Pius, Pierre, Max, Manu & I, we don’t get out much but when we do, we love that people routinely comment on how aware Max is, and on Manu’s spirited determination. Once, a dainty lady in a boutique even claimed: “I feel a spiritual connection with your son. I think we’ve know one another“. Okaaaay. All that, but never has anyone said our kiddos look like someone famous. And that’s a good thing…

 
Gerber baby all growed up
Gerber baby all growed up

In movie star land, this can be especially touchy.
I’m sure there are people who find Peter Lorre interesting looking, and he does kind of have that baby-esque big head thing going, but hopefully no one makes such a comparison when the child’s mother has sharp objects within her reach.

 

 

A parent’s worst nightmare
A parent’s worst nightmare

With politicians, the slope gets even slipperier. Especially in these times. I mean, you remember that guy right? Yeah, him. I mean, what if? What if it really were true, and you tried to deny it until someone eventually stops you on the street & makes it all real. “Hey, did you notice, your child looks just like Geor…”

 

Maybe a real human isn’t involved at all, as a well-meaning pal lovingly praises, “You know, your baby has a face like that cute little alien ET in that cute little movie”. Before tears, strangulation and the turrets strike, smile knowingly that at least baby doesnt bear resemble to that precious other fellow.

Love thy Precious
Love thy Precious
 

 

Finally, the temptation to project cute little animals onto baby isn’t advisable either. Rover may be cute and it’s true, he may look just like your best friend’s baby, but do your self a favor; extend your life and your relationship a few years longer and bite your tongue — even if it bleeds.

Everything reminds me of my dog.
Everything reminds me of my dog.
 

 

At 2.5 pounds at birth, we’re exceptionally lucky that Monsieur Max and Mademoiselle Manu are as healthy as they are. That they’re such a treat to lay our eyes on is the cherry on top. But even if they did look a little funny, we’d love them all the same!
 
The eyes are a sense far too overused in matters of sizing up one’s character.
I hope we are able to teach our kiddos different.
 
* Some images from “The Poop” parenting website.

We dusted off some old videos: Max & Manu in their crib at 3 months and 6 months. So old, so old… They are almost 10-month old now!


 

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Happy New Year to all the tall people!
Happy New Year to all the tall people!

 

Happy New Year to all the baby seals!
Happy New Year to all the baby seals!

 
 
Hello to you all, our friends and family!

It’s a New Year and finally we are poking our heads above ground. As a toast, we invite you to visit us in our new home - or on our blog for those who can’t make it: . We’ve added several new stories and images on our life with Max, Manu, Pius the teen pope, and all the other crazies.

I’m lovely too
I’m lovely too

Max & Manu are now 8 1/2 months old and are beginning to crawl. Best of all, their laughs are infectious and with all their babbling, our home sounds like a rainforest. In all our imagination, we couldn’t have dreamed up a daughter & son more lovely.

We decided to move out of San Francisco to Sebastopol, a small town of artists, academics, organic farmers, retirees, and a mish-mash of other miscellaneous folk. We weren’t sure how we’d feel leaving SF, but so far we love it. Why? SPACE, lush trees, animals about, bright constellations, and best of all, we can make all the noise we want, when we want! clang, clang!!

More friends come to visit us here than they did in the city. We plan to continue to lure you to see us and be part of Max & Manu’s world.

The Diapers Fund financed our trip to Poopy Land. Thank you all!
The “Baby Diapers Fund” financed our trip to Poopy Land.
Thank you all for your generous contributions!

 
Other plans for 2009?

Yes, we can!
Yes, we can!

Merritt finally gets to jump horses again (there are 2 top equestrian centers here) and she has an appointment with Chronicle Books to pitch an idea for our long overdue coffee table book chronicling 3 years traveling by motorcycle through Europe, Africa, Asia, and South & Central America. The most optimism of all though comes from the election of President Obama. After 8 long years, she feels fortunate to be Citizen US again.

During a videoconference on Inauguration Day, Nicolas, who lives in France, appears with the American flag in the background, shockingly visible from the outside through the window. Note that during all the years he lived in America, Nicolas never publicly displayed his French flag through the window. Brave but not dumb.
The French pull out Old Glory again

Pierre has not yet recovered from his recent celebrations and he’s still taken aback that the pleasant winds of Hope and Change blowing from Hawaii finally prevailed against the powerful forces of Fear and Continuity from Alaska. He’s now a strong proponent of the Global Warming Up, and he can’t wait to go back to France to tease his friends and family about the soggy climate over there.

