Sunday, April 30, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 679: Rainy visits, lots of prep

It rained all day, foiling our plans to visit Cimiez (Roman arena, Matisse museum, monastery and gardens). Instead, I brought my friend to the nearby Palais Lascaris and the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate. We happened to visit the cathedral during mass, right as a choir was singing. I love that there is so much beauty here.

We did lots of little things to prep the apartment: hung up mirrors, installed toilet paper holders and towel bars, hung up a temporary curtain for the downstairs toilet room, finished installing the last light bulbs in the chandelier. The most exciting thing....taking down the scaffolding!

We ran the dishwasher for the first time this evening. It works! There's always that sense of dread when you turn on an appliance or light switch for the first time. If it doesn't work, then you know something very bad has happened.

Our other friends arrive early tomorrow morning; they'll be staying for nearly a month. My friend is coming back up to our apartment for another 5 days. It's visitor season!

We need ideas for what to name this new apartment. We're starting to settle on Le Château since a) we live near something of the same name and b) it has elements that would be found in a chateau, such as the Renaissance ceiling. But we're still open to other ideas. If nothing else better comes along soon, we will be the proud owners of Le Catamaran and Le Château.
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Saturday, April 29, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 678: Very late Christmas present 60 meters above the ground

Two Christmases ago, my parents gifted us a visit to an "accrobranche" place--ropes course & ziplines. We finally found a time to do it!

There were four levels of difficulty and the kids chose the hardest one. This went as high as 60 m (196 feet) above the ground, climbing up cliff faces, ziplining over 330 meters, jumping off platforms, and walking along the top branches of old-growth trees.

100% worth the money. I definitely have no fear of heights when I have safety equipment--good to discover. I haven't done this sort of thing before.

With Inga's shorter hair, she looks even more like Ada Hegerberg, her favorite soccer player. She took these pictures today and sent them to Ada. She's really hoping she gets a response!

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Friday, April 28, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 677: Ikea

My friend and I (and Ivy!) headed to Ikea in the afternoon for a mega shopping trip--basically everything needed to furnish the apartment, from sheets and pillows, to towels and toilet paper holders, to dishes and cooking pots. We came home many hours later and many Euros lighter.

It took so long that we had to buy Ivy food twice. "I'm starving!"

We also made a quick stop at the home improvement store for a few items we couldn't find at Ikea.

I've been working on my visa renewal, ugh.

Anyway it's way past midnight and I really should sleep.
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Thursday, April 27, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 676: Two birthday celebrations, the return of the campers, and our first official guest

So much going on today! It's late so here are the highlights:
  • birthday lunch with Ivy and my friend
  • thrift store shopping for clothes with Ivy and my friend--we all found something fun
  • the campers came back this evening--tired, sunburned, and very glad to be in a warm bed instead of freezing in a tent
  • we celebrated Dio's birthday today, opened presents, and had 7 different patisseries instead of a big cake (from a local store called Lac...mmm....)
  • the plumber did his final visit and connected the kitchen and bathroom sinks and got the water heater going
  • my friend officially moved downstairs to the apartment and is our very first guest!!

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 675: Happy (absentee) birthday Dio!

Dio is camping so his birthday doesn't really feel like a birthday. He'll be back tomorrow evening so we'll celebrate a bit late. I was able to talk to him briefly this evening. Apparently everyone at the camp was too cold at night. Eric went to a nearby supermarket and bought a few extra blankets. I hope our kids are warmer tonight!

Lots of cleaning and organizing this morning, getting ready for my friend to arrive. Ivy worked on building her cardboard fort.

She had soccer practice mid-day. I ran a few errands during her practice (lightbulbs primarily). She had a friend over in the afternoon and they made several additions to the "Chateau Freeze." It now has windows with handles, skylights, safes, and other fun features.

My friend arrived mid-afternoon. Once she got settled in, showered, and changed, I gave her a tour of the Communist apartment that she'll be staying in starting tomorrow (once the plumber comes for the final hookups). Then we took a walk around the port and enjoyed the perfect spring weather.

I made chicken with mustard cream sauce (French bistro classic, sometimes made with rabbit), green beans, and for dessert fromage blanc topped with my mom's bitter orange marmalade. Mmmm....

After dinner we put light bulbs in the new chandeliers. I bought two different kinds, and we settled on the smart bulbs because we can choose the perfect color as well as dim or brighten the lights. I only bought enough for one chandelier, so tomorrow I'll need to go back and buy more.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 674:

Ugh, I wrote a whole journal entry and then my computer crashed and lost it all. Highlights of the day:

  • Campers left late this morning
  • Inga and Ivy decided to cut their hair. They kept exclaiming, "This feels like it's a dream!"
  • Our two chandeliers for the living room arrived today, all 100+ kg on a big pallet. Ivy helped me install them. Now I need to buy 14 light bulbs!
  • My friend arrives tomorrow, the one I visited in Salt Lake City last October. I'm so excited!

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Monday, April 24, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 673: Camping prep

Zari, Dio, and Inga are going camping for a few days with a youth group and Eric was invited to chaperone. Our house has been turned upside-down as we've been packing. Eric and the kids had to make a big trip to Decathlon because we had zero camping equipment.

I had a busy day doing all sorts of things--breech, household, and of course renovations. We got the couch set up, the table & chairs in place, the scaffolding back on the floor, the shower door installed and caulked, and the staircase posts installed. It really looks like a home now!

We finally got our replacement table saw today! We have one little job that we need it for, and then I'm not sure what we're going to do with it. We have at least two more packages coming tomorrow--one is supposed to be the glass table topper for the dining room table. The other I'm not sure. It might be our chandeliers that we ordered about a month ago. Or something else?
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Sunday, April 23, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 670-672: Fancy dinners and too much noise

I haven't skipped two days of journaling since the start of the pandemic. I forgot the first night, and last night we didn't get in until after midnight.

We had a fancy dinner at the Palais de la Méditerranée last night to celebrate Cavigal's 80th anniversary. I didn't realize how many sports are done through Cavigal--they are probably best known for football (soccer) but do lots of other sports, too.

There were about 500 people in attendance and, true to French character, there were MANY MANY speeches. So many speeches. Our invitation said to come at 6:30 pm and we weren't served the first course until 9:45 pm! When we first arrived, there was an aperitif, mostly classic Niçois foods in miniature (pan bagnat, pissaladière, tomato tart, tarte aux blettes, tuna sandwiches, olives, lamb skewers, tapenade, smoked salmon sandwiches, etc.).

The natives were certainly restless by time dinner was served. It was decent, especially given they were serving it to 500 people:
  • Appetizer (entrée): roasted eggplant topped with hummus, roasted bell peppers, brussels sprouts, radishes, and olives
  • Main dish (plat principal): Loup (sea bass) with roasted vegetables, cherry tomatoes stuffed with tapenade, and olive polenta
  • Dessert: Dôme passion (almond cake, passionfruit curd, mango filling, all covered in a coconut mousse)

By 11 pm I was ready to sleep, but we had just barely gotten the main dish. And it was SO LOUD. There was music playing when people weren't speechifying, and then they had an auction and a raffle drawing. The volume kept increasing until it was beyond just loud and into painful levels.

We were one of the first to leave at 11:45 pm. Then I had stress dreams and woke up more than once to dreams of bedbug infestations and huge holes opening up in our US house due to carpenter bees. (My brain is so weird.)

Today was much more relaxed. We all went to the beach to lie in the sun, only it started getting hazy and then overcast when we arrived. Still, we had a good half hour or so. Eric went spear fishing and was disappointed that he didn't catch anything. One of the big elastics on his harpoon broke early on and the remaining elastic didn't have enough power to spear anything.

Yesterday we cleared everything out of the entire downstairs area and put it all into the step-down kitchen. Then we did a light sanding and put one more coat of finish on. There were several spots that had gotten damaged or finish splashed on them, and it was best just to redo the whole thing.

Anyway I'm begging Zari and Dio to go to bed so I can go to bed. So far it's not working.

