Moving On Up: Elf on the Shelf

Elf Promotion

As we were decluttering yesterday (and I use “we” lightly for it was only me), I went back and forth on whether or not to give our Elf on the Shelf to Goodwill along with the two big boxes of toys our girls have outgrown (whether they know it or not).

He’s been in his box on a shelf in our playroom for the past five years, ever since we received him as a gift. We don’t use him in his traditional capacity (I don’t believe in his message), but I hate to give anything away unused.

Instead, he’s been repurposed (how very green of me!) and given a promotion.

elf vp (812x1024)

Our Elf has been assigned the enlightened and highly regarded task of holding all of our family’s mean, critical or self-limiting thoughts. Or at least mine. If my husband and kids don’t want the Elf’s help, I’ll keep him on as my personal assistant. A consultant of sorts. (Talk about job security!)

While I don’t believe in the Elf on the Shelf in his usual holiday context, I’ve decided he can believe in us and serve our family’s needs throughout the year. When a self-defeating thought or belief enters my consciousness, I’ll give it to the Elf and let him hold it for me on his shelf. Here’s how he works:

Me:  sitting at my computer to write:  “I don’t have any ideas. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t deserve to be a writer – I have it too easy, too good, what do I know about life and writing? Who do I think I am? I’m a ‘wanna be.’ And a crappy mother too.”

**Print**

Me:  “Here you go, Elf. Hold these shitty thoughts for me so I can enjoy my day and my writing time. Thanks.”

For me, putting these beliefs into words and turning them over to someone can help free me to enjoy and create. Elf is an always available someone, and he’s perfectly suited to the job. I mean, he’s been underutilized (but not overpaid) for years! Let’s give the kid a real job, a worthy position suited to his strengths.

I’ll load him up with all the self-defeating, critical messages that sprout in my head. And maybe I’ll offer his services to others. For a fee. He can become a profit center … Ah, the possibilities are endless!

My kids can use him too. When they feel scared or angry, they can leave the Elf a note explaining their fears. Or, more likely, their complaints (his job responsibilities are flexible). They can kvetch to the Elf all they want. He’s up to the task.

Ava:  “I hate my sister and don’t want her touching my stuff. I’d rather be an only child.”

Me:  “I hear you, honey. But my job responsibilities have changed. The Elf is now in charge of the Complaint Department. Why don’t you tell it to the Elf?”

elf complaint department (390x800)

Sweet little guy, welcome to your new life! Enjoy!

Elf will smile. Rather than his traditional role as cajoler and threatener, Elf will become a source of love and comfort.

Ava (our 9 yo) thinks it’s mean to load up our Elf with all our mean thoughts. But is it better for us to keep them inside? I think not. And our Elf seems to have adjusted well to his new role. Of course, he’s probably happy to finally be out of his box after all these years.

With Elf’s help, I’m betting 2013 will be our year! Yay, us!

And, yes, I’m well aware I had too much time on my hands this morning!

Ruts & Grooves

I'm in a rut, post-holiday blues, procrastination help

Does your life ever feel like this?

Do you ever avoid calling a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while because you don’t have an hour to spend on the phone catching up? After more time goes by, does it feel harder and harder for you to pick up the phone?

Me, too.

I’m feeling that way about blogging right now. I haven’t posted in a while, and I want to come back strong with a fabulous, witty, endearing post. Until I have the time to write that post, I tell myself I shouldn’t post at all.

So, today I’m practicing something different.

I am writing this morning for ten minutes. Writing whatever comes into my head. And I’ve promised myself I’ll post whatever I write, just for the exercise and to get back into some semblance of a writing routine. I love to write, and I’ve been avoiding it. Again.

I’m in an avoidance rut. The more pressure I put on myself to write (or call, exercise, etc.), the more I want to run away and do something else – clean the house for example. And I hate cleaning the house. I am in a rut. Please send help. And chocolate.

I’m telling myself not to look at the computer screen. Not to edit while I write. To just write; open my heart and pour out some words. Breathe in the joy of writing again. Breathe out the pressure and fear. Enjoy the giddiness I feel whenever I sit down with an idea for a post.

Avoidance takes energy. Avoiding keeps me in a cycle of shame; the “I’m not doing enough” message pounding in my head. When I’m in these ruts, ideally I’d keep showing up in the world in small ways, rather than wait until I can do the big ways I tell myself are the only ones that count.

If I can’t do it all – whether it’s catching up with a friend, doing the entire, gut-busting workout or reading and commenting on every blog I’ve ever subscribed to – I want to run and hide. (Watching another episode of Scandal, a television show I had never heard of until two days ago, seems much more important than connecting with living, breathing human beings or doing activities that are good for me or bring me joy.)

