Sunday, February 28, 2021

Day 69: Lockdown Sunday

7,998 steps

We spent the morning at home baking sourdough and making chocolate decorations for Inga's birthday cake. I found ruby chocolate on sale at Lidl and bought 10 bars.

If you haven't ever tried ruby chocolate, you should! It's a new type of chocolate made from unfermented or lightly fermented cacao beans. It's naturally pale pink and tastes like raspberry white chocolate.

We went up to the chateau after lunch for our allotted hour of physical exercise (although we stretched that hour waaaaay out!). I took Ivy on a walk around the port. "I'm burning thirsty!" she told me.

I found some videos from yesterday at the Place Rosetti. Inga "only" did 61 in this video, but she broke her record off-camera at 78!

Ivy was reading one of our old leather-bound books and she found a poem by Victor Hugo, "Les Djinns." We had to memorize this in our university phonetics & pronunciation class. Brings back good memories...

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Saturday, February 27, 2021

French renovations, Day 68:

11,690 steps

We're now under a partial lockdown on the weekends for who knows how long. All non-essential shops are closed, parks/beach/running paths closed, you need papers if you leave your house. France's Covid numbers dropped after lockdown #2, but never got below an average of around 20,000 new infections per day. We've been sitting at this plateau since December, I think.

I convinced Dio to come running with me this morning. I managed to get him out the door and he set off at a good pace. But then...he kept getting side aches and it totally ruined the rest of the run for him. He was crying and despondent and just wouldn't try anymore.

I baked Inga's birthday cakes. They are now in the freezer awaiting frosting and decorations. I can't believe she will be 10 in just a few days!

After lunch I did some careful demolition--more like a tiny trim rather than a drastic haircut. I took down loose plaster on one wall and carefully scraped away the lime plaster on another wall until I got down to the stones.

We're not sure how we're going to finish the upper walls in the back room. I'm leaning towards doing an exposed stone wall on one of the short ends--I love how they look--and then putting drywall on the other walls. It's a compromise as Eric just wants to drywall over everything and I'd like to do even more exposed stone. We'll probably change our minds again as we actually start doing the walls!

Zari helped me bag today's debris while Eric took everyone else out to play soccer at the Place Rosetti.

I did a lot of video editing today for Breech Without Borders. I have several videos I should edit and put up here...but I've lost any will to work this evening. And it's already after 11. I think I'm going to get in bed and read until I fall asleep.
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Friday, February 26, 2021

French renovations, Day 67: Poetry recording and sunbathing

5,568 steps (and biking)

Eric is working on an exposition with the Grotte du Lazaret, a prehistoric archeological site right here in Nice. This is a cave where humans lived tens of thousands of years ago. The exposition is themed around the idea of "Desire" and is part of a national event called Le Printemps des Poètes.

The Grotte is pairing with LabSynthE at the University of Dallas to do a multimedia production inside the cave. They will have poetry readings playing in the background on a continuous loop (in both French and English). They're also creating large panels with selected poems in both languages. Eric will also be giving a lecture (in French) about being a writer in Nice.

The director wanted to showcase international poets. Eric selected the poems, arranged author permissions, and translated the poems from English into French. This morning, both of us headed over to the Grotte to record the English versions. I did the ones written by women, Eric did the ones by men. I had to put on my "dramatic poetry reading" hat. I hope it turned out okay!

The exposition will likely take place in April (originally scheduled for late March, but likely delayed due to Covid-19). If you're in the area, please come visit the exposition! 

While we were gone, the kids made teeny tiny fast food with playdough.

Inga spent the afternoon with a friend at two different parks. Eric went spearfishing and caught 3 fish (dinner tonight!). I brought everyone else for a glorious afternoon at the beach. We basked in the sun until we almost felt too hot. Ivy was SUPER SAD that she couldn't swim. I helped her dip her feet in the water but it wasn't enough.
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Thursday, February 25, 2021

French renovations, Day 66: The Big Cut!

8,776 steps

All of the planning paid off--we got both beams down safely! Zari helped lower the smaller beam.

This also marks the end of the demolition phase and the beginning of re-building. I'm sure we'll have more things to tear down here and there, but at least we can change focus.

Eric found a used piano bench today--yay! The kids have been using a folding chair but it's not the right height for any of them.

Ivy had a follow-up visit at Lenval Hospital today. They did another x-ray and found that everything looks perfect. Eric saw both the x-rays and said the "before" one looked horrendous. However, he couldn't even see the fracture on today's x-ray. Ivy got a hard exterior added to her cast (called a "résine"). She'll have it for 3 more weeks.

She's not supposed to run, climb, jump, etc. Oops...she's been doing several of those things. It's hard to keep an active 7-year old still!

We spent several hours outdoors this afternoon. It felt like a late spring day and I didn't want to go in. I had to return at 4 pm for a grant planning meeting. We think we'll be ready to send in our application in about 5 weeks.

