Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011


So last week, after I got back from my trip, Iyyar had his appointment with the developmental pediatrician--the appointment that was supposed to be in February but magically happened the next day because I fell apart crying in the Hitpatchut haYeled office. Really, I should have taken him, but I was so tired and jetlagged I convinced myself that it would be fine if Mr. Bigfoot did it. (Note to self: no.) He went and gave me a report and brought home a typed report that includes many repetitions of "father does not know..." and ends with a recommendation for a social worker, among other things. Sigh.

The evaluation Mr. Bigfoot brought home was not informative. It told me that Iyyar can write his name nicely, has good reflexes, draws lopsided circles, draws complete people with all their features, and is communicative in English but less so in Hebrew. It also started out with "yeled chamud" ("Cute kid.") Is it me or is that an "only in Israel" thing? She felt, after observing him in a small room containing his father and a friendly adult, lots of toys, undivided cheery attention, and no environmental stressors or other children, that Iyyar would be best served by an additional year in gan. Both Michal and I strenuously disagree with this: he has an early birthday, he is tall for his age, he finds the "school" aspect of gan easy already and knows full well that he is supposed to be heading into kita aleph. Also, he is doing reasonably well socially. Keeping him back would serve no purpose; he would be upset, he'd be the tallest/biggest kid in his class, he doesn't need the time to catch up academically or socially, and I don't think it would address any of his actual problems (not that anyone seems to understand what those actually ARE).

Other recommendations are for a speech therapist (great) and a psychological evaluation (great, but didn't he already have four hours of that?). That was a week ago and we have yet to hear anything from anyone, so I am not feeling optimistic. I'm going to call tomorrow because apparently the speech therapist to whom his materials were given is available by phone on Mondays from 8:30-9:30 am and only then. (Better than nothing?)

In the meantime, Michal finally spoke to the psychologist who did the first eval. She (Michal) said that repeating gan was not the solution and instead recommended a kita katana (small class for kids with mild to moderate learning disabilities/emotional issues). This was at my behest; she said last week that she'd like to see Iyyar in a regular kita aleph (first grade) with therapy/support, and I said that while I would love to see that too, I wasn't at all sure he'd be ready, and given the incredible amount of hoop-jumping that would have to be achieved to get him into a kita katana, the last thing I wanted was to come to the conclusion in June (or, worse, October) that a regular first grade was not going to work--and then have to start from scratch, with Iyyar not in the good place he is in now. I said I was not at all willing to close the kita katana door, and she saw the logic in this. Also, Iyyar had a hard day today. It's too long to get into here but he had some kind of a mysterious blowup on the way home from gan with Mr. Bigfoot and Avtalyon. Mr. Bigfoot had no idea what triggered it, and I did figure it out later but only after a lot of time and indirect prodding.

Even after Iyyar told me what the problem had been, and explained it to me, and we talked about it and how he had reacted (running away from Abba while Abba was calling him to come) and why it was dangerous/not OK, and why we had to use words to explain when we were not happy about something etc. etc.--even after I understood what had gone on in his head, I had to realize how really not normal that thought process had been, even for a five-year-old. What he got upset at, how the distress manifested itself, both in the moment and afterward--he needs help. At least this time, with enough time and quiet and patience, I could help. He was able to use words, he was able to tell me what he'd been thinking at least to some extent, he calmed down, he felt OK later, he went to bed happy.

And that's the thing, see--Iyyar is doing better. He IS. He blows up less, he communicates more, he is happier and calmer. I've been pouring on the love and the patience and he is getting that at gan too. It is, despite the opinion of the psychologist (who seems to think I am wrapping him in cotton wool) exactly what he needs to recover from whatever the **** was going on in that gan last year. But it takes so little--next to nothing--to set him off. And what is happening right now, see, it's a spiral. It's a good spiral. Right now, he is calmer and happier, so he behaves better in gan, and he gets positive reinforcement, and he is motivated to behave/less stressed and ergo able to behave. Therefore he can play with the other kids, he can sit still, he can focus better, he can do the things he needs to do to manage in gan. Last year, it was exactly the opposite. But he is, and there is no other word for it, emotionally fragile. He is terrified of disapproval. It takes so little to bounce him in the opposite direction, and I look at him and I see how easily he could fall apart completely in kita aleph.

This is not me being a neurotic overprotective American mother. This is me being his mother, and knowing him better than anyone else. But still not knowing what is wrong, or how to help.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Because I should probably not leave that last post at the top of my blog for too long

Here's another one.

(You know the really pathetic thing? After I posted last time, I went to bed and thought of another half dozen things at least I could have vented about but didn't.)


The next day, I was sitting on the bed putting on my socks and muttering to myself. "Iyyar's doing much better. I don't have any cavities. The kids are healthy." Mr. Bigfoot overheard me. "Are you telling yourself good things?" "Yeah. Not everything is awful." "No." "It just FEELS that way." "Right."


So, here is a list of Things That Are Not Awful:

1. The kids are healthy. This is huge. Remember last year? That isn't happening now. We had a couple of weeks of stomach bugs, all of which passed relatively quickly. B"H, no major health issues currently going on with anyone. Pregnancy seems to be going fine, the kids are doing well.

2. Iyyar really is doing much better. He has his ups and downs, but overall he is taking many more steps forward than he is taking back. He loves his gan. He has not said he hates/doesn't want to go to gan in months--not since before the chagim. He tells me he loves Michal and he also tells me about how he is playing with the other kids. Just like he spiraled downward last year, and things got worse and worse in a vicious cycle of frustration/acting out/disapproval/anger/other kids not wanting to play with him, this year, it's heading in the opposite direction. He's happier, he's more cooperative, he's playing better with the other kids, he's less disruptive, more patient. This week Michal told me she was hoping to see him in a regular kita aleph next year. I'm not actually sure that would be best for him--far from it--but I was really, really happy to hear her say it.

3. Marika is one day away from turning TWO. The mind reels. That deserves a post of its own, but in the meantime, she is cuddly and adorable and has developed quite the personality. She has also recently figured out how to open doorknobs. That part I could have waited for, but I'm happy to see her growing and happy and doing new stuff all the time.

4. No cavities! I went to the dentist when I was in the US, because I really like the dentist (he's in the same building as my office) and I have been having issues lately with a really raw and painful mouth--certain foods (sesame seeds, tomatoes, citrus, hummous, anything acidic or rough-textured) seem to rip my tongue/inside of my mouth to shreds, and some of them make my mouth swell. It seemed weird that I could be developing multiple food allergies at once, and I was due for a cleaning, so I called to see if they had a cancellation and they did. Anyway, no cavities (yay!) and the mouth thing he told me was pregnancy-related; he gave me some fancy toothpaste and a special toothbrush (?) and told me to stay way from trigger foods. Also, he fixed a chipped filling. Even better, when I went to pay, the receptionist discovered that I had a huge credit on my account--apparently I overpaid last time--and only owed $9 for the visit. There was a sign on the desk that said, "Like us on Facebook and get a $10 credit!" so I asked if I could like them on Facebook and call it even. They said sure, so I walked out of there without paying anything. I'm not thrilled that they sat on $163 for almost a year without telling me, but it was a nice surprise nevertheless.

5. I brought back a lot of Tootsie Rolls. There is no Tootsie Roll shortage here.

6. I also brought back a lot of little plastic dinosaurs from the thrift shop. Twenty cents each--couldn't resist. The kids are happy, with that and also with the whole box of K'nex I bought for around $6.

7. Work is going well. Nobody expects me back in the US next summer.

8. This baby is the most active baby-in-utero I have ever had. S/he never seems to stop kicking, wiggling, rolling, and squirming. It's fun. I try not to wonder how this will translate into sleep habits in the outside world. Hopefully, just in the kicking off of many blankets.

9. The kitchen is clean. I made pizza for dinner and cleaned up while the kids were eating it. I also redid the contact paper on the counter on Tuesday, so it looks much better in there. And I bleached the sink. That helped too.

10. We are going to get a new washing machine, cost be damned. I can't not have a washing machine. Mr. Bigfoot says no more used appliances. The End.

11. We have three windowboxes full of ivy and geraniums, courtesy of Deb.

12. Barak can now do most of his homework by himself. He usually gets about halfway through it without help. This is a big improvement from September, when he'd do three out of ten questions after a lot of misery and suffering and parental involvement. His homework continues to be, in my opinion, wildly ambidiout; last night's Chumash homework involved reading and understanding and answering questions on TWENTY-SIX psukim. Which they had not done in class. Seriously.

13. Yesterday I heard Barak singing a song I didn't know. Mr. Bigfoot didn't know it either. He listened carefully for a minute and then grinned. "He's singing mishnayos." Last year he was singing Pirkei Avos, this year it's mishnayos. This is why we moved here.

14. I made a to-do list of all the horribly overwhelming things I had to do. I did three of them today. It's only a start, but it helps.

15. My computer is working much better now, after a lot of long-distance intervention from IT at work.

16. I brought back a lot of Trader Joe's chocolate chip granola bars. Marika has figured out that there is almost always a chocolate chip or four hiding in the bottom of the wrapper. I can open one, hand her the wrapper, and she will be so busy hunting for tiny chocolate chips that she leaves me alone with my granola bar until it's almost gone.

There. Sixteen good things. The seventeenth: I am going to bed.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I’m warning you. This one is not going to be pretty. If you’re not in the mood, just skip it, ok?

The last few weeks have been really hard.

So much has been going on that I don’t really know where to start.

I guess I’ll start with the meeting with the CPA, the day before I went to the US for my latest work trip. The meeting I’d been trying to schedule for months, while they ignored and ignored my emails, and didn’t do my return for MONTHS. The meeting where I thought I was showing up to sign my 2010 returns, and in which I was told that I owed Bituach Leumi (social insurance) 13% of my gross income, from the date of my aliya, retroactively, and henceforth forevermore. About $10k on the spot, and 13% of my gross—not net, gross—salary, going forward. This is not including taxes in any way. This is JUST social insurance. And I still have to pay social security and medicare in the US.

I had had no idea. I didn’t cry until I got home, when my friend Zahava called to check up on me and I lost it in a fit of hysterical tears and uncharacteristic profanity.

It’s just too much.

I’m working full-time now. But it still isn’t enough to support us. We’re just breaking even now, with the free apartment.

We are losing so much money on our condo in the US. We can’t refinance.

Mr. Bigfoot doesn’t have a job. He just lost most of his tutoring hours, not because of anything he did but because the at-risk kids he was tutoring left the school. And the cartoons he’s been doing for pay haven’t been renewed—because even though everyone says to him how much they like them, only two people have bothered to tell the magazine.

Our washing machine died. We’re back to the laundromat.

I am so jetlagged and so tired.

Every time I turn around, someone is mad at me about something. Now? Not the time to jump down my throat because I have not been in touch, did not stop by when I was in the US, did not phrase an email quite in the way you would have liked. I don’t have the emotional energy right now to deal with anything that is not a child or a speech. Leave me alone.

Hitpatchut ha’yeled is not helping Iyyar. Iyyar needs help. Now. He needs someone to help him function in school, he needs help with attention and auditory processing, he needs help learning how to deal with stress. He needs to learn how not to run around in circles singing to himself. He needs the ability to register when his name is being screamed at him, and respond, not stay lost in his own world as he walks obliviously into the path of moving vehicles. But everything takes weeks, and even though we have been trying to make this happen since last June, here we are in December and he does not have so much as an intake appointment for speech therapy or OT or anything else. As of this morning, he’s been recommended for all kinds of things, but nothing has happened. I also have a two-page evaluation of him sitting in front of me, which I can’t understand.

They don’t pick up the phone. They don’t return calls. They don’t do anything, except, this week, magically find an appointment for the next day when I fall apart crying upon being told that the next available appointment for the next hoop-jumping step on which everything depends is not for another two months. That, they did.

Avtalyon’s ganenot are also worried about him. Right now they think it’s a hearing problem but also want us to start paperwork with Hitpatchut Ha’yeled. I can’t get that moving until we get another hearing test. I went through the hoops to get the referral and the guarantee of payment—two separate trips to two separate offices, each requiring a morning of no sleep—and called the audiologist. Earliest available appointment: January.

Does he have attention/processing issues like Iyyar seems to? Or permanent hearing loss from all those eardrum ruptures? I took him to the ENT and his ears are clear. Whatever it is, it’s not going to self-resolve.

I just spent a week in the US, and while I was there, everyone but Iyyar got sick. I had to listen to Marika crying for me with a 102 fever from 8,000 miles away. I came home to a house with no visible floor or horizontal surfaces in any of the bedrooms or my office. And kids with diarrhea who couldn’t go to school. Avtalyon threw up a few times the night after I got home.

This was after Barak threw up at school and I had to go get him, by cab, and then he narrowly missed throwing up in the cab—the same cab that, by chance, came when I called later that afternoon to take Avtalyon to the doctor for his ears.

Barak doesn’t seem to have any friends at school. He doesn’t play with anyone. He doesn’t talk about other kids. His Hebrew is doing better, his teachers are happy with him, but socially, he seems to be heading into trouble.

Oh, and did I mention the fight he had at school? The one that was started by another kid who knocked him to the floor and punched him? Whose mother then called me because Barak had, from the floor, thrown his pencil case at him and hit him in the eye? And thought I should talk to Barak about how unacceptable violence was as a means of conflict resolution? That was a fun day of phone calls right there.

And the hasaa which sometimes doesn’t have seatbelts.

And the hasaa which is different every day, so Barak doesn’t always get on it, because he doesn’t recognize it. Which means I have to go get him by cab, and pull Mr. Bigfoot out of seder.

I still haven’t found a doula. Or registered at the hospital.

The house is a mess.

We got an absolutely huge water bill. I called the maintenance guy and said, there is no way we have used that much water. He looked around and found a leak in the toilet tank--the water has been running in there nonstop. Not our faulty plumbing, but the water bill? Still our responsibility.

We got an absolutely huge ($400) phone and internet bill. Considering we don't use the phone, and the internet is supposed to be the same every month, this is obviously a mistake, right? Multiple calls to the campus communication guy. He promises to look into it. So far? One guess.

I mentioned that the washing machine died, right? The one we bought less than a year ago? With no warranty?

I’m eating so badly. I’m pregnant, I need to be eating well, but cooking real food in my horrible little excuse for a kitchen is so hard, and what I should be eating/what the kids are willing to eat/what I can make in that kitchen are just not the same at all.

And oh, what we spend on food.

I brought back $26 worth of Target pullups. They leak. Avtalyon has wet the bed every night he’s worn them, and woken up crying that his bed is wet. It soaked right through the mattress pad and now the mattress is ruined.

Also, I have a new laptop from work, which is behaving strangely. Hours on the phone with computer support. Hours I should have been writing speeches.

The external keyboard I brought back doesn’t work at all. Not salvageable. It’s a toy now. Good thing I didn’t toss the old one—the one I’ve used so much the letters are worn off the keys.

I spent too much money in the US, some of it on stuff that I then had no room to bring back. Because I was using the space on a broken keyboard and leaky pullups.

And the Meuchedet insurance which has still not paid us back about NIS 650 we are owed. But in order to deal with it, I have to deal with endless Hebrew, and I just… can’t.

I hate my OB and don’t know where to find anyone better. Dr. Nili Yannai doesn’t seem to exist anymore, or at least, none of the numbers I have for her work. Anyone?

I am ignoring my 26-week gestational diabetes screening, even though I’m almost 30 weeks. Every single day, there is something else that can’t be put off.

Two simchas in the kollel this week, with signup sheets posted for who’s bringing food. I can’t ignore it. I can’t deal.

Three days a week, I have to do all the afternoon pickups. This means pushing a stroller up The Hill. That is really, really hard right now.

It’s 2 am. Did I mention jetlag? Or that I have to be up in 5 hours?

I’m leaving out the good stuff, of course. There is good stuff. I just can’t see it right now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Further to the kinderlach chronicles

So Deb was just here last week and we had a lovely time, and I need to blog about that, but first, some kid blogging catch-up:

1. Avtalyon is being insanely cute lately. With Barak and Iyyar, three and a half was a Very Difficult Age. With Avtalyon for whatever reason it is an Incredibly Delightful Age. Favorite story of the week:

Avtalyon has grown extremely fond of the Steggie sweater made for him by the fabulous Tanta Cecilia. He puts it on and puts up the hood and gets this hilarious look on his face that's part "Look at me, I'm so cool" and part shyness about how totally cool he is. When he puts it on I pretend to be very scared that he is in fact transforming into a terrifying dinosaur. He grins and reassures me, "But it's really yarn, right Imma?"

The other day he came into my room when I was still asleep, hysterically wailing about something I didn't immediately get (being, as I just said, asleep). I finally got it out of him that Iyyar had been scaring him. Ah.

"Avtalyon! I know! I know what you can do!"

[Hysterical wailing]

"Go get your dinosaur sweater! Then put it on and you'll be so scary, you won't be scared of ANYTHING."

[Hysterical wailing instantly stops. Avtalyon gets that awesome look 3 yos get when every cog and wheel in their head is turning madly.]

Hiccup. Hiccup. "'Kay."

Two minutes later, he is back, naked except for pullup and dinosaur sweater, which he wants me to zip up. He puts up the hood and grins, a little self-consciously. "Now I'm very scary. Right Imma?"


2. Marika has lately taken to calling roll. She wakes up in the morning, or from her nap, and wants to know where everyone is. Barak, so far as she is concerned, is either home or on the bus, since she sees him leave for the bus in the morning and return on the bus in the afternoon. "Barak bus?" she inquires, standing in her crib in footie pajamas, hair in full sheepdog mode. "Right, Barak's on the bus," I agree. "Abba dabbis?" which means--actually I have no idea what it means. Abba Shabbos? Sometimes she asks, "Abba dowdide?" which is "Abba outside?" Then she asks after Iyyar and Avtalyon, or hears them, at which point she crows their names. Then, of course, she wants to get dressed, which requires pigtails ("Kuku! Kuku yeah?") and of course shoes ("Whoojh!")

3. A few weeks ago, on Succot, we went at night to see the succahs on Yaffo Street. We were on the bus just as it started to get dark, and I entertained Avtalyon by telling him to watch the lights "pop on." The streetlights are on light sensors so they go on when it gets dark and don't necessarily all go on at once, so it's fun, if you are three, to see this happen. Now Iyyar has associated lights popping on with night, and last week, at about 3 am, while I was working, he suddenly burst out of bed. I saw him walk past my door and came out to see what he was doing. He looked at me with those huge bottomless dark eyes of his and said, with a lot of expressive hand gestures and talking very fast,

"Imma I just needa look out the windows to see if the lights are on outside and if it's night."

"Okay, go ahead."

Two minutes later, with even more expressive hand-waving:

"Yes they are so it's definitely the night. Also! The moon! Kay Imma?"

"'Kay. Can you go back to bed now?"

Vigorous nodding. "Yeah."

Thirty seconds later:

"Imma, c'you tuck me in please?"

I could. And did. Of course.

4. Barak is really seriously reading now. Last night I started reading Charlotte's Web to the boys, after I put Marika to bed. I got up to chapter four before bedtime. Barak asked if he could take it to bed with him and I said yes. He was still busy reading when I wanted to go to sleep so I said he could keep reading, but please to go to sleep when he felt tired.


Next morning, he was in bed with Iyyar, and inspection of the brand-new paperback made me very suspicious that he had read the entire thing. Suspicion was strengthened when he didn't wake up till 10 am, and then only because his brothers were in the room being loud.

"Barak, did you read the whole book last night?"