I tell myself catching up takes too much time and energy. When connecting with people I love and doing activities that lift my soul feel like something to check off a “to do” list rather than a vision of joy to embrace, I know I’m out of whack. Where’s the fun? Where’s the flow?

Several people I’ve asked for help with this rut have suggested I practice trust. Trust.

Trust my process. Trust the universe. Trust my version/vision of God. Trust other people. Trust my place in the world. I’d like to trust today. I’m not sure I know how. Writing and posting this feels like a step in the right direction. (Who knows, you may even get a phone call from me later today!)

When you’re in a rut or find yourself avoiding someone or something you enjoy, what do you do? How do you get back in a consistent groove?

Let’s Hug a Teacher Today

Hug a TeacherOur nine-year-old daughter’s Science Teacher, John O’Rourke, posted this on his blog this morning:

“Today is an especially tough day for parents, teachers and students.  Words are probably not enough but I put together a few thoughts that I’d like to share.  If there is some sort of perverted “good” that can come out of something as horrific as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it is that I am now more convinced than ever that I am supposed to be a teacher.  I love my job and am grateful to be able to influence the lives of your children.  This tragedy has forced me to think about what I would do if, God forbid, I was faced with such a situation.  And I, and I imagine all teachers, would do everything possible to protect your kids.  I also came to the realization that now, more than ever, they are also my kids.  Every year I come to know and love your children and would do anything to keep them safe and protected.  Nobody should ever be afraid to come to school and I will continue to work to make sure that your children feel good about coming to school.”

I admire and appreciate your commitment and love, Mr. O’Rourke, and thank you for your service to our children. God bless you and every teacher today charged with the awesome, overwhelming responsibility of loving, teaching and protecting our children for those precious hours they cannot be in our arms.

While I don’t have adequate words to express my admiration for the work you and your fellow teachers do, I can tell you that my heart feels a tiny bit less constricted knowing you are in my children’s lives. Every inch of my heart thanks you.

Any teachers you want to hug today?

Top Ten Disney Surprises

We had a fabulous time at Disney World, full of laughter, joy, awe and germs. While our subsequent colds weren’t a surprise, our time with The Mouse did hold a variety of magical surprises.

Here are my top ten:

Disney Surprises, Disney Parenting Tips, Family Vacations
1) Head Rests: After more than 40 years of flying, I was surprised to learn that the sides of the head rest on an airplane seat fold in to cradle your head (at least on American Airlines). Apparently, I’m not the only one missing this critical bit of information:  I polled a statistically significant number of fellow flyers and not one of the four people knew about this feature.

airplane headrest, disney surprises, flying surprises, family vacations

While I’ll happily take credit for preventing countless future post-nap neck aches, here’s a tip for airline executives:  Forget the perfunctory exit row and oxygen mask spiels, let your customers know how to prevent embarrassing head flops! They’ll thank you. And you’re welcome.

2) Tears (mine): I’ve visited Disney World several times, the last time five years ago when our daughter, Ava, was four years old. While I’ve always been a fan, I didn’t expect the awe and joy I felt seeing Cinderella’s Castle with our daughter, Rhys, for the first time. Granted, I cry at paint drying, but the gratitude I felt seeing Disney’s magic through her four-year-old eyes will stay with me for a long time.

Disney's Cinderella Castle, Disney Surprises, Disney Tips for Parents, Parenting Advice, Disney Family Vacation

3) Anti-Climaxes: Rhys was awestruck by Mickey Mouse. For all of ten seconds. Then she spent the next three hours begging to go swimming back at the hotel. Note to self:  plan next family vacation at the nearest hotel with a swimming pool. Put money saved into a vacation fund for Mike and me to NYC, London or Fiji. Or all three.

4) Money Shocks: I knew. I did the research. I just didn’t believe that a-n-y-o-n-e, not even the well-oiled, money-making machine that is Disney, could get away with charging $6 for an Uncrustable’s PB&J. But they do. And we did. God help us all.

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$6 Sandwich at Disney

5) Meltdowns:  While some of our family’s Disney meltdowns were You Tube-worthy, I was shocked by the number of parents who screamed the following at their little kids:

  • “You are ruining our entire vacation! Do you hear me? RUINING it!”
  • “How DARE you cry! This is Disney!”
  • “If you whine one more time, I will pay Tinkerbell to take you to Never Never Land.”
  • “Do you know how much money this trip is costing us – start having fun. Now, damn it!”

Actually that last one was only in my head. But it is infinitely more fun to judge other parents’  tantrums. Is that wrong?

6) Feats of Bravery: Turns out Rhys is a bit of a speed junkie – the faster the ride, the happier our kid. She waved her arms in the air throughout the many roller coasters, flight simulators and the fabulous new Test Track ride at Epcot. I, on the other hand, hunkered down in the seat trying to keep my $15 turkey sandwich in my stomach.

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

Rhys’ Favorite Ride – Epcot’s Test Track
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

7) Animation: We’re blessed that Ava is such an animated kid – her enthusiasm for all things Disney was contagious and fun. Turns out she also has a gift for animation of the drawing kind. The animation class we took at Hollywood Studios spawned much elated talk of a new, future career path for her. Visions of premieres and Academy Award ceremonies danced in my head. Ava was somewhat excited too.

Our Future Award-Winning Animator

Our Future Award-Winning Animator

8) Nap Sites: Disney offers a surprising number of unadvertised nap locations throughout each of its parks. I can personally attest to the comfort of the following:  the Hall of Presidents show at the Magic Kingdom, the floor of the Norway gift shop (next to the stuffed moose and kid’s craft table) at Epcot and the carpeted floor of the waiting area for the Art of Animation attraction at Hollywood Studios. Heaven.

9) Warm Towels: I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we flew home in First Class. Talk about heaven. And culture shock. When the flight attendant handed Rhys a warm towel to wash her hands before a snack, Rhys eyed her quizzically with a “What’s this ‘washing up’ custom of which you speak?” look on her face, then dropped the cloth on the floor. I closed my eyes and ate my complimentary warm nuts in peace. Bliss.

10) Afterglows: Although Rhys insists “going swimming” was her favorite part of our Disney trip, last night she woke up from a dream calling, “Belle, Belle, where are you Belle?” Priceless.

Rhys Princess (554x640)

Oy! What have we started?!

If you’re traveling to Disney World any time soon and want my inside scoop on rides and attractions, let me know! I’m happy to share my hard-won insights!

The Big Reveal

We told our daughters about our upcoming “surprise” visit to Disney World. I’ve been waiting for months to watch their little faces light up with excitement when we told them. Thankfully, they did not disappoint.


They radiated joy! And glee! For exactly ten minutes. Then they started fighting over hanging their favorite Christmas tree ornaments. Fun for the whole family!

I was left wondering if it was too soon to start threatening to cancel Disney? (While threatening isn’t my thing, it is sooo tempting!)

Alas, it’s too late for that … we’re off! Disney, look out!

Lessons Learned (Vol. Eight)

lessons learned, learned lessons, lessons to be learned, family, lesson learned, words of wisdomWe had an exciting week – unpacking all the crap we brought with us over Thanksgiving weekend, watching Ava’s first basketball game (a victory!), finalizing plans for our upcoming Disney trip, shopping and decorating for Christmas, getting haircuts all around and visiting Santa. And that was just over the weekend!

Other than discussing uteri with our four-year-old (and likely devastating her young friend Tomas), I’m not sure I learned much last week except that most days I need a nap. And a massage. Santa wasn’t particularly hopeful he could fit those gifts in my stocking this Christmas. But I think I increased my odds (and his motivation) by slipping him $20.

On to some of my favorite lessons:

  • The only way I could have loved Steve’s essay comparing writing to sex more would have been if I had thought of it. And I’m planning to steal his idea in a few months and change it up a bit – I think I’ll compare sex to writing instead. Good, huh? (Brown Road Chronicles)
  • When I first read John’s funny essay reminding me about life with a newborn, I felt a longing in my heart for one more kid. Just one. A little one. However, after our four-year-old woke up five times last night because of a cold, I’m over it. (Ask Your Dad)
  • Adrienne found the surprisingly perfect place to escape her parenting duties and kindly shares her secret fort location with the rest of us.  (The Mommy Mess)
  • Laura’s moving essay about needing a vacation to spend time connecting with her husband and children really hit home for me. With our hectic daily lives, my husband and I often find ourselves discussing logistics rather than sharing feelings and stories. My favorite part of our trips to Michigan to visit my husband’s family are the car rides – uninterrupted time for Mike and me to connect, laugh and remember all we’re grateful for. (Close Families)
  • Finally … if I can’t get daily naps and massages for Christmas, I’ll take Lisa’s simple, lovely prayer for Peace. (Mommy OM)

What did you learn last week? What do you want for the holidays? Happy Monday!