Category Archives: Family

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.


My son love to respond to any mention of “para trooper” with “para pooper”.

“Your father was a paratropper.”

“Para pooper.”


We give my son an extra hour of time on his tablet. He sobs and say, “anything but an hour.”

“Danny,” I say. “First of all, you don’t even know what an hour is.”

He cracks a smile.

“And secondly, crying only works on your mother.”

He laughs.

My 4-year-old wasn’t planning

Me after a long discussion: “So are you coming with me or not? We’ll get the palm tree from the office and I’ll carry it home.”

Him, changing his mind: “No because it will be difficult for you to carry the palm tree with me on your shoulders.”

Me, laughing: “Oh, I wasn’t planning on carrying you.”

Him: “I wasn’t planning on walking.”

Sensitive Son

I fear that Danylo is too kind for this world.  He often brings his mother flowers. I don’t know where he got the idea.  Usually he mangles them, because he does not yet know how to carefully pick them.  Sometimes he brings only fistful of colorful petals.

Sometimes he is impatient and demands things, but it’s never too much.  Before trying a new activity, he likes to first watch from a distance for a little while, and then going into it. 

I try to nurture a spirit of being rough and physical. I always compliment bruises and scratches, telling him that’s good – that’s how boys are supposed to be. He seems to get over little falls and bumps pretty well. We wrestle a lot.  I like pushing him to the edge a little bit.  He usually loves it, laughing and screaming for all to hear.

Playing Outside

Last weekend, I couldn’t get over the enormity of a very common place act. I looked out the window to see how my son was getting on with the neighbor kids. My four-year-old was the youngest. There were two other boys and two girls. They had bicycles, plastic motorcycles, and one electric-motored car.

I believe the poet Yeats reflected on such things, though I can’t find the quote. It was something like: “Innocence and beauty lie in the habits and rituals of ordinary people.”

A Walk in the Rain

Yesterday, a good steady rain fell all day.  I vetoed my wife, and allowed Danylo to go outside.  I went with him.  He had a jacket and hood on, and rubber boots – the kind perfect for stomping through puddles.  I took an umbrella and did a pretty poor job covering either of us.

The outdoors during a rain was a first for four-year-old Danylo, and for me – it was a great reminder how rich and exhilarating the outdoors can be.  As we meandered down toward the big river which is dammed up into a lake, we saw two gigantic worms, a man digging in his garden, some grazing cows and goats, and many streams of water carving through the dirt roads.  Not a single one was spared from the stomping of Danylo’s rubber boots.

Danylo choose to take a narrow path which cuts between houses, between ponds, and beside a little wood.  There was a duck in one of the ponds, and a frog jumped away as we approached.

At the woods, I asked Danylo to choose the path toward the lake, or the path into the woods.  He considered both, and concluded the woods were better because they had more puddles.  However just a few minutes into the woods, he changed his mind, and we went back the other way.

This area north of the river, among the ponds has many artificial little mounds and pits.  I’m pretty sure they are the shadows of old fighting positions from the early parts first Battle of Kiev, from July, 1941.  All of them face west.

There’s a muddy area, in which small streams form when it rains.  We crossed one stream via a bouncy plank – both of us exhilarated by the adventure.  In another spot, I walked across some branches while while Dalyno talked through the mud along side.  I asked him to go slowly.

The mud grabbed one of his boots and he fell face first into the mud.   I pulled him out right away, and put him on his feet so that I could retrieve the boot.  He tried to balance on one leg, and I told him it was okay to stand on his sock. 

This pretty much took all the spirit out of him.  But I think my laughter and quick action restored some of his resolve.  Both his boots were filled with mud.  I drained them.  He wanted to go onto my shoulders and I obliged.  I crossed the branches carefully, and a little later we were up on the damn by the lake, and I made a brisk walk home, in about 15 minutes. 

We talked about rain and adventure.  He was too uncomfortable to move, and was happy to have his parents undress him, and place him in a warm bath.  He talked about the adventure all evening, and the next day too.

Вербна неділя

This morning my wife and I went for a short walk to the river and back. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. We broke a few willow branches and brought them home. Today is the Sunday before Easter.