Squab is doing well. I wonder what's happening with the other egg (to be named Squeaker if it hatches). 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

French renovations, Day 65: A new power tool and getting ready for the Big Cut

16,306 steps

I get ridiculously excited when we buy power tools. Today's acquisition was a wall chaser (rainureuse). This is something I'd never heard of before coming to France. Back in the US, our walls are hollow so you just run your wires/pipes inside the walls.

Not in France! Most walls here are solid: stone, brick, concrete, etc. A rainureuse has two diamond-tipped blades that cut parallel channels in brick, stone, plaster, concrete, etc. You then chisel the channels out and that's where you put your plumbing or electricity.

We've got the beam ready to cut tomorrow morning. Please give me any last minute suggestions if you think something looks wrong!

Our squab is doing well. It's fluffier and more vigorous. I'm wondering if that egg is a 2nd egg or if it's just the shell with the unbroken side facing up. I guess we'll see...

Zari had the big orthodontist consultation today. She'll have braces for 18 months, then 1-2 years of wearing a clear retainer at night. Routine adjustments occur every 5-6 weeks. Oh the joys of parenthood.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

French renovations, Day 64: Squabs and squeakers!

9,562 steps

Our dove egg hatched! We hadn't looked inside the flower pot since we first spied the egg. We were sneaking a GoPro over to take a look and scared the mama we swung our shutter over for a quick peek. And we have a new hatchling and what looks like a second egg.

We did some research and learned that doves typically lay 2 eggs that hatch one day apart. We might very well have another one tomorrow.

Did you know? Baby doves are called squabs or squeakers.

Dio spent much of the day at a skatepark. He took a spill and bumped his elbow, wrist, and chin. I'd sent him off this morning with strict instructions not to break a bone 🙂

In the morning, Ivy, Inga, and Zari helped me assemble our new table saw. Eric was eager to cut the beam but I argued that we should have a few more people to help hold the ropes. So we'll likely do that tomorrow. I have everything set up and ready for the big cut.

I also got out our laser level and marked the placement of the mezzanine in the back room. It's a fun tool. Before this renovation, we had always done things the old-fashioned way with a metal level and chalk lines.

I also checked the floors in the front room. Between the front door and the windows (a 7.5 meter span), the floors rise over 3"! The floors also dip down in the center due to the load-bearing beams settling. This is going to be an interesting challenge to make level.
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Monday, February 22, 2021

French renovations, Day 63: Sick day

2,516 steps

I have learned that 2,500 steps is the bare minimum needed to sit around all day sick. Thing is, even though I was sedentary, I didn't rest. I'm not saying this as a humble-brag, either. I don't rest enough when I need to.

I did Breech Without Borders' taxes, watched loads of home renovating videos, edited and produced some videos. You know. Like you should do when you're sick, right?

Oh yeah, plus 2 loads of laundry and dinner (with enough leftovers for another night).

We missed our hike :( Boo.

Good news: whatever is going around our family is NOT Covid. I got tested this morning.

We all watched "The Social Dilemma" this evening. Oh the irony of writing about this on Facebook. The pandemic created some huge changes in our family with device usage. Before, our kids hardly ever went on our phones or laptops. But all of the online schooling last spring and fall created a habit of just grabbing the phone on impulse. 

Even with our fairly strict rules (15 minutes of device time per day), it's been hard to keep a reasonable limit. Someone will go overtime and just not tell me....or they'll be "just looking something up" and it turns into 20 minutes of random YouTube know, the normal time suck.

A partially finished drawing of Inga...Even with just the eyes, it is 100% Inga. 

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

French renovations, Day 62: Walking, scootering

14,031 steps

I'm coming down with what Dio had two days ago: sore throat, sneezing, and general body aches. Eric had it on Friday. I hope it's gone by tomorrow since we're planning on going hiking!

I walked a lot today with various children accompanying me on foot or scooters. Dio begged to go to the skatepark, so Eric took him and Inga this afternoon. Then he did more scootering with a friend.

I baked sourdough bread and have been watching all sorts of renovating videos this evening. Today I learned how to install Fermacell dry-level flooring and lime hemp plaster. It always looks so easy on videos, right?
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Saturday, February 20, 2021

French renovations, Day 61: Scooters, jackets, parties, and spearfishing...minus the fish

7,811 steps

Renovating is on a short pause until Monday.

Ivy woke up in good spirits and ravenously hungry. "At least I didn't break my leg, or my neck!"

Dio decided to use his soccer prize money to buy a used trick scooter. (He got money for doing 100 juggles in a row without letting the ball touch the ground.) He and Eric took a trip this morning to La Turbie, which is right above Monaco.

All he can talk about now is riding his scooter, trying new tricks on his scooter, going to the skate park...he falls into things passionately and intensely. He also founds out of interest just as deeply.

I constructed a cast-friendly jacket for Ivy. I realized that she couldn't put on any of her usual jackets because the cast is too big to fit through the sleeves.

I found an old fleece shirt that was in our "donate" pile. I cut and hemmed one sleeve and cut the front open all the way. Ivy went through my box of fabric scraps and picked a hand-woven silk to go down the front. It fastens with Velcro and is easy to take on and off.

