The Unequaled Influence of the Freaky Little Elf on the Shelf


With Christmas just around the corner, we have been reading the story of “The Elf on the Shelf,” which comes with a toy version of the elf.  Ours is called “Chippy”.  A name as irritating as his smirk.  Chippy sits quietly in various places around the house with that screwy smile on his face, and gathers counterintelligence for Santa. He then allegedly reports said intelligence to Santa personally, on a nightly basis by way of magical flight.  The point of this is quite clear, to influence behavior, turning naughty into nice out of concern for gift reduction.

In years past, I haven’t found Chippy to be particularly effective.  However, this year, my two charges (ages five and three), have stumbled upon a feature length, made-for-TV move about Chippy, Santa’s eavesdropping elf.  After the show, the five year old looked worriedly at our little elf, who sat leering down at us from a bookshelf, and then looked at me.  Wide eyed, he whispered, “Nanny…he’s really real!  I thought he was just a book!”

“He’s Weal.” whispered the three year old conspiratorially.

“That’s right, I said.  And he’s talking to Santa every single day, to let him know if you are being naughty or nice.”  Might as well ride this pony as far as it will go, I figured.

The tots looked anxious as they silently recounted their crimes for the day.  But lunchtime came, and their personal transgressions were quickly replaced by chicken nuggets…the absolute nectar of toddler-gods everywhere.

Immediately following lunch, as I bent over to pick up a dropped spoon, I spotted something strange under the table.  Sitting in an oddly perfect line, directly under the table leg, were a good number of carrots, two petrified meatballs and one mushy tomato.


I understood the strange scenario immediately.  “Sweetheart,” I said to the five year old boy.  Have you been hiding your food under the table?”

He smiled briefly, aware that he had been caught.  Then said, as if to ease my mind, “Don’t worry, Nanny.  I don’t hide the good stuff, only the icky stuff.  Besides, Mommy and Daddy don’t know I am hiding my food, so I still get a treat every day!”

“Ah-hah, I see…good plan, good plan.”  I say, nodding my head in agreement.  “But…what about Chippy?  He knows you are doing it, so that means Santa knows.”

He freezes, drops his dinosaur and sprints to the bookshelf where Chippy sits watching.  He is panicked and breathing hard, which gives me a moment to sneak up behind him with my phone and film the desperate plea for atonement that went something like this:  “I’m sorry I was naughty.  I really want dinosaurs for Christmas.  PLEASE tell Santa to put me back on the good list.”

Okay Chipster…I’ll give it to you.  Satisfactory work, given the circumstances.  However, those of us who slave away every  day, shaping the behavior of our world’s youth, cannot afford the luxury of doing so a measly 2-3 weeks a year.  No Sir!  No more seasonal work for little Mr. Chippy!  Our house elf will sport bunny ears, turkey feathers, a tooth collection bag, and he will spy for every gift giving figure known to modern man!

Then…and only then, you might begin to earn that wildly abrasive sneer you wear upon your little plastic face.

Eat Your Greens


Well, it’s Thanksgiving again, and my four year old charge is celebrating with out-of-town family members and friends.  The house is full of hungry people and buzzing with lively activity.  Proud Grandparents are doting on expectant children, and the enthusiastic tots screech and clamor for their attention.

My charge, who has been bellowing like some sort of injured animal, while simultaneously banging his older cousin over the head with a cardboard paper towel tube, suddenly stops in the center of the activity and begins to thoughtfully and aggressively excavate the contents of his nose.  After a good deal of burrowing, clawing and dredging, he locates a hidden treasure and holds it proudly upon his forefinger for all to admire.

At this point, there are clearly only two choices available to any four year old boy on earth:

1)  Eat it.

2)  Wipe it on one’s neighbor.

He is undoubtedly weighing his options as he looks back and forth from the gelatinous glob, to the back of his little sister’s holiday sweater.  However, number one most assuredly wins out, being the more tasty and most popular choice among most red blooded, American boys between the ages of two and ninety-six.

He slowly consumes the gooey treat right in front of the frozen, gaping group of family and friends.  The child’s achingly proper, southern grandmother clutches her chest in horror.  “Sweetheart!”  She gasps, “Don’t do that!”

He looks at her, a little startled by her dramatic reaction, and very calmly notes, “Nanny says if I want to grow big and strong, I have to eat all my green stuff.”

And there you have it…Another case of:  Right rule — slight miscalculation in the application thereof.

The Generational Gap

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

I know I said I would update on a bi-weekly basis, but occasionally, a little something happens that warrants sharing.  A few days ago, I was preparing my five year old charge for preschool.  Upon removing his pajamas, I made the same discovery I had been making the past month or so…a sagging 12lb ‘Pull-Up’ (‘Pull-Up’: proper noun/ disposable training pants for toddlers, that pull up and down like regular underwear).  This was most definitely not this child’s prior norm, so I decided to approach the subject with him…AGAIN!

“Uhm…Sweetheart?  I began.  I see that your ‘Pull-Up’ is really full of pee pee again this morning.”

“Uhm-hum,” he grunted in response, absently pressing icons on his iPad.

“Well…I went on.  Don’t you feel it when your pee pee needs to come out at night?”

“Uhm-hum,” he grunted again without removing his eyes from his beloved iPad.

“Okay…well…remember when you feel like your pee pee needs to come out, that means it’s time to get up and go to the potty.  Then you won’t need these ‘Pull-Ups’ at night any more, and…”

Here he interrupts my speech by turning from his iPad and facing me with a huge sigh and roll of his eyes.  He is clearly emotionally exhausted by the entire conversation as he silently pleads with me, hands extended in front of him, palms up.  Very dramatic.

“Look Nanny, he almost moans.  When it’s nighttime, I’m tired.  I really can’t be bothered with all the hustle and bustle.”

With that, he turned back to his iPad.  Conversation over.

“All the hustle and bustle?  Really?”

Okay, I get the whole generational gap here, and understand that there are a good number of things that I am not hip enough to grasp.  But, could someone please tell me when emptying one’s bladder became such a fatiguing affair?

Lastly, I think someone out there ought to get busy inventing ‘Pull-Ups’ for teenagers, because this one might just refuse the “hustle and bustle” for a long time to come.

Anatomically Correct Primate Genitalia

IMG_3255Today the children and I are visiting the zoo, and as luck would have it, the temperature is a brisk 96 degrees in the shade, with 87% humidity. The children love the zoo, and we visit often. Oddly enough, some of their favorite attractions are the many life sized bronze animal statues that are scattered around the park. These seem to have more of a draw than the actual live animals. Children climb and play on the statues, and there is quite a bit of whining and complaining when it is suggested that we move forward.

Unfortunately, I find myself in a repeated sticky situation when we go to the zoo, and it begins on the thickly forested path called “Primate Pass.” This winding path leads directly to the newly redone chimpanzee habitat, and is lined with several life-size bronze chimpanzee statues in various natural poses. It wasn’t until I walked along “Primate Pass” for the first time, that I realized a full grown, male chimpanzee, in a standing position, is approximately the size of a human adult. The statues are (of course) anatomically correct, and there is one particularly large male statue, posed in a very manly stance, directly at the path’s edge.

The two children in my charge at this time, are drawn to this strapping fellow like a magnet to metal. They cannot help themselves. They run straight for the giant pendulous testicular area, which happens to be directly at face level for small children. They fondle, hang from, and poke at the thing with sticks, while people walk by, and either comment to one another, or avoid eye contact, rushing past as quickly as possible. On this particular day, I am dealing with the situation by standing on the opposite side of the path, directly across from the children, studying a nearby plant with great intensity. I try to notice every minute detail. It’s so…green and…leafy. I’m thinking this might make people believe the children belong with somebody else.

“Nanny!” shout’s the four year old. People on the path look around to see who he is calling.

Rats! I’ve been outed.  “Yes, what is it?” I ask.

“Look at this!” he shouts, at a decibel high enough to cover the entirety of “Primate Pass.” “This monkey’s berries are SO much bigger than daddy’s!”

I instantly close my eyes and say a small prayer, “Dear God, I would appreciate it if you would turn me into a small birdie immediately. And, by the way…isn’t it time for cross continental migration?” I peek with one eye. Not only has the prayer not worked, the entire exchange has been overheard by everyone on the path. A few folks are giggling behind their hands, several have shocked looks on their faces, and one elderly woman sitting on a bench, clutches her handbag in horror and utters, “My Word!”

I am aware that I am sweating profusely as I make a curt “let’s go” gesture with my hand and turn to leave the area, hoping just this once, the two tots will follow, no questions asked. As if on cue, the two year old hits the ground and let’s go with an ear splitting, snot slinging temper tantrum. So much for skulking out quietly. As usual, I must pick up and carry the kicking, spitting child from the area. I (very firmly) instruct her elder sibling to follow silently. Also, as per usual, the two year old is not going without a fight. Today she grabs the huge, pendulous “monkey berries” with a death grip, and we have a short game of tug-of-war before I am able to pry her little hands from the bronze genitalia. The crowd stares on, frozen in amazement, or is it amusement?

It is a 25 minute hike back to the parking lot (even when achieved in double time). We exit the zoo like an enraged marching band. People move aside and gawk at us as we stomp by, the two year old slung over my shoulder military style, still kicking and screaming, and the four year old, now screaming from behind. I, however, have the slightest grin on my sweaty face, and as I buckle the four year old into his car seat, I say, “I can’t wait to tell your daddy about today. He will be so pleased and proud.”