John and I are far away from our families, which live in British Columbia, California, Arizona, and Boston. When your closest family lives in Boston and you have a child, you need to create a family where you live in order to survive. For us, that came in the form of a two-year old boy we watched playing catch with his dad on the playground of our son Peter's preschool. As soon as John and I saw Blake and his dad, Glenn, playing catch we knew we needed to get to know that family. We introduced ourselves, and Blake and Peter became instant friends--bonded by their love of sports. As often happens when kids become friends, the parents do too. Finally, we had found someone else who shared our love of sports and participated in our crazy sports-dictated lifestyle. When Blake's Mom, Chrissi, had a little girl. Evelyn, in June 2003, our family grew, and it grew again in 2006 when Grace came along (see all the kids together above in Avalon, New Jersey). John and I are the godparents to Evie and Grace, and we love Blake as if he were our own son. Even when the Hills moved back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2004, our families remain very close, and we travel back and forth to visit each other and take vacations together.
In all the years we have know the Hill family, we have not succeeded in turning our own son, Peter, into an ornithologist, but it turns out that Evie really loves the outdoors, including camping, fishing, and in particular birds. Yipee!! She has spent countless hours with her favorite person, Johnny (as she calls John Bates), birdwatching, looking through bird books, and watching slide shows of John's many travels all over the World. We may be succeeding in training a new generation of scientist, after all. It is awesome to watch how much Evie loves to watch and learn about birds. As Evie's 8th birthday approaches, I want to share with all of you some of Evie's love of birds, so keep watching this blog as I post some of Evie's artwork over the next few days. And Evie--happy birthday.