why Christmas cards may give me an ulcer

So it’s December 12, and I still haven’t ordered Christmas cards. I’m getting closer, but so far no Christmas cards. I can give myself a little bit of grace here since we’re only halfway to Christmas from the start of December. But I’m an “on the ball” kinda gal, and I’m far from it this year.

Let me paint you a little picture.

Once upon a time there was a family. They went to the beach over the summer and had their pictures taken. The pictures turned out beautifully! Everyone was happy, everyone was smiling.

But when looking for that one photo where everyone looks good and is looking at the camera… you know, the one photo to use for the Christmas card… there wasn’t one to be found. Not one single photo of the family of four where everyone has a slightly happy face.

Case in point.

Two miserable boys and two smiling parents. (Photo by Sarah Lyn Photography)

As a mom who is rarely in front of the camera as it is, this disappoints me a little more than it should. I’m always behind the camera. I either can’t find someone to take my picture with my kids or I look like I just rolled out of bed, even though I’ve been awake for hours, so I refuse to get in front of the camera.

It’s a treat to have a professional take our pictures.

Because Hayes was nearing 18 months old, we decided to have some fall family photos taken by a fabulous photographer who had taken our pictures before. She is so easy to work with, so much fun, and incredibly talented.

We get everyone dressed, we drive to see her. We’re walking around outside on a gorgeous farm. And as soon as Hudson sees her camera, he buries his face in my hip. Then he’s climbing on me and hiding behind me. He absolutely refuses to let her see his face.

He spent the majority of the time just flopping around and running away from her.

Sweet little Hayes the Ham, would just stare at the camera and give his biggest “cheese” face, but no, not Hudson.

We distracted Hudson by playing games and basically just pretending like we weren’t having our pictures taken.

After an hour and a half of taking fun pictures around the farm, and getting Hudson to just loosen up and enjoy the afternoon, we had a great session.

We got the pictures back and there were so many fantastic pictures in the bunch. Lots of smiles and laughs.  But not one single picture of the four of us when everyone has a happy face and is looking at the camera.

The good news is that we did have a great time that day. And we do have some great pictures.

And after talking with some friends last night (and laughing hysterically about this), I know that essentially every family goes through this. The stubborn child who refuses to make it easy to take one decent family photo.

There’s a camera. Nope, they’re not gonna smile.

For three years now we’ve either had a photographer take the picture or had our parents take the picture. And every time, we just take what we can get and hope that at least two out of four of us is smiling.

So while the Christmas cards are all rolling into the mailbox, I open them and just giggle. Because it’s highly likely that every one of those sweet Christmas card photos was actually coming on the heels of a screaming fit by a toddler!

Or maybe they’re like ours and the whole session was really just a wrestling match.

Presenting the real Carroll family! Our 2012 Christmas card photo we chose by the amazing Millie Holloman Photography

(Maybe? Just please tell me I’m not the only one!)

How about you? Was finding just one picture of your family a nearly impossible task?

And if any of you who are reading are on our Christmas card list, don’t worry. The cards will be in your mailboxes before December 25!

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  1. April says

    The only way we had a picture on our Christmas card was to use the family photo taken professionally at my brother’s wedding this past August. It was a great photo of all of us and we are all smiling. I have on a bridesmaid’s dress and my hubby has on his shirt and tie. So definitely not “Christmasy” but still works. You might try doing a photo collage type card (lots on Shutterfly) where you can pick and choose to use the best of your pictures and not necessarily just one of all 4 of you?

  2. Amanda S says

    I’m right there with you. My 18 month old was having nothing to do with pictures this year. When I got all the pictures back, we just laughed and were pretty amazed with the shots we did get but man they took work! We did not get one where all four of us are looking and smiling. In the end the Christmas card went out with the one where three of us are looking and smiling and the 18 month old is looking at me but you can tell she is smiling and then a great one of the kids. Jason and I decided to roll with it. It is the season we are in right now and I’m sure just about everyone who received our card got a really good chuckle either because they remember these days or they are living these moments.

    Hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and wonderful holiday season.

    • says

      Haha exactly! The photos are a reflection of what our life is like right now, and that is why it’s so fun to look at them. Our kids are always able to just be kids and we try to just catch them smiling rather than forcing them to smile. Maybe one of these days they’ll smile while we’re all huddled together! 🙂

  3. laura says

    I actually think both of those photos are beyond precious and totally christmas card worthy! i feel like we put too much pressure on ourselves to have that “perfect” picture, when the ones with more personality are actually my favorites! I know whichever photo you choose will be beyond adorable and well-perceived by your family and friends! The most critical person is YOU! would you ever think the same thoughts about another’s photo? probably not 🙂

  4. says

    We are the same way. Pictures are next to impossible. I just have resigned to the fact that it won’t be picture perfect, like a magazine, but it’s a perfect picture of what our family is right now– mildly chaotic at best. This year Connor looks like he is not very happy about being in our family. I just laughed, as I am sure others did when they got our card. And then he busted his head later in the session and had a golf ball sized lump protruding from his forehead… should have just sent that picture out with bahumbug as the caption. ha!

    • says

      Lindsey, I am DYING laughing! This is us, too. Hudson busted his nose the day we had the pictures taken and then really wanted no part of the picture process. But he did love playing in the field. So we just rolled with it! 🙂

  5. Diane says

    Oh Erin – this is so NOT just you! I ordered mine on Monday, paid $30 Super Rush shipping to arrive today. And the picture is definitely not a favorite! After a week of both me and the little guy fighing the cold of the season, this was the best we could do with ME acting as the “professional” photographer. Hopefully in our fit of let’s-just-order-them-and-be-done-with-it, the cards wll be halfway decent!

    I just LOVE the last picture – beautiful and natural — just like your sweet family!

  6. says

    We all got the stomach flu the week we were supposed to get pictures taken so we rescheduled for this weekend. It was chaotic at best and we got literally one acceptable picture. 3/4 BeVelles smiling and 3/4 BeVelles looking at the picture. Not the same 3 each time. Haha! Oh well. I actually really love the picture you chose. I know you know someday we’ll miss this chaos. 🙂

  7. says

    Erin, as a photographer, I totally understand you!!! I have sessions all the time where, usually happy children, are just NOT. They simply are not in the mood for photos. I sometimes feel discouraged and embarrassed when I don’t get a great photo of the whole family smiling. Now, me personally, I LOVE candid photos. Like, I would LOVE that fall family photo with the wrestling and all on a Christmas card. That’s also the great thing about multiple-photo cards. You can include a photo of you and Todd, one of the boys laughing, and a fun family photo! No one will ever notice that there’s not ONE photo of everyone looking and smiling. 🙂 Speaking of, I’m editing a session right now that is giving me some grief….tons of family shots and kid shots…not a whole lot where all three kids are smiling in the general direction of the camera. That’s just life. 🙂

  8. says

    I love it! It is a true picture of your life together as a family in this season. 🙂 Our family photo session last month was HORRENDOUS! We walked away exasperated, I hate that, but somehow our photographer managed to get one good shot. Praise the Lord!

  9. says

    Our card photo is VERY similar! We only have one child and it was a wrestling match! The best one of everyone looking at the camera has a football flying in front of my husbands face….the photographer and him were playing catch to keep our daughter still and get some giggles. Oh well such is life!

  10. says

    One year the best option had our 2 year old was eating a bag of goldfish. The rest of us looked good and he was at least still, so that won out. Your pic is gorgeous!

  11. says

    I couldn’t find a picture of the four of us that was even remotely good so I took the easy way out and chose a card that let me use multiple pics so I could use a variety of everyone that were good. It wasn’t ideal but will work. Mine have been sitting on my counter for over a week and I’ve yet to touch them…other than moving them from one corner of the desk to the other 🙂

    AND…if you can’t get them out by Christmas just do a “New Year” card – those are super fun and I’ve seen some really cute ones lately.

    p.s. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the photo you picked!!!

  12. says

    I feel your pain! I’m in the same boat – I’m rarely in pictures b/c I’m either taking them or I’m looking a little grubby. We also have a hard time getting a good family picture. I tell myself every time we try to take a family picture that one day – maybe in the next 10 years – the four of us can take a pic where everyone is looking at the camera and have a natural smile. I do love the pic you chose for your Christmas card! The color of the leaves is gorgeous and it looked like you guys had a blast!

  13. says

    I think that card is better than any other regular posed card because it shows you who all are. I love it! Our cards are not ordered either. I’m so behind this year! Just about to give up on the whole picture card and just buy some at Papyrus!

