Sunday, December 28, 2008

to santa or not to santa...?

So, this year, Israel is not old enough to know the difference. Next year, though, the issue will have to be addressed in some manner or other and some trajectory will be set for Israel's relationship with the most perfect being ever to not exist: Santa.

When the hypothetical parenting discussions between friends took place years ago, my approach was to brush off the "Santa" issue as not a big deal and not worth really thinking about. After all, I can tend to over-think things and that was one thing I didn't want to over-think. I really enjoyed Santa as a kid. And I don't think my whole "I don't believe in God anymore because God is just something my parents taught me to believe in" time of life would have been avoided had they been bluntly honest with me about Santa's non-existence. I don't think Santa is evil and I don't think celebrating Santa coming at Christmas means a person can't or doesn't also celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas. That said, we realized this year that even if we say nothing about Santa, the question will come up for Israel and we will either give him presents from the jolly old elf or we won't. Here are some of the pros and cons we talk about.

Pros:
- We both REALLY liked Santa growing up. We liked the surprise element of the presents. We liked his character and we liked the adventure of trying to catch him at his work. I liked the mystery of putting out cookies and "witnessing" him having eaten them in the morning, though I slept through his visit.
- Neither Pat nor I had traumatic experiences figuring out that Santa wasn't real; in fact, neither of us remember "the" Christmas when it happened. We don't remember anyone breaking the news to us, though I seem to remember one year finding out that my older cousins didn't believe in him. I don't think I ever had a direct conversation about it with my parents. I preferred to figure things out for myself and put the question to the big guy himself one year in my letter to him, which he answered satisfactorily enough.
- We don't want to have that kid who tells all the other kids Santa isn't real and we don't want our kids to think kids who believe in Santa are stupid.
- We don't like the idea of well-meaning adults asking our kid what Santa brought them and our young child answering, "nothing," or, "We don't believe in Santa." At Christmas time, that is cultural suicide. And we don't want people to think that we miss out on fun because we celebrate Jesus's birth and not Santa during the season.

Cons:
- My first inclination not to teach Israel that Santa is real was that I just didn't feel like it. I don't feel like trying to find out exactly what the kids want each year and buying that "best" present only to give the credit for that work to "Santa." If I'm going to get my kid the bomb present, I want him to know that I did it because I love him, not think that Santa brought it to him because of how good he was the previous year. Along those lines, I don't want to be stuck giving my kids the second-best present every year.
- As a kid, I did not like that, contrary to the news spread about the situation, bad kids got presents at least as cool as mine. I don't want my kids to hear that they had better be good to get presents only to have that mean kid down the street get the latest version of Nintendo. Though perhaps it is an accurate picture of the way things are on earth, it is a screwed-up version of justice, since Santa is supposed to know how everyone behaves and reward accordingly.
- The idea of a fat, bearded man knowing when I'm sleeping creeps me out.
- I don't want to have to reinforce an idea that is not true. This is strange, because I don't think it's unethical to tell your kid Santa exists and have absolutely no problem with parents playing the "Santa" game with their kids. However, I don't want to ever have to tell my child to believe in Santa. And I don't want to be put in the awkward situation of admitting, after years of reinforcing Santa's existence, that it was all a hoax and I had led my kid to believe an untruth. Even now, I like being able to ask kids in my life whether I have ever lied to them and them having to admit that I have not. I want my kids to be able to take me at my word, even though this is kind of a trivial matter in our culture. (You don't think a person is a liar just because they say Santa is real.)
- I don't want to wait in long lines places to have my kid tell Santa what he wants for Christmas or to get pictures with Santa. I haven't even paid to have Israel's pictures taken with me, for goodness's sake! Besides, Santas are scary-looking unless they have real beards.
- We want to really be able to celebrate Jesus's birth at Christmas. There are MANY distractions and obstacles to this besides Santa. We may or may not be able to overcome all of them as we look to set our family Christmas traditions. But Santa is one distraction that is pretty easy to eliminate if we want to.
- I don't like that all the magic of the season is summed up in Santa in our culture. I know we don't have to pass that aspect of Santa on to our kids even if we play the game. But it's a whole lot easier not to send the message that Santa represents all things good and right and hopeful about the world and those in it if we teach our kids that he is not real, but that God is. Santa plays a role in our culture that is a little too close to God's rightful role for my comfort. Of course, all Christians would rather our children know God as the one who knows everything, gives good gifts to people near and far, has the grip on the scales of justice and is able to do things that are physically impossible (a fat man going down the chimney? really?) or miraculous than to think that those traits are embodied in Santa. Perhaps it is not an either/or situation, but as a kid, it was a lot easier to get excited about Santa, who adults said had those traits, than it was about God, who adults said had those traits. And even if all we do is put gifts from Santa under the tree, it puts us in the awkward place of having to validate all the stories other people and the songs and all that say about him. I don't want my kids thinking Santa is the best thing ever when he doesn't even exist!

