For me, one of the top ten perks of having my newborn back in 2009 was at Christmastime. I finally got to join the troops of parents who made the cute holiday cards out of their kids' photos that I'd always envied.
But the first year, I was stressed. My baby was two months old, always crying, and it really put a damper on any creative abilities I thought I'd accumulated for the Christmas card talent I was supposed to have in adulthood. I let Picture People make this card out of one of the pictures from his first photo session and called it a day.
These were the days when I thought every single photo of my newborn was amazing. Nevermind his frown and half closed eyes.
There's a small victory I soak up from this card, though. Three years later, he still sleeps with the same bear. Except he's half as fluffy.
The next year, I had a photographer do a photo shoot with us at North Carolina's Art Museum. I'd hoped to include Matt and I in this one, but I honestly didn't like any of the pictures she took. I picked my favorite one of Carter and used Tiny Prints to create my card design the week before Christmas. I think I paid more than $40 for last minute shipping alone.
Last year, I got really into Pinterest and was inspired by the whole do it yourself world. I started to think I could possibly take a professional-looking photo myself, and, at the very least, I'd be using my own creative vision instead of someone else's photography.
I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and luckily my baby was old enough to be bribed with candy for sitting still. I could never tell you how to photograph in low light, but I got lucky with this shot and started to believe that almost any photo I took with determination and vision could be better than the professional photo cards I'd had made in the past. I used Tiny Prints again, just to add the text and have it printed.
This year, we put our tree up extra early just so I could get the lights in the background of the card. One lazy morning, I gave Carter a crash course on the concept of Christmas cards. I showed him his old ones and some I'd saved that people sent us last year. He was in a good mood and totally compliant to every word. Probably because I told him he could have three gummy worms when we were done.
I tried a few different setups with candy canes and winter hats. I moved on to a milk and cookies idea I'd had and set them in front of him. Eyes full of thanks, he immediately reached for a cookie.
"Wait! Don't touch them yet, Carter! I have to refocus the camera."
Then this face happened. And I got my 2012 Christmas card.
(Yes, I let him eat the cookies.)
The first picture with the little smile reaching for the cookie tormented me. I was dying to use it. I felt so cynical even considering sending out a Christmas face that was anything but happy. But the frustrated, crumpled eyebrows pulled at my heart.
Clicking back and forth between the two for hours, I decided not to let myself get sucked into a world that uses Christmas cards to make our lives look perfect. In reality, he will probably make that same face on Christmas eve and a hundred other times this week. And I love that disgruntled, little furrowed brow just as much as I love his smile.