Picture This….Or Don’t

In all likelihood you have a storage bin full of adorable school pictures and family snapshots that are taking up precious space in your basement wedged next to one of those As Seen on TV ab cruncher contraptions that you used once but are pretty sure you will use again when you have an overwhelming desire to look like you are straining to poop on your living room carpet. That bin of snapshots is priceless. Especially when your kids surpass cute smiles and pigtails and enter the danger zone of permanent scowls and teenage rage. We have officially arrived at this sacred photo space in our children’s lives and it has become a full time job to get one god damn photo I can send to grandma without having to explain the expression on each of my sweet children’s faces. I won’t be sending anyone school photos this year due to extenuating circumstances (we forgot it was picture day) and Sharpie markers (which were used to create a “artistic” look). You are welcome.

 Harry Potter or satanic cult leader? It's hard to decide which is my personal favorite.

Harry Potter or satanic cult leader? It’s hard to decide which is my personal favorite.

Every fall we attempt family photos. This tradition stems from my unending need to portray myself as a human mother who is very organized, keeps her children frequently bathed, and cares about the state of their clothing. I’m not that person. My son showers once a week and I’m willing to wager good money on the fact that he doesn’t use soap. My kids generally leave the house in whatever happens to be clean or clean-ish. Ripped jeans, tshirts that have been attacked by scissors, and mismatched socks because WHO HAS TIME FOR SOCK MATCHING? THAT ISN’T A THING. We never, ever look like our family photos in real life. But every year I mail out umpteen numbers of Christmas cards with an adorable photo on the front in order to confuse and astound the people who know us. For those who don’t, now you know. Those photos take around 6,000 hours to perfect so I hope you appreciate the time I take to make us look like people we aren’t.

So, I set the date for our photo session this year and then it was time to figure out the clothing situation. Since we have a teenager who refuses to wear anything that could be deemed “adorable” or “sweet” I decide to let her lead the way in clothing choices. And by clothing choices, I mean allowing her to pick a color we can all assimilate to, not an entire outfit. Mostly because the rest of us aren’t really interested in wearing a Panic At The Disco band tshirt, black jeans from Hot Topic, and 14 layered jackets. She shocked no one by picking black.

“Maybe this won’t be as painful as I had planned. We can all find attractive black clothing for one picture.” I thought.

Then Miss 14 asked if she had to smile for the pictures and how long it would take and would it be hot outside and would other people see the pictures and maybe she would wear maroon jeans or a green jacket….and then my head exploded and we had family pictures taken where I was headless because…teenage life.

"Just pose naturally on this log." #nailedit

“Just pose naturally on this log.”

The day of the family picture arrives and I forbid anyone from eating or drinking for four hours (DON’T TELL ME YOU DON’T ACT THIS CRAZY). The last thing I need is have Mr. 10 show up on our Christmas cards with a GoGurt squirt on the front of shirt and then have people thinking we wear our picture day clothes to eat in like some kind of barbarians. So we are all starving and driving to the middle of nowhere because the middle of nowhere is where you get really great family pictures that make it look like you live on a farm next to a dilapidated hay barn but you wear city clothes there because you aren’t really a farmer, you are just pretending to be one for your family photos and you all sit on a hay bail which makes sense because PERFECT FAMILY PHOTOS, PEOPLE.

When you live vicariously through farm living but only for photos because...too much work.

When you live vicariously through farm living but only for photos because…too much work.

I make the mistake of wearing a new tank top that I bought specifically for this occasion because the summer has been super kind to my midsection and everything in my closet made me look like we would be blessed with another addition to our family in 4 months which could be a really confusing look on Christmas cards.

“I didn’t know Mandy was expecting.”

“She just likes burritos and porch sitting.”

Sadly the new shirt wasn’t working as well as I had hoped so I’m tugging and stuffing the softest parts of my body as we get our photos done and once they are printed and posted on the wall, I notice that I have lopsided boobs in most pictures so hooray for trying hard to not look like a wretch.

In addition to my breast situation, there was hay everywhere so Mr. 10’s eyes began watering and he spent most of the photo session looking as if he had poured Tabasco in his eye sockets. The sun was stationed perfectly to make Miss 14 think she was having heat stroke which she may have been considering she wore all black and two winter jackets in 80 degree weather. The hubs was overly concerned about which side of his face photographed better and exactly how slimming his black shirt really was. I’m tucking my boobs and looking around at this group of hooligans I call family and thinking “We are not fooling anyone with these Christmas card photos.”

The only thing Miss 14 had to say about the end result of all my tireless work to get fall family photos was “I look squishy.” Mr 10 was just as impressed “I like all of the pictures except the ones with that kid in them.” As he points to himself in every photo. Bless these years of family photos. When you get your Christmas card this year just know…we are a shit show in real life, we don’t live on a farm, and my boobs aren’t really lopsided. Yet.

I’m Not The Hostess With The Mostest

When visiting my aunt at her gorgeous home in Washington State (think the cover of Better Homes and Gardens) there is something that is very evident from the moment you pull into her driveway and see her waving at you from her perfectly decorated front porch…she is a hostess. Your bags will be happily brought in, your bed perfectly made, and before you are finished hugging her, she has a cocktail in your hand and is making sure that the dinner she planned will be to your liking. She just whipped up some ribs, 45 sides, and has her best china and linen napkins filling the dining room table. That’ll do, I suppose. The woman is a hostess. The kind of person you feel grateful to know year round, but especially during a long ass road trip. I’m just an asshole with a house and a blow up mattress covered in cat hair, but feel free to come stay anytime.

What my aunts house looks like. Mine, too. Minus the nice landscaping, clean windows and mowed lawn.

What my aunts house looks like. Mine, too. Minus the nice landscaping, clean windows and mowed lawn.

I missed that genetic coding. My younger sister is the one in our family who knows how to treat a guest and I let her treat me like a fucking queen, even if I just stop by her house to drop something off. Yes, I need a fresh towel. Yes, I need a fresh drink. Yes, you can carry me from one room to the other. When people come visit me there is a 99% chance I will be wearing pajamas and a 100% chance that I won’t make you a drink. I’ll happily show you my liquor cabinet and point out the lovely lake view from our deck, but then you are on your own. Because I’ll be resuming whatever I was doing before you drove 6,000 miles just to visit me. Most likely I was sitting on my deck drinking, so I guess that’s what we are all doing now. I’ll then point you in the vicinity of some possibly clean cups and a sink full of dirty dishes. If you came here to be pampered and entertained, you should probably keep your suitcases in the car and get yourself a room at The Best Western down the road. I hear they have snacks on every floor and an ice machine with that soft ice that I would kick a baby for.

I’m also not going to make coffee that is preferable to your palette because I do that for a job and I’m not at work and fuck that noisy noise. My aunt is such a stellar hostess/superhuman that she wakes up at 3 AM to make two different strengths of coffee. By the time we drag our lazy asses out of bed, she has already watered her immaculate gardens, done dishes, made coffee, ran a marathon, started a charity, and whipped up some homemade waffles with all the fixins. Stay at my house and you can bet your sweet ass that I won’t be out of bed until 9 AM, the coffee will be as thick as motor oil, and I will give you directions to a local greasy spoon where they will make you some waffles and will probably also give you diarrhea. If you aren’t a fan of my coffee, there is a truck stop 15 minutes up the road serving heated urine and powdered milk. Feel free to check them out.

Welcome to my home!!! No...I'm not getting off the couch.

Welcome to my home!!! No…I’m not getting off the couch.

I’m also confused about clean guest towels. I don’t even have the opportunity to use a clean towel at my house (even though I’m the one who washes 5,698 of them every week), so the idea that I would have a stack of fluffy white towels with your name embroidered on them is somewhat laughable. Although, when I stay at someone else’s home and they offer sweet smelling linens for my own person use, I’m like crack head who just discovered a free bag of black tar heroin stashed in a cabinet. I will use the shit out of those towels and then I’ll probably pack them in my suitcase. On accident. Also, if you are in need of a washcloth during your stay here at Casa Del Fuck That, please feel free to do what the rest of human kind does and use soap and water. Matching washcloths? You must think we are rich. Or care about clean ears.

This is a picture of noppity nope.

This is a picture of noppity nope.

