Needles in a Haystack of Crazy

One of the things that Craig and I look forward to most about the holiday season is putting our Christmas card together.  We’ve always loved choosing the photos for our card and have loved weeding through a stack of wonderful options to find the best shot.

We prepared Katie and Matthew for our photo shoot this past Saturday. We bathed them and dressed them in coordinating outfits. We scouted out the best locations for our photo shoot.  We were ready to go.

But this year, we had a surprise in store for us and we really didn’t see it coming.

With two mobile children, we were lucky to capture three or four shots with Christmas card potential.

Matthew was squirmy.

Katie was incredibly impatient.  She was hot. Hungry. Three.

I was controlling and crazy.

And Craig was desperately trying to capture the magic.

We had an extremely frustrating photo shoot and here’s a sampling of the gems that we captured and promptly rejected…

Ultimately, we were able to pick two perfect needles from this delightful haystack, but next year, Craig and I plan to do our photo shoot immediately after happy hour!

Photos of our final Christmas card to follow…


  1. kris

    Love that you posted the rejected photos!

    Love that so much.

    I told you we had a bad year once as I tried to take Christmas photos.

    I should see if I can dig those up for you.

  2. Joel

    I am certain it was a somewhat frustrating experience (although I have a bit of trouble typing even that because I can hear the love and inner chuckle in your commentary and captioning), but I find the non-cardable pictures of your two little angels bring the kind of smile and warmth to my heart that makes one truly appreciate the beauty of the season! Thanks again for sharing such.

  3. brandy

    Berkeley was not quite two when we had our first "professional" holiday shoot at the capitol.

    I hired a friend to sew matching outfits using vintage-style fabrics. We had the perfect spot and a photog to capture the magic.

    The shot we picked has Barcelona smiling prettily at the camera with her arms around her wiggly little brother who pretty much has his face nestled in her jacket. You can see part of one twinkling eye and the upturn of his little grin.

    We figured it reflected our kids at that time in their lives!

  4. Mari

    Okay, the choke hold, the sassy faces (her brother seems to have just as much of a gleam in his eyes)…and the freakin' hoe down?!?! How do you stand the cuteness? I can't wait to see the two pics that made the cut.

    By the way, I had a friend whose daughter conducted a little scissors experimentation on her hair the night before school picture day. My friend ended up purchasing the full photo package and distributed the portraits with pride, because she knew that — even decades down the road — it would be the one that made everyone smile.

  5. oh but those individual shots of them are soooo adorable! priceless! I like how sassy Katie is. all personality, that one.

  6. Love the outtakes. One day those will be the ones you laugh at the most :) We still haven't done our Christmas card photos, in part because I know we'll have an abundance of "nos" and possibly zero "yeses"!

  7. Peggy

    Love the reject shots. It reminds me of our Christmas postcards where each year I tried to organize 1 husband, 3 teenagers, and 3 very large dogs (the cat never made the pictures), along with the tri-pod, self timer, sunlight, well you get the idea. And the teenagers look so happy and loving in the pictures *sarcasm*.

  8. Oh, your children are so beautiful! I love the hoedown, and the optional lips… and… all of it. Perfect these photos may not be, but full of life, of your kids full-on personalities.

    And so? Lovely in their own right. Look forward to seeing the winners.

    And also? Be grateful for their littleness. Because my 8 year-olds? Act up waaay to much for decent photos. Ethan will not let a photo be taken without making a fist and trying to look "tough and manly" or practicing a kung-fu move.

    And Jake? Well, you remember my post about his over-the-top cheesy smiles? Yup, still. I don't even TRY to get them in one shot together any more, because they will push each other out of the frame. Sigh.

    Enjoy it while you've got it, I say!

  9. KLZ

    First, this post title is fantastic.

    Second? Those kids are so cute that any of those photos would look great on a card! I'm telling you, I'll trade you one of them for my mug. Gimme your kids!

    Woah. Maybe that just went a little too far. Sorry.

  10. LCW

    Love the captions. And although they won't make the Christmas card cut, they are keepers.

  11. Well, now, a hoedown emergency could happen at any time, couldn't it??

    And then you'll be really grateful for Matthew's readiness.

    And, really, lips are overrated. (Says the speech therapist.)

  12. OMG. These are fantabulous. I love the chokehold. He even has a coordinating facial expression. Hehehe :) The cuteness is too much….!

  13. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I love the outtakes! I can just feel your stress level oozing through, tho.. lol Thankfully none of them threw up after.. ;)

  14. @sharmstro

    Loved these photos. Every one of them. Last year we received a card that had four family poses on the front. They were four of the 'rejects'. Best card ever!

  15. this is hilarious. we had the exact same problem – try adding an 11 month old puppy to the mix! ha! love that chokehold shot by the way. :)

  16. ksluiter

    good gracious if those are the rejects I can't even imagine how swoony the keepers were! these are adorable! and our card this year has eddie with out of control hair. it was windy. there was little i could do. lucky for them? l little kids are just plain cute no matter what!

  17. rebeccaslife

    They are just precious!! I couldn't imagine anyone receiving any of these pics and not being completely taken with their sweet innocence!

  18. Elizabeth Flora Ross

    These are awesome! Your children are precious. And I totally understand the challenges of taking family photos. We scheduled ours after SB's nap and snack, but she was still fussy and totally uncooperative. After about 5 minutes, she was done.

    I did a funny post with the outtakes:

    But we did manage to get a few good ones:

  19. Melissa

    Hahaha! Love it! Just wait until they get a little older and overemphasize their smiles. We can never get our older kids to just relax and smile normally, all the while trying to wrangle up our toddler to just sit still long enough. Love your pictures!

  20. CDG


    See? I would have used that one.

    With the caption.

  21. babybabylemon

    I LOVE the chokehold one. It is actually very, very cute. And all kinds of awesome.

  22. Renee

    ALL of those pictures are adorable. Maybe send a Christmas book? Captions and all!

  23. Carolyn

    Completely adorable! See how our video came out this year…

  24. Erin

    Top lip and bottom lip optional are my favs…and the ho down:) Love these!! Your kids are beautiful and it is impossible to get a "reject shot" of material this good:)

  25. Peggy

    How cool that your friend could see the bigger picture, and get a good laugh over the haircut. Most parents have a meltdown over a 4 year old beautician. Kudos to her.

  26. Rachel

    Your children are simply breathtaking!!!! GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You should see my xmas card photos- we have a chokehold as well. And yes, drinking must always be involved!

  27. Miss_Scarlett99

    I freak out about pictures too. My husband is way more laid back. He likes the quirky ones because he feels those are authentic shots of the kids.. I like the "sass" picture ;)

    I have my fingers crossed our Christmas pictures turn out okay

  28. Nichole

    Yes! Start digging! I'll wait.

  29. Nichole

    Thank you, Joel…for coming by and for leaving such a thoughtful comment.
    We really need to try to connect at some point, either out here or back at home. :)

  30. Nichole

    I'm dying to see that photo. I can picture Barcelona being all cooperative and Berkeley all snuggled into her. Happy sighs.

  31. Nichole

    I would probably have a complete breakdown if Katie got hold of the scissors. You would have to visit me in the psych ward, where I'd be rocking and weeping in the corner.

  32. Nichole

    Yes, the sass is appearing more and more often lately.
    She's a sweet girl, but I've caught a couple of eye rolls and a few "my mother is a moron" glances.
    I'm in trouble. I just know it.

  33. Nichole

    I never imagined it would be so tough.
    I thought we'd just snap a few and be done with it.
    Yeah, not so much.
    Good luck to you! Hope you get some great shots. :)

  34. Nichole

    See, you are just incredibly brave to even attempt such a shot!
    And your photos are always so good…maybe you can fly out here next year and help us? Pretty please?

  35. Nichole

    Thank you so much, Varda.
    I am dying at the image of Ethan doing a kung-fu move for the photo. Now that is just priceless.
    Katie has been working on the cheesy smile…her eyes close completely when she does it and it isn't pretty.
    I can't count how many times we said, "just a normal smile, please, Katie."
    I suspect we'll have to move to solo shots by next year.

  36. Nichole

    You don't even have a mug yet.
    When you get it, we'll talk. ;)

  37. Nichole

    Yes, they're keepers. How else will we torture them when they're teenagers?
    Hee hee. ;)

  38. Nichole

    Yes, he is always prepared for a hoedown.
    If you should need emergency services, Matthew is your boy. ;)

  39. Nichole

    Thank you so much.
    I was actually tempted to use the chokehold photo…it makes me giggle every time I look at it. :)

  40. Nichole

    Yes, there was indeed some stress. Lots and lots of it.
    And I am so grateful that there was no vomit to be had. ;)

  41. Nichole

    Oh, that's a great idea. I'm putting that in my memory bank for next year, when I'm fairly certain we'll need it.

  42. Nichole

    Oh, the puppy would have pushed me over the deep end completely! You are a brave woman.

  43. Nichole

    We're learning that little boy hair is always a bit out of control.
    Matthew is getting some strange Einstein curls in the back and he looks like such the mad scientist.

  44. Nichole

    Thank you so much. :)

  45. Nichole

    We did our photos post naptime too.
    We, on the other hand, weren't wise enough to feed them first.
    Maybe that would have helped?
    Your chosen photo was just lovely.

  46. Nichole

    Thank you, Melissa.
    Katie is figuring out the exaggerated smile. You can't even see her eyes when she does it.
    Goofy kids!

  47. Nichole

    In hindsight…. ;)

  48. Nichole

    Thank you so much.
    The chokehold one still makes me giggle.

  49. Nichole

    Thank you for your kind words, Renee.
    And a Christmas book?! I love that idea.

  50. Nichole

    A video is a great idea too…
    Adding that to my list of frustrating tasks for next year!

  51. Nichole

    Thank you so much, Erin. :)

  52. Nichole

    Thanks, Rachel!
    You know that I have to see the chokehold photo now, right?

  53. Nichole

    I'll cross mine for you too.
    My husband, who is usually WAY more laid back than I am, even started to get a little frazzled by the time we were done.
    We may or may not have said something like, "We don't ask that much of you! Now sit down and smile!"

  54. Nichole

    Now that you know how to do it, things could get interesting! :)

  55. Nichole

    Thank you so much, Varda.
    I am dying at the image of Ethan doing a kung-fu move for the photo. Now that is just priceless.
    Katie has been working on the cheesy smile…her eyes close completely when she does it and it isn't pretty.
    I can't count how many times we said, "just a normal smile, please, Katie."
    I suspect we'll have to move to solo shots by next year.

  56. Nichole

    A video is a great idea too…
    Your video was hysterical!
    Adding that to my list of frustrating tasks for next year!

  57. Sherri

    Your tags alone are worth a hoot! "Calm and Patient Father" and "Crazy Controlling Mom"…oh, we have those in our house, too. And I think holding these photo sessions after happy hour next year is the best idea I've heard all day.

    But coming from someone not personally involved with either of these two? They are stinkin' adorable, and the shots are too cute, choking, and sass-face included!

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