Monday, July 03, 2017

Picture Perfect

Our last professional family picture was 5 years ago. Five! Tate has more than doubled in age. He wasn't even alive for our only other family picture. Both of which were for our church directory. I ponder getting one taken each year but since I'm the procrastinator, and David only takes charge of circumstances that actually appeal to him, here we sit, with zero family photos adorning our walls. 

Let me just go ahead and state another reason we haven't had one taken since 2012. They. Are. Stressful.

When we journey down to the beach each Summer, I toss in some coordinating clothes for the kids and envision getting the perfect shot of them beaming sweetly as the waves cascade around their feet and the sun sets. It usually ends up with tears, squinty eyes, and someone getting soaked because they got too close to the water. All of this captured with my state of the art photography equipment...my phone. 

So this year, I decided to turn this whole fiasco over to a professional. An innocent third party the kids would be embarrassed to punch each other in front of. 

So I booked it. And so began the rest of the planning. 

First up, announcing the joyous news to my wee little subjects. They took is about as well as they'd take the news of having to get all their nose hairs plucked out one by one. But they picked up on how excited I was so they kept their objections to a minimum.

Next up, outfits. Oy.

David and Tate are super easy to shop for and wear whatever I bring home. I took my more challenging family members {ahem, girls} with me to shop for outfits. Nope. Apparently it's not as fun to shop for something you care nothing about. When we didn't come up with anything at the first 2 stores except their attitudes, I slowly drove back by our house and tossed them out onto the lawn. Or at least that's what I imagined doing. 

I ordered my dress online and matched everyone else to it before it had even arrived. Big gamble. But luck was on my side. When my dress came in I eagerly tried it on. I'd saved a screenshot of it on my phone to refer back to when I was shopping for the other outfits. As I stood in front of the mirror, turning from side to side, I sighed, "I mean, I think I like it. But I don't look like the girl in the picture." 

Drue doesn't mince words, and rather than offering some positive feedback such as, "Oh, I think it looks cute", she simply said matter-of-factly, "Well...you're not a model."

As our vacation departure grew closer, the thought of the picture weighed heavily on my mind. And I would blurt out random instructions from time to time. More like a drill sergeant preparing troops for boot camp, rather than a Mom offering suggestions for our beautiful family memory that was about to be made. 

"Whatever I pick out for you to wear, that's what you're wearing. End of discussion."

"I want real smiles, people. Not the fake ones you rehearse 50 times before you post them to Instagram. Genuine ones! We're paying good money for this!"

"No kickboxing in the hallway! Have you lost your mind?! Our picture is in less than a week!"

And when Drue's boogie board flew up and caught Reese in the eye, I simply exclaimed, "Our picture is tomorrow!"

All the clothes came together nicely. I found David a light blue linen button down. "What do you think?" I asked him. "Sure. I mean, I'm never going to wear it again though", he confessed. Fine by me. I only needed him to be in it for one hour. 

He ended up wearing it twice before we even had our picture taken. The second time I ironed it I hissed, "This shirt is of the absolute devil! These wrinkles! Ridiculous! Linen is from the underworld."

The week we were leaving for Alabama, Tate developed a gum infection out of nowhere. The dentist prescribed antibiotics and recommended he have a baby tooth extracted. You guys! I made him smile first to be sure he wouldn't look like a hillbilly before I agreed to move forward with his treatment. That is the moment I realized I may be going a tad overboard with my preparations. 

I tried to plan every possible picture pose down to the last detail. What if she gets a shot of our hands intertwined together and everyone sees my ragged nails I pick to bits? So I bought fake ones at Target and painstakingly glued them on during our car trip South. 

As David checked us into our beach condo, the kids grabbed carts from the lobby. My fake nails started popping off one by one as I hurriedly tossed out duffels from the truck bed so we didn't exceed our 10 minute time limit in the circle drive. Alas, our sweet hand pictures were not to be, as the next day David's wedding band flew into the Gulf during a game of catch. 

I supervised Tate putting on his sunscreen at the beach. But later that evening a large red sunburnt splotch appeared by his right eye and cheekbone. I'm sure it could have been edited out, but I did threaten to touch it up with some of my concealer. "Nooooooo!" he replied, horrified. Then proceeded to check the mirror every 7.2 minutes to see if it had begun to fade on its own. 

The next night was it. Picture time had arrived. I pressed everyone's clothes and gave them each the speech that they were not to eat and/or drink anything once they put them on. "So be sure and eat something beforehand. If you pass out during the pictures, we will just prop you up and continue."

I took a deep breath, slipped on my dress, and looked in the mirror. Panic set in. How had I not remembered I have no idea how to do my makeup or hair? Sure, I get by enough to go to work or Wal-mart, but for a documented keepsake memory? Heck. No. 

