It is really not the holiday season until someone has cried. This can always be accomplished at the annual Christmas card photo session. Within a mere matter of moments, usually. Ah, the holidays are so magical. This post is as timely now as it was when we originally ran it last year…
Yesterday was the day we had our annual photo shoot in hopes of capturing one decent picture of the kids for our Christmas card. The perfect holiday photo is always seemingly within our grasp if we’d just pick the right time, the right setting, and start with the right attitude! (Three things that we almost never have at the same time)
In past years, I have experimented with different times of day and different days of the week hoping to hit upon the perfect formula for success. I discovered that after school was not a good time because they have almost no ability to fake holiday cheer after a long day. I discovered right before bed is not a good time because, although they are generally game to do anything that prolongs their entry into bed, I felt rushed. I knew with every readjusted head tilt and arm positioning, they would be crankier and crankier the next day. It was then we switched to the weekend photo shoot. Surely over two days we could find one thirty minute time block where attitudes, lighting atmosphere, energy levels, and hair beauty were maximized, right?
Then there is also the background to contemplate. This is difficult at my house because there is no place inside my house that is camera ready. Our furniture is too lived in to photograph well and most of my walls have scuffs marks of some sort (yes, that is the Sharpie marker on the stair riser I’ve been meaning to paint over). When I procrastinate (which was every year until last year), there’s always right in front of the tree itself. It’s perfect! It’s festive and, as long as you use enough zoom, I don’t have to worry about moving piles of junk around so they can’t be seen in the background.
The first year I tried the tree as a background it was such a disaster that we’ve never attempted it again. Unfortunately, Elfy (our stupid Elf on the Shelf guy) had chosen to creepily spy on my family from a perch in our Christmas tree that day. In my zeal for the perfect photo, I inadvertently reached up and moved the Elf with my hand to get him out of the corner of one shot. This was met with blood curdling screams by a then 7 year old Lucy because now his magic was gone. (Or something. I don’t like the Elf or his story and do just the bare minimum that is necessary to keep him and his stupid myth alive).
Well, that photo session ended abruptly. Don’t worry. We worked out a deal with the North Pole. One glitter glue note later, they restored his mojo to her satisfaction. Whew.
The final key is the pep talk for the photo shoot. The first thing my kids do upon hearing that it’s photo time is to reflexively groan. They know they will have to sit within close proximity to each other and actually smile for some period of time. This is time that you can’t be playing X-box or listening to One Direction and dancing in your room, as the case may be. This is why a pep talk is so important. They need to be in an upbeat state of mind so they will feel happy and carefree. This allows their inner joy to shine out through their eyes as they smile.
Naturally, I accomplish this with a complicated series of threats. Although I always start out peppy and positive (You look so nice! These cards are going to be so great!), my pep talk always devolves into promises of punishments once the photo shoot begins. (If you don’t stop irritating her, I’m going to ground you. Please quit making those crazy eyes or you are going to have to go to bed early.) If they would only do EXACTLY as I say and smile on cue (but naturally!) and freeze when I tell them to (but don’t look wooden!), then we would have the perfect picture in no time flat!
Our family photo session generally ends when any one of the three of us bursts into tears and is too stressed out to go on any longer. (You may notice that I said “three” when there are actually four human members in our family. My beloved husband always comes up with some task that he HAS to do the minute I begin holiday card photo sessions. It’s a total coincidence, I’m sure.)
But last year, I discovered the greatest thing. There are people you can pay to take your children’s photos. They are good at it, and your kids don’t know them well enough to misbehave in front of them!!! Ashley introduced me to the most wonderful photographer, and she did the whole thing. They got dressed, we drove to a park, and in 45 minutes it was completely done. The kids were actually happy having their picture taken. It was pure bliss!! The photos were fantastic. I actually had several card’s worth of wonderful photos to choose from—something that had never happened to me before!!
I’m no dummy! I scheduled with her again this year! Perfect solution, right?!! Well..almost. Right about bed time the night before the photo shoot, Bobby rubbed some sort of allergen in his eye. He’s allergic to a lot of things: dust, pollen, dander, some foods…and probably many other things I don’t even know of yet. That’s just how he comes to the table. He came up to me and said, “My eye is itchy.” So, a mere 12 hours or so before our stress free photo shoot, I looked up to see him with one normal looking eye and one freakishly swollen deformed looking eye.
Of course I respond the way any loving and concerned parent would respond by shouting, “OH, MY GOD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOURSELF? DON’T YOU KNOW YOU ARE HAVING YOUR PICTURE TAKEN TOMORROW???!!!”
Don’t be alarmed. He didn’t run to the corner and cry after my outburst, nor is he scarred for life. He thought my allergy eye freak out was hysterically funny. (Like any person with a Y chromosome at our house, making me freak out is thought to be the height of hilarity.) I promptly gave him Benadryl, eye drops, and made him take a shower in case whatever was causing it was still lingering somewhere on his t-shirt.
Luckily the next morning his eye was back to normal and our stress free photo session was on! We met the photographer—this time downtown instead of at the park so we’d have a different feel to the pictures from last year. She was completely sweet, energetic, and fantastic just like last year. My kids, however, were not. You see, I think they felt more comfortable with her this year because they knew her. Instead of being on their best behavior as they are around strangers, they decided to be THEMSELVES. Ugh.
It started off great. I almost cried with happiness at the adorable things she had them doing. Smiles were genuine. It was too good to be true…again! But it *was* too good to be true. About half way through, it all changed. Lucy decided she had to put her hand on Bobby’s shoulder which pulled him over and almost made him fall. He then pinched the back of her arm to show his irritation. Before you knew it, they were going at it like two alley cats. This time I wanted to cry with frustration that they were incapable of behaving nicely for a mere 30 minutes.
But it all worked out in the end. Our wonderful photographer was a total pro and got them back on track quickly, and we finished up the session without further incident. She even assured me that they were not the worst behaved kids she’d ever photographed and she thought they were adorable. (A total lie, I’m sure, but it was very sweet of her to say.)
I love her and our new system. I can’t wait to see this year’s photographs! I’m just praying she doesn’t blackball us when it comes time for next year’s photo session.