Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ski day!

We drove up to Isola 2000 for a half-day of skiing. Left at 10 am, got back at 7:30 pm, and had 5 hours of skiing in between. Inga threw up on the way there, and Ivy puked on the way back. But both times we caught it in a container, so no mess. Hooray!

Our downstairs neighbor and her son were staying in a hotel at the ski resort, so Ivy and Inga and I went swimming at the hotel pool.  Nothing like swimming in a very warm pool while overlooking snow-covered mountains and seeing skiers whiz by right past the window.

I love that Eric wears the same jacket from when were were dating 17+ years ago. He doesn't even own a proper ski jacket--it's a rain jacket with a sweater underneath! Canadians are weird.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ivy is 23 months...and we haven't disappeared

Hey friends, family, birthy people, lurkers, long-time readers, first-time readers...I'm still here!

We had an incredibly busy few weeks renovating from morning until midnight most days--with occasional breaks to feed our children and to put on another DVD. Here's a synopsis of what we did from when I last wrote:

Back bathroom
  • removed the old tiles
  • opened up a doorway to get the tub in
  • replumbed the entire bathroom & the WC
  • rewired the bathroom
  • installed new tiles & grout
  • installed the jacuzzi
  • ripped out and put in new flooring
  • plastered the walls, then applied paintable wallpaper and painted the walls/ceiling/trim
  • installed light fixtures & heated towel rack

Back bedroom
  • repaired the cracks & peeling plaster in the ceilings
  • re-wallpapered one wall
  • repainted

Master bedroom/bathroom
  • tiled the wall where the sink will go
  • built a cover for all the pipes & electrical work
  • removed old wallpaper, installed new wallpaper
  • repainted all the walls & trim
  • installed a sink made from an antique marble-topped coiffeuse
  • gilded 3 mirrors with Lefranc & Bourgeois' dorure liquide (gilding liquid). This stuff is amazing, by the way. I bought a bottle of tin and a bottle of classic gold. They're small at 75 ml but they go a long way.

  • Removed crumbling paint and plaster from one of the walls (due to water leaking from the neighboring building)
  • wallpapered all the walls--a temporary fix but at least it looks 100x better
  • painted

Oh, and we also repainted the rest of the apartment (walls, ceiling, trim) except for the attic bedroom. French paint is...weird. When it dries, it turns flaky and powdery. I'm used to American paint that turns into a stretchy film.

Why did we go through this insanity?

We had to get the house entirely ready for a TV show! I can't write about it until it airs, but it's on HGTV and it will be fun to watch :) Filming took place over 5 full days.

The day after we finished filming, we started a new project: taking out the dividing wall in the living room. We're back to having plaster dust everywhere.

We have "Pierre," an electrician and master-of-most-trades via HelpX, assisting us for the next few weeks. After the ceilings, walls, and floors are patched up, we'll rewire the attic bedroom, retile the WC, and finish lots of other small projects.

Here's our living room minus the dividing wall

Dio helping with the demolition

And I'm stressed 
So, on top of all of the renovations and filming, our boiler back home broke. It's only 3 years old and supposedly still under parts & labor warranty. It took our installer almost a week to figure out how to get the right part ordered. Lots of drama and phone calls later, and in the end we bought a replacement boiler at our expense (helped by a huge manufacturer's discount, but still $$$). Then our oven back home broke too. The poor family renting our house has been camped in our master suite with several space heaters going. They're cosy enough as long as they don't venture outside the bedroom! I've been trying to get things repaired ASAP but of course things can only happen as fast as the parts arrive. 

Now let's talk about Ivy!

I missed Ivy's 22-month update and am determined to get this one done on time. She has such a vibrant personality. She's whip-smart and speaks 3-4 word phrases in French and English and often both. She loves to nurse and will tell me exactly where she wants to sit and which side.  Typical things she said today (with translations, too!)
  • Non, pas ça manteau. Ce manteau. No, not that coat. This coat.
  • Non, pas ca pipi. No, I don't want to go pee.
  • Epic! Encore Epic! (Epic is her favorite film. She asks to watch it several times a day.)
  • My chaud. Manteau off. I am hot. Take my coat off.
  • My baby. I am a baby.
  • "ih" ça chair. I want to nurse in that chair. "Ih" is how she says nurse. No idea why.
  • My chaussures sale. My shoes are dirty.

She had 3 non-consecutive nights of sleeping all night. I had a party...and then it ended. Now she's back to waking up 2-3 times a night. Argh. This girl is the trickiest sleeper we've ever had.

She loves to stick her tongue out. She has a bouncy run and she holds her arms out when she runs, almost as if she'll flap away.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

We're at it again

So the reason for the radio silence over guessed it...the Freeze family once again has started major renovations and our house is turned upside-down and we have plaster dust and cement and sawdust all over the house.

Just as we were wrapping up the mezzanine & new shower in our bedroom, Eric decided to make a big push to get the other bathroom redone. That meant hiring someone to open up the wall between the bathroom and adjoining bedroom in order to get the new bathtub inside. (Remember that it was too big to fit through the bathroom door?)

Opening up a wall in a 500-600 year old building in France is different than opening up a wall in North America. I'm used to the simple logic of studs + drywall or, in an older house, studs + plaster & lath. Here, interior walls are composed of a complex sandwich of plaster, cement, random pieces of wood in no logical pattern, and earth. Yes, earth as in dirt. It's a mess when you start taking it apart.

So the new craziness began one week before we had guests arriving. We had to get the wall opened up, the old tile taken out, the plumbing redone, and the new tub installed--all in the week before our guests arrived.

To top it off, we had never met our guests before. I was really stressed trying to prepare the house for people I didn't know.

Why were we inviting virtual strangers into our house?

Because we discovered HelpX ( It's a work exchange service that connects hosts with people who are willing to work in exchange for food and lodging. Helpers might lend a hand with the wine harvest, help build a garage or a shed, repaint a house, serve meals at a B&B...really, it could be anything the host is looking for.

Thanks to HelpX, we connected with a lovely couple from Bretagne (Brittany) who were eager to come to Nice and help work on our projects. He (let's call him Jean) is recently retired and is highly skilled with anything related to home renovations. She (we'll call her Hala) a fantastic cook and seamstress, born in Tunisia and living in France since her teens.

We squeaked by and got the tub in and running the day they arrived. Here are some photos of the devastation--thanks to lots of help from two sets of Mormon missionaries. They had a blast wielding hammers and chisels and destroying stuff.

Here's the hole in the wall that has since become a doorway into the bedroom

This is where the sink & bathtub were

Once we saw the state of the old plumbing, we agreed that it needed to be redone. Off Eric went to the plumbing didn't take too long, except we discovered leaks in a few fittings that had to be replaced the next day.

Our guests arrived on Monday and stayed in the (mostly finished) master bedroom. I was up late on Sunday putting on the final coat of paint on the mezzanine, scrubbing plaster dust off the floors, and stripping paint off the door frame to get the door to close properly. I feel a bit sheepish that we didn't have a sink installed; we are all sharing the kitchen sink for toothbrushing. We pulled out one of our old pedestal sinks this evening and will hook it up temporarily in their bedroom until we find a new one.

Anyway, we are super impressed with HelpX and with our guests. We just hope they aren't too disturbed living amidst renovations and four energetic children! We've shared lots of delicious meals, showed each other pictures of our houses, talked politics and social policy, and of course worked together.

Eric says the guy knows his stuff. In just 3 1/2 days of working half-days, he and Eric have secured the new plumbing in place; cut channels in the walls and ceilings and rewired the bathroom to have a ceiling light, a ventilation fan, a heated towel rack, and a few extra outlets; hooked up the bathtub drain (it's where all the Freezes bathe and shower, so it has to be functional during all of the renovations!); applied plaster board to the two big walls that will be retiled, and plastered over all of the wiring. Tomorrow they lay the tile! It's amazing progress.

While Eric and Jean were working in the bathroom, Hala and I have been cooking and sewing. She's helping me sew a mountain of decorative cushions for our couch, daybed, and for most of the bedrooms.

We're lending our guests our car tomorrow afternoon and evening so they can visit friends in Cannes. Jean lived in Nice for 6 years in the 1990s and has friends and family in the area. They leave in one week from now, and I am excited to imagine all the things we'll get done in the next 6 days.

It's definitely been an adventure at our house. 
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

How the Freeze family goes skiing

Warning: lots of vomit ahead

We haven't lived near any good ski hills--or near any ski hills, really--for almost 15 years. Eric is a native of southern Alberta and lived an hour away from the majestic Canadian Rockies. He grew up skiing in the mountains near Waterton and Banff National Parks. My own ski history is less exotic; I learned how to ski on 300-foot tall bluffs overlooking the Mississippi river in Minnesota. I joke that I can ski on anything because I learned how to ski in the dark, in subzero temperatures, and on sheer ice. My parents always took us night skiing because it was less expensive. I don't think I ever skied during the day until I was around 16 and went to Alta in Utah.

Anyway, we've been gearing up for ski season here in France. We found secondhand equipment for Eric, Zari, and Dio. I'm going to wait until Inga and Ivy are a bit older before I try to go. We ended up buying a used car two days ago (very long story...more on this later) so we all drove up to Isola 2000 this morning.

The road to Isola is narrow and winding. An hour into the drive, Inga said she felt sick. I tossed her one of Ivy's diapers and told her to puke into it. Nothing happened. A few minutes later, Zari said abruptly, "I need a diaper--I'm going to puke!" By time I tossed her the other spare diaper, ALL FOUR KIDS had vomited all over our new car. All over.

We pulled over as soon as there was a shoulder to stop on and assessed the damage. I had no more diapers. I had no wipes, no paper towels, nothing. The kids were covered in puke, as were their seats, the sides of the car, and the floor.

So we kept on driving. Well, first I yelled at all of the kids. Then we kept on driving, all four kids crying, because what else could we do but drive? We didn't even pass a single gas station the rest of the way, although Eric found a tiny grocery store and bought a diapers and baby wipes. A few minutes before we arrived at the ski resort, we pulled over and cleaned everything up as best as possible with one package of baby wipes. 

The puke-o-rama set us back enough that we bought half-day passes and ate lunch before skiing. It was gorgeously warm. Being in the sun felt like sunbathing. What a novelty! I pulled Ivy and Inga around in a sled, and we cheered Zari and Dio on as they both learned how to ski. Within a few minutes, Zari had figured out how to turn and stop with no coaching at all. Dio took a bit longer but could ski all on his own by the end of the afternoon. Ivy and Inga ate loads of snow.

After about two hours on the slopes, I brought Ivy and Inga inside to dry off their feet and warm up their hands. Isola doesn't have a big ski lodge like I'm used to in the US and Canada. There's just a little ticket booth with restrooms. And of course, tons of condominiums with little shops on the bottom. We wandered around in the hallways between the shops and eventually sat down on the floor--there weren't benches or chairs anywhere!

I put on an Astérix movie on my laptop for Inga, and Ivy fell asleep nursing. I set her down on the floor for her nap. The sun was behind the mountains by time Ivy woke up, and it was getting chilly. (Okay, it was still 4 degrees Celsius when we left, so maybe I'm just getting wimpy!) Dio joined me at the end of the afternoon and scarfed down baguettes, goat cheese, and smoked ham. He wanted to go out skiing again, but Eric and Zari had gone to a different hill, so we didn't see them until the lifts were closing. We had a fun time at the end sliding down some little hills on our feet and on the sled. Dio would have stayed out all night.

We left Isola at 5:30 pm. I scavenged three cardboard food containers from the garbage to serve as makeshift puke buckets. We played "I spy" and rolled the windows down when anyone felt queasy. I gripped my door handle as Eric navigated the tortuous roads in the dark. Ivy threw up twice--in the container! after saying "puke"! hooray!--but everyone else made it home by 7:30 pm with their food still in their stomachs.

Dinner was hot chocolate, baguettes dipped in raclette (melted cheese, white wine, & cream), and broccoli. I put a big load of laundry on and bathed Ivy and Inga.

(Then, of course, there were home renovations to take care of after the kids were in bed. I sanded down the first layer of varnish on the mezzanine floor and applied the second coat. But that's another topic.)

That, my friends, is how the Freeze family goes skiing.

Next task: de-toxing our car.

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

A request and some interesting things to read

First off, a blog reader is looking for a home birth midwife in Cochabamba, Bolivia. If you have any suggestions, please comment or send me an email. She's 7 months pregnant, so she needs your help quickly!


 Now for your enjoyment:

1. School lunches around the world (in pictures...note the difference between France and the U.S.)

2. What Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught me about being a stay-at-home dad

3. Pregnant doctor finds intense pressure to have a cesarean
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Sunday, January 04, 2015

Ivy is 21 months old!

21 months, that's 1 3/4 years, which is almost 2. And that gets me started on the slippery slope to 3, and then 4, and then 8, and then...

Ivy is displaying her independence and wishes to try everything her older siblings do.

Ivy often speaks in 2-word combinations, often an adjective + noun.
mama's chaussures (shoes)
papa's apple
my socks
big ball

Sometimes she uses "my" as a substitute for "I"
my draw
my walk

My favorite thing she's said recently: "orca whale." She loves to sing the Orca Whale song.

Her favorite word: encore (more/again). Voila is also high on her list. Also "underwear," which she loves to put on. She speaks lots of French, almost as much as English.

The most startling thing out of her mouth happened today: she was standing up in her high chair saying what sounded like château blanc very emphatically. The blanc was drawn out a bit like bllllanc. I kept asking her questions trying to figure out what she wanted. No, she kept saying château blanc very insistently. We finally figured it out--she was asking to watch the movie Le Château Ambulant (Howl's Moving Castle) by Miyazaki!

She loves to draw. First thing in the morning, even before she eats, she says "Draw. My draw."

We're working on pottying. Peeing is going well, but she's started to hold her poop in, which makes her constipated and even more scared to poop. I have to force her into a squatting position over the toilet. She screams and fights me, but it helps her go. Poor girl. I've tried to sneak chewable magnesium sulfate tablets in various foods, but she has an uncanny radar for them. I've crushed them and stirred them into sorbet, put little fragments inside frozen raspberries, mixed the powder into fruit juice, etc. And the thing is, they taste good! The other kids beg to eat them.

Sleep: still waking 1-3 times a night. She is the trickiest of all our kids both getting to sleep and staying asleep.

She love to nurse. She also gets very upset if I tell her no. Sometimes I have when it's 50 degrees and windy and I don't want to open up my coat.

Ivy has a stubborn streak (nothing news-worthy, just typical of her age & development). I can't make her do something if she refuses; I can only distract her or wait until the tantrum is over.

ps--I spent New Year's Day sanding the wood beams that support the mezzanine in the master bedroom. Do you like my makeshift dust mask? 1 layer of fleece + 1 layer of linen.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Superheroes with bed head


The Black Nightmare

The Red-Hot Lava

The Pink Fairy

The Silver Streaker

Their alternate identities, thanks to their Canadian grandparents

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas The Night Before Christmas (Freeze Family Edition)

I thought of writing this entire post in rhyme mimicking the original poem...but it's already past midnight so I threw that idea out the window.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and at the Freeze house...

We draw pictures (we're halfway through our second ream, thanks to four children who start drawing the minute they wake up)

We decorate with paper. Because it's pretty and it's cheap!

We are tearing apart our master bedroom/bathroom, putting in a shower, and installing a sleeping loft. There is plaster/cement/rock dust everywhere.

Which means we are sleeping on the living room floor. See our mattress next to the dining table?

We have beams and plywood and other building materials inside and out

We also bought a big Jacuzzi corner tub for our other bathroom (floor model! 1/3 the original price!) and are storing it on the bed in Ivy's room. This means I have to curl up on a tiny spot on the bed to nurse Ivy at night. Kind of a pain. Oh, and to get it in the bathroom we have to open up a hole in the wall :)

We have art on our walls! (on loan from an artist friend)

We are reupholstering our daybed

We are making and eating lebkuchen

That's our night before Christmas!

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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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