About That Elf

There are a lot of folks who hate my elf, and his elf, and her elf, and their elves. 

Around here, we ask our kids to think twice about using harsh words to speak of someone they've never met or with whom they haven't had a personal interaction. And although I am well aware our elf, Jingles, doesn't have a beating heart, my kids like to believe she has a magical one.  

As for the fool who moves the tiny toy around each night?

Well, hey, I have one too. 

I know the elf-less don't mean to bash me when they bash the elf. Just like I have no intention of bashing the elf-less when I share a photo or two. 


Those who bought into the elf phenomenon are show-offs or had the Santa hat pulled over their consumeristic eyes. Those who didn't buy in are wiser, because they weren't swayed by their children's requests to have one like the other kids. 

Sweeping genearlizations—perhaps. But I've read them over and over again. 

It feels a lot like all the times I heard I shouldn't talk about how I breastfed my babies, because it might make formula-feeding moms feel bad. Or that I shouldn't go into too much detail about being at home with my kids, because it might make working moms feel guilty.  

I've never wanted to make another parent feel bad or guilty, and I still don't. 

Why did I let myself succumb to the hype?

Why do I exert the effort?

I guess you'd have to travel back to my childhood for the answer. Despite growing up in families that did not celebrate Santa Claus, my parents put gifts with special wrapping paper and Santa handwriting under the tree every year. 

Then right around the time I was the age my oldest daughter is now, when friends were getting harder to navigate and the peer pressure to stop believing was pressing down on me, my parents had our neighbour dress up in a Santa suit and pose for Polaroid snapshots in front of our tree.

Despite predictions by many online elf-haters, I did not grow up to resent my parents for deceiving me or tricking me or making me look like a fool. I feel nothing but gratitude that they wanted to preserve the magic of childhood for me and my sister, even if it meant buying into cultural practices they didn't come from.

When the gig is up around here, and the last of my lot has figured out that it was me and Dad who bolted out of bed in the middle of the night, or stuffed Jingles down our pants in the morning so we could discreetly move her before she was spotted, I'm certain they'll feel gratitude. 

As for the judgey comments about parents using the elf as a behaviour deflector, well that's none of my business. We don't use that approach around here, but I did use M&M's to toilet train our youngest daughter, so I guess there's always the threat that I'll succumb. 

My kids are at different ages and stages of believing, but this "creepy toy with the cold eyes" still brings their varying beliefs together in fun. They roll out of bed every day in the month of December and launch an early morning search for her landing spot. When they find her, they are equally delighted. 

It's not about the photos (though do be warned, there will be some because this is where I leave my memories for my kids), but the magic. A reminder to hold on to it, because it is fleeting. 

It's not about being cool or trendy, but being here—in the moments, big and small. 

It's not a waste of my time, but a short-lived re-prioritization—five minutes that I dedicate to setting the stage for gap-toothed morning smiles. 

It's not just about the elf, you see—it's about the memories. 

And if adding a mischievous red elf to our traditions gives those memories a swish of colour, that's quite all right with me. 


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My parents had it right with their insistence that we take family portraits. 

The photos sat on side tables and lined the wallpapered hallways of my childhood home, and I spent a lot of time looking at them. Whether it was to giggle at my dad's evolving moustache or poke fun at my sister's toothless smile—they made me happy. 

Raising a family isn't easy and my parents were proud of the many ways we met the challenge. They displayed those photos (and still do) like framed diplomas—evidence of our family's success smiling at us from behind the glass.

JB wasn't easily convinced when it came to our own family. He didn't come from the same tradition and found it a bit overindulgent and awkward. We compromised by sending out a staged family photo for our first Christmas—complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and a pair of retro dad glasses—expecting to create some good fun.


The joke ended up being on us. JB had just returned to school full-time and, upon receiving our card, friends began calling and emailing to ask if our student budget had us shopping in our parents' closets and whether they should send food.

We didn't attempt another family photo during the years we were lost in the busyness of three kids under the age of four. Our holiday cards were of the store-bought kind. I included handwritten notes, but that was the only personal thing about them. 

After our fourth baby was born, I felt a pull to return to the family photo. The first time, it was just the kids. I took them out on my own while JB was at work. I planned to wrap one as a Christmas surprise that he could later put on his desk at work. 

When we saw this photo, there was no going back. Because captured in this frame was the story of our family's success and the love that drove us forward through our own challenges. 


