Favorite Charleston Beaches with Kids

We didn’t really choose South Carolina; South Carolina chose us. 

When we were looking for a spot for our summer vacation, we had one specific week to do it.  I have been planning a trip to South Dakota for three years and have never gotten to take it.  So I was ready for South Dakota!  However, Kareem really wanted to go somewhere with a beach.  I started pricing them out to compare some beach locations with South Dakota, and there were three pretty affordable beach locations- Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.  These were about the same price as South Dakota.  We eliminated Virginia, thinking we will do that when they’re older.  We hemmed and hawed and then…. Then an opportunity to go to a music festival in North Carolina came up, and the opportunity to stay with one of my oldest friends, well the decision was made for us.  South Carolina beaches, here we come!  

We drove from Congaree National Park near Columbia straight to the ocean.  Our kids couldn’t wait to see the ocean, despite the fact that it was rainy and evening time.  We drove straight to Sullivan Island, not far from where we were staying.  I chose this beach due to the proximity to where we were staying.  We ended up visiting once more during our stay, on our final day in town.  This is an upscale beach community, and you definitely feel that vibe visiting.  Incidentally, this island is growing due to the way that the current carries the sand and the harbor prevents sand from being carried further south.  There are many, many beach entries along the island.  There is a coast guard tower here on the island as well.  The beach was very quiet during both of our visits.  The water was super calm, and we had some dolphins swim near us.  

Something very important to note about the beaches at Sullivan’s Island- there are no public amenities.  No public parking lots, showers, or restrooms.  So be prepared for that.  This is probably not one that I would visit again with children.  

We had the absolute pleasure of taking a boat out to Morris Island, an uninhabited barrier island very near a very old lighthouse.  While Sullivan’s Island is expanding, Morris Island, which is south of the harbor, is eroding.  It was a very cool beach to visit, though it is wild and we did not do any swimming here.  We did, however, collect about forty pounds of shells!  Collecting shells was a primary goal on this trip. And the shells here on Morris Island were plentiful!  And a very diverse finding of shells, though there were lots of oyster shells here.  No swimming, but a beach definitely worth visiting!  Of course, no public amenities.  In fact, it is only accessible by boat.  On the way, though, you will see some amazing wild sights, including TONS of dolphins!  

Folly Island Beach is very close to Morris Island.  This was a great one.  It may not have been the favorite beach, but it was a favorite evening. We got to see a double rainbow here, and the sky was super dramatic as we were there in the late afternoon into the evening.  We saw the most spectacular sunset and were treated to some wildlife sightings here too, including dolphins and a manta ray!

While we did not encounter a ton of public amenities, there is lots of street parking and public restrooms and showers available. The county park has ample parking and other amenities available there as well, including umbrella rentals.  There are lifeguards at the county park beach area, though we were not down that far. There was a ton of beach space.  There is a pier, but it was under construction. 

Isle of Palms was our second beach stop.  This one is up the road from Sullivan’s Island.  It is another wealthy community, but more down to earth than Sullivan’s Island.  There are also PLENTIFUL public amenities here.  There is a pier and rental areas, playgrounds, a lot of very easily accessible public parking, many public showers and restroom.  We went to the public city beach, where there were many lifeguards on duty.  This was a very crowded beach, but probably one of our favorites.  We enjoyed the water and the vibe here.  

Ultimately, my recommendation for beaches with kids in South Carolina is ANY beach because you can’t go wrong!  But as far as convenience and public amenities, Isle of Palms wins.  The uniqueness award goes to Morris Island.  The beauty award goes to Folly Beach!  There were two other beaches we didn’t get to visit, but that are on our list- Kiawah Island and Botany Bay.  Til next time, Charleston!

Hope you found this enjoyable and/or helpful!

Let God Deal with the Things They Do

There is this Will Smith lyric I quote pretty often. My kids know it. Everyone knows it. I wholeheartedly believe it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being at Scout camp with my son for a few days.  In that time, I gained a lot of perspective on some things, but one of the most interesting things I got to do was be reminded of just how kind and loving my son is.  

There were several instances when someone was rude to him or left him out or whatever.  He did not typically respond in anger.  He did not respond by being rude back.  He almost every time responded with kindness and love.  And I thought, wow.  This child.  One time, he got pretty upset.  I was not with him, but it was reported to me by him and one of the other children’s grandpa.  We were talking about it and processing it, and during this, he quoted the Will Smith quote.  He also had a lot of grace for both the other kid and himself, and I was just so impressed with him.

Later that week, I had the opportunity to come in contact with someone who has been consistently rude to me and my children, as well as my husband.  The rudeness had culminated in two recent incidents in which she was more than rude, she had been mean to me.  I decided to ignore her.  Like, not just ignore her rudeness, but ignore her completely.  When she approached, I purposely engaged myself in other activities.  With my children.  As the time went on that she was standing there, I felt icky inside.  It did not feel good to ignore her.

When I was going through my divorce, I was devastated and sad and angry and grieving.  There were some times when I said or did things that didn’t feel good- I was acting on these emotions.  I started to learn how important it is to decide who you’re going to be and act accordingly.  I was learning through that experience who I was at my core, and that I am a kind person.  (I have a cousin who says I’m not kind and there’s nuance to this, but that’s another show….) And I need to protect my energy so that I can act in alignment with who I am.  I do not do this perfectly, but I consider it often.

Standing there, ignoring her, I did not feel good.  My kids were there and watching.  I thought, my son was such a beautiful example of this at camp- I have to do this for my kids!  And so I broke the ice and waved.  That simple act made me feel so much better.

I don’t have to let myself be walked on or treated poorly, but I also don’t have to be rude or mean.  That’s exactly the lesson I’ve tried to teach my kids, and this week, that’s one of the lessons my boy taught me.  I’m so grateful for his example and so proud of him.  

Family Travel on a Budget- How We Do It

When I got divorced, I thought I might never travel again. I was able, through a variety of opportunities, was able to continue to travel, but I was solo. Travel is something I value highly, and something I really want to share with my kids. I had to figure out some way, some how to continue to do it.

Fortunately, I have been able to do it. Through these tips and tricks, I have found ways to go places and experience the world with my kids on a budget! I will share with you some things that have been working for me.

Be flexible about where you’re willing to go, then choose wisely.

I never get stuck on a destination. There are a million and one places I want to see and a lot of things I want to do, so I am lucky because I’m pretty much down to go anywhere. This helps when you’re on a budget, because you can choose based on low prices. I always price out a few destinations for whatever my time frame is. We have really done well going to places that I previously would not have considered but that were priced well, and having an amazing time! I never would have considered taking kids to New Orleans, but it was one of our favorite- and cheap!- trips with kids.

I’ve used flight shopping websites like momondo.com to help my find cheap airfare. I never would have gone to Iceland, for example, had it not been a cheaper flight. But I’ve gotten to go twice!

Also, choose a place with a low cost of living. That means that food and entertainment are going to be cheaper there too. Mostly, this applies abroad. For example, I traveled to Wales and some small towns in England and spent a short time in London. This allowed me to see the country without blowing my entire budget on a high-priced city where everything is higher, including food and lodging.

Give a little, save a little.

We do a lot of at home dates and DIY dates that don’t cost us anything. We then use the money we would have spent on doing that stuff to buy experiences on our trip. We are wiling to give a little in this area of our life to enjoy our trip more. If you look at your budget, and you know you want to take a trip, you can take from some of your everyday expenses and set that aside. Eating out is a great example. We don’t eat out a lot because I’d rather eat out seaside somewhere than hit TGIFridays up the road.

We also ask for experiences as gifts for us and our kids. We use the money to buy experiences for travel. When we went to Disney, we asked for Disney gift cards. I also buy the tickets for attractions and experiences ahead of time, little by little.

Scavenge for discounts, bundles, and family deals.

I’m so not above calling ahead and saying, listen we have six people. What kind of deal do you have for groups? For school employees? For [insert whatever group you belong to here]? Are your kids a student? If I know someone who works for a company, I’ll ask them what kind of discounts they can get us.

I do this with lodging all. the. time. I will look online at prices, and then I’ll call and see if they can do me one better. Often, they will! I also comparison shop. I’ll also say hey we are looking at spending three days, but if we spend four, will you give us a discount? These kinds of things. The worse they can say is no! Go for it!

Also, many attractions and cities have bundles and combo discounts for attractions. I very much am not the person that needs to see EVERYTHING available, but if there are things I think our family would be interested in, I’d rather do that at a discounted price. Also, if you have flown somewhere, public transportation and/or those hop on/off buses are big money savers as well!

Look for free attractions!

There are a million state parks, national parks, city parks, municipalities, etc putting on programs and festivals. You can ALWAYS find free or low-cost activities for the family. For example, on our recent trip to the Carolinas, a state park does panning for gold for $2/person. Way more reasonable that those panning places you see along the strip! Also, most parks do educational and entertaining programs often. Check local parenting websites as well, as these are often full of into.

Fourth graders get a free National Park pass for the year- check that program out as well!

Also, most museums have a free day and/or time of day. Make sure you play your visit around those days.

AND don’t forget to check out those kids eat free, kids do free, kids get in free places! You can find LOTS of attractions with free kid entry, and as we know, many restaurants have kids eat free days. This is a big saver for us!

Also if you’re an outdoors person… the outdoors is FREE! The beach is FREE! The lake is FREE! And awesome!

Eat in and pack snacks- and bring your water bottle!

Nothing gets at your budget more than food. If you are prepared, you can really work this in your favor. We try not to eat more than one meal out a day when we travel, and we plan out take away vs sit down places.

Vacation may be your time away from being a cook, but it is such a joy to visit somewhere new and hit a local market for some fresh local ingredients that may be different than you have at home!

If you stay in a hotel, many of them have breakfast. We always stay somewhere we can fix a meal. We typically eat breakfast in. We buy sausage and ham, then we often buy pastries or cereal and fruit at the local market. We bring lots of snacks with us.

We also eat a lot of picnics when we are on the go- like this obviously thrilling picnic we had on a recent trip! 😀

A huge money saver is simple- bring your own water bottle!

Pack a first aid kit and medications, but overall- pack light!

If you are traveling with family, you know you’re going to need a band aid along the way! But bringing other basic medications will save you time, money, and heartache on your trip. We always have Benadryl and Tylenol with us, among other things.

Also, always pack light. See this pink and black backpack?

It is typically my only piece of luggage, even for trips that are multiple weeks long. And it has gone everywhere with me. I never pay for additional luggage, and I can always navigate any public transportation or unexpected lodging changes because I have packed lightly. This has always been my number one travel advice I give.

I also try to make sure every individual, even the four year old individual, can handle their own luggage, so I’m not carrying everybody’s. But sometimes, yeah, you just use a luggage rack because that’s where you’re at with everything. Lucy’s expression says it all! 😀

The greatest tip I can give you when planning travel on a budget is keep an open mind and stay flexible! There have been so many opportunities I’ve taken, though I wasn’t sure what the kids would think of it, and guess what- they NEVER complain! They love it all! I also do not fear the road less taken, and I never regret our stops on the less beaten path. Pull over, check it out, try it once- you never win or lose- you only learn.

If you know in your heart your reason for traveling as a family, commit to it and make it happen. 😀 I’ve literally looked around my house and thought, what can I turn to cash here? in order to travel with my kids, even as simple as a YMCA lodge an hour and a half from home. I believe strongly in the power of travel in the lives of children. So I try to do whatever it takes! I hope some of these tips are things that you hadn’t considered or refresh your memory to help you take the best trip ever!

Lessons in Trout

You know that saying, “Rock bottom teaches us lessons mountain valleys never will?” Well, I like to say trout fishing teaches us lessons bass fishing never will. You feel me?

We got to take the kids camping and fishing this weekend on one of Missouri’s trout streams. Did you know Missouri has a lot of trout areas, including red, white, and blue ribbon areas that support naturally reproducing trout? We’ve got both rainbow and brown trout here! You can also do trout fishing throughout the year, though the trout park seasons are March 1 through October 31, with a catch and release season through the rest of the year.

Trout fishing is different than other types of fishing, and it’s my personal favorite! It’s very fast-paced and a fun challenge. Speaking of, Mo Dept of Conservation and Trout Unlimited put together this Trout Slam. I think it’s still going on, so if you’re into trout fishing, check it out.

The challenge transcends generations. My dad’s dad used to take him when he was little, then they took me when I was little, and now I take my kids.

It is a joy to watch my parents teach and help my kids fish! Jimmy doesn’t fish for too long, but he does enjoy it. Nick probably enjoys it the most, followed by Rami and Lucy.

Something else I love about taking them fishing is the lessons they learn about perseverance, patience, and personal responsibility. Nobody can do it for you. And if you want to catch a fish, you have to try and try until you do. You have to plan and make choices. You have to be patient. You cannot compare yourself to others. It’s all kinds of wisdom wrapped up in one activity.

I’m proud watching them work through these things. They may struggle or get frustrated, but when they are successful, it’s awesome. And when they are not, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to hear them reflect and say, well next time I’ll do this or that. Next time. They don’t give up. They’re ready to go back next time.

Brave Old World

This past weekend, Susan and I went to a Graduation Party for a fellow Doctorate of Education colleague of hers. It was a fancy party, black tie, everyone was dressed up so nice, in sequins and fitted tuxedoes. There was even a live band. We were one of the first ones to arrive- Susan is anything if not prompt.

There was trepidation in the air for us both as we walked from the parking garage to the one, then another elevator in this large venue. We both noticed that some people were wearing masks, as so many have been over the past year, while others looked as if the pandemic had never happened.

As we approached the banquet hall, several thoughts struck me all at once:Susan seemed nervous…

Nervous about her dress… she looked breathtaking!!

Nervous about seeing her cohort, her peers that were all Doctors now… I am so in awe of her!!

Nervous about “Is COVID over now??”… it seemed like a step in that direction.

Nervous about how the evening would go… it turned out to be the exactly what we both needed.

I started to wonder if I would embarrass her… She is a doctor now, she is beautiful, and she is a hell of a better dancer than me. Not to mention, my mind wandered to the fact that I had to buy a new shirt for this event, because I’ve gained weight in this past year and none of my old dress shirts fit me right. I wondered if I was the only person who didn’t rent a tux… I didn’t want to spend the money on a tux for an evening of celebrating someone I only knew through my successful wife. I felt incredibly inadequate.

I was here to support Susan… she had doubted coming and seeing her friends and colleagues all day. All the nervous things I listed above, plus probably 50 more things that I couldn’t even guess. I had asked her earlier: “Will you regret going?” her reply: “No”… “Will you regret not going?”… “Probably.” So here we are, and I have to remind her that she belongs here. That she is radiant and that even thought we are here celebrating her peer, this would also be a celebration of her accomplishment too… they did after all graduate together, and she did it with such style and grace.

I thought, “is this a trial run for her graduation party in a couple of months?” Different kind of party… Susan’s party is scheduled to be casual, with a lot of dancing, and family all surrounding her, honoring her accomplishment with laughter and joy. This party seems formal, and serious, even though we haven’t gotten inside yet, I fear that this will be a some kind of formal lecture, describing in great detail for family that already knows the honoree how he overcame his obstacles, and how he has reached his final destination.

Well, all of those worries and distractions melted away. First, we were greeted with couples photos, and a live band… I didn’t stutter… a live band!!! We haven’t seen a live band in over a year… Our excitement grew. Then she started to see the names of her pals… so many of her doctorate pals were going to be in attendance tonight. Then we saw the photo booth, and this suddenly felt like a wedding or something fancy but fun.

Every five minutes or so, Susan would see a dress she liked, or a pal she hadn’t seen since graduation which was virtual. She actually hadn’t seen some of these future pillars of education in person in over a year. I could tell she really missed them. I could also tell that she was as proud of all of them as I was of her.

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As the night went on, there were speeches, but not the kind of speeches I had dreaded, but speeches that were not about the honoree’s accomplishments but more hopeful about his future. This was barely a night to celebrate what the man had done, it was more of a celebration of anticipation of all the things he would now do with his influence and passion. It was just so hopeful…

and I paused and remembered that this is how I feel about Susan every day. So she has a doctorate… but she is nowhere near being done. She is just getting started. She will change the face of education, one child, one teacher, one family, one school, one district at a time if she has to. She and her cohort are a formidable group, a group of educators who are not willing to settle for the status quo, and are keenly aware of how change comes to be reality.

This was a revelation… coupled with the revelation that everyone was in fact vaccinated and had taken their masks off… The singer of the band got people dancing, and it was the most refreshing thing we’d heard in so long. Good Music, Wonderful People, and a Brave Old World to live in. While these titans of virtue planned a Brave New World for our Kids.