Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orange you mad

Know what happened to a lot of that money?

Orange has been billing me for internet I specifically said I didn't want and didn't use. Total: 1,700 shekel. I argued for an hour and even cried and it got me nowhere. They also charged me 500 for a loaner phone while they fixed the one that dropped in the bathtub; that they credited me for.

Anyone know the number for pikuach tikshoret?

Monday, June 27, 2011

For the record

Here's my kitchen, circa Pesach, ergo the taped cupboards. In fairness, I do now have a double-burner hotplate to cook on, and a somewhat larger and fully functional fridge. The rest is the same, except that the contact paper on the counter is coming apart and needs to be replaced.

Top toaster oven is dairy, bottom one is parve. They're so small you can't use them for both. The shelf over the sink is the one that I had my Shabbos dishes on when we first came. That's how I found out it wasn't strong enough to hold more than about five pounds.

While we're on the subject

Mr. Bigfoot went to the bank for me this morning. He got a new password and also a printed statement, which he went through with the bank guy. Where did all that money go? Turns out Orange has been billing us almost exactly twice what they should be. I called them and of course, they said that because I agreed to be billed twice what I was told I was getting billed, they could do nothing. They are billing me EIGHT HUNDRED SHEKEL A MONTH. Go ahead, convert that into dollars.

Fainted yet?

So now I have to go in there, in person, tomorrow, and argue. In Hebrew. And probably get nowhere. Again.


Barak was supposed to go to a friend's house. Said friend's mother just called and said that he wasn't there. I think he went with the wrong friend's father, and this said friend's father does not have a cell phone. I hope he gets home soon, because actually, I have no way of knowing where he is. I'm pretty sure he's with the other father, and it's OK. And in the meantime, I invited friend A here tomorrow afternoon. Because I am a lunatic. And I want my son to have friends.


Iyyar went to gan this morning, in that he got in the car of the neighbor who has been driving him. Then I got a call saying that he was refusing to get out of the car. Neighbor drove him back home.

He'd better not really be in that gan next year, like the registration form I just got in the mail says he is.

I know! How about if I turn this blog into all whining, all the time? How would that be?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

In which I feel sorry for myself. Just a little.

Or a lot.

(Warning: I'm about to indulge in a lot of self-pity here. I need to get it out of my system. If you're going to judge me, stop reading now, and go read about gay pride in NY. It's a lot more cheerful than I'm about to be.)

Hey, remember how just a few days ago, I was feeling positively chipper?

Yeah. Well. Perspective fail, right here.

Let's start with last July, shall we?

We got here with a plan of a two-year stay, and the understanding that my husband would be learning full time with a very heavy schedule in exchange for a free apartment (free rent, free utilities) and food five days a week. We had all the boys registered in schools and we had a schoolbus that was supposed to stop at our door.

I had the daily schedule all worked out, and it was completely manageable and even easier than what I'd had the year before. I was going to work from 7 PM until 1 AM and sleep until 8, because Mr. Bigfoot would be able to manage getting the kids where they needed to be until then; not only would I have 7 hours to sleep, but I was going to also get a rest in the morning, because I was going to be home with Marika while the boys were in school, and Marika is a champion napper. We'd rented out our US apartment, because its value had fallen roughly $80k from what we'd paid for it and we couldn't sell it; we were going to take a loss of a couple hundred dollars a month, but that, we figured, was OK, since we were storing our stuff there anyway. We'd sell it eventually, at least get something back, buy a bigger place one day.

Anyone hear laughing?

Within a couple weeks of getting off the plane, Iyyar had gotten relocated from the ten-minutes-away-by-foot gan to a half-an-hour-away-by-bus-and-vertical-climb gan; Barak's school had vaporized with the schoolbus, and on September first I found myself with a schedule that involved a minimum of three hours of shlepping children on buses around Jerusalem, with between one and three separate forays per day. Mr. Bigfoot's lunches were also taken up with shlepping; he had less than an hour for dinner, so we hardly ever saw each other. Avtalyon started screaming the day gan started, and his ganenet kept calling saying I had to take him home. He woke up at night, he cried, he cried, he cried. And it took us well over a month to discover that he had strep and double ear infections, despite multiple doctor visits. We changed doctors. We got to know the new doctors very, very well.

Pinworms. Lice. Concussion. Strep. More strep. Stomach viruses. Three-day yom tov. We got a morning hasaa for Iyyar and an afternoon hasaa for Barak, finally, but I still had two trips a day, three hours. Succos, everyone was sick; during one seuda, two children threw up, right in front of our guests.

The boys just about blew up behaviorally, at first, although it calmed down a bit by October. The phone calls started coming from Barak's school: not reassuring. He was zoning out completely, not even trying to pay attention. Endless, endless calls trying to get him the help he was legally entitled to, which did not come until January. In the meantime, he seemed to be learning nothing. And we had stomach viruses, strep, ear infection after ear infection for Avtalyon, doctor's visits at least twice a week and sometimes twice in a single day. Cab fare, carseats, Mr Bigfoot had to miss class and seder.

In October, the dining hall switched caterers, and immediately Iyyar and Avtalyon started not feeling well. It turned out that the new caterer used a lot of soy. We'd go up to the dining hall and see hot dogs and hamburgers that nobody could eat. And turn around and start cooking at 7 PM. I kept trying to get them to tell me what food would have soy in it, but could never rely on it being accurate, and they kept getting sick.

In December, one good thing: we get the washing machine. If we hadn't, I can't even imagine what the rest of this little sob story would be like.

Friends come to visit us from the US. I have been looking forward to this for months. Iyyar is sick, Avtalyon is sick, we cancel everything we had planned except for a party at our place--during which I discover that the caterers are not trying, not even a little bit, to let me know what is going on with the food. They don't get it. They don't understand, or seem to care.

January, I asked, finally, if I could just have the recipes so I at least know what was in what, and was told no, a better solution would be for me to not feed them food from the dining hall, except for the things we know are safe: cornflakes, bread, raw fruit, salad, milk for Barak.

Then I lost Barak's afternoon hasaa and was back to getting him from school three times a week, in addition to taking him in the morning every day and bringing Iyyar home four times a week. I went back to buying monthly bus passes. They raised the price.

Iyyar's behavior worse, worse, worse. I keep trying to talk to his ganenet. She won't deal with me because of my awful Hebrew. This is a recurring theme. I need to work on my Hebrew. It is so demoralizing, not being able to say what I want to say. How am I going to do ulpan? I am working from the minute the kids are in bed until 1 or 2 am, and getting up at 6:30. I have Marika all morning and the only time I get to sleep is when she naps. Still, I decide to register in ulpan in the summer, part-time.

Now I am back to shopping, planning, cooking, cleaning for everyone. Remember how hard that was before? Now I'm doing it on a hot plate and in a toaster oven, in a 3/4sized fridge, in a kitchen with two square feet of counter space, hardly any cabinets and nowhere for a dishrack--and no gate to keep the children out. Instead of eating in the dining hall, we are eating at home, which means the floor needs to be cleaned, the dishes need to be washed, the different dietary needs need to be dealt with. Mr. Bigfoot has an IBS flare and needs IBS food. And we're buying almost all our own food--another two thousand shekel a month. So I needed to work more. I decided to invest in some cleaning help. After half a dozen visits, the administration found out and I was told I wasn't allowed. I learned how to sponja my own floor, and just when I finally got the hang of it was told no, I couldn't do it like that. My toaster oven stopped working. Alisha tried to get it fixed for me. It came back just the way it was, able to heat but not bake.

We got an email saying that the food was going to be completely canceled--no more cornflakes or anything else--and we were going to have to start paying for our own water and electricity. There would be a stipend for food, which was not adequate for one person and certainly not for six. I bought a new plastic cabinet for added cupboard space, and a rice cooker.

I got a letter saying that our taxes on our apartment had been raised by $160 a month.

Then the fridge stopped working. It froze my food, it didn't stay cold, the cucumbers rotted overnight. I put in a repair request and another one. They brought a procession of old fridges, one after another, from the miklat--none of which were an improvement. Can I have a new fridge? No. Can I buy my own fridge? No. I threw out so much food, every day something had to get tossed. Pesach came. First seder, the fridge died, completely, during the seder. The replacement to that came with chametz in it. I cried. They relented. I bought my own fridge.

