Negligence At Its Finest

Dear Grace,

How in the world do you do all that you do? It feels like I am constantly rushing to get things done; rushing through planning and grading, rushing to school, rushing to scouts, to church, to dance practice, etc. Due to aforementioned rushing, I have decided to compile a list of everything I have been neglecting lately just so you know my letters to you have not been the only things on the back-burner.

  1. The Food
    • I have never been the sort of person who could consciously or subconsciously skip meals. In fact, most of my thought processes seem to revolve around what I am planning to eat next. But if I am being completely, totally, unabashedly honest, I haven’t made Abe a home-cooked meal for a week. Mumsie would be shocked and dashed. I just can’t seem to pull myself together at the end of my long days to cook anything, so Abe will sweetly give in and order pizza or fetch breakfast burritos or let me heat up frozen corn dogs. My skin and wasitline are certainly paying for it.
  2. The Dishes
    • Despite the fact that we have not been eating real food lately, there is still a mountain of dishes to be done. How does that even happen?
  3. The Laundry
    • I might get the laundry into the washer and eventually into the dryer, but it has been sitting in mountainous piles in baskets waiting to be folded. When it comes down to it, I probably will just rewash everything because it is all a sad, wrinkled heap by now.
  4. The Exercise
    • Besides teaching my dance classes, I cannot think of the last time I purposefully exercised.
  5. The Hair & Makeup
    • Five out of five hairdos this week have been messy buns. Emphasis on messy. Abe’s teenage cousin has taken to calling my hair The Tumbleweave due to its sad resemblance in both color and texture to our beloved desert plant. I also ran out of face makeup about a month ago and have not made the time to go out and buy more. Given the fact that our diet of grease has been doing a number on my skin, I don’t look much better than the acne-infested students I teach.
  6. The Cleaning
    • Where does one even find the time to clean the bathrooms anyway?
  7. The Patience
    • I think Vanessa may have picked up her habit of eye-rolling from me because it feels like I have been doing this a lot. Or maybe I picked it up from her? I find myself rolling my eyes at my students, the teenage girl drama of my dance team, my scouts, even sometimes at Abe (Heaven forbid!). Most recently I found myself losing patience at a Cub Scout pack meeting. One of the leaders decided we needed to do a group cheer of sorts at the beginning of each meeting. The eight-year-olds started off with a steady beat befitting their age and abilities, the nine-year-olds added a beat slightly more complex, and then the ten-year-olds added theirs. I was actually slightly impressed and for a brief moment thought it was a good thing for the boys until the leader who started it all cried out, “And now I’ll add a cha-cha of my own!” She started flapping her arms about wildly, slapping her body in an inconceivable pattern, and stomping carelessly about the gym not caring for the steady beat set by the young boys. It was clearly an attempt at an impromptu Stomp performance, but we all sat there awkwardly patting our legs while she flailed about, literally to the beat of her own drum. I was so bewildered I couldn’t even roll my eyes, and I certainly neglected masking my impatience that night.

What this all boils down to is negligence. Not purposeful negligence, but negligence nevertheless. So I repeat: How do you have time for it all? Sometimes the thought of adding one more thing to my schedule actually brings me to tears. I keep reflecting on it all and asking, “How can I possibly think about adding a baby to this mess? How can I even think about adding more classes, more involvement, more reading, more cooking, or more anything?” I have always known life as an adult would be busy, but my word, does it never end? I surely can’t go on neglecting things forever.

Love always,

Millie

P.S. Tell the kids we miss them and talk about them all the time. I hope we can come visit you at least sometime this year! We will try our best not to neglect that.

The Family Prude does Las Vegas

Dear Grace,

Our Christmas and New Year’s have ultimately been spent battling a plague of germs. Abe’s sister and her five darlings showed up on Christmas Eve each with a fever and a hacking cough. I flinched each time coughs barked out of their chests as I imagined bacteria-infested amoebae flying through the air landing on every surface possible. The moment they left on Christmas Day, Abe, his mother, and myself went about the house disinfecting every surface and tossing everything we possibly could into the washing machine. Unfortunately, our obsessive cleaning did nothing to protect Abe (the most tenacious Lysol-wielder) from succumbing to The Yuck.

