A Change Is Simmering In Me

This house has been and continues to be a great home for our growing family. We’ve poured countless hours of hard work into it. It’s so much more than the “good bones” our realtor promised us when we put in the offer 4 years ago.

It’s not the fanciest, or the biggest. The yard is small. But, it’s enough.

For now.

And really, I think if we could add one more bedroom to it and extend the yard by about 10 feet, and, okay, add another bathroom, then maybe it would be enough for a lot longer. Even if I could magically make all that happen though, it would still be in north Texas, far from family and help.

It’s not that I have any problems with north Texas and the Dallas area. I’ve met some incredibly kind people here. It’s certainly not a terrible place to live. It’s just never felt like home to me.

That said, I don’t know that any place my whole life has ever felt like home. I’m a product of a military upbringing. I’ve never lived in a house/apt. for longer than 4 years. Ever. So I guess since our 4 year anniversary here is coming up this month, maybe that’s why my heart is growing restless. 

Knowing we’ll likely outgrow this house when we have a 3rd baby (not in the plans immediately), we’ve been looking at other options. And if Dallas isn’t where we want to be, there’s no point in looking for bigger houses up here. So, where should we go?

Oh, we played options out over and over, but we keep coming back to Austin.  It’s where we got married. It’s where SO many of my friends live. It’s very close to most of my family.

We’d just buy a house (or hopefully BUILD so we can move into something we love because we are SO OVER renovating) in a suburb, and that would be that. We thought.

The thing is, something about living at a place with a little more room… a little further out… a place where we can plant big gardens and set up rain collection systems, install solar panels without worrying about fighting an HOA- it just speaks to my heart and Scott’s eco-conscious desires.

I want a place where my kids can explore and play in their backyard. Where I can tell them GO OUTSIDE and that would keep them entertained for more than 20 minutes. I think this might have something to do with seeing how much fun they have in my mom’s backyard. Who needs to drive to a park when you can hang swings and build forts in your own trees?

We can’t afford that size of a lot remotely close to Austin though. We certainly can’t afford that AND a house that won’t require years of renovation anywhere near Austin.

As we were driving back from my mom’s this weekend, we saw a sign for a new neighborhood where the houses are built on 1-2 acres in New Braunfels (Hill Country, situated between Austin and San Antonio), so we took a detour. We just wanted to see before we headed up to the neighborhood in a suburb of Austin that we were thinking would be the front-runner.

We pulled up to a realtors office at the front entrance of one of the neighborhoods so I could run in and collect some brochures. Just as I was about to step onto their front porch, a SNAKE popped it’s head up to greet me as I nearly STEPPED ON IT. I ran back to the Jeep squealing like a terrified little girl, “NEVER MIND! I CHANGED MY MIND! I CAN’T DO THIS!”

I mean, really? Am I cut out for country living? For having a space big enough for a large garden, which would mean I’d have to actually, like, garden? Am I  going to be okay with my kids playing in a backyard where SNAKES live?!

And yes, I spent my teen years in a small town in the “country” but I was never okay with this kind of stuff when I lived there, either. I wanted to get the hell out of there and to civilization where people only see snakes at zoos and there’s a healthy dose of concrete and Starbucks surrounding me.

After a few deep breaths and some laughs from my husband, we drove through another neighborhood.

You know that feeling when you catch your breath and your heart flutters and you can’t stop smiling? That love at first sight feeling? Yeah, that.

There were trees, and hills, and views, oh the views! And space. And houses that we could afford to build, to make our own. They’re near a river and a park, and in a GREAT school district.

They’re not anywhere at all where I ever once in my life considered I’d move. It’s a far cry from the apartment Scott and I lived in in Northern Virginia that was mere steps away from fancy restaurants, shopping, bars and Starbucks. It’s nothing like Manhattan, which I dreamed for so long of taking up space in.

It’s also nothing like the neighborhood we live in now or the one we thought we’d love near Austin. We drove through that near-Austin, master planned neighborhood, and it just didn’t feel… right. Not after seeing the houses in the country.

Now, by “country” I mean off a road that is only 8 miles out from the nearest grocery store. This place we love is not in the middle of nowhere by any means. New Braunfels isn’t a sleepy town, and it’s close enough to San Antonio and Austin to make day trips either way up or down I35. But, it’s not like Target is practically in our backyard like it is here. There’s not a Starbucks drive through 2 miles down the road. We’d have to put a lot more thought into our grocery shopping trips to keep our driving down.

And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need some distance and space to slow us down.

I don’t know, the more and more we talk about the pros and the cons, the more and more I love the idea. We are incredibly fortunate that both Scott and I can pretty much work from home, wherever that may be, as long as there is internet.

So that’s what I’m consumed with these days- the idea of moving to a place where I’ll probably see more snakes and scorpions in a week than episodes of the Real Housewives during a Bravo marathon.

I’m not sure what’s coming over me…  maybe it’s just age, possibly clouded by my never-ceasing optimism. We have a lot more research to do, and won’t be making any decisions or purchases anytime soon. I’d love to hear from any of you who live in similar set-ups, or even in that part of Texas. What do you love, what do you hate? What would you change?

  • Susan - I grew up just north of Plano, TX in the 80’s and 90’s. My husband I had a house in a Saint Louis suburb for a few years with a Target and Home Depot close enough to push carts home from. And I can honestly say that though it’s been a huge adjustment, our house 30 minutes west of Boston is by far my favorite. We live in a suburb, but have woods surrounding our house and I love that though it’s quiet and I can hear the rain and snow hitting the leaves of the trees, I also have neighbors. We have 3/4 of an acre of lawn and another 1/2 an acre of woods and it’s just right for the kids to explore, climb, and run around in. The nearest shopping area with Target, Lowes, and a grocery store is 15 minutes down the highway, but it’s kind of nice that way. I have to plan my shopping trips and usually only shop once or twice a week. If I need something closer, I get to drive into town and shop in small local store and visit with people who all know each other. My drive to preschool is tree-covered and we pass by horses and cows on the way. It’s magical.

    I say go for it. If you hate it, you can always move back. I know it’d be a hassle, but shouldn’t you LOVE where you live?ReplyCancel

  • Amanda D - This is the EXACT reason we’re moving from New Mexico (so I feel your need for exploration for the kids) to Oregon. Yes, it’s far from here, but I am counting down the days to when I can have my own garden, water system, go to U-pick farms, bring the kids to the beach which will only be 45 min. away, and let them truly experience nature! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to and I haven’t spoken to one person who doesn’t love OR. 🙂

    I hope that whatever you guys decide feels like home 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Brandy - Oh goodness. My parents live in Canyon Lake and every time we exit the highway (right before the major New Braunfels exit!) and take those 2 lane winding roads all the way to their house, I dream about packing it all up and heading south. There is nowhere in Texas more beautiful that Hill Country. We’re planning on leaving the Plano suburbs and heading south…but probably closer to Houston. Do it, Jill!ReplyCancel

    • Wren - Don’t do Canyon Lake!!! It’s bad out there. Stay closer to IH-35.ReplyCancel

      • Brandy - I really like Canyon Lake! Not sure why you would think it was bad. Great lake views in their neighborhood!ReplyCancel

        • Wren - Hubby is a FF/EMT who does mutual aid with Canyon Lake. I think more in the safety aspect. Select areas in Canyon Lake are “nice/safe” plus their ISO rating isn’t that great so you pay a lot in fire ins. New Braunfels’ ISO rating is a 2 so we pay pennies on the dollar for fire ins out here. That’s all I meant by that.

  • The Practically Green Mom - I could have written this post! I’m from the Austin area, and I would move back there in a heartbeat! (I’m currently near Houston…blech.) I would love to be on an acre or two in the country! I grew up on 3/4 acre on the outskirts of town, so the scorpions, snakes, etc. don’t phase me. (I found a scorpion in my bed once when I was 13.) But I know exactly what you mean about wanting the necessities (oh hi, Starbucks!) nearby. We’re pretty spoiled here in the suburbs!ReplyCancel

  • Jill - We live in the country. In Illinois, so not the same, but we have 8 acres. It’s heaven. If you keep the grass mowed, the snakes aren’t that close to the house, nothing to eat. Is it a bit far from town? 8 minutes from a small town, 12 or 15 from a bigger town, an hour from a big city. It’s close enough to a grocery store to never go hungry, but far enough to make you think twice before you decide on a fast food run. It would take longer to drive through than just defrost something and heat it up. Yes, it requires some extra planning, but cloth diapers make it soooo much easier to live in the boonies. We buy milk 2 or 3 gallons at a time, I have 5 or 6 boxes of pasta on the shelf, bought at a discount store, several dozen eggs. Cheese and pasta sauce. You keep those few things on your shelf, you won’t starve. Get a big freezer (we have an upright that’s the same as our fridge, just flip a switch and it’s a freezer) and keep it stocked with a variety of things. Fresh fruit and veg is about the hardest. Apples and carrots keep well. But then, in the summer you can plant things and eat fresh, go foraging for mushrooms and berries if they’re available… of course you’re not psychotic about driving like I am, so even an hour from a starbucks won’t kill you. They have bags of it at the grocery you can put in your own pot, right? You can really make a ‘day’ of things if you’re that far from town. I wouldn’t dream of buying starbucks, we use folgers and get a month’s worth out of what a lot of people spend on coffee in a week. That much money means a bit of cushion for us, with only one of us working. $3 a day could break us, you know?.. and if worse comes to worse, yes you just leave the kids with dad and grab a few items from the local store, keep those folks in the dough, too. Smaller places mean when the library calls you, you recognize the different voices and can put them with the faces. It means they remember your name, it means a greater sense of security. It means someone is going to notice weird people in the neighborhood. There’s no anonymity. But it’s a good thing. The only thing I would trade is for more land. People too close makes me bonkers. I like going outside in flip flops, underwear and a nursing bra. Because I can. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Denae @ New Mom Adventure - I love this idea but who says you have to give up Target and Starbucks around the corner? Have you been to San Marcos lately? The target it spitting distance from the border between New Brauns and San Marcos (the McCarty exit on 35). The starbucks is right down the street (with drive-thru) and there is a lot of new construction in the area, large lot and suburbs type homes. San Marcos is more eco-friendly than New Braun. Its a beautiful town. I lived there for many years. The river, the community, big and small town living built into one. Plus, 15 minutes closer to Austin (30 min drive to Barton Creek Mall) which makes a difference when its 45 from New Brauns. Keep dreaming Jill. I know you will find the perfect for you place.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer @ Also Known As the Wife - As soon as your started talking about the “country” in Texas I started thinking SNAKES!!

    I’m with you…I’m ready for a big change, somewhere a little more rural so my daughter has a yard to roam and explore that isn’t the size of a postage stamp. Somewhere a little quieter and that isn’t right on top of our neighbors (we’re in overcrowded NJ). The economy is making this dream very difficult to obtain (stupid housing and job markets!) but when it’s right for us we’ll be jumping all over it. I hope your dream plans come together and the bugs/snakes stay away.ReplyCancel

  • Mandy - Sigh. This bums me out, obviously, because I love how close you are, and I love the idea of Kendall coming to our school and getting to see you more often, but I’m not going to lie, that is EXACTLY where I’d want to move if I moved somewhere else in Texas. Every time Jack and I drive through there, we’re like “WHY DON’T WE LIVE HERE??” So, I get it. But, boooooo.ReplyCancel

  • Wren - I live in New Braunfels!!! We are about 4.5 miles out of town going towards Seguin on Hwy 46. We live in a typical neighborhood but situated in the middle of farm land so it gives that country feeling. Target is about 5-10 mins depending on traffic, which has a Starbucks inside.

    I lived in San Antonio all my life until 2010 and I hated every minute of it. I have fallen in love with NB and hope to get further out in the country with some property in the next 5-7 years. We don’t have snakes, or very many bugs in our neighborhood but when we are walking in the developing parts it’s always safe you walk with your head down. You just never know what will run across your feet.

    If you have specific questions you have my contact info. I work in downtown NB and my husband works in Spring Branch (off Hwy 46 and 281) so there’s options on Hwy 46 going out that direction too. It’s one of my fave places out here. It’s home.ReplyCancel

  • Tottums - Right there with you. The boys have to get a little bit older and then we are blowing this Popsicle stand that is the DFW metroplex. Husband and I love the Marble Falls / Dripping Springs / Bulverde area.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - I grew up in the San Marcos/New Braunfels area and live in Austin now. Do it! It’s a great place to grow up 🙂 I was never bored because I could go swimming at the river or lake pretty much whenever I wanted once I had a car, and it was free entertainment.ReplyCancel

  • Alyssa - I love this post, and I am so with you. J.J. and I have been talking about moving out of Houston, and now that we have Lauren it has been on my mind more and more. I loved that we lived in the city before we had kids, but now I hate that I can’t even let Lauren play in the backyard without me being out there with her. We’ve talked about moving to a small town like Boerne, or even a suburb of Austin before Lauren starts school, but it will all depend on JJ’s job. It’s also tough because we have completely remodeled our house, and it will be hard to sell or lease it out. I do dream about a simpler life though, hopefully it will work out.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - This so describes what my husband and I are going through right now. I grew up on 3 acres in a town so small that where I lived was considered “city” even though the our next-door neighbors had goats and the people 3 houses down had 50 acres with cows, horses and a pond. DH grew up on a 1,200 acre farm in an even smaller town. Now, we live 5 minutes of way from shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, and anything you could possibly need but we have a 0.2 acre yard. He wants 50+ acres of land, but that requires moving into a school district that would necessitate a private school. I want to live in the town we’re in now, just a little further out (same schools) on 5 acres. I think it’s awesome that you and Scott are on the same page, I’d love to be in agreement on where to live!

    I always feel like by the time I cut through all of the traffic going to various subdivisions in my area of suburbia, I could have driven to the edge of town and with an extra 5 minutes, I could be in the land of 5 acre yards. I rationalize that 15 miles going 55mph burns the same amount of gas as 3 miles in stop and go traffic for 20 minutes.ReplyCancel

  • Tara - I grew up in the Hill Country, and I would move back there in a second! I don’t have anything negative to say about that area, except for the heat, but the pleasant winters (and the HEB’s) more than make up for that. I loved being a little out in the country, but close enough to a big city that it wasn’t a huge trip to go there. And New Braunfels has the BEST rivers for tubing during the summer! Ahh, I’m getting homesick just typing this! We’re in the military right now, but will hopefully be headed out to that area in a few years when my hubby is done with his enlistment.ReplyCancel

  • terri @FindingDrishti.com - we’re toying with this idea as well – part of our 5 year plan. trying to find what parts of austin were affordable, we quickly realized that austin proper is entirely too expensive for small/older homes that would require extra $$ for renovations and only a small number of good schools.

    the hard part will be if i want to stay in my industry, all the companies are located in/around downtown. so when we’re entertaining the idea of moving to the ‘burbs, i think a career change will have to take place too. hard decisions…ReplyCancel

  • Good Girl Gone Green - Our next project is to have solar panels and a big garden, and live off the grid! oh- how that sings to my heart! I hope you find the perfect place not too far but not too close to starbucks! I am sure it will be fab! and those pictures- just wow!ReplyCancel

  • Angela - We live in Austin and love it! So family friendly! The hill country is so beautiful. They seem to be building a lot more in Southwest Austin on bigger lots. We live in between Austin and Lakeway and our neighborhood has a country feel while still being close enough to civilization. We don’t have a lot of land, but room enough to play. I say go for it if you can! Country living is great, especially hill country living!ReplyCancel

  • Erica M. - That all sounds so exciting. I love Austin and I love New Braunfels. They are both so pretty and New Braunfels has the water park that you could take the kids to. Have you looked at Hutto or pflugterville? They are near round rock just north of Austin. You can get a lot of land and the prices are better than in town. Good luck with all of this, how fun!ReplyCancel

  • A Man Called Dad - I’d stick this in the “pro” column: http://www.gruenehall.com/ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Our small town had the necessities, but a movie theater, Target, Starbucks, etc. was a good 45 minute drive. I couldn’t wait to get out of the small town as a teenager, but what I wouldn’t give now to move back… I look back on my childhood and *where* I grew up with such fond memories. My family always had a huge garden, us kids had acres upon acres to roam, go fishing, “build” whatever our little minds could think of. The country, in my opinion, is the best place one could choose to raise children. My husband and I have been saving up so that one day we can also move out of the ‘burbs and move “back home.”ReplyCancel

  • Elaine A. - I am from Austin and I love spending time in that “neck of the woods” (down I-35). My Grandparents are both from small towns near San Antonio so I spent a lot of time in that part of the state. I think you would really love it there but I grew up in suburban Austin so I really have no experience with living in the country.

    However, we did move from Arlington, TX to Lafayette, LA 3 years ago and it was a bit of an adjustment. I mean, we are still very close to the grocery store and Starbucks 😉 but it is a much smaller town. But now we like it here a lot, partlly because it is smaller and more family friendly. We do not have to deal with the traffic issues and my husband’s office is only a 10 minute drive. He comes home for lunch. That never happened when he worked in N. Dallas and we lived in Arlington!

    It’s like anything, both situations have their pros and cons. I would say “go for it” but I’m a little biased to that area, etc. 🙂

    Plus, SCHLITTERBAHN!!! ;-PReplyCancel

  • Elaine A. - Oh and p.s. my friend Lisa http://www.growingupmo.com/ is building a home in Boerne, TX, outside of Austin so she might have some insight for you. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Laura Beth - We live in Tennessee, on an acre of land, with a cow pasture just beyond our backyard. While I live that it’s quiet and bucolic, I will say that with a baby, it is tough to be 15 minutes away from the grocery store and 25 from Target. When my daughter was still taking two naps, it was especially frustrating because by the time I fed her and myself, I had time for one errand before I needed to head home for nap #2. I felt like I spent more time in the car than in the store. Just my thoughts…ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Laura, we deal with the same thing, so I go by myself early in the morning on weekends, or we go before naps even start, or we do it after naps and before or right after an early dinner. The kids have nap-full energy stored up and aren’t too cranky yet!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly Noethen Fluet - Do it! I would! Nothing is more relaxing for me that a corn field on the drive home (from the Target 10 miles away).ReplyCancel

  • Danielle Greb - We went from a large city with 6 Starbucks and 2 Targets (and 3 Super Wal-Marts) to a town with just one regular Wal-Mart (I didn’t know they made them like that anymore…) and we love it. It took a little getting used to, but our house is twice as big, as is our yard and my three children play outside half the day. It’s beautiful and well worth the trade-off. I’m far from a country mouse, but a slower pace has done more for my soul than a million iced coffees and $100 trips to Target. I say go for it!

    http://www.mamabluebird.com/ReplyCancel

  • Rie - I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Oklahoma. My highschool was located 12 miles from the nearest town and cows were the neighbors for most of us. I’m very used to rural living, but TX is a whole new field of rural.

    I now live in Keller, TX. Which btw if you go out about 10 more miles you can build a house on 1/2 an acre. But this is the first time I’ve had to deal with snakes, bugs that seem to be about 20x the size of average bugs and other things I’d rather NEVER have to deal with again.

    I think it’s a TX thing, not a rural thing.

    That being said as soon as I can convince the hubs to move to Austin, I will be moving in a heartbeat. My reasoning has a lot more to do with technology and politics though. Hubs wants to move to the other side of town (Frisco, Plano, Richardson). I suppose if we are still in DFW when we have kidlets I’ll move to Richardson for the Plano school district.

    If you want to stay in the DFW area and have a huge lot may I suggest Flowermound, Haslet, or really any of the towns on I-35 W. I adore the atmosphere of a quickly growing neighborhood.ReplyCancel

  • Ruby - I had to laugh about the snake encounter, but also about your comment of “what’s come over me? Age?” because my husband & I are exactly the same. For us, having a baby who never slept (for a yearrrr) and if she did, she’d be woken by the slightest sound, meant we became ultra-sensitive to sound/other people. And by “ultra-sensitive” I mean “incredibly crabby”. We’re not anywhere near a position to move, but moving to the country is definitely what we want to do. In the meantime, we visit an area in England that recharges us every time (the Cotswolds) through its scenery & quietness.

    But we don’t have snakes here in Holland. Or maybe, teeny tiny, non-scary ones.ReplyCancel

  • Loleta Smith - We live in a little town in Michigan called Perry. Right now in town but no HOA’s to stop me from putting in my “little” garden because that was all that I could handle after the spider got on me! We are 30 mins from several major cities & you do have to plan out shopping trips & we coordinate any appointments we have on the same day, but I LOVE IT! I grew up around here and wanted to get away too but coming “HOME” is the best feeling ever. Just leave the snakes up to the boys & run screaming like a girl if they pop up & pretend you are actually interested from the other side of the kitchen window if they feel the need to…OMG…touch one!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin Jackson - I was born and lived in SA til I was 25. We’ve lived here now, since May of 2004. I am 16 minutes from my job in Schertz, and not usually more than that from anywhere I need to be in or around New Braunfels. Takes us 2 hours getting READY to go to the River, but only 5 minutes to get to either one. Parks are everywhere, and tons of kid friendly options, as are ::TWO:: Starbucks and plenty o’ glass and concrete for the “City-Likers.” Plus their NaNa might be EVER so happy to buzz up here for the day to tube or play and take a train ride at Landa Park! I am a FOREVER resident of New Braunfels, and even though they’re screwin’ up my River Drinkin’, I love it here. My Brother and SIL live in SA and drive here around 2 or 3 times a week to hang here….just too much to do here to leave for my taste. (And we’ve only had a snake in the yard on ONE occasion…and he left as fast as my MIL jumped in the swing-set!)ReplyCancel

  • Heather - Another Austinite chiming in to tell you do DO IT. (I’m from Maryland. And DC. I never thought I’d live in Texas or in Austin. But here I am, and it’s awesome.)ReplyCancel

  • Heidi - I live in NB & LOOOvVVVE it! This is a wonderful place to live- very close community & wonderful schools. I might be able to tell you pros/cons of certain neighborhoods & schools if you need it. We’ve lived here for 3 yrs now & I’ve made wonderful friends. My hubby & I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Our neighborhood is outside city limits & we are smack dab in between SA & Austin. I love that we are outside of the city, but close enough to take the kids to either city to enjoy the different activities. We have a ton of kid & family-friendly activities here. If you have any NB questions I’d be happy to help!ReplyCancel

  • Christine - I completely get it, we are currently in the Phoenix metro area. The AZ summers and the hustle and bustle of the city are wearing on us.. we’re looking at moving to Oregon, east of Portland for a change and some trees and some land.ReplyCancel

  • The Slacker Mom - That sounds kind of like where I grew up. I kind of hated it back then but like to visit now. It’s a good escape from the hustle and bustle.

    We’re currently firmly planted in the city and looking for biggerish city lots with an alread renovated home with room for our dreams of a little urban farmstead. No HOA in the city and everyone already seems to be embracing rain collection systems, chickens and growing as much as you can on a fraction of an acre.

    For now we’re doing all that we can where we are. I have to remind myself I already have everything I need.ReplyCancel

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