The Timer Went Off

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; How a Filibuster Works; Hard Work Matters More than Brains

Jonah’s college acceptance letter has triggered the reality that he’s going to be gone in six months. I have six months left to parent, before he’s gone. He’ll be on his own. And there’s so much left to teach him.

Why Smart Girls Are Better Than Cheerleaders; Why You Should Never Rinse Pasta After You Finish Boiling It

There’s still so much that he doesn’t know, and I don’t have much time. The ten minute drive to his high school is the only time where he’s captive, strapped in the car, forced to listen. I babble using the morning news as the entry into topics that we never talked about before. I have to give him a crash course on life. How did I forget to teach him the difference between the House and the Senate?

The House Writes the Budget Because the Founders Thought that the Branch That Was Closest to the People Should Have the Most Say Over Money and Taxes

Yes, he’ll have to figure out a lot of this on his own, but I could have taught him this earlier. I wasted time. We were too caught up in the details of life — the homework and the soccer practice. And then his friends and cellphone shouted me out.

Your Great-great Grandfather Was a Famous Oboist; Was Napolean Really Short?; Never Put a Red Sweatshirt in the Washing Machine With White Undershirts

He’s undercooked. How is going to fare on a college campus that first semester without this information? This is what happens when a neurotic parent and former college professor starts to panic. She lectures.

5 Days, 5 Colleges, 5 States (Part 3)

I’ve been trying to get Jonah to enjoy reading fiction. “I don’t care what you read. Just read. How about the new Harry Potter? It doesn’t have to be great literature. It can be anything. I want you to get so absorbed in a book that you don’t even notice that you’ve turned a hundred pages or that you missed lunch or that 12 friends have sent you texts.”

I asked him what his favorite book from his English class was. He said Huckleberry Finn. Well, Huckleberry Finn is essentially a road trip book, I told him — a traveler goes to different towns, meets crazy, random people, gets briefly caught up in their craziness, maybe dodges some dangers, and then moves on, because the traveler is somehow freed from the usual responsibilities that chains the rest of us down to one place. The first roadtrip book was The Odyssey. And then there’s a long and glorious tradition of road trips books, since then and I suggested a few. He sighed and rolled his eyes and said that they all sounded boring.

We had our own little roadtrip last week. Visiting these gleaming cities of college campuses. Of course, we didn’t have to deal with one-eyed Cyclops or pissed off mobs demanding revenge for sideshow scams. We did have to deal with the call of the Sirens though, which is going to rob us blind as we polish off our oldest son for the modern job market.

I’ve pulled out my notebook this morning and have a list of more fun stuff offered at the schools that we visited: Zumba classes, a Fetty Wop concert (I guess he hit all the schools on our list this spring), speeches by Bill and Hill, Bernie, and Janet Yellin, tutoring, farm to table salad bar, brick oven pizza, classes on doing laundry, free movies every night, busses.

So, how did we survive all those boring tours? In 95 degree heat? That lasted two hours? How did we drag around a 14-year old with slight autism? Pokemon Go, baby. It saved the day. The campuses were loaded with Pokemon and pokeballs and eggs and silliness. And we also bookended the visits with lots of fun stuff, like tours of the Ben and Jerry’s factory, swims in the hotel pools, lobster rolls and microbrew. In the evening, we watched the DNC until late. It was a grand adventure.

The tours didn’t bother me too much, because they gave me lots of ammo for the Atlantic (and other venues) this fall.

(Gotta drive Jonah to his track practice and then hit the gym myself. I’ll finish off this saga later this afternoon.)

5 Days, 5 Colleges, 5 States (Part 2)

After our detour into the subculture of People Who Live On Boats, we braced ourselves for a rigorous schedule of tours, hotels, and states. The plan had been meticulously arranged weeks ago with hotel reservations, driving plans, and college reservations. An itinerary was typed out with scribbled tips in the margins about restaurants and bars from friends. (Thanks all!)

By limiting this search to the big public schools in nearby states — URI, UConn, UMass, UNH, and UVM — we compared apples to apples. And since both Steve and I attended similar public colleges as undergraduates and both taught at public colleges, we thought we could add our own apples to the comparison. Well, our apples didn’t count – either the apples were from too long ago or weren’t from flagship public colleges. We were rather shocked at what we found.

Even URI with its sagging window air conditioners in the administration building, was a damn sight more impressive than we expected. All of the schools were in the midst of major construction projects. There were cranes and tractors and scaffolding everywhere. New dorms at UVM! New science building at URI! New everything at UConn!

Ian, who was an absolute champ on these two hours tours in the 95 degree heat, observed that these schools were cities. And he was right. Weird, little cities of young, beautiful people. No old, no babies, no sick, no disabled. Just 30,000 cheerful, clean-cut, middle class kids with endless enthusiasm for sustainable water bottles and semesters abroad. They were identical even if they were of different races.