However, Yuck or no Yuck, Abe and I were set on traveling to Las Vegas to be with his uncle and aunt. Uncle Don and Aunt Shawna had invited the two of us to join them and their posse in Vegas to watch a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows. I was thrilled as I had never been to Vegas and had only heard the greatest of reviews regarding Cirque du Soleil shows.

Our first night in Vegas, we watched Cirque’s “Beatles Love” show and it was simply amazing. I can’t even explain how lovely it all was. Let’s just go and see it together, okay? Abe had to physically drag me from the gift shop before I bought everything in sight.

Our second night, Abe and I were the chaperones for the two girls under 18 and we went to see “Mystere” while the rest of the family (including Abe’s grandmother) went to “Zumanity” (which I don’t recommend Googling). We heard all about Zumanity the next day over breakfast, and I don’t remember ever being so shocked. 

When Abe showed me the “trailer” for the show, I thought it was a show that was meant to be sexual but not explicit. Apparently I didn’t know Vegas. I elected to go to the other show if only to avoid having Abe’s family watch my reactions the entire show. I have a reputation in the family for being prudish above and beyond the rest. Honestly, I think the family’s descriptions of the show were merely to get a reaction out of me.

How can I help but be a prude with how we were raised by Mumsie and Pops? But really and truly I am much happier being a prude if it saves me from having to sit through an hour of nude acrobatics.

Hoping your New Year is much less full of unwarranted adult nudity,

Millie

Thanksgiving Eve

Dear Millie,

I can’t stop laughing about your last letter!  Gordon would definitely approve of an interpretive dance baby announcement.  I hope you will send me a video of it?  I’m thinking maybe I’ll send you some plastic rose petals.  Just in case.  You take your time…those petals will last!  😉

Somewhat related: I was just a month or so from delivery with Kyle when I was talking with a lady from church.  She asked how I was feeling and kind of nodded in the direction of what I thought was a quite pregnant-looking midsection (mine.  I’m talking about my pregnant midsection.).  I was so excited to talk about how there wasn’t too much time left and the baby was kicking and so active, etc.  She blurted out, “Oh thank goodness!  You’re PREGNANT.  I thought you’d just let yourself GO!”

. . .

I made some fantastic recipes recently and I’ll have to share them with you.  It’s all about Thanksgiving at our house right now though, so you’ll probably hear about those first, assuming they turn out!  I have your amazing roll dough in the fridge right this minute!  I’ve got pies in the oven.

I was cutting out pie crust guards when the phone rang and it was some survey company.  I mentioned that it was 9:30 at night and I was trying to get pies done for tomorrow.  I do try to be polite even when it’s bothersome, since I spent that summer working the phones (and also working at Haagen-Dazs.  That job was pretty dreamy.  And I got fat.  But it was awesome.).  Anyway, I didn’t catch the name of her organization, but she had questions about my interest in baby products.  She launched into her script and I tried to politely interject with, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have an infant.”  She paused and asked if I could verify that I am not the mother of a child one year or younger.  I stated that was correct.  She paused, and then said, “Oh!  But as a grandmother to a child one year old or less, we are still definitely interested in talking with you!”

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Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Love,

Grace

Baby Hungry

Dear Grace,

I am jealous that Mumsie and Pops got to see the boys’ piano recital; I never get tired of “Myrtle the Turtle”!

Abe’s knee is still taking its sweet time to mend, but his doctor thinks the end of the tunnel will be in January so at least there is a tentative end in sight. In the meantime, Abe is single-handedly making sure our monthly Netflix bill isn’t paid in vain. Everyone else though assumes we should be putting all Abe’s downtime to good use and hop on the baby-making bandwagon. Within the past week alone, I have had at least a dozen conversations where someone either implied or told me directly I should move it along and have a baby as soon as possible.

At School:

  • I am fairly certain the teachers at my school are beginning to take bets as to who the next pregnant teacher will be, and I am sure I am the main contender.
  • I am asked by my students at least weekly if Abe and I want to have children and when we will make that happen.
  • A solid 10 minutes of my dance team practice this past Thursday was dedicated to my team wanting to discuss what they have imagined for how I would announce to them my pregnancy (whenever that may be). They have decided upon an interpretive dance as the proper choice.

At Church:

  • As Abe and I are the nursery leaders, we often get parents winking at us asking when we plan to get started on our little brood. As if watching their snot-nosed darlings for an hour each Sunday makes us want to get started right away.
  • At Cub Scouts last Tuesday, I unwittingly got caught up in a conversation with a fellow leader who is only a month or two away from having a baby and a couple other ladies in the ward who had babies this year. They all got started into the woes and joys of labor and delivery. As if on cue, they all turned to me urging me to get started as soon as I could. They even threatened to call Abe and tell him to pull out the candles and rose petals. When I told Abe about this comment, he exclaimed, “Why in the world would I do that?! Don’t they know how much roses cost?!” Ever the romantic, my Abe.

Family & Complete Strangers:

This weekend, a cousin of Abe’s got married so we received plenty of comments from well-meaning family members and people we barely know.

  • Abe’s grandmother is now awaiting the arrival of her 39th great-grandchild, and she let Abe and I know in no uncertain terms that Abe and I are responsible for the 40th. I suggested that the newly married couple could just as easily give her a 40th great-grandchild, but Grannie was not satisfied at all with that reply.
  • Abe and I left the wedding reception a little earlier than most of the family due to Abe’s knee, and although our reason for leaving was quite obvious, we still got enough winks and catcalls to make one believe we were the bride and groom themselves sneaking off to the honeymoon suite. One cousin even patted his heavily pregnant wife’s stomach while their three other children scampered about their feet and yelled after Abe, “Go and make yourself useful!”
  • While still at the wedding, one lady I have briefly spoken with once sidled up to me excitedly and asked speaking directly to my stomach, “I just have to ask, are you pregnant, dear?” When I told her I was not, she replied, “Oh, I hope you’re not embarrassed!” Thanks for that.

Honestly. It seems there are more people anxious for the Adams Baby than the two who actually have a say in the matter. And now I feel as if I need to make it my mission to appear as non-pregnant as possible.

Love always,

Millie4ea8e3e30c4796b6a0deb32ad22a29ed

The Mailbox Stalker

Dear Grace,

I am glad your Halloween was more eventful than ours. We had maybe five trick-or-treaters, and Abe basically had to pry the bowl of surplus candy out of my fingers because I bought all the best stuff. You know, for the trick-or-treaters . . .
About a week before Halloween though, things were getting creepy out here at the Dutchman House. And I am not talking about this terrifying clown Abe bought as a creepy-halloween-hanging-clown-skeleton-prop-new-with-_57decoration for our front door (maybe that’s why we didn’t get many trick-or-treaters).

I had volunteered to chaperone at the high school’s Homecoming dance. No, that’s not the scary part–although I did want to send most of the girls home to put on a dress over the lingerie they were wearing. No, the scary part happened before the dance. I was in the bathroom getting ready to go to the school and Abe had hobbled off to check the mail. When Abe returned home to Dutchman House, he yelled at me, “Babe, are you having an affair with the mailman???” Of course this baffled me for many reasons. Then Abe crutched his way into the bathroom holding a book. “This was in the mail,” he said, “without any postage marks at all.” The book was a picture book version of our beloved Willie Shakes’ The Tempest. Inside the book was a hastily written note on a scrap of paper, “I got this and thought maybe you would like it.” The note had no salutation nor signature.

img_1309Dutchman House is part of a hideous, Southwestern subdivision therefore our mailbox is part of a community of mailboxes. The only people who could put anything in our mailbox would be either Abe or myself or the mailman (hence Abe’s affair accusation). To this day, we have no idea who the book is from or how it got into our mailbox.

Sadly, the book isn’t worth reading. A picture book version of Shakespeare is no good if it doesn’t actually use Shakespeare’s words. I have high expectations for my stalkers.

