Preparing for our family photoshoot – Part I

Yesterday we had our family pictures taken.  The experience reminds me of a quote that my mom use to have hanging in our house, “Always behave like a duck — keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.”.  The photos from our session tell the story of our family.  When I look at them I see love and joy – and that is exactly how I feel about our family.  This is exactly what a photographer is supposed to capture.  Big kudos to my wonderful photographer friend Megin Hatch for capturing us perfectly!

The story these photos doesn’t tell, the one they’re not supposed to tell is the story of the actual photo shoot.  Join me as we embark on a journey to Crazyville.

Megin and I both adopted kids from Ethiopia this year. My son came home in April, her daugher came home three weeks ago.  Right around the time Biruk came home Megs offered to take our family photos.  I was super excited – so I decided to put it off for eight months.  You see, PROCRASTINATION is the first step in planning family photos.  As the date for her daughter’s arrival came into focus, we decided we’d exchange a family photo shoot when her family was complete.

Three weeks ago we touched base and loosely decided that we’d do photos the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  We now had a date.  My mind began a mental to do list that included losing 20 pounds, a haircut, and a two-week regimen of teeth whitening.  And that was just for me.  I also began formulating what everyone was going to wear.  The gravity of this decision cannot be minimized. Since I’m a photographer and people seek my advice on this topic – we couldn’t just show in matching sweaters.  We had to coordinate. As in: it.was.a.must. My plan was to shop for the perfect outfits – all centered around me wearing a blue scarf that would accentuate my one good feature: the color of my eyes.  Right now, if you are thinking, “what a psycho” – you are right.

When I realized that we’d be out of town for Thanksgiving, I asked Megin if we could reschedule for the following weekend.  The date was now etched in stone, Sunday December 2nd.  And we were determined to do outdoor photos (with no regard for the fact that the average temperature in Maine in December is 35 degrees).

The week leading up to the shoot I went into the second stage of planning a family photo shoot: DENIAL.  I realized that I wasn’t going to lose 20 pounds, I forgot to start my teeth whitening regimen, and I hadn’t even thought about what we were all going to wear.  Yes, I got the haircut, but my stylist went a little bit short and I would need at least 2 more weeks of growth to get back to normal. Maybe Megin would forget about the shoot.

She didn’t.  On Saturday evening she sent me a text confirming that we were still on for Sunday.  I let out a defeated sigh and typed back: “yeah”. Then Megs got busy sending me names of outdoor venues that would be a mid-way point for both families to meet.  It was on and I was not ready.

On Saturday evening I announced to my family that the following day would be picture day. They were so excited they high-fived one another and squealed with joy. No they didn’t. They didn’t care.

On Sunday morning, I woke up with a fantastic headache.  The kind that doesn’t go away even after you pop 3 Ibuprophen.  We missed church partly because of my headache, but also because I couldn’t do anything until I pulled clothes together.  I tried on four pairs of jeans and hated myself more and more with every pair.  If only I had fasted for the last 3 weeks – only then would I have found true self-acceptance.  But alas, this body would be the one preserved for life.  I was entering the third stage of planning a photo shoot: ACCEPTANCE.  But I wasn’t going down without a fight.

By 10am clothes were spread out on our bed like a patriotic quilt, and I escorted the children into my room to show them their wardrobe for the day.  I reiterated that picture day is one day I get my way about what the kids wear, so they’d have to work with me and be okay with what I picked out.  For the most part, they were – but there were still a few pieces missing: 1) Amelle’s shirt was too snug, 2) Amaya needed a headband, and 3) The boys were in desperate need of haircuts…3 weeks ago.

We were now 3 hours away from the photo shoot. I needed to shop and the boys needed haircuts.  Enter the fourth phase of planning a photo shoot: CHAOS (otherwise known as sheer madness)I called my husband and asked if he could get the boys in for a haircut at 12. Our barber had an opening at 1 (which was the time our shoot was scheduled). I texted Meg and asked her to push our shoot back to 2. Dirt and the boys headed to the barber, and I headed out to grab a replacement shirt for Amelle at the Ralph Lauren store and a red hairband for Amaya (at hopefully the same store).  As I darted out the door, I gave the girls a bottle of red nail polish and told them to paint their nails red while I was gone.

Something strange happens to a woman when she enters a store. There is a peace.  I immediately found the rack of shirts that I had planned for Amelle – it was the first rack I saw as I entered the store. The problem was that Ralph Lauren decided to change the color of the little horse thingy from red to fuchsia on their navy and white striped shirt. The fuchsia horse thingy would definitely ruin the entire shoot. Therefore, I had no choice but to look at every.other.item in the store. Ultimately I came back to that initial rack and grabbed a solid navy shirt with the red horse-thing. The shirt was on sale for $18, but for some reason the total came to $198.  …and the worst part was that I did not have a headband in my possession.

As I exited the store, the feeling of stress resurfaced. In the utopia of the store I had forgotten that I was on a time-sensitive mission. I looked up and saw the sign for J. Crew. Please Lord, let there be a red headband in Crew Cuts. I didn’t have time to get back in the car and drive around looking for a headband – it was Crew Cuts or bust.

I opened the door and spotted a row of headbands in several colors. Jackpot! I grabbed the red one. Then then Navy one. Then I hemmed and hawed over two different bling ones. Then I grabbed a cute cardigan, then browsed through the leggings, ahh…the peace returned. Until the phone rang, “Mom – where are you?  I messed up my nails because they weren’t dry and I started doing my hair”. I responded, “I can do nothing about your situation, just relax, do you best, and I’ll be home in 5 minutes”.  I went to the register with armfuls of clothing and felt the buzz of my phone.  It was a text from Meg.  “How’s the weather? Super foggy and drizzly here”.

Fudgebuckets.  It wasn’t drizzling in Kittery, but the fog was thick. Pea soup thick. But there was no turning back now. Fog, Hail, Sleet, a Tornado..didn’t matter – we were getting our pictures taken. I replied, “Foggy not dizzly, it will be okay”.

When I got home, the girls and I got dressed.  And we looked adorable. What? We did.  We were on schedule to leave the house at 1:30 – which would put us at the photo shoot on time.  As we were heading out, I told Amelle to grab some dangly earrings.  But then Amaya decided to also change her earrings. I pleaded with her to leave her existing earrings in, but she did not want to. Moments later she was crying, “I can’t get my earring out”. “Just leave them in” I urged, “we’re going to be late”. As I looked down at her earring to see why she couldn’t loosen it, I came across the worst possible scenario. The back of her earring had grown into her earlobe. Like a Goth teen with one of those circular earlobe stretchers – her earlobe had swallowed the back of her earring so deeply that only a nub remained visible. “Okay, this is not going to get fixed now, we will have daddy look at it later”. We had to go, and she was crying hysterically. This is the fifth stage of planning a photo shoot: THE UNPREDICTABLE THING.

We hopped in the car at 1:35 with no time to spare.  The GPS said 40 minutes, but I figured we’d be there in 30. I texted my hubs and found out that only one son had been cut and they were still 40 minutes away. Gah! As I drove, I dictated texts to Amelle for her to type – I was rambling about losing daylight and telling her to tell him to get the barber to hurry. (Remember people, we’re in Crazyville).  I was so wound up thinking that the boys were going to arrive after sunset that I barely noticed the density of the fog – which was so thick I had to use my wipers.

 …to be continued…