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Dadline: Answers to questions merry and not too bright

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Elf on the Shelf figures (copy)

Elf on the Shelf figures piled in a box, where it is difficult to keep an eye out or travel to the North Pole.

The Dadline mail stocking is filled with questions from parents who need a little advice this holiday season. Read on. Yule love it!

My daughter loves her Elf on the Shelf, which “flies” back and forth to the North Pole every night with, ahem, a little help! However, the tradition has become inconvenient and tiring for me lately because my daughter no longer lives at home and actually attends an out of state college. At what point does Mr. Elf return to the North Pole for good? I’m exhausted!

Signed, I Really Elfed Up

This letter really registers with me because my family’s own resident elf, whose name has long been Edward E. Elf (Edward’s backstory can be read here:, has been working well past retirement age. I have begged his boss — my teenage daughter — to be reasonable and let poor Edward relax on the mantle or in a nursing facility that provides quality elfcare, but to no avail. Then again, maybe the problem is that Edward’s travel agent (me) is a sucker for traditions and just won’t let him retire.

I recommend sending your daughter a hand-written note (preferably in crayon, an elf’s preferred writing device) that states Mr. Elf must curtail his travels this season due to high gas prices, which have become a convenient excuse for not going anywhere you don’t want to go these days. (“I’d love to come rake your leaves and clean your gutters, mom, but I can’t. Gas prices.”) Fortunately, odds are your daughter will return home after graduation and live with you until her late 20s, at which point elf flights can resume.

I have heard about the trend of “giving experiences instead of gifts.” What ideas do you have for giving “experiences?”

Kris in Snowville

When people talk about “giving experiences” what they usually mean is buying an armful of gift cards at the last minute. Dads invented this trend decades ago, but it’s only caught on with the general public in the last few years. Basically, instead of buying a nice, expensive physical present that your wife will inexplicably return — like a lovely Virginia Tech 1993 Poulan-Weedeater Independence Bowl sweatshirt or a fashionable leopard-pattern coat — you get tickets to a show or a gift certificate for a popular restaurant instead.

The problem with this trend is that our gift cards either 1.) get lost, 2.) expire before we use them, 3.) don’t work at the restaurant, even though WE KNOW FOR A FACT that there’s still cash on them because we only had appetizers the last time we were here and I want to speak to the manager right now and get to the bottom of this and no, I will NOT lower my voice! or 4.) the restaurant goes out of business before we can use the gift card. (No. 4 has happened at least three times to me that I can recall.)

Look, pal. How about this. Just do what my dad does. Hand your family a wad of cash and tell everybody “Merry Christmas, now go knock yourselves out and get out of my house, there’s a Hallmark movie coming on that I want to watch.”

I need to put up my Christmas decorations but there’s a problem. I haven’t taken down my Halloween decorations yet. What do I do?

Jack Skellington on Westover Ave.

No worries, Jack. You’re actually at the vanguard of an odd trend I’ve noticed recently, in which folks decorate for Christmas with skeletons and spooky creatures, not to mention characters from Tim Burton’s 1993 animated movie, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” I’m not sure how this trend started, but I’m cool with it. I mean, if lighted flying pigs make for acceptable Christmas décor, then I see no problem with the Pumpkin King.

Just plant some candy canes around your Halloween ghosts and goblins and stick a Santa hat on a witch. Call ‘em the ghosts of Christmas present or Halloween past or something cute.

Please settle a bet between my wife and me. In the Nat King Cole classic “The Christmas Song,” my wife thinks the line is “Jack Frost nipping at your nose” but I think it’s “Jack Frost dripping from your nose.” Who’s right?

Claude in Claudville

Gotta pay up, Claude. Your chestnuts got roasted. You thought it was Jack Frost dripping from your nose but it’s not.

What is mulled wine anyway?

Clarence in Winseburg

It’s wine that you weren’t sure about drinking until you mulled it over and said, “By golly, now that I have mulled it over, I am going to drink that wine.”

Happy ho-ho-holidays, everybody!


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