Monster. House.

I am watching waaay too many "Trading Spaces" shows and similarly-themed house design shows. But then I found Monster House on Discovery Channel. It is sort of Lucasfilm-turned-house-design. The homeowners choose what theme they want for their home, and the crafty men on the show come up with the rest. There is an unlimited amount of money the design team gets to spend. "Viking House" might have a viking ship in the backyard. "Retro-Future House" will gut your house with steel and remote-controlled gadgets. A bit scary, yes.

I have decided that we will create: Manga House. Or Zen house.

On our own. The results are likely to be more amateur monster than house, but what use is wishing? I give us a year.


Illuc ivi, illud feci*

Posted by Hello

Tomorrow A attends "orientation" for summer interns on the river. He's actually been asked to attend. Personally, I think it's funny that one can attend an orientation for the same stuff one has been doing for months and months. But I haven't shared that thought with my Son the Intern.

Also tomorrow, I have an interview with a Big Law Firm. The Maitresse is most nervous. So, while in SoHo today, I went to the nearest cheap jewelry shop (erm....we never say cheap) to acquire some faux pearl studs. Some pink plastic Scottish Terrier earrings, however, screamed for me to take them home. Hmmmm....those earrings, plus a pair of Michael Kors Grand Prix gold goddess sandals that all the chic girls from the Upper East Side to SoHo are wearing, and a one of those summer bright blue or lime green wrap-around Thai dresses sold on Prince and Wooster...I'd look chic, hip, and Blue House. And maybe with some tanning, I'd be extra desirable...I'd be winning the affection of all eight of my year's worth of dates through Lisa Ronis' matchmaking...I'd be married in no time...

I went for the pearl studs.

I noticed that the gothic-looking cashier girl was playing some music that sounded vaguely familiar.

Me: "Erm...Is that band The XXX**?"
Goth cashier girl: "No, it's a wannabe The XXX band."
Me: "Well, they sound an awful lot like The XXX." [I am thinking imitation of the flattering kind...and maybe some sampling/potential copyright infringement issue to be investigated]
Goth cashier girl: "No, ma'am. I know The XXX ...um...REALLY WELL and believe me, they really don't sound like The XXX."

Of course, I can't possibly know about bands. I suppress the fact that while at school in England, I hung out with The XXX and the vocalist even gave me a lift once in his car, when The XXX band were popular. Fifteen years ago. Three years before Joey Ramone was introduced to me when I visited The XXX in New York. When the cashier standing before me would have been...a tyke.

Vero, vero.

Alexander is reading The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum. I'm quite fond of Colum's books. I have learned that Audhumla, the Giant Cow, is the actual source of the Creation of Man. She licked mountains for their salt, and licked and breathed man to life. Sounds good to me.

I'm also fond of Roald Dahl, but it's been difficult getting A to read his books after a puberty-induced hiatus from reading his works. Fortunately, A had not read Boy. It's filled with gruesome moments and that stint of Dahl's at Cadbury's. Perfect for newly-adolescent boys! A read it recently in two short days.


On topic with Scandinavian myths, I recently phoned the consulate of the Scandinavian country from which my father came, to inquire about getting citizenship there. I'm thinking, if things go sour this November, maybe me and A can take off for four years. Or something.

Me: "Erm...hello? I'd like to know if I could be a citizen of your country?"

Voice on Phone at Consulate : "You were a citizen of our country until you were 22 years old. You had to apply to retain your citizenship at that time."

Me: [nearly fainting] "I beg your pardon? Do you mean to say that I already held dual citizenship in my lifetime?"

Voice on Phone at Consulte: "Yes. You were a citizen of our country until you were 22 years old. You had the right to apply to retain your citizenship at the age of 22."

I see. I guess I'll just cast my lot with the voting process again and hope.

*Been there, done that.
**Not the actual name of band.


Why do I like this woman?Posted by Hello

Because she has kids and can wear t-shirts like this one. She's not afraid to add a "trashy" section to her cookbook, which includes photo of her in a Playboy t-shirt, ham and coca-cola, and Elvis Presley peanut butter and banana grilled sandwich recipes. And like me, she has had major moments of awkwardness, completed by some personal tragedy.

She's no Joel Robuchon, nor is she Julia Child. But I like her.

And now, to eBay for a Playboy tee...just kidding.


A is almost done with Writing Strands; I chose the age-appropriate WS level (level 3) as opposed to the actual grade he is in, to get a feel for the program in a non-threatening "this is tedious work" way. It has worked out well for us. Because his work in all other areas is grade-appropriate, especially his reading, I think we will jump to Level Six this summer.


