Monday, February 28, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 433: Electricity and park therapy

14,264 steps I wired and plastered more of the kitchen electrical today. One wall is all installed (awaiting the backsplash tiles before putting the outlet boxes in) and another wall is ready for drywall (the wall isn't square, so we're going to square it off and drywall all in one step).

Eric started cleaning off the wooden ceiling. After we visited the Grimaldi Museum last week, we realized that Renaissance painted ceilings were gorgeous and that we didn't necessarily have to sandblast the ceiling. Don't get me wrong; I'd love to have a bare wood ceiling, but we have a lot of missing pieces of molding and trim and it will be next to impossible to match the grain, color, and patina of 500-year-old wood.

So a painted ceiling it is, complete with stencils and other fun ornamentation. I'm thinking a beautiful dark green with a muted gold as the accent...but that's a long way off.

I met up with a friend at the park and had a nice long talk. I told her, "Thanks for the therapy! I needed it." I've been so busy that I haven't seen much of my friends other in passing. And I realize that I need to not neglect that part of my life. Renovations will always be there when I get back.

Eric made escargots, broccoli, and pasta with sun-dried tomato and bacon. It was a "what's in the fridge?" dinner but turned out great.
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Sunday, February 27, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 432: Hair & cooking

I wrote my whole post tonight and accidentally closed the tab before it was done. Oops. In short, it wasn't a very relaxing Sunday. I was hoping for a nap and reading a book. But instead I spent the whole afternoon either de-lousing hair, braiding hair, or cooking.

Dinner was delicious, thanks to all of that cooking. I made turkey rolls (a simplified version of turkey cordon bleu) in mustard cream sauce, served with creamy polenta. Then for dessert, I had tried a new chocolate tart recipe. It was delicious, although much more time-consuming than my usual chocolate tart recipe.

How do you like Zari's 5-strand braid? It's the first time I have tried that technique. Now Ivy wants it too :). 

We watched the Chelsea-Liverpool match this evening. I captured the final moments of the final shootout kicks. Whew! What a match.

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Saturday, February 26, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 431: Soccer marathon & friend DIY

Okay, some days are just too much. Poor Eric was shepherding kids all day from one game to another, including coaching one of the games. He took the car, and I helped with anything that involved trams or walking.

In the afternoon, I helped out a friend who is renovating his apartment. There was an area of subfloor that had become rotten and springy due to water damage. It didn't help that the subfloor had originally been sloppily cantilevered and so there was just a big void with nothing supporting it. So repairing it was an engineering challenge. But we prevailed. By the end of the afternoon, I left him with a solid support in that area.

Ivy got treated out to a milkshake at a shop on the main floor of their building. Then both she and Inga got to tag along to a party at the sailing club where my friend's kids take sailing lessons. They ate bugnes (a sort of fried cookie eaten during Carnaval).

At some point, 3 of my kids were at his house while I was helping, but never all at the same time. Like I said, it was a complicated day!

I cleaned up my cousin's apartment after our baseboard installation. She was gone for a few days visiting areas in Provence.

Eric and I found time to go on a walk this evening, very much needed time to reconnect after this last week and especially the last few days.

And just because, a random video of Inga's eyeball, as viewed through a magnifying glass and filmed by Zari.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 430: In the driver's seat

I drove a car for the first time since...November 2020. Woah. I'm not a fan of driving here and even less enthustiastic about trying to find a parking spot. So I let Eric do the driving--except when he can't.

Tonight he was off playing soccer and Dio needed to be picked up from soccer practice (north of Nice) and dropped off at a movie theater (west of Nice). I forgot to bring dinner for Dio, so we found something to eat next to the movie theater at Steak and Shake, which I thought was hilarious becuase I've never been to one in the US. I manged to find a parking spot, although I'm double parked and need to be sure my phone is on in case someone needs to leave.

My cousin was away today, so we installed the baseboards in her apartment. Because there are very few places with wood studs, you generally glue baseboards in place. The problem is, the walls are also not entirely straight or even so there are gaps that are hard to close. We did our best with a combination of weights, screws, and scraps of wood providing tension from one side of the wall to the other.

If I have time, I'll caulk tomorrow. If not, well, we'll get to it...later.
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Thursday, February 24, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 429: Hard work & Spanish translations...and lice!

Ugh, lice have come back to our household. I happened to check Inga today because her scalp looked gritty and had lots of little red sores. Yep, lice. So that took the rest of her evening.

Tomorrow I'll have to check everyone else.

I had a long, hard work day. I patched the other half of the old kitchen subfloor with several batches of map. Then I laid the landscape fabric (it prevents the granules from falling through any cracks) and poured 3 lines of granules for embedding the rails. Once they were level, I poured bag after bag of granules and started leveling them from one side to the other.

Then I called Eric in to help lay down the Fermacell boards. They are heavy and hard to lay down properly with one person. We worked until we ran out of granules. At this point, we'll focus on other things until the plumber comes and installs the water lines in the floor.

And then we mixed up more map and embedded several electrical lines into the walls.

Phew. Then my second shift started: breech stuff. Today I worked on creating a Spanish version of our online breech training course. We have a translator who has done all of the subtitles in exchange for us coming to train her group of midwives. So I'm currently encoding the subtitles into the videos and pasting the translated course platform text. Most days I work on breech stuff in the afternoons/evenings but I don't usually write about it. Because I would say something really boring like, "I sat at my computer and worked on breech stuff for a while."

After school, the 3 younger kids all went to friends' houses. It was so quiet! Zari came back to an empty house. Desipte some recent disappointments with a few exam scores, she has a really good attitude. I'm really impressed with the changes I've seen in her confidence and resilience since the beginning of this school year.

Eric made sauteed green beans and JFO crepes (jambon-fromage-oeuf). We finished off the leftover lemon cheesecake.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 428: Birthday prep

Inga's 11th birthday is going to be a Big Deal. She's been planning a Harry Potter birthday party and it keeps getting more elaborate. Aka I get to make more and more things. I sometimes have to say, "No, we're not sewing mandrakes" or "Sorry, I don't think we're going to make floating candles."

She and I went shopping this morning for supplies and ingredients. My favorite find was 6 different fancy decanters at a thrift store, one for each "potion" ingredient (6 different colored fruit juices).

Soccer took up much of the afternoon, but I snuck in a bit of work in the front apartment afterward. I convinced Ivy to help me; we were patching cracked or broken parts of the old subfloor with map. She had so much fun glopping and then smoothing the map.

A friend came over in need of cutting some pieces of lumber. It's fun to have all of the necessary tools for almost every imaginable job.

I think we'll be ready to start laying the kitchen subfloor by tomorrow afternoon. I have a few more batches of map to apply in the morning. It cures within about 90 minutes.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 427: Flat floors finally

6,768 steps

I worked all day in the front apartment (and then on breech stuff late afternoon & evening). I guess I do work double shifts many days! But at least it's on my own timing.

In the morning I did more electrical work (running lines in channel I cut in the floor, pulling the ground wire through its conduit and then threading it out into the hallway). I also framed and installed a little half wall under the future kitchen window, since the wall itself has a few bump-outs and needs to be made flat and uniform.

After lunch, Eric joined me and we laid the rest of the Fermacell granules and subfloor on the raised area (about 3/4 of the room). The last area is the kitchen/dining room, which will have a step down. We'll start laying that lower subfloor tomorrow or Thursday. Probably Thursday since there's still some prep work to be done.

If you look closely, you'll see that we installed the subfloor level to teh highest points in the room--and there is (or was) a 17 cm difference from high points (on the periphery) to low points (in the center of the room)! Wow. Now the floor is totally flat. No more tilted furniture.

I was sitting next to Zari this evening as she was doing her homework. I glanced over and she was filling out a detailed worksheet on different methods of contraception: how they work, advantages, disadvantages, how a person would obtain them, etc. Just something totally normal here. Not a special "sex ed" unit or anything--regular life science curriculum. Such a healthier approach than cordoning it off and having to ask parental permission and treating it as a taboo subject.

Oh, this second video is from a few days ago as I was dropping off our garbage. It's Carnaval season!

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Monday, February 21, 2022

French apartment renovations, Days 425-426: End of vacation, back to school

Yesterday was very low-key. A few of us went to the beach mid-afternoon and napped in the sun. I felt so tired aftewards, though, as if I were walking through honey.

It was a brutal transition this morning back to school hours after 2 weeks of school vacation.

Today was a dirty, dusty day. I cut channels in the walls and floors for electrical and plumbing, then I bored large holes into the walls for the outlet boxes. So much drilling, cutting, and jack hammering!

Tonight's dinner was pirate chicken and apple rhubarb crumble. So good!
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Saturday, February 19, 2022

French apartment renovations, Days 423-424: Two ordinary days

11,558 steps

Yesterday was so unremarkable that I didn't have the motivation to write about it. Worked on the apartment, got really dusty, ate dinner, put kids to bed. The end.

Inga was the only one who had a soccer game today. I enjoyed having a slower-paced Saturday. I went on a run in the morning. I did some mending and listened to a lot of podcasts.

Dio asked for hamburgers tonight, so I made ones topped with bacon, Roquefort (a super strong, salty blue cheese), caramelized shallots, and provolone. Thumbs up from the kids.

Zari and my cousin are gone at a sleepover tonight. Zari was hesitant since she was 6 the last time she went to a sleepover. I told her to go off and have fun and not worry about it too much.
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Thursday, February 17, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 422: Gourdon & Cagnes-sur-Mer

14,697 steps

We had a family excursion today. I wanted to find something new for us to explore with my cousin. Turns out it was amazing! We first drove up to the perched medieval village of Gourdon, an hour outside of Nice. I had no idea it even existed before this week! It sits on an outcropping almost 800 meters above the valley below and is breathtaking.

I found a hike that started in Gourdon and it, too, turned out just perfect. It was short (6 km) with a decent elevation gain (300 m). Enough that it felt like a hike, rather than a stroll, but not too much for my cousin who doesn't like hiking in general. And it gave us an amazing view of Gourdon from the mountains above.

Then we finished the day with a visit to another medieval village: Cagnes-sur-Mer, specifically Le Haut-de-Cagnes. We visited the Grimaldi Museum, which is in a castle on the highest part of the village. We got home with plenty of time for my 5 pm Zoom meeting and even another episode of Raising Dion!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 421: Grand Rounds

I spent the day prepping for and then giving a Grand Rounds lecture at NYP-Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. And then I opened up several more breech workshops. That is about it for my day!

I couldn't take the girls to/from soccer, so Ivy had to stay for 2 practices. She is now extra tired!

We're going to go on a day trip with my cousin tomorrow. We'll explore a perched village, go on a hike that has been part of a pilgrimage, and visit a Grimaldi museum. All places we haven't explored before!
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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 420: I can't think of a title

5,797 steps

I worked downstairs most of the day leveling the floors. We sent the kids out on an "adventure" in the afternoon. The instructions were to go outside for at least an hour and do something fun.

I had two Zoom meetings this evening, back-to-back.

Dinner was "what's in the fridge", which turned into a risotto with caramelized onion & shallot, Toulouse sausages, white wine, morel/cepe/button mushrooms, & parmesan cheese. It was super delicious. We also made a salad with whatever vegetables we had left, and Eric bought a few fancy cheeses from the local cheese store.

Not a whole lot else going on. Soccer tomorrow and hopefully a family hike/adventure on Thursday.
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Monday, February 14, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 419: Back to work

4,696 steps

I was tired today! Not sleepy-tired, but physically exhausted. I worked down in the front apartment most of the day. First off, I had to figure out how to wire the step down into the kitchen for some mini spots I'm installing. They are meant to be installed where you have access from the back, but we won' anyway it was tedious work figuring out how to run conduits so we can pull wires through when everything is installed.

Then I worked on leveling more of the floor and laying another row of Fermacell panels. Eric came and helped as I was starting to lay them.

It rained all day and my nearly-dry laundry is now soaking wet. Eric took Dio clothes shopping this afternoon, since he has outgrown all of his jeans & more formal pants. And oof! We are not used to buying clothes new. I don't even want to say how much 2 pairs of pants cost.

My cousin took Ivy shoe shopping. They tried on a lot and found a few pairs they liked, but the prices were way too high. We'll probaby buy some used shoes on Vinted.

I've made good progress on my to-do list and my inbox.
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Sunday, February 13, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 418: Back to normal life

11,674 steps

Several of us have achey knees after a week of skiing. I've had to reassure Zari and Dio that it's normal; we're using joints that aren't used to that type of stress. We watched some Olympics this afternoon and generally took it easy. While we were gone skiing, my cousin took a spontaneous trip to Milan and Genoa. It's amazing that you can just hop on a bus or train and go all sorts of places for very little money!

I'm almost done with my video editing from our ski week. My inbox, however, is still overflowing. Ah well...
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Saturday, February 12, 2022

French apartment renovations, Days 412-417: We are alive!!

Sorry, we lost internet at our apartment on the 2nd day. 6 days of skiing, 1 disloacted shoulder, 1 trip to the ER, and 1 trip to the car mechanic later, we are back home. It was a great ski vacation despite the unwanted excitement.

I have 1 week of work to catch up on, 1 week of videos to edit, 1 week of journals to post, 1 week of laundry to wash.

Stay tuned for all of the news of this past week!

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 6: A snowy sendoff

Friday, February 11, 2022

Wow, we had a glorious last day of skiing. We woke up this morning to snow falling: fat, heavy flakes. We were on the slopes by 10 am, which is later than I’d like but realistic with a big family.

Eric dropped us off and spent his morning doing some work and checking out a “check engine” light that just went on. He went to several mechanics and called a number of other places, and no one could even look at it. He finally went back to a mechanic close to us and convinced him to just take a look and see if it was something serious. Turns out it’s not; it has something to do with the glow plugs that heat up the engine when it starts. So we’re cleared to drive home tomorrow.

Meanwhile we were reveling in the fresh, deep powder all over the resort. The day of a snowfall, the resort doesn’t groom the slopes, so it was paradise to ski in. Our visibility was extremely limited until mid-afternoon since we were in a dense cloud. Snow continued to fall until well after lunchtime.

We did a blue run a few times to get Ivy confident, then we did the long lower run "Pierre à Ric." Besides the fact that we couldn’t see very far in front of us and couldn’t see any bumps on the hills—everything was a blank white—it was great. We had to go slowly since we had no idea when we were hitting a bump or a dip or a flat part. But so much fun!

Eric met us for lunch at the bottom, then we all went up. We did the long low run again and a few shorter runs at the top base, and then we headed up to the very highest run: Bochard. We spent most of our time “hors-piste” (backcountry) in the deep powder. This is the first time I’ve ever figured out how to ski in deep powder. I haven’t had very many occasions to ski in it, and when I’ve tried previously, I never could do it. I finally got it!

We probably did one too many runs for Ivy. On the very last one, she refused to go down, cried, and kept asking me to “wait.” She couldn’t be reasoned with. She wasn’t scared—she was just done. I could tell she was exhausted, but she screamed “I’m NOT TIRED!” when I said something about her being tired. In retrospect we should have just had one of us go back down the gondola with her. So slowly and painfully we got her down from the very top to the very bottom on two long runs.

And that was it! 6 days of some of the best skiing I’ve ever had. We definitely like Les Grands Montets the best of any of the Chamonix resorts. Better snow, longer runs, higher altitudes, and new lifts/gondolas. You can ski __ vertical meters without stopping! And that’s not even counting the very highest lift, which is temporarily closed (but that’s all off-run skiing and only for experts).

As I'm typing, the kids are playing French Scrabble with Eric. I’ve been packing up our suitcase, making sure our snow clothes are drying on the radiators, and going through the leftovers in the fridge. I did a final load of handwashed laundry, just enough to get us home. I’m annoyed that this apartment advertised that it had a washing machine and wifi, and neither really turned out to be true. Yes, technically there’s a washing machine in the building but it can only be used from 8 am-noon on weekdays, which means you have to miss a half-day of skiing to do laundry. And yes technically there was wifi, but only 1 GB of data and after that you have to pay 50 Euros per additional GB. We burned through our 1 GB that in less than 24 hours, and that was with us being gone skiing during the day. The owner is an older woman and I don’t think she has a realistic idea of internet usage.

But we love that this place is so close to the resort and that we can walk right out our dining room door to play in the snow. It’s also the smallest apartment we’ve ever stayed in as a family. It has one bedroom with a double bed plus a trundle bed in the living room that doubles as a couch. They had 2 thin spare mattress pads for the other 2 kids. But yeah, it was tight!
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Thursday, February 10, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 5: No skiing? No way!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Eric kept asking, “I know the doctor said I couldn’t ski…but do you think I could go if I’m really careful?” I kept saying, “The doctor said no skiing. When you kept asking, she kept saying no. You’re supposed to keep your arm immobilized for 3 weeks.”

So I set off with the 4 kids and left behind a very disappointed husband. We went back to Les Grands Montets, definitely our favorite of all the Chamonix resorts. It’s on the north side of the valley and is much higher than the other resorts. It also has skiing from the very top to the very bottom. Some of the other resorts have the option of skiing to the bottom, but the bottom run is often closed due to lack of snow. Not at Les Grands Montets.

We went back to winter today, having skied in spring yesterday. We did a few blue runs to get Ivy ready—she has to “reset” every morning, but it’s been going more quickly every day. Then we hit the big long red runs. We alternated between doing the long one from the upper base down to the bottom, and the other long one from the very top to the upper base.

Eric joined us at the bottom for lunch, goofing off, and a mini ski lesson.

As we were finishing our next-to-last run, Eric called: “I’m on the gondola and heading up to you!” On the gondola, as in with skis on? Yes, indeed. We joined him at the top of the gondola and he was all set to go skiing. I’m usually a calm person but I have to admit, I got very upset. We’d had so many conversations about this already: the doctor was very clear NOT to ski and that he needed to immobilize his arm for 3 weeks. Thankfully we got down the hill without any issues.

I had to catch up on some work, so I walked down to the bakery/café to use their wifi, for the price of a delicious pain au chocolat. I also bought baguettes for tomorrow’s lunch.

Inga and Dio made snowboards for their stuffed animals Indy and Dolly, then they did Olympics on a big snow mountain outside. I’m amazed that the kids have energy left to play after a full day of skiing!
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Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 4: Fun & sun in Flégère

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Eric was in a lot of pain last night from his dislocated shoulder—specifically, whenever he moved it. If he’s totally still, it’s fine. But it’s hard not to move your shoulder! At bedtime yesterday, we discovered a problem: the only way Eric could sleep comfortably was on his back. And, alas, that also makes him snore…which means I can’t sleep.

We are on a trundle bed in the living room, so I picked up my mattress and moved it into the only place in the entire 1-bedroom apartment where there was space (and a door separating us): the entry hall. For anyone to get to the bathroom, they had to climb over me. But it let both of us sleep.

Today it was clear that he needed to have his shoulder looked at, just to be sure nothing was broken or otherwise in need of intervention. Very reluctantly, Eric went to the ER at the local hospital after dropping the rest of us off at a new resort that we hadn’t yet tried this week: Flégère. His visit took about 3 hours total. 

Everyone there was in for ski injuries, mostly legs/knees but a few other arm/shoulder injuries. He had the initial consultation, got an x-ray, and then had the follow-up consultation. Nothing was broken or obviously wrong, other than the expected pain from having dislocated his shoulder. He is on 3 weeks of strict immobilization, followed by physical therapy.

Meanwhile the rest of us had a great ski day at Flégère. It was HOT! We’ve gone from winter skiing to spring skiing in just 2 days. We skied with our gloves and coats off or unzipped the whole day. I introduced the kids to their armpit zippers, which they didn’t even know existed. The snow got progressively slushier throughout the day and on the lower slopes. But we still loved it. We started off with a few blue runs and then moved to a really fun, long red run (Index & Pylônes) that we did many times.

As usual, Ivy started off slowly and timidly and gained confidence and speed throughout the day. By the end of the day, she was singing at the top of her lungs while going down the runs. “I believe I can ski. I believe I can ski away. And every night and day, I can ski the time away. Oh, I believe I can ski. I believe I can skin black diamonds. And every night and day, I can ski way better. I believe I can ski. I believe I can bomb the hill. And every night and day, I can speed my way …” And on and on, sung to the tune “I believe I can fly.”

As soon as he was out of the hospital, Eric joined us at the top of the big gondola (the base for the runs). We had a late lunch then one final run before calling it quits. We stopped around 3 pm and let the kids play in the snow back at home.

The total bill for the ER visit was 19 Euros. And another 19 Euros at the pharmacy for his arm sling and 2 prescription medications. Without French health insurance, it would have been around 100 Euros out of pocket for the ER visit. Interestingly, every medical professional Eric interacted with today—doctors, nurses, clerks, pharmacists at 2 pharmacies, x-ray technicians—were females.

Eric and I walked to the local pharmacy to pick up his arm sling and medications, but they didn’t have the right kind of sling. So he headed back into Chamonix while I made dinner (3 kinds of delicious local sausages and basmati rice). Then after dinner, we went back to the local bakery/café for a pain au chocolat, hot chocolate, and, most importantly, free wifi. Unfortunately we only had about 20 minutes before the café closed. I have so much work to catch up on since this apartment’s wifi stopped working on the 2nd day.

The kids finished a 7-ball snowman this afternoon. We watched some Olympic reporting, focusing on the French woman who won silver in the snowboard cross. Then we watched some random reality show about people who hand-forge swords. Super formulaic and funny to watch dubbed in French.
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Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 3: Bad things happen at Balme

We decided to try out a different ski area, so we went a few minutes up the valley to Balme. This is where Ivy injured her knee 2 years ago and had to go to the ER on the first day of skiing. Like the area we skied Sunday and Monday, it starts with a gondola to get you higher up the mountain, then there’s a second set of lifts from that upper “base.” This resort is above the tree line and completely exposed to the valley below, and it’s in full sun all day.

Despite the nice temperatures, there was a vicious wind in the morning. We braved it a few times to go on one of the upper chair lifts and enjoyed a nearly perfect red run called “Ecuries”: newly groomed snow, so smooth and deep that it felt like floating on water as you skied.

This resort has a lot of t-bars (or whatever they’re called now—they aren’t “T’s” anymore, but round disks that go under your butt). They were ancient and had a rough start with no warning. It was so strong that it picked Ivy off the ground and then threw her sideways! I thought maybe Ivy just got off to a bad start, but then I got on the t-bar and the same thing happened to me! I almost fell over and I think my inner thighs are bruised. After that one try, we said no on any more t-bars here.

Then we headed over to the other runs on the next mountain over. After a long traverse, we skied down the Vallorcine side of the resort a few times, with a stop for lunch in the sun. Then back to where we started for a bathroom break. I swear, French ski resorts don’t believe in bathrooms. I’ve been in some places where there were no public restrooms anywhere and only one paying bathroom in the entire ski area. This resort had one public restroom in the entire upper area. To get to it from the other side, you’d have to go up and over a mountain. Not very convenient.

Towards the end of the day, we ended on the red run we had started on. The wind had died down and we had a few glorious runs. We played in a natural half-pipe and got some good jumps in. And, unfortunately, Eric and Inga did a jump that ended badly. It wasn’t a big jump but the landing was tricky. Eric face-planted and dislocated his shoulder. Inga tumbled down after him and hurt her shoulder, fortunately without the dislocating part. We came across them as they were still both sprawled out on the ground. Eric had just put his shoulder back into place. Ugh. I told Eric, “No more stupid stuff today!”

We were all feeling exhausted, so we ended about an hour before the lifts closed. We skied down the long red run “Les caisets” instead of taking the gondola back down. It was slush at the bottom. The total vertical drop of what we skied today was 733 m (1462-2195 m altitude).

Ivy and Zari still had plenty of energy to build a snowman. I made oven-roasted broccoli and tortellini with alfredo sauce. This apartment has a big stack of French Calvin & Hobbes books, and the four kids have been reading through them. Dio and Inga started drawing Calvin in all sorts of funny situations, including skiing and eating cookies.
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Monday, February 07, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 2: The Miracle of Mont Blanc

Monday, February 7, 2022

I seriously didn’t think we would get Ivy to ski at all this week, not except the easiest greens. But the Ski Gods favored us with a huge dump of snow overnight, close to 30 cm. Avalanche cannons were booming throughout the valley as the sun rose, rumbling across like thunder. You could hear the cannons at the various resorts in the Chamonix valley: close by was Les Grands Montets. Further to the north, Balme. Across the valley and to the south, Brévent and Flégère.

The main gondola at Les Grands Montets didn’t open until 10 am due to avalanche precautions. There was a huge crowd waiting by time the gondola started running. Thankfully it went quickly, since this lift can carry 3,200 people per hour at maximum capacity.

We split up immediately, with Eric taking the 3 older kids and me staying with Ivy. At first, the same thing happened as the day before: she got on her skis and froze. I coaxed her down the first bit of hill and helped/forced her to take a few turns.

And then…miracle! She saw that she was skiing in fluffy, soft, deep powder. Within just a few minutes, she refused any help from me and started skiing down the hill in perfect little turns! Fairly soon, we came to the tricky part of the hill that had terrified her yesterday. And she just went down, totally unfazed. “I love this hill! I used to hate it but now I love it! I love skiing! All I needed was to watch some videos and to have powder.”

We went up the chairlift and did the hill again. We had a grand plan of how we’d keep it a secret and then surprise the rest of the family at lunch time. However, they happened to see us skiing as they were on a chairlift, and so we met up to ski together for the rest of the day.

It was SO FUN to ski together again as a family. Ivy had no problems doing both blues and reds. (The scoring system here has 4 colors: green, blue, red, and black). After showing off her skills to her siblings, she decided to go down a super long red run, Pierre à Ric, all the way to the bottom of the gondola. It has 720 m (2,360 feet) of vertical drop and she aced it!

Fun fact: Les Grands Montets has a longer lift-served vertical drop than any ski resort in the USA...and that isn't including the very highest gondola, which was destroyed recently in a fire. We skiied an astounding 1,513 m (4,964 feet) of vertical drop. When the top gondola is open, the vertical drop extends to 2,023m (6,637 feet)!

We ended up skiing that long run 3 times today. We split up for a little while after lunch so the older kids could go “hors piste” with Eric in some of the deeper powder. I like sticking to the real ski runs myself, with occasional forays into the edges right near the runs.

But wow, we skied hard today. Our muscles were jelly by the end. Zari had a big fall right before we got to the bottom and pulled her left hip flexor. Thankfully she can still ski, but it’s sore to lift that leg and walk up stairs.

Eric started an epic Monopoly game that kept younger girls up way past bedtime and still hadn’t finished! So I finally put a stop to it to get them to bed.
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Sunday, February 06, 2022

Chamonix Ski Day 1: First day of skiing and some frustrations

We were all excited to head out on a gorgeous day: clear skies, right around freezing, calm. We went up the big gondola and started down the hill. We figured the kids would be fine--after all, they were skiing pretty much everything 2 or 3 years ago, even the blacks.

And then Ivy freaked out, lost her knowledge of how to ski, and refused to ski down anything but the most ridiculous bunny hills. I KNOW she can ski. But she has become utterly paralyzed when she sees anything that has a slope to it. We spent all day coaxing, encouraging, yelling, pleading...nothing worked. I'd say 90% of her ski time was spent inching painfully down the hill and/or being completely immobilized.

We are at a loss for what to do. Ivy is worse now than she was at 3 years old!

We ended up trading off so one of us was with Ivy doing basically nothing and the other parent was skiing big runs with the other 3 kids.

Part of the issue was that the place we're at has mostly advanced runs (almost all red and blacks, only a few blues, and even those blues all have parts that are quite steep). It wouldn't have been an issue 2 or 3 years ago so we didn't even think before choosing this location.

That said, it was still fun and we all got a good amount of skiing in. I came home about an hour early with Ivy (we are within walking distance of the main gondola). We're all exhausted now.

Eric and I found a boulangerie only 4 blocks away and it has amazing baguettes! So now we have a place to buy our bread for sandwiches. We're all set and might not to need the car at all this week, unless we go to a different resort in the valley. (All of the resorts in the Chamonix valley are part of the same ski pass.)
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Saturday, February 05, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 410: Ski vacation!

We made the 5-hour drive to Chamonix Mont Blanc with no issues, short of Ivy feeling carsick. But a piece of mint chewing gum saved the day and we made the whole drive with no stops and no puking. I think that is a Freeze Family First.

As soon as we got into our little apartment (1 bedroom for 6 people!), the kids headed out to play in the snow. We have 30 cm of snow in the forecast tomorrow night.

Eric and I had to drive into town to get groceries. We hope that we got everything we need for the entire week, short of bread. After a day of skiing, I am exhuasted and have zero desire to go shopping.

Here's to hoping for a week of fun and no trips to the emergency room. Last time we went skiing in Chamonix (2 years ago), Ivy hurt her knee the first morning, had to go to the ER, and couldn't ski the rest of the week. Which meant I couldn't ski either.
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Friday, February 04, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 408 & 409: Please don't die

So yesterday was way too exciting and not in a good way. While Eric was eating lunch, he started choking on a piece of meat. I had to do the Heimlich maneuver on him several times. During all of this I yelled at Dio to call 112 (equivalent of 911 here in France). Fortunately he was able to get it out quickly and I ended the phone call before I'd even reached someone.

But wow, the adrenaline afterwards was crazy!

And we've been super busy getting ready for SKIING! We leave tomorrow morning for a week of snow and sore legs and so much fun. We have bags of ski supplies littering the living room. Our goal is to leave no later than 10 am because we have a 5-hour drive ahead of us.

Zari had a huge history project on l'Alhambra: a written essay, a Powerpoint, and an oral presentation. She's been working on it all week, with lots of help from me, and finally turned everything in today.

We have 1/3 of the new subfloor laid. It's a dry leveling system, designed to level uneven floors and provide both thermal and acoustic insulation. You pour a row of lightweight granules, then you embed metal rails until they're level. Then you fill the whole floor with granules and use another metal rail to level them all smooth. Last, you place the interlocking fiber cement panels on the floor. Using a special glue and screws, the panels get screwed together and create a level subfloor. Pretty neat system.

I realized the video should say "Day 409" but it's already done.

I also did tons of breech-related work and I am so tired. I'm going to not worry about the rest of the packing until tomorrow morning.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 407: Les mains dans la chaux

I'm tired! I spent all morning mixing two big batches of lime mortar (chaux) in the cement mixer and then patching/leveling areas of the subfloor. I also did more cutting with the rainureuse.

Eric had to run buy me more chaux in the morning, so we left Ivy and Inga to their own devices. They both read Harry Potter all morning!

More soccer, more grocery shopping, more cooking (tomato bisque with mimolette demi-vieille & croutons). Quick Zoom meeting (breech-related) and then TONS of homework helping with the kids. Poor Dio didn't get back from soccer until after 9:30 pm, and then he had all sorts of homework. He looked like he was going to fall asleep while doing his Spanish.

I also was able to fit in a few GOLD Midwifery Conference presentations today.
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Tuesday, February 01, 2022

French apartment renovations, Day 406: Kitchen pickup day

8,671 steps

We finally got the last of our kitchen order in! Mainly cabinet drawers, doors, and facades. The trip to pick them up took most of the morning, so after lunch we started putting everything together. It's about 2/3 done now.

The doors are solid wood, painted in a color called "Chicago Vert." We still need to attach the door fronts to the washer & dishwasher (which isn't in place yet) and then put a divider between the two appliances. So close!

Oh and I still have to install the range hood. It's one of those sleek minimalist kinds that pull out from under the cabinets, like a drawer. Oh, and the drawer under the oven! Oh, and the handles (which I can't find anywhere).

We also got a big load of leveling granules and then had to carry everything up two flights of stairs.

Dio's school gave every student a set of home Covid tests. I really like how our city is so proactive.

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