Sunday, January 19, 2014


{This is a post I wrote back in December but we didn’t get around to uploading the photos until more recently… better late than never!}

I’d always been suspicious of the somewhat creepy elf who spies on children and lurks on a shelf, thinking he harkened back to some grim fairytale rather than anything truly child-appropriate. But this year I saw some pictures of other parents’ clever elf shenanigans and I couldn’t deny that these silly scenes matched Luke’s sense of humor perfectly. Also I’d admired the search-all-over-the-house advent scavenger hunts that a friend used to do with her kids, and searching for the elf seemed a good intro to scavenger hunts for younger kids who couldn’t yet figure out a string of clues.

But I still couldn’t get on board with the idea that Santa sent the elf to report back on children’s behavior. It seems unfitting to make such a trouble-maker a moral judge, but most of all I don’t like having a good/bad determination linked to receiving Christmas presents. Our kids would never get presents if being truly good was a requirement; an hour rarely goes by when we don’t all deserve numerous demerits in this house. Instead of being earned, Christmas gifts are an act of love, just like the gift of a perfect Savior that Christmas rejoices to celebrate.

So we decided that our elf would arrive with a babysitting storyline. We had Santa (Uncle Jack) call our house to ask Luke if we could keep an eye on Gimley, one of his elves who’d been getting into so much mischief that they were two weeks behind on toy production. Santa knew that Luke and Eleanor would be up for the task, so he’d already dropped off Gimley in our mailbox. When he got off the phone, Luke was beside himself with excitement and surprise – a rare almost speechless moment. He eventually relayed the story to us amidst jumps and squeals (mentioning that Santa sounded a little like Papi) but Erik and I assured him that a real elf couldn’t possibly be in our mailbox. Luke was elated to be correct when we went out to look! And he and Eleanor have been abuzz ever since with speculation about whether or not the elf is real and what types of trouble he might get into next. We’ve told them several times that Santa and the elves aren’t real and that it’s just a fun game, but their imaginations are so vivid that it seems they quickly find themselves believing it at least a little bit.

I’m not sure if Gimley will be back next year or if he’ll clean up his act and get reassigned to the toy production team. But he’s been fun to hunt for and laugh about during his time here!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A literary Christmas for kids

It’s tough to put away our collection of Christmas books each year but in the end it’s always worth it. It’s such a delight to pull them out, shiny and fresh, each Christmas season. As you can see it takes a good-sized bin to store them all, and our collection covers the gamut from basic to poignant. Most were gifts, some I bought used, and a couple I couldn’t resist buying new.

I thought I’d share a few of our very favorites here, in case you’re looking for a new book to tuck away with your Christmas items and so perhaps I can look back years from now and know which ones to pass on to my grandchildren! (:

1. Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect – This one made me cry when I first read it – it’s a powerful story that captures the beauty of selfless service to others. 

2. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree – I remember loving this story as a child – seeing how creatures, large to small, each use a piece of Mr Willowby’s discarded treetop to decorate their homes. A classic with definite appeal for avid holiday decorators like me!

3. Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury – Brett’s books are always winners and she has lots of great Christmas ones. All the winter stories in this volume are lovely and it’s a great price for all four books.

4. The Sweet Smell of Christmas – This was Erik’s favorite as a child and it’s been Luke and Eleanor’s favorite too. They never tire of the simple story with a Christmas scratch & sniff on each page – the scents hold up remarkably well too!

5. Humphrey’s First Christmas – The unconventional  nativity story from a camel’s point of view beautifully illustrates Christmas’ true meaning – reorienting our self-centered living to a wonder at God’s love.

6. A Small Christmas – We love Fireman Small from the classic book by Yee and while the rhymes aren’t quite so perfect in this one, the storyline of a pint-sized fireman shrinking Santa’s suit by mistake and taking over the toy deliveries (using his fire truck’s ladder to access the rooftops) has lots of appeal for any truck-loving child.

Here’s another list that has lots of great-looking selections too. Reading through it has me thinking… maybe we’re not too far removed from the Christmas season for me to try to find some of these at the library!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas catch-up: A holiday home

With all the busyness of Christmas hosting, advent-ing, and traveling, I didn’t find time to share photos of Christmas cheer around our home. Before it all gets packed up this weekend, here are a few pics from our wintry yuletide hacienda!

Some natural touches in the entry (and a glimpse of our mantle in-progress)

Lots of red and green in the front room

A close-up of the dining hutch and the kids’ gingerbread house

Mantle #1 in the front,

Mantle #2 on the back,

And my kid-magnet collection of nutcrackers.

A little Christmas in the kitchen…

And on the porch.

My only Christmas d├ęcor purchase this year was a big one… a new artificial tree! First we retired our decade-old petite one to the playroom (and trimmed it with shatter-proof ornaments).

Then we brought in this full-size beauty for the living room!

I love how it holds all our ornaments without looking crowded and the way my Danish hearts suit it so well.

Here’s hoping your Christmas was most merry, and that there’s room for the new tree in our garage storage area! (: