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!

Continue reading “Our First Month in Palatine”

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.

Continue reading “First Move In the US”

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”

Summer 1996. Lichtenberg Park

Our University Campus was built close to the old Lichtenberg Park. I know that I should check my facts and tell you exactly who from the Lichtenberg House was related to the Russian Royal family, but I will not do it now. It is not essential for my story. What is important that there was this beautiful park on the other side of the train tracks. The park was in the half-deteriorated state, and the palaces and pavilions and the church were even more so, but it was a great park for walking.

I do not remember which days the pictures were taken, but it was one of the days when Boris and I already knew that those might be the last week of my staying in Russia. If not that, I am sure I won’t convince him to take pictures with kids. Igor was most likely with my mom in the city, or possibly with his other grandma – she was taking him sometimes to another vacationing place, which Igor himself can describe better.

That’s all I can say about these pictures. Now that I look at them, I can sense a bittersweet feeling, joy, and sadness simultaneously.

Vlad is wining about something, as usual 🙂

The next several pictures are almost identical, but I am going to post them anyway, because we do not have that many pictures, and I know that Vlad and Anna would like to have them all 🙂

Continue reading “Summer 1996. Lichtenberg Park”

Summer 1996, Peterhoff

I have more pictures from that summer than I had for the whole previous year. It was a strange summer. Events that I described in the post How I decided to go to America happened at the very beginning of it, and then it was a long wait. I briefly mentioned in my other post, Getting ready to go to America, but there were months of uncertainty in reality. Only Boris and my mom knew that I was waiting for the papers, but I was trying to make most out of this summer with all uncertainty. 

We stayed in the University boarding house yet again, and I worked on Stylus documentation at night (My last job in Russia). In the daytime, I took kids to places almost every day. Vlad and Anna were already big enough to appreciate art. We took full advantage of that fact. It was a strange mixture of “I might not even get a visa,” “I am not going to leave forever, we will come back in two years, and I will be happy to come back,” and “I will never be back again.” In reality, none of these happened, but back then, I was frantically trying to squeeze into our days as much of the art and architecture. 

The Boarding house was relatively close to the palaces and parks of Peterhoff, Peter the Great summer residence. We often took a bus to spend a half-day there, enjoying the fountains and visiting palaces. My friend Olga, whose family lived in the same apartment building with us in Saint Petersburg, came to join us on this adventure. I think it was more than once, but I only have pictures from one of these occurrences. Here they are.

Vlad, Anna and Ania in the Upper Park of Peterhoff
Continue reading “Summer 1996, Peterhoff”