Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy 17th birthday Zari!!

These birthday posts are always bittersweet and nostalgic. Zari's birth seems simultaneously like it just happened, but also as if I can barely remember it.

Halloween was freezing...literally! It was snowing when we went out the door to take pictures. We put on as many layers as our costumes would allow but still came home with numb noses and fingers.

Zari = The Darkling / The Black Heretic / General Kirigan

Dio = Kaz Brekker

Inga = Inej Ghafa

Ivy = Toothless (from "How To Train Your Dragon")

Ivy's costume was the only recycled one; I made it for Dio several years ago. The rest were Freeze Family Originals from Shadow and Bone! Except for the decorative elements, all materials were thrifted or repurposed. Most I found during the $0.75 sale and a few I had to custom order (Zari's black tunic sweater, Dio's black button-down shirt) from secondand clothing sites. Inga's overcoat was made from a tablecloth.

Zari and Dio begged me for a ride to school this morning. I relented because Zari wanted to wear her costume to school, and biking with her long wool coat would have been tricky. We're still driving around on our spare tire as we wait for the new tires to arrive.

After trick-or-treating, we came back and had a delicious birthday dinner cooked by Eric, then birthday cake made by me. Zari was a bit puzzled why I made a cat flag (from "Our Flag Means Death") but I think it made more sense when she opened her presents and saw a custom hand-printed t-shirt, made by a friend of our family's. She also got two nice shirts from Eric and a jeweler's loupe from my mom. I have a few more presents for her on the way, somewhere in the postal system.

We had time to watch one episode of Star Trek and then measure all of the kids. Zari has only grown 1/8" since last year. She is officially done growing. The other kids are still going up up up!

And if that weren't enough for one day, Dio shaved for the first time today! He had a good amount of long moustache fuzz so he asked Eric to show him how to shave. STOP GROWING UP SO FAST!

If you want to go waaaay back and read Zari's birth story, it's here: https://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2006/11/birth-story.html. Be warned that you will see a (gorgeous IMO) post-birth picture!
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Monday, October 30, 2023

I had lots of energy during my work day (drop off Ivy, exercise, walk a few hours while working). Once Ivy came home, it dissipated. We spent a lot of time snuggling on my bed under the covers. I was reading, she was working on homework.

I had some extra spinach & ricotta cheese tart left in the freezer, so that turned into dinner, along with pan-seared broccoli and homemade flat bread. I had bread dough rising, so I just took some off, rolled it very thin, and put it on a hot pan. Voila! Flat bread!

We're going to have a frigid Halloween. Ivy and Inga are wearing their costumes to school. Inga can't bring her (butter) knives so she's going to put pens and pencils in all of her knife holders.
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Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sewing extravaganza

I finished Inga's Inej overcoat!! And it worked on the first try. I'm giving just a few sneak peeks becuase I don't want to show the whole thing until Halloween. But it looks just like the original and Inga is super pleased with the result. She's wearing her entire costume at the moment.

We had our normal pancake breakfast. We are out of maple syrup! We started with a big jar but it goes quickly with 6 people. If were were here in late winter, we could tap our maple trees and make our own syrup, but alas we're always in France. (Not complaining!)

Eric brought Zari and Dio to play Ultimate Frisbee. They grumped and didn't want to go--intertia--but once they started they had lots of fun.

We watched an episode of the new Star Trek series after dinner. It's been nice to have a low-key day.
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Saturday, October 28, 2023

Inga had a tournament all day and all evening. Unfortunately, her team lost both games. She and Eric came home disappointed.

I had the other kids do their Saturday chores (vacuuming their bedrooms, putting away their laundry, and cleaning a bathroom). I also sent them outside in the afternoon. Most of my day was spent sewing costumes. I got Zari's completely finished 10 minutes before we left for a chili cookoff and trunk-or-treat. Phew!

