The 2017 Elf Tour – Days 6 – 10

The last week has zoomed by in a flurry of jam-making, jam-labeling and panic shoe-buying – Midi is now suddenly the tallest of the minxes and her beautiful little duck feet are growing like Jack’s beanstalk. She hates her feet because we struggle to get shoes that fit her width-ways and narrow heels. I gave her a wee foot massage to quietly show her that her feet don’t disgust me in the way she seems to view them. Poor kid – she has such pretty feet that are so silky-soft and flexible. (OK, so she can do that crazy rubbing of independent toes thing that is freaky and unnatural, but apart from that!!)

What Midi had originally written on the board

On Day 7, I was inspired by Midi’s chalkboard. She’s taken to writing ‘Fun Facts’ on it that me and her Dad giggle over at night. So we rubbed out that night’s and put an Elf message up instead, and added things like “…on you, ha ha ha!” after the photo was taken. I tell you, though, it took ages for the kids to link the sight of an Elf holding a bit of chalk with anything on a chalkboard…

Day 9 was me and The Boss tidying up. I’d previously made some wrapped branch / twig things as decorations that I liked but never got around to hanging on a wall. In a hurried tidy-up, some of the twigs got snapped off and were left dangling by the yarn. So I went the whole hog and snapped it up. The Boss added the paper flames. The younger minxes were like “OMG Edbie’s destroyed some of Mummy’s work!!” while Maxi just gave us the ‘you are so cracked, you loser’ eye-roll.

The 2017 Elf Tour – First 5 Days

I’ve been a bit distracted the past couple of weeks – I got an unexpected day off work (freelance craft teaching) so instead I decided it would be a hoot to set up an additional small work-at-home business jam-making. Reading, understanding and complying with all the legislation was more than a tad time-consuming… Hooray for the ability to hyper-focus for hours on end, then! (And hooray for getting it set up and the go-ahead from Environmental Health so quickly – this week alone I’ve got an unexpected boiler repair and car electrics breakdown to fund. Meh).

Still, with Mini Minx being only 7 and totally in the Santa and Elf and all-things-magic zone, me and The Boss couldn’t really skimp on Elf antics. None of them took longer than 3 minutes to set up, though, I promise – I’m no high-achiever ūüėÄ

Heeeeeee’s Back!

It’s Dec 1, so it’s the Trout Family Tradition that the Elf comes back sometime in the afternoon. This’ll be the 6th year, now. You can read about previous elfy-antics in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016¬†if you need to catch up on the running story…

So I spent the afternoon trying to find the blasted thing: Edbie, mutant love-child of Barbie and Edward, and nephew of the psychotic Edwinn. Finally found and dusted off, I taped him to the outside of the back door, clutching his wee note from Santa, right before I had to pick up the minxes from school.

See? Takes up pretty much the whole of the window. Blots out the light. See it for miles. You’d think…

They came skittering and skidding home in a desperate rush to find any elf at all. They looked around the usual hiding places from previous years. Nothing. They circled the house (missing the taped-up elf. It’s only bright red and about 14″ tall…). They looked crestfallen and rejected. Mini and Maxi the Eternal Optimists headed off for a bit of sledging, confident that at least one elf would appear before bedtime; Midi mooched around the house with a sad face on.

Taking pity on her, I pointedly sent her to feed Killer Cat because the cat’s food bowl is kept next to the back door. I waited for an excited squeal from Midi when she spotted the elf. Nothing. She hadn’t noticed. Hmph. I got on with making dinner in the kitchen. Maxi came in. I asked her to go change Killer Cat’s water (I never ask her to do that). She did (she never complies with requests like that normally). She didn’t notice the elf. Mini came home. Ah, Mini, my most observant child! I sent her to check on Killer Cat’s kibble. Nothing. She didn’t see it. She came in and moaned about it getting dark and there being no elves. Then she asked where I’d put her schoolbag. “On top of the washing machine”, I lied. She went to the back door and looked, but still didn’t see the elf.

By this stage I was wondering if it had fallen off or gone invisible!

“Muuuuuum, where’s my water bottle?” called Mini.

“I put it right next to the boiler. Right beside the back door!” I yelled back, getting desperate now. Mini went and looked, failed to see the bloody elf one inch from her face, and came back muttering about how forgetful I was.

Clutching at straws, I got all 3 girls to go round the entire house, closing all the blinds and windows. Nope, still nothing. Obviously no red and white detection filters happening there.

I collared Midi and pretty much frog-marched her towards the back door. I distracted her with a little smoke and mirrors – “Midi, there’s something in your room I want to talk to you about”, then paused as we went past the back door, did a comedy double take, then made as if to continue walking towards her room. Of course she followed my gaze (oh, I’m good) and said, “Hang on, Mummy, what’s that on the window?”

Oh hallelujah! At last! I can cancel the emergency appointments for all 3 girls at Specsavers!

She walked right up to the window and let out a scream.

“Edbie! Oh, he’s here! Maxi, Mini, Maxi, Mini, he’s here!!!!”

They ripped off the tape, tore off his muzzle (as I knew they would), *then* read the letter from Santa.

They’ve spent the evening warning Edbie to behave while Maxi’s away at her first Scout camp. I took her into my confidence while I blew-dry her hair about why I was so desperate to get the kids to the back door this evening. We had a right chortle about how difficult it was to get someone, anyone, to spot the elf!

So: Night 1 and it’s Friday and I’m missing my Precious Firstborn and wine is about to be imbibed. How bad will Edbie’s antics be tonight, I wonder…?

Santa No More

Maxi finally asked me outright, “Is Santa real?”

The Boss and I agreed long ago, when we created our family Christmas traditions, that if one of the minxes ever asked outright about Santa that we’d not blatantly lie to them: we’d either distract them if they were very young or it was very close to Christmas (“I think I can hear sleigh bells! Shhh!”) or come clean about the Santa myth if they were old enough or very persistent.

Maxi’s 11. It’s October (this wee bombshell hit on 25 Oct 2017). Moving up to High School this summer with a belief in Santa might be even more socially disadvantaging than just being our kid. OK then…

It’s not like it was completely out of the blue, to be fair. Last year, Maxi had asked me whether Santa was real. I’d replied with my usual, “What do you think?”to play for thinking time, then instead answered her second, back-up question: “Do you make the Santa videos?” I’d admitted that one and explained that Santa was too busy to make an individual reply to every child, so yes, the parents helped. And yes, I’d made the videos. I’d waited for her to re-ask the first Big Question, and I was ready to answer honestly, but she hadn’t.

So: I shut down the laptop, took a deep breath, pulled up my Big Responsible Mum pants and went for it. I asked my usual playing for time question (What do you think?) and half-listened while I frantically thought. I walked her into the living-room, closed the door, and steeled myself to crush the innocence of my firstborn.

Melodramatic? Hahaha. Well, only a bit.

(Recall Old Info) I started by asking her why she thought her parents made the Santa videos every year. She flanneled for a bit, playing for time herself, then eventually said that it was to make her and her sisters feel special and loved and in the middle of some wonderful magic.

Oooh, I think she’s helping me out! This might go ok!

(Analogy) Then I reminded her that Jesus probably did exist a few thousand years ago, and was probably a very, very nice man indeed, and that his ideals and stories had grown eventually into Christianity today.

(Relate to New Info)¬†“In the same way”, I said, eyeballing her, “Santa probably lived once upon a time. He was probably a really lovely, giving man. He may or may not have been truly magic. And in the time ever since, the ideas and stories about him have been cherished and kept alive by parents all over the world who want to make Christmastime as special for their children as it once was in Santa’s day.”

Maxi snuggled into my arms and hid her face from me. Oh-oh…

(Re-state New Info)¬†“So although Santa isn’t a real, live man anymore, he really does have millions of Santa’s helpers, all helping to make his magic come true. Except they’re not actually little elves: they’re parents. We all love our children so very much that we make Santa’s magic happen every year. We’re one huge, big team of Santa’s helpers.”

Her little shoulders shook and she cried. This wasn’t going very well.

