Wednesday, September 23, 2020

American ??? day 43

9,087 steps 

I've been reading a book by Lori Gottlieb: "Maybe You Should Talk to Someone." Highly recommend. It's about being a therapist, and at the same time going through therapy herself. 

I also read Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" out of curiosity. The kids and I watched her Netflix show 2 years ago and got inspired to tidy up our apartment, especially how we store their clothes. We have 1 dresser and 1 armoire for all of the kids' clothes, so we have to keep them minimal and organized. 

I like her approach to simplifying clothes and sentimental items. I'm not as convinced it would work on practical things, like tools or kitchen supplies. I don't necessarily feel a spark of joy from, say, a clothes iron or packing tape or a wheat grinder even though I find them very useful (in fact, all objects I used today). 

Zari, Dio, and Eric were at middle school soccer games this evening, so I took Inga and Ivy for a walk/bike. We found a huge caterpillar moving fast--for a caterpillar. Then we got home and I discovered I'd lost my key! Oops. The only place I took my phone armband off was to film the caterpillar, so logic dictated I'd find my key there. And I did. 

Ivy and Inga have been making creations with Perler beads--those melty plastic beads that you arrange on a grid and then iron until they melt together. Today I was running up to the attic every 10 minutes to iron something! They made 3D "food" for their neighbor friends, stacking the layers together with hot glue. They put together a gift bag full of today's creations: a hamburger with lettuce & cheese in a little cardboard box, a pizza with 4 slices in its own little custom-made box, a carton of French fries in a holder, and a gecko. See Less

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Monday, September 21, 2020

American ??? day 41

7,413 steps 

Two trips to the hardware store, one trip to the grocery store, one trip to the super-mart store, one trip to pick up Zari after soccer practice, one trip to the mechanic. I'm glad we live in a small town where nothing is more than 2 miles away. But I'm even more glad that most days I don't have to get in the car at all. Today was not one of those days! 

Still, I'd rather be in Nice because we can walk everywhere. Here, I have to drive to the grocery/superstore/hardware store as they are on the outskirts of town in an industrial area. 

Zari and Dio's school is going back to full in-person every day instruction next week. No masks worn in the classrooms. This seems like absolute insanity! 

We just put them back in hybrid school this week, which I was *barely* comfortable with. And now...we're just throwing all these precautions to the wind? (Sure, the school has these elaborate cleaning and distancing protocols, but it's not going to do much good with 30+ student in a classroom every day and no one wearing masks any more.)

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

American ??? day 40

11,414 steps 

Yesterday I worked all day on home improvement projects: reglazing four French doors and sanding down an outdoor bench. I got through 16 of the 40 windows in the French doors. My back was so stiff after leaning over for so long. Five of the windows were broken, so I busted them out and cleaned out the old glazing. 

Last year I repaired the bottoms of these French doors--they had all rotted away. I highly recommend Abatron wood restoration products. LiquidWood is a 2-part epoxy wood hardener that you apply on all the rotted parts. Then once it's hardened, you fill everything in with WoodEpox, a 2- part epoxy wood filler. I like this stuff so much that I brought some to France, too. I sanded down the wood filler but haven't trimmed the bottoms yet, as you can see in the picture. 

Ivy and Zari helped with the sanding. The bench had been sitting, neglected, for 9 years. The paint had long fallen off and the bare wood was black with mildew. It was SO satisfying to sand it all down to bright, bare wood. Thanks to having the right tools (random orbital sander & oscillating multitool with a sander attachment), I was able to sand every surface down, including between every slat. 

Today I ombre dyed 4 yards of fabric with the remaining dye bath. It just came out of the dryer and will get turned into 4 ring slings. 

And I made a huge pot of split pea soup. 

And I found some time to read outside in the sun. I just finished a YA trilogy that Zari had checked out: Ashfall, Ashen Winter, and Sunrise by Mike Mullin. Fast-paced, gruesome, and highly entertaining although not a book to read right before going to bed if you are sensitive to sleep disruptions.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

American ??? day 38

16,493 steps 

Sometimes you dye a dress...and end up matching your bathroom! 

The color transitions were a bit more abrupt than I would have liked, but I am so happy that I can finally wear this dress! 

ps, the bathroom walls look more gradual in real life--the camera makes it seem like there are stripes of color.

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

American ??? day 37

10,247 steps 

I filmed, edited, and produced 3 videos for Breech Without Borders today. Ivy and Inga were great helpers in one of the films...until their footage got lost. I had to redo it without them as they were playing with the neighbor kids. 

 I also got blood drawn, went grocery shopping, and dyed my dress a second time (I forgot the salt yesterday, so the first dye job was very pale). This turquoise dye is odd because it looks almost green on the fabric, while the leftover dye bath looks pure blue! It's almost as if the blue dyes don't want to adhere. 

Zari's covid test finally came back. We've been waiting all week even though Dio's and Eric's came in on Sunday. So she and Dio are both cleared to play soccer and to go to school. They're starting hybrid school tomorrow (every other day, classrooms at half capacity, fully masked). I hear our school board just voted to go back to all-day full-capacity school in 2 weeks, which seems absolutely insane! So we might have to rethink our plans yet again. 

