Archives for the month of: September, 2011

New York, New York. A city so nice, they named it twice. It flew past, quicker than a school week. Maybe because everything moves so fast over there. The people do walk really quickly. And the women are in heels, mind you. New York women are very fashionable, which I never expected. Walking around in my denim skirt didn’t cut the look. But New York wasn’t only about fashion….

For me, it was about walking. A treat coming from Johannesburg.

So I walked and walked and walked. Through Soho and Greenwich Village, with their trendy boutiques, cafes and fabulous bakeries, each own named for the owner.

The nice thing is that everyone’s walking. The lush green of Central Park (which is even more beautiful than in the movies) pulsates with urban joggers, cyclists, romantic couples  and mums pushing strollers. I’d love to see it in Winter when the ice rink is filled with motion.

Walking Fifth  Avenue, where the real money lives, with liveried doormen in every lobby.

Walking Madison Avenue, where all the fancy schmancy designer stores are lined up, block after block. And there are not too many food shops because you can’t eat if you want to be thin. And I checked, New Yorkers are thin because they don’t eat. (And I naively thought it was because they walk everywhere, though it’s probably a bit of both.)

New York is museum heaven. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is famously enormous. I could have spent all day wandering through all the different galleries. Predictably, I legged it straight to the Impressionists. Seeing familiar Van Gogh paintings in real life is surreal. Seeing so many masterpieces in one place is incredibly surreal. Somehow, I want to put it in my pocket, have it, own it. (How influenced I am by our consumer society?) But of course I couldn’t and I knew even if I had a Monet or Manet in my house I still wouldn’t own it. What is it that’s so touching??? They’re just paintings but somehow they’re more than that. The harmony, the beauty touches something… and I wanted to keep that feeling with me. Swallow it like a piece of candy. (A wonderful american word.)

I also walked through the Greco-Roman antiquities section. I usually find it boring…(sorry to admit) and bypass this art. But this time, I lingered and tried to appreciate it. I tried to visualize the pieces as the Romans and Greeks would have in their time. And so the voluptuous sculptures of women made me think. Usually, I just see nakedness and run. This time I stopped and realised that these are real women and they don’t resemble the women that are in vogue today. Sizes 12, 14, 16 were the standard of beauty. It’s nice to know that women were allowed to enjoy their dessert in ancient times. Am I obsessing about weight on this blog? I suppose we’re all obsessed, whether we admit it or not. I can’t help but be aware of size in our very size-prejudiced society. (Let’s call it sizism.)

My cousin told me that the Zen garden is a must see at the MET. I didn’t manage it though, but just so you know, if you ever go.

Another wonderful museum is the Frick. My mother in law told me to visit it and it was very well worth it. The museum was built by Henry Clay Frick, a magnate from Pittsburgh around the turn of the twentieth century. This coke (coal) magnate had an artistic eye and was very passionate about his collection. What is interesting is that he was collecting art at the height of the Realist and the Impressionist, and he collected Old Masters by Van Dyck and Veronese and Peter Paul Rubens. Watch the movie with the history of Frick–it was very interesting.

The Jewish Museum is also a lovely stop on Museum Mile (I love that the street of museums are called that). It had an exhibition about these two Jewish women, the Cone sisters from Baltimore, who were patrons of Picasso. Instead of buying furniture, curtains etc. they bought the art of the modern painters, including Picasso and Matisse and formed close relationships with them. Gives us something to think about, girls…

I also loved the exhibit about Ezra Jack Keats a Jewish author and illustrator of children’s books.

Of course, I went to the Guggenheim. I love being in places which I have dreamed of from the movies. They were showing a Korean artist/philosopher called Lee Ufan. I’m not a huge fan of modern art. Because of the audio headset (a very good idea in exhibits) I slowed down and it was wonderful to pay attention to the philosophical underpinnings of a piece of steel lying on a rock. (No, I’m not being sarcastic. It really was interesting.) You can google Lee Ufan – Marking Infinity and there’s a video of the exhibition on the Guggenheim site. It’s fun to see.

