Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ivy is 19 months old!

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

A fun day for Ivy to turn 19 months old.

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

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

She loves to nurse (picture taken by Zari). 

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

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

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

Sibling pictures

Other odds and ends

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

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

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

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

The kids are on fall break this week and next.

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

Toddler nursing & yoga session

Ivy loves to nurse. Especially while doing yoga.

Downward facing dog is easiest.

Sometimes she adds a leg lift

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eric's newest baby: book #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Eric, check out his new website

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Irish midwife Philomena Canning

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

Photo from

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter #isupportphilomenacanning

Thank you!

Susannah Sweetman

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

Zari's letter to the circus

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

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

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

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

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

A letter for the circus

But, this note is for the behavior of the circus

Dear Circus,

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


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Friday, October 03, 2014

Life without a car


It's the word I come back to whenever I describe what it feels like to not have a car.

Being car-free is better for the environment, better for my wallet, better for my health, and better for my social life. 

We live in old Nice, and it feels more like we're living in a village than in a big city. We have all the amenities we need within easy walking distance: grocery stores, butchers, bakers, concert halls, churches (well...not our particular denomination...but lots of Catholic ones!), post office, markets, banks, and schools. We can walk to the beach and to several different parks. If we need to go farther out, we catch the tram or bus. I can get almost anywhere in metropolitan Nice via public transportation. Some places are trickier than others, but we've gone all over the entire city to pick up items, from skis to spearguns to pots & pants to comforters and pillows. I've even taken crib mattresses and large mirrors home on the city buses.

Life here in vieux Nice is set up to get around without cars. Most of the streets in old Nice are navigable only by foot because they are so narrow. You'll see the occasional delivery vehicle creeping down our street, but pedestrians rule our part of town.

Not having a car forces us to go on walks more often. I have to carry all my groceries home, so I go shopping more frequently. I use the stroller to carry the groceries home, with Ivy strapped on my back. Running errands means built-in exercise, so it feels like less of a chore than when I'm stuck in a car going from place A to B to C.

Take today, for example: after we dropped the kids off at school (on foot, like 99% of the other parents--the other 1% ride motorcycles), I wanted to look at some showers and bathroom tiles at a home improvement store. I put Ivy in an Ergo carrier and walked the 3.2 kms roundtrip. We picked the kids up for lunch, dropped them off again, and picked them up at the end of the school day. In the afternoon Eric went spearfishing at the far side of the port...running there and back because why not run? It's a built-in 5k! (He speared a saupe today...dinner tomorrow!) After dinner, we took a short walk to the Promenade du Paillon. Apparently the kids had lots of leftover energy because they ran almost the entire time. Inga especially.

An added benefit of dropping kids off at school on foot is you get to meet other parents four times a day. It's the complete opposite of school back home, where 99% of kids rode in cars or school buses, and less than 1% walked or biked.

I'd like to get a bike for some of the longer errands that we run. I could put Ivy in the Ergo and take her far down the Promenade des Anglais when we have our morning time together. Or Eric could take it when he goes spearfishing to speed up his commuting time.

French cities aren't as well set up for bicycling as Amsterdam, but they're still a vast improvement over American cities. I've seen several dedicated bike lanes around town. If you don't own a bike, or if you need one when you're out running errands, you can use Vélo Bleu, a bike sharing service where you pick up or drop off bikes at stations all around town.

Side note: read this interesting analysis of why fewer US women ride bikes compared to Dutch women in the Guardian. The author argues:

Dutch women can use bikes to get around because they are less pressed for time than American women, in three fundamental ways. First, thanks to family-friendly labour policies like flexitime and paternity leave, Dutch families divide childcare responsibilities much more evenly than American families. Second, work weeks in the Netherlands are shorter. One in three Dutch men and most Dutch women work part-time, and workers of either gender work fewer hours than Americans.

Lastly, Dutch parents do much less chauffeuring of children and elderly family members than American parents. Neighbourhood schools and high-quality bike infrastructure in the Netherlands make it easy for Dutch kids to walk or bike to school, unlike their counterparts in America, where rates of bicycling and walking to school have been declining for decades. Dutch elderly are also much more independently mobile than their American counterparts.

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