January 31, 2008

The Back Story III

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 four years with us.

May 2, 1998
A nightmare day! It was like deja vu! Our morning went OK with Hart and Howard going off to a session with Margie. Jeff and I picked up Joan for a rummage sale (it was good, got a few nice brand-name shirts and two toy trucks) and to pick out a new toilet at Home Depot to replace our upstairs one.

Hart would not take a nap and was very unruly in the afternoon. We had planned to take them for haircuts but Howard was pooped since we were out late seeing Titanic, and took a nap. The boys were very difficult just playing in the backyard. They put the cars in the bushes even though I told them not to several times since it is so muddy. Jeff again trampled our irises by parking his ride-in car on them, again after numerous admonitions. Finally, I woke up Howard and we set off, thinking we’d stop at Penny Park since the salon was fairly busy. Hart would not keep his hands to himself in the car. At the park, Jeff kept wandering off and finally had to have a time-out. Then Hart pooped in his pants and we had to go all the way back home to change. By the time we got to the salon, they weren’t taking any more customers so that was that.

Restaurant dinner was out of the question, so we stopped for sandwiches at a snack bar place. The boys were obnoxious until the food came and I was really wanted to just take it to go but Howard insisted on staying. They calmed down a bit to eat, then were unpleasant in the car and when we got home.

Both boys do this annoying thing–if you hold their hand walking, they walk like drunken sailors which drives me wild, especially if we are crossing the street. I now call this the “Gumby walk.” If Jeff wasn’t doing the Gumby Walk, he was running a block ahead and refusing to stop when called.

May 9, 1998
Night before Mother’s Day. The boys’ langugage has improved so that we hear new words and phrases and funny constructions. Jeff’s favorite phrase of the moment is “goofing around.” Hart and I were watching a video showing how cookies are commercially made. While rows of cookies were passing on the conveyor belt, Hart said, “I like cookies.” I said, “Yes, I like cookies, too.” Hart’s reply–”Break the window and get ’em.”

I found out yesterday that the bottle of Prozac was mislabeled and we have not been giving an adequate dose to either boy. Makes sense that the teachers report no change in Jeff, but I wonder why Hart had such a dramatic response. I hope now that things are straightened out we will see some improvement. Both boys, but particularly Jeff, are very obsessive and Prozac should help that.

May 10
Jeff had a very difficult time in gymnastics today. I don’t know what’s with him these days. Well, his latest passion is dandelions and the sticker festish persists.

Hart drew a recognizable cat today.

The boys must have been tired from gymnastics. They went to sleep for a one-hour nap very smoothly. When they got up, I took them to the zoo. I would have liked to find someone to come with us, but it went fine. I announced before we left that I had to have “good listening, and no running.” That seemed to be fine. I should have mentioned “no whining.” I guess that’s par for the course with 4-year-olds. They enjoyed the zoo but it was a duet of “Mommy, I want that, Mommy, I want go there, Mommy, I need this.” We saw the gorillas–we have been reading a book by Anthony Browne called Gorilla. We fed the geese, saw the camels and spent a few minutes at the Farm in the Zoo. There was a new litter of piglets which interested the boys. Both boys like the book Put Me in the Zoo, which is similar in style to Dr. Seuss. On the way home heading west, Jeff said, “The sun is too shiny for me.”

May 20
Beautiful warm weather. Yesterday was like summer–in the 90s. Hart can now write “H.” He is very interested in drawing and colors many pictures before bed almost every night. Last night he drew a boy, complete with face, hair and limbs; a car; a baby mouse and a Mommy mouse. Jeff is more technically-inclined. He likes using the stencils or having me guide his hand to draw something.

We had a terrible evening two nights ago. Jeff must have woken up around 1 am and gotten Hart up. Neither could go back to sleep. The party went on till 4:30 am. We tried separating them, threatening them, punishing them, talking to them, everything, but once they wake up, they can’t go back to sleep. Needless to say, H and I were wrecks the next day. Last night, it looked like more of the same, but we brought Jeff downstairs after about three warnings and Hart went right to sleep, then we took Jeff back upstairs.

May 23
Both boys have been pretty difficult lately, although they are quite pleasant when they aren’t together. The new thing is to yell, “It’s a bumpy road,” endlessly. We don’t know where they got that, but it has worn thin after about two weeks of chanting this endlessly. I bought $50 of filters for their air cleaner, got the thing apart and now can’t put it back together.

News from the JCC: Someone donated a whole batch of Barbie dolls to the boys’ classroom. Apparently they were quite a hit and Hart didn’t want to leave the J on Thursday, saying, “I want to play with the ladies.”

I found a toy at a garage sale that I thought the boys would enjoy. I had a similar set as a kid. It’s a set of straws and connectors to build with.

June 2
We have had some excitement. We went to the pool twice over the weekend and the boys were much calmer and easier than last year. Hart found a boy his age and they played together for most of the time. Saturday evening we went to Old Orchard for dinner and played briefly at the Great Train Store with the trains. The weather was so nice that we decided to stay a while longer and let the boys play on the dragon. I started talking to another parent of twin boys, while Howard romped around with ours. In one second, Jeff slid under and into the lattice-work pillar, announcing, “this is my house.” While we were maneuvering him down, Hart scrambled into a different pillar and used the lattice work as a ladder to get to the top, where there is a ledge just below the roof. We coaxed and cajoled, to no avail. The other parents and kids began to gather.

Finally I left Howard with Hart and Jeff and went to find a security guard. In a minute or two, there were about five security guard, two maintenance guys and a crowd of a hundred gathered. I could see Hart through the lattice–he didn’t seem hurt or frightened, maybe just bewildered by all the fuss. Roberta from the JCC happened along, and stayed to help give me moral support. Jeff was getting quite distressed and I had to ask Howard to take him away. After getting a longer ladder, the guys climbed up, pried off the cap of the pillar and lifted Hart out. A cheer went up from the, by now huge, crowd. He was dirty but otherwise OK. We beat it out of there fast. Hart was mad that we refused to give him the ice cream Howard promised if he climbed down…

Yesterday I was home early since it was Shavuot and there was no daycare. Alla was here for part of the afternoon, then we went to the park. There was a bigger boy being coached by his dad to try the fireman’s pole. Jeff ran over and announced, “I know how to do it,” and proceeded to demonstrate.

June 10
These past two weeks have been a continuous nightmare. The mischief has been so unrelenting that we can barely risk letting the boys be in the same room together. Last Thursday, they took their clothes off on the bus. When I came to pick them up from the J, they broke free, slid through the slats of a chained gate and wouldn’t come out of the bushes there until we formed a human chain and hauled them out.

On Friday, I got a call from school that Jeff drank another boy’s urine. He was holding a cup after snack time and followed C into the bathroom. As Ms. P put it, “He saw the hose with the apple juice…” The whole classroom was in an uproar. C was appalled, “Jeff drank my pee. Jeff drank my pee.” I conferred with Margie and Dr. H immediately and Jeff’s medication was changed. Ms. P says since, “He has been no angel, but has been more manageable.” Nowhere to go but up.

However, on Sunday the boys threw stuffed animals out of the moving car on Skokie Blvd. Today Hart managed to get over our back fence into the neighbor’s yard. Luckily, the dog wasn’t out. I had to go completely around the block to find him and, because of the dog, all their gates are chained shut. I am not sure about Jeff’s part in this escapade but it did result in a huge tear in a brand new pair of pants. I suspect Jeff tried the stunt first and got caught on the top of the fence or that he boosted Hart over.

June 12
The nightmare continues. Jeff catapulted over the R’s fence and made it all the way over to Crawford Avenue while the entire neighborhood searched frantically for him. After ten minutes I called the police, but finally B found him. I think we have to lock the boys in their room until they are twenty. Hart, of course, wanted to take off and help look so some adults had to stay behind and restrain him.

June 16
We are back from four days in Galveston Island, Texas. It was a nice trip, although the heat was so oppressive, it was impossible to do anything outdoors, except swim. It was close to 100˚ every day, with 100% humidity. Still the pool and beaches were nice. The hit of the trip was the built-in bunk beds in the room. The boys had to take turns sleeping on the top one. The boys saw their first movie in a theatre–at Moody Gardens IMAX theatre. You wear special 3-D glasses. Hart was sitting with me and was taken with the 3-D illusion. He kept trying to touch the images and I kept explaining that it was magic through the glasses that made it look like you could touch things. When the little girl blew bubbles, he kept reaching out to pop them. At one point, a space ship floated “towards” us and Hart said, “It’s coming by US!”

The railroad museum was nice, despite the heat. The boys liked the model railroad which had plexi tubes for children to stand under so that the trains were at eye level. We rode the ferry and the trolley (HOT!) around downtown. We ate at one fancy restaurant and the boys comported themselves somewhat appropriately. We ate lots of great cheap Mexican food–Jeff gorged himself on tortilla chips. Today we ate at a Vietnamese buffet for lunch. We lost Jeff’s beloved toy stingray somewhere in Texas, but luckily the ray has a brother who has been living in my closet for a while.

July 1
I returned from four days in Washington DC (ALA Conference) fearing the worst. Howard reported that on Thursday, Hart ran away from Grandpa again en route to the J and was in disgrace.

Howard and I had discussed starting the new Rx (Risperdal) on my return but I encouraged him to go ahead with it. I could tell when my taxi pulled up that things had changed for the better. Howard said the weekend went fine and on Monday, both the teachers at Dawes and JCC were incredulous at the remarkable change. The boys are much more cooperative, much more communicative and in general, not as demonic as they have been for the past miserable month.

However, this evening I took them to the pool and they were fine, delightful until we were getting ready to leave. Then they took off through the men’s changing room and made it out and all the way across the park to the playground (without shoes). I realized that they were probably long gone by the time I got one of the male lifeguards to look in the men’s room. They were up on the top of the slide when I dashed over. I called once loudly, causing everyone is the park to turn, except, of course, Hart or Jeff. About a half dozen teenagers scrambled up the slide when I announced I’d give a dollar to the first person who caught both boys. I am not a single dollar lighter as not one kid could catch them, but they did cause the boys to take off down the slide where I could grab them at ground level.

On a more promising note, I signed the boys up for summer reading club at the Library and the incentive of reading to earn little prizes seems to work. Shira and I took them last night and let them choose their own books. I read Jeff No Ducks in Our Bathtub and he really liked it. I read Hart about three books. I think they are being contrite since they misbehaved at the pool. We got the tape Balto again from the Library and they really love it.

July 7
Things have really gone from bad to worse. The running away is epidemic. I was called from school yesterday in the morning. Some leaves got caught in the bus and the hilarity of this pushed the boys over the edge and they couldn’t settle down to participate at all. Then I got a call from the J that Jeff had run away from Grandpa just as the car door was opened. He hid again in the front courtyard. Hart, to his credit, tried to lure Jeff out, but without success.

Unfortunately, Hart’s new thing is cutting up his clothes with scissors. He ruined yet another t-shirt yesterday.

Today Alla was completely distraught when I came home. Both boys had run away from the R’s yard (I don’t think this behavior is winning any friends with our neighbors, by the way.) Little Tommy immediately directed Alla and Agathe in their direction. I guess they made it four houses away by hurtling fences–because of the rain, it’s very wet out. Hart lost a shoe and sock in flight. (Howard took him back there to find it, thankfully.) I have spoken to Margie about a behaviorist, possibly a child psychiatrist, because this can’t go on.

July 8
What’s going on? Today, the boys were angels. I called the JCC to be sure someone would meet Grandpa and I cautioned the staff to expect the worst. The boys had a great afternoon and were chatty and charming when I went to pick them up.

We started a new sitter to replace Shira who leaves for Philadelphia at the end of the month. Eva seems fine and quite self-possessed and mature for an 11-year-old. I took the boys to the Library as a treat to report on their books. They got rubber frog finger puppets for this visit. When we got home, they took their bath and got popsicles as an additional reward. I hope they have figured out that playing with a nice Mommy, going on outings and getting sugary treats from Daddy sure beats spending the evening in “time out,” as they have done for the past two evenings.

July 14
I guess we are in a winning streak. The weekend went well and the boys have been talkative and well-behaved. Nathan came over last night and the guys played well together and the parting went smoothly. When Alla arrived this morning, Jeff said, “Hi, Alla, How you doing?”

Hart is still into drawing. He made some American flags this evening, completely drawn from memory and a nifty drawing, “Boy in Bathtub.” Jeff drew one picture and lost interest. Both boys are using the mat which has the town and roads. They arrange their cars over it and actually play with it as the manufacturer intended. Great progress.

July 17
Beate called from the JCC to tell me how wonderfully the boys are doing. I hope this keeps up. They are a joy.

Still drilling them on name, address and phone numbers. I occasionally ask, “What’ s Mommy’s other name?” hoping they will reply, “Lydia,” if anyone ever asks. They other day when I asked, “What’s Mommy’s other name?” Hart piped up, “Mommy S--!”

Jeff has developed some odd fears, although he can articulate them. Every evening he says his tree (the one outside his window) is “scary.” Howard thinks he saw a videotape of a scary tree. I am not sure if it’s the big branch jutting out that scares him…he says that’s the scary part… or that he is afraid it will break. I talked to him about how strong and old the tree is.

July 18, 1998
We spent the morning at Great America for the annual office outing. The boys liked it–Howard wanted to take them on the rides HE likes and pooh-poohed the kiddie rides. However, the boys liked the little boats, the helicopters etc in Looney Toon Land. Howard did take them on two flume rides. We rode the little rollercoaster which still terrified me. Hart said, “I don’t like this.” I had my eyes closed the whole time. We had lunch there and then the boys got difficult. There was a long time for the Looney Toon train which was a tough wait for them. It was definitely time to go. Later the boys played in the wading pool and we ate a light dinner at home.

July 23
Yesterday Hart ate about a pound of broccoli for dinner. Today he was disappointed that we were having peas but announced, “I like green!” I think both boys are natural vegetarians. Alla gives them lots of salad and I don’t think they have met a veggie they don’t like. Shira has one more week with us. However, yesterday when I announced that Eva was coming, Jeff yelled, “I love Eva. I love her” so I guess we have found a happy replacement. Tomorrow is the last day of summer school and the last day in the same classroom where they have been for two years. We’ll miss Dawn, our aide and the regular bus driver. In fall, it will be a whole new cast.

July 28
I took Hart with me to a Festival of Cultures dinner and he was delightful, although overly chatty. He took a shine to Rosa and tried to talk to her the whole evening.

The bad news is: it looks like Alla may leave us. I think Jeff’s running away really did it. She couched it in terms of getting a new job, not having time for school, but when pressed, admitted that the boys have been too difficult. Early this summer was hell, without a doubt. Howard and I felt the stress of it. I hope to speak to her and convince her to change her mind but it does not look too hopeful.

July 30
Tonight was Shira’s last night with us. She brought a toy Wallace and a toy Gromit for the boys’ birthday. We got a big laugh because I had gotten her the same toy Gromit as a going-away present. We encouraged them to say good-bye to Shira since she is moving away. To that Hart replied, “Are you taking your boy with you?” meaning Shira’s younger brother Nadav. Hart and Jeff love Nadav because he is a big kid of seven, but recently they reduced Nadav to tears by being too loud and overwhelming. When Barbara asked Nadav what was wrong, he said, “They’re going to kill me!”

August 4
The boys had their annual checkup today. They are both 40 inches tall. Hart weighs 40 lbs and Jeff weighs 40.5 lbs. Every time we go there I swear I will change pediatricians. No chit chat, no interaction with the boys, no accommodation for ADHD. I always feel like a wreck after going there and the boys behaved well enough. Hart observed that he is not a baby anymore. I said, “Yes, you are a big boy.” And he said, “I will be a man?”

We are starting to talk about school which starts in a few weeks. It looks like the boys will be separated which necessitates going to different schools. When I mentioned, “one school for Hart, one school for Jeff,” Jeff started weeping, saying, “I lose my Hart!”

August 14
We survived the birthday party last Sunday. We had ten kids, eight guests. Rian and Dale, Ellie and Matthew, Gal and Roman from the JCC, Nathan and Aaron. It was pretty much controlled bedlam. The McDonald’s has a cute party room and an outdoor playground. Most of the parents stayed and Ted and Allison came. It ran a little longer than the hour and forty-five minutes I’d planned on but all in all, everything went OK.

Alla is indeed leaving us after all this time. However, Scott, Jeff’s gymnastics aide, is available for after-school care. We have some reservations since he is young, only high school age, but we will give this a try. I am relieved to find someone who will care for the boys’ here in our house.

August 21
Today was the last day at the JCC. It is the last day of daycare. The other kids will have a week off and then move into a new room. But we are done for good. Frankly, they are probably happy to see the back of us. Hart and Jeff had a tough year there. There was lots of hugging and Julie told me that Roman was very sad to see the boys go. The three have been a wild troika all this year. Jeff paused at the door and yelled, “Goodbye, goodbye everybody.”

We saw Masumi, Rei and Kei last night. We went to Chuck E Cheese because Kei was so keen to go but I really should have learned my lesson by now. It’s too hard to keep an eye on them and the toys and activities don’t keep them out of mischief. The boys got fixated on the ribbons on some kid’s birthday presents and were very obnoxious and kept disrupting the party. In the car, they reduced Kei to tears because they wouldn’t keep their hands off him.

I spoke to Dr. H today about my concerns: impulsivity, obliviousness to social cues, among other things. I am totally weirded out by the fact that they have NOW developed their own language that they prefer to use. We hope the separation at school will help. Dr. H is going to recommend someone to do some behavior therapy with them.

Aug 27
We saw Mom off to the airport after a four-day visit. The boys loved having her here. We took them to the pool and around the neighborhood. I have this week off as the JCC is closed, so it was nice having Mom to assist. The boys love Granny.

Today was Alla’s last day. We took the boys to Village Hall for innoculations and then they spent the rest of the day with her while I did errands. At the end of the day, Marthe, Agathe and some of the other neighbor parents, Jodi, Rebecca and Gregg came by to wish her well.

Scott was here last night for an orientation, of sorts. It looks like it will work out well. The boys were very hyper and wild, additionally excited about Scott’s presence. It seems now that the medication turns off promptly at 6:30 and then all hell breaks loose. It may be a difficult transition to the new school schedule, new sitter etc.

Aug 31
Today was the first day of school. We saw the boys off onto their respective buses, which come one half hour apart, and Howard used his new camcorder to document the occasion. I think we were more excited that they were. After all, they are used to riding the school bus. Jeff came home utterly exhausted but reported that he had played outside and painted.

Hart fell asleep on the bus. Tomorrow is the first full day with lunchboxes and Scott meeting them. Both teachers reported that the boys had good days. I think the hassle of separating them paid off.

Sept 4
We are settling in to the new school routine. I can see that it is working out fine. We have had several reports from Hart’s teacher, “he loved the smelly markers,” “he enjoyed the visit to the science lab,” but no word from Jeff’s teacher. Now we have a four-day weekend with Labor Day and a day off for Teacher In-Service Day. Scott seems to be working out well. The boys love him and he has lots of energy and a laid-back attitude that leaves him unstressed at the end of the day. Jeff comes home early and usually takes a nap. Hart sleeps on the bus since he is the last dropoff. Then the wild rumpus begins.

The boys have some new favorite books, Curious George, and a book about two cats, Max and Minnie. I have been experimenting with some different videos. Jeff still loves the trucks and construction tapes. They have outgrown Barney and Kidsongs. We have two new stuffed toy cats, Zach, which Hart named and Tippy, which I named, since I didn’t like Kitty or Catty or another Zach which were the names the boys suggested.

Sept 6
Yesterday was Saturday and the boys were OK until the evening. Howard and I have been taking them to walk along the lake near NU’s campus. They like to see the boat house and the students surfing and boating. However, they are so reckless and inattentive to the bikers, skaters and water’s edge that it can be absolutely nerve-wracking.

It is unseasonably hot now. Yesterday we went to the pool and the boys latched on to this hapless baby who was at first delighted with their attention and then increasingly distressed when they wouldn’t lay off. Hart kissed her and shared his shovel with her. Then he commandeered Jeff’s shovel for her, too. They followed her all over for a long time. Jeff started splashing her and waving his leaves in her face. It seems they just get stuck on an idea or action and nothing can pry them loose.

We had a bit of a scene today. I was working upstairs when I heard a thump in the basement. I asked Howard to have a look. When I came downstairs several minutes later, Howard was still watching TV. Rushing down to the basement, I found my brand-new Scrabble set destroyed, letters scattered everywhere and the game board ripped to shreds. They have apparently outwitted the childproof locks on the cabinet and help themselves whenever our backs our turned. I was furious at all three of them. I spent the evening inventorying the letters and searching for missing one. The game board is a dead loss.

Sept 13
Busy weekend. We were at gymnastics this morning. We had only Scott as an aide so he took Hart and Jeff managed by himself with only his teacher’s help. We are going to a birthday party for Sammy and then I am hosting book club here. What was I thinking?

I hope to hear from Dr. H tomorrow. At school, they are giving the medication so early that the boys go beserk right at 5:30 and the evenings are really unpleasant. I don’t know if they are outgrowing the dose, the nap or the timing is off. Anyway, it’s been hard. Jeff is so reckless that he runs into the path of oncoming cars with regularity. This has happened a couple times in the evenings. Also, I can’t let them ride bikes once the meds wear off. They are too wild and oblivious to danger. Hart ran headlong into the R’s van recently. Luckily no damage to the car, but he flew off, splat, into the car.

I have been trying to read some classic fairy tales. The boys love The Three Little Pigs. They have been so tired that they go to sleep at the same time and it is impossible to get their attention for a story together.

Sept 22
We are back from a weekend in Ann Arbor. The boys were pretty good on the long car ride, but the weekend wasn’t much fun for me at Howard’s law school reunion. The boys were well-behaved enough at the childcare program that was provided.

We have a year’s membership at a new synagogue and took Hart and Jeff to the children’s service on Rosh Hashana. Again, they were fine, if a bit fidgety. Then we left them for a bit at the babysitting in the preschool. It was a beautiful day so they played on the playground in their nice clothes. Today was the first day back to school after the long weekend. Both boys seemed eager to go and Scott reported that they were great with him and he did not need to give an early dose of medication. I think they feel more comfortable on their regular schedule.

It is really fall now. The boys wore long pants for the first time in months. They have sprouted up over the summer and many things are now too short.

