Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Fine Art of the Family Photo

Ah, the joy of taking a picture with all of our children and achieving the ultimate victory of No Photoshop Required. Just kidding. There's no such thing as No Photoshop Required when you have four kids who absolutely loathe having their picture taken. As a result, I have almost no pictures of all four kids together and only one picture of all six of us together. Even that one required the mad Photoshop skills of friends who are photographers. (Thank you, Jimmy Fulcher and Heidi Schardine.) Here it is. The lighting is still poor, but all the kids look happy and calm. What a great facade.

Here we are pre-Photoshop. Clearly my friends are miracle workers.

Still, I persist in my quest for perfect family pictures to add to this slim collection at every photo op our life presents. The result has been a collection of pictures that make me laugh till I pee whenever I look at them. Let's face it. It doesn't take much for a mom of four to pee when she laughs. Maybe it would be funnier if my pictures cause someone who didn't carry four watermelons in five years to laugh until she pees. Please update me if such a feat is accomplished simply by viewing our photos.

Today we celebrated Lawson's 5th birthday six weeks late with a very small gathering of his classmates. We walked away without one picture we could use in a frame or photo book, but the rejects are totally worth sifting through. My friend Lori served as photographer, and she deleted a couple of gems before I explained how I love the duds just as much as the perfect pictures. Without further delay, here is a collection of high quality Jones family photos past and present for your viewing pleasure.

Scout is so happy to be taking a picture with her family.

Easter 2011 Train Wreck
My personal favorite.
Christmas 2010
I must have that green hat!
Wait! Just a few more shots, guys!
Actually, I take back what I said earlier about only having one gem of a family photo. This last one is absolutely precious to me. It was the first picture I ever took of my our kids as four instead of three.

My beautiful babies. Scout was thirteen days old.

Pictures are priceless, and the collection I have is so important to me because it's completely representative of real life. A life full of tantrums, laughs, inappropriate comments and gestures, and loads of desperate attempts by Mom to just get one shot that I feel Grandma will cherish forever. I know they hate it now, but one day I hope they can look back and be thankful I was so annoyingly persistent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We are the People of Wal Mart

I bet there is nothing Wal Mart greeters love more than a mom with kids, especially when she's got three doorstep boys and a toddler wearing her bathing suit. That's right, people. A bathing suit. Like the underage spring breakers in Panama City who think it's cool to peruse through Wally World in nothing but skanky cutoffs and a triangle top. Okay, well maybe not that bad, but you get my drift. My daughter exercised her right to be a free spirit and wore a one piece and "sparkly shoes" (pink sequined Mary Janes) to Wal Mart sans Pull Up, hence the trip to Wal Mart in the first place.

On the four minute drive from the elementary school carpool line to Wal Mart, I felt like I did a sufficient job prepping the kids for our mission. What do we need? Soap and Pull Ups, Drill Sergeant! The first five minutes of our trip were largely uneventful. Scout and Camden were slightly distracted by the point of purchase sunglasses display, but it was nothing I couldn't handle. As we neared the Pull Up aisle, I swore I could almost see the imaginary band of angels crooning to my children as they walked up on a seven foot high stack of bean bag chairs covered with the likes of Spongebob and Lightening McQueen. Seriously, what are doing to me, Wal Mart? Hudson and Lawson hopped right up on a chair sitting on the outskirts of the display, and I thought I'd roll with the moment and take a little photo. Look how cute they are.

Moments later, all four sat down, and I thought, "Oh, how cute would it be to have a picture of all of them together?" That's right. I broke a cardinal rule of motherhood. Never ever break out a camera like an amateur Wal Mart mommy on a touristy shopping trip. I had a mission, people, and I detoured from said mission. The cuteness sucked me in, and before I knew it, Scout was scratching and pushing Hudson off her chair, and Camden and Lawson were barking out which version of the chair they wanted. The highlight was Scout pushing the stack in anger and the slow motion domino effect that sent multiple chairs toppling to the floor.

A passerby in a Memorial Hospital polo shirt did offer to help me stack them back, but her unsmiling face said what her kind gesture did not--that I was a train wreck mommy who let her kids destroy property at the local Wal Mart. Ugh. Guilty as judged. When all character chairs were secured, we walked twenty feet away to the Pull Ups where the employee stocking shelves watched in silence as Hudson and Lawson exchanged blows and Hudson flung his Power Ranger under the shelf. He then crawled all over the nasty floor and reached under the shelf to retrieve it (yak!). Suddenly I found myself wondering if soap really is absolutely necessary for good hygiene.

On the way to the soap aisle, Scout took off running, her tiny fanny cheeks shining because her suit had ridden up while I was carrying her. For the next eternity four minutes, the boys and I stood in the middle of the aisle trying to pinpoint her exact location based on the volume of her giggles and the pitter patter of her sparkly shoes. Cue sneering employee, and you have another spectacular high moment of my shopping trip. I retrieved my daughter and resorted to holding Hudson's hand in order to prevent him from revisiting his nasty little exploration of the nether regions of Wal Mart's shelves. Hudson's world is often a deliciously silly little mind concoction, and I swear if I didn't have to maintain my front of being a responsible adult, I'd like to visit it sometimes just for fun. But I digress.

I'll spare you the details of the frustration I suffered in the ten remaining minutes it took for us to exit the store. They can be summed up quickly by saying Hudson filled his arms with ten bottles of hand soap rather than agreeing to carry the 3-pack of Ivory I had to dig out from behind all of the pricier soaps on the shelf, Camden kept running back and forth to the snack aisle for random items like Goldfish and fruit chews when he was supposed to be carrying the Capri Suns and then laughing hysterically when I told him to put his loot back, and Lawson was violently assaulted by a rogue box of Kool Aid Jammers.

