Wednesday, June 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 191: Indoor climbing gym aka our apartment building

18,608 steps

Our apartment is temporarily an indoor climbing gym. We have men in climbing gear rappelling down ropes and hefting huge heat pumps up 4 stories, out the archway, and on to the roof. All part of a big ductless mini-split install on 3 of the apartments.

We had soccer so didn't do a whole lot on the apartment, plus it was really crowded with the work crew jackhammering, drilling, and whatnot. I did a bit of electrical work in the late afternoon.

I brought Inga and Ivy to see the special exhibition "Le Printemps des Poètes" at the Grotte du Lazaret. It was the last day of the exhibition and we were the last ones to visit! It was fun to hear me, Eric, and a friend of ours reading poems. (They were also all read in French but I didn't get that part on camera.)

Zari had to go to her orthodontist appointment by herself, and she called me in a bit of a panic, saying she was lost. Fortunately she had only gone a block too far, so I was able to guide her over the phone to her destination. I'm glad I had lent her my phone!
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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 190: Change is in the air

6,572 steps

It's too late already so I'll have to keep this short and probably forego the video. We hung drywall most of the day. It was ridiculously slow, in part because we're working on scaffolding and in part because we're adhering it to the walls with mortar (called the "dot & daub" method). So for each piece, we have to mix up a batch of mortar and then get it all in place, hammering with a long piece of wood and a level to make sure it's straight in all directions, and shim it so nothing slips while it dries.

On the upside, there are no screw holes, just the long joints to tape & sand.

Our plumbers came and tested the entire water supply system--no leaks. Then they disconnected the water heater while we finish everything else up. We had a nice little morning snack break with the two of them and we chatted about life and renovations. They treated us to croissants and pain au chocolat.

We're supposed to call him back when the shower base is ready so he can hook the drain up and test the drain system.

Zari finished her exams this afternoon! They went well and she felt good about her answers. FREEDOM!

I ended about an hour earlier than usual to cook a big batch of sushi for dinner, with the idea of having a picnic at the beach.

Right after school we biked/rode scooters to the Grotte du Lazaret to see the exhibition...only to find out they are closed on Tuesdays! Oops. We brought all our swimming stuff, hoping to swim right across the street at Coco Beach, but alas we had huge waves today and it would have been really stupid to try to swim there. So instead we ate sushi at a nearby park.

I opted to work until pretty late this evening, cleaning the sandblasting media and then sweeping up all of the dust left over.

Oh, good news: I finally have my Carte Vitale number! It took almost a full year.
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Monday, June 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 189: God is a serious and disciplined student

19,048 steps

Dio got his report card in the mail today. His French teacher wrote this: "Dieu est un étudiant sérieux et discipliné. Il est capable de bien mieux! Bon courage!"

We were all cracking up. Now I wonder if his teacher has been thinking "Dio" was named "Dieu" all along! To be fair, Dio does mean "God" in Italian so it was probably a Freudian slip.

Dio is done with school, so he's now on the "Freeze Family Fitness" program, which means he has to exercise every morning. Then, once he does his piano practicing, he is allowed to have friends over, play his 30 minutes of Minecraft, etc.

And wow, we had a productive day in the apartment. I went on an early run because I knew the AC guys were coming in the morning. They got up on our building's roof via our upstairs neighbor's window (she is also redoing her mini splits with them, so she doesn't mind giving them access).

Eric and I installed two sheets of drywall on the upstairs wall. About half of it will be the shower area. Here in France, you use the green drywall, seal it up with a waterproof membrane, and then install your tiles on top of that. Weird. I'm used to working with cement board!

By then it was time to pick up the girls for lunch. When Ivy came home, she wasn't feeling well. She didn't have a fever, but she looked really lethargic. So I had her stay home for the afternoon.

I filled in the holes in the little beam with epoxy wood putty (where we had inserted threaded rods). I'll sand them down once I get more sandpaper.

And then...time to finish the sandblasting! We worked hard all afternoon to get it done. I also did some other miscellaneous things: chiseled out more channels for electricity, installed a temporary 2x4 to mark the edge of the exposed stone wall, and hand sanded some of the big beams.

We'll worry about cleaning all the sandblasting media tomorrow. I was just so pleased to get it done today!

I showered and put our clothes in the wash, then ran errands to the Asian food store and the supermarket for things like toothpaste, shampoo, and contact solution. Right when I got home, Eric was heading out to go spearfishing. Alas, he didn't catch anything tonight!

Zari had her French and math exams today. Tomorrow is history & physics/chemistry. Then she's done! They weren't as bad as she had anticipated.
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Sunday, June 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 188: Down day

I was awake for hours last night, my mind spinning. I decided to take it easy this morning. Well, technically I actually did quite a bit of work, but it was on the computer so it felt restful.

We had a potluck lunch with a huge group of families in the gardens outside the Musée Matisse. I love French potlucks! So many healthy, delicious things to eat. We all ate too much, though.

I felt sleepy all day. Several of us fell asleep in the afternoon, not trying to but it just happened. Late in the afternoon, Eric and I went for a swim sans enfants. They were busy making things out of cereal boxes.

Zari was, in theory, studying but I caught her reading several times. She has her big exams tomorrow and Tuesday. Then FREEDOM!
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Saturday, June 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 187: Nonstop

11,000+ steps, already took my fitness tracker off

Our Saturdays have ramped up now that tournaments are allowed again. Eric, Ivy, and Inga left at 7:30 am for an all-day soccer tournament about an hour and a half away. Inga's team won every match, made it to the final, got all the way to 1-1 at the end of the final and then lost during a shootout. Inga was crying with disappointment. Ivy's team was about in the middle at the end of the tournament.

I spent the morning cleaning sandblasting media down in the Communist apartment. Messy but satisfying--see the video. I was pleased to come up with a way to clean it indoors. All of the videos I watched were with people doing it outdoors.

Dio made a gaming station for Indy. I love his creativity but am a bit worried that he's so fixated on computers and gaming--he would do nothing else all day but play Minecraft and watch YouTube videos if I let him. (I don't.)

I brought Zari and Dio the beach for a short swim, maybe 45 minutes. Dio wouldn't go in the water! He put one foot in, declared it "freezing cold," and refused to try. (The water wasn't cold, not at all.) Zari tried her best to convince him. "Dio, I'll go in with you. I'll let you push me in the water!" Nope, he wouldn't even try.

Eric came home in the early evening and left 2 minutes later for the reading at the Grotte du Lazaret. He didn't even have time to eat! Inga and I ate and then rode bikes/scooters to the event. 

Zari and Dio opted to stay home, and Ivy was watching a friend's dance recital.

We picked Ivy up on the way home around 9:30 pm, which is an hour past bedtime for the 2 younger girls. So everyone got to sleep late. We might not be so happy tomorrow morning! Oh well...
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Friday, June 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 186: A 4-shower day

15,159 steps

Today was a 4-shower day. One in the morning, one before lunch, one before dinner, and one after dinner.

Shower #1: You know, the usual reasons for a morning shower.

Shower #2: I spent the morning in the Communist apartment. First I reinforced the smaller beam on the side wall (its supports were rotten and one was drooping). I had already drilled the holes, so today I inserted 8" (20 cm) threaded rods and embedded them into the rock walls with chemical anchor. I feel much better now that the beam has extra reinforcement.

Then I spent the rest of the morning scraping paint off the beams. We found that it works best if we remove the large areas of paint by hand, and then we sandblast the area to get it down to bare wood. And since we have to assume this is lead paint, I took shower #2 and hung my dusty clothes outside. Then I picked up the girls from school for their lunch break.

Eric was at soccer this morning. Once he came back during lunch, I ran some errands. Zari and Dio didn't have school in the afternoon. Dio is officially done for the year and Zari just has her 2 days of exams (brevet) next week.

Shower #3: Eric and I worked all afternoon doing sandblasting and scraping. He found that my shower cap kept the sand out of his hair, and he swapped out his safety goggles for his diving mask. We are SO fashionable!

We only need one more afternoon and the sandblasting in the back half will be done. Woohoo! Shower #3 took place at the end of the afternoon.

I cooked creamy herbed pork chops with couscous. No matter how much sauce I make, the kids always want more!

Zari had an informal soccer game this evening, so Eric went to watch her. I took the other 3 kids out on a walk. The sea was calm and Inga and Ivy begged to go swimming. I didn't have to be convinced--I wanted to go too! Dio chose to stay home and watch a nature documentary. So after my swim, I took shower #4 at the beach.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 185: What a blast!

19,712 steps

Last night was cool enough that I wanted more than a sheet. Wow! I had a nice run in the morning and then cleaned up in the Communist apartment, getting everything ready for sandblasting.

We did our first test in the early afternoon. The air compressor fired up right away. But alas, we found out that The Beast is not quite powerful enough for a longer siphon tube. (See the first part of the video.) Ideally we should have 14 CFM, but even this great big compressor only gives a bit over 8 CFM. I think that's why it just can't suck up the sandblasting media through a 3 meter tube.

So we switched it out for a 1 meter tube and put the bucket as high as possible. We stacked up a series of boxes and crates and step-stools so the bucket was chest high. That worked!

It's slow but satisfying work. Sure, it would be faster if we had professional sandblasting equipment but it would cost hundreds of Euros just to rent it for a day. So we'll do the slow, steady, and inexpensive route.

We used most of a 25 kg bag of sandblasting media for one smaller beam and 1/4 of a big beam. We're going to filter and reuse as much as we can.

We ended at school pickup time. We have little black granules EVERYWHERE! In our scalp, our ears, our clothes (even after showering and/or swimming and changing clothes).

Eric already went for a swim this morning, so he opted to stay home. I took Ivy, Inga, and Dio to the beach. The waves were huge and very few people were in the water. I took a test swim and was surprised at how hard it was to get back to shore. So I told the kids: sorry, no swimming today! While we were there, the lifeguards had to rescue a woman. I let Ivy and Inga just put their feet in, and then we headed home.

Zari had soccer practice this evening, and it went well. I gave her an unsolicited pep talk and told her, "Take it or leave it, but here are some things that may help."

After dinner, Eric and I put up the drywall in the upstairs hallway. The plumber is coming again tomorrow, so we'll have the water supply lines all finished, I believe. Then once we get the shower base installed, he'll come back to hook the shower drain up and test everything.

I hope to have a good work day tomorrow. I'm so eager to keep this renovation project advancing!
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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 184: Lost & found

11,233 steps

Eric woke up early this morning, determined to find the scuba masks that Ivy had lost. He's not much of a morning person you know it was important! He came back around 9:30, triumphant: he found the one she lost yesterday! It was quite deep, more than he had expected.

I played electrician this morning and hooked up about 3/4 of the circuits to the "tableau électrique" (circuit breaker). I stopped when I ran out of 20 amp breakers. This one came pre-equipped and it had far too many 10 amps, an adequate number of 16 & 32 amps, and far too few 20 amps. So I placed an order with an online electrical supply place and should have them in a few days. (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

I like electricity; it's so logical. You just get the right size wire, hook it up in the right order, and put it with the right grade circuit breaker. The French stuff is all push & click--no screws. It's actually unusual and/or forbidden to have screw connections like we do in the US (in our plugs, light switches, or wire connectors, for example).

We had our usual soccer/grocery afternoon. Then we arrived 7 minutes early to Dio's RDV point to be extra super duper sure he wouldn't get left behind this time.

Ivy and I stopped by a little thrift store on the way home, and she bought a pair of red velveteen slippers for 2 Euros. She then looked up some YouTube ballet classes and did ballet lessons in our living room.

Zari came home from soccer practice a bit glum. "I don't really want to talk about it right now." She had such a good game on Saturday, and it's frustrating when things don't go well.

She and Inga got into a big argument while Eric and I were on a walk (picking up sparkly water). I wish I could say my kids never fought but I'd totally be lying.

I had a Zoom meeting tonight, a debrief about a breech birth that we supported virtually. It was a very difficult birth--the birth attendant got thrown just about everything you can imagine: trapped arms, trapped head, an exhausted mother who was fighting the birth and clenching her legs and muscles, a long labor, and weak & intermittent contractions. Phew.

I think all of us felt better after the debrief. I embedded timers into the original video, and we went through the birth in detail, pausing to discuss all of the things that had happened.

I told my colleauge Dr. David Hayes afterwards, "It's so hard to feel the weight of that responsibility! I usually have the luxury of not having to worry about that; I just get to do the research and teaching." (We had two experienced breech providers supporting the birth virtually--it wasn't just me! But even still, I felt the enormity of it.)
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 183: Comrade and The Beast

12,207 steps

It seems like one of us is constantly having disturbed sleep...last night it was my turn. I woke up at 4:30 am and just couldn't get back to sleep. Summer solstice partiers were still out on their last gasp of revelry, the birds had already started chirping, and it was starting to get light out. Who can sleep through that? Obviously not me.

So when the 7 am alarm went off, I woke Eric up and asked him to take over, and then I fell back asleep until 9 am.

But anyway, enough of that. Not very interesting for you readers, I'm sure!

I went rock-hunting this morning, since we have some large gaps and small cracks to fill in our stone walls. I totally lucked out: down the street there was a crew of workers emptying stones & earth from a demolition project into a dump truck. They were happy to let me take 2 loads of stones home. I scrubbed them free of dirt. Now I have a nice pile of bigger rocks, and I still need to collect small-to-medium ones. I think if I take a few home from the beach every day, I'll be okay.

After lunch, we met up at Comrade's garage to borrow his enormous air compressor. It's about 5 feet long and weighs a ridiculous amount. I have named it The Beast.

Comrade and Eric loaded it into the back of his vehicle, a small delivery car/van that a lot of Europeans use for work vehicles, and brought it to our apartment. Eric and I managed to get it up 2 flights of stairs, one step at a time with a rest between each step.

By this time it was almost 3 pm. I hadn't eaten yet, so I took a well-earned food break.

The air compressor was missing a small reducer, so we went to the local plumbing supply store. We found the right part and it was only 65 cents! But funny thing is, I only had 48 cents in my wallet and they wouldn't take a credit card for such a small amount. The owner (who recognized us) took my 48 cents and said, "Consider it a neighborly good-will gift."

We were so hot by late afternoon that we decided to take the kids for a quick swim after school. Inga went to a friend's house and then met us at the beach. Dio ended up playing with a friend, so he missed out.

At the beach Ivy lost her second mask in a row (she lost one yesterday as well). We had big waves and cloudy water, so Eric was unable to retrieve the masks. He got upset with her because he had JUST told her not to put a mask on, and then she put it on and promptly lost it when a wave hit her. With less than 1 foot of visibility, there was no hope to find it today. Eric is determined to find both of them as soon as the water clears up.

I stayed for a half-hour and brought Ivy back home iwth me. Eric, Inga, and Zari stayed for a while longer. Dinner was 2 fish (caught by Eric a few days ago), salad, and rice.

After dinner, I was still cool enough from my swim that I felt up to working in the Communist apartment. I finished scrubbing the lime residue off the exposed stone wall. The residue isn't completely gone, but it's about as good as I can get for now.
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Monday, June 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 182: Fête de la musique, how I hate you

I got out the door earlier than usual--well before school started--and did my usual run. Then I picked up Baya and brought her on a walk.

All of France celebrates the summer solstice with the Fête de la musique. It is nice in theory but I don't like noise or loud music, and alas there is loads of it right now in Old Nice. It's the price we pay to live here.

The plumbers came again for another half-day of work. They're great--super friendly and agreeable, happy to explain anything to me (because things are done so differently here!), happy to work around our rather slow pace of renovations.

I cut the drywall for the dividing wall in the hallway, both up and downstairs. Eric helped me hang the first piece, to which we had attached a sound barrier to reduce noise between the front and back halves.

I spent several hours cleaning off the faces of the stones where we will be tuckpointing soon. There is a lot of lime residue left over and I thought I'd clean the majority off now. I've been using vinegar and a wire brush and ample amounts of water to clean and rinse.

I bought the last few supplies for pointing: heavy-duty waterproof gloves, brass wire brush, natural fiber scrub brush.

Baya's owner picked her up this afternoon and gave us a lovely gift of savon noir. I've been wanting to buy some, so it was perfect!
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Sunday, June 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 181: Change of plans

13,406 steps

We were supposed to go to a friend's house up in the mountains for an afternoon barbeque. But we got a message this morning that he was in the ER--he had a piece of metal stuck in his eye! They were in the ER for hours, waiting to see an eye specialist. Obviously the BBQ was cancelled for today. But that's okay! We had a lazy afternoon at home.

Inga was gone all afternoon at a friend's birthday party. Eric took a nap, then went spearfishing. Ivy had a friend over. Zari read a book. Baya slept on the floor.

I cleaned out the back room in the communist apartment. I bagged FIVE bags of dust/sand--all stuff that came out of the old stone walls. Incredible. I'm thinking we might tuckpoint the exposed stone wall pretty soon! That will be fun. And a learning experience since I've never worked with lime before.
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 180: Soccer tournaments & obstacle courses

10,648 steps

All three girls had soccer matches today and they, in Eric's words, "killed it." Zari played the best she's ever played, which is great because she's been so down on herself lately. Ivy and Inga were scoring machines.

The rest of us had a quiet morning (Dio and Zari and I). After lunch, we all watched the first half of the France-Hungary soccer match, then Eric had to leave for Zari's game.

Dio had a friend over. Inga and Ivy built an obstracle course for Baya and finally got her to go all the way up using a piece of chicken as a bribe.

I worked on breech stuff (video captioning) and dinner (sausages roasted with fennel & red wine).

After dinner I went to the communist apartment and blew out all the upper walls (reversed the shop vac to "blow" and aimed the airflow at the walls). The amount of dust released was astounding. I could only see a few feet in front of me. I'll let it all settle and sweep tomorrow.

We have plumbers & HVAC people coming on Monday, so I have to work on something next week that won't be too much in their way. I might do the lime mortar on the exposed stone wall (one of the reasons I blew out the walls today). It will be my first try at working with lime (chaux).

Baya is all worn out after 3 walks today.
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Friday, June 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 179: Hot dog, hot day

17,346 steps

We're watching Baya, the Pekinese, again for the weekend. She is either sleeping or panting. Poor girl with her thick fur coat.

I didn't get much done in the Communist apartment other than drill a few holes. Our downstairs neighbor had a child home sick from school, sleeping all morning, so we decided not to work on it until he was awake.

We made a quick trip to the local hardware store to buy more MAP and lime (chaux). It was over and done in 20 minutes! So much better than taking a half-day or more to drive to Leroy Merlin. I just wish the local prices were more competitive. With the materials we bought today, the prices were fairly similar. But for most things, we pay 3-4x more to buy them in central Nice.

We ended today with a picnic on the beach with a big group of families. We had wind and waves, and the kids loved it. Even the bigger kids, who are sometimes getting to the "lazy teenage" stage where they just want to sit around the house and be lazy lumps 🙂
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Thursday, June 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 178: How do you put a wall on a diet?

10,508 steps

Run & swim this morning! Then a full work day in the Communist apartment. The first task was to figure out how to shave a few inches off of a wall. I needed to make a fairly large area about 4 cm thinner than it was, because it was sticking out too far as it neared the corner.

(Let's give the builders some credit--it was about 500 years ago!). But to apply drywall flush with the existing wall below, I needed to thin this part of the wall down.

Not an easy task when it's a rock wall!

My solution was to cut multiple channels with the wall chaser (rainureuse), going both vertically and horizontally to make a grid in the wall. Then I gently chiseled the little squares away. I had to repeat the process in one of the areas that was sticking out particularly far.

It worked well and helped not destabilize the entire wall. I only have the "before" video because today was a hot, busy, dusty, stinky work day and I had other things going on.


We also sistered up a new ceiling joist next to one of the rotten ones. We were limited in what we could do in the space and given that we couldn't just break apart the entire floor above the apartment. We have one done and about 2 more to go.

I also filled some of the larger holes in the walls to further stabilize the area before we apply the drywall. Then I treated the new wall we built with wood protector and did a few other little things before finishing up late in the afternoon.

Eric brought Inga to the splash pad. Ivy stayed home and was supposed to help me make spicy crab sushi for dinner, but instead she watched Lindsey Stirling music videos.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 177: Reading, soccer, beach

6,023 steps

I took it easy this morning and read a book. What a luxury in my life lately. Eric took Zari and Dio to get their first Pfizer shots; they were just approved for 12+ in France.

After I came back from my usual soccer dropoff, pickup, & grocery shopping, Dio wasn't feeling great. General muscle aches and a slight fever. So I called his coach and let him take the afternoon off instead of going to practice.

We met up with a group of families at the beach at the end of the afternoon. Eric found a starfish and brought it up for the kids to look at. Inga also found a little octopus near the shore and wants to come back every day to follow it, like in "My Octopus Teacher."

We had a later dinner due to staying at the beach. Back to work (manual labor) tomorrow!
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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 176: Never a dull moment

8,652 steps

What a day. Well, first off I woke up before 5:30 am and there was no hope of getting back to sleep. So I got up and did some work instead.

We started building a little wall to separate the downstairs hallway...and then I got called away for a video support of a breech mama in labor. That was intense.

Back in the communist apartment after lunch, we built and installed the wall. Then we cut & jack hammered wall channels for the upstairs hallway and ran a few electrical lines. Sometimes I feel like we work and work and work and there seems to be little to show for all of our efforts.

I showered, packed dinner for Dio (he had soccer practice, then the whole team watched the France-Germany match together), and then went to the miroir d'eau (aka splash pad) with Ivy and her friends. I had to run back home to let Zari in after she got home from school, then go back to the splash pad. Then back home for dinner.

The match just ended, so Eric is going to pick Dio up from the RDV point. We let Ivy and Inga stay up late to watch the first half, since they don't have school on Wednesdays.
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Monday, June 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 175: Whirlwind day

14,126 steps

Here's a list of what I did today, roughly in chronological order:
  • Morning run
  • Grocery shopping at Lidl
  • Breech work
  • Worked in the communist apartment
  • Ate lunch
  • Worked in the communist apartment
  • Picked kids up from school
  • Went to the coulée verte with Inga and Ivy
  • Dinner
  • An explosion of breech-related work this evening
  • Supporting a breech mama in labor all the way in Greece (ongoing since yesterday evening, still waiting for baby)

Busy day! Time to relax.
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Sunday, June 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 174: Dinner with Comrade

11,467 steps

Eric and Inga left around 11 am for a soccer tournament north of Nice. The rest of us walked home from Cimiez, stopping at a park with mulberry trees. I wish we'd had a blanket to spread on the ground--you can shake the branches and they fall off by the dozens. We did it the slow way, picking one by one.

Eric had invited Comrade over for dinner at 6:30 pm. But since Eric was gone at a soccer tournament, I had the *cough cough* pleasure of cleaning the house and cooking the dinner. I got all 3 kids to help with some of the cleaning: Dio cleaned the toilet room, Zari folded clothes, and Ivy cleaned the bathroom sink.

I made buttermilk biscuits, salmon fennel soup, and chocolate tart. Eric got home with Inga around 4 pm--earlier than originally planned, since they lost several games--so he helped with the final cleanup and made a tomato, basil, & mozzarella salad.

We had a nice dinner with Comrade and then showed him our progress on the Communist apartment. He's going to lend us his big air compressor this week so we can start sandblasting.

That was our day! Not exactly restful. We got the kids to bed on time, or very close to on time (8:30 pm for Ivy and Inga, 9:30 pm for Zari and Dio).
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Saturday, June 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 173: The best way to end a run + insane soccer marathon day

18,128 steps

It's starting to get hot during my morning runs!'s also run-swim season for me 🙂 You know, go running, then jump in the ocean afterward. I spent a lovely 5 minutes cooling off in the sea post-run. See my awkward squinting selfie. You can tell I'm not used to taking selfies.

And then our crazy insane soccer day started. 3 of the 4 kids had soccer tournaments today, all in differnent cities up to an hour away. Ivy's was in the morning north of Nice, and Eric had to rush back with her to take Dio and several of his teammates to a match in Cannes. He got back around 5 pm.

Then he turned around and left to pick up a new (used) speargun. Yes, Eric now has 3 spearguns because apparently you can never have too many and this one is super duper powerful, better for catching large fish.

Meanwhile we also sent Zari off to her match, which was about an hour away somewhere else. Who knows where? She took the tram by herself to the RDV spot.

So I had Inga and Ivy in the afternoon. We took a shopping trip to Lidl, amidst much groaning and whining and bickering (but also some fun times, too). Then we went to the beach!

I had to get back for a breech live session. While that was going on, the rest of the family watched the movie "Dangal," which they really liked.

We ended the evening with a walk *after 9 pm,* which feels so transgressive since a few nights ago it was not allowed due to curfew.
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Friday, June 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 172: More MAP

11,048 steps

Let's not talk about last night. I was exhausted but couldn't fall asleep. Again.

My strategy for coping with bad nights is to not stop moving. So today I worked all day on the communist apartment. The plumber came for another half-day this morning (he's been called away to fix a lot of urgent leaks, which doesn't bother us--we're not in a hurry). I cleaned the rest of the chimney while he embedded the water main in the floor.

Then I drilled out the rest of the old walls, making holes every 30 cm about 3 cm deep. Why? This ensures that the MAP (adhesive mortar) has a very good attachment to a surface that isn't crumbly or loose. I basically drill until I hit stone, then I chisel out the little disks with the jack hammer.

Eric joined me to mix up several batches of MAP. We plastered over lots more electircal cables and then started filling the holes in the wall. Notice the cross hatches to ensure a good adhesion with the next layer of MAP.

And that was my day (minus lunch break) all the way until school pickup.

We had dinner (two kinds of quiche made by Eric) and then went on a family walk to buy ice cream bars and then go to the beach. We strolled around, put our feet in the place where the Paillon empties into the sea, and just enjoyed being outside with nothing in particular to do.

We saw a fun street performer doing--honest to goodness--interpretive dance, combined with some amazing stunts on a self-balancing scooter. Ivy was inspired to create a performance of some sort that she could do for the public. I can see her dreaming big in her head.
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Thursday, June 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 171: Chim chimney chim chimney, chim chim cheree

5,628 steps

I woke up at 5:30 am. Ding! I was exhausted yet also wide awake. I think it's from the light outside. By time my alarm went off at 7 am, I was soooo tired. I nudged Eric out of bed and went back to sleep for a short hour.

My whole body was exhausted, like wading through syrup exhausted. I did some computer work and finally decided to make myself move even though I felt like I would pass out.

So I suited up and went downstairs. I drilled more holes in the walls where we will put MAP (for adhering drywall). Then I played chimney sweep and cleaned the soot out of the top half of the chimney. Even after showering, I still smell like wood smoke and campfires, a smell I adore.

Eric joined me later on and helped run more electrical lines (this one for the ductless minisplit blower unit). We worked until 2 pm, and then I took a break to eat something.


Back downstairs again, this time to plaster over the electrical cables with MAP. We stopped once our first batch ran out, since it was time to pick the girls up from school. I finished cleaning the tools and buckets on the street outside of our apartment (the only place to do something like that) right when Ivy and Inga came home with Eric. rest for me! Time to make dinner. I made chicken pot pie, so I had to chop and/or cook onions, potatoes, peas, mushrooms, and chicken; make the herb roux, and then finally put it all together with puff pastry (pre-made because it's super cheap here and it's the real deal made with pure butter).

Zari came home from soccer practice despondent. She felt like she played poorly and didn't contribute positively. And she continues to feel awkward and uncomfortable around the other girls. Being social over here is really hard for her and then it turns into a self-sustaining cycle because she feels awkward and then she acts awkward and the other girls don't know to interact with her and she doesn't know how to interact with them.

I can so very much sympathize. I told her, "I wish I could do something or say something to make it better. It's hard being a parent because we see our kids having a hard time and we can't always fix it."

It's after 11 pm and I've been working nonstop ever since dinner, trying to catch up on my other job: breech work. I sincerely hope I can rest well tonight. I need it!
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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 170: Swimming, soccer, noise

12,237 steps

The plumbers showed up nice and early this morning for a half-day of work. I was going to do some work, too, but decided to stay out of their way. And Eric convinced me to come to the beach for a quick morning swim with all of the kids. It was so gorgeous that Zari went back home to get her swimming suit.

Oh, Zari had her brevet oral today and felt that it went well! Because of that, Dio didn't have any school today.

It's starting to feel like summer. Ivy came out of soccer practice, having dumped loads of water all over herself. I'm always surprised at how long it takes for the weather to get warm. Spring is always beautiful and slow, with very few temperature fluctuations. I generally don't start opening my windows until well into May.

We had yet another failed soccer practice for Dio. He had a RDV at 3:30 pm. We were stuck at a super long stoplight and made it there at 3:31 pm. No one was there! I finally found the coach's number and he told me he'd already left. Seriously?! So we learned we have to be at least 5 minutes early for this coach.

We watched a movie together this evening--well, Eric had a big presentation to work on, so it was the rest of us. Today curfew went up to 11 pm and I am already wishing it were back at 9 pm. Too much noise outside! Go away stupid tourists and locals who make noise. I don't want to be forced to listen to your music and your drunken laughter. Even with my windows closed it's loud.
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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 169: Big delivery!

13,731 steps

A momentous day: two pallets of supplies arrived on a delivery truck! It was mostly sheetrock: white (regular), green (for bathrooms), blue (acoustic), and styrofoam-backed (thermal insulation). We also received sandblasting media, acoustic insulating membrane, and wood for the other mezzanine subfloor.

The delivery truck was unable to deliver it in front of our apartment because the crane only worked to the side of the truck, not off the back. And our street is barely wide enough to fit one car! So the driver had to pull into the nearest intersection and drop it off to one side. There was just enough room for a car to pass once the pallets were on the ground.

As we were carrying the drywall down the street, I saw a man in full climbing/rapelling gear descending a nearby building. This is fairly common here; a lot of the manual trades have to be done while suspended on ropes as access is otherwise impossible.

This is life in Old Nice.

Then the not-fun part started: we had to carry everything down the street, into our building, and upstairs. We got everything into the building (with some help from a friend and from the barber next door) but most of the sheetrock is still in the downstairs hallway.

We carried up a few sheets and it about did us in. The staircase is so narrow (for a 4x8' piece of sheetrock) that it required constantly lifting and shifting each sheet around each turn. I can carry sheetrock just fine on level ground. Not so much up our stairs!

We also got a few other small shipments today: more electrical cable and two big buckets of a special enduit de lissage (Toupret Planeo G).

At this point we took a lunch break. I was already pretty kaput. But we powered on in the afternoon and carried 3 sheets of green sheetrock upstairs. We got the first piece cut and installed in what will be the shower! Woohoo! It was a complicated cut, going around a few different beams in the ceiling. But it worked.

I also drilled more holes in the big wall where I'll once again put the MAP. This will ensure that the next layer of MAP, which glues the drywall to the wall, really grips onto the wall. You can see the daubs I did yesterday. Those big scratches are purposeful; they help the next layer adhere well.

I called it quits right before 5 pm. Time for a quick shower, then I brought Dio to a RDV point for soccer practice. Back home to cook dinner (larb). Zari has her brevet oral tomorrow, so she's been practicing this evening.
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Monday, June 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 168: Very late birthday lunch

12,397 steps

Ivy has been talking about having a birthday lunch ever since her birthday. With restaurants opening back up for outdoor dining a few weeks ago, we finally made it happen today!

She chose a nearby Indian restaurant. Indian food in France is SO MILD, like almost no spice at all. The flavors are there, but none of the heat. Way different than Indian restaurants in the US.

When the waiter heard that it was her birthday lunch, he gave her two scoops of ice cream for free. She was beaming and talking a mile a minute the whole time.

I ran and did computer work in the morning. After lunch, Eric and I cut yet more wall channels (we keep thinking we're done...and then we're not!). We hung the brackets for the hot water heater. And then we mixed a big bucket of MAP, which is an adhesive mortar used to attach drywall to walls, to fill large holes in walls, etc. I don't know what the English equivalent is.

I used the MAP to create daubs all along the upper mezzanine wall, where we are going to attach drywall. The wall is nowhere near flat or level, so these daubs were a way of creating a mostly- level surface. We'll put another round of daubs on top of the existing ones when we adhere the drywall to the wall.

So yeah, we're making progress! Our big drywall & sandblasting order arrives tomorrow, along with more electrical wire and "enduit de lissage," a product for smoothing out irregular walls. We might very well have some drywall up by tomorrow. I might even do a happy dance if that happens.
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Sunday, June 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 167: Lazy Sunday

13,367 steps

I felt better today, but Eric was super tired much of the day. I had a nice walk up to Cimiez. Then Zari and I walked down past the Monastery and across the river to Cavigal. She had a soccer match in the afternoon. I dropped her off at 12:30 pm and she didn't return until 7 pm! I'm not sure why they met at 12:30 since the match didn't start until 3:30 and it was only 45 minutes away.

We had a nice lazy afternoon. The kids watched a Minecraft playthrough video about how to defend against zombie attacks. Then we went up to the chateau. Inga got really upset because Dio accidentally knocked her over when they were both chasing after a ball. The rest of the time she was Ms. Grumpy Pants. She gets very intense that way.

We ate leftover Thai coconut chicken soup, plus ratatouille on couscous. I'll make larb on Tuesday.

Not much else to report. Bonne nuit!
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Saturday, June 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 166: Rest day

3,867 steps

I got a good night's sleep, but woke up with a slight fever and feeling a bit icky. Nothing terrible, just my immune system gearing up. So I took it easy today and did lots of reading and resting on the couch.

I wasn't feeling well enough to go to soccer games in the morning and afternoon, so Eric had to do it all. Inga and Dio had soccer events in the morning and Dio had a match in the afternoon. So much soccer.

I brought the girls out to the beach in the afternoon for some Vitamin D therapy. I wasn't sure if I would swim, but I finally decided to give it a go. It was great. The water is cool but not cold anymore. Inga and Ivy swam with me and Zari decided just to read.

This brought back memories of 3 years ago, when I was going through all sorts of panic attacks and insomnia and anxiety (related to Eric being back in the States for 4 months and me being with the kids on my own). The only time my body felt normal was when I was in the sea. The rest of the time during that stressful period, my skin, my entire body, felt wrong. And I felt brittle, like the smallest thing could shatter me.

It was a long road to resilience. But about a year after it all began, I could finally look back and say that I was thankful for going through it all. It was horrible, don't get me wrong, but in the long run I learned some amazing lessons about coping with stress and gained good-but-painful insights about myself.

Anyway, enough deep thoughts for one day.

We finished watching "I Am Mother" tonight and all of us were left very confused at the end.
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Friday, June 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 165: Reformed epoxy and middle-of-the-night phone calls

13,805 steps

Well, I got out that bad epoxy and shook it around a little. And it started loosening up and getting more and more liquid. Huh. So I gave it a go and mixed it up with the hardener and applied it to the rotted beam. The biggest issue is I didn't have enough. I'll need tons just for this one big beam since the end is almost completely rotten.

I got the entire ceiling prepped for drywall by chiseling down any high (or rather, low) spots and bits of wood that were sticking out beyond level. There were lots! Besides the rotten area in the corner, we're pretty much good to go for the ceiling.

We met with a HVAC installer; we've decided to install ductless minisplits in both our apartment and in the one we're renovating. It's a complicated install because we have to put the heat pumps waaaaay far away on the roof of our building; they can't be installed on the exterior walls due to historic preservation regulations. So $$ but necessary and far more energy efficient than the other option (conventional electric radiators).

We had planned on a picnic at the beach with several other families, but the weather turned overcast and windy right before dinner and then it started raining. So we'll do it another night. Since we were eating in, I made soup (Thai coconut chicken soup).

Zari and I took a walk to Lidl to look at running shoes. Unfortunately they were out of her size (43--same size as Eric!).

What else is new today? Oh, Eric and I got our 2nd vaccinations this morning.

Oh, and how could I forget? The weirdest thing happened last night. I was woken out of a dead sleep at 4:30 am by a phone call. It was someone calling from Italy speaking in passable but accented French, asking for a midwife friend of mine's phone number. It was really bizarre. I told her I'd text her the contact info, but she insisted that I give her the phone number right now. She had the first 3 digits but had lost the rest of it.

Of course after this rude awakening I couldn't fall back asleep. I am SO TIRED now.

This reminds me that I would not be a good midwife because I hate middle of the night phone calls and I hate driving. The being at the birth part is great, but it's the other parts that I don't think I could handle.
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Thursday, June 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 164: Bad epoxy

16,585 steps

I was all set to apply wood hardener after my morning run. The end of one of the huge beams is all rotted, thanks to a leak in the sewer pipe next to it. I got out my Abatron LiquidWood...and one of the two parts had hardened in the jar. I'm beyond frustrated as I had to bring this over from the US!

I ordered more LiquidWood at least 6 weeks ago and it still hasn't arrived. There is a product here in France that I could use, but it's a lot more expensive and I haven't ever used it (although boat restorers swear by it). Anyway, it's frustrating to have a plan and then to not be able to get it done.

So we switched gears and ran more electrical lines until we ran out of cable. Then we started chiseling away bits of the ceiling joists that were sticking out beyond level (nothing that will affect the structural integrity). We need the joists relatively level, from one to another, before we can attach drywall.

We also got the little dividing wall in the hallway all the way in place and secured to both the floor and ceiling.

What else? I refilled about 10 bottles with sparkling water and spent some time before dinner at the park. Ivy and Inga were playing hard and I enjoyed the time to chat with other parents.

The house is a bit messy and I'm trying to decide if I'm going to clean or if I'm going to ignore it and read a book instead. What do you vote?
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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 163: Bookkeeping and soccer

10,972 steps

For how exhausted I was after yesterday's field trip, I couldn't fall asleep for a while last night! So annoying.

I spent the entire morning doing bookkeeping for Breech Without Borders. The joys of running a nonprofit.

After our usual dropoff, pickup, and grocery run, I brought Dio to his scheduled RDV to go to his soccer practice. He was going to get a ride with the coach. When we got one was there. Hmmm. I called Eric and got the coach's number. The coach said, "Oh, Eric didn't tell you? Practice was 2 hours earlier today." Nope, Eric had told me the wrong time! Eric got a text message yesterday about the time change but forgot to tell me, and I even asked him today if he was sure about the time. No big deal, but Dio was sad to miss practice.

I made meatloaf Wellington and strawberries with whipped marscarpone cream. We ate early tonight--French people would gasp!--but it was nice to have time left over to go on a walk before bedtime.

Guess what we are doing in this photo? It happens quite often chez les Freezes.

That's all. Time to go in bed and read a non-serious book.
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Tuesday, June 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 162: Rabbits and chickens and goats, oh my!

I chaperoned Ivy's class trip to a local farm up in the mountains. We gathered a half hour earlier than usual to catch a tram + train up to the farm.

Ivy was SO excited. Like jumping up and down, brimming with energy excited.

This was a small farm up in the hills, mostly designed as a teaching farm for groups. We got to see (and touch) goats, sheep, chickens, geese, ducks, pigs, and rabbits. We had a small atelier (workshop) where we carded and felted wool.

There were two classes from Ivy's school. By time we went home, I was exhausted and overwhelmed with the noise and energy and normal antics of 50-odd elementary students. I talked with another chaperone later on today, and she was so tired she feel asleep on the beach waiting for school pickup (luckily she had set an alarm!).

I'll work on the video tomorrow but tonight I just need to collapse. Phew. How to elementary school teachers do that every day?
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