More ear infections, another round of stomach flu. Avtalyon has been sick almost nonstop since we got here. Eight rounds of antibiotics, and that is not even counting the two concussions, all the viruses, the ear infections the ENT decides not to treat. We run completely out of children's Tylenol. Finally, his ENT says he needs tubes. Meuchedet denies them. As if in protest, Avtalyon's eardrums rupture. Again. I take him in for an audiogram, and yes, he has 40 dc of hearing loss.

The convention. For more than a month, I felt like I never slept at all. Every time I looked at my computer, another two or four or seven requests popped up. Endless revisions. So much work, so little time, so much pressure. If I mess up, if someone complains, will they terminate my telecommuting agreement? I'm the only one earning money.

A week later, my electric hotplate died. Where are we now? May?

Iyyar's behavior, which had gotten steadily worse until Pesach and then so much better, started to go downhill again. Every morning I'd wake up determined to be patient, and after ten minutes want to go in my room, close the door and scream. I kept talking to his ganenot, which got me nowhere. I decided to move his gan. Dozens of phone calls, three trips to the iriya, many tears later, it was done. A week later, I got a letter informing me that my boys were registered at their old gan. I hope this is a mistake. I haven't been able to check yet.

I found out that we were supposed to pay NIS 50 per person per night whenever we had guests. I should have known this, but had somehow not registered or forgotten. I had to sit down and figure out how many guests we had hosted, in our own home, since August, and pay for them. It cost NIS 1500.

In the meantime, I can't read the school newsletters. I can't help Barak with his homework. I have to learn Hebrew. I started ulpan, right before Shavuos.

The week before last Iyyar absolutely exploded, and I said that's it, he's staying home from school. I avoided calls from his ganenet. Things got better for a few days. Then worse. Today I went to talk to his ganenet, and that was... unhelpful. Iyyar took a bath, and poured in the entire bottle of soap; then I went into the bathroom and realized he'd smeared poop on the walls. On purpose.

What do I do with that?

Last week in ulpan, my teacher put me on the spot because after three nights of four hours of sleep, my attention had lapsed and I hadn't followed her instructions. She started telling me that if I didn't focus, if I didn't do what I was told, I wouldn't progress. I wouldn't learn Hebrew. Didn't I want to progress? Why wasn't I trying?

I started to cry, right there in class. Once I started, I couldn't stop.

I don't have any perspective anymore. I can't see past any of this. Last night I couldn't sleep until almost 4 am, worrying about everything. Mr. Bigfoot still doesn't have a job for next year. It's June. As of September, we'll have more bills, and everything will be coming out of my one part-time salary, less what we have to pay for our condo--more than $400 a month shortfall every month. I woke up and tried to work out online exactly where our money had been going, to see how to get it down, and was locked out of my bank's webpage. To get a new password, I have to go there, in person, and deal with the non-English-speaking bank staff. I did a lot of math last night and have realized that I can't account for about NIS 10000 of our outlays over the last 11 months, and what I thought was a statement of my bank account is actually a statement of my debit card--you wouldn't think it to look at it, but it is, and so I have no idea at all what's been going out of our account on our direct debit accounts to Meuchedet, Bituach Leumi, or Orange. Is someone billing us an extra NIS 1000 a month? Maybe. No way to tell until I can get to the bank.

I can't tell you how not like me it is to have lost track of my bank account like that. But I have no surplus cognitive space. None. Work, my actual job, is taking up so much of my brain right now. B"H, I like my job, I do it well, I enjoy it. But I have to really be on the ball. My kids need me. I need to be learning Hebrew, and that is not optional--pretty soon, my kids are really going to suffer if I can't keep on top of their academic and social needs.

I still haven't dealt with my Israeli taxes.

I don't even know where I'm going with all this. Just to get it out of my system, I guess. I've left out all the good stuff, of course: Barak is now thriving, Iyyar and Avtalyon are really speaking Hebrew much better, Marika is adorable and now has two pigtails. We got a great tax return. I am switching into a different ulpan, with a better teacher, tomorrow. My boss is happy with me. The convention went well. I got a good performance review. My husband is nice. We bought some bookshelves, and the living room looks better now. I've been growing tomatoes and basil on the windowsills, and they've been doing incredibly well and are fun for the kids to water. I don't have to travel this summer. Avtalyon hasn't been sick since right after Pesach--besides the odd stomachache or bout of diarrhea, nor has anyone else.

