The making of the cover of my new book, Love Is in the Mix, was quite an experience! I always get really nervous about photo shoots because I know that it takes a lot of energy and preparation. It's also always a long day for everyone involved in the planning and organization -- and there is that hope that we can manage to pull off ONE magical picture, and if we are lucky, a bunch more that capture the day exactly right -- so we have more than just the "cover shot" image. For this shoot I had a vision of what I wanted for the cover of my long dreamed of cookbook, but I knew carrying it out would take a lot MORE effort than what I saw in my mind's eye.

It started with the normal "pick a date that everyone is available" fiasco. There were holidays, school projects, sports events, and other weekend scheduled events to consider, and the photographer's schedule was an obvious factor as well. But, despite it all we nailed a date somewhat easily! Whew! Once that was done we hopped on the phone to do the "creative" call with the publisher. This is where everyone brainstorms, out loud, to get all visions for the project aligned. For me, these calls are always interesting because any shoot or project we do involves "big dreams" on the part of the production company or publisher -- and hey, I NEVER knock big dreams because I dream bigger than life on a daily basis and then kill myself to achieve them! But when it comes to my EIGHT kids being involved, this is no small feat and my "mom hat" goes on. At my insistence, each one of these shoots has to be attainable, comfortable, and most of all, FUN for my kids. Those are always my top priorities, and if that is achieved, the rest is just gravy. Period.

On this particular call, for this latest cover shoot, we had a really fun meeting of the minds. My passion is creating dishes in my kitchen and writing books. The publisher, on the other hand, sees the menagerie of creative possibilities for the actual book format. So on this call we began creating; each of us pouring our various ideas into one big pot that would eventually become my cookbook! It was a really productive call and, I must say, that it has been a delight to work with my publisher, HCI, for this project -- I am so blessed! They inherently respected that I have done these types of shoots many times and took my lead, allowing me to make the schedule to best suit my kids' needs and wants, while also getting their "shot list" accomplished. It helped that our assigned photographer is a mom herself -- so she understood "the way we roll" and doled out heaps of patience and tons of grace!

After the call, it hit me: I had nine outfits to pick in a palette of coordinating colors, a kitchen to clean like it was brand new, grocery shopping for a long and varied list of items (so that I could prepare the dishes on the "shoot day list"), and nine people had to be "picture ready" right after breakfast on that chosen date! OMG!

I remember hanging up the phone following that conference call and saying, "Oh crap! I have A LOT to do!" out loud to the few amphibians who were in the room with me, happily -- and obliviously -- swimming in their bowls on our kitchen table. I had no time to pause! Hurry, Kate! The pressure is on!

That night at dinner, when I told my kids about the upcoming picture day, they were excited -- and very supportive. I've given up trying to count how many times they've asked me for my recipes so they can "cook them for our kids someday!" How cute is that? They are delighted to know that "our" next book is a cookbook -- and were all totally "on board!"

They have also come to enjoy family pictures as they've gotten older and love to see the results! Our house is always hopping during these shoots -- and every single time my kids make new friends and enjoy hanging out with "old friends" too! It's such a blessing to see these new friendships form as my kids quiz each person, with genuine interest, about their role in the shoot! All eight also know that there are always great surprises built into the day to make it extra super fun!

Like any mom, on "family picture day", I try to keep the mood light and happy and hand out extra rewards for pleasant and helpful attitudes! It's important to me that I present their favorite lunch and favorite snacks; this has become a special tradition for us! Gone are the days of "stressed out mom" syndrome. Now I keep the stress inside and focus on plain old fun! Funny what some age and experience can do to a mom, huh?

During this particular shoot though, none of the above mentioned added "extras" were really necessary because very early on, the kids realized that ALL pictures involved food ... them EATING food for nearly every picture ... and by food, I mean desserts and sweets! That great news spread through my house like wild fire! Kids were sticking close by the kitchen to see what yummy item I would need a "volunteer eater" for next! They all tasted each dessert (as well as many other "real foods") but I surely didn't lack for participants! During one picture they were presented with chocolate cake and that was followed by chocolate no-bake cookies, just to name a few! Can you say sugar?! Kids were bouncing happy here!

I had to laugh because by dinner time that night, after the shoot was all cleaned up, the kids said, "Dinner? No we are still really full from eating all day!" What?! When do MY kids ever say that? They are always ready to eat. Always! That was too funny.

All in all, what I thought could have been a kitchen nightmare due to the overwhelming amount of preparation involved (and the added internal stress that I put on myself because I really wanted it to turn out "just right") actually turned out to be a great day filled with lots of yummy food, memories worth remembering, and we even added a few new friends!

My, how far we have come ... Anyone recall the "family photo" at the Christmas tree farm, featured on our show on TLC in 2006? Ouch!

What are some of your family picture day memories?