Elliott's Third Birthday!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Or: The Long French Fry Road to Chicago

As of Sunday, we no longer have a toddler, but are in possession of one full-fledged male preschooler. Slap me silly and knock me down with a feather.

Instead of having a party that we have no one to invite to, we took Elliott all the way to Schaumburg, Illinois to bask in the corporate and plastic glory of Legoland. He goddamn loved it. Phew.

We packed up the car and set one very flat, very brownish-gray course for Chicago on Saturday morning. But first we had to stop for birthday French fries. Birthday French fries procured, and all favorite books and toys placed within reach in the backseat, we drove in a straight line for three and half hours until we got to Chicago. Then we drove in concentric circles for half an hour trying to find the hotel while bargaining and pleading with Waze to please stop recalculating our route.

We stayed at the Kinzie Hotel in River North, which was awesome, Saturday night. Elliott said he wanted pizza for dinner, which he immediately took back when we said OK. Since there are no restaurants in Chicago, to our knowledge, that serve Cheerios and yogurt, we stuck with the pizza plan and went to Lou Malnati's for some deep dish. The waitress figured out that it was Elliott's birthday and brought him a little pizookie with a candle in it after mom and dad had finished stuffing their faces with various combinations of cheese and bread. The entire restaurant sang happy birthday to him.  Just look at his face. I'm dead.

After dinner, we took a brisk walk, flopped on the sturdy hotel bed, and packed it in early for our 10:00 a.m. date with Legoland.

 Legoland was a success, despite some early warning signs that pointed toward disaster. We arrived as it opened, but there were already passels of unruly young ones in line and Elliott freaked out in the first, jungle-themed room (I guess giant monkeys made out of Legos swinging from Lego branches in the dark aren't his thing). Things quickly improved as we moved into the areas where you could actually play with the Legos. We spent some time in the city room, but Elliott was really frustrated that all the cool stuff like firetrucks and robber guys were glued down. We spent a good amount of time making various vehicles to fling down a big ramp -- we all got into that one, attempting to design the car that would keep all of its pieces on the way down, we literally did this until the wheels fell off. We found a water table, which didn't end in Elliott screaming about his wet pants (which happened at several points during our drive). We stopped for a hot dog and chocolate milk before taking in a 3-D Lego movie and doing a janky Duplo "factory" tour. We posed with Lego Batman (terrifying) and Lego R2-D2 (also terrifying) before letting Elliott pick one small Duplo set to take home (he picked the one with the robber guy and the police car) and headed back home, paying several miniscule and baffling tolls along the way.

Elliott said he had a good birthday, especially because we had even more French fries on the way home and let him have pancakes for dinner.

Five Things I Like in Indy

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

One of my goals this year, and as a person, is to be more grateful and positive. I have been a mildly misanthropic grump for most of my adult life and, frankly, it really isn't doing anything for me. I'm not saying that Indy is growing on me or that I've learned to love it, but I do want to take some time to make a small list of places that I enjoy here. Baby steps.

Quills Coffee. Indy is the land of drive-thru Starbucks, which I was charmed by at first. After a couple months, I was ready to turn in my Gold Rewards Card and never step foot in a Starbucks again. I'm a coffee snob and I just couldn't take the bitter, burned beans anymore! Why do people abuse their coffee beans!? Anyway, I stopped by Quills yesterday before work and some of my third wave coffee shop dreams came true. So now I have a place to get a decent cappuccino made by a man with a beard -- just like home.

Indy Reads Books.  We popped in here with Lane before he went to work on Saturday and really enjoyed it. They have a great selection of used books, with all the profits going to support the adult literacy program Indy Reads. They have big, comfy chairs, a chess set and a wonderful children's section. Elliott grabbed a copy of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie for a dollar and change, which is a steal considering how many times we've borrowed it from the library.

St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. I found an old church to go to. The end.

Goose the Market.  This place is a little meat-heavy for a vegetarian like me, but they have an excellent cheese section where I can pick up some Cowgirl Creamery treats, even though I'm no longer in walking distance of the Ferry Building. They have fresh bread from Amelia's and lots of local treats and sundries.

Holliday Park. This park is super-close to our apartment and has three enormous play structures for children of varying sizes. Elliott has sampled all three, but his favorite, much to my acrophobic horror, is the big kid structure. Lane is a good sport and climbs all the way to the top with him so that he doesn't get stuck. See, he likes to climb up, but refuses to go down the huge slides alone and can't climb backwards down the ladders. I compromise and join Elliott on the mid-size side-by-side slides. We explored the trails behind the park a couple of weekends ago and, despite really muddy conditions, we got in a decent toddler-friendly hike.

OK, that's it. I'm going to need another five months to come up with some more things I like.

Miscellany, 22 Feb 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Podcasts. I have finally (FINALLY) started listening to podcasts regularly. So far, my absolute favorite is Again With This: Beverly Hills, 90210. I love BH, 90210 unabashedly and without irony. I still find it absolutely absurd at times. This podcast gets me. Runner Ups: On Being, Death, Sex & Money, What's the Tee?, Only Human and Kumail Nanjiani's The X-Files Files.

Note to self. No green tea on an empty stomach. Like, I have been drinking coffee with a splash of milk first thing in the morning since turning into an adult. It was basically the only thing I could ingest during the barfy hangovers of my "problem drinking" days. I decided to get off coffee for vaguely defined health reasons and switched to green tea in the mornings. But my digestive system wants me to pump the brakes, apparently. Last week, I felt mildly nauseous after drinking green tea with almond milk, but I felt totally fine as soon as I got some food in my stomach. HOWEVER, I barfed this morning after drinking a giant glass of iced green tea on a very empty stomach. Apparently there's hella tannins in green tea, which do not sit well with some people. Not so fast with the health! (And no, there is no possible way that it's a case of the babies. Stop.)

Haircuts. Lane and I both got haircuts, at nearly the same time, literally blocks from each other. Marriage! Mine was done by an adorable Hipster Christian. Apparently Hipster Christians are a thing outside of California and they are very good at showing you how to curl your hair correctly. I'll spare you Lane's selfie. He looks like he's about to stab someone to death with the pencil behind his ear.

Sad cubicle selfie! I started wearing eyeliner again after seeing this.

The Goblin Commuter of Hoboken. Cole Escola is some sort of YouTube comedian. I first heard about him after his send up of the concerned mom ad trope. Then Richard Lawson (LolCait 4eva; also, his RHONY recaps still give me life) linked to this video on Twitter (before Lent!) and I cannot stop thinking about it. I thought about it in the shower this morning and giggled maniacally. It is truly The Funniest.

Patti Smith. I love Patti Smith, and so does my kid. I was making dinner last weekend and had Horses playing and Elliott picks up his Lego board, takes off his pants and starts banging on it and bouncing his knees along to "Redondo Beach." In his words "I like it mommy! I'm saying it! I'm saying it too!" Saying = singing. We've got a little pantsless punk on our hands.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

I took Elliott along for his first Ash Wednesday mass last night.  I haven't taken him to church in over a year, so I was expecting it to be a total disaster. However, it went surprisingly well, thanks to all the singing.  He asked for a communion wafer and clapped after all the hymns, deftly charming all the little old ladies within earshot of our pew. He did get a bit antsy after communion, so I told him we'd leave right after we got our ashes and he yelled out, while the church was perfectly silent, "OUR ASSES?!".

I'm still counting it as a success.

When I was in RCIA, our class leader told us Lent isn't so much about self-denial as it is about re-focusing our energy and time. I guess, since I like to make things difficult for myself, I can't just give up wine or sugar or cheese. That would be too easy, right?

Unsurprisingly, as of this morning, I still hadn't decided what to give up in order to make space for contemplation and reflection, and, you know, Jesus. When I got to work, I deleted all the social media apps off my phone (after sharing a Genius video breaking down "Formation"), so I guess I'll be giving up Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I got rid of all my games a couple of weeks ago when I found myself furiously switching between Candy Crush and Bubble Witch at three in the morning. So yes, giving up social media is kind of easy because, after all, we were all living just fine without it less than a decade ago; but I'm upping the difficulty level by using that freed up time not to binge watch The X-Files, but to do some mindful improvement on myself.

I'll let you know how it goes.

P.S. Do blogs count as social media?

What I Read: January 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Every year, I sign up to read 52 books in Goodreads's annual Reading Challenge and I always fall short of my goal.  I'm trying to read 52 in 2016 and I haven't fallen off the wagon yet.  Here's what I read last month.

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
Ugh, what a slog.  I appreciate the masterful crafting of a multi-generational epic, but come on, how many terrible things can happen to like, five people? I really did not enjoy the development of the character of William Percy. I get that he's supposed to inherently evil, but I felt bludgeoned over the head with the constant descriptions of his sociopathic violence. Also, too much gratuitous rape. And where the hell did Ellen come from? I learned nothing about her origin. Did she just come out of the woods one day and fall in love with the ginger jongleur from Normandy? The Percys and Bishop Bigod seemed terrified of her...and it was just because she knew about their little conspiracy? She is literally a powerless peasant, so I thought there would be some more history to her or her family's relationship with the nobility in the area that would explain all the instances of "Gasp, it's HER!" (aside from all the headless chicken cursing she does).
Do not recommend.

The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins
This book was so much fun to read! I joined the 52 Books Challenge sub on Reddit and this was their January book club selection.  I finished it in two days and was very sad when it was over.
Strong recommend.

The Story of A New Name, Elena Ferrante
This is book two of the Neapolitan Novels, which everyone has been obsessed with, including myself. I found myself thinking of Lenu and Lila and their friends in the neighborhood when I was at work or driving or doing the dishes. They all seem so real and Ferrante makes you care about all of the kids from the neighborhood, despite their tendency to ruthlessness and emotional violence. I wish I had more to say about these books, but I can't explain how much I like them.
Strong recommend.

A Vision of Fire, Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin
I won this in a giveaway on Goodreads, but that, and my absolute love of Gillian Anderson, did not affect my impression of the book.  My review on Goodreads is just "Girl, what."
Do not recommend.

On deck for February:  11/22/63 (Stephen King); The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin); City on Fire (Garth Risk Hallberg); Fates and Furies (Lauren Groff); and Witches, Midwives, & Nurses:  A History of Women Healers (Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English).

P.S.  I'm on Goodreads here.

Image via Goodreads.

Nursing School?!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hey, I'm going to nursing school!  Well, not justyet. I have been admitted to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a pre-nursing student and I have four prerequisites to take before I can apply to the accelerated BSN program at IUPUI. I know you have questions, so here are some answers.

When I was pregnant with Elliott, I received all my prenatal care through One Medical.  This meant that I saw one nurse practitioner, Bernadette, throughout my entire pregnancy and she was an incredible source of realistic advice and comfort for me and Lane.  She took the time to get to know us and spent more time with us at each appointment than we would have had with a doctor.  Bernadette and her amazingness planted the seed in my brain that got me thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner.  Basically, she was so inspiring that I ended up kind of wanting to be her. 

The other big part of this decision was the lack of active decision-making which led me to my current career path.  I went to law school right out of undergrad because I wanted to make my parents happy and they didn't like any of the other career or graduate education paths I had suggested (they said I wasn't good at science, so pre-med was a bad idea; my dad doesn't believe in therapy, so clinical psychology was out; there is no money in social work, so an MSW was out of the question; ad infinitum). Somehow, they mildly approved of me going to law school, but I had done no research, hadn't met with my college's pre-law advisor, or anything else a capable undergrad might have done to prepare for a major career path.  I took a Kaplan LSAT prep course and got a decent score. Now, this was in 2004/2005, before the collapse of Big Law (RIP Heller, Thelen and Dewey), so going into debt to get a J.D. wasn't something people were warning young undergrads against.  It was still worth it to take on that debt because it was still assumed that you'd get a job and pay that debt off in a decent amount of time. I got into a third-tier school and waitlisted at Santa Clara, which is somewhere at the very bottom of the Top 100.  I wanted to move to San Francisco, so I enrolled at the third-tier school and took on $50k in government and private loans, and proceeded to spectacularly fail at law school and adulthood.  I didn't make the curve after my first year, so instead of going back on academic probation, I got a job as a legal assistant to a personal injury sole practitioner through my school's alumni association.  That job was great, even though I was still failing at adulthood, and I just kept doing it for another ten years, moving up to bigger firms, better pay and more responsibility.  If we had been able to afford to stay in the Bay Area, I would have had a great and fulfilling career as a Big Law paralegal.  But we couldn't and ended up in Indianapolis, where the work life of a paralegal is, frankly, depressing.  Working outside of Big Law for the first time in nearly five years has been a frustrating experience and I quickly burned out and have been trying not to resent my job, my firm or my coworkers.  

I also tried, unsuccessfully, for two years to convince myself to go back to law school out of pride, but I knew deep down that it was a terrible idea because I didn't love it and there was no guarantee that I'd find a job to pay off even more debt.

With burnout as my motivation, I finally let myself explore other career and educational paths.  I would never have been able to go back to school in a completely different field in San Francisco.  We were just getting by on a relatively high joint income and there was no way I could have quit my job and gone back to school.  But here in Indiana, the cost of living is so low and we have help with childcare, me taking a part-time job and going to school isn't going to put us out on the streets.  So I went for it.


Here's my general, somewhat optimistic plan:

  • Spring 2016 - Spring 2017:  Complete all nursing prerequisites in one academic year, plus summers (Psychology, Statistics, Anatomy, Physiology and Microbiology).  
  • Summer 2016:  Complete CNA training and certification.
  • Fall 2017:  Apply and get accepted to the Accelerated BSN program for holders of non-nursing Bachelor's degrees, an 18-month program.
  • Summer/Fall 2018:  Graduate with a BSN and pass the NCLEX.
  • Fall 2018:  Apply and get accepted to the MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner program, while working as a Registered Nurse.

  • I'm taking Psychology online through the local community college starting next month and I'll do the CNA training there over the summer as well.  I'm kind of bummed that I have to re-take statistics (the class I took in college for my sociology degree is too old, sigh), but my advisor said it will be a good refresher, especially because I plan on continuing with graduate work.

