TK

When Max walks in to his audiology appointment on Monday, he’ll be wearing a mask and an eye patch and glasses. He’ll be loaded up with two different heart medications and a shot of growth hormone. Poor little guy, more machine than man, dragged from specialist to specialist. But he’ll also be wearing suspenders and a bow tie because it’s a big day and he’s a kid who likes to look sharp. He’ll be carrying his new first grader’s magazine, and he’ll pore over it with all the joy of a brand-new reader. He’ll be humming something complicated from Wohlfahrt’s 60 Violin Etüden because that’s what Frida’s practicing right now, and he sits outside her room when she practices and sings along with her playing, even if it’s scales. He’ll have ideas for places to go afterwards, for treats to eat, for things to notice and questions to ask and jokes to make.

Society’s investment in Max is absolutely absurd and absolutely wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

How much is too much?

Despite writing about me me me on this joint for years, I am shockingly unaware of my own thoughts and feelings. Last week, when I looked in the trash can and saw a recyclable yogurt container that I threw away the day before, I knew that I was feeling a bit hopeless about the future. If a glimpse at my phone record shows that I haven’t called anyone but doctors in 3 days, I realize I’m putting off sharing bad news with my loved ones.

Good news, then, as I review this week’s purchases:

An inadvisable amount of chicory, fresh sauerkraut, lots of leafy greens, and some new vitamins. I must want to feel healthy and alive!

A new book, a subscription to a literary magazine, an upgrade to my website’s hosting services. It’s as though I intend to be smart and creative all at once!

Potted bulbs. Oh, the newness! The growth! The beauty! The great hope that comes with blooming flowers!

Tickets for Brass Band Yoga at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich in May. I might be a little manic. That’s a helluvalotta hope right there.

Still, better to be filled with hope, art, and wonder than to burn the world down one yogurt cup at a time.

May your Friday be filled with small joys and the time to notice them. May your disappointments be met with placidity rather than anger. I joke about the far-fetched nature of my ridiculous plans, but damn it feels good to be hopeful.

Oh, Max

We’re having some concerns with Max’s heart lately: the walls are getting too thick too quickly, and he has a new type of tachycardia that his rescue medicine won’t work for. Rather than send that train of thought into a tunnel of darkness, let’s think of this:

Max is fairly committed to being a robot. He has me press a button on his cheek to open his mouth to eat, and enter a code on his chest to get him to unfreeze or to change into pyjamas. He issues terse instructions and narrates the goings-on at the playground in a deep little robot voice. This morning, as we were getting ready to brush teeth, Max the robot crawled into my lap and said, “Out of battery. Need to go to docking station.” Then he snuggled right in and I tried not to let my leaky eyes cause any rust or electrical damage.

I don’t know how long his little life will last, but oh boy is it a good one.

Who am I?

New town, new year; it’s time to reflect! I try hard to do the right thing, and sometimes I wonder if I’m kind of a supercilious asshole. Let’s cut me down to size, shall we?

I am a feminist, and an armpit-hair feminist at that, but I’m also the kind of feminist who has had 10 electrolysis treatments make sure that my body hair isn’t too off-putting. Yes, electrolysis hurt. Yes, I’m embarrassed that I couldn’t just confidently rock my natural state. Yes, I would do it again. I still make a statement every time I raise my arm, it’s just not quite so stinky. My leg hair is long, and subtle. My bikini line is… more human than humanoid.

***

When I walk into the sun-filled kitchen to find my young son singing along to Emmylou Harris*, I just watch and listen and cry as silently as possible. “If I needed you, would you come to me? Would you come to me for to ease my pain?” My throat hurts just typing the words.

***

I’m halfway through a 30-day yoga program and it is wonderful! I’m stretchy, my posture’s improved, and it’s only now dawning on me that, at the end of this thing, I’m not going to magically have 22-year-old knees. If I can’t undo the damage of 2 C-sections, 4 knee surgeries, and 10 years of side-sleeping with 30 days of yoga, it’s permanent. Turns out my favourite feeling might not be flexibility, but rather hope.

*he sings the Emmylou part of the Emmylou/Don Williams version. He thinks that Dolly Parton is, and I quote, “Wow! Fancy.”

Growing Up

Apparently driving your cargo bike to the farmer’s market two times a week for organic milk in glass bottles will not help you avoid being called into the 3rd grade teacher’s office to talk about how your 8-year-old is starting puberty.

Remember those ridiculously leaky silicone lids for the metal bottles that we used so that our precious babies would never touch yucky hormone-wrecking plastic? Ha ha ha.

I want a do-over. I want to trade in my anti-plastic sanctimony for a couple more minutes with my little kid. I want to give little 3-year-old Frida a bowl haircut instead of a smooth bob.

I know that this Christmas is hard with all of us in COVID lockdown, but I am so glad to have Frida and Max get to have all this time together. I’m worried that next year she’ll have grown out of playing with him, but right now she’s his very best friend. They sleep in the same bed on the weekends, whispering until they fall asleep. They wake up with plans and stories. She spends hours helping him read his first book. Their in-jokes and dance routines are too sweet for words right now, even if she wants time to herself in the afternoon to read her books about puberty.

As usual, parenting comes with largely-unfounded-but-crushing guilt and largely-unfounded-but-joyful pride. She’s growing into such a neat person, just faster than I thought.

Black Lives Matter

They really do, and I am trying to figure out how I can help change our societal structure to show that. Board work, voting, re-educating myself on the language I use, the implicit bias I carry, the images and stories I share with my kids, lots of thinking and lots of reading.

When Max was hurting in the hospital recently, trying to fix symptoms of an unfixable syndrome, there were times that it felt like I couldn’t handle the sadness and the worry. It occurred to me as I was feeling sorry for myself and my boy that I was being ridiculously self-indulgent: he was getting the best care in the world for his particular condition, I have lots of love and support from family and friends, we weren’t worried about how to pay for it (German healthcare, hurrah,) or what to eat or where to stay. The most striking thing, though, was the luxury of being hurt by an unpreventable accident. There are so many moms in so many hospitals who are watching their kids deal with preventable injury: by poorly trained or poorly selected police, by the callousness and implicit racial bias of doctors, by social systems that don’t value black and brown lives enough to ensure that they have enough care, even enough food. It is absolutely enraging that, in a world where there are lots of good things, we are trained to think that some people deserve so much more than other people.

I’m rethinking the car I drive, the brands I wear, the food I eat, the way I spend my time, and, most of all, how acceptable it is to not talk about social injustice. The short story: not acceptable at all, not anymore. I am embarrassed by how much time I’ve spent just luxuriating in the benefits of being a white person in an inherently racist, capitalist society.

One blog post down, one world to go!

Word of the Day

Word of the day: Hochbettverbot. As in, “Max, das reicht! Jetzt hast du Hochbettverbot!” (“Max, enough! Effective immediately, you are barred from the top bunk!”) Best delivered loudly from the top bunk in your most imperious big sister voice.

We are quarantining at home until we receive word that our COVID test results are negative. Max had a cough yesterday and, with heart surgery coming up at the end of the month, we went to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t anything that would benefit from immediate treatment. We (Max and I) ended up getting tested for COVID since we both had light symptoms. The doctor thinks that we have some other simple virus, but tested just in case. Anyone who is tested for COVID must quarantine until they have the (negative) test results, so here we are. Frida’s home with us because she would have been tested if she were with us (she’s had a cough and headache and runny nose.) It’s tricky, though: both kids are energetic and keeping them home when they’re almost perfectly healthy seems silly (they’re doing backwards somersaults right now), but if they are infectious they would almost certainly spread it to their school classmates, teachers, and after-school program team. Especially with cases rising so quickly in Munich that schools are likely to close again soon, it doesn’t seem worth the risk. This is how we control the virus, right? Have symptoms–>get tested–>limit contact until test results are back. When this doesn’t happen, the virus is spread. When it does happen, the virus is controlled. Easy peasy, and we’re doing home haircuts and holiday prep in addition to schoolwork at home, so it counts as a win! (As long as it ends in the next 48 hours…)

Parenting

Frida, now 8, checks out cookbooks from the library and writes grocery lists. “We need marshmallows!” she shouts triumphantly. She knows she’s won. My capitulation pays off, though: she really can manage a meal by herself, and today she made fresh tomato sauce and (packaged) noodles for the family.

