I wrote the bulk of this post for LiveJournal in 2007. I’ve been stressing about Christmas cards pretty much every year since I started having children. Some people have cooperative children and get lovely Christmas shots every year. Me? Not so much. These kids are all related to Chandler Bing.
I thought I’d share the stress I found just a few years in and then share a bit of what I’ve learned since. Enjoy.
I have been sending Christmas cards pretty regularly for a couple years now. Since Annie was born, anyway. (So, get me your address if you’re one of those old friends I’ve recently reconnected with!) I love the opportunity to send people I only speak with once or twice a year, a picture of my beautiful children. I imagine them admiring their sweet faces and placing the card on the fridge where it will gather dust until July or so and then be tossed out with the expired pizza coupons they were covering up. I know, I know. Many of these cards end up in the trash within minutes of opening. Now that’s a sin, don’t you think? Those beautiful faces in the trash? I won’t think of it. And some stay in the Christmas card pile to be thrown out en masse. I can live with that. They didn’t look right at my children’s faces and toss them in with the eggshells, or empty milk carton if they recycle.
I love having my own cards printed. It seems so personal, but finished. A big picture of my child(ren), but a message I thought out myself. Still, I cannot bring myself to have our names printed inside. I feel the need to sign each and every individual card with a short, but personal message, and my actual name written in my own hand. Nevermind that I also sign for my children and husband. To me (and there’s no offense meant to those who send me these cards each year), sending those pre-signed cards with no message says, “Hey, I thought of you for 2.8 seconds this year while I put the stamp on this envelope.” Especially because most of the time, these cards come with a computer printed label with my address. In that case, the sender may not even be aware that he HAS sent me a card! I’ve sent out batches of résumés with more personal thought.
Annie’s first Christmas, the only one for which she was the only subject of the photography session, was so much fun. My mother helped me get the shot when she was visiting for Thanksgiving. We dressed my sweet 10 month old in a lovely red corduroy dress with the sweetest matching tam. We sat her on a white sheet and surrounded her with little colored lights, greenery, and some not-too-breakable tree ornaments. She was so enthralled with this stuff. She seemed to know instinctively that it was a pile of stuff she wouldn’t normally be allowed to touch. She drew the lights up over her head, then down in her lap. She pointed with her tiny finger at a blue one and starred right at it. Snap! Got the shot. The card was perfect with the caption, “May the wonder of the season stay with you throughout the New Year.” Sweet, cheery, pretty. Done.
The next year, I started trying for the elusive Card Picture around the first of November. I wanted to get it all done and printed so that I could take my time signing and addressing, by hand of course. I chose some sweet holiday-ish outfits for the kids. Annie, now 22 months, in a sweet flannel Stausburg dress of blue checks, and Sammy, at 7 months or so, in his holiday snowman sweater with the sleeves rolled up. For our first session, I dressed the kids and put them on our red couch, gave them each a giant jingle bell and starting shooting. Thank heaven for the digital camera. I would have ruined a lot of film! They grabbed the bells from each other. Sammy put them in his mouth. Annie grabbed Sam’s cheek so hard, she left red marks. Session over.
Session Two came up by accident. I realized one day that Sammy had on a dark green and red plaid one piece thing, and Annie was wearing a black sweater with a big pink snowflake on the front. The session went about as well as the first, but in the end, I think the picture we used came from this day. There were several more “sessions” of chaos, but nothing I want to remember. Why does a seven month old child get SO upset when you aim a camera at him and want him to sit next to his sister for .8 seconds? And WHY must a 22 month old girl hug the STUFFING out of her little brother just because you picked up the camera? Around the second week of December, in desperation, I ordered 50 copies of the best snapshot in the bunch and stuck them on some of those photo cards you can get at Target.
Last year, I got smart. I began dressing the kids in outfits that looked good photographed together on a regular basis. I always had the camera at the ready. I snapped HUNDREDS of pictures of them together in an attempt to get that one Card Picture. Anytime they were even close to each other, I’d try to get them both looking at the camera. There are files and files on my hard drive of pictures where their hair is sticking up, they’ve food on their faces, or the background is a baby gate or something equally as attractive. Eventually, I got a semi-decent shot. I ordered beautiful cards in two patterns from Vistaprint.com and I loved them. Great, huh?
Except now the bar is set. The pressure is on. It’s not even Halloween and I’m OBSESSING about these damn pictures already. Like I have NOTHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT! Somebody, please talk me back from the edge!
Those were just the first THREE years! The next couple years didn’t go much better. The next year these were the best of the bunch.
In 2009 we moved to a new house with a big fire place and hearth. I was sure that I could get a wonderful shot in front of the stockings and poinsettias. HA! I dressed them up and stood them there. After an hour or so of frustration and tears, both mine and theirs, I gave up. In the end, I sent a photo collage with a whole lot of laughable out take shots.
In 2010 we had new a new baby. In the fall, we hired a photography student to take family portraits of our family, including my parents and my brother. I put together a card with some of those images, and I was fairly pleased with the result. Easiest year of all, I guess, but I can’t afford even a student EVERY year. And even she had trouble getting a great shot of all three of them! (She’s working as a professional now, and I’m happy to send her some business. Her name is Ashley West, and I don’t even get a kickback.)
2011 came and I snapped this shot on Thanksgiving. I printed wallets of this and each of the kids’ school pictures and put them in small cards. Done. Call it a punt.
2012 we went to Disney and since they make it so easy to have pictures taken with your whole family, I sent wallets of one of the shots the Mouse took. Again, punt.
2013 I felt like I needed to step up my game, so I went back to the folly of trying to get a great shot of all three. I tried for weeks. We hadn’t spent real money on cards in several years so I was willing to order nice cardstock prints this year, I just needed to get the right shot. Dozens of tries. Gave up. Fine, I’ll just put separate shots of the kids on the card. Again, no luck. Finally, I drug them out in the yard before school and told them to smile. I got lucky, I guess. I ordered them THAT DAY!
This year, I’m not willing to spend a fortune since I did last year. But of course, I got great shots in the leaves a couple weeks ago. Yeah, it’s more fall than winter. Yeah, you’ve all already seen them. I don’t care! They are great shots and they are going on the cards!