Since buying our cottage, we’ve been hauling massive loads of stuff from the dock up the hill to our summer getaway. Every time, we complain about the hill and the many trips we have to take. We tell ourselves “We need to get a golf cart!”, which are common on Keats to putter around / haul up stuff. But we kept putting it off. We’d already bought a lot of stuff this year (cottage, boat, etc). But then we took over a BBQ and that was the final straw. Hauling that box up the dock and the hill took forever.
So, we said screw it, we may as well get the golf cart now and actually make use of it on future awkward items being sent over. It was, of all the things we’ve purchased in the last few months, one of the easiest transactions to complete. The team at Attica were incredibly helpful and had our golf cart customized and ready to ship within a week. They arranged the whole shipping process, including the water taxi. We just had to hand over the money.
As logical as this sounds, our experience with many cottage-related things has been that money doesn’t matter – there are still a million hoops to go through!
So, huzzah, golf cart! And let me tell you, ripping around in that thing is a lot of fun! I invented many reasons to use it on our first weekend!
The last few months have been scheduled to the brim. Although our issues are very much “first world problems,” managing our overflowing schedule has been a struggle. After purchasing our cottage a few months ago, we have found ourselves juggling endless things to do and to buy, each with its own set of complicated steps. Since the cottage is on Keats Island, we often have extra things to consider when taking items over. Since our car only fits us and the stuff for one trip (bin & cooler & other small items), we often have to make a special trip with anything larger. This means finding a spot in the week where we can both pick up and take the larger item to the boat, without the kids (since the car seats need to be removed to fit the bulky item), or arranging for it to be shipped on the water taxi (like we did with the mattress and golf cart). We only have one car, and some set evenings that the car is in use for activities, so scheduling is key.
Buying a boat (though super exciting) was more complicated and time-consuming than we expected. It took us about 4 months and 3 brokers to accomplish. Once that was done, it came with its own set of lists: things to fix, equipment to buy, mooring to secure. And of course, learning how to drive it. Each step has its own set of steps yet again, it seems. To get the mooring, we had to deal with local politics, make a trip out to choose & measure the depth of the spot, order the custom buoy and chain / rope, have those delivered, work with someone to order the mooring anchor and then finally we’ll drop the anchor once it’s all assembled. This has taken weeks and endless phone calls as well as quite a large learning curve on our part.
Yes, we’re accomplishing a lot of stuff in a very short period of time, but it’s not been easy. Since we’ve been juggling so many projects at once, I’ve found the key to our sanity has been careful planning on both our calendar and in our list app. I wanted to share some of our tips for staying on top of so many projects.
If you find your To-Do lists growing exponentially, or your calendar filling up, I suggest the following:
- Divide and conquer – share your to do list with your partner, if you can. When one of us feels overwhelmed with too many items on our list, we split up the tasks. Additionally, there have been many nights or days where one parent has to take over solo parenting so the other can run around getting ‘stuff’ done
- Set aside time to make calls – I find that it’s more efficient to set aside a block of time to make many calls at once than to field or make many calls throughout the day
- Use your calendar for everything – My husband and I have shared calendar streams, as well as personal streams. This way, we don’t book things on days when the other is not free. Most of our days overflow, but that’s ok. It’s nice to know exactly when everything needs to happen and to be able to spot days or times when you can book in meetings or shopping trips.
- Manage your lists in an app – we use the app ShopShop, which is by no means glamorous, to manage all our shopping lists and to do lists. The app is shared in the cloud, so if one of us updates the list, it’s reflected in all versions. We have granular lists, from a regular grocery list to lists for the cottage (one food, one ‘stuff’), the boat, and specialty stores like Costco. For projects, I’ll often create a to-do list as well.
- Work backwards & keep it granular – if we know the final step in a project, I find it best to set a date for that (if possible), then work backwards, scheduling in all the tasks that run up to the completion of the project. Marking out individual steps to anything makes them easier to tick off (this is also how I work on decluttering our home).
- Co-ordinate projects – if we know we’re taking a trip to Keats, I try to think of which project could be completed prior to that date. For example, which large things could be arranged to take onto the boat, or which specific items could be taken to finish certain renovations on the island. Space is limited, so items get checked off based on both space and priority.
- Meal plan once a week – who has time to think of meals and grocery shop? We try to take most of the thought out of dinners (which for us happen at 5pm, so we need to be organized) by meal-planning and doing our grocery shopping once a week. Our shopping is a combination of delivery with Spud and local grocery stores (Save-On-Foods, Loblaws) with occasional trips to Whole Foods or Costco for specialty items. If we’re eating seafood or a meat other than ground beef, I’ll often make a day-of visit to a butcher or seafood store, since we prefer both fresh and organic whenever possible.
