“I have photographic evidence that this behavior might be genetic.”

Elf Report for Christmas 2018. “Obsession with Elizabeth also meant Daniel squeezed into one of her dresses when she wanted him to be an angel for Halloween. Actually, I have photographic evidence that this behavior might be genetic. Kurt also allowed his  obsession with Kirsten to influence him to wear a dress.”IMG_2826Kurt in a dress



Missing Content

As I prepared the Christmas letters for publication, there was a story missing. I re-read them. No, it wasn’t there. I checked with Kurt, “Do you remember this happening?” He did but neither of us knows why the Elf left it out. Letter 2004 reports Ellis (5) asking a woman if she was pregnant (no), ok, are you a grandma? (no). “Well, you sure look like a grandma.” But this wasn’t the story. I went back to the kids’ journals and I found it. Kurt thinks the Elf chose not to use it because of indecent language. I don’t know why that makes it’s ok to use it now. I suppose after publishing your daughter saying “slut” there are no more inhibitions.

October 12, 2003 Our neighbor, KB told me this story and laughed until she cried. So I guess she didn’t mind. KB had been watching some twins — her own children were teenagers. A few days later Ellis (4) approached her.

Ellis “Where are the babies?”

KB “They are at their house.”

Ellis (look of surprise) “you mean you left them alone?”

KB “No, they are with their Mommy and Daddy.”

Ellis (looking even more surprised) “you mean, you aren’t their Mommy?”

KB “No, honey.”

Ellis (absolutely amazed) “Then why are you so fat?”

Maren (5) who has been listening, horrified, “Ellis, what you said is rude! You say large, not fat!”

Ellis, age 4


A Brief History of K.A.R.P. (Kids Against Relaxed Parents), part #1

Kurt created this acronym which has been in use now for nearly 20 years.  He first conceived of a club for the 1999 Christmas Letter but it wasn’t until the following year the Elf selected the first president.  There was a one year fling in 2007 with the acronym T.W.E.R.P. (Teens Who Exasperate Relaxed Parents).  The child was a CEO, not a president.  It was never revived.  It didn’t have the staying power of K.A.R.P. which may be a more visual fitting image.  This is why the newly minted trophy — handed out for the first time in 2017 — is a carp. KARP

The 2017 president of KARP, Caprice is the first recipient of the K.A.R.P. trophy.  She wasn’t too excited; she put it in a drawer.  Neither were the other kids at all jealous, a relief to me.  The trophy was my idea at the risk that the kids might actively vie to earn it.  We have enough chaos without incentives for it.

When we started assembling the manuscript for Letters from a Christmas Elf, I was curious to know which of our children had been president the most often.  This was a surprising survey.  First, there are a LOT of years no K.A.R.P. president is selected.  Since 1999, the Elf only officially designated a president 11 times.   Three years K.A.R.P. isn’t even mentioned.   In the upcoming blogs I’m going to address the other years in which unofficial K.A.R.P. presidents were named (and make it official).  I also plan to invite people to choose who they think should have been awarded the presidency the three years no one was selected.

“She also managed to get a ticket, driving a golf cart.” Elf Report 2017

In May I went with the girls to Belize to scuba dive.  (Kurt kindly stayed home with the 3 youngest).  We spent a few days on the island Ambergris Caye where “everyone” drives a golf cart.  I saw no reason why Caprice, with her learner’s permit, couldn’t drive.  Because in town was congested, we went north where all the resorts are.  That’s also where the police set up driving traps because nearly everyone passing through is American.  Caprice wasn’t breaking any driving laws except her age — it turns out, in Belize, driving isn’t legal until you are 18 — so Ellis (17) would have gotten a ticket if she had been the lucky one driving.  The golf cart rental agency was adamant that we should have our license with us at all times.  They didn’t mention the age restriction.  We mostly had a good laugh since it was a relatively cheap laugh at Caprice:  $50 BZE ($25 US).




Katie’s Shrieking Bike Ride

Christmas letter 2017  “Katie is in no hurry to do some of the normal things that 6-year-olds do – like ride a bike.  This is maddening to K&K because she knows how to do it.  But get her on the bike trail for some forced family fun and she melts down, literally shrieking, “I can’t do this!  I wanna stop!” for 5 minutes straight as she very adequately rides her bike along the path.”

What is Letters from a Christmas Elf?

“Dear Santa,”

This is how it began, 25 years ago, when the Elf began his assignment with Kirsten and Kurt Johnston.  Since then, he has carefully tracked the naughty, the nice and the nonsense of the Johnston family.    Now he has found a way to give Santa updates throughout the year in addition to the official Christmas Letter.  Santa will be able to read stories that didn’t fit on the report as well as history behind stories.  Pictures may add some insight for Santa as well.

Already there is excitement around the Johnston home in anticipation of Santa’s reaction to this year’s letter.thumb_IMG_0765_1024

First blog post

One of Santa’s trusty Elves is assigned to report on the Johnstons. He follows the lives of Kirsten & Kurt and their eight children, along with a few cats and a dog. The family has gotten older, but wisdom still eludes them as they continue to find new ways to get laughed at without even trying. These letters tell the truth most sane people won’t admit — the naughty, the nice and the nonsense. Does this family deserve anything from Santa? You decide.

Letters from a Christmas Elf: Unexpected Humor for any Season is 25+ years of real Christmas letters chronicling the witless antics of an ordinary family — resulting in extraordinary humor.

The Elf share the following insights:

If You Let Your Kids Talk to Strangers, You Will Be Sorry

Kirsten had all five kids at Walmart. They came across a friendly man in one of the aisles and Ellis (3) gave him a cheerful “Hi!” The man responded in kind, then Ellis really charmed him with, “You poop in your pants.” By this time Kirsten was frantically trying to leave the aisle. As they “raced” away, Ellis repeatedly yelled with increasing volume, “You poop in your pants!!!” This behavior guaranteed Ellis the presidency of K.A.R.P. [Kids Against Relaxed Parents].

Trusting Fashion Advice From Your Teen Isn’t a Guarantee You Won’t Look Like a Fool

Kurt asked for Anna’s (12) advice about a new pair of sunglasses. A few weeks after the purchase, Kurt determined the glasses were unisex at best. He complained to Anna. She replied, “You brought me three pairs of women’s sunglasses and I chose the pair that looked best on you.”

How an Older Sister Can Torment Her Little Brother (without touching him)

One day Maren (16) was babysitting. She had a Sonic drink that she shared with Hyrum (6). With anguished tears, she told him the drink was only for girls and he was going to die. Skeptical, but worried, Hyrum said, “I’m going to ask Mommy when she gets home.” “You’ll be dead by then,” came Maren’s loving reply.

How a Younger Brother Can Torment His Big Sister (without touching her)

Whenever Maren (15) comes into the room, Hyrum (5) sings (to the tune of Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?) “have you ever seen a fatty?” Although he has never specified Maren as the fatty, she always responds by swinging him over the stairs by his feet. 

Not All Skills Children Develop are Useful

Maren (6) won the Conversation Starter Award when she introduced herself to Uncle Aaron by saying, “Hi. I’m Maren. I’m the biggest barf machine in my family.”

Daniel (18) learned to take a tire off a car. One day K&K received a phone call that went something like this. Daniel–“I think there’s something wrong with the van. The wheels are locked up. If I give it a little gas, the van won’t go at all. But if I give it a lot of gas, then it will kind of lurch forward. I took the wheel off, but I can’t see any problem.” Kurt–“Is the emergency brake on?” Daniel–“Oh. Um. Yeah that was it.”

Resolving Arguments

When the kids were fighting about who was the favorite child, Kurt  settled it by saying, “I dislike all of you equally.”

Getting on Your Child’s Good Side Without Any Effort

Lily (8) said excitedly to Kirsten, “Daddy promised to eat school lunch with me in July!”

Childhood Love

Caprice (16) said to Hyrum (9), “So, tell us about hitting on Lizzy.” He replied, “I wasn’t hitting her.” Caprice challenged his claim to disinterest in girls. “I’m pretty sure you talk to way more girls than me and Ellis talk to boys.” “Yeah, because I have 6 sisters!”

Reading to Your Children Can Have Unintended Consequences

Caprice (12) calls Hyrum (5) motivating names such as stupid, brat, or jerk. In self-defense,Hyrum called Caprice “large, hairy and plaid” which made her so mad she cried. Let this be a warning to parents who read Henry and Mudge books to their children. 

Potty Training is Dangerous

Maren (3) potty trained this year. One evening she went to the bathroom and was gone for 20 minutes. Kirsten went to check on her and discovered Maren sitting on the toilet, slumped over. Kirsten thought she’d had a heart attack. Nope. Just taking a snooze.

Puppy Love

Caprice (16) believes Rex (the female family dog) has a life-changing impact on everyone she meets. She & Anna were walking Rex one night and approached another walker. Caprice said to Anna, “Okay, here we go.” When the other walker simply acknowledged Rex’s presence with a “Hi, doggie,” Caprice gushed, “She’s such a huge hit.”