This year’s group of Cute Kid Cover Contest entrants made our job miserably difficult. One category in particular, the three-to-five-year-old Cutest Tots, was particularly grueling as the readers’ votes were so close on the top five or six children it really fell on our shoulders to pick from the wealth of adorableness.
In the end, I just didn’t want to accept that we couldn’t feature all of the kids…so I decided we would do a First Timers’ Fashion Feature [page 28] to give parents of incoming preschoolers and kindergartners a preview of what was out there for school clothes. And we invited all of the runners up to be our models.
Shopping head-to-sneakers for six different kids with varying sizes, from six different stores or designers, turned out to be about as challenging and heartwrenching as picking the winner was! So much cuteness, how is a mama to pick? (If you happened to see a harried woman running through Irvine Spectrum carrying 17 bags two weeks ago, you will understand my woes.)
Meanwhile, I put my 14 year-old and his friend on the job of testing out the fun things to do in the shopping center for our Back to School Shopping Guide [page 39]. Colin tried out a stylin’ haircut at Belle Isle, my Nakoa perused the Storymakery offerings, both sampled heavily from list of entertainment options at The Ride 7D. We decided to bring the boxes of Casey’s Cupcakes to treat the Cute Tots (and their parents) post-shoot.
I enlisted the help of the boys, both incoming sophomores and soccer refs used to herding cats handling kids this age, during our photoshoot. Ana, who is a genius at all things related to child photography, made it seem like an easy breezy affair. But then, she wasn’t trying to wriggle a half dozen little people into clothes in the cavernous back of the new Escalade (aka, our mobile dressing room) on a sunny afternoon pushing 100.
The boys were invaluable and might have inadvertently created a new job for themselves. Colin had a full ten minute chat with our tiny cover girl at the top of a Jungle Jim (he has four sisters, so this was your average Thursday for him) and Nakoa was behind the scenes lifting little DJ Santana up behind the Pegagus School sign without being caught in the shot and trying to dole out a dozen cupcakes without any tears (except from one mom who dearly wished her child had gone for the chocolate mocha rather than the bubble gum topped strawberry).
Six tiny people. Well over 150 photographs, in less than an hour. It was chaos, it was madness, it was heartbreakingly sweet. And as I piled my giant-in-comparison boys back into our trial Escalade to set off on the Palm Springs and San Diego road trips [page 56], I thought about my nervous little guy on his first day of school wearing a backpack half his size, and couldn’t help but miss those days. Along with the chaos. And the madness. And the heartbreaking sweetness.