Cebulski Family Update

This post is complicated to write. How to explain the process of coming to a very significant decision? How about I just put it out there:

We're moving back to Grand Rapids, Michigan!

I suppose that I finally feel like the decision is final because Rowan and I landed back on Michigan soil last night; I didn't want to announce it until we were actually here! We flew in one way....Joe will follow in the next week or two with the truck (with or without the RV, depending on if we can sell it out in CA). He's busy selling the Mercedes, a couch set we bought for the house, and some other misc. other things we acquired over the course of the year that we don't really want to keep. Then he'll make the trip cross country.

It's honestly been a roller-coaster summer, and especially the last few weeks, of making decisions, weighing options, and seeing what doors opened and closed. One opportunity that we were waiting on was out in Stockton...it involved Joe getting enough funds to keep the training center out there alive, then staying on as an assistant coach/administrator of the center. Ironically, Joe was able to secure significant funds from a local foundation (he did a tremendous amount of work and I'm really proud of how impressive he was in meetings and interviews), but it didn't end up being enough...or maybe just not the right timing...for everything to work out. There is obviously a much bigger back story here, but I'm trying to keep this all brief.

We had pretty much narrowed it down to either staying in Stockton for a year or two, or moving back to Michigan. So with the door closed on Stockton, that left Michigan! We have many details to work out in the coming weeks--jobs, living, insurance, etc. Joe has talked and thought about becoming a fireman for several years now (I'll let him write a separate post about wanting to be a fireman...since that may surprise some of you!) Turns out that the Grand Rapids Fire Department is hiring 12 new firefighters...and they haven't hired in 5 years. So that feels serendipitous--a door opening. The testing process begins on Sept. 25; Joe will have to be in Grand Rapids by then. The whole hiring process takes most of the fall...if he were hired, the training doesn't start until January. So while this will be the first thing we pursue, there will be some months in there to fill in with odd jobs and finding a house (and you know us--that means a fixer-upper!). If you're in the GR area and need some work done around your own house, remember that Joe might be available :)

Rowan starts pre-school tomorrow at Oakdale Christian School, the same school I attended for kindergarten through 8th grade. She got to visit the school in the winter because her cousin, Seth, was attending there last year. Feels strange to have my child going to the school that my first memories of school are!

I feel really good about being here. This begins a whole new chapter of life for us--can't wait to see how it all unfolds! We'll keep you updated as details become more clear. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers and we've been in this transition mode.


Summer in Michigan

Between the Cottage in early July and my sister's wedding in mid August, we had lots of fun and adventures in Michigan. Many events probably deserve their own posting, but in light of the fact that I am way behind...I'm going to include a whole bunch of things in this one post. Here are the highlights:
1. Jenny's Shower: Right after the cottage, we held a bridal shower for Jenny at my Aunt Anne's house (if you want to see why I love my aunt anne's house so much, check out a few pictures from the shower on Flickr). It was mostly cousins and some of my mom's friends...but it is always good to see these people. I was pleased to get to be a part of the wedding process (little did I know then how much more involved I would get to be as the month wore on!) and begin the celebration of Jenny and Mark's union.

2. Farmer City, Illinois: I got to meet Joe's grandparents, his mom's mom and dad, after we had been dating for a year or two. They live in a tiny little town in central Illinois called Farmer City. Grandpa and Grandma Thomas farmed for their whole lives before moving to the "city" for their retirement. But they didn't slow down much...Grandma will turn 90 in September and Grandpa is 94 (or 95, I can never remember), and every time you show up at Grandma's house there is a meal with like 12 different elements to it waiting on the table. From the first time I met Grandma and Grandpa Thomas, I felt welcomed and accepted...and have felt like theirs ever since. In the last year Grandpa has suffered several falls and is now living at a nearby nursing home, which has been a hard adjustment for everyone.

Joe's mom, Rowan, and I drove down to Farmer City to see Grandma and Grandpa and to celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary! That's right--74 years! So we had a little open house/party for them with other family that live in the area. It was good to spend time with Grandma, and although it was hard to see Grandpa in the nursing home, it was also good to give him big hugs and watch him laugh at Rowan.

3. Peoria, IL: one of the nights that we were in IL, I got to leave Rowan with her Nana and Great-Grandma and drive an hour over to Peoria to see my sister. She recently bought a house there...so I got to see her cute new house, do a few wedding things, and meet some of Mark's family (they are all from Peoria). It just so happened that the night I was there, Mark was playing bass with his band....so Jenny and I got to hit the town and catch the jam session! I can't remember the last time I was out at a bar past midnight....we had a blast! A big part of the fun was watching Mark play. It was a part of Mark I didn't know yet....he really gets down on stage. He is incredibly fun to watch because he gets so into the music, is really intense, and is clearly enjoying himself. I was proud of my brother-to-be!

4. Playgroups: I have several friends from high school and college who still live in Grand Rapids. Most of them have small children...and when we all get together, it's pretty crazy. It's a lot of fun to see close friends with their kids, to see how they parent, to see the personalities of each kid, to see my friends' faces in these little people toddling around. I also got to spend a few individual play dates with friends who have kids close to Rowan's age. We went to a great little beach/park with Jill and her adorable girls, Lauren and Sophia--twice! We had lunch at one of the most fun places in GR--Yesterdog--and played at a park with Katie and her sons Simeon and Judah. And we also walked down to a spray park with Heidi and her son Ethan. Then we had a bigger playgroup out at the beach where Becky's family was staying at a cottage...and had a perfect evening of swimming, cooking out, and watching the sunset....and chasing around a dozen kids under the age of 4!
5. Meijer Gardens and High School Musical: Back in January, Joe's dad received the incredible gift of a new kidney from a woman named Stephanie Taylor. I got to meet her in February when we visited, and this summer got to spend a little more time getting to know her and her amazing family. We met up with her and her sons, Benjamin and Matthew, at the GR favorite Meijer Gardens. Then a few days later we attended a play with them that local high schoolers were putting on: High School Musical. We didn't know much about HSM, but Rowan ADORED the play...it was fun to watch her watch the production!

6. Evans Family: When I was 11 years old, a family moved in across the street that significantly impacted my life. They had 3 children....a daughter who was nearly one, and two sons...probably 3 and 5 years old. I spent a huge part of my pre-teen and adolescent years babysitting Daniel, James, and Noella. Not only did I have a ton of fun playing with these kids and watching them grow up...but the whole family sort of took me in as one of their own, and I also developed a close relationship with their mom, Gail. We have remained more or less in touch over the years...but I hadn't seen them in many years. We got back in touch and met up for lunch this summer....and all 3 kids (well, the youngest, Noella, is 21 now, if that doesn't make me feel old!) were able to come. It meant a lot to me to see them all and reconnect. I love this family! Then we also met up the next week to take some family photos at the park. Nothing better than taking photos of people you care about!

7. Mom and Dad C's 35th Anniversary: Joe's mom and dad celebrated their 35th anniversary on August 4. A few days after their actual anniversary, Joe and his sister Stephanie were both in Grand Rapids...so we made a dinner to celebrate. Their good friends, Dick and Pam Formsma, joined us for the fondue dinner. We went all out and had cheese fondue with bread and veggies, oil and broth fondue with meats and veggies, and a yummy chocolate fondue with all sorts of sweets for dessert. It was a long, leisurely, beautiful meal. We shared stories about mom and dad, gave them some gifts, and had fun hearing some details about their wedding day.

8. Lots of adult/friend time: because of all the gracious help with childcare, I got more than my fair share of friend time this summer. Several evenings spent out with "just the girls," coffee here and there, an evening of long talks and great dessert with Ken and Gail Heffner (friends who are more like mentors to Joe and me since before we were married)....all of these made for a summer rich in relational reconnections and feeling re-energized with conversation.

Click here to see a set of more misc. summer photos talked about in this post.