Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why Oklahoma? (or, The One With the Anniversary)

Of all places to live, I admit that Oklahoma was never at the top of my list. Or even on my list. And while there are things here that get under my skin, I'd move again in a heartbeat.
I moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma in the fall of 2002, 7 months after graduating from college. I moved there because I had gotten a position as an Americorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America), but I moved to Oklahoma for what may seem to some as the most hokey and naieve of reasons: I was in love.
I was in love with a man I had known for 4 years. A man who was in the Army. And since he couldn't pack up and move closer to me, I figured I'd pack up and move closer to him. November 2002 marked the start of 4 hour car trips twice a month to see each other.
We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together, and as much time as our cell phone plans allowed talking to each other during the week. While it wasn't an ideal situation, it was better than being half way across the country from each other.
This weekend marks our 1 year wedding anniversary, and I just wanted to say that this has been one of the happiest years of my life. I may be living in a place I don't much care for, and I may be unemployed, and I may have all of the discomforts of being pregnant, but I have gotten to spend almost every day with my best friend.
SO I wanted to take a moment to publicly say to my husband:
I love you.
Thank you for everything you do for me. Thank you for being understanding when I am cranky and filled with pregnant-lady-irrational thought. Thank you for all the things you do around the house. Thank you for loving me and all of my idiosyncrasies.
I miss you when you are in the field. (Don't forget to change your socks!)
In short: dude, you rock.
I love you.
Happy Anniversary!
I love you.

(photo) This is my cute husband--and his bike.  Posted by Hello

Monday, September 27, 2004

I scream, you scream...

Nothing quite describes the joy of living in my neighborhood like the sound of the ice cream trucks....
You see, we live a stone's throw from an elementary school. And to the folks who drive ice cream trucks, elementary schools must be akin to shooting fish in a barrel. This is the leap I am making on behalf of the mobile purveyors of frosty goodness.
I used to looove the idea of the ice cream truck. I think the first time I experienced a real live ice cream truck I was 12 years old--an age at which you are interested in the ice cream truck but are far more interested in the pre-teen sport of "looking cool" by not associating with the ice cream truck.
And when we first moved into this house, I enjoyed the ice cream truck's daily drive-by, even though NONE of the kids in this neighborhood seem interested in the dinner-spoiling goodness of the ice cream man. But then, the unthinkable happened.
You see, there are about 4 different ice cream truck companies in this town...And for whatever reason, all 4 companies have decided that it would be a good idea to send trucks through our neighborhood. There's one company that sends two different trucks at various times of the day, hoping to catch kids with spare change. And silent ice cream trucks would not be so bad...But these trucks are not silent.
In their efforts to lure children out of their homes (a la the Pied Piper), these trucks come equipped with "music"--the kind of music that makes you think of organ grinders and the early keyboards from the 80's (where everything sounds as though it's coming from the bottom of a tin can). Lest you think that I am a woman cranky and old before her time, please know that I could put up with this serenade once a day for the duration of my street. (bee-de-bee-de-bee-de-de-bee-de-de-bee-de, bee-de-bee-de-bee-de-de-bee-de-de-bee-de)
But the sound of the ice cream truck two streets away, 5 times daily? That's an hour of unpleasantness that I could live without. Imagine being stuck in an elevator listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas carols for an hour and you'll begin to see what I mean.
I don't advocate the removal of the ice cream trucks, but maybe they could play something else? A catchy salsa beat? The best of the 80's? The audio feed from the Oprah Winfrey Show? Anything but the waltz that I cannot figure out the name of, but that I am subjected to 5 times a day....

Friday, September 24, 2004

License Plates

Another story about life & culture shock in Oklahoma!
This one also has to do with my car.

I moved to Oklahoma from Arlington, Virginia (National Cemetery, Pentagon, 5 Metro stops from DC). Therefore, my car's license plates were issued by the state of Virginia...And due to expire during my stay in the Sooner state. So I figure, no big deal--I'll just get Oklahoma plates.
Well, in Virginia you get your license plates from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Here is my first lesson: do not attempt to look up "Department of Motor Vehicles" in the phone book. Why, you ask? The answer is simple: THERE IS NO DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES in Oklahoma. Where then does one get new license plates for one's car? From a place called "The Tag Office". That's right--in Oklahoma, you don't get license plates you get "Car Tags".
So, armed with this new information, I returned to the phone book to search out the "Tag Office". I found the number, dialed it and had a conversation that went like this:
Lady #1: County Tag Office.
Me: Hi! I moved here from out-of-state and I was wondering what I needed to do to get new tags for my car.
Lady #1: Hold on.
Lady #2: County Tag Office.
Me: Hi! I moved here from out-of-state and I was wondering what I needed to do to get new tags for my car.
Lady #2: Hold on.
(On hold for 2 and a half minutes)
Lady # 2: County Tag Office.
Me: Moved here from out-of-state. Need new car tags. What do I need to do?
Lady #2: Bring your car and proof of insurance to the Tag Office.
Me: Thank you
Lady #2: (hangs up)

Sounds easy enough. I get into my car, double check to make sure that I have my proof of insurance, and drive over to the Tag Office. I walk in, wait in line until it is my turn. I approach the desk, plunk down my proof of insurance and this is what happens:
Me: Hi! I've got out-of-state car tags, and I need some Oklahoma ones.
Lady at the desk: You got a driver's license?
Me: Yes.
Lady at the desk: From Oklahoma?
Me: No...It's from Virginia.
Lady at the desk: Well I can't give you Oklahoma tags until you get an Oklahoma license.
Me: Ok, what do I need to do to get one?
Lady at the desk: Take the driver's license test. It's given twice a month at this retirement home.
Me: O-kay...thank you?

And I leave the Tag Office, without plates for my car, but very very confused. I relate this story to a coworker later in the week and she informs me that I have been duped! So I decide to call back to the Tag Office and ask again what I need to get Tags for my car:
Lady #1: County Tag Office.
Me: I need to get Oklahoma tags to replace my out-of-state tags, what do I need to do?
Lady #1: Hold on.
Lady #2: County Tag Office.
Me: I need to get Oklahoma tags to replace my out-of-state tags, what do I need to do?
Lady #2: Bring your car and proof of insurance down to the office.
Me: That's it? Because I was in there the other day and I was told that I had to have an Oklahoma driver's license in order to get Oklahoma tags.
Lady #2: You were? Well that's just wrong. Just bring your car and proof of insurance.
Me: Ok, thank you.

Once again, I travel across town to procure my license plates from the Tag Office, wait in line and then:

Lady at the desk: Can I help you?
Me: (presenting proof of insurance) I've got out-of-state tags, I need new ones.
Lady at the desk: Where's your title?
Me: Excuse me?
Lady at the desk: Your car title. Where is it?
Me: At the bank, I assume.
Lady at the desk: You still owe money on your car?
Me: Yes...
Lady at the desk: Well, we're gonna need your lien, so that the state can put their name on it.
Me: What?
Lady at the desk: The state puts their name on the lien. You got that with you?
Me: no...
Lady at the desk: Well, go get it.
Me: Do I need to bring anything else with me when I come back? Bank statements? Medical records?
Lady at the desk: No, just the lien.

My second lesson is this: when you call the Tag Office; do not believe what they tell you.

So I procure my lien, proof of insurance, drivers license, proof of residence, and social security card and return to the Tag Office. I wait in line, approach the desk, explain my situation again, provide all of the aforementioned documentation, and wouldn't you know it? The address of the bank isn't on the lien, so the lady at the desk tells me I'm going to have to come back with that. And I tell her that I have been to the tag office 3 times already and that if I have to go away and come back one more time, I'm going to pack up all of my stuff and move out of state because nothing should be this difficult. After a few cell phone calls, the bank address is procured and I receive my car tag. Which leads to the ultimate and final lesson:
If you're planning on moving to Oklahoma, prepare for blinding incompetence and pack valium.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The people in my neighborhood...

Let me start by saying that there was no way that Sesame Street's little ditty could have prepared me for life in Oklahoma.
I often get asked, by my friends on the East Coast, "what's it like in Oklahoma?" I hope that these little vignettes will provide some insight into middle America, and the culture shock I have experienced.

Getting an Oil Change

One thing I will say for the folks out here is that occasionally they will go out of their way to be accommodating. I can't express to you how much I enjoy people going out of their way to help me, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that it ranks up there with brownies for breakfast and foot rubs for no reason.
I drive a little German car, which is unusual in this state. I have actually had Oklahoman oil-change guys tell me that I should "git rid of that thang and buy American". But not the guys at Pappy's. That's right--I get my oil changed at a place called "Pappy's", and it just so happens that they also sell barbecued brisket--so that if the line is long and you're feeling hungry, you can get a bite to eat while you wait. Which, to a pregnant woman, is pure genius.
So, I roll into Pappy's one fine summer morning to get my oil changed. And since it has been a while (far too long to admit in writing), I decide they should probably change the filter, too. Well, seeing as how I drive an "unusual car" they don't stock the filter that my little vehicle needs. Now, I don't know about you, but when I hear the words "we don't have that in stock" I expect that to be the end of it. But not at Pappy's! They call the local auto parts store and arrange to have the proper filter delivered while I wait! These people are my new best friends. Do you know of a place that would do that for you?
Of course, these are the same folks that stand around smoking while they work. So I am risking my life every time I get my oil changed, but it's a small price to pay to be treated like royalty.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

(photo) From front to back: Khurplunque, Jistu Jack, and Lunchbox (the one that catches rats with her face). Posted by Hello

( photo) Here's me pregnant as of last week. Posted by Hello

(photo) Here's Adrian's ultrasound from June 15, 2004. He's looking up at the caption...And he really does have his daddy's nose! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Say What?

