The Tale of the Earling Elf on the Shelf

We have an elf on the shelf in the Earling household. It’s a mischievous little punk, who entered our home last year and brought joy to the parents of the home and dismay to our son, Joseph.

If you’re friends with my lovely bride on Facebook you’ve perhaps seen some of the carnage. Stephani introduced Pixie the Devil Elf to Joseph last Christmas season, pretty much to torment the boy. Since that time, Pixie has had some interesting adventures, met an unfortunate demise, and now the charming tale has taken an unexpected turn.

Here’s a chronological summary in pictures, in the finest tradition of naughty, inappropriate…and hilarious, uses of Elf on the Shelf:

Pixie 1

Pixie the Devil Elf appears during last Christmas season with a public service announcement about brushing your teeth, which Joseph is prone to forget.

Joseph’s mood: befuddlement.

Pixie 3

Pixie offers some lessons on bathroom etiquette.

Joseph’s mood: dismay.

Pixie 2

Pixie explains, in a fine homage to Charlie Sheen, that drugs are not the answer.

Joseph’s current mood: horror.

Pixie 5

Pixie encourages honesty, in the most vulnerable of moments.

Joseph’s current mood: rage.

Pixie 4

Pixie offers some prudent thoughts on the treatment of the opposite sex. Also, I think he wanted a lap dance.

Joseph’s current mood: revenge.

Seriously, I think this was the one that triggered Joseph to seize Pixie, which we had to barter back from him.

Pixie 6

Pixie returns from his unexpected captivity with a lesson of incredible import in the age of social media. Yes, that is a gingerbread house behind him.

Joseph’s current mood: homicidal.

Oh, and we had to barter for Pixie’s return again.

And in the spirit of homicidal…

Pixie 7

Pixie’s 2014 Christmas swan song was this remake of a scene from the show Dexter, where the main character solves murders…and commits them, you know, just to release some stress now and again.

I had to steal Pixie back from Joseph’s thieving hands after this one.

At which point, unbeknownst to Joseph, Pixie went into hibernation, only to return as Joseph arrived back home from college in Montana for Christmas break. Here’s what he found waiting for him in the fridge when he got home in the middle of the night late last week, searching for food after a long drive home:

Pixie is back

Pixie welcoming Joseph home as only the Devil Elf can.

Here’s where the proud parent portion of the tale comes in, because this was Joseph’s response:

Joe's response

Tough to read, but Joseph re-worked the eggs to read: “I’m F’ing Hitting Back Fuckers!” …with a middle finger drawn on the egg at lower right.

Pixie, minus his hat left standing next to the eggs, was gone. And this time there was no bartering him back.


Pixie dead

Pixie’s unfortunate demise.

Joseph blew Pixie’s head off while out shooting with some friends, with a taunting suicide note from Pixie, making reference to the “sadistic” torture of the poor boy being too much for Pixie’s conscious.

Yes, that’s ketchup that Joseph used for blood.

And, really, Pixie was toast.

pixie parts 2

Pixie got blown to smithereens.

There was really only one parental response to this escalation:

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Quickly resulting in:

Tootsie 1

The introduction of Tootsie the Tormentor, with an important lesson about staying humble in life. And yes, that’s a condom on his head.

The key to Tootsie’s survival given Joseph’s, uh, decisive response to Pixie’s re-emergence is quite simple. Stephani sets up Tootsie’s latest torment. Takes a picture. Disassembles the gag. Then sends Tootsie into hiding for about 24 hours…before texting a picture to Joseph and posting it on Facebook.

Despite this constraint, Tootsie is indeed hard at work:

Tootsie 2

It seems Tootsie understands quite well the challenges of modern life. Sometimes, you just need a cup of clean pee to get you through that drug test.

What comes next? Tale to be continued and I’ll report back here on Tootse’s antics to include the holiday season!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

Chase Your Joy

Is there something that really makes you happy in life?

I say chase it. Make space for more of it.

It’s an especially dark and dreary December in Seattle. It’s the holiday season, which can easily be a grind of activity and obligations rather than an opportunity for true happiness. My professional world is full of challenges and stress. And I recently found some unadulterated joy.

Where? The US Swimming Winter Nationals recently hosted near Seattle at the King County Aquatics Center.


A calm pool awaits the start of evening finals.

I love swimming. It was my year-round sport in high school and part of college, until bum knees helped turn me into an assistant coach rather than an athlete. I’ve been to a World Championships with my lovely bride (Montreal in 2005) and other big meets with my kids at the King County Aquatics Center, including nationals and NCCA championships. When Olympic swimming is on TV at my house, it’s a big event.

This national meet was a 3-day affair, with my schedule allowing me to attend one night as a father-daughter date with my whip smart, sassy, beautiful daughter. That day, I found myself anticipating the experience with a passion that I realized is not present enough in my day-to-day life.

father daughter

Sophia and I enjoying some good seats!

Why that anticipation?

Was it because some of the greats of the sport would be competing that night, such as Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Natalie Coughlin? Kind of. But, that cast was really just icing on an already sweet cake, because my passion for the sport runs that deep.


Michael Phelps behind the blocks before the 100 meter butterfly final. The greatest Olympic swimmer in history was rocking a sweet, neon suit!

Don’t we all have something that awakens our soul like that? But how often do we actually get to engage with the thing that stirs such passion?

Maybe it’s relationship. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s family. Maybe’s it’s a hobby or personal pursuit. It’s different for everyone.

Are you really chasing your joy? Is there enough of it in your life?

There’s not in mine. I realized that starkly on the day I took my daughter to that swim meet.

No, that doesn’t mean I’ll chase my joy simply by traveling to swim meets. That’s totally unrealistic, though you can bet I’ll seize chances to attend them wherever I can!

What I can do is be more intentional about chasing joy in life? I’m teaching yoga once a week now. I really enjoy that. Maybe I should do it more.

Over the holiday season my lovely bride and I have decided to go on yoga field trips, having dates centered around traveling to studios we previously haven’t experienced. We both enjoy yoga and time together in those kind of environments, plus it informs our ultimate reality of owning our own yoga studio (and juice bar!).

There’s more for me to do as well, and I’ve had time to think about that with my wife and daughter on a girls trip to New Orleans this week, but you get the idea.

So where do you need to chase your joy? Is your work life too draining? Is your family life more chore than love? Do  you have enough of your personal interests and passions in your regular routine?

That’s a tough question to answer when our default is to put on a good front that everything is ok. Our life is good.

We do that because we’re afraid to let everyone know it’s not ok.

What if it’s not? Or what if it’s kind of ok, but your passion is slowly dying.

I’m guilty of all that, even as I’ve awoken inside to who I want and am meant to be. That’s what daily living can do to you if you’re not intentional.

So, I say chase your joy.

Fearlessly. Even if that means not just little changes in your life, but changes that could inspire more fear.

To hell with life influenced by fear.

I’m committed to chasing my joy. I hope you are too.