Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Official!

It should be easy to become a resident of a new state. Move to new state. Send form with new address on it to some government office. Said government office mails new drivers license (with flattering photo of new resident on it) and license plate to new resident. Done.

Not the case, folks, not the case. Especially in Texas.

I was so intimidated and overwhelmed by the process of becoming a Texas resident (I’d heard it could be rough) that I avoided even thinking about the more complicated steps for close to two months. But when I read online that I only had three months to knock these steps out before I’d get in trouble (with who I don’t know, but I’m kind of afraid of getting in trouble regardless), I got to work.

First the simple stuff – bank account and insurance. Not too tough, right? Right. Whew.

Next came the vehicle inspection. Huh? Texas requires all residents to have their vehicles inspected before they can be registered and titled. While I can’t tell you what the inspector was looking for, I can tell you that it couldn’t have been much since he let my four-year-old “help” and all they did was check the tires and the blinkers. The inspector promised Will a job when he turns 16 (score), but I’m pretty sure Will could do the job fairly effectively now.

And then came the County Tax Office to register and title the car. I went with Hallie while Will was in school so I’d only have to wrangle one child. When we arrived I packed up the required paperwork and documentation along with bags of snacks, a coloring book and crayons, and two new toys to keep Hallie occupied; strapped her into her stroller; and said a quick prayer for short lines, pleasant County Tax Office employees, and patience. My prayers were answered, and though the woman who assisted me was not at all nice, we were in and out in about 20 minutes. Another whew.

But then came the dreaded DMV. I checked their website FOUR times to make sure I had the correct paperwork and documents with me. I drove 30 miles to the office, again with Hallie in tow. I waited in line for 10 minutes and was “welcomed” to the DMV with a not-at-all-friendly “next in line”. And then I was informed that I wouldn’t be able to proceed without my birth certificate, a document that was NOT LISTED ON THE WEBSITE. I didn’t yell or cry, both of which I wanted to do, but instead firmly told the employee that the DMV website was incorrect and should be updated immediately. I grabbed Hallie’s hand, turned, and walked with purpose toward the door, pleased with how I’d held my ground but was not unkind. But because Hallie felt the need to ruin my composed exit, she pulled away from me, ran back and waved to the employee, and yelled “BYE BYE! SEE YOU SOON!”. That's my girl.

Two weeks later Hallie and I were back in line at the DMV. We waited for 15 minutes, had our paperwork verified by a different employee (thank goodness), and were given a number. 55 minutes, three snacks, twice through all the photos on my phone, and six repeats of the local weather loop on The Weather Channel later we were called to one of the five counters. And can you guess who was working at our counter? That’s right, the employee to whom I made my firm comments two weeks earlier. Karma’s a b&*$#, isn’t it? I repeated “kill her with kindness, Erin” over and over again in my head and tried to follow my own instructions. And you know what? It worked. Sort of. Well, it would have worked if Hallie had been on board. Turns out all waiting and no play at the DMV turns Hallie into a little rascal. While I was signing paperwork, getting my eyes checked, taking my new picture, and paying for my license, Hallie ran away and hid from me twice (“I’m SO sorry – I’ll be right back”, I said as I ran after her), shouted her ABC’s countless times (Hallie’s grandmas think this is cute, but it was made clear to me that such behavior is not cute at the DMV), demanded an additional snack and then smeared her gummies all over the floor and my shoes, and pooped her pants. And that's my girl too.

So after all that, I’m finally and officially a Texas resident. Funny thing though, Tom isn’t (I think he's afraid to go to the DMV after hearing what Hallie and I experienced), and we’ve been here for four months. Don’t tell anyone though, because I’d hate for him to get in trouble.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Impressions

In an attempt to save a little money, Tom and I decided to drive our two cars to Texas rather than have Tom’s car towed behind the moving van. This meant that both Tom and I drove the ENTIRE way there (approximately 738,000 miles), and that when the kids were awake the parent with whom they were riding was singularly responsible for feeding, entertaining, and tending to them. When we arrived in College Station on the evening of December 12th we were all exhausted, and I was additionally quite grumpy and pudgy (four days of lethargy and fast food did nothing for my demeanor or my waistline).

Moods changed, however, when we woke on our first morning as Texas residents and were greeted by sunny skies and warm (by December-in-the-Midwest standards) temperatures. We picked up our keys, crossed the threshold into our new/temporary rental house, and began to settle in.


