Category Archives: Family

Family Moments – 2 year old

I love kids at the age of two. It’s the age of exploration, and the age at which their personality begins to blossom.

My daughter has a stubborn streak, where she’ll just says “Mm Mmmm,” in a quick way, dismissing something. It feels a bit like she’s a princess, insisting on compliance. It’s completely declarative. If you disagree with her, there will be an argument. Recently, my son and I had to go somewhere. She climbed into the car, and when her mother or I coaxed her to leave, saying she wasn’t going, she simply said “Mm Mmmm,” as if that was that, and we’d better find a way to accommodate her.

She calls me “Caca momo”, which is her version of the Ukrainian “Tato Roman” (daddy Roman).

She also has a slightly different version of kaka, meaning poop. And at a remarkably young age – perhaps even before her second birthday, she developed the way of insulting people – “mama kaka” – which we heard just once when her mother couldn’t accommodate her, and also “Dania Kaka” – once or twice when her brother wouldn’t give her any attention (a recurring theme in our home).

She learned the expression “yolky palky”, which is sort of a strange Ukrainian expression for “darn it”. I literally translates to “Christmas tree sticks.” I have no idea about its origin. When her mother asked her how she’d feel if I went away for a short while on a trip, she said “yolky palky”.

She was just a little late in beginning to speak, probably a result of being a bilingual household. For the short period of time during which we worried about this, we encouraged her to speak as much as possible. Her mother was getting ready to plant some flower, and told her the Ukrainian word for flowers — “kvity.” She repeated “Keety”. Her mother repeated, more slowly, “Kvity”, and again, “Keety.” They went through a few cycles, and then our little angel drew her arm way back and swatter her mother’s cheek. It was so unexpected, emphatic, and uncharacteristic, and both of us parents doubled over laughing.

Once, she threw her mother’s phone. For better or worse, she started watching Lingo Kids on her mom’s phone. The screen cracked, and her mother, frustrated and working busily in the kitchen told her there’d be no more phone. Our daughter, no doubt devastated, stood thunderstruck for a moment until her mother seemed to no longer be watching her. Then she very slowly and carefully braced herself first with one hand on the floor, then lowered herself to her elbows, then she turned over onto her back as if she had slipped and fallen, and she let out a horrific, pained cry, desperate for some sympathy . . . which she received.

Another time she was chatting with her grandmother back in Ukraine over a video call. She does this regularly. And when she had to go potty, there was no reason to interrupt the conversation. And when she did her business, she had no hesitation in pointing the phone toward her work and showing it to grandma.

She has several habits of a younger child, like the willingness to play completely by herself. Also, she sometimes pre-emptively says “and me!” to ensure she isn’t excluded from something which may be going on.

I Never Thought I’d be a Refugee of Sorts

though the trials, at least the physical ones, were nothing more than you might experience on a camping trip, or on a long, exhausting road trip.

On the other hand, there’s emotional stress from your country being invaded, loved ones at risk, or worse, and some guilt for departing.

I’m a very high brow refugee.  In half an hour they’ll be moving us from a normal room into a suite.

Planning A Basement for Our Home

Today I reminded my wife of something.

About a year and a half ago, we debaed whether to build a home in Ukraine or move back to the US. We went pretty far in the home-planning process, and had architects make and revise plans.

My wife didn’t want a basement because she perceives them as creepy. I said it’d be good to have one in case of artillery.

I told the architects the same thing when we visited the lot together, and we all laughed.

In the end we removed the basement from the plans, and then cancelled the plans altogether, making the very difficult decision to remain in Lviv and then move back to the US.

The cancellation was informed in part by it being too close to the border with Russia. So that was wise.

Instead, we build a second story onto the home of my in-laws. Yesterday, they jokingly hoped no rocket would crash through their new roof.

Family Moments – two Island

For my son, America is mostly Emerald Island, where we have vacationed a few times.

Today he asked me whether America was two Islands — meaning, Emerald Isle, and the one on the other side of the bridge (ie. Continental America).

Family Moments

My son has a flare for drama. We make combat planes from bristle blocks. He asks me to use my plane to defeat his, which he breaks into pieces and drops to the sound of explosions. Then he asks me to celebrate my victory, and as I do so, he makes dramatic tones and slowly reveals another ship of his which he’d hidden before the first battle, and of course this one avenges his loss.

We’ve done this four or five times already.


At gymnastics my son like to pay the trainer after his lesson. My wife asked him if he wants exact change, or a bill that needs change. My son asked for the bill that needs change. So he paid with his 200 hryvnia note (about $7), and received 50 hryvnias in change (about $1.80). My wife let him add the change to his wallet. I think he has about $30 worth of hryvnias.

When I was putting him to bed at night, he asked me if he’s going to be poor because he has so little money. I told him that he wouldn’t because I’d give him money. He seemed relieved. “Like when I’m 10?” He asked. “No, probably when your 18, and again when you’re 21,” I said. Then I correct myself, “probably I’ll start giving you money when your 18 and then keep giving it to you little by little. The trick for you will be not to lose it. Or, even better, to figure out how to make it grow.” Then I again I found something to add: “If you make it grow nicely, you’ll be able to then help your own children.”

He thought about this. “When I have children,” he said, “I think I’ll let them play on their tablets all day without any limits, and I’ll let them use their mother’s telephone too if they want to.”


My 1 1/2 year daughter uses her vocabulary of three words to great effect. She’s grown quite confident and comfortable with her three words. I even wonder if her development will progress at all because her needs are so adequately met my her three words. They are “ma ma”, “ka ka” (which means dad), and more interestingly “am”.

“am” is by far the most interesting. It may mean a few things:

feed me
give me
take this

So, the other day, I was slicing a tomato in the kitchen — a little bit distractedly as my eggs were already in the pan. Marichka was in her grandmother’s arms, and she said “am”, then again, “am”, and then . . . as loudly and angrily as I’d ever heard her say anything, “AAAAMMMM!”.

Shocked, and realizing she was addressing me, I turned toward her. She appeared a bit embarrassed and reverted to her typical angelic countenance, and, having gotten my attention, said in a small, sweet, modest voice, “am”.

I gave her all the slices of tomatoes she wanted.

edit – I guess she has a fourth word in her vocabulary: “pa pa”. Goodbye.

Fatherhood Moments

Marichka must have seen people blowing their noses. Several times she held a tissue to her face and sputtered her lips, making a sound similar to blowing ones nose.


Marchika gave me a toy, a sort of blob of rubber in the vague shape of an animal, then she pointed up and started making sounds, wanting something. I thought maybe she wanted the magnets fixed to pole, so I offered them, but she kept gesticulating. My wife explained it. I threw the blob to the ceiling and it stuck with a splat. Marichka laughed. Then the pushed a chair over, pointed up and started gesticulating again. That’s the game. I climbed up, peeled the blog off the ceiling and stepped down. Marichka refused to take it, but insisted I throw it again.


I keep my kids eating healthy, and I’m much stricter about it than my wife.

When my son and I returned from a walk, and included a rare dinner at McDonald’s, my wife asked my son what he had.

He replied: “A cheese burger and not-coca-cola.”

(I ordered juice for him.)

Family Moments

My one and a half year old daughter likes to feed me. Her mother will give her a plate of cookies, or cut apples or bananas. She’s taken to waddling across the room to me with little handfuls of food. I usually take the first delivery and thank her emotively. But after a few deliveries I being to say “no thank you.”

Previously, she accepted the polite rejection, but today, she resorted to throwing the food at me, and then returning for more.

(This is pretty much how I’m treated when I visit my extended family here in Ukraine.)

Family moments

Feedback from my son

* During bedtime stories, some Roald Dahl story mentioned a teacher being the most beautiful woman in the world. My son interrupted and said, “no mama is the most beautiful.”

* Once, in the park, we saw some father yelling at his already-crying son. My son said “he is crying because his father is yelling at him.” “Yes,” I said. Then, I was proud to hear my son add: “You don’t yell at me like that, you just tell me the truth about things.”

* My son said that when he’ll have children I’ll be a grandfather, and he said that I’ll be the type of grandfather that does not give candy.

Such a girl

* It’s difficult to describe but my 14 month old daughter seems extremely girlish in comparison to her brother. The difference in startling. Where my son always wanted to do thing with a lot of physicality, she just want to be present in the group and command attention. She often beams with happiness from some attention she gets, though tries to hide it too. Often times when you pick her up, she’ll take some time to survey the room, very content for having the commanding vantage point and my attention. After a moment she’ll point somewhere and make a sound, commanding me to go there.

Frozen Lake

There had been a huge blizzard in March that inconvenienced everybody for about two weeks, and then a long melting period, and a last gasp of winter in mid March.

After much encouragement, I convinced my son to go for a walk down to the lake to see the melting ice. I told him it was his last chance to see the fishermen sitting on their stools on the ice.

The wind had blown the ice and it broke in layers and rose up the edge of the concrete dam. Danny broke the ice with the badminton racket. It chipped off in long crystals and he put some in his pockets, and insisted I do the same even after I told him they’d just turn into water.

There were only three fishermen left on the ice sitting by the sluice gates, and another one on the other side of the lake who seemed to be checking a row of fishing lines in holes drilled far apart.

Family Moments

My son and I often wrestle and clown around before I read him bed time stories to put him to sleep. Our not-yet-one-year-old daughter now recognized our routine, and loves watching. She smiles and laughs.


Once my son and I were playing with bristle blocks. My wife had to run an errant, so our daughter was with us on a mattress on the floor. My son and I built planes and rockets and would pretend they’d fight in the air. After a few rounds, my daughter lifted a single block into the air and sputtered making a sound like an engine.


An old friend of mine from Brazlilian Jiu Jitsu visited our apartment. Almost ten years ago, he and I founded the Lviv Grappling Club together. He’s a great young man — courageous, tough, honest fair. My daughter, who is usually cautious with strangers, pulled herself to her feet in her baby bed, and stood peering over the side and smiling. My wife and I were both surprised and amused. It seemed like she was trying to get attention. I hope this is a sign that she recognizes good men.


Jealousy doesn’t seem to have been a problem with the kids. The few times I noticed Danny looking solemnly at us from a distance while my wife and I cooed at our daughter, I immediately brought him in with humor. I went over to him joking things like: “oh, look how quickly his hair has grown out,” “and teeth too. Look at those little teeth.” “Oh, and it seems he can already talk, that’s amazing,” “and walk too, look how well . . . and run. He can already run. Hey! Come back here!”


My wife was bathing our daughter and my son was playing minecraft. I was upstairs working. First he called to me, asking how to say “parkan” in English. “Fence,” I answered. Then he asked me wife to write fence on the computer. (He was playing in creative mode where all items and materials are accessible.) My wife said she couldn’t because she was bathing our daughter. Our son suggested he hold her while my wife runs to the computer and types “fence.” He’d never done that before so it was somewhat of a bold idea, but he’s been pretty careful and protective of her. So he held her firmly by the shoulders in her little bath so that she would fall forward into the water, and my wife typed fence. Our daughter was, as usual, delighted by his attention.

The Sea Monster to Lviv

We haven’t been able to take my son swimming very often since returning to Lviv.  On the two occasions that we managed, I tried to keep him accustomed to the water, and specifically to holding his breath, by having him dive for Hotwheels cars or coins which I toss into the water. 

He manages when the water isn’t too deep, and seems to enjoy it.

So much so, that last night he practiced his diving kills in the bathtub after asking my help putting on his goggles. 

He’d also gotten a hold of a bottle of shampoo, unscrewed the cap, and dumped the whole thing into the tub.  There were Islands and hills of soap suds on the surface. 

After one exploration of the depths, he somehow resurfaced right into a large island of soap suds, and they completely covered his head and face, leaving only the smooth, dark plastic of his goggles.  It looked like the head of a snowman atop a boy’s shoulders.

My some coincidence of timing, my wife had just walked in to check on him with our 6-month old in her arms.  Little Marichka took one look at the sea monster and started to cry.