"No. I didn't read the last chapter."

"How far did you read? What happened."

"Charlotte died." Pause. "I was crying and so I went to bed."


"Did you read the last page?"

"Yeah. All her children and grandchildren were Wilbur's friends after that. But Charlotte died."

"Why don't you read the last chapter now?"


He went off and read it.

He's seven and a half and he read almost all of Charlotte's Web in an evening. I'm impressed.

5. Hebrew reading, however, doesn't seem to be going as well. He's got 5 hours a week of tutoring, and his teacher is not terribly positive. She says things like, "He's a sweet boy who wants to learn" and "He needs a lot of help." Which, unfortunately, I can't really give him, because a lot of his homework is over my head. Anything that's regular second-grade--math, reading, workbook stuff--I can do. But half his day is religious studies, and do you know what he gets for Chumash (Bible) homework? A page with the pasuk (verse), name and number, and a list of eight or ten questions to be answered in full sentences. So he's supposed to look it up, read it, and answer them all. He can't do it and I can't either. So what happens is he goes up to the bais medrash with Mr. Bigfoot for night seder and usually they manage to get through half of it, but it's really hard. I need to get Barak into reading in Hebrew the way he's into reading in English, but don't know how. Eitan the Great is really not available enough; comic books are good but he mostly just looks at the picture. I think he'll get there eventually, but in the meantime don't want him falling even further behind.

6. Iyyar. Iyyar is... well.

Iyyar is doing much better than he was doing six months ago. That's where I should start. He is behaving better, he likes school, he tells me he loves his gan. The episodes of "nobody home" are fewer, but they are still there; the listening is there more often than not, but "not" is still pretty often. I talked to his teacher yesterday and she agreed with my feeling that he is not going to be able to deal with a regular first-grade classroom. She doesn't know what the problem is any more than I do, but we both feel it's a combination of attention and emotional issues that feed off each other. We, meaning Mr. Bigfoot and I, had our first meeting with the hitpaychut ha'yeled (child development) psychologist last week; the second appointment, with me and Iyyar, is next Wednesday, as in a week and a half from now. The psychologist was sure just from what we had told her that he would need OT but told us it could takes weeks to months to get it started; I told this to his ganenet on Friday and she had the same reaction I did. "No! No! Not okay! He needs help NOW." Which I agree with but I don't know how we can hurry anything along. I'm going to call them this week and ask the psychologist to call the ganenet, which she had already said she would do (but hasn't done yet). I'm not sure she'll do it, but at least I can get her full name and phone number for the ganenet to call her.

The ganenet (whose name is Michal--I might as well give her a name at this point) was very upbeat and said "You know, by Purim he could be a different kid, you never know..." but was saying the same things I was--I just don't know what's going on with him, I don't know what the problem is and I don't know how to help. She said, and this was really good to hear, that he is OK with the other kids. It's just with adults that he gets this deer-in-the-headlights look. And I really do think that a lot of that was from last year, from feeling that he was in trouble or doing something wrong all the time, and developing these really problematic coping mechanisms--the making faces, the dancing around and yelling, the impulsive behavior, the throwing things. He does it less now but he still does it, even at home. And it takes so little to set him off, especially if he's tired or stressed to begin with. It's almost like flipping a switch. You can see it happening--the switch from "Iyyar is here" to "nobody is home." And once it happens, it's almost impossible to talk to him.

So there is a lot to be done here, and it's kind of frustrating that it is all happening so slowly when he needs help NOW. Also, not knowing what kind of an environment he will need next year throws a major monkey wrench into our attempts at planning. If he needs a "kita katana," which is what seems the most likely, then that really limits the number of places we can go--although the community that was on the top of our list to begin with does have one, which could be really perfect if it works out. I'm going out there next week to visit and talk with the principal, who I'm told has excellent English so that will be a big help.

In the meantime, he is in a good place. Michal is amazing. She likes him a lot and she wants to help; she has a ton of patience and she communicates with me. Whenever Mr. Bigfoot or I pick him up, we at least make eye contact with a "How did today go?" Usually she indicates that it was a good day, and if not, she'll stop and give details. But he can have several good days and then a day that is Not Good at All, and it takes so, so little to set him off and it is so, so hard to bring him back out. I told Michal on Friday what I'm most worried about--that he'd get into a regular class with a regular teacher like Barak had last year, act up somehow, and get publicly told off in the way that was standard in Barak's class--for example, being made to sit in the corner. That, I told Michal, would just be the end for Iyyar, and she agreed and said exactly what I was going to say next, "He'd never learn again in that room." Right.

I just want to fix things for him. I know it's not that easy. I just wish I had some better idea of what to do.

7. OK, can't end on that note. So how about a picture? Of some yarn? Because I now have... a wheel!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Idle curiosity

So, any readers who have had babies in Israel and want to tell me where they gave birth and what their experience was like?

See, here's the thing. My sister-in-law just had a baby (mazal tov!) last week. I went out to visit her a few times before she was discharged from Shaarei Tzedek. And the postpartum nurses? They were MEAN. Not just gruff or typical Israeli, but actually mean.

See, here's the other thing. If you haven't picked up on this, I have a really, really thin skin. It is very easy to hurt my feelings. It is very easy to make me feel bad. Call it a personality flaw or moral weakness or whatever you want, but I don't think I can change it at this point. And when I am about to have a baby, or am in the process of having a baby, or have just had a baby, I absolutely totally cannot deal with anyone being mean to me. At all.

So there's Hadassa. And there's the natural birthing center at Hadassa, which is pretty pricy. There are doulas. But there is no getting past that in Israel, the person who will deliver your baby is almost certainly going to be someone you have never ever seen before. And will absolutely positively not be the lovely midwives I love and trust who delivered my last 3 kids.

Anyone have any experience to share?

Just, you know, wondering. Idle curiosity. Of course.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Hey, guess what? This blog post is going to be entirely 100% positive and optimistic! (she says, determinedly).

I feel it's time.

1. School starts again tomorrow! Yay! Everyone is ready. Avtalyon and Iyyar have been asking when they are going back to gan. Every morning for at least the last week, Avtalyon has gotten up in the morning and immediately asked me, "Right we don't have gan today?" in a manner of resignation. Iyyar out-and-out said he wanted to go back to gan. And Marika, for the last few days, has been pulling her backpack off its hook, bringing it to me to put on her shoulders, and banging on the door yelling, "Dowdide! Dowdide!"

She's subtle, that one.

2. The kids are being really sweet lately. Not much fighting at all over break, and a lot of really nice helpful behavior. A couple of times I got them involved in all-family laundryfests; I sat on the couch folding and directing and it all got put away faster than it would have done if I'd done it myself. Friday everyone helped clean up for Shabbos (except for Marika, whose contribution was not getting in the way too terribly much). Barak is now old enough to be seriously helpful. He knows where things go, he knows (more or less) how to fold things, he enjoys helping.

3. My sister-in-law had a baby girl! She is gorgeous and perfect and so sweet. And she was born in the hospital that is walking distance to us (if you're feeling energetic--I admit I took the bus). I went out and visited her a couple of times and then went over to help her get home, so she wouldn't have to shlep her stuff downstairs/put in a carseat by herself. It was really nice to be able to do this, and even though she got discharged later than planned on an erev chag, it all worked out. I took her home by cab, went to the store with her daughter to get diapers (she got sent home with 4), and then hopped into the bus that was right there to go to the shuk. It was the fastest through trip imaginable: I hadn't had time to do much cooking so I just blew through there buying fruit, salad fixings, yerushalmi kugel (yum!), olives and so on. On the way out the exit was crowded so I turned right to go out through the open part of the shuk, passing, on the way, one of the candy stalls, where I saw--are you sitting down--Cadbury Dairy Milk with Caramel.


I only bought one, which was good because it disappeared pretty quickly. I did have help. But not too much. :)

4. One of the really nice things about living here is how much freedom I can give the kids to do things on their own. Within the campus for all three boys, and even outside it, to a certain degree, for Barak. On Wednesday morning as I was heading out to the hospital, my husband mentioned that he didn't have any drinks. He really likes those kind of gross (to me) Spring/Prigat drinks, the kind that are 5% juice and 95% sugar water with coloring. I can't stand them and won't go near them, but for him it's just not Shabbos/yom tov without a liter and a half of colored sugar water. The timing was going to be awkward: I was heading out at quarter to eleven, I'd spent the morning at home with the kids frantically cooking, and I was going to get home late. Mr. Bigfoot wasn't into the idea of taking all four of them to the store (understandable).

But! We had a helper! I got Barak to grab an empty backpack and we went down to the makolet (minimarket), which is right across from the bus stop, together; we got Abba his drink and we got challah for the chag and I got Twizzlers for the kids, because I'd promised them candy for the holiday (I NEVER buy candy ordinarily, with the occasional exception of chocolate, so this was a Big Deal). I put it in Barak's bag, saw him safely across the street, and waved goodbye; he walked home by himself. Because here, he CAN.

5. Avtalyon is being insanely cute lately. The facial expressions alone crack me up. Mr. Bigfoot took all the kids up to shul for the Simchat Torah festivities. Forty minutes later, Avtalyon was deposited home by Barak. "Avtalyon, why did you come back?"

With much regretful facial squinching, "I hadda come home. It was too much running around."

"Was everyone running around?"

Shrug shrug shrug. "The girls were not running around. They were just sitting in some chairs."

I guess you hadda be there. Trust me. It was very cute. He is also completely into Batman these days. Grandma E. sent three pieces of Batman fabric, conveniently cut and serged into cape size. Avtalyon has appropriated all three: one as bottom sheet, one as top sheet, one as pillow cover. He is especially pleased with the arrangement when he can get into bed in a Batman shirt and Batman underwear. "I gotta FREE Batmans!" Captain America and Iron Man are also big these days. If you ask him, he will tell you that they are friends.

