Happy New Year!

A and I are in (not so) sunny Florida.

We wish everyone a peaceful, safe, and educational New Year...

And yes, hiatus is over. : )


okay, folks, it's showtime...

that is, off this blog. This entry was previously entitled, "Affluence and the homeschooled child who isn't" but I've decided to scrap the entry, and instead, I am taking a hiatus. Not the Hollywood kind, where I know exactly when on the calendar I'll be back, but the kind where I just don't know...until it's time.

I am managing three (3) other blogs while maintaining this one, and am working on a few things, including NaNoWriMo, a start-up magazine (no kidding), getting another legal day job, figuring out what schooling will work best for A in a pond full of affluent, spoiled kids who don't know jack from the classics, and, well, some other maybe momentous or not-so-momentous stuff.

If you're interested in following my other "worlds" in the interim, drop me an e-mail to Maitresse@gmail.com, and if I have heard of you before, I may clue you in to what other blogs I am inhabiting.

Kudos to the readers of this blog. You are a special bunch. You really are.

See you soon. Hopefully.


...and he sleeps...

in. Because I overslept and did not get him on the school bus.




My article proposal to a local paper in New York City is actually moving forward...dare I say that I am pleased?

The Picasa for Blogger is not loading on my computer for some reason, so forgive the hiatus from the normal Maitresse aesthetic.


Nurturing "other"ness

Last night I met up with some old friends who we (me and A) had known in Miami for several years. Their son attended the same French school as A, and was A's best friend. They have just returned from assignments in Spain and Belgium and landed - surprise, plunk - in our Westchester village.

Mondo piccolo, I say.

We talked about our sons' "otherness" over the years - lack of materialism, Alexander's homeschooling, our boys' interest in the dynamics of world relations (we had been actively discussing the dynamics of the U.S. involvement in Iraq with our boys over the past year-and-a-half), and how our sons are oddities in otherwise pop-culturesque classrooms.

Our boys are "deep" - and as inward-thinking kids, and do not hold title as "upwardly popular boy", as may be acceptable by some of their classroom counterparts. Indeed, our boys have suffered a bit with our travels in addition to their parental influences about the world.

Friend Returned from Europe: "I know we're not supposed to talk about adult things with our kids, but we can't help but want to discuss what is going on the world with our Alex."

Me: "I do the same. If it's not too over-the-top for them (and who better to know than we parents), I think it's okay to go ahead and see where the deep conversations take you..."

Not exactly a hermit, my son likes video games and rock music.

But the choices he makes with them have been interesting. Parappa the Rappa ("I Gotta Believe!"). Beatles (what young people avidly - really avidly - listen to the Beatles today?). The Kinks.

and tonight, on the iPod, this:

A: Mom, listen to this!

"I Don't Want To Be"

[Me listening]:

I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately
All I have to do is think of me and I have peace of mind
I’m tired of looking ‘round rooms wondering what I’m trying to do
Or who I’m supposed to be
I don’t want to be anything other than me

It put last night's conversation in perspective. A already nurtures himself, his otherness, and he knows who he is.

I don't want to be anything other than me. Take that, peer pressure.


ungrateful landlady/I am an idiot

I deleted this post! Sorry but I hate grumpy posts...


as a Chasidisher rebbe once said...

...do we believe that by switching the dial on the radio to "off" - that the music we were just listening to on it, has altogether stopped playing from its source...?

Our second dog this year has passed away. Neo, a beautiful black rescued ex-racing greyhound, died in Florida after his last seizure. He was 10 years old.

Alexander wanted to "talk" to Neo, so we did, for a while, in the comfort of our living room in New York. We wished him peace. We wished Ricky, our Yorkshire Terrier who also died this year, to keep him company. We wished to see him again someday.

And tonight we took a nice long walk in the darkness and finally saw the Big Dipper, as well as Orion's Belt, and the Little Dipper.


des petits questions pour Les Blog Readers of Alexander's Maitresse...

- Do your kids study from the Writing Strands curriculum?

- If so, are you happy with Writing Strands? If not, what writing program do you use?

- Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Is/are your kid/s?

- Would you help your children participate in an annual writing competition where word count were the only determinant of success?

- Have I been too trippy as of late?

I thank you for your time.


to top off an entirely bizarre week...

...it seems that RoboDate of old has found my blog. I didn't think he would, but lo and behold, it is possible that a doctor who holds NOT JUST an MD but a PhD as well, just has TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS to not check out what possible blogs I might be inhabiting.

How long did it take you, RoboDate? It is true, I used that photo in my profile. But as you know, I am camera-shy. Modifications to follow.

And I bet you are surprised that I didn't divulge to you that I am a parent as well as an educator; thing is, RoboDate, when single women like me go out on dates with utterly uninspiring folk like you, we are disinclined to divulge more than polite dinner conversation. We are careful. Protective. Guarded.

Quite frankly, I was surprised that I even went to see Spiderman 2 with you. You dissed Spiderman. That did you in.

Je regrette, cherie.

This is my blog. Hear me roar.


ah yes...

You Are a Snarky Blogger!

You've got a razor sharp wit that bloggers are secretly scared of.
And that's why they read your posts as often as they can!

plus que ça change, plus c'est la même chose* (v.2)

OK: edit this section!

I can devote some more time to homeschooling!


Where are we headed? v.2

Arguments for homeschooling full-time:

"The kids at school don't know about Socrates, Aristotle, quantum physics, or even about the Seven Years' War."

"Science isn't as fun as last year" [when A did his internship at a science lab on the Hudson River]

"I don't have as much access to the teachers as I did with you as my full-time teacher"

"The kids at school only care about the subjects they teach at school." (not otherwise intellectually curious)

The Spanish teacher at the school does not come from a Spanish-speaking country. For me, as a Spanish-speaker, that does not impress me a whole lot. I think I could do a better job teaching A. So could his abuela.

The Math teacher bites. [check out the older posts here]

A's lust for learning has been watered-down in almost every subject but Social Studies...he has a really good teacher in that class.

I would get to spend more time with A. A would get to go to the River Project again. And spend time with Catherine.

Cons of homeschooling full-time:

*I* have to do it.

hah hah hah


forecast: expect scattered posts this month

due to the arrival of that westerly wind called the NaNoWriMo...

In other news, A and I are discussing/debating the very real possibility of homeschooling full-time this year. I am making arrangements with "our people" from last year. I will have to make adjustments with my work schedule; I think it will be okay in the end.

Will keep everybody posted on that.


More NaNoWriMo...

OK - I have set up a blog where NaNoWriMo writers - that includes Calletta, Darby, Lisa, Lynne, Sarah (if you are doing NaNoWriMo?), Staci and anyone else who cares to join, can and get/give support from/to each other. Lurkers, if you are writing your novel, you can out yourselves, too. Post your email in the comments section of this post (or e-mail me at Maitresse@gmail.com if you are shy), and I will send you a team member invitation. The blog name is Fellowship of the NaNoWriMo.


don't think about the voting count!

Because Chris Baty has written this to you NaNoWriMo folks...

Dear Writers,

And so NaNoWriMo begins. Thirty-three thousand writers from two dozen countries.
The largest literary force ever unleashed upon the unsuspecting month of

Over the course of the next thirty days, we'll produce more prose than many
professional writers manage in an entire year. And we'll emerge from the month
with a not-horrible manuscript, heaps of novel-writing experience, and the power
to charm and impress attractive strangers in cafes with passing references to
our literary masterworks.

If your brain is anything like mine (distractible, easily confused, prone to
fits of procrastination), it's going to love the upcoming high-velocity workout.
And you'll be absolutely astonished by the things your imagination comes up with
when you put it on the spot. Bookish plots will appear. Complex settings will
materialize and expand. Listless characters will rise up, steering the story
towards twists and turns you never could have anticipated or planned.

It sounds too good to be true, I know. But I've seen it happen to thousands and
thousands of people. Because it turns out that writing a novel doesn't take a
great idea, or a miraculous gift for pacing or dialogue. It just takes
dedication. And a deadline big enough to injure a water buffalo.

As we face that whomping thirty-day deadline together this month, I hope you'll
keep two things in mind:

1) You are awesome. Whether you recognize it or not, you are a tremendously
powerful literary force. Currents of creativity run so deeply through the human
condition that the central problem of writing is not a shortage of inspiration
but an overwhelming surplus of it. Make writing a daily part of your life in
November, and your novel will take care of itself. No sweat.

2) We're all in this together. This month, let's take care of one another, and
go the extra mile to keep other Wrimos around us motivated and on track. Whether
you spread some friendly encouragement on the forums, in local groups, on in
one-on-one writing sessions with friends or family, be sure to reach out with
kindness whenever someone is struggling. And should kindness fail, reach out
with a sharp stick or other prodding device.

Whatever works, really, to make sure that all participants experience the
spirited highs of Week One, as well as the face-squishing lows of Week Two. To
ensure that everyone get the opportunity to gaze out on the pleasant, verdant
slopes of Week Three, and experience the champagne-drenched, finish-line mayhem
of Week Four.

We could walk alone to that finish line, sure. But the real joy of the journey
comes from tackling the challenge together. In spending time writing loudly,
sharing our weird plot developments, character epiphanies, and noveling
breakthroughs. And -- after one long and productive month -- raising our voices
in a mighty, combined roar as we celebrate on the far side of 50K.

So let's get writing! November is upon us, and the great adventure of NaNoWriMo
2004 is officially underway.


Yes, Maitresse is blogging the novel. I'll "out" the blog at some point, but not yet...

And yes, I voted yesterday. In case you are wondering, I live in a blue state.


Where are we headed?

I am not at the voting booth.

A is not at school, but at home studying from his Kingfisher History of the World.

Should I admit that I went totally cuckoo after the math teacher revealed she really had no idea if A did his work or not...and then send A back to school? Should we step into our old routine, full-time? A doesn't seem to care either way, except for his friendships at the school. "I prefer learning at home," he keeps repeating.

These are times that I wish I was married, and had manly voice to which I could hand over the phone to folks like the Christopher Walken lady math teacher, and say, "Here is my husband. Listen to his manly, deep voice. Now shake in your boots, missy."

Or at least, someone with whom I could discuss these decisions and then maybe later get a much-needed backrub.

picture is of A walking home.

Yes, I was very



Serenity Now (again)


Alexander is at home today from school after being brought home on the white horse called Central Taxi. It was an intervention action. I am fed up. And I told the school so, as well. Maybe I am overreacting.

What precipitated Maitresse's drastic action today?

[phone rings]

Maitresse: Hello?
Monotone lady with Christopher Walken voice on phone: Hi. This-the-math-teacher.
Maitresse: Yes?
MLWCWVOP: Your-son-has-not-done-his-schoolwork-when-he-was-out-sick-and-missed-a-couple-of-problems-on-the-test-today. I-am-not-surprised-that-he-missed-the-problems-because-he-did-not-do-his-work.
Maitresse: Excuse me. He *did* do his missed schoolwork. Did he not hand it in to you? You know, he had a test today, so maybe he GOT WRAPPED UP IN THE FACT THAT HE HAD TO TAKE A TEST and it slipped his mind to hand his work in to you. By the way, what was his score?
MLWCWVOP: I-don't-know.
Maitresse: I see. You don't know, yet you called me.

Then I said, "You know, I don't mind resuming teaching him at home if it's too much for you to ask him for his work, after he was sick for three days with flu, and he was so preoccupied during his test-taking today that he simply forgot. But I understand the pressures on YOU. I'll send a cab over right now and relieve you."

I know. I was rather...RICH. Or something that rhymes with it. But it's the third time this woman has called me since September, and the lowest grade A has earned is an 85%. I mean, good grief.

Before leaving, A handed in his school work to MLWCWVOP.

*photo taken next to our train station in Westchester.

Day One of NaNoWriMo: Compose first, worry later...

an excerpt from The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes:

Before he even reviewed notes for an article, Calvin Trillin wrote a predraft - what he called "vomit-out" - of anything that came to mind. Sometimes Trillin wouldn't even look at the vomit-out, and he was terrified by the thought that anyone else might see it. Trillin found this document so embarrassing that he tore it up as soon as possible. Its composition was less a search for usable material than simply a way to kick-start his literary engine.

Like Trillin, working writers typically give themselves a lot of latitude in generating a first draft. Frank O'Connor said he composed short stories by writing "any sort of rubbish" until an outline began to emerge. Using a similar tactic, Christopher Isherwood tried to trick a good topic into rising from his unconscious by irritating it, "deliberately writing nonsense until it intervenes, as it were, saying, 'All right, you idiot, let me fix this.'" Raymond Chandler took this tactic one step farther. To start a new novel, Chandler first babbled into a tape recorder, then had a secretary transcribe his babbling for him to use as a rough draft.

Gail Godwin suggested approaching a difficult piece of writing as if it were a letter, telling your "correspondent" what you intended to write that day. That's how Isabel Allende wrote novels: composing them as letters to her mother. Tom Wolfe used a similar tactic to do a spectacular end run on crippling writer's block early in his career. Wolfe had gone to Los Angeles to report for Esquire's managing editor. The next day his editor called Wolfe to say that they were going to publish his memo untouched. It ran as "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby." The manic voice that Wolfe discovered this way has since reappeared in his many epoch-defining articles and books. With the proceeds from these books, Wolfe developed a taste for hand-tailored suits. That had two distinct benefits. For one thing, the fittings such suits required provided a welcome respite from writing. At the time, Wolfe had to write in order to pay for the suits.


So...Maitresse's question to you is...is there anything you want that your writing check in the mail would cover nicely? Compose first. Worry later.


Oh bugger.

Next door neighbor thought it would be cute if she would 1) invite me over for a drink at her place while the kids trick-or-treat and 2) invite a man over to check me out for a potential date. Mr. Man was actually sent to my front door to walk over to friend's house. Then he says, "You far exceeded my expectations." Huh? Mr. Man is said to be - so far - head over heels. Maitresse, unfortunately, cannot say the same of Mr. Man. I would actually prefer to wretch right now.

Friends do not put friends up on impromptu dates or introductions (without fair warning). Good grief.

p.s. if anyone otherwise happens to know Ralph Fiennes well enough to make an introduction, drop me a line. After all, he was homeschooled for a bit. We could talk about homeschooling. Or something.

I am outing myself (again) as a NaNoWriMo entrant...

...so that my readers know I will make mention of this project now and again on this blog. NaNoWriMo starts at 12:01 a.m. today!

Kudos to Calletta and Staci for committing themselves to their involvement with NaNoWriMo...anybody else?

Today we are installing the new laser printer. Creating tests for A will be much easier now. : )

Tonight A is going to be Beowulf's Grendel...


All is quiet...

at BigLaw...and at 11:03 p.m., I am still here. I am seriously going to join the Cirque. The attorney I was working for [edit: this sentence was total potty] who did not go home all week finished his major deal. He treated his staff all week to free food, a la carte, which we ordered online from his laptop and was delivered to our office hot and savory-smelling within 30 minutes. Ah, Manhattan.

A has just rung me up to ask if he can delete the AOL software "entirely" from the computer. "Go ahead," I answered.

Bloody AOL and the pop-ups and trojans it brings. Still, we can't live without it. We plan to re-install sometime this weekend until the new equipment arrives. A has no idea he is getting new equipment. Happy Birthday, loveeeee.....

Tomorrow: Catherine, Latin test. More Geography. More details. I know, I am slipping with the edu-details. Perhaps I will compensate to my readers by providing this Aloo Gobi recipe:

Aloo Gobi a la "Bend it Like Beckham"


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into small pieces
Large bunch of fresh coriander, separated into stalks and leaves and roughly chopped
Small green chilies, chopped into small pieces (or one teaspoon chili powder)
1 large cauliflower, leaves removed and cut evenly into eighths
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even pieces
1 can of diced tomatoes
Fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Fresh garlic, chopped
1 Teaspoon Cumin seeds
2 Teaspoons Turmeric
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Garam Masala

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

Add the chopped onion and one tablespoon of cumin seeds to the oil.

Stir together and cook until onions become creamy, golden, and translucent.

Add chopped coriander stalks, two teaspoons of turmeric, and one teaspoon of salt.

Add chopped chillis (according to taste)

Stir tomatoes into onion mixture.

Add ginger and garlic; mix thoroughly.

Add potatoes and cauliflower to the sauce plus a few tablespoons of water (ensuring that the mixture doesn't stick to the saucepan).

Ensure that the potatoes and cauliflower are coated with the curry sauce.

Cover and allow to simmer for twenty minutes (or until potatoes are cooked).

Add two teaspoons of Garam Masala and stir.

Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top of the curry.

Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for as long as possible before serving.


deadlines, deadlines...

I guess the downside of not homeschooling is not really knowing what your child's deadlines at school really are, all the time. Exhibit A: Conversations with me and A this week, after several days of his absence from school, causing us to really really work hard with "catch-up"...

A: I need poster paper by Wednesday.
Me: OK. Do you have to have the poster together by then?
A: Yes.

Tuesday night at 10 pm-
A: I need my presentation costume tomorrow.
Me: WHAT??????????????????????
[Maitresse frantically calls up Miguel, the firm-provided driver and now Maitresse's friend.]
Miguel: You've got to be kidding me.
[Miguel attempts to drive up to his grandmother's in the Upper Upper West Side, but doesn't make it, because he was already running late, and has to pick me up from work]
Me: OK. Serenity now. I am actually going to ignore A's costume deadline. He told me too late. Even by Manhattan standards.