Not to mention the humidity in Alabama mocks me. And sets out to undo any type of hairstyle I attempt. I frantically pulled up a few You Tube tutorials and got to work. Then proceeded to ask David and the girls, "Too much eye makeup? Not enough? Should I trim my bangs real quick?" I got an emphatic "NO" for that last question. 

We were off. I didn't let David wear his super sensitive linen shirt in the car knowing the seatbelt would ruin my labor of love ironing job. More instructions on the way. Tate is going through a phase where he contorts his body in all directions rather than have the girls touch him in any way. David said, "No crying. If she asks the girls to touch you or put their arms around you, just no crying."

We pulled off the road, under a bridge, to a private part of the beach. Reese, our eternally fearful child, looked around uncertainly and said, "This is shady. She doesn't have her own place?" 

"How would one go about securing a real beach...sand and ocean...in a tiny studio?" I asked. "I'm pretty sure she's still legit."

The session went well. She was super sweet. All she would say to the kids was, "Now look at each other" and they would burst into fits of cherubic giggles as she snapped away. Who were these people? Long flowing curls, dresses I remembered ironing, thin blonde boy with tousled hair...yep, they were ours. 

David and I don't often gaze lovingly into each other's eyes. So we usually ended up bursting into laughter when we were posed that way. And I would say through my clenched smile, "At least I still have my wedding ring. So it looks like we're married."

After the last few photos were snapped, we all piled back into the truck. "Did I do good smiles, Mom?" Tate asked. When I assured him he had, he shared, "That's probably because I was thinking of baby pugs trying to walk and falling over." Whatever works. 

"Why don't you guys smile like that for me though? It takes like 50 tries!"

Reese simply said, "Well, she was fun." 

I'm in love with the sneak peek she posted today and can't wait to see the rest. 

Until then, I'm off to bury David's linen shirt in the backyard. 






Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Nuggets Made Me Do It

I blame those blasted chicken nuggets.

I really feel that is the point at which my night began its downward spiral.

A few weeks ago, I spent the day in Leavenworth and headed home around 5ish to begin our running around for the evening. David was in Dallas and I had timed my pick-ups and drop-offs perfectly.

I grabbed McDonalds and made my way home to tend to all the creatures living there, both human and canine.

I unloaded my haul onto the table. Four drinks. Four fries. Three burgers....

They had forgotten Tate's chicken nuggets.

(Insert dramatic heavy sigh.)

Yes, I should have double checked the bag. But I just glanced in, saw the 4 fries and a bunch of other stuff at the bottom and hoped for the best.

My irritation subsided once I made it back to McDonalds. Honestly, this was small potatoes (french fry pun) compared to my other worries that week.

Drue met me in the driveway when I returned home, anxious we were going to be late to volleyball. I dropped her off at 6 on the dot, rounded up Tate at 7:30, swung by and grabbed his buddy (thank goodness for carpools) and dropped them off at basketball.

I made my way across town to pick up Drue by 8pm and home we went.

Feeling rather rockstarish about how my night had gone thus far, I slipped into my PJ pants and settled in to watch "This is Us" (thank goodness for DVRs).

Tate usually hangs out in the man cave if we're watching girly shows upstairs. The animal shelter had emailed earlier asking for the names of our foster puppies so they could enter them into their system, so I texted Tate, "Think of 2 boy puppy names".

I texted him again after the show (which I miraculously made it through with dry eyes), "Time for bed". He hadn't responded about the puppy names and when he didn't respond to my text about bed, I sent, "I'm not sure why you never text me back. Ever.".

A few minutes later there was a knock at the front door. It was close to 9:30pm by then and Drue casually headed down the hall saying, "I got it." I leapt from my bed yelling, "Noooo! Don't open the door at this time of night!"

The dogs were barking and I slithered down the hall turning off lights as I went so whoever it was would go away. I heard the doorknob turn and Tate's little voice in the entryway.

I stared in disbelief, "Tate! Was that you knocking on the door?! Why were you outside?"

"Yeah," he said hesitantly, "I was coming home."

He spends most afternoons at the school park with his buddies but knows to head home when the street lights come on. I couldn't believe he'd been outside at this time of night. I felt angry, scared, and guilty all at once.

"From where??" I pressed urgently, already thinking up an appropriate punishment for giving me heart palpitations.

By this point, Drue was looking at me like I'd gone bat crazy and said very slowly and in question form, "B-a-s-k-e-t-b-a-l-l  p-r-a-c-t-i-c-e?"

