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.


Cyndy said...

My oldest is also a soother and a peacemaker. She is almost always happy and optimistic. The dynamic changed around here when she went off to college!

LC said...

Wait, so *MY* husband isn't the only one worrying about "invisible airborne particles of chicken soup that might have landed in his yogurt"?

Maybe it is a normal boy paranoia at that. I'll keep that in mind (but it's harder because invariably *I'm* the one eating the yogurt!)

Gemar chasimah tovah - including settled work plans and an apt with a real kitchen!

Jasmijn said...

Awwww, Barak trying to cheer you both up made me tear up, too, and I want to pick him up and hug him so tightly he gasps for air. I wish with all my heart that next year you will have a bathtub and an oven big enough to make your very own challah and cookies. All of you deserve that. You've all been so good and brave and worked so hard.

~ Jasmin

Doda86 said...

Hey! So I found your blog by accident but I think that you are AMAZING!! My husband and I made Aliyah three months ago and it has been very hard on us and we don't have kids so wow!! I am beyond impressed. Anyways for a while we didn't have a stove and I found some really great fish recipes as well as chicken recipes for toasters. They seemed to really work for us. Anyways good luck and you are really doing an amazing job!!!

Deborah said...

Iss OK, Imma. It really is.

You two are doing very well with things that matter--cf. the remarks and concern of your sons.