Shh…I Actually Like Our Elf

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. It’s this purely magical time. Of course it’s magical for kids, but I seem to have never lost my love of or excitement for Christmas.

Like most families, we hopped on the Elf on the Shelf train. We have a festive, sometimes mischievous, elf named Ginger. She comes to our house every year the day after Thanksgiving.

Our elf usually brings something with her, for the kids, to kick off the season. Her past gifts have included books, movies, Christmas socks, Christmas shirts, and Christmas jammies. Not all of these things every year. Maybe just one thing. This year she brought coordinating Christmas jammies (that she bought on super sale) and a movie (that she bought early last year and then forgot about when Thanksgiving rolled around). Basically she brings them something they can enjoy the whole season.

Unlike most other moms on the internet, I actually like our elf. And I’m willing to admit it. That’s a bonus point for me. Of course I do hate when I forget to move the elf. That panic every parent gets at 6 a.m., when she suddenly wakes up and realized the elf is exactly where it was the day before and her children are no longer deeply asleep. Been there. Done that. More than once. It certainly will happen again this year. This year our elf has been consistently relocating at 3 a.m.

Despite the occasional panic, I still love our elf. My children are filled with pure excitement beginning a day or two before her return. She makes Christmas magic real for them. She is their direct link to Santa.

Good Points

Every morning there is excitement about finding Ginger. Where will she be? What will she be doing? Some mornings they even work as a team to divide and conquer. A system of, “you check the living room and I’ll check the kitchen.”

Our elf can make my job a little easier. She has nearly eliminated the need to “call Santa.” My children are required to self report bad behavior to Ginger. She then decides what to do with the information. On the flip side, they can’t wait to tell Ginger when they have done something good. I will make comments all season to remind them Ginger is listening and to estimate she is going to be very busy reporting all their fighting to Santa. But as a total, it’s pretty light lifting on the parenting front when she is around.

Not Great Points
I admit, it’s a struggle to figure out new spots for Ginger. Not that she does something new every visit. There are some spots she uses every single year. Heck, some years it’s hard enough just to make sure she doesn’t duplicate any of current year’s spots. It also is extra challenging the years we have toddlers who don’t know not to touch the elf. When all the spots have to be out of reach, creativity is limited.

At least I’m not an extra mom. That would be overwhelming for me. Occasionally, Ginger does something straight out of a Pinterest board. But most days she is pretty basic and hanging around. If I felt the need to be a super Pinterest-y mom, I think my affection toward our elf would have waned by now.

Final Ruling, the Elf is Cool
In mom circles, as the elf bashing starts, I will take a step back. It’s not that I won’t admit I like our elf, it’s more I don’t want to be the odd mom out.

Our elf tradition began when my oldest child was 3, she’s now 10. So this is our seventh season with Ginger. And I’ll possibly have another eight or nine years with her—my kids are 10, 6, 3 and 3. I do look forward to the days I might have elf helpers. I hope my oldest might want to help with elf relocation when she is a teen. Either way, I still have not hit the halfway point of elf visits at my house.

It’s fine. I secretly predict I will continue to move the elf when none of my children believe. I love how she enhances the season for my brood. Although, if I’m being honest, I am surprised my 10-year-old isn’t more skeptical. She has started asking more questions about how things work. This is at least the second Christmas season I’ve entered thinking this will be the last year she believes. But for now, all of the children believe in the magic of Christmas, and to me, that is priceless. I know Ginger is a big part of that.

Happy Holidays…

Happy holidays to the mom who:

Is spending it in her child’s hospital room
I know you wouldn’t be anywhere but your child’s hospital room today. I also know you wish this was a “normal” year and you could be with friends and family today. I know you are missing out on traditions, memories, and laughter that you desperately need today. To be honest, you probably couldn’t care less if you skipped all holidays this year.

Is hosting this year
I know you have spent the past few weeks shopping, planning, and cleaning as though the queen is visiting. I’m sure you will spend today more focused on the cooking rather than the gathering happening around you. I’m sure you wish someone would just hang out with you in the kitchen.

Is spending it away from her children
I don’t know what has separated you from your children today. Shared custody? Work? Illness? Whatever it is, I know you are missing your kids today. I know holidays don’t feel complete without them here. You might even prefer to skip the holiday season all together. Or maybe you plan to celebrate tomorrow, next week, or next month.

Is spending it with immediate family
Maybe this is what you prefer. Maybe you wish you could be surrounded by your extended family today. Separated by long distances. Separated by limited travel time and limited travel funds. Separated because no one has room for 60 people to gather.

Is spending most of the day breastfeeding a baby, or pumping round the clock
Whether you are tucked away in a bedroom or out in the open, I know today you will live by the schedule tht rules your life every other day. I know you may have a family member or two who will question you.

  • Again!?!
  • Didn’t he just eat?
  • Do you have to do that here?
  • When are you going to wean?

I hope your eyes don’t roll hard enough to give you a headache today. If you opt to be tucked away for any number of reasons, like an easily distracted baby, I know being tucked away also can be a much needed break for you.

Is dreading the unsolicited parenting advice
Your family means well. And you love them. But some of them haven’t raised small children in multiple decades. Some of them have selective parenting memories. Some of them have never raised a child like yours. Shockingly, children like adults, have different personalities and a one size fits all approach isn’t necessarily effective.

If you’re raising a child with special needs, there is an extra layer that goes with this unsolicited advice, (and sometimes medical advice). The layer of gross misunderstanding.

  • Why is she acting that way?
  • Don’t you think you’re coddling him?
  • We never had this problem with you.
  • I don’t think he gets enough therapy.
  • She must be tired.
  • Don’t put him down, I’ll hold him.

They mean well. Isn’t that what we always tell ourselves before we try to brush aside their advice and steer the conversation in a different direction?

However you observe the holidays this year; whatever your struggles; wherever you’re spending this season; I see you. It’s quite possible I’ve been you. Or I am you.

Happy holidays.

Yikes! I wasn’t Ready for the Sass

In case you didn’t know, I’m raising a 10-year-old daughter. She’s at an age when she has some more mature interests. She wants to do spa days. She craves “girl time.” Occasionally, she seems to really enjoy my company.

Sounds like I have hit the perfect age of parenting, at least with this one (because I still have toddlers in my house—or are 3-year-olds preschoolers?).

It is a good place. I love the freedom that 10 gives. She can do her homework with minimal supervision. When she and her friends play outside I don’t worry about anyone wandering in front of a moving car. She wants to learn how to do more things for herself, and I want to oster this budding independence. However, there is an ugly stage that is lurking in the background.

The Age of Stupid

Looming in the depths of my 10-year-old’s inner self, is a demonic version of herself. And I know this inner demon child will be running the show in the next few years.

Don’t confuse this demon with one you may have seen in the toddler years. This is not like a 3-year-old who needs a good exorcism when she is throwing things and screaming because she is overwhelmed or tired. No! This demon child is the teenager forming to take over my sweet girl who, I swear was only a baby yesterday.

This is the version of her who rolls her eyes at me because I am stupid.

I know, I was surprised too. All these years I thought I was mildly intelligent. Turns out, I am stupid, and my 10-year-old knows so much more than I do.

While checking her homework, if I tell her she needs to correct a math problem, after she rolls her eyes, she will “teach” me how they have done it in class to prove that she is right and I am old and stupid. Granted, I’m not a master of the new approaches to math. She did in fact need to teach me grid multiplication, or whatever it’s called. Thing is, when I tell her to correct something, it’s not that it’s in an unfamiliar format, it’s that the answer is WRONG. I don’t care how you multiply your numbers—grid, stacked, or calculator—the answers should all match. That is a key component of math. It doesn’t matter which method or approach you use, everyone arrives at the same answer.

If I tell her she isn’t actually done picking up her room, after the immediate eye roll (because I’m stupid), I get a very loaded, “what else needs to be done?” Clearly the socks on her floor and the sweater that is halfway under her bed belong exactly where they are. The assortment of clothes, books, and dolls on her bed, they belong there. Duh! It does not matter that if that sweater remains where it is, it will be swallowed up by the abyss that is the space under her bed and won’t resurface until it’s two sizes too small. It also doesn’t matter that the charger she can’t find is in fact on her bed in the pile of stuff that is “exactly where it belongs.” Now I’m rolling my eyes.

Thankfully I’m not always stupid. At 10, she is caught somewhere between the child I know and the teen she’ll become. This means I still have the ability to impress her with something I know or something I can do. If I experiment and make a new icing and it’s tasty, I am a genius. Although I should probably pause to note her level of shock when I succeed, I choose to ignore it. Of course when I take a chance and something doesn’t turn out the way I planned, she’s quick to tell me what I did wrong or what I should have done. At least I impress her more often than not.

I Was Her

I know 10 is only the beginning of what lies ahead. Puberty is on the horizon.

I know to her it seems like I’m out of touch because I’m old, but I too was once a 10-year-old girl. She’s caught between two worlds—one filled with toys and childhood simplicity, and one filled with complex emotions and social hierarchy. I vaguely remember what it was like to start finding my place in the world. To feel like I was no longer a little kid, but to know I was not yet an adult. To be honest, I’m still not sure I have found my place in the world, and I often need to remind myself I am an adult.

I knew the age of sass was coming for her. I just wasn’t prepared for it to hit as early as it did. That’s a lie, deep down I knew it would appear in the later elementary years. I just wasn’t ready for it. I don’t know that I ever would have been ready for it. I don’t know that I’ll be ready for it when the next child hits this stage, or the last child for that matter.

I’m 5 percent sure I wasn’t prepared simply because she still is my baby. But I’m 95 percent sure I wasn’t ready because I know what still is in-store for me. It’s not that I have a crystal ball, but I know how terrible I was at her age. I also know it only gets worse before it gets better. So while life with a daughter who is 10 is sprinkled with sass and hard eye rolls, life with a teen daughter is bound to contain exponentially more sass and too many eye rolls to count.

I’m not ready. I hope my own mother finds my situation comical. I know I deserve every ounce of sass that is headed my way (why was I so mouthy and sassy?!?). I’m sure I will survive the tumultuous teen years. My mother survived me. Her mother survived her. I’m just not looking forward to being stupid for so many years.

I’m Trying Something New…and Old

If you had asked me 10 years ago what my family would be like, my answer would have been, in ways, very different than what my family really looks like today. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom and I always wanted a lot of kids. I think the college version of myself wanted five kids, so that I could have an SUV full. In reality, I am a stay at home mom and I have four kids (hey, not that far off), but parenthood has been nothing if not full of surprises.

I had grand plans to be a typical mom. You know, the mom who takes her kids to and from school, takes them to the park, drives them to soccer practice, joins the PTA, keeps a spotless home, and cooks real dinners all the time. I do most of that. You can spot me at school drop off and pick up. I am a card carrying member of the PTA, but I am a real slacker when it comes to attending the meetings (oops). The kids participate in a few extra curricular activities, but not all the ones they want.

But I’m not a typical mom, I also spend a fair amount of time running kids to doctor appointments – a lot of doctor appointments.

Yes, my kids see the pediatrician just like other kids. Like other families we have been spotted at the pediatrician’s office multiple times in a short time because my kids haven’t learned how to come down with the same thing at the same time. But that is pretty typical. My kids also see a lot of specialists, some more than others, because three of them have long-term follow-up care.

My kids see a/an:

  • Developmental pediatrician (this is not the same as our regular pediatrician)
  • Nephrologist (coming soon)
  • Neurosurgeon
  • Oncologist (actually we have two oncology teams at two different hospitals for two different kids, but that is a whole other post)
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Orthopedist
  • Physical therapist
  • Pulmonologist
  • Occupational therapist

This list looks shorter now that it’s written out. We used to have a few more providers, (audiologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, general surgeon, and geneticist) but we don’t currently see them. A little part of me needs a nap just looking at this list of providers.¬†Although, if you need a pediatric specialist, chances are I can recommend someone. Just like some neighbors have a person for electrical work, or plumbing, I have someone for whatever ails your child.

All of that brings me to this. A blog. A blog? Yes, a blog. Writing is what I know. I hope what I write will speak to you. Maybe what I write will inspire you to push through some challenge. Maybe what I write will reassure you that you are doing a great job. But most importantly, this is going to help me process and express my hopes, my dreams, my frustrations, and my fears as I raise these people amidst chaos and help them transform into responsible adults. As an added bonus, it gives me a regular place to write, which I haven’t had since choosing to stay home with my kids.