Category Archives: Uncategorized

Adding Water to Soap/Lotion Bottles; Peeved About Curtains

I am about to make a suggestion that is in that awkward category of suggestions where, if you already know it, it will sound as if I’m asking if you tried turning the computer ON—and yet, at one point I did not know it, and now I do, and it has CHANGED MY LIFE: add water to the handsoap/shampoo/conditioner/bodywash/lotion when the supply gets low and is difficult to remove from the bottle. Just, add some water. Like, a tablespoon for something small like handsoap, two or three tablespoons for a larger shampoo/conditioner/bodywash bottle. Then shake vigorously. Then the next time you need some, REAP BENEFITS. Then, when it gets difficult again, add more water. It will be a matter of diminishing returns, yes. But it is really surprising how much more handsoap/shampoo/conditioner/bodywash/lotion is in there.

I am sad and mopey again today. Whenever I feel sad and mopey, I think I ought to chart it on a calendar or something so I can see if there are patterns: Mondays, foods, cycle-related, whatever. But it’s only when I’m feeling happy and energetic that I feel like shopping for multi-colored pens, working out a color/mood system, and writing things down—and that’s when I feel like I don’t really need to do any of that because I feel fine most of the time.

Here are some happy things:

1) I found the Jolly Joes I was looking for! The site has a surprisingly helpful product-finder: most product-finders basically say “Here are some stores that carry some stuff from our brands,” but then you have to go to each store to see if they carry the specific product; this one let me select Jolly Joes specifically, and then accurately told me where to find them. They were at a nearby grocery store that isn’t the one I usually go to; and the drug store in that same plaza had some of the other Mike & Ike blends, so I came home with riches.

That’s all I’ve got right now: one happy thing. I was going to say that my new green living room curtains were also a happy success, but that reminded me that I’m peeved with Paul. Remember I said the old curtains were floppy old tab-tops. That was MOSTLY true, but one window had much-newer light-blocking curtains, purchased because that window is over the TV, and the Wii remote couldn’t handle the light. I threw away the holey saggy curtains, but folded the light-blocking ones up and put them in a large labeled baggie: my thought was that we would want those for something else, like maybe a kid room window or a basement window.

This story is already getting longer than it’s worth, but I don’t have any other ideas for this post so I’m going to keep going. I put the baggie of curtains on the kitchen counter to remind me to bring it down to the basement the next time I went down. Paul moved the curtains off the counter and onto a shelf where we put things we want to take to the One Man’s Trash shack we have in town, where people can bring things they don’t want anymore but are too good to throw away, and other people can take those things for free. I said, “Wait, don’t put those there, I’m keeping them!,” and explained what I wanted them for. Paul totally agreed, and said he was only putting them there because he needed the counter, and that he wouldn’t take them.

A couple of days later, we were discussing the success of the new living room curtains, and Paul said now we needed something for the two narrow windows in the entryway, which are on the same side of the house and get the same overabundance of sunshine. I said, “Hey! I have an idea! I can put one of those light-blocking curtains on each side!” I went to get the curtains, but they were not on the shelf. I went back to Paul. He had TAKEN THEM TO THE ONE MAN’S TRASH SHACK. He said “Ug, I am an idiot!” like five times, but I am not done hearing it. They were good curtains! I told him why I wanted to save them! He said he would not take them! THEN HE TOOK THEM. THEN IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT MY URGE TO KEEP THEM WAS ABSOLUTELY JUSTIFIED. THIS MAKES ME CRAZY. DO NOT MOVE OR GET RID OF MY STUFF, PAUL. DO NOT.

I’m sorry to keep going with this, but just look at how right I am:

1. I said I didn’t want to get rid of them.
2. Paul said he would not get rid of them.
3. We discussed future uses for the curtains.
4. We agreed they should be kept.

