Your Mom’s Guide to College

For my popular Guide to the Hippie Colleges of America start here and then move forward to the next entries.  There are reviews of Hippie Colleges in the Pacific Northwest, Ohio, and two trips to the Northeast.

Now new and improved with the addition of:

Your Mom’s Guide to the Ivy League”

Your Mom’s Guide to the Personal Statement

Your Mom’s Guide to College Rankings

Ten Questions I’d REALLY like to Have Answered at a College Information Session” and

10 Types of Guides You Meet on Campus Tours

Follow me on Facebook for updates!  And if you enjoy this blog, please share it with your friends!

Your Mom’s Guide to Murder

I have a confession to make.


No.  I haven’t committed a murder.  And if anyone who knows me thought (even for a moment) that I was going to confess to a murder, we seriously need some relationship remediation.

But I will confess that I am borderline obsessed with true crime stories.  I watch them.  I read them.  I listen to them.

I know that with Serial, Making of a Murderer, The Jinx, etc., true crime stories are all the rage these days, but I am no Susie-come-lately when it comes to true crime.

Back when I was a kid, the swanky private school I attended would have an annual book sale.  It was not just books for kids.  There were books for grown ups too.  Every year we were marched into the sale to make a wish list that would later be given to our parents.  When I was in about the 6th grade, I dutifully made my list which was then passed on to my mother.  It was a compendium of gruesome true crime books.  My mother came home from the sale mortified at my choices.  She told me that she wouldn’t buy me any of my chosen books at the school sale because she was afraid that the parents who were running the sale would think she was raising a psychopath.

But behind the scenes, my mother was just as interested in true crime as I was. During our marathon road trips each summer, my mother would buy copies of “True Detective Magazine” which we would pore over while we drove through the Great Plains listening to my father and brother chat about baseball.  She let me read her copy of “Helter Skelter” when I was about 13.  We moved on to the books of Ann Rule and Joe McGinniss and countless others.

I always knew when my mom was reading a scary book.  She slept upstairs, and my room was at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor.  Late at night, I would often hear a loud “thunk” outside my bedroom door.  It was my mother throwing the scary book she was reading down the stairs because she didn’t want it near her while she was sleeping.  (But I guess it was OK for me to sleep near it. Thanks, Mom!)  Usually, I’d pick it up in the morning so that I could grab it when she was done.  The more consecutive nights of book thunking, the better the book was likely to be.

Then came the TV shows, the mini-series, the documentaries and the movies — Unsolved Mysteries, Fatal Vision, The Thin Blue Line, and In Cold Blood, which had a special appearance by a drama teacher at my high school who had, long before, played the girl who discovered the Clutter family’s bodies.  Her only line was a blood-curdling scream.  (BTW: In Cold Blood was the book that started my mother down the path of late night book-hurling.)

And even though I’ve been a true crime aficionado for decades, my interest remains unabated.  My DVR is filled with episodes of 48 Hours and shows on the Investigation Discovery channel.  I often fall asleep to the dulcet tones of Keith Morrison’s voice as he details some grisly murder on an episode of Dateline that I’ve already seen 4 times.  It turns out that murder makes me sleepy.

And if you see me wearing headphones in the grocery store or while I’m walking the dog, I’m probably not listening to music; I’m much more likely to be listening to Criminal or The Generation Why or My Favorite Murder.  Either that, or I’m playing Pokemon Go.  And often, I’m playing Pokemon Go while listening to a crime podcast.  (Listening to murder podcasts goes surprisingly well with enslaving cartoon characters.  Like wine and cheese or coffee and chocolate.)

So now my shameful secret is out.  Some of you may never look at me the same way again.  Or — given the proliferation of true crime stories these days — maybe some of you have a confession to make too.  Just consult a lawyer first.  I learned that from TV.


Your Mom’s Guide to Pokemon Go

For the better part of the last decade or so, one of the most common ambient noises in my life has been chatter about Pokemon.  (That and Boo singing inappropriate show tunes — of which there are many more than one might think.)  Anyway, one of Boo’s closest friends is Pokemon obsessed.  I mean seriously obsessed.  I’ve spent a lot of time with this kid in my car and in my house.  And as a result, I have listened in on countless hours of conversation between Boo and her friend about Pokemon.

This is what I remember about those conversations: “Oh my God!  And then Pickachu . . . Blah . . . Blah . . . Blah. . . Blah . . . Blah . . . Blah . . . Hah!  It was awesome!”  So after hundreds of hours of Pokemon conversations all I know is that Pokemon has a character named Pickachu.  That’s the entirety of what I’ve retained.  I’ve managed to tune out the rest.

That now seems like a monumental mistake.

Even though I am technically old enough to be a grandmother (don’t get any ideas, Boo), I am also super shallow and try to keep up with the latest pop culture trends.  So now that Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation, I had to jump on the bandwagon — or at least awkwardly hop in the direction of the bandwagon.

Since I hate to be the very last person to adopt a trend (although second to the last is fine), I joined several million other Americans who have downloaded Pokemon Go in the past few days.  What makes me different from every other Pokemon Go downloader is that I think I’m the oldest person who has attempted to play the game.  The operative word here being “attempt.”

If Boo were here, she could probably tell me how to play, but with her on the other side of the country, I have had to figure it out for myself.  The first Pokemon capture was easy. I signed on, created my avatar, saw a creature appear next to my laundry hamper and bopped it with a cartoon ball.  Therapeutic!

From there, however, it was straight downhill.  I took the dog for a walk thinking that I would be able to bop creatures all over the place.  Apparently, the creatures knew I was on the hunt because no creatures appeared for bopping ’em on the head.  Not even Little Rabbit Foo Foo.  (Which should totally be the next Pokemon creature.  You’re welcome, Pokemon Company!)

So home I came to figure out what I was doing wrong.  After running a search for a Pokemon Go primer and coming across an article noting a recent surge in searches for Pokemon porn (WTF?  They’re already naked!), I figured out how to read the map and concluded that I would likely have more luck in the area near my grocery store.

So today I headed off to the grocery store – cell phone in hand.  I surreptitiously logged into the game while sitting in my car — marginally mortified that I, a middle aged lawyer, was spending my valuable time trying to locate and throw things at cartoons.  My mortification quickly turned into frustration as I kept getting kicked off the server. I started imaging the headline after I was arrested in a Pokeman server rage incident.  “Poke-Mom Goes to the Pokey!”  (You’re welcome, New York Post!). I finally gave up in frustration. Plus, the ice cream was melting.

So, in three days of playing, I have now captured a grand total of three Pokemon.  At this rate, by the time I can go to the Pokemon gym, I will be in a walker.

But at least I saw this:


Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 9)

Today was one of those momentous days in parenting.  I’ve spent nearly 18 years trying to teach Boo to be a responsible, independent person, and tomorrow she’ll be starting a six week dry run of taking care of herself with minimal supervision in a big city on the other side of the continent from where I will be.

During this last day, I’ve realized how many little things I still haven’t taught her.  She knows how to do laundry, but until today, she had never been to a coin operated laundromat.  She knows how to use an ATM, but didn’t know how to open the security door to the ATM centers they often have in big cities.  She didn’t know how to swipe a credit card or use a chip reader.  She’s learned how to take the Subway and how to reload a Metro card.  We’ve talked about what’s safe to do alone and when she really needs to make sure that she has someone with her.  We’ve talked about not being afraid to ask for help or to tell other people about your problems.  We’ve talked about how if she doesn’t like her program or is homesick, this is only six weeks of what will likely be a very long life.  I’m sure there are a million other things I haven’t taught her, but I just have to trust that I’ve taught her well enough that she’ll be able to figure those things out on her own.

And now, as I’m sitting here fretting over what I haven’t done to prepare her and feeling the weight of this bittersweet moment, I’m trying to remind myself that it’s only six weeks.

This time.

Next up — Finale

Follow me on Facebook

Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 8)

Today was a momentous day because it marked the likely end of my part of our college tours.  Which is fine because I’m exhausted.

We had a lazy morning before we hopped on the train uptown for Barnard College, the women’s college of Columbia University.  I liked it.  Boo did not.  Why you ask?  Because while they allow trans women to enroll, they do not allow non-binary gendered people to enroll.  Only people who consistently identify as women can enroll.  That was the reason Boo didn’t like Barnard.  Totally not kidding.

I had one of those “kids these days” moments, and we ended up irritated with each other.  I swear that we hardly ever quarrel but when we do, it’s usually about gender identity issues.  Not her gender identity (she’s totally cis-gendered), but the gender identities of other people.  I often wonder what other families quarrel about.  I’d be willing to bet that very few other families have had a major blowout over pronoun usage like we have.  Seriously, our biggest argument in the last year or two was over pronouns. #firstworldarguments

We managed to reach enough detente that we stopped by the TKTS booth in Times Square for theater tickets. Then we headed back to the apartment for a short rest before we went out for Japanese food and headed to the theater to see “The Color Purple.”  It was absolutely brilliant.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a show before that was literally stopped mid show because of cheering from the audience.  By the end I was crying so hard that I was afraid I was going to start audibly ugly-sobbing.

