Smiling with Santa

When Grandma says she wants a photo with all of her grandchildren for Christmas…

Well. Let’s just say, you light a charge under everyone’s butt and you get them to the spot they need to be for the photo.

No matter how early. 

No matter where.

As the family historian, I adore group photos.

As a Mom, I appreciate the Herculean effort it takes to get everyone ready.

Phil likes to say, “Hope is not a strategy – so have hope with a strategy.

Ever hopeful, I spelled out the terms of the photo shoot to the kiddos:

  • There is no opting out.
  • Cooperation means you get to keep your devices.
  • You may not like your outfit.
  • Sonny will be in the photo and Mom will choose who gets to hold his leash.
  • For the boys: you might have to stand next to a girl (“yuck”).
  • For Emma: you might have to rest an arm on an annoying little brother (“ew. ew. ew. Mom!”).
  • Santa will be in the picture with you – whether or not you believe is not important.
  • You will smile.

 Great strategy.

And, yet the morning of the big day is chaos:

  • The boys cannot buckle their own belts or tie their shoes worth a lick.
  • I’m so used to Will in shorts and a t-shirt that I actually feel uncomfortable seeing him wear a nice shirt with jeans.
  • I slacked on getting haircuts because I thought we had plenty of hair gel at home. Wrong.
  • The cute Winter dress I’d been saving for Emma is apparently too itchy. Suddenly, it’s as if all of her dress clothes have become too tight, too short, and unwearable overnight.
  • I forgot to tell the kids not to eat until after the picture… and they decided on powdered sugar donut holes for breakfast.
  • I realize as we all pile into the van that Sonny must have rolled in something very disgusting on his walk because he smells like chicken butt. (Use your imagination.)

The strategy is history.

All I can do is hope we get something Christmas card worthy

Here are all the kids with Santa right before the camera started clicking…

Grandkids outtake Tonkadale Santa

Santa asks Emma if her brothers had been good.

Does she lie to Santa? Does she vent and cause a scene?

I can’t watch.

I quickly get Mom and Dad on the stage for the big moment.

I grab my phone and start clicking like crazy.

Here they are – smiling with Santa.

Grandkids Santa Tonkadale

All things considered… it turned out half-way decent. 

Now it’s time for some individual family shots.

Here’s our Christmas cousins –  Natalie  (from the Latin word for “Christmas Day”) and Nicholas (from St. Nicholas). 

natalie and nicholas tonkadale santa 2013

Natalie had her act together because she brought her wish list for Santa.

Natalie wishlist 2013

Let’s just say she is my brother’s daughter. No. Doubt. About. It.

I convinced Mom and Dad to get a picture with Santa.

Dad thought he was too big for Santa’s knee.


Dad and Santa

The Tonkadale photographer did a great job.

Mom and Dad Santa Tonkadale

Here’s the photo I snapped with my iPhone. 

My shot mom and dad santa tonkadale 2013

I edited this one with my favorite iPad photo app – Photogene. (Noir setting)

mom and dad noir santa photo

Mom is ready to go at the mention of breakfast at the cafe down the street. We can toast our photo shoot over scrambled eggs…

mom standing santa tonkadale 2013

Can you believe how nice the kids look in this shot? This was literally a one-shot wonder by the Tonkadale photographer.


tonkadale santa all four kids sonny

I about fell over when I saw this. Even Sonny is looking the right direction.

Here’s my favorite photo from this morning…

mom and dad with all grandkids Santa my shot

Grandma loves it.

Mission accomplished.

You know what’s so funny?

These insanely orchestrated, hard-won pictures become so cherished over time.

Some day down the road, we’ll look at this old photo and laugh that Sonny looks like he’s choking (because we were choking over the way he smelled – something I don’t think we’ll ever forget.)

We’ll try to remember how old the kids were when this picture was taken.

We’ll remark that the girls were as tall as Grandma and how Grandpa had white hair.

And, I’m guessing we’ll realize that the real gift wasn’t having a picture taken for Grandma.

The real gift is how blessed we were to be together – happy, healthy, and whole for Christmas 2013.

Still growing...

Jennifer Ebeling
Jennifer Ebeling is a proud Minnesotan and U of MN alumni. Gooooooo Gophers! Each week, Jennifer produces and hosts Still Growing - a gardening podcast dedicated to helping you and your garden grow. The show is an in-depth interview format. Guests featured on the show share a passion for gardening and include authors, bloggers, professional gardeners, etc. Listeners and guests of the show can join the Still Growing community on Facebook. It's a place to ask questions, share garden stories, interact with great guests featured on the show, and continue to grow and learn. Jennifer and her husband Philip have four children, a big golden lab named Sonny, and live in lovely Maple Grove, Minnesota. P.S. When she's not teaching her four kids a new card game - or teaching them how to drive a car - Jennifer loves inspiring individuals and groups to maximize and personalize their home & garden.
Jennifer Ebeling
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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Ebeling on January 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Ha! Thank you, Susan, I’m bottling some for you right now… Thanks for stopping by.

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