(Check Understanding)¬†“And now I think we have our newest recruit – you!” She sobbed. Aw, pants. This really wasn’t going well.

We hugged. I asked her how she felt. She admitted that she’d not been surprised, and that she was glad that I’d told her the truth, but she was sorry to know it.

I recalled how I’d found out about Santa when I’d asked my mum outright, on a dark, frosty 2 mile walk to the shops at night with her, aged 10. Unusually we’d been on our own so I grabbed the chance to ask – she’d probably engineered it! – and how I’d felt crushed and relieved and grown-up and trusted and shattered, all in the same moment.

I spent the next half hour bigging up parents’ role as Santa helpers. Maxi was worried that Christmas had lost its magic. I reassured her that although the innocent specialness of believing in Santa’s magic was finished for her, it wasn’t actually gone – it was just changing into a different kind of magic. I¬†nearly¬†wittered on about the Magic of Giving, but I reigned that whole crock o’ nonsense right in. I explained that she’d still wake up on Christmas morning and not know what she’d been given for Christmas. She’d still get a video from Santa that would make her feel loved. She would still feel excited on the whole run-up to the big day.

She thought for a while. “So do you do the elves?” she asked, smiling mischievously now.

“God, yeah!” I snorted, as her eyes widened. “That’s sooooo much fun! One of the best bits about Christmas”. I told her that she’d also still get to wake up every morning of December and rush out of bed to discover what they’d been up to because no, she absolutely wasn’t a helper on¬†that¬†team.

“Mum, how can you do all that to your house every night?!” she gasped in horror. Hahahahahaha! I didn’t tell her about all the alcohol involved…

We had a long talk about how she should handle her younger sisters asking her whether Santa was real or not¬† – they know I’m a Master of Distraction, and that Maxi never lies. Ever. Mini can imitate the ‘Lying Face’ her family and friends each make when they’re telling porkies, but she stated that Maxi doesn’t have one because she never lies. And she’s right!

I stressed that every parent weaves their own family Santa myth to best fit their children, to make their children’s Christmas as perfect and magical as they possibly could, but how those might vary. We discussed how, as a helper in Santa’s Grotto at the school fair next month, she could start being a Santa helper by being very sensitive to the slightly different family traditions and not give the game away.

Finally, Maxi asked who ate the mince-pie left out on Christmas Eve. She was quite crest-fallen when I told her that it wouldn’t be her; she was only a brand new Santa Helper and that this year, if she showed great promise, she might be allowed to nibble the carrot. Me and The Boss hate that part, so wahey, that’s the silver lining in this child’s milestone cloud!

And the title of this post? Well, fast-forward to minute 3:04 of the Proclaimers’ video and listen to the end. That was my earworm as I sat and told The Boss later what I’d just done, and that it was¬†his job next time!

Christmas Eve 2016

I’ve been driving everyone demented in the house over the past few weeks, insisting on playing HeartXmas on the radio whenever I’m at home. The unrelenting barrage of Christmas-themed music was surprisingly soothing. Well, to me at least. I’m a grumpy old sod who always, always hates the overly-commercial and overly-long build-up to Christmas. Perhaps after the 12 months I’ve just had, I think I needed a nudge into feeling faintly ridiculous and a bit happy. Even if it’s artificially and commercially produced by silly songs with inane lyrics and cynical producers.

Anyway, I like to sing / screech / croak along to the radio. Not knowing the words or tune has never slowed me down, oh no, I just crack right on with my own version, the ruder the better. Though admittedly that made learning the correct words to their school carol concert a wee bit trickier for my trio than it should have been, but that’s another story… So the minxes were getting fed up with me imitating Bruce Springsteen, moaning about how gravelly and awful his voice was¬†and that his¬†Santa Claus is Coming To Town sounded like more of a huge parody than my¬†send-up of it.¬†I’m not a big fan of his work, to be fair, but do have a very soft spot for Streets of Philadelphia. So I decided to play the girls it, the version at the link. Personally I love the way it sounds like he’s walking along the street, singing it. And I love the sound of his voice in that particular song. However, I didn’t expect the reactions I got from the girls…

dsc_0359 dsc_0361

I guess they’ll not be big fans, then.


