Charlotte and Blankety-Blank on the same day.

I do not like funerals.

I did not go to Charlotte's funeral today. I partly did not want to go, and partly my workload was to blame. In any case, I did not go.

Blankety-Blank called me at work, as News Magazine Show Guy promised. The conversation was awkward. I learned that Bucolic Campus School is Very Very P.C. As in, Too Much PC. As in, if three students (out of the hundreds at Bucolic Campus) are reported to have peanut allergies, the entire school cafeteria stops serving peanut butter sandwiches.

As in, no Mother's Day celebrations. Or Father's Day, either. Because some families don't have daddys or mommies. Or maybe they have two mommys or two daddys.

Too Much PC aside, I think it's still, hands down, a better choice than Dalton.

Blankety-Blank: "I don't like Dalton."
Me: "Nor do I. I should tell you about how Dalton ignored me during their Open House..."

Then I spoke to the Agency we are working with to help A get into a good high school.

Agency: "We've referred you to Big Time Boarding School A, Big Time Boarding School B, Big Time Boarding School C, and a few B-List boarding schools."
Me: "Erm, no New York City day schools?"
Agency: "No."
Me: "Erm, but we interviewed at [MAKE A DECISION LAMAI AND PICK A SCHOOL, QUICK!]...Bucolic Campus School. Could you let them know we're with you?"
Agency: "Yes, we'll send your paperwork to Bucolic Campus School right away."

Why did they refer A to boarding schools and no day schools? The only logical answer is that he's a homeschooled student. Boarding school is...like homeschooling?


Hi. I'm calling from the Sunday News Magazine Show. And I need your help.

LaMai remembers a conversation with the admissions consultant, in which it was stated in no uncertain terms that Bucolic Campus School loves Blankety-Blank, who works at Sunday News Magazine Show...

Me: Oh. Hi. Sure, I'd be glad to help you.
NewsShowGuy: Thank you!
Me: You work with Blankety-Blank, right?
NSG: I do, yes.
Me: [doing cartwheels in the office] Oh, great. So what do you need?
NSG: Um, we're trying to get some stuff signed by that Late PM Show guy.
Me: Oh, sure. I'll talk to his publicist. But could I ask you for a favor?
NSG: Sure. We're all about favors here...
Me: Could you introduce me to Blankety-Blank?
NSG: No problem. In person, e-mail, what do you prefer?


What we do for our kids, I swear.



Passed away, in her sleep last night.

How did I get the news? Via an e-mail blast, of course.

Yesterday -- out of the blue -- I thought about her for a good while...and in my gut I knew it was because I wouldn't see her anymore. It's just the way things happen.

I thought of our drive to Woodstock two summers ago. How she slammed it at 80 miles an hour and when we reached her house, she made a sandwich for A.

A told her, "You're cool." Really? she said. "Yeah," said A.

I thought of the letters she wrote to help my campaign for the club. A copy is sitting in my drawer.

How she showed up to every "Save the Club" event I asked her to show up to.

Of the time we had dinner at Five Points and she talked about the African prince who tried to woo her.

How she hated Florida because there wasn't enough to do there. Boring. "I like New York better. There are more things happening here." She said this to me when she was 80 years young.

How she told me she still "talked" to Joey.

Of the times she worried that she would live to see last her remaining son die before she did.

Mama Ramone, rest in peace.


Charles and Camilla visit, I clean house.

Not because they are visiting my apartment, mind, but the Royals being within such close proximity to my zip code brings out the banzai-cleaning housemistress in me.

On that note, I will say that I, like President Bush, have color-coded our apartment messiness according to the levels in which it may terrorize our guests:

- Green = Clean. Spic and span, everything smells good. Flowers are on the kitchen table.
- Blue = Napoleon's shedded fur has not been swept up in a couple of days. But you can't really tell, can you?
- Yellow = Things are smelling funny in the refrigerator. A dish or two manages to overnight in the sink.
- Orange = There is a ring in the toilet bowl. In fact, there's a ring in the bathtub. The laundry is overflowing in the hamper.
- Red = The sink looks like something out of "Silence of the Lambs."

I won't tell what color code level we were this weekend, but let's just say Sir Anthony Hopkins has been on my mind a lot.

Also this weekend, I met a school admissions consultant. I don't wish to get into too much detail, but she did tell me that one of the schools we are applying to is "worthless" and one of the schools we're applying to is "a gem."

How did I manage to cast such a wide net? Fear. Plain and simple fear. Reach schools (Dalton, Collegiate) won't look at us, Bucolic campus school and Wild Card have talked to us, and Downtown Progressive School send us stuff in the mail every day. The ones that behave like a desperate girlfriend, though, are the ones you have to be careful about.

So the school admissions consultant told me what to do, now that we're down to the admissions wire. Decisions are out February 14/15 from private schools. March for public schools.

I have been told I have to reach out to three certain people at my place of employment. They are well liked by one of the schools A really wants to get into. "Call Blankety-blank. She works on that Sunday Night News Magazine Show," said the advisor. As if I can actually call up Blankety-Blank at the drop of a hat.

Of course, tomorrow morning, I will find a clip or two from the Sunday Night News Magazine Show and I will find reason to call up Blankety-Blank about those one or two clips. And then suddenly talk about Blankety-Blank's private school. Out of the blue. Just like that.

I now know why Park Avenue mothers drink themselves silly as a regular habit. Please let this process be over soon.



A has wanted to work a job for a while now. Since he is now of Working Age, he needed to find a job that needed help and would accept him. It so happens that the job he found is in a photography darkroom. He signed his name and details on The Job Application Form, and put his name next to the days of the week he would be available to work.

He then received a voicemail message on his cellphone last week:

Photography Darkroom Man: "Are you available on Wednesday mornings?"

Well, um, no, A is not. But A called him back, and another day of the week worked out fine. He's now on the roster.

A officially has a job! Woo-hoo!


Yesterday and Today

Yesterday --

A had Writing, Math and Proteins (Science) studies.

I also spoke to A's Fencing instructor (FI) during the day. We played phone tag for about 75 minutes. A spoke to FI on Saturday and expressed his desire to have more floor time. There is only one épée coach. So FI tells A that I should purchase Club membership for $600. "Since your mom works as an XYZ at ABC (heh heh, NOT) that shouldn't be a problem for her," says FI. I called him to, well, call him out on that.

Me: Sorry, I can't afford that.
FI: Oh. Well the membership is less than most other clubs. And scholarships are given to kids who have been fencing with me for a few years.
Me: I see.
FI: But your son fences épée?
Me: Yes.
FI: Well there is only one coach who teaches épée. Your son will have to be recommended to him. You can't just ask him.
Me: Oh.
FI: So your son needs to be recommended. By someone who knows him. Knows his technique.
Me: Oh. [my heart sinking now]
FI: By a world champion. Or Olympian. At the Club.
Me: Oh. [my heart is sinking further]
FI: And that recommender should be me. Want me to talk to him?

FI holds an Olympic bronze medal. I am literally jumping off my seat when he says "Want me to talk to him?"

Me: OMG. Okay. Yes! Thank you, FI. Thanks so much!

Now, how to pay for that $600 Club fee?

I meet A at the Museum in the evening. I guess the movie has really driven the profits at the Museum sky-high. I walked through the front door, to find Mr. T Rex, and people dressed in cocktail outfits and tuxedos signing guestbooks. "They seem to be doing this here every night," said A. Or maybe the Museum-As-Party-Space was already booked well in advance. Who knows. I just know it was a Night at the Museum. And it was fun having A lead me through every nook and cranny to get to his room there, guards already familiar with my son's getting about.

I talked to A's Genetics professor (she's earned the PhD, and she's teaching college-level stuff, she's a Rockefeller grad, so I really should call her "professor"). Totally nerdy, totally focused, and totally nice. Note to self: she writes college recommendations.

Then we ate Indian food at our favorite Indian diner in Midtown. Dinner is $6.25 per person there. A is picking up Hindi spoken by the food servers. "'Ich' means one," says A. "Ich" as in "Ich ein Berliner." As in, "Ich naan, stay," or "Ich naan, to go."


Tuesday used to be Free Days, and A didn't want to go to Playwriting class. This MSN Messenger exchange ensued:

Me: What's wrong?
A: Nothing. Don't want to go. That's all.
Me: But why? Do you have an assignment to turn in?
A: No. Just don't feel like going.
Me: But why? Did something happen?
A: NO NO NO. I don't feel like going. And Regents exams are tomorrow. Nobody is going to be there anyway. Just this once. Let me stay home.
Me: O.K.

So, A stayed home. When I got home, I found him buried in his Physics book. And the brand-new Three Musketeers book open to around page 300. Uh-huh.