When this happens again and again throughout the years, I don’t know how to reconcile it with all the “You can’t expect your partner to read your mind: make your needs clearly known!” school of thought. I don’t expect him to read my mind! I make my mind WELL-KNOWN! And I make sure he has a chance to tell ME about HIS mind: if he disagreed about keeping the curtains, that would have been an entirely different situation. If he had said, “But we’re trying to clear out some space in the basement; I’d rather have to buy new curtains later than keep these just in case,” I would have thought that was a valid point. Then I would have been kicking myself a few days later when I thought of a use for them, but AT LEAST I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN KICKING PAUL.

Intriguing Underarms; New Living Room Curtains

I dreamed I had a brand-new baby, a girl. I used to feel sad waking up from a dream like that; now I feel relieved. It was a cute baby, though, and I would have liked to have had a second girl.

The other day Target was having a buy-four-get-a-free-$5-gift-card sale on a deodorant I hadn’t tried, and that kind of marketing works on me so instead of sensibly buying just one to see if I even liked that kind, I bought four different scents of it. One of them is called Sexy Intrigue, which seems a little ambitious for underarms but I’m willing to give it a shot; no intrigue as of press time but I’ll let you know.

Today I made a batch of phone calls resulting in six appointments for various people and animals in my household. I seized on a moment of willingness combined with a moment of “OH CRAP I FORGOT TO MAKE THAT ONE APPOINTMENT.”

We moved into this house more than sixteen years ago, and this week I finally bought some living room curtains to replace the saggy, thin, large-hole-burned-in-one-panel-by-an-incident-with-a-lamp, dated-looking tab-top curtains we brought with us from our apartment. Those windows get a ton of sun in the summer and I don’t even want to think about how much we could have saved on air-conditioning bills if I could have been A LITTLE MORE DECISIVE. I got Eclipse Windsor light-blocking curtains in green:

(image from

At first the green was a little lighter than I was expecting: somewhere in between the green in this screenshot and the green in the close-ups on the Target site. But then later they looked darker again, so I think they just change with the…..light in the room. That sounded smarter in my head.

They are a success except they could use ironing and I’m not going to do it. I’m going to hope that a warm humid summer will handle that problem—like hanging a shirt in the bathroom while taking a shower.

Commenting Problems (Personal Blog Edition)

Are you having trouble commenting, here and/or on the baby name blog? The good news is, it isn’t just you. The bad news is, this has been going on for quite some time, and although I am married to a guy who knows his way around the innards of a computer program, I’m in the role of the shoemaker’s wife who has no shoes. No, it’s the shoemaker’s children who have no shoes. Does no one give a thought to the shoemaker’s wife and her shoes? Maybe the expression involves the shoemaker’s whole family. I could look it up, but we’re having such a nice time.

Anyway, I would like to give the shoemaker a little poke in the ribs on the subject of the hole in my shoes, so I would like to do a poll. If you also can’t use the poll, email me: swistle at gmail dot com. Or you can tell me on Twitter.

…Wait. I can’t use the poll either. Because it wasn’t working so I guess I removed that whole plug-in. Either that or it vanished? Maybe “it vanished” is the problem I’m remembering with the polling plug-in. We will have to do freeform answers in the comments section. WAIT. We cannot do that! Because the comments section is what we are having trouble with.

*deep breath* Okay. Here is what we are going to do. If you are having trouble with the comments section sometimes but not always, leave a comment in the comments section if possible, telling me what’s going on. If you can’t use the comments section at all, email me or @ me on Twitter (whenever I say “at me on Twitter” I mentally add finger guns and a chk-chk sound, so add those to your mental picture of this exchange) and tell me what kind of problem it is. Is it timing out or resetting while you’re composing a comment? Is it acting as if it posted the comment, all except for the part where the comment gets posted? Does the comment appear not to post, but then it shows up later? Is the whole comment area is failing to load, so that there appear to be no comments and no way to leave a comment? Does it help to force-reload the page (on my Mac this is done by holding down shift and command and, while they’re still down, pressing R)? And tell me any other details that seem relevant—for example, is it happening on your phone but not on your desktop, or vice versa? It it happening every time or just sometimes? And so on.

Dreams of Cows; Feeling Down; Quest for Jolly Joes

I dreamed I was dozing while snuggled up with a medium-sized light-brown cow, in case you are wondering who is winning the competition for best dreams.

