Our November trip to South Carolina was gobs better than the fateful Tennessee trip a week earlier. This time, it was just the kids and me, and I liked it that way just fine. I would have preferred it if Rob had come with us, but barring that, I didn't want no other comp'ny!
The trip had three parts: Two nights in Charleston at a resort, then a night in Aiken at my dad's, followed by two more nights in Charleston at two different hotels. I did a lot of shops on that trip. No rest for the weary!
When I opened these pictures just now, I was surprise by the sight of Chloë with long locks. She's had the short bob for so long (all of what, five or six weeks?) that I'd forgotten about those crazy tresses.
Charleston in late November was absolutely fantastic and unexpectedly warm. There was no swimming pool at our resort, which disappointed the children until the staff told us about this fountain park within walking distance. We headed down there post-haste. I'd figured on taking a few pictures of the kids in front of the fountain before going over to the playground area, but Sophia and Company had other plans. She was the first to hike up her pant legs and jump in - no surprise there!
Jack wasn't far behind Baby Sis, though. What a joy it was to watch them splash around and have "the best day ever," according to Chloë, who is perpetually declaring "best ever" days.
I showed you this picture before, but I love it so much, I'm posting it again. Take that!
The kids dared me to join them, and at first I didn't feel like it, so I declined. But whenever I say no to things like that, I try to question myself as to the reason, and if I don't come up with something satisfactory or reasonable, I think, well, why not, then? So I joined. And guess what? It was fun!
Sophia was so enthralled with this enormous leaf. It was pretty cool...
This gorgeous wedding party walked right along the fountain, so I called out to the bride and asked if I could take her picture. Isn't she beautiful? I love that color. Seriously, why wear white when you can wear this?
They were so handsome... but where were all the girls, I wonder?
Yeah, yeah, Ma. Let's get back to our swimming party!
It wasn't long before those three little turkeys did start to get a chill, so I called ahead to the resort and asked them to have warm towels waiting for us in the lobby. They were ready and waiting when we arrived, so I bundled up my shivering babies and hurried them upstairs to the bathroom for a warm soak in the tub. Thankfully, there was a free laundry room in the basement, so I spent the evening doing their fountain wash.
Did I mention how gorgeous our room was? It was. Very nice and cozy. I adored it. (My sister will be happy to see the blankets she made them for Christmas several years ago, still being dragged around everywhere we go!)
The kids loved the fireplace... until they broke it. Really, how do you break a fireplace? Only my kids could do that, I swear.
Darn Sophia for blinking. This photo outside the resort would've been great, otherwise! I took several more, but Jack's smile grew faker every time and was just laughable. Child photographers don't get paid near enough, no matter what they make!
(Look at her sweet legs, though. Don't they just make you want to go num-nums on her thighs? Mm. I could eat that baby UP! Well, I try, but she apparently doesn't want to be num-nummed to death.)
Sophie doing what Sophies do best!
Don't let her fool you. This child is NO angel. It's a good thing she's so hilarious and cute, or we'd have sold her a long time ago!
She's even funny when she sleeps! And just as active, too...
Just foolin' with my camera
Like I said, Charleston was absolutely splendid, and I completely fell in love with it. I am not a "South" person, but if I had to live anywhere, it would be Charleston. I can't say enough good things about it. There was plenty to see and do, which is a must for me, and tons of charm. It's near the water - another must - and full of cultural opportunities. You must visit Charleston!
From there, we headed west to Aiken to visit my dad for a night. He and Wife #5 were going to join us in Charleston, until we discovered we only had one bedroom instead of the expected two. So we went out there to see him instead. What a night. I love my dad, but he's best taken in small doses. One night was plenty with enough left over to last me a while.
(And is it me, or can you tell from this picture where Sophia gets those far-apart eyes? She's definitely a Simmons girl, that's for sure, unlike her more paternal-looking siblings.)
There was a stray dog, "Mama Dog," in my dad's neighborhood, who had a litter of adorable puppies. It was incumbent upon my dad and Wife, and one other family, to take care of the pooch family. They fed the mama and looked after the pups, making sure to keep them out of harm's way. My kiddos were excited, of course, to visit the baby hounds - especially Sophia, who definitely follows after her mother's animal-crazy footsteps. How cute are these sleepy doggies?!
We spent quite a while adoring the puppies and Mama Dog nursing the puppies, while Chloë was off playing with one of the neighbor kids. It was a nice neighborhood, I'll give them that. Safe for kids to go off on their own, unlike our own heavily-trafficked barrio. There were many more visits with the pups during our Aiken sojourn, as you can probably imagine.
When I wasn't busy helping my dad set up all his wireless technology devices - an exercise in frustration, since he isn't going to be using a tenth of the techno-power he owns - I was off to a really nice park in town with the girls. Jack stayed back with Grandpa to build model cars, a passion they both share deeply. My dad has decided that Jack is of the age to start inheriting some of his less-valuable model collection, so we brought a few carefully-packed oldies home in a box for him to display on a shelf in his room and NOT TOUCH. This concept has been carefully pounded into his poor little head... but really, it's the little sister who needs the reminding!
Anyway, the park was lovely, and the girls quickly made friends, as is the norm for them. I took the time to relax and do nothing for the first time in the entire trip, except watch and enjoy the temperate clime.
