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!”