To the Lake! Again!

There was a moment, on our first full day of vacation—I think it was post-boardwalking, post rock-throwing, post lunch and ice cream and toy store and swimming—when Scott and I were each flat upon one of the hotel room’s queen-sized beds, exhausted. Simone was pretending to be a dog: she’d fashioned a piece of Play-Doh into a ball and I was throwing it for her to fetch. She’d bring it back to me, and without sitting up, I’d toss it again with what little energy I had. Twyla was happy on the carpet, having discovered a miniature cereal box left over from the breakfast buffet. So there we were, no sounds except Simone’s fake-dog panting, the crinkling of an empty cereal bag, and the periodic WHUMP of the Play-Doh ball hitting the glass door to the balcony, and I started to laugh. “This is some A-1 parenting right here,” I said. Scott moaned in response.

We rallied, but really, the energy of children astonishes me, and vacationing with children is—well, my fingers want to type that it is the best of times, it is the worst of times, but that isn’t really true. Mostly it is the best, but I won’t deny that the addition of small moody people with unpredictable desires and predictably erratic sleep schedules complicates one’s leisure-taking.

Every August (this was year three) we go to Duluth, to the lake, for a summer send-off, something we look forward to all year long. And last year, I warned Scott that the next year, this year, 2013, would likely be the most difficult, what with the 14-month-y-ness of Twyla. And it WAS harder than last year, when Twyla was essentially an immobile, sleepy lump, but it was not nearly as hard as I’d imagined (one of the perks of having a very alarmist imagination, I suppose). I’d forgotten to account, too, for the probability that Twyla would be old enough not only to make restaurant meals exhausting, but also to interact with Simone in ways that warmed the cockles of my heart, whatever those are. One evening they spent close to an hour playing together in our room, Simone dashing to hide behind a heavy curtain while Twyla ran, lurching and shrieking, to reveal her. Over and over, back and forth, demonstrably (and loudly) enjoying one another. Sure, this was the year I got almost no reading done, the year I walked pensively along the shore in only the briefest of intervals, but it was also the year of all of this:






Somehow we also ended up with a large subset of photos of people looking inexplicably morose, even Twyla, who has never been morose a day in her life. I call this one “Ennui at the Seashore”:


One particularly overcast morning combined with an empty rock beach to recreate Bergman’s neglected masterpiece “Ledsen Bebis”:

And Twyla kept grabbing up handfuls of rocks and trying to scoot into the sea, like a tiny Virginia Woolf:

Speaking of pictures, I’d decided I wanted more with me in them. I have thousands of the girls, and a fair number even of the girls with Scott, but I am not in many, partly because I am usually the one behind the camera but also, I admit, because I don’t particularly care for the way I look in photographs. The thing is, though, that the few pictures I DO have of Alexa en Famille have ended up being rather precious to me, and from the vantage point of the future, I always think I look less terrible than I thought I looked at the time, meaning that when I am old and crepey I will likely laugh bitterly at thirty-something Alexa’s insecurities, just as thirty-something Alexa would like to slap 17-year-old Alexa across the face for taking her youth so thoroughly for granted. I want the girls to have pictures of themselves with their mother, and there is simply no getting around the fact that I’m the mother in question. So I tried, this year, to hand the camera (well, phone) off to Scott.

Alas, the results mostly fell into one of several categories:

Poorly lit:


Ruined by uncooperative children:


Un(?)intentionally obscene:


All of the above:

I got one passable picture of me with Twyla where the shadowy lighting was fixed by applying a certain weird pink vintage-y filter, but then…weird pink vintage-y filter:

Better luck next year (when Twyla will be two, and thus not difficult to wrangle at all). Maybe I’ll make Scott practice first, or better yet, press some unsuspecting stranger into service to take a picture of all FOUR of us next summer, when we return for more stone-skipping and gelato-eating and balcony-lounging.

Until then, to sharpen my sleep-deprived memories of our vacation, the second with both girls there, but the first with both girls present, I have the single most spectacular photograph ever, of my two lovely children, together:


  1. Nicole says:

    Oh I have the SAME issues when my hubby has the camera – he cannot centre a shot and almost always cuts off my head. I love the pic of the girls taken from the back as they walk hand in hand together. In giving them each other you’ve really given them the most precious gift in the world.

  2. Heidi says:

    My husband and I went to Greece last year and I was taken by a similar inspiration — pictures! of me! for once! — and handed off the camera to pose in front of many a ruin/statue/mosaic, etc. I didn’t look through the pictures until we got home, and of course (of course!) in every. single. freaking. one. he had zoomed in on me and completely cut out the ruin/statue/mosaic/motherf-ingPARTHENON in the background. Arrrggggghhhhhhh. Oh, and also poorly lit, yes.


  3. Amelie says:

    Wonderful pictures! You do make it look like the best of times, certainly.
    This post also made me really appreciate that my husband is a good photographer, much better than me with pictures with people in them :)

  4. celia says:

    We went to my parents house in the mountains for a week. It’s three floors and somewhat like spending a week in the china department of Macy’s. it’s full of tables with lace doilies on top of which are delicate bowls fulled with glass pebbles or collectibles or candles or CACTI. So basically while grandma and grandpa are wonderful, going to their house is an endurance test with a high collateral damage. It’s exhausting. I love them. I hate visiting. I told my husband that this was likely the worst year with a three year old and a one year old but that next year with a four year old and a two year old, we can stay in a rented apartment or we are NOT going. Also hundreds of wine bottles, also carts of crystal. I can’t even.

