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I Was Born in a Small Town

So we’ve decided to move. We love Ankeny, our house, and our neighborhood so it’s a little bittersweet to think about moving, but ever since Ethan came along - oh how things have changed. When we set out to build a wheelchair friendly house for Matt nearly 9 years ago, we were mainly focused on the functionality inside the house. While of course we wanted the ease and function of zero grade entry, we also yearned for the freedom he would know in a house with wider doorways and room to maneuver the bulky chair. In our old house there were literally rooms he never went into, simply because he couldn’t get through. Our Ankeny home was a dream come true in so many ways. And it was lovingly planned out and put together by so many incredibly generous and thoughtful people. We were humbled time and time again with how things came together for us in that house. I’ll never forget coming home for the first time with Matt after our long, exhausting trip back from China. It was late, we were jet lagged, and yet he was so excited to open drawers, cabinets, doors, and check out how everything had turned out. It was so wonderful!
In the years since we’ve hosted numerous parties and family get togethers – enjoying the openness and easy access to the garage and deck. We’ve loved living in the house. We’ve made friends with numerous neighbors over the years – so many who supported us in our dream to become parents. Tears still fill my eyes when I think about the flamingo fundraiser and two dear neighbors running around late at night moving the flock from yard to yard. The same neighbors watched our dog for weeks while we traveled to Florida to meet our son, lined our kitchen counters with a shower of goodies and started a meal train for us when we returned. Each one bringing a meal and sincere smiles of love and support as they met him. We have been touched by their generosity time and time again. It has been a wonderful neighborhood to call home.
And yet as Ethan has grown we’ve begun to realize ways in which our current home and neighborhood aren’t exactly as perfect as they used to be. Trying to take a walk as a family as proven to be much more difficult than we had expected – dealing with our hilly driveway and streets. There aren’t a lot of places we can easily walk to as a family before I encounter a hill too big to push Matt and Ethan up. Our development boasts a wonderful little park overlooking a couple ponds…up a steep hill. I took the boys up there once – huffing and puffing all the way. We started to wonder what it would be like in a year or two when Ethan wants to ride his tricycle around the driveway – how to deal with the hills. So we started to think about moving to a different area of town – with a flatter, more walkable neighborhood, to meet our family’s changing needs.
And then suddenly, quite out of nowhere, we missed living in a small town. Matt and I both grew up in small towns where we knew virtually everyone in our class and most of our high school. In Ankeny, Ethan’s class size would be nearly 5 times as large as what we knew. And the entire high school? Forget about it. At first I thought having a larger school would provide more opportunities for unique family situations, like ours. I thought perhaps that might make it easier for Ethan as he goes through life introducing peers to his disabled father. But we both admitted how much we missed the simple life we knew as kids. Riding bikes unsupervised (gasp) down our streets. Walking to friends’ houses nearby and playing outside until supper time. Walking home from school. There was so much about small town life that we realized we both missed, when we thought about our son growing up in a larger city. We wanted to try and provide a little bit of that small town life for him too.
And so we started looking at towns nearby and it didn’t take long to land on Bondurant. Located just 5 minutes down the road from where we live now, very little of our daily routine would have to change. Ethan could go to the same daycare. My commute would only grow by 5 minutes. We’d be close to the amenities in both Ankeny and Altoona.  And yet Ethan would have that small town life. Bondurant is definitely a bedroom community with a lot of commuters, like myself, who I’m sure yearn for the same small town life while being close to the metro. It’s growing a lot and I know that by the time Ethan gets to high school his class size may very well be larger than ours…but not nearly the size of other Des Moines suburbs.
Driving around the neighborhoods we found what we hope to be the perfect spot to build a new house. It’s at the end of a street, next to a field with a couple of large trees along the edge. There won’t be any through traffic, unless the development grows someday. Driving down the street we saw neighbors outside visiting and kids riding bikes down the street – carefree. We saw a family with a baby who looks to be close to Ethan’s age, and a couple expecting a baby soon. Ethan will have a couple of kids his age on the street. It was quiet and peaceful and it just felt right. And so, we’ve signed a purchase agreement with a builder and are in the process of designing our new home. It will be wheelchair friendly for Matt, like our house now, but even better. It will have a flat driveway, a flat street, and a finished basement for Ethan to grow into. We are dreaming of life in our new house already and can’t wait to be settled there.

In the meantime, we’ve prepared our house to sell and watched our realtor pound in the for sale sign yesterday afternoon. It will be bittersweet to leave. Our friends in Clover Ridge have been wonderful. Our house holds so many unforgettable memories.  Matt came home to that house after 3 months in China and realized all he had to be thankful for. We started a new chapter then – rebuilding our lives after his stroke, regaining independence and learning to push ourselves to try new things in our new normal…and a few years later the unthinkable happened. We became parents. It’s been a wonderful time in Ankeny – we’ve known so many amazing blessings. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the Karwoski family of three down the road in Bondurant.


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