This week is Spring Break. We flew to Orlando from Colorado, not for Disney, but to visit family–a brother, a sister and my parents. Having grandparents and aunts and uncles that mostly live in other states means that most of the traveling we do is to see family.  It’s nice that we can see so much family on this one trip.  We will be celebrating Kate’s 4th birthday while we are here, as well as having an early Easter.  Today we drove an hour to meet a high school friend of mine at the beach. Getting three little kids ready for a few hours at the beach–a fiasco!

It took us well over an hour to pack the bags, dress and feed the kids and load up the crew in our rented minivan. We still had to stop at a store to pick up snacks, baby sunglasses and a new bathing suit for Kate. While I ran in, my husband dashed off to a drive-thru coffee shop to pick up another necessity for our morning drive–coffee.

Finally, we were on the road, our destination plugged in to our GPS, and the children buckled safely in their seats.  I put my feet on the dash, clutched my “to go” coffee, and pondered how different this beach excursion was from many of the Spring Break road trips to Florida I’d taken as a college student.  Instead of feeling energetic and excited to cook my skin in the sun despite being up all night with the other spring breakers, I was feeling gritty-eyed and sleepy from a fitful night of sleeping with a one-year-old who wanted to nurse every hour.  I dozed behind my sunglasses. And before I knew it, we were there.

The sky was bright blue and clear–there was not a cloud to be seen. We hurried into my friend’s rental condo, changed into our bathing suits, and put sunblock on every exposed patch of skin we could see on all three of the kids. I covered my husband’s back with sunblock and everyone was ready to go. Everyone but me.  Since everyone was standing around impatiently and the kids were getting antsy, I slipped on my suit, had my husband put some sunblock on my back and we were were out the door and on the way to the beach. I figured I’d have time to put sunblock on my legs later. I didn’t want to  hold everyone up.

Twenty minutes later we were at the beach–with four children between two couples and three of them being mine. We put up an umbrella, laid out towels, organized snacks and  put sun hats (back) on the kids. It was at that point that I realized that I had forgotten Cooper’s swim diapers–and no, I do not have a cloth swim diaper for him—I should look into that.  However, cloth or not, I am sure the diaper would have been forgotten and so was his sunhat.  So much for being organized.  Dang. I was more worried about the missing sun hat than the swim diaper.  Disposable swim diapers are not absorbent–they really just act to keep any “poop nuggets” from floating out and I knew his boy bathing suit had a “net” with elastic around the legs. That would suffice.  When we gave the word, they all ran straight for the ocean, even Cooper.

Keeping three young children with zero sense of self-preservation from drowning in the ocean meant that sitting in the sun and reading magazines was not an option. There was always a hat to put back on a child, sand to wipe off a strawberry, or a water-bound child to chase instead.  Cooper’s lack of swim diaper didn’t seem to be a problem and he wore one of his sisters’ floppy brimmed hats.  Since he is still too young to protest wearing pink and purple, he kept it on and didn’t get burned.

We stayed at the beach for about 3 hours before we packed up, shook the sand off of the towels, rounded up the pails, shovels and flips-flops and trekked back to the minivan.  The kids quickly fell asleep in the air conditioning and I once again propped my legs on the dash and closed my eyes.  It had been fun and well-worth the cumulative hours of preparation to arrive and depart from the beach–but there was nothing relaxing about it. And I had the sunburned legs to prove it.