Ten Reasons Why Lakes Are Better Than Everything Else

Okay, people: this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it’s really earth-shattering, so I hope you’ll give it serious consideration.

After having spent time in many different bodies of water this summer, from pools to lakes to streams to ponds to the ocean, I have decided that, of them all, lakes are unequivocally better than the rest.

I think we can all agree that ponds, streams, rivers, and creeks are cute enough, especially as water features in backyards. They’re fun, too, what with ponds freezing over for ice skating and creeks containing all sorts of hiding spots for creatures that kids love to hunt, not to mention things like rafting and rope swings. And there’s, like, fly fishing in rivers and all that jazz. But beyond that, they don’t really count.

Which leaves us pools, lakes, and oceans as the only “true” summer water spots. I know there are people who will swear that a pool is the only way to go, or that the ocean is superior, but, well… how do I say this…

They’re wrong.

This is not just conjecture but has been determined based on evidence, research, and cold hard facts (which are totally my opinions, but after having thought about this so seriously, it’s basically irrefutable. Obvs). Allow me to explain further.

Comparison #1: WILD THINGS

So, yeah, the ocean has lots of amazing and fascinating animals that live in or near it. Penguins and sea lions and adorable pods of dolphins and herons and neat-o crabs and, like, an entire ecosystem. Oh, and whales! And sea turtles! Sea turtles are cool! The wildlife of the ocean is rad and vast and a marine biologist’s nirvana.

But there’s also plenty of wildlife to be found in lakes – fish and birds and crawdads and frogs and turtles and dragonflies. True, they may not be as varied as the ocean, but there is no shortage of creatures that make their homes lakeside.

fish annie
fish ella dragonfly

Pools have no wildlife at all unless you count the frogs and snakes and errant mice that accidentally fall in. You cannot (successfully) go fishing or crabbing in a pool. You will not hear a loon’s haunting cry from the oval in your backyard. Pools are wildlife-free.

On the other hand, unless you’re playing Marco Polo and you’re the Marco-caller with your eyes closed, you’ll probably never be standing waist-deep in a pool and suddenly feel something brush against your calf (omg what was that???), sending you running to shore in a frenzied panic. There’s something to be said for that.

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 2
Pools: 1


Yes, both oceans and lakes are home to fascinating animals, but there is one very important distinction between the two: the things that you find in lakes are probably not going to hunt you down and kill you. Did Jaws take place in a lake? Orca? Moby Dick? There are no sharks in lakes. Or crazy eels. Or jellyfish. Or any of the myriad other stinging, biting things that can come up out of the bottomless deep and scare the bejeezus out of you or swallow you whole.

Like oh, say, this six-foot delight that a fisherman accidentally reeled in twenty feet in front of us on the beach in Kiawah a few years back. It was kinda cool, but are you kidding me??

I mean, sure, there are some potentially fear-inducing creatures in lakes – crayfish, small water snakes, really ugly catfish – but they’re harmless minnows compared to paralyzing jellyfish and freakin’ sharks.
summer geese
You know what my kids said when they saw this flock of birds? “Oh, look! A whole family of geese!” You know what they didn’t say? “I could feel the vibration of this entire shark gnawing into my skin. You could feel the whole body shaking as it’s digging into my torso.” BECAUSE THERE AREN’T SHARKS IN LAKES, OMG.

Likewise, because pools contain no wildlife whatsoever (not on purpose, anyway), they are void of life-threatening creatures as well. Hence…

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 1

Comparison #3: COLLECTIBLES

The critters that swim and nest and frolic in oceans and lakes aren’t the only treasures to be found there. Who hasn’t gone to the ocean and returned home with beautiful shells, sand dollars, driftwood, or a starfish that was once alive and happy but ultimately suffocated and died so it could become part of a beachy display in the living room? Oceans are full of such riches, and there is little more enjoyable than walking along a flat stretch of beach and hunting for seashells; it’s almost mythical. After all, no one sold their shells by the pool deck, did they?

While not as prolific, lakes do have shells, too. And driftwood. And sea glass (lake glass?). And if you happen to be among the lucky ones who can visit one of the Finger Lakes in western New York, you’ll also find gazillions of fossils along the shore.fossils2fossils1These guys have stars on their ends – neat, no?

Despite the evidence presented here, the variety of fossils is endless, and my girls and I have spent countless hours combing the shoreline for them, marveling over their age (“These are really millions of years old, Mommy??”), and inventing stories about what they were like before they became fossilized.

You will not be finding fossils and shells in your neighborhood pool. As lovely as diving toys and foam noodles and floating beer coolers can be, they are not typically considered collectibles.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 1
Pools: 0

Comparison #4: FAUNA

In fairness, one (small) plus to swimming in a pool is that you never have to worry that you’ll be happily swimming along and suddenly find yourself screeching like an octopus has ensnared you from below, entangled in a patch of weeds that have grown ten feet straight up from the bottom. You also won’t come out covered in algae (I hope) or that nasty, stinky seaweed with the little popper bubbles on them. Pools, while boring, are nevertheless devoid of slimy plants. Lakes and oceans? Not so much.

Lakes: 0
Oceans: 0
Pools: 1

Comparison #5: Visibility

There are a good many people who say they prefer pools to oceans and lakes simply because they can see the bottom. (Tip: if the pool is so murky you can’t see the bottom, swimming in said water is probably a bad idea. Unless you think a course of penicillin sounds like fun.) Yeah, I think those people are pretty much wimps and aren’t the type you’d invite to join your Amazing Race team, but still, I can’t deny that there’s something comforting about knowing what you’re getting into. Literally.

With that said, there are many, many days when the water at my family’s lake house is so clear and still we are easily able to see the bottom – even from the end of the dock. Sure, that’s not possible when you’re out in the middle and it’s deeper, but if you’re just looking to enjoy swimming near shore and you want to know what’s below you, you’re in luck.

Oceans, on the other hand, are always mysterious. The ever-changing, ever-moving water provides little to no opportunity to see into the depths, meaning you’re totally taking your life into your own hands every time you venture in.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 2


Some would argue that the very inconsistent nature of the ocean makes it more appealing. To this I say, that’s crap. Sure, there’s a certain allure to having the tides come in and out, to the waves crashing about, to the fact that every hour will bring something different. It’s certainly never boring. But that doesn’t make it better.

Lakes, too, have waves. You can fall asleep to the gentle lapping of the water, brushing the shoreline. You can bob along medium-sized crests, floating gently on your tube. Or, if you so choose, you can crash around on white capped peaks. My point is, there are definitely waves on lakes, but they’re not usually the knock-you-about, overturn-your-boat, rip-your-bathing-suit-from-you kind.

My husband loves these kinds of waves, the ones big enough to turn you about and cover your head and send you on a nice, long bodysurf. I endure these kinds of waves, because I’m sensible enough to understand that it’s not fun to be pummeled in the face by water so hard that it hurts, to be unable to breathe, and to not be able to feel the ground beneath your feet.

This was taken while we were in Puerto Rico. Yes, it seems all tropical and lovely and bodysurf-y – and it was all tropical and lovely and bodysurf-y – but I had to fight like the dickens to keep my bathing suit on because the damn waves kept tearing it off. 

In addition to waves, oceans have tides – something having to do with the moon and magic and all that – which means that you absolutely never know how high the water will come up onto the beach on any given day. It’s like a constant surprise party, except without cake or alcohol. On Tuesday at noon, you may be able to launch yourself off the pier and into the (dark, mysterious) sea ten feet deep. On Wednesday at noon, the water may be out so far, the pier sits – dry, in the sun – and jumping off is only appropriate if one is hoping for an ambulance ride to the ER.

On a lake, there is no such variation, and dock-jumping is always okay.laborday48
It’s especially okay when you’re playing a game of “Categories.”

Also, tides wreak havoc on carefully built sand castles. After spending hours painstakingly constructing turrets and moats decorated with the aforementioned seashells and seaweed, your beloved masterpiece will be instantly washed away by a rogue wave as the tide sneaks up on you again (surprise!!) and your daughters will dissolve into hysterical puddles upon seeing their princess castle disappear.

Ask me how I know.

Because lakes don’t have tides, there are no AWOL waves to ruin your daughters’ childhood. There are also no currents – those invisible but ridiculously strong jets of water that run along the shore, waiting to drag unsuspecting beach-goers out to sea. Even the strongest of swimmers can be torn away by rip tides and currents, which basically means that no one is safe at the ocean, ever. SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK, SUCKERS.

Lakes, by contrast, do not have life-threatining currents, so you can wade in to your heart’s content and know that you won’t be yanked off your feet. Pools, of course, are static containers of water and do not have waves, tides, or currents… which, depending on your point of view, is both absurdly banal (unlike oceans and lakes) and appealingly un-deadly (unlike oceans).

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 1
Pools: 1

Comparison #7: ACTIVITIES

There are few of us whose childhood memories don’t involve a rip-roaring afternoon spent at a pool. Games of Marco Polo, hunting for “treasure” by collecting coins that were dumped from the jar on the kitchen table into the deep end, jumping off the diving board, playing “Categories” as you launched yourself in from the side, performing handstands in the shallow end and begging your mom to “WATCH ME! WATCH ME! WATCH ME!”, learning how to do a cannonball, floating in the inflatable lounge chair with the drink holder on the side… Those were the days, and they were damn fine days.

Admittedly, it would be difficult to play some of these games in a lake or ocean (where throwing buckets of quarters into the waves is typically frowned upon), but the open expanse of these bodies of water means that even more fun can be had. You can go tubing, waterskiing, and wakeboarding. You can fish and snorkel and scuba dive. You can jump on water trampolines, play King of the Castle on anchored rafts, and jump off of wooden towers into the water below. You can kayak, canoe, boat, windsurf, sail, paddleboard, and jet ski . You can (often) build spectacular sandcastles and sculptures; you can (often) dig a hole deep enough to hide in or wrap the grains around you like a sand sleeping bag. You can board a yacht or a rowboat and have a bonfire right on the beach. Simply put, there’s way more to do in an ocean or a lake than there is in a pool.

We cannot paddleboard in a pool. Not that I’ve tried. But I’m pretty sure.

With that said, the irregularity of ocean waves oftentimes make it impossible to engage in a good many activities. Can’t nobody be sailing in 30 foot swells or having a bonfire when the tide has completely covered the beach. Because lake conditions are more predictable, you can almost always dive* right into whatever tickles your fancy (*see what I did there?), so that gives lakes a small advantage in this here category.10403338_10152552138420295_7294721342386609593_n
You think a seven and nine year-old could go on a solo kayak paddle hundreds of yards away on the open ocean? THINK AGAIN. #LakePower!

Lakes: 2.5
Oceans: 2
Pools: 1

Comparison #8: VISTA

“Man, the sunset over the lake today was just spectacular” – said regularly

“Wow, watching the sunrise along the horizon of the ocean was absolutely magical” – uttered with frequency

“Jeepers, the sky as seen from the pool this afternoon was simply breathtaking” – spoken by basically no one at any time, or at least not as often as the sentiments above

summer sunset
You won’t overlook this scene from a pool. Unless it’s a lakeside or oceanside pool.

The view from lakes and oceans is magnificent.
The view from pools can be somewhat beautiful from time to time. Kind of.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 1
Pools: 0

Comparison #9: THE WATER ITSELF

It always amazes me that this is actually up for debate and doesn’t automatically push lakes right up to the top every single time, but apparently some people are insane feel differently than I do about lake water being superior to pool or ocean water. I don’t know that I can say it any more plainly than this, so I’m just going to go for it: salt and chlorine suck. Salt stings your eyes and makes your nose hurt and gets all up in your hair, but not in a cute tussled way – in a this-needs-to-be-washed-immediately way. It coats your skin and everything that comes into contact with it, even if you’re only coming close to the ocean and not actually entering it. (For example: we drove our rental car in Puerto Rico all around the island, but never directly into the water {duh} and it was still coated in a thin layer of ocean salt that was so thick, we were unable to see out the back windows. Side note: we could find absolutely no washer fluid bucket thingies at Puerto Rican gas stations, so we had to cross our fingers and hope it would rain. It finally did.) Also, saltwater tastes absolutely horrible and, ironically, makes you thirsty. Saltwater is nasty.

Chlorine has more going for it than saltwater, but only by default. Being near a pool will not cause your car to be coated in any substance that needs to be chiseled off with an ice pick, but all the rest hold true – albeit often to a lesser degree. Chlorinated water irritates the heck out of your eyes, can get all up in your nose and make you hella uncomfortable, and is absolutely horrible for your hair, turning it into a tangled, thick, smelly, green-hewed mess. It also tastes like crap. After being in the ocean or a pool, you need to shower – to get wet again – in order to clean off. HOW CRAZY IS THAT.

Lakes, on the other hand, are often so pure and lovely, you come out of them even cleaner than you were before you went in. Your hair is in good shape, your car is not covered in anything except bird poop and whatever your kids spilled from their lunch boxes, you can open your eyes underwater with absolutely no difficulty, and you don’t need to get yourself wet again after coming out of the lake for the final time that day. In fact, lakes are so clean, you can sometimes drink from them with absolutely no side effects.

Post-shampoo jump in
See? So clean, we actually bathe IN the lake.
I know, I know… putting stuff like shampoo into lakes makes them less clean… but we use only fully biodegradable products and don’t bathe too often; so far, so good.

Lakes: 1
Oceans: 0
Pools: 0

Comparison #10: SAND

I have already mentioned that one of the things you can do at oceans and beaches is play with – and in – the sand. What I did not say, however, is that doing so is fun, nor did I refer to it as one of the benefits that oceans and beaches have over pools. This omission was not accidental.

I think sand is evil.

Okay, so it can be fun. It can feel delicious under your feet, sometimes spongy, sometimes rock solid, sometimes slippery. It is mesmerizing when poured gently from your fingers. It can, indeed, be used to create hours of entertainment; I have very happily built many a sand castle – without my children, even – poring over the details of the design. I have buried myself (and others) beneath the beach, marveling at how much cooler the sand is one foot below the surface. I have ridden bikes and gone running beside the water during low tide and have carved messages along the shore, watching wistfully as the waves creep in and erase my words piece by piece. Yes, sand can be fabulous – mesmerizing and addictive, even.

But, like so many mesmerizingly addictive things, there’s a downside to sand. I mean, crack is addictive, but that doesn’t make it good for you. At first, sand is like movie popcorn, all buttery and warm and heavenly and you can’t stop shoveling it toward you. But then, before you know it, that familiar feeling settles in: dread. With movie popcorn, it’s because you know you just consumed your entire day’s worth of calories and now your mouth is coated in the weird filmy nastiness and you’d really like to go to the bathroom because you kind of feel sick but you’re so damn full of popcorn, you can’t even move.

With sand, it’s because you know that there will be hell to pay for even going near it. Sand, like my nemesis, superfine glitter, gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to remove. Trying to eat a nice picnic beside the shore? I hope you don’t mind a little extra grit in your food. You brought water with you so you can refresh yourself after an hour playing in the sun? Good luck brushing off the tiny grains of sand that have adhered themselves exactly on the mouth of the bottle. And don’t even think about eating anything sticky beside the ocean; I still remember how my soul died a little death the day I dropped my Ring Pop in the sand when I was about eight. THE HUMANITY.

You can lay a towel on the beach so that you have somewhere clean to sit and declare it a no sand zone, but we all know that sand, like guerrilla fighters, infiltrates everything without you even knowing it. Long after you’ve left the shore, you will be finding sand in places that never even made it out of the house. And let’s not forget the havoc that sand wreaks upon your body. Trying to walk across it barefoot on a hot day is like stepping on lava. It gets in your eyes like tiny shrapnel. It gets in your hair and then stays on your scalp, often through several washings. You’ll still be chewing on sand three days after visiting the beach.

But it’s the sand that gets stuck in your suit that creates the biggest problems. Have you ever bathed a baby and found, like, a raisin stuck in the folds of his chin and wonder how on earth it got there but then realize with horror that it must be from when he ate raisins two days ago? That’s how it is with sand, especially the sand that is trapped in your bathing suit; it creeps into every crevice, every crack, every hidden space. And I do mean EVERY space.

Because of our anatomy, sand infiltration is even worse for girls. A girlfriend of mine told me that when her daughters were little, they were driving home from a visit to the ocean when four year old complained that her vagina was crunchy. Because that’s what happens when sand gets all up in your business. IT IS NOT PLEASANT, nor is it easy to remedy. So, yes, sand is delightful, but it is also my enemy.IMG_7699
This is what our rental car looked like as we dropped it off at the airport in Puerto Rico. That’s just the sand that I was able to shake out of the top of my bathing suit. EVIL.

With all of that said, you might – understandably – think that I would prefer pools, with their lack of sand, to lakes and oceans. It is true that pools are sand-less, so one point for pools. But, as happy fate would have it, Canandaigua Lake – the one on which we spend so much of our summers – is sand-less, too, as are many of the Finger Lakes.
Look, Ma – no sand!

A lake without a beach?, you say. How can that be? Well, in the case of Canandaigua, the beaches are made of shale – flat stones that have broken off of the larger shale beds surrounding the lake and, over time, have smoothed out. They make perfect skipping stones, can be “written” on (by drawing with another piece of shale), and can be pushed around to create mounds and piles and holes, much like sand… except with absolutely none of the evil properties associated with sand.


Lakes: 2
Oceans: 1
Pools: 1

Thus, after tallying up the points above, the final standings are as follows:
LAKES: 13.5

After this exhaustive, thorough, and completely unbiased analysis, it’s plain to see that, when all is said and done, lakes far outshine oceans and pools. This does not mean that oceans and pools are bad, nor that I’ll stop visiting them any time soon. Nothing can compare with the mystery of the ocean, and the humid, briny smell that washes over you the moment you get close is positively enchanting. Jumping into a pool on a roasting summer day is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and watching Ella and Annie play water games till they drop makes me smile every time.

It’s like milk, white, and dark chocolate – they’re all marvelous and yes, more, please… but when all is said and done, one stands out above the rest.

I’m a lake girl at heart.
And I’m particularly grateful and fortunate to be spending so much time on one.

Maybe I should have been a researcher instead of a teacher. This fact-collecting thing is really fun.

summer vista






I think Mother Nature is just a little bit tipsy this week

We’ve had kind of funny weather at the lake recently – a bit windy, a bit choppy, a hint of rain here, a wickedly hot breeze there, a chilly wind over yonder. The threat of a severe thunderstorm kept the girls inside most of yesterday afternoon and evening, so by this morning, they were in rare (read: drive-you-insane) form.

In an attempt to curb their insanity (and preserve the rest of our sanity – or whatever little of it is left, anyway), I offered to take them for a boat ride. Ella, my most avid boater, immediately agreed, and although I couldn’t convince Annie to join us, my grandma, Phoofsy, decided to come along, too.

Upon hearing this, Ella was momentarily concerned. “But Mom – we won’t be able to go fast if Phoofsy comes with us!” I assured her that it would still be a lovely ride, and she conceded that it would be fun to have Phoof with us… especially if I took Ella out again for an even faster jaunt. After procuring life jackets and towels, we were ready to go. While hardly glassy-smooth, the water in front of our dock looked nicely suited for a simple, pleasant boat ride. Easy, peasy – let’s do this!

A few light waves, but otherwise lovely, right?

The clouds, on the other hand, did not appear so benevolent. One of the coolest parts of living on a large-ish lake is that its open expanse allows you to see myriad weather patterns coming and going – rolling up from the south, sailing over from the west, very occasionally creeping down from the north. Even cooler, the size of the lake (1.5 miles wide and 15.5 miles long) means that it’s entirely possible for multiple weather phenomena to occur simultaneously. Today, the northwestern portion of the lake was blanketed in clouds with the potential for rain, so I opted to take us southward, where it was perfectly sunny.

See: dark and stormy to the right (i.e. west); sunny with puffy clouds to the left (that’d be east).

As we made our way down the lake, it was, indeed, bright and shiny, but – for some inexplicable reason – choppy as all get-out. The peaceful landscape in front of our dock gave way to a roiling, jagged roller coaster of hell. One moment, we were bobbing happily along, all “Ooooh, what a beautiful summer morning!” and the next I was looking around for George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg to see if they, too, were struggling with their vessel.

 It may not look like it here, but trust me, it was totally Perfect Storm-esque.

I’ve been boating on the lake more times than I can count, and I am not exaggerating when I say that these were the roughest waves I’ve ever encountered. Ocean-like, they were taller than the boat, cresting with white, frothy peaks and dipping crazy low to draw up steam again. Ella hung on, white-knuckled, for dear life and Phoofsy (someone who is most definitely not a stranger to going out in the boat) sat, stern-faced, determined to – quite literally – ride things out as we flew up into the air and then plummeted down into the trough, water spraying at us from all sides. There seemed to be no speed at which the ride was any less formidable; too slow and we thrashed about like ping-pong balls. Too fast and we risked breaking our teeth from all of the machine gun-esque chattering.

Is it legal to send out the SOS signal because you’re worried that you might break your coccyx? What about your grandma’s coccyx? Should I stop mentioning coccyxes?

