Sometimes, my head hurts.

I woke up to the sounds of clank-clank-clanking outside my window this morning. Someone was working on wielding metal bars? attempting to rip apart his car into scrap? pole-clanking? long enough to make a difference in my sleep pattern. I woke up with a terrible ache.

The Advil did not help, and I could not teach. A worked alone on his math.

A is plugging along with his math. He has figured out the number of lessons per month (20) he needs to complete to finish the Saxon Algebra book by summer. I think he can do it, and I am too happy to coach him along. Yes, that's right. Coach. As in, little work for me, but lots of motivation for you. Because I can. And maybe because we now have a math tutor.

A's photography program materials arrived in the mail today. It's official. It's exciting. He smiled the whole time.

Last night, we watched Good Night, And Good Luck on DVD. What a brilliant film. A lesson in journalism and politics and civics, all rolled into one, packaged in beautiful and poignant cinematography. A asked me a lot of questions, post-film viewing. Is McCarthy dead? Yes, hepatitis. He drank himself to death. Is Murrrow dead? Yes, lung cancer [see film]. Liberace was gay? Um...[see film interview - it's good]. Is Paley dead? No idea. But I met a Paley last year, which was cool . Does ALCOA still make commercials? What happened to Fred Friendly? What about Robert Downey Jr.'s character? Okay, now! Now it is time for you to start looking up that stuff yourself!


Erm, mom?

I was gone for coffee with a friend for a couple of hours and when I returned...

A: Oh, mom?
Me: Yes?
A: The Illustrious Community of Photographers ("ICP") called again an hour ago. Why would they call me?
Me: They did? They called?
A: Yeah. Weird.

I do not tell A that I re-submitted our paperwork for the next round of classes that start next week. I remember how they left a similar message last time. They phoned just to let A know he had been rejected.

Me: Um. I dunno. Why not call them back and see what they want?
A: No. I don't want to. I don't like ICP. They suck. They called me last time to diss me.
Me: Okay. But maybe they're calling for something else this time?
A: Mom.
Me: Yes?
A: Did you send in my application again or something?
Me: Um. No?
A: Uh-huh.
Me: Okay. I'll call.

[I dial the number on the voicemail message]

Me: Hello? Mr. Photography Guy? Hi. I am A's mother and um, you called him? Um, he's in bed with a cold and can't talk right now.
MPG: Oh, HI! So you get to be the receptionist today, then?
Me: Yeah. Something like that.
MPG: Great! Well, I am pleased to let you know that A got into the program.
Me: Oh. Oh wow.

[I get the details from MPG. I notice that as I hang up, A is making a face.]

A: You re-applied for me, didn't you?
Me: I re-sent all the same paperwork. Nothing changed. We just tried again was all. Are you okay with that?
A: I'm okay with it.
Me: You sure?
A: Yeah. When do I start?

The moral of the story is...(you fill in the blanks)......

End Scene.


LaMai throws her hands up in the air and says "waaah?"

Not only did I not like the title "Stitch and Bitch" (none of my cute hipster friends like it, either) well, this just doesn't help!

Ms. Stoller, LaMai has some advice for you: Stop trying so hard.

The rest of Sunday

A rode a bike on the westside bikepath with his friend, from Chelsea up to the 60's.

Then he came home to start his first day learning the sitar. The sitar teacher left his sitar for A to practice. "I can't believe it. There is a sitar here. I can't believe it."

"Today was a good day," he said.

The lioness has rejoined her cub, and all is well in the jungle. ...


This is sneaky.

So A has an old agenda from the school he attended in Westchester. It turns out there is an e-genda version of it. Log on to www.mydiscoverzone.com and sign yourself up as a parent or student, but not an administrator or educator, and you can pick a school and actually use it.


A and I couldn't decide what to do today. Museum of Science? Movie? Walk in the park? Museum of Science? Movie? Walk in the park?

A decided to sleepover at a friend's. He took his guitar with him. He left not before completing his algebra and geometry work, programming a few things in a computer programming language that he is teaching himself (oh dear, just like his dad), and not before working on a writing assignment which is due on Monday.

Nappo met an Afghan hound at the dog park today.

I watched The Constant Gardener on DVD.

I get insomnia when A is away.



I am ready to pick up and go again. Like Juliette Binoche's character in Chocolat, the west wind beckons, and me and A should go to India right about next week.

Just kidding.

Or maybe not. What prompted the decision to look outside of our cozy apartment for comfort?

About this time every evening, our upstairs neighbor makes a lot of noise. Like, bed-shaking noise. I hope he doesn't hate me if he reads this. Yes, dear neighbor, I realize that your noise is in your bedroom, so I shouldn't hear it, since it is A, not me, who sleeps directly below you. But every night, I can hear you. I do not wish to know what you are really doing, because I make believe what makes the noises filter down to us. Yes, you are testing the boxspring like a crash test dummy with your helmet and elbow padding, in some odd paid experiment from the makers of Sealy Posturpedic, that must be conducted between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.

We need an apartment with thicker walls and flooring. Should we move to a former factory in SoHo? To the Upper West Side, where buildings were really built like, well, buildings? TriBeCa? Meatpacking district? What? Yes, I will call up a realtor and ask the following:

[ring, ring]
Me: Erm, hello? Hi. Could you please tell me what part of Manhattan has the thickest flooring and walls? About 10 feet thick, please. With brick, wood, and metal buffering. I need, um, less bang for my buck. And this would be a forever home, please. Except when we take off for India for two seconds. Thank you.
Realtor: [dead signal]

India has been on my mind for a while. I am trying to figure out the angle for an article based on a single homeschooling mother who takes off with her photograph-taking son to the land of spices, sitar ragas, melting chocolate palaces, and certain societal and gender challenges that a single homeschooling mother would normally face in such exotic environs.

Or perhaps I should visit New Zealand when L at MySchola when her family moves there. We could have a homeschooling caravan. Or maybe we should go to France (I've already lived there and A wants to go). Or England (ditto). I recently received the Old Boarding School Society newsletter from the school I attended there, and I miss it. Yes, LaMai is an official OBSS Girl with voting rights among old snobs in England.

Wherever we go, I will have to make sure that the walls and flooring are as thick as my wanderlust. We will, after all, need a good night's sleep.



When I post something potty, I take it down. I decided that I will leave the previous post up for a while.

I am not perfect, and I come from a shaky childhood. I think that it is okay that I acknowledge some stuff from my past from time to time to gauge where I am, and the stuff that makes me who I am. As a mother, as a homeschooling parent, and blogger.

It is amazing what becoming a parent can do for you. For some or maybe for many, it makes one's valuation of life, of the life of one's child/ren, skyrocket so high, in such a humbling way. It prompts so much introspection.

Am I doing this right?
Am I being a good parent?
Am I acting like my mother/father/aunt/uncle?
Am I being a bad parent?
And by the way, how did I get here?

I guess from the responses from my previous post, I am certainly not alone in feeling confused about the parenting that affected me. But I sure as heck know how to lay a better foundation for my child. Lucky thing, him. [insert smile here]

And oh, man, Nappo just farted...


because it needs to be said.

A confession:

My mother refuses to acknowledge anything of value that I've done in my lifetime.

She does not say "I love you" to me. She does say it to A. Because I do. All the time.

My mother suggested what a great idea it would be for me to homeschool A , but isn't it a pity that I am such a slacker with work-related matters, therefore, she has reversed her decision. I should not be homeschooling A. Homeschooling takes up too much time that could go to work-related matters.

My mother also suggested that I send all my things to storage when I had sufficient room here at home. I followed her advice, and now my things are all stuck in storage in a warehouse in the Bronx that is always closed when I phone.

She also suggested that I get a job and not go to college after high school. That I would never amount to anything, anyway.

My grandmother, A's great-grandmother, sings, dances Cuban salsa, curses, walks to the grocery store every day without a cane, tells jokes, shows up to funerals, gets invited out places, and talks to me without counting the seconds on the clock (unlike my mother). Yet my grandmother has limited time left for us to savor and enjoy her.

My mother has no money. And she is withering away.

My grandmother has less money, and is older, but she is more alive.

I do not wish to become my mother. I prefer to become my 94-year-old grandmother.

This was awkward to write.

Meep Meep

So, this is what a coyote looks like. Which is why I am a little - um - perplexed to read that New Yorkers should be on the lookout for a German Shepherd-type animal in Central Park (click on photo for more on resemblance). Yes, there's a coyote on the loose.

Hurrah! The Math teacher is on the way. Banzai cleaning resumes!

Columbia University seems to be offering a decent summer school program for 9th and 10th graders. Hmmm...


The President finally called on Helen Thomas

And this is what happened.

In other news, Alexander and I went to an Apple seminar to learn about Apple's Aperture software. During the presentation, most of the photographers in the room shook their heads and one senior-looking guy actually booed. I guess they love Adobe Photoshop.