Love Always,

Millie

 

Emergencies

Dear Grace,

My word, it has been an age. My only excuse is that work and cub scouts and Abe’s knee injury and dance team and cleaning the house and folding the laundry has just been too overwhelming lately. Especially the laundry. I need it to fold itself. Last week I rewashed a whole batch because I let it sit in the basket so long it was just a sad heap of wrinkles. Honestly, I am not sure if my life could possibly get any busier, but I thought that when I was in high school so apparently it can get busier.

Last night Abe and I had an impromptu date to the emergency room. After I finished our cub scout meeting where I spent an hour yelling at eight-year-olds to “put that burning piece of cardboard back on the fire!” and “get over here and practice your stupid skit!” and “for goodness sake, stop chasing the turkeys!”, Abe called me and asked if I would like to take him to the emergency room because why not? Although the surgery was nearly two months ago, he has still been in a lot of pain and his leg is still swollen. His cousin (who works as a nurse) pinpointed many signs of Abe possibly having a blood clot, so I was glad to take a trip to the emergency room. We were at the hospital for about three hours waiting for various nurses and doctors and tests and results. In the meantime, I caught the tail-end of the World Series and then fell asleep several times, but did my best to act like I wasn’t when anyone would burst through the “room’s” shower curtain. The good news is that Abe does not have a blood clot, and we were out of the hospital by midnight. The bad news is that we don’t know why Abe isn’t healing properly.

The other bad news is that I didn’t have any of my plans ready for school the next day, and it was going to be a big, important day at school. Some big head honchos for our school’s honors program were coming out to observe and interview teachers to make sure the program is running as it ought to. This is my first year as a teacher for that program, and I still don’t know what I am supposed to do. Some of my students the week before complained that my classroom was not decorated to their level of satisfaction (that is to say that it is not decorated at all), and spent almost an entire class period advising me about acceptable adjustments. I ought to have listened because these head honchos stopped by my classroom earlier this morning took a glance at my bare walls and didn’t even stick around for my inspiring speech about Macbeth. I hope none of their questions tomorrow go deeper than “What’s your name?” and “How are you?” or “Why didn’t you decorate your walls?”

So last night instead of going home and planning for my big, important day, we stopped at Jack-in-the-Box for some artery-clogging burgers and fries. Who needs to be prepared anyway?

Chat soon,

Millie

The Magic Goes On…

Dear Millie,

You’re not going to believe this, but I have an update from the photo studio.

After I hung up my favorite portrait from our disastrous photo session, I decided that I wanted it larger.  They only print up to 8×10.  It’s been awhile since our last experience, but I thought I’d take a chance and call to see if they happened to still have the photos from our session.  They did!  They only guarantee they’ll have them for 2 weeks, so I felt pretty fortunate they still had them nearly two months later.  $40 and I could buy the cd along with rights to reproduce the images as I pleased.  I’d passed on it before because I’m cheap!  I think this’ll be worth it though.  I told the lady she’d be seeing me soon, and off we went to pick up the cd.

When we got to Walmart, I zipped right around the corner to the studio and there was a group of four or five kids, two moms, and a baby.  It looked like they’d just finished up their session.  The original photographer from my session was there.  When she spotted me, she said, “Oh hey!  What’s your last name?”  I told her, and she said that yeah, she thought Lucy looked familiar.  Huh!

She met me at the register computer while another assistant helped the other group pick out their favorite photos to print.  I stood there and waited, and waited, and waited some more while she clicked all over her screen.  Finally, she said, “I can’t get the pictures to pull up here.  I don’t know what’s going on.”  I laughed and said that I’m just really unlucky.  She picked up the phone and called someone.  After a few more minutes of waiting, I said that if the other group was finished and just printing photos, I could wander around a bit and come back later if it would be easier to do what we needed on that computer.  She said that’d be great, so the girls and I headed over to try to find some pants.

Oh, pants.  Walmart pants.  Pants from Walmart.  Never a good idea, those Walmart pants!  After our phone conversation last night, I think we need to swap unfortunate pants stories!  I ended up buying a couple of things after we’d wandered around and tried things on for a half hour or so.  The first group was still there and there was another mom with a baby sleeping in her arms.  In the time we were shopping, she’d had her baby photographed and was just waiting to to pick out her portraits.  By now, the photographer was helping the group.  I stood back and waited.  Lucy was being a 2yo and I tried various things to entertain her.  After 10 minutes or so, the first group left, the other mom went to have her pictures printed, and I walked up to the register.  The photographer turned around and said to the assistant, “Oh, she just wants a cd from a previous session.”  She turned to me and said, “I finally got the pictures to pull up!”  As I responded with, “That’s great,” she interjected with, “But now our credit card reader isn’t working, so we can only take cash.  Can you go use an ATM or something?”

I went to the money center, but there was a long line.  I decided to make a quick purchase of something (anything, really!) and get cash back.  I stuffed my purchase in my bag and had my cold, hard cash ready.  When I got back to the studio register, the assistant wasn’t sure how to ring it up, so we had to wait for the photographer to finish printing the photos for the mom with the sleeping baby.  My girls were bored, and having to stay in the cart wasn’t sitting well with either of them, especially Lucy.  I held her, I put her next to Vanessa in the back of the cart, I dug in the diaper bag for old, hard fruit snacks.

Our turn!  The photographer was ringing up our purchase and I joked that I should get a discount or something.  She didn’t seem very amused and said that she couldn’t do that just because she’d like to.  I selected the three pictures I wanted since I might as well get what I can for what I was paying, I paid the money, and then she sent me to the other computer with the assistant while she talked to a friend who’d come up behind me.

The assistant couldn’t find the order.  When she did, all the pictures from our session were in there, not just the three I had selected.  I picked them out again, and she couldn’t figure out how to drag them onto the cd to be burned. She kept highlighting all of the photos, then trying to unselect the ones I hadn’t picked, but ended up somehow duplicating them and now there were multiple copies of the ones that I’d wanted.  This went on while the photographer was telling her friend how swamped they’ve been–she spends part of her week training another manager at a studio an hour or so away on top of running this studio. And her regional manager has been busy opening new studios all over the Midwest and New England.  It sounds like you’ll also be getting a studio near you!  YAY!!!

The photographer came over and helped her select, drag, and drop the correct photos onto the cd, and I asked about her assistant who’d had pink, purple, blue, and blonde hair (and the Disaster tattoo).  She’s been busy training people too.  “No one’s quit on me yet!” the photographer said.  Lucy was starting to cry at this point and the photographer said to her, “What’s wrong?  Do you want to take some pictures?”  I wasn’t sure what she’d meant and asked quizzically, “Really?”  She responded, “Oh, well, she’s fussing about having to sit in the cart.  That isn’t the worst thing.  Taking pictures would be worse!”  ??

I’d texted Gordon at 12:02pm that I was going to go pick up the cd.  When I turned on the van to head home, it was 1:47.  My track record is not the best!  At least I now have a king size Payday candy bar and a bit o’ change in my diaper bag for the next time.  The photographer said they’re going to start doing canvas wraps and larger prints there in the studio, so maybe I’ll hold off ordering one from somewhere else.  I’m a glutton for punishment!

Love,

Grace

People Person

Dear Grace,

I think “disaster” is a gross understatement for your portrait fiasco. But in retrospect it’s now hilarious, right?

Lately, I have been having some awkward interactions with people and there must be a way to make it stop from happening. If only I knew how.

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In high school, my classmates either believed I was demure and Disney-princess-like or they believed I was utterly heartless and out to destroy the fragile self-esteems of my fellow teenagers. What they did not consider is a third and more accurate possibility that I am just bad with people in general. I believe that most people grow out of their awkwardness, but I feel as mine is only growing in intensity.

Case in point, when I met Abe’s family for the first time I was a bundle of nerves and was attempting to be gracious and lovely but to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. When Abe introduced me to his grandmother, he announced to me that she was a hugger. I thought it was merely a statement of fact, a note about grandma to file away for later. But no, it was meant as a suggestion. So as we stood there rather awkwardly, Abe said, “Go ahead, give her a hug.” And then I did nothing. I just looked at Abe in a panic not knowing what to do as I am not accustomed to embracing people I met only seconds before. Likewise, Abe’s grandma did not look as though she was particularly ready to hug me either. Someone drew our attention away soon after, but to me it seemed full minutes of agony while I stood dumbfounded as to what I should do. Thankfully since then I have had more opportunities to redeem myself and Abe’s grandma is one of my favorite people.

But my most recent disaster involves Jane. Nothing can be worse than offending one of your best friends. Jane is my go-to person when it comes to fashion advice, because you know Jane, her style is perfect. Sometimes she returns the favor and will ask me my opinion. It’s a rare occurrence, and now I know why. Today Jane sent me a picture of a purse asking for my thoughts. The purse was large and emblazoned with the words “crazy like a fox.” I was not the biggest fan of the purse and thought Jane was only joking about whether or not she should purchase it because it’s not usually the type of thing she goes for. In a sad attempt at wit, I texted back that she would be CRAZY to buy it. Unfortunately Jane had already bought the purse by the time I responded . . . So yes, I told my best friend her most recent purchase was a terrible idea by insinuating that she would have to be insane to buy it. I doubt she’ll ask for my advice again any time soon.  

But how are things with you?

Love

Millie

Date with Disaster

Dear Millie,

Date with disaster!  Ah ha haaaa!  Oh, you kill me!  I’m stealing that.

And hey!  Your blankets don’t look too shabby.  At least the fabric is cute?  And the pom poms?  I think your colors are better than the tutorial, if that makes anything better.

Picture day!  It was definitely memorable.  Since it happened to be my wee one’s birthday, we opened gifts to start the day.  She tossed the dress I’d picked out for her and kept rummaging disappointedly through the gift bag.  Win!  ??  I convinced/bribed the children to get dressed in the outfits we’d picked for the occasion and we headed out.  I wore flip flops because 1. I’m so fashionable, and 2. the blisters!  At least I was able to walk again, albeit not comfortably nor gracefully.

The van ride over was filled with every sort of lame joke, bathroom-related sound effect, and excited talking to be sure the children were all in happy moods.  We arrived on time for our appointment (even a couple of minutes early, if you can believe that!).  I’d grabbed a cart in the parking lot so I could better corral my children (okay fine, and so that I could use it as an inconspicuous walker).  Another set of (CUTE!) kids and their mom were already there taking pictures.  One of those cute kids was a newborn and he was not cooperating, so they were trying all kinds of tricks.

We were there waiting a good long while and everyone was behaving spectacularly.  Except then we were still waiting and my feet were starting to have issues.  The 2yo was reaching the end of her patience quota, the 4yo was telling me loudly that it was OUR turn and WHY was it taking so long??, the 6yo was running circles around the cart, the 8yo was doing some kind of kangaroo/T-rex hopping/screeching thing, and the 10yo was trying to pretend we were all just doing what we should.  The mom mouthed, “Sorry!” to me and the photographer and assistant/receptionist (the one with the “Disaster” tattoo) said they’d be with us in just a few minutes.  I felt bad glancing at my watch, but it had been nearly 20 minutes and we were running out of time.  Not that I had anywhere to be, but there’s a window where things come together and then it just…doesn’t.  You miss that window, and it’s over, my friend!  I’d had the kids perfectly coiffed and pumped up for our appointed time and things were caving.

The mom felt terrible that we’d had to wait so long and I assured her that it was just fine.  I don’t think she’d gotten what she wanted, because they hung around while we tried to set up.  They set the background up and positioned the older kids and by then, the 2yo had had it.  She was wailing.  I set her in the group and stepped away and she’d come running after me.  I tried sitting just off to the side with my arm stretched out holding her hand (or maaaybe forcing her to stay there).  No good.  The photographer was not very helpful (why wasn’t she trying any tricks with my cute kids as she had with her previous customer?) and she asked what I could do to get the 2yo to stay put and smile.  I assumed that was her job?  My mistake!

The other children were trying their best to be patient and it just went on and on with the photographer sighing loudly and tapping her foot while I repeatedly placed the 2yo in the frame.  I told the photographer I’d just like the picture and I didn’t mind if my daughter was crying.  There!  She’s there!  Everyone is looking and it’s actually kind of funny!  Please just take the picture!  The assistant/receptionist came over and tried to give my poor girl a stuffed bear.  She calmed down and the photographer said, “Oh!  I think she must just be freaked out by me!  Here, see if you can get a good picture.”  She handed the camera to the stunned Disaster girl (we’ll call her D) and walked off.  And then she left to get a soda.

D wasn’t sure how to hold the camera.  She knelt down and tried to get the children to all look at her.  She took several pictures and I could see on the monitor that none of them were centered, and that her finger had blocked the lens on a few of them.  I know they do editing afterward, so I was trying to not be worried, but three of the images did not include heads on my older children and another couple didn’t include at least one of my children at all.  Technology is amazing, but I was a little nervous about how they’d manage to pull an image together.

The photographer had returned by this point and seemed exasperated that we were still there.  Another group had arrived and the mom with the newborn was there and instead of taking over the camera, the photographer set her soda down and went to the register.  There were people gathered at the front who needed to be attended to, after all!

My 2yo by this time was screaming.  She could not be consoled.  I tried holding her and talking softly in her ear for a minute, but she was having none of it.  She wanted off the set.  I calmly told the camera-holding girl that I would very much like a photograph to be taken of my children as soon as I set my little girl down and got out of the frame and that I didn’t care what it looked like.  She looked at me wide-eyed and nodded and I looked at my children.  My oldest was doing his best to keep a smile on but it was coming off like a creeper.  The 8 and 6yo boys were wiggling around and were clearly done.  The 4yo was sitting on the bench with her arms folded and she was scowling.  I smiled and told them that this was it!  We really just needed one picture.  Everybody smile!

I set the 2yo down and she lost it.  I was backing up to quickly get out of the frame and knew that there was a board under the backdrop that I’d need to step over.  I felt the back of it with my flip flop and lifted my water balloon foot, but the flip flop caught and I slammed down on the blisters so I wouldn’t trip, but then I did anyway, so I reached my left hand out to grab onto the counter but I missed and grabbed onto something metal and I was falling and the metal thing I’d grabbed was part of the printer and it broke off and I came crashing down in flailing slow motion and naturally the metal tray didn’t land flat, it landed facing up so it sliced the webbing between my thumb and index finger and (sorry for the graphic) scrunched the skin accordion-style as it did its damage.

“Whoa,”  the photographer said.  “Oops?” was all I could say, and I set the metal tray on the counter.  I grabbed some tissues and jammed it in my hand so the kids wouldn’t know what had happened.  I’d apparently startled the girl holding the camera when I fell, so the photograph she’d taken had the girls’ heads from about the bottom lip up, the boys above them, and then a lot of empty space above them.  Awesome.

I asked if we could maybe come back later as the other mom had.  The photographer turned with an exasperated look and said, “30 minutes.  These guys have been waiting,” and she gestured to the group who had been witness to one of my life’s crowning moments.

I thanked her, gathered my children into and next to the cart, and we left.  I was trying not to limp and the 2yo was just at her wits end.  We walked away and I picked her up and let her snuffle into my shoulder, leaving a wet blob on my shirt.  I had bled through the tissues I had.  Luckily, a girl from church was walking toward us.  I asked if she could stay with the kids for a minute while I used the restroom.  I hobbled to the restroom with the 2yo and did my best to wash up my hand while holding her.  I glanced in the mirror and was sorry I had.  I looked like I’d come through a terrible ordeal.  Well!  Not as bad as a pregnant grandma, eh?  I squeezed some paper towels in my hand to help with the bleeding and returned to the cart.

I couldn’t walk very well anyway and my feet were giving in.  I tried making small talk with the girl and ended up agreeing to anything and everything she said because I couldn’t think straight enough to do otherwise.  That conversation is how I ended up driving her to and fro and hearing about her potato picking adventures.  I know you can’t wait to hear about that!

I’d done my shopping the weekend before and the only thing I could think of that we needed were mousetraps.  We walked clear across the store to the place where they carry them, and there was an empty space where they used to be.  The time was nearly up, so we made our way back to the portrait studio.  My feet were killing me and my hand was throbbing.  I smiled at the mom with the newborn who was with D having her pictures printed off.  The other group finished up and it was our turn.  The photographer took over the printer and waved for D to finish up with us.  I told the kids we could be done really quickly if everyone cooperated.  The younger boys were completely wound up and were hopping around.  My 4yo rolled her eyes.  As soon as we stepped onto the set, the 2yo started screaming again.  Big, heavy sobs.

I assured D that I just wanted a nice-colored, centered picture, not necessarily with smiling children in it.  She just shook her head and when I saw the kids, I pointed and said, “Now!”  The bulbs flashed and I knew we had a masterpiece.

The photographer was now filling up helium balloons in the front to put around the entrance and my 4yo wanted one.  The photographer scowled at her, because these were for advertising, not for clients!  D quietly filled a few and handed them to the kids and tried to get pictures with them holding them, but the girls’ blocked the boys and no one could focus on the camera when there were bobbing balloons.  The 8yo was yawning in one of the pictures.  I announced we were done and I would like to just print some pictures.  The children immediately brightened and started playing.  The 2yo had calmed down but was so exhausted from all her crying that she just laid right down on the bench with the stuffed bear.

The photographer had left again.  D pushed her glasses up on her nose and squinted at the screen.  “I’m not sure we have ones we can work with.  Do you want to try again?” she asked.  NO.  She wanted to try some enhancements and maybe softer sides.  I was trying not to be rude, but her color enhancements were terrible.  I did my best to kindly point out exactly what we wanted, over and over, with no special enhancements or color treatments, please.  When she finally narrowed it down to her recommendations and the one I insisted on, she asked for my final selection.  I picked one of hers to humor her, and then I got what I wanted.  She hit print.  Nothing happened.  She jiggled some wires behind the printer and turned a circle and leaned around the corner to see if the photographer was anywhere nearby.  Nope.  She tried a few other things and the photographer finally returned.  “This will take awhile.  Why don’t you go shop or something?”

I’d already wandered around for half an hour with the children before and as much as I wanted to see if they had restocked the mousetraps, no thank you.  It was nearly nap time by this point, and by jingo I wanted the pictures and I wanted out of there!  I felt a little misled by the company name.

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In all fairness, they hadn’t said how many minutes.  I wasn’t trying to be rude or disruptive to other customers in Wally World, but it’d been 2 1/2 hours.  We had all reached our limit.  We waited for the prints as nicely as we could and then tore out of there.

The portrait?  Brilliant.  The boys were standing in the back.  Starting from the left, 6yo Truman is punching himself in the side of his face, 10yo Kyle is gripping his brothers trying to keep them in place with a hurry-and-take-the-dang-picture smile, and 8yo Paul is in the middle of making farting sounds.  The girls are sitting on a bench and 2yo Lucy is crying and reaching out for me with a tear running down her cheek and a wet stream under her nose.  4yo Vanessa?  She’s covering her ears with both hands and glaring at Disaster.  It is awesome.  I have it hanging next to the front door.

It has been a few weeks since our “date with Disaster.”  One of the girls I visit teach had heard about having had our pictures done and when I went to visit her last month, she had new family photos on her wall and individual shots of each of their three boys.  “Oh yeah, it was great!  The boys were already dressed nicely one day, so we decided to stop in and get pictures.  In and out–Portraits in Minutes!”  Indeed.  Disaster and the photographer are no longer there.  I don’t know what happened.

Love,

Grace

P.S.  I told you my favorite biddy hooked me up with butternut squash, right?  I had seen online that I could cook it up in my Instant Pot pressure cooker (if you have one and you definitely should, place it on the steamer rack/basket thing, add 1 cup of water, hit Manual, set the time to 10-13 minutes depending on how big your squash is, let it cook and natural release for 10 minutes, manually release any leftover pressure, remove the basket and squash and let cool a bit, slice it in half and remove the seeds and goopy stuff, peel off the skin using a paring knife where needed, and then mash the squash until smooth–if you have an awesome blender, throw it in there–and then use it however you’d like!  I froze most of mine to use later).  I wondered if I could get away with making pumpkin pancakes subbing in squash and it worked great!  The kids had no idea and it was really good.  I made it just like the recipe said except I used squash.  Try it!  Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes.  You’re welcome.