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Resisting the call of the subdivision

Now that we're expecting another baby, everyone asks me if we're planning to move. Apparently two babies necessitates a flight to the suburbs? Or maybe they're worried about how much space we have? We live in a three-story townhouse. Two bedrooms on the top floor, living space and a kitchen on the second floor and the garage and a third "bedroom" (aka Phillip's Cave) on the bottom. It doesn't feel like a lot of space, especially now that Jack is cruising around the living room with his walker and getting into everything, but it works. My parents crammed five kids into a space this size for heaven's sake. It's true that we figured we'd be looking for a bigger house by the time Baby Number Two announced his impending arrival, but with this housing market and Baby Number Two being a big fat surprise, we're not quite ready to dive into THAT pile of chaos.

Now that we're expecting another baby, everyone asks me if we're planning to move. Apparently two babies necessitates a flight to the suburbs? Or maybe they're worried about how much space we have? We live in a three-story townhouse. Two bedrooms on the top floor, living space and a kitchen on the second floor and the garage and a third "bedroom" (aka Phillip's Cave) on the bottom. It doesn't feel like a lot of space, especially now that Jack is cruising around the living room with his walker and getting into everything, but it works. My parents crammed five kids into a space this size for heaven's sake. It's true that we figured we'd be looking for a bigger house by the time Baby Number Two announced his impending arrival, but with this housing market and Baby Number Two being a big fat surprise, we're not quite ready to dive into THAT pile of chaos.

Besides. My house, if on the small side, is really nice. It was brand new when we moved in, which means I can get away with cleaning the bathrooms every six months. The counters are shiny, the floors are pretty and the tile grout is still white. We're perfectly happy right now, but I do see us growing out of it. We have a patch of grass the size of a postage stamp and the toys are already taking over the living room. In the next year or two it'd be nice to have a playroom where we could hide the mess of primary-colored plastic, or where we could stash the kids when company comes over. Our neighborhood isn't particularly kid-friendly and there are hardly any other families around. And what if we have a third kid? He'll have to sleep in a kitchen drawer.

Moving, I think, is inevitable. It's where we move that gives me stomachaches. I really want to stay in the city. I want to stay near our parks and coffee shops and friends. I want to stay near our church community and make sure Phillip doesn't double his commute time. I like walking to the store and the two minutes it takes me to get anywhere in a car. Unfortunately for me, all the houses in the city are 100 years old and cost bazillions of dollars. Dear Seattle: NO WONDER YOU HAVE MORE DOGS THAN CHILDREN.

I suppose we could buy something about to fall down and fix it up, but have I mentioned Phillip and I are the opposite of Handy? Nearly all my friends who've bought houses have done extensive remodeling work. New kitchens, new bathrooms, new trim, new doors. But I swear, just painting our guest bathroom nearly ruined my marriage. Buying an older but affordable house in need of a few repairs isn't really an option for us, if we want to stay speaking to each other anyway. And so I am coming under the spell of the suburbs. "Come see my big yards!" the identical subdivision houses sing. "Check out our master suites! Imagine how many ugly plastic toys you could banish to our playrooms!" Knowing that grandparents are located in the suburbs doesn't help. Free instant-access babysitting? Who can resist?!

A friend of mine just found out the second baby she's expecting is actually a second and third baby (OH DEAR GOD) so her two-bedroom condo isn't going to cut it anymore. She and her husband have already put an offer on a house a half hour away, with a gazillion feet of brand new space for much less than a older house in the city. I made her tell me all about it - the loft, the four bedrooms, the fenced yard, the multiple bathrooms - while I tried not to drool with envy. I mean, she gets to PICK OUT HER TILE!

So what do you think, internet? It's purely a hypothetical at this point, but what would you choose? Nice newish house with lots of space, a yard and a mortgage that does not require selling a kidney? Or an older, smaller, in-dire-need-of-a-bathroom-remodel house that happens to be close to everything you love? (Of course, this is all based on the assumption that we can sell our townhouse AND scrounge up enough money for a new house AND survive the trauma of actually moving. But let's just assume those things!)

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