August 29, 2021

Everybody asks me about details of Vlad’s engagement, but I do not know what else I can say except for the pictures. Vlad told us a while ago that he will come back to Chicago at the end of August to celebrate his and Anna’s 30th birthday. The date for the party was set in July, and when I told Boris, he said that he would try to come to be here for that milestone birthday. Between the European conferences he had to attend and his dental work, he ended up having only three days. First, I told him it is not worth coming, especially because the girls will be here all the time. He said something to the effect: it’s important for the kids, and I thought: who am I to forbid him from attending his children’s birthday?!


So he flew in Friday evening, just a couple of hours before the girls arrived, and yes, it was a little bit chaotic but very happy. Vlad and Dylon stayed with their friends in Oak Park, so it was quite a journey to attend the party!


Now, about the engagement. Several days before the party, Vlad called me: Mom, I wanted to let you know that I am going to propose to Dylon before the party. And also, his family will be there, so you will get to meet everybody.


To say I was happy would be not enough. I was over the moon. And how awesome it was that Boris was going to be there! Their friends’ house is gorgeous, and they could not find a better place for both the party and the proposal:)

What Is Going On With My Life

The past six days were packed with events, and I do not even know where to start.  

It all started when Vlad mentioned that he would come to Chicago to celebrate his (and Anna’s) 30th birthday. Their birthday is on August 23, and Vlad told us that he would have a party on August 29. When I mentioned it to Boris, he said he would try to come, but he had two conferences right before that (ending August 26) and some dental work scheduled for September 1. When he told me he could only come for three days, I told him that it’s not worth it. He replied to the effect that it is important “for the kids,” and I backed up :). I told him, though, that it will be very hectic. And that’s how it was! 

And as if it was not enough, I had an “extra bonus” of an extremely long and tiring discussion with the Russian translator of our book. This story probably deserves a separate blog post, but for now, I will say that it took a lot of time which could be spent more joyfully. I was running on four hours of sleep again, and then the family weekend was here. I promised the translator that I will deliver a final review over the weekend, and since I had zero time during the day, I ran on four hours of sleep for several more days.

The time spent with my girls was such fun, though! The four days were packed with activities and kept everybody, including me, very busy.

And four days before the party Vlad called me and said that he is going to propose to Dylon before the party! And then, he planned a lunch with the family on Monday.

And we had another million activities with the girls, and I took two days off work while already having a backlog :). 

To summarize: I am very happy, very tired, and very sleep deprived 🙂

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 🙂

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.