"If you want friends up here, you have to go get 'em," Mr. Hunt observes. "The smart kids make arrangements for the weekend in the middle of the week. Back in Dundalk, you just went out back and there was a baseball game every night."
When Nancy became president of the Prettyboy Recreation Council, one of her first executive decisions was to put her husband in charge of the soccer programs. Now Mr. Hunt oversees the activities of about 300 children and coaches, and has designed and purchased new uniforms.
"We've also had to do pizza fund-raisers," he says. "And I'm handling a raffle and trophies for the clinics and organizing pictures for 300 kids."
Ah, the country life!
* 6:30 a.m.: Kyle wanders in, a mop of white blond hair, still sleepy in his T-shirt. He stares through the screen at the dogs.
"Kyle, you want a pancake?"
"I'll take one," Justin volunteers. And a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. And another piece of bacon. Breakfast accomplished, Justin heads toward the family room and the cheerful voice of anchorwoman Rudy Miller on the television.
Meanwhile, Kyle awakens to thoughts of Halloween. He introduces the spooky crayoned creatures taped to the kitchen windows, and searches for his Halloween coloring book.
* 6:45 a.m.: Lauren shows up fully dressed, uncharacteristically early. Her father is stunned. She's a sprite of a girl with a wide smile, blond silky hair like spun gold. It looks thoroughly brushed.
"Usually I comb her hair, but she doesn't want me to braid it," Mr. Hunt says.
"You can't braid," Lauren says, somewhat playfully. As if to prove her point about Dad's un-coolness, she produces the Brownies beanie he bought before he discovered that none of the other Brownies are wearing them.
"Lauren's the talker," he says.
The front door opens and shuts: Justin is gone.
Lauren drinks juice from her Tom & Jerry glass and chirps about Brownies, about her second-grade teacher and the four chameleons, one of which is clinging desperately to Kyle's forearm.
She shows off photos of when lightning struck the roof of the barn and no one was hurt. She talks about the week two of their dogs had 23 puppies, about how all the good kids, like her and Kyle, sit in the back of the school bus. She and Kyle are taking French, music and drama in Prettyboy Elementary School's "home base" after-school program.
"I wish I had harder homework," Kyle says. He takes a break from eggs and bacon to do round-off cartwheels across the kitchen floor.
"Kyle is Mr. Ready-To-Go in the morning," his father says. "He skips down to the bus stop."
"I skipped when I was 5, Dad. Now I'm 6."
* 8:10 a.m.: The school bus approacheth. Ever mindful, Mr. Hunt disappears and reappears with two pairs of socks and some timeworn instructions. He assists Lauren with her stylish black ankle boots.
"Dad," she protests.
"Well, Lauren, you got it all messed up now," he pauses, sorting out laces and eyelets.
Hair re-brushed, backpacks on, the children scamper -- not skip -- down the long, white rock-chipped, crusher-run driveway that hides the house from the road. They pass trees whose limbs are decorated with ghosts made from paper towels and rubber bands. Today, they arrive at 8:19, seconds before Miss Lisa and the school bus. Dad remains stunned: This isn't life as usual.
When the bus pulls off, Mr. Hunt climbs back up the hill. Thirteen animals await. Rudy, the potbellied pig, seems particularly happy to see him. "Sometimes I feel like Dr. Doolittle," he says.
* 8:45 a.m.: The 25-minute barnyard ritual unfolds smoothly to the accompaniment of Brian Wilson and sounds of the '70s, which evoke hipper, if not more satisfying, times. Life in the sticks is all it's cracked up to be, Mr. Hunt says. The other day, he and Nancy spotted deer eating in the cornfield. Last weekend, the family biked the North Central Railroad Trail. Out here, there's a lot to inhale whenever you stop long enough to catch your breath.
For now, it's toner cartridges and life in the Chevrolet Suburban on I-83. And time for Mr. Hunt to think about feeding himself.
He chuckles apologetically. "I know I probably should be, but I'm not much on breakfast."