The Thumb of Christmas Present.

My husband is Clark Griswold. I’ve mentioned this a few times – in his house lighting projects, in his pining and chasing the perfect holiday moments, and definitely in his reaction when those holiday moments are ruined.

I have come to realize this, and so I prep him before Christmas morning.

“Honey, someone is probably going to whine. Brunch might get burned. A kid is going to fall down and hit their head and cry. Let’s agree to not react about it just because it’s Christmas and everything is supposed to be perfect. Let’s stay calm, let’s be ready for it, and let’s just let it go.”

But this year, it started too early for me to be prepared to prepare him.

At the end of November, we were setting out to see the Festival of Lights. There is nothing my husband appreciates more than a good Christmas lights show, and this was the first year of the first drive-through lights in Birmingham – an event indeed.

We all bundled up (for we heard there were fun activities afterward), and we began to head down the stairs to the car.

“Load up, kids! We’re on our way!”

As we descended the stairs to the garage, we all sang a rousing family chorus.

“Happy holidays!”

“Happy HOLidays!”

“Happy Holidays!”

“Happy HOLidays!”

“And the merry bells keep ringing, Happy Holidays….”


The kids and I arrived to the garage first, and I began putting my camera and various accessories in the front seat. I half listened to the children as I worked.

”I wanna get in on your side, Ali!”

“No, go get in on your side!”



It took me one second to realize what happened, and two seconds to open the car door in order to be able to REMOVE MY SON’S THUMB FROM IT.

Yes. It was his first finger slam, and it was actually lodged in the door.

In moments of panic, I somehow become completely calm. I picked him up and hugged him, going outside into the dark to allow his screams more air for reverberation.

I tried to calm the situation before Chris-Clark came down and realized that his Christmas Moment had been smashed in the car door, because then he’d need a Santa to kick across the lawn and we just didn’t have one available at that moment.

…but it didn’t take long.

So now I had Noah freaking out, Chris freaking out, Ali crying because she felt terrible (she is, after all, an eternally cautious child), and all I wanted to do was STOP ALL THE NOISE.

I walked Noah inside so I could sit down, which is when I realized it was worse than I thought: his entire thumbnail was filled with blood and seeping slowly outward.

(You’re welcome for not sharing a photo here.)

I sent Chris upstairs for paper towels and a band-aid, trying to get rid of him for a moment.

Which is when I heard a loud crash above my head.

Way too many minutes later, he came back down with a band-aid.

“There were no paper towels. Now I need to go back upstairs and clean up the garbage. And by the way, was that chocolate syrup in the trash can??”

“No. Really watery finger paints all mixed together. So you kicked over the trash can because there were no paper towels?”

“Well, of course!”

I tried to think of another errand to send him to afterward – Tylenol! We need Tylenol.

Finally, everyone was moderately calmed down, and we set off on our journey. But Noah’s screams of pain every two minutes mingling in with the Christmas music that I kept turning up louder and louder was later described by Chris as adding dog poo to brownies, so I guess the music might have not been the best idea.

We arrived at the light show and it was exactly the distraction that our family needed.


Noah adored every minute of it and nearly forgot about his thumb, especially as the synchronized snowman frantically lit up to “Let it Go.”


But it didn’t take him long to remember.

“It feels like something’s bonkin’ my fumb over and over.”

“That’s called throbbing.”

“Frobbing?? What’s THAT?”

“What your thumb’s doing.”

After the light show, we went to the kid area, where we were greeted by Olaf, Mickey, and many more characters.

To each one, Noah stuck his throbbing thumb in their face and said, “Ali smashed my fumb in the door. See?”

Festival of Lights 2

(Don’t miss Chris/Clark behind the nose-picking kid. Obviously still attempting to recover his shorn Christmas Magic. I bet it really helped to occasionally get holiday boogers flicked in his face.)

Noah was far too grumpy to actually get his picture taken with these creatures, but he sure wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to let his injured hand photobomb his sister’s shining moment.

Festival of Lights

We loaded back in the car and Noah casually stated,

“Ali, you don’t like me anymore cause look.”, then stuck his thumb in her face.

A few minutes later, “Why did you slam my fumb in the door, Ali?”

For nearly four years old, he’s acing a College-Level Advanced Guilt Trip Exam.


Several weeks later, the thumbnail has let go, although Noah has yet to do so himself.

He still shows his now naked thumb to everyone he meets, explaining, “Ali slammed my fumb in the car door.”

And, he often adds a fashion statement – or perhaps a layer of protection – for the rest of his digits.


And Chris? Chris is manically finding other holiday activities for us to do, trying desperately to wash the memories of Christmas Ground Zero from his mind.

And every time we head down to get in the car, he reminds us all.

“Don’t slam anyone in the door!”

How to Properly Dress Your Children for the Holidays.

It was a bit of a last minute decision. Chris came home from work and was like, “Hey! Let’s go to the mall tonight and soak up some Christmas atmosphere. And see Santa if the line isn’t too long!”

So I did what any sane mother would do.

I hurriedly redressed my children, changing them out of their mismatched, stained, and non-Christmas colored clothing and put them in shades of Christmas.

Because that’s what you do when you go see Santa.


I never go all crazy and dress them in matching Christmas pajamas or a custom-smocked dress and john-john or anything. I just do my best to find the cleanest Christmas colored item of clothing they have. I don’t try to compete with all the other moms (that clearly plan the outfits six months in advance and have their visiting Santa clothes commissioned by a garment artist) – I just try to blend into the crowd, something I feel like we’ve achieved the last two years.

Santa Pictures Year to Year


As we were walking out the door, Ali realized she had a hole in her pants, so she stuck on some pink-and-purple leggings that decisively didn’t match her dress.

And then.

As we got closer even to the door, Noah decided that he needed to accessorize, and added his sheep ears from his Christmas play the night before.

Oh but wait.

Then Ali needed a corresponding headpiece and grabbed her Princess Unikitty hat to complete her outfit.

Finally, everyone was satisfied with their looks and we departed for the mall – the “Little Mall”, as my kids call it – the boutique one strategically placed in and around the most wealthy zip codes in the state. Only because we knew the lines would be more manageable.

The line was short, but the children in it were perfectly outfitted in lace and smock and ruffles and feathers and coordinating tights, looking ready to model for an article in the Southern Belle Magazine Christmas Edition called How to Properly Dress Your Children for the Holidays.


Except for my children, who felt that my only wish,

that they “blend in”,

was really quite out of the question.


Yes – even Noah’s shoes were on the wrong feet.

That look on Santa’s face was not posed – I think, perhaps, that they were the most interesting creatures that he had seen all day.

They walked up and he couldn’t contain his emotions.

“What is that on your head??”

“He’s got sheep ears.”

“Oh. Well what about your head?! Are you a Unicorn?”

“No. I’m a UniKITTY.”

“Of course.”


Meanwhile, the Veruca Salts that had gone before us that were now walking away with their parents were craning their necks to see these two oddities who had obviously been allowed to dress themselves.

Their parents tugged them onward, whispering hushed “don’t look at thats as they walked.

My kids, despite their appearances, were not unprepared for the night’s events. They had lists ready to test Santa’s ability to decrypt seven-year-old handwriting and descriptions of toys that only a parent could understand. Noah sat, ready to judge harshly any Santa that couldn’t perform.


Noah forgot his list, making the conversation even more fun.

“And what do you want, Sheep Ears?”

“I want a cranky!”

“You want a car key?”

“No!! A cranky!”

“You want…candy?”


“Okay then. I will get you that.”

I didn’t feel it necessary to take a moment and explain to him that a Cranky refers to anything with a crane or boom or lift because of Cranky the Crane in Thomas the Train.

He’s Santa. He can figure it out.

As they were finishing up their overviews with Santa, the photographer snapped one more picture.

I think she felt the need to fully capture the Cousin Eddie-esque presentation of my children. It was like it was her own personal game or something. And I certainly couldn’t blame her.

