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Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A trip to the photographer is the ultimate family stress test. Any family that can exit the studio and still speak civilly to one another is made of stronger stuff than my family. And the intensity of the stress increases logarithmically with the number of members.

Our trip to the photographer this weekend was not pretty. To start off, we arrived about ten minutes late. That's not shocking considering that 8 people have to get dressed, groomed, into the car, out of the car, through the mall, and into the studio. Oh, and that's not including multiple cries of "why on EARTH are you wearing THAT??" after which the target of the criticism is required to change into something completely different but equally unflattering.

Now, I don't like to be late. I live my life by appointments. Get to the hospital at a certain time. Get to the clinic at a certain time. See patients every 15-30 minutes. All on-time. Ten minutes late means an unstoppable domino effect that can only lead to world annihilation. So I understand the need to be on-time. Never-the-less, when a patient who has traveled all the way across town, through traffic, in a wheelchair, uphill, both ways, through 12 inches of snow, shows up 10 minutes late, I usually find it in my heart to see him anyway. (I know Bean and the other MDs will call me an idiot for doing so, that it only encourages non-compliance and delinquency and inconveniences the patients who managed to make it on time for their appointments and takes away valuable blogging time and blah blah blah there I've said it so you don't have to).

So I guess I was a little put-off when the lady at the counter told me (after I had waited nicely while she checked in other people with later appointments than mine) that I had missed my slot and too bad so sorry for me. And me with my 6 kids in funny suits. Well I guess I can't expect everyone to be compassionate like me (stop snickering, Bean). Fortunately, we had booked a double appointment, so we took the second slot and proceeded to the room.

A word first about...apparel. Occasionally I like to take a portrait in polo shirts and jeans. But usually we get dressed up in suits and dresses. For some reason. Supposedly it's to make us look good. Ha! I'm saying right now for the record that the PT clan has absolutely NO FASHION SENSE. Once upon a time, I fancied myself a budding artist, and studied composition, and color, and theme. Well those brain cells are fried and gone, most likely by years of video games and loud music. I don't know what the heck I'm doing. To see my family walk into the studio past families with cute little color-coordinated clothing is...

Here's what it's like. Did you ever play with action figures? Did you ever have action figures from different shows or genres, who shouldn't be together, but you put them together anyway? Like Mr. Spock and Spiderman and a Stormtrooper and maybe a GI Joe who's 6 inches taller than all the others? And then pretend they're a family taking a portrait? That's what we're like.

Yeah, we have the 4 guys in suits. Should be pretty easy, right? Except 3 guys are wearing white shirts and one is wearing dark red, and there's a brown suit and a blue suit and a light tan suit. And I don't even want to talk about the girls. I know I shouldn't talk about the girls. I'm not going to talk about the girls.

So we finally got into the little room to get our portrait. It seemed a little cramped, but the photographer assured us that she had once squeezed 32 people into that exact same space. I don't know if she was also able to fit their clothes into it. My wife moved us around like we were a bunch of chess pieces until she got us into a position for a checkmate. And then the photographer told us to smile.

I don't know what it is with kids. But they don't know how to smile. I know that when they are born, you can get them to smile by tickling them or surprising them or giving them something that produces gas. But at some point, when they get to preschool maybe, they forget how to smile. They confuse smiling with dentistry. It's like they try to show all their teeth. That's a smile. It's not attractive. It takes a kid who looks reasonably good and turns him or her into some kind of insane fiendish demon.

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And I guess, after they figure out that this is not the best way to look good in a picture, then comes the grinning stage. Whereby they clamp down on their lips to avoid exposing any teeth at all. To me, this looks equally ridiculous.

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At this point, the only way to get a decent picture is to surprise them, like in this example where I didn't tell my daughter I was taking a picture until she looked up. And then I made her say something stupid, like Chewbroccoli.

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Or you can try to capture them in a natural state, like when they're doing something they really enjoy.

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The thing that absolutely doesn't work is to try to tell them how to smile. Because if you do that, in addition to a weird mouth contortion, you also get furrowed eyebrows.

So of course that is precisely what I tried to do. I kept telling them to smile naturally, keep the mouth open a little, no not that much, too MUCH, no stop grinning, yes you're grinning, yes that's a grin, no, your lips should not be turning white, look just don't smile at all... All while keeping a fake smile plastered on my own face just in case the photographer decides to snap a shot.

Meanwhile, the PT, who was initially interested in being the subject of a portrait, figured out that she will, in fact, not be the center of attention after all, and started squirming and moving around. Then she was looking around in different directions, and in general trying to escape. The photographer noticed this and tried to get her attention with a doll or a feather or a funny face. That worked for her, but then everyone else was looking at the PT, not at the camera, so that I was constantly yelling "Look at the G*% D#$% camera, not at your sister!" through clenched teeth, like a ventriloquist.

Trying to get six kids to stand still and stare at the camera and smile in a less than maniacal fashion was proving very stressful on the nerves and I could feel a spasm working its way from my neck down to my back. Then my wife was telling me to calm down and leave the kids alone and stop telling them that they have ugly smiles or I'll give them a complex like my mother gave to my sister.

In the end it was a miracle that it didn't actually come to blows. What with this one sneezing and that one blinking and somebody (I know it was you) doing donkey ears behind my head.

