Archives for December 2014

The Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Almost Over

12:38 am, December 12th:

Antonia and Emma at The Black Keys!

Antonia and Emma at The Black Keys!

As part of their Christmas present, we took Antonia and Emma to see The Black Keys at Philips Arena. It was a pretty big deal since it was Antonia’s first concert and Emma’s second. I imagine Antonia will forget all about the elf after such an eventful evening.

When we get home after midnight on a school night, I tuck Antonia into bed and kiss her goodnight. Sleepily, she wraps her arms around my neck and says, “Good night, Mama. Where do you think Jingles will go tonight?”

Seriously? You just got home from THE BLACK KEYS CONCERT AT PHILIPS ARENA, and the last thing you ask is the whereabouts of the elf?

Jingles the Elf wasn’t feeling very energetic after singing and dancing for the three hours and then driving home on I-85, but she did manage to find her way to the light fixture in the girls’ bathroom.

8:02 am, December 12th:

Not a very comfortable perch.

Not a very comfortable perch.

In the morning, it was all about wearing her new concert t-shirt to school, so the elf was kind of an afterthought for my sweet eight-year-old. She finally looked up when she was brushing her teeth and remarked, “Wow. That doesn’t look very comfortable.”

5:45 pm, December 12th:

The next three nights, Antonia spends at her Dad’s house. As she is leaving, I grab Jingles by the neck and shove her toward Antonia.

“Don’t you want to take Jingles to Daddy’s house?” I urge.

“No,” Antonia says, flatly.

“Why?” I wonder. “Does Daddy have an elf already?”

“No,” says, Antonia.

“He’s lucky,” I say out loud.

“Mama! That’s not nice,” Antonia tells me. “Jingles lives here. I can’t take here there.”

What? Why not? Where does it say the elf can’t go to somebody else’s house, and maybe get left there because she forgets to come back?

Surprisingly, Jingles doesn’t move while Antonia is away.

12:08 am, December 16th:

Since Jingles can climb, she finds her way to the shelf over the bar where we keep our wine bottles. She looks a little rough. I’m thinking she might have sampled some cabernet sauvignon. Antonia agrees with me when she finds her.

“Mom! Did you see that nutty elf? She is on the wine bottles! What the…?”

“I told you she was crazy,” I tell Antonia. “You gotta watch out for these elves. I’ve heard some crazy stories about what they do when we’re not looking.”

Is Jingles DRUNK?!

Clearly Jingles is DRUNK. And where did she leave her skirt?

11:38 pm, December 16th:

“Albie,” I say excitedly, “I have an idea for the elf tonight.”

“You do?” Albie asks, raising his eyebrows.

“Yes. I saw it online. We have her eat dog biscuits and leave a note that they taste bad.”

“Dog biscuits?”

“Yeah. Come look. You have to write the note so she won’t recognize my handwriting,” I tell him.

I have arranged Jingles on the kitchen island with two dog biscuits. It doesn’t look realistic though, because the biscuits are completely in tact. I try to break a biscuit in half with my hands. It’s like trying to crack a piece of granite.

“I can’t break it,” I tell Albie.

“You need a hammer, or something,” he suggests.

I grab the biggest metal spoon I can find in the kitchen and whack the biscuits. Pieces fly all over the counter. “Oh, good. Now we have crumbs, too,” I say excitedly.

I arrange the biscuits and the crumbs next to Jingles and stick Albie’s note next to her. It says, “Eeew! These cookies are gross. Don’t give them to Santa.”

I am proud of our efforts. The dogs circle the island because they can smell their treats. I carefully move Jingles and her half-eaten biscuits to the middle of the island, so everything will still be there in the morning.

7:46 am, December 17th:

Antonia comes to breakfast and finds the elf. She reads the note, then asks, “Why is the note in your handwriting.”


Eew! These cookies are disgusting! I’m gonna barf.

“That’s not my handwriting,” I tell her, truthfully. “She obviously wrote that herself,” I lie.

