The sounds of summer

This past week was our first entire “free” week of the summer – no camps, no visiting family, no visits from family. It marked the first opportunity for girls (and me) to be as lazy as they wanted to in the mornings, play to their hearts’ content, pull out long-forgotten toys and games that they’d been hoping to get to, and just relax and be. Before summer began and I saw that we’d have a whole week with absolutely no plans, my initial thought had been to fill the empty space. In the end, other thoughts prevailed. One day we went to a local amusement/water park, so that was kind of “scheduled.” But otherwise? Whatever struck the girls’ fancy.

seabreeze

Which meant that our week sounded a lot like this:

If you’d just strip your sheets for me, I’ll make the rest of the bed.
“Why do you have to make us work so hard?”

—————————————–

“There are no towels here!”
You’re in luck – I brought some down and you may use them.
“I GET THE STRIPED ONE!”
“No, *I* get the striped one!”
“You can have the polka dot one!”
“No, YOU can have the polka dot one.”
“I said it first!”
“But I SAW it first.”
IF EITHER OF YOU ARGUES ANY FURTHER ABOUT A TOWEL THAT YOU DID NOT EVEN BRING DOWN HERE, YOU WILL FORFEIT DRYING PRIVILEGES FOR THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON.

—————————————–

Since you can’t listen to music right now, why don’t you come up with a song to sing?
“Okay! I like this one: We will BURN DOWN the enemy! We will burrrrn dowwwwn the enemy! WE WILL BURN DOWN THE ENEMY!!”
What does that even mean?
“I don’t know. I only sing it to annoy you.”

—————————————–

I’d be happy to get you a snack. In addition to fruit, what else would you like?
“Doritos.”
*blank stare*
“Come on! Just a few Doritos??”
*blank stare*
“I’ll take pretzel Goldfish, please.”
That’s fine.

I decided to surprise you! You both have pretzel Goldfish and a few Doritos, too!
“But I didn’t say I wanted Doritos.”
*death glare*
“OKAY, okay… I’ll eat them… It’s fine, really… It’s fine… You don’t have to look at me like that…”

—————————————–

cad

On your way up, please put the yellow floatie back in the shed. Since you both used it, you can both put it back.
*begins dragging floatie down the dock* “I’ve got it this far! You can bring it the rest of the way!”
“But *I* wanted to bring it to the end of the dock!”
“But *I* grabbed it first!”
“But I WANTED it first. You’re the WORST sister EVER.”
“No, YOU’RE the WORST sister EVER.”

—————————————–

“I’m still a little bit hungry.”
You can have more cherries, then.
“Never mind. I’m not hungry anymore.”

—————————————–

It’s time to eat lunch! Please come to the kitchen!
“We’re busy! We’ll be there later!”

You left a big mess in the dining room! Come pick it up!
*crickets*

Which outfit do you think you should wear on our trip?
“Sorry, mom – gotta go. No time now.”
I feel like Harry Chapin. Since when did this become “Cat’s In The Cradle”? 

(**At long last, I pull up a stool and, for the first time all day, take a few minutes to answer emails or write a blog post while the girls are playing happily and do not need my assistance in any way, shape, or form…**)
“Mom? Can you help me with this?”
“Mom? I need to ask you a question.”
“Mommy? I think I hurt myself.”
“Mama? Mommy? Mom??”
WELL, LOOK AT THAT. HERE YOU ARE. FUNNY HOW THAT WORKS.

—————————————–

“Can I melt all of your chocolate on the stove and then freeze it just to see what would happen?”
The Godiva chocolate?
“Yes.”
I’d rather you not.
“You never let me do ANYTHING.”

—————————————–

“There’s nothing to do.”
You have an entire summer fun list you could check out.
“I don’t wanna do any of those.”
You could play outside.
“It’s too hot.”
You could read a book.
“I’m tired of reading.”
You could stop standing here and pestering me.
“Everything here is so BORING!”

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I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. In addition to the above, there have also been lovely moments, like when they created this incredibly detailed Harry Potter experience that utilized the entire upstairs of the house, or when we dropped the car off for new tires and then walked into town for breakfast at a wonderful dairy farm, or the terrific evening we spent picking beans and tomatoes at our farm share, or the marvelous new Pinot I discovered from one of our local wineries… Yes, there have been happy, giddy, quiet-Mommy-has-wine sounds, too.

But this week has been long, people. Turns out my kids actually do crave structure. I can’t imagine where they get that.

I do believe we’ve officially reached that point of the summer when thinking about the start of school elicits cheers instead of groans. Don’t worry – we’ve got plenty more to do and enjoy, and I plan to make the very most out of our remaining 3.5 weeks of summer.

But September is looking awfully damn inviting over that horizon.
That is, if everyone makes it out of August in one piece.

Ahhhhhh, summer!

soccer!
Taken at our first-ever professional soccer game; it’s one of my all-time favorite pictures, because it so perfectly sums up both girls’ personalities.

And the living is lazy

We’re halfway* through summer break, so this seems as good a time as any to look back on what’s already occurred and decide if the second half of summer should look like the first, or if some drastic changes should be made.

* We’re technically two days past the halfway mark. Close enough.
** I realize this only applies to those of us in the northeast and on the west coast; some of you have children returning to school in about ten minutes, which, frankly, is just crazy talk.

Upon reflection, it seems that summer has passed by in a pretty summer-like fashion: family visits, vacations, s’mores, camps, fresh veggies, swimming, humidity, and fruity cocktails. The girls have gamely checked things off of their Summer Fun List, but have also been happy to just hang out. Hell, Nick and I have even managed to have a good time along the way.

The problem with summer is this: it’s a total wasteland. Everything just floats about without any boundaries or structure, because hey, It’s Summer! Weekdays resemble weekends – no early bedtimes to enforce, dinner whenever it suits us, “exciting” activities that would typically be reserved for Saturday taking place any old time. I wake up each morning and have to check which day of the week it is. This past Wednesday, Annie asked me if it was Thursday and I told her yes – not to mess with her, but because I truly forgot which day it was – and she promptly burst into tears because Thursday is the day we pick up our farm share, and she thought we’d missed it.

garden girls
The haul from our garden, not the farm share…

I understand Annie’s freak-out. See, I’m someone who craves predictability (even though I’m wildly impulsive). I like to know when things will happen and how long they’ll last. The open days of summer don’t fill me with joyful anticipation; they fill me with anxiety. (It’s no coincidence that my Xanax supply wanes between Memorial and Labor Day, if you know what I’m saying.) I’m not necessarily unhappy at the lack of structure; it just feels really bizarre, like everything’s slightly off-kilter.

It’s kind of bizarre for my girls, too. The routine that they’d become used to is gone, and it’s exciting and unnerving all at the same time. They don’t see their school friends regularly during the summer. For a while, this is good – a much-needed break – but right about now they start to really miss their pals. With vacation and camp schedules colliding, though, getting together can be hard. Summer is challenging in other ways, too. We eat boatloads of crappy food, which is delicious (cheesy bread and Helluva Good dip, holla!), but also feels… well… crappy. In July and August, we spend as much time away from home as we do at home, which is a blast and all, but can feel somewhat shiftless. The girls have been putting themselves to bed early (whaaa?) because I’ve had to awaken them in the mornings for camp, and they’re tired of being tired.

Summer is weird, man!

aerial arts camp
All dressed up for their performance at their aerial arts camp.

People don’t return phone calls in the summer. You, me, the aquatics director at the Y – messages are left but no one seems to care. I don’t know why this is, but people lose the ability to call anyone back the moment the kids are out of school. Actually, I do know why this is: because our Call Back Time no longer exists. That portion of the day when you’d routinely sit down and make sure you got in touch with folks? Gone. We’re on Summer Time now, which essentially means we’re like the contractors in The Money Pit who keep insisting that Tom Hanks’s house will be repaired in “two weeks” and then taking twelve million weeks to actually complete the job.

That may be the biggest kicker of them all: in summer, there is ALL THIS TIME, and yet NOTHING GETS DONE.

During the school year, Nick will come home at the end of the day and ask how my day went, and I’ll be all, “Oh, it was fine. I’m really glad I was able to take the dogs for that walk before it rained, because after I subbed this morning – four kindergarten music classes, really cute but lots of nose pickers – I got completely soaked when I went to Wegmans, but at least I remembered to pick up the toilet paper. So I was still soaked when I went to the Y, but that was okay, because I was sweating, you know? And then I put the groceries away and got cleaned up, but while I was in the shower I noticed that the tiles were looking kind of gross, so I re-grouted the lower three layers of tile and decided I might as well reorganize the linen closet as long as I was in there. After the girls and I walked home from school, they had a snack and we went to Target – they did their math facts in the car and I picked up the prescription – and while they were finishing the rest of their homework, I spoke to the insurance agency; they said we just need to resubmit the proposal and they’ll take care of it. Watch out in the dining room, I just mopped in there – hey, while I’m thinking of it, are you able to come home early tomorrow night? I’m teaching piano late and the babysitter cancelled. Oh, and I finally got the mango chutney when I went to the store, so we’re having that new chicken recipe we saw on TV the other night. How was your day?”

Now, when Nick comes home and asks how my day went, I’m either, “Where have you been? Why are you working on Sunday?” (and he’s like, “It’s Tuesday”), or “It was so good. We made brownies and the girls showed me their new dance routine six times and I actually managed to sort through the mail. Oh, and the leftover mango chutney chicken should be thawed in about an hour.”

Some of this, I understand, because I impose limits on myself. “Yeah, you should be answering those emails/editing those photos/cleaning out the art cabinet/eating something other than Starbursts… but it’s SUMMER! Will you get the chance to sit on the dock/play with the kids/do a crossword/stuff your face with Starbursts once the school year rolls around? No, you will not.” 

And that’s kinda good, right? The Letting Go and Being In The Moment?

ropes course1
We went to a local ropes course…
ropes course2
… and it rocked. 

Yes, yes, it is, and I’m glad I’m enjoying myself – and now that I think about it, my Xanax intake has been pretty nonexistent lately – but I seriously don’t know which end is up. The hours blend together and time passes both slowly and wicked-fast and suddenly it’s dinnertime and I realize I haven’t been to the store in over a week. I’ve got at least a dozen potential blog posts in my head that I really, really would like to write, but nope. No writing. My children often wash their hair in the lake, but we’re not at the lake every day, so I seriously cannot tell you when the last time was that they bathed.

Does that matter? Does hair need to be washed in the summer?

We had new neighbors move in next door yesterday – the former ones had lived in their house for 35 years, with us beside them for the last seven – and it was bittersweet. We were sad to see our awesome neighbors go, but Ella and Annie are excited because the new ones have young kids, including two girls. We haven’t met them yet, but I’m hoping we make a good impression. I’d debated pulling up the weeds that were growing on our side of the fence – you know, to show them how tidy our yard is so they don’t think they moved in next to people whose yard is a mess – but then I was like, “Ehhhh… Why give them the wrong idea?”

That’s what happens when you move in during the summer: you meet Summer Emily. I mean, it’s not exactly like I’m Weeder Extraordinaire during the school year, but I’m somewhat more put together, you know? Then again, maybe this is a good thing; they can meet Summer Emily now, and then when September rolls around and, like magic, the yard is properly maintained and the children leave the house with their hair fixed and I actually know what day of the week it is, they’ll be all, School Year Emily is really impressive!

Yep. That’s probably exactly what will happen.

After looking at the calendar, the second half of our summer looks really similar to the first. All things considered, it seems to have been a nice balance thus far, so I don’t really know that anything needs to change in August. Which is a good thing, ’cause let’s face it – they’re not going to change, because Summer Emily has absolutely no momentum. Except when it comes to eating ice cream; I am a whiz at that.

So, welcome, new neighbors. Welcome to our cul-de-sac, to this fantastic neighborhood that we could not be luckier to call home. We plan to formally meet you once you’ve settled in (and might even bring baked goods, if I can manage to cobble together the ingredients), and we’re looking forward to getting to know you. I hope you like dogs.

Oh, and if you need anything, I’d recommend just ringing the doorbell and asking for it. Whatever you do, don’t call and leave a message; Summer Emily is apparently not returning calls until after Labor Day.

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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

Comparison #2: DANGEROUS WILD THINGS

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.

kiawah90
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

Comparison #6: WAVES, TIDES, AND CURRENTS

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.

DCIM100GOPRO
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.
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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.

SHALE BEACH FTW.

Lakes: 2
Oceans: 1
Pools: 1

Thus, after tallying up the points above, the final standings are as follows:
LAKES: 13.5
OCEANS: 8
POOLS: 8

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!

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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.

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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.

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 Yep, just off to our left… there they are…
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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.

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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.

Summer Vortex

So.

Remember when I said that I was totally looking forward to summer? To all of us finally having a true break, to days with nothing on the docket, to really kicking back and just enjoying?

And remember how I said that I’d undoubtedly look back on that post and chuckle at my naiveté?

Well, HERE I AM. Looking back. And laughing my ass off. With also some tears maybe thrown in. This has only taken seven days*, which is actually a little longer than I would have predicted every summer prior to this one.

Now, let me qualify: this has been a good summer so far. All seven days* of it. And, to my pleasant surprise, I am still continuing to enjoy the doing nothing aspect of it. Which is kind of a misnomer, because we have definitely been up to a lot more than nothing

We have picked snap peas at the farm at which we joined a CSA.IMG_7355Those tasted infinitely better than the ones from the store. Go figure.

The girls created their Summer Fun List….summer fun list
… and have already checked off a good many items.

We, alongside my cousin, Andrew, celebrated my grandma’s 94th birthday by taking what might have been her first-ever selfie.IMG_7373And then I posted it to Facebook. And tagged her in it. Because of course she’s on Facebook.

We’ve been swimming in the lake, which is finally warm enough to not kill the girls.
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‘Cause anaphylaxis would be a bummer of a way to start summer.
Hooray for global warming!

Our garden has already yielded food for the harvesting.
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Those would be radishes.
Annie’s lost another tooth since then, so her smile is even more wonderfully gap-filled now.

The sprinkler has been pulled out and run through…
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… while fully clothed, of course.
In their/my defense, it was a bazillion degrees out that day, so whatever.

First-time sleepovers have been realized.photo_1
And she was still standing the next day, so – success!

Whilst said sleepover was occurring, Annie and I made butter in a jar (de-lish) and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
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We are enjoying said lemonade. Also de-lish.

We picked deliciously ripe strawberries at the little farm just five minutes from our house.photo_3
Yup. They were as good as they look here. And as big, too. 

We have slept beyond our normal school-day wake-up times. We have enjoyed gobs of ice cream (yes, already). We have plans to make zucchini bread (with zucchini from the garden, holla!) and to see a concert and to hurl water balloons at one another with abandon.

So, summer? It’s going splendidly. That Fun List is getting checked off left and right.

You know what’s not getting checked off left and right, however? Anything on MY to-do list. Every night, I glance down at the ever-growing scrawl of things that need accomplishing — weed the garden, mow the lawn, sort through the art cabinet, remove the dried-up highlighters and discarded stickers from the bottom of my piano bag, make phone calls, vacuum — and notice that none of it has been crossed out. And so it’s moved over to the next collection, carefully laid out and rewritten, and when I wake up the following morning, I look at the list and promise myself that today – today, by God! – I will groom the dogs and reorganize the Tupperware and purchase the bathing suit online that I’ve been meaning to get for, oh, an entire month so that I have something that isn’t at least four years old and, like, see-through to wear to Puerto Rico.

Given that it’s summer and all, I have not had to make any lunches. I have not had to run around taking kids to practices or managing homework or planning lessons and organizing childcare.

And you know what else I have not done? ANYTHING.

In just seven days*, the yard seems to have taken on a jungle-like persona and the floors on our main level look as though they’ve never been cleaned. It’s amazing what falls to shit when you’re off berry picking and refereeing and running through sprinklers.

Well, just do that stuff on your list while the girls are occupied, you may think. How quaint!! Let me tell you, it’s damn hard to take care of anything when the girls are around and wanting it to feel like Summer! Yay! all the time. It’s difficult to make phone calls when they are reenacting the climax of Maleficent – in period costume – in the background. It’s not easy sorting through boxes of old clothes when they run through the carefully crafted piles while playing particularly raucous games of “baby.” It’s damn near impossible to do the dishes when slingshots are being fired in your direction (trust me, I’ve tried). And let’s not even talk about the sibling sniping that occurs at regular intervals throughout the day; they are taking button-pushing to levels I did not know existed. In some ways, it’s actually quite impressive.

Simply put: it is neither “fun” nor “easy” for anyone when real-life crap has to be accomplished while the children are tagging along. Not for the girls, not for me. And so very little gets done until it has to or something terrible will befall us because it’s just not worth it making life hell for everyone.

Plus also, I don’t want to be the summer ogre. Come on! Lighten up! SUMMER! SQUEE!!!

