What we did today (Okay?)

This morning:

Me: How do your legs feel?
A: Terrible. I can't go to practice.
Me: Okay, let's get started on our Shakespeare.
A: No, I'm going to read my book first.
Me: Okay.

A reads for one hour. I blog, write, walk the dog, cook, write some more, get phone calls, make phone calls, etc., etc.

A begins to play Nirvana on the guitar, Jimi Hendrix, stuff that I hear 100X/day.

Me: How do your legs feel?
A: Terrible. I can't go to practice.
Me: Okay, let's do our Shakespeare.
A: Hmph.
Me: Excuse?

We do our Shakespeare.

Me: How do your legs feel?
A: Terrible. I can't go to practice.
Me: Okay, let's work on our Art.
Me: Yes.

A turns out a beautiful sketch.

Me: How do your legs feel?
A: Terrible. I can't go to practice.
Me: Okay, let's continue with our History.
A: Huh?
Me: Our History. Since we've finished the chapter, please answer the critical thinking and comprehension questions.

A spends around 30-45 minutes thoughtfully working on this task. And finishes.
We break for lunch.


Me: Okay, let's have some fun.
A: ?
Me: Let's do our Math now.
A: I don't feel like it.
Me: I don't care.

I begin to explain today's lesson. I speak in monotone. I read directly off the page. Oh, yes, this lesson is GOING TO BE A LONG ONE.

A: Mom, look, I get it, okay?
Me: Okay. Would you like to read the lesson on your own?
A: DUH!!!

A finishes Math lesson in 30 minutes. It really is too easy for him.
And: He gets ready for rowing practice. And leaves to take the train to the boathouse.

I work, write e-mails, schmooze with friends, stress out about minor things, walk the dog some more, do the groceries.

A walks in.

Me: How was practice?
A: Good. I'm exhausted.

I serve dinner.

A plays Ravi Shankar music that he has downloaded on LimeWire. Lights incense.


Note to self: Sometimes prodding is okay.

"vous n’êtes pas maîtresse de votre destin."

Excuse me?

I am reading this in French Vogue. The astrology page.

"vous n’êtes pas maîtresse de votre destin." I am not the master of my destiny. Hmmmmm....

A isn't feeling up to going to the boathouse for rowing practice today. This is the last week of required practice before tryouts, and he exerted himself a little too much last Friday. He has been limping around the apartment all weekend long. He took hot baths and I massaged him to give him some relief from the soreness. I hope he's ready for practice today. But I will not push him if he isn't.

He is reading Kissing the Rain, and informed me that he will be reading that book until he is ready for his English lesson (a sonnet to write, and Taming of the Shrew to read) today. I guess one would call that self-directed learning. Or something. I am not complaining. I've got writing to do.

We are eager to see Capote with other homeschoolers this week. I just love Philip Seymour Hoffman's work.

After a phone conversation this weekend with my grandmother, A's great-grandmother, she has asked us to rethink the dogwalking-for-dollars idea. "Isn't that dangerous? Or can it be? What if another dog attacks the dog he is walking?" She is not normally a litigious-minded person. Most teen jobs are given to 14-year-olds, and A has yet another year to go. We are considering teaming up for knitting duty and selling our products on the street or online. Until he is able to exhibit his photographic work in galleries and request large sums of money for the work.

My latest fave blog (in case you didn't already know) is The Sartorialist. I have always appreciated New York style; this photographer has a good eye, and is not too shy to approach the famous folk.


"Because it has a smell"

Since Athena New York (Not Gone Fishing) is on hiatus until my web designer finishes my new formatting there, I will say this here: I love the refreshingly honest French Vogue Editor-In-Chief Carine Roitfeld. Besides that she reminds me of Catherine, our French tutor who was snagged by the Lycée Français (I speet on zehr schooolah), I just like her.

Fave quotes:
“They have to sell bags, bags, bags, bags, bags, bags. I hate handbags.”
“Botox? No. I don’t like Botox. It makes a very strange forehead.”
On why she doesn’t wear fur these days: “Because it has a smell.”

More Carine, and vodka to make her more beautiful here.


for Poppins

Originally posted 1.23.06, but modified here, on Poppins' invitation...