In spite of that, I am feeling a little down. I had a good weekend, but now it is over and the only things to look forward to are a nice thorough dental cleaning, eventual death, and the 6th grade band concert (*shudder*). Also, the weather is gloomy. Also, a friend of mine who is in a bit of a holding pattern with her husband emailed me that one of the depressing things is that if they DO split up, she is too old and fat to expect to find someone new. I found myself plunged into a mental argument: on one side I was thinking “THAT IS NOT TRUE. She is GREAT, and PLENTY of guys would want to date her!” On the other side my brain was helpfully flipping through the file-folder of situations where a couple in my age group has split up and the guy has started dating someone much younger and thinner—and then my brain paused in the helpful flipping to add helpfully “…and also you realize nobody would want someone with five kids.” Well! Thank you very much, brain! Happy Mother’s Day right back at you! You know what else? If you left my skull no one would want to date YOU, either!

Also I am out of Mike & Ikes. I’ve been mixing a box of the original kind (4 flavors) with a box of the Mega Mix (10 flavors) and then eating two or three at a time because I think that makes for nicer flavors. Don’t tell me I’m not a good cook.

UG. I think I will get out of the house before I start pacing and writing formulas on the walls. Perhaps run a couple of errands and get some more Mike and Ikes. (You have not seen Jolly Joes anywhere, have you? I haven’t seen those in quite awhile.) [Update: there is a product finder that let me specify Jolly Joes! I am going to go look at the suggested stores tomorrow.]

Broccoli; Puzzling Amazon-Order Situation

I don’t want to linger too long on this, because there is nothing quite like whining about less-preferred food while hoping for a solution to the world-hunger problem, but I accidentally bought frozen broccoli instead of frozen broccoli florets and I will say this: if you have wondered what they do with all the broccoli stems after they package up the broccoli florets, I have found them. I’m not an advocate of spending more just to spend more, or trying to shame people for saving money on food when “spending more to get better food” might be an option the way “going on a cruise to take your mind off your money problems” is an option, but this is one of those areas where spending 29 cents extra for the florets results in something like TEN TIMES the amount of good food. Unless you like/prefer the stems, and I do know of people who do. I myself enjoy a broccoli stem from time to time, chopped up and widely dispersed among the bountiful florets. But if what you like is the stems, I can report some good news about bags of frozen broccoli.


We had an odd thing happen and we are at a loss to explain it, and at times like these I turn to you. Here is what happened: Paul got an item in the mail from, and it was not something he’d ordered. We looked into it further, and spoke to Amazon, and here is what they said: It was not sent as a gift. It was ordered from Paul’s account, using Paul’s login and Paul’s email address. Amazon considers the matter closed: no fraud, no funny business: they can’t explain it, but Paul must have ordered it. They recommended changing his login just in case, but repeated that there was no evidence of fraudulent usage.

But! Here is the thing: when we order something from Amazon, we get an order-confirmation email and a shipping-confirmation email. Also, we are charged money for the item we ordered. Paul received neither an order confirmation nor a shipping confirmation, and we have not been charged. Also, it doesn’t show up in his order history. Also, you know how if you go to the item page of something you bought, it has a little thing like this?:

(image from

It is not there on the item page when Paul goes to it. So all of these things say to me it could NOT have been ordered from Paul’s account using Paul’s email address. It MUST have been a gift or an error. (Paul wondered if maybe the item was sent instead of something he DID order, but he’s not missing anything he’s ordered.) He contacted Amazon again: no, they say, it was ordered from his account and his email address. It is baffling. I’ve been keeping an eye on our credit card just in case, but there have been no weird charges (including for this item).

