Disciplining Of Preschoolers In The USSR

During one of the recent online conversations, I’ve realized that many disciplining techniques applied to me when I was a small child are considered completely inappropriate nowadays. And I am not talking about spanking.

In fact, the only case of spanking I remember was when my father spanked me when I wet my pants when we were walking on the street. I remember it vividly precisely because it was something out of the ordinary. 

Mom never spanked me, but she was very creative with other disciplining techniques. For example, when I was between two and three, I was afraid of her umbrella. I do not remember the origin of this fear, but I remember that I was so afraid that I would cry when it started raining outside, and she wanted to open an umbrella while holding me. 

So when I didn’t want to take a midday nap, she would put that umbrella in the corner of the room and say that she would return and open this umbrella if I didn’t sleep. 

At about the same age, I was afraid of behemoths. And in this case, I remember why. The reason was one of the Korney Chukovskiy poems about “poor girl Lialechka”. Since my home name was Lialechka, I was sure that it was about me. Then there was a scene when the wild animals wandered around the city streets, and it mentioned the entrance to the courtyard (“podvorotnia”) where she saw a frightening behemoth!. And since our house had “podvorotnia”, it was in my eyes something that could happen to me! 

My mom knew about these fears, so she told me that if I didn’t do something she wanted me to do, she would call for a behemoth in red pants! (I have no idea about where the red pants were coming from, but that’s what she used to say).

Then in detskiy sad, I remember that I was always in trouble! I honestly felt like I was punished for something every day, and I thought that life would be much happier when I finally went to school. The most frequent punishment was putting us “in the corner,” but the worst one was sending to bed in the middle of the day. I remember how my best friend Nika and I got into trouble(I don’t remember what the crime was), and we were told to start undressing. And I thought it was OK, I could do it, but Nika started to cry, and we were forgiven. I remember how we played with the dolls, and we were disciplining them the same way the teaches were disciplining us, using the same words. Many teaches yelled at us regularly, and we called them “cruel teachers.” The teachers call some of us “bad children”, and some of us “good children,” and I still remember the names! And I am pretty sure that the parents were aware of what was going on, but it was considered nothing out of the ordinary. Moreover, they could additionally punish us at home if they thought that the “crime” was worth the punchment.

Maggie Daley Park

Last Saturday, we tried the idea that Anna and I had been talking about for a very long time. Namely, Anna and the girls visited just for a day to do some activities in the Loop without stopping at my place.

That day, the CSO had the very first children’s matinee since before the pandemic, and I bought tickets for Anna and Nadia. Originally, I thought that both parents would go, but that didn’t work with John’s schedule. At the very last minute, Anna arranged to take Nadia’s best friend with her.

Fortunately, the weather was great, so it was easy for me to babysit Kira while everybody else attended the concert.
Kira seemed to be intimidated by the crowd by the Bean and didn’t want to leave the stroller, but she was very fascinated with the chairs at the Pritzker Pavillion and spent good thirty minutes putting them up and down:).

After the concert was over and we all had lunch, we still had three and a half hours before their train back to Milwaukee. We went to Maggie Daley Park. That was such a delight! We never went there before, except for one time during the pandemic when most things there were closed.

OMG! Their playgrounds are so amazing!

This is a big ship with several boats attached
You can make if fell like a storm 🙂
A very detailed notice on the other playground
And that other playground is a steamship!
And yet another playground is a lighthouse with a slide!

I had to leave earlier to go to ORD to meet Boris, and the girls almost missed the train 🙂


Yesterday, mom had her first doctor appointment with Medicaid. It was just how I hoped it would go. I switched her to another doctor right away after we received an insurance card, and I looked up this doctor online. This doctor is relatively close (we walked there), and she is an actual MD, not NP. Not like it really matters, but you could tell she has way more experience with older patients. We didn’t have to wait. In fact, they took us even five minutes earlier than our appointment time, and we spent in total over one hour with the doctor and the nurse.

Mom really liked this doctor (and she told her so) because she listened and discussed all the options seriously and at length. Before mom’s appointment, she had to fill in a lot of paperwork, and I really liked one, which was a sort of doctor-patient contract. This contract said that the providers and other specialists will do their best to explain the treatment plan, prescription, and everything and always have the patient’s best interest in mind. In turn, a patient promises to be honest about their conditions, not hide anything from the doctor, and follow the treatment plan.

That worked great because when the nurse started to fill in mom’s information and asked whether she had any body pains at the moment, she started saying like “this is not important, all these bruises and such,” I told her that she had just signed the paper promising to disclose all her information.

