Backyard Chickens

Our family pulled the trigger! We knew when we bought a small house with a large backyard that we would want some backyard chickens, eventually, but it wasn’t until I figured out that we were buying THREE DOZEN eggs a week (!!!) that we decided to step up our timeline, despite how busy Jesse is in his graduate program.

Gregory with chickens in the garden Gregory with the chickens

The first step was to find or build the right coop. At first, I had dreams of building one “from scratch” (a chicken pun, get it? Be prepared for many more!), but once Jesse’s PhD program began late summer, all of those dreams vanished. I just knew that we’d never get around to it, let alone carry out Garden Paving. I’m pretty handy with a saw and drill, but felt like it was too much for me to handle by myself (although I constructed all of the garden beds and the irrigation systems you see in the pictures above!).

So, as usual, I turned to Craigslist. I  saw this coop for $400 about a 45 minute drive away, and thought, “I wish that were in our price range!”. A few days later, the woman reduced the price to $250 since they had a moving deadline! I love moving deadlines– it means that they are 900x more willing to make a deal with you since they need something GONE. I asked her if she would part with it for $150, and she said yes!!

chicken coop before

A picture of the coop at its old location, with Gregory standing beside it for size context.

Next, there was a fair bit of drama, wherein we had to take apart the coop (this took 4+ hours…Jesse was not happy…) and pay $30 to rent a trailer to transport it. Initially we hired someone to move it for us, but he no-showed on the morning of! The husband of the family who sold it to us turned out to be really nice and hooked the trailer up to his truck and drove it all the way to our house when he saw that we were in a jam (plus, he was motivated– moving deadline, remember?)  We got it to our backyard, but it was in pieces. It took another 2-3 hours for Jesse to put it back together with the help of a nice neighbor who volunteered to help. 🙂 As a side note, I am so happy that our neighbors support us having backyard chickens! In fact, they are all pretty excited!

chicken coop location in yard


As a side note, here is what this side of our backyard looked like when we bought the house.



And now here it is– chicken coop done! (Ignore our rubbermaid-chicken-carrier!).

Backyard-- Duringchicken coop october


The window at the bottom is not yet part of the coop. I plan on adding it to the door so that the boys can peak in and see the chickens whenever they want! We will also be adding a separate nesting box where you see the boards (that’s why they aren’t painted). And, speaking of paint, we have leftover exterior paint, so pretty soon the coop will match our house!

Chicken coop closeup

The next step was finding the right chickens for the right price. Since it’s autumn here, we knew that baby chicks were out of the question since they wouldn’t be fully feathered before winter hit. Once again, I turned to Craigslist, looking for someone getting rid of the right breed. I really wanted sweet tame chickens, since I knew that they would become part of the family.

And, once again, Craigslist to the rescue! I found another family with a moving deadline (seriously, moving deadlines are the jackpot when it comes to Craigslist deals). They had 3 six month old Rhode Island Reds for sale at $35/each. I asked if she’d take $60 for all 3, and she said yes! The boys and I went to pick them up last Friday, and it was love at first sight. Their names are Henrietta, Missy and Nessie.

Gregory with chickens

chickens RIRS closeup

One of the three is molting, however, and 1-2 eggs every day isn’t enough to offset our grocery bill. So, on Monday, we went to a farm in Wylie and picked up two Americaunas which we named “Bushel” and “Peck”. The lady assured me that these would be the leader of the pack once the new “pecking order” was established (not a pun, that’s actually where the term came from, haha!), but, as it turns out, our Rhode Islands are definitely in charge! They didn’t even let the 2 new ones out of the coop for the first day! Bossy hens!

Chickens Bushel and Peck walking around backyard Chickens closeup

Our boys just LOVE their new friends. Gregory cannot contain himself when we find a new egg, and he begs to do absolutely every chore associated with the chickens. There’s definitely been a lot of laughter over here, that’s for sure!

FullSizeRender-73 FullSizeRender-72


While I may feel like the crazy chicken lady, when I sit down and think about it, this has been coming for a long time. In fact, we might have reached full-on hippie status over here– we drive an all electric car, we compost, we have 6 garden beds, we only buy from thrift stores and now we have backyard chickens! Oh well, time to embrace it, I guess!

The Big Decision– School or Homeschool ?

Montessori classroom at home

A few months ago, the dilemma my mommy-brain centered around was whether or not to send my oldest (almost 5) to school or homeschool. Since he has an October birthday, he barely misses the cut-off for Kindergarten, but we knew he was ready for something.

