February 20, 2008


Chicagoans hate February and March. With good reason. The crisp winter air has turned into an incessant biting, arctic blast. January's white blanket of snow has long become a filthy gray mass of ice and slush. While we are carping about dry skin and cold feet, shoveling out the driveway again, we are resigned to two more months of this.

I have an additional seasonal complaint. Right around this time, as the stores are displaying shorts and sandals, the boys' winter gear gives out. Last year, during the first major snow, I trekked to the Lands End Outlet in Niles, the only place I thought actually might have boots in January. (Thank goodness for catalog returns, Not-Quite-Perfect and overruns!) The boys' boots from the previous season were now two sizes too small. Twelve months later, those boots are beyond snug. The calendar may say spring is on the way, but here it's boot-wearing weather well into April. Back again to the Lands End store in the blizzard!

Hart is on his third winter coat this season. In November, last year's jacket looked suspiciously short, but not unwearable. A week before Christmas, I noticed that the bottom of the parka was creeping upward. Time to replenish the closet . . . while the stores still had winter coats. I had to brave the Christmas shopping rush AND take above-mentioned child along. Double-torture. Hart actually wore this jacket for all of three weeks before the zipper broke. A few teeth were defective and the zipper tab came off in his hand. Grrrrrrr.

Receipt in hand, I asked for a replacement. After all, we have plenty of sub-zero weather coming. The manager chuckled, "We don't carry winter items at this time of year." Refund? "It has been worn." Yes. I know. In store credit? "For a percentage of the lowest sale price." OK. Then, back to Lands End again.

Sure, the Lands End sales staff know me. I bought two toddler parkas there in January 1996, right before we left for Russia to pick up the boys. Where else could I have found winter jackets mid-January on very short notice? I've come in regularly since, in all seasons, to paw through the racks for sturdy boy-clothes.

I believe we are well-stocked now until the end of this season. The new Lands End boots are a men's size 9, at the moment one size too large. Both boys' jackets should fit for a few more minutes.

Then at Jeff's speed skating practice, "Mom, you don't want to hear this. My skates are tight." I just bought them in October for this season! "The last meet is in a week. Can you wear them until then?"

February 12, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Click on the title to see the YouTube clip. I am about 3:35 seconds into this video.

Julian and Chloe visit (photos)

February 7, 2008

Inky (photo)

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

February 3, 2008

February 1, 2008

The Back Story IV

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.

Oct 22, 1999
Things have been up and down. Jeff had a bad day on Monday and a horrible day on Wednesday. It’s a complete mystery. He was acting out immediately upon arrival at school, then ran into a another classroom on the way back from speech therapy. Later, he was throwing wood chips during recess and when asked to stop, started throwing them at the teacher. Then he was sent to the principal’s office. I was so chagrined I asked Margie to come over and deal with Jeff. Again, very hard with Hart in the room, doing his best to distract Jeff.

Yesterday was a little better, but we continue to have horrible problems the minute the boys are in the same room. I am not sure how this happened: but there is a huge gouge out of the wall in the basement that must have happened yesterday. The corner of the wall was hit with such force that all the plaster was knocked out and the metal underneath is bent!

Oct 25
Well, our brief moment of health was short-lived. Jeff’s ear and nose are draining green stuff yet again. Hart’s ear infection continues–he won’t let me irrigate it or put the medication in. So Hart is home from school and I am not feeling so good myself.

Hart hasn’t really acted like a sick kid. It hasn’t slown him down at all. Jeff’s day care just called to tell me he is running a fever. So I really spent the whole day on the phone trying to get a hold of doctors.

Nov 2
Halloween was fun. Hart was Mickey Mouse and Jeff was a monster. I ended up taking them separately around the block. The other one stayed home with Howard and passed out candy which apparently was just as much fun. Luckily it only comes once a year, since both guys were over-excited and Jeff was extremely hyper during the evening.

I had Jeff’s MDC last week. The outlook is good according to the testing and evaluation. However, he is extremely hyperactive and inattentive in school, and Ms. B still says he is often tired. I just contacted a new child psychiatrist and she sounded great over the phone.
I have been playing the boys’ favorite tape in the car. It’s a Motown collection. Hart adores this tape and sings along with all the songs. However, last night I noticed that he is singing “Keep ’way!” (Heatwave).

Nov 4
My first “playdate” with Jeff is off to an auspicious start. The idea is that once a week or more, Jeff will not go to aftercare, but will come home to spend time with me.

Since today was so nice, we decided to walk to Central Park, but Jeff’s new thing is climbing the trees there. So he climbed a few of the smaller trees while I supervised. Then, he headed to the stand of several blue spruce trees and disappeared into the foliage. I was still watching him and I cautioned him not to try to climb up since they are prickly. The next thing I knew, I could hear his voice from high up but I couldn’t see him in the branches. When I finally looked all the way up–about 20 feet, there was Jeff clinging to the trunk way up in the air. It was awfully high so I encouraged him to come down. First he said, “I can’t come down, I have to stay up here.” I thought he was kidding, but then he said, I’m scared, then, Mommy, come help me down, Mommy, I am stuck.

He had been up there about ten minutes and I realized he really was stuck. First I asked some lawn service guys nearby if we could use their ladder, which they told me was broken. Then I noticed another woman at the park with a cell phone and I asked to borrow it and called 911.

Another five minutes passed with Jeff yelling, “my back hurts, the branch is breaking, I can’t hold on here, I’m scared, I’m stuck. When I called a second time, they told me help was on the way. Finally a huge hook-and-ladder and an emergency vehicle pulled up and three firefighters jumped out. The truck was driven around into the cul-de-sac and about eight more firefighters got out and started extending the ladder. By now, everyone in the park had gathered and several of the neighbors, too.