Men’s Forearms; Swim Leggings, A Preliminary Report; Track Meet

SüßwasserLeah drew my attention to this excellent article about men’s forearms: Men, You Don’t Understand How Hot Your Forearms Are. This was one of those special Internet “I thought I was the only one!” moments for me. I once had a dream in which a guy was fervently pleading with me to run away with him, and I didn’t see his face but I gave serious consideration to the merits of his forearms: white dress shirt, rolled up sleeves—you know what I’m talking about. Or else you don’t, but now I know LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE DO. I don’t mean BUFF forearms or whatever: just FOREARMS. The rolled-up-flannel-sleeves of the mid 1990s was a pretty good time to be alive, but I’d say the rolled-up oxford sleeves of the late 1980s / early 1990s was even better. There was a preppy boy in my youth group who…well, there isn’t much to this story. He rolled up his sleeves, is what I’m telling you.

…Where was I? Oh! Do you remember the Lands’ End skirted swim leggings from this post? I haven’t been swimming in them yet so I can’t give a complete report, but I tried them on and I love them. I love them. They are comfy and I don’t feel like I’m walking around in my underwear. I’m right between two sizes so I ordered up (there are few things more discouraging than trying on TOO SMALL swimwear), and they feel like they fit without squeezing. If I see a really good coupon code or clearance, I’m going to order another pair in the smaller size. I also went on eBay (thanks for the tip, Danish!) and ordered a pair of ultra-high-waisted swim…what is it called when it looks like underpants? Anyway, a pair of those. Bikini bottoms, that’s what they’re called—except these go up to the ribs. Then if I want to I can wear those under the swim leggings so that I don’t need to think about the tankini top floofing up in the water. I realize this sounds like a lot of layers, but I ENJOY a lot of layers. It’s SECURE. I am longing for a return to this darling swim aesthetic:

(I TRIED to credit this image, but it was on Pinterest with no source, so I did a reverse image-search and got hits to Pinterest and to a spammy site that appeared to be trying to give me a virus. So let’s just enjoy it as it is.)

Speaking of a lot of layers, I attended my first track meet and nearly froze to death. The temperature was in the sixties when I left the house, and I was already wearing a thin zip-up hoodie, so I took along a heavy zip-up hoodie just in case. And by the end of the meet it was in the mid-50s, totally overcast with occasional droplets, and HIGH WINDS, and I was wearing both hoods with both zippers done up and holding hands with myself inside an overlapped-sleeve tube and I was still just about dead with cold. Also it sucked going to a track meet. It was boring as all hell and it went on for HOURS AND HOURS. But thank goodness Miss Grace told me that I MUST purchase a bleacher seat no matter how much it cost. I bought the Cascade Mountain Tech Wide Stadium Seat and it was worth every dollar—and I paid $7 more than the $34 it’s currently listed for. Not that I plan to ever attend another track meet if I can help it, but I can use it for high school graduations.

Discouraging Day

I had kind of a discouraging day yesterday. It was the day to bring Edward to the city for his new medication (he gets it by IV every 8 weeks; with travel, it takes all day), and the traffic was terrible. The drive was also full of the kind of incidents I find demoralizing on a worldwide humankind type of level. For example: There is this road on the route that is very, very busy, and people have just come off the very, very busy highway so they are not in the mood to delay further. Perpendicular to that road is another road, with a stop sign; traffic gets HUGELY backed up there because they can ONLY get out if someone lets them in, and they are JOINING us not crossing us so every car that gets let in DOES delay us. And yet yesterday, people in my lane, people who had been waiting like I had for TWENTY MINUTES at that exit, were voluntarily doing a zipper merge with the people at the stop sign: one of us would let in a stop-sign person and then one of us would go, and then the next one of us would let in another stop-sign person. It made me feel good, the way people would do that. But then I let my person in—and the guy behind that person ran the stop sign and cut in too, so that I had to slam on my brakes. Startled, I honked one single beep of what the heck—and he yelled something with huge intensity and gave me the finger. Don’t tell me to concentrate on all the good people who were letting people in and not let that one person ruin it: I have already told this to myself many times and the only effect it’s had so far is to make me pissed with myself for saying it.

Then, the nurse at the hospital messed up Edward’s IV. This is the sort of normal mistake humans make; I expect it to happen to any nurse from time to time. But then she made a really big, extended deal about Edward’s quiet wincing/gagging reaction to the resulting blood and pain, asking with faux astonishment does he ALWAYS have such a hard time? And NO, he does NOT. He has gotten very chill about needles and blood draws from doing them very regularly for the last SIX YEARS, and he has only had a problem THREE times, and each of those three times it has been because the nurse messed up the IV. And she knows perfectly well that she messed up the IV and that LOTS of people have a negative reaction to a messed-up IV, and yet she tried to make it seem as if he was over-sensitive and weird, and she didn’t bring him a barf bin even though the other nurse (they have a “one and done” policy, so a new nurse came to do the IV) told her there was one in the next room. And then the same nurse who messed up Edward’s IV messed up the IV of the patient we were sharing the room with, and she and the other nurse did their same routine of how this doesn’t usually happen and was there something wrong with the patient’s veins? And it gave me that “humans are bad” feeling again, because this is always how it happens: on all three messed-up-IV occasions Edward has calmly turned white and quietly says he needs a bucket just in case, and on all three occasions the nurse or technician has tried to act as if they did NOT mess up the IV, despite the clear evidence (blood, needing to be redone, KNOWING PERFECTLY WELL THEY MESSED IT UP), and ALSO acted as if Edward is shrieking and crying and throwing a fit and being very unreasonable, when actually he is being super calm and trying to prevent making a mess on their floor. Edward has flaws just like any human being, but “reacting unreasonably to IVs” is not one of them, and now I have my script ready for the next time a nurse tries to cover up her error at his expense.

Then, when I came home, I wanted literally five minutes to starfish on the bed in a dim room and recover from the 9.5 hours of driving/hospital while letting a shot of vodka kick in, and Paul was like no, we can’t do that because Rob is going to have to leave for his piano lesson right after dinner so we can’t delay. And I repeated that I just needed five minutes, and he repeated that it wouldn’t work. And so I went directly into making dinner, feeling super resentful and angry and put-upon: like, I have to give up my very reasonable request for FIVE MINUTES because our child can’t hurry up a little EATING THE DINNER THAT HAS BEEN PREPARED FOR HIM? And later I thought, why didn’t I say in a cheerful, friendly voice, “Okay! So how about you start browning the meat, and I’ll be back in five minutes to take over”? Such a simple solution! I mean, is Paul a cruel, whip-wielding husband who is actively trying to deprive me of five minutes just because he wants me to be miserable? No, he is a husband who sees a scheduling problem and can’t think of a work-around because that is not one of his strengths. In our relationship it is MY job to say things like “It’s okay, I think we have some wiggle room” and “He’ll just eat a little faster” or “Okay, let’s have Rob help out with dinner, then, so it’ll be ready sooner.” But I was a wife whose usual ability to think of workarounds needed recharging with five minutes in a dim room, so I didn’t think of it either, and so then my traffic/humankind/hospital/worry-about-Edward/couldn’t-have-even-five-measly-minutes misery hit a breaking point later on in the evening and everyone ended up getting yelled at and I went to bed early. So now I have my script ready for next time when I know five minutes would prevent a bad evening.

Sports Night; College Roommate Selection; Cashews

I am re-watching Sports Night, and although I am laughing/crying less this time because I am less pregnant this time, I still say you should watch it if you haven’t, or re-watch it if you have. Same as the first time through, the first episode or two didn’t quite get me hooked (and the laugh track sounds so dated and dumb), but after several episodes I was so into it (and the laugh track disappears). It has a good slow-burn relationship AND a good gratifyingly-quick-ignition relationship. Well, the slow-burn is more of a medium-slow: there isn’t really time for slow when a show only lasts two seasons. There’s also a “they hate each other so of course they end up in bed,” if you’re into that.

I think Paul thinks I have a thing for Josh Charles now, though, because he (Paul) came into the room, looked suspiciously at the screen, and said “Is that the same guy from The Good Wife?” Yes. But that’s not my type: the Josh Charles characters might as well wear “BAD IDEA JEANS” signs around their necks. (I like Jeremy Goodwin on Sports Night, and Eli Gold on The Good Wife.)

[Edited to add: I just started Season 2 and in the second episode Dan is fan-boying about meeting Hillary Clinton. I just thought you should know, in case this affects you as it affects me.]


