Friday, 23 August 2013

Cheesy Peas

I should have listened to my inner-shudder when I first opened the email. It was from my Mam. She was excited. I could tell by the extravagant use of exclamation marks and capital letters. 'Here you are!!!! ENJOY!!!' she beamed brightly across the digital cosmos.

It was a Groupon. But not just any Groupon.  It was a Groupon claiming to be worth two hundred and forty five pounds . 'Family photo shoot with hair and make-up for one person'. And that one person just had to be the mum, didn't it? I couldn't quite picture Big Tot with a bouffant or Little Tot sporting a touch of lippy. Maybe the hubby, with his annoyingly long silken locks would fancy an up-do but I was fairly certain this makeover was aimed at the maternal among us. What normal, every-day mum wouldn't fancy a bit of glamming-up as a welcome break among the drudgery of domesticity?

Look how much fun I could have!

Erm, me.

I have to admit I rarely leave the house without the sacred application of mascara but an actual make-over? Not on my top ten list of things to buy a Groupon for. And when I checked the website of the company generously offering this Groupon my pessimism deepened. Most of the makeovers seemed to feature a basque or two. Some spiky high heels. Some curious choices of 'artistic' lighting. But surely they wouldn't expect me to partake in this? Especially with a grouchy toddler and a child who thinks he owns the world tagging along.

But this was a treat from my Mam and we would cash this Groupon in with total enthusiasm and gratitude. If nothing else, it was a reason to get out of our pyjamas before eleven in the morning (oh yes, we are embracing the summer holidays wholeheartedly) and maybe, just maybe, we'd get proof that we do, sometimes, remain in the same room as a whole family, unequipped with iPads and Nintendo 3DS's.

So, after a heated near-divorce with the satellite navigation system, we finally found the private house where our photo shoot was to take place. We were ushered into a (very) posh reception room by a (very) pretty lady with our many bags of pyjamas, teddies, Mario costumes and plastic swords (can you tell I'd already planned how this photo shoot was going to go?).

Something like this would do nicely

I tried to explain to Big Tot that the hand-carved, soapstone chess pieces may look like toys fit for a five-year-old but were, in fact, 'very dangerous grown-up things that may explode upon the touch of a child', whilst the hubby negotiated with the pretty lady how long the makeover would take and consequently how long he would have to entertain the Tots at the nearby park. "It shouldn't take longer then twenty minutes" was her advice. Ok then. Either I was so beautiful I needed only a miniscule amount of make-up or I was a lost cause. I didn't dwell on which one it might be.

Luckily the pretty lady was actually very good at her job (hence the prettiness, most likely) and she had me spruced up in no time. This did not stop the hubby from returning ten minutes early and demanding to know why my transformation was not yet complete. The second half of my make-over was spent further confirming my suspicion of the exploding grown-up chess pieces and allowing a toddler to shove a mirror literally in my face at every given opportunity.

Now it was time for the actual photo shoot. The Tots were decked out in multi-coloured stripey tops and jeans. The hubby and I in jeans and white T-shirts. Obligatory bare feet, of course. The PJs and costumes were for later, when we'd happily and joyfully change and show what a fun-loving, adapt-to-anything-type family we were.

Big Tot kicked off the proceedings. He was instructed by our entirely pleasant photographer to kneel down, stand up, put hands in pockets, smile and say 'Cheesy Peas!' many, many, many times. He did as he was told but alas the smiles were without soul, without that wicked Big Tot glint that we all know and love. Maybe he'd relax in a minute.

Cheesy Peas - would they make you smile?

Then Little Tot shuffled onto the scene. The photographer went with this, which was good, and the hubby and I looked at our boys with adoring eyes. How natural. How lovely. How in-the-moment. But then Little Tot was given similar instructions on how to sit, stand, lean, smile etc. We didn't panic. Not yet. Yes, Little Tot may only be two years old and may be notorious for never, ever doing anything other than what he damn well wants, but this photographer would be well versed in the world of toddlers, wouldn't he? He would know how to extricate a natural smile, an effortless scene of play and brotherly adoration.

Or not.

As soon as Big Tot got bored and strutted over to me for yet another explanation of why, exactly, he was here, Little Tot flipped out. The flashing lights, the white walls, the lack of actual family in this family photo shoot were freaking him right out. It was tears and tantrums all the way now.

So we all rushed onto the scene. The nearness of his family would sort Little Tot right out and assure him everything was normal and conducive to joy / cheer / anything resembling a smile. But nope. It is true what they say about children tuning in to the stress of their parents. I already knew the hubby was in a storming mood, which cranked up my hysteria a notch or two which, inevitably, gave both Tots a reason to grab, cry, scream, stomp, ask to play on the iPhone etc etc.

My last-ditch attempt was to suggest to the photographer that perhaps we could give the Tots a chance to calm down, get some toys out and just go for some more natural shots. That might be the only way forward now. But he continued to ask us to lean in a bit more, move a hand, smile wider, and shout out 'Cheesy Peas' with ever increasing gusto.

Needless to say we did not unbag the plastic swords or Mario costumes. The pillow-fight-in-pyjamas scene I had developed in my head would sadly have to wait until another day. By the time another family was practically banging down the door of the photo studio to tempt their own luck, Little Tot was past himself and Big Tot had a permanently bad attitude. My own attitude was tested when the photographer suggested we pay one hundred pounds for a CD of appalling photos, and further still when he explained that that 'free' print included in the Groupon would cost £10 to be posted to our home. Or, he added helpfully, we could pick it up from the house in a few weeks. I remembered how close the satellite navigation system had come to being thrown out of the sunroof and politely declined.

So that's why I should have listened to my inner-shudder right at the beginning of this tale. My little family is simply not cut out for photo shoots. Or that particular photographer was simply not cut out for my little family. Truth be known, it was probably a bit of both so, for now, I'll continue to spontaneously snap my boys on the iPhone and allow Mario moustaches all round. It's quite clearly the way forward.

The Tots working the camera as only they know how

But thanks Mam. It really was a lovely thought.

Go well,


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  1. I can relate to this - thanks for making me giggle and making me feel like I have a wee lovely family who behave in a very similar fashion. :)

  2. you paint a fabulous picture Abi !

  3. Aw, thanks guys! So glad you can identify and that I'm not alone in experiences like this!

  4. Great to see these kids in their costumes!! Great site...

    Fancy Dress Ideas for Kids