Our grocery store had a half-price sale on Endangered Species chocolate yeah, I bought a whole case! Mostly 88% cacao, a few 72%. Priorities.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

American ??? day 36

23,274 steps 

Went running in the morning, recorded a presentation for the 2020 MANA conference, went to the bank, spread several cubic yards of mulch, ombre dyed a dress that I've had for years and never worn because it was too see-through, helped kids with homework, tidied the house, folded several loads of laundry, went on a walk, and spent a few hours this evening catching up with one of Eric's best friends back from university. 

Ivy and I both have blue hands. 

Time to take a break!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

American ??? day 35

8,210 steps 

Zari planned dinner tonight: Avocado-Mango Salad With Blue Cheese, Bacon And Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. We added grilled chicken breasts to make it a meal. 

The kids were moaning in delight, rhapsodizing on how amazing it was. 

Inga requested "hair like Ada Hegerberg," a Norwegian soccer player. 

And photos from a few days ago, when we had our sourdough fail. The silicone molds worked great!

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Monday, September 14, 2020

American ??? day 34

My fitness tracker battery is dead... 

I was busy last night applying for CPD from the ACM (continuing professional development from the Australian College of Midwifery). And then bam! I had another horrible bout of insomnia last night. It's not so bad the first few hours. Then I start getting so bored and so tired but my mind won't turn off and I just want it all to STOP. 

Today's sourdough was an absolute runny mess. I didn't fold it as much as I should have last night--I forgot about the dough for a few hours. You can see the "boule" soon after folding and shaping. It's not a boule anymore; it's a blob. (Edit: I can't transfer the files off my phone, so you can't see it until tomorrow's post.) We salvaged the dough by putting it into silicone molds of various shapes. The buns were dense but still delicious and crunchy. 

At dinner we discussed The 10 Commitments ( I like how these value are so simple and obvious, but putting them together forms a very powerful message. As does doughnut economics; I look at it and think, "Well, duh!" and "Of course!"
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Saturday, September 12, 2020

American ??? day 32

9,746 steps 

3 trips to the mulch place for a total of 9 cubic yards. We've spread half of it so far. I'm tired! 

Inga had a soccer game in town. She requested Ada Hegerberg's hairstlye: a sideways French braid across the front, swept into a pony tail in the back. (Her team won 6-0, with Inga scoring 2 goals.) 

Ivy requested a "crown braid with roses." She's copying a hairstyle of 4-year-old Zari at my older sister's wedding. 

Our new neighbors (family with 5 kids, replacing the family with 7 kids) came over to play capture the flag. They discovered a well-camouflaged toad sitting on the fairy house's ladder. 

I woke up in the middle of the night with an out-of-the blue panic attack. (Long back story...but I started having panic attacks back in 2018 when Eric and I were apart for an entire semester. Apart, as in I had the 4 kids in France and he was teaching in the States. I haven't had any panic attacks for 2 years until last night.) It wasn't very intense as panic attacks go, but I didn't sleep much after. 

If you've ever dealt with panic attacks, you'll know what I'm talking about. I've learned it's useless trying to figure out why and just to accept them. But still...why? I'm going through these past few weeks and can't point to anything exceptionally stressful. 

Dio has been really withdrawn lately. I think he's suffering the worst from the social isolation but doesn't have the self-awareness to understand why he's feeling that way. Instead of joining the other kids when they're playing, he often stays in his room, staring at his computer. 

I insist that he can only play games once he's done with his school work and reading, so in *theory* he's working on school...but mostly he's staring at the screen despondently as it's really hard to figure out what to do for school. Even I have difficulty navigating all of his classes and assignments and passwords. And sometimes he just watches inane videos even though he's not supposed to. We've had several talks about it this past week.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

American ??? day 31

10,492 steps 

One month back in the States. France's covid-19 infection numbers are exploding again, back to the highs we saw in March and April. However, the deaths haven't risen as steeply as they did during the first wave. I wonder what the numbers will look like in a few weeks. The US rates are still much higher per capita, to put things into perspective. 

Today I drove around a big, battered dump truck. The windows and locks are manual. Very old school. I feel like I'm an actor playing at being a country girl. My first real car was a little Ford Ranger pickup, so I'm familiar with driving trucks. But this truck is definitely bigger and badder. 

Why the truck? We're spreading mulch. It's great fun for the kids, too. They found several grubs inside the mulch. Inga: "They look like aliens with their white bodies and red eyes! 

We took a trip to the library yesterday and came home with around 30 books. Zari might last a week if she doesn't read too fast. Inga will be close behind her.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2020

American ??? day 29

7,380 steps

Zari and Dio had to miss their soccer games because they still have stuffy noses and/or sore throats. 

I'm working on Ivy's 3rd fabric creation, "fire," and I think I might have gone a bit overboard. We could have done a simple fire--maybe a few different colors for the flames--I had this idea of depicting the goddess Pele. It's turning out just how I envisioned it but it's way more complex than the other two I've made. Inga assures me it's a masterpiece. 

One of my sisters recommended the book Let's pretend this never happened. I started reading it and passed it along to Zari. I keep hearing her laughing or saying "eeewwwww" and "uhhhh....what????!!! Is this real?" 

A picture of Ivy's scavenger hunt finds from yesterday, and another picture of me and Zari working from a few days ago.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2020

American ??? day 28

14,621 steps 

After 4 weeks of putting it off, I finally went running. Blame it on covid inertia? I miss our schedule in France, where I drop the kids off at school at 8:30 and go on a run right after. 

Eric did all of his classes via Zoom as a precaution. We had to tiptoe around the house during class hours. 

Ivy designed a scavenger hunt this morning. I couldn't convince Dio to do it as he's still feeling unwell, and Zari was busy with school work. Inga got mad at Ivy because Ivy finished first. Inga definitely has a "flash flood" temper. Quick to come, quick to dissipate. 

A video of soccer practice in the evening, followed by a few minutes at the playground.

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Monday, September 07, 2020

American ??? day 27

16,257 steps 

We had a fire pit that was close to one of our neighbor's house, and apparently the fires would aggravate their asthma. No problem--we'll just move it! So this morning we relocated it about 150 feet away. I like the new spot much better, plus we finally found a place for an unused old bench that was on the edge of our property. 

Despite some light rain, we had a celebratory fire and ate Smores with our new neighbors. (In case you're wondering, I set up 2 Smore stations, one for each family. Separate food, roasting sticks, etc.) 

Inga and Ivy practiced whittling. Inga wanted to make a bow and arrow and kept holding up her crooked stick, asking, "Does this look like an arrow now?" Sorry, no! She eventually turned it into something else. 

I found an old frame in a box in our attic that was the right size for a stitching Dio made a few years ago.

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Sunday, September 06, 2020

American ??? day 26

 9,952 steps 

Eric and Inga are on the mend, although Dio is still feeling icky. I'm trying to remember what we did most of the day...oh yes, house cleaning in the morning, followed by watching a documentary about raising and training seeing eye dogs called "Pick of the Litter." 

In the afternoon? Piano practicing, reading, cleaning, talking to family on Zoom. Generally a laid-back day. Eric made chicken soup upon Dio's request. After dinner we went outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. I weeded while everyone else played soccer in the front yard. (Story of my life, but I really like weeding.) 

I convinced Zari to come on a walk with me at dusk. I was talking to Zari about a book I was currently reading, telling her she'd probably like it. As I was describing it, she said, "hmmm, I read a book kind of like that recently." Turns out she HAD read it last month. I told her, "There's a saying that great minds think alike!" She enjoys fantasy and science fiction, as long as there's not too much romance. Cue the gagging and shuddering. 

Here are pictures of the latest stitchings and art pieces that we hung up. Ivy and Inga made these 3 or 4 years ago, and we finally did something with them. And I finished "air" for Ivy's room, the 2nd in a series of the 4 elements. Inga drew the hummingbird and flowers for me.

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Saturday, September 05, 2020

American ??? day 25

Sunny and dry today, with wind chasing away the bugs. I love being able to keep my windows open day and night. 

Today was a "get things done" day for me. I purchased new bolts, nuts, and washers for our old play set that we finally put back together. Ivy helped ratchet the bolts tight. The tower was still a bit wobbly even after tightening, so I reinforced two of the sides with diagonal cross-braces. We also put new washers on the garden hoses and set up the sprinkler in the back yard where we had reseeded. 

With Zari's help, I climbed up a ladder and trimmed some of the lower branches on the maple tree in the back yard. Then I got out our extension ladder and cleaned out the dryer vent. When I lifted up the ladder, I got an unexpected dirt shower. I'm still scratching dirt out of my scalp. 

And I made 4 big sourdough loaves that turned out perfectly! I tweaked my recipe (yet again) and I think I've hit the perfect one. 

I was inspired by this way of doing sourdough but 800 g water per 1000g flour turned into a soupy disaster. Even with all of the proper techniques, I couldn't get the dough to hold together. It was more liquid that solid. 

I brought the water down to 725g and...success! I like the long overnight rise with relatively little starter, then the daytime "nap" in the fridge and baking right around dinnertime. 

My sourdough (I always double this recipe and it makes enough for a week):
50 g starter (pulled straight from the fridge, no need to wake it up)
1 Tbsp salt (around 22 g)
725 g water
100 g whole wheat flour
900 g all-purpose flour

Start in the evening. The first 2 hours fold every 15-20 mins, then cover and let rise overnight. Shape into boules the next morning as per the directions (2 large or 3 small). Cover and let rest in the fridge until late afternoon.

Take the boules out of the fridge at the same time that you turn the oven on to pre-heat. Bake 440 F (convection) for 40-45 min. I don't have a Dutch oven so I bake 2 loaves at once on parchment paper, on top of a pizza stone. I have an old metal pan on the bottom rack, into which I throw a cup of water when I put the loaves in.

I have one banneton basket and use random mixing bowls for my other loaves. I line the mixing bowls with a cloth napkin and use rice flour, not wheat flour, to keep the boule from sticking to the cloth. (I make my own rice flour in a coffee grinder).

(There are lots of sourdough techniques that I haven't elaborated here. The Perfect Loaf is a great place to start for folding and boule shaping techniques.)

Eric sunbathed while I was working. Well deserved and probably the best medicine for an illness that's going around the family. Whatever it is, Vitamin D will probably help. We can't get tested for covid-19 this weekend--all local testing places are closed--so patience, rest, and sunlight are our protocols. Inga, Dio, and Eric all have something involving a stuffy/runny nose; sore throat; fever (Dio and maybe Eric), coughing (Eric), and general malaise and body aches. I've felt "off" the past few days but no specific symptoms. 

Speaking of Vitamin D; I just read about a new double-blind RCT out of Spain with covid-19 patients. Even with the relatively small numbers, the study showed significant results with the group treated with Vitamin D, versus the control group. I'll be following larger RCTs with interest. 

I found several things for Zari and me at a thrift store, plus more old picture frames to repurpose. I altered a pair of pants this evening and need to shorten a pair of shorts for Zari tomorrow. I just finished framing two stitching projects that Inga and Ivy made several years ago. Pictures tomorrow as it's getting late and I want to lie in bed and do NOTHING for a little while.

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Friday, September 04, 2020

American ??? day 24

 Ivy's test came back negative. I'm not surprised as she had a fever for only half a day with no other symptoms. But...Eric has a bad sore throat and has started coughing. Ugh. Again, normally something like this wouldn't even ping my radar. 

It's been a busy few days getting our online courses ready to launch at Breech Without Borders. I'm hoping to spend most of tomorrow away from the computer. I have all sorts of home improvement things that need attention. 

This video isn't anything remarkable...just a few things we did this afternoon (soccer training in our yard, going on a family walk/bike ride).

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Wednesday, September 02, 2020

American ??? day 22

10,588 steps 

I worked all day, and all evening, and most of the night on getting our Breech Without Borders courses ready to launch. I have one more video encoding (I had to go back and do a small edit) and then we should be DONE! 

I feel like I haven't even come up for air all day. The kids were on their own for school and lunch and everything else. Sorry! I took one break with Inga and Ivy to go on a walk. 

I have promised myself that I will not work any more tonight.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2020

American ??? day 21

11,371 steps 

We're sitting on our front porch watching a rainstorm. It's the first rain we've had since we've been back. A long time for the green midwest. The mosquitoes won't let us stay long. I just saw a bat swoop past and an owl glide up into a nearby tree. 

Today's excitement: catching a bat that had roosted outside Ivy's bedroom. It was sleepy--like teenager at 6 am sleepy--and didn't want to move even when I released it from the towel. It finally took off and settled on our front porch. I guess flying back to its home was too much trouble for this sleepy bat. It stayed on our porch all day (we kept checking) and finally woke up and went out for dinner this evening. 

We tested Ivy locally this afternoon. With our university campus dealing with covid-19 cases, we wanted to be sure we're not contributing to the problem. Ivy was worried about having the swab stuck far up her nose, but they use a newer testing method that only involves swabbing inside each nostril. Over and done quickly with us still in the car. "It didn't hurt! It actually felt kind of good," she said. 

I spent a long time on the phone today trying to find which covid-19 testing place charged my insurance the least. You know, trying to be a fiscally responsible citizen and all that. I couldn't get any good estimates on cost. 

The local hospital said it was $375 if you're coming in without insurance, but it would be a different cost with insurance (but they couldn't say how much until after we took the test). 

The other local testing place, an urgent care clinic, charges around $130 for the test if you aren't insured. But again, they couldn't say the price with insurance. They contract with LabCorp, so I called the lab and asked how much the test would be. And they couldn't tell me because it depended on which insurance company you have. I asked, "If I tell you which insurance company I have, can you tell me the price?" Sorry, no. They cannot. 

Then there was a "free" testing place 30 miles away that does tests for free. But if you have insurance, they will bill your insurance an unspecified amount. Keep in mind--my insurance covers covid-19 testing at 100% right now. We are lucky. I was just trying to save my insurance company some money. And I couldn't even do that!

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Monday, August 31, 2020

American ??? day 20 few steps it's ridiculous 

Ivy woke up with a stuffy, runny nose. She went straight into my bed and stayed there most of the day. She started running a fever around noon. 

Normally I wouldn't think twice about something like this. But in a covid-19 world, we really have to test as a precaution, since Eric is teaching. She's scheduled to go in tomorrow. 

 Now I'm starting to feel off. But that might be from staying up too late last night reading 🙂
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Sunday, August 30, 2020

American ??? day 19

9,188 steps 

It's late so I'll just leave you with a video. We cleaned house in the morning and got invited to a friend's house in the afternoon. Eric played Ultimate Frisbee while the rest of biked over to swim. On the way home I filmed some of our university's buildings. Most are hidden behind trees.

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

American ??? day 18

17,615 steps 

We were outside most of the day working on the yard. We moved, trimmed, weeded, swept, raked, watered, and reseeded. I ripped out the rest of the poison ivy. Bye and please do not come back! 

Zari and Dio moved the lawn for the first time ever. Dio was scared at first, and you'll see he looks really serious in the video. But he did great. 

Instead of mowing in nice neat rectangles, though, he would do random patterns. Sometimes paralleling his old tracks, sometimes cutting across to a new place. 

We got our old play set reassembled--finally. We took it apart a few years ago for a big excavation project and never put it back together. Why did it take us so long? We can't find the nuts or washers for the big lag bolts, so I need to go to the hardware store before the kids can use swings. 

Inga had her first soccer match of the season and was on fire. She has caught the soccer bug. Later in the evening, Eric did some soccer training with her and Ivy up in the attic. I kept wondering why the light fixtures were rattling!

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Friday, August 28, 2020

American ??? day 17

6,617 steps 

Last day of our heat wave! I'm ready to go outside and not feel like I'm walking into a sauna. 

This was one of those days where I'd have a hard time telling you what I did all day. Some of this, some of that, a family walk, a run to the grocery store, a Zoom call...all-around unremarkable. 

Oh, now I remember! I spent 3 hours on hold today sorting out my unemployment benefits. THAT was why my day seemed like a black hole of nothingness. My issue still isn't resolved but I finally got through to someone who passed a message on to someone who might be able to figure it out. 

On tomorrow's to-do list: 
~ removing the rest of the poison ivy 
~ teaching Zari and Dio how to use the lawnmower and trimmer 
~ weeding 
~ setting up a painting/work station in the garage. I have 4 French doors that I restored last year. The bottoms had rotted out, so I hardened everything with Abatron epoxy resin and then filled in the gaps with epoxy wood filler. Now I need to trim the bottoms with a saw, re-glaze the windows, replace a broken window pane, and finally paint everything.


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Thursday, August 27, 2020

American ??? day 16

14,579 steps 

I faced and conquered my arch-nemesis today: poison ivy. I dug up two trash bags full. I found one more large patch in the back corner that I need to tackle tomorrow. 

I have a tiny little loveseat in my bedroom, which is my "office." Guess who joins me every day and ends up kicking me off? Yes! My children. We have a great big house yet they always migrate to wherever I am. 

In this picture Ivy and Inga are doing computer programming with Khan Academy and Zari is working on a distance learning assignment.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

American ??? day 15

7,434 steps 

Yesterday evening Eric and I were going on a walk, and we both confessed to each other that we'd been feeling a bit depressed. General malaise, a bit of despondency mixed in with a feeling that there's nothing to look forward to in life. 

We think it's a symptom of the social isolation here in the States. Eric is teaching face-to-face, but otherwise everything on campus is virtual. No real meetings of any sort. No events or concerts. Besides soccer practices, we have zero social interactions. 

Even pre-covid, life in the States was always very isolated compared to life in France. Here in the US, even in our small town where you'd think there would be a lot of spontaneous socializing, social interactions are almost always scheduled. You don't just head out your door and run into people. First off, most people go everywhere in their cars, so the sidewalks are empty. People tend to (over)schedule their children with after school activities so it's not very easy even to arrange play dates. 

And then the coronavirus has added another huge barrier to socializing. I don't know if our kids will be able to play with friends at all. We'd have to find a family that is careful enough to reduce unnecessary interactions generally yet permissive enough to be okay with kids playing outside together. 

We're surrounded by our family members all day long, so we're not isolated-lonely. Just friend-lonely. 

I'm mostly fine most days, but sometimes it hits me acutely. And I also haven't gone running at all since we got home. I should...I'm sure that would help. 

On to more fun things: Zari tried on one of Eric's soccer jerseys and it was a perfect fit! She's thrilled to add to her wardrobe. 

In between helping children every 5-10 minutes with school assignments, I did a lot of work getting our breech course platform ready. It's so close now! 

I also sewed the next fabric artwork as designed by Ivy, with help from Inga. It's themed "air" and shows a hummingbird in flight feeding from trumpet vine flowers. I suggested that we do the 4 elements (earth, air, fire, water) and Ivy loved that idea. So 2 more to go. What will we come up with for earth and fire? hmmmm.....


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Monday, August 24, 2020

American ??? day 13

Busy day yesterday and no time to update...

On Sunday we went on a hike to a local state park. Where we live, it's corn and soy fields in all directions. But about 30 minutes away there's a state park with some short but fun hikes. We saw skinks, frogs, chipmunks, millipedes, and water skeeters. Also lots of poison ivy. You don't dare go walking off the paths because you'll be covered in poison ivy burns. 

Today was 91° F (almost 33° C). With 84% humidity. So I broke down and turned on the air conditioning. I haven't turned it on since we got back to the States. As long as the temperatures are below 85-87° (30° C), our house stays quite comfortable. We open up the windows at night, run fans everywhere, and close the windows in the morning.
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

American ??? day 11

14,979 steps 

After breakfast we loaded up our car with landscaping tools and headed to one of our properties in town. (Well, 5 of us biked over and Eric drove the car.) It desperately needed weeding and trimming. In just 2 1/2 hours we had the whole thing done, thanks to all six of us working. It's amazing having children old enough to really help out. 

Now of course, there was plenty of bickering and dawdling. Sometimes one or more kids took off on their bikes, or played with worms, or built little structures to protect the worms. But overall they were great helpers. As a reward, I let them choose a treat. They voted for pizza and ice cream sandwiches. 

I finished Ivy's stitching project, spray painted a thrifted frame, and mounted it. She was so excited. Now she's planning a companion project "sky" to pair with "sea." She drew the fish and picked all the fabrics. I sewed everything because it was a bit too complex for her skill level. 

I found this little stained glass mirror at a thrift store, only it had an ugly frame. A little white spray paint made it look much better. This will go somewhere in Inga's room. 

When I went upstairs in the attic to work on Ivy's project, I saw this epic story on the chalkboard wall.

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Friday, August 21, 2020

American ??? day 10


11,077 steps 

Help! What is this weird stuff that I discovered underneath a tarp? It looks like a huge pile of sand...only it's light and foamy and, upon close inspection, looks and feels like fish roe (you know, the kind you put on sushi?). It is SO WEIRD and feels slushy and fluffy. There's enough to fill a 3-gallon bucket. 

I spent the morning digging and installing brick edging along the side of our house. The plants were overgrown by creeping Charlie. It's not a perfect job, since the ground itself is very uneven and the area still needs a good weeding and mulching. But we were able to use up a big pile of bricks that had been sitting behind our house. 

Zari and Ivy took some time off "school" to help. Here's a picture of the dragon hanging that I installed last night. Ivy was super excited. 

Today Ivy talked me into making a "stitching." It started out simple--a single appliqued fish--and of course it turned far more elaborate. Now the fish has 4 types of fabric, plus we added two types of seaweed and a giant shell. Pictures coming once it's finished and framed.
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Thursday, August 20, 2020

American ??? day 9

15,939 steps 

I spent most of the day working in the yard and garden, pulling weeds and burning dead fall in our fire pit. Then in the late afternoon we helped our new neighbors move in (after having just helped our old neighbors move out yesterday). The Freeze Family Moving Company strikes again! It was definitely a two-shower day, and I'm pleasantly tired out. The new family actually has 5 kids ages 1-13. I think we'll have some instant friends for our kids. 

Ivy helped me finish and install a dragon flag that Zari made a few years ago for a school project. As Ivy was watching me use the drill, spray paint, miter saw, and angle grinder, she admired how I knew how to do so many things. I wish I could remember the words she used. She sounds like a little adult, sometimes, with her quaint expressions and low voice. 

We also had a conversation about having babies while she was helping me in the yard. I think it came up because our old neighbors have 7 kids and she was saying how she couldn't imagine having so many children "because she gave birth so many times!" She told me she was a bit nervous about having babies because it can hurt really bad. 

So I talked about how it's not all about pain. Parts of it hurt and parts of it feel really good, and in the end it's so worth it. I told her it was like exercising really hard or going on a very long hike. "Do parts of it hurt? Are parts of it really hard? Sure! But would you say, 'I'm never going on a hike in my life because I'm scared it's going to hurt.'?" 

Ivy said, "No! And plus hikes don't really hurt." 

"Sure, but sometimes hikes are really hard. You get tired and your leg muscles are sore. But it's so amazing to do the hike." 

 I spent the evening doing more video editing for our breech courses. Specifically, I was blurring out the faces on a video of a surprise complete breech that rotated towards sacrum posterior. (Which, if you know breech, is quite unusual.) The poor midwife didn't know the baby was breech until a few seconds before the legs popped out, when the water broke and what she thought was a head fully crowning was actually a butt fully rumping. Apparently the midwife had lots of F-bombs going through her head. You'd never guess from watching the video 🙂

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

American ??? day 8

10,353 steps 

Last night we collapsed in bed shortly after 10 pm. So no update, sorry...just sleep! 

Zari and Dio won't have their school supplies until Friday, so they are putzing around the house, reading lots of books, and watching (aka interrupting) Ivy and Inga a lot. 

We have this crazy big house...and yet the kids all end up congregating in one place. Most often in my bedroom. 

I got my belly cast from Dio's pregnancy hung up. it only took 11 years! I put it off because I couldn't figure out how to mount it. I finally used epoxy to glue two D-ring picture hangers to the back, reinforced with several strands of cord going through the D-ring holes and epoxied as well. Those D-rings are not going ANYWHERE! 

My mom mailed me two molas that my grandma bought during her travels to Panama. They were unusual sizes and I wasn't sure what I could do with them. But I brought a measuring tape to a local thrift store and found two frames that fit them perfectly! One was horribly ugly and needed spray paint. The other worked as-is. Grand total: $5.30. Score! 

Yesterday I made 3 batches of 12-bean soup and 4 batches of hummus with dried garbanzo beans that I've had for way too long. Today I made chocolate chip cookies flavored with almond instead of vanilla and with raw cacao nibs as well as chocolate chips. I don't really like eating cookies but I did snitch some dough. 

Dio had a physical so he can play soccer with his school team. He's 94% for height (5' 1.5" or >156 cm) and 66% for weight. A bit of a string bean :) During lunch, he recounted how the PA examined his testicles during the exam. You can guess what happened next: 4 kids + any chance for potty humor = hilarious laughter and silliness!
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Monday, August 17, 2020

American ??? day 6

First day of school for our family. Public school started a week ago but I wanted to give all of us time to recover from jet lag. Zari and Dio still don't have anything since the school is putting together their books and instructions for distance schooling. Ivy and Inga started with Khan Academy. I'm really impressed with it so far, especially their suggestion that 2-3 hours of schooling per day is more than enough for younger kids. 

I put together a little schedule/checklist as my kids love having something to mark off. (I do, too, since they know what they need to do instead of asking me what to do all day long.) 

After lunch we brought a load of books home from the public library. I'm so glad our library is still open; I've heard a lot of libraries have shut down entirely (including our university library). 

We said goodbye to good friends of ours 2 doors down. They're moving about 45 minutes away to be closer to work. My friend just had baby #7 not quite 2 months ago. Zari cuddled and bounced the baby to sleep. Well done! 

We're sad that they are leaving but there's apparently a new family moving into their house with 4 or 5 kids ages 1-9. So yay! When we moved here, nearly all the houses belonged to people at or well past retirement. All these big old houses, mostly empty, the yards devoid of bikes and sprinklers and snowmen. And now we're seeing more young families move in again. 

....Well...that was exciting! I just chased down a bat and released it outside.
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Sunday, August 16, 2020

American ??? day 5

This weekend felt both busy and lazy. We cleaned the house--yes, it got messy fast--so we could show it to some potential renters for when we go back to France. I'm so much happier when the house is tidy. Messes irritate me. 