My hostessing will never live up to your expectations because I don’t really understand how to be grown up and I’m not running a bed and breakfast up in this bitch. I’m just over here trying to take care of two hooligans, one shedding cat, and a dog who likes to leave Tootsie Roll turds under the pool table. Which you will probably step on when you are forced to bring in your own luggage. I’ll be the one pointing out the lovely lake view while I sip on my cocktail and order a few pizzas online. Keep your expectations low…like Motel 6 low. Okay…lower than that.

I Didn’t Mean To, But I’m Raising Hipsters. Sorry.

We avoid Whole Foods like the plague and I don’t drive a Subaru, but regardless of the fact that I’ve tried to shelter my children from being tree huggers, the unthinkable has happened…I’m raising hipsters. I wasn’t too worried when my youngest wanted a haircut that you would only see in a NYC cafe and it really didn’t bother me when my oldest wore a long sleeve flannel shirt in the middle of July, but then one night I came home to find out the most horrific news any parent can find out (besides the fact that you will be a grandparent at 33). Both my lovely, red meat eating children had decided to be vegetarian. And not just for one afternoon like the other 78 times, they have actually been holding steady for 3 weeks. If it weren’t for all the extra bacon I’m able to consume, I would be dead inside.

My kids parked at Whole Foods, eating beans and figs or whatever shit they eat.

My kids parked at Whole Foods, eating beans and figs or whatever shit they eat.

I know, I know, I should be really happy that my kids are PETA friendly and that one less pig out of the 5 million that are slaughtered every year gets to live for an extra week, but have you ever tried cooking for two vegetarians and one carnivore? HAVE YOU? I’m not trying to throw anyone under a bus here (except probably myself if I have to figure out how to make a decent tasting vegetarian meatloaf) but making dinner around here is already like qualifying for the Olympic dive team. When you can’t swim. My husband doesn’t eat 90% of all vegetables, so I’ve created a rotating menu of dead animal heavy meals that have a sprinkling of canned corn or an optional salad. Now my children eat only vegetables, my husband eats only meat, and I’m currently attempting to eat the label off this vodka bottle so I won’t be hungry at dinner.

I'd eat that. #baconbabies

I’d eat that. #baconbabies

The other concern I have (besides my selfish concern of having to do more work) is that I don’t know how on planet Earth I’m going to make sure my kids are getting enough of whatever vitamins or nutrients or animal fats (that aren’t from animals) so they don’t shrivel up and die before their next pediatric appointment. Which will probably end with the doctor telling me that my youngest is really thin for his age and if she didn’t know me better she would be concerned that he wasn’t being fed. Before three weeks ago, that comment made me laugh. Now I’m tempted to hold him down and drain an entire can of black beans down his throat while his dad inserts a drip line of PediaSure. This food struggle is real.

The vegetarian thing is just going smashingly over here (I say while I sob into the pantry). So far I’ve been able to create the equivalent of a hotel food buffet with optional veggies and meats for every single soul sucking meal. Fettuccine Alfredo with optional chicken, hamburger night with optional veggie patties, taco night with optional “I guess you are having a quesadilla cause I’m losing my god damn mind”. The hard cold fact is that these people want to eat like 3 times a day, so my plethora of ideas for being the hip mom with vegetarian meals my kids can eat while they wear Patagonia jackets and don man buns is really dwindling. Soon I’ll be chucking a bag of broccoli and a handful of cheese in everyone’s face and screaming “This is your f’ing vegetarian option and I’m moving to Belize to live in a hut and eat porridge for the rest of my life.” Porridge… let me put that on my menu list for the week.

What we are having for dinner tonight. And then forever.

What we are having for dinner tonight. And then forever.

When I finally complained to my co-workers about my inability to feed my own children, one lovely vegetarian pal said “You can buy just about anything you can think of as a veggie meat product.” At which point I was equally happy and mortified. Happy because…did you know they have vegetarian deli meat? Like what the fuck, Martha. Mortified because….we aren’t made of Whole Food/Lulemon/BMW SUV kind of money. When your fake deli meat costs more than our entire grocery bill for a week then I’m going to have to think long and hard about how I can get you to eat cardboard in your sandwich. Soaking it in gravy? Is gravy made with animals? I don’t know because it’s gravy and I could drink it by the barrel.

If you need me I’ll be Googling “How to feed your hipster children” and “Does cardboard count as a food group”.