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Mexico 2014 (1 of 3)

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We made the drive straight from South Carolina, got home to Pennsylvania only to unpack and re-pack and drive to an airport hotel in Newark, then woke up the next morning to get on a plane to Mexico.

We spent the first week of August at the decadent Azul Beach Hotel resort in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. This was a special trip, and it marks an important time for our family. It was the (hopefully) First Annual RVibe Founders’ Retreat.

Readers may know that ten years ago Braydon started a business venture. It began as an independent “project” — an internet technology concept — then morphed into a serious business start-up, then evolved into a full-time serious company with an entire infrastructure, a whole slew of employees, responsibilities, and the whole-nine-yards. We’ve been investing in RVibe for a decade now. And when I say ‘investing,’ I mean fully and entirely investing, our hearts and our souls investing, in a big-big-big way investing. Investing financially, emotionally, and psychologically, as well as investing our time, our energy, our mental space, and our entire selves into what has become this larger-than-life part of our world. RVibe has been an uphill battle from Day 1, and we’ve shed plenty of blood, sweat, and tears over this thing. But recently — and I mean really just in the past year or so — we’ve begun to finally see some of Braydon’s sheer determination come to fruition. It has begun to bear fruit and we’re just starting to get some perks out of it. This trip (hopefully) marks the start of a new era for us with RVibe. We are (hopefully) entering an era of seeing some of the (ridiculously-over-the-top-insane-amount-of) hard work we’ve invested over the past decade begin to pay off.

The concept for this week of the summer was two-fold: 1) for Braydon and his business partner, Chris, to have some designated, devoted time to do some significant and substantive strategizing and brainstorming together. Braydon is in Pennsylvania, and Chris is in Chicago, so while they spend an enormous amount of time everyday on the phone and online together, they spend relatively very little time together face-to-face. When they are together it is always for large events, conferences, business deals, and with a lot of people around them. Day-to-day they are trouble-shooting and/or in crisis mode, trying to run a company from the ground-up. The idea was for the two of them to go far away, to a place out of reach, and spend some heavy duty blocks of time together planning the future of RVibe. The other part of this trip was: 2) for our two families to spend a week together in a fun, relaxed environment where we could enjoy each other without stress or distraction or the pressure on any of us to be hosting. We went into the week with a very clear plan that we were all committed to: every day Chris and Braydon would spend 7am-1pm working (while their wives and kids enjoyed the resort), we would spend our afternoons with our own families to give the guys a break from each other, and then we would meet up for drinks before going our own way again for dinner.

We had never done anything like this, and we really didn’t know how it would go. By the end of the week, every single one of us agreed that it had gone extremely well. The RVibe founders worked hard and played hard, the rest of us just played hard (!), and we all had a fabulous semi-working vacation in beautiful Mexico.

I’m going to write this post just like any of my ‘Trip Reports,’ but — because of the nature of it — it wasn’t actually like any other trip we’ve taken. I’m posting about it from my perspective (for me this was a vacation! I was along for the ride!), but this would be a very different post if written by Braydon or his business partner (who would surely focus significantly on the work that was accomplished). While I’m not Braydon’s business partner, I am his life partner, and I am so gratified and so thrilled — for all of our sakes — that we got to do this Mexico trip. The First Annual RVibe Founders’ Retreat was a smashing success!


The bambinos love to travel. It is their favorite thing. Owen could watch airplanes all day long. There is no place in the world that he is more enthused than in an airport. We flew Newark to Cancun and it was smooth and uneventful (which was amazing for us because we’ve seemed to have had a string of bad airline fiascos recently). The trip from the airport to the resort was quick and easy. And then… suddenly… we were there.

view 1

The Azul Beach is an all-inclusive resort. We can critique these sorts of places with the best of them. But we can also let it go, and from time-to-time thoroughly enjoy what these places have to offer. And, wow, they have a lot to offer. We hadn’t been to an all-inclusive together as a family of five since 2009 (for that post click here). I think we had sort of forgotten how intoxicating (literally and figuratively), and indulging, and incredibly enjoyable they can be. The Azul Beach was like none other we’ve been to — it was a small, “boutique,” “Gourmet Inclusive” that catered specifically to families with young kids. The place was luxuriously dripping in gorgeousness.





below: Power Breakfast with a View.

B and Chris Meeting

We did just as we had planned. Braydon and Chris met for breakfast and spent the first half of the day together. The afternoons and nights we were with our own families. But every afternoon we all met up for drinks at the pool bar by our rooms. Chris and his wife have an adorable 9-month-old baby named Gus. He was such a good sport and we loved hanging out with them in the pool.

group 2


The idea of going away together — as business partners and families — is a really good one. I highly recommend it for anyone in any sort of similar position. We really bonded during that week and I’m sure it will help to strengthen RVibe, not to mention strengthen our two families both independently and together.

