The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 22, 2013

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Elf on a Shelf? Not this gal

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Our Elf on a Shelf has stayed true to his name: He has remained on the shelf.

I figured that would qualify me for the Lamest Mom Ever Award, but my two children thought otherwise.

Last year, my younger son mentioned that other kids were talking about them, so I bought into the fad and purchased one. This year, a full week into December, I remembered him (the elf, not my son) tucked up on a closet shelf next to the extra set of sheets and pillowcases.

The elf made exactly one uncreative appearance and has sat in a wooden sled on my kitchen shelf ever since. Call me a slacker, but I just can’t find whatever magical thing it is that all those other moms on Pinterest have to pull that off every single day.

My older son kindly observed, however, that I am not, in fact, a slacker. He noted that our family has plenty of long-held Christmas traditions, and that for him, they — not the gifts — are the very best part of the holiday. Younger son agreed.

For 10 years, we have squeezed into hubby’s little red truck, popped in the Bing Crosby “White Christmas” CD and sung our way to Bowen’s Christmas Tree Farm.

The boys know they can count on retired teacher Karen Bowen having hot cocoa and cookies available in the warming room, and that Ginger the dog will come out wagging her tail to say hi.

We always declare we’ve found The Perfect Tree. As we later gently unwrap each treasured ornament in our box, we exclaim with remembrances of when or where or how we made them, or who gave them to us.

It was the same scene in my parents’ living room when my brother and I were young, with the smell of a fresh-cut tree and my mother playing Christmas songs on the piano ushering in the season.

Another tradition that won’t die: When we arrived at my grandmother’s house in Duquesne on Christmas, it always was a contest to see who could shout out “Christmas gift” first, something that continued to my being the host for Christmas as an adult.

And our family always looks forward to making gifts to give friends and neighbors and family, from pencil holders to bird feeders to jars of Russian tea.

My older son also pointed out that we always hang Christmas socks on the fireplace with care, including the adults. It’s a tradition passed down from my mother’s side, and it hasn’t been skipped since Roosevelt was president.

Santa always fills them with wonderful tissue-wrapped goodies, like lip balm and hand lotion and beef jerky and a new book or pair of mittens. Always, always there is an orange in the toe.

But both sons proclaimed their favorite tradition to be our fancy Christmas morning breakfast, with our best tablecloth, candlesticks crafted by my grandfather and my brother, a blessing from my mom, a warm breakfast casserole and a pie plate of orange Danishes — the kind you take out of a refrigerated blue tube.

When my brother and I were young, Mom made those simple treats one Christmas morning, and we thought them to be quite fancy. I selected the middle one — the one dripping with the most frosting.

The next year, my brother and I agreed to alternate who got the middle Danish, and so it was his. We never stopped, and the only Christmas I ever was away from home, I returned to Pittsburg to find a little butter container with the middle Danish that he’d saved for me.

Now, my sons eagerly look forward to it all year.

Bottom line: I guess I have one Elf on a Shelf for sale quite cheap. And that’s OK.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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