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The Van Der Beeks

They followed the signs that led to Austin

Article by Jennifer Birn

Photography by Laura Morsman Photography

Originally published in Austin Life

When Covid restrictions put the kibosh on James and Kimberly Van Der Beek’s plans to renew their vows for their 10th wedding anniversary last year, they instead celebrated with a trip to Austin. Fast forward one year later to their 11th anniversary, the day this issue comes out, and the former Angelenos are now proud Austinites living on a 36-acre property in Hill Country with their five children: Olivia, 10, Joshua, 9, Annabel, 7, Emilia,5 and Gwendolyn, 3 and their five dogs: Windsor, Theo, Abel, Rocky and Sky. We joined the party of 12 on their ranch where the kids all extolled their love of Texas and James and Kimberly opened up about the impetus to move here, what they love so much about living in Austin, passions, lessons and parenting.

Why did you move to Texas?

James: We wanted to get the kids out of Los Angeles. We wanted to give them space and we wanted them to live in nature. When we were flying here for our anniversary, I felt an energy to Austin. The energy was the same energy that I’d felt shooting Varsity Blues here when I was 21 and I realized that feeling wasn’t just where I was in my career or the movie I was shooting, all of which were very exciting, but that the energy is the place. It was really cool to realize, ‘Oh, I can go be there. We can drop in and bring our family to that.’ 

Kimberly: When we were flying I asked Texas for permission to explore this as a place to live, just an energetic meditative sort of asking, and I got ‘yes.’ So, James and I took a drive and we thought we’re going to meditate under a tree and see if we get any information about living here. 

James: We sound so hippie (laughs)

Kimberly: We are hippie. This is authentic me.

James: I love it, it’s true

Kimberly: By the way, it’s authentic you too.

James: I know. Just when I hear it come out of my wife’s mouth that we decided to stop and meditate under a tree and ask if we could move here…

Kimberly: I found an Oak tree that I wanted and James said ‘Ok, let’s make sure’ and he kept driving and then we got to a T in the road and realized we’d been driving on Sacred Oak Lane. So, we went back to that tree and the information I was given was that Texas has the capacity to heal. It’s expansive and nature will hug you and heal you. We just had been through a crazy year with two late-term miscarriages and my body was still healing and it was hard for me to walk around at that point. I was still just a couple of months out of the hospital from my second one, so I was exhausted. James mom had just passed, so to get that message from the trees of Texas was the nurturing hug we needed to feel welcomed here. It felt like LA had kind of birthed us out and there was a real calling to move. It came from desire, it came from dreams, and by the time we left LA we were in a deep gratitude for everything it had given us, but Texas was saying, ‘Here’s what you need and we can provide this next layer for you.’ That was exactly what we needed.

We needed a change of scene, we needed to be immersed in nature, we needed to heal our bodies, our hearts, our spirits.

Having a mother pass comes in a lot of waves and having two late-term miscarriages and five total miscarriages, it was very serendipitous, and all of the messages brought us here in a very magical way. 

What drew you to this property?

Kimberly: I’m a, what’s the right word…

James: Amazing, Incredible…

Kimberly: I’m a farm girl at heart who had never lived out her dream. Nature was calling. I wanted to be immersed in nature, in trees and fields and the sky. We found this property and it’s been like a dream come true.

What have you enjoyed most about Texas so far? 

Kimberly: I’m not knocking on LA, and I love all my friends there, but in LA if you get sick, you get a Postmates delivery. If you want to move, you get a moving truck recommendation. In Texas, somebody makes you something and brings it to your doorstep or you have five friends pulling up with their trucks to help you move. It’s just a different way of life here. It’s not to say one is better than the other, but it’s that hands-on village lifestyle that I’ve been craving for so long.

James: In LA it was, ‘Let me know if I can help,” which is what I always said too. I’m not knocking the people who said that. But here, it’s been, ‘How can I support?’ And literally showing up with a pick-up truck. People here are so nice. 

Kimberly: Everyone looks out for each other here.

James: I do really feel looked out for. And to be able to show that to our kids and how we help out and become part of that process. In addition to give them room to run and ride, it’s been amazing. 

Kimberly: And live music! It’s one of the best reasons to be in Texas. We love Poodies Roadhouse. 

James: And the kids can run out the door, but they have to be aware of their surroundings. Everything bites here. Even the caterpillars.

Kimberly: The other fun thing about Texas has been going to all the fun local places. Community is a hub and it’s just awesome.

You met in Israel and got married in Israel. What’s so special about Israel for you?

Kimberly: It’s where we met, it’s where we fell in love.

James: It’s a pretty magical place. There’s an energy, a vibration that transcends any one religion or ideology, you can feel it.

How is parenting your fifth child different than parenting your first child?

Kimberly: You’re less precious and have more boundaries with each child. You realize boundaries are okay and if you keep them for yourself kids learn to have them for themselves. And to be less precious. I think we really underestimate a child’s ability to maneuver in the world, to climb a tree, to explore, to go through a discovery process of who they are.

James: Be as careful as you need to be, not as careful as you can be.

What are you really passionate about now apart from family?

Kimberly: This is a weird thing to be passionate about, but I’m very passionate about water right now. We moved to land where there’s a river and my desire to make sure that river is thriving and clean as possible is all the way up there. Making sure my family’s drinking water is clean has become a big passion as well as water conservation because we drink river water here. We’re in a process of discovery and finding out what the best forms of water conservation are, so we’re looking into rain capturing systems and composting toilets and things like that. I’m really nerding out on water conservation and protection and cleanliness at the moment. 

I’m also in a space where self-care is important and that’s a boundary I’m creating with the kids. Sometimes I need to take 10 minutes and show them how to self-care, whether it’s laying down, reading a book or having a cup of tea.

James: Self-reliance. I know that’s esoteric, but we lost water during the freeze and in LA water was a bill, something I paid for. Here it’s something we’ve had to earn. You look at it a whole different way when you turn the faucet and nothing comes out of the tap. And just really thinking about what I want to teach my kids to prepare them for whatever this crazy world has in store. For me, that’s learning how to provide basic needs, learning how to fix things, learning how to build things and creating efficient systems that allow me to live in harmony with my environment as much as possible. 

Have you always been handy?

James: I’ve always tinkered, but now I’ve had to get good at it and you really learn by doing. The top of my priority list these days is what needs fixing. For better or worse. 

If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?

Kimberly: The thing that’s really coming through for me is, ‘It may not feel perfect right now, but where you’re at is perfect. Every flaw is perfect, every flaw is an etching on your roadmap of life and you’ll grow from it.’ 

James: I’d say relax. Relax, enjoy the ride, and go towards what you love.

That’s the most important question, what do you love? What’s your passion? What lights you up? Instead of trying to go for what you think other people are going to like.

When you’re authentic and doing something that you love, people sense that.

In my writing, that’s the North Star for me, what do I care about? What am I passionate about? When I wake up in the morning, what makes me excited to jump out of bed and go do? That’s really the most important thing in life, and anything that’s not that, be aware of it. It’s very easy to get caught up in what you think is important verse what actually means a lot to you.

Are you writing now?

James: Yes. I think I’ve always been a writer, so that’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been writing and developing. The last show I starred in I co-created and showran and I wrote every episode. 

You each have two siblings, did you always want a big family?

James: I did. I feel like I told her, but she says I didn’t. 

Kimberly: You did say when you first wrapped your arms around me you felt all the babies we were going to have together. I just didn’t know how many babies that meant. I think a big family has been a surprise to me, but I love it.

How do you feel about the Austin storms?

Kimberly: There’s a mix of magic and terror to the storms here. There’s a beautiful, mythical feeling to the sky here. It has its own personality. 

James: It goes back to acceptance of the present moment and what’s happening right now.

Final thoughts?

James: When I talk about living in harmony with my environment, I think a lot of that is just looking for the signs, and looking for the connections and synchronicities, and following those. And listening to that really quiet little whisper that comes from deep inside your soul over the nervous chatterbox that lives inside your head that speaks a lot louder.

I think when you follow that quiet voice, logical or not, I do believe a lot of good can come out of it. 

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