All the pictures we did not take

We rented paddleboards on the Tennessee River this past weekend and there are no pictures to prove it. We took the kids and we met up with dear friends, but you won’t see any selfies of our imperfect formation in the wake of a passing motorboat. We traded kids and played in eddies and explored McClellan Island. We balanced and wobbled, we fell in and then we dove in. But there is no hashtag #riverlife to accompany the nonexistent Instagram post. We didn’t have our cameras. We didn’t bring anything save for our sunglasses and our holiday spirits.

Here in this digital space, The Blog or whatever is most en vogue to call it, I purport to preserve life’s moments and lessons. But this all is a pantomime, a chasing after the wind with a plastic bag from Tarjay. I am merely a scribe pressing key to pad, uploading and downloading, but never truly etching anything of real permanence. Nothing is solidified in amber here. There is no fire to singe or moth to destroy this album. There is also no firewall strong enough nor anti-viral software to guarantee its immortality.

 

This past weekend, we smelled all the seasons of putrid sweat that our life preservers absorbed. And we tried to absorb the life that we could not preserve.

There was no perfect filter to best capture the glistening waves, the silhouette of the Market Street Bridge.

No likes, no faves, no hearts, no mentions; only the feeling of total insignificance against nature’s majesty. And the wonder of having captured nothing but being filled up full of every good thing.

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5 positive parts about America that the citizenship swearing in ceremony will make you realize

Loverpants got to pledge allegiance to the United States of ‘Merica last week, and the whole morning was just pretty keen. My hubs has his own immigration story to tell, but he and his family have endured a lot to call this place home. As for me, I just get to take the pictures and wave the star spangled banner. Here are a few things a swearing in ceremony will either highlight or reaffirm about this great nation:

1. The immigration process is still a careful one. From the biometrics to the interview to every piece of paperwork, the bureaucracy is boss. The process for letting the good guys and gals in is still pretty stinking thorough. I’m sure there are a hundred different ways to outsmart Uncle Sam, but his gates strive to be ironclad and the gatekeepers aim to be good flaggers of criminality.

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2. Your new neighbors bring a ton of wealth to this country. So maybe they’ve been here 5, 10 years. They speak Yoruba, Farsi, Spanish. They celebrate high Hindu holidays. They braid hair and weave baskets and practice law and medicine like bosses. Maybe they are bosses. We just don’t always see them gathered all at once on a happy occasion in one room. The swearing-in ceremony will remind you of the riches of language, culture, religion, and racial diversity that the wave of recent immigrants represents. Total jackpot.

3. The Daughters of the American Revolution are still a thing. They make cookies and wave flags and celebrate citizenship at swearing-in ceremonies. Civic engagement for the win.

4. Hamilton the Musical is sold out indefinitely for a reason. The convergence of hip-hop with the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda and colonial petticoats is all pretty cool. But so is our history as a young nation of zealous freedom seekers. It still resonates. I have to believe this is why Judge Susan Lee got all verklempt swearing in these new citizens last week. She says it’s her favorite thing to do.

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5. There are now 50 more immigrants-turned-citizen in Chattanooga who will be eligible to vote in November, who likely are against building a wall along our border with Mexico, who don’t believe America needs to be made great again, since the best is surely yet to come 🙂

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Charleston with Kids

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One of our FamiLee goals is to take our children to see all the major cities in the South. We are covering some good ground but Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are still relatively unconquered for us. One of the things that strikes a tourist about the American Southeast is how well-preserved many structures are, largely because the weather is more gentle than, say, Boston where colonial homes have weathered Nor-easter after decades of Nor’easters. The exception to this preservation is the many buildings that suffered fires which were incredibly common–even into this past century.

Our recent visit to Charleston, SC took us on the requisite carriage tour where we learned about the importance of the fire insurance medallion. I’ll spare you the history lesson but Baby Girl was fascinated with how volunteer fire squads would totally leave a building to burn to ashes if it didn’t have this emblem near the front door, indicating that it wasn’t insured. Baby Girl talked about it at length, the whole phenomenon of that, and it gave me hope that maybe our daughter would grow up to understand the travesty of racial profiling, to resist the temptation to judge others’ based on their income or insuredness, to be a real pillar of justice. Meanwhile, Little Man was downright indignant that he had missed seeing The Medallion. He was obsessed for the rest of the carriage ride with seeing a bona fide medallion, like it was a gold coin in Mario he kept bypassing, and his life, virtual or otherwise, would perish without.

Kids, man.

But we love them and we like to travel with them and explore new terrain with them. Here are some pointers I can offer if you venture with kidlets to Charleston, the belle of South Carolina:

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Accommodations:
Our favorite lodging situation is always AirBNB, especially as having separate bedrooms is really nice now that our kids are getting older. We stayed on James Island at a fantastic home that I highly recommend. It had 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, games, DVDs, a beautiful fenced backyard with deck + grille, and the host was very cool. Here’s a code for $20 off your first AirBnB stay anywhere.

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Attractions:
Loverpants calls the beach “Nature’s Babysitter” because our kids could dig in sand and troll for seashells for almost as long as you could binge-watch a whole season of “Fuller House.” Although we were only in the Charleston area for about 48 hours, we made visiting Folly Beach a priority. We walked the boardwalk and hit the beach in the evenings and our last morning there. Even though it was too cold to swim, I recommend bringing the standard beach pail and shovel accoutrements if you’re ever near sand and have kids who need to be thoroughly worn out in order to hit the pillow in peace each night.
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Exploring King St. with one of my besties Ashley
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As mentioned, we took a carriage ride through the Battery district in downtown Charleston. Lovely thing, that. The carriage tourism is highly regulated and I’m told all the companies charge the same and give roughly the same tour depending on what lottery ball the driver draws. This blogger explains the system better than I could. Tours cost $25/adult and $15/child. There are always coupons, if you are inclined.

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King St., College of Charleston, and Rainbow Row were all destinations that we tried to check off our list, with intermittent reminders that whining was prohibited in Charleston and that using public restrooms that were not trees was encouraged. Hashtag five year-olds out in the wild.
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Food
We generally try to bring our breakie with us (instant coffees, bagels, Clif bars) when we travel because waking up hungry and uncaffeinated and tending to the needs of littles who are hangry is not a winning way to start the vacation day. We kept lunch casual in Charleston (may I recommend Freshii on King St.) and had the best sorbet/gelato/coffee at this place down by the water. I’m serious. It was so fresh and so good.
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We had two unexpectedly great dinners on Folly Beach. The first was at the ‘Wich Doctor who carried Maine Root Beer which was my first sign that this place didn’t mess around. Some fusion menu items that you wouldn’t expect from a beach cafe, and the sweet potato pizza was just really good. Our second dinner was at Rita’s, which looks every bit tourist trap but is actually a good family eatery. Kids’ meals were served on frisbees as plates. Hard to beat.
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Pizza-holding photo-bombing at ‘Wich Doctor

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This place was nice, too, and they have a laptop-free policy 😉
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