Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Wagon Of Death

I'm particularly excited about our dinner tonight. We're having roast chicken. Normally this is not noteworthy, but I thought those of you who don't live in a rural area might find this interesting. Today was slaughter day at the Henkel Farm. The Henkels run a sideline chicken production and about every nine weeks it's curtains for the birds and fresh chicken for us.

So that all small chicken producers don't each have to buy chicken processing equipment, there is, what I like to call, The Wagon Of Death. Some entrepreneurial genius created a chicken processing assembly line that fits into a trailer. When it's your day to slaughter chickens The Wagon Of Death rolls up to your farm-- you just rent it for the day.

We drove over to the Henkels this morning and picked up our birds. The Wagon Of Death was in their back yard and the garage was converted into store-front for the day. All the chickens were floating in a cold water tank. They had us down for three, so when we walked up they pulled three chickens out of the tank, weighed them, calculated the cost and dropped the chickens into ziplock bags.

Of course Phoebe, Moses & Oliver were disappointed they didn't actually get to see the slaughter. They asked if next time they could pluck their own chickens. They asked if next time they could chop the heads off their own chickens. I told them to talk to their father. They were pleased, however, to go into the barn and see the 400 new chicks already fattening up for the next big day.

Right now in my oven is a chicken that, just this morning, was running around the Henkel Farm. It's never been frozen. It's never been shrink wrapped. It's never sat on a styrofoam tray. It's never been on a truck or even in a grocery sack. Five years ago I wouldn't have even thought such a thing possible. I knew there were farms and farmers out there somewhere, but it was all pretty hazy to me beyond the swinging doors of the meat section at Schnucks.

I stuffed the chicken's cavity with a chopped apple and fresh oregano, rosemary and sage from my garden and then filled her up with a quarter of a bottle of chardonnay. I rubbed her skin with some olive oil and sprinkled her with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Yum.

Wanna come over?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Clown Camp Recap

Clown Camp was a big hit at the Dunbar house. Phoebe has announced that as she is eligable to attend Clown Camp every year until 6th grade, she intends so to do. I thought that was a mighty big commitment to make the summer before second grade, but who am I to stand in her way?

The clowns performed at a daycare center & a nursing home. Half the show consisted of classic skits that they were taught by their instructor, but the other half -- delightfully -- the kids made up themselves. They made no sense whatsoever. We could only tell the skit was over because the clowns wandered off stage. Phoebe was in a skit she helped "write" that cosisted of hiding under a table cloth honking an "ah-oooga" horn and then being chased. Mo's orignal skit was simply boy clowns with guns. Mo's perferred gun rest? In his mouth, of course. He sat up on stage looking as though he were about to gleefully off himself with a pistol.

Perhaps I'm a bad mother, but the funniest part of the whole thing was when Mo got his feelings hurt and sat there in his full clown get-up and cried big fat clown tears. Of course I stuck a camera in his face to document the moment, runny make-up and all.

Oliver, bless his heart, was too young for Clown Camp. He did, however, get a toy race car from the thrift store....I'm not sure that makes up for it, but it helped.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Explicit Lyrics

I got the new Ice Cube album yesterday.

I bought it at Wal-Mart. I know. You’ll be preaching to the choir if you start telling me the ills of Wal-Mart. I saw the documentary and that was preaching to the choir. I’m no fan of Wal-Mart.
Super Wal-Mart moved in a year ago and it was scary for our small-ish town. We wondered if our local grocery and hardware stores were going to go out of business. Thankfully they haven’t. But now we’ve got an empty store carcass across the street from the new bigger store which Wal-Mart won’t sell to a competitor so it will sit empty FOREVER (unless they donate it to the Hastings Public Library to become our new facility--pipedream! But, I digress).

Living in a small-ish town if you want to buy a new cd you’re choices are Wal-Mart or K-Mart. Or you can drive a half hour to Grand Island and shop at their Wal-Mart or Kmart. I honestly think I’d have to drive 90 miles to Lincoln to find a proper record store. If I went west to Kearney (50 miles) I could broaden my big box choices by adding Target to the list, but I don’t think there’s a Sam Goody or …. I don’t even knows the names of record stores anymore. There’s no Vintage Vinyl, that’s for damn sure.


Back to my story: K-mart is closer (two blocks from my house as opposed to the outskirts of town) but I had three kids in tow and wanted to get Ice Cube, a bicycle helmet and some brown sugar. One stop shopping, folks, this is how they make their billions. So I succumbed and went to Wal-Mart.

And guess what! At Wal-Mart music comes pre-censored! All the naughties are silenced out on the disc!


If you’re gonna listen to Ice Cube, you want to listen to Ice Cube. And it’s SO many words silenced out it’s hard to follow what he’s saying. It ruins the flow, bro.

On Wednesday I took Phoebe to her 4-H meeting -- I know this seems like a completely random departure from my gangsta rap story, but hang in there. I left the boys in the van in the driveway, while I walked Phoebe in a spoke with the hosting 4-H mom. I stayed and talked longer than I should have. I said “I’ve got the boys in the car--I better go” about four times before the conversation actually allowed for an exit. When I got back to the van, both boys were bawling and Oliver was bleeding.

Moses had, very obviously, reached from his car seat to Ollie’s car seat and made a big fat cat scratch across his cheek. Oliver was hysterical, but he also had done a little damage to his brother. I got them settle down, at long last. There was no sense in asking “what happened?”-- that was very clear. I did ask what they fought about. There was a long silence. Both boys hung their heads. Then Mo looked up with a sheepish half-grin due to the absurdity to come. He pointed out the window and said “that tree.” Oliver nodded solemnly through silent tears.


I said, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Gasp! Horror! Outrage! Mama said the S-T Word (as they call it at school). “Why did you say that?!” “You are not supposed to say that!” “We don’t call things or people stupid!” All my words and the words of their teachers were flung back at me in an instant.

I calmly said, “I know we don’t normally call things or people stupid. But when you two are scratching each other’s faces off about that tree (whatever that means)…well…it is stupid to fight each other about something so unimportant. Sometimes only a bad word can be used to describe a really bad thing.”

And we’re right back to Ice Cube.

The cd (from what I’ve gathered from one day’s listen plus an article I read about it) has a lot of political statements and statements about the world of rap. Cube is slamming the party and playa culture of rap -- it’s lost the seriousness and message that old school gangsta rap has. But, the message loses a lot of punch when Wal-Mart squelches out the bad words. I bet Ice Cube would have a few choice words about that.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Life, Death & Ducks

We have a pet duck named Sparky who lives in our back yard. We wanted a pet but three out of the five Dunbars are allergic to anything with fur. I didn’t want to go with lizards or caged birds. We’ve had both in the past: ick and yuck, in that order. So, we went with the next obvious choice: ducks.

We started out with three ducks. We let the kids name them. I braced myself for the worst. I was sure we were going to have ducks named Spiderman, Batman and My Little Pony. We did at one point have two chicks in our possession the kids named Chocolate-Head and Milk-Head. So, there is a sketchy track record. But, Oliver chose the name Sparky (or Thparky as he stills says) and Moses picked Lenny. Then Phoebe, reliable, dependable Phoebe…sensible Phoebe…named her duck Emily. It was very sweet. Right? That’s sweet, isn’t it? To name her one and only pet after her one and only mother? Yes, it was, but I still tried to talk her out of it. If it was a dog and they named it Paul, wouldn’t he object? He said “apples & oranges.” Phoebe was determined. The duck was named Emily and I did my best to see it as the compliment and sign of affection that she intended.

As the ducks grew up it became quite apparent that Emily was a he.


We had a good couple months with the trio of ducks. They graduated from the cardboard box with the brooder lamp in the garage to free range in the backyard. We got them a kiddie pool to swim in and a dog house to sleep in at night. The kids chased them around and held them and they reluctantly obliged.

Then one night I went out to tuck them into their house. Not just one night, but the night before we left for Colorado on vacation -- the night I still had to pack for myself and three kids, plus food & whatnot for the road, plus leave instructions for the duck sitter, plus try and get the house in order so it wasn’t complete chaos upon our return -- that I night went out to tuck the ducks and there was Lenny toe-up in the pool.


We broke the news to three broken-hearted kiddos. Mo was especially crushed--he has a sweet, tender heart and Lenny was his duck. He went through the stages of grief in forty-five seconds flat. He did the following, rapid fire, with one sobbing gulp of air between each stage:

Denial: “I just can’t believe Lenny is dead!”
Anger: “No! It’s just not fair! I don’t want him to be dead!”
Blame: “I saw Derek chasing Lenny last time he came over. That’s why he’s dead!”
Depression: literally dropping to his knees and crying.
And finally, Acceptance: We spent the night painting rocks to put on Lenny’s grave in the garden. We picked flowers to do the same. At Mo’s suggestion we turned off all the lights and listened to a song about Jesus. We talked and talked over the ins and outs of death: animals and people that die stay dead; only Jesus can come back to life, nobody else; but when the time arrives and Jesus comes back, all the people who believe in Him will be alive again get new bodies in heaven…not so sure about ducks.

All was well for about six months. Then, one Sunday morning, ten minutes before church (of course), Mo went out to feed the ducks and get the egg. He ran out the back door -- silence -- and then screaming. He ran in the back door heralding the bad news: Emily was dead, her head and neck missing!

It was much less traumatic the second time around. You’d think that a “natural causes” death would be much easier to stomache than a brutal murder in your own backyard, but no. There were a few tears, but mostly just concern for the widowed Sparky. Would she be safe in the backyard? Would she be sad without her man, Emily? We discussed the same issues and did some similar things. We talked about what a good duck Emily was and how we’d miss her. They really wanted to make sure all the people they care about (and who care about them) knew what had happened.

And then we set a live trap in the yard hoping to catch the murderer, to no avail. The cat/dog/racoon/whathaveyou that decapitated Emily is still at large.

So, now Sparky remains alone. She has laid an egg every morning, without fail, since mid-December, which has brought up a whole new discussion. Ah, the ducks and the bees. The kids have learned that it takes a male and a female to put a duckling inside the egg. Sparky will just keep making eggs, but they won’t become ducks unless we get an other male duck (we won't) and she feels compelled to sit on the eggs (she never has).

Sparky is a very gentle and sweet bird. Look out in the backyard any afternoon and you’ll see Phoebe holding her in her lap, petting her, and telling her stories and secrets I can only imagine. If there’s a light rain, the boys will go out (in yellow rain boots, of course) to dig in the garden to find worms to feed Sparky--her treats. We when eat out on the patio Sparky circles the table and quacks expectantly for veggie scraps.

But more than just pets, Sparky and her dearly departed pals, have been a great teaching tool for Phoebe, Mo and Ollie. When it’s time to discuss sex in a little more detail, they’ll have a point of reference, a framework to build upon. I’m sure that day will come before I know it. Someday, somebody they love is going to die. This will of course be devastating but we will have had a chance to practice when the stakes were a little (okay, a lot) lower. They know to cry, to have some sort of ritual, to share our grief with our loved ones and to remember the resurrection to come.

Friday, June 16, 2006

She's Crafty--and she's just my type

Father's Day Craftiness

I have become a craft-addict. Now, before you imagine me scrapbooking and doily-making away or outfitting our home with kuntry krafts (I know it's Nebraska, people, but please) go to and see how cool craftiness can be.

So here is my father's day craftiness for Paul: A short-billed dowitcher shirt.

Most birdwatching shirts are cheesey (I know you are wondering how that could possibly be) with...I don't know...birds being identified by their poop and whatnot. But Paul loves birding and he wears shirts so I thought I'd make my own, non-cheesey (you can decide for yourselves) version. This is also my first attempt at stenciling.

Here's a play by play:
  • buy cute shirt
  • find image of short-billed dowitcher on internet, enlarge and print
  • lay waxed paper over image and cut out single-use stencil with exacto knife
  • lay waxed paper stencil over shirt, hold in place with double stick tape
  • fill in stencil with acrylic paint and stencil brush
  • let dry, remove stencil, set with iron
  • present shirt to happy dad.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Marital Sacrifice and Counting Crows

When Paul and I got married ten years ago, I LOVED the Counting Crow‘s cd August & Everything After. It’s one of those “life soundtrack” cds that when you hear it, it sends you to a very specific place in time (riding shotgun in Nate’s car with Melanie in the backseat going to and from lifeguard training at the Monett, Missouri YMCA, twisting through open farmland and down into wooded valleys having a very cathartic sing-along voicing all that nineteen-year-old angst and delight).

Well, Pauly and HATED Counting Crows. If I put the cd in and left the room, he’d change it saying, “It’s so WHINEY.” He’d stop Rain King short because he couldn’t stand that final “yeah” at the end. This caused me great distress. I really liked that cd.
At the time we had no money. I had just started my first job and we were paying for Paul‘s seminary education. We would discuss whether we could swing a walk to 7-11 for a Slurpee and a Whatchamacallit--seriously. We saved up to have dinner at Houlihans. So when a new Counting Crows cd came out I knew there was no way I was get me some Adam Duritz. I sacrificed the Counting Crows for love…all for love. I never bought an other Counting Crows album…sigh.

I tried not to be resentful, but when a new song came out on the radio I’d have a little pity party and think about what I was missing. And sure, later on we had more disposable income and I could have bought the albums but he still would have hated it…and if you can’t blast it through the house and sing the “yeah” at the end of Rain King at the top of your lungs, what’s the point?
Then about two weeks ago, Paul busts out August and Everything After. He’s playing it nonstop. He’s taking it to the office with him. He’s WHISTLING Counting Crows songs around the house, for Pete’s sake. He’s saying things like, “Rain King is such a great pop song. The lyrics are poetic! The tune is catchy! Let’s play that one again!”


I tried not to be resentful. I should rejoice in my husband’s conversion not be mad about it (call me Jonah at Nineveh, if you know what I’m saying). So, I’ve decided to celebrate Paul’s conversion to Counting Crows fandom by buying some cds. I hope they're not whiney.