carpe diem and capitalist fish

Today is "Carpe Diem Day" - a day we specially reserve for Fridays.

It is a project day. A and I might tackle a nagging political issue, or write a letter to Congress, or use it as a field trip day.

Lately I've used Carpe Diem Day more and more to talk about money. When I was growing up, no one ever talked to me about money, perhaps because my (mother's) family never had enough around to talk about. So, one of my missions is to give my young man a financial education. We've gone to the ING Cafe, opened a small savings and stock account, and today, to look at an investment property with a broker. The property was in a fish store, with apartments as part of the complex. A "mixed-use" property. It was smelly and there was fish juice everywhere.

I stepped on a puddle of old fish juice on the sidewalk in front, and got it on my shoe and slacks. Ech.

Alexander did not like that the current tenants would leave once the building would be bought. "That's mean. They need to stay here," he asserted. I explained that they were moving their business to a new location, and so they didn't need to use the dwelling part of the property anymore, either. "That's still mean that you would want them out."

So an hour-and-a-half of financial discussions later, Alexander is interested in real estate.

And my slacks smell like a dead carcass.


no b.s.

Alexander and I are pretty honest with each other. When I sense A might be fibbing about something really minor ("I did brush my teeth!") I call him on his untruth, directly. I have not had major issues with A because, I believe, of my "directness" or, "no b.s." policy.

However, if I , Maitresse, contradict myself, and A does catch me, I make the appropriate correction. Zeh tough zis honesty stuff.

Human beings have a tendency to lie. It is our job to correct each other and maintain a little integrity in ourselves.

Lying, uncorrected, inevitably leads to a lifetime of dishonest behavior. I do not mean that anyone is "bad" for lying - even (ahem) Presidents lie to achieve their aims - but why surround yourself in a theater of dishonesty? Integrity is so much better and sweeter. Really.

Besides, lying leads to far worse behaviors into adulthood.

Yes, I will go there. Cheating on exams. Making appointments and "forgetting" about them. Letting an addiction "slide" ("I only drank two glasses" when one has actually had four). Cheating on resumes ("two years" instead of "6 months"). Lying in job interviews. Lying on the job. Believing one's marriage is O.K. While cheating on one's spouse.

And on and on.

A friend of mine likens such behavior - such acceptance of dishonesty - like having a delicious dinner with your most intimate friends, while a freshly-cut rhinoceros head sits on the dinner table, bleeding, and everyone continues dining, ignoring the blood dripping down the sides of the tablecloth and onto the floor.

Integrity isn't easy, but correcting our kids is a "good" - creating the foundation for a b.s.-free quality of life. We just need to be open to the fresh daily reminder of our own need for correction when our children point out our own integrity "issues."


prions in my cheeseburger

OK, we are not vegetarians. Of course, on many a sunny day, I'd like to be. Like today.

I cooked hamburgers with cheese, and served them on tasty whole-wheat buns. A smattering of lettuce and ketchup finished off the cheeseburgers. They turned out to be bloodier than I would have liked. Then this:

"Mom, these cheeseburgers have prions."

Dare I say I'll never eat meat again?

Otherwise, when our brains are not being eaten by prions, we are writing about the Eastern Oyster, our books via book reports, and the latest Writing Strand entry. Time "wasted" on television is usually on The History Channel, after which A must write a report and present (thoughtfully) the usefulness of what he has learned from any particular History Channel segment.

A few times a year we have "Cine-Club." I pick a movie of "great cinematic value" maybe with some "literary or moralistic value" and forge a questionnaire to be filled out after the movie-watching. It works. Some deep thinking has resulted from our watching "Dead Poets Society" (a bit grown-up, I know, but A learned something about parent/child conflict resolution because of it) as well as "Amadeus" and "West Side Story."

For literature, we are working on The Iliad right now. Marcus Aurelius soon to follow. Then Beowulf (summer). I am repeating myself. Perhaps this is a mantra.


are we there yet?