Tomorrow is my last full day with my baby before I head for home and leave her in New York.  Sniff!  I’ll be studiously avoiding discussion of pronouns.

Next up — Day 9

Follow me on Facebook

Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Days 6 and 7)

You know those dreams you have where you are in familiar surroundings but everything is just a little off?  Yesterday was the lucid version of that dream for me.

Day 6 of the college tour dawned with considerably less drama than the previous morning.  I found the car keys.  I found the car.  And I found the best parking space ever on College Hill in Providence (no mean feat) — just steps away from where we needed to report for the information session and tour at Brown.  It was as if the gods were making nice for the mean trick they had played on me the day before.

Apparently, many kids these days would like to go to Brown.  I like to think that’s because I went there. The info session was crazy crowded.  Given the massive turnout, I half expected to see Brown alum Hermione Granger leading the info session.

The info session was blah, blah, blah.  Systemically, Brown remains pretty much unchanged from my days except that what used to be called the “New Curriculum” is now called the “Open Curriculum” — a reminder that a few years have passed since my Brown days and that what was “new” back then is now “not-so-new anymore.”  I guess they figured that “open” was a better descriptor than “middle aged.”  Because it is officially middle aged.  Boo’s eyes did widen when they talked about how you can take all your courses pass/fail, but otherwise, she was unmoved.

After the info session, we broke up into smaller groups for the campus tour.  The tour guide asked a couple “can you guess this?” style questions.  I appeared to be a genius by answering all of them correctly until I fessed up that I was an alum — and immediately became less a genius and more an annoying know-it-all.

And while Brown remains systemically the same, physically, I barely recognized it.  There are all sorts of new buildings and even the old ones that I could recognize from the outside have been completely modified inside.  I felt like Alice through the Looking Glass.  They also have electrical outlets in all the street lamps.  If they had that back in my day, I was woefully uninformed.

So what did Boo think?  Her thoughts were succinct — “nice school, too big.”  I agreed.  So it looks like the Barnes family is one and done at Brown.

After our tour, we hopped into the car for the drive to NYC.  We had to drop the car off at JFK and then get into the City, so it turned out to be a 6 hour affair before we made it into the apartment we rented.  We dropped our bags and immediately headed for the TKTS booth at Times Square to try to get tix to “The Color Purple” only to discover that it starts at 7:00 instead of 8:00 on Wednesdays and we were too late.  So instead, we got tickets to a frothy little off-Broadway musical starring Diana Degarmo from American Idol!  Squee!  (Actually, she was very good.)

And on the 7th day, we rested — except for a trip to Kmart to buy some supplies for Boo’s summer at NYU and a delicious Peruvian chicken dinner.  I was seriously tempted to drink the chimmichuri sauce.  It was that good.  I think I may need to move to Peru.

And tomorrow is a momentous day.   Tomorrow will likely be my last college visit.  Unless I can figure out a way to make money by visiting hippie colleges.  Any takers?

Next up — Day 8

Follow me on Facebook


Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 5)

Today’s theme was: you lose; you love; you learn.

So our day got off to a rather inauspicious start.  We packed our bags and started to head out of the hotel room when I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the keys to our rental car.  Commence search.  30 minutes later, I am in a near panic.  We have emptied 3 bags (including a summer’s worth of clothes/linens/etc. for Boo), checked the room refrigerator and our cosmetics bags, stripped the sheets off the bed, made sure that I did not drop them in the toilet, notified the front desk, and checked to make sure that I did not somehow leave them in the car — everything short of squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube to see if they made their way into there.  But they were nowhere to be found.  I had visions of us being trapped in a (very nice) motel in suburban Boston for days while we waited for the rental car company to come rescue us.  But just when I was about to abandon hope all ye who enter here, I realized there was a small opening under the dresser, so I laid on the floor, reached under the dresser (ick!) and found the keys.  I had somehow managed to kick them way back under the dresser the night before.  Miracles do happen.

We immediately hit the road, driving through swanky suburban Boston until we got to Wellesley College.  Despite the fact that we were super late to the information session, Wellesley turned out to be a big hit!  We both loved it.  Super pretty campus and amazing facilities.  And Boo totally hit it off with our tour guide, the reproductive justice activist.  (Just like home!). I couldn’t help but ask whether Wellesley millennials all felt the Bern like most other millennials or whether they were conflicted because Hillary is an alum.  Our guide told me that she was in favor of a revolution, so she had no conflict.  At all.  Anyway, Wellesley soared into the top tier of Boo’s college list.

