Finally, the uncertainty that has clouded the last few months is becoming a little clearer …

The snow has disappeared. Temperatures have reached the high 70s. And yesterday we were graced with a refreshing spring thunderstorm … The downfall is that today I’m dying to be working outside in a yard. Driving down Main Street this week and seeing the outdoor garden centers sprouting up in store parking lots has been killer.

We could be filling that void soon -- we hope. Just a couple more months.

Yesterday, I said goodbye to Kates and Phoebe once more, after a whirlwind week during which the three of us camped out in my one-bedroom apartment and got a glimpse of what our new lives in The ‘Ville might be like.

They arrived last Saturday evening with my parents, who had driven them from K-Town for a family rendezvous here. Joel, Stephanie and their little ones drove up from the Entertainment Capital of the Midwest and the nine of us partied in a hotel room at the Holiday Inn for the K-State/Butler game. Partied is a terrible exaggeration, of course, since we had two toddlers who spent the day in cars and Butler beat K-State soundly.

Saturday night’s dinner was at the neighborhood Applebee’s. While the mere sight of all of us sitting around a table and having good conversation was pretty awesome, the highlight came when we drew a free dessert. Our waitress mistook my mother’s hand gesture for a signal that it was my father’s birthday. So it was a complete surprise when the waitress showed up with an entourage of clapping birthday singers and a dish of chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. We accepted the dessert and laughed it off while the waitress walked away red-faced upon learning no one at our table was celebrating a birthday.

After a late night Saturday, we somehow managed to pull ourselves out of bed and get to 9 a.m. church with my parents. For weeks, I’ve been attending the little brick church downtown and, like so many of my experiences here, I’ve been captured by the warmth of the people. Better yet, I’ve been excited by the church’s acceptance of its youth, outreach to visitors and members alike, and the contagious energy within the building -- church values that Kates and I have starved for in recent years. On Sunday morning, I was overjoyed at the sight of the children marching down the aisles and waving their palms, and the sounds of brass and handbell choirs. The music throughout the service was wonderful, and it was an energizing way to start the week.

For lunch, we bought some Subway sandwiches and headed to the university, planning to eat in the Union. We ended up around my office’s conference table because the Union was closed … I gave a tour of the office and we spent the rest of the afternoon at my apartment watching the basketball games.

On Monday, my parents headed south to stay with Joel and Stephanie. And it was back to work for me -- while Kates and Pheebs got started on getting to know the town. Kates drove me to campus every morning. Some days, they picked me up for lunch; some days I didn’t see them until my work day was finished. On Thursday, I spent the morning working from home and headed to the office for the afternoon. While I worked, they made trips to the library, shopped and played.

* * *

Our evenings were spent touring homes and searching for that perfect neighborhood. We visited six homes on Monday night, five on Tuesday night and two more on Thursday night -- in addition to revisiting four homes that we’d put at the top of our list during our Monday and Tuesday night visits. After building a list of homes we’d compiled the last couple weeks, Kates immediately started working the phone Monday morning and connected with a realtor, Merla -- or “Merwa” to Phoebe -- who graciously and patiently led us through each of the homes …

We saw all kinds. Older homes, newer homes. Homes that were beautifully decorated with modern updates. Homes that were covered with hideous wallpaper, and way too many homes with 1970s-style, dark, wood paneling. Some homes -- like one we saw on a huge countryside lot -- had enticing ground floors, but got scratched by nerve-racking amounts of water-damage in their basements. We also saw a 1905 farmhouse that had been beautifully updated with large rooms, a finished basement, a brand new garage and all the charm of The Farm -- but it sits on a busy, well-worn road in between two less-than-desirable neighbors. That home was one of the properties we revisited Thursday night, but when we got out of our car and heard the teenage daughter cursing a storm at her father -- inside their junkyard of a backyard -- it was no wonder the house was priced so unbelievably low.

I’ve said from the beginning, I’m looking for a neighborhood where Phoebe could comfortably ride her bike, we could take walks and I could enjoy working in the yard ...

We found the golden nugget in a two-story home that sits on the bend of a picturesque residential neighborhood, just blocks from the university. It was built in 1967, but it’s been completely renovated from top to bottom, inside and outside. The living area has hardwood flooring, the kitchen has been updated, the bedrooms are large, and it has an octagon window for Phoebe. The potential for the yard couldn’t be any more appealing to me -- Kates called it “an oasis” -- and the driveway is flat and situated in a way that I could finally have my own basketball hoop … There are some drawbacks, though they’re nothing we couldn’t fix -- like the island and cabinets placed awkwardly in the dining room, some water damage in the basement and some drainage problems in the backyard. There’s also a wall that was knocked out to expand the master bedroom, but instead creates an odd juxtaposition on the second floor.

The question looming now is whether we place an offer on that home, or we pursue the notion of building a home that’s customized for our family … Of course, all of this rests on the contingency that we sell our home in K-Town by June. And the prospects of that happening aren’t looking too good right now.

* * *

In the midst of the house-hunting, Kates’ job hunt also got a shot of momentum.

After mulling over a couple less-than-appealing options, a near-perfect opportunity popped up in the form of a text message on my phone Tuesday morning. A friend of a friend dropped a line to me, and that sent Kates into gear, compiling the information and documents she needed to apply.

With some key insights from a couple connections, she spent most of Wednesday and Thursday doing some research and perfecting her resume …

The timing of the opening, the connections and the job itself almost seem too good to be true. But it also seems to be another sign that all of this is meant to be …

We can only hope and pray it works out.

* * *

Phoebe could not have been more delightful to have around …

Ok, there were a couple tantrums that pushed our nerves. She refused to let us watch anything but “VeggieTales” and her Little People “Happy Birthday” DVD. Trying to look at houses with her wasn’t easy either; trying to keep her from touching things and staying off furniture was … ugh.

But nothing beat the moment I caught her eyes on Saturday afternoon. My parents pulled up, I opened the back door of the car and Phoebe, in her car seat, let out one of her signature loud shrieks at the sight of me … In that moment it hit me that now she’s truly a little girl -- a little girl that will be turning two years old in a week. She’s grown so much, and I’m saddened that I’ve missed so much time with her the last couple months.

Kates and I have seen it again and again. But this week, as we introduced her to new people and worked ourselves into a new environment, others reminded us of it, too … She’s smart. She learns words the moment they leave your mouth and her memory is sharp. Our ability to have conversations with her now is something we relish.

On Sunday morning, she bounced up from her crib and delightfully proclaimed, “I wake up!” … Every time, we went somewhere she waved and said “Bye Daddy’s ’partment.” … We had dance parties and we played blocks, two of Phoebe’s favorite past times.

When I came home for lunch on Monday, something triggered Phoebe to say “basebol!” So, having watched a lot of spring training baseball over my lunch breaks the last couple weeks, I turned on ESPN and found a ball game. Phoebe joined me on the couch, with my Cubs blanket, and contently watched the game for several minutes. It was bliss.

She runs. She jumps. She shouts -- oh, man, does she have a set of lungs. But her boundless energy and endless wonder with the world around her is pure joy.

* * *

The personification of our week may have been Wednesday night …

I had endured a stressful day of work, Kates had endured a draining day in the midst of her job search, and we were both eager for a night off from looking at houses. … So we accepted an invitation from my friend Gina to attend a community dinner at the church -- and we had a grand time.

Volunteers served up some great-tasting lasagna and salad, we connected with some new families and Phoebe charmed everyone around her. Kates and I went in feeling agitated and uncertain; we came out smiling and feeling as though we belonged. As we walked to our car, Kates sighed and said with a smile, “That was refreshing.” I seconded that emotion.

As this week approached, Kates and I were curiously nervous about how it might play out. After all, we’ve been living apart for three months, and she, understandably, feels like an outsider to this place. On the other side, I spent a major part of my life in this region and had friends from the day I arrived … I hardly need to mention our apprehension of moving to a much smaller town. Or my doubts about the three of us living in my small apartment for a week.

But we couldn’t have shared a better week. We got out. We met new people and interacted with the community. Bickering was a rarity, and we truly had a load of fun.

The view of what may lie ahead for us has become so much clearer this week. We’re halfway through the transition now. And I can hardly stand to see what the next three months have to offer.

The adventure continues.

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