Four jobs you have had in your life:
Airline reservationist (gag me! but I got to fly for free)
Fish importer for gelatin (the fish came from Lake Victoria when it contained victims of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict in Rwanda)
Americorps reading tutor to inner-city kids (where all the dads were away "at college")
"Celebrity Justice" the t.v. show, content writer

Four movies you could watch over and over:
The Wizard of Oz
Love, Actually
Ocean's 11

Four places you have lived:
Los Angeles
London (Belsize Park)
Paris (18eme arrondissement; the apt. was very small)

Four t.v. shows you love to watch:
Extreme Makeover, Home Edition
Trading Spaces
60 Minutes
Anderson Cooper 360°

Four places you have been on vacation:
The Middle East
U.S.S.R. in August 1991 (don't ask)

Four websites you visit daily:

Four of your favorite foods:
blue corn quesadillas!!!!!
Aloo Gobi with parathas
All my grandmother's Cuban cooking
feta/shallot quiches that I make at home

Four places you'd rather be right now:
Sharing A's train ride home
Hanging out on the Bowery
At the movies
On MySpace.com (apparently, I am a teen again)

A's new book

A is reading this book this week.

And we finally won an eBay bid for the camera he wanted. That is because we discovered eSnipe. How could we not know about eSnipe? I guess we just don't e-shop that much.

A is also wants some money for a new guitar. I told him what any responsible parent would say: Get a job. So, yesterday, he asked the owner of the guitar shop where he takes lessons if the shop could use some help. No luck there. I asked CB's if they could use a responsible teenager to run errands. He's how old? No luck there, either. So we came up with the idea of dogwalking services. A is making a flyer.


LaMai gets personal.

I've been feeling funky this week. Blah on Monday. Blah on Tuesday. Blah yesterday. Then my monthly friend paid a visit. Who was that person who told me that pains would go away once I had experienced childbirth? Who? Who? Who? I want my money back. Because today, I could not get up. Nothing worked. Today, of all days, when I had my client meeting. The client, whose own client roster include folks with names that sound like Flymeth Kaltrau, Plemmy Krabetz, Lindseed Lowhann, and Mean Day.

Fast forward: Client meeting turned out okay. My belly still aches, though.

A is serenading me on the guitar. I will feel better.


I apologize for that bit of a blogging hiatus - I've been helping a couple of friends with publicity for their events, and I have a potential client meeting today over which I have been stressing.

A's phone attempts to contact the Harlem Hellfighter went like this:

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

"There's no answer."

We tried again. And again. On different days. Yes, we're stalkers. Of the historical kind.

A is currently trying to figure out who might know this guy, or any other veterans who might possibly be living, who were once soldiers of the 369th Infantry.
I'll keep everyone posted on A's progress with that.

In other news, A got some scholarship bucks for summer with Outward Bound. Summer camp (or summer courses) should not be out of reach for anyone, regardless of their financial situation. There is always a scholarship somewhere, if not directly with the camp, try another scholarship database; another alternative for camp dollars is fundraising, the a skill that kids are never too young to learn.

A is still training for rowing tryouts.

He also wrote a poem that I'd like to share with the bloggy audience here, but he won't allow me to. So there.

And, he finished his wool hat last night. He did a rib stitch on straight needles and sewed up the sides. The folks at Booze and Yarn were very impressed with the meticulousness of his stitches. He is a "tight" knitter.

I had no idea that Patti Smith did the original song entitled "Because the Night." I thought it was 10,000 Maniacs. I am a retard.

I got a funny closing message in an e-mail from the coordinator at the Harvard program: it read: "God Save CBGBs!!!"

I am otherwise happy to know that our President revealed that there's "No need to worry about port security."


No, I wasn't tripping when I talked about the tree

I really do include things in the little photo icon thingys. Sometimes. If you click on the photo, you might find something there. Sometimes they coincide with the picture, sometimes not.

This past week, A took the subway, alone, to the boathouse for rowing practice.
He trained. He ran across a bridge. He worked out on the erg. He loved it.

This week, we have been studying more about The Great War (WWI) [note: part of my "gimmick" to teaching history is what I found worked well when I was a student. It was a trick employed by an educator or two at my former British school, and a certain history professor at university: I study the material very, very thoroughly, then I tell it, as though it were a campfire story (As if I had been there, or as though I were talking about my friends; and yes, I could probably even tell you the favorite foods of the characters in question].

The surprise of WWI is that we, the United States, took the side of the guys who might be considered politically incorrect today (that is open for debate, of course, but we basically took the side of the guys who supported the Serbian terrorists). And when I gave the backdrop to General Pershing, A was totally, I mean, completely and enthrallingly, taken with the story of Francisco "Pancho" Villa. In every war, on either side, there is a national hero, I began. I admit that the Pancho Villa story is a very, very good action drama. "But why isn't Pancho Villa mentioned so much in school history books? He actually invaded our country. And there's hardly any record of him anywhere." I could not give A a good answer.

