A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

The best Christmas card we ever made

My friend Laura helped me make some really fun Christmas cards a few years ago.

I was just so sick of my usual Christmas card routine: dress the kids up, try to keep them clean long enough to get a good picture, stick ’em in front of the tree, scream at them to smile at the same time, “no – not that smile…your real smile,” get frustrated, make someone cry, etc.

I desperately wanted to do something different. 

So when Laura called me up one day and said, “Hey Toots, the lighting is perfect this afternoon. Meet me at that abandoned trailer up the road. I’ll bring the Beanie Weenies,” how could I say no?

I grabbed our matching PJs and a few props, tossed the kids in the car, and we were on our way.

It was so incredibly liberating to just let the kids play and be themselves. It didn’t matter if they got dirty. It didn’t matter if they weren’t all looking at the camera at the same time. It didn’t matter that we were trespassing and eating processed meat from a can. We all had a blast. (Well maybe not Bucket Head, but he was only 21 months old.)

Laura sure has a gift. Here are a few of my favorite shots from that day.

Surprisingly, none of my children have been approached by the Hanna Andersson catalog to model. Huh.

Jello powder. It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Now check out this next one. It’s an action shot.*


Look at that lighting! Love the snot rivulets. That’s not a real squirrel, by the way.*

Now imagine all these pictures and more on some sweet mama-jama matte card stock with a beautiful quote and seasonal greeting inside? Second only to my children, this card is possibly one of my finest creations. Either that, or I was overdue for a med-check.

And how was it received?

“Well, it’s different,” said a vast majority of my relatives.

Mission accomplished. (Insert evil laughter here.)

Happy everything,


* I swear, no children or squirrels were harmed in the making of this card. 


  1. Trish the Dish

    One of my 18mo old twins is a contant snotter. We call him Sir Snottles. Poor kid.

  2. Julie

    I wish you were MY family and sent me awesome cards like that. Those pics are fantastic.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks Julie. Yes, she’s an incredible photographer! I wish she lived next door to me and I could see her all the time!

  3. Barb

    as a photographer I love love love love love love love these!! FABULOUS work!! I live in a really small town where a fair amount of my clients want pretty standard aka formal shots, but on the rare occasion that I get someone who will let me do what ever those are the sessions I have fun with and end up capturing the true essence of the kids, kudos!!! THESE ARE FABULOUS!!!

  4. Sarah Macon

    Love this! It is always such a hassle to get them in the dress, without having beanie weinies running down the front, why not embrace it! Little snot face, my 19 month old is a constant factory…super cute pics!

  5. Liza Martz

    These pictures are fantabulous. The matching threads and Beany Weinies would make them uber formal, almost pretentious in my part of Appalachia. You need some friends and rellies in the hills, girlfriend!

    • Shannon

      Oh, Liza, you made me cry with joy….almost pretentious…you have no idea how much I need that today!

  6. Heather

    We always use either a Christmas movie quote or Christmas song lyric and “act” it out for the photo but ours have never ONCE had such great lighting!!!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Love that idea! This card was loosely based on Nat. Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’s cousin Eddie.

  7. mrs.frisbie

    They are awesome shots! And so much more fun to do than bow-ties and taffeta by the fake yule. Yawn. Yours are truly keepsakes, snot and all!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thanks! That’s exactly what I was going for. If you can’t join ’em, beat ’em. Or, uh, at least be so tacky that people will have nothing to compare you to.

  8. Stacey H.

    If you had waited a few more days, it could have been really festive with Bucket head and a “green eleven” streaming from his nose. (a little nurse humor)

    • The Bearded Iris

      Bwahahahaha! “Green Eleven” – I vow to use that term for the rest of my days. Thank you!

      • Lisa

        Green Eleven is funny! But when they sneeze and it comes shooting out their noses and lands on their chins, the carpet, and anything else they were facing, it can only be called “snot rockets!”

  9. Martha

    Your kids are beauties, snot rivulets and all!

  10. Jane

    I loved this card. I saved it and it is on display every year! (And not just because I don’t have a lot of friends who send cards)

    • The Bearded Iris

      YES! (Emphatically exclaimed with a very animated full-body fist pump!) MADE MY DAY, JANIE!

  11. Rebekah

    These are GREAT pictures – so much better than the posed, staged ones with matching snowflake sweaters and kids on the verge of tears.

  12. Allison @ Motherhood, WTF?

    These are capital-A Awesome! I’ve never attempted the formal shots. My holiday cards are made from me pouring over all the photos from the last 6 months and picking out some winners. This year’s has a couple of the kids looking nice, one of them naked and covered head to toe in paint, and a messy Popsicle one. Totally captures what the kids are really like. But looking at your makes me want to try a professional photographer. So much fun!

  13. Amanda

    Love it! My friend sent one out this year with her oldest daughter smiling and her 3 little brothers “gagged” & tied up with christmas lights and captioned “Silent Night”. Totally precious & will probably freak out the little old biddies!

  14. Catherine

    Those are stunningly beautiful and they capture REAL LIFE. Apparently not what some of your relatives expected to see 😉 Tough cookies, rels! Be grateful everyone is clothed and no one is crying! I’m inspired to de-formalize our Christmas shots this year. The ones’s I hope to do… sometime soon. Maybe after that B’day party!

    ps The snot is THE BEST!!!

    pps Sometimes squirrels do get hurt, by accident, of course. It just happens.

  15. Susan S

    I LOVE those photos. It made me wish I still had some runny-nosed munchkins to drag out for a photo shoot.

  16. Allysgrandma

    Love you, love the kids….Merry Christmas!

    PS The aprons are selling and I am way busy.
    And if you want to see a kid who should be in the Hanna Anderson catalog, except she is not blond look here:

    scroll down to view my beautiful granddaughter.
    PSS She doesn’t have any of my genes, just her maternal grandpa’s Portuguese and her paternal grandmother’s Lebanese…..

  17. Kate

    AWESOME pictures. I absolutely love unique cards and photos. I stopped the insanity and my search for perfection of the Christmas tree photo the year my kids almost fell into the tree and ended in both crying.

  18. JD @ Momagement

    Now THAT will be a Christmas card worthy of display. Awesomeness.

    Mine is your typical kids-being-cute card but I just HAD to do it. My friend Nancy is a professional photographer and this pic that she got … precious. So yeah, it’s typical, but damn is it cute. 😉

  19. Karin

    These are quite literally the best holiday photos I have ever seen. BEST. Ever.
    I would LOVE to receive a holiday card so full of awesome!
    Love the oldest son just playing his guitar. Priceless. You have given me ideas here! 😉

  20. Kelly

    Yummm….I love eating Jello like that. Your girl has the right idea. Pretty tasty over sliced up apples.

    Also, adorable children, awesome photos.

  21. laura

    Oh that was fun!!!!! Mini-you and her accessories kill me.

  22. laura

    And thank you for including me!!!

  23. Mary the Oinkteller

    Those pics are priceless. My fav is the one with the snot rockets. If they don’t already, some day, you kids will look back and tell you that you are one freakin’ awesome Mom. Merry Christmas!

  24. Susan

    LOVE them! What a great idea…

  25. Lisa Tognola

    So cute and clever! These photos express so much personality. I’m tempted to tell my kids to act naturally for our holiday photo shoot, but I’m afraid one of them will get hurt . . .

  26. Pricilla - Famous SpokesGoat

    I don’t know how I missed this post. I must not have gotten the email!
    I must maaaa at gmail and butt them.

    I think the photos are very cute but the publicist says she can handle everything but snot. She can do vomit, she can do poop but she had severe issues with snot.

    She is now retching in the bathroom. I think it’s kind of funny so thank you for that

  27. Leighann

    GAWD! You have the best ideas!
    I freakin’ love that your child has a guitar too.
    I forced my toddler to be pretty and sit in a studio this year while my friend took pictures of us.
    Sweet Jebus, next year will be different.

  28. Sharon

    Fantastic photos! Loved each one, though had issues with the snotty nose shot. Memories of third grade when teacher wouldn’t let me get out of school picture line to get a tissue. Aaaaack!! Your relatives should be joyed to receive such great holiday pictures. Love those jammies.

  29. Jody Worsham

    Oh, you are so my kind of parent!! Must admit the Bearded Iris had me thinking you were my age with a definite hormone imbalance. Then I remembered a Bearded Iris was some kind of flower. Anyway, enjoyed the shoot and the piece. Hope you will be at EBWW 2012. Jody, the Medicare Mom

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hi Jody! Yes, I’m coming to EBWW and looking forward to meeting you! And I definitely have a hormone imbalance. And a beard. But I’m more of a delicate frickin’ flower, truth be told.

  30. Lisa Smith Molinari

    Totally cute and hilarious! The only thing that would have made that last photo more Christmassy is if the snot rivulets were green to match his pjs….

    Look forward to meeting you at EBWW!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my snotty kids. Really looking forward to EBWW…you must be one of Wanda’s buddies? She and MuffinTopMommy “recruited” me, and I’m so glad. See you there!

  31. Jen

    Those pictures are pure awesome. Great idea! I think the second one is my favorite <3

    One of these days (weeks), I really need to go back to the beginning of your blog and stalk you properly. Apparently I have missed A LOT of awesome sauce…

    • The Bearded Iris

      Heh heh heh, I love the term “awesome sauce.” It sounds borderline dirty and/or like it should be served at a Japanese Steakhouse.

  32. Allysgrandma

    Thanks Iris. I am laying on the couch in our upgraded hotel room in the city by the bay waiting for od and bf to pick up the grand puppy. They are at the 49er game and I am using my mini IPad and the free wifi to entertain myself and as usual you did not disappoint. Merry everything to you too……oh thank goodness the Vicodin is finally kicking in…..

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