I've been lucky in that Alexander has never asked me that question; not once while driving to Disney/Universal Studios from Miami, or Tampa from Miami, or anywhere else where I used to own a car. But the question is nagging me.

"I don't mind if we move, as long as we settle down."
Actual quote by A.

Somehow honest comments like that suddenly make me feel like Ashley Judd's character in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Nevermind that I really am like the Judd character (sans pill popping and chronic nervous breakdowns, thank you very much) but there is a lot to be said about single parenting and that instability factor.

(Note: During difficult times, I've done that gas station trick from the movie, too. It only works if you appear stunning and charming).

Single parenting is hard. Scrutiny falls doubly hard on the single parent. Dating is either easy or not; I've chosen it to be not. I am picky, I trust no one, and I bring no one home. Single parenting makes loan-getting more difficult, job-getting more difficult ["Oh, I see, you have a child. And how do you expect to work all the hours we require at this firm?"], and when you are a grad/professional student with a child, looks of pity are frequently expressed among your academic colleagues ["OH wow! I don't know how you do it! I'd have to be really rich to have kids! I'll wait until I make partner or at least until both me and my husband make six figures!"] Right.

So, last night my best friend in Miami invited me to her home. The occasion was her finally getting her PhD. I have not seen her family in over a year. Her mother doted on me and massaged my back. Her sister kissed me and would not let me go. Her attorney sister elbowed me with that, "in-the-know-about-law-school" look.

Then the women surrounded me. And said this:

"Maitresse, you are a woman now."

I beg your pardon?

"Yeah!" said the younger sister. "You look like a woman!"


The mother continued, "You look like you have arrived. Like you can defeat anyone in this room."

"Yeah! Yeah!" chimed in the younger sister.

Older attorney sister just nodded.

Totally and utterly confused, me. These people are very observant. Did I need a facelift? [No, don't think so.] Did I need to go shopping? [my clothes were all black, so I don't think I looked too bad.] Did I look pissed off? [I had a glass of white wine in hand, impossible.]

So, am I there yet?

It has got me thinking. It would be great if I arrived. I'd keep moving, but I'd be "somewhere" fast and firm. A woman. Ashley Judd, all stunning and charming, post-instability.

Ah....Back to our Latin exercises...


Alexander's accomplishments of late:

A has finished his Einstein book.
He has also finished The Thief Lord.
Has actually started his research paper on oysters after finishing his outline from last week. He has even learned how to write citations.

Next: The Iliad, Marcus Aurelius, and (quickly) Beowulf before summer starts. We plan to do all our medieval studies during the summer.


I am reading a Robert Kiyosaki book.
Have figured out how to cut mangos to look like flowers, or the Parisian way, which looks nice and is less sloppy than the flower.
And I've actually bought boxed frozen Cuban sandwiches from a chain supermarket. Unbelievable.


temporary blogging hiatus

We've moved from our home address; excuse our absence from your viewng pc screen.

Be back soon.


museum/IMAX trip (revisited), getting sued by the RIAA

A and I went to the American Museum of Natural History this week, where we met Catherine. C and A saw the IMAX movie about volcanoes in the deep, and then she handed off another set of tickets for us to watch another IMAX movie about the Bengal tiger in India. That movie was really gorgeous. A and I visited the butterfly exhibit ("depressing for the butterflies" said Alexander) and the Exploratorium ("Physics is fun!").

Yesterday A wrote a very long goodbye letter to his friends who live in our complex. We are moving tomorrow.

A has been finishing up his Einstein, Homer, and writing up his science research paper. We have had no real school schedule in two weeks, due to the move.

Today we head off for our monthly trip to Long Island. That is where the summer trip to Australia meetings are held. The trip is one hour long by train. Good reading time.

What is amazing to me is A's grasp of copyright and trademark law. Although basic, he understands that "music lyrics can be copyrighted" but "words and short phrases can't" but "words or names can get trademark protection." He also understands "fair use." And he hates when I download music from Kazaa. "Mom, you're going to get sued by the RIAA." Ah, well.

I wish I had that power with Math. Sigh.


