It was as beautiful a spring morning as ever was. A ray of sun filtered through Erin’s kitchen window spotlighting the telephone handset resting on the table. The two friends were uncharacteristically quiet as they sipped their coffee and the cat curled up on Ellen’s lap.
The phone rings and time seems to slow down as Ellen grabs Erin’s hand. “Well, answer it. You know your voicemail is full and they won’t be able to leave a message,” Ellen says.
Erin punches the button and lifts it to her ear. Even so, Ellen can hear, “Congratulations, your loan has been approved.” The radiant smile on Erin’s face confirms what she overheard. Ellen leaps to her feet, unceremoniously tipping the cat to the floor, to give her friend a hug.
Ellen proclaims, “Halleluiah, the kids can their get school pictures taken!”
Erin- Well at least that is how it feels. I have FIVE kids. Five kids, people. And my father who adores school pictures. I take beautiful shots of my kids at the beach and the park. They are natural and expressive photographs and he likes them, but he LOVES the pictures taken by “professionals” in front of official backgrounds.
Ellen- You mean the lapis lazuli vomit swirl background? Really?
Erin- Something about the official-ness of it must speak to his judicially ordered heart. And we get the full package for him: the 8 x10 for the homestead stairwell and the 5 x7 for the courthouse office.
Ellen – Well, at least someone likes them. I swear I spend a fortune every year, and they just sit in my china cabinet undistributed because they just aren’t a good product. (And, honestly, I let some things slip through the cracks.) I just feel so guilty if I don’t purchase them for some reason, like I’m making some larger public statement about how much I love and value my kids.
Erin- I got your guilt. This, from Eddie’s preschool teacher, who nunned me up real good: “Just because he is the fifth child doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the picture package.”
Ellen – Ouch!
Erin- Oh, it gets better. I caved and paid for the pictures. Then. . .
Sister Mary Tarnish-My-Tiara says, “Everyone had wonderful pictures! You are going to be so excited to see them.” Long pause. “Except for Eddie. We had to take his picture 35 times, and the entire class was late to library because of it.”
Ellen- Did you get the bonus didn’t-want-to-make-eye-contact-staring-awkwardly-and-silently-at-the-ground pantomime from the rest of the moms because you were being scolded? By a nun.
Erin- But the end result was just as I predicted: a sourpuss picture of a disgruntled preschooler. I can get that any day of the week just by telling him no. I don’t need it staring out of a frame at me.
Ellen - I know that look. He seems to get it when we mention blogging, too. Poor tortured 4 year old.
Erin – But the real subliminal message to the world that we might not have our shizz together comes when the third grader wears his sports goggles in the class picture. That’s right. My sons, the future Rhodes Scholars, decided to play war THE NIGHT BEFORE class pictures, and, as any parent with 15 minutes of experience could tell you, things got ugly. And fast.
Luckily, the only casualties were Deacon’s glasses and my patience.
Ellen- Luckily, really!?! That seems to be an understatement, Pollyanna.
Erin- Okay, we weren’t really lucky. Deacon’s eyes cross without his corrective eyewear, so a pic without glasses was never an option. I called the optometrist! But, denied! I can still hear them chuckling at the ridiculousness of my emergency request of making super special prescription glasses in 30 minutes. That’s right. I could hear THEM sharing the can-you-believe-what-this-crazy-mom-just-asked laugh—it was worthy of a group giggle.
My last resort without time or luck on our side were his sports goggles. His big, black, thick goggles complete with strap around the back. While I may cherish this picture and the fond, fond memories it brings, the other moms definitely looked askance at me afterward. And offered up fashion advice. Lots of it.
Ellen – The pressure of the class picture can make you crack. And you just keep telling yourself that message is subliminal. Those bad boys shout out, “This family is really just a steaming ball of hot mess.” Those pictures can’t be hidden in the china closet. They are up for worldwide distribution.
Erin- No one is feeling you more than me right now, Sister.
Ellen- There is the whole what to wear thing EVEN when there is no vanity involved. I’m not talking prissy girls throwing tantrums because they don’t have a shirt to perfectly match the blue of their eyes. I’m talking school-wants-to-make-everything-a-pain-in-my tuckus -because-no-one can-crosscheck-a-calendar.
Erin – I’m just gonna say it OUT LOUD: Jostens and Lifetouch are the cartels, but the schools are the Dr. Evil kingpins pulling the strings and making us dance.
Ellen – For real! For the spring round of pictures, Jellybean (11) got the form for the April 13th pictures on April 10th. After coming off of spring break, this did not jump to the top of my priority list.
Flash to the morning of pictures and Jellybean comes down dressed like a hobo ready to clean out the garage.
“Honey, today is picture day. Why are you wearing old sweat pants?”
Jellybean-“Because it is the fitness test today in gym.”
Seriously, I’m shelling out $30 for pictures (cheapest substantial package) and the school scheduled the fitness test on the same day?
“Honey, they are taking the CLASS picture today. We can’t have you distributed to multiple households looking like a refugee. Or like one of Erin’s offspring. What about that cute dress you wore on vacation?”
Jellybean- (possibly a little tearful from me calling her a refugee) “But we have to do push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups. I can’t wear a skirt!”
Ellen- “So what time is gym?”
Jellybean – “First period.”
Of course it is. (In elementary school, they don’t get to change for gym.)
Ellen- “So you’re telling me that no matter what you wear, you’ll be a hot mess anyway by the time pictures roll around?”
Ellen- So tick tock goes the clock, we go upstairs and settle on a embellished tank with a sweater, jeans, and Converse. Whatever, I surrender. The kicker? The gym teacher was absent so the fitness test was cancelled. Winner? The school for messing up my morning for no reason except its own evil entertainment.
Erin – Seriously, we have 7 kids between us so the
complaints reminiscing could go on forever. Let’s not forget that school pictures cornered you into highlighting Coco’s hair. But you do have to love the comedy in school pictures, too.
Check out Captain America, known in his school picture days simply as Chris Evans on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Ellen – Okay, WOW! I’m not the biggest fan of watching videos on blogs that are over 40 seconds long, but that is some good stuff right there: a rebellious laser beam background, a beaded necklace, and a bowl cut. And if Captain America overcame THAT, I’m impressed.
Erin – Oh wait a minute. WHAT ABOUT WHAT WE OVERCAME!
Ellen – Are we really doing this?
Erin – I modeled the sports goggles. My pride is not an issue for this post.
Ellen – One of the first things Erin said when she handed me this picture? “Can you believe they didn’t even straighten my necklace?” Yes, that was exactly the first thing I was incredulous about.
Erin – Whatever. Your turn.
Ellen – I’m actually proud about how far I have come.
Erin – You should be.
Ellen – So clearly Erin is classier than me. I chose the group picture because I was not going down alone. We will close with Josten’s Mission Statement because, really, I would like for the whole blogosphere to tell them to suck it.
Jostens’ Mission Statement
Supporting your mission is our mission.
We take great care in passionately helping people:
Celebrate experiences and traditions
Share their stories
Erin – Just one more thing I would like to add: Creating images that will cause your offspring to roll on the floor laughing at you with glee in their eyes. Have at them, Blogosphere!
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By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski