By: Sandy Churchill
When you hear the term “elf shop,” do you conjure images of jingle-bell-adorned, pointy-shoe-clad wee folk who work alongside Santa? True enough—but we have another meaning at our house, a worthy companion to spring cleaning.
We certainly cannot be the only family out there with a list of “to-do”s, “fix-its,” and myriad other tasks that involve returns, repairs, and finishing tasks of all kinds. Case in point: the recent February school vacation posed a welcome chance not only to take spontaneous field trips, winter walks, or jaunts to the movies, but an opportunity to “catch up” on life in general. We had a leaky faucet. The pellet stovetop had a huge rusty patch. Some pictures and a newly-completed puzzle needed framing and hanging. The kitchen valence curtain no longer matched the walls since we painted them last summer. One bathroom needed repainting after 12 years of dust and fading started to make it look in major need of care.
Surely you have a list as well. For us it includes items that need to be returned for whatever reason, items that require replacement batteries, not-urgent-but-important letters that must be written and mailed, and so on.
Since fun has to be in the mix for me personally to rally the troops and lead us in an “elf shop” weekend, I love finding a treat everyone responds to. When the girls were younger, the rewards could span laser tag or the drive-in, Chinese food or movie marathons. This past week, the rewards included renting academy award nominee film Bohemian Rhapsody, a fabulous music-and-dinner pub night with friends, a read-by-the-fire afternoon (right up there with movies and TV at the Churchill house!), strategy game time playing Shards of Infinity, video game time for Tim and his dad, and a Friendly’s lunch with my son.
The catch? Not that we need a catch to have fun—for sure—but this was “elf shop” week, remember? We tackled a bunch of tasks on the tedious and project-oriented “to-do” list. This was not the time for laundry and dishes and grocery shopping. Those didn’t count because they didn’t qualify as “elf shop”-worthy. This was all about the tasks that relegated to “later” over and over in the rush and hustle of daily living.
My husband Mark set to work on fixing the faucet. He sanded and painted the rusty top of the pellet stove—then decided to paint the silvery stovepipe black to match! Bonus! (That project had been waiting so long I had truly given up.)
Timmy set to work on painting the bathroom. He prepped the walls, cleared the room and rocked it with his care and precision on the job. Plus, he selected this as one of his project requirements on his Boy Scout Family Life merit badge. Woohoo!
I stitched a new valance curtain for the kitchen, another for the bathroom, and made two new microwaveable heating pads to replace the old ones that now showed holes in need of repair. I ordered a frame for the puzzle that needed hanging.
Each task tackled and crossed off charged us for the next one. Rewards were abundant during the week and productivity ensued. Yay! We embraced the tired—at least I did, wink-wink—because we were fixing things, improving things, loving our better-cared-for home. We encouraged each other and praised each other’s perseverance in getting things done, grateful for the fun and jobs well done, happy that this season’s elf shop was a rousing success.