Friday, December 19, 2014

Elf on the Shelf

I wasn’t going to do it this year.  I wasn’t going to do Elf on the Shelf.

But then my kid started coming home from school in early December, eyes alight with stories about all of his classmates’ elves, and I began to feel a raging case of Mom Guilt.  Especially when he looked at me, all serious, and said, “Do you think we’re not getting an elf because Bubba and I are bad?”

Holy shit.  Goddamn kids at school.  I reminded myself to write a note to school asking them to handle kids who discuss elves in the same way that some schools handle kids who discuss guns:  Suspend them.

But first, I had to reassure my son.  “Of course not, honey.   You and your bubba are very good boys.  In fact, that’s probably why you don’t have an elf.  Aren’t they sent to houses so that they can fly back to Santa at night and tattle on all the bad things kids have done?”  A lightbulb went off in my head, and I went for it.  “Yeah…that’s what it is.  The bad kids get the elves because they need someone to watch them and make them behave.”

I thought I was brilliant until my son kept coming home, day after day, excitedly telling stories about what Zippy the Elf had done at Brighton’s house or what Crusty the Elf had done at Ellie’s house.  The Brat Theory was forgotten in all of the excitement over the elves’ amazing feats.  One afternoon, I sighed and called my husband.

“Hey, do you think you can order an Elf on the Shelf on Amazon?”

“What?” he asked, annoyed.  “What about all of that…’I’m not doing that stupid elf this year; I forgot about it every night last year and had to haul my ass out of bed at 4 AM to toss it around the house’…What about all of that?”

“Well,” I explained, “it’s going to be easier this year because you’re going to help me. We’ll take elf shifts.”

My husband sighed, knowing he was fighting a losing battle.  “Fine.”

The elf arrived in the mail around December 12, and I was prepared.  That night, I set the book and the elf out on the stove, which is where my boys gravitate every single morning in hopes that I’ll finally let them have a piece of candy out of our candy basket—on the counter right next to the stove—for breakfast.

They yelped in joy when they saw it, jumping up and down and grabbing the book.  “MOM!” my kindergartener said.  “Brighton said you’re not supposed to touch your elf or it’ll lose its magic. So make sure you DON’T TOUCH HIM!”

“Okay,” I replied, smiling and warming up to the whole thing.  I mean, my kids are only going to be young once, and my kindergartener is so damned logical that I don’t know how long he’ll believe. 

I felt like the Grinch on Christmas Day in that moment, my heart growing to three times its normal size.  Their dad walked into the kitchen just as we were taking the book into the living room.

The four of us settled onto the couch and cracked the spine of the book.  Suddenly, my older son grew quiet, which was disconcerting because, well, he’s never quiet.

I looked down at him to see that his face had completely fallen.

“What is it, buddy?  What’s wrong?”

My kindergartener looked up at me with his huge brown eyes as his younger brother watched him with concern.  “Mom,” he said, “did we get the elf because we’re bad and Santa needed someone to tattle on us?”


I saw my husband shoot me one of his holier-than-thou, raised eyebrow looks of consternation.  As if he handles kid questions any better than I do.  As if his explanation for our lack of an elf for the first two weeks of December would have been so much more effective than mine was.

I sighed.  “Why the hell do you listen to me, buddy?  Mommy has no idea what she’s talking about.  Usually I just make things up as I go along. My guess is that the elves are just randomly assigned by Santa.  That’s why some years some kids get elves and other kids don’t.  It’s just a random thing.”

That explanation seemed to suit him just fine, even though I had in almost the same sentence told him that I don’t know shit about anything.  But you know what?  When an explanation that you pull out of our ass works with your kids, you quickly learn to count your blessings and go with it.

Of course, the next week at work, I had to try to rain on an elf-loving co-worker’s parade by complaining about the elf.

“Wait,” she said, eyes narrowed.  “Isn’t it a little late for an elf arrival?  When does your elf show up?”

Really?  Was that a real question that she had just asked me? 

