And for those of you who don't have 2 kids and a dog, let me walk you through the process.
- Find matching, cute Christmas outfits. Make sure they are neatly pressed. This is really pointless because in about two minutes the kids will be rolling around on the floor getting every dog hair and tree needle on their now wrinkled duds (and if one of the kids is getting a new tooth, you can add drool to that).
- Find a place to take the picture. I went with in front of the tree. Line up 2 kid size chairs and put the dog next to them. Take a picture of the dog to check the lighting.
- Get the two kids ready, in position and drag the dog over to the chairs. Instruct the older kid to hold the dog. This translates into big kid with one arm around the dog and one arm around little bro. Awe. So sweet. Get ready to snap the picture. Snap it just as Big Sis leans too far into the dog, falls off the chair, drags little brother out of the frame with her and causes the dog to roll her eyes with an I'm-way-too-old-for-this look and wanders into the other room as you position the kids back on the chairs with the promise of a candy cane if we can just do this.
- Repeat #3 about 8 times and realize this isn't working.
- Scrap the chair and get everyone to just stand by the tree. Cute, except Baby Bro loves to say, "Whoa!" while walking backwards, so he starts leaning on the tree, almost tipping it over.
- Start bringing in the props and Smarties. Give everyone (including the dog) a smartie as you hand the kids a Rudolph. Hear your older child scream, "BUT I WANT TO HOLD IT!" and grab another Christmas toy. Try a book. Try another Smartie. Try for kids in a totem pole pose with dog, on the ground, sis standing behind and little bro on a step stool. Remember that your son thinks he is part lion after you take 4 pictures of him roaring, and 2 pictures where the dog has wandered off and one of your older child "lovingly" pushing your baby off the stool because she wants to be tall.
- Look out at the snow. Get all artistic and take a picture of them with a snowy backdrop. See that your kids keep turning around to look out of the window and get super artistic. Go outside in the snow in the most accessible shoes (crocs) and take a picture of the children looking out at the snow. Get an awesome picture of the screen and a reflection of you in your pjs. Have the great idea to toss the kids outside in the winter wonder land. Take one picture of both children looking down at their shoes (the dog is now hiding in the basement and no amount of Smarties is getting her to come outside).
- Decided it's nap time for everyone.
- During nap time, suck it up and tell Hubs that this year the whole family will be in the picture. Either that or get the carseats out and 5 point harness those babies in front of the tree. Take a shower and dig out that bag of make up. Remember that you needed to get new make up. Remember that you also need a hair cut and an eyebrow wax. Kick yourself for eating all that food last week. Pick something festive.
- Think it will be fun to take the picture outside in the new fallen snow. Grab the camera, coffee can, three bowls. Assemble a platform for the digital camera and test out the timer. Realize that your outfit is not as cute as you thought it was and put on that super cute new coat you got yesterday. Test the camera again, at a different angle. Love the shot, but also notice that you look too marshmallow-y. Change again. Perfect shot, but the three bowls keep slipping, knocking your camera into the snow. Look up to see your husband playing playstation and taking a picture of you with his phone.
- Come to the realization that it's too cold for all of that. Come inside and have your helpful husband remind you that you have three tripods in the garage. Find a tripod. Find the little piece you need to attach your camera to the tripod. Grab the older kid and take a test shot by the window. Look over at the tree. Go back to where the photo shoot started. Get the angle perfect with one kid. Then you and one kid. Then you, one kid, a husband and a dog. Thank God for digital photography.
- Get baby up from nap and re-dress everyone.
- Start the timer picture fun. After 9 shots that aren't going to work, think you'll be funny and say "booty!" right before the flash to make the kids laugh. Remember your chat with God about being "funny" just as the flash goes off and see a really BAD picture of yourself (awesome of everyone else). Thank God again for digital photography. Remind everyone about the candy canes wait in the kitchen. Take 10 more shots. Announce that you are taking three more pictures and that's it. If we don't get it, no candy canes for anyone. Take three more pictures and call it a day.
- Look at the very last picture from the day. Everyone looking at the camera? Check. Cute of the kids? Check. Cute of hubby and dog? Check. Are you in the picture? Check.
- Upload the picture into the card. Realize after looking at it that it's really not a great picture of you. Then remember that you are the mom, and sometimes you just have to suck it up.
So Merry Christmas. And whenever you get a photo card from someone, don't think, "That's cute," and toss it. Put that bad boy somewhere nice. Pack it away and bring it out next year, and for years to come. Or if you do just tear and toss, please don't tell me. My 15 steps can't take it.