Thursday, January 23, 2014

OOOOklahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

The Adventure Begins...

Saturday, Dec. 21st we loaded up and headed out.  Our van loaded to the max plus some in the Camry Devin was driving to AZ for Christmas.  The drive was… tense.  The weather wasn’t too great and I watched Devin hydroplane and then later he slid off the road so I was pretty frazzled by the time we made it to Jen’s house and very grateful to be done driving for a couple of days.  The boys, by the way thought the whole sliding off the road thing was wildly funny.  We all spent the night and Sunday with the Christensens and then Dusty, Devin and Brian headed to Mesa.  (Jen’s older boys were in California for Christmas so Brian wouldn’t have had anyone to play with.)  I enjoyed some very nice, warm days with Jen and kids and then headed to Mesa also.  It’s just not fair that sisters have to live so far apart!

Christmas in Mesa was wonderful.  We were all spoiled with good food, lots of attention, and of course presents.  Grandpa Allen and Uncle Bill made all the grandsons these amazing trucks!  And the granddaughters received jewelry boxes.  We played hand and foot and watched lots of movies as one is nearly always playing at Grandma Black’s for the kids.  It was a lot of fun to spend time with my nieces and nephews and get to know them better.  It’s really neat to see their personalities developing which have so much of their parents in them and yet are so unique at the same time!

Dusty offered to watch Mary one day so I went to Maricopa to watch Frozen with Aunt Daphnie and family.  Best. Movie. Ever!  I absolutely loved it!!!  I told Dusty repeatedly that I wanted to buy it.  And I will.  And I’ll probably play it over and over so I can memorize all of the songs once I do- even if the kids aren’t watching it.  Hehehehe.  (like Beauty and the Beast when I was a kid).  Beth and her family were in Mesa for the holiday also so Grandpa and Grandma Allen were able to get pictures of everyone except 1 grandkid who stayed in Oregon.  Great Grandma Black housed us again and we are always grateful to her for letting our gang literally take over her house.  Mary absolutely love Gma Black’s dog, Tootsie (a miniature poodle).  She did fantastic sleeping which was one of my biggest worries and the other kids did really well too. 

The Monday following Christmas, we loaded up again and headed East to San Antonio, Texas.  This was uncharted territory for both Dusty and I, having never traveled this far East.  Our plan was to stop halfway but when we got to the halfway point, everyone was doing awesome and it was only 2pm so we kept going.  We ended up doing the entire 16 hour drive!  Mary was screaming for about the last 20 minutes but Ben and Darci had beds ready for everyone and luckily we all crashed!  San Antonio was much greener than we expected!  The kids enjoyed every minute playing with their cousins.  We spent one afternoon at the park, one day at the Children’s Museum, and one day we traveled down to the Gulf of Mexico so the kids could put their toes in the ocean.  So much fun crammed into a few days!  We taught Ben, Darci, Alec, and Hannah how to play Hand and Foot and the boys stomped every single time! 

On our trip to the gulf, we got to have a ferry ride which the kids thought was the highlight (mom and dad
thought it was pretty cool too).  Unfortunately, we had car trouble on the way back to San Antonio that night.  The check engine and battery lights came on which meant the battery wasn’t charging.  We went as far as we could until the kids just HAD to have a potty break.  Thankfully, the Lord answers some prayers very quickly and there was a kind man to jump start us and we made it the rest of the way.  The next day Dusty pulled the alternator and battery and had them both tested (they were fine, of course) so he put everything back together and chalked it up to a computer problem or a bad connection so we went ahead with our plans to travel to our final destination that night. Big mistake.

The alternator really was bad and Dusty coaxed and prodded and borrowed a battery charger from a fire station and picked the brains and tools of the mechanics in some random blink-of-an-eye town right before they closed and we made it about half of our 400 mile journey.  So we threw in the towel, got a hotel room and ordered pizza.  After a good sleep and a good rest for the van, we piled in to limp the rest of the way.  We literally barely made it to Fort Sill! 

Luckily, I had mapped out our journey so we were able to drive straight to the hotel on post.  We parked and unloaded and then bundled up to find some dinner.  We arrived on the coldest night!  If you think Idaho is windy, think again!!!  I have felt the take-your-breath-away wind here in Oklahoma a handful of times already and it’s only been 2 weeks!  Well the night of our arrival was about 10 degrees with one of those biting winds.  Add the humidity and the kids were crying after about 30 yards.  I abandoned the mission and took the kids back to our room while Dusty braved the ½ block walk to Subway for dinner.  What a 2 days that was!

Our first week was filled with jumping through hoops and learning post life the hard way.  Things that never would have occurred to me are simply the way of life here—some good, some annoying, but mostly just different.  One of the first things I noticed is that the post is spotless.  Everything is clean.  There is no litter anywhere, which is pretty surprising considering that the wind never stops blowing.  

Day one lessons:  The commissary is the grocery store (not the food court) where there is only one line and you have to scan your military ID card before the cashier can ring your groceries.  Oh, and they have Peter Pan brand Peanut Butter.  Anyone know/remember that stuff?
Also, active duty orders are not enough to prove residency in order to enroll children in school, but a copy of your hotel registration will suffice.

Day two Lesson:  There is a thrift store on post! But they only take cash and there is no Wells Fargo Bank in Oklahoma. Period. Not in the entire state.  (I scored a stroller for $3!!!)

