Fireside chats with new friends

With the snow storm last weekend, I learned how to start a fire in the fireplace. I've watched other people make fires on occasion but never been very confident on doing it myself. But now, I'm like Prometheus up in this joint. 

After learning how to make fire in a controlled environment we then upgraded to the outdoor fire pit. And from there, we were fortunate enough to get a beautiful set of coals. I'm interested in doing some outdoor cooking in a fire pit soon, and I'm excited about the new tools at my disposal. 

In the meantime, I sat by the fire with a glass of wine while the children ran amok in the darkness and dropped more marshmallows than they successfully roasted. It was pretty great. I've met some new parents. Ian has found some new friends. And we all agree on the protocol of ignoring our children unless there is blood or near starvation. 

Fire pit and embers success!

Reverend Mills

Reverend Mills

Reverend Mills lives next door. He and Mrs. Mills are moving in with their daughter in Maryland next month. Their house has sold already, but he is still out watering the lawn every afternoon.

I stepped out the truck today and called out to him, "You're spoiling those people who bought your house, taking such good care of that lawn." He grinned and said that they were so sweet and they appreciated how well he had kept up the house when they bought it. "I wasn't gonna plant grass seed. But they are so excited to move into this house, I thought I'd do just a little extra for them, ya know." I nodded knowingly, bursting with delight at the "ya know" finishing his sentence, a statement versus any sort of question.

I told him about buying my house in OV and how the people we bought it from cried at how nicely we had restored the home they had originally built. He reminded me that he and Mrs. Mills had built their house, just as "Lenbert's parents" had built the house I was about to enter.

The L&J Gardens neighborhood was a pretty big deal in the 60s - Bay Colony for blacks. These were professional black families - architects, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women, school principals, Tuskegee Airmen. Reverend Mills has lived here for 50 years.

He admitted that he's not quite ready to leave yet. His wife is excited about the new house. His daughter is excited. It's a gated community and a new development. But he trailed off wistfully that he's gonna miss this little ranch house something fierce. I reminded him that we're not happy to see him go either.

"You have an obligation to make sure that you leave something for the people that come after you. Your children need an inheritance. It's how you make sure that they live a better life than you did. I just told my daughter - she's my angel, ya know - I told her that her inheritance is coming now for this new house." He laughed at himself.

"Have you ever seen an angel? I mean, they walk among us every day, but have you ever seen one in the flesh? That's my baby girl. I am looking forward to seeing her every day. I'm 83, ya know."

He finished by saying, "God is good." I'm not sure if he was telling me that or just acknowledging it like the weather today. He went back to watering the grass seed.

It's been a rough week. I don't know if Rev. Mills knows how much I needed to chat with him today. We can't control how well people will treat the things we love dearly going forward. But we can keep doing what's right while it's ours.

Lucky number seven

Happy birthday to my amazing boy, Ian. We decided to try something new for his party this year. The Virginia Aquarium has an Adventure Park ropes and zip line course in the trees behind it. We primarily picked it because they let you bring your own food for the party which allowed our gluten sensitive guests to eat the same things everyone else did. It also was something completely new for all of us, kids and adults.

The gang all ready to climb

We ended up with nine kids and four adults acting as chaperones. Those adults were really needed in the beginning for the younger kids. But what amazed me is that for Lily and Gabi (the six year olds under my watchful eye), their biggest challenge was being too short for some of the clip locations. Otherwise, they did great, even better than their older brother and Ian at times.

The girls climbing like pros

The session starts with a mandatory bathroom break for everyone, which is smart given the complexity of the harnesses we had to put on. We then got a 20 minute lesson on how the carabiners work and how to transfer from line to line. As the instructor started his schpeal I thought, "This is going to be a fiasco. There's no way these kids got all that." He asked if there were any questions and the kids all shook their heads no. I was dubious.

And damn their times, they just clipped in and went to town. Lily was the one closest to me and she just kept saying, "This one is locked and this one is unlocked. So this is how you do it, Miss Genie." These kids could barely get their little fingers to reach the release and the clip at the same time but they were undaunted by the zip line procedures to hook up three different things in a very particular order. Behold the power of motivation. These little wildlings wanted to be up in the trees something fierce.

I was so delighted to follow along behind them. Feens got to her first platform about 10 feet in the air and threw her little fists into the air screaming, "I did it!!!" You could actually hear the multiple exclamation points at the end of her sentence.

Ian in the trees

We had our food and presents and I can tell you, as an adult, I was wiped out. The children, however, were still going strong. We decided to pool our efforts and let them do their Lord of the Flies thing in the streets of Ocean View. They have been racing up and down the road between our collective houses, riding bikes and scooters all over, and killing zombies in the treehouse out back. Good times.

I ordered pizza and made Ian's birthday giant chocolate chip cookie for the remaining gluten tolerant people to inhale for dinner. And I'm enjoying the relative peace and quiet of the house while the kids laugh outside.

Giant cookie cake for freshly minted 7 year old

Today was a good day.