My senior year in high school I worked at Expressly Portraits in the Ashtabula Mall.  I didn’t work there for very long; in fact, I frequently forget that I worked there at all.  But I was reminded last Friday when we drove Puddin’ to the Lakewood Mall to have her picture taken at JC Penney.

In this digital age, mall and department store photo studios find themselves seriously endangered.  With easy-to-use, high quality photo technology available, why pay a whopping $9 per person to have a “professional”– a high school senior, in my case– take photos of the family?  But Andre and I come from the South and the Midwest, respectively, which means we were raised with more appointments at Olan Mills than at the dentist.  Photos of our child selves line the walls of both our mothers’ houses, with subjects posed precariously over draped stools and boxes against a faux-nature or generic gray backdrop.  The expressions on our faces range from beaming to puzzled to enraged and upset.  Professional mall-quality photographs are a family tradition we intend to uphold.

I know now that my parents went through hell to get this picture.

I know now that my parents went through hell to get this picture.

Plus, we wanted good lighting.  We wanted coordinated outfits.  We wanted wallet-sized photos we could send to relatives without smartphones.  And more than anything, we wanted a picture of our new family.  Thus far, one person had invariably held the camera to capture the other two.

But why we thought Puddin’ would be down for this at four weeks old, I’ll never know.

“Good luck with that,” my mother said, chuckling, when I told her our plans.  For those who don’t have children, let me explain four weeks old.  The first two to three weeks, the baby sleeps a lot.  If she isn’t sleeping, she’s easily lulled to sleep by the stroller, the car, or the rocking chair.  At six weeks, apparently babies fall into a little schedule, with (slightly) more predictable nap, feeding and wake times.  (Or so I’m told.)

But four to six weeks is hell.  “You’re IN IT,” my friend Stephanie, mother of two, explained over the phone.  “But it gets better, I promise.”

By noon Andre and I were ready for a drink.  All three of us were washed, fed and ironed.  We packed Puddin’ into her car seat, where she screamed for ten (avenue) blocks.  We were hitting too many red lights for her to fall asleep, plus she felt like being difficult.  In the diaper bag we had fruit and protein bars, her elephant pacifier, burp cloths, a change of clothes (for me), water, and of course, several diapers.

We arrived on time for our 1:00 appointment to be told we had one more family ahead of us.  Puddin’ was in a good mood by then, cooing in her stroller like an angel, despite the fact that she’d only had a ten minute nap on the way over.  She would be hungry soon, so I took advantage of the lull to feed her.

Mistake!  She resented her lunch-time getting cut short once the photographer announced that it was our turn, and she resented being posed tummy-down on the (adorable) baby-sized wagon we brought along that had been a gift from our friends in Australia.  Within minutes she was screaming.  The overworked, exhausted photo professional, who had the advantage of being over 18, suggested we take a break while she took in the next appointment, a two-year-old named Madison who was also running behind.

Puddin’ continued to scream until she fell asleep on Daddy’s chest, then she went in her diaper, woke up, and screamed some more.  I took her to the women’s room to change her, then returned.  Meanwhile, the two appointments ahead of us were reviewing their digital photos, with the sole employee/photographer attending. A line of people picking up photos was forming.  After about 30 minutes, Puddin’ got fed up and started crying again, so Daddy walked her some more.  Thirty minutes later with Puddin’ still screaming, I opted to feed her.  Three minutes after Puddin’ really got going, it was our turn in the studio.

Once again Puddin’ was furious to have her meal cut short, so after trying to take one or two shots, I asked if we had time for me to finish nursing.  That took about 15 more minutes.  But even after eating, Puddin’ was not happy to be there.  “Maybe she had a problem with JC Penney,” my friend Annie suggested when I relayed the story.  Puddin’ whimpered through every shot, and though she was not crying outright, she was giving stank face. Puddin' giving stank face. Andre pulled the plug at 2:30.  “We’re done,” he announced.  The photographer looked relieved.

Puddin’ did her Baby Jesus routine the entire ride home.  Perfect behavior.  (Still no nap.)

Once home I collapsed on the bed, exhausted.  Not Puddin.  She could eventually be cajoled into sleeping on Daddy’s chest for about 20 minutes.  Then she was up, crying.  I fed her, not because it was her time to eat, but because I needed to get it out of the way so that I could have a drink.

We still haven’t gotten a good picture of the three of us.  Maybe sometime soon we’ll take one of our visitors to the beach with our digital camera in coordinating outfits on a not-too-sunny day.  But for now, I need to wrap up this blog.  Puddin’ is starting to cry.

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Andre and I got our second look at our baby last week.

The baby, (or Puddin’, as we’re calling it until we know the gender– oh yes, we’re going to find out) has grown by leaps and bounds from the last time we saw him… her.. it… (see how annoying?)  But the most thrilling thing is that to us, the proud parents, Puddin’s personality has already begun to emerge, as well as Puddin’s innate (and many!) talents.  For example:

1.  Puddin’ gives you duck face.

Puddin' pouts.

A favorite among supermodels and Instagram users, duck face incorporates pursed lips and “I-take-this-shit-seriously” eyes.  Even though Puddin’s eyes are still closed, and will be for several more weeks, Puddin’ gives you one fierce duck face.  Andre and I debated whether Puddin’ knows she/he is being photographed, but regardless, Puddin’ was working it.  I’m betting she/he would be smizing as well.  I’m currently on hold with Wilhelmina.

2.  Puddin’s feet.

Puddin's FeetA baby’s feet are easily its most adorable feature– and this is coming from a person who hates feet.  Andre and I have been married for almost three years, and I still don’t let his feet touch mine.  I’d seriously rather be a garbage collector than a foot doctor.  I mean, I hate feet.  But seeing Puddin’s feet for the first time literally made my jaw drop.  Such precious little toes!  So tiny and magical!   Then I noticed something…

“Oh dear,” I said, turning to my husband.  “Andre, look.  No turnout.”

The nurse, concerned with my disappointment, immediately said, “Oh, no.  All baby’s feet look like that.”  Obviously she’d never studied dance.  I mean, don’t tell me my child’s going to have unexceptional feet!  At least tell me there’ll be hope for Puddin’s turnout when her hip joints start to form.

Not that I want to enroll Puddin’ in a dance class.  I don’t think dance studios are healthy environments for little girls.  Little boys, totally different matter.  Puddin’ can only take ballet if he’s a boy.  But if those feet are any indication, we’d best not enroll him at all.

3.  Puddin’ works out.

Throughout the ultrasound, Puddin’ would not lie still.  She/he kept raising and lowering his/her head and upper body.  Puddin’ does crunches in the womb.  Andre and I are very proud.  We want a child who can work it in front of a camera AND make fitness a priority.  And I cannot wait to see what happens when she starts to grow legs.