But then, there is a strong pull toward Santa and we really mean that part in the "pro" section of not wanting to be spoil-sports at Christmas. We want our kids to be excited about it and to have the same sort of magical feelings about Christmas time that we had growing up. Can that be done without Santa? Of course, it should be able to be done. We're thinking through how we could go about it. Christmas is supposed to be a celebration and Jesus certainly enjoyed those as much as the next guy when he was here. God even mandated that the Jews celebrate many holidays a year -- more than I celebrate in a given year. So a full-out celebration is in order. We have trouble figuring out how to make a celebration about Jesus, though. Things about Jesus tend to involve silence and prayer and scripture-reading and all that. They are somber and contemplative. But that is part of what Advent is for. This is Christmas we're talking about!

Some of our ideas for solutions have been:
-Writing thank-yous to Jesus in place of letters to Santa. Or even having the kids write requests to Jesus instead of to Santa (though letters like, "Dear Jesus, please bring me a Wii," would be problematic).
- Throwing a party, with presents and good food. This is already done somewhat, with the gifts and elaborate meals at Christmas time, but it could be built upon.

What is difficult is that Christmas is spent, not at church, but with family. For some reason, living rooms and sanctuaries are completely different spaces and we don't do the same things in one as we do the other. As you read in my previous post, the Christmas celebration at our church was great and I'm sure some people (kids in particular) broke a sweat in their celebration. And that time was certainly about Jesus, as celebration and worship combined. It seems odd to think about doing such a thing with extended family, though, since we never do anything spiritual together besides utter a prayer before a meal. I don't see most people's families coming together, playing great music, worshiping, and dancing in the living room before preparing and eating a feast. That is the sort of thing (some) churches do.

Now, I know that most of the people in our particular families will probably celebrate together with us in Heaven. In that way, being with blood family and being with brothers and sister in Christ has the potential to be the same thing here. But doing church at family gatherings is just...awkward. And forced. It's not what people around us do and we're not into trying to make people do things or say things or pretend things just because it's Christmas and that's as true for belief in Jesus as it is for belief in Santa. Religious topics are so divisive and somewhat taboo in families -- even Christian families -- and it's hard to think of a non-awkward way to bring religious practices into family life. But Pat points out that, though this is part of our "how do we do Christmas now that we have children" conversation, it is a digression from Santa. And we can't digress from Santa.

We left the conversation pretty open-ended this year. Maybe it will be a little less open-ended next year. Maybe we will make some decisions based on our ideas of what would be the ideal way to celebrate Christmas; maybe some of these decisions get made for us by way of convention. Maybe some of you do things you have found to be great at Christmas time that we have not thought of and will share them with us. (Maybe we'll use your ideas and maybe we won't.) Maybe we should pay closer attention to the kids, who are really good at celebrating on their own. Maybe, we'll just put gifts under the tree from "?" and when the kids ask if Santa is real, we'll say, "Maybe."

Monday, December 22, 2008

dance, dance...revolutions!

Pat says I'm blog happy, but I said I would post Israel dancing as soon as I could catch it on camera. Tonight, Israel started dancing to no music at all, so Pat put on one of the OLD Christmas records my parents brought from their house last time they were here. Israel was that much happier to be dancing and didn't mind the camera one bit. This is some of his best dancing. The only major move omitted is his clapping. Times like this turn me into one of those parents who gush about how their child is the cutest thing ever to hit the planet.

video


no small kindnesses here.

It is FREEZING here in Muncie. Last night the windchill was in the -30's, with the air temp. of -5. Our 1-layer wood floors are too cold and our furnace, though brand new and working its hardest, is not able to push past the 64 degree mark in the warmest part of the house at night. All that to say, it is COLD -- both inside and out.

I stayed up last night working on gifts for our neighbors and Pat had to turn in early to get up for work in the morning. I left the lights off when I crawled into bed, to discover Pat's face under my hand where my pillow should be. "What are you doing on my side of the bed?"

"Getting it warm for you."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

advent: we will celebrate.

I wish I had taken my camera to church this morning. During advent, I have planned this small part of the service: I pick a passage, ask someone to talk about it, prepare a responsive reading, and ask someone to read it. I sit back and watch what happens. This Sunday the theme was the angels and celebration. I know you hope for this to happen every Sunday, but there are some services, such as this one, when you can sense keenly that God must've organized the time.

For starters, the children were all in service for worship this Sunday, ages 1 month and up. The band played "Go, Tell it on the Mountain," to start and it was the most celebratory rendition of the song I have ever witnessed. The kids from the neighborhood added stomps and hand-clapping. Little girls in dresses, jeans, and pink camo pants spun in circles, holding each others' hands. Adults danced with babies on their hips and a 9-year-old boy clapped and sang loudly while sitting on someone's shoulders. Teenagers were smiling. The celebration took over the front part of the room, just inches (at times) from the guitar player. Normally, I would be the first to jump up and try to corral the kids off to the side, but it was clear that though they had not been asked to, they were leading worship.

The nursery (ages 1-4 at our church) sang "This Little Light of Mine" and "He's God the Whole World in His Hands." These are not Christmas songs, per se, but light is definitely one of the themes of Advent. Particularly beautiful about the time was watching one of our youth, the third of eight children in her family, holding her youngest sister. The little girl, who is less than two, pointed her finger high during "This Little Light of Mine" and stood up straight while her older sister moved her hands along to the motions of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." Sometimes I despair that these particular children are raising themselves and each other in so many ways, but today the scene of the older teaching the younger brought me to joyful tears.

...As did the scene of the black children and the white children, the middle-class children and the poor chidlren, dancing together without realizing what a powerful image they were making.

...As did scanning the congregation to see adults making circles with their arms above their heads and smiling during "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

...As did the older children taking over the song the Sunday School workers were teaching them and doing their own stomp and clap version of "Joy to the World," complete with hip-hop echoes of each line. Only one of the children singing had parents in attendance, but we all cheered when they finished because they are all our kids.

Maybe I'm a bit more emotional than usual because I'm pregnant, but I cried off and on through nearly the whole service. It was the best celebration I have seen in quite some time...most of it impromptu.

I asked one of the "older" couples in our church (they would not be labeled such in most any other church they could attend) to lead the advent time this week. They are a zaney couple and the wife in particular is one of the best celebrators I've met. The characters for this week were the angels. I think they had quite a great job, bringing all the great news to the earthlings. Eric, the husband, read in Luke 2 of the angels making the announcement to the shepherds. Brenda spoke about the other times in Advent that angels made announcements. When Gabriel showed up to Zechariah and told him he and his wife would have a son, Zechariah did not celebrate the good news with the angel; instead, he asked for proof. That lack of belief led to Zechariah being silenced for the next many months. When Gabriel showed up to Mary and told her she would bear God's son, Mary submitted and that submission lead to a time of celebration with Elizabeth that even included Elizabeth's son in utero, who leapt for joy from his place in the womb. When the angels showed up to the shepherds, they joined the celebration and worshipped. When confronted with our good news, do we spread it by celebrating or is our joy silenced by cynicism?

We have been given so much to celebrate. Not only do we have the good news of Christmas, but we also have the good news of the cross. We have gifts in this life and milestones that are to be celebrated. We are unconditionally accepted as God's own children and loved with a love that is not affected by our bad behaviour. Brenda listed many things she is celebrating this Christmas and others, including children in the congregation, took her up on her invitation to verbally list some things they celebrate today as well. We all have many reasons, both universal and individual, to celebrate.

In the absence of a youth to read today's reading, I had my friend Lauren do it. She came up with her one-month old daughter and led us through the reading. She's the only person I know who can do justice to a reading with exclamation points in it without sounding staged. And tears streamed down her face and mine we were reminded of all the joys given and promised to us as Children of Light.

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The angels received good news from the throne of God. Their joy at the news turned into a celebration that was brought to the shepherds. As we come today, let's join in the celebration that began at God's throne and will go on into eternity when we all gather at that same throne. After I read each line, please respond by saying: “We will celebrate!”


There is good news for all the people.

It is good for the poor, young, unmarried mother.

It is good for the well-dressed, old priest.

It is good for us.

The angels brought good news.

We will bring good news.

The Light has come to the world!

Children of Light, nothing is better than this!

Come, let us dance in the light of the Lord.

He gives us peace with God.

He gives us peace with each other.

We are different.

We are one in Christ.

On the street to the new Jerusalem,

On the streets of Muncie,

We will lift our voices together.

With each other,

With those around the world;

With those who have gone before us,

With those who will come after us,

With the angels;

The Spirit and the Church say, “Come!”

If you hear the invitation, say, “Come!”

When you come, Lord Jesus,

Because you come, Lord Jesus;

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O, Christmas Tree!

About this time last year, three McCrorys headed out to a local Christmas tree farm and cut down our Christmas tree. The three years before that, there were two McCrorys; next year there will be four. It's a growing tradition for us, I suppose. Last year, Israel was small enough to be placed in a carrier and zipped up underneath Pat's coat to be kept warm. This year, we had quite a bundling job to do and he ended up looking and moving like the little brother in the movie "A Christmas Story." (You know the movie about Ralphie and the red rider b.b. gun.) Though seriously encumbered in his walking and though he fell on his face in the snow several times, Israel seemed to enjoy himself overall.




Once home, and after a nice winter's nap, we set about decorating. Israel liked "helping" by hanging as many gold rings off the same low limb as he could. (Word to the wise: don't let your 1-year-old handle the ornaments while decorating if you're going to try to tell him not to touch them once they're on the tree. He brings us gold ring ornaments every day.) Here are a couple pictures of Israel helping decorate the tree.

getting the ornaments out of the tin


hanging them on "the branch"

admiring a job well-done

Israel loves the Christmas tree. He knows how to say "lights" in sign language and will often flash his hands and point at the tree. He has a few select ornaments he loves as well. I'll let him show you his three favorites: Mickey Mouse, which I think he likes because of Pat's high-pitched impersonation of his laugh, a small snowman he calls, "maannnn," and a sheep he likes to mimic by making a sound like he's choking (which represents, "baaa...."). Enjoy!


video


Saturday, December 13, 2008

advent: we will worship.

This week's reading was Luke 2:8-20, the story of the shepherds and the angels. Our characters for the week were the shepherds. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted the theme to be. On the one hand, I love what this part of the Christmas story has to say about our humble God showing Himself to humble people. However, when I read the story, worship is what stood out to me.

When Luke picks up the scene, the shepherds are just going about their work. It's quiet and still, except for maybe a sheep stirring here or there. And out of nowhere comes this spiritual being (who knows what it looked like; I hate the way angels are pictured as just really beautiful people with wings) who has to first calm their fears before making the crazy announcement: God has shown up in a human body that is hours old and wrapped up in the feeding trough at one of the local inns. The shepherds leave their important work and go to pay a visit to God. They leave, excitedly talking about it and praising God for this great thing He has done in coming, and presumably thanking Him for letting them in on the whole thing.

The man who shared in our church today pointed out that it is God who initiates these encounters. We don't initiate these intimate times with God; He does. Really, what did the shepherds do to deserve witnessing the heavenly hosts' announcement? Nothing. God decided to share the time with them. Of course, they eagerly accepted the invitation to the manger scene and left all the richer for it. God has given us an invitation to an intimate scene with Him as well. In John chapter 1, John says that anyone who accepts the Christ who showed up in the world this way is given the right to become a child of God. We are invited to join God's family. Talk about God initiating an intimate time together! This intimate time is to include the rest of our lives. Of course, we are more intimate with God at some times than at others and we have certain times set aside as "worship times," but our ability to enter into God's presence is much more dependent upon Him than it is on us. We merely accept His invitation, join in the time, and let Him change us through our time together.

I like the shepherds much more than the wise men at this point in my life. When I was in college, I preferred the wise men because I was sick of hearing about how God chose ignorant, inept, people to "shame the wise." I was happy for the example of the people who found God because they had done their homework and followed the conclusions of their studies. They brought fitting, even prophetic, gifts to the little child. They knew their stuff. Now, of course, I am still glad the "wise people" don't miss out on the chance to get to know their Saviour. However, this year, I love that the shepherds did nothing to be invited to the manger and they took no gifts with them when they went. They were not "prepared." (Chances are they did not show up looking like people I would want to handle my ordinary baby, much less put their grubby hands on God Incarnate.) But God, knowing this, was still happy to invite them. That's comforting to me as I'm feeling a little less sophisticated these days and would have to go pay my visit to God -- if not empty-handed -- at least with a second-hand gift. Seeing the shepherds lets me know that God mostly just wants people to come who will appreciate the opportunity to be with Him. This year, let's be people who leave what they'd otherwise be doing because we realize we've been extended an invitation to something really special. Let's worship our God.

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The shepherds wasted no time when invited to the presence of God. They found him just as promised and left the manger praising His name. We are also invited to the presence of God to worship Him and leave with his praise on our lips.

Lord, you have made yourself known to us.
We will worship you.
You come to us even though we are not worthy to see you.
We will worship you.
If you announce your arrival with angels, as you did for the shepherds,
We will worship you.
If you announce your arrival with pain, as you did for Mary,
We will worship you.
No matter how your arrival greets us,
We will worship you.
Because when you show up, we're found empty-handed,
We will worship you.
We have nothing else to give you, so
We will worship you.
We have seen the great things you have done.
We will worship you.
We find you humble, just as you said we would.
We will worship you.
We find you mighty to save, just as you said we would.
We will worship you.
Because being in your presence leaves us with joy;
We will worship you.
We cannot keep these things to ourselves, God.
We will worship you.
In the quietness of our homes,
We will worship you.
In the streets of our city,
We will worship you.
With our voices when they sing,
We will worship you.
With our voices when they speak,
We will worship you.
With our thoughts when we are silent,
We will worship you.
With shouts of joy,
We will worship you.
With tears of pain,
We will worship you.
With our whole lives,
We will worship you.
Because of all you are,
We will worship you.
We give you all we are.
We will worship you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Last night I had a dream that I was preparing a birthday party for an old friend from elementary school. I lived in Muncie, but it was a much cooler Muncie, where I could ride my bike with Israel in tow up and down (gasp!) hills downtown where everything from the tall windows in the buildings to the sidewalks were being refurbished. In my waking hours, I would never have known a town looking like this was supposed to be recognized as Muncie, though the familiar one-way street patterns of Charles, Adams, Jackson, Main, and Washington should give me a clue.

This morning, I wake up with a sense of loss. I want everything to be laid out exactly as it is...only better. Better and, as is often the case in my dreams, with everyone in one place.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

advent: we will forgive.

If you missed my first advent post, you may want to scroll down and become acquainted with this year's ritual. This week, the scripture reading was in Luke, Chapter 1, where we find Mary's song after the angel Gabriel tells her she is to be intimately involved with bringing forth the Hope of the world. We then flash forward to Chapter 2, where we find Christ being born and put into a feeding trough. Were Mary and Joseph prepared for his birth? Were they really?

When I was preparing to give birth to Israel, there was to be no traveling long distances close to the time of this arrival. Instead, I was to be found doing what most mothers do: nesting. There were showers where many people (you may have been one of them) gave gifts to help me prepare for his coming. We ran pretty close to the wire, but Israel's room was ready for him when he arrived, even though he wouldn't sleep there until a few months after he was born. We had blankets galore and little outfits waiting for him. We had a bathtub especially for his little body and special soaps. We had cloth diapers stacked in the bathroom along with little washcloths and towels. We were prepared. But were we really?

In some ways, I could look back at Mary and Joseph and wonder how they ended up having to put Jesus in a feeding trough in the first place. Didn't they know to expect him any day? Could they not have been a little better prepared? Not even a cloth to use as a hammock or anything? Come on. Maybe they had no choice but to travel at the time they did, but everyone knows to pack for a baby when you get to be a certain size. We are supposed to be prepared for those sorts of contingencies.

However, Mary and Joseph must've had one (or more) up on me. Mary is told she is going to have to carry a baby that will be seen as illegitimate and Joseph is supposed to still go through with marrying her? If an angel told me I was going to have to go through all that, you can bet you would not find me having my own song of gratitude to sing about it. I would be too busy worrying about all the contingencies. At best, my song would be about how great a sacrifice I was making for God. But not Mary. Her song is about the mercy God is having on the world. She praises Him for exalting the humble and scattering the proud. There isn't much in the song about her or what she is going to have to go through. Now, maybe she was like me and had days of grumbling or worrying, but scripture (which typically seems quick to point out people's flaws) doesn't mention anything about it. She was grateful that she was chosen to be the conduit of God's mercy to the world. In some very important way, Mary must've been prepared.

