And, Just Like That, We Have a Seven Year Old

Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star…   

E.E. Cummings

Smiles in front of Jebel Toubkal, Morocco’s High Atlas
When I read this quote I immediately thought of you as you are the ‘love’ that binds our family together. Without you, the family as we know it today would most likely not exist. Right at the time when your Mommy and I were at a cross roads, news of you brought us together and we have worked hard ever since to become the parents that you deserve.

As I sit here tonight trying to express how special you are to me, I keep asking myself over and over, “where have the past seven years gone?” It seems like only yesterday that you would ride hours on my back as we trekked the Anapurna circuit in Nepal and today I can barely carry you at all. I still remember when your Mommy, you and I set out on our first grand adventure in 2009 and now it has become our passion and way of life. We have had the honor of traveling nomadically with you most of your natural-born life and it has been an amazing adventure. There is absolutely no other place I would rather be than by your side, each and everyday, enjoying all the world has to offer together.
Djellabas and Street Art, Essaouira
You are patient, you are loving, and you are kind. You might not always listen, but you are rarely malcontent or mean in anyway. You are the person that I strive to be and I wanted to thank you for being a wonderful example for me. Ever since you were a tiny baby boy you would always come up and squeeze my hand if you felt that I was sad or something was wrong. Even when I would get frustrated with you during your school time you tell me, ‘Daddy, do not worry, you are a very good teacher’, despite the fact that I clearly am not. I am sorry that I can be hard on you sometimes, that I can lose my patience and that I raise my voice when I get upset. I will continue to try to get better for you. 
As I tell you every single night after we pray, you are an incredible little boy and I am proud to be your Daddy. I thank God for you as your energy, compassion, curiosity, craziness, and mischievousness add more to our lives than you will ever know. Happy Birthday, Ollie!

le Grand Explorateur, Cassis
Each year Mommy and I try to come up with a list of highlights and below are some of our fondest memories of your 6’s:
– You learned to ride a bike in Lisbon, Portugal;
– You lost your first tooth in Nice, France;
– You were part of a drum circle in the Moroccan Sahara;
– You met a ‘girlfriend’ in Sevilla, Spain;
Feria Nights
 – You were a breakdancer on Bastille Day until 1:30am with two beautiful Dutch girls in the French Pyrenees;
– You meandered through the medinas of Fez, Marrakech, Essouira, and Meknes, Morocco;
– You hiked in the Rif, the Atlas, the Picos, the Sierra Nevada, the Pyrenees (French & Spanish), the Alps (Swiss, Italian & French) and the Scottish Highlands;
– You snorkeled in the coves of the Costa Brava and the calanques of Cassis;
– You honed your  horsemanship in Gavarnie, France and El Gastor, Spain;
Follow Me to Gavarnie, French Pyrenees
 – PaPa, Grandma and Auntie Rose/Rob visited you in Barcelona, Spain and Ireland;
– We spent two months visiting friends and family in California and Connecticut;
– You trekked for two days over the dunes on a camel in Morocco;
– You had a snowball fight in the French Pyrenees in July;
– You did a treasure hunt with one of our closest friends, Oskar, in San Sebastian, Spain;
– You escorted a handful of beautiful flamencas in all of their finery throughout Seville’s Feria;
– You marched for “La Republika” in Bilbao, Spain;
– You caught a wave in the Portugal’s Algarve, the Spanish Basque Country and Midelt, Morocco;
– You walked the red carpet in Cannes and skittered over the racetrack/city streets of Monaco;
– You learned about the horrors of war in Guernica, Basque Country and Normandy, France where you laid wild daisies beside the headstones for hours upon hours.  
– You picnicked in the lavender fields of Provence and splashed beneath medieval bridges in the Tarn Gorge, France;
Summer Days in Saint Chely
– You improved your swimming skills at Lakes Como in Italy and Constance in Switzerland;
– You rode endless rollercoasters in El Parque de Attraciones in Madrid, Isla Magica in Seville and LegoLand Deutschland;
– You became deathly ill from eating McDonald’s in Tanger, Morocco;
– You made Mommy and me smile a million times and you filled our heart with joy on endless occasions.

Oliver’s 7th Birthday Interview

  1. How old are you today? I am 7 years old!
  2. Where are we celebrating this year? We’re in Germany. But earlier we were in Austria, AND Switzerland, in one day!!!
  3. Do you remember where we were last year? I remember that we had a huge chocolate cake, we ate mint ice cream and I was with my friend Danielle and her mom. Yup, We were in Portugal’s Alto Douro.
  4. How does it feel to have spent more than half of all your birthdays in different countries (Iceland, Portugal, Fiji, Germany)? It’s great! I get to meet different people and celebrate with everyone all over the place!
  5. What’s been your favorite country so far, and why was it your favorite? Iceland and Switzerland. Iceland has lots of glaciers and volcanoes, and volcanoes UNDER glaciers, and I like Switzerland because I got to light fireworks off on my birthday with my new friend Marianne. Last night was Switzerland’s National Day, and we sure did light some fireworks. But we were still going till long after midnight, so some of them were for my birthday!!!
  6. What is your idea of a perfect birthday dinner, and where would be the best place to eat it? German sausages and margherita pizza from Naples. And corn on the cob. I would eat that stuff pretty much anywhere.
  7. What did you do for your birthday today? We opened presents in the morning, we went for a drive through three countries and we visited a huge castle that some guy only got to live in for 173 days before he died. And before he moved there, he lived with his mom for pretty much his whole life! That was King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein castle. So you wouldn’t want to live with your mom your whole life? Umm… is this a trick question?  Can we go to the next one?
  8. As a newly-minted seven year old, what’s your favorite thing to do these days? I like to hike and play legos and watch or read Lord of the Rings, and…Visit museums? Eh, not reeeealllly…..
  9. If you could tell your friends back home and in other parts of the world what was the coolest thing you’ve learned while traveling, what would it be? Omigosh, so much! The best ice cream in the world is in Italy and it’s called gelato. I’ve learned how to surf. I learned how to play the drums in Morocco. I’m learning how to breakdance. Actually, I’m already pretty good at that.
  10. What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this year? Kendley mooned me in the Parc du Château in Nice. She called it a “butt punch”.
  11. What matters the most to you right now in your life? Our health and safety matters a lot. And that of our friends’ and family. And that I get to bring some of my legos up to the room wherever I’m sleeping each night.
  12. What are some things you are thankful for? I am thankful for my little sister, my mom and dad, my grandparents in California and Connecticut. My Auntie Rose and Auntie O and both my uncles.  Rob-o & Jacek and the new baby coming in Connecticut.  And for all my friends all over the world that they popped into my life and now I have them forever.
  13. What do you think is most important for happiness? Having a family to love and who loves me.
  14. You’ve been yodeling a lot. What’s up with that? It’s not a yodel, it’s a battle horn sound that I make with my mouth. I do it before I fight orcs. There were orcs in Switzerland? No, but there were some pretty big cows that got awfully close…