  14. Shelly says

    I am almost ashamed of how frustrated I got with trying to get the kids to look and smile. I finally realized I needed to just accept that it can’t be perfect and just like our life It maybe messy and silly but it is so very blessed and wonderful in its own way. And I think your photos reflect that too.

  15. says

    I bribed my 2 boys with Popsicles so that they would stand in front of our Christmas tree and smile. And it worked! We were lucky enough to get a beautiful pic of them!

  16. says

    This post cracked me up because this was our family exactly this yr. we have a 16 month old who is always happy but is go-go-go. We had professional pics done in November but all Kate wanted to do was run around. We didn’t get a single pic that was good of all 3 of us. I ended up choosing one of just Kate. Maybe next yr will be better. I LOVE your picture though!

  17. says

    A very talented friend of mine took our pictures for us. I knew with a nine month old and a three year old there was no way my husband and I could be in the picture and get the kids to look at the camera and smile. So we opted to just do the kids. She took 325 pictures and there literally was only one picture where they were both looking at the camera with good smiles and still the youngest was moving her arm so there was the slightest bit of a blur! Go figure!

  18. says

    Love your photo. It is perfect. Our situation was similar. We took photos at a local University. I knew just where I wanted the photos taken on campus and had a grand vision for our Christmas card this year. Which photo did I love? The one of my three kids who stopped in front of a tree laughing and hugging after they decided to run through campus. Completely unplanned and definitely the best pic of the day.

  19. Heather says

    Our photo Christmas cards have always been of our dogs. This year, I couldn’t get a single pic in which one of them wasn’t dirty,running away, or nipping at the other. The photo collage is my friend! 🙂

  20. says

    while that may not have been the photo you were hoping for, I absolutely adore it! Those smiles and laughs are so genuine, you can’t help but smile looking at the four of you playing in the leaves:) Merry Christmas!

  21. Shannon says

    Erin, this may not be the card you originally envisioned, but I think it’d be hard to find one that captures the true joy that is family any better! I absolutely LOVE this photo and just know it will bring smiles to all that receive one this Christmas, no matter when they arrive! Merry Christmas!

  22. HeatherM says

    We had that problem- only our family photo includes our dog who just doesn’t understand. So we got a camera remote, and it is the best thing ever. We went out to the park, set the camera up upwind (where the dog will sniff), and tried LOTS of different poses, and just kept snapping and snapping away. The remote was in my hubby’s hand behind my back modt of the time. We ended up with about 40 great natural shots, because there was no photographer to make us act unnatural.

  23. Jeannie K says

    Erin, I love your Christmas card! It’s real life, not posed, and it’s beautiful. There is real joy in that pic. I understand what you are saying, though. I’m having to use pictures from June on our Christmas card. Getting Christmas pictures taken was just not happening…scheduling issues, sick baby, etc. But I still love sending out cards and letting others know I’m thinking of them!

  24. Lindsey says

    Erin, were you in my brain last night while trying to do our Christmas card?!?! We had photos taken last weekend, and same story here. Not one photo of everyone looking at the camera. But I think it’s endearing bc it reflects the stage of life we are all in. So when you open our card, you’ll chuckle like you have been with the other cards. 🙂 speaking of cards, we need your updated address! Love and miss y’all!

  25. Ashlee says

    You are not alone! We had a photographer take pictures for us, too! Lots of great pictures, bot not one worthy of a Christmas card! When I take pictures of my kids for special occasions like Christmas or Easter morning, I turn into Mean Mommy in the blink of an eye. All I want is ONE good picture to commemorate the event so it looks like we had a good time. By the end, I’m sweating, I’ve raised my voice, I’ve bribed and threatened, etc. Maybe I should just settle for the real pictures! Someone crying, someone’s bow is falling out, no one is looking at the camera.

  26. says

    I actually love both of those pictures so much. Especially the bottom one. Such a fun shot.

    In our picture, the husband and I are both smiling but BG is giving her best stank face and has straggly hair since she pulled out her bow about 15 times during the session. We actually didn’t even make it home with the thing. So you’ve got happy parents and one miserable looking child. Oh, and I edited out the sweat running down my face from chasing said child. Oh well. Tis life 😉

  27. says

    I used to take pictures for people and it was always so much work to get the one perfect shot of the whole family looking and smiling…. especially when little ones are involved. I personally, love the photo y’all are using! 🙂


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