Upon the Occasion of Your First Decade

Dear Oliver,

Today you turned 10 years old.

Every year (every.single.year! I know!) I mention how impossible your aging process seems to me. I’m not sure why; you’re a human boy, blessed with all the physical necessities for continuous growth and well-being, and yet it is somehow still so strange to me that you don’t look like this:

Baby.

Baby.

Or this:

Toddler.

With your wee little curls. Squeeeeee!

Or even this:

Cheeky monkey!

But rather, like this tall drink of water:

Colt-like. All legs. September 2015.

Colt-like. All legs. September 2015.

This year has been such an exciting one for you. You travelled outside the U.S. for the first time (sort of? what is a commonwealth or an “unincorporated territory”, anyway?) when we all flew down to Puerto Rico over your spring break. It was the light at the very long tunnel of both your parents finishing higher education degree programs, and we had a grand time together that week-and-a-half. You, perhaps, had the grandest time of all…your first flight! Swimming and almost, but not actually, being carried off to sea! Watching umpteen million episodes of Teen Titans GO! D&D! Running uninhibited along the 16th-century ramparts! You were in your element, let me tell ya.

At Castillo San Felipe del Morro, our favorite outing of the trip.

At Castillo San Felipe del Morro, our favorite outing of the trip, April 2015.

It was such a good time, in fact, that I knew you were more than ready for your next travel adventure: the long-awaited pilgrimage to NYC. For the first time in probably your whole life, you got both of your parents all to yourself for an entire long weekend…AND you got to see New York! I could (and should!) write a whole separate post about that trip, but suffice it to say, you are now a most seasoned man-of-the-world, and it was my absolute privilege to make your horizons a bit broader this past year.

At One World Trade (in its opening month, even!) with teeny Lady Liberty in the background, June 2015.

At One World Trade with teeny Lady Liberty in the background, June 2015.

In the Lion King lobby, Times Square, NYC June 2015.

In the Lion King lobby, Times Square, NYC June 2015.

You learned to swim, you played tennis all summer long, you started piano lessons and really enjoy playing. You found books you love (finally!) and can’t get your fill of manga. You’ve read all the Yu-Gi-Oh that the local libraries have in their collection. We also did a lot of work together this past year to get your busy body and your busy mind into better alignment. You felt comfortable¬†in school for the first time in awhile, in large part because of the effort you put into your extra-curricular work. You still don’t love handwriting, but you found muscles you never knew you had, you found (some) persistence. You found a calm center, somewhere deep within, that had been hidden by all the ceaseless movement of your younger years.

If things get too quiet, this is where we'll find you.

If things get too quiet, this is where we’ll find you.

While you left some things behind, the very Ollie-est parts you carried along with you, still. Your humor. Your caring heart. Your innate curiosity and openness to the world. Your fiendish cleverness, now honed into keen strategy. Your mind is full of facts, and while they are mostly pertaining to Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh characters, you have a knack for memorization that puts your old folks to shame. Your current D&D character is a wizard and you play its backstory with compassion, while adroitly recalling spells (in all their minutiae) to suit each challenge the team faces. And speaking of “teams”, you really understand what that’s about, how to listen to another’s perspective and share yours in the hopes of reaching a peaceful consensus.

Even though you’re the peacemaker, you still tussle with your brothers, though. Constantly. You are, after all, a ten-year-old boy and a middle brother, so it only stands to reason…

Since we tend not to take pictures of you all fighting, please accept in lieu this photo of you and the other fellas being silly at Mickey's, July 2015.

Since we tend not to take pictures of you all fighting, please accept instead this photo of you and the other fellas being silly at Mickey’s, July 2015.

We lost some beloveds this year, too, unfortunately. It was the first time you’ve been old enough to really understand death, and as a parent it’s one of the most terrifying things about parenting: how do I explain the temporal, fleeting nature of life to my young children in a way that is meaningful, but not frightening? How do I navigate the process when my own heart feels so broken? Your response was, simply, remarkable. When your pet hamster, Wilbert, bid his farewell to this plane you accepted the tender condolences of your brothers, but had a remarkable frankness about the passage. “All things must die, sometime,” you said, with a touch of awe and sorrow but a more impressive measure of quiet assurance. You have a faithful heart, an antidote to my own angry and questioning spirit in the face of death. You humble me. When our family recently lost two incredible, amazing, utterly indescribable matriarchs, you were reverent and steady. Your great and great-great aunts adored your heart, and you continue their legacy of peace and love and cheerfulness in every step you take in this world. Great-great Aunt Betty always got a chuckle out of your antics, but your great aunt Linda pinned no less than the fate of the world on your more-than-capable shoulders:

"This guy. Right here. May save the world or just make it a lot nicer place to be," she wrote on this picture, posted on your first day of 4th grade, 2015.

“This guy. Right here. May save the world or just make it a lot nicer place to be,” she wrote on this picture, posted on your first day of 4th grade, 2015.

And I’m more than inclined to agree with her. I saw it in you the very first moment we met, that your heart was sent to teach me, and all who know you, what goodness is all about. It’s fitting that you were born with the sunrise, my sunny child. Stay gold, Ollie-Bear.

Meeting the sunrise.

Meeting the sunrise.

Love,

Mama

Categories: Ollie | 3 Comments

Seven(teen)(ty)

Seth: Today you are seven. SEVEN! As you are still and always will remain MY baby, though not A baby, I continue to marvel about your growth. How is it possible that my baby correctly uses advanced vocabulary? Reads fluently? Does algebra problems for kicks? Loses his gosh-dang teeth?!? Acts alternately like a teenager and a crotchety old man?

Getting your kicks at the apple orchard, October 2014.

Getting your kicks at the apple orchard, October 2014.

That is but a cursory summary of your sixth-year accomplishments. You had an outstanding year in kindergarten–though some of your first foray into day-long education really surprised me. At home, you are all swagger, blustering about with copious words about why you are awesome with the obvious implication that we are not as much. You don’t seem to care what we think about you and the things you do most of the time. I learned this year, though, that you do care. Immensely. You want so much for people to like you, but this came across especially at school.

The most popular mini-Iron Man with all his new friends at The Source, May 2015.

The most popular mini-Iron Man with all his new friends at The Source, May 2015.

“Ugh, everyone loves <classmate> because he is so cute and small. He’s the most popular kid in my class. I want to be the most popular kid!” you opined one day on the ride home. Huh. This was…completely new to me, as a parent. Your brothers didn’t care so much so soon. You do, and so I am aware as we guide you along through another year of the need to emphasize what is unique about you, but also how it is okay to not have the superlative “most” in front of any adjective used to describe you. You can just be you, and that is more than enough.

Seth doing his own thing, photo courtesy of Eamon Coyne, October 2014.

Seth doing his own thing, photo courtesy of Eamon Coyne, October 2014.

Because–let’s face it–you are a heaping, overflowing cupful of Seth. You are just SO MUCH of you. You are boisterous, you are opinionated. You are insistent, and strong-willed, and loving. You are seriously the funniest kid I’ve ever been around, and I know I’m biased but a lot of people seem to agree that you are on the road to stand-up. You’re a born performer, constantly mugging and requesting I take your picture. You thoroughly enjoy demanding a spotlight upon you as you command center-stage.

You look awfully serious here. In your first school musical.

You look awfully serious here. In your first school musical, June 2015.

Your heart is huge, and you love love LOVE the ladies. Your character flirts insatiably with my character in our family D&D campaign, and it’s a transparent stand-in for how attached you are to me. I know it will embarrass you one day, but I promise I won’t hold you to any of the marriage proposals you’ve issued me. I don’t know if I can say the same for your many girlfriends at school. Will you tell them, or shall I, that you are in fact already married to “your bride” Eleanor, the giant teddy bear, with whom you share an adorable passel of plush, stuffed children? You’re such a heartbreaker.

At a special (and dapper!) kindergarten tea date, November 2014.

At a special (and dapper!) kindergarten tea date, November 2014.

Little loves, July 2015

Little loves, July 2015

Besides other kids, and girls in particular, things you loved this year include: snuggles, carbs, Abraham Lincoln (still!), all things kawaii, playing Yugi-Oh with your brothers, and thinking you were actually 12 years old like Max. Things you didn’t like were being too young/short for things your brothers did, loose teeth (particularly wiggling them; you just let them fall out eventually on their own), not being heard, homework, the dark, meat, and most vegetables.

You, with your weird Puerto Rico sunburn and a rare vegetable you'll actually eat. March 2015.

You, with your weird Puerto Rico sunburn and a rare vegetable you’ll actually eat. March 2015.

And while you’re loud and brash, that belies a sweet and tender heart that only a few are privy to see. You might fight us into bedtime, but then you crave a cuddle while you collect yourself once again. You fight tooth-and-nail with your brothers, your head hot as fire, but dissolve into regretful tears in the aftermath. There’s a famous Shakespeare quote that goes, “though [he] be but little, [he] is fierce.” You might be scratching and scrapping like Hermia, with a temper to match, but your ferocity goes beyond the physical. You are a force of nature, kid…you came into this world like a lamb, and have evolved into a lion. We hear you roar. You’re my tender-heart-beneath-steely-resolve baby, and it’s an honor to see all your many facets as you continue to shine.

Chatty with Boompa, November 2014.

Chatty with Boompa, November 2014.

Little punk, May 2015.

Little punk, May 2015.

Silly at the sea, Puerto Rico 2015.

Silly at the sea, Puerto Rico 2015.

Ruggedly handsome, April 2015.

Ruggedly handsome, April 2015.

Master (role) player, February 2015

Master (role) player, February 2015

Playful, taking out your uncle Eric disguised as a pinata, August 2015.

Playful, taking out your uncle Eric disguised as a pinata, August 2015.

Social, with our friends at Culvers, Valentine's 2015

Social, with our friends at Culvers, Valentine’s 2015

Caring, with your BFF cousin in Puerto Rico, April 2015.

Caring, with your BFF cousin in Puerto Rico, April 2015.

Creative/Inventive thinker, July 2015

Creative, July 2015

Just plain weird, November 2014.

Just plain weird, November 2014.

I could seriously go on with the pictures forever, the way you’ve demanded we act as your own personal paparazzi, but I’ve got to wrap this up while it’s still your birthday. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Happy birthday.

Categories: Mostly Me, Seth | 4 Comments