This Train Terminates Here

Riding the local subway into Altona Station in Hamburg, a recorded message in German explains that the next station is Altona, that the train terminates in Altona, and that all passengers must disembark. The recorded voice also says, in German, ‘On behalf of the employees of the subway system, we will now say goodbye and we look forward to seeing you next time.’ The voice then switches to English and says, ‘Next station Altona. This train terminates here. All change, please.’ Period. No, the train does not look forward to seeing you next time.

A fine example, I think, of the oft-made decision in Germany to favor truth over social niceties: the recording knows that frequent riders of the train are likely to understand Deutsch, and that riders who understand English but not Deutsch are likely to be occasional or one-time passengers. Why tell the latter group that you are with bated breath awaiting their return?

When I worked at an incredibly busy non-profit women’s health clinic just after college, it was often my job to explain to the increasingly frustrated clientele that there would be a significant wait. I approached this task with as much empathy as I could muster, which, as a 21-year-old liberal arts grad fresh off a woman’s studies concentration who felt as though her work in the clinic was directly challenging the patriarchical, capitalist, anti-immigrant social norm, was a LOT of empathy. I apologized for the wait, I apologized for the crowded waiting room, I apologized for the lack of refreshments, I apologized for the broken healthcare system that made it difficult to access care, I apologized for the wait again, etc. A co-worker, however, approached it in a different way. She said that she was not going to apologize because the wait was not her fault (supply was simply outpaced by demand,) and that any minute spent explaining the wait was a minute not spent on getting people through the lines and into the exam rooms. She said, ‘I’m not going to say I’m sorry when I’m not. Why lie?’ And I, in all my 21-year-old sincerity, thought about it and said, ‘Because it’s nice.’

Rather than take the train’s Deutsch/English discrepancy as the xenophobic slight that was no doubt subconsciously intended, I will simply choose to use it as a reminder that there are always perks to learning the language of a place, and that it is my duty as a parent to teach my children to be polite little liars. I’m confident that this is a task I can manage, even with no help at all from the German transport system.

Damned Salad Got Me Again

Frida has moved from wondering about a new baby brother to asking for a puppy, so it’s probably just fine that I’m not pregnant after all. After a brief but intense period of disappointment, I am flooded with thoughts of things in the next few months that will be easier to do without morning sickness/hormonal rages/exhaustion. These items include:

  • getting the kids used to life without the wonderful au pair, whose contract is finished in mid-September
  • getting myself and our laundry used to life without said au pair
  • adapting to a new culture, language, climate, etc. in Milan
  • saying goodbye to our friends in Hamburg
  • finding new doctors, groceries, bike paths, pharmacists, therapists, playgrounds, playdates, train routes, bus stops, markets, hidden parking spaces, and all the other pieces of knowledge that are crucial to the daily logistics of a metropolitan family of four
  • nurturing my marriage, career, family, home, friendships and self
  • drinking a shitload of Italian wine
  • jumping, apparently, because I was specifically warned against it during the most recent embryo transfer. ‘Remember, Frau Rosenbaum, no saunas, no raw meats or vegetables, and NO JUMPING!’ ‘Got it. I’ll keep cool, cook all my food, and do the opposite of jumping.’ And then I lay down on the floor and gently, ever so gently, rolled myself home lest a too-harsh footfall jostle the little embryos loose.

Probably I’m not pregnant because of that raw carrot I ate last week.


I Think This Qualifies as News

We have a baby! Pigeon.

Adorable, no?

Adorable, no?

The Proud/Traumatized Mother or Possibly Father

The Proud/Traumatized Mother or Possibly Father





























So I guess that makes us grandparents. We couldn’t be prouder.

No, wait, we could:

Frida Pushes Max

Cute, right? In this next one, I am proud not only because it features Frida’s first bike ride:

She is LOVING it!

She is LOVING it!

















…but also because I appear to have redeemed myself in the Home Haircut department:


Cuter Than a Baby Pigeon

Cuter Than a Baby Pigeon














In case you were wondering what type of learner Frida is, she’s an OMTttR learner.


Open-Mouthed, Tongue to the Right














She’s doing a beautiful job on the bike, and she absolutely loves it, but it would be a lot easier on my nerves if she’d keep her tongue safely in her closed mouth.

This coming Tuesday, we’ll find out if the fourth-floor fecundity extends to mammals. I have morning sickness and a headache, but both can be traced back to the enormous amount of chili and dizzying number of almond-syrup sodas I ingested over the course of our 10-hour-long going away party this weekend (this open house approach is a perfect idea for adults, as the guests come in small groups and you get to actually talk to everyone rather than just shout into a crowd, but it’s a little rough on the children’s nap schedules!) In case you, too, would like to confuse the symptoms of potential early pregnancy with the after-effects of too many booze-free mocktails, here’s the recipe for Italian Sodas (which are not, apparently, Italian at all. Huh.)

  • put a few ice cubes in a glass
  • pour 1 Tbs Monin Almond Syrup over ice
  • add cold sparkling water almost to the top of the glass
  • pur 1 Tbs cream over the soda
  • stir or swirl
  • drink!

This is good with any high-quality flavored syrup, but delicious with almond. Note that many coffee shops have a selection of Monin syrups – they’re what flavored lattes are usually flavored with – so if you want to try one without committing to a whole bottle of syrup, you can probably hassle your local barista into making one for you if they’re not on the menu already.

The packing is going slowly; I’m still in the making-pretzels-to-use-up-the-open-carton-of-baking-soda stage.














Martha Stewart is hyper-organized and I used her pretzel recipe, so I think we’re all set for the move.


ps. apologies for ignoring any comments in the last few months. The backlog of mostly-spam comments now tops half a million (!!), so I might need to rethink my by-hand, individual approach to comment approval. Feel free to shoot me an email, though: betsyrosenbaum at gmail dot com.

Things I have Learned

You don’t get to your 38th year without picking up some tips and tricks along the way. Let’s play…

Good Advice

how to play: in the examples below, there is some useful advice and some less useful advice. Read through the list, then decide which advice you’ll follow and which you’ll ignore. Then, imagine how the author may have gleaned the advice in the first place.

Example: If you’re eating something right now, put it down before reading the rest of this post. (Response: Ignore. You have a strong stomach and the internet hasn’t yet advanced to smell-o-vision. You’ll be fine.)

Got the hang of it? OK, let’s get started.

  • Towels are always an appropriate gift.
  • If you have a least-favorite household chore, talk to your housemates about trading chores. Some people actually like doing laundry!
  • It’s a good idea to give people something to do at a party. Food-based activities like making sushi, a self-serve chocolate fondue station, or complicated fruity drinks that guests make themselves, are fun. Non-food-based activities might be fun, too, I guess, but why not the chocolate fondue station? I don’t understand.
  • If there is a really disgusting mess, for instance if two pigeons built a nest on your porch and then one pigeon died in it, apparently of diarrhea, and half-melted into the nest and the other pigeon was so covered in sludge that it couldn’t fly, it is absolutely crucial that YOU be the person to clean up the entire mess, including deciding what to do with the half-dead pigeon. If you do this with a minimum of drama and complaining, and if the porch is sparkling clean when you’re finished, you will be a hero. If you are not the one to clean up the mess, you will find yourself indebted in a way that is difficult to repay.
  • A scattering of broken glass is a good way to keep pigeons off the porch. Also children and barefoot adults.
  • If while you are on a house hunting trip to Milan two pigeons find some glass-free space on the porch, build a nest, and lay an adorable little egg in it, DO NOT let anyone show it to your 2-year old daughter. Pigeons don’t have a normal fight-or-flight response once they’ve been habituated to human presence by a 2-year-old constantly opening the window and shouting hello.
  • If tells you that a normal pigeon gestation is 17-19 days and it’s been 17 days since the egg was laid, you should watch the nest closely for signs of life while using the time to negotiate clean-up responsibilities in the event of hatch failure.
  • If you’re going to pee in the shower (and you are. If you think you’re not, enjoy your youthful pelvic floor/prostate while you have it but don’t judge the rest of us,) do it with the water off. It’s the only way to avoid standing in a pool of your own urine.

I guess that’s all the advice I have right now. Here’s advice that I need:

  • What language should we be looking for in a new au pair if we want Frida to take advantage of the opportunity to learn Italian but Max’s therapists recommend that he not be exposed to a third language?
  • What should we serve to our guests at this Saturday’s going away party if we’re expecting between 10 and 100 people and have a total of 2 large cooking pots, neither of them huge? Chili, supplemented with supplies from the downstairs restaurant, and of course a chocolate fondue station?
  • How many embryos should I transfer at this morning’s reproductive assistance appointment if we’re shooting for no fewer and no more than one baby? Two? Sorry, did you say two? Two embryos? I couldn’t quite hear you but I think you said two. Funny, that’s what the doctor’s recommending.
  • How many pedicures/massages/facials should I schedule for myself in the last two weeks of the current excellent au pair’s time with us? None? Just a haircut and every errand I’ve been putting off for the last two years? Fine.


The Slate Plate

As I enter my very late 30’s and prepare for yet another move to another country, I can feel myself changing. It’s not that my moral compass is tuned to a different true north, or that the things I think are funny are more or less sophisticated than they used to be, it’s more that today I turned into the kind of person who orders canned fish at a restaurant. ‘Hmm, yes, I’ll be having the grilled watermelon on mixed greens to start, a large bottle of sparkling water, lightly chilled, and, yes, let’s see, the can of sardines. Spanish, are they? Wonderful, wonderful.’ ‘Excellent choice, madam.’ I could barely keep from snorting.

A work colleague used to make fun of his alma mater by saying that their medical school’s approach was See One, Do One, Teach One. It’s the same for ordering sardines. A few years ago in a French restaurant in Geneva, I saw a very dapper man peruse the menu over a glass of rosé, and, after making his choice, be presented with a can on a silver tray. He read the label, nodded, and then watched the waiter open the can and set it in front of him. I was flabbergasted, and, like stamp collectors everywhere, seduced by the combination of unique and expensive. For who would dare to present canned fish in the same manner as an excellent wine? Surely those were no ordinary sardines!

I wanted to find out right at that moment in Geneva, but you just don’t order more sardines after you’ve already eaten dessert. I waited, patiently, for years until the next sardine sighting:

Sardine Selfie

Sardine Selfie


If there are pea shoots in the lemons, the canned sardines will be delicious.

The fork in the middle of the plate? That would be the sardine fork.










I saw one, I did one. Here’s the teaching part: those sardines were delicious, and they were also sardines. They were beautiful, they were loaded with healthy fats, they were a perfectly satisfying lunch. They may have been the finest sardines in all of the land, but they were still only one step up from the sardines in tomato sauce I mash up with a fork to feed my dependents on my lazier days. (Poor little darlings, no pea shoots decorating THEIR lemons!)

If I see canned sardines on a menu again, I’ll probably order them because I’m a sucker for a heart-healthy lunch that involves soaking up oil with good bread. If I see a can of smoked oysters on a menu, I will order them because I love smoked oysters like kids love birthdays. If your menu suggests canned tuna, though, no matter how line-caught and small-batch, I will ask for a glove and then slap you in the face with it. Get that shit out of here. Don’t be ridiculous. Canned tuna! Sheesh.





East West Up Down

Since I’m not regaling you with stories about the onset of first-trimester nausea, we have a little time to focus on funny shit people said this week. Last week’s yoga teacher talked about breathing like a dragon out of the left nostril; this week’s teacher said to, ‘Use your breath to rinse out your left kidney.’ I didn’t. Who wants kidney effluent in their lungs, even if only as a visualization? Rinsing out a kidney is not like rinsing out a sponge, man, there is no convenient sink in my torso (or if there is, it’s my kidney!) Also, what about the right nostril and the right lung? Apparently the imagery is only meaningful the first time because we were never encouraged to turn to the right and breathe dragon-fire out the other nostril, or to give the other kidney a nice rinse. Am I missing something about an East/West, Right/Left thing? Was the yoga teacher just lazy? Is that why he’s always either sitting, stretching, or lying down?

When I was 8 months pregnant with Frida, I had a pregnancy massage. The massage therapist explained that for clients in the third trimester, she didn’t massage anywhere below the knee, ‘just in case.’ Just in case what? In case you accidentally hit the button that opens the trap door and the baby falls out? Seriously? As I was 9 and then 9+ months pregnant, my friends and I had lots of fun pressing my ankle, or my calf, or my shin, trying to find the magic spot that released the jack-in-the-box baby. Didn’t work, though, and neither did the 4 rounds of labor-inducing lower leg acupuncture. The fifth round of acupuncture worked, if by worked you mean produced 20 hours of labor before an emergency C-section.

Obviously, despite two yoga classes and a Pilates session this week, I have not yet achieved the pure crystal enlightenment our yogi described during guided meditation.