Picture Imperfect

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a rare pic of my children sharing the same space

Trying to be on the ball for once this year, I scheduled a holiday photo session for this past Saturday.  Like most South Floridians who live in total denial that the weather will dip below 85, I waited until Friday morning to come to terms with these facts:  (1) Saturday morning would be freezing cold and (2) My children don’t own (a) anything long sleeved or (b) anything that can be remotely described as pants.  If Florida Law did not require I send my kids to school, they wouldn’t own shoes either.

I planned to rush around all Friday morning trying to find the best buys on clothing because again, as a South Floridian I refuse to spend any more than I have to on corduroy I won’t need.  It’s usually only cold for 48 hours at a time at most, no?  Well then again there is that one exception of last year’s 364-day cold snap.

One quick check of my kids’ closets confirms my need to shop.  J.R. did indeed own one pair of pants in a size 3T.  He is 6.  Seeing as my ginormous three-year-old hadn’t even worn that size at birth, there was no sense holding on to them.

Off to the mall I went. Having NO idea what sizes to buy, I grabbed armfuls of bottoms and anything blue and orange I could find for the waist up.  There was a method to this madness: I was not about to bring my kids to any store, nor was I going BACK to exchange the stuff for one size difference.  I bought it ALL.  Kohl’s Plantation employees must think I am either a multimillionaire or a hoarder.

After the kids got home from school I attempted the dreaded trying on.  Jack screamed over and over (and no I am not making this up) “THESE THINGS HURT!” Believe it or not the items I picked out did kinda fit, it’s just that the boy couldn’t recall material ever touching his legs. J.R. pretty much cooperated as I cinched the adjustable waist size 5 pants as tight as they allowed.

Let’s skip past the part where I barely sleep a WINK Friday night, and save you the story of dreaming I was hours late for the session because I was getting ready for a salsa dance competition.  Saturday comes, and as predicted it’s darn cold.  My Facebook profile would read, “I don’t think I can go outside.”  And then it hits me.  What was GOING TO WEAR?  I couldn’t picture my “Greetings from Sunny South Florida” holiday card featuring me in a cable knit.  Not only did I not own pants myself, I didn’t own sleeves!   I scrambled and found an orange sweater that I DARE you say you can’t see the fabric pills.  Damn you Gap Outlet quality!

Jackson pretty much cried from the moment he woke up.  He is three going on two. And J.R.?  Also in rare form.  If I have to hear him talk about Toy Story one more second I am going to find John Lasseter and murder him in his sleep for creating the franchise. This day was going to be NO FUN.  I am exhausted and we haven’t even arrived “on location” (the closest park with the least amount of weeds).

Any time we get our pictures taken as a family my husband and I explain to the photographer that we need wide open spaces.  My kids need the chance to run, roll around in the dirt, and then sit back down for the next picture.  My grand idea to have last year’s pictures taken at the beach seemingly fit the bill until the boys ran straight for the surf, got tangled in seaweed, rolled in the sand, then tackled me by my flat ironed hair.  All before the first shot was taken.

With that in mind, I tell the photographer “I just want ONE picture.”  And I meant it.  All it takes is one money shot, right?  Snap away, ignoring J.R.’s horrible eye contact, and Jack’s perma-snot.  Take no note of my husband yelling “J.R. get the f*** over here!” and roll camera.

We meet at a big park and I thank my lucky stars that the girl is a miracle worker.  She really is!  Remember I had said that Jack had been crying since 12:01 a.m.?  Somehow, someway, the photographer got Jack to choke back his tears, put down the 40 sticks he had picked up while he was supposed to be posing, and put on a working smile.  One child down.

The better the photographer deals with my kids, the worse I feel about my own parenting.  Seriously, J.R. responds to her beautifully.  He, a child who will screech “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!” when offered a hot fudge sundae, follows her around like she’s the pied piper.  I might hate this girl!

J.R. did fine for J.R. The issues we had with him that day are ones he will probably have his whole life.  For example, if the photographer would ask him to peer around a tree and smile for her, he instead would jump out from behind that tree, scream boo, and pounce on her, Spiderman style.  Not picture material.  And not funny…until now.  The act of posing for family photos is a pretty unnatural one if you really think about it.  There’s no reason why grown (or little) people should want to model semi-matching outfits and sit with their hand folded in their laps.  But we do.  Maybe J.R. is on to something when he rebels against these situations.  Raising J.R. I’ve come to understand just how annoying it really is to wait in line, endure loud noises, and generally behave in public.  Why should smiling on cue be any different?

In a last ditch effort to appear as if we were just frolicking in the park and a camera-wielding passerby happened to catch us having the time of our lives, we decide to “Sandwich”.  At home the kids squeal at the mentioning of “Sandwich,” a game that has us stacking on top of one another for no particular reason. J.R. is always the first to choose his position.  “Top bread!” he announces.  Smart kid.  Well today’s “sandwich” consisted of my husband (extremely reluctantly) stretching across a lumpy, 100 year old tree root to form the bottom bread, while my kids get a running start and aggressively pile on to complete the recipe adding: black dirt, sticks and leaves, and extremely unruly hair, all held together by the pound of snot produced that hour.  The pièce de résistance?   I’m pretty sure my shirt flew straight up (revealing my white belly) while jockeying for the role of cheese.  Not a pretty picture, pardon the pun.

Close to the end of the session, the photographer / hateful child whisperer turned to me and said “Kristi, we do these things now because in a few years your little boys will be all grown up and reallllllly not want to cooperate.  Get it?”  And I did.  There was something so generic about that statement it made me feel, well, normal.  All my psychotic shopping, aversion to knits, and mumbling of curse words under my breath put me in that standard category of “any given mom desiring the perfect portrait.”

I now know that I am not the only mom who’s crying on the inside (and grabbing her kid by the belt loop) while flashing her pearly, Crest whitened whites.   Hopefully that’s all she’s flashing.

If the format of my holiday card this year is a collage, you’ll know the family pose didn’t pan out.  But it’s okay, really!  Mostly I hope the card makes you smile and appreciate the effort it took to shoot it.  But then again, the story behind my photos is much like yours.  Right?  Reassure me of this if you catch me in line at Kohl’s making a few returns.

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