January 31, 2008

The Back Story I

I am finally discarding my oldest computer, which has the journal of our trip to Russia in 1996 and a number of documents pertaining to the adoption. So here, in a four-part series, is that journal from the boys' first years with us.

Jan 29, 1996 (transcribed from my travel notes)
We arrived in Moscow after a series of delays. Our flight from Chicago was re-routed through Baltimore, then to JFK so we missed our flight to Moscow. We were put on a flight through Frankfurt and arrived in Russia about eight hours late. Our suitcase with gifts was lost. However, the Metropol Hotel is beautiful, the other Chicago family is nice and Masha is well-organized.

We got up at 4 a.m. after a few hours of sleep and are in the car toward Vladimir region. We visit the boys today and if everything goes OK, we’ll return to Moscow tomorrow. Will they like us? What will we do with them in Moscow? Will everything work out? We feel so sad about the gifts–I hope that suitcase turns up. I spent weeks buying things!

However, we are relieved to be here in one piece after two days of non-stop traveling. The toy kitchen made it without a problem. Our customs lady who helped file the missing luggage report admired it and wanted one for her daughter.

We tried to do a little walk-around last night but it was too cold.

Jan 30, 1996
Well, what an exciting 24 hours. Yesterday we got up at 5 am to meet our driver who would take us to Vladimir. After a four-hour drive in pitch black, we arrived at a dismal office, there is some conversation in Russian and we get back in the car for an hour and a half drive to the orphanage. There we meet all the chief doctors, head teacher, health inspector etc. and ask about the boys’ health. Finally they show the boys in: they were wearing strange clothes. Hart looked like an old man–he had on a loud flannel shirt buttoned to the neck, tucked into nylon shorts (in Jan!). Jeff had a Mickey Mouse shirt on and the same shorts. Well, first we were told we’d take two trips of Vladimir, then that we would go once and stay one or two nights. However, after we’d played with the boys a while, they asked if we liked them and asked a few questions. The boys went off to take their naps and to my surprise, the interpreter asked if we had clothes for them and I said we did. Imagine my shock when she said, “The children can sleep in the car, then.”

So in about ten seconds, the orphanage ladies had whipped off their clothes, diapered them, re-dressed them and were on our way.

We spent the afternoon running from office to office. Howard did most of the running and I went crazy watching the kids tear up the office where we waited. Everyone was so nice and helpful even though the boys were wrecking havoc. It was overwhelming, needless to say. Then to our further surprise, after all the paperwork was done at 6 p.m., Vera announced that we were returning to Moscow. So we had the 5-hour trip back to Moscow. They were so cranky and crabby. Finally, with one half hour to go we returned to the Metropol and they were asleep. Then they woke up when we got out of the car: they were crabby for two more hours. I think they fell asleep around midnight.

Jan 31, 1996
Another crazy day only the opposite of hectic. With Masha bringing documents at 3:30 and a doctor’s visit at 8 p.m., we had a whole day and nothing to do. The kids went nuts. I took them for a walk in the hotel which turned into a mad dash for me. I insisted we go out for a bit so we hired a car which took us around the Kremlin and to on Arbat Street. The boys would not touch their hamburgers and I haven’t really had an appetite. Too excited.

April 25, 1996
We have been talking about bathroom things in preparation for toilet-training. I was demonstrating to Hart how to flush the toilet. Closing the lid, I said, “The pee-pee is all gone now.” Hart lifted the lid and waved bye-bye.

April 25, 1996
All four of us were walking to the doctor’s office with Hart and Jeff riding in the stroller. Howard was bounding ahead until Jeff’s little voice admonished him to, “Stop, daddy.”

May 1, 1996
Hart was meeting with his speech therapist and got angry when denied a certain toy. Frustrated, he threw himself down in a rage and continued to lie on the floor with his arm draped across his forehead in a tragic pose. Bobbie continued to ask me questions, thinking Hart would compose himself. As she did, we both noticed Hart slowly inching toward us still in his “Camille” position.

May 6, 1996
Playing a children’s tape in the car, I was surprised to hear Jeff join in on the verse that was sung to “lalala.”

May 14, 1996
Wow! We are really beginning to hear some serious talking. This morning when I asked Jeff if he wanted a cup of water, Hart said clearly, “I do!”

First full sentence today. Jeff and I were looking at the book Kitten Can. Both boys like the photos of the kitten doing things and it is an opportunity to practice some verbs. When Jeff was done I asked him to put it away. Hart said, “I want to look at that.”

May 29, 1996
The boys were watching a new video that they hadn’t seen before. One of the characters said, “and you at home will help us, won’t you?” Hart slowly shook his head and backed away.

June 20, 1996
The boys understand almost everything said to them but they still only speak in single words. After speech therapy, Hart was complaining he had lost his sticker, “sticker, sticker, sticker.” When I asked, “Where’s your sticker?” both Alicija and I were surprised to hear him say, “I don’t know.”

June 22, 1996
We took Jeff and Hart to the water park for the first time. What fun! It got a little chilly and I put on a shirt in the pool. The shirt got wet along the bottom and a stream of water dripped from the hem . Hart, seeing that, exclaimed, “pee pee!”

Hart now does the hand gestures and sings along to “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” which is on one of the Kidsongs videotape. Yeah Yeah Yeah.

July 1, 1996
Lots of exciting things happening these days. We are spending mornings with the boys at the water park during Parent/Tot swim. Jeff loves the water playground. He likes to turn the levers and wheels to make the water go. Hart is a real water baby. He wades out until the water comes past his nose and then laughs. (Mom does not find this as funny.) There is a deep pool with a diving board and Hart pointed at it and announced on several occasions, “I jump.”

Hart accompanied Howard on several errands this Saturday. At Lands’ End, a man was carrying a long ladder. Hart immediately grabbed the end to assist in carrying it.

Both boys like to assist in loading the dishwasher.
Jeff announced to Howard tonight, “I have sticker.” I think that’s a first complete sentence for him.

Hart can sing and do the gestures to many of the Kidsongs videos. He explained the plot line of one segment to me which involved kids watching candy apples being made, “Kitchen, apples, dip.”

Both boys had a great day at speech therapy today. They are calmer, more focused. Jeff giggled and responded in his session with Margie and when I looked in on Hart, he was laughing and playing with farm animals. The therapists are so pleased with their progress. Keep up the great work, boys.

July 6, 1996
I thought Jeff was finished eating so I took the food off his plate. I was surprised when he shook his finger at me and yelled, “No, MINE!”

Tattletale, tattletale. Hart took some of the cans destined for the recycling bin into the living room. Jeff rushed to the bottom of the stairs as I was coming down, “Look, look,” pointing at the culprit.

Hart adores the nursery rhyme, “Three Little Monkeys.” It is on one of the videos but he really got interested in it when Bobbie did it during speech therapy. His favorite line is “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.” He shakes his finger and can say the “No more” part.

For the first time, the boys made a request. Usually I can offer them things and they will nod yes or say no. However, today when I asked what else they wanted for snack, Hart said, “milk” and Jeff said, “cracker” and one of them added, “dip.” So they got milk and graham crackers to dunk in it. They must have been exactly what they wanted since they seemed pleased when I gave it to them.

July 22, 1996
We have had a bad couple of days. The boys have been very impulsive and destructive. I was relieved when we got an invitation to the Botanic Gardens, to calm my nerves if nothing else. Hart and Jeff loved it. The liked all the fountains (H–“water up”), enjoyed the duck pond (until SOMEONE threw a paper cup in the pond) and generally had a nice time. I was terrified they would fall or jump in with the ducks, but there were no casualties.

Jeff is now interested in the Spot books by Eric Hill. He asks for them by name. Both boys also enjoy the Spot video which has five short Spot stories. What a nice relief from the kid music videos!

I think Hart can count to four with a little prompting. He can easily get to three if you count with him.

I watched Hart in speech therapy today. Bobbie was showing him props for the doll house and Sesame Street characters. She suggested that Ernie ride the bike. However, Hart was determined to ride it himself, although he was having trouble getting himself centered over a toy bike about three inches big. Finally he took a toy chair and sat on it, satisfied at last.

July 29, 1996
Both boys evidently missed me while I was in Ohio for the weekend. They were very affectionate when I got back.

Hart fell and must have really hurt his head, since he started to cry. Jeffrey came over and kissed and petted his head to comfort him. But Hart must have been quite hurt because he continued to cry. Whereupon, Jeff shook his finger at the chair (presumably the culprit in the injury) and said, “No, no, no!”

Hart’s new favorite video is on fire engines. I wasn’t sure if either boy would like it because there is a lot of narrative which they usually don’t understand or have the patience for it. However, Hart loves this tape. When offered “music,” he shook his head and said, “truck.” He can also hum one of the tunes played in the background.

August 6, 1996
Our first birthday here! The boys turned three today. It is a hot, hot day and our air conditioning is not working. Luckily, today we went to the JCC. I spent yesterday evening putting up glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on the ceiling of J&H’s room. Hart noticed them right away this morning, “ball, ball.” We took cupcakes to camp and went swimming at the Devonshire Water Park after dinner. Lots of fun. Unfortunately the heat is terribly unpleasant and I think the boys are kind of crabby since it is so uncomfortable.

August 7, 1996
We had a nice morning. Hart played with Alla at the R's and Jeff and I played here. I took out the BRIO train as a birthday surprise. Jeff liked playing with it for a little but preferred sitting in the storage box better. He took the box into the play house and had a nice little party in his house. Later, he asked for “‘nana.” I wasn’t sure if he meant the toy one or the real one, but it turned out that’s what he wanted for snack.

August 12, 1996
The boys are happily playing with their birthday presents. The big hit was two battery operated trucks, a fire truck and a dump truck. When you press a button, the lights flash, the siren wails and a voice says something, then the wheels turn and off it goes. The boys love them.
Hart said two sentences today. When Jeff, who loves to play with my keys, brought them to me, Hart said, “I want keys.” I left the boys with Howard this evening for a dinner out. As I said goodbye, Hart reached up to cling to me and said, “I want to come.” That verbal construction is completely new!

Spot is losing out in popularity to truck videos. However, Jeff and I still like them. Watching one on Sunday, Jeff does the running narration while Hart acts it out. Spot falls into the pond–Hart throws himself on the ground. Spot shakes off the water–Hart shakes himself. It’s the Spot show, starring Hart.

August 15, 1996
Uncle Ted came over. The boys love roughhousing with him and he gets a good workout. Favorite activities: being swung around by the feet, pushed on the trike, lifted and tossed over Ted’s head etc. Ted was surprised at the amount of talking the boys are doing. Last time he came, they wouldn’t say a word. Today it was, “more, please,” “juice,” “go outside” etc etc. He brought birthday gifts, little pairs of status sneakers, Nike and Fila.

August 17, 1996
The S's are in town. Their two boys, Adam (8) and Danny (6) just fell in love with Hart and Jeff and the feeling is mutual. We ate dinner last night at a Thai restaurant and then the Sternfelds all came over for a little. Adam and Danny sang songs for them at bedtime which was a real treat. This morning when we went to pick them up to go to the water park, the boys squealed with pleasure to see them again. They were well-behaved at the pool and at McDonalds, because they were occupied by the two older boys.

August 26, 1996
We are back from our first trip with the boys. We flew to Cleveland–on two different flights, each with one boy. The boys were very good on the plane. We visited Granny in Akron, she was disappointed that we only stayed a day. We all went to Stan Hywet together. The boys liked the grape arbor, the apple and pear trees and the Japanese Garden, lots of rocks on climb around and a bridge. We had dinner with Janet and Pat and their baby, then went to Siberling Nature Center and walked around. Went to Cleveland and stayed with the B's. The boys were pretty overstimulated and got very excited when Noah played guitar for them. It was like a big slumber party with Rachel, Mariah, Hart & Jeff, and us sleeping in same room. On Sunday we had breakfast with Granny and Uncle Bill, then off to the zoo with the S's. By evening the boys were pretty wiped out so dinner at Tommy’s Restaurant was a little too much. We had a great time on the flight home. Hart actually announced, “poop” and used the airplane bathroom. The boys slept in this morning, then off to their first day back at the JCC. They have several new classmates including identical twin girls.

August 28, 1996
It seems like the boys learned to talk TODAY. Hart accompanied me on errands and kept up a running description of what he saw. Both boys can now express preferences, “I want ’nana. I want cookie. No ride, walk.” Etc. When Alla left, Hart was too busy playing to kiss her goodbye. Without looking up he said, “Bye bye, Alla.” Hart now uses the plural “s” on words correctly. Jeff is putting final consonants on words. He’s gone from “buh” to “bus.”

Our current favorite songs are Skip to My Lou, known as “Loo-loo,” Three Little Fishies, (“Boop-boop”) and a nursery rhyme, Ten Little Ponies (“Whoa”).

August 31, 1996
The boys slept in until 8 a.m. but then did not want to take a nap. We went to a neighborhood party today. People remarked how much they have grown and how much more talkative they are. The boys were on very good behavior but were pretty rambunctious when we got home. They sang and danced to videos. The current favorite tape is “Garbage Day” which Hart asks for as “Garbage Truck.”

September 2, Labor Day
Summer is really over. We had a busy day…for a holiday. Howard and Jeff went shopping in the morning. Hart and I went to the park. I took both boys over to R’s to drop off some clothes and a toy castle for Ben. Back for lunch. Howard took Hart shopping and Jeff and I went to the park. We went to Old Orchard to splash in the fountain (both boys have ear infections again!), then Howard grilled dinner. The boys wrestled and played in the basement, then went to bed pooped.
Hart can really express preferences and tell what he wants to do now. “I want to watch Cat” (Here Comes the Cat), “I eat peach.” “Powder on tummy.” “No diaper.” (Ha, don’t I wish.) Jeff is still fairly subdued which is worrisome. I try to make sure he gets a vote on which video to play (Hart is very vocal about his choice) or which song to sing at bedtime. Howard is enjoying playing with them more, so things are getting easier for me.

Sept 3, 1996
Jeff is really taking an active interest in books! Yeah! Hart is becoming our resident couch potato, I fear. Tonight I read Jeff a book called “The Runaway Garbage Truck,” poignantly enough about a little boy who loves garbage trucks but does not talk. When he asked for “more book,” I read “Maxi, the Taxi Dog.” Hart had no patience for Howard’s version of the garbage truck book, he kept asking for “Cat,” the video of Here Comes the Cat.

Sept 4, 1996
I took Jeff to a storytime at Women and Children First bookstore. He wandered around for a while but really got interested near the end and listened to the last two stories, one about a baby monster and the other about two bears. I had planned to go out to lunch with B and her daughter, Brianna. After the stories, Brianna asked if “the twin was going to lunch, too.”

After playing outside on the climber, Hart kept calling our attention. When I went over to see what he wanted, he kept saying, “poop.” I looked down and sure enough, he was right. Jeff was leaking all over, down his legs, his shoes, all over the climber. Hart was trapped in a small corner, unable to move without stepping in it. I took Jeff up for a bath immediately and Hart stayed to help Howard hose everything down. As Hart assisted holding the hose, he hummed the firefighter song, like the music in the video that plays while the firefighters hold their hoses.

Sept 8, 1996
Well, I think we have to stay away from dogs for a while. Despite the boys’ enthusiasm for dogs, they get too excited. Today, a neighbor walked by with a dog and the boys got hyper to pet the dog. Hart was so loud and Jeff was too rough and the dog bit ME…in the face. Well, better me than them, I guess.

Tonight as I was leaving to pick up Meg to babysit, Hart announced “poop.” “Do you have to poop?,” I said. “I already did,” Hart replied. As eager as I am to have them talk, this is not one of sentences I long to hear.

Sept 9, 1996
I thought yesterday was a bad day but it seems to have stretched into today. The boys have a new habit of stripping the full-size bed in their room and jumping on it–I can tell by the sound. It is torture trying to get them dressed and out of house in the morning. Now I am jealous of all the moms bringing their lovely cooperative children in and out of the J, while Hart and Jeff dawdle and are distracted by each and every item in the J on the long walk to their classroom at the end of the hall. First we have to get through the door, lie down in the vestibule for a while, play with any traffic pylons that may be sitting in the lobby, look in on the aerobics class, run towards the health club, stop at the drinking fountain and then look in on the new baby classrooms before entering the 2-year-old room and greeting Shari. At the end of the day when I have had a long day at work, we have to lure them off the playground, allowing about ten minutes for the transition and then do this whole shebang in reverse. I leave my office shortly after 5 o’clock and am surprised that we don’t get home until around six.

It also seems that while their speech is really improving at an exciting rate, their other skills are not. They have started making pig snorts when asked to do something; they think it is hilarious. After refusing to eat dinner every night, Hart is into mixing and throwing food around and snorting his medicine (another antibiotic) up his nose. It’s lovely. Both boys refuse to go into the bathroom for a diaper change without a big fuss or go upstairs for a bath, which they used to LOVE! I think I have aged ten years in the last three days.

Sept 14, 1996
Happy New Year! We were at services this morning–the boys had a babysitter. They played together nicely all day. We had dinner at Howard's parents (they can say “grandma”); the boys were well-behaved and charming. They requested “garbage truck book” at bedtime. (The Runaway Garbage Truck) Seems to be a theme developing here. After the book, they were playing with the toy dishes, feeding each other with a spoon and Hart said, “Me and Jeff eating.”

Sept 16, 1996
We were at school today for testing and evaluation. The boys’ behavior was pretty typical, so I think the staff got a good look. Neither of them spoke at all, but they cooperated with the testing. Jeff liked doing a shape puzzle. Unfortunately it is hard to get a good measure of cognitive development since at age three, so much is related to language. We will meet in two weeks to discuss services for the boys.

Sept 18, 1996
We have experienced a transformation. Both boys have become so affectionate and so chatty. Hart announced yesterday when I picked him up from school, “I wan ride in choo choo.” Who knows where this comes from? He asked for “Daddy” as we arrived home. Jeff has many new words, too. Both boys are still eagerly interested in vehicles. This morning, I heard them talking together, using words, “more,” “ready, set, go,” “up.” The teachers at the JCC are surprised that I am eager to have them in an early intervention program. That is encouraging, I suppose. We must see the glass as half full, so to speak.

This week the boys made a little party. We went to check on them and they had climbed up into their booster seats and had divvied up a whole can of raisins between them into the toy frying pans. They were happily eating their raisins when we came in. We were laughing so hard, it was difficult to reprimand them.

Sept 23, 1996
Today was Yom Kippur. Alla was with the boys while we went to services. She is so devoted to them–I can’t imagine what we would do without her. She is so patient, too.

I am excited that Hart is talking so much, but as people warned me, you may get what you wish for. He is so contrary! “No wan to,” is his favorite phrase. I say, “Let’s read truck book.” That was Jeff’s request. “No wan, airplane book.” Jeff wants to watch a video, but Hart overrules him. “No wan, watch garbage truck.” Whatever is offered, Hart seems to have another idea–that he can now articulate.

Jeff is getting more affectionate and interested in us. He still doesn’t want to be held close and he will move your arm if you put it around him. But, he likes to be hugged and will now sit on our laps, if Hart doesn’t get there first.

Sept 25, 1996
Hart started singing “Row row row your boat” in the tub last night, while holding a toy boat. We had our last speech therapy session with Bobbie. Although his diction is not terribly clear, you can certainly understand the things he says, “I close,” “More turn,” “Eat pizza,” “ Baby in bus,” “Hart’s turn.” He drops off the last consonants and has trouble with medial sounds, but I think I understand most of what he is trying to say.

Visited two special education classrooms today and we will meet with Margie this evening to discuss our “wish list” for our meeting on Monday.

Sept 28, 1996
First professional haircut today! The boys are pretty shaggy and are not generally cooperative when I try to trim their hair. We decided to go today since Howard needed a haircut, too, so they could watch him and get used to the idea, even if they refused to cooperate. We watched Howard for a while, the hairdresser showed them the clippers, the scissors, the blow dryer. They were quite interested but said affirmatively, “NO,” when invited to sit in the chair. However, we finally coaxed Jeff up into a chair into my lap and he was quite cooperative and enjoyed watching himself in the mirror. Hart would have none of it. He tolerated the clippers for a minute but that was it. We asked the stylist to just clip off any odd strands so he would look symmetrical and called it done. So they both have very nice short bangs and sides, Hart’s hair is the same as before in back and Jeff’s is nice and close-cropped. They got about four suckers each as part of the deal, but they look quite handsome.

We had a nice day today overall. I have to remind myself how far we have come, even when I get very impatient with them. Jeff just goes his own way and while this might be tolerable with one child, it is impossible with two. I never know where he is or what he is up to. Hart is still quite impulsive and grabby. He absolutely cannot keep his hands off anything.

At the Kohl Museum today, he was invited to participate in the Halloween Fashion Show. I thought he might like wearing a costume and parading down the runway. Forget it. No big deal, but he was quite interested in the runway–yanking the decorative pumpkins off several times, tearing the fabric skirt which was attached with velcro. This morning he intentionally broke the binding of a brand-new library book. It’s impossible to keep up with it–because not only is he impulsive and destructive, he is very fast.

September 30, 1996
Oh my, the boys are so talkative. We went to a Sukkah party over the weekend and they had a good time. They made lulavs out of tongue depressors and green paper. No drainage from their ears for two whole days. Wow!!

Today was our MDC, a conference with the school district people. It went very well, I think. The boys are eligible for services and it seems like the whole team, Margie, and we all had the same idea all along. So it looks like both boys will start a special pre-primary program as soon as the paperwork is moved along. I am sorry that they will miss the wonderful morning activities at the JCC (although missing swimming is not so terrible with their ear history) but this program will really help get them on track.

Hart is very fond of the furry toy monkeys that used to be Howard’s and mine. He prefers the darker one and if offered the lighter one, says, “No, Jeff’s” whether Jeff wants it or not. New song that the boys learned at the J and love, “Zum Galli Galli,” although Hart pronounces it “Zoom Ma Ga.” Both boys can do somersaults now.

October 1, 1996
What a day! Talk about trouble with transitions. It took me over a half hour to pick up the boys at the JCC. They just resist leaving and it seems every minute later than 5 o’clock adds another five minutes to the long walk down the hall.

This evening we were looking at a picture book about baby animals. There was a picture of a mother sow and a litter of piglets. “Look, here are the baby pigs,” I said. “Where is the mommy pig?” Both boys immediately pointed at me. Thanks, guys.

October 2, 1996
Today was Jeff’s last session with Judy in the Bright Futures program. It’s sad–she has been so great to us. Well, we have to start talking about attending a new school and riding the bus!

At dinner I noticed that Jeff had a scab on his arm. “Boo boo?” I asked. He nodded. “Look, I have one too,” I said, showing him a scrape on my hand. Hart looked over to see that and pronounced sagely, “Medicine,” then went back to eating.

October 5, 1996
A miracle! Last night Hobbes allowed the boys to pet her. I guess she figures they are here to stay. They were very gentle–Hart touched her ears and Jeff petted her head, before her shyness returned and she ran away.

We had a great day. All four of us went apple-picking at Bell Farms in Lake Zurich. It is a 45-minute ride but we had lots of fun picking (and eating) apples. The boys hauled a bushel basket between them and once they caught on, they loved picking the low-hanging apples and putting them in the basket. There is also a pumpkin patch and a petting zoo with rabbits and goats. So a good time was had by all. Then they fell asleep on the ride home.

In the evening, we had planned to go with the R family to Simchat Torah services but somehow got the date wrong. (It IS Erev Simchat Torah). Hart was extremely disappointed so off we went in our finery to B’nai Emunah services. The boys liked waving their flags and kissing the Torahs, and they knew some of the songs. The boys got pretty fractious after about 45 minutes. We had hoped to stay for refreshments afterwards but they were too difficult and we had to wrestle them out of there. All in all, I think our first foray to the synagogue was a success, but we must remember that one half hour is plenty.

October 11, 1996
Mom was here early this week and left on Wednesday. The boys really enjoyed having Granny visit. In fact, they have asked after her for three days, “wan ganna.” When she came with me to the J to pick them up, they yelled, “gandma!” We saw Margie one night while she was here, and the boys tore their room up after they were supposed to go to bed. They were crabby and agitated for two days afterward.

Now things seem to be back to “normal.” Hart sings “Zum Galli Galli” holding a little truck as “Zoom my car.”

The boys modeled their Halloween costumes for Granny. Jeff is a devil and Hart is a skeleton. I wanted to get something that does not require a hat or headdress. To our surprise, the boys liked wearing the costumes and did not want to take them off. Let’s see if they will wear them at Halloween!

The boys will start attending Dawes School in the mornings next Thursday. I hope the arrangements to get them to the J are OK for now.

October 12, 1996
What a busy day! Sarai and Ivy came over to visit. I sold our jogging stroller. Howard and Arnie went to the Northwestern University game leaving me home with the boys all day. It was fun…for a while. But I am grouchy after twelve hours with them. Howard took them out for dinner by himself. I got myself dinner and watched several other little boys with their parents. They seemed so much calmer, so attentive to their parents. A mom walked into the bakery with a little boy about two and he stood by her side quietly while she ordered. I looked around to take stock of how many things Hart and Jeff could have broken or destroyed in that short time.

October 16, 1996
We went to visit Dawes School and meet Ms. P, the Pre-Primary Diagnostic teacher. The classroom is huge–at least twice as big as the classroom at the J and Hart and Jeff will be the 4th and 5th child in the class. Imagine all that personal attention! They were very excited to see all the toys and activity areas in the room. Hart was so chatty–neither Alla nor I could believe it. We must have heard his entire vocabulary and repetoire of arranging sentences. Jeff was pretty enthusiastic, too. They played with the kitchen utensils, a water table (of course!), put on hats, looked at the puppets, slid down the slide (of course!), moved chairs around all the while talking and talking. It occurred to me that maybe we are anticipating their needs or limiting their play that they are not as talkative at home. Tomorrow is the first day. I plan to drive them, then meet the school bus. From then on, they’ll take the bus in the morning and at 11 a.m.

