Elf Anxiety

Every year after Thanksgiving, I look forward to unpacking our Christmas decorations.  I pull out the boxes, and the kids and I put everything in its proper place.  I must admit, however that there is one holiday decoration I wish I could leave in the bottom of the box.

The Elf on the Shelf triggers my anxiety.  I hate to admit it, but this little guy really knows how to push my buttons.

As I said, I love almost everything about Christmas.  From the decorations to the lights to the music and traditions, I l really do love it all.   It’s just that darned Elf!

It’s not that I dislike elves in general.  The movie Elf is a classic.  I love that Buddy the Elf and his Pop-tart pasta with syrup.  And how could you not root for the little misfits: Herbie the dentist and his friend Rudolph?

It’s just the Elf on the Shelf who makes me twitchy.  The holiday season is busy enough, and the stress he adds just pushes me over the top.

Every night, I’m expected to come up with some clever thing to do with the Elf, or some funny place to put him.  There are photos and ideas all over the web about it.

Somehow, I’ve gotten on an email list that sends me ideas an inspiration for my elf.  When they suggested that I soak the elf’s feet in a bath of marshmallows and call it a spa day, I decided that I’d rather leave the elf on his shelf and have my own spa day.

My kids show me You Tube videos of all the clever things that other elves do.  Someone’s naughty elf actually wrapped their entire Christmas tree in holiday paper.  I’m lucky to get all the gifts wrapped.  Never mind ribbons and bows.

Then there’s the Elf Shaming.  My daughter comes home from school with stories of all the silly and clever things that her friends’ elves did.  She tells me how bad she feels that she has nothing to share. Mom guilt.

Plus, the pressure goes on all month long!  That means 24 nights of anxiety.  24 days of trying to think of something new and different. 

There have been nights when I have finally climbed into my warm bed after an evening of wrapping gifts.  I’m half asleep when I am jolted awake by the realizations that I have forgotten to do anything with the elf.

I’m certain that I am not the only one with elf-anxiety.  A friend posted a funny picture on You Tube of an elf wearing a full leg cast.  He left a note for the children saying that he wouldn’t be able to move from the shelf for 2-3 weeks.  That’s one smart mom. 

I hate to come across as a Grinch because I really do love Christmas, and all the fun traditions for our kids.  Maybe we can just shorten the elf’s visit from the North Pole?  How about a nice, 3-day weekend?  Who’s with me?

I mean no offense to any Elf lovers out there.  I applaud your enthusiasm and perseverance.  We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

So, whether you love the Elf…or count down the days to his departure, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Riley Doesn't Brush Her Teeth

Riley is our 13 year old West Highland Terrier.  We’ve raised her since was a puppy. I’ve always considered myself to be a good dog owner.  Riley takes daily walks, gets plenty of attention, and eats some organic dog food that the clever salesgirl convinced us to buy.  It’s made of fois gras or something ridiculous like that.


Admittedly, Riley doesn’t get quite as much attention as she did before we had kids - especially around the holidays.  Her Christmas ornaments have been sent to the back of the tree, and she has had to wear the same hot dog costume the past three Halloweens in a row.


Even so, I still felt confident when I recently took Riley to the vet for her check-up.  Imagine my surprise when the vet asked:  How often do you brush her teeth?  Huh?!  I am supposed to brush the dog’s teeth?  I consider the day a success if I get my kids to brush their teeth.  If floss is involved, I’m up for mother of the year.


At least when I take the kids to the dentist, I have my answers prepared.  Do they floss daily?  Of course.  (Or at least anytime they get popcorn stuck in their teeth).  Do they brush after every meal?  Oh sure, I pack their toothbrushes in the lunch box.


It all dates back to the lies I told my orthodontist in my pre-teen years.  Of course I wear my retainer at all times.  And no, I certainly was not chewing a big chunk of Hubba Bubba when my bracket popped off.


I’ve taken an informal poll of my peers, and can’t find anyone who brushes their dog’s teeth.  But apparently, many people do.  Because we haven’t, poor Riley now has two impacted molars and desperately needs a cleaning.  To complete the procedure, the vet actually puts the dog to sleep.  No Novocain or happy gas…just lights out.  Apparently dogs hate the dentist even more than humans do.


We scheduled Riley for surgery and thankfully everything went well.  Several hundred dollars later, both Riley and I are feeling as confused as ever.  The vet sent us home with some pain killer and a complimentary doggie dental kit.  It included a toothbrush, toothpaste, gel for her gums to prevent plaque buildup and a dental rinse.  Do you suppose I can teach the dog to gargle and spit?  What about floss?  I’ll be sure to post it on You Tube, so keep an eye out.


Riley is now fully recovered (at least physically) from her procedure, but she still looks at me with an expression that seems to say was all of this really necessary?  Either she thinks I’ve lost my mind, or she’s thinking that if I would have been brushing her teeth regularly, she could have avoided all of this. 


The other possibility is that the resentment could go much deeper.  For all I know, Riley could still be angry that we never sprang for those braces during her younger years.


Color Catastrophe

Just because you can do something yourself, does not mean that you should.  For some people, that means home remodeling.  Plumbing and drywall come to mind.  For others, it applies to sewing or baking.  I’m thinking wedding cakes.  In my case, I’ve learned that I must never again try to color my own hair.

As I neared the age of 40, I noticed the roots of my hair turning gray.  At first, I tried to yank them out one by one.  Each time I saw a gray, I would pull out the trusty tweezers and give it a yank.  After a while, there were just too many for me to handle.  Once I started seeing scalp, I realized that I was losing that battle.  The one thing worse than a gray head is a bald head.

I decided that I would have to color over the gray.  How hard could it be?  Based on the enormous selection of hair color that I see at every CVS, Target and Kroger store, millions of women must do it.  The girls in the L’Oreal commercial never seem to have a problem.  

I went to my local Walgreens to find my perfect match.  I was certainly overwhelmed by the array of choices, but finally settled upon a medium brown shade. I then headed home to wash that gray right outta my hair.

My sister helped me apply to color and reach the tough spots in the back.   We followed the directions to the letter, set the timer, and waited for the magic to happen. 

Thirty minutes later, I rinsed out the color and all seemed fine.  It wasn’t until my hair dried that I realized we had a problem.  My medium brown was now a brassy shade of copper.  I was one shade darker than Ronald McDonald.

Maybe it will look better in the sunlight, I assured myself.  Nope.  The natural light only enhanced the brass.

I Googled brassy hair, and realized that I was not alone!  Plenty of women with brown hair also suffer from penny head.  Maybe I should have done this research before I applied the color.

The web recommended other shades that might cover the damage, but warned me to wait a few weeks before coloring again.  Of course, I ignored that advice.  By the end of the week, I had about four layers of bronze on my hair.  More shades of orange than a large box of crayons.

Desperate for help, I called on the experts!  My hairdresser said she could help, but we would have to wait a while!  What!?  No, please!  I tried to bribery, but she wouldn’t budge.  It must be some professional oath.  Or, maybe that just want to make sure we amateurs truly learn our lesson.

She would see me in a few weeks and try to cover the damage.  In the meantime, frequent washing might help the color to fade.  I shampooed morning, noon and night, but sure didn’t notice any dulling. I think it got brighter! 

Years later, my hair has been restored to a more natural brown, and I am committed to professional products and a skilled hair dresser.  I call that period my orange phase, and consider it a lesson learned.

But now, the gray gets worse with each passing year.  Like a lawn full of dandelions, it’s taking over the entire area.  Of course, that more frequent (and pricey) visits to the salon. 

Take my advice ladies.  Start saving while you’re still young.  After you’ve established a college savings account for your kids, and fully funded your 401k, you might want to set up a savings plan for all the coloring in your future. 

The retirement savings experts never mention this, but someday you’ll thank me.  Start saving now before the gray has taken over entirely!

If you’re naturally blonde or black, you may have an easier time coloring your own hair.  This will certainly save you some money. 

But, if you’re a brunette,  learn from my mistakes.  Do not try to color your own hair. Like plumbing, or auto repair, or juggling knives…hair color is not as simple as it seems. 

Kids Say Some Crazy Things!

My favorite part about being a children’s author is reading and sharing my stories with kids.  I am often invited to schools as a “visiting author”.  My audience can range from preschoolers to middle schoolers.

Each group is unique.  I love to watch their reactions, hear their laughter, listen to their connections and field their questions.

Their question are always genuine, often very insightful, and occasionally very funny.

I start writing down some of my favorite remarks. 

First of all, kids always ask me how old I am.  I always try to deflect the question, but they typically won’t take no for an answer.  A few boys have said they expected me to be older, so I guess that’s a good thing.