Sept 30
Today was Yom Kippur. I took the boys to the children’s service. Jeff fell asleep near the end: he has another ear infection. Hart was with Howard for a while and also fell asleep in the big sanctuary. Then the played outside at the Gan with the babysitters. We were supposed to have a playdate with Gali, but it rained. I took the boys at 5 p.m.to Old Orchard and then to IHOP for dinner. At Old Orchard, they wanted to go into a shoe store(?). I said OK, as long as they didn’t touch anything. Hart replied, “I have to touch things to see them well.”

Oct 8
Things have been going along well. However, Scott told me he is leaving so I have had a frenzied week trying to make other arrangements. Today I got a call that there two spaces in the Evanston afterschool care program. Hurray!

The boys are in good humor today. Nathan and Clara came over yesterday and everyone played together nicely. Today Hart was using the stick horse, announcing, “I gappelling.”

Oct 14
Hart is going on his first school field trip tomorrow. All the kindergartners are going to a pumpkin farm. He is extremely excited. School has made an amazing impression on him. He loves Ms. B, his teacher. This evening, out of nowhere, he recited the Pledge of Allegiance. A few words were garbled, but it was a recognizable Pledge. At dinner when I wiped his mouth, he said, “Don’t wipe my eyebrows.” Maybe they are working on body parts?

Howard and I met with a behavioral therapist this evening. Although things are going fairly well, I still think we could use the added input. Dr. L deals with a lot of ADHD kids and seems to have a handle on the situation.

October 17, 1998
Hart and I went into the city in the driving rain to pick up the printout of my book from the OUTLINES office. He was pretty good-natured on the loooong drive. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant and he was pretty rambunctious. Luckily, there weren’t a lot of people there. While our waiter was standing respectfully off to the side, watching us to make sure everything was OK, Hart looks up and says, “Why you standing there? GO WORK!” The waiter and I were both doubled over with laughter.

October 26, 1998
Aunt Mady was here over the weekend and the boys were on best behavior and made a good impression. It was a hectic weekend with me running downtown to get Mady, gymnastics on Sunday, then a birthday party and Exploritorium (a nightmare of a design). However, the guys have been doing very well. It’s funny now that they are really speaking “like people.” Today Hart said, “Just a second!” and “I’m just kidding.” The afterschool care is going just great. I think they really benefit from being the youngest. When I pick them up they are generally interacting with an older kid. Hart did not want to leave today–an older girl of about eight or nine was assisting him with an art project, a haunted house made of cover milk cartons.

November 1
What an exciting few days. On Friday, I schlepped the boys downtown to the Chicago Tribune for their modeling gig. Jeff was a real trooper, modeling a blue blazer, striped shirt and tie, just like Daddy wears. Hart was wearing about six layers of clothes including a Ralph Lauren sweater with a flag on it and adorable Birkenstøck sandals. However, his patience wore thin and he wouldn’t really cooperate. I guess it was worth it, since they will be in the Chicago Tribune and I took pictures myself of them in those amazing clothes. I don’t think this is the start of a career

Then I drove them back north in time for their respective Halloween parties at school. I was just in time to get Jeff there for the costume parade. It was very cute. The boys are wearing the chef outfits Ted got them. They got a lot of compliments but Hart wants to be Batman and Jeff announced his wants to be a tiger. Next year, I guess.

Chicago Tribune, November 1997

All the aftercare kids were bused to Northwestern University, so they got even more candy there. We didn’t get home until well after 6:30 and the boys were pretty wild with excitement and sugar.

We had an uneventful morning yesterday, Halloween. I took them shopping, since we need a few birthday party gifts. Then at around 3:30 p.m., we dressed them up in the chef clothes and took them out trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. We started out with Zach and Christian, then Aaron and his dad joined us and then we caught up with the big St. Joan gang, including the Rs, As and more. We did the 9500 block, then followed the gang over a few blocks. Jeff was going strong but Hart kept saying he wanted to go home, so we cut back through and came home. The boys spent the rest of the hour passing out candy which I think they really preferred.

Nov 3
We attended an activity night at Jeff’s school. It was nice meeting the other parents, if nothing else. Howard said he got depressed. When we arrived, the kids descended on Jeff, yelling, “Jeffrey, Jeffrey!” and running up to hug him. Then they caught sight of Hart and started yelling, “Two Jeffreys, there are two Jeffreys!” It didn’t help that Hart’s glasses broke beyond repair and he can’t wear them. We’ll go to Lenscrafters tomorrow. Luckily, they are still under warranty.

Nov 5
Both boys are sick so I am home today with them. Jeff was sent home yesterday from school. He can’t shake this ear infection despite several rounds of antibiotics. He spent the morning sleeping in my office and the afternoon at Grandma’s. Then I took Hart to Lenscrafters. He could barely stay upright. We chose the frames and came right home and he went to bed. They know Hart so well at Lenscrafters that the manager didn’t charge the $50 replacement for the new pair. They are very cute, with little cars on the bridge. I didn’t get cable temples this time–I think he is bends them out of shape while yanking them off.

Nov 11, 1998
Hart is still under the weather and sleeping a lot, so I have been talking with Jeff more than usual. Yesterday at dinner:
J: I like milk. Milk makes stong arms. Feel!
L: How strong!
J: Gimme more milk–I want to be more strong.

Both boys are drilling at school, name, address, age, boy or girl, etc.
L: Are you a girl or a boy?
J: I’m a kid!

Nov 18
It’s been a tough week. The boys’ sleep patterns have gone awry. Hart gets up at 5:30 a.m., wakes Jeff, eats breakfast. Then Jeff goes back to sleep, misses breakfast and is impossible to rouse for school. He still has an ear infection, despite three rounds of antibiotics and new drops. Afterschool care is going great–Jeff is the pet of the whole program. The older girls fight over who holds his hand and by the teacher’s account, he is eating it up. A teacher moved from Hart’s site to Jeff’s and apparently, not knowing that Hart is a twin, kept asking Jeff where his glasses were. Jeff never told her that he wasn’t Hart and finally one of the teachers told her, “That’s not Hart! It’s his twin brother.”

Jeff has watched An American Tail, about a zillion times. He says it is his favorite. A few days ago, he announced, “My tummy’s crying. It wants food.”

Today Hart asked me when my birthday was.

November 24
We had a tough weekend and I have a call in to Dr. H to see if anything is related to the medication. The boys have been very impulsive and distractible. Lots of weird noises and misbehavior.

However, we have had some “firsts.” Hart’s first tooth is loose. The boys got their first report cards on Friday. Hart’s strongest marks were in drama, which he likes, and in gym. Movement seems to be his strength, no surprise. Jeff’s report card says, “Emerging skills,” in almost all categories. We had our conference with Jeff’s teachers yesterday and will meet with Hart’s today.

We discussed the “twin talk” which Jeff apparently uses at school, too. We thought it was just between the two of them. Although Howard and I aren’t conversant in this language we do recognize a few phrases, “roni-roni,” “moni-moni,” “abu abu abu,” “amoo,” “yoni yoni,” “yak a yoo yak,” “yak a yoo mak,” “mah der” and Hart’s name for our new vacuum cleaner, which may have fallen out of use, “choosy roni.”

We had a new cleaning lady yesterday, so Hart announced, “I check him out!” His other new favorite words, picked up from day care, are “gross” and “nasty.”

November 28
Thanksgiving went fine and yesterday, Friday, was OK. We are having unheard-of warm weather. It’s been in the mid-sixties, so the boys have been biking and playing outside. We recently changed Jeff’s medication and it seems to be successful, but Hart has been ornery and defiant. Oy.

We went to the circus today. The boys were OK during the first half but at intermission a catered feast was brought into the the suite and sent the boys into a frenzy, not so much for the food (which was not for us) but for collecting plates and cups which they proceeded to bang during the second half. During the high wire act there was some screaming and whimpering. I don’t think we’ll go next year. It will be more of a treat to do it occasionally.

We are having a terrible problem with spitting, particularly Hart. If he’s mad, disagrees or sometimes just when he feels like it, he’ll spit. Sometimes he says, “pooh pooh pooh” and on the last “p,” splat! He has had a few time-outs for this and I have also tried ignoring it but to no avail. And, now Jeff seems to be picking this up.

The boys appeared in this weekend’s Sunday Tribune in their modeling debut. Very cute.
Hart wanted to ask for something but he couldn’t quite get at the word. “I want more…I want more…,” as we desperately tried to think what it was he wanted. He got more and more frustrated until he blurted out, “cherry-berries.” Aha, cranberries!

Dec 7
What a weekend. Jeff has been under the weather and I think Howard and I are both getting sick, too. Every evening Jeff would start writhing and screaming, then complaining his tummy hurt. I returned last night from book club around 10 p.m. and could hear him yelling in his bed. He woke Hart up, so we took him downstairs until he fell asleep on the couch. Even so, every few minutes he would double over and start screaming again. Since he couldn’t calm down in his bed, we brought him into our room. Again, everytime we dozed off, he would go off again. I finally ended up sleeping on the floor with him, wrapped around him, enduring being kicked most of the night. I kept rubbing his belly and that seemed to calm him into sleep…for a while. We thought it might be constipation, but I think there was some psychological component, too, maybe night terrors. Today at bedtime, he started whining again about his stomach hurting but I held firm, “No screaming tonight. You must sleep in your own bed.”

Two funny comments: Jeff points to the salad on his plate, “Put some clothes on it.”

Hart built a big box with the waffle blocks. “I build a big house, a big house…a HOTEL.”

December 14
Second night of Hanukah. The boys are, of course, into presents, presents, more presents. Last night they got Hot Wheels trucks. I think we must have an entire fleet now. Tonight they got bug puppets, a bee for Hart and a grasshopper for Jeff. Jeff wanted the bee so there was a little disappointment over that but then the bee and grasshopper played together and all was well.

We started working with a new child psychologist. Although we love Margie, I think this one has a great plan. So far, it seems to be working wonders. We had a terrific weekend, even though Howard had to spend most of it at his office. So it was just me and the boys. As per Dr. Lavigne’s instructions, I lavish praise for appropriate behavior, as often as every 15 seconds. Any inappropriate behavior that isn’t life-threatening gets no attention or eye contact whatsoever. I have stopped yelling completely and the burden is off me to wrangle two misbehaving kids at once. I just step away and avert my eyes! I have also been using cereal pieces or stickers as re-inforcers for appropriate behavior and that has helped, too. However, I notice that the boys respond positively to just having our attention.

Hart has been singing “Dreydel, Dreydel” at the top of his lungs. He only knows the first two lines. He also sings his original version of Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. When we picked babysitter Leah up, he sang all the way home and Leah and I cracked up.

Both boys’ speech and language ability is much, much improved. Jeff is the pet of his day care. His teacher reports she has to keep the other kids off him. I think they imagine him as some kind of living, walking, talking doll. Hart is very much into his stuffed animals. We have Zach the cat, the two Whaleys, Little Bear. His friend Annie has quite a collection of Beanie Babies, so Hart is now interested in “baby babies.” As much bad press as “Teletubbies” get, the boys like the show and I think the language is perfect for them (although the show is aimed at toddlers.) Hart calls them “tebe-tubbies.”

Dec 19
Yesterday Hart and I stopped at Happy Foods on the way home. He kept nagging me for a big lollipop he saw in a displayed jar of them. Exasperated by my answer, he appealed to the cashier. “Can I have this?” “You have to buy it,” she told him. “OK,” says Hart, placing it on the belt. I was still half an aisle away. “Do you have money?” the cashier asks. “Yes,” he says. “Where is it?” Clearly and loudly enough to be heard by the whole store, “In Mommy’s purse!” he says, pointing to me. Big laughs all around (but still no sucker.)

December 23
The boys have attended the Park District Holiday Camp for two days and it seems to have gone well. There is one other kid who requires an inclusion aide, so I think there are either two or three aides just to assist Hart, Jeff and that kid. They went to a play and a laser light show. Today I was home with them, since the field trip is an outing to an indoor water park. Hart has a sinus infection and Jeff has yet another ear infection.

We spent the morning at the Shedd Aquarium. We went early enough that it was not crowded at all. We arrived in time to look around at the rays, the seahorse exhibit, the Oceanarium and dolphin demonstration there. When the announcer asked for members of the audience to tell what behaviors they expected to see, Hart’s hand shot up. When she came over, he said he wanted to see “slipping (flipping) and jumping in the water. "

Jan 2, 1999
Snowbound. Howard has been hysterical for two days waiting for the big blizzard and here it is. We went out last night to Leona’s and the boys were on very good behavior. Hart has started getting over-enthusiastic around babies and toddlers, jumping in their faces, grabbing them and yelling, “Gross baby!” Parents don’t appreciate this much and I was summoned twice yesterday, once at McDonald’s and once in Leona’s movie room.

Jan 3
Still stuck at home. Our driveway has over two feet of snow. It was a tough day yesterday, although Howard took the boys out on the sled and for a backyard romp. They have been outdoors today once. I watched from the window as Hart stuck his head in a snow drift, glasses and all. We have already “painted” on the computer and baked muffins. I will have to be creative this afternoon. Hope there is school tomorrow, although I can’t imagine how I will get to work or pick the boys up.

Jan 12, 1999
This winter has been miserable. Still very cold and snowy. Howard had a tough day with the boys on Saturday. We took them to dinner separately. As Jeff and I were leaving Bakers Square, there was a long line waiting to be seated. “There’s too much peoples here!,” Jeff announces.
Jeff has been earning stamps on his behavior chart as school, but from all reports he lets loose at afterschool care.

Hart is a budding thespian. He got good remarks from his teacher on his activities in drama. He demonstrated his mime. He washes a window, walks a dog, gets blown in the wind, very convincingly.

Jan 17
We attended the festivities after the service, in honor of Eva’s bat mitzvah. The boys were very excited and wanted to hang out exclusively with Eva. After an elaborate kiddush, it dawned on me that there was yet a sitdown luncheon to follow. I kept an eye on the boys while the room was changed over. They wanted to be with the other kids, but somehow playing around on the bimah proved irrestible. We lasted through the salad and left after Eva’s speech. I think Jeff had some schnapps, since he told me he drank “spicy water.”

Feb 3
Hart announced that he wanted a dog. When I asked what he was going to do with a dog, he said, “Play with him.” Leah asked what kind of dog he wanted and Hart replied, “Clifford!”

I flipped on the radio in the car to catch the signoff on National Public Radio, just as the host said, “I’m Terry Gross and this has been Fresh Air.” Jeff pipes up in the back seat, “He say ‘gross.’” That was pretty funny but when I tried to explain that her NAME was Gross, that was hysterical.

I have noticed some strange twin things. On the same day, both boys independently said, “Mommy, you need a haircut.” Yesterday, there was a beautiful clear sky and a full moon. As Hart and I were picking up Jeff, I pointed it out and said, “Look we can see the stars tonight.” Hart started jumping, saying, “I catch the stars.” Later when we went to drop Eva off, Jeff looks up and says, “I catching stars.”

Hart’s speech has become much more sophisticated in the past few weeks. Although he still can’t say /f/ or /v/, he can make more elaborate constructions. Yesterday he asked Eva, “Have you seen this movie before?”