They watched as I processed this information, unsure of how they should react. When I collapsed on the stairs in laughter, they followed suit and started recounting all the ridiculous things I'd said in the last few minutes. Then gladly reenacted the whole scenario for Reese when she got out of the shower.

This will be one of those topics of conversations that resurface for years to come, "Remember that time Mom freaked out on Tate for coming home from practice?!"

And I'll just shake my head and say, "It was those blasted nuggets..."






Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Love at First Bite

I adore the handy dandy cooking apparatus that is my crockpot. Toss stuff in in the morning, a lovely meal awaits you at night.

But, I began hearing about another magical gadget...the Instant Pot. Basically, instead of needing 8 hours cooking time, it only needed 20 minutes. A procrastinator's dream! No more fretting a day ahead about what to make for supper. I could decide on my way home from work and just plop it in.

I began hinting around that an Instant Pot would make my life complete.

Years ago, we knocked out the upper cabinets in our kitchen so we could actually see people's faces on the other side of the counter, rather than just their torsos. Therefore, we have ZERO extra storage space for anything. I had to include a solution to this problem in my pitch to David.

"My crockpot has a crack in the bottom. Nothing leaks out or anything, but it could literally shatter at any moment. If I get an Instant Pot, I can throw the crockpot away and a storage spot will become available."

Come Christmas morning, my shiny new toy was waiting for me all wrapped up amongst the gifts. I admired it from afar for a few days. When I finally opened it up and perused the manual, panic set in. So many steps to follow. And the words "pressure cooking" kept taunting me. I quickly shoved it all back in the box.

David inquired from time to time if I had tried it out when he was traveling.

"Well...no," I finally confessed. "I'm scared of it, ok?! I'm afraid I'm going to blow the whole house up!"

As is his response to most of my life crises, he laughed.

He retrieved it from the box when we were both home one afternoon and said, "Here, let's try it out together. I'll make sure you don't blow anything up."

Something seemed off about the kitchen. I gasped, "Where's my crockpot??"

"I threw it away. You said if you got an Instant Pot, you'd throw out your crockpot."

"You know full well I never throw anything out! I was going to store it in the basement as my backup!"

"I know. Exactly why I got to it first and threw it out."

He walked me through the steps of securing the lid, punching in the right setting, preheating and pressurizing. As the pressure whistled out at the end, I hit the deck and exclaimed, "I am never using this!"

Now that my overreacting was out of the way, I was able to move on to a more rational way of thinking, as is my pattern. I was going to conquer this pressure cooker if it was the last thing I did. And I still believed it might be.

Since Drue was pretty sick today, I stayed home with her. I had to run to the store for a few things and decided it was as good a time as any to face my fear of that darn pot. I texted David my plan so he wouldn't bring home something super awesome for supper, ensuring nobody would want what I prepared.   

Next, I Googled super easy recipes for beginning instant potters in the parking lot. Some recipes had no business popping up in that search. Way too many steps and ingredients. If I have to scroll down a screen or two to read all the ingredients, nope, next. I was getting anxious to get back home to my little patient, so I just picked a super short recipe and went on my way.

Heading home, it dawned on me.

I picked BBQ spareribs!

Why on Earth would I have done that? Meat is David's specialty!! There's no way I can even compete with him on that level. Sigh. The deed had been done. The slab was in the backseat. There was no turning back.

Tate was curious what I finally decided to make.

"Ribs!" I said proudly.

"Hmm," he thought aloud, "Will Daddy be here?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Oh, nothing. He just usually cooks ribs on the Traeger. But...he might like these too," he said, sounding unconvinced.

Blast! Even my 10 year old knew this idea was doomed from the get go.

David meandered into the kitchen when he got home and I shooed him out. He came in a time or two more, looking quizzically at my technique, but I continued to kick him out and hiss, "Don't. Say. Anything."

In went the apple juice, onion, vanilla, water, meat, oh, and the liquid smoke David brought home after my frantic text asking if we had any, followed by my threat to give up completely if we didn't. When the main course finally emerged, it looked, and smelled like ribs.

"Reese, you eat the first one," David suggested, then eyed her cautiously, "Do you feel ill?"

Wanting to remember everyone's first impressions, I grabbed a pencil and started jotting down their comments.

"Are you taking notes?," David asked, then continued, "These are delicious! I'm so proud of you! You are the best wife a man has ever had!"

I promptly put down my pencil. Which was for the best, because Tate had splattered sauce all over my notes.

I timidly sunk my teeth into the ribs, "Wow. The Instant Pot could take the place of the Traeger," I proposed.

David paused with a rib halfway to his mouth, "Why would you even say something like that?"

I think I'll just start hinting I need a personal chef. Now that would make my life complete.











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