30 April 2016

April 30, 2016, in which we take our gender expression on the road.

Today's leg of the journey took us from Washington, PA, to Carmel, IN to visit with my aunt and uncle, Judy and George.  I always think of them as the part of my family that recently moved to Indiana, but it turns out they have been here for 19 years now, so I guess it is going to stick!

After a surprisingly restful night in a hotel room, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast before hitting the road.  Bear sported his Rainbow Dash dress, and I noticed that we have traveled far enough from the coast that this was met with disapproving looks rather than high-fives from strangers.  Whatever, Pennsyltucky, we are headed to San Francisco, which may turn out to be Bear's natural homeland.

Our first stop was the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, WV.  We stopped here during our last road trip and it was a huge hit, so we were excited to be able to stop again. The highlights include a row of pinball machines, giant model train layouts, and an amusement park made of K'nex.  Also, despite it being a Saturday, there was literally only one other museum patron in there the whole time we were there.  

The "Girl Train." Seriously?

Daily art shot.

We're settling in to our road-trip lifestyle.  We had a much better set-up in terms of stuff in the van today, including more important items within reach of the navigator, and fewer important items within reach of Bear.  I arranged a bolster for under Bear's pillow so he was able to sleep in a more comfortable position, and Benjamin arranged various power cords so he was able to watch Octonauts on the iPad. Pre-Bear Mali would have been totally against this screen time situation, but current Mali loves quiet and driving more than 3/4 of a mile before someone asks for a snack.  
Octonauts to your stations!

Bear ended up sleeping a decent portion of the drive to Carmel, so Benjamin and I were able to listen to the audiobook version of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Otherwise I don't have a book I'm reading right now, which is strange for me while I'm traveling.  (Suggestions are welcome.)

After a long, rainy drive that saw the hills of Pennsyltucky give way to the flat vastness that is Indiana, we got to George and Judy's where we were greeted by their collection of bears.  Bear promptly began rearranging the bears, the current status of which has been described as Bear-pocalypse.  We had a lovely dinner with George and Judy and George reprised his role as youngest uncle to give Bear some piggy back rides.

29 April 2016

"Bye, Spoochie-butt!"

We have lift off!

After a period of packing and sorting and washing and sorting and re-packing and vacuum-bagging, we have left.

This morning, Bear got a chance to say goodbye to his cousin Alexander before they both went off to school.  (Bear goes to nature preschool and Alexander goes to Montessori preschool and I've had an interesting time comparing and contrasting the experiences, but perhaps more thoughts on that in another post.)  Getting him up and out was a bit challenging as Bear has been on a course of steroids for his asthma which render him extra hyper.  Extra hyper Bear.  Let that sink in.

Benjamin and I went to pick up the rental minivan in Clarksville and them spent the rest of the morning loading it up.  We originally thought that we would need to strap some things to the roof, but it turns out everything we need for the year fit nicely in the back of the van.  Packing was facilitated by help from my sister Casey who drove up from Richmond to see us off.

My parents picked up Bear from school and brought him back to the farm.  Benjamin's parents were there, as well as my brother-in-law Bill and baby niece Annabel, so there were seven people to see us off.  Though we have explained to Bear repeatedly that he won't see his extended family for a while, he seemed quite up-beat and made his farewell by saying "goodbye spoochie-butt," and hopping nonchalantly into the van.  (I was somewhat more tearful.)

We hit the road and drove to Cumberland to see my mom's cousin Mary Ann.  It's about a two hour drive and we only had to stop once, so I consider it a victory!  It was lovely to see Mary Ann and catch up.  She is teaching a course on adolescent literature that I'm pretty sure Benjamin and I would both want to audit.

After dinner with Mary Ann, it was back into the van for another two hour jaunt to our hotel.  Again, one pit stop for diaper changing, nursing, bathroom, and play place.  At least we picked some place efficient?

Pax cried for most of the second hour of the drive to the hotel while Bear sang the Bob the Builder theme song in an attempt to drown her out.  There were moments during this leg of the journey when I seriously questioned the wisdom of our plan to drive across the country with a preschooler and an infant, but I guess it is too late now!

26 April 2016


A significant chunk of my efforts as one half of Team Zuses Parents is paperwork. Mali has always been busy during our relationship, whether with school, residency, childbirth, or employment and I have always enjoyed doing paperwork. So it should come as no surprise that the multitude of clerical tasks involved in moving a family legally across the world has fallen to me.

The process began with having to gather a huge variety of documents proving to the placement agency (a non-profit tasked by the government of ANZ to find doctors to fill rural placements) that Mali was qualified to work in their country. This was followed by providing those documents (and still others) to the Medical Council of ANZ so that Mali could get registered to practice medicine. Once they are satisfied, we have to gather yet more different documents to provide to Immigration New Zealand with evidence of our worthiness to enter and live in the country.