Actually, the pictures came out looking quite nice.


Essie said...

LOL...I thought it was only my family? That picture of your daughter (in the orange t-shirt) is really pretty. The other pictures of your kids are nice, too. Don't want to give any of the kids a complex, either.

Jack's Shack said...

I am still chuckling about this. I'll grumble later about how many times I have made it on time to the doc only to have them give me three minutes and act like it was a lot.

Stacey said...

Well, post the pictures!!!

And I hate being late to anything.

Mrs. Balabusta said...

And they are good, I have to say.

He didn't post the pictures because he didn't scan them yet.

He didn't scan them yet because he was busy playing with his new nuclear toothbrush.....

But we have to wait for the next blog.

Doctor Bean said...

I always try to acommodate late patients and I don't think you're an idiot.

Unless your toothbrush really is nuclear, in which case I recommend getting a lead skull.

Bad Maria said...

I indeed LOL'ed big time at this post. We had six kids in our family and we took one, say it with me, one professional studio photo in my entire childhood. I was 13 and it is hideous - leisure suits never looked good on anyone but there they are on the 3 boys, my dad and my little sister, Andi who wanted to look like the boys, we had a hard time that day convincing her to ditch the Clint Eastwood cowboy hat (you know the one, round with a flat brim and hanging ties)...and the fact that I had a silver front tooth at the time made my smile more than a little self-counsious...ah, those were the good old days!

ball-and-chain said...

That was terrific. You definitely captured the evolution of childrens' smiles. You just left out one. You know, the one when they smile insanely on purpose, just because you asked them to smile nicely? It resembles the "dentistry" smile except it is more commonly found on ill-behaved 10-year-olds. Or, maybe it's just me.

fudge said...

"Once upon a time, I fancied myself a budding artist, and studied composition, and color, and theme...."


was this before or after you shaved off your beard?

Daniel said...

I wish my patients were as on time as yours. Great post about the photographer. I hate the big simcha photos, having to wait till everyones camera is passed around, feeling my smile fade as my jaw clenches, UGH.

JC said...

The other kids are adorable too! Somehow it seems that if you have more than one person in a picture you always have one where person x looks great, then another where x looks terribly but y looks wonderful. I always end up picking the proofs through the lesser of the evils thing.
Always, I have to be honest here and tell you that I am that late patient. Sorry. I start getting ready the day ahead. Then hours before the appointment I really kick it in gear, but am invariably either an hour early or five minutes late. It doesn't matter that I get frantic, run stop lights (kidding) etc. I just don't do time well. It isn't meant to be a form of disrespect, or for lack of trying, just one more thing that I can guilt myself with....

PsychoToddler said...

Personally, I think the snapshots I took myself are more interesting, but here's the portrait.

torontopearl said...

The "unprofessional" pics are lovely, but the portrait came out really very nice. Enjoy your mishpocha, and have lots of naches from each other.

Stacey said...

The portrait is fabulous. What a beautiful family!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Mrs. B!

Neil said...

Your kids look like so much fun! Can I borrow them some weekend?

A Simple Jew said...

You are correct. The portrait is very nice!

Doctor Bean said...

Great picture! You guys are a good lookin' bunch. And the PT has heart and flower buttons! Cuuuuuuute!

I actually had to count. You realize you have SIX kids?? Crazy!

PsychoToddler said...


Holy Cow you're right!

I'd better put a stop to this before things REALLY get out of control!

MC Aryeh said...

"Trying to get six kids to stand still and stare at the camera and smile in a less than maniacal fashion was proving very stressful on the nerves"

As one of seven kids, I can only stand in awe with mouth open that you even tried...really really funny.

JC said...

I am sorry, but there is no way that darling woman gave birth to six children! Not only that, she actually looks like she has her wits about her....amazing. They are all adorable. You should be proud.

Robert said...

How come you just don't go outside with a camera and, you know, take a few pictures? I know, I know, waaaay too simple.

PsychoToddler said...

MCAryeh: SEVEN. Now THAT'S big.

JC: You may be right. I've suspected for some time that she may not actually be the mother.

Robert: Outdoor shots add one more complication: squinting.

Ayelet said...

Can't. Breathe. Laughing. Too. Hard! Funny how everyone has such similar experiences. I only wish I could write as well as you do! Your family is adorable. You must be missing Fudge - she's a terrific writer as well! (If she's ever in need of some food in Queens, send her to me.) Love the picture of her and Moe as toddlers. Since every sentence of this post is more random than the one before it, I'll round this all out by thanking you for visiting my humble corner of the blogosphere. (I love Eeyore - I can so relate!) And when my blog grows up, I hope it's just as good as yours!

PsychoToddler said...

Thanks Ayelet. You have beautiful children too. And they're still photogenic! Wait till they become teenagers.

Anonymous said...

Oy!!! Gotta love family portrait time! Sad to say it, but my family has never done well with portraits, and there are only 4 of us total. And to make it even worse, my Aunt Christina always likes to point out to us the fact that my cousin Linda (her daughter) manages to get her 10 children (ages 16-4) into MATCHING outfits that she sewed HERSELF for a family portrait...*sigh*

Hilarious, as always! I'm enjoying catching up on your blog. Hope to make it to your show on the 18th as I mentioned earlier!