This post was brought to you by a cup of coffee and Jolly Rancher candies

We are not hippies. We are not hippies. I say this as I hold the Clorox Clean-Up (Cleaner With Bleach!) in one hand, and a scouring sponge in the other, and make a desperate attempt to banzai clean-up the bathroom. The sink looks like a scene from Silence of the Lambs. Well, almost. I have not invited the housekeeper over in too many weeks that I care to mention, and the illustrious sitar teacher, who has actually studied under Pundit Ravi Shankar, is supposedly on his way. To my apartment. I left him messages on his cell phone to confirm the day's lesson, wondering if he was actually going to come, this was before I realized that he left me two messages the day before, requesting the same confirmation. Well, of course he will actually come. And when he gets here, he will certainly ask to use the bathroom. And the bathroom looks like ... Ugh. This is unacceptable. Then the phone rings.

Me: Hello?
Sitar Teacher ("ST"): Hello? Ms. LaMai?
Me: Yes?
ST: Yes? It is ST. I am so very sorry to have missed your voicemail messages.
Me: Yes? That's okay? [Please say you can't come Please say you can't come Please say you forgot Please say your wife wants you to take her to the park, to a show, spice shopping, anything, Please say you can't come]
ST: Well, again, I am so very sorry to have missed your three messages.
Me: That's okay?
ST: And I am so very sorry.
Me: Oh? Why?
ST: Because I am in [STATIC] which is upstate, you see, and right now it is impractical for me to get to the City...

And thus, that is how I was saved from way too much bathroom cleaning for my own good. Not to mention kitchen cleaning, bedroom cleaning, and living room cleaning. And closet organization. And come to think of it, the windows need help, too.

Today A woke up quite late, but not before declaring out loud in his sleep, "But where do the BODIES come from in THE BODIES EXHIBIT??!!!!!" This kid reads way too much of my writing.

Also later today, over math, A announced he wanted to study the entire Saxon Algebra I through summer, and that I should buy the next level Saxon math book. Now.

And later later today, I took a copyediting course, because I have to pay for A's b-m, which is going to cost and it is this summer, which means I need to take up a copyediting job that will pay not a lot, but it will pay, and so tonight I sat through the course in a building where a man in a next room said "Hello? Hello? Hello?" a lot, apparently on the phone, his "Hellos" being emphasized by the POW POW POW of the gunshots heard one floor below, because the gun range was there, yes, right off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the POW POW POWS which were somewhat more of a relief than the much louder THUMP THUMP THUMP that we copyediting students heard which followed the POW POW POWS. What is that? I asked. THUMP THUMP THUMP. A nightclub? The copyediting instructor turned red and she said, "Um, it's the strip joint next door."

And finally, this evening, A excitedly gave me the good news that his crew team got to finally row. On the water. It was 32F today.

He wore wool.


Sitars and apartments which are simply not ready

So the sitar teacher rang yesterday. On both the house phone and the cell phone.

Are we on for tomorrow? he asked.

This was my treat for A, because he never asks for much, but he likes the things that The Quiet Beatle, George Harrison, did and so, the sitar lessons I will allow.

The apartment's a mess.


Green Day

Yesterday, A went to Film Club in the far, far away land that is Riverdale. He would be gone for several hours. I had business in the City around the same time. I had heard bagpipes before the meeting around 38th Street, and the business meeting had gone well. I found myself alone in Bryant Park with nothing to do.

So I walked toward the sound of the pipes.

As I got closer to the sound, I noticed an ambulance to my right parked in front of the great grey lions of the New York Public Library. A man and woman stood on the asphalt, before the ambulance. The woman had long wavy red hair, shiny and shampooed for the day's occasion. They hugged each other and the man cried, that body-tremor sort of crying that men do so well. The ambulance doors had not yet closed. From where I stood, there were feet visible in brown Oxford leather shoes on a stretcher. It was an old man. I looked at his hand. It was colorless. "He was blue when they got here," said an African-American woman who stood beside me, to no one.

I continued to walk toward the sound of the pipes.

It is funny how midtown Manhattan suddenly looms so large from the lower blocks, like a child whose puberty you've missed entirely. Out of the front doors of a Very Tall Building exited an African-American woman who laughed, declared she was leaving work for the day, "Because I'm Black Irish! So there! Hah hah hah." I couldn't help but smile at her.

There were Serbs, Koreans, blacks, hispanics, and everybody else, wearing shamrocked clothing. They seemed to have the same goosebumps that I did when I heard the drumming and pipes.

I recalled my upstairs neighbor, who is British, earlier complain that he had to wear a kilt for this weekend's performances. He is a harpsichord player. Damn heavy piece of fabric. Damned Irish-Americans.