I looked into quite a few options. We actually have a wonderful Christian/Montessori preschool just down the road from us. Even though it was expensive, we went to the Open House. We applied. We got put on the waiting list for a few months. Then we got in! We attended a trial day. We applied for financial aid. We got it.

And yet, we couldn’t pull the trigger!

It really came down to a few factors, and, growing up in a family that did a combination of both homeschool and private school, I’ve come up with what I think are the 3 biggest factors in this tough decision. The first and biggest factor is the individual child and what they need. The second factor is cost-to-benefit, and the third seems to be how the mom/potential teacher feels about it.

When it came to G’s personality, we realized that he was NOT yearning for tons of social interaction, all day, every day. In fact, after just an hour or two at a play group or get together he is CRAVING alone time to play, imagine, read and work on things. Sometimes he even closes his bedroom door and says, “Momma, I need some alone space right now”, and proceeds to play by himself for over an hour. To put him in school all day would be exhausting and stressful for his personality. On top of it, we realized that Gregory’s personality and mine work really well together when it comes to learning new things. He is a very focused kid, and I really enjoy that he can concentrate without bouncing off the walls like most kids I know.

The second factor was cost-to-benefit. Even with financial aid, the cost was going to be prohibitive for us as a family. At a few hundred dollars a month, we knew that it would basically suck up the majority of any income I was making from home– money that we were using to grow our savings account. I contemplated working a little bit more to pay for it, which is when we had a real nuts-bolts conversation about our goals as a family. My husband pointed out that we had worked really hard over the past few years (selling our CA house, moving across the country, etc.) to put ourselves in a position where I didn’t have to work. We placed ourselves in a wonderful city, FULL of opportunities to expand our children’s horizons with activities and museum memberships. Why disregard all of those blessings searching after what we “thought” we should need?

The third factor was how I felt about it. Funny enough, this was the dramatic part of the solution! It should’ve been all child-centered, but a lot of it was revolving around my strong feelings on the subject. On the days where I wasn’t waffling back and forth, I was absolutely un-done by the thought of G being in school 5 half days a week. For many of you who know our story, I had to wait a LONG time to get pregnant with G, and because it was something I had wanted for so long, the pregnancy/post-partum craziness felt like a beautiful (albeit, sleepless!) dream. Even on the hard days, I never once wished for my old life before kids. I can’t remember a time where I whined about it, because I was just so grateful to finally be a mom! It made me realize that all the years of heartache, wanting to be pregnant, were actually just preparing my heart to be steadfast and positive, despite the trials of those first few months.

Ever since, I have cherished my two boys’ every moment. Every new experience, every new discovery, every new milestone. I can’t imagine not being a part of these moments– at least not right now.

As a result, the one trial day (literally, just 3 hours) was one of the hardest days of my life. I walked him to his classroom as he carried his little pencil box and backpack, and nearly broke down right then and there. When the teacher greeted him (ever so sweetly) and walked him into class, I watched from behind the corner, and it was all I could do not to take him home with me. I tried to go grocery shopping and run a few errands, but I just kept crying. I called my mom, which helped, but the long and short of it all is that I parked my car and sat outside the school in the pouring rain for most of the time, just counting down the minutes until I could go back in and get him.

I tried not to let any of this show. I tried to be excited for G, wait and hear what he had to say about his “day” before making any hard and fast decisions about whether to officially enroll.

And you know the first thing he said when he got into the car with me?

“Mom. There were lots of fun things. The kids were really nice. But I couldn’t have any fun. I was just missing you the whole time.”

Heart-Breaker, right?

After that day, I just knew, deep down, that we weren’t ready to be away from each other just yet, even for just a few hours a day. Every year is a new decision and nothing is forever, but the time just wasn’t right yet. Long before we received our financial aid package in the mail, I already knew we were going to decline. After making the decision, I felt so sure, so unwavering. I wondered why I had ever doubted myself in the first place! I mean, I’m a teacher, for heavens sake! I make money teaching homeschool kids from home! I teach piano lessons to his age group! Why did I ever feel unqualified?

I think a lot of it had to do with falling prey to peer pressure. I “looked around” (a dangerous pastime) and realized that making the decision to homeschool was going against the grain, and that others would probably view it skeptically. As a result, I started to view myself skeptically, wondering if I was really up the challenge, despite the fact that I work with empowering homeschool moms every single day of my online job! This whole process has been a great learning experience for me to realize that I don’t need to call into question my own parenting instincts, just because many others are doing something different. Moms have their gut instinct for a reason.

Once we made the decision to keep G home, I went into full-on research mode (for those of you who know me, this is, by my nature, an intense thing!). I studied the Montessori method all summer, reading countless books and articles. I didn’t just want to know what the basic Montessori tools and activities were, I wanted to know the why behind it all, so that I could improvise without losing the heart of it. Even though I was already very familiar with the Montessori method, having taught piano in half a dozen Montessori schools, I learned so much through all this research.

I also researched everything there is to do in Dallas, and came up with quite a list for ways in which to interact with others and get out of the house a few times a week! So far, we’ve been to the monthly children’s art day at the museum, the library down the street, and the YMCA’s Play and Learn class that meets weekly (we had to drive a little bit further away to get a time that worked for us). The Play and Learn was especially helpful, since they spend 90 minutes with us doing hands on arts and crafts, story time, P.E. time, and even have 5 or 6 stations set up for individual hands-on learning (and it’s all FREE!). And the best part is that I didn’t have to clean up after any of the art projects! WIN!!

Gregory and AJ at DMA
In addition, since we are not busy driving back and forth from school every day, we have the time (and money!) to put Gregory in a few organized activities this semester! As of right now, he is on a soccer team and has weekly swim and ballet lessons. He will also be taking daily piano lessons from me in small increments. This may sound like a LOT, but since we’re not waiting in carpool lines twice a day, it’s actually quite the “right” amount of busy.

In a future post, I will go over where we bought all of our materials and which books ended up being the most helpful in getting started, but for now, a few weeks into our school year, I am so happy that we made this choice. I am loving doing preschool/Kindergarden at home with both boys, and I am looking forward to a great year!
Gregory Montessori math sticks

I’m Baaack!

Momma date at Chipotle

You may (or may not) have noticed that I took an unofficial blogging break this summer.

I simply have one word to describe what happened.


I think every blogger knows exactly what I’m talking about. When you start accepting sponsorships and getting paid to write articles, it becomes easy to slip into just producing content to keep up revenue. I felt chained to write things. Instead of being able to pour my heart out on this space, documenting life’s little journeys and DIY mishaps, I felt like I had to “perform”. Little by little, I just started dreading it.

When we left on a 3 week road trip for CA (40+ hours in the car with 2 kids!! Blog post coming soon!), I decided I would take that time as a break. When we got back, we started working hard on our backyard projects (in the Texas summer heat, oh yes we did! Heatstroke WHATTT?), and I decided to take a longer break and just focus on being with family in my spare time.

So, that is how I unintentionally took a 2.5 break from my blog! I knew it wasn’t forever, just enough to give me a rest.

I was able to re-evaluate what I actually want to write about, so I will be sticking to it for the next couple of months. We have been doing a TON of work on our backyard, so I have lots to show. Our big add-on/renovation starts in a few months, so that will also be coming up. I have worked extra hard to set up a neat Montessori home-school room, and we officially begin next week, after Labor Day. I’ve also begun working at a pregnancy care clinic, and attend an adoption training seminar this Wednesday. So much to talk about!!!

In addition, the kids and I will be traveling to SOUTH AFRICA for most of December! My navy brother is getting married to a wonderful girl from Johannesburg, so they decided to have the wedding in her home town. We will be living in an apartment for a few weeks while we see the country and get ready for the wedding (the boys and I are in it). I cannot wait to use this blog to document everything we see and do (I have to learn to drive a car on the WRONG side, while driving on the WRONG side of the road! Ah!).

Unfortunately, Jesse is unable to attend, since he has to teach for his school and attend his PhD courses up until the last minute here in Dallas. Technically, if he left after his last test, he could manage to make it. But he’d spend 40+ hours of air travel, just to be in South Africa for 2 days. And the cost of the ticket would be GINORMOUS that close to Christmas– for one ticket, it would be more than the cost of the boys and I traveling, all put together. Since we will be coming back to Dallas a few days before Christmas, we decided that we could handle a few weeks apart, since it means we will still be together for the holidays. I’m actually kind of excited about doing Christmas the old fashioned way– getting our tree and decorating it Christmas Eve night, then leaving it up until Epiphany in January!

Thank you to all of my readers out there 🙂 We will be seeing each other a lot more soon!

Driving in the car with G

Fun Activities for Kids in Dallas

Fun Activities for Kids in Dallas

We have now lived in this city for just over 9 months. With summer upon us, we have been researching and buying season passes, finding things that we would enjoy as a family.

And, at long last, I feel like we finally have a handle on some of the fun activities for kids in Dallas! If our kids were a little bit older (pre-teens) there would be a world of other options, but these are the things that we will be utilizing this summer. You can too, if you ever want to visit!

Here is our list:

Normal/Nice Day:

Gregory and AJ Dallas zoo

Dallas Zoo: I put this one at the top of the list because we were just there on a 90+ day, and it was so shaded that it was totally doable for all but the hottest days this summer! They have different rotating exhibits (currently they have a Jurassic Park one!), and a family membership is really reasonably priced and comes with free parking. The park is HUGE (I’ve been to San Francisco’s and Sacramento’s for comparison) and has water misters and fans everywhere if you need them!

Gregory and Momma Arboretum

The Arboretum/Children’s Garden: This place is amazing. We just upgraded our general Arboretum membership to include the Children’s Garden because it is just a mile away from our house and we go all of the time. The Children’s Garden is full of fun hands-on and educational activities for kids, and even has a splash pad! They do homeschool/story reading events year round as well. They even have a giant Disneyland-esque treehouse!

Our FAVORITE part about the Arboretum right now is the underground parking garage across the street. It’s free (with membership) and has an underground walkway that takes you right to the front entrance. When you come back to your car after a hot day, it’s still nice and cool inside!

trolley ride

Trolley Rides in Uptown: Our kids love riding the free trolleys in Uptown, and they’re kind of a neat stroll through history at the same time! The line begins at Uptown Station near Lemmon Ave. and loops all the way through downtown and then back up again. We like to park right near the Dog Park on Lemmon, watch the trolley arrive and use the turntable, then we jump on and ride it to Klyde Warren or any fun place we’re eating at in the West Village or Uptown!

reverchon walking trails

Covered Parks: We all know that even a slightly sunny day can make slides really hot for little kids. Luckily, Dallas has lots of parks completely covered by awnings! Our favorite right now is Reverchon (which is also right on the Katy Trail, a long shaded trail that runs through Dallas!)

Super Hot Day:
In Dallas, July/August and the first half of September are high 90s temps and miserable for the outdoors unless you’re in some sort of water. Luckily, Dallas has a TON of free/cheap stuff to do!


YMCA: We just joined our neighborhood YMCA because their pool has a large shallow area/splash pad/slide area! For the price of our gym membership (that comes with free childcare, parents-night-outs-babysitting, and sports league discounts), we have a “waterpark” just down the road!

klyde warren park by day

Klyde Warren Park: This park is the #1 free place to go when it’s hot. They have several giant splash pad areas, along with a shaded playground that is all gated. And the food trucks/live music almost every night a week are an added bonus for parents! Parking is a bit tricky, but if you park far away the free trolley line will take you right to the park (and back again).

Gregory and AJ in fountain signature

Community pools/splashpads: Dallas has several free community pools and splash pads at several of their parks. We haven’t been to them yet, but I’m guessing they will be a bit crowded on super hot days! Still, I’m keeping it on the list 🙂


Burger’s Lake: This is in Fort Worth, and a little pricey at $10-15/person. Still, it sounds awesome, so if we’re ever in the mood to splurge we’ll probably try it. There are slides, sandy beaches, and even a trapeze! You can bring your own picnic and grill too!

On the more expensive/older kids side of things, Dallas and the surrounding suburbs have tons of water parks! There’s Hurricane Harbor, Bahama Beach, Rowlett Wet Zone, and Great Wolf Lodge.


Bad weather (too hot, snow, thunderstorms or rain):


Galleria Mall: Just outside of Nordstroms on the 3rd level is a HUGE indoor kids playspace! It’s built for ages 6 and under, which might be a limitation for some. For us, it’s the perfect set-up– my friends and I bring our coffee and sit on the benches in the cool air-conditioned indoors while we watch the kids play! Win!

mall play areas gd

If your kids are older, there’s a large year-round ice skating rink inside too!


Northpark Mall: This mall is where friends and I go to walk around (they have a “stroller/fitness” trail!) and let the boys play with legos at the Lego Store. They have a small library within the mall (how cool is that?) where they do puppet shows and story times daily! The entire mall is fashioned as a giant rectangle with a large lawn area in the middle for kids to run around on. They also have a free Mommy and Me yoga class!


The Perot Museum: We are going to wait until our kids are a bit older to get a membership here, but we hear that it’s awesome. The basement level is all for kids, and they even had a Sherlock Holmes exhibit where you have to find clues and solve a mystery! They have a ton of science and summer camps for kids.

Indoor Trampoline Park/Arcade: This one is little too old for our kids, so it wouldn’t be worth the money for us until they are older. But it looks like something for us to keep in mind in a few years!

For lots of other activities (including the best arcades, orchard picking, and even river rafting!) here’s a good list.

Hope you enjoyed this list and can take advantage of these fun activities for kids in Dallas soon!
Texas skyline