Where to start with the Frenchy Christmas 2009? One of many reasons I haven’t updated this sorry blog is that so much happened during their month’s visit to see their grand-kiddos and to help us out (we needed it!). Many topics were discussed, 1000 images were taken and as a result, all attempts to produce a blog resulted in a mind-blurring, stare down coma with my screen. So…. we’re going to whittle that month’s commotion down to the one thing that sticks with me…

A gene pool Twister™ of Life™
A gene pool Twister™ of Life™

 
Help. Françoise et Jacques came to help. It seems simple right? To help, ‘To do something for someone by offering one’s services’, and yet….. it’s a rare talent indeed. A bit like listening. People will say with confidence, “I’m a good listener”, but its not true. Just as people are apt to assert, “I know myself very well” (ever read the singles ads?). And it seems people tend to believe, conscious or not, that their ‘reality’ is somewhere near the nucleus of reality. Um, *sniff. But back to Help. Françoise et Jacques know all about it, and for that I say a deep, “Thank You”.

If you slice & dice it, they will come.
If you slice & dice it, they will come.

They grocery shop for us (we don’t need to tell them what to buy… duh, they’re French), they cook elaborate meals for us, hold and play with Max & Manu and sing songs whether or not the kiddos are listening (they’re not even 2 yrs old ya know). Jacques sits with Max in the middle of the kitchen floor chopping, shredding, dicing and slicing the night’s cuisine, explaining the hows and whys of it all. Max is his captivated audience.

A good argument for procreation.
A good argument for procreation.

Françoise has crocheted for Max and Manu many an animal both domestic and wild and many dolls, both human & fairy. She tells elaborate stories through their voices. This is helping to form who they are - their mythos. Abetting a child in believing all things have a spirit, a voice, is insanely awesome - especially a floppy, stuffed smiling Zebra with red lips.

If one cannot catch a bird of paradise, better take a wet hen.
If one cannot catch a bird of paradise, better take a wet hen.

Maybe all that play roused the spirit of Hitchcock’s The Birds. One day we all visit the location in Bodega Bay where the famous film was shot. The Frenchies began flapping their arms and cawing, as their clothing turned an inky black. Pierre took flight and showed Max & Manu that flapping your wings will get you alot further than tapping an old pair of ruby slippers.

That’s Grandma & Grandpa in German, and since there’s a dollop of it in my bloodline, I’m hoping they’ll agree it’s what Max & Manu should call them : ) So on with the show….

Straight from the Indiana, it’s Dwight & Linda. My mom & dad - the peeps who brought me forth, and grandparents of les petites Max & Emmanuelle.

A brief moment in time
A brief moment in time

Pierre & I meet them at the door, toss the babies into their arms, and run away shouting, “We’re free! Babysitters!!! After that 2 second fantasy… we all say our hellos, take a walk to the park, and catch up. My mom likes their hotel and tells me, “I requested the balcony room ‘for your dad’, but the only thing he said was, ‘If it cost over $200, I don’t want to know about it.” Funny dad I got

The 1st night we have friends over for a dinner. A dinner that Pierre & I are VERY late on. After an hour of waiting, the pre-dinner aperitifs begin to feel more like an open tab at a bar… but… but, at least Frenchy can cook!, at least we didn’t chintz on the wine, and there’s babies to distract us, at least…. gulp. It was a disaster. Everyone denied it, but Im telling ya, D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.

Max captivated by life’s rich reward
Max captivated by life’s rich reward

All was made up for the next day, with a trip to the majestic Redwoods. We hike the little foot-trails with Max, Manu & their baby stroller in tow! Thats right you wimpy babies who never leave the manicured parks and sand boxes. Max & Manu are off-roading in the Redwoods.

A few more days go lulling by til Bro Troy and mate Karen drive up and meet us at the local Halloween parade & fair. Yes, that fair! where Manu & I are dancing in the grass to a Dixie quartet when an older, floppy hat wearin’ lady comes walking by with her Chihuahua tethered to one of those faux riche, rhinestone leashes in naugahyde. She stops right next to us and watches as her little dog takes a big shit in the park grass. She pulls on its neck as the last dollop is falling off & then scurries off. I yell, Come back! your dog left something. Hey its a turd! Lady, please come…”

Dating…. that was then, this is now.
Dating…. that was then, this is now.

That evening back at the house, we’re hangin with the gaggle of Groomys and I realize how appreciative I am that they never bothered me with questions of, “When are you going to give us some grand-babies!” or its cousin, “So, have you thought you might like a family one day?” You know, that innocent question w/ the dead give-away upswing at the end that broadcasts they’ve spent nights lying awake thinking how to bring the subject up. At most they’ve said, “Didnt you say you wanted kids? Arent you like 40 now?” something benign… astute. And in the end?? Pierre and I pulled not one, but two rabbits out of our hat. And two perfect ones at that.
 

Oma Ompa Charm & Strange
Oma Ompa Charm & Strange

Thanks Frenchy for all the amazing food and wine. Thanks Max & Manu for being here & every minute of your existence, and thanks mom & dad, aka Oma & Ompa, for the cross country visit & a chill week. Come back soon!

This is my beau-hunk. This is my petit homme. It’s the day after Halloweener can’t you tell? Orange sheets, black T-shirt, a few gray hairs sprouting in Pierre from all the fright. And then there’s that spatula to explain.

Tel père tel fils
Tel père tel fils

 
Max & his little spatula are 2-gether 4-ever. They haven’t left eachother’s company in a good 2 months. He sleeps with it, he eats w/ it, he takes it on walks. While visiting, my mom voiced her concern that he may trip and bludgeon himself on it. I earnestly replied, “Me too, but I’m not taking it. If you want to take it from him be my guest - just agree to buy everyone hearing aids & replace all the glass in our windows before you do.”

Max and his lovey the spatula. We tried once, to take it and the earth trembled. The shrill of his baby-soprano backed by a quaking uvula. His eyes, nose, and mouth disappearing into a crumpling face: a real massacre of all good aural faculties…

That’s Max when you pry his septor from those little baby hands.
Happy post-Halloween! Alka-seltzer anyone?

 

“The most magical day of the year”
“The most magical day of the year”

 
Samhainophobia is the intense and persistent fear of Halloween. Also on the menu is Phasmophobia (fear of ghosts), and Coimetrophobia (fear of cemeteries). No, no, no. They got it all wrong. Halloween = the best celebration of the year! And sad but true, as pal Ian once said, “Halloween is the only time that guys can dress how they want and not get beat up”.
 
Last year for Halloween, Pierre & I dressed up in our pajamas and went to bed. In fact, we’ve passed out in bed for all holidays since Max and Manu joined us on the planet. That is until last night. Halloweener!

Beastial Brothers in Arms
Beastial Brothers in Arms

Our Frenchy friend Daniel is visiting while on business and Pierre is introducing him to a couple excellent wines before we head out into the night. It only takes one sip for me to realize, “Where are your freakin’ costumes doodaroos!?” I dig through my box of costumes, pull out hats from past fashion shows and turn Pierre into a rabbit while Daniel becomes a wily fox.

How to make a baby giraffe…
How to make a baby giraffe…

As for Max & Manu, they’ve been living in their costumes for 3 days now. They hate me, I can see it across Max’s face as I strap the 5-pound tiger mask onto his head. I see the eye-roll of Manu as I squoosh her feet into the nubs that are her giraffe hoof. I dont care, their cuteness overrides any long lasting trauma they might incur. I plop them in their Radio Flyer wagon and off…

we go to Florence Street where our friends Patrick & Brigitte live. They’re the artist celebrities of Sebastopol and you will find their amazing sculptures throughout Sonoma County in many a yard and business.

2-story tall Dino-rama!
2-story tall Dino-rama!

Everyone congregates on their street and when we arrive, it’s already shut down by zombies, pirates & witches. We find Patrick sitting on his front stoop slumped in posture, head-to-toe in black bunny fur & glowing buck teeth. “We hand out 3000 candies every year” he says, “then go inside and turn off our lights so people stop coming.” I laugh. Daniel is taking 1000 pictures muttering, “I cant believe how cool Halloween is in America. We have nothing like this!”

We trick-or-treat the decked-out houses until our wagon is filled with enough sugar to rot Max & Manu’s teeth to the jaw. We’re heading back home, thinking the night is dying down…

A Nightmare on Florence Street
A Nightmare on Florence Street

 
… but omg, it’s all just beginning! I’ve bought 100 pieces of candy. 100 pieces? Gone in 15 minutes. I run to the store. 200 more candies gone. I run again to that shitty store — the one that only sells Baby Ruth and Chubby Hubbies! And again it disappears into bags already heaving with candy. This is so fun - because it’s insane with families of creatures swarming the street and god I wish it was like this every day.

“I can binge if I want to”

Max and Manu have the VIP seats and see it all perched in the threshold of the front door. I stand behind them dropping candy while playing old-school… “Soooo, you are what? A Power Ranger?” “Nooo! I’m a Transformer!” the kid says with an “Are you stupid” affectation.
To a pubescent girl I squeak,”Omg, like I LOVE Brittany Spears”. She spins around, flipping her fake hair at me like the middle finger and lets me know, “Brittany’s old. I’m Hanna Montana, dont you know?”

“Well, no I dont. Thats why I asked.” No one laughs at my jokes that I KNOW are funny. But, with the last piece of candy dolled out, we slide Max and Manu’s chairs back into our warm maison. We put out the lights to ward off the last dregs of candy-ferreters, and my family + Daniel all go down for a long snooze under a full moon.

So yes, there are words to describe one’s fears of Halloween, but what about words that illustrate one’s euphoria while experiencing Halloween…? Huh?

  The 5 of us went to San Francisco’s Pier 39 area to eat some crab and “ork ork” with the local sea lions. Afterwards, we walked out onto the docks where the volatile and frigid winds collided with the crying horns of sea tankers. All the senses are pummeled here. Max took hold of the cold metal railings and stood staring out towards the water. I could see he was in his own world, which he goes to often. I pulled out my camera and took several images. He didn’t even notice. I’m curious, and with the depth, unsettled. What comes to him… what leaves him?
This life, past life, Bardo, or just a kiddo lost to the wind.

The Eyes of Max Strange.
The Eyes of Max Strange.

 
  Sometimes I find Max sitting up in his crib at 4am, staring in the dark. When I find him like this, I like to sit with him and enjoy his company, or absence as it may be…

Witness, first, this woman dragging a child on a leash through a Verizon store in

I woulda bit his curmudgeon off…
I woulda bit his curmudgeon off…

Georgia. A few weeks later, an Ohio woman was arrested after taking it upon herself to spank a stranger’s 2-year-old in a Salvation Army, then comes word that a shopper at a Georgia Wal Mart slapped a 2-year-old after telling her mother: “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.”

What would YOU have done if your child had been slapped? For most, it’s a matter of fight or flight where instinct, fear, or perhaps latent anger overtakes us in ways we can’t foresee.
 
 
 
 

… then picked him out w/ my baby finger
… then picked him out w/ my baby finger

One never knows. When I was attacked in SF at 10am by a crackhead, I never suspected I’d curl up against a wall and take a few hits. More surprising, when my attacker came back at me a second time, I charged him, pointing to his face telling him to move or I was going to kill him (which he did). What caused those 2 entirely different reactions in me against the same offense?

Something else that crosses my mind regarding these public assaults masquerading as attempts to discipline a child is this: How often I’ve heard people from older generations claim, “What is wrong with kids these days?” I wonder if they recall the accepted, sometimes condoned violence against children of their generations? The fact that animal abuse laws were passed many years before child abuse laws speaks volumes.

Papa is my protector (& transportation)
Papa is my protector (& transportation)

 
It wasn’t until 1974 that Congress passed the first federal law protecting children from physical abuse. Whereas the first federal law against animal cruelty was passed in 1873! 100 years of difference, people.

WWJD?
The attitude that physical pain & punishment are necessary to produce discipline & moral character dates back to biblical times finding roots in the Old Testament: “Withhold not correction from a child…. Thou shalt beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14).
Lovely.

Yeah! Clobber them w/ a gourd!
Yeah! Clobber them w/ a gourd!

I am appreciative that today people talk more openly about issues, there are support programs, therapy is no longer a dirty word, and repercussions & laws are known by society. I’m thankful to be raising my kiddos now.

But I got a little off subject didn’t I? That’s the ADHD kickin in dood.
Back to the Wal-Mart crazies. Surely these incidences provoked discourse for thousands, and hopefully people have a better idea of the actions they might take in similar situations, both as eyewitness & victim. So, to you I say Merry HOHOlidays, and if you see someone draggin’ a kid around this season, you know what to do!

“I’m the magician of goo.”
“I’m the magician of goo.”

Max and Manu eat most everything we put in front of them. Asparagus, mushrooms, curry, mango sauces, and prunes all go down without a hitch. So the day we drove to the beach and bought fresh oysters, we were sure they’d hold out their plates and say, “Gimme some of that lovin’!”

Fueled by a vessel of white wine, Pierre shucked and pried open oyster after oyster and put those beauties in front of his little offspring like it was Frankincense, Myrrh & Gold.

Hey Max, just look at this specimen! Where’s your plate?? Uh, whats wrong little mouse??
 
Manu? Your expression?? Are you okay, your look of repugnance is troubling…
Wait, you’re not dry-gagging about these yummy glop-splotches of ambrosial goodiness are you!?

You can imagine the disappointment in Frenchy’s eyes. His baby progenies refusing to follow him in his tastes of all things raw and well… raw. Pierre even eats Uni sushi, which tastes like chewing your own tongue, or as described by friend Ian, “It tastes like eating meat-mud”. Exactly!

Bravo Max and Manu. We know child services would have busted down our door before you could have even splashed your rubber spork into one of those beauties. Papa was just kidding. Really.
 

“That's not my diaper!”
“That’s not my diaper!”

The day began & filled quickly with omens, I just didn’t heed the call until too late.

For the past 16 months, everything that was in a cabinet, on a ledge, hanging from hooks, or inside a drawer was safe & secure from the 20 baby fingers lurking about. The kiddos weren’t much of a threat to anything other than what was on the floor, but in the last few days the new, bigger-better-faster version of Max & Manu was unleashed when their ability to stand-up, pull open, turn knobs, and flick switches seemed to explode in a learning curve that climbed faster than a rocket.

It started slowly with Manu maneuvering the toilet brush from its socket. There she sat like a queen holding her scepter with that 6 tooth grin across her face. Lord knows what she had done with that brush so I threw her in the tub and swabbed her mouth out with germicidal potions & brew.

I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it!
I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it!

Then, as I was baby-safeing the bathroom, I hear a *SMASH!* come from Max’s bedroom followed by a terrifying scream from baby’s mouth. I run in and there on the floor see that Max has pulled over the halogen floor lamp, the glass shattered, leaving black carbon dust everywhere and little baby sitting there looking at me like, “What did you do to me?”

I sweep Monsieur up in my arms, Pierre pronounces the light kaput, and I say, “At least he didn’t break the really expensive, beautiful floor lamp in the living room!”.
 

Jackpot! The 1st drawer Max learned to open : (
Jackpot! The 1st drawer Max learned to open : (

Max doesn’t have time to be bothered with the clean-up. He jumps to all fours and sprints out of the room faster than I can say, “Max, I’m adding that light to your tab”. My little man crawls with such speed that he can go from one end of the house to the other faster than I can walk it. If I want to stop him, I’ve got to break into a run, or at least a convincing ‘woggle’.

Then, a few hours later, “Manu! what is that sticking out of your mouth”, I say walking towards her until I see she’s dislodged one of the electrical outlet safety plugs and is using it as a pacifier. That gizmo took her all of 2 hours to prove useless.

Tastes like Chicken
Tastes like Chicken

 
In other rooms, there is no less of a fracas raised when they gain access. In the dining area, if you don’t belt them to their high chairs, they stand up and rock the solid-wooden chair off its legs, while banging on the tray with their cups so loud that I think there’s a drum hidden inside. Yes, little baby is a force to behold. Yet baby doesn’t think all this connivery and hootspa is enough. No, they are just warming up their engine.

What else little baby Manu? What else fire-eating Max?

Wahhh, she never lets me help separate the knives!
Wahhh, she never lets me help separate the knives!

