Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bracing Ourselves

A simple well visit to the pediatrician from July 2014 will stick with us for a while. Well visits are supposed to be pretty low-maintenance-- in and out, everything's great, cover your eye and read the 4th line, ok try the 5th line, breathe in, breathe out, breathe deeply, see you in a year, maybe try eating some vegetables for a change.

This time it was different - and not just because all three kids were actually in the Well Room at the same time. The middle child was shown to not have any muscles at all based on some seriously gross gross motor skills, but my daughter also received some significant, routine-altering news at the same visit.

I'll admit, when I got home from work, and my wife informed me that our daughter may have scoliosis. at first I may have laughed a little. When I was in junior high, every single one of us was diagnosed with scoliosis, or its distant cousin "possible scoliosis."

Leave me alone. I'm in the shower.
Our universal sign for "the bathroom is in use."

This came after getting our annual physical which involved having an 85-year-old man grab our scrotum, us turning our heads, coughing, then contorting our bodies into the shape of a lower-case "n." Pretty sure only the last part was used in the "possible scoliosis"diagnosis. But we ALL had possible scoliosis. I knew kids were advanced these days--I didn't learn my multiplication tables nearly as early as my daughter is-- but receiving the "possible scoliosis" treatment six years in front of her Daddy? Unheard of.

Still, in the interest of due diligence, we accompanied our daughter to the children's hospital just to make sure. Sure enough, the x-rays revealed a 33-degree curvature of the spine. Textbook scoliosis. (How could we as parents not see it? Draw an imaginary line from one shoulder blade to another, you get a cliff the Price Is Right yodeler is afraid to scale. How do we NOT see that? What kind of parents are we?)

What does this mean? It means to avoid surgery later in life, my daughter would need to wear a brace for the balance of her growing years. 22 hours a day, every day until she's done growing. Nobody does anything for 22 hours a day, especially 7-year-olds, without a crying fit or a nearly unlawful amount in bribery. This was going to be a challenge. Not sure if we were ready for it.

At first our daughter embraced it. The back brace she'd wear like a giant Band-Aid. Kids love Band-Aids because they bring an disproportionate amount of attention to its bearer, so when you have a plastic Band-aid the size of your torso, you probably get to sit in the queen chair for a week and win Teacher's Pet status indefinitely.

Before and after
A little before and after.
But then stark reality started to set in. 22 hours with that thing on. A tight piece of plastic, wrapped around your back, while you sleep, while you sit in school, while you live. This thing and its larger versions will grow with you and be a part of you for the rest of your childhood. And you KNOW your parents will nag you about it. You may take it off to shower, to play your violin, to go to gym class. That's it. So, yeah, a little apprehension.

But in yet another example of kids proving more resilient than their parents, she's killing this brace thing. Soon after receiving the brace, my daughter's teacher had her stand up in the front of the class and explain just what was going on (show-and-tell style.) She explained why she got to sit "in the spinny chair" with a pillow when the rest of the kids are sitting on the floor, and why she has to run down to the school nurse every Tuesday before gym class. She explained that her spine was "crooked" and the brace would help keep it from getting worse.

And that's why second-grade kids are awesome-- they get it. Maybe not right away, but eventually they get it. They're curious but innocent. They seek answers but don't judge. They think everything is cool and are so willing and able to adapt. We should all be so smartly naive.

Within weeks, the brace became virtually a non-issue, and now it's part of who she is and who she will be. She may never get to the 22-hour plateau, but close enough. There are so many reasons to be thankful in this situation: To the hospital, for giving my daughter the best attention you can give a girl and for talking us through the options, pros and cons, and for talking us down off the ledge. To our daughter's teacher, who made her feel so comfortable and let her educate her own classmates. And to our pediatrician, who first suspected trouble at a routine well visit...without that heads-up, we may never have known until surgery was the only option. (Go to your well visits folks!)

And most thankful for a brave little girl who understands what she needs to do to get better. This potential game-changer then turns out to be just a bump in the road. Just a part of life. There was, however, a time when my daughter wanted to commemorate the whole thing with a family video to show we were "all about that brace (that brace)." We poiltely declined. Besides, that's been done already I think. Done better than we can.

