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King George resident living the simple life swaps out his wife; trades her for high maintenance society belle

    King George, Va.  --  King George resident Steve Hickman decided to trade off his wife DeLaura Padovan earlier this year. But he didn’t get a choice in the swap. His replacement wife was selected for him by the producers of ABC TV’s Wife Swap.
    The intent of the show is to match up participants that live extremely different lifestyles. DeLaura lauded the producers saying in her case, “They selected almost total polar opposites.”
She was whisked off to the suburbs of New Jersey. Here she found a large house with a crystal chandelier prominently displayed so it was visible to even those passing by on the street. And in a few short days she was plunged into the lifestyle of a very high maintenance suburbanite, who was concerned with living a rather opulent lifestyle.
After attempting to walk in her high-heeled shoes, DeLaura’s impression of Shannon Nicole Burroughs was that she was definitely a material girl. She along with husband Shannon Michael and their 6-year-old twins Nicolas and Alexa live a very different life than the one DeLaura’s family lives in King George.
    Steve and DeLaura are musicians. And along with their daughters Tara and Maren Padovan-Hickman, 11 and 8 respectively, who are seasoned folk dancers they form a family musical troupe.
    But the family unit also lives the simple life residing in a small log cabin nestled on 57 acres of woods at the end of a long winding dirt and gravel driveway
    After I wended my way through the woods to their home, I was greeted by the family’s chickens. They are gentle creatures and the laying hens provide a good portion of the family’s diet.
But according to DeLaura and Steve they have learned that there are sometimes interesting crumbs left around cars. So they were not so much my welcoming party, but rather a scavenging team. The goats that are corralled in a small area in front of their house for the most part completely ignored my presence.
However, I was warmly welcomed into their home by the couple and their children. A row of windows and skylights along the gabled roof let sunbeams dance across the rafters and the floor. But there are no electrical lights in the home and by all accounts, the family lives like our American pioneer ancestors.
The entire first floor of the house is probably no larger than a great room in many homes in local subdivisions. There is a lower level and a loft atop a narrow steep staircase overlooking the main living area.
Their home is simple, with no frills but it is comfortable, and definitely filed with love. And that love reaches across generations with Steve having spent the winter gingerly hand stitching two quilts that had been assembled by the matriarchs of his family. He will be passing them on to his daughters along with his heritage.
Tara and Maren are home schooled and Steve explained that a good portion of the family life revolves around the kitchen table. “We make everything from scratch and we all work together as a team,” he said.
And the girls help with the chores on their mini farm, including feeding the goats and chickens and planting and harvesting their garden. Steve and DeLaura have sold their crops at farmers markets in the area and have also participated in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). They lead a lifestyle that leaves behind a very small carbon footprint.
But the couple also works outside the home. As professional musicians Steve and DeLaura earn their living by performing. He plays violin and harmonica and is the nation’s foremost Ham Bone artist and can be seen on various YouTube postings. He teaches at Picker’s Supply in Fredericksburg once a week.
DeLaura plays guitar and ukulele. She conducts a Music Together program for young children to help develop rhythm and tonal competency at St. John’s Parish Hall in King George. Early this month she also began a program in Fredericksburg.
But they also perform as a family at music camps and other venues. Given that, although a TV production set is not the usual stage upon which the family performs, it is not unusual for them to reply to ads soliciting talent.
On first glance it is somewhat amazing that this family that hasn’t owned a television set since the mid 1980’s were even aware of the Wife Swap show. It is even more astonishing when you add in the lack of electrical power at their home that they would even respond to an ad to participate in a reality television program.
But after answering the ad from a friend’s laptop computer, according to DeLaura the ABC representatives responded back in about 2 minutes.
That was last August. They borrowed a camera and prepared a home video that was accepted by ABC in October. Then the producers sent a TV crew out and after spending several days at their home the family’s forays into the world of the small screen was in progress.
She said they looked at it as a learning experience for their home schooled children and an interesting life adventure for the family. And as a professional musician, Steve said, “A gig is a gig.”
According to DeLaura the process was like a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows and constant motion. However, she and her husband had nothing but the highest praise for the production crews, saying they were very receptive about changing schedules to meet any needs of the family. But on April 17, when the episode featuring the family airs, that will all be history.
The only visible remnants of their adventure is the set of rules that still hang on the kitchen wall and a somewhat out of place looking crystal chandelier.
But the three 60 watt bulbs in the fixture suspended above the kitchen table have been replaced with small votive light candles.
Although Steve says it gives off a softer light as the flames dance off the reflective crystals creating a peaceful ambiance, they are not sure whether they will keep it. For now the family has reverted back to a life described by DeLaura and Steve as “serendipity” and “uncomplicated happiness.”
The episode was filmed in February, so life has quieted back down. Steve said if they had been asked 48 hours after production concluded if they would do it again, he would have definitely responded in the negative. But as time has passed, he thinks he might consider participating in another production.
 The family will be hosting a neighborhood viewing of the show at the King George Community Center on Apr. 17.
Since they down own a TV, they will be having one brought in from Fredericksburg’s Rent-A-Center. The family is requesting a donation of a food item as admission. All donated items will be given to the local food bank and popcorn and lemonade will be sold to benefit King George Parks and Recreation.
For information about Wife Swap visit www.abc.go.com/primetime/wifeswap/. To find out more about DeLaura’s Music Together program and to contact the family via e-mail visit her at www.singdanceandplay.com
 

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