This is getting ridiculous. My 8-year-old daughter Madelyn is starting to make requests of our Elf, Max, that I'm starting to think go beyond the call of Elf Duty. It first began, right after his arrival at Thanksgiving with her leaving notes next to where he was perched. Things like, When is your birthday? What is your favorite color? What is your favorite snack? Max obliged with these questions because it was cute, and he was sort of in awe that she still believed in him. But his replies only sparked more questions. And not just from Madelyn. The neighborhood kids came over to see Max's responses and started asking about their Elves: Why is Elfie-Belfie not at Ava's house yet? Are you friends with Bob the Elf? Why didn't Bob move last night? 

Max replied with an assortment of cleverly-thought out answers. You better be careful, my husband warned, The neighbor parents aren't going to like being out-shined by Max. So Max replied in his Elf scrawl: Elfie-Belfie was held up in traffic; Bob has been working at overtime at the toy shop and was too tired to move....

Of course, that just made it worse and the next night Madelyn left this (see pic):

How Far Will You Go for Your Elf on the Shelf? 34979

Max was in over his head. What the heck could he put in that bag? How old is an Elf anyway? But more importantly, how can we keep the spirit of the Elf alive without making this a nightly scavenger hunt. (This is interfering with my binge-watching of The Affair!)

I posted this pic on Facebook and some friends offered advice: Just say Max is too tired to fill the bag; don't answer all the questions, just some, say he loves friendship and kisses, etc. But then other friends revealed they were in even deeper with their own Elves. One had a special door for their Elf to pass through each night, another sleeps in a little house made especially for him; and yet another has to write back to her daughter's frequent questions in teeny-tiny Elf handwriting that she started from the beginning and is now getting hand cramps.

In a way I'm glad to hear I'm not alone, but at the same time, geez. What did I get myself into? For all you Elf Haters out there (let's hope you haven't gotten this far in this post): It's still worth doing. And frankly, this is likely the last year. My 6-year-old son could care less about Max (I actually don't think he believes; he's made a few snide remarks already: Um, why does he have a tag?) But Madelyn will be 9 next year and even though she's now a Believer it's entirely possible the magic will fade by then (or she'll still be up reading and catch me in the act). So like the many other mini milestones in our children's lives, I'm trying to enjoy this one while it is still here.