“Oh, you’re right,” my daughter agrees, thoughtfully. “This isn’t the way you write.” [LONG PAUSE as Antonia examines the note more closely.] “What was this elf thinking, trying to eat dog biscuits? She thought they were cookies?!” Antonia forces a laugh, it seems. I tell Albie about it later.

“She totally knows its us,” he says. “She’s a smart kid. Come on.”

“No, she doesn’t!” I defend. “We have to get more creative tonight. I found another idea online.”

Oh my gosh, I hear myself talking but I don’t know who I am anymore. I am actually planning creative things for Jingles the Elf to do, now? Good Lord, what kind of parent have I turned into?

I hate these elves.

The Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 3

7:42 am, December 10th:

Antonia finds the elf in the tree and asks me to get her down. I can’t reach, so we have to ask Albie to extract her. Antonia is happy again and is going to tell all her friends that Jingles has recovered from her head injury and climbed the Christmas tree.

3:57 pm, December 10th:

When Antonia gets home from school, she makes a little paper skirt for her elf. “Look,” she says, holding up the elf. “Emma said she used to have a skirt, but it got lost, or one of the dogs chewed it, so I made her another one.”

“How cute!” I exclaim. Jingles now has a white paper skirt with red stars taped around her waist.

10:30 pm, December 10th:

I grab the elf from Antonia’s closet (where she keeps returning for some reason) and bring her to the kitchen. I open a cabinet door and stick her arm in it and shut the cabinet.

“How’s that?” I ask Albie.

“You’re not good at this, are you?” he asks. “She is supposed to be clever!”

“Give me a break,” I tell him. “She’s clever. She is trying to get into a cabinet.”

“Why? So she can get a bowl? Come on. You have to make her do something better than that!”

“YOU make her do something better than that!” I throw the elf at Albie. He catches her and whips her at the wall. Her skirt falls off and lands on the floor in the darkened den. We have to turn the light on, find the skirt, and stuff her back into it.

“Get me some candy,” Albie says, after she has her clothes back on.

I find a box of chocolate truffles that have been on the kitchen counter since Thanksgiving. Albie opens the box and stuffs Jingles into it head first. He arranges her arms and legs.


Jingles Goes for it in the Box of Truffles

I laugh out loud. “This is your idea of clever?”

He grabs the elf and takes her back out of the box, then grabs a truffle and takes a huge bite out of it. He stuffs the elf’s head into the box and leaves the truffle on the counter.

“There,” he says, laughing. “She likes chocolate. All elves like chocolate!”

I am laughing so hard at the absurdity of the situation that I am doubled over. I look up at the truffle. “You took too big of a bite! Elves can’t take that big of a bite. Nibble it!”

I hand Albie the truffle. He puts it up to his teeth and nibbles at it like a mouse. It’s melting all over his fingers.

“No, that’s not right,” I tell him. “You have a huge bite on one side and little nibbles on the other. It’s not realistic. Start over!”

“You start over,” he says as he puts the remainder of the half-eaten truffle in his mouth. “It’s melting all over her fingers!”

“She doesn’t have fingers,” I tell him lifting up the elf’s arm. “She has a mitten!” We both laugh. Neither of us wants to eat another truffle. We leave Jingles with her head stuffed in the box, legs dangling in the air and turn off the kitchen light.

7:46 am, December 11th:

“Mom!!” Antonia shouts from the kitchen. “Did you see Jingles? That is one crazy elf! She is stuck in the box of truffles!”

The Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 2


Jingles Makes a Crash Landing

Just after midnight, December 6th:

I wake up on the couch where Albie and I have fallen asleep watching a movie. “SHIT. I have to move the elf,” I say to Albie.

“OK,” he says, groggily. “You move the elf. I’ll take the dogs out.”

The elf, who has returned to her spot on the shelf in Antonia’s dark room, ends up face down in a plant. “Look,” I tell Albie when he comes inside with the dogs.

