On Managing To-Do Lists

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.

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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. 

Don’t Ruin Pure Joy With Cameras

I was very proud of my Christmas tree this year. I absolutely love Christmas. In years past, I have been known to handmade and mail out all our Christmas cards and to hand-stamp or decorate my own wrapping paper. Of course, with kids, that’s not my reality right now. Still, I have a great double-sided wrapping paper (Costco!) that I use to co-ordinate my wrapping and I take extra time to add bows and small ornaments as special decor on some gifts. I love laying out the presents and arranging the stockings.

I know I’m crazy, but it makes me happy. 

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Last year, we were very excited about Christmas morning. Aiden was getting the cliche most-awesome-Christmas-morning-present ever, a new bike. We found one in his absolute favourite colour (turquoise) and had it ready for Christmas morning. Everyone was very excited. We had co-ordinated with my mom (Oma) to come over as soon as the kids woke, so she could witness their Christmas morning excitement and Aiden’s reaction to the bike. 

Cue Christmas morning and Aiden bounded out of bed and was ready to fly down the stairs when we said WAIT and asked him to wait until Oma came. He was restless and excited, but he waited. Then we had him wait until we got the cameras ready and tried to record his reaction to the bike. So of course this happened:

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Aiden came down the stairs wary and nervous, shying away from the camera. He barely looked at the bike, barely registered a reaction. 

We robbed him of his Christmas-morning joy. It’s a mistake I will never ever make again. This year, the cameras go away and instead we will have to remember these precious moments. We can record other parts of Christmas, but this moment? This excitement? It’s so fleeting and so precious. 

So, here’s my advice to you – let your child have their moment of joy. Remember it. Photograph them when they are having fun, but never force them to check their emotions just so you can record it for posterity. 

At Least There Was Cake?

It was my birthday on Tuesday. I turned 33. It was not quite the birthday I had expected. 

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I love birthdays. Mine, the kids, other people: doesn’t matter. I. LOVE. Birthdays. A chance to celebrate, to get together, to share your love for someone? PERFECT. So, typically I’m one of those people who always has a birthday party. Sometime after kids, I skipped one because, well, kids. And one I skipped because I felt bad that I was one of the only people still having birthday get together. And then I figured SCREW IT birthdays are awesome and we don’t see people we care about often enough anyway. 

So, I was determined to have a party this year. For Ianiv too, actually, who had his 35th in October. Well. Life happened. We bought a cottage (crazy, stressful, amazing). Aiden started school (amazing, so great, an adjustment on our schedule). We had weekends packed with events (which I love, but still crazy). I had a lot of ups and downs with work (mostly ups). Damien started potty training. And dropping his nap. And both kids were sleeping like crap. Put it all together and my birthday just crept up too quickly and I never did get around to planning something. 

The day of my birthday involved a feverish 5-year-old and a potty trained 2.5 year old who withholds for painful periods of time, with much stress and tears and anxiety along the way. 

But at least there was cake? And beer advent calendars? 

As Aiden’s teacher kindly reminded me, moms and celebrations don’t often mix! ;)

Taking the Instructions Out of Art Time

Yesterday I posed a link to the ActiveMama Facebook page with some Halloween craft ideas. Among the ideas was a super cute Mummy decorated with masking tape (from No Time for Flashcards). So easy, I thought! I’m totally all about the easy. 

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Well, the kids were tired yesterday afternoon and starting to bicker. I took a sheaf of paper (first off, I’m out of black paper) and cut out a quick gingerbread person shape. I was about to give the kids some cute Halloween-themed washi tape that I had, when I realized:

  1. Giving them tape and asking them to cut it to specific lengths was not going to buy me the quiet time needed to complete dinner
  2. IT WAS TOO STRUCTURED

I’m kind of anti-structure when it comes to crafts and art. I think offering a child a limited set of materials with “instructions” to follow really limits their creativity. I avoid it whenever possible, particularly now as Aiden is in school. So, I kept my mouth shut about the tape and handed Aiden and his best buddy the shapes and told them to have fun. I accidentally let slip the “you could make a Mummy” but quickly recovered with “or any Halloween creature. Whatever you want!”

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Of course, my blunder meant that both boys created a Mummy first (see how used to instruction they are?!) but then they got into it. Aiden began a Frankenstein (he still wants to colour the feet green and apply eyes), accenting it with torn clothes and trimming the face shape and hands. His buddy made an awesome zombie. 

My supplies? A paper, a bin of odds-and-ends (buttons, beats, google eyes) and freedom to grab anything from the craft cabinet. 

Allowed to explore their own creativity, the boys spent a half hour at this craft (that’s a huge time for boys on a playdate). Even Damien scribbled on a man for a bit. 

SUCCESS. 

To My Son on the First Day of Kindergarten

Aiden arieanna

Dear Aiden,

I’ve been known to write you letters on your birthday and other special occasions. Tomorrow isn’t your birthday, but it is nonetheless momentous. I have felt all day that I am bursting with mixed emotions about the changes that begin tomorrow. There is so much that I am feeling and so much I want to say. So I’m writing you this letter. 

Tomorrow you begin Kindergarten. Tomorrow you begin walking a path that will slowly take you into your own future life. Your own independence. 

Up to now, we have walked hand in hand as you have grown up. I have been with you almost every day of your nearly 5 years. I have had the privilege to take care of you each and every day. Yes, you had preschool, but what is 4 hours really? Just a moment gone by. And now 5 years of those moments have flown by and you are here, on the precipice of all this change. This change which suddenly overwhelms me.

Tomorrow I will walk you to school. I will hold your hand and I will give you a hug and I will wave at you as you enter your new school. You’ll meet new friends, some of whom may turn out to be lifelong friends, some of whom may not. But either way, most of those kids will be with you for years to come. You will spend most of your waking hours with them. 

Tomorrow I will let go of your hand as you enter your school. Those first steps take you to a place where I cannot hold your hand, but will forever be at your side, thinking of you. Even as the years pass and you no longer want to hold my hand as we walk to school, I’ll still be there. Even as you head off to high school then graduate, I’ll still be there. Even as you forge your own life on your own, I’ll still be there. I’ll always be there. 

Tomorrow I will let go of your hand. Tomorrow your new life begins. 

I love you Aiden. I am so proud of you and so excited for you and so nervous as well. 

Love,
Mommy