For Braydon and Chris, it was some work. It was also plenty of play.

And, for all of us, I think, it was pretty darn heavenly.

Here is Kyle, in Kyle Heaven:

Heaven Kyle

The snorkeling was awesome. The resort is located along an area of the Mexican/Caribbean coast that is National Park. The reef is preserved and protected and, thus, it was the best snorkeling we’ve seen in a long, long time! Kyle was in his glory and spent most of the week underwater!

Here is Meera, in Meera Heaven:


The swimming pools were beautiful, warm, crystal-clear, and plentiful (there were so many of them!). Meera could spend her whole life in a pool, I swear!

Here is Owen, in Owen Heaven:


This is Owen at one of the resort’s restaurants. It was an Asian theme and it had a “sushi river.” This was pure heaven for Owen. This is worth some explaining.

Once we got over the oddity of eating sushi in Mexico, and we just accepted it for what it was (totally decent — like, actually, really good — sushi!), we quickly came to love the ‘sushi river.’ Now, we had heard of all-you-can-eat sushi places (Owen is a big fan of them), but we had not heard of a “sushi river” (maybe we’re just pathetically insulated people? I don’t know). It blew our minds — especially Owen, because he is a Lover of sushi. This boy can eat sushi. He’s the kind of kid that these all-inclusive resorts lose money on big-time when they do their pricing!

The sushi river was a circular sushi bar with, literally, a river of water, with a strong (somehow motorized) current, running through it. Little boats were floating on the water circling the bar. The sushi chef was in the center constantly placing all sorts of sushi, on little trays, onto the boats, all night long. You sit there and just take what you want as it comes around. This whole thing — the sushi river — is a crazy amazing thing for a sushi lover.

It is impossible to put into words the extent to which Owen was enamored with this whole entire thing. He insisted on taking some photos of the experience. He took about 40 of them. Here are my favorite three {nothing quite makes a foodie mommy blogger as proud as when her 10-year-old son feels compelled to grab the camera and take pictures of his food!} ~~



And, not to be left out, here is Mommy-and-Papi Heaven:

Heaven H B

Nothing says “heavenly” like mimosas by the pool with Kindles loaded up with pleasure reading. It was such a glorious treat.

(for post 2 of 3 click here)

Mexico 2014 (2 of 3)

Posted by | BAMBINOS | One Comment


The photo above is one of my favorite photos of Owen, ever.

Here are some other favorites from this trip:

pool throw

jump K

K and BO and H

M beach night

I know that there are lots of people who read this blog specifically for the trip posts. And often these posts are used by people as actual travel reviews (to plan vacations). I want to plug this resort a bit because it was such a great one (I was truly impressed with it, in a way unlike any other all-inclusive we’ve experienced), but I want to say up-front that this is not a paid advertisement and I am getting nothing (absolutely nothing!) from the resort or anyone else for this review!

The resort was beautiful ~

But the most amazing part, to me, was the food. They label themselves a “Gourmet Inclusive” but I have to be honest: I was pretty skeptical before going. And I have to be honest again: I was pretty blown-away by the food once we were there.

gourmet inclusive


Braydon and I love Mexican food (and margaritas!). It is probably our favorite food category (and drink!). And this place did not disappoint. This is especially noteworthy because it was an all-inclusive (not typically known for the quality of the food). What I loved most, though, was the fact that our kids got to try so many things — and really experience and enjoy their food explorations in a stress-free environment where we weren’t concerned with the cost of every one of these high-end items. For us, as a family, food is a shared experience — just to reiterate: it is an experience — that we all enjoy sharing together. It is fun for us to explore it and experiment with it together. This resort made that part of our time so pleasurable, which, for us, is huge. In addition to us all eating a huge array of really good, fresh, light, and delicious Mexican food all week, our kids also got to try so many things on this trip that were new to them. Some of the highlights were octopus ceviche; beef carpaccio; tuna tartar; watermelon gazpacho.

My serious foodie, Owen, was particularly enamored with the “Gourmet Inclusive” concept. He loved the sushi river, but he also learned that he loves eggs Benedict, coconut ice cream, and shrimp tacos. He also loved that it was always all-you-can-eat (a big win for him; he can eat a lot). One night he ate four salmon dinners. Four. They just kept bringing them, and he just kept eating them. It was stunning. (Then he asked to have the chef come out to the table so he could thank her. Which happened. And which he did (thank her). And I think the chef got a little teary with joy and happiness over this 10-year-old boy describing in great detail how perfectly rare she had grilled his salmon and how “most and flaky” it was, and how “usually chefs don’t know how to cook salmon so perfectly for him,” and on and on and on and on.)

Meera discovered, much to her delight, the Mexican tradition of eating sweets for breakfast. She fully embraced that part of the Mexican culture (!) and enjoyed the heck out of eating cupcakes, pastries, colored marshmallows and all sorts of other sweets for breakfast every day. She has bemoaning ever since that the American cultural breakfast tradition does not include cupcakes and cookies.

Kyle re-affirmed his life-long love of the bean-and-cheese burrito. And he rediscovered his love of drinking Bahama Mamas at a swim-up bar.

Speaking of swim-up bar… Our room. Our room was beautiful. And… get this… it was a swim-up room! It had a regular door to it. But it also had a porch/balcony with a ladder that went directly into the pool.

roomswim up room

The bambinos seriously thought they had died and gone to heaven.

You could jump off our porch right into the water…


…and swim from our swim-up room to the swim-up bar…

swim up bar

…which we did. Many, many, many times.


pool drink HB

(for post 3 of 3 click here)

Mexico 2014 (3 of 3)

Posted by | BAMBINOS | 6 Comments

H and kids

Most of all, we relaxed. Like, really, genuinely, totally unplugged and unwound with no agenda. We don’t do that very often, and it was a beautiful thing for us to get a chance to do that together.



We even got massages! All five of us! The resort had a truly great spa. And the best part about it was that even the spa catered to kids and families. They had an entire spa menu just for kids (so cool!). K & O had had massages once before (when we went to the Dominican Republic with them), but this was Meera’s first time. It was a tiny bit scary how much she loved it!

Massage M

And I need to mention the Kids Club. We had not planned on using it, but once we were there and the bambinos discovered it, there was no getting them out of the place. They absolutely adored the staff and made lots of friends. I don’t know who enjoyed that Kids Club time each day more — them, or Braydon and me — because I will admit: Braydon and me really loved having some downtime without worrying about the bambinos. Even now, when we talk about our Mexico trip, the bambinos always talk about the Kids Club.

kids club

In addition to all of that, I also have to mention one of the highlights for Meera: painting on the beach. I mean, really: painting. And: the beach. That is pretty much a magical combo for our girl. It doesn’t get much better than that! She spent a little time each day during the first part of the week working on a kitty:

Heaven 2 M

And then she and I worked together on a vase on our last day:

vase painting

That vase is our family’s one memento from Mexico 2014. I am sure it will be with us for a long time, reminding us of that very special week.


Before we knew it we were back on a plane, this time headed north up along the Mexican coast. Even the plane ride out was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful:


What a summer we have had! The Mexican portion of it was really exquisite.


Note: For good deals on all-inclusives, we really like using Liberty Travel. We booked this trip through a great Liberty Travel agent, Annie Schlegel. You can contact her at

*This is not a paid advertisement for Azul Beach resort, or Liberty Travel*

To Be Aware of Happiness: The Closing of Another Grand Chapter

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A sign, in a window, downtown Charleston.

Right now I’m reading a book called Delicious!. The author is Ruth Reichl, the famous foodie and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. The book has received mixed reviews, but for me this is a summer novel (a rare treat), and I am thoroughly enjoying every page of it. It is actually the book that my book club is reading (hello Swain School moms!), chosen by the hostess of the month (hello Andrea!), and I’m missing this month’s get-together with my good friends because I’m here in South Carolina. Here’s my favorite quote from the book so far (I’m about 2/3 of the way through it) ~

“How lucky I was to be aware of happiness. Most people don’t recognize their own good fortune until it has departed. And then it is too late.”

happiness view 1

Above photo: I snapped this from my beach chair, as I sat at the edge of the water yesterday, at Hunting Island beach, watching my dear little ones (growing so fast to be big ones), as they played in the waves. I sat there, just me in my bathing suit, with nothing but my camera, the sun soaking me, and I absorbed the moment. I felt it — like, really felt it — the happiness that it was. The profound and deep happiness of that moment.

I am so lucky. I can be —and often am— fully aware, fully present, to savor my happiness. I can recognize happiness when I experience it. I live my life fully, knowing that life is too short, understanding that everything is short-lived, and aware that we only live once. Nothing should be wasted. I recognize my good fortune, my privilege, my luck, and I also recognize the hard work — hard work on so many varied levels — hard work that is daily and in the minutia of living, and hard work that is huge decisions at big forks in the road, and hard work that is numerous multi-layered sacrifices made in small and big ways.

Sitting there, watching them, in the moment of this glorious summer, I allowed myself to feel it fully. I got choked up, then started crying, tears of joy, sitting there in that beach chair. The salt water, the salty breeze, the salty tears, all mixing together. It was, and is, a profound happiness. I just felt it, and clicked the camera, hoping to get a shot that would allow me, someday, to remember.

happiness view 3

Braydon and I have worked so hard for what we have. This is not just in the traditional sense of “hard work” (our jobs, our careers, many years of strategic navigating), but also in the arenas of emotional work, psychological work, relational work. We have done the work that is involved in forging a life that travels off the beaten path; the work of choosing an unusual lifestyle; the work of plowing ahead in the face of challenges and challengers, failures and naysayers, histories and personal dramas. There is no such thing as a charmed existence. Behind the scenes, maybe years in the past, were decisions made and strategies employed and lots of stuff that was hard. That moment for me, there on that beach with my bambinos, was 20+ years in the making.

We are also extremely lucky that we were both born to privilege. We have maximized our advantages, and we have tried hard to use our privilege wisely. We have never taken our unearned advantages for granted. We have always tried to be careful with how we employ the advantages that we have.

It is an unexplainable mixture of hard work and pure luck and structural circumstances that explains where we are in our lives right now — living the life that we are — a life that we’ve built, from the ground up, despite the odds that have —oftentimes, and in many ways — been against us. We’ve built it from nothing but a dream in our minds. And it is a dream come true.

With the right circumstances, and some luck, what you dream in your mind can — sometimes — be built in your life. It just might take decades to get there. And it will often feel like you are in the dark trenches with no end in sight.

But then, you’re sitting on the beach one day and there it all is right before your eyes.

As our time in South Carolina comes to a close I feel desperate to preserve the memories, the moments, the precious fleeting feeling of pure and extreme happiness. This is the closing of another grand chapter.


Wrapping Up Our July in South Carolina: Snapshots

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Three of my favorite snapshots of my bambinos— Meera, crabbing at Hunting Island Pier; she caught a blue crab! ~

crabbing M

Kyle, reading by the pool ~


Owen, swimming in the deep end ~


And, some of my favorite snapshots from the past four weeks— The view from the back porch of the beach house, at high tide ~

back porch view

Playing bocce ball at the beach ~

bocce ball 2

Owen, checking the crab trap at low tide ~

crabbing bike

M, K, O, checking the crab trap at high tide (we check the crab trap every time we pass it by, which is often!) ~


Beware of Alligators ~


Vegging out/Chillaxing/Unwinding with the iPads. Boys, by the time you ever get to reading this old blog some day, these things will be total relics of the past, and completely obsolete, but let me tell you: in the summer of 2014 you guys loved these things! iPads. Your favorite way to relax. What did you do with them? Mostly, played baseball and basketball (apps) on them ~

Beach House KO

Trying to draw the marsh at sunset ~


Papi’s hand, on Kyle’s beautiful head. Father and Son. This is love. ~


Sunset view from the back porch of the beach house at low tide ~


Early morning coffee and — yes, Meera too — iPad! It is so quiet and still, the photo does not do it justice ~


Shrimp boats off the beach at Hunting Island ~


Food Friday II: Meera & Shrimp / K & O & The Hot Dog Man / Gratuitous Beach House Food Scenes

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My last Food Friday in South Carolina has come, and here we are. Food riches abound here in the Lowcountry. I could do a “food” post every day. And so, today, I tack on a Food Friday II because I have three food-themed-things I don’t want to forget about July 2014:

1. This is the summer that my Meera fell in love with shrimp. She suddenly, the summer she was six, loved shrimp — fried shrimp, Lowcountry Shrimp Boil (aka peel-and-eat shrimp “cocktail”), shrimp scampi — she loved it all! {note: yes, princesses dining with us in two of the three photos below.}

IMG_5330M shrimp boilMeera shrimp scampi

2. We discovered “The Hot Dog Man” at Hunting Island’s South Beach this year. Actually, only K & O call him “The Hot Dog Man,” his business is actually officially called “Sea Side Hot Dogs.” He’s been there in the past, but we’d never given it a go. But we went for it this summer, and it was love at first bite for K & O. They swear that The Hot Dog Man’s hot dogs are 2nd only to hot dogs at Fenway Park (whoa, if you know my boys you know that this is a huge statement!). They quickly became The Hot Dog Man’s two biggest fans (and I think this guy became as much a fan of K & O as they were of him). This was a fun summer lunch for us this year and I know that K & O will want to visit The Hot Dog Man for as long as we are spending July in South Carolina, and as long as Sea Side Hot Dogs stays in business.