We had some friends over today for lunch. Their girls are the age of Mini and younger and a real joy to be around. We finished off a huge meal (brisket that had been in the slow cooker for 12 hours and Midi’s best savoury dumplings) with my friend’s delicious pavlova, then emptied an entire can of shaving foam playing Pie Face. Ahhhh, you can’t get kids too hyper on Christmas Eve!

Well, I say that… They were all bouncing off the walls. Properly going bonkers. ‘Unable to speak an entire sentence’ level of excited. I didn’t hold out much hope of them ever getting to bed. Then The Boss had a brilliant idea of breaking out the tubs of gingerbread dough his mum had given them – get them to bake gingerbread biscuits, decorate 7 shades of living hell out of them, then leave them out for Santa. Awesome! I watched the 3 of them slow down, start of concentrate, calm down more and more, get engrossed in their decorating, focusing on their creations. They stopped moaning about my Christmas music radio station and even joined in singing, while me and Mini went all kitsch on this year’s Christmas cake (those blobby things are robins. With their wings and tails outstretched. Of course they are. You see it now, don’t you?)

Santa and Rudolph's treats

Santa and Rudolph’s treats

After a few hours, they were done. I openly admitted how impressed I was with their artwork. I’m sure Santa was, too. So in a fairly calm state, they laid out Santa’s and Rudolph’s snacks, milk and whisky, posed gamely for the annual Christmas Eve photo, said goodbye to Edbie the Elf*, then went to bed without arguing.

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

*The elf went back to Santa, of course, leaving a thank you note that included some insults to Elsa, and leaving behind some Santa hats, Christmas joke box and some elf cupcake toppers I found a few months ago.

Around midnight, me and The Boss got out all the minxes’ presents from their hiding places. This year I was smug as a smug thing because I kept an Excel spreadsheet listing everything I’d bought for them, roughly how much it was (so I could make sure they’d roughly the same spent on them, and that I didn’t go overboard), and (crucially) where I’d hidden it.

So there I was, hissing: “Gas Out… Midi… blue ikea bag behind the stripey bag in the wardrobe” like a mad game of Twister to a hapless Boss who was tiptoeing around helping me fetch things. He picked up said¬†Gas Out game¬†and gave it an innocent prod. It came with batteries already fitted. It let out the most massive, long, wet-sounding fart I’ve ever heard that reverberated noisily along the hall. Have you ever tried not to die of laughing silently?! I swear, I lay on the floor outside Midi and Mini’s room, doubled up, dry-snorting about the noise, the terrible timing, and his face looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. A guilty one. So that nearly started our Christmas morning earlier than we’d planned!

As it was, we first heard the pitter-patter of tiny jack-boots running around to see if Santa had visited just before 4am. I persuaded Mini to snuggle in with me for 20 whole sleepy snoozy minutes before I heard the other pair of tricksters giggling in the hall and gave up. I happily accepted the payback for the past 10 years of post-7am Christmas Day waking. It’s 0420hrs, Santa’s been, and the kids are shrieking and laughing and smiling over their presents – let the festivities commence! Merry Christmas!

Day 23 – Last Night At Long, Long Last

Last night was the last night of the month-long visit and pranks from Edbie the Elf. Thank goodness. S/he’s been more restrained than previous elf visits. I can’t wait for the minxes to grow up a bit so we can all take turns posing silly and much more evil tableaux. I wonder which minx will be the most wicked…?elf on the shelf prank snowmen marshmallows


Day 20 – Aw, Now You’ve Gone Too Far

Last night, I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. I don’t even want to know if there’s a film reference for this. If you are at all sensitive or have anything less than a strong stomach and a puerile sense of humour then please don’t read on. Please.

The minxes have talked of the Elf on the Shelf Nutella Incident all month, so it kinda had to happen, really. At least Edbie had the grace to look ashamed.

Yes, me and The Boss nearly bust a gut laughing so hard as we posed it (Nutella in an icing tube. Took 60 seconds). Yes, the minxes squealed and guffawed all morning. Yes, we¬†just went too far. Let’s never talk of this again.