We recently spent a week at a cottage in lovely Haliburton. Not the cottage we rented mind you, or so the story goes. Our friends have a cottage, well it is one of their parents, but for the purpose of this story it was theirs. We have been to this cottage many times and have always enjoyed our days of sunning and swimming, Kawartha Dairy ice cream (Moose tracks - yum!), trips to Robinson's and playing games in the evening. We have only been to the cottage twice though since the girls have been born, our trips have dwindled in that way that only small children can induce.
This year our friends mentioned that the cottage next door could be rented if we were interested. We talked about it and despite knowing that this was not a vacation in the sense of a break from the daily grind of cooking and cleaning - we just moved it North, it was a holiday with friends and was too good to pass up. I have such wonderful memories of the cottage we rented for years in Bobcaygeon, I wanted to give that to my girls, despite my horrible selfishness that screamed, "hotel you fool!" Don't get me wrong, I am not a pampered city-girl who is afraid of a little hard work and good old fashioned nature fun. It is just that Hubby and I are very protective of our vacation time, it is our time to be together just us and to really spend time together. For us that usually means being away from home just the four of us. Hubby works extremely long hours which makes my job long too, we feel strongly that our reconnection as a family comes from our vacations, no matter how short, and our ability to get away from the daily grind and unplug ourselves as well. (Stepping down from soapbox now.)
My childish memories of those weeks at the cottage are not marred by the drudgery of packing, cooking, cleaning, sun screening, dressing, undressing, fetching snacks, fetching drinks and rinsing sand off of nether parts. I really wanted my girls to experience a week of being dirty, playing in the sand for hours, wearing mismatched clothes, looking for minnows, making s'mores, playing with their friends and being free of their mother's neurotic tendencies for a few days.
So it was a deal. We contacted the owner of the cottage, an eighty year old lady who told me not to worry there were two fridges - one for the beer. Our phone calls were always lively to say the least and we were excited about having our own space and being able to spend a week with our dear friends, a win-win so to speak. It turned out though that another set of friends were interested in coming up, so now we would be a group of twelve, six adults and six children. More the merrier I thought, knowing we could retreat to our cottage at at he end of the day for a little family time.
In the time between us renting the cottage and our actual trip the cottage was put up for sale. This didn't seem like a big deal at the time and I was really not worried. When we arrived though the cottage was a little more homey than I might have liked and worse the people who had the cottage before us had a large dog. Every possible surface was covered in dog hair and after an hour of three of us vacuuming we gave up trying to get the hair off of everything. I must admit it was not one of my shining moments and in a rapid series of events I phoned not only the owner of the cottage and the real estate agent (a relative of the owner), I got my money fully refunded and we got to keep the cottage for the week on the condition that the agent could bring people by to see the property. Yeah there were tears too. In the end the agent felt it was only fair since not only was the property for sale, we were going to have people coming to see the cottage all week. Not my idea of a relaxing family vacation.
The issue was not the mouse traps everywhere - dozens, it was all the mouse poop and dog hair all of which would send Papoosie Girl into an asthma attack. The slanted floors, rustic decor, plastic curtains and musty smells were quite "cottagey" and that was charming, the rest was just plain scary. Since our other friends were arriving the day day after us we heading to our friend's cottage next door and decided to think about the rest later. I knew that there was no way we could stay in this cottage, we would have to decide what to do, stay or go home.
Later that evening over tea my friend and I went over the sleeping arrangements and after getting agreement from both our husband's to each take a sofa for the week, we managed to find sleeping arrangements for all twelve people under one roof. This is not a huge cottage, but we managed in the end to all be quite comfortable for the week and I am not going to lie - there were some moments when it felt a bit too cozy, but otherwise it was actually fun.
It was work too though, we spent a lot of time prepping, cooking and cleaning up after ourselves. Our cottage had no hot water (the water tanks were in the process of being replaced) so we lugged many baskets of dishes to the cottage next door to wash them. We kept hot water on the stove for washing hands etc., but for the most part we did dishes and bathed next door. Except the for the guys they bathed in the lake most nights. For real! They would all head into the lake as the sun was setting and they would stay out and talk for up to an hour. Maybe for those of you who are more rugged and camp or have your own canoe and stuff this may not be all that novel, I realize that. For me though, bathing in a lake is not an everyday occurrence or even something that remotely appeals to me. I have too many Jaws issues to get into any body of water after dark.
My Hubby was put on breakfast duty three times for his chocolate chip pancakes and custom omelette's. We ate some wonderful food and so much junk and treats (once the kids were in bed) our nightly ritual was to break out the treats an make a pot of tea and pick a game once the kids were settled for the evening. Games of Trivial Pursuit, Scattegories, 20 Questions and Pictionary would make us laugh so hard I would nearly pee my pants.
I felt a little lost though too. I am used to the four of us being together on vacations and doing lots together, well everything together really. Here I could be in the cottage washing dishes while Hubby was with the girls at the beach and I never really felt we were together for any length of time. Does that sound ungrateful? I don't mean to sound like that, we did have fun and the girls had the best time, I personally felt like we were always doing something different. I think we managed to get into the lake at the same time twice. Sometimes in large crowds I find it hard to feel connected even if the people I want to feel connected to are near me.
So how was the week? It was fun and crazy and crowded. We ate, laughed and got to know each other better. I discovered a sweet, funny and smart little boy in my friend's son. A little boy who asked me everyday to catch him a minnow. We had a lovely lunch on the water in Huntsville to celebrate a birthday. We made s'mores around the campfire, my first ever, and I wasn't the only one - it was the first s'more for several of us. We were sandy, sticky, and washed clean in the fresh cottage air. Each night the loons would cry out after the blazing sun would set right over our lake. There was a moment one evening when the kids were asleep and the grown-ups were sitting around the table getting ready for our nightly games, a moment that almost seemed too perfect. Cue the sunset in all it's blazing glory of orange rippling on our lake and cue the loons with their haunting song. I try hard to live and be in the moment, something I rarely achieve, but here for a moment I was in the moment, a moment so perfect it seemed years and years in the making.
We are going away again at the end of the month a seven day road trip across Pennsylvania...with visits to Pittsburgh, Hershey, Easton and the Poconos. More details later on this though. It will be just the four of us and we are so excited about our trip.
It was hard to find pictures without all the other kids in them. Rosebud would actually nap herself and grab her pillow, blanket and "plugs" each afternoon and fall asleep herself on the sofa no matter what was going on in the cottage. The other little napper was faking though and the little guy beside the couch would steal her "plugs" right out of her mouth as soon as she fell asleep! The shot with Rosebud in the air is one of my faves' and yes Daddy would catch her. Papoosie Girl ate three s'mores and begged for another. It really was a good week, Mommy is such a frump!