The signs read St. Patrick's Day Parade: 11 am - 4 pm.

It was now 5:30 p.m. The Irish finish their celebrations when they're good and ready. Some of the car barricades were lifted by the police. This was not wise. It left cars waiting at Madison Avenue indefinitely and directly before the parade marchers.

The drums and pipes moved ahead of me until they reached a distance where I could not hear, and no longer seemed to command and paralyze me; the wail was reduced to a modest suggestion. I noticed a long-faced man with red hair and a green hat on a corner selling pins. One read "Kiss My Irish Ass" another "Kiss Me I'm Irish" and yet another "God Bless the Irish." I gave him a dollar. I picked "God Bless the Irish."


Purim, and the Megillah RV Camper

Only in New York, I am thinking. Only in New York. I am looking at Orthodox Jewish men dressed in suits and black hats and clown costumes, and tallit sticking out from under their shirts, dancing around Union Square in downtown Manhattan. In front of an RV camper that reads "CruiseAmerica.com." With a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, may he rest in peace, plastered all over the RV.

Yes, it's Purim, folks. At least, it was on Tuesday.

Fortunately, A had his camera on hand. We got asked the standard opening question: You Jewish? Yes, we replied. You know about Purim? I don't tell them about our previous lives when we lived in Miami Beach, when we were surrounded by chasidim just like them, and that a Lubavitcher rabbi gave A his bris. They explain Purim. Queen Esther was married to a Persian king, and evil Haman tricked the king to signing a decree for all the Jews in the kingdom to die. Queen Esther saved the day, and the custom is to celebrate the happy fate of the Jews. You know the joke: The Jews were meant to die, but they didn't, so you eat! Which is why we eat Haman-taschen on Purim. Yes, we eat Haman on this holiday (actually, it's his hat, or pockets, depending on the translation used).

The chasidim offered to read the Megillah for us. We accepted.

"Go inside," was the instruction.

We climbed into the RV. There were cookies and vodka. A dark guy with a nose ring and t-shirt that read "CUBA" was already there. A German-looking dude was there, too. So were two other kids, with noisemakers in their hands. A was close to laughing at the scene. Besides that we were being read a Megillah in Hebrew at mind-bogglingly fast speed. They had to get us out quick, you know.

"You know why we have the vodka?" asked one chasid.
No, we replied. He smiles.
"Because you put all the other liquids in the freezer, and they freeze. Right?" Right.
"But Jews are like vodka. You put vodka in the freezer, what happens?"
Blank stares. I speak up.
Vodka doesn't freeze.
"That's right. It stays the same as before."
We all "get" the message that is coming.
"So just remember, be proud to be who you are. And don't change. Okay?" He smiles a sheepish smile.

I look at the guy with the nose ring.

In the end, it made for good photos.

The Writing Teacher, The Job

A's English writing teacher is proving to be incredibly accessible. He regularly e-mails Alexander after class to comment on any given paper that he's turned in, and occasionally e-mails A a surprise assignment due the following class. On gauging performance, he is critical without being too harsh, and commends A when he has done well. I guess all the e-mail correspondence is good practice for college. "Staying in communication" and all that.

We still haven't decided what A should do for a job. We initially thought dog-walking would be good, but no, what if some random dog attacks the dog being walked, or the dog being walked suddenly turns on A, that would be too dangerous, we live in a litigious society, yadda yadda yadda.

Then we thought A's knitting skills could be put to good use, and we could sell knitted goods in SoHo or something. It's almost springtime.

I've also thought of making soap, as a similarly-aged teenage friend of A's makes soap and once made $100 in one day selling the home-made bars outside his building in the LES. Chemicals and messes involved with making soap - I'd have to think on that one.

Then there is web design, a skill which A would love to learn, and I am certain he could do well with it, but A has yet to learn web design. Hmph.

He is taking a lot of photographs, and maybe in a year or so we can think about exhibiting his work, and he can set his own prices. I actually like that idea the most. Besides the web design.

Anyone have any job ideas for a young teen?


Erm...what are you doing, A?

I'm playing air sitar!

*Photo is not of Alexander. Heh heh.


This article from CNN explains the social rift that is maintained by private education. Phrases like "town and gown" were founded on very real social implications (town = the folks who live where the boarding school is located, gown = those who wear the academia gowns of the school, and the students who can afford to attend it).


A hand...

...that A sketched this past Sunday.

A gave it a special title, too. The first word that you don't see is "piece."



I saw the StoryCorps booth at Grand Central station, but was too scared? shy? what? to tell a story there.

This story spoke to me - I remember my Cuban immigrant mother, newly divorced, going through similarly tough times (It was tough for me to listen to).

Maybe I need to find a StoryCorps booth after all.


I was not invited to this event. Even though I am on a first-name basis with the Rock Hall folks. It's just as well. I would not have had anything to wear.

: p

"I'm going to quit crew."

It's been a while since A did any strenuous exercise. So I was especially surprised (and pleased) when he made it on the rowing team. Out of 200 kids who participated in the tryouts, A made it on the team of 12 novice boys.

A is having trouble keeping up with the running training.

A: "I have been the last one, twice."
Me: It's okay. Somebody's got to the be the last one jogging up the bridge. You've only just started. If it becomes a serious problem, let's figure something out so you can get some extra running training.
A: "OK."
Me: But if you totally hate the crew team, don't feel like you need to continue or need to do it for me.
A: "OK."

Post-news: A came home the following day and stated that he "really enjoys crew" and reported that he found himself running alongside his teammates, not behind them.




If anything that I present here clashes with the views of the unschooling community, or unschoolers individually, I apologize. I realized - too late - in the comments on the previous post that "competition" and "humanistic" are key terms in the unschooling world, and I may have confused the readership with my answers.

We are not unschoolers. I could leave A alone with books on mathematics, physics, chemistry, French, the universe, the Art of Picking Up Teenage Girls, and his guitar. He would likely choose to study the latter two. For the entire school year.

A and I come from nearly the same gene pool. As a young student, I needed prodding to learn math. Ditto to learn English (even though I was very, very good at it in school). Prodding to do P.E. To study for the SAT or any exam, for that matter (did I tell you about the time my Classics master in England had to physically get me up out of bed and literally drag me to the exam room? Yeah, being caught sleeping midday through a test. That was oh-so-much fun). I had my natural talents and gifts; they were, sadly, not "academic" ones. And they were never nurtured.

I notice similar traits with A. I know how to guide him through the academic stuff without indoctrinating him to death. I try to inspire in the academic areas. But A's talents? I nurture them. I know from my own experience that ignoring them is a very foolish mistake and might lead to an unfulfilled life. I would hate to be the catalyst for an unfulfilled life. Knowing my child, knowing that structure, with some competition, yet with freedom to daydream and grow in other areas would be the best brew for us, I chose a "classical" curriculum and modified it to our needs. Oh boy did we modify it. And, we never tried "School-in-a-Box" or an otherwise pre-determined packaged curriculum.

I did study John Holt a bit. When I learned that he had been to Le Rosey in Switzerland (OH MY GOD, NOBODY GETS INTO THAT SCHOOL UNLESS YOU'RE...YEAH. OH MY GOD), then Phillips Exeter Academy (HELLO!), then Yale (OF COURSE...HE WENT TO LE ROSEY AND TO PHILLIPS EXETER!!), I was disappointed. This man could not have been better pedigreed, educationally. His views come from his experiences as the product of an elitist boarding school education. Not once, not twice, but three times over. John Holt could say "Boo!" about education and people would listen. That he was friendly with Summerhill School's A.S. Neill, sealed the deal for me. If I had known of an activist unschooler who did astounding things in the educational field, perhaps my views on unschooling would be different. But that's just me.

While I did not get to go to Le Rosey, I did notice that at the elite boarding school environment I attended, critical thinking and self-expression were encouraged more than in the American public school system. If a student spoke up in class (I remember the round table that was my English 'A' Level class) and she expressed her views, she was a star for that moment. The other students listened, the English master did his Socratic thing with her, until she reached that gold nugget of information that made us all go, "a-ha!" I also remember my classrooms at the boarding school had very large loft-like windows that overlooked a green. I could observe students walking about, the snow falling. It was very different from the American public school world, where I was straight-jacketed most of the time. Or maybe it was jail. Yes, I think it was jail.

I believe that homeschoolers, particularly in New York City, do not seem to be sufficiently proud of their educational choices. For example, I hear this a lot -

Parent A: My son is going to high school next year. He just wants to. He's ready!
Parent B: My daughter chose XXX High School, because she wants to investigate what school is like!
Parent C: My son is probably going to high school. There just aren't any teenage homeschoolers in New York City!!!

I give credit to Parent C. She was honest. I think homeschoolers in NYC are pressured to seek some kind of validation that what they are doing is okay, and that their precious children will be accepted somewhere, anywhere, that society deems is proper. And that their kids will have others with whom to socialize. [Thump. Thump. Thump. Hey, kids, hear that? That is me beating a dead horse!]

Of course, they could consider one of John Holt's alma maters. Le Rosey now has online applications.

*click for famous alumni list.


"Stupid in America" continues

Last night, John Stossel reported the fallout on the segment, "Stupid in America," that aired on 20/20 in January. The segment demonstrated how educational competition - such as that which exists in other parts of the world - would improve and advance our own educational system. That the United States Postal Service did not have overnight deliveries until FedEx appeared on the market, was provided as an example. Competition for government-run institutions = good. Same-old = bad.

These were John Stossel's main points, taken from 20/20's website:

"American fourth-graders do well on international tests, but by high school, Americans have fallen behind kids in most other countries.

The constant refrain that "public schools need more money" is nonsense. Many countries that spend significantly less on education do better than we do. School spending in America (adjusted for inflation) has more than tripled over the past 30 years, but national test scores are flat. The average per-pupil cost today is an astonishing $10,000 per student — $200,000 per classroom! Think about how many teachers you could hire, and how much better you could do with that amount of money.

Most American parents give their kids' schools an A or B grade, but that's only because, without market competition, they don't know what they might have had. The educators who conduct the international tests say that most of the countries that do best are those that give school managers autonomy, and give parents and students the right to choose their schools. Competition forces private and public schools to improve.

There is little K-12 education competition in America because public schools are a government monopoly. Monopolies rarely innovate, and union-dominated monopolies, burdened with contracts filled with a hundred pages of suffocating rules, are worse. The head of New York City's schools told me that the union's rules 'reward mediocrity.'"

The union of New York City teachers, however, decided to protest John Stossel for airing the segment. Not the system that reinforces the same-old, but the man who revealed the problem.

Yes, that makes total sense to me.


Say what?

LaMai is not responsible for the belly aches that you will suffer once you read this elucidating trek to the land of food translation. Link credit to Calletta at Forever December.

Apple computers and homeschool students

Homeschool students receive special pricing from Apple. I see only a $100 discount for their G5, but I thought I'd share their homeschool pricing information. At least Apple has a homeschool page.

The Apple store in SoHo has school nights this season every Tuesday at 7 p.m., until April 25, 2006. I plan to attend at least one school night to observe what students are up to in the Kingdom of Apple.


Interview with LaMai

I have decided to interview myself. Just because. The interviwer's name is Alter Ego ("AE").

AE: So you've got some free time to interview. I consider myself lucky.
LaMai: Not really, but I hate not blogging, and I couldn't think of anything else to to do today.

AE: Fair enough. So, tell us, what got you started on the homeschooling journey?
LaMai: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I think I was part of some type of movement without really knowing it. I had a homebirth in Miami Beach when it wasn't really fashionable to do that. Actually, we lived in Bal Harbour, so for sure, it wasn't fashionable there. My neighbor was Bob Dole. THAT Bob Dole. Anyway, I did the homebirth thing, then breastfed for a really long time (let's not go into how many years, lest the bloggy reader faint, but it was under the World Health Organization's recommendation of four years, okay?). We did French school full-time, which was also unconventional. Alex learned to use real cutlery there; I was impressed that he could slice a bit of steak at age four. They actually taught him that. And oh yeah, he could speak French. When we arrived in New York and institutional school wasn't working out for us here, I knew I could educate my son. It was just a logical progression of how I did things.

AE: You say that - "how I did things" - singularly. Which means you are single.
LaMai: Indeed. You have a problem with that?

AE: Not at all. But that's doubly unconventional.
LaMai: It is. But I am not going to go into a "Oh man, it's so hard to be single and homeschool" spiel.

AE: Really? It's not hard?
LaMai: Oh, it is. At least, it can be. There are financial considerations, certainly. And I can never be on that show Wife Swap as a single parent to make an easy $20,000.00. Or is it $50,000.00? Anyway, if there is a fight to be fought, I do it alone. I've had some daunting moments. But it just depends on how motivated you are, and how unwilling you are to feed the Fear Monster. This year, I decided to adapt my life to fit my son's needs. I worked in the legal field when I first arrived here, now I write. I am a writer. Things are tough financially. But for A, for his growth, for his learning process, things are amazingly good now. And that's enough validation that I'm doing the right thing.

AE: Do you date much?
LaMai: If I do, you won't know about it. I swore to myself that A would not have an unstable life, with this guy or that showing up at home. I've seen other kids of divorce watch their mothers switch partners frequently - that's not my style.

