Christina Rosalie

Posts tagged “Raising Boys

To be 5 years old (with gusto)

Posted on March 1, 2014

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You turned 5 (last Thursday!) with gusto. For the week before your birthday you kept asking when you birthday would be and then counting down the days. At night you’d wrap your arms around my neck and hug me close, and whisper: “My birthday is in____days.” And I’d say, “It is” and rub your nose with my nose and stare down at him completely disbelieving.

Remember how the time between birthdays felt like an eternity? Remember that sweet feeling of anticipation that last nearly until you’d burst? Would that we could still feel that luxurious stretch of time, easy and slow with the salty sweet of anticipation like taffy being pulled. Now the days have a staccato feel: dominos tumbling one after the other in a rapid-action blur. They come they go in an instant. I keep thinking, wait, didn’t I just turn 34? How am I 36? How did two years possibly pass? Let alone 5. Let alone, my last, my baby is 5 and not a baby at all.

When the day finally arrived, you woke terribly early, and in turn woke Bean and you both came tumbling into our room. It was a school day, so there was less snuggling in our bed than might have been had it been the weekend, and when we all made our way out to the kitchen your cheeks were flushed and rosy.

On the table, crystals and shells around his plate, a fat rose in full bloom, a birthday card from Granny sent in the mail, and beneath the table, leaning against a table leg a present (the first of several) in rainbow striped paper.

“Oh my gosh!” you gasped grinning, your body practically vibrating with glee. Yet you sat down and slowly opened the letter, savoring every bit of the delight, the envelope, the card itself, the small packet of zinnia seeds she also sent like colored suns.

Even with all your gusto and volume, you have this remarkable capacity for delayed gratification, as though you really understand what the moment offers. How it’s here to delight you only for now, and then it’s gone for good.

When you unwrapped the stripes you found a a scooter, like Bean’s but smaller. You’d waited four whole days since Bean’s birthday, hoping. Next you were a whirl of speed; a streak of delight. Then waffles, then backpacks, then school, where your kindergarten teacher put on a puppet show in celebration of your arrival on this earth, and we sat there with you watching; watching you among your classmates, sort of reeling internally with wonder. Five feels old. It’s the last year of smallness.

Oh time, hold still, hold still.

In the evening you were beyond ecstatic to get the “pirate stuff” you’d asked for, and went around the house decked out in mardi gras beads and a Captain Hook arm, yelling at the top of your lungs. Fearsome with your eyepatch, and so darling I just wanted to keep hugging you even when you squirmed free, and when Nonna and Poppy gave you their gift, you literally pumped your fists in the air with delight: a long coveted lego set. Something about a museum break out. Good guys and gad guys of course. Escape vehicles. Fire hoses. You and Bean became so absorbed he had to be coaxed back to the table for the ice cream cake you’d begged for.

So many candles blown out to mark the start of a new year around the sun for you, sweet little one.

You are my teacher of gusto and joy.

At the cusp between wonder and fact

Posted on February 17, 2014

Bean is 9 - Christina Rosalie
Tonight you made a fort before dinner: a quilt over two white kitchen stools, set up just so.

In went a metal tool box (your inheritance from my father) In also went your metal lock box: one you saved for and paid for yourself from the Barge Canal vintage shop on Pine Street where we go every so often, and you poke around, curious fingers in everything, always loving the things that come with lock and key.

Now you and your brother lie on your bellies, or sit cross legged, your heads bobbing up in the quilt. You light the room you’ve made by flashlight, and haul in 8 ball, assorted legos, and Honey Honey, your faithful alligator who has become your steady companion since we moved.

Bean Turns 9 - Christina Rosalie
Honey Honey first arrived in a green box when you were four, in the upstairs hallway of our house at the end of the long dirt road. The box was on the old sewing machine table that we’ve since given away.

It said: Hello, I’m Honey Honey, and I’m here to go on adventures with you.

Before she arrived, you talked her often. You told me who she was, and how she could grow in the bathtub. You told me how she was magical.

Then she was there.

You’ve never doubted her magic—in the sweet, fearless way that children are about their beliefs. You know, and you don’t know—and you want to stay that way, at the cusp between wonder and fact.

You’re wise enough to protect the magic that you love by not questioning too fiercely how the magic happens.
Once, you left cookie crumbs on a small plate beside your alligator, and came back moments later to find them completely gone. “Ah ha!” you said.

I thought you’d call one of us out for nibbling them up, or possibly say, “See! That proves it!” but instead you said, “She likes cookies!”

Proof was never the point. You were simply interested in her dietary preferences.

In actuality your Honey Honey might really be a crocodile. She has a crocodile smile, but, to be sure, I’ve never been an expert on either. All I know is that she fits in the palm of my hand, and that the word FLORIDA is printed on her belly along with a set of numbers you declare is her birthdate and birthplace.

Who am I to argue?

Bean Turns 9 - Christina Rosalie
Twice, she’s been eaten by the dog. Not eaten all the way—but had parts mangled. The first time it was her feet and tail. You cried and so I promised I’d bring her to the doctor, and she was gone for a week, and even more days after that you said, “Why is it taking so long? Is the doctor’s office busy?”

I said “Maybe there is a hippo in front of her in line to see the doctor. Hippos are big.” And I say something about how bandages take time to heal and you look terribly serious.

When she comes back, her feet and tail are, in fact, a different color: browner this time, than the green they were before.

You’re so glad to see her, you carry her on a string around your neck.

When we moved away from the only home you ever knew this summer, she rode with you like that, on a string around your neck, close to your heart. She was the only thing steady and for certain among the jumble of boxes and the bitter sweet confusion of grown-up conversations then.

There were tears, there was the ice cream truck, a new neighborhood, new bunk beds, and fields forever lost to you. Had we stayed to see you turn nine there, you would have claimed those fields this summer. Made them your escape, your wild home, your solace. But there it is: the edges of grown-up life and grown-up needs crowd in around you. You don’t have any control. You are probably only vaguely aware of the whys and hows. Commute time doesn’t mean much to you, nor does the word “work” which is one of the perpetual mysteries of childhood.

You and your brother talk about “daddy’s work” and “mommy’s work” but when I ask you to explain what that means you say things like: it means going to a place and being on the computer all day; and you go someplace where they pay you for something that you do. True enough. The ache of what those things mean, and the glory are both completely lost on you. For this I’m glad.

Yours work is that of growing tall. Of navigating the fine and fragile line between innocence and curiosity, between wonder and science.

What is true is wide and deep.

Fairies still inhabit the forests at the edges of the this truth, and the sky is filled with stars. “Up there,” you tell me, “in the stars, that’s where I came from before I came here.”

Yes, I nod. Yes. Nine years ago you came here from the stars and made me a mother.

At bed you can’t find Honey Honey. You crawl back into your fort on your belly, looking everywhere, your urgency increasing.

Daddy and I wait. We’re ready for this part of the day to end. Ready to kiss you tonight and to find, in the quiet of lamplight, the company of our own thoughts without interruption.

Your voice betrays your worry. “Where did I put her?” you ask, shimmying out, and inadvertently shining your flashlight in my eyes, as you inquire. I crouch down and peer into your small world of quilt and semi-dark, feeling with my hands along the edges of things.

“Think back,” I say. “Where were you with her last?”

Soon enough you look on your dresser and find her just where you left her, there among your other treasures: microscope, spy binoculars, batteries, Lego ships, quarters.

Your gladness rings out, “Here she is!” You kiss her tenderly, then kiss me harder, wrapping your arms around my waist.

You come up to just under my chin now. An inconceivable fact. Almost every night as we lie on the couch, and I read out loud to you, I cannot help but marvel: you were a baby. My first baby.

“You fit just here on my chest. How is that possible?” I say out loud.

You say, “I still do.”

Then you curl yourself against me, folding your flexible limbs up small, smaller, until you are contained right there, beside my beating heart and I can wrap my arms around the all of you.

“Yes,” I say, kissing your hair. “You do. You always do.”

Home is wherever I’m with you

Posted on June 22, 2013

I don’t know where to begin because things have already begun. Summer. The fire flies blinking. We’re always in the beginning, the middle, the ending of something; our lives made up of this simultaneous stuff. Life, happening.

It happened fast and slow this time, and perhaps this, too, is the way things always happen. We’d been thinking for a while. Talking together, circling the idea. Talking with friends. Imagining ourselves somewhere other than this house, this place that has become home to us, that has made us the family that we are.

Because the thing is, when we moved here eight years ago I worked down the street at the local elementary school, and T worked from home. Bean was a rambunctious, curious, wee 18 month old. Life was radically different than it is now–with an 8 year old and a 4 year old and work that brings us both into Burlington almost every day.

Really, it’s because of the driving. The fact that we are always driving. That we spend more time in the car than anything else. Including here at home, among the wild fields of tall grass. And it’s that truth that finally, gradually hit us.

But also, we’ve gradually become a part of a community of creative, fun, incredible people who all live and work near Burlington, and we never ever see them on the weekends. There are no dinner parties. No after work drinks. No meeting friends after the kids are in bed. No casual play dates. It’s never worth the hour spent in transit.

The truth is we’ve outgrown this long dirt road, in a way neither of us imagined we might. We’re on the cusp of new things now. New directions, projects, adventures, discoveries.

The boys are all legs their hair long with summer; their elbows scraped. They walk down Church street ahead of us. They ride bikes without training wheels. They want to learn to skate board. They want access to a pool, to the lake, to friends, to the library, and all the things that come with living in a neighborhood instead of on a homestead.

And T and I? We want things. Some are clear: less driving. More time. And some still unnamed. Still undecided. We’ll rent for a year, if not more. Let our compass needle spin for a bit, until we find the right place.

Less driving. More time. It’s a simple equation really. With proximity to downtown every day will yield 180 minutes a day of untapped time. Imagine what could be done in that time!

Still, when we decided, it didn’t feel like we’d really decided. It felt like fiction. Like something we’d agreed to in a story. It seemed like the decision would take forever to be real. We expected a long summer of house showings. We expected having to met out the very thin reserves of patience we barely have. We expected haggling. We expected waiting things out. Instead it happened in a weekend. The right buyers. The people who will love this place harder and more and better than we have, if that’s possible. We’re so happy the found us.

In a weekend.

What happened next: I was euphoric. Then I wasn’t.

I panicked. I cried. I felt a thousand things. Uncertain, grateful, scared, self-doubting, anxious, exhausted, giddy, obsessive. Every rental we looked at was confusing. Yes and no. Pros and cons. Nothing felt like us. The us, of who we’ve become here. And even though I know that that is not the point. To continue being the same, following the same habits, fumbling for the same light switches, walking down the same hallways, the familiar has a hold I didn’t expect on me. And all I wanted was everything to be settled and certain.

I was unprepared for familiarity. For the longing of it. The animal tug of comfort. For the hungry way that habit pulls you back again and again. And feeling myself pulled this way, I felt betrayed. This wasn’t what I was supposed to feel. This was not what I’ve always said I feel, wanderlust running deep and blue in my veins, the one who always has an escape route planned, the one who wanders down unmarked roads for the sake of it, who is called by faraway cities.

It’s an unreconciled thing really. Familiarity and wildness. Wanderlust and roots. And it’s clear I’ve not made my peace with either.

Also, kids complicate things. Apartments without yards for these country boys would be the death knell. A place in the Old North End that I would love, tucked between an African market and a honeysuckle hedge, is fraught with obstacles when it comes to their innocent big eyes. Across the street the Labor Ready place where people stand about listlessly for hours, tossing cigarette butts to the curb; radios playing non-stop; an the endless stream of traffic stop and go at the light. To me, it’s all material; all story. But to them?

Sprout will hardly remember this place as home. 4 is only the beginning of memory. The beginning of time transferred from short term to long term for safe keeping. For him it’s not leaving that will matter, it’s where we go that will count. But Bean will remember, sensitive and big-eyed. He’s torn about moving. Excited, eager, and then suddenly sad.

Really, home is us, but more than that it is here.

It’s the 4 of us, and who we are becoming. Our dreams, caught like fishes in the nets of our imaginations and reeled into the nearness of the present tense. Our lives, like a series of stop-motion films. One day happening and then the next together marked by the countless meals and walks and loads of laundry that make up the weft of our lives.

May 26, 2013

It took mea going alone to the top of a mountain to reconcile everything: the glee, the possibility, the devastation, the exhaustion, the responsibility, the opportunity, the hurdles. It too letting the birds eye view from up there fill my soul. It took lying and listening to the wind. It took list writing, and remembering. And then hiking back down.

