There are some who feel like the Elf of the Shelf is not an appropriate holiday tradition for various reasons. Some feel that children should be disciplined enough to behave well everyday without the incentive that Santa and his elves are watching them. Others feel it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas. In our house, we have two elves, Peppermint Snow for my granddaughter, and Jingle for the boys. They arrive on the youngest boys birthday the week of Thanksgiving in November bearing a birthday gift with a cupcake and candle. When the kids are especially good, they may bring a special treat. They stay throughout December, including celebrating the oldest boys birthday with a gift and cupcake for him, and leave on Christmas eve when Santa arrives with gifts and takes them back to the North Pole. It’s fun for the whole family and it is a little bit of incentive for the children, but not so much that they are only good when then elves are visiting. I believe it gives them something tangible to associate with making good choices. It’s a jumping off point to remind them the rest of the year that Jesus is always with us and that we should be kind and good to each other, just as Jesus is to us. So, for us, we will continue to tradition of the elves visiting until the youngest out grows it, and even then, I’m sure they’ll still be hanging around to decorate the tree or something.
When I think of mistletoe, I think of sweet kisses from those we love. I think of grandchildren playing right in your face and slobbering all over your mouth; wet and sticky. I think of chubby cheeks and warm noses on little ones who love you more than they even comprehend. For these babies, grandparents are the best thing in their world. They spoil them rotten with cookies, candy and hugs they may not get enough of elsewhere. They say yes to things parents would never agree. Grandma’s house is the place where cousins go to become best friends and a place many would never leave unless parents made them. It’s the best place in the world, but too often, just like Christmas, it only lasts a short time and then the children are swept back to reality where rules and the norm and expectations take precedence. What they don’t know is that Grandma also has to go back to a place where rules are meant to be followed and even they are expected to put things in their proper place. It seems grandchildren and grandparents have a lot more in common than they might think. Both love the time they spend together; they can never get enough of it. Both are in a state of suspended reality when they are together. Both are able to continue only in knowing that soon they will spend time together in a place where they can forget everything other then the love the have for each other. Who ever said, “isn’t love grand” must have been talking about their grandchildren!
Decorating cookies at my house consists of purchasing a gingerbread kit with all the icing, candy and cookies ready to go. (Only a few times in my life have I made gingerbread cookies from scratch!) The parts and pieces are divided between my middle daughter, Chailey, who has much more patience for this than I will ever have, and how ever many children are at the house that day, typically at least 3, but often more. Some years there have been additional adult children or their friends who have joined in the fun. Forever a kid at heart, right?
The best part of decorating Christmas cookies is watching the kids put on the icing. They spread a little, then lick the knife, spread a little more, then lick again. Putting on the candy with their now sticky little fingers follows a similar protocol: a piece for the cookie, a piece in their mouth. By the time they complete their masterpiece, no one has any interest in eating it other than the creator.
Thankfully Chailey’s cookies are edible and available for bystanders, but they are typically too beautiful to consider eating. So, they stay under glass on the cake stand, acting as holiday decor for at least a few days before they are gone.
They are all so proud of their work, they cannot wait for someone to take a picture of it, and no one dare take a picture before they have completed it. Even if I tried, the picture would have their hand, arm or whole body plastered across it. They are quite serious about their cookies.
The final tradition in cookie decorating at our house is having their picture taken eating the cookie. This is a must! They even check the picture after it is taken to be sure their vision is appropriately captured. Christmas at our house would not be complete without cookies, but more importantly, without the smiles on these sticky, icing covered faces!
A few years ago we started taking the kids to see the Christmas tree at Sundance Square at the end of November right after Thanksgiving when the tree is the most fresh and beautiful. This year we met friends for lunch downtown, then spent time with them at the tree afterward. It was a great time had by all, young and old. Santa wasn’t there for pictures just yet, but all the kids needed was each other for a great fun game of tag and racing to and from the various decorations while the adults talked and enjoyed time together.
I love the symbolism of the Christmas tree and how it points others to Christ with it’s height and majesty, how it is an evergreen just as Jesus is the tree of life and remains true to us forever. I love how the lights symbolize how He is the light of the World who has come to save us. The star on the top of many trees is a symbol of the north star the led the shepherds and wise men to the manger at His birth. If we stop and think about it, a Christmas tree is more than just a location for the gifts we will give and receive during the holiday season, but a symbol of the gift of eternal life that is ours to have every single day of every year if we accept it. Who could pass up such a wonderful gift?
As a child my parents taught me to believe in Santa, but with my own children I felt like that would be lying to them. So, from the beginning I told them that Santa was the embodiment of the Spirit of Christmas; goodwill to all, giving being better than receiving, etc. She reminded me that I taught them Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but a long time ago there was a man named Saint Nicolas who was known for secretly giving gifts to others, which was the model for who we now know as Santa Claus.
I didn’t want my children to feel like they were not good enough in the years that we could not afford to buy them gifts under the guise of Santa. They received plenty of gifts from family members, so they never wanted for anything. However, being able to provide Santa for the children currently in my house has been a joy. Though we minimize it to just include things that fit in their stocking, because filling stocking is something I continue to do for my own children who are home on Christmas morning.
My oldest daughter and I were talking this week about how we would explain to the children in our house, when the time comes, that Santa does not come down our chimney to deliver gifts. I told her that I knew the time was near because I had decided when I was in second or third grade that Santa was someone who drove around town and dropped off gifts door to door, the idea of magic reindeer and a large man fitting down the chimney was not something I could continue to believe. I appreciated her telling me that she never felt like Santa was a lie that people tell their children, but a way of teaching children to believe in the wonders of Christmas at an age where they are not old enough to fully understand the miracle of the birth of Christ.
What are your Christmas traditions with regard to Santa Claus?
I wanted to take a minute to ask you to pray for my middle daughter who is having ankle surgery today; her 6th surgery since 1992, when she was just four months old, and her third surgery in the past 18 months. Long story short: she had Osteomyelitis (an acute bone infection) in her right ankle, had her talus (main ankle bone) removed at that time, then miraculously walked at 10 months of age as if the talus was still there. For 9 years there were no issues, then one day tendonitis set in, and after trying injections and other remedies through several different orthopedic surgeons over the course of a year, it was decided that they would go inside and see what was happening. So in 2002, they looked around, cleaned out a lot scar tissue, and thought they had corrected the problem. Unfortunately, there was still a localized pain the in the sub-talor joint. So, again we went to several orthopedic surgeons, most of whom did not know what to do with something like this; even some fellowship-trained ankle surgeons were baffled.
So, for surgery number three we waited until 2004, two years after the previous surgery. Finally, a sports-related ankle specialist was willing to perform another procedure. He went in to do a scope and upon opening up the ankle joint for a look, the os trigonum (a bone present in 5-15% of people which occurs when one area of bone does not fuse with the rest of the talus during growth) crumbled and had to be removed from her ankle. It looked like ground hamburger meat in the scope pictures they gave us after surgery. While this alleviated a majority of her pain we knew from this point that her ankle would be a continuing issue for the rest of her life. She would always be in pain at some level and would eventually need a full ankle replacement if she turned out to be a good candidate for it down the line. We were told that there was not a good ankle replacement option available at that time.
She never let her ankle stop her from living her childhood and teenage years to their fullest. She cheered on recreational, school, and competition teams from the age of 7 through Middle School, though she did not tumble due to her ankle. She spent three of her high school years in a pivotal roll on the kick-line of her schools Varsity Drill Team after rolling and damaging a tendon in her other ankle in tryouts the first year. She was not going to allow her ankles to stop her from being a part of something that was important to her though she knew it could cost her later down the line.
Two years ago the pain became unbearable. So, we were referred by the Chief of Orthopedics at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth who had done her second surgery in 2002 to an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas with fellowship training in foot and ankle surgery and degenerative conditions. After multiple visits, scans, x-rays, injections, and an ankle brace, it was determined that the best next step was to fuse the sub-talor joint that seemed to be the cause of the majority of her pain. So, in July of 2014, the fusion was completed. After 9 months of worse pain than she was in prior to surgery, a CT showed that the fusion did not take. She almost cried at the thought of going through another 9 months like the previous nine.
We chose to wait until the end of the school year and scheduled her most recent surgery for June 2015. This time they did a bone graft by taking bony material from below her knee, mixing it with a growth formula and injecting it into two mesh wedges created with a 3-D printer to fit in the place where her deteriorated talus should be. (Fascinating stuff! It almost seems like Science Fiction). they then took a long screw and inserted in from the heel up through her talus to hold everything in place and prayed the bone would grow this time.
God is good! We found out in late November that the bone is indeed growing. The one negative in the last 6 months is that the screw is right below the surface of her skin in the area of her heel where it strikes the ground when she walks. So, it’s causing a significant amount of pain. This morning at 7:30 am, they are taking out the screw and again we are praying it is going to make a significant difference in her ability to walk with minimal pain. Your prayers in this area are greatly appreciated. Her name is Chailey (pronounced “Kaylee”). She is a strong, beautiful woman of much faith, who has stood firm through many years of pain and suffering with this ankle. She is ready to move on to the next phase of her education and her life without the hindrance that this ankle has been for the past several years. I believe that my God is a healer who can and will give her the miracle that she needs here.
Thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy post and for your prayers. They mean so much.
Our tiny dancer is growing up right before our eyes. She has come so far from those first dance steps in a Mommy and Me class at 18 months of age where she was just learning to follow directions and wouldn’t leave her mothers side to venture onto the steps that would carry her across the floor on her own. It’s so hard to believe she will be 5 this winter. She is quite the little red headed firecracker. She loves to sing and dance. She dances around the house, twirling, bowing, and singing the songs she learned at Sunday school in what they call the Big God Story. It is just precious to hear her retell the stories and know that she understands the grace and mercies of God at such a young age. It makes me think of when Jesus said to his Disciples in Luke 18:16, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” We are his children and he delights in our dancing before his throne even as adults.