BE FOREWARNED: This is story includes the words "leaky breasts" and it may contain too much information for you. (You know who you are, you have been forewarned, don't come complaining to me if you don't like it)

In classic list-maker fashion, I have nearly compiled everything that I will need for our trip to have this baby...up to and including supplies for after the little guy joins us. In my efforts to be environmentally-friendly, I decided that washable breast pads would be best for leaky breasts. I found some online and had them shipped to me--and I was in no way prepared for what the packaging of these little gems was about lay on me. In addition to extolling the virtues of their product, they have a registered trademark slapped on that box...and it reads: Milk Diapers.
You can't make this stuff up, folks.
Milk. Diapers.
Now, I would think that a woman who is up to her elbows in her newborn's dirty diapers would not want to add anymore diapers to her daily regimen. I would also think that, after close contact with the content of baby's diapers, momma doesn't want that kind of association made with her breasts. I know that the combination of those two words is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies, so I can't imagine the test group that gave it the thumbs-up.
Milk Diapers.
What a world.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Rice Krispy Treats for the Weary!

A brief segment with political figures:
I just received a photo over email of one of my high school classmates being chummy with John Edwards, the democratic VP candidate. The title of the email was "Cool Hunh? He's Really Hot"...And since you never know with a title like that I decided to open the attachment (don't try that at home, kids!). And there she was, in all of her gorgeous natural-red-headed-glory standing next to John Edwards and smiling a smile that says "look at who is standing next to me". I decided to write back to the friend who so kindly passed the photo along, and I said that I agreed that John Edwards is easy on the eyes. It was at that moment that my husband glanced over and read aloud off of my screen "he really is cute", before making one of those funny noises that he makes when he feels that he missed a big step in the logic process. So I re-opened the attachment and I said "See? He's cute in this photo. Don't you think he's cute?"
In response I got a blank stare, and then a view of his retreating backside as he went to the kitchen to refill his glass. Apparently the physical attributes of presidential hopefuls is not something that grabs his attention.
Now to the real story of the day! Wherein I extol the virtues of Rice Krispy Treats in all of their glory.
So my younger (and only) brother started college this fall, and in my continued efforts to be a good sister (before falling off of the Earth as a result of my parently burden) I thought I would make a care package to send Lil Buckethead at college. Mom suggested chocolate chip cookies, but I am 8 months pregnant and far too lazy to go through all of that trouble for something I am not going to eat. Not to mention the fact that fresh baked chocolate chip cookies have the same effect 'round here that a bucket full of chum does to sharks. So I thought for a while and came up with an equally tasty solution: RICE KRISPY TREATS. They're sweet and crunchy and make for really good breakfast eats. But those tasty, sticky treats are also much coveted in this house. The only solution: MAKE A DOUBLE BATCH. Which I did this very afternoon. You know one of the most endearing things about Rice Krispy Treats? The entire recipe can be made in the microwave--which means (in theory) that Buckethead can make his own and I can eat all the goods from today.
So, anticipating my husband's delight at the treats, I made a double batch. And I am here to report that I may have not made enough. After dinner, the man sat down and devoured 1/2 a tray of the goods.
Now, I am not one to berate a man for eating Rice Krispy Treats, especially because they were a major staple of my diet in the late '90s. I am however astonished with the speed at which those marshmellowey, buttery delectables vanished. (this is me being astonished)
And here are the many virtues of Rice Krispy Treats:
They are so easy to make, trained monkeys could do it
They are a perfect meal for any time of day
They are salty AND sweet--which we all know to be a winning combination
They are made with a very noisy cereal (which means that no one could ever steal your rice krispy treats while you innocently watch television in the next room)
They go equally well with coffee or white russians.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Stupid Chicken

So, I'm roasting a chicken for dinner, following Betty Crocker's tips (like a housewife from the '50's) and the stupid bird isn't done yet. I did the math--a 3 pound chicken will cook in 2 hours at 325 degrees. That's 40 minutes a pound. I had a 4 pound chicken: 4 pounds of chicken times 40 minutes a pound is 160 minutes, or 2 2/3 hours. I checked the oven--the internal temp reads 325...the chicken is, in fact, a 4 pounder...So if I put the chicken in at 3:10pm, why is it still pink at 6:25?
Is it possible that my oven defies the laws of cooking? Is it possible that Betty Crocker could be (gasp) wrong? Or is this just another one of those oddball occurrences designed to get right up my nose because I am pregnant and ungainly and already cranky?
The mysteries of the universe....
I have to go and check the stupid bird again.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Friday Night

Tonight we went out to dinner and I've discovered that, like some of my older family members, I become a food-magnet in public places. It must be some sort of bizarre genetic trait--the ability to accumulate portions of one's meal across one's shirt in restaurants. At home I can eat pasta with marinara sauce in a white shirt and come away spotless, but walk through the door of a restaurant and I am guaranteed to go home looking like I tried to eat soup with a fork.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

What now?

So yesterday I caught Lunchbox (the cat) in the baby's crib...And I yelled a lot. I understand that she's a cat and is therefore curious, but she also catches rats with her face. And given the choice, I'd rather not expose the baby to rat-germs. Maybe I'm just being a paranoid mom-to-be, but let's not forget who spread the bubonic plague through most of Europe.
Aaron suggested that we cover the top of the baby's crib with a screen-like device, thereby creating a baby-quarium.
And if you wanted to encourage your child to join the circus later in life, that might be the best start. But for now, the nursery door is closed, the baby is in utero, and the cats are still catching gross things on a regular basis.