3. July in the South Carolina Lowcountry is an embarrassing abundance of riches where food is concerned. I adore cooking here. And even shopping for food here is a pleasure (the roadside produce stands! the seafood sold right from the dock! the Publix grocery store that I absolutely love!). Growing up, I lived at a summer camp and ate “camp food” all summer long every summer. I think that might be partly why southern summer cooking is such a joy for me. I don’t want to forget the absolute joy I found in these days of cooking for my little family of five. We savor every moment of these gorgeous spreads and we never take this beauty for granted. I know I’m spoiling my kids with this — and I can’t imagine what sort of food lives they’ll have down the road — but I cannot help it: feeding them is a big part of how I do my love for them. It is an expression for me. I am always surprised when I go through the camera cards and discover what Braydon has documented — so often, it is food. He takes pictures of it. Which says something to me. I know he feels the love and appreciates every morsel. Which is what makes all of it oh so worth it.

food porch dinner

food - crabs


food summer

DSC_0002 2food ka bobs


porch dinner 2

food - scampi

summer fruit 2

food drinks

food caprese

Food Friday: Peach Blueberry Cobbler

Posted by | BAMBINOS | 2 Comments

cobbler - yum

Ok, so, being in South Carolina for July we are completely spoiled by the peaches. We have great peaches in Pennsylvania too, but the bambinos swear that the South Carolina peaches are the best. This recipe, though, works great with whatever peaches you can get (over the years I’ve made this in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina! — always delicious!).

You’re going to have to bear with me, though, because I’ve never written this recipe down or attempted to quantify — in any way — the ingredients. We just made this at the beach house this week but I forgot to write down the amounts. Just wing it and you’ll be fine!

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

1. Preheat oven to 375. While the oven is heating up, have your kitchen assistants peel and cut up a bunch of peaches. ;) When we made this the other day we used 6 big peaches. But use however many you’d like, to serve whatever size crowd you’re cooking for. I’d estimate about one peach per (quite large) serving. Cut up the peaches into bite-sized chunks and place in bottom of a baking dish.

peach cobbler 1

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the following (I’m totally estimating amounts here, so just do your best and adjust to your taste! and, again, this was for six peaches and you’ll need to adjust to however much you’re making) — about 1.5 cups oats; 2-3 heaping tablespoons of flour; about 1/4 cup brown sugar; about 1 tsp salt. Melt 1/2 stick butter and then mix the melted butter in. Carefully fold in about 1 pint of fresh blueberries.

peach cobbler 2

3. Dump the mixture on top of the peaches to create a second layer.

peach cobbler 3

4. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the topping is browned and crisped and the peaches are bubbling.

cobbler - done

5. Serve with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream! Yummo!!!!!

DSC_0029 7.22.03 PM

Observations: On Being a Black-White Transracial Adoptive Family in the South

Posted by | BAMBINOS | 19 Comments


We have spent a lot of time in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Braydon and I have been coming to this area for twenty years now. But for the past four summers we’ve spent significant time in the Charleston/Beaufort/Sea Islands of the South Carolina Lowcountry as a black-white transracial adoptive family. We’ve had many blog readers, friends, and acquaintances — curious about it — ask us to blog about our experiences with, and perspectives on, being an interracial black-white family traveling in the deep South. I’ve put off writing about this for a long time because I don’t want to offend or insult anyone. But I’ve decided to go ahead and write about it tonight, and I’ve asked Braydon to do the same. With me having grown up in northern New England (the north of The North!), and with him having grown up in Georgia (the deep, Bible-Belt, south of The South!), we are coming at this from two different perspectives. We’ve spent hours upon hours talking about this subject, and this post will only scrape the surface, but it is an attempt to answer the basic questions we’ve been asked so often: ‘What it is like being YOU there?’ and ‘What on earth is the appeal?!’ We wrote our posts at the same time tonight, but without seeing what each other had written.

Here goes~

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The other day, while we were walking on the beach, I had a long conversation with Kyle about his thoughts and perspectives on our time in the South. I was pretty astounded with what he had to say — both in terms of how incredibly articulate and sophisticated his answers seemed to me to be (granted, I’m biased, I’m his mother!, but I do think his thoughts and feelings are pretty incredible for a 10-year-old boy!), and in how much his own observations totally lined up with my own. Here are some tid-bits from that conversation:

I asked Kyle what is more comfortable for him— being black in the South, or being black in the North. His answer: he feels more comfortable being black in the South, but his thinking meshes more with people in the North. He thinks that people in the North have values more in-tune with his own (“They’re Union! They fought to end slavery! We wouldn’t be our family if it weren’t for The North!”), but… interestingly enough… he feels more comfortable, being black, in the South. Specifically, he thinks Northerners are more liberal and progressive (which is in-line with his own views), but he feels more at ease with Southerners. When asked to explain why he feels more comfortable in the South, he said: “There are more black people in the South. But it isn’t just that there are more black people here, it is also that there is more black history and black culture here.” I was amazed at his ability to discern the differences between thinking and feeling, and I was stunned by his explanation regarding history and culture. As a white, progressive, anti-racist person, I agree with Kyle’s assessment 100%. It should also be noted that when we’ve been in the South during our summer visits, we’ve placed a huge emphasis on the black history and black culture of the area. So, Kyle’s experience with the South is not white-washed… if anything is is “black-washed” (if that is even a thing). But, like Kyle, I think the North is more in-line with me, but in many ways, I feel more comfortable in the South. Isn’t that so interesting?!

Next I asked Kyle this: “Now, specifically, just in terms of being a member of a black-white transracial adoptive family, where are you more comfortable — as our family? The North or the South?” His answer was clear and conclusive: “The North. Definitely.” I think that is interesting — and it is the same answer for me — I feel more comfortable, as “us,” in the North.

Lastly, I want to share what Kyle had to say about one more subject: being a kid. “Now, if you can, putting aside the ‘black’ question, and the ‘transracial adoptive family’ question, just in terms of being a KID — where are you more comfortable? The North or the South?” He said that was by far the toughest question and that he couldn’t answer that conclusively because he had very mixed thoughts and feelings about that one. We talked about it for a long time. “Expectations for behavior are more more strict in the South,” he said. “What kids do in the North would never be allowed in the South… The things that adults let kids get away with in the North just don’t happen in the South… Kids are expected to be much more polite and have good manners in the South.” He went on to explain that much of the behavior of the kids he knows in the North would never fly down South; that kids get away with “so much!” in the North; and that the lines between kids and adults are much more rigid in the South. All of this was very clear in his mind. The only question for him was which place he preferred to be — as a kid. There is a fine line between high expectations leading to security and happiness versus high expectations leading to oppression. And, despite us circling back to this conversation numerous times in the past few days, the jury is still out for him in terms of what he prefers as a kid — the North vs. the South. He does say, however, that he is leaning toward thinking that, as a kid, he’s more comfortable in the North because “there is more freedom for kids in the North.”

Of course, in truth, none of this can be separated out. Kyle is a black, transracial adoptee, kid, visiting the South. We are a complex family spending time in the South. It is messy.

As a family we’ve spent a lot of time talking about all of this, and one thing we do all agree on is this: while we love visiting the South, we would not want to live here. It is very important to remember that our time in the South Carolina Lowcountry is spent on purpose, with some very specific intentions. I think if you understand that, you can understand why we love it here.

As a black-white transracial adoptive family we always — always —stand out. At home, we get weary of the stares and questions and never-ending, incessant, exhausting attempts — from just about everyone it seems — to try to ‘get into it’ with us— to try to approach us, find out out story, figure out our deal, probe and probe and go deeper and deeper to know what we’re all about. We can’t get through the grocery store, or go anywhere, without people looking at us (often staring at us), and regularly coming right up to us trying to start conversation with us (often even when we clearly don’t want to get into it). Honestly, it is exhausting. This is what we signed up for, though, (at least, Braydon and I signed up for it), so we (at least, Braydon and me) don’t complain. It is what it is. And we (especially our kids) don’t really know any different. But, the biggest pull, for me, to the South in the summer is, quite simply: just to get a break from it. Here’s the thing: in the South, people just don’t ‘get into it’ with us. They leave us alone. They may not like what they see in us, or maybe they do, but regardless, we’ll never know because you know what?! They don’t try to go there with us. They treat us just like everyone else. In stores, restaurants, on the beach, in the city, or anywhere, we are treated just like everyone else. We are treated politely and with Southern hospitality. But nobody asks us anything. And hardly anybody stares. We are just left alone. Which is… honestly… just so incredibly wonderful.

You know what? It is totally possible that they leave us alone because they are, in fact, giving us the cold shoulder. Maybe they don’t stare because they can’t stand to look at what they see. That is entirely possible. But, for one month a year, I don’t even care what the reasoning behind it is— I just like being left alone.

Plus, layered onto all of this, is the fact that for the past two years we’ve lived on campus at Lehigh. So, there, we are even less anonymous. It is an awesome and amazing experience to live there — in such a tight community — where everybody knows us and everybody is looking out for us. It is incredible. But, again, everybody want to get into it with us, all the time. Then, another layer: the blog. We are recognized places: “Oh my gosh! I read your blog!!!” We are the opposite of anonymous. Our life is like a crazy open book. We aren’t Brangelina, by any stretch of the imagination, but in our own little mini-world, we are pretty inundated. And, as much as this is probably a surprise to people who don’t know me well in real life: I actually am a person who prefers nothing more than being out of the spotlight.

Remember the lyrics from the theme song to Cheers? “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go…


That’s the South for us. Nobody know us. Nobody cares all that much. And we love that. They are polite and they keep is shallow and superficial, right at the surface. And, for one month a year, we are perfectly happy with that.

People in the South don’t pry. They are very polite. And superficial. This is, of course, a huge sweeping generalization (there are obviously many exceptions), but for the most part— truly— they just leave us alone. If we offer up information, they just take it for what it is, they don’t probe for more. “Our sons were adopted,” I might say. In the North that would immediately lead to: “Oh, from where? How old were they? Why Haiti? Tell me the whole entire story, I’m so interested!” In the South it will be responded to with, “That’s nice.” End of story.

