Last year was a big year for our family.
For only the second time in my adult life, I got to pick exactly where I wanted to live.
The first time was right out of college, when I could go anywhere. I chose Santiago, Chile. Spanish speaking country, good economy, I had some contacts there.
After that, I moved where the jobs were. Specifically, where my husband’s jobs were. Georgia and New Hampshire weren’t necessarily his top places to live, either, but that’s where he was offered gainful employment.
If he got to pick? San Diego.
But, the crazy cost of housing. And my family lives on the East Coast.
This year, because he became a remote worker, Mr. ThreeYear and I got to pick where we were going to live.
And we chose to plant roots in Davidson, North Carolina.
As I type this, it’s February, and I’ve only had eight months to adjust to our new living situation.
Our move was such a whirlwind, and the decisions we made had to happen so fast, that I’m still working through everything in my mind.
We haven’t even lived in North Carolina for one full year yet.
But if I don’t take the time to reflect now on our move, and the changes our family has undergone, then more months and years will pass by, and I’ll never do it.
When we moved to New England, we noticed how difficult it was to make friends. It’s not that New Englanders aren’t wonderful people, it’s that they’re not wired for social connection the way Southerners are.
It’s difficult to explain, but we had more dinner invitations in six months than we did in eight years in New Hampshire.
It’s not the deep friendships that we lacked in New Hampshire. I have very close friends there that I hope to never lose.
It’s the other friendships, the second- and third- tier friendships that are so much easier to make. We have awesome neighbors here in Davidson. I call or text them if I need someone to watch the kids, or if we want to do an impromptu playdate. We chat at the bus stop every morning.
When I’m out and about, people are friendly, chat, tell me about themselves. It’s a different feeling. It’s more like Latin America.
And that feels good. We love that.
We love living in a neighborhood, where people let their 11-year-olds go to the pool by themselves, because there are three lifeguards. Where our boys can bike around by themselves. Where they can join the neighbors on weekends outside, running around and being silly.
Moving was much more expensive than I ever imagined. Our net worth took a giant hit since we moved and still really hasn’t recovered. Of course, I haven’t been working as much and therefore haven’t made as much money. The market’s had some dips. And we’ve spent a lot of money on home improvement/getting settled.
We moved into a smaller, more expensive house. We have a fifteen year mortgage on it, so we have a significantly larger mortgage than we used to. Plus we started the 15-year countdown over again. Luckily, our taxes are about half what they were in New Hampshire, so we do have that working for us.
We also live in a country club now. That is right. You heard me correctly. I haven’t really mentioned it before because I feel very uncomfortable living in a country club. We live in one of the cheapest houses in the country club. But it is still by far the most expensive home I’ve ever owned.
One day I will write a post (another post) about the weirdness of living here. But for now, I am just accepting the fact that this was the best house option for the money, people are really friendly here, and we can walk to tennis courts and the pool, both of which are awesome options for my boys.
So on top of the added expense of the home, we have country club dues. They are not mandatory; we elected to join the swim and tennis team and are generally glad we’ve done so–it gives us not only scheduled recreation but also lots of social interaction, two important components of a healthy life.
There are some financial positives to our move. We spend a lot less on gas, because we’re not driving as much. We spend less on utilities, because our house is smaller and it’s not as cold here. We’ve eliminated our housekeeper, for the same reason. And food is way cheaper here, because we have Aldi.
But it’s taken us a while to get into a groove with our spending, and we’ve spent the last eight months or so generally overspending a bit as we get into a routine.
This year, we’ve set a challenge to get better at our spending. We’ve found ourselves spending lots more than we ever did on:
- Target (the closest one in NH was 45 minutes away)
- Eating out (so many delicious new restaurants to try)
- Clothing (people dress nicer here and we’re still readjusting to that)
- Pets (we have one now and she’s been expensive so far!)
We’ve also been a little too focused on making our house look perfect. I think we need to step back and embrace the imperfection, and live with good enough for awhile longer.
On the health front, two of us are doing pretty well, and two of us aren’t. Mr. ThreeYear and I have both gained weight since we’ve moved.
I think it’s because we are both at home all day, so we eat constantly. We’re both working on how to change those habits.
While it was warm, we rode our bikes or took walks each day, but now, Mr. ThreeYear has been working out less.
I’m currently training for a half marathon and playing tennis, so I’m ok, just have extra padding.
The boys are doing better. Their anxiety seems to be better managed. They’re regularly doing their extra-curricular sports activities. Little ThreeYear is outside a lot, playing, but Junior ThreeYear has turned into a middle schooler, and holes himself up in his room a lot.
Mentally, we’re all doing well, I think. We like our new homes, we see our family a lot, which helps us feel secure and loved, and we’re making new friends.
As I mentioned before, norms are different here in the South. Appearances are much more important than they were in New England. Hospitality is very important. People don’t really say what they think. At the same time, I’m a grown up, and I’m already fairly set in my ways, so I just go about life the way I always did. I’m a Challenger on the Enneagram scale, so I just challenge my way through life.
The boys’ new schools have been everything I hoped they would. Junior ThreeYear goes to a huge middle school, with 1700 students, but someone, he manages to have the experience of a small school. He’s managed his course load so well. I’m so proud of how he’s adjusted. He just got his Quarter 2 grades and he’s improved in every single class. I think he’ll have all As by the end of the year.
Little ThreeYear had a rough start to third grade at his elementary school, but he got connected with a counselor who set up a checkmark incentive program for him. If he gets all of his morning work done, he gets 15 minutes of Lego building time. And the same system applies for the afternoons.
My Lego builder LOVES this system, and it’s also improved his self-confidence so much. The school has other amazing programs, like a running program that rewards the kids’ long-term achievements. Little ThreeYear had run the equivalent of a marathon by January, and was rewarded by bag tags, a T-shirt, and all-school recognition.
Mr. ThreeYear’s job has been going well, and he’s actually been given more responsibility since he started working remotely. It means he’s had to travel more, which hasn’t been great, but it’s something we’ve gotten used to. And it’s awesome having him home during the day.
I’ve been writing a little and tutoring, but other than that my main focuses have been finishing my master’s (done) and increasing traffic on this blog (a work in progress). It would be awesome to be able to keep this up and earn enough income not to have to go back to work teaching, although I do recognize that having a part-time job (and schedule) is a good thing for me.
Our day-to-day lives have really beautiful rhythms. Mr. ThreeYear and I work from home all day, and I take a few breaks to exercise or go to appointments, get things fixed, or pay bills. At lunch we’ll sometimes go to the gym. The boys get on the bus in the morning (one at 7:45am and one at 8:45am) and get off in the afternoon (3:45pm and 4:45pm). Neither has any after-school activities, except on Fridays, so they come in, put their things away, and spend the next few hours doing creative projects, reading, or tackling homework.
I make dinner while this is going on, then after dinner we clean up, maybe play a board game or watch a family movie, ride bikes when it’s nicer out, and just enjoy a really simple schedule.
I struggled with this simpleness a bit but have gradually embraced it, because the kids LOVE it. They love their routine, they like their schools, and all the margin in our lives allows for spontaneous grabbing dinner with friends, having neighbors over, going to neighbors’ to play, playing in the cup-de-sac, or some other spontaneous activity.
Having a dog has complicated our schedules somewhat, because I always have to make sure she’s had enough exercise, but in general, she’s been a blessing of a waggy tail, licks, and happy chases for all of us. And she makes sure I take a walk each and every day, or pay for it.
Things I Miss
I miss driving on the interstate and seeing the gentle curve of the Appalachians in the distance.
I miss the silence after a snowfall.
I thought I would miss the stars, but it turns out I can see them just as well here.
I miss the frugality, the “I don’t keep up with the Joneses” attitude of New England.
I miss my running trail around the lake.
I miss my big backyard and my basement.
Things I Don’t Miss
I don’t miss March through May.
The interminably long winters and the cold.
How difficult it was to make friends and have a social life.
How small the school was.
Working so much.
Plans for the Year to Come
One of the things we haven’t taken very good advantage of since our move is our location freedom. We’ve only spent one long weekend at the beach during the school year, pulling the kids out of school for a day.
I want to spend summers in South America, and now that Mr. ThreeYear is working in Brazil more, that seems like it’s going to work out. But, this year, Mr. ThreeYear’s sisters are coming to visit us, and we’ve made the unofficial decision to take it easy on travel (until we have enough saved for a cool trip), so we’re going to spend our summer at home.
But, we can still spend a lot of time at the beach, which we didn’t really get to do last summer because we had just moved, so I think we’ll really enjoy that.
My sister’s having a baby in April, so we’re going to enjoy our new little niece a lot this year.
I’m working on growing the website, and seeing if I can earn enough to continue working from home.
So that’s where things stand after eight months in North Carolina. We’re really enjoying our new home and I’m sooooooooo glad we moved. It took courage and a lot of logistical maneuvering. The change hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.
Maybe I’ll check in this time next year to see if my feelings have changed.
In the meantime, thanks for reading! Hope your home is working for you, too!