Family Dinners with Steve Jobs

Posted on Thursday, October, 6th, 2011 at 4:04 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (2 comments)

Yesterday was a sad day for many families. Here’s the tribute to Steve Jobs I wrote for Huffington Post Parents.

It’s That Time of Year: Falling into Essays

Posted on Monday, October, 3rd, 2011 at 9:19 am by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

Parents of college-bound kids are busy. Their heads are spinning with deadlines and they’re walking a tightrope wondering how much to nudge or nag. This week on’s College Mom Minute, I’ve got a little essay advice.

What Not To Wear

Posted on Tuesday, September, 6th, 2011 at 8:09 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (2 comments)

Have fanny pack, will travel.

Got the stilettos packed for Parents’ Weekend? Think again…

After our son’s dorm drop-off, I weighed in on the parent dress code for USA Today College. Check it out…

Dad Dorm Dos and Don’ts

Posted on Saturday, August, 27th, 2011 at 10:30 am by Dr. Nancy Berk   (4 comments)

Traveling with Pack Man

As college freshmen prepare for dorm drop-off, parents must realize there’s more to this process than a quick trip to Bed, Bath, & Beyond. There’s the farewell drive, the back-breaking move-in, and in my case, the Dad Dress Code. Read on and you’ll see what I’m up against. Tune in next week to see if he toned it down and kept teen embarrassment at bay…

The Problem with Pack Man

He was the perfect husband when he announced my 50th birthday gift.  A Mediterranean Cruise.  Finally the opportunity to create my own adaptation of “Eat, Pray, Love”!  We would explore Italy, cruise Greece, and enjoy Turkey.  I would wear flowing outfits and Jackie O sunglasses and we’d have our photos taken next to the white washed cave houses of Santorini.   And then it hit me.  If my Mediterranean memories were to be magical I would have to work magic on my husband.  I would have to get him to leave his fanny pack behind.

My husband has always been a problem solver.  And the problem with vacations is that he wants to keep on solving problems.  He not only packs for every emergency (medical, weather, and navigational), he dresses for them.  So when vacation time rolls around so does the enormous, stuffed-to-capacity, black, weatherproof pouch that provides enough zippered compartments to save a small nation. With one quick snap, an average guy in cargo shorts becomes Pack Man.  Pack Man is a walking medicine cabinet (ibuprofen, ChapStick, and Band-Aids) equipped with navigational aides (maps and compass), weather emergency devices (poncho, sunscreen, flashlight—thunderstorms produce power outages) and the means to document everything (video camera, iPhone, and for those hard to reach places—binoculars).

From a fashion standpoint, Pack Man is a disaster.  His attire is so far off the charts “What Not To Wear” won’t go there.  If he were to show up for an audition of a stereotypical tourist he would be told to tone it down.  Friends doubted my husband was a Pack Man until they vacationed with him or saw a photo of his favorite vacation accessory.  The amusement park plastic “soda sling” allowed him to clip a “Big Gulp” cup to his belt.  It suffered an unfortunate melting death in the bottom of our dishwasher in 1994.  He’s never gotten over it.

In my quest to avoid vacation embarrassment and insure optimal photo opps with Pack Man, I began Operation Fanny Pack.  It seemed simple.  I would introduce an additional problem and a superior solution.  Many of our destinations were notorious for pick pocketing.  Tourists were prime targets.  I read aloud Internet and travel book warnings.  Then I produced the replacement.  A thin wallet on a neck string claimed to be “pick pocket proof” when tucked under a shirt.

When he said, “This is great”, I rejoiced and bought an extra memory card for my camera.

Departure Day proved Operation Fanny Pack was a failure.  Overseas travel had thrown Pack Man into overdrive.  My new and better option was not the alternative one; it was an additional one.  On the plane and all over the Mediterranean, he wore every option he had ever acquired.  Exploding fanny pack.  Bulging string wallet pushing through golf shirt like a bad medical device.  String passport holder—never mind that the passports were in the safety deposit box in our room.  Extra large backpack with clip on water bottle and Pittsburgh Steeler hat.  The bad news was this was my Mediterranean photo opp.  The good news was he had room for my lipstick AND zoom lens.

