Just Ask

Our doctor appointments in Germany have more options now, thanks to my improved language skills. Now we can use the doctor’s stilted and oversimplified English, or we can use my stilted and oversimplified German. Either way, I’ll nod to indicate understanding no matter what you say. My pride is ferocious, my fluency is not.

Max’s heart problems are a bit all-consuming right now, even though the action items are relatively sparse: weekly EKGs, frequent medication changes, lots of phone calls to the specialist in Bremen to see if Max is  a candidate for heart surgery 5 kilos (2 years) before the usual recommended minimum size. Max is pretty happy day to day, but there’s plenty to worry about.

Trust me (and anyone who was watching me try to go for a run yesterday morning): Beyonce’s “Hold Up” for when you need a good cry; Bob Marley’s “Small Axe” for when you don’t.

Joy, Jokes

As the kids go to sleep I tell them stories designed to be relaxing, and by relaxing I mean boring. Sometimes it’s a quick story about an outdoor family adventure followed by the family eating warm soup, lying down by the fire, letting their heads sink into their pillows, feeling their shoulders getting heavy and relaxed, noticing their foreheads growing smooth, feeling their calves and their ankles growing still, their jaws loosening, their breathing getting slower and deeper, etc. It’s hard for me to stay awake during these stories. Other times, I just drone on about the day’s minutia and tomorrow’s weather. It was during one of these stories that I murmured, “I love you, Frida,” to a kid who was almost asleep, and she, in a terrifically bored, inattentive voice, said, “Good.”

“I love you, Frida.”


We thought it was hilarious. Now, weeks later, about a third of the time that I tell Max I love him, he will drop his eyes to half-mast, slacken his cheeks, drone, “Good,” and then start cackling.

Family in-jokes make my heart sing.


Dear parents of new babies,

It will get better. And then it will get great.

Love, Betsy




Kid Stuff

As someone who has killed hundreds of houseplants over the years, I am particularly proud to announce Frida’s 5th birthday. I have fed and watered her every day for five years. At this point she can make her own breakfast, so I think we can chalk up a win in this phase of the project and turn our attention to the next one, “How to Raise A European Who Doesn’t Smoke.” Wish me luck.

Yesterday, Frida claimed that bananas didn’t have seeds (as she was pinching off her banana’s bitter bottom tip.) I explained that if she put the pinched-off part in the ground, it would grow into a banana tree, make bananas, those bananas would have seeds, etc. Frida thought for a minute and said, “What was the first banana?”

Kids react to the emotions around them, so maybe it’s my fault that she was so excited about the next 30 minutes’ discussion of cell division and chromosomes and how single-celled organisms evolved into fish and bananas and birds and monkeys and us.

We as parents want a better life for our children than we had, so by God I’m making sure that Frida doesn’t go off to college thinking that evolution is intentional. (Thanks again to my sister Nancy for taking me aside freshwoman year to straighten me out on this concept. Nothing makes me sound more like an idiot than spouting off about how evolution decided to do something.)

This morning Frida said, “Will you tell me about the fish and the bananas again?”

Better than pie for breakfast, that.

(Although you should by no means assume that Frida is someone who can or will get dressed for preschool without making one of us cry. We might be interested in science but we’re still human.)


Max is talking and talking and singing and talking. He can say, “Max get straw,” while balanced on a chair, up on his tiptoes, reaching into a cupboard. He likes to choose what he will wear (hint: it will be red.) He’s an excellent snuggler and will eat all the persimmons you give him. He has been having more frequent heart problems – episodes of tachycardia and some other times that he cries and says he feels yucky in his chest – so we’ve scheduled some more testing and are always packed for an ER visit. This also means that he’s not travel-ready, so he didn’t come with me and Frida to Colorado for Christmas, and he won’t go on January/February’s ski trips. Tobias and I started feeling sad about that and then remembered that Max is three, so maybe a fabulous ski vacation in the Alps wasn’t going to make his top-10 list anyway. Taking a ride on the subway, followed by a hot chocolate in his favorite pajamas, takes up #1-8 on the list. #9 is pressing elevator buttons and #10 is being allowed to join Frida’s ballet class, which I will start lobbying for after his birthday in February. Max isn’t going to live forever; if he wants to spend his time on Earth in a red tutu, I’m going to help him make it happen.