Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dash: Behind The Magic

There have been a few links of Facebook lately about the Elf on the Shelf that were quite funny.  You can read them here and here

This link was actually posted on my wall by a friend of mine and she commented on how she thought I should do 'behind the scenes' and it got me thinking.  I've heard from a few moms about how they want to do something similar in the coming years so I thought I should give you all a glimpse behind the curtain. 

I discovered Elf on the Shelf through Pinterest in October.  I wasn't sure what it was all about and when I asked on Facebook I got an answer.  It peaked my interest (wonder if that's where the term Pinterest came from, peaked interest??), so I looked into it more, and I knew this was a must do! 

Now, I could have made it easy and stuck to the original story of the elf flies to the North Pole every night and lands in a different spot each morning, but where's the fun in that?!?  If you're planning on starting this tradition I Highly recommend going this route the first year or two until you feel brave enough to try to make your elf get into things. 

For those of you who know me know I'm organized. I like my lists!  So, when I started thinking about what all I wanted the elf to do I made lists, and lists, and some more lists.  I easily came up with over 100 ideas of the things the elf could do.  Some good for this year while others for when the kids get older.  After I came up with my 100+ ideas (some I stole from forums, sites, blogs, etc and some I came up with on my own) I narrowed it down to the top 30 ideas.  I then pre-planned what the elf was going to do when.  I know this seems a little much but let me tell you!!

Lynden goes to bed at 8.  By 8:30 he's decided he needs to go pee at least twice.  By 9 he's told us "I hungy" enough times that we give in and give him a snack.  Sometime between 9:30-9:45 he's asleep.  Around 10 we go to bed.  Usually at 9:59, as I'm walking into the bedroom, it dawns on me "the damned elf!". 

This is where I wish I had just decided to move him to a new spot every night.  But no, it wasn't good enough for me.

This is where the pre-planned calendar of events comes in handy.  I know what the elf is going to do and when.  It's not written in stone though, things change, like our impromptu trip to the Island at the beginning on the month.  This is also why I had a top 30 list instead of just 24, in case I needed to improvise.  Dash skiing was not in any of my original plans; however it was on my list in a different fashion (he was going to ski down the stairs). 

There's the times where I know when and what the elf is doing and he won't cooperate.  After Lynden's last skating lesson Dash was suppose to make an ice rink of the table and play hockey with the hockey stick candy canes.  Dash would NOT cooperate, no matter what I tried to do with him.  I couldn't get him to stand, sit, hold the stick, nothing!  I think that was the night Dash was found reading under the tree.

I had decided a while ago that Dash was going to undergo surgery during the off season (he needs pipe cleaner wires put into him so I can actually get him to do what I want him to) so if you want an elf that does stuff pre-plan for some frustrations.  As great as the elf is he's just got cardboard in his arms and legs that don't allow much for making him stay in a position.  I don't know how some of the other moms out there get their elves to do some of the crazy things they do. 

Setting Dash up every night isn't the hard part.  It's photographing him. 

I take the photos at night because Lynden is quick to undo everything in the morning, and depending on what Dash does sometimes it has to be dismantled right away.  When Dash fixed the toys I had to take the batteries away so Alyssa didn't chew on them (and she was awake that morning 30 minutes before Lynden and I had to occupy her in Lynden's room until he woke up).  Taking photos at night is not the easiest thing; the house is half dark and Dash's eyes reflect the flash.  I need to find the right aperture, setting, flash option, and angle to avoid the white reflection back in the eyes all while trying to get a photo I like.  I take 20 or more photos each night and in the morning I upload them and play with them to find the best shot.  Occasionally I get lucky and I only need to take 3 or 4 pictures to get good shots. 

The hardest pictures to take are the ones in Lynden's room (the train and piggy bank) because the only light in there was from Lynden's nightlight on the other side of the room and the train table is awkward to avoid. 

One of the links talks about why would you make a mess that you just have to clean up?  I agree!!  Why make more work for yourself.  Until Lynden and Alyssa are older and able to clean up the mess the elf makes ( in the letter from Santa he says helping to clean up is a good way to stay on the nice list) any messes made will be small ones, like when he got into the cereal box.  All the cereal on the table was scooped into Lynden's cereal bowl that morning.  See, I was thinking.

It's all about the planning.  If I had jumped in with both feet and improvised as I went along I'd be exhausted from trying to come up with something every night.  Thankfully, I have a game plan that helps me decide what Dash can and cannot do.  I even have an emergency plan for if I get too overwhelmed; Dash would be called back to the North Pole for some reason or another and would return a few nights later (with Christmas goodies from Mrs.Claus).  I suggest all parents have a plan like this just in case - it gets you off the hook for a few nights. 

Thankfully I haven't even thought about using my emergency plan.  I've really enjoyed having Dash here, as has Lynden.  He will be coming back next year (improved) with more tricks up his sleeves and with a friend.  

For any of you who are thinking about starting this tradition feel free to ask for suggestions (as I said I have over 100 ideas and getting more seeing what others are doing), any questions, and/or comments you have.

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