Feb 6
We had a play date today with Dale and Lia here. It went very well and I see the boys interacting more with other kids. Hart is going over to Annie’s this afternoon. This is his second time over there…without me.

I have gotten several bad reports from Ms. B about Hart. He and Candice are a lethal pair and they told me at daycare that Candice’s father has taken her off medication!

Poor Jeff! We have just been running hither and thither to doctors. Yesterday he was at the allergist since he has eczema all over now. Dr. C thinks it must be a food allergy and advises doing a second scratch test. Dr. C was happy to hear about the plan to remove Jeff’s tonsils and adenoids. It is really warranted in a case as severe as his ear infections have been. Next week we are seeing a plastic surgeon about removing the birthmark on his leg at the same time as the tonsilectomey. I am also taking him to the opthamologist. His school reports indicates some trouble with his right eye. If he wears glassese, no one will be able to tell them apart.

Feb 8
We had a hairy night last night. Hart awoke at 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. We finally brought him into our room, but he had already woken Jeff. I could hear him talking to himself, singing all the songs he knows, to no avail. I was just drifting off again when I heard him say, “Once upon a time, there was one zebra and one ant.” Howard took him downstairs around 4 am and gave him breakfast. When I came downstairs at 7 a.m., both boys were asleep on the couch. Hart’s teacher said he had an OK day but was very tired. So were we.

February 14
Last night we watched Mulan which has just been released on video. When Hart saw the trailer, he asked, “Is that Poken-hontas?” I told him it wasn’t, it’s a different girl. In fact Pochahontas lives here in this country and Mulan lives far away in China. “Oh,” Hart said thoughtfully, “Maybe they’re friends.”

Feb 16
The boys are very interested in board games these days. We have an Alphabet Lotto game which is the favorite. We have gotten in the habit of playing every day now. I like it because it’s a structured (and educational) activity that we can do together. Hart insists we play, “three games,” showing me ten fingers. By the way, both boys can count to twenty pretty consistently now and Hart can write his name recognizably.

I bought two other board games recently, Shopping List, which is both a matching game like Lotto and a memory game like Concentration. It took a few games to catch on but Jeff has the strategy now and he pays attention to the location of the cards. I also introduced a simple picture Bingo game. The winner gets to be the caller for the next game. There used to be a big hue and cry if one lost the game but with Lotto we count the cards until the loser’s winning cards are revealed and that seems to work as a consolation.

Feb 20
Hobbes has never been to interested in the boys but when I am putting them to bed, she will occasionally come by and have a look. Two nights ago, she stayed in their room while I was singing to Jeff, then I said, “Hobbes, come on, it’s time to sing to Hart.” She dutifully came over to Hart’s side of the room. As I started sing, Hart exclaimed indignantly, “He’s not singing!”
Took Jeff to the eye doctor and he has a slight astigmatism but does not need glasses. He was OK in Debbie’s office but of course, never stopped moving. I was surprised that he was cooperative in taking the eye exam and was able to indentify the images.

Returned from Matthew's brithday party completed exhausted. The boys were moderately well behaved–for them–but it just kills me that the other parents get to sit around, kids in their laps, chatting, while I run and run and run. My knees are shot: they live a tri-level and I spent two and a half hours running up and down three flights of stairs. The most innoucuous item is a major distraction for them, the balloon decorations (up onto the couch with shoes on within moments of arriving), Jeff spied the scotch tape in the kitchen, excercise equipment in the basement…

It was all three-year-olds except us and those kids managed to leave the presents alone and allow the birthday boy to open them. They managed to watch the clown. Jeff kept interupting this hapless clown until I took him out, Hart thought he was part of the show, which was cute for about three seconds. Of course, all the adults want to accommodate them but they have no idea about the magnitude of the quirks and obsessions: the scotch tape, the crepe paper, the paper plates. We can’t indulge it at all.

It took us three false starts to actually leave, once because Jeff had disobeyed me and taken all the contents of goodie bag out, then lost his stickers, then Hart remembered that he had forgotten his balloon rabbit and had to retrieve it. On the way home, he took it apart and then popped the balloon.

Feb 22
Hart has announced now a few times that he wants Clissord (Clifford, the big red dog). Today he said he wants Clifford for a birthday present. He is going to ride him and play with him. When I pointed out that Clifford is bigger than our house and might not fit, Hart insisted, “I squeeze him in.”

Feb 28
I told Jeff that the ball he was playing with had been mine when I was a little girl. “It’s not yours anymore,” he said.

March 8
Jeff continues to be interested in vehicles. His points out Jeeps and he likes VW Beetles, ever since he saw one and exclaimed, “A toy car!” Tonight on the way home, Hart saw a similar-looking SUV and said, “Look, a jeep!” “That’s not a Jeep. A Jeep has a square top.” He was right. It was an Isuzu.

March 13
I attended the PNPIC’s conference in Itasca today. Saw Dee Paddock whom I met there two years ago. She was the keynote speaker. It’s very reassuring that someone has gone the path before us. Her three adopted Korean children are now in their teens and she says, “adoptive parents pay up front.” Apparently, adolescence is a cinch! It was great to see her and joke about Hart’s adventure at Old Orchard and being banned from the J. Someone who understands!

The boys spent the morning with sitter Leah and she said they were great. We took Leah home and played a while at Penny Park. Hart’s language is so much improved that he easily joins other kids now. For dinner, we met Dawn and her two daughters at Old Orchard’s food court. Hart glommed onto Hannah who is eight. Grace was a little tired and felt about left out since Jeff followed Hart’s lead and hung out with Hannah.

Howard made it home at 8:15 so he got to see the boys for a change. He was astonished at Hart’s speech. It’s been hard on the boys not having him around, but then it’s like a disruption when he does arrive. One more month of this grind.

Hart told me on the way home from school yesterday that if I am in jail, with “handcups,” he will save me by breaking the cage and helping me escape. I thanked him for his good intentions, but reassured him that I hope not to ever be in jail.

March 19
It’s been a tough week without Howard. Last night I was so stressed after the boys refused to come in the house after I picked them up that I gave them timeouts and screamed at them. Later Jeff said, “Mommy, you talk crazy and say mean things to me.” That about sums it up.

March 28
Granny is coming today. Jeff will have his tonsils out on Tuesday, then Wednesday is the first night of Passover.

We attended Jeff’s classroom open house last Thursday. Hart got indignant when one of Jeff’s classmates mistook him for Jeff. “He call me Jeff. I not Jeff. I Hart.” We calmed him down and told him to say, “I am Jeff’s brother. My name is Hart.” A few minutes later, Hart ran over to the same kid, took off his glasses and said, “I not Hart now. I Jeff.” Then he put his glasses back on and said, “I am just teasing. I Hart.”

April 4
We took Mom to the airport yesterday. Jeff slept for about three days, then bounced back. He seems to be completely recovered. When the nurse came to check Jeff’s vitals, she asked where his heart is. “At school.”

We had dinner last night with Grandma and Grandpa.

April 7
Jeff’s throat is still a little sore and he has be careful what he eats. This morning he started crying because something was irritating his throat. “Who took Jeff’s tonsils out?” Hart asked. I told him Dr. S had done it. “Well, Jeff wants them back in!”

April 17
The boys are going through a belligerent stage. If I hear “Shut up, you stupid Mommy,” one more time… Hart has another ear infection, but Jeff seems to be doing well since the tonsils came out. Next week, the stitches are being removed where the mole was taken off.

