Monday, June 29, 2015

Chamonix and doppelgängers and swimming

Our school year is winding down--only one week left! Eric and I are already getting nostalgic and a bit depressed about leaving France. We fly home on August 5th and won't be back until early May next year.

At a school festival
Dio trying to pop a water balloon with a pair of scissors
Property managing

We found an American family to rent our apartment from the end of August until the end of April. They have three kids ages 7,9, and 12. We're hoping they will adapt well to life here. None of them speak French, but they decided to put their kids in the French public schools (private international schools were too expensive).

During the first few weeks of August when we're gone, we already have the place booked as a vacation rental. So we are really glad that everything is taken care of until we come back. Crossing our fingers, of course, that we have no emergencies!

We've had our share of emergencies back home with our various properties. Our boiler back home--almost brand new--went out during the worst cold snap this winter and didn't get replaced for 2 weeks. In our rental properties we've also had a leaking roof (fortunately, an easy repair) and a caving foundation wall (not so easy of a repair, but at least it seems to have stabilized enough that our repair people, will be working on it as soon as the rain dries up).


Eric drove to Chamonix, near Mont Blanc, to visit a writer's workshop. He gave a reading and had a blast meeting the authors who were teaching the workshop, including Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild, which was recently made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon) and Pam Houston.

He used Blablacar, a ridesharing service similar to Uber, and was able to find people to ride with him both there and back. One was an artist who lives in Chamonix, and the other was a French Canadian woman. I was glad that he had company-- I always worry when he's driving long distances alone with no one to make sure he stays awake.

Meeting Ryxi

While Eric was gone, I hosted some unexpected guests. I know a shaman/earth healer named Ryxi (aka Renee Shaw in real life) and she just happened to be traveling in the Swiss/Italian Alps not too far from where Eric was. I saw her update about it on Facebook. Turns out she was planning on coming to Nice next, so I invited her and a young woman traveling with her to visit.

They stayed for 3 days, and we had great conversations about religion and the environment. They did an energy healing session on me--why not?--and both of them independently picked up on a hip injury I've had for the past year. Ryxi put a yarn "dreadlock" into Zari's hair in her favorite color, turquoise. Zari's friends love it. So yeah, good times with my new-Age doppelgänger Ryxi.


We've been going to the beach almost every afternoon after school. Two weeks ago Eric found a GoPro Hero4 Silver on the ocean floor 60 feet below the surface. It still worked! We've been having fun playing around with the camera and documenting our everyday lives. I put together some of the footage into a little film about our family at the beach. Enjoy!

A random picture of us at church...

A day's catch from spearfishing...

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Felted sweater rainbow quilt...because SCOTUS!!

I'm doing a happy dance today after hearing about the SCOTUS ruling striking down gay marriage bans. My younger brother came out a year ago and I am thrilled that he will be able to marry no matter what state he lives in.

As soon as he told me that he was gay--on my birthday!--I decided I had to make him something. I settled on a blanket made from felted wool sweaters. In rainbow colors, of course :)

Now I finally have an occasion to share these pictures:

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Two car births

I have two car births to share. The first one takes place in a moving car. (In my mind, I'm shouting, "Pull the car over! Pull over!" Having a baby en route wouldn't phase me too much...but driving 60-70 mph while having a baby would freak me out!)

Este video dando la vuelta al mundo. Esta madre iba camino a dar a luz al hospital y no pudo esperar mas y tuvo a su bebe en el auto. Increible la tranquilidad con que maneja la situacion. El milagro de la vida en video.
Posted by 106.3 Más Variedad on Monday, December 8, 2014

This next story, A mother's instinct pays off, isn't just about her roadside birth, but also about how listening to her mama instincts in the days following the birth saved her baby's life. She ends her story with this observation:

you know how people say to trust your intuition?

Seriously, do it.

There was a window of opportunity for Gabriel to get his surgery done. He got it done, only because I knew something wasn’t right and persisted.

Just because someone is wearing a badge or uniform, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get other opinions. Paying attention to that little voice inside your head usually means you’re crazy, yes, but it can also save a life.

Read the rest here:
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

August 5th

August 5th. 5.8.15. Le 5 août.

We're leaving France on August 5th and that date suddenly seems too close, too fast. I remember hitting that point during each pregnancy, when giving birth went from an impossibly far-off event to a looming reality. My to-do list still has plenty of items to check off: build a hatch for the attic, put up bars in the attic window so people can't fall out of it, install flooring in the attic, paint & install baseboards, sew curtains for Ivy's room. That list seems modest compared to what we've done already.

I've started sorting items in to bags mentally labeled keep in France, give away, and bring back home. I sold a few bags of Ivy's clothes at a consignment store around the corner called Falabrik Fabrik. The walls  and ceiling are painted in bright, mis-matching colors. Racks of secondhand clothes form the periphery, inside which you can sit at one of small tables and eat a homemade lunch, or your child can sort through a trunk filled with painted wooden toys and board books. I gave away another bag of clothes to a young Muslim mother, tossing them into the passenger seat as she drove by the tram station. I still have two more bags of clothes and a bag of cloth diapers to sell or give away.

I'm leaving our umbrella stroller behind. I won it at a Lamaze conference back when Dio was little. Its wheels are starting to buckle from carting 3 children and ferrying bags overloaded with groceries. We also won't need our hiking backpack any more; Ivy either rides in the Ergo or walks.

I'm bringing home yards of fabric: heavy absinthe jacquard for curtains in Inga's room. Linen gauze to soften the south-facing French doors in our living room. More bright prints and bold weaves for decorative cushions.

I'm leaving behind most of my summer sandals. They were secondhand to begin with, and they are so worn that I want to save my precious luggage quota for something else. I'm bringing home lots of "new" clothes, all secondhand and some even snatched from our garbage station where residents have created an ad-hoc Freecycle corner.

Eric has a pile of new books that will cross the Atlantic this August: biographies of Anaïs Nin and Isadora Duncan, fictionalized accounts of Hemingway's wives, memoirs of bumbling English people moving to France to escape harried city life and living like kings isolated in their country manors. More novels and short story collections.

I'll miss my quiet afternoons with Ivy while the kids are at school.

Also all the fish that Eric catches with his spear gun

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hike to Peillon and Peille

Five years ago, we hiked up to the perched village of Peillon with Zari (3.5) and Dio (1). It's less than 20 kilometers outside of Nice.

A week ago Saturday, we did the same hike and then tacked on a visit to Peille. Peille is a larger village built along a steep mountainside about 10 kms higher up from Peillon. One advantage of having a car!

Here are some now-and-then pictures from Peillon

Little Zari and Dio playing in a water spigot 5 years ago...

...and now all 4 kids playing in the same spigot

Little Zari playing in the fountain...

... and now Inga (4) playing in the fountain

Inga wanted to go in the fountain to fish out coins, but I wouldn't let her
Zari was our photographer, which is why she is in very few of the pictures!

the hike is short but steep
eating dark chocolate on the way up
pointing out landmarks to Dio

Ivy recovering from a tantrum
getting a hug from Eric
village map
Ivy being silly
trying to climb into the fountain...always following Inga's lead!


We arrived during a marriage and got to see the wedding party waiting for the couple to come out of the town hall. I really loved this village. It's picturesque like Peillon, but people actually live here so it doesn't feel completely empty like Peillon does. It looks over a vast valley and mountainside and feels like you're up in the Rocky Mountains, rather than 22 kilometers from the coast. You can see all the way to the sea.

We enjoyed the little tunnels and archways and squares.

We stopped to pet a stray cat

We found a little playground and stayed until it started raining

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Boobquake averted

Almost two years ago I did a series of nursing portraits with Ivy (some of which are featured on La Leche League of Indiana's website).

Yesterday I received a notice from Facebook that someone had reported this photo for nudity:

The photo would undergo a review to see if it conformed with FB's Community Standards. The relevant part of the "Nudity" section reads:

We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.

Would Facebook pass or fail this photo? In other words, is a baby taking a momentary break still "actively engaged in breastfeeding"?

I'd say yes. Emphatically. Let's be real, nursing babies of a certain age *will* pop off to check out what's going on!

The response came several hours later:

Your photo was reported for violating Facebook's Community Standards on nudity. Since it doesn't violate this community standard, it was not removed.

Thank you Facebook for recognizing that breastfeeding can include distracted nursing babies!

On the other hand, boo to whoever reported this photo. Who has the time to go around reporting perfectly lovely breastfeeding photos?

Ivy's commentary as I was typing this post:

Me.  Baby Ivy. My nursing mama. Nursing Rixa!

Then she decided she needed a little nursing break.
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Monday, May 25, 2015

I'm selling my cloth diapers...anyone interested?

Ivy has been in underwear for 2 months and I am ready to sell my largest (size M) cloth diapers.

(When I get home from France, I will sell my NB & S if you're dying to have some of those adorable Canadian diapers, you can still get your hands on some!)


Before I list them on, are there any takers in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France?

Except for one name-brand diapers, these are all handmade Chloe Toes pocket diapers with FOE & snaps. The inside layer is a stay-dry wicking fleece. These will fit babies starting around 4-6 months until they are potty trained.

Disclaimer: I've used these on all four children, so the elastic isn't as tight as it used to be when I first made them 8 years ago. Most of the diapers are in decent-to-good shape, with 2 or 3 showing some wear/rips around the snaps.

The soakers are a combination of hemp fleece, microfiber, cotton, and other absorbent fabrics. Some soakers are commercially made, although I sewed most of them myself. Some fold into 2-3 layers, others are already sewn together into layers. Again, these have been used for 8 years straight so they are starting to show wear. However, they are still functional.

Here are the specifics of the 14 diapers for sale:
  • 1 white Canada diaper with red FOE
  • 3 red Canada diapers with white FOE (well, over 4 kids the white elastic has grayed somewhat...)
  • 3 green w/ white polka dots, white FOE
  • 1 purple w/ white FOE
  • 1 blue/green w/ white FOE
  • 2 carnival print w/ black FOE (one is starting to rip near the snaps)
  • 2 sun/moon print w/ black FOE
  • 1 yellow Fuzzibunz size small
  • 2 small zippered wetbags
Price: ??? 

Make me a reasonable offer and they are yours! I'm also open to bartering/trades.

All but 2 of the diapers come with soakers (1 full and 1 small soaker in each, which I found to be the best combination).

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

A week in Burgundy

During the second week of school holidays, we traveled to Burgundy. I already wrote about our drive up on the day we came home from Corsica.

We switched gears from  hard-core hiking and exploring and took this next week at a slow, leisurely pace. Some days we just stayed at home, played games, read books, and rode bikes around the village.

We loved staying in the old stone farmhouse...the kids kept discovering more toys squirreled away in one of the barns. We found bikes for the whole family and shelves full of books and toys and games. Plus it was our first time having a yard again since we left the States. By yard, I should specify that the outdoor area was comprised of gravel and gardens around the perimeter. No grass, but still lots of fun!

I was hoping to visit a snail farm, since Burgundy is the major snail-producing region in France--but they open later in the season.

Here are highlights from our week in Burgundy:

Hike to the Roche de Solutré

This large rock juts up out of the rolling hills of southern Burgundy. One one side is a sheer cliff, at the bottom of which were discovered 100,000 horse skeletons.


Chateau de Pierreclos

The oldest parts of the Chateau de Pierreclos were open for tours...

We got to try on real medieval armor and weaponry.

 Lesson learned: don't mess with Zari. She is a fierce warrior.

Chateau de Cormatin

Our kids made it through the 1-hour guided tour of the Chateau de Cormatin (in French of course!)

They were very ready to go outside and explore the grounds...

We saw several cranes (?). One was eyeing the visitors.

Another pair was on one of the chimneys at the very top of the chateau

They liked the topiaries shaped like animals...

...and the turtle fountain

Eric played tag with the kids inside a hedge maze. This is the view from the tower in the center.

I geeked out over the kitchen gardens

A fun visit

Cinderella Moment

The person who looks after the farmhouse when the owners aren't there stopped by to say hello. He invited us to come swimming at his house, since his four kids were home during the school holidays. We said, "sure, why not?" I had a mental image of an above-ground pool in someone's backyard. Instead, we followed him home (basically around the corner and into the next village) and gasped when he pulled inside the gates of a private chateau.

Turns out he's the chateau's caretaker. He lives in the carriage house, which he turned from the original stable/barn into a beautiful home (he's an architect and works from home; caretaking is his side job). The pool was on the other side of the indoor, glass-walled poolhouse, every amenity imaginable. It had a lovely view over a wine-growing valley.

So this is how the 1% live, I thought.

We enjoyed every minute. His children were lovely and wore our kids out. He invited us over again, and we happily took him up on his offer!

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