Jeff was a trooper, he came to the firefighter, climbed down the ladder and escaped with one scratch on his hand and a distinctly piney odor on his clothes. Then we walked home and both of us fell asleep on the couch after the adventure. Jeff assured me and the firefighters that he would not climb trees again.

Dec 7, 1999
The past few weeks leading up to the trip have had ups and downs. Thanksgiving was nice. Jeff and I had a great time in LA visiting Granny and new Grandpa Bill. Aunt Ronnie went with us, so Jeff had the undivided attention of four doting adults. Bill and Mom took him to the La Brea Tar Pits while Ronnie and I went to LACMA.

I also took Hart to a family Hanukah service. Annie was being confirmed as part of the kindergarten class and Hart was excited about that. He was singing right along, delighted to be involved and sitting next to Annie. However, when it came time for Annie to go up on the bima with her class, Hart was distraught and insisted on joining them. (He kept shyly waving at me as if to say, “Look at me. I am doing the right thing with the rest of the kids.”) Luckily, there were about 40 kids, so he was not conspicuous. I thought he would just stand up there with Annie but of course, the rabbi didn’t call his name to receive a certificate and a little Torah and that sent him into a fit of dispair. I had to climb up on the pulpit, reassure the adults that there had not been a mistake and carry him down, weeping inconsolably. Then I had to take him home.

We just got back from 3 1/2 days in St. Augustine, Florida. Things were looking pretty grim for a family vacation judging from the nightmare in Oregon, but the day we were to leave H had a brainstorm to rent two cars so we could take the boys sightseeing separately. It worked fine.

Hart and I did Marineland together, where he loved playing ball with the dolphins. It was practically empty! There were about 20 people in the stands for the dolphin show. When Hart noticed that he wasn’t chosen as the volunteer from the audience, he lost interest.

We had a great time exploring the old city at night while it was all lit up and had a pizza dinner al fresco. He found some kids to play with in the main square and got to burn off some energy running around with them.

Jeff and Howard did the Castillo together and we all ended up at the Alligator Farm, but not at the same time. Hart was kind of pooped so we didn’t stay more than an hour but saw everything but the reptile house. We like the baby alligator pool which had hundreds of juvenile gators. The boys were on very good behavior on the trip, as long as they were apart, which was every moment except bedtime. We only really had one beach outing and that got a little raucous as the boys started chasing the sea gulls and Jeff stomped on someone’s sand castle.

Dec 25, 1999
Hart and Howard were in Las Vegas last weekend. Jeff and I had a great time while they were gone. How refreshing. No tantrums, no screaming, no backtalk. It was just blissful. We went to the Kohl Museum and out to dinner with Ted one evening. I guess H&H had one good day where they went to Circus Circus’ circus, the Coca Cola Museum and a pirate show at another hotel.

The second day did not go well and by the third day, Howard decided to pack it in and leave earlier in the day than planned. Hart came home in a usual temper, swearing, screaming and being generally obnoxious.

Now we have two weeks vacation from school and it hasn’t been going well. Both boys have spent a few days a winter camp and reports have not been good. I had Jeff home one day for a few doctor’s appointments and Hart’s return and caused him to revert to form. Sullen, uncooperative and generally awful. Last night, when Hart was told he couldn’t have pop until dinner, he flew into a rage, refused to go upstairs for a timeout and started punching, kicking, biting and pinching me.

The words I am beginning to really dread are, “Look, Mommy.” Somehow I thought it would be nice, like “look, Mommy, I can do it all by myself.” Unfortunately, whenever I heard those words, I know it’s something I don’t want to see. In the past week alone, Jeff twice in one day, “Look, Mommy!” (I have covered my face in blue marker), Hart, “Look, Mommy!” (I have pried the cover off the heating vent.) “Look, Mommy!” (Hart has colored on the freshly painted walls.) Those are just the acts of mischief that are announced!

Jan 15
We seem to coming off a difficult time with Hart. The new medication is making things worse, if anything. It’s very depressing.

I have Jeff for dinner this evening. It was crowded at Houlihan’s, so we sat at a table on the bar side. Jeff kept pointing to the bar and saying, QUACK! I had no idea what he was talking about until he finally pointed to the beer tap for Honker’s Ale which was shaped like a goose head.

Jeff is crazy about Green Eggs and Ham. He must have read it at school since he started reciting from it. I brought home the video and the book for him. We also had another video that the boys loved, Milk Cow, Eat Cheese. They think the part where the cows poop is hysterical. There’s a song, too: “Moo, Chew & Doo.” When I asked where milk comes from, Hart said, “It comes in cows!”

Jan 20
It’s been a tough few weeks with Hart. He destroyed his glasses on Tuesday, just out of impulsivity. The next day he cut a chunk out of his shirt. Last night he had a fit and had to be sent to his room. Howard went to talk to him (big mistake) and got kicked. Ms. B called and talked to me. I also spoke to Dr. F about the medication.

I started working at TJS in the mornings. It’s fun and it’s a bit of life away from my “mom” job.

Jan 22
Things are still pretty rough with Hart. He had a very good session with Margie yesterday where she talked about being angry. She had him bounce on a big ball first, then he was so quiet and thoughtful–I was astounded. However, he had two melt-downs this morning. The second one was with M, the OT, when Hart was told he could only have one snack item.

After calling Manny all manner of ugly names, he threatened to “go to the airport to a party with Jeff.” He explained that the party would have “a playplace, a park, a tunnel, a swimming pool and cookies.” “That sounds like paradise,” M replied.