It was easy getting around New York. The subway and the maps make sense. Everything really is on a grid. I had heard about it and it really is true. People are also REALLY friendly. I wasn’t expecting that. The food was also unbelievable. I went to the Great American Health Bar and had the most unbelievable spinach burger. And I mean unbelievable!!!! (I know, who would believe it. Be ready for huge portions too, btw.)

We of course went to a traditional New York Deli and had hot beef on rye. Noah’s Ark, the Original Deli on the lower east side was great. We had it at 10 am in the morning before our Jewish lower east side walking tour. (I love walking tours.) Crazy but fun and very yum.

They also had a pickle store that only sold pickles – yes only in New York. I was tempted to buy some for the Princes in SA but my hubby refused to take it. Can’t blame him, I suppose.

We also ate at Le Marais, a smoky, romantic French restaurant. (Not actual smoke, you’re not allowed to smoke in NY restaurants.) I’ve never seen meat displayed in a case the way it is in the entrance at Le Marais. It’s strange, but interesting and appealing at the same time. I’ve never eaten such a good steak either. I think South African’s could learn one or two things from New Yorkers about a good steak. And that’s not easy to admit. I always thought Americans don’t have such good taste. But they do, they really, really do. Especially in New York. The lemon tart, on the other hand, left much to be desired… you can’t win them all.

Here are some notes of other random things I noticed.

  • Nannies meeting at Starbucks with their little charges in prams. (A lot of nannies on the upper west side.)
  • The subway is very hot. But we saw a cool Beatles rendition by the strangest motley of musicians in Times Square station on Saturday Night.
  • Hudson river is beautiful to walk by. Anything natural in New York really sticks out with all the tall buildings/sky scrapers. (A lot of the buildings are very old and beautiful.)
  • We walked into Temple Emanuel on 5th Ave. It’s a reform synagogue that even has weddings on Saturday. It’s as big as a Cathedral and look like one too, with the highest, highest ceiling.
  • There are a lot of tourists, especially Europeans and Australians (I found, at least) and they contribute to a lot of the hustle and bustle. Especially on 5th Ave. And yes 5th Ave is beautiful. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are truly worth seeing. As is the Lindt store. I never knew there were so many Lindt truffles that existed (and aren’t available in South Africa. Humphhhh.)
  • It’s worth walking into Godiva and getting a free sample of their latest flavour.
  • I’ve never seen a shop that only sells Japanese sweets. It looked very, very pretty. The Japanese are brilliant at presentation.
  • It’s great to be put up with an American family for a meal. It’s really interesting meeting new people and learning about how they live in New York.
  • Recommendations are definitely the way to go when you travel. Organising information and your days before hand are also worth it. I was so busy organising the kids before I left that I ran out of time to organise all the information that I needed. Contact numbers, lists of kosher restaurants, book shows. I’m very last minute, play it by ear, which worked well but there were some mistakes… Oh well!
  • Before I forget the Monet room in the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) – well let’s put it this way – I could have sat in it all day sighing with contentment.

So that was the week in brief. I’m in Los Angeles now. Having a parenting 101 from my cousin. Who’s the most relaxed mom, but has astoundingly well behaved children. And her teenager who’s just finished school is even more proof in the pudding to successful parenting…. to be posted soon 🙂

Co written with my cousin – so if this is written better than usual it’s because of her editing and input. (And yes the first line is hers!)

(NOTE – This is a way long blog!)

At the moment. I’m sitting at an ADHD course. Can you tell that I’m not concentrating. Anyhow I’ve learnt some seriously interesting things. Which we all know but so easily forget in our day to day parenting.

Here’s a disclaimer by the way I haven’t actually had Prince No. 1 assessed officially so I don’t know what he is. And this taps onto the issue of labeling children. It’s something that Psychologist Dr Sandy Gluckman is very against. She asks, ‘Do we want our children standing under the chuppah with the label ADHD on their heads?’

The question is, is ADHD a disorder? In other words are our kids who can’t sit still and concentrate in class the problem, or, is it the system?

