Picture Perfect, Hold the Card

My friends, I love your holiday cards. When those stacks of beautifully addressed envelopes arrive, nearly daily from November through January, I get excited. I can’t wait to see your family photos, to read about your family’s year.  And, yes, I feel a pang of guilt, because we don’t send cards, ourselves, in spite of the fact that we usually have a good photo to use.  See, every year, for the past four years, we’ve met up with another family, so that Jeff can photograph them for their holiday card portrait. Then, they return the favor so that we have a cute family photo, too. It’s not all in vain—it shows up on Facebook. But, sorry, no cards.

My holiday card policy has a little to do with the fact that it’s not a Jewish tradition.  (Jordana Horn makes a good case, on Kveller.) Still, I love receiving cards, and any excuse to send good wishes to people is a good excuse, so it has crossed my mind to send them. But then, there’s this: I’m primordially disorganized—I would have to muster my entire Getting My Shit Together Department in order to send out cards, and because of the first reason, I can’t make myself do that. Clearly. But having the photos is wonderful—and the out-takes, all the more so

Every year, we’ve gotten a little better at the photo. This year, we were able to complete both family portraits, plus some candids of the kids goofing off together with Lola, the other family’s dog, in under 30 minutes.

Part of this is that it was cold, and we wanted to go indoors. But, really, I think some of the magic is that you don’t have the stress of having hired a professional, which creates pressure that it MUST turn out well, for what it costs. And, there’s a certain amount of ice-breaking that simply doesn’t need to take place between close friends. We know what jokes to tell from behind the camera to make the subjects laugh. (Hint: the less “appropriate,” the better.) Or, you know, Mom can just go in for the tackle…

And we know we’re going to have a fun afternoon or evening together afterward. This year it was a playdate at their house, with some pizza and a great dinner table conversation. Anticipating more fun makes the moment just that much more charged with good photo mojo.

So, here’s where things stand: We get amazing photos because we tripped over a system that works. We like sharing them (three cheers for the Shutterfly photo plaque that I sent to our families for Chanukkah!). But cards? A bridge too far, for this disorganized mama.

And, so, with our heartfelt wishes for a wonderful 2016, and my thanks for your support of this site, I’m sharing our family portrait. What’s your favorite way to capture a fun family moment?

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I fedora this kid

“Wait, I need to get my fedora!” Seth called out as we started to head out the door to meet friends for dinner and a movie.

It was not an occasion that called for formality. But he can’t resist the bright pink color (he’s color blind, and it’s a shade he can see, and, therefore, a favorite). And one of the friends we were meeting is given to wearing fedoras, so he wanted to show off to a fellow aficionado.  “It’s not just pink,” he said while pushing a button on the band of the hat. “It lights up!” And while it’s super-cute on the kid, it’s even funnier when he places it atop the shaggy head of a sleeping dog. (Incidentally, it was acquired at a bar mitzvah party, the night before—as if it weren’t incongruously delightful enough that the party was held at a distillery on a dude ranch…)

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I fedora this photo.

 

Adulting Awards

Recently, after a conversation with a friend, that could have been difficult, but wasn’t, my friend and I sent encouraging texts back and forth. “That was some decent adulting, there,” one of us wrote, with a winking emoticon.

So, when I saw this rant on Jezebel, trashing  the trend of the hashtag #adulting, on Jezebel, I got a little defensive. Sure, I agree with this writer–there’s evidence that Millenials are so used to being praised for doing shit they’re supposed to do, they have begun to believe they are accomplishing something by meeting basic life responsibilities, on their own.

On the other hand, even a Gen-Xer like myself gets that all this responsibility can be, well, a fucking drag. I mean, sometimes you just want to bust out of the sensible realm and do homework at the smoothie shop.

But I digress.

But what’s the fun of being an adult if you can’t celebrate both your immature and mature decisions? Grocery shopping for more than one day’s worth of food (ok, I have yet to master that one), or figuring out puzzling questions with our siblings about elder care for our parents (trust me, that shit is hard). Or, you know, not going skiing two days in a row, on your knee, that is but 12 weeks recovered from surgery. (“That’s a pretty adult choice you made there,” Jeff remarked when I told him I would take the day off. “I’m glad you arrived at it on your own.” Adults know that there’s no point in having an argument from the losing position.) Truth be told, I’m an equal-opportunity celebrator: I like to do a happy dance on the days that I reject the adult decisions, too.

To wit: A few months ago, I got my kids to bed ahead of schedule—while the more “responsible” adult was out of town. I was happily anticipating his nightly Facetime call, when I would say, “here, let me take the phone to them, in their beds,” and show off my mad clock-using skills. No question, I was trolling for “adult” points.  Then, my awesome neighbors called to invite us to a telescope party for the blood moon eclipse, at the base of our driveway, that very minute. I can always count on the indulgent grandparent-neighbors across the street to bring out the playtime in all of us.

So when he dialed us a few minutes into the solar show, I explained what we were doing and said, breezily (without a Monica Geller-style announcement of said “breeziness,” mind you), “We’ll call you when we get inside, in a bit.”

When your neighbor texts you, “We are camped with our telescope, on the street, in front of your house. Come watch the eclipse!” We win the neighbor lottery, again and again.

Posted by Bari Nan Cohen Rothchild on Sunday, September 27, 2015

An hour later, the phone rang, again. “Guys, we are SO busted,” I said. (This amused the smaller people to no end.) Then, as I slid the phone to “answer,” I announced to Jeff, “Listen, I’m the FUN parent, obviously.” He laughed and asked me how much “fun” I would be in the morning when the kids were hard to roust from bed. Boom. Just like that, we said goodnight. And that’s the thing: the best adulting happens as a team sport, not as some sort of special-snowflake-style solo accomplishment.

 

 

Haircut Magic

I have a thing about going out the night after a haircut. When hair gets the expert treatment, the hair should greet its public. You know I’m right. It’s not necessarily a date night—I just need to know that I didn’t “waste” the blowout on a night at home. Because, there are good hair days and there are salon days. But, it turns out, the blowout has special powers—more on that in a minute.

Last week, on salon day, Jeff was out of town, so I texted him a Selfie—maybe he could take to dinner a photo of his chatty wife, and get a quiet evening out of the deal? (He sent an enthusiastic, complimentary text, so that was nice.)

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Cute hair, don’t care.

Regardless, I had big plans: Seth’s third-grade concert, with Lance as my date. Throughout the afternoon, there were opportunities for the hair to see-and-be-seen. I bumped into two friends—moms of kids in Seth’s third-grade class—at the craft store (don’t ask). They gasped in admiration of hair-magician Bratis’s skills. “I’m going to have the cutest hair at the Third Grade Winter Concert, tonight,” I told them. “Or, you know, you can take up the challenge. Whatever.”

`Then, when I was at school, picking up Seth, the new music teacher complimented my hair. “I did it for the concert,” I said. “It’s the hottest ticket of the year.” Little did I know the truth of that statement.

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Pregame pic with the awesome Ms. M. The kids love her. So do I. 

Fast forward to 6pm. We arrive at the concert. Lance and I kill time taking funny Instagrams.

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Goofing off with my date.

Then, one of the Michaels Moms appears with a beautiful ‘do—and says she was tempted to go for a blowout, just to show me that she’s got game. “But I decided just to comb it,” she said, with a knowing wink. For the record, it was styled in pretty waves. Comb it, my ass.

Whatever effort went into our hair for the Big Night Out was totally worth it. I’ve been to a million (OK, maybe a dozen or so) elementary school concerts. Children have stood on risers to sing songs about every possible holiday that happens to fall in December. For HOURS. Maybe even months. But this? No kidding, not a single holiday was referenced in the musical numbers about snow and cocoa and spending time with family. The grade was broken up into teams, which rotated through singing, dancing, drumming, bell-ringing.

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Singers—that’s Seth, in the red. Note the privacy shading on everyone else’s kids. 

 

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My hipster bell-ringer

The students even conducted each other. That’s right, third graders. Layer upon layer of musical education, on display—and tied up with a bow in—wait for it—20 minutes. This music teacher is my hero.

Maybe the good hair day was a good luck charm? I’m just superstitious enough to consider booking a blowout before the next school concert.

 

 

 

You can’t airbrush confidence

I accidentally schooled myself on confidence, today. Or, rather, got schooled by my dad and a bunch of friends. (Thanks, Facebook.) I had to upload a photo to Facebook in order to upload it to the press credential application site for the Sundance Film Festival.  Jeff had sent me some head shots, early this morning, that he had taken a few weeks ago. I sent him a thank you text (he’s working out of town, this week), and he replied, “Are those ok?” Meaning: will they work. My response was, “They’ll need major retouching for social media but they are just fine for Sundance. After all, they usually lose the jpeg file and I have to retake my photo at credential pickup.” Yes, I write verbose texts. Sue me. And, bad wife, I forgot to tell him how nicely they were framed and lit—very nicely, indeed.

Jeff, to his credit, didn’t dignify that with any sort of “Oh, stop, you look great.” Which is not to say he didn’t think it, but he knew better than to argue with me about my vanity at the exact moment he knew I was juggling my fussy coffee-brewing routine (because he’s too far away to make my espresso) with my fussy-breakfast-cooking-routine. (Don’t ask. It’s the one meal I can cook well, reliably, so I always fix a hot breakfast for my family, but it’s usually more than one, because we all like different things. And I can’t bear to part with this ritual.)

And as I went about that routine, I pondered the images. Which is to say, I started mentally searching my calendar for a good time to book a facial—a microdermabrasion facial, perhaps. Something to really erase whatever the fuck happened to my skin, for instance.

An hour or so later, when I quickly uploaded the photo to Facebook, in spite of my insistence to Jeff that I’d need him to retouch these before using them in any public forum, it was a conscious decision to accept these beautiful photographs. “Fuck it,” I thought. “Just yesterday I saw this great tweet from Amy Schumer, with her bare-all photo for the Pirelli calendar, and I thought how awesome that she is using her fame to show off true beauty—humanity, confidence.” I published it without comment. And then, my dad and a bunch of friends took over, pouring on the kind words. Which, bias notwithstanding, I knew were heartfelt. I thought: These are cute photos, and they look like me. Not some airbrushed version of me, not some professionally-styled version of me. Just me, on a Sunday in November, age 42 (fully clothed, you’re welcome), feeling happy and, yes, confident. No airbrush, required.