Wednesday, March 31, 2021

French renovations, Day 100: Testing, vaccines, & soccer

13,098 steps

Dio is still sick. I let him sleep in and then we got him tested at the local pharmacy. Negative (with the caveat that this was a rapid antigen test and not as precise as a PCR test).

The pharmacy said there might be openings to the general public for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine at the end of the week. They're giving priority to people 55+, but sometimes they have spots open because they need to use the rest of the ampoule that day or have to throw it away. So any of my Nice friends, call the Pharmacie du Vieux Nice on Thursday and/or Friday afternoon and see if they have any spots open for you!

(I'd still prefer to have the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, but having access at all is a great thing.)

I worked all morning and then listened to a lunchtime webinar about implementing upright vaginal breech birth in a hospital in Denmark. It was so inspiring to see the rapid change they were able to make and how supportive and coooperative everyone is, from midwives to doctors to nurses.

Dio didn't feel well enough to go out in the afternoon, but I was going a bit stir-crazy! The sun was shining and it was 19C again. I took Ivy out for a nice walk around the port and back. We spied a group of her friends at the beach, so on the way home I dropped her off to play for an hour. She was SO SAD she couldn't swim. She said, "Tomorrow as soon as I get my cast off, the first thing I'm going to do is go swimming!" I approve 100%.

Eric, Zari, and Inga had their usual soccer practices.

Other good news: the kids are finally attached to Eric's carte vitale! That means we can pay most of Ivy's hospital bills with assurance maladie. Not that the bills are that high, anyway...but it still helps.

I made chicken pot pie for dinner, always a hit. We watched a few episodes of The Unlisted (so far, pretty fun for the kids) and then tuned into president Macron's speech. We're having a worrisome resurgence of Covid infections, so the entire country is going into a soft lockdown (one we've already been in here in the Alpes-Maritimes).

Not a lot will change for us, other than the entire country is doing distance schooling for 1 week starting next Monday. After that we have 2 weeks of school vacation--normally it's staggered, but now the whole country is following the same dates. After vacation, elementary schools will start back up in person, while middle & high schools will have 1 more week of distance schooling.

Not so bad--we were fearing a total shutdown of the schools. France has been remarkably committed to keeping schools open as much as possible and so far has done so successfully. These next 3-4 weeks will hopefully allow everyone to cut the chain of transmission. The biggest vectors here in France seem to be private gatherings. This is the hardest to control and enforce.

"Papa sandwich" from a few days ago.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

French renovations, Day 99: Sick (Dio) & tired (me)

5,700 steps

Well that was fun. I woke up at 3 am. Ding! Awake! And I couldn't get back to sleep. Once the alarm went off at 7, I told Eric that I was going to try to nap a bit. I managed to snooze while the kids got ready for school.

Dio wasn't feeling well this morning, so I phoned him in sick. He was in bed or on the couch comatose the whole day. Very slight fever, sore throat, stuffy nose, and headache. We'll get him tested tomorrow.

I worked almost all day on breech video editing. Eric went to the beach to check out the spearfishing conditions and ran back home. "Rixa and Zari, you HAVE to come! The conditions are perfect." It was super warm, high of 19° C or 66° F, so we put on swimsuits. I had to persuade Zari to come. Once there, we basked in the sun until I found the courage to go in the water.

I didn't let myself think, I just plunged in. Cold but so exhilarating. And after lots of cajoling, Zari got herself in. She took a lot longer to immerse herself....and then she stayed quite a bit longer than me!

She was effusive about how amazing it was. I said, "See? Aren't you glad I convinced you to come?"

What I love about swimming in cold water is the feeling of well-being that persists for hours afterward. I don't necessarily love getting in, though!

I went back home after an hour to eat a mid-afternoon lunch and get more work done. Zari took a nap in the sun and came home an hour later. Eric didn't catch anything today; he hardly saw any fish at all.

We were hoping to get some work done in the communist apartment, but we ran out of time. It was school pickup / park playing / dinner / bedtime and poof! There went the rest of hte day.

ps, why on earth is my Facebook suddenly inundated with pinup pictures?? I'm seeing "Pinups for Vets" and women with huge fake boobs practically having sex with their cars. Facebook, your algorithms are WAY off if you think that's my jam.
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Monday, March 29, 2021

French renovations, Day 98: Dog tired

7,928 steps

Nobody wanted to wake up this morning, except for Baya the dog. I love how dogs are eternally optimistic and happy about everything now matter how often it happens. Once I told the kids that Baya was waiting to see them, they perked up.

I worked all morning and through lunch on breech video editing. 

We got a call in the late morning from Zari: we had to come get her from school immediately because someone in her class had tested positive for Covid. (This was weird since she always goes home by herself...but today they needed a parent to come sign her out.)

This is not the first time someone in her class has tested positive, but there's a new rule in place now. If even one student tests possitive, the entire class has to go into quarantine for 7 days. Each student also has to have a negative PCR test before they can come back.

I should probably ask what the protocol is for the rest of us: are we supposed to all of our kids out of school, too?

After lunch, Eric and I worked on the hallway. We are extending the mezzainine into the hallway so we have to build supports for the hallway mezzainine floor. We were able to use salvaged wood and install the two long pieces on either side of the hallway. Right now they're just tacked into place. Tomorrow we'll drill the holes and install the threaded rod cemented in place with epoxy.

