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The Elf on The Shelf: A New Holiday Tradition

Updated on June 22, 2014
Janine Huldie profile image

Janine is a published author in Only Trollops Shave Above the Knees, appears on The Huffington Post and at Confessions of A Mommyaholic.

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A few years back when my oldest was born, my mother-in-law gave us an Elf stuffed animal and a book called The Elf on the Shelf that went with. Little did I know then, the crazed frenzy that would hit in the next few years from this little toy. Seems crazy, but for the past few years, this little Elf has been the sanity check for most moms and dads too, who are trying to keep their kids well behaved during the holiday season.

Many do know what I am talking about, but for those who don’t, you may be asking, how can a small elf toy keep my kids from misbehaving? Better yet, you may be asking what is the Elf on the Shelf?

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The Legend

For those not familiar, The Elf on the Shelf is a toy Elf and book set, which is written by Carol Aebersold. Before, one begins to even use the Elf with their child or childen, they are supposed to first read the book as a family. The book explains the Elf is sent by Santa to find out who is being naughty or nice. The Elf is supposed to return each night to the North Pole to let Santa know who has been good or bad. And then finds his way back home to start all over the next day continuing this journey each day and night until Christmas Eve. The Elf is supposed to possess magic powers, but is not supposed to be touched.

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The Reality

The reality, here, is this was created for the sole purpose of parents trying to make sure their kids maintain good behavior for the holiday season. The old adage, that many generations, have been heard saying and thus even a song was created about, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” with the very famous lyric, “He knows when you are good or bad” for years and years now. With this latest fad, the parents move the Elf each night to a new hiding place in order to keep this charade up. In doing this, it creates the illusion that Santa is watching through his tiny helper the “Elf”. Therefore, the kids have someone on this inside so to speak watching their daily behavior and reporting it back to Santa Claus. So, if they do want to be rewarded on Christmas morning, they better be good for goodness sake!


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How This Craze Swept the Masses:

Most of us are on Social Media Networks, including Facebook and Twitter. On the sites during this time of the year, your feed most likely will be inundated with Elf on the Shelf antics from many parents, who are just trying to keep little Sally and Johnny from acting up.

Many will post pictures of crazy Elf antics daily. Bloggers have written whole posts on this and there are even whole Blogs, such as Elf Shaming dedicated to the Elf on the Shelf.

One blogger (Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat) actually became famous last year for her controversial post on critiquing another bloggers Elf on the Shelf post. She went on to write and publish her own book on Amazon from this.

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How You Can Use This Information

If you are a parent and never tried this, try to keep it simple. I have seen and heard some crazy things being done with the Elf on the Shelf and for the sake of this article try to keep it family oriented. Also, as a mother and the one who does most of the housework, I refuse to make more of a mess than it is worth.

Quite simply, I will not have our Elf doing anything that requires that I have to clean up after him, such as have him write all over my photographs, have him put food and crumbs all over the place, have him dirty anything that needs to be cleaned with a mop or any sort of cleaning products.

I have enough things to do throughout my day that I, for sure, am not adding to my never ending list of chores. More power to you if you are willing to do this, but I will not be suggesting these kind of activities here.


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Five Creative Things I Have Had Our Elf (Named Gingerbread by my older Daughter) Do:

  1. Sat him on the top of the Christmas Tree along with our tree topper and said he is our new star of the day.
  2. Had him sit on top of our spice rack and told my girls he is spicing up their lives
  3. Sat him on our rocking chair and told them he was rocking their world.
  4. I have a KitchenAid mixer and had ours hanging from it and said that he was mixing things up
  5. Put our snow globe in his lap and let them think he was trying to make it snow for them.

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In Conclusion:

The holiday season has just begun and these are just a few of the things I have done so far. This is really the first year that my kids have been old enough to play along with this game, so my list is still fairly short and still winging it at this point. They are young though and think at this point, it is pretty easy to convince them. I am sure as they get older, I will have to be a bit more creative, but I guess that is a bridge I will have to cross then.

At this point though, I am able to keep it quite simple and am thankful for that. But I will admit, I do not see myself ever being the type to indeed make any real messes with this Elf even for creativity’s sake and to keep the charade going for children who are too smart for their own good.

And for all those out there, I wish you a very, happy healthy holiday and hope if you try this that you will have some fun with it, too!

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Watch a Clip from The Elf on the Shelf

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About The Author:

Janine is a freelance writer and mom of two. She is known for being a stay at home mom to two beautiful little girls right now. Life can totally get hectic and has learned to perfect and improvise all day and night too, because of this. You can checkout her profile and more of her family related articles here.

Are you interested in writing for Hubpages? You can sign up today and publish your first article!

© 2012 Janine Huldie

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    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Love it and hope you enjoy as much as we do this upcoming Christmas!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Definitely gonna get this elf loaded and introduce him to a life of debauchery!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      I know they are truly so much fun!! :)

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      McKenna 3 years ago

      I want a elf

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Glad you were able to find out about the Elf and seriously so happy share this here with all!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      That Is really cute. I had heard of this before, but never inquired as to what it was all about!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh thanks so very much again Ish. I truly appreciate your kind words, votes and shares, too!!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      What a cute tradition! I enjoyed learning a lot from your engaging hub. In the future when I have kids of my own, I would like to adopt this sweet tradition. Your dividers are adorable. Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & shared on Facebook

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Becky, thanks and glad to help explain this new tradition to you and everyone else. Merry Christmas!!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Just recently found out about the little Elf and your hub succeeded in clarifying it. Thanks and have a great day.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Awesome challenge (for a wonderful cause) and if I wasn't so busy with Christmas and stuff right now, might have had to tried it myself. So happy to share and hope you can try this one with your nieces and nephews. hugs back at you!!

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Janine,

      What a darling tradition that I had not yet heard of...I will have to look into this for my great nieces and nephews. Thank you.

      At Honey BB's challenge, this is the 3rd of 26 hubs I will read today. This one is in honor of Rachel Davino (7-17-83) and may her soul rest in peace.

      Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family. Hugs, Maria

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh no worries Cyndi, you could always try this one out next year. You also could do a whole pictures series with this little guy alone :) :)

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Dang, I should have read this hub earlier. I kept hearing about Elf on the Shelf, but I didn't know much about it. Who knew!? It seems like a fun idea, though. Pretty inventive. ;)

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thank you Docmo and glad to share and pass on your way!!!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 4 years ago from UK

      Ho ho ho, I'm loving this elf on the shelf craze. Thanks for enlightening me on this trend Janine, I can always count on you for curious, creative ideas.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Eddy and totally here you on hectic. About to start one of those days in a few minutes. Send you lots of love and thanks again my friend!!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Oh yes Janine I loved this one and so do many others obviously. This past week has been so hectic but I have a day at home today to catch up .

      Have a great weekend my dear friend.

      Eddy.

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      You are too kind Denise and just catching up before bed tonight. I just want to thank you so very much again. I truly appreciate your kind words here and how you are always so very nice to me. Thank you!!!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Janine-as a mother of two young kids and a house to care for AND all the other things that go with it...not being creative with an elf is the least of your worries. So, no 'shoulds' allowed! Especially around the holidays. Relax and enjoy. That's the only thing that matters. :)

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh thanks for sharing about Cara. The marshmallows sounded adorable. I should be more creative I totally grant you that, but doesn't seem to be enough time in the day around here. That said I truly appreciate your kindness as always and the votes ,too. Also have to find Cara's hub and read!!!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Janine-I first heard of the Elf on the Shelf from hubber Cardelean. She also happens to be my big kid and let me in on the secret of the little elf in their house. In fact, I think she also has a hub out on the subject.

      You made some good points here to keep it simple, especially when first starting out. After the kids come to expect the little guy to be around and get into the swing of things, parents can get more creative.

      Cara's first appearance this year for Mr Elf was in the bathroom sink sitting in a bowl full of marshmallow 'suds'. It was adorable, (she facebooked the photo), and the kids were so excited.

