Almost every year for the last few years, I’ve written about our Elf on the Shelf. Known as “Julie” at our house, the felt-and-plastic-made-in-China elf is loved by children, hated by adults. I dragged my feet for years on joining the bandwagon for the elf, which requires that the elf be moved to a new location in the house each night leading up to Christmas. I declared that Christmas is for baby Jesus and Santa, for stockings and the Christmas tree, and this mom of three kids with two jobs did not have the mental capacity or time to remember one more thing during the holidays. Fourteen holiday parties, two cookie swaps and gathering gifts for our family, friends, neighbors, teachers and the mail lady was enough. “But why does (so and so, fill in the blank here) have an elf but we don’t?” my kids would frequently ask. I’d explain that some kids need elves to watch them super closely to report back to Santa, and other kids don’t. But that didn’t seem to appease my kids for long. A few years ago, my oldest daughter, then in first grade, asked Santa to send her an elf. Then, my own sister caved. My niece, then in preschool, got one. “They only have a few more years left to believe,” my sister protested. I knew that my kids would never understand. And so, Julie appeared at our house that year. We aren’t one of those Pinterest-worthy households where the elf gets into mischief every night, making more mess for me to clean up later. (There’s plenty of mess in our house without an elf “making” more.) But Julie does “move” from one area of the house to another. Generally, that means either my husband or I move it late at night before we go to bed. Sometimes, it means one of us waking up in the middle of the night or before dawn, sitting up in bed, nudging the other, whispering over the pillow “Did you remember Julie?” More than once, my husband has rushed down the hall as the kids were rousing for school, trying to grab the elf doll and throw her in a different room before the kids notice. At least twice, we forgot to move her at all this season. It’s then that we come up with excuses. She must have “fallen asleep” overnight and forgot to go back to the North Pole, we tell the kids, brushing it off. Oops. Adding an “elf on the shelf” to the house is more work for the parents. But then, for the kids, there’s a little extra magic, too. When our kids come stumbling down the hallway in the morning, Julie is the first thing they look for. The night after Julie was “too tired” to go back to the North Pole, one of our daughters laid out her doll bed in the living room, just in case the elf needed to take a nap. This year, our oldest daughter, age 9, wrote a letter for Julie to “deliver to Santa,” only apparently the letter didn’t disappear when Julie moved. We had to explain the letter was likely too big for elf to take back, so we folded it up smaller for her to take that night, instead. There was the night I caught my daughter “whispering” a secret to Julie, which I still don’t know what she said. And our 9-year-old still won’t tell us what she wants from Santa, which I think is a test. See, I know our years with “believers” in the house are limited, especially with our oldest. And despite the extra work and worry Julie requires from us, hopefully the extra magic is worth it — while it lasts. Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.