Monday, January 04, 2010

Lumpyhead's Law

Bump's mother decreed that for her next birthday, she will be surrounded by all of her grandchildren. On a boat. A big boat.

Yay, right? Except I may have to be at work.

While I am disappointed by this, Bump is positively horrified by the specter of having to travel with three children on his own. Indeed, if given the choice between the office and a Caribbean cruise - a cruise wherein one is expected to fly to Tampa, board a ship, spend several days at sea, disembark and fly back to DC with three children aged four-and-a-half, three, and eighteen months - I think the office wins.

I approach parenting with a modified version of Murphy's Law, let's call it Lumpyhead's Law: Shit WILL go wrong, just try to prevent catastrophe. The cruise line strongly recommends all passengers have passports in case an event like sickness, missed departure, etc. requires air travel. Therefore Bump's mother strongly recommended the children get passports, and her travel agent urged us to get passports, which meant Bump's mother really, really wanted us to get passports. In the spirit of Lumpyhead's Law, we decided to get passports for the tormentors.

Dudes. Passports cost a freaking fortune. Sixty bucks for the State Department. Twenty-five bucks for the Post Office. When I read that the Post Office charged $15 for passport photos, the Dutch in me kicked in. Hell, I have an off-white wall right here in my kitchen. The internet says you can make your own passport photos. Fuck the fifteen dollars; I can do it for twenty cents.

But you know what I can't do? Get my children to take passport photos in the kitchen.
I don't think the State Department would find these acceptable.
These either.
But hey, these are pretty good.

I was pleased with my efforts. Two by two inches, exactly? Check! Faces measuring between 1" and 1 and 3/8" from top of head to bottom of chin? Check! High-quality prints? I'll print them at Target, just in case my printer is not acceptable. Check! Final price? Sixty cents. (Not including the hours I spent cajoling my children against a blank wall and cropping and measuring photos, of course. One and three-eighths of an inch can bite my ass.)

Then we went to the post office. The very nice lady who processed our applications worried that the background was too dark on my DIY passport photos. "Where did you get these done?" she sneered. ("Uhh…" "Oh.") She fretted about our departure date and my decision not to expedite the processing. (But we're seven weeks out! Expedited processing is another seventy-five bucks per kid! You may get $3.30 from me for some bullshit "domestic money order fee" because I have a debit card instead of an actual checkbook, but you will not browbeat me into another $225, so help me god, Very Nice Lady.)

Very Nice Lady dutifully filled out forms and stamped things and clucked "so cute" and handed the now-feral children activity books. She worried more about the photos. "It costs fifteen dollars to do them here," she told me, "but the photo place two doors down will do it for six dollars. I just don't want the State Department to deny your applications, it being this close to your departure."

That's when I caved. Nearly fifty bucks for photos is a load of crap, but eighteen dollars? If I knew I could get real passport photos for $18 I wouldn't have bothered with all those shots of Nathan Jr's ear in the kitchen.

Bump took the children to the photo place while I continued with the paperwork. Turns out the $6 price was for adults. Children under five cost $11.

But hey, you know what a photo place can do? Take acceptable passport photos of all three of my children in about forty-five seconds.
Boom. Boom. Boom.

The only reported difficulty was that Lumpyhead kept smiling, and the photo place demanded neutral expressions. (Nathan Jr certainly has the blank/I have a cold/"why are you flashing that thing at me" expression mastered, doesn't he?)

Very Nice Lady was pleased with the new photos. Several minutes later, we had completed passport applications. The whole process took about two hours (not counting the kitchen photo shoot - and subsequent cropping and measuring - which I heartily recommend against).

Bump and I fully expect the passports to arrive two days after the kids leave on the trip.


Anonymous said...

Our passports last year came in ...drum roll please...less than two weeks after we mailed them. This during the whole "State Department is in a slow-down, it may take months" phase. I wouldn't worry. (I got our photos taken for about $8 at Eckerd Drug and thought, "I could have done it cheaper at home," but clearly I couldn't have done it more easily.)
- Work Sarah

merseydotes said...

Oooh, this is so helpful and timely. I just spent time online today filling out the online application for Petunia. Basil's dear friend is getting married (technically they're already married and it's a ring ceremony, but whatever) in Scotland on April 3 so we're taking Petunia. We need to do the photos and submit. Can you message me offline as to which post office you went to?

Devra said...

FYI the Post Office lets you smile for the picture. We just had ours done.

And we had to expedite them because my husband couldn't remember the combination to our safe.

If you don't enjoy the cruise I will kick your ass. Or better yet, I will take your kids on the cruise. I have a passport.

nonlineargirl said...

Just don't try to calculate the value of the time you lost fiddling with those pictures.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

She does good work. I wonder if I can get her to shoot a Christmas card for us next year.

Steve said...

OMG, I love, love, LOVE Lulu's 2nd picture. That is brilliant. I owuld totalyl blow that one up to an 8x10.

Violet said...

Great photos - your kids look so cute even with their mandatory neutral expressions. Our passports expire this year and I reckon it could be a long-winded exercise getting the passport photos up to spec.

emma said...

just came across your blog & post - we live in Nova nr dulles - is your passport photo place anywhere close to that? I dread kids & pic places!! if it's in my neck (or within 20-30 mins, would you mind sending me a note offline where you went? Thanks!!! (eternally greatful!!)