I don’t like you, Elf on the Shelf.
I see you giving me that knowing smile that says you think it’s just because I’m one of those people who rejects anything Christmasy that doesn’t have to do with Christ. Well, you would be wrong. It took me a while, but I realized that I can’t mess Christmas up, even if I include you. No, I have other beefs with you, Mr. Elf.
You’re expensive. I was introduced to you innocently enough. You appeared in my “Recommended for You” list on Amazon. I was drawn in by your five-star rating and didn’t balk at the $20+ price tag because I figured I was missing out on something fantastic! Without any idea of what you were, I bought you with one click.
When you arrived, I read the book to the kids and started hiding you around the house so you could report on their behavior to Santa. The kids really seemed to think it was fun, so I did, too. I remember thinking how it would spoil the fun if the kids found you tucked among the Christmas decorations the following year, instead of at the North Pole with Santa. So I hid you really, really well. I hid you so well that I couldn’t find you the next year. I looked everywhere. By the time I admitted that I wasn’t going to find you, Amazon was out of stock. How on earth would I explain to my kids that the elf wouldn’t be visiting that year?
I searched for a local bookstore that carried the Elf on the Shelf and still had a Caucasian one in stock. I suppose I could have concocted a story about why our elf’s skin color had changed, but not one that would have explained why it had changed permanently. I could imagine my kids talking, “Remember when our elf used to be light-skinned?” When I arrived at the store, I found you among many elf brothers. I sighed with relief that I wouldn’t have to explain you were a fake…until I realized I was spending another $20+ for you. Now, not only would I be hiding you from my kids, but my husband, too. He wouldn’t have approved of the extra expense. Even though my mother taught me lying was okay at Christmas, I was starting not to like you.
You provoke comparisons. That first year, my kids thought you were so fun, they told their neighbor friends. Their mother told me she had felt compelled to buy you, too. She is the organized type who would never lose you, so I didn’t feel too guilty about that.
What I wasn’t happy about, though, was the year the kids said you’d already visited the neighbors’ house, but not ours. And why was that exactly, they wanted to know? I didn’t say what I really thought, which was that the neighbor had just two kids and a white couch. White! And it’s stayed white. Of course, her elf had arrived right on time, whenever that was. When my daughter asked when you would start coming this year, I didn’t know. When she asked if it would be December 1st, I said, “Absolutely!” and hoped that’s when my neighbor would retrieve you from your perfect, dust-free storage spot.
The comparisons you provoked between me and my neighbor were bad enough. But then came Pinterest. These women not only found you every year, but found time to build a new creative setting for you each day. Instead of just sitting or hanging around like you do at my house, in these Martha Stewart-inspired fantasies, you can be found fishing and cooking and more with elf-sized equipment. Check out this pin, for example.
I wonder if these women even have kids! How on earth do they find time to come up with the ideas, buy the supplies they need, and assemble the scenes when the kids weren’t around (and take pictures of the whole thing) when I struggle to get dinner on the table? And I’m at home all day! Whenever I feel like a Pinterest craft failure, I’ve consoled myself with the idea that I’m fairly funny. Apparently, I’m not. I could never come up with something like this:
It used to be that I’d be irritated by pictures of perfectly-proportioned women on SHAPE Magazine. Now I’m annoyed when I see pictures of you, grinning from ear to ear, in your Better Homes decorated respites and your comical situations. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t create Elf pictures worthy of entry into my local paper’s contest.
You have to be moved. On Christmas Eve, when I’m exhausted from laying out gifts for six kids, a husband, and a dog, I have to remember to move you to storage, because you are supposedly at the North Pole. I’ve already learned not to hide you too well, so I’ve taken to hiding you in my underwear drawer. The kids never dig around in there and there’s no chance I’ll forget where you are. That’s the only reason I keep you there. Seriously. As annoyed as I am by how expensive you’ve been and the comparisons you’ve provoked, I’m really irked that during the Christmas season, you have to be moved every single day. And without the kids seeing, of course. My kids are night owls which means that I have to get up early and remember to move you.
My children have wanted to know on more than one occasion why you haven’t moved. I didn’t tell them the truth that I forgot because I was tired, because I overslept, because I was thinking of all the other things I had to get done that day, because I’m not the neighbor with a clean white couch or any of those Elf-crazy pinners. Instead, I distracted them. “Hey kids, should we watch a Christmas movie tonight?” Or I said that you stayed in one place because they were being particularly naughty there. I don’t even remember what I said, honestly. I just know that I really, really didn’t like you at those times.
I have tried to dish off the responsibility for you to my husband. In fact, last night as I knew he would be getting up before me, I asked him to be sure to move you. He grunted in response. This morning when he started to leave the room, I panicked and said, “Remember the elf.” He just laughed. When I came downstairs after unsuccessfully trying to get back to sleep, he was gone, but you were in the same spot. You’re still smiling. Do you think that’s funny?
You have to be believed. I can see you think I should just tell the kids you’re not real if I’m not happy. We both know that won’t work. My friend had me feeling so guilty one year for “lying” to my children about Santa, that when my son said, “There’s no Santa. It’s you and Dad,” I said, “Yes, you’re right.” He was shocked and crying and furious that I had taken that sense of wonder away from him. Now I live in fear of my adult children commiserating, “Remember when Mom told us the elf wasn’t real?” I just can’t do it. Not to mention that my mother told me it was okay not to believe in Santa. I just wouldn’t get any gifts from him then. So I still believe. Promise, Mom!
I have this terrifying vision of me waking up early for the next ten years to hide you before my youngest, now 8, gets up. Or more likely, forgetting to hide you before the youngest gets up and him rolling his eyes. I won’t know if it’s because he wonders why I can’t remember to move you to a new place for a month or why I’m still playing with a felt and plastic doll so many years after the neighbor quit.
Okay, I’m going to tell the truth, even though it’s Christmas. I know I will be sad when there’s no one here to hide you for–when you’re sitting in dust-covered storage in plain sight, year after year. But I have another vision of the future that thrills me. The first child that has a baby shower will be receiving you all wrapped up in pastel paper.
I still don’t like you, but I will thoroughly enjoy moving you to my child’s house. Believe it.
Follow Dr. Melanie Wilson @psychowith6’s board Humor on Pinterest.
I love writing these posts. I feel like I’m having lunch with my friend, Deb, and updating you on what’s been going on. At least I’m writing to you and not talking at warp speed like I do with her. You can scroll at your own pace! I’d really love to hear about you, too. I don’t want to hog the whole conversation. (Well, actually I do, but I will restrain myself.)
August was the best month ever for this blog with page views up 28% from the previous high in May. I am so blessed by that. It just isn’t as fun to write when only your mother is reading (not that I don’t appreciate you, Mom).
In August, the most popular posts were:
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Being Pregnant – this still makes me laugh, not because it’s a humorous piece, but because I had read that if a pin doesn’t go anywhere in the first 30 minutes, it’s sunk. This pin went absolutely nowhere the first month and now has been read thousands of times. It’s not “viral” by any means, but it demonstrates the power of Pinterest to keep content alive.
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Being a Mom
The sequel to the above post, this is another pin that didn’t do much at first. Now all of a sudden it’s taking off. Pinning on Pinterest is a lot like putting notes in helium balloons. You never know where they’ll end up!
Why Classical Conversations Should be a Part of Your Curriculum – this post ranked in the top 3 again this month via Google searches.
My favorite post of the month was 5 Lessons Our Foreign Exchange Student Taught Me. If you missed it, I think you will enjoy it. Saying good-bye to Lucas was really hard, but we are so blessed to have established a friendship with his family. Elaina now has his sisters as her Spanish pen pals!
Sadly, I am having to let The Inspired Day go for now
I have some other projects that I feel led to pursue (one of which I will tell you about below). If you don’t subscribe to that blog, I would love for you to read The Last Blog Post. I think it communicates the essence of what I wanted to share there.
#2 The Homeschool Sanity Show Podcast
I am super excited to be hosting a podcast as part of the Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network that will be launching September 19th. I have to wait to give you more details until the website is up and running, but I think you’re going to love it. I’ve been a guest on radio programs for two decades, but I’ll get to be the interviewer now. Please like the network page on Facebook and be watching this blog for details about the show. Have I mentioned I’m excited? 🙂
#3 Back to School
Every year is a better school year. I’m delighted with how things are going. I’ll explain one reason our schedule is so much more functional in my productivity post at the end of the week. I love our curriculum choices for the year, too. I’m planning to share more curriculum reviews with you because my homeschool readers seem to love them.
I’ll admit it. When I started homeschooling, I dreamed of being one of those families that had all the kids playing a different instrument so they could perform together. That idea was dead very quickly. With as busy as I was having babies, homeschooling, writing, and speaking, music education took a back seat. My three oldest took piano lessons for a while, but quit. Then Caleb took it up again a few years ago with a vengeance. I started to wonder why I had wanted him to play? Then last fall, Sam started guitar lessons. This past Sunday both boys played as part of our youth praise band at church. That on top of Andy starting drum lessons, and giving the youngest three piano and voice lessons at home is making me wonder if we’ll be one of those families after all. (More on the curriculum I’m using later.)
#5 New Recipes
I did manage to get some new recipes made this month. It helped that I publicly committed to making this one on Facebook. It’s from Set Your Fat on Fire Fitness. I really, really loved this. In fact, I ate a LOT of it. The rest of the family, not so much. If you love avocados, you’ll love this, too. If you don’t, scroll down quickly.
Avocado and Tomato Salad
4 cups avocados, diced medium
2 cups grape tomatoes or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 cups cucumbers, peeled and diced medium
1 cup red onion, diced small
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
fresh black pepper
Lettuce (if you want)
Toss all ingredients in a bowl and top on a bed of lettuce (if desired)
Makes 8 servings
Calories 201.9 Total Fat 17.9 g Sodium 10.2 mg Total Carbohydrate 11.6 g Dietary Fiber 5.8 g Sugars 1.8 g
Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake from Hungry Jack
When I think of coffee cake, I think of my grandma. Every time we went to her house, we got to have coffee cake. With those warm fuzzies in mind, all I had to hear was “chocolate” in connection with coffee cake, and I was sold. This recipe is easy and a hit with my whole family. I made it without the nuts and used light sour cream.
||Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
||2 1/2 cups Hungry Jack® Complete Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix (Just Add Water)
||2 1/2 cups Hungry Jack® Complete Extra Light & Fluffy Pancake & Waffle Mix (Just Add Water)
||1/3 cup sugar
||1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
||1/2 cup water
||1/2 cup sour cream
||1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
||1/4 cup sugar
||1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
||1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
||HEAT oven to 375°F. Coat 8 or 9-inch square pan with no-stick cooking spray.
||COMBINE pancake mix, 1/3 cup sugar and chocolate chips in medium bowl. Add water, sour cream and vanilla. Blend well. Using an ice cream scoop, shape dough into sixteen 2-inch dough balls. Place in 4 rows of 4 each in prepared pan. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, walnuts and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle over dough.
||BAKE 24 to 26 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.
||To use Hungry Jack® Original Pancake & Waffle Mix (Add Milk, Oil & Eggs), replace 1/2 cup water with 2 large eggs and 2 tablespoons milk. Proceed as above.
||High Altitude: add 1/4 cup flour to dry pancake mix. Bake as directed above.
Prep Time: 12 min
Cook Time: 24 min
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Serving Size (1/8 2 rolls), Calories 290 (Calories from Fat 90), Total Fat 10g (Saturated Fat 4g, Trans Fat 0g), Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 620mg, Total Carbohydrate 47g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 19g), Protein 5g; Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 0%, Calcium 6%, Iron 10%.
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
#6 School or Office Supply Organizer
I am so proud of myself. I actually made something really useful from Pinterest. I shared this idea in one of my What’s Hot in Homeschooling posts and got to work. I had no idea how popular these things are until I searched “Teacher Toolbox” on Pinterest. Wow! I spray painted mine brown. The one thing you need to know is that you can’t fit full-size pencils in it. Mechanical pencils and many pens work great, however. Filling this up was a trip down memory lane. I have office supplies I bought 20 years ago and never used. If any of you locals need some gold brads, please don’t buy any. I have enough for several elementary schools.
I’d love to know about the hot flashes you’re having! Let me know in the comments, your favorite social media format, or have your kids tell my kids. That’s always an interesting way to get news.
It’s not been a very hot July, so I should really share cool news. I just visited my mom so she probably isn’t reading this month. Hopefully I can entice the rest of you to read with the recipe reviews at the end. This is what’s been happening with the Psycho family:
July’s page views were up 1,000 from the previous month.
In July, the most popular posts were:
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Being Pregnant – my humorous letter that has been Pinterest popular
The Best Places to Buy, Borrow, Sell or Donate Used Homeschool Curriculum – I had used an absolutely awful photo for this post when I wrote it last year. I decided to create a new graphic for it and then pinned it to the Ultimate Homeschool Board on Pinterest and boom. The post received the traffic I hoped it would.
Why Classical Conversations Should be a Part of Your Curriculum – homeschoolers found this post by Googling as they considered options for the upcoming school year. I still believe it’s an excellent, affordable option regardless of your approach and I don’t make anything for saying so.
I am excited that my new iPhone case is emblazoned with my blog graphic. I’m really happy with the price and quality and recommend it to other bloggers.
#2 Other Writing
I have been spending time working on two book projects–just not as much time as I would like. When I can share details with you, I will!
Many of you are following my Christian Inspiration board on Pinterest. I’m excited about that, because not only will you find links to short posts from the Inspired Day, but from several superb Christian bloggers. Comment below if you’d like to be added to the board with the email address you use on Pinterest.
#3 Our International Guest
This photo makes this 16yo boy from Spain look like he has been lounging around on his visit, but that is not the case. He is the son of a friend’s friend and he has been a delight. He has been visiting to experience American culture and improve his English. My son, Sam, has been enjoying the process of improving his Spanish, too. My boys have been taking advantage of our guest’s graciousness to demand that he do everything with them! It’s a challenge for me to tell them to stop because he is giving me a break. We will certainly miss him when he goes home.
#4 Our New Driver
You may recall my terror at having a Permit Driver. Now you can share my fear as Caleb takes to the road with his license. I would be even more thrilled not to have to drive everywhere with him due to his busy social life, but Sam will be getting his permit any day now.
It’s hard to believe that Caleb has just one more year of high school and then he’ll be heading off to college. He has many factors to consider like
rankings, research opportunities, distance from home, study abroad programs, money. He’ll be busy making some decisions about where to apply in the coming weeks.
After considering Sam’s future, we have decided to enroll him in College Plus Prep–the same program Caleb went through. We want to determine if independent study is the best way for him to earn his college degree.
#6 New Recipes
I seriously considered doing a weekly post of new things I’ve tried from Pinterest, but the last thing I need is another obligation. Instead, I’ll include my reviews in this monthly wrap-up when I can.
Clean Eating Zucchini Bread
I want recipes that are whole-grain, low fat, and reduced sugar. So I tried this zucchini bread. Our rating? Too healthy tasting. My friend made a recipe that is a little less healthy and a lot more tasty. When I get her to write it down for me, I’ll post it for you.
Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
I ended up having to tell my husband how to make this over the phone, only to discover we had no lemons. When life hands you no lemons, you make lime garlic chicken. Our Rating? It’s a winner. Makes for very moist, tasty chicken and it’s easy.
BBQ Chicken Empanadas
So it’s abundantly clear that I’m not into food photography, especially here. The truth is I was in a huge hurry when I made these. This recipe was very popular when I pinned it to my Lunch Recipes to Try board. I tried rolling and cutting the dough and discovered that just using two crescent rolls together (and smooshing the perforations which I did very poorly) was the quickest method and made large enough empanadas for my teens. I used low-fat crescent rolls and canned chicken. I combined the chicken with BBQ sauce until it was coated. I sprinkled each with cheese, closed the dough with a fork, and baked. The average rating was an 8. I’d say that’s a winner!
