My mom is the biggest proponent of getting professional pictures of your children ever. JcPenney studio should start paying her. Seriously. It’s that ridiculous. She had very little money for this when we were babies, so now she insists on a pretty regular basis that she and I take my children and have them photographed and she always pays for whatever I can’t afford. These outings are fun-filled hours of constantly getting onto/bribing/timeouting and doing whatever it takes to get four squirmy five-and-under children to sit still for a nano-second and also maybe smile. Maybe. But that part is optional. They’re all looking at the camera, just snap the picture for the love of all that is decent! The results are usually big fun though. I posted my latest “perfect” pictures on Facebook to be lauded and praised about how adorable and angelic my children are. It was delightful.
But really, cameras are such liars! Now you can even use photoshop and increase the velocity of the lie. Smudge out those wrinkles and zits. Enhance your eye and lip color. You can even make yourself look thinner. I’m dying to learn that trick! I’m not saying you shouldn’t take pictures of yourself and your family. Of course you should, and you should smile for them because smiling makes everyone prettier except for Vigo Mortenson. Vigo, if you’re following my blog, you are much better looking when you’re serious. Anyway, where was I? Smiling for pictures is good. Remember life’s happy moments. No one is a bigger advocate of keeping an upbeat and positive attitude than I, however, I sometimes wonder if I am too good at the show. I do an excellent job at “smiling for the cameras” of my life. Let’s get real here. You shouldn’t go through pictures on Facebook and believe that they are the sole indicators of the picture taker’s happiness level. So here is my unphotoshopped reality for anyone who looks on Facebook, this blog, or at my sweet kiddos and thinks, “I certainly wish my life was perfect … like Julien’s”.
1. Sunday mornings
Camera version: My four children arrive at church scrubbed and beautiful in lovely outfits. The girl’s hair is usually fixed in some way. My hair is fixed and I have makeup on. My clothes are clean and my husband’s shirt is pressed and I sometimes even wear heels. Jason and I teach our Sunday School class, smiling and laughing with our college and career group. It is all just precious.
Real version: I am up super late the night before trying to find SOMEthing clean that both fits and matches and is appropriate for church. Special bonuses if the outfits include underwear and possibly socks. Tights are the bane of my existence because they are always dirty, holey, too little or too big. Who MAKES these things? Sadists. That’s who. Baths happen before bed Saturday, or they may not happen at all. Jason and I drag ourselves out of bed before the sun is up, feed our children something from a can (sweet rolls usually, but recently I’ve switched to biscuits from Immaculate Bakery, because I tell myself they are slightly more nutritious. At least they aren’t leavened with aluminum,) and then we dress the children. Even if I have stayed up late, this can be a real nightmare. I scramble around for clothes while Jason catches little people as they streak through the house laughing and screaming with glee because they aren’t wearing anything. We pull clothing onto their reluctant bodies and try to figure out why every shoe has no partner. I iron Jason’s shirt while he looks for shoes and then shake the wrinkles out of my own clothes and throw them on. We yell a bit at the kids, sometimes at each other, then we gather up everything and everyone and throw them into the van. I run back into the house to grab two cups of coffee that we can drink on the way to church. Jason feeds the chickens and ducks while the van warms up. My makeup bag is permanently in the front seat so that I can dab a little bit on my face as we drive, in an attempt to look like a human. Jason glances at me, then does a double take and says, “wow, you look really pretty!” Translation: I didn’t recognize you without the scowl and with your eyes all the way opened.
Camera version: Jack, Ella and I sit in our clean classroom with books opened and smiles on our faces. I pray and start the morning with the pledge of allegiance. I follow my carefully detailed lesson plans throughout our day. Jack learns to read; Ella colors in the lines. My two-year-old and one-year-old play peacefully in the corner with all the things in my “busy little hands box” that I got off of Pinterest. It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… on days like this.
Reality version: Jack and I sit on my unmade bed with a stack of books that I’ve carried in from the classroom because it is piled high with clean clothes that need folding and putting away. My two-year-old is planted firmly in front of the TV watching “Bug’s Life” for the millionth time with a pile of goldfish crackers in front of him. My one-year-old is in her crib with her second bottle of milk which she has thrown onto the floor, while she screams at the top of her lungs in protest to her morning nap. We dive into Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because I want to finish the book. I warn Jack we can’t read his favorite book The Human Body until we have done our reading and math. Ella runs into the room screaming and crying that Caleb hit her. Caleb saunters in after her grinning while he says he’s sorry. I tell them to go shut their bedroom door because I’m tired of listening to Lily scream. Ella and Caleb fight over which one will go and then run to the bedroom to slam the door frightening the wits out of Lily who screams even louder. I storm into the situation and order everyone to sit down and be quiet. I get frustrated with Jack because when I come back into the room, he’s making paper airplanes instead of doing his work. Jack starts crying. It is such a blessing to homeschool my children… I mutter through my teeth as I google “Boarding Schools in Switzerland” on my laptop.
3. Being a writer
Camera version: I sit at my computer and write in three hour increments, skillfully seeing to the needs of my children at regular intervals. Every month I receive a large royalty check in the mail and my husband and I spend every summer in Italy while my children learn the language, have unforgettable international experiences and sink their refined palettes into every delicacy Europe has to offer.
Reality version: I kick my children outside to play and run to my computer in a desperate attempt to “just write something today”. Periodically I throw raisin boxes and peanut butter sandwiches at the kids. At least I buy whole wheat or gluten free bread and natural peanut butter, so that’s something. I add honey to the peanut butter because it is so dry and yucky on its own. In the few precious moments of quiet I blog, work on my Twitter following, advertise and Facebook. I get to spend about 15 minutes a day writing. I actually recently received a small royalty check which was super fun and it almost covered the electric bill last month. I also make spaghetti on a pretty regular basis and sometimes there is also salad to go with it. So I feel all set in the refined palette department.
Conclusion: My children are definitely precious, but taking their pictures is an exercise in dealing with imperfection! I do truly love homeschooling and some days are so fun. I enjoy writing and reading and think it’s a fabulous way to pay the electric bill. I show up at church one way or another and fellowship with my friends and family. There you are. My perfect life. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’re a wonderful person and I want to hug you. Friends, life is just life. Everyone has the camera version and the real story. And sometimes even the camera fails us! That’s why most moms don’t even take pictures of themselves for the twenty years that they’re raising their children. I think reality keeps us humble. It keeps us manageable. Can you imagine living with someone who is as perfect as they appear in pictures? I can’t. Thankfully, I never have to. I only associate with real people.
My friend, Anna Stallcup (you can also follow her on http://www.thestonecups.com/) is a huge propenent of honesty in our Christian walk. She calls it, giving people the gift of “going second”. Being honest about our struggles is a present we can give to each other. It allows another person to see that they aren’t the only one that fights against anger, depression, guilt, yelling at our children etc… They get to “go second”. We are honest first. I love this. I’m not very good at it. I’m much better at smiling as if I’m being followed around by a 24 hour camera, so that everyone will think I have it all together all the time.
Of course we can overdo the honesty thing. You don’t have to update your Facebook status every time you stumble. Unless your friends are all medical professionals, very few people want or need to hear all the details of your health issues. For instance, if I can’t see the body part in a normal appropriate setting, I don’t want to know any detail about how it’s malfunctioning. I didn’t go into nursing for a very good, very weak stomach related reason. Just tell me it hurts. I’ll get the point and be sympathetic. I promise. You know what I mean, if you’re ALWAYS having a bad day or everyone you work with are jerks or your life just never seems to go right for one reason or another, perhaps your perspective needs a switch. I’m not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, but even I know that when someone has no friends at all, it usually isn’t everyone else’s problem. That’s a whole different topic … for someone much more qualified than I at dealing with hurting hearts. Of course we should find a good balance between being honest and wearing people out with our problems.
So, maybe we could go easier on each other. Give each other less of a reason to pretend that we’re always looking into the lense of a camera. Let people “go second”. If you don’t buy into Christianity because you’ve met imperfect Christians, join the club. I’ve never met a perfect Christian. There was only one perfect person to ever walk the Earth and we crucified Him. There’s a cheery look into the human condition.
Everyone is finally smiling, looking sweet and lovely … Lily is looking at the shelf full of props. *Sigh*
My world is a good one and even better when I realize that life, things and people don’t have to look like a magazine article to be wonderful.