December 7, 2013 8:29:58 PM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
For generations, children have cautiously guarded their behavior at Christmastime, careful not to end up on Santa's "naughty list."
For 24 days, parents warn children to behave, noting that Santa is always watching. However, in recent years, Santa has gotten new little helpers to watch over boys and girls. The help comes in the form of elves who sit on a shelf.
In 2005, Elf on the Shelf came into homes around the world, giving delight to children with their silly antics and mischievous ways.
The elves generally appear after Thanksgiving and sit guard throughout the day, observing whether children are naughty or nice. Then, at night, after the children are asleep, the elves fly back to the North Pole and report to Santa Claus. The next morning, the elves magically appear in a different spot from where they were the day before. More often than not, the elves engage in troublesome behavior, whether it be having a parade with stuffed animals or hanging from chandeliers. Perhaps the most important rule about the impish elves is that children are not allowed to touch them.
Choo Choo the train cook, also known as "Choo Choo," is an Elf on the Shelf that belongs to 2-year-old Thomas Ketchum. While elves can be naughty, Thomas' mother, MaryBeth Ketchum, said Choo Choo is mostly a lazy elf.
"Last year he spent most of Christmas season riding the camel in the manger scene," Ketchum said. "This year he's been a little bit more consistent but he was a little lazy last night. He didn't go see Santa until naptime."
While Choo Choo has been a bit more mischievous this year than last, he's very careful not to make too much of a mess, MaryBeth said.
"He'll be upside down in Thomas's bag of graham crackers but that's about the most mischievous thing he'll do. He knows mama doesn't have time to be cleaning up messes."
Mark and Wendy Hysaw said their children's elves occasionally get into trouble but sometimes they're a bit forgetful. Haley Elf and Sparky Elf belong to 12-year-old Katelyn and 6-year-old Aidan. This year, Haley and Sparky got caught in a blizzard and arrived late from the North Pole, Wendy said.
"They've really stepped up their game this year except the day they were supposed to arrive," she said. "Aidan woke up and he couldn't find them. They were nowhere to be found, so mom and dad had to start looking. Dad even went outside to look and all of a sudden the doorbell rang and Aidan answered and there were Sparky and Haley!"
Last year, Haley and Sparky mostly jumped from shelf to shelf but this year, they like to get each other in trouble, the kids said.
"They've had a nutcracker parade, repelled down the Christmas tree, zip lined on a ribbon, played a Scrabble game and played the Wii," Katelyn said. "Sparky gets Haley in trouble a lot."
Aidan added, "Yeah, when they played the Wii, they left the games all over the floor!"
When asked who cleaned up the messes the elves made, neither of the children had a definite answer but Aidan offered a hunch.
"I think Mommy does," he said.
Looking at the elves, Wendy said, "We're really looking forward to the next 18 days of messes and adventures until they leave."
Katelyn and Aidan wrote a note to Santa to ask if the elves could stay after Christmas but Mark Hysaw said unfortunately, the elves have to go back to the North Pole.
"They can't stay because they'll lose their magic," he said.
Until they leave on Christmas Eve, Wendy said she has a sneaking suspicion Haley and Sparky will continue eating donuts, having sack races and hiding from the kids.
"It's the first thing they look for every morning," she said. "It's tradition."
Mark added, "We're sad to see them go but they need the rest and so do we."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah