At The Art Institute

We’ve been to two museums with my granddaughters, and both museum visits went surprisingly well.
On Saturday afternoon, Anna suggested that Boris and I would take Nadia to the Art Institute. The Rayan Educational Center in the Art Institute is still closed, and I thought that that would be the biggest attraction, but Nadia said she wanted to go anyway. I asked whether she also wanted to splash in the Crown fountain, but she said no. Well, having the Maggie Daley Park as our backup plan, we headed to the Loop. It was a long way on the Red Line, but Nadia enjoyed peering out of the window, looking at the people, streets, and cars from the elevation of the L.

We entered the Art Institute from the Modern Wing Entrance, and I decided to take a shot at viewing the contemporary art. We ended up looking at one or two artworks in each room, and I answered Nadia’s questions about them and told her what I feel looking at these pieces, and she told me how they felt for her. I think we both enjoyed that experience, and just at the moment I thought that that was enough for one visit Nadia said that that was enough:)

Some pictures which caught our attention:

We talked about why the bodies are painted with different colors
We talked about two faces on one face
Nadia surprised me by asking why the woman in the picture looks so angry – I didn’t even notice it before she mentioned!
Nadia liked this Mardi Gras picture
And she really liked all the Buddhas!

On the way back, we took the Brown Line and later switched to the Red Line. I think, Boris enjoyed it more than Nadia:), but I agree it was a great idea – seen the Loop from above!

At The Beach With My Girls

At some point, Anna expressed a concern that the beach’s proximity will alter her daughter’s priorities in Chicago and that instead of the “museum Baba” I will become a “beach Baba.” And indeed, the first request was about going to the beach. The girls arrived late on Friday, and Saturday morning, we headed to the beach straight after breakfast.

We spent about three hours at the beach, the girls mostly playing on the shore and in the shallow water. I was helping them to build the sandcastles and used the opportunity to go deeper into the water while there were no lifeguards on duty.

Also, we had snacks in Ropa Cabana (seen on the background), a new beach food stand run by one enthusiastic couple.

I thought it is going to be a beach every day, but after that, we took a deep dive into the cultural experience!

My Twins Are 30!

Can you imagine how I feel about this???

They will be all in town on Sunday, and that’s when we will celebrate their Big Birthday. I will hold off with the lengthy post till then – I want to add the most recent pictures. However, I posted about their birthday on the Instagram, because I wanted to mark the actual day, and here is a copy of that post:

There are nine pictures to scroll 🙂

The Last Weekend Before Elections

It was another extremely busy weekend, mostly spent on the book writing plus trying to catch some nice weather on Saturday.
Regarding the book, we finally have a reviewer who’s suggestions are exceptionally helpful, but they require us to go back to almost every chapter and make some changes. And all changes have to be reviewed by all three of us :). As of yesterday, we had five different chapters in work: submitting one, drafting a plan for another, replying to the reviewer comments on the third, and waiting for re-review on the other two.
That was my busy Sunday, and I am so glad that it was a Sunday with an extra hour!
I had multiple blog posts in mind for this weekend, and I didn’t have time for any. But there is one thing I still want to write about today, before the election day.
Anna was doing phone banking and leaving literature by the doors over the weekend, and when I think about that, I want to cry. I do not have enough words to describe how proud I am of my daughter.
You know how it is commonplace that only young people and retirees are activists because others are busy working taking care of their families. And here is Anna, doing phone calls and walking the turf. When I expressed my admiration for what she is doing, she told me: I remember how I woke up on Wednesday four years ago, and this year, and now I want to make sure I did everything I could to prevent the same thing happening again.
I wish more people would understand that you can’t shield yourself away from politics “because you are busy taking care of your family.” The future of your family, the future of your children, depends on upcoming elections. There is hardly anything more important than that.
BTW, a couple of weeks ago, our HR sent out this message:

Which made our director of analytics anxiously ask me whether he needs to reschedule a by-weekly Sprint planning, and I told him I already voted:)

Anna messaged me a couple of pictures of Nadia, helping her to canvass. I think that many years later, Nadia would be proud of them. I know that some people would view it critically as “indoctrinating the young children.” But I think about it as teaching civic and being true to your moral values.

My Best Girls Ever

I had the best time ever with all three girls:). Kira is a miracle child: she is so happy all the time and so calm! Not like she does not have bad days and bad nights, but in comparison, not only with Nadia but with any child, I know close enough. Also, she is very advanced both physically and emotionally for her four and a half months. She tries to stand up all the time you hold her. she tries to crawl and sit, and I think she will be mobile in some way by the time she will be six months old. Just you wait:).
She also has an unbelievable emotional response to others, which is also way too early. She meets people’s gaze; she is upset when either Nadia or Anna is upset, and she ever reacts emotionally at the conversations which are not directed to her. And if you talk to her directly, she would always respond with the broadest smile.

Nadia speaks more and more complex sentences. She loves telling stories, and she likes it when Anna tells stories, imaginable, or real. She is very thoughtful and very compassionate, polite, and considerable of other people’s needs.

And all this is most definitely because of her parents. I do not think I ever had such a level of patience, as Anna demonstrates. And I can tell that her patience with Nadia fosters all these positive traits. Many everyday tasks take longer than they could because she lets Nadia do things by herself, to decide for herself, to do them her way. She always accepts Nadia’s help even when it makes things going three times slower :). And I am sure that John does the same; I just saw less of him this time :).

I am so looking forward to seeing these girls growing and doing great things!

June 1995. Our Trip to Poland. Part 4

The last part of our travel to Poland I wanted to write about was a voyage to the Copernicus Museum. I didn’t feel that doing nothing except for going to the beach was the best idea of vocation. When we stayed in the University boarding house, I organized different excursions, museum visits, etc. We did some of that in Gdansk, but I wanted to do more. 

I learned that boats are departing from the pier a couple of times a day, which would take us to the Copernicus Museum and decided that we should go. Funny enough, now I barely remember anything about the museum itself. Partially, because the boat was late, so we arrived later than planned and then, we had to hurry back for our return journey. 

The reason for the late arrival was a storm. The waves were rocking the boat, and almost everybody got sea-sick. In our family, Anna was notorious for never getting sea-sick, and the rest of us was the opposite. I remember Anna cheerfully running around the boat while most of the passengers were miserable. 

The reason I want to tell you about this trip is different. We happened to book the tickets for the cruise, which took on board a large group of families where one of the children had Down syndrome. On the way onward, I could not take my eyes off these families.

We ere not living in the Soviet Union anymore, but the way people perceived things was still very much from the Soviet era. And in the Soviet Union, you were not supposed to have a special needs child. People with disabilities, especially with mental or emotional ones, were non-existent. Invisible. There could be nothing worse happen to a mother than having a child with a disability. If we came across such a child on the street or at the playground, we would try to walk away as fast as possible. 

Women, who gave birth to children with Down syndrome, were expected to leave them in the hospital, “in care of the state.” That was the norm. 

A year earlier, my friend gave birth to a child with Down syndrome, and she was fighting fiercely for her right to keep the girl. But even those who supported her would say that she needs to leave her daughter “in care of medical professionals” for at least six months (there were other complications in addition to Down syndrome) and keep visiting her, and “maybe later” take her home. Her daughter died several days after, because of other complications, and my friend was inconsolable. 

But I was to reiterate that the expected behavior was to leave a child with a known disability in the hospital. Nobody would criticize the mother; on the contrary, people would understand and not even mention that she ever had that child. 

We felt for all mothers, who had “to carry their cross” and pitied them a lot. If you had a child with a disability, whom you chose to keep, you would only take her to the playground when there are no other children. You would never go out with her. 

And here, on board of a boat, I saw two dozen families who adored their children with Down syndrome. You might ask – where is the inclusion, why a separate group of special-needs kids, but that was a huge step forward that these kids were even going out. 

I looked at the mothers. I watched a mother cooing over her three or four months old the same way as if that child would be an average healthy baby. I saw her smile and could not take my sight away from her face. That was one of the biggest revelations in my life – she loved him!

I saw bigger kids, smiling, talking to their siblings, and each other. They had nice stylish haircuts and fashionable clothes. I noticed for the first time that each of them had their unique facial expression. I should be ashamed of myself because it all was news for me at that time, but I wanted to write honestly about my feelings because that can explain how bad things ere in the Soviet Union and for many years after it’s collapse.

Twenty-five years later, I can still close my eyes and see their faces and hear their voices.

The biggest takeaway from that cruise was: things can be different!

Reflecting on The Rest of 1994, and Welcoming 1995

Once again, there is a gap of several months when I have no pictures of the kids. The daycare picture was taken at the end of September, and the one below – on January 1, 1995.

During fall 1994, I was still working at the Operations Research Lab of the University. That job still paid close to nothing, and I was still in constant search of gigs. Also, I resumed my postgraduate studies and was slowly but surely getting through all of the required exams.

That fall, Anna first developed her chronic bronchitis, which she had for many years after. Nobody could tell me what the reason for that condition was, but one of the hypotheses was that she had an underdeveloped lung because she was a premie. As a result, any slight cold would develop into the obstruction bronchitis within several hours from onset. Most of the time, a pediatrician won’t recognize that bronchitis is coming, and I had to learn how to diagnose it.

It was scary, and it was not something you could get used to. Roughly every six weeks, it looked like your child is dying. There were no children’s versions of the regular medicine for that condition (and no inhalers, if you are curious about it). I would buy the pills, which helped with the spasms and crushed them into powder. I always had these pills both in my purse and on the nightstand. And when Anna would start coughing non-stop and wheezing: “Mom, open my mouth!” I had to manage to get that power in her mouth, along with some water. I knew that it would help, but it was scary each and single time.

I learned how to listen to her breath and catch an onset of yet another bronchitis. I learned to perform a special massage, which would help to get mucus out of her airways.

As a side effect, it would often happen that I could not send her to the daycare, and then I would take her with me to my postgraduate classes. One of the classes was philosophy, and I had to take an exam at the end. Fortunately, that class taught by the same professor Alexeev, whom I had during my undergrad studies, and who secretly taught us about existentialism :). Anna was sitting there very quietly, and I was always allowed to take her to my class. Could that trigger her future interest in social studies?!

Back to the picture below.

Our family tradition continued: everybody celebrated the New Year’s Eve with their immediate families or elsewhere, but on January 1, everybody would gather at the Aunt’s Kima house to celebrate her birthday with the extended family.

I know that I had several pictures from that particular gathering, but now I can only find that one. I have no idea why Igor is not on that picture because he was most definitely present.

Vlad and Anna wear animal costumes because, as I’ve already mentioned, costumes for the New Year go back to the old tradition Sviatki – the time between Christmas and New Year. Anna is in a squirrel mask, and Vlad wears a hood with bunny ears, and both of their faces are painted with animal features.

In the back row from left to right: my cousin Dodik (David), Kima’s son, with his wife Alla, then Aunt Maya, Uncle Slava’s wife. In the middle row – I, Aunt Kima, and my mom.
My shoulders were not intended to be bare to that extent, it’s just my dress pulled down, and I was still very skinny back then. I made that dress myself. I got the garment as a fee for teaching English to the son of one of “a friend of a friend.” It required only minimal work to fit my small body, and it looked spectacular, or at least I thought so back then.

Here was the start of 1995, and many things were going to happen that year.

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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.

Working Remotely in 1993

Summer was approaching, and it was time again to apply for summer sessions at the University boarding house, but this time around I had my part-time job at Urbansoft. John was still OK with me working remotely, but I didn’t have a modem in a boarding house, in fact, there was no landline.

That’s how it worked. I would write my code without the option of debugging at the University, using our department computer and copy my work to a diskette. G. would come and pick up a diskette and copy my files to his computer. Then he would try to integrate his work with mine. At the designated time, I would call his house phone from the payphone in the lobby. He would read for me the errors he was getting, and I would tell him how to change my code, and then we would continue this remote debugging until done. It sounds impossible, but it worked!

On the topic of the time management, 7-30PM was the bed time for the kids, and then my workday would start. Till whatever I could last with 6-30 AM wake up time:)

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 I Learned About THAT…

In support of those who walk this path alone …

This blog post was originally written in Russian about ten years ago. In the information vacuum of nowaday’s Russia, it was reposted multiple times and hopefully helped a large number of young gay people and their parents to navigate life challenges. 

I thought that at the present moment, this post is valuable only from the historical perspective. But to my surprise, it turned out that many people are still not completely aware of what it means to be homosexual. And I decided to write this post again, this time – in English. Here it comes.

***

People often ask me when did I learn about Vlad’s sexual orientation. The short answer: shortly after he had figured it out about himself. Which was a little bit after Anna suspected that it was the case. At that time, he was a couple of months short of being fourteen, and I’ve noticed that he looked sad and concerned for several days. I was bugging him with the questions, what was wrong, but he brushed off my concerns. That could not deceive me; I was sure that something serious is going on. Finally, I got a chance to talk to him one night when everybody else was out.  

I asked him to share with me what was wrong. He started: you are going to be very disappointed with me. Perhaps, you won’t love me anymore, but I need to tell you something. I think that I am gay. 

Continue reading “How I Learned About THAT…”