Friday, December 23, 2011

The Grinch Kicked The Elf Off The Shelf

Everyone seems to have an Elf that hides somewhere on a shelf, watching over the children at Christmas and reminding them that they are being watched. "You better behave. It's almost Christmas and the Elf is watching." I'm sure it works in most households. There are two thoughts that ran through my head when watching the Elf on a Shelf frenzy. One, who is the marketing genius behind this little pointy eared doll that has people paying 29.99 to threaten their children with good behavior, and two, would it work in my house? I don't have the answer to the first question, but I got my answer a few weeks ago to the second.

My four year old daughter got glimpse of an Elf on a shelf in a store.

Pointing, "What's that doll with the pointy ears?"

"That's an Elf", I replied.

"Oh, why is he way up there on the shelf and not at the North Pole with Santa?"

"Um, well," I realized this was my shot to put the Elf on the Shelf idea to work. "He's here to watch and make sure you are being good. If you're not, he'll report back to Santa." I watch closely for a reaction on her sweet chunky face.

"But it's a doll."

Okay, time to change tactics. "Maybe it is just there to remind you that Santa is watching and you need to behave."

"Oh, well that's creepy." She makes a face at the doll and quickly turns her back to it.

Creepy, not exactly the message I believe the creators of Elf on a Shelf were going for.  Which got me to thinking what do I want my children to remember at Christmas time beside the birth of Jesus? I realized I didn't  have any desire to have them behave only because "Santa is watching" or "You don't want to be put on the naughty list". But believe me, I've used both of those phrases many times in my 12 years of being a parent. I'm trying to evolve a little in my parenting skills as I get older. I want them to embrace the spirit of Christmas, for them to enjoy giving and celebrating this beautiful season in which God gave us His only Son. I want them to realize that gifts and Santa, and Christmas decorations are just part of the celebration, but that there is much more.

For children, a little reminder each day helps them. Which is why Elf On A Shelf, I believe is so popular. It is an easy thing to point to and say "Remember". But, I already realized the  creepy Elf was not going to cut it at my house. But I knew who would. Someone whom they recognized. Someone that they knew was naughty at times and made mistakes, but that in the end realized what Christmas was truly all about.

And so Grinch On A Bench has been born. He reminds us not only of what not to be, but also of how we should be. Of what the Christmas spirit is. And remarkably, this is not creepy to my 4 year old daughter at all, but she's a lot like Cindy Lou Who. Aren't most children?

So Merry Christmas to you all and may the spirit of Christmas reside in your heart for always.

PS. My quote from Wednesday's post  was from Truman Capote's Christmas Memory. If you have never read it I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Favorite Christmas Book Quotes




(if you click on the picture you will have a coloring page to print out, that’s the teacher in me coming out!)

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

I have many favorite Christmas stories that I remember reading or being read to as a child. I love Dr. Seuss. My mom read his books to me as a young child, I wobbled through them as I began to read, and now as an adult many days I wake up and need to read one of his many important and simple statements to get me through the morning. The above quote was from his book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but you probably already knew that.

Another favorite story I read in school, probably when I was in 6th grade. This story would stick with me for years. I would forget who authored it, until years later during a college literature class. Then I would read this authors work, read about his childhood and read about his adult life. I remember being in awe of such an amazing literary figure, while mourning the tragedies this author faced in his life. I reread his Christmas story as an adult, and realized that the tragedy and sadness were there, even as a child, but he had managed to overcome it and find happiness. Something I don’t think he was able to do as an adult. The last line of the story alludes to this sadness, but there was still a sense of hope:

"And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing me from an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven."

Can you guess this favorite Christmas story and author? If no one gets it I’ll share on Friday, but I bet you all know. What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dear 17 Year Old Me, You Are A Late Bloomer And It’s Okay

You know that song by Brad Paisley, Letter to Me? He talks about sending a letter to his 17 year old self where he gives advice and tries to guide him on the ways of the world. I love that song, mostly because I’ve often thought, “If I could tell my teenage self what I know now, life could have been so much easier.”

Dear 17 year old me,

It’s your Senior year, have fun, but keep working hard. You’re going to need some discipline to get through your first year of college. That darn Algebra II is going to haunt you for years to come.
When you go for your Senior pictures, dump the frumpy frock and the serious face, and while you’re at it the huge bangs. Yeah, it’s the style, but in 10 years when it is on your name badge at your high school reunion you will thank me.

That guy you’ve had a crush on forever, he’s a good guy. Many years later you’ll see each other, you’ll talk, you’ll be friends, and you’ll realize that you never really wanted to date him. He was a nice distraction, so don’t waste time pining away after him. There is plenty else to be done with your time!

Some day soon you are going to meet the guy that finally believes your freckles are sexy, not cute. Do me a favor, believe him the first time he tells you that and don’t keep doubting it for say half a dozen years.
In the meantime, you are going to meet some duds. Some will treat you terrible, others will put you up on a pedestal so high you are in constant fear of toppling off. I wish I could tell you to skip over them. Don’t. But I can tell you you will survive. The hurt will be worth it, trust me.

The close friends you make in high school, you all will go separate ways, then reunite, then get busy with life. But the good news is they will always be there for you, they are never too far away. You will catch up on the phone or text or Facebook. You don’t know about texting or Facebooking yet and I don’t want to give anything away. Just remember that, okay?

Hug your family and tell them how much you love them, especially your Nano and Dado. Some day you’ll be really far away from them and some day some of them will be gone. You thought you had forever, but forever wasn’t nearly long enough.

Your best friend, she’s going to need you like never before. Stay strong, but don’t be afraid. Have faith, faith in God’s plan and don’t try to make things better when you can’t. Just be there and know that is enough.

Don’t let the “it” girls define you. You know those few who continue to look down their noses at you, squint and say “What’s your name again?” Even though you’ve been going to school and sitting by them in class for the last 4 years. Their mission seems to be humiliation and even though you’re tough, it hurts. Let me tell you something. In ten years you will see them some will have gained 30 pounds and are single. You’ll be sitting next to your hunky husband with a precious 6 month old waiting for you at home. They’ll still ignore you, but you won’t care in the least.

And lastly, here’s the thing, you are a late bloomer. A really late bloomer, and it’s okay. I know you think that your 17 year old self is all you’ve got, but you’re wrong. You’ll bloom, it’s just going to take a few years. You’re going to get comfortable in your skin and then watch out world.  Really, you will. The thing is, in order for you to bloom you have to grow, and right now you still have a lot of growing to do.
Keep laughing and being protective of the ones you love. Keep sighing over that crush from a distance. Keep going to all those football and basketball games and cheering from the bleachers with your friends. Your best years are yet to come. But being 17, you never get that back. Make great memories and enjoy life. It seems to fly by!
Your 39 year old self

What would you tell your 17 year old self?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When The Holiday Crush Leaves You Smooshed


I really do love this time of year. Really. The hustle and bustle of all the Christmas activities, not to mention my husband and I both celebrate a birthday during December. Mine at the beginning, his at the end. It’s a month of celebrations. It’s a month of joyous reflections.

There is always a frenzy of activities going on in our kitchen as we spend hours baking bourbon balls, toffee, Mexican Wedding cookies and Lebkuchen. Powdered sugar and smears of chocolate can be found from countertop to ceiling to the tip of my 4 year olds nose. But, we hurry to clean it all up so we can race to one of the many holiday parties our treats are needed for.

Later, we find ourselves scouring the wish lists of our loved ones as we set out on a shopping expedition. We get crushed in the crowds of others, all looking for that elusive gift. We rush home to yards of wrapping paper and make pretty crooked Christmas bows. Some get boxed up and sent to the post office, at the last moment, to wait in the incredibly long line of other procrastinators. The holiday cheer is usually felt in abundance in these long lines of people juggling packages and tired children.

At home are tangled Christmas lights, a tree struggling with the weight of all the ornaments the sweet 4 year old has hung on one branch, and a fireplace that is undergoing a remodel. A remodel that stretches to my sunrooms floor. Ahh, the spirit of Christmas.

It is a month of anticipation. A month of glad tidings. It is a month that will leave you feeling smooshed under the weight of all that holiday cheer if you’re not careful.

You need to remember to just sit in front of a roaring fire and put your feet up. Listen to your favorite holiday music, or better yet snuggle down with a good story. Which I did by the way, yesterday in fact, while the boxes of unpacked Christmas d├ęcor waited nearby. It gave me all those warm fuzzies the Christmas season is supposed to leave you with. It inflated my smooshed spirit. And thanks to my friend, Emily  Ann Benedict, you can download her story as well, for free! It’s titled Father Christmas. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a treat. Cozy up to the fire with this heart warming tale, that is sure to put the Christmas spirit back into your tired, worn out body.

Download here to inflate your sagging Christmas energy.

What do you do to help keep your holiday spirit from sagging?