Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Confession #7: How I Faked This Year's Christmas Photo

By the time I post this, my annual Christmas photo cards will be in the mail.  In the spirit of keeping it real for the five people who read this blog, however, I hereby confess that this year's family photo is a fake.  That's right.  After an hour of cajoling, bribing, pleading and yelling at the boys to give me one good pose with everyone smiling at the camera, I was left with only one option: PhotoshopIn the two hundred shots we took, every picture featured at least one member of the family squinting, grimacing, tripping, shoving, or otherwise not spreading holiday cheer.  Necessity being the mother of invention, this mother merged two different shots into one holly jolly pose to send to unsuspecting friends and family.

I am not proud of this forgery.  It was not so much clever as it was desperate.  You see, every year, the annual family photo session is the boys' dreaded event of the pre-holiday season. Perhaps if I had given birth to four girls, I might have produced children who enjoyed donning formal attire and striking glamorous poses for a family portrait worthy of adulations, tears and followers on Pinterest.  With four boys, however, a successful photo session is simply one in which no one is sucker punched.

In order to understand the challenges of taking photos of my boys, I present a random sampling of what I usually capture on film after the phrase "smile for the camera" is uttered. 

Lest you think I'm making this up, here is another set of vacation photos sabotaged by my boys:

I have literally hundreds of photos like theseThey are not products of a parent prompting, "Come on, boys, let's make some silly faces!"  No, these are actual shots of my offspring refusing outright to give me one decent smile.  These pictures are only good for one thing: making graphics for my blog.

So, here is a rundown of the morning we attempted to have our family photo taken for the annual Christmas card.  
9:00 a.m.  Begin dressing four boys in coordinating outfits.  Field indignant questions from older two sons on why they have to wear "fancy sweaters" instead of rumpled t-shirts they slept in overnight. 

9:15 a.m.  Search house frantically to find matching shoes for the baby.  Ignore reasonable requests from husband to calm down ("He doesn't walk yet, so why does he need to wear shoes?  Who's going to look at his feet anyway?").

9:30 a.m.  Chase boys around house in futile attempt to apply hair gel.  Field additional questions from sons on why they have to comb their hair anyway.

9:40 a.m.  Locate pair of matching shoes that are unfortunately two sizes too large for baby.  Accept defeat and vaguely nod to voice of reason, i.e. husband, who mutters for the third time: "Trust me, no one's going to notice." 
9:55 a.m.  Swipe hair gel in boys' hair as they run out the door.

10:00 a.m.  Attempt initial shots at first choice of location.  Listen to repeated complaining from boys about the sun being in their eyes.  Ignore melodramatic demands to be provided sunglasses to wear in photo.  Realize that one of baby's ill-fitting shoes must have fallen off his foot on the way to photo location.
10:10 a.m.  Move to a shady location after prolonged complaints about the sunAttempt further efforts to recreate saccharine "hugging family" pose pinned last week from Pinterest.  Efforts are derailed when oldest son begins to climb "hugging family" like a tree trunk.
10:15 a.m. Baby and 4-year old begin odd combination of yelling, laughing and crying in sync.  Take 15 minute break for younger sons to calm down.  Upon realizing opportunity for freedom from onerous family obligation, older sons use breaktime to climb trees.

10:30 a.m.  Resume phototaking attempts.  Baby begins grabbing my nose and poking fingers into my nostrils.

10:45 a.m.  Take second break and attempt discussion with baby on the inappropriateness of sticking fingers into other people's orifices.  During fruitless negotiation, boys quickly become bored and resume climbing trees.
10:55 a.m.  Baby falls asleep.  After series of shots with baby's face turned away in sleep position, photographer (my ever-patient sister) asks if we want to try again next weekend.  Husband and I look at each other, glance at our boys hanging from tree branches, and shake our heads "no" at the same time.  Photo session is officially canned.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Missing and Broken Parts

I have a box in my storage closet labeled "Missing and Broken Parts."  It contains knobs, handles, and various other household items that may (or may not) be fixed, reattached or salvaged in the elusive "someday"... when I have the time.

I had forgotten all about the "Missing and Broken" box, until last week when the boys "accidentally" steered a remote control helicopter right into the crystal chandelier that hangs in our foyer.  The little helicopter dislodged a large crystal, which swiftly plummeted two stories and shattered on the ground below.  The crystal splintered off into tiny shards too numerous to count.  Unfit for residence in the "Missing and Broken" box, we swept and vacuumed up the remnants.

Lately, quite a lot has gone missing and broken around here.  The chandelier was only the latest casualty in a long line of dings, dents, scratches, tears, breaks, holes, and drywall damage that have become commonplace in a house with four rowdy boys.  Exhibit A is the leather bench that now has an unsightly, grapefruit-sized milk stain on the seat, after a sippy cup was left overnight with the cap loosened.  (Side note: What is the deal with milk and leather not mixing well? I mean, don't they both come from cows?)  Composite Exhibit B is not one, but six doors in the house, all of which have come unhinged after the boys spent the last year swinging from the handles like monkeys on a jungle gym.  Exhibit C is the minivan, for which I recently paid $200 to remove a glow stick that had been jammed into... well, never mind where. (During this repair, I was informed that it would cost another $300 to replace the sunshade that was ripped in half by my 6-year old.  This latter repair will have to wait until we deposit more change into the Raising Boys Insurance Fund.)

And don't get me started on the things that go missing around here.  The surest way to lose something of value is to share your home with a band of rogues aged eight years and under.  I once spent an hour looking frantically for missing car keys, only to locate them in the bottom compartment of the freezer, right next to the frozen pizza.  What must I have been thinking?  After all, the freezer is a patently obvious place to store one's car keys... if you're two feet tall.

So, after some contemplation, I realized there are two things I can do about the escalating costs of raising boys in this household.  First, I can train the boys to become bandits and recoup the value of the things they break around here.  After all, they would make excellent pickpockets.  They have a natural ability to create distractions by the whirlwind of energy that accompanies them.  They are small and wiry, and can deftly shimmy into crawl spaces before you realize they've disappeared out of your line of sight.  And they have a penchant for storing their treasures low near the ground, escaping a grownup's normal range of vision.  (After all, didn't the narrator in "The Shawshank Redemption" say: "I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?"  Apparently, the same thing goes for the bottom drawer of the freezer.)

Okay, I'm just kidding.  Well, sort of.  Before you cry "Fagin!", here's my second idea: I can enroll the boys in courses in basic carpentry, plumbing and maybe even HVAC repair at the local technical college; and then I can start employing them for free instead of hiring licensed professionals to clean up their messes.  Last time I checked, the Fair Labor Standards Act is okay with this arrangement: It's not illegal child labor if Mom's the boss.

But, alas, I opted for a third choice.  I took my "Missing and Broken" box from the storage closet, took five minutes to say goodbye, and threw its contents away.  For the most part, I had completely forgotten all about the little things I had stored up over the years: tassels torn from upholstered chairs by baby fingers; finials broken off ceramic lamps by flying Nerf darts; and pieces of wooden baseboard trim knocked loose by remote control cars.  I had been so busy raising my band of highly destructive but happy ragamuffins to remember all those forgotten segments.  After all, there really was nothing broken and missing in all the important parts of my life that mattered anyway.