On Multi-Celled Organisms

Employment practices in Germany are not those I’m used to: the protected classes in the U.S. include age and disability; I routinely pass shops in Hamburg with signs in the window saying ‘Nice young woman sought for retail position.’ or ‘Young, energetic, fashion-oriented employee wanted.’ It is only in the last few days, after having given my circumstances a long, hard look, that I realized that I would not be a candidate for those jobs. Never mind how fashion-oriented I’m not, at the age of 37 I no longer fall into the young category. Which is good, I guess; at my age if I fell at all I might break a hip. This comes up because Tobias and I recently got the semiannual bill from the cryogenics institute asking for a reasonable number of Euros to continue holding five (or maybe six? I can’t really remember,) embryos in cold storage. On the one hand, Tobias has had a vasectomy and it’s kind of nice to feel like that door is comfortably closed against the draft but not bricked and mortared. On the other hand, there is no fucking way I’m having another kid, or another pregnancy, or another round of womb-readying hormone injections, or delaying knee surgery for yet another year, or not taking advantage of the 10-pack of upright bass lessons Tobias gave me for Christmas, so let’s just let those euphemisms fly, shall we? Time to play…

Euphamistically Speaking

how to play: Set a timer for 60 seconds, and try to come up with as many euphamisms for ‘destroying embryos’ as you can before the timer goes off. My attempt is below.

  • Time to let the invoices lapse, you know what I mean?
  • Time to melt the Mom n’ Popsicles.
  • Time to let the future slip into the past.
  • Time to stop counting our snowflakes before they hatch.
  • Time to let nature take its course.

That last one is my favorite because fuck you, nature, you totally lost: my one genetically perfect child was the result of IVF/ICSI, and the all-natural surprise bonus baby is a hot mess, genetically speaking (but also really is a hot mess right now – he’s teething, poor little guy.)

Sorry if I sound a little grim – we’re struggling with the thought that nothing we do, no decision we come to, will make Max better, and as a special bonus I am having a recurring dream that I open the dishwasher to find my cast iron skillet. Cue: Horrors! Not the skillet! Oh, no! It’s ruined! All those years of care washed away in moments. But, wait, how did it get in there? Who Put It In There? Oh, God, no, it’s, it’s, it’s… someone who lives here… (scary horror movie music)… ooohooo…

Don’t feel bad for me though, unless it is because I scheduled 10 upright bass lessons and an ACL replacement in the same month, which should make for some pretty interesting stair-climbing what with the rental bass and the six weeks of crutches and the two kids and the five flights and the no elevator.

And, yeah, maybe sweet baby Max is a genetic mutant, but aren’t we all?

I’m a Lefty

Earlier this week, thanks to a little exercise and a week’s worth of illness-induced startvation, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. Rather, to my pre-pregnancies weight. I stood in the kitchen, staring aimlessly into the refridgerator while my cheekbones threatened to jump through the skin, wondering what might be good with a crisp, cold apple. Then I remembered that I knew how to make caramel sauce, that I am a person who routinely keeps cream in the house, that I know how to avoid winterkill. There is more of me now. Whew, that was a close one.

Caramel Sauce

Place 1 cup sugar in a saucepan, sprinkle 1/4 cup of water on top. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Once boiling, cover with a lid for 2 minutes. Take the lid off, swirl the pan by the handle, and continue boiling until the sugar is as brown as maple syrup, about 5 minutes (don’t stir at this point, just swirl the pan.) Turn the heat off and stir in several pats of butter. Add 1/2 cup cream and stir over low heat until caramel sauce is smooth and creamy (when you add the cream, the sauce might sieze and break into bits. Just keep stirring, the bits will melt!) Stir in a dash of vanilla and a big pinch of salt, and it’s ready for use!

Apple slices are a natural partner for this, but you can also use it as a filling for cookies, an ice-cream topping, or an add-in to coffee or hot chocolate. Yum.

Frida and I went to a playgroup today. She ran around like crazy, kicked any number of brightly-colored balls, jumped on the trampoline, walked (and ran) on the balance beam, clapped her hands and sang along to songs, etc. As a way to burn some energy in a dark, cold place time of year, it’s a winner. As a way to get totally creeped out by how a group of 25+ adults can make it through an entire hour of playing with children without having one whit of social interaction themselves, it is also a winner. This happens regularly in Germany: a group of strangers with common interests will come together, will sing songs that they all know the words to and will smile and wave like robots when the song says, ad nasuem, ‘Hallo (insert name here), glad that you could make it,’ and will all file out the door at the end of the hour without so much as making eye contact with the other parents. I have never raised children anywhere but here, so maybe I’m wrong about this being abnormal, but I can’t help thinking that in some parallel universe there’s a Betsy who is cracking poop jokes with her fellow parents, poop-focusedness being something that parents of two year olds almost certainly have in common. We don’t do small talk here, but maybe there’s an opportunity to do Big Talk. Maybe at the next of these classes I’ll turn to the mother next to me and say, ‘Oh what darling socks your child has! Were you sure to buy them from a cruelty-free manufacturer, or were they sewn by starving children paid pennies per month with no hope of an education? How can you be sure that the dyes weren’t tested on poor defensefless puppies? Oh, you bought them in Hamburg? How do you feel about the way that your taxes are being used to police the populace? How do you balance what’s good for society with the rights of the individual?’

You know, I’m typing right now but I should be trying to translate the local news to find out if we’re still on lockdown here. Hamburg had some fairly serious riots in the week before Christmas, and the city instituted a Gefarhenzone (Danger Zone) in part of the city. This Gefahrenzone means that it is a high-risk area/time and the police have more authority to stop, search, and detain would-be troublemakers. The populace is commanded to carry identification with them at all times and to not wear quite so much black as usual. The Gefarhenzone used to be a quite large area of the city, now it’s just our neighborhood (we live literally across the street from the Rote Flora, a building that’s been occupied by squatters for 20+ years and which doubles as a surprisingly well-run leftist community center.) I joined last Saturday’s protests in support of adequate low-cost housing and improved policies for refugees. I was impressed by how large the demonstration was (many thousands of people), and how intimidating the hundreds and hundreds of riot police. Especially the riot horses. Hmm, make that anti-riot horses, I guess. Here’s some footage of the clashes; the tree you see at 0:13 is directly below Frida’s window and other angles of our lovely pink brick abound throughout the clip. Here’s some information about the U.S.’s reaction, which was to issue a travel warning for Hamburg. Really meeting my needs, there, U.S. Consulate, thanks. How about taking all of that energy you’re using to issue travel warnings and instead allow passport applications more often than the third Thursday of any month not containing a Y? I would venture to say that most tourists to Hamburg will be able to avoid getting water cannoned or teargassed simply by not throwing things at the police.

I should remind you that we live on the fifth floor and that experience over the last four years has shown that neither water cannons nor tear gas reach past the second floor windows. Come visit, enjoy our exquisite view of the action! We’ve got caramel sauce!



The Laundry Basket

Our apartment has a somewhat odd layout, with access to the bathroom through the kitchen, a laundry closet where a pantry should be, and nearly every door facing the tiny entrance hallway so that anywhere in the apartment is only a few steps from anywhere else. There’s also a pixie-sized water closet which is essential to our daily logistics what with nearly 4/5ths of the apartment’s population potty trained, but which is superfluous to today’s game. Let’s play…

First Person Puker

how to play: read through the list below and identify which item or items Max puked on or in, today alone.

  • my house slippers (on AND in)
  • up my sleeve
  • in his own ear
  • into some spiced tea I was making
  • all over the vegetable brush
  • onto a basket of clean laundry
Answer, of course: all of them. Ok, so we had some puking, right? No biggie, but here’s the thing: Max isn’t exactly mobile, and he hit each of the above targets in quick succession during one epic puking episode. This means that there was a person, armed with a puking Max, running through the apartment ostensibly towards the bathroom but conveniently hitting all of the high-scoring puke receptacles on their way. I think that this person (Tobias) was going for a personal best, I think they were trying to beat their previous high score. Know this, Tobias, I will beat you, even if I have to hold Max over the open silverware drawer next time he gets gaggy. Game on.



How to Talk About Heroin Needles and Christmas in the Same Story. Almost.

Notice how big your living room feels now that you’ve taken the Christmas tree down? That’s how my hair feels now that the bottom half is gone. Tobias got his hair cut at the barber today, and I thought that I should take advantage of the rare combination of a) having someone to watch the kids and b) having too much hair. The barber knew how to do fades or fades, so I got a fade. Unfortunately, the fade is not a super-tough highsider, nor is it a smooth flattop. Rather, the fade ends just above ear level and leaves a spectacular mushroom cap. As a Salt n’ Pepa backup dancer who’s making up for a lack of talent by wearing the absolute latest in pleated stonewashed jeans and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, I’m in. As a late-30’s professional, as a mother-of-two, as someone trying to do something about the graffiti without gentrifying the neighborhood*, as someone who tries to maintain an air of dignity while wearing a turtleneck, I am most certainly not in. I am out and, although I have actually practiced my ‘sardonic’ look in the mirror, I don’t know how to fix it. Mousse, probably.

*I don’t really care about the graffiti. Took a bit of dramatic license there. I’m no gentrifier, unless you count being an absolute stickler about not letting my daughter play with used needles she finds on the playground. No joke, the neighborhood pre-pre-pre-K I sent her to was big on parental involvement, which meant that literally every morning at drop-off a parent was assigned the chore of walking around the perimeter of the playground looking for used needles, broken bottles, and human excrement. One time we had a parent’s meeting to talk about the pros and cons of various approaches to moving vagrants off the front steps of the schoolhouse in the morning. (My approach? A loud ‘good morning’ from 10 yards away and then pretend to tie Frida’s shoelaces to give some time for the person to acquaint themselves with their surroundings and make a graceful exit. Another parent’s approach was to start yelling at them about Rules and Signage. Jesus, lady, have you never been hungover? Never had a few too many beers? Never been so blasted that you’ve passed out on the steps of a tiny woodland cottage with wee little windows where maybe fairies live and you should probably lie down and wait for them to bring you a snuggly blanket made of magic moss to keep you warm while you sleep, but then you wake up and slowly realize that it’s just a preschool? Never HAD FUN? That yelling lady kills me. Seriously, she’s joyless. Ugh. No fairies for her.)

So, yeah, I live in the hood. Come to think of it, maybe all my haircut needs to look cool and fit in are some BOYZ. C’mon, Tobias, let’s go back to the barbershop. We’ve gotta get us some BOYZ.