I haven't posted here in an awfully long time. It's been a busy summer (homeschool conference, mission trip, trying to get the house painted, etc. etc.), but mostly we've been focused on getting Ria off to Thomas Aquinas College. She has arrived safely and gets to start moving in and getting oriented today.
She flew out by herself. I would have loved to have driven her out or flown out with her, but it seemed neither necessary, nor reasonable, since we have family right nearby who were able to transport her about, we're completely familiar with the college (John and I are both alums), and we all drove out there in April and had a nice visit.
We all (John and I and the younger five kids) had a great time with all the conspiracies of preparation. I think these projects were quite therapeutic for us! These mostly fell into three categories:
1. Ria had a notebook out at her graduation party last year for people to sign. There was a lot of room left and she came up with the idea a few weeks ago of having all of her friends write notes for her that she could read on the airplane on her way out. Well, the rest of us really ran with this and had a blast getting as many people as possible to sign it (or share a favorite quote, draw a picture, or whatever). At one event at our parish where the notebook wasn't available, Gus and Terri got a bunch of people from this summer's mission trip to write little notes on post it notes, which not only added to the substance of the book, but made a fun and colorful display as well. We also put together a few fun collaborative "features" in the book. The one that worked out the best (and came out to ten pages!) was a conglomeration of "Things We Say", which included things like silly words our family made up for things (like "squeezy cheese" for grated cheddar cheese), funny Freudian slips among family and friends (like "Miller Lite Stadium") and favorite and oft-quoted movie tidbits (like "in the best sense" from Sense and Sensibility).
2. We helped pull off a surprise goodbye party that a number of her friends put together at a friend's house the night before she left. Our job was to get her to the party location without suspecting. Our ruse was that we were all going to meet Daddy for dinner in a town where some dear family friends live. One of the party planners was with us and part of the scheme was that we picked her up for a visit to Old World Wisconsin and that she was going to dinner with us (which was plausible under the circumstances). Pulling it off required some clever and impromptu acting from everyone involved and they played their parts beautifully - including Frank who pulled off an "I have to go to the bathroom" moment (which was true) at just the right time (which was part of the ruse) in order to get a freezer chest with the cake snuck into the back of the van. Such fun!
3. Since Ria was flying out, we shipped most of her stuff to the college. It didn't seem like unreasonable stuff getting packed, but it was amazing how much stuff it turned out to be in the end (just heard from her - she's mostly unpacked now and it really isn't too much stuff, LOL). Just the bedding is so bulky, but she had won a nice comforter in a raffle a few months ago at our parish (that also came with a Target gift card - woohoo!) and we didn't want her to have to deal with buying EVERYTHING once she got out there. We shipped a couple of large boxes (mostly the bedding), plus two small book boxes (media rate is still a great deal!) and the rest were in those wonderful USPS flat rate Priority Mail boxes that cost $15 to send (including the price of the box). The clerks at the post office love to tell you how much they would have cost without the flat rate box - one of ours would have come out at $37!
One of the great things about boxing up her stuff for her (she had a busy last few weeks with, among other things, a Shakespeare play in our backyard) was that we got to sneak all kinds of goodies in for her. Chocolate, cocoa, tea, a small set of Prismacolors, a deck of Five Crowns and Terri's little Woody action figure (if you've seen Toy Story 3, you'll understand the significance and fun of this!) and some other goodies were squirreled away in the nooks and crannies. Again, being in on the surprises was really great for the kids.
This is, naturally, a difficult transition for us. We are thrilled and excited to death for her and I think I'm basically at peace with potential worries about her safety or how well she'll do and with the distance and length of time she'll be gone. I've also been overwhelmed in the last few weeks with gratitude for who she is and how God has blessed us through her, but I must admit that it's a challenge to accept that things will never be quite the same again and that that's the way it's supposed to be.