I just have Inga's outer jacket left to finish. It's about halfway done now. And a cake to bake and decorate because Halloween is also birthday time!
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Friday, October 27, 2023

Ivy's school called me this afternoon: she was in the nurse's office feeling sick. She didn't feel well enough to bike home, so I drove over to get her and put the bike in the car. She was complaining of dizziness, nausea, and a terrible headache, especially after she ran over 100 laps in a race during PE.

My day was otherwise fairly routine: run Ivy to school in the morning, then do my exercises. Then work on breech stuff (video editing and a call with an attorney about being an expert witness). Once Ivy and Inga were in bed, we finished the first season of Our Flag Means Death.

I cooked dinner again because Eric was gone at soccer practice for Inga and then indoor soccer at the university with Zari. I did a "what's in the fridge?" red Thai coconut curry with chicken, green peppers, green beans, onions, and sweet potatoes over basmati rice.

This weekend will be filled with Halloween costume sewing for me and soccer for Inga and Eric. She has 2 tournament games tomorrow and possibly another on Sunday if they advance to the finals.
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Thursday, October 26, 2023

Back home

Not much else to say except that I'm back home. Zari is trying on her kefta. I have almost all the embroidery done. I helped Ivy get ready for her weekly newscast. Inga went with Eric to soccer practice, this one over an hour away. Off to bed and an early start tomorrow!

I stayed with a friend of a friend, the same place as when I visited Asheville 5 years ago. Their dog is now very old and so sweet. She walks up to you slowly and carefully and holds very still for some ear scratching.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023


I filmed all day until 4 pm, went home and transferred files onto my hard drive, then finally got something to eat at 5 pm! I was so hungry by then. I ate at Nine Mile and my only regret is that my dish wasn't spicy enough.

We had some technical difficulties when we arrived at the photograhy studio. It had gorgeous banks of windows with soft filtered light...and no soundproofing at all! We heard every car and semi-truck driving by on the highway.

So we had to film in a little tiny bedroom--almost more of a large closet--with very little natural light. We brought in several diffuser lamps and made do.

I hadn't planned to be in front of the camera. That was David Hayes' job! But we had the idea to make one of the lectures more of a conversation with the two of us. I was wearing my schleppy clothes (yoga pants and a tank top) and wished I had brought something a bit more fancy! But it worked.

At the end of filming, I told David, "Thank you for letting me torture you." It's not fun being filmed but it's a necessary evil in our line of work.

I just ended a late evening Zoom meeting. I'm going to read until I fall asleep. Bonne nuit!
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Tuesday, October 24, 2023


I'm in North Carolina for a very short trip to help David Hayes refilm some lectures. I got in tonight, film tomorrow, and fly home the next morning.

I brought Zari's wool coat to work on because what else could I do in the airplane? I suppose I could read a book but I'm out of ideas for the moment. Please send me some suggestions!

I'd love to visit Biltmore but am still hesitating on the price. $95 is the starting price for a visit! I remember learning about Biltmore as an undergraduate in an art history class. Ironically, I can visit actual French chateaus for 1/10th of the price. Maybe I'll just wait until I'm back in France 🙂
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Monday, October 23, 2023

American Ethic

I woke up at 4:15 am with a headache and couldn't get back to sleep. I read for a while and dozed off shortly before my 7 am wakeup. The headache has persisted all day. I managed to exercise and work through it, but by time dinner was over, I had to lie down and dim the lights.

While everyone else was away at soccer or play practice this evening, Ivy and I went to a drive-through trick-or-treat. However, we didn't have a car so we improvised and took our bikes. We told everyone, "We are dressed up as a car--look, there are 4 tires between the two of us!"

We came home laden with popcorn, candy, science projects, and loads of plastic junk that will go into the landfill within a few days. A portrait of rural America at both its best and worst: community engagement, disregard for the environment, friendliness and goodwill, food that brings disease, all with the car as king. I don't mean this in a holier-than-thou sense, more as an observation of these characteristics that are all intertwined. It's not all good but it's not all bad either.

And typical of our family, we find a way to participate and still do things differently!

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Sunday, October 22, 2023

So much sewing

I have been hand sewing ornate appliques and beadwork onto Zari's wool coat, which will be coming the Darkling's "kefta." My shoulders and back are sore!

I made our usual Sunday pancake breakfast. The kids LOVE this tradition so I'll continue it as long as they are interested. It also helps get them out of bed.

We had a lazy afternoon at home. Eric left mid-afternoon to play Ultimate Frisbee. I told the kids: either go play with Eric or come outside with me. They all chose to stay home. Inga and Ivy started building a little cabin out of green tree branches. Dio and Zari helped with mowing. I did lots of landscaping: weeding and tranplanting. Still lots left to do before it gets cold.

We're not overly excited about school starting up again, but I do look forward to having a routine again. Not so much the early wakeup, but I know it will force me to get going and exercise first thing.
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Saturday, October 21, 2023

A win and a loss

We were up at 6:15 am to bring Ivy and Inga to their soccer games. We were on the road by 7 am in the pitch dark. I dropped Eric and Ivy off near Indianapolis at 8 am, where they had to wait 3 hours for her game to begin. Then I drove another hour away to Inga's game, getting her there exactly at 9 am for warmups.

Inga's team won 2-1, although they had a lovely penalty kick that should have made it 3-1 but that got thrown out because the kicker's foot went over the line. Inga scored one of the goals with a beautiful left-footed kick.

It was cold and overcast where we were. I was bundled in my ski parka and a blanket and still was too cold. My toes were numb when I got back in the car.

Ivy's team lost, which meant they were out of the tournament. Not a great ending to her team's season. We arrived just after they had finished. (Although I'm sad her team lost, I'm glad as well because it meant we could all go home, rather than waiting for another 4 hours for the next game.) We got home around 1:45 pm.

We did gardening, mowing, and leaf raking in the afternoon. It turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon, warm enough for a tank top and shorts.

We watched one episode of the new Star Trek series and, once the two youngest were in bed, another episode of This Flag Means Death. Zari and Dio begged for "just one more" but we are tired!
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Friday, October 20, 2023

The Hunger Book

The kids all went over to a friend's house for the afternoon. They have 7 cats (3 of their own and 4 foster kittens) and that alone was plenty of amusement. One of the cat purrs constantly and sounds just like a pigeon!

After that, we all went to a book reading of "The Hunger Book," written by a member of Eric's department. We are all fancy now with our signed copy! Ivy kept talking about how much she loved the book reading. It also helped that there were delicious snacks afterwards!

You can order a copy here: https://ohiostatepress.org/books/titles/9780814258781.html

Eric brought Dio and Zari to indoor soccer at the university this evening. We have a busy day full of soccer games tomorrow.
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Thursday, October 19, 2023

Food Bank Influencer

Zari and I went to a fun show tonight by comedian Kristina Wong. She gave a performance at our university of a new show-in-progress ("It's not even in the first trimester--I've just peed on the stick!") about food banks and food insecurity. Totally not a topic you'd expect for a comedy show, and also a show that alternated between hilarious and serious.

Everyone else was gone at soccer games or practices this evening. Inga had a game that they won 2-0. She said her team didn't play very well, though.

What else? It was a dark, wet day with intermittent rain. A great day for staying indoors. I did more costume prep interspersed with my work.

Dinner was chicken pot pie (using leftover chicken and broth from the roast chicken 2 days ago) and lemon cheesecake. Mmmmm.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Indoor track

We went to the indoor track this morning for fun and exercise. We = everyone but Eric, who is teaching this week. The kids kicked around soccer balls, went on rollerblades (Inga), ran races against each other, and at the end learned volleyball from me (Ivy and Inga).

I did my usual exercises, but adapted to this new setting. So I ran up the stadium stairs for 8 minutes and then did 3x30 of bicep curls, calf raises, chest presses, high knees, overhead presses, and squats, all with my BFR bands.