Before we left for Charleston, Dad wanted to get a "family" picture on the porch. I wasn't in it, nor do I consider Wife to really be part of my family, but whatevs. It wasn't hard to make the old man happy. It took four shots, because there was lots of blinking going on, and I finally got tired and called it good enough!
I did manage to capture a sweet moment between grandfather and second-oldest grandchild. My dad talked to her several times about her behavior during that visit... Chloë is a very immature nine-year-old, I hate to say, but there doesn't seem to be any great advice out there about helping her grow up to be more mature like her peers. Everyone just keeps telling me, "Give it time, it will come in time," so I shall bide.
When we returned to Charleston, we found, as we had been told, that the trolley was indeed free to ride starting from that day! It was an effort to boost tourism and visits to the shopping district, so we hopped on board and rode hither and yon. I had wanted to take them on a horse-drawn buggy ride, since that's what we were supposed to be learning about in our Transportation unit in homeschooling, but not for $40! Free was much more our speed, and of course it was fun, to boot.
We encountered fountain after fountain in Charleston, and the kids and I never tire of them. They want to throw pennies and make wishes every time they see one, but alas, Mama does not always carry rolls of pennies around with her every where she goes... Nonetheless, fountains are alluring enough in their own right, without the wishing component, to keep them coming back for more.
A visit to Charleston's Apple store was necessary, in an attempt to repair my malfunctioning iPhone 3. A fix was not forthcoming, but for $18, I could upgrade to the new iPhone 4! What, $18?! Of course! Well, that was a joke. It was eighteen for the privilege of upgrading, but I still had to pay $200 for the phone. Psht. That had to wait two months, it turned out, during which time I annoyed everyone who tried to call me and found themselves unable to hear my end of the conversation. Fortunately, I'm now enjoying my new iPhone 4, so feel free to call me up and shout obscenities or whatever it is that you feel like doing. I might respond in kind, though.
These handpainted chocolates called out to us from a shop near the Apple one. They were beautiful but quite pricey, as you may imagine, so I let each child select ONE piece. Chloë surprised me by choosing a pistachio confection that was not chocolate at all... huh? You're in a chocolate store, you buy chocolate. It's, like, the law or something. At least, it should be. Melanie for President!
It was lunchtime by that point, so we ducked into a Subway for victuals. Never a dull moment 'round here... all three of them are making apple faces at you, if you can't tell!
We were walking and window-shopping when.. what! What is that?! Is it? It IS! Yes, I actually found a Britto-carrying luggage shop! Hello, score! I couldn't figure out where in the heck the entrance was, so I snapped some photos of the suitcases right through the window. The shopkeeps were nonplussed and merely went about their business. This must not be unusual for them. (It's possible there are other Britto fans out there in the world, methinks.)
Continuing on, we found an entrance to this shopping plaza where an elaborate train village was on display for Christmas. It was grand. The kids were immediately drawn to it. I could barely tear them away from it, but man, I had to visit the powder room!
In the end, I left them standing there, looking all over at the train village, while I ran to find the ladies' room. They hadn't moved. Note to self...
I like beautiful fixtures and decorations, and I'm a big fan of elaborate chandeliers. This one hung in the atrium where the trains were shown.
Moving down the hall a ways, I found the luggage store entrance! And even more Britto pieces! Of course, I checked the price tags and was shocked to find that they were completely reasonable and a bit less expensive than what I'd found them on the Britto housewares website. In due time, Self. In due time...
If you remember the pictures from our 12 Days of Christmas this past year, I did end up getting Rob a Britto umbrella from this shop. Wait, did I show you that? Now I don't remember. I wanted to get something Britto, but something far less expensive than a suitcase. I was going to get a luggage tag, but for just a couple more dollars, I was able to get an umbrella that will serve much more use. Hey, if he didn't want to use it, I would be happy to have it! Alas, he likes it.
There was also a Godiva shop in there, and it had been at least an hour since our last piece of chocolate, so I went in. No, really, I'm a member of their Chocolatiers club (I don't know what it's really called, but go on their website and you'll find out), which entitles me to one free truffle per month and some other thing that I forget. I don't have a local Godiva shop, so this was a first for me. I ended up buying, um, more than I should have, and we had a delightful chocolate binge later that afternoon. I probably made myself sick. Sometimes, it's worth it.
Hey, check it out - a fountain, in Charleston! Who knew?
Nyah nyah nyah, go on about your little buggy ride and leave us alone. Nyah.
After five nights, it was time to head home, just in time for Thanksgiving with Daddy. We stopped for lunch at South of the Border, which is just south of the NC/SC state line. We've been there with the kids before, so I had no intentions of dropping a load of money there for them to experience all the place has to offer. Quick lunch, and let's go.
Okay, okay, a few minutes and a quarter for a quick carousel ride, but THEN LUNCH!
The girls perusing the menu at Pedro's something or other. I have no recollection whatsoever of what they ordered, because who cares? I had two bites of an egg-and-cheese muffin sandwich, though, I do remember that.
It's weird to have the kids able to read their menus. I'm not quite used to not having to do it for them all the time. Nice, though!
And that, my good friends, was that.
Another cup of coffee, and you may just get the Pennsylvania pilgrimage out of me, yet!