“So…what do you DO all day?”

People wonder what we do all day. I mean, having moved from a decent-sized city with a children’s museum and zoo, numerous parks and play places, two malls and numerous restaurants, etc., to an itty bitty small Texas town – and homeschooling, too, “What do you actually DO all day?” is a legitimate question. 

Sometimes, I think this is code for, “Ohmigerd, aren’t you BORED OUT OF YOUR MIND?” As for the out of my mind part, I’ve written about that already. And as for occasional boredom? Absolutely! But, I think occasional boredom is part of the human condition. We were bored at times in the bustling mid-sized city we used to call home and sometimes, and we are sometimes bored here.

But if you mean, “What do you do for fun?” I can tell you all about that!

Just like many families I know, homeschooling or not, rural or not, we look forward to weekends when we can all be together for much of each day, including the primary breadwinner.

So Saturday we made the trek into town for some shopping with the kids. (“Put yore good pants on, Scooter, and brush yore tooth! We’re goin’ to the big city!”) It’s a 35-minute drive which, to me, still seems like a long ride in the car. (That may have something to do with my role as snack dispenser and backseat sheriff, but I can’t be certain.)

T-ball season started Monday and Scooter needed a new bat. So, of course, we left the sporting goods store with a new bat, a new helmet, a new tee, a bucket of balls and a football for Cheech. The bat, helmet and football are all Seahawks colors and Cheech alarmed the staff by shouting, “GO HAWKS!!!!” at checkout multiple times. (That’s my boy!)

Then we headed to Target and I resisted singing, “Jerusalem! Jeruuuuuuusalem!” since Cheech had made enough of a scene at the sports store. But when the husband said he’d take the spawn so I could browse in peace, I had to hum the line, “Bring me my arrows of desire,” ever so softly.

And after a nice little lunch at a chain burger joint, we happily headed home. We had had enough suburbia for the week. It was too much traffic, too much noise, too much stuff, too MUCH. We had made our homage to consumerism at the sports store, left Target with only three things that we actually needed (for less than $20!) and ate an inexpensive little lunch. In the words of Goldilocks, it was, “Just right.”

We did need some new homeschool supplies, however…So on the way back, we stopped off and picked up these.

It's not lunch, kids...
It’s not lunch, kids…

We are not new chickaneers, so buying new chicks at the locally-owned feed store was a cinch. (Last year, I ordered from My Pet Chicken, which I highly recommend for their variety of breeds, wealth of information and the fact that they will ship as few as three chickens – a definite plus for the beginning birder.)

We chose three breeds, all pullets (girls). They were already sexed at the store, but I checked to confirm. Yes, I have mad skills. One accidental rooster is enough and a brief peek at the business end of each chick wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever done.

And here they are!

Honey Bun, Sassy and Sweet Pea
Honey Bun, Sassy and Sweet Pea

The black one with the yellow blaze is a Barred Rock. After several escape attempts and her pecking me repeatedly through the air holes of their travel container, we named her Sassy. She better be a great layer!

The solid black chick is a black sex-link, a cross between a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire rooster and a Barred Rock hen. Sex-link means the chicks have marks that distinguish them male from female. The females are solid black and the males have a white dot on their head. This is a meat chicken, but Sweet Pea need not worry. She will die of old age here at our wildlife refuge.

My favorite is Honey Bun, a little Ameraucauna. She will grow up to have golden feathers and may lay colored eggs. I like her because she quickly let Sassy know she would not be taking any sass.

After getting the chicks established in their brooder, it was time for the boys to nap which meant some alone time for me and the husband. Bow chicken wow wow! IOW, time to clean the chicken coop!

We’ve had a lot of rain and snow lately and the flock have had to stay inside a lot. One of the roof panels has been leaking, so the situation was fowl. (See what I did there?) Our coop has a cement foundation with a drain line, so a shovel, bucket, hose and broom did the trick and about three hours later, they settled in to their nice, clean digs.

We also paced out a chicken run expansion and will start construction this weekend. Scooter will help me drive posts and dig the perimeter trench. Cheech will use a power saw and nail gun to make some gates.* We will call it “animal husbandry, physical education and technical education” in our homeschool binder and I’ll post an update soon. (Is there an HGTV show for chicken coops? Hmm. Maybe there should be.) We also hauled limbs from recent storms, built up the burn pile, fixed a fence and then it was high time to clean up and feed the animals.

They had pepperoni pizza and we had combination. All while watching “Babe,” the perfect movie to end this particular day.(Did we really have a choice?)

By 9, we were ready for bed. And then, we were up before the sun (and the accidental rooster!) to start another day.

So that’s our version of rural living. It’s definitely not what I envisioned when we moved here, but it’s alright. Were you surprised? I bet you thought there would be a square dance. Maybe next Saturday.

My sweet pea and Sweet Pea
My sweet pea and Sweet Pea

*Lies. All lies. Just wanted to see if I could scare you.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with My Pet Chicken, I just like them enough to tell other people without compensation.


Slowing Down

Last year at this time, we started our journey to a more simple life. I quit my job (and the commute, nights and weekends that went with it), we quit eating out for the most part, and we jettisoned half of our stuff. Then, we screwed up all the simplicity by having a baby in October. Now that it’s been six months, we felt it was time to get back on track, so last week, we made some fairly drastic changes around here.

#1: We cut down on tv. We went from a PBS Kids marathon most mornings and a post-lunch DVD to George and Cat and no mas. We did keep our weekly tradition of Friday Family Movie Night, but no “According to Jim” re-runs, no America’s Funniest Home Videos…absolutely no mas for Scooter and Cheech.

#2: We changed the duty roster. We also went from mama doing bedtimes to sharing that responsibility with daddy. Now before you start burning your bras in celebration, my husband has always been helpful at bedtime. Up until this week, he was changing, dressing and (attempting) to comfort a screaming Cheech while I did the nighttime ministrations with Scooter. However, we decided to turn this little routine on its head; he now takes care of Scooter soup to nuts and I take care of Cheech.

#3: We stayed home…mostly. I also stuck to a “one-thing-a-day” rule. As in, we only do one errand/outing per day, not counting preschool. One. I used to lump two to three errands into every morning or afternoon, many of them for the children: the zoo, the children’s museum, a play date. You know – that stuff you’re supposed to be doing with your kids if you “don’t work” and all you have to do is stay home? Yeah, that stuff.

And the big one?

#4: I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

So, the Million Dollar Question is: how did it go?

I admit, I expected all hell to break loose. Our Scooter is quite the television aficionado. We were fortunate to find a home daycare for him when I worked part-time after his birth, but one major drawback was the 104” television that was on all day long. Sure, it was harmless children’s programming (and smutty soaps during nap time), but it was on all day long. So he grew quite accustomed to a constant barrage of animated animals and hyperactive adults singing and dancing his days away even before I began staying home this year.

Monday, I braced myself for major waterworks, door slamming and screaming. And I got…minor whining. Minor. Tuesday, I thought it would be worse when it began sinking in that we weren’t going to be watching a DVD after lunch ever again as long as we live (or at least until Mommy gets the flu). And I got…nothing. Nothing. By Wednesday, he wasn’t even asking. Not a peep. When Friday rolled around, he was crack-addict-about-to-get-his-fix-excited about movie night – and he was glued to that screen like I’ve never seen before – but he was perfectly happy to go without movies all week long.

Tune in to Saturday: I went out and Daddy wanted to mow the yard without a four-year-old assistant (WTH?!?), so he plopped him in front of the set. Scooter was apparently comatose for close to three hours and Saturday afternoon was…horrendous. Scooter was rude, disobedient and very, very awful at bedtime. While I wasn’t exactly happy about this outcome, I wasn’t exactly unhappy, either, if you catch my meaning. Dear daddy most certainly did.

Bedtime during the week was also a surprise. Scooter was happy to get more time with his daddy and we all got to enjoy peace and quiet (mostly). Scooter still threw an almost nightly fit when it was time for light’s out – but he was thrilled to have daddy read to him, daddy sing to him (egads!) and daddy snuggle him in the darkness and talk about big boy stuff like whether spiders eat lizards or if purple is for girls only or if he should be a zoo keeper or a builder when he grows up. Priceless. It has become a really precious time for them and I am thrilled. The surprise is how sad I feel giving up this time with my boy. I’ve always been the bedtime person and daddy has just been the poor substitute, the relief pitcher. I miss it. But I absolutely don’t miss hearing Cheech howl for twenty minutes – or flossing another human being’s teeth.

The one-thing-per-day rule was heavenly. I thought I’d be bored. I thought I might kill the children. Mostly, I thought we’d starve since it would mean cutting down my weekly grocery trips from twelve to one. I had to plan. I had to think ahead. I had to prioritize. It was terrifying – and it was wonderful. I had more time to care for my home. I actually got around to cleaning out scary drawers and closets in anticipation of our upcoming garage sale. I finished my laundry, housekeeping and cooking chores early – and was able to enjoy a mostly chore-free weekend.  I played with my kids – outside and inside. We read books and made a paper mache dinosaur helmet (which we will paint this week). They napped well every afternoon – without a fuss or a fight – and they were tired. Tired from staying home.  Of course, I still made it to the grocery and we had a wonderful play date with some of our favorite people. I had the oil changed and took Scooter for a haircut. I also had coffee with a friend and went to a parenting class.  I just didn’t while away my days in the car, on the road, and in line.

So, our home is more peaceful. More tranquil. Yes, Scooter still pitches fits and called his dad an “ass” this week (oops! need to work on the profanity!) – but overall, ours is a happier home.

And our home is more fun – we played with corn starch in water and blew bubbles and made a friggin DINOSAUR HELMET. How awesome is that?!? We had a peaceful weekend, spent time sitting in lawn chairs after dinner and laughed more than we have in a long, long time. Sure, we have a long way to go, but slowing down and doing things differently is working well for us so far.

As for Facebook, two weeks ago, I posted 27 times, and this week, I posted 17. That’s an improvement – but I’d like to do better. I need to stop kidding myself that anyone actually gives a crap about what I have to say any more than once a day. Not even my husband. And besides, I could pick up the phone, send an email or O. M. G. send a hand-written note. Better yet, I could make plans to see these people in person – even the ones that live far away. I won’t ditch FB entirely – it serves a purpose – but I want to spend my days doing something more than staring at a little screen pretending I am socializing.

So, that’s it. Some baby steps toward a more simple life. This week, I’m going to go pick up a copy of Slow Family Living , a new book written by my new friend and LTYM Austin cast mate, Bernadette Noll. She is the co-founder of SlowFamilyLiving.com and a delightful human being. (I would have gotten it last week, but had to stick to my one-thing-per-day rule and bananas for Cheech trumped book for mama.) We have made many steps around here to simplify in the last year, but I am looking forward to making new strides with some new tips from an intriguing person.

I’d love to hear from you how you have simplified your life – your home, routines, whatever. Now that I’m not checking FB every four minutes, I have the time to listen.