I Think I Dozed Off Twice While Writing This.

1. So be good for goodness sake…

Today is St. Nicolas Day, and that can only mean one thing: Schmutzli! For those of you who have forgotten, Schmutzli travels with St. Nicolas (the Swiss call him Samichlaus) as a sort of grimy, unpredictably violent sidekick.

(I found the following quote on Swissinfo.ch: “Schmutzli brings a touch of fear, which makes the whole thing more attractive. He provides a contrast with the figure of St Nicholas.” A touch of fear! Why, what wouldn’t be more attractive that way?)

I know that many parents are fond of The Elf on the Shelf, but in my opinion Schmutzli is far, far superior–if you really want your children to behave this holiday season, remind them how long and airless the journey back to the Black Forest will seem in Schmutzli’s sack, and how rough the stick naughty children are beaten with will feel upon their tender skin. And, of course, at the end of it all, they’ll almost certainly be eaten.

This year I couldn’t find my knitted Schmutzli finger puppet, so I made my own while dinner was cooking. For this holiday craft (suitable for all ages!) you will need paper, a Sharpie, crayons, scissors, and a toothpick for Schmutzli’s child-beating stick:


As I say every year: May Schmutzli Spare You!

2. The rise of online journaling must be have been really nice for mimes.

I put up our tree today, and tomorrow I will string the lights and Simone and I will decorate and listen to Christmas music. It is a false tree, because of Simone’s asthma, and the best part about it is that the white cotton gloves it comes with to protect one’s hands while separating the branches give me an annual excuse to spend an hour or so pretending to be a mime.


I think I would have been a truly excellent mime.

3. Christmas, 1979

I found this today while I was going through a box and thought you might like to see a seasonally appropriate Baby Alexa:


(I look so alarmed! Perhaps Schmutzli is coming for me?)

I’ll be honest, I almost didn’t post today. Twyla slept for an unheard of six consecutive hours last night, and somehow getting more sleep seems to have exponentially increased my exhaustion. I remember this happening when Simone was a baby, and I still don’t understand the logic behind it, except that obviously my body is ungrateful and easily spoiled. Exhausted or not, I am typing at least a handful of words and pressing publish, reminding myself that the whole idea was to combat perfectionism, so really, the worse the better.

16 comments

  1. Kirsten says:

    Given the existence of Schmutzli and the beating of the &@! Log and the angry elves of my childhood that lived in the attic hauntingly banging their little wooden spoons on the ceiling, maybe December is not the happiest month for children afterall….

  2. robyn says:

    Having just watched tonight’s episode of The Office, I find your discussion of Schmutzli quite timely. :) (Actually, as I watched it, I remembered your previous mentions of Schmutzli.)

  3. Betsy says:

    Schmutzli reminds me to wish you a very Saxby Chambliss! I read that original Saxby Chambliss post as a young Congressional aide, and I still laugh out loud at the thought of it. I think knowing who Sen. Chambliss is only makes the joke funnier.

  4. Adriane says:

    Schmutzli looks like quite a threatening character! The elves are losing their power over here….I may have to change up my scare tactics.

    I agree with Melanie – Twyla looks so much like you. And I love your glasses!

  5. Cathy says:

    Yes! That picture might as well be captioned “Christmas: A Touch of Fear Makes the Whole Thing More Attractive”! I’m loving the regular posts, and am trying to perform a similar daily magic on my own writing-phobias: the worse the better, indeed.

  6. Momma, PhD says:

    I seriously hear you on the exhaustion front. Toddler has been waking more than infant. They take turns, so nobody gets more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time.

    I skipped my book club last night because I was too exhausted and wanted to go to sleep early. I didn’t go to sleep early. I’m still exhausted, and I missed my once a month chance to have adult conversation about a book I liked with other moms.

  7. Corinne says:

    That happened to me too, the tired thing, and it’s so UNFAIR.

    What, um, exactly happens to those who don’t wear gloves when separating the branches? I have a vague recollection of reading some horrifying warning and making my husband do some decorating thing when I was pregnant last time, but I thought that was lights? I did the whole thing bare-handed this year. How long until the leprosy kicks in?

  8. Sally says:

    We lived in Zurich from June-Dec. 1995. Our daughter sang with the International School choir, which visited a few sites one early Dec. evening. While wandering the cobbled streets afterward, we were fortunate enough to spot Samiclaus and Schmutzle. He was pretty scary in the near darkness. Anyway, daughter and I visited the holiday market at the Train Station and bought a two sided doll…Sammiclaus on one side in his red robe complete with staff. Flip him over, and Schmutzle and his black book appear. I wish I had bought two, because now the kids are having kids of their own, and each of them would be thrilled to own this doll. I may have to make one myself, as I don’t think I will have any luck finding one anywhere.

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