Thursday, November 30, 2006

The ugly truth behind cute Christmas cards

Remember in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch’s cold, shriveled heart grows to three times its size?

Well each holiday season, I think mine shrinks a little—at least temporarily—and I become a little more like that mean, old, cynical Grinch. This moment happens on the day when I attempt to snap a photo of my two children, clean and dressed in their carefully selected Christmas dresses, smiling angelically at the camera for our annual Christmas card.

Why, you ask, would such a seemingly fun and simple event cause such distress? Easy. Children (at least mine) do not wish to sit and pose and angelically smile at the camera. They would rather make faces, and run off, and pick their nose, and wave their feet in the air, and pinch their sister, and do all sorts of other annoying things that make capturing a “perfect” Christmas card photo tantamount to going outside and counting snowflakes during a blizzard.

And even if you do get really lucky (I have once) and get a great shot, it was undoubtedly preceded by about 100 bad ones, as well as countless amounts of time, energy and parental aggravation. Let’s take a little journey with the Ghost of Christmas Cards Past and you can see what I mean.

This was my first year of the Photo Christmas Card. Peanut was four months old, and I thought naively that gaining a great shot would be a piece of cake. But the first two sessions went really badly and I ended up with this:


And this:


And this:


After these were taken, I seriously considered using one of them on our card with the caption, “Don’t be a Grinch,” or maybe “Bah Humbug!” But I decided to give it one more try and ended up with what is undoubtedly the best Christmas card photo I’ve sent to date:


Note that she is smiling, in focus, looking at the camera, there is a Christmasy back drop behind her and her head is not cut off. This photo my friends? Is as close to a Christmas miracle as I ever expect to witness. The Messiah Himself coming down from heaven above and hand delivering me a digital camera full of perfect photos would only seem slightly more miraculous than this picture.

In 2004, Peanut was 16 months old. Again, my naivety was in full force. This year, I thought, "she can understand what I am asking of her and she will happily do what Mommy asks her to do." Wrong!

Instead of the happy, agreeable toddler I envisioned, I got a distracted, uninterested, cranky girl who wanted absolutely nothing to do with me or my camera. That year, there were several photo sessions involving various wardrobe and location changes.

First try:


Mmmm . . . choking hazard! Excellent!

Second try:


The non-verbal communication here is screaming toddler profanity.

Third try:


I remember this photo clearly. I am snapping my fingers vigorously at her and she is ignoring me. This is probably good practice for her teenage years.


She is clearly in a flash-induced state of shock in this one. And she should be: this is photo #151 in this session.

In the end, we ended up going with a totally spontaneous shot taken when she wrapped herself up in lights and ribbon the day we put up our tree. The photo is dark and the shadows made her face look like a jack-o-lantern. But with a shrug, I shaded it sepia, considered it “artsy” and sent it out.


For as difficult as ’03 and ’04 were, they were a smooch under the mistletoe with Brad Pitt compared to last year when I now had to get TWO smiling, happy children dressed up and looking at the camera at the same time.

I went back and looked and I took nearly 300 pictures to get our card shot. The bad ones were so plentiful, I could do a whole month of NaBloPoMo posts focusing solely on them.


We had this one, where I think Loaf actually fell over backward and needed to be consoled for several minutes before we could continue.

And then there are these two, where Mark’s hand is seen trying to actually push them into position. I remember thinking, “Fuck it. I’ll crop it out.”



I love the look on Peanut’s face in the second one. She doesn’t have the words, but you just know she’s thinking, “What the hell, Dad?” And Loaf is like, “All the parents in the world and I end up with these two? I want out!”

I have no idea what happened here, but the look on Loaf’s face kills me:


And then there are these two:


I think she is trying to do the “L for Loser” symbol. I think she is directing that at me.


Ah, yes, devil horns. Always a good idea for the Christmas card. I can just imagine my mother-in-law’s reaction to this one.

And in the end, we went with this:


Red eye. Heads cut off. But no one is falling over, or attempting to make evil hand gestures. Good enough.

This year, I started on Thanksgiving. And I’ve lowered my standards. It doesn’t matter if there’s a tree in the background, and it surely does not matter if they are dressed in their Christmas best. No food or snot on their face or clothing = Good Enough.

That said, we’re not off to the most auspicious start.

So far we have this:


I think Peanut is actually saying, “No pictures, please.”

The ubiquitous out-of-focus escape attempt:


Peanut “falling over:”


And lots of goofy faces like this:


I went looking online and found some cards where you can do “collages” of smaller photos, so that’s what I’m doing. I have good ones of them individually and I’ll just plop them together and call it done. At this point in my life, I really can’t afford to have my heart shrink anymore.

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Blogger Robin said...

LOL, your Christmas card outtakes are a hoot! Thanks for sharing as I can surely relate.

However, I have one word for you: Photoshop!!

Just wait until you have at least one good photo of each kid, make sure you're shooting from the same angle and distance, and Photoshop the two good shots together. I've done this in two different years, and they came out great.

One year, my son didn't want to wear a Santa hat, but after seeing the photos decided he wanted to retake them and wear a hat too. Way too tired to do that, I just photoshopped a hat onto his head. Voila, Christmas magic!

Ah, the joys of the electronic era....

5:03 PM  
Blogger Diane said... over here. Seriously, I'm either really, really tired today or that post was ridiculously funny. Probably both.

5:26 PM  
Blogger mommaobrienx7 said...

Precious! You put a smile on my face!

I can SO relate! With 7 kiddos, getting them to sit still to try to get a good shot is almost impossible. In nearly every one of our Christmas cards someone is crying or making a silly face.

8:47 PM  
Blogger M said...

LOL!! I am living your horror now. I swear I have taken over 300 unusable photos with one uncooperative toddler - he would rather be doing ANYTHING else. *sigh

Stay sane,

1:05 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicken said...

Oh my God, these are so funny! I think I actually snorted at the out-of-focus escape photo.

Still laughing ... :)

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

This is hysterical. It's like "Behind the Music". I LOVED that 2004 Christmas card and thought you planned it that way. Now I know the truth!

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laughed so hard reading this one it was hard to see clearly through the tears in my eyes. As the recipient of your final product and the nana of two girls myself, I can well appreciate your efforts. See you Christmas....

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Tina R. said...

omg! you had me laughing so hard! I can totally relate! As u may know...Ive had 3 children to photograph in years past...this year there's an added step-child and next year will b yet another infant, lol! We experienced the hell of photography with children for our wedding on 11-11-11. Not a single photo came out that was worthy of posting but we posted anyway cuz after all, this was OUR family lol!
Have a great holiday...and thanx again for the laugh!

7:29 AM  

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