Two years ago, we introduced Elf on a Shelf to our family’s holiday traditions. We love it. It’s a lot of fun and the kids are thrilled for the hunt for “Butchie” every morning between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.
The premise is that Butchie is magic and travels back to the North Pole every night to report your good behavior to Santa, and arrives back to your house before you awake in the morning. He camps out in a different spot each day, and if you find him in the same spot as the night before, that means he had nothing good to report to Santa and you better get your act together or you’re looking at coal, kid. (It’s a real shame when we forget to move the elf and the kids behaved well the day before. They get very confused. Only happened once this season – which is pretty impressive given the insanity we went through!)
This tradition was easy enough to pull off when we lived on the East Coast and all our holiday traveling was done by car, was within 90 minutes of our house and required no overnight trips. Butchie just popped around the Jenkintown house.
Going from Oregon to the East Coast? Butchie added a layer of complexity to our travel plans. Yep. We had to sneakily pack this little guy in our suitcase to keep the tradition alive, because there’s no part of the book that tells you what happens if you are traveling thousands of miles to celebrate Christmas. Can he pack it in when we leave, make a call based on average behavior during the holiday season to date and put in a solid recommendation to the Big Guy? Probably not.
Here’s the thing about Butchie – he’s magic and you cannot touch him lest you rub off some of his magic. We don’t want any crash landings on the nightly trips to and from the North Pole. Soooo…we had to keep the the hide and seek activity going straight through the night before we left to come home. We had to set him up for the kids to find him in the morning. We then had to remember to sneak back upstairs to pack him in the suitcase.
Mission accomplished. Butchie made it from Portland, Oregon to my parents’ house in Mays Landing, NJ.
Epic Fail. He did NOT make it from Mays Landing, NJ to Kenny’s parents’ house in Warrington, PA. We forgot to bring him with us. Is that unbelievable? He travels across the country and we forget him for the two and a half hour car ride between our parents’ houses? By the time we realized we forgot him, we were too far to turn back.
Improv. We decided we’d purchase another Elf on the Shelf. I said to Kenny, “Oh, this will be good because when the kids are grown up, we can give them each one to continue the tradition if they have their own families.” He laughed and replied, “You must be in Communications. Nice spin job on an unnecessary $30 purchase.”
Later that day we headed out to Target and picked up a new Elf. We got him home and took him out of the box. Hmmm. This one looked liked he’d spent the off season in Aruba. He was tanner than Butchie and had lighter hair. No worries. We’ll put him up high and the kids won’t notice.
Dead Wrong. The kids darted down the steps the next morning to search for Butchie. Kenny stayed in bed for a few extra minutes, so it was just me and them.
Gavin: “Mom, there’s Butchhhh… Mom. Why does this Butchie have brown hair?”
Grace: “Let me see. Oh, he tan. Mom, where Butchie?”
Me: “That IS Butchie. I think he’s so high up that he just looks different to you.” See what I did right there? Verbalizing our plan in order to convince them that this was, in fact, Butchie.
They started playing. Grace wandered back over to the area where Imposter Butchie #1 was hanging out. “Mom, why Butchie not come back today?” Sigh. “This IS Butchie.” I stayed the course. She went back to playing.
Kenny came bounding down the steps a few minutes later, and was greeted by the morning chorus of “Dad, come see where Butchie is.” However, this morning, it was quickly followed up with “But he looks weird.” “Yeah, he tan.” “And, he has brown hair. Not black hair like Butchie.” I sat on the couch, waiting for Kenny to reinforce our story.
Here’s what came out of his mouth, “Oh. Maybe Butchie was on a secret mission and sent one of his buddies.” WHAT?! This was so far off the story, it needed its own publisher. This, of course, not only made me look like the liar I was, but it also invited eleventy more questions about the secret mission. I left Kenny there to defend his own lie. Sucker.
Onto Plan C. Since we still had about 80% of our shopping to complete on Thursday, we decided we’d just check for a Butchie with black hair. We realized that the boxes are marked on the side to share details about the elves: Skin, Hair, Eyes. All of the boxes we found in multiple stores where marked Light, Brown, Blue. HOWEVER, upon opening them for inspection, we discovered each of these attributes could mean a number of colors along a spectrum. Hence, our mistake with the first replacement. Dark blue eyes, light brown hair, light skin. Darker, but still light skin, peach cheeks, freckle nose, bright blue eyes, blackish hair. We sat on the floor in the Hallmark store and went through at least 30 boxes until we found an elf that most closely matched Butchie. I got a disapproving look from one weary, snobbish shopper. Whatevs, lady – this is not exactly what I chose to be doing tonight. Almost a match – he was *slightly* different than ours, but we couldn’t pinpoint why and figured he matched well enough. He was 99% better than the first replacement.
Rounding Out the Ridiculousness / Third Elf is the Charm. So now we needed a way to reintroduce Butchie after we were busted. Sound crazy? Yes. We are absolutely crazy. We couldn’t stop laughing at ourselves because of the lengths we were going to to keep this facade going on top of the insanity of trying to do ALL of our Santa shopping in three days. We got a card and hand wrote a note to the kids from Butchie explaining that he was sent on a secret mission for Santa and that his buddy Albert filled in for him yesterday. They bought it. For the most part. Leave it to the little elf detectives to nail what the difference was: there were a few comments related to ‘why his eyes so blue?’ but we just ignored them. Real Butchie apparently has smaller irises than Imposter Butchie #2. Sigh. Regardless, we’re now on day two with Imposter Butchie #2 and there were no comments.
Imposter Butchies #1 and #2: