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Take out the mono candle! It’s Max & Emmanuelle’s first Birthday today!!

They’re one year old. One year! and oh what a year it was….

Emmanuelle ma fille
Emmanuelle ma fille

A year ago today at 10am I was hearing the first cries of baby Max and Manu. As soon as they were delivered into this world, their high pitch mewls came in rapid succession like a baby bird fallen from her nest. Panicking. And me, lying on a hard bed with a side of spinal tap, listening to the scurry and the unruffled voices of doctors & pre-term specialists buzzing around me. Fear, joy, and clarity-disparity were all along for the ride and for a long moment I stared up to the ceiling, simultaneously feeling everything and feeling nothing. Thinking of the decisions that had brought me to this pinpoint moment.
 
 

Everyday is naked day!
Everyday is naked day!

A year later, as in right now, I’m sitting with Max, Manu & Frenchy-baby-daddy-Pierre opening presents and telling the kiddos they are no longer infants but bona fide toddlers. “You’re a little man, Max. You are my petite mademoiselle, Emmanuelle”. They laugh and caw looking at us, waving back to us with their little hands having no idea what it means, just that it connects us. Max is carefully turning everything in his hands and in between his fingers. Emmanuelle along side him, insisting all graspable matter around her bend to her will (or just make alot of noise).

They of course are less interested in presents than their wrapping and all the noise and mayhem they can generate. Shred all that paper, chew it up and spit it out. Pound the crap out of all things tangible. Oooo, those batteries taste scads better than the boring pacifier. You get the idea… Babies for bedlam, in a wonder world where entropy reigns.
 

Stand back mere mortal, this one is....
“Stand back mere mortal, this present is….”

 
I can barely remember what life felt like without them. Like they were always meant to be here, it just took awhile to get around to laying the gateway for their arrival. Prior there was always something I told myself I needed to do first - a list that can be never ending. I felt locked into a lifestyle whose universe centered around the “me”. I wanted to let go in order to step outside it, but that’s a hard sword to lay down…
 

Whats on the inside is
“OMG! We’re being attacked by a sheep head!”

 
Traveling for 3 years throughout the 3rd World was indeed getting out, but returning to life in the US was bittersweet. I experienced things I will never be able to convey and in re-entering the life I had left, I became more an observer than participant. But it was my solo travel to Thailand & India living in different monasteries for meditation practice that really brought me into the present. This changed several things - some of it very painful.
 

Wonder twin powers activate. Shape of a baby!
“Wonder twin powers activate. Shape of a baby!”

 
I realized I needed to end certain friendships due to their unhealthy and negative nature and evaluate assumed ways in my thinking that either no longer served purpose or no longer held truth. Dynamics within my family needed to shift as well.

Community and creating a family became important, but I think I was afraid of committing to growing kids until one day Pierre bluntly says, “You aren’t serious about having kids, and you are going to wake up one day and realize it’s too late. You need to get serious if you want kiddos.” That little phrase worked wonders because 2 moths later I was pregnant with twins.

All that to say it was quite a journey that brought me to my children and they to me. It’s always astounding how common childbirth is, but how unique, how mystical the experience can be to each human being.

Pierre and I, we made 2 amazing little people. I can’t believe our fortune on this one. Our kiddos laugh and smile sun up to sun down unless tired or hungry. They go to bed with little effort, they are healthy and beautiful and really full of such marked personality. I pull them into my arms, I smell their skin and melt when their little arms and hands clutch at my shoulders, their legs kicking with delight to be held. I burn this into my memory and into my flesh. It is so primal, so animal.

So Happy Birthday Max, Bon Anniversaire Emmanuelle. And thank you Pierre for helping stir, pour and mix the pot, er petri dish and bring the kiddos into our lives. You’re a fantastic father.

2
2 months: “I have never known life without you”
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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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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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pierre_double-baby-blog.jpg
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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manu_buddha_blog.jpg

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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I still have a little catching up to do to save prosperity. This one tells of how Max and Manu made it into the world via a sharp knife, a slick doctor, and a spinal tapped, ultra frightened girl.

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Do Elephants howl?
Do Elephants howl?

Here at the hospital while on bed rest, Pierre and I press our ears against the walls — listening to the women in the other rooms as they go into labor and eventually give birth. We’re stiff with rapture, like kids seeing a full-frontal naked person for the first time, or a game show contestant freaking in anticipation over whats behind door #3. We are experiencing our own lives, our own pasts through the women. It’s how we all entered this world. Through the greatest canal… The grandest right-of-passage of all.

Portal from another World
Portal from another World

The primal, the very animal howl from the women is unlike any call or cry I have ever heard, and from the deepest, most primal space it triggers in me that ancestral attachment. It fails to temp me into a drug-free birth however — the vicarious ease drop is enough. It’s a beautiful sound.

I’ve loved my 18 days on bed rest and me & the twins are super at 27 1/2 weeks. The doctors are talking about releasing me this weekend, saying they see no reason why I cant spend the remainder of my pregnancy at home.

Pius the teenage pope
Pius the teenage pope

The problem is, I dont want to go!
Here, my pals come visit me, Pierre comes each and every night to visit with Pius, my Whippet. Yes, CPMC even allows your dog to come and stay with you while you’re locked up. I coax Pius in bed with me, but Pierre ends that immediately. “Dont take advantage of a hospital letting your dog in by letting him climb in the sheets with you”. No fun those French.

Other reasons I like it here: I dont have to do remedial labor like cooking or cleaning, and I like having people from all backgrounds of education, ethnicity and experience to talk to, and most of all, I like being cared for by people here because in the real world, it’s difficult for me to ask others for help. Here, it’s safe. So, a few days before I am set to leave for home, I get my wish to stay.

The following morning I have my first contraction, and within 2 hours it is all over, or rather, it all is just beginning…

I have my first contraction at 7:30am, then at 8:30 then 9:00, then every 20, 15, 10 minutes. The nurses, 2 doctors and the pre-term delivery team run around my bedside in cool pandemonium.

Erma Vep says,
Erma Vep says,”Give me drugs!”

The contractions send me to the roof. “What the hell was that!?” I shriek as they grow in pain.
A pain much more severe than when I fell over a cliff on my motorcycle, than when I hit a fence with my face while jumping horses, more so than when I intentionally lit my skin with red hot metal. None of these come close to the pain of a contraction. I’ve heard men tell that the passing of boulder size gall stones through their eurethra comes close. So they say…

I yell to everyone, that women who choose to go through hours of labor are crazy! One nurse humorously agrees with me. I’ve never felt anything like it. I grab the bedpost, bury my head and wail. Shit. Budda. Breathe. Finally Paulette, a favorite nurse has me by the shoulders saying firmly, “Look at me. Breathe. You’re okay. You are going to deliver 2 beautiful children. We will take care of you. I’m here for you, look at my face.”
That was it. A connection to someone and I broke down crying.

Meanwhile the doctor is trying to get me undressed. She grabs me, forces my clothing off, demanding I cooperate. Her grounded firmness tempers me, an animal under duress being commanded by it’s owner.

At 9:50am I’m on the gurney, rushing to the delivery room. When there I’m told my spinal tap will hurt alot. They plunge it in, and I say, “Is that it?” After them contractions nothing was painful.

Dr Huh, my OBY and woman delivering my twins, said to me before she cut my abdomen, “Its going to feel like I am sitting a heavy bag on your stomach, and that I am rooting around in it for something. I’ll talk you through it. Try and relax.”

It did feel just like that, and I imagined them peeling back all the muscle, searching for Baby A, then Baby B. Pulling them out through a tiny incision and handing them over to the special group of strangers in the corner in blue sterile suits. I must have been in shock. It all went so well. I knew the kiddos had left me. They were being attended to in the corner by the doctors. I could feel Dr Huh putting me back together and I asked at the end to watch her sew me up and damn, she let me! How cool is that? There was so much blood, and I was super bloated like that cat I found washed up on the beach a few years back.

The twins had flown the nest. I could hear their cries off to one side, so faint, so small as they took them off to the ER. No romantic interlude for us, no insta-bonding, no eye candy reward in my arms. Just their cries disappearing through the corridor.

A Spork
A Spork

I was able to see each one for a split second before they were rushed to the NICU (Neo-natal intens. care unit) but I felt nothing. I was numb. Where was Pierre? What just happened?? Actually, we’d agreed Pierre wouldn’t be in the room since he faints at blood. Also, I would have totally fed off his nervous anticipation and so I was glad to be alone with the experience.

