Wednesday, May 31, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 694: Fabric!

During my afternoon soccer dropoff, Ivy and my MIL came with me to go to a big fabric store on the outskirts of town. We found everything for upholstering both daybeds, plus fabric for decorative pillows. It is going to be awesome and a little bit bold and crazy. Just a bit 🙂

This reminds me for that the longest time, Inga used to pronounce it "favric."

I have fabric cut out for the first daybed. There's just the slightest bit of stretch in one direction, so I'm trying to calculate how much to deduct so that it stays snug and doesn't start to sag.

I had two breech meetings today, worked on editing a paper, did some final updates on a new breech course, and coordinated translation updates for several languages. Never a lack of projects chez les Freezes!

Dio has a soccer game tomorrow, the first one he'll have played this entire season, I believe.

Ivy is sick again...she's had vomiting and diarrhea, then felt better, then bad headaches, then felt better, and now today sore lungs and a fever. But earlier today at soccer, she was 100%. Poor girl...there's nothing specific that would trigger going to a doctor but it's weird that it keeps coming and going, often in a 24-hour cycle of feeling ill and then feeling better.

We were going to look at a piano this evening, but it was sold earlier today. Eric is very disappointed because it was a beautiful old Bösendorfer.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 693: Shelves, sickness, warts

We were woken up at 3 am by a group of musicians (who practice in the building's basement) yelling in the hallway and banging doors. We families in the building have asked them many times to keep things quiet at night, since our bedroom windows all open into the hallway. So far it doesn't seem to have worked.

We hung up a very old (1734) shelf/coat hook thing that I found a while back on the classifieds. I think it must have belonged to a church and maybe was used for hanging up ceremonial clothing? If anyone else has a better explanation, please let me know!

I got a call from Ivy's school mid-day that she wasn't feeling well. Besides her two nights of vomiting, she's had ongoing diarrhea and headaches. I picked her up after lunch. We had an appointment to have her warts looked at anyway later in the afternoon (she has over 12 of them!). She got the liquid nitrogen treatment and said it wasn't nearly as bad as she was expecting.

Also a picture from our Sunday afternoon at the beach...and a random picture of Inga. Apparently she is planning on erasing the background and photoshopping herself onto a beach, as if she's sunbathing.
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Monday, May 29, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 692: Run work cook drill

I started off with a good morning run--half running, half sprint intervals. Then most of the day, I've been finishing a huge video editing project. I'm at the part now where I've edited, encoded, uploaded, cleaned up the captions, downloaded the caption files, put them back into the videos, and then uploaded almost everything to the course platform. Phew!

I also had a meeting with a research assistant (DNP candidate who's doing her thesis on some qualitative interviews of breech providers). I'm really impressed with her final project and think it can easily be submitted for publication.

I made creamy herbed pork chops for dinner plus a small salad of tomatoes and South African goat cheese (the last remnant of food that I had brought back with me). Inga cooked a 2-ingredient chocolate cake today made of dark chocolate and eggs. It turned out quite well, and she was very satisfied to do the whole thing by herself.

In the afternoon, Eric and his parents and Inga and Ivy went to the beach. I decided to stay home since I'd already gone running and was hoping to get this project finished.

I gave Dio a haircut tonight. He's looking great. Totally unbiased of course 🙂

I did a few small home improvement projects in Le Château--got the bathroom mirror hung up and the holes marked and pre-drilled for this amazing carved wooden coat hook dating back to 1734. I have to wait until tomorrow to drill the rest of the holes, which will go into the rock a bit.
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Sunday, May 28, 2023

French apartment renovations, Days 691: Rocky nights, rocky beaches

Ivy puked twice last night and twice the night before. But during the day she's been fine. She did stay home this morning to rest, though.

Inga's friend invited her to go to the rocky beaches past La Reserve on the far side of the port. We decided to all go. Eric went spearfishing around the point. I swam for about a half hour. The kids spent a long time looking at crabs on the rocks.

Tomorrow is another holiday. Pentecost, I think? They all run together and it seems that we never have a full week of school.
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Friday, May 26, 2023

French apartment renovations, Days 690: A swim & a movie

I worked intensely on breech projects until mid-afternoon. Then I took a much-needed break with Eric, his parents, and Inga at the beach. I read, I sunbathed just enough to feel a touch of sun on both sides, and then I swam. The water is a refreshing 18 C.

Eric has been quoting lines from Mars Attacks recently, so we had a family movie night after dinner. After it was over, Dio groaned and said, "I can't believe I wasted 2 hours of my life watching that!" It's so bad but that's a feature, not a bug.
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Thursday, May 25, 2023

French apartment renovations, Days 688-689: The (other) Freezes have arrived!

Eric's parents arrived this afternoon. We get 3 weeks with them--so lucky! They oohed and aahed over Le Château and I felt like a proud mama showing off her baby. Before they came, we managed to install the hand rail going up the stairs.

Also here are pictures of the new (to us) bed...

the desk with 2 fresh coats of shellac...

the chair, also with fresh shellac...

We ordered the quartz countertops and backsplashes today from a DIY place that cuts everything to order and then you install yourself. I've never installed solid countertops like quarts or granite, but I'm sure we can figure it out!

Honestly measuring precisely will probably have been the hardest part of the job. Installation seems easy--glue onto the plywood or walls and then fill the joints with matching silicone.

I went running this morning. My fitness tracker has started miscalculating distances--I know because I run the exact same route and now it's telling me it's a half mile longer! So now I can't trust it.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 687: Unremarkable day

I don't have much to report on...we did some little tasks in Le Chateau (putting up the side panels on the upper cabinets, installing the spotlights inside the glass-fronted cabinets, cutting and installing the cables on the railing, putting shellac on the old desk and chair).

Between that and breech stuff, that was my day.

Inga is feeling a bit sick but she made it through school. Middle school classes are cancelled due to the brevet, so Zari is the only one who has to wake up tomorrow.
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Monday, May 22, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 686: Cables and video editing

We did some small tasks in Le Chateau--measured and cut cables for the railing, cut a few things on our new (replacement) table saw. And guess what? The second time we turned the new saw on, it wouldn't start! It did the exact same thing that the first one did, only the first one had 2+ years of hard use.

I am beyond frustrated because we have a few things that need a table saw and we have waited so long for the replacement!

I did tons of video editing today (breech). I also went running and jumped into the sea at the end of my run. The water was invigorating (18C). Cool but after a long run, it felt great.

Zari had her big oral presentation about May 1968. She reported that it went quite well and is optimistic that she'll have a good grade.

Dio put an offer on a watch that he likes--we hope it's accepted!

Oh, we slept in Le Chateau for the first time last night! It's fun giving the apartment a test run.
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Sunday, May 21, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 685: Big fish

It rained on and off today, but it was mostly so light that I didn't even get wet. I had my usual walk to and from Cimiez in the morning, about 40 minutes each way.

On my way up with Ivy, we passed a municipal police band. On my way home, there was a gathering of people dressed in traditional Niçois clothing at one of the churches. There must be some festival/holiday today.

We had a relaxing afternoon reading, doing homework, listening to music. Eric's was a bit more exciting; he went spearfishing and came home with a very large fish.

I invited one of my friends over along with her two children, just to catch up a bit. It was fun to show off Le Chateau. She was there at the very beginning, helping to carry down hundreds of bags of rubble.

Dinner was 4 fish (a few from 2 days ago) and Tuscan butter gnocchi.

Dio is thinking of buying a watch with his birthday money. He's been going through Vinted and marking his favorites. He's trying to stay within his 20 Euro budget.
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Friday, May 19, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 684: Final day with our friends

It feels like our world-schooling friends just arrived, but it's already time for them to leave tomorrow for Turkey and then Sweden and then back home after a year of traveling.

The two Erics went spearfishing together this morning and the new-to-spearfishing-Eric caught one fish! My Eric caught two, including a barracuda.

I bought a bed frame from my favorite furniture consignment store and then picked up a load of groceries since I had the car.

The adults ate lunch together, and we had a big family dinner and crepe party. It's a great way to say goodbye to France!

We had a gentle rain most of the day, very much needed as we're in a drought. The river running underneath the coulee verte, the Paillon, has been dry for many weeks. Favorite joke of the day: "we are eating sau-SAGE-s" (as Inga's teacher pronounced it, much to her amusement).
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Thursday, May 18, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 683: Urban hike and Eric turns 49!!!

We went hiking with our friends in Le Chateau--an urban hike that starts right out our front door. We went along the Sentier Littoral, then up to Mont Boron.

We weren't in a particular hurry, so we let the kids stop at several points to explore. Their favorite activity was finding BBs and old buttons in the fortress moat. Ivy dug up an old bike fork.

We went to the beach at the end of the hike to look for sea glass. Unfortunately we had a relatively new layer of rocks, so all of the smaller pebbles and sea glass were covered up. But the kids still enjoyed their time. Zari and Ivy went back to get swimsuits on, and Ivy swam (no surprise). I had an impromptu nap because a wave of fatigue hit me and I decided not to fight it.

Eric was gone all day at Inga's soccer tournament. They did well but ended up in 3rd place. Inga scored 3 goals but missed many other opportunities, which frustrated her.

They came home in time for dinner. Zari and I went to buy Eric a birthday cake--no time to make one, due to hiking--and our two favorite places had nothing left, not even patisseries! So he had a dark chocolate mint cookie with a nub of leftover candle instead of a real cake.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

South Africa, day 11 & a long travel day home

I'm back home in Nice!

I had yesterday free before my late afternoon flight. I found a luggage storage service, went on a walking tour of Bo-Kaap and downtown (since I couldn't find a hiking buddy), wandered around downtown a bit more, and visited the National Gallery.

My flights were smooth--the first one was 11 hours and arrived in Frankfurt in the morning. Then one quick flight to Nice got me home by late morning. I went right into normal life again, shuttling kids to soccer and running errands in the between hours from dropoff to pickup.

Our friends downstairs in Le Chateau had a birthday party for their oldest (a few weeks younger than Dio), so we spent the evening eating and enjoying each other's company.

I'm tired! Very excited to sleep in a real bed tonight.
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Monday, May 15, 2023

South Africa, day 10: Another day of workshops in Cape Town

A big group (18 people) today. Fantastic day, many great questions, lots of laughter.

I got Sophie and Her Mum washed off and all packed for our big trip home tomorrow. I have much of the day free, so I'm going to store my bags and do some exploring. Maybe hiking, maybe wandering around the city center and seeing some museums.
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Sunday, May 14, 2023

South Africa, day 9: Cape Town workshop

First day of workshops done, another day to go! What a great group of attendees. We had people from as far away as Germany, although most were local to Cape Town and surrounding areas.

We trained at Mowbray Maternity Hospital, a huge tertiary hospital that's entirely dedicated to maternity care. It does around 1,000 births per month. As with many other public hospitals, it's showing its age. It's not fancy but that's not the goal of public hospitals.

I was invited to dinner afterwards, so it's now late and close to bedtime.
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Saturday, May 13, 2023

South Africa, day 8: Hello Cape Town!

I love it here! I never got a good feel for Johannesburg; I was in one part of the suburbs for the conference and another suburb for the workshop and never anywhere near the city center.

But I am staying in the heart of Cape Town (Bo-Kaap) and loving it. It's such a beautiful city and a relief to be able to walk around (within reason--during the day.)

I arrived about 3:30 pm and got my things settled. My first trip was to buy groceries for the next several days. Then I took a nice walk around downtown, to the Parliament building and through the big gardens nearby.

I must really stick out since I had several people asking me for money and harassing me when I didn't give them something. For one of them I just pretended I didn't speak English and I only spoke back to in French. I'm not sure what the best thing to do is here for panhandlers because they are so darn persistent!

I ran into a group of French tourists in the gardens and listened in for a few minutes before chatting with one of them.

I REALLY want to go hiking! Look at Table Mountain in the background. It's calling to me.

The only problem is that my free "day" is not entirely free--I fly out in the late afternoon and I have my luggage with me after my 10 am checkout. But maybe someone at the workshop also likes hiking and would want to do something with me.

I went out to dinner with three wonderful midwives, all attending tomorrow. Great conversation and delicious food. It's been a great day overall.

Well, I have just a few short minutes left before we lose power and internet. Early start tomorrow so it's probably good that the lights are going off.
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Friday, May 12, 2023

South Africa, day 7: Johannesburg workshop

We met at the Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital for our training today. We had 9 people, which allowed for us to stay together rather than breaking into groups. I also gave a mini breech workshop to an obstetrician who stopped by during the lunch break. He had attended my lecture at yesterday's symposium and was absolutely fascinated with upright breech.

I'm back home, Sophie and Her Mum are showered off, and I'm getting ready for bed. Tomorrow I travel to Cape Town. I won't have internet there during loadshedding (boo...) so I will need to find a SIM card for my phone.
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Thursday, May 11, 2023

South Africa, day 6: Keynote Address

I was up by 6 am (easy to do, since I went to bed a bit after 9 pm!). I practiced my presentation and timed it at 25 minutes exactly. Right on target!

I think it went very well--the audience reactions indicated they were engaged. And when I showed a few breech birth videos at the end, they were captivated. I think we may have some significant movement in breech training in South Africa by 2024.

The big challenge will be securing funding, as the local economy will not allow most places to pay USD prices for our training. But with some persistence, I hope we can write grants and find private foundations willing to support this effort.

I don't have any interesting pictures from today, unfortunately!

I came home to an apartment with electricity. Wow! It's going off in 20 minutes and I will likely go to bed soon after.

I managed a decent dinner: grilled haloumi cheese, a croissant with parmesan & cured ham, half an avocado with salt & pepper, and a handful of pistachios. And of course some 85% dark chocolate!
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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

South Africa, day 5: Conferencing

I'm attending the Sensitive Midwifery Symposium and today was just a day for me to sit and listen. It was interesting to hear people speak of the challenges they face in this health care system:
  • Massive understaffing in the public hospitals and overall shortages of midwives
  • Midwives are undertrained when they graduate (they have to train as nurses and get a midwifery focus within their midwifery degree, which often leaves them inadequately prepared to actually be a midwife)
  • C-section rates as high as 90% in some private hospitals
  • Overcrowding in public hospitals--one large maternity hospital here was built 80 years ago to serve 100,000 people. It has never been updated and it now serves 2 million people. It doesn't have hot water. This is the 2nd busiest maternity hospital in the country with 1,200 births per month! Women are spending days sleeping on the floor, or on a hard plastic chair, due to lack of beds.
I'm super tired and it's only 8 pm! I'm forcing myself to stay awake a bit longer.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2023

South Africa, day 4: Travel to Johannesburg

That's about as exciting as my day got. Drive to the airport on dirt roads and then paved roads, wait for my flight, fly, wait for my luggage, wait for an Uber, check into my airbnb (in the dark due to loadshedding), and scrounge up a dinner with whatever food scraps I had left in my backpack.

My host advised me not to walk by myself in this area. "Nothing has ever happened with my guests...but I would advise against it." I haven't had time to get a SIM card so I can reserve an Uber to go somewhere but not necessarily to get back home! I'm in a catch-22 because to get a SIM card I'd have to take an Uber and what if I get stranded?

I will be going to a conference the next two days. Tomorrow is just listening to speakers. The next morning I'm a keynote speaker so that will be fun. I only have 20-25 minutes so I have to be sure my presentation is on time.

The power is going to go out again in 40 minutes. Fortunately, the wifi here is on a system that keeps going during the power cuts!
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Monday, May 08, 2023

South Africa, days 2-3

Internet was down yesterday even once the loadshedding ended. Power is about to go out again so this has to be brief.

Picture of my walk yesterday and of the dubious street signs lining the main boulevard in East London. Who knew you could buy safe abortion pills, find your lost love, and enhance your penis FROM THE SAME PERSON? Not me!

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Saturday, May 06, 2023

South Africa, day 1: 3 flights, 1 drive, and 4 hours of loadshedding

It's been radio silence for a few days...first I got sick and was down with a fever and chills for a day. Then I was recovering and packing for South Africa. Then I was on 3 airplanes getting all the way down to East London and then on a car ride to a verrrrry rural village near the coast.

The long flight (11 hours) was overnight but the upside was that we are in the same time zone. I'm so glad I don't have to deal with jet lag on top of being tired from not sleeping much!

My host is a local midwife who runs a free birth center in this little rural village, far away from any touristy areas. It's about a mile from the coast. The last 30-45 minutes were on rough dirt and gravel roads. You have to creep along in parts due to all of the divots and potholes.

The drive from East London out to this village was beautiful and different from any landscapes I've been to. It has a feeling of vast, immense spaces with what I would call rolling hills, only they're much bigger than that. The little villages we passed are smatterings of houses, but not with any discernable layout or city center. Just houses placed here and there. Some are made from concrete, stucco, and tiles; others are made of tin with corrugated metal roofs.

We stopped at a little food/convenience store that she started up at the beginning of the dirt road, run by locals from the nearby village. We bought egg & bacon roosterkoek (a kind of sandwich).

I didn't venture out today since I got in at 3 pm and wanted to take it easy.
I'm staying in an adorable cottage with a boat/beach vibe. It feels inviting and well-loved and all the eclectic elements work so beautifully together. The back deck has a lovely view of the river valley leading out to the ocean.

It's fall here, but it's still a little warmer than Nice. But it gets dark early, which I had forgotten about until I was a few hours into the daily loadshedding (rolling power blackouts). The one here lasted from 3-7 pm. We lit candles and oil lamps during the last hour once it was truly dark.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 682:

Super busy day...getting ready for my trip to South Africa, getting more things done in the apartment, going on a hike with friends up to Eze along Nietzche's Walk, shuttling kids to soccer, doing more breech work. I'm tired so that's all you get!

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Tuesday, May 02, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 681: Back to school, apartment ping pong, sun & sea, webinar

It's hard going back to school after more than 2 weeks off. Inga's morning classes were all cancelled. She and the friend her age went to the coulee verte and then to the "I love Nice" sign at the end of the beach.

I cut about 10" off my hair and bundled it in pigtails, adding to the collection of Inga's and Ivy's hair. I need to look into selling/donating it.

I got my visa application off today, only to find out that I need to translate our salary documents and bank statements with an official translator (they've never required this in past years...ugh).

We three women went to the beach in the afternoon. I optimistically brought my swimsuit, just in case...and it was perfect. We basked in the sun until we were good and hot, then we plunged into the water. It wasn't nearly as cold as I was expecting, and there was a warm layer about 15 cm deep on the top. We stayed in for at least 20 minutes. Eric joined us at the very end.

We haven't gone to the beach for far too long. I'm feeling a bit giddy about having time for fun things like that.

The kids had the idea of playing ping pong on the dining room table, only they had a tennis ball and one paddle. I sent Zari, Dio, and our friends' two kids to the sports store to buy paddles and ping pong balls. I told them, "You are authorized to buy a croissant or pain au chocolat for everyone on the way home." When they came back, they said some what guiltily, "Well, we didn't buy croissants...but don't worry, the pastries weren't too expensive!"

We ended swapping kids/apartments because our friend had a Zoom meeting at 6 pm and I had one at 7. It worked great being able to send the kids up or down as needed. There was a rousing game of ping pong in Le Chateau while I had a webinar upstairs (for Israeli birth workers, about "Why breech birth is important and how it works.")

We had to separate our kids from their friends at's going to be awesome having them downstairs for almost a month.

We finished off the day by bringing down some birthday champagne that our renter gave me.
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Monday, May 01, 2023

French apartment renovations, Day 680: A much-awaited reunion

Our friends, who we haven't seen for more than 3 years, arrived later than planned due to a cancelled flight from Barcelona that turned into a long bus ride. They arrived late afternoon versus early morning. Eric was out spearfishing--we were expecting them more in the evening--so I picked them up from the airport, where their bus had dropped them off.

We go way back--both families started at the university at the same year. We shared the same birth pool back and forth for our children, and we had ours just a few weeks or months apart. We used to do things together weekly until our kids got bigger and life got busier.

They are on sabbatical this year and "world schooling." This will be the 12th country they have visited over the past 10 months.

Our kids were so excited to see them--their two children are the same ages as Inga and Dio.

There was much talking and running and playing games and general excitement. While we were prepping dinner, we sent the kids out to walk to the sea and see a few sights. It's also super fun because we have the new apartment mostly ready and our kids want to hang out there all the time. "I want to live here!" Dio said.

Dinner was 4 fish (caught by Eric) in a delicious cherry tomato, zucchini, lemon, and olive oil sauce, served over rice; yogurt with orange marmalade; and spinach & ricotta tart.

School starts back up again tomorrow after a long break.
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