I Just Had The First Party!

This morning, Vlad and Dylon left for DC. Originally, it was for Dylon’s job, which he starts in September. So originally, we thought that they would be around for most of the summer. That’s where the plans for my move mid-summer were coming from. But then Vlad started to look for a job too, and now they are moving earlier because of him :). Vlad can’t be without a job for long, and now he will be a Beverage Manager for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in DC.

Anna and the girls came to visit me on Friday night, and we and an almost impromptu party at my new place.I also texted my neighbors from the next building I met a couple of days before to come over and meet my family. It was so good! Good having most of the family together, good being around the like-minded people, good to meet new folks like in “before” times:). Vlad ordered a takeout which tasted great, and we finally opened my “Technologist of the Year” champaign and a couple of other bottles I had for years!

When I was packing, I found several boxes of glasses which I didn’t know about!

Oh, and Vlad got all “A” for his classes, so now he finally got his diploma in Classics!

Fixing Everything – Work Progress

I can’t believe how much we’ve done in my new home already! Granted, if not for Vlad, I won’t be anywhere close. Vlad has been my savior (as always!)

On Friday, I had several contractors scheduled, and I planned to take a 6-28 AM train from Palatine to go to the city and then to Rogers Park. Also, I planned to work on the train. But at 6 AM, a traffic accident happened on the tracks, and the movement of the trains was halted, which meant Uber, minus $50 and minus 50 min of work time.

But after that, things were great. The appliance person came and fixed the dishwasher and the ice maker in the fridge. But, unfortunately, he could not service a whirlpool, which remained an open question.

A plumber came and estimated all the plumbing-related work, and then the people who service the heater and the air conditioner came. It turned out that everything is fine with the furnace, but the air conditioning unit was not operating. Fortunately, they were able to identify the problem, got the parts, and had it fixed. It looked a little bit like a space mission because the air conditioning units are on the roof, and the service people were coordinating what they were doing over the cell phones. 

Also, Vlad brought his checkbook (because I forgot that not everybody accepts credit cards) and saved me. And also brought me pastries and then asked what else I needed, went home, and brought me some salad and salad dressing and milk for coffee. And then he came back in the evening to give money to the painter. 

And on Saturday, he came to my new house on very short notice, because the plumber had a window when he could do the work. Meanwhile, I called the home inspector about the whirlpool, and he said that we can still use it as a shower; there are no leaks. 

One thing I’ve overlooked was the internet. I thought we do not need it until the actual move-in date because we all have 5G on our phones. What I forgot entirely was the fact that I need WiFi to set up the ecobee:).

I did some minimal research on the providers and ordered a new service, which will be installed on Thursday.

Now, the next week looks like this:

  • Washer/dryer/microwave installation on Tuesday
  • New cleaning lady on Tuesday
  • The painting starts on Wednesday
  • Internet on Thursday
  • Sofa delivery on Saturday

Way more manageable than in looked Friday morning!

Vlad Is Going Back To School

Vlad applied to Augustana college to finish his degree, which he abandoned eight years ago. What happened then is a long story that will probably be told at some point. The only thing I want to tell now is that nothing in his current career depends on this classic major, and nobody ever reprimanded him for not making this final push. 

In my view, the only reason he wanted to receive a diploma is that this was an unfinished project. And the major obstacle for the past several years was that if he would choose to do this, he will have to put the rest of his life on pause for three months. 

Now, with the remote learning and temporal indoor dining closer, everything suddenly falls in place. 

He applied for the federal loan, which was granted but didn’t cover all classes and fees. He shopped for a private loan, which would cover the rest, consulting with me on the way. At some point, I received an email from Augustana addressing me as “a parent of a student.” I messaged Vlad: what in the world is that?! And he was like, “sorry, mom, it looks like they still have my old records somewhere in the system; I will fix it. I am an independent student now.”

As usual, all these college tuition talks prompted me to think about several subjects. First, why it is only in the US that college costs what it does, why one class has to cost 7K+, and why higher education is almost free in the rest of the world. 

I know (and the only reason I know it is because my kids are so smart and resourceful) that there are relatively easy ways to significantly reduce your costs. And if anybody thinks that the fact that higher education is not free fosters more responsible behavior, they are wrong. It encourages opposite behavior. But the most frustrating fact is that all of these ways to reduce the costs are so non-obvious, so hidden! 

The above was the second topic. The third one is about who’s the responsibility it is? When I read the blogs of parents whose children are in the process of getting into college, I do not understand why it becomes parents’ responsibility rather than their almost adult children? I read about the Facebook groups of parents researching scholarships and admission requirements, and I do not get it. 

Also, I do not understand a desire to get children through college debt-free. I understand even less why so many parents see their financial assistance being a basis for dictating their college-age children which classes to take, how to behave, what is the minimal acceptable GPA, etc. 

I will stop here :). I will never understand most of the above :). And I am immensely happy that it was different with my children. 

December 1996. Gray Sanborn School

In December 1996, Vlad and Anna went on their first winter break at Gray Sanborn School. For me, it meant them being in the Children’s World for the whole day, but I believe it was included in their tuition. At least, I do not remember paying more in December.

I didn’t know anything about what they were doing at school. The parent-teacher conferences happened before Thanksgiving, and they started school right after. I could not understand what school assignments meant. It’s difficult to explain: I understood the words, but I didn’t know how the Kindergarten curriculum is organized. It was very different from Russian schools, and Vlad and Anna used to say that they “played” at school, listened to the teacher reading a book. Sometimes they would bring some drawings home.