Howard bravely took both guys sledding today.

Jeff has a slight case of diarrhea. When I noted that his poop was soft, he said, “That’s because of the snow.” Go figure.

Feb 11, 2000
Hart and I returned from four days in CA for Granny’s wedding. Jeff was sick and home from school the whole week and Hart also developed an ear infection. So yesterday, Hart stayed home from school and Jeff went back. However, he had a very very difficult day, due to the illness and possibly some anger towards me and Hart. He got a bad report, for running into the school during recess, then kicking and spitting at Mrs. V.

Then Ms. A called from childcare for me to come get him because his behavior was so out of control. He was contrite in the car, but his principal called to stay he was suspended for a day. Difficult dilemma: we don’t want to reward this behavior, but it does seem that he needs some attention from me. So I will take him back on Monday to meet with the principal and speak to all of Jeff’s victims and supervise an appropriate apology.

March 10, 2000
Hart is a dolphin. The dolphin is friendly, obedient and cooperative. And, the dolphin will work for pretend fish. So whatever works! Yesterday when I asked the dolphin which cereal he would like with his fish, he said, “Cheerios and snowflakes.”

March 11, 2000
Aliens have taken Hart and left a clone that is sweet, cheerful and well-behaved. Hart and I went to a new Middle East restaurant and he charmed everyone, including me, with his superior behavior. We drew on the paper tablecloth before the meal and together created an undersea/aquarium tableau. Then the food came and Hart liked it and ate and ate and ate. He insisted on going to the bathroom himself and returned directly to the table. He only got out of his seat once to take the bill and credit card over to the hostess.

I was absolutely astonished–we were there almost an hour and he was great. Last week he was rolling around under the table, before that he was jumping out of seat and bothering other diners. Recently on another occasion, he got up and sat down at someone else’s table. Tonight, I kept assuring him that he was surely going to be mistaken for a big kid or even an adult by his behavior.

March 16
Jeff has been sent home from school again. He has had a terrible week, possibly due to the change in medication time. He was alert, but he was obnoxious, so back to being sluggish but cooperative!

March 19
The weekend was thankfully uneventful. I took Hart to the Kohl Museum today and he did very well and we managed to stay there for almost two hours. He insisted on using the face paint to do his entire face. He looked ready for bush combat. I said, “I don’t even recognize you. Are you Hart?” Hart replied, “No, I’m a movie star.”

On the fridge, I have had a photo of the boys in Russia in the hotel. It’s been up there for years, but for some reason Jeff noticed it today and said, “Hey, we cute babies.”

Margie has recommended that I ask for a meeting at Jeff’s school. I think they are being way too rigid with him and not addressing the behavior problems appropriately. So that’s on my to-do list for tomorrow.

March 24
Hart is suspended again from childcare. He was back for a single day and then kicked Ms. C again. I am totally baffled. He is having a hard time in the mainstream kindergarten class and I wonder if that’s stressful. However, he is getting good reports from the teachers, so maybe he is just holding it in and then losing it by the time he gets to childcare.

March 26
I had Hart most of yesterday and he was OK. We see Dr. F and Margie tomorrow and I hope they can help. Hart is extremely impulsive again–wrecking the house wantonly, destroying Jeff’s stuff. Very stressful. I had him with me at a rummage sale and he did OK, although I lost him for a few minutes. Every time I spotted him I would tell him to stand in line with me so we could go and poof, he’d disappear. We had about a half dozen false starts, plus I had to jump out of line a few times.

I took him to Evanston Hospital to have blood drawn. He was very brave and didn’t make a peep. However, I want to speak to Dr. F about these strange social obsessions. Jeff is hung up on objects, but Hart gets these obessions with people and can’t be diverted. He attached himself to a little boy who had a Lego toy. They played together in the waiting area without too much adult intervention, but when it was the boy’s turn to go in for the blood, Hart insisted on going with him. I could tell he was making the kid even more nervous but Hart would not relent. Finally, Hart demanded that the nurse let him accompany this poor sobbing kid–I could see his dad vigorously shaking his head. She put her foot down and told him the rules are that kids have to stay with their own parents. Not only does he not pick up social cues from others, but even when told “don’t touch me” or “stop it” or I say, “This boy wants to be with his daddy,” Hart is undeterred.

March 30
It has been a miserable week. The boys have gone beserk and no one knows why. Jeff is now suspended from childcare for kicking and spitting. He thinks he is a very funny.

I spent Sunday evening with Hart in the ER. He decided to take some medication on his own. I spent over four hours entertaining him so he would stay awake. The other option was to admit him for overnight observation which did not seem like a great choice.

Then Monday there was some trouble at school. When I came to pick Hart up for an appointment with Dr. F, Ms B said not to bring him back after the appointment. He spent most of his session with Dr F throwing a tantrum, grunting and rolling on the floor.

He had another tantrum at home on Monday evening when I asked him to put his glasses away in the case. Jeff got upset when I tried to restrain Hart and stabbed me in the eye with his fork. Luckily it was a plastic fork and he just got the corner of my eye. Still, I have been a nervous wreck.

Next week is spring break and we had reservations to fly to southern CA for a few days. Legoland was on the itinerary. However, there was big mischief today at childcare, which resulted in Jeff’s suspension, and also coming home in the car, so we have decided to cancel the trip. Margie and Drs agree about this choice. I was so looking forward to Legoland myself! Also we were planning to see Granny and Grandpa Bill who will be very disappointed.