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Thursday, April 20, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 669: The big push

Busy day...our couch and 3 mirrors arrived this morning. Right now they're all in a jumble in the dining area. We got all of the handles put on, cut the holes for the sink and cooktop, sanded and put 3 coats of polyurethane on the plywood countertop, attached the closet door, painted lots of stuff (pieces for a daybed, extra pieces of trim).

I have a friend arriving on Tuesday next week so it's the big push to get as much done as possible. And then a week later more friends arrive, staying for almost a month.

I made sure to go running, despite everything else I had going on. I've also been editing a paper on twin home birth. I'll have to dedicate most of tomorrow to finish the edits before we meet to discuss it.

Ivy and Inga are loving their soccer camp. They are now very tan from being outside all day!

Eric got 3 tickets to the OGC Nice quarterfinal game. Ivy and Inga got to come along. They're currently in overtime and won't be home for a while still. (It's almost midnight.)
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Wednesday, April 19, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 668: 45!

My birthday falls on ignominious dates (the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing), historically significant dates (American Revolution begins in Lexington, MA in 1775 with the "shot heard round the world"), and quirky dates (Bicycle Day 1943, when chemist Albert Hofmann tested LSD for the first time).

My day was mundane in comparison. I split my time between breech tasks and home renovations--as usual. However, I did get all fancy for two hours so Eric and I could go out for lunch. We tried a new restaurant and it was underwhelming. Basic flavors but not much more.

Our cooktop and mezzanine railing arrived today. We attached the countertops to the base cabinets and got the pantry wall in place (a small closet to the left of the fridge). We did more painting and cleanup with Zari and Dio's help.

I ran 5.6 km of errands this morning on foot: two paint stores and then the antique consignment store. I found 3 mirrors for the apartment that will be delivered with the couch tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 667: Exercise, cupboard doors & drawers, horror films

Enough neglecting my physical fitness. I decided to make it a priority after a few months of intense renovations. I went on my usual 5 km run and it was great.

I was up early--too early--but decided to use that time to get a lot of breech work done.

Inga and Ivy have a soccer camp this week, and they've been loving it. We've used our slave labor (aka Zari and Dio) and they've been enormously helpful. Today they brought several loads of cardboard and garbage to the trash station. They also unpacked our appliances, helped us move them, took off stickers, cleaned off adhesive residue, and helped put a few doors up.

I got the sink cutout marked and the corner holes drilled. We'll cut it out tomorrow with a router.

After dinner, Ivy and I ran some errands to buy L-brackets and a birthday cake for tomorrow. She also helped me with painting. Then, right when it was bed time, the girls decided to film a horror movie. (Dio and Eric are still gone playing soccer). I let them stay up late since they were having so much fun.

We have lots of fun deliveries arriving this week and next: induction cooktop, mezzanine railing, chandeliers, table saw, and couch.
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Monday, April 17, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 666: Waiting in purgatory

Today was largely dedicated to two big shopping trips: Leroy Merlin (home improvement store) and Ikea.

I had to get some big pieces of plywood cut, and that alone took an hour waiting in line. I was only 4th in line, but there was just one person at the cutting desk. He was in charge of taking the orders, calculating the price, entering them into the computer, disappearing somewhere into the nether regions of the store to cut the wood, and then coming back with the cut pieces. So each person took about 15 minutes to serve.

I also had various items to hunt down in the store, some of which I wasn't able to find.

Then I had to go to Ikea to return some items and buy others. I had to wait in several different lines. I even bought some Ikea food during one on my waits!

We had to re-set the bottom cupboards to have them make a perfect square along the "L." It helped to have the big plywood pieces as a reference point.

The plywood will be a temporary countertop since the ones we're ordering may take 4-6 weeks. I'm going to put the floor finish on the counters and it should work nicely. Then we will attach the new countertops (probably granite or quartz) right on top of the plywood! It's the best way to install stone counters--much more stable than just placing the stone right on top of the cupboards.

I had a number of breech-related things going on today, too. I can't get everything done that I want to, and my to-do list grows more quickly than it shrinks. I've also been neglecting my fitness the past few months. I enjoy everything I'm doing--I just wish I could feel like I'm "done" with something!
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Sunday, April 16, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 665: Purse to order

Ivy had a birthday party today, and her soccer tournament yesterday took so long that we ran out of time to shop for a present. She was very stressed about it last night. I told her, "Don't worry! I'm sure we can come up with something."

We brainstormed and came up with the idea of making a purse out of fabric.

This morning I pulled out our fabric box and googled some pattern ideas. I sent the family off to church and stayed home to sew...and sew...Right before they came home at lunchtime, it was done!

Since I had my sewing things out, I added a few more badges and other things I have collected from my travels over the past several months.

Inga had a soccer tournament--no rest for her!--and Eric went to watch her for most of the afternoon. Ivy went to a birthday party. I had some down time with Zari and Dio, and then we took a walk in the sun around the port and back.

Dio was inspired by some friends of mine, whose girls baked and sold cookies to the public. He is determined to have a go at it during these next two weeks of spring break. We talked about ideas for selling (pricing, marketing strategies, etc.). He baked his first batch when we got home.

We watched the movie Oxygène, which was really fun. Then one short episode of The Mandalorian. It's lost of some its momentum, but baby Yoda is just so cute we can't stop watching.
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Saturday, April 15, 2023

French apartment renovations, Days 663-664

Yesterday was super busy getting cupboards installed and catching up on emails. 

Today was a soccer marathon, especially for Eric and Ivy. She had an all-day tournament in Nice. Eric went for the first half of the day, and I switched off at lunchtime, bringing Inga with me and handing the car off to Eric for Inga's game in Mouans-Sartoux.

The forecast said it would be very nice, so I dressed in a light jacket. Ivy and I basked in the full sun (between her games) and I even took off my jacket.

Then dark clouds rolled in...a half hour later, the rain started. And kept going and going...Ivy's team played 3 more games in the rain. We parents were huddling under whatever shelter we could fine.

Meanwhile Inga's game got so much hail that the field turned white and they had to stop playing for a while.

I was NOT dressed for the weather and was hugging myself and jumping up and down to stay warm.

We got home around 4:30 pm, very cold and wet. I took a hot shower and still couldn't warm up. I finally took a third shower late tonight and feel ok now.
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Thursday, April 13, 2023

Greece Day 7 and back home in Nice

Not much to write--had a full day traveling home from Athens to Nice. And really bumpy flights, which I don't like. But I'm home, mostly unpacked, and ready to sleep in my comfortable bed.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Greece Day 6: Athens!

Wow, an amazing day with an oversold workshop. This group was LIVELY. Most of them knew each other and the discussions were flying back and forth, sometimes in English and sometimes in Greek.

We had a 7-month old baby attending and she was a delight. I miss having a little "mini me" in a baby carrier.

I'm now totally exhausted and am pretending that my outrageously full email inbox doesn't exist...I went through many emails already but the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Greece Day 5: Arrival in Athens

I was up too early to catch a flight to Athens. We spent a few hours at the venue getting things set up, and then we had a late (and delicious!) lunch.

I'm staying with one of the midwives who helped organize the workshop. She had errands to run, so I had the late afternoon and evening in a quiet house. I did more taxes (yay) and attended a breech live session. I also had a lovely nap on the couch after lunch. I hope I can get to sleep tonight!
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Monday, April 10, 2023

Greece Day 4: Hermit

Besides a brisk walk this morning along the sea, I've been holed up all day doing taxes. SO MUCH FUN.

Pictures from the thermal hot springs yesterday with my midwife friend and her boyfriend. And one picture of me teaching 🙂

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Sunday, April 09, 2023

Greece Day 3: In hot water again

I worked on taxes most of the morning, and during my breaks I worked on video editing. Around noon I got a call from one of the midwives who attended the workshop yesterday: "Do you want to visit the thermal springs at Pozar?" Yes, please!

The drive took about 90 minutes. I was surprised to see snow-capped mountains looming closer as we drove further inland. Very impressive! We drove into the foothills and had lunch at a tavern near the hot springs--all amazing food.

We shared 4 appetizers and 2 main dishes among the 3 of us. We had an arugula, pear, & fig salad; smoked cheese covered with toasted almonds and served with raspberry preserves; roasted mushrooms (something that looked like chanterelles?); yellow lentil puree with roasted bell peppers and capers; plus two main dishes with lamb and pork. And dessert, which we weren't expecting! It was similar to tarimasu but also had a layer of crème pâtissière on the bottom layer.

Then the hot springs at Pozar. There are 3 outdoors pools, each of which we spent some time in. The first was an Olympic sized swimming pool. The second pool we went in had some waterfalls going into it and a sandy bottom; that pool was milky white due to the sand being constantly agitated. The third pool (my favorite) was made of rocks with clear water.

It was cool outside and it started sprinkling towards the end. The water was pleasantly warm, just enough to stay comfortable. I could have used a few degrees warmer given how cool the air was. But then, I'm always cold!

It was magical to be outside in the mountain forest, next to an icy cold river, and sit in a hot pool of water, steam rising. For a few hours we just soaked and floated. Some talking but mostly quiet. (The river itself made plenty of noise as it had several waterfalls next to the pools.)

I didn't take any pictures so I pulled one off the internet. This was the 2nd pool we swam in.

Tomorrow will be a quiet workday--mostly taxes--interspersed by some walks along the sea if the weather cooperates. I was so thankful to be able to see something beautiful during my time here in Greece!
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Saturday, April 08, 2023

Greece Day 2: A cold start and a hot finish: A cold start and a hot finish

I woke up waaaay too early (it's an hour later here in Greece) and was looking forward to a nice hot shower before going to work. But nooooooo! There was no hot water! I tried in the kitchen, the bathroom sink, the shower. All ice cold. Also the radiators were all cold.

I had to improvise by boiling a kettle of water, diluting it with some cold water, and then pouring it over myself while shivering in the cold bathroom. After that very brief "shower"--it doesn't even deserve that name--off to work I went.

I sent a message to the airbnb host and he said he'd fix it while I was away.

I was already cold and by mid-morning my fingers were numb and white. (It happens from time to time--Reynauld's syndrome). I was shivering as I was teaching. We finally figured out how to get the heat working but I couldn't warm up.

It was a great day teaching a small group, which meant we had a lot of hands-on time per person and we didn't have to break into groups.

Midwives here in Greece face so many challenges; their profession isn't respected and isn't given the autonomy it deserves. In general, obstetricians have very little exposure to vaginal birth since the C-section rate is so high (officially around 66% but in many hospitals it can be 80-90%). I heard so many horror stories about things done routinely during vaginal births--the few that manage to happen before surgery can be done: routine episiotomy, Pitocin, Kristeller (fundal pressure)...ugh. Evidence doesn't seem to matter; authority does.

Midwives report coming out of their university training with a lot of theoretical knowledge but very little practical knowledge, and much of what they have been taught does not align with what actually happens at births.

One of the attendees drove me to a nearby grocery store after the workshop and then home to my airbnb, which was very helpful because I was also carting around two suitcases with all my equipment. I made myself a simple dinner, talked to the family, and settled down for a nice hot shower...only to find it only worked for two minutes and then went totally cold!

So I had to call the airbnb host again. He came over, called a repair person, and then they spent the next 45 minutes fixing whatever needed fixing. Then I FINALLY took a hot bath and read a totally non-serious brain candy book until I was sweating.
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Friday, April 07, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 662 (Greece Day 1): It's all Greek, all week

I'm teaching in Thessaloniki and Athens. It's hard to leave after just returning from Poland. But it will be another short trip.

Our kitchen cupboards arrived this morning. Eric now has the gargantuan task of assembling them all. The plumber installed almost everything today and will be back next week for the rest, except the kitchen sink.