- Schedule in downtime – make sure you have days that don’t involve endless errands. Get out and enjoy some relaxation too.
With two very active little boys, there’s not much “break” to Spring Break. Two weeks off school is necessary and great, but it did throw a wrench into a routine I felt we were all finally getting used to. I struggled to fit my work time in, but we did not struggle to create new memories.
We went to the cottage. Twice. The first weekend (the first trip for the kids!), we discovered a leak (yay!) and our pump broke (yay!), but we had glorious sunshine. The second weekend, which originally looked like it was going to be nicer, wasn’t. Still, we went. We just didn’t stay long. It was cloudy but less chaotic. We now have a huge pile of odd sticks, shells and sea glass. Pinterest to the rescue!
We had a kid-free weekend to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary (which is coming up in 2 weeks). We went to Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler. Why not just go to the cottage without the kids? First, we LOVE it at Nita Lake. Second, I scored a deal on a Facebook moms group! It felt so good to be lazy, get a massage and eat amazing food.
We spent a lot of time outside going to some favourite local parks, meeting with friends, or just chilling in the sun with scooters and bikes and sidewalk chalk.
We went to our favourite activity spots, namely the Aquarium, Science World and Maplewood Farm. These are always the top requests when we have a full day off!
We threw in some last-minute fun! To top it off, we drove back from Whistler and decided to treat the kids to a visit to the PlayDome. I hadn’t been willing to take both kids myself mid-week, but I am SO glad we went. They both had a blast!
So, was it relaxing? Sometimes. You know, if you don’t count the unexpected leaks and things breaking and rain and ongoing frustrations in trying to find a boat. But, you know, if you forget about those things… then yes!
Our second night on Keats Island, I received “the call.” You know, the one with sobbing children. Aiden and Damien had been roughhousing (no surprise there) and Aiden had hurt his fingers. Looking at the time, I thought “ok, maybe he’s fine and it just triggered his need to go to bed” so I stayed cheery and asked him to give my Mom a big hug and have a good bath. I promised to sing his song in a later call.
Unfortunately, he didn’t bounce back. His finger was hurting and then he started complaining of a sore ear. My mom was able to locate our Advil and stayed up with him for a very long night. Damien was up a couple of times too, which was not easy for one grandma!
I received “the call” again the next morning at 7. More crying. We decided Aiden should go to the clinic and I made plans to come home early.
Well, I should have double checked the schedules. Getting off of Keats Island in the Winter is not as easy. There are two main ways to return home: direct water taxi or through BC Ferries. Well, we thought a certain time was the earliest time, not realizing we had forgotten to refer to the water taxi, which had a direct option to get into Horseshoe Bay early that morning. Missing that, I was kicking myself all morning feeling guilty and replaying the crying children in my head. Mom guilt.
I took the next Stormaway into Langdale to connect with the BC Ferries return trip, but it didn’t connect on Sundays. I knew this, and yet it was still the fastest option at the time. I had to wait 2 hours. With no food beyond what could be purchased from the vending machine. The whole process took me 4 hours, when it could have taken 35 minutes.
I made it home to two smiling kids, who of course felt fine after breakfast and Advil (for Aiden). Aiden sprained his finger (it looks like 2 of them) and had an ear infection caused by a super congested nose he’s had for a while now. They were tired and grumpy, but not as my mind had pictured them. What a trip.
So, today I took them both to the aquarium and let them go at their own pace. I felt like I needed to reconnect with them after the weekend away and the chaos of my return. It was a beautiful morning…. until we had some issues over lunch since the Aquarium appears to have modified some ingredients on their menu and they were no longer to the satisfaction of either child. And so they ended up tired and hungry and super cranky leaving through the gift shop. Ah. The reality of parenting returned.
This weekend we went to our new cottage on Keats Island to give it a thorough clean. We thought it looked clean when we purchased it, so we went hoping for some relaxing couples time too. Well, after 8 hours of cleaning a kitchen top to bottom (including the hand washing of every dish and utensil that came with the place), I can say we didn’t get much couples time. We did, however, get a cottage that’s probably cleaner than our current house.
We washed 4 beds worth of linens, overflowed the washer twice, shrank the couch slipcovers (boo), accidentally left a footstool in the rain (oops), and discovered the many things we forgot to bring or must soon bring. Our list is enormous.
And yet, we have a cottage! And were welcomed into an amazing community! From our reception on the island being handed the keys to a truck to take our stuff across, to the vacuum we borrowed, to the welcome bonfire we sat around late our second evening. And most importantly to the warm welcome by friends who made the daunting work list seem like a trifle in comparison to the amazing experiences we will soon have.
The cottage is now cleaned and winterized. We look forward to Spring!