"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Truly Horrible One

If you are lucky enough to have a cottage or country place you most likely have had one of these and like most truly horrible things they usually stick out more in your mind than the wonderfully good ones. I am talking about the dreaded horrible house guest. Now over the past ten years I have been spending most of the summer at our cottage as the de facto matriarch and I have hosted many, many guests. In the beginning the guests were made up of couples who came for fun, boozy weekends when we would eat, drink, swim, sail, fish, eat and drink some more. Everyone chipped in for beer and something to barbecue and we would all help cook and clean up. Later came the weekends of babies. My Other Half and I have a great group of old friends (see above boozey weekends) and we were lucky enough to all have children around the same time. Everyone would arrive with porta-cribs, exer-saucers, booster seats and baby swings. Again we would eat, drink, swim, sail and fish with interludes of nursing, diaper changes and soothing of various assorted colicky babies. Everyone pitched in and about the only thing we didn't share was breast milk.

Still later I would move up north for the entire summer with the boys and my Other Half would come up on Fridays and go back to the city early Monday morning. I would fill the weekdays with girlfriends and their kids. We'd sit on the dock watching toddlers pushing around toy boats in the water, preschoolers bravely jumping off the dock in their "lifeys" and we'd attach duelling jolly jumpers to door frames so the kids could jump while we cooked dinner, enjoyed a glass or bottle of wine. Again, everyone pitched in making chicken fingers, macaroni and s'mores by the campfire. Laundry was shared, counters were wiped and, as only with mothers, no one ever had to be asked to help, except the kids of course.

Now things are even easier. The first thing my friends ask when we plan a weekend is, "What can we bring? Other than wine, of course." They come bearing gifts of stinky cheese, a new recipe for pulled pork or all the fixings for make-your-own-pizzas. We cook, swim, eat, watch the kids learn to windsurf or dumping the sailboat in the middle of the lake. We have fabulous hors d'oeuvres on the dock and the occasional blender drink is whipped up. Even clean up is fun (for the adults) with the kids divided into teams for clearing the table and making sure all the boats are put away at the end of day. But every once in a while to my great, and perhaps naive surprise, a guest comes along who forgets that I don't run a full service hotel.

But this week one did. An old friend of the family's invited herself along with her hubby and two kids to the cottage presuming that we would put them up for the night before they dropped their daughter off at camp. And she went on to assume that they could stay with us for the three days while the daughter was away so they wouldn't have to drive back down to the city. I told her that this week was our only family time together before school starts next week so, while they were welcome to stay for one night, it wouldn't work out the other two. This, she said, was a problem since she really didn't want to have to drive two hours back to her sister's house. But for once I stood firm and repeated that we would be happy to see them for one night. How I regret those words now.

We had already made arrangements to go and visit friends on the day our guests were to arrive so I told them to make themselves at home until we got back. This might seem a bit inhospitable but remember, I didn't ask them to come and she had spent lots of time at our cottage growing up. I said we'd be back after 4pm as we had to stop for groceries on the way. (Hint, hint) We had already communicated extensively by email about the visit and she had yet to ask the first question every house guest should pose to their host which is, "What can we bring?" Even after the hint about groceries she still didn't bite so I bought more milk, dinner for nine people and three kinds of ice cream for dessert. We arrived back at the cottage to find the family making themselves right at home. They were all on the dock watching the seven year old boy paddle a kayak for the first time. They said hello and then asked if someone would take them on a boat tour of the lake. I offered my Other Half's services while I began making dinner. The son asked what we were having and when I told him chicken fajitas he looked confused.
I said, "You know, wraps with chicken, cheese, salsa and some veggies."
He replied, "Do you have any hamburger meat?"
I said, "Yes, I think I have some in the freezer. Would you like that in a wrap?"
"No," he replied. "I'd like hamburger and chips and cheese."
Okay, I thought, this is not a restaurant but it's only one meal. I can do hamburger.

Meanwhile the family was getting ready to go on their boat tour. Oh, did I mention they had no lifejackets for the kids? Now after spending all my life on one body of water or another the first (and only consistent) rule at the cottage is kids wear a life jacket in the boat and on the dock at all times. No exceptions. You never know how well other people's kids swim despite what the parents may say and it's never worth risking a child falling in when someone isn't looking. So we found a couple of lifejackets and off they went. My boys were being pretty good about these "random kids you invited, Mum" as Number Three Son delicately put it. And when they returned they even offered to play with them while I set the table. What were the parents doing while their children were entertained and their dinner was prepared you might ask? Well, they weren't offering to help on either front, instead they were both sitting on the couch punching away on their iPhones, occasionally looking up as I passed by with the plates or condiments. Then she got out her computer just as I called the kids in to eat and asked where she could plug it in to charge. This may be one of the few time I have wished we were further down the lake with no power.

We sat down to the meal and everyone seemed happy, the son with his hamburger meat and chips which, of course, now all the kids wanted. I poured myself another glass of wine and looked over at my Other Half who rolled his eyes discreetly. When the meal was over my kids cleared the table and I began loading the dishwasher as once again our guests sat down to what must have been terribly important business on their phones. Are they NATO ambassadors negotiating the truce in Libya? No, she's a sales rep and he runs some sort of automotive shop but I'm sure the emails they had to attend to were just as important as peace in the Middle East. We dished out ice cream to everyone and then I suggested the kids go and make a campfire for roasting marshmellows. I finished the dishes just as my guests finished playing, I mean, working on their phones and they all went outside to the firepit. I went to set up the kids beds and turn on the lights in the bedroom while thinking to myself, they can't possibly be this clueless. Have they never stayed at someone's house before? Do they show up for dinner parties without a bottle of wine or some sort of hostess gift? Should I slip an itemized bill under the door before they wake up in the morning?

I didn't, but I wish I had had the guts to. It would have read something like this


Thank you for staying at Hotel Le Cottage.
Please be advised the following items will be charged
to your credit card at market price:

Room Rate - Two adults, Queen Bed
Two children, Twin beds
Turndown and Maid Service
Dinner for Four in our Dining room
Boat Tour of the lake (a fuel tax surcharge will be added)
Childcare and lifeguarding (extra fee for lifejackets)
Outdoor Activities - campfire, star gazing and sing along
Breakfast and childcare before 8am
Boat taxi to and from landing with porter to carry luggage
Early check in and late checkout

A gratuity of 15% will be added to the final amount.

We hoped you enjoyed your stay at Hotel Le Cottage on the Shores of Smoke Lake. We request that all future reservations be made 6 months in advance so that we will have time to come up with a reasonable excuse to say no.

(Disclaimer- If you are easily offended or especially sensitive to posts such as the above just remember - a good bottle of wine goes a long way)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Winding down the summer

Feeling rather melancholy right now. Came down from the cottage yesterday and while we are going back up on Thursday I still feel like the summer is over and I missed the whole damn thing. I woke up early, before the sun even and came downstairs to make coffee and then crawl back into bed with my Kobo but once I was out of bed I realized how cold it was and I had an overwhelming urge to light a fire. Of course to light a fire I first had to get kindling and then I realized I had to clean out last winter's ashes which were up over the grate. By this time all three boys were up despite the fact that it's still wasn't even 7am. I sent them back upstairs to watch TV in my bed and promised to make muffins if they would just leave me alone for a little longer. I know that in exactly two weeks today they will not be up before seven, I'll be lucky if I can drag them out of bed by eight on the first day of school despite the fact that not one of them, not even the teenager (especially not the teenager) has slept in past 8am all damn summer. I have come to loath all my friends who say things like, "oh my kids sleep until noon" which is almost as bad as hearing, "My kids amuse themselves all day long while I work/read/garden." Who are these so-called kids? And where do I get them?

This summer has been a bit of a let down on most fronts - the business had been slow either due to the economy, the weather or both; Number Two Son had a terrible time at camp and probably won't be going back next year so I am already panicking about what to do with him for the month they are usually all away; despite my encouragement/threats not one of my children has made any attempt at calling a friend to do something on his own. They have hung around waiting for me to organize them. And now we are into the second last week of summer and My Other Half is planning on taking off next week (truth be told, there are no orders to fill so no boats to build) we had hoped to go away with the boys for a holiday but finances aren't conducive to spending money on anything other than groceries (which continue to increase exponentially in both quantity and price) so it will be the cottage and day trips which isn't so bad but not the break we were all hoping for and quite frankly, need. We live in a beautiful part of the world and as long as the weather doesn't turn autumnal overnight we canget out on the water, sailing, waterskiing and swimming. Not so bad after all.

I realize that the purpose of this blog, time and time again when I start out griping and end up thankful is self-directed therapy. Good thing too since it's way too early to pour a drink.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Campers

We spent a wonderful weekend with my Other Half's family. 18 people in three cabins and two tents. Lots of fun, food and craziness. As the summer winds down I feel like we are just getting started. Soccer finishes next week so we will be free for the last 10 days before the kids go back to school. I waffle between wanting these days to last forever and wishing we had year round schooling. Oh well, I guess that's why this post is labelled, "It's about family."

Leaping for Joy


Number Two up on water skis for the first time

Number One showing off

Finally - a real smile

My gorgeous nieces

The boats at Pointe au Baril

My Other Half in his element

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two out of three ain't bad

Thank you for attending to the matters we discussed so promptly. Re. item #1 - the burning smell was not, in fact the 18 year old water furnace at all but rather the 5 year old hot water heater next to it. A quick change of the lower element and we were charged the plumbing rate plus a few bucks for the part. Hallelujah! The house made of wood didn't burn down nor did we have to put a second mortgage on it!

I realize you are still working on item #2 but perhaps since we have put a family friend on the job to really crack the whip with the real estate agent who never calls and doesn't seem to have any sort of a plan for selling the property (do they ever?) will help. We had thought of cutting out the middle man altogether but will give him until the end of the month to get the damn place sold thus freeing up some badly needed cash.

Regarding Item #3 - thank you, thank you, thank you for sending Sue our way. She came via a friend whose son had been going to see her and all of us, my Other Half and Number One Son, really liked her and think she will be a great help going forward on this journey of raising an very serious and focussed young man. She calls herself a "Sport/Mind Coach" and takes a holistic approach to working with young people. She is not just about raising a superstar but making sure that they can cope with the stresses of competition as well as keeping their options open academically and socially. She is a former high school principal, professional skater and seems to know what she is talking about. Hopefully working with her will help Number One learn to manage his anxiety and help him to enjoy the sports he so loves to do again.

So, not to be pushy but now that the Americans have dealt (sort of) with their debt crisis could we stop with all the doomsaying and maybe have a little good news come our way so that people can enjoy the last few remaining weeks of this summer and maybe even order a boat or two.

Again, thank you for your consideration and speedy attention to these matters.


(somewhat relieved mother but still anxious home and small business owner)

P.S. If it's not too much to ask could you knock all the boys' teams out of the soccer playoffs so that we can just go up and stay at the cottage for the last three weeks before school starts?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To whom it may concern,

I need three things to happen as soon as possible.

  1. The furnace to be fixed easily and for not a lot of money
  2. The old shop property to sell immediately and for a lot of money
  3. My son's challenges to be surmountable and not lifelong
Thank you for your consideration in these matters. I look forward to seeing changes made ASAP.


(worried mother, nervous home & small business owner)
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