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.