Today*, when I announced to the girls that, so sorry, they needed to accompany me to not only Target but also the grocery store AND the pet store, Annie announced that I must think it’s my job to torture them all day long.

She had me. Right on the nose. BINGO.

When I attempted to reason with her, explaining that, on Monday, we did not leave the house for even one minute – despite being woefully out of every essential pantry staple and subsiding on stale dried cherries and shriveled baby carrots – and, instead, made tinfoil rivers and chilled out in the playroom because she and Ella really just wanted to lounge around for a bit, Annie piped up,

“Yeah, well. It’s summer. That’s what’s supposed to happen.”

I then tried to explain that, although it may, in fact, be summer, that does not mean that we can survive without groceries or prescription medications or dog food, and because such goods do not magically fall from the sky (not even Amazon Prime is quite that magical), we occasionally need to go and fetch them. Meaning that they need to come with me, because staying home for hours at a time is kind of, like, illegal… And, unless they’d prefer to live in filth, the house needs to be tidied from time to time (they opted for filth, but this is not a democracy, people) and the laundry needs to be done and all that jazz… So, every so often, Summer Fun Squee!! needs to include real life, too.

This went over very well.

So, to recap: summer is great for laziness and eating and splashing and getting freckles on noses, but can kiss my rear in terms of anything even remotely productive. You gain time laughing but lose sanity. Somehow, in the fresh delight of SCHOOL’S OUT FOR ALL OF US! I actually thought my days would be perfectly balanced between tie dyeing, water slides, reading lakeside, paying the bills, and cooking a nutritious dinner with ingredients grown in our own weed-free garden (because I’d have all sorts of time – and a burning desire – to weed).

Which is kind of like how, pre-Ella, I envisioned Nick and me sprawled on our bed on weekend mornings, our newborn cooing between us, while we read the Sunday New York Times, sipped decaf, and ate lightly toasted bagels. In other words, I’d basically imagined giving birth to an iPad. (I’ve always had a very lively, if completely ludicrous, imagination.)

Instead, summer it is a vortex of disorientation (what day of the week is it again??), mysterious dirt stains (have those socks been changed since school got out?), unidentified rashes (is that poison ivy or a mosquito bite gone awry?), and boxes of popsicles. And flying kites.

So, if you’ve sent me an email since school got out and have been waiting for an answer, or if you noticed that I didn’t “like” your photo on Facebook, or I haven’t managed to pay that bill in time (I think I’m pretty much up on this, but vortex and all), I apologize. Summer Fun! is taking way more brain power and time than I’d anticipated, and even if I attempted to reply to your query, it would probably come out jumbled because of the children putting together a marching band in the kitchen.

* To wit: I began this post nearly a week ago, aka seven days after school got out, and it has taken me an additional six days to find the time to write. I still can’t promise it makes sense, and the items on my To-Do list have not yet been crossed off, but I do know that the glens we hiked this morning made for some great photo shoots. Summer Fun. Squee!

 

 

Dog Days

So. For a moment there, we thought we might have killed our black Lab, Langston. This dog loves, loves to run and fetch a ball, but we avoid doing so when the temps get too high because he seems to become overheated really quickly. This morning, I knew the front lawn needed to be mowed and, seeing that it was already warm and humid, wanted to get it done as early as possible. As such, I decided to skip my daily dog walk, but didn’t want Lang to get zero exercise, so I asked Nick if he’d throw the ball for our boy. He agreed.

At 9 a.m., it was hazily sunny and 77 degrees (“real feel” 82) with 60% humidity — warm, for sure, but not what either of us considered even remotely dangerous in terms of a short ball-throw. Still, they came inside less than five minutes later — which is not atypical, given, you know, that our pup is covered in a thick layer of black fur. Langston, as usual after a fetch session, was panting like a maniac, tongue lolling from his mouth, and he slurped up water like he’d never been hydrated before. All typical. We even joked – “Sorry that run was so short, dude, but we don’t want you to get heatstroke, hahaha.”

We started to go about our business – Nick on an errand, me to the front lawn – when Nick’s voice took on a different pitch as he said, “Uhhh, Em… It looks like Langston’s legs are shaking. I think he’s having trouble standing.” Indeed, he was, so we watched him more closely and saw, without question, that he was in some major distress: completely disoriented, walking into walls, staggering and stumbling, falling down to the ground. He didn’t seem to recognize his name and responded to none of our attempts to calm or communicate with him.

It didn’t take long to put two and two together to realize that, joking aside, Langston suffering from very real heatstroke — or, at the very least, he was so overheated, he couldn’t think (or stand) straight. We knew we had to cool him off, fast, and decided to guide him back outside so we could thoroughly wet him with the hose. The moment we helped him out the door, he began to wander through the lawn, with me running after him – and him becoming both confused and freaked out that a strange person (he really didn’t recognize me) was freakin’ chasing him – while he circled aimlessly (but fast; that boy can move) until I finally caught up with him and took a hold of his collar.

Worst game of tag ever.

At last, I led Lang to our front walk (cooler than the grass), where Nick soaked him with the hose… and then he collapsed in a heap. Still panting, still awake, but having no strength to hold himself up anymore. For the next twenty minutes, we ran the hose in a trickle under him, creating a cool puddle in which he could lounge, and drink, until gradually he seemed to be out of the danger zone: perking up when he heard his name, looking at us with brighter eyes (Hey – when did you guys get here?!), and thumping his tail in the puddle behind him, happily splashing us all.

When he finally reached “fine” — still hot and panting, but otherwise okay — we turned off the hose and brought him back inside; this time, he was able to walk in entirely on his own. After another half hour or so of resting, his breathing slowed to normal, his strength had returned, and he seems to be no worse for wear.

Nick and I, however – and our girls, who watched, terrified, from inside while we helped our boy get back to good – will not forget.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying:
Dog owners: please, please be super careful with your pups out in the heat. This may seem like a no-brainer – it certainly was for us (or so we thought) – but, as we learned, heat can cause trouble faster than you may realize.

It did not appear to be too hot. Langston did not run for any longer than he usually does. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary… and yet, it was too much for our boy.

Will we run him again this summer? Of course. He loves it, and we love watching him love it. But we will be more cautious. With that heavy fur coat, what seems “warm” to us can obviously be “omg sweltering” to dogs, and so even walking him – and our other pups –  around the neighborhood is going to be a careful, slow, water-filled endeavor.

I started to post this on my Facebook page, but decided to put it out here publicly hoping that if even one other person reads it and is a wee bit more careful with their dogs in these sticky, sunny days, it will be worth it. Or, heck, if even one person who has gone through a similar experience reads it and feels less alone, it will be worth it. ‘Cause it can happen to anyone, to any dog. Even ours. Even yours.

Dog Days of Summer, indeed.
Phew.

(Note: We did consider taking Lang to the vet, but knew it was most important to cool him down as quickly as possible, so we didn’t want to load him into a hot car for a 20 minute ride when he was already in obvious distress. As he began to cool down, we researched heatstroke in dogs and noticed that he was no longer exhibiting any of the danger signs, so it then seemed unnecessary to bring him in. We will, of course, keep an eye on him, and if anything changes, you can bet your ass he’ll be off… but for now, all is well.)

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Taken just ten minutes ago, with his happy tail wagging so quickly, it’s a blur beside him.

Change of Heart

Mmmmm, summer.

Longer days, swimming, sun. Who doesn’t love summer??

Well, actually… me.
But wait. Lemme ‘splain.

The activity parts of summer – the beaches and the splashing, the ice cream and stargazing – I’ve always loved those. But the rest of summer, with months of days and nights with nothing to do? Not really my speed, especially once the kids came along.

When the girls were babies and toddlers, summer was nice enough as a season (yay, warm!), but – other than increasing our intake of watermelon and icy pops – little else really changed. Bedtimes didn’t get later, no one slept in, no one went to camp. In fact, summer was almost more of a hassle than the rest of the year because of things like sunscreen and bathing suits and swim diapers and preventing drowning and OH MY GOD SHE’S ABOUT TO FALL INTO THE FIRE PIT.

As preschoolers, Annie and Ella ditched the Little Swimmers diapers, but activity- and schedule-wise, summer mimicked spring except with more bug bites. Once Ella entered elementary school, things began to shift a little. Suddenly, summer became a time of NO SCHOOL! – which meant delirious mayhem – but also NO SCHOOL!, which meant bittersweet sadness. The change of routine was jarring; she missed her classmates and her teachers. For as much as she and Annie liked not being in school, they – like their mama – weren’t so good at just hanging out. Two days in, they’d be at each other’s throats, and so to ensure that all of us actually made it through summer alive, I did a lot of refereeing while secretly wishing I could just let them go at it Hunger Games style.