Then the next day we found a perfect little place to rent. For now. For this year. Suburban. With a creek. And sidewalks. Kid-friendly biking distance to the farmers market, the library, the park, the lake. A place to transition in. To acclimate. To find ourselves becoming something else. Something new.

So, it’s likely things will get a whole lot more adventurous around here, and saying that makes me see how habitual I’ve become in the way I see and record the moments. How for-granted everything is. The road with it’s wild raspberries. The mail boxes. The neighbor’s pond. And the house, with our steep stairs and red wood stove and our kitchen island around which life pivots: pancakes, coffee, sandwiches, noodles, toast, markers, legos, experiments, to-go lunches, magazines, love.

This will be a summer drenched in nostalgia and lasts. I’m planning on recording and sharing them here, so we can remember when we’ve moved on. So we can live each moment twice. Boxes packed and the door flung wide to the wild blue. It’s bitter sweet and thrilling, all at once.

Faces that I love:

Posted on April 26, 2013

Big grin -- Christina Rosalie Rascal -- Christina Rosalie Pouty Face -- Christina Rosalie My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie My oldest boy -- Christina Rosalie Puppy Portrait - Christina Rosalie

I’ve been using my DSLR again lately, and I have to admit, I almost forgot the depth and texture that it captures. I use my iPhone so much–simply because it’s always on hand. But I so love slowing down, and really looking through the lens. I think these shots totally capture the boys right now. Who they are, and what they’re like–mud streaked, pen marked, dirt under their finger nails. They’ve been on vacation this week, and finally the weather has started to turn warm–inviting long hours of outdoor play in little aluvial streams, climbing apple trees, and building forts, Clover always nearby chasing sticks.

Through the lens on a walk today

Posted on April 14, 2013

Empty nest - Christina Rosalie Springtime In Vermont - Christina Rosalie Reflection - Christina Rosalie Rings on water - Christina Rosalie At the pond's edge - Christina Rosalie Before the green - Springtime in VT - Christina Rosalie Moss in spring - Christina Rosalie Dog sipping water  - Christina Rosalie Moss on log - Christina Rosalie Spring runoff - Christina Rosalie Feather - Christina Rosalie At the surface - Christina Rosalie Wild crocuses  - Christina Rosalie Rural VT farmhouse - Christina Rosalie Rural Vermont - Rosalie Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie Pussy willow catkins - Christina Rosalie
T and I went on a walk this morning with the pup, looking for signs of spring here in Northern Vermont where the winter still has been particularly reluctant to leave. We saw an owl take off above the pond with the widest wing span either of us have ever seen, and flickers with their gorgeous, almost-neon red heads and spotted plumage pecking in the newly greening grass.

What does the world look like where you are?

Watching a boy grow up:

Posted on February 8, 2013

We’re nearly late, and I still don’t have my things together when he asks me to to put the finger lining right-side-in, inside his glove. “Fine,” I say, putting the bag I’m carrying down, and I crouch beside him, my too-big hands awkwardly cramming into his still-small gloves.

Inevitably, I am wearing wool and overheat immediately with the effort. It doesn’t help that I’m already feeling the panic of a day too filled with things: lists I’ll never make it to the bottom of, tasks unfinished from the day before. And as I am struggling beside him, asking him to try to push his hand inside his glove, his arm goes limp.

I look up and see that he’s caught sight of Sprout playing with a little red flashlight. The one I found deposited carelessly on the driveway, buried under snow. I’d told Sprout he could have it. But now Bean wants it in his customary way: “That’s mine!” he says, grabbing. Even though it isn’t.

No amount of nudging or barking at him would get him to refocus on the situation at hand: namely his hand inside his glove that still would not fit. And suddenly I am caught up in my own hormonal, over tired, overheating tide of frustration and stress and I yell at him with a ferocity I don’t expect.

Then I walk away, furious. Unable to stop, I keep yelling, caught in the sadness and shame of my own anger, and not one a bit demonstrating the the grace the self-discipline that I wish for my boy.

Eventually enough time has passed in the car on our long drive, and when we talk, his voice mostly so quiet, I can hardly hear as he replies “Yes mama” and the “No mama” and then “Yes mama,” again.

I’m not sure if any of what I am saying will make a difference to him. If he’ll remember my apology, or my outburst down the road. And I can feel the way we’re navigating something new now. An unfamiliar terrain where feelings matter more than words, and logic is sidelined by reckless hearts. “I love you,” I say to him as he climbs out of the car.

He looks at me, his face ethereal and serious and pale. “I love you too mama,” he nods. “Bye!” And then he turns and walks away.

Today I idle and watch him go. His backpack so heavy, it’s nearly as big as him. It’s his choice. He doesn’t have any books to bring. Instead, he brings extra clothes for worst case scenarios and because he likes to be the one to share with friends when they forget, and also because he’s like a bit like crow, always gathering a rookery of things.

Little scraps of fabric, pencils, tape dispensers, invisible in pens, and mailing inserts. Used-up gift cards, marbles, yarn, and costume jewelry. Pen knives and hole punchers, batteries, postcards and locks and keys. These he stows in a vintage lock box that he bought from a flea market with his own money; the kind hotels used once, to keep the room keys safe with little rows of hooks on the inside.

“They might come in handy,” he says. And often they do. More often though, I’m finding them in his pockets.

When he gets out of the car his backpack tilts sideways. And he has to lean awkwardly and throw his weight around to right it before he sticks one arm threw a strap and then the other.

I wave goodbye but he’s not watching. Instead, he’s turned to grin at another boy, walking with a blue puffy hood pulled tightly around his chubby face. He looks older than Bean, and they’re not in the same class, but they seem to know each other in that casual schoolyard way of boys. He shows Bean a pencil stub he’s got in his and as if it bears some importance. Both grin with big front teeth. Bean leans in with curiosity.

In their world, pencil stubs are still important.

I watch them walk into the school building together; a walk I no longer make with Bean, instead dropping him off at the circle, as he slips off into the secret world of school where he navigates everything on his own, becoming whomever he is becoming without me.

This is the crazy part of being a parent. The part when you realize that all along they weren’t really yours. Not even as a tiny baby when all you did was teach them how to sleep and how to smile and how to eat and how to dream, they weren’t yours. Not even then. But it’s easier to fool yourself then, smelling the top of their head and believing they’ll always fit just there, their small head tucked under your chin.

Now this colt-boy of mine will be 8 in a week. This wild, tender thing I’ve raised; long limbed with unruly hair that refuses to lie straight, even slicked under the tines of a wet comb. This boy. Becoming his own self.

He is skinny, he is lanky, he is a live wire full if electric energy and ideas. He is sentimental and nostalgic and terribly, remarkably bright. And he’s so stubborn sometimes my heart breaks.

This is my lesson today: I can’t really control him. Only he can truly control him. I can give him guidance and good habits, and do my best to hold my own tempestuous heart at bay, but he has to show up in his own way, finding the tenor of his own conscience, and the discipline of his own will.

And oh, how I hope we get this balance right before he’s 16 and muscled and full of testosterone causing wild tides to rush in to the uncharted caves of a young boys soul. Would that we get it right before I resent him and he resents me.

Later, after dark, when I come home from work he’s there at to greet me and when I put my things down he flies up into my arms. He is so light still, and lithe, his legs wrapping around my waist like some small koala bear. “Mommy!” He shouts. “I missed you! I’m so glad you’re home.”

To love, to care for, and to dream

Posted on October 2, 2012

Saturday morning the boys woke up early, their voices carrying down the hall before the sun was up. The sky was overcast and pale with the milky light of pre-dawn, and I nosed in next to T, smelling the fragrance of his skin where his clavicle meets his shoulder, and burrowed farther under the covers. But soon they were at our door, two eager faces, one with a jack-o-lantern grin of missing teeth, the other a pacifier still in his mouth, in spite of the fact that he is almost four.

“We’re going to the zoo today!” they announced, as if we might have forgotten.

We’d planned the trip for a week. A two hour drive north across the boarder to the Granby Zoo, and somehow, suddenly, it was Saturday, and they were ready to pounce, impatient, grinning, gregarious. T got up first, and while he showered, they tucked in under the covers with me—and we whispered about what we were looking forward to seeing the most. Me: the hippos. Sprout, was hoping for lions. Bean said, “possibly giraffes.”

tiger || Christina Rosalie

It’s not something I ever did as a child—curling up with my parents in bed. The closest thing to it was curling up with my dad on the wide arm of his big brown La-Z-Boy.

But it’s something that feels completely intuitive and animal, to nose in next to each other, all warm and soft and still only half-here and half in the fantastical blurry almost-nowhere place of dreams. And it’s something I love, maybe it’s the thing I love the most about being a mother: this dozy time with them under the covers next to me, when they’re still in their pajamas, their hair all mussed and sweet smelling.

Sprout always tucks his hand into the nook of my neck, and Bean often ends up, propped on an elbow, telling me about something or other with a still-dreamy, faraway look on his face.

The porcupines know what this is like: to doze together, and to dream. The hippos too, know how it matters to be near in rest, as they spend their time underwater breathing only occasionally, first one, and then the other; taking long slow breaths before drawing their heads back under the surface to doze, one upon the other’s haunches, lulled by the lapping blue water of dreams.

* * *

This is what being a mother teaches me again and again. That we are animal first, then human. with spirits bigger than our skin and breath and bones, this truth humbles me again and again.

flamingo || Christina Rosalie

As the shower thrums, we hear T start to sing, “Oh we’re going to the zooooo…” and we burst into simultaneous giggles, and then join in, singing all together a slapstick, made-up song. Then there were socks, and jeans, and cinnamon rolls bought from one of our favorite bakeries the night before, and coffee, and then more coffee in to-go mugs, and a box of snacks, and hats and rain gear and then we were off.

And if I can pass along anything about going to the zoo with young kids it would be this: go at the end of the summer season. Go in the autumn on a somewhat rainy day. Go with snacks, and warm clothes and zero expectations, except to be amazed.

elephant || Christina Rosalie

We had the zoo to ourselves, almost. We rode the monorail, and saw every single animal in the zoo, and had all the time in the world to feed the nectar drinking parrots, and pet the sting rays, and watch the tigers get fed, and stand in baffled delight as the elephant made a bee-line for us and then picked up a trunk full of dirt and hurled it directly at us, flapping her huge ears, before trundling off.

We had enough time to eat lunch, and let the boys run everywhere they wanted to run, and then ride, side by side in an extra-wide push-cart. And because it was the end of the season, the carnival rides were all closed, save for the bumper cars, which were free, and Sprout’s face was worth a million bucks when he figured out that he could press down the accelerator pedal and actually drive.

And the truth of it all is that I’m not sure about zoos. I’m not sure about the way it feels to stand there, watching on one side of the glass, while the small world that exists on the other is terribly finite. But I also know, that these creatures are the captive evidence of some far greater, wild—and also dwindling–proof: the world is rife with such extravagant, vital, irrational beauty.

hippo || Christina Rosalie

That there are hippos, big and unwieldy, with nearly waterproof hides, and self-sealing nostrils. That “jackalopes” exist at all. That porcupines sleep, despite their quills, one piled atop the next, breathing in synch, sharing porcupine dreams. That giraffes must stoop, legs spread like precarious A-frames to eat the tender grass. That the primates are so like us, eyebrows moving up and down in curiosity or disapproval as they watch us watch them from beyond the wire mesh or glass. And that intolerance is something that is exclusively and terribly human—borne of some feverish desire to draw lines, to exclude, to possess.

But before that, beyond that, we are animal first. And if going to the zoo can anything beyond simply standing in wonderment, I hope that it is this. A reminder of our place among the creates of this earth, and that our work, as brave and tender and terrible humans, is to love, to care for, and to dream.

Being brothers

Posted on February 23, 2012

This is what being brothers looks like.

A jar of apple butter. A jar of peanut butter. Two spoons. A completely unsanctioned snack that was Bean’s solution to the ravenous feeling they both have at about 4pm.

I decided to instead of saying no, to just hang out and watch them from behind the lens. I like doing this. Sitting back, seeing without interrupting or intervening. Just letting them be their silly selves. I love their unintentionally matched shirts; their nose rubs; their eyelashes; the way their body language is synchronized.

Best decision ever: to have both of them. Brothers rock. They have this bond that makes me feel like they’re gonna be okay no matter what. I wonder if they’ll feel that way about each other when they grow up? (Is that something that a parent can actually influence at all?)

Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings? Are you close with them? How did that relationship evolve?