School pictures came home last week, toted in backpacks jumbled with Boxcar Children books, broken pencils, water bottles, and gym shoes. The kids are proud and excited about the photos; usually, I fake an interest on their behalf.

However, I find I’m turning a corner, when it comes to my attitude about these highly-contrived photos that jam a kid onto a stool in front of a magnification of Stephen Hawking’s brain.

Thus far, I’ve balked at school pix–and not just because, in my high school senior photos, the shoot’s stylist made me lean on a wagon wheel and clasp my hands under my chin coyly. No, my issues go beyond Conestoga trauma. Here’s what rubs me:

Some company comes in, holds my kid hostage for a few minutes, using a photographer that calls every kid “Patty” in an effort to get him/her to smile naturally, and then the whole outfit tries to charge me, the parent, large American dollars to buy back my own uncomfortable-looking children in packaged form so that I then have something to share with the relatives come holiday time. Couldn’t I do this type of thing every year on my own, at the J.C. Penney’s, if it mattered to me? And don’t I, quite willfully, resist doing that, too, because it’s all just so fake and weird and hell if I don’t prefer a candid shot I’ve taken myself for free? And couldn’t I just give the relatives new socks, if they require a holiday thought? Or perhaps a free weekend–or week, or month–with the kids, if they need to see them so damn much?

Clearly, school pictures make me swearish, and I think we all know I’m generally quite refined.

But this year? I’ve been surprised; I’m appreciating adding their photos to the progression of years. I like seeing them grow up through the school’s eyes. Crunk it, but I think I prefer my kids wallet-sized.

Hence, suddenly I am all about embracing the school photos, even though they give me paper cuts when I hug them too tightly.

Plus, the photos prove that my kids exist when I’m not around, and I’ve never been completely certain on that point before.


You know why I don’t blog about this one as much as the other one? Because she shows up, shuts up, and does the job, all with a sprinkling of freckles. Oh, and if you ever need a kickass speller, call 1-800-GIRL.

Certainly, when she’s overtired and has had a big day of Scholastic Book Fair + Parent/Teacher Conferences + Swimming Lessons, the sum of these parts is just as likely to be her lying on the floor of her bedroom, screaming in high dudgeon, a toothbrush dangling out of her mouth, kicking her heels repeatedly in an impressive fit as it is to be her spelling “temperamental” correctly.

But then she recovers and helps her little brother with the snap on his pants.

If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like when a Finnish/Norwegian-American gets his monkey on, this is your day.

Note the pebble-creature necklace, which I was given when I turned 12.

I think I wore it in my school picture that year…the necklace, a new bra, a cowl-neck sweater, and a smile manufactured just for the photographer when he called me “Patty.”





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32 responses to “Benchmarks”

  1. jess Avatar

    Awesome, I think most of school pictures were destroyed. I hope. Mom?

    The wee niblets are lovely.

  2. Anette Avatar

    They absolutely look like two Nordic sweet kids!

  3. Balou Avatar

    Well hell girl, I only know your kidlets virtually and I want to frame and hang those pictures on MY wall! (lol @ Lindsay)

  4. Jazz Avatar

    My school pictures are pretty much gone thankfully. I see they still use the same stupid background – whether at school or Sears.

  5. Franki Avatar

    It seems that each year, Lifetouch adds more and more trinkets which can be emblazoned with our children’s mugs…for a small price of $585302.

    Those be some adorable kids missy. Your son’s personality explodes right out of those monkey ears.

  6. lime Avatar

    ok, i’ll admit, i always liked the school pictures because they seem a rite of passage and something destined to give a chuckle to their future progeny….but i only like it when i get to order ahead of time. those are the fall pictures. in the spring the same company comes around again and takes more pictures without preordering, then sends them home and tells you if you want them to cough up the moolah. given that i never actually ordered them or even consented to having their pictures taken a second time like i did the first time (in fact i have filled out forms saying DO NOT take spring pictures of my child)i keep those as their special gift to me. i do not send in the moolah.

    the girl is utterly adorable and i bet when she is getting her froth on with the dangling toothbrush it’s quite a sight to behold…i am also the mother of a red headed girl with a smattering of freckles, so i know about these things.

    the boy and his monkey…i LOVE his confidence. love it.

  7. Shieldmaiden96 Avatar

    One of these things is not like the other,
    one of these things is not the same,
    one of these things will be blogged about in a hilarious self deprecating way in approximately 8 years,
    can you guess which one?

    Your kids seem like the really neat kids I had at summer camp who I wanted to give scholarships to after the week their parents could afford because I didn’t want them to leave.

  8. Shania Avatar

    I am LOVIN’ the monkey hood. Kudos to the boy for wearing it because you KNOW the photographer tried to get him to take it down. And the girl? Absolutely lovely.

  9. furiousBall Avatar

    isn’t that so cool? two kids raised by the same parents can be so different. that’s a great reflection on you and groom, allowing their personalities come out.

    also, Anette, can i get in the hammock with you?

  10. Jonah K. Haslap Avatar
    Jonah K. Haslap

    Do your children know that you post their school pictures on your blog? And if so, have you apologized to them?