My silence as we exited the store instilled more fear in my children than an angry lecture could ever do, and as we pulled out of the store parking lot, I said these simple words. You.Will.Write.Sentences.
I got my sentences (justice!) and some very sincere apologies. Our next trip to any store is likely to be just as disastrous, and I'm just going to have to learn to live with sneers and open mouthed stares from innocent bystanders. I've got three boys. Three. I mean, there's no real hope for my life to be anything but hilariously chaotic, and the fact that Scout relishes an opportunity to make her brothers laugh just makes it all the more diabolical. Judge me if you want, random strangers. I wouldn't trade them for any amount of normal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bunk Bed Scavenger Hunt

Last night our family had an adventure. We set out at 7:00 p.m. in search of a bunk bed that would allow the boys to share a room this summer. Considering the fact that there is a possibility I'm out of my mind for thinking this little experiment will work, I really did NOT want to invest much money in the endeavor. My first day perusing craigslist led me to a little gem of a post that read "twin over full metal bunk bed with mattress for $60 OBO."

Well, the OBO sold me on the followup because it gave me an in to offer fifty bucks for what would cost me a great deal more in a store. After some a conversation revealing the poor woman selling the bed had FOUR BOYS (God bless her), we made some carefully orchestrated plans to meet. Said plans, of course, went completely awry because that's just how we Joneses roll. First we needed Jason's truck, then we needed cash, then we needed Sonic, then we needed to make four phone calls to the seller to figure out how the heck we ended up forty-five minutes off course from Ft. Stewart. Then best of all, we needed to pull over in the line to get through the gates on base to confer with the military police about why we don't carry copies of current insurance cards in our vehicles (because they look it up in a nice, fancy little computer database now). Sigh.

By the time we rolled up to base housing, two kids were asleep, one was screaming that his feet itched, and the other was relentlessly throwing Pooh in the floor and crying for me to pick it up (guess who). Hudson was wearing wet shorts because his water spilled all over him early into the trip, Scout's water exploded when she tossed it on the floor, and the car was covered in honey mustard from the popcorn chicken. Ew.

The end result is a happy one, though. We arrived home at 11:00 p.m. with a bunk bed and full size mattress (free of pee and puke stains, mind you) for fifty bucks. The kids were definitely a little reluctant to get out of bed this morning, but I bet they'll agree with me that it's all worth it when they're climbing into (hopefully not jumping off of) their new bed. If the deal is right, the effort is worth it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Blame Game

Please tell me why there is an epidemic of husbands who go out of their way to do some really incredibly helpful things around the house (which we of course express our appreciation for) and then become total monsters demanding recognition for their contributions and/or suddenly crowning themselves Kings of Clean? Said Kings then rule their unwitting subjects with overly controlling innuendos and hypercritical, inaccurate declarations.

Um, excuse me? Did you forget who cooked the meal you ate tonight? Did you forget who suffered through our oldest child's foul after school antics and homework avoidance tantrum techniques? Who made school lunches today or made sure the school uniforms were washed and dried for this morning? In what parallel universe are you suddenly the only one who contributes?

Ah, The Blame Game strikes again. It's so easy to get sucked into this vortex of conflict where the board looks something like the game of Life and the playing pieces look like four kids, two jobs, tons of laundry, tired cranky tantrums, Cub Scout meetings, Daylight Savings Time, a pile of Trio blocks, and a huge chunk of paychecks that may as well be made out directly to the grocery store when it's all said and done.

It's life, and we play dual roles in it. On the one hand, we are spouses, and on the other hand, we are parents. Sometimes these two roles work together in perfect harmony, and you can ride the wave of peace and fulfillment like a boogie boarder showing off his effortless moves. Other times, the roles are not only competing, but they're just downright conflicting. If I give my best to the kids right now to ensure everything gets done in time to get them in bed early, then I can't clean as much, and all of my husband's efforts this weekend are harder to see. However, if I pay a little less attention to my kids, delay baths and bedtime so that I can sweep the floor and pick up the playroom, the kids get in bed later and continue the vicious cycle of DST induced crankiness.

The effort to stop pointing fingers and work as partners is harder to do when the adults in this whole game are also tired, stressed about work, and feeling like the road to a good night's sleep looks long and bumpy. Thus the volcano erupts, and we experience infuriating frustration and a stubborn unwillingness to see where the other person is coming from.

Neither partner in our little union is perfect. I'm emotional and passionate and borderline, sometimes across the borderline, controlling. I will let you know exactly how I'm feeling when I'm feeling it and not always in the most calm, rational way I would like to. Sometimes I fight like a little redneck girl, but I'll always come to a resolution as humbly and apologetic as I can. I think the trick in a marriage is understanding how the other person communicates and trying our best to figure out how to mesh our own methods with another's. Sometimes we need to meet in the middle, and sometimes we just need to try out another person's tactic, despite how foreign it may feel.

Tonight I've got three babies fed and bathed and ready to crawl under the covers. My hope is to accomplish the goal of getting them into bed early AND sweeping the floor, maybe even before my partner in crime gets home from Cub Scouts with the fourth dirty and cranky kid. The good thing we have going in our marriage is that even though no one on the planet can make me as angry as he does, there is also no one else on this planet who touches my heart the way he does. Understanding that little tidbit brings me joy even in my anger. For that, Jason Jones, you can be King of Clean just for today.