An Effing Basic Social Concept

I have not written for a damn long time. But, hey, I’m back, so here it goes.

I recently returned to the classroom after a hiatus of well, a while. It is amazing and rewarding and exhausting and hilarious and just…something.

It is also quite baffling. Because I can’t seem to figure out what has happened with the kids and the parents and the schools in the time I went from being a teacher to being a mom to being a teacher again. It is a whole new game out there…and one of those newish, crowdfunded games with odd rules and too many cards and such at that.

So I’ll start here. Because this s**t is freaks me out.

For today’s fun, we’re going to talk about one of the most basic social concepts of all, one that many of us start to learn before we are even talking. Why?

Because people are effing doing it wrong.

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The definition of the word share is: to use, occupy, or enjoy (something) jointly with another or others.
Got that?
As in “The boys shared the cars.” Or “Susie shared her blocks with Billy.” Or “The children shared the ball by taking turns.”
The definition of the word share is not “I want what you have so you have to give it to me right now. “
Except, in our crazy modern world…it kinda is.
Sharing went from being the above definition–as in, we’re going to take turns, or divvy it up, or enjoy it together to…
“Give me your s**t.” 
I am frequently told “He/She won’t share.”
Except what the kids aren’t saying is that someone is using all of something and won’t let anyone else use it. There is no concept of cooperative play in the use of the term “sharing.”
What the children are saying is “They have that and I want it and that person won’t give it to me.”
“Share” is a magic word that means you get the thing that someone else has because if they don’t give up the goods, then that a**hole doesn’t know how to effing share!
Yep.
So…typical (and frequent) situation….Little Susie is reading a book. Little Billy also wants to read that book. Little Billy does not approach Little Susie to ask if he can read the book, too. Little Billy instead tells Little Susie to “share the book,” and holds out his hand for her to give it to him.When Little Susie does not, Little Billy promptly wanders over to tell the teacher Little Susie “won’t share” or “is not sharing.”
Now, the teacher can gently explain that Little Susie is reading the book right now.
(This will not go over well.)
The teacher can then gently offer alternatives, such as read the book together (shocking!) or take turns reading the book (gasp!) or perhaps (no, just no!)…. wait till Susie is done reading the book and then she will share it with you (are you f***ing kidding me?)
All good suggestions right? And proper modeling of how to share? With a little social skills intervention thrown in?  Textbook s**t, yo.
It won’t effing work. Because somehow, somewhere along the way, we broke sharing.
We f***ing broke it.
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Even if you explain and model all of the above solutions to the “sharing” of the book to Little Billy, there will not be acceptance of these options. There may be pouting, there may be stomping. There may be crying or whining…or, if it is a really good day, the seventh circle of hell will break loose and Little Billy will go home and tell Mom that Little Susie wouldn’t share and Mom will call you on your lunch break and demand to know why you, the teacher, did not make Little Susie “share” that book,  as it is Little Billy’s God-given right to be “shared” with by having the object he wants given to him.
And sadly, this will be the response of most children (and *cough* parents.) Not because we aren’t teaching the concept of sharing properly in the classroom, but because this jacked up idea of what”sharing” encompasses is now hardwired into human brains.
I am not sure if it starts at sandbox playdates when the babies are told to “Give him/her your bucket” because the mommies are  so fearful the other judgy mommies will judge them and their baby because they brought a red bucket to the sandbox and are playing with the red bucket they brought, but that other baby, he has a blue bucket but wants the red bucket…. so we make our baby “share.”
Or if this simply could just be because we have devolved into such a society of selfish a**holes that this kind of behavior is simply deemed acceptable.
I want it, you have it, give it to me…entitlement, instant gratification, privilege, and all the other happy buzzwords people much smarter than me with much better blogs are writing about.
Scary s**t, huh? That we are raising generations of kids who won’t know what it means to read a book with another person, or fill a bucket with sand together, or take turns playing on the swings…because the things should just be given to..er, I mean, shared with them.
I may be overthinking it.
Or I may just be right, and the world needs to get off their collective a**es and  kick back with a little old school Sesame Street or O.G. Mr. Rogers and get their heads on straight…
Because we’re effing doing it wrong.
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That time I bought snob juice…

It is officially back-to-school time, and I just made my first set of lunches. Lovely, reasonably healthy school lunches. It was fun.

No. It was not fun. Making lunches is really not ever fun, but now it is worse.  Because here’s the thing. While grocery shopping, I went to get all the things I would normally get that my kids like and I did this: instead of buying the usual whatever juice boxes/bags my kids like, I shelled out the extra $2-3 for the supposedly much better organic 100% juice made from exquisite fruits picked on a sustainable farm by fairly paid farm workers living in a democratic country. Or whatever.

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I did it. I bought the expensive all-natural, better be freaking Nectar of the Gods for that price juice boxes. And my kids are going to hate them. Even if they have way more sugar than the regular old crappy juice boxes. But this magical juice will look so nice next to their lunches…all pretty in the recyclable packaging the bright label that screams…”look at me, I’m so healthy and this responsible mom is super healthy and so are her kids and they all drink pricey juice that is way better than that other juice that isn’t even really juice and…”

F**ck. I just became THAT mom. I did it. I totally caved in to peer pressure and bought Snob Juice.

What the hell was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about that one time  I had to bring snack for a school event or club, it was just really kind of horrible and stressful. Can you bring fruit? Fruit is good…but what if isn’t organic? Right? Because you can totally tell these perfectly plump strawberries are not organic. But organic strawberries for 35 kids? Not happening. What about little ham-roll ups? Nope…nitrates. Goldfish crackers? Don’t you know Goldfish crackers are bad?  The organic little bunny things that are supposed to taste like Goldfish crackers? Nope…my kid says they DO NOT taste like Goldfish crackers. Cookies? Sure…cookies. Just not the kind with sugar.

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Fruit snacks? NO. Under no circumstances are you ever supposed to bring fruit snacks to anything ever anymore. They are horrifying little nuggets of gelatin filled with dyes and chemicals and corn syrup and probably some eye of newt and the blood of a virgin as well. You don’t ever bring fruit snacks. Or Kool-Aid. Trust me. Don’t ever bring Kool-Aid.

It is bad enough now that if you sign up to bring a snack to any kid-related thing it is expected to be some cutesy themed cocktail toothpick skewered masterpiece created by using special order cookie cutters and multi-step instructions from various internet websites. It is even worse that if you dare to send a packaged goody, it has to come with a carefully printed label containing a cutesy pun that sort of explains and makes it okay that you bought packaged goodies. But now your packaged goodies can’t just be packaged goodies. They have to be the RIGHT kind of packaged goody. The non-GMO, all-natural, totally organic sawdust and twig flavored kind of goody. Why? Because it is better? Because it is healthier?

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F**k no.  Because *gasp* other moms might judge you if you brought the regular stuff.

There. I said it. We do all these crazy things because other moms might judge us. We make bento box lunches with cartoon character shaped sandwiches and little cubes of cheese in cupcake liners and perfectly julienned carrot sticks because, well…a sandwich and an apple (a non-organic GMO apple) just won’t cut it anymore. We scour the shelves in the supermarket during the spare 10 minutes we have for the brand specific, gluten free, salt free pretzels on the Halloween party sign up.  Sure… the big bag of pretzel sticks would probably do the trick, but hey… we might get the side eye if we brought that s**t. Yep. Other moms might judge us. Or they might not. We might just be worrying that they will, and so we go to extremes, because hey, opinions matter, whether they exist or not.

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I’m not saying it isn’t okay to be health conscious. Because it totally is. Being healthy is wonderful and wanting our kids to be healthy is even better. And as a former teacher, I can tell you that not feeding the kids eight kinds of frosted cupcakes at the holiday party is really just a GREAT idea. So yeah, being healthy is fabulous.

But so is reality. And being a mom. And sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Occasionally that involves feeding her kids, and maybe other people’s kids, some stuff that is not the greatest.

Like fruit snacks. Because maybe the mom that brought those bad fruit snacks in had a really rough day. Maybe the dog projectile vomited all over the house, and she was late for work, and the kids were late for school, and one of them forgot to finish their homework, and there were 100 other errands to run that day because her husband was sick, and it was late and the kids were crabby and she ran into the store and grabbed the fruit snacks because they were the first thing she saw. And then she grabbed the Kool Aid because it was next to the fruit snacks. And it was on sale. And she really didn’t feel like spending and extra $50 in that moment to come up with a really super healthy awesome snack the kids would actually like.

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Pssst…I am so sorry for that time I fed your kids artificially flavored non-organic GMO fruit snacks. With Kool-Aid. 

Except I’m not. Because it was late and I was tired and the display was right inside the door so I bought them. And I made up for it later in the year by cutting up approximately 64 equally portioned cubes of non-processed mild cheddar cheese for another event. So there.

And then several years later…because I was maybe a little scarred by that fruit snack incident, I caved and bought Snob Juice. I did it. And now I’m sending my kids to school with Snob Juice. And a regular sandwich. With a GMO, non-organic apple. Of course.

Maybe, for the next classroom party I will create beautiful artistically crafted individual organic fruit bouquets.

Or maybe I will just send a Costco sized bottle of neon green punch. With potato chips.

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Either way, I’m sure the kids will enjoy it.

It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about volunteering.

Partly because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, do quite a bit of it. And partly because with the upcoming school year getting ever so near, the inevitable avalanche of requests, needs, demands, and online sign-ups has me filled with a strong sense of impending doom.

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But mostly let’s talk about it because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, am just really freaking annoyed.

I volunteer. Year-round. Usually for things that are school or kid related. Occasionally for things I dislike, because it helps out a friend or because there is a need. Mostly for things that I do not mind, or actually love, doing.

Things that I actually love doing until some well (or not-so-well) meaning, yet slightly rude/inconsiderate/unthinking/kinda selfish human ruins it for me.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with the opinions about how it could be better. The ones with the demands. The ones with the repetitive questions. The ones that think that you are an employee. And my personal favorite, the ones that are just so busy with their busy children and busy lives and general busy-ness that well, they are just too busy and they need you to communicate/arrange/set-up all the things RIGHT NOW because their very valuable time is being infringed upon.

In other words, the ones not doing the volunteering. If you should happen to be one of the ones I’m talking about, you may not want to read this next part.

Or maybe you should. There’s hope for everyone.

Often, like the rest of you well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, the things that I volunteer for require quite a bit of planning, communication, effort and energy. And time. Lots and lots and lots of time. Time, that I believe, is MY time. Time, that I believe, is time that belongs to all the other millions of volunteers doing the things that need to get done.

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Volunteering means giving freely of your time and energy to accomplish whatever thing needs to be accomplished, for whatever good cause or great event or general need that there is.

Volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Sometimes, for us well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, it takes a while to get things set up. Sometimes we end up playing phone tag with the field trip coordinator at that REALLY FUN PLACE. Sometimes we have to make lists and inventories and…I don’t know, plan stuff. Sometimes people don’t return emails, or things get lost, or that REALLY FUN PLACE isn’t available or whatever. Sometimes life (with the puking kid or traveling husband,) or our actual jobs (the ones we get PAID for) get in the way. Sometimes, we are just sitting at home eating bonbons and shirking our volunteer duties.

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Except we’re not. Like, ever.

That being said, the only person being inconvenienced by this is the PERSON WHO IS VOLUNTEERING TO TAKE THE TIME AND ENERGY TO DO THE THING!

Again, volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Yes, everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER.

And you could be one of those ones who points out that everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER to all of us well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans.

Yes. You could be a total a-hole.

Or you could be nice. Be patient. Be a little understanding. You could even say thank you. Or you could offer to help. Or do it your damn self. Or I don’t know, maybe NOT SPEAK. Any of these would be really good choices.

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But seriously, thank the well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans volunteering to do the thing. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun, but they do it.

And you should be grateful.

End of Year…End of Days.

For today’s fun…

Let’s talk about parties. And awards programs. And music concerts. And field day. And all the other just before summer, last month of school, really totally necessary celebratory crap that us parents have to squeeze in during the four weeks prior to our children being set free.

Because, you know, ta6cf5582f82380d1bdf0bb13f1489650he end of the year isn’t enough of a crunch already with the teachers trying to cram in six chapters of social studies, plus projects and tests and exams and homework and well, stuff.

At our school, when we get into that last month, I pretty much know it is time to clear my calendar and face the horrible, hard truth that whatever kid-free time I have left is no longer mine to call my my own. Because every single school/activity/group will have things. Things that require my time, my energy, my willingness to spend money, and above all, my presence, because apparently if you miss even the slightest, smallest event…your children will grow up to be social deviants, forever scarred by your absence during class party #438 and other parents will notice and point out that, hey, we didn’t see you at the thing…

Yes. That happened. Not the social deviant part. Yet. But there was some noticing and pointing out.

End of Year…End of Days.

I suck at being End of Days Mom. Really, I do. I’m bad enough during the regular school year with my very moderate participation, but once the weather warms up…online sign-ups send me into a deep state of avoidance and procrastination. Reminder notes from school multiply on the counter. Field trip chaperoning, teacher appreciation contributing, party helping, concert clapping…I’ll do it all…eventually. But I won’t like any of it.

Also, I fucking hate field day.

11426192_10205612706670409_82641071910971261_nReally. I strongly dislike it. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to offend anyone, because the humans who plan our field day should be sainted with whatever sainthood comes from organizing hundreds of kids and color coordinated parent volunteers and activities into a joyous afternoon awesomeness. I mean this sincerely. Our field day rocks, and I’m lucky to have my kids at such a great school with such dedicated parents.

But I still hate it. Mostly because I don’t understand why everything we do for our kids has to be such a big, giant blowout of perfectly planned fun. Remember when the gym teacher was in charge of field day? And it was an actual field day…with relay races and kickball and the mile run and if you were lucky you got one of those red Popsicles at the end? It was probably hot and everyone was thirsty and sometimes it was great and sometimes it sucked? Field day isn’t like that anymore.  We still have kickball. The kids just play in between visiting the bounce houses and the ice cream truck and the water station and the other things that are not sporting events.

When did everything have to become a party? More important, why does everything have to have a party? Does the end of every single thing our children have ever done have to end in a party? And not just a “we’ll eat cupcakes and do a craft party,” but a party party. Like with themes. And color coordinated plates. (I am not kidding. I once offended a class party mom by not bringing matching tablecloths to the Christmas shindig.) It is crazy. My daughter’s kindergarten year, the End of Days party was a picnic. For the End of Days class gift, the teacher requestedimage1 buckets. Then she requested a list of tiny toy trinkets to fill the buckets with. Chalk. Bubbles. Bouncy balls. Squirt guns. And more! Every kid went home with a keepsake bucket of toys from the parents…er…teacher.

We won’t even discuss the year I made 65 water balloons…

Did my kids have fun with all of this? Absolutely. I’m sure they had a great time and will remember all of it. Especially that time the tablecloths didn’t match.

My youngest kid’s teacher had a really novel idea of how to celebrate the End of Days this year. The kids are going to take their lunches outside. And eat on the grass. And then they are going to play. On the playground. 

No parent volunteers. No tropical luau plates. No horrible crafting website individual fruit sculptures. Her only request was that if someone had time (if someone had time!) they bring in some cut up watermelon for a treat.

Pure fucking genius. Because really, what could be better than extra time in the fresh air, playing with your friends, on a playground, on the last full day of school?

End of Days. Complete with parties, and more parties, and whatever random celebrations for whatever sport/group/activity your child belongs to within or outside of school. Plus awards programs. And spring music programs. And open houses and ice cream socials and Grandparents/Special Person day and and that one last fundraiser. And fucking field day. And any other festive occasion that can be crammed into the space of a few short weeks, because hey, we couldn’t do any of this during the other eight months of school.

I suck at being End of Days Mom. Because all of this…it is just too much. I want my kid to remember all these special childhood events. But she probably won’t. Because the 2nd grade concert will probably take place on the same day as a field trip the night before a class party and a school assembly and all those memories will get blurred into a fuzzy blob of too many things. With ice cream, of course.

Also, I’m tired. Even if this year I don’t have to fill up 65 water balloons. But I’m pretty sure there are a couple of sign-ups I missed. And there’s still field day. Fucking field day.

“You know, you suck at comforting people.”

For today’s fun, we’re going to talk about all those fun conversations you get to have as a parent when your kid is going through something crappy.

“You know, you suck at comforting people.”

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This. From my tween daughter, who is probably right. She was having a lot of drama and complaining about something that was going to be awful, and my response was this:

“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow.”

This was met with the typical melodramatics. “What? Are you kidding me? You can’t just say it will be okay?”

Unfortunately, no. I cannot. I cannot just say it will be okay, or you will do fine, or it won’t be terrible and you will love it and everything will be sunshine and rainbows and unicorn poop because I cannot guarantee those things now, or for the rest of your life.

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Also, my kid didn’t let me finish. Because the full response was this, which I believe to be hard, yet supportive in the most truthful way.

“Yeah..it will probably be horrible. Or it won’t. I guess you’ll find out tomorrow. And if it isn’t as bad as you think, that is a good thing. And if it sucks, well, then you’ll get through it and it will be over and maybe you’ll be a little stronger in the end.” 

I could have just lied to her. I could have said that it would be fine and it would be okay and she would do great and all that, but really, the truth of the matter was that running timed sprints to a loud buzzer in middle school gym class while getting hollered at by a teacher who fancies himself a glorified drill sergeant was probably going to be somewhat disagreeable, if not downright miserable, for my non-athletic physical education hating sixth grader.

So I told the truth. Because gym class, like many things in life, including friendship woes, financial problems, mean bosses, and other such calamities, can and will suck.

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I promise I am not trying to raise a generation of cynics. Nor am I wanting my kiddos to grow up with a glass half-empty outlook on life. I want to raise them to be realistic. I want to raise them to be objective. Most important, I want to raise them to be strong, and resilient. I would rather have them going into a difficult situation with the awareness that yeah, it may be hard, but they will be able to handle it, get through it, learn from it, and grow from it.

Case in point. A recent death in our family, the first of someone close to us for my youngest, left her feeling that she did not want to attend the funeral because she would feel sad, and the people around her would be sad, and that would make her sorrow that much worse

I did not tell her that this wasn’t true. I did not tell her it would not be hard, and that it would be fine. I told her she was right. It would make her sad. Our family would be sad, and yes, that would make it more difficult. But it was important to go, because we would be supporting our loved ones, and because later, when it was over, she would be glad she got to say goodbye and help celebrate that person’s life. So she went. And it was not easy. It was probably as tough as she thought it would be. There were tears. There was grief. But she got through it with lots of hugs, and in the end, was glad she went because she was surrounded by family and because it was the right thing to do.

So yeah. I might suck at comforting people. Really. And this may or may or not be the right parenting approach. I truly have no idea. Only time, teenage rebellion, and the possible need for middle-aged therapy will tell.

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So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

Oh, and the results of that terrible, horrible gym class day? This:

“It was worse than bad. And the teacher was diabolical. But everyone hated it, so I just did it, and got it over with and I was really glad when it was done. But at least I didn’t quit. Or cry. So that’s a good thing.”

The Elf on the Shelf is a douche bag…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about the Elf on the Shelf.

I hate the Elf on the Shelf. There. I said it. I hate the weird little felt doll with the knowing smile and the creepy eyes. Yes…creepy eyes. Just perfect for watching you…for Santa. Or so they say. That elf is a voyeur. Or the holiday version of Chuckie. I haven’t decided yet.

We were never going to get one. EVER. Because I’m really just not good at following through on the activities of make believe creatures. The evidence of failure speaks for itself:

There was the year I hosted Dysfunctional Family Christmas Eve, and after a full evening of crazy relatives driving me crazier and a couple of shots of tequila, I forgot to eat Santa’s cookies. I told the kids he must not like the store bought kind. Which was foolish, because now I have to bake.

And then there’s the damn Tooth Fairy. My poor children believe that sometimes so many children lose teeth she just can’t make it to your house right away, and sometimes it may take a night (or several) for her to get to you. The reality is that Mom fell asleep watching late night talk shows while folding laundry, packing lunches and signing permission slips simultaneously. And Daddy didn’t have anything smaller than a $20. 

While the tooth fairy has written several apologetic letters in my handwriting, she, unfortunately, has never left fairy dust glitter, wing prints, or a miniature fairy house.

While the tooth fairy has written several apologetic letters in my handwriting, she, unfortunately, has never left fairy dust glitter, wing prints, or a miniature fairy house.

And don’t even get me started on the leprechaun. Who the hell started that? Isn’t that a drinking holiday? Why the hell do I have to make footprints and leave chocolate gold coins? 

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Because I want to clean up green paint after feeding my kids chocolate…

So our house was not going to have some ridiculous doll giving me more to do on what was already a way too busy time of year. Until my children discovered its existence. And some well meaning but stupid teacher read the overpriced book to them at story time. And all the friends started talking about their elves named Cookie or Cutie or Honey or Pie. And then they started talking about all the adorable and humorous things that Cookie and Cutie and Honey and Pie would do. And then my kids realized they DID. NOT. HAVE. AN. ELF. There was hyperventilating. With tears.

So my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble, where I vehemently protested the Elf. And he caved.

This is our Elf on the Shelf. He was $39.99 and came with a book way too long to read at bedtime.

The Elf on the Shelf is a douchebag, and so are the people that market him.

The children named him Crumbs.

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This picture was taken on December 5. Clearly we are not responsible Christmas Elf hosts…

I wanted to call him Dog Treat.

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Our Elf on the Shelf does not do things like this:
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Instead, he is more likely to do things like this:

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And then there was the time he spent four days doing this:

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My youngest child was very excited to tell her friends that Crumbs was in the candy jar for “a lot of days.” I’m screwed when they realize the little db is supposed to move EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

And then there was this unfortunate incident:

Elf Porn is what happens when you wake up at 4:12 am because you forgot to move the little db.

Elf Porn is what happens when you wake up at 4:12 am because you forgot to move the little db.

Recently, I have been contemplating having Crumbs do this. Maybe my husband will think I’m nuts and take over…

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I truly have not ruled out this one:

This is my favorite. BEST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEA EVER!

This is my favorite. BEST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEA EVER!

Apparently the Elf now has an optional birthday outfit you can purchase. Probably for $39.99. You can also purchase “elf couture” in the form of tacky Christmas sweaters and scarves for way too much money.

Crumbs does not have “elf couture,” nor does he have a birthday outfit. Because he likes Barbie dresses. Of which we have many…that do not cost $39.99.

I would like to thank the Elf on the Shelf’s marketing team. Because coming up with creative and whimsical ideas of where to put him for one month out of the year wasn’t enough. It is only a matter of time before he takes over Halloween. And Easter. And Columbus Day.

Personally, I’m looking forward to Labor Day Elf on the Shelf, as well as Summer Solstice Elf on the Shelf.

See what I mean? The Elf on the Shelf is a douchebag.

You know I’m right.