April 25
We went to see babysitter Leah in her high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last night. It seemed like a good idea–short, musical with lots of visuals. The first act went fine, but during the second act, Jeff slid under his seat, Hart joined him, and in a flash they were gone, slithering somewhere under the seats in the dark. It was harrowing, as there was nothing we could do (except blame each other in terse whispers). Finally, I saw Hart's head bob up in the center aisle and I sprinted down to collect him. Our whole section breathed a sign of relief, but we didn't find Jeff until the show was over and the lights came up. I think it was his plan to collect all the programs under the seats. It may be a while before we take them back to the theater.

May 9
Our weekend in Arizona went fine and we returned to find Gin and the house still standing. However, this past week has been miserable. For some reason, Hart has been unable to sleep, so we have been up with him at all hours. Needless to say, he is exhausted at school and unable to really participate. Finally, after talking to Dr. Hammer about adjusting the medication, he slept through Thursday night and was more alert on Friday. Jeff has had some difficulties, too. He has been up with Hart, gotten into trouble several times at school and on the bus.
We are going to resume with Margie and are seeing Dr. Hammer this week.

May 18
Took Hart to the eye doctor. He has lazy eye and she wants to strengthen the weaker eye. So we must put drops in for six weeks and see how that goes. Dr. Hammer saw both boys and says they are looking much better, although we have a few years of adventure ahead.

We are changing Jeff’s medication–the Celexa was a bust. Spring must be in the air because Jeff has taken to running away again. He left gymnastics on Sunday. This morning I heard him singing outside as I was getting dressed. He had gotten his shoes and backpack on and was cheerfully waiting in the driveway for the school bus. I guess it’s an improvement over last year, when he routinely just took off when the spirit moved him.

I am impressed at Hart’s improvement in language. He understands and retells stories. He is capable of abstract thought and understanding more complex plots of stories and movies.

The new interest for both boys is death. We had a dead bird in our driveway and talked about that for a while. This evening Hart told Eva and me that he was a bad guy, then tipped himself over in his Cozy Coupe and did an elaborate death scene, ending with him lying still, splayed out, eyes closed. It was an award-winning performance. Jeff pretended to be a dead bird, then came back to life at the promise of cookies, and flapped his wings into the kitchen.

May 29
Labor Day Weekend. We are off to a bad start. It’s 2 am Friday night and neither boys can sleep. Howard and I have been up and down with one or the other all evening. Howard finally gave up and went to bed. A while later we could hear them laughing and screaming in the basement. We know from bitter experience that if one can’t sleep, the other won’t and neither will we.

It’s been a miserable two weeks. I went to both boys’ year-end reviews which were disappointing in the extreme. It look like we must step up the speech therapy and get private OT. I also want to consult a psychiatrist since it appears that the whole cocktail of medication isn’t working at all.

Jeff has had spring fever which means running away and all manner of disobedience at school. Hart was so unpleasant and unruly this evening in the restaurant, it was like unpleasant deja vu.

June 6
It is hot, hot, hot. We have been to the pool every weekend day since it opened over Memorial Day. The boys are much calmer there this year, although the guards frequently remind them not to run.

Hart looked at Howard’s wet legs yesterday and asked, “What’s that?” “Hair.” Howard told him he had hairy legs because he is a monster. When I walked over, Hart pointed at Howard’s legs and said, “I don’t like that.”

Hart has been interested in drawing lately, when he isn’t yelling at us or pouting. He was working on a face in the car. “Eyebrows, nose, boogers.”

Jeff’s passion for VW Beetles continues. I called customer service to ask if there was a poster of a Beetle and the woman promised to send one.

June 20
Long, long weekend. We started OT on Saturday and I like the therapist. The boys really enjoyed their session and were pretty verbal and cooperative. But the fun ended on Saturday morning.

Hart is still ornery and surly. If he is reprimanded or denied something, he goes into a tirade of “shut up, shut up, stupid, shut up, pig.” I had to drag him out of gymnastics in a swearing tirade (him, not me). Once he calmed down a bit, he was fine.

Not that Jeff is much easier. Howard says he is overly enthusiastic, but I think he is just loud. You can hear him from blocks away. He is now in the habit of saying the same thing over and over again at top decibels. It may just be some word he is fixated on like today, “BUTTONS!” or “CAT-ER-PILLAR!!!” or a question that he will keep repeating even if he has heard the answer. I have gotten into the habit after hearing it five or so times of saying, “I said yes, you must stop asking” or “I heard you.”

This afternoon on the playground Jeff said, “I the mean mommy. You be Jeff. Get out of my stuff.” Uncanny. Then I asked what the nice mommy says. Jeff told me, “good job.”
This evening Jeff found a packet of advertising postcards in the garbage. He showed Hart and me each one and described what was in the picture. There was one for fancy shower enclosure which Jeff explained is a “bug box.”

July 20
So much has happened lately. Up and down. Both boys have ear infections. Jeff is seeing both an otologist and an allergist. At least we aren’t giving them antibiotics anymore.

We have had some adventures with swearing and running away.

The summer is going quickly. This is the last week of summer school and summer day care. Next week, the boys will be at different day camps through the Park District.

Jeff is really blossoming. He is almost a savant with an I Spy book we have. I read off the things to find in the picture and Jeff points to the item immediately while I am still scanning. I have been playing classical music in the car, since the tape deck is not working. No Bach, it makes them hyper! Tonight a lively Strauss polka came on and Jeff exclaimed, “Fireworks!”

Hart has not been eating much lately. Too hot. However, Jeff is still chowing down. When Hart left the table, Jeff said, “He will be WEAK.”

July 28
The boys started camp on Monday. The adjustment seems to be going OK, but it’s a long day, no nap and they are very difficult when I pick them up and when they arrive home around 6 p.m. Yesterday I got an earful from Jeff’s aide about how both of them had a joyous reunion at the pool, got into trouble with the lifeguard several times and had to be removed. Also, Jeff’s ear is draining again, so I am sidelining them both from swimming.

I am so tired, tired, tired. I just dread having to pick them both up at the end of the day, in two different places. Arrrrgh.

A coworker whose daughter is a speech therapist gave me a tip about helping Hart say /f/. So today in the car, we practiced saying “Five Fat Fish.” He CAN say the sound at the end of the word easily if he thinks about it. He said, “Jeff,” “laugh,” “tough.” It is much harder for him at the beginning of the word. He has to concentrate very hard. I keep praising him and telling him how proud Rachel will be when she sees him in the fall when he can say those hard words.
Had to laugh. H&J were working together on the Lion King puzzle. And here are the “cantaloupe feet.” (antelope).

Both boys have a new fascination with bodies. Every night around bathtime, there is some variation of “Look at my BUTT!” Today, Hart squeezed my chest and asked, “You have balloons under there?” I told him no, it’s part of my body. I should have stopped there but then I said, “All ladies have them.” To which Hart replied, “You are not a lady, you’re a MOMMY.”

July 30
Busy day! I picked up Jeff from camp to take him to J’s birthday party. It’s beastly hot–close to 100 degrees even early in the day. En route to J’s party, I was coaching Jeff, “Now what do you say to J when you get to his house?” I asked. “Don’t bite me again!” Jeff instantly replied. J’s parents and M’s mom got a big laugh out of that. I guess that’s a bit of special ed humor.

Jeff did very well at the party. He loved the “penny scramble.” The kids had to find the pennies in a ring on the grass. Jeff was still at it, long after the other kids had lost interest. We put the pennies in his bank tonight and counted them–127!

August 6, 1999
Yesterday was the last day of camp and Hart’s and Jeff’s birthday. They brought cookies to camp and were very excited about being six. In the evening, Howard attended Jeff’s camp finale, where Jeff danced to YMCA and I went to Hart’s program. Hart’s department (5-6 year old boys and girls) did a country-western line dance which was adorable. I notice they put the best dancers in the middle of the line, so Hart and one other girl were front and center. Both boys have a very good sense of rhythm and movement.

Hart has mastered the monkey bars, too. He can swing all the way across. He must have worked on that at camp because he couldn’t do it a few weeks ago. Also, he was too short to reach the bars, so it is not my imagination that they are getting taller. Tomorrow is the backyard birthday party and the weather is supposed to be nice but possibly a little cool for running in the sprinkler.

Aug 15
We changed the boys’ meds and it seems to be a great success. They are still obnoxious when together but very charming when apart.

Yesterday Jeff made the longest utterance I have ever heard from him. I still get excited hearing a sentence over six words. When I told him he would have to wait for a nap until I put clean sheets on his bed, he said, “I’ll have to sleep in Mommy’s bed, because I am too tired to wait.”

Howard, Hart and Arnie went to the annual outing at Great America. Jeff and I went with Leslie, her husband and children to the zoo. Jeff really enjoyed the newly-renovated seal pool. He loved watching the seals swim by in the underwater observatory.

August 26, 1999
We have returned from our vacation. Five days in Oregon and more than 1000 miles on the rental car. It was a nightmare from beginning to end. Hart had a complete meltdown about every hour, it seemed. Jeff did plenty of goading him into mischief. We didn’t see much except from the windows of the car. Awful. I was never so glad to be home again.

During the trip, if Hart was thwarted in any way or told “no,” he would do what I call the chimpanzee scream, where he pulls back his lips and emits this high-pitched shriek which can shatter glass. This won lots of friends on the flight home. I think his nervous system just went kaput the first day. He wouldn’t even bother to say what was wrong, just drop to the floor and start the screaming. He would flail around and actually socked me in the face several times during the week. Now that we are home, it’s back to the old routine. This morning, when he tried the scream and flinging himself around, he went straight to his room until he was calm.

This morning I took the boys to see Dr. Hammer and told him a bit of our travails. He is trying a fourth SSRI for Jeff and we are increasing Hart’s Prozac for mood stabilization.

August 29
The nightmare continues. I don’t know what has gotten into them. Hart antagonized a homeowner at a garage sale by stepping through his plastic window well. I was holding his hand at the time, I just couldn’t jerk him up before he put his weight on it. Up till then, he had been fine.

Yesterday, for about an hour, Hart could say the /f/ sound. He said, “foot,” “feet,” “farm,” etc.
Today, it’s gone.

Sept 4
First week back to school. Hart has been in and out of trouble daily. He had a meltdown on the second day that alarmed both teachers and students. We are going to lower the Prozac and see if that helps. The dynamic at home seems to be Jeff thinking up the mischief and Hart executing it, getting into trouble and amusing Jeff no end. I have taken to punishing both, Hart for doing it and Jeff for telling him to do “bad things.” Today I was out of the room for three minutes, heard a thump in the basement and came down to find Hart sitting in the clothes dryer. That had all the hallmarks of a Jeff idea. Another minute and Jeff surely would have closed the door and possibly turned it on!

Margie agrees that the “timeouts” are not working. She would prefer we hold them in the basket hold. However, it is very hard with two, because the other one comes to the aid of his brother and attacks any adult.

I took Jeff with me to the dentist this week, because Hart was having a meltdown. When we got in the car, I asked him to stop bothering Hart while he is upset and in timeout. Jeff replied that he wanted to get Hart out of timeout. It was a pretty succint and clear answer. My usual response is YOU ARE NOT THE MOMMY. In this case, I said that when he the daddy, he can tell his own children when a timeout is over.

Sept 13
It’s 5760. What a strange few days. After twelve years, I am leaving the library. It had to happen sooner or later. Already I feel a weight has been lifted.

We are quite concerned about both boys. Jeff has been up to all kinds of sneaky mischief. He ran away again and when I captured him and sent him in the house for a timeout, he broke a window with his toy car. Lucky he wasn’t hurt.

Hart has been busy throwing tantrums of all manner. He also has developed the unpopular habit of poking people in the butt and I mean, in the butt. He got in trouble at gymnastics and as relunctant as I was, I suggested to the gymnastics head that I withdraw him. So he will take dance this session and Jeff will have gymnastics alone.

Sept 14
Cleaning out my office. What an undertaking. Still bewildered by the impossible behavior at home. Hart was reprimanded for telling me to “Shut Up.” Then Jeff asked if my feelings were hurt when Hart said that. I told Jeff they were and he suggested I go to “the hopsital,” to have my feelings mended.

Sept 16
Getting used to idea of not working. Weird. Spoke to Margie today and also had a message from Dr. K. I will arrange for him to meet Hart. I also want to ask Dr. H if it could be the Prozac that is making Hart so angry and irritable.

Read Jeff a new books that he liked, called Chipmunk. I kept trying not to laugh at Jeff calling it “Chick-munk.”

Interesting thing: Jeff was playing on the computer with a new CD-ROM game. At one point, you can click on seashells and they make different sounds. Jeff clicked on one and heard a voice speaking Russian. At the sound of that, he jerked his head up and looked at me quizzically. I wonder if he subconsciously recognized the sound of the language. It was very strange.

Sept 25
The countdown at the library. Two days left. Things are going well here as long as we don’t let the boys near each other. This requires extraordinary logistical planning.

Hart did well in dance class yesterday. His aide did not show up and it didn’t matter, he did the whole class without assistance. He is very proud of his black dance slippers and at the end, the little girls got to dance in filmy skirts and Hart got to wear a gold lamé vest.

Hart spent the morning at Grandma’s while I took Jeff to gymnastics. Without Hart, Jeff doesn’t really require an aide either. He has no problem participating with the class!

Hart hit paydirt at a rummage sale. Not much of interest to me, but for 25¢ he got to fill up a bag. He found four new furbies, two giant trolls and a stuffed puppy. Tonight Hart and I ate Chinese food, with the trolls as company. I promised to take him to the Wilmette Nature Center if there was time after dinner. As we were leaving, I asked, “Do you want to eat your fortune cookie now?” Hart says, “I am going to eat it at the park, duh!” He has got a way to go yet to talk like a sarcastic teenager…I thought.

Oct 3, 1999
So far I am enjoying retirement. Been hitting all the garage and rummage sales for cool stuff. Last night was the second night of Simchat Torah and I took Jeff to B’nai Emunah for the service. Before the marching began, he was a little restless and played with his toy Beetle in the aisle. When everyone sang the Sh’ma, a little voice piped up from the floor, “I know that song!”

Jeff marched around all seven times. The kids get to carry the silver crowns and breastplates from the Torahs, so Jeff did that, waved flags and stayed until the refreshments.

Oct 11
Columbus Day. We went to the Shedd Aquarium with Adam, Annie and Terri. It was fine and one hour was just enough, but on the way home, Annie had a meltdown and she and Hart started brawling in the backseat on Lake Shore Drive. When I tried to intervene, she sank her teeth into my arm and then my hand. She was remorseful later but Terri was mortified. I assured her I am used to physical abuse from six-year-olds.

The boys are talking a lot about Halloween. Hart is going to be Mickey Mouse and Jeff is going to be a monster. They have made decorations for the house, pictures of pumpkins and bats. Hart is enamored of drawing and he can now make recognizable images.

Also, all of a sudden, they are crazy about the Brio train set and play with it daily. They put together elaborate expanses of track and run the wooden trains.

They salvaged a large box from the R’s curb. I cut a door and two windows in it and they can play in their house for hours on end!

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