Job is treating me okay. My boss is kinder to me now. The job load is not lessening, however. People are giving me more work to do. This is where I hire The Intern to pick up some of my Lighter Duties.



Last week we saw "The Queen." After which I got this weird idea to work for The Queen. Then on the Royal website, I learned that the position of Assistant Private Secretary to The Queen was available. Imagine. LaMai arranging the personal affairs for The Queen.

Weekends in Scotland.

Scrumptious puddings.

Badly cooked potatoes.

Stuffy people.

Horrible headlines.

The benefits are good, though.


Pan's Labrynth

Okay, so I forgot to mention that this film has gory elements. Not good for the kids to watch, unless your kid is a teenager who can deal with violence in a political and fantasy context.


It is otherwise a very, very good film.


I love...

Knitting. And I haven't been doing it for a while. I like this dragon. I would like to make it.


Overheard being said by A today and yesterday:

"That was such a deus ex machina moment."

Me: Erm...wait. Did you just say "deus ex machina"?
A: Yeah.
Me: How do you know that?
A: Duh. Like, I'm not STUPID.


"Man, I hate when [random t.v. show] uses those euphemisms. People just don't say those things!"


"Mom, you need to make peace with your job."

Excuse me, O Enlightened One, but are you my kid?

Today, Downtown Progressive School called me to tell me...

That our application to their school is complete.



I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job...

Yeah. So.

One represents the status quo. The other represents my dream job. Sigh.

My colleagues are all cutthroat.

But I have an office.

My colleagues are back biters.

But I have an office.

Some of my colleagues are actually dim-witted and rely on me to do their work. These colleague are called "my directors."

But yet, the office.

My name is getting known in the company.

But they didn't fly me to L.A. when promised.

My boss cheated on his wife while he was in Vegas and talks about it with my other boss, within earshot.

But I have an office (and can close the door).

Daniel Craig, please save me from my job in 007. Thank you.


Okay, well, anyway...

I have learned that there is something called The First Choice Letter which is sent to your preferred private school once you and your child decide on said school. The First Choice Letter is sent out (which is like Early Decision?) and in which you basically say, "OOOOH, IF YOU PICK ME, I WILL DEFINITELY PICK YOUUUUUU!." But then, I have heard, you can only send ONE -- yes, ONE, First Choice Letter to your First Choice School. If you send more than one First Choice Letter to any number of the incestuous private schools of New York City, you will be found out. They talk, you see. To each other.

Which is why parents of PUBLIC school candidates engage their children in the most rigous, cheating, deceitful coaching, which goes like this:

Mother: Honey, School XYZ will only accept you if you tell them they are absolutely fabulous.
Child: But mother, I don't LIKE School XYZ.
Mother: Okay, but we don't know WHICH SCHOOL will accept you, so just say that you think School XYZ is absolutely fabulous, okay, sweetcakes? That way we'll have at least one school to pick from.

It is a well-known fact that the Child used words such as, "Enthusiastic" and "Inspired" when she interviewed with School XYZ several weeks ago. Which means she is likely holding a spot for herself which she will inevitably dump, once she gets accepted to her actual First Choice School.

She could be tying up A's acceptance to that school. But some dimwit mother has coached her into betraying what will make her truly happy.

The mother is a leech coach.


How to stay out of ghost purgatory.

If you are a non-conformist or artsy type or you travel, homeschooling is for you. Because homeschooling means you're not following the crowd. See: Ralph Fiennes. Ditto Ansel Adams.

If you are a traditionilist or elitist type, homeschooling is for you. Because homeschooling means you don't need to do what THEY do. See: Prince Joachim of Denmark, schooling between 1974-1976. Okay, maybe that is called Homeschooling at the Palace. But you get the idea.

If you're sick of public school, homeschooling is for you.

If you're sick of the private school your kid is currently enrolled in, homeschooling is for you.

If you're happy with either or both, homeschooling is for you.

If you are married and have one kid or 12, homeschooling is for you.

If you work full time as I do, and are the sole breadwinner, homeschooling is for you.

Why am I pushing the homeschooling panacea on you? Because homeschooling means taking responsibility for what is fed to your kid's brain. So, yes, your kid can go to "institutional school" but you -- yes, YOU -- are still responsible for what your kid learns. "Oh, but my child has such great teachers," you say. "I don't know if I want to mess with what they've got going on there. And good parents don't intervene in what the teacher does." Seriously, since when did having a kid mean totally relinquishing your child's brain to others?