“Oh my gosh, Karla! What the heck? That’s where you are leaving her?”

“Yup. She has issues. She is trying to get up to the bookcase, but she only made it this far. She can’t fly as well as the other elves.”

“She is supposed to be doing something,” Albie says. “Elves are clever and mischievous.”

“Not this one. This one is slow.”

7:27 am, December 6th:

“MOM!” Antonia yells from her room to me in the kitchen. “Jingles is gone, but I can’t find her!”

“Keep looking,” I answer. “I’m sure she’ll turn up somewhere.”

After much searching, Antonia discovers the elf in the plant and rescues her.

“Wow!” she says, “This elf is crazy! She was face down in the plant! What’s up with that?”

“Maybe she doesn’t know how to fly,” I offer.

Fly?” Antonia asks, incredulously. “MOM, really. Elves don’t fly. They climb.”

“Oh…well, maybe Sprinkles doesn’t know how to climb very well,” I reply.

Jingles,” Antonia says, glaring at me. “Her name is Jingles.”

The next four nights, Jingles forgets to move. Antonia doesn’t mention her and I think with relief that maybe she has forgotten.

8:03 am, December 9th:

“Mom,” Antonia says on the way to school, “Jingles hasn’t moved in four nights. What do you think is wrong with her?”

Shit, I think to myself, partly because I have totally forgotten about her, but mostly because Antonia has remembered she exists.

“Oh, sweetie, maybe she hurt herself when she landed in the plant last time and has been recovering from a serious head injury.”

“Oh, maybe,” Antonia says, thoughtfully. She is clearly concerned over the severity of the situation. “Well, I’ll talk to her again tonight and ask her if she is OK and if she will move again.”

“Good idea,” I tell my daughter. Yay.

11:53 pm, December 9th:


Jingles CLIMBS the Tree. (Everyone knows elves can’t fly.)

The elf decides to climb the Christmas tree. I can’t reach, so Albie puts her as close to the top as he can. She is facing the tree as if she is climbing it because elves can’t fly. Duh.

I know you’re in suspense about what happens next: The Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 3

Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 1

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday; always has been. I love the music, the decorations, the festive feeling in the air, the snow – all of it. My eight-year-old loves Christmas, too. We have been watching White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation and all the other holiday classics since my daughter was old enough to sit up by herself. We listen to Christmas music at home and in the car. We attend Christmas pageants at church and school. We have an Advent calendar. We put up trees, decorate the house and wait with anticipation for our big Christmas Eve celebration. We do everything Christmasy, except The Elf on the Shelf – until now.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we have managed to escape visits from any type of mischievous elf until just a couple weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend’s teenage daughter passed her beloved Elf on the Shelf to my daughter sometime after Thanksgiving. Since this acquisition, the Christmas Season at our home has taken an unexpected turn toward insanity.

Morning, December 4th:

The Evil Elf

Antonia tells me that her elf hasn’t moved even though December is in full swing.

“Mom!” she exclaims at breakfast. “Olivia’s elf has been all over the house already and my elf hasn’t even moved!”

You have an elf?” I ask in horror. “When did you get an elf? How did you get an elf?”

“Emma gave her to me. Her name is Jingles. She’s a girl elf and she isn’t moving. Olivia’s elf left her a note on the bathroom mirror yesterday.”

“Umm…wow. OK. Huh. Maybe your elf is slow?” I offer, pathetically. “Maybe she’s new at this and doesn’t know what to do, yet.”

“Mom! She knows what to do! She was Emma’s elf before,” says my logical child.

“OK, well, go to school. Maybe she’ll move tonight,” I instruct her, panic-stricken.

I drive Antonia to school and immediately text my boyfriend: Did you know that Emma gave Antonia her Elf on the Shelf and now she hasn’t moved in four days?

Albie: No. Haha! That will be fun.

Me: What?! Fun? Are you kidding? I have managed to avoid this whole racket for the last eight years. Seriously? Emma is grounded.