She pointed it out to me on the screen and said, “This is the one you need to keep to use as blackmail when she gets into high school.”


If you can’t pick your nose with Santa, then really, who can you?

The Potentiality of Being Eliminated.

This is just urban legend…rumors passed down from generation to generation…

But I’ve heard that there are those that have their Christmas Card recipient list printed out, ready to receive their reciprocal Season’s Greetings. Each card that comes in gets checked off the list – approved to be bestowed upon the next year with yet another Christmas card.

But if, by the 24th of December (or the first of January if they’re feeling especially charitable), there has not been a 100% reciprocity ratio, all remaining persons get Sharpied off the list with vengeance.

Single elimination.

No grace period.

The end.

If those who have had their Christmas card credit declined want to earn their way back onto The Most Holy of Christmas Card Lists, they must send Christmas cards two years in a row without receiving any such acknowledgement or affirmations for their actions.

Then, on the third year, they may again receive their due blessing of a card in return.

If this is actually true, then I shall get Sharpied this year. I’ve gone back and forth with myself, wrestling for a month. Changing my mind more than Prince changes his name.

Should I? Can I? Will I? Won’t I?

And I have finally decided.

I will not. Not this year.

This year, though wonderful, has delivered me to the doorstep of over-commitment with a decisive thud. Between Picture Birmingham and homeschooling second grade and taking Noah to preschool and blogging and accounting and Dysautonomia and running 100 miles a month to fight Dysautonomia, I am a complete slug by the end of every day.

And the process – OH THE PROCESS – of Christmas cards. The designing, printing, asking for your addresses, addressing, mailing, fretting, and stamping of Christmas Cards….I just can’t do it. I normally never know when to say when but I actually think this might be a when moment. So despite my Type A guilt, I am saying when – for this year, anyway.

We did, however, get family photos done.

So I shall share those. And you can pretend they’re printed on cardstock and addressed to you. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll earn a pass.

But if I get Sharpied, I do know that I deserve it, and I shan’t hold it against you.

Brian T. Murphy shot us again this year, who is really just beyond fantastic. And my kids love him, so that seriously helps.

(Although Noah was disappointed that Brian got a new motorcycle that wasn’t red. I’m not sure what he was thinking.)

But regardless of bike bitternesses, Brian can make my kids laugh.


And that’s what makes good photos.


Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t heavily bribe them to smile for pictures,


Because I totally did.


Photography without bribery is like baking a cake without butter – it’s not going to work and it’ll probably taste awful.


So why do that to yourself when for the promise of a few Squinkies and some Swedish Fish, you can have this level of participation?


But a photographer who can bring out the real laughter is also quite invaluable.


All of our pictures were taken at my parent’s house, so my Dad brought his motorcycle around as well. It at least has a red stripe, anyway.


Since Ali and Noah are experts at the trails of Grandkid Paradise, they gleefully ran us around the property to show us where they thought the best photography spots were hidden.


Ali had her heart set on the tire swing,


And we agreed – it was a perfect prop for photos.


So we joined her one by one,


And attempted our first family photo, heavily featuring Noah’s tongue.


Then the cousins arrived, and my Dad brought around his Model A – the one in which my parents drove A Lap of Alabama a couple of years ago.


As always, their personalities had no trouble shining through.

Some children needed to be turned upside down in order to catch their attention fully,


While others were too busy being introspective to look at cameras.


Finally, we attempted it. The first ever professionally taken Full Family Photo.


I know right. We’re amazing, It was the pinnacle of our parenting achievements thus far. And I absolutely adored how Noah was holding onto Tessa.

Brian just kept shooting the family in every way imaginable – my brother and his family,


My parents,


My other brother and his dog,


And the grandparents with their Grandkids. This may be one of my favorite pictures ever.


Or maybe this one.


Eventually, the kids began to wilt,


But my Dad offered the additional bribery of a ride,


And all was right in the world again.


So there you go.

Merry Christmas, and that was way more pictures than would have fit on 5×7 cardstock anyway.


But I am prepared to accept my Sharpie without bitterness, so mark me out if you must.