And like real cities, these universities provide services for their citizens, but way beyond the range of what any real city does. It’s a real city on hormones, cocaine, and a pack of unfiltered Camels. The tour guides explained that their schools provide everything from parking spaces to free laundry to counseling to tutoring to 24 hours of food to career counseling.  Oh and they also teach the kids stuff, too.

So, if you figure that these universities manage nearly 50,000 students and staff, it’s rather a remarkable administrative feat. They work with an efficiency of Disney Land.

We didn’t see the rockwalls or the lazy rivers that I’ve heard tell about, but we did see very impressive exercise buildings with hundreds of treadmills. One tour guide gave us the list of all the free exercise classes — yoga, bro-ga for the guys, strength training, and dance. There were intramurals, club sports, varsity. UConn had national basketball champs. UVM had an enormous ski club with free lift tickets at the nearby mountains.

Jonah was probably most impressed with UConn and UVM for both real and superficial reasons. He just fell in love with the campuses. UConn was spotless. We watched a video about UVM in its brand new visitor center with exposed pine wood rafters in Adirondack style. The campus in on a green hill overlooking Lake Champlain and the town of Burlington. We wanted him to look past the buildings and get at the substance, but it was tough. UVM was extremely beautiful.

The kid loves plants, and we saw impressive fields and greenhouses at those schools. The tour guides at UConn and UVM just happened to know about that stuff and talked about it a lot on the tours. But he also likes architecture and German. All the schools were big enough, so he could take a range of classes his freshman year until he was ready to narrow down.

We made a point, just to be annoying, to ask the tour guides at all five schools about the percentage of adjunct professors there. (None knew that answer.)

I asked one of the tour guides who have all blended together in my head into one perky composite face what were the most commonly asked questions on the tours. She said, it was about parking and food.

The price for these schools as an out-of-state student is frightening — $40K to $55K. We’ve got the NJ state college tours coming up later in August, but even in-state here is expensive. It’s $30K. But after seeing these schools, I can see why parents go into so much debt to send their kids to these places. They were wonderful. I wanted to go back to college. I’ve always liked colleges. That’s why I ended up in grad school until I was 34. With all these opportunities, both Steve and I were drooling. We wanted it, too. We bellied up to the Kool-Aid bar and drank deeply.

One perk that was common to all these schools? Puppy petting hours. That is a bit weird.

(More tomorrow)

Spreadin’ Love 669

Three good articles about class and taxes. Bryce Covert says $250,000 isn’t middle class. Megan McArdle says that Democrats would have to raise taxes on this group to pay for their programs. And the richest find new ways to hide their money.

Eat healthy-ish.

I’m cleaning up the house for the New Year with Hoarders Buried Alive on TV. I find mental illness very motivating.

I’m ignoring the boys as toss out all the Christmas crap. Ian is blissfully playing video games. Jonah and his friends are trying to figure out plans for tonight.

“What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” “I don’t know.” He’s on a group chat with twenty clueless teenagers trying to hash out plans without firmly commiting to one plan, in case something better comes along.

I’m making a big pot of chili with the hopes that they will end up here. If they don’t, I’ll track Jonah with the “Find my Phone” app all night. I would like a “How Drunk is My Teenager?” app, please.

Holidays and All

We had a very strange holiday season.

It started off pleasantly. I scaled waaayyy back from all the nuttiness figuring that I shouldn’t do stuff that doesn’t make me happy. So, no cookies, no personalized presents to the old aunties, no gifts to all of Ian’s teachers and aides. There were scaled back gifts for everyone, because, really, we don’t need anything.

I didn’t even do Christmas cards this year. That was a hard one to skip, because about fifteen years ago I started a binder with plastic sheets preserving every year’s card, newsletter, notes to Santa, and my own shopping list. I imagined presenting this binder with twenty years of memories to Jonah sometime in the future, and he would be so very grateful. (yeah) Well, I think fifteen years is enough.

With my reduced list of chores and simplified shopping list, I was sailing into Christmas nicely. I finished my writing chores for the month early, too. And then… Steve got sick. He got really, really sick. And ended up in the hospital for two days. It was a virus that went haywire into a bacterial infection of the gut, not appendicitis like they originally thought. Family pitched in, and we’re all cool now.

Steve’s back at work, and I’m starting my research on a new article. I need to get a jump start on it this week, because next week, we’re going to Yale. Their child study team is going to do a two-day evaluation on Ian. More on that later.

I’m in a bloggy mood, so I’ll be around all week. Hope you’re all doing well.

Too Big To Fail

As Jonah and his friends are entering into junior of high school. This is the year that will determine which college they attend, what kind of jobs they’ll have, whether they’ll have a cushy job at a law firm or whether they’ll be living in the basement in their 20s. Their whole future is boiling down to the next 12 months!

Of course, that’s not true. But that’s what everyone tells me. I’m particular fond of those conversations with other parents, where they subtly brag about their kids and poke to find out tidbits about Jonah. What colleges is he looking at? What honors classes is he in next year? Is he on the varsity cross country team? These comparisons — the weighing of the kids — is all very subtle, but it’s there.

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