We all have our roles

Mom-of-Otto completely astounded her doctors by recovering from the initial situation (multiple organ failure, we don’t know what’s wrong, she’s on a ventilator) to where she is now off the ventilator (though still in multiple organ failure and they don’t know why) and harassing the nurses for ginger ale. So that is GREAT NEWS and Otto is back home. Whereupon we commenced irritating each other.

I rave about Otto so often, here, that I occasionally have people making comments about how “You have a perfect husband” or “You think you’re so great because your husband is superhuman” or things like that. I would like to set the record straight: Otto isn’t perfect. And I think I’m a giant spazz, actually, but if I DID think I was so great, it would be because I’m a bargain shopping ninja or because my shoes are really very pretty or because I cooked something delicious without burning the house down. (Yes. Set the bar low. Then lower it; that’s where you’ll find me.) Otto is a regular human—one of my very favorite ones, don’t get me wrong—and just as fallible (annoying) as anyone else.

Otto and I have a really interesting situation, here, when you think about it. Despite having known each other for 18 years before we got married, we each had a loooong time in which to become set in various ways and foibles. I’d been on my own with the kids for years, and I still struggle with allowing his involvement in their day-to-day stuff, sometimes, because I’m just used to the “I have to do it all myself” mindset. Otto, on the other hand, lived alone for a really long time, and occasionally the noise level ’round here causes his face to turn interesting colors. We’ve both had a lot of adjustments to make, and our marriage has not been without its growing pains.

Add to that the fact that this summer was already really stressful BEFORE we got the phone call that essentially said “This is the end,” and then Otto’s having to rush back up north to be with his family, and, well, I think it’s only natural that we’re both a little on edge. (YA THINK?)

So. Here’s what happened: Yesterday we did the First Day Of School pictures out on the front steps. Otto—being an actual photographer—did his thing, and I—being a giant spazz—grabbed another camera and snapped a few pictures of the kids’ shoes and tried to make them smile for Otto’s pictures. Yesterday evening, Otto called us to look at a slideshow of the pictures he’d taken that morning.

And it only included two pictures of the kids on the steps.

Now, if you’ve spent any time with a photographer, you know that they are genetically incapable of taking “just a few” pictures. I knew that Otto had taken AT LEAST twenty pictures, and probably more like forty. “Where’s the rest of them?” I asked.

“These are the good ones,” he said.

“But… but…” I waved my hand at the pictures on the screen, where Chickadee looked a little funny in one and Monkey looked a little funny in the other, “you didn’t get a SINGLE ONE where they were both smiling? Really? Can I see the other ones?”

Otto went back into the folder and showed me the other photos, and I started pointing out things like “Oh, Chickadee looks great in that one!” or “Monkey’s got a nice smile there,” and the kids were chiming in, too, and then the last few weeks of stress took one look at what I was saying and I suddenly morphed into the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“These children don’t know how to smile for pictures!” Otto snapped his computer shut and waved us all away. “We’re done!” he said, shooing the kids away, and then he turned back to me and launched into a diatribe about how I don’t trust his judgment and he’s tired of me second-guessing him and THOSE ARE THE BEST PICTURES and how come I don’t trust him and such.

(Note to Otto: I love you! Ignore this next line!) In short, Otto had a hissy fit.

Now, I’m not saying I wasn’t being annoying, because I’m sure I WAS being annoying, but in my defense I just thought I was looking at all the pictures and commenting on them. In Otto’s defense, he’s exhausted and stressed out and it is really hard to get two children to smile and look lovely at the same time.

Back when I had to do everything myself, and my totally sucky picture-taking skills were the only game in town, I would simply take a batch of pictures like that and find the best one of Monkey and the best one of Chickadee. And then I would decide which picture was OVERALL the best, and then I would lop off the (better) head of the lesser child from the second photo and Photoshop it onto his or her body in the chosen picture. Voila! Awesome picture of BOTH kids!

The fact that I just admitted this to the world causes my husband to die a little on the inside. Really, if I could’ve bottled the look on his face the first time I told him that… well, I’m sure there would’ve been a great market for it. I’m really quite good with Photoshop; the resultant pictures look fine, they just HURT HIS SOUL. Because photography is about what’s real, or something. I don’t know. Ethics, shmethics.

I guess this might be why I’m not allowed to have an opinion on photographs, in his mind. And I’m willing to grant him that YES, he gets to be the Visual King in the house and all things having to do with pictures get to be his domain. All I’m gonna ask in return is that I continue to rule all matters having to do with MAKING WITH THE WORDS, which means that—while my rights to critique pictures have been revoked—all hissy fits and impassioned explanations of WORDY FEELINGS be left to ME or my apprentice (Chickadee).

I think that’s fair.

P.S. I was full of NOTHING BUT COMPLIMENTS for the following brilliant photo: Chickadee’s teacher had put stacks of school supplies on every desk, and Chickie’s best buddies Nightingale and Hawk were sitting there waiting for her. “Chickie! Come sit with us!” they called, patting the desk next to Nightingale and across from Hawk. Chickadee’s face broke into a huge grin, and because I am a HUGE DORK I darted in front of her and sat down at the indicated desk. “Okay, I’ll sit here!” I said to the taken-aback pair waiting for Chickie. “Oh! Crayons! I LOVE CRAYONS!” I continued, picking a box of crayons off the top of the stack and hugging them. In the picture Otto got, I am hugging the crayon box, Chickadee is standing next to me rolling her eyes and telling me to get out of her seat, Nightingale is smacking her forehead in exasperation at my antics, and Hawk just looks sort of scared. PRICELESS.


  1. Leandra

    Otto would have an absolute STROKE trying to take pictures of my kids! I can’t believe I haven’t thought of the Photoshop thing before — I’ve got some skeelz in that area myself — especially since the Christmas picture of the kids two years ago ended up with Bubba looking like he was having an attack of appendicitis and in which Punkin looked very sweet but also like she might have been missing a chromosome or two. For the record, I neither took that picture or selected it for the Christmas card. Yet somehow it was the one that went out.

  2. D

    Man, it’s so obvious the two of you are crazy about each other. :-) Glad Otto’s back and glad that Otto’s Mum is asking for ginger ale.

  3. Megan.

    So glad that Otto’s Mum has rallied. Hope the doctors work out the cause SOON (probably a lack of fine ginger ale – my mother used it as the Good For What Ails Ya panacea). I’m afraid I have quite a lot of sympathy with Otto as in my house I can take forty pictures of a particular Child, refine the lot down to three where I’m actually happy with everything, show them to said Child who will squirm and wriggle, demand to see the rest and then fish out the one that is slightly blurred, has the wrong focal length etc etc and declare this – THIS is the one. Why? Usually because its back is turned. Sigh.

  4. Aimee

    Oh, that’s such great news about Otto’s mom! I’m so glad for all of you.

    As for hissy fits… yeah. We all have them, and I think they’re most likely when you’ve been under a lot of stress yet trying to be strong. That has a way of clogging things up, and then you (okay, well, *I*) blow like Vesuvius leaving my bewildered husband covered in lava.

    Oops. This was supposed to be about you and Otto. Well, I think your bargain sounds very fair. You get the words and emotions, he gets the pictures.

  5. Holly

    Blessed that Otto’s mom is better!

    Photoshop. Yeah. Imagine a flight from Norfolk, VA to Sydney Australia via Chicago & LAX. Then a 3 hr drive to Canberra. One night’s sleep – where no one CAN sleep because of the whole body clock/time change thingy. The next morning a very cranky 4 yo, an even crankier 18 month old, and a photo shoot by the guy who did our wedding pics – all arranged via email months before – at a time (Christmas) when he is usually on vacation for a month. Yeah, I get the photoshop thing. Tell Otto sometimes that’s the only way. :-)

  6. LiteralDan

    You should start Photoshopping up some incredible, even impossible things and replacing other pictures with them in the frames around your house. Make them tell a story of a much more interesting life, like you running from a tsunami, punching Saddam Hussein in the face, or a series of you, for example, being stabbed by a Chechen rebel, then grabbing the knife, stabbing him back, holding his head up as a trophy while, say, cradling an orphan you just rescued.

    Then wait for people to ask about them, and say that Otto took them “a few years back”– he’ll love it. You could have endless fun this way!

  7. Tammy

    Glad to hear that Mom-of-Otto is doing better–hope things continue in that direction.

    And? If Otto would like a “challenging” photo situation, you know, to prepare for those Photo Olympic Games coming up, send him our way. 4/5 of our family does GREAT when it comes to a group picture. But not Middle Child. He always looks goofy. On purpose. *sigh* Perhaps this is inherent Middle Child behavior? We wouldn’t know…both hubbo and I only have one other sibling.

  8. Katie

    Yea! that Otto Mom is feeling better. Sadly, I have one child, and I am always the one looking dumb in pictures. The baby is photogenic. He and the hubs always look good. I guess some has to mess it up.

  9. bob

    that is good news about Otto’s mom.

    a lot of people who are proud of what they do don’t like to be second guessed. not that that is what you were doing, but I’d bet Otto jumped to that conclusion. after all, he’d already gone through all of those pictures and selected the best. now, here you are wanting to see for yourself. i expect that, in normal circumstances, he’d’ve handled it much much better.

    I’m sure he was sorry 2 minutes after he stalked off.

  10. elizabeth

    the PS idea is brilliant! really, if the shots being combined were within moments of each other and you’ve got the skills to make it less than obvious. no real fraud, right?
    but a “slide show” with only two shots? um, yeah. not so much.
    I’m the camera person in my house and tho I will dump the absolute worst of the group, I can’t help but share ALL shots taken.

  11. Pat

    My husband’s mother had a similar episode & the Doctors decided that she takes too much Tylenol. (worth asking about)

  12. paige

    Hooray for Mom-of-Otto! Must be something in the air in the US…Biker Hubby’s granddad went into the hospital this winter with multiple organ failure and we got the “this is the end” call. Biker Hubby started wrapping up loose threads and calling airlines.

    Then grandpa sort of lingered. Then lingering turned into getting more energy. Then into eating again (“He CAN’T eat” the doctors said “His entire intestinal tract is DEAD. Why is he eating?”) When he started yelling at the doctors, they decided to send him home so he could yell at his family instead.

    And now he’s just hanging out at home, eating and yelling and being hugged almost to death every day by a legion of grandkids and great grandkids.

    I feel for you and Otto. Biker Hubby and I have the same sort of dynamic over photos…though I’m the Otto in that scenario.

    That’s the truly, deeply wonderful thing…being in a relationship that’s strong enough that spats are not the end of the world, just another incident on the communication journey.

  13. Jamie AZ

    So glad to hear Otto’s mom is doing better. Hopefully the docs can get to the bottom of what’s going on so as to prevent it from happening again. That’s definitely enough stress for any family!

    Ah, picture taking. Can I just say that I LOVE digital?! I can take 40 pictures of my two kiddos and hope for one that looks decent (I didn’t say good) and not worry about the expense of film and processing. I can see how Otto should be the “photo expert” in your house as I feel I am in my house (4 years of photography in high school and college), but I also have to remind myself that I’ve forgotten a lot of the technical aspects of my classes and could use a refresher! I love the PhotoShop solution, though. Who wouldn’t want a “perfect” picture of their two on-your-very-last-nerve-take-a-nice-picture-already kids? :)

  14. laurie

    no growing pains, no glory….

  15. Brigitte

    Ah, those lurvely “communication issues”. They do seem to happen most when both are stressed over various stuff.

    My hubby often reads criticism or various “tones” to my voice that I totally WASN’T saying, but then I’ve always been a complete geek with a total inability to communicate to anyone, so maybe it’s not just him. :-) Glad to hear MIL is astounding her doctors.

  16. Katie in MA

    Oh, I’m so happy Mom-of-Otto is feeling better! I hope she is on the mend, not without the cureall of Ginger Ale. (Which will always taste like home to me, especially if I drink it out of a tupperware cup. That’s how my mom served it when we were sick.)

    As for the hissy fits – well, yeah. Of COURSE he had one coming. And I bet he feels much better now that he doesn’t have to pretend that he’s “fine.” He gets one big giant pass until his mom is better.

    Being a grown-up is so much fun, eh?

