Twelve years of this boy.


I might not have started with this one if you hadn’t (gleefully) pronounced that you have vomited more than anyone else in the family. Sadly (or happily depending on your attitude which is almost always good) this is true. You were born with reflux. It was so ridiculous that I lay awake at night designing a new kind of baby sleeper which kept you strapped in and upright. Then we discovered that the swing did the trick and for several months you slept in a swing. Granny worried we would have to find an adult size to send to college with you. The puking continued as we force fed you a chocolate cupcake for your first birthday and to this day you take road trips clutching a trash bag and old towel. The fact that you do this all without expressing misery is as remarkable as the volume of vomit. Which is obviously remarkable as well.


This was the year you became a brother. It hasn’t always been easy.  He lists you as “stranger” in his cell phone and after the cat and dog in terms of his love for family members. Yet you know this isn’t true. Your sword fights and giggles and all the times you hear his voice calling out “Ollie” blend together into a relationship that is more fun than friction. You have always known the importance of having and being a brother. “I believe in you” you tell him as he struggles with math. You do. You believe in him and you brother him even as he bothers you. In this picture you are signing “more.” The shot before this one had you kissing him. Yet this shows your open eyes and face of glee. The only thing about this shot that isn’t true to our life is that Leo is the one sleeping.


Ah cooking. Around this time you were a master imaginary chef. You loved to play “fast cooking” inspired by Koto where the hibachi table performance featured clanking knives and “big fire”. Today you are working on cooking a minimum of seven meals so you will be ready to take care of yourself. You are a master of breakfast for breakfast, brunch and dinner. Your waffles are from scratch and your patter as you mix the batter is endless and endlessly charming. You make turkey tacos and boil some things. There are other dishes I am sure, but you are still best at opening a box of crackers and enjoying until the end. You are no quitter. You eat to the last crumb and almost always remember to recycle the box.


Mini Steve. Many many many people compare you to your dada. It’s easy to see why in this picture. It is more than skin deep however, you both have engineering minds and love logic. Your outlooks range from matter of fact to fantastic. You both love breakfast. Despite these things there is some me in you as well. We are always early, including when we wake up in the morning. I’m sure there are other things. So I issue this challenge…find bits of me in you. I am so proud to be half of your DNA, however the mad mix is made up. Which is something we ponder together while talking about cross pollination of beans. So that’s one more thing I gave you. An interest in purple peas. 


Admittedly this is not the best picture. I had to include it though because it combines so many of the things that made up Oliver at that age. And make you up now. You are outside. You love the outdoors, hiking, walking, swimming. They are all great. You are by the lake at our old house. You have built a fire. You love fires. Shelbure farms camp had a big bonfire and the counselors said you stayed by to tend it most of the day. You are not as much of a fire starter as a fire tender. Perhaps because you are tender. Also, if you look closely into the blur of this photo you see your signature pose. You used to cup your face with both hands for every picture. Here it is important that you hold your stick so you only have one hand free to look cute. You managed it though. Just as you manage the fire.


Chess. Your love of chess started in a big way. Our trip to Mexico when you were five had lots of milestones. You learned to swim. You became an international traveller. You tried tropical fruit. I said you TRIED tropical fruit.  As we walked from our Linda 2 casita with plunge pool that only penguins could tolerate you always had us stop at the giant chess board. You walked the squares putting yourself in the game. You still play…on a smaller physical scale and a larger mental one. Its funny as you get bigger the concrete world gets smaller and your inner world gets bigger. It is amazing to watch you grow. When you were around this age you would have us watch you grow in real time. You would scrunch your fists and your face and scream out like the hulk. You believed that you were making yourself larger with your effort. As it turns out it happens effortlessly.

2011. Your life has not been without sadness. 2011 was the year that your grandpa died. One year you picked out a t shirt that said “grandpas are for loving and fixing.” This was literally true for your grandpa. He built decks and gave cuddles. Most of all he loved you boys. I had to choose two picture for this year though. Because with the sadness came the strength to get through it. Just a week after you sat by your grandfather’s side in his last days you and your brother sat on our lawn looking at the sunset. I think Leo started it (in this case in a good way) but you joined in. As the sun slipped behind the mountains and the lake reflected pink on your faces you closed your eyes and offered yourselves a moment of peace. The same peace you wish for everyone.



This is how you feel about getting dressed up. Here are the clothes you like: Sweat pants (which we used to call play pants because little kids don’t sweat), t shirts, socks, or best of all a fizzy blanket. Occasionally you will wear a button down. (Which really should be called a button up) but it usually results in this face. Where we can’t see your cheek dimples let alone my favorite third chin dimple. After a while your smile comes back though as you grin and bear it. 


Napping. There really doesn’t need to be a particular year to highligt this. You are a world class napper. As you know I have an entire folder of photos of Oliver sleeping. It is the largest folder on my phone. That said this shot one is a great because it captures your ability to sleep in crazy situations (in the freezing cold on a pokey plastic chair) whilst accurately documenting your interest in live sports. Low. There is another side to the story though. It is the enthusiasm you showed before and after the outdoor hockey game to support your dad. It was disproportionately high given your level of interest. Which was clearly low.


This is the year we moved to Colorado. This was probably the biggest disappointment of your life. This is what you say about Vermont. “On a scale of 1 to 10 Vermont is a 12 because its as good as heaven but I’m not dead.” Despite holding onto your love of Vermont you have settled into a life of happiness in Colorado. The month we moved you made up a song which went like this: “Life is a song and inside is a chorus. The chorus is this: there is no happiness without sadness. There are problems and there are solutions. Life is an oyster and inside is a pearl. You can’t open it with force. Only with kindness.” In your own words you explain how you manage the disappointment of our move. There is happiness and sadness and together they make life. Plus there is beauty everywhere. See?


Things I see here. Your love of animals. Birds, cats, dogs, flamingoes. Your endless enjoyment of the jungle garden. You loved our little house in Sarasota and our walks to the weird 4 acre park. I see your DI shirt and remember how you worked with your friends. I also see your goofy grin. This post has so much of your reasonableness. There is so much more Oliver than that though. There is the Oliver who says with a smirk “I just stepped on my own leg after I tripped.” The Oliver who dances the robot and chicken dance. The Oliver who can’t eat chocolate ice cream without it ending up all over his face. The Oliver who delights in his bed head. The Oliver who challenges drunk adults to a badminton game versus hyper kids. The one who speaks the truth: “you know whats hard to wrap? Bacon.”


Just out of the frame of this picture is the totem you, Leo and Granny built at the beach. You are a boy who enjoys rituals. You inspired Wednesday game night and Tuesday taco night.  There are traditions to your visits to the cape. At low tide you collect critters, in the afternoon you swing in the hammock where you have played coast guard since you were a little boy, you get the ice cream most evenings. You love to swim in the pond with Toby and Alex and Mike and Hes. You love to host Dmitri and Colin and other friends. You read the Declaration of Independence on Forth of July and crack open lobsters on the deck. The only part you don’t like is the drive there…for more information on that please reference 2005…the year of your birth.


We started with vomit…we might as well end with tech. Here you are my dear. You neck is cranked into an uncomfortable position but you won’t fix it because you don’t want to disturb the dog. Speaking of the dog I will remind you of one of the most Oliver stories ever. Driving home from Leo’s soccer game I offered the family a choice. “shall we go to an open house or the rescue pet center.” Guess where we ended up? Sitting in the small room with the shivering 7 pound piglet dog you were the only one who saw reason. “There will always be dogs that need us. Now is not the best time for us to get a dog with our travel schedule. Let’s wait a few months and come back when we are really ready to take care of a dog.” Fast forward eight minutes and you are the one lugging the dog food to the car. Like always you make the most of a questionable situation. You have taken on the role of “primary person” to the cat who was abandoned. You snuggle the dog and love him even though you still think he wasn’t the best choice. You clean his pee without saying I told you so. So here you are…snuggled in a blanket, a three quarters eaten loaf of challah beside you, a dog and blanket on top of you. You are watching something. Probably youtube. You are taking time for yourself, but if we called to you, if Leo called out Ollie or if Dada and I asked you to come see us you would jump up right away. (After gently placing the dog on the floor of course.) You are here for us. And I hope you feel how much we are here for you as well.

Love love love. Your mama.

Happy birthday to my 11 year old

My Dear Oliver,

pink balloonWhen you were born I thought we wouldn’t be able to keep you. I felt that your attachment to this planet was tenuous, that you were a balloon waiting to float away. I held tight to your string and now, eleven years later I can’t believe how solid  your medium sized self has become. As  I type this I listen to your rant on “the most controversial subject in geometry…the trapezoid. They have CHANGED the definition. We need to reconfigure the heirarchy of quadrilaterals! What a task.” You laugh with the thrill and craziness of this. All the way through 4th grade you had this whole trapezoid thing nailed down. Now, according to you, trapezoids have gerbobbled everything up.  Your brother interrupts you. “I’m going to study geometry, I don’t want any SPOILERS.”  So you are quiet for a minute, a millisecond actually, and you are on the the next exciting topic, your birthday, voice raised, arms flailing, eyes bright and wide.

You went from this anonymous unhealthy baby to OLIVER. You are so totally Oliver.

boy with blond bowl cut
Blond bowl cut and third dimple.
It might be the bowl cut that you think you will have until you are old. You imagine it will go from golden to grey and just on those few fancy days will you part it in the middle, slicking it down with both hands like Waldo’s mother did before he boarded the bus in that video that you will never see. It could be the light in your eyes as you beam at me asking how I like your hair like this. It could be how you wave around your papers as you run home, breathless, to explain how you didn’t quite get the 102 because you forgot the units again.

Maybe it is how you can barely sit in your seat at school, not fidgeting out of boredom, but vibrating with the excitement of academics as your interest propels you upwards. Perhaps it is because you earnestly asked where you should apply the deodorant you requested. You thought it was your feet, because they smelled the worst. Logic never leaves you. Perhaps it is that you can only find one sock, so you wear one white and one black and pull them as close to your knees as you can. Even with your crocs. Which you are the last kid in school to sport.

Or maybe it is sports overall, your teamlessness. The only low grade you have ever received paired with the comment, “Cannot control his body in space.” This confused you as you demonstrated jumping jacks in our living room, hitting your face with your hand, and literally tripping over your own feet as you tried to perform them in double time to demonstrate your ability. Maybe it is the songs you sing. The ones about life being an oyster that holds a pearl. Locked tight for each of us to find. The trick, you scream sing, is that it can only be opened with kindness, not with force. If we are kind enough the world will open to us you proclaim in your particular singing voice. You continue along these lines for 20 minutes, long enough even for parents to tire of your message.

It is how you live your life though, allowing your brother to beat the crap out of you whenever he wants. When I ask you why you don’t defend yourself you pat my arm reassuringly. “I am a pacifist mama (you still call me mama on the eve of your 11th birthday) the only thing worse that me getting hurt is me hurting someone else…and how do you think Leo would feel if he wasn’t safe around his older brother…that is a world I wouldn’t want to live in.”

You hurt our ears when you yell with enthusiasm. When you are excited, which is approximately 98% of the time, all you can do is yell. When we shush you your voice dips down to normal for two syllables and then races back up to the stratosphere. I mention how often you express your love for life and you come up with the 98% measure as well. I am working towards 99 you tell me as you unwrap a birthday gift and realize with glee that it is a six pack of socks. You might be the only boy to be excited by socks. And wow, that moment when you realized that the six pack actually held SEVEN pairs. A bonus pair you exclaimed, loudly, it’s like two gifts in one. Your younger bother, naturally cool, looked at you through slitted eyes and shook his head slowly. A move and a judgment that you didn’t notice. It that lack of noticing (so frustrating with the shampoo and the milk) that is both the blessing and the curse here.

We celebrate your birthday early because we will be in Italy on the actual date. You have a sleepover with 8 other boys and are the first one to sleep, keeping your streak of 5 parties in a row where you nod off before a single guest hits the sack. I am woken by a noise at 3:44 am and check on your crew. Your hand is cupped under your chin in the pose you have struck since you were 8 months old. One sleeping friend has his tousled head near yours as if you had whispered each other to sleep. I know that is impossible because you can’t whisper but I imagine it. The rest of your guests are in our living room having literally climbed to walls atop the fireplace. I usher everyone down, direct them into the room and pledge (silently) never to host one of these again. As the kids insist they are not tired I study your sleeping face looking for your third dimple. It is smooth in sleep and it makes me want to stroke your hair, but we are not alone so I hold back.

Lots of pictures of a kid sleepingWhen it is just the family I hold you close and try to send you my love and acceptance as you wriggle out of my embrace to thank me again for the birthday socks. Again. The socks. An hour later you are asleep on the couch, exhausted, and I take a quick picture for my “Oliver sleeping” album. You fall asleep at dinner, in the car, at sports events, at plays, on the floor stores. You sleep and I document it. There is a price to pay for meeting the world at 99%…and it is the afternoon nap at 11 years old. (Or 42, but that is for a different reason.)

I know what I wish for you my boy… and it is not birthday parties. May socks always bring you that last percentage of happiness. May you continue to enjoy the act of singing rather than caring about carrying a tune. May you treat the world with the kindness you summon for your brother. May you cherish the close relationships you have with the lucky people that love you. May the energy that you expend bring you more lovely naps. May you show off your third dimple when you realize that the exact definition of a trapezoid might change but it will still essentially be a quadrilateral. Just as you might change, but essentially you will always be my Oliver. And your own.

Love love love, Your Mama  A different version of this was published at the Good Men Project.

Happy Birthday to Me

Here are 42 ways I feel old (er), even though obviously I am NOT OLD.

  1. I spent an entire year not knowing how old I was. Today I turn 42. Yet for the past 360 days I thought I was 42 already. Lets call this a bonus year rather than calling last year a lost year, shall we?
  2. I see 3am more than I see 10:30pm.
  3.  I am up wee hours with literal or figurative indigestion. Both bad. Only one can be fixed by Tums.
  4. A lovely dish of Tums graces my bedside. (see #3)
  5. I say “its too loud” 20 times more than I say “turn that up.” Although come to think of it that may be a sign that I am NOT old.
  6. I like tea more than vodka.
  7. My neck and shoulder have been hurting for, like, ever.
  8. One of the first things I did when we moved to Denver is find a CSA.
  9. I see a chiropractor more than a hair dresser. Which would be true even IF I didn’t cut my own hair.
  10. Picking up our CSA is one of the top ten activities in my week.
  11. I know the phone number of my doctors office.
  12. I have a doctors office. Like every healthy lady of childbearing age I used to only have an OBGYN. What else did I need?
  13. I have been a mother for more than a decade.
  14. Scarves.
  15. I have lived in 15 houses. Although that might have more to do with a certain Zillow addiction than age. But even at the rate that I move it takes a more than a few decades to get to 15 houses.
  16. My kids work the TV better than I do. Which is obviously the fault of the incompatibility of the “smart” TV and DirectTV but still…they seem to have navigated.
  17. I eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. If that is not a sign of maturity I don’t know what is…
  18. I wash my face and brush my teeth without my mother reminding me. EVERY DAY.
  19. I make my bed. I like having my bed made. Two signs in one bed.
  20. I like throw pillows. Steve likes to throw the pillows. Win Win.
  21. People are naming news websites that I have never heard of…and I forget the name already.
  22. The music I love was written 20+ years ago.
  23. I am booking a flight to my 25th highschool reunion.
  24. I can grow a beard.
  25. I barely remember 23. (age and high school)
  26. I love my clogs more than my Frye boots.
  27. I have more dates for tea than I do for cocktails. Which is OK because of #6.
  28. I have 4 lotions on my bathroom counter. I use them.
  29. I am older than every single Patriots player. Even our ancient quarterback.
  30. I decant my Tums into a dish. (see #3)
  31. Picking up our CSA is one of the top five activities of my week.
  32. I can’t name a single middle school teacher. Although soon I will be able to name my son’s middle school teachers.
  33. I take 4 pills daily. That count does not even include the Tums.
  34. I am shopping for a mattress that relieves pressure points.
  35. Cardigans.
  36. I don’t drive at night. At least without risking my life.
  37. I can go 5 conversations without whining at my mother like a 12 year old.
  38. I took candy crush off of my phone. I left it on my iPad though…I am not THAT old.
  39. I have lived in a state where pot is legal for almost two years and I haven’t been to a dispensary.
  40. An Afghan sounds OK to me.
  41. A great night out ends by ten.
  42. I usually send Steve to pick up our CSA.

And one for good luck.

43. I can’t stand the smell the pump out of Abercrombie, most perfumes, every cologne or scented candles. Now let me go make a wish on my cake. Hopefully the candles won’t be scented.

Picture of Anna Rosenblum Palmer
The last day I am 42. Right before I turn 42.