We are back, after Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Chicago.
When we were there for Selina's birthday, we stayed in the perfect hotel, so we booked that one again. The reason it is perfect is that it is a true suite (it's Hilton Suites on Delaware, in case anyone wants to know) at a reasonable rate (Cole is good about figuring out how to get reasonable rates, and she's a state employee, which gives her a discount).
By "true" suite, I mean there are doors that close between the sitting room and the bedroom. It is set up so that we can sleep the kids in the sitting room and have the bedroom to ourselves. Nat slept on the fold out couch and Selina had her play yard.
Nat learned how to get out of bed and flip on the reading lamp, and both nights, she did this a few minutes after bed time and read quietly to herself from the hard-bound hotel copy of the Chicago tourist magazine. I wonder what she learned? All I know, is that when I peeked and saw her sitting up in bed browsing Bulgari advertising and steakhouse reviews, I was charmed.
On Monday, we broke down and used the hotel's baby sitting service. They sent a great sitter, who Nat loved right away and all went very well, by everyone's report. It cost about twice as much as we typically pay sitters and was worth every dime.
We saw 6 places on Tuesday, narrowed it to two but then back to just one after weighing our preferences for space versus location. (Location is coming up just slightly on top.) So we reviewed number one on Tuesday and saw three additional places, with kids in tow. Fortunately, our realtor is an enthusiastic dad of three, two of whom are very close in age to Nat and Selina, and he carted kids, strollers, bags around for us with seeming pleasure. Nat was a champ and behaved very well. I hadn't thought about how much she would enjoy meeting new people at each house, but that helped, I think. She got to flirt with a new realtor every 20 minutes, which is her idea of fun.
So after all that, I am still keen on the one place I liked best on Monday (the second place we saw overall). It had large enough bedrooms, a balcony out front, another balcony out back (off the master bedroom) and it was on the top (4th) floor with easy access to a shared roof deck with a view of the lake. It is less than one block to an el stop that would get Cole to the Amtrak station for her weekly commutes back here. It is exactly one block to a major grocery store and one block and change to a lovely, grassy public playground.
But the el station is in the backyard. The tracks are about one story lower than that balcony off the master bedroom.
Now, I find this charmingly urban. I told Cole that we could have our tea on the balcony and just watch for her train and when we see it coming, she can pop over. Also, having a train station in your backyard brings down your property value, which means we could get the place for a song (relatively speaking) and if we stay there until Cole retires, who cares about the property value? By the time we sell, we'll have equity to spare anyway.
But Cole would like to keep looking, and I'm not opposed, since we haven't had any offers on our places yet and aren't really ready to make any offers yet and might as well see if we can find a similar setup on the other side of the street, removing the train tracks from negative consideration, while retaining the convenience of their proximity.
Here's the annoying thing I'm finding is overwhelmingly true about Chicago condos: most of them are either brand new construction, or what they call "gut rehabs" which is to say old buildings demolished on the inside, rewired, replumbed and refinished with the exact. same. maple cabinets, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Now those are nice finishes, but I would probably choose something a bit more creative if I was doing a kitchen or bathroom myself. Still I can live with it.
But two things I can't live with that are really common are that the kitchens are often in the living rooms and the second and third bedrooms in 3-bedroom places are tiny.
I imagine these places are designed for childless people who don't cook. Because I don't care how pretty the granite is, my countertops are going to be messy on a regular basis. And I like to think that I keep a cleaner kitchen than the average cook. Realistically, though, my kitchen will not be a lovely showpiece at all times, and I'd rather it be somewhere NOT in view from every place in the house besides the bedrooms.
As for those bedrooms, again, I think they are designed with the assumption that when people have babies, they flee to the suburbs. The redesigned, refinished, or newly designed, newly built places all have enormous "luxury" master suites with spa tubs, showers that say "I am an American and I don't care about people who have to walk five miles to get a bucket of fresh water every day, I need my six shower heads" and walk-in closets that are more like dressing rooms. So of 1700 square feet, maybe 500 of them are master suite. Leaving these piddly little 9x10 second and third bedrooms for, I suppose one guest room for old college friends and one home office.
But we need a nice, large second bedroom suitable for two girls to grow to teendom together in and one smaller third one for that office. The train-tracks place has something a bit closer to this arrangement. And it's rare. It seems that even if we look at places 150% as costly, the master bedrooms just expand and the second and third bedrooms stay the same.
So this is our dilemma.
I could put the girls in separate rooms and stick some kind of desk in one of those ridiculous master suites (I have been perusing walk-in closets with an eye to this idea--one place had a window in the closet and I was thinking "office") but I'd rather not work and sleep in the same space if I can help it. I have insomnia and this is just not the best plan for me. Even when I lived in studios and single rooms, I designed my space with clear work/sleep boundaries.
So we will see. I really do want to find a place we won't outgrow in three years. I'd love to just plant ourselves until Cole can retire (when the kids reach high schoolish age) and then move somewhere luxurious like Honolulu and send Cole out to homeschool them on the beach while I take over breadwinning.
I know that eventually we will sign on a dotted line of compromise, but now, everything is still up in the air and I feel the near potential of getting Everything I Always Wanted and living Happily Ever After.
I will try to enjoy it while it lasts!