April 11
So we didn’t go to CA. However, the week was fine. Hart went to Fleetwood Jourdain Center for day camp and Jeff and I vegged at home. Hart did fine until Friday afternoon when he melted down and had to be sent home. The weekend was tough. Hart is having trouble sleeping and is awake and all over the place for hours. I am sure the whole neighborhood heard him yelling, “Get your hairy legs off me!” as I tried to restrain him. We know we need to get the boys in separate bedrooms. Last night was the first night in a while that everyone slept through the night.

We have decided to take Dr. F’s advice and have Hart treated at the psychiatric day program at Lutheran General. I am scrambling around trying to get everything squared away with the insurance. On top of that, Hart lost his glasses and Jeff was kind enough to break his spare pair.

April 14, 2000
I think yesterday was the worst day of my life. It was the first day that I felt absolutely despondent and hopeless about the boys. It was Hart’s first day at Lutheran General Hospital’s day treatment program. We anticipate that he will be in the program for about three weeks. Of course, there was a lot of paperwork and introductory stuff and Hart was very impatient. I do wish Dr F wouldn’t talk about Hart while he is the same room. Anyway, right away he started kicking an orderly, so into “jail,” the padded room. There is a video camera mounted on the ceiling, so it was a shock to look in on him, forlornly lying there. (Maybe we can install such a room here.)

When I picked him up, I wanted to get Hart’s glasses replaced, but we have a new insurance arrangement so I had to take him to a new place, where he had a meltdown and started beating up on me. It was just a long day for him.

Meanwhile, Jeff has been causing as much trouble at school and childcare as he can manage. He has been getting bad reports daily. I met with Margie and the psychologist and his teacher to talk today. It’s clear that Ms. B would like to see Jeff hospitalized as well, and taken off all medication. I know we don’t have the cocktail right, but eliminating the meds is not the answer.

We agree that Jeff craves more time with me, so we are trying to do some things towards that. Dr L called, she thinks the Luvox is the problem. Dr F took Hart off the Luvox, too, interestingly enough. It’s to treat the OCD stuff, but clearly Jeff is getting worse with that, rather that better.

Also, I left a message for the allergist. Hart looked positively miserable when I picked him up–nose crusty, eyes puffy and red, deep purple allergic shiners. So it has been very disheartening all around.

May 9, 2000
Hart has been back at school for about a week and a half. But now Jeff is in the hospital! Hart seems to be holding it together fairly well. I got his hospital documents today–very unsettling. He really did well with the very structured environment of the hospital and is not a behavior problem at school. I don’t know what I can do to emulate that at home.

Jeff has had a decent start in the program. He did not have any timeouts today. However, it is clear that he doesn’t like Ms. B’s class or childcare. He has said numerous times that he doesn’t want to go to childcare. After talking with Margie, I guess we might as well withdraw him until the end of the school year.

When I talked to him today, he said how much he loves “hospital camp” and was dismayed to hear that he would eventually go back to school. Dr. L called, she wants to meet with me next week since she has some ideas.

I have lucked onto a good thing, purely by accident. Tahra, from across the street, loves to babysit. I can’t leave her for a long time or with more than one, but it is really helping me, since she can spend the half hour with Jeff while I go pick up Hart from childcare. (In fact for her first job here, Jeff was sleeping the whole time so it seemed a safe experiment. When we got home I cautioned Hart to leave Jeff alone since he was tired. Then I heard Hart’s voice upstairs! When I asked what he was doing in the bedroom, he said, “I not waking Jeff, I’m kissing him.” Awwwwwww. )

Still very distressed about Eva leaving us. I now have ES who is crazy about working with the boys but just doesn’t seem to have the right chemistry. Hart and Jeff are worse-behaved when she IS here which means I have extra duty to supervise her and I have to calm them down after she leaves. I can’t bear to fire a 14-year-old. It might be partly me, the boys wear me out so much that I don’t have the energy to answer all her questions or reply to every statement, and I don’t feel like explaining everything I say or decide or do to her.

Hart kind of took me by surprise today, when he said, “Mommy, do you remember when I was in your tummy?” He was excited to hear that he and Jeff had been together in the tummy, even though I explained that it was another woman’s tummy, a woman in Russia. Then Hart said, without emotion, “I miss my mommy.” I tried to elicit more information from him without success. One of his childcare teachers recently had a baby and maybe that’s what has piqued his interest.

June 4, 2000
Hart has had a very difficult day. Jeff has been alternately soothing him and agitating him. Now at 4 p.m. he has recovered from his 4th or 5th screaming tantrum of the day and Howard finally got him out of the house. As the door closed behind them, Jeff shook his head, “He’s a sad little Hart.”

Leah comes to stay with us for the summer today and not moment too soon. Dr. F keeps telling me that no single mortal is up to the task of these boys and I realize it is too true.

June 30, 00
Hart keeps telling me that he is a daddy. He has the baby lobster puppet, two Teletubbies and his stuffed Ziggy (Doughboy) who are his children. Yesterday in the car he announced that he is Doughboy’s daddy. Minutes later, I turned to tell him something. “Hart….” “Don’t call me Hart, I’m daddy.” “But you aren’t my daddy,” I told him. “What should I call you?” “Monk, like you call Daddy.”

It’s been going well with Leah although I concur with Dr. L’s assessment that there is some spontaneous chemical activity going on when the boys are together. They can be cheerful, chatty and engaged, then walk into the house, see the other and just lose it. I met with Dr. P who worked with the boys at the hospital and she has planned some more testing this summer, especially for Jeff. Both she and I are convinced that Jeff has not had the proper classroom placement and the problems there only increased his anxiety, which increased his inappropriate behavior. On the other hand, he loves summer school. He adores his teacher–I was there today to speak to her and he was a different kid. He and R were holding hands and playing together on the playground. The two of them had to be separated all spring so they got into so much trouble together.

July 22
Jeff and I had dinner at Hackney’s last night. When our hamburgers came, they were on dark rye bread although I asked that Jeff’s come without bread. I immediately took his plate to remove the bread, when Jeff exclaimed, “Why you taking that bread away? It’s good. It’s chocolate.”

Aug 23
Summer is almost over. I have had Jeff home all week while Hart is at Park District. Last week I amused Hart while Jeff was at camp. It went fine although by Thursday, my patience was wearing thin. I am trying to arrange a school meeting in early September–we have completed a full battery of tests at Lutheran General and the boys qualify for more services than they are currently getting. Also, we have more useful information about their relative strengths as well as weaknesses.

August 28
Three days until school starts and both boys are home this week. This morning I woke up to find Hart trying to be quiet while Jeff slept. Unfortunatly, he couldn’t help himself from harassing Jeff so we all were up before 7 am. As the boys left my room, in perfect synchronization, they turned and wagged their tongues at me. It was like it had been choreographed.

August 29
Yesterday Hart and I went to Dawes to meet his new teacher. He tried out the desks and chose a locker. His speech therapist is eight months pregnant and happened to pass by the room. Hart was working on the computer when R said, “Hi, Hart, notice anything different about me?” Without even looking up from the screen, Hart said, “Yeah, there’s somebody in there.”

October 11
As the boys get older, there is an increasing level of frustration since their ideas are much more complex than their language permits them to express. Here’s a conversation with Hart yesterday.

H-Tomorrow I’m going to be in a camera. They’re going to picture me.
L-You’re having your picture taken?
H-Yes, they’re going to camera us.

I realized later he must mean he will be videotaped.

The sequel to The Little Mermaid was just released. I was the first to get a copy from the library. We have watched it every day since. Ever since our visit to Disney World, Hart has a big crush on Ariel and is interested in mermaids.

October 20, 2000
I took Jeff to JRC for Simchat Torah services. We went to the Sukkah last week and he loved it. Jeff had a great time. When I asked him if he was ready to go, he said, “No, I’m still praying!”

December 21, 2000 First Night of Hanukah
A dark and cold, cold day! Jeff lost his first tooth, well teeth, actually. For a few days Jeff has been complaining about wiggily teeth. The dentist expected him to loose a few this summer, but so far, nothing except a gap developing between two bottom teeth. Last night while brushing his teeth I was alarmed to notice that he had two fully erupted teeth growing in behind his baby teeth…like a shark with a second row of teeth. I called the dentist and she suggested I bring him this evening. She offered to “yank them out” or wait two weeks and see what happens. I said the choice was up to Jeff and said, “Yank em” so she did. They look like two grain of rice, so small. Dr L gave him a little treasure chest for the Tooth Fairy. Jeff wanted to leave a window open for her, but since it’s cold out, I advised against that. I assured him that the Tooth Fairy can use magic to get in.

I haven’t written about karate. Both boys earned their yellow belts at the end of November and that has renewed their motivation. Jeff certainly likes it better than Hart does, but aside from the daily complaining as we get ready, they are both really doing well. I am amazed at Sensei’s “tough love” success. Hart has a crush on V, who is one of the few girls in karate. She is just five and tiny, with long blonde hair. Her mother told me she is taking karate to gain some confidence. A few sessions ago, Hart sidled up to her and asked, “Can I have your phone number?” She was too shy to answer. He has since asked if he can sleep at her house.

January 24, 2001
We had a scary weekend. Jeff has taken up sleepwalking. At 10 pm on Saturday night, he put his coat and boots on, opened two locks and left the house. I was in the basement and Howard was upstairs–Howard assumed I had gone out momentarily when he heard the door. When he saw the open front door and Jeff’s bed empty, we realized what had happened.

While I scoured the neighborhood, Howard called the police and several squad cars combed the area. They found him several blocks away, pretty dazed and disoriented. At first I though this was another prank, but Jeff described what must have been a dream, and his doctor concurs that it was sleepwalking. It was a terrifying half hour. Also, when I found out he had managed to cross busy Golf Road, I was really nervous.

On the lighter side, Hart recently told me I looked like a mermaid. He saw me in a pink bra.

March 15, 2001
The boys saw Once Upon a Mattress today at Evanston High School with their classes. Jeff’s homework assignment was to write a sentence about the show. It was like pulling teeth to get him to give a complete sentence about it. I had to coach by having him eliminate possibilities. However, about a half an hour later he announced, “The big kids are pigs because they throw garbage on the sidewalk.” No problem talking about something of interest to him!

June 28, 2001
So relieved that the year from hell with Jeff’s school is finally over. I have nightmares about the evil N. If I never see her or U or the principal, it will be too soon. I keep reminding myself, Howard and our lawyer, Charlie, that Jeff is going back to that school over my cold, dead body. He is on the waiting list for P’TACH at Arie Crown and at Cove School. We should know in July if there is a space at either school.

I have sent off the materials to the insurance company in hopes of getting our August treatment at the Family Attachment Center covered.

Yesterday Hart said, “Daddy and I ate Chinese food for dinner. What kind of food did you have?” I had to think a moment. “Um, well, I guess we ate American.” “YOU ATE A FLAG!?”