“It arrives whenever the hell I want it to,” I responded.  “It showed up this year on the 12th, which suits me just fine. I’m not creative enough for an entire 25 days—hell, I’m not even creative enough for 10.  Last night I forgot—just like I knew I would—and had to scramble out of bed at 4:30 AM.  I figured I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, so I put that bastard to work.  He made me a cup of coffee.”

I will admit that the kids had found it hilarious that our elf was as into coffee as Mom is.

The other morning, my kids found our elf, Albert, at the dinner table, where we keep our chocolate Advent calendar. He had opened the door for that day and was getting ready to eat the miniature chocolate wreath that he had apparently pulled out of it.

My boys jumped up and down, squealing with delight…until one of them bumped into the table, causing Albert to come crashing to the floor.

My 6-year-old was horror-stricken, and he jumped back, arms raised, and yelled, “I didn’t touch him!  He still has his magic!”

He looked toward the floor, where Albert was lying, limbs all askew.  I could see those wheels a-turnin’ in the logical way that my little boy’s mind thinks.

“MOM,” he announced solemnly, “I’m going to need some gloves.”

We were, as usual, running short on time, so I didn’t want to go rooting through the closet for a pair of gloves so that my boy could move our elf.  Sensing my hesitation, my son shook his head.  “No, don’t worry about it, Mom.  I have another idea.”

I watched as he walked to the kitchen drawer which holds our bigger utensils and pulled something out. This is how he moved our elf:

And dammit, it made the whole Elf on the Shelf thing just a little more palatable. 

Because seriously…how cute.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trashy Shorts: Elf Shaming...or Is It the Other Way Around?

It's 2:30 AM and I'm getting ready to TP my own bathroom because I forgot again.

Someone please find me the address of the stupid Elf on the Shelf people so I can do their house, too.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Trashy Shorts: Visiting Santa

The other night on the way home from pictures with Santa, my kindergartener asked if he could borrow my phone to play games. 

“Sure,” I said, handing it back to him.

A few seconds later, I heard the beep signaling that Siri had been contacted, followed by this request:  “I need the phone number for Santa immediately.”

My kids are constantly doing things that remind me of one of the reasons I write this blog--because that particular Siri request?  I want to remember it for the rest of my life.  It may not seem like it sometimes because of my blunt sense of humor, but I promise I have a sappy-ass heart, and that request from my older son just about made it melt.

But I played it cool.

“You just talked to Santa, buddy,” I said from the front.  “Why do you need to call him?”

“Oh, there are a few changes that I need to make to my list,” my son replied.

“Oh.  Well, what did you tell him that you wanted?” I asked, hoping to get a few ideas.

“A bunch of stuff,” my son said.  “I hope I get it all, because I might have been too honest.  When he asked if my brother and I had been good this year, I told him that we were kind of in the middle.  Like, middle-ish.”
If I were Santa--which I'm not, but if I were--I would get him a little something extra for his honesty. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Gift Exchange

The very first year of my family’s annual Christmas gift exchange, I received a pair of Bubba teeth…and I literally started crying.

Image from

For 2 consecutive years after that, I got silver travel coffee mugs.  

I love coffee.  I really do.  In fact, I list it as one of my passions.  “What is your passion?” people will ask, and I’ll say, “Oh, I’m lucky.  I don’t just have one passion.  I have several:  writing, working out, reading, traveling, and coffee.”

But a silver travel mug?  Again?  I mean, come on, fam, at least be a little bit creative.  Get a cute Starbucks travel mug with all of those sparkly Christmas designs or something.  A silver travel mug just sucks the fun right out of taking your coffee anywhere with you.  If there’s one thing I thought my family couldn’t do, it was ruin my coffee-drinking experience with something like a shitty mug.  But they sure as hell have tried.

Then one year, I got a coffee mug warmer.  A fcking coffee mug warmer.  You know what I’m talking about—one of those little hot plates the exact size of a coffee mug that you take to work with you and plug in.

 Image from

Yes.  As if I’m going to haul that motherfcker to work, grab an extension cord, and risk blowing a fuse or starting a fire in the name of keeping my coffee warm…instead of just pouring another cup.

Holy shit.