I’d love to know about the hot flashes you’re having! Let me know in the comments, your favorite social media format, or just call me so we can have lunch. My birthday is coming up, so you’re buying. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading. You made my day.
My blogging buddy Tom Dixon does a review of the month on his blog where he shares statistics and news. I so enjoy these posts, that I decided to do one of my own.
What that means is that everyone but my mom can stop reading now. So, Mom, here’s what’s been going on with me:
I merged multiple blogs into this one in October of 2012. (If you don’t know why, read this.) In June, my page views were up 1200% since launch. (Keep in mind that I’ve studied advanced statistics and can make them say anything I want them to.) I am thrilled to have a growing readership, not that you don’t mean the world to me, Mom!
The most popular posts since beginning this blog are:
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Being Pregnant – a Pinterest winner for me. I am working on improving my pins and growing a following on Pinterest as a result.
Why Classical Conversations Should Be a Part of Your Curriculum – a Twitter winner when Classical Conversations retweeted it
Scarred for Life – a Facebook winner when the shocking photos were all anyone could talk about
In June, the most popular posts were:
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Being Pregnant
Can Mark Forster’s Ultimate Time Management System Help You Get More Done? – readers of Mark Forster’s blog and forum have increased readership of all my time management posts, including the third most popular below
Can Another Simple and Effective Method Help You Get More Done?
#2 Other Writing
The Once-and-for-All Meal Plan Ebook has been downloaded over 2,300 times. Because I don’t have that many email subscribers, my guess is people are sharing the link. I don’t mind, but soon the link will change because the book will be revised. I’m excited about the changes I’ll be making because the plan will be much easier to implement. You’ll be the first to know, Mom!
#3 My Health
I have mentioned in several posts that my health has been poor. The good news is my energy is back to normal. The bad news is I am not symptom-free and I don’t have an easy-to-treat diagnosis. But I can already see how God is using it for good in my life. One way in which that is true is that I am more committed to eating well and serving healthy food. I would dearly love your prayers that I would be well enough to do what God has called me to do and that I would trust Him completely.
#4 My Marriage
I remember a veteran homeschooler sharing at a group meeting many years ago that what she liked most about homeschooling was that her husband was self-employed and was around to help out with the kids. And what she liked least about homeschooling was that her husband was self-employed and was around…I laughed very loudly because my husband is also self-employed. What’s more is that he has much of the summer off. We’ve learned to deal with our differences, though, and I can honestly say that I love him more than ever after the way he has supported me through my health challenges. We celebrate 21 years of fireworks this week as we were married on the fourth of July.
#5 The Kids
This was a big month for my oldest who has been driving everywhere in our newly purchased used automobile with me in the passenger seat. If you’ve read Permit Driver, you know that I’ve been a bit anxious about him driving. I’m really proud of myself because I’ve made several trips without screaming in terror. I think he just needed that extra time to mature, because he’s really doing great. Mostly.
He also got his first job working for our church. I was so touched when one of the office staff stopped by our house to deliver a cupcake to him on his birthday. Not many employers would do that!
Andy got braces and the youngest kids have been losing teeth like crazy and losing faith in the Tooth Fairy, too. My daughter asked why when she woke up there was no money, but when she went back to make her bed there was. Hm.
Once again, I’ve sworn an oath to do more school in the summer and once again I haven’t kept it. We have done some reviewing, continued with history, and a bit of workbook stuff, but not much else. Here’s part of the problem. The neighbor kids show up at my door and my children look at me as though they haven’t seen them in years and how could I even think of asking them to do school? I’m weak. All my nerve was used up riding around with the permit driver.
I have been using the time to prepare for the fall, however.
I’d love to know about the hot flashes you’re having! Let me know in the comments, your favorite social media format, or just call me so we can have lunch. 🙂 Sure, you too, Mom!
Last week I invited you to share your tried-and-true recipes with us. So many of you clicked through to see the recipes others have actually made and loved, only to find that mine were just about the only recipes linked up. I have some theories about why this was the case:
a) You have no time to find your favorite recipes on Pinterest, let alone figure out how to link them up. You may have even been at the drive-through when you read the post.
b) You don’t even know what I’m talking about. You’re on summer vacation after all!
c) You pin recipes. You don’t actually MAKE them.
If option c applies to you, allow me to encourage you to make one of the great-looking recipes on your “to try” boards. I want to make it even easier for you!
The problem with making Pinterest recipes is we know that sometimes we’re being deceived by the photos. Sometimes that delectable-looking dish is going to taste disgusting and that’s after spending a ton of time and money making it. Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable actually making these dishes if a real person had made them and could vouch for them?
You know what I mean. Some of these food bloggers know the key words to use to get our mouths watering. Right now I think they could concoct a s’more omelet and we’d pin it. Sure they’re going to make it look good. And most of the comments on their sites are along the lines of “Can’t wait to try it!” Truth is we are most likely to make dishes we have eaten elsewhere and we are second most likely to make dishes our friends rave about. When a non-food blogger says a dish is to-die-for, we’re all ears.
I prowled Pinterest for real people with boards of recipes they’ve actually MADE and liked. I’m following them and you might like to, too:
Shayla has some healthy and yummy looking recipes I can’t wait to try.
Jeannette has a huge variety of recipes here that are quick and get raves.
Katt has a nice selection of breads, soups, breakfast and more. She reports how it went over and how she would change it.
Miranda offers up plenty of yummy main dish recipes, including crock pot recipes, often giving a brief review.
Joanne has pinned some of the yummiest looking dishes ever, including desserts. My mouth is watering. She also shares comments.
Karie offers a creative variety of dishes on her Made board, too. I love that she describes one of the dishes as “Awesome!” That’s exactly how my friends and I talk about food.
Now It’s Your Turn
You can either link up your “Made” boards and recipes below after pinning the graphic for this post (see this post for full instructions) or share the link to a recipe you’re committed to trying in the next week in the comments. Come back and tell us if it’s a winner.
I’ll be making Clean Eating Lemon Muffins. I am being more intentional about clean eating and my kids are crazy for lemon. I think this will be a nice change of pace for breakfast.
Update: The Clean Eating Lemon Muffins were a fail for my family, unfortunately. I would have needed to zest four large lemons to have enough zest and I didn’t care for the lemon extract taste. I think the problem is we’re comparing the taste to lemon cakes that are loaded with fat and sugar.
I don’t plan on doing another Pinterest link-up. But I will be sharing recipes I’ve tried and pins and pinners you shouldn’t miss. So be sure to click here for the latest finds.
This week puts many of us so much closer to the end of the school year. It can be hard to keep going when nice weather beckons. I have some encouragement and problem solvers for you!
Some Days I Just Want to Quit Homeschooling
There are few things I love more from homeschool writers than reality. This post from Joyful Mothering describes homeschooling the way so many of us experience it, with the result that we feel we can keep going.
The Homeschooling Life
Darcy’s amusing post at Hip Homeschool Moms also describes the need to persevere in homeschooling even when we really don’t want to.
Why My Preschooler is Throwing a Fit
Talk about amusing, this preschool blogger lists the many reasons her preschoolers have thrown a fit. I so wish I had made a list like this! She gives great ideas for avoiding fits in the first place.
Mama’s Bag of Tricks Quiet Time Bins
Speaking of avoiding fits, this is a great idea for doing just that while you’re homeschooling. Summer is a great time to put these together.
Create a Family Museum
Here’s another great family project for kids of any age. Create a museum for your own family members. I think it would be really funny if you charged your family to see it.
A Rebuttal to the Courtship Movement
If you’re a Christian homeschooler, you’ve heard about courtship vs. dating, even if you only have preschoolers. Susan Evans sparked a good discussion on her blog about the issue. Be sure to read the comments!
Have a very blessed homeschool week! Have you started following the What’s Hot in Homeschooling board on Pinterest yet?