The saga of the family photo

boys_photo_sessionOnce, when we were still a family of three, Mike and I won a photo session at a charity auction. The photographer was newly in business and would process the photos for almost nothing for her portfolio. This was good, because we’d bid on the session without thinking there’d be money to pay for the actual photo printing.

They were candid and cute and I loved them. But I was also a new mom, working full time, and chronically short of sleep. I put the pictures of sunflowers and my sweet baby in a shoebox somewhere and I don’t think I’ve seen them since.

The next time we sat for a family photo, it was for a church directory. We had a preschooler and a toddler. We stiffly posed in front of a blue screen. I smiled my big grin that makes me look a little crazy. I think you can see my bra strap in one shot.

Shortly after the awkward church photo, we decided we needed something higher end. The kids were growing. Jack no longer had the insanely chubby cheeks that dominated that first photo session. Who knew what other changes were in store?

There was a photographer who’d done portraits at preschool that were startlingly different. Close up, soft light, landscape orientation. Not like regular school photos at all. She had a good eye. I scheduled a session.

…And then abruptly had to reschedule after Colin discovered scissors and experimented on his own bangs and then the fur of his favorite stuffed bear.

We got to the rescheduled picture day without any subsequent adventures with scissors or other mishaps. I bought us all shirts and jeans that more or less matched. We were late getting in the car, but everyone had a clean face, brushed teeth, combed hair and a stain-free shirt.

Twenty minutes later, someone had spilled something on someone, and someone else was crying over something stupid, and we were all yelling at each other. We exited the car into some freak mini tornado-type windstorm that was decidedly not good for my ‘do, and tumbled into the studio looking like we normally do, which is rumpled and halfway pissed and pretty much done with each other for the rest of the day.

Our photographer was completely nonplussed. She handed me a beer and told the boys to take their shoes off. We ended up with beautiful shots that actually made us look like we liked each other – which we do, despite my thinking that day that situations like these are probably why some species eat their young.

PHoto_boysFamily_photoThere are people who do bona fide family photos every year, and then there are the rest of us, who have collections of out-of-focus snapshots on our phones that might eventually get into the Holiday letter or printed off for framing. We resolved to schedule regular family photos after that, and yet somehow a decade has passed and that same pic still hangs in the living room. You can almost see where we had to trim up Colin’s bangs to make up for his own hack job.

It was time for another family photo.

This time would be different. I have the benefit of no longer being regularly sleep deprived, and the chances someone doing a hack job on his own bangs or throwing a juice box at his brother in the car are way lower.

As far was the look for the photos, we’re not much for formal, or the matchy-match thing. Jack has a Captain America t-shirt that’s his favorite, so I thought we’d just go with a superhero theme. Target has a great selection of superhero tees, so I’d run in there and grab up a few and we’d be set.

Only Target doesn’t have actual women’s superhero tees, the kind made for people with things like waistlines and boobs. I’d have to shop a little harder for my shirt.

Oh, and it turns out that Colin has a beef with the fact that his brother laid claim to the Captain America persona when HE always wanted Captain America. This has apparently been a long-simmering resentment I wasn’t aware of. Colin didn’t freaking want Green Lantern or Batman. I finally sweet-talked him into the Flash, and promised I’d get him his own Captain American shirt when Jack was safely on his exchange and we wouldn’t risk ripping a hole in the space-time continuum, which everyone knows happens if two brothers have the exact same shirt in the same time and space.

Thank God Mike’s not picky. He got Superman. I didn’t ask his opinion.

As for me, my go-to superhero logo was nowhere to be found locally. I ordered it online from some company in Southeast Asia and hoped I wasn’t inadvertently supporting a workforce of seven-year olds. I also had to pay a premium for shipping because I’d waited so long.

Finally we all had our shirts. We were to meet our photographer, Barb, for a 2 pm shoot, in an alley. Très urban.

It was eleventy bajillion degrees that afternoon. I cranked the AC in the car. As per normal, we were all coming from different locations and each had to be somewhere completely different immediately after the shoot. I had one kid with me, Mike had the other. The kid with me had neglected to eat breakfast or lunch that day, a hazard of waking at the crack of noon and shuffling out to the couch to watch Family Guy for an hour before getting ready to be anywhere. He was cranky and we didn’t have time to stop for a burger. I was sweating from every pore, trying to find parking, and fighting with my kid.

Visions of our last photo shoot ran through my head. This was all going to be another farce. She’d have to Photoshop smiles on our faces, because the reality was I felt like smacking a certain seventeen year-old right in the gob instead of circling the block for the third time, hunting for a parking space.

We did manage to stop arguing, and it turns out our superhero shirts looked cooler than we felt in that alley, where it was shady enough we didn’t get heat stroke, and when Barb said “okay, look pissed,” it was no problem.

mar_082 (2)And there were some smiley-faced photos to go with the one where we look like badasses, so mission accomplished in the family photo realm.


At the rate we’re going, I wonder if there’ll be spouses and grandbabies and a whole lot more superhero shirts to pick up at Target for the next session? Maybe by then they’ll stock women’s superhero tees that don’t look like pajamas.

Maybe by then someone else will be making all these arrangements and I won’t feel like I need super powers to pull off the family photo. I’m going to assign that to Captain America next time. Whomever that ends up being.


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  1. Oh I loooove your family pictures!!!! They turned out awesome and I love the Super Hero theme. We haven\’t had family pictures taken in 3 years. I think it\’s time to get a new one, dang it. Why is it that professional photos are sooo painful!??! Ha ha.