Today’s blog is from our guest blogger Terra Morris. Besides being a talented writer, Terra is a wife, a busy mom of 3 amazing kids, works outside the home and still makes time for the fun stuff in life!
It’s me. I’m that mom. The one that graces your facebook feed with photos and antidotes about little elves that visit during the Christmas season. I”m the one that you laugh at in memes. The one you roll your eyes at as you virtually comment about not having enough time to do the laundry, much less move an elf every night of the week. I’m the butt of the joke, the “overachiever”, the one that is often ousted from the mom groups. However, despite the backlash, I’m okay, because it’s me, I’m “that mom”, and I love every minute of it.
About ten years ago when my oldest child was only 3 or 4 years old, my mom excitedly gifted our family “The Elf on the Shelf”. It was a new toy/book combo that she found in Chicago that hadn’t been heard of here in Wisconsin (at least not in our neck of the woods). The first time I read it with my two young children, they giggled and laughed at the excitement of this little guy visiting our house playing a game of “hide and seek” every day. At the time, I never could have imagined what that simple white box truly held inside of it.
My kids were 100% on board with the idea of this little elf. They had “wide eyes” at the thought that Santa could actually have “spies” right here in our home. The idea that this little elf could go back and forth to the North Pole and report on how they were behaving gave more depth to the meaning behind the lyrics, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake”. My kids were on their best behavior that first Christmas season with the elf that my son (not so creatively) named Mr. Jingles, watching over them. However, I noticed that even more than having good behavior, they had a light and excitement that could only be classified as magic. Yes, I’m talking about the kids, not little Mr. Jingles. The kids were truly all aglow as they woke each morning with curiosity as to where Mr. Jingles would be sitting that day.
Yep sitting. That’s all that Mr. Jingles did that first year. From the fireplace mantle to the kitchen counter, to the book shelf… he sat. Every night, he moved easily from one location to the next. I’m sure that 30 seconds was more than enough for him to make his nightly journey. Enough for Mr. Jingles, enough for Santa, and clearly enough for my kids. Honestly, I can’t tell you when the turning point was for Mr. Jingles. When the comfy simple life he was leading in our home changed to an extravagant adventure. But it happened and once it did, he could never go back to being just the “Elf on the Shelf” or on the mantle or on the counter. He was an interactive fun loving being with a lively personality and sweet serious side. His magic somehow grew and in turn so did the magic within my children.
Mr. Jingles took on a life of his own in the following years. He could be found skiing down Mt. Elfrest, fishing for everything from swedish fish to compliments, and baking cookies with Julia Child. He was busier than a mom during the Christmas season (cough cough). Through it all my children were taking detailed mental notes; sharing the stories of their family elf, Mr. Jingles, to anyone who would listen. They shared long stories with Nona and Papa over Sunday lunches. We spent extra time in line at the grocery store as the cashier “oohed” and “aahed” over the creativity and craziness of their elf’s daily adventure. It got to the point that people began to search out my children to inquire, “what did your elf do today.” No one was immune to their storytelling because they explained their elf in such a way that MADE you believe. It was very subtle, but as Mr. Jingles’ popularity grew, so did his magic.
That is until 2011 when our household was shaken. “Why Oh Why” screams ricocheted off our walls and I’m sure throughout our neighborhood. There were tears and more tears until tiny eyes had nothing left to blink away. It was pure chaos that lead to an abundance of pouting that I am sure more than disappointed Mr. Jingles and dear old Santa Clause. It was a day that should have been joyous. As a matter of fact it actually started out that way; joyous I mean.
Mr. Jingles had arrived in our TV room that morning with popcorn and treats in preparation of the highly anticipated, “An Elf’s Story: The Elf on the Shelf”. It was a new movie that was to air for the first time on CBS that evening. All was right in the Morris household as the kids and I sat cuddled together on the couch, eyes glued to the tv screen. Then just a mere 2:51 minutes into this 23 minute movie, the camera casually scanned to a group of elves; both boys and GIRLS appearing on screen. This was the moment the world stopped turning. The moment my five year old daughter threw Mr. Jingles the darkest of shade. The moment our beloved Mr. Jingles lost a little bit of magic simply because he was a boy.
The following year the weight of our elf’s arrival grew heavy. After the blow from last Christmas’ shock I had to wonder ”Would Mr. Jingles be accepted into our home?” “Would his magic continue to grow?” Needless to say Mr. Jingles is a pretty smart little guy. On arrival day we found him in a hot air balloon that had crash landed into a tree in our backyard. He brought with him was his annual arrival letter detailing the happenings of his “off season”. Surprisingly, the highlight of that letter was news that he had gotten married! Beside Mr. Jingles in that makeshift hot air balloon, sat the beautiful (to be later named by my eldest daughter) Snowflake. The magic meter rose, almost bursting through the roof. The married couple’s adventures were double the fun; creating scenes of love and friendship and mischievousness that rivaled those of Mr. Jingle’s as a single elf. As the old saying goes, “two elves are better than one” (or something like that).
A couple of years later Mr. Jingles and Snowflake brought a friend with them on an arrival day; Carmella Dolly (named by my youngest daughter). I can almost hear the eye rolls from here, but as I said in the beginning, I’m well aware that I am “that mom.” Having three elves wasn’t a part of some master plan to create the most elaborate of elfin shenanigans. Nor was Carmella Dolly’s arrival in response to the need to repair a child’s broken heart or the loss of some magic in our home. She arrived because of the need to carry on a magical tradition. The magic that still fills my house beginning each morning after Thanksgiving until December 24th. The magic that from my youngest (still young enough to believe) to my oldest teenager (who stereotypically should be hiding Mr. Jingles away from suspecting eyes of friends and strangers alike) still thrives and lives in our home.
For me,The Elf on the Shelf isn’t about coming up with the most creative pose or scene. It isn’t about the number of likes or comments on social media. The purpose of the Elf on The Shelf (or ELVES on the Shelf in my case) is what I really found in that white box 10 years ago. It’s the laughter while brainstorming ideas with friends over a (in person or virtual) cup of coffee. It’s the detailed stories my children share about their elves during the summertime. It’s my 14 year still looking for the elves each morning with his sisters (never once questioning their existence). It’s the excitement that has radiated off my children for the last 10 years and hopefully many more to come. It’s about the magic of the memories. Memories that I hope my children will one day not only share, but also carry on with their own families and children.
The true reason we went from one to three elves in our home is so each of my children could have an elf of their own once they are grown; Mr. Jingles, Snowflake and Carmella Dolly each belong to one of my three children. They don’t exist to merely “spy” to see who is naughty or nice or to create some form of morning entertainment. They exist to create wonder, excitement, and continued memories for my children and their future families. Maybe one day their elves will sit on their shelves, read bible stories in their personal library, go camping under their stars, or build snowmen out of their toilet paper. Maybe the magic will continue to grow and be shared with their family, friends and grocery cashier. Just maybe.
It’s because of those “maybes” that being “That Mom” is the best kind of mom I could ever think of being.
Creating magic can be as simple or as detailed as your elf’s heart’s desire. Honestly, some of the simplest of scenarios are the kids’ favorites. However there are a few in our elve’s history that have a special place in my heart.
Elfin Cafe - Breakfast Served All Day - candy eggs (Candy Nation) served to elves and barbie dolls with one elf working the stove
Camp Kikiwaka - Camping scenes are an annual tradition but the elves change it up every year. They always bring a new pair of socks (Target Dollar Spot) used as elf sleeping bags One year their camp was based on one of the kids’ favorite TV shows, “Bunk’d”.
North Pole Library - Our elves love to read. Sometimes they read from the bible or from some elf sized books. This year they were found on top of the bookshelf with little books for the elves to read (little lamps from the Dollar Tree- reusable).
Bathroom Bowling is an annual tradition with our elves. Bowling set and ribbon for bowling lane (Bowling set from the Dollar Tree reusable)
Reindeer Design Factory - Sorting noses (skittles) and creating scarf and antler decor (Michael’s Craft Store)
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.