"I don't believe in mathematics."

- Albert Einstein.


the hardest button to button

Alexander, of late, hates working on his Math.

This is frustrating for me because he's a boy. I hated Math, too, at his age. Blame it on the DNA. I am hoping that as with me, he'll get the Math bug when the "real" Algebra hits.

We are headed to the museum to meet Catherine and watch the IMAX presentation about underwater volcanoes. A has to discuss everything in French afterwards.

Still need to buy a new Kun shoulder rest (our original Suzuki violin before our current Romanian one, was stolen from our car in Miami, Kun, bow, rosin and all). Financial setback for the Kun: about $20.



"Eh, allo, zees es Cathereeeene uhgen!!! Ow are yeu? I would like to tek Alexandre to zeh museum tomorrow. OK? OK! Meet me at 2 pm on zeh steps, OK? I eh have eh freeeee event and IMAX teeckets. See yeu tomorrow!!! Bye!"

Gotta love Catherine.

Right now I am watching the kids outside doing the Easter Egg Hunt. Yes, we're Jewish, but no matter. Holidays are for children, no? I watched one parent place eggs strategically within the crevices of a bench. I cheated a bit and told the kids to look closely at the bench. A squirrel found an egg and held on to it for dear life. A commotion among the children ensued. "The squirrel's got the egg!" Sarah, one of the kids, tried to retrieve it from the squirrel. No cigar. The squirrel took the egg with it as it climbed up a tree. I love when the animal kingdom wins.

Happy Easter/Passover everyone!


Molly Ringwald

Last night I was at a book release party in a Tribeca apartment where kids were present.

And Molly Ringwald walked in.

Which would have been fine under normal circumstances, only the starlet and I used to attend the same school in California. The host of the party ensured Ms. Ringwald knew this bit of information (I by accident spilled the proverbial beans when he told me his guest list for the evening).

Molly Ringwald: "Oh, you went to blahblahblah school?"
Me: "Yes."
Molly Ringwald: "Oh, I was only there for one year."
Me: "Oh."
Molly Ringwald: "And I hear North Hollywood High is run over by gangs now. Totally run over by gangs."
Me: "Oh. Do you know what the new professional school is now?"
Molly Ringwald: "No, I don't go back there ever."
Molly Ringwald: "Did you actually see me at blahblahblah school?"
Me: "Erm...yes. After you filmed 'The Tempest.' But you hung out with Tracy W. and Brian P."
[here I refrain from divulging that Tracy was my best friend, and I had had a crush on Brian, and Molly had vandalized my friend's locker by scribbling "The Tempest" all over the locker and books in said locker.]
Molly Ringwald: "Oh, man, I don't even remember who those people are."
Me: "Oh."
Molly Ringwald: "So anyway, welcome to New York!"
Me: "Oh...I mean, um, thanks!"

Clueless very young woman from California [CVYWFC] at party: "How old is she, like 50?"
Me: "Erm...no. She's in her 30's, as am I. Do I look 50?"
CVYWFC: "Oh my God, NO YOU DON'T!"

Alexander: "Who is Molly Ringwald?"


'tis I

...over my case of "slackdom."

I have not posted seriously on here in forever (what is it now, four days?) and I must apologize. I've actually been looking at a new living space and it looks like we will be moving next week.

I hate moving.

Today Alexander actually went out on his own to the corner French patisserie and bought a sandwich and an Orangina. I couldn't believe it. He is really growing up.

And yes, I gave him permission to do so. Mind you, we live in an enclosed (gated) block in Manhattan, maybe the safest block in Manhattan, and we have a doorman to the entrance of the block complex and gardens. I don't allow A to have a gate key. He is only allowed to leave the block within view of the doorman. The folks who run the patisserie all know that A is homeschooled. They ask me often about how the schooling is going. Which is nice.

Otherwise, A has been spending time with friends whose company he enjoys. It is "Easter/Passover/Spring" vacation, so I am letting him slack off a bit. He did work at the River Project twice this week, and he had his French tutorial, too.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon among the Japanese manga at Forbidden Planet. Then we got a haircut at Astor Place Haircutters. Josef, who used to cut JFK Jr.'s hair, cut my A's. I was hoping he'd look a little Camelot-ish after that, but he still looks like my A. Which is just fine.

Anyway, a little rambling here. After my crisis-induced slackdom, I have decided that my friends, family, and belongings that are beneficial to my family are what are most important.

My resolution:

1. We will visit my friend's wedding in Switzerland this summer. A is excited. "Can we stay there for months and months, mom?"

2. I will invest in real estate whether or not I like it.

3. I will look seriously into that academic franchise.

4. I will regularly do my nails in East Hampton Cottage at Bloomie Nails.

5. I will never again believe that a married man "just wants to have lunch" on a constant basis with me. Ever.

6. A and I will travel around the world by freighter next year, when I have the real estate cashflow to do it (No, I am not scared to travel alone with a child. I used to travel alone as a teenager).

That's it for now.

Look out, world.

The Maitresse is back.


Things I need to do today:

Have lunch with A, buy an extra saucisson a l'ail from our lunchspot.
Take A to the River Project.
Figure out our next learning site.

I quite like taking A on learning sites. The New York Stock exchange is closed to visitors due to 9/11, so I need to find another financial area of interest.



United Nations tour

Was postponed for last Friday, due to our flu bug from the week before.

The security checkpoint to get in to the UN was impressive (the line went a bit around the sidewalk). Alexander and I also somehow were asked to go through security separately. Alexander thought that was cool.

Inside the building, a string orchestra played vivaldi's The Four Seasons while huge full-color images of landmine victims - taken portrait style - stood in the backdrop. A got a bit teary-eyed. The music - a beautiful thing created by man - juxtaposed with images of a horrific thing created by man, was deeply moving.

While we waited for our tour to begin, we learned that the current tour guides' outfits are designed by Mondrian, the Italian design house. Tour guides can alternatively wear the national dress of their country.

Our Chinese tour guide wore Mondrian.

Before viewing any of the assembly rooms, we were told that we were now standing in an International Territory, the land for which was donated by Rockefeller.

"Does that mean that we're no longer in the United States?" one man asked.
"Yes, das riiiight," Our Chinese tour guide in Mondrian responded. "And you don need passpor! And da is no tax here, eider!" she said coyly, our cue for shopping at the gift shop.
Everyone looked a bit astounded at this bit of news.
"Cool," Alexander whispered to me, "I don't want to go back to New York!"

We visited the Security Council first. Weird, because for me that was the climax. I got the climax first. Surprisingly, we were allowed to take pictures. I did not bring a camera.

Each chair in the room has a small black dial on the right-hand arm rest. You can switch the dial to the language "English" "Chinese" "Russian" "Spanish" "French" etc. and you get the appropriate translation in that language. Alexander and I had fun with the dials. It was like spinning on the swivel chairs at Denny's. Obviously, the Security Council was not in session while we were there. So we heard none of the languages featured on the dial.

We visited some of the very expensive trinkets given to the United Nations by member states (among them, an ivory carving that took eight elephants to complete). We saw actual land mines. Actual glass and ceramic melted by the A-bomb in Hiroshima. Pictures of children in Hiroshima, post-A bomb.

We viewed the colonized world pre-United Nations, and how the colonized world look today. The pre-UN world was on a map marked in red for the colonized portions. Much of the world appeared red. Africa was almost entirely red. Today, the red portions are tiny pinpoints on the map. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour.

We visited the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly last.

After the tour, because the UN has its own postal system, we thought it would be worthwhile to buy postcard and an illuminated stamp, and mail it from the International Territory that is the United Nations. We also purchased a Coloring Book entitled "The United Nations in our daily lives" which has a preface written by Mrs. Nane Annan explains rather nicely the functions of UN peace keeping, international law, High Commissioner for Human Rights, World Food Programme, etc.

The postcard arrived the next day.


heh, heh

I believe it.

Don't you?