Ivy planned and executed dinner last night: coleslaw for the first course and spaghetti and meatballs for the main dish. I suggested dessert, which was "fast" strawberry ice cream (blend frozen strawberries with cream, milk, vanilla, & a spoonful of sugar. Instant ice cream!). 

I have to admit, there are certain benefits to being back here, such as a huge house with a playroom and a yard. (The downside is the social isolation; you never just run into friends when you leave your house.) 

A picture of a family snuggle from yesterday. Eric's scrub pants are older than we've been married (22 years!). I don't think they'll stay intact much longer.

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

American ??? day 4

Okay, you HAVE to watch this video! Seriously, you will laugh so hard. Zari made it from start to finish: recording, editing, captioning. 

It's 7 minutes of Dio talking in his sleep. With subtitles. 7 minutes of awesome weird hilarity. 

Zari's description: 
This video is about my brother, Dio, sleep talking after we got back from France. We were all jetlagged from the plane so this was probably the cause for his unusually long sleep talking time. I recorded 17 minutes of his half an hour monologue, then shortened it down to 7 minutes of pure sleep talking. So, laugh out loud and enjoy! 

(This video was done by Zari Freeze, age 13, the oldest child in the family.)
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Friday, August 14, 2020

American ??? day 3

11,978 steps 

I have a new computer! I'm still setting everything up but at least I have a whole screen now, instead of a measly little window in the corner.

I baked 4 large loaves of bread (using 2 kg of flour) and a double batch of dark chocolate mint cookies. The extra loaves are in the freezer and should last a week, I hope. Here in the States the only bread we have is disgusting industrial bread. We don't even have one proper bakery with anything resembling real bread. My kids won't eat store-bought bread over here and I totally don't blame them. I'm hoping that I can bake a huge batch of sourdough just once a week. 

I was in the "get things done" mood so I finally hung up Dio's birth quilt in our attic bedroom. I have to find wooden finials for the ends of the rod, but at least the quilt is on display! (Why did it take me so long??) As with Inga's birth quilt, I sent fabric out to friends and family members all over the world. Each person sent back a completed quilt square. I created the large square in the middle and put the whole thing together after Dio's birth. 

I bought myself this print for my birthday present. It's called "Guided By Stars" by Sue Ellen Parkinson. She wrote this about the painting: "It's of Eve, as a grandmother, titled, 'Guided By Stars.' She feels perfectly fine about eating her apple. She's even got an apple seed necklace and apple blossoms in her halo. The snake is her spirit animal and they've become friends." 

I found a super ugly framed artwork at a thrift store--ugly, but the right size. I spray painted the frame gold and the mat black...and it turned out okay. Not bad for a $3 frame. The painting is now hanging near my bed.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Back in the States, day 1

Day 1 of I'm not sure what to call it...American mess? 

Anyway I'm so tired I'm delirious so this will be short. Yesterday's transatlantic travels were surprisingly easy and pleasant, besides having to wake up at 4 am. We had 3 flights, as usual. A short one (to Paris), a long one (to Detroit), and a short one (to Indianapolis). 

The flight to Paris was full. But the real fun started on the long flight to Michigan. There were maybe 30 people on the entire airplane, leaving it about 90% empty. I've never seen anything like it, ever. It was, frankly, luxurious. We got our meals in record time. We were able to stretch out on an entire row of seats and sleep. I think it's the first time I've truly slept on an airplane, despite all the years of crossing the Atlantic and sometimes the Pacific. 

And the airport in Detroit was similarly devoid of people. Eerie, even. Customs was a ghost town. And to my surprise, all of the customs & immigration officers were super friendly. Usually they're brusque and grumpy and I always feel like I'm a criminal about to get in trouble for something. 

Ironically, this is probably the safest time to travel in the US because the airports and airplanes are so empty! 

Oh, and when we had to go through security again in Detroit, the security x-rays found a little pocketknife in Eric's backpack! Oops. It was there from when we went on a picnic to Pont de la Cerise, and Eric had totally forgotten about it. I'm surprised that the first security screening in Nice didn't pick it up. 

I've been short-tempered all day and, alas, have been taking it out on the kids. It's definitely out of character and I blame it all on jet lag :) But seriously, how can our house go from immaculate to a disaster zone in just 24 hours?! And the kids were running around shrieking and jumping much of the day (most of it naked or just in their underwear) and the noise and the mess were just too much for me.
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Monday, August 10, 2020

French déconfinement day 92

6 or 7 loads of laundry hung up to dry today, every floor swept and mopped, suitcases ready to go... 

Since cleaning expands to fill the available time, we prioritized fun today. Dio had friends over in the morning--twin brother & sister who live around the corner. Their parents are Spanish/Malagasy. We all went to the beach together and enjoyed the flat, clear water. During the summer the sea here is often calmer than most lakes! 

Our family was invited to a birthday party in the afternoon. Too much candy and lots of fun later, we made it home. Then the cleaning started in earnest. I'm still waiting for the last few loads of laundry to dry; I'll have to fold and put it away tomorrow at 4 am. Yay me. Our first flight leaves at 7 am. 

A picture of some of the face masks Eric has found at the bottom of the sea. 

A video showing why it's so hard to keep the house clean. 

And a video from today's birthday party. The baby had a Freeze-family-full of admirers. After lots of playing and bouncing on Eric's knee, he passed out draped over Eric's arm.

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French déconfinement day 91

4,191 steps 

We've been cleaning and packing and I haven't even found time to update in the evenings. Also it's hot and we're all wearing as little clothing as possible, especially once the blinds are closed. 

We managed to fit in another visit to Pont de la Cerise 2 days ago, this time with 4 other families. Thumbs up from everyone. 

I keep hoping a deux ex machina will sweep in and somehow keep us from having to return to the States. With only one more full day left, though, I'm not sure what that could be. I hate that our stupid country hasn't got its act together after all of these months and that we have to travel back to where we are putting ourselves at risk.
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Thursday, August 06, 2020

French déconfinement day 88

I am in SCHOOL CRISIS MODE. Hit me with all of your opinions, advice, wisdom, etc! 

 We go back to the States next week and public school starts immediately. I have NO IDEA what to do about school: in person? Distance learning? Homeschool with a public online school? Homeschool myself? Unschool aka let my kids go feral? 

We will be in the US for 3 months and then return to France as soon as Eric's university semester is over in November. So that is one factor in our decision. It's not the whole school year. 

I know from this year's pandemic schooling that I am not a good homeschooling parent. I am also working full-time at home and I need to be able to concentrate on my own projects. I don't do well being interrupted all day. I am a good teacher (of adults) and good parent but, let's be honest, I have a hard time being my kids' teacher. 

I have this romantic notion of me homeschooling my kids, us reading interesting books and watching nature documentaries and gardening and sewing and cooking and exploring...but honestly I don't think that will be the reality. 

On the other hand: SAFETY. I think it's absolutely insane to send my kids back into face-to-face schooling in the height of a pandemic. We've spent half the year working so hard to keep from getting exposed to covid-19 (including traveling overseas on purpose to a country in strict lockdown). Sending my kids back to school would basically undo all of the work we've done since mid-March. 

On yet another hand, Eric doesn't think we should homeschool/distance school and thinks the kids need the interactions with friends. He also realizes that I'll be the one bearing the burden since he's teaching full-time at the university. Plus Zari and Dio can only play soccer if they're in face-to-face school (maybe distance--I'm waiting to hear back). 

On yet another hand, my mom has invited us to all come up to Minnnesota and she'll gladly homeschool them for a few months. But this would mean a long separation from Eric and that's pretty much off the table for all of us. Sure, we could go up to MN for 2 weeks at a time, maybe 2 or 3 times total. Also, Eric really really wants to put the kids in soccer (he's coaching Ivy's and Inga's teams) and doesn't want them to miss. 

I have way too many hands. 

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Monday, August 03, 2020

French déconfinement day 85

16,921 steps 

We woke up to a wonderful surprise this morning: clouds! I went running but the sun was almost completely out by time I finished. We had a nice breeze today and that made the temperatures bearable. 

I've been doing a lot of mending: replaced a broken zipper in Ivy's dress, stitched up several seams that were splitting open in another of Ivy's dresses, tightened the band of one of my swim suit tops, shortened a pair of shorts for Zari (they were all the way to her knees and looked funny), turned a long dress into a sleeveless, knee-length nightgown, and mended several rips in one of our duvet covers. I was going to hide the last repair, but I ended up liking the look of the visible mending. 

I bought some buttonhole elastic as a face mask hack: the idea was to put buttons on each end so the ear loops can hook over the buttons, rater than on our ears. The idea was nice but the execution failed. The elastic doesn't stay in place behind my head; it slips down all the way to the back of my neck. And that is the wrong angle for holding the mask on. 

So tomorrow we'll see if we can design some little elastic toggles with polymer clay. I bet I can get the kids to make me some. If they work, I'll make the elastics extra long so there is room to adjust the elastic. 

Dio had friends over most of the day (twins from his class) and Ivy went to a friend's house. We had a relaxing afternoon at the chateau. 

We have dentist's appointments tomorrow. We did some DIY teeth cleaning tonight with our set of dental tools. Hoping that we don't need "dĂ©tartrage" (plaque removal) as it costs extra and we are paying out of pocket! 

I just took this video a few minutes ago. It's a bit after 11 pm and the Irish pub on the corner has live music going until around midnight. Fortunately our bedroom windows all open into an interior courtyard/staircase, so we don't hear any of it when we're trying to sleep. They have great music so there's nothing to complain about!

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Sunday, August 02, 2020

French déconfinement day 84

5,497 steps

I didn't walk much, but I worked and sweated a lot! I spent a few hours scraping off poorly painted window sashes with a razor blade. Why can't people just paint a straight line in the first place and avoid painting all over the glass?

We finished the last season of "Anne With an E." What to watch next? It's been fun having a show to watch together as a family. I'd love your recommendations (Netflix). It's also great motivation for getting kids to help with various projects.

Eric baked 3 fish that he caught a few days ago. Since the oven was on, I decided to bake chocolate mint cookies. Probably a bad idea on both of our parts. It's still too hot in here!

I taught Ivy how to play the right hand of "Lightly Row." We were sitting in a place where we couldn't make noise, so we improvised with a paper "keyboard."

One of the kids--not sure which one--filmed Dio while he was practicing piano. They used a strange setting that made a highly pixellated video. But it was fun to catch him in action!

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