For as good a sport as she is, I knew that Phoofsy was hardly enjoying the brutal pounding we were taking, and it hadn’t really been my intention to torture her on our easy peasy ride, so I finally cried “uncle” and turned the boat around. (I might have said something other than “uncle” but thankfully it was too windy for Ella to hear me.) As we bounced our way north, the waves began to ease up a little, and I was thankful that the storm clouds remained mostly to our west.

 Yep, just off to our left… there they are…
Still looking relatively hospitable, no?

Things had just settled into a rhythm that didn’t make all of us feel as though we were rumbling over a rock quarry, and I had finally breathed a sigh of relief that, at last, this ride was taking a turn away from water boarding and toward relaxation… when it began to rain. Turns out that the clouds “just a bit to the west” were a little more “east” than I’d thought and, despite my attempts to outrun (outboat?) the droplets – despite the fact that it was STILL SUNNY – it was hopeless.

By this time, even the CCI pups we’d brought along were like, ENOUGH.

Thankfully, the rain was not particularly strong, so none of us got soaked, but the message was clear: Nice try. Go home. With a sigh of defeat, I turned the boat back to the house, barely managing to ease it back into the hoist without doing any damage. Naturally, by now it had stopped raining, and the water surrounding our dock was as calm as it had been before we began our accursed journey. Rather than tempt fate, Phoofsy ambled out of the boat (“ambled” is generous, but hey, if you can climb out of a boat, perch on the edge of the hoist, and then traipse over a handmade, unsteady wooden bridge to the dock when you’re 94, I get to use the word “ambled”) and called it a day.

Ella, on the other hand, was bound and determined to take me up on my promise of a more raucous ride, so we lowered the hoist and motored back out into the open water… where Ella immediately refused to allow me to increase the speed any faster than we’d gone during our first ride. Without a hint of irony, she looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m fine with going slow, thanks. I’m so glad Phoofsy was with us the last time or else we might really have had trouble in those waves.” 

Given that the weather patterns have been changing so rapidly you could get whiplash trying to keep up, it was no surprise that the water that had been filled with white-capped breakers fifteen minutes earlier was now barely rolling. Our ride was as easy peasy as I’d hoped the first one would be as we took the boat across the lake and nearly all the way down to the south end, then back up and home again. Ella’s hair billowed behind her as she sat up front, arms outstretched horizontally as she “conducted” the air each time we crossed another boat’s wake.

As we approached the shore once more, I joked that she’d better brace herself because, as we all know, docking is not my specialty. She obliged and then waited for me to turn the dial and raise the hoist (and the boat) out of the water, but as I did so, nothing happened. The metal coil refused to budge, wouldn’t even make a sound, as the boat bobbed along beside the dock and we waited… and waited… for the motor to engage…

And then our neighbor called over from their beach to me to ask if our power was out, too, because theirs was – and wasn’t this just the strangest weather we’d been having?

Before I cursed her, I did thank Mother Nature for at least allowing my grandmother to get out of the boat earlier when the power was on, because without a functioning hoist, Ella and I were now floating a good three feet lower than the dock, and ain’t no way Phoofsy could have “ambled” her way out of this one. Unable to park the boat as usual, I realized I’d have to back it up and tie it to the dock cleats – while not banging it up against the posts and also while locating and attaching the bumper buoys – which is super fun if merely docking the boat is a significant challenge.

Well, it took me at least ten minutes (several of which were spent pulling the boat back in line with the dock after Ella realized that I’d attached the wrong end of the rope to the cleat and the rear of the boat had come unmoored – oopsies!), but by God, y’all, I attached it and set out the bumpers and managed to clamber up and onto the dock. Ella, of course, was already a good many yards ahead of me, having breezily climbed out of the boat and skipped her way up the beach without a care in the world.

“Mom? Once we have the power back and get the boat up, can we lower it again tomorrow and go for another ride with Phoofsy?”

Sure, kid. I’m sure she’d love that. Easy peasy.

Going for a ride

I’ve visited the lake (Canandaigua, one of the Finger Lakes in western New York) every summer since I was seven months old. It’s magnificent; the clear, sparkling water; the bonfires on the beach; the rising green hills; ice cream trips made by boat; the flat shale beaches that make for perfect skipping stones; the lack of weedy shoreline that so many other lakes possess; the piercing brightness of the stars at night, with the Milky Way streaking right over the dock. The moment I’m near that water, I’m home.

For as long as I’ve been alive, family has been fortunate enough to own a boat, and so I have more memories than I can count of skimming across the water onboard our Boston Whaler… or… whatever kind of boat we have now. I’ve tubed until my arms are ready to fall off (likely thanks to the cackling drivers – and egging-on passengers – who decide, without fail, that it will be a hilarious game to make the trip as wild as possible in an attempt to send the tube-riders flying off of said tube), water-skied until I got blisters on my palms (or until I took such a big fall trying to go over the wake, I lost not only lost the skis but got smacked in the nose by one, too), wake boarded (once… although I did – completely accidentally – manage to do a trick and turn the board 180 degrees because the “wrong” foot was facing forward, to raucous shouts from the passengers and bewildered confusion from me), and jumped off every part of the boat into the open water to go for a dip. I have no idea when I officially learned to drive the boat – come to think of it, it was really more a process of osmosis, with me gradually just taking over (something that would be, um, frowned upon today with, like, rules and regulations and needing a license and all that), and I still have to say a prayer and close my eyes when I finally dock it (opening my eyes might help with the whole not-running-into-the-dock thing, but hey, why mess with tradition) – but I love, love going for a boat ride.

In many ways, I’m more at ease on a boat than I am on land. Although I’m known to grow both carsick and airsick, the rolling motion of the waves is actually calming to me. I can trip over the pattern in the rug (and did, once, when I was in high school; apparently, I slammed my head into a water fountain and knocked myself cold, resulting in a concussion. I am not making this up) but I’m surprisingly sure-footed when out in the middle of the lake. It’s not uncommon for me to lose my balance while just walking in my kitchen, but I can prowl around the thin walls of the boat like a freakin’ maritime mountain goat, never yet falling into the water below no matter how precarious my climbing (not that I’ll ever admit this to my girls, of course; safety first and whatnot).

Our crazy winter left the lake completely iced over for the first time in forever (do you see what I did there, Frozen devotees?), which, in turn, left the water level higher (and far colder) than normal from both the ice melt and the snow run-off. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were hit with a decent rainstorm that walloped Rochester and Canandaigua, sending virtual torrents of water down the steep hillsides surrounding the lake and into the basin below. Within two days, the water had risen a good two feet above normal, swamping docks and swallowing up beaches.

My aunt, who was staying at the lake house with my grandmother during and after the storm, sent us these photos of our (now much smaller) beach.flood3!
The shoreline running between us and the house to the left is usually a good six feet wide… Not so here… Plus, you know, the portions of the dock and the beach that are obviously underwater…

That yellow swing is normally at least five feet from the water’s edge. It’d be hard to plop a baby in there now…

The following morning, the water levels had risen still higher, covering a large portion of the dock and filling up the beach. 
It’s kind of like having one of those cool infinity pools… except, um, not.

As a result of the flooding, all motorized boating was prohibited on the lake for over a week – in part because the wakes from the boats would swamp already waterlogged docks and beaches and also because there was so much debris floating around, traveling through it would be like trying to reenact the Titanic’s voyage. And we all know how that ended.

Even through Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the first “big” weekend of the year, there were no boats allowed on the lake. I was bummed not to be back on the water, but quickly grew acclimated to the very unusual… silence… that filled the air. In all these years, the ever-present sound of the motors had – apparently – become its own kind of white noise, humming in the background constantly. Without the revving and whizzing by of various watercraft, the lake took on an entirely new, and unexpectedly relaxing, feel. I would never have told you that not having boats on the water would be a good thing… but it was. It was peaceful and slow and old-fashioned and very, very good.

5.25 fire and flood
Annie poking a stick at our Memorial Day weekend bonfire. By now, the water had receded significantly, but it was still nowhere close to normal.

Last weekend, a good two weeks after the lake rose to its precariously high levels, the water had finally drained back to  almost normal, and the boating ban was lifted. As if to make up for lost time, vessels of all shapes and sizes began darting past our dock, the whirring of their motors creating the soundtrack for our sunbathing and shale-skipping (although Langston launched himself off the dock with aplomb, the water was still far too frigid for our cold-allergic kiddos, and so no swimming was to be had this time). Although I had never given it any thought before, I was now hyper-aware of each boat that passed by the house, feeling both comforted and annoyed by their sound.

When Ella asked if we could go for our first ride of the season, I was almost hesitant. In some way, I didn’t want to break the previous weekend’s quiet reverie, didn’t want to spoil the antiquated – if unnatural – peacefulness. But Ella persisted until at last I relented, and we found ourselves donning towels and sweatshirts to ward off the faint chill of twilight as we lowered the hoist and set the boat in the water.

It took nearly a minute for the engine to finally turn over, but at last I shifted into reverse and slowly backed us out of the hoist. (I might have turned the wheel just a bit too hard and nearly smacked the bow right into the side of the dock, but I didn’t. It was close, though. Like I said, docking – or, really, having the boat anywhere near the dock – isn’t exactly my specialty.) Moments later, we were cruising toward the middle of the lake, our hair racing behind us, grins bursting onto our faces.

first boatride2first boatride
I know these are all blurry – it’s hard to steer and use the “big” camera in a moving boat, people – but I adore them anyway.

Our maiden voyage lasted less than five minutes (in our excitement to finally get back on the water, turns out we’d completely forgotten to get life jackets for the girls. Oopsies!), but it was a glorious, warm, exhilarating, completely joy-filled five minutes. Maybe it’s growing up on the water, as I did, or maybe it’s something genetic, or maybe it’s just one of those funny coincidences, but Annie and Ella adore being out on the boat just as much as I do.

It may have been delightful having a boat-free weekend, but – man! – getting out there again was even better. While there are plenty of things about summer that I look forward to (not having to make school lunches, being able to sleep past 7:00, consuming more ice cream than a Ben & Jerry’s tester), few top the simple pleasure of being in the boat, with the wind in my face, the steady (or unsteady) rise and fall of the hull over the waves, the seagulls flapping overhead as we the glide by the emerald green shoreline.

Sharing that love of the water, of being on the water, with my girls?
Well that, my friends, is very, very good indeed.5.31 first boatride

Little Buddies

For the past six-ish years, my youngest cousin has spent his summers living at the lake. What originally began with my aunt driving here from Indiana and dropping him off to essentially lounge around with both of my grandparents has morphed into his driving solo across the country (from college in Lake Tahoe), getting a job at the local marina, being the go-to guy for taking my grandma on errands, to appointments and the grocery store, and doing all kinds of odd jobs around the house.

In addition to the grunt work, he’s around to see our extended family members as they visit the lake all summer long. Plus, there’s wake surfing and frequent bonfires. And lunch-hour swims. And relaxing with his buddies every night. And, you know, spending three months – an entire season! – living on the lake. So, yeah, he’s pretty indispensable and I’m truly not sure how we’d manage without him here… but also? Living on the lake. For three months.

andrew dives

Not such a bad gig.

One of the best parts of having Andrew here is that we get to see him so often. Ella and Annie pretty much think he’s a rock star, and love that he pays them so much attention.

andrew and girls“Riding” to the ladder…

andrew and annie
Getting a lift out of the water.

The other best part of having Andrew here is that we get to give him hell for three straight months. The Taylor family prides itself on pretty much constant (good-natured) ribbing, and as the youngest grandchild by quite a large margin (he’s seventeen years my junior), Andrew has taken the brunt of our teasing.

In fact, even when he’s not at the lake, we make it our mission to bother him. When he went off to college two years ago, he made the grave mistake of posting his school address on Facebook with the command, “Use it.” Nick took those instructions to heart, and a couple of months later, Andrew found himself the newest subscriber to Cat Fancy magazine. Nothing makes a freshman guy more attractive than arriving to his dorm with a glossy photo of a silky Persian tucked under his arm.

Andrew’s generally a good sport about this (even when we’re calling out “Good night! Love you, man!” to him from the porch while he’s down on the beach chilling with his buddies), giving back as good as he gets. A lot of the ribbing he’s received this summer has revolved around his apparently never-ending social engagements, especially those where potentially date-able girls are involved.

Hence, when we went out to a restaurant the other night, we spent a good portion of the meal giving Andrew a hard time about the friends he’d be seeing later that night. As we were in the restaurant parking lot, the following conversation ensued:
(Warning: Aunt Lisa, EARMUFFS [double warning: the earmuffs link is NSFW])

Nick: So, going somewhere with your little buddies tonight?

Andrew: Enough with the ‘little buddies,’ dude.

Nick: Any ladies gonna be there?

Andrew: I don’t know. Probably.

Nick: Better go get yourself some rubbers.

Andrew: SERIOUSLY, man.

Me: Really? Is that what we’re calling them now?

Nick: Yup. Big old box of Magnums.

Ella: Ohhhhh, I love Magnums!

Andrew: Uhhh… you do?

Ella: Yes! They’re delicious!

Everyone: *crickets*

Ella: Do you prefer the ones with the caramel or the chocolate inside?

Me: I cannot believe this is happening.

Ella: The caramel are my favorites.

Nick: I’m officially a terrible father.

Andrew: Pretty much.

(In case you’re unfamiliar with them, Ella was talking about Magnum Bars, the decadent ice cream on a stick, not condoms. At least, I really hope not.)

Andrew leaves the lake tomorrow, after having been here since mid-May, and the place won’t be the same without him. I’m not sure what I’m going to miss more: getting to hang out with him, or getting to give him crap about absolutely everything.

andrew slack line
Attempting to walk across his slack line at sunset.

Upon further consideration, it’s definitely the former. It’s going to suck without him here.

Plus, we can always annoy him from afar. In fact, I believe that the first issue of It’s A Rat’s World is already on its way to his mailbox.




Sugar pie, honey bunch

When my extended family visits the lake every year, everyone wants to hang out together – in part because we only see each other one week a year, and in part because we’re awesome (duh). Understandably, Ella and Annie never want to miss out on the action, and we try to include them as often as possible… But there are times when those of us over the age of 18 would like to do our own thing, where maybe we can eat meal without having to watch our language or have anyone physically adhered to the entire left side of your body while informing you that she’s changed her mind, she doesn’t like rice anymore.

Sometimes – especially when their next door best buddies are around – the girls don’t mind not being included in the grown-up fun. Other times, however, they put up a bit of a fuss. Yesterday was one of those days. It was lovely out, a perfect summer morning, and my cousins informed me that they’d like to have lunch at a restaurant that we get to by boat.

Not many complaints with this as your morning view.

The girls think that taking the boat to a restaurant is the coolest thing ever (probably because it is), and I knew that they’d be bummed to be left behind. As I explained to them that they’d be staying at the house, I played my first card: the baby. See, one of my cousins and his wife have recently had a baby boy, and when I suggested to Annie and Ella that perhaps they could “help” their great aunt, Marti (who is my aunt and also the baby’s grandma) watch their itty bitty second cousin, their faces lit up. I could tell that a bit of disappointment still lingered, however, and I wasn’t sure how to erase it.

And then it dawned on me: a junk meal contest.

Last month, when my other aunt visited the lake, she had spirited the girls away one morning and given them an “Auntie Breakfast”: leftover cake, cookies, and Diet Coke (something they are normally allowed to have, like, never). Despite the fact that their sugar high still hasn’t entirely worn off, I told the girls that perhaps they could challenge Great Aunt Marti to see if she could create a lunch that would top Great Aunt Lisa’s breakfast.


They raced toward Marti, so excited they could scarcely get the words out. “Aunt Lisa…breakfast…cookies… Mommy said…it’s a challenge…. can you… lunch…” Marti listened, looking slightly like she’d been physically attacked, and then gave them a look of supreme smugness as she said, “Girls. You are looking at the sugar queen!”

Game. On.

I briefly questioned the wisdom of allowing them to consume something that would be even junkier than cake, cookies, and Diet Coke, but then decided that a) two meals out of an otherwise healthy lifetime will barely even register, and b) it’s worth it to enjoy a lakeside lunch with my cousins and have neither child pinching her sister, playing with the gum under the table, or complaining that these chicken tenders are the wrong shape.

When we arrived home, Ella and Annie were literally jumping up and down with excitement (and sugar) to tell me what they’d eaten for “lunch”: chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon bears, ice cream, Diet Coke, and loads of chips with Heluva Good dip. This exceeded even my highest expectations, and Marti was declared the unanimous winner (which is slightly terrifying because it means that Lisa will undoubtedly feel the need to reclaim the title next summer).

After a relatively relaxing afternoon, the girls came down from their sugar rush, fell asleep quickly, and actually slept in later this morning than they have in quite a while. When they learned that Nick and I would be working at the PGA today, they were initially bummed that they would, again, be left behind… Until they discovered that they’d be with
Great Aunt Marti all day long.

Suddenly, they seemed very eager to get us out the door.
I can’t imagine why.

The family that plays together

My family has always been into playing games. My brother and I preferred classic board games like Life (oh! to land on the twins space and fill that plastic car with two more pegs!!) and Monopoly (my brother was always the banker; it took me until I was in college to realize that this might have contributed to his winning every single game). Given how rarely I could claim victory, the simple act of playing the game was what drew me back time and time again.

When my extended family would get together, our focus turned away from board games and toward dice (Yahtzee) and cards. Our perennial favorite is Cad, a less-intense version of the card game Thirty-One, which is so basic in concept that Ella and Annie have already begun to play. Do not mistake simplicity for a lack of intensity, however; even the most hastily thrown-together Cad games require a monetary ante-in, and the “simple act of playing a game” is not what draws everyone to the table. No, my extended family possesses an innate desire to wipe the table with the other players, and showing mercy is definitely a sign of weakness. (We still talk about a Spoons game from years back when my cousin wrestled my then-80-odd-year-old grandmother to the floor because neither of them would relinquish the spoon and concede defeat.)

It was a happy fate, then, when I discovered that Nick and his family are also game lovers, with Monopoly and Life as childhood favorites, too, and cutthroat rounds of Hand and Foot as today’s game of choice. Many moons ago, when my brother turned twenty-one, Nick and I got our collective game geek on and created an alcohol-themed board game called Chug It — laminated board, logo-printed game cards, instructions page, and game pieces — and shipped it off to him at college, where, I’ve been told, he and his fraternity brothers got quite a kick out of it (and, yes, chugged it). Not wanting our gaming legacy to end there, when Nick’s middle sister reached the legal drinking age, we created Absolut Game – whose layout was shaped like an enormous bottle of vodka (duh) – and shipped it off to her, too. (Alas, we tapped out after that and so Nick’s youngest sister got the shaft… When she turns forty, we’ll really have to step up. Chardonnopoly, anyone?)

Last weekend, as Nick and I were relaying the wonders of these games to my youngest cousin (who turns twenty-one next year; BOOYAH), we realized, with all of the inane and crazy extended family quirks, surely there was an awesome game in the making. And so, combining our childhood love of boardgames, my extended family’s love of cards, and inspired by our Chug It and Absolut Game masterpieces, we created The Lake Game.


The premise is very straightforward: move your piece around the board, complete some assigned tasks, and be the last player holding any (poker) chips. In reality, the game verges from slightly odd to downright absurd. While it’s true that “all” you have to do is move your game piece around the board, you probably don’t want to get too comfortable because The Lake Game makes you work for your victory. Land on “Hugs Not Drugs” and you’ll give every other player a squeeze… or lose a chip. “Who’s Sleeping” requires that you find someone who’s asleep (human or canine), take a photo with your phone, and send it to the other players… or lose a chip. You might find yourself throwing away a mystery item from the fridge (we collect leftovers like we’re preparing to stock a bunker) or running outside and up the driveway to touch our converted-garage/ storage space/guesthouse (aka “Up Top”), a feat which elicits monstrous groans because of its propensity to reduce you to a gasping-for-breath heap.

up top
The view of Up Top from the lake house. It’s difficult to get an accurate photo, but I can assure you that going Up Top could be included as an end-of-session, now-you-will-die Boot Camp activity.

“Up Top” aside, it’s the “Draw a Card” squares that are the most arduous… and hilarious. Some are just annoying:

or lose a chip.
Pretty self-explanatory.

Others require dexterity and getting off your duff:

Go do the to the beach. Stand on the shore and throw a piece of shale at the raft. If you don’t hit it in three tries, lose a chip.

Given that we often play at night (and you never know who’s had a cocktail or three), this is more challenging than it seems.

Others demand little physical exertion but do test your mettle (and your iron stomach):

Take one bite of leftovers from either fridge, or lose a chip.

When the choice is between losing a chip or consuming a mystery food – that may have been in the fridge since this morning or since last month (just tonight, I threw away some soup we’d brought home from a restaurant that, I kid you not, bore the date 07/01/13) – it’s not an easy choice.

And still others are both a combination of exercise and game-long torture

Go get one from the shed. Wear it for the rest of the game.

THERE ARE SPIDERS IN THAT SHED, people. Losing a chip may be vastly preferable.

So, clearly, The Lake Game is not for the faint of heart… which makes it perfect for those of us who, say, enjoy scuffling with our grandmothers over a spoon and playing card games that require six year-olds to ante up.

We began working out the kinks to the game, trying to determine just how many chips each person should begin with, which squares were the most fun/embarrassing/absurd, and asking other family members to contribute their ideas. During our practice games, Annie somehow managed to win every time, despite the ridiculous scenarios she found herself in.
She was stuck wearing a life vest, holding an old family jacket, sitting on a clam pot, and having to utter an infamous family phrase at the end of each turn… but that didn’t stop her from becoming the victor.

After the children had gone to bed, we invited my grandmother to play the final game of the night, but weren’t sure if she’d actually join us, given the craziness of the game. In true family style, however, she was totally in – but we gave her a whole bunch of extra chips, assuming that she’d forgo many of the more arduous adventures in favor of simply giving up a chip.


No matter what was thrown her way, Phoofsy was up to the task.
“Throw out a leftover? Oh, this minced ham is at least two weeks old!”

When faced with the exhausting challenge of having to go Up Top, and given that she might not have trekked there yet this summer, we knew – of course – that she’d hand over one of her chips. Instead, she looked us straight in the eye and said, “If I don’t do this, I lose a chip? Well, certainly I can go Up Top. Why would I waste a chip for that?”
It took her about five minutes, but by God, she touched Up Top.
The Force may be strong with Luke, but the Competitive Drive is strong with this one.

After well less than an hour, and despite our very best efforts, there was nothing we could do: Phoofsy was the champion. We have since introduced The Lake Game to more of my family members and have taken great pleasure in watching one another make fools of ourselves. To make it even more competitive fun, we think we’ll now require an entry fee (because I’m far more likely to sing a Christmas carol – after having just changed my shirt and gone down the dock ladder in the dark – if there’s money on the line).

Money or no money, one thing is certain: Phoofsy is going down.
And, really, she can’t complain that I’m taking the game too seriously… As a true family grandchild, I learned from the best.

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

We spent last week at the lake with some of my extended family – a dozen of us in all – a “stolen” week, as Nick called it, because the weather was supposed to be horrendously thunderstorm-y every single day, but somehow, only one day was too rainy to be on the dock. When we’re down for just an afternoon or a weekend, I (try to) keep the girls and myself eating relatively normally — fruits and veggies, snacks devoid of too many unpronounceable ingredients, dessert food reserved for dessert. But when we dig in for a longer stay and my relatives are in town, I officially give up and accept that my aunt will give them chocolate chip cookies and Diet Coke for breakfast, my mother will sneak them candies and sips of iced tea throughout the day, and my cousins will invite them to help finish off entire family-sized bags of potato chips in one sitting. It’s still totally “everything in moderation” with 51 weeks mostly on and one week ridiculously off, right?

I prefer to save myself for Doritos. There is a reason that I don’t keep them in my house, and it is because they are filled with crack and made by the devil. I believe I ate my weight’s worth in Doritos last week, although I did manage to save room for several Magnum bars. And Fourth of July cake (for breakfast). And about half a cup of Helluva Good french onion dip. Daily.

During these weeks together, everyone is in vacation mode, where calories don’t matter and bacon is a food group, and it becomes a snack free-for-all, a mob mentality frenzy to see just how many Pringles or donut holes or Cheez Doodles we can load into the pantry. It is also every person for him or herself, because with twelve people sharing a kitchen, that organic lemonade you purchased just for you, or the leftover chicken salad you were planning to eat for lunch, magically disappears the moment someone else decides it looks tasty. Unless you put your name on it (which I have done, quite literally), it’s fair game.

I do sometimes try to show a little restraint, to ascertain the item’s intended-for consumer, if only because I’m hoping karma will smile kindly on me the next time and save me the one remaining perfectly ripe peach I’ve been eyeing. Hence, when I opened the refrigerator last weekend and discovered a beautiful little blue chocolate box containing just one of its four original specialty chocolates — a bon bon in the exact same shade of robin’s egg blue as the box — I simply closed the door and walked away. Surely, by leaving only one chocolate in the box, someone was saving it for themselves… Also, I could eat the Magnum bars in the meantime. Moderation, people.

When the little blue chocolate was still sitting there the next afternoon, however, all bets were off. I took the candy out of the box and examined it, saying aloud to my cousin, “I wonder what’s in this?” (because a blue-coated chocolate doesn’t exactly scream out caramel [yay!] or cherry [omg, no] or nougat [maybe]). A sniff didn’t provide me with any clues — it just smelled, you know, like chocolate — so I broke it in half and was delighted to discover that it was a perfect combination of milk chocolate and mint. I’d love to say that I savored each morsel, but really, I scarfed that puppy down in a single, satisfied bite, threw away the little blue box, and went on with my day.

It was only much later, after the kids had gone to bed, that my grandmother began to ask about the chocolate. “I just can’t imagine where it’s gone! I gave the rest away when the ladies came for bridge last week but I was saving that one for myself.” When asked why this particular piece of chocolate was so important, she replied that it was a Godiva chocolate, and never in her life had she had a piece of Godiva chocolate (ninety-three years is a long time to wait for Godiva, y’all), and she just wanted to know what it tasted like — but more importantly, she simply wanted to know who ate it.

At first, I didn’t answer because she hadn’t actually asked me the question (I was in another part of the house and was informed by a cousin that my grandma was making inquiries), so it totally wasn’t lying because I wasn’t saying anything at all. An hour later, while we all played cards and my grandmother again bemoaned the mysterious missing chocolate, I feigned ignorance because, quite frankly, I wasn’t so eager to confess being the culprit – and really, I was doing her a loving favor because ignorance is bliss, no? Several hands later,  however, I could avoid her inquiries no longer, and admitted that yes, I had taken and eaten the candy. The little blue chocolate. The specialty Godiva chocolate, the one she had been saving. I had taken away the one opportunity she’d had in her entire life to eat a piece of Godiva. I also might have admitted to clubbing baby seals, allowing hair feathers to become popular a couple of years back, and not properly recycling my batteries, but I don’t think she heard me.

Because they’d become a bit giggly during The Great Chocolate Interrogation, slipping me sideways glances and trying not to laugh as I sat, silent, pretending not to hear my grandmother asking plaintively why someone would deny her this one pleasure in life (she didn’t actually say this, but, c’mon, her one shot at Godiva chocolate!), and also because they’re just awesome like that, my aunts and my mom were not about to let me take the fall — at least, not alone. The moment I ‘fessed up, all three of them piped in, “Actually, Mom… I ate the chocolate.” “No, I ate it.” “Really, Mom, it was me!“, which successfully muddied the situation and offered me a small reprieve. (Are they not wickedly fabulous?!) My cousin, however, was more than happy to chime, “But Emily! I saw you eat it!
Way to be a team player, dude.

In all of the laughing and confusion (and maybe because she was starving, having not eaten the chocolate), I truly don’t think my grandma knew that it was I who’d been the thief. Nevertheless, I vowed to rectify the situation, adding “Godiva chocolates” to the family shopping list that had been lying on the kitchen counter.

“FOOD” pretty much sums it up.
Doritos. Word.

As it turned out, I had an errand to run, and so I was the designated shopper, a task that is usually reserved for at least two people because the amount of food necessary to feed all of us for a week requires more than one cart (the chocolate chip cookies alone can fill an entire bag. I’m so not kidding). When just one person is doing the shopping, however, you’re forced to stuff the cart to the brim, utilizing every single square inch of available space — and some unavailable space — like some sort of grocery store sherpa.

The Godiva is in there somewhere…
Yes, the paper plates are balancing on the beer. That’s called ingenious.
And yes, the paper towels are leaning precariously and might have fallen off twice. That’s called stupid.

Because my grandma’s box of chocolates had been a “fancy” collection, I wasn’t able to find its duplicate at the grocery store, and so instead I bought her a bag – an entire bag! – of multi-flavored Godiva truffles. White! Milk! Dark! With so many amazing choices, surely she’d never even miss the little blue mint one that I’d stolen from her.

Upon arriving home, my grandma was presented with the glorious, new, gleaming bag of truffles. She looked at them, seeming puzzled, and I assumed that she was simply taking time to revel in this incredible moment. At last, Godiva for me! Then she looked up at me and said, “What are these for?”

I told her that I was giving them to her. Just for her. Because I’d eaten hers, the one special chocolate. And I was trying to make up for it with this enormous bag of delicious chocolates. Paying it forward. Improving my karma.

She paused, chuckled, and then handed the bag back to me and said, “Oh, Emily! If I’d really wanted that chocolate, I’d have eaten it already! Besides, don’t you think that Godiva is awfully rich for someone with diabetes?”

If anyone would like some Godiva truffles, they’re in the fridge at the lake. An entire bag. Truffles. Delicious. Be sure to put your name on them, though – just use a sticky note; we’ve got plenty – unless you don’t mind sharing.

But save at least two for me, please. I think I’ve used up all my karma for a while.

Golden Slumbers

For quite some time, Ella and Annie have been begging to have a sleepover with our next door neighbors at the lake (girls who are significantly older, but with whom they get along famously). They’d never slept over at anyone’s house before, and I wasn’t sure how it would go… But, with us visiting our family’s lake house this week, last night seemed as good a chance as any to give it a whirl. The girls were thrilled. (And, hey, it would mean that Nick and I wouldn’t have to share a room with them give them a chance to develop a little independence. Win, win!)

I expected Annie to maybe struggle a bit, both because she’s the youngest and also because she gets scared at the slightest provocation (taking her to Brave may have scarred her for life; her resulting determination to use bows and arrows in the house may have scarred me for life). I decided it would be a good idea to walk her and Ella next door, check out where they’d be sleeping, visit briefly with their friends’ mom, and give a few reassuring hugs before I returned home for a night of freedom with my family.

After dropping off their overnight bags (they’d been instructed to bring only necessities, so naturally they each brought 286 stuffed animals, two changes of clothes, several blankets, a bag of toiletries, and maybe 63 books), we went upstairs and I chatted with the mom. Then, to my surprise, Ella pulled me aside and whispered that she didn’t think she could do this. (Just when you think you’ve got your kids down, bam!, they let you know what a presumptive idiot you are.) She was too nervous, it wasn’t her own bed, what if she couldn’t fall asleep??

I talked to her for a minute, reassuring her that I thought she’d be fine — but if not, she could come home anytime. This seemed to placate her, and after I gave her a hug, I turned to do the same with Annie – but she’d already run off to play, dismissing me with a single hand wave. So much for my natural motherly instinct.

Like everywhere east of the Mississippi, it had been raining basically all day, and the ground was absolutely soaked. On the way over, we’d eked our way up the (normally grass, now mud) hill between our houses, and so I gingerly started the short journey home, taking painstakingly slow stutter steps to avoid my feet sliding entirely out from under me.

Yeah. You know when you’re holding something, a towering pile of boxes or library books or plates you’re balancing for the circus, and you feel them start to go off kilter… and you try to recalibrate, to calm the swaying, to stop the inevitable, but suddenly you know – there is just no doubt – that everything is going down, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it?

Yup. Behold: the inevitable.
Shorts, legs, shoes and forearms (where I’d tried to brace myself): covered with mud.
It should be noted that this photo was taken by my mother, who promptly put it on Facebook, saying I’d “hurried” down the hill. Ahhh, family…

It took a good thirty minutes to remove the mud and the stench, but when I finally did, I rewarded myself with a nice big bowl of peanut butter cup ice cream (with homemade fudge sauce, FTW!), half expecting Ella to come walking in any moment… But, for a solid two hours, the doors stayed blissfully closed. I’d just settled in to savor a glass of Sauvignon Blanc when my phone chirped all-too-happily at me to alert me that I had a text. It seems that Ella had borrowed our neighbor’s iPod and just needed to check in…

8 year-olds and hyperbole = BFFs.

The texts continued for a good half-hour, and although it is endearing being loved so so so so much, it’s even more endearing when your child powers through her first sleepover and actually falls asleep. After a couple of “I might come home but I’m not sure” exchanges, I told her that either was fine — stay, or return — but that she really needed to get some sleep. Amazingly, she agreed, and the texts stopped… so I assume that she fell asleep shortly thereafter. Or perhaps she robbed a bank and then wrote the great American novel – but hey, I didn’t hear from her… so yay, sleepovers!

Although both of my girls usually awaken early, there’d been talk amongst them and their buddies (who, as middle-schoolers, tend to go all Edward and [post-gruesome-Renesmee birth] Bella if they see the sun before noon) that they’d try to sleep until 9:00. I said a prayer to the sleep gods that maybe their friends’ habits would rub off on Annie and Ella, hoping they’d all get some decent shut-eye, and then went to bed myself. Despite the rare opportunity to sleep in ourselves, Nick and I both got up early today – and, as I looked down at the neighbors’ beach shortly before 8 a.m., I saw all four girls, pajama-clad, groggily dipping toes in the lake and checking out the foggy morning. Sleep gods, you totally slacked on this one.

Around 10:20, they finally came home, having had a marvelous time and looking surprisingly zippy.
Ella’s eyes are closed probably because she’s trying to concentrate on corralling the stuffed animal tribe she brought with her.

I girded myself for the exhausted meltdowns that I was sure would come today… But, again, both girls completely disregarded my superior parental instincts and had a great, cheerful, not-at-all cranky day. They pushed all the way through until 8:00, when I began to notice that they looked a little droopy as they ate their dessert, so I encouraged them to move along and head to bed. They brushed and washed and pajama-ed, protesting that they were just fine, not tired at all… But, a mere three minutes later when I came to check on them and say goodnight, they were both completely zonked, already snoring away.

Looks like mother does (occasionally) know best. Holla!
I’d definitely recommend not following me home, however. At least not after it’s rained.

The Family That Bunks Together…

We are spending the week at my family’s lake house on Canandaigua, as we do every Fourth of July. It’s one of the only times each year that my extended family gets together en masse, and we four always look forward to it … except maybe for the sharing of one bedroom (including a bunk bed, with Nick and me on the bottom – you know you’re jealous).

“Pssst! Mommy!”


“Mommy! Daddy!”



I am, now.

“I’m trying to be quiet, but I don’t know what to do.”

You could raise the shade a little.


I’m trying to whisper. Because other people are sleeping.


You could raise the shade a little so that you have enough light to read.

“Oh, good! That means I can put on some pants!”

Do I even want to know why you don’t have…

“What the heck is happening in here?”

“She does this every morning, Daddy.”

This is why we don’t all sleep in one room at home.

You’d think, inventing games like this each day, that they’d go to bed exhausted and sleep in niiiice and late.