Wednesday, December 19, 2012


So we accidentally wound up with an Elf on the Shelf. I wouldn't have purposely brought into our home someone else who creates mayhem and messes for which I am responsible to clean. Or even just one more thing to remember to move each day until Christmas. And yet here he is.

For all of you EOS purists (as if such a club exists), no, this is not the real thing. The one that all of the amazing moms make all sorts of mischief for. He's been found to dump over boxes of cereal or spill all manner of beverages only adding to the list of things mom has to clean up. But I do really love some of his little elfin antics and could see the fun in doing some of those. Such as these ideas that someone else tried:

But the fact is that these little photo-ops come with a price. I mean what has to go for the elf to fit in? How can one mom do all of this and not go a little nutty by the day's end? I guess I just knew I couldn't do it to the extent that I'd want to so of course the answer was to not take up with the elf. I felt my family would be all the happier for it.

My particular elf came with marriage. Apparently it was a gift from Dirk's childhood given by his babysitter (whom we adore to this day). But into the marriage, somewhere amidst the 36" stereo speakers and neon track suit came this little guy. The speakers have since been sold and the track suit never existed, but I needed another unwanted item on the list and it seemed like a good fit. In any case, the elf remains.

The elf and I were actually on really good terms in the beginning. He is vintage and made of felt and anyone who knows me knows that anything that possesses those two characteristics will pretty much always have a place in my home. I liked seeing him on our little newlywed tree and seeing him each subsequent year as we unpacked our decorations every December. Things started to change last year when Emie saw him amidst the other ornaments spread out across the couch to go on the tree. "He moves! That's the elf that moves all over your house!," Exclaimed the little love. "Oh, he's not that elf," I corrected. Only to be interrupted by generally pragmatic husband who chirped, "Yes, he does!" I tried to give him that special look (which, even after twelve years he completely misses or points out very un-sleuthlike with a response like, "Why are you doing that weird thing with your eyes?") And there began my love-hate relationship with the elf.

I knew what it meant. I was destined to have to move the little thing each morning to some new spot of utter whimsy and delight. You wouldn't think this would be that big of a deal for someone like me who's central happy place is doing just about whatever it takes to bring in some whimsy and delight to my girls. But the elf was just too much for me. Christmas is my favorite. I love the preparations, the decorating, the shopping, the card choosing (which I stretch into a holiday all its own) -- just the choosing part. Then there's the Polyannic goal that I'll write something really personal and lovely to each person on the growing list with gladness. Followed by the reality that I have hand spasms by card number four and just want to recycle the rest. And right about then I start channeling Ebenezer. So the elf just felt like one more thing to remember, or more likely, to forget.

But I have to hand it to Dirk who quite willingly took on the elf. I mean, it was (is) his elf anyway but he doesn't readily embrace whimsy as a general rule. But because he's really quite an amazing dad and because he wakes up before God, he gladly moves that elf every single morning every day after Thanksgiving until Christmas.

He loves the way Emie searches him out with the innocence of a dove. It is one of the many gems of her center, the innocent way she still looks at the world. She is only seven but it thrills our hearts that she continues to be wonderfully naive about the not-so-pleasant ways of the world. I understand why the elf has found a place in Dirk's heart. Or never left that place. But I still don't want to be responsible for said elf. So when Dirk announced he'd be going on a "business" trip to Vegas (it truly was for business but seriously I could not resist quotes for this particular destination) I was quick to tell him that the elf would remain wherever he'd been placed until his return. "Oh, you're moving the elf," he said with dad-like authority and conviction. I tried to get out of it. Suggested that I tell Emie that sometimes the elf gets tired, that he's just glad to sit by the fire where he has a chance to warm himself, I lost this battle hands down. Dirk said Emie wouldn't buy it and I knew he was right. I would not be the one to shatter the little girls' elfin magic fun. I would be on elf patrol for the next four days.

So because I do not wake up before God as Dirk does I had to kind of hustle to get that thing moved before anyone woke up each morning. Why, you ask, did I not just move it the night before? Because it was nowhere remotely near my mental check-list of things I had to do before crawling exhausted into bed. So before waking Emie for the day I picked up the elf and started to scan the living room for a suitable place for his little felt goodness. Day One went fine without incident it was only on Day Two that the issue began. When down from the staircase, click, click, click, comes second born Ainsley ever so quick. Without so much as a second's hesitation she asks, in veritable CSI fashion, "What are you doing with the elf?!" The best I could come up with in the spur of the moment was "I just found him sitting on the hardest place and thought how uncomfortable he must be. So I was moving him to a more comfortable spot." I knew I sounded ever guilty but I waited to see if she was buying what I was selling. It wasn't long before she said, "Yeah, he probably does get really uncomfortable sitting on hard places." See, even the four year old sees the wisdom in just keeping Elf on a Shelf on the blessed shelf.

But he lives on and continues to move to both comfortable and uncomfortable places. And you know what, now that school's done for the Ainsley love I'm actually considering getting kind of creative with the elf. I told Dirk I might like to have him roasting a marshmallow by the fire one morning. He told me I was out of my mind crazy to begin such a ritual. I'm pretty sure I'm not the one who began the ritual but a wise wife knows when to be a mute wife and this was that moment.

In the end, the elf wears us all down. He wins. Elfin Keebler magic casts a spell and we're all just a little more delighted because of him. Uncommonly good indeed.

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