bribing my kids to behaveT’was the season and I wanted a family portrait of our children for the holidays. I hired Marcus, who came highly recommended by several friends. He arrived early  to set up his equipment in the family room. The fireplace was crackling with a warm glow. Fresh cinnamon sticks were brewing and vanilla candles flickered in the distance. It was a picture perfect setting. My heart swelled with pride that my home was so comfy and cozy.

The five children rambled into the room, half asleep. Our plan was that each kid would wear their brand new white, button down shirt and jean bottoms.

Kid #5 arrived in a plaid shirt and black pants, hair uncombed, and shoeless.

Kid #4 staggered to the couch and fell asleep wearing his pajamas.

Kid #3 was all dressed up and pretty in white pants and a purple hoody with sparkles in her hair.

Kid #2 danced into the room wearing a sequined red and green Christmas dress and a pair of my high heels.

Kid #1 was the only one dressed according to our plan. That’s because I dressed him.

The photographer started to line them up. “No! No! No!” I shouted. This was not the plan!” What kind of photographer would even consider taking a picture of this motley crew?

I ushered them each back to their rooms and issued a warning. “This picture is going out to all of our family. You must look adorable. Now make it happen!” Sweat was beading on my brow and I could feel the caffeine overload in my system.

In the meantime, our English Mastiff felt the need to mark his spot on the photographer’s tripod. He weighed one hundred and sixty- five pounds.  There was a lake around the tripod’s leg.  I heard Marcus screech from upstairs and rushed down a minute too late to stop the fire hose.

Take #2

Children, #1 through #5, re-entered the newly disinfected photo area. They lined up looking like prisoners of war. They wore nasty, grumpy faces, but they were dressed in accordance with the plan.

There is a foul odor in the room suddenly. Kid #1 had an explosive diaper. He was the only happy one. The photographer begins to gag. Back upstairs I trudged to change the little stinky-ass.

Take #3

We have two smiling, one dancing, one nose picker, and one pinching his brother as the photographer looked at his watch. Marcus was not happy. I decided to bribe the kids to get this damn photo. I told them I’ll take them out for ice cream after it’s done. Even the dog’s ears perked up when he heard the magic word …out.

Kid # 5 wanted to go to the video game store instead.

Kid # 4 wanted to go to buy a lizard.

Kid # 3 preferred a Happy Meal.

Kid # 2 wanted sparkly press-on nails.

Kid # 1 was too little to have input. He went wherever I carried him. Perfect!

They argued over the choices until I finally yelled, “I’ll give you each five dollars.”

Their pearly whites gleamed. Winston looked regal lying in front of the kids. My heart was so happy. SNAP! We had the shot.

Take # 4

Damn camera was out of focus. Five dollars was not sounding so good now. They wanted more. I’d raised a bunch of money hungry Wall Street midgets! I told them six dollars is my highest offer.

They shrugged and grinned. SNAP! He took the shot.

Take #5

Kids started fighting and whining. I begged Marcus to bear with us for just one more try. The insults were flying amongst my beautifully photogenic children now, “Your breath stinks. You’re ugly. You were adopted. You eat your boogies.” The saga continued. I apologized to Marcus, who was now rubbing his head and breathing heavy.

I offered to give him an extra twenty dollar tip. “Anne, I’ll give you twenty dollars if we can call this quits.”

I never saw him again.


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