I wouldn’t want that all the time. Because, for me, that is kind of awkward, and it feels extremely shallow and surface-level (and I’m not a shallow of surface-level person). But for one month a year? Yes please! For us, this is a respite and a retreat and a break that we thoroughly enjoy.

Do people stare? Yes, they do. But rarely. And not nearly as often as in the North. I will say, however, that when they do stare (in the South), it feels hostile. Just a feeling — just the radar working — but that is my feeling on it. When they stare in the North, my sense — again, just my own feeling on it — is that they’re staring out of curiosity (and it does not feel hostile; in fact, often, it feels the opposite of hostile— like a weird interest in us, but that they in some way like what they see).

Do we have racist situations? Not often. But sometimes, yes. The other day I overheard some horribly racist stuff at a sandwich shop. I was with Meera, alone, and these two white men were saying some horrible stuff within earshot. It was the worst overt racism I’ve ever witnessed. It felt scary to me. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to throw up. It was the only time that’s happened. And it was explicit and rough. On a regular basis, though, we don’t find overt racism in the South (at least we’re not witness to it and/or it isn’t happening directly to us). We do find a more conservative set of social values in the South. This is often overt, even with regards to race. In so many ways, truly, I find that — as horrible as it is — it often feels better than what goes on in the North with the “colorblindness” and all — all — that is wrapped up with that. Again, it is just for one month a year. I don’t think I’d ever choose to live permanently in the South.

Do we feel safe? Honestly… we are (purposefully) renting a house in a secure, gated community. This should send off all sorts of class cues. Classism, yes. Huge. In the South. And the North. Do I let my two black dreadlocked sons go alone into a gas station, to use the restroom, in the South? No. Do I do that in the North? No. Where are they safe?

Do we recommend the South for other black-white transracial adoptive families? Yes. If for no other reasons, to put the white folks in your family in the statistical minority for awhile. (So important!!!) And, also, because there is no place better than the South to teach your kids — black and white — about the African-American history. This is the epicenter of it all, folks, and this is a unique place to explore all that you have been, all that you are, and all that you could maybe be. Kids from the North should have at least one experience visiting the South — if for no other reason than to simply see how different the various regions of the U.S.A. are.

P.S. I just need to include this: another thing I love about our July in the South is this: Moms here don’t play with their kids. This is, of course, another huge sweeping generalization (and, of course, there are exceptions to this), but wow, do I ever love this. I find huge relief in spending a month of my year here where the Exceptional Mothering (in my opinion: Excessive Mothering) is not in full swing as it is in the North. I feel like in this era of mothering — at this historical moment — the pressure on moms is extreme to be exceptionally incredible-enriching-playful-creative-to-the-Nth-degree Mommies. I am a mom who firmly believes in letting my kids play — by themselves. I will build a sandcastle or play bocce ball on the beach every now and then, but I do not play with my kids all day long. For the most part, they play by themselves. And I don’t like being made to feel badly about that. In the North moms are all about playing with their kids, being fully engaged with their kids 24×7, making every single moment magical all of the time. I enjoy some time in the South, where moms rarely do that. Moms here sit in their beach chair, diligently feed their kids sandwiches, and let them play. All day long. That’s my kind of place. I enjoy a break from the mothering madness that is The North. (And I think my kids do too!) So, for me, this is another aspect of the “break” that our July in the South Carolina Lowcountry provides me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


I was born and raised in the South. Some would not really consider Atlanta the South, but when I was growing up there it was a lot more like a sleepy southern city than it is today. Although my parents are from the North, everyone I knew, all my friends, and everything I identified with was purely Southern. I did carry a little outsider sense of things, but I am pretty sure I understand the South, despite having not lived there for over 20 years. The South remains in your blood even when you leave. Even when you try to get it all out of you.

We’ve had many discussions about what is the difference between the North and South. Heather believes that the North is fundamentally represented by the Protestant Ethic. I get that and it resonates with me. I believe that the South’s foundation (and I mostly mean the White South) is based in God, Family and Tradition. And I believe that if you focus in on those three things –in reverse order – that the way the South works becomes clear (including things that continue to be problematic), including why the South continues to be upset by the American Civil War.

Which raises the question, if we understand things about the South, why would we bring our bi-racial black and white family to the South? Why on earth would anyone bring their black kids to the center of historical racism in the United States?

Well – we don’t live here – we’re visitors. I am confident we would not live here. But, as visitors, it’s an important experience for our whole family. An experience of living history and of a different culture.

One of the interesting things about the South versus the North is that in the North, stratification and racism is less visible. White people work hard to come off as accepting, not-racist and that equality is important. That’s despite the fact that racial and class segregation in the North is alive and well. I think that is sometimes easier and sometimes harder.

In the South, people are just upfront with their acceptance of stratification. In some cases, approval, in some cases disapproval, but in all cases, open recognition. There is just an openness to it. My theory is that this recognition is rooted in those tenants of Southern culture – Tradition, Family and God. Whatever the cause, just walking into a store, you can sense it.

For our family, one of the key differences we see is this: in the North, we are kind of considered a special, exciting and valued thing – a bi-racial family (I am not saying I think that’s ok or that we like that – but it’s definitely noticeable – I mean – when there is a certain kind of giddy excitement to have our boys over for a play date and then the pictures are posted in a large way on Facebook – it’s kind of obvious). In the South, we are intentionally ignored.

In the South, nobody asks about our adoption. Nobody wants to get to know us or inquire further. We are not shunned exactly (maybe due to our class status, I don’t know), but we are very much not a special thing.

In the North, white men chat with me about our adoption story and black men give me the unofficial head nod. In the South, I get neither – nothing. I think that’s Southern tradition speaking.

So – why would we come here? The American story and the Black American story is rooted here. The history of that story is living here; the experience of it is here. We may not want to live here, but how can we not visit?


Sea Kayaking (with Dolphins!!!)

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Well, yesterday we had one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of our family’s life together. We went sea kayaking! With dolphins!

The five of us had a private guided kayak trip through the ocean inlet between Fripp and Harbor Islands. It was absolutely spectacularly unbelievably awesome. Meera sat tandem in Braydon’s kayak, and the rest of us went solo. Our guide, Eric, was an incredible wealth of knowledge. He brought us out to a spot where he knows a pod of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins live (he’s been observing them there for the past ten years). We paddled along, into the inlet, and the conditions were perfect — it was low tide, the water was completely still, and — stunningly — sure enough, we had the gift of seeing so many dolphins. It seemed the whole pod was feeding there right as we arrived. Eric told us to stop paddling and just float there.

It was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To be so low in the water, with total silence all around us, just us and this pod of dolphins. We could hear them blowing water as they’d break the surface. They were swimming and jumping all around us. So many of them. In the kayaks we were literally right there with them… they were as close as 10 feet away from us, swimming under us and all around us and popping up about the surface so that we could see their entire bodies — from the tips of their noses to the ends of their tails. It was unbelievably spectacular.

It was impossible to get photos of the dolphins because you’d never know exactly when, or where, they’d appear from second-to-second. The first photo below is the only shot I got that even shows a dolphin (right to the right of Kyle’s kayak).

We were on the water for 2.5 hours, exploring all around the inlet and salt marshes, and seeing so many spectacular sights. It was truly an awesome experience for the five of us.

If anyone is ever in this area looking for a unique and amazing adventure, get in touch with Eric at The Kayak Farm! Click here for link.






Big Catches with Net Casting!!

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The bambinos have fallen head over heels for net casting! It is so much fun because:

  1. no big hooks!
  2. no bait!
  3. they don’t need any help with it! [they’ve mastered it and can do it entirely on their own]
  4. it is catch and release, so it makes it, in K & O’s own words/minds “True Sport Fishing”
  5. they catch all sorts of stuff! [they’ve caught more net casting than they have rod fishing]




Happy Birthday Grandpa Robert!

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Today was Grandpa Robert’s 75th birthday! He and Miss Carol drove from Atlanta, and we drove from Harbor Island, and we all met for a day together in Charleston. It was a happy birthday, a great visit, and especially nice for us to get to see Carol! We don’t see her as much as we wish, so it was a real treat to have her all to ourselves for a whole day!

The bulk of our day-trip was spent at Patriots Point, on board the USS Yorktown. The J-Ms had never been on an aircraft carrier before, and given K & O’s love of airplanes (and Meera’s never-ending willingness to roll along with us for just about anything-and-everything), this was a pretty exciting adventure. Grandpa Robert is practically an expert regarding this type of stuff, so I felt like we had the added bonus of our own private tour guide. It was a very cool experience.


Meera was much more into it than I had anticipated her being!


She especially loved the Navy Flight Simulator. This is a 5-minute “ride” (sort of thing) depicting what it looks and feels like to pilot an actual military aircraft. At first K & O did it alone, but M insisted that she wanted to do it too. Kyle was happy to ride it again (Owen was happy to sit this one out), so Kyle and Meera went in it together. Here they are on their way in (excited)…


And here they are on their way out (elated)…


There was so much to see and do there.




Afterwards we made our way into downtown Charleston for a “linner” (late lunch / early dinner) at our favorite bbq joint (Sticky Fingers, of course).


We ended our day meandering Charleston’s historic district, getting another couple pounds of pralines for Owen (!!!!), and winding down our day, before we said goodbye. It was a good day!