Albie: You’re cute. I’ll help you with it. It’s fun!

Me: Like a sharp stick in the eye.

Evening, December 4th:

I tuck Antonia into bed and she informs me that she has had a serious talk with Jingles the Elf.

“I talked to her, Mom. I asked her to move. I figured maybe she wouldn’t start moving until I asked her nicely, so I did. I am sure she will move tonight.”

“Good idea,” I say to my daughter, and kiss her goodnight. The elf is nestled on a shelf in Antonia’s closet. Couldn’t she just stay there? I wonder. I mean – she’s an Elf on the Shelf so, she should be comfortable, right? Albie thinks differently.

“When she’s asleep, go back and get the elf and we’ll figure out something clever,” he tells me.

Around midnight, I walk into Antonia’s dark bedroom. I trip over Friedrich, my 99-pound Belgian Shepherd, who is sleeping on the floor by the bed. He blends into the darkness. He jumps up and runs out of the room as I catch myself on Antonia’s bed. Antonia wakes up.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Nothing. Go back to sleep,” I tell her. “I just came to cover you up.”

“I don’t want covers!” She is nasty when you wake her from peaceful slumber.

I tiptoe back out the room without the damn elf. Albie is waiting in the hallway.

“Where’s the elf?” he whispers, staring at me in the darkness.

“I tripped over the dog!” I whisper back. He laughs. This pisses me off.

“Now what do I do? Set the alarm for 2:00 am so I can go back in there when Antonia is asleep again?”

2:13 am, December 4th:

I tiptoe into my daughter’s dark bedroom making sure to avoid any sleeping dogs, and rustle around on the shelf where I remember the elf is sitting. I feel paper, a book, a backpack and finally something that feels like a stuffed animal. I grab it, hold it to my chest and scurry out of the room without looking back. I wander into the dining room and stick the elf on the fireplace mantle. The dogs look up at me, on alert.

“Go back to sleep,” I say. “It’s just the elf.”

7:38 am, December 5th:

“MOM!” Antonia yells loudly enough to wake up the neighbors. “JINGLES MOVED! She’s not in my bedroom, but I can’t find her! SHE MOVED!!”

“That’s great, Antonia. See? I told you she would,” I tell her as I sleepily pour coffee into my “I Heart NY” mug.

“I can’t wait to go to school and tell Olivia that Jingles moved. Now…where is she?”

“I have no idea,” I feign surprise as best I can before 8:00 am.

Eventually, Antonia finds the elf on the mantle, goes to school, and I move on with my day.

What does that crazy elf do next? Find out here: Elf on the Shelf Chronicles: Diary of a Victimized Parent, Part 2

My Mother Might Be Dead

My mother might be dead, or at the very least, trapped under a heavy object.

At least, that’s what my father led me to believe this afternoon at precisely 2:58 pm.

I was sitting at my desk working when I decided to call my friend, Theresa in New York to ask why another friend of ours hasn’t returned my calls, when I heard my phone ding in my ear to let me know a new text message had arrived.

Theresa and I chatted for a while and then I hung up the phone and read my text message. It was from my Dad. Who lives with my Mom. They are divorced and they share a house. Sometimes they talk to each other and sometimes they just leave each other sticky notes.

The text from my Dad says: Did you talk to your momma today? Her door has been closed all day!

By “her door” he means my mother’s bedroom door. He walks by it several times a day on his way in and out of his own bedroom. I live 17 miles away from my parents’ house. I do not regularly walk by either of their doors.

I respond: No! Really? She isn’t working?

Dad says: Don’t know.

I write: Is her car home?

Dad: Yes.

Me: That’s odd. I’ll call her.

I am imagining my mother face down on the carpet on the far side of her bedroom where nobody can hear her faint cries for help.

Mom, Dad, Aunt Ginny, Uncle Mark and Uncle Joe at my cousin's wedding, Summer 2014.