Also in 2009, we’ll be updating our website more often: Videos, amusing news of the world, the hoonanigans of Max & Manu, and many images. Make sure to sign up for the “RSS feed” (located on the front page of our blog, bottom left) to receive notice when we update & post new pics.

In our latest installments many things are revealed! Learn how Pierre teaches infants to swim in the comfort of his own bed… Discover what Merritt learned from the Alabama prison system… Hear Max & Manu’s favorite Madness song… And see for yourself how the French eat hotdogs!

We hope the new year brings you new friendships, and deeper relations with the ones you have. Most of all, here is to your good health and to your brain pan staying finely tuned, because it is… isn’t it?

Happy New Year!
 

Say Cheese! Cheese… Cheese… Milk… Milk… Bone!
Say Cheese!
Cheese… Cheese… Milk… Milk… Bone!

 

Merritt and her baby cameleon
Merritt and her baby cameleon

 

Smells like happiness to me. Happy Happy to you too!
Smells like happiness to me.
Happy Happy to you too!

 
Voilà!

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“We’re coming!”

It’s what Françoise and Jacques say as soon as they know we have successfully rubbed two sticks together and made 2 babies.

The seed that keeps traveling
The wind carries our seed

Françoise & Jacques are Pierre’s maman et papa. They live in the south of France in Saint Jean du Gard, a small mountain village. Their love of travel takes them to Egypt, Japan and Turkey. They write for a small newspaper, and like most retirees I saw while living in France, they seem relaxed and well-cared for.

Before they have any idea we are are pregnant, we decide to play a little trick and so, while chatting via webcam, we show them an image of the ultrasound and say in a downturned voice, “Merritt had to see a doctor today, and they found this (pointing to the embryo). Can you tell what it is?”. Jacques squints and then with big eyes exclaims, “A baby?”
- “Not just one”, we say.
- “Two? Two babies!?!”
Françoise didn’t speak. I think she was about to cry.

7 months later they arrive in the US to our open arms, their 2 new grand children, and stay for an entire month to help us out. We don’t think we’ll need all that help, but they know better.

We found them an apartment on Craigslist near us, and each day when walking to our house they stop at an organic market for fresh salmon, dark berries, hand-made yogurts & gourmet oils. I eat 3 balanced meals every day, and by the end of the month, I weigh the same as I did before pregnancy! Those French know how to cook!

Joyeux Bastille Day!
Even Bi-Rite speaks French

Having a pocket of euros doesn’t hurt either in these times of the suck ass dollar. They arrived the first day with a large bag exclaiming, “We found a lovely market, and it’s so inexpensive”. Pierre and I choke-up as we see the name Bi-Rite written on their bags. We shop there often but there is so much we’ve never tried because of the $$$. $9 chocolate bars, $10/lb bean salads, $8 bowl of soup. But damn, nothing beats visiting America these days with a fist full of foreign currency. I feel back in Argentina 2004 again when Pierre and I were relishing the benefits of their crashed market thanks to our western banks.

Our dinners last an hour and more. We talk and talk, of politics & religion, of their childhoods & our thoughts on raising Max and Emmanuelle. There are expressions of love and strong debates, out of which came something I won’t forget Jacques saying… “I am so glad to have come, I am learning things about my son I never knew”.

Mode de la Françoise
Mode de la Françoise

But they didn’t come to talk ideals and debate, they came to hold babies! Max & Manu in their first month home after spending 6 weeks in the hospital are held pretty much morning to night. There’s nothing more soothing, more comforting, than folding into the crux of a loved one’s arm, and that is exactly what the kiddos receive for a month.

I expected the parents to get bored eventually, just sittin’ around holding squooshy babies all day. I began trying to find things for us to do until finally Francoise puts up her hand and says, “Merritt, we did not come here for tourism, we came to help you with your children.” It was so difficult to just accept their kindness, without wanting to act in return. It was a good experience to be confronted with for me.

That said, on the last day I get everyone out the door for a visit to Golden Gate Park. We rent a quad bicycle, Pius runs along side us, and Max & Manu sit in our laps. And then the best thing ever happens!

Let them eat hotdogs!
Let them eat hotdogs!

The French want to stop to eat some hotdogs!? This is probably the first and last picture you’ll ever see of that!

I can’t thank you enough Françoise et Jacques for the security and love the kiddos felt. They can’t thank you either, but that’s because they can’t talk.

Shadow of no doubts.
Shadow of no doubts.

Too soon the parents were gone, and the baby poo hit the fan and Pierre and I were covered in the reality of bringing up twins alone. Babies take beaucoup de travail! I often think of what single parents must go through. Those on welfare need something a hell of alot more important than a few dollars to raise kids, they need community.

