Ain't it Good to Know..You've Got a Friend

My husband and I feel very blessed that we have such an amazing group of friends.  We all look out for each other, support each other, and make each other feel better.  No one is perfect, that is for certain, but I would say that our core group of friends contribute to a major reason for our happiness.

When I was in middle school, I remember being so miserable that I didn't have that support group to count on.  I felt very much alone. I see my girls maneuvering through various positive relationships and numerous negative ones as well. They are both lucky to have people they can count on, but they face many conflicts in addition. It kills me when they come home upset or frustrated over how they have been poorly treated by their supposed friends. As a parent, you want to help intervene, but it's also important that they learn to navigate on their own. 

My husband and I encourage the girls to spend time with friends that make them feel good, support them, and push them in positive directions. I always worry about peer pressure, and my girls being influenced to do bad things that could be harmful. We always say there are so many evildoers... Both girls thankfully are choosing their friends wisely. They don't look for quantity, they look for quality instead. I admire them for it. 

Social connections are so important for our well-being. I just watched a terrific TED Talk The hidden influence of social networks

It is a wonderful explanation of the importance of social connections and how they effect us. It is quite remarkable what an impact we make on others, and how others influence  us.  I personally try to make plans a few nights a week to meet friends. They make me happy, and I hope that I do the same for them. I have to go now and call my BFFS...you should too. 

Love to Love

Valentine's Day is approaching, which makes those of us who have loved ones feel grateful for our relationships, and those who don't miserable.  I remember Valentine's Day when I was single, and how I always felt so depressed.  I wish that I had some tools to help me feel grateful for the things that I did have.  I actually had a lot.

For my Science of Happiness Class at NYU, we are asked to keep track of 3 Good Things that happen to us every day. In the month of February in this cold frozen tundra, it is very easy to drown yourself in melancholy.  But this task that I am taking on in school forces me to acknowledge 3 good things that I experienced each day (A Primer in Positive Psychology).  And keep in mind, this is when you sweat the small stuff.  I acknowledged yesterday, a day in which I attended a funeral for a dear friends' mother, a day that was overall sad, the following things.

  1. I am very grateful for my parents and I was able to really think about how much I loved them through the speech of my friend.
  2. I got to spend most of the day sitting shiva with dear friends and my girls, talking and laughing, which always makes me happy.
  3. We hosted the shiva at our house, which made me feel grateful for having a home that could fit everyone and help our friend through his time of grief.

So overall, I can look at this mournful day as a positive one.  It is not that we shouldn't be sad about things that are sad.  But we can find happiness in any day.  Kind of amazing, right?  So I am going to keep on keeping on with the 3 Good Things experiment for a while.  At least until it gets a little warmer outside...

Take My Kid! Please!

In the next few weeks many parents will be getting letters of acceptance or rejection from various private and specialized public schools in NYC. I have been through this scenario three times so far.  I am positive that there are other parents who will concur that this is the most painful process on earth.  I would rather have all of my fingernails pulled out one by one than go through the hell that is private school admissions process in NYC. If a parent tells you it is a fun process, they are lying or insane. (Again, this blog is just my opinion, take it or leave it).

                      Getting your kid into a specialized public school or private school can be difficult and stressful, but they all get in somewhere... (Gossip Girl)

                      Getting your kid into a specialized public school or private school can be difficult and stressful, but they all get in somewhere... (Gossip Girl)

We had the most stressful time when we first applied to schools for our older daughter.  Our younger daughter said that the eldest was the guinea pig, and we had fortunately for her, made all the mistakes first. We were unaware about how difficult it was for a school to see how special our child was.  BECAUSE SHE WAS SO SPECIAL OF COURSE! The worst part of the process is that your perfect child, who you love and adore is now being judged by someone, who has met them once.  

The reality is that there is preparation that needs to be made in order to get your child into the school they desire. Unless your child is a super genius, there is major work  to be done.  The reality also is, that your child will get in somewhere, and it most likely the school will be the right fit, even if it is not what you had hoped for originally. Our oldest is at Brooklyn Friends School, which has been the most unbelievable blessing.  We didn't realize it at first, but it is a perfect fit for our girl.  Both of our girls are at schools that are the right fit for them.  The are very different kids, and both very happy where they are.  PHEW!!

I found BFS by reading a very helpful book, Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools, by Victoria Goldman.  It is an informative and great breakdown of each school and what they have to offer.  There are other helpful guides. There are amazing public high schools in NYC, such as Stuyvesant, La Guardia, And LAB, which are listed at the website of the DOE

Our biggest hurdle so far was the applications to middle school.  So I will list a few tips that can help you through this process.

  1. Do your homework as a parent.  Read all about every school.  Ask as many parents, teachers, students about the different schools as you can.  You are going to put your kid through this crazy process, so at least be prepared.
  2. The ISEE test is REALLY HARD! I have very smart kids, and they found the test to be very difficult and stressful. To relieve the stress, it is so important to start test prep early.  I would give your child at least three months to start prepping.  This way it is gradual and not rushed. We did it ALL wrong the first time, so I highly suggest this.  You can use the various practice books at home, or you can work with a tutor (mind you tutors are expensive).  But start early and work on vocabulary...I suggest making note cards and and having your child add at least two new words a day.  Go through the list every day as it builds.
  3. Remember a 10 year old is not the one who is able to make their life long decisions. So don't let them not get their essays done, or not prepare for the test.  I promise that they won't do it, so you have to lead this process, as painful as it is.  I do have friends whose kids at age ten were extremely motivated to get everything done for their applications, but that is not the norm. I was quite impressed by those kids by the way...
  4. Pick the school that is right for YOUR child, not the one that his friends like, or all the other mommies in your mommy group like.  
  5.  Practice interviewing with your kid.  Teach them a handshake. Make sure they look grownups in the eye.  Practice some questions with them.  They will be more relaxed and confident during their interview.
  6. Try to relax.  Virtually impossible tip, but try.

The good news is, is that if you live in NYC, there is a plethora of choices of amazing schools, where your child has the opportunity to flourish.  It is really the one place where the choices are endless.  But it is ultimately the work of the parent to make it happen. So if you are about to start this process, hunker down, take a breadth and and do your homework. Because your kid will have to do the same.  

Paint It Black

Living in New York City and being the trendy gal that I am, I find myself wearing black about 110% of the time.  New Yorkers are always too cool for their own good, and for some reason wearing black is cool.  I love wearing black, because it is simple, it matches all the other black things in my closet, and it hides my imperfections (yes I have many). But how does wearing black make you feel?  I was thinking about this this past week as I started my new class that deals with the theme of Melancholia, which means feeling deeply sad or gloomy. Good times!

From Atelier Versace Spring 2015 Collection

From Atelier Versace Spring 2015 Collection

Hippocrates said that melancholia comes from an excess of a liquid in ones body called black bile.  This is a very negative connotation to black then.  Perhaps those of us who wear black often like to live on the edge and enjoy the idea of being a bit dark and dismal.  Perhaps it is soothing to focus on oneself as being sad, so that we deflect worry about other things? I'm getting too deep... Either way, my new found knowledge of black is making me rethink my wardrobe a bit.

I am balancing my curriculum of Melancholia with a class in the Science of Happiness.  That's just how I roll.  It is a very interesting class, and I hope to shed some light on my my own feelings of melancholia that I deal with periodically as well as some of my friends and loved ones.  It is very interesting to focus on how to keep positive and improve ones life through the pursuit of happiness, rather than to focus on fixing sadness.  I very much like this concept.  The book I just started reading is A Primer in Positive Psychology, by Christopher Peterson

I look forward to sharing my incites in this blog.  I also look forward to my Spring wardrobe! Although this new college tuition seems to be eating up that budget.  Oh well, I will radiate happiness through knowledge instead of through Dior! (not that I wear Dior)  Perhaps some bright blue to lighten the mood...with black shoes of course, I'm not feeling those patent red boots...not very New York!

From Dior's Spring 2015 Collection

From Dior's Spring 2015 Collection

Team Work?

I have mixed opinions about collaborative work in school. In the Websters Dictionary  collaborate is defined as to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.  That sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It is also defined as to give help to an enemy who has invaded your country during a war.  Not such a good idea!

Calvin and Hobbes.  All credit goes to Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes.  All credit goes to Bill Watterson

I do agree that collaborative work fosters new ideas and builds communities, all good.   But I also think that group work can be detrimental to the learning process and success of a student. My daughters attended a public elementary school,where there was a tremendous amount of group or collaborative work. They had a lot of fun doing the projects, but I am not convinced that they did a lot of learning.   

My younger daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in 1st grade. She was given extra instruction in school called SETTS. This was only somewhat effective (More details in future blogs). Because my daughter is such a social person, she was able to be very successful in a collaborative environment. She would negotiate with her friends to "do the drawing" and her friend would "do the writing," and so on. Her teachers would always say how well she was doing and how great she was progressing in school.  The collaborative work seemed to be a smoke screen over what was really happening...she couldn't get work done on her own.

We were very blessed that my daughter was accepted to the Stephen Gaynor School. There, she received one on one attention to really assess what her strengths and weaknesses were.  She made tremendous strides at the school. There was no way to hide in groups at SGS.  She needed to be accountable for her own work. 

She is now at a new school, where there is tremendous accountability. She was faced this past week with a group project that she was very unhappy about. She found that the group dynamics were not strong.  There was a lack of communication and effort on some of the group members.  She experienced great frustration and anxiety.  This time she wanted to do the work, but was concerned about the quality of the results because of possible weak links in the group. 

                                                                                       Being in a group may be better left for the play ground.

                                                                                       Being in a group may be better left for the play ground.

 

Reality is that there will be group work in school and of course in "real life."  I told my girls that they should always stick to these rules

  1. If you can, CHOSE YOUR TEAM- Don't pick only your friends, pick who will collaborate to get the job done the best.
  2. Be in charge of your destiny- The only one you can blame for your group not getting work done is you.  
  3. If you want something done right, do it yourself- If you see a team member not getting something done, take over the task.  Otherwise you will risk getting a bad group grade.  That is the sad truth.
  4. Don't whine or complain. (this pretty much applies to everything)  This doesn't solve anything.  Deal with the hand you are dealt and make the most of it. 

Group work can be fun and stimulating, but if it counts for a grade, or your job is on the line, make sure the work gets done no matter who you are working with...

I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on the matter.  I think there isn't a black or white answer here...

 

To Thine Own Self Be True...

Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

 

Looking at my syllabus this semester at NYU, I will be reading Hamlet, by William Shakespeare (for those of you who are dyslexic I recommend an audio book version).  I am very excited as I love Shakespeare and have read Hamlet before.  There are many memorable quotes in Hamlet, but the one I have been thinking about lately is the quote above.  “To thine own self be true..”

hamlet.jpg

I am very proud of my accomplishments thus far.  I have built a wonderful business with my husband WiNK , I had a fantastic and exciting modeling career, I have raised two amazing girls.  I have had a longing the last few years, however, to really start thinking about what makes me happy, and what I want to do next.  That is why I reapplied to NYU.  And that is why I am working towards being a Reading Specialist.

In Hamlet, Polonius is saying it is important to take care of yourself first, that way you will be ready to help and give attention to others. So I am taking care of my education in order that I can help children reach their potential.  

That being said, I am definitely not Mother Teresa, so I am going to be sure to stay true to some

Ilse necessities.

  1. Eat Right- We are big foodies, favorite spots are Locanda Verde, Maison PremiereBowery MeatCompany, and Buvette.
  2. Work Out- I love Flywheel and Lyon's Den Yoga
  3. See my Friends A lot! We are so lucky to have wonderful supporting friends and family.
  4. Be silly, especially with my kids...
  5. Travel as much as possible and get my feet in the sand...
  6. Get mani's and pedi's often (critical)- I love Haven Spa in SOHO.
Buvette in the West Village

Buvette in the West Village

So to mine own Ilse be true, so that I can help those around me.  But I have to keep reminding myself, Ilse first, Ilse FIRST!