Thursday, April 30, 2020

French quarantine day 42

10,125 steps

Even though quarantine hasn't ended yet, the streets are starting to fill up.

Craft of the day: basic bookbinding. Inga made a set of signatures out of colored paper and then punched the holes in each set. We're hunting around for something to use for the covers. I have some fake leather scraps in the sewing box that might work.

I'm feeling a bit melancholy and overwhelmed. Enough that I holed up with a non-serious non-pandemic book this evening (Virgin River, thanks to a recommendation from one of you!)

And a picture of Dio's cereal box skatepark:

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

French quarantine day 41

15,146 steps

I've been reading piles of "brain candy" books--you know, the kind of escapist books you read on vacation where it's all about plot and there's a happy ending and/or lots of adventures/magic/romance/paranormal stuff.

But I've also managed to read some "healthy" books, too.

A few days ago I finished Michelle Obama's Becoming. Beautifully written.

This evening I finished The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif. It took a while for me to figure out what the author was doing. And it's one I could only read so much of at a time. Still, a great read.

Last week I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have read a book about a global pandemic (this one with a 99+% mortality rate) while living through a global pandemic.

This reminds me of other pandemic books I've read:
Blindness by José Saramago
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Craft of the day: constructing a skate park out of cereal boxes. We have a ginormous ramp, a rail, and something that looks like a tipi and I'm not sure what it's supposed to be.

I didn't take a picture but here are some of our foam carvings.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

French quarantine day 40

9,283 steps

We have now done a proper "quarantine" of 40 days. Quarantine comes from the Latin word for 40. So in French a 40-day period or a group of 40 things would be a "quarantaine."

It rained until mid-afternoon. All my laundry got wet. Boo. Well, I can't complain too much about the weather as we have 300 days of sun per year.

Craft of the day: carving foam pool noodles with a serrated bread knife. There are bits of foam everywhere, but the kids made some great stuff. Surfboards, boats, people/animals to go inside the boats, swords...It will probably all end up in the trash in a few days but that's life with kids' crafts, right? I'll try to take some pictures tomorrow.

The only photo I have from today is me working on floor plans. One of my favorite things to to, ever!

Oh, I totally want to install a giant net downstairs. One like this:

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Monday, April 27, 2020

French quarantine day 39

10,381 steps

I tried hard, but we couldn't get all our school work done in the morning. And yeah, it was stressful on me, having to help one child to after another after another. I felt like I didn't even sit down all day!

But we did take a late morning walk/soccer practice. And another one after dinner. Most days the kids play soccer with Eric while I go on a brisk 2-mile walk. Because of the twice-daily soccer practice, we've seen noticeable improvements in their ball handling skills. Zari has even shown enthusiasm, whereas a few weeks ago we couldn't convince her to participate. She said today, "I'm excited for soccer, which is weird. It must be because confinement makes going out more interesting."

More updates on "le déconfinement": Ivy and Dio start back up on May 12, in classes limited to 15 or less. Inga has to wait another 2 weeks, and then she'll be on some sort of alternating schedule (part in-person, part distance learning). I think the school is still trying to sort out all the details. As for Zari, we haven't heard any updates yet.

And of course, what would childhood be without putting underwear on one's head?

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

French quarantine day 38

10,442 steps

Happy 11th birthday Dio! We opened presents in the morning. He was absolutely positive that he was getting new wheels for his scooter (and he was). So just to fool him, we bought two cans of tuna and wrapped them up in the wheel packaging. After he opened the tuna and a package of Mentos, we said, "Okay, that's it. Happy birthday!" He tried really hard not to look disappointed.

Then we started laughing and sent him on a treasure hunt for his "real" presents: scooter wheels and a skateboard (super cheap basic one because that's all we could find during quarantine).

Dio's cake was a variation on the same quarantine cake we made for Ivy's and my birthdays. But I was able to buy a bag of sour string candy for him to decorate with. He said it was a watermelon-themed scooter wheel.

We pulled wood scraps out of our attic and let the kids play "carpenter" in the afternoon. The kids were surprised at how difficult it was to cut wood by hand.

Distance school starts again tomorrow after a 2-week holiday. We've kept doing school to break up the monotony of quarantine. It's usually just a few worksheets in the morning.

If you want to read Dio's birth story or watch a few videos from the day of his birth, click here.
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Saturday, April 25, 2020

French quarantine day 37

13,572 steps

Yet another quarantine birthday coming up...Dio turns 11 tomorrow! We baked cakes today and will frost and decorate tomorrow. It will likely be *very* similar to the last two quarantine cakes.

I am really going stir-crazy with the need to *do* something, preferably with my hands. I've been watching French home renovation videos as a poor substitute for the real thing.

Inga "caught" a pigeon with my phone camera. It was sitting in one of our planters.

And our resident pyromaniac (Zari) devised makeshift candlesticks with shot glasses and rice.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

French quarantine day 36

7,636 steps

Eric got stopped by a policeman yesterday during our daily walk/soccer practice. Apparently there's a new rule from last week that you can't exercise from noon-6 pm. We had no idea! Oops.

We've now started eating an early dinner so we can go out right at 6 pm. I'm not sure this rule does any good; the streets were far more crowded than usual in the evening!

I really hope the May 11 date for re-opening schools doesn't get pushed back further. From what we've heard, the younger grades will start first. The schools will employ a mixture of in-person and distance learning, capping class sizes at 15. Gradually the higher grades will return to school. Everyone will wear masks. All teachers here are supposed to be tested before school starts.

Inga made a stop-motion film today.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

French quarantine day 35

10,436 steps

I got everything set up in my makeshift recording studio (aka the vacant apartment below us). Then I realized that the old windows with paper-thin glass didn't block the sounds from the street at all. I had assumed that with quarantine, it would be quiet enough. But even one person talking or playing music outside came through as if I were standing right next to them!

So I'm back to recording somewhere in our apartment. Where? Good question! The only good place is near one of the two big windows in the living room. I'll have to take the picture off the wall and move the couch. And most importantly, I'll need to exile the kids from the apartment for 1-2 hours at a time. That's not easy when we're under quarantine.

Just a short video of us on our daily walk/soccer practice/scooter ride.

Also this is the soup we ate tonight. Yum. Everything is approximate. I usually double the recipe because big family.

Salmon & Fennel Chowder

2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 Tbsp flour (use corn starch or skip if you are gluten-free)
1 3/4 quarts fish or chicken bouillon
2 large potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon, cut into 3/4" cubes
1/2 c milk
1/2 c cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter. Add onion, leek, and chopped fennel and cook over medium heat until soft and golden, stirring from time to time.

Stir in flour. Lower heat to low and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add bouillon and potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and tarragon and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Turn to low and stir in milk and cream (do not boil). Add salmon and turn off the heat. Within just a few minutes, the salmon will be cooked through without being overcooked.

Eat right away while the inside of the salmon is still tender and medium rare.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

French quarantine day 34

10,610 steps

I took Zari running today. Oh the drama. She didn't want to go and it took an hour to drag out the door. We did a few sets of sprints until she pulled her hamstring. So I gave her a choice: do more sprints, or jog the rest of the way home.

She chose to jog. And she kept stopping. "I can't do this, I just can't!" I had to coach, cajole, and encourage her the whole time. Finally, I just forced her to keep running. I felt like a doula! Well, as a doula I'm a lot less bossy than I am as a coach :)

This was me the whole way home: I know it's hard. I've been there. You can do this! Instead of saying, "I can't," how about saying "This is hard, this sucks, but I'm going to power through it."

But she was proud of herself afterwards.

My camcorder power cord arrived, so I can finally start recording breech workshop sessions for our online course!

We made a musical instrument out of water bottles.

I'm going to make salmon fennel soup tomorrow. Would anyone like the recipe? And what are you all planning for dinner?
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

French quarantine day 33

8,476 steps

Gray with some sprinkles of rain. Pre-coronavirus, this weather would have caused the locals to leave the parks and beaches. We, on the other hand, would stay and enjoy having the space all to ourselves.

Thank you to our friend/neighbor who brought us a bag of puzzles and games! We did one of the puzzles and played Twister.

Zari and I lifted weights today. Tomorrow is our running/sprinting day. I am a really mean mama and make Zari push herself. She doesn't enjoy it while it's happening, but I also see an emerging sense of accomplishment. She also likes having something that's just for her and me.

I took Dio all around Old Nice and beyond, looking for good places to do tricks on his scooter. Ironically, the very best place is the Place Rosetti, right around the corner!

We spoke with my parents today about their long-term plans. My dad retired last year and my mom will retire as soon as she can find a replacement (she's a Suzuki violin teacher and doesn't want to leave her students stranded). We want them to come live with us for 3 months/year here in France.

But back in the States, we also have an old carriage house that we'd like to turn into a 1-bedroom apartment. This would allow my parents to live close to grandkids and have their own space, but also have a bigger place (our main house) for family gatherings. They're going to think about it.

In other words...lots of DIY renovation projects in our future!
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Monday, April 20, 2020

French quarantine day 32

10,315 steps

Dio was an emotional mess all day. He's been begging to open his birthday presents early (his birthday is this coming Sunday). I keep saying no. He's miserable. This led to several explosive bouts of crying and anger and fights with siblings. "This is the worst day of the whole quarantine!" he announced.

Of all of our children, he is the worst at delayed gratification.

I told him: if you ever feel sad or upset, come get me and we'll snuggle. It's okay to feel this way, but it's not okay to get mad at your family.

All of the children seemed...difficult today. It's just one of those days. The rain and gray sky matched our mood indoors.

(Photo from a few days ago)

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Sunday, April 19, 2020

French quarantine day 31

7,209 steps

Rain all day. The kids never left the house at all. Eric and I still took our evening walk.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: it was my birthday. I am 🐬 years old (so long and thanks for all the fish!).

I wanted to make a coronavirus cake, but alas...quarantine baking means I had none of the right supplies. I also ran out of almond extract and had to substitute vanilla instead. Like Ivy's cake, mine was decorated solely with white frosting. Still delicious despite the missing almond flavor.

And of course we didn't have enough candles so instead we used a leftover one. If you are clever, you can figure out my age!

The kids were busy all day making me birthday presents. Dio made a ring out of sea glass and tinfoil and a necklace out of twine, sea glass, and paperclips. Inga made all sorts of things out of paper, while Ivy gave me a bracelet and a tiny glass jar full of sparkly things (both from her treasure box).

Also a random video of Inga, in which her braids become does she think this stuff up?

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

French quarantine day 30

13,003 steps

So I bought about 6 yards of Indonesian batik fabric online. I need to do something with my hands...and making masks is the solution! I have time and children who would love to help cut and sew.

I'll make as many masks as I can and give them away to anyone local who needs them. I can't wait until the fabric arrives!

We've been watching videos of renovating old French apartments and houses. The materials and construction methods over here are so different from what we're used to in the States. We've done one renovation in France but it was fairly minor compared to what we're planning on doing in the communist apartment.

Eric asked me what I wanted for my birthday tomorrow...and the more I think about it, the more I want a jackhammer (marteau burineur). And scaffolding: the ceilings downstairs are 15' (4.5 m) high!

Speaking of birthdays, I made myself a cake. Eric said, "I could make you a cake, but yours would probably taste better." He is right. We'll do the frosting tomorrow.

Lot de 5 coupons de tissu Batik Fat Quarter 100% coton pour matelassage artisanal BS-FAH-FPJ-0131

Bali Batiks Tissu 100% coton pour patchwork et patchwork 5 couleurs (BS-FAH-CO-0159- COL 1), BS-FAH-CO-0159/1, HALF METRE

Batik BS-FAH-FPJ0130 Lot de 5 paquets de tissus pour loisirs créatifs 100% coton - COL 1
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Friday, April 17, 2020

French quarantine day 29

7,383 steps

What's this I see on the news? Americans gathering in large groups to protest social distancing measures? Sometimes I feel mean-spirited and think, "Serves them right if they all get sick and die." The problem is--they might get sick and cause other people to die.

If there is ever a time to create a social safety net in the States, this is it. I'm talking about things like universal health care, paid sick leave, or hazard pay for "essential" workers...It's unimaginable here in France that you could lose your health care if you become unemployed. No one has to worry about not being able to pay if they need to go to the hospital.

We ran into several friends on our daily walk and we all agreed that quarantine here in Nice is not so bad. We are able exercise outside every day. The police enforcing quarantine have been very nice and respectful. We can get groceries when we need them, rather than only being allowed to go once per week on a pre-assigned day.

I can't think of much to report from today, and I don't have any pictures, either. I'm really itching for a project or craft, but I don't have supplies.

If anyone here in Nice has fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric is best), I would be happy to make them a mask!

You can drop the fabric off in our mailbox to avoid person-to-person contact. Then I could have my kids build a parachute to send the finished masks down from our apartment.
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Thursday, April 16, 2020

French quarantine day 28

15,360 steps

I figured out how to do Breech Without Borders' taxes! I did them last year, but we also only had around $2k gross revenues that year. This year was SO much more complicated with all of the breech workshops and conferences and other projects. Maybe this will save our organization enough money that we can pay Dr. Hayes (or me!) our speaker fees. We still haven't been paid for some of our New Zealand workshops because money was tight.

We set out 3 cheeses at dinner and Zari started rhapsodizing about how delicious they were. Then everyone took turns doing a cheese commercial.

Also a short video of Zari listening to Hamilton.

Last week Dio was fixated on fossil hunting for megalodon teeth. Now he's obsessed with learning tricks on his scooter. Since we can't go to skate parks, he built himself a miniature one for his Legos.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

French quarantine day 27

10,698 steps

I'm running out of things to report on. Let's see...Zari and I did some weightlifting (as much as we can do with only a set of dumbbells).

We bought groceries today. Between the two of us, we carted home 200 Euros of food. We'll still run out of fruits and vegetables too soon, despite carrying as much as we could. Eric took a rolling shopping trolley (called a "chariot") and one bag. I carried home 3 bags on Zari's scooter.

I've been doing intermittent fasting on and off for several years. In the past, I tried the 5:2 method but I kept getting migraines on my fasting days. In early December, I switched to daily IF. I started with 16:8 and fairly quickly moved to 18:6 and then 19:5.

I feel amazing, even if the scale isn't moving. No headaches or overwhelming exhaustion that I've had with 5:2. Lots of energy. I'm going to experiment with 20:4 to see if that's my sweet spot. (Those of you who do IF will know what all these numbers mean! If this all sounds like gibberish, read The Obesity Code or Delay, Don't Deny.)

No pictures from today...but here are a few from yesterday I found on Eric's phone. Don't worry--we saved all of the toilet paper used to make the "mummy"!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

French quarantine day 26

9,605 steps

Yesterday and today were lazy days. I had grand intentions of running and weightlifting and instead...I didn't.

After school time, the kids raided my fabric box. Inga made 2 little pouches, Ivy made a tiny pillow for her dollhouse furniture, and Dio made a megalodon tooth. Zari was busy reading all day.

The kids seemed unusually energetic--either they were having way too much fun and being completely crazy, or they were arguing. Either way, Eric and I both feel a bit overwhelmed from it all.

During our daily exercise, Eric played soccer with the 3 youngest and Zari came along on my normal walking route. When it's just the two of us, Zari turns super chatty. Today we talked about a book we were both reading and about Zari's increasing appreciation for our life over here. Other days we might talk about politics, body image, social injustices, race/class privilege, or even more mundane things like dealing with zits and body odor. We also do fun things like chase lizards or coo over cute dogs we pass.

I brought a large container of yeast over from the US (I've never found bulk yeast sold here in France). Sadly, it is hardly active at all. I'm going to try doubling or tripling it in my recipes. But in the meantime, we took our under-performing bread dough and made naan instead!

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Monday, April 13, 2020

French quarantine day 25

10,328 steps

Macron just announced that the strictest phase of quarantine will continue until May 11th at the earliest. At that date, he hopes to slowly begin "déconfinement," prioritizing schools and certain businesses. He anticipates that large gatherings such as concerts or soccer matches won't happen until at least mid-July. Europe's borders may remain closed beyond mid-May. So many things are unknown and changing on a daily or even hourly basis.

France is prioritizing mask production and testing, both for current infections and for antibodies. In the very near future anyone with symptoms should be able to be tested, rather than only those who are ill enough to qualify.

Macron isn't universally loved over here--what politician is, aside from exceptional ones like Jacinda Ardern?--but his speech was moving and compassionate and thoughtful and all of the things I would expect from a nation's leader.

He acknowledged the difficulty we are all going through. He mentioned issues I feel are particularly important: acknowledging that domestic violence is on the rise due to quarantine measures, that school children without access to internet or help at home are unfairly disadvantaged, that we need to work to solve environmental issues so that we are resilient for future crises, that income inequality is a grave concern.

Most importantly, though, he stressed that we need to use this opportunity to rebuild a society that is more equitable, more just, and more compassionate.

(No photos from today, but here are two from yesterday)

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Sunday, April 12, 2020

French quarantine day 24

President Macron will soon be announcing more coronavirus updates. Schools will likely be closed until September and the quarantine will last longer than expected. It's not official yet, but even this pre-news has been hard to accept.

We had an Easter egg hunt (still missing one egg!), painted hard-boiled eggs, and then had an egg war. This tradition comes from Eric's family.

We didn't have anything special for dinner, but I did make challah this afternoon. Yum!

We got out the drone after more than a year. This will likely be the only opportunity in our lifetime to see Nice so empty.

Our life might seem fun despite the quarantine, but remember that we're posting the most exciting 1-2 minutes of every day. I'm sure you know what I mean, as you're likely living through something similar--maybe less stringent, maybe more.
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Saturday, April 11, 2020

French quarantine day 23

17,123 steps

This week I went running 3 times! Much improved from the previous few weeks. I've convinced Zari to do running and weightlifting with me.

I had a hankering for tian tonight (French comfort food). It's very easy: thinly slice tomatoes, onions, zucchini, & eggplant and layer in a dish. Add salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Pour a generous amount of olive oil and bake until everything is nice and soft.

The kids devoured it and took extra helpings, saying "Mmm, mama, this is SO GOOD!" Then we ate lemon cheesecake for dessert (not-French comfort food...but delicious).

I found these very bizarre videos on Eric's phone. I think Dio has been watching too much Jim Carrey???

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Friday, April 10, 2020

French quarantine day 22

10,847 steps

Today the kids made a museum and charged admission. 1 aluminum foil coin = 5 minutes in the museum.

A few days ago our upstairs neighbor complained about noise (our kids were hopping around on one foot). She's super when she complains, it meant the noise was really bad. We really are trying to keep the noise down. I promise!

Other than the noise incident, our kids have been remarkably well-tempered. Yes, they have the occasional spats and hurt feelings. Yes, I feel like I'm telling them to stop arguing more than I would like. But overall, they are great kids. They have so much fun playing together and rarely complain about boredom.

I'm feeling particularly grateful because I announced a 10-minute cleanup after dinner. They all helped right away without any nagging. Ivy even said, "I want to do 20 minutes of cleaning, not just 10!"

This quarantine is asking so much of all of us, and I suspect children are struggling as much as the adults. And none of us really know what we're doing or when it's going to end or what normal will look like afterwards.

ps, here is one idea for what to do with the mountains of finished homework or drawings. Make it into claws!

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Thursday, April 09, 2020

French quarantine day 21

17,840 steps

Material of the day: pâte à modeler (play dough).

We're starting to get some color, thanks to our daily walks in the sunny weather. The sea is dead calm and crystal clear. Eric is dying; it's perfect spearfishing weather but no one is allowed on or near the water.

I painted a wall in the communist apartment. It will serve as the backdrop for a makeshift "film studio" so I can tape several lectures and simulation sessions. Breech Without Borders is putting together an online breech course as the coronavirus may continue to disrupt travel for many months.

I found a tiny store in our neighborhood that just opened up and sells flour and a few other essentials. It's way too small to be a grocery store, more of a tiny closet-sized "épicerie". It charges 2x the normal price for flour and only sells one 1 kg bag at a time. But at least I can make bread again!

Zari's art assignment yesterday was to do a "nature morte" (still life) using shoes, both photography & drawings. She came up with a coronavirus theme.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

French quarantine day 20

10,815 steps

Today's featured crafting material: aluminum foil! Dio built armor for his stuffed animal. Zari made a tree and Inga built spirals around marbles. The kids also hammered foil into cubes, balls, and coins.

On our evening walk, we were near the port when it turned 8 pm. The boats all began blasting their horns, adding a nice accompaniment to the people clapping and cheering.

Using salvaged materials from the apartment below, I repaired our broken daybed. (I bought a compound miter saw at Lidl yesterday when we were grocery shopping. It's so nice to have a power saw after 5+ years of cutting everything by hand!)

Ivy and Inga have become fascinated with making a Maleficent costume. We watched tutorials on how to build a pair of wings and how to do makeup and fake ears. Inga drew me a picture of what she wanted. I hate having to tell them, "I'm sorry; I don't have any of the right supplies."

Now if you REALLY want to get grossed out...look at these last 4 pictures. These are before & after pictures from when Ivy and I cleaned the back room in the communist apartment. Ugh, so much mold and disgusting unidentified substances!

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

French quarantine day 19

15,516 steps

The weather feels like summer! It's so frustrating not to be able to go to the beach or take a hike.

We hear rumblings that Paris and Nice are going to make masks mandatory whenever you go outside. I'm not sure how they're going to make masks available to everyone...and will it be just one mask per person? If so, will they be washable? Sterilizable? If they don't provide masks, how can they enforce the rule since you can't buy them anywhere?

We also are hearing rumors about exercise being limited to before 10 am or after 6 pm. I'm not sure how this would be helpful, as it would just concentrate all the people going on runs/walks to a smaller time frame.

But yeah, gotta make more rules and more rules. I just wish we had some solid evidence on what actually makes a significant difference--and that we only implemented rules that were effective!

Eric and I went grocery shopping at Lidl (like Aldi). The lines were short but, unlike last week, the shelves were not well-stocked. Not bare, but noticeably sparse. The produce was almost all gone, whereas dry/canned goods were mostly plentiful. flour to be found anywhere, not at Lidl and not at our local neighborhood groceries. How am I going to make bread? I don't want to venture into the megastore Carrefour just for flour!

Kids doing a 10-minute deep stretch yoga video and a random picture of Zari's foot?

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