      If you're too tired to get really creative, just keep him moving-that's the main thing. Thanks for the fun hub-UP and I/U/A

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Dianna and so very happy to share with you the tale of the Elf. I, too, saw Linda's ceiling fan picture and loved it!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Janine, this is the first I have heard of this elf. How interesting and yet - it's a fun way to make the time before Christmas exciting for children (and adults!). I saw one on Sunshine's ceiling fan the other day!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh thanks Crystal Tatum for sharing. My Elf is a bit of loser and lame, because I truly on't have the time nor the energy to do some of the crazier things, but love hearing all the stories. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Elf on the Shelf has indeed become very popular. I have several family members who use it with their kids and they come up with all kinds of creative positions, including teepeeing the Christmas tree, and leaving the roll of toilet paper in the elf's hand, so it looks like he did it! I know the kids love it.

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Pete and trust me by next year you will definitely be able to do this with your little guy and can't wait to see some of the stuff you come up with. My pleasure sharing this and thank you seriously for the read and votes, too!!

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 4 years ago from Virginia

      I can't wait to try this Janine, looks like a lot of fun! Have you seen some of the facebook post of this elf? Some of these guys really like to party! Great post, voted up!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Robie and glad your daughter is enjoying her new elf too, but do understand your feelings on this too!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks so very much Glimmer Twin Fan. I appreciate you reading and sharing and all your kindness here as always!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh thanks Ruchira and happy to hear your son has an elf and you, too have an elf. Sounds like you too are doing a great job with this!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks so very much Terrye and think Colin would so enjoy it. My girls love Gingerbread and I do too, because it truly has given me just a bit of my sanity back, too!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Michelle and I am telling you I think it would work wonders with Cloudy. Seriously, it couldn't hurt!!! thanks again my friend!!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thank you so very much Audra and can't say that enough. I truly had so much fun writing this one, because it was so inspired by my kids. I am so happy you enjoyed and that you will share it with your friends, too!! You are just too kind :) :)

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      OH MY, my girl received her elf yesterday from a friend, and it all begins!

      She already wrote her (it's a girl elf) a note and got a note back, and I started the "fun" tradition of figuring out exciting things he'll do every night... Not sure I like the present as much as her! lol

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This was great. I keep seeing pics of friends elves in various places! Unfortunately my daughter is probably too old for this now. It would have been a fun tradition. Shared and voted up. Love your dividers!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Well after reading your blog about this earlier...I have started to pretend that I have a personal elf and yes, he is watching me :)

      My kid, who is 9 still believes in santa and have passed on the baton of having an elf around him as well :) He seems more confident about himself. As of now...it is boosting his spirits.

      Thanks Janine. wonderful hub!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      A good friend of mine introduced me to The Elf on the Shelf last year and I think it's so cute! I think this year, Collin might actually enjoy it! Great hub, Janine! Voted up and shared. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Now Mr. Elf is a really useful guy. Is there a version for naughty dogs too? I will include it in my next hub on dogs!! I will tell my dogs that he will bite their tails if they are naughty. ;-) Seriously, a cute and interesting post as usual from you, and I will share all over.

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      AudraLeigh 4 years ago

      Hi there! I really loved this hub! I will share it with my many friends who are Moms (full-time jobs)! Love your borders that format your hub so well!!! Love that you named your Elf Gingerbread!!! And the snow globe...awesome!!! Great job...need to share!!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thank you so very much Gypsy Rose Lee for your kind comment, votes and share, too!!!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. Sounds like a lot of fun. The more elves the merrier. Passing this on.

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh thanks so very much Always Exploring and so happy to share this with you and everyone else, too!!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is such a cute idea, it's new to me. I can see how it would work if the child really believed. Thank you for sharing..

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Lipnancy and so very true about just being slightly creative, because I am totally not the most creative person trust me on that!!