Plus also? They were home. All the time. With me. (Or at the lake, or on a trip, but still… Not at school. With me. ALL THE TIME.) The schedule I’d so carefully created during the academic year flew out the window, and for the life of me I couldn’t quite get back on track. I will be the first to admit that I, too, like routine, and that endless of stretches of nothing make me itchy. Despite how much I loved homemade popsicles and exploring creeks with hidden rope swings and creating – and completing – our Summer Fun List, summer was not really something that I looked forward to.

This year, things feel… different. As the school year wound down and the first day of summer break – omg! – loomed on the calendar, I felt almost none of the all-too-familiar apprehension. My entire attitude seemed to have shifted, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Last night, after the girls went to bed, I began to think about what needed to be done for today… and realized how little needed to be accomplished. No lunches to be made. No white board notices to write. No backpacks to check. (Have I mentioned no lunches to pack?) I was practically giddy.

The pieces started to fall into place: for the first time ever, we have been running around so much during the school year that summer break is actually that – a break. A respite. A reprieve. No more rounding up cleats and water bottles to get to soccer practice on time. No more being unable to eat dinner until after 7:30 because of swimming. No more making sure that math facts are practiced and reading logs are filled in. No more arguing over hairstyles every morning. No more IF YOU DON’T LEAVE RIGHT NOW YOU WILL BE LATE WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR SHOES.

It also dawned on me that, for the first time in seven years, I was coming into my own summer break. No lesson plans to write. No early-morning texts about potential jobs. No worrying about looking professional (you laugh, but omg, having to dress in “real” clothes is just exhausting). No childcare arrangements for particularly early or late subbing assignments. Whenever idiots people complain about teachers or say that teaching is a cushy job (HAHAHAHA), they always bring up summer break. You’re done at 3:00 (HAHAHA) and you’re off all summer! Trust me, no one teaches simply to have summers off; that lovely perk does not begin to outweigh the difficulties and challenges of the job.

But it is still an awfully lovely perk.

As I unloaded the dishwasher but did not make lunches (thank you sweet baby Jesus), I thought about how easy the afternoon and evening had been. Instead of trying to cram homework in before sports and dinner, we lounged. The girls forgot to put away their clean clothes last night, but guess what? They could do it this morning because – surprise! – no school! All of those things that we’ve been putting off because there’s no time, when will you do your homework?, you can’t do that and get to bed on time… we can finally get to. It feels glorious.

And so, whereas the ten weeks of torture summer used to stretch before me as an anxiety-producing collection of NOTHING TO DO, I am now very much feeling how incredible it can be to have NOTHING TO DO!! This was a very good year – a busy, exhausting, happy, fulfilling year; I wouldn’t change it, and am excited to start up again in the fall. But I hadn’t appreciated how very much we all could use a real, honest-to-god break.

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Yeah, I’m still a bit apprehensive about the whole They’re With Me All Day thing, but I’m not nearly as worked up about it as I was in the past. While I know there will be plenty of refereeing moments, Ella and Annie are just a bit older now, that much more independent (even though they still don’t sleep in worth a damn). Also, we’ve done this summer thing before, and I know that – needing a break aside – some structure will be good for everyone, so our days aren’t going to be complete free-for-alls. We have camps and trips and family visits and the lake and I imagine we will still make our Summer Fun List; but also, we have time at home to just hang out and for once, I’m good with that.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Five minutes ago, Ella declared that she was bored. She and Annie will be having fistfights by Monday. There will be tears (theirs? Mine? All of the above?) by midweek. By the Fourth of July I will be counting down the days until they go back to school. But, right now, at this very moment, summer holds delicious promise. (Remind me to check back here in a month to laugh at my foolish naiveté.)

This morning, for the first time, Ella joined me in taking the dogs for a walk, riding beside me on her bike as we traversed the neighborhood. It was raining slightly, but neither of us cared; if anything, it felt refreshing. As we neared home, Ella looked over her shoulder and flashed me a huge grin.

“Mama!”

Yes, love?

“If this were a school day, we’d never have time to go for a bike ride. And now we’ve walked the dogs and it’s not even breakfast yet. Summer is the BEST!”

By August – hell, by July – I may deny I ever said it… but this morning, I couldn’t help but call back, Yes, indeed. It is.