“Верба біє не я бю, ніні за тижень буде Великдень.”

(“I’m not hitting you, the willow is hitting you, a week from today will be Easter.”)

A sister? “miliabuk!”

Danylo to his mother: “When the little boy who is in your stomach comes out, I will teach him how to play grown up games.”

His plan was informed by a storybook in which an older sibling teaches games to a younger sibling.

Danlo’s mother replied: “And what if it’s a girl? Will you teach games if it’s a girl?”


“why not?”


(As far as I can tell, Miliabuk is a made up word which Danylo uses when he doesn’t know what else to say.)


Danylo gently played this head bumping game with his pregnant mother’s stomach — “baran, baran, baran, tuts'”

Family Moments

We’d been noticing the stars and my son having been alerted to the possibility that a light in the sky may be either a star or a planet, typically asks for every star whether or not it’s a planet. I drew the sun and planets for my almost-four-year-old, telling him that stars are far away suns. Then I drew our own moon, and then moons around some of the other planets, and rings around another.

It was all very interesting to him. He said that when he is like we we’ll go and look as the cosmos together. He asked how old he needs to be, and first tested ten. I said ten was about like this and held my hand to about chest level. Then he tested fifty. I said twenty would be enough – at twenty he’d be about like me.

I told him there were no people on the other planets. He asked if there were policemen (his current fascination), and I said that there were no people at all there. Then he asked if corona virus was there. I laughed and said no.


We play checkers. Long ago, Danny made some winning moves that seemed to have nothing to do with the rules of checkers. I said, “what is this, checkers or shmeckers?” It made a big impression.

Now, when we sit down we even decide whether we are playing checkers or shmeckers. Similarly, we decide between chess and smesh.


For a while Danny liked to set up his pawns on the back rank when we played chess. I’d set up his major pieces on the third row in front of my own. He’d choose them one at a time, and I’d move the piece, knight, bishop, rook, queen, or king, according to how it moves, toward it’s appropriate square. The piece then shouts at the pawn occupying its square and kicks it out.

Family Life – visiting nature

I”ve found my rhythm, living with the in-laws. Work, gym, work. Relax on weekends. Yesterday, we went to the woods near a lake and cooked hotdogs over an open fire. There was a mist over the water and a lone fisherman in a small boat on the other side. Dalyno and I unsuccessfully tried to spot the woodpecker he’d heard in the trees. Twice heard squawking from the woods behind us. Then we heard a reply from up over the lake, and a stork flew over us, calling. We take that as a sign that delivery will be soon.

The Pysanka (Easter Egg) Tradition lives on in Mt. Airy NC

The origin of the batik workshop series at the museum has a direct link to Ukraine, due to it being led initially by Maria Skaskiw, a Ukraine native who lived in Mount Airy before moving away to be closer to family.

“I have been teaching it ever since Maria left,” said Nealis, who assisted Skaskiw.

“For Everybody”

We were at my in-laws, and we’d bought an assortment of chocolate covered nuts in a nice box as a small gift. My wife asked our three-and-a-half year old to gift it to his grandparents.

“I want these,” he said.

“This is a gift for grandma and grandpa,” my wife explained.

They went back and forth once or twice and she convinced him. He took the box, walked into the next room and handed it to his grandmother. “These are for everybody,” he said, as he handed it over.

Я не можу з тим Романом спрветися.

We returned to my in-laws from a half day trip. I was entering the house with my arms full, when my son told me he wanted to jump. “So jump,” I said, not understanding. He kept going on about how he wants to jump, and I eventually realized he wanted to jump from the side of the stoop, and needed me to move the car. I told him to jump somewhere else, and continued in the house.

Later, as I was setting down my things, Danylo told his mother: “Я не можу з тим Романом спрветися.”

It’s a hilarious construction for a three and a half year old. It translates “”I couldn’t come to terms with that guy, Roman.”

Later, he explained to his grandmother how it’s supposed to work: “Roman gets in the car, and then it moves, like this.”

Faced with his continued interested in the procedure, I moved the car. He jumped from the stoop once, and then went around the house to the backyard garden.