October 21, 1996
The boys are adorable getting on the bus with their little backpacks. Today Grandma and Grandpa took them to the J from the bus. When I picked them up at the bus, Hart asked “Where’s Grandma?” They are both talking more and more. They will listen to a bedtime story or two now, only since starting at Dawes School they are really tired by 8 p.m.

October 23, 1996
I am concerned about the boys’ behavior since they started school. I expected some transition and adjustment but I have witnessed what seems like a complete regression to the manic, hyperactive behavior of six, seven months ago. The boys have been very difficult at the J, so much so that the teachers have spoken to me twice (this is only the fifth day of school!). On two days the whole class had to be taken to the gym because Hart and Jeff were uncontrollable in the classroom.

They were completely obnoxious with me this evening. I had to chase them down (45 minutes!) and physically restrain them to get them into the kitchen for dinner. Jeff went into my office which he knows is off-limits, among other mischief. The boys usually watch a video while I prepare dinner but they can’t sit down anymore.

I am so delighted that have been accepted into the Pre-Primary Class that I am just taken aback by this unfortunate turn of events–especially since the new teacher has told me how well they are adjusting. I had to call Margie, again hysterical. It is like they are possessed by demons. Deja vĂș!

October 26, 1996
I hope we are coming out of this terrible transition phase. Today, Saturday, we had a nice leisurely day. Jeff had speech therapy in the morning. Hart and I played together. The weather is glorious so we played outside in the backyard. We went to Edwardo’s for dinner–I can’t believe the four of us devoured an extra large pizza but we did. Then we strolled around Old Orchard and the boys had fun playing on the topiary dragon.

October 27, 1996
We had fun today. I took them this morning to visit the Skokie Fire House and then the recycling area. The boys loved seeing the fire trucks and garbage truck squashing the yard waste. On the way back, Hart said, “Grandma car.” At first I thought I had misheard but then I realized it is the same blue Toyota that Grandma drives! This afternoon they played a version of “King of the Mountain.” They took turns standing on top of the little slide in the playhouse. The idea seemed to be to knock the other off before he said the magic words, “Apple Juice.” They did this endlessly, laughing so hysterically, they couldn’t say the words.

October 31, 1996
Well, Howard and I are both sick of the Apple Juice game which has been going on now for four days. Jeff has a bad cold and Hart has been rather crabby–maybe the time change and the sudden cold weather. I am nursing an upper respiratory infection myself. Happy to say that the boys seem to be settling in to the new schedule although they are so pooped after school that they fall asleep on the bus going home. So they are either subdued or cranky en route to the J.

Nov 1, 1996
I was eating some hummous and pita when Hart asked for some. OK, I said but I don’t know if you will like it. “I try it!,” Hart declared.

We saw an allergist today. He is fairly certain that allergies are related to the chronic ear infections, although he has not indentified which ones. We must have some blood work done and an analysis of the bacteria in the infected ears. Now that’s an idea–finding out what’s in all that gook in their ears.

Nov 3, 1996
We started gymnastics at the Park District today. What fun! It is a wonderful facility with a trampoline, balance beams, bars, things to crawl through and a huge pit filled with foam cubes. Lindy started today–she’ll come on Sunday mornings to help me. Thank God! The hour at the class is a real workout for the adults. Hart really enjoyed himself but the huge room and the concept of waiting his turn on the trampoline was hard on Jeff. We had a time-out and a few minor tantrums. Another parent asked if we had been in the class before since the boys were so familiar with the equipment?!?! (I think they are just fearless.)

This was supposed to be just about the boys, but tonight Howard said something very funny. I returned from an open house at Village Hall with two plastic firefighter hats. Hart was delighted with his and immediately yelled, “Jeff, come here!” It was so clear that Howard and I started cracking up. Though his laughter, Howard exclaimed, “He sounds just like a person!”

November 5, 1996 Election Day
Thank you, Donald Crews! The boys just adore his books. I have not found a single one that they don’t ask to be read over and over again. And this from two kids who have no interest in books whatsoever. I feel like writing him a fan letter. We were reading Bigmama’s tonight which is his remembrance of visiting his grandmother in the south. Out back is a chicken coop, which the boys took great delight in saying, “chicken poop.”

November 7, 1996
Just got back from Parents’ Night at the JCC. We did a craft together and sang. I was amazed that the boys sang the songs, seemed very comfortable there and well-behaved. Both boys were very chatty. Jeff said several complete sentences this evening. Hart’s vocabulary is really growing.

November 9, 1996
I keep meaning to write that Hart calls Howard “Hower” when he wants to get his attention. I keep suggesting “Daddy,” so this has mutated into Daddy Hower occasionally.

November 13, 1996
We have experienced a minor medical miracle. Over the weekend, the boys’ ear discharge was cultured and identified and new ear drops were prescribed. In less than 24 hours, their ears have almost completely cleared. As a result, they were talkative and charming today. I hope we have finally licked this thing. Also since both the boys and I are taking medication to treat giardia, the intenstinal parasite, I know I am feeling much better than I have in these past nine months. Jeffrey and I were at the allergist today. He was a real trooper.

November 14, 1996
This morning as they boys were getting on the bus, I bent down to kiss Jeff goodbye. Hart had gone ahead onto the bus. He turned and told the aid, “wait, kiss Mommy” and came back down.

November 17, 1996
Busy day! We were at gymnastics in the morning. Howard, Lindy and I and it was still a lot of work even though we outnumbered the boys.

I am constantly amazed at how much more they are talking. We played with Play-Doh and Hart told me he was rolling a pizza and Jeff said he was making cookies. I rolled little balls and he squashed them with his toy fork. Then he counted his cookies and put them away in the can.
Maybe the miracle cure was short-lived. Hart was draining gunk that looked like chocolate pudding out of his ears yesterday but today they look better and dryer.

November 19, 1996
Jeff is interested in My First Word Book. He likes the page of cars and car-related items. He pointed to the dashboard and said, “music” and to a picture of a car wash and said, “clean car.” Hart likes the book too but he wants to see the page of food, “See yogurt.”

November 23, 1996
Jeff and Howard went to speech therapy yesterday morning and Hart and I played. Both boys thinks it is hysterical when I gargle (sore throat), but Hart said, “My turn to gargle.” Hart and I went to Matthew's third birthday party. This was a little more quiet and low-key than Zach’s last week. Interesting bonding observation: M was busy so I took baby Tommy on my lap. Hart noticed and got very distressed. He came over and said, “Mommy, mommy.” Then he started pushing Tommy and saying, “Baby off.” I tried to reassure him that I was still his mommy and Tommy was just sitting there for a little bit but finally I had to give Tom to Nancy to hold and put Hart on my lap for a minute.

November 26, 1996
We had our first conference at Dawes School today. Ms. P seemed pleased with the progress the boys have made. They are very well-liked throughout the school and their language skills are clearly improving. She couldn’t tell us much more since they have been in her room barely six weeks.

I read Jeff a book with monkey characters that had a banana design on the endpapers. He carefully “picked” each one and pretended to eat it.

Hart still loves My First Word Book. On the “In the bathroom” page, pointed to a roll of toilet paper and said, “Tushie, clean.”

November 29, 1996
Two days ago we took the boys downtown to appear in court for the final re-adoption. They were pretty good considering all the hustle and bustle. First we met our attorney, then stayed in a waiting room, luckily stocked with lots of toys. Then we had to ride the elevator downstairs to appear before the sheriff so he could serve the boys with subpeonas. He touches the document to them while handing them a junior sheriff badge. Very clever. The badges were a hit. Then back to the waiting room with many other adoptive families. When we finally appeared before the judge the boys had had enough. While the judge was talking to us, the boys spied a bowl of suckers and then it was all over. We tried to quiet them down with the suckers–luckily the judge kept his remarks short. We walked over to Marshall Fields to see the Christmas windows. Jeff was very interested but Hart had seen enough. Then they fell asleep in the car.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and everything went smoothly. We were six adults and Hart and Jeff. They ate lots of sweet potatoes and cranberry, but weren’t interested in the stuffing or turkey. My pumpkin soup was a big hit with the boys but the adults thought it was weird.
This morning we played at Nathan's house. A good time, and the boys cried when they had to leave. I finally found a dresser for their room–that battered changing table has got to go.

December 1, 1996
What a weekend. I thought I was getting a cold on Thursday, Thanksgiving. It turned out to be a full-blown fever, so I have not been at my best. The boys seem to go a little beserk with any change in schedule–maybe they were cats in a previous life–so the five-day weekend has been hard. We were at Yuri and Elena’s today and the boys adore playing with Ralle who is their surrogate big sister. She loves to ply them with food and toys. The boys are on a tea-drinking kick. They saw me drink some this morning, then requested “tea, tea, tea.” They chanted for tea all the way home. Then over dinner, they drank tons of tea from Howard’s cup. We were at the restaurant for an hour while the boys guzzled hot tea.

