Category Archives: Family

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:

Family moments

My wife and son put a band aid on a big stuffed penguin we have after my son noticed a tear along the seam. After a few days, my wife, unbeknownst to our boy, sewed up the hold. My son was amazed!

I think most of us know that growth comes in spurts. What I’ve discovered since becoming a parent is that there seem to be three types of growth. Sometimes his head grows. Sometimes he gets thicker, and sometimes taller.

Family moments – Chair Crashing, and computer literacy

1) chair crashing

For the past two nights we had a game after dinner. I’d sit in one of our bean-bag chairs. My now-three-year-old son rushed toward me — usually starting in the adjacent room, and he’d crash into my arms, and I’d tip backwards. The bean-bag chair allowed for a more-or-less slow motion falling backwards onto the floor. My son was almost delirious with delight.

As we progressed, he started to identify the tipping point, and after crashing into me, and my starting the slow tipping, he’d clamor up as high as he could onto my chest to reach it as quickly as possible.

Sometimes he’d strike too low, and I wouldn’t tip backwards, and once I said jokingly that he hadn’t eaten enough kasha. He immediately went to the counter, where the left overs from dinner still stood, maneuvered a spoonful of kasha into his mouth, and, still chewing, crashed into me again. Of course, I feigned a devastating impact. Proud as could be, he repeated the process. Mouth full, he’d call out to his mom, asking if she saw how I fell over. My wife said she never saw him eat so much kasha. Later he drank some water to test its effects on the impact. Still later, a sip of water combines with a sip of juice.

2) computer literacy

We try to keep Danylo’s screen time to an absolute minimum. Today, he climbed onto my lap while I was writing emails. Often this turns into a problem because he can’t restrain himself from banging the keyboard to moving the mouse, and I have to decide between interrupting my work or upsetting my son. (I usually choose the latter betting that he has to learn sooner or later.) Anyway, today he showed remarkable restraint, first asking what I’m doing (“writing an email to your grandmother”), and then asking if he could watch, and then climbing into my lap.

I was impressed how long he sat there. Eventually he asked what this “plus” was, and I didn’t understand what he meant initially and asked him to point. He was referring to the “I” shape that the mouse turns into when hovering over a text field. Next he asked was the sticks were. It turns out they were scroll bars, and I showed him how they work. I also told him that this object was a mouse, and that that the little thing on the screen was a mouse pointer, and I showed them how if you moved the one, the other would also move. He said “how interesting” (“iak tsikavo!”). :-)

Fatherhood moments and observations

My son’s grandmother consoled him once or twice by telling him to throw his tears at something – usually a dog, real or toy, or at something outside. She asked him where he will throw his tears, and he thinks about it and does it, and eventually gets distracted enough that he stops crying and switches gears. My wife kept up this habit. I sometimes embellish by asking him to throw his tears at his toy truck, and then I go and flip the truck over and say “boom” and he laughs. Or I have him throw his tears at my slippers, and when he does, I flick them off my feet. This has worked wonders. I see him get control of his own emotions now without intervention. He’ll throw his tears at something, take a deep breath, and say “vse” (“all done”), and move on to the the next thing with his emotions under control. I think this is marvelous for a not-yet-three year old.

We are potty training. He doesn’t usually wear diapers. During our long car ride today, he said he had to pee, and my wife suggested they put on a pamper, but he refused. There was a little discussion and improvisation and he ended up peeing in a cup, which was dumped out the window onto the rainy highway. When we arrived at grandma’s, after not seeing her for a month or so, his first words to her were “I peed in a cup.”

The GPS told us to take this other road which we know to be in horrible shape. Pot holes big enough to destroy your care if you don’t slow to a crawl. It was patched tolerably last year, and saved us maybe a whole hour on the trip, but the work didn’t survive a single winter. A real example of the worst stereo types of Ukrainian infrastructure. Anyway, we passed the turn, and for a while the GPS repeatedly ask us to make a U turn. My asked what she was say, and my wife said “to make a turn.” My son reasserted that he wanted to go to grandma’s, and told us not to listen to her.

Fatherhood moments

Morning. Just waking up. At Danny’s bed I ask him, as I often do, “How did you sleep?” He answered me one morning, “No, how did YOU sleep?”


His mother has started taking him to football (soccer) practice. It’s really basic stuff for 3-4 year olds. Danylo isn’t 3 yet. He seems to be youngest and smallest, but he holds his own. He dutifully follows the trainers’ instructions. The boys who can’t control themselves get removed from practice. Danylo loves it, and looks forward to it every time.

They learn one English word per training, and have to shout it at the end. Danylo seems to yell the loudest.


During his Helen Doron English classes, he will sometimes tell the teacher the wrong name of a color when she quizzes him. Then he looks at her and waits for a reaction. Judging by his laughter, he seems to be doing it on purpose.

Fatherhood moments

1. We’ve been telling our son to expect a trip to the US by airplane to visit “baba Maria.” Yesterday we were sitting by a lake near his mother’s town here in Ukraine. His grandfather, standing in the shallow water near the shore pushed him around in a canoe. A small prop plane puttered over us from the nearby flying school, we pointed it out to our son. He said “i dania bude letity do baby mariji . . . jisty kobasku.” (“And Danny will fly to baba Maria to eat Keilbasa.”)

2. When I was grabbing his nose, he said: “Romchyk, ne chipai.” (“Romchyk [diminutive Roman] – don’t grab me.”)

3. Somehow, he learned that ice cream was a thing. Apparently not wanting to be forward, he made a general inquiry with his mother. In a cautious voice, he asked “mamu, a morozevo liudy jidiat?” (“Mom, ice cream is eaten by people?”) She asked him where he’d seen ice cream. He’s two and a half and doesn’t really go anywhere without his mother. “In restaurants,” he answered.

Fatherhood stories

In a storybook that I read to my son, there is a recurring picture of a room with many things in it, including a mouse and bowl of oatmeal. On one of the early pages, my son said “myska xoche jisty kashu” (“the mouse wants to eat the oatmeal”). And that I thought was very cute and imaginative.

On the last page, I noticed something I’ve never noticed before, despite reading the book a dozen times at least — the mouse is now beside the bowl of oatmeal! They’re very small and difficult to notice, but I guess my son did notice. :-)