Am I really going to do this? The guys in the "photo gallery" don't look so bad...


Funny. When she says, "influencing boring suburban women to do likewise" I thought she meant suburban women would have affairs! Erm...


Much Ado About Nothing (really)

The blogging artist currently known as Lynne at My Schola (her symbol would be something that would denote "incredibly witty" and "homeschool" and "boat" and "island" and "fine young girls") recently sent me an e-mail which made reference to Much Ado About Nothing.

Oh yes, I'd forgotten to go to Shakespeare in Central Park, as we had previously intended in our scheduling.

So Friday after dropping A at the River Project, I made a mad dash to the Public Theater off Astor, because the line at the out-of-doors Delacorte Theater in Central Park for the same tickets tends to get too people-heavy. There was no line at the Public Theater downtown at 2:50 pm - 10 minutes before closing. I got two tickets (free) in row "O". The theater is small.

I then walked across the street to a Melitta "living room" with free coffee and tea which Melitta had set up in the middle of the busy Astor Place intersection. There were people lounging on the sofas and on the fashionable rug in the "living room." Lounging while the cars whizzed by literally inches away from them. I don't think I would be able to relax in a busy intersection in downtown Manhattan, so I just got some coffee and took off.

On picking up A, we decided to play ping-pong (free) at Pier 25 to kill some time. In fact, they have a lot of things going on for free. There is free fishing, too. You get a rod, reel, and bait. Free. And did I mention the free kayaking and sailing classes at Pier 26 (next door)? You can even kayak to the Statue of Liberty (if you are over 18), totally gratis. Kayak, oar, and life vest provided courtesy of the boathouse.

"Um, mom, did you hear that? It's thunder." We stopped our fun time at Pier 25 and left. The sky was blackening.

There would be no Shakespeare that evening. So, to compensate for our loss, we thought we'd pursue our fix for entertainment and get tickets to "Fahrenheit 9/11." Three movie theaters, in downtown and midtown, all sold out. One theater we visited decided to meet demand and show the film all night long. Crazy, crazy. We chose at that same theater near the Flatiron a 10:30 pm showing on Saturday.

My view on the film? Well, it's a Michael Moore pic. Most of the facts depicted are already in the public domain, plus Moore delivers a few more factual (and sometimes entertaining) events with his own camera (thankfully, because some of the Moore events made the "ah!" moment among the audience). The scariest moment, for me, was when we got to see nothing. Literally. The screen was black but the audience was silent, in horror. I turned to look at A, and he held my hand. [Note: this is not a film for young children - it is rated R for a reason]

Sometimes I hated Moore's comments in "Fahrenheit 9/11." They sound corny and manipulative. I do, however, think the clips spoke for themselves, and some of the critics who have viewed the film enter the theater with an unchecked prejudice which is most noticeable in their critical reviews. The critics who scream "liar" add to the hype.

Painful for the Maitresse to watch: Bush repeatedly says "nucular" instead of "nuclear." Bush implores other countries to go after the "terrorist killers" (Christopher Hitchins made note of this in his critical review but seemes to miss the point of the joke; it wasn't Bush's eagerness to return to the game of golf that was funny, but the faux pas that left his lips coupled with his golf...a "one-two" laugh).

Moore seems to want his viewers to connect the dots for themselves - or at least be less complacent.

So that's my observation. It is not a review. If anyone wants my personal point-by-point analysis, I'd be happy to provide it to him or her. [note: I have a legal education and I wrote about the Patriot Act weeks after it was enacted. My article is also in the public domain on an ACLU website].

We will otherwise attempt to get tickets to Much Ado About Nothing next week...


What I miss about Miami...

"Bacalao a la Vizcaina"*

1 lbs salted codfish
2 tbsp olive oil
1 potato cut in ¼ inch cubes
2 cups sofrito (this is Cuban style, folks - otherwise used 2 yellow onions sliced finely, 2 cloves garlic, minced, and chopped plum tomatoes for Basque-style)
¼ cup dry white wine
½ cup water

1. Soak codfish in bowl of water overnight
2. Boil codfish in water for 30-45 minutes or until salt has been removed from fish
3. In frying pan heat oil and cook garlic and onions until translucent, then potatoes and fish
4. Combine sofrito, wine, and water in bowl and pour over potatoes
5. Cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender

Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

*WWW Cuban bacalao recipe, credit to Raul.

Note: Spaniards add capers, olives and julienned red pepper to their cooked bacalao. Serve over white rice.


