Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas meal at a French public school

This Thursday our public school served a special Christmas meal for lunch. When I read Zari's menu, I had a "we're not in Kansas anymore moment." You'd never see anything like this back home!

Au menu de Noël:

Bagel de saumon fumé et ses légumes croquants
Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine à la bisque de homard
Riz pilaf (bio)
"Ma bûche créative!"
sur la base d'une bûche patissière traditionelle
Chocolat de Noël

Christmas menu:

Bagel with smoked salmon and crisp vegetables
Pike quenelle with tomato-wine sauce and lobster bisque
Organic rice pilaf
"Decorate your own Yule Log!"
on a traditional Yule log pastry
Christmas chocolate
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Nice at night

Last week we went on a walk to see the Christmas lights. It was drizzling but warm. All these places are just a few minutes' walk from our front door!

On the Promenade du Paillon is a structure reminiscent of the off-shore Casino Jetée-Promenade, built in the late 1800s and destroyed in 1944 by German troops. You can see the fountains of the Miroir d'Eau behind the casino. The kids ran and rode their scooters through the water. Amazing how they don't care if they get wet even in cold weather.

The original casino circa 1891. This was at the height of Belle-Epoque Nice, when the English came down in droves during the winter season. Hence the walkway along the ocean named the "Promenade des anglais."

Ferris Wheel on the Place Masséna!

Place Masséna

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Why we moved our family to France

We made this 5-minute video about our family's decision to relocate to Nice--who we are, why France and why Nice specifically, some of the risks and challenges of leaving our life back home, what we were looking for versus what we ended up with in an apartment, and our life now in Nice.


Why we moved our family to France from Rixa Freeze on Vimeo.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A somewhat melancholy post

Ivy and I have lots of one-on-one time during school days. During the mornings I can pretend that I'm a mom of just one child instead of four. We go on long walks, run errands, clean the house, go to the park, or just side by side as I read and she plays with toys.

Ivy is little enough that I can pretend she's still a baby. She will be our last--barring some extraordinary circumstance--and I am already mourning the loss of her babyhood. It's more than that, really; it's the end of a stage of my life as a young mother. As long as I have one baby, I still feel like I am in that group. But it's coming to an end. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the next stage of my life. I keep thinking of what's coming and honestly I don't know if I'm very excited.

Parenting keeps getting more complicated as my kids get older, and I miss the sheer joy and simplicity of raising babies. I don't have much to look forward to once I no longer have a baby underfoot. Teenagers? Bleh. My kids turning into adults and leaving me alone? Sob.

So tell me I have something to look forward to. Because I thinking of growing older and aging and getting wrinkles and health problems (okay, maybe some of this is a long way off!) and my kids getting bigger and none of it seems interesting. What I'm trying to say is: having newborns and babies has been, for me, the Best Thing Ever and I don't know if anything else can make up for the loss of that part of my life.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ivy is 20 months old!

What's new with Ivy?

I suppose Ivy is a toddler, not a baby. But I still think of her as a baby. It's wishful thinking to stave off the inevitable growing up.

Molars #3 and 4 are peeking out

Huge uptick in the number of words she says. Occasionally she puts two words together: "no, mine" or "big ball" or "Zari shoes."

She's still waking up 2-3 times a night to nurse

Loves naps with grandma

Kills me with her cuteness. She gets so many smiles from passersby.

She would rather walk than ride in the stroller. This suits Inga just fine; more often than not, I'm pushing Inga while Ivy runs alongside with her bouncy toddler run.

So smart, so aware of things, and often so stubborn if she has her mind set on something

Loves to take baths (who doesn't?) and gets screaming mad if I turn the shower on instead. But she is happy to shower if I'm in with her.

Loves her siblings. Loves watching fish and cat movies on YouTube. Also asks for the movie Epic by name all the time (we borrowed it from our neighbor last week). She pronounces it "Epic-ah."

And is our growing soccer team!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ivy's epic story

On Zari's birthday, Ivy started telling a story. It was epic. She included dramatic gestures, earnest facial expressions, and carefully timed pauses. It lasted at least 20 minutes. I caught a few minutes on film.

If only we knew what she was saying.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Calling all breech mamas

I am passing along a message from a researcher, Karol Petrovska, collecting responses from mothers who planned vaginal breech births (regardless of outcome). Here's an excerpt from the survey:

This study aims to explore experiences of women who have been diagnosed with a breech presentation late in pregnancy and plan for a vaginal breech birth.

This survey is aimed at women who have planned a vaginal breech birth at or close to full term in the past 7 years. We are interested in your experiences regardless of whether the final outcome was a vaginal breech birth or a caesarean section. Sharing your experience with us is greatly valued and your views will contribute to improving care provided to pregnant women with a breech baby.

This survey is requesting information about your decision making process for planning a vaginal breech birth. It should take approximately 20 minutes of your time to complete.

Karol is working with Professor Caroline Homer and Associate Professor Andrew Bisits from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. If you qualify, please take a few minutes to add your experience!

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Zari's baptism

Zari was baptized today.

It was one of Those Days where everything goes awry and you somehow pull through. We spent much of yesterday baking cookies and cakes to share afterward. I finished sewing the sash for her baptismal dress last night at 10 pm. And of course, I *had* to come down with fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, and achy body. Great timing. And Ivy decided to wake up 4-5 times.

Also our printer broke so I had to borrow our downstairs neighbor's printer last night to print the program and the violin-piano duet that my mom and I played. This meant that we weren't able to practice the music until today during church.

The biggest craziness today was a major plumbing problem at the church: the hot water ran out after just a few minutes, so the water in the baptismal font was cooooold. Several men formed a bucket brigade and were heating pots of water on the stovetop and pouring them into the font. It turned the water from ice-cold to just kind-of-cold. Zari was a trooper, though, and didn't fuss despite the cold dunking! "It wasn't quite as cold as the ocean!" I warmed her up afterwards with a hair dryer.

In the end, it was a lovely day for our family. My mom and I both gave short sermons (mine was en français, bien sûr!) before our duet. We sang my all-time favorite hymn "Souviens-toi, mon enfant." And we feasted on Lebkuchen cookies (my German grandma's recipe) and brown butter pumpkin cake (sugar cut in half for the cake batter).

Because I am a birth nerd, I worked in some stuff about birth. Baptism is, after all, a symbol of re-birth...emerging from the water and from darkness into the air and light. It's not every day that you get to talk about amniotic sacs at church! Haha!

[Sermon text below]

Je suis très fière de toi, Zari. D’être baptisé est une décision très sérieuse parce que c’est le début d’un long voyage. C’est le début d’etre discple de Jésus. C’est le début de ta nouvelle famille quand tu prend sur toi le nom de Christ.

Après ton baptême, tu va toujours faire partie de notre famille Freeze, mais tu vas aussi faire partie de la famille de Christ. C’est à dire que tu fais partie de tous ce qui habitent dans cette terre.

Tu sais que nous sommes tous les frères et les soeurs, même si on a les parents différents, parce que nous avons les mêmes parents Célestes. C’est pour ca que Jésus nous a dit que les 2 grands commandements sont d’aimer Dieu et d’aimer ton prochain.

Je sais que tu as beaucoup étudié, tu as beaucoup pensé, et tu as beaucoup prié pour savoir si le baptême était une bonne décision pour toi. J’espère que tu a les mêmes désirs d’aider et d’aimer les un des autres que le peuple dans Mosiah chapitre 18, versés 8-11 :

8 Et il arriva que [Alma] leur dit...puisque vous désirez entrer dans la bergerie de Dieu et être appelés son peuple, et êtes disposés à porter les fardeaux les uns des autres, afin qu’ils soient légers;
9 oui, et êtes disposés à pleurer avec ceux qui pleurent, oui, et à consoler ceux qui ont besoin de consolation, et à être les témoins de Dieu en tout temps, et en toutes choses, et dans tous les lieux où vous serez, jusqu’à la mort, afin d’être rachetés par Dieu et d’être comptés avec ceux de la première résurrection, afin que vous ayez la vie éternelle —
10 Or, je vous le dis, si c’est là le désir de votre cœur, qu’avez-vous qui vous empêche d’être baptisés au nom du Seigneur, en témoignage devant lui que vous avez conclu avec lui l’alliance de le servir et de garder ses commandements, afin qu’il déverse plus abondamment son Esprit sur vous?
11 Et alors, lorsque le peuple eut entendu ces paroles, il battit des mains de joie, et s’exclama: C’est là le désir de notre cœur.

Maintenant je vais parler un peu du symbole du baptême. Qu’est-ce que c’est qu’un symbole ? C’est quelque chose qui nous rappelle de quelque chose d’autre.

Le baptême est un symbole de 3 choses à la même fois. Premièrement, le baptême est un symbole de la naissance. Comment ?

Zari, quand tu était un bébé dans mon ventre, tu grandis dans un sac d’eau. Quant tu était née, tu est sortie de l’eau et tu t’est trouvée dans l’air. Aussi, tu est sortie de l’obscurité et tu t’est trouvée dans la lumière. C’est la même avec le baptême—tu sors de l’eau et tu entres dans l’air est dans la lumière.

Le baptême est aussi un symbole de la mort—mais pas seulement de la mort. C’est un symbole de la mort et de la résurrection. Quand on est mort, notre corps est atterri dans la terre—dans l’obscurité. Nous croyons, nous espérons que, à la résurrection, nous serons ressuscité. C’est à dire, nous croyons que nous allons avoir un nouveau corps, que nous allons sortir de l’obscurité et rentrer dans la lumière.

Donc le baptême est un symbole de la naissance, de la mort, est de la résurrection. C’est un symbole de l’espoir que notre vie n’arrête pas a la mort mais que nous allons continuer a vivre après cette vie sur la terre.

Pour finir, je veux te dire, Zari, que je trouve le symbole du bapteme extremement émouvant et précieux, parce que c’est un symbole d’un acte essentiellement féminin. C’est seulement les femmes qui peuvent donner la vie aux autres.

Quand Jésus a choisi ce symbole, il a montré qu’il apprécie les femmes autant que les hommes. Souviens-toi qu’après sa mort et sa résurrection, Jésus est apparu premièrement à une femme, Marie, et que Jésus a enseigné les femmes dans un temps quand c’était interdit. Après avoir eu des enfants et devenue mère, j’ai gagné une nouvelle compréhension du symbole du baptême.
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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Last week in pictures

Most of these come from my mom's camera. I'm usually the one behind the lens, so I love having pictures of our whole family together.

Heading out on a walk

Face painting before soccer practice on Wednesday

Trip to Monaco on Thursday

Beach pictures from Friday


The port in Nice

Birthday cake!

After church we visited the Franciscan monastery & gardens in Cimiez.

My favorite part is the sunken herb garden at the far end

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Happy 8th birthday Zari!

We've spent the past two days celebrating Zari's 8th birthday. Yesterday--her "real" birthday--started with eating pain au chocolat and homemade waffles and opening presents. She got lots of artistic/crafty things: face paints, origami kits, nice markers, and a grown-up coloring book.

For lunch Zari and I went out to eat at a restaurant of her choice. She chose our downstairs neighbor's restaurant, Chez Palmyre, which is right down the street. Zari was giggly and giddy. She had soupe du jour (pureed pumpkin & potato), linguini in in a red pistou sauce, and pot au chocolate with coffee-infused whipped cream on top. I had beef carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef) with an anchoïade sauce, morue (cod) with a tomato vinaigrette, and tiramisu. Everything was delicious.

A little plug for Chez Palmyre: it's a small restaurant that seats about 24 people. It's decorated to feel like your French grandma's kitchen. You have to reserve 4-6 weeks in advance for dinner and 1-2 weeks in advance for lunch. It serves traditional French food, more rustic than fancy-schmancy. And you get a 3-course meal for 17 Euros. Amazing. It's open M-F for lunch and dinner.

We took some pictures of each other at the restaurant

Then we made funny faces

The whole family, including my mom, spent the afternoon at a small, secluded beach on the far side of the port. The ocean was calm and glassy and almost unnaturally clear. No wind, no clouds, no waves. I can't believe we're still swimming at the end of October! Eric went spearfishing and found a huge school of dorade royale. But sadly a group of scuba divers scared them away.

We had a small family party after dinner with a raspberry & cream cake. We read her birth story (actually Eric's version because it was shorter), looked at pictures (1 day old, 2 days old, 3 days old), and watched movies of her as a newborn. can she already be so old?

Today the celebrations continued... in the morning we baked little cakes, made frosting, and gathered supplies for her party in the afternoon. Zari had invited everyone from her school class, but sadly only one person came. (It doesn't help that we're on a school holiday right now...but still it was disappointing). But a few other friends and their families came and saved the day. We did face painting, let the kids frost and decorate their own cakes, and let everyone run loose and eat lots of treats that usually aren't found at our house.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ivy is 19 months old!

