Step 1: Set unrealistic expectations. To properly achieve this, head to your favorite mom blog to find that she has already published a series of her perfectly groomed clan in matching Christmas jammies decorating the tree, laughing. hugging and looking like they love one another while reaching to put the star on top. And if that doesn’t inspire you, log in to Pinterest for about three thousand more examples of siblings of all ages wearing bow ties and glitter dresses, smiling against a festive holiday backdrop that looks like the snow globe your gramma always had sitting on her piano.
Believe that could be your children if you just found the right outfits.
Step 2: Google “Matching Christmas Jammies.” Find the cutest and most festive pair that will only fit your oldest and the third child you have yet to convince your husband you’re having. Speaking of your husband, wonder if he could be convinced to wear Christmas jammies for the photo too. Google “Christmas onsie for a man.” Immediately regret it. Decide to abandon the jammie idea altogether and just order Santa hats.
Step 3: Bring the box of Santa hats in from the doorstep and leave them in the entryway for three to four weeks while you think to yourself—while in the shower, driving the kids to daycare or before bed at night— that you should really get those Christmas photos done before you have to come up with a way to convince your friends and family that those are Valentines Day hats.
Step 4: Wake up one Saturday morning and declare that you are going to take the Christmas photo today. Listen to the groans. In your most Mrs. Clause type voice, tell them to stop it. Tell them it will be fun. Tell them there will be hot chocolate. And maybe, honey, we should pile the kids on the old toboggan that I used to have as a kid. What a quaint and adorable idea! Ask your husband where that old toboggan is stored. Don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer. Pull on your snow boots and your husband’s beanie (because yours must be with the toboggan) and head to the shop to search. Curse the fact that your husband is only a hoarder of the things you don’t need for a perfect Christmas card photo…like seventy three old buckets, dozens of coffee cans full of nuts and bolts, enough deer antler sheds to start a rustic chandelier business, three old welders and… these old snow skis? Well these are cool. Decide to ditch the sled search and haul them home to lean up against the house by the wreath and the little Christmas tree you bought from the elementary school fundraiser.
Step 5: Curse the sun that turned your picturesque snow into muddy slush. Contemplate your Photoshop skills. Wonder how long it would take to learn how to add fake snow.
Step 6: Dig in the kids’ closets and find the perfect sweaters, flannels, scarves and boots. Lay them all out together to make sure they match. Inform the children of the plan. Start the negotiations. No basketball shorts. She can wear the Elsa gown to daycare if she just wears these cute jeans for five minutes. Cue toddler meltdown. Offer candy for cooperation. Over use “Santa’s watching” and think that maybe your sister was right about getting one of those Elf on the Shelf things. Decide his good sweatpants are fine and Elsa is the snow queen. Make no compromise on the hats.
Step 7: Dig your good camera out from under a stack of school papers in the corner of the kitchen.
Step 8: Drag the kids outside under the pretense that this will only take a few minutes if they cooperate. Really. It will be fun and quick. Just smile.
Step 9: Try to turn on the camera. Battery’s dead. Tell the kids to hold tight and stay out of the mud puddles. Run inside to dig through every desk and junk drawer in the house in search of the spare battery you swore you ordered last year at this time because didn’t you lose your battery charger last year this time? Catch wind of a cry downstairs and convince yourself that sometimes the camera on your phone works better anyway.
Step 10: Pull your daughter out of the mud puddle, wipe her tears with your coat sleeve and sit her on the stool next to her brother. Tell your son to smile “like a real smile.” Tell your daughter to stop hitting her brother. Tell a lame joke to get that smile out of your son. Think you’re funny even though he doesn’t. Tell your daughter if she doesn’t stop moving Santa will take away her birthday too. Tell them there will be a surprise if they cooperate and no presents if they don’t. Have no idea what the surprise would be.
Step 11: Take thirty thousand photos in the three minutes allotted before complete meltdown and say “there’s gotta be something here I can use.” Send the kids inside to watch TV because, ugh.
Step 12: Never take the blurry photos with a pair of skis that look like they’re coming out of your son’s head off of your phone. Scroll through the other thirty thousand photos you took of your children throughout the year and use the one of them eating hotdogs at a baseball game this summer instead.
Step 13: Order the cards, address the envelopes and leave them on your kitchen counter until you can get to the post office to get stamps. Forget about them until you find them under a stack of school papers in February.
Step 14: Happy Valentines Day.
Merry Christmas Prairie Parents! Thank you for a year full of stories, insight and advice. And thank you to everyone who submitted their favorite Christmas card photos, they are all true to the spirit of this beautiful and crazy parenting journey, and the innocence and authenticity of our children. You can find these photos throughout the issue and our favorite on the cover. Enjoy time with your children this holiday season and remember the best gift is time spent together.
Peace, Love and Say Cheese,