She can still do this with a brace on. I never could.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Night Before the Night Before the Night Before the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

Adopt a new family tradition...or else.
In our house this year, Santa Claus came on the night of Saturday, December 21. The celebration thus starts early and doesn’t end until sometime after Christmas, or until the only method of communication between my wife and me is flipping the lower lip repeatedly with the index finger, making constant “blih blih blih” sounds, whichever comes first.

Thus, our meager preparations for Santa’s early arrival are catalogued below, through the voice of a timeless classic:
Twas the night before the night before the night before the night before the night before Christmas, and the house is a mess.
We’re wishing we were less like us, and more like the family Holderness.
Some stockings we’ve hung by the chimney with care
With hopes that they don’t catch fire, since the flames shoot right there.

The children are nestled, all snug in my bed,
Pile of half-eaten Saltine crumbs up by their head.
Idiot parents are we to allow this each night,
We do have a kitchen in this house somewhere, right?

Mamma wears no kerchief; I don no cap.
It ain't 1824 no more. Nobody wears all that crap.
We aim to “settle our brains,” (is that a euphemism for dying?)
But we can’t “settle our brains” til we remember where we hid the gifts, or die trying.

“They’re out in the garage,” Mamma says “or maybe the nursery,
Just remember to disable the alarm. The code is our anniversary.”
“Enough with the impossible riddles; just tell me the code,” I plead with her now.
“We must get these gifts under the tree before the kids wake somehow.”

I disable the alarm with some clutch memory; my wife should be proud
But then trip over a garbage can lid, Jesus LORD those things are loud.
Next thing I hear are tiny footsteps upstairs,
Quickly I drop all the presents of theirs.

“Daddy, is that you?” my daughter whispers down
In the moment of truth, I lie with a frown.
"Ho, ho,…uhh, no. Now off to bed, uhhh, good night!”
A piss poor rendering of Santa, sounded more like Barry White.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Neighborhood teens beat the mailbox again with a ladder?
Didn’t bother to look, didn’t bother to care.
Little did I know Santa’s sleigh was parked right out there.

“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!

Lauren, Catherine, Lana too,
Bette Davis… We love you!”

A full dozen reindeer these days Santa employs
Needing more horsepower for all the extra toys
And mixing in some females, Santa thought it best
To keep the long trip from becoming a total reindeer sausage fest.

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
Of course they did; I guess that’s what “coursers” do?
How did everyone fit up there, intact and all?
Not like we live in the damned Taj Mahal.

Someone then began the trek down the chimney
Next time just use the wide open doors, buddy.
Or, do whatever, try as you might.
Just whatever you do, don’t put out the pilot light.

He was dressed all in fur, at my in-laws’ he’d not freeze.
For inside their house it’s always 86 degrees.
But inside our abode, where fresh meat can be stored
He’d need every layer and perhaps three layers more.

He was everything I’d imagined: big boots, big belt, big beard, big hat.
No need for details of the shaking belly and all that.
I stood there in awe, my thoughts all inverted.
Poor kid who “saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus” – ew, how perverted.

 He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then started to twerk turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And blew a giant snot rocket giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

As he struggled to leave the ground, he noticed the wide open door
And decided “the hell with this, this year I’ve got 10 million chimneys more.”
Then he looked back at me and paused, dazed and confused.
When he saw who was atop the toilet, he was not amused.

“Buddy, is that you? Or Jingle, or Snowball, or Mike?
What the hell is your name? You elves all look alike.”
“His name is Holly,” I said with a shrug.
"Look, my daughter named him, I was leaning toward Doug.”

“Holly?” he asked. “Kids these days haven’t a clue.
Anyway, whatever, HOLLY, get off the can, you’re coming with me, too.”
And there went my elf, who sat upon our shelf.
Not gonna lie, I smiled when he left, in spite of myself.

His butt was so thin, too hard to place anywhere.
Would that I had such a compact derriere.
My kids would shout, “Don’t touch him! You’ll take away his magic!”
“Shove your brother in the laundry hamper one more time; the results will be tragic.”

Then Santa sprang to his sleigh, as much as a fat man can.
But before he got in, I wanted a word with the man.
“Where’s Rudolph?” I asked, pointing to the 12. “And what’s up with these guys?”
“Rudolph’s nose was bright, but that one right there, she’s got Bette Davis eyes.”

I assumed the boys all thought her a spy,
With her Greta Garbo standoff sigh,
But just went inside and settled my brain,
Shook my head, and thought “this will probably never happen again.”

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

As I turned to Momma to give her a kiss,
She said, “That elf…now that is something we will not miss.”

Happy Christmas!


Christmas Vacation Countdown, Part 2

We're ready to unveil our family's Top Five lines from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, based on use within the household and extended family. The first half of the Top Ten are here.

Once again, the requisite photo. Because in 2014, adults need stories with pictures.
Once again these aren't necessarily the best or funniest lines, otherwise we would have found a spot for "Last year he was a pixie dust spreader on the Tilt-A-Whirl. He thinks that maybe next year he'll be guessing people's weights or barking for the Yak woman. Did you ever see her, Clark? She's got these horns coming out of her head...ugly as sin, but a sweet gal. And a helluva good cook" or "That ain't the friggin' Christmas star, Griz, that's the light of the sewage treatment plant" or, of course, "Shitter was full," which, given the flush rates in our household, is a phrase to keep an eye on in the future.

But those have no real practical use in the real world. Instead, our #5 and #4 lines have been used in various forms.

#5.  This is a surprise, Clark. This is just a real nice surprise. Just a Real. Nice. Surpriiiiise.

You can hear Clark's back cracking in the bear hug as you read it. Or if you can't, you can hear it here. We've used this set of lines on Christmas presents, in thank you cards, on custom-made T-shirts, and even in wedding proposals. And it's gaining momentum. We get some weird looks from the kids when we say it, but we're used to that. Won't be the last time. Most of the surprises we have as parents aren't of the pleasant variety, so anytime    

#4.  If this isn't the biggest bag over the head, punch in the face I ever got , Goddammit! Accompanied by swift kicking motions to bags of Christmas presents accumulated under the Christmas tree, this versatile phrase can be applied to any sense of wrongdoing perpetrated against a member of the family. It's basically an adult version of the standard temper tantrum my kids throw when they don't get their onw way.

But this one gets used in all seetings...familial, corporate, societal, DMV, sports teams losing, Fantasy Football teams losing (especially Fantasy Football teams losing) you name it.

See also: #7: It's all part of the experience, honey. If you overuse "bag over the head" you're likely to get hit with an "It's all part of the experience, honey." So stop whining, get the bag off your head, buck up, press on, and have the hap-hap-happiest...wait, we're getting them all confused now.

#3: You serious, Clark?
If you're a fan of the movie, you've said it. Over anything. The more mundane the topic, the better. But it's genuine. Just as Eddie stopped to confirm Clark's playful announcement that "an airline pilot spotted Santa's sleigh on its way in from New York," you can confirm any piece of useful information you receive by saying the same thing.

Though I'd keep it playful, and not use it when you hear a family member is having quadruple-bypass surgery or has just lost his job. Jury's still out on whether you can use it if you hear a loved one is "in the clinic, gettin' cured off the Wild Turkey." I say yes. Go ahead.

#2. I don't KNOW, Margo. 
Our daughter has thought on occasion that her name is Margo, as she is usually on the receiving end of this well-worn phrase. We may have called her Margo even when not using this phrase just because.

To be fair, she's usually the one in the house asking the impossible questions that invite eye-rolling and sarcastic answers. Questions such as "Where's my dress?" "Where are my shoes?" or "Where's my hairbrush?" She has yet to ask why the carpet is all wet, though if she does, you can rest assured the answer will be, "Because you forgot to tuck the shower curtain in again, Margo," For all other questions, however, "I don't KNOW, Margo" is the go-to response.

You also have to wonder if the guy who played Todd "gets that" a lot. Does anyone recognize him in the street? Because if so, I can imagine a cadre of less sophisticated people flocking to him saying, "I don't KNOW, Margo," and asking him to sign the backs of their T-shirts. Poor guy.

Before we reveal the most used Christmas Vacation phrase in our family, let's take one more timeout to recognize three characters who came up empty in our countdown despite numerous laughs generated. Art, Bethany, and Uncle Louis all got shut out and that's a shame. Here then is a mini Top 15 of lines just by them that you can break out when the mood strikes or the situation calls for it:

15. "The little lights are not twinkling."
14. "Damn it, Bethany, he guessed it."
13. "I need to eat, so I can take my back pills." (Got my mom with that one once.)
12. "This house is bigger than your old one."
11. "Grace? She passed away 30 years ago."
10. "What are you gonna bawl all over it or ya gonna open it?"
9. "Don't throw me down, Clark."
8. "Hey Griz, you're not doing anything constructive. Run into the living room, get my stogie."
7. "It was an ugly tree anyway."
6. "What is it? A letter confirming your reservation at the nuthouse?"
5. "So what's the matter with you?"
4. "At least it's out of its misery."
3. "Oh dear, did I break wind?"
2. "Da BLES-SING!"
1. " I should say it? I should say it? Hello, everybody!"

And now on to the #1 most used phrase from Christmas Vacation:

#1. "I don't know what to say except it's Christmas and we're all in misery."

This one has picked up a ton of momentum in recent years as we've become adults and discovered that the magic of Christmas is purely man-made. We use it as a funny way to explain away the stress of the holiday season, although at times the phrase "Much truth is said in jest" applies.

This is a phrase I'd like to eradicate from our speech in future years but we'll see. Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year so why all the misery? What's the cause of the stress? Is it the pursuit of perfection? (If so I blame Lexus and their "cars with bows" ads.) Is it the cookies? Are we trying to do too much?

Of course we're all trying to do too much. It's Christmas! That's what Christmas is all about! This is why New Year's Resolution season comes so soon we can dial ourselves back from the excesses of the most recent holiday season.

We can't do it all. This year we didn't put the toy train around the Christmas Tree, (forgot) didn't build the gingerbread house, (ran out of time) or do the Christmas cookie puzzle (forgot and ran out of time.) And so what? Christmas was still magical. I think? Let me go ask the kids. OK yeah, it was magical. Hopefully not solely because of that damned elf either.

Take a look back at your Christmas. Did you claim to be in misery at any point? Can you do without the thing that you were doing at the time when you said it? Then see if you can not do it next year.

But if you're a parent and your kids still believe in the magic of Christmas, and you connected with all the people who are important to you, then it was a good holiday. No misery required.

And that's the list. We hope it "enhanced your holiday spirit." 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Vacation Countdown

Not everybody loves National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as much as we do in this household. So much that we’ve seen it from every angle, noticed every little nuance, basically analyzed the thing to death. And we don’t mind quoting it every now and again. So as a bit of an advent present to those of you who do the Christmas thing…here starts a brief rundown of the 10 most-used Christmas Vacation lines in our house. Note these aren’t necessarily the 10 best lines, just the 10 we use the most when talking to each other and trying to keep sane.

First, The Best of the Rest: These didn’t quite make the cut, not because they aren’t outstanding, but because we just use other lines more.
The big rant where Clark calls his boss 24 names. Probably deserves to be in the Top Ten but I’ve never been able to memorize it, even though I’ve spent virtually eons memorizing more frivolous items. So I never actually use it but just sit in awe of it.
We thank Clark Griswold for at least taking his frustrations out on his boss rather than the lead reindeer on Santa’s cavalcade. Because even though all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names, we doubt Dasher or Dancer had the gall to refer to the new guy as “Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer,” much less “Rudolph the Fat-Assed, Bug-Eyed, Spotty-Lipped, Worm-Headed Sack of Monkey S**t Reindeer.” Though maybe they did. And even if they did, we wouldn’t repeat that in front of our kids, because, as ever, we’re letting YOUR kids teach our kids all the swear words.
Once again I'm required to accompany each post with a picture.
All that said, Clark himself did punch his yard ornament Santa in the face and karate chop all the reindeer’s antlers off, so maybe he would have had some choice words in the heat of the moment for Rudolph, too. Hallelujah, Holy S**t.
"I’d like to see if I can fumigate this here chair." Again, not terribly relevant in our house except for when one of us has gas or spills a month’s worth of old milk into it.
"Oh here they are, here come the nuts." As the Griswold grandparents are watching the Christmas parade on TV or sleeping through it, the announcer, played by Doug Llewelyn, (yes that Doug Llewelyn from The People’s Court and Nirvana’s “In Bloom” video) notices that the wind is blowing the Nutcracker float off course. We say the line any time there is a bowl of nuts out, because we’re small-minded. And we’ll probably say it if we’re ever fortunate to be home when our kids get off the bus after school.

And finishing in last place?
Anything anybody says during the sledding scene. Would like to see some of the deleted scenes and see if we can’t replace the sledding scene with something from the archives.
On to the countdown:
10: "We’re going to press on, and we’re going have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa shoves his fat white ass down that chimney, he’s going to find the jolliest bunch of a-holes this side of the nuthouse."
OK, so we don’t really say all that, especially to our kids, but we at least start it when things are going crazy. We stop, breathe, collect ourselves, and press on. If kids are around we may change “since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye” to “We’ll have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Rudolph the Fat-Assed Reindeer went down in history.” No, we won’t do that at all. Unless Burl Ives said it? Who knows?

9. "And I'll give AUDREY a quarter, too, Audrey."

People may look at this list and wonder how this made it, but this one simple, throw-away line is one of my favorites because it so perfectly embodies old people. Sure, senile Aunt Bethany and Uncle Louis have funnier lines that are delivered in sometimes spectacular fashion, but let's dissect these 8 words a little further.

First, in the line before, Nora Griswold is offering Rusty a quarter to rub the painful burr on her heel. And Rusty is stuck in a corner because he's been offered a woefully small award to perform such an awful task for a beloved family member. But to Nora Griswold this is big money, because she's from another era entirely, where that quarter probably gets her a down payment on a car.

It's funny because she then offers Audrey the same amount while expecting nothing in return, which is classic, old person behavior. The same people who preached "an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," and "didn't need no welfare state...everybody PULLED his WEIGHT!!" then turn around and make sure everything is exactly equal within the family, presumably to keep peace. The fact that she calls Audrey's name TWICE, with particular emphasis on the first instance, to draw attention to this act of benevolence just caps this perfect embodiment of old people. I'll do that one day and without shame.

Enough social commentary. I use this line a fair amount of time in the house, usually when I drop a coin on the kitchen floor, and kids come out of the woodwork like Hungry, Hungry Hippos to scoop it up. Strictly for sanity's sake, I'll offer a coin of equal value to the other two kids so they also have something to drop in their piggy bank. I promise you we're not Socialists. But when I give out the other two coins, I channel Nora Griswold and say,"And I'll give AUDREY a nickel, too, Audrey" and change the names. The kids have no idea what I'm doing. They'll know soon enough.

8. "Save the neck for me, Clark."

Sadly, this line is slowly sliding off the coutdown as the rest of the family catches on and family gatherings diminish in number. In the early days, before folks realized that 1 in 5 of our spoken sentences at family gatherings is a direct quote from the movie, we'd get some strange looks and some grossed-out looks like Ellen gives Eddie. Then we'd explain ourselves.

Now that people are up up to speed, they're offering me or one of my siblings or cousins the bird's neck before we have a chance to formally request it. Looks like this great line will soon have to be tucked away for good or at least put on a long hiatus, at the end of which we will no longer be getting together as an extended family, save for funerals. Long live "Save the neck for me, Clark."

7. "It's all part of the experience, honey."

Another line that doesn't get its due. As the Griswolds traipse through the forest, trudging up a hill in search of the perfect family Christmas tree, an increasingly agitated and cold Audrey's eyes have frozen and she can't talk any more. Her mother Ellen finally tells Clark, "Audrey's frozen from the waist down." To which clark dismissively responds, "It's all part of the experience, honey."

When kids are whining, bitching, moaning, complaining or when I'm doing the same at work, I'll pre-empt the complaining with an "It's all part of the experience." I try to not be as dismissive as Clark without adding fuel to the fire by caring too mcuh about the infraction. Just trying to put an end to all the whining. Especially my own.

Not everything can be simply "part of the experience," however. 'Dad, the kitcken counter is on fire!" Not part of the experience. "Honey, we may have left one of the kids back at the jumpy house place." Not part of the experience. "Daddy, he's standing in the spot I wanted to stand in and now he's looking at me." That's part of the experience. Go find your shoes. Then go find your brother's shoes.

6. "You set standards no family can live up to."

Many would think this is said about me, but I'm actually the one who uses it, to my wife, especially around Christmas, when she claims that nothing Christmas-ish can really happen until the entire house is immaculate.

Which is a joke, because kids. If Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, and the Virgin Mary decided not to have Him until the house was totally clean, we'd still be waiting for Christmas. Part of my role in the relationship is to ensure that the house is barely clean enough for Santa to come in and drop off the presents without waking the kids by tripping over their discarded toys from (literally) yesteryear. But also to try to convince everyone else not to freak out about the dishes.

Can't wait to see #5 through #1? Here they are.           

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Storm Before the Calm

          One of the countless advantages parents of this age hold over the generation before is digital photography. Another one is kid leashes, and a third is not having your kids constantly ask if Air Supply is two women, two men, or a man and a woman. I wondered about that last one a lot. But the digital photography pretty much trumps everything.

Because now we can acquire a mountain of holiday pictures in the hopes that just one makes our kids look cute for the requisite holiday card. Our parents had to pick from six. Hence,

This extra probability virtually guarantees at least one altogether not terrible photo, one that belies all the chaos preceding and surrounding it. Still, the holiday picture expedition consistently proves daunting, taxing, frustrating, exhausting. Here, then, are some easy ways to diminish the storm before the calm:
1.    Clothing – it’s always important to pick out the kids’ clothing the night before the scheduled picture day. This will save important time the next morning, time to be spent extracting gum from the kids’ hair. However, if the kids are dressed and haven’t yet brushed their teeth, please do NOT let your kids brush their teeth after they have put on their holiday clothes. Unless you can find another outfit on the fly or can work the dribble into a snow scene on your son’s sartorial Winter Wonderland dreamscape. Maybe smoke coming from the snowman’s pipe? Maybe a mini-blizzard on Rudolph’s nose? Your kids’ teeth are just not that important, 4 out of 5 dentists will concede.

      1a. Shoes – 78% of all families who show up late to anything do so because they were missing a shoe. Everyone knows this. Simple solution: Buy two identical pairs of all shoes and keep the second pair in your safe deposit box and hire a full-time guard. You won’t be disappointed.

      1b. Helmets – There aren’t three greater indignities in the world than banging your head when entering or exiting a car, which results in tantrums and tears by folks of any age. To minimize the impact of a kid losing his or her shit by banging their head, provide them all with helmets to wear when exiting the car. Hockey, football, astronaut, the activity is immaterial. Just wear the headgear. Do NOT mess up the hair, though.

      1c. Pajamas – Leave them at home. Your kids will love you later for it. Especially the one for whom you bought that skin-tight candy cane number. Yikes.

2.    Ventriloquism – Teaching your kids ventriloquism will pay key dividends when you’re stuck with the overzealous photographer who gets too specific with the trigger words. Gone are the days of the simple “say cheese,” in favor of polysyllabic, often gross, bluster like “say chesseburgers” or “say elephant farts!!”

Two-year-olds will try to say exactly what you tell them to, so please, commercial photographers, stop requiring them to possess a degree in linguistics to get a picture. We had the “say cheeseburgers” lady, so we came away with two dozen pictures of kids saying the “ur” part. Go ahead, as you read this, say the syllable “ur” while smiling. Look how stupid you look. We got 72 of those faces. If only we had enrolled them in extracurricular ventriloquism school, we’d have an entire album of kids jamming their top and bottom teeth together into forced smiles. You can practically hear the teeth grinding.

2a. Teach your kids it’s okay to use the word “fart” if you haven’t done so already. This will avoid the 7 or so shots where your kids are all looking to your wife with the “she said it was ok to say farts!” face. Eyebrows raised.

This tree has nothing to do with kids pictures, but I'm required by law to add a picture.
3.    Nourishment – Make sure your kids are well-fed before the photo session. If they are not, you will be forced to bribe them with a trip to a burger joint afterwards, where they will say “cheeseburgers” over and over.

4.    Temper expectations – The probability of failure is very high. Always remember what your second-grade baseball coach taught you: “It only takes one.” Not sure what that meant in terms of baseball, but it’s quite clear in terms of kiddie photography. Just get the one good shot, it’s in there somewhere.

5.    Bonus item: Don’t order the wallet-sized pictures. Hint: Here in the 21st Century, nobody carries pictures in their wallet. There’s this thing called Facebook. Or Shutterfly. Or Snapfish. 
If you have kids and haven't gone to get your pictures taken yet, maybe some of these hints will prove helpful. If you're in receipt of one of our cards, just consider the above before tossing it in the trash. Or maybe your kids are beyond the age and you're in the "been there done that" phase, and you're jealous of all the advances in photography. Regardless, enjoy the holiday and say "Stinky cheeseburger farts!"