  17. daring one

    Dan and I get along great with the picture taking because we both take millions, we love every picture we take regardless of its merit and we have about 40 gagillion gagigaterabytes of memory in which to store them.

    One reason I love your blog is because you’re so real Mir but still a sweetness. You can write about an actual rough spot in your marriage without mocking or berating your husband. A rare talent indeed.

  18. suburbancorrespondent

    Really, it’s amazing, when you think how any 2 people can get on each others’ nerves, that the divorce rate is only at 50 percent or so. I would have pegged it ’round about 97 or 98.

  19. Cele

    Well you could see and understand that meltdown from ten paces…twenty nine if you’re astute. I am glad Otto’s mother is doing better, hugs to you all.

    Claiming the seat for your own…and the crayons too makes you a kewl mom. Otto photographing the whole thing makes him a kewl dad.

  20. Jean

    It warms my heart (sadly) to hear a “real” photographer say that it’s difficult to get 2 kids to smile and look nice for a photo!!

    I have been driven to tears more than once, twice, three times a lady, trying to get a decent picture of my three kids together. I have begged, cajoled and stormed off in tears swearing that if, as adults, they wonder why there aren’t any photos of their childhood, I’ll be happy to tell them EXACTLY why they are missing.

    I sympathize. I understand. Glad to hear that Otto has returned and health matters are improving. Everything else will, too.

  21. Beth

    So glad to hear that Otto’s mom is improving! Will continue to pray for her to heal completely and for the docs to figure things out so she can go on to thrive for many, many more years.

    If she’s Up North she probably is suffering from a ginger ale deficiency. We visited our home state at Christmas and found it almost impossible to find ginger ale in the stores. Very odd. Here in NC I can choose from 3 major brands plus store brands…up there, nothing.

  22. Mike Golch

    MIR,I Hope Otto’s Mom inproves.I will continue to keep her in my prayers. Hugs and God’s Blessings. I hope thay you guys have a great day and weekend! Mike G. said that.
    P.S. Celestine and I are snipings at each other all the time, I would not have it any other way. Simply because making up is soo much fun!

  23. Sue @ My Party of 6

    Yay for Mom-of-Otto! Keep the good news coming. And I’m with you. I totally photoshop my kids. Or you could just keep taking pictures of their feet and forget their faces. Those came out nice! No smiling required.

  24. Crisanne

    So now you think you’re so great because your husband has flaws. Gah! :)

    Glad to hear Mom-of-Otto is improving. Clearly she still has her spirit about her, which makes so much difference. I’ll continue to keep you all in my prayers.

  25. Karen

    So happy to hear that Otto’s mom is on the mend. My other half and I have similiar type spats, only my family thinks he is perfect and that if there is a disagreement it must be fault. (eyes rolling)

  26. Daisy

    He didn’t save the shoe shots? Oh, my. He must be stressed.

  27. Dawn

    So glad to hear Mom-of-Otto is improving. Here’s to a total recovery.

    Poor Otto. He must have been so stressed out lately. There’s nothing that relieves stress like a good hissy fit. You were just being a good wife by providing the catalyst for said fit.

    The things we do for them, eh?

  28. Anissa@Hope4Peyton

    It’s all about knowing your faults, knowing his and loving each other through them. We have many many MANY “Otto has a hissy” days and we get through them with lots of love and patience.

    Still praying for mother of Otto.

  29. Caroline in MA

    So happy to hear that Otto’s Mom is on the mend… prayers for a continued and complete recovery.


  30. Tj

    What a scene to be captured on film. Hope Otto caught a good picture of the spectacle :)

  31. Heidi

    Hooray for Mom-of-Otto’s improvement!

  32. Em

    First thing – I am so glad to hear that Otto’s mom is on the road to recovery and is annoying nurses. Where I work, if one is well enough to annoy, one is too well to be there. What a happy thing to be annoyed in those situations.

    Second, my MIL is an ameteur photographer. By that I mean, instead of having the camera on auto, she messes with all of the settings and her camera probably cost more than my car. Also, her pictures are gorgeous. All of which add up in my mind to her being and ameteur professional. It makes her ill that I put dates on all of my photos. I can’t even help it. If a camera won’t add the date, I don’t want it. It is my very favorite feature in a camera (don’t tell my kids, but without the date, I might not be able to differentiate them in baby pictures. Babyhood was a fuzzy time for me.). So, yeah, I get how those photographer types can be but I say photoshop on, sister, if it floats your boat! Let THEM take the artsy, fancy pictures. You just make sure you don’t accidently paste Chickie’s head on Monkey’s body.

  33. Em

    Darnit. I spelled amateur wrong twice. I’m going back to school.

  34. toni mcgee causey

    Wait… kids… SMILE for photos? I have three billion pictures of Luke making faces and Jake looking the wrong direction. I didn’t know they could take regular photos until graduation. (Well, there was the time I threatened them with the curtailing of their daily SKITTLE intake, which, according to their report to Child Protective Services, was the equivalent of threatening to chop off their arms.)

  35. annette

    I am so happy that Otto’s mom is doing better. I will continue to pray for her. And, I am totally jealous of your photoshop ability. we have 6 kids and never is there a good picture. I just have accepted that, kind-of. And, I don’t take as many pictures…that way I don’t feel like a failure as much:) a psychologist friend of mine would say that is a manifestation of my perfectionism. I can’t do it at the level I like so I just don’t do it…sigh…

    Good for you that you keep doing it!

  36. StephLove

    I’m glad to hear Otto’s mom is well enough to irritate the nurses.

    My own MIL gave us a scare this week. After minor surgery she had a reaction to a painkiller they gave her and stopped breathing. She was on a respirator overnight but better the next day. Then we found out she’s caught pneumonia in the hospital.

    Partner has been tense and grumpy. I think that’s what happens when your mom almost dies.

  37. All Adither

    No one ever has hissy fits around here.

    P.S. Where’s Otto’s comment on this one? Hmm? :)

  38. Astrogirl426

    First, the love: Very happy to hear Otto’s mom is on the road to recovery.

    Second: Yes, well, my oh my. I guess we’re all so used to hearing about how wonderful Otto is, that we forget that Otto is (gasp!) human, and thusly prone to Losing His Shit like the rest of us, especially when under stress. BTW I think I know that look Otto got when you told him about your Mad Photoshop Skillz; Bunker Hubs the land surveyor got the same look on his face when I told him I never took calculus, because I am girl and Math Makes My Head Huuuuurt (lol just kidding, I rock at math, but I got sick of answering his questions about “How? How? How could I not take calculus in high school? It is the ESSENCE OF LIFE ITSELF”. Sheesh, get a grip.)

    I can’t WAIT until I get to embarrass my own kiddo – I figure, being a boy, the curve is a little farther behind than if he was a girl. So probably when he’s 25, I should be able to mortify him sufficiently. Can’t wait.

  39. Mom on the Run

    We had Christmas photos where one child has been bribed with M&Ms and one is bawling. Like you, I look for the best of the bunch. No fingers up noses, no scowls…but a half smile is sometimes the best I can do.

  40. Claudious

    Photographing my children is an act of patience, and watching my wife do it, she’s a real angel… I want to start screaming and standing on stuff, and she simply takes more pictures. Thank heavens that we’re past the time of film.

  41. Lady M

    Photoshop all the way, my friend.

  42. jwgmom

    Glad to hear she’s better and Otto’s home. Now could he figure out what’s going on with his blog?

  43. mamalang

    This is the third person in the last 3 months I’ve heard that was in complete organ failure and a few days later was fine. There must be some unknown virus or something…strange huh? Anyway, I’m very happy for you all that she is getting better.

  44. Flea

    My Hunny’s the visual artist in our house as well. I feel your pain, woman!

  45. just beth

    You mean you guys are HUMAN?? Not like all perfect or something?? I’m shocked.


    Glad MOO is doing better. Wait, MOO looks terrible. Otto’s mom.

    I’m just going to shut up now.



  46. jennielynn

    I’m just going to tell you now that after having Missy Hoohaw’s portrait done at Penny’s, I hugged the photographer and brought her Mrs. Fields cookies later in the day. Yes, Missy is that difficult.

  47. Heather

    Otto, I will send you money, muffins and more if you would kindly just post the picture of Mir hugging crayons.

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