6. The office is currently not a trashed wreck. I have been really vigilant about making the kids clean it up. Also, at Rosh Hashana they got back all the Playmobil/Lego that got "tooken away" over the course of the year when it was left out on the floor overnight. I impressed on them that next Rosh Hashana is a VERY LONG WAY AWAY and how sad would it be to lose your Clone Troopers or whatever they are for FIFTY-TWO WEEKS? Very sad, they agreed. I see no Lego at all on the floor right now.

7. The lice were gross but seem to have been dealt with. Also, perk of lice: ordinarily one does not do laundry during the intermediate days of Succot. However, due to lice we got a pass on this one, and merrily washed everything in the house on hot multiple times. Result: no mountain of laundry to deal with post-chag. As Avtalyon would say: yay.

8. Marika is as always immensely entertaining. She's also getting way more articulate. "Thank you," which until yesterday was "Di di Imma!" is suddenly, "Tityou Imma!" Or "Tityou Barak!" or "Tityou Abba!" as appropriate. The other day she said thank you to Mr. Bigfoot and said "Tityou Imma!" by mistake. Then she corrected herself. :)

9. Mr. Bigfoot is working now. He gives one shiur at a local yeshiva high school with an Anglo program; he is also doing a significant amount of tutoring and is up to about 9 hours a week. He's also been hired to do some art work, which is a nice change. It's not a lot of money, but hopefully it will all lead to something more; in the meantime, he's enjoying it and it's something.

10. We bought a couch cover from a departing family last spring, along with an old armchair and a cover for it. This has made the living room much more cozy. There is enough room for everyone to sit, if squishily; the couch is a lot more comfortable now than it was. It's surprisingly nice for napping purposes. :)

11. And! Last but certainly not least: Deb is coming and she is BRINGING MY WHEEL! It was mailed by the person I bought it from on Friday and should be there by next Thursday. Deb will be here the Thursday after that, so if all goes well, in less than two short weeks I will again have a spinning wheel in residence. And that, of course, will fix everything.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I sat down ready to blog about all kinds of things but for some reason when I clicked into the little Blogger box that says, "Title," my fingers put in, "Blah." Not sure why. Am I feeling blah and not realizing it? Or is it just a nod to the speeches I should be writing at. this. very. moment?


1. Lice. We have lice. I saw something horrible walking around in Barak's hair not a week after an obsessive full-family lice combing turned up nothing. Not only did he have them, but so did Iyyar. AND SO DID I. Dealing with lice in three little boys with crew cuts is unpleasant but mostly manageable. Dealing with lice when you yourself have waist-length hair that is fine, wavy, and prone to intense tangling is entirely different. I hacked off six inches before I even started and I think the lice comb pulled out at least half of what was left. Ew. Ew ew ew. Also, massive laundry.

2. I told Deb, when we were on the phone booking her tickets (to come! and visit me! in two and a half weeks woohoo!) that I planned to clean the whole apartment before she got here. My friends, she LAUGHED. She did. I take this as a challenge. Operation Get the Damn House Clean Already, 5772, has already begun: our bedroom is totally clean (I did that first because it's the one least likely to get messed up) and the closet is cleaned out and organized. Marika's room is next (I'm doing this in descending order of how likely something is to stay clean once I've cleaned it.) Next is the office, which, no matter how perfect I get it, is always trashed within 48 hours; the kitchen, well... yeah. I can do that the morning she gets here, I guess.

3. Succos! Succos is fun. The kids are all off school for two and a half weeks, which is OK because Mr. Bigfoot is off too. I am not even a little bit off work, however, which makes it all kind of exhausting. Also, the yom tov prep this year is... well.

I've sort of talked in general terms about where we live and the setup here, although I think if you travel in the same circles I do you've figured it out already. If you haven't, we're in kollel housing, which in our case is one large apartment building with about 30 apartments. Last year, there were two buildings, about 30 families and 4 single guys, one of whom got married during the year. This year, funding has been cut significantly. We are no longer getting meals at a dining hall, and we are paying our own utilities; this has been replaced by a stipend of $250/month which for us represents a little more than what we spend on a week's groceries. Stipends are the same regardless of family size. Not surprisingly, this change meant that far fewer families are here this year, and many more single guys, who can almost, if not entirely, make ends meet with a free apartment and that amount of money. Last year, the family: single guy ratio was 10:1. This year, it's close to 1:1.

Now. Why is this a problem for us? It's a problem for us because in general the expectation in past years has been that the single guys eat by the families on Shabbos. There was a dining hall during the week, and it closed on Shabbos, and then the families invited the single guys over. Last year, with the 10:1 ratio, it was no problem. This year, the single guys are mostly still eating in the dining hall--they can pay to do it and it's just about what they get with their stipend. However, the expectation still is that they will eat by the families for Shabbos. These days, that is harder. And this Succos, there are only four families around and seven single guys and also some other guys from the yeshiva we share our campus with, and a whole bunch of them just kind of showed up to the succah meals for which four families (read: four women) were cooking, expecting to get fed.

Some had RSVP'd. Some had not. Some had signed up on the Google Doc to bring stuff, but even those who had did not bring enough and did not seem to see why this was a problem. (If you signed up to bring X number of plastic forks, plates, table covers, grape juice, cake, and a woman says to you, "Where is it?" and you say, "I think there are still some forks in that bag" and walk off, she will want to kill you. FYI.) So by Shabbos lunch, when there were NINETEEN people, half of them single guys who had not contributed in any way to the meal, sitting there expecting to get fed... I was not pleased. The other women were not pleased.

And it's complicated, you know, because--well on the one hand it isn't complicated at all. They're schnorring and they shouldn't do that. But on the other hand, this is always the way it's been and no one has sat them down and explained that they can't expect the families to feed them anymore. And who's going to do it? And there's also this cultural expectation that most of them were raised in, that the women deal with the food. AND there's the cultural expectation that it's a mitzva to host meals, and while most--really, all--of us generally enjoy doing that, none of us can afford to feed half the kollel, and we don't like feeling taking advantage of.

Anyway. It kind of put a damper on my yom tov, wondering what kind of a mess was going to be in the succah and how many guys would be at the next meal and whether there would be enough food and plastic goods etc. And seeing 19 people there to eat the 24 rolls of stuffed cabbage I'd made, expecting 12 people. And knowing that I'd signed up for almost all of the meat, to be sure that there wasn't any with soy, and had ergo spent about twice what anyone else did.

Yeah. I think next time there's a communal meal, we'll be passing. And you know what? It makes me not want to host the single guys anymore. Even though individually, I really like them, and they're not really doing anything wrong. Because in order to keep inviting them and not resenting it, I'd have to sit them down and say, "Stop schnorring" and I'm just... not going to be the only one to do that.

3. I am trying really hard not to panic about a bunch of stuff. For example: I really want to move. I know I can't move now, but I want to at least plan/prepare for moving this coming summer. However, in order to do that I have to, you know, KNOW WHERE WE'RE GOING. Which I don't. Because Mr. Bigfoot doesn't have a job for next year, and we STILL do not know what is going to be with his teacher's license because--wait for it--the person who was supposed to give the final answer for what he was going to be required to do to get it, went on vacation the day before he'd promised to write the list out.

You got that right.

In the meantime, Mr. Bigfoot was offered work--poorly paid and part-time, but with potential. And he took it, because he wasn't about to say no to work because it might conflict with the program he doesn't yet know whether or not he'll be doing! But now... oh you see the problem already?

So we don't know, and it's more uncertainty than I can deal with.

4. Our condo in America. I'd tell you, but then I'd really have a full-blown panic attack and probably not be able to finish this post. So let's just pretend it's not there, mmmmmkay?

5. Yesterday, in the middle of the lice and the laundry and the aftermath of the whole yom tov food debacle, and the subsequent flying emails from all the politely enraged kollel wives, I sat down at my computer and bought a spinning wheel. Because really, what else was there to do?

It's a used Ashford traditional, which was my first wheel about, uh, oh wow... 16 years ago?! It's mass-produced, functional, and solidly built; it will survive the trip here in a box and I will again be able to spin. And somehow, I think that this will make things better.

Now, rationally, this makes no sense. I have almost no time to knit so why would I be able to find the time to spin? I don't really have anywhere to put a wheel, although that I think I can manage. But the wheel, somehow, is about normalcy. It's just something stable and settled and the way things used to be when we had our own place. I can't bring over my Hall and I don't know when I'll be able to, but a Trad... it'll be something.

6. Huh. I'm starting to see why I titled this, "Blah."

7. We had a really fun evening tonight. (I'm trying!) Took the kids on the bus, and attempted to take them on the train downtown, only to find as soon as we got off the bus (which would also have taken us exactly where we were heading, only not as exciting-ly) that the train was ON STRIKE. Didn't it just... start running two months ago? Anyway, we got back on the bus, and went to Ben Yehuda and all had Moshiko, and then walked down Yaffo as it got dark and saw all the succahs out and the people eating in them, and went down to Kikar Safra and went into the big giant city succah and saw the mayor (hi Nir!) who was the only guy there in a suit and tie, and then came back up Yaffo and got cookies to eat in the Holy Bagel succah, which was the only one that passed Mr. Halachic Man's test (if you saw a guy tonight squatting down next to a succah and measuring it with his fists, that was my husband.)

It was fun. The kids had fun. I did too. It was really special, being out there on a balmy October night with thousands of other people and dozens of succahs in Jerusalem. I know I'm sounding cranky now, but it really was.

8. My husband just walked in from the succah and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was blogging. He said, "You've got five minutes. Then go to sleep." He's right, of course.

(Now he's looking over my shoulder to see if I made him sound mean. I didn't! See!)

Trying to think of some good way to wrap this up but I can't, because he's right, I'm really really tired. Going to bed now, in hopes of better Perspective in the morning.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


I hear that there are certain traits that are considered common to oldest children. I guess you could find different people saying different things on this topic, but Barak, for whatever reason--nature or nurture--has always been a soother. One of our family lines, when Mr. Bigfoot is getting a little too stressed about his comps or class prep or the invisible airborne particles of chicken soup that might have landed in his yogurt, is, "It's okay, Abba." I actually can't remember the full origin story of this line, but when Barak was around two and a half or three and Mr. Bigfoot was getting worked up about something, Barak came up to him, patted him on the leg, and said, soothingly, "Iss okay, Abba. Iss just fine."

Iyyar is the same way in a lot of circumstances, but it comes from a different place somehow. Iyyar is really sensitive to other people's feelings and is upset when other people are upset; if the baby is crying, he is really alarmed, and once when he was in Yehudis's playgroup and Yehudis's baby was crying upstairs (with her grandmother--she was sick), Iyyar followed Yehudis around all morning urgently trying to make her aware that the baby was CRYING and shouldn't she DO something about this?! Barak, at this age anyway, does not seem over sensitive socially and brushes off slights from other kids; Iyyar is deeply troubled by them. Right now this seems to be the biggest issue at school--other kids not playing with/not talking to him, and his inability to figure out how to deal with this constructively. We're working on it, but right now it's hard.

Anyway. That is not where I meant to go with this post, but Iyyar and gan are really on my mind right now. What I meant to blog about was my kitchen.

My kitchen is really hard.

Most days it doesn't bother me too much. I'm used to it. I have a two-burner solid ring hot plate and two toaster ovens, a dairy one I brought back from the States and a parve one I bought here. You really can do a lot with that. But it's not easy and it's not so much fun, especially when you have almost no counter space for prep work. And what's kind of extra-specially frustrating is that now that we live here, there are so, so many good ingredients to work with. So much good produce. So much amazing dairy. The shuk! For Rosh Hashana, I didn't do anything fancy, but I stayed up all night (literally--till 9 am) the night before making banana bread, carrot kugel, chicken soup, matzo balls, salad, garlic mashed potatoes, chocolate cake and schnitzel. Then on Shabbos we went to the home of friends who used to live where we live, and moved last summer to an apartment with a real (read: normal) kitchen. She has been glorying in this kitchen, which is nothing fancy but to me is the stuff of dreams: a gas stove! A normal (Israeli-sized) oven! Sinks not full of mold! Counters! Cabinets! And lunch was amazing. Amazing yummy vegetable salads, amazing yummy chicken and carrots. So so good.

A few weeks ago, for whatever reason, I just really really wanted to cook. I found a new recipe and I made meatloaf. I doubled it and put it in a 9 x 13. I covered it and put it in my toaster oven.

And the rack crashed to the floor of the oven because it was designed for toast, not the weight of a 9 x 13 pan full of meat.

The kids were in bed but Mr. Bigfoot was around, and I just lost it. I screamed. "I hate this kitchen! I hate it! I hate it so much!" The entire screaming outburst lasted about fifteen seconds but it is not my usual thing. Mr. Bigfoot was alarmed. "Just one more year. Then you'll b'ezrat Hashem have a kitchen again."

Just one more year.

It's taking me a while, but this is where I started: last week, I decided I wanted to make challah. I haven't made challah since we've been here and for whatever reason I just wanted to do it. So I broke out a recipe (I couldn't find my usual one--I made it so often in ye olde country that I had it memorized, and here I'd forgotten it and had to get it from a friend) and I made a half-sized batch of challah.

I kneaded by hand. (I had to move the burners to the top of the fridge to make space.) I let it rise. I rolled out strands and braided them. I gave each kid a glob of dough to make into a roll. I baked them.


The oven is so small that the outsides of the challah are too close to the heating elements. The crust was hard and dry, the inside not quite baked through. It wasn't my usual recipe--not as rich, not as sweet. The kids were SO excited to see me bake challah. They wanted SO much for it to be "my" challah. But it just... wasn't.

Iyyar: "Imma? Why is this challah all hard and not sweet?"

Me: "I'm sorry, sweetie. It's because the oven is so small. The challah is really close to the heating element, and that means that the outside of the challah gets too hot and kind of dried out. I need a bigger oven."

Iyyar looks crushed. Barak looks up and all of a sudden his eyes get all big and encouraging.

"Iyyar! Do you know what? One day, we're going to have an apartment with a real kitchen! With a stove! A real stove that Imma can cook on! And then she'll make challah and bagels! Do you remember Imma used to make bagels? And cookies! She used to make cookies too! And then we'll also have a bathtub!"

I wanted to cry. Partly because he was being so good and brave about it, and so clearly trying to make us both feel better; partly because what is wrong here that I can't bake cookies anymore, and my kids are dreaming about one day having a bathtub?

Just one more year. Of course, first Mr. Bigfoot needs to find a job. Things have been looking moderately encouraging on that front. He's been picked up by a local yeshiva high school as a regular tutor for their Anglo olim boys, and is now up to 9 hours a week of Gemara bagrut tutoring. The pay isn't great, but if he can get enough hours it will add up. He's got some cartooning work, which again, pay isn't great but hopefully it will lead to something. And he's waiting to hear back from the Misrad haChinuch about what, exactly, he's going to have to do to get his Israeli teacher's license. Ideally, he'll be able to finish all the requirements this year, although we won't know until they tell us and this has been dragging on for months already--since before Pesach.

In the meantime, Marika is settled into gan, Avtalyon is enjoying his new gan, and Iyyar, well, Iyyar is trying his best. Barak really likes his school, although homework is a struggle and he doesn't love his gym teacher.

And me? I'm still here, plugging away. Cooking some semblance of dinner nightly.

Iss okay, Imma. Iss just fine.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Since I got back from the US, what was it, almost three weeks ago now? I have not been able to sleep. Like, REALLY not able to sleep. Like awake until 4 or 5 AM, and then falling asleep during the day at inconvenient and inappropriate times. I wasn't like this before, so I have to assume it's the jetlag, which technically I "should" be over by now--but the thing is, it's really hard to adjust back when I'm not really adjusting back. I'm still working on US time. I'm still going to sleep (for a nap) not too far off the time I would have gone to bed in America. So it's not crazy that my body thinks that my nighttime sleep is the nap and my morning sleep is the real sleep, and doesn't let me wake up conscious and refreshed after only three or four hours.

Anyway. Right now I am in an empty house, which I have been cleaning up; I just ate some breakfast and have a sinkful of dishes soaking in hot water. Quick blog post, then dishes, then nap. So: a list?

1. Did you hear about El Al's new baggage policy? As in, only one 50 lb bag per passenger?! Wasn't it only three or four years ago that you got 2 70 lb bags? All of the European carriers have been doing this for a while but I think a lot of people, myself certainly among them, were shocked to see it from El Al. Because the people who are most loyal to El Al are the people who come frequently, who have family here, who tend to bring a lot of stuff. And the kids who come for a year for seminary and yeshiva, and bring a lot of stuff. And the people like me, who go back for work and regularly come back with a lot of stuff.

There was a time when I would have shrugged and said, who needs more than 50 lb of luggage? But now? I DO. This last trip I came back with two 49.5 lb bags and had to leave a laundry basket full of stuff that didn't fit by Yehudis. OK, some of it I didn't strictly need. The Tootsie Rolls, for example. And my policy with these trips is to let each kid make one food and one non-food request, and it happened to be that Iyyar and Avtalyon requested soy-free hot dogs and bologna, and Barak requested Rice Chex (!!) so that took up a lot of space. But the rest of it? Six pairs of kids' leather Shabbos shoes of good quality and reasonable price, a combination nonexistent here, for my sister-in-law (a gift from her father-in-law, that he ordered and had sent to me). Scary underwear for the boys. A huge box full of kids' clothes from the last time Lands' End did a $40 off any order of $100 sale. Tons and tons of Hanes socks, which last longer than any socks I've come across here, for the boys. Sneakers for my own boys. Books I needed for work, English books for the kids. Chanuka presents--toys that will not disintegrate into choking hazards after a few days and that cost less than a week's groceries. School supplies, good quality at a third the price of what you see here. Diaper cream, a third the price it is here. Tums, ditto. Aquaphor, not available at any price. The list goes on. And no, mail is not an option, for a number of reasons: exorbitant cost, unreliability, customs fees among them.

El Al! Don't you realize what this is going to do to your customer loyalty? Because I for one am going to go with any airline that isn't Turkish that will let me have two bags. Is it really worth it? Does it really save you that much money? How about charging something reasonable for the second bag--say, $50 or $75?


2. Marika is getting so verbal. She says so much! "Thank you" is no longer "ta ta" but "dangoo Imma!" She loves plums and calls all plums apples. She calls all bread pita ("deeda!") As of today, she didn't cry when I dropped her off at Carmit and was even excited on the way over ("Mee!") And she brings me her clothes and shoes when it's time to get dressed, and even asks me to put kukus in her hair ("dyoudyou!") and, if she finds a barrette, demands that as well. Asking her to stay still while I comb her hair and put it in pigtails, however, is a different story entirely.

3. Her favorite thing to do these days is look out the window. Either she climbs up on Iyyar's bed to look out toward the playground, or gets up on her little yellow chair to look out the living room window (over the windowboxes containing dead tomato plants that I really need to deal with. Soon.) She loves to holler Barak's name out the window, even when he patently is not out there. I think she is hoping it might help, somehow.

4. School and Iyyar are sort of touch and go right now. He comes home and says other kids aren't playing with him. I want to think this isn't true but I don't know. The teacher says he hasn't made friends yet but gave me a list of names of kids she think have potential. Unfortunately the one he likes best is in tzaharon (afternoon daycare) but Succot is coming so hopefully we'll manage some playdates then. In the meantime, he is much much better behaviorally at home. MUCH. I still see things that worry me--the singing-while-eating, the in-his-own-worldness, how hard it is for him to stay on task long enough to just get dressed--but I don't want to smack him fifty times a day anymore, or, usually, even once. The degree to which this is an improvement, for my own mental health along with everything else, cannot be overstated.

5. I cleaned up our bedroom. Thoroughly, including a full closet clean-out. It is a little embarrassing what a mammoth undertaking this was, but it was so satisfying once done. Now I want to do all the bedrooms. Cleaning mojo is not a thing to be wasted, and I have a visit from Deb coming up to motivate me, so let's see how this one goes.

6. Oh! And Deb is coming!! This is quite exciting. She is also planning on coming back with me when I come back from the trip that is supposed to be happening next month (that I still don't have dates for), which is also exciting. I am hoping she allows me to hijack at least some of her luggage allowance for books, yarn and Tootsie Rolls.

7. Speaking of ADD (I wasn't? Oh. Sorry) I think I may have mentioned that Mr. Bigfoot has a pretty raging case of it himself, which has never been diagnosed or treated but is blindingly obvious to anyone who lives with him or works with him for any length of time. He's developed coping strategies for some of it, and I sort of kick him along for some of it, but there's no pretending it's not an issue. Someone recommended to him an herbal ADD remedy (gingko, crataegus, scutelleria, verbana etc.) that is supposed to help and he started with it last week. So far, it doesn't seem to be doing anything but it hasn't been that long. Does anyone have any experience with using that? For adults or for kids?

8. The rash. Oh dear. The rash has been getting... worse. And I looked back at my blog and yes I did have this with Marika. How did I forget that? (Probably got lost in there somewhere with the shingles and the exploding toaster ovens and the month I waddled around at 5 cm.) Yehudis said, take a good probiotic. That never hurts, but... I'm not sure what else to do. I can't smear ANYTHING on it right now--it sends me straight through the roof. Oh for a bathtub...

9. What should I make for dinner? Ideas? Anyone? There is that last pack of soy-free hot dogs...

10. Because shabbos has effectively been canceled this week due to Yom Kippur, I decided to make chicken soup (really turkey soup, since I discovered how well turkey necks work for soup and how very very cheap they are) on Sunday, for dinner and the break-fast. Usually, when I make chicken soup, I do all the prep on Thursday night and go to bed with a pot full of vegetables and a cheesecloth bag full of bones and greenery in the fridge. Then in the morning when the kids leave for school, I add the water and put it on the stove, so that by the time the kids are home I am at the matzo ball stage. This time, I started cutting up vegetables at about 1 PM, aiming for dinner at 6. Wow. BIG mistake. Avtalyon saw me, Iyyar saw me, Barak saw me, and I think someone asked me when oh when oh when the kitchensoupandmatzoballs would be ready at least every five minutes for five hours straight. I think it was just too much for them to see the pot and smell the soup and be told, nope, sorry, not ready yet, allllll afternoon. That's the last time I do something like that for a very very long time.

Time to wash dishes. Thanks for not giving up on me, even though I don't post so regularly these days. I mean to, I want to, it's just, you know... I'm a little busy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I was going to write email to Grandma E

but then I figured I might as well just put everything I was going to tell her in a blog post instead. Except in a list with numbers, since it's a blog post.

1. Right before I left for the airport to come back home, I found a Priority Mail box on Yehudis's porch, with Grandma E's return address. It was full of cute little girl dresses in sizes 2T and 3T for Marika. We put one of them on her today, a long-sleeved striped T-shirt dress with a crossover (surplice? is that what they call it? top) and little ruffles along the neck and waist. It might possibly be the cutest thing ever, and Marika, in pigtails and little pink sandals, might possibly have been the world's cutest little girl.

She understands so much of what we say now. Mr. Bigfoot kept saying all day how cute the dress was, and at one point when he said it she looked up at him with a big grin and her hands on her skirt. "Dwess!" When I get her dressed, she is there like lightning, and if I don't have her shoes to hand, she dashes off and finds them for me. And then runs to Mr. Bigfoot and shows off how pretty she looks. Seriously. She is barreling out of babyhood at shocking speed, that one.

2. A few weeks ago I got a copy of the Schoolhouse Rock CD. Maybe there's more than one, but this is the "best of" that has such classic hits as Conjunction Junction, Interjections, the Preamble to the Constitution, etc. My personal favorite is "Interjections! Show excitement! Or Emotion! They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong." Marika's favorite is "Zero My Hero." Except she pronounces it, "Dzeewoh!"

3. Iyyar's ganenet gave us the filled-out six-page evaluation form for us to take to get him a develomental exam/therapy. She checked almost every box and commented on everything we've seen in him plus some things we haven't. And she made it sound so... dire. I mean, I understand that there is a strong motivation for her to do this, because if she said the reassuring things that I, his mother, want to hear ("He's fine and will surely outgrow all of this,") well, then he wouldn't be getting any help. One of the things I noticed was that she said, "He hasn't made any friends in gan yet, probably because of the language issue." Last year, one of the things Iyyar told me all the time was that he didn't have friends, nobody played with him, the other kids were mean etc. Both the ganenot totally and absolutely denied that this was true. They said he had friends and he played nicely with the other kids, and that all kids said things like this sometime. And then they'd say things like, "He bothers the other children so they don't want to play with him." It never made much sense, except for the overwhelming impression that whatever the problem, it was all him and not the gan.

Last week, Iyyar came home dancing and singing: "I have a friend in gan!" I dropped him off the next day and he pointed out a kid with huge payes. "That's my friend!" All was sunshine and roses. Yesterday, he came home and it was like he had regressed, not quite to last May, but maybe to July sometime. I had to ask him ten times to do anything, kept having to tell him to look at my face, kept repeating his name before he'd pay attention to me and even then didn't make eye contact. I couldn't get out of him what the problem was, until bedtime when we were cuddling in his bed together and he suddenly burst out, "I had a bad day in gan today. Nobody played with me!" Hmmm.

I'm starting to wonder about a lot of things that went on in his gan last year. And tomorrow I'm going to take a copy of the class list to his ganenet and ask which kids would be good to invite over to play during Succos break.

4. Barak's second-grade homework is already way over my head. They get a pasuk in Chumash to look up (a verse of Bible) and a list of ten questions to answer. Right now, they're doing Lech L'cha (Genesis 12). They're supposed to find the pasuk and answer the questions WITHOUT HELP. For Barak, this is not happening; his Hebrew is getting much better but he just doesn't have the vocabulary. I don't either! On Thursday, he broke out his homework and I just couldn't help him. I mean, I could have done it if I'd sat down for an hour with a dictionary and ignored all my other children, but an hour before dinnertime on Thursday it wasn't happening. I sent him up to find Abba in the beis medrash, and he came back ten minutes later saying, "Abba says I should eat dinner now and he'll help me at dinnertime." Okay, except that dinner is currently a pot full of raw vegetables and another pot of water that hasn't yet boiled for pasta. So after dinner the two of them sat down together and did two of the ten questions before he (Abba) had to leave for night seder.

Barak was upset. "I have to do TEN questions Imma! That's my homework!" "Barak, it's OK. Abba's going to call your morah and ask her what to do." So after night seder, Abba called Morah Tzipora and explained the issue: he's only home for an hour at night, Barak can't do it on his own, what do we do? She said, it's ok if he only does a few of them as long as he understands what he's doing. She also said that he needs help in general; he asks for a lot of help in class and is having trouble keeping up. This isn't so surprising; Barak has, after all, only been here a year, and his Hebrew is more on the level of "He took my pencil!" and "Let's play Lego" than it is on the level of "And there was a famine in the land, and Abram descended to Egypt to sojourn there because the famine was severe in the land."

What to do? We talked. We could hire a tutor, but we both don't like that idea; it's good for fathers and sons to learn together. "But the only time I have is night seder." Night seder begins at 8. We looked at each other. "He's never asleep by 8 anyway. He's always reading in bed till 9 at least. He might as well be learning Torah. Is he awake now?" Yes he was, at 9:30 PM.


Barak came bounding out of bed. "How would you feel about going to night seder with Abba to do your Chumash homework?"

"Instead of going to bed? Going to the bais medrash with Abba?"


Solemnly, trying very hard to contain any unseemly excitement: "I would feel very very good about that."

5. There was going to be more to this list, but I just got a phone call with a speech I need to write RIGHT NOW THIS VERY SECOND. So I'm off to accept an honorary degree, and I'll just have to finish this later. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


So I just read back through the last few posts and realized how much I’ve left out in the last few months. A lot. Really a lot. It was a busy summer and almost none of it is reflected in the blog. So here, little and late, is some review:

1. I did ulpan last summer. I started out in bet, moved to aleph because I preferred the teacher, and learned a tremendous amount. It was great for me, and also I think really good for Mr. Bigfoot, who for the first time was spending significant quantities of time on his own every day with all or most of his children. He got a lot more confident about taking care of them, and started feeling that being alone with all four of them was a normal, not an emergency, situation. That really helped when I was out of the country last week, and was also good bonding time—now that we are back to our school schedule, he really doesn’t see much of them at all.

The problem, through, was that when I was working and doing ulpan, I was so exhausted I couldn’t function. I’d come home from ulpan and collapse and sleep for three hours. This was not a huge problem over the summer, when Mr. Bigfoot was around, but doesn’t work now that he’s back to being out of the house all afternoon. So when September rolled around and it was time for me to start ulpan gimel, it was really a dilemma. I wanted to do ulpan. I NEED to do ulpan. But it’s just too much, especially since I now am working 35 (!) hours per week, almost all at night. So I’m not doing it, and not only that but I barely have to leave campus now that I don’t need to shlep Barak anymore. I need to figure out how, exactly, I am going to avoid losing all the Hebrew I learned in the last year, because as things stand I almost certainly will.

2. Before Barak was born, a few weeks into my pregnancy I think, I started getting some itchy spots on my calves. Slowly, week by week, it spread, until I had a horrendously itchy rash over most of my legs. I went to the dermatologist, who told me it was eczema and I should use moisturizer. I did, but it didn’t help at all, and by the last two weeks, it was everywhere but my face, hands, and neck, and I was indescribably miserable—the itchiness was horrendous, there was no way not to scratch, and… yeah. Awful. But a week after Barak was born, it was gone.