Here are a few first impressions jotted down a couple of weeks after we arrived in College Station:

“The pace of life here is a little slower – I notice it in particular on the roads, but also in line at the grocery store, at restaurants, and when I drop off and pick up Will from preschool. People are generally friendly. The local barbecue and Mexican food is delicious, but many of my favorite restaurants (I miss you dearly, Panera) and stores haven’t made their way here yet. There is a disc golf course on campus for Tom, but he has yet to encounter a Texan who actually knows what disc golf is. The daytime winter temperatures are mild, but the nighttime winter temperatures are still quite cold – in the 20s or 30s. I’m certainly not complaining about the weather now, but I can guarantee I will be come summer when the highs are in the 110s and the lows are in the 80s. In the "we’ll have to get used to this" category: most people drive huge pickup trucks or SUV's at least twice as big as Tom’s car, there are drive-through liquor stores that advertise drive-up windows large enough to accommodate semi-trucks, and some bars provide patrons with a to-go cup for unfinished beers. Just a few miles out of College Station is a "Cowboy Church", which church-goers attend on horseback. On the same stretch of road as the Cowboy Church we saw an entry to a ranch adorned with FOUR recently-slaughtered MOUNTAIN LIONS. (We did a little research later that day and found out that yes, there are mountain lions here.)”

We’ve been in College Station for almost exactly four months now, and in that time have done our best to take advantage of all the city has to offer and meet as many people as possible. My first impression is fading, and a more balanced and accurate impression is taking its place. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Plan

As you may know, I took over writing the blog my husband started for our kids in January. Since then I’ve posted on Will and Hallie’s page (“Wiggles”) nearly every weekday, and I’ve found this schedule suits me as I seem to have exactly enough time, energy, and ideas for once-a-day posting. I’m fairly certain that if I tried to post more than five times a week I’d quickly be overwhelmed, and if I posted fewer than five times a week I’d drift away and soon find I’d forgotten all about keeping track of our lives.

Now that I’m writing two blogs, I’m still going to post five (or six) times a week but I’ll split my time between Midwestern Girl and Wiggles. I’ll be here on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; and over at Wiggles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I’d love it if you’d join me, or, as they say here in Texas (I heard these exact words last week) – Y’all come back now, y’hear?!

Also, a big thank you to Ferris Creative Media for their help setting up this blog. Visit their website and Facebook page to learn more about the logo creation, design, editing, proofreading, and website development services they provide. Tell 'em the Midwestern Girl sent you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Howdy! My name is Erin, and I’m currently a 32-year-old stay-at-home wife and mother living in College Station, Texas. I haven’t always been a stay-at-home wife and mother though, and I haven’t always been a resident of the great state of Texas.

I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. My parents, who recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary, still live and work in this great city. I have one younger sister, who growing up was both my best friend and greatest adversary, depending on the day/hour/minute. We had two cats, Pearl (who, poor thing, was neither female or white) and Jingle Bells, who didn’t care much for us because we dressed them in doll clothes. We went to public school, took piano lessons, played soccer (my dad was our coach), competed on our pool’s summer swim team, and participated in Girl Scouts (my mom was our troop leader). We had love, guidance, structure, discipline, all we needed, and enough of what we wanted. You might consider my childhood an idyllic one, and though I wouldn’t have agreed with you during my teenage years, you would be right.

I went to college at the University of Iowa and graduated in 2002 with a BA in sociology. (In case you’re wondering, an undergraduate degree in sociology prepares you for nothing, except maybe working towards a master’s degree in sociology.) A family friend once told me I’d better enjoy my college years, as they were the “good old days” I’d remember in the years ahead. He was right. Those five years in Iowa City (yes, it took me five years to graduate – thanks, Mom and Dad) allowed me – an uncertain, brace-faced, and spectacled high-schooler – to reinvent myself and become who I wanted and was meant to be.

I met my husband, Tom, while we were students at the University of Iowa, so though neither of us were born or raised in Iowa and we don’t live there now, we both consider Iowa City to be a home of sorts. We dream of someday moving back, not so much to relive our college days (reliving my college days as a 32-year-old might kill me), but to raise our children in and give back to the community that helped us begin our careers, find each other, and become a family in the first place.

After graduation I worked in fundraising and special event for the American Red Cross in Cedar Rapids, IA. Eventually Tom’s desire to pursue a master’s degree and PhD in industrial engineering took us to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where for six years I worked for the Red Cross in volunteer management/administration and youth programming. I LOVE the Red Cross. The mission of the organization – to provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies – speaks to my heart and soul.

Six years and two kids (Will is four and a half and Hallie just turned two) later Tom finally graduated from the University of Michigan with his PhD and accepted a faculty position at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. We left our families, friends, my job at the Red Cross, and the only home our children had ever known to head south to Texas.

So here I am now, trying to figure out what I’m doing and where I’m going (you know, besides taking care of my family and our household and driving to and from preschool, the grocery store, Target, and the gym). I’m not a writer by trade, but I like to write. I’m not a photographer by trade, but I like to take pictures. I’m not a Texan by birth, but I’d like to learn what it means to be one, as long as I can do so without forgetting my Midwestern roots.