I would say that homeschooling is ...

"Blue House"...and maybe I am a little, too(replace "sexy" with "unique").

A is making a Daedalus movie poster. We have finished the Wordly Wise for Sixth Grade today; on to 7th Grade WW next week!!! Yippee!!


Slowing down to the speed of life

I have decided not to use a cell phone for now.

Our Halloween costumes will be made at home this year. Alexander has decided what we will be for this favorite holiday of ours...A will be Grendel, and I Grendel's Mother. Of course, I protested. I wanted A to be Beowulf and me the dragon. But no. Grendel and Grendel's mother it is. I plan to devise a bear-esque monster costume for me, with huge teets covered in fur. How else will anyone know who/what I am?

A has stated he wishes to learn to cook. For real. So far he knows how to make:

Pancakes ("complete" from the package)
Miso soup from the package
Pasta al dente
"Pizza" on bread
Easy Mac (in the microwave)
French toast

Next will be lasagna. I will also teach him how to make curried chicken - more complicated, but greater satisfaction once it is cooked.

Last night at bedtime, I asked A what was on his mind. For the next hour and half, he proceeded to tell me all one-hundred-and-twelve items that were on his mind. I began counting around the 12th item. He took me on a major time-machine ride of it. Which is why I was not surprised, when I later asked, "If you could have a magical power, what power would it be?" he answered, "To go back in time," and then thoughtfully, "so I could save Ricky's* life."

We also did "Dead Poets Society" in the darkness of his room for a bit, with a flashlight's help, by opening our Oxford Book of American Verse and reading what sounded nice, interesting, and scary.

*Ricky was, until last week, the family Yorkshire Terrier. He died in our backyard in Florida of unknown causes. He is survived by two adopted ex-racing greyhound buddies, Neo and Destiny (Neo is black and Destiny a black & white tick), as well as my mum, me, and A.


Celluloido-phile that I am...

after watching "Mississippi Burning" tonight, I checked out the KKK website. I couldn't help it. Mrs. Pendergraft, the "second-ranking KKK officer in the nation," homeschools her kids. How sweet.
Interestingly, they have a homeschool link. It will take you here.

I will otherwise not share my opinion about the above link.

Or maybe I will. If you are doing something in your homeschooling that arouses suspicion and may create a problem for you, why align yourself with a legal defense endorsed prominently by the KKK? Because that legal defense group is especially expert?

Good grief.

erm...huh? (reprise/Japanese mix)

What, are we going medieval all over the globe, now? Seems to be the new black.



Posted by Hello

This morning I awoke to the ring of the house phone. It was my mother.

"Happy Father's Day!" she said cheerfully. "Um, thanks," I replied, "You, too!"

Man, I thought, this is not a legacy I wish to continue for too long.

Later today A and I prepared for dinner. A proceeded to reveal his thoughts openly to me. "You know, before I felt funny about having a stepfather. Like it would be weird. Now I think it would be O.K."

"Really? O.K." I replied.

"You know, if Muriel in "Muriel's Wedding" can get a guy, so can you!" A exclaims. "Not quite the same thing, her goal and mine," I explain. I then inform A of Muriel's motive to marry in the film.

We do watch an awful lot of films.

My mother called again about four hours later. Her friend, a public school teacher, frequently asks for my mother's spelling help. "She couldn't spell 'unfortunately' - and the school board tells her she cannot get a job right now because she is 'employable'" my mother laughed. My mother was not born in this country, so her cognizance of the friend/teacher's not-so-great English skills gives her some real satisfaction.

Tonight, A and I watched "King Arthur" on the History Channel. In the middle of viewing, A proceeded to tell me how the Roman-style Arturius is like Vercingetorix of Gaul, and how his tribe was distinct from the Franks, etc. etc. At least his French education has stuck. Then A talked about the Saxons and Celts and basically every tribe in Brittania which I have not studied. "Erm...huh?" This is embarassing.
I throw in my two cents about William the Conqueror and the events of 1066. As far as the History Channel is concerned, we are now off topic. I sense we will soon talk about runes. Or Beowulf. Or something. And I so love spontaneous conversations like this with Alexander.

Of course, I cheated by breaking up A's train of thought when I mentioned 1066. Naughty, yes. At least I know how to spell "unfortunately."

Commercial break. A is desperately trying to get my attention. "MOM!!!! LISTEN!!!!They're sampling Iggy Pop's 'Lust for Life' in the commercial!!!!" Yes, that would be part of our Music Appreciation curriculum, thank you very much.

Oh, by the way, if anyone should care to help my Father's Day gift to materialize in the near future, let me know. I will otherwise have to save up for it.


It's Bard Time

Yay! Shakespeare in Central Park! Posted by Hello

Dominic Chianese will appear in this summer's Much Ado About Nothing. Free tickets, and you get to see a Soprano/all-Italian-American music radio personality to boot. Link to performances here.

What we are doing to prepare for for viewing: Watching Kenneth Branagh's version of the play, Standard Deviants Shakespeare DVDs. We will not be "studying" the play as we are working on Hamlet this summer.

sad loss.

Our Yorkshire Terrier of 9 years, Ricky Ricardo, has passed away.

He was ailing in Florida, "like an invalid" according to my mother, unable to move or eat properly.

I suspect he had heartworm. My mum was never keen on taking Ricky to the vet.


cool geography/epidemiology activity

You can find the lesson plan and handouts for it here.

Full list of National Geography lessons here.


Tomorrow, we go to Sweden and Greece. Actually, to the IKEA summer sale (we need some more book shelves for our growing supply of educational books, and some of my favorite food, lingonberries!) and later, for some moussaka in Astoria, Queens.


Wiggle Woods CD-ROM (Singapore Math)

I hate it. A is getting frustrated with it. Not well designed. I am wondering if there are others who feel the same way?

Otherwise, we are sticking to the Singapore Math curriculum (Textbook, Workbook, etc.) and Stanford EPGY for enrichment.


Getting there.

In the past, I noticed that classroom teachers spoke to me differently than other parents. I am not making this up. Like racism, it was something you could "feel" but couldn't "put your finger on." There was never a Mr. Maitresse to assist with A's pickups and Parent/Teacher Days at school. Maybe I missed a few P/T Days. But I'd have a plethora of friends to assist with drop-offs and pick-ups when needed. Once, I had a lady Tai Chi instructor pick up my A from after-school care, and she went in her Tai Chi gear. My oriental dance choreographer also helped out. All the friend helpers were women. Actually, it was quite a few women. All beautiful. I am convinced that A's teachers probably thought I was a lesbian. Or something.

Further, in the world of elite children's schools, I was an anomaly. I did not have huge funds for tuition (I always asked for the available scholarships), nor a flashy car, nor Prada shoes, nor a new model-boyfriend (as one single woman parent at one of our schools had acquired) so my single-dom was just that much more bizarre.

Reinforcing this feeling of different-ness, last year, at the chic Upper East Side school in Manhattan where A was enrolled, A was treated "differently" than the other kids. We were totally new to NYC, recent transplants from Miami. His New York teacher spoke to me in odd terms. "Do you know that he's spacing out?" "Those books are too advanced for your child!" "He's so quiet. You ought to be concerned; I think he's depressed!"

This teacher also used the word "crap" a lot in the classroom.

Yes, I did become concerned. He *was* quiet in the classroom. Perhaps he did feel displaced. A could sit quietly for hours in the classroom, but then he'd relay the day's events to me in meticulate, accurate, and tiny non-Cliffs Notes bits. His teachers did not see or know that. When I'd tell them, they'd look at me as though I was a crack-head.

More different-ness: A acquired a library at home encompassing everything he wanted to learn about Greek and Roman history. It started in the Fourth Grade. He taught himself some German. He'd been reading and writing French for six years. "Does your son speak English? I mean, is it his native language?" the NY teacher would ask me, and "I don't think he will be a good history learner. He got xx questions wrong on his last test."

Why, that is because he has not geared up for the American Revolution yet, madam.

I do not think his teacher behaved this way because of A's status as "the child of a single parent." Although, she did hint at times that she was concerned about the "divorce" and the "absence of a father." (have we reached the new millenium, people?) It's true, unlike most divorced families, we really have no father figure around at all. When A was two years old, A's father left the country one day and that was it. The last we heard of A's dad was via a postcard from Europe (A's dad is not European).

Paternal absence is all we had known. And suddenly, the school was making an issue of it.

So, I thought it was a good idea when the school counselor suggested starting a "Divorced Kids Club." A became a member. They had meetings - and missed the more exciting things going on at school, like recess or the book fair. Soon, A understood that being a "divorced kid" meant "loser kid." Fortunately, the school counselor stopped having "Divorced Kids Club" meetings.

And amidst his quietness, this very thoughtful child was placed in the academic "dummy group" at school. Not allowed to read Tolkien. His writing was eventually never picked up by his teacher. Not allowed to read really anything that intrigued him. The classroom teacher had no clue "where he was" in Science, as she did not teach it - another classroom teacher did. His love of the ancient classics went overlooked.

Above all, Alexander seemed to be hating life. The Crap Teacher was running her class like a boot camp; all schedules, drills, children answering her alto voce instructions like dogs to a whistle. Not something A was used to, nor would get used to easily.

That is what brought the decision to bring A home and learn. And it's been lovely.

"Is that really YOUR drawing?" A's friend will comment on the hand drawing on the wall..."yeah, it is," he'll reply, non-chalantly. His art, which was never featured at schools by his art teachers, is quietly blossoming at home. [note: I studied Art to "A" Level in England, and have decided to implement what I learned there, plus the curriculum by Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"]. His library at home includes all the literary books he was not allowed to read in school last year, and then some. We've run out of Tolkien titles to purchase in the bookstore. My open book-buying and book-reading policy has enabled him to become a better writer, as well. A works at a real science internship studying things that impact the environment every day, alongside his academic science curriculum studied at home. There are times A feels "less than" the other interns at the interhship; that is O.K. He is the only 11-year-old there!

As for last year's school teacher claiming that A was doing "average" in Math, he's proven an adept learner in the Singapore Math series, and now we supplement our Math with the Stanford University EPGY Math program. A has consistently scored high marks on his EPGY reports.

To think that last year's teacher won an actual "Teacher of the Year" award makes me want to wretch.

I am reminded of my friend Jenny L., A lovely Asian girl with whom I became friends in New York. While growing up, Jenny was told by her teachers that they suspected she was mildly retarded, or simply stupid.

If only they learned that Jenny graduated from M.I.T. She is currently working in patent law (the kind of law that science nerds practice).

So, single parenting and social stigmas, and difficult choices. As for academics and self-esteem, we're getting there.

so we walked into the Apple (Mac) store in SoHo...

...and we fell in love with everything on sale there. I love the "Genius Bar." Alexander walked in with his violin strapped to his back, and proceeded to try out the new iPods. We went in because we have an older iPod in need of repair. The salesgirl encouraged A to "save $20 a week, and you'll own a 15GB iPod!" Sigh. "That'll take 3 months!" he whispered to me.

Why does everything Apple work so well? The Macs are immune to viruses, and everything is so genius-y that they're nerdy, yet so stylish.
We are really "into" Beowulf. I have a few candidates for the part of Beowulf should it ever become a Hollywood-esque production. I vote for Viggo Mortensen (because he's Danish - at least half) in that role; second runner-up would be Russell Crowe. Hrothgar would be....heck, who knows? The guy who plays Theoden in LOTR. Unferth would be Daniel Day-Lewis. It's a cameo, I know....I'll have to work a bit on the Cast list.


So we're official on EPGY. The CentraOne software is cool (A recorded his voice and played it back repeatedly...I told him to stop singing rock songs into it, though, lest the folks at Stanford actually have access to the recordings, heh, heh).
It's the closest to a "real" classroom apart from what we've already been doing with tutors and science internship.


And yes, Catherine did finally turn up. We've been doing lessons in Central Park, now that the weather is so nice...


What every homeschooling Elf Mother really wants... Posted by Hello

Maitresse, interrupted.

Sorry about my rant yesterday.


yeah, uh-huh...

Tonight, I have thrown my arms up in the air.

Conversation before I left home today:

Me: "You understand the homework that needs to be done, Alexander?"
A: "Yes."
Me: "You are going to get to it right away, then."
A: "Yes."

I arrive home at 10 p.m., and check that all of A's assigned workbook pages are still empty.
After much cajoling, A tells me that he wanted to use his free time a little more.

Me: "You lied to me."
A: "No, I thought I'd start when you got home."
Me: "You LIED to me. Enough. Do it now."

Reminds me of the Entertainment Law Guy who tried to pull a "But I THOUGHT you KNEW I was married!" on me, after initially hiding his ring, hiding the photo of his wife in his office (Later, it was, "I want to have it all" but "don't let my family know, ok?").

Good grief. Do I need to have the integrity conversation with everyone I know, again?


Thalassa is a kid-friendly restaurant in Tribeca (although you wouldn't know it unless you spoke to the owner, as I did). Posted by Hello

This is what we're reading for English Literature. Posted by Hello

change of template

I plan to change my template. It seems everyone is doing it, now that new templates are available. My links will probably go away, though.


Alexander created a "poem" for the MTA poetry contest, and he actually seems to have written lyrics to a song. We'll keep the lyrics, and develop the poetry a little more.