December 3, 2008

All I Want For Christmas is a Normal Christmas Picture








December is a busy month for professional photographers. Fortunately, when I called last week to make an appointment to get my kids' Christmas picture taken, my favorite studio--which is conveniently located next to the deodorant aisle in a large superstore--still had slots available.

I knew the photo shoot was going to be a big success the moment that I met Brad, our photographer. Brad graduated from high school in 2008, a fact I gleaned from the writing on the t-shirt that he was wearing. Despite his youthfulness, I was relieved to learn that Brad was an experienced and highly trained photographer, having worked at Target since September.

Brad took one look at the pack of wild things heaving in the corner and assured me that he was not a man who was easily intimidated by a hoard of wiggly five year-olds. He changed his mind after trying to arrange the beasts on a small bench draped with a white sheet.

Brad learned the hard way that crossing one's ankles and repressing the desire to flare one's nostrils for three second intervals are reasonable requests. "Leaning in real close" and "putting your arms around the person sitting next to you" are not.

The first frame captured Kellen pinching Camber's stomach.

Kellen is absent from the second frame (having been shoved off the bench by the hand of God), save a small portion of his right leg which is visible in the bottom right corner.

After shot 3, I retrieved a bag of Blow-Pops from my purse. As the three man-eaters watched, I unwrapped a sucker and licked it a few times.

"Mmmmmm!" I chirped. "This sucker is sooooooo good. Whoever sits still and smiles really nice can have one when we're done." Brad asked if the offer was open to him as well.

"I just need one picture!" I said, ignoring the man-child. "Just one!" I said again in a tone that was more begging than threatening.

It was not meant to be. In the 18 shots that followed, there was not a single one where at least half of my children do not look stoned or look like they are being stoned. Toward the end of the sequence, Camber decided that it was just as good of time as any to see if Cameron could put some weight on his legs. The last six frames show Cameron in a number of unnatural poses, including one where he is slumped across Camber's lap, his head flung back and mouth wide open.

The quality of the family pictures dramatically improved once I started deleting members of the family from the picture. We got a couple really good shots of Camber and Kellen together, but the best shot by far was of Cortlen standing alone, hands in his pockets.

"I'll take that one!" I said to Brad, pointing triumphantly at the picture of Cortlen.
Brad was confused. "I thought you wanted a picture of all your kids together," he said.

"Close enough!" I shouted gleefully as I handed Brad a coupon...and a Blow-Pop.

P.S. I made a second pass at the "family picture" when we got home from Target. As you can see, they turned out a lot better than the ones Brad took.

50 comments

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

Jana, I feel your pain.
I struggle with two children who insist of fighting each other whenever a camera points at them (and that's mainly my 3-year-old daughter) but FOUR children?
Ye gods, how do you remain sane?

Just a brilliant story.

Marcia said...

I Can NOT stop laughing-only because I just went through the same thing last week! To top our experience off the girl said she was only allowed to take a few pictures. That doesn't work very well when you have three kids either looking like a deer in the headlights or laughing hysterically- oh the memories!

WriterGrrl said...

We once took a family portrait where I kicked my younger daughter out for refusing to smile. So we've got a picture of 5 of us, happy and smiling, and a sad, head-down little girl off to the side. I figure one day it will be the cover of her book: Mommy Dearest, The Untold Story.

Kelly said...

This is hilarious, only because I have been there! OK, so I don't have 4 kids to wrangle, just 2 boys! BUT, I HATE going to studios and trying to get that perfect picture! Maybe you can do a Christmas card collage! Your kids are absolutely adorable though!! So, any pic of them will be cute!

Karen said...

Oh, there is not a mom around, with children of any age that does not feel your pain! Thanks for sharing though, cause you made me laugh in sympathy.
I highly recommend photoshopping the kids together. Doing one of the highly popular (for good reason) collage cards, with separate pictures of the kids. If you are insistent on the all together I have my best luck outside.
On the bright side, their outfits are adorable!

Rachel said...

I gave up on the professional photographer option, my holiday cards feature a pic of my 2 heathens on the couch in a rare moment of quiet...all captured courtesy of my cell phone camera.

Lisa said...

I hate the seasonal Christmas picture. We have tried twice already to get a family one....It is painful. Finally I just settled on one and called it quits. Oh well, there is always next year!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Yah, good luck with that. I have one word for you: photoshop (or is that two words?) Our Christmas picture would not exist with the ability to cut and paste good faces from other pictures.

Reisig Clan said...

Hilarious!! I can not stop laughing. Thanks for sharing.

Maria said...

I would do a collage of all the shots you took...it's all about real life with four kids, right?!

MommaKiss said...

I laughed and laughed thru this one!

Being one of SIX kids, my poor mother, the tricks she must have played to try to get us to smile.

And Poor Brad and his Blow-Pop.

Ninny said...

Great outfits!

Becca said...

Ahhhh...this brought back so many happy memories. My dad yelling, "IF YOU KIDS DON'T STAND THERE AND STOP MESSING AROUND, I SWEAR I'M GOING TO LOSE IT." (Whatever "it" was--we were pretty sure we didn't want him to lose "it.") Meanwhile, my mom was frantically dabbing at the spit-up on her shoulder, the snot that suddenly appeared under my younger brother's nose, and--inevitably--the tears on ALL our faces. Good times....

Jennifer said...

I'm intrigued, did Brad the man-child get his blow pop at the end?

Kathy said...

Been there done that! Gotta love family pictures.

Sants said...

Oh my gosh! I am totally laughing! I wish that I could tell you that things get better the older your kids get - but in my case, that is not true! It doesn't help that there are six of them. The only thing more surly about pictures than 5 year old boys is a 15 year old boy.

One year, I wanted to send one of the pictures - much like your top one: Two goofy kids, one crying kid, sleeping baby on oxygen in the middle. I chickened out.

I see one of your boys did agree to wear a shirt under the sweater vest so that is a bonus.

I think you could go with any of the pictures you took. Christmas is all about cheer and that is what you will be spreading.

Just The Girl said...

I so feel ya...I am going to try this this weekend. I already told the kids they better all behave, well see.

Becky said...

The last time I had professional pictures taken was 2 years ago. YEARS. My then 6 year old looked great.. my then 3 year old son made the world's cheesiest face (it looked very awkward.. not cute cheesy) all while sporting a black eye. And my then youngest was like 9 months old sitting oh so still with red eyes.

I proudly displayed it.

The following year, I took individual shots of the kids and put them all next to each other.

I haven't faced this year's pictures. *la, la, la* pretending it doesn't need to be done...

Cindy said...

Jana--the first time I took all 6 of our kids to get a professional picture done I was ready to trade them all in for someone else's family. It was the triplet's 2nd birthday and they cried the whole entire time. Jared screamed "I want Daddy!" Well daddy was right there--and he still screamed! Russ finally ran to the toy store and bought a bag of smarties. In the picture you can see clearly (you don't even need to look closely) that the little kids are all holding multiple packs of smarties, they all have a mouthful of smarties, and jared is still crying...

:)

LeeAnn said...

Collage pictures and outside shots are good. So is a photographer who has a lot of experience shooting kids. Honestly though, the corny ones with all of them pulling faces work the best! Everyone's so busy pulling faces that they forget to fight, as I'm sure you know.

Janille said...

A suggestion from a friend - she put ALL the bad shots into a collage and sent it out. Her kids were mortified in the years to come (they were a tad older than yours but not by much)and behaved much better. They will get to the age when if you threaten them with showing the picutres to future dates and friends from school, they WILL respond to that threat.

Keep these pictures - they will be a useful defense weapon in the future when you have 3 pre-teens and teenagers.

Emily Heizer said...

Oh, Jana, those are EXCELLENT!!!!!

I must tell you, you have quite the artistic eye!

All I want for Christmas is for you to fly me to Philly so I can take portraits of your hooligans. It's ALL I want!

Tell Camber I have the PERFECT bribe.

I just got a new orange and pink tutu to dress Cameron up in. :D

MUA HA HA HA!

Emily
http://www.eheizerphotography.blogspot.com

auflutterfly said...

I sooooo feel for you! I have been there and done that! I laughed my way through this whole story. I have to take pictures of my three and the other three grandchildren on my husbands side in a couple of days. We are attempting to get a grandchild pic for Christmas gifts. I have a feeling it is pretty much going to be the same thing you dealt with.

Bebe said...

I learned the secret to great family photos while my triplets were babies. It turns out that you have to hire a magic photographer--I love mine! She only needs one person looking nice in each take. Then she photoshops the best heads and bodies off everyone and stitches it all together. The best part is that she will take 10 pounds off me in the process! YAY!!! I know it's not all about me, but she makes me look great! Of course, you have to be willing to love a photo of an event that never EVER happened!

Marissa said...

Oh boy, I know what you mean.
No matter what faces they are making you have ADORABLE kids.

Club Narwhal said...

oh. em. gee.

Melissa said...

I have to say, your description was all too familiar to me...we haven't done our photo shoot yet, but plan to this weekend. Give me strength!

brossettelewis said...

What's wrong with photo #2? Send it!

Melanie said...

That's hilarious because it is so true! WIth four kids ages 5 and under, I can totally relate.
I just don't understand why the photographers don't understand that there's a window of opportunity approximately 30 seconds long, and then it's all downhill from there. My kids WILL NOT pose or sit still. We have not found a very good photographer yet. Thank God I only take them once a year to do the Christmas shot.