Not much else to report, other than I'm hungry! I brought some food with me for the airplane rides but it wasn't enough and now it's too late to get anything.
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Thursday, April 06, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 661: Catching up

I've been awake since 4:45 am. Stress and to-do lists keeping me awake when I should be asleep.

I've been catching up on emails and working on taxes all day. It's bizarre not to be working on the apartment.

We had *yet another* AC person come since the 2nd person we hired left mid-job and won't return our messages. What is up?!?

Zari had another knee appointment with a new specialist--much better than the last one, apparently. She's scheduled for an MRI on Saturday. The specialist isn't sure if there's ligament damage or other injuries so an MRI it is. She also has been prescribed lots of physical therapy.

I can't believe I'm teaching again so soon after just getting back from Poland!
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Wednesday, April 05, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 660: Toilet and shower

Our plumber came this morning and got the shower faucet and one of the toilets installed. He'll be back on Friday for the other things, everything but the kitchen sink.

Still catching up on my inbox...and I will probably still be catching up when my next teaching assignment starts on Friday!

I found a lovely L-shaped couch at my favorite 2nd-hand store. It's purchased and awaiting delivery in about 7-10 days. I also ordered all of the kitchen appliances from Darty 2nd Vie (meaning ones that are new but have been returned or have minor cosmetic defaults). This lets us get very nice appliances for a very good price.

I ran all sorts of errands today...13,532 steps. Mostly on foot and some in the car. I went as far as Carros to return some countertops, then made a quick stop at Leroy Merlin for a sink stopper and an even quicker stop at the big secondhand store near Dio's soccer field.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 659: Back in business

I got in yesterday evening from Wrocław, Poland, totally exhausted. Teaching 3 days in a row is a feat. On top of that, I slept poorly due to constant traffic noise and trams that came every 5-10 minutes, rattling the entire building. And my "bed" was a couch! When the listing said 2 bedrooms, I didn't even think that there would be anything other than a real bed in the bedrooms.

But that's ok, it's over with and I'm back home and have a soft bed in a quiet bedroom.

I'm still catching up on emails and life in general. We also had a busy day getting our shower door delivered, ordering our entire kitchen at Ikea (arrives on Friday!!), and getting ready for the plumbers tomorrow.

It's so nice to be back and have children and a husband to snuggle, to have a full (sometimes loud) house. Also messy at times but we've had to live with that during this busy renovating period.

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Sunday, April 02, 2023

Wroclaw, Day 4: Last day of teaching

3 days of teaching in a row, 10 hours per day, and I am worn out!

Plus I've been waking up as early as 4:45 am most mornings due to the noise outside, and having problems falling asleep.

We had an excellent group today--half from Poland, half from Hungary, and one from Germany. Such amazing energy and passion. All but one were OBs, similar to the other two days with just a few midwives total.

One of the little tips I give students is to hum "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." It reminds them that the baby is always watching the rainbow (sacrum) when they do the Side to Side maneuver. Yesterday evening, an attendee took this picture as she was leaving the workshop hotel. Very appropriate.

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Saturday, April 01, 2023

Wroclaw, Days 2-3: Teach, sleep, teach

Two days of teaching down, one to go!

On the first day, I had Paul Golden assisting all day and Laura Solatero for the last part of the afternoon. Today both were helping, which was such a luxury. One of them led the activity stations while the other helped run the Sophie. I let them push Sophie out as much as they wanted--it's a great learning opportunity to feel breech birth from the inside.

Last night we got home, bought a few things to eat at the grocery store next door, and crashed shortly thereafter. Tonight the three of us went out to eat at a Polish restaurant. I had sour rye soup and mushroom pierogi.

Our airbnb is right off a busy street and tramway. I thought it would be calmer in the Old Town but this Old Town has wide, busy streets! Not at all like Old Nice. Every time the tram passes by, it shakes the building and makes it difficult to sleep. The first night in particular was very rough.

But that's okay. Somehow I can always find the energy for teaching.

Today was all obstetricians except for one midwife and one student midwife. Once again, we had a wonderful group with thoughtful comments and questions and strong desire to offer this choice to women, despite a generally hostile environment towards vaginal breech.
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