I was determined never to be caught unprepared again. Planning for the next portrait was not unlike preparing for war: A battle plan was drawn and ideal conditions to launch the offensive were identified. I had to decide in advance what they'd wear so I could have the items pressed and ready to go at any moment. But choosing the proper clothing was no small feat. It was fraught with potential disaster. Should I put them in the hip clothes Auntie Ellen bought them, or would the kids bemoan our fashion choices 20 years from now with a snide, "How could you dress us in that?" (Remember how you felt about those photos of you in orange Toughskins or plaid pants?) And would Grandma be upset if I didn't select the fancy outfits she recently got them?
After weighing the political implications of the clothes, you have to make sure your kid's hair is in decent condition, typically by getting a fresh cut. However getting a child's hair cut close to a portrait session can be risky in the event the cut goes awry and your kid winds up looking like a practice mannequin at a hair dressing school. That's what I feared when I started trimming Jonah's hair. The initially peaceful effort quickly degenerated into a bad World Wrestling Federation match. While I normally would have given up and attempted it again later, I was on a mission. He was going to get his portrait done the next day and couldn't do so looking like a miniature version of Albert Einstein. I would never hear the end of it. At age 40, he'd still be reminding me of how demented his hair looked in that picture, never mind what my family would say.
The day after the haircut incident (I'm sure it forever damaged Jonah's psyche), I determined that the time for the photo session was right. For the first time in what seemed like months, neither tot had a runny nose, facial bruises, scratches or fat lips courtesy of an errant Tonka Truck. Grabbing the already ironed outfits, my husband Scott and I got the kids ready with the swiftness and accuracy of an Army maneuver. We thought we had anticipated everything. Then we arrived at the Alamo. There was kicking, screaming, tears, an insistent hail of "no" and the angry throwing of props. We shamelessly cajoled. We jumped up and down. We made sickeningly goofy noises. Essentially, we acted like we belonged in padded rooms. Then the whole sad episode came to a grinding halt when Abbey tried to take a chunk out of my left shoulder with her teeth.
The quality of the photographs had steadily decreased throughout the session, from the kids exhibiting a look of quasi-amusement to stone-faced mug shots and finally arriving at the "Getmeouttahere!!" pose. When we picked a photo from the rather paltry lot, the photographer looked relieved not to have to redo another session with Abbey and Jonah. "I'll bet you want to have a nice cold drink after this," I said to her, wiping the sweat from my brow. "Yeah, a cold drink all right, but not of water," she replied.