A: I need poster paper by tomorrow. You forgot it.
Me: Oh, man.

A: I need a Halloween costume by tomorrow, Friday. There's a contest at school.
Me: Erm...Yeah, actually got that. Look in the bag downstairs. We'll hand-make the rest of it at home before tomorrow.
A: What about the poster paper?
Me: Oh, man.

When I create deadlines at home, I permit fluidity. If A is working diligently on a project and requires more time, and it is not an "excuse" sort of extension, I allow the extension. But deadlines are a skill that must be learned. Eventually, once A is in college/university, he will actively need the skill of "meeting the deadline."

How do you treat deadlines?

It turns out poster isn't really due until Wednesday of next week. Why the teacher needs the poster paper this week is beyond me. She has said that she wants it completed at home. Anyway, rushing to get poster paper...


Maitresse you are nuts (no I'm not). Yes you are. No, you are just jealous.

What is getting me all Smeagoled? I am doing this. I am committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month.

Who is with me?

(Get the kids and their Writing Strands skills involved!!!!!! Go here. )


This is what I am doing right now:

This is what I'd rather be doing right now:


and on the third day...

A has not been feeling well. Three days in a row with malaise and some fever (on his birthday, he came home early from school on a white horse called "Central Taxi"). Today I received a call from his Science teacher; it is official school policy that parents are allowed to request homework on the third day of a student's illness.

So I, Maitresse, have done some deciphering. I read: parents are required to kiss up to teachers but DEMAND homework on the third day of a student's illness lest said parent appear to be less competitive/valuable/upstanding than the rest of the competitive/valuable/upstanding families in your village.

Yes, village.

The friendly lady Science teacher informed me that she had collected the homework assignments from the other teachers for me and put them into a tidy packet, as well. Well, that was mighty generous. In the packet were included some websites where A could look up his homework assignments online and catch up.

Whatever happened to *resting* when one is sick? Good grief.

Catherine phoned. It's been a long hiatus. She was working a film festival for nearly a month. Catherine has a billion artistic jobs around the City that keep her busy during some inconvenient times; I do not complain. Once she has A under her supervision, she is spontaneous and generous in too many ways that I can mention.

And like me, Catherine is broke most of the time. So I think some womanly supportive quid pro quo is in order.

Why do I have Liv Tyler here? I don't know. Maybe a longing for what I might have been. My parents named me after Ingmar Bergman's other wife.


Overheard on the westside subway train...

Mother to young boy: Give me the flowers. Now. Give them to me!
[Boy is three feet away, and blocked by a person. He tosses the flower bundle to his mom.]
Mother to young boy: Now. You WILL NOT get to play your Playstation 2 for 3 HOURS because you threw them disrespectfully to me!
Boy: Let me try again! Let me try again. Please.
[Subway passengers smile, some emit "awww" sounds.]
Mother to young boy: No. No Playstation for you. For 3 hours.
[Boy covers his face and sobs.
Mother reads paper.]

If my aim were to teach the boy good manners, I would have allowed the second chance (but perhaps would have reduced the Playstation time, instead of eliminate it altogether).


In brief...

We are learning the map of the U.S. for the National Geographic Bee. We have been learning the "sides" first (the West Side: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California), the four corner states, now the East side states. We are learning one chunk of states per week.

I am taking absolutely forever in filling out A's CNED form. What is holding me up? The sections entitled "Renseignements pédagogiques" and "Renseignements complémentaires." Ech.

This Land is an American-made 'net animation. I rate it "PG" due to its alternative word for "behind." Edit: There's more offensive stuff in it (a quasi-South Park style animation. Definitely for adults only). It's one of the most even-handed funnies I've seen in a while.


Don't tell anyone (at least not here in New York)...

A and I were rooting for the underdogs!


: D

I couldn't help it. It's Fall. Fall is cool. And Halloween is coming.

Today is A's birthday. When I presented him with not one, but two gifts, he looked surprised and said, "I didn't expect two." He was happy. But his gracious expression on receiving the extra gift (and trust me, it was not too lavish), honestly, was the most endearing part of the day.

I guess it's a reciprocal gift. When A presented himself to me and the world for the first time, he arrived very clean, not bloody at all, but full of his baby "cream" which the midwife suggested I should massage into his skin. ¡Ese niňo nació muy limpio! Yes, he did. Clean. Uncomplicated.

After the birth, I vomited.

Care to share a little endearing detail - of your child(ren)'s birth(s)?


from NY Times Magazine..

Without a Doubt, an article on George W. Bush. If you do not already subscribe to the Times online, you may need to register - but it's free.

Oh, and BY THE WAY, feel free to comment.

The article makes me think of a certain Hans Christian Andersen story...


The case for Fantine

To love another person is to see the face of God. —from Les Miserables

I found some information on post-Revolutionary France in the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia on page 346.

Historical questions: How was King Louis-Philippe installed? Who were the Bourbon kings? How would a prince-president different from king? How would the republic be different?

We are jumping ahead in Kingfisher to ask these questions (by over 250 pages).

More questions: Would we love/accept a Fantine today? Would we accept a Jean Valjean today? What if we found out our local mayor - a good, and even a highly moral man - had been an escaped convict? What if his crime was stealing bread when he was hungry? What if his crime was stealing bread and he was sentenced to 20 years? What if during those 20 years terrible things happened, and he killed a man? Would we accept him as our mayor? Is there a line that we draw with who we allow to represent us?

What do we think of today's Judge Mathis, who had a rap sheet as a juvenile? Do we accept his role as a modern day judge of the court? Are there other public officials who had criminal blemishes that we choose to represent us anyway? (hint, hint, there is a big one).

Anyway, I loved the Liam Neeson movie. I also loved Neeson in Michael Collins.


and then later, after movie-watching and laser tag...

A: Mom, it was so chaotic. Most of the kids had no manners and they kept bugging me. Some threw food at me while I was watching the movie. Annoying. And the mom didn't even say anything.

Me: But did you have fun?

A: Oh, well, yeah.

And now, he sleeps...

Eye on the prize...

Interesting. A few hours ago, I dropped off A at a friend's house for a birthday party in Westchester. Prior to purchasing a gift for the birthday boy, A called up his friend and inquired about what his friend would like. The mother did not know. He likes movies. He likes music. A persisted, "But what, specifically, do you think he would like? What are his tastes?" The mother did not know. At the house, I figured out why she was not sure. The friend and his family live in a multi-million dollar home. Too many rooms, too much househelp, and to top it off, she appeared a bit ditzy. Oh well. Maybe the mom spends her spare time at the spa, which is why she can't devote too much time to her son's interests.

Learning with our children is not necessarily an academic endeavor...listening to music, jumping in the car to visit a town, a city, or a museum, discussing current events...these things help us learn about our children, and each other.

Anyway, I'm back at home, and my digs are much more modest than where A is hanging out right now. My eye is on the prize, however: A's bookshelves are full. The knowledge imparted to A, and his knowledge of himself, is more important to me than posh digs.

Thanks to L's inspiration at MySchola, we put "Les Miserables" featuring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, and Uma Thurman at the top of our Netflix list, and watched it last night. A had lots of questions for me about life in France post-1789. So, we have a bit of follow-up learning to do on that one. Also on our movie list is the French film "Camille Claudel." If I recall correctly, Camille's brother runs up to her and blurts out, "Victor Hugo est mort!" and French countrymen dress in black in mourning Victor Hugo's death.

Tried to find out Christopher Reeve's memorial service information in Pound Ridge (about 20 min. from us); turns out it was for his family and friends. We're hoping to attend the public service for Reeve, the announcement scheduled next week.

I am preparing some information about paralysis, stem cell research and the issues surrounding stem cell research for A.

OK - and since I, La Mai, need to keep up my "not quite conformist" image, anyone care to comment on this bag? Color okay? More to choose from here. A bit of an investment for a piece of truck tarp. But I like it.


On croquet balls and flamingos...

Last night I had a fever. Alexander was studying cell biology for a test, and unfortunately, my fever worsened. I began babbling. Endoplasmic reticulum? Oh yes, A, just think of Hampton Court. And the ribosomes are croquet balls. And I don't know what we can call the flamingos...maybe... Um, no, mom, I'll think of a maze for the endoplasmic reticulum. But it's so much like Hampton Court! A looked at me with his trademark hah hah hah mom you are tripping expression. But A, the diplomat, instead said,

Mom, you need to stop thinking so much. Just rest. Let me bring you some Tylenol.

note to self: He's going to make a good husband one day.

And now, a day and lots of rest later, I believe I really fell down a rabbit hole with the cell biology.


Ramadan begins tonight...

Some information on the holiday from this site.

"During Ramadan, consider giving your Zakat online for the much needed project in North America to promote Islamic Information and making a lasting contribution towards da'wa, an invitation to discover peace."

Peace. I like that word.

On my mind are my friends, the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus, and Omar Faruk Tekbilek; some very talented musicians and performers with whom I've had the very special privilege to get to know in Miami.

Ramadan Mubarak...

Questions, questions...

Maitresse to A's Social Studies teacher: Does your school participate in the National Geographic Bee?
Mr. Teacher: Yes. We do every year. It's a very exciting time for the kids.
Maitresse: OK, great! And...erm...may Alexander turn in his typed assignment one day late, since we have had 2 trojan horses (not the kind Homer would have thought of, mind) and a virus attack our computer?
Mr. Teacher: Sure, no problem. And by the way, your kid is a great student. We talk a bit about A's homeschooling, and THEN HE SAYS, Kudos to you, Maitresse!

Wow. I mean, huh?

A public school teacher stroking my homeschooling ego? Never happened before. I mean, never.


ItineraryMarletteandGuisseppe got me thinking about this book. The Socratic method in law school is not quite like the classical Socratic method. Wouldn't it be great if we spent some time really exploring the issues that bug us or perplex us in honest Socratic fashion?

Even the platforms of the Presidential candidates would appear clearer (and if you are undecided at this point between the two very different candidates who have two drastically different agenda, and felt that you required more debate-viewing on Wednesday evening to decide, sorry voter you are).

A has been asking about the Geneva Convention accords. We have looked at Articles 2 and 3.

Questions we have contemplated: What is a High Contracting Party (country) to the GC accords? If you are not from a Contracting Party of the GC accords, should you be treated as said in the GC accords? What if you come from a country which signed the accords, but your country, as a nation, has not declared involvement in your conflict?

[some of the answers are in the GC accords]

Are the accords meant to be applied universally? Was that the motive of the Geneva Convention in creating them?

Are the accords, as they are written, like the "Golden Rule"? Or not?

Yes, we have been talking about terrorism, and the prison situation in Iraq. Deep stuff and our conversations have kept us up until the wee hours.

Spotted a couple of these on some hip-looking Manhattanites. They are Swiss and made out of Truck tarp. Eco-friendly, brightly-colored, and hip. Should I get one? Hmmmm...


This is a call...

To visit Darby's blog, because aside from the artist, Darby gets credit for this wonderful pic.

Other bloggers: please know that I am fully aware that you visit my site, that you post links to my site, and I am truly, truly grateful that you mention this blog. The reason I haven't created a proper links setup for the blogs that I frequent, is that the last time I tried to insert my blog links into my new template, I wiped out my blog (See, Sarah? I really don't have a brain). So Sarah at Poppins, you rock. L at MySchola, you rock. Concierge Services at ItineraryMarletteandGuisseppe, you guys rock. Mental M-Mv, you rock. Modern Mother, you rock. Donna at Rustling Leaves, you rock. Mthelikon, you rock. Writingandliving, you rock. Oro et Laboro, you rock. Lisa (what is your blog address?), you rock. Orion, you rock!.

And...I hope you have noticed, that in no order of importance, you all rock. Including the ones I was too daft to mention here. You rock. Because you found my blog, and we found each other, and we are all just great like that.

I think I am going get my hanky now...

p.s. - I am blogging from a computer that is not my own. Forgive the erratic posts for the time being.



today was a sunny day when I got on the train...

to Grand Central Station.

As the train approached the platform, the cover of today's New York Post appeared plastered to the inside front window of the train. It seems the conductor had been reading the paper, then left the front page headline, just so, for all to see. Thus, Maitresse got on a train called "Massacre." I later fell asleep on the Massacre train that took me to the City.

Will post something substantive once I've had some java in my system...

computer issues.

My computer has been crashing. Will post again when all is fixed.


Man, this is a big pic

Whenever I step out of BigLaw, I see one of these, usually being pedaled by a bunch of laughing, happy tourists, headed up or down Broadway, onto a side street where Chicago or the Producers is showing, and back again to its starting spot on Broadway. And sometimes driven by a big black man dressed in a Wonder Woman costume.

It is getting cold in New York. Today I saw calf-length boots everywhere, for the first time this season.

A's birthday is coming up. It will be a small affair.

Got to plan the Writing Strands and Singapore Math properly this week. Our afterschool schedule, now that we are easing into institutional school life, has been erratic.

I am not worried. Our full-time homeschool schedule had been erratic initially, as well. It takes time getting the right rhythm on those mommy-teacher pedals.

Got up this morning...

...at 7:33 a.m., 18 minutes before A was supposed to head out the door for school.

Emergency wake-up plan consisted of: Quick bathroom run. Muesli, milk. Yogurt. Orange juice. Bookbag. Did you pack your homework in it? Kisses! [door shuts]

This is where Maitresse thinks, Gee, if we were homeschooling full-time, the wake-up time wouldn't be an issue. This is like...using formula instead of breastmilk. Or something. [Maitresse breastfed A for three whole years, mind you]

Our Lady of IKEA did it again. A's room is finally pulling together. Cords and cables nicely gathered in an IKEA-designed plastic cord bunchy. IKEA TV and DVD wall stand, installed. Glamorös mobile, installed. 4 different kinds of lighting, installed. Birch wood shoe rack, check. Silver blinds on window, installed. Inexpensive and stylish chair, bed and table, on the way. Giant Robot (from comics store, not IKEA): in place. Next: frame comic books in home-made frames and place on walls. Manga room, here we come.

Did I mention that I got a few 25-cent mugs from IKEA, too?

Is anyone planning to register their child for the National Geographic Bee? Send me a comment if you are.


Beowulf: A reading.

A very, very late night reading...

"He told what he'd heard repeated in songs about Sigemund's exploits,
all of those many feats and marvels,
the struggles and wanderings of Waels's son,
things unknown to anyone except to Fitela, feuds and foul doings..."

Who is Fitela? Who? Who? Who? Why don't we know about Fitela? It's like Marmite and Vegemite, mom. Only it is like Nutella. Or Nutella for Vikings. Yeah, Viking Nutella. Hah, hah. With a sword coming out of the Nutella/Fitela like the Lady of the Lake...

"...that his sword plunged
right through those radiant scales
and drove into the wall. The dragon died of it.
His daring had given him total possession
of the treasure hoard, his to dispose of
however he liked. He loaded a boat:
Wael's son weighted her hold
with dazzling spoils. The hot dragon melted

Wael sounds Jewish. Or Arabic. Oh, and what about the leaf and lemon? It's a lulav and etrog. OK. But it's a leaf and a lemon. What's up with the leaf and lemon? We use those things for Sukkot. A leaf and lemon? Lulav and etrog, A.

"Meanwhile, the Danes kept racing their mounts
down sandy lanes. The light of day
broke and kept brightening. Bands of retainers
galloped in excitement to the gabled hall

[M does clop, clop, clop on the floor] We definitely need the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" coconuts to make the correct sound.

"Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke:"

Ec-theee-ow, the ek-zen-o who came from a toast family... [A narrates Beowulf as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"]

[Maitresse attempts to sound like Russell Crowe, for the sheer manliness of this passage]:

"We have gone through with a glorious endeavour
and been much favoured in this fight we dared
against the unknown. Nevertheless,
if you could have seen the monster himself
where he lay beaten, I would have been better pleased.
My plan was to POUNCE, PIN HIM DOWN


What's so funny?

You sound like Steve Irwin!


And then we ate chocolate...

Tonight, A and I opened a National Geographic political wall map (that had been folded, not on the wall) and played, "where is it?" and after we figured out the where, we asked, "what about it?" for about an hour. Coupled with his studies using the Kingfisher History of the World, I believe that he knows much, much more world geography than I did at age 11.

And that's as it should be.

Earlier today, A headed over to our Swedish neighbors' house and helped out his classmate there with homework. I think that A is secretly attempting to learn yet another language. I ask you, dear reader, to not tell anyone.

Also today, A asked me about the Magnetic North Pole. Is there a magnetic pole placed there? I tried to remember the stuff that my Geography, Physics and Biology professors taught me. Nothing in the grey matter to pull out a decent answer. Fortunately, I found this.

Our film and music appreciation for this week was comprised of viewing "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "This is Spinal Tap." Note: A has been exposed to a variety of somewhat more mature films, stimuli, and environments, with my supervision or guidance. I do a lot of prep before we sit down and watch a given movie. A watched the Monty Python flick three times.

We ate Swiss chocolate tonight - one of two remaining bars, out of the original 30 I brought home.

"Your amphora handles look like hydria handles." Yeah, ok. But the chocolate tastes so good.


Gimme. Shelter.

Yesterday I volunteered for photo day at A's day school. Can you say the most obnoxious, vain, inconsiderate, smartas&h middle-schoolers ever?

And it's supposed to be the best school district in NY. Ech.

I had envisioned assisting students who would be quietly waiting for their photo-taking opportunity, if anything, discussing the latest social happenings or their academic angst. No. There are clear definitions between the nerds, soshes, punks and dorks. The foreign kids who cluster don't seem to fit in anywhere. Combs thrown around. "Samantha, could you stand next to me, right here, so that nerd won't come near me?" She sticks her nose in the air. A small group of Japanese girls quietly chatter amongst themselves. Girl who just asked Samantha for the nerd protectiion flips her hair down by bending over, butt in air, as she primps that way, in really really tight jeans. She is wearing lip gloss and Lacoste shoes. "Yeah, she's hot." Boys engage in arm wrestling. "Wizeman?" I call out. "Yeah, I'm here. So?" When students learn they have to go to 5th Period after their photo-taking, they suddenly appear lost. "Um...5th Period? Ahh....but maybe I should just check on the class before that....my teacher in that class said she needed me to do something" and then they are gone. To waste as many minutes as possible because they can, because just came back from photo-taking, and who will notice, anyway?

Student status is expressed by the labels on their clothes. Like: Stanford. Nike. Yale. East Hampton. Cornell. (Canadian) Roots.

The pretentiousness really bugged me. The school is not in the City, and the kids with pink and blue hair are not doing pink and blue hair to necessarily express themselves or look chic. The pink and blue hair kids in A's school have issues. They are clearly Different. I sensed more "demarcation" from them.

Even the Canadian flag Roots girl looked annoyed.

This. is. socialization.

Maitresse action plan: Reassessment of the current school situation.

After a mini-interview asking (begging) A if he'd consider homeschooling full-time again, we agreed we're already "in it" in this and will stick it out a bit longer.
While everything feels so foreign right now, our classical home afterschooling is still functioning.

There's more. Someone plunged from the 48th floor carpeted stairwell to his death at BigLaw this week. As soon as the carpet was cleaned up a few short hours later, it was business as usual. How is Maitresse feeling? Odd. Out of sorts.

Gimme. Shelter.

AND.... I have been missing the familiar in other ways. Like Miami. "You from Miami, Maitresse? What the heck you doin' here?" If anything, I do want to get out of this "place" - geographically, if necessary. I am considering that Oxford acceptance more seriously. Otherwise, I expect a call from Morpheus via a conveniently-delivered FedEx package, telling me to just stand out on the ledge, that Trinity will be waiting on her bike downstairs, and it'll be all over.


Registration deadline extended

National Geographic has extended its deadline for the National Geographic Bee to December 10, 2004.

In the 2002 Global National Geographic Literacy Survey, in which respondants aged 18-24 years old from Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and the U.S. were surveyed about world geography, the United States placed second lowest next to Mexico.

Our low placement as a nation on the Survey is NOT unusual, but we CAN change our students' statistics for future surveys.


I am watching the post-debate commentary on MSNBC...anyone care to share his/her thoughts on the speakers? Open forum.

(dare I say that I am too proud of my alma mater's involvement in tonight's debate!)


Music Appreciation (no soda, but maybe lederhosen)

Again on the message boards...
Q: "Uh, dude, do Latin Americans just drink a lot of soda? Because, yo, I see a lot of soda in the Latin American stores."
A: "Well, dude, Mexicans DO drink a lot of soda..."

[Sorry folks, if I am getting blitzed with over 100 emails a day with this stuff, you are fair game for my blog]

I'd like to spin that and instead talk about Latin American music.

One of the things I like to do with A when listening to music is ask, "Where do you think this came from?" So, some ethnomusicology...

Cafe Tacuba is an "alternative" music band from Mexico. A friend invited me to a live show of Cafe Tacuba's, and one piece that stood out in particular was a cover they did of the traditional (non-Mexican) folk song "Ojala Que Llueva Cafe" complete with traditional Mexican fiddler. Everyone in the audience went nuts. I had listened to mariachi music before, but during this non-mariachi tune I thought, these guys are really yodeling. A seems to like this song a lot, as well.

Links about the German influence in Mexican music:

From this site


From PBS (click on German Texans on the right).

On another occasion, I was at an Upper West Side book signing, and a strangely familiar yet exotic music could be heard. I could almost place my finger on it, but could not quite. What was it? It's Cuban, declared the host at the UWS signing. Now, Maitresse knows Cuban when she hears it. Cuban it was NOT. The host showed me the cover of the CD. Ah, Senegalese. They're a band from Senegal. Influenced by Cuban son, these guys have created a sound all their own. Popular in Europe, I chose the CD with the word "Pirate" in it because it was the coolest.


And now for something completely different...


Recently, there have been discussions on the Well-Trained Mind message boards about the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections. I'd like to add my two cents.

To get started, you might use these links:

From Scholastic.

The Democracy Project.

Also from PBS...

And from C-Span.

Before this Thursday's debate, we (A and I) will be learning about the elements of debate. Here's a link for Debate Central. Their information can be modified for school-aged kids.

I know this is really hard, but try not to interfere with your child's thought processes (no deliberate prodding, no negating) while he/she explores the answers to questions about the Presidential debate and elections.

What issues are important to your child? Why? Are there pros and cons to the views that each candidate espouses? Why? What about how they convey their views? What sort of speech is acceptable?

My favorite: What is a flip-flop? Has only one candidate "flip-flopped" or do you find elements of changing a view/changing goalposts in both candidates?

I find it useful to refer to newspapers and other periodicals to follow what the candidates are saying.

I recently showed this clipping to A, from the September 25, 2004 NY Times:

In Their Own Words

President Bush

Remarks yesterday in Janesville, Wis.

"I met with the prime minister of Iraq yesterday. He's willing to do the hard work, too. He came to our country - he came to our country to thank the American people. He came to our country to thank the moms and dads and husbands and wives of those who have sacrificed for his freedom and America's security. That's what he came to do. He gave a strong speech. He's a strong man. The fellow - he woke up one night in London, England - he'd been in exile. And there was two people by his bed with axes sent by Saddam Hussein - seriously - to chop him up. And he survived. And now he's the prime minister of that country. He is going to lead this country. No matter how hard it gets, he will lead this country to a better day. He believes in the people of Iraq.

He spoke to the Congress. He gave a great speech to the Congress. He talked about his strategy of defeating the insurgents, of holding the elections in January. This country is going to have elections in January. Afghanistan is going to have them in October, and they'll be held in January.

And my opponent chose to criticize the prime minister of Iraq. This great man came to our country to talk about how he's risking his life for a free Iraq, which helps America, and Senator Kerry held a press conference and questioned Prime Minister Allawi's credibility.

You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility."


Senator John Kerry

Remarks yesterday at Temple University in Philadelphia:

"Let me be as blunt and direct with the American people as I can be. Let me tell you the truth, which is what America deserves.

The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, Al Qaeda, which killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. And there's just no question about it; the president's misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win.

Iraq is now what it was not before the war: a haven for terrorists. George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority. I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority.

As president, I pledge to you, America, I will finish the job in Iraq. And I will refocus our energies on the real war on terror. I will wage this war relentlessly, with a single-minded determination to capture or kill the terrorists, crush their movements and free the world from fear.

But to destroy our enemy, we have to know our enemy. We have to understand - we have to understand that we are facing a radical fundamentalist movement with global reach and a very specific plan.

They are not just out to kill us for the sake of killing us, they want to provoke a conflict that will radicalize the people of the Muslim world, turning them against the United States and the West. And they hope to transform that anger into a force that will topple the region's governments and pave the way for a new empire, and oppressive, fundamentalist superstate stretching across a vast area from Europe to Africa, from the Middle East to Central Asia. That's their goal.

And the American people have the right to hear the answer to a fundamental question: How are we going to win this war?"

*Me and a special friend in Switzerland, about to launch one of many balloons bearing a gift card for the wedding couple. The bride later reported cards returned from neighboring countries. Our votes, like balloons, can wind up in territories we least suspect. Launch carefully.

For coffee lovers who also love the Greek Classics...

How could you resist these? From Illy:

"Each signed and numbered cup by Greek-born artist Jannis Kounellis bears the name of a heroine from classical Greek tragedy—Electra, Antigone, Phaedra and Persephone—juxtaposed with modern symbolic images of dolls and inkblots. Beautifully gift boxed, each set includes four signed and numbered espresso cups and saucers, an 8.8 oz. can of illy and a Kounellis Collection brochure."

Registration deadline approaching

Anyone out there feel like registering your child for this year's Grades 4-8 National Geographic Bee? Deadline is October 15, 2004. Details here. Open to institutional school and home school students.


Houston, we have a problem...

We can't find the Big Dipper in our backyard. Nor the Herdsman. Nor anything else. We have too many trees.

Ech. Next, plan B.


Hey kids, let's learn about hurricanes

You can click on


to start...

And again to my bloggy readers, friends & family in Florida: Hang tight.


The Quito Table.

If I were a rich man?