{original photo by: Natural Attraction Photography}

Our annual holiday card is now plastered with our most recent family photo and I get absolutely and ridiculously giddy with the process every year: deciding what everyone will wear, narrowing down the final photo from the photographer, and my very FAVOURITE part...creating the holiday card.

This year we had a couple of hiccups, with uncooperative monsoons that washed out any possibility of an outdoor photo and a feisty three-year-old that wanted to take the photos her way.

But I think we're going to end up with something very special (thank you, Sarah).

It's been a year of incredible growth for each of the kids, and I can't wait to see it captured in a moment. 


Last week, I was contacted by MINTED—which features designs from independent artists and designers from around the world—and asked to consider using them for our holiday cards. There are so many designs that caught my eye, and I am so excited to see the photo that will help me make the final decision. 

The side tables and walls of our home are now covered with photos from the last few years. I catch the kids looking at them, and they often ask questions about what they were like when we took them.

There are some traditions worth holding on to, and I could not be more sure about this being one of them. 


MINTED would like to offer one of my very lucky readers a $50 code towards any design of your choosing.

Just leave me a comment below, about your holiday card or family photo traditions, and I'll randomly select a Canadian or U.S. winner at the end of next week. And don't worry if you don't have a formal family photo, candids work really well, too.

Now go...drool....sigh...wander around their gorgeous website and come back and enter.

Good luck!







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A No Good, Terrible Case of Murophobia

My name is Louise, and I suffer from an irrational fear/phobia/paranoia of all rodent-like creatures.

It's sort of officially known as murophobia. Hypnotherapy is recommended as a cure. 

I have no idea how it originated—no one in my family growing up had the same fear, and my husband thinks I'm kind of ridiculous with the sobbing and clawing at my own skin that goes on at the mere mention of the M-word.

It can probably be traced back to a repressed memory, which by its very nature was so panic-inducing that I've completely repressed it.

BUT have you seen a mouse skitter across a linoleum floor when you weren't expecting it? Can you blame me?

Despite my well-exhibited fear/phobia/paranoia, life has found it utterly amusing to continue challenging me with exposures. It's like someone is playing candid-camera-cognitive-therapy, and I'm the unwilling participant.

I've lived in student housing with mice and once had to call a cab to get to my night-shift job because there was a raccoon lurking near my parked car (yeah, I don't like their beady eyes and claws, either). 

I also (unknowingly) slept in a mouse den in JB's parents' garage. We were dating then, and I had to sleep on a fold-out sofa bed. When I pulled back the covers, I noticed it was filled with cat kibble. Already knowing my tendency to meltdown at the mention of the M-word, he told me they had really, really smart cats. I believed him. It's baffling that we're still together. Because, yeah, I figured it out eventually. 

We like the wooded areas and trails that wind through our current neighbourhood. We love the big trees in our front yard. It seems the creepy rodents do, too. 

The sound first started haunting/taunting me two days ago. The little one and I had just returned from the big kids' bus stop. We were standing in the kitchen, and it sounded like someone was trying to unscrew one of the potlights in the ceiling. Then the dragging and shuffling sounds started, and I felt my knees go weak.

You okay, mama?

We left the house. I texted JB. 

Hmmm, are you sure it's not the pipes? 

The PIPES!?!? The sound going on in the tiny space between our kitchen ceiling and my bedroom floor conjured a clear (and horrifying) vision of the rodent condominium complex being constructed above my head. 

Long story short, Mo the exterminator and wildlife extractor came (and laughed and laughed and laughed) and confirmed there were squirrels living between the walls. I put my head down and initiated deep breathing.  

We talked about how much work would have to be done to be able to list the house on MLS and just start over somewhere new. Maybe a condo. In the desert. No trees. No foliage. No rodents. 

He laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

There is nothing jovial about my mood, though. In fact, I'm in a downright rotten-stinky-awful-foul mood. I am on the verge of tears. I've lost my appetite.

And though I greatly appreciate how much my friends are trying to show their solidarity by sharing stories about squirrels chewing through the walls of their children's room or making nests among the towels in their linen closets, I really wish they would STOP (pretty please?). 

I'm expecting to a get a lot of work done while we wait for Mo to come and move the squirrels down the street, being that I won't be able to shut my eyes for ONE. SINGLE. SECOND.

Damn you, murophobia. I really wish you'd hitch a ride on a squirrel's back and skedaddle. 





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