Archives for the month of: April, 2011

Okay it works. The three steps of survival – Prevention – Positive Reinforcement and Consequences (from last week’s blog). The last week of our holiday has been much, much better and contained when we put these principles into action. Besides a couple of accidents and the usual oopsy daisy behaviours (like Prince No. 2 waking up Prince No. 3 whilst Dave and I were out last night and therefore giving their uncle who was kindly babysitting a very hard time.) So no the Princes are not reformed, have no fear. (To be honest I don’t know if that will ever happen. Do I want it to happen?)

The best thing we could have done this holiday was book into Kibbutz Ramat Rachel for the week where they have a kids program. Notably we can’t just dump the kids. (I tried.) Let’s just say that I spent an inordinate amount of time cheering the Princes as they did potato sack races, threw balls into small holes and flung rings around witches hats (that’s what we call those triangle orange cones in Australia.) We cheered Prince No. 1 playing soccer as ‘South Africa’ against ‘USA’ – two american boys a year older than him. South Africa won. (Better than Bafana what can I say.) I’ve played memory and dominos with Prince No. 3 who never played these games before. We’ve wined and dined three meals a day with them. (I’m rolling off the plane. I’ve had to institute a one plate policy. These buffets are absolutely dangerous.) And we’ve been relaxed because it’s a hotel with shrieking kids every bit as whiney and messy as my dear Princes. (Such a relief to know that they don’t have copyright on bad boy behaviour.)

Have you noticed anything? I have as I’ve been typing. What I’ve been describing is HOURS of quality time. What we never ever ever do with our kids during normal, slugging through lift schemes, life. Now that’s a holiday. Of course it helps keeping two days Chag where you can’t go anywhere. (That’s a positive attitude if there ever was one. I still can’t believe I am going to be eating Matza whilst the rest of Israel is eating croissants.) I’ve really enjoyed getting to be with the Princes more. Seeing them in action with other kids. Being there to hold them when one of them falls in their potato sack race and cries his eyes out (claiming they have a splinter in his hand. Of course he wasn’t crying because he lost.) Being there to cheer as one of the Princes learns that he can swing the ring over the witches hat, and his coordination is better than he (or I) thought.

So gone is my belief that we should be doing as much as possible on holiday (okay in Israel it’s more like eat as much as possible at as many different coffee shops and restaurants – a gastronomic trip) it’s we are together for as much as possible BEING.

And no I’m not going to romanticise it. I’ve also seen the holes in the Princes. Where they need extra reigning in as well as extra love. I’m not tough enough as a mum and maybe also not present enough to be tough. I do want everything to be just perfect without lifting a finger. (It’s a problem when you believe in magic.) But I’m facing that more effort is needed in those areas. Like for example Prince No. 2 really needs to learn that any patch of grass is not the loo. And yes they also need to learn that their hands are not good substitutes for forks and knives.

So all in all this holiday has been a real family holiday. With all the yummy ups and screaming downs. Of course you don’t have to go to Israel to experience it. It can be in your own backyard. All it takes is time. Our most precious commodity yet.

And for those of you interested just a few words about Israel. The coffee is amazing. Okay don’t laugh at me. I’m being serious. Last time I was here I searched high and low for a good cup of coffee. I found it eventually (after many bad cups) on Emek Refaim. For me the fact there’s now wonderful cappuccinos in every coffee shop (even garage coffee shops) is yet another proof of how advanced Israel is. How evolving, changing and growing. And that’s what I love. The energy and willingness to learn and improve. Wonderful qualities that I can certainly learn from. Someone who’s willing to change and grow can go anywhere, be anything.

What I’m also enjoying is the all encompassing feeling of Pesach. The whole country is celebrating. All the kids are on holiday. Everyone a week and a half before Pesach are wishing each other, ‘Chag Sameach’. The food is amazing and all the restaurants (in Jerusalem at least) are Kosher for Pesach. We’ve had delicious ravioli, amazing  goats cheese laffas and cheese burekas as well as Pesach bread.  It all looks like Chametz which is a bit disconcerting as well as exhilarating as the chefs push their culinary boundaries.

And to sum the feeling I’m getting let’s just say that as I type this I look out my window here from Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim, Jerusalem (my new favourite coffee hang out – the waiters know me by now). I see a bus drive by with its signage on the front flashing ‘Pesach Kosher VeSameach – A Kosher and Happy Pesach’ and it feels like home.

Okay I shouted. Shouted two days in a row at my three, sweet Princes. This is after months of not losing it. What happened? We went on a family holiday to Israel. And I’ve learnt that just as you get to know your real self when you go for a lovely weekend away with your spouse, so to, do you get to know the real ins and outs of your family on an idyllic holiday away. Especially when my angelic Prince No. 2 decides that it would be fun to make a wee on the side of the highway on his toy sword (it was a Burger Ranch freebie gift) and Prince No. 1. (That’s when I screamed. I couldn’t help it I just saw red, red, red.)

Mind you I lost it when they wouldn’t be quiet or keep their hands or feet to themselves as we were driving on the road to Tiberius. And when I say not quiet, I mean, screaming and screeching at the top of their lungs. This is of course after our nine-hour night flight. You know those pleasant sitting up sleeps where smiling air-hostesses wake you up for a 12am supper and a 5am breakfast.

So two days into our lovely holiday I’m wishing I was back home, or we had left the Princes at home. Charming isn’t it. And yes the words spilled into my head, ‘You’re so spoilt. This is your family holiday, a holiday to Israel that you haven’t done in the longest time.’ Needless to say the critical parent voice that popped up wasn’t helpful as my child was giving vent to a full-fledged tantrum.

So what did I do? I deserted the Princes with their very noble father to have their fries and burgers in peace whilst I, who had become a wicked witch, took myself out for a delicious goats cheese salad wrap and an equally delicious cappuccino. (The days of desperately searching for a good coffee in Israel is over!) The quiet time did me the world of good, and I came back reenergised. That was only the beginning of a solution…

That night I sat down with my calm, level-headed husband who had also lost it. We were shattered. All ideals of being good parents were gone. We were terrible, at least we felt that way. So we got the war plans out. We weren’t going to be bested by a 7, 5 and 3-year-old. We’d show them who’s in charge. So we put them to bed with bread and butter for supper.

I kid you not.

And that was only the beginning. No we didn’t tie them up or anything like that. (Although I was tempted to send them to their saintly grandparents in Johannesburg on the next flight back.) What we did do was come up with a three-point plan which I will share just in case any one else is going on holiday and finds themselves in the strange predicament of turning into a monster mom.

1. PREVENTION – We pinpointed when the kids were good – when they were eating. And we identified when they were impossible – in the car on long drives. So we decided that we’ll try limit the drives if we could. Hence this morning the Princes went wild at the park and are now swimming with their dad (and I’m having a peaceful typing morning).

Now driving we can’t avoid. We want to go places and do things so we decided that distraction was our best action plan for the long drives. We went to the hotel gift shop and bought age appropriate math books and reading/writing books that should keep them happily busy. (The Israeli ones are really good.) I would have bought story CD’s if I could have found them in English. I know you can get DVD car players but something in me just doesn’t want to go there. Maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that Prince No. 1 seems more aggressive after a long period of watching.

I’ve even written a list of car games to distract them, like I spy, sing a song from a word etc. etc. I’ll let you know what works.

2. Incentives – Positive reenforcement works. I find that Prince No. 1 who is often the ring leader (although Prince No. 2 is truly vying for that enviable position) blossoms with positive reenforcement. So this morning with CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS from his reformed parents he dressed himself, made his bed and brushed his teeth. Being the ring leader he encouraged his brothers to do likewise. And then I gave them stars to further affirm their behaviour. (I put the star charts in  a traveling note-book and they each chose the prize they want.)

Clarity is very important when it comes to positive reenforcement and rewarding good behaviour. I am trying to not make it into bribery but rather to reenforce a positive behaviour that each Prince needs to work on. The main one being listening. (I did try explain self-control as a value but I think the lofty concept flew over their heads.)

3. Consequences – After all that if prevention and positive reenforcement don’t work we are moving onto consequences. Mind you it’s a bit of a fancy word for punishment, but really we want our kids to choose between the desired behaviour and the consequence. If they choose to scream and fight in the car then they’re choosing to eat bread and butter in their hotel room. It’s that simple.

Of course the main thing is that we as parents follow through. That’s my hardest challenge being clear about consequences and sticking to what I say. Disciplining is not my favourite hobby. I’d much rather be enjoying the Scottish green mountains of the Galilee. But I’ve learnt the hard way to face the shrieking music and buck up my parenting, or at least try. Maybe this way I’ll be able to relax in the majestic embrace of the Kinneret. (I’m not just being poetic – it truly is the most beautiful sight the lake Kinneret surrounded by sloping green hills and mountains. And it’s Spring, so all the flowers are blooming pinks, yellows and reds.)

Last tip – TAKE TIME OUT!!! Get babysitters, take turns with your husband or relatives to take care of the darling little ones so you can take a moment to breathe in a cup of coffee especially if you’re losing it. Or am I the only one who loses it on holiday?

Anyhow I’ll let you know if my 3 point plan works. So far, for this morning, so good. Then again we haven’t gotten into the car yet.

Okay, okay I’m writing, I’m writing. Believe it or not I feel like I have no choice but to be here. All I wanted to do was crawl into my bed with my latest book (Rashi’s Daughters – I’m enjoying it more than I though I would it seems very well researched) when I began writing in my head, and once it starts the only way to stop it is to… well… write.

So voila here I am and I’m going to debrief from last night in writing. Although what I really would have loved to do was debrief with a cup of coffee with my fellow organisers. Thank you Frayda, Eliana and ADINA!

So what was all this Letting Go  all about? Yes I’m sure all of you who couldn’t make it have been wondering (or am I flattering myself???) Well even if you weren’t curious read on.

The idea began as letting go – and began with a Greek plate. You know those ones they throw at Greek restaurants. Well everyone received one of these clay plates (although I must say everyone was much more interested in the food) and were instructed to write or draw any thing/person/negative belief holding them back from being their best selves. Some needed wine (many glasses) to do it, but everyone did it and put it around the patio where we were going to dance. (No one knew who’s plate was whose.)

Yes you heard me correctly (or shall I say read) DANCE. No not the Polka or Tango. Nothing that required any sort of anything that resembled our friend (or enemy) Coordination. I think a lot of women were ready to leave but were too polite. (Kudos to them because I can understand how scary it can be. I don’t know if I would have gone if I hadn’t organised it.) But everyone was ready for the unknown and our experienced free dance teacher, Adina lead the way guiding us into our bodies bit by bit. A soft, gentle, tribal introduction to your head which you’ve never met really except for thinking with it and putting makeup on it. Or your shoulders which you’ve sighed many sighs with. And okay I’ll own it. I was introduced to my shoulders which I know I sometimes hunch with anxiety. Adina introduced us to it all gently as I’ve already said, with great humour and with a lot of love.

And that’s the thing about dance, it begins a love affair with ourselves. (And if we don’t love ourselves who can we love?) As our mask falls away of who we think we are, who we present ourselves as – we just connect with our body from the inside out. ‘Hello ankle, hello pretty painted toes.’

And yes as you shake your head and think, ‘Not in a trillion years would I be caught dead doing that.’ I would answer, ‘Well you only live once, would you rather die having not danced?’

I know that I’ve met myself since I did a Free Dance session with David Gerbi (I don’t think I would have gone to that if I didn’t host it as well.) I was way, way, way out of my comfort zone as our little group was told to go dance free style with ‘whatever comes’. I remember looking at the group as I began to move and thinking, ‘This is crazy. I can’t do this. What does it mean to let my body go and follow it?’

Well anyone who came last night will know what it means to follow your body. At the David Gerbi session I didn’t have Adina’s soothing voice wash over me as I found my different parts. I tried to move and as I ‘danced’ I observed everyone else’s intense concentration and free-flowing, beautiful movements. I must have looked awkward with my funny, start stop motions (as my mind said, ‘this is mad’ I stopped. Then David would say, ‘Don’t think with your head, just move.’ Then I would start.) No one was paying me any mind, they were far too self involved. Thank goodness. And I freed up and I let go of my mind. Said ‘Hi’ and ‘Goodbye’ as Adina schooled. And it was a wonderous feeling of something new – very hard to put in words. But I’ll try…. My body had a story to tell and as I allowed it to just move, it told what it wanted, needed, desired.

Fantastical I agree, but true. Dance does that I think, it is freeing, it is letting go of our insecurities, our boundaries, our shackles of ‘normal’, things that weigh us down. Especially free dance that’s beautifully and safely guided in a group.

You may think, ‘Why don’t people just dance by themselves, especially if it’s just free movement.’ I used to think that. I’ve learnt though that in a group when you let yourself go and you experience safety, trust is built. Trust and love. If you could have felt the adrenalin and pure loving energy last night of encouragement you’d understand. Am I wrong anyone who came????? You can comment – please do! Words can’t create that in the same way as dance. (Words can facilitate a lot but sometimes you need to experience the safety and trust to really feel it. The words ‘You are safe with me’ is not the same as when you’re seen dancing and are danced with and smiled with and laughed with and clapped with. All those ‘with’s say the same thing over and over again – you are loved and safe here in this world. I do hope I’m making sense.)

Now I need to note that this free dance is a special ‘Five Rhythms’ dance. What we did last night just touched the surface, apparently you can go much, much deeper into it for a much longer time. I look forward to trying it some time. (Yes with Adina.)

Okay back to last night’s story. So we danced and said hello with our hips to each other and as a grand finale we all had a chance to dance with our plates to the middle of the circle and show our special movement which everyone mirrored (come on that’s so validating is it not. To be seen and safe!!! I’ll admit it was freaky as the negative, mummyfying thoughts burst through, ‘You can’t do that. You’ll look so silly!’ but, you know, ‘HI’ and a big ‘Goodbye! to let them go.) and then each person at the end of their movement (some went in pairs, in groups, it was for as long or short or whatever you chose) broke their plate – smashed it really – into the black oblivion of the night – letting go of whatever was holding them back, to a roaring OOPA!

And then we all danced wildly to Zorba the Greek and drank wine and made merry for the rest of the evening. Or something like that. (I didn’t really have wine because it makes me sleepy an unfortunate side effect and that wouldn’t do as a hostess now.) But really it was fun and I think we were all awed by what we had done, that it had actually worked. That a crazy dream had become a reality and we had all broken plates. (Something we’d never let our kids do in our kitchens.)

So at the end of the day for all of us who danced women of all ages, places and hip breadth, it’s not so scary anymore. (I must say I was very grateful for having tried this free dance thingy beforehand because it is very different and the more you do it the more comfortable you feel because you realise we are all the same. It’s a great, wonderful, empowering equaliser. God must have free danced His way through the creation of the world how else is it so chaotically wild and beautiful.) So thank you everyone who joined in and had a wonderful time. I hope you carry it with you as I do in my heart for what is possible to achieve inside of us as well as with others.

I must add if you think free dance is wild you need to do a dream workshop. I had one of those at my house and boy that is just another blog.

And yes, yes I will post the Sweet Potato soup recipe. For now I’ll quickly add the Quinoa Salad recipe compliments of the ever generous healthy gourmet (not to mention sweet voiced) Naami.

Healthy, Very Delicious Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

Cooked Quinoa

Chopped very small:

Carrots

Pepper

Red Onion

Parsley or Coriander

Cut less small:

Hearts of Palm or Canned Asparagus

Black Olives

Cranberries

Dress with Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Lemon Juice and Salt.

Voila – Sorry theirs no measurements. You can kind of figure how much you want of each as you decide how many cups of Quinoa you do. I don’t think you could ruin it all the ingredients are so yummy!

(If you want to know how to cook the quinoa I posted it a while back, you can do a search on my blog site.)

Now I really can go to bed! Goodnight.