  5. Keegan says:

    Send the pictures my way. I can cover cleavage and most times make the lighting better. Your family is adorable. I wish I had the chance to see you guys more often. Scott looks like his dad more and more.

  6. Christy says:

    “And Twyla kept grabbing up handfuls of rocks and trying to scoot into the sea, like a tiny Virginia Woolf”. Ah! This line gave me some serious inappropriate giggles.
    Gitchigoomie is my happy place. I vacationed every August as a child at the sea villas at Lutsen Resort, honeymooned there and spent my 30th at the Cotton Mansion in Duluth. I can’t wait to take my kids there someday when I’m brave enough to travel with them {so maybe when their 20-25ish? Sounds about right :)}.

    • Alexa says:

      I love the Lutsen Sea Villas! We stayed there when I was eleven or so. I will always remember it fondly because my mother finally broke down and let me buy a (Verboten!) Sweet Valley High book, which I read while sitting by the lake. It was delicious.

  7. Stacy says:

    Still giggling about the unintentionally obscene photos. My husband always focuses in on that part of my anatomy when he’s photographing me on vacation. Inevitably, I have to delete something off the camera before showing photos to anyone.

  8. MJ says:

    I love the pictures of the girls together and am glad that you realize that you are far more critical of yourself in pictures now than you will be in the future (or than any of us are). So keep handing off the phone to Scott and don’t hesitate to look at the picture he just took and make him retake it if necessary.
    Your game of fetch was one of my favorite games with our son, although we played it with a Nerf ball thrown from the bed and he didn’t bother pretending he was a dog. For future reference, you might try the “race” game – e.g., “How long will it take you to run to that tree and back?” You do need a watch with a second hand or use the stopwatch function on your phone to time the races.
    PS Loved the Virginia Woolf line, although I felt a little guilty laughing at it.

  9. Amber says:

    Your commentary on the mom pictures made me laugh and your face in the ‘uncooperative children’ one is so, so relatable. We have many in which I’m posing with our boys, wearing the exact same expression. Thanks for adding wit and charm to the internets.

  10. Andrea says:

    I’ll bet Scott is very proud of the cleavage shots! I had to comment today because we went to Lutsen in August for four days. For this Oklahoma girl, it was absolutely amazing. The lake looks as big as the ocean, the trees are beautiful, and the weather was heaven! Our family that lives in Rosemount kept reminding me that come winter, I really wouldn’t want to live there, but I still don’t really believe them. The best story I have is our waitress at Pickwick’s recommending a beer for my husband that was pretty hoppy. He was certain she was saying it was ‘happy,’ and he figured he couldn’t go wrong with a happy beer. I wonder what she thought of our accents!
    Minnesota is wonderful–I hope I get to go back before I’m old & gray!

  11. Jenn says:

    You are on FIRE in this post. The Virgina Woolf simile and questioning Scott’s intentions in the pictures of you made me laugh out loud. I can never ask my husband if an outfit is too cleavage-revealing because his answer is always “no.” haha.

    This was a lovely post. I know what you mean about vacation with young kids being exhausting but still so lovely. The girls holding hands is super precious.

  12. Sandra says:

    I can’t stop smiling. Mine are presently 15 and 12, and this is a glorious reminder of all that is right about those early (and often challenging) years of raising siblings. They are beautiful girls.

  13. Pam says:

    Love the pictures-especially that last one. So sweet.
    I had to go to Google maps because when you mentioned Duluth and lake I wondered what lake it was on because I’m an idiot. Only Lake Superior which, according to Google maps, has a dotted line running down the middle of it.
    Baby Woolf. We know we shouldn’t have laughed.
    And husbands with cameras. Mine gets his finger in every picture. Even with me yelling, “Get your damn finger out of the way!” Every freaking time.

  14. Swistle says:

    I am the same way about photos of me. It is partly me not liking the way I look in a photo (until, same as you, it’s way later), but it’s partly that Paul is a TERRIBLE PHOTOGRAPHER and makes me look EVEN MORE AWFUL THAN I COULD IMAGINE and/or RUINS THE SHOT COMPLETELY IN OTHER WAYS.

  15. jenni says:

    Yes, a vacation with wee-ones is really not a vacation in any true sense of the word…

    …but, is it just me or does anyone else see a woman’s face next to yours in the sofa in the ‘uncooperative’ kids section? Ok, maybe its just me an my overactive imagination. I swear theirs a chicks face there though. I’ve only had two drinks, promise.

    We have like a total of 9 photos of ME WITH the KIDS and I tell my husband they will thin they were raised by wolves if he doesn’t pick up the frickin’ camera on occasion. Of course, if I had that cleavage, he might be more inclined to photography. That shit is impressive.

  16. tree town gal says:

    love it all… and you are so right about making sure you are in photos… i simply do not exist in the life of my children, according to the photos… and you are fabulous and gorgeous…

  17. jen says:

    I have the same problem with pictures and it’s as though my husband can’t see that he’s taking an unflattering picture or something. Or he doesn’t know how to adjust for lighting or I don’t know but he is particularly bad at taking pictures. I have tried to learn to love those pictures for their own awfulness but whenever else I have the chance, I ask someone else to take the pictures and include all of us.

  18. C says:

    This made me a little weepy….probably because I have the same feelings about being in photos (even though my husband is always the photographer). Must. Be. Present. In. Photos.

Leave a Reply