Day three Lesson: Your military ID has to be current in order to buy groceries at the commissary.  Don’t worry, it was the same ID that allowed me to buy them on day one but this time, they looked at the expiration date and I was in line with 2 growing cranky children and a cart full of groceries.  Then, when I sent Dusty to the store that night, he learned that the baggers work for tips- they’re not employees of the store (I miss Broulims!!!). Oh and Mary’s shoe fell off in the cart of groceries that I couldn't pay for and I didn't notice and I was too embarrassed and mad to go back.  (I did get the shoe eventually though) Day 3 was a little rough.

Day four:  Being a lieutenant’s wife has perks!  They’ll make you a new ID card before normal operating hours in under 10 minutes even though no appointments are available until next Tuesday!

Day five: The Library requires a current military ID card too but they are very friendly and have a TON of materials available.  Plus, there are playgrounds everywhere!!!  One morning, we were slightly early for school so I drove around for 10 minutes to kill time and we counted 9 playgrounds in less than a square mile!

Our first weekend we mostly spend driving around, getting our bearings, meeting our ward, and meeting new friends.  We had a couple over for dinner Friday night so that was fun.

Our second week felt much calmer.  We were settling into a routine and I think have most of our lessons learned.  But I guess we were starting to feel just a little too comfortable…

Mary and Samantha got a stomach bug which made me really miss home.  Mostly just because the washing machine was a downstairs/outside walk instead of just downstairs.  But everyone seemed just fine the next morning so we headed out!

Our first official outing in Oklahoma!

We decided to go to the Oklahoma City Zoo!  They offered a 50% military discount .  Once everyone woke up, we had our free breakfast at the hotel and then headed north!  We knew that hwy 44 we would be traveling was a turnpike or toll hwy but since we had paid a toll upon entering the hwy, we didn’t expect there to be 2 more toll booths on the way to Oklahoma City (OKC).  So as we pulled into the “Cash” line at the first booth, the attendant informed us that in an extreme emergency, they could accept a check.  So I wrote a check for $1.75.  At the second toll booth I was prepared with a check for $1.50 as well as a polite, “how many more toll booths are there from here to OKC?”  none, thank goodness!  Needless to say, we stopped at the ATM before heading home. 

The zoo was absolutely fantastic!  I’ve been to 2 zoos that I can remember- Portland and Idaho Falls- and this by far was the best.  (sorry Idaho Falls, more people, bigger, better zoo)
Here are some photos:

The highlights were watching a baby giraffe run/gallop/leap like a deer across the enclosure.  Cutest thing I’ve ever seen!  Letting a deer like my hand- probably completely against the rules but super cool! Watching the elephant stand on 2 legs on top of a stump (both anchor legs were on the same side of her body) and learning that she was expecting.  Babies are just awesome. Speaking of which, we also got to see a baby gorilla and a baby chimpanzee!  The baby gorilla was wrestling with his mama and the baby chimp was playing in a blanket.  We got to watch a sea lion swim laps underwater.  We got to see lots of different turtles and tortoises which are my favorite, and lots and lots of snakes which I think are Dusty’s favorite.  Nathan said his favorite was the giraffes.  Brian’s favorite was the giant Galapagos tortoises, (they had babies too) and the night animals- mostly the bats.   Samantha’s favorite was the leopard. 

The lowlights were the stomach bug that hit Mary while we were in one of the indoor viewing buildings.  :-/  We were strolling along looking at.. frogs I think when I smelled this really bad smell.  I’m looking around wondering if it could be one of the animals but we’re inside and all the animals are behind glass when I realized the smell was following me (or actually proceeding me) .  Dusty cornered the kids around a bench and I took just the wet wipes and a diaper to the bathroom thinking it would just be a quick change.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  (Warning: graphic details ahead) I seriously didn’t notice a thing when I picked Mary up out of the stroller but when I went to lay her down on the changing table, there was literally poop squishing out everywhere.  Legs, shoulders- everywhere!  It was the worst blowout I’ve ever seen!  The poor girl!  I ended up throwing her clothes in the garbage, using about a hundred wet wipes, and giving her a bath in the automatic sensor sink- boy was that fun- not!  Since I didn’t bring the diaper bag with me (and let’s be honest the only things in there were snacks and more diapers), I took off my sweatshirt to dry her and wrap her up.  20 minutes later, I exit the bathroom to find my children running around the building, under daddy’s watchful eye of course.  After describing the incident to Dusty, he asked what I wanted to do… Well, we’d paid to get in and only seen about half of the animals, Mary would probably be just as comfortable riding in the stroller as riding in the car and I’m positive she got it all out of her system (that was so. much. poop!).  So I put her coat on her and wrapped my sweatshirt around her legs and off we went.  She fell asleep. Perfect.  And then, when the zoo closed, we headed home… We’re about 10 minutes down the freeway when Mary starts crying.  I look back and I can see the poop pile that has squished out between her legs and the carseat.  I literally screamed, probably made Dusty almost crash although he didn’t say so, and ordered Brian to the backseat.  How in the world am I going to clean this up!?!?  But I did.  I just did.  I’m not sure how I got through it a second time that day but I managed.  Then I buckled her in Nathan’s carseat and put Nathan in Samantha’s booster and luckily we got home without further incident.

Definitely an adventure and definitely memorable.  Overall, I have happy feelings about our outing.  Hopefully I didn’t traumatize Mary!  That night, the stomach bug hit me and the next night it hit Dusty but so far the boys have escaped (knock on wood). Our next post won’t be so long- promise!