Cooking with kids is such a beautiful way to share stories and build on traditions. Today, I watched my daughter start her pasta sauce just the way I’ve taught her: by looking in the fridge for the right sized pan and cleaning out its week-old polenta.

Well, Fuck

First off, how are you? If I don’t know the up-to-the-minute answer, call me! Skype me! I’d love to hear from you.

We’re lucky: we’re fed, we’re safe, we’re well cared for, we’re finding some wonderful entertainment. Much of the world isn’t, and the discrepancies in care and the effect of COVID-19 fallout on people’s lives are both shocking and miserable. Just in case you came here for something more specific about me me me, here’s how I’m doing.

My grandma is dying, and I can’t get to my Mom to give her a hug. I’m not just thousands of miles away, I’m months and months away from being able to safely travel to her and my dad and my brother and my sister. I want to sing and talk story and grieve and celebrate with them. This fucking sucks.

When the schools are open Max will stay home, obviously – COVID-19 may kill him – but what about Frida? She’s a healthy, vibrant, active kid. Do we lock her up for a fucking year? Fucking fuckity goddamn fuck.

Shit.

LOL, just realised why my neck’s been stiff lately.

Funnily enough, most of the day I’m chipper: listening to lots and lots of music, laughing with the kids, enjoying work, cooking things both fun and delicious, getting plenty of exercise and fresh air, texting and talking with old and new friends. It’s just once or twice a day that I feel like a fucking walking cold sore, all raw and stressed, weeping and useless.

Still, times to remember.

aprons and pjs

Coronacation

Wow, that impulse trip to Scotland seems like it happened a lot longer than a week ago! I came home on Thursday, school closures were announced Friday. We left that night for Ötz, Austria, thinking we’d spend 5 weeks hiking and renovating the house, but on Saturday Tirol was announced as a high-risk area and all non-residents got the boot. German borders were closed on Sunday; we drove through at 4:30 on Sunday morning to avoid any awkward questions about citizenship vs. residency. Whew.

Literally two weeks ago I was drinking beers with 50,000 rugby fans, in Edinburgh for the Six Nations Scotland-France game, enjoying the kilts and the camaraderie. The changes have been dizzying since then: my friends in the hard-hit Lombardia area of Northern Italy have gone from funny stories about being bored, locked up for days on end with their kids in their apartments, to fear for their collective future and anguish about losing a generation. The pain they express about having loved ones die alone is difficult to see, and when that’s layered over our worry about the transmission of the virus in Germany and Max’s frailty it starts to seem like it’s…

Time to Break Out Those Coping Mechanisms!

You know what’s great about having a bunch of traumatic ER visits behind you? Knowing how much yoga you’re going to need to do to avoid losing your shit, how much kale to put in the recovery smoothie, how early you’re going to need to go to bed to accommodate for teeth grinding wakefulness, and the difference between discussions held in the clarity of the morning versus the exhaustion of the night. Tobias and I have, thanks to Max’s genetic condition and heart episodes, had so many rounds of catastrophe–>stress–>stress management that the COVID-19 fallout has just kicked us into our usual incident recovery mode: long solo exercise sessions, lots of healthy veggies and grains, less booze, more sleep, try to make time together in the morning and give each other space in the evening.

It’s not so much that we’re curating the perfect catastrophe lifestyle, but rather knowing that if we let ourselves get sick, or divorced, our ability to respond to a crisis is compromised and we have no fucking backup plan so that just can’t happen.

Easy peasy, right? Let me know if Gwyneth needs some content for GOOP’s April Desperation issue.