I discovered this word when reading a Ukrainian translation of a Peppa Pig story book. It means almost nothing. It’s the equivalent of clearing your throat loudly. It means “pay attention to me, I’m going to speak now,” and maybe also “what I’m about to say is an extension of the moments which just transpired.”

The word is just obscure enough that I, as a foreigner in Ukraine, achieve some comedic value when I use it. In the story, the self-important Daddy Pig reads from a shopping list upon arrival in a grocery store, so when I say it in front of my son, he’ll immediately speak the next line from the story book: “five tomatoes.”

Talking to myself

The other evening, I took Danylo with me to run an errand. I needed to change some dollars for hryvnias, and buy groceries.

The vicissitudes of my business occupied my minds, and while re-imagining some uncomfortalbe work discussion, I spoke to myself. I know I spoke to myself, because Danylo, sitting on my shoulders, asked me what I was saying.

“Oh, nothing,” I initially replied, but he wasn’t satisfied and asked again.

“I was just speaking to myself,” I said. “Sometimes I do that.”

We continued on, and I thought nothing of it. We paused to watch a garbage truck, lifting and emptying bins with its robot-like crane, and putting them down again, one after another. I pointed out how hydrolic legs move down and bear the weight of the truck while it’s lifting, and them move back up, returning the truck’s weight to its wheels. Danylo waved goodbye when the truck drove on, and to our delight, the driver waved back.

Danylo asked many questions about where it was going, and later about what some sign says, and other questions of the sort that children ask.

After we’d walked on in silence for some time, he said something else which I didn’t quite hear.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I’m just speaking to myself,” He replied.

I almost laughed, but didn’t say anything.

And twice more before our return, he mumbled something, I asked him what he’d said, and he said he was just speaking to himself.

This is similar to when he learned what pockets were, and that you could put your hands in them. He spend two solid days barely removing his hands from his pockets.

Books and Games

* We have this children’s book about tractors with a bunch of flaps that show different animals or parts of the tractor. Some of the flaps have light sensors under them and when you open them you hear a duck quacking, or motor revving, or owl hooting. Danylo’s grandmother added family pictures to the book. Today, Danylo and I were reading it in low light, and none of the sounds played. So I suggested he go get his flashlight, and to his great delight he was able to use it trigger the sounds.

* My godmother gifted to Danylo a beautifully illustrated book with animals and poems about each animal. Today we were cross referencing each animal with this adult picture-book-encyclopedia of living things. We looked up arctic terns, blue whales, whale sharks, humming birds, golden lion tamarinds, ants, bats, beetles, and more. When we read about owls and looked them up in the picture encyclopedia, Danylo said something about his cousins that I didn’t understand, and he started looking for the tractor book. He couldn’t find it until I pointed it out. He carried it over, found the right page, and opened the flap with the owl. His grandmother had taped a photo of his cousins to the inside of the flap.

* Danylo, while were were browsing the picture book encyclopedia: I found a sun in here.
Me: (a little surprised) A sun?
Danylo: Yes, and I called mom to show her.
Me: What did mom say?
Danylo: She said wait I’ll be right there.

* We play chess, sort of. He knows that we sit opposite each other and that one of us gets the white pieces and one gets the black pieces, and that we take turns moving a piece, and that sometimes pieces capture the pieces of the opponent, and that in the end, someone wins. Oh, and he also knows that you shake hands after a game. He does not yet know how the pieces move. Also, he thinks his toy dump truck is part of the game, and can drive in and load up pieces. Sometimes the dump truck runs them over.

Here’s a video about arctic terns:

Whit / Green Holiday

Monday is the Orthodox holiday of Whit.

Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday (also known as Monday of the Holy Spirit) is the holiday celebrated the day after Pentecost, a moveable feast in the Christian calendar. It is moveable because it is determined by the date of Easter. In the Catholic Church, it is the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

Whit Monday gets its English name from “Whitsunday”, an English name for Pentecost, one of the three baptismal seasons. The origin of the name “Whit Sunday” is generally attributed to the white garments formerly worn by those newly baptized on this feast.[1]

It is expressed in many different ways in Ukraine. In Western Ukraine, it’s called “Zeleni Sviata” or the green holiday, and there’s a tradition of putting cattail reeds in the window: