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.


Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. You are an incredible person to keep trucking away like that. A QUARTER of that stress would have me hiding under my covers and never coming out. They say all beginnings are difficult and especially E"Y - Niknei B'Yisurim - but I can't believe all that you are going through. Hashem should give you Koach!! You have a wonderful attitude!!

AidelMaidel said...

I am sending you HUGE HUGS from NYC.

If I had a way, I would send you chocolates.

Can you move to someplace cheaper? Can your husband do some sort of job to bring more money in?

Are you entitled to any aliyah cash benefits?

Kol HaKavod.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you poor, poor thing! How very awful. I wish there was something I could do to help, something even a tiny bit constructive. You're working so hard and it is so hard. So much thrown at you and I can see you at a distance, trying to juggle it all, and I wish I could take even one of those balls from you.

Why must they make it so hard! These people are supposed to be helping you and they don't seem to even care. If not about you personally, what about the children? Grrrrr I want to come over there so badly now and kick people!! And hard.

May this be the dark hour before the dawn, before things suddenly get better. You have your own fridge at last, you have a washing machine. You have all those good things in your last paragraph. I hope more good things start happening so that you look back on this post before too very much longer has passed and sigh in relief at all you don't have to worry about any more.

In the meantime, if there is, somehow, something I can do to help, please please say it.

~ Jasmin

mother in israel said...

I'm speechless.
I have a question. You wrote: "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."
You don't have to explain obviously, but how could this happen? You came expecting certain financial arrangements, with the understanding that you would get certain benefits so that your husband could give up a salary. How could they get cancelled suddenly? Was/is there any way to protest this?
Is the NIS 50 per guest for the food, or just the lodging? I don't think you need chocolates, but I would chip in for a toaster oven.

LC said...

Everyone else asked the questions already, and possibly nicer than I would, but extra virtual hugs never hurt anyone.

Feel free to divert the discussion through Shanna, but I have a friend from Israel who will be in Boston/NY/Baltimore (mostly Boston) for July and may possibly (I can ask) have some space on the return trip. Might it help any?

*Is* there anywhere to get an Israeli current toaster oven in the states?

- LeahChaya

persephone said...

OMG. I would be utterly, completely losing it. Will it help if I sit down on the floor with you and cry?

No? How about if I sit down on the floor with you and color Barbapapa pictures?

You have all my moral support, as always. Let me know if there's anything more practical I can do than be a shoulder to scream on.

Deborah said...

Is there anything comparable to a social work agency that could advocate for you at the bank and schools (including Mr.B's)? An agency to help families new to Israel?

Any person in a position of some sort of authority that other people in authority in those places would respond to because they had to in Israeli culture? A rabbi? a friend's husband who knows Hebrew and the system?

Will be praying.