Also, they gave her both a flu shot and a Moderna booster, which saved us a trip tp the pharmacy (here, it’s not exactly the next door, and I do not have a car). And, to her surprise, she didn’t have to pay anything for that.
Now, I think she started to realize what it means to have insurance :).

Fall Is Here

Boris arrived last night, once again in the aircraft barely 1/4 full, and this time, nobody asked him for his marriage certificate or proof of vaccination. Which, honestly, makes me worry! Because it means that the border control does not know anymore what’s allowed and what’s not.

On the good side of things, Uber from ORD does not cost $100 anymore, but somewhat around $35, which is cheaper than before the pandemic.

Today was the first seriously autumn day, with rain, and wind, and cold. From sandals to boots, in a matter of several days.

Detskiy Sad: Activities

There were lots of different activities in detskiy sad. Usually, there was one educational activity in the morning. It could be painting, when we all learned to paint something very specific and in a very specific way; for example, we would be given pieces of dark blue paper, and we would learn to paint white branches of the trees covered with snow. We were never given paint to do art projects on our own; all painting was teacher-supervised to avoid ruining our clothes. Or we could make something out of clay (again, no creativity, repeat what the teacher showed). Twice a week, we had music lessons. There was a grand piano in the “big room” (I think it was the former drawing room). The music teacher played the piano, rehearsed the song’s verses, and we would sing along. That’s when I found out that I can’t sing in tune. She also taught us some dances. Tape recorders already existed but were rarities, so everything was accompanied by live music. I do not recall us having any PE classes. In the morning before breakfast, we had zariadka: morning exercises which we performed standing in a circle with the teacher showing us what to do. Many years later, I was shocked to recognize some of these exercises in my yoga class! For the older kids, there were more classes, and they would do reading, writing, and math.

After the morning activity, we would go to play outside unless the weather was really bad. There were no (or almost no) playgrounds at that time. Often, our teachers would take us to the nearby park. There were some sandboxes and some slides to go down. In winter, we would take our tiny show shovels with us and make tunnels and snow fortresses, and if the snow was moist enough, we would make snowwomen.

We would return to detskiy sad to have dinner, and then there was a nap time. For smaller children, there were bedrooms with metal-frame beds with springs. Older children had to take camp beds from a closet and set them up in the “big room.” All of us had to change into pajamas for nap time, and we had to stay in bed for two hours even if we didn’t need to nap.

After a nap, we had “poldnik,” and then one more class, and then we would get dressed in our outdoor clothes and get outside to play by close to the entrance to the detskiy sad, and that’s where the parents were picking us up.
Some parents picked their children earlier. I remember one girl was always picked up earlier by her father. I was so jealous of her! I even remember her name, although we were not close friends. Her name was Marina Efimova.
In winter, it was already completely dark by 3-30 PM, and we played outside in the snow, under the street like, and the snow was glittering.

After my mom picked me up, we stopped at the small grocery store, which was located in the basement of one of the homes near detskiy sad. It was a so-called “half-basement,” with the windows, although you had to go several steps down to enter. I am not sure why, but there were a lot of grocery stores in the older part of the city located in such half-basements.

That was pretty much all my day – after we got home, I had some supper and would go to bed right away.

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

How My Life in America Started , and About My First CEO

And reblogging this post as well. After all, the longer I live in the US, the more I am thankful to a person who brought me here

Hettie's Reflections

My move to America won’t be possible without Pam – the CEO of the company, which hired me for my first job in the US. She was an outstanding personality and quite a controversial character, but one thing for sure: it’s only because of her that my move to America has happened.

Granted she was considering the interests of her business first, and for sure I was initially paid on the lower margin of the acceptable pay rate for a position, but she took on herself a responsibility of bringing me over.

In was not only about the money (although if you think about it, with myself and my three children, there were four visas and four airplane tickets to pay for, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, I had no money at all, so all these costs were upfront).

But what is more important, she’d taken on herself a responsibility…

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Our First Day In The USA

Reblogging the post I published a year ago about our first day in the US. That’s what was happening on that day twenty-five years ago.

Hettie's Reflections

Yesterday, there was a 24th anniversary of the day when Vlad, Anna, and I came to the US. In the past several months, I wrote so many posts about our last weeks in Russia and the first weeks and months in the US that I have almost nothing to add. But today, I was thinking about these first days again, and suddenly I recalled some of my feelings.

After Val picked us up at O’Hare, he drove us to Des Plaines, where I would sign the lease for my first ever apartment. I was tired; I barely understood what was going on. In addition to Val, one more VIN.net employee was waiting for me in the leasing office. His name was Art; he was a sales rep, and he was supposed to help me understand what I was signing; apparently, Pam didn’t trust Val to explain it to me :).

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Flying to America for the First Time

Today is the 25th anniversary of us (Vlad, Anna, and I) leaving Russia to fly to America. Reblogging the post about that day 🙂

Hettie's Reflections

Before I start, let me tell you a couple of words about how my children have reacted to the news that we are going to go to America. First of all, they were very excited to tell everybody around, and the funny thing is that nobody believed them! They would be at the playground, and would tell other parents: we are going to America for two years!!! And other parents would be yea, sure… And then I come and say that it’s true!

When Anna and I were talking recently about these weeks before our departure, she told me that she remembers there was one thing she was sad about, but she can’t remember what exactly it was. But I remembered! The Fall play in their daycare was in rehearsal at that time; it was a modern version of the Russian folk tale “Репка” (“The Turnip”). Both of them were…

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Detskiy Sad: What Was On The Menu

The food in detskiy sad was in many ways different from what I ate at home, probably that’s why I remember so well what was on the menu.

I disliked many foods for a long time because of the way they were prepared in detskiy sad. In some cases, it took me many years to try some dishes again and realize that they are actually quite good.

I didn’t have breakfast at home on the weekdays, and I think most kids didn’t. I do not recall whether my mom had breakfast before going to work. Our breakfast in detskiy sad was the same every day. First, some hot cereal. It could be either mannaya kasha (farina), oat porridge, hot rice cereal, or “pshenichka” – wheat porridge, or millet, always milk-based, although dry milk was often used. Then, a piece of white bread, something like a french baguette, with either a piece of butter or cheese and something called either “coffee with milk” or “cocoa.” In reality, both drinks would come from cans of condensed sweet substance, which contained some milk, a lot of sugar, and some traces of coffee or cocoa. It was dissolved in hot water and then poured into our cups.

Shortly after noon, we had lunch, which was called dinner. I know it sounds funny, but I have no idea how to explain this linguistical paradox. I can only speculate how this swap of meanings happened historically, but I know for sure that in the 19th century, and possibly until after the revolution, the Russian language didn’t have this problem. The meal at noon was called “poldnik” which means exactly that: something happening at noon. Dinner would be around 5 PM (sometimes as early as 4-30, sometimes later), and then it could be supper after 8 PM (or it could be none). I should probably research what happened with the normal order of things after the revolution. In any case, it was lunch, which was called dinner :). And it was a four-course meal. The first course was “a salad,” which meant shredded carrots or coleslaw (without dressing). Then, there was soup (called “the first course). Then an entree (“second course”). And then compote made of dried fruit (which I hated).

All soups were cooked differently from how they were cooked at home, but I especially hated the yellow pea soup, sour schi, and “rassolnik” (and I hate the latter two till now:)).

The second course would consist of some protein (a piece of fish, or a meatball, or a piece of chicken) with some carb side (pasta, rice, buckwheat, or mashed potatoes). In addition, there was almost always a piece of a sour pickle. We were required to eat everything that was on the plate, and although you could sometimes avoid the food you really-rally hated, it was always a fight. Once, I accidentally dropped this piece of pickle into my apron front pocket and didn’t realize it right away, so I ended up getting away with not eating it. I tried to do it on purpose for the next couple of days, but then I was caught:). The only dish I ended up liking in detskiy sad, that I didn’t like before, was liver. I never tried it, but then I saw my best friend devouring it, and I decided to try it, and it turned out I liked it a lot.

Funny fact: they used to make some “detskiy-sad style” versions of famous dishes, including beef stroganoff, goulash, and beefsteaks, so for a long time, I could not understand what was a big deal about them :).

After dinner, we had nap time, and after the nap time, we had “poldnik” which does not make much sense since it was not at noon but 3 PM. It often consisted of a glass of boiled milk (boiled for sanitary reasons, tasted horrible) and something random. “Random” could be a pastry or a piece of “zapekanka” (cottage cheese baked with eggs and flour) or some vinegret (salad with beets). In theory, detskiy sad had to be open till 8 PM, and the kids who stayed that late were upposed to get some supper, but I do not think it ever happened.

There was always lots of drama around food in detskiy sad because very few kids liked all of the dishes served, however, we were expected to leave happy plates and consume two half-pieces of rye bread at dinner. I think, my passion for fresh fruits and vegatables can be explained by the fact that I had almost none as a child!

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.