Inga had me film her doing reverse box jumps and then we played them backwards to make it look as if she was jumping up, not down.

I finished sewing on the silver clasps on the front of Inga's vest, plus I put a snap on the side of her boot to better secure her knife holster. I have to admit, I love being in the States and having all of my leatherworking and bookbinding supplies. I'm much more limited in what I can do in France.

Inga and Ivy have been crafting all sorts of things out of those meltable beads. Inga's latest creation is a Loki helmet for Dolly.

While Zari and Eric were gone this evening playing indoor soccer, Dio, Inga, and Ivy turned off every light in the house and ran around playing games in the dark. I'm not entirely sure if it was hide and seek or chase or what...but they were having loads of fun!
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Tuesday, October 17, 2023


The highlight of the day was going to the university swimming pool. We met up with some friends, so I got to talk with the mom while the kids swam. I eventually got the courage to go in the water. It was chilly! I eventually was not warm, but not shivering, after swimming several lengths.

I brought Zari to the middle school parking lot to practice driving, but there were a few cars parked in the middle and it spooked her. So she got all of 30 seconds of practice before we called it. I want to try again tomorrow in a much larger parking lot. We'll try the high school first and hope there aren't any events going on.

This evening Eric brought Inga to a soccer practice an hour+ away. The rest of us started a fire and made smores. As the fire was burning down to embers, Zari and Ivy and I sat around talking about things like death and burial practices and wondering what makes us "us."

I did a bit more sewing today. Inga now has a leather thigh holster for her golden knife and most of the silver clasps sewn onto her vest.
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Monday, October 16, 2023

The kids are singing "I'm Just Ken." Plus lots of their own variations.

I had a few hours of meetings today. After that, I went into the attic to work on Halloween costumes. We printed and put together a pattern for Inga's jacket. I have to turn it into an asymmetrical open-front coat. A little head-scratching and I'll figure it out. I also sewed 4 little knife pockets onto Inga's vest and started on a leather thigh holster for yet another knife.

I couldn't convince any of the kids to go running with me this morning. Maybe tomorrow?

Inga and Dio had soccer practice about 30 minutes away in the early evening.

We watched the first two episodes of Our Flag Means Death. Then the kid all announced that they were hungry (at 9:20 pm!). They talked me into making them grilled cheese sandwiches.
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Sunday, October 15, 2023

Knives out!

We started the morning with a pancake breakfast. That has become our new Sunday routine. Most days it's cold cereal. I fast every day until mid-afternoon so I cook the pancakes but don't eat them 🙂

Much of the day was devoted to making leather knife holsters for Inga's Inej Ghafa costume. Ivy helped as we came up with ideas for how to attach the holsters to her belt and boots. By the end of the day, we had made 6 holsters: 5 for her belt and one for her boot.

I also got the entire front of Ivy's duvet cover sewn. It's only been almost 11 years in the making! I have to buy a flat sheet for the back and then sew it all together.

We watched the first two episodes of Loki, Season 2. What are we going to watch next as we are waiting for more episodes to come out? We have a few ideas (Wheel of Time, Our Flag Means Death).

Dio tried on one of Eric's suits and discovered it fit him perfectly. He likes to dress nicely.

We played several rounds of Boggle this evening. Eric won (no surprise). But the kids did well and I think with some practice they will give Eric a run for his money.

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Saturday, October 14, 2023

Marathon food prep day

After a nice morning not having to wake up in the dark, I decided to exercise first thing. I focused on legs today, which allowed Ivy to exercise with me using my arm bands on her legs! We felt "the burn" and were moaning about it as we were running up stairs, jumping, and lunging.

Next up: tackle the rest of the pears. They were ripe enough to turn into pear sauce. I ended up with slightly more than 7 quarts (~28 liters) of pear sauce and 2 quarts (~ 8 liters) of pear juice. My original plan was to freeze the sauce, but I had enough canning supplies so I went ahead and canned the sauce, too.

I also pressure cooked garbanzo beans and made a huge batch of hummus.

Inga helped me make a batch of Rice Krispie treats.

By then, it was time to prep dinner! (Don't worry, we all took a break mid-afternoon to watch 2 episodes of Loki.) I made a big salad with hardboiled eggs, plus quesadillas for dinner.

It rained a bit today, so it was a good day to be indoors. We watched more Loki this evening and finished season 1.

During this kitchen marathon, I had the kids to some Saturday chores (vacuuming and washing their sheets). Eric did a huge grocery trip, which was very much needed.
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Friday, October 13, 2023


We all slept in, such a luxury. I stayed in bed for a while reading. I did my normal exercise and then we all went to the indoor track at the university for a 3-on-3 soccer match.

We had a get-together for Eric's department in the late afternoon. Eric had to leave with Ivy for a soccer practice, so the rest of us walked home in the rain once it was done.

Our fridge was mostly empty and Eric didn't feel like cooking, so he ordered gyros. It's very rare that we get takeout and the kids quite enjoyed it. Then we watched two episodes of Loki.

The rain is still coming down. Good for my landscaping. I need to do more weeding before everything freezes. Maybe not tomorrow unless the weather changes.
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Thursday, October 12, 2023

I've slept terribly 3 nights in a row for no apparent reason. Ugh. I had to get up this morning for school dropoff and a routine doctor's visit but then I came back and rested/napped. My drive to get work done was definitely lagging.

Inga had a tryout practice with a national division soccer team in Indianapolis. They want her to play for them starting now. We've got to sort out the feasability (transportation, finances, etc). But she really enjoyed it and Eric said the team was finally a match for her level of skill.

This is definitely one area where I would be content to have her stick with a local team and Eric is pushing to have her play as advanced as possible. Pragmatism and sticking with the known versus dreaming big and venturing into the unknown. Story of our life and relationship!

While Inga and Eric were gone, the rest of us watched the new Taylor Swift documentary, Miss Americana. Zari scoffed when she heard what we were going to watch and almost didn't stay. But after just a few minutes in, she was hooked. Midway through, she admitted that she had seriously misjudged both the documentary and the singer.

School is off for everyone tomorrow! No alarm clocks! I am envisioning a day of exercise (first thing in the morning, otherwise I won't do it), sewing, weeding, and reading. Maybe a trip to the swimming pool? Playing in a pile of leaves? We will see...
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Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Out of water

I'm so tired! I woke up around 5 am and couldn't sleep. So I read in bed until my alarm went off. It was okay during the day when I was moving...but when I sat down this evening and started reading, zzzzzzz.

We carried Ivy's props to school this morning in my bike baskets. She's giving her presentation tomorrow. I think it turned out quite well, considering she made the whole thing in one afternoon! My big contribution were the mini hangers and mini coats out of felted wool scraps.

I put off exercising until mid-day because I was tired. When I was done, I went into the bathroom to shower. No water came out. I tried the sink: nothing. I had a horrible sinking feeling: oh great, we have a broken water line somewhere in our yard or house. But then I remembered seeing a lot of street construction and digging right around the corner. They're installing a new water main. I hopped on the utiltiy's website and sure enough, there was a notice of work being done today. No water until 5 pm, it predicted.

I didn't fancy spending the rest of my day unshowered, so I biked to the university athletic center to get cleaned up.

Inga and Eric were gone at a soccer game. Poor Eric. He's gone pretty much every evening. I mean, he likes going to the games but he's hardly ever around in the evenings due to soccer.

My work day was tedious. I like to joke that the secret to being a researcher is "having a high tolerance for boredom." But it's entirely true, and today was one of those days. I was combing through last year's research, organizing it all into themes, cutting and pasting all of the citations and abstracts, and then formatting the text. If I hadn't been walking at my treadmill desk, I'm sure it would have put me to sleep! There is interesting research, but the work I was doing today wasn't really focused on reading the information.
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