Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas cards from the edge

“Better hurry,” my wife Kara said. “There’s not much time.”

Our son Evan was perched on her knee, issuing warning coos. To the untrained ear, they might have sounded like happy-baby sounds, but we’ve had enough practice to know that the thunderheads would be rolling in soon.

“This stupid camera makes you punch seventeen buttons in the right order to set the timer,” I said, trying to stay cool. “I feel like I’m playing Simon over here.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Simon, it’s an old game that made you punch brightly colored buttons in increasingly complicated sequences, accompanied to the sound of robotic beeps. Believe it or not, Simon actually used to keep children entertained, but you have to remember that this was before Nintendo or Miley Cyrus had been invented. Before Simon, kids spent all their time wearing tri-cornered hats and chasing after a metal wheel, trying to keep the wheel rolling by smacking it with a stick. And also avoiding the plague, which back then was called mouse flu.

“OK, I think it will work this time,” I said, pressing the shutter button and running towards the couch. The way our camera works, when the timer is set, you get a series of long beeps followed by a couple of short beeps, which sends the signal to the dog to start sniffing your crotch. I suppose this might count as a canine version of a holiday greeting, but it doesn’t make for the best Christmas card photos.

Kara and I finally decided to break down and send a few Happy Holidays cards this year, though we haven’t quite worked out how to take a cute family photo, which is a prerequisite, if for no other reason than to prove that you can get everyone to sit still for ten seconds. We might just give up and choose an easier way to pass the time, like juggling flaming wreaths or figuring out what to get my mom this year that isn’t a sweater or jewelry.

We’d put off beginning the Christmas card tradition for many years because once you’re in, you can never get out, like the mafia or an alumni association mailing list. Once you send that first card, the only way out is to fake your own death.

But now that we have a baby of inestimable cuteness, we decided that it’s time to bite the fruitcake and start sending some cards around.

“Smile, everybody,” said Kara as I jumped onto the couch beside her.

“WAAAHHHH!” said Evan. Despite my best efforts, the dog heeded the signal from the camera just in time for the flash.

“Dude, the dog just did it again,” I said.

“Hey, where’d Evan’s other sock go?” Kara asked.

And so it went for nearly an hour. Trilogies have been filmed with fewer takes, and still we didn’t have a winner.

I’ve been campaigning for us to just send around our outtakes. Outtakes are always the best part of the movie, especially a movie with Eddie Murphy in it. Besides, taking 700 pictures to get one decent, calm shot of our family is basically the same thing as Photoshopping the love handles off of the model for the cover of Vogue. Reality has not been accurately depicted.

But Kara thinks we have the potential to get a shot in which the two of us, the baby and the dog are all behaving ourselves relatively well. She also thinks that root beer doesn’t get as cold as other liquids in the fridge. She has many crackpot ideas.

“We’ll try again tomorrow,” she said.

And so we will. And probably the day after that, too. Anyway, if you’re on our mailing list, I hope you’ll enjoy our first Christmas card, which should arrive in time for St. Patty’s Day.

You can say cheese with Mike Todd at


  1. While your perfect photo may never happen, I do agree with Kara that Root Beer does not get as cold as other refrigerator stored carbonated beverages. Take a swig of your favorite Ice Cold adult beverage, then one of root beer. You will see her logic.

  2. If you'd like an amateur photographer to come serve as a variable-time-limit-with-no-beeping timer on your camera, you know who to talk to :) And if they can't make it, you could always call me.

  3. You may as well send a Christmas card of the outtakes, but have to say that you're far too young to have that look of Yuletide glee that you have going in photo #3. As for the root beer not getting as cold...Kara is correct. Doesn't matter if you put an iceberg in the glass, it doesn't get cold. Mildly chilled, yes, but not cold.

    P.S. Faking your own death doesn't work. Once you send Christmas cards, only God can give you a pass.

    P.S.S. Your Phiwies are stealing Doc Halladay so they have no excuse next year!!!

  4. I seriously cannot believe that people are agreeing with Kara on the root beer thing. It's the exact same temperature as everything else in the fridge. Am I the only sane person in the world?

  5. Aww....Simon. I loved that game. I have been procrastinating taking a group photo of my children. I may just have to do individuals and photoshop it into one shot :o)

  6. I love the look on your face in that 3rd shot...

    I've been sending you cards for years. One day it will be nice to get one from you guys. And when I do, I will frame it. It reminds me of how long it took you to get a cell phone.

    Dude, you know I would be there in a heartbeat to take a family photo. One suggestion that will help a lot - don't take the photo at night. You're in the right room - it gets the most daylight in your house. Having that fill light will improve the quality of the photo and the flash won't be so intense. If you have a work light in the basement, try plugging it in on the stairwell and aim it at the ceiling. It will really help balance the light for a better pic.

    Last and not least, once you get a photo you like, email it to me and I'll use my processing software to fix color temperature and make some slight adjustments. I can do it in just a few minutes and email it back.

    Wait, what am I saying... no doubt you're blogging about this after the fact and you've already captured the photo and sent it out for card printing. Oh well.

  7. PS: I never thought about it before. But now that I recall, I must also agree with Kara - chilled root beer doesn't ever seem as cold as other beverages. However, in Googling this, there is no talk of the phenomenon so I must assume it's not the case.

  8. You know they only want to see a picture of Evan. Once you have a kid you no longer matter. Save yourself the headache and take one kickass shot of the Lil Dude. ;)

  9. You should absolutely send the outtakes. Along with the commentary provided on this post. Hilarious!
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