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“Sparkles” made her first visit this year late last night, and waited in the Christmas tree with her note for the girls to wake up and discover her.  Sparkles is our family’s Elf on the Shelf, and her annual arrival is cause for celebration.

Her note, on Christmas stationery, read, “Dear Lily & Olivia, I’m so glad to be back again this year!  I had so much fun with you last year!  I hope I don’t have to make any bad reports this year so make sure to listen & be nice!  Can’t wait to hang out! Love, Sparkles” (Sparkles is a rather excitable elf.)

Olivia was the first one out of bed, and she was thrilled to see that her mom had put up the tree with its colored lights during the night.  She quickly spotted Sparkles, but not quite remembering what had happened last year when she was two, she ran into the bedroom calling to her sister, “There’s a Christmas girl in the tree!  Come quick!”  “Oh, Sparkles is back,” answered Lily.  “Let me read the note she left.”

Now, for the uninitiated, the Elf on the Shelf is one of Santa’s many helpers, a little fey creature who watches the children in a household each day and reports back to Santa each night.  Any child who touches her (or him), ruins her magic, and causes her to return to the North Pole forever.

Last year Sparkles slid down a zip line from the bookcase to the breakfast bar, made a mess with chocolate sauce and brownies, and wrote periodic progress reports and messages on the bathroom and living room mirrors.  Each morning the girls look forward to getting out of bed and searching for her, each of them vying to find her before her sibling does.  Her discovery is sure to be marked with giggles and whispered admonitions to “speak softly, Mom’s still asleep”.

I love that our Elf brings whimsy and imagination into our home at Christmas.  The girls really do speak more sweetly and treat each other with more kindness when Sparkles is near.  Occasionally there is early morning panic when the adults in the family realize Sparkles hasn’t moved since the day before, and someone needs to quickly get out of bed and find her a new position or predicament.  But for the most part, Sparkles brings an additional element of joy into each day of the Christmas season.

And everyone can use a little more joy.