December 6, 1996
Second night of Hanukah. The boys were excited last night since the JCC had done lots of Hanukah-related activities. We lit candles and gave them a gift from the box Granny sent. The doctor kit was a hit. Our new dresser came and the bedroom certainly looks better.

It was a hectic day at school–a different aide on the bus, a visit to the science lab where they got to see the bunny rabbit, Buttons, there and it was school picture day. Their teacher reported that it was a big day and they were over-excited. Alla gave the boys a craft project kit. This evening, Friday, we went out to dinner with Ted and Allison. We came back from dinner, lit candles, and gave them the little cars Granny sent. Huge success!

December 8, 1996
The day started out strangely. The boys are very interested in some of the library books I brought, School Bus and Big Mama’s being Jeff’s and Hart’s respectively, so I put the books on the shelf of the new dresser. When I got back, all the library books were nowhere to be seen and all the dresser drawers were pulled out. Those little demons had stuffed them all behind the pulled-out drawers. I was furious. I had to take all the drawers out and try to fish the books out. There are still a few missing, I think. However, after my outrage, the boys were sufficiently contrite and came up to me and hugged me.

We went to gymnastics without incident. The boys really have a great time running around and playing on the equipment. They have a hard time waiting their turn for the trampoline but today they waited patiently with some coaching instead of just dashing onto the trampoline yelling “my turn” and jumping around. Everyone comments how fearless and how agile they are.

They took a long nap and were pretty docile on awakening. We went out to California Pizza Kitchen where they were very well-behaved, except for a few reminders not to yell. Both boys announced they wanted to make poop and we took them, one by one, to the bathroom–and they did. I think there is some fascination with unfamiliar toilets right now. We stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s for Hanukah presents and the boys got new pajamas, socks and some chocolate gelt. Jeff got a plastic Robin (as in Batman and) and Hart got a troll. We still have to remind them every two seconds, “no breaking.”

Dec 13, 1996
Hanukah is over for another year. The boys got lots of great things, pajamas from Grandma and Grandpa, sound books from neighbor Jean, gelt from Uncle Jack and Aunt Mady, a Magna Doodle and Etch-a-Sketch from us, Playdough accessories from Sarai and Ivy. Tonight we were at the annual office Holiday party. The boys were very excited. Hart has been talking about “par-ee” all day. The boys ate lots of grapes and strawberries, were minimally interested in White Castle sliders, cookies and pizza, but enjoyed the array of juices at the bar. They greeted Santa and each got a big Teddy Bear and a bag of goodies. The highlight was the band. Hart and Jeff danced on the secretary’s desk and we could see the musicians turning to watch them boogie to hits of the 60s. Other treat was the plastic plates.

Dec 16, 1996
We had a nice weekend despite lousy weather. Hart saw a show on PBS about horses and wanted to see horses so we went over to Harms Woods to visit the stable. The boys were very well-behaved and not too raucous–we haven’t visited the horses since this summer. We were at gymnastics on Sunday and the boys really love it. They are so fearless and coordinated. It’s really amazing. They seem more comfortable there and can wait their turn and move from one apparatus to another. They are both communicating very well and their vocabulary is just growing and growing.

The other thing that constantly amazes us is their aptitude for music. They can both sing on pitch and clap on the beat. Hart heard the intro to Red River Valley and said, “More horsie song.” I don’t know how he made that connection.

Dec 20, 1996
The boys are still healthy. I spoke to the allergist yesterday and told him I think it’s a miracle. The boys are currently taking an antihistimine/decongestant and the coughing, wheezing and phlegmy cough are gone–and no ear infections! Yeah!

Hart is doing a mean rendition of Blue Suede Shoes (from a Kidsong tape from the Library). When I asked Jeff where all the books were, he answered, “in the chair.” They had stuffed them between the cushions.

The boys have really outgrown the cribs. Last night, I went up to check on them and Hart had climbed out and tucked himself into the big bed in their room!

Dec 28, 1996
We are back–from our first family vacation. We spent four days at Cocoa Beach, Florida and it was a great success. Our room looked right out onto the ocean, (which Hart kept confusing with the word “lotion.”) We spent the day we arrived walking along the beach. The water was a little cold in the late afternoon but Hart and Jeff still loved the feel of the sand and the waves breaking around their ankles, knees, hips. We went the Sea World the next morning. Jeff loved trying to touch the stingrays in the Stingray Langoon, but they were a little too fast for him. We got very close to the dolphins while they were being fed. If an activity doesn’t have a physical component, the boys are not interested, so the tidal pool and the sea turtle exhibit were a bust. We sat through half of the Shamu show. Hart was interested but Jeff didn’t want to sit. When Hart threw a paper cup into the killer whale pen, we got reprimanded and beat a hasty retreat. The boys did sit through the whole Chinese Acrobat Show and seemed to enjoy it.

We spent our second day at the Kennedy Space Center. The highlight was a space-themed playground. The boys are a little too young for most of the exhibits but Jeff made a structure in the Lego pit. We admired the rockets, then left. Did some swimming and beach play after their nap back at the hotel.

We took a walk on the beach and collected shells. The boys like to hurl them back into the ocean, so we only have one souvenir. They swam in the pool the rest of the morning. After their nap, we headed back to Sea World. They were pretty noisy in the car. Eeeeck!!! We saw the sharks and eels in a walk-through exhibit but it was more interesting for us. Jeff has his own plans–like running away at top speed at every opportune moment. Howard had the idea to take them to the water fantasy show. Programmed sprays of water, lit by changing lights, dance to music. The boys were fascinated. We went to Shamu’s Harbor for some playground play and that was the hit of the evening. There was a climber and an inflated room for jumping, a water maze and huge enclosed slides.

Dec 30, 1996
Well, it has been a strange transition to be home and I think the boys are feeling it acutely. We were over at the Gs yesterday and Jeff was especially destructive and Hart was especially whiney. Hart has a new ear infection, too! Drat. And diarrhea.

This morning, I could not find my earmuffs which the boys adore. (“Wan touch earmups!”) In my frustration, I said aloud, “I can’t find my earmuffs. Where are my earmuffs?” Whereupon Jeff said, “in the car.” Of course, I didn’t believe him but there they were on the passenger side.

In my confused and angry mental state yesterday, I posted a question about discipline to the internet adoption group and I have been besieged by responses. It seems like we need to look at sensory integration a little further, as well as the attachment issues. However, I do think there is an element of disruption also at work. On the way home from the JCC this evening, Hart said, “Wan go house.” I replied that we were going to our house. Hart said, “Wan go different house.” I think he means our beachfront hotel suite…

January 2, 1997
We have had a difficult transition back, that’s for sure, although I think the worst is over. I thought we were having some real backsliding, but Margie said, of course, it’s difficult. We went from this glorious holiday where we were with them 24 hours a day, doing delightful child-centered things and here we are back to cold reality of day care and babysitters and workaday life. That calmed me down. I was so depressed, I posted a question about discipline to the Internet adoption discussion group and was besieged by well-meaning responses, saying SENSORY INTEGRATION DISORDER. It made me feel like we somehow missed something very obvious. I trust Margie and if she says it’s a bummer being back, then that’s it.

However, we are going to do a few more Theraplay sessions with Jeff. I had been thinking about it for a while and Margie volunteered to do a couple for a videotape to present, so we start tomorrow.

JCC reports that both boys are talking, talking, talking. Yesterday Hart told me “I’ll be back in a minute.” It still surprises me when they actually sound like people. Jeff and I played a new game tonight. He would close his eyes and I would touch him very gently with the new beaver puppet. He loved it. Also, Roberta gave us the most popular toy–a plastic carton with eggs that open in half to show a colored shape. It’s a puzzle, shape and color sorter all rolled into one.

Jan 3, 1997
Martha and Aaron came over early this morning. Although Aaron is walking around now, he is still known to all of us in the neighborhood as Baby Aaron. Jeff and Hart were sitting on the steps putting their shoes on. Alla said to Jeff, “Look here’s Baby Aaron.” Jeff gestured to himself, “I baby Jeff.” Pointing to Hart, “Baby Hart.”

Jeff saw Margie today. It has been over four months since she has seen him and she was surprised and delighted in the change. He was very responsive and imitative during the session and unusually cooperative. She was also impressed at how much he is talking.

Jan 6, 1997
When I came back from hearing Margaret Atwood speak, Howard was beat. He had a hard evening and neither boy wanted to go to sleep. He had finally gotten Hart back to bed and Jeff was finally asleep. I went in to check on them–they were sleeping together in Jeff’s bed with a head at each end. As I bent down to have a close look, Hart pulled the blanket down from over his head and whispered, “I want to sleep in Jeff’s bed.”

Jan 9, 1997
I served the boys some prepackaged pirogies yesterday which Hart liked. When he asked for a second one, I put it on his plate without cutting it up. “Hat,” he exclaimed. “Hat.” And he wouldn’t let me cut it up.

Jan 15, 1997
The boys had an adventure earlier this week. When I picked them up at the J, I heard all about it. “Bus broken.” “Noise, boom.” “Go garage, fix it.” “Bus go up up up.” Ellen confirmed the story–the bus did indeed break down.

I was sitting on the couch with both boys watching TV. I reached over to put my arm around them and Jeff pushed me away, “No, hug Hart.”

Jan 18
The boys were pretty good today. We interviewed a new baby helper and broke in a new babysitter from the neighborhood. Hart’s new favorite book is Blue Sea, illustrated by our favorite, Donald Crews. Still reading School Bus to Jeff every day. I can recite the whole thing by heart, I’m sure. Howard’s trial is giving him grief and he is in a foul mood. We ate Thai food out, the first time in a while. The boys were fine for a little while, then got obnoxious.

Jan 20, 1997
Today is Martin Luther King Day so the boys had no school but spent the day at the JCC. It seems like one day ago they started to speak in complete inteligible sentences. I overheard a conversation between them yesterday. “Where’s blankie?” “Upstairs, I get blankie.” “OK, get blankie.” “Wait, bye bye, good night. I get blankie.” I picked up yesterday’s dinner at Burger King. Hart said, “Hamburger, fench fies, wanna smell ’em.” I had never even heard him say that word before–any of them actually. Hart has trouble with the letter “f,” still comes out “s,” but once you know that “Jess,” “sish” and all the other words are understood. He can’t say blends with “s,” so “splash” is “plash,” and “smell” is “mell.” I noticed that Jeff can say “f” very clearly.

Jan 21, 1997
So many people have commented on how well the boys are talking. It is not my imagination. Shira was over to help tonight–Howard has a late night–and the boys were really handful. Not bad, just rambunctious. However, it works well to put Jeff down about 15 minutes earlier, then take Hart up. While reading to Hart tonight, a book said something about answering “how old are you?” I asked Hart, “What do you say when people ask you, how old are you?” No response. I said, “Say, I’m three.” Hart replied surprised, “I’m three, too.” He can be strangely contrary. As I put him in bed, I sang, “Good night, sleep tight.” “No wanna sleep tight!”

Jan 25, 1997
We had a nice day. Mariana is helping us and it’s OK, although she doesn’t really have a knack with kids. I put a sheet over the dining room table and the boys enjoyed playing in their “house.” However, it is hard to play with Jeff. For example, if you throw a ball to Hart, he laughs and throws it back. If you throw a ball to Jeff, he runs away with it or throws it in the opposite direction. He is just doing his own thing–all the time.

January 30, 1997
One year! I can hardly believe it. What a long, strange trip… Hart is nursing an ear infection so I didn’t send him to school yesterday. Jeff looked very apprehensive about going alone for the first time, but he was fine. Hart stayed and played with Alla. I am also sick so I stayed in bed and tried not to infect anyone. In the afternoon, I took Jeff to the pediatric neurologist. Jeff was very chatty (answered correctly when asked his name) and no more active than usual, but the doctor says he is clearly ADHD. While, of course, I am disappointed to hear this (though we have suspected for long time), it came as a relief. The Dr. prescribed Adderall.

I talked to Margie on the phone–I knew Howard would not like this news. She also mentioned that she had talked to the school OT. Apparently, Hart is having some difficulty and may need some additional speech therapy as Jeff had this fall.

Feb 2, 1997
Well, gymnastics was a workout for me. Thank goodness for Shira, although she worked hard, too. The good news is: H’s case is settled. He won’t be away for another two months after all. Yesterday was Jeff’s first day on medication. Howard says he did not go to sleep until after 10 p.m. I can’t tell if it is slowing him down or not, but he was so droopy after gymnastics, he wanted to go right to bed. I urged him to eat some lunch but he wouldn’t, so off he went to bed. I don’t know if this is related to the medication, staying up late, all the exertion in gymnastics or a combination. Perhaps there is some adjustment time, as his body gets used to the medicine.

Feb 6, 1997
It has been a weird week. Jeff is not sleeping normally due to the medication and it is impossible to put Hart to bed if Jeff is still awake. I haven’t felt well all week, sort of tired and light-headed. It hardly seems to matter if Jeff is taking the medication or not–I haven’t told anyone to see if they notice and it has long worn off by the time I pick him up from the JCC. Then he seems to get a second wind and won’t sleep until around 10 p.m. When I arrived at the J today, they were both having a time-out for some dangerous doings. They were somewhat cooperative about leaving, at least, Hart was, and that is unusual in itself.

February 7, 1997
Hart decided to assist Jeff with a cookie.
J: Help me.
H: You want me “help me.” Say help me, please. Open mouth. (pushes whole cookie into Jeff’s mouth.) Like it, Jeff?

Alla reports that the boys had a great day. They played with Matthew and Andrew and thankfully (for us) took a short nap. They were both chattering away at dinner. Tonight Jeff made me sing the Twinkle song to blankie, too. As I was saying my usual, “good night, good night, I love you, Jeff. Good night,” I heard a little voice say, “I love you” back.

Feb 10, 1997
We went to a Greek restaurant last night and sadly, the boys were not on their best behavior. We hurried through the meal and tried to make a hasty getaway. (As a side note, why is that restaurants seem to always place us at a table front and center. I sometimes feel like I am dining there naked with every eye upon us.) On the way out, Hart noticed a statue of a Greek goddess holding an urn in one hand and bearing a cup. “She’s eating soup,” he declared.

Feb 14, 1997
Jeff and Hart were watching the video of Here Comes the Cat. At the point where two mice eat a tunnel into the cheese and touch noses instantly falling in love, the boys dropped to the floor, making smacking sounds and stood up touching noses.

Feb 16, 1997
We took the boys ice skating yesterday at the Park District’s new outdoor rink. What fun! Jeff seems to have a real knack for it and got the hang of it pretty quickly. His basic m.o. was to run, run, run, slide, fall down, laugh, cry for someone to help him up, get up, repeat. He didn’t want to leave. Hart had a good time too although I was holding his hand and it was difficult for him to keep his toes pointed the same direction. So he fell a lot. Gin babysat last night and reported that everything went well. I think we wore them out skating.

Gymnastics was fun today. Hart has been crabby and I wonder it that is related to the medication. Both boys fell asleep in the car after gymnastics.

Feb 19, 1997
Hart has still been crabby and he has been obnoxious at school, so we are not sure what to do. However, he is still as chatty and opiniated as ever. On the way home from the J recently, he wanted to hear the “whale song” on the Whale Watching tape. When I put the cassette in, it was on the Otter Song chorus. “No want lalala, want Whale Song,” Hart announced. He has been on a pudding kick. Last night we had pudding with grapes. “Grapes are slippery,” he told me. Jeff has been talking too. He saw a picture of an airplane in a book. “Jeff, Hart, Mommy, Daddy go airplane.”

Feb 23, 1997
Friday Hart started private speech therapy at NU. He was talkative which was good, but uncooperative. I hope it will help. He is still irritable and I am not sure if it related to the medication, a new ear infection…

Yesterday I spent the day in Itasca at a conference on post-institutionalized children. It was really informative and I left feeling good, having met several others in the same boat and learning about new scientific findings on the effects of institutionalization on young children. Margie gave her presentation. She had the last session and people were tired and there was a problem with the sound system so we didn’t get to see the video of Jeff in all its glory. I had the realization that all of us parents there are looking for the magic bullet that will make these children whole again but sadly, there is no magic bullet and it is unlikely that the kids will be “whole” after impoverished early development.

I met a wonderful women who specializes in adoptive families who has three children from Korea. Everyone else there has eastern European children. I met several of the people I “know” in cyberspace.

Feb 25, 1997
Hart threw a full-fledged tantrum this evening when he was told six or seven times to stop jumping from the trampoline to the couch or the trampoline would be put away. Bingo! Then a 10-minute raging tantrum. Then he was fine. Jeff has been very chatty and it is great to see. I can’t believe I have read School Bus to Jeff every single night since November to him but we can’t go a night without it. Other than the fact that the house is falling apart, everything is OK.

Feb 28, 1997
Both boys now have ear infections. Of course, on a Friday night when I can’t reach a doctor by phone. Took Hart to speech therapy today. He was extremely uncooperative. Although it’s exciting to hear him talking so much (pragmatics), he is bossy and controlling. “No wanna, stop, no, do this.” That poor graduate student is getting a workout. The supervisor, Sue, had a few tricks up her sleeve to subdue him and engage him.

Jeff is chattering away. He was building a stack of Legos and kept telling me it was a “sheet.” “A sheet?” I kept saying. Finally Jeff got so exasperated with me that he yelled, “ A CHAIR!!” Oh.

March 2, 1997
We tried to attend a church social yesterday that Lesley invited us to. Dinner and music, followed by dancing. We made it through dinner alright but then the ruckus became and the boys would not calm down and would not be quiet. I took Hart to the bathroom and I could hear Jeff screeching over the din of 300 people. We stayed as long as we could endure. Going home I thought how sad it was that the boys will have to miss out on so many wonderful experiences because they simply cannot behave. Even at the age of three, my parents took me to synagogue, concerts, dances, plays etc. I had to sit quietly…or else! Sometimes I feel we won’t be able to go out in public until the boys are 25.

Gymnastics today was fine. The boys had a good time and Shira and I had an OK time managing them. However, they were screaming and running through the house at 6:30 a.m. so I am very crabby today.

March 5, 1997
I spent the afternoon with the boys. Alla went to pick up her mother at the airport at 1:30 and since I had no other arrangement I took off work to relieve her. After the boys got up from their nap, we went to Deerfield to see Renee. Ethan is too old for the boys and Ryan wasn’t much interested in them either but they had a great time playing with the toys. Renee has a box of rhythm instruments which was a big hit–the harmonica was especially popular. Jeff played contentedly for a long time with the Tinkertoy. This was Hart’s first day on Ritalin and I can see that it is really going to help him.

March 8, 1997
It’s Saturday and an uneventful day. Jeff and Howard went to speech therapy this morning and Hart and I made brownies and played. We are still constantly astonished at their speech. Jeff used a pronoun, instead of his name yesterday. He said, “Me do…” Hart relayed a whole story (on and on) about how he got a kitty boo-boo at a party by the black kitty. That boo boo has almost completely healed but I was surprised that he could remember it in such detail and also that he would differentiate between Darren’s two cats by decribing the color.

I fear Shira may have had enough of us. The boys are quite a handful both at gymnastics and in the evenings when she comes. Although she gets $15 a week which I think is a tidy sum for a twelve-year-old, she may have other things to occupy her time. I don’t know what we will do.
Interesting bonding moment. We were at the park today and I looked up to see Jeff flying through the air, toppling off the swing. He landed in the sand and looked surprised but OK. I picked him up and set him down on the grass so he could catch his breath. “Want hug,” he said, draping himself over my lap.

March 12, 1997
Hart and Jeff became U.S. citizens today. I would have liked to dress them up and take some photos but it is the middle of the week and it was impractical. Howard went down to the courthouse and now they have a nice certificate with their immigration photo and a letter from President Clinton. Too bad we had to relinquish the green cards. I would have liked to at least have a photocopy of them. So now they are official and can’t be deported.

We have had some weird times lately. They tried flushing styrofoam plates down the toilet yesterday. On Sunday they were OK at gymnastics until Jeff decided to take off with the stepstools for the drinking fountains, run away with them and lock them in a classroom. I think the other parents must think I am a total incompetent.

I am trying to get a hold of the allergist since Jeff is coughing all night and also the neurologist because I am not sure if Hart’s prescription is working.

Anyway, the past three days have been very stressful and now Howard is leaving town for a few days!

March 13, 1997
Howard is in New York and last night was OK but tonight was trouble. Hart and Jeff were making trouble all afternoon at the JCC and the teachers looked like they were suffering from combat fatigue with them. They kept opening the doors to the gym and running away.

I am a little worried about Jeff and will call Margie. He is having difficulty making eye contact today and kept running off, away from me when I picked him up at the J. Then he was hurling the toy school bus around with such force that I thought he would break something and would not stop when I asked him several times.

Hart’s favorite video had to go back to the libray to his disappointment. He has asked several times for Yit-Tel Yam (as in Mary and her small sweet potato). I brought home another in the same series with Humpty Dumpty and when Hart saw the opening, he exclaimed, “Look the egg is talking.”

The neurologist wants Hart off the medication for a few days and we will resume at a higher dose. I am not looking forward to a weekend alone with him unmedicated, I am sorry to say.

March 18, 1997
Howard is back in New York. I thought the new medication regime was OK but the JCC teachers told me Hart had a hard time this afternoon.

Our teacher conference was Friday. Jeff got a glowing appraisal. Much less reckless behavior, more cooperative, more speech. Finally some good news. We know we had to adjust Hart’s meds. However, some of the contrariness and volatility is just his personality. I didn’t realize this–but the boys are eligible for summer school. There is a six-week session which is similar to the regular program but a little less intense. It’s like a maintenance diet so they kids don’t regress. So I am signing them up.

This evening Gretchen, Nathan and Clara came over. We ate felafel and the boys had a great time playing. Nathan kept referring to Shira as “the big kid.” Although he is several months younger than H&J, he is a head taller and just finally potty-trained. We all watched as Nathan peed and showed us his big boy boxer shorts. Then Hart and Jeff wanted to do it but they are too short to do that without the stepstool but since Nathan didn’t use it… well, they got treats anyway for effort. Moments later, they both pooped in the diapers. It was a fun evening with lots of rambunctious play and then Nathan cried when he had to go. I thought getting them to bed would be horrible but it was OK. Jeff was so engrossed in the waffle blocks, I couldn’t really read to him or sing, but I didn’t have the energy to try to pry them away.

March 23, 1997
Geez, what a horrible weekend. Howard is working to prepare for a trial so he worked both days. Last night was Purim and Howard called to say he would not make it. I was already at wits’ end, so I put on bathrobes (just like last year) and made up their faces (with cooperation, unlike last year) and took them to JRC for services. They were fine for a half hour–it was noisy and chaotic anyway. Then Hart started whining and we left, but not before they took off–alone–for a self-guided tour of the synagogue. It was a long and awful day.

Today would have been as bad but I had Gin here for a few hours so I could attend a birthday brunch. The difficulty is that at four o’clock the meds have worn off, the witching hour sets in and Walspurgnacht begins. I see this frightening return to impulsive behavior where no words can work and besides you can’t catch either of them long enough to listen anyway. Howard decided to grocery shop on the way home so the agony was prolonged.

I am almost 39 years old and I can’t stay on my feet for hours at a stretch but I must because they still cannot be let out of eyesight. No major mischief today but they did stick many of the fridge magnets on the back of the fridge (who knows what else has been thrown back there?), refused to eat dinner because Hobbes was such a distraction, threw water out of the bathtub and drenched me. All minor annoyances multiplied by two and done consistently for five hours. What is frightening to see that they are powerless over their impulses–something hops into their brains and is done in that same nanosecond.

March 24, 1997
I think we have a winner–Ms. P called to say she thought Hart was doing very well on the new medication, even based on one day’s observation. Hurray! The JCC had a difficult afternoon with both boys, although I understand they were well-behaved in storytime.

Both boys are very interested in the waffle blocks and play with them almost every day. Unfortunately, they are a hand-me-down and we only have 16. This evening Jeff told me, “Mommy, go shopping, buy more blocks.” Gin reported that he told her too and expected her to run right out and buy them. I will keep my eyes open for more, though.

Hart’s current favorite book is You’re a Genius, Blackboard Bear. He adores this book and it has a fairly complicated and imaginative plot unlike the simple books I usually choose. An imaginary bear comes off the blackboard to help a boy build a spaceship to the moon. The boys decides not to go and the bear goes alone and brings back a star. It is clear that Hart understands the story. He pointed out the bear brought a “present” back. Poor Hart, he is very interested in Hobbes. Sadly, his affections are unreturned. This evening he desperately wanted Hobbes to come and hear the story. “Kitty-cat, c’mere c’mere, come sit in Hart’s yap (lap).”

March 27, 1997
Howard has returned from traveling. Actually, it has been fine being alone with the boys. I have had Gin and Shira helping and they have been much better and more cooperative. Jeff has been so keen on the Little Tikes Waffle blocks that I went out a bought a complete set. Both boys were very excited and played and played. I had to pry Jeff away for dinner yesterday and again today for breakfast.

Howard called yesterday at 8 p.m. just as I was getting the boys into pj's.When the phone rang, Hart (to my surprise) rushed to pick it up and said, “Hello.” I grabbed the phone out of his hand since I didn’t know who it was. When I realized it was Daddy, Hart insisted on talking. “Get present, Daddy!”

March 28, 1997
Howard showed the boys a photo in today’s paper about a protest in Red Square. “Look, here’s picture of Russia. You were in Russia, you were in Russia when you were babies. Do you remember?” Howard reports that both boys immediately exclaimed, “wanna go see babies in Russia.” Well, so much for that…

March 30, 1997
What an awful weekend. H and I saw “Sunset Boulevard” which was a treat for me–getting out, eating adult food and seeing a play. However, Saturday was hell. The boys were OK in the morning but at about 4 p.m. all hell broke loose and escalated from there. Hart was a big crab from 3:30 p.m. on and the whining and disobedience just started getting to me. For the first time ever, I sent him to his room, twice in one day. The first time was because I couldn’t stand the whining/crying anymore. He had been at it for about a half hour so I told him he should go to his room until he felt better. Then Jeff started acting up so he could be sent with Hart. Hart came down, had another tantrum, was sent back up, only he kept appearing halfway down the stairs. It was a nightmare. Finally, there was some mischief, some meddling with the VCR and I spanked both. I had thought of going to a movie just to get out of the house but I was too exhausted. So I went to bed myself at 9 p.m.