It could be worse.

But it's still really, really hard.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Still here

Just busy.

Things are good. I took a week of vacation and then had a slow week that let me recover from the convention; work now is busy but not unmanageable. The kids are mostly doing well; I feel good and go to bed at night happy about what I'm going to do the next day. I'm not overwhelmed, I feel energetic, things are good.

Just, you know, busy.

Updates in a nutshell:

1. I started ulpan. I know, I know. I have no time for ulpan. But it has to happen sometime and my rights expire in January; Mr. Bigfoot is off as of last Wednesday and he can be home with Marika in the morning (he'll be starting his own ulpan in the afternoon, so we can trade off.) It's 8:30-12:30, three days a week, so not as huge a time commitment as a regular ulpan; also, it's up the street from Barak's school, so very convenient. They put me in kita beit, which is appropriate; my spoken Hebrew is, I think, better than that of most of the other people in my class, but my grammar is atrocious so it's the right thing for me. And I'm learning a lot--I can see a difference in my Hebrew already. Current plan is to keep going until the session ends, erev Tisha b'Av, and reevaluate from there whether to continue into the year, which would require finding childcare for Marika.

2. I moved Iyyar and Avtalyon's gan for next year to a closer gan. I don't know what it is, but Iyyar's gan is not a good fit for him. I hope it's that, anyway, and not that gan in general is hard for him. His behavior over the year had gradually gotten more and more difficult; I was getting complaints from his ganenet that he wasn't paying attention, bothering the other kids, throwing things, running around when he was supposed to be sitting still, etc. Pesach, he had three weeks off, and by the end he was really doing great. I asked his ganenet, and she told me his behavior in school had also improved. However, by last week, it had gone back to horrible. If I didn't know that he was not always like that, I would have thought he should be evaluated for... I don't know what, but something major.

Last week I took him with me to check out a different gan. I got him early at school and we walked there together. At least, I walked--he mostly got dragged, because he was yelling and screaming and pitching fits the whole way. His arm was rigid with tension, he wouldn't look at me, wouldn't talk to me, wouldn't respond to anything I said, wouldn't make eye contact at all, just screamed lots of things--some of which made sense "I don't want to go to a different gan!" and some of which didn't "They won't let me go out of there!" But he wouldn't explain or let me ask questions or figure out what the problem was. Anyway, we got there, we looked around, and I met Avtalyon's future gananet (who seems OK, not fabulous but OK) and Iyyar's (who seems great.) On the way home, his arm felt like an arm, not like an iron rod. What was he so afraid of that he didn't see? I don't know.

I think the problem in a nutshell is this: Iyyar is, for some unknown reason, unhappy and stressed at gan. This is resulting in difficult behavior. I want to find out what the problem is and deal with it. His ganenet wants to find out how to make the behavior problems stop. We are not getting anywhere with this. The new ganenet saw him at close to his worst and did not try to shove us out the door; instead, she said, "let's try him here and if it turns out he needs help, we'll get him some." That sounds better to me.

In the meantime, I have decided, with two weeks left to go, to make gan optional. He hasn't gone. Three days later, he's like a different kid.

3. Marika is great and hilarious and constantly on the go. I've noticed lately that she's a little bowlegged; her legs curve inward a bit from knees to ankles. Shouldn't she have outgrown that by now? I need to make her overdue 18-mo Tipat Chalav appointment so they can yell at me for how skinny she is (I'm guessing 22 lb or so) but they can't yell at me for any developmental milestones, at least.

4. Avtalyon is also hilarious and is eating like a horse. He never seems to stop--he's ALWAYS hungry. Except at school, where, apparently, he doesn't eat. What's up with that? I feel like I should have more to say about the child who currently has the greatest comedic value of anyone in our household, but I can't think of anything off the top of my head.

5. Mr. Bigfoot is now suddenly in a much better mood, having passed (woohoo!) his last bechina of the year. He's still looking for work and trying to figure things out for the fall, but the basic plan is there; learning two sedarim and day and something else (whatever comes up teaching-wise, and/or English teacher training) during the third seder. I think it will work out well, logistically, and having both Iyyar and Avtalyon in the same (closer) gan will help the daily schedule a lot. Barak is supposed to have a hasaa, too, and if that happens it'll be a whole new life in a lot of ways.

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell.