Sunday, January 30, 2011

Teenagers and a kosher kitchen

I got a request for more blogging about kashrut (kosher-ness). And since I just came back from the grocery store with kosher beef and a package of frozen shrimp (not to mention some other very not kosher frozen items) now seemed like as good a time as any to do so.

In eleven months, I never really figured out what Sabrina would eat. She was only with me for 4 dinnertimes a week, ate lunch at school, and ate cheerios for breakfast. Plus, she was hungry when I picked her up from school and then when we got home at 6:15 post-snack and I still needed to cook dinner, she was no longer hungry (thanks to the snack).

But I actually need to feed Odessa. Like, multiple times a day. She won't eat school lunch and is with me every day including weekends (this confuses my friends who got used to Sabrina being at her dad's on the weekend--they now think that all foster placements are for weekdays only). And she's old enough to fend for herself.

This last is really the problem.

So I've given over the microwave to her. She can have whatever she wants heated in the microwave, as long as she uses paper plates and plastic silverware. (I'm just hoping that my complete freak-out when she used a real plate in the microwave made her understand the severity of not following that rule.)

Even so, she complained to her social worker that she doesn't like what I cook. She eats what I cook, happily, so that was news to me, but it was more that I don't cook what she wants. I explained to the social worker that yes, there are rules about what can and can't happen in my kitchen and that is why Odessa isn't allowed free rein, but that I let her use the microwave, etc etc. I think that satisfied the social worker.

Well, Friday night Odessa started in on one of her mumble-the-same-thing-over-and-over-until-I-want-to-tell-her-that-if-she-says-she-wants-XX-one-more-time-she'll-never-get-it patterns, this time "I want shrimp." After about the 15th time I apologized that we can't have shrimp in the house. She got pissy, as she does frequently (she IS a teenager, after all!), and I don't want to reward that behavior, but...

I told her I would buy some not at all kosher frozen items for her and while I was in that aisle, I noticed that one of the shrimp things was on sale, so I bought it for her. I can't imagine that microwaved frozen shrimp scampi is any good, but I think that if I can get her to realize that I DO do things for her, she might be more willing to ask me to do things for her, which will make me better able to do things for her.*

*Earlier today she was on the phone with her cousin and said she couldn't go to her cousin's son's birthday party because she didn't have money to get there by public transit. (She was sitting next to her allowance, but setting that aside...) She told her cousin that she wasn't going to ask me for a ride. I was sitting right there to hear the conversation. When she got off the phone, I asked: "You're not going to ask me for a ride?" Odessa: "No." Me: "Is that because if you ask me for a ride and I say yes, then you'll be mad because you can't say that I never do anything for you, and if I say no, you'll be mad because I'm not giving you a ride?" Odessa: "Yes." The conversation then turned to how I need to be psychic. Not gonna happen. So she needs to get more comfortable asking me for things.


  1. Ahh, teenagers. I believe I have lucked out to have not experienced a "real" teenager for the past eight months, but that is making the here and now that much less enjoyable. Thanks for reminding me that it's not just me. Good luck!

  2. I'm vegan, my teenage foster daughter is not. She gets free rein of the kitchen because there aren't the same needs in terms of plates, etc, but it still is a challenge. When she first came here, I took her to the grocery store to pick out whatever she wanted. I had no idea how much anxiety that could provoke in a kid who never had been able to, or had to do that. In previous foster homes, she wasn't allowed into the kitchen, she just had to take what she was given to eat, period. And she has similar issues with asking for things, and voicing what she likes--all she knew was that she wanted the "regular" or "normal" version of things, but couldn't tell me what that was, only that it wasn't whatever I thought it was. (example--regular soup is ramen noodles. It took months to figure that one out.)
    Six months in, things are better in terms of her comfort and eating, which is what counts, slightly worse in terms of her doing things like cooking meat and not washing the pan out immediately, which grosses me out.
    Anyway, I hear you.

  3. Why did this solution never occur to me? i still don't think I could get comfortable with it, but it's definitely something to think about. Our 10 y/o is OBSESSED with how we don't make him CRAB LEGS. Yes, crab legs. And recently, since he dissected a lobster in class, he wants us to buy him an ENTIRE LOBSTER. I found him at Stop & Shop literally kissing the glass of the display case above the crab legs. He feels so deprived, apparently. Much as I make light of it, I do think it's important he can eat the foods that he associates with his upbringing. So we do make sure that our non-Jewish friends (and my family, who aren't remotely kosher) take him out for his delicious treyf food. If someone is taking him out I specifically ask them to take him to get pork fried rice instead of pizza, because we can get him pizza any old time but we can't get him pork fried rice. So it's not like he hasn't eaten any tasty treyf food since he's been here. But he hasn't had shellfish, which is something he says he ate a lot with his mom. He literally proposed that we get the fish store to cook the lobster for him and then he will "keep it in his room" - ROTFL! He was shocked when I told him it might stink up the whole house. Anyway, I will make sure he gets some crab some time soon. But I have been worrying about what will happen if we end up adopting him and he becomes a teen and we can't let him cook in our kitchen. The microwave thing is smart. I also hope eventually he will learn more of the rules of our kitchen and feel less resentful about it, but it may not work that way. Anyway, I've been MIA for a while but I stopped in to see how you were doing and it's great to see that you're fostering again! Sounds like you have your hands full.

  4. PS We MUST talk Pesach soon. I am having a panic attack just thinking about dealing with Pesach with a 10 y/o non-Jewish kid whose favorite snacks are pretzels and granola bars.

  5. Michelle: Our 10 y/o foster son who came to us at 9 was obsessed with ramen and told us that the kosher ramen wasn't as good. LOL.

  6. Bryna, I'm so beyond stressed about Pesach that all I can do is hope that Odessa moves before then. We have a meeting next Friday so I am refusing to think about Pesach until after that meeting. Oy.