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 "détartrage" (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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Saturday, August 01, 2020

French déconfinement day 83

7,362 steps

We spent the morning deep cleaning, the kind of cleaning I rarely do (washing baseboards and chair rails, wiping dust off every crack on every piece of furniture, polishing railings and knobs). Everyone had to help out, and the reward was watching an episode of "Anne With an E" together.

In the afternoon we packed away more things into storage and set out a few bags of giveaway items. Eric donated an entire bag full of masks, snorkels, and shoes he has fished out of the bottom of the ocean. We have found so many that we are constantly giving them away.

Quick afternoon swim right before dinner. The ocean now feels almost too warm. Ivy swam with me out to one of the far buoys. She had her snorkeling gear on and would dive down deep alongside me. It's amazing to see my kids learn and even surpass what I can do.

After dinner I did some painting on our interior windows that separate the entry hall from the living room. Then I played photographer for Eric: he needed some head shots for his upcoming book "French Dive." I think we got a few decent ones.
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