Saturday, July 31, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 222: A lazy day with an electrifying ending

12,585 steps

We had big goals for this morning: sleep in (the older kids especially). I am thrilled to report that they accomplished their goals. I cracked Zari's door open around 9:30 am and she finally wandered out at 10 am.

Eric, Ivy, and I went for a morning swim when Zari was still conked out. The water was beautifully clear. I swam around with Ivy for a while and enjoyed watching her play in the water nonstop. Flip, dive, flip, handstand, flip, twist...she doesn't stop. Eric came back from treasure hunting with only two mismatched shoes.

We did some piano practicing and tidying up, but it was mostly an easygoing day. Dio had a friend over. I did a bit of final mudding & painting on a few areas (not the wallpaper, but other parts of our own apartment that needed attention).

Dinner was roast chicken, salad, pineapple, and dark chocolate mint cookies. "Please, please can I have one more cookie?" Zari begged. "Nope, one is good." She kept trying but I give her points for persistence.

This afternoon, our power went off suddenly. We didn't have much going, just a crockpot and two AC units set at 27 C (around 80 F). We flipped the main breaker and went back to our normal life.

But then this evening, right when we were putting Zari and Dio to bed, it happened again. This time, the breaker wouldn't even turn on. We tried all sorts of things and it would trip immediately.

Of course this got all the kids wired. I think they thought it was a horrible dire emergency because Ivy started crying and asked to sleep with one of us. We assured her that no, lack of electricity is not an emergency at all! Just an inconvenience.

At this point we were worried that our new heat pump system was the culprit. Because that was the only thing we had changed recently.

I then had a brilliant thought: "Why don't we borrow power from the Communist apartment? We could at least plug the fridge in and save our food from going bad."

I am SO SMART. haha. So we got all the extention cords strung from that apartment and plugged in the fridge and our wifi router. Priorities, right?

Well, guess what happened? The entire circuit breaker in THAT apartment tripped, all the way down to the main breaker downstairs.

We kept trying different combinations of extension cords, wondering if the issue was in one of the cords. But eventually a pattern emerged: every time we plugged the fridge in, it would trip the entire apartment breaker (45 amps).

With that figured out, we were able to reset our own circuit breaker and get everything else functional. But now we have a nonfunctional fridge. I checked our warranty from when we bought it just over 2 years ago. It came with a 2-year warranty and, hallelujah, I had purchased a 5-year extention! So late this evening I was on the phone with Darty (a big appliance & electronics store, like Best Buy or Sears). We'll be getting a phone call tomorrow from one of their technicians to set up a repair RDV for some time this coming week.

So, good news: we'll get our fridge repaired at some point
Bad news: not in time to save our food
Good news: it's not our heat pump system, as we had originally feared

I am including an actual photo that Eric took this evening when he was trying to turn his phone flashlight on.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 221: Final paint & hours at the airport

11,822 steps

Ivy and I painted the top coat in Zari's room this morning. Eric and Inga were gone playing soccer. I let her room air out all day with the windows open and a fan running. The paint smell was mostly gone by the evening.

Eric dropped Inga off and kept going to pick Zari and Dio up from their camp. They got home around 4 pm, along with 3 siblings from Corsica who had a flight later in the evening. Zari was home long enough to brush her teeth, and then we headed off to an orthodontist's appointment.

We came back, ate a quick dinner, and then I brought the Corsican siblings to the airport. Since they were flying as unaccompanied minors, I had to stay at the airport with them until their flight took off. So it ended up taking 3 hours in total. I hadn't planned on that today!

I did some major house tidying now that we can put our furniture back and our paint/wallpaper/mudding supplies back. I'm very pleased with the end result of the heat pump installation, particularly that we were able to embed all of the lines inside our apartment.

I could tell the installers really wanted to just install everything with these big plastic "gulottes" (what would they be called in English?) because it would have been easier for them. But they would have been an eyesore forever, and when we got the original estimate, he had told me they could embed everything in the walls. You can't even tell they are there now, and in fact Zari's room looks better than it every has since we redid the entire wall.

Zari and Dio were both exhausted when they came home. Between nonstop activities, late bedtimes, and early wake-ups, they are ready for a relaxed day tomorrow.

Zari made a new friend--a boy a year older than her who is homeschooled. They talked for hours about politics, presidents, conspiracy theories, and history. They also both sat out the "soiree musicale" (dance) since, as she told me, "the music was way too loud! It was so loud I wanted to run away the whole time!" She's so much like me in that regard. Small talk? Kill me now. Deep conversations? Sign me up! Loud music? Kill me now a second time.
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Thursday, July 29, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 220: Paint and wallpaper

13,085 steps

We went to bed last night to the smell of fresh paint (primer). I did the top coat this morning. We now have our bedroom back!

We also wallpapered the 2nd layer on Zari's back wall, and this evening it was dry enough to prime. Ivy helped roll on the primer. We'll paint the top coat tomorrow morning, just in time for when she and Dio come home in the afternoon from their camp.

I also did some retouching in a few other areas in our own apartment since we have all the supplies up here.

I went running this morning. Ivy and Inga played at the chateau with the same friend, and then in the afternoon Eric took them to the library where they played with the friend some more. So they definitely can check "exercise" and "socializing" off their list for today!
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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 219: Lice round 2

8,556 steps

Ivy has been complaining that her head itches. I checked it a few times over the past few days and didn't see anything. However, her hair was also very tangly so I couldn't go through sections systematically.

This morning, we got her hair washed, conditioned, and brushed. And yes...there were lice! I'd guess there were 12-15 lice and a moderate number of nits. Nowhere near as many nits as Inga by a factor of 10 or more.

I actually did a full comb-through twice on Ivy today. The second one only resulted in a few stray nits.

Just to be sure, I also did Inga's head again thoroughly. We saw a few specks in the rinse water that may or may not have been nits. And then I did my own head just to be sure.

So that ended up taking a lot of my time today.

Ivy and Inga went to the chateau with a friend, which gave Eric and me several hours of uninterrupted work. We hung the rest of the wallpaper in our bedroom and the first layer of wallpaper in Zari's bedroom. Eric applied MAP on some of the larger holes or cracks in the Communist apartment, and I patched a few holes with plaster.

Late this evening, I applied the first coat of primer in our bedroom. We can paint tomorrow morning and we'll finally have our bedroom back! We've had ladders and dropcloths for the past week.

We had a quick late afternoon swim, as usual. We spotted a jellyfish and were a bit more careful where we swam after that. A few minutes after we had finished, a man got stung, probably by the same jellyfish. Nothing dangerous, just painful.

Eric is playing soccer with a new over-40 men's team. It's a late game, starting at 9 pm at a town 40 minutes away. He was so excited to find a team to play with. I have the feeling that he'll be running in circles around many of the others.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 218: Chateau and goodbyes

11,431 steps

Zari and Dio left early this morning for their youth camp (well, it's not really camping but I don't know what else to call it!). Eric picked up 3 kids from Corsica who were flying unaccompanied and needed a ride to the camp.

I took Ivy and Inga to the chateau because we got a message that one of her friends would be there with her dad. And then I got another message from a mom of Ivy's friend asking if we could take her daughter. Sure! So both girls had someone to play with. I spent 2 hours talking pedagogy and philophy with the dad. He's a former univeristy history professor whose full-time profession is now homeschooling his daughter and "working as little as possible and living as much as possible."

I haven't taken a morning off at a park for a long time. Because Eric didn't get back until mid-day, we only did some small things on our apartments. I added another coat of mud on our walls, and Eric primed more drywall. We'll be ready to hang wallpaper tomorrow.

After lunch, Inga's friend came over for the afternoon. She helped me make a tian for dinner (thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, & bell peppers with herbes de Provence & olive oil, baked until it's well browned and starting to caramelize).

The house is so quiet minus Zari and Dio. And our evenings are nice and long!
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Monday, July 26, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 217: Feast, fast, & finally AC

15,923 steps

I woke up early, feeling a bit lethargic from yesterday's feast. Instead of lying in bed and pretending I was asleep, I decided to go for an early run. It was nice to go out with the sun lower in the sky. Everyone was still asleep when I got back, and one of the heat pump guys, The Russian, was waiting at the front door.

The heat pump crew brought in a new guy to do a lot of the wall channels. He's from Russia and hardly speaks any French, so we call him "The Russian." He managed to embed the lines in our living room and bedrooms, for which I was very grateful.

However, The Russian is also not very good at finishing work and he makes a mess everywhere he goes. He cut through some electrical cables in the back room and just clipped them together with wire connectors. He was going to embed them in the wall as-is, which is totally against code over here. I insisted that he re-run the wires between the 2 outlets. The outlets were close together so it was an easy job. But still...I shouldn't have to be the one catching these errors! I also had to fix some of his plastering jobs because several areas were sticking out way too far.

Good news, though...even though we're still plastering the last lines, all of the heat pump units are installed. And even better--they all work! We stood in silent celebration as cool air wafted over us. Honestly I can live with the heat here. I have done so for 7 years. But it was SO nice to be able to cool our apartment down!

I keep the rooms at 26 C at the coldest (79 F). Any lower and I'm too cold! We won't cool any of the bedrooms during the day, since we're all in the living room during our waking hours.

After yesterday's feast, I felt simultaneously full and hungry much of the day. I gave my body a break and didn't eat until 4 pm. It felt good to eat reasonably small portions today. Now I'm feeling much more energized.

In the morning Eric took the kids out to play soccer and run around, allowing me to finish the painting in the living room. This evening we put the fridge and dining room furniture back. It's so nice to have our living space again. Tomorrow we'll wallpaper and paint our bedroom. I finished the final mudding this evening at 11 pm. The Russian's plastering job definitely needed a final topcoat.

Zari and Dio are packing for a 4-day youth camp. They leave tomorrow morning. Should be fun! Dio really wants to sleep with Zari, but I'm pretty sure they'll be separating the boys' and girls' dormitories. Despite the uptick in Covid cases, they are proceeding with the camp, albeit with a lot of precautions.

We had time for a short late afternoon swim. It was just me, Eric, and Ivy this time.

I had a Zoom meeting this evening (breech peer review). Eric was busy making crepes and forgot about piano lessons! Oops. My mom was able to do them later.
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Sunday, July 25, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 216: Lazy afternoon party

We spent the afternoon up in the "arrière pays" (back country) at a birthday party for one of Ivy's friends. It was hot and langorous with cicadas droning. I settled into a hammock under an arbor of grape vines, watching the sun wink in and out of view.

It reminded me of when Dio was an infant, 5 weeks old. We were visiting family in Canada. He was a very fussy baby, but the one thing that entranced him into calm was lying swaddled on a lounge chair the back deck, looking up into the branches of quaking aspen.

I took 3 naps over the course of the afternoon and evening! I felt like I was moving through molasses all day. Eric and I went on an evening walk once we were back home and both of us remarked about feeling the same way, slow and heavy.

It might have been from the delicious food that we ate too much of (the friend's dad is a chef). We got sent home with loads of leftovers.

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Saturday, July 24, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 215: Wallpaper layer 2

14,303 steps

Well, we had some complications with our re-wallpapering. On Thursday we ran out of our fiberglass wallpaper and went to buy more. Unfortunately, the store we had bought it from was out of stock. None of the other stores in town had the same pattern. Eric went all over the place looking for it. We ordered some online from a big box store, and it came yesterday morning.

It was close, but not the same. A bit more flimsy and less texture. We put it up hoping for the best...but it just didn't look good. It showed every imperfection. The whole point of appling fiberglass wallpaper is to hide imperfections!

I went to yet another home improvement store this morning and couldn't find the right pattern.

So we scratched our heads and decided to put a 2nd layer using leftover scraps. We very carefully cut all the scraps to have super straight edges and were able to just barely piece enough together to cover the kitchen wall. And as a bonus, with the 2nd layer, it's the same thickness as the original paper we're butting up against.

What else?

Inga and I went running together this morning. She is super wicked fast, but hasn't ever done endurance running, aka running without stopping for 30+ minutes. We had to stop a few times but that's okay.

Dio went running on his own. We couldn't persuade Zari to go out and exercise. This is getting to be a bit of an issue since she is otherwise sedentary and I want her to a) get outdoors enough and b) stay in shape, with whatever form of exercise she chooses. I'm not worried about her weight or any of that nonsense, but I do want her to stay physically active.

I told her that I'm trying to ensure balance: reading for several hours during vacation is fine. But reading or sitting around the house all day? Not okay. It needs to be balanced with physical activity and social interaction of some sort. (I know this all too well, because I do it, too, at times!)

Anyway Dio and Inga stayed home in the late afternoon while Ivy, Eric, Zari, and I went to the beach. I almost had to drag her out of the house but she ended up having a great time swimming and playing with Ivy and snorkeling. The water was the clearest I've ever seen it.

Ivy helped me make a tiramisu for tomorrow. Dinner tonight ended up being Greek by happenstance. I made spanakopita and grilled halloumi cheese. Dessert was "fake ice cream," as we call it: frozen berries blended with cream and a little dash of sugar.
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Friday, July 23, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Day 214

Eric got the kids up and out of the house first thing this morning. They've been too sedentary (partly our fault, as we're so busy with renovations). I applied epoxy wood hardener to several problematic areas up in the back room of the Communist apartment. I still need to finish treating the very end of the big beam but the other spots are taken care of now.

The heat pump guys were here again today. Still not quite ready to go. They installed the blower unit in our bedroom in the wrong place (they put it right above our bed, when we'd talked to them several times about putting it to the left of the bed so it's not on top of the mezzaine). So I had to text the boss and ask if he could move it to where we had originally asked to put it. Fortunately it's doable, although it will require even more chipping away and re-re-doing the wallpaper.

The kids helped me prime the new wallpaper in the kitchen. I was going to paint the top coat this evening but it's a bit too late. So that's my plan for first thing in the morning. Then we can finally put the fridge and dining table back in place.

We had our usual late afternoon swim and ended up with 4 other families, our usual group of parents from school. Several of them ordered pizzas and ate at the beach, but we headed home because Eric had dinner planned (green beans & bacon; duck breast with shallots, honey, & balsamic).

Also a few pictures from Wednesday, when I was gone and Eric took the kids out all day due to the dust. The whole house was covered. We had to wash every surface at least 3-4 times to get it to disappear.

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Thursday, July 22, 2021

(Other) French apartment renovations, Days 212 & 213

10,142 steps

I was so exhausted yesterday that I skipped a day of journaling. The first missed day since the start of the pandemic. Yes, THAT exhausted.

I was gone from 8 am - 7 pm at a musical event (playing my violin at a retirement home). By time we played the last song, I was so tired and hot (wearing a mask + being in a hot room) that I thought I was going to pass out. I hadn't eaten anything all day except a dessert that they served at 4:15 pm. Sugar on an empty stomach = pas bon.

I came home to a disaster. A disaster that I knew would happen, but still a disaster. The heat pump guys had cut wall channels in our living room and bedroom, and there was rock and plaster dust everywhere. I had hoped for a quiet evening: eat and then sit down and relax. But instead the whole family ended up mopping and washing and vacuuming. I didn't stop until about 10:30 pm.

Today we decided to pause the Communist apartment renovations because our own apartment now had big channels cut through the walls. We tore off all of the fiberglass wallpaper in the affected areas, scraped and levels the walls as best as we could, and then began hanging new wallpaper. We ran out of wallpaper in the mid-afternoon. I have more on order (arriving tomorrow morning).

To make the day even MORE fun, in the late afternoon the heat pump guys started cutting the wall channels in Zari's room...not bothering to close her door! So this pumped clouds of dust into the whole apartment AGAIN.

We decided to just leave and go to the beach to let the dust settle. We came back once the work crew was gone. Quick dinner because we were pressed for time (grilled cheese sandwiches with my homemade sourdough bread, Emmental, avocados, & tomatoes; green beans; Turkish yogurt with red berries).

Then...More cleaning! More mopping! More vacuuming! More tearing off old wallpaper!

We'll probably be busy all day tomorrow wallpapering and painting. Then we can get back to our normal programming.

Other news: Ivy is at another sleepover. I hope she goes to bed earlier this time. Last time she was a disaster when she came home.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 211: Mortgages and more power tools

10,149 steps This morning we tackled the ceiling again. Zari helped me rip shims on the table saw. She does not like the table saw--it scares her! I agreed, "Yes, you need to have a healthy respect for tools like that."

We still had several joists that were sticking out beyond their neighbors. I had tried chiseling one of them down and it took hours and hours of work with a horribly uneven result. I tried cross-cutting shallow hatch lines with various tools. Nothing really helped. After that one joist, I decided that chiseling was just a bad idea.

I suggested borrowing a planer from a friend, but Eric didn't want to wait. So he went to a few home improvement stores and came home with the right tool. I have to admit, it's great having the right tool and being able to get it done straight away.

Both Zari and Dio helped me plaster more of the electrical cables. Both the upper and lower hallways are now done. We have decided to smooth the walls with "enduit de lissage" before installing the boxes in case the smoothing compound adds a bit of thickness.

We had an appointment with our bank to look at refinancing the mortgage on our apartment. Interest rates are great right now (1.23% for a 15-year refinance) so we are going to go for it. We won't save as much as we'd hoped originally due to more expensive (but better) life insurance tied to the mortgage, but we'll still save a good amount over the life of the loan. And we'll be able to consolidate everything into one bank account. Right now we have 2 French bank accounts and they cost about $15/month each just to use.

In the morning, Zari sent Inga and Dio outside. They chose to go to the splash pad (miroir d'eau). I finally got Zari to exercise in the afternoon. And then I couldn't convince any of the kids to go swimming with me in the late afternoon! Their loss. I had a nice 20-minute swim and came back considerably cooler.

Eric went spearfishing in the evening. He didn't catch anything, though.

Ivy came back in the late afternoon from her sleepover. She was very happy and also very cranky. Apparently they got to sleep well after midnight and then woke up at 6 am ready to play again. She fell asleep on the couch while we were watching an episode of "Les Jeromes." I woke her up to get her out of her swimming suit. "I wasn't sleeping! I was just thinking!" She got really grouchy at just about everyone and was convinced everyone was being mean to her.
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Monday, July 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 210: Ceiling drywall, sleepovers, and migrating bread

8,874 steps

It's hot! I went to bed hot, woke up hot, and stayed hot except for a brief interlude in the ocean in the afternoon. Still doable but the heat presses in from all directions.

We got two sheets of acoustic drywall hung on the ceiling this morning. "Only two?" you might ask. Well, remember that we're installing this on a ceiling that isn't level, flat, straight, or square--anywhere. One side has to tuck inside the great big load-bearing beam, but of course the beam itself isn't even so some places stick out more than others. With 2 kids, 2 adults, lots of trimming and re-trimming, and many shims, we got the first two sheets in place.

Zari was terrified she was going to drop the drywall on her head. It's heavy--far heavier than normal drywall. But we did okay.

We have to accept that we will never have flat or straight ceilings in this apartment and just do the best we can.

With some of the leftover MAP (which we'd used for a bit of extra reinforcement on top of using screws), we sealed in some of the electrical cables in the downstairs WC.

I stayed for a while in the afternoon shaving down one of the joists that is sticking out far beyond the others. It's about 2/3 done. What a pain. It has to be done bit by bit with a chisel.

Ivy left this afternoon for a sleepover. She overpacked by several outfits and underwear changes. I didn't want to stamp out her excitement so I just kept adding things to her backpack. She'll be up in the "arriere pays" with two other friends.

We couldn't get Dio or Inga to come to the beach. Oh well--it was magnificent. Their loss.

Zari helped me go grocery shopping and carry home 160 Euros of groceries. Keeping our family supplied with food is its own job!

I made bread for the first time in a long while. It's getting too hot for baking bread. One of my loaves slid off the edge of the baking stone and plopped onto the bottom of the oven. Then it kept on baking down there. So we had a very interesting looking loaf of bread, with the bottom bit on the baking stone, a very burned bit that had baked in place on its way down, and then a weird lumpy loaf on the bottom that I had to scrape off with a long wooden spoon, trying not to burn myself in the process.
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Sunday, July 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 209: Recovery

~5k steps

I slept poorly due to chest aches--something like heartburn or pleurisy. And it's been persisting today, so I took it easy and didn't do much at all. I think all of us needed a day off, honestly! It's tiring to have fun!

Today is the first truly hot day of the summer. I think we had a high of 32 C (90 F). It's still bearable, even without AC, but definitely warm in the afternoon. Now our windows are all open, attempting to catch any stray breezes and cool the apartment down overnight.

Ivy had a friend over in the afternoon. After an early dinner, Eric brought them to the beach for a quick swim.

I did get up to cook dinner (risotto and a puree of 5 green vegetables). That's the grand total of today's accomplishments.
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Saturday, July 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 208: Pont de la Cerise

14,295 steps

We did 2 of my favorite things today: hiking & wild swimming. Well, 4 favorite things, if you add being with familiy and friends.

Normally the Esteron river is a clear turquoise blue, but yesterday's rain meant the water was quite cloudy. We could only see a few inches in front of us! It made navigating the river tricky, but we still did it. We played and swam and waded and explored for 6 hours. It was divine.

When we arrived, Dio said the water was too cold and kept asking when we were going home. But after a little while, he was swimming with everyone else and loving every minute.

3 of the 4 kids fell asleep in the car on the way home. The mark of a successful outing.

I've been doing breech video editing the rest of the evening. I have two hour-long presentations to finish tonight. I'm going to make the deadline!
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Friday, July 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 207: Ceiling drywall & speeches

10,150 steps 

Well, we had grand plans to hang the ceiling drywall but life got in the way. And after we had cut several pieces, we realized it would be easier to pre-paint the edges that will tuck inside the big ceiling beams, than to try to paint them once they are installed. So we put Zari to work priming and painting those areas. We had lots of things going on in the afternoon so we had to stop for the day. 

I got a nice run in this morning. I had a music rehearsal so Eric took the kids to the beach after lunch. And what did it do at the beach? It rained!! They came home and hung out in the Communist apartment until we were done. (I would have been fine if they'd come in!) 

Zari and Eric went to the ceremony to celebrate the student who received a "mention très bien." Then they went out for ice cream at a super fancy store (Néron) that we've always eyed but have never frequented. 

I had a 2-hour Zoom meeting to record a conference presentation for Siaparto. It should be fun--Dr. Hayes and I watch and discuss breech birth videos together.
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Thursday, July 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 206: Progress

6,712 steps

Lots more changes in the Communist apartment! We installed the insulated drywall first thing in the morning. We were able to get everything level/square/plumb/straight, as much as is possible when working with walls that not level or straight. I love our laser level. How did I ever renovate without one?

Then we drywalled around the load-bearing wall (the part that sticks out). I was so pleased when everything fit perfectly and came out 100% level even in parts where we weren't trying to make it that way.

We got all the kids to help tidy up the front and back rooms. Then we FINALLY carried up the last 11 sheets of drywall from the downstairs hallway. We had been putting this off because it was acoustic drywall and almost twice as heavy as normal. But we did it! (insert flexing biceps here)

Eric had to stop mid-afternoon for some meetings. I kept working for a while, shimming parts of the ceiling in preparation for hanging drywall.

A few days ago, Zari misplaced a USB nanorepector for Dio's computer mouse. We have been combing the house looking for it, with no success. So today they took a walk to FNAC to see if they could find a new mouse for him. No luck, but I think they enjoyed the excursion and the liberty!

Ivy made "jewelry" out of black electrical tape.

I took the four kids for a quick late afternoon swim. It was breezy, cool, and overcast and we didn't stay super long. I actually felt a bit cold--which is nice in the summer. About 10 minutes before we left, two of Ivy's friends showed up. I would have liked to let her play longer, but we were getting too cold.


After dinner we did another round of de-lousing Inga's hair. No lice at all and about 10 things that may have been nits. I did my own again just as a precaution and saw a few specks that may have been nits, or may just have been dust. We'll do Inga's hair again tomorrow. Until we see zero nits, I will not give up!
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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 205: A lousy day

15,699 steps

Well, this evening ended differently than I had anticipated. Right as we were getting kids ready for bed, Inga said, "My head is really itchy!" This has happened before and it was just an itchy head. But this so lucky. Her head was crawling with lice. Fortunately I travel with my awesome lice comb, one of the few things I bring back and forth with me between the US and France.

I spent the next 90 minutes combing through her hair. She had 5 or 6 adult lice and probably close to 1,000 tiny little ones. They were almost the same size as nits and appeared newly hatched. Poor girl.

I changed the water (the bowl for rinsing the comb after every pass) probably a dozen times. We only saw one or two nits with the very last combing. I called it good and sent her to bed very late.

The picture is of bowl # 8. Give or take a bowl. I lost count after a while.

We'll do another pass tomorrow.

The rest of the family passed a quick inspection but I'll look more closely tomorrow when the light is better. I did a quick comb through my own hair and found a few things that *might* have been nits. No lice, though. Sadly I'm the only real lice expert so no one can inspect my head!

I told Zari, "Please please please never get lice." Her hair is well past mid-thigh and is insanely thick. I do NOT want to work on her head!

I told the kids several English expressions we have that relate to lice:
"being nit-picky"
"looking at something with a fine-toothed comb"
"it was a lousy experience"

So other news from today: we were hoping to go to Pont de la Cerise for a Bastille Day picnic & wild swim. However, Dio was feeling unwell so we stayed home. He rested most of the day. Since it's a Wednesday, we didn't do any renovations until after lunch (our downstairs neighbors don't work on Wednesdays and like us to not make noise).

I didn't take any videos today. We put drywall up on the other little box. We added some wood framing around the window near the front door and got the wall ready for insulated drywall. We had to embed 5 electrical cables in plaster to hold them in place and trim various bits. We cut the first big piece of insulated drywall and then Eric had to go to a meeting. So that was our day. Tomorrow we'll likely get several pieces of drywall up.

Quick late afternoon swim. Zari and Dio never made it in the water, but at least they got outside and boosted their Vitamin D. I played with Ivy and Inga for a while--we had some fun waves.

Dinner was Tuscan butter gnocchi. So good!
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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 204: Red flags

5,607 steps

My day looks sedentary according to my fitness tracker, but I did work a lot on the apartment.

We plastered over most of the electrical cables, bit by bit. You have to find ways to hold all the cables in place while the plaster hardens. Sometimes this is with pieces of wood attached with screws. Sometimes this is with heavy objects leaning against the bundle of cables.

I don't like working with plaster. It's a goopy mess for 5 minutes, perfect for 1 minute, and then a crumbly mess for another 2 minutes before it goes rock hard. On the up side it hardens very quickly!

We also built the 2nd box that hides a lot of the wires and put drywall on the first box.

I put another set of daubs of MAP on the upper mezzanine wall, using the laser level.

Zari and Dio got their 2nd Pfizer shots. On their way home, they ate döner kebabs for the first time. Ivy had a friend over all afternoon, so the younger kids were having lots of fun.

Eric and I went to the beach for a late afternoon swim, but the drapeau rouge (red flag) was out. Due to high winds, big waves, and a strong current, swimming was forbidden. Lifeguards were patrolling the beaches on foot and on boat to ensure no one went in the water. So I took a beach shower (my first shower of the day), lay in the sun for a few minutes, and headed home. I was sweaty and covered with splatters of plaster so a cold beach shower was great.

Tomorrow is Bastille Day. We might go wild swimming with some friends. Bonne nuit!
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Monday, July 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 203: Out of time

It's past midnight and I haven't had time to write out today's adventures. So let me be super quick:
- Family exercise in the morning (runs for me & Eric, PE With Joe for everyone else)
- More drywall & electrical work in the Communist apartment
- Brief late afternoon swim
- Sushi for dinner
- I think the kids are bored Oh, big exciting news: Zari got a "mention très bien" on her brevet. This is the highest possible honor so we are all very excited! There's an award ceremony this week. Okay, time to sleep!!
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Sunday, July 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 202: The sky is falling

(I am so annoyed--I wrote today's entire post and it got lost somehow.)

Early this morning we were in our living room and we saw something large fall past our window and crash onto the ground 4 stories below. I was terrified that a person had fallen out of a window. But no, thankfully not. It was a large part of the upper window frame (made of mortar) on our upstairs neighbor's apartment.

It hit the street and shattered into hundreds of pieces. We are so lucky that no one was there when it fell! Apparently it had been coming loose for a while, and our neighbor had contacted our building coop manager (syndic) twice recently to have it looked at.

Soon after, a fire truck and police car arrived and cordoned off our street. We got to see how they managed to fit a fire truck in our street and raise the bucket 5 stories high with a hydraulic lift. While the fireman was up near hte roofline, he inspected the next building as well and tapped on the soffits to be sure nothing else was threatening to come loose.

So yes, quite the exciting morning.

And I am now reassured that if there is a fire, there is a way to get us out of our 4th story apartment.

The rest of the day was gloriously lazy. Eric announced, "Today, I want to do...absolutely nothing." And we mostly accomplished that with great success. I read a book much of the day and didn't even go outside. (Yes, I know, I probably should have. But priorities.) We watched "Back To the Future III." Eric took a treasure hunting swim near the Negresco and came back with a snorkel, four shoes, a pair of broken sunglasses, a fishing lure, and a bandana.

We let the kids stay up late to watch the first half of the Euro Cup (England vs Italy). We're currently heading into the second overtime with the score tied at 1-1.
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Saturday, July 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 201: I made a big mess

5,893 steps

My mess was on purpose, though :) More renovating. Usually we don't do much on the weekends since our neighbors don't want any noise in the mornings and then we're often busy with soccer. But I had some time. Eric mixed me up a big batch of MAP and I straightened the back of the upper bookcase area. It's amazing how uneven the walls are! But with my trusty laser level, I got things more or less straight and flat.

In the afternoon I attacked several areas with the wall chaser (rainureuse). It generates enormous clouds of dust, even when hooked up to the vacuum. I had to cut away this thing in the bookcase area that we thought was a plank of wood. But no, it was a solid plank of slate!

Then I applied the laser level to another wall, one that we're going to adhere drywall to. And OF COURSE the wall itself was tilted. So I solved that problem by shaving off a large section of the wall. It's very thin, maybe 10 cm at the thickest points, and quite fragile. So I cut lots of shallow paralell lines with the rainureuse, then gently chiseled them out one by one. At the end, the entire wall was level!

What else happened today?

Dio and Zari went to a water park and loved it. They came back several hours later tired and sunburned and happy.

Ivy asked to make cinnamon rolls, so we made the extra super fancy slow ones: basically a rich buttery brioche dough and then cream cheese frosting on top. That took a large part of the day.

Right after Dio got home, he left for his friend's birthday party and didn't get back until well after dinner.

Eric went spearfishing in the afternoon while I was making a mess. I brought Ivy and Inga to the beach and he met us after fishing. No fish, sadly. But when he was swimming with the kids, he found two shoes, two dive masks, a credit card, a fishing weight, and a cloth mask. I had to go home after just 20 minutes to make dinner, get changed, and get ready for a breech live session.
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Friday, July 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 200!

About 10,000 steps

I feel like I should celebrate or 200 and counting of renovating. It feels ridiculously long for such a "small" project. I mean--it's just 2 rooms! One big one and one small one. How can two rooms take so long?

We had other things going on today, so we only got a few hours of work done in the afternoon. In the morning, Ivy helped me with grocery shopping. I carried a heavy cart and one big bag, and she carried a medium & small bag on her scooter.

After lunch we moved the scaffolding back to the back room (the AC people had put it in the front room). Inga and I then prepped the upper chimney alcove. She and I drilled out holes with the diamond saw, then chipped the insides away with a jackhammer. I held the tools while she pulled the trigger. Good system!

While we were doing that, Ivy helped Eric tidy up the front (big) room. It's more of a mess than usual since the AC people have been working there and storing all of their stuff. I'd even say it's feeling crowded!

To finish the afternoon, Eric mixed me a big bucket of MAP and I put it in all the holes. I used the laser level to ensure that each side of the bookcase was level (because they were definitely NOT to begin with!). We should be able to install drywall tomorrow.

During all of this, we sent Dio and Zari off on their own to look for a birthday present for Dio's friend. They went to the big mall (Nice Etoile) and, after much looking, found something. They had 2 Euros left over so they went to a grocery store on the way home and bought themselves snacks (with our permission).

I was worried they wouldn't find any presents but it worked out, and I sense they had fun on this adventure.

Tomorrow morning they are going to a water park with a group of teenagers. Ivy and Inga were really sad they couldn't go, too. Then Dio has the birthday party in the afternoon.

We watched "Back To the Future II" after dinner. The kids were laughing so hard at what "the future" (2015) was imagined to be.
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Thursday, July 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 199: Bookshelves

11,936 steps

Our Freeze Family Fitness summer worked today. The kids did PE With Joe in the morning, except for Ivy because she got mad and then had a bit of a tantrum. I went for a run and it was HOT because I left about an hour later than usual.

With their exercising and practicing done, the kids were allowed to play 1/2 hour of Minecraft (or for Zari, to read books on the phone).

Eric and I finished framing the area left over on the right side of the chimney, then we applied drywall to all the sides. Ivy helped for a little while, mixing MAP and washing tools. We got Dio and Inga to wash up after our 2nd round of MAP. Zari and Ivy cleaned off the old iron railing from the original mezzanine that we want to give away.

At the end of the work day, we worked on the framing that is hiding a lot of the electrical/ethernet cables. It's 3/4 done now. Then we can finally plaster in all of the cables where they run through the wall that bumps out.

We ended with a family swim right before dinner. All four kids were playing in the waves. It was one of those iconic moments where I felt that all was well with the world. Good work, good play, good memories together.

I had a Zoom meeting tonight, and Eric put on "Back To the Future" for the kids. They found it odd and hilarious.
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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 198: On the mend

Eric got tested this morning: negative. So we were able to have a friend come over in the afternoon. He's on the mend today and says he'll probably be back to normal-ish tomorrow.

I spent the morning doing administrative tasks mostly for our family. It's amazing how much time it takes just to keep on top of emails, bills, appointments, and reservations. Not to mention running a nonprofit full-time, managing 8 rental apartments overseas, oh and yes parenting 4 children. And also renovating an apartment; let's not forget that.

Inga and I went to pick up a package at a Mondial Relay station, only to find it closed and with no posted hours. Just a small piece of paper taped on the window with a QR code. Bah. I don't even have a QR scanning app.

Zari helped me downstairs in the afternoon. We got the frame attached and anchored in place with mega long screws and MAP. She tried her hand at mixing MAP (harder than she had imagined) and applying it (not bad for her first time). Tomorrow, we can put drywall inside the entire bottom bookcase! Woohoo.

Eric brought Dio to his soccer practice and did some running around himself. He said it helped him feel better.

I took everyone else for a quick swim at the beach in the late afternoon, plus Ivy's friend.
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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 197: Last day of school!

8,734 steps

I worked all day on framing the extra bit of chimney that I had uncovered and that we realized we needed to cover back up. For something seemingly so simple, it was really complex! I don't have anything level or square to start with and I had to figure out how to attach a wooden frame, in an irregular shape, to fragmented bits of stone/cinder blocks/cement/plaster.

Zari helped me for a bit in the afternoon. Eric is still feeling sick. I insisted that he get a Covid test tomorrow.

Today was the last day of school! We went to a birthday party at the chateau--a great way to celebrate summer vacation. It made for a late dinner but happy kids.

Zari was woken up last night at 4 am by a mosquito. She stayed up for an hour trying to catch it (no luck) and then she went into the living room to sleep. Now she's stressed that there will be a mosquito again. She's so frustrated that I can't magically fix it!
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Monday, July 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 196: Chimneys and buns

10,160 steps

Eric is feeling sick: sore throat, nausea. He had to rest most of the day and felt bad that he couldn't help more downstairs. He did come a few times and help me with tasks such as mixing up a big bucket of MAP. I kept telling him, "It's okay! Don't feel bad; you need to take it easy."

I worked all day on the communist apartment, mainly on getting the chimney area ready for drywall. I drilled holes, jackhammered them out, and filled them with MAP. I also had to square/level/smooth several areas that were sticking out too much or not at right angles. I need the area to be mainly straight in all directions. There is a little give with the MAP mortar that adheres the drywall, but you still have to start with something reasonably straight.

Here is a list of all of the power tools I used today: 
  • jackhammer 
  • drill 
  • wall chaser (rainureuse) 
  • shop vac (by itself and connected to the wall chaser) 
  • multitool 
  • compound miter saw

I had some MAP left over, so I filled in the grooves on the wood subfloor. We're going to install the waterpoofing membrane for the shower area fairly soon, and this will help it be more of a smooth, uniform surface.

Zari helped me for a littel bit, holding up that piece of wood in the middle of the chimney while I drilled the holes into the rock wall. Then I embedded it with 8" threaded rods and chemical anchor. We're going to make a "floor" on the upper shelves so you don't fall through :) Remember, you'll be able to walk on this whole upper area since it will have a catamaran net.

Dio and Zari helped Eric clear out about half of the attic storage room; the AC/heat guys needed access. We decided to move our skis & cartop carrier down to the basement.

We had a family swim late in the afternoon after school. Only one more day and then everyone is on vacation!

Zari tried a bun for the first time. She has so much hair it's almost as big as her head! Eric made the obligatory dad joke about liking our buns.

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Sunday, July 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 195: I'm a robot

11,780 steps

I have this crick in my neck that has gotten progressively worse during the day. By afternoon I could barely move or breathe without triggering it. My kids were laughing at me as I was wincing and yelping at random moments. I told them that I had to be a robot for the day and not move my head or arms at all.

I took the 3 youngest kids on a walk up to Cimiez this morning. When we left there were a few drops of rain. We'd be fine, right? By time we were 2/3 there, it had turned into a steady rain. We huddled under some trees because we knew Eric and Zari would be coming our direction in the car. We did try!

We were supposed to go to a birthday party, but it got rescheduled due to the rain. Then ironically the sun came out mid-afternoon! We watched an episode of "Shadow and Bone" and then went to the beach.

Miracle: Dio went in the water! It helped that our neighbors across the street (the ones whose windows look into our living room and whose daughter Inga is best friends with) were there with an inflatable boat. The kids all piled on and jumped off and pushed the boat around.

A couple nearby lost their wedding ring while we were swimming. Zari lent them a snorkel mask, and she and Eric both joined in the hunt. We never found it, though.

I took some videos of our beach afternoon but I am not feeling like moving or doing anything. Stupid neck.

I made hamburgers for dinner and the kids raved about them. I guess it's been years since we've had them. I have to admit, a homemade hamburger can be quite delicious. Mine was Roquefort-bacon-Emmental-mushroom. Yum. A mashup of bacon & blue cheese + mushroom & Swiss.

I had a Zoom call most of the evening. And that's my day! I'm hoping I can move my neck and arms more tomorrow.
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Saturday, July 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 194: Soccer marathon

6,820 steps

Eric wins the award for soccer parent of the century. He has been gone for over 12 hours at 3 different soccer tournaments! Inga in the morning, Ivy in the afternoon, and Zari in the evening. He was so busy going from one to another that we literally swapped out Inga and Ivy at a red light. He did have a whopping 3 minutes at home to eat dinner before running to Zari's tournament, which is still going on late in the evening.

I had a very sedentary day. Most of the morning was helping kids practice and dealing with a very big meltdown of Ivy's. When she gets going, whoo boy!

We watched an episode of "Shadow and Bone" in the afternoon. I did 4 loads of laundry and loads of accounting for Breech Without Borders. Dio helped me with the Excel spreadsheets. His eyes were bugging out when he saw the revenue columns (to a 12-year-old, anything seems like an enormous sum!). He asked, "Is there anything I can do to earn money?"

I said, "Well, I'm not sure if I have a Breech Without Borders job for you."

"I could add up the money for you, just like we did today."

"Maybe...but how about I pay you to clean the fridge?" (It was well overdue for a top-to-bottom cleaning.) "I'll pay you $5."

He wasn't interested, but Inga was. So now we have a sparkly clean fridge. I told the kids that we do regular chores together as a family. But for super duper extra special jobs, we can hire them out 🙂

Inga had a big meltdown when Ivy came home. Both girls' teams had won their respective tournaments, but only Ivy came home with a trophy. Inga wanted a trophy SO BAD and nothing would console her. Ivy even offered to give Inga hers, but Inga said, "No, that wouldn't be fair to Ivy!"

I went for a 10-minute swim right before dinner. It's so nice to be able to walk out the door and be in the ocean in 3 minutes. No need to pack up a whole car full of gear and plan a day trip. Just shoes, towel, and keys.
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Friday, July 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 193: Parenting fail

Unknown # of steps

The AC guys weren't here today, so we got a break from the noise and mess. I was busy most of the morning helping Zari get her registration materials ready for the Lycee Massena. We dropped everything off in the morning. She is so lucky she gets to go to school there--it's easily one of the most beautiful buildings in Nice.

I told her, "When you were a year old, you lived inside the Lycée Masséna during the summer." I pointed to the rooftop terrace that we had access to from our dorm room. She'd play soccer with our study abroad students and play in a kiddie pool that the building's guardians had set up.

For your enjoyemnet, I dug up 2 pictures from that summer: the first is of me and Zari on the rooftop. The 2nd is the view from the rooftop.

We had a lunchtime disaster. Parenting FAIL. I was busy all morning helping Zari, and then I had to bring her to a RDV point at 11:40 sharp. She didn't know where it was, so I had to go with her and leave at 11:20 in order to arrive on time.

Meanwhile, Eric and Dio had gone to play soccer, and they didn't get back until close to 1 pm.

Which all sounds fine, until you realize that Ivy and Inga needed to be picked up for lunch at 11:30.


At 11:45 am, as I was walking back from dropping Zari off, I got a phone call from Inga's teacher: "I have your girls at the school--no one came to pick them up." I ran back as fast as I could, given that I didn't have running clothes on. Bad mama and papa! We totally forgot to coordinate lunch pickup.

Apparently Inga and Ivy waited for us for a while, then walked home. They rang our doorbell, waited, then walked down to the Place Rosetti, went back and rang the bell again. At this point they were crying. They went back to the school and on the way ran into a nice lady who helped buzz the school office and find someone to take them and find their TERRIBLE PARENTS who didn't show up.

Zari was gone all afternoon with a group of girls doing ziplines and other fun activities. Eric, Dio, and I worked on electricity and got all the last cables pulled. Now we just have to hook everything up in the boxes! Yeah!

I took Ivy and Dio to the beach for a quick swim. Dio didn't want to go in, but at the very end as we were leaving he said, "maybe I want to swim after all." I would have let him, but we had to hurry back to get home because Inga was coming home from a friend's house.

We all watched an episode of Shadow and Bone after dinner. We had Inga and Ivy cover their eyes during the fight scenes.
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Thursday, July 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 192: Let there be light!

18,908 steps

I haven't had an evening off yet for a long time! (meaning time where I am not working until almost midnight, except for writing my daily updates) This is pretty typical: it's 11:20 pm and I am video editing and journaling and still checking work emails. Because most of my work-related things are in the US, I have a light load in the mornings but lots in the evenings.

So today's activities:

I went for a run before school. The AC guys were already at work when I got back. And honestly I can't remember what else I did this morning...

Oh yes, our electrician friend came over and got our main power line installed and hooked up to the meter downstairs!! We now have power in the communist apartment for the first time in over 6 months. No more threading a long extension cord out our window, down the staircase, and inside another window.

I think I mostly worked on installing the final electrical cables. We only have one or two more short runs left for a few light switches. And then we start hooking things up at the electrical boxes.

It was another noisy, busy, dusty day with 4 men hard at work. One of them was rappelling up and down our staircase all day installing the plastic runs (gulottes) that will house all of the cables and insulated copper lines. These go all the way up several stories, around the archway, up to the roof, and over to the other side where the compressors are mounted. This is definitely not an easy installation!

And then there's the interior work....let me just say that they have broken apart a lot of our walls to create channels wide and deep enough for all of these lines. I was hoping they could just cut wall channels but their rainureuse doesn't cut deep enough. So jackhammering it is.

I'm trying not to worry too much about the fact that they are tearing so much down. Breathe. And they are going to be doing the same thing in our apartment and that makes me unsettled.

I asked the guys if I could record them working and they joked around that I was only doing it so I could get a picture of the one in climbing gear! They are a fun crew, always cheerful and joking with each other.

I walked Zari about halfway to a friend's birthday party at a park on Mont Boron. Yesterday we went birthday present shopping and this girl is SO hard to shop with. She was feeling stressed about choosing the right present and then was indecisive for a long time. We finally found a few things she felt good about.

What else? Dio helped me with some electricity work this afternoon. It's fun to have a helper!

Right after school we took Ivy and Inga for a quick swim. Dio came along too but would not go in the water. I only stayed for about 15 minutes, then I hurried home to make dinner.

By accident our entire dinner was white & yellow: yellow curry with chicken & cauliflower over basmati rice, then lemon cheesecake. Officially I made the cheesecake to celebrate Zari finishing the brevet. But we don't really need an excuse to eat something so delicious, right?
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