After Wellesley, we drove into Central Boston for a visit to Emerson College.  Emerson’s campus is right across the street from the Common, so the location is fantastic (except that it overlooks the graveyard in the Common).  It specializes in performing arts and communications and has superb state of the art facilities.  But . . . Emerson’s theater program is a BFA program which Boo has now confirmed is more restrictive in terms of choice and flexibility than what she wants.  So it looks like Emerson is out of the running unless she has a change of heart.

Tomorrow is our last true hippie college — the hippie Ivy (and my alma mater), Brown University.  It’s where our family hippie roots began.

Next up — Days 6 and 7

Follow me on Facebook

Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Days 3 and 4)

To paraphrase Dickens — It was the best of times.  It was the time that you were reminded that you are traveling with a teenager.

Day 3 (Sunday) was spent again in Philadelphia on a walking tour — this time of colonial era sites.  Boo tends to get very up in arms when someone’s version of American history does not completely jibe with the version she learned from the Socialist British hippie who taught her U.S. History class.  (Yes, she learned about the Revolution from someone who came from the losing side.  Reminds me of how it’s done in Texas — only with less outright denial of facts.)  Fortunately, Boo had few complaints about our guide to colonial Philadelphia.  He’s probably a socialist and secretly British too.

At the end of our tour, we hopped into the car, drove up the New Jersey turnpike, waved at the skyline of Manhattan, and landed in Wallingford, CT where we had a father-free celebration of fathers’ day. We went out to dinner, followed by watching my ankles swell into cankles while the Warriors lost.  I probably should have just watched my ankles swell.  It would have been less painful.

We got up bright and early for a visit to Wesleyan University.  I was absolutely positive that Boo was going to love Wesleyan.  It’s hippie.  It’s artsy.  It has no required classes.  It has a super-impressive list of alumni.  (Joss Wheedon, Matthew Weiner, D.B. Weiss of Game of Thrones, Lemony Snicket, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail from Hamilton, and of course there’s my college roommate’s husband, Seth.  Hi Seth!  Bill Belichick went there too — proving that no place is perfect. )  There are 10-20 theater productions per semester! How could Boo not love this place?

Well, I’ll tell you how.  She was tired and in a bad mood.  Her interviewer asked her a bunch of pre-programmed questions.  (Q: “What’s your greatest academic achievement?”  A: “Um, I go to a hippie school.  We don’t think that way.  I didn’t even know that my ACT score could affect my college prospects until after I took the test.  Next question.”) The information session was not the most riveting (although far from the worst we’ve seen), and worst of all, I hadn’t heard Boo say something that led to some confusion and got her pissed at me.  That’s how she could not love it.

After that, we decided to skip our “might as well since we’re in the neighborhood” visit to Yale.  (She’s not going to go there anyway.)  Over lunch, after she had eaten and her irritation with me had subsided, she conceded that Wesleyan actually does have pretty much everything she wants and that she knows not to judge a school based on her mood and an interviewer mismatch.  (I HATED my Brown alumni interviewer.  He was a pompous, sexist jerk.)  So I think that Wesleyan will stay on the list — just not as high up the list as I think it should be.  But I’m not the one going to college, so it’s her call.

Even though mother knows best.

Next up — Day 5

Follow me on Facebook

Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 2)

Today, Boo and I took the day off from visiting Hippie Colleges to see some of the sites in the City of Brotherly Love.  We took a walking tour of “The Real Philadelphia” — meaning that it covered non-founding fathers sites.  (Yes, there are some of them in Philadelphia.)  Our guide was a millennial with the mandatory bushy beard that ruined an otherwise attractive face.  (What is it with kids these days?  And yes, I believe he was a cis-gendered male.  But these days, one never knows.  Also, I just discovered that WordPress autocorrects “cis” to “customer.”) Anyway, we learned a lot about graffiti, Smedley Darlington Butler and the “Business Plot” to stage a fascist coup against FDR, and Button Gwinnett (see the clip below).  And we walked.  And walked.  And walked.

And walked.

My feet may never recover.  But they have no choice.  (Not that my feet have their own independent thought processes but whatever.)  Tomorrow, we take another walking tour — this time the subject is our founding fathers.  I believe most of the founding fathers were customer-gendered, but what with the hair, anything is possible.  Then we drive to New England to prepare for a visit to one indisputably hippie college (alma mater of one of the gentlemen below) and a “might as well since we’re in the neighborhood.”

(LMM and Colbert explain Button Gwinnett.)

Next up — Days 3 and 4

Follow me on Facebook