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.

Neptune Festival

I asked Ian this morning as we were snuggled in bed if he wanted to go to the Neptune Festival this weekend. I started describing that it’s on the oceanfront and there are little shops …

“Oh, I thought it was about Neptune and there would be a bunch of giant telescopes.”
“Well, that would be an awesome festival too.”

We then discussed that Neptune is a (pause while I thought about it …) Roman god. I told him that the Greeks and the Romans –
“Who are the Greeks and the Romans?”
He had no context. They could have been sports teams for all he knew. So we talked about how people from France are called French. And people from Mexico are called Mexicans. So people from Greece are called Greeks and people from Rome are called Romans. But a long time ago there were civilizations.

“Do you know what a civilization is?”
“Yeah, like Egypt?”
“Sorta.”

So then we went through civilizations and how they have government and cities and cultures and religions. And some civilizations believe in one god and some civilizations believe in lots of gods.

“Like the bible. The only two things I remember about the bible are Adam and Eve were the first two people and that Jesus died for us. Do you know some people don’t believe in Jesus? But I watched a Youtube video about people who died and came back to life and this one lady said she went to heaven and saw Jesus.”

“Ok! So! Back to Neptune. He was the Roman god of the sea. And there’s a big statue of him down at the oceanfront. And we’ll look at sand sculptures and eat funnel cake and look at jewelry.”
“Is jewelry expensive?”
“Some is and some isn’t.”
“I would like to buy a ring please at the Neptune Festival.”
“We can totally do that.”

All of this before 7am. I’m tuckered and yet totally enamored with him.

First day of first grade

Ian and I went for his “meet the teacher” session last week. He was excited to see his new classroom, see some kids, and meet his new teacher Ms. Boutwell (as in about well). The teacher talked a lot about reading and how if my kid doesn’t know how to read now he will by the end of the year. Ian and I kind of just looked at each other because he’s currently reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – slowly, but with great accuracy.

Ian’s schedule this year is:

8:55-9:05 Announcements
9:05-11:00 Shared reading and guided reading groups
11:00-11:45 Writing and Calendar Math
11:45-12:35 Lunch and Recess (lunch is 11:50-12:20)
12:40-1:40 Math
1:40-2:10 Science and Social Studies
2:10-2:55 Resource (Art, Music, PE twice a week)
3:00-3:15 D.E.A.R (Drop everything and read) and Dismissal

My kid gets 15 minutes for recess (12:20-12:35pm) every day and twice a week he gets P.E. for 45 minutes. Otherwise he’s sitting and learning. I’m a grown up and that day looks taxing to me. Thankfully, when he gets to Jenna’s in the afternoon, she throws them outside, but it’s still rough. I don’t see Ian until 5:30pm. With no naps at school, he is exhausted by 7:30pm and asleep by 8:30pm at the latest. He’s up between 6:30 and 7am every morning.

I offered to take him to school this morning because he had two large bags of supplies for the classroom in addition to his backpack. I wanted to take his picture in front of the house but he suddenly looked unhappy. He told me his smile was awful. This was after he suddenly felt sick at the breakfast table and was slow to get out of bed this morning despite popping awake at 6am all summer.

I told him he looks great and I love his smile. It looks a lot like mine in that you can tell we’re happy if our eyes disappear behind our cheeks. I asked him if he was nervous about school. He nodded yes.

“But Mom, they’re going to have hard math!”

I assured him that he was brilliant and that the math would not be too hard for him. I told him no one was attacking him for how he feels and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous about starting something new. “It happens to me all the time and I’m a grown up. But all the chemicals that make you excited and scared are basically the same. So take it as a good sign that you’re body is working just fine and go for it. You’ll do great.”

He smiled a little and climbed into the Jeep. We drove the 3/4 mile to school with his leg hanging out, his eyes closed in the wind, his shaggy hair blowing all over. (He wants to grow his hair long like his new friend Kieran, so no back to school haircut this year.) I pulled up to the school, handed him his bags and called out “I love you!” to him.

I hope the school rested up all summer so they are ready for him. He’s a lot of kid but worth it.

First day of first grade

Life in the passenger seat

The first day I brought the Jeep home, I asked Ian if he wanted to go for a ride with the doors off. He immediately burst into tears and ran to the safety of his room. As far as he was concerned, that monster was a 4″ lifted carriage of Satan.

My kid is a sensitive soul, much like his mother. There are a lot of things that make him nervous and upset these days. I get that. There’s a lot of stuff out of his control. It’s hard being six.

A few days later we were going to get dinner. I asked if he wanted to take the Element or the Jeep. He adamantly requested the Element. Fair enough.

Last night, I asked Ian if he wanted to get a milkshake from Sonic after dinner. He wanted the shake but didn’t want to leave the house. I reminded him that I’m not a dessert delivery service, so if he wanted a milkshake, he was gonna have to come with me. That led to some consternation and a bit of a delicious stand off. Whatever, dude.

Around 8:30pm, I told Ian he needed to take a shower. I honestly can’t remember the last time he had gotten clean by anything other than the backyard hose, so it was getting bad. He agreed but then said he had decided he would like to get a milkshake.

“It’s probably too late now, though.”
“If you shower and manage to keep the milkshake out of your hair, I’m agreeable to that.”
“YAY!”

Fastest. Shower. Ever.

As we walked out into the muggy night air, I asked again casually, “Do you want to take the Jeep?”

“But … I’ll have to ride in the front!”
“Yeah …”
“But! I’ve never ridden in the front before!”
(internally debates risk of airbag on 82lb kid) “You’ll be fine.”

And with that he was sprinting towards the Jeep.

I had put the doors on for the 20 minutes of storms we had earlier that day. As I opened the driver door and took the top half of the door off, Ian blurted out, “Mommy! What are you doing?!”

“I’m taking the door tops off.”
“I’m already in the front and now you’re gonna have me fall out?!”
“Jesus, dude. You have a seatbelt.”

He opened his door and climbed up in. I took the door tops off and set them in the driveway. Ian reminded me to not run over them as part of his safety protocols.

I put the Jeep in reverse to back out of the driveway and he started squealing with delight! I drove really slowly in front of the neighbors’ houses just in case the kids were up and happened to look out the window to see Ian RIDING IN THE FRONT SEAT!

Most of the way to Sonic, Ian was content to hold his blankie (corner firmly pinched between thumb and index finger), rest his right arm on the door, suck his thumb, and stare out the window. His freshly washed hair tussled in the warm breeze and he looked content. I tried to take his picture because it made me so happy but it was too dark.

We took the back road so there were lots of stop signs. This was Ian’s first experience with a stick shift as well, so there were lots of questions about clutches and gears and if my hand had to stay on the stick for it to run or if it was just a place to put it.

We parked at Sonic and Ian posed for a picture. It only marginally describes his level of stoked about sitting in the front seat.

Stoked about riding in the front seat

As we drove home, he alternated between sipping his milkshake and hanging his head out the door like a labrador (because really there is no window but more a missing section of door). He said it was the best thing ever.

“Mommy, it feels like we’re going so fast!”
“Dude, we’re going 35. But open air is like that.”
“Can you see the moon? It’s so bright!”
“I can’t see it from my seat.”
“It’s right here!” (points to a spot in the roof)
“You know, we can take the top off of this too. So you could see the stars and everything.”

If you were listening very closely at 9:10pm last night in our little corner of Ocean View, you would have heard Ian’s mind explode.

Two weeks ago he was terrified of a car. As of last night, he’s hooked on the front seat, topless life. Kids are like that. He may not get to drive for many aspects of his life. But that doesn’t stop him from living in the moment, hanging his head out with the wind on his tongue.

Hanging his head out the window like a labrador