There are many classic images that represent Christmas -- families sitting around a crackling fire, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, Rudolph flying through the sky.
For me, there is none more iconic than a picture with Santa. I don't have one as a child. (If I'm mistaken, Mom, please share.)
Maybe, that is why I'm so enamored with capturing my own daughters' visits with the jolly old guy on film. Unfortunately, I haven't had much success in my quest.
I have managed Santa photos of each girl as babies, one at four months and one at six months. Too young to know or care what was happening, they each sat smiling with the local mall Santa resulting in precious, ridiculously-priced pictures everyone adored.
While I love looking at each of their photographs with Santa, both decked out in classic red and green, it's not enough for this perfectionist, overachieving mommy. Not at all.
I want to hold a photograph with a real-bearded Santa and both daughters together, one on each knee. And, I want them to be happy about it.
After her debut visit to see Santa Claus, my oldest daughter became embarrassingly terrified of dressed-up characters, especially those in red suits.
I didn't even attempt a Santa picture with her for two years. As a toddler, she would make animal-like sounds when we came close the North Pole display at our local mall and would cower around my legs if we passed a man with a snowy white beard.
That all changed last year when at four-years-old, my now bubbly and sassy little girl developed a love for the camera and jumped at the chance to have her picture taken, especially with dressed-up characters.
The one thing keeping her perfect-in-every-way Santa photo from actually being picture-perfect was a missing little sister.
That sister was too busy sobbing in my arms and clinging with a grip so tight it left fingernail marks through the new year.
I may never acquire this self-imposed quintessential piece of Christmas. By the time my two-year-old outgrows her freakishly strong fear of fluffy beards and red suits, her older sister will probably claim such activities are for babies or, horrors, not believe in Santa at all.
I need to convince myself that capturing both of them sitting on the knee of a stranger, albeit one posed as St. Nick, is not how a successful Christmas is made. In fact, it even sounds a little creepy.
I'll start doing that next year depending on how this December goes. You better believe I have plenty of Santa photo-ops planned.
If it doesn't happen, I promise to find other ways to a perfect Christmas.
Or, I'll learn Photoshop.
Learn to play this classic present stealing game!
Keep the whole party entertained!
Can you guess which Christmas song is which?