All the while I must be staying on top of taxes, student loans, bills, investments, charity, our budget, leases, and insurance. It is a good thing I like forms and instructions.

I am very excited we are almost on our way. I turned in the Visa applications from me and the kids this morning, and Mali's was submitted last Friday. Now we just have to wait and see when they finish (if they go smoothly) so we can plan the next leg our flawless plan.

24 April 2016

Last Day of Work

Yesterday was my last day of work at what I still consider my 'new job.' New Job's social media policy actually forbids me from telling you where I worked, but I'll just say it's a for-profit urgent care center where the clients do not come second.

Having been a nanny and barista and house cleaner and resident, I will refrain from saying this was my first real job.  But this was my first unsupervised medical practice.  I wanted to work in a for-profit enterprise that valued efficiency, because these are areas my training did not emphasize.

And overall, it was a great experience.  Urgent care occupies a delightful window between the tedium of chronic disease management and the adrenaline-inducing panic of true emergencies.  The patients were both insured and appreciative.  The procedures simple and satisfying; suturing simple lacerations, removing beads from ears, looking at x-rays and declaring, "it's only a sprain, let's get you an Ace wrap and some crutches."  The office was clean and bright, the work fast-paced and relatively simple.

My coworkers were a lovely, hard-working group and thank god most people had a sense of humor.  There were the usual irritations and problems, I'm sure, but I didn't really stay long enough to become embroiled in any of them.  Unfortunately, I also didn't stay long enough to really develop outside-of-work friendships with anyone, but I did give out the blog title to a few people, so perhaps we will be internet friends. Shout out to the coworkers if you're reading this!

I worked part time so I got more time home with the kids. I loved coming home at the end of a shift and smelling my baby's head, knowing I had time to relax and enjoy my kids before I had to turn around and go back to work.  (When Bear was a baby, I was an intern - I would come home after 14 hour days and feel guilty about falling asleep because sleeping meant I was missing time with him.) This time around I had so much time with the kids I  often set off to work with a sigh of relief.  After putting in eight straight hours of nursing and rocking Pax while answering every, "Why?" and "Watch this!" from Bear, I got to peel those sticky fingers off of my pants and escape out the door because "I have to go to work, now."  Work, that magical place where my requests are answered with, "Yes, doctor," not "But I don't WANT to! I WON'T do it!" It made for a nice change of pace.

But now I am off of work again, 6+ weeks of traveling with my family before I officially start my next job....in New Zealand.  It's like having another whole maternity leave but without having to recover from giving birth or have a newborn.  Though I guess the flight to New Zealand will be somewhat analogous to labor.

13 April 2016

So we are exactly one month  seventeen days short of the start of our capital A Adventure.  On April 29th we pack up a rental minivan with our two kids and all the stuff we are planning on owning for the next year or so and hit the road.
Have Frozen sunglasses, will travel

First destination is Indianapolis to visit with Mali's aunt and uncle. Then we will head to Chicago and swap the minivan for an RV we are renting (we get a very good deal on the RV by picking it up there).  From there we head west. Three weeks or so to see many state and national parks (yay, Yellowstone!), a few large cities, and plenty of Pacific coastline.  We'll end up in San Francisco where the RV is due on May 21st.
A more accurate map of our route can be found here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zRh1ifTEIqnc.kJYwL4aCS4Fo

And from there, at some point, we will fly to New Zealand.

We will be living and working in Opotiki, New Zealand for one year.  Stay tuned for an account of our travels and adventures!

02 April 2016

Easter Weekend 2016

Saturday the kids and I went on a walk with my sisters-in-law and my niece and nephew. Bear and Alexander share a 'have stick, will travel' philosophy.

We further tested the new double stroller and found it can actually accommodate FOUR kids.  That's my sister-in-law Liz pushing - she's got serious muscle!

Here is my other sister-in-law Rachel with her daughter, Annabel, who is just a few weeks older than Pax.

Bear, me, Liz, and Alexander:

Bear was feeling really rushed by our brisk 1 mile per hour pace, so we lingered a while after Liz and Rachel had to go.  He found this algae, which he insists on pronouncing "allergy." At first he was scared to touch it, but he quickly got over that.  

After a trail-side diaper change, Pax decided to hang out and get some vitamin D.

In the evening, the four of us headed to my parents' place for dinner. Bear sported this amazing outfit:

Here's my mom holding Pax. 

On Sunday we went to my aunt and uncle's house for Easter festivities. A good time was had by all.