Rob is doing the College Roommate Selection process now. His college has a program similar to online dating: it suggests available candidates based on your answers to a series of questions, and he’s emailed three of the candidates. It was kind of adorable seeing him work on his letter, picturing these other 18-year-old boys reading it and thinking it over. GAH. CUTE. I so hope he gets a good roommate, and it seems like such a toss-up no matter how many computer programs are involved.

I can’t believe he’ll be living somewhere else in less than four months. I got somewhat distracted by the stress of the college-application process followed by the waiting-to-hear process followed by the deciding-among-the-acceptances process, and now I have a lot more time to focus on the MY-ACTUAL-BABY-WILL-ACTUALLY-LEAVE process. Some days I feel pretty chill about it: it seems like the natural next step. Some days I feel about the same as I did in the time leading up to his first day of first grade, thinking with increasing panic that THIS CAN’T HAPPEN BECAUSE IT IS NOT NATURAL FOR HIM TO BE AWAY FROM ME FOR SEVEN HOURS A DAY, IS EVERYONE INSANE???

But I grew to look forward to the arrival of the school bus, and I am guessing this too will go well after the initial adjustment. I am already feeling enthusiastic about sending care packages, buying a school coffee mug and/or shot glass, etc.

Oh! Thinking about snacks to put in care packages reminded me I have a snack to recommend: Emerald Salt-and-Pepper Cashews.

(image from

The link goes to a Prime Pantry item, because that’s the only way they’re a reasonable price on Amazon. I get them at Target when they go on sale for $3.00. Salt and pepper seems like a not very interesting flavor, but they’re so yum. I have to put some in a bowl and then get a cat to sit on my lap so I don’t get up and refill the bowl.

Building a Many-Drawered Cart

I can do this. This cart is marketed to middle-aged women in craft stores, so it should be buildable by same.

Look how well things are going already: I have the box open.

(Not shown: futilely shaking the box upside down to tip out the contents, then realizing after a period of time known as “too long” that the styrofoam piece was glued into place to keep things from sliding out. Probably I was supposed to open the bottom of the box instead of the top.)


I am beginning to have regrets.


Considerable regrets.






Oh, well this isn’t TOO hard. Four metal sticks hold together the two big side panels. I got all this done before remembering I was supposed to be taking pictures:


Then you put it upside down, put the wheels on, and flip it upright. The middle of those three steps took me some time: figuring out which wheels were which, and what it meant to go on “the front” of the cart (as far as I can tell, “front” and “back” are exactly the same; perhaps time will tell otherwise). Then I had to push pretty hard on the wheels to get them to click, and I felt as if I were going to break the cart (but did not). So here it is, wheeled and flipped:


A lot of the scary little pieces are just drawer pulls. I’ve done those before. You put the screw through the hole from the inside of the drawer, like so:


And then you screw on the knob:

It said I would need a Philips head screwdriver for this, but I just tightened them by hand.


I was greatly encouraged by how many of the little parts got used up with this step. There were two extra small screws, I hope on purpose. And now there is a pile of pretty drawers:


The next step was a little tricky. It said to clip the metal shelf to the metal bars, but it didn’t say how that would work. There were two rounded absence-of-metal-bar-shaped parts on the bottom of the shelf, but—and I don’t know if I can explain this right—there was not space to put them both in place at the same time: if I clicked ONE into place, the other would be sitting diagonally and not line up anymore. So I tried to click them both down at once, but that didn’t work and the cart felt too fragile for the heavy leaning that seemed required. So then I clicked one into place, then tried to sort of push the other metal bar forward so it could click too. This did work, but I kept worrying I was going to pinch my fingers so it took awhile longer than it should have.


And finally, the only step of this entire project I actually wanted to do:

The final step after this one involves flipping the whole cart upside down and putting little locking clips on all the drawers so they won’t slide all the way out of their slots anymore. But I need to think more about the order I want the colors, and I know Elizabeth will want to weigh in on that too, so I’ve just put those clips aside for now.


Update: Edward came home from school and within five minutes had “fixed” the “wrong” drawers. I thought others might feel similarly and be soothed by the sight of the adjusted situation:

What It’s Like Going to a College Info Session and Tour

Rob has CHOSEN HIS COLLEGE. He’ll be going to one that’s about a 7-hour drive away, which is a nice distance: far enough to feel Nice and Far for him, but close enough that if something were to go wrong I wouldn’t have to try to book a flight; close enough that we can drive him with all his stuff, rather than trying to ship it or fit it on an airplane.

Well. That whole college-selection process was an…invigorating time. And now there is a brief lull before we start all the freshman-prep stuff, so this seems like a good chance to talk about what it was like to go on all those college info sessions and tours. Those were on my list of anxieties before starting the college-search process with Rob, so I want to tell you how much easier they are than I’d thought. Here are the notes I have from the last session/tour, which was when I decided to write this post:

• don’t wear loud shoes
• it’s so boring seriously
• shows you how old you are when you look around at other parents
• so many stairs

So basically that sums it up, but I’ll fill in a few sparse places.

To start with, colleges WANT you to do these. I don’t know why I imagined I was somehow inconveniencing them by visiting: they do info sessions and tours ALL THE TIME. Some of the more popular colleges do them again and again all day, every day of the week. Usually they have a schedule posted online; usually you need to register ahead of time with information such as the child’s name, address, phone number, email, date of birth, high school graduation year, areas of interest—things like that. (This will then get you on that college’s mail/email list if you weren’t already.)

Times that are convenient for you to go (Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, spring break, weekends, etc.) will either be unavailable or will fill up early. I was worried that if we went during the summer we would miss getting the Real Feel of the student-occupied campus, but I didn’t see a huge difference except that it was less comfortable weather-wise.

It is common for the students to be accompanied by family members. I felt awkward about this when registering the first time but it’s so totally normal. Many kids had one or two parents AND a sibling or two; Rob was accompanied by one parent plus William (since William is two years behind Rob and could get an early start on his own college search). It would not, however, be a good place to bring MUCH younger children—like, anyone in the run-around-in-the-aisles/cry-interruptively stage of life.

It is a little alarming, by the way, to look around at all the other parents and realize that’s how old you are too. It is especially alarming seeing them/yourself in such sharp contrast to all the young, vigorous students. A person can end up feeling a bit middle-aged and frumpy and done with the meat of life, is what I’m warning you about. I tried with mixed success to turn this into a feeling of solidarity with my peers.

The most common info/tour system we encountered was this: you could sign up for just the info session or just the tour, but usually the info session went right into a tour afterward. So if you see that info sessions are offered at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., and tours are offered at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., you can feel confident that the 9:00 a.m. info session is followed by the 10:00 a.m. tour, and the 1:00 p.m. info session is followed by the 2:00 p.m. tour. (On our first couple of college visits, I was worried that the info session would take, say, 1.5 hours—so then we couldn’t sign up for the 10:00 a.m. tour. But no: the college realizes you will probably want to do both, and they don’t make you hang out for several hours in between.)

Or you might end up doing them separately. For example, some colleges have traveling info sessions: the child’s high school might host one, or in our case we attended one at a local hotel conference room. The school was far enough away that we wouldn’t have visited just on a whim, but after we went to the info session we were interested enough to book a tour and make the drive. We could have re-attended the info session once we were on campus—but since the college had Saturday tours but no Saturday info sessions, and since we were available on a Saturday, it all worked out perfectly.

The info sessions and tours are free. About half the time, they included free coffee and water, maybe some candies or cookies. Sometimes there are optional expenses: for example, a couple of tours ended by saying we were welcome to try a meal in the school cafeteria if we wanted to, but there was a cost for that.

I will say this: I found all info sessions and tours to be IMMENSELY BORING. One was kind of cool because it was at a famous college so I was sitting there thinking “I can’t believe I’m sitting here in this well-known place!” But then the person from admissions came in and started talking, and it was just as boring as everywhere else.

Boring but INFORMATIVE—as long as you realize you are sitting through a sales pitch. The information session tells you what the college thinks are its selling points. You will find out which buzzwords the college wishes to push: unique, cooperative, diverse, opportunity, innovative, excellence, hands-on, interdisciplinary, passion, real-life experience, selective, progressive, driven, research. You can recognize which words the college decided on because they will say them comically often until you are thinking “OKAY WE GET IT YOU WANT US TO KNOW YOU’RE TRYING TO SHAKE THE PRIVILEGED WHITE KID IMAGE” or “YES YES EVERYONE IS A GENIUS AND STUDIES CONSTANTLY, GOT IT.”

The info session usually takes place in a largish room with dozens or hundreds of people (though we went to one that was just five students and their families) and lasts about an hour. They will cover things such as: which majors are most common; what their acceptance rates are; a little about the application process; what they look for in a candidate; the student-teacher ratio; opportunities to study abroad or at other local institutions; a little about how they help graduates find jobs; cost of tuition, room and board, fees. Most will give you written materials as well, with pretty much the same info.

After the info session there is time for people to ask questions. Every single session-leader handled this beautifully so that it didn’t go on and on and on, but there were usually a few parents asking really specific-to-their-own-child questions that were a little tiresome for the rest of us; for example, one mother asked if the session leader could please list all the classes needed for a marketing major. (Beautiful handling by session leader: “Oh, great question! I don’t have that information with me, but if you stop at the Admissions office on your way out we can certainly get that for you!”) One father wanted to tell everyone that he had been quite the soccer star when he attended there, and to ask how had the team been doing since then because his son wanted to play soccer too.

After the Q&A, the group is divided into tour groups, usually of about twenty people in each (or of course fewer if the whole info group was fewer than that). (Usually there was no pee-break between session and tour, so find a bathroom before the info session if you can. You could also sneak out during the last 15 minutes of the session to pee.) One time we got to choose our tour guide: five of them introduced themselves and said their majors, and then we could pick which one to go with; this was nice because we got someone with the same major Rob is considering, so she knew about and emphasized stuff he was interested in. But most of the time we were counted off and then assigned. The tour guide is a current student doing a memorized routine. They walk backward while the group follows them and listens; typically you can ask questions as you go and the tour guide generally made it easy/comfortable to do so.

The tour lasts an hour or so, and typically includes a lot of walking and a lot of stairs; I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and bringing a water bottle. The tour usually includes some academic buildings, a dorm (but only once the inside of a dorm room—sometimes the college offered a separate housing tour), a cafeteria, the library, a social hang-out area, the gym, a big open grassy area, a sculpture, and anything else the college wanted to draw special attention to (a self-sustaining green area, an on-campus museum filled with student art, a fountain donated by someone famous, a concert hall, a 3D-modeling lab where students built a working car, etc.). Note: many campuses have multiple Pokéstops.

After the tour, you are dismissed. The tour guide usually invited anyone with additional questions to stay after and ask them. We almost always had to use that opportunity to ask the tour guide how to get from where we were back to our car. Fortunately the info session usually includes a map, too.

Oh, and I highly recommend bringing a snack: it seemed like we were always starting the process in the late morning and then going through to early afternoon, so afterward we were hot, tired, cranky, hungry, and in a strange city. Having a sneaky granola bar on the tour made things so much more pleasant.

Which reminds me of another issue: parking. This mystified me. The college would have online info about attending tours, and would instruct us to park in Lot A. And then Lot A would have ten parking spaces. And it would be full, because dozens or hundreds of people were attending the session/tour, and there would be no back-up instructions. So! Print out a campus map to bring with you, and investigate alternate visitor lots ahead of time if possible—or just be prepared that you might need to do so on the spot. I liked to allow quite a bit of padding so that we could (1) find parking without me feeling like screaming, and (2) walk from that far-off lot to Admissions, and (3) FIND Admissions, and (4) find a bathroom.


To sum up:

• investigate parking and allow extra time for it
• pee right before the session
• comfy shoes, water bottle, snack
• it’s pretty much always an info session followed by a tour
• take notes and save the paperwork, because they all start to blend together