Let’s move on to the kitchen… where my kiddos are quickly replacing several of the appliances I was so fond of.
~ Manu now substitutes as my paper-shredder. She’ll turn any magazine or paper into confetti fit for your Christmas tree trimmings.
~ Need your dog’s food stirred to mix the hard stuff with the wet? Let Max use his crafty digits to kneed, pulp, mush and smack all that nasty smelly stuff into a big mess. Pius wont mind, but he would like you, Max to please stop chasing after him, pulling his tail, and trying to grab his eyeballs out of his head. Yeah, Max is a little OCD with all things Pius.
 

You missed a spot Max.
You missed a spot Max.

But wait, that’s not all. You say your white carpet isn’t quite dirty enough? Let Max help you out by dragging a dirty mop across the unforgiving fibers. This is called intuitive painting in Max-land.

Next, say a prayer for the plants, they’ve all been put to rest. And yes, we were so wise as to recently install those child gates, but once your child has known 16 months of precious freedom, there’s no going back. Having your children stand at the gate shaking & rattling the bars while screaming isn’t really a solution either, ya know.
 

Maman, our crime does not fit this horrid punishment!
Maman, our crime does not fit this horrid punishment!

So, the sun is going down and I’m staring at a treacherous mess spread around the house while glancing at that bottle of wine in the corner. I smile thinking, “Gee, it’s not so ba…” when *SMASH!*, I hear a a crash of thunder come from the next room.

Did you get the earlier foreshadowing? Yes, there on the ground, lay that lovely floor lamp P & I love(d) so much. Max had weazeled his way up, over, around the chairs and tables that it was hidden behind, got to shaking it so hard, it slid into the table, toppled, dropped and lay crying in death on the floor — or maybe that’s Max I’m hearing.

Max cries and cries, and papa Pierre sits with him giving him his first lesson in things that are off limits. Pierre is firm, calm, repeating the words, “Cassé, Tombé” (fallen, broken). Max cries yet continues to sit listening. It was amazing to see our little baby seem to grasp, feel, and show a kind of sorry or understanding. Even more telling is while Pierre repairs the lamp, Max crawls over to him and sits quietly watching until papa finishes. Max rarely sits still while holding his attention so calmly. He was engaged.

Show the electronic, and he will come
Show the electronic, and he will come

Now when Max goes near things that are breakable, we repeat the words in a low, serious voice and use sign language for “No”. Max turns, looks at us and curls into a ball on the floor and whimpers as if to say, “Okay, I know, I’m not going there”. We pick him up and show the object to him so he doesn’t feel punished, all the while telling him “Careful”. We show him by example.

It’s funny, this same kind of lesson is how the kiddos learned to be kind to Pius. Now they pet him gently, or just sit and watch him. Amazing. Communicate with your child, show example, and already I am so touched, my heart strings pulled at, that such a young mind can grasp and communicate such mature interactions. Wow wow wow.

The Buddha hand… “I work in mysterious ways”
The Buddha hand… “I work in mysterious ways”
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Like father, like son…
Don’t try to take his Mac away from Max!

 

 
 Leave some comments and Max will email you back personally.

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I love when random twins stop us on the street and tell us their own stories about growing up with a twin sibling. Their tales always lead to interesting if not spooky stories of how connected they remain. As our conversation winds down, they often leave us with the sound advice of, “Please, whatever you do, don’t dress them the same!”

No need for a paternity test
No need for a paternity test

 
Duh. I would never do that. I did worse. I did John-Benet bad.
I dressed Max identical to Pierre, and saw that Pierre was dressed identical to Pius (minus the pants) and we all go to the park like a 3-musketeer parade. A real triplet ensemble, a tri-doppleganger, an 8-legged tripartition and luau of beige and white.

My mouth is way cleaner than yours.
My mouth is way cleaner than yours.

 
And yet, no matter how grotesque the scene may appear, it cannot compare with the joy I have in sending photos of such events to Pierre’s parents. A good portion of my days and nights are spent with some degree of tension or restlessness, because that’s just the kind of girl I am. But these frivolous, flighty and superficial moments are the raison de vivre .
 
 

Hello baby Jesus
Hello baby Jesus
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