Guess what? It is November. I don’t know how it happened either. Apparently, it comes right after October. Crazy.
This year, I am not going to be stressed about the holidays. I’m going to do stuff early! No really, I am. I am! Stop rolling your eyes.
Last year I didn’t send out holiday cards. Because I’m a horrible person. Actually, I just forgot and then figured that nobody would notice since everyone else is busy forgetting things too. But people noticed. In fact, a few people called my mom and casually mentioned, “By the way, we never got a card from Amber. The mail always loses stuff, dontcha know.” Which is actually Minnesotan for, “Your daughter thinks she is too good for us ever since she moved to California and she didn’t bother to send us a card.”
So step one this year: photo cards.
The most difficult thing about sending photo cards is that you need a photo. Not just any photo. You can’t cut one out of a magazine. It has to be a photo of your own family. It also has to be a decent photo where nobody is crying and everybody has their clothes on. It also has to have been taken in the last twelve months.
I know! Difficult!
You can see why I gave up last year.
Most photo cards we receive look like this:
(The family appearing in the fake holiday card above is fictitious. Any resemblance to a real family is purely coincidental. In fact, I used the last name “Johnson” thinking that a common name would be safer. More generic. Course now I realize that this only makes it more likely that there is a family reading with the last name of “Johnson” who looks exactly like my drawing. It’s not you. I swear. I’m not even on your mailing list. Well, unless you love it, in which case, you’re welcome. Next time I invent a family I’ll go with the last name of “Schtinkeyphart” to be safe.)
There is always a plain background and the outfits coordinate and the color of the font matches and it all looks professional and stylish and hip. We actually pulled a card off like this once. It was when the kids were babies and it was easy to pin them down in place. We simply set up our tripod and it only took 352 tries to get a shot where everyone was smiling at the same time.
More recently though, most of our holiday cards have been blurry images of the kids running past the camera. You know, artsy.
Many of our friends with kids manage to have great holiday photos each year by going to a photographer (usually one of those mall photo portrait places) and having photos taken.
I have no idea how people manage to do this.
I’ve tried it.
I get everyone out of the tub. Faces are clean. Hair is washed. Clean clothes on everyone. No stains! We’re ready! Let’s go!
I announce that we are leaving:
But something happens on the way to the front door:
Clothes are removed, torn, stained, peed on, pooped on or possibly set on fire. Someone finds a marker and applies face tattoos. Melted chocolate and spaghetti sauce appears out of thin air and smears itself all over faces and bodies.
How? I have no idea. I can’t get my kids to remain photo-quality clean for more than three minutes. Even if we do manage to leave the house unscathed, all of the above will transpire in the car anyway. (Why yes I have chocolate and spaghetti sauce in the cracks of the seats of my car. It just needs to be rehydrated. Doesn’t everyone? You remember what my car looks like, right? It is not a temple of clean.)
So this last weekend, I came up with a solution. We’ll take the photos in our own yard. We’ve got three minutes.
While the kids are in the tub, Crappy Papa goes outside to set up the tripod.
I even have brand new clothes for them. Never worn! No chance of stains!
Everyone is dressed. Sure, their hair is still wet but we don’t have time to wait for it to dry. They are clean! We can finally prove to our friends and family that we really do own clean clothes.
I tell them that Crappy Papa is waiting outside to take photos. Let’s go!
But they won’t go outside.
They are swamp monsters who melt in the sun. They can’t go outside or they’ll die.
Great. This was the one thing I forgot about. Getting them to cooperate.
I promise them that they can still be swamp monsters. That they can be swamp monsters in the photos. I beg, I plead, I play, I joke. They aren’t going for any of it.
Finally, I wind up pretending to be a powerful witch who casts a magical spell on them that allows them to survive in the sun for ten minutes. Bingo! They agree to come outside.
We take one photo using the timer on the camera. But Crappy Baby was looking back at a bird and Crappy Boy was talking.
While Crappy Papa runs to set the timer again, I look down at Crappy Baby and notice that a spaghetti sauce-like substance has rematerialized around his mouth. What the hell?
I’m not kidding.
I quickly do that gross mom thing where use my spit to try to wipe it off but this makes him scream and start to cry just as the second photo snaps:
He runs off crying and I go after him to apologize and to figure out why he is so upset. Turns out it isn’t spaghetti sauce, it is blood from a tiny cut next to his lip that I just rubbed with spit and made it sting. Oops.
I finally get him to calm down and I wipe his tears. Course now his eyes are all red and you can tell he’s been crying. And there is snot on my shoulder.
Meanwhile, Crappy Boy is getting bored and impatient and tells me that the ten minute swamp monster spell is wearing off and that they must go back inside or the sun will start to make them ill and they will surely die.
Okay. One last try! Okay, everybody fake smile! We set the timer…
One beep before it clicks and Crappy Baby stomps off deciding that he is “done” with all of this and wants to go back inside.
Desperate, and still wanting to take advantage of their relative cleanliness, I take the camera off the tripod and tell them to “be swamp monsters who are dying in the sun” while I quickly snap 4129 photos.
The wonderful part is that every tenth shot or so, I happen to capture one of their laughing moments in-between their dying, moaning and sad swamp monster expressions:
Those unexpected and totally spontaneous split-second laughing moments in between all the bad stuff?
This is what family is all about, baby.
I got the photo!
HEY HEY, THERE’S A GIVEAWAY!
I can’t help you with photos. You and your swamp monsters are on your own.
However, I CAN help one of you with the actual cards once you’ve got the photo squared away.
Minted has generously agreed to give one of my non-crappy readers $175! (This should easily cover 100 cards or so if you’ve got a big list.)
I really dig their holiday cards – all their products are from indie designers and the colors and typography is scrumptious. They also have holiday card ornaments this year which is clever. Please check them out!