Afterwards though, he was the only one I wanted to see! He was outside and we rested in a waiting area until the doctor came to take us to see our new family. Max and Emmanuelle. They were like tiny baby birds lying in an incubation nest. Breathing 1000 times per second, absolutely no fat on their bodies under a glaring bright yellow lamp.

I didnt think about if they’d live or not, or complications. We were just all together in the room, my family, and for that moment it’s all that mattered.

A most perfect pair
What gives life?


You’ll never be alone
You’ll never be alone

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Last weekend, we went to Babies’R'us. I captured for the posterity this picture that, I know, a certain Mommy Grooms and a bunch of giggling friends would have never believed to see one day. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and left past 10pm, by far the last customers, and $950 lighter.

For those of you who don’t live in the US, Babies’R'us is the supermarket where you can find absolutely everything you need for a baby, except the baby itself. For the baby, it’s simple: just follow Brad and Angelina who started the trend and go help yourself in Vietnam. They’ve got literally tons of them over there at $25,000 each (approximately $4,000/pound or 5,500 euros/kilo: it’s a very profitable business). It might seem a bit steep at first but at least you are guaranteed to get the model you want, healthy and all, unlike IVF at $15,000 a pop with dubious success rates.

But let’s not let these little preoccupations spoil our pleasure: we came back with the car packed full of delights and we can’t wait to have our two little wonders at home with us.

An Authentic Mother Hen
An Authentic Mother Hen
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Tomorrow is Father’s Day, my first Father’s Day.

Look at what the storks brought me exactly a month ago…

Merritt took the picture but when she saw it on her screen, she immediately sent my mom a copy. It’s true: it’s so cute that it’s difficult to tell if I posed for Father’s Day or for Mother’s Day.

I think the storks were drunk
I think the storks were drunk

 

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Obama got the nomination today, I’m very happy and I’m not alone. I voted for him the way people vote in America: if you like someone, you send him money and if enough people like him as much as you do, he buys himself a good campaign and he gets elected (assuming the voting machines aren’t rigged against him).

I’m very happy for the country too. Something tells me that if a black man got where he is now, it’s because a lot of people were really tired of the stupid white men that have been leading the nation to war, recession and record deficits for the last 8 years. It’s time for a change.

Part of me feels as joyful and inspired as Jesse Jackson Jr, observing through Martin Luther King’s words that “the moral arc of the universe” will “bend toward freedom and justice for all” on August 28th, the day Obama officially accepts the nomination, exactly 45 years after the famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

But part of me sadly notes with Warren Buffet, the richest man on the planet (whom you can hardly accuse of interventionism), that there is only so much that governments can do anymore. Talking about the world economy last week, he declared: “That’s the problem. You can’t steer it, you can’t regulate it anymore. You can’t get the genie back in the bottle.” Basically, we sold it all to the corporations and we did it in such a way that we can’t even take it back.

Another thought that comes to my mind, as a French expat living in the US, is that it’s going to be much easier for me to explain my friends and family that if I enjoy living here, and especially in San Francisco, it’s because for all the abuses and dysfunctions of the American society - most of the time inherited from naive idealizations of an extremely conservative, religious, racist and violent past - there is a fascinating minority of very progressive artists, inventors, thinkers and leaders that acts as a counterbalance and continue to lead the country forward. Which is what Obama will contribute to…

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Kiddos’ weights in grams
Kiddos’ weights in grams

String of good news today.

Manu hasn’t showed any “bradys” in several days (a brady, as the nurses say, is an episode of bradycardia, a drop in the heart rate).

Max got his breathing tubes removed from his nose and he likes it much better like that. His bradys come back from time to time but he had his first full day without. And the best: he’s been allowed to have some breast milk once a day (which is a good thing for Merritt too: she produces so much milk with her milking machine that the nurse told her to stop bringing some because their freezer is full!).

We go to the hospital once a day (twice for Merritt) for a Kangaroo session and we keep the kiddos on us for longer periods of time, up to an hour and a half. Both gain weight, are stronger and really start looking and behaving like good babies. They are more interested in what’s going around; they let us know what position they want to be, pushing and rolling.

They even had their first kiss today. At the end of the Kangaroo, we put them together on Merritt for her first ever armful of babies. “Come on! Kiss your brother!” the nurse said to Manu, pushing her onto Max. Cute like hell.

 

Manu
Manu the girl

 

Max
Max the boy
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