Both boys passed their karate orange belt test a few weeks ago. We still have some fuss about getting ready to go to karate–they are tired after summer school and camp–but it’s not a full-fledged tantrum. Hart has been working very hard in karate. Jeff has been a real goofball and I was relieved that he passed the test. He has been spending a lot of time on the sidelines for messing around.

June 30
I had the boys all day today. Arrrgh. I have come to dread Sundays. Also, it was unseasonably cool. Yesterday was in the upper 80s, I planned to take the boys to the pool again today. However, it was barely 70 out. In fact, I was a little cold wearing shorts. I asked the boys if they wanted to change in to long pants, too. “No,” replied Hart, “We have Russian blood, so we don’t care.”

July 9
We are back from five days in New England. It went fine, with only minor issues. Howard routinely leaves me to wrangle both boys while he has long long conversations with his office. That sends me over the edge. It aggravated me even before we had the boys.

Jeff really enjoyed the ship-building stuff at Mystic Seaport and anything related to nature. Hart and I walked all over Newport and he was pretty good about it. I promised a trolley ride back when we got to The Breakers.

July 21, 2001
Jeff loves to act out elaborate stories, especially in the car. I usually play myself and Jeff can be a mechanic, bus driver, waiter, store clerk or someone else he thinks up. One of his favorite characters is Jim, our plumber, who owns a red pickup truck. Jim’s (frequent) visits to the house are a big treat for the boys since they get to watch and help him and he has a lot of cool tools. Jeff likes to pretend to be Jim. Today in the car, the script was:

J (as Jim): Hi, it’s Jim. I have come to fix your toilet.
L: Great, come on in, Jim. Do you have all your tools?
J: I am missing one tool. It’s a bike tool, for fixing bikes.
L: Oh, do you have to drive home and get it?
J: Do your boys have it?
L: Gee, I don’t know, I’ll ask them. Jeff, Hart, Jim is looking for one of his tools. Do you know where it is?
J (as himself): (Laughs) Yeah, we got it.

It was so apt, so true-to-life I had to keep from laughing.

Jeff’s language has improved considerably this year, although he still has problems retrieving words or pronouncing them. Sometimes the listener has to supply a few syllables or words to get the meaning. However, today he said quite clearly, “I want to be an architect.”

Sept 2, 2001
We have been back one week since our two weeks of therapy at the Family Attachment Center. The first week was hellish, but by the second week I could already see some improvements. We had a few good days once we got back…calmer, certainly. However, on Thursday Jeff went into full-scale revolt and it’s been hard trying to get things back to where they were. Howard wasn’t along for the treatment and hasn’t shown any interest in the tapes or the techniques so the boys may be confused.

The therapists’ observations include:
· The boys’ ADHD is not organic; it’s acquired ADHD from orphanage experiences
· They are “workable.” The play therapy tapes show them listening, following directions, being attentive, etc.
· We need to shift the boys’ internal model to “we can be successful together.”
· The storytelling technique is used to change the internal working model.

Our time in MN was fine. Mom was great, although 24 hours a day with the boys is a real chore under any circumstances. The hotel, however, is not eager to see us come back, I’m sure. We went to Mall of America a few times, to play at the LEGO Imagination Center and go to the Aquarium. We went horseback riding, Mom, me, Hart and Jeff. We each had our own horse on a trail ride. The boys were thrilled. Jeff got rather miffed that my horse, Panda, bit his horse’s ear. He is quite indignant on Trigger’s behalf. Once I turned around to ask him a question during the ride and he said, “I’m concentrating on driving.”

Jeff started at Cove School this week as a second grader. We hope to prevail in court if our district will not settle with us. We are nervous about the money, which is more than one year’s tuition at a private university. However, I believe we had no choice. The transition has been OK. It’s been hard on Jeff since Hart doesn’t start until next week. On Thursday evening he had a crying jag, saying he missed Hart and his new school is “too far away.” I gave him a photo of Hart to take to school and he announced Friday that he was “happy now and didn’t need it.”

September 16, 2001
We have tried to protect the boys from the images of the World Trade Center on TV and in the newspaper. However, kids are talking about this at school. Cove School had a social worker visit each classroom to talk about the tragedy. On Saturday, Hart noticed that many cars and buildings had flags up and asked me about it.

L: Did you have a minute of silence yesterday at school?
H: Yes, the principal announced it.
L: Everyone all over the world did that. People are all sad about the plane that crashed into the buildings.
H: Where’s the plane now?
L: Gone, it broke into millions of pieces when it crashed.
H: Where’s the driver, the driver of the plane?
L: Well, he’s dead.
H: He wasn’t watching where he was going.
L: At first, everyone thought it was an accident, but now we know that he did it on purpose.

About an hour later, Hart asked about the plane again. I realized I had inferred that the pilot had intentionally crashed the plane.

H: What happened to the people?
L: Do you mean the people on the airplane?
H: Yes.
L: Well, they all died. That’s why we are sad and that’s why the flags are out today. A crazy man came into the cockpit and told the pilot, ‘Let me drive the plane or I’ll kill you.’ That’s what happened.
H: He was mean.

October 9, 2001
Hart was at the dentist today. (&^$#&$#, more cavities!) When Dr. L came in to examine him, he asked her, “Are you the dentist?” She was a bit surprised at this question, since Hart has been there many times before. “Yes, I am.” “Oh, I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

October 11, 2001
Feels like years have passed…in just the last month. We have had several episodes of running away. Two weeks ago, the boys ran away—naked—at 7 am on a 50˚ day. The principal of St. Joan spotted two little butts moving past his window. Luckily the boys were cooperative when he summoned them. The police brought them home in St. Joan uniforms.

Jeff also ran away from Howard this weekend. I think that was a catalyst for a lot of pent-up feelings on both Howard’s and my parts. To no one’s surprise, Howard and I are planning to split up. I have no idea how we will work this out: Howard has his doubts (legitimately) about how I will manage. Well, stay tuned.

On Monday, the boys got out on the flat roof at the back of the house. I had always assumed that door is locked. HA!. Apparently, they climbed over the railing, onto the sloped, shingled roof and across to the flat roof outside our bedroom. I rushed up to see Jeff standing outside on the roof but there was no sign of exit. Thank God, he was pretty cooperative when I took the screen off and pulled him through the window. Hart was more recalcitrant, but when Jeff was compliant, he came, too. Good thing, because I would have never fit through the window and I know THAT door to the outside porch is locked.

Hart’s homework yesterday involved writing questions and using question marks. He was to come up with a riddle, written as a question. I suggested, “What animal doesn’t play fair?” A cheetah. After carefully writing out the riddle, I asked, “Do you remember the answer?” “A tiger, no, it’s a leopard.” (Don’t quit your day job, son.)

I overheard Hart telling Jeff about a “speckle wait.” After a moment, I realized, he was saying, “Have a respectful wait.”

November 6, 2001
Jeff has been in the hospital for a week now. Last Monday he ran away from school and I was called to come pick him up. Something certainly has not been right for the past few weeks. His teacher has been talking to me and to Dr. L about the intense perseverative behavior.

He seemed to be relieved when I told him we were going back to “hospital camp.” However, it’s been very hard for Hart who has been acting up in school. He was sent to the Sunday School director since he was unable to participate in class at all. Karate seems to be OK, though.

Anyway, it’s hard on all of us. Howard was out of town when Jeff was admitted to the hospital: he seems to feel this is another scheme I have cooked up.

Last night Jeff looked much better. He was more alert, calm and affectionate. He is off the Dexedrine for ADHD, was initially extremely hyperactive there. He had an EEG done today and our staffing is tomorrow. I hope we can bring him home. Tonight Hart and I went to visit. Jeff was thrilled to see us.

In Jeff’s absense I have been trying to give Hart extra TLC. Although he doesn’t have his partner in crime, he can still be quite trying, rummaging through our bedroom, being fixated on ladybugs, chanting, screaming, etc.

Hart has expressed some interest in Memorial Park, since we pass it with some frequency. Shortly before Halloween, he asked, “Is that a cemetery?” I replied, “Yes.” “There are dead people there.” “Would you like to see the cemetery sometime?” “Yes, but not at night. I don’t want to wake them up.”

Last Sunday, a beautiful fall day, we walked through the cemetery. However, Hart had other questions. “Why didn’t a baby grow in your tummy?” “I don’t know.” “You never had a baby in there.” “No. But it’s just as well. If I had had a baby…” Then Hart finished my sentence “…you wouldn’t need Jeff and me!”

Today, the play therapist from MN called. We discussed having her come here for a month to work with the boys “in situ.” I hope that the government money for respite care will help us out.

Also, Charlie and I have spoken. Our certified letter from Illinois State Board of Education came: Parents of Jeffrey S v. school district. Charlie feels that the hospitalization has strengthened our case, by providing further evidence that public school is not the place for Jeff. I have a whole list of people to speak to about the proposed schedule for the hearing.

November 24, 2001
We have survived four days of Thanksgiving break without major mishap. I attended Hart’s conference on Tuesday and on Wednesday, Hart and I attended a field trip to see Monsters, Inc with Jeff’s Cove class. It was a bit strange: this is the first time Hart has ever been to Cove and Jeff’s classmates were eager to meet him. Upon our arrival, staff kept greeting Hart thinking he was Jeff (even with his glasses on!) I think Hart was a bit put out by this after it happened seven times. They don’t look that much alike!

Howard took Hart to the parade downtown and Odelia and I were at home with Jeff on Thanksgiving. We hosted dinner with the grandparents at Barnum & Bagel. It was nice not having to clean and organize everything. Today, Saturday, I took Hart to see The Princess Diaries while Jeff was at Howard’s office.

Jeff and I are working though the first Harry Potter book. It’s the first non-picture book I have read out loud. Hart is interested, too, but is having a harder time understanding and paying attention. I read for about one half hour or so every night, until Jeff complains he is too tired to continue. The movie just came out and I promised we can see if (2 hours and 40 minutes!) once we finish the book. I paraphase the English terms and I skip bits of dialogue, but I am trying to remain true to the book. Aside from being a wonderful story, it’s the major topic of conversation among kids these days, so I hope it will provide the boys some social advantage.

December 10, 2001
Jeff is home sick today. He has had a cold, but this morning woke up with his eyes fused shut from discharge, so I took him to the doctor. He is feeling OK, he just look awful. He went on a few errands with me. At Aldi, there is a toy aisle and Jeff fell in love with a display of large remote control VW Beetles. I thought we were in for a tantrum when he wouldn’t budge and kept telling me how he wanted one. I was empathetic but firm. After disengaging himself from the cars, he said, “Mommy, please get me out of here. The Beetles are making me nuts.”

December 15, 2001
Hart and I went to dinner last night. I asked him about a project on countries that they have been working on. “Is anyone else from another country, other than you?” “I am from Russia,” he told me. “Annie is from Disney World.” “What about R?” I asked him. “She is from another country.” “She’s from Russia, too.” “Well, no. She is from a country near Russia. She is from Poland.” Hart looked up eagerly. “That where Santa Claus and penguins are.”

Hart had a difficult time at synagogue. I thought he would enjoy the music and the service is quite informal. However, he was determined to be onstage, even with an entire klezmer band, all the electrical equipment. After he nearly knocked over the lit menorah and candle sticks, it was time to go. Of course, he did not want to leave. In the car home, he was very angry. I stressed that I was not angry–I assured him I understood that sometimes kids have a hard time. “I was a kid, too. I remember that sometimes it is really hard.” Hart stopped sobbing a minute. I don’t think he believed I had actually been a child ever. “Who were your mom and dad?” he challenged. “Granny and Grandpa Paul, before he died. Uncle Ted and Uncle Arnie are my brothers. We all lived together before we were grownups. You have one brother to argue with. I had two!”

Dec 22, 2001
Hart got some goodies from M at OT today. He got something plastic stuck in his teeth on the way home. I will help you when we stop driving, I told him. “How about using the dental frosting?” Hart suggested.

Our attorney, Charlie, called yesterday to say that a favorable settlement had been reached. The District initially requested that we agree to send Jeff back to public school next year, but we (obviously) refused. Recent tests show that Jeff is working at end-of-1st-grade level, which means he condensed all of first grade into the first 8-10 weeks at Cove!

January 26, 2002
Hart announced today that he wants to change his name when he is a grownup. “You don’t like the name Hart?” I asked. “No, it’s a valentine name.”

Howard took Jeff to the Dollar Store today and he picked out a fashion doll. (He must be tired of cars, having earned 16 Hot Wheels in the past three days at school.) He took her to the park today. It has been unseasonably warm. A gaggle of 7-8 year girls spotted him immediately with the doll.
In horror, one asked, “What’s that?”
“That’s my girl,” Jeff answered.
The girls gasped and looked at each other in disbelief and horror.
“Do you know Barbies are for girls?”
“I don’t care,” he replied without changing his tone or his smile.
“You must be a girl.” No answer.
A few minutes later, the lead girl started calling “Barbie Boy, Barbie Boy.”
Jeff was easily in earshot but continued bouncing on the seesaw without even acknowleging the girl.
A few minutes later, Jeff was climbing up the structure with his doll still in hand. Not to be detered, the girl approached him again. “Let me see that Barbie.”
“Drop that Barbie now.”
Jeff didn’t answer but continued smiling and waving the doll in the wind.”
“If you don’t give me that Barbie, I will punch you in the face.”
Still getting no reply, the girl flounced off with one last parting shot. “Barbies are stupid anyway.”
In karate, the kids have learned strategies against bullying. Although this wasn’t the same thing, I was impressed that Jeff didn’t rise to the taunts and commended him for it.

May 28, 2002
At the park, Hart found a frisbee. When I told him to leave it there because it belonged to someone, he said, “No, sweepers, losers.”

Both boys recently passed their green belt promotion test for karate. Jeff has been taking karate lessons privately which has really helped him. He just asked to return to the class and seems to be managing.

Our IEP at Cove School went smoothly, depite my apprehensions. Jeff is eligible for summer school and will continue in 3rd grade with Ms O.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
What an exciting week! Pernille and Jesper were here from Denmark and had a great time with the boys, and with me. I can hardly believe it is ten years since I have seen them and over twenty four years that Pernille and I have known each other. It was a great visit, despite being unbearably hot (upper 90s).

I took them to the airport on Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning, the boys got me up around 5 am yelling that there was an animal downstairs. Sure enough, there was a small opossum sleeping in the basement window well. I dutifully called animal control after the boys had left and they scooped it up and released it.

This morning, Wednesday, I got the boys off to summer school and went up to take a shower. As I turned to open the shower doors and start the water, I caught sight of a raccoon staring up at me from the tub! In a micro-second I rushed out of the bathroom, shutting the door behind me and summoned animal control for the second time in 24 hours. Then I got hysterical.

It appears that the raccoon (or opossum) chewed threw the new basement window vent screen, then made its way up two flights of stairs. We can only guess how long it was in the house! Luckily it seemed to be an adolescent, old enough to be on its own, but too young to be hostile.

Our summer is going well, overall. Jeff and Hart are finishing up summer school. Jeff is at Cove. Hart is being tutored by Ms O. I have applied for Hart to go to Cove, but it is likely we will be on the waiting list for a while. I am not sure where the District will ultimately recommend placement for Hart. Mrs. B suggested the BD/ED room but that’s not really a fit. Hart needs lots of OT and Speech intervention and thus far, the District has refused us on this point.

December 2005

August 4, 2003
How can I be a parent of 10-year-olds? Two more days . . .

Summer is going fine. Both boys are done with summer school. I have scheduled camps for the remainder of the summer. Jeff continues speed skating. He has gotten faster and better, but doesn’t have the same enthusiasm he had when he started. I guess it’s old news.

Hart had had enough of karate and wanted to figure skate. He is doing very well and enjoys it. So I will be spending a lot of time at the rink this coming season.

Baby Julian was born July 9, 2003. The boys are thrilled with their new cousin. We are all awfully sad to see Ted and Allison leave town, and take “our”baby with them. Ted has been an invaluable support throughout the divorce stuff.

I look forward to the coming school year, 4th grade, and the first year ever where the boys’ placement is not in question. Jeff will start his third year at Cove. I hope for the best, since he will not have his own aide anymore. Hart started at JCB Therapuetic Day School in January. It was a bumpy year for him, with transitions. However, he will have the same teacher, same aide and the same staff who love him. I didn’t expect to have a kid attend an Orthodox day school, but now that it has happened I can’t say enough wonderful things about the program.

Arizona, November 2003
Check out the boots!