“The Family Photo” by Shari Courter

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent.” 

I should preface this story with the fact that my husband has always hated family photo day. It’s not that I loved it, but it was important to me. We used to have photos professionally taken, made into Christmas cards and sent out the day after Thanksgiving. Notice the past tense? Let me tell you what happened in 2002.

Zac was eight, Aubrey, six and Kearstin, three. We also had two adorable black Labs. What could be more precious than including our dogs in one of our Christmas photos? I scheduled a pet-friendly session at a studio just 15 minutes from our house. What could go wrong?

Well, where do I begin? Right off the bat, two major mistakes were made by both my husband and me that played a huge part in the scenario that followed:

1) We had chili the night before and I made the unfortunate decision to give the leftovers to the dogs.

2) He fed the kids chocolate donuts for breakfast before we left.

Bear with me. This will all make sense in just a second.

After breakfast, we got dressed up in our holiday photo clothes and everyone looked nice. Anyone who knows our family would agree with me when I state this is unusual for us. We never get dressed up and although I hope we look nice when we go out, that’s not the objective. Our main goal is for everyone to be fully clothed, a lesson we learned that very same year when all five of us managed to get from our house to our van then to a church softball game without anyone realizing that our youngest daughter was naked from the waist down. But I digress.

2-4  Courter

Kearstin and one of the fart dogs

On this particular day, our neighbors got the rare treat of seeing us all in clothes as we loaded into the van. But it wasn’t long before things took a downhill slide. We had barely made it onto the highway when we noticed the effects of the leftover chili on our dogs. In almost slow motion, the smell permeated each of our noses, and everyone’s eyes opened to their fullest capacity. I jerked my head around to check Kearstin, who has the most sensitive gag reflex of us all. She was sitting in her car seat, violently dry heaving. Before the dry heaves could become wet heaves, I started promising her things if she didn’t vomit. “If you don’t throw up, I’ll give you balloons and candy when we get to the mall!”

If you approach parenting the way I do, with the knowledge and acceptance that your kids are going to end up in therapy anyway, you will have a lot more freedom in the things you’re willing to say in any given circumstance. Thus, my promise of balloons and candy seemed to do the trick, until the next round of silent, but deadly, gas escaped from the dogs. Without drawing attention to it, my husband tried to subtly deal with the situation by activating all of the automatic windows. Wind began whipping through the van—and our hair.

But that’s neither here nor there.

The problem with that idea, besides the destroyed photo day hair, was that his action managed to spread the smell faster. This time no balloon in the world was able to stop Kearstin’s regurgitated chocolate donuts from appearing down the front of her beautiful Christmas dress.

I suppose now is a good time to tell you that Aubrey has the second most sensitive gag reflex of our family and I have the third. Not only did the dogs continue their gassy antics that had started this debacle in the first place, but it turned into “Puke-Fest 2002.” Our minivan-turned-wind-tunnel flew down the interstate as my husband yelled loudly, “Everyone stop vomiting right now!”

For future reference, ordering someone to stop vomiting has a zero success rate.

Zac, who inherited his dad’s nonexistent gag reflex, began removing Kearstin’s filthy dress while my husband did a U-turn. We arrived back in our driveway a mere 15 minutes after we left. Unfortunately, those same neighbors who experienced the rare treat of seeing us all dressed up as we climbed into our van earlier were still outside to witness our car squeal into our driveway. Two smelly dogs and four wind-blown, chocolate puke-covered people poured out of every available door, followed by a now-naked Kearstin who happily skipped into the house, eagerly asking when she was going to receive her balloons and candy. I wouldn’t expect a Christmas photo from us any time in the near future, if I were you.

Parenting 250_rgbShari Courter has been married to her husband, Ron, for 20 years. They have one son, Zac, and three daughters—Aubrey, Kearstin and Caymen. Shari is a stay at-home mom and a licensed massage therapist . . . and she just became a grandma for the first time! When she’s not busy, Shari enjoys blogging about her family’s antics.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent.” The book is filled with 68 entertaining stories about parenting and raising kids. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1rttaBF) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/11EGnCl).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.