A few months ago, the back of one knee got itchy. Then it spread. Then it spread all the way around my calf and then it appeared on the other one. Then it spread all the way up one leg and now it’s starting on one arm. This time it’s not pregnancy-related. So what is it? It’s unbelievably itchy. It’s also really not going away, despite all the Aquaphor I smear on it. It looks exactly like it did last time. Another dermatologist run? Or any other suggestions for things to smear on a Horrible Itchy Rash that Won’t Go Away?

3. Grandma E asked me what I missed, besides the shopping (Target! Trader Joe’s!), about America. I’ve been thinking about it. Obviously it was really nice to see my friends. I ate the things I miss here (TJ’s tomato soup!). I was totally astounded and completely unprepared when it began to rain, in the beginning of September! But I think the only thing I actually missed, that gave me a sense of “ahhhh,” to be there, was being able to talk easily to anyone I met. My Hebrew just isn’t there yet. But it’s funny—a few weeks ago I overheard a couple of Hungarian girls talking on the bus (tourists) and started chatting. And I was really struck by how simple Hebrew is, at least when compared with Hungarian (okay fine ANY language is simple when compared with Hungarian, but…) There’s just so much less to keep track of. Surely I can do this. I just need to work at it some more.

4. Iyyar’s new gan, and his new ganenet, seem very very promising. The second week of school, she pulled Mr. Bigfoot aside and said that she wanted to get him a developmental exam so he could start therapy ASAP. She noted the things we’ve seen—how it’s hard for him to focus, hard to pay attention, how he’s in constant motion. She hasn’t noticed the anxiety, and that’s reassuring, because he really has been so much less anxious lately. I can’t even describe how much better things are with him at home. The faces, the inability to talk to him because he was just on another planet and wouldn’t look at you, the running around in circles yelling at nothing—all gone. He’s still a little spacy, still kind of oblivious—he’ll never notice what I’m in the middle of when he asks for something or starts talking to me, for example, and still sometimes does things that are wildly dangerous without realizing it—but nothing that’s so far off normal for a five-year old. I’m feeling a lot more optimistic.

5. Have I mentioned the Scary Underwear? Can’t remember. Anyway, in case I didn’t:

When Barak was ready for underwear (or when I hahahaha thought he was and bought it for him), he got Sesame Street underwear. Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover etc. He liked this very much. When Iyyar was ready for underwear, he inherited Barak’s underwear, with the addition of some extra Super Grover underwear because he loved Grover. This was fine and great.

I don’t remember when, exactly, I bought Barak his first package of superhero underwear, but it must have been around age four. I don’t remember Iyyar saying much about it, but Avtalyon used to take any underwear he could find and pull it on over his diaper and even over all his clothes—I have some cute pictures of him aged 18 months or so, wearing Grover underwear over his overalls. When we came here he was still in diapers, and I brought superhero underwear (Batman, Spiderman, Justice League etc.) for Barak and Iyyar and the Sesame Street underwear for Avtalyon.

This, clearly, was an error in judgment on my part.

Because right from the beginning, when Avtalyon was out of diapers last December sometime, he resented this. He did not want Sesame Street. He wanted what his big brothers had, namely, “scary underwear.” And he was not taking no for an answer. He’d sneak it out of his brothers’ drawers when they weren’t looking, and they would get enraged. He started waking up at the crack of dawn to raid their underwear drawers before they got up, to snag the Batman underwear before they caught him. They responded to this by—you got it—hiding their underwear on high shelves that he couldn’t reach. One morning we were all woken at about 5 am by the hysterical wails of a distraught Avtalyon, the stealthy one-child Scary Underwear Liberation Front, thwarted: “I HATE Cookie Monster! Cookie Monster’s STUPID!”

I felt bad for him. Mr. Bigfoot, who better than I understands the appeal of Scary Underwear, felt bad too. So I told the other boys, “Just let him. When I go to America next time, I’ll bring back lots and lots of scary underwear. He won’t wear it out before then, and you can all have new underwear. I'll even get Star Wars if they have it.”

I was as good as my word. I bought SIX packages of scary underwear at Target. Star Wars, Captain America, Star Wars in Lego incarnation, whatever they had in the right sizes. And when I came home, I pulled them out of my bag and handed them over.

The look on his face made it all worthwhile. Mr. Bigfoot was pointing out Captain America and how he had bullets bouncing off his shield. The next day, Avtalyon bounced out of bed, naked except for underwear, beaming, and danced over to me to show off his tush. “Look! It’s Captain America! Dere are bullets bouncing off his shield!”

6. Last thing: When I was away, Mr. Bigfoot emailed me, “Remind me when you get back to tell you the cutest thing ever.” I wasn’t here for this, obviously, but I can picture it. Apparently one morning Mr. Bigfoot woke up to find a sad, sad, sad Avtalyon, sitting in the corner of the hall, knees up to his chest, naked except for socks.

“What’s wrong, Avtalyon? Why are you looking so sad?”

“I can’t finda Hulk shirt.”

“Why don’t you just wear a regular undershirt?”

"I needa HULK shirt!”


Lips atremble, face awash in tragedy, “If I had a Hulk shirt, I be a little bit powerful.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Loud and clear

One of Marika's favorite words is "empty," which she pronounces in three syllables: "ah-ba-dee!" She'll pick up a cup off the floor, inspect it, and offer it to me delightedly: "Ah-ba-dee!" Or she'll take her own cup of water, dump the contents on her high chair tray, hold it up and comment cheerily, "Ah-ba-dee!" It's very cute.

This is the necessary information for the Cute Baby Story of last week. As you may already know I went to the States last week for about five days, all by myself, for work. No kids, no baby, just me. It was very strange but ultimately not as bad as I'd feared--I didn't have a nervous breakdown and everyone here managed just fine without me. Starting a week or two before I left, I was trying to get Marika to ease off on the nursing, knowing that I was heading to the States without her for nearly a week and I wanted her to be done nursing before I left. We got down to one nurse a day for about a week, then went two or three days without any. I thought, okay, that's that, but then on Thursday night I went in to check on her and of course she instantly woke up, stood up in her crib and stretched her arms out to me to be picked up. I can never resist this, so I sat down with her in the rocking chair--and she looked at me brightly and started pounding my chest suggestively with her fists.

"You want to nurse?"


"I don't think you're going to get very much."


"Oh okay fine. Just this one last time." So she nursed, although I can't imagine there was really much of anything to be had, and went happily back to sleep.

Next morning, I was sitting in the living room checking Barak's backpack when she came over to me and started climbing into my lap. And grabbed the neck of my t-shirt with both hands, peered down inside pensively, gave me a big grin and informed me, "ah-ba-dee!"


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

For what it's worth

We have a new family upstairs. They are nice. The mother is Israeli, the father is American, and they’ve all been living in America for the last six years so the kids are all American. The mother has been stopping by a lot for help/questions/stuff she needs to borrow, which is fine with me; I’m glad to pass along the favors, since we got plenty of them at the beginning.

Friday night she stopped by after she realized she didn’t have a Shabbos tablecloth. I found an extra for her and we stood there chatting as the kids sat at the table devouring their Friday night chicken soup and banana nut bread. I hadn’t made chicken soup in a couple of months (too hot) and the banana bread was really good if I do say so, so they were all happily blessed out and very quiet.

Suddenly she looked at them and said, “Your kids are so good. How are your kids so good? Why are they so quiet? How do you do that?”

And it turned into a whole long conversation about parenting, because she really truly had no idea how she was supposed to get her kids to behave. “I threaten them but then I don’t know what to do. I put them in time out and then just come out and laugh!” So we talked about it for a while and it got me thinking.

Now, if you have met my children (or, um, babysat for all four of them at once) you will know that my children are anything but perfect. They act up and they test limits and they can be obnoxious and they do all kinds of things they shouldn’t do. But mostly? They are really sweet kids. I mean, I’m their mother, so I’m biased, but I do think this is true. The other day, Barak sat down on the couch with Iyyar and taught him to read the word “and.” Then he read him “Where the Wild Things Are” and every time he got to the word “and,” he’d point at it and say, “What’s that?” and Iyyar would triumphantly crow, “And!”

(Sorry, just had to tell that story. It was so cute.)

Anyway, like I said it got me thinking. About parenting, about how I was parented, about the aspects of the way I was raised that I incorporate and those I avoid like the plague. And also about what I see other people doing sometimes, things that make me want to jump up and scream “don’t! don’t! don’t!”—not that I do.

I should probably mention, if you’re not already aware, that I am permanently afraid that I am really messing my kids over. I don’t think I am, but it’s a subject of constant worry. So maybe I’m completely self-deluded and a terrible parent and you shouldn’t listen to anything I say, but for what it’s worth, this is what I told my neighbor, and these are the things that make me want to jump up and scream “don’t!”

1. Don’t threaten your kid if you’re not going to follow up. “Put that down or you will lose it until tomorrow, that’s one,” followed by “Put that down or you will lose it until tomorrow, that’s two,” has to be followed by, “Okay, I said three and you didn’t put it down, so now it’s gone until tomorrow at X time.” Tears and screaming and whatever, as the object goes away and stays away until tomorrow at X time. If tears and screaming continue, you might extend the object’s time-out. No positive consequences should ever, ever, ever come from whining, screaming, misbehaving, or pitching a fit.

Counting only to two, then saying “I said put that down!” and yanking the object out of child’s hand as you roll your eyes is not helpful to anyone. You don’t teach anything that way, other than that it’s OK to not listen. Use your judgment when you see that the kid is tired or hungry or strung out, but in general, Be Consistent.

2. Don’t say derogatory things about your child in their hearing. Saying that Plony doesn’t listen, doesn’t respect you, thinks rules don’t apply to him, doesn’t play nicely, doesn’t do his homework, isn’t nice to his friends and ergo doesn’t have any, can’t pay attention, thinks he’s so smart and will find out someday… not helpful. Really. If you’re talking to your friend about your kids and your kids are at all within earshot, or even IN THE SAME HOUSE, don’t talk this way. Say, “it’s hard for him to listen and we need to really work on that,” or “I’m worried about how he does X,” or “she needs to work on Y.” Because saying negative things about your child’s character is asking your child to live up to your expectations. And overhearing things like, “They think they don’t need to listen to me,” isn’t going to encourage them to listen. Trust me.

3. You are in charge. Not your kids. If there is a rule it should be a rule. Yes sometimes we make exceptions about cookies after school or artificial coloring or bedtime, but if the rule is that if you hit you spend ten minutes in your room and your kid hits, no matter how much you don’t feel like getting off the couch to wrestle him into his room, you have to do it. If you told him, come here or we’re going home right now, and he doesn’t come, no matter how much you don’t want to go home, you have to do it. Don’t just roll your eyes. Don’t just yell. Cf: Be Consistent. Kids want to know the expectations. If they don’t know what the limits are, the only way for them to find out is to test them. And if the limits change all the time, they have to be testing all the time. That isn’t fun for anyone.

4. Don’t just punish. Debrief. Talk about it afterwards. Nicely. With hugs and kisses and reassurance. Even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it.

5. Last, but first. Don’t be mean. Don’t be mean. Don’t be mean. If you want your kid to speak nicely, speak nicely to your kid. If you want them to say please, you also have to say please. If you tell them they’re bad, they’ll believe it. Be polite to them. Treat them with respect if you expect them to treat other people with respect. Don’t think that they should have to earn your respect but you should get it automatically. If you love each other, you respect each other.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


A month since I last posted? Really?

Sorry about that.

We're all fine here. August was a little crazy; everyone was home, I was attempting to work close to full-time hours, and you know, the stuff? It kept on happening.

Exciting news of the hour: the world's most beautiful middle-aged Mercedes minibus is now opening its doors to Barak twice a day. Yes, folks, you understood correctly: he finally, finally, B"H, has a HASAA!

The extent to which this is revolutionizing my world cannot be underestimated. Seriously. Now, all I have to do is get him to his bus stop, about a 10-15 minute walk from here, by 7:25 AM. Right now I'm still meeting him in the afternoon, but when I'm confident he knows where to get off, he can walk home on his own; there are no streets to cross, except for the driveway right in front of our building, which he's been doing alone all year.

The van is punctual. It has seatbelts. So far, the kids even behave.

It's a miracle. Seriously.

In other news, Iyyar and Avtalyon have started gan, in different rooms (there are only 2) of the same building. So far, so good. Parents' meeting tonight; further bulletins, I am sure, forthcoming.

Marika also (gasp!) started gan today. Thursday was a day for the kids and their mothers; today was the first day they went solo and by all accounts she did great. She was crying when I left but I am told she stopped within a few minutes; when I walked in, she was happily playing, and when she saw me, did not run to me but instead ran to the teacher and pointed at me and jumped up and down! Then she ran to me. And got lots of hugs. She also (kind of) ate her sandwich, although that, for her, usually involves licking the peanut butter and dropping the bread on the floor. She'll figure it out.

She is, somewhat unbelievably, still nursing; I know that Month 22 is not that big of a deal for some of you out there (ahemshanna) but it's certainly a record in this house. Barak went to 18 months and change, the next two boys stopped at 16. Marika is down to one or maybe two ten-minute nurses a day, but seems to have no intention of giving them up. However, she's going to have to, because what she doesn't know, and I am in some degree of denial about, is that in a mere six days (aaaiiiieeeeeee!) I am going to the US, for five days, ALL BY MYSELF. WITH NO CHILDREN AT ALL.


A little bit of me is looking forward to it; mostly I'm terrified. I think I'll have a nervous breakdown on the way to the airport and I'm sure I'll be crying when I see the city lights under the plane turn into ocean. What Mr. Bigfoot reminded me yesterday, and I need to keep reminding myself of this too, is that going on a work trip is not abandoning my kids. It's taking care of my kids. It's what's necessary to have a job that allows me to be with them pretty much all the time. I have a good babysitter, they'll all be in school in the morning, Mr. Bigfoot won't be that far away. They have all been allowed to make two requests, one food and one non-food, from the US: they have requested soy-free hot dogs, Trader Joe's fig bars, bologna, and Rice Chex. And they all want Lego. Like we don't have enough, but fine; I've added it to the already enormous "things to buy at Target" list.

I think that's all the big news for now. No real news on the Mr. Bigfoot job situation; many developments, none of them leading to anything definitive. Further bulletins, as always, as events warrant.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The zoo

Today was a really fun day.

For ages (like, really months) I've been trying to find time to eat falafel with Projgen, who's been commenting on my blog since Barak was a baby and who I finally got to meet when we moved here. Today we actually managed it, although we didn't eat falafel in the end (9 days, so Burger's Bar had fish and chips! Who can resist? Not me.) I went with just Barak and Avtalyon, and we also went up to the big ball pit thingy at Burger Ranch (awful food, great ball pit) and bought the cheapest things on the menu just so that they could play. Totally worthwhile: they both had a blast.

After "real" food and the Great Tootsie Roll handover (onetiredema sent me Tootsie Rolls back from the States! And some other stuff, but nothing as important as Tootsie Rolls!) we went down to the bookstore and met up with Mr. Bigfoot and Marika and Iyyar, said goodbye to Projgen, and hopped on the 33 for the six-minute ride from the mall to the zoo.

And the zoo was a blast. The kids were fantastic. I mean, they're kids. They weren't perfect. The boys all wanted to climb on things they weren't allowed to climb on, and Avtalyon got a little too overconfident in wandering off all by himself and had to be reined in, a lot. But mostly? It was just great. They were great. Seeing all three of them from the back, in height order, staring at the penguins, made my heart melt. And Marika was a total smiley delight, despite being trapped in the stroller for hoooooouuurs.

I just love them all so much. There's a reason why I do all of this, you know--the exhaustion, the crazy, the moving to Israel. It's because I really really love my kids. I want them to be good people, to have good lives, to be happy, to love and be loved. I loved seeing Iyyar and Marika's faces when they found us in the bookshop. I love Marika's "yeah!" when I ask her if she wants to nurse. I love how Barak always always wants to sit next to me, wherever we are and whatever we're doing. I love how Iyyar and Avtalyon can now clean up their room really well, all by themselves, and I love even more going in there to ooh and ahh and tell them what a great job they did. I love Iyyar jumping around joyously with a bloody mouth and a newly fallen-out tooth, even though it seems like that tooth only came in last week sometime.

I love walking through the zoo as a family of six.

Progjen mentioned to me that I don't blog about the kids as much as I used to. She's right and it's not good. I need to bring the focus back on them--on the cute stuff, the stuff I want to remember, the stuff that's important.

Hey, this is important. Know what's important? Garbage! Garbage is important. Because each of my kids has had a different and distinct word for "garbage," and for all of them, it was one of their first words. Barak said "gahbitch!" which, when you write it out like that, sounds almost like the word you and I might say, but... believe me, it wasn't.

Iyyar said, "jarba!"

Avtalyon said, "barkip!" or, referring to the receptacle, "barkistan!"

Marika says, "barjinih!"

She also, on a similar note, refers to poop as "bee!" This started out, "Marika, are you poopy?" She'd grab her diaper and agree, "bee!" However, she got wise pretty quickly to the idea that having a bee meant getting out of her crib/highchair/whatever. So now, you'll go in there to get her after a nap and she'll leap up, grab her diaper, and tell you, soulfully and imploringly, "bee!" She is, usually, lying through all five of her teeth.

She also looks like a sheepdog if you don't put her hair in a pigtail. She knows this and is very happy when I tell her I'm going to get her a kuku.

She loves shoes. If I tell her I'm going to get her shoes, she is RIGHT there. And then next to the door, caroling, "dowdide! dowdide!"

She loves water. Drinking it, playing in it, bathing in it. "Wawa!" is heard about fifty times a day. Usually when you give it to her in a cup, she drinks half a sip, then dumps it out on her high chair tray and smacks her hands in it. Gleefully.

She only eats the top off her pizza. Today I gave her half a piece with olives. She ate all the olives and all the cheese and dropped the rest on the floor.

She loves plain yogurt and will eat a whole container of 4.5% herself, with a spoon. And her fist, of course.

She loves loves loves Barak. Sometimes the two of them get on our bed and Barak tickles her until she's shrieking. Then he stops so she can get some air. They she hollers, "MO!"

Avtalyon is all about food lately, even though he's getting skinnier and skinnier, just like his brothers. Standard refraim, "K'I eat someping? What c'I eat?" He loves vegetables, especially cucumbers, which he calls hinkumbers. Now we all do, because it's just such a great word.

Iyyar likes Hungarian noodles better than anything else in the whole world. It's incredible how many he can eat. If I am making them for the whole family, I use four cups of flour, and five eggs, and they all get eaten.

Iyyar has also been getting dressed lately, all by himself, unprompted. And getting stars on his star chart, for another Wallace & Grommit movie. I hope I can find one. We have The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and I actually haven't seen any of the others here.

Barak is in the middle of having Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH read to him. We're up to where Mrs. Frisby meets Brutus. He loves it.

Iyyar is just beginning to put letters together.

All of the boys are playing musical beds. They all want to sleep in our bed, and they never seem to want to sleep in their own. Sometimes Mr. Bigfoot has to relocate all three of them at 1 am for us to go to bed.

They all love French fries. Only Iyyar likes ketchup.

Iyyar likes onion rings better than French fries. He discovered this the other day, when he had French fries and I had onion rings.

I need to go to bed now. But I thought you should know.