Friday, April 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 130: Rock breaking and guilt trips

Today was a GREAT day, not because of anythig remarkable, but because of all of the things I got done. First thing in the morning, Zari and I did PE With Joe together.

Then, full of post-exercise endorphins and freshly showered, I headed downstairs to get dirty again.

I cut more holes for electrical boxes. I am done with the entire back apartment, except for the holes for the light fixtures in the upper ceiling. We have to figure out where to put them and then I can drill the holes.

The most challenging part of the morning was chiseling out two ovals in the exposed stone wall. They had to be the right size to fit double outlet boxes and also the same height. Not an easy feat with all of these large stones in the way. After lots of drilling and chiseling, the recesses are ready! And I also was able to create spaces for the electrical cables, which will go between the rocks and be hidden once I tuckpoint the joints with lime.

I also took off the entire plaster ceiling in the hallway. It was quick and satisfying. I like those kind of jobs. Now we have a ceiling of rough-sawn wood. I'm glad I took off the plaster because a) it was mostly loose anyway and b) about 1/4 of the wood has insect damage and needs to be treated.

I might sandblast the ceiling and see how it looks once it's cleaned up. But we will likely end up putting drywall over it; it was never intended to be exposed (unlike the beautiful wood ceiling in the front half).

I came upstairs around 2 pm, looking like an "octogenarian" (Eric's words) from all of the dust. I really didn't want to wash my hair so I did the next-best thing: I vaccumed it! Good to go! Then I hopped in the shower to rinse all the dust off the rest of me.

The next few hours I worked on lots of breech things, then picked up the girls from school. We dropped off school things, had a quick snack, and then headed to the coulée verte. I refilled our water bottles with sparkly water and joked with a woman doing the same thing, "C'est dur la vie ici avec l'eau pétillante gratuite."

Dio is having a tiny birthday party tomororw with 2 friends at a park. We're making cupcakes and of cousre right when I was starting to make them, I realized it was 6:56 pm and I had no flour and all of the stores were closed for 7 pm curfew. I ran to 2 different grocery stores but no luck.

Then I phoned a friend who lives just down the street, "Please, can I borrow some flour?" She said no problem, so I ran over to her apartment (only about 50 meters away from us) and picked up a mostly-full container of flour. Phew. Cupcakes are now baked. We'll make frosting in the morning.

This evening Eric was cleaning up and Zari and Dio were just watching him...despite him having asked them for help. So he started monologuing and guilt-tripping the kids as he was cleaning. This went on for a good 10 minutes and finally Zari got off the couch and washed the table. Dio? He got out the phone and started filming.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 129: Rain and outlet holes

??? my fitness tracker needs to be recharged

Rain was forecast all day. But I was able to sneak in a run this morning before it started in earnest. It progressed from a drizzle, to a steady rain, to a downpour, to a thunderstorm. I love listening to storms! There's something moody and cozy about thunderstorms, maybe because I grew up in the Midwest where they are an everyday part of life.

Eric went to play soccer mid-morning, while I stayed and worked on the communist apartment. I drilled 7 double outlet boxes, which means 14 holes to mark, drill, and clear out. So now all of the downstairs outlets are ready, except for in the toilet room. We need to cut short vertical channels to connect them to the horizontal channels, but that's a quick job.

Eric came home well past noon, totally soaked. But he said it was so fun--running around full speed for several hours in the rain, totally blowing past the 20-year-olds who think they are hot stuff.

I did some work in the afternoon and helped kids with homework. Oh, I baked bread this morning.

And then--insert angelic singing here--the sun came out at dinner time. Eric and I said, "Let's go on a walk!" Inga really wanted to come so we let her tag along. It was absolutely gorgeous with clear skies and that fresh after-rain smell.

When we got home, Inga and Ivy disappeared into the attic. What were they up to? We discovered when it was bedtime: they had constructed an elaborate garland of toilet paper. Which of course had to be ripped down before bed.

I snuggled Zari in bed tonight. She gets really chatty when we're together and the lights are off. She said, "Even though I don't do a lot of things with friends here, being with my family more than makes up for it." Awwww....
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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 128: Rixa vs. rocks

6,118 steps

I slept in until 8:30 am! Oops...but it felt great.

We suited up for some messy work: cutting channels for the electricity in the kitchen. Eric did the cutting with the wall chaser (rainureuse). Then I took over and started drilling out the holes for the electrical outlets and light swtiches with a diamond-tipped bit.

To fit the outlet boxes, the holes need to be about 3" in diameter and almost 2" deep. And...the cement was only about 3/4" thick. After that, we hit solid rock. I would drill out a bit, then take the jackhammer and chisel out the rock. Then I'd drill a bit deeper, then chisel. I had to repeat this about 3 times with each hole until the outlet boxes would fit.

While I was doing this, Eric cleaned out all of the channels with the jackhammer. We still need to chip away more of the stone, but it's nearly done. We might even be ready to start running wires tomorrow!

This short video also shows some of the other framing that we've been working on. The little areas near the floor are for all of the writing that needs to get to the other side of the room. Instead of trying to wrap around multiple corners where the wall bumps out, we decided to just build little "coffrages" (don't know the English word) and run the wires straight through.

Then we had our usual afternoon soccer practices. Dio had a game in La Trinité and all of the girls went to Cavigal.

I had two Zoom meetings in the late afternoon, so that wrapped up my day. Then dinner (fish that Eric caught), helping kids with homework, and bedtime.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 127: Supplies, saignées, and soup

9,615 steps

We inventoried the pallet of electrical supplies that arrived last week...and discovered that we were missing several major items, and had received some items that we hadn't ordered. I spent much of the morning going through each item, checking it off the order list, and then compiling the total of what we still needed. It's communicated to the supplier. Now we wait.

We were hoping to start installing electrical cables but we're missing one of the sizes. Instead, I decided to map out the entire kitchen wiring and mark where all of the saignées (wall channels) and outlet boxes need to be cut. I finished that part and started drilling out the first few outlet holes.

Since we're working with cement and/or lime and/or plaster on top of rock, I used a diamond-tipped drill bit. After getting less than 1" deep, I hit solid rock. The cement "plug" fell out and you could see the stone underneath. I drilled...and drilled...and still only got a centimeter deeper. I'm going to try to chisel out the interior of each hole tomorrow. The electrical boxes are almost 2" deep, so I need to somehow empty out each hole.

And then I looked at my watch and discovered that it was well after 3 pm and I hadn't eaten yet. Time to stop for the day!

I had "lunch" and turned right around and started prepping dinner: zucchini Parmesan soup. Not really a recipe, just something I invited. I think I've made something similar years and years ago.

Eric got invited to a pickup soccer match, so I picked up the kids after school. They went to play at the park with friends, so Zari and I went on a walk around the port. We enjoyed looking at all the enormous yachts and speculating how many smaller yachts could fit inside the biggest one, "Quantum Blue." It's still not as big as the "Lady Moura" that I went inside last summer.

Zari loved the soup and said I needed to share how I made it. So here goes:

2 onions
a few Tbsp butter  
4 zucchini
1 liter/quart chicken stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper, & herbs to taste

Chop and caramelize 2 onions in some butter and salt. Once they're a nice golden brown and taste sweet, add 4 chopped or sliced zucchinis. Sautee on high until the zucchinis start to brown. Then add about a liter/quart of chicken stock (I had some homemade broth in the freezer) and a bit more salt, maybe some herbs too. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until everything is tender. Puree until smooth and add the Parmesan. Season to taste.

I just finished Tan France's memoir Naturally Tan. I've also read Jonathan Van Ness's, last year maybe.
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Monday, April 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 126: Happy birthday Dio! (and a good work day)

13,890 steps

Dio turned 12. He was so excited to get up early so we could open presents before school and do our ritual reading of the birth story. In fact, I heard him wake up at 6:30 and walk into the kitchen to check the time. Zari reluctantly had agreed to be woken up at 7:30.

We all gathered around and watch the 3 short videos we have from his birth, then Eric read his version of the birth story. You can read it here as well as see pictures and the 3 videos (one immediately after he was born, the rest once we were settled in bed).

Then we opened presents: a wireless gaming mouse and a mouse pad. He was super excited. The mouse looks super futuristic and has color-changing LEDs.

I brought Ivy and Inga to school, then went running. I like getting back into our school schedule. I hate wasting half of the mornings, as happens a lot during school vacations.

I showered and headed downstairs to work. Since Eric was still getting ready, I did something super extra messy: I blew out the joints in the rock wall. It released an astounding amount of dust, and I couldn't see more than about 2 feet in front of me. It slowly settled and we both worked on cleaning it up.

We talked through the next steps, but it was getting close to lunch pickup time. I told Eric to go ahead and I'd keep on working. I attached a few pieces of 2x4s to the wall and then cleaned up in perparation for painting that section. (It will be a very shallow cupboard of sorts, where we'll hide the whole-house circuit breaker, the electrical panel, and the communication panel). Then I painted and left it for a while to dry.

I went back down after a late lunch and finished several framing jobs. I quite enjoyed finishing things that had visual progress. I forgot to take pictures, though.

I finished right when school got out...and realized that I hadn't put Dio's cake together. I whipped up a double batch of frosting and got the cakes out of the freezer. I was worried they'd still be frozen, but they thawed in time for dessert. Dio wanted a "surprise" cake that had M&Ms in the middle. And for decoration, I gave him the leftover M&Ms and told him to do whatever he wanted.

Meanwhile Eric did a quick shopping trip for Dio's birthday dinner. And wow, it was amazing! 

We ate, in this order:
- octopus & caper carpaccio
- a salad (just for Dio) made partly from ingredients that Ivy picked at the school garden. She spent a long time chopping everything into tiny bits and arranging them just so
- escargots
- white asparagus in cream
- duck breast in balsamic, honey, & shallot sauce
- a really good cheese
- birthday cake

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Sunday, April 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 125: Who does the best braids?

13,664 steps

We had a braid contest: who could do the best braid on Zari's hair? And could Zari correctly guess whose was whose? Not too surprisingly, she guessed mine correctly but she was wrong on the 3 others.

Zari is wearing a linen J.Jill shirt that Eric bought for me 22 years ago. I haven't worn it for a while, as the style is a bit boxy. But it looks great on Zari! It's one of the few things I've held on to over the years.

Eric called me midday "Inga and Dio have invited friends over for the afternoon. Can they come?" Ugh, we've had so many of these conversations! We have a rule that we don't have friends over indoors right now. Outdoors is fine. But the problem is, it was just about lunchtime and they would be over the whole afternoon. So we had to feed them lunch.

Which meant *I* had to cook them a full lunch since we didn't have anything to eat. And I had to bend the rules: I let them come and we opened up all the windows while we ate. Eric made crepes too so they had a huge meal.

Then we went to the chateau for the rest of the afternoon. We met up with several families--repeating theme when you live in Old Nice. The park was packed with people--like you typically only see on big holidays. I have no idea why.

I started The Autobiography of Malcolm X yesterday at the beach and just finished it today.

I also cooked a double dinner tonight (Tuscan butter gnocchi) so we have enough for another dinner.

School starts tomorrow: in-person for Inga and Ivy, virtual for Zari and Dio for one more week.
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Saturday, April 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 124: Restless nights & restful afternoons

9,184 steps

We had a rather crazy night. I slept fitfully until 5 am, then I was wide awake for 2 hours. I gave up trying to sleep and read with the phone as dim as possible. My arm was quite sore last night, probably the reason why I didn't sleep well. By the end of today it was back to normal.

Soon after I woke up, I heard footsteps...and then the living room light turned on! It was Dio--he woke up and couldn't sleep so I guess turning the lights on at 5 am seemed like a good idea?? We have windows that overlook the living room, so I rapped on the window and sent him back to bed.

But apparently he took Inga's Rubik's cube to bed and played with it in bed, which then woke Inga up.

Oh, and Eric was awake at 5 am, too.

So that was fun. I usually go running on Saturday mornings but opted for walking and running errands.

I found cake pans this morning while everyone else was playing soccer. I took advantage of the quiet house to get more breech work done (transcribing our online courses in preparation for translating the captions into other languages).

We had another lovely afternoon at the beach. We all got a bit too much sun, just a slight sunburn. Ivy and Inga swam a lot but I didn't have the courage to go in today. Eric caught another fish.

I spotted a guerilla garden near our house. I love the idea, although there isn't enough soil to grow anything substantial. I might contribute some plants or pots.

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Friday, April 23, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 123: Shots, groceries, and beach

12,300 steps

You know what's funny, and when I say funny, I mean sad-funny? I almost wasn't going to write this because I know that people who read this--friends of mine even--would gleefully tear me apart. But then I thought: that is stupid. I'm going to write it.

So yeah, Eric and I got the Pfizer vaccine today.

I am a researcher by training but also by nature. I spend most of my waking hours trying to reeducate people on the risks and benefits of diffcult choices. And SO MUCH of what we're working against in my field is fear-based information using exaggeration, hearsay, and anecdote without setting risks and benefits in their larger context. And unless we have rigorous, systematic data collection, we cannot hope to do so accurately.

On social media I see so much shaming, fear-based language, passing along of unverified reports, and even trolling of friends as well as strangers and salaciously reporting when something bad happens (whether or not it was related to Covid or to the vaccine). Very few people are even reading the original research studies. Instead, they're coming to this with their minds already made up (either way).

Humans do this all the time. It's called confirmation bias. I'm not exempt--I can point to so many times in my life that I've done it, too. We fools ourselves when we think we're rational creatures and that we make decisions and form opinions after evaluating the evidence. But we rarely do so; we already have our minds up and we find evidence that confirms our worldview and reject the evidence that doesn't fit. We don't even do this consciously. And ironically, when we encounter evidence that strongly contradicts our beliefs, that actually *strengthens* our belief systems. (Google "belief perseverence" and "backfire effect.")

And none of us think that we are the unreasonable, irrational ones. The "other" people are. Of course, right?

Our cupboards were nearly bare, so we stocked up at Lidl afterwards. I have some good meals planned: creamy herbed porkchops (for tonight), zucchini & parmesan soup, roasted sausages & fennel, sunchoke soup.

We couldn't pass up the gorgeous sunny weather, so we took the afternoon off to go to the beach. Well, Dio was up picnicking at the chateau with friends. The rest of us got lots of sun and a tiny bit of sunburn. I wasn't brave enough to swim, but Inga and Ivy were. Eric caught a fish and got stung on the lip by a jellyfish--pretty much the only part of his entire body that was exposed!

Dio's birthday is coming up soon. I hoped to make his cake tonight, but I didn't have the right size cake pan. I took a quick walk to two different stores, but one was closed and the other one, a "hypermarche," was out of stock!

Inga got a Rubik's cube with her birthday money, and Dio filmed himself tonight. He noticed that he was doing silly things with his tongue and lips (not on purpose) and gave me permission to post the video 🙂 Enjoy.

One of my friend wrote about doing 1000 Hours Outside and I loved the idea. We have charts printed off and our first day filled out.

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Thursday, April 22, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 122: Another not-so-simple wall

9,786 steps

I started the day off with a nice run. Sad to say I am not very fast but that's not the point anyway. We attached yesterday's wall to the floor and ceiling and then built a little wall around the waste pipe. Again, it looks so easy and little...and takes so long! We had to work around all sorts of weird things because nothing is straight or level or even anywhere near flat.

After lunch Ivy went to have her final checkup...more than 2 months later she is finally healed and doesn't need to wear a brace any longer! She got sent home with her x-rays and Pokemon cards. For your enjoyment I am including the before & after images from both the top and side angles. 

Also a Dio selfie of his scraped elbow.

Dio had soccer practice, and Zari stayed home to do PE With Joe. Inga opted to do sprints on the Promenade des Anglais while I read a book right below her. She was really working! Then we read for a while in the sun. Vitamin D therapy.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 121: Not a simple wall

9,235 steps

We had a slow start this morning. Eric woke up early, then came back in bed for a 2nd sleep until I woke up, then he had a 3rd sleep on the couch once we were all up and eating breakfast.

We built our shower wall, which looks stupidly simple but was actually quite complex. Since the room is not square, that means the mezzanine hits the wall NOT at a right angle. However, the inside angle of the shower needs to be a perfect right angle.

So to solve this issue, we built a wall that is slightly thicker on one end to correct for the angled wall. So now inside the shower it's a perfect right angle and on the outside, the wall lines up perfectly with the edge of the mezzanine. You'll never know that the wall itself changes thicknesses (about 15 cm difference over an 80 cm long wall).

We cut top and bottom plates with the correct angles, and then 4 vertical studs each needed to be ripped to the correct thickness, each one a few mm different than the next. And it all worked!

I also jackhammered more bits off the walls. I stopped once we got to some problem areas that I didn't want to disturb too much. We need to do some reinforcing before destroying anything else in those spots.

After a late lunch we got everyone out (except Dio--he had soccer practice). The forecast said rain all day, but we saw the sun peeking out. So we headed to the beach. It was windy and we'd get a minute or two of sun, then a minute or two of cloud cover. We weren't quite warm enough and even Ivy chickened out and decided not to swim.

I made chicken thighs roasted with garlic & wild rosemary (picked on one of our hikes), plus choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with sausages). Eric made a salad.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 120: Third time's the charm?

11,673 steps

We might have found a plumber! We had a new plumber come by this morning. He said everything we wanted would be entirely doable. He was very pleasant and professional and sent us an estimate this evening. And...his estimate was far better than the other two!

The only drawback: he's booked for the next month. So we will do other stuff while we're waiting for him. Our plan is to hire him for the complicated hallway plumbing and for the back apartment. Then we'll do the front ourselves, maybe, depending on our budget and our schedule at that point. But his estimate is so reasonable that we may very well just pay him for everything.

After he left, Eric and I got a few good hours' work done, jackhammering off more of the ceiling and cleaning up debris. It's messy but so satisfying. We also cleared off the skim coat of plaster on one of the upper walls. It was loose and crumbling almost everywhere, so we took it all off.

Then, time for fun! We met up with a group of friends in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. We took a hike, well more like a pleasant stroll, along the Sentier du Littoral. Then we went back to Plage Passable. The littler kids all went for a swim but it was too chilly for me to try :)

We loved watching Rusty, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy, trying to bury his stick and going in the water (and on the paddleboard!) for the first time.


Eric went spearfishing and came back with a rouget and a mulet.

Dio stayed home because he had afternoon soccer practice. Even having one kid absent makes the family feel so small and quiet.
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Monday, April 19, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 119: Happy birthday to me!!!!

9,827 steps

A busy day. The 3 youngest kids were supposed to go to the Bois des Lutins, but we found out it got closed over the weekend due to a new regional Covid regulation. Instead, Inga and Ivy went with our friends to a hike, visit to an old fortress, and tour of Eze village. They were gone all day and had a wonderful time. They got treated to ice cream and barbecue potato chips. Kid heaven.

Once we got them sent off, I went running, showered, and then got dressed to work downstairs. We got the hallway subfloor installed, did some more talking and head-scratching, and created an action plan for tomorrow (jackhammer off the other half of the ceiling). We cleared out the entire room and cleaned up. Yes, we'll just get it messy all over again, but at least our tools will all be out of the way.

I wanted to get more done today, but that's life. I tried calling the plumber AGAIN (this time it went straight to voicemail, so I left a message). At what point do I give up?

I did more breech work in the afternoon. Also Eric persuaded me to go to the beach and read in the sun. Zari came along, too. I read a few more chapters of Obama's memoir and Eric quizzed Zari on lots more random vocabulary words. I pulled two words off the page I was reading. One was "eminent." I can't remember the other one. But anyone who can use two SAT worthy words on a random page has my respect.

Then...dinner! Eric put together a masterpiece:
  • asparagus
  • bacon, mushroom, onion, & Roquefort quiche
  • smoked trout & mussel quiche
  • 3 kinds of cheese
  • blueberries in cream
  • Opéra cake

We have tons of leftovers so I won't need to cook dinner tomorrow. Even better!

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 118: Sunday but not sunny day

14,663 steps

Rain was forecast most of the day, but we ended up with just a mostly cloudy day. Not too bad! I got several good walks in, some by myself and some with sidekicks.

Our afternoon was mostly lazy, playing games or reading or working on the computer (cough cough, that would be me). Dio spent the afternoon playing with a friend. I said it was fine as long as they stayed outside.

We went out for a quick hour in the afternoon. Zari and I went on a walk, then filled 6 bottles with sparkling water. It's like going to the village well, only with bubbles!

Comrade stopped by to look at our progress and give his advice on a few things. We mentioned we needed to sandblast the wood ceiling and the old beams, and he offered to lend us his 150L air compressor. We would just need to buy the pistol, hose, and blasting medium. We can do a test to see if his compressor has adequate airflow. We love Comrade!

I made chicken pot pie for dinner, always a favorite.

Well, time to do something relaxing this evening. I listened to the Mormon Stories interview with Natasha Helfer today. She's a sex/marriage therapist who is facing excommunication for advocating for good clinical practices (which often clash with official Mormon church teachings around sexuality & gender issues).

Yeah, that's got me a bit riled up. Down with patriarchy and sexual shame! Yay for positive, empowering messages about sex and bodies and relationships! So now I need something bland and boring to occupy my evening:)
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Saturday, April 17, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 117: Soccer and SAT prep

11,285 steps

Zari was the first one up this morning; she had 9 am soccer practice. I was awake but pretending I was asleep for a while 🙂 I went on a run and worked on the breech research update the rest of the morning while Eric took the other kids to play soccer at the chateau. 

I also baked 4 loaves of sourdough. Zari said, "Mama, your bread is heaven on earth." Then she sang, "Hallelujah!"

Ivy's friend had a birthday today. Since we're in lockdown, we couldn't do a proper birthday party. But we all met back up at the cheateau mid-afternoon for outdoor play time and a few treats. Eric played soccer AGAIN in the afternoon, this time with a group of adults. Dio rode scooters with his friend for 4 hours.

At dinnertime, Eric said something to the effect of, "When you kids are all in bed, Rixa and I have intellectual conversations." Inga then asked what "intellectual" meant. Then this got Eric started on quizzing Zari on her vocabulary. It felt like SAT or ACT prep hour. A few that I managed to write down:

(looks it up) Optimistic or positive. What?!

I have not read enough literature to know what that means.

On fire?

Um, proud?
I've heard it before. Aggressive? no...Pus? So acne-filled?

To brag?
To position?
Yes, in a way. To apply or theorize.

Oh, that's easy. A person who can, let's see, not read minds. Moving energy. I know it has somthing to do with your mind. To move with your mind.

I don't even know. (looks it up) What?! Seriously? Ugh, that's horrible. 

I'm afraid of knowing. (looks it up) Ugh, seriously? 

Oh, shame! [That's an easy one--it's a French word!]

We caught Eric in an error--he mixed up "salubrious" with "salacious." Haha! 

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Friday, April 16, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 116: Friday is the new Thursday

8,627 steps

Well, everyone got their exercise in today except for me. I did go on a long walk (to the hardware store) but didn't do anything to break a real sweat.

We started installing the subfloor in the hallway and then ran out of screws. Hence the trip to the hardware store. It was past noon by time I got back.

Eric had some ideas of how to completely reimagine our apartment but I'm not entirely convinced it would work. It would involve kids' bedrooms only accessible by going through the parent's bedroom and then the parent's bathroom. But the idea behind it was good: keep more of the front & back parts connected.

I was convinced today was Thursday. Being on school vacation will do that to a person.

I had another Zoom meeting this evening and worked on video editing much of the day. I love what I do. I don't love that I always have something to work on and no set hours. It's too easy to let my projects fill all of my time.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

French apartment renovation, Day 115: We have a (sub)floor!

It's so rewarding to start and finish a job all in one day--actually, all before lunchtime. We installed the tongue & groove subfloor. It was a bit of pain because about half of the boards were warped (the lumberyard stores its lumber outside in the rain???). But we got it all in place and forced it into submission.

The kids got ready for the day (which in theory means brushing teeth, making beds, and getting dressed) and practiced piano. Then they were allowed to watch one episode of Kipo. After that they exercised (PE With Joe) and then they got to watch another episode. Ivy came down each time an episode finished to inform us of their progress and to ask permission to watch another one. We ended up letting them watch 4 episodes while we were working.

Dio and Zari both had soccer practice after lunch. Eric took Ivy and Inga to the chateau and I recorded my breech research update. It's not perfect but it's good enough. The next step is video editing.

So yeah, I ended around dinnertime and was feeling kaput. But my day wasn't done: I had two Zoom meetings from 7-9 pm. 
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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

French renovations, Day 114: Subfloor & soccer

10,997 steps

We spent the morning in the communist apartment getting ready to install the tongue & groove subfloor. We installed a cleat in the wall that will support the far ends of the subfloor that stick out past the last joist. Then we cut several boads, did lots of head-scratching because of course the room is not square, and installed the first board.

I made a fast-motion video but to be honest, there's not all that much to see! Tomorrow's should be better.

At that point we realized that the screws we had weren't great--we bought them back when we were planning on installing OSB. As it was getting close to lunch, we called it a day.

I went to buy better screws at Ciffreo Bona and Eric ate and got Ivy ready for soccer. I got home, ate a quick lunch, and then brought Inga to soccer and did the usual grocery trip to Aldi on the way home. Dio brought himself to soccer practice.

I got a few fun things in the mail: two instruction manuals about plumbing and electricity and a diamond drill bit. Yay! Also our electrical supplies arrived on a pallet this afternoon, just as Zari and I were heading out to her orthodontist appointment.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

French renovations, Day 113: Progress

Who knows how many steps because I forgot to put on my fitness tracker....

Sun! I can finally get our laundry dry. I did 3 loads to day and am still catching up. One or two days of rain mess everything up. 

I went on a run and then got the kids to get ready for the day with the promise that we'd watch one episode of Kipo. The caveat: they had to do PE With Joe after the first episode. So we all got in some good exercise, too.

Eric was downstairs writing in the dusty communist apartment (the musicians were practicing in the basement so Eric didn't go down there). He could hear us thumping around as we were doing burpees or high knees. Also he heard the arguing and various drama that inevitably happened.

Eric took Inga out to the beach right after lunch for a quick sunbathe. She loved it--she finally took her shirt off at the end and said it felt wonderful.

Then, finally, we worked in the communist apartment. Inga and Ivy helped me frame a little wall. It was slower than usual because we don't have a framing nailer. Instead, we did everything with deck screws. It's super secure and fits perfectly. High five to us for good measuring and drilling!

The girls also helped me pull nails out of the wall and take out more of the old wiring.

We also cut a few more channels in the wall and planned where we need to install a little wall cleat. This will allow us to install the pine subfloor tomorrow! So excited!

We've given up on hiring the plumber we wanted--he hasn't returned my 2 emails or my 2 texts. So we're just going to plan on doing it ourselves and hope for the best. I still would like to hire out the toilet waste plumbing because the one plumber we liked said he could bury all the lines in the wall, which would solve a lot of issues. We don't have the tools or expertise to do that, as it would involve tying into the old cast iron and moving some of it around.

Dio rode scooters with a friend in the afternoon, and Zari had a practice at Cavigal. So we all had lots of exercise by the end of the day!

Dinner was on Eric tonight: broccoli, escargots, sea scallops in cream & Vermouth sauce, and then peach ice cream floats for dessert. It was a bit of "what can we make with the random things we have left in the fridge?" and it worked out okay in the end.

We let the kids stay up late to watch the first half of the Champions League knockout match between PSG and BAY. I wanted the younger girls to go to bed on time but Eric persuaded me otherwise. "It's vacation!"
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Monday, April 12, 2021

French renovations, Day 112: More shopping, not so much renovating

9,301 steps

Well, we did accomplish both goals today, kind of. A) everyone exercises and B) we work on the communist apartment.

I went for a quick run this morning. I didn't realize it was raining until I got outside, so I shortened my run a bit. The kids all did PE With Joe.

Eric wrote down in the basement "cave" in the morning. We left for LeRoy Merlin after lunch, with these instructions to the kids: "You need to go outside and play!"

We got regular phone updates as we were driving there, shopping, and checking out. "Someone doesn't want to go outside. Someone is sad because they wanted to go to a friend's house but our family's rules don't allow that with Covid. Someone is ready to go out but their siblings aren't." Etc...

As we were driving home, they finally got out the door!

So what did we buy today? More hardware, masonry tools, shower waterproofing kit, chemical anchor, a few big pieces of lumber for the front mezzanine. We also tried to buy OSB but apparently there's a national shortage and the store is out of the thickness we need for maybe a month or more. Ack! Instead we decided to install a treated pine tongue-and-groove subfloor. It was available, it was the right thickness, and it was the same price as the thickest OSB.

So we strapped everything onto or into our car and headed home.

Besides her usual selection of fantasy/sci fi books, Zari has been reading all sorts of books that Eric often uses in his university classes. Let's are some of the titles that I can remember:
  • Ethan Frome
  • The Awakening
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • As She Climbed Across the Table
  • Unless by Carol Shields
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X

When I put Zari to bed tonight, she was talking about Malcolm X's autobiography. She's about 1/3 of the way through, right at the part where he goes to prison. She couldn't stop remarking on how terrible and unfair things were for Black people at that time. (I say "were" but "are" is probably still appropriate, given the widespread disparities in anything from prison sentencing to maternal and infant mortality. Anyway, back to what I was saying...)

She was trying to find a way to express the sense of guilt and complicity she feels due to her own ethnic/racial heritage--you know, being part of the privileged group that benefits from a racist system. I'm glad that she can be aware of these things and that she's upset about the injustices around her.

Oh, for whatever reason this winter, we've had mold growing all over! It's on most of our wooden furniture and behind many objects that are close-ish to walls (not necessarily exterior walls--could be anywhere). It's so bizarre.

We haven't changed our heating or ventilation. We keep the apartment heated the same as we always have. We're not doing anything different this year compared to all the other years. So why all this mold? I've been spraying everything down with vinegar and then scrubbing it off after it sits for a while. This is driving me crazy.

We already have a dehumidifer in the attic bedroom; it's normally 85% humidity up there in the winter without the dehumidifer. I might need to buy another dehumidifer for the living room/kitchen and run it constantly.
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Sunday, April 11, 2021

French renovations, Day 111: You call that rain?

14,425 steps

The forecast called for rain all day starting around 10 am. What actually happened? It misted from 9-10 am and then was dry the rest of the day. I got a few long walks in, one up to Cimiez by myself and then then another with the kids going back home.

I baked sourdough bread in the afternoon. A friend stopped by to pick up starter. My bread is just SO DELICIOUS. I make it because it saves money but the taste is the primary reason. Sadly we ate more than one loaf so I'll have to make more in a few days.

The kids are on school vacation for the next 2 weeks. Our goals are:
1. Everyone exercises every day...could be soccer, running, HIIT. Just do something!
2. Work on the communist apartment every day, using the kids as much as possible

We'll probably take another trip to Leroy Merlin tomorrow to buy another big load of supplies: a few big pieces of lumber, OSB for the subfloors, drywall, etc.
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Saturday, April 10, 2021

French renovations, Day 110: Ugh, too much computer time!

3,722 steps

I was working all day. It's entirely my fault. I should have just called it a weekend and done fun stuff. But I had so much to do and was feeling motivated to get it done. And then in the evening we had a live session, so even more work.

Everyone else went and played soccer in the morning. Then because Eric didn't have enough soccer, he played pickup with a group of adults in the afternoon. We watched Wadjda this afternoon, a new film from Saudi Arabia. The kids really liked it and were all incensed about the unfairness for girls in that country.

I did go on a 30-minute walk and make dinner. That's the grand sum of what I did when I wasn't sitting in front of a computer!
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Friday, April 09, 2021

French renovations, Day 109: Track & field afternoon and evening lecture

10,144 steps

I love starting the day with a run. It was a brisk 8C when I left the house, but as soon as I got in the sun I warmed up and took off my jacket. I worked on breech things all day until mid-afternoon. Then we took a bike ride up to Vauban to run around on the track and play on the exercise equipment. (Dio stayed behind to ride scooters with a friend.)

I gave an evening Zoom lecture to an international group of maternity care providers. It went great but now I am wiped out mentally and I just need to collapse into a limp brainless heap and maybe beg Eric for a massage.

So that's my day. Ciao everyone.
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Thursday, April 08, 2021

French renovations, Day 108: Headache

9,508 steps

I've had a headache all day, the kind that feels like my head is inside a vice grip. Yay. Did you know that Eric has never had a headache in his life? Never ever.

Zari is babysitting overnight. Both she and the little girl tested negative so I feel okay about letting her do it. She called to let me know everything went well so far, except it took her longer than expected to get the girl to bed. I think we parents expect that with babysitters! We finished the last of her homework over the phone, with her dictating and me typing in her answers and submitting them online.

Eric and I left the kids to fend for themselves in the morning and did some work in the communist apartment. We attached the 2nd ledger board in the hallway and put in a few lag bolts in the mezzainine structure, now that we have the right size drill bits. We also found the right size lumber from our salvage pile--roughly the size of American 2x4s, and cut them to size for a small wall we are building. Not a ton, but at least we did something.

The house was a mess when we came back up, papers and books and pencils scattered everywhere. Yay quarantine schooling. And productivity was...well...not so great.

I finally went out for a mid-afternoon walk. Earlier in the afternoon, Eric went to the beach to read in the sun for a bit.

And the rest of my day was filled with breech work and assisting children with homework. I think I need to get into bed and read some "brain candy" to distract me from my headache. Bonne nuit!
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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

French renovations, Day 107: Snow?!?

4,279 steps

There was snow up in the hills above Nice. It was a "warmer" 8C here when I opened the windows, which is surprisingly cold for April. We're currently watching the Champions League game, where it's snowing. We let Ivy and Inga stay up with the older kids and watch the first half.

Sadly we didn't work in the communist apartment today...I think this is the longest stretch we've taken since we bought the apartment. We have both been so busy with our own work, plus quarantine schooling on top of everything.

But! I am determined! We shall do some work tomorrow. And it helps that a set of drill bits--very important ones--arrived today.

We had our usual soccer afternoon. Ivy went for the first time since she broke her arm. Technically she's not supposed to play soccer, or even run at all, for another 6 weeks. Sorry, this little girl needs to run! I don't think there's too much risk in her doing drills and mini-scrimmages, compared to all the other running around she does the rest of the day.

I've been immersed in putting together by breech research update presentation. I have my little spot on the living room sofa--as much as an office as I'll get in this tiny apartment--and I'm there mostly nonstop. I'll get up to help kids, or eat, but then I'm back again as soon as possible.

I admit I have a hard time turning off my focus once I'm working on something. (And there is always more work to be done and no set working hours.) I really enjoy working but I know that I tend to ignore/neglect everyone else when I'm in the Zone.

A friend of ours who is a nurse got scheduled for a night shift tomorrow night and needs last-minute overnight babysitting. Zari often watches her daughter, although she hasn't had any opportunities since Covid began. I proposed that we get both Zari and her daughter tested tomorrow to be sure we're not passing something along.

I think that's the best compromise--my friend is in a real bind, being a healthcare provider! I know the rapid antigen tests aren't as accurate as PCR, but it's better than not testing at all.

This picture is from right after Mbappe's first goal. Very exciting!

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Tuesday, April 06, 2021

French renovations, Day 106: Home school & parks

Day 1 of quarantine schooling. I remember why it was to tough a year ago during our full lockdown. We can never get any work done having 4 kids competing for time on our two computers (both of which are work computers, in theory!).

At least it's just one week. Then we're on school holiday for 2 weeks.

In the afternoon, we headed to a skatepark at the edge of Nice. Dio was hoping to do scooter tricks. But after about 10 minutes, he and Eric left and joined the rest of us at a nearby park/playground. It was AMAZING! It had huge towers connected with rope/net bridges and a super tall steep slide.

So today was good, even though we parents got very little work done. I walked home with Zari and Dio because I needed to get dinner started. It was a bit over 5km or 3 miles. It was great to walk home with the kids (they were on scooters so they had it easy!) and talk about all sorts of things, including how the stories we tell about historical figures and religious leaders often have very little to do with the true messy history.

I didn't get home until close to 6 pm, which meant dinner didn't happen until close to 8. I'm not used to eating so late! With intermittent fasting, I usually open my eating window between 1-2 pm and close it at 6 pm when possible.

I have some fun videos but it's too late to get to them tonight.
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Monday, April 05, 2021

French renovations, Day 105: Easter holiday #2

11,950 steps 

 It's a national holiday today so shops are closed. And it's springtime, so even though we're in lockdown everyone is outside walking around. It's okay--we are allowed outside. But crowds of people kind of destroy the feeling of "confinement." 

Inga went running with me in the morning. She kept up, mostly. We had to stop a few times because of side aches or "growing pains." Her words. She's super fast but isn't used to running longer distances without stopping. 

On our way home we saw something amusing: a boat carrying boats. Specifically, a boat carrying yachts. Kind of like how semi trucks carry cars? Imagine that x100. 

What did we do the rest of the morning? I worked on a research update for Breech Without Borders. Kids read books or played "air hockey" with empty chocolate coin wrappers. 

We wanted to go to the beach after lunch, but we ended up having piano lessons earlier than usual. I had to send everyone out of the house at 4 pm for a meeting, so they went to the beach even though it wasn't quite as nice out. Still it was partly sunny. Ivy and Inga swam. Zari, Dio, and Eric basked in the sun. I joined everyone when my meeting was done and read another chapter in Obama's memoir. 

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Sunday, April 04, 2021

French renovations, Day 104: Easter holiday

6,530 steps

We live in a medieval village with a cathedral or church on every other street. We have bells that ring all throughout the day. I wake up to one set of bells, know it's X time throughout the day becuase of other bells. But on religious holidays, the bells go crazy. I love it.

We had a lazy, quiet morning at home. The kids were decorating Easter eggs all morning with acrylic paint. We kept asking them when they wanted to do the Easter egg hunt. The prerequisite was that they clean up their bedrooms. Finally, well after noon, they started cleaning up!

Then the fun began. We sent the kids out of the house, counted the chocolates, and then hid them all over. Each child was assigned X # of chocolates to find, to ensure that everyone came out equal. Dio was the last to finish and was really frustrated by the end. I'm amazed they found every single one!

While they were searching for eggs, we prepped a late lunch/early dinner. Green beans sauteed in olive oil & lemon juice (Eric), homemade biscuits (me), shrimp & vegetable tart (store-bought), and duck or sea scallops in puff pastry shells (also store-bought), followed by tarte au chocolat with fresh strawberries.

I think it's the first time I've bought something store-made for a holiday, but it was delicious and on clearance! Such a difference being in France vs. the US. I would never buy pre-made meals back in the States.

Inga ate so much chocolate that her stomach was really hurting after the meal. Poor girl!

We watched an episode of "The Unlisted" and then played Egg Wars, a Freeze family tradition. You smash your hardboiled eggs together, one-on-one, until just one egg is left unbroken. I'd like to show a video but uploading to FB hasn't been working for me at all lately. Plus I haven't edited it yet!

Inga was so sad that her eggs eventually succumbed. She named them and made them little RIP signs and didn't let us mix them with the rest of the deviled eggs. Oh yeah, we made deviled eggs with Roquefort & lardons, a French twist on bacon & blue cheese. YUM!!

We watched one more episode, then went on a walk. We refilled our bottles with sparkly water because why not?
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Saturday, April 03, 2021

French renovations, Day 103: Play day

10,149 steps

I got the least amount of exercise by far today, compared to the rest of the family. Zari went up to soccer practice and Eric took the rest of the kids to the château for a pickup match. I walked to the grocery store and carried home a heavy cart of groceries.

After running for 2 hours straight, the kids weren't tired. Not at all! In fact, Eric, Inga, and Dio had enough energy that they went to the outdoor track in Vauban and timed themselves running the 100m. They also played on various exercise equipment.

I babysat Ivy's friends, identical twins from school, so we went to the Tête Carrée park. There they ran around for at least an hour, hardly stopping except to get drinks of water. Then we came back and raced toy cars down Rue Rosetti.

We had an excellent dinner tonight (Eric's turn): vegetable & shrimp tart (store-bought since it was on sale), salmon with garlic & capers, and tarte au chocolat (which I made).

Zari is fretting about not quite fitting in with or being liked by her soccer teammates. She's always been different, socially (kind of like me!). Part of it is that social interactions aren't necessarily intuitive for her. And she's an introvert. And she mostly doesn't care too much about fitting in. (Again, sounds like me!) But she can sense when things are different, or awkward, or uncomfortable and it does bother her.

She's always been an outsider here in France. And even generally, whether in France or the US, she's never had a "best friend" that she does everything with. Going back and forth so often hasn't helped, combined with her more independent personality. But I do feel bad that she's missed out on that part of growing up.
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Friday, April 02, 2021

French renovations, Day 102: Slow going

14,013 steps

Our chemical anchor arrived today, so we anchored one board to the stone wall in the hallway. On the other side is a thin solid wall interspersed with pieces of wood right at the height of the board. We'll attach it with lag bolts that should arrive tomorrow.

Zari came down and helped us. We did a few other smaller things: a bit of jackhammering, prying out the ends of the beams that we cut (leaving one behind that we'll trim and clean up...a bit of history embedded in the wall!). A bit of cleaning and vacuuming. Still no major progress on anything, which is frustrating.

Zari drew pictures in the dust.

I worked on breech stuff the rest of the day: entering in scholarship applications, updating spreadsheets, sending reminder emails for our followup surveys, working on the 2020 research update.

Ivy begged to go swimming again after school. It was cooler and starting to be overcast, but she didn't care. I let her go for a short hour while I went on a walk. There were a group of friends at the beach, but she was the only one in the water! And she did NOT want to get out.

I made roast chicken with wild thyme and rosemary (picked during last Sunday's hike) and beets. No time for fancy today.
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Thursday, April 01, 2021

French renovations, Day 101: Foiled again

7,189 steps

We haven't made much progress on the communist apartment this week. So today we had grand plans to finish installing the mezzanine in the hallway. We drilled the holes in the header plates and embedded 3 of the threaded rods in the wall, then realized that we had run out of scellement chimique (chemical anchor)! I went to one of the bigger local hardware stores, Ciffreo Bona, but their prices were so high that we decided to purchase the supplies on Amazon.

So we had to call it quits today.

Dio went back to school this morning. I was in bed because, yet again, I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time sleeping after that.

Big day today: Ivy FINALLY got her cast off. But she's not entirely done yet! She has to wear a brace (atelle) for another 3 weeks, and we go back for one last x-ray. That will make 9 weeks total.

Eric settled the bills and, thanks to our carte vitale, our portion of the payment was less than € 100. I think the total fees out of pocket were around € 400. That's for the ambulance ride, the ER visit, multiple medications and x-rays before & during the bone setting, then a 1-week follow up visit and x-ray, a 4-week visit & x-ray and a new cast, and then today's 6-week visit, x-ray, and cast removal.

Ivy came home smiling and ready for a swim! Eric and I both came to get some sun, then Eric had to leave to pick up Inga. A few of Ivy's friends and their parents ran into us at the beach after school. I didn't go in the water today; I would have if it had been mid-day.

It's late, so I will edit and post the videos tomorrow. I need to get in bed and read something entertaining (but not too exciting...I'm aiming for mildly interesting. I need to be able to fall asleep!)
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