So that took up most of the morning. As usual, I over-engineered it but Ivy is thrilled with it. (Jenn B, you should recognize the silk from the Mei Tai I made you!)

We were at a friend's birthday party all afternoon. Ivy was the center of attention. We brought a pack of markers so all of her friends could decorate the cast. In the video, they are joking about drawing poop ("caca") on the cast.

While we were gone, Eric went spearfishing for 3 hours but didn't get anything. He usually comes home with several things to eat.

I made Tuscan butter gnocchi. Thumbs up from everyone and something I'll repeat in the future.

Right before bed Zari styled Dio's hair.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

French renovations, Day 60: A pain in the neck and a broken wrist

4,278 steps

I was planning on writing about the crick in my neck--it was lining up to be the most exciting thing in an otherwise mundane day--but then BAM! Life got a lot more exciting.

Ivy and Inga were at the chateau with Eric over the lunch break. I walked up to say hi. Right when I arrived, I heard Inga calling me over. "Ivy broke her wrist!"


I vaulted over the fence and came to take a look. She had just fallen down a few minutes before I arrived. The crazy thing is she was on a toddler slide and only fell from about 4 feet up!

She was sitting wrapped in a blanket, holding her arm, and in terrible pain. Eric had just got off the phone with the ambulance.

I took a look and ugh! Arms shouldn't be able to do that. (Spoiler alert: she broke both the radius and the ulna near the extremity.)

Neither of us had wallets or ID with us, since it was just a short visit over lunch. We sent Inga back to school with friends. The paramedics stabilized her arm and got her on a gurney. I stayed in the ambulance with Ivy, and Eric went home to pick up our wallets.

We rode to Lenval, the big children's hospital, which is just a few kilometers from Old Nice. I couldn't do much more than comfort Ivy with touch and words.

Eric got to Lenval quickly, but due to Covid restrictions he couldn't come in. He passed off my wallet and medical cards to a nurse. He stayed for a while, texting and calling, hoping that we'd be out soon. But it was obvious that it would take a while. He finally went home to take care of errands, pick kids up from school, make dinner, etc.

We waited in one room for a long time, then finally got brought into "Plâtre 1." More waiting...and waiting. Someone came in to insert an IV line. They put on soothing meditation music and gave Ivy laughing gas to make it easy and painless. She got IV acetaminophen, then finally we went back to get her first x-rays.

More waiting. Finally, they started measuring her arm and prepping the plasters. We still hadn't seen a doctor or been told exactly what was broken.

Then all of a sudden, someone came in and said, "We're going in for the next x-rays. You stay here." I was like, "uh, okay, bye?"

Ivy came back a half hour later with her arm set and totally loopy from all the drugs they gave her (Ketamine, Midazolam, MEOPA). She'd puked during the setting, probably from the medications. Her eyes were rolling back in her head and she was moaning and talking erratically.

She finally took a long nap. She had to stay for 2 hours anyway, so they could monitor her as the drugs wore off.

I don't know many more details because they never sent a doctor in to discuss things with me! It was the most bizarre hospital ER visit I've ever had. No one ever came after the x-ray or after the bone setting to actually sit down and tell me what happened.

At the end of our stay, they gave me a stack of papers, explained a few things about the cast and follow up visits, and sent me on my way. Still no consultation or explanation. Huh.

They set her wrist at a right angle. I've never seen that before. I asked one of the people about it (not sure if she was a doctor or a nurse, since no one had nametags). She said that since the wrist broke in one direction, they like to set it in the other direction so it doesn't get pulled in the way it broke. I guess we'll have to trust them on that.

Ivy's accident happened around 1 pm and we got home around 6:45. She tried to eat but wasn't feeling well. She puked a whole bunch and finally was able to take a few sips of water and juice.

Please, no more broken bones!

Top quotes from Ivy today:

"Garrett would probably be very interested in seeing my x-rays." (Talking about her uncle who is a MD)

"Mama, if you took a slow-mo shot of me breaking my wrist, do you think that would be interesting?"
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Thursday, February 18, 2021

French renovations, Day 59: More tools!

13,972 steps

I woke Dio up this morning. He moaned, "I don't feel good. My body aches and I have a sore throat." He didn't have a fever, and honestly it was hard to tell if he was sick or just tired. He was crying enough this morning that I let him stay home.

Eric feels like he's coming down with the same thing, so maybe Dio was truly sick :) And Dio usually gets up quickly in the mornings and is eager to go to school.

Dio went back to bed for a while. He looked much better after the second sleep.

Zari, wanting to the Boss Of the World, kept telling him that he wasn't really sick. I kept telling her that it's MY job to be the parent, not hers. She hasn't got the memo yet.

I walked to Lidl to buy a table saw this morning; they were on sale for 99 Euros and were a better quality than the one we have in the US. The box was so big and so heavy there was no way I could get it home myself! I had my little shopping cart that can convert into a dolly, but it was seriously underpowered.

When Eric came home from a pickup soccer match, I convinced him to bring the car and pick it up with me. I'm so excited because we can finally cut the pieces of lumber (salvaged from the mezzanine) that will become the joist supports for the new mezzanine in the back!

When Zari came home from school in the afternoon, I took her and Dio out for a walk. She was Ms. Grumpy Pants for the first half. Dio rode on his scooter and now is very interested in upgrading to a better trick scooter. He's going to sell some of his toys and see if he can afford to buy a new (used) one.

I brought Inga and Ivy to the coulee verte after school. I haven't gone in a while and it was nice to chat with the usual group of parents. The kids were running and playing nonstop--so important to get that energy out!

Eric made dinner: salad & cassoulet, plus leftover galette des Rois.

Ivy and Zari playing Devine Tête

A picture of this year's Carnaval theme: Carnavalovirus (taken by a friend). No city-wide celebrations this year.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

French renovations, Day 58: Teeth & soccer

My fitness tracker battery died...

I worked all morning on a breech data collection form. Finicky but necessary.

Then, over the next 4 1/2 hours, I...
  • brought Zari for oral x-rays (and had to leave her there to fend for herself, in order to get back in time)
  • brought Dio to get fit for a mouth guard. He grinds his teeth at night. Inga and Ivy complain that it's super loud.
  • dropped Dio off at home, caught the tram up to Cavigal
  • picked up Ivy from soccer practice
  • went to Aldi for a quick grocery run
  • took our groceries home on the tram. Ivy hung from a bar the whole time.
  • unloaded groceries, prepped dinner (turkey filets stuffed with guacamole & rolled in prosciutto)
  • finally ate my first meal of the day at 14:30
  • brought Dio up to his soccer practice at the chateau
  • came back home and got started on dessert (galette des Rois)

After dinner I had a zoom meeting with a midwife who's contributing her breech & twin data. (Hi! You know who you are!)


Then more breech data collection work

Now it's 10:40 pm. I should probably stop and do something fun/relaxing/not work.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

French renovations, Day 57: More ceiling removal and some demolition regret

9,167 steps

Eric got the rest of the plaster off the first half of the ceiling. We keep going back and forth as to whether we should have taken it all off, or just removed the loose parts and patched them up. Today was one of those "Ugh, we shouldn't have removed it all!" days. But I think it will be okay. The other side is in much worse shape so we'll likely need to take that down, too.

I cleaned and bagged the debris while Eric worked with the jackhammer. We discovered another rotten area (hooray for us). This is more mystifying because it's in the middle of an interior wall. Why would the wood be rotting there?

Of course nothing is straight or level so it's going to be interesting putting drywall up.

Ivy and Inga were thrilled to have Carnaval at school, even if it wasn't as elaborate as usual. They twirled and fluttered their cloaks and had lots of admiring comments. Ivy requested a "Medieval hairstyle." Without lots of time in the morning, this is the best I could come up with.

Don't you adore Ivy's mushroom dress? I found it at a thrift store. The inner lining fabric is all mushrooms as well.

Eric gave a presentation for a colleague's class, then I had a Zoom meeting to work on our grant application, then Eric had a virtual reading. It was another busy Zoom day for us!

We're still trying to sort out the "cave" in the basement. We ran into one of the musicians who belongs to the association that owns the other cave. Apparently they're going to give us a key some time soon...but they also keep insisting that both of the caves are theirs, and we can have a spot in the hallway between the two caves. (Never mind that our purchase agreement clearly states that we have one cave and they have one cave.)

Comrade is working on getting us all sorts of documents attesting to which part should be ours. He called me today to assure me he's working on it and that he'd pay for legal fees, if necessary. I hope it doesn't come to that. He inquired about how the renovations were going and reminded us that he's happy to help if we need anything. We ❤️ Comrade.
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Monday, February 15, 2021

French renovations, Day 56: Zoom zoom zoom

3,315 steps

Wow, I really didn't get out much today! I had lots of breech work and a few Zoom meetings/interviews. Eric did about 45 minutes of work downstairs, but it was so noisy that I had to ask him to stop once my Zoom meetings started.

I recorded a podcast with David Hayes and Rebecca Dekker of Evidence Based Birth. To be released in April, we think!

Other good news: I found a collaborator for two projects that need IRB (ethics) approval! I am a researcher without an institution and thus can't apply for IRB approval myself. It's a frustrating place to be.

I sewed Inga's cape this afternoon. She was delighted with how it flowed and fluttered through the air.
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Sunday, February 14, 2021

French renovations, Day 55: Family walk

11,834 steps

I was going to say it was cold today--and it was, for Nice--but all of you stuck in a polar vortex would laugh at me. Cold for Nice = high of only 45°F (9°C). At least it was sunny; the extra radiant heat made being outside quite pleasant as long as we weren't in the shade.

Dio went to a friend's house for the afternoon. We baked (and ate) sourdough bread and watched the season 2 finale of Blown Away. We all really liked both contestants so either way we were excited to see who was the winner. (Side note: I think the person who didn't win had the better gallery exhibition.)

Instead of picking Dio up in the car, we decided to take a nice family walk. We walked past the Roman arena in Cimiez. The kids stayed for a few minutes to play, then we all walked home. Inga held my hand on the way up and was a total chatterbox. On the way home, Eric raced with the 3 youngest kids and Zari and I had a good talk.

Dinner (Eric) was salmon and green beans. We ate Zari's tarte au chocolat topped with whipped cream and raspberries.
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Saturday, February 13, 2021

French renovations, Day 54: Blessed by the dumpster diving goddess

6,723 steps (but I forgot to put my tracker on in the morning)

Last night I brought some garbage and recycling to the déchetterie right before curfew. A light rain was falling. I spotted two reusable bags off to the side filled with neatly folded items (always a good sign). They were sheets and duvet covers in a range of colors and sizes, all in wonderful condition. I didn't bother sifting through them because curfew. I just took everything. 

Then on my way out, I glanced at a pile of large items sitting out in the rain. And Lo! the heavens shone down upon an antique quartersawn oak headboard and footboard. They'd been stored in someone's cellar and were covered in a fine layer of earth.

The garbage truck drove up. I told them, "I'm going to take these! Don't load them up--I'll be right back with help!"

I hurried home and got Zari and Ivy as my helpers. A random nice man at the garbage station helped us carry both pieces home.

Today Ivy helped me vacuum and wash the pieces. They look amazing! They could use a new coat of finish to make them good as new. I need to research historically appropriate finishes and I don't want to put a modern polyurethane on something so beautiful.

Here's my plan: make new connecting rails and turn it into a huge, gorgeous daybed in the downstairs apartment. With a back cushion, it would be about the same depth as a couch.

We just found out that the elementary school is still celebrating Carnaval, although with certain restrictions to keep things covid appropriate. We've been brainstorming costume ideas for Inga and Ivy.

Ivy's going to use the cape that Zari made for her Christmas present, plus her mushroom dress and nature shirt (pictures coming another day). I'm sewing Inga a cape made out of purple and blue iridescent organza (from an old curtain I bought at a thrift store). If I have time I might make Inga and/or Ivy medieval dresses but no guarantees.

We ran out of thread midway through Inga's cape, and Ivy's mushroom dress needed new buttons. So the 3 of us took a walk to the fabric store. We found exactly what we needed.

I made dinner: pork larb. Nothing else. It's good enough as it is 🙂 Plus I had a breech live session right during dinner time so that's all I had time for. Later on in the evening Zari made tarte au chocolat but we forgot to eat it. Dessert tomorrow.

We watched the penultimate episode of Blown Away, Season 2. I'm excited for the finale tomorrow!
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Friday, February 12, 2021

French renovations, Day 53: Goodbye, plaster ceiling (and hello, rotten wood....noooo!)

13,632 steps

I felt tired and sluggish this morning, but I powered through 2 1/2 hours of renovation work. It was so much harder than I had anticipated! I guess holding a heavy jackhammer over your head for 2 hours qualifies as hard labor.

I discovered a significant amount of rot in the corner affecting part of the main beam and a few of the connecting beams. I'm most concerned about what's causing the rot (water). Right on the other side of the wall are the main sewer stack and water supply lines. I highly suspect there's a slow leak of some sort; in the hallway the plaster is peeling and flaking where it's near the sewer line. If we just repair the rotten parts inside the apartment, it won't address the reason for the rot.

But on the up side, fixing the main sewer/water lines is our whole building's responsibility. Anyway, another thing to have the plumber look at.

Eric took the kids to the park during lunch while I was still working. Inga is honing her dribbling skills.

Zari and I took a walk to the big supermarket to buy some school supplies. I let her choose a treat, and she picked Orangina Rouge. I don't like pop and drink it...well, basically never. But I have to admit this one is really good. I even drank a half glass.

Zari went to a different orthodontist today for an exam and the initial impressions. Back when I was young, they had me bite down into this stiff compound. But now they have a digital scanner that creates a 3D rendering of the entire mouth. Pretty cool. We have to get x-rays done at the radiology center, then come back in 10 days for an evaluation and full pricing breakdown.

I am totally exhausted! But I didn't let myself sit still today, so at least I avoided an accidental nap.

Eric made dinner tonight: a big salad and cassoulet. Yum.
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Thursday, February 11, 2021

French renovations, Day 52: Beam preparation!

10,827 steps

Today was a big day: we sent off our applications for the 10-year Carte de résident! We had a final meeting with our immigration specialist this morning to go over everything one last time. (Totally worth the 80 Euros for 2 hours of excellent advice and insider tips!)

Bringing the papers to the post office felt like taking a final exam. I hate that feeling. Instead of finding out the results a week later, though, we may have to wait a year.

I was so excited and relieved that I took a celebratory picture outside the post office.

Then...time to make a mess. Eric helped me move the scaffolding to the back room. I figured out a better engineering solution for cutting the big lower beam. I was worried that 2 eyebolts might be inadequate to hold the weight of the beam (see yesterday's illustration).

I had the idea to chisel out a channel *above* the load-bearing beams on the ceiling so that we could put a lifting strap (also called a DD sling, or "élingue") all the way around the beam on both ends. The two ends of the strap will be connected by a carabiner, which will also serve as a pulley for the support ropes on either side.

The plaster on the ceiling came off like butter, thanks to the jackhammer. I think we should take all of the plaster off as it's loose in many areas. With everything opened up, we can run all of the wiring in the ceiling, install acoustic insulation (maybe a thin later of spray foam?), and cover everything up with drywall.

Once the plaster was out of the way, I drilled into the crossbeams at a shallow angle, just enough to be able to pass the strap through. (Don't worry--I didn't drill into the main beam.) It was tricky because I only had good access from one side and had to do the other side by feel, awkwardly hanging half my body over the edge of the scaffolding.

When I took my clothes off to wash and change, I released a shower of plaster dust and paint chips that had fallen into my shirt.

I ordered the straps and carabiners this evening. I have a few days left on my French Amazon Prime account and I'm going to take advantage!
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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

French renovations, Day 51: Wednesday, soccer day

11,609 steps

Okay, engineering question: how to safely cut down a large beam?

We have a beam in the back room that spans 5.5 meters (about 18 feet) that needs to be cut down. It's about 2/3 of the way up from the floor and no longer serves a purpose; it used to hold up a false ceiling.

It's about 10" wide and 6" thick and I imagine it's very heavy.

My idea (see the photo) is to support it from underneath with 2x4s, attached to the beam with heavy-duty angle brackets. In addition, we would support the beam from above with eye bolts screwed into the load-bearing beam on the ceiling, one bolt on each end. We would tie 8mm climbing ropes around the beam on each end and thread the ropes up through the eye bolts. One (or more) people would hold onto each rope.

Once we've cut through all the way through each end, as close to the wall as we can, we would gently lower the beam using the two ropes. We'd either detach the 2x4s or just tip them slightly to the side as we lower the beam. I'm not sure which would work better.

(The 2nd photo is a still shot from a video. You can see the beam that needs to be cut and the main ceiling beam above it. Right now there's a vertical piece of wood connecting the two beams, which we would remove before cutting the lower beam.)

So...would this work? Are we going to kill ourselves? Anyone have a better idea?

So today was a typical Wednesday: shuttling kids to/from soccer all afternoon plus a quick shopping trip to Aldi on the way home. Late in the afternoon, Ivy and I went on a treasure hunt, wandering around Vieux Nice looking for cool things. She found €2.60, a button, a rhinestone, and a metal bracket. She also stepped in dog poop. Eew.
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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

French renovations, Day 50: Unplanned bike ride

2,685 steps (but many kilometers!)

As Zari and Dio were finishing lunch, Eric said to me, "Hey hon, do you want to go on a bike ride to St. Laurent-du-Var? I want to check out the sales at the Macron store." My first response was to say, "Nah, that's way too far!" But then I thought, "Why not?"

It's actually not as far as I thought. On bike, it took us 24 minutes, right about the same as in a car. It was a straight shot of 9 km on the bike path all the way. Eric made the return trip in 16 minutes, seeing how fast he could ride.

Alas, the Macron store was closed! Closed-closed, not just closed for lunch. We even checked the website before we left, but I guess it wasn't updated.

But it was a nice bike ride anyway.

I made great progress on writing a grant application. It's always easier once I get going.

No renovation work today.

This evening I helped Ivy make a present for a friend's upcoming birthday. I'd post pictures but need to wait until the birthday party is over since I don't want the friend to see! Ivy was delighted with the result.

I finished a really fun book: "The Starless Sea." It's a bit strange, a bit non-linear, with interesting language, and you think about it for a long time afterward. Zari's going to read it next. I probably shouldn't give it to her until the weekend, otherwise we won't see much of her for the next few days!
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Monday, February 08, 2021

French renovations, Day 49: Hallway excavation & plumber!

5,682 steps

I started first thing in the morning excavating the hallway floor. We need to connect to the sewer line that serves the toilet and I wanted to see what we were dealing with. (The plumber was scheduled to come in the afternoon so I thought I'd do some digging in advance of his visit.) It only took an hour and a half, and that includes taking down some of the concrete wall as well. Now we can't do anything else until we get our water shutoff valve replaced.

In the front half of the apartment, we have old terra cotta tiles (tomettes). I'd be happy to keep them--if they were in good shape. Unfortunately many of them are broken or missing, and our floor is visibly uneven. My thought is to take the entire floor off down to the old solives (cross-beams).

FYI our floor is composed of the following:
  • tomettes
  • about 1/2" (1.5 cm) of hard mortar
  • 4-5" (10-12 cm) of earth
  • After this you start seeing the tops of the cross-beams (solives) peeking out (these beams rest on top of the large load-bearing "poutres", going from one poutre to another). There is lots more earth that goes between each solive.
We figure that we'll remove close to 6" of flooring down to the tops of the solives, then build the floor back up with OSB, a soundproofing underlayment, and the final flooring. So overall we will probably gain 4" of extra headspace in the room.

Of course taking of 41 sq meters of tomettes and earth will be a MASSIVE project. Just in the tiny area I excavated, I filled 6 bags, each weighing probably 20-30 lbs.

Eric has been voting for trying to restore the tomettes. I don't know--the floor is more like an ocean than a lake in terms of how not-flat it is.

Anyway, this is a very long and technical explanation. It's interesting to me but might not be to the rest of you 🙂

The plumber was this super jovial, energetic guy about our age, highly recommended by a friend. He had some great suggestions as we were talking through our project. He's going to write up a detailed estimate and is happy to do as much or as little as we want him to and will adjust things accordingly.

For sure we'll hire him to tie into the main sewer lines. We will likely do all of the water lines ourselves and maybe the drain lines from each sink/tub/etc. into the sewer connections. But...if the price is right, maybe we'll pay him to do it all! It would free up our time for other projects.

I had to bring the girls to our family doctor for medical certificates for soccer. We shouldn't have needed them since we have ones that are only a year old and the soccer forms say they're good for 3 years. But the secretary at Cavigal said we needed an official "stamp" on the registration forms. Also it was our first time using a carte vitale! Very exciting.

Here's how it works: you receive your carte vitale (medical insurance card). It's the size of a credit card and has a chip and your photo on it. When you go to the doctor/dentist/etc. you give them the card. They insert it into a card reader and it automatically pays your healthcare provider a set percentage of their fee, usually 70%.

So, for example, our visit was 25 Euros but we only had to pay 7.5 Euros ourselves. (Most people also have a "mutuelle", or additional private health insurance, that covers the remaining 30%.) The doctor is reimbursed with no further paperwork. It's so simple that it's almost mind-boggling. There are no secretaries, no bundles of paper, no insurance claims to process, no coding and cross-coding.

Here's our mama dove, happy as can be in our terra cotta pot. She doesn't even move when I hang out the laundry right next to her.

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Sunday, February 07, 2021

French renovations, Day 48: It's a dove!

9,245 steps

Zari took a closer look at our "pigeon" and realized it's a Eurasian collared dove! Somehow that makes me less annoyed at its presence. Pigeons over here are like squirrels in the US: they may seem cute, but they are everywhere, make a mess, and are generally pests.

We had a dramatic thunderstorm this morning. By the afternoon the rain had cleared up. Eric and I went on a walk together, just the two of us. It's been a while! Before the 6 pm curfew, we'd go on a walk every evening. Then we went out again with all the kids. They ran around playing tag and taureau and other games.

I baked my usual double batch of sourdough bread. Each loaf is ~ 800g, or about 2 lbs each. To make 4 loaves, it costs me just over 1 Euro for the ingredients (2 kg flour + 2 Tbsp salt). Even factoring in the price of electricity, each loaf is probably no more than 50 centimes/kg. Compare that to baguettes, which are usually 1 Euro for 250 g or 4 Euros/kg.

Dinner was zucchini fritters and spicy crab sushi.

I'm currently researching reclaimed wood flooring. I found someone in Nice but we're 2nd in line...hoping we can score it since it's a good amount for only 200 Euros. We'd have to pull it up and bring it home--no problem!

Zari is currently drawing this picture of Inga. Inga's chickenpox scar over her right eyebrow is very visible. She got chickenpox our first year here when she was 3. She only had about 3 pox total, while Ivy was covered.

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Saturday, February 06, 2021

French renovations, Day 47: A pigeon in a pot

I love lazy Saturdays. We slept in until almost 8 am. I stayed in bed reading for another hour. Because...why not? I thought of doing some work in the communist apartment, but instead I ended up reading some fun books and then going to the park in the afternoon. No regrets. Plenty of work for another day.

I got sharp with Zari this afternoon (she had been harping on Dio about something and hurting his feelings but claiming she wasn't doing anything wrong). Then she got hurt feelings and it took lots of parental interventions to make things better.

I miss how simple little children are, compared to adolescents! I frankly have no idea what I'm doing and supposedly I'm supposed to turn out a functioning adult in 4 more years?? Help??

We've been seeing a pigeon roosting on our laundry lines and windowsills and herb pots. I keep shooing it away because pigeons = pigeon poop all over our laundry. I was wondering why this pigeon keeps coming back. Well, today we solved the mystery: it had laid an egg in one of our terra cotta pots!

So now the kids won't let us close our shutters and are begging us not to move the pot. I wanted to move it to the windowsill one floor down. But Zari is convinced the mama pigeon won't be able to find her egg.

Also our window latch broke and we can't open or close our window without taking apart the entire latch mechanism.
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Friday, February 05, 2021

French renovations, Day 46: Hello chimney!

10,415 steps

I did more visa paperwork in the morning, finalizing my cover letter and a few other items. We will be mailing the application off next week after a final look-through with our immigration counselor.

A short afternoon of work for Eric and me: opening up the rest of the chimney. Because the right side of the chimney becomes increasingly shallow, we decided not to open more up on that side. We'll cover that part back up and keep just the tall parallel area open for bookshelves or cupboards.

Also: isn't it ridiculous that 2 hours of work looks so fast and easy???

Also: I ❤️ the Bosch jackhammer

At the bottom was a big round pipe that we had to break up. At some point it was a chimney pipe from the downstairs apartment but obviously no longer functional.

I'm not sure how we'll clean all that soot off: sandblasting? scrubbing with soap and water? But that's for another day...

We have a plumber coming on Monday at take a look at replacing the main water shutoff and to give us an estimate for connecting into the cast-iron sewer lines. Crossing my fingers that it's doable. I don't dare touch the main sewer lines, since they serve the entire apartment building. This will be one of the few things that we pay a professional to help us with.

Today I was so thankful that Eric likes to take the kids out to the park whenever possible. They went out for lunch and again after school. In our house, the saying "Dad is fun, mom is functional" is very true!

Dinner: ratatouille on couscous, peach ice cream floats for dessert
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Thursday, February 04, 2021

French renovations, Day 45: picnic & paperwork

7,199 steps

I spent all day working on our visa paperwork! ALL DAY! Except for a lunch break at the park.

There were big strikes today that affected the school cafeterias, so everyone had to come home for the 2-hour lunch break. Many families headed over to the coulee verte for a picnic lunch. I met several new parents.

At one point we were sitting in a big circle and someone remarked, "I think I'm the only French person here!" And even she had lived for a while in Tahiti. We had people from La Reunion, Turkey, Jordan, China, US, Canada, Argentina...basically a typical gathering of parents at our local public school. The overall feel is still French at the school but it's a very multinational French.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2021

French renovations, Day 43: Shopping and a hidden chimney!

We braved the wilds of Leroy Merlin this morning to buy supplies for building the mezzanine. Too many people!

Buying lumber over here is very odd. There is a smaller range of sizes and dimensions and, except for a small selection in the inside of the store, everything is pressure-treated and is stored outdoors in the sun/rain! I wanted plain wood since we're building an interior structure and hope to paint or stain some of the parts. Does it exist? No!

Fortunately we have a big pile of lumber already in our apartment. We figured out that if we buy a table saw (which we were already going to buy at some point), we could cut a lot of what we needed ourselves and repurpose all the beautiful old timber.

I found a metric joist span table and calculated that we need beams measuring 63x175 mm (2.5 x 6.9") spaced 40 cm apart in order to span 4 meters. We still had to buy the joists that will span the mezzanine (solives), but all of the supporting pieces and the wood that the joist hangers and floor net attach to will be from our existing lumber.

Getting the long beams up the staircase presented a challenge. But by spiraling them up, holding them more vertically than horizontally, we were able to make them fit. (See the video!) For the front mezzanine, we will have 5.5 meter long beams--those will have to come in through the windows! But they will be web joists, so they will be relatively light. I've devised a pulley that will attach to one of our big load-bearing beams. I think we'll be able to do it. But that is for much later...

So we got home, unloaded the wood, parked the car, and ate lunch. Then I decided to see what was behind this alcove in the back room. Based on all the soot in the inside, we figured it was an old chimney. And we were right...but also surprised since it kept getting bigger and bigger as I took the cement blocks & concrete off.

(After I did all this demolition, Eric said, "Uh, I don't think you should have taken it all down." Oops. He thought I was just going to take off the bit at the top, down to where the floor net will go. I thought he knew that I intended to take it all the way down. Oh well, too late now!)

I am a fan of the jackhammer. I started out with just a hammer and chisel and was going nowhere very fast. The jackhammer takes just as much exertion, but it's at least 10x faster. I got almost all the way to the bottom then decided I needed a change of pace. So next, I took off the little wall hiding the sewer stack. We need to have access to it so we can hook up the kitchen and bathroom in the back room. Sadly the phone battery died just as I was starting, but I got the whole thing off.

So that was my day! Then I made dinner and we watched a movie together (Finding Ohana). It was silly and predictable, but sometimes it's just nice to watch something all as a family.
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Monday, February 01, 2021

French renovations, Day 42: Vacuuming & planning

6,947 steps

I tried to work on grant writing this morning, but I ended up just reading through old drafts of IRB projects that I hope to borrow from and thinking a lot. Getting started on a big, intellectually challenging project is SO HARD. Once I actually start writing, it gets better. I keep telling myself that...

Eric brought Ivy and Inga to the chateau during their lunch break. I headed down to the communist apartment to vacuum the front room and take measurements in the back. Once it was clean, we moved everything into the front room (tools, bikes, etc.).

Our work will now be in the back room first, with a few small exceptions. Eric and I figured out exactly where the mezzanine will go and how high it will be, where we will install the anchor boards for the loft net, how much lumber we need, etc. I wrote up a shopping list after we'd finished downstairs.

Yay, we get to go back to Leroy Merlin tomorrow! I'd be happier if it weren't always so crowded...We need to install the roof rack on our car so we can carry the big, heavy joists back home.

Piano and dinner lessons took up the rest the day.

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