This week at the ADHD course with a life coach who focuses on ADHD kids. I’ve learnt to ask a better question – should we be calling these kids ADHD at all?

First of all how can every second child have ADHD. It’s like a scourge that’s hit almost every family I know.

Furthermore the way kids are diagnosed isn’t clear. How do you measure attention? Why is it that these kids who ‘can’t concentrate’ can play video games, computer, soccer games, and complete entire projects on their own? My Princes have no problem concentrating when their Dad reads them Harry Potter. No one’s jumping up and down saying, ‘This is boring.’

It doesn’t make sense. What does make sense to me is what I learnt on the course – ADHD children are actually RIGHT BRAIN children. That’s right. Kids who are diagnosed as ADHD are all Right brained. I don’t know the exact research behind this but this is what Gilad said and it definitely rings true. My Prince No. 1 has the biggest imagination ever.

He said that on the spectrum you have extreme right brain – Autism (hence you get autistic children who can memorise a whole city after one look from a helicopter, or have extremely amazing musical gifts, but can’t hold a conversation). Extreme left brain – Schizophrenia (they only think in details). In between is the middle, that balance between left and right brain. I suppose where both brains are integrated. Gilad says (based on research) that ADHD falls between extreme right and the middle of this spectrum.

RIGHT BRAIN                                    MIDDLE                                                  LEFT BRAIN

Autistic                       ADHD                                       Teachers                      Schizophrenia

If you relate more to the diagram above – it’s likely that you’re a bit right brain and need to see things visually.

ADHD kids are simply kids who are more right brained. They are considered almost on the spectrum by some research. But really they’re only more right brained than most. They think differently, process things differently and are  more often than not misunderstood, especially in the school system.

Why? Because the school system is left brained orientated. Subjects are taught in a left brain way by left brain teachers. (Hence teachers are in between extreme left brain and middle.) I was offended when I first heard this. How can you just categorise like that. But Gilad explained that Right brained people in general aren’t attracted to become teachers because it’s a left brained system. That made sense to me. I’m a Right Brainer if there ever was one (We even did a test in the course. Whichever way you saw the dancer turning was the way your brain worked. I was Right, Right, Right all the way.), I wouldn’t want to go back into the school system. Truth be taught I was a bit traumatized when Prince No. 1 began Grade 1. (I wish I was joking.) So it’s actually not an offensive comment. Some teachers certainly aren’t just left brain, but they do tend to be that way.

I suppose I should say here that being Left Brain is obviously a good thing. It’s detailed, organised, on time, scheduled, predictable etc. But being Right brained is also a good thing and the trick is to get the best of the Right brain’s creativity which the world needs.

Some of our greatest thinkers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs were ADHD – Right Brained. Churchill, Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Davinci (apparently a lot of his paintings are considered unfinished for his time), Richard Branson, the kids at school who were always in trouble but now are leading billion rand companies (my hubbie has a friend just like that).

They are the free spirits of this world, the creative thinkers, the story tellers, the risk takers.  In the past they used to be the hunters. Who were able to be super alert and aware of their environment on many levels in order to catch prey and survive in the wild.

But we’re not living in the wild (although I do suggest you keep your wits about you in Johannesburg) and until our kids become geniuses and prove themselves beyond the label of ADHD, they have to go to school.

So what to do? I’d love to start a school but it’s not really my thing… I’d love to send my Princes to a system like Waldorf where their potential is mined and their individuality is treasured. But I’d like my kids to get a Jewish education. So the solution takes a bit of hard work. And the course I went on highlighted how we can get into their Right Brain minds and teach them the neccessary Left Brain skills that they need not only for school but for life. (And this is true whether your child is on medication or not.)

As I mentioned I’m quite Right Brained. Actually I’m extremely Right Brained probably and ADD worthy. I find it hard to schedule, I want to float through my days, not drive through them in a 4×4. I want to learn what I want to learn. Love what I do. And I think in feelings and pictures. Thinking in feelings is I learnt on the course called kinesthetic thinking. I had no idea. I thought I was plain weird. Because having a ‘feeling’ didn’t seem as relevant as ‘fact’. This may seem like a digression but it’s not. It’s taken me a long, long, long time to realise that this is just as valuable a tool for life as any other. It’s what informs my writing, my interaction with people and it’s the way I filter life, from sunsets to the daily news.

Now what would have been in school if I was taught math visually and through feelings. If the numbers were given personalities, spoke to each other, came alive. I may not have done as badly. What if I were allowed to do what I love, encouraged in it. Appreciated for it.  Instead of having to feel weird and different for how long… 30 years.

This is what ADHD children often feel. Misunderstood. Lost in a world where they are told they’re different in a bad way, a stupid way. Why don’t they just get it? Why can’t they keep still? Why can’t they just listen?

Because they think through pictures and you’re giving them words. Because they think through movement and can’t sit on a chair for hours. Because they’re not hearing you speak, their brains are processing things in an entirely different realm.

Of course it’s all very frustrating for everyone concerned. Teachers, children and parents.

So action needs to be taken. A new knowledge learnt. If we don’t understand right brained children, they lose confidence and their gifts become lost. They try mold themselves into left brain boxes and this isn’t who they are.

Luckily I’m very right brained and have known it most of my life. At least I can help my Princes not only survive school but hopefully thrive. I’m also lucky that their school is open to introducing elements in the classroom that cater for my Prince’s right brain way of learning. He needs to move so he has a moving cushion that he sits on. I’m getting him a trampoline for the back of the classroom, and I’m assessing him so that we can see how he learns and sees the world.

I learnt a lot on the course. So much that it’s quite overwhelming to repeat it all here coherently.

I will add tips of what I’m integrating with Prince No. 1 through my blogs.

Tip 1:

At the moment I’m focusing on the effort he puts in to things rather than the result. Apparently there was an experiment where two groups of people were given a test. Group A was praised for their result. Group B was praised for their effort. Then both groups were offered to take an easy test or a hard test. Majority of Group A opted for the easy test. Group B, on the other hand preferred the hard test. What does this teach us? When we praise the result we disable our kids from accessing their potential. They feel not good enough. They feel they’re about a result. If they’re praised on effort it builds their confidence that they’re not just about the outcome, but how they do things. And then they can do anything, for whatever the result the main thing is that they tried.

Somehow I’ve failed at this so I’m trying to rectify if now by praising the effort Prince No. 1 puts into his work. Slowly, (nothing happens overnight) I hope it’ll have a positive impact.

Tip 2:

Are kids are how we see them. If we see them as ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’, that is how they’ll be. If we label them, ‘responsible’, ‘kind’. Then they’ll live up to that. Of course when we tell them, ‘You are so responsible.’ You need to add the details of why they are responsible otherwise it’s an empty compliment that they see through. So you’d say, ‘You are so kind. Do you know why you’re so kind? Because you helped your brother get his ball from the tree. I can see that you really tried hard and had to climb the tree to get it. Well done. I love you.’

Quite a compliment. It’s called conscious parenting. No body said it’s easy.

Now I have a confession. I began typing this blog – tired out of my mind at the ADHD course. I’m finishing it off at Oliver Tambo Airport. I’m opting out of my parenting for 2 weeks. Bludging, as Australians would say. I’m going to New York and LA, to see my family. But New York has ended up being a real holiday. The whole thing is, from sitting here typing without anyone pulling my skirts (although I was frisked like a criminal at security. Everyone was.)

So I thought I’d do a bit of a travel log for the next couple of weeks. As I explore the world without the label ‘mom’.

And yes I do feel a tad bit guilty that not everyone gets to go away. But I will practice what I preach and live the best life I have. (Furthermore you need to immigrate and have no family around in order to travel overseas to see them. Not always fun. Often very sad.) It’s the only one I’ve got. Meanwhile I will send a prayer out and special wishes to every mom and woman out there. That they should have a chance to take a break, go away, do a dream holiday. And if you can’t at the moment, well there’s always the good old coffee break.