I finally became convinced that my family had gotten a kick out of the year I cried over the Bubba teeth and began a competition to see who could make me cry the hardest by giving me the shittiest gift.  And you know what?  Homey don’t play that shit.

So last year, I finally sent my older sister a text that went a little something like this:

Your gift exchange sucks balls.  We’re out.

When my mom heard about my text, she got all sappy.  “But Shay,” she said, her eyes misting up.  “You’re like a little kid with your presents.  You love opening them, and watching you is part of the fun of Christmas for me.  I thought you loved gift exchanges…?”

“Not with the shit you guys give,” I responded.

On Christmas Eve last year, the night of our gift exchange, all of the adults let the kids play with the toys from their own gift exchange (that I kept my kids a part of—I wouldn’t punish them for my shitty gift-receiving experiences) while the adults sat around, drinks in hand, to begin theirs.

My husband and I sat on the couch exchanging smug looks.

The first gift was opened.  It was a rhinestone-encrusted pimp cup.

You have to understand:  Ten years ago, a pimp cup would have been a sought-after gift in our Dirty Santa-type exchange.  But we’re now all in our mid- to late-30’s with young kids and jobs.  There’s not a whole lot of time to go out drinking, and when we do make the time, getting up the next day with those young kids is a bitch.

So we usually pass on the idea of rum and coke-fueled pub crawls anymore, especially the kind where we’d have to order our drink, thrust a bedazzled pimp cup across the bar, and say, “Oh, and could you put it into this, please?”

My older sister started squealing and jumping up and down, clapping her hands together.  “Isn’t it great?” she exclaimed.  “And I found it for right at $25!”

Everyone else looked at each other, unsure.  My sister-in-law, the poor bastard who had received the cup, held it up for everyone to see.  She turned it this way and that, and I had the feeling that she was trying to showcase it in hopes that somebody—anybody—would steal it.

The poor thing doesn’t even drink.  What the hell would she do with a pimp cup?

My husband and I nudged each other and giggled.

The next person to go—not surprisingly—didn’t attempt to steal the pimp cup. Instead, my brother-in-law reached for the biggest box on the table.  He opened it, and the anticipation was excruciating—at least for him.  My husband and I relished every second of it.

“Oh, look,” my brother-in-law said.  I don’t know if he did it on purpose to show how unexcited he was or not, but his voice had gone completely flat.  “It’s a collapsible cooler.  And it’s pink.”

Everyone exchanged glances, and you could see the fear in their eyes.  What poor fcker would be forced to take that home?  And look how small it was—did somebody really spend $25 on that thing, or were they trying to save a little cash this Christmas season by going chintzy on the gift?

My husband and I hunkered down a little farther into the couch cushions.  We didn’t want to disturb the gift exchange with our laughter; it was too much damn fun to watch.

My older sister, the only person who was actually enjoying the gift exchange, was beaming, trying to keep the excitement alive.  Ooooh, I could use that for…well…something.  You guys better hope I don’t steal it!”  She looked around at everyone with bright, challenging eyes.

I could tell my brother-in-law found my sister’s comment encouraging, so I watched as he slid the cooler nonchalantly across the table in her direction.  As he did so, he looked at her.  “It is a really nice cooler,” he lied smoothly.  “I really hope you don’t take it from me.”

I watched my sister-in-law make a face at her pimp cup and then at the collapsible cooler as if trying to decide which would be less of a punishment to take home.  But she could have saved herself the trouble:  Nobody was jumping to steal the pink collapsible cooler, either, so there weren’t going to be any moves on her pimp cup, thus no chance for her to get a new gift.

The gift exchange was becoming stagnant.

Next was my younger brother.  He has repeatedly told us that without a wife or, sometimes, a steady girlfriend at Christmas time, he doesn’t get many gifts.  Every single year, then, that poor little fcker spends his hard-earned $25, hoping to get a really awesome gift in return.

His hopeful face landed on a medium-sized box wrapped in a manly-looking green with a larger, flat box tied to it.  He snatched it from the table and ripped open the wrapping paper.

“Oh,” he said as his face fell all the way down to the floor.  “A travel coffee mug.  Again.”  He opened the second box.  “And some chocolates.”

I knew what he was talking about; I, too, had at least 2 travel coffee mugs (see above)—all silver—in my cupboard from gift exchanges past.  And the only time I’d ever used the alcohol-infused chocolate I had received one year in an exchange just like this one was when the hubs and I had lived in a dry county and were desperate for a drink one night.  We ate the whole damned box and didn’t even catch a buzz.

Stupid chocolates.

When everything was opened and not one thing “stolen,” my older sister shot me a smug look of her own.  “Aren’t you sad you didn’t participate this year?” she asked.

I took a swig of my beer.  “Are you fcking nuts?” I replied.  I swept my arm around the room.  “All of that useless shit that you guys have to pack up in your cars just to drop off at the Goodwill only affirms my decision.  Bah-HUMBUG!”

My brother-in-law was standing right behind my sister, wearing his stupid pink cooler (that had conveniently come with a long, thick strap) across his body and nodding in agreement with me.  When my sister turned around, however, he quickly stopped nodding (because everyone’s afraid of her) and held up the cooler.

“Oh, I don’t know, Shay…this cooler’s pretty cool…”

Later, he tried to give it to me.  I wouldn’t accept it, but I took pity on him and filled it with a few specialty beers that I had bought for myself with the $25 I had saved by not participating in the gift exchange.

I got an e-mail from my older sister a few days ago.  The gift exchange is cancelled this year due to low participation.

I felt kind of bad that I had set the precedent that ruined the all the fun, especially when I realized last year that my family hadn’t been picking on me all of those previous years, trying to make me cry with awful gifts as I had suspected.  They simply sucked at picking out gifts.

What I felt even worse about, however, was that my husband and I weren’t going to get to watch anymore as faces—and even a few tears—fell as my family members unwrapped their awful gifts and realized that they were stuck with them.

What will the hubs and I have to revel smugly in this year?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Trashy Shorts: Reason #352 Why She's My Best Friend

This was my best friend Leigh's status update on Facebook yesterday:

She says she had the beer AFTER the tree fell, but none of us really believe her.  It's kind of like that chicken and egg thing:  Which came first?
In any case, I felt that you, too, should receive a bit of joy from her suffering, just like her close friends and family did. 
It's the least we can do this Christmas season.
For more on Leigh, click here. Believe me, it's always worth it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trashy Shorts: Um, Holy Shit

Last week, I was trying to be sneaky and get some Santa Claus gift ideas.  I turned to my kindergartener. 

“What do you think you’ll ask Santa for when we see him, buddy?”

My son was busily working on a Lego project, and he replied without looking up.  “Oh, don’t worry about it, Mom.  He already knows.  I told him.”

I shot a glance at my husband, who shrugged.  “You already told him?  When?  We haven’t gone to see Santa yet this year.”

My kindergartener looked up at me.  “You weren’t there.”

Um, holy shit. 
Because A:  Should I be worried that my kid is hanging out with someone who goes by the name of “Santa” when I’m not around? 
And B:  How the hell am I supposed to perform my covert Santa operations if my kid keeps thwarting my efforts?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trashy Shorts: It Was a Stupid Game, Anyway

At my sister-in-law’s house on Thanksgiving, two of my nieces sat down next to me.  One of them looked at me and said, “Aunt Shay, we’re playing a game and we want you to play, too.  But you can’t cuss.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Whatever, you guys.  I’m not that trashy that I can’t cuss for 10 minutes,” I said, taking a big slurp from my mixed drink.

“Okay,” the older of the two said, excitedly grabbing her pencil and pad of paper.  “Give us a word that starts with A.”

“Asshole!” I shouted, proud of myself for coming up with one so quickly.  Then, realizing my error: “DAMMIT!”

That’s when I knew that this game wasn’t right for me.  “Okay, I quit,” I said, finding my straw with my mouth and taking another drink.

My younger niece gave her older sister a look. “Told you,” she said.

I glared at her.  “Why did you even ask me?  It’s like you were setting me up to fail on purpose.”

Kids these days.