How Elf on a Shelf saved this mother’s sanity…

Harried for the Holidays

Growing up, I could never understand why my mother hated the holidays. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. She was constantly stressed and would regularly threaten to not put up the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, every year was a perfect Christmas for my brother, sister and I. There were presents under the tree, a huge celebration at our home complete with tons of relatives and ridiculous amounts of food, and of course, the tree was always beautifully decorated.

Fast forward to 2012 and I finally get it. Among the usual craziness of being a working mom, coordinating my daughter Hayden’s schedule and attempting to remain a somewhat caring wife- Now, I have to find time to decorate my home with cheesy snowman inspired motif, buy tons of “thoughtful” presents, figure out which family we’re going to spend holidays with (Oh, the never ending in-law decisions) and attempt to be overly cheerful all the while. Somewhere in there I need to remember to teach Hayden about what Christmas and goodwill is really all about. No wonder my mom was miserable…and she did it with three screaming kids.

I’ve found one saving grace to get me through the holiday season. His name is Mr. Friendly. He is the Elf on a Shelf.

God bless Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell they are the mother’s who came up with the theory of having a magical elf show up at your house the month before Christmas. In 2005, these two women self published a book that came along in a box set with an elf. The book explains that the elf cannot be touched, doesn’t speak and every night flies back to the North Pole and tells Santa whether your child has been good or bad. That will decide if the kid will get presents on Christmas morning.  Every morning he is in a new “hiding” place that the child has to find. That elf, which in our home is named Mr. Friendly, has become my best friend. Every time my daughter raises her voice, doesn’t put away her toys, cries for no reason- I yell out “Mr. Friendly!!” and like a magical “off” switch, she stops and pleads for me “not to tell on her”.

Here is a list of quotes I’ve used so far this year:

“Hayden, if you don’t put your clothes back on, I’m going to take a picture of you and show it to Mr. Friendly and tell him that you only need clothes for Christmas- no toys”

“Hayden, if you don’t go to sleep right now, Mr. Friendly will miss his bus back to the North Pole and Santa will think he was in a terrible accident- and that you’re a bad girl”

“Hayden, if you don’t finish your broccoli, Mr. Friendly will tell Santa to wrap it up for you and give it to you on Christmas morning instead of presents”

And a personal favorite…

“Hayden, if I have to tell you one more time to put your toys away, Mr. Friendly will tell Santa to take all your toys away on Christmas, not bring new ones”

Granted, if I was more of a disciplinary parent, perhaps I wouldn’t have to rely on a magical toy to control my child- but hey, it is what it is. If I can get through the holidays with a little help from a six inch tall creepy looking elf- then so be it. I’ve teamed up with the other mothers and we all collectively rely on our elves. We’re having a blast comparing where our elves “hide”. 

I think the next million dollar idea is to create a creepy toy for every holiday that “watches” over our kids. Will they grow up with a strange Big Brother complex? Sure, but it’s a small price to pay for some relaxation throughout the year. I’ve come up with a few ideas:

“Hip Hop Rabbit”– This spunky stuffed bunny is not only a lyrical rap genius, but also monitors whether Snoop Easter Bunny will deliver an Easter basket to the good children. 

“Memorial Monster”– This scary stuffed monster (complete with life like saliva that oozes from his mouth) lives either in the closet or under your child’s bed and if they misbehave they will not bring hot dogs and hamburgers on Memorial Day.

“Freedom Fighter”– This GI Joe figure stands guard with his rifle in hand to monitor every good and bad move your child makes. If one too many wrong doings occur, say good bye to fireworks on the Fourth of July…for the entire nation.

I haven’t patented any of these amazing ideas yet- so in the meantime, I will stick with my Elf on a Shelf. I’m running out of Mr. Friendly hiding places- Can anybody give me some ideas? Leave them in the comments section!

Anna Sforza-ZapotoskyAnna Zap is an on-air personality with Connecticut radio station Star 99.9. She has performed stand-up comedy all over New York City, Westchester County and Fairfield County. Make sure to check out her obscured views of Connecticut at and her adventures in motherhood at Her most important role though is as a Mommy to her beautiful three year old daughter Hayden, and wife of seven years to her college sweetheart, Paul. Together, they are making it in Fairfield County. Follow Anna on Twitter @AnnaZapOnAir.

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