So we come to advent. We think about welcoming our Saviour into the world. Just as when we are expecting a baby, there is much preparation to be done. We need to get his room ready. And where is it that He has decided to come but into our very hearts? We look around and see some serious cleaning needs to be done. There are some old fixtures that need to be replaced, clutter to toss, and excesses to purge. When I see messes like that, it is hard for me to know where to start. Ack! The dust...the clutter...the pile of clothes that no longer fit...the un-made bed with dirty sheets...and the pieces of things meant to be useful that have accumulated everywhere, unused! What's the worst of the mess? I don't know.

When I looked over Mary's song, I noticed the word "mercy" a few times and thought that would be a good place to start. I know the root of Christianity is love and that without love for those around us who we do see, we cannot claim to love God, whom we have not seen. But making a resolve to love more feels pretty ambiguous to me. I often think on it too much and throw my hands up at the mess, saying, "I don't know what it means to love this person right now." If I'm going to really begin cleaning out the mess in my heart, I need some concrete step to take. Mercy is a little less slippery to define in my book and seeing that attribute of God praised in Mary's song reminds me that it is an attribute meant to be mimicked. So this week, in preparation for Jesus's advent, I invited our congregation to begin there by getting rid of that unforgiveness in the corner. Even if it's got a good reason to be there, it's really one of those things that just needs to be thrown out.

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There were many ways in which Mary and Joseph were unprepared for Jesus's coming. However, they did not look over the most important preparation: the preparation of their hearts. Mary was grateful to extend God's mercy to the world. So we, too, can prepare for His coming by extending His mercy.

God, because you have had mercy on the world,
We will forgive.
Because you lift up the humble,
We will forgive.
And because you scatter those who are proud,
We will forgive.
We will be humble;
We will forgive.
Because we made your stay in this world difficult,
We will forgive.
When others make our stay in this world difficult,
We will forgive.
When we don't get the treatment we deserve,
We will forgive.
Those who always find fault,
We will forgive.
Those who are always at fault,
We will forgive.
Those who mistreated us when we were young,
We will forgive.
Those who mistreat us now,
We will forgive.
Those who will mistreat us tomorrow,
We will forgive.
Our parents who mess up,
We will forgive.
Our children who mess up,
We will forgive.
We, who mess up,
We will forgive.
Extending your mercy is hard, but
We will forgive.
Because our hearts are like noisy, dirty stables,
We will forgive.
You chose to dwell in Mary; you choose to dwell in us.
We will forgive.
We will do our best to make our hearts a home for you.
We will forgive.
We recognize your mercy, Lord.
We will forgive.
Help us prepare for your coming. We begin by saying,
We will forgive.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Can you say light?...horse?...dog?...dance?...cold?

Under any normal circumstances, I would never head out in such cold weather (it's in the teens here...) to go on a stroll after dark. However, this evening was the annual luminary walk here in Muncie. This means that there are candles in plastic containers lining the walkways in and around Minnetrista, our local cultural center.

Because of this, we all put on two layers of pants, shirts, and socks, along with hats, mittens, and coats to brave the cold. We even took the dog out for the occasion. There were horse-drawn carriages carting people in coats and a dance team performing to Christmas songs. Israel was amused by the horses, but not as much as Sophie was. He also liked the dance troop, but declined to pretend he could clap for them from inside his mittens. We used the opportunity to practice some of Israel's newer words and gestures (listed in the title), but I don't think his mouth worked any better than mine did due to the cold and it's rather difficult to sign while wearing mittens.

I wish I could honestly say the evening was as happy as this picture, but unfortunately, Israel likes the cold as much as his mom. He could be heard screaming as his dad and I took turns carrying his stiff, contorting body back to the car from the furthest point on our trek. We have since all calmed down and thawed out from the experience and, though it's not representative of our time in some ways, I couldn't wait to use my re-functioning fingers to share this token of our time. The chance at the mood conveyed in this picture will send us into the cold again about a year from now, I'm sure.