Africa showed me the power of community - something most of us crave but don’t know how to manifest. I was grateful to feel it and share it with family, if even for a short while.

 

And then just because he’ll kill me…

So, do you want one?
So Jean, do you want one?

Jean, Pierre’s brother, came for a visit and to meet the kiddos a few months later. I quickly threw the baby in his arms and snapped this picture before he could toss it back : )

Voila! And that is the story of ‘When the Frenchies came for a visit’.

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Max & Manu trained for 4 months for my birthday present. Thank you kiddos!

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Here is what happens at home when Merritt goes into town on a Saturday afternoon…

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Although we will be moving north to Sebastopol very soon, Pierre and I are making the most of our 3 room housey in the hood. The bedroom now doubles as the kiddos room & storage room, the office doubles as both our offices & the play room, and the kitchen is now the living room, the doggie bedroom & default everything else room.

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double dutch
double dutch

We learn to make the most of it all. Pierre comes up with the ultimate feeding machine to make late night feeds flow: Make head rests in the crib, and feed the kiddos at the same time with double bottle action. We save approximately 1 hour 30 minutes a day with this new-fangle method (click images for a better look).

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The family that sleeps together…
The family that sleeps together…

 
 
Even Kangaroo Care can be pruned to a one-chest hay ride.

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The streets provide an exercise in ease as Pierre shows how to handle two babies (and a dog & bag of groceries) at once. He becomes an amusement park ride, as the kids swing and sway to the beat of his to and fro.

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waiting-for-bath-time.jpg
Even when we can’t physically hold them, our kiddos follow us everywhere, even inside the bathroom to watch Pierre get his hair cut. Pius is the most intrigued because he thinks that camera I’m holding is a chicken tendon snack. Yum.

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merritt-twin-hold-blog.jpgThere is one frontier I haven’t quite made it into in terms of doubling things up. That’s the tandem breast feed. Also known as “The football hold”, and you know how I hate sport references. It just feels too animal, too much like the body being a host for little larva. Its just.. too.. weird. I’m diggin’ everything else about the double-baby-momma experience though. Pierre & I often say to the other, “Thank you for ‘the babies’”. Our pride, meow.

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Lest one accuse us of neglecting the joys of bonding one on one with our kiddos, I give you Manu to set the record straight. She looks like a baby Mao, an enlightened Buddha, a leader of the people. I can almost hear her say it now, Power to the people!

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Happy Halloween to all!

Manu is my pumpkin pie
Manu is my pumpkin pie



Pierre and I went to CPMC’s yearly party so we could see the nurses once again. When we arrive, there are no nurses anywhere. There are however, piles and piles of kids.

It’s interesting that an experience as transformational and highly unique as making babies is also one of the most common. Common indeed as it happens 131,571,719 times every year. If you have working parts and you find another person with the other 50% of the recipe, then anyone can make a baby and it seems most do. But should anyone be able to make babies? Shouldn’t parents to-be be required to take rudimentary classes in parenting? They’re not. Just make the baby and off you go. When you wake up 13 years later and think, “Oh lord, little Jimmy is a mess, how do I fix him?” it’s a little late. People need to pass tests, obtain licenses and be approved for so many things. It’s ludicrous. I think about this whenever I’m waiting in line at the drivers bureau for my license, watching kids pulling on their mom’s hair, receiving slaps, and rolling around on the floor like an amoeba.

Whatever, back to the kiddy party…

We’re having fun, but growing hungry. I’m thinking that after paying $10,000 day per child while in the hospital, CPMC is surely going to kick it with some Starbuck’s coffee or thick crust Pizza Time. Instead, the only food is macaroni swamped in half melted cheeze wiz bubblin’ atop a bunson burner. There are also cheddar cheese cubes spread out on a table. I love how the kids touch 3 or 4 cubes before selecting the one they want. Eeeewwww! At least there was funked out fructose juice to wash all that cheesey concoction down with.

cheesier than cheese
cheesier than cheese

We then waited in a line to have this cheesier than the macaroni cheese picture taken. Its supposed to be of the kids but like, where are they? I drew arrows to help you find them. The photog’s lens, lighting and distance were all wrong wrong. But really, we did have a swell time. Max and Manu slept the entire afternoon, so we’ll have to fill them in on it later.




world-record-pumplin08.jpgIn other news, this year’s big fat ass pumpkin award goes to a 1,524-pound beauty. Looks fake doesnt it? No no no, and the $6 per pound the farmer received as prize wasn’t fake either. That pumpkin has more square footage than our apartment!




The best Halloween treat of all is how far Barack Obama has come in this election. If he does win, among other things, it will help heal the appalling relations our country now has with the international community. I think of my kiddos, and the possibilities for this country, and I haven’t felt this optimistic in years.

obama-pumpkin.jpg

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CPMC neonatal unit delivers over 6000 babies a year (yeah, I’m still talking about the hospital). They are one of the best for high-risk pregnancy, so one can imaging how full their NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) must be!

Transmission of love
Transmission of love

In Max and Manu’s room there were many other preemies — which is essentially a baby who is developing its last stages outside the womb. It’s certainly unfortunate, but also fascinating to see. “You should still be on the inside of me,” I tell Max and Manu, clutching their tiny finger the size of a thermometer’s head

One day I’m walking around, checkin’ out other babies when a nurse tells me that I shouldn’t be peepin’ in on other parent’s wee ones - ESPECIALLY if parents are present.

It’s a touchy subject. Doesn’t it seem like it would be a supportive interaction? Instead, it has all the potential for the opposite. Parent’s feelings of self-blame and their fear of visitors judging their little preemie is raw.

beautiful in Brazil
beautiful in Brazil

Pierre and I never had these feelings, but the nurses tell us it’s the norm and thus, the hospital protects the parents from more distress. If say one mom overhears another mom being told how beautiful her baby is, she may sit alone wondering why no one tells her that her baby is beautiful. Or, imagine someone walking past a baby’s incubator while commenting how tiny she is — it could send a parent into greater anxiety that their baby must be in the worst shape of all. So everyone is kept in this kind of weird, Brazil, cubicle from one another.

So our friendships grow with the nurses, and who better to have as a story-teller for the curious and strange? Non-fiction - from where all good fiction comes!

24 weeks can last a lifetime.
24-weeks can last a lifetime.

I ask one nurse, “What is the earliest average that doctors can keep a pre- mature baby alive?” “24 weeks”, she says.
24 weeks! That’s not even 6 months! That’s 60% of a baby. I walk through the NICU, trying to sneak-a-peek to see such a baby, and one day I do. The feeding tube coming from her mouth is thin as a hair yet still seems suffocating to her. The diaper which is no more than a tissue, engulfs her. She breathes like a fallen baby bird, and I see each rib rising and falling at a breathtaking rate. She is bright red, from the blood vessels coursing against the surface of her skin. The face is barely formed. Should she live? Of course she should. But what of the parents who who learn their preemie will have life long disabilities. Some severe? Do they love her as much? Do they want to let her go, but are too afraid of guilt and of engaging in that thread of thought?

The age of reason.
The age of reason.

I ask the nurse if certain babies tend to recover and progress better than others. She smiles, “Oh yes, the girl babies always do better. We see it every day. And no doubt, black girl babies do better than the other babies.”
And who has the slowest recovery? “Caucasian white males. They recover the slowest of any race and gender.” The other nurses around agree.

This reminds me of my travels through Africa where the rationalizations ran deep and wide as to why women are weaker, more fragile, less intelligent, blah blah ad nauseum than men. But here in baby world we learn the truth, the strongest of all.

Validation of a star
Validation of a star

Oh the irony. When most cultures regard the two just the opposite. Socially the black woman must juggle the double minority and discrimination (Lord have mercy if she’s the obese, Wiccan, lesbian, handicapped, elderly type). Globally, she is less likely to have an equal education if one at all, widening the inequality, and thus is often left with the fewest crumbs of a stinking pie. The white male remains an ideal of entitlement and intellect. Yet at birth…

It reminds me of Ghandi commenting on the British after their colonization of India. He observed how the Indians were idealizing the whites, even though the British were apathetic laborers who fell ill at the drop of the hat, and who more than a few hours in the sun left them faint. The idealization perplexed him.

Ghandi can take the heat
Ghandi can take the heat
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max_manu_fight51.jpg

Pierre and I begin to notice scratches on Max and Manu. We have ideas of where the blood trails are coming from, and so begin the elimination of possibilities.

Are they scratching themselves in their sleep? We bind them in a papoose, and still the scratches appear.

max_manu_fight6.jpg
max_manu_fight.jpg

We put them on opposite sides in the crib, but still, injury prevails.

One day, we hang out over their bed and watch (they have little awareness of us or them as independent selves at this point so why hide?), and see that even while bound up in their swaddles they squirm like a worm to the center of the crib, and wriggle their arms out with a fury it seems to meet and connect with the other.

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But with no real control over their alien limbs, and flailing to explore the space around them, they wind up flinging-flapping and pummeling one another.

Here is the play by play. ‘Real love’, one says to thee, ‘is how your brain relates to the pleasure in pain’.

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