After finishing Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt a couple of weeks ago, I felt a huge sense of urgency to be a better parent, and still felt relief that I can feed not only toast and tea (in a real teacup) to A in the mornings, but an egg, pancakes, sausages, and most anything else that I can afford...right now, it's a bit more than the author of AA enjoyed from his parents as a child.

As a child of immigrants, things for me were not so easy growing up, either. My father owned his own business and was better off than my mother's family. When my mother divorced my dad, suddenly, we had far less than I was accustomed to. We moved in to an old white wooden tropical house in Florida, with cockroaches and possums as additional boarders, and I remember the house glassware being comprised primarily of McDonald's $.99 specials glasses that I could get with my weekend Happy Meal.

Even when the miracle of miracles happened, I got to go to school abroad for a couple of years, what I brought back was mostly in my head, not in the trunk that came on the trans-Atlantic ship 2 weeks afterwards.

That formula made me person and parent that I am.

Dr. Phil is on a book tour right now, and seems to be counseling a lot of families who give an awful lot of things to their kids. Those parents once were poor(ish) and perhaps to compensate, are creating a new generation of kids who feel entitled to owning things. Things like Kate Spade handbags, a brand new sportscar at age 16, etc. etc. Mommy! Mommy! You don't love me! [mommy immediately purchases whatever Thing she feels necessary to prove her love]. What are those parents doing about their kids' educations? How are those kids going to make a go of their lives, if necessary, without the help of their parents?

Paris Hilton was on Oprah explaining how her stint at McDonald's left her surprised that "They like, only make $40 a day...like, how can they have dinner with that money?" Ah, yes, Paris...

Material wealth does not necessarily lead to cerebral riches.

Poverty is particularly useful for keeping things in perspective. Something is stolen out of your car trunk while you were gone? At least it wasn't your health that was taken. Don't have pancakes for breakfast? At least you have toast, tea, and shoes to wear. Donnatella Versace calls on the phone? [yes, happened to me] Don't worry. She was once poor, too. [heh, heh, we even talked about how poor she once was] Kid didn't make it to Harvard? Thank goodness that he has a head on his shoulders, he can make a living, be a good parent, and do good things for his community.

Thank G-d for the value of poverty. I doubt we would see Tevye dancing as much once he had his riches.


What we're studying (for pleasure)

What A is reading: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling (hey, it's a big book!).

What I am reading: 'Tis by Frank McCourt.

I'd like to provide a small plug for the Strand bookstore, and Alabaster Books, which sells really really good books outside its shop window for $2, but does not have a website. Alabaster Books is located at 122 Fourth Avenue, New York, NY 10003 212.982.3550.


Latin (and French and Spanish)

Latin test this week for A (a test from our Latin Primer we have not done). A took his "homeschool" work to a friend's house yesterday while they both worked on their "school" work. Can you say, "proud"?!

French - we're now on year 7 - is going well, although with a one-year absence from French studies (after we moved from Miami and from A's French school there) he had to re-learn conjugations of the verbs "être" and "avoir."

We have not started the CNED studies yet.

Spanish...ah yes. The reluctant language for both myself and A. My mother's family speaks it and I didn't actually "try it on" until I was 16. In England. Go figure. This weekend in Weggis, Switzerland, I was seated at the "Quito" (as in Ecuador, where the bride grew up) wedding reception table. Maitresse had to strike up conversation in Spanish with Ecuadorians, Spaniards, and Swiss Spanish speakers to talk about, oh, renting a boat in the Amazon and how great Brazilians are, that non-numerical native tribe from Darby's article (yoo-hoo, Darby! your article made it to dinner conversation in Switzerland), future trips to Machu Picchu, and the Swiss road system. I finally escaped to sit with the comic Australians, but at least, I did not feel stupid. I was able to shoot the potty in Spanish at the Quito table.

So I've learned from my mistakes and A is taking Spanish now. His pronounciation is pretty good and claims his tests at school so far have been a bit too easy.

Tonight, it's constellations - learning that map that lies in the sky. Using pages six through eight in H.A. Rey's Find the Constellations, we will become expert in finding The Big Dipper. The Great Bear. The Herdsman. And the Lion.


Trip too short (where did the Alps go?)

Random ramblings...

My lady's razor remained in my purse while I went through security at JFK. No one pointed it out or confiscated it.

At Zurich airport, I was told to put Alexander's new engraved Swiss Army knife in my check-in luggage. My lady's razor remained in my purse while I went through security in Zurich. No one pointed it out or confiscated it.

The most recent issue of Der Spiegel had Hitler on the cover.

The wedding bus was the most fun, and the most ridiculous-looking piece of wooden machinery ever. Sunflowers attached in the front, the gawks and smiles we got from street bystanders alone were worth the trip.

Swiss buildings and houses are largely architecturally dull (plain-jane). Who cares? The scenery is spectacular.

Children walk/bike home from school. On the regular roads. Sometimes alone. No one seems to worry much about safety.

Starbucks. McDonald's. Claire's. Western Union. Morgan Stanley. Some joint called New York Pizza.

Gary Jules' cover of "Mad World" by Tears for Fears on the radio is actually one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard.

Cows are able to graze on hills that are almost completely vertical.

The graffiti that adorns Swiss buildings and railways actually looks artistic.

Those men who blow Alpenhorn really exist.

A salsa band at Pax Montana? And it was actually a good one? OK. Maybe I could even live there.

Hispanic and Asian food in Lucerne? And it was actually pretty good? OK. Maybe I could really live there.

Mojitos and capirinhas? OK. I am so there.

Man cannot live on spaetzle alone.


Cinema Club

Cinema Club is something I started last year when I decided to homeschool A. Cinema Club is whatever you want it to be; while we watch a good number of films, not all films are of the caliber that can make it to our Club. I watch the film first, then develop questions for free-response answers (I find multiple choice does not afford full value of the assignment). I allow anywhere from 1/3 page space to an full page for answers.

Our first film was "Dead Poets Society" - a somewhat grown-up film, but as we ourselves have had a suicide in the family, I felt the plot might be still "young enough" for A to explore that very personal issue, in a safe and structured way. So here is an example of what Cinema Club is for us...
"Dead Poets Society" - Cinema Club assignment #1

1. You know what "carpe diem" means in the dictionary. What do you think it meant to Mr. Keating?

2. How did the poetry book used for Dead Poets Society meetings get into Neil's room? Who do you think put it there? Why do you think it was put there?

3. After watching the entire film, who are the students that you think figured out what "carpe diem" meant? What did they do?

4. Which student do you think you are like most in the film? Why?

5. Neil makes a drastic decision in the movie. a) Why did he choose suicide? Explain fully and thoughtfully, keeping in mind his character, the characters of his family in the film, and what he learned under Mr. Keating's teachings. b) Was suicide his only answer? If you had a chance to be Neil, explain what you would have done differently.

6. I am from Planet Deadpoetsurnia. I have just walked into the Wellton classroom at the end of the film, and Todd is standing on his desk. So are a lot of other students in that English classroom. I don't understand what is going on!! Is Todd actually trying to say something by standing on his desk? Can you tell me what it is?

7. Fun question: What is a Pirate of the Carpe Diem? [note: A has a blog of a similar name]

8. Mr. Keating talks about going to the beach and getting copies of Byron kicked in his face. Take a look at the Mr. Atlas cartoon (attached) and see if you understand Mr. Keating's joke. The Mr. Atlas cartoon was very popular in the 1950s!!!

Back from Luzern (Lucerne)

Sorry I gave no warning; I took off to Switzerland to attend a friend's wedding. I roomed with the groom's family, a lively group of jokemeisters freshly flown in from Australia. An excerpt of a conversation on the wedding bus from Pax Montana to Weggis:

Aussie child on bus: "Dad, do you know what an 'Ausfahrt' is?"
Aussie dad: "It's those exit ramp signs on the road."
Aussie child: "No, dad, they're the farts that we Aussies make. Oz. Faaaaaht. Because all Aussies fart."
Aussie aunt on bus: "Don't tell the Swiss, dear."


NY happenings

Slava and his Snowshow have arrived in town. It's been getting rave critical reviews. I plan to see it with A, and we don't really like clowns!

Bill and Liz, the Talk to Me folks, are having another annual get-together in Bryant Park. They are friendly and well-mannered (I am not sure what their goal is other than to develop friendly conversations with total strangers). Alexander talked to Bill and Liz about his studies last year. Talk to Me Party: Bryant Park, October 2nd, 1 pm. Last year 700 people attended. Bring a blanket, picnic setup (or money and you can food-shop at the kiosks nearby).

De La Guarda closes 9/22. This show is suitable to attend with your teenaged kids, or kids who don't mind standing up while watching/having a bit of fun, as you have to stand up during the entire show. This review explains what is in store for you if you go.


This week in NY Times Magazine

This article was difficult for me to read (you may have to register to read it, but registration is free). I am wondering if it was for anyone else?

I get the sense the parents so desperately want their child to have the same kind of childhood that they had, just because. I couldn't help thinking that somwhere lies a guilt-driven motivation, perhaps, grounded in their child's (maybe avoidable) complication at birth, to "make up" for the CP in a big way. I may be wrong. I hope I am.



During A's lesson today, I bumped into my friend, Guitar Guy, and his girlfriend (who is a sweetie) at Whole Foods supermarket (also known as Incredibly Prohibitively Expensive Organic Food Store Which is Why You Only See Rich Botoxed Women and Their Nannies Shopping There). We were across the street from Central Park. Guitar guy's girlfriend recommended that me and A go to an audio-assisted public art installation ...where else, in the Park! The exhibit was free to the public but booked beyond belief. We decided to head to Strawberry Fields. I gave A a Central Park map, and allowed him to take me down...

Believe it or not, I had forgotten what day it was today.

The Imagine mosaic was surrounded by a larger-than-usual crowd of people and their pets. We sat down on a bench. The mosaic itself covered in roses. The roses were configured around the mosaic to form a peace sign. A bespectacled guitar player continually churned out Beatles/Lennon tunes.

Me: "Wow. He seems to know every single Beatles song from memory."
A: "I think he has a tiny Beatles anthology on sheet music somewhere in his glasses."
Me: "OK. How does he turn the pages?"
A: "They turn automatically in his glasses once he's done with a song."


A not-so-ugly American

is maybe...

- someone who does not seek revenge as a matter of course but is not afraid to instead use practical conflict resolution;

- someone who understands that, perhaps, the date on which fell a sunny clear blue sky - but equally fell the most terrible tragedy possible - might also be a date of another type of possibility: for the opportunity to create a safe space for others and for good in oneself;

- someone who attempts to speak the foreign language of the foreign country he is visiting; if that is too hard, offers a kind, "I am sorry, but I speak English. Could you assist me?";

- someone who attempts to understand the different types of Americans that exist in America (poor, rich, white, black, Native-American, modern-day immigrant, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Cantonese-speaking, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, I am excluding a lot of religious folks and faiths here but you get the idea, bullish, bearish, conservative, progressive, etc.) without the expectation that the other types should be a mirror image of himself;

- someone who reads a newspaper as often as he can, once a week being the absolute minimum;

- someone who reads a fiction or non-fiction book every month or two;

- someone who attempts to formulate his own opinions about the world (and does not resort to regurgitating sound bites from others or t.v.);

- someone who has performed non-paid work for his country/or a not-for-profit at least twice in his lifetime;

- someone who keeps a promise when he makes it;

- if he can't keep it, he is someone who makes up for it to maintain integrity; and maybe

- a person who does not mind helping a neighbor when a reasonable call for help is made.

Note: This post was written by me, and I live in New York. It is intended to be apolitical and areligious. Have a peaceful September 11.


cool link...

for free downloadable Latin resources and posters.

A's first week as a WTM afterschooler

...has gone well so far. The newest language that he is learning is Spanish. With French under his belt (it's been 7 years of French studies now) and Latin from this past homeschooling year (which we are continuing this year with Minimus), he reports that he is *loving* Spanish. Advanced Math at the institutional school does not seem to be a problem, what with Singapore Math and EPGY supplements in our afterschooling program. I do, however, admit that there appear to be gaps with his Math - or maybe A just forgot some of his work with fractions last year. Science seems okay, although the 7th grade science textbook looks more like my university biology textbook.

I remember how in 6th grade I had a 15-question test on evolution. That was it. The test was, in retrospect, pretty dumbed down. How times have changed.
I am wondering if someone could possibly homeschool me in my legal studies. One of the attorneys at BigLaw actually sat the Bar without ever attending a law school. She apprenticed her way to BigLaw in the 1960s. Which is surprising, as BigLaw recruits primarily from Yale, Harvard, NYU, Columbia and Stanford law schools. If someone at BigLaw accepted me as an apprentice student, I'd have a salary (hopefully) and no more tuition worries. Sigh.

Tomorrow, Catherine.


Maitresse's Totally Useless But Interesting section

Found this tonight.

Notice the "cartoons" link directs you to some very, very anti-American and anti-Semitic stuff; I do not, therefore, endorse the publication at all. I DO think the first 3/4 of the article is otherwise enlightening. The rest is useless.


And yeah, the random chicken site.

Maitresse in action (in Times Square)

A cute little girl (about six or seven years old) in pink flip flops who was walking with her mom and a sibling asked me for directions to 51st Street. Her mom did not speak English. This is how I answered:

Me: "What street are we on?"
Litte girl: "Erm...42nd!"
Me: "OK. Can you count from 42 to 51? [me holding up my fingers] Let's try. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, and 51."
Little girl: "That's nine blocks!"
Me: "Yup. So how many blocks do you need to walk?"
Little girl: "Nine?"
Me: "You're right! It's nine blocks! And if the blocks go 'up' thataway, and 'down' the other way, which way do you need to walk?"
Little girl: "Thataway."
Me: "Right again!"

She communicated this information to her mother. I realized seconds afterwards that I didn't simply give directions (In the typical New York scheme of things, the answer might have been, "Um, a few blocks" or as has often been the case for me, "About 2 blocks" no matter what the actual distance!). I helped the little girl to count the blocks to find her way home.

I give total credit to the above occurrence, to my homeschooling A.

New neighbors in our 'hood

In our Westchester neighborhood...

A nice Swedish Jewish family has moved two doors up from us. Very weird; both parents are Swedish Jewish, and the mom is Iranian Swedish Jewish. A has both Scandinavian (Danish) heritage as well as Iraqi-Jewish (not Arab, although we respect Arabs, so don't go there) heritage.

Sweden/Denmark Jews.

Iran/Iraq Jews.

Could we be more geographically joined?

(I know, I know; they're missing that "tropical country "factor. I'll try to find it)

OK - what is up with my blog?

because my pic is gone, profile gone, blogpatrol counter gone, even the weather girl is gone.

"Please Stand by."


Jumping the gun a.k.a. "you wanna piece of me?"

Tonight, after shopping for school supplies, I was midway into hopping into a cab when a hispanic man started calling out to me. "Oye, preciosa," he whispered. Ew, I thought. As I got into the cab, he persisted. "Beautiful lady!" My blinders were on. "Look. Leave me alone," I replied, "I have to run." "You don't remember me?" He actually reached out to touch me. OK. Enough. I looked up above the cab seat in front of me and the shopping bags.

It was my son's barber. A.K.A., Mike Tyson's barber.

I felt awful. I was actively running away from this man, with whom I worked so hard to establish a stable business relationship and friendship. He had met my grandmother when she was in town, too.

"Look, I am so, so sorry. I just had no idea. You see, sometimes random people say the same things....I am so embarassed to have reacted that way."

No problem, Maitresse.

"Are you sure?" From the cab, I grabbed his hand and asked him to really forgive me.

I jumped the gun. I pre-judged. I feel terrible. Need to book that haircut immediately.

Galileo - If it is worth learning, it has been
printed in Latin. You want your children to
have a classical education. You teach the
Trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and
the Quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music,
and astronomy. Ancient history is fascinating
to you, and you own several Greenleaf Guides to
prove it.

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla.

Dentist then Latin Test for A today.

I think maybe I am not so cool right now.

Guess what.

I brought A with me. And I told plenty a concert-goer that he is my kid and he's "What? How old? 11? No way! Your mom is cool!" (How did I become the cool mom? No way). There was some Creatures music, some Banshees. Happy House, Arabian Nights, Dear Prudence (yay), Kiss Them For Me. I heard Killing Jar was played last night.

The show had some educational value. Leonard Eto played Japanese drums throughout. And Siouxsie's music likes historical references, such as the one about King Canute (you know, the Anglo-Saxon king who ruled in 1016).

With the new New York smoking laws, the venue was pretty clean, and no whiffs of any herb gardening anywhere.

And Siouxsie has a big head. Physically speaking, that is. I suppose that's what happens when we age. Although Budgie looks the same.



A was at his friend's in the Upper East Side this weekend. The report is that they biked, fished, played soccer, and had an overall great time. Meanwhile, I went to IKEA in New Jersey.

I could not sleep while A was away.

My mother reports only heavy wind and rain in Miami. Miami was in Frances' "tail." They lost electricity several times but I was able to phone her throughout the storm.


Runs with scissors.

To my Florida friends, family, and readers: hang tight.



There are other news stories going on, such as Frances and Clinton's heart bypass surgery. Beslan is what I will discuss here.

The historical situation in Chechnya can - off the top of my head - be perhaps likened to the British (Protestant) occupation of (largely Catholic) Ireland. I am not justifying the actions of Britain or Ireland* (nor of Russia or Chechnya) by stating this; I am, however, sick of reading/hearing people's rants about "those muslim terrorists" when it seems the person who rants knows jack about Chechnya. Of course, there is absolutely no excuse for a hostage-taking of a school filled with innocents. Terror does not win sympathy for any cause, so I cannot imagine what the insurgents were thinking win they picked that as their strategy. But the problem with Chechnya goes beyond a religious moralistic discontent. And I think that as parents and teachers, we can learn something from Beslan.

Those of us who homeschool are happy that our kids are, for the most part, protected by scenarios such as that which occurred in Beslan (or Columbine, or other domestic American school massacres). But what, in all this, is our lesson learned about conflict resolution?

The insurgents went into a school of over 1,000, took them as hostages, and demanded that their homeland be free of Russians. Or else. They acted with might, and placed landmines in and around the school. Russian authorities responded with might and blew up the landmines and stormed the school.

Might is Right. Right?

I wonder what would have happened if Putin instead said, "I have this policy that I do not negotiate with Chechen rebel terrorists. I am making an exception. To talk, you must de-activate your mines, leave the school, harm no one, and be ready to face a prison sentence for your crime. However, your land might be free from our government forever as a result of your actions. Yes, we will sit down and talk with you. Let's begin today."

How do we raise our children? Bobby took my toy. Okay, son, his toy is now rightfully yours! The first rule of Property is possession, right? So he's a jerk!! It's okay to punch him in the eye if he asks for his toy back!

A mine for a mine? A hit for a hit? A toy for a toy? An eye-punch for an eye-punch?

Or, I want you to talk to the bully directly or, if that doesn't work, a counselor so you and the bully can figure things out and stop hurting each other. Yes, folks, this is where it begins. Really.

Britain was "big enough" to sit down with the IRA-backed Irish representatives in 1921. The modern-day IRA cease-fire took place years later...and began only 10 years ago.

The Chechnyan problem is not just Russia's. How we deal with conflict on a global level might be answered with how we deal with conflict on a personal level, beginning at home. Modify to your curriculum as you wish.

* I do not take sides with respect to regional conflicts. This post only addresses my view that regional conflicts originate with the ways in which we are taught to deal with conflict. I myself had a brush with an IRA bomb in a phone booth when I was a student in the U.K.

admissions (and maybe some breaking news)

First admission: I do not visit the WTM discussion boards. I used to, but I have enough addictions at the moment. Caffeine, shopping for academic books, and blogging, suffice.

Second admission: A and I moved to a location outside New York City. We maintain our NYC address, as well. We were desperate to be surrounded by nature as we had been in Florida- a need for trees and grass and squirrels and deer and quiet from the club noise outside our bedroom window in Chelsea. I found a location that offers that, but is populated with plenty of City folk. There is a possibility that A will begin studies at the new area (gasp) school at our undisclosed location, and we will then become WTM afterschoolers. I have been grappling with this issue, and the only consolation I can find is that it will be a temporary solution to a temporary inconvenience. This is due to my having to finish law school and not take 10,000 years to do it. I also acknowledge that I am the only breadwinner in the house and maybe this solution is OK for now.

I spoke to someone recently about this, and the first question I was asked was, "What about the blog?" Well, that's easy.

As homeschoolers, we have utilized the River Project, Catherine, the Japan Society, swimming and sailing instructors, and other instructors - who fill in the gaps. I am still la Maitresse. And I still write a mean curriculum. I am still here.


okay, you astronomy kiddies...

Want a cool site to visit? Go here.

Java or no java, I'd sign up for the generator, as well.

hurricane, hurricane, go away...

Why can't you hurricanes just leave the Florida folk alone for now? I am stressing out about Frances. My mother does not have a car, and I've just called and begged a Publix manager near her home to drive her some much-needed supplies.

Speaking of supplies, I have otherwise prepared for A's 7th Grade studies by getting:

- Minimus Pupil books
- Critical Thinking Book One
- Singapore Math Level 6 (you Singapore Math people know why I am getting 6th grade books for 7th grade studies)
- Singapore Science Level 7
- Writing Strands Levels 6 and 7
- another semester in EPGY Math studies.

We will continue with the Kingfisher History, G.U.M., Wordly Wise, French CM2 studies, etc.


a Maitresse blog reader?
...and tonight at BigLaw, where most attorneys describe themselves as Clintonian Democrats, who are not oblivious to the stampede that exists blocks away and holds up traffic and brings out the police who hold up that orange mesh to enclose people and arrest them and bring out the ire in absolutely everyone, the Firm decided to become host to a "bipartisan dinner." "Why bipartisan?" I asked. "What if I don't fit into either party's profile? Can I still have dinner?" I always ask the really tough questions.


Phone call from the NYC Board of Education Homeschooling Coordinator...

"Maitresse, I haven't received your IHIP for A's entry to 7th Grade."


Hallloooo Dahling!

[Maitresse is running to get to BigLaw. Suddenly, a young lady wearing a ballgown, long white gloves, and tiara with oodles of cash falling off her gown approaches Maitresse]

Ball gown Billionairess: "Hallooooo dahling!"
Me: "Erm..me? Hello?"
Billionairess: "Would yoo like an invitation to our bolllllll? Dahling, it will beee fabeulousss!!!"
Me: "OK."
Billionairess: "Come to our yacht, ok, dahling? And brrrring money with you. Lots of it. You'll need it to be with ussss!"
Me: "OK!"
[man in tails and top hot appears behind ball gown lady]
Man in Top Hat: "Hello dahling!"
Me: "Hello. My, your shoes are very shiny."
Man in Top Hat: "That is because I jusssstt paid that lowly illegal immigrant shoeshine man over there to shine them!"
Billionairess: "Alriggght then...see you on our yacht! Tah tah!"

Satire will get you everywhere.

What I am reading right now. A find for two bucks.

Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt.

About the author's school experience in Limerick:

"They hit you if you don't know why God made the world, if you don't know the patron saint of Limerick, if you can't recite the Apostles' Creed, if you can't add nineteen to forty-seven, if you can't subtract nineteen from forty-seven, if you don't know the chief towns and products of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, if you can't find Bulgaria on the wall map of the world that's blotted with spit, snot, and blobs of ink thrown by angry pupils expelled forever.

They hit you if you can't say your name in Irish, if you can't say the Hail Mary in Irish, if you can't ask for the lavatory pass in Irish.

It helps to listen to the big boys ahead of you. They can tell you about the master you have now, what he likes and what he hates.

One master will hit you if you don't know that Eamon De Valera is the greatest man that ever lived. Another master will hit you if you don't know that Michael Collins was the greatest man that ever lived.

Mr. Benson hates America and you have to remember to hate America or he'll hit you.

Mr. O'Dea hates England and you have to remember to hate England or he'll hit you.

If you ever say anything good about Oliver Cromwell they'll all hit you."


A writes a section summary/discussion of Beowulf

A springboard from which we further discuss this section of the action-packed tale. I love his use of the word "Ergo"!
Hrothgar left the hall and had entrusted it to Beowulf since he (Hrothgar) knew Grendel was going to come that night.

Beowulf is about to sleep in the hall and says that any day he can be as strong as Grendel. "Grendel does not know the arts of war, of shield or sword-play although he does posess a wild strength. No weapons, therefore, for either this night: unarmed he shall face me if face me he dares."

Now, wouldn't it be easier and swifter if he used a sword? I know it wouldn't be sportsmanship but Grendel has killed a lot of men, and has been a threat for over a decade. Also, if Beowulf does not use a sword there would probably be less wreckage in the hall and also if he wanted to fight unarmed then he shouldn't have brought the spear and sword in the first place. Ergo, it is better to use a sword no matter how manly Beowulf is.

So, then Beowulf had slept with his bolster (a pillow) under his head and his whole company of sea-rovers (a kind of pirate but more like a Viking) at rest beside him. None of them expected to see his homeland again. (Farther on in the book it was just Beowulf who did it alone so they could just watch him fight instead of worrying. Let Beowulf do the work if he is so great).
Grendel comes near the hall. One man, was spoiling for action. When he went inside (the hall), he sabotaged the building maddening (to crave) for blood. All of the men in the hall would've died if it weren't for one of Hygelac's kinsman was watching Grendel waiting for the first move he would make. The creature did not make him wait. He struck suddenly and started in; he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body lifeless, and eaten up hand and foot. Grendel's talon moved to Beowulf, bearing in with an open claw, till he found himself in an armlock. He found himself in a grap harder than anything he had encountered in any man on the face off the earth. He could not escape. Suddenly, a terrible scream and strain of catastrophe, the howl of the loser, the lament of the hell-serf, keening his wound. Beowulf's warrior tried to help him. Then, a tremendous wound appeared on his shoulder. "His sinews split and bone-lappings" burst. The whole hall was almost destroyed. He was driven under then fern-banks, fatally hurt, to his desolate lair. The end of his life was coming over him. Beowulf had won.

Well, that's going to cost a lot, hope they have insurance.