    I've realized that I'm writing this post more for me than for anyone else -- I guess, being a planner, it really helps my anxiety and various neuroses to write everything down in logical order.  So I hope I didn't bore you (if you're still reading) and wish me luck!

    P.S.  Elliott and Lane are doing wonderfully and it's still hella cold.  More to come...

    Californians in the Snow

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015

    Good news: We're getting into a routine now that we're all in the same state and things are good for our little family.

    Bad news:  Our cat ran away.

    Somewhere in between those two things were snow and Thanksgiving.

    It's snowed twice since my last post and we were quite unprepared. I had been waffling about which snow boots to buy, mostly because I just couldn't truly accept that I'd be out in the snow enough to justify the purchase of $200 boots that are wildly impractical outside of one very specific weather condition. So I ordered a pair of Bean Boots, which are back-ordered through March 2016 and narrowly avoided breaking my neck while navigating the icy stairs up to our apartment in my J. Crew ankle boots. Lane thought he could just get by with the ultra light down Arcteryx jacket he grabbed from the lost and found at Locanda and a few layers. Elliott was far more prepared than either of us, but we quickly discovered that playing in snow without gloves is not fun. So off to REI we went in the middle of the first snow of the season. Elliott needed a nap, but he needed "glubs" to play in the snow more and I thought it was ridiculous to go out in the middle of the actual snow to get snow gear (why not just wait?), so we were all a little on edge. However, I found a pair of boots I find moderately cute and Lane found some that kind of match mine. The whole family got "glubs" and some hats and we returned home to play in the snow like people who maybe know what they are doing. We made a janky snowman, but mostly really enjoyed pelting each other with snowballs.

    Boots and gloves procured, the Milburns make the world's jankiest snowman.

    Thanksgiving was a low-key affair, catered by Whole Foods. I thought it would be a good idea to provide homemade baked goods, but by the time the pumpkin pie was out of the oven and the Parker House rolls were embarking on their final rise, I was ready to face plant into my bed. However, I persevered, put on a dress and a little lipstick, and thoroughly enjoyed a lovely meal with my in-laws. Elliott ate a ton of turkey and spurned everything else except the tender insides of a couple of my rolls. Lane made an excellent salad of greens, radicchio, radishes and seven-minute eggs. The pie was a hit and we ate it with scoops of Graeter's ice cream. We spent the rest of the long weekend inside because it was cold and rainy, playing Play-Doh, watching The X-Files and Seinfeld, snuggling, doing the Sunday crossword and eating. On Sunday, we needed to get out of the house, so we bundled up and drove over to Daubenspeck Park to find some puddles to stomp in. We succeeded in finding some excellent mud puddles (and procuring more Play-Doh during a quick stop at Target -- Elliott will play with it for literal hours), but failed in unknowingly letting the cat slip past us as we left, me lugging an Elliott and Lane lugging the car seat down the stairs.

    Yes, this is the picture we used on the missing cat flyer. It really captures his personality.

    I didn't notice Max was missing until around 4:00, when he usually starts agitating for his dinner. Ted was curled up on the couch, so I just figured Max had found an exceptionally cozy and elusive nap area. Max has managed to find some very obscure hiding spots in his ten years, so I was looking in kitchen cabinets, in box spring linings and behind the couch. After I tore up the apartment, I woke Lane up from his own nap and he went outside to look for him, even though we were 90% sure that he hadn't even managed to get out. It got dark and Max was nowhere to be found, so I cried and freaked out and eventually went to bed, worried about my cat freezing to death. We put up signs all over the complex and I put a note up on our neighborhood message board -- our downstairs neighbors called Monday morning to say they had just spotted him sitting by the little pond behind our building, but by the time Lane got out there, Max was gone. He's been out for three nights now and I'm terrified that he won't come home. He's done this a few times before, twice right after we moved to a new place. I'm hoping he's enjoying an adventure and I know he can survive on his own, but it's my job to take care of him and I feel so terrible that he's out in the cold when he could be inside with us, with a full belly and people who love him. I've been staring out our windows every chance I get, hoping to spot him and I've been obsessively reading my stupid horoscope expecting it to say YOUR CAT ISN'T DEAD AND HE'LL COME BACK TODAY. So please send some good Max-come-home vibes our way. Max has been with me for my entire post-college life and I've gone through a lot to keep him with me during some life moments where I wasn't even prepared to take care of myself, let alone a domesticated animal. It would just break my heart if after ten years together and this bonkers cross-country move, he just sneaks out the door and I don't get to say goodbye.

    While trying not to worry about Max, Lane and I unpacked the last of our boxes and found the Christmas stuff. Elliott is super pumped that Christmas (the tree) is at his house, but not excited enough to respect my amateur crafting and not rip up the packing peanut garland I made last year. But he does look super cute with his "Christmas sock" on his head.