November 14, 2016

The Magic Of Christmas Elf: one year later.

If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you may have read my post on our family’s first experience with a Christmas elf. It was something I tried out in response to the eponymous Elf on The Shelf, who, while cute and irreverantly hilarious, wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to embrace.

Our little elf, Lollie (who by the way, came to us allll the way from Estonia!) was a big success. My daughter’s one wish for this Christmas was that Santa would send Lollie again, which is totally adorable. And I mean, hello, someone give me an award because I produced the whole show!

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m going to share with you some of the ways that I think Lollie could improve her stay at our house. (Just so you know, I’ve also sent her a letter carefully addressing ways that her good intentions might be better received. It starts something like this:

Dear Lollie: Please come back. But only if you arrive after December 12th. )

The Christmas Elf: Confessions of an overextended mom.

24 days is waaaaaaaaaay too long for a Christmas Elf to bring holiday cheer to a house.

It just is. 24 days, even well-planned, is exhaustingly long. Think about it: that means you have to be on point Every. Single. Morning. You have to have your little notes made, little gifty things wrapped, and you have to be prepared to follow through on Every. Single. Well-intentioned idea that dumb Christmas elf comes up with. If it’s cookie baking day: you’ve got to bake some cookies. If it’s shovel the neighbour’s driveway day: you best be out there, even in a snowstorm, with your best, “isn’t this the most wonderful time of year?!” game face on.

It’s a lot of pressure. 

So, this year, our elf is only visiting two weeks before Christmas. If I’m organized enough, I may even hand decorate each day’s fun. If you follow me on Instagram (which of course, you should!), you just might see my handiwork (disclaimer: no promises).

A Christmas Elf should know how much time parents actually have

Our Christmas elf, Lollie, was totally in sync with my in-theory self. Have I mentioned before I have two me’s? There’s the me who has lofty ambitions and romantic inklings on how things could be done. And then there’s the me who wears a ratty old housecoat, finds errant twigs in her unbrushed hair, procrastinates at just about everything and thumbs her nose at that other holier-than-thou-pioneer-daydreaming self who makes these big plans that my other self has to follow through on.

For example, when Lollie left $10 to buy a gift for a child in need with instructions to pick a gift, wrap it, and deliver to a woman’s shelter, that meant that had to set aside at least 2 hours to make it happen. Which of course, Lollie didn’t realize when she left the note, because if she had known that I’d get stuck standing in a busy pre-Christmas line up, sweating in my giant parka, only to have to then freeze half-to-death, trying to find my car in a rammed parking lot, while mentally making menus for the week, and trying to figure out how many hours I have left to wrap gifts, bake cookies, and still manage to put on mascara, I’m sure she wouldn’t have expected me to do that, would she?!?

(aka: it’s okay to not have a lot of free time)

Being honest about how much time you truly have, is a great place to start when coming up with ideas for the elf. If you’ve only got 10 minutes on most days, come up with a series of short tasks. You can make a holiday card for the grandparents, or take out the trash to help dad. You can even break a big task up into smaller chunks. So, one day would be spent buying the gift. Another day would involve wrapping it and dropping it off.

The point is, it’s okay if you don’t have two hours to go on an epic educational adventure. Small chunks are totally manageable and the message that you want to emphasize for the holidays can still be clearly conveyed, without the added stress of time constraints.

Fail #3: A Christmas Elf that bring too many gifts ruin the magic part

I had 24 days to fill with the magic of Christmas and I didn’t have 24 days of magical ideas. So, I chose to break up the days with the tasks with days where Lollie left little gifts instead. And because I didn’t want to just give candy, I resorted to having the elf leave small gifts. So, like any kid, my daughter absolutely preferred the gifts to the little notes with a charitable to-do on it. Totally understandable: I mean, given the option between stickers and cleaning the toilet?? Stickers. Every time.

Now, would I get rid of the gift thing altogether? No. Here’s why: Every time Lollie left a gift she also left a note, praising my daughter for a good deed she witnessed, or an achievement she attained. So, when my daughter got an award at school for doing something cool (honestly, she’s so amazing that I can’t remember what it was for. I know #momstruggles), Lollie left her a little note saying she knew how proud mom and dad were. My daughter loved these notes. They were the highlight of Lollie’s stay.

Lollie’s Plan of Attack for 2016:

This year, Lollie is coming back on December 12. She is bringing with her three gifts (and only three gifts). The remaining nine days will be filled with small, easy projects that won’t involve sweating in a line up or copious amounts of time. Any big projects will get divided up over two days, so we can take the time to actually appreciate the spirit of the season. On Christmas Eve, Lollie will head home until returning next year. And that, my friends, is officially that!

If you want to check out what Lollie gets up to check out my Instagram feed (ha ha. Two shameless Instagram self-promotions in one post. Who have I become?!).

a twist on elf on the shelf at

Happy elfing.


  1. Lindsay - 2 years ago

    Love your take on the Christmas Elf. I’ve been considering a change of the purpose of the elf and this is so helpful. Will be following on instagram to glean ideas! Where is Lolloie from? I just searched Etsy and it was a mess of thousands of things.

    • Lindsay - 2 years ago

      Typo, Lollie…

    • Jen - 2 years ago

      Hi Lindsay! Glad you like our Lollie! We found her on a trip to Estonia in a tiny gift shop. I did a quick look on ebay and they have a few similar ones there, although I’m sure if you wanted to do a more in depth search you could probably find them. Nordic elves were all over Finland and Estonia when we were there, and seriously were so cute, it was hard picking one (initially I had about 5 I couldn’t bear to part with, and then had to whittle it down to one…I know, it’s a hard life! ha ha). Thanks for following along on Instagram! I hope you’ll like our Lollie’s visit.

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