Category Archives: Family


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.

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.


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.