I do not mean storming into your child's 3rd grade classroom as if it were the Bastille and sending your child's teacher to decapitation. What I DO propose, is exposing your child to learning in ways that only YOU can do. And the beautiful thing is, you can expose your child to learning stuff anywhere and everywhere.

In addition to your child's set academic foundation, try taking your kid to a museum. Talk to your child. Tell him/her/them about your 4 (or 5) days at Woodstock. Teach your kid how to make s'mores. Teach your kid the language and/or culture of your parents that you've suppressed all your life in the aims to become "more American."

It's okay to funny. Witty. Vulnerable. You are no less of a parent if you commit to all three. Or more.

Take a look at this article on the image. Yes, if you're visiting for the first time, click on an image here and you'll likely wind up reading something or other. Sometimes a snarky definition I've put there, sometimes it is something useful.

But seriously, read about some of those kids. Some look like a parent or two may be directing their kids to be awesome SAT numbers-producers. But which kid looks like he might be actually become fulfilled later in life? Happy until he reaches his grave? You decide.

If you do choose to homeschool, LaMai begs you to NOT do it to have your kids produce venerable SAT scores or have an edge to get into Harvard. Yes, yes, I dream of a Harvard-type school for my kid, too, but I am not stupid. When I am long gone, I want to know that Alexander will be having fun in career and life, will be able to stand on his own two feet, and will have no major life regrets. Or I will come back from the grave to haunt him (and likely commit myself to ghost purgatory). Because that -- succumbing to what everybody else wants -- is a leech that sucks at you. It will affect you elsewhere in your life -- relationships, driving habits, how your knee jerks -- oh, it'll be there. Trust me. In my case, I've had my share of leeches because I did things to make other people --my mother, community, society-- happy. To this day, I am still trying to find my niche, because my strengths were never nurtured at the BEST time to do so in my life.

Think homeschooling is expensive? This is where LaMai says, MWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!! and provides the following:

Exhibit A -- My kid does a sport for 3 hours every week with a bona fide Olympic medalist who even wrote a letter of recommendation for my son's school admissions. Academic tutoring is thrown in for free, as a perk to attract students to the sport. Cost: $25 a year. Not a typo.
Exhibit B -- My kid takes science classes taught by PhDs that can lead to actual lab work at a world-recognized science institution. Free.
Exhibit C -- Also participates in a playwriting class with a group for teens that Steven Sondheim started. Broadway plays thrown in with dinner, after class. Also free.
Exhibit D -- Gets need-based scholarships from the most famous American photography school's teen program. I set the cost of what I can contribute (pick a number, between $25 and $175). The classes costs the uber-rich parents over $800 per session. My kid has enrolled in four of these classes to-date.

You get the idea? This is DO-A-B-L-E. You can structure it the way you want, at a cost which you can afford. You have to do the research and find what is out there. If you can't afford it, don't do it. Don't put it on the credit card. Your kid can pick up a book and learn whatever is in the class that you can't afford.

Somewhere along the way, you will want to Turn It Off. Yes. I mean the television. You as teacher will find Mr. Telly-Box to be the Distractor of Grandest Proportions. It's okay. Try it. Madonna did it. So did my filmmaker friend whose wife works at VH-1. No t.v. makes for surprisingly literate children. Just take this precaution: Mr. Telly-box is NOT Mr. Verboten Telly-Box. You will still need it for occasional useful educational viewing. Or your kids will wind up like my friend who was raised in a teepee by her Canadian white-folk alternative-lifestyle parents. They banned the t.v. from their teepee, and now she watches t.v. every day, 24/7, on digital cable and knows every single show frontwards and backwards and in cryptic code.

If you choose to do "homeschooling" as a supplement to institutional school learning, think about going to museums. Museums generally take "suggested donations" which you actually determine, or have free days. Hint to folks who don't live in New York: If it's all that you've got, you can present ONE AMERICAN PENNY and still get in to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's what endowments are for, darling. Give the penny, smile, and thank the museum clerk for letting you and your kids learn "about all the amazing and educational things" in their wonderful museum. Here's another reason not to feel guilty: my friend the self-made millionaire does it each and every time he goes to that museum.

Go to free concerts. Bring your blanket and sit on the park lawn and boogie. Yes, I am talking to you.

If you do this enough, you will find something to be true: your child has interests all his or her own. Your child likes museum art, or likes to play blues guitar or wants to learn about locksmithing. Or how maracas are made. Or has taken an interest in Micronesia. Or Victor Hugo or Shakespeare. And you will say, "Great. I'll help you find out more about locksmithing or Micronesia or how maracas are made" until your kid has been doing it for a while. Maybe figuring out a way to land a scholarship to fly to Micronesia. Or to the best Mexican maracas factory to become its first tween apprentice. Whatever that interest is, discover it (DO NOT dictate it, because that will yield less than maximum results) and then, this is the IMPORTANT part: nurture it.

Somewhere along the way, your child will become so good at that one thing, or maybe that and another thing, that on top of your kid's decent grades and extracurriculars, your child will be...a true Super Applicant.

Because it's not what the admissions applications expert gets out of it, it's what your child gets out of it. And that, my dears, will keep you out of ghost purgatory.
Heh, I found this post-blogging: http://www.jackpo.org/2006/11/23/new-york-magazine-the-bastion-of-journalism-idiocy/

Turns out one of our Super Applicants may be padding her resume. Am I surprised? Erm, did I write this post for a reason, or what?



A has been interviewing at:

- Downtown Progressive School (formerly known as Little Pinko Schoolhouse) for Sons and Daughters of the B52's, Patti Smith, and Susan Sarandon, as well as Robert De Niro, a Beastie Boy, and one of the Coen "Fargo" Brothers;
- Wild Card School;
- Bucolic Campus School for Progressive Students Who Want Luxe But No Grades;
- The Public High School that is Actually 2 Years of College (yes, you transfer to college from there, not apply as a freshman); and
- LaGuardia (The "Fame" School).

He has NOT interviewed yet at:

- Dalton (because they are prejudiced against low-income [read: less than $100K/yearly in NYC] single mothers like me, it seems, and refuse to call to interview);
- Collegiate. But Collegiate only just received our app, and at the last minute.

[Editor's Note: Yes, the above two are real names of schools. Oh, no, I do not work in publicity, and have no idea if anyone at those schools is monitoring her Google Alerts.]

So far, A likes Public High School/2 Years College and Bucolic Campus School and Wild Card and Downtown Progressive School. I am crossing my fingers for Collegiate, though. Still no interview. I am a traditionalist, I guess, I wish to see A walking around in an Oxford shirt and spiffy tie and tell me he's going to meet Claire and Buffy for a stroll on Central Park West. Hah!

So far, ALL of the schools are SURPRISED to learn that homeschooling for New Yorkers is a misnomer. When A is asked, "So, what is a typical homeschooling day for you like?" and he answers, "Well, Sundays I go to Boston to study science with other high school students at M.I.T., Mondays, I get on the subway at 10 a.m. to go to co-op with other homeschoolers on the Upper West Side for Math and Writing, then I grab some pizza with the co-op students and head for my Genetics class where I am taught by a PhD grad at the American Museum of Natural History -- who is preparing me for an internship in genome studies, then I take the train to the Harlem River for Crew for three hours, Tuesday is my day off but I do playwriting with Steven Sondheim's group that day and we usually hit a Broadway play afterwards, Wednesdays I take the train to the Alliance Francaise on the Upper East Side..." by then, the interviewer's jaw has dropped to about THERE.

Then A presents his photography portfolio.

Interviewing has been good for A. He realizes that he's been doing something substantive, albeit a little dedicated to the point of nutty, but it's all good.

My job, on the other hand, is a major pill. On the upside, I get to talk to actors and producers and press people all day, I get a company card, I get dinner comped, I get a car if I work late. On the downside, everyone I work with is demanding, high maintenance, a real pill. I've been told I am NOT to be seen at lunch at the same restaurant any one of my bosses dines in, in case one sees me. I kid you not. "We have a pecking order," I was told, "Don't be seen at 21 or Michael's if G. or D. or L. is there. They will want to know what you are doing there." But what if I am interviewing someone for our magazine? Maybe I need to go to one of those places. "DON'T BE SEEN THERE. It's not your place." Um, hello? Is this not America? Or is this, "The Devil Wears Prada"? Oh yes, I forgot, it is. For that reason alone, I want out. But I'll hang on until they throw me out or Conde Nast calls me up. Yes, Anna, I would prefer to work with YOU. Because at least, you're a woman. And you're stylish. You should see what my bosses wear. Feh.

Going to see "Pan's Labrynth" this weekend with A. You should see it, too.