  11. Mother Theresa Avatar
    Mother Theresa

    Girl is a real beauty, and I dare say she’ll give you a fair share of headaches when the boys start tripping over each other to catch her attention. And Wee Niblet is a cutie. Money well spent. I have much the same feeling about those school pics, and lately we’ve resorted to taking pictures of the photos with our digital camera, then we send back the originals. Quality is not quite as good, but not half bad. What I do miss over here are yearbooks…I still get a kick out of looking at mine and reading the silly things we used to write. 🙂

  12. Chantal Avatar

    I love that he wore that hood for the photo. I can’t believe the teacher and photographer let him wear it. Good for you for not insisting on a retake. I know a few parents who get very, hmm lets say, persnickety, at picture time.

  13. yinyang Avatar

    Did you not have any photographers who talked about how you are a “fiery redhead”? Because that was the line they almost always used on me. I’m not entirely sure how they thought it was going to make me smile, but that was that.

    Enjoy the school pictures while they are young. It’s been my experience that, as the cuteness wears away and they experiment with fashion, the pictures in junior high and high school are not as appealing. They’re certainly interesting, but not the most attractive, especially if they decide they don’t care about picture day and just wear whatever.

  14. Say It Avatar
    Say It

    Oh dear, what cutie patooties. The school picture always got to me too, until I realized they are less kid-ish and more tween-ish. Now I long for the awkward kid grins of elementary school. sigh

  15. flutter Avatar

    They are the sweetest things

  16. Kylie w Warszawie Avatar
    Kylie w Warszawie

    They are adorable! LOVE the monkey ears!

    I forgot about picture day and let my 5 year old son pick his own clothes. So he’s wearing a Disney t-shirt when all the other boys were in Polos.

    And my daughter’s hair had grown out just a tad so her bangs were always hanging in her eyes and she loved the look. I HATE IT!

  17. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Hey, know where I can get a monkey shirt like that? Large? I need one. I NEED one.

    And I like the words the photographers have you say. At my son’s school, they say things like dinosaur boogers. (chuckle)

  18. liv Avatar

    I kind of wish you were my mom. I mean, you’re totally not old enough to be, but it would be cool if you had been knocked up when you were like 7 or somethin’ and had made a tiny liv baby. I’m done. I’ll shut up.

  19. chelle Avatar

    awww your kids are ADORABLE! I love that he wore his hoody and the necklace!!!!!

  20. Steve Avatar

    Niblet get’s his monkey on better’n anyone I can think of. Consider putting together a calendar. Girl can spell out the months.

  21. That Chick Over There Avatar
    That Chick Over There

    Awesome. Just awesome.

  22. Jeni Avatar

    Growing up, I always hated school pictures because well, I’m just not photogenic. Wasn’t then, and that aspect hasn’t changed in well over 50 years now either nor has my attitude about my own picture being taken. But, one thing I do love today is being able to look back on pictures I have managed to save over the years of school mates and sometimes chuckle over their lack of photogenic qualities too, sometimes cry a bit now as some of them are no longer with us and because of that, I always tried to get the school pics of my kids as they were growing up. So they could look and laugh too someday at how they changed from year to year to year.

  23. Vodka Mom Avatar
    Vodka Mom

    oh my God those are adorable. really.

  24. Logophile Avatar

    I have gotten some pics taken of my kids that are horrible, and some that actually seem to show the kids I know.
    Seems like you got some of the latter, congrats!

    Love it

  25. movin' down the road Avatar
    movin’ down the road

    HA HA HA HA! I LOVE IT! The hood. Oh my gosh. My girls’ school pictures are so lousy. I order the cheapest package, just to have a record via school pictures. They basically look gray and washed out and like they just came out of a hospital or something. I hate it. (oh geez, I cant remember if I sent you my new url…I had to change it a few weeks ago…look at two weeks ago Sunday, it explains…maybe I did tell you, i dont remember)

  26. phd in yogurtry Avatar
    phd in yogurtry

    I am LMAO at your monkey boy. Hilarious. And hilarious post altogether. I love your humor.

  27. cathy Avatar

    Hell now I’m in trouble!
    um…. I help to interview and choose our photographer (If he has long hair and blue jeans he is the man!)

    Having said that this year’s choice is short fat and balding but he gave us a super package with lots of extra goodies and a reasonable price.

    Your kids look great. I just want to hug them and feed them unsuitable food:)

  28. the cubicle's backporch Avatar
    the cubicle’s backporch

    Oh man… I remember when our (very small) school decided to do TWO sets of school pictures. The first set was the normal one. The second set was a couple weeks later with props. Oh yes. We got to take pictures like we were talking on the phone or wearing shades and too cool for school. My mom never even looked at those pictures.

  29. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    Those are both wonderful pictures, so of course you like them. What gripes me about the industry is how you have to buy their ridiculous sets instead of picking out a combo that would work for you.

  30. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Absolutely charming. But then I already knew that you have a great-looking family.

    When I was a child, they didn’t do individual portraits, only a group class picture. I was always front row center until the year I crossed my eyes and did something bizarre with my legs. The next year, they put me in row two behind someone taller and my parents scolded me for skipping school.

  31. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    Those are all far, far better than any of the ones of me I remember, during the We Still Haven’t Figured Out How To Make Glasses Cool era of American culture.

  32. Minnesota Matron Avatar
    Minnesota Matron

    Totally sweet pictures, especially the monkey. Quite the look in the eye, as well. Hey, I’m with you on the school pix, though. Yes, there’s that moment in time and progression of years, but what a scam. We order the tiniest packet for posterity and that does us just fine.

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