Anyway, as an educator, I decided to do my African-American History duty in our WWI studies. I'd like you to read about and write up a presentation about the Harlem Hellfighters. A did some research. "Wait. This says that these guys 'suffered heavy losses' and fought the longest, 'more than any unit in combat.' Did they die first? Before everybody else?" It's possible, I said. "And wait. They were originally NATIONAL GUARD?" That's possible, too, I said. A got so into it, he actually started looking up the names of the possibly living members of that infantry. "Can I call this guy?" he asked me when he found a name listed in the phone directory. Sure. But you have to be prepared with what you might want to say. Are you writing an article? An essay? What? And remember, he will be VERY VERY OLD.

After some thought, A rang up the number.
(S&*t, I thought, he's just like me)
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.
No answer.
Give it some time, I said. If he's still alive, he's incredibly old, with old legs. He can't just run to the phone.
"Okay," said A. "I am a little nervous."
It's exciting, isn't it?
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring.

..................to be continued................


Ah, yes...

Nothing to lift the spirits like a dose of the Gypsy Kings. I remember when they first visited the States, they kept hitting all the French cultural centers here. Why? Because they're not from Spain. They're French, from the petite ville of Arles. But that's okay. I consider myself a Cuban Viking and I'm American. Go figure.

AND: We got caught up with Math. Baila Baila Baila Baila Baila Baila Baila Me!!!!!!



A little rumor is out. Yarnharlot's Olympic Knitting idea made it into the current issue of Time Magazine? Is it true? Has anyone purchased a copy?

In other news, today, A went to a rowing tryout on the Harlem River. Please dear bloggy reader, send him your good vibes. He really wants this one. And I am really rooting for him. And another (NYCHEA) homeschooler also rows with the same rowing club.

Afterwards, we hit the Knitting Olympics on the Bowery. I am really glad that I came up with the charity portion of Team Booze and Yarn's participation. A is making his first-ever hat. After knitting we usually go to the Pommes Frites place on 2nd Ave in the East Village. Just in case you think you've spotted me there at an ungodly hour, with needles sticking out of a yarn bag. Yep, it was me.

In other other news, before we even hit knitting, we had a bite at a French-style cafe on Bleecker. Where we had this bizarre exchange:

Me: Taste my soup before I delve in.
A: Mmmm.
Me: Do you like it?
A: It's potato.
Me: [tasting it] Nope, it's not.
A: It's potato.
Me: Nope. It's right on the menu. And potato isn't on the menu. It's cauliflower and goat cheese.
A: Nuh-uh. It's potato. With some alchemy done to it.
Me: Heh, heh. Yes, once upon a time, cauliflower and goat cheese were potatoes.
A: They were. Everything was the potato. Until an alchemist changed everything. Now we have cauliflower and goat cheese.
Me: From France.
A: Yes.
Me: That taste like potato.
A: It's so deep.
Me: You should wear a beret when you say that.


Meet My Teachers: Mom and Dad

This article in Business Week.

Note: Readers CAN COMMENT on the article right on the website!


You can run, but you can't hide.

And I thank Hornblower for letting me know that.

Yesterday, or the day before, I posted an entry on this blog. It was my pity party. Things in my life are changing, and I have not openly admitted a bit of news to some of the real-life friends of mine who frequent this board. So I took the entry down. That, and I didn't like sounding needy.

I am not a religious person, but that does not prevent me from feeling connected to the bloggers who occasionally drop a line, to ask me a question, to thank me for some bit of information that I've been able to provide, or who lead a full-fledged Pity Party Production Live! From Somewhere in North America! V.1! complete with an mp3 download for me to listen to.

Why do we feel blue or let-down? I sometimes think it is Zeitgeist. Humanity just heaving a humongous sigh, to which we are not immune. One of my friends who took me out to a Mexican dinner on the night of my birthday, at the dinner, talked to me about his plans in life, about finding this ridiculous-looking truck in Mexico, and wanting to do something artistically with it (if you've been reading this blog, you probably know who I am referencing). This man has had an enormous amount of loss in his life. Loss of friends in deeply-rooted friendships, suddenly, and within the space of about a year from each other. So, what are you going to put on the truck? I asked him. A prayer, he replied. I paused. And cried. And he cried.

My friend Kaeshi is a lovely oriental dancer from Brunei who did a multimedia meditation for Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (click on "Play" to view - I know it's on beliefnet, but I promise it's not offensive). Kaeshi once explained to me, while we stood in a Barnes & Noble in Union Square, between the Chess and Yoga, in her exquisite way, about three times, a rather simple concept - about being the tree - that was somehow more complex than I perceived. Being the tree.


Finally, since quantum physics might have an explanation for some of this nonsense, there is something, maybe, on the tree icon here. I don't know. Maybe you do. Things are happening in such weird sequences in my life that I thought I would include it.

I thank Hornblower for the Glenlivet which has assisted this enlightened state of consciousness.


"I want to be like Leonardo da Vinci"

The quote of the week, and that declaration by A really lifted my spirits. I feel like such a slacker at times. But I know in my heart that this is what a really good education is about. If only we could get those Metrocards that the NYC Board of Education is finally giving to homeschoolers.

I've been doing a LOT of work with A on his arts curriculum. We use Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for fine art. The curriculum is very similar to the fine art fundamentals taught to art students in Europe. I do not recall anyone calling it "right-brained drawing" but I guess that (gimmicky) title works well our country. A's progress has been unbelievable with this particular curriculum. So, it is the one program that I highly recommend to anyone - child (from maybe age 10 or up) or adult learner.

A for the first time has asked me for something really seriously and regularly as of last week: an SLR camera. We've been checking out eBay for a certain used model Nikon. I hope we wind up the winning bidders. He returns to the darkroom with our photographer friend once he has some images to develop. No digital for us. We're so old school.

Our Algebra is coming along a little more slowly than I would have liked. We have 110-plus lessons, and we are only on Lesson Eight. Perhaps it is my fault; I am a little scared of climbing math levels too quickly. I really have to hurry up with teaching Algebra. My goal for this week: We cover lessons up to 12.

I've been hitting harder on our Genetics, and we are discussing DNA and RNA viruses, which weren't discussed in his classroom version of the same course. Microbiology is so much fun.

Interwoven with our Genetics studies have been Geography studies. We have been studying Africa and the current AIDS pandemic. We also watched the film "Yesterday" to supplement the very real life scenarios that Africans with HIV and AIDS endure.

What else - we're still working on Hamlet. Still. Taming of the Shrew is the next play in his Film Club (plays are read by the teens first, then a film is viewed the following meeting).
A otherwise attends a smattering of classes offered through NYCHEA, takes guitar lessons, joins me on occasion for knitting, and spends way too much time on MySpace.com.



A is reading yet another Brian James book.

It was my birthday this past Thursday. A made me coffee and took Napoleon out all day. He also made quesadillas and washed the dishes.

We had a blizzard this morning. I received e-mails in my inbox, alerting me to which of Alexander's were cancelled this week. Napoleon kept burying his head in the snow - as if it were a comfort blanket - whenever we let him out to pee.

I had knitting duty today for our Knitting Olympics downtown, so I went. The venue for today's Olympic knitting was CBGB's. Bleecker street was covered in white up to there, and, magically, no cars had descended on her. I walked on Bleecker, straight to the white and red awnings, covered in snow. The red letters were only half-visible. I guess this is the last winter I'll see those awnings there, on that street.

Only one other knitter showed up, and we were the only patrons in the venue. "The Olympic knitters," said Hilly, as he walked in to check on us. The bartender was grateful that we tipped nicely.

I found this on Gothamist.


Dude, are you ready for this?

I just got a local prom invitation for homeschoolers. Teens from age 13 and up can attend.



A Tale of Two Exhibits

I had heard about the controversy surrounding BODIES: The Exhibition, currently at South Street Seaport in New York. Real human corpses! Skinned and playing soccer! Gross! Shocking! Cool! Controversial! Homeschooling parents, being conscientious and thorough as they are, asked the question that seemed to get lost in the media hype: From where do the bodies come? When I heard the answer from these parents, I was inclined to call the BODIES organizers, Premier Exhibitions, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia for confirmation.

Me: Hi. My name is LaMai, and I am calling from New York City. I am an educator. I just have a question before we view Bodies: The Exhibition.
Premier Exhibitions, Inc., Lady: OK.
Me: Where does the exhibit come from?
PEIL: I am not sure that I understand your question.
Me: Okay. From where do the BODIES IN THE EXHIBIT come?
PEIL: Uh, China.
Me: I see.
PEIL: [pause] From the Dalian Medical Institute.
Me: Okay. Thank you for the information. That is all I needed to know.

For the bodies to be skinned, cross-sectioned, etc., medical doctors would necessarily perform those procedures. But how did the bodies get to Dalian Medical Institute? Did the the people in BODIES have informed consent to be used for educational purposes? Were they infirmed or in jail when they were alive (and if they were in jail, is it because they were thieves or because were prisoners of conscience)? Will the Chinese government share truthful information or (pardon the pun) doctor it, so that the exhibit can continue its tour?

Gunther von Hagens' BODYWORLDS is a similar exhibit, currently in Philadelphia. The difference is that the bodies - the people - in BODYWORLDS have given consent. Dr. von Hagens also meets with potential donors. Rumor is a lot of people want to be in von Hagens' exhibit, and there is a waiting list.



Today at lunch I saw Patti Smith eating two tables away from me in SoHo/West Village with Lenny Kaye. They were eating in a spot that had an obstructed view to them. I recently got to know Lenny (sort of - we keep bumping into each other at parties where we'll talk for maybe 20 minutes), and as I left, I said "hi," they were both incredibly sweet, Lenny hugged me and mentioned something about healthy food choices, Patti asked me about my "little one," while they both seemed to wrestle with the internal question "who the bleep is this chick again?" It was okay. It happens to me, too. And I have e-mail addresses, and I love giving refreshers. Especially to very good, honest people. Who are rock legends.

It is unusual for me to actually eat out for lunch. I enjoy eating at home. And I think that I am the only New Yorker who actually attempts to cook three times a day.

So lately, when people ask me, "What's the next big thing?" and I want to answer something about homeschooling, I forget that I am acutally am a homeschooling parent. I am also an activist, a publicity maven, a writer of magazine articles, yadda yadda yadda. Friends show genuine surprise when they hear that I have been anywhere above 14th Street. "You? Above 14th Street?" Um, yeah. You know, I *live* above 14th Street. "Yeah, but, you like, just need to take the train to get to where you do your thing."

Those conversations make me laugh.

New York can be such a succubus, pulling its inhabitants through a rabbit hole where Image is Everything and Who You Are and What You Stand For mean Nothing. I am settling into a good place. I've become honest with myself and with who I am. It's such a contrast to where I was a year and a half ago. I don't have to keep up with anyone. Keeping up with myself is work enough.

So while my head spins while I attempt to cook three (preferably organic) meals a day, everyday, get my hands dirty in fresh new kid mohair and silk yarn from Japan, pick up a new publicity project, read every single news item every day, schedule the next Fung Wah trip to Boston for A to take courses at Harvard, or dream a new rock and roll event, and get asked what I have next on my agenda, I can genuinely say this:

Horses Horses Horses Horses Horses Horses Horses....


Brian James again

A is reading Perfect World by Brian James. It's another pleasure book, apart from our English curriculum, which includes Hamlet by Shakespeare, and smatterings of the Greek classics to supplement our Hamlet readings. A also wants to start a student poetry group to culminate in a reading at the Bowery Poetry Club. We shall see how that goes.

A has come a long way from his public school days, when he was told he was "not ready" to read at his grade level, and his 5th grade teacher thought he did not, or could not, understand English (!). A would come home from school with a sullen expression and mumble, "I've been placed in the dummy reading group."

Those were the days that I secretly wanted to spank his 5th grade teacher. With a mace.

Instead, maybe I'll just send her A's latest reading list.

*Please note, LaMai is not a fan of spanking. I was brought up on Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Roald Dahl, and the occasional Addams Family t.v. episode, hence my latent dark sense of humor.

Nooooo! E-mail officially kills the telegram

Link to Western Union announcement here.

Story on CNN on their site (it's a video, link in the right-hand column).


This from CNN...

(sourced from the Associated Press)Businesses cater to homeschool families.
Disappointingly, the House passes cuts to student loan subsidies.

I am a mad woman.

Me: Hi Corinna. How about getting our knitting circle involved in the Knitting Olympics?
Corinna: What's that?
Me: Well, it's this idea that Yarn Harlot came up with...yadda yadda yadda...guidelines...yadda yadda yadda...February 10th until February 26...yadda yadda yadda...and we could do it as a media event, and we would highlight different New York bars, because, after all, we are Booze and Yarn, maybe at CBGB's or at the Bowery Poetry Club or Brooklyn Brewery or Niagara, give credit to Yarn Harlot, of course, and donate our projects to a charity, which would be great, the community and the press love that sort of thing, maybe donate our knitted goods to our favorite women's shelter, and we can have a closing ceremony with buttons and and music and Olympic-watching and booze and stuff. I can do the press release. Whaddya think?
Corinna: Sounds great. Let's get to work on it.
Me: Okay...

Wait. Did I just coordinate another insane media event?