Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa, Kids, and an Elf on My Shelf

After weeks of us all being bombarded by Christmas ads from retailers, Santa's big day is less than a week out. It's almost sad to think about. I've grown accustomed to at least three commercials a day in which a group of confused elves, unable to complete their Christmas duties, show up at a Wal-Mart, a Walgreens, or a Radio Shack (those guys are still in business?) in hopes of finding the supplies they need to save Christmas. (Man, those advertising guys are original, aren't they?) I'll certainly miss the endless cantata of sacred Christmas hymns originally written to exalt the birth of our Lord and Savior that have been re-worded to sell ipods, cell phones, hi-def TVs, and state-of-the-art appliances. In the last month, I've watched Santa buy car insurance, purchase jewelry, talk to M&Ms, and oversee U.S. automobile manufacturing (thank you for the bailout Mr. President--apparently you saved Christmas). If only Christmas happened every month. Given enough ads I'm sure I'd eventually find out where Santa gets his colonoscopy, what brand of underwear he prefers, which NASCAR driver he supports, and whether its Cialis or Viagra that Mrs. Claus prefers to sneak into the big guy's stocking every year.

Of course, once you get past the almost nauseating commercialism of the season, Christmas is still a special and priceless family time. It's a time when you slow down a bit and enjoy traditions with your loved ones. This year, we continued established traditions and started new ones. Yesterday, my wife and I made our annual trek to the mall. No, we don't do our shopping there (my wife is the guru of finding great deals online and on Black Friday). Rather, we just go each year to get a photo of the kids with Santa to add to our collection. I stood in line for two hours holding our spot while Meredith and her mother took the kids around the mall. I don't know what did more to put me in the Christmas spirit, people staring at me with concern to see a grown man with no kids in line to see Santa , or watching frustrated moms yell at Santa's helper after she performed the unpleasant duty of telling us that Mr. Claus was about to take a dinner break and we'd have to wait one more hour. God bless us, everyone.

We also started a couple of new traditions. The most meaningful was our inaugural Gift for a Child party. Gift for a Child is a non-profit that is dedicated to encouraging and meeting the emotional and material needs of kids in foster care. It was started a few years ago by a good friend of ours and a heroic woman named Rene Gunn. Rene is an incredibly humble and godly woman who, despite being successful in the business world and having her own family, devotes all the time she can to helping children. She and Meredith came up with the idea of having a Christmas party in which guests would bring a gift to wrap for a foster child who otherwise might not receive much for Christmas. It was awesome! We had neighbors, friends from church, classmates and teachers from our daughter's school, and many others come to the party bearing gifts. We had all the fun and socializing of a normal Christmas party, but with a purpose. It was incredibly uplifting and served as a refreshing reminder of what the season is supposed to be about. We hope it is the first of many such parties. If any readers are looking for a way to make an impact in the lives of young men and women who have hopes and dreams but lack much of the love and support most of us take for granted, please go to and inquire as to how you might make a difference in one of these great kids' lives.

Our second new tradition involves Sam, our "Elf on the Shelf." Perhaps you have one too. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, Sam sneaks into our house every morning before anyone is awake and finds a spot to hide in our home. The first thing the kids do every morning is try to find Sam and uncover his hiding place. Then, at night, Sam slips away while we're asleep to report to Santa how the kids are behaving before returning the next day. Sam watches everything we do. He knows what we have and what we don't have. He keeps a watchful vigil taking note of everything that comes in and goes out of the Howard household. In the off season, I'm pretty sure Sam works for the IRS.

We're not allowed to touch Sam. If we do, he'll lose his powers. Also, Sam's not allowed to talk; at least not to the kids. Once, he did talk to me for a while after the children were in bed. Before he took off to make his nightly report to St. Nick, Sam and I sat on the couch, watched a little of Sportscenter (he's a big hockey fan), and had a couple of beers. He's quiet most of the time, but once you get a couple of cold ones in the little guy, he really starts to open up. He told me that the highest honor any elf can receive is to ride with Santa on Christmas Eve. "You do a good job of being the big guy's wing man on Christmas Eve," Sam told me, "and you can pretty much count on renegotiating your contract when you get back to North Pole." Sadly, Sam told me there have been times when an elf has lost his or her privilege to ride with Santa. I close out this final Dadlosophies of the year by sharing with you the top 10 reasons Sam shared with me as to why an elf loses his or her spot accompanying Santa in his sleigh on Christmas Eve...

10. Got caught letting Rudolph play reindeer games
9. Forgot and took Prancer out for a joy ride in North Georgia during deer season
8. Guilty of switching the naughty and nice lists just for kicks
7. Overheard responding to one of Santa's commands with a crude hand gesture and the phrase "I got yer jingle bells right here!"
6. Angered Santa by releasing tell-all book entitled
Santa's Sweatshop
5. Wore "Jack Frost: Change We Can Believe In" campaign button to work
4. Posted compromising pictures of Mrs. Claus at North Pole Christmas party on TMZ
3. Discovered moonlighting for Keebler

2. Caught selling advertising space for male enhancement products on Santa's sleigh
1. Resigned to become the president of Iran

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone! I'm taking a couple of weeks off. I'll return with new dadlosophies Monday, January 11, 2010.

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