There are worse things in life than taking family pictures with young children.
Accidentally hitting someone with your car and killing them.
Biting into a large piece of gristle when you’re eating steak.
Stepping on a tack with your bare foot.
That’s about it.
From a “big picture” perspective, I know that sucking it up and taking the family photographs will result in a handful of beautiful pictures that will be cherished for a lifetime.
And when I say handful, you better believe I mean we are fortunate to receive three decent pictures out of twelve thousand terrible ones.
I have friends with young children who had to literally re-take family photographs after their honest photographers confessed he or she didn’t receive even one good shot during the photo session.
And in the age of Photoshop, Afterlight, and VSCO Cam, that’s pretty bad. But believable. Because photographing young children is one of the hardest things on the planet. Even armed with fancy photo editing tools and applications, photographers are only as good as their subjects.
Then comes the pressure to jump online and order holiday cards the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving “because that’s when all the good deals are, and you have a coupon code that expires on Sunday, Goshdarnit!”
And so you order a couple hundred cards to mail to all of your
close friends acquaintances.
Then you freak out as soon as you push the “confirm order” button on your computer, because you realize you chose the “Merry Christmas” card option instead of the “Happy Holidays” one, and you don’t want to insult your buddies who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Diwali.
So you seek validation that you made the right choice from your husband.
And he reminds you that anyone who legitimately gets offended by your card can be removed from next year’s list and, therefore, you’ll save $3.
According to our friends at Hallmark, in 1843, Englishman Henry Cole came up with the idea of sending Christmas cards. Too busy to hand write personal greetings, he hired London artist, John Calcott Horsley, to design something he could send to his friends. German immigrant, Louis Prang, is known for bringing the Christmas card concept to the United States. In 1875, he printed a card that showed Killarney roses and the words “Merry Christmas.”
Americans purchase roughly 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Annual retail sales are estimated between $7 and $8 billion. Christmas cards account for 1.6 billion units of this figure, which includes cards in boxed sets.
That’s a lotta cards.
With regard to our personal holiday picture experience, in an effort to be proactive, we had our family pictures taken while we were vacationing in Boca Grande, Florida.
I envisioned the pictures would be perfect and we would look like a family straight out of a J. Crew catalogue.
In reality, most of the pictures that “didn’t make the Christmas card cut” look like they came out of a pamphlet for “How to Spot Tortured Children” provided by the Department of Children and Families.
Like this one:
And this one:
We also received “cuts” of our children doing goofy things out of boredom, like this one:
Need to see it closer? Got ya covered:
To describe taking family pictures as “stressful” is an understatement. A huge one.
First of all, getting everyone out of the house and looking presentable is a struggle. Our clothes needed to be ironed, my hair needed to be blow dried, and the girls needed to be fed. What was initially a 7pm start time with the photographer ended up being 8pm because my time management, coupled with the unpredictability of children, stinks.
Just as we’re ready to leave the house: “Mom, I have to go potty!”
Another mistake was attempting to take outdoor pictures in Florida in July, where being outside in the afternoon feels like walking into the epicenter of Hell.
My makeup was melting off my face. I was terrified of getting sweat stains on my dress. The girls needed to be hooked up to an IV of cherry Slurpees to maintain their charismatic personalities until the photo shoot was over.
Worst of all, after ten minutes in the humidity, my blown-out hair looked like something out of a 1980s Tina Turner music video.
Another struggle was getting all four of us to simultaneously look at the camera and smile. By the time the kids were both looking at the lens, I wasn’t looking. Or I was staring at the ground. Or making that hideous face I subconsciously make when I’m stressed out.
We were grateful to get one good shot of us standing on the famous Banyan Street, even though Arden has a look on her face like The Spanker Man is standing behind the photographer.
Gotta take what you can get.
Complaints aside, I have a confession.
I love getting the mail in December.
I love rushing home from work to open my mailbox and receiving cards with my friends’ beautiful faces. I love seeing pictures of my cousins, who were my first true friends, showcasing their growing families. I love reading the funny anecdotes, stories about adopted pets, children starting school, and news of friends starting fresh chapters in different cities. I love holiday cards that double as birth announcements.
I love it, I love it, I love it.
Below is the final Christmas card product. It didn’t turn out perfect, but we aren’t perfect, so the picture was a perfect choice for us.
Special thanks to Synthia at Synthia Therese Photography for her talent, patience, and sense of humor. You are a treasure to our family!
I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and hope it involves massive amounts of love, family togetherness, peace, memories, chocolates, cheese trays, nut rolls, fruit cakes, and champagne.
Lots of champagne.