but that’s me being me.  I fit in the one place I’m meant to – The Adventures Family.  I created the damn clique, I best fit in with it.  Everything else is superfluous.

Balance – Is It Even Possible

Isn’t that what we all try to achieve? We explain how fair doesn’t mean equal, how life isn’t fair. We all try to be fair with our kids, to not show favoritism because there isn’t a favorite. Well, the good mom’s do at least. And then you have times where it’s just impossible to balance it fairly.

Bubba is out of school for summer. Smash-N-Break is out of preschool. “Ball pit school” (which is what he calls ABA therapy and speech therapy) is still ongoing, 3 days a week. There is no fair way to do this. It isn’t fair to Bubba to sit at home every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so that Smash-N-Break doesn’t miss any fun summer activities. It isn’t fair to Smash-N-Break to do activities that he will miss out on.

I’m currently sitting at a splash pad, watching Littles and Bubba play. Watching them play and bond, even with the five year age gap, makes my heart soar.  And it breaks my heart at the same time. Because Smash-N-Break is missing it. I’ll take him and his brothers next week after the Summer Movie Club. I’ve planned things that are right up his alley for his off days. I’ll include him. But it isn’t the same.

I know he’s doing something way more important. I know he’s doing something that will help him his whole life. I know he needs this. It just is hard. Every decision feels wrong. But the world can’t stop for Smash-N-Break. So, Littles and Bubba will do things while he is at therapy.

I haven’t found that balance yet. Do I just not tell Bubba and Littles what we’re doing until after Smash-N-Break is at therapy? Do I plan excursions with just him and I on the weekends? Do I apologize for what I know is best for him? Will he hate me for this? Will he feel like I favor the other two?

What’s the balance for this? When will it not hurt?

The Duke of Ashol

I’ve started calling Littles The Duke of Ashol. Say it slowly, and imagine me swearing. I love my child so much. That said, he’s kind of an asshole. Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why He Is Now The Duke Of Ashol.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Littles is The Duke

#10: He. Never. Shuts. Up. He narrates everything he does. When he isn’t narrating, he’s asking inane questions. “The building only explodes when it has a tornado inside it.” “What’s Moana’s name?” “Moana.” “No! What’s Moana’s name!?” Repeat infinity.

#9: “Nuffin”. This is his answer every time we ask what he’s doing, especially when he’s doing something he shouldn’t. Which, since he’s 3, is everything “Littles, whatcha doing?” “Nuffin!” *feet stomping away in a wild flurry of nuffin*

#8: Him and YouTube kids. For example, he wanted to watch troll haircuts. So he yelled into YT Kids “troll haircuts”. The voice recognition software heard dog haircuts. So he then yelled “I said troll haircuts not dog haircuts gimmie troll haircuts!”  And I mean yelling as one word at the top of his lungs. When it errors out because 3 year old yelling, he then goes “ugh” and throws the iPad.

#7: When I do something he doesn’t like, he tells me I’m a bad mommy. Then tells someone else. Then tells me he “telled on me”.

#6: He has such epic tantrums that people have asked us to be removed from Walmart. WALMART. You don’t even need real clothes to shop there, but Littles behavior apparently crosses the line.

#5: He says no to almost everything. The one thing he says yes to is the fact that he has to argue with everything I say.

#4: He will ask for a specific dinner. I will make it. He will then push it away, proclaiming it to be “p-yucky”.

#3: He complains if we look at him in the morning if it’s “too early”. His definition of “too early” changes daily.

#2: He’s mean. I fell asleep on the couch. His answer to this is to slap the shit out of my face. He then screamed “wake up” at me. And giggled.

And the #1 reason why Littles is the Duke: He’s 3.

41 Years Old & Kinda Awesome

Howdy All! I’m Q’s Plus One. With a guest post of sorts to end Autism Awareness Month. This one is about me. It’s about 8 weeks that changed everything…and nothing.

Begin Flashback Sequence

I got good grades until 5th grade, after that it was a struggle. If I was into the subject, I could not get enough. Photography and yearbook were what made me actually enter the building in high school. After three years of procrastination I earned my Eagle Scout in the BSA. Thank the Lord they gave you a 90-day grace period after your 18th birthday or I wouldn’t have earned it. In those three years that I procrastinated, I earned Brotherhood through Order of The Arrow, became a patrol leader, and took trips to canoe base and Philmont.

College? If I didn’t have Q in my life I would never have gotten my degree, I needed some gentle insistence to motivate me. At the time though, it was a win/lose for her since it drove her nuts that I had to have the TV on to be able to study. It was especially true since she was often trying to study at the same time. It’s even worse if she has to proofread something handwritten. I shoulda been a doctor.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

My boss calls me “The Most Interesting Man in the World” due to my pre-marriage penchant for changing careers and hobbies like toilet paper. Many of those jobs aren’t your usual ones, at least eight of the jobs featured on the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs are something I have done. I think Mike Rowe, the host of the show, may be the only guy that can top it.

I was a volunteer firefighter for almost 10 years, and was even the Fire Marshall for a couple years. That eventually turned into becoming a 911 dispatcher for the local police and fire departments. I even earned a chiefs commendation for my work. I was a dispatch trainer and a critical incident dispatcher for the county emergency management team. Remember the Hayman fire? Yeah, I worked that.

My other jobs include construction, wrangler, truck driver, Manny, street maintenance, EMT, farrier, sewer maintenance technician (which is as glamorous as it sounds), retail, food service/bartender, systems admin, and now SEO.  No, Q doesn’t understand what I do now, either.  Don’t worry.

In all of that I somehow managed to meet the love of my life and the person who makes me better in every way. I’m not sure what she was taking, but she agreed to become my wife. We have three kids and a nice house on a couple acres. I even manage to make enough at work to allow her to be a stay at home mom.

Why the Resume?

Well I’m getting to it. If you are getting bored grab a cuppa Tea – Earl Grey – hot, take a walk, and come back. I’ll wait…


…that’s enough. We don’t have all day.

OH…look a bunny.

(Q’s note – he does this in real life.  It isn’t just a saying.  He’s been interrupted by a bunny, hopped around, and then asked what he was talking about more than once.  Its reasons like those that I married him.)

Sometime around 2012 I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive). That was fun. I got to try out many of the drugs that are used to treat it. Man did I try a lot. I hate most of the stimulants, they make me feel jittery, while still standing still. The non-stimulants make me moody or make me want to vomit. It’s an on-going process.  We will figure the meds out at some point.

The Square Pegs in the Round Holes

Growing up I was always the weird kid. In any group I stood out as being a little different. I never had a ton of close friends, those who I can call on if the excrement hits the rotating ventilator blades. The ones I do/did have I would walk through fire to help.

I have a “Pogo Stick” of thought according to my friends and Q. I will be listening to a conversation but be thinking about something else. That pogo stick often has me saying things that were odd and out of place, sometimes even doing something that was unexpected.

I also seem to drone on and on, often ignoring when someone wants to move on…and I interrupt people when they are talking. I even have a slight stutter, so it takes me a minute to get a thought out and I change subjects like Cher changes outfits. Boy do I like to talk about me, but I swear I want to know about you (see what I mean about topics?). The only thing I like to talk about more is the random facts that I have memorized, which led my friends to start calling me Cliff Claven.

Of course, that weirdness causes many to avoid me or exclude me. I can’t count the number of times that I have seen people prevent me from joining their group. It’s often. The number of times that I know about people deliberately excluding me from something would astound you. It’s kind of routine for me, dang near daily. Never really told anyone about it.  Until recently I thought it was something everyone experienced just as often as I do.

Why Are We Yelling…or Whispering
I didn’t really want to spend time with many people anyway. Big crowds and loud parties were just uncomfortable for me. Going to a party at someone’s house felt like being in the world’s largest interview while thousands of spiders crawl on you. I usually followed one person all over the party, which frequently ended with them avoiding me. My other option was to find a corner to stand in, preferably one where I could have a wall on at least three sides. If the corner was somewhere very quiet and had a dog nearby I was good, venturing out only for sustenance and bodily functions.

The Social Butterfly?

I avoid social functions at work. I wear ear buds anytime I go to a store without kids, sometimes with nothing playing in them. My coworkers are nice enough (mostly), but they often look at me like I have two heads when I say things. They know I am good at my job, but I’m that quiet guy who doesn’t talk much except about my family, Star Wars, comic books, video games, or anything Disney.

Thankfully I have Q. She is my rock, my world, and my best friend. Without her, I wouldn’t have the friends I do or the amazing family I love. I do a lot to annoy her too, though. I can tune her, and everyone, out by simply playing Angry Birds on my phone or sewing a patch on a scout shirt. When she asks me to do something, there is a good chance I will forget. The only thing I never forget is our kids.

God help us if our routine must change, I get rushed, or we have an argument. I turn into a flustered goob. Not kidding actually. I turn into a cartoon character whose body goes one way and head the other. God help us if we are under a deadline too. Brain falls on the floor and I kick it every time I try to pick it up.

Seriously What’s the Deal with All the Background?
Okay. Now I am getting to the reason for all of this.

Our middle child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few months ago. We were shocked at first, it was surreal. Then I do what I always do when something like this happens. I researched and became engrossed in what is ASD. I learned the symptoms, particularly those associated with Asperger’s, now known as high functioning autism. Some (not all) of those symptoms are:

  • Disliking changes in routine
  • Having a heightened sensitivity to sensations
  • Poor handwriting
  • Being preoccupied with a narrow range of subjects (that can change over time)
  • One sided conversation where internal thoughts are verbalized
  • Long winded conversations
  • Inability to pick up on social queues
  • Diagnosed with ADHD
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Problems socializing with peers
  • Stuttering

Sound like someone you have met recently?

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a genius in non-verbal problem solving and almost a genius in verbal communication and working memory.

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a member of a group that likely includes Einstein, Newton, Tesla, Mozart, Darwin, Jefferson, Michelangelo, Warholl, Dickinson, Disney, Gates & Jobs.

Eight weeks ago I learned something that explained everything.

Eight weeks ago, nothing changed.

Eight weeks ago, I was diagnosed as a high functioning autistic (Asperger’s).

I’m 41.

Autism isn’t bad.  Autism doesn’t mean failure.  Autism doesn’t mean lack of success.  Autism doesn’t mean a sheltered life with no hope.  I had no interventions, no therapies, no help. My father worked with special needs kids and didn’t see anything, probably because I covered with my other strengths and he worked with much more severely impaired kids. I have no doubt he would have gotten me help if the spectrum was as well understood then as it is now.  I had a mother who ignored anything wrong, unless it would benefit her in some way.

I’ve done a lot more than many people.  My wife still loves me for me, and admits she would still say yes (I really need to find out what she is on).  The label didn’t change who I am.  It just explained some of who I am and why.  I’ve bonded with my middle son in a way no one else in our family can.  I have an awesome family. I have a great job. I am leading an amazingly full life.

Kind of AUsome, isn’t it?

Well I’m Aware Of Autism…Now What? – AAM Day 29

Well, I learned some stuff.  Now what?

Teach others.  Time, patience, awareness, and acceptance.  Spread what you’ve learned to replace the misconceptions.

Teach your kids.  Teach them how to identify bullying of all kids.  Teach them how to stand up for what’s right, not what’s popular.

If you feel inclined, research and donate to autistic non-profit organizations that can help.

Be there for your friends who are raising special needs kids.  They don’t need it fixed, they just want an ear and support.  They don’t want judgment.  They just want you.

Embrace some of the slogans and quotes that are easy to remember:

Different, not less.

Until all the pieces fit.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?


If you’re inviting a child to a birthday party that you know has autism, reach out to the parents.  Find out what can help that child come to the party and be included.  This could be as easy as “Can he come 15 minutes before the start time so the party comes to him instead of vice-versa?”.  It could be you setting up a sensory friendly room where he can adjust.  This doesn’t need to be major, either.  Just a room that’s separate with dimmed lights might be sufficient.  Just don’t exclude the child because it might be harder for him to come.

Put yourselves in their shoes.  What would YOU want if this was your child?  Can you do that for them?

Isn’t Autism Just Another Word For Retarded? – AAM Day 28th

I’ve been around a kid with autism.  They seem to be retarded.  They ignored me completely.

One, DON’T use that word to describe ANYONE.  It’s old, antiquated, and outdated.  This goes for autism, down syndrome, brain injuries, etc.

Two, they aren’t ignoring you.  Individuals with autism can seem to live in their own world.  It’s safe there.  All in or all out, remember?  To make progress, you need to enter their world instead of expecting someone to come into your world.  I can hear some of you now – but they will need to survive in the real world!  Stop holding special snowflakes hands!  Think about wheelchair ramps.  Does it really take away from you to have ramps so that all individuals have access to businesses?  No, right?  So, why is it different to assist someone with autism in becoming comfortable so that they CAN be in “your world”? Time, patience, awareness, and acceptance.

How Many People With Autism Are Non-Verbal – AAM Day 27

How many people are considered to be non-verbal with autism?

About one-third are non-verbal or minimally-verbal.  Many of those, however, learn to communicate in other ways.  Visual supports like pictures, sign language, typing, pointing on a computer are all ways they communicate.  Like I’ve said, they are not dumb or stupid.  They are aware of what you are saying to and about them.  Choose your words carefully.

Why Do Autistic Kids Avoid College? – AAM Day 26

So, a lot of kids with autism don’t go forward with post-secondary education.  Other than the deficits with autism, is there a reason why?

Simply put, lack of scholarships and support at the post-secondary level.  Many scholarships for people with disabilities are for people with physical disabilities.  There are programs that are starting to gain momentum in getting scholarships available for those without physical disabilities.  Also, colleges are starting to have mentor-type programs to help with the transition for kids who go away to college.