Between working and momming and Christmas shopping and reminding Dan to do his Christmas shopping (he has to buy for a grand total of one person and even still I do about half of it for him) – it’s no surprise that I am fresh out of patience for taking the kids to the mall for a Christmas picture. But I did it anyway because grandparents need their Christmas pictures and blog readers need their holiday comedic relief. You’re welcome, all of you.
This year was a deceiving year because the final picture actually came out really nice. But the road to get to that picture (and home from it) was paved with screaming, crying, hiding in the lingerie racks at Sears and publicly threatening to leave the kids in the mall and wait for CPS to find them.
Yes, Jane with the side eye in aisle 3, I did just threaten to abandon my kids. Why don’t you focus on stacking your 20% off coupons and leave us the fuck alone.
Like last year, I was unsure if this year’s photo expedition would even warrant a blog post. The kids are old enough to be bribed now, which means in theory I should be able to dangle a carousel ride a few inches in front of their face and elicit perfect and permanent smiles.
But it turns out that when you threaten to take things away 1000 times a day and only follow through maybe 20% of the time, your kids hardly even flinch when you to hiss at them that you’re about to burn the fucking carousel down.
I made sure to set the kids up for success by sending them for a sleepover with the Meme and Papa the night before so that they were sufficiently overtired. Then we got up at the crack of dawn for hockey, dragged them through the grocery store, hosed them off in the shower and hustled them into the 3.5-hour line at Target to save 10% on gift cards. If you have someone in your life that you are looking to torture, visit Target two weekends before Christmas on gift card day. Expect more (stress), pay less.
When we finally got to the mall the parking lot was full because people in Maine apparently still haven’t figured out Amazon. Lucy did her best to get run over while I grabbed both girls by their hoods and walked them 100 miles from the backside of a giant snowbank to the side entrance of Sears.
Once we got into the store, I directed the girls immediately into the bathroom so we could pee and pick up Norovirus bacteria. Then we did three circles around the lingerie section for good measure before finally finding our way to the Picture People. There were a bunch of chairs up against the wall where other people’s kids sit and wait patiently, so we instructed the kids to remove their coats and take a seat.
Somehow they heard musical chairs and freeze tag so that was fun for everyone trying to buy a pocket book.
At 1pm it was finally our turn to sit on the awkward looking props and make absolute fools of ourselves trying to get the kids to smile. The photo room was literally plastered with signs prohibiting cell phones so I debated trying to explain to the high school photographers that I have this blog, and I write about the stress of holiday pictures, and that we’re still going to buy a print I just need a couple of horrible iPhone candids to document the experience – but then I though, nah, I’ll just take pictures from my pocket.
The photographers, bless their hearts, put a lot of effort into posing the kids. It was hard not to laugh as I watched them play whack-a-mole, positioning one kid while the others ran away, and then bringing another one over only to lose the pose from the first one. They had two “professionals” in the room with us at all times which could have been because the kids were insane, but more likely was to keep me from taking more pictures my phone.
We hustled through 4 or 5 setups and about 6000 photos before waiting 45 minutes for them to present us with 4 options. Apparently the 5996 others were blurry or someone had their eyes closed. It might have been the photographer, I’m not sure.
The kids actually managed one really good picture so we selected it right away and then spent 20 minutes waiting for them to figure out how to print it.
At 2 o’clock we were finally released and took the kids to the carousel as a reward for not listening to us even remotely.
Like I said, I’m not very good at the following through thing.
After the carousel we began our 100-mile trek back to the car. Lucy immediately took off sprinting, narrowly missing a couple of unsuspecting holiday shoppers and at least 2 cement barriers. Mia might have been walking backwards, I’m not sure because I decided to focus on keeping up with Lucy since Mia is old enough to tell a police officer her address if she gets lost.
On the way back through Sears Lucy disappeared into the lingerie racks and Mia followed suit, laughing hysterically and taking hangers down with them. I started with a stern whisper and quickly escalated to shouting at them that they better freeze their goddamn feet right this instant or our elf Princess was getting banished to the north pole and Never. Fucking. Coming. Back.
When I finally caught them, I took away a Christmas present, then an advent calendar chocolate, and then added a two-minute timeout as soon as we got home for good measure. I grabbed them by their elbows and dragged them out to the car, threatening more consequences all the way.
Lucy was distraught. Mia was sarcastically pleased, as usual.
Ten minutes later, this happened, which is how I know that Christmas magic is real.