Anonymous said...

Aaahh holiday pictures...nothing and I mean NOTHING reduces me to tears more quickly.

Anonymous said...

By virtue of the resopnses seen here...'normal' is exactly what you to! Revel in it.

Jaime Theler said...

Looks like the same experience I have. There's a reason we only do pictures every 2-3 years. Ever see that Calvin & Hobbes about Christmas pictures? Absolutely Hilarious!

Debbie and Tom said...

I'll join in with the others about a "normal" Christmas picture. We just took pictures of our grandsons and they look similar to your pictures! I guess we just need to redefine what normal is!

jenj22 said...

OMG I wrote the exact response Tara@StickyFingers wrote.... so I deleted it. I didn't want to bore you. I will get that picture before December 15 and those kids better be smiling ;)(insert crazy delirious laugh)

Donna said...

That is so funny! I can totally relate, although I have just one child. Last year I wasn't able to get a very good picture for our Christmas cards because my son just wouldn't cooperate. To get a great picture of three to four kids seems a near impossible feat!

Krystal said...

I only have one baby...a one year old, and it took 3 sittings to get a decent professional picture worthy of a Christmas card. I thought pictures might be easier when she gets older, but then again, maybe not!

Steph said...

Oh my, can I ever relate. You had me rolling about the experienced photographer you had. Why do these cheesy studios think that teenagers make good photographers?? Maybe they figure they can relate to the children so well...because they still ARE a child!

Thanks for letting us into your moment of insanity. Can I have a lollipop now?

katydidnot said...

those are the best christmas card photos evar.

Julie M said...

I know this is a little late... but I just found your blog and love it. I guess because I can relate... I have a 5 year old, 2 1/2 year old twins and an 8 month old. Just after the twins were born I took a ton of pics of the (then) three year old holding the twins. Of course I had about 20 pictures... non of them "Christmas Card worthy". I ended up putting 9 of the worst ones on a card that I made from an online service with the message: Matching sweaters $12.50 each...
Christmas Cards $50
Good Christmas card picture: priceless

To date people tell me it was their favorite card!

Kassie said...

This is hilarious. While I'm not a mom myself, I am the older sister to four siblings (the youngest being four).

My mom has forgone "normal" Christmas pictures and instead, takes pics of us randomly through the year saying, "this will make a perfect Christmas picture."

The picture we used last year?
Me, my 14 years old sis, 10 year old sis, 5 year old bro and 3 year old sis had just finished walking all through Disneyland and were practucally half asleep on the bench outside the hotel. Instead of offering us simple, meaningless things like water and food, my mother instead told us not to move (like that was going to happen anytime soon) and whipped out her camera and then procceded to take a few thousand pictures of us practically drooling in exhaustion.

All our relatives found it "cute".

momma23 said...

I laughed so hard while reading this that I cried. I can't wait to read more! And ironically enough, the word verification is saniti; coincidence (ignore the spelling difference)

angelpeach838 said...

This made me laugh out loud. That's really all I have :) As a mother of one so far, I'm sure I haven't a clue, but this was good stuff. Wonder if this year turned out better?

Karen said...

oohhh I FEEL your pain!! I am mom to seven, 4 year old twins, 3 year old, 2 tear old and 4 month old triplets. We did the same recently, and well my experience was much the same as yours!! Well, at least it provides us with amusement! Thanks for sharing your story!

Kensi said...

I just found your blog and it is cracking me up!! Thanks for the laughs, it's good to know that other people have the same craziness as I do with my children!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Yea! Yes! You've captured it exactly! Have I used enough exclamation points to convey my urgent feelings of sympatico? We just took family pictures (yes, in April) because the closer we get to December, the less likely we will actually get a picture. After the shutter has clicked over 200 times, we figure the odds will allow us just one pic where we will all at least have our eyes open. Bravo on your cute family and all your family picture endeavors.
Sher

Anonymous said...

I am just now finding your blog and therefore this post. I was laughing out loud while reading it. OH MY! I tried M&Ms one year...not my better bribery as my 3 had chocolate drool all over their chins...sadly I don't know how to use photoshop nor do I own it!

Andie

Anonymous said...

I am just now finding your blog and therefore this post. I was laughing out loud while reading it. OH MY! I tried M&Ms one year...not my best bribe as my 3 had chocolate drool all over their chins...sadly I don't know how to use photoshop nor do I own it!

Andie

Lissa said...

A friend just referred me to your blog so I am now just reading this and laughed so hard as we can relate! We have 5 under 6...I'm just happy when no one is crying in the picture!

Kathy said...

HIL-FREAKIN-LARIOUS!!

Cinthya said...

OMGoodness!!! i just went through the same thing this year. LOL.