Farm life on a Sunday


Even though we thoughtfully and deliberately made the move to Kalamazoo, sometimes the introvert in me wishes that we could live out in the country away from other people and give our kids that magical farm-life childhood full of freedom and dirt and exploring. If I’m being honest with myself, however, I’ve never liked yard work and I’m a bit of a sun-phobic; I love the outdoors, but mostly only between about 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. So visiting farmer friends is a much better compromise.

Our path and our timing seems to have an odd yin/yang way of diverging with that of our good friends Jodie and Guillermo. We met them 13 years ago when I first moved to New York, and Jodie then helped me to land on my feet and find my way all alone in an unfamiliar and overwhelming place. In a year or so, however, they decided to move away and life took them way out west (Jodie to Seattle, Guillermo to Alaska, if I remember correctly), then to Portland, and then finally back to Michigan in pursuit of farm life (with lots of other travel adventures in between). Jodie grew up on a farm, and together they’ve made it their life’s work and purpose. We relied on their advice as we decided whether we could truly move back “home”, since they’d done something similar. And then only a month after we arrived, they announced that they are moving back to New York, but this time upstate to buy a farm. We’re so happy for them, and yet so sad that our paths are moving us in opposite directions once again.

Yesterday they had a small going-away party on their property, so the kids got to spend a few hours dipping their toes into farm living. I loved watching them play and explore: searching for raspberries, climbing on the tractor, wandering through fields. So much joy.
















Ten years + ten weeks


So young

Today is our tenth wedding anniversary (add six or so years to that to get the full total). K gave me the most beautiful cards this morning (we rarely give anniversary gifts, and this year we agreed that since we’re buying each other a house and lots of other things to go inside of it, we could skip the recommended tin items). Naturally we both wrote a bit about the journey in our cards, but K took the time to reflect on the fact that we are back in the city where we met, and the city in which we were married. I had to remind myself that we’ve never lived in Michigan during the time that we’ve been married – we lived in New York the whole time, even though we were married here. This is our first anniversary living in the place where our journey began.

K also reminded me that despite how awful things have been feeling these past few weeks, and all of the moments in which I’ve found myself saying “I don’t want to live here – I want to go back.” We have to believe that this is where we are supposed to be right now. It doesn’t feel that way, but I need to try to believe it.

My dad has been urging me to call Roberta and push her for a closing date on the house, since we foolishly signed a purchase agreement that said something along the lines of “early October.” He said that it’s because he wants to make sure that we’re able to book painters and flooring contractors immediately upon closing, but I’m fairly certain that the real reason is because he wants us out of his house as quickly as possible. I can’t say that I blame him – we want to be out of here too, but it still makes for an unpleasant living situation when you’re aware that your hosts wish that you weren’t there. So I called Roberta and she said that we can tentatively close on the 10th of October, and get painters in by the 13th. My dad then reminded us that since we’re putting in wood floors, the wood will have to sit in the space for two weeks before it can be installed. That pushes our move date back significantly later than we’d hoped, and we found ourselves feeling so despondent about the next ten+ weeks that we actually discussed breaking our contract and buying a different house. We came to our senses pretty quickly when we realized that most closings happen no sooner than 30 days out, and that we wouldn’t likely get in THAT much earlier, particularly since we didn’t have another house in mind.

Ever since we signed the contract I’ve had my sights set on Halloween in our new neighborhood: I pictured us trick-or-treating there and could imagine sitting on the front stoop handing out candy to neighborhood kids, meeting new neighbors as we go. But it’s starting to look like that’s an ambitious target date. I’m super bummed at the prospect of ten more weeks of living out of suitcases in someone else’s space. All of our coats and warm clothes are packed away in boxes in the garage of our future home, and I probably allowed that to happen because of my wishful thinking that we’d be in well before we needed them. Still, I recognize that ten more weeks in the context of ten years of marriage should be small potatoes, and that the next ten years in that house (god willing, because we never want to move again) will be worth it.

Sunday in St. Joseph

On Sunday we decided to get out and do something more fun and special, since we hadn’t done much with our Saturday. I read somewhere that there was a good children’s museum in St. Joseph, just under an hour from Kzoo, and since we miss ours so much we thought that we should check it out. When we pulled into town I was amazed that I’d never been to the beach there. We grew up always going to Lake Michigan at South Haven, never in St. Joseph, but it was gorgeous. The beach is huge and it has the biggest splash pad I’ve ever seen.


For our New York friends – yes, that’s a lake! We promise you’ll be impressed when you visit. There was even another cannon to climb on, plus bonus cannonballs.



The Curious Kids Museum had highs and lows; it’s broken into two buildings, one up on the bluff and the other down closer to the beach. The one on the bluff is really better for very young children, lots of opportunities to play pretend, but less science-learning exhibits. We only got to see half of it because their power went out so we moved on, but the kids were definitely into a few things.

Vivi was into the veterinary office, and was lovingly feeding the dogs “agua” (she only says it in Spanish). They also had a cute little toddler farm area that all three of them enjoyed.


When they lost power we took a break and went to a place on the beach for pizza, but we killed time during the wait by strolling down to the playground equipment on the beach.



There’s a lovely carousel just next to the museum on the beach side of the bluff, and while we didn’t ride it, we did check out a cool model train that you can turn on for a quarter.


Then we headed next door for the other part of the museum, Discovery Zone. I’d heard that there was a Leonardo DaVinci exhibit, and had low expectations for it given our kids’ ages, but I was pleasantly surprised. All three kids were into the parachute tube, as well as a few other contraptions.


Jude was not at all interested in being dressed up like renaissance royalty.


They had a nice water room, maybe not as impressive as the one at Stepping Stones, but the kids were still into it.


And outside they had a few random things to climb on. The sailboat was the favorite.




We finished off the afternoon with some ice cream, of course. Next time we’ll bring our swimsuits so that we can fully enjoy the splash pad and the beach. It felt like a bit of a mini-vacation within an hour from home, so we’ll certainly be back.




Kids with trucks

Nothing terribly story-worthy has happened this week. On Friday evening, Kristin and the kids were already downtown at the library when I was wrapping up work, so I met them and we strolled around for a bit and talked about how Kalamazoo really seems to have gotten more interesting over the years and seems to be moving in a good direction. Then today we spent a brief chunk of the day at the mall and the cognitive dissonance was almost more than I could handle. I was both hating that this might be our new reality, but also well aware that we chose this so…

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the last couple of days of the kids with trucks. Jonah was the lucky recipient of a hand-me-down John Deere Gator (those battery powered plastic trucks for toddlers) and he saw it for the first time last night and was awfully excited about it. Most of the time was spent with my parents trying to keep him from driving off of a cliff while looking anywhere but in the direction he was driving.


I’m pretty sure that he was either saying or thinking “but I’m a good driver!” We heard that a lot.



He actually wants to stop and dump the cargo bed even more than he wants to drive it.


It was a rainy morning, and about a million degrees out, so we were stuck indoors and spent some time upstairs playing with Papa Doc’s old trucks. Jonah has loved them for quite some time, but now the twins are old enough to be into it too. Jonah calls this “playing beans” because of the dry beans standing in for dirt/gravel.






Have I mentioned how much the twins love the pets? Pets are such a novelty for them. They often get down on their bellies to try to win the dogs and cat over, but it’s usually futile.



Downtown on an Art Hop Friday

After a grumpy week, we finally ventured out of the house on Friday evening to try to find something to love about our new town. We almost didn’t make it, since Jonah took a late nap and woke up unwilling to go anywhere or do anything, but somehow Kristin got everybody to the car and they met me downtown (where I’ve been using a co-working space during the week).

Downtown Kalamazoo does a first Fridays thing with art from local artists in a variety of downtown venues, sometimes music, free wine in the occasional shop. I remember it from when we lived here before and it seems to be an even bigger deal now. We decided to start by taking the kids to Bronson Park, a block away from most of the activity. Jonah loved the canon (not because it was a canon, but because it could be climbed) and didn’t want to explore any further than that.

After a bit, we decided that we wanted to move towards the fountain in the middle of the park, but Jonah stubbornly decided that he wasn’t leaving his perch. Because we’re accustomed to him digging in his heels, it’s not unusual for us to simply walk away, knowing that he’ll follow when he sees that we’re serious.


While I showed Jude the fountain and Kristin brought Vivi over, I could hear Jonah yelling for me to come to him, but continued to motion to him that he needed to come with us. It took me a number of minutes before I walked close enough to hear him yelling “Mama D! I pooped in my underwear!” in a park swarming with people looking for Pokemon. Of course. I took him back to the car for a change and we continued with our evening.


This was post-underwear change

We headed for the mall where most of the action was happening. Two initial observations about people in Kalamazoo: #1. People are ridiculously friendly. It really has been such a pleasure dealing with customer service here. At one booth two women chatted with us for ages and told Kristin that she has to hang out with a mutual friend of theirs who teaches at the same school. #2. People have a LOT of local pride here. I can’t even tell you how many Michigan tees we saw on people. Not just for sale (and everywhere sells them) but on everyone. SO MANY MICHIGAN SHIRTS. That would just never happen in New York. New Yorkers don’t wear I Heart NY shirts.


We also had a very “we’re not in Kansas anymore” encounter in the store just behind Vivi and Jonah in the picture above. I’m still don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s a cute store with some nice gift type stuff: candles, olive oil, handy small kitchen tools you might not even think of, tote bags etc. We saw that they had free wine so we went in. The twins were in the stroller and getting whiny because they wanted to be free, so Kristin hung back and took them out while I went to the counter to get wine. While Jonah was taking apart a salad spinner, I grabbed two plastic cups from the woman working and told her that one was for my wife who was in the corner with the babies (and I gestured towards her). I didn’t want the woman to think that I was taking an extra for myself, since there was a line. I took the wine to Kristin, who drank it and then stepped outside. A moment or two later, the clerk walked over to me and said something along the lines of: “When you told me that you were getting wine for your wife, I just thought that was so cool. I’ve never had that before! And then I looked over and saw your little family. Congratulations!”

Do I need to mention how bizarro this felt? To be honest, when she said “I’ve never had that before” I almost said “Sorry, had what?” I was SO dumbfounded. And actually, once I realized what she was talking about, I was embarrassed for her. I kept waiting for her to realize how absurd and awkward this was, and how unnecessary it was for her to come over to congratulate me on…what exactly? My comfort using the word wife? We got married ten years ago. But she never seemed to grasp the awkwardness. I only escaped when Jonah took that opportunity to bolt from the store towards the turtle sculpture outside, and I had to say “My three-year-old just ran for that turtle. Clearly we’re just as crazy as any other family with tiny kids. Gotta go!”

I’m not offended by things like that, and I can tell when someone means well (assume best intentions is a good motto to live by) but we walked away marveling at what a different planet this place can feel like. That would just never happen in New York. It must be how interracial adoptive families feel when total strangers come up and tell them what good people they are and how wonderful their family is.

We moved on to the next climbable sculpture, the seal in the photos above. It actually took Jude awhile before he wanted to climb because he was absolutely rapt watching a young woman play the violin. He couldn’t stop watching, which was pretty adorable.

It was a nice night, and we walked away feeling a little bit better about things. Even Jonah didn’t want to leave; as we walked to the car he insisted that he wanted to go to “more places.”

Change and grief

At work a number of months ago, I attended this really wonderful training called Change Builders (I can’t find a website for it, otherwise I’d share it). Working from an organizational perspective, it addressed the tough realities of what happens within an organization when significant change occurs, moving through the stages of what was, what is, and what will be. There was a great deal of focus on what a mess “what is” is pretty much always going to be, no matter how well executed the change might be. The trainer talked about how the stages of grief are very real when any sort of major change is occurring, and the importance of allowing people to find healthy ways to cope with those feelings rather than trying to squash them or avoid them.

I have no idea where my workbook from that training went during the move, but I wish that I could find it because I’m struggling.

I know that we’re only six days in, but we definitely aren’t in love with Kalamazoo yet. I’ve been having lots of fears about this being the wrong decision and wondering if we’ll be happy here. Living in this weird in-between place with my parents is really tough, because we aren’t in our space, we’re on top of each other, and I think that we all feel a little bit trapped (my parents included). That said, the idea of making social plans and having to execute on them absolutely exhausts me right now. Everything about the “what is” is so overwhelming to me that I cannot even imagine trying to have a conversation with another person that isn’t wholly transactional.

Little things make me want to explode, and naturally I’m blaming them on Kalamazoo. Like the fact that in two days, as many random men have tried to come up and talk to me downtown. I blew today’s guy off successfully, but yesterday I had to sit and listen to roughly 10 minutes of this weirdo’s blathering about vagrants and his father and the Gilmores, and then was furious at myself for not telling him off when he noted that I was married but continued to go on and on about: “Oh are you a model? You’re so beautiful, you know guys, we can’t help it.” Jackass. And naturally I’m thinking about the fact that no dude ever, in any recent years in New York, bothered me on the street in any way.

Kristin is frustrated and grouchy about how her summer is unfolding, we both desperately need a true vacation (even though that isn’t a thing when you have kids) and we can’t find time to fit one in because work is busy for me right now and all of my vacation days are going to either the move or to her new teacher orientation in a couple of weeks when I have to stay home with the kids because day care doesn’t have room for them yet. No one is getting along, and I think that everyone would rather just retreat to their respective corners than have to deal with another human right now.

The kids honestly seem fine and unphased by all of this change, but the adults are pretty unhappy and I’m not sure how to fix it. I think that both K and I need someone else to pick us up and give us a hug and reassure us, and neither of us has anything left to give. We are both way past empty on empathy right now.

I got an email late this afternoon from the children’s museum in Connecticut that we love so much, and I almost started to cry when I read that there are both dinosaur and astronomy exhibits coming up in the next few months. I’m frustrated with our new day care (which the kids haven’t even started yet) because they’re unavailable two critical weeks this month when we need them, they’ve raised the prices significantly since we signed up, and I just don’t know that we made the right choice. I miss Gladys so much it makes me cry. I just miss what we had so much right now.