It's the 1st December, and in my house that means only one thing - the arrival of our elves.
Now before you roll your eyes and start muttering about people taking something fun and magical and using it for bribery and corruption, rest assured that our elves are here for fun only. They don't report back to Father Christmas or advise him on whether my kids are naughty or nice. They do mischievous things like eating my husband's advent calendar chocolate, or fun things like playing board games with the other toys.
My kids love it - so much, that last year we had to steal Grandma's decorative elf (which, rather handily, was the same as our elf George Jingle) in a bid to reduce the sibling rivalry over who got to the elf first. Now George brings his cousin Jim Jingle with him on his visits to our house, and my two smalls get an elf pal each to tote around and cuddle.
And that's another thing we do slightly differently - the typical 'rule' about Christmas elves is that you cannot touch them or their magic goes away. No such rule here! My daughter has gone to sleep this evening clutching both elves (I had to prise them out of her vice-like grip), and our elves frequently come out on outings with us in December.
Having two house-elves with us for 24 days certainly isn't easy - this is our third year, and I'm scraping the barrel for ideas of what the elves can do each evening (and in fact have zero clue what I'm going to get them to do tonight... better sort that out sharpish). I make my life slightly easier by having them bring advent calendars on night 1, and on the 23rd they leave us a Christmas Eve box. Some nights I delegate responsibility to my husband - and he tends to go for the toilet humour sort of stuff that 5 and 3 year olds find hilarious (like George Jingle pooping DUPLO blocks in the potty).
Another issue is that our elves aren't posable like some others, so in the past we've had to get creative with sellotape (which has raised questions from the littles). That was after a few incidents where we propped George up only to find in the morning that he looked like he'd cracked open the brandy overnight.
Other than having to think up ever more exciting japes for them as well as ways to imaginatively (and invisibly) pose them, they're actually easy house guests to have. There have been a few occasions where I've been tucked up cosy and warm in bed and have had to get back up as I've realised that I haven't sorted the %#~€£¥ elves, but often the simple ones are the ones that my children enjoy the most (usually it involves a bunch of toys playing with cars / tool kits / games / jigsaw puzzles / bicycles - and if your children have anywhere near as many toys as mine, you'll have an inexhaustible list of ideas).
The only word of caution I would give is - once your elves have left, make sure you hide them well. My husband was in charge of putting George away one year - which amounted to him flinging him on his office desk and forgetting about him. Until my son saw him and started shrieking excitedly that George had come back. Didn't make that mistake again.
Right now, elf duty calls, but I'm going to update the CalmFamily blog regularly with details of what George and Jim have been up to - starting tomorrow, when I've (hopefully) thought of something before I head to bed tonight! Wish me luck...
Last night, George and Jim got a bit peckish and decided to raid the kitchen cupboards. Seems they've got good taste. This was a husband suggestion because I (rather shamefully, considering we're only on day 2 - and actually it's really only day 1 as the first night just involved plonking them down with some advent calendars) was too tired to think about what they could do.
My two loved this one - lots of shrieking and excitement, and we got dragged out of bed to see what the elves had done. My 3 year old also had stern words with the elves about not making lots of mess (shame she doesn't listen to her own advice, really)...!
George and Jim and their pals, Frozen the spinosaurus (no prizes for guessing what my 3 year old's current obsession is) and Sabre-Tooth the sabre-toothed cat (my 5 year old is all about original names) played a game of Snakes and Ladders last night. Apparently Frozen won.
Last night, the elves set up the children's mini-tree, ready for them to decorate.
A word of caution to those who consider this one: if you have a child who wakes at night (like mine) and who comes through to your room (also like mine), you may want to rethink putting something like this in your child's room.
I learned this lesson at 2.45am this morning, when my 3 year old woke up and discovered the tree in her bedroom. She shrieked so loudly that she also woke my 5 year old up. Apparently they then decided that 3am is the perfect time to decorate a tree. I half-heartedly attempted to persuade them to wait until a more reasonable time, but honestly, I was still half asleep and just wanted my 3 year old to stop shining my phone torch in my eyes, so I left them to it.
The only saving grace of the situation was that they weren't fighting while they did it - and I actually heard my 5 year old exclaim 'Good teamwork!' That (almost) made up for the numerous visits where they asked me to detangle tinsel or retie baubles.