About Lesley Bolton

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The Year We Had an Elf

by Elizabeth Stasny

These days almost everyone with young children knows about The Elf on the Shelf, but in 2008 when my younger daughter, Margaret, was nine years old and in fourth grade, elves were a fairly new phenomenon. Margaret came home from school one day in early November all excited – her friend Emma had an elf that was staying with her until Christmas and Kate was asking for one too. Could she please, please, please ask Santa to let an elf stay with her until Christmas?

The year we had an elf 1What? I’d never heard of such a thing. I emailed Emma’s mother asking what all this business about elves was. I didn’t like what I heard. You sent away for a little stuffed toy elf (for an outrageous amount of money, plus shipping and handling), the elf stayed a toy during the day while everyone was awake but came alive at night and did mischievous things around the house. Some suggestions were that the elf would watch DVDs, which he would leave around on the floor along with spilled popcorn that he had popped. Or he might go “fishing” for goldfish crackers in the sink, again making a mess. At that moment I was not all that happy with Emma’s mother for getting an elf for Emma. I didn’t have time to clean up messes around an elf-free house; I certainly didn’t have time to make and then clean up messes from a Christmas elf!

But it was hard to resist Margaret’s begging, and her written plea to Santa:

Dear Santa,
May I please have an Elf? I would really like one!
Lots of Love,

Tradition Versus Routine

I’m a routine kinda gal. Ask Ali. When I don’t have a good, solid routine in place, my world seems as though it’s a battleground for the Titans and Olympians – and others’ worlds are sometimes innocent casualties. What I’m trying to say here is that I’m set in my ways and don’t care to invite change if something is already working for me.

During the first Christmas season of our friendship, Ali asked about my decorating tradition. First, I didn’t realize decorating was a tradition (having been rather take-it-or-leave-it in the past). Second, there was a spark in her eyes that caused my primordial instincts to send flares of “WHITE-HOT DANGER!” straight at my flight response. I ignored my instincts and stayed put. I proudly told her that I had begun putting up a tree every year. She smiled politely, but something dark clouded out that spark. After prodding further, she found out that my Christmas tree was fake. At this, she lost her mind. I have difficulty remembering all the awful things that came from her small figure, but I’m pretty sure accusations of ruining my daughter’s life were in there somewhere. Once she found out it was prelit and I didn’t own any Christmas lights, I thought our friendship was over. Her love of Christmas was pure and true; mine was as fake as my tree.


The Greatest Story Ever Told

When Story was eight months old, I began to write to her every night. It was my way of releasing that emotional energy that had built up throughout the day. There was just such a mashup of love, frustration, fear, awe, and excitement that at times my heart felt like it would burst. So I wrote. Every day. I tried to capture her story. I tried to capture Story. Of course, there were times when I was so exhausted (aka Mom Brain) that I could hardly put a sentence together, so I just made a list of what her favorite things of the day were. But even those lists were a snapshot of her life, recorded for later days when I want to revisit those early years or perhaps when Story has her own children.


Easy Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff

Every time I have the brilliant idea to make this recipe, I remember how in love I am with the Crock-Pot. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking, but I very much enjoy a tasty meal. My Crock-Pot helps me out on both counts. This particular recipe is one of the easiest I have. Three ingredients, one crock, and hours of having to do nothing but smell the good smells.