Monday, December 31, 2012


I came across this picture just now, and simply had to share it. This picture would have been from the summer right before Josh turned two, and Jake would have been three. Here they sit, brothers, conversing about whatever it is that a toddler and a three-year-old would find interesting. And both of them are talking with their hands. Palms upturned and all.

This delighted me. My little men.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


The eight-hour-drive from Southern New York to Toronto is always a beautiful one, in any season. But the rolling mountains and idyllic farmland of Upstate New York is particularly beautiful in the winter, when there is freshly fallen snow. Most recently, we drove from New York back home to Toronto right after Christmas, which meant that in addition to the beauty of driving through a winter postcard, all three kids had new toys and superhero gadgets and tasty treats to keep them entertained until that mid-way point when we break out the DVDs.

At some point before the movies began, Justin and I were discussing something up front when an unusual utterance from Jake caught our attention. “Josh! Please stop talking to me. I’m meditating.”
Justin and I looked at each other, amused for sure, but also slightly concerned. Justin re-positioned the rear-view-mirror so that he could glance at his son, and clarified, “Uh, you’re doing what, buddy?” just to be sure we had heard right. We had. “I’m meditating, guys.” 

Justin’s next question was appropriate: “Did you learn about meditating from Kung Fu Panda, Jake?” A valid question, as, really, which one of us hasn’t been significantly influenced by a Jack Black role in some way? “No, Dad. I learned it from Fantastic Mr. Fox. You know the part where the little, white fox, who is their cousin, comes to visit? He says he’s meditating, and he does this.” I glance back to see the visual demonstration, and Jake has crossed his legs, closed his eyes, tilted his face up, stretched out both arms to the sides, and is trying desperately not to smile. After a moment or two passes, he opens one eye and peeks at me, wanting to make sure I’m finding this as funny as he clearly is.

So it was Fantastic Mr. Fox and not Kung Fu Panda that introduced the concept of meditation to our children. What a relief! What a relief to know that it was actually an iconic George Clooney movie, rather than a Jack Black movie, that had, without our knowing it, prompted our 4-year-old son to begin the practice of pretend meditation. I’m being lighthearted, and, in this specific instance, Justin and I were not overly concerned. But this prompted us to reflect and once again revisit the guidelines and boundaries that we have set in place when it comes to our children, with their vulnerable minds and impressionable hearts, and the various forms of popular culture that we allow to enter into their little lives.

A couple months back we asked some friends, who have been parents a few years longer than us, about the screen-time boundaries that they had set in place in their home. Their answer was helpful and concrete: no movies, Netflix or TV during the school week. We’d been back and forth with our own time-frame boundaries, and needed something very precise like this. So the next day, we established these same boundaries in our own family. It’s been over two months, and it’s been wonderful. Jake now knows that he needn’t bother asking (whining!) to watch Netflix during the week because the answer is always, simply, no. Babar, Max and Ruby, Brother Bear and Sister Bear, all these screen-buddies of ours have become weekend buddies only. In addition to this, we’ve also been relatively intentional about ensuring that the content of what they’re watching is age-appropriate. But what we realized in that flash moment of hearing our 4-year-old son jokingly claim he was meditating was this: even in the most innocuous and even wonderful stories--like Fantastic Mr. Fox--our children are learning and being taught. We knew this. Of course we knew this. We know that even as adults our own minds and hearts are shaped, at least to some degree, by the entertainment that we choose. But I needed this reminder. I needed to remember that when my little guys are in the other room watching Netflix on a Saturday morning and I’m busy doing something else, there are powerful ideas that are being sent and received. Some of these messages are, no doubt, lovely or even helpful. But other concepts that they’re learning about is stuff that, even if it’s playful or innocent, we need to know they’re hearing so we can interact with them about.

We continue driving along and Jake has opened his eyes, lowered his upturned face, stopped ‘meditating’ and is awaiting my response.

“Jake, did you know that Daddy and I meditate too?” His playful grin fades and I can tell I’ve piqued his interest. “Really? You guys really do? You meditate too, Dad?” Justin explains what meditation is, and that we meditate upon God’s word, upon those things that God has told us about Himself in the Bible. “We meditate on God’s goodness and His mercy to us. We meditate on God’s law and God’s grace to us. The very first Psalm in the Bible is one about meditating on God’s word. Your Mommy knows this Psalm. Ask her to say it to you.”

