Saturday, November 30, 2013

And Thou Shalt Display Thy Child on Thy Holiday Card

I loathe the holiday photo task. Who decreed that, If thou hast a child, thou shalt display that child on thy Christmas card?

Because I'd like to give him/her a piece of my mind.

What happened to the days we all ordered nice cards depicting Christmas trees, angels, polar bears or Currier and Ives paintings, and maybe inserted a wallet sized print of the school portrait in the ones bound for elderly relatives?

It's partly my fault. When the Grape was two, I had a professional photographer, take his picture. A few of my friends tossed the card by accident because they thought it was an advertisement. The photo was that good. I should have had her come back this fall. Maybe I was being cheap, or lazy—I've had a tenacious chest and head cold for five weeks and counting—but I never got around to booking her.

Besides, last year, R. and I spent easily six hours on the project, between various photo sessions wherein boy and dog cooperated only on an alternating basis, photo editing and card layout (Because who knew a vertical photo wouldn't work with our first choice card? Or that the words on the card on our second choice would disappear into the photo because you cannot print white text on a snowy rooftop?)

Surely we could improve on that experience.

This year I thought I was on the ball.

R. and I took roughly two hundred photos of the Grape and Lila the Dog in the woods for the holiday card. Why two hundred? Because the Grape despises the camera and that's how many it took to get one decent photo of both child and canine.

I went online, picked a card format, uploaded our one decent photo and clicked the "submit order" button. I even had a coupon for free shipping. I felt very proud and efficient.

This year we would not be sending out a photo entitled Meltdown Next to Dog Butt, I thought smugly.

R. and I decided that this picture, while not a professional portrait, adequately portrayed the boy and his dog, circa holidays 2013, in a not entirely unflattering light:

FedEx delivered the box of cards the day before Thanksgiving. I tore them open, pleased because I figured I could get the overseas ones sent out over the Thanksgiving weekend.

And then I gawked at the parallel green smudges stretching from the top left corner.

Where my print of the photo shows trees reflected on the Winchester Reservoir, a favorite place to walk on fall weekends, the card showed two bright green parallel lines.

Which might have been alright, except that on top of our photo not transferring well, the card company experienced some kind of printer problem. On the cards, the tree reflection line ran all the way across the picture, leaving the Grape looking like he had recently emerged from a lengthy soak in a heavily chlorinated pool.

I stepped away from the fourteen apples I was peeling for the next day's pie and sent a tweet to Tiny Prints, explaining the problem.

Tiny Prints responded promptly, and made several attempts to fix the way the photo was printing, before their design specialist got in touch today and suggested we try a different picture.

Easier said than done. First of all, it was twenty degrees outdoors when I saw her email. Re-creating the  fall tableau was out, and we sent a picture of boy hidden under coat and hat last year.

So we tried indoors. We tried with a cute holiday outfit and elf hat. We tried until the camera battery croaked.

Fifty-two pictures. Most with dog yawning or the Grape making a ridiculous "CHEESE!" face that makes him resemble nothing so much as a piranha, or the Grape's ridiculous long underwear showing, and some with inexplicably weird bright back light.

Here is one of the better ones. No, this is not a joke. They look less than thrilled, but at least Lila the Dog is neither yawning nor practicing good intimate hygiene.

Notice I said it's not the best one. That got sent to Tiny Prints, where I am pretty sure it will clash with the border selected for the original, outdoor photo.

And if they send the proof back in a business day or two, and it miraculously looks alright, we still won't have the cards until a week and a half from now.

I'm sitting here looking at the calendar and wondering whether we should just go with Green Smears and Green Hair.


  1. Here, here! In the past, prior to having kids and since, I LOVED sending Christmas cards. They never included photos (or WERE a photo card), until my first son was born. Every year, they required an assembly line to get out and every year my husband would make me promise I would 'downsize' both the list and the card the following year. And, as the price of stamps has gone up, our 100 card list can easily cost us $500 to send once we figure the photo session cost, cost of the card itself, cost of printing the photos (in years passed, the photo was NOT the card, but affixed to it).

    I decided this year I would not send cards but *might* send some kind of e-holiday card. Then, a close friend pointed out that this was Baby G's first Christmas, our first as a family of four, and how could I NOT send out cards! Honestly, I rarely feel guilty but she guilted me into it. I wouldn't want G to think that his joining our family caused me to stop sending cards. Ugh.

    So, you are WAY ahead of me as I don't have a photo or a plan to have them taken NOR do I have an idea for the card. So, there.

    Man, I feel better. Do you? LOL

  2. I'm with you. Used to LOVE sending cards and now I dread the task starting around say, August. I am solidly anti e-card, although I am usually all about saving the trees. I keep all the cards I get every Christmas and save them. They are fun to look at years later.

  3. Update 12.5.2013: After much ado and back and forth, received discounted replacement cards. Green smudges fixed but dog now looks like giant black ink stain. Resolution NOTHING like it looked in the proof. Called, got full refund, shipping back card fails.

    Started over with new company. Was proud of newly designed result. The card even had a nice back with small photos and a happy new year message. I placed the order, then went back and looked at my work a second time. Realized I was wishing all a happy 2013. Another chat with customer service, who assured me they can fix it. (Order hadn't processed because it had been less than five minutes.)
    We'll see. If they say 2013, I'm crossing out the 3 and putting a 4 at this point.

  4. Yes! It is an annoying task. And it gets so expensive. I opted out this year. Just not sending one. Hoping not too many notice.