I soon realized that two weeks on a dream vacation with a great husband is a blessing especially if he is loaded down like a pack mule.  We laughed and explored.  We enjoyed it all and each other.  My headaches were cured.  I never got sunburned.  And all of my purchases were stashed somewhere on his body.  If you can’t beat ‘em, let them carry your stuff!

I learned a lot on my “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure.  I wore flowing outfits but didn’t look a thing like Jackie O.  My guy did not have the abs of Demetri the gorgeous waiter who served us on the Santorini roof garden, but neither did I.  I didn’t work any magic when it came to photo opps but my pictures are magical and prove something very important about life with Pack Man.  Sometimes a perfect Mediterranean adventure involves a fanny pack not a six-pack.

© 2011 Nancy Berk


When Dorms Are Like Palaces

Posted on Sunday, August, 14th, 2011 at 7:09 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

This month, the Princeton Review released their top college rankings including schools with “Dorms Like Palaces”. Hold the tiara and armor. Before you squeeze on the glass slipper or buy a white horse, it’s best to beware of college castle-dwelling surprises. Royal dorms aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. Sure, on the surface there’s that stuffy elegance that screams “cul-cha”,  but one must always consider the drawbacks…

Crown Jewels

There are no crowns in college (unless you decide to to loosen a bottle cap with your teeth) and there are no jewels. Bummer.


Don’t be fooled. Royal dorms are less than authentic as there are no moats on campus.


Heads up college women–The only ladies-in-waiting are your roommates waiting for you to put on your mascara so you all can hit a frat party. Speed it up.

Royal Crests

Maybe your family’s got lineage, but chances are your only crest is gonna be toothpaste.


You can call it a dungeon, but when push comes to shove, it’s still only a basement. There, the only prisoners are the ones doing laundry.

Royal Suitors

Sure, spending your days roaming about the palace for royal suitors will increase your chances of getting a title, but that title is likely to be “unemployed”. Rule your own monarchy and study.

Love, Mom


© 2011 Nancy Berk


Countdown To College: Empty Nest Hazards

Posted on Monday, August, 8th, 2011 at 3:22 am by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

Last week, I highlighted empty nest hazards for the Huffington Post. While parents launch their children into the real world (actually, college is far from the real world, more like a baby step with a meal plan), they neglect the dangers of having a teen-free home. Read more before it’s too late…

©2011 Nancy Berk


Gotham City Intern

Posted on Wednesday, August, 3rd, 2011 at 1:22 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

Gotham PD on the scene

It’s true. This week Batman showed up in my city. Pittsburgh’s been buzzing ever since director Christopher Nolan decided The Dark Knight Rises would be filmed in The ‘Burgh. Once the Caped Crusader landed, he brought Hollywood with him, turning my backyard into Gotham City.

While I’ve never been a production stalker, as the parent of a film editor and an upcoming film school freshman, I figured it was time to get up close and personal with the industry. After all, I’ve financed my share of small student projects and coughed up cash for lighting, props (from fake blood to stethoscopes), and the “free food” that thankfully entices struggling actors and crew to donate their time. This was my opportunity to see how the industry worked and where my boys could land with their talent, determination, and school loans. Armed with a camera and obliging husband, I chatted up a few security peeps and wound around blocked streets and sidewalks to find an authorized location for viewing the shoot. We didn’t get close enough to spot Christian Bales or Anne Hathaway, but enthusiastic parents realize there’ll be plenty of time for star sightings when their kids hit the big time. It was fascinating and I loved every second, until The Mom Gene took over. That’s when I started critiquing the project and obsessing as only a mother could. Below are my 3 panic points…

1. The set involved a lot of cranes. Not cranes as in long-necked birds, but cranes as in enormous industrial machinery. It never came up in conversation, but does a film school curriculum cover how to rent a crane? What if a conscientious child tries to cut production costs and operates it himself? And what? Can’t you film a great movie without complicated and dangerous equipment?

2. Timing and scheduling are everything. Holy Toledo Batman! It’s been 95 degrees every day of shooting. Batsuits are made of latex, so what were you thinking? Plus, you’re staging a winter scene and paying for fake snow that would have been free in February. I’m in knots here trying to stay on budget and hoping there are enough hydration stations to keep everyone from heading to Gotham Hospital for IV fluids.

3. This project is freaking huge. It’s clear this is a well-oiled machine designed by someone brilliant. I believe in my kids, I even think they’re brilliant, but they can’t unload the dishwasher and make it to an Ultimate Frisbee Tournament on time. How on earth are they going to become the next Academy Award-winning directors?

Right around the time I started hyperventilating, their father calmed me down.

“Don’t worry, our boys have talent.”

I knew he was right, but I’m also drafting an email to Christopher Nolan in case he needs an intern. I can get him at least one. From the scope of the project, he might need more help and I’m thinking he could teach my boys a thing or two. My only contingency– if driving is required, let it be a Batmobile, not a crane.

© 2011 Nancy Berk



Countdown To College: Extracting Wisdom

Posted on Sunday, July, 31st, 2011 at 8:00 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (3 comments)

This week, we checked off another familiar milestone on the road to the college launch. Oral surgery. This pre-college dental rite of passage just might be the universe’s way of giving parents one final dose of feeling really needed before the dorm drive-by. Wisdom teeth extraction packs every aspect of parenting into a 24-hour period: chauffeuring (someone’s got to drive the sedated teen to and from the procedure), worrying, pain control, comforting, hovering, issuing restrictions, and providing food. It’s a heck of a way to wrap up the summer, but someone’s gotta do it. I think a successful experience involves giving it up to a great oral surgeon and focusing on ice. Ice packs. Ice cream. Armed with a milk shake, any parent can be a teen’s hero. Now that my boy’s on the mend, I’m left to ponder how these pesky molars got their name.

If these teeth are so wise, why do they grow the wrong way?

And isn’t extracting wisdom from a college-bound student a bad idea?

I realize it’s time to let go of worrying. Maybe a milk shake will help.

© 2011 Nancy Berk



Uncovering College Budget-Busters

Posted on Wednesday, July, 20th, 2011 at 12:55 pm by Dr. Nancy Berk   (2 comments)

Today, one of USA Today’s front page headlines seemed tailor-made for the College Bound Blog. In his feature “College cuts get ‘C’ for creativity”, Oliver St. John uncovered some surprising and unique budget cuts crossing some campuses this year. Among them: eliminating office phone lines for professors, asking professors to take out their own trash, and making students pay for their own printing. As a former full-time professor, I’m okay with emptying my trash and limiting phone time. And as the parent of college kids, I’m fine with paying for paper and ink. Here are a few more creative suggestions to help universities save a few bucks…

1. Cancel a course or two. I know college is supposed to be fun, but will “The History of Blue Bubblegum” or “The Rise and Fall of Charlie Sheen” really give my kid an edge?

2. Cut the printing costs for admission materials. Use the 4-point font from the tuition and financial aid section throughout the entire brochure. This should save at least 4 pages.

3. Decrease your photography budget. Eliminate those pricey outdoor shots of the happy cross-section of students sitting in the grass on a sunny day with an engaging professor. It’s a nice touch, but after awhile every college admission brochure looks the same.

4. Stop building. Consider following your outdoor photo concept and hold more classes outside. Students and professors seem really happy.

©2011 Nancy Berk


School’s Out For Summer: 5 Tips For Family Harmony

Posted on Tuesday, July, 12th, 2011 at 11:09 am by Dr. Nancy Berk   (No comments)

After semesters of freedom, moving back home can be confusing for college students. Greeted by gushing relatives, overflowing refrigerators, and clean bed linens, who wouldn’t begin to expect continued concierge service? The problem? Your “hotel” isn’t staffed for that. Here are 5 tips that’ll help students get back into the family zone.


Tip 1.  A morning wake-up call is actually in the a.m.

Tip 2. Sure you miss your college friends and university stomping grounds, but bite your tongue before you suggest that the tuition check writers have chosen a boring lifestyle.

Tip 3. The kitchen is open 24/7 but you are the clean-up crew. Please refrain from burning the grilled cheese. 3 a.m. smoke alarms are disruptive.

Tip 4. A wet towel on a dorm floor means you took a shower. A wet towel on your bedroom floor means a lecture on mold and water stains.

Tip 5. Think of your parents as professors. As they hurl tons of questions at you, try to answer like you’re being graded. Omit eye rolling, sarcasm, and that catchy phrase, “You can’t tell me what to do–I’m in college”.



Copyright 2013, Nancy Berk Media, LLC