Dec 16

Truth in Christmas Card Photos

As I’ve said before, my family is not the type to take professional photos. I love sharing our holiday cards with real moments and having some truth reflected in our annual Christmas card photo. I also just like having fun with it and thought that professional family photos were too staged and did nothing to represent real life.

When we decided to have professional family shots taken, it was because my husband and I agreed we would do this…


This reflects our real life. My husband is always working. Always. In fact, I don’t think the boys recognize him without his laptop. As for the boys? Headphones, iPads and Minecraft t-shirts is their jam. And well, you all know what I spend my time doing. You will also notice leaves all over the yard and summer furniture on the front porch. This is our life, literally, captured on film.

Along with the phenomenon of holiday photo cards (anyone remember writing out actual cards? Me either) is the shaming that goes along with it. Daily attacks are launched on social media over “fake-booking” and how Instagram is not a true reflection of real life. The same has been said about the Christmas card, which could possibly be the epitome of “fake” and “staged” and absolutely, positively not anything like real life. Yet, the tradition continues.

Over the years, I have tried to slip some real life moments into almost every card, even the first year after the boys were born…


I’m not sure how I captured that shot but we say it was the boys’ first fight. Vaughn has the upper hand (literally) in case you’re wondering.

One of my most favorite cards I ever received, was of adorable twin girls in frilly dresses screaming and crying on Santa’s lap. It was just so true. I could feel the pain of my fellow twin mom and it cracked me up. I loved that she sent it out to everyone as if to say “This is what it’s really like!”

And this is what it’s really like when my dad asks to take one too many photos at the tree farm…

img_0962During our family photo shoot at home, we changed clothes and smiled big, hugged each other close and set up dozens of posed shots. After our dear friend the photographer left, I thought I would use some of the posed photos as gifts and maybe hang one or two around the house and the funny one, with us being us, would definitely be the Christmas card.

And then I saw the photos.

I, of course, now realize that is the exact reason why people have them done. Real life is messy and, who wants to see that? You know all too well the craziness of life and sometimes you want to capture that stillness and beauty too.  It’s just as “real” as the other stuff and, the camera reveals a lot. People also reveal too much, myself included.

We all say we loathe “fake-booking” and the dishonesty of this person or that but who is being dishonest here? When shit got real on FB during the election I was longing for the days of “I love you to the moon and back” and #blessed.

The thing is, we all need an escape from real life and the holidays are a perfect time to check out.

I absolutely love getting holiday photo cards and I hang them up in my kitchen so I can see them as much as possible. I couldn’t care less if it’s a professional photo or a collage of your cats (I’m looking at you Noel Marie!) I love what they represent – my friends and family.

I now understand the desire to have professional family pictures taken and, against my best intentions, gave in this year. Sort of.

Happy holidays everyone!

I’ll see you back here in 2017…

What does your card look like? Do you send them?

What was a favorite you received?


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  1. This made my morning. I do think some honesty is not a bad thing. I love your “card” though. It plays off your humor and personality which is great. No ones lives are perfect and I don’t think it’s necessary to publish every “bad” thing that happens but being honest and real is important too.
    Hollie recently posted…Dallas Half Marathon (1:23.44)My Profile

    1. Yes, exactly! There is always a balance and, obviously it depends on the “personality” of the family. You and your husband post some of the best pictures on FB!! They are the perfect combo of hilarious and sweet.

  2. Lol! This is the perfect Christmas card!! Every time someone compliments me on our Christmas phot (which was just the boys this year) I let them know how I did it. That answer?? Wendy’s!!! Lol. There is a Wendy’s a block away from the photo studio so they were cheesiness cuz they knew they were about to get fed!
    Nellie recently posted…Pushing Past My Limits!My Profile

    1. Bribery is the ONLY way to survive parenting!!! I love that so much and love those gorgeous boys of yours too 🙂 Whatever works!

  3. This is one of the best posts I’ve read all week! I love all the pictures of you guys–the funny, the posed, and the spontaneous. When the boys were little, we had epic pictures. Teenagers? Not so much. I was so happy to grab some good ones this fall at my parents’ 55th anniversary brunch. Of course, they aren’t perfect and my youngest is wearing his team hoody…but isn’t that what life is all about?
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Book Review: Nowhere Near First by Cory ReeseMy Profile

    1. First of all – thank you so much for saying that and second, YES that is exactly what life is all about – hoody and all 🙂

  4. I love so much about this post! Honestly, there is always something genuinely refreshing about all your blog posts. You are a real writer-this is what I want my 4th grade students to capture-the honesty and realness of life. Can I just tell you, each year I think about doing Christmas cards, but I forget or just never get the envelopes out in the mail. I am also that person that has Christmas decorations up till spring! Heehee! Happy Friday!!
    Kara A. Forrest recently posted…Inside Tracker-Taking Charge of My HealthMy Profile

    1. Thank you so, so much for saying that Kara – it really means a lot to me!! Keep encouraging those young writers!!

  5. I LOVE that picture! So true, life can be messy and isn’t ever “picture perfect”… I love your holiday cards 🙂 Happy times!

    1. Thanks so much!!

    • Jess on December 16, 2016 at 8:36 AM
    • Reply

    Love this topic! And one I have struggled with myself in regards to sharing only the good stuff on social media. I could write a novel in response to all my thoughts on this because I see both sides- the cynic in me thinks certain people are being “fake” by posting content and pictures that are not consistent with their real life situation. I know of situations of people I am close to who are having real issues in their marriage- but if you follow them on FB, you would think its the opposite.

    However, I also believe other types of people are genuinely happy, healthy, stable people who enjoy sharing the good in their life- but they also don’t intend to communicate its all perfect, they just choose to keep the happy and positive on the forefront and promoting that on social media is part of the “perception is reality” mindset.

    But going back to the people who have the issues and post otherwise, maybe putting something happy out there is a good way to help them focus on the fact that maybe their situation isn’t that bad, and maybe its fixable…and who can argue with that being a good thing?

    PS- I forwarded this blog to a local “celebrity” blogger because this topic is right up her alley!

    1. Thanks so much Jess and, I think the reality of the situation is we can all spot a fake when we see one. I rarely am shocked to learn that someone who has that perfect FB profile is not perfect at all. However, I also don’t want to see and read about everyone’s dirty laundry. We definitely need to share a few bottles of wine and really talk this one out 🙂

      and THANKS for passing my work on to the local celeb!!

  6. I love this! I’ve never gotten prof photos, not because I don’t want to, just because I’m too disorganized. I love seeing the beautifully composed and lit family photos of friends and family! It’s one of my favorite things about the season! I don’t care if it’s fake or real. What does that even mean? Haters gonna think you’re a phony? They wish they had such nice photos of their family.

    Anyone else have old aunts and grandmas that scoff and roll their eyes at all the modern trends in holiday cards? I can almost set my watch on getting comments from the 70 year old set about this cousin’s card, or that cousin’s… the old timers can’t believe how “self- involved” the younger generations are. “Why would she send a Christmas card of her doooog?? It’s disgraceful.” “Well that’s her choice, Aunt Mary….” Sigh. Sometimes I feel bad for the old guard. Life has changed awfully fast. I guess we should all go back to sending Mass cards and spirituals? Thanks but no thanks. Keep the dog and cat cards coming!

    1. “Fake or real? What does that even mean?” < - - YES!!!! And 100% YES to the dog and cat cards. I know what you mean about the older generation but, chances are they have been that cranky in some way all of their lives!! It's not self-involved at all - in fact, it's the opposite of that. Thanks so much for your input. Love all your points!

  7. I just love this so much. Your perspective of professional photos is so spot on and refreshing, as usual. While I was reading it, I kept wanting to copy and paste certain quotes so that I can hold onto them but there were too many! You’re golden, Allie! Beautiful you, and beautiful family, inside and out, messy or not.
    Suzy recently posted…The Team ThemeMy Profile

    1. Your entire comment just made my whole day. THANK YOU!!!! xoxoxoxo

  8. Wow your photos are spectacular!! They seem to really capture the spirit and the personality in all of you. I can’t wait to do some real photos. A friend of mine offered to take them but both our babies have had this cold so we are waiting till everyone is less coughy lol. So I’m guessing we will have our photos in time for Chinese New Year at the end of January. Hey why not? We celebrate it anyhow. I definitely gravitate towards cards and pics with personality. So you can bet ours will have an element of silliness and cheese. Happy holidays Ali!! To you and your awesome family.
    Danielle recently posted…WIR sleep less play moreMy Profile

    1. I have no doubt your cards will have a lot of personality!! I cannot wait to see that adorable face (yours and your daughters – LOL) on a card!

    • Your Husband on December 16, 2016 at 9:55 AM
    • Reply

    I love this dear! Reminds me of the story I once heard about this strange green creature living like a serial killer up in the mountains and oddly obsessed over a little town below called Whoville. You see…that green creature’s heart grew 10Xs that day, saved a dog from a death drop, and ate all the little who’s Roasbeast!

    You are my strange green creature and I love you for it!

    1. You are a jackass but that’s why we work. Love you 🙂

  9. I seriously love the first picture….I am feeling a little sad that I didn’t make a holiday card this year for the first time in years, especially as these beautiful cards roll in… I think it’s fun to do a professional shoot once in a while. The last time we did one was four years ago…so maybe we’ll do it again next year. Happy holidays!!! recently posted…LotteryMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much! I did love your “digital” card you posted today 🙂

    • Ana on December 16, 2016 at 10:13 AM
    • Reply

    Allie! you are making me cry this morning! I love your Christmas cards! The very fist one is my favorite!

    Those who have time to sit down and criticize how fake or real something is on facebook obviously need to look at their own lives and figure out what is fake or real for their own lives. I find it that as long as somebody thought of me during the holidays, I don’t care if I’m getting a staged Christmas card, a collection of their adventures during the year, a picture of their dog, cat or pet snake! to each their own! I say this because I lost my *Friends* in the divorce and I get none of the staged family pictures I used to, and that hurts a little. But oh well! life is life !

    I don’t send Christmas cards, only hand some to close friends, family and coworkers, along with some candy.
    Ana recently posted…Friday Five 2.0 – Christmas CoutdownMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much Ana and I never thought about losing cards because of divorce. That is truly awful and I’m sorry. But, that is what I’m talking about – what does it matter what’s ON or IN the card, as long as you get it.
      I kinda love that you hand deliver cards with candy!! THAT is awesome.

  10. That is a perfect Christmas card! We don’t usually do Christmas cards – I’m awful. I buy them and then they sit on the counter or table and suddenly, it’s January and I’m all “whoops!” – but one year we took a family photo and printed it and framed it and gave it to our families. Except, it wasn’t a professional pretty picture. We all piled on the couch and made ridiculous and funny faces. It was the BEST! Need to do that again next time I have everyone together!
    Jennifer @ Fit Nana recently posted…FRIDAY FAVORITES #3My Profile

    1. OMG that sounds like the best photo ever!!! There really is something to be said about the candids – they evoke FEELINGS of what was happening in the picture. Gotta love that!
      Thanks 🙂

  11. I adore all of these photos! We’ve only had professional photos taken once and that was because my sister (who loves them) arranged it as a gift for my mom. We instead choose the more fun route of trying to get a decent family photo ourselves and hoping and praying that one of them is decent enough for a Christmas card! Life is never picture perfect and I could care less whether someone’s photo is professional, candid or an outtake. But that first photo is perfection.

    1. Sorry I ruined it before it made it to your mailbox!
      That is too funny about your sister – there is always one in the family 🙂
      Can’t wait to get your card. I hope there’s an adorable little cheesehead in it!

    • Jane on December 16, 2016 at 12:05 PM
    • Reply

    We call them ” posed candid “. Fun…always love your card!☃️☃️❄️❄️

    1. And I always love sending it to you! You are the epitome of Christmas Janie!!!!

        • Jane on December 16, 2016 at 1:12 PM
        • Reply


  12. Oh my god I LOVE that first pic! I think reality pics are the best… and you never fail to crack me up! You (and your family) rock.

    P.S. Those boots… LOVE the outfit!!!
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Smoked Blood Orange Manhattan [Recipe]My Profile

    1. LOL – we have to fun around here or else we’ll lose it for good!
      Thanks so much Laura!!

  13. I saw your instagram this morning and LOVE it!! We actually haven’t been doing cards… we try to send a family newsletter each year with updates but we also need to set up a session with a photographer like this. It’s key to have both – the crazy and the beautiful!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Run smarter, not faster, for a stronger 5kMy Profile

    • chris on December 17, 2016 at 1:29 PM
    • Reply

    Amen! I love every card we get, I really like the photo cards of any sort just to see how everyone has grown and changed. I love the fact you say it like it is. I’m still in shock you live in camp negative and swear, its just not the image you portray bcs you are constantly smiling. I try to do an annual xmas letter with a photo or two, sometimes it ends up starting ‘Happy Groundhog Day’ because that is how completely late and unorganized I am. No professional photo here, that’s like an entire day process taking time to dress up and look pretty, fighting with kids to wear something appropriate-the whining and complaining is not worth it. I love your tree farm pix!!! My favorite xmas pix was at tree farm with my kids huddled under a tree to keep warm. It was freezing that day and Ward Cleaver, I mean my husband had to find the ‘perfect’ tree. Before the photo, my then 5 year old, say “Dad, would you hurry up and pick a God damn tree!” Happy Holidays-continue to keep it real Allie:)

  14. LOVE this !

    We never pose for family shoots because someone always looks funny and my husband always does bunny ears. I select 2 or 3 of crazy selfies we took throughout the year. Those are always the best and definitely show our real family.

  15. these are so cute!!!! that’s one thing that as people without kids, we just don’t get enough photos together and we never mail out a photo…it feels weird!
    amanda -runtothefinish recently posted…Costa Rica Adventure Challenge: Climbing, Rappelling and SUPingMy Profile

  16. Love your card! This is the first year in many that we did not send one, mostly because we didn’t get a good one during Thanksgiving. I’m a perfectionist about it (surprise!) and was tired of stressing myself out.

    I have a friend who sends out the cleverest cards every year – last year they spoofed the Kardashians. She dropped the mike – can’t top that one, so she’s done.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, Allie!
    Dana recently posted…Choosing to be happyMy Profile

  17. Precious – I love this. And I love all the holiday cards – the posed ones, the crazy ones and all those in between! 🙂 Merry Christmas!
    courtney @ eat pray run dc recently posted…B&A Trail Half Marathon Training Recap, Week 3My Profile

  18. I love this post so much! I also love your hillarious front porch pic along with the gorgeous professional ones. We gotta have a little mix of both, right? I hope you guys had a wonderful Christmas. Big hugs! xoxo
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted…25 Best Half Marathons to Add to Your Race Bucket ListMy Profile

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