Monday, January 28, 2013

The Question of Relocation

It has come time to sell our little bungalow and seek out a slightly larger nest.  I'm not in the market for a McMansion or anything, but I have high hopes for a place with a guest bedroom and more than one bathroom.  If I'm allowing myself grand visions, I see a sweet little office slash sewing room for myself as well.  Because right now my sewing machine just sits on the floor next to my reading chair until I move it to the dining room table for projects, which makes the entire dining room a sewing disaster area and is not really functional.  Oh, and a pantry.  Can I haz a pantry?

Seriously our house right now is tiiiiiny.

But I love every inch of it.  So leaving it is going to bring out all kinds of emotions, not to mention we will have to buy another house, and everybody knows that moving is stressful.

Our big problem, though, beyond pantry space and attached garages and finished basements and how many bathrooms is location.  I know.  Such a cliche.  Location, location, location.

Right now, I commute to the east to go to work and David commutes to the west.  My drive is just under 30 minutes, which isn't terrible for a commute.  David's drive is 45 minutes in the morning but about an hour on the way home in the afternoon, which isn't great.  Fortunately/unfortunately, we both love our jobs and have no intention of leaving them in the foreseeable future.  I'd say we each have about the same potential probability for getting different jobs in the next ten years (which is pretty slim but not entirely out of the realm of possibility--I just couldn't say whose job change would be more likely).

The question is...  do we move closer to his work to shorten his commute, thereby lengthening mine?  I vote no on this, for the obvious selfish reasons of not wanting to drive longer, but also because I'd like to stay close to Zuzu's daycare and close to all of the things we love in the city--the Botanical gardens, many of the parks, our favorite restaurants and coffee shops, and the Target with an escalator from the underground parking garage (Sorry to rub it in, Canada.  I hope it's your turn for Target soon!).  I hate that David has to drive so far, but since our jobs are so far apart, it only makes sense for us to live in the middle.  Which is pretty much where we are now.

Of course, I'm also generally adverse to change.  I like sameness.  The only thing I really like to change is my clothes.  I stress out about anything more permanent.  Paint colors are agonizing for me.  Hair cuts take weeks of adjustment.  Buying a new car practically gave me an ulcer.  I don't even do gel manicures because they last so long.  (Also I'm too cheap, but you get the idea).  So if I have to have a new house (which I do WANT, honestly), I'd really like to stay close to the same old neighborhood.

At the same time, I hate that David dreads his commute, and I'd love for him to have a shorter drive home to us, especially since his working hours are usually longer than mine.  But is his shorter commute worth me having a longer one, especially since my more flexible work hours usually make me the point person for Zuzu-care stuff?  I'm the one who drops her off and picks her up, which adds at least 15 minutes to my commute anyway, so that needs to factor in.

And I guess that I'm especially anxious about all this because it feels like with the housing market being all doom and gloom that whatever we buy we are going to be stuck with (assuming we don't just end up stuck where we are, which is a distinct possibility, I suppose).  It's not like we could sell the house in two years if we decide that it actually makes more sense for us to be somewhere else.  (Or is it?  I don't know!  That seems stressful!  But I guess not impossible?)

Then there's the big issue of school districts.  Like all good bougie parents, we want to live in a good school district, right?  And the public schools in our city are... ungood.  By which I mean they lost accreditation.  And Zuzu will not be attending a non-accredited school if her bougie parents have anything to say about it.  Which obviously we do.  So that means if we stay in the city, we're looking at private schools or charter schools.  Consider David is employed by a public school district in the state of Missouri, he is pretty adamantly opposed to paying for Zuzu to attend a private school, on principle and because OMG that shit is expensive.  And even if it's an affordable kind of expense, we would really prefer to send her to a public school.  You know, because we're socialists.  And also we'd like to pocket that grand a month that's currently going to daycare.

The thing is, I would love for her to attend a particular charter school in our area (it's a language immersion program!  She could grow up bilingual!  Si!  Oui!  However you say yes in Mandarin!), but then you get into the issue of lotteries! And testing!  And I don't know anything about charter schools!  There's actually an information night for one of them next week, but it conflicts with another event I have.  Also, is it crazy to go to a school information night when you are FOUR YEARS out from potentially enrolling a kid in the school?

(Maybe not...  David had a woman come tour his school the other day because she was looking at buying a house in the area.  And she was pregnant.  With her first.  I asked him if he asked her if it was her first and he said no, she volunteered that information.  And then he wanted to say, "I hope it lives."  But he didn't.  He just gave her a tour of the building.)

And this raises the question of whether we buy a house in a location for our kid to enter a lottery that may or may not get her into the school we want her to attend?  I'm probably more adverse to gambling than I am to change, and that just seems like a pretty big gamble.

So there's the option of moving from the city to the county, which extends my commute but shortens David's.  The best school districts in the county are also the most expensive communities, so there's a concern about what we'd even be able to afford.

Then there's the (relatively minor, but significant to me) issue of losing our street cred.  I LOVE living in the city proper.  I love being ten minutes from the stadium.  I think we are absolutely in the prime location for enjoying everything this city has to offer.  I wish David's school district wasn't so fabulous so he would just look for a closer job.  But he is committed to staying where he is, and I totally understand that.  I just don't know where that puts us in terms of buying a house.

If we could only decide on a location, I could start to get excited about this...  I could start making lists of kind-of-must-haves (main floor laundry?) and would-be-awesome-if (his and her walk-in closets?) and but-seriously-what-we-need-is (more than one bathroom, please!).  I could give myself lots of pep talks about kitchen storage space and built-in bookshelves and I could start to stage our house for selling (like maybe relocate one of the two strollers currently hanging out in our back room).

But right now it just feels like we don't know where we're going, so it's hard to get excited about getting there.  And I'm not really sure how we're going to figure any of this out.  Maybe when we start looking for houses in our price range?  Or maybe I need to do more school district investigating and charter school exploring first?  And who knows if our house will even sell?  And also what do we do with our obnoxious dogs when a realtor is showing our house?  See I don't even know where to start!

Okay.  Whew.  That was my brain dump for the day.  I feel a little better even though none of those issues are really resolved, at least I've identified what they are!  I'll keep you posted on our progress.  Should we make any...


  1. Let me make this easy:
    Move near us! Or David's district! You transfer to the closer campus or another school. You could buy a whole lotta house in that area for not too much, last time I checked. Problems solved. You are welcome! :)

    How often do you do all that city stuff? The drive isn't a big deal to us but I guess we've always lived in this area so I'm used to it.I mean, it's not like people typically go to the zoo to see the penguins and make a day or several hours of it, in that case the drive is no big deal.

    I think it's crazy that someone toured a school while pregnant for buying a house. I had no idea they even let people do that! We should go tour David's school sometime for the heck of it!

  2. How about renovating your current home to fit your new needs, since location wise it fits so well.guess folks at hgtv air a show on the same theme. Forgot the title. I agree, living in the city is great. I was thinking about your chickens the other day.

  3. You could always rent too! Lots of people do it in some of those more expensive school districts.

    I'm completely biased, but I could not live outside the city, except for a few select inner ring suburbs. We take full advantage of most everything the city has to offer, plus I love the gorgeous housing stock. That's the architect in me, though. I couldn't do those far flung suburbs and most of the housing. IMO, the best part of living here is how much of it is free which means you can very easily go to the zoo for an hour which I love, because the surest way for me to NOT want to do something is if I have to pack up a days worth of snacks and stuff and drive for half an hour and park and spend the day there. From March - November we go to the garden at least 3x a week, and never for more than an hour.

    Could Caroline go to school with David when she gets to be that age? I always went to the school where my mom taught, not the one for the district I lived in. She would have to stick around for things like faculty meetings, but I remember doing that as a kid and it was kind of fun - all the teacher's kids would hang out together. Just a thought - although things like sports and playdates would be a drag if you were driving around all weekend long.

    There are tons of good school choices now, and don't count out the magnet schools as well. Both of Ella's teachers live in Maplewood, and we have several friends with kids in that district and they love it. Webster, Shrewsbury, UCity, Clayton, Kirkwood... seems to me like you need to stick near the highways to help the commutes.

    The person with the most flexibility should be the closest to the kids, because once they are in school, good lord, it's a juggling act. Out at 3:30, plus all the days off, and summers... makes the days in daycare seem so, so easy.

    I hear you on the commute - I couldn't do it. One thing I love about our location is that we can be on 44, 55, 40 or 70 in under two minutes, so even though we are just south of downtown, we can skirt around the metro area pretty quickly. Just don't ask me any questions about west of 270!

  4. There's about 3,000 things I would comment on if we were having coffee and I didn't have to type it all out (or I could be crazy and cut/paste and interject with ALL CAPS to differentiate my comments from your writing... = crazytown), but I will just offer one teeeensy bit of advice.

    We used to buy our house. You've already bought a house. You're not rookies, but it sounds like you didn't buy it yesterday and therefore will need to do some research as any intelligent bougie would do. Even if you don't use them as your agent, you could use it as a research database because it's fantastic like that with their mapping capabilities. We searched and managed all this from Germany and then came to the U.S. for one week, saw 8 houses (ours was #4 on the list) and put down our offer that day because we were so researched. When we bought the house, Refin gave us a kickback of HALF the closing costs when our house closed. Not too shabby. It's basically the easiest and cheapest way to buy a house with a real estate agent who isn't a schmoozing salesman.

    Good luck. Can't wait to read more. I sort of dig change, so this excites me!

  5. Break it down into pieces. Make a list. What things are hard and fast and what can bend if need be?

    If you only want to consider public schools, then choose a few districts along your commuting line, or investigate the city magnet school options (they don't all require testing). If your school choice is more flexible, and mortgage amount is critical, then see where you can afford to live and narrow down from there, etc...

    I bounced back and forth between moving or staying. Then one day I realized I was devoting way too much time to the stress and couldn't decide on even the smallest thing, so I picked one (staying) and then focused my attention on crafting the life that I wanted to live (and my family to live) within that decision. And suddenly I could make decisions when I had some hard and fast parameters.

    Yes, we pay for school, but it's doable (and cheaper than daycare), and if we had made another choice we would just spend our money in other ways (mortgage, gas, etc...)

    For us, it was wanting to raise our children in the city, in a beautiful old house with the space to spread out and pursue our individual hobbies, and surrounded by the community that we live in and love.

    You love your jobs, but those might end up being flexible too - I think you're going to eventually want to be closer to each other as your family gets older and busier. And you guys are lucky that there are potential jobs like yours all over the place. That doesn't mean you don't love your current jobs and co-workers, students, etc... but there are other options you may love just as much or more if it means more family time and less stress on a day-to-day basis.

  6. HA!

    I have no idea what you should do, but can only tell you your dream list is possibly my current house: his (and hers!) walk-in closets, 2.5 baths, 4 bedrooms, pantry (technically it belongs to our non-existent butler). See? I don't have Target (yet!) but I do have other stuff.

    Okay, but then the reality sets in, and I'm looking at an hour commute to work and then another home. and the house is less appealing, except I love it so much it's worth it.

    For what it's worth, I can tell you what to do about the dogs, and it's what we did with our cats: gifted them to our parents for the time it was on the market. Our realtor encouraged us to do this and it was totally worth it because I didn't have to worry about coming home and finding out the cat shit in an inappropriate location or whatever. kwim?

    Okay, enough writing. But I'm excited for you guys! And a possibly bilingual Caro!

  7. 1. Target opens up in Toronto in March. YES!

    2. Lotteries for those charter schools: I know some people who got in, some who didn't. And then some of the ones who did get in ended up hating the school and leaving anyways. So... risky, yes.

    3. U City? Richmond Heights? U City has some decent schools, I think. Richmond Heights uses the Clayton schools. (Ewan went to St Michaels and Wilson, though -- private schools.) I liked U City.

    4. We are house-hunting now, too. In a crazy-hot market. It isn't fun either way. Good luck!

  8. If you need a kick-ass realtor, I'll give you our guy's name. He sold our house in FIFTEEN DAYS. And his buying agent became our friend. There was not once that I felt like he was dicking us over to make more money. Such an upstanding guy. Good luck with the decision-making. It was so stressful for us that I actually sent a prayer request to my church over it. For real. I can't believe I did that.

  9. I have a horrible urge now, whenever I meet someone pregnant, to say, "I hope the baby lives." I don't, but I'm always thinking it, and somehow feel infuriated that they assume the child will, when mine didn't. (Yet didn't I assume the same?)

  10. Your Target has an underground parking garage?!

    Oh, and I hope all the other stuff works out.


  11. Not sure I like LauraJane's idea of gifting the dogs to your parents!!:)

  12. As a parent you can't discount school district and you can NEVER discount location. So...I get it. I've owned 3 houses, all at different times in my life and had different needs. House 1, newly married, and we just wanted 2 bathrooms after only having 1 and liked the area we were renting and literally moved across the the Clampitts! #2 was a move to San Diego suburbs from Northern California. It was NEW, unlike the previous house built in 1940 that needed a whole new sewer system. Kid #1 showed up a few years later. I never paid any attention to public schools. At that point I wasn't sure we were going to have children. So...#1 turned 1 and we moved back to northern Cali to be closer to family (free babysitting!). We rented then bought and did tons of research on schools. My issue is that test scores don't tell the whole story (you know that. I taught highschool many moons ago. You can have a great school and 1 bad teacher...or 10. You can have an old run down school and fab teachers. So...our town really only has 1 district in the "city" and a few out in the country, then charters galore. We bought a house where the neighborhood school had top scores. But more importantly it had the amount of bedrooms we wanted (#2 was on the way), hard wood floors, 3 car garage, and the master bathroom not only had 2 vanities but they were away from each other (request from the husband). We applied to the kindergarten lottery at one of the charters and got in...14 spots, hundreds tried. Felt it was meant to be. Love it. They were recently named #3 in California. But if we ended up at the neighborhood school we would have been fine.
    Ok...just realized this isn't helping you at all. Maybe excluding neighborhoods/areas would be easier???

  13. I have a different perspective on the schools thing - because I am totally sending my kid to a public school in an unaccredited school district (the one on the other side of the state). And we love our kid's school. Yeah, the district overall has its problems, but our kid goes to a great school with wonderful teachers, a responsive principal, involved parents, and a diverse student body. So I wouldn't automatically discount the public schools where you are. Maybe they do all suck, but you may find something you like that enables you to either stay in the area you like or delay moving for a while. Keep in mind that not every school in an accredited district is going to be The Best School Ever - and not every school is a "failing" district is also failing.

    Just my perspective as someone who is often asked when we're moving to the suburbs for better schools. My kids' education is important to me, but so is my own sanity, and I would go totally crazy in the suburbs.

  14. We also have a TINY (cozy), old (charming) 2 bedroom, 1 bath house and I dream about a 2nd bathroom and closets and a nicer kitchen. We never thought we'd be here so long, but we unfortunately bought in 2006 right before the market tanked. ugh.

    Choosing a neighborhood with decent commutes and good schools is so hard. My niece and nephew are in Spanish immersion and it is so cool!

    Good luck with the stressful process! With a baby, kitty and neurotic dog, I think we'll have to move out to put the house on the market.

  15. "Also, is it crazy to go to a school information night when you are FOUR YEARS out from potentially enrolling a kid in the school?"

    Crazy? Yes. Worth it? Probably. Especially if that is one of the main factors you're considering with this move.

    I KNOW the pain of leaving the city. My city house is walkable to everywhere and less than a 15 minute drive from everything else. The farm house where we're moving is a 25 minute drive to the nearest decent cup of coffee. So I can't really advise there - I cry almost every day about leaving the city. We're moving from urban to rural and I don't have a lot of suburban experience. But, I totally understand the appeal when you're raising a family and need some extra space, and the schools are a lot better.

    Good luck with this HUGE life changing decision!!

  16. Moving is hell but so worth it when you find the house you love. We looked at a ton of houses and just spent Sunday afternoons cruising open houses in the neighbourhood we liked. Eventually, we saw one and I knew immediately it had to be ours (it is). Good luck with the hunt - it's exciting!

    Oh, and we are getting a Target really close by my house, like within walking distance in the spring. I am seriously excited.

  17. Sara's got a great point - there are lots of really, really good magnet (public) schools, and remember - we've got the number one high school in the state. Number one. In the top 100 in the country. Are there rough spots? Yes. (Just like the rest of our fair city.) But there are so many bright spots, and the district has provisional accred. and is moving in the right direction so you've got lots of choices.

  18. It's funny how the other day I was thinking how thankful I was that we lived in the country where my girls have space to run and roam and explore. I think it's all what you are used to. Like Angie, we make a day out of going to "the city."

    I did hear on the news that the housing market was coming back... So that's a plus.

    I think that you should pick a couple of different areas to scout out and be open to what each has to offer. :)

  19. Well I might take a plane, I might take a train
    If I have to walk, I'm going there just the same
    I'm going to, Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come

  20. Don't move to KC, it's lame compared to St Louis. Nice try dennis. Some good times in that house, Dennis bachelor party being one of them.
    b long

  21. After saying I loved our charter, I felt I needed to clarify something. I know you are a details girl like me:) Academically they are top notch. Great teachers. My son is in a K-1class and none of the other schools are doing what they are doing. Curriculum is outstanding. They also have a longer school year (they get the month of July off and the first week of Aug) and they go from 8:15-3:30. It is a commitment to go to this school. One we all agreed to. BUT we just got a letter about attendance, and parents pulling their kids out of school early for sports. Ofcourse its not ok...but the wording, the tone, the "this school isn't for everyone"..."we have 1200 on the waiting list"...blah blah blah.
    I feel like the higher ups dont feel they need to impress the parents because they have 1200 waiting to get in. Accept it or get out:( Our PTA was disbanded and its not a community. Makes me sad. I'm sure our charter is a special case in this area. But how can you be so forward in academics and so behind in community? Just another thing to think about when researching all schools.

  22. Not that my vote matters but come out this way.You get more house for the buck out here and an amazing school district. I love it out here. Not too far away, yet far enough. St. Charles campus isn't too far and I think it is nice. D would be uber close with all of his long hours. -VB

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