Category Archives: Family

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. :-)

Fatherhood Moments

Our son learned the names of cards, and was thrilled to run from our living room to the kitchen, present a card to his mother and say “Ace” (in Ukrainian), then he returned and looked with fascination as I searched the deck. “This one is a Queen,” I said, handing it to him. He ran off…

I walked in the door and told my wife I that I managed to get all the groceries. She was down the hall, bathing our son. She replied “Diakuiu Kotyk” (“Thank you cat” with “cat” stated in the masculine case.) Our son immediately repeated her “Diakuiu Kotyk”. He saw us laugh and said it again. :-)

“and cover mommy”

Now that he’s two, we decided to get my son off breast milk. We’d made a few half-hearted efforts earlier, that consisted of his mother’s refusal, his increasingly hysterical protests, and acquiescence. It seemed to me that this would be as hard on Danylo’s mother as it would be on him.

Danylo has been walking to the bed, uncovering a corner of the covers. Climbing in, and calling for milk. Very manager-like. His grandmother jokes that he’s like the “holova kolhospu” (head of the collective farm).

After a talk yesterday, we decided that today was the day. We were still at Yuliia’s parents for the Easter holiday and it’d be easier with their support. Yuliia has been playfully cursing me all day. Danylo called for milk a few times, but we distracted him with toys or calling attention to the cat, or the sun, or going outside to play.

When Yuliia tried to put him down for his afternoon nap, Danylo went into hysterics. We tried driving him around in the car, but it didn’t help. He didn’t get any milk during lunch, and didn’t nap either. His sobbing hysterics relented with grandma offering playful distraction.

So he didn’t go sleep.

In the afternoon he continued getting extra attention from everybody, and went to the schoolyard with his grandfather. He also rode a bus for the first time, which was a big deal for him. He knows, cars, trains, buses and other modes of transportation very well. Combined with his knowledge of colors, this is often a subject of our conversations. Yuliia drove behind the bus for several stops, until Danylo and his grandfather existed.

At dinner, he was obviously exhausted and ate handfuls of macaroni with a sort of glazed look over his eyes.

When it was dark, his grandmother brought him into the bedroom where Yuliia was already laying down, pretending to sleep. “Mama is sleeping,” his grandmother told him, in Ukrainian.

“And Danny will sleep,” he answered. He laid down near her.

Grandma called me to look. He was quietly curled up in the center of the bed.

“I’ll cover you,” I said quietly and laid his baby blanket over him.

“And cover mommy,” he said.

Touched, and not wanting to disturb anything, I quickly moved to another room to get a blanket with which I covered Yuliia.

Everything was happening better than we could have hoped. I returned to my computer to work. A few minutes later, Danylo, in his diaper came into my room, picked up a plastic box of q-tips which he likes to play with. There was also a bed where I sat working and Danylo pulled open the corner of the cover. “Do you want to sleep here?” I asked. “No,” he said, and walked back to the bedroom where his mother lay. I followed and gave him a little boost as he climbed into bed, which for him is almost shoulder-high. He was still holding the box.

I covered him again. Gave both his mom and him a kiss, and laid down next to him until he was sound asleep. Yuliia reached over him and pinched me again — playfully. Making sure I realize what I’m putting her through. Then she held my hand as Danylo fell into a deeper and deeper sleep.

Addendum: The second day was very similar to the first. Crying after lunch. Not napping. Lots of attention, and then falling asleep quickly in the evening. On the third day we’d returned to our apartment. Danylo hadn’t napped. In the evening Yuliia read to him in bed. It was Yuliia who fell asleep. When she woke, she found Danylo sleeping on the floor beside the bed, facedown in a book. She called me to come look. He did not wake up as we lifted him carefully and tucked him in.

The bear that ate the honey.

I suppose it’s normal for kids to keep impressing and delighting their parents with new abilities and understandings. Their bodies and brains develop so quickly.

Yesterday, I joked with my wife: “Who finished the honey? I think a little bear must have snuck into our kitchen, climbed up into the cabinets, and ate it all.” Then I turned to Danylo.and said, “If you ever see him, catch him.”

He went to the bedroom and returned with the big stuffed bear relatives had gifted him.

We couldn’t believe it. Though he can name some animals and other things from flash cards, I would never have guessed he understood a single word of our conversation.

Setting Limits

Several times now, while my son was breastfeeding, I put my arm over his mother’s shoulders, and he, without changing his disposition or refocusing his eyes, slowly moved his little hand to mine, gripped my finger or whatever he happened to reach, and removed my hand — with a coldness and gravitas that were he not a 20-something pound baby, I would find downright frightening.