AE: Back to homeschooling. What surprises you about it?
LaMai: In New York, there's an amazing amount of resources for homeschoolers. You have the community to learn from. You have museums, knowledge, information - everywhere. It's mind-boggling. We joined a homeschooling association this past year - NYCHEA. A attends classes with some of the wittiest students I've ever met. And the parents! I've met an interesting bunch of parents. Most great, some not so great, but this is as much of a learning process for me as it is for A.

AE: How so?
LaMai: For example, just the other night I was meeting with some homeschooling parents about having a Career Day. One parent lamented that her teen daughter wanted to learn publishing, but didn't know to whom to turn for an internship. I asked her if she had any friends in the publishing industry. She said "no." I couldn't believe it. I think I almost flipped. That woman has been in New York and homeschooling for eons. Look, I just got to this town. I've met more people than I can even tell you, in the most diverse professions imaginable. Manhattan is the easiest island on the planet to meet people.

AE: So you do that a lot?
LaMai: Duh!

AE: Does your child learn as much as he would in an institutional school?
LaMai: Depends on what you think kids actually "learn" in schools. Do we follow the guidelines of the New York City Board of Education? Yes. Do I go beyond what those guidelines are? You betcha. Do I say "ding, ding, time's up!" every hour, on the hour? No. If we need to finish something, we finish it, irrespective of what's on the clock. That's the best part of a flexible education like this one. And we do not move on to the next lesson and until the current one is thoroughly understood.

AE: That might be a problem for traditionalists, no?
LaMai: I think the most offensive thing I've heard recently was when David Tokofsky of the Los Angeles Unified School District said on CNN, something like, "How will those homeschool kids learn geography?" I nearly flipped (again). Nevermind that National Geographic Bee champions are typically homeschoolers, most public school teachers don't teach geography too well. And us homeschoolers can just jump on a plane and take off and learn about the world during the school year if we need to do that. Or RV around the country, like Lisa Welchel. Many homeschoolers do travel for educational purposes. Sure beats reading a book. Or ignoring it, as the case may be.

AE: You watch Jay Leno.
LaMai: When he asks random people on the street those geography questions? Yeah. Just last night, I asked a homeschool parent what her ethnicity was. She looked exotic, so I thought I'd ask. Her answer was "Mexican." Oh, from where in Mexico? I asked. She explained she was from Colorado. And I understood. We've had some dramatic border changes between the United States and Mexico in the last two centuries. When this woman said she was Mexican, but her family was from Colorado for several generations, I got it. I'd like to see that question on Jay Leno, actually. The Standard Deviants actually exclude Mexico from North America on their little DVD show.

AE: So, should everybody homeschool?
LaMai: [Nearly chokes] Can everybody spell? No.

AE: Oh, I forgot to ask what's on everybody's mind. Are you an alcoholic? You talk an awful lot about martinis.
LaMai: Probably because I drink so few of them. It's like Teuscher Swiss chocolates. It's good if it's only an occasional treat. I once tried a watermelon martini at Bungalow 8, and a really nice lavender martini made with real lavender at Dove in the West Village. I drink a pint of Guinness once a week at my knitting circle, and that's about it. Sorry to disappoint.

AE: Last but not least. Your CBGB's campaign.
LaMai: The bane of my existence. Hey, at least I got to meet cool people. One day, both Jonathan Demme and Fab 5 Freddy called me on my cell phone to help out. Debbie Harry called me, too, she said because Chris and Tina of the Talking Heads referred her. My favorite interview was with MOJO Magazine. And I saw a copy sell on eBay, and the person who sold it on eBay included my interview as a selling point. That was weird and cool.

AE: So you didn't actually Save CBGB's?
LaMai: Their lease is up October this year. Whether the club will be designated a landmark, remains to be seen.


What A is reading...

A is reading Garth Nix for pleasure this week. I think. I found this book lying on the floor, on page something or other, with the bookcover removed, which is the way he prefers to read books (I still don't know why).

"Did you know that we have to wear wool when we row on cold days?" No, I didn't know that, A. "Just in case we get wet, so we stay warm. Now I understand why sailors used to knit."

A is currently out doing darkroom duty. He took photographs with two rolls of film and is under the supervision of our friend, Big Time Photographer, developing the negatives. I hear that our friend Big Time Photographer is friends with Big Time Filmmaker, who won a Big Time Award in the south of France last year, and Big Time Filmmaker has been tutoring another friend's teen. So LaMai is plotting for an introduction.

What we do for our kids, I swear.

A needs a math tutor - he loves math, and honestly, I cannot keep up with the seriousness and depth of his math questions. I've resigned myself to being his basic stupid Algebra teacher, and I need a brilliant back up. I spoke to a math tutor on the phone two days ago, on referral, and he seems to fit the bill. He loves teaching homeschool students. Plus, he lives in the hippest part of town, next to that bar where I spotted Sean Lennon (sans his mother Yoko). So A can do lessons in that neighborhood's classroom space while I run off and have a martini and some good pommes frites. It's a win-win situation.

A finished knitting his last wool cap and sent it off to his 94-year-old great-grandmother in Florida. I thought that was funny. She loved it.

Thanks to Princess Ennui...

I have discovered Swiss Miss. I love good and innovative design, and I love reading about bloggers who appreciate the same.

The Talk.

So A shows up at the boathouse as an official member of the crew team yesterday. And they got The Talk.

No drugs. No funny business. Or you're off the team.

"Why can't musicians all be on rowing teams?" I am asked when A returns. "If they rowed, they wouldn't be on drugs."


Whatever you think of Kate Moss...

...I think Alexander McQueen's hologram was stunning. This is a "Chinese bootleg film" version of The Hologram.

Want some more obsessive nonsense? Thanks to my life insurance agent, I found this. Ah, yes, ladies, he's sooo talented...

The educational element of this blog will soon return. I promise.

and then...

Fit fit fits.
You will perish of fits. Repeat this to yourself:

"Things can work out even if I don't get

my way. Things can work out even...."

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla


Play the rockinest music you've got. We are. And get some Bolly.

A officially got on the crew team.



Lux Permanet

Who is Lux Permanet? Someone who has their s&^*t together and is thus more intelligent than me, but who reads my blog anyway. Which is nice.


Mom, read this about Ansel Adams...

So A received his camera this week, and got to work straightaway taking photographs. It's nice to watch a child's transition in visual acuity when he suddenly says, "Wow, that would make a good photograph."

And then, The Photographers and their bodies of work. Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ansel Adams. Annie Leibovitz. Doisneau. Avedon. And on. And on. After some time on the computer, A blurted out, "Ansel Adams left school!"

According to Wikipedia: "Adams disliked the uniformity of the education system and left school in 1915 to educate himself. He originally trained himself as a pianist, but Yosemite and the camera diverted his interest toward photography. He later met his future wife, Virginia Best, in Yosemite. She was known to be particularly camera shy. Adams long alternated between a career as a concert pianist and one as a photographer."

Ah. Well that explains a lot, doesn't it?


Tell us how fabu we are

The Knitting Olympics, a la Booze and Yarn, presented by Pink of Perfection.

You love us. Just admit it.

note: I'm not in it. And no, I don't have tattoos, nor do I have a nose ring. It's just a diverse group of gals.

cuatro sevillanas de baile

When I was a little girl, back home in Los Angeles, I used to dance with red castanets in a little flamenco dress made for a 4-year-old girl. I would stomp and lip-sync to Marisol and Lola Flores all day long, particularly her Cuatro Sevillanas de Baile. I would sing along about the snoring husband, the boyfriend who has a girlfriend prettier than me, the lover who I killed with nine puñaladas to the throat, and the midget husband who couldn't climb onto the bed to be with his wife. I doubt my mother really bothered with supervising the content of the lyrics. This was, of course, after my mother took me to Spain, to gypsy country, where we spent too many nights in flamenco venues, drinking sangria (me water or soda), and eating those olives out of the little white ceramic dishes, where the occasional dancer would smile because there was a (gasp!) kindergartner in a flamenco bar. It was also then that I put a gypsy curse on my poor grandmother: "May the blacks of your eyes never see again!" My grandmother, however, was much immune to the curse of a four-year-old obstinate child. Today she is very much alive and can see very well, thank you, and my mother blames that episode on the fact that we were in Andalucia, land of the gypsies and of all things mysterious.

Anyway, I thought the Cuatro Sevillanas today would be appropriate to: turn down a lunch appointment with one of the most prominent artists in New York due to the inclimate weather, bid on a pair of shoes that I cannot afford on eBay, accept the sofa that Flymeth Kautrau sat on (among other such celebrity butts, and yes, I have been offered a butt list) in a barter exchange with my client instead of pay, and to push my son out the door to try out for the rowing team (me waiving a fist and saying "Represent Denmark!" "Represent Cuba!" and other such nonsense).

Flamenco songs are about life. The ridiculousness of it, and the beauty of it. May everyone have a flamenco song appropriate for her own situation.

for Melissa: if you like, I can drop you off some queso de Oaxaca.