Baya's owner came back this afternoon. I'm glad to send home a clean, worn-out dog 🙂 We gave her a bath, got rid of much of her winter coat that was shedding like crazy, and carefully cut away a few matted areas, aka doggie dreadlocks.

Her owner is a midwife and friend of mine. She said she had a vivid dream the other day that she was my midwife and she was with me as I had my baby at home, and there was all this great energy as the baby was emerging. Too bad my birth-giving days are over. Sigh...
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Sunday, March 28, 2021

French renovations, Day 97: Hike with friends

22,121 steps

We had a lovely afternoon hike with 3 other families. We drew a 10km radius to see where we could go and found a hike that fit our various restrictions: the Plateau Tercier.

It was a moderate hike, not too intense. The funny thing is, the maps disagree on how long it was! One says 6.2 km, the other over 10 km. And they both show the same hike!

Baya, the Pekinese we are dog-sitting, was wiped out by the end. Her tiny little legs had to trot so fast to keep up with us. It's amazing she made it. (Well, we did have to carry her for a few minutes!)

Our friends had their Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy, and the two dogs got along well.

This hike was only 9 km from our house. I was amazed at how "sauvage" (wild) it felt, given how close to Nice we were.

At one point we came across a ruined house. It's sad to see a place crumbling apart, covered with vines, beams collapsing. How did someone's home turn into a ruin?

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Saturday, March 27, 2021

French renovations, Day 96: Dogs, drama, & a delicious dinner

15,706 steps

I'm starting to wake up earlier with lengthening days. We change clocks ahead tonight. Ugh. We will have some tired kids on Monday.

I baked 4 loaves of sourdough and did breech research before our Saturday soccer match at the château. Zari had practice at Cavigal so it was just the 3 youngest kids. I took Baya, the Pekinese we are dog-sitting, for a run. She made it not quite halfway, and then we had to walk. She's adorable but I prefer large dogs as running partners.

We went up to the château to see everyone. Baya got tons of attention and played with another little foofy dog. It was an overload of cuteness. I headed home around 11 am to let Baya rest and let Dio get his scooter. On our way down, we ran into Zari. She'd come home and no one answered. Finally she figured we must be at the chateau. Ooops! Bad parenting moment: neither of us thought to make sure she had house keys.

She was really upset, but it turns out that it wasn't really about the keys, but more about feeling like she's not good enough at soccer and probably some stress in general with the upcoming exams for the brevet (entrance exams for high school).

Eric went spearfishing this afternoon and caught a seiche (cuttlefish). Dio went to meet friends at a park. But they never showed up....he waited for 2 hours! I brought the other kids to the beach to bask in the sun. It was windy so our basking only lasted 45 minutes.

Then back home to prep dinner: steamed broccoli, creamy herbed pork chops with Basmati rice, and the last of the leftover birthday cake.

We finished watching She-Ra tonight. It's been fun to have a series that the kids love so much. Great motivation for getting chores done, journals written, teeth brushed, etc! What should we watch next?
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Friday, March 26, 2021

French renovations, Day 95: Down day

7,545 steps

I went to bed last night thinking about kitchen plans and plumbing. My brain would not turn off.

I re-read Ivy's birth story last night. I hadn't read it in a few years and I was shocked at how much I had forgotten and how distant it seemed. I am still in denial that I'm done with childbearing. I don't exactly want to have more children--Eric was very much done at 4 and I decided that 4 was great, too. But I mourn that that stage of life is over and I don't want to accept that I'm getting older.

And on top of those emotional and mental upheavals, Eric kept waking me up every few minutes (to his credit, he didn't realize he was doing it.) At one point he patted down the bed and asked, "Why is there a third person in the bed?" I informed him that I was the only other person, and then he laughed at himself for asking that. He has NO memory of any of this.

So yeah, not much sleep for me last night. The plumber was not a good people person. He was rude and impatient and insulting. When he suggested some things that I really didn't like (like having visible sewer pipes running along a bathroom wall, when there was an easy way to put them elsewhere out of sight), he'd roll his eyes and act like it was crazy. So yeah, I don't think we'll hire him.

We are dog sitting Baya this weekend. She's an adorable Pekinese that we have watched several times before. I adore both her and her owner :)

By mid-morning, I was toast. I went in bed and laid down for an hour. Not really sleeping, but not moving at all. That helped immensely.

After lunch Eric and I cut more wall channels and I took off the last 2 feet of concrete and lime covering the rock walls. I finished at 4:15 pm and realized I hadn't eaten anything all day!

The rest of my time today was filled with putting together a 2020 research review on breech (any hit relating to breech on PubMed). It's a big project and I'm trying to put everything into an hour-long lecture. I have a feeling it might become longer than an hour...
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Thursday, March 25, 2021

French renovations, Day 94: Ivy is 8!

11,738 steps

Happy 8th birthday Ivy! Yet another quarantine birthday. She's been bouncing around with excitement all day. We did the ritual reading of the birth story during breakfast (Eric's version). You can read my version here:

I did taxes all morning and sent them off around lunchtime! Then the afternoon was filled with grocery shopping, prepping dinner, making the frosting, and decorating the cake.

Yesterday we picked ivy leaves on the way home from the chateau and carefully brushed them with melted ruby chocolate. They turned into today's cake decorations.

Dinner was an "Italian flag" salad (tomatoes, feta, & basil) and Tuscan butter gnocchi.

We had a simple birthday party at home, just us and a cake. Maybe we'll have a huge multi-child birthday party once Covid has settled down again.

Ivy got a chocolate bunny, a 3D printer pen, and a pair of (used) shoes. The shoes are a bit big so they might be for next year!

I can't get the videos off of Eric's phone. So we'll just have to stick with pictures today.

France is not doing well with Covid-19 infection rates. Despite months of various levels of quarantine. More than 45,000 new cases today. We had school-wide saliva testing at the elementary school earlier this week. Zari and Dio's school has tested twice this past month.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

French renovations, Day 93: Soccer and more taxes

12,509 steps

I had a morning of taxes, an afternoon of taxes punctuated with a walk and dropping off Dio to soccer, and an evening of taxes. I am close to being done now!

Ivy spent the afternoon at the château with her usual group of friends. I brought Dio up later in the afternoon for his practice, but no one ever showed up. I finally texted Eric, who texted the coach...and it was cancelled! So I brought Dio over to Ivy & friends. We stayed for a good hour.

Eric made moules frites (mussels & fries) for dinner. We had a Roquefort sauce for the mussels.

That's about it. I'm really tired and will probably get in bed soon and read.

Oh, yesterday Inga did 144 soccer juggles in a row! Wow. She was so excited because she had just broken 100 the day before.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

French renovations, Day 92: Running and taxes

7,243 steps

A remarkably sedentary day, considering I went running in the morning. But the rest of the day I did taxes. Ugh. I am not anywhere near being done. I spent massive amounts of time on hold, trying to connect to various accounts.

Every year at tax time I tell myself, "I'm going to keep all of my accounts updated once a month and then I won't have to go through all of this again." And every year I *don't* end up doing that and I have to add everything up all at once.

Honestly that was my entire day. Well, I cooked dinner and ate food at some point. But nothing else. I am forcing myself off the computer and I will do...something? I don't even have anything to read. What am I going to do? 
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Monday, March 22, 2021

French renovations, Day 91: Cement mixers and strangers with unmarked delivery vans

11,298 steps

I woke up very early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. So once the alarm went off at 7, I was ready for a nap. Eric kindly got the kids ready while I snoozed for an hour. Back to normal.

Eric wrote down in the basement "cave" while I worked on breech projects all morning. I kept working while Eric got lunch on for Inga and Ivy and then brought them to the château for a quick soccer practice.

Then it was time for some very messy work: cutting channels (saignees) in the walls with the wall chaser (rainureuse). We were cutting these just a few inches above the floor, and it was really hard to keep it straight. So yeah, it wasn't our best-looking work but it will all be plastered over anyway.

And then...time for an adventure! I had a meeting arranged to look at a used cement mixer. He was just 10 minutes away by foot, so no need to bring the car. So I went to the arranged location and a man in an unmarked delivery van drives up. He had offered to help me bring the mixer to our apartment but I didn't realize he was going to *drive* me there! So I hopped in and drove away with a stranger in a white delivery van. It sounds like the beginning of a kidnapping film.

But it was great. He was super nice and gave me his business card. Besides working for one of the local highschools as a "fonctionnaire," he is a sort of Jack-of-all-trades and also will do deliveries of larger items. You know, things like lumber and sheetrock.

He drove right up in front of our house and showed me how ot use the mixer. We plugged it in so I could verify it worked properly. Eric was very skeptical but I'd rather have the right tool than having to hand-mix every batch of lime mortar we use for 20 minutes each batch. And I can resell it afterward for around the same price.

It was time for school pickup and I had hardly got out all day. I set off on a walk and Inga joined me on her way home from school. All down our street there was a terrible odor, like rotting carcasses that have been in the sun for several days. Everyone walking by was grimacing and covering their noses.

Inga and I walked out onto the jetty and had a nice little adventure. Then as soon as I dropped Inga back home for piano lessons, Ivy asked to go play with her friends at the château. So I went up with her and stayed for about an hour, talking with other school parents.

More breech work this evening. What will we work on tomorrow? We might do some framing and some ceiling plaster removal.
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Sunday, March 21, 2021

French renovations, Day 90: My brain is toast

15,238 steps

I'm feeling a bit...worn the end of today. I haven't done much in the terms of relaxing since I woke up. I was either walking, or working, or helping kids with homework, or cooking.

But on the up side, I made amazing progress on our grant application and other breech projects. Dio has mostly memorize a very long and difficult poem by Jean de la Fontaine.

Eric got the kids out for another soccer match up at the chateau.

Anyway I feel like I'm going to pass out. Time to get off the computer and rest. Bonne nuit!
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Saturday, March 20, 2021

French renovations, Day 89: Soccer & Leroy Merlin

13,863 steps

Eric organized a pickup soccer match at the château with neighbors and friends. We recently bought collapsible goals, which helped enormously. Preivously we've been using shoes or balled-up jackets as goal markers.

I went up to the château to drop Zari off--she was running a bit late, blame it on teenage sleepiness--and then had a nice run to La Réserve and back. I stopped back at the match just as they were finishing up.

Mid-afternoon Eric and I decided to brave Leroy Merlin. We had a big shopping list, including a hot water heater and a shower base. On our way, we dropped off a clothes dryer to someone in Ariane (left over from when we helped people move this Wednesday).

Because we're technically in lockdown for the 3rd time, non-essential stores must close. So in stores that remain open, "non-essential" aisles must be cordoned off. The is done to be fair to the stores that are forced to shut down.

Today we learned that decorative light fixtures are non-essential, while spots and ceiling lights are essential. Toilets are essential but sinks are non-essential. See the photo. It made us crack up to see these sections roped off.

We loaded up the car as quickly as we could--curfew was approaching. Besides all of our purchases from inside the store, we also bought fine white sand and MAP (mortier adhésif). I wanted to buy chaux (lime) but they were out of white. I didn't want gray.

We made it home just in time for Eric to buy milk and a few other groceries. While we were gone, the kids went with a friend to the Tête Carrée park.

We have had a lot of drama this past 24 hours. Zari getting frustrated with Dio and bossing him around, Dio getting frustrated with Zari, us getting frustrated with Zari who gets frustrated at us for not enforcing the rules (for Dio) the way she'd like.

I ultimately lost my temper at Zari this evening and then that made Dio cry and Zari run off in a huff. I went in and apologized to Zari and asked her to be patient with me. It's so infrequent that I lose my temper--and even that is relatively mild, mostly a VERY ANGRY TONE OF VOICE. The kids kind of go into shock because it's so out of character.

We snuggled and talked until we were feeling better and able to even giggle about things. Then Dio went in to see Zari and I heard...laughter! So the little tempest did help clear the air.

Dinner was JFO's (crêpes filled with Jambon-Fromage-Oeuf, or ham-egg-cheese). Then sweet crêpes for dessert.

We had another grant planning meeting this evening. We are probably only 1-2 weeks away from submitting our application!
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Friday, March 19, 2021

French renovations, Day 88: stone walls, haircuts, & electricity

7,307 steps

I got the entire stone wall uncovered! I finished a bit after noon.

Another super busy work day for breech-related things. Mostly non-stop since early afternoon, with a quick pause for apartment planning and dinner.

Eric and I went through the back room and planned every outlet, light switch, ethernet port, and light fixture. I wrote up a list for our electrical supplier--from outlets and switches to wires & circuit breakers. Hoping to get that all ordered ASAP.

Dio got his first real haircut ever. In his life. Real = at a barber shop rather than from Eric. He was so excited. This was at the little barber shop right next door to us. The owner is super nice and always says hello to us, even though we've never gone there. He gave Dio a tin of hair wax for free: "neighbor's discount!" he said.

I found this selfie on Eric's phone. Dio has already mastered the carefully angled selfie. How do kids learn these things?

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

French renovations, Day 87: Stone walls & casts

5,991 steps

I was set to go on a walk this morning, but it was raining steadily when Ivy and I stepped out the door. I abandoned my plans and instead settled down for a good work day. I wrote grant applications all morning.

After lunch, I wanted to continue working on the applications. I was in the zone. But I also knew I needed a break from sitting still. So I suited up and went into the communist apartment. Then the jackhammer and I got cozy. I removed the plaster, lime render, and lime mortar on the stone wall on top of the mezzanine. I'm mostly finished with half of the wall after a few hours of work. I still need to clean some of the joints more.

It was fun work! Not too physically demanding, except for the overhead parts. It actually works better if you go slowly and gently. It's more like a haircut than major demolition. You carefully shear off layers and cracks until the stones are fully exposed.

While I was downstairs getting dusty, Eric brought Ivy to Lenval Hospital to get her cast off! She's not quite done, though. They took off the big cast and switched it out for a smaller one. Her wrist is now straightened out.

Eric made duck breast in balsamic, honey, & shallot sauce again. Yum!

Oh, and we're going into our 3rd lockdown again tomorrow. School is still open for now, so it won't make all that much difference for us. But it will make life miserable for all the small "non-essential" businesses that have to close again, not to mention the bars and restaurants that have been closed since October. We do need to get covid under control here. I'm just frustrated that it hasn't really improved since December despite lots of measures.

(Uploading videos...check back in a little if you don't see them)
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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

French renovations, Day 86: Plumbing & soccer

12,510 steps

I slept much better. Plenty of energy to go on a morning run. EDF was supposed to come change the main circuit breaker but they never showed up. Now we are supposed to wait for a phone call and get back in touch if we haven't heard back by Friday.

Eric and I walked over to the plumbing store in the morning, but they were out on a delivery. I went back again by myself after lunch, hoping to buy supplies. But after talking with the person I realized we needed to measure/research a few more things.

Then we did our usual soccer pinball in the afternoon. Ivy went to the chateau for a picnic with friends. Eric left first, then Zari and Inga left an hour later. I dropped Dio off and hurried back home for a Zoom breech debriefing. A few midwives who had trained with Breech Without Borders recently attended a breech birth that they wanted to talk through.

And what else? Dio had been begging to make salmon fennel soup, so today he helped me chop and sautee everything. At dinner he said it's his favorite soup in the world. Dessert was the rest of the tiramisu plus some strawberries.

Lots more work on breech stuff in the evening.

Tomorrow is an exciting day: Ivy gets her cast off!
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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

French renovations, Day 85: Sick & tired

5,615 steps

I woke up at 3 am feeling icky. Nonspecific. Kind of feverish but not. Kind of sick but not. But enough to keep me awake most of the night. Anyway, I snoozed a bit once the kids woke up for school and then got out of bed at 9.

I've been feeling off all day; the closest analogy is the feeling I get when I eat too much pasta or other simple carbs. (Which is why I don't eat more than a few bites of pasta.) Kind of hot, heavy, heart beating harder than usual.

So I did sedentary work all day, mostly breech-related.

Mid-afternoon Eric and I helped some people move and inherited an almost-new office chair, which is now down in the basement in Eric's writing space. We still have a dryer sitting in our car that needs to go to someone else who lives the outskirts of Nice.

I really wanted to get out for a walk, but I had a Zoom meeting right up until curfew.

Zari and Dio's school did another round of Covid testing last week. 3 students in Dio's class were positive. Ivy and Inga's school is doing saliva testing next week. Numbers just aren't coming down at all, despite new measures rolling out. In part because I'm sure there are enough people pushing the envelope that it counteracts the official protocols.

And hey, we are probably part of it in that we don't follow every regulation strictly. We take our masks off when we're outside and not in crowded areas. I'm serious about covid in places where the infection risk is real--indoors especially--but outdoors where we're spaced out? Short of staying home in a bubble and never leaving, outdoors is pretty safe.
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Monday, March 15, 2021

French renovations, Day 84: On the mezzanine!

9,961 steps

I woke up to a dream so stressful that I was having a panic attack in the dream. It involved my mom having just died the day before, me trying to DIY a new way of body composting involving psilocybin and liquid nitrogen and dry ice, packing up our house in the US to go to France and realizing that we were nowhere near ready and that we'd miss our flight. Oh yeah, and how was I going to deal with my mom's body in time, given that our flight was supposed to leave in an hour?!?

It all made perfect sense during my dream, enough that it took me several minutes after waking up to realize that body composting with psilocybin was not actually a thing.

I started the morning off with a run to La Réserve and back. I'm not a fast runner but at least I am doing it.

Then almost 5 hours of intensive video editing for our breech grant application. Phew. I stopped at 1:45 pm for lunch.

I threw together something that was supposed to be Boeuf Bourguignon, except I didn't have enough red wine and I didn't have any mushrooms and I was out of instead I used red wine, white wine, herbes de Provence, bay leaves, carrots, onions, and triple tomato concentrate. After I braised the beef, it all went in the Instant Pot for dinner.

Then Eric and I went downstairs to figure things out. We put up old boards on top of the mezzanine so we could walk on it. It's fun to see the room from a new perspective! Our heads clear the center beam--barely--but it will work.

We decided to move the shower & sink to the other size of the mezzanine. The toilet is already in the downstairs hallway. We're going to plumb for a toilet in the upstairs hallway as well, but not hook one up. This is a "just in case" decision in case, down the road, we want to connect the front and back apartments. In that case, we'd need to take out the two toilets in the downstairs hallway and turn it back into a hallway.

We put the last joist in and then I screwed in the rest of the joist hangers. That was it for the afternoon since the kids had piano lessons and I needed to buy a few groceries to get us through tomorrow morning. We need to go to Lidl for a big shopping trip tomorrow.

Ivy and Inga helped me make a tiramisu for tomorrow's dinner. They can do it mostly all by themselves now.

After we put them to bed, we brought Dio and Zari downstairs for a quick look. They got to climb up on the mezzanine. After a minute or so, they were done! We stayed behind and figured out the new bathroom configuration.

This is my plan for the water supply lines in the back apartment. There is a method to my madness! I'm sure we'll have sume adjustments as we go, but this will at least give us a shopping list at the plumbing supply store.

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

French renovations Day 83: Walk and château

12,046 steps

Eric and I went on a lovely walk this morning to La Reserve and Coco Beach. We wandered around some of the back neighborhoods and got ourselves stuck in a gated community when the gate locked behind us! Fortunately some kids came on scooters a few minutes later and their dad opened the gate for them.

This was the first day that I felt *hot* outside. It was 64 F / 18 C. But with the sun and a vigorous walk, I was wishing I'd worn shorts and sandals! So to celebrate, I put on a sleeveless sundress when we went out again in the afternoon.

We all went to the château for afternoon exercise: soccer, scootering, or plain old running around. I read a bit more of Barack Obama's memoir. It's slow going now that I'm in the middle of the book and mired in the details of his presidency.

We had a 2-hour zoom meeting this evening with our grant committee. We made great progress and I think we'll be ready to submit the first application in about 2 weeks!
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Saturday, March 13, 2021

French renovations Day 82: Work & play

7,516 steps

I dedicated the morning to working on breech grant projects, primarily video editing. Eric asked if I wanted to do some planning down in the communist apartment but I was too focused. That's okay--there's always another day.

We went up to the chateau after lunch for our "1 hour of exercise" allowed during weekend lockdowns. It turned into several hours...yeah, we kind of cheated the system. But it's for a good cause! Vitamin D! It was super warm and sunny. I took a brief nap in the sun while the others played soccer.

I took some pictures of Zari's hair. We keep talking about selling it but never get around to listing it. Maybe we finally will!

Zari and I returned at 3 pm because she had a Zoom meeting to make muffins with other girls her age. I got dinner prepped, ran some errands, and then went on a walk before my Breech Without Borders live session at 6 pm.

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Friday, March 12, 2021

French renovations Day 81: Plumbing pipes

12,657 steps

Yet again another trip to Ciffréo Bona, one of the local hardware stores. That was my morning exercise.

I did something transgressive the rest of the morning: I lay down and read a book and didn't do any work until it was time to pick Inga and Ivy up. Bad Rixa 🙂

We brought the two girls up to the chateau during lunch break for an impromptu picnic and pre-birthday party for one of Inga's friends. I wanted to stay and bask in the sun all day. It was warm and windy and had the feeling of spring.

Eric and I went to a nearby plumbing supply store--very convenient as it's just behind the Lycée Massena. We bought our plumbing supplies from them when we renovated our two bathrooms 6 years ago. They're really helpful and will lend you a professional crimping tool if you buy your supplies from them.

We were debating between copper and "multicouche", which I cannot find an English term for. It's a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of PEX and is what most plumbers use here now. I think we'll go with the multicouche. We've done both so it's mostly a matter of preference, time, and cost.

So at least we have a plan. Tomorrow we'd like to map out the supply lines and figure out how much pipe and how many connections we need. The plumbing supply company will write up an estimate for both copper & multicouche.

You're probably falling asleep now as I wax on about plumbing. Sorry.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening editing videos for our grant application.

We're on lockdown again this weekend. Boo.

Oh--you know what's really annoying? Leroy Merlin and other big home improvement stores are closed due to new Covid-19 regulations! This is new as of about 6 days ago. They're not even allowed to do "click & collect." So we can't get most of the things we need for who knows how long. The only thing still open is the outdoor lumberyard. Argh...
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Thursday, March 11, 2021

French renovations Day 80: The joists are up!

11,529 steps

So much accomplished today! I slept much better so I was able to go for a run after school drop-off. I watched a friend's dog for 20 minutes while she was meeting with some people. Then I mailed a package at the post office and bought more flour. I baked my normal batch of sourdough (4 big loaves, 800 g each).

And then on to the fun stuff: the mezzanine in the back room! We installed the joist hangers and put all the joists up, except the one right next to the plumbing pipe. We'll slip that one in later after we install the main drain line. 

I'm about 30 screws short for attaching the joist hangers--each one takes 20+ screws--so I'll need to go to the hardware store yet again. 

I talked Zari through our plans for the back room. She loves the idea of doing it with a subtle nautical theme. Nothing kitschy, but just enough to give the feel of being in a boat (porthole windows, net floor, brass plumbing elements, exotic hardwood floors). We'll see...decorating is still a long way off! 

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

French renovations Day 79: Screws, supplies, and braces

18,881 steps

I had grand plants to go to the hardware store early this morning...foiled by insomnia. Again. Instead, I slept in and went around 9:30 am with Inga and Ivy.

Ivy was complaining about her legs itching the entire way there and much of the way back. Every 2 seconds: "Wait! Wait!" Then she'd get mad because I wouldn't stop every 2 seconds.

We bought screws and washers. Our extra-strength caulk gun arrived on schedule so we're back on track for the ledger board installation. This afternoon our family was a pinball game, with everyone going all over town in various directions:
  • Ivy to the chateau with friends
  • Me to Riquier to pick up a package
  • Eric to Cavigal to coach Ivy's team
  • Zari and Inga to Cavigal on the tram
  • Ivy back home
  • Dio and Ivy with me to pick up his mouthguard at the orthodontist
  • Zari, Inga, and Eric back home from soccer

And finally...Zari got her braces on! She's trying to get used to them and is not impressed at the moment. Ivy said, "Wow, you look so good with braces!"

Eric made alouettes for dinner. Yum!

After dinner, he and I applied the epoxy to the holes we'd drilled and inserted the threaded rods. They should be completely set by tomorrow, allowing us to install the joist hangers and the joists! Exciting!
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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

French renovations Day 78: Bookshelves and ledger boards

5,122 steps

I had one of those nights where, despite being exhausted from little sleep the night before, I couldn't get to sleep and then I kept waking up. Mostly thinking about plumbing and electricity and the like.

We took a trip to pickup that cool bookcase. It was only 20 km, but ended up taking close to an hour to get there with traffic. And then...we walked into the room...and the bookcase was ENORMOUS! Almost twice the size that I was anticipating: as tall as my chin and as wide as my arms can reach.

And then it started pouring. Since there was no way the bookcase would fit inside our car, our only option was to tie it on top. Plus we weren't sure where in our apartment we'd put the darn thing!

So for the moment we came back empty-handed. The sellers were super nice and said to get back in touch when/if we want it.

We had planned on stopping by Leroy Merlin on the way home, but I got hit by a wave of exhaustion. We decided to go home and work on what we could. I know we're just delaying an inevitable trip, but I could hardly think straight.

I had a mid-afternoon lunch and then we worked for a few hours, tacking the ledger boards into place and drilling out the holes where we will install threaded bolts set in epoxy. We were ready to apply the epoxy into the holes...but OF COURSE our caulk gun was under-powered. Of course. We have to buy a special super-duper strong caulk gun made especially for the epoxy cartridges. But no worries...Amazon Prime to the rescue! ETA tomorrow.

And in case you were wondering if Neonatal Resuscitation skills ever come in handy for other aspects of life...yes, indeed! Applying PPV to the drilled-out holes was an excellent method for cleaning them out, much better than the vacuum. Actually I should give all the credit to Inga and Ivy: their bubble blowing yesterday gave me the idea. 😂

Dinner was Thai coconut chicken soup and dark chocolate mint cookies.
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Monday, March 08, 2021

French renovations Day 77: Running and sitting

9,557 steps

Eric had a book reading last night from midnight-2 am. We're both a bit tired today! I kept busy, which has staved off any possible naps.

I went running after dropping the kids off at school. Then the rest of the day I sat on the couch and worked on a CEU application. 51 pages later, it is done!

Inga and Ivy went to the chateau with Eric during lunch break. I stayed behind to work. I did get outside briefly to bring Ivy to the park after school and piano lessons.

I'm also working on a list of electrical supplies we need to buy. I should also do a similar list with plumbing supplies. We're going to Leroy Merlin tomorrow. I'd enjoy it more if it weren't so crowded.

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

French renovations Day 76: Last day of school vacation

15,129 steps

So much crying and moaning tonight. "Why do we have to go back to school? I wish we had confinement again. I wish we were doing homeschool." Believe me, children, we do NOT want to go back to quarantine schooling.
We didn't do anything particularly memorable--just our usual walks, afternoon soccer at the chateau, dinner, watching a few episodes of She-Ra, talking to family members virtually.

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Saturday, March 06, 2021

French renovations Day 75: Prep work, demolition, and a nonfunctional drill bit

13,568 steps

Eric and I made a grocery run this morning. As we walked up to Lidl, we saw a long line coming out of the store. "Remind me not to go shopping on a Saturday during lockdown." At least the line moved quickly.

I got a few phone calls from Ivy during our shopping trip, asking for permission to watch a show and informing me of ongoing arguments between the siblings. At one point Inga was pretending to be deaf (probably to ignore Zari's instructions) and then Zari shouted into Inga's ear and there was much sadness. I told Ivy to tell them: they need to figure things out and hug each other if they want to watch a show.

Ivy helped me break and bag all of the rubble from yesterday's demolition. She kept saying that dust was getting into her safety goggles, but it was actually condensation.

After lunch Eric and I had grand plans to anchor the ledgerboard...only to find out our long drill bit was dull and useless! I took a break to walk to one of the bigger hardware stores in town, and they didn't have the right size drill bit! There were all too short. Argh.

So the drill bit is now ordered on Amazon and coming on Tuesday. Such a small but necessary thing.

The kids played at friends' houses this afternoon, with masks on and/or windows open.

Dinner was a big salad, pre-made paëlla, and profiteroles. I'm now crammed onto the couch with the kids, watching She-Ra.

ps--the bookcase is still available and we'll probably get it on Tuesday!
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Friday, March 05, 2021

French renovations Day 74: Finally we build, rather than destroy!

6,473 steps

74 days into our renovations and finally we did something other than break things. I'm really tired tonight so I'll post the video tomorrow.

I've been waking up early in the mornings thinking of how to engineer our mezzanine structure. One of the ledger boards passes over two doorways, a few centimeters below the top, which gives us fewer surfaces to attach to. Ideally we want a really solid anchor every 40 cm.

We came up with a good solution today: cut a notch in the top of both doorways and insert a header piece, which becomes load-bearing since it rests of top of the vertical parts of the door frame.

We installed these headers in both door frames right at the new mezzanine height. We had to trim the entry door a few centimeters--no big deal, we're getting rid of it anyway since it's a cheap hollow-core door.

We used our wall chaser (rainureuse) for the first time and it's great! It creates enormous clouds of dust even with a vacuum attached but that's to be expected. It was super easy to chisel out the channels with the Bosch hammer.

With both door frames now reinforced and the channels cut, we could FINALLY put up the ledger board! Right now it's tacked into place with two wood screws. Tomorrow we'll come back and anchor it in with lag screws (where it attaches to wood) and 10 mm threaded rods & epoxy (where it attaches into the solid walls).

At this point Eric left to feed the kids lunch--it was well past 1 pm--and I stayed to smash the wall dividing the hallway. It's now a pile of rubble that is halfway cleaned up.

I bumped my pinkie finger while demolishing and now it's looking a bit zombie-ish too. I tried piercing it with a heated paperclip twice and a heated needle once and couldn't get through the nail. Then I gave up. I guess I'm not good at self-inflicted pain. There's only a small purple spot and a medium-sized pale red spot.

I finally came up for my first meal of the day at 2:45 pm. The kids were going stir-crazy so Eric took Inga and Ivy out until curfew. Zari and Dio worked on homework (in theory, not necessarily in reality).

I made spanakopita for dinner and nothing else. That's all I had time for! But no complaints.
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Thursday, March 04, 2021

French renovations Day 73: Soccer, hardware store, and Zoom

Eric took the 3 oldest kids to a pickup soccer game. Ivy and I went on an "adventure" to the hardware store. I needed lag screws (tirefonds), washers, and hex-drive wood screws. It's fun to walk around with her and chitchat about whatever comes into her head.

I also priced out some must-have renovating supplies while I was there, including drywall, lime, fine sand, and MAP. The things I get excited about....

I had Zoom meetings much of the afternoon. Dio stayed at home to catch up on homework ("it isn't fair that we have homework during vacation!"). Eric took everyone else to Place Passable in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

I dismantled the toilet and sink in the communist apartment, as we finally have a working water shutoff valve. Tomorrow we're going to break down that little wall behind the toilet and finally put up the ledger boards for the mezzanine in the back.

Dinner: Eric's normal salad (lettuce, tomatoes, corn, olives, goat cheese) and duck breast in honey-balsamic-shallot sauce. Le Laitier yogurt for dessert.
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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

French renovations Day 72: Lots of planning, some sawing

Eric and I spent all morning down in the communist apartment, talking through various ideas. The planning stage takes way longer than actually doing the work!

Right before dinner, we finally ripped lumber to the correct dimensions, cutting the pieces that will serve as the joist headers and that will hold the joist hangers. We're reusing pieces salvaged from our demolition. So satisfying not to need to buy everything!

Zari, Inga, and Eric had soccer at Cavigal this afternoon. Ivy can't play, obviously. I did some video editing for Breech Without Borders.

Dinner was roast chicken thighs with wild rosemary (picked on a hike), steamed cauliflower, and leftover birthday cake.

I hardly got outside today. 6 pm curfew is annoying. Normally we'd have gone out for a walk after dinner, even if I had been home the rest of the day.
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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

French renovations Day 71: Happy birthday Inga!

13,580 steps

Today was a 10/10 for everyone. Inga woke us up shortly after 7 am. 10 years old! Wow!

We got everyone ready and did our ritual reading-of-the-birth-story by Eric. (If you'd like to read her birth story or watch her birth video, hop over to my blog Stand and Deliver. The birth story is linked on the right sidebar or you can go straight to part 1 here.)

You can see Zari and Dio meeting Inga for the first time here:

Then we opened her one present after breakfast: a microscope. The kids were all thrilled. Over the course of the morning, they looked at onion membrane & skin, scabs, human hair, and tomato skin. They figured out how to take pictures using a phone held at just the right place.

The rest of the morning was a super special treat for the whole family: a personal tour of the Grotte du Lazaret and their private archives. The directors were so grateful to Eric for all the work he put into helping with their poetry exposition. Eric, being the unassuming Canadian that he is, demurred and said, "Oh, it was no big deal, no problem at all."

After our tour of the cave, the director brought the kids to the gift shop and gave them each a bag of presents: pencil, buttons, and braided bracelets. Next we went back into their archives and we got to touch several animal remains from over 100,000 years ago: lynx jaws, panther teeth, bear pelvises, fox claws, elephant teeth. So cool! They told Inga this was the first time that children had ever been in their archives.

And then...they got out a birthday cake for Inga! Triple chocolate mousse, done just perfectly because it's France and they know how to do patisseries (very rich, not too sweet).

We walked home for lunch and then Inga helped me frost and decorate the cake. It turned out even better than expected. It was raspberry almond sour cream cake with raspberry filling and almond butter cream and ruby cocoa flowers.

We had a somber interlude in the afternoon. A few days ago, our baby dove died. It was around 4 days old. The kids have been devastated and we finally gave it a proper burial up at the chateau, along with the other egg that never hatched. Inga and Zari came up to say their goodbyes.

Eric cooked a fancy dinner for Inga: one artichoke for each of us (a treat--usually we split them!), scallops in a shallot-cream-Vermouth sauce, 3 super delicious cheeses on my homemade sourdough bread, and then birthday cake #2.

I thought I filmed us singing "Happy birthday" but I hit the wrong button. Oops!

One of the pictures shows Inga writing in her journal this evening. It took her a while to get through the day.

ps, don't you love my kids' messy hair? It takes too long to braid every day! Oh well...

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Monday, March 01, 2021

French renovations Day 70: Cime de Baudon hike

18,354 steps

We had plumbers doing work on the main sewer line in our building. With our toilet being out of service the whole day, we decided to leave town and go on a hike.

We met up with a few other families to hike the Cime de Baudon, which starts in Peille. Soon after we started, I realized, "We did this hike two years ago!" I had suspected as much but wasn't entirely sure until we got on the path.

It was classified as "sportive" and I would agree. It wasn't terribly difficult for our family but it definitely had some parts that were more climbing than hiking. It was 7 km but looked at felt like much longer. In the first picture, see the very top of the mountain in the distance? That's where we hiked up to!

The sky was still hazy from the Saharan dust that has been blowing over our region the past several days. On clear days you can see all the way to Corsica! The top of the mountain was 1,264 meters (4,146 feet).

Inga invited a friend to come along with us. Good by me as it kept the kids talking in French.    

Ivy was in good form--in fact, I had to remind her not to be too crazy! She was running, jumping, doing all the things she normally would. She got really upset at one point when Zari told her she shouldn't be running and then Zari wouldn't let her be in front.

At the summit, we saw a flock of mountain goats (you can see them at the end of the video).

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