One day I was telling a class that it took me well over a year to write my book.  A boy exclaimed:  “Your hand must have been really tired!”  I started to explain that I wasn’t actually writing for that entire time, but then I just let it go.

One little girl wrote me a thank you note after my visit and asked if I was a teenager.  That letter has been framed and hung it on my wall.

During a classroom presentation, a preschooler raised his hand.  “Is your book available on Amazon?” he inquired.

“Yes,” I laughed.  “How do you know about Amazon?”  

“My Dad says that Mom has an addiction.” 

While reading to a kindergarten class, I asked the kids who has a dog.  Most of them raised their hands.  One little boy blurted out “My dog died.” 

“I’m so sorry,”  I responed.  “Was your dog sick?” 

“No.” he replied.  “He was hit by a comet.”

“That happens sometimes,”  I told him.

Kids like to blurt out random things. “Do you like Luke Bryant?” one boy asked.

 “Today is my birthday!” a little girl once proclaimed.

“That’s why I’m here”, I assured her.

I was asking one group about the difference between an author and an illustrator, when an impatient boy blurted out: “Did you draw the pictures?”

“No.” I responded.  “I wish I could have, but that isn’t my talent.”

He replied: “You could have just taken an art class.”  Why didn’t I think of that?

One day I was visiting a school to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Suess.  A boy asked me if I am friends with Dr. Suess.  “No,” I replied.  “Dr. Suess has been dead over 25 years.” 

He still thought we should be friends.

When I was explaining part of one book where the older sister is rather bossy, one 5 year old raised his hand.  He admitted:  “I’m pretty bossy.” 

I told him it’s good to be self-aware.

My Dad talks about a TV show he used to watch called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. 

I love how they freely speak whatever comes to their mind.  They never consider whether it might sound strange, or be embarrassing.

It seems to be around age 11 or 12 when we become more self-conscious of what we say.

 I suppose it’s good to filter our words to some extent, but I do love listening to little ones as their  thoughts flood out of their mouth like an open tap.

I wouldn’t want it any other way! 

Why Can't all the Leaves Fall Together?

Among my favorite things about Upper Arlington are the beautiful, mature trees.  Those majestic trees bloom with color in the spring and provide refreshing shade in the summer.  They even look beautiful for a few weeks of fall.  After that… it’s all downhill.   I’m talking about the endless piles of fallen leaves!  It gives new meaning to the expression buried alive.

In our yard, the leaves start to fall around Labor Day.  The problem is that they don’t stop until nearly Christmas.   We have to be careful to not get tangled in the Christmas lights as we are rake.   Couldn’t these trees come to some agreement about when they will fall?  Must they spread it out over 4 months?   The maples want to go early, the oak tree prefers to stay late…and so on.  Must be poor communication.   

At least the lawn companies benefit from the endless leaves.  It sounds like an angry swarm of bees when the lawn guys descend on our neighborhood.  It’s loud enough when they fire up the mowers and weed whackers in the summer.  Once you add the leaf blowers in the fall, it’s time to break out the ear protection for the entire family. 

In UA, the leaves are enormous!   I bet we have some of the biggest (and heaviest) leaves in Central Ohio.  Where’s the award for that?  We could have a contest.  Bexley, Clintonville, Grandview, Olde Town, Worthington, etc.  could all present their prize winning leaf.  Hopefully, no one would try to scrub the results. 

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful curb-side leaf service.  The leaf trucks are a welcome sight, but they always seem to collect the leaves on my street the day before we rake.  We get that giant pile of leaves amassed at the curb, but then wait days on end for the truck to return.  All week, I cringe as every gust of wind scatters the leaves back across our yard.  I do give lots of credit to the people who vacuum the leaves.  Are they called leaf suckers?  Anyway, they have a tough job and they do it well.  My nose starts to run just thinking about it.

My 12 year old son asked me why we can’t just wait to rake until all the leaves have fallen.  I begin to rant about dead grass, and too many leaves for the trucks to pick up at once, and being a good neighbor until I realize that he has a point. 

I decide to go with the standard mom response: “If you’d stop complaining, we’d almost be finished!”  We all know that’s not true.

Happy fall and happy raking to all my Columbus neighbors.  If you are like me, you might want to stop by the pharmacy and pick up some Claritin before you get started!