I have a strong backbone.
There are few things that really truly scare me
And Donald Trump's hair.
From the time I was 10, I have always loved a good horror movie and I think Halloween is fun.
But there is one thing that strikes fear into me every single time it is mentioned, and the name of this thing is:
Family Portrait Day.
I cannot remember one solitary time that it has not ended with me eating my own hair and asking around for a Xanax.
But still, like a good mom, I schedule pictures at least once a year.
I want their experience to be different from Justin's.
Justin, who's childhood was basically him taking care of himself.
A childhood which led to us as adults sitting on his mother's couch one day looking through old photo albums and smiling as we looked at the page dedicated to his oldest brother Anthony.
But when we turned to what we expected to be Justin's page, it was literally completely blank.
Two blank pages in an entirely full album.
We thought maybe that was the end of the album, but we were wrong.
We turned the page and the pictures resumed.
Justin was mysteriously missing.
Almost entirely undocumented.
I am also determined to make the pictures THEMSELVES better than what I had.
They will be Un-permed.
They will be Un-mulleted.
No bright blue fake-sky backgrounds.
It's almost criminal. Right?
This is the precise reason my bag of tricks for getting the girls ready includes flat irons and tweezers and bobby pins and concealer.
Fruit snacks and toys and clowns on unicycles.
A book of magic. A sack full of props.
I want them looking good and looking at least MODERATELY happy.
But no matter how much I prepare and plan and plot and shop for outfits, we ALWAYS end up stressed out, snapping at each other, re-pinning hair and dashing around the house in a mad search for The Coupon.
This time was no different.
Justin had to work the morning I'd scheduled the girls, so it was all on me.
I laid out their clothes the night before.
I sat down and plotted what hairstyles they'd have and what I'd need to bring to keep Tessa calm and centrally located.
I told Chloe we were going to have "Princess pictures" because I've learned from experience and trial that if you insert the word "Princess" into basically everything, she thinks it's great and she is convinced she just HAS to do it.
"Look, Chloe. Mommy made PRINCESS spinach."
I set my alarm for 3 hours before the appointment and thought I'd be sitting around with cucumbers on my eyes I'd have so much luxurious time to kill.
The morning was off and running when Chloe pryed my eyelids open and begged for breakfast. Typical enough.
Alena needed her shirt ironed. The dog threw up. Tessa woke up. The dog threw up again.
"ARE THERE NO MORE PAPER TOWELS?!?!"
I ironed and cooked and got showered and did hair and sprayed hair and found shoes and packed snacks.
I did almost everything but write a will. (And looking back, that might not have been a bad idea.)
I raced around like there was a million dollars at stake and when I was in the end stretch and had completely redone the girls hair AGAIN
(Because doing somersaults around the living room has a tendency to mess up a good do)
I got in a fight with my mom.
(Because, really, what's a good family picture day without at least one fight beforehand?)
Everything was done.
I looked around and it looked like a bomb had gone off in a department store and then vandals had egged the aftermath.
Good thing Justin was gone.
I shoved the girls in the car and threatened them about all the bad that would become of them should they ruin or pick at their hair.
I basically told them to hold their breath and not blink for the 3 miles we'd have to drive to the studio. And don't tell me ANYTHING is "itchy."
We came screeching in the parking lot with one minute to spare only to walk in and have the lady tell us that she was running late and it would be another 20 minutes at least.
Oh good grief.
We were there 6 minutes and already Tessa had said, "Mommy, I go home." 15 times and Alena had checked the mirror at least 7.
"No, Alena. I can't see through your shirt.
Yes, I'm sure. Your bangs look fine.
I DO know something. I picked out your outfit, didn't I?"
Oh. Thank God.
It's our turn.
We're going in.
Everyone is smiling and it seems like this MIGHT actually work.
Tessa did not love it.
Didn't like it or even SORT of want to tolerate it.
The only way I could get her to hold still for more than 2 seconds was to practically throw fruit snacks at her like a caged animal.
If one was to pan out from the shots we got, they would see bags of empty fruit snacks strewn about like shrapnel.What she wanted to do, apparently, was lay down on her stomach sprawled eagle with her face buried in the drape.
Alena and Chloe did great on their own, but then the group shots came.
Oh the group shots.
If one wasn't pulling the other's flower out of their hair, then they were poking each other's eyes or putting their hands in each other's face just as the flash went off.
"Tessa's squishing my leg."
"I was blinking."
"Chloe! Stop. Stop. STOP."
When one would smile, another looked like they'd been on a four day bender.
When one looked at the camera, the other was looking at them.
It is seriously easier to capture and pin down a wild ostrich - and yes - I have actually had to do that before, so I know.
When we left we walked to Sees to get the photographer some sort of gift as bribery so that she'd allow us back next year.
When we came back to look at our proofs there was a family in the hall soothing a screaming baby in a pig costume, rolling their eyes and discussing maybe having to try another day.
Oh good. We're normal. Ish.
I guess when I really think about it, it's the funny pictures that maybe DIDN'T work out so well that end up being the favorites anyway. Those are the ones you really remember.
Like Alena's two year picture where she was scared of the back-drop, so the only way she'd get a shot was to be holding my hand for dear life in the picture.
Or my brother's second grade one where for some reason the photographer kept telling him to lean a little further over...now a little more....and a little more, until he is completely diagonal in the shot.
Or my friend Natalie's kids' Christmas Santa picture where Santa is smiling, but all three of her toddlers are screaming like there's a massacre going on.
It's about real life.
Not about no stray hairs.
It's about documenting the crazy.
Keeping the memory that at this point, right here,
THIS little piggy liked fruit snacks.