By Andrea Martin

Every year, my social media feed fills with brightly colored holiday DIY projects. Each idea is showcased in a picture-perfect home without mess or clutter. Although the images are meant to bring joy and happiness, they make my heart sink. I have four kids, I run my own business full time, and have a house to manage as well—just the thought of trying to deck out my home and keep it spotless gives me anxiety. Do I love the way the decorations look? Of course! But is it realistic for me? No way. So, what do I do? Nothing. I close my computer and say to myself: "Well, one day when I'm not so busy and don't have little kids at home, I can have a pristine house that's worthy of a photoshoot."

But then I think back to when I was a kid, growing up with my two sisters. My family wasn't wealthy, so my mom put up the same decorations every single year. I remember how much I loved the tradition of it. I never once thought, "I wish we had new decorations this year." I loved the nostalgic feeling of pulling out the Thanksgiving tablecloth for our annual Thanksgiving meal or hanging the same ornaments on the tree, year after year. The only thing that was important to me growing up was spending time with my family and participating in the holiday traditions.

My family also had a tradition of baking cookies. We made so many cookies—I think we ended up making ten different types each year, and the process was anything but clean. My dad would help us mix and shape the dough on the pan. The huge mess that resulted didn't matter to my parents—it was about the quality time together. Messes can be cleaned, right?

Looking back, I wish we had pictures from our holiday seasons. I know cell phones weren't around then, and we didn't have a camera at our disposal, but I wish I had the images to go with the memories. As a photographer and a mom, I have fallen short in this regard, even in this day and age. When I take a picture, I find myself wanting it to be perfect. I want the light to be on point, the setting to look out of a magazine, and the mess and clutter I see daily to be gone. But the truth is, my kids won't remember how perfect the photos were. What they will remember is all the fun we had baking the cookies or the excitement they felt when making a new holiday craft, and how Mom was there laughing along with them.

So, this year I am going to capture it all—the messiness and everything else. And I'm going to jump in the frame! I want my kids to remember these special moments not just as memories but to have them in a tangible way. As cliché as it sounds, moments are fleeting and the kids are growing way too fast. I don't want them to remember a high-strung mom who wanted everything to look perfect. Instead, I'll make an effort to relax, let the mess be a blessing, and jump into the chaos.

Andrea Martin is an international award-winning Children's photographer in West Virginia. She is a wife and mom of four kids.