Mom, striking a pose, Dad, Aunt Ginny, Uncle Mark and Uncle Joe at my cousin’s wedding, Summer 2014.


Theresa and I were just talking about another friend of ours whose mother is unexpectedly having hip replacement surgery while simultaneously suffering from a heart condition.

“That’s crazy! Is she OK?” I asked Theresa. “I mean, is she still in the hospital? I thought she was so healthy.”

“Well, she is almost 80, you know. I guess it’s not totally unusual that she is having health issues,” said Theresa.

“But,” I protested, not willing to accept that our mothers are getting older, “your mother is in her 80s and she is healthy!”

“Yeah, well, she hasn’t been to the doctor since I was born,” Theresa laughed. “Although I guess she did go to the emergency room once because she was having some kind of weird feeling and they told her her potassium was low.”

I listened as Theresa explained the outcome of her mom’s visit to the E.R.

“Basically, they told her to go home and eat some bananas and she’s been fine ever since,” she finished her story.

Now I sat staring at my phone, reading a text that my mother might be the one experiencing some kind of trauma. And, she is in her bedroom with her door closed where nobody – not even my father passing by in the hallway – can hear her calling out for help.

I touched my cell phone screen under “favorites” and called my mother. The phone rang. And rang some more.

I waited, imagining the whole dramatic scenario in which I have to call my father frantically, while running out to my car to speed 17 miles to my parents’ house, only to burst through my mother’s bedroom door to find her lying face down on the white carpet, clutching her cell phone with one hand and her chest with the other, not the faintest trace of pulse coursing through her veins.

“Hello?” my mother answered cheerfully.

“You’re OK?” I asked.

Mom laughed. “As far as I know I am. Why?”

“Dad just texted me and said you hadn’t come out of your room all day and he wanted to know if I had spoken to you.”

Mom laughed again. “Ha! It’s nice to know he cares! I’ve been in here cleaning and putting away laundry. I mopped the kitchen floor while he was out this morning. Did he even notice that?”

“I guess not,” I told her, relieved that she was coherent.

“Jeez,” she said, “that’s hilarious. He could have knocked on the door if he thought I was dead.”

“I know! That’s what I told him,” I replied.

She proceeded to tell me how she had vacuumed and cleaned the living room and kitchen while he was out earlier this morning, and when he came home he fell asleep on the couch, so she stayed in her bedroom folding laundry – with the door closed – so she wouldn’t disturb him. At 2:00 pm, she heard him leave again. She was still in her room sorting clothes when I called her just after 3:00 pm.

“Well, I’m happy to know you’re not face down on the carpet,” I told Mom.

“No, I’m not,” she said, casually. “I’m finishing up in here and I’m going to meet the girls for our usual Wednesday night outing. You can let your father know I’m OK. And, tell him I said thanks for caring!” she was clearly amused by his concern. Then she added, “Next time he thinks I’m dead, tell him to just knock on the door and find out.”

I laughed. “OK, Mom. I love you. Have fun.”

She told me she loved me, too, instructed me to give my daughter a hug from her, and hung up the phone.

Dad and Antonia on a family trip "back home" in the Finger Lakes, Summer 2014

Dad and Antonia on a family trip “back home” in the Finger Lakes, Summer 2014

I texted my father:

Just spoke to Mom. She’s alive. She is now on her way to drink margaritas, so I don’t think you have to call the meat wagon just yet.

Dad responded: Oh good! That’s what I was afraid of.

Me: She was just in there cleaning. She said, “Thanks for caring!” I told her I was happy she wasn’t face down on the carpet.

Dad: OK. I had a busy morning. Fell asleep after brunch. Lost 2 lbs.

I turned my focus back to work, feeling extremely thankful for my parents, whom, in addition to being in good health, still manage to bring humor to my day. I imagine they will be all right well into their 80s.

Mom, Dad and me selfie from a couple years ago.

Mom, Dad and me selfie from a couple years ago.