I woke up today feeling like my entire spine had been fused together. The boys got a head start on mischief–I am still picking the little pieces that they stuck into the baseboard heaters on Friday night. Someone dismantled the humidifier in my room Jeff reported Hart threw a pillow down the chute (I could find no evidence of this) but it appears he tried to and broke a lamp instead. Ted and Allison came over–Ted thinks I am not disciplining enough! I did explain that the boys were more obnoxious since there were guests and if I disciplined for every infraction, that’s all I would do all day. In fact, it is all I do all day! After getting Jeff down, Hart and I heard a crash and a “ding,” Jeff had gone into our room to help himself to some toys.

March 31, 1997
Well, what can I say? The dawn has broken. I had a meeting with Ms. P and the boys’ OT. Ms. P says Jeff is the star of the class, is doing wonderfully. They had a good morning at school, were chattering away and when I went to pick them up at the J, they were cooperative. The teachers exclaimed over how well-behaved they were in library for storytime today. What do you know?
When we got home, Jeff took went to the toilet completely by himself TWICE. He pulled down his pants, took off his diaper and pooped. I was incredulous. He says he does want to wear “big boy pants.” If he’s willing, I am willing.

He also was patting himself on the bottom and when I finally made out what he was saying, it was “Spank tushie, waaaa, spank tushie.” I guess that has been much on all our minds lately. I said, “Oh no I don’t want to spank tushie. You are such a good boy. I don’t like to spank tushie. It hurts my hand.” Well, it hurts more than that for me, actually. How could these two demons morph into such sweetie-pies in 24 hours?

Howard called and both boys jabbered away on the phone to him. Hart kept yelling, “Gimme present.” Jeff was chattering away on the other extension.

April 4, 1997
Last night over dinner I was again drilling the boys on their names. We are working on last names and ages. Then Hobbes wandered into the kitchen, so I asked “who is that?” Jeff said, “Hobbes” and Hart said, “Kitty-cat S” at the exact same time.

Hart had a great speech session today. He was cooperative and very vocal. He used new words, made long utterances. My mouth was hanging open the whole time in disbelief. I have felt that the boys have made huge progress just in the past few weeks, but this demonstrated it so dramatically.

April 9, 1997
Howard has been gone since Saturday and it is really getting to me. The boys have been OK. The toilet-training has been all right with some peepee accidents and an occasional poop accident but I will be glad to have Howard back. Putting them to bed alone is a major issue. I can barely wrangle both at the same time, then I have to put Hart in our bed because there is no way they can settle down if they are both awake and in the room together. I have been holding up fairly well over the past few weeks that Howard has been in and out but I have them during the evenings, unmedicated, when the impulsiveness and distractability are highest. They could not possibly listen to a story or song last night and tonight they couldn’t even watch a video. One would start jumping around doing something and egg the other one on. I’ll have to talk to Margie, since I think I spend 95% of my time with them issuing reprimands. However, what’s the other choice? Allow them to rampage through the house, terrorize Hobbes, fling food all over, break anything they lay their hands on, make as much noise as they can…

April 15, 1997
I think we are coming out of a bad patch with Hart, finally. He has been whiny, crabby and uncooperative for a few weeks, but today when I picked them up at the J, both boys were chatty, cheerful and cooperative.

Last Saturday we had a babysitting debacle and I just couldn’t bear to write. We returned home from the theatre and it looked like the Manson family had paid a visit. The kitchen floor was covered in food, there was ketchup everywhere, every single toy in the house was strewn around and there were piles of dried poop all over. From what I gather, Hart just got out of control and then there was no turning back. So much for my birthday treat out.

Rundown of current favorites: Jeff still adores the waffle blocks and plays with them every day. Both boys love the gray stuffed dog named Charlotte, after their school friend. Jeff is big into the Rosemary Wells Max books, especially Max’ Breakfast. Hart loves a book called My Cats Nick and Nora. We have read that every night for a week or so. Barney, Sports Tales ’n Tunes and anything about vehicles are the favored videotapes.

Jeff is just blossoming. He is chatty and affectionate. He is showing a sweet nature although he is still sometimes too rough and can’t keep his hands to himself. New game is taking things off Hart’s plate and putting other things back on. If Hart doesn’t eat fast enough for Jeff (hard to do), Jeff takes his plate away and announces, “Jeff eat Hart’s food.” Jeff has been in big boy underpants for two weeks. We have at least one pee pee accident a day, but the poop thing is pretty much mastered. Way to go!

April 21, 1997
First night of Passover. It was a strange and difficult day. Both boys have had phlegmy coughs for a few days so I called the allergist and ENT. When I picked them up from daycare, Jeff’s eyes were running and bloodshot and his face was very puffy and allergic-looking. It doesn’t look like an ear infection though. Jeff pointed to his ears and said, “Need medicine.” We got home at 3 p.m. and Hart starting crying and screaming and did not let up until 4:30 p.m. I had no idea what was wrong other than that he wasn’t feeling well. Maybe he was over-excited about Passover, visiting Grandma and Grandpa or just having a bad day. At dinner, both boys pooped in unison, Jeff in his “big boy” pants, which was a terrific mess. I wonder if this is some control thing or not. Funny, Jeff never poops in his pants unless he is at home. Tomorrow Mom comes and I cook for ten people. Can’t imagine why I wanted to do that this year. I am tired, tired, tired.

April 28, 1997
What a long week. The crying turned out to be due to conjunctivitis (pink eye) which included a major ear infection and required the boys to stay home from school one day. It was stressful enough with Mom visiting. We had a nice although uneventful time at the seder. The boys ran wild even though I had hired a sitter to watch them during the seder.

Hart had a very bad time in speech therapy. He lay on the floor and screamed the whole time. It was awful. He was a little better with Margie in Theraplay but still not very cooperative. It was probably not a good week for a visit from Granny and I wasn’t at my best either. I felt pulled in all directions.

However, all of a sudden the boys look bigger. Alla taught them to pedal their bikes and now they can ride all around the neighborhood. It seems like two weeks ago they couldn’t quite get the hang of it at all, occasionally they could go backwards for a half turn. Now they are pedaling away and steering without any problem.

Alla said she may go back to Poland during the summer. I shudder to think about having to make new arrangments and the difficulty of not having her.

May 4, 1997
The boys are healthy again but I have been very sick. Yesterday we went to the Kohl Museum and I really tore up my throat–I left early from work on Friday having laryngitis, among other things. I still sound husky but I have a new Rx and feel better. Hart had a better time in speech therapy and Margie is doing some behavior modification with him in Theraplay. He is still bossy and volatile. He has about three tantrums a day, usually over little things, like if he doesn’t get exactly what he wants right away.

The boys had a great time in gymnastics today. The teacher brought out a rope just for them. I was amazed that they could climb it all the way to the top with just a little assistance. What upper body strength. These awesome two little athletes.

May 10
Day before Mother’s Day. The boys made recipe holders and plants for me at the J and decorated bags with paint and a handprint flower to hold paper flowers they made at school. They were so proud of these that I wasn’t allowed to open them myself. Before I knew what was in the bag, Hart told me that “Hart made two flowers, Jeff made two flowers, everybody made two flowers.” He also warned me, “Say kitty-cat, don’t touch flowers.” I don’t think Hobbes poses any threat but I agreed to do it. Many people who know us are surprised at the sudden burst in language. Now both boys are speaking in longer sentences, four, five and six words and they are making longer utterances. It is now possible to follow a story or have them relate an experience that happened. They also understand questions and will usually answer accurately.

I attended Shira’s Bat Mitzvah today. To my disappointment, Howard had a work emergency and I had to get Michelle (on very short notice to babysit), which meant I was very anxious throughout the service and couldn’t stay long. I left just about the time of Shira’s haftarah. The boys have really missed her this week.

May 12
The cover of the Sunday Tribune magazine was about towing in Chicago. Jeff noticed the cover picture immediately and exclaimed, “Tow truck.” I showed him the inside photos which he found fascinating. He told me a whole story to go with the pictures, “Black car go back, back, back, up on two truck. Police car.” It was very elaborate. On the facing page of the story was a car advertisement. “Look, mommy, car is fixed!”

I hurried the boys out of the J today, because Gin wanted to take them to the playground so she could watch her niece play softball. I urged the boys to hurry, saying Gin was taking them in her car to the park. In the car, on the way home, Jeff said, “Gin is nice.”

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