I’m taking a bit of sick day today.  Sort of:  Motherhood and sick days don’t exactly mesh well, but I did knock off early from my other, unpaid, thankless job – I volunteer at a hospital.  It’s interesting,  healthcare workers are so scared of germs, even relatively benign ones, just by mentioning “I’m not feeling so good,” everyone I came into contact with basically told me to get the fuck out of there.  If you insist. 

To the chagrin of an AmbuTrans driver I met during one of my shifts, I don’t have a lot to say about why I volunteer.  Despite my carefully crafted sound bite to thwart people such as this, he simply could not understand why I would volunteer unless I was a medical student, nursing student, physio student, or a student trying to get into a school where I could become one of the aforementioned students.  Eventually he accepted that I’m not doing this to boost my resume, and made some comment about how he could see my halo, prompting me to  make some comment about how if he liked my halo he should see my wings, smile and nod gently.  We crossed paths several more times that day, and despite my best efforts to will him to do so, he would never meet my look.  Poor lad. 

I work with people who are not surgery-sick but disease-sick, and that’s a different thing altogether.  They’re often sad, lonely, erratic and really, really want to go home.  Hospitals are smelly, hierarchical places, where people cry, soil themselves and make sounds that remind me I have no idea what human suffering really is.   Thankfully most people go home to be happy and well once again, and that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.  When it doesn’t, it’s very sad- but that too is also the way it’s supposed to happen.   

Alright, enough of that.  Meet Doug: 

doug. or sauron, you decide.

Doug is the Elf on the Shelf, and the newest member of our nuclear (insert expletive) family.  Doug can sit anywhere, so don’t get too hung up on the “shelf” part.  Apparently the family is supposed to welcome their new Elf by giving him/her a name.  Kate chose Doug (awesome), but the gender remains fluid as he/she is often referred to as both boy and girl, which is fine by me.  So what is the purpose of Doug?  I’m so glad you asked.  Doug is a member of Santa’s vast Elf army, and we’ve conscripted him/her to watch over our family and to report his/her findings to Santa each night.  Doug returns from the North Pole to a new, unknown location, waiting for excited children to find him/her and wonder whether he/she told Santa if they’d been naughty/nice.  Basically it’s bribing our children to behave less like neanderthals lest Doug report ill behaviour to Ol’ St. Nick, who in turn gives nothing but oranges and tangrams for Christmas.  I know, horrifying. 

Thus far Doug has really hit the ground running, and his presence has definitely encouraged Kate to cry a lot more over the fear of a present-less Christmas.  Simon?  Simon’s not affected by anything, and he’s still screaming and breaking stuff at will.  Tonight he put a pillow on Kate’s head and sat on her until her wriggling slowed and it appeared she was gasping for breath.  This didn’t stop him mind you, that’s just when I removed him from her body. 

To be fair, Doug is fun, and when Kate’s not freaking out she’s trying really, really hard to be a good girl.  For Doug; for Santa.  Last night she left him/her cookies to take home to the North Pole. And while we decorated our tree tonight, she showed Doug all our prettiest ornaments and asked if he/she was enjoying him/herself.  At one point, as she danced around with some Christmas-y, fabric-y thing wrapped around her like a cape, she asked Doug if he/she thought she looked good.  You know, like was he/she interested.   That my almost-six-year-old daughter asked our Elf if he/she found her “hot” created such a shooting pain behind my eyes, I almost left for a carton of cigarettes never to return.  I shook it off though, and did what most people do when they witness something shocking – nothing. 

The only problem I have with Doug is the book that came with him/her.  Or rather the instructions, attached to the inside of the book’s jacket, basically giving up Santa.  

stupid instructions

I don’t know, it seems a little not-smart to explain how the Elf works IN the book the children will be reading from.  Couldn’t they have like, put in one of those slips of paper like the ones that fall out of magazines with all the subscription information on them?  I mean fuck, those things are pretty hard to miss, surely the publisher was all “um, you know you’re sort of letting the cat out of Santa’s bag here, maybe we could put the instructions on a piece of paper NOT ATTACHED TO THE BOOK.”  I guess the authors flipped the publisher the bird and said “It stays, we have the Elf and he’ll tell Santa you’re a shit if you change anything.”  Writers, they’re so touchy.  Oh well, I guess I’ll toss the cover when Kate figures out how to read.  In the next five minutes. 

So the tree is up, and looking damn fine.  Despite my near brush with death this afternoon, I succumbed to Kate’s desperation to decorate it, and spent an hour-and-a-half on lighting duty.  I am the official tree-lighter because Marc does it wrong.  He thinks 200, even 300 lights is enough.  I think he’s on crack for saying that to me out loud.  A tree needs to be lit from the inside out, top to bottom, bottom to top all the way around (no cheating).  Imagine being married to me. 

This is what a tree with 2oo lights looks like: 

sad, poorly lit tree

 This is what a tree looks like with about 400-500 lights:

getting better. note dark window, it`s 5 pm.

 And this is what it looks like when it’s just right: 

energy inefficiency at its most beautiful

This is Kate just before she begged us to put her to bed: 

too much christmas