I do know it, but my mind is drawing a total blank. But I also grew up singing the Psalms, not just reading them or speaking them, and the tune and rhythm always seems to prompt recollection.

So as we drove through the beautiful, snow covered farm fields of Upstate New York, I sang to him the words of Psalm 1.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


After stockings were over, our children were blessed with such generosity by so many family members, starting here, with Grandpa and Gigi.


Jacob received a very special gift: Grandpa and Gigi bought him guitar lessons, and below, Jake is holding a 'ticket' for these lessons. He's so excited.


After a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas morning spent with Grandpa and Gigi, we drove over to spend the rest of Christmas at Grandma Morey's house.

The boys were particularly excited by their new superhero costumes, as well as some new transformers.

After brunch, the phone was passed around and we all had a chance to say Merry Christmas to Uncle Adam.

Josh helped Grandma set the table for dinner.

And we sat down to a feast.

And then spent much time sitting around the fire, talking. That was sort of a theme of these past couple of days: chatting while sitting around a crackling fire. 

The two baby girls in the family. There are, of course, two beautiful older girls in the family too. But these are the two babies.

 A remote-control Spiderman is always a great party-trick when there are three, four and five-year-olds children in one's company.

Below, a one-socked-Christmas angel, perhaps?

I am so thankful for my family-in-law and for their love for me and my family. And I'm thankful that even though from afar and over the phone, I was able to spend some time talking with my parents and sisters... getting the full play-by-play of their Christmas at the farm. My Dad's insistence that everyone join him in watching the epic Christmas film 'Die Hard' was, according to my sisters, a total bomb. And the cheese fondue for Christmas lunch that wouldn't melt caused a few stressful moments. But it sounded like their Christmas was beautiful and joy-filled, and I loved hearing each colorful detail.

I am blessed; I have so many who I love. As Christmas 2012 draws to a close, my heart is full of thanks.


For so many of us, the most magical memories of Christmas are those first few minutes on Christmas morning when we would come downstairs and first find our stockings bulging to overflowing with various toys and treats. My Mom always did such an amazing job of making Christmas morning magical. Me and my sisters would often tiptoe downstairs in the middle of the night and just walk around in the twinkly glow of the Christmas lights, peeking at our stockings and wondering how we could possibly wait until morning.

I hope that for my own little ones, when they look back upon their Christmas mornings, they too will remember it as one of the most magical and lovely times of their childhood. Christmas Eve, after the kids went to bed, Justin and I put out their stockings, hanging the tiny little hand-knit socks onto the outside of the stuffed, huge ones.

My Mom always had fun and yummy things sticking out of the top. I can't help but do the same thing now that it's my turn to do the stuffing.

Jake was the first one awake and to come down the stairs.

He was delighted with what he found.

Though not impressed that he had to wait for his brother to awake before he could dig in.

"OK, buddy. Go ahead and pull out some candy and get started."

For quite a few minutes, it was just Jake and I, enjoying the early minutes of Christmas morning together.

Before long, Josh woke up too. Unfortunately for little Joshua, he began his Christmas morning by vomiting pure, dark chocolate. He had clearly eaten MUCH too much the night before, and his body felt the need to expel some of it.

After this unfortunate trip to the washroom, Justin carried him downstairs to join us.

He was already feeling a bit better, it seemed.

And of course, beholding a giant, stuffed stocking will perk up any three-year-old.

As I watched the boys begin to use their brand-new sling shots, I immediately began questioning my judgement in these cute little wooden stocking stuffers.


Fairly soon after, Ella awoke and joined in the fun.

It was a wonderful, magical Christmas morning. 


Christmas Eve 2012 was spent with Grandpa and Gigi Galotti, along with other dear family and friends from near and far. And also, platter upon platter of various appetizers and sweets.

It was a decadent and lovely Christmas Eve.



Before heading upstairs to bed, Jake and Joshua hung tiny little stockings by the fire. My Mom, Nana Ganz, who knit their stockings, also knit these tiny little socks for them to hang up the night before Christmas. I love enjoying this new Christmas tradition with my little people.
To bed they went, excited to wake up the following morning to look for stockings that would be huge and stuffed full of fun things.

Twas the night before Christmas...