    • Janine Huldie profile image
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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Oh Nell you had me cracking up and you really would have had a blast with this one with your son. Thanks seriously for reading and commenting, too!!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      This sounds like so much fun. Really you only have to be a little bit creative to make a child's Christmas special.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      What great fun, just watch out for elf and safety! haha! I know, old joke but I still love it! my son is now an adult, I am missing out big time! lol!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Julie and I am truly glad to share and explain this little guy to others who may not know much about him or even those who may know, but would love to hear more about this.

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      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      I am seeing this elf all over Facebook at the moment and at last, someone has sort of explained the background to the original little elf and all of these new somewhat naughty elves in the internet. Great hub Janine, you sound like you are giving your girls a nice Christmas memory for the future and he's a little cutie!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Martin, my pleasure in sharing and thanks for reading and commenting too!!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you. This is the first I've heard of this. But my kids are grown now.

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks so much DzyMsLizzy and can totally understand your approach and sounds like it worked for your kids and happy to hear how you all celebrated. Thank you so very much fro sharing. This actually only really became big last year. My girls are 3 years old and 2 years old and thought I would give it a try with them. They get such a kick out of it and Santa, too. I totally melts my heart seeing their excitement!! Thanks so very much for the votes, too!!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Interesting. This must be relatively new. My "kids" are in their early to mid 40's at this point, and I'd never heard of this tradition. I'm not sure I'd have used it anyway.

      I approached the Santa (and Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) things a bit differently. I recall how very DEVASTATED I was upon discovering the truth that "Santa" was really your parents....So, I vowed that my kids would never know that disappointment.

      From the get-go, they knew Santa was "just a fun game EVERYONE plays during the holiday season." The "from Santa" gifts were usually just silly little extras, not any of the major gifts. That way, they got the best of both sides--they got to enjoy the experience, while avoiding the disappointment in later years.

      Voted up and interesting.

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Nellieanna. I am not sure to be honest, I have a 3 year old and 2 year old and they lack control right now to the fullest, but am sure as they get older I will be able to answer that question better. Seriously thank you though for your kindness.

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Sorry that i let the cat out of the bag Richard, but just couldn't help myself. I guess I am just a loud mouth gossip, lol!! Seriously thank you so very much and glad you enjoyed!!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Terrye and your friend isn't alone there is a whole craze about this. I am doing it for the first time this year, but I just can't do the half of the things I have seen, because they really are so over the top. Happy to share a bit more here though!!

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      Nellieanna Hay 4 years ago from TEXAS

      Janine, it's cute as can be and another obviously effective control myth which spares parents. But when or how do children learn from it to behave because it's the right thing to do and begin to learn to monitor their own behavior whenever & wherever self-control is called for - as it inevitably will be?

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      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      OMG - The secret's finally out! For years, we were told simply that Santa had a way of knowing who'd been good or bad. There was a mystique to the wonderment of how he did it. Oh, our parents used to threaten us in stores about telling Santa we'd been bad if we whined about a certain toy, but we still didn't know if the power was in a phone call or something greater! Only God was all knowing, but here was a fat man in a red suit that somehow had the ability to know things, too! Now, it's completely understandable! Great post, Janine!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      My friend, Heather (and one of our fellow bloppy bloggers) introduced me to this cute little Elf last Christmas. Her son is addicted. Great hub, Janine! :)

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Bill and this only became huge last year, but now in the parenting and grand-parenting world, he is everywhere. Most just can't escape it!!

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks Linda. I knew I could trust you!!!

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Honestly, I have never heard of this; what a cute and rather bizarre tradition. Sheez, I'm kind of glad my son is grown up. :)

      Thanks for the fun information; I'll be in the lookout for the elf from now on.

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      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Your Elf's secret is safe with me :)

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      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Thanks and I love you Linda. Seriously I need your energy on this. Please pass some this way. I have to be honest and tell you my Elf has been lazy lately moving from shelf to shelf!! Shh, don't tell anyone!!

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      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I just don't understand why parents or grandparents would have their elf misbehave, that's just telling kids that even though you are suppose to behave for the elf, it's ok if he's a bit naughty? Huh? Like swinging on a ceiling fan or sunning himself in a pool? What's this grandma thinking! :) I think the Elf is more fun for the adults! Excellent hub!