It was a real shock for me when they brought home a newsletter for the parents from their teacher, Mrs. Kramers, when on the last day of school. The letter said: if your child does not know the alphabet, it’s time to catch up. If your child can’t count to one-hundred, it’s time. What-when-how?! How come I didn’t know?! I did not know that when they connected the numbered dots to make a Santa’s face, they were learning numbers.

I wish I could go back in time and ask their teacher how they were adjusting, how they were learning, how they communicated with other kids. I have three pictures from that winter from school, and I am not sure who made them.

In the last picture, they are sitting together with their friend Chris. Chris was in the same class with them and in the Children’s World. Actually, his family lived in the same building, as wem but we didn’t know. Chris didn’t take a bus to school; I think his mom, Janet, dropped him off, and then his parents picked him up from the Children’s World at a different time.

We learned that they are our neighbors accidentally. It happened when Pam arrived at our apartment at 8 AM one Sunday, realized that we do not have TV service on, and started to call our neighbors to find out what cable company serves our building.

Chris was Vlad’s and Anna’s best friend for the longest time, and Janet was my best friend for the longest 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.

At the Children’s World

The picture below was taken in the Children’s World during the first Month Vlad and Anna were attending; somebody from the staff took it and gave me way later. Vlad and Anna liked it there.

Their teachers’ names were Miss Kelly and Mister Brian; they were very young, fun, and caring and loved the kids. First, I was surprised by the small size of the place and by the fact that they were just pulling out tiny camp beds for nap time and didn’t have a separate room for the “quiet hour” ( “tikhiy chas”). I was also surprised that there were so many unstructured activities. And I was grateful for the meals.

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.

Our First Month in Palatine

This whole concept that 1) kids go to school when they are just five years old and 2) they still need daycare because school is in session for only three and a half hours for the five-year-olds was new for me as well as the fact that school has more days off than the rest of people.
The great thing was that for several years, their school started pretty early. The bus would come to our stop at 7-15. Val would drive from Barrington and wait in the car for me till the bus would come, and then we drove to work. The kids and I had breakfast before we left the house, and then they had lunch at the Children’s World and a snack after their nap.

I could not go anywhere during the workday. I would always have the same lunch with me: one sandwich with the Polish ham and Romania salad, and one with provolone cheese and a piece of tomato, and an apple and a banana for a snack.

Our workday was officially over at five, and somebody would drive me to the Children’s World to pick up Vlad and Anna and would drop us at home. I would start making some dinner at home, and Vlad and Anna would start talking: they just started to learn English and had nobody to talk to during the whole day!

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First Move In the US

When I wrote this post, I thought I would write a couple of follow-ups right away, but then there was an Election Day and waiting and the new COVID surge. Three weeks later, I am finally back to that part of our family history.

I was always vague about why we had to move from Des Planes to Palatine and all the surrounding events. I didn’t want to bring this story to a public view and only told it to some people privately. Now that I am writing our family’s full and complete history let’s layout all the details.

If you recall, a person who introduced me, or rather a notion about me to VIN.net CEO was G, the same guy who lived in the building across from mine in Saint Petersburg, the guy who was fired from Urbansoft, and because of whom I was fired a month later. He emigrated, he worked in the consulting company, and he told Pam about me. As a result, we emailed each other pretty intensely during these months before my departure. He had a seven-year-old daughter, and his wife was not working, so it was “assumed” that I will live in the same apartment building as they lived and that his wife will help me with the daycare. 

At some moment, Chris, the HR/office manager/secretary in VIN.net, emailed me saying that G’s wife “agreed” to watch my kids on the school days off (I didn’t know that schools holidays in the US were different from everybody’s holidays); that she will cover if they are sick, and I do not even remember the whole list. When I forwarded this email to G, he replied that this is not true and that his wife needs time off as well. I could not figure out what was going on, but again, knowing nothing about American realities, I could not understand the magnitude of the problem.

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Our First Day In The USA

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 :). 

Reading the lease agreement was too much for me, even with Art’s help. I signed, and then, there were lots of motions. I had no money on me, and Pam wanted Val to pay my security deposit and one week of October rent, which was left; I was expected to pay it back later. But the leasing office could not accept cash, and there was an argument, and at the end, Art paid with his credit card, and Vlad gave him cash. 

Things were finally resolved, and we were moved to this empty apartment with two old coaches, which my other future co-workers gave away. And I remember that weird feeling, which I had going to bed that night: it was that easy?! 

I never, ever-never, had my place. I am not talking about an apartment; I never had a room, which would be mine and only mine, never in my life. The fact that I couldn’t have a place of my own in Russia was a major deciding factor in my move to the US. I was planning to work hard for two years and earn enough money to buy an apartment in Saint Petersburg. Cash buying was the only option: neither mortgages nor rental market existed in Russia at that time. 

And here I was, going to bed in a two-bedroom apartment in Des Planes, and that magic happened immediately upon arrival. It happened just because nobody here could imagine that less than a two-bedroom apartment would suffice. The problem which seemed utterly unresolvable in Russia resolved itself instantly… 

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.

The Last Photos In Russia

Yes, we visited later, but still – the last ones while we still lived there. It should have been still September, but in October, there was no time for pictures.

We were taking a walk at the Peter and Paul Fortress that day. The outdoor pictures were taken by Boris, and the ones inside – by my mom.

Continue reading “The Last Photos In Russia”