On Sunday August 30, 2015 my husband and I took the four kids to Stinson Beach in Marin. I had been missing the beach, craving its presence in my life, feeling the fact that my kids had spent very little time by the ocean, in the sand. Weekends for us, as for many of you parents and non-parents out there, are a mush of trying to get things done around the house (impossible with four toddlers but so needed with four toddlers and a big house on a big piece of land); trying to do something fun or exploratory or adventurous or educational with the kids while we have more than one set of adult hands or get some alone time. The whole how do I spend my free time and what is valuable to me question. I'm usually the one pulling us out of the house while my husband is pulling us back in. It wasn't even supposed to be particularly nice weather that day but I pulled us out, we packed our six into the Odyssey and set off.
Stinson Beach is an hour and a half away from our house with no traffic. There is always traffic. It's a mostly beautiful drive, plus driving to Marin from our house takes you past lots of back hoes and trains and those are our jam right now. You cross over the Bay on a long bridge. You realize that everyone is driving to Marin on a Sunday and smack your forehead for, if not forgetting, minimizing how lame Sunday traffic with a van full of kids is. Let's be real, Sunday traffic is almost always lame. You get to the windy, windswept Northern Cali hills and you see the wide, blue sea and know you are getting close.
I didn't grow up going to Stinson--my childhood home is across the street from Ocean Beach in San Francisco so we spent most of our time there. When my husband looks at me and says "It won't even be warm" when we talk about going to the beach, I always think "What does that have to do with anything?"
Ours was a cold beach where you had to run in and run out several times until your feet got numb. It wasn't a swimming beach. It was a digging, walking, running, wading, exploring beach. Stinson, on the other hand, always seemed like a warm weather beach to me. Maybe because Marin was almost always warmer than the Sunset district of San Francisco. More likely because when I went it was mostly in high school, with friends, and we were drawn there on warm to hot days as a special treat. Stinson lies somewhere between familiar and unknown to me--I don't have a specific place I like to park or lay my blanket; I do have good memories of walking its length with friends or laying out in the sun and people watching.
On our family trip we got one of the last spots in the parking lot. There were several groups of picnic-celebrators spread out on the grass. We took one stroller, the double Bob for its off roading prowess, and headed up the cement path leading up to the snack bar. Lily and Cyrus ran joyfully ahead, glad to be out of the car. Then we got to the sand and they wanted to be picked up. How many steps was it to the hard sand? Approximately infinity. Pushing a double stroller in soft sand? Someone should make that into an official DVD workout sold at Target because those wheels do not turn and you are feeling the burn. The wind picked had picked up quite a bit as soon as we hit the sand--this was definitely not a warm beach day.
We made it to the hard sand, right next to one of those sweet little inlets the tides sometimes create. I have many fond memories of playing in those and it seemed perfect for our crew. We set out our blanket, got out some pretzels that immediately got dumped into the sand, and sat down to take it all in. The sand toys came out and my man started constructing a wall between us and the water. The kids were 100% uninterested in the water except for Lily who was terrified. My little mama who worries about her siblings started screeching "No Daphne, no!" as her sister headed even slightly in the direction of the sea. So we were sand babies--mostly glad to be in a new spot. I was very glad and could feel the air and salt working into me, opening my heart up, reminding me that beach is home.
My sister arrived with her two toddlers and, like the Herculean warrior that she is, worked on pushing her single stroller and corraling her toddler through the vast spread of sand. I ran to help. Our area now resembled a mini-seaside retreat for Germanic small people with six light-haired, light-skinned children under the age of three roaming about. People stared but they always do. We talked, we watched kids, my husband went up to grab burritos from the snack shack, and then we packed up to go because realistically being on the windy beach with all those kids was not something any of us wanted to do all day. Kids--taking your leisure activities and turning them into work since the beginning of time.
We heaved and hoed back up the sandy hill, stunned and grateful when a younger man ran to help us lift the strollers to the cement. Plopping the kids onto the grass by the path so my sister could go get an ice cream treat that no one needed but that we offered anyway, we entered into the true fun of the trip--playing in the mud puddle on the edge of the parking lot. Out of the wind, we loitered a bit, admiring this sea of small cousins, laughing at the different dynamics among them.
Why am I telling this story? Because at some point in the day I knew I was entering a colitis flare. Such a drag. My stomach was not hurting but uneasy. I have the bladder of a camel so I almost never have to leave anywhere to go pee but on this trip I had to go off to find a bathroom for pooping purposes.
Side note: this story is going to involve poop talk. (Too late! Perhaps I should have put that note on toPoop talk makes me extremely uncomfortable and always has. You can't tell a story about colitis without talking about poop though so I guess it's time to get over it. Shudder.
We resume. The flare had begun. It wasn't major, it was just. . .my normal. Once every month or two I have a few days of stomach cramps, diarrhea, low energy, low appetite and overall blah feeling. During that time I resolve to "eat better" even though the jury is out on what foods I should or should not eat. Then I start feeling better and say woo hoo! Time for some bread and cheese and cereal and chips. It's not a cycle my husband loves. I can't say I love it either but I can definitely say I've gotten used to it. That day at Stinson I transitioned from feeling ok to paying attention to my guts again. I got ready to wait it out.