jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

The Holiday Card (Als ich kann.)

So why haven’t I been writing, you ask.

Well, besides the family in town, teaching a five-year-old boy to use a sewing machine, the new Barbie Dreamhouse that needs me to make furniture for it (life is a compromise), the overflowed toilet and the four children between the ages of three and six?

Actually, I have been writing. I’ve been writing my Christmas cards. And yes, it’s currently after Christmas. I was there for Christmas, so I know that. But thank you for remembering, too.

Christmas Card, 2009.  Can you believe I was pregnant with #4 when I made this card?

Christmas card, 2009.
Can you believe I was pregnant with #4 when I made this card?

Each year it’s a schlep, a battle royale, a Sisyphean endeavor. I go to iPhoto. I choose the pictures, which is no easy task, as all children were not made equally photogenic (harsh, but true.) I fit said photos in the same format card I’ve used every year for about six years. I write a pithy report for the backside. I go to iPhoto and hit order. I receive the cards. I take the list I used to address our wedding invitations thirteen years ago, the one with all the return address labels taped to it and arrows and cross outs, and I address the cards. I dig through whatever Forever stamps we have and voila’!

Christmas card, 2010. This is also called, "Cabot's Birth Announcement."

Christmas card, 2010.
This is also called, “Cabot’s Birth Announcement.”

Except my computer told me I need to buy a new computer if I want to continue to use iPhoto and I lost the list of addresses. It was a classic Give a Moose a Muffin moment. My husband actually suggested we go to the Apple store to buy a new computer so I could finish the cards! And I actually almost started to cry.

Later that night (read ‘midnight’) I headed to Minted; re-chose the photos; re-removed red eye; rewrote the pithy report on our year’s antics. I ordered the cards from Minted, but for real this time, no proof, no fancy envelope inserts. Screw you, Apple-pimp.

My husband was so moved by my courageous efforts that upon opening the Minted box three days later he exclaimed something like, “I thought these were going to have more contrast. Like the iPhoto ones. Why did we get this kind of card again? Ugh.”

Christmas card, 2013. I actually like this card. And I love that Minted site, too.

Christmas card, 2013.
I actually like this card. And I love that Minted site, too.

But I’m not looking for my card to be memorable. We’ve already received those this year. The newlywed couple with the hysterically funny grimacing baby on their lap, the beautiful beach shot with the card shaped like a round ornament complete with bow, the sepia tinted scene of a whole family dressed like 1920’s gangstas down to the fringed flapper dresses and the boys holding old-school machine guns, and then there’s the Florence Cathedral/Grand Canyon backdrops. (You know who you are.) We can’t compete with that.

No, what I’m aiming for is what my high school besty achieved. Her card is of simple design, one group photo of her three gorgeous kids next to a large snowflake and the words Season’s Greetings. Except the photo is totally dark and out of focus and one of her girls’ arms is at an oddly broken angle and her newly-minted teenage son has a black hoodie pulled over his head so you can’t really make out his face… sort of like the uni-bomber without the glasses. This uber-Mama, part-time professor, snack shack tender, on-time car pooler, world’s best godmother, devoted daughter and amazing friend totally whiffed her Christmas card.

And the part that made me laugh out loud as tears glistened in my eyes was the note she’d printed on her computer in red and green ink, cut out hurriedly and glued to the back.

Sorry this year’s picture is a little off. The picture seemed fantastic on my phone. When I got the cards, I realized that you can’t really see Ryan’s face and everyone is a little fuzzy. Unfortunately, a retake seemed unlikely between work, school, wrestling, dance, piano, tennis, indoor field hockey and also some family fun. Here’s to a New Year of clarity and focus and another chance to get it right!

So this week I sat and went through that wedding list of addresses, but in my mind. And then I wrote down every address, but from, which made me feel like a detective or like the lady from Murder She Wrote, but less peppy.

And then I addressed every card with a tiny note and signature inside, stamped them with return addresses even though our street name never shows up, stuck the Forever stamp of the gingerbread house in the corner and sent them off. I may have even dipped my finger in my mojito in order to wet and seal the back of some of the envelopes. Go ahead, judge me.


In German the saying goes, Als ich kann. It’s my favorite. Loosely translated this means, the best I can do. I say it every day.

Sometimes a tiny little family report on a blurry Christmas card is the best we can do. Trust me. And that’s enough. “Here’s to a New Year of clarity and focus and another chance to get it right.” Amen, sister.

And for 2014, when you don’t get it right, remember, Als ich kann. Als. Ich. Kann.

11 comments on “The Holiday Card (Als ich kann.)

  1. Ailsa Steinert
    December 30, 2013

    That is the best one yet!
    In all my years of teaching, I never mailed
    Christmas cards till after Christmas and this year the facsimile of the family cat actually went before the 25th 🙂

    • jgroeber
      December 31, 2013

      Oh, you made me smile! I am so proud to get the card mailed before January 1st that I can’t stand myself! The year of Cabot’s Birth Announcement/Christmas Card it was also a Valentine’s Day Card! Each day and year we can just do what we can do. Als ich kann just about covers it!

  2. Bean
    December 31, 2013

    Ahhhhhhhhh – the Christmas card list with the scratched out addresses & handwritten notes. I know it well. Each year, I say I will organize it better. Last year, I actually went to do it. I stopped. Not because of lack of time or laziness (although that may have been a factor) but because that list reminds me of our wedding. As I write out the cards, it prompts me to think of those that have passed & those I wish I could see more often. That list is a part of Christmas for me.

    As for your friend- she sounds great. I think I would like her c’est la vie attitude. 😉 Good intentions are underrated. Als ich kann, my friend. Herr Connor would be proud!

    • jgroeber
      December 31, 2013

      Jawohl! You would absolutely love her! She’s pure genius.
      And I am confident that the wedding list will show up somewhere in some ridiculous stack of paper I’ve overlooked. Those scratched out parts of people’s histories and how many guests they RSVP’ed to bring in 2002 aren’t lost forever. For now though I’m glad to finally have it as a Word doc and yes, I printed out a few copies just in case my computer really does crap out entirely!

  3. talesfromthemotherland
    December 31, 2013

    One year, I was so late, that I sent them out for Groundhog day, and I (cleverly) repeated lines, throughout the note. 😉 This year, I was all ready to be on time… and got sick. Feh. Not to mention that my kids don’t all live in this country anymore! I think I’ve become that parent who is sending holiday letter/cards of adults, that other adults don’t really need to see or hear about anymore. Ouch.

    • jgroeber
      January 2, 2014

      If your holiday letter is anything like your blog then know this, PEOPLE WANT TO READ IT, whether you send it in January (Happy New Year!), February (Happy Valentine’s Day!) or Groundhog’s Day (or Groundhog’s Day!). I wouldn’t worry yourself over it (it’s my husband’s “encouragement” that generally gets me gearing up the photos by mid-December) but when you’re feeling better (and I’m so wishing that soon for you) then I hope you shout your wonderful holiday news to the universe! 😉

      • talesfromthemotherland
        January 2, 2014

        My holiday card is a bit boring, frankly. But given the hospitalization and everything, it won’t go out for weeks! 😉

        • jgroeber
          January 3, 2014

          Als ich kann. (I just decided I’m going to make that be the next new old thing!) “The best you can do,” and in your own time is rockstar enough! (I don’t know how to say the rest in German… something about zeit and stern? Ha!) Be well. Literally. 😉

          • talesfromthemotherland
            January 3, 2014

            “in deiner zeit ist rockstar genug!” (in your own time, is rockstar enough… which my German exchange student translated but says “it doesn’t make any sense!” He’s 18, what does he know? Besides German. 😉 I am feeling better every day… not Good, but better. Thanks.

  4. Michele
    January 3, 2014

    I love to read your blogs. It makes me smile, tear up. think about what an amazing person you are!! I anticipate that “Christmas” card every year. If Howard gets home before me, he waits for me to get home as he knows I would kick his butt if I found it open on the coffee table….. I love catching up with your amazing family and your crazy life! Keep it up my friend, On a side note, I love what your friend wrote on her card. It was Perfect!!! 🙂

    • jgroeber
      January 3, 2014

      Yes. That’s exactly the fuel I need to begin next year’s card now!! Because each year I’m like, “Why do we do this again?” But I’m with you. I love getting those Christmas/holiday cards. When else is our mailbox full? And what other time of year is it un-tacky to shamelessly send pics of my kids to everyone special in my address book? And thank you for reading. Some days I wonder, “Why did I start this blogging thing?” And then I read your comment and I realize it has reconnected (and newly connected) me to people who get it (whatever it is!) LYLAS always.

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This entry was posted on December 30, 2013 by in Surviving Motherhood, The Children, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .

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