The city of Nice is celebrating the Promenade du Paillon turning 1 year old. This greenbelt or coulé verte runs through the heart of the old part of town along the old riverbed (the river is now underground). We explored various workshops (bees, honey tasting, and beeswax candle crafting), went to a Guignol puppet show, had our picture taken with various props, and attended the evening spectacle featuring aerial dancers suspended by giant transparent balloons. Before we headed home, the kids held an impromptu dance party along the promenade.

A fun day for Ivy to turn 19 months old.

Sleep is still not great. Ivy normally wakes 3-4 times per night. I try to put her down without nursing the first time she wakes up (usually around 11 pm). Sometimes it fails spectacularly. I just won't dwell on how my other kids were sleeping the entire night by this age...

Last night Ivy woke up at 2 am and 5 am and it felt amazing to have so much sleep. I actually woke up at 1:30 wondering why she hadn't woken up yet. And then I couldn't get back to sleep, so I crept into her room to make sure she was breathing. The crazy things you do when you're a parent.

She loves to nurse (picture taken by Zari). 

Pottying is fantastic. Ivy's diaper is dry most days and she goes pee every time I ask her to.

Ivy understands and says lots of words in both French and English. She's good at saying back words I throw at her. If they're too complex, she babbles out something passable and makes her siblings laugh.

There's an iron cannonball mounted on the corner of our street, a remnant from an invading Turkish fleet besieging Nice in 1543. Ivy looks for it every time we're headed in or out. It's a useful distraction technique if she happens to be throwing a temper tantrum on the way home.

Sibling pictures

Other odds and ends

Dumpster diving finds this week: a teddy bear and a pair of sport sandals for Inga.

I borrowed a sewing machine from someone at church and am finishing a dress for Zari. She's getting baptized in a few weeks and needed something for the occasion. After that it will become either a dress (maybe I'll dye it a fun color) or a nightgown. I made it out of an antique linen sheet that I bought for 7 Euros.

Eric caught a large octopus last week. We made a cold marinated salad out of it. It tasted good but was quite rubbery. Our chef neighbor downstairs gave us some hints on how to prepare it properly. You either have to whack it as hard as possible several times to break down the tissue, or you freeze it for a day or two before cooking it. And Eric probably undercooked it given how large it was. Maybe he'll catch another one and we can try it again.

I made these coconut cookies and this coconut cake. Both are excellent! I only baked the cookies for 15-17 minutes, until they were golden brown. Be sure to use unsweetened coconut for both recipes.

The kids are on fall break this week and next.

My mom arrives on Monday for a 2-week visit! 
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Toddler nursing & yoga session

Ivy loves to nurse. Especially while doing yoga.

Downward facing dog is easiest.

Sometimes she adds a leg lift

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eric's newest baby: book #2

Eric's second book, Hemingway on a Bike, was released last week by University of Nebraska Press. It's a collection of creative nonfiction--essays about raising children, fixing houses, living in France, and playing odd sports. And lots more.

Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of the Poets, wrote this about Eric's book:

A wonderful book of essays, wry and wise, in which Eric Freeze considers what it is to be a twenty-first-century literary man’s man in all his house-remodeling, sweet-parenting, foosball-playing glory.

I love this bit of praise from Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River and American Salvage:

Eric Freeze is the kind of thoughtful writer and parent who will help us save the world.

One of my favorite essays is "Supergirl." It's about Eric telling stories to Zari about her superhero-alternative-universe-self who gets zapped by a radioactive jellyfish and gains supersonic flying powers. It's about a little girl's longing to be the hero, to defy gravity, to fly. It's about how being a parent means pouring your heart into silly stories that make your children giggle and stand a little taller at the end of the day.

Other things you'll read about in this book...

  • Our crash-and-burn TV interview in London about Zari's "freebirth"
  • Hemingway riding on a bike (obviously!)
  • Matisse coming to Nice and being captivated by its light and colors
  • Vulcans and all things Star Trek
  • Toddler Zari running her heart out across a parking lot and nearly getting herself run over
  • Mormons and their weird obsessions with beards

And so much more! You'll laugh! You'll cry! You won't regret it!

And even better...if you buy the book from the publisher before the end of October, you get 30% off the list price (and less than Amazon's current price).

To learn more about Eric, check out his new website

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Irish midwife Philomena Canning

This week over 200 mothers, midwives, and other supporters marched to protest the suspension of Irish midwife Philomena Canning's indemnity insurance. Below is a guest post by Susannah Sweetman explaining more about the insurance issue and the status of home birth in Ireland.

Photo from

I am a PhD candidate in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin. My area of research focuses on women's beliefs about birth, and examines the multiple forces that shape contemporary femininity in birth.

I am also a mother of three children, and I am 32 weeks pregnant with my fourth child. My first child was born in hospital, and my second and third children were born at home, with the support of my midwife, Philomena Canning. As of the 12th of September, the Health Service Executive has suspended Philomena's insurance, which has in effect shut down her practice, and has left 25 women without a midwife, 6 or 8 of whom, myself included, are due to give birth before Christmas.

No charges have been brought against her. The cases that are supposedly the catalyst of this suspension involve two women who were transferred to hospital following the births of their babies for precautionary reasons: all were discharged again within hours, and the mothers and babies are well. No complaint has even been made against Philomena in 31 years of practice; the women whose cases are being used against her reject any suggestion that her actions were anything less than entirely professional. Her record is exemplary: in 2012 she was awarded Midwife of the Year in Ireland, which she refused to accept on the grounds that it was sponsored by a formula company.

Only 0.2% of births in Ireland are home births, largely because there is such a lack of support at policy level. All of the international research findings around planned home birth support the view that it is associated with significantly reduced interventions, and no increased risk for perinatal outcomes. In areas where maternity care policy supports home birth provision (parts of the UK, Holland) rates are as high as 30%. The demand amongst women for home births in Ireland is evident in the over-subscription to the small number of home birth services; the continued resistance of the Health Service Executive and Department of Health and Children to support and expand these services in line with the available evidence further illustrates what a recent national report (HIQA, 2013) into the death of Savita Halappanavar described as "an inability to learn from service users' and patients' negative experiences".

There has been a series of scandals within the maternity care services in Ireland over the past number of years, including the Scans Misdiagnosis Scandal, infant deaths in Port Laoise Hospital, the Symphysiotomy Report, and a number of maternal deaths including Savita Halappanavar, Dhara Kivlehan, Bimbo Onanuga, and Tania McCabe. None of the health care providers who have been implicated in these cases have been prevented from continuing to work. On the same day that the High Court application for the reinstatement of Philomena Canning's insurance was refused, the inquest into the death of Dhara Kivlehan concluded that her death was as a result of medical misadventure.

Throughout all of these inquests and investigations into the workings of the HSE and the maternity services it has been found that the underpinning culture is one that does not support accountability, transparency, or communication. Above all, the HSE and successive Ministers for Health have displayed an utter disregard for women and babies by their continuing failure to implement evidence-based care models.

Please sign this petition, it will help to put pressure on the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, and the HSE to reinstate Philomena's insurance and put her back in practice.

Twitter #isupportphilomenacanning

Thank you!

Susannah Sweetman

PhD Candidate
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Trinity College
Dublin 2
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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Zari's letter to the circus

We had planned on going to the circus last weekend. Our downstairs neighbors gave us vouchers for free tickets, which they received because they are business owners. They went the day before and invited Inga along, only to discover that all the free tickets had been taken. They ended up buying tickets because they were already there with the kids. They warned us to go first thing in the morning to pick up tickets before they were all gone.

Eric got there within a few minutes of the ticket counter opening, waited in line for an hour, and finally got to the ticket agent. Guess what? All the free tickets were gone. Everyone else in the line was there for the same reason, and they were ticked off. One woman made such a scene that she had to be removed by security.

Apparently the circus does this on purpose, knowing that most people who have the vouchers will be forced to buy tickets when they arrive.

When Eric came home with the bad news that we weren't going to the circus, Zari was devastated. We explained that the circus does this on purpose. She was shocked at the dishonesty--on the same level as when her scooter was stolen.

She wrote the following letter to the circus. It's going into the mail today.

A letter for the circus

But, this note is for the behavior of the circus

Dear Circus,

It is not nice to trick people. I even cried because you tricked me. My papa said